…there were certain benefits to organizing as a cooperative. The Spanish government normally exacts a hefty self-employment tax for independent workers—on the order of about $315 per month, plus a percentage of income—but if one can claim one’s work as taking place within a cooperative, the tax doesn’t apply. Amid the cascading crisis, people were losing their jobs, and the tax made it hard for them to pick up gigs on the side to get by—unless they were willing to join together as a cooperative. Duran wasn’t planning a traditional cooperative business, owned and operated by its workers or by those who use its services. Instead he wanted to create an umbrella under which people could live and work on their own terms, in all sorts of ways. The idea was to help people out and radicalize them at the same time. The rich use tax loopholes to secure their dominance; now anticapitalists could do the same.
The group chose the word integral, which means “whole wheat” in Spanish and Catalan, to connote the totality, synthesis, and variety of the project….At last count, the CIC consisted of 674 different projects spread across Catalonia, with 954 people working on them. The CIC provides these projects a legal umbrella, as far as taxes and incorporation are concerned, and their members trade with one another using their own social currency, called ecos. They share health workers, legal experts, software developers, scientists, and babysitters. They finance one another with the CIC’s $438,000 annual budget, a crowdfunding platform, and an interest-free investment bank called Casx. (In Catalan, x makes an sh sound.) To be part of the CIC, projects need to be managed by consensus and to follow certain basic principles like transparency and sustainability. Once the assembly admits a new project, its income runs through the CIC accounting office, where a portion goes toward funding the shared infrastructure. Any participant can benefit from the services and help decide how the common pool is used.