Transcription of a video by O. Ressler,
recorded in Zurich, Switzerland, 24 min., 2004
The original idea for creating this weird secret language
came up because the European left-wing terminology was
no longer viable. Nowadays when people talk about communism,
that's gulag, no one wants to hear about it. Or if people
talk about socialism, then they are speaking of Schröder's
politics - retirement cuts - and no one wants that,
either. And all of the other standard left-wing expressions
such as "solidarity," "community,"
they're all contaminated and no longer useful. But the
things that they stand for are actually quite good.
I don't want to suffer because of terminology for which
I am not to blame; instead, I'd rather create my own.
It would probably take longer to explain that the communism
that I am talking about is not the one that I saw. It
is easier to simply say I am for bolo'bolo, and then
everyone starts to think of the things all over again,
to re-think them.
I was born in Switzerland and I live in Zurich. My
main job is teaching at a secondary school, and I have
always been politically active in my free time. I am
an old activist from the 1960s; I was there at the anti-Vietnam
demos and all of those things. Later I was also there
squatting houses and taking part in the anti-atomic
movement. I was a little bit involved in everything
there was. And then somehow the movement ended; there
was still a squatting movement in Zurich, I also know
that in Geneva a lot of houses were squatted, but they
were slowly defeated by the police. Then there was nothing
there. Then a rather depressed atmosphere broke out,
as it often does after such cycles of movements. At
that moment, I said: I will write down everything that
we should still consider as important. I put together
a wish list, like for Christmas, a long list of things
that we can still consider worthwhile - stock taking.
And then I looked at the list and saw that it looks
pretty boring now. For example, things like "we
want to live together with each other in solidarity,"
"we do not want any economic growth," or "we
want to respect the environment." All of these
boring socio-ecological platitudes that can be found
in party platforms. I wanted to dust that off a bit,
so I thought, okay, I will invent an utopia. But it
isn't at all an utopia. I know all of those utopias.
The way they are written, there is a certain attraction.
But I was also greatly fascinated by the roundness,
the submergence into other worlds with their own terminologies.
I thought; I can sell these things to people a lot better,
these wishful notions, if I cloak them as utopias.
So then I invented this language. "bolo'bolo"
really means nothing other than communism. It is simply
the translation; those are Polynesian sound systems.
I was in Samoa once and I really liked it there. There
are certain parallels there, remnants of relatively
intact societies, so then that was my book.
I want to emphasize that there is not one single idea
in this book that is new. Everything in it is something
that I found. It is possible to arrive at bolo from
various directions, at the basic unit, how people can
live together somewhat sensibly, without destroying
the planet, their nerves, and their offspring. One approach
is communication: when people cannot speak rationally
with one another, then they are dependent on higher
authorities, they have to have supervisors to employ
communication. We understand, for example, communication
theory, which says that communication can function informally
with up to about 150 people, which means that no structures
are necessary. It is, then, quite comfortable, and there
are a lot more arguments than necessary, because of
the fact that communication is so easy. That's why I
arrived at a basic unit, a gathering, which must be
significantly greater than 150. I said 500 wouldn't
be bad, 400, 600, 700 or 800. Then there is another
threshold that must lie somewhere around 1,000, after
which it becomes necessary to delegate in order to organize.
This administration would then require a committee and
a certain professional level. Here we arrive at the
realm of structurally necessitated bureaucracy. And
I don't like that; the effort quickly increases, because
you have to control the bureaucracy so that it really
does what you want. And these control organs are, once
again susceptible to corruption, and they must also
be monitored; it becomes quite complicated. For me,
the window is somewhere between the sensible social
organization of the 150-person comfortable feeling and
the 1,000-person incipient uncomfortable one. It must
be there somewhere in between: that's the one approach.
Another approach could be something more ecologically
oriented. The ecological problems on this planet lie
in the north where we have to heat and have created
an urban layout, which necessitates automobile transport,
for example. If you want to turn that back, if you want
to reduce the energy consumption to a globally acceptable
level, then approximately a fifth of the present use
would be allocated here. I am not talking about the
south; they already use 100 times less energy than we
do. In that sense, they don't have a problem; they have
the opposite problem, perhaps. They would have to increase
to reach a fifth of the energy consumption. But if you
want to use less energy, then it is no longer possible
to have cars or single family homes, people would have
to move in together. Then it is possible to think about
the size house that is the easiest to insulate and the
least expensive to heat. Buildings will become increasingly
more compact, because then the relationship of the outer
surface to volume is the most efficient. That means
that in the north, e.g., in the U.S., the people in
the little suburban houses would have to move into "people's"
palaces, or eco-palaces, where it is easier to heat.
I always say that it is possible to make a typology
there that is overly concrete, that you naturally have
to look at it ironically. We all have to live in buildings
that are about eight floors high, about 100 meters long
and twenty wide. This concrete monstrosity is actually
an ecological necessity.
I always begin here with this urban, western bolo.
I never prescribe for other people how they should organize
themselves. I simply take Switzerland as an example,
but it works the same for all of western Europe. How
do you organize agriculture in conjunction with these
urban structures? My suggestion, and also that of many
people who have studied ecology and agronomy, would
be to say: in western Europe, for the food supplies
of such a bolo, we'd need about 90 hectares of the type
of land that we have here. If we take a mid-size city
such as Zurich, then these 90 hectares can be found
in a radius of about 30 km around the city, they would
have room there. That is still available, if we don't
build up and pave over everything in the near future.
And then it would be possible, seen purely schematically,
to assign each bolo a farm of 90 hectares. That is calculated
quite generously, because in Switzerland the farms are
an average size of only about 15 hectares, in Austria
perhaps a bit larger. Although they are relatively large
units, that doesn't mean that relatively large surfaces
have to be farmed. These would be intrinsically quite
diverse structures, where you could produce everything
from potatoes to milk. That would achieve a rather sound
ecological efficiency, because a small truck - or maybe
even a wagon on a train - would only have to travel
once a week between the rural area and the urban area.
For the return trip, they could take compost. Then you
could develop a system so that the people who live in
the bolo could also work in the rural section. That
would be a lot more efficient than today's supermarket
supply system, because there we are dealing with a whole
series of intermediary transports, in distribution centers,
and then again in supermarkets, and then I still have
to go to the supermarket. Here, every bolo would be
a supermarket, with a diversified land section, large
enough to farm economically. You can't continue today's
agriculture because it only functions with a huge input
of oil and chemicals and other things. Mixed biological
farming is necessary, whereby one combines different
plants in the same area so that they fertilize one another.
Not these huge, monotone fields; that wouldn't function
anymore. But this mixed agriculture requires a lot more
human labor than today - which is actually quite nice
- perhaps three times as much. But that isn't so much
because in Switzerland, agriculture makes up roughly
3 percent of the work force, so then it would be about
10 percent. But in the meantime, all banks would have
died out and there would be enough people who could
What I have now described is the system; however, I
would make it diverse. It is perhaps a lot more fun
when different bolos on different sections of land exchange
their things with one another, so that you don't always
have to eat the same things. Certain things can still
be exchanged worldwide. Spices, for example, are quite
light and very effective, or olive oil, nuts, dates,
and all sorts of cheeses and sausages, wine of course;
these are all highly concentrated products that have
no ecological restrictions in terms of transport.
The simplest form of exchange is the gift. It is also
the most dangerous, especially for those on the receiving
end. This exchange is possible when someone is relatively
independent. A bolo has a basic sovereignty; in Switzerland
we have this saying - independent enough to be generous.
In Marxist terms, it isn't necessary to scrutinize whether
you have given away too much value. There are a wide
variety of gifts. And because, assuming that bolos exist
everywhere, giving signifies a type of honor for these
bolos, which means that in return they also get something
back. That would be an important form of exchange, which
is not specifically tied to any commodity. It is possible
to give anything; time, poems, or whatever you want.
Probably, the most important form in this system that
I am describing is the permanent exchange arrangement.
I call these "feno." That means, for example,
that there are set exchange contracts with neighboring
bolos. If you want to concretize that in Swiss terms,
then: you repair our window because you have a workshop
for windows, we will repair your sanitary facilities,
so that not every bolo has to have every kind of repair
I would tend to see a third form of exchange at a higher
level, I call that the so-called neighborhood or city
warehouse. It is possible to describe this as socialism
or communism. The bolos of one city, as a whole, need
goods that they can't produce themselves, or that they
only need on occasion. They have, for example, a central
warehouse for machinery, and when they need a certain
machine, they pick it up there. Those would then be
communal services, like we have today with water, electricity,
and certain commodities such as salt and sugar, which
are required in large quantities and have to be somehow
centrally produced. It would be possible to distribute
them for free, because everyone needs the same amount
anyway. That would already be possible today. First,
I would describe something like that as socialism, or
even as communism: everyone takes what they need and
produces what they can. Then there would naturally be
the variant of exchange with money; that would certainly
be present. I think that money is important for goods
that aren't used all that often, that are specially
made or individually tailored. That would function most
efficiently at the level of neighborhoods, districts,
villages, or cities, so that it is possible to have
effective markets or bazaars where people can bring
things like jewelry, clothing, CDs, art, special substances,
drugs, cosmetics, and all kinds of interesting things.
They could be either members of bolos or traveling salespersons,
and that's where you have money. The type of currency
doesn't really matter, it could be a local currency
or a global dollar or credit card, if someone wants.
It doesn't really matter; money is not dangerous as
an object. I would say that money is only then a problem
when it is allowed to develop its own dynamics in a
necessary sector, such as the food supply, for example.
If we have now achieved these ecological conditions,
for example, 20 percent of the energy consumption, then
there could still be a few cars around. In a bolo, perhaps
there will still be 20 cars, people can rent them. That
would be sufficient if you have to drive once in a while.
But it will hardly be necessary to drive because there
will be almost no reason to go anywhere. That means
that the number of cars has been reduced tenfold, the
automobile industry has nearly collapsed and also all
of the banks that financed it. At the same time, the
oil industry has collapsed and no longer exists. Concurrently,
the household appliance industry has shrunk proportionately
because, for example, it is possible to wash all clothing
in one washing machine in the bolo, which is 8 times
as efficient as a normal washing machine. All the entertainment
electronics that are still lying around, you can still
use them but you don't need so many. Actually, the hi-tech
industry will be reduced only in terms of consumption.
You need 10 times less of everything. And then there
is only the question of where and how to produce the
rest most efficiently. And the answer here is entirely
clear: sub-continentally. For example, trucks would
be produced at one location, let's say south of Warsaw,
for all bolos or cities between the Ural and the Atlantic.
And they would only produce modules. They would produce
a medium, a large, and a small module, a motor, and
then in bolos or cities they would be put together into
whatever is required. This already occurs today in the
"third world." All of these public buses are
built there. The chassis is built there and all that
is delivered are the motors and gear system. That is
already an efficient technology. How would it work?
I would simply do that with money, you pay for them.
Naturally, you can now ask: how it is possible to acquire
money? There is, of course, only one option: either
you pay for them, or have a quota. We need a certain
amount of trucks and then the workers, who produce trucks,
are paid by us indirectly through money - but actually
not much is needed. You can acquire money if necessary
if you choose to sell part of the commodities, part
of the work force or the agricultural products for money.
This automatically creates a sub-continental market
if you do this.
When people live close together, then there is an intrinsic
social control that does not require any organized enforcement.
It would just be a type of: what are you up to again?
The surveillance is simply much greater. That is beautiful
in the sense that it prevents a lot of damaging social
behavior, and it is possible to cut down the police
force. I would assume that the police force could be
reduced to a tenth of its current size. The problem
would then be the reverse: if I present myself as "ibu,"
as a person, how much of this social control can I stand?
That might also be a problem. The question is one of
the proportions in the mixture. When there is no social
control, then you have ghetto conditions; chaos, and
anarchy - in the worst sense - and you need a police
officer on every floor. That is not at all good. But
there must likewise be some leeway so that it is possible
to defend yourself against this internal control. One
area for leeway is the size. If there are 500 people,
then a fundamental anonymity is assured. Then it is
possible to do things, bolos can have several entrances
and exits, so that no one sees you. For smaller bolos,
this control would probably turn into a nightmare, the
larger would be better. The bolos have a global bolo
contract. I can move out at any time after giving notice,
and every other bolo has 10 percent free capacity for
people who simply want to come as a guest, but perhaps
will want to stay. I can move out of everywhere and
into everywhere. That would stop people from being all
too strict with the social control, because then they
would have to fear that I will leave.
When you begin to speak of bolos, the danger is that
you see them as isolationist constructions, a bit like
the large communes of the 1970s. But I would like to
distance myself from that dramatically. For me, bolos
are effectively civil member organizations, you could
say. You enter with a contract, and can leave the same
way. Perhaps you bring your wealth in with you, but
you also take it out with you when you leave. They are
not communes. Also, inside, there are perhaps families
or collective groups and single persons; they have their
own private spheres. There might also be bolos where
people want to sleep in huge sleeping quarters, you
can't really do anything to stop them - it's also okay.
But there could also be monastic arrangements. What
you need, naturally, is a planetary bolo contract, and
for me, what belongs in that would be that 10 percent
of the living space and the food in every bolo is reserved
for guests to counteract this isolationist tendency.
Every bolo has to open itself up to a certain extent.
Translated by Lisa Rosenblatt