Re: [ox-en] Labor contradictions
- From: Stefan Meretz <stefan.meretz hbv.org>
- Date: Tue, 4 Dec 2007 22:26:37 +0100
On 2007-12-03 12:40, Raoul wrote:
how can peer producers connect with the older social movements,
and vice versa?
I don't see much options. Traditional social movements like unions
are not only workers movements, but also hard-core
working-movements. They base on wage labour and can't accept any
step away from commercial processes, because M-C-M' (making more
money from money) pays their wages.
We dealt with that question some months ago (see the thread "Free
Software and social movements in Latin America", March 18th-June
9th). I am always surprised by the fact that you, as Stefan (Mn) and
Michel, have a tendency to identify "traditional social movements",
or "workers movements" ONLY with "unions".
Maybe, this is because there is no "workers party" in germany (except
really tiny ones). And there is no workers movement beyond unions.
But do you really think that workers movements, in the past and in
the future, can only be movements for bargaining the price of the
labor-force? That they can never "accept any step away from
More or less: yes, I think so.
Would you say that the workers movements in Germany, for example,
which stopped the first world war in 1918 and were bloody repressed
in January 1919 did not went "a step away from commercial processes"?
They were sucessful in stopping the war, yes, that's true (although
they make or follow the war before). However, even when the revolution
would have succeeded, the outcome would have been more or less
the "soviet model", which I would caracterize as state-socialism being
Would you say the same for the workers movements at the end of the
1960s and during the 1970s, most of the time started against the
unions machines, like May 68 in France, 1969 in Italy, etc.?
The motivation for this rebellion, was, of course, very different: It
was a renovation movement against static structures, against unequal
chances of education, against fordist factory system etc. Below the
line it opens the door to flexible capitalism. And this also answers
the question about why neo-liberalism was able to capture the hegemony:
because it fulfills some important goals of the 68-movement, the
liberation of the individual (of course in a bourgois sense). This
finally became one source of the free software movement, namely the
economic-liberal (ESR-) wing beside the civil-liberal (RMS-) wing.
At a smaller scale, but in a more recent scope, (May 2007, would you
say the same for the fight of the Buenos Aires subway workers who, as
a reaction against the accord signed by the union and the
concessionary company, allowed passengers to travel free, without
I would never denunciate any action againt suppression and exploitation.
As long as we live under these given conditions, it is essential, that
we defend our demands for a good living. However, it is a question of a
perspective. Allowing passengers to travel free is nice, because it
attacks the "paying-logic". But this is only possible when the
infrastructure is in principle "payed" (by the state or a private
company). Economically spoken is free travelling on basis of a payed
transportation system an attack only within the circulation of
commodities and capital. However, it is necessary to _produce_ free
travelling beyond the money system. This is the challenge.
It is true that it is very difficult for workers fights to escape the
capitalistic logic and legality. Not only because of the
coercion/repression system which makes "illegal" any step outside
that framework, (the Buenos-Aires-subway corporation has immediately
lodged a penal complaint against the workers who animated the free
travel action), but also, and I would say mainly, because it is not
easy to see the possibility of an alternative framework.
Yes, it is not easy. But it has to be done.
Don't you think that it is at this level - the possibility of
developing a non-capitalist logic - that a connection between "peer
production" and the workers fights can develop? Even if, for the
moment, things are only at a germ level?
As stated before: I see not much options, not at the current level of
workers fights. As long as the fights remain completely inside the old
logic, there is simply no reason to transcend this logic. Such types
of "special" actions (like letting people free travel during strikes,
or maybe a bit the SUD union in france) are rare. Maybe, but this is
only a guess, a thinking beyond the capitalist logic can develop during
very intense strikes, when there is some time to think beyond the daily
work and self-valualisation logic. However, I find it more likely, that
single individual persons -- workers in a broad sense -- support free
developments in their free time, as we already see it. They don't do
this because they are "workers", but because they are human beings who
want to do something useful and for reasons of individual
Don't you think that this link is a key element to achieve the
"triple-free peer production", defined by Tere Vaden (23.11.2007) as
including "the ownership [not the best term] of the means of
production down to the level of electricity, the physical infra,
A triple free peer production needs the commons, even for means of
production for physical goods and natural ressources. This is clearly
explained in Christians "contribution-model" of peer production. The
important debate, which is still open and we need to develop here, is
the transition to such a contribution model when dominant capitalism
exists in parallel. The co-existence is the big challenge. And the germ
form concept comes to its importance, because a new way of peer
production is only a way which is both, in advantage of capitalism
while at the same time against its principles (cf. my mail about
dialectics from 21. nov., 13:08). When a germ form could be integrated
into the old, than is was not a "new", it was only a re-newed old.
A lesson what we can learn from several historical trials is, that we
cannot start from the question of ownership: first conquer the
ownership, then build a new society -- no, this does not work. We can
learn, that ownership is a result of the development of the way to
produces our lives and of the productive forces, it was always in
history in this sequence. Thus, we have to develop a new way of
production using most developed productive forces, and then ownership
will follow. "Will follow" does not mean automatically, there will be
fights. But it would be the right sequence: First the production, then
the societal form. We saw this "logical" sequence in free software and
free culture movement: The concept of commons was developed when it was
needed objetively, and not before. Now, we made a big step forward,
because we roughly have a concept of the new way of production: peer
production. We need to go more into details (yes, reading Christians
book for example), but we know roughly what we want! Again, this notion
of peer production could only be found after developing the practices
in reality, and then generalizing it as a concept.
Start here: www.meretz.de
Contact: projekt oekonux.de