Role of ownership (was: Re: [ox-en] Labor contradictions)
- From: Stefan Meretz <stefan.meretz hbv.org>
- Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2008 23:03:08 +0100
one underlying distinction I made discussing the role of ownership is
formal or legal ownership and possession (you can possess a flat, while
don't owning it). Possession is about disposition.
On 2007-12-23 11:52, Raoul wrote:
(...)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.
I don't think this is totally correct. It is true that, at least in
the French case, it is during the period of political revolution
(1790s), long after the bourgeoisie had begun to establish its mode
of production, that the question of ownership was broadly posed:
possessions of the Church and the emigrated nobles were confiscated
by the State and sold to the "people"... (in fact to the new
bourgeoisie, the rich merchants, bankers and manufacturers who had
previously developed and were the only ones who could buy them). But
if the bourgeoisie had had the capacity to develop the new production
relations before that moment, it was because it had since the
beginning the ownership of crucial means of production, merchant
ships and commodities, banks and manufactures, for example.
However, the accumulation of capital was initiated by the request of
feudals to build big armys fighting their wars. The ownership of
crucial means of production was one result of feudals wars, it was not
a "legal appointment" at the beginning. Form follows function.
If you consider the transition between slavery and the first forms of
feudalism, at the end of the Roman Empire (III-V century), the basic
change consisted since the beginning in a question of ownership, that
of the slaves (who were also the main "mean of production"). The
"coloni", the first form of "serves" were emancipated slaves. They
ceased to be the property of their old owners. They remained attached
to the land (which was sold with its coloni) but a part of their
production became their own property.
You give illustrations for my hypothesis, but maybe we are not so far
away from each other.
That is for the past. But it is the same if you consider the present
transition. Free Software was also confronted a question of ownership
(copyright/copyleft) since the beginning. "Peer production", and more
generally "peer X" has developed using means of production (software
like Linux or Apache, for example) which were "non-proprietary"
software, the results of fights to prevent any private appropriation
You are right, these legal means like copyleft were protective measures
being necessary to secure the development of free software, when the
means of production (namely time sharing computers in the beginning)
already had developed. The question of ownership was a result of that
Production needs to have the "possession" (not in the sense of
"private ownership" but in the sense of having the control of
something, as for example a primitive man needed to "posses" a
"non-proprietary" stone to drive a stake into the land). How could
new relations of *production* develop without dealing since the
beginning with the question of possession of the means of
*production*, even if it is only in an incipient form?
I agree: the disposition over the means of production is the key.
That being said, it is true that the question can be posed in a more
global and definitive form when the new relations of production have
developed. This is so because it is only *social practice* which can
"convince" the majority of society to accept and develop the new
forms of ownership/possession.
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.
As corrected in another mail: "Will follow" does not mean automatically,
there will be _no_ fights.
Yes, there will be fights. There are already, even if they have been
relatively soft till now because they are about "intellectual
property" and because capitalists have some interest in using the new
efficiency of the new relations of production at the the knowledge
level. But things will become inevitably harsher with material
ownership of the means of production. It would be marvelous if it
could be otherwise.
I read about a nice contradiction within the ruling class: german engine
constructors abandon patenting their work due to pirate copying by
Back to the question: Things are as harsh as capitalists are
expropriated very day by competition. Peer production simply has to be
better than the old, so that we can out-cooperate the old way. We simply
have to win the competition, but by forming a new field instead of
playing in the old field (where we can't win and where we always will
remain miserable players).
This is not a soft transition, because both workers and capitalists
loose their means of making a living in the old sense. This is the core
reason why it will be so difficult to convince workers movements (and
unions even more) about ways beyond wage labor and other old stuff.
But who could believe that a system based on
private ownership [one should say *excluding* ownership]
Good term: excluding ownership
coercion will accept to disappear - or to fade - without resistance.
Well, the most soft way can only be establishing an *including* process
based on commons. This is yet the way free software succeeds.
And, to come back to the origin of the discussion, I don't see how
this fights could be won without the adhesion and participation of
the "workers of the world"...
I think we need all our creativity to convince all people, simply people
as humans beings, not especially as workers or capitalists. This is not
a theoretical but a practical question. Only what works can convince.
How can we do this in case of workers? What can be done during next big
strike wave defending their (old) rights, when workers are more open
for something new? Do you want be the special consultant in case of
the "workers of the world"?
I hope that we can begin and advance as far as possible dealing with
the possession of material means of production without having to
confront violently the "temple guardians". I hope that Christian's
book -that I have not yet read :-(- helps with that question.
I think so:-)
Start here: www.meretz.de
Contact: projekt oekonux.de