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[ox-en] goal of oekonux, theory vs. practice, the new social movements and the left


during the discussion, whether the 3rd oekonux konference should be in
vienna or in hallein as part of the 2nd austrian social fourm, some
interesting questions have been raised. stefan mertens tried to cover these
question in his mail "Theses about the relation between the Oekonux project
and the remaining world".

the problem is he only postulated answers without even asking the
fundamental questions. so i will try to do that here. 

Q1: what is the goal of oekonux? is the only goal the production of theory
    or are we concerned about actual use and practice as well?
    the web page states that:

       "In Project Oekonux different people with different opinions and
       different methods study the economic and political forms of Free
       Software. An important question is, whether the principles of the
       development of Free Software may be the foundation of a new economy
       which may be the base for a new society."

     is "study" meant in a sense of "producing theory" or is the notion of
    "applied science" included here as well? is our interest in the question
    whether free software can be a model for a new society only a
    theoretical one or are we interested in building such a society? (even
    if we only vaguely know how it could look like..)

    is "practice" included in the range of "different methods"?
    of course the answer to this question can not be deduced by any theory. 
    the oekonux project can have any goal it wants. it is just a matter of
    consensus amoung the people here where they want to go. it is also not a
    questin of yes/no. there is a certain bandwith. some people might be more
    interested in theory, some more in practice. the question is more:
    should the practical side be completly excluded, like stefan mertens
    implicitly suggested...

A1: my personal answer to this question: i guess most people who are
    thinking about alternatives to our current society are driven by their
    dislike for the current world and not just by some academical interest
    of "what could be possible". i implicitly assumed this would be true for
    the oekonux project as well. but from what i have heard from stefan
    mertens and others i am not so sure about it anymore.

    but i think there is more to this question. even if someone is not so
    much interested in changing the world then there are the following
    things to consider: a theory (and especially one that is about a
    "different society") can not exist in a complete void. theory must be
    aplied to practice to test it, find errors, correct it, etc.. i think
    the unity of theory and practice is of uttermost importance: as marx
    writes in the theses on feuerbach: "philosophers have only interpreted
    the world, the point is to change it". the theory of oekonux will only
    be a good theory if it is applicable to the real world. ironically it is
    exactly one of the secrets of success of the free software development
    model that also demands that. as linus puts it: "show running code." you
    can debate without end on how to rewrite a piece of e.g.  kernel code
    but the best way to find out is to just try it out.... or as someone
    else said: "the most incisive interpretations of the world are those
    which are harnessed to practical efforts to transform it."
    actually: without a plan of how to transform society all plans for a
    "new society" are pretty much idle. what is this "new society" good for
    if there is no path leading to it?

assuming that the oekonux community decides that a certain unity of theory
and practice is indeed desired and/or that a large number of oekonuxers are
also interested in changing society then thre are some other questions that
arise from that. if this assumption is wrong then you can forget about the
following questions but then i think it would be necessary to ask if the
fork of the project wouldn't be the best thing...

Q2: where to do "practice"? are the new social movments (world social
    forum, european social forum, ...) good field for practice? what about the
    so "left"?

A2: my personal answer: during the discussion about hallein vs. vienna i
    found that there is a profund lack of knowledge about the new social
    movements among some of the people here. the "movement of movements"
    which collects a broad range of ideas and groups under the objective
    "another world is possible". the social forum process conects people
    who want a new society but do not know how it could look like with other
    people who have ideas about how this society could be shaped. it should
    be evident that both groups are of interest to the oekonux project if "a
    new society" is the stated goal of oekonux. the one group is searching
    for ideas and the example of free software has some ideas to offer.
    other people with plans for changing society might be able to contribute
    to the oekonux project. (it is not that oekonux is the only place where e.g.
    the possibilities of the internet are taken into account when thinking
    aobut a different society)

    some people might even be in the position where they could try out some
    of the principles of free software when shaping their organisation.. 
    (think about it: a lot of organisatons are spread over the world and
    mostly communication via the net....). of course: the organisation of
    the social forum process itself is subject to this. it is a broad
    consensus there that a new world needs new, open structures to build on
    and that the process of social movements should try to be a model of
    this principles. of course: it all is a "work in progress".

    furthermore the social forum process defines itself as an open forum,
    much like the oekonux definition "In Project Oekonux different people
    with different opinions and different methods ....". so you find a broad
    range of ideas and people at social forums. from anarchist to
    christians, from marxist to envirnmental, etc..  so no one who does not
    like to define himself as a "left" would be alienated at a social forum
    because of this. (e.g. the christians would not define themself as
    "left" neither).

    so yes: the social forum process is an ideal field for practice and it
    is the only forcess that has a chance to change the world. it will make
    use some principles of free software with or without the oekonux
    project. if the oekonux project chooses to ignor the social forum
    process then it ignores the most important part of what can transform
    our society into an other one.

    what about the "left". contrary to what some people said here: the left
    and the social movements are not identical. (e.g. there are christians
    and other religios groups there as well). also keep in mind: there is no
    general definition of what is "left". nowadays even some right wing,
    anti-semitic groups want to define themself as "left".

    appart form such problem: the "left" carries much of the social forum
    movement, because usualy people who want "another world" do this because
    they dislike the neoliberal, capitalist one that we live in. just as
    much as oekonux builds on marxist and anarchists roots. but this so
    called "left" is not a static thing neither. new ideas get discussed
    every day. mertens says that "oekonux transcended the left" and
    obviously what he means is that "transcended classical marxist and anarchist
    ideas". but then large parts of the "left" today would "transcend" the
    "left" as well. of course it all comes down of how you define "left".
    for me critical, progressiv, innovative thinking outside of the proverbial
    box is a defining part of what "left" means for me und thus there is no
    "transcending" involved when these principles are applied.

    anyway. there is no right or wrong definition. there are just common
    defintions and appropriate defintions. certainly when someone wants to
    change the world in a way like the oekonux project envisions it.
    (removing exchange-value, property rights, etc.. - that is a radical
    anti-capitalist vision) then certainly most people will label this
    project as "left". if you like it or not.

    in a critical comment about the social forum mertens said that it is too
    much involved with "classical left-wing" topics such as "war, social
    security, etc.." well. i think it would be certainly of interest to
    think about how the oekonux principles could help in such specialiced
    areas and what oekonux could learn from such fields. 



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