[ox-en] goal of oekonux, theory vs. practice, the new social movements and the left
- From: franz schaefer <schaefer mond.at>
- Date: Sun, 5 Oct 2003 17:00:20 +0200
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
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
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
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.
. Franz Schaefer GPG KeyID: CFA2F632
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... schaefer mond.at 6F0A 54C7 0D88 D37E
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