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[ox-en] Marxists and Anarchists, was: Re: [AktiviX] Reading on politics of free software


I'm cross posting this between the AktiviX list [1] and
the English Oekonux list [2], the Oekonux list is open for
non-members to post to it where as the AktiviX one isn't
-- it might make sense to send follow ups to

On Tue 23-Dec-2003 at 04:49:51PM [PHONE NUMBER REMOVED], Asa Winstanley

I've written an article on what lessons I think
anarchists and other activists can draw from the free
software movement:

If you are already quite into free software, the article
will not contain much you don't know already, but it
would be great to hear what you think about the
political lessons I try to draw. 

Nice one, some comments...

  we should not be overly concerned with interest shown in
  the "open source" movement by Troyskyist and other left

Do you have any references to this -- I have yet to come
across any traditional left groups that have shown any
interest in free software.

  In his campaign against anti-authoritarian ideas within
  the First International, Engels asked in a letter
  written in January 1872 "how do these people [the
  anarchists] propose to run a factory, operate a railway
  or steer a ship without having in the last resort one
  deciding will, without a single management?" 

Interesting, this quote is reproduced on the Wikipedia [3]
and I've tracked it down on the MIA [4], but it's not in
the English Collected works. It is interesting to read the
quote in context, this bit which comes before the bit you
have quoted struck me as interesting:

  Bakunin maintains that it is the state which has created
  capital, that the capitalist has his capital only by
  favour of the state. As, therefore, the state is the
  chief evil, it is above all the state which must be done
  away with and then capitalism will go to hell of itself.
  We, on the contrary say: do away with capital, the
  appropriation of the whole means of production in the
  hands of the few, and the state will fall away of
  itself. The difference is an essential one. Without a
  previous social revolution the abolition of the state is
  nonsense; the abolition of capital is in itself the
  social revolution and involves a change in the whole
  method of production.

Engels was right that the method of production is the key.

Times change, Marxists are mostly stuck in the
industrial-capital world view and see the only option in
their opposition to capital to be a hierarchical workers
movement with them at the top. This world outlook is now
very much out of date and can be knocked down fairly
easily as Raoul Victor demonstrated [5].  

It is clear that Anarchists have taken to the internet and
the free software mode of production way of organising far
more naturally than Marxists who mostly seem stuck in the

The old Maxism vs. Anarchism debates now remind me of the
endless debates in the Trotskyist movement over the class
nature of the USSR (workers state / deformed workers
state... etc) -- this debate was never resolved even
though it is now just a matter of history.

However, having said all of that a Marxist understanding
of the histroy of humanity and human society as being the
history of the development of the mode of production is
more useful now that at any time since capitalism replaced
fudalism -- we are now at another turning point.

  So anarchists should realise that although free software
  pushes the boundaries of freedom, ultimately, it works
  within capitalism and could never 'infect' the whole
  system. It does nothing about more general
  wealth-sharing, decision making in other industries (or
  even many in its own), or wider social relations.
  Although the concept of copyleft (expressed in the
  software world mainly by the GNU GPL) is revolutionary,
  we should not be fooled into thinking such concepts
  alone will lead to a free society.

I think you underestimate what is happening :-)

The free software mode of production is something that
has come about within capitalism (of course), it does work
within capitalism but I don't understand why you think
that this mode of production cannot be applied generally.

Why can't it 'infect' the whole system?

Perhaps keep such discussions to the indymedia page: I
don't want to hijack this list :)

I will post my comments to the article also :-)








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