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Re: [ox-en] Re: herrschaft [long]

On Sun, 18 Jan 2004, Felix Stalder wrote:

On Saturday 17 January 2004 15:20, Graham Seaman wrote:

When the Brazilian government originally announced it's 'fome zero' plan -
with the aim of everyone in the country being able to eat 3 meals a day -
it was at the same time that they first started sounding serious about
backing free software. At the time, they calculated that the savings from
paying license fees for software used by the state (in its broadest sense)
would fund a considerable part of the fome zero plan. Of course this is
not outside the capitalist context, and IMO was probably very optimistic -
but it does show that there is a link, and is perceived to be a link.

Hm, this is interesting. I certainly see this both as progressive politics. 
The Free Software part, IMHO, belongs to the strategy to make Brazil less 
dependent on North America, to build up a local software industry and spend 
their money locally wherewhere they can instead of spending it on importing 
goods that make them more dependent. In this sense -- and many others -- free 
software is great and certainly positive for developing countries, but I'm 
pretty sure (though just gessing) that the companies that will provide the 
Brazilian government with free software service will do this on a for-profit 

As far as I know, they're following a mixed strategy of straight
for-profit contracting out, and encouraging local developers and
universities to get involved (which may or not be for-profit). But it's
easy to find information, there are lots of good Brasilian free software
web sites, independent, federal govt, and state govt. The whole thing
seems pretty transparent.

I'm finding it harder to find out what's happening in Venezuela, which is
very different but certainly also relevant to this thread. The following
is an impression based on no local knowledge, so if anyone knows this is
rubbish please tell me!

Anyway, my impression is that the local free software community was partly
fragmented by the political situation. The largest active trend identified
with Chavez; initially, it seemed like Chavez would follow a Brazil-style
policy wrt. free software. But the minister identified with this policy
was ousted (Felipe Perez Marti) and the government is now open again to
microsoft 'special offers' (eg. for education). So the pro-Chavez
developers, having failed at 'free software from above' are now attempting
'free software from below', linking it in with the popular assemblies by
running pyramid-style linux training courses etc. in association wih local
groups, providing web services for grassroots organizations, etc. I found
this recent piece by Perez Marti:
('The time for organized people's power has arrived')

which is mainly about political perspectives for grass-roots politics
over 2004, but has one short mention of free software in a context
I thought interesting (it's kind of the obverse of my idea you objected 
to so strongly!); here's a rough translation of the relevant para, which
is basically about direct versus representative democracy [1]:

'We won't go into depth here about the arguments - well-known -
which justify a direct coincidence between full political rights
for the population and economic and social efficency. We will just say 
that they have to do with a correct definition of social priorities
based on the real preferences of the population (and not those induced
or manipulated by the media, or betrayed by the promises of opportunist
electoral representatives); the guarantee of the elimination of the
problem of the 'principal agent' betwen the representer and the 
represented in public affairs; the superior and cheaper validation
of the execution of a plan by the population itself, and the drastic
reduction in corruption as a result; the decrease in insecurity and 
elimination of the poverty trap through long-term growth due to the
elimination of majority inequalities in opportunity; and finally, making 
full use of the minimization of economic inefficiency through solidarity
in aspects where both the market and the traditional state fail, as
- the provision of public goods (for example the Free Software
movement and the creation of the 'community of knowledge') 
- the lack of complete financial markets (for example, the solidarity
between neighbours in poor districts, and the creation of mutual
funds for insurance)
- information asymmetry (for example, the co-operatives, which resolve
problems of information transmission between owners and managers, between
managers and employees, as well as problems of bad distribution of income
among the beneficiaries of shared economic  activity)
- problems of the definition of property rights (for example, 
co-management in public companies which go on to be de facto co-property
of the workers, which have shared goals with the state which, as 
representative of the whole society, establishes objectives and priorities
for the whole population), etc.'

It's not the clearest piece (partly my bad translation), but the thing
that struck me was the way that software is made a sub-case of 'things the
capitalist economy is bad at doing', and so free software is put as one of
a group of radical alternatives ('the economy of solidarity'), rather
than, as with the oekonux argument (I guess partly because of a
marxist/productivist heritage) being made central because of it's nature
as production. That is, Perez Marti (I think) is opposing a 'democracy
comes first' argument to a (oekonux-ish) 'politics is superstructure; free
production comes first' approach. The advantage that gives his argument is
that there's immediately a bridge between all these aspects rather than an
unresolvable question of 'how do we jump from immaterial to material
goods'. The disadvantage is a real lack of clarity in his argument - what
kind of economy is he envisioning? Cuban-style? Mixed? Councilist? Free
software-style? Any might fit.


[1] This is the original of the translated para above, except my
mail program seems to want to chop out all accented characters today :-(:

No ahondaremos aqu en las razones, conocidas, que justifican la 
coincidencia de la aplicacin cabal de los derechos polticos de la 
poblacin, con la obtencin de la eficiencia econmica y social. Slo diremos 
que tienen que ver con correcta definicin de prioridades sociales basadas 
en las preferencias reales de la poblacin (y no inducidas o manipuladas 
mediticamente, ni usurpadas por grupos de inters, ni traicionadas por 
promesas de representantes electorales oportunistas); la garanta de la 
eliminacin del problema del "agente-principal" entre el representado y el 
representante en la gestin pblica; la capacidad superior y a menor costo 
de fiscalizacin de la ejecucin de lo programado por parte de la poblacin, 
y la drstica disminucin de la corrupcin como consecuencia de ello; la 
disminucin de la inseguridad y la eliminacin de la "trampa de la pobreza" 
mediante el crecimiento de largo plazo debido a la eliminacin de las 
grandes desigualdades de oportunidades; y, finalmente, el cabal 
aprovechamiento en la minimizacin de ineficiencias econmicas mediante la 
solidaridad en aspectos en los cuales falla tanto el mercado como el 
Estado tradicional, como en la provisin de bienes pblicos (como ejemplo 
est el movimiento de Software Libre y la generacin del la "comunidad del 
conocimiento"), la falta de mercados financieros completos (como ejemplos 
estn la solidaridad entre vecinos en comunidades pobres, y la formacin de 
mutuales contra el riesgo), informacin asimtrica (como ejemplo estn las 
cooperativas, que resuelven problemas de transmisin de informacin tanto 
entre dueos y gerentes, como entre gerentes y empleados, as como problemas 
tpicos de mala distribucin del ingresos entre los beneficiarios de una 
actividad econmica comn), problemas de definicin de derechos de propiedad 
(ejemplo es la cogestin en empresas pblicas que pasan a ser co-propiedad, 
de hecho, de los trabajadores, que tiene fines comunes con el Estado que, 
como representante de toda la sociedad, establece objetivos y prioridades 
de toda la poblacin), etc.


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