the GPL society, theory or practice? WAS: Re: [ox-en] State of the English list
- From: John Bywater <john.bywater appropriatesoftwarefoundation.org>
- Date: 17 Mar 2004 01:36:33 +0000
For myself, I do appreciate your substantial message. Ich danke Dir.
My opinion about facism
People on- and off-list expressed doubts about by opinion about
facism. I have to say I find this ludicrous and everybody who knows me
as a virtual or non-virtual person will support this every time. But
if you want to read it from my finger tips: I do not advocate facism.
Proof me wrong if you can. And I said *proof* - not just stick a label
on me and then stop thinking.
I wouldn't mind hearing what your opinion about fascism actually *is* at
some point, that is, if we can agree on what the meaning of is, erm, is.
While I talk about me: I do not like labeling. I think labeling is an
expression of an ideology. That is why I'm at least sceptical about
- -isms of any kind.
I expect belief in ideology is itself ideological.
I don't really think there are such things as ideologies, but I'd
suggest an act against ideology, as if ideology exists, would itself be
an ideological act.
Also I do not like simple solutions(TM). Simple solutions(TM) are
something populists of all brands love. More often than not the world
is a bit complicated and I love to take this into account. In
particular the whole mess on this list is really a complicated issue
with *lots* of aspects which need consideration.
Shouldn't things be (famously) 'as simple as possible, but no simpler'?
And, isn't Simplicity not necessarily a simple thing to achieve?
Being simplicity is merely one limit of being pragmatic.
I prefer reasoning and clarity. This mail attempts to contribute to
Deleuze talks about thought as being reasoning (concepts), seeing and
hearing (percepts), and feeling (affects).
What do you prefer reasoning and clarity /to/? Unreason, or thought?
Blindness, or opacity?
As well as being complicated, as you say, isn't the world mostly
unclear, and mostly without reason?
My opinion about kicking and banning Johnathan
I outlined the problems I see with with such a step in
which StefanMz(?) posted the link here. I re-read it and as a point of
view of a maintainer of this project I still think this way and I
still think it contains a number of reasonable points.
I'd like to stress that this is a completely different perspective on
the whole problem than some people here have. Oekonux lives from
considering different perspectives - IMO one of the biggest strengths
of this project. This is part of the openness of this project. So if
you are not ready to at least consider this perspective then you are
probably in the wrong project.
Reasoning about concepts for a brief moment, I'm not sure if openness is
a very good concept, because it can only be meaningful in opposition to
closedness, which it must exclude. But by excluding closedness, openness
falls into an irreducible crisis.
Happily, I think is what all the fuss was about, where:
fascism = closedness
(I suppose it can work to say 'open source' because it is really free
software, and freedom excludes unfreedom without itself falling into
crisis. The essence is freedom, not openness. Openness is caused by the
freedoms. I'm not sure if openness can be an essence. Perhaps it is the
same for goodness? Can they only be the affect of something else, rather
than ever being able to constitute an organising principle?)
As you mention it, the concept of life is much better. Life must stand
in an opposition to death, which negates it. However life does try to
exclude death; we have the concepts of health and immunity.
If you now think this proves I support fascism then you are of course
free to so so. I do not need to understand it and I'm convinced anyone
with a clear mind won't understand, too.
I don't think it shows you support fascism.
But would say you oppose fascism?
The point of personal security has been raised several times and
though I wrote about this in the post I just mentioned I will repeat
it again: If you are really concerned about your personal security it
is no good idea to post to *any* Oekonux list with a name which can be
traced back to your non-virtual being. On the other hand kicking and
banning someone from any list is in no way effective for your
If in the past or now you changed your mind about your name in the
archive: For different reasons we had such a case some time ago in the
German part of the project and I developed a technical solution which
since this time filters all the archives. At the moment one name is
obfuscated by this so it can no longer be googled and also phone
numbers are removed because they cause too much problems in public
archives. So if you want your name or mail address removed / changed
in the archives just send a request to
Technically this is not a big thing.
To make it clear: I fully understand your concerns about your security
on an emotional basis. On an rational basis kicking and banning
someone is in no way effective for this.
No, but it sends a clear message to clear off. Wikis, which perhaps cast
the very figure of openness, indeed have a ban list.
A few exceptional exclusions in a general associated flux of openness
could be the exceptions that forge the rule??
However, if your concern is that you just don't like to see your mail
address in the same mailing list file with someone you call a Nazi
then there is indeed a problem. Please remember that there is no
consensus on *this* list about banning Johnathan. Well, anyway the
problem with Jonathan has been solved - as long as you stop to call
him - but it was an exceptional case. If we start to to kick out
persons on the basis of we like or disgusted of I can come up with a
list of people I do not feel comfortable with tomorrow.
Fascism is exceptional. We must not allow oourselves to fall into its
ways of suspicion, and taking exception to people who happen to dislike.
The objectity, however, is that fascism is exceptional, and it is not a
mistake to treat its agents exceptionally.
Ok, enough about me. Let's come to the important points.
English list alienated from the project
Well, Graham is right in
I'm grateful for his post because he opened my eyes to some simple
facts I was not ready to see until this: The English list meanwhile is
alienated to Project Oekonux to a high degree. The most recent posts
to the English list underline this even more.
However, instead of simply accepting it as such, as Graham seems to
do, I draw different conclusions.
Of course [ox-en] *is* a resource of the bigger Project Oekonux. There
is no doubt in that fact.
There are a number of resources in the project. Most important are
[ox] and - until recently - [ox-en]. Also the web sites are resources
of this project and of course the Oekonux Conference which we are very
busy preparing for the third time now.
BTW: We have 50+ proposals for the conference now - far more than for
the first or second. There is a strong Project Oekonux and it is
perceived this way in the outside world or otherwise we would not have
this many interesting proposals. If you ask me this is how it should
be - because we all can be proud of it and also because this is the
way to have political influence. Indeed Oekonux has already **far**
more influence than anything I did before - which was a lot. I guess
this applies to the very most of the members of [ox-en] also and this
alone is a reason why I would be careful to put the axe at the roots
of the project.
Have you constructed the project as a tree, or as a rhizome? Attacking
the roots of a rhizome can damage, but attacking the roots of a tree is
In either case, breaks can occur. But a rhizome wouldn't really fork, it
would just reassamble itself.
I don't think we often have many trees in nature. I've become a lot less
neurotic since I realised this.
Even the evolutionary 'branches' of biology are criss-crossed by viruses
which patch DNA back and forward.
All these resources exist for the purpose of the project which - as
you can read it on the web site - still is:
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.
*This* is the reason why people enter the project and this is
something I for one will always be ready to defend as good as I can.
This is what *I* want in this project and there are *a lot* of people
which find Oekonux interesting for exactly this.
I thought it might actually be about trying to see what we could do to
make this happen. If it may be anything, it may only be what it is made
But I might now understand, at least for myself, why there is the
tension within your project.
It is the tension between the practice of theory (asking whether it 'may
be') in distinction from a programme of practice (seeking how to 'make
An empirical theorist would take free software to represent openness,
and a practitioner running on this theory would seek to establish a
theory of being open (the above weak concept of being open, rather than
the true affect of openness) as the 'root' organising principle within
their work. But they wouldn't know what to expect next. This would not
be a problem for the empricial theorist, who likes nothing more than
looking at things, preferring percepts over concepts.
But a pragmatic practitioner would identity that it is freedom that
makes free software work, and a practitioner running on this theory
would look to see which freedoms would pertain to the new conditions
within which they will work. They expect their freedoms (and
constrainsts) to be inadequate for all conditions, and expect to adjust
them accordingly. This also would not be a problem for the pragmatic
practioner, who likes nothing more for things to break down, because her
cornerstone is always the moto 'if it's not broken, don't fix it!'
It it is in this sense that useful theory is inseparable from actual
practice, or the praxis of work is distinct from theory of practice,
which can never produce anything of value, even the useful recognition
of its own uselessness, which would constitute for it fresh air, and a
We must assert the right to be free a fair number of other things. But
as soon as we do we are being political. To assert freedoms is also to
be economical, but when one lives within capitalism, it is easy to see
the two as distinct. They aren't though. Asserting a series of freedoms
is necessary to getting political-economic activity going. Which
freedoms work best seems to be something that has modality, and the some
modes seem to able to dominate others.
(So perhaps we should be looking at new freedoms, rather than looking
only at new economy, and the other particular distinction of our old
world, something we happen to call 'society'. It is in this way that
Oekonux appears invested with the old system to the extent that it could
not see beyond it.)
But simply asking for things to be open, in practice, doesn't make
things free, or open.
Is this the reason why you feel the need below to say: 'Openness is not
the same as anything-goes' ?
On the other hand this means none of these resources is free as in
anything-goes. The resources are set up for a certain purpose and some
people are working to make these resources available for their
pleasure and for others to share. If this purpose is at stake I feel
it my duty to do something about it and I think everyone who is really
interested in Oekonux should feel the same.
Yes, where there are freedoms, there must also be unfreedoms.
I feel the important thing for you is to try to do what is objectively
It is desirable to have the apparent contradiction of freedom and
constraint. There isn't really a contradiction because there isn't such
thing as absolute freedom, we are currently in fact referring to the
interplay between underlying generative capabilities, and some
application of Law.
For instance to the conference only proposals are invited which seem
to be on-topic for Oekonux. Is this something which should be
different? People are working for this and personally I think they
have the right and the duty to decide. In other words (and because
this is really important this gets a line of it's own):
Openness is not the same as anything-goes
This includes that I as a maintainer of the project am bound by this.
Because I see it as a structure helping me to pursue my goals I do not
see this as some sort of oppression or alienated to me but as helping
If you can not accept to apply this to you you are probably in the
'You' are probably a bit insane too. But there would seem to be many
ways to be insane.
The purpose of the project is to learn and to evoke interesting
contributions which further the process of theory building. This is
where openness comes into play as an important tool. Openness and the
absence of ideologies allows for wandering into areas which might be
considered dangerous by the classical left. I find this important
because the classical left has been blocked by dogmas far too long and
I think this is part of the reason for their failure.
Wandering into danger for no good reason seems careless. Interestingness
is an interesting, if dangerous, if common, proposition. That's the
justification for most elements of the spectacle: Look at that! they
say, How interesting it is!
Why should building interesting theory be interesting, when we may
indeed be able to build a new world?
Perhaps I should consider Oekonux finished: the complete anwser to the
important question above is 'yes it may'. But nobody will ever know
unless we make it so.
Let's do away with all old distinctions and just say we will do
libidinal-economic-political-theory-practice in the world!
Can we call it Oekonux?
Ok, now some people will probably say I support facism - well, if
*that* is your way of "reasoning" then you are *certainly* in the
wrong place here.
'Oekonuxism', or your flavour of emprical theorisism, isn't fascism. But
just because it isn't fascism, doesn't mean it is good.
As with any purpose humans pursue there needs to be a framework of
rules which make this pursuit possible. In the case of Oekonux this
framework contains for instance on-topicness. Indeed geeks - i.e.
people raised by the Internet - and leftists are used to off-topicness
and sometimes I find it astonishing how much people can bear. However,
for this project I find it *very* important that not only geeks or
leftists are attracted by it. I always support "normal people" to
enter the project and to contribute to it. Normal people, however, are
pissed off by a bad signal-to-noise ratio quickly. Normal people are
not interested in cat-and-dog fights. Well, IMO after all this
probably applies to many geeks and leftists, too.
There aren't such people as normal people anymore. That's why we've got
so many different kinds of geeks!
Taking exception to fascism isn't a cat and dog fight. I'm certain you
don't place yourself above mankind.
I already mentioned openness as being part of the framework. Openness
is probably among the most difficult things to maintain. It demands a
lot from people and in the end only a good culture is able to maintain
openness over longer periods.
I'd say things that are impossible are indeed the amongst the most
difficult things to maintain.
After all this project is now in its
Our 'appropriate' project is also in its fifth year, but we've only just
and until recently there has rarely been a problem with
this. However, a prerequisite for openness is a nice atmosphere. An
atmosphere which encourages people to say what they think. A hostile
and suspicious atmosphere like it is common now on [ox-en] kills
openness more than anything else. I'm convinced that any open project
needs to maintain this atmosphere.
Any open project needs to establish the freedoms and constraints that
will resolve the forces pertaining to specificity of that project.
Otherwise it will fail, as a simple matter of time.
Most things decay, before they collapse. Most decaying things can be
strengthened. Most collapsed things are quite dead.
Last but not least today spam filters are a necessary prerequisite.
Fortunately there is rather effective software for this purpose but to
look for false positives is a daily burden (I'm carrying BTW - help is
When I today say that [ox-en] is alienated from Project Oekonux then
this means that this framework of rules has been widened / shifted
during the last months / half year to a degree it became alienated to
the purpose of the project. The atmosphere became hostile,
off-topicness is openly supported, thinking in terms of in-group /
out-group became standard for some people and a general atmosphere of
suspicion is common today.
As a final phenomenon it came to the point that some people here feel
they as a group are no longer part of the project and thus should not
be "goverened" by the infrastructure of the project. Today I consider
this good because it makes clear that there is a clear split. As I
said above: I like clarity.
But at what price? At the expense of understanding?
BTW: This whole process is something *I* think about and something *I*
would like to know how it can be prevented in the future. May be it
can't in all cases if you also try to maintain openness at the same
Identify what the objective forces are. Resolve them. Get it right, your
construction will gain strength from its environment. get it wrong and
it will fail as a simple matter of time.
Openness is not a force. Freedom is. Fascism is also a force. Suspicion
is healthy, unless it subtracts from other things. We must always be a
little suspicious. We also must not try to stop ourselves from hating
things we hate. Or do the same with love.
3 days ago Graham Seaman wrote:
In my opinion the absolutely fundamental problem is that the english list
is not its own master; it is controlled from outside (in terms of policy
by pox, and in terms of practical actions by yourself). The list is not
allowed to make its own decisions as to what is on topic and what is not,
or what the 'membership' policy should be. It is a purely dependent group,
not a natural group with it's own 'telos', to use Adam's terms, and there
is no intention to allow it to develop one.
Yes, Graham is right. However, as I outlined I see the problem in the
alienation process and therefore I draw different conclusions.
You may now say "This is not self-organization any more". Well, I'd
say, it depends on what perspective you take. If you take the
perspective of the whole project - which personally I consider the
duty of the people on [pox] - then it is fully self-organized. If you
think otherwise to me this is only a proof how alienated you are
BTW: The alienation is the reason why I think there is no much point
in discussing all this on [ox-en]. You don't talk to the guy who just
tries to sell you his crap and is in no way interested in you, do you?
I'm not sure what you mean by alienation (your usage of the various
capitalist categories seems a bit alientated to me). Or what this has to
do with 'the guy who just tries to sell you his crap'. Are you talking
I now tend to agree with you that given that [pox] is as open as
[ox-en], although it isn't initially clear that [ox-en] isn't the place
to discuss how [ox-en] is run, it isn't clear how to make anything work
right, or clear for that matter, within a body of organisation.
That's why I prefer to produce bodies without organs, such as bodies of
practice, bodies of knowledge, bodies of capability.
Then the organs fall into the places they fall. As long as it works, it
doesn't matter. Television told me once that biological evolution
reinvented the eye 7 or 8 times! How unclear must nature's own eyes be!
Last - but I think it should be mentioned - the German registered
association pays for hosting this whole infrastructure.
I'd be interested to learn more about the operational side of Oekonux.
Forking solves this problem with an own telos as Graham put it.
Forking is the default solution when things become unsolvable. Well,
the Oekonux domains are not a state and the Internet is wide - a fork
is perfectly possible.
Because some people seemingly are completely unhappy with the project
as it is I as an individual hereby advocate a fork. I think it is the
most healthy solution. Then the [ox-en] can stay what it was for
nearly four years and what it made successful so far. The people which
came here because of that can stay here. On the other hand people
which are no longer happy with the general direction of the project
are free to define their own telos, on-/off-topic policy, whatever in
a forked off project. The quarrel is solved and both projects can
pursue whatever they may find useful.
And I hereby advocate a new Oekonux: one that has praxis as its focus,
and one that does not separate asking whether something may be from
finding how something may be brought into existence (and experienting to
make it so), as if there was some use in standing by wondering whether
some brutality will result in harm, or not really.
As they say about FF's The End Of History, saying things will always be
the same is never a good calling card.
Every project presupposes an associated flux which it interrupts, and
which will again be interrupted by it.
Well, MartinH offered a "fork" already. As you may have noted I put
"fork" in quotes because I think MartinH and a few others want
something different than Oekonux so it is not really a fork. *This* is
probably the source of the alienation I mentioned above.
You are grasping at straws. Martin is not your problem. He is certainly
not a historiacal force sufficient to produce mass alienation.
Well, if MartinH would not be only a loudmouth with a considerable
destructive potential, if MartinH really had a project to propose he
would have done so weeks if not months ago. However, it's never too
late. Come on, MartinH, set up a mailing list and invite people. Do
everything better than me and people on [pox] and experience how far
you get. I wish you good luck - and do it soon.
Perhaps the point is that the concerns you take as the territory of
Oekonux aren't exclusively your. A refusal to move on to follow the
productive ground may lead to the decline of your sedantary 'fork'.
When I think about it this way then I'd say: If you like Oekonux is a
"fork" from the Krisis group. This was a very healthy thing and while
- - unfortunately - Krisis agonizes more and more Oekonux flourished.
'Dialectics' are also ideological. This is the schema you invoke here.
May be this time has come for Oekonux after nearly 5 years. Though I
doubt it when I try to imagine what this new project might be. Perhaps
when MartinH for a moment stops spouting poison into Oekonux he can
tell us what he thinks it could be - and then build up his "fork".
It won't be a fork. It will be an antithetical part of Oekonux. But it
will also be a conjunction and continuation of many connections that are
not in Oekonux. So it will be also part of the wider world.
In fact, as you imagine, it won't be anything. It will be a part of lots
of other things. But it will know itself.
Anyway. Whether MartinH is right or I can be proven only by an
Now for the part which makes me least happy in all this mess.
I expect this "fork" not to happen. In the contrary I expect that
[ox-en] will continue to alienate from the project it is still a part
of and always will be for the reasons outlined above. In the end this
would mean that Project Oekonux gives up a valuable tool which is very
useful for the goals of the project. However, besides the (far bigger)
German list there needs to be an English list so people which do not
speak or understand German can learn from and contribute to the
So the solution for now is moderation of [ox-en]. I'd like to stress
that I'm sad it came this way but at the moment this is the best
solution I see and so far nobody came up with something better - and I
doubt there is a better solution.
Ban exceptional fascists, and save everybody a pain in the arse.
Keep the list unmoderated, and save yourself a pain in the arse.
But moderation is fine with me. It is your project.
Completely in line with what I said above this moderation is a way to
help to make clear what the framework of rules I mentioned above
actually is. This became unclear too much because too much of the
culture of [ox-en] vanished during the past half year. Because of this
there will be a very strict moderation at the start.
Clearly this is a temporary measure and I for one hope the list
functions unmoderated again as soon as possible. I'm saying this also
because this means an additional burden which now during the
conference preparation really nobody needs.
During the weekend I'll install some software which allows a
collective moderation process. Unfortunately the normal tools
majordomo provides are not useful for a collective moderation. I wrote
this software some years ago for a quite similar situation so I think
it will fit nicely. However, I'm not sure how easy the installation
This software also allows for an unmoderated list where all posts sent
to [ox-en] then go to without interception. People who are interested
in this can subscribe to this list. A nice aspect of this unmoderated
list is that this way we can see how many people are *really*
interested in what is moderated away.
I'll come back to the lists which are affected by this decision with
the details and I hope I can do the technical setup as fast as I want
I hereby ask all good-willing people which are interested in Oekonux
to support this action and help to make it unnecessary as soon as
possible. The people who want to have their own telos I ask to setup
their own project and work to make this other project a success.
The concept of teleos that I know isn't one of our determining, but
identically what naturally determines us.
I think our teleos is to have things run their course, and break when
they have. If this is true, nature does indeed seem to an unclear thing.
But whether the time has come to break with its current constitution
remains to be seen.
When this happens, would you prefer to go down with the ship, or jump?
With my best wishes,