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Editorial from the Latest LookLeft March 13, 2012

Posted by Garibaldy in Workers' Party.
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Spotted this up over at the Irish Left Review, and am shamelessly stealing it.

“[To] substitute for the choice of masters the appointment of reliable public servants under direct public control, that will mean true democracy – the industrial democracy of the Socialist Republic.”

– James Connolly

Many ask what the Left stands for now. Some say greater equality, others more freedom, a smaller section working class power.

The answer should be a simple one – genuine democratic control.

This is not the false democracy offered by the establishment, of differing versions of essentially the same thing. Democracy must mean people having a genuine say in governing the economic forces that shape society.

This true concept of democracy has been successfully undermined for over 30 years.

But the neo-liberal mask has now slipped with the mantra of consumer choice replaced by the threatening sneer of There Is No Alternative. With the NHS under Tory attack in the North and the southern Government intent on abandoning public services to the tender mercies of profiteering private companies, the right-wing media lie that privatisation means greater efficiency is being exposed. Experience shows privatisation really means the wealthy profiting at the expense of the people.

Whether it is the slickly-presented McKinsey reports or the sight of so-called social democrats implementing the will of the IMF in selling state assets – it is increasingly clear to people that privatisation is an attack on democracy.

There is an alternative. We must start building it today, in our workplaces, schools, colleges and homes. Whether it is giving a resounding No to the EU elite’s Austerity Treaty or combating Tory attacks on the NHS people can begin the long struggle to wrest our society from the profiteers.

Political parties and trade unions must take the lead role in providing a common purpose for the disparate struggles of the people. That purpose must be real democracy – trade unions and progressive organisations should build towards an all-Ireland Day of Democracy where the message will be loudly and clearly given that we will no longer accept this crisis being used by the wealthy as cover to rob the working class.

Comments»

1. Bartley - March 13, 2012

It strikes me that we already have a massively successful and productive example of democratic control in the workplace.

One that combines true meritocracy, a thriving community spirit, free & fair elections to leadership/management positions, and well-established ways of managing the tension between doing what is right for the work and doing what is necessary in order to monetize it.

I\’m talking about the free & open source software movement.

Of course, trade unions are conspicuous by their almost total absence from this living, breathing mass-experiment in democratic control. Interesting to imagine how the evolution of FOSS would have played out had unions been involved …

For a start, forget meritocracy – instead time-serving seniority would trump talent when it came to appointing leadership. No more agile juggling of multiple technical roles, no more low barriers to entry for outsiders, no more unpaid volunteerism – the basic oxygen that makes these communities thrive would be promptly choked off at source.

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LeftAtTheCross - March 13, 2012

Bartley, how does free open source software contribute to the economic well being of workers who contribute their effort to its development? I’m not against open source, I just don’t see how it challenges the power relations between capitalist employers and workers to the benfit of the latter.

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Bartley - March 13, 2012

how does free open source software contribute to the economic well being of workers who contribute their effort to its development?

An non-exhaustive list:

– it allows developers to establish an individual brand on the back of their open source contributions, a brand that is orthogonal to their corporate affiliation. This is value that the worker may carry with them when they leave or their current employer goes bust, and also massively enhances their bargining power in their current position.

– it greatly facilitates launching small startups which generally have a wide spread of equity participation throughout their workforce. Workers become part-owners of the shareholder value they help create.

– it empowers talented developers to become influencers much earlier in their career, without climbing the greasy management pole, kow-towing to their elders and betters on the golf course or where-ever. Essentially it is disruptive of well established coporate power relations.

– it opens up anciliary sources of compensation, for example book deals or short-term consultancy gigs. FOSS connotes more free as is freedom than free as in free beer, and there are many well accepted ways of individuals monetizing their involvement in open source communities.

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LeftAtTheCross - March 13, 2012

Bartley, your arguments there boil down to an intensification of competition between workers, a race to the bottom. I’m an IT developer myself of sorts and I’m damned if I’m going to gift capitalism with the fruits of my unpaid labour power, it extracts plenty of surplus value from me as it is.

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2. seedot - March 13, 2012

Two very quick ways that Open Source can change the power relations between workers and capital.
By building a ‘commons’ of technology and software the control of the means of production and distribution in many sectors passes from capital to other control. Many multinationals now exist by licensing process and other knowledge they have which has been developed by their workforce but the capitalist restricts access to and use of this knowledge. FOSS challenges modern notions of property as well as making technology much more freely available.

Also, since most work places are now, to some extent, managed and monitored by information technology the ability to access the source code for these systems allows workers to negotiate at a fundamental level the environment they work in. It has always surprised me how easily software systems were accepted when other forms of management change were resisted or only accepted through negotiations. (I have some direct experience of this in call centres but have heard anecdotally that the main driver of things like ERP systems was the process redesign that they allowed and the increased productivity and reduced labour control that came from implementing the systems rather than any intrinsic value in the software).

I’m not too sure the TU movement is a viable hotbed of FOSS activism but really don’t get your last paragraph Bartley? (or is it just a generic bitch about union bureaucracies?)

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LeftAtTheCross - March 13, 2012

“the ability to access the source code for these systems allows workers to negotiate at a fundamental level the environment they work in.”

Seedot, can you elaborate on that, I’m not sure I follow your line of argument there.

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neilcaff - March 13, 2012

That’s because s/he’s using techno-babble to disguise the fact he’s talking through his/her, ahem, hat.

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LeftAtTheCross - March 13, 2012

On this we agree Neil 🙂

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Dr.Nightdub - March 13, 2012

Leaving aside the techno-babble (which I don’t even understand as I’m only a user when it comes to IT), what Bartley’s talking about seems to me to merely point to the emergence of a hi-tech version of the old artisan form of labour i.e. skilled craftsmen who sell the products of their own labour without someone else creaming off the surplus value.

To call it “democratic control of the workplace” is stretching a point if the entire workforce only amounts to one or two.

Not knocking it, and good luck to those who can create that space for themselves, but it’s hardly the death-knell of capitalism…

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3. Bartley - March 13, 2012

LATC:

your arguments there boil down to an intensification of competition between workers, a race to the bottom

Not at all, in fact the whole movement is based on an intensification of cooperation between workers; developers, users, and other stakeholders all engaged in building value that is held in common and that all are at liberty to use and build upon.

And race to the bottom it most certainly is not. I can guarantee you that the relatively small community of open source developers in this country are paid well above average and are far more empowered than typical engineers working on proprietary software.

I’m an IT developer myself of sorts and I’m damned if I’m going to gift capitalism with the fruits of my unpaid labour power

In no sense is the fruit of any source developers labour being gifted to the big bad capitalists.

In legal terms, copyright is generally assigned to an independent foundation representing the broad user and developer community, with strong guarantees that future use of that software will not be restricted.

But in practical terms, open source developers actually retain a far more valuable interest in their work than other developers. Their code is openly and widely associated with them as an individual, which they can then leverage in indirect but highly valuable ways.

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LeftAtTheCross - March 13, 2012

“In no sense is the fruit of any source developers labour being gifted to the big bad capitalists.”

The person develops it in their free time. That’s unpaid labour.

Companies benfit from it by replacing work which would otherwise have to be developed from scratch in-house, by accelerating developent cycles. They generate value from it, from that unpaid labour.

Explain to me again how that type of hobbyist development benefits workers, because I don’t buy any of your arguments on this so far.

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4. seedot - March 13, 2012

attempt to translate the Techno Babble

Capitalism underwent a significant restructuring towards the end of the 20th century as information technology enabled much more distributed companies which used JIT outsourcing systems and various resource management systems to remove decision making further from worker control. This means that when general motors laid off workers in Tallaght in the 90s it did this through an internal market for parts which allowed it remove its decision from control by either workers or the national state since Packard was a company that no longer scored high enough in the purchasing systems to be worthy of supplying components. These information technology systems comprise of much of the rules that we live by – whether the system that puts a light over your station when your phonecall goes beyond 5 minutes or the gps sign in from your smartphone they significantly impact on the work environment. They have substantially replaced and command and control nature of industrial capitalism prior to this.

The ability to engage with the code that runs these systems allows you to set the parameters of the work environment – in the words of Lawrence Lessig ‘Code is Law’ so, the same as 19th and 20th century progressives sought state power to shape the society they lived in today we need to engage with these IT systems. But, unless these systems are open source then it is not possible even to read the law, let alone change it. But open source systems have clearly visible parameters set – and these can be controlled by workers when they have power to exercise. Without this ability I would propose that economic power is very difficult to achieve these days.

Can I ask a question in return neilcaff / LATC. Is the agressive tone of your response based on fear through ignorance and general technophobia or do you think it could be an example of the prick like behaviour that Dr McCabe has identified as a feature of this site?

🙂 <- obligatory smiley face to show i am only slagging

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LeftAtTheCross - March 13, 2012

Seedot, you caught me in a bad day and I apologise for the prick-like tone. It’s not technophobia or ignorance, I’ve used open source and understand the various flavours. My question to you was genuine and thank you for your elaboration. I take your point about visibility / access with regard to code but I suppose I’m sceptical that having access to source code is sufficient to counter the capitalist hierarchy in terms of workplace democracy. Having code available to the developer, and being empowered to use the code to alter the corporate processes are not really the same thing. I take the point that in a binary situation where power is transferred rupturally from corporation to workers, that having access allows modification of processes where such wouldn’t be possible without open source, but to be honest if push comes to shove like that there would be bigger issues at play simply in terms of conflict and coercion and process disruption in general. Open source doesn’t solve those economic and political issues.

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seedot - March 13, 2012

Hi LATC

yeah, workers won’t gain power from open source – but they do lose the ability to impact on things if systems are closed to them. This was why I mentioned Packard as the workforce was well organised there but the system was opaque and beyond democratic control. Its the potential that is there.

On the economic side however I do think that the creation of a technical ‘commons’ is a very important counterbalance to the drive to commodify and enclose so much of our culture and knowledge heritage that marks the current stage of capitalism.

btw, since this was a response on the editorial can I pass on congrats on LookLeft to the WP. A much needed and constantly improving project.

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Michael Carley - March 13, 2012

(Written from a hotel where I am staying while I do a union training course.)

I am in the position of being a public sector employee (university academic) who has written and tried to distribute free software (the `open source’ bit is a tautology) mostly in order to avoid having my employer try to claim it. It might be worth having a look at some other `free’ models (NASA data is the one I know about) where a publicly funded, public good is made freely available to the public that funded it. The free software model works very nicely for some things but not for others: in the end the programmer has to eat so somebody has to pay them for something. A good model, come the revolution, would be a nationalized Google (or at least what Google likes to think it is).

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5. seedot - March 13, 2012

@Dr Nightdub

yeah, its a very valid question as the open source movement mainly creates an advantage for those who can understand computer code and removes barriers to competition they have rather than benefitting a broad populace. Most arguments seem to be about a new technocracy benefitting (generally presented as a meritocracy).

However there are attempts to look at the principles of open source and see how this can scale on an economic level. Worth reading is Michel Bauwens of the peer to peer foundation.

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6. Bartley - March 13, 2012

Dr. Nightclub:

to merely point to the emergence of a hi-tech version of the old artisan form of labour i.e. skilled craftsmen who sell the products of their own labour without someone else creaming off the surplus value.

Hmmm, a highly imprefect analogy …

Artisans tended to construct artificial bariers to entry; long apprenticeships, restricted guild membership, cartel pricing. FOSS developers do the opposite, lowering barriers to participation and being as inclusive as possible.

Artisans tended to jealously guard their designs and trade secrets, FOSS devs share this IP freely.

Artisans tended to operate individually or in small groups, FOSS devs actively seek to build large, inclusive communities.

Artisans sell the direct output of their labour, FOSS devs give it away and then indirectly monetize the value they\’ve created.

Marxist theory of surplus value cant really capture a subtle notion of the karma accumulated via contributions to a community project. But the reality is that this karma has very real value both to those who create it and those who benefit as users.

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7. Ivorthorne - March 13, 2012

Free software has been great for me both in terms of my work and in terms of related charity work. Many of the pieces of software I’ve used have been Open Source. I couldn’t have afforded to do the things I’ve done without them. By providing me with free software, these developers have enabled me to provide my services for free to those who would benefit from them.

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LeftAtTheCross - March 13, 2012

Ivor, I take your point but in fairness that’s from a consumer perspective rather than that of the producer. Everything in life would be easier to do if it was free, but we’d have no means of subsustance either, no wages for our labour if everything was produced for free. Which is fine in Marx’s sense of communism as the final stage of socialism, but that’s not what’s being discussed here. The point Bartley proposed above was that open source is “a massively successful and productive example of democratic control in the workplace”, which is quite untrue in my opinion. At best it’s a utopian socialist illusion, working in the cracks of the existing economic structures and power relations.

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WorldbyStorm - March 13, 2012

Power relations is the key term there LATC, and you’ve put your finger on it. Why do most people join unions? It’s not to shirk, it’s to have some thing that provides a counterweight to the power those who own and manage companies have because work structures are tilted towards those who own/manage companies. Most work places are a world away from the utopian vision Bartley describes. On so many levels. Inequalities between people doing similar jobs for different wages, gender inequalities. I remember many years ago doing some work for a group acct. which nvolved my seeing wages for everyone in six companies in the group on various spreadsheets. I was warned not to disclose anything about that but it was an eye opener.

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seedot - March 13, 2012

i probably wouldn’t agree with Bartley about ‘really existing, open source economies and workplaces but i think your reference to utopian socialists is interesting LaTC. A lot of the reading i have done about how peer to peer / open source organising can have really systemic impacts is a throwback to almost Owenite ideas of a co-operative commonwealth. Obviously for those who still have a faith in scientific socialism the same arguments can be used from the 1850s – irrelevant lifestylism, doesn’t engage with the real power relations, works in the cracks.

however i don’t think capitalism is the same as the 19C and i do think open source offers some really disruptive potential. i have been watching / listening to the merseyside derby on a peer to peer sopcast stream while typing here. this is a fundamentally distruptive technology based on the gift economy / distributed co-operative structures that are being proosed as an alternative structure for society / the economy. it is so disruptive that it is the most efficient way to distribute video over the internet and copyright enclosure enforcers haven’t figured out how to make it illegal let alone stop it. A lack of interfaces with the money economy mean that distributed projects like this remain hobbyist even as they impact on millions of peoples lives.

But if we are going to build a new vision of a society lets look for things that are working and that have a diffferent value system to that imposed on us.

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8. Bartley - March 13, 2012

LATC:

The person develops it in their free time. That’s unpaid labour.

Well, first off many open source developers are paid to work full or part-time or open source projects. In fact on some projects, the hobbists are is a small minority. There\’s a complex ecosystem around FOSS projects, the companies that monetize the software and the users who consume it.

Companies benfit from it by replacing work which would otherwise have to be developed from scratch in-house, by accelerating developent cycles. They generate value from it, from that unpaid labour.

Well, it would be more usual to replace what would otherwise be purchased as proprietary licensed software, as opposed a custom application that would have been developed in-house.

And a key point to internalize is again free as in freedom, not free as in free beer.

The main motivation for many corporations choosing open source is not getting something for nothing. Rather they are eager to pay for it indirectly (via support contracts, consultancy, sponsorhip of conferences, donation of resources) as they want to have knowledge people available to support then and they need the community to remain viable if they\’re betting their business on software produced by it. Cost does come into it, but key drivers are also the transparency that comes with the code being open, and the multiplier effects in terms of quality and velocity of development that comes from the community-based model.

Explain to me again how that type of hobbyist development benefits workers, because I don’t buy any of your arguments on this so far.

You are projecting your own inaccurate image of the open source dynamic onto those arguments. Think less teenagers sitting in their bedrooms displacing your paid work with doodling in their free time. Think more highly motivated and professional developers who build communities because its a highly efficient way of producing and disseminating high quality software, which can then be monetized in indirect ways either by themselves or their employers.

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9. Bartley - March 13, 2012

LATC:

Everything in life would be easier to do if it was free, but we’d have no means of subsustance either, no wages for our labour if everything was produced for free.

OK, I think we\’re talking past each other here and you\’re fixating on the free aspect. An example might clarify …

Red Hat is the largest, most successful open source enterprise in the world, with a small outpost in Cork. They employ upwards of 4,000 worldwide and have billion dollar revenues. That\’s a whole lot of free, right?

Of course, all those employees are very nicely compensated, so someone must be footing the bill. The software is free, the projects Red Hat is involved with are open, so why doesn\’t everyone just take the upstream artifacts (i.e. the raw output of the open source communities) and use those for nowt?

Well, because they want to pay for RHEL, even if Fedora or CentOS is just as good and no-cost to boot. The freedom RHEL users seek is not the absence of a bill to pay.

The point Bartley proposed above was that open source is “a massively successful and productive example of democratic control in the workplace”, which is quite untrue in my opinion.

With all due respect, I think you\’re arguing from an imperfect understanding on how open source communities actually work.

Here is a recent example of democracy in action from a big FOSS project:

http://www.openstack.org/blog/2012/03/openstack-governance-elections-spring-2012-results/

So, when was the last time anyone here actually elected their team lead or manager at work?

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WorldbyStorm - March 13, 2012

But the basic problem is that, even even if one accepts with certain caveats some of what you say, that model can’t be replicated across the economy as currently constituted.

Btw I’m not agin xperimentatin with form and I don’t see unions as absolutely necessary in every context, but, I come from a background in a newish techish area and one where most don’t think they need unions. Until they do.

And then it’s too late.

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LeftAtTheCross - March 14, 2012

Bartley,

I’m not blind to the benefits of open source, I do understand that free isn’t “as in free beer”, that there are some commercial successes within thecapitalist model which exploit an open source business model, and an elite within the workforce whose CVs are written in open source code to their individual benefit. However, for every one of those businesses there ARE teenagers in bedrooms and PhD students in labs and sad fuckers who spend their day working in IT and their evenings dreaming of being open source warriors on the new frontiers of freedom and providing business with a unpaid leg up (e.g. sourceforge and the wealth of free utilities that are freely used on a day to day basis within IT), it just doesn’t add up to a revolutionary potential across the economy as WbS has correctly pointed out. Open source doesn’t democratise agri-food production, retail, transport, education, healthcare, energy production, or the bulk of workplaces that constitute the “old economy” where the vast majority of workers earn their living. It does have benefits in terms of intellectual property pwnership as a common good as Seedot raises, absolutely so, but it’s a limited benefit, and doesn’t apply to other areas of intellectual property which are arguably more important to society than IT such as pharmaceuticals and genetic engineering.

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Bartley - March 14, 2012

However, for every one of those businesses there ARE teenagers in bedrooms and PhD students in labs and sad fuckers who spend their day working in IT and their evenings dreaming of being open source warriors on the new frontiers of freedom and providing business with a unpaid leg up (e.g. sourceforge and the wealth of free utilities that are freely used on a day to day basis within IT)

Again youre not seeing the big picture, by attempting to overlay an old-style atomic transaction (I produce summat that you use, so you must pay me directly for my labour, otherwise I\’ve been duped) onto the much more subtle & dynamic economics of the FOSS movement.

Think about the indirect benefits those f***ers derive from their evenings spent coding instead of watching Corrie or surfing the web. At the very least, they\’ve honed their skills in ways that their day-job would never accomodate and also significantly enhanced their employability. The more users there they give a free leg up to, as you see it, the more strongly those benefits flow – so whereas your old school view would class the author of a widely-used open source tool as being duped out of more value than the author of a unpopular tool, in fact the former reaps far more benefit from their work, as wider feedback allows them to learn far more and gain more reputational value.

More subtly they\’ve participated in a wider shared enterprise whereby they enhance their own productivity with open source tools, while also contributing back in their own way – a kind of “generalized reciprocity”, if you will. If we were all happy with just consuming open source, the FOSS movement would wither and die.

Open source doesn’t democratise agri-food production, retail, transport, education, healthcare, energy production, or the bulk of workplaces that constitute the “old economy” where the vast majority of workers earn their living.

That\’s a little like dismissing a cure for cancer with the complaint that it doesnt do much for syphillis, gout or the common cold.

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LeftAtTheCross - March 14, 2012

The point which you’re refusing to acknowledge is that while developing FOSS has individual economic benefits for the person who devotes their free time to it, in terms of CV enhancement, it does nothing for the wider economy in terms of improving workplace democracy for the overwhelming bulk of workers. And in the specific terms of that individual it also ups the ante amongst his/her colleagues as it increases competition for kudos and reward, it intensifies the work of those involved via peer pressure. You see that as improved democracy, I see that as the tyranny of individualisation, there’s nothing whatsoever collective about it, where collectivity is the essence of democracy, in the workplace as in elsewhere.

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10. CL - March 13, 2012

‘One capitalist always kills many.’- Karl Marx

‘The Google Chrome OS, while based on Linux, is directly competitive with offerings from Red Hat, Canonical, and other Linux vendors targeting consumers. Google Chrome is competitive with Firefox, Google Docs is competitive to OpenOffice.org, and Google Apps is competitive with Zimbra. This list is certain to reach down into the middleware stack — that is, Google App Engine of the future — and up into the consumer applications stack with Google’s ambitions.’
http://www.infoworld.com/d/open-source/google-open-sources-biggest-foe-and-friend-633

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11. eiresans - March 14, 2012

I think this article is very salient to this discussion.
http://www.redpepper.org.uk/Technological-alternatives/

you could augment its contentions with some of the issues posed in this more recent article on schisms within capital along intellectual property lines.
http://www.peterfrase.com/2012/01/intellectual-property-and-the-progressive-bourgeoisie/

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LeftAtTheCross - March 14, 2012

Thanks Eiresans, that Red Pepper article is very interesting on how the co-operative model can be extended into the world of material production. The reference to basic income is very relevant to this whole question also, of how to create and sustain alternative economic models to capitalism and the role of the state in that model. Good stuff.

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eiresans - March 15, 2012

I’m progressively becoming more convinced that all roads lead to basic income!

On the subject of open source hardware, here’s an interesting wee video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GEMkvT0DEk

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LeftAtTheCross - March 15, 2012

Eiresans, I’ve come across that before somewhere. To be honest I don’t find it convincing, it smacks of hobbyist technologists looking for excuse to build “cool stuff” and wrap it up in a cloak of sustainability and environmentalism. What I find unconvincing is that it’s a selective subset of the technology required for modern life. So the guy designs & builds ope-source tractors. Fine. But where does he get the raw materials, the metal, the engine, the tyres etc.? Is he proposing open-source blast furnaces to make the steel, open- source iron mines and oil rigs to source the raw materials, open-source oil refineries built from open-source precision-engineered infra-structure, an open-source semiconductor plant to make his microchips for his open-source industrial controllers, open-source angle-grinders and brickworks and what have you etc etc.? The scale of the project is immense. And the open-source-edness of it is an irrelevance. He’s not proposing to build a complete open-source economic system of course, he’s proposing to piggyback on what’s already available as a proprietary foundation within the existing system. My point being that open-source isn’t an answer, it’s an excuse, a side issue, a utopian ideological dream that falls apart quickly when examined. If industry is required to produce the material goods necessary for modern life, then picking a few cool bits and pieces to produce via alternative ownership models isn’t sufficient in itself to counter capitalist ownership. It’s anything but sustainable. It’s a starting place for sure, one of many, but it’s not the end point. Ultimately the point is not to work within the cracks, but to expand the cracks such that the structure falls apart and can be rebuilt in a different form. And I’m not convinced that the open-source community takes that on board.

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12. Jim Monaghan - March 14, 2012

On workers control and coops. This trailer on Mondragon looks like a nice into to a film on same. This Basque coop movement is huge. Based on Basque nationalism rather than explicitly soclialist.
http://shiftchange.org

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13. daramcq - March 14, 2012

Have the open-source debaters read The Telekommunist Manifesto? The author argues for ‘copyfarleft’, a license which would allow commercial use of OS products only by workers’ cooperatives.

” A copyfarleft license must not restrict commercial usage, but rather usage that is not based in the commons.

Specifically, copyfarleft must have one set of rules for those who are working within the context of workers’ communal ownership, and another for those who employ private property and wage labor in production. A copyfarleft license should make it possible for producers to share freely and to also retain the value of their labor product.

In other words, it must be possible for workers to earn remuneration by applying their own labor to mutual property, but impossible for owners of private property to make profit using wage labor.”

http://telekommunisten.net/the-telekommunist-manifesto/

I think an ancillary point is that while Open-Source development can harm capitalists, i.e. individual corporations, it can’t harm capitalism itself. So it’s possible to imagine a world where Microsoft Office products have been supplanted by Libre Office or something, but hard to imagine that such individual changes will accrete to a more significant transformation.

In the meantime, I think Open-Source production remains a massively important development in democratic production, but its fruits go to capitalists and workers alike (how many commercial websites use PHP? Many!). We need to find ways to politicise the techies!

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14. Bartley - March 14, 2012

LATC:

The point which you’re refusing to acknowledge is that while developing FOSS has individual economic benefits for the person who devotes their free time to it, in terms of CV enhancement, it does nothing for the wider economy in terms of improving workplace democracy for the overwhelming bulk of workers. And in the specific terms of that individual it also ups the ante amongst his/her colleagues as it increases competition for kudos and reward, it intensifies the work of those involved via peer pressure. You see that as improved democracy, I see that as the tyranny of individualisation, there’s nothing whatsoever collective about it, where collectivity is the essence of democracy, in the workplace as in elsewhere.

Where you see an individual, I see a community. The open source projects that are actually making headway are almost always those backed by a substantial developer community organized along democratic and meritocractic lines, not a lone-wolf McCabe doing their own thing.

As coporations begin to reap the benefits of open source, I\’d predict that they will begin to adopt such models internally, sweeping away artificial hierarchies and instead really empowering their workers to just get stuff done.

And where you see collectivity in the group being forced to operate at the pace of the slowest, laziest and/or least capable member, I see supreme selfishness on the part of the slow, lazy and incapable holding back their more talented colleagues.

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LeftAtTheCross - March 14, 2012

Tell me what I see Bartley, thanks for that. I won’t use bad language as that would be impolite, but that’s the end of this debate with you. Good luck.

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ejh - March 14, 2012

I see supreme selfishness on the part of the slow, lazy and incapable holding back their more talented colleagues.

And yet this blog survives your contributions.

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15. Julian Assandwich - March 15, 2012

Has anyone noticed young people, leaving cert students(and 3rd level students, and media workers), marching on the Dail just about every Saturday over ACTA? It’s early days but I understand they are organizing as ‘Stop SOPA Ireland’. It strikes me as the digital equivalent of the “enclosures.”

It is definitely radicalizing new layers of people. Activist organizations are of course aware of this and you can spot them in the crowd because they look like the protestors’ uncles 🙂

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16. Jim Monaghan - March 15, 2012

A biot of a jump from Open Source. A theoritical approach to democracy under socialism.http://www.marxists.org/archive/mandel/1985/dictprole/1985.htm

I think we have to admit the practice in “socialist” states left a lot to be desired. Even Cuba which is the best and the most popular (I think the Castros would win an election under ant supervision) is very paternalistic by any measures. Sort of like a society run by well meaning civil servants. I am sure our anarchist friends would have something to say as well.

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