7.1.D. Possible political strategies

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search

7.1.D. Possible political strategies

In the meantime, while the three scenarios are competing to come into being, and if we are sympathetic to the emergence of P2P and its ethos of cooperation: “What is to be done"?

A first step is to become aware of the isomorphism, the commonality, of peer to peer processes in the various fields. That people devising and using P2P sharing programs, start realizing that they are somehow doing the same thing than the alterglobalisation movement, and that both are related to the production of Linux, and to participative epistemologies. Thus what we must do first is building bridges of cooperation and understanding across the social fields. Amazingly, it has already started, as the last Porto Alegre forum showed an extraordinary enthusiastic reaction to the Open Source event, something that would have been unimaginable even a few years ago. This coalescing of a powerful social and political movement, a movement of movements, seems already to be happening: the alterglobalisation movement, the free software/open source movement, the open access and peer science movements, the forces aligned against biopiracy and the new intellectual property enclosures, the free culture movement, the environmental and other protectors of our physical commons, and others, seem increasingly to find each other.

We should also start to realize our basic commonality with earlier forms of the cooperative ethos: the communal shareholding of the tribal peoples, the solidarity movements and mutualities of the industrial workers. Following the analysis of Mckenzie Wark we should say that both knowledge workers (the hacker class for MW), workers, and farmers as producing classes share a similar interest in achieving first, a fairer share of the distribution of the surplus (the reformist agenda), and second, achieving control of the means of production (the more radical agenda). Of course, this can no longer take the form of centralized state control, and awaits innovative social practices and demands . It is our contention that they will be centered around the peer governance of the Commons. However, creating the new social reality takes precedence over political demands, the latter having to be a consequence of the former. Today to resist is in the first place 'to create'.

Therefore, the second step is to "furiously" build the commons. When we develop Linux, it is there, cannot be destroyed, and by its very existence and use, builds another reality, based on another social logic, the P2P logic. Adopting a network sociality and building dense interconnections as we participate in knowledge creation and exchange is enormously politically significant. By feeding our immaterial and spiritual needs outside of the consumption system, we can stop the logic which is destroying our ecosphere. The present system may not like opposition, but even more does it fear indifference, because it can feed on the energy of strife, but starts dying when it is shunted. This is what is being expressed by Toni Negri's concept of Exodus, and what other call 'Desertion' . These commentators note that it was 'the refusal of work' in the seventies, with blue-collar workers showing increasing dissatisfaction with the Taylorist/Fordist system of work, that lead to the fundamental re-arrangement of work in the first place. In the past, the labor movement and other social movements mostly shared the same values, and it was mostly about a fairer share of the pie. But the new struggles are mostly about producing a new kind of pie, and producing it in a different way. Or perhaps an even more correct metaphor: it is about the right to produce altogether different kinds of pie.

Today, the new ethic says that 'to resist is in the first place to create'. The world we want is the world we are creating through our cooperative P2P ethos, it is visible in what we do today, not an utopian creation for the future. Building the commons has a crucial ingredient: the building of a dense alternative media network, for permanent and collective self-education in human culture, away from the mass-consumption model promoted by the corporate media.

Thus, if there is an 'offensive' strategy it would look like this: to build the commons, day after day, the process of creating of a society within society. In this context, the emergence of the internet and the web, is a tremendous step forward. Unlike in earlier social formations, knowledge workers and others now have access to an important “vector of information", to a means for creating, producing, and distributing immaterial products that was not available in earlier ages . Part of the struggle to build the information commons is the struggle for the control of the code (achieving protocollary power) and the creation of a ‘friendly’ legal framework, continuing the efforts pioneered by Richard Stallman and the General Public License and Lawrence Lessig’s Copyleft and 'Creative Commons'.

The third step is the defensive strategy. When the commons is attacked, it needs to be defended. We are thinking of the struggle in the EU to avoid software patents , avoiding the installment of digital rights management encoded in the hardware; the struggle against biopiracy; against the privatization of water.

Above all else what we need is a society that allows the building of the commons, and it is therefore important to refuse measures that would foreclose this development. Hence the importance of the intellectual property regime, which needs to be reformed to avoid a ‘Enclosure of the Digital Commons", and also, we have to develop an awareness of the intricacies of protocollary power. Since we have no idea about the time span needed for a fuller transition to a P2P civilization, what me must do in the meantime is to protect the seed, so that it can grow unimpeded, until such time as it is called for a greater role.

I would guess that an important part of the struggle for decent life for all, important to make space for the development of cooperative practices, will be the instauration of a universal living wage . So that no one dies from hunger, poverty and exclusion from the world of culture. So than an increasing number of us can start working on the creation of real use value, instead of catering to the artificial desires concocted by the global advertising system.

The aim of peer to peer theory is to eventually develop a differentiated and integrated strategy for political and social change. Because it is based on a differentiated understanding of intersubjective processes, as developed in the relational model of Alan Page Fiske, it realizes that the four modes (equality matching, authority ranking, market pricing, and communal shareholding) have always existed, though in different combinations. It is a fair summary to say that the tribal era was dominated by gift economy modes based on reciprocity; that is was followed by the tributary class societies of the agricultural age, based on authority ranking; and that the industrial age was determined by market pricing. The current industrial era has been marked by the attempt to create a state-based authoritarianism (communism) as an alternative to market pricing; and by the current attempt at market totalitarianism under neoliberalism, which is in the process of failing. Peer to peer theory aims to offer a third alternative: not a commons-based totalitarianism, but a society where the other modes are informed by the peer to peer principles of civil society: a commons-based society within a reformed state and a reformed market. That’s also how it differs from the anarchist and socialist models that hoped for a marketless and stateless society.

Such a differentiated and integrated strategy would be based on fourfold interventions in the different relational and productive domains:

Reform of the stae and global governance modes: We also wish for the creation of democratic peer to peer processes so that they can contribute to solving some of the crucial issues facing the world. This is why the demands of the alterglobalisation movement are sometimes considered vague. It is because, in this complex world, we know that we do not have all the answers. But we also know, that through a community of peers, through open processes, answers and solutions can emerge, in a way that they cannot if private interests and domination structures are not transcended. Thus a reform of the global governance system is very important, so that every human being voice can be heard.. Current global governance institutions, as they are organized today (IMF, World Bank, WTO), often impede the finding of solutions because they are instruments of domination, rather than at the service of the world population. It is thus not just a matter of an alternative political program, but of alternative processes to arrive at the best solutions. I do not personally believe, that change can come <only> from the autonomous processes of civil society, and that attention to the state form is therefore important. Thus politically, peer to peer advocates are interested in the transformation of the nation-state, to new forms open to the processes of globality and locality, to participatory processes, such as the ones practiced with P2P formats. The search and development of peer governance practices, based on new forms of leadership, will be crucial.

The reform of the market is equally important. An economic system that destroys the biosphere, that is predicated on unending growth in a finite physical universe, is not sustainable. The current monetary system, appropriate for the needs and profits of an elite, can only invests ten percent in the productivity economy. It must be replaced by smarter complementary currencies, and on a major monetary reform that changes scarcity-based money systems, and their hidden protocols of exclusion, into participatory protocols.

Regarding the commons such an approach would entail:

1) a defense of the physical commons and the development of new institutions such as trusts to manage the environment;

2) an end to exaggerated private appropriation of the knowledge commons;

3) a universal basic income to create the conditions for the expansion of peer production;

4) any measure that speeds up the distribution of capital.

In the field of the gift economy: the promotion of reciprocity-based schemes, using alternative currency schemes based on equal time (Time Dollars and the like)

Finally, peer to peer also demands self-transformation. As we said, P2P is predicated on abundance, on transcending the animal impulse based on win-lose games. But abundance is not just objective, i.e. also, and perhaps most importantly, subjective. This is why tribal economies considered themselves to live in abundance, and were egalitarian in nature. This is why happiness researchers show that it is not poverty that makes us unhappy, but inequality. Thus, the P2P ethos demands a conversion, to a point of view, to a set of skills, which allow us to focus ourselves to fulfilling our immaterial and spiritual needs directly, and not through a perverted mechanism of consumption. As we focus on friendships, connections, love, knowledge exchange, the cooperative search for wisdom, the construction of common resources and use value, we direct our attention away from the artificial needs that are currently promoted, and this time we personally and collectively stop feeding the Beast that we have ourselves created.