Interview of Dmytri Kleiner on the Ideas Behind the Telekommunisten Manifesto

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Context

Marc Garrett:

The Telekommunisten Manifesto is "pushing the debate further regarding networked, commons-based and collaborative endeavours. It is a call to action, challenging our social behaviours and how we work with property and the means of its production. Proposing alternative routes beyond the creative commons, and top-down forms of capitalism (networked and physical), with a Copyfarleft attitude and the Telekommunist's own collective form of Venture Communism." (http://www.furtherfield.org/features/interviews/interview-dmytri-kleiner-authour-telekommunist-manifesto)

Interview

Interview conducted by Marc Garrett of Furtherfield.org :

* MG: Who is the Manifesto written for?

DK: I consider my peers to be politically minded hackers and artists, especially artists whose work is engaged with technology and network cultures. Much of the themes and ideas in the Manifesto are derived from ongoing conversations in this community, and the Manifesto is a contribution to this dialogue.


* MG: ... In the Manifesto you say "In order to change society we must actively expand the scope of our commons, so that our independent communities of peers can be materially sustained and can resist the encroachments of capitalism." What kind of alternatives do you see as 'materially sustainable'?

DK: Currently none. Precisely because we only have immaterial wealth in common, and therefore the surplus value created as a result of the new platforms and relationships will always be captured by those who own scarce resources, either because they are physically scarce, or because they have been made scarce by laws such as those protecting patents and trademarks. To become sustainable, networked communities must possess a commons that includes the assets required for the material upkeep of themselves and their networks. Thus we must expand the scope of the commons to include such assets.


* MG: The Manifesto re-opens the debate around the importance of class, and says "The condition of the working class in society is largely one of powerlessness and poverty; the condition of the working class on the Internet is no different." Could you offer some examples of who this working class is using the Internet?

DK: I have a very classic notion of working class: Anyone whose livelihood depends on their continuing to work. Class is a relationship. Workers are a class who lack the independent means of production required for their own subsistence, and thus require wage, patronage or charity to survive.

MG: For personal and social reasons, I wish for the working class not to be simply presumed as marginalised or economically disadvantaged, but also engaged in situations of empowerment individually and collectively.

DK: Sure, the working class is a broad range of people. What they hold in common is a lack of significant ownership of productive assets. As a class, they are not able to accumulate surplus value. As you can see, there is little novelty in my notion of class.


* MG: Engels reminded scholars of Marx after his death that, "All history must be studied afresh". Which working class individuals or groups do you see out there escaping from such classifications, in contemporary and networked culture?

DK: Individuals can always rise above their class. Many a dotCom founder have cashed-in with a multi-million-dollar "exit," as have propertyless individuals in other fields. Broad class mobility has only gotten less likely. If you where born poor today you are less likely than ever to avoid dying poor, or avoid leaving your own children in poverty. That is the global condition.

I do not believe that class conditions can be escaped unless class is abolished. Even though it is possible to convince people that class conditions do not apply anymore by means of equivocation, and this is a common tactic of right wing political groups to degrade class consciousness. However, class conditions are a relationship. The power of classes varies over time, under differing historical conditions.

The condition of a class is the balance of its struggle against other classes. This balance is determined by its capacity for struggle. The commons is a component of our capacity, especially when it replaces assets we would otherwise have to pay Capitalist-owners for. If we can shift production from propriety productive assets to commons-based ones, we will also shift the balance of power among the classes, and thus will not escape, but rather change, our class conditions. But this shift is proportional to the economic value of the assets, thus this shift requires expanding the commons to include assets that have economic value, in other words, scarce assets that can capture rent." (http://www.furtherfield.org/features/interviews/interview-dmytri-kleiner-authour-telekommunist-manifesto)