Telekommunist Manifesto

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* Book: The Telekommunist Manifesto. Dmytri Kleiner. Institute for Network Cultures, 2010


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" In the age of international telecommunications, global migration and the emergence of the information economy, how can class conflict and property be understood? Drawing from political economy and concepts related to intellectual property, The Telekommunist Manifesto is a key contribution to commons-based, collaborative and shared forms of cultural production and economic distribution.

Proposing ‘venture communism’ as a new model for workers’ self-organization, Kleiner spins Marx and Engels’ seminal Manifesto of the Communist Party into the age of the internet. As a peer-to-peer model, venture communism allocates capital that is critically needed to accomplish what capitalism cannot: the ongoing proliferation of free culture and free networks.

In developing the concept of venture communism, Kleiner provides a critique of copyright regimes, and current liberal views of free software and free culture which seek to trap culture within capitalism. Kleiner proposes copyfarleft, and provides a usable model of a Peer Production License.

Encouraging hackers and artists to embrace the revolutionary potential of the internet for a truly free society, The Telekommunist Manifesto is a political-conceptual call to arms in the fight against capitalism."


"Peer-to-Peer Communism vs. The Client-Server Capitalist State

Society is composed of social relations. These form the structures that constitute it. Computer networks, like economic systems, then may be described in terms of social relations. Advocates of communism have long described communities of equals; peer-to-peer networks implement such relations in their architecture. Conversely, capitalism depends on privilege and control, features that, in computer networks, can only be engineered into centralized, client-server applications. Economic systems shape the networks they create, and as networks become more integral to every day life, are in turn shaped by them. It is then essential to produce a critical understanding of political economy in order to comprehend emerging trends in network topology and their social implications.

The history of the internet illustrates how this process has unfolded. The internet started as a network that embodied the relations of peer-to-peer communism; however, it has been re-shaped by capitalist finance into an inefficient and un-free client-server topology. The existence of peer-to-peer networks that allow producers to collaborate on a global scale has ushered in new forms of production. Such peer production has thus far been largely contained to non-tangible, immaterial creation, yet has the potential to be extended to material production and become a threat to the existence of capitalism. In order for this to take place, an alternative to venture capitalism needs to provide a means of acquiring and efficiently allocating the collectively owned material wealth required to build free networks and free societies.

We need venture communism, a form of struggle against the continued expansion of property-based capitalism, a model for worker self-organization inspired by the topology of peer-to-peer networks and the historical pastoral commons.

The only way to change society is to produce and share differently.

Capitalism has its means of self-reproduction: venture capitalism. Through their access to the wealth that results from the continuous capture of surplus value, capitalists offer each new generation of innovators a chance to become a junior partner in their club by selling the future productive value of what they create in exchange for the present wealth they need to get started. The stolen, dead value of the past captures the unborn value of the future. Neither the innovators, nor any of the future workers in the organizations and industries they create, are able to retain the value of their contribution.

This ‘unretained’ value forms the wealth that goes on to capture the next wave of innovation. This captured wealth is applied by its private owners towards political control, to impose the interests of property owners on society at the expense of the interests of workers. For innovation to be born and allowed to develop in, and for, the common wealth, we need venture communism. We must develop ways to create and to reproduce commonsbased productive relationships." (


Dmytri Kleiner is interviewed by Marc Garret of Furtherfield:

'Marc Garrett: Why did you decide to create a hard copy of the Manifesto, and have it republished and distributed through the Institute of Networked Cultures, based in Amsterdam?

Dmytri Kleiner: Geert Lovink contacted me and offered to publish it, I accepted the offer. I find it quite convenient to read longer texts as physical copies.

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: Since the Internet we have witnessed the rise of various networked communities who have explored individual and shared expressions. Many are linked, in opposition to the controlling mass systems put in place by corporations such as Facebook and MySpace. It is obvious that your shared venture critiques the hegemonies influencing our behaviours through the networked construct, via neoliberal appropriation, and its ever expansive surveillance strategies. 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"[1]. 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." (

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