Life Despite Capitalism - First Plenary

Notes from the Life Despite Capitalism First Plenary - 16/10/04 9:30-12:20am


Massimo de Angelis intro

This is production, not consumption event, forum.

When the beast, the capitalism, is abolished, we need ideas about Life After Capitalism. I'm not personaly against this, but would also like to think how to do production, doing, now, which is not colonialized by capitalism.

Plenary is not for public to receive idea and go do, it's a moment of provocation of the thought on which we will buil together later in the day. We do not want to come out of this with definite answers, although that would be great (but i don't believe it is possible), we perhaps can shape the questions today, and continue work and discussions via mailining lists and websites.

Shared thought of all workshops is commons.

Our goals is to frame discussion, to start producing discourse, now and here. Problem is usualy given as that only state and economy are where resource are. However, there are comons, rooted in our daily live, as a possiblity for us. Peopl who workdwide survive on 2 pounds a day can do so because of commons! It is not just happening in global south, it is here, in global north, our movements too, where production happens, is based on commons i.e. resources.

Struggles for water, for keeping web free, all of these are real practices to keep commons alive.We do not want ideology, but to problematize the issue. How are power relations articulated in commons. We can have very hierarchical relations in commons, for example. Second set of workshop is Swarm, discussing, developing ideas of networks, democracy.

Tomorrow, we have 3 hour open floor where all workshops have to come up with a question each, that will be discussed, so that we can go home with some discussion and ideas.

John Holloway on temporalitites

What i wanted to talk is time and temporality of time. Life Despite Capitalism means that we want to live, not to wait. Traditional left is centered on waiting, social democrats say we should wait for next elections, leninist are saying that we should wait for next opportunity for revolution, but we have not time - capitalism is destroying the world and we can not and do no want to wait.

Tradition left operates in the capitalist mode of time. We have to break it now by refusing. Capitalism exists today not because it was created hundreds of years ago, but because we, the workers of the world have created it today. It depends on us, on converting our doing into alienated products. The product of revolution is NOT TO MAKE THE REVOLUTION, BUT TO STOP MAKING CAPITALISM. Refusal, i think, how to say YA BASTA, is our first problem. The world, is, like lemings, walking to its own self-destruction. First temporality i want to talk about is about refual to survive and start to live. That should be our revolution now and here. The only thing it is certain about is NO. It is temporality of innocence.

Second termporality is one of uncertainty, of experience. to create the alternative world. Zapatista say that that "we walk, because we go far". This is temporality of creation, of power to do. If we create capitalist forms of organizations we createthe same separations that capitalism does. Our forms are those that do not separate. It is not a counter power, a mirror image, it is power with completely different logic. Traditional temporality is one of building the party and waiting unilt the time is righ. Ours is one that doesn't wait, that says no, breaks up, and builds different social relations between people. It can not be sudden. It wlil be long and patient change. Overcoming our separation and creating new projects, living against capital, not closing ourselves in. Capitalism is, literally, the rule of death. And to live, means to live against capitalism. Revolutions means going where new commune-ism grows in intersis and despite capitalism.

The world of our many YESES is the world of self-determination. How do we organize our doing. Beyond and against market, state, value. Value is the big enemey, one that we need to cope with in thinking of organizing our opposition. It is important not to loose the driving force of driving NO. Not to follow in depressions. Patience is there to give force to impatience, not to give support to capitalism. The movement is made up of both experience and innocence. It is always dominated by experience, perhaps it should be different, lead by the singing of innocence.

That's all i wanted to talk about. I'm worried that talking commons we loose our focus on our NO.

Nolasco Mamani: traditional commons outside capital

It is people lik eyou that we have been looking for for a long time to talk with. Poeple looking for a way tocreate something new. During our experiences, indigeonous people have fond that people on the left always thought they had all the answers. I am speaking of the indigenous people of South America. I am a member of the Aimara People who live on the Andean Plateau, in Argentina, Peru, Bolivie, and Peru. I live in Bolivia but don't consider myself Bolivian.

The Aimara people has lived for 500 years despite capitalism. Despite great population loss, and great loss of land and culture. It has been obliged to accept everything from the dominant culture. During our entire history, states have tried to make us disappear. We are struggling against this, and want to reconstruct our society and our nation. I would like to talk to you about this experience today. This reality is not well-known. Anthropologists and ethnologues always present reality as if it's static and finished. When we tried to go back to our historical roots, we encountered many problems. We discovered that not all indigenous people can do this kind of research, and not all want to. We found this terrrain was already occupied by academics, who have created a barrier that must be overcome, by imposing their view of this reality.

I am 60 years old. I want to tell you what my generation has done. We formed an organisation which was not very political at first, and became more political as we went along. The search for our roots, in order to reconstruct our nation, gave a practical rather than academic meaning to our work. When we started to show ourselves to be a political group, that's when our problems really began, because we are a dominated people. The dominant people, whether of Indian or European origin, don't want the indigenous people to discover their roots. Because if they did, it would be easier for them to liberate themselves.

Our intention is to find a way to reconstruct our nation so that it would be as compatible as possible with our roots. We wanted to avoid making a mistake which would lead us to take the wrong path in the future. So we took nothing for granted, not even what the most famous people had said. We sought out the internal coherence of our culture. We found three problems. The first one is external, and relates to the people who dominate us. From 1960-1980, there were great struggles in Latin America and elsewhere, and many of us believed that revolution was around the corner. It's important to remember that, because all the left-wing parties at the time were saying that we mustn't waste time, we must fight imperialism and take power. Once that's done, they said, we'll have plenty of time to start thinking about the roots of your culture. We were accused of dividing the struggle by raising these problems of ours. Many of us were convinced, and gave priority to the leftist struggle at the time, and put aside the search for our culture. The rest of us were seen as people concerned with impractical matters. We continued anyway, and found two problems.

The first concerned the source of information. Some information came to us from before the Spanish invasion, and some from after the invasion. We had to determine the exact moment when an element had entered into the Aimara culture. This culture today is not the same one that the Spanish invaders found. For example, there is word "mita". This was a word that the Spanish used to send people to their deaths in the mines. In the old days, we found that this word meant taking turns in work; in our culture, before the invasion, we took turns doing everything according to our age. From the age of 8 or 9 onwards, different activities were undertaken (I don't like the word "work"), according to your age and abilities, you had different activities, and took turns doing these with others of the same age. Handicap people were not excluded, there were tasks for them too. There were no people who gave orders. Word mita, spanish use it for taking terms, but they reduced it to mean going to work in mines.

Another example of iamara is that ecerything, a tree, a mountain, has a personality. Everybody is respected for their personality, disabled people are different. These are the notion that they would like to contribute and that we will continue discussing this afternoon. Thank you.

Maria Rosa de la Costa: Food as commons

I prefer written words, so i will read. Food is the most important right. It has the long history. Most recently, neo-liberal development since early 90's, it is not by conincedence that the question of how to get food arises. Food can be regained as common when communities and networks are organized. To reach that, various nodes in the network need to be connected, otherwise it gets commodified. These commons are in my view: protection of the ecosystem, access to land, clean water, the transparency of production process.

Protection of ecosystem is most important. Many people have seen distruction on means of production on which their liveliyhood have depended, shrimp farms are good example. Farms destroyed eco system, they gave rise to protests and violence. People attempted to reconstruct their communitites, the alternative i powety, slums, emigration. Communiites that used to make their living by fishing are now seeing their sea being destroyed. Some people have managed to rebuild mango forests and even built an artificial coral reef, which is example of fisher people movement.

Access to land is discussed a lot in south. Organic farms in Italy are hard to create, the land is difficult to get access to. Farms are closing down frequently. There is an organizations, national one, of farmers to claim the right on the land. I'm concerned with lack of time, so i will keep it short and continue in the workshop.

David Graber: on democracies

I want to pose more questions than answers. In social movements this has become an important question. Especialy in america, it has developed around consensus process. Word democracy is eruope centric. For example, zapatistas have their egalitarian processes. The idea that democracy has been developed in greece, and that it never came on anyones mind to vote before that, is crazy - and one can think that way only if you don't think about the issue. Relation between decision making and coercsion is a key question. What kind of decision making can exist without coerciosn. Total consesus can not exist, and consesus form is modified by groups in america. When things come to vote, process that leads to is is different.

One question is how to diversify between levels. Notion of community opens up a whole series of difficult question. How to do democracy, how to administer knowledge (common), land. Processes and forms of communal resources and their articulation. When we talk about articulation within capitalism, within a system which is not democratic, it becomes a problem: how not to compromise ones values. Some argue that it becomes impossible between two opposed communities, some argue that that i precisely what democracy is. Defining communities around resources and administering them is what we're talking about. People use different logic for this.

Finnally, last thing we need to consider is the question of representation. It occured to me that a soon as an action has influence on other is political. If the means by which people find out about decisions i non democratic, then democraticaly made decision becomes un-democractic.

None of this has been resolved. We're only becoming to map out questions, let alone answers. I'm curious to find out what other people came up with.

Sandro: free movement as common

Just some of basic ideas that we willl discuss in our workshop. Massimo asked me to take responsibility to facilitate workshop, but it will be actually done by a network. We have a newspaper, and you can see the discourse we're developing in there. It is very easy to link migration and commons. Many analysis confirm that objective conditions of migration are created by todays world. Centered on discuorse, rhetoric, of victimization is what is important. We do not want to talk about migrants as victims. We do not forget exploitationa and domination, and we know that it affects them, but we want to stress that they are subjects who in daily life go about building their lifes despite capitalism. It has beeen an important laboratory of globalizations from below. Many have built their lifes this way, despit all. This way we want to approach freedom of movement as a common. It is a contested common, as site of confilct. Lot of common resources need to be activated to build a possibility of freedom of movement. We want to discuss WHICH are common resources that are used and produced in migration. There are new kinds of transnational networks built within networks. It suggest that commonality is to be produced, not one which already exist.

Third topic we're proposing is function of border and their role as a virtual common. We see it as place of confict, of contestation. There is desire to cross border and one to make it impossble to cross it. This confict goes on today all over the world.

It also plays important role in promoting a privatisation of land. In this sense it is a tool of domination and exploitation. When migrants manage to cross, they still have to pay it with their labour force. In itself, it is an attempt to reapproproate freedom of movement, wealth, and to change their experience of exploitations and domination.

Last proposal is focus on communality which must be produced in countries where migrants work, between migrants and working class. IT MUST BE PRODUCED through struggles, through building up of organizational processes, through breaking of traditional communitites and processes that already exist. It is not possble to think of common in organic way. Some people speak of it in terms of hospitality, we don't like it because it presuposes a second level subjctivity. We take for granted that there is communality which exist and must be offered to the migrants. We don't think this is the right way, but that instead commonality must be produced.

on creative excess (moments of excess)

Word moment is important because it means temporality. Things change constantly, and we wan to emphasise that change. Moments of excess ... capital relies on our excess ... ir rests on top of the cooperation that we do daily. It can not control us, there are moments when our creativity excedees capitals capability to marshal our excess. We think of social (argentina,road protests), cultural(punk rock), and movements like free software.

Speakers will talk about how to avoid normalization.

Vivien from Geneva on worlplace commons

This workshop will be on organizations of commons in workplace. Capitalist industrialisation was designed from the start to break up the solidarity, which is what doctrine of Fordism was about. Sabotage of workplace goes far, it is known that Renoualt would place on the same line workers of different nationality who don't speak same languages.

I will only talk about two communites. One is (defensive strategies of craft, french writer) about unconcious values that bind the group.Well known example is when in costruction industry workers refuse to wear protective equipment and that way collectively exclude danger from work. These defensive strategies also apply to others, so that teacher, for example, often conflict with administration. These strategies are often base on masculine proffession, based on viral macho values, cration of identity, which all makes it hard for woman to enter those.

In reality, work is always filling a gap of prescriped and real activities. What has to be filled can not be perscibed, and has to be re-invted each time. Since perscreptions are obligatory, often, to work well means to cheat rules. If employes stop cheating everything would grind to halt, and that is actualy what happens when everything is followed to letter, and there is form of strike that does so, the slowdown. However cheating has to be done invisible to boss, and sharing of cheating is where work constitutes itself. The common good which is shared at work is this cunning intelligence, cheating - how the work is really done. Christop calls is methicules, greek godes, because it is about incorporated knowledge, know how.

This not only the question of how to get the job done, it is about creativity, how to be alive despite capitalism. Unfortunately there has been a new offensive launched by capitalism, flexibility, ISO standards, competition, psychologic methods, etc (we'll talk more in the workshop). Companies fully realized that workers intelligence has to be mobilized on every level, but with nothing offered in return. Quite the opposite the more one prodcues the more is liekly to get fired because it demostatrates that more can be done. Also, they are asked to be profitable, even if it means that job might be closed (not only for accounting any more). You are only there as long as it's profitable. So that each employee becomes own accountant, manager, with all cotradictions that those imply. In this context social conditions at work are deterionating, because workers have no time to talk, can not share secrets to cheat, and are in competition with each other. This has produced huge amount of suffering. Medicine confirsm this by rise in related iinesses. In the old days, question was of giving meaning to ones work, but today how can one give meaning to ones work when one is despensible resource.

So, is there a space still for solidarity, for collective? How does one proceed with this?

Steven on networks

I'm gonna run workshop on networks, as massiom indicated. It struck me, when thinking of beyond/after capitalism, that one doesn't have to come up with definite plan. The questions are how does one forms new forms of social relations that do not consitute hierarchy, domination, exploitation (that consituted capitalism) - what organizational form to take - i came to network. Not as fetishization of networks, but as form that fits what's needed. Even when we think of brain, it is synopsis that regulate function, as opposed to on central point. In gift economy, value is treated in different way. Importance is in thinking how we organize, and how we can construct it now. What are people doing in organizations, how forms that would be desirable after capitalism can be done today and how they relate. That's what i want to explore in workshop.

Mattias: on communication commons

On free software as community, and marion (if she turns up) will be talking about indymedia as community. By nature, because it can be reporoduced, software is common. We are in competition for resources. There are many good to which this apply, medicine (costs lot to inent, little to reproduce). It's a purely political question if these are going to be considered common goods, or is there going to be limited access. Free software community has an ethical stand of how these goods should be produced and shared. It was done by difining four liberties: to use, to examine internal functioning of the program (transparency), to redistribute as you wish, last, to be able to modify and share it. This give rise of particular forms of production and relations between communities producing software. Phenomena can be analyzed as gift exchange, out of analysis of some old communities. One of the principles of gift exchange is that producer and product can not be separated. People in software community are thus important and it is not only objects that circulate. Question is what do we think about it, and whether it can be extended to other forms of production.

New person: Point of the day, a broad summary

Tremendous wealth has been produced this morning, and more is to come, and i'm happy to be here. Idea of commons and enclosures is now often heard on left, but that's how itsn't used to be. We used to get told that it's an old term, and we used to get attacked a lot, even being compared with fascists.

Notion of commons was being applied to many things today, not just the piece of land - used in broad and new ways. That's the freedom of linguistics, we can do it, extend notions, further then academia. We're developing further and wider. We'll ask in workshop, what is this idea, what is the problem. Many commons were invisble to me, because i wasn't taking part in any regulations of it. For example, i used to live on an island on cost of Main, i saw lobster fisherman fishing, and i thought it is a private enterprise. I took me a year to realize that it is a large common, and it was invisable to me because i wasn't involved in it. Often commons want to remain invisible. For most of humanitites life, it existed through the history. Power that exists in it is important in our attempt to change our relationship with state and economy. It is not easy, and many problems are, especially one of democracy, there to be thought. One of big problems is that if your not in community, you are excluded. Many workshops will be dealing with issues of captalism, and neo-liberliasm has given us a little gift, because it is a direct was on commons. It want to eject it, to privatize it all. Neo-liberliasm starts with a claim that all commons are a tragedy. Let me assure you that that is not the only way how capitalism relates to commons. Neo-liberalism is now attacked, and knows it has to fight to survive. There are many capitalists that are looking at commons as a possibe way of creating a Plan B, another way of organizing capitalism that will be on different basis.

There is a capitalist discussion on commons, and we must learn how to understand it. Sometimes, reading workd bank documents, it can seems as we agree on it. It also means that they know that there is something powerful in it and that capitalist will try to integrate it, like they did with socialism.

Created by: toni last modification: Saturday 16 of October, 2004 [23:05:52 UTC] by toni

next next: Workshop: Virtual Commons

esf london | wsf | (archives) |

valid xhtml 1.0