The P2P – Marxism Debate Takes Off

As an intro to a recent post ‘And the Debate Begins… Peer-to-Peer and Marxism: analogies and differences‘ we have said:
“We are posting a critically timed and very important interview on P2P-Marxism nexus. Conducted by Jean Lievens with the founder of the Foundation for P2P Alternatives Michel Bauwens on some aspects of his P2P theory and Marxist theory, the interview might be the opening of the greatest debate of coming years. While the rising ‘mode of P2P Production’ and new P2P political processes have obviously overdetermined the massive social change process that came about in 2011, with the contribution of such productive debate we would be able to get much clearer projections

on real alternatives to capitalism, and how to make these alternatives happen. In the aftermath of the death of  the ‘postmodern condition’ and with the return of  the ‘class warfare’ , such debate would level the field for a constructive engagement between marxist, anarchist, and post-marxist critical traditions.”

The debate has been recently took off with impulses coming from a short article by Bohm and Land, and Jakob Rigi’s response to them. We reproduce the email exchange below. The debate will likely continue here and/or here. In order to join the debate on the first link you will need to register P2P Foundation’s social network on Ning first.

Bauwen’s reactions embedded in Rigi’s previous reaction (28.02.2012): 

Hi Muchel.Thanks for the reply. Actually, our difference  is  a difference on the nature of money and commodity, i.e, the theory of value. I hold to Max’s theory of value, in which money is the universal form which expresses the abstract labor congealed in commodities.  Trade is the exchange of these values in the market by means of money. If commons (the products of peer production),  will replace the commodity form, then money, trade and market will have no relevance.

Hi Jacob, I’m partial to, but ultimately agnostic to Marx’ value theory, because whatever its truth, it is not necessary to adhere to it to reject capitalism. I agree with the statement, ‘if the commons replaces the commodity form, money will have no relevance’…. But if commons is communism,  and it is, do you really think that one day we will wake up with commonism? If you are a marxist, then you know that Marx himself, and all important marxists after him, all agreed to the necessity of transition, the one they called socialism  … and as long as not everything is 100% commons, then you need reciprocity, and means to account for the reciprocity … this does not have to be capitalist money, nor capitalist market, but certain forms of trade and exchange are very likely to be part of the mix. And the existence of non-capitalist markets, both in the past and in the present, are well documented, and recognized by people like David Graeber, Kleiner and many others. This is why the debate to transform money, in myriad ways, is important, because we will need practical implementation of such alternatives to accompany non-capitalist practices. The transition will be impossible if we retain capitalist money as it is designed now. Please also note that the revolutionary regimes after WWI, such as in Hungary, did exactly that, and perhaps you know more about this than me. Otherwise, I think you will benefit from studying Allan Butcher’s detailed studies of communal economics and how intentional communities have dealth with reciprocity-based arrangements without the use of classic money. Seehttp://p2pfoundation.net/Category:Community_Economics

Now we have people like Keith Hart  (see his Memory Bank) who claim that money and market can be decoupled from capitalism and articulated to a new mode of production.  Actually Dimtri Kleiner in his Manifesto seems to have a similar theory of money, though he does not spell it out clearly. Now Hart’s theory of money comes from Keynes, not Marx. I think the fact that commons have put the revisiting of the theory of value/money on theoretical agenda is a great thing, and I hope we will be able to  open a constructive debate on this matter. I really look forward to debating this with you. Perhaps we will propose to JOPP to devote a special issue to this matter.Concerning the transition period, although  its necessity seems logical, I have strong doubt about such a necessity. It is again a major issue and indeed related to the previous issue. Whether the transformation to peer production will happen though a gradual evolutionist path or a social revolution is an open question. But I tend to think that without a social revolution the overthrow of capitalism is impossible.

I agree about the social revolution, but that doesn’t mean it will irrupt tomorrow and immediality install a fully functioning 100% commons regime. So we need to live, resist, and construct living alternatives that can create the structures that will be able to flower more rapidly after the social revolution. This was the tactic and strategy of the labor movement which along with parties and unions created a vast ecology of life forms for social reproduction … yes they were ultimately incorporated in the welfare state, but that was also because the capitalist ‘could’ do this … A coopted solution within capitalism is increasingly unlikely. And my proposition does not concern such cooptation but rather the strengthening of autonomous institutions within the actual world and the  creation of integrated logics for a counter-economy that can exist alongside the social movements.

Knowledge can be transformed to commons without a social revolution but land and strategic natural resources which are the basis of any production are already monopolized by private capitalists and their right are protected by state apparatuses of violence. We cannot establish a peer production society without transferring the strategic natural resources into commons. For this we confront the private ownership over nature and the violence of state. Hence, the necessity of social revolution. I may be wrong, again this can be a fertile ground for an open debate. After a social revolution we may need a historical period for overcoming national claims on strategic natural resources. But we do not market and money for this.

Again agreed in theory. The phase transition will be necessity involve a fundamental change in power. But this is not a all or nothing proposition. In the meantime, do you just remain a wage worker and acquisce with the dominant logic, or do you create the seeds of the future in the present. Though the power over these resources is tremendous, it is never absolute, and the emerging distributed infrastructures can and should be used to create counter-economic institutions and counter-power.

 By communism, I mean a form of social relations in which the state and division of labor have vanished.  The division between manual and intellectual labor has vanished too. Moreover, there is no difference between the fulfilling individual?s desires and performing social duties. You serve others by doing things that gives you pleasure and develop your own individuality. Social individual, to borrow a term from Marx, or social individualism is the corner stone of communism. Communism means the proliferation of singular individualities. This is what is already happening, though in embryonic form, in peer production.

Yes, and it is what marx saw occuring both at the beginning of human history, and at the end of it. It is not something he surmised would happen fully fledged after a hypothetical red dawn. So my proposition is this: create real counter-practices in the actually existing world, and seek to strenghten them; deal realistically with a largely hostile institutional world; 2) when the possibility arises, create the true democratic structures that abolish the  hostility of the institutions; 3) with the new institutions in place, and relying on the social force of the counter world which is now the mainstream world, establish the path forward. Most likely, this will take the form of civic institutions which will decide democratically on the most appropriate provisioning systems that marry maximum freedom with progress towards social equality.

This is also Marx’s original understanding of communism. Stalinism has given bad associations to the name communism. Whether we shall invent a new name or keep the name but wash the Stalinist stain is an open question. In the absence of any better name I still use it. Others seem to do the same thing, for example Richard Barbrook, Eben Moglen, and Dimytri Kleiner.

Yes, t his is appropriate, though I choose the path of a new vocabulary which can more precisely reflect current conditions.

I think both peer production and Occupy Wall Street have a communist core to the extent they promote social individuality. Capitalistic individuality is atomistic and egoistic. Communism is the voluntary cooperation among individuals for both social good and for their own pleasure and development. Indeed capitalism and Stalinism both atomize the individual; Communism creates and manifests true and singular individualities. So it is far from being totalitarian. It dissolves both Stalinist and capitalist form of totalitarianism. Market, in spite of  its appearance, and semblance of choice is the most effective totalitarian force history has ever seen. It levels all differences to money. In the market?s view all different qualities are reduced to same substance abstract value and its manifestation money. From the market point of view the objects, and this applies to people too, because people are objectified, are different only to the extent that they are different quantities of the same things, namely money.

What you say about markets is not necessarily  true. Pre-capitalist market forms, such as those in western medieval times, used ‘just price’ governance, and the same was true in the Hindu villages.

Here is a possible transition scenario. You have a world of increasing commons construction. These commons use peer production licenses which share with other commons institutions, but make for-profit firms pay. The commons workers create physical commons stock phyles based on worker equality and the socialist principles of to each according to his contribution, and use cooperative, nonprofit, low profit and other open company formats. These phyles use integral open book management and open supply chains, increasingly rending moot the necessity of market mechanisms to regulate supply and demand mechanics.

This world co-exist with democratic civic governance institutions which decide which provisioning system is the most acceptable. Imagine three concentric circles, the commons sphere, the private mutualist phyle sphere, the governance sphere .. where they intersect you have the civic sphere which determines the overall structure of society …

In this scenario you have a expanding ‘communist’ sphere, co-existing with a gradually declining reciprocity/exchange sphere and a gradually declining common governance sphere. The key is that generalized non-reciprocity cannot be imposed by any top-down force, however benign, but must by necessity mature in the real society as people can gradually move towards it as sufficiency and abundance replace scarcity dynamics.

All the best Stalinist totalitarianism was more transparent while the market hides its totalitarianism  behind a mask of choice and diversity.Jakob Ps: As  our exchange put forward some key theoretical problems of p2p  I suggest it will not be a bad idea, if you post, of course  if you agree,  please  my initial posting, your response and my response on p2p Website.

————————————————–

Orsan Senalp’s comment  (27.02)

Great discussion! Would be very useful in my opinion to carry this on on the Marxism-P2P debate, with the hope it might take this necessary discussion further.

In this nexus, I want to remind the major attention paid to the recent important contributions from Badiou ‘The Communist Hypothesis’, and among his other books the edited volume of Zizek [with someone else] ‘The idea of Communism’ -in which Michel Heart had wrote ‘The Commons in Communism’ which directly touches the p2p. So commons – communes nexus is a natural extension of the discussion i think.

Strategically, we need something in between ‘the separation of the entire market and money from the system now!’ and ‘embedding the market and fictitious commodities [of Polanyi] into the societies’ in order to bring about, so to speak, a ‘counter hegemonic concept’ or discourse, so hold as much progressive forces as possible together around it -if possible at all, and realize the transition peacefully.

First demand can make many in lower segments of the middle class, dispossessed knowledge workers so on push away from the global movement, while the second would do the same to not satisfied more traditional workers without job and property. One can see in Occupy/Indignados both commonist and communist tendencies can be linked these analytically categories.

The movement is in the phase of a strong, clearly formulated, accessible, and powerful models that can answer both concerns. To me such  discourse needs to be  based on p2p mode of production -as in marx’ so a combination of forces and relations of production (ownership, production and distribution relations) and commons.

I always find Austria Marxists’ approach to hold progressive vectors in contact and exchange in order to stay strong, so wider alliance towards radical change would remain possible. At the end they failed and chose the side of social democracy/revisionism, claimed to be ‘turned’ reformist by Lenin. This was happening when Bolsheviks gaining power in Russia, Although politically Lenin attacked them very harshly, I believe he always took them very serious politically as well as theoretically. In the absence of an alternative mode of production like peer production, revolution happened in Russia, and evolved as it did. The communist movement got fragmented into pieces, and Stalin, and other examples gave a bad name to a good hypothesis.

I think Jakob’s points -in his forthcoming article on the p2p mode of
production- catches the core of the beautiful relationship between Marx’ advanced communism ideas, and peer production/commons based society ideas of today. We need to explore this further.

And it is very important to keep in mind that first and second industrial revolutions could have happened with the help of progressive revolutionary waves in 1848 and 1917; while 1871 and 1968 waves were only mediating a shift in power within capital forces.

[I think proposals like Jeremy Rifkin
[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ppw5O-Vtxcs], targeting a shift towards a peer capitalism is aware of this situation. His proposal can sound attractive to half of the occupy activists for instance. While he would clearly be hoping to back up a similar revolution for the sake of the rising cognitive capitalists class fraction getting powerful within the transnational capitalist class. In such alternative the higher educated knowledge workers can be seeing more opportunities and co-opted.]

So in order to avoid similar situation and just helping one fraction of powerful to rise over other, and probably continue to destroy the commons, we might benefit from such discussion launched on commons/communes, p2p/maxism and think of a better solution for all :)

thanks all who contribute to such discussion!

Hasta la vistoria, siempre!

—————————————————————

Rigi’s coment (27.02)

Hi Muchel.

Thanks for the reply. Actually, our difference  is  a difference on the nature of money and commodity, i.e, the theory of value. I hold to Max’s theory of value, in which money is the universal form which expresses the abstract labor congealed in commodities.  Trade is the exchange of these values in the market by means of money. If commons (the products of peer production),  will replace the commodity form, then money, trade and market will have no relevance. Now we have people like Keith Hart  (see his Memory Bank) who claim that money and market can be decoupled from capitalism and articulated to a new mode of production.  Actually Dimtri Kleiner in his Manifesto seems to have a similar theory of money, though he does not spell it out clearly. Now Hart’s theory of money comes from Keynes, not Marx. I think the fact that commons have put the revisiting of the theory of value/money on theoretical agenda is a great thing, and I hope we will be able to  open a constructive debate on this matter. I really look forward to debating this with you. Perhaps we will propose to JOPP to devote a special issue to this matter.

Concerning the transition period, although  its necessity seems logical, I have strong doubt about such a necessity. It is again a major issue and indeed related to the previous issue. Whether the transformation to peer production will happen though a gradual evolutionist path or a social revolution is an open question. But I tend to think that without a social revolution the overthrow of capitalism is impossible.  Knowledge can be transformed to commons without a social revolution but land and strategic natural resources which are the basis of any production are already monopolized by private capitalists and their right are protected by state apparatuses of violence. We cannot establish a peer production society without transferring the strategic natural resources into commons. For this we confront the private ownership over nature and the violence of state. Hence, the necessity of social revolution. I may be wrong, again this can be a fertile ground for an open debate. After a social revolution we may need a historical period for overcoming national claims on strategic natural resources. But we do not market and money for this.

By communism, I mean a form of social relations in which the state and division of labor have vanished.  The division between manual and intellectual labor has vanished too. Moreover, there is no difference between the fulfilling individual?s desires and performing social duties. You serve others by doing things that gives you pleasure and develop your own individuality. Social individual, to borrow a term from Marx, or social individualism is the corner stone of communism. Communism means the proliferation of singular individualities. This is what is already happening, though in embryonic form, in peer production.

This is also Marx’s original understanding of communism. Stalinism has given bad associations to the name communism. Whether we shall invent a new name or keep the name but wash the Stalinist stain is an open question. In the absence of any better name I still use it. Others seem to do the same thing, for example Richard Barbrook, Eben Moglen, and Dimytri Kleiner.

I think both peer production and Occupy Wall Street have a communist core to the extent they promote social individuality. Capitalistic individuality is atomistic and egoistic. Communism is the voluntary cooperation among individuals for both social good and for their own pleasure and development. Indeed capitalism and Stalinism both atomize the individual; Communism creates and manifests true and singular individualities. So it is far from being totalitarian. It dissolves both Stalinist and capitalist form of totalitarianism. Market, in spite of  its appearance, and semblance of choice is the most effective totalitarian force history has ever seen. It levels all differences to money. In the market?s view all different qualities are reduced to same substance abstract value and its manifestation money. From the market point of view the objects, and this applies to people too, because people are objectified, are different only to the extent that they are different quantities of the same things, namely money.

All the best Stalinist totalitarianism was more transparent while the market hides its totalitarianism  behind a mask of choice and diversity.

Jakob

Ps: As  our exchange put forward some key theoretical problems of p2p  I suggest it will not be a bad idea, if you post, of course  if you agree,  please  my initial posting, your response and my response on p2p Website.

—————————————

M. Bauwens on 25.02

Hi Jacob,

interesting point, though I guess my approach is quite different, i.e. by divorcing the idea of the market from capitalism (i.e. defend the freedom of trade and enterprise within a civic and commons-oriented economy) one allays the fears that communism would mean an authoritiarian imposition of collectivism … that does not mean however, any compromise with informational capitalism … actuallty, if one talks with occupy and indignados one quickly discovers the prevalence of libertarian impulses, this is in no way a ‘communist’ movement … but one can accompanty and speed up the maturation of awareness that happens through resistance and social creation.

I personally believe that the full phase transition is indeed a few decades away still, but that depends less on ‘our’ persuasion than on equallly important objective evolution, such as the inability of the mainstream system to deliver, the violence of their assault, the maturity of alternatives and yes the awareness and organisation of the workers,

Michel

——————————-

J. Rigi on 25.022012

I agree,

Actually the unity and difference between knowledge workers who perform universal labor and other workers is both the main  resource for the movement and is  its main fault line at the same time. Lenin and Kautsky argued that the working class needed bourggeosie intellectuals who adpoted the ideological stance of the working class to theorize and universalize the goals of working class revolution. Whether this theory was correct in the past is a matter of debate. Today, the very fact that a considerable section of working class, namely, knowledge workers perform cognitive work,  make the class self sufficient in term of intellectual resources. But we need to fight hard in order to nuietralize the influence of information capitalism among knowledge workerss.  It would not be an exageration to say that in this stage the winning of knowledge workers over the cause of communism is the most important task of the movement. And indeed, there are already very good news on this front, P2P debates and pubications, occupy wall street, indignado, wikiliks, anonzmous…. But, there is no place for complacency, because,  if the informational capitalism will succeed in corrupting  knowledge workers then the cause of communism will be posponed for decades.

cheers

Jakob

————————————-

Orsan Senalp’s comment (25.02.2012)

Hi Jakob, Michel and all,
Since personally i think this discussion is touching the key issue for instance the possible solidarity between movements so building up widest ‘counter hegemonic historic orgnet’, it would worth to continue. It is featured on my blog. When your contribution is ready Michel would be good to add here too. It can also be added on the P2P - Marxism discussion?
best,
Orsan

———————————

Michel BauwensComment by Michel Bauwens (24.02.2012)

Dear Jacob,I would amend both theses.My take is that Marx was talking about surplus exchange value, but that does not exhaust what value is. Facebook users are directly producing use value, that is of interest to their peers, by either creating or curating content and communicating about their lives and interests. Capitalism is NOT interested in use value, unless they can convert it to exchange value. This is what Facebook, does, but indirectly. They don’t care about the use value, but about the attention pool t hat it generates. This attention pool is itself a commodity, sold to advertisers, who can thereby sell the exchange value that has been produced by workers. In this way, as you say, the global pool is redirected, and your arguments are valid. But we should not concede that the only value created is exchange value, on the contrary, we have to stress that use value can be directly created, more easily with ‘immaterial’ production (which in any case rests on a huge material infrastructure, as we know), but also eventually and increasingly with directly material production.Hence I find more productive for social change the view, that Facebook are indeed creating value (but use value), and they are indeed exploited, but not as laborers, since they are not waged to create commodities. But as indirect creators of the exchange value of which others profit, they have the right to that value.  UseHowever, not by commodification the production of content and creating even more capitalism, but by recognizing such communication as an essential public utility, that should not (just?) benefit the private shareholders of the platform, but the commons of use value creators. So the fight is to create a non-direct income stream back to the commons and the use communities, as general support for communication and (use) value creation activities. So long as this remains unattainablle, the fight is about the relative share of the different stakeholders.Michel Bauwens

——————————-

Is Facebook Exploiting Workers? A response from Jacob Rigi and Michel Bauwens’ response to Rigi (23.02.2012)

By Jakob Rigi

(Associate Professor ; Central European University ; Budapest)

A brief response to Chris Land’s and Steffen Bohm’s Short Essay: “They are exploiting us! Why we all work for Facebbok for free” (see: http://oowsection.org/2012/02/22/they-are-exploiting-us-why-we-all-…)

The gist of the essay is the following hypothesis: The users of Facebook produce value in the same way as wage workers produce it. Hence, Facebook exploits users by expropriating this value.

Although I have a great respect for Land and Bohm good intentions and sympathize with their anti Facebook sentiments their thesis on Facebook exploiting users is wrong.

Facebook definitely exploits someone. But whom? The answer is  the total world wage labor which is  exchanged with capital (variable capital) . It is only this labor that produces surplus value. To claim that Facebook users produce value is to deny the role of wage laborers and their antagonism to rent-extracting entities such as faceebook and google.

Marx, in Vol. 3 of Capital, demonstrates that the  surplus value  produced by different  sections of workers become a total pool and then  is redistributed among industrial  and commercial capitalists ( in the form of profit), Bankers (in the form of interest ), and land owners (in the form of rent).  We use banks on daily basis and banks lend our money (savings, pensions..)  in exchange for  interests. It would be absurd to claim that users of banks produce value for banks. We spent time and energy to use bank services, even  when we use credit cards. But this energy -time does not produce value, it is not exchanged with capital. Even when the users  pay fees to banks for using the services they do not produce values but buy values which are produced by bank workers. It is equally absurd to claim that the users of Faceook and google produce value. The extract rents that are parts of  the total surplus value which is produced by the wage laborers worldwide.

Actually the knowledge economy rests on the shoulders of   the wage labor which is exchanged with capital outside it, though knowledge workers themselves also contribute to the total surplus value to the extent that their labor is exchanged with capital (variable capital).

Hence, claiming that users produce the rent which sucked from wage labor by google and Facebook, has the following practical implication: the user should expropriate the rent, the user should exploit the working class instead of Facebook.

To conclude users producing value for facebook is a very bad thesis. We should not fight to become rent suckers but to abolish wage labor, surplus value, in all its form including rent.

With solidarity

Jakob

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3 Responses to The P2P – Marxism Debate Takes Off

  1. Pingback: The P2P – Marxism Debate Takes Off | Occupy P2P Alternatives 2012 | Scoop.it

  2. anna says:

    HI Orsan and all,

    Quote from above – ‘The key is that generalized non-reciprocity cannot be imposed by any top-down force, however benign, but must by necessity mature in the real society as people can gradually move towards it as sufficiency and abundance replace scarcity dynamics.’

    One large factor being ignored here is the role of childcare usually provided by the mother, the basis of all non-reciprocal relationships, producing value which is nowhere acknowledged as an economic asset, but without which no society could exist. or regenerate itself. I hesitate to mention the word ‘love’ in this context but without it why would people move towards more generalised reciprocity? It is that primary relationship with a carer – not to exclude fathers or others – which is the first experience of sufficiency and abundance, which will set the pattern of receiving and giving, and will enable a deeper connection with and solidarity with humanity as a whole. In that ability to care, engendered by that first primary relationship, care for ourselves and the other, we can discover our deep need to give, to contribute to another’s well-being, which can nourish our own dignity and empowerment. Through that experience we can envisage the maturity described above moving towards the ‘social individualism’ described by Marx and further towards the ‘Communism [that] is the voluntary cooperation among individuals for both social good and for their own pleasure and development.’

    This is not a relationship that has to be created. It is our natural relationship to each other and to the world which is distorted by the economic system of markets and money mechanisms, which alienates us from our true selves. It remains to be discovered when that conditioning and those conditions are thrown off. Whether we have to go through a transition period will depend more, in my opinion, on how quickly we recognise the motivating role of Love and the priority of the mother/carer/child relationship.
    Anna

    Q

  3. Pingback: The P2P - Marxism Debate Takes Off | Peer2Polit...

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