Post_Cyber-Communism and the Holes in the Pavement (v0.2.0.1)

Postcapital Archive 1989–2001
Orton Akıncı

Daniel García Andújar describes the condition and the period after the “fall of the Berlin Wall” as an aspect of post-capitalism, rather than of post-communism. That condition, the period covered in Andújar’s project “Postcapital. Archive 1989-2001” also features the advance in information technologies and the phenomenon of the Internet.

When the students began ripping of the paving stones to throw them to the police during the events of May 1968 in Paris, they realized the yellow sand underneath the paving stones; the cobblestones. And when they also turned on the water pumps, the sand got wet. Yes, this was the “beach”. The beach of freedom, covered up by the pavement of the modern civilization of property and control. The “beach” was the “another world”, ”under the paving stones”.

In his 1998 essay “Cyber-communism”, Richard Barbrook stated “the Americans are superseding capitalism in cyberspace”. This was also the time Andújar describes as an aspect of post-capitalism. According to Barbrook, the Americans were having a different experience than that of capitalism in their daily Internet practice. This experience, which he relates to that of communism, was a consequence, an aspect of capitalism. According to Barbrook, it was capitalism itself which made the “digerati” a powerful class with high salaries, and it was the digerati who developed the information technologies, the Internet and the idea of free/open source software, as well as many other possibilities that enabled the individuals to “supersede” capitalism in “cyberspace”. Just like the scenario Karl Marx proposed for the end of the capitalism: “At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or — this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms — with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.” 

The Internet, which used to be a “beach” (for a very brief period) for those who believed in the “possibility of another world” (if we happen to use the slogan of today), is not a different space than the “Babylon” we live in. Not anymore. It used to be a beach which was only visible to those with a vision, but also  to those who became aware of this vision and tried invading this beach to make the possibilities invisible by filling the holes in the pavement covering the beach; the holes that enabled those to be aware of the beach.

The Internet used to a “beach”!

For some, the Internet used to be a beach when we had another life there other than our daily lives.

The Internet used to be a beach for some when we were all anonymous on the Internet with the nicks we chose for ourselves. When we had our peers with their nicks they had chosen for themselves in our contact lists, instead of our high school friends and families with their ID names they didn’t even choose.

For some, the Internet used to be a beach until the time when netizens became masses that needed to be tracked, controlled and censored when “needed”.

The Internet used to be a beach for some until we became valuable customers on the Internet that needed to be “personalized” for Internet advertising while our “data bodies” were being tracked , captured and traded for this “personalization”, completely ignoring our privacy.

For some, the Internet used to be a beach when sharing our wireless Internet connection with our neighbors was regarded as a “new form of hospitality”. Until the time that we were frightened by the threat that everybody, even our neighbors, could be “criminals” who would exploit this connection we share for “illegal” actions such as “p2p file sharing” and put the blame on us.

For some, the Internet used to be a beach when people were asking for “free, public wireless Internet connection” for everybody from local governments as a social service. Until the time that we were targeted as customers for personal broadband Internet (wireless high-speed Internet access) by GSM operators, which also simplified the tracking and personalization process for them to capture our “data body” and match it with our identity. We are even being charged separately for this Internet usage which is matched one to one with our identity.

The Internet used to be a beach for some until the time when Metallica sued Napster for enabling illegal file sharing of their songs.

The Internet used to be a beach for some when there was an alternative to what Derrida calls “the impossible possibility of the gift”, for kids on the p2p networks, who were “incriminated, accused, charged and busted” for sharing the “digital gifts” (which are not subject to scarcity), without even knowing who their peers were.

For some, the Internet used to be a beach until the kids who share their photos online were targeted for selling convenient products of “printer docks” to “easyshare” their digital photographs by “printing” them.

The Internet used to be a beach for some until the time when some young people who had innovative ideas and projects for the Internet began realizing these projects not to “realize themselves”, but with the “American dream” of becoming rich by selling these projects one day to big corporations that were already monopolizing the Internet.

The Internet used to be a beach for some until software engineering students at the universities (the universities which are also encouraged to cooperate with the industry to get patents instead of creating free/open standards and knowledge for the public) were depoliticized and educated to become capitalist entrepreneurs, without having any idea of what “GNU General Public License (GNU GPL)” is.

For some, the Internet used to be a beach until the time when the idea of “open source” arrogated the idea of “free software” and depoliticized its social context and rendered the idea and the promise of “free software” invisible.

The Internet used to be a beach for some until the Creative Commons arrogated the idea of “free culture” overlooking the importance of the “share alike” and the “derivative works” approaches of the “copyleft” attitude and the economic model of the “free software” based on creating added value that also enabled the work’s commercial use.

The Internet used to be a beach for some until the “crowdsourcing” approach depoliticized the idea of “commons-based peer production” by reducing the social, economical and political context of being “peers” to the idea of being “crowded” and until the time when the idea of p2p was reduced to bare “pirate file sharing”.

For some, the Internet used to be a “beach” until the time when the “sand” was covered with the “pavement”.

It may be too late for the possibility of another world in the capitalist world we live in. It is too difficult to throw away all the paving stones on the beach without the aid of some “technology” such as a political approach to information technologies. But we can start with struggling for the “possibility of another Internet”. A “free, p2p distributed Internet” where we can be “anonymous” if we want. A free Internet like that of the “Freenet”. A free Internet where we have the right to produce, distribute, access, appropriate and share information to “build culture”. “Free culture”, not the open “source” culture. Not culture as a bare “source” of “crowdsourcing” for profit, but culture as the “commons” for peers. Not with “commons without commonality” like the Creative Commons but with copyleft commons.

Political approach to information technologies is crucial to render its potentials visible for making another world possible. If the “base”, which is the “mode of production”, determines the “superstructure”, which is culture, then “the commons based peer production” as defined by Yochai Benkler offers “a new mode of production” as stated by Michel Bauwens. Also for the case of individual production, an artist, who no longer needs the capitalistic relations of the “culture industry” to produce, reproduce and share/distribute her/his productions, provides an alternative to the capitalist mode of production based on the financial capital.  Because the artist can produce using information technology tools such as “digital duplication” (even using other “digital multiplication” methods of “digitizing” and “transcoding”) and “distributed p2p networks” that democratize the production, multiplication and sharing of that production. This “base” can determine the “superstructure” of free culture.

If “the superstructure can determine the base”, then we can begin to consider the “free culture” movement, which is influencing more and more artists to make their productions “free” (as in freedom). This also forces the “culture industry” to change the way it operates. A culture based on “donation” with free will can also constitute the real “use value” of cultural productions instead of their “exchange values”.

No matter if “the base determines the superstructure” or “the superstructure can determine the base”, we are witnessing a change in both the “base” and the “superstructure” in certain areas.

The promise of capitalism that advocates for itself through the economic problem of distributing limited resources among unlimited human desires is being attacked by both sides of the equation. First of all, the sources are not limited anymore in terms of information (once it is produced). The digital information on the Internet, which can be duplicated in infinite numbers with a “marginal cost approaching zero”, also abolishes the problem of “scarcity”, except for “artificial scarcity”. On the other hand, the idea that the human desires are unlimited is nonsense for the “commons based peer production”, where peers contribute to the production with their free will according to their own capabilities and they also benefit from the production according to their needs. Because peers do not consume more than they need. Joseph Beuys says that everybody can be an artist; everybody can be productive if they have economical and political freedom to decide what and how to produce. Both of those freedoms are granted by information technologies, if they are interpreted politically. Capitalism itself gave the economic freedom to the “digerati” that enabled them to decide what to produce and they produced the tools and ideas that constituted the “digital culture”.

The beach of “cyber-communism” as discussed by Richard Barbrook was a consequence, an aspect of capitalism. “Cyber-communism” of Barbrook was also a period of “inter-capitalism”; a period when only those with a vision realized the holes in the pavement and saw the beach underneath. It was an invisible communist interval in the period Andújar describes as an aspect of postcapitalism. But our Internet experience today is no longer what it used to be when Barbrook wrote about its potential (even practice) of cyber-communism in 1998. The Internet is being utilized by capitalism day by day. The holes in the pavement are being filled one by one. The promise of the possibility of another world on the Internet, the “beach”, is being rendered invisible again. This state of the Internet we are experiencing now is the consequence of the post-”post-capitalism”. The potential of a communist interval in “post-capitalism”; the potential of the “cyber-communism”, the beach, which has been buried under the pavement, has not been evaluated politically.

First of all,  “another Internet is possible” both as a “base” and an “infrastructure” to determine the “possibility of another world” that would be inspired by the holes in the pavement and the veiled promise of “cyber-communism”.

Even though there are still unfilled holes in the pavement, our captured “life on the networked archives” now is post_cyber-communism.

This printed version of this text contains no references since the reader may search on the Internet for any word and concept that s/he is not familiar with if s/he wants to have more information. However, online version(s) of this text that the reader can also find by searching on the Internet, are hyperlinked to the references and may have also been improved.

.copyleft!_ , 31.03.2010

.you are free to appropriate the related content as you wish, as long as you use a copyleft license to redistribute_ .however giving credits and choosing free/open formats are nice_



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