Scratch-off the Facebook logo, and you’ll find the CompuServ logo underneath.

During the summer I traveled to the Monostori Fortress near Komárom, Hungary to attend IslandCQ 2013 “Crisis! Re/Constructing Europe.” This text is for the IslandCQ 2013 publication. Rather than simply transcribing my presentation, I have created this text to cover some of things we talked about, and to expand upon them and take the topic further. This text is a remix and extension of three previous texts, two from my blog, and one co-written with Baruch Gottlieb.

Remixing and forking both software and text is an approach I have used for years, and indeed most of my texts contain fragments of other texts, some of which I have written myself, some co-written with others. I inherited this technique from the long history of radical art, from practitioners of cut-up, like Brion Gysin and William Burroughs, to Dada and The Situationists International, and into my own generation with the Neoist Network.

The Internet and free software, to me, were a natural extension of my already existing support of free communications and anti-copyright. When I encountered the Internet for the first time I immediately embraced it, its distributed architecture, its capacity for allowing free speech, and perhaps most significantly, its culture of sharing. The Internet embodied the social relations to match my political and artistic convictions.

However, when I encountered the Internet, though I didn’t know it, it was already dying. It was clear to me that there were challenges, to be sure, but I didn’t yet realize how bad the prognosis was. To me, my fight to save the Internet was against the cencorius desires of other users and the timidity of the small companies providing internet services. This was a fight that seemed winnable. However, what I didn’t know at the time, was that the real fight was against Capitalism, and as such, the inevitable end of the Internet was already evident.

A good example of my early participation is a text I posted on Usenet, it was republished on Wired Magazine’s HotWired site, which claimed to be the world’s first commercial web magazine. In it, I argue that sysadmins working for internet service providers should focus on keeping their servers running, and sanction users that are abusing system resources, but not interfere with content, because if they did so, if they assumed the role of online censor, they would jeopardise the spirit of the Net, and also jeopardise the viability of their own service.

In some way I was right, assuming the Net worked the way we thought it worked, worked the way that John Perry Barlow thought when he wrote “We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity,” or the way John Gilmore thought when he wrote “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it,” or the way Richard Barbrook thought when he wrote “Within the Net, people are developing the most advanced form of collective labour: work-as-gift.”

Unfortunately, I wrote my article in September. The 790th day of September, 1993, to be exact. What would have been October 31st, 1995 on the pre-September calendar.

The Jargon File defines “The September that never ends” as “All time since September 1993. One of the seasonal rhythms of Usenet used to be the annual September influx of clueless newbies who, lacking any sense of netiquette, made a general nuisance of themselves. This coincided with people starting college, getting their first internet accounts, and plunging in without bothering to learn what was acceptable. These relatively small drafts of newbies could be assimilated within a few months. But in September 1993, AOL users became able to post to Usenet, nearly overwhelming the old-timers’ capacity to acculturate them; to those who nostalgically recall the period before, this triggered an inexorable decline in the quality of discussions on newsgroups.”

Once the internet was available to the general public, outside of the research/education/NGO world that had inhabited it before September, the large numbers of users arriving on the untamed shores of early cyberspace “nearly overwhelmed the old-timers’ capacity to acculturate them.” The Jargon File mentions “netiquette,” a quaint term from the innocent times of net.culture, yet netiquette was not simply a way of fitting in, it wasn’t like table manners at an exclusive dinner party. The cultural context of that Internet that made acculturation necessary was its relative openness and lack of stratification.

Netiquette was required, because the network had relatively little constraints built into it, the constraints needed to be cultural for the system to work. There was much more to this culture than teaching new users how to not abuse resources or make a “general nuisance of themselves.” Netiquette was not so much about online manners, it was rather about how to share. Starting from the shared network resources, sharing was the core of the culture, which not only embraced free software and promoted free communications, but generally resented barriers to free exchange, including barriers required to protect property rights and any business models based on controlling information flow.

As dramatic as the influx of new users was to the “old-timers” net.culture, the influx of capital investment and it’s conflicting property interests quickly emerged as an existential threat to the basis of the culture. net.culture required a shared internet, where the network itself and most of the information on it was held in common. Capital required control, constraints and defined property in order to earn returns on investment. Lines in the sand were drawn, the primitive communism of the pre-September Internet was over. The Eternal September began, and along with it, the stratification of the Internet began.

Rather than embracing the free, open platforms where net.culture was born, like Usenet, email, IRC, etc, Capital embraced the Web. Not as the interlinked, hypermedia, world-wide-distributed publishing platform it was intended to be, but as a client-server private communications platform where users’ interactions were mediated by the platforms’ operators. The flowering of “Web 2.0″ was Capital’s re-engineering of the web into an internet accessible version of the online services they were building all along, such as the very platforms whose mass user bases were the influx that started the Eternal September. CompuServ and AOL most notable among them.

The Eternal September started when these Online Services allowed their users to access Internet services such as Usenet and email. Web 2.0 replaced Usenet and email with social platforms embedded in private, centralized web-based services that look and work very much like the old Online Services.

Scratch-off the Facebook logo, and you’ll find the CompuServ logo underneath.

The Internet is no longer an open free-for-all where old-timers acculturate new-comers into a community of co-operation and sharing. It is a stratified place where the culture of sharing and co-operation has been destroyed by the terms of service of online platforms and by copyright lobbies pushing for greater and greater restrictions and by governments that create legislation to protect the interests of property and “security” against the interests of sharing.

The culture of co-operation and sharing has been replaced by a culture of surveillance and control.

Much later that September, the 6,820th day of September, 1993, to be exact, I gave a talk with Jacob Appelbaum at the 6th annual Re:publica conference in Berlin. In part, I responded to the earlier presentation by Eben Moglen, the brilliant and tireless legal council of the Free Sofare Foundation and founder of the FreedomBox Foundation, who gave a characteristically excellent speech. However, in it was something that just couldn’t be right.

Moglen claimed that Facebook’s days as a dominant platform are numbered, because we will soon have decentralized social platforms, based on projects such as FreedomBox, users will operate collective social platforms based on their own hardware, retain control of their own data, etc. The trajectory that Moglen is using has centralized social media as the starting point and distributed social media as the place we are moving toward. But in actual fact, this transformation had already occured very long ago.

During the twilight of the CompuServ era, both personal and commercial users migrated en masse to the Internet. For instance, in a letter to their customers that is still available online the software company BASIS international, “The Big Little Software Company,” writes: “BASIS plans to move completely off CompuServe (CSi) and onto the Internet. This is a logical consequence of the many changes that have taken place in the online world over the past few years.”

In their letter, BASIS spells out a lot of these changes: “While our CSi presence has served the company well in the past, its pay-to-access structure is increasingly harder to justify with the Internet providing almost limitless content at a negligible incremental cost. People are moving away from CSi in significant numbers, making it a less effective platform from which to address our current and future customers. We believe that moving our existing support infrastructure from CSi to the Internet will give us better access to our customers and our customers better access to us.”

It goes on to explain how it will now use open platforms like email, Usenet and IRC instead of CompuServ’s proprietary and centralised applications. This letter was published around the same time HotWired reposted my Usenet article.

Contrary to Moglen’s trajectory of social media, the fact is that we already had distributed social media, we already abandoned the centrally controlled platforms such as CompuServ and AOL, and moved to the Internet, and despite this, our decentralized platforms have since been replaced, once again, with centralized social media. Why? Because Capitalism.

The Internet is a distributed social media platform. The classic internet platforms that existed before the commercialization of the web provided all the features of modern social media monopolies. Platforms like Usenet, email, IRC and finger allowed us to do everything we do now with Facebook and friends. We could post status updates, share pictures, send messages, etc. Yet, these platforms have been more or less abandoned. So the question we need to address is not so much how we can invent a distributed social platform, but how and why we started from a fully distributed social platform and replaced it with centralized social media monopolies.

The answer is quite simple. The early internet was not significantly capitalist funded. The change in application topology came along with commercialization, and this change is a consequence of the business models required by capitalist investors to capture profit. The business model of social media platforms is surveillance and behavioral control. The internet’s original protocols and architecture made surveillance and behavioral control more difficult. Once capital became the dominant source of financing it directed investment toward centralized platforms, which are better at providing such surveillance and control, the original platforms were starved of financing. The centralized platforms grew and the decentralized platforms submerged beneath the rising tides of the capitalist web.

This is nothing new. This was the same business model that capital devised for media in general, such as network television. The customer of network television is not the viewer, rather the viewer is the product, the “audience commodity.” The real customers are the advertisers and lobby groups wanting to control the audience.

Network Television didn’t provide the surveillance part, so advertisers needed to employ market research and ratings firms such as Nielson for that bit. This was a major advantage of social media. Richer data from better surveillance allowed for more effective behavioral control than ever before, using tracking, targeting, machine learning, behavioral retargeting, among many techniques made possible by the deep pool of data companies like Facebook and Google have available.

This is not a choice that capitalists made, this is the only way that profit-driven organizations can provide a public good like a communication platform. Capitalist investors must capture profit or lose their capital. If their platforms can not capture profit, they vanish. The obstacle to decentralized social media is not that it has not been invented, but the profit-motive itself. Thus to reverse this trajectory back towards decentralization, requires not so much technical initiative, but political struggle.

So long as we maintain the social choice to provision our communication systems according to the profit motive, we will only get communications platforms that allow for the capture of profit. Free, open systems, that neither surveil, nor control, nor exclude, will not be funded, as they do not provide the mechanisms required to capture profit. These platforms are financed for the purpose of watching people and pushing them to behave in ways that benefit the operators of the platform and their real customers, the advertisers, and the industrial and political lobbies. The platforms exists to shape society according to the interests of these advertisers and lobbies.

Platforms like Facebook are worth billions precisely because of their capacity for surveillance and control.

Like the struggle for other public goods, like education, child care, and health care, free communication platforms for the masses can only come from collective political struggle to achieve such platforms.

This is a political struggle, not a technical one.

The Mossy Side of the Rock theory of State Power.

The state is not a neutral, disinterested mediator, uninfluenced by regard to personal interest nor free from bias or prejudice. The state does mediate among the classes, but always on behalf of the dominant class, and what’s more, there is nothing sinister or nefarious about this, this is nothing more than a material fact, like the fact that moss grows on the damp side of the rock.

The unequal distribution of moss on the surface of a rock is not a conspiracy against the sunny side of the rock, but simply a matter of irrigation. The moss needs water to grow, there is simply more of it on the shady side.

Just as moss needs water, power needs wealth, and the wealth of the most powerful provides the irrigation for the growth of the State, which would shrivel without it. The interests of the State are always ultimately driven by the interests of wealth. We can not change this. The only thing we can change is how wealth is created and distributed in society by producing and sharing differently and thereby change what the State’s interests are.

So long as the the wealthiest members of society depend on control and exploitation, the State will serve the interests of control and exploitation. If we can instead develop ways to build social wealth based on co-operation and equality, the State, to whatever degree it is needed at all, will serve these interests instead. It is not a matter of clandestine schemes to control the state, it’s a matter of irrigation.

Excerpted from David Miranda, Keith Vaz and Legitimizing the “Ordinary” State.

Chelsea Manning, Mr. Bumble’s Wife, and the Law as the Ass of Capital

“Oh, Eeyore, you are wet!” said Piglet, feeling him. Eeyore shook himself, and asked somebody to explain to Piglet what happened when you had been inside a river for quite a long time.

Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison. And as there should be, there is wide scale outrage over this. Manning’s punishment is more than many convicted of rape, murder, and even of war crimes. As such, many are decrying this apparent miscarriage of justice.

Eeyore would probably ask somebody to explain what happened when you challenged the power of the State. I’ll give it a try.

The phrase “the law is an ass” was popularized by Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, when the character Mr. Bumble is told he is legally responsible for his wife’s theft of some jewelry as “the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction”. Mr. Bumble replies “If the law supposes that … the law is a ass — a idiot. … I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience”

The dictionary gives several meaning for the word “ass.” Mr. Bumble is using the word to mean “a pompous fool.”

The law, he supposes, is as misguided as a fool, and with some more experience, “his” eye would be open, and he would realize that woman are independent people and their husband’s don’t control them, and thereby that Mr. Bumble should not be held responsible for his wife’s stealing.

Foolishness seems an odd charge to make of such a studious and contested field as the law.

The law is forged on behalf of the most powerful by their most vetted representatives. Could it be that they simply didn’t know women enough to realize women where real independent people? Or, perhaps more likely, they wanted to employ the law to restrict the independence of woman?

In the Theory of the Leisure Class, Veblen writes “The early differentiation out of which the distinction between a leisure and a working class arises is a division maintained between men’s and women’s work in the lower stages of barbarism. Likewise the earliest form of ownership is an ownership of the women by the able bodied men of the community”

In the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels write “The bourgeois sees his wife a mere instrument of production.”

Maybe the law as not as foolish as it seems, rather it’s simply promoting the interests of the leisure class against the working class and ensuring patriarchal property rights. So perhaps, the law is not an ass in the sense of “pompous fool,” but rather in another meaning from the dictionary, a “hardy and sure-footed animal, smaller and with longer ears than the horse.”

The donkey has been used as a working animal for at least 5000 years. Rather than acting the fool, what the law is doing is carrying water for the beneficiaries of a stratified society. It is the means by which the class structure protects itself from threats. The level of crime, and thereby the just punishment is not based on the damage done to individuals, but rather the threat to the structures that allow one class to exploit another.

The law is an ass. It is capital’s loyal ass. And to use the word in another sense, “the fleshy part of the body that you sit on,” that’s exactly where Chelsea Manning kicked it.

If you understand legal justice as being rooted in fairness and equality, then it is impossible to understand how Manning could possibly be deserving of more punishment than those who commit heinous, violent and inhuman crimes. However, if you understand legal justice in a materialist sense, you realize that hurting people doesn’t necessarily hurt capital or threaten the structure of class society, and therefor is not such a big crime.

Attacking the legitimacy of the State is a very big crime.

From the point of view of Capitalism, Manning got what she deserved. As such, cries for “fair” treatment for Chelsea are likely to fall on deaf ears. Though it’s ears are long, Capitalism’s ass only hears what it wants to. We can only change the logic of the law by resisting capitalism.

On a happier note, DJ Podinski is back from his Balkan adventure with new beats to share, so join us at Buchhandlung this evening!

 

David Miranda, Keith Vaz and Legitimizing the “Ordinary” State.

When I met David Miranda, he was introduced to me as Glenn’s partner. I nodded and smiled and was pleased to meet him. I chatted with David about his home in Brazil, about his 10 dogs and the banana-throwing monkeys that torment them, and other things. A few minutes later, after hearing again that he was “Glenn’s husband,” I whispered to a friend “Um, who’s Glenn?” “Glenn Greenwald” I was told.

David and I didn’t talk about Greenwald, Snowden, the NSA, or any other such thing. I was quite surprised when yesterday morning, while still in the French mountains for a Telekommunisten retreat with several friends, I heard that David was detained in the UK, and that his computer, cellphone, storage media, etc., was taken away from him.

The same day I met David, another friend’s backpack, also containing cellphones and storage media, was stolen from the bar we we’re in. It seems possible these things are connected, perhaps some clumsy SIGINT looking to intercept Snowden material destined for Greenwald.

Many voices have quite rightfully come forward to protest the detainment of Miranda, especially under the specious pretence of anti-terror legislation, and rightfully so. We must all protest the further degradation of our ability to travel and to keep possession of our personal belongings and data, and to maintain our privacy.

In doing so, we must remember that the rule of law and the power of the State is not guided by wisdom or fairness, but always by the interests of the most powerful. And always against whatever adversaries they face.

The state is not a neutral, disinterested mediator, uninfluenced by regard to personal interest nor free from bias or prejudice. The state does mediate among the classes, but always on behalf of the dominant class, and what’s more, there is nothing sinister or nefarious about this, this is nothing more than a material fact, like the fact that moss grows on the damp side of the rock.

The unequal distribution of moss on the surface of a rock is not a conspiracy against the sunny side of the rock, but simply a matter of irrigation. The moss needs water to grow, there is simply more of it on the shady side.

Just as moss needs water, power needs wealth, and the wealth of the most powerful provides the irrigation for the growth of the State, which would shrivel without it. The interests of the State are always ultimately driven by the interests of wealth. We can not change this. The only thing we can change is how wealth is created and distributed in society by producing and sharing differently and thereby change what the State’s interests are.

So long as the the wealthiest members of society depend on control and exploitation, the State will serve the interests of control and exploitation. If we can instead develop ways to build social wealth based on co-operation and equality, the State, to whatever degree it is needed at all, will serve these interests instead. It is not a matter of clandestine schemes to control the state, it’s a matter of irrigation.

British Labour MP Keith Vaz called the detention of David Miranda “extraordinary.” Yet, there is nothing “extraordinary” about the State attempting to intercept communications by physically taking away media and storage devices. The hollow protestation of Keith Vaz is just part of the spin to deflect attention away from the systemic fact that the State is using its power to protect its interests, and instead frame the story as the behaviour of particular government agents, or perhaps details of law.

By calling the detention of David “extraordinary” Vaz is defending the legitimacy of the State and its power of search and seizure in the “ordinary” case. He makes this clear: “it is right that the police and security services should question people if they have concerns or the basis of any concerns about what they are doing in the United Kingdom.”

And yet, even in the ordinary case, the State will continue to develop its capacities for surveillance and control in concert with its capitalist partners, and this is what will inform the “concerns” of police.

So, while protesting injustices such as the detention of David Miranda is very important, it’s perhaps even more important to remember that it’s not enough to protest the “extraordinary” but the “ordinary” even more so.

It’s far too simple to blame tyrannical law enforcers and clueless politicians while ignoring the laws of motion of capitalism and the profit motive. We must not be under the impression that all can be fixed by simply amending some legislation and reprimanding some border guards. We must always remember that our conflict is with capitalism itself.

I’ll be at Stammtisch as usual today, at 9pm, and I look forward to seeing everybody. Though I hate to say it, please bring only what you need. Let’s watch each others stuff, and do whatever we can to keep our possessions and data safe.

 

Vote WikiLeaks 2013

Correction: Assange is standing for the Senate, not Parliament, and would therefore become a Senator, not an MP.

Entering the Ecuadorian Embassy last Wednesday felt kind of like visiting a private house, a rather posh house right beside Herrods in the conspicuous consumption district of central London, but just a house nonetheless.

The Embassy is neither fortified, nor particularly guarded, neither compound nor fortress, protected not by rampart nor battlement, but only by diplomatic law granting inviolability to diplomatic premises. Ecuador’s Embassy stands in stark contrast with the barricaded garrisons typical of US Embassies around the world. Ecuador, one supposes, has a much shorter list of official enemies.

It’s been a few years since I met Julian Assange at 26C3, and the interim has no doubt been interesting times, as WikiLeaks and Julian himself rose from hacker exemplar to international cause célèbre, currently confined as an asylee in the Embassy for over a year to avoid extradition.

The relative smallness of the building means that the street is never more than a few metres away, always visible through windows and doors, yet beyond reach for Julian, unable to step outside.

Not withstanding his confinement on Hans Crescent, Assange is standing in the Australian Federal elections with the newly formed WikiLeaks party, with elections coming up on September 7th. He stands a good chance of becoming an Australian Senator.

Obviously, the first question that comes to mind is whether or not becoming a Senator would change his situation with regard to potential extradition or somehow allow him to leave the embassy and return to Australia to attend parliament, but Assange doesn’t think it would. He plans to serve as a Senator in exile, from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. As he put it, the only way it would change the situation is make his confinement even more absurd.

The idea of the party is taking advantage of the political process as a public platform for the agenda of WikiLeaks, “Transparency. Accountability. Justice.” As their platform says, “Where the truth is suppressed or distorted, corruption and injustice flourish.” Clearly, the suppression of truth is not an Australian issue, per se, but rather a global issue and WikiLeaks has never had a policy focus, let alone Australian policy specifically.

WikiLeaks is a publisher, aiming to primarily make a contribution to journalism; “Our goal is to bring important news and information to the public.”

This makes the framing of a “WikiLeaks Party” a somewhat odd fit. Yet, my interest in it stems from my endorsement of the concept of “Counterpolitics,” the same basis of my support for the Pirate Party, and my proposal for the Debtors’ Party.

The goal of “Politics” is to impose the interests of powerful groups on the rest of society. The Political process provides a pretense of participation and thereby provides legitimization for rule. However, political participation requires the capacity to campaign, to donate, to lobby, etc, so in the end it’s a battle of capacities in which only the wealthy can push relentlessly towards their own interests. The interests of the less wealthy and less powerful groups can never be imposed by way of the political process, as those that are more powerful will inevitably have more wealth with which to resist them.

This is why the goals of less powerful groups must be pursued from the bottom up, by building and expanding alternatives, not by way of top down restructuring of society through the power of the State.

Thus, our political engagement is not politics proper, but rather counterpolitics. Our goal can not be to impose a new society from the top down, since only dominant groups can impose their interests that way, but rather to resist attacks on our ability to build alternatives.

As such, it doesn’t matter whether or not a WikiLeaks Party represents a coherent platform for ruling Australia, the party will never rule Australia, and we can not achieve communism by offering to manage capitalism for the capitalists.

What does matter is whether or not the WikiLeaks Party can, by way of participating in Australian parliament, and by way of using that country’s upcoming elections as a publicity platform, help defend our ability to build the new society in the shell of the old. Just like the Pirate Party and the proposed Debtors’ Party, I believe it can.

Australia, Vote WikiLeaks 2013!

I’ll be at Stammtisch at Cafe Buchhandlung tonight at 9pm or so, look forward to see you all there.

The Quantity Theory of Money is the Flat Earth Theory of Economics.

There’s an old joke that you can prove that the earth is flat with a simple experiment you can do anywhere: Jump!

Since scientists claim that Earth is rotating at a very high rate of speed, by simply jumping up as high as you can, you can prove it’s not true! If the Earth were indeed spinning at such a fast speed, wouldn’t you land hundreds of feet away instead of in the exact same spot you jumped from? Obviously the Earth is flat! QE god-damn D!

Quantity Theory believers also often start with a similarly personal scale from which to understand a macroeconomic question. They have a fixed amount of money. Money, to them, is like a pile of stuff. If you imagine that everything else there is to buy in the world is a similar pile of stuff, then, obviously, if you take the total amount of money in the pile of money and divide it up by total amount of stuff in the pile of stuff: you have the value of money.

If you increase the amount of money, by, for instance (in the flat earth vernacular) “printing” it, each “piece” of money in the pile goes down in value, because the pile of stuff still has the same amount of stuff. “More money chases fewer goods” as they say.

Joan Robinson frequently recounts that the great Michal Kalecki once exclaimed to her “I have found out what economics is; it is the science of confusing stocks with flows!” The trouble with the flat earth economists, is that they confuse the dynamic flows of production and consumption that make up an economy with static piles of stuff. Robinson further reasoned that “it is this confusion that has kept the Quantity Theory of Money alive until today.”

Just to start with, money is not something that is “printed,” the physical number of paper bills or minted coins is simply an artefact of the retail demand for such to conduct cash transactions. Money is either spent into existence by the government, or lent into existence by the banks. The amount of money created by government spending is a matter of government policy, the amount of money created by banks is a matter of the level of qualified demand for borrowing there is in the economy. In neither case is there any pile of paper, coins, or anything else that limits how much they can spend or lend.

A flat earth economist reasons that if more money is created (“printed”) the value of money necessarily goes down. This would only be the case if the total number of things to buy where a fixed stock. Not only that, it also assumes that any new money would be necessarily spent on buying things, and these things are locally produced.

In reality, of course, the number of things to buy is not fixed, in most economies, particularly in down-cycles, unemployment exists, and so does underutilized productive capacity. New money can be created in such a way so as to put more people to work and more capital to work to produce more things, as such, the flow of money and the flow of goods both increase.

And of course, not all new money is spent on locally produced goods, thus newly created money is also sometimes simply saved, or used to repay debt, or is sent abroad and results in greater imports and foreign savings.

When you add it all up, it becomes very clear that the amount of money that is “printed” (aka spent) by the government tells you very little about the level of prices on it’s own, this can only be understood within the context of sectoral balances, taxation levels, unemployment, utilization of productive capacity and local and foreign propensity to save the currency.

To put this in terms of a macroeconomic identity, the quantity theory of money can be expressed as MV = PQ. M is the number of units of money in our pile of money, and V is the number of transactions that occur in a given period, this must, by definition, be equal to the price level (P) multiplied by the real GDP (Q), our pile of stuff.

As Bill Mitchell argues, following Kalecki and Robinson, to render this a theory of inflation one has to assume that V and Q are fixed, in other words that propensity to save, invest and import never change and that the economy is always operating at full capacity. Since that is empirically demonstrable to be not the case, the assertion that an increase in M necessarily results in an increase in P is demonstrably false. This theory is as dead as they come.

So what is the real reason that zombie economic theories like the Quantity Theory continue to stalk the earth when they have been unequivocally refuted ages ago? Remember that all money is created in one of two ways, it is spent into existence by the government or lent into existence by the banks.

The Quantity Theory and the related monster mash of undead theories that go along with it are popular among proponents of social austerity because they falsely imply that “printing” money necessarily leads to inflation. This means that government should be artificially limited to spending only as much as it taxes. When tax revenues fall as a result of economic downturns, government should cut spending, just as the communities it serves need government spending the most.

This is really a win-win for financial elites with lots of money! On one hand, the immiseration of workers by way of austerity allow capitalists to push for lower wages and benefits, as the workers are in a weaker position to resist, on the other hand, without any infusion of money from the government, additional money needs be borrowed instead, thus increasing interest income for all those financiers smart enough to be very rich!

The Quantity Theory of Money is nothing more than a fable invented to convince the whole of society that they should have less, so that the very rich can have even more!

In any case, as is is my tradition, I will bring a small pile of money to spend on a signification volume of beer on Tuesday night, so join me at Toronto Stammtisch at The Embassy in Kensington Market, the rest of the Telekommunisten crew and friends and will be at Cafe Buchhandlung in Berlin. Please come!

Listen, Anarchists!

My fellow Anarchists! We have an insecurity problem. We need to get over it. We need to stop complaining about “Marxists” and build a heterodox communist movement with everybody who believes in working towards a society without classes.

Let me start with a joke.

Two men are sitting at the bar, one is forlorn about his recent divorce, the other proclaims, “If you had listened to my advice about love you would have saved your marriage!” The forlorn man, perplexed, responds, “but you’ve never had a girlfriend, much less a wife, what makes you think you know about love?” “Obviously, the fact that I know about love” the other responds, “is clearly proved by the fact that, unlike you, I’ve never been divorced!”

Anarchists, never having had their ways and means in charge of anything on any globally significant scale, and as result, never having failed on any signification scale, think they know everything there is to know about power. Like the people’s front of Judea, they militate against the Judean peoples’ front, and not the Romans. With apologies to Monty Python, you can picture the scene in an infoshop near you: “We must unite against the common enemy! Yes! The Marxists! NO NO THE CAPITALISTS!”

Some Anarchists spend so much of their time distancing themselves from so-called “Marxists” or “Leninist” or, when they really want to be scary, “Stalinists,” that you’d think that defeating capitalism is a secondary goal compared to settling the score over the transgressions of the past and winning told-you-so points in some imaginary rivalry for leadership of the working class.

Don’t get me wrong. Anarchism is right. Marx is not some infallible prophet who’s received wisdom may not be questioned. The thing is, you need to dig far into the grungy depth of obscure ideological echo chambers like the Socialist Worker’ Party to find anybody who actually thinks that way, so why bother refuting it? And yeah, Marx was not only fallible, but could be a jerk, he didn’t give due credit to the likes of Proudhon and Bakunin, and was not above using an impressively deployed array of misrepresentations and fallacies in his attacks on them. But come on, if you’re really surprised and scandalized by this, you need to read yourself some of Schopenhauer’s art of controversy. In their own time, both Proudhon and Bakunin where better known and more widely influential than Marx was, so get over it!

Ok, so Marx was a jerk sometimes. Proudhon and Bakunin where hardly sweethearts themselves, as their misogyny and antisemitism illustrates, not to mention Bakunin’s involvement with his ruthless, murderous, buddy Nachayev. It’s not like Proudhon and Bakunin never got anything wrong! Just like the contributions of Proudhon and Bakunin are in no way invalidated by their personal failings, neither are Marx’s, and they’re all dead now anyhow, so it’s a little late to rehabilitate them. Can’t we just admit that, despite their failings, they all made huge contributions to the struggle against capitalism and move on? Does the identification with “Marxist” and “Anarchist ” camps really help us? Is it about flying our gang colours, or getting on with, you know, the struggle?

Anarchists need to deal with arguments worth dealing with, and not feel like they have to respond to every single provocation, endlessly proclaiming “Look look! Some random “Marxist” said something wrong about Anarchism! Outrage!” There’s a great XKCD cartoon called “Duty Calls” where a man at a computer is being called into bed by his lover, but refuses to come, proclaiming he can’t because “Somebody is wrong on the Internet!” A similar cartoon could be made with an Anarchist being called into action in the struggle against capital, but says “Can’t come now! Somebody said something wrong about Anarchism in some totally obscure journal!”

We really need anarchist to grow up and help make the communist movement whole. The anarchist position is very important! Not their position on what Marx took from Proudhon without credit, or what mean and unfair things Marx said about Bakunin. Boo Freakin’ Hoo! Also not interesting is the burning questions of who was really at “fault” in the Spanish civil war or the Soviet experience, as if these historical outcomes were based on the personalities or opinions of Lenin, Trotsky or Stalin, and not the material facts of class struggle. These failings need to be analyzed as complex and multifaceted topics, not anarchism vs Marxism brownie points. No current involved in those events is solely responsible, or completely innocent, for what happened, we need to look beyond the sectarian blame-game and try to better understand the complex political, economic, social and geographic forces at work. It really is super pointless to try to pin it on Marx or even “Marxists,” as if that gets us anywhere.

The reason the anarchist position is important is to understand the limitations of state power. Communism can not be imposed from the top down, it must be built from the bottom up. This is very important to understand. The state is the servant of the ruling class, because the ruling class has the wealth to relentlessly push the state towards their own interests. Trying to give control of the State to an underclass is like trying to make a rock fly by throwing it into air and berating it to stay up there. An underclass, by definition, has less wealth than the ruling class, and therefore can never retain state power! Even in the extremely rare case it manages to seize it, no matter how well it manages what wealth it has, it will, inevitably, eventually, fall to the unceasing attack of the global ruling class, and it will inevitably be distorted and degraded beyond recognition by the fight for its life during the time that it does remain in power.

The only way to change the structure of wealth in society, is to change the way we produce and share, by producing and distributing wealth differently, we change the structure of society itself. The preamble of constitution of the IWW states this quite well: “The army of production must be organized, not only for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old”

However, the complete rejection of parliamentary action that many anarchists promote is also problematic. The goal of taking the state and imposing a new society is not the only possible motivation for parliamentary action! Our capacity for building the new society in the shell of the old depends on the amount of wealth and freedom that we currently have, and that level is clearly affected by the policies of the state, parliamentary action can help resist policies that degrade the conditions of workers by fighting for the maintenance of rights and benefits. Like workplace and community action, parliamentary action is another theater of struggle, and it is foolish to abdicate this struggle, simply because we understand that such activity alone can never achieve our goals! The struggle for communism must be waged on all fronts where inequality reigns, in the workplace, in the household, and in the parliament as well!

Anarchists! Stop being so childish and defensive, get over crying about “Marxists” for their transgressions against you, get over your sibling rivalry. Communists of all sorts are our brothers and sisters in the struggle! We’ve got plenty to learn from and teach each other, so lets stop bickering about long irrelevant doctrinal fights, and lets build a heterodox communist movement that can challenge the power of capitalism on all fronts!

Meanwhile, back in Berlin, Stammtisch will go on as usual at Cafe Buchhandlung, and I’ll be at Toronto Stammtisch number 5 tonight at the Embassy!

Communist Semantic Drivel, The Good Parts. w/ @schneierblog

My Telekommunisten colleague Baruch Gottlieb wrote an excellent, considered response to Bruce Schneier’s recent essay, “The Internet is a Surveillance State.” While Baruch shares Schneier’s concerns about the increasing prevalence of surveillance on the internet, the focus of Baruch’s response is to investigate the political and economic origin of this. Baruch explains that although Schneier is certainly right about this state of affairs, he misses the mark on the political aspects of it.

Acknowledging the essay, Schneier posts a somewhat unusual reply:

“This Communist commentary seems to be mostly semantic drivel, but parts of it are interesting. The author doesn’t seem to have a problem with State surveillance, but he thinks the incentives that cause businesses to use the same tools should be revisited. This seems just as wrong-headed as the Libertarians who have no problem with corporations using surveillance tools, but don’t want governments to use them.”

Now, if Baruch wishes to comment on this, he will, so I’m not going to engage to much with either Schneier’s essay, or Baruch’s response to it, rather I would like to comment on what is implied in Schneier’s response above.

First of all, it should be obvious that the second part of the comment, claiming that Gottlieb is somehow a champion of State surveillance, is very obviously a straw man argument, which Schneier enthusiastically tears down with an irrelevant dismissal of “Libertarians.” A red herring.

And yet, remarkably, these are not the only logical fallacies in this short paragraph, for Bruce also deploys a tidy out-of-hand dismissal, using the term “semantic drivel,” and while not explicit, even the label “Communist” appears to be imply a guilt by association. So, a straw man, a red herring, an out of hand dismissal and perhaps an ad hominem, all in just a few sentences!

I don’t want to single Schneier out here, Bruce is a brilliant and insightful commentator and analyst. Who among us has not blustered on occasion when we’ve felt indignation?

What’s interesting to me is the source of the indignation.

bruce1

What is causing Schneier to act-out in this fashion? I suppose the answer lies in the fact that despite the fallacious dismissals, Schneier notes that “parts of it are interesting.” This communist semantic drivel has some good parts! Something stuck a chord.

I’ve never met Bruce, but when smart people are overcome with indignation and bluster, it’s usually because they feel threatened. They feel unsure, and this feeling makes them defensive, makes them lash out.

I don’t believe that Bruce is threatened by Baruch’s response itself.  But rather, there is something in it which challenges, his world view, and his sense of place in the world.

Baruch’s essay recalls Schneier’s closing comments, as a point of departure: “Welcome to an Internet without privacy, and we’ve ended up here with hardly a fight.”

Baruch, citing EFF, The Open Rights Group, and others, notes that we certainly have fought! You can add many others to that list, including Schneier himself. We have fought! We have fought and lost.

In order to understand the reasons we have fought and lost,  you need to address the structure of wealth and power in our capitalist society, which is what Baruch tries to do, and I wont expand on that here, it’s all there in his essay.

Schneier, perhaps, is not quite as ready to admit we’ve lost, that he himself has lost. This might explain the amnesia, refusing to remember the fight at all.

I hope his indignation is a sign his amnesia is passing, and he’ll soon be ready to confront the true cause of his disappointment with what the Internet has become. Once the initial revulsion and indignation passes, he may realize that the antagonist he is searching for is capitalism, not the laziness, stupidity or apathy of “we,” the masses, who supposedly neglected to fight, or the critical “semantics” of communists.

The problems he so expertly describes result from the profit motive itself.

The Many Tentacles of Octo P7C-1 at @transmediale #BWPWAP

Though Telekommunisten has been a participant in transmediale in some capacity for several years now, this year, as a partner of the festival, was by far our largest involvement to date.

The Octo P7C-1 installation, was not only loud, active and physically huge, occupying the entire building with about a kilometer of tubing, 8 end stations and the P7C-1 central operating station, but the project was also the largest collaboration, both with the number of members of the Telekommunisten network involved, and the number of partners involved.

Kristoffer Gansing and Tatiana Bazzichelli came to us in August of 2012, since R15N was the Official Miscommunication Platform of the previous year’s festival, they wanted to work with us early, as a partner, to plan the Miscommunication Platform for the upcoming transmediale, they shared the #BWPWAP theme with us, and asked us if we could do something with a pneumatic tube theme, since we had discussed our mutual admiration for the technology and interest in Berlin’s system on previous occasions.

None of us knew yet what Octo would become.

As the latest installment in the Miscommunication Technologies series, certain components of the artwork where evident from the beginning. Octo is perhaps the most clear demonstration of a centralized topology possible, and so the idea of Octo as a global domination minded start-up seeking to capture physical delivery by offering a business model based on control of user data and interaction. Once again, Telekommunisten designer-in-chief Jonas Frankki, created the graphic identity of the work, brilliantly using a cartoon octopus with a peculiarly neutral expression to express both the topology and global domination ambitions of the start-up.

However, Octo is more than just a social fiction or electronic telecommunication system, its very physical, and actually engineering a large scale pneumatic post system was the largest undertaking Telekommunisten has attempted to date.

Fortunately, electronic artist Jeff Mann, inventor-in-chief, had some experience with this. Jeff’s work draws out tensions between notions of utopian industrialism, personal theatre, and the evocative enigma of electronic equipment.

Jeff invented what was to become the Octo P7C-1 system, suggesting that we could use plain-old vacuum cleaners and drainage pipe to build the system. We demoed Jeff’s concept at a ReSource Transmedial Culture event and it was clear that this was not only going to work as pneumatic system, but also as a wonderful sculptural and audio installation. It was everyone’s first glimpse of Octo. We where all convinced and excited.

Next, we needed to prove the concept to Raumlaborberlin, the transmediale architects, and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt.

Using one of the Shop-Vacs that was later to be installed in the central operating station, we propelled a full 500ml can of beer through 50m of drainage pipe stretched across the Podewill courtyard, up into a 3rd story window, and down the hall.

Amazingly, it worked! Not only did it work, but it looked and sounded great.

Over the next next few months, right up to the last minutes before transmediale 2013 opened it’s doors, we worked with the HKW and Raumlabor, who designed the chaotic alignment of the tubes throughout the building, and created the 8 end stations. Jeff, drawing on his research into the nature of technological life and its cultural representation, designed and built the beautiful P7C-1 central operating station, which was almost certainly photographed more that Mount Fuji during the run of the festival.

And though the physicality of the work is on a scale much larger than any previous Telekommunisten work, the performative aspect of Octo was also more prevalent.

Telekommunisten director-in-chief, Baruch Gottlieb directed the many facets of the project towards a coherent whole, bringing new emphasis to the performative fiction aspect of Telekommunisten’s work though the lens of his concept of the biographical chronicle of labour. All the transmediale volunteers that operated the central station and attended to the end-stations, and all building maintenance staff that was constantly adjusting tubes throughout the building extended the work as labour theatre. Baruch worked closely with long time member of the Telekommunisten network, Diani Barreto, to create the character of Octavia Allende Friedman, CEO of Octo Corporation, a character which Diani played to great affect, both in person at Transmediale, and online, as a social media power house, who amassed well over a thousand friends and followers in just a couple of weeks.

It was also our first time working with Julian Gough, who played the role of Octavia’s personal biographer, a role we all hope we he will reprise as the legend of Octavia goes on.

As usual, Telekommmunisten Chief Communication Officer Mike Pearce, helped make our message simple and concise, while Chief Operations Officer Rico Weise handled our administrative work.

Although you kinda had to be there to really get it, we’ve collected some pictures and videos here:

http://telekommunisten.net/octo

I can’t thank everybody enough for helping us pull this off!

We’re very interested in showing the work again, so we encourage adventurous curators to contact us.

And yup, I’ll be at Stammtisch tonight at 9pm, so come have a drink with us.

http://bit.ly/buchhandlung

Kind Regards,

Dmytri Kleiner
analyst-in-chief
Telekommunisten.

Today: Octo stakeholder debriefing /// stammtisch

Octavia Allende Friedman has left Berlin, jettsetting on, where to? Hong Kong? Milan? Havana? Perhaps only her personal biographer knows for sure.

Meanwhile, members of the Telekommunisten network will be present as usual, at Cafe Buchhandlung, to greet one and all and raise a drink to a successful launch of Octo P7C-1 at transmediale.

Many deserve a cheer for their amazing contributions to Octo.

Jeff Mann, chief inventor and head of pneumatics, creator of the P7C-1 prototype, contributed decades of research into pneumatics and art
machines to his vision for the tubular system, and his master creation, the P7C-1 central operating station.

Jonas Frankki, Chief Designer, head of graphic identity, created the powerful branding and corporate identity that so perfectly expresses the numerous layers of the project.

Baruch Gottlieb, Chief Director, head of labour dramaturgy, for tirelessly directing the many facets of the project towards a coherent whole.

Diani Barreto, Chief Executive Performer, head of social representation, who brought the project persona to life online and at the festival.

And thanks to our Chief Communication Officer, Mike Pearce, who works towards bringing our often complex, perhaps even convoluted message, to the general public by adding simplicity and concision.

Behind the scenes, Rico Weise, Chief Operations Officer, manages the ever expanding administrative flow.

Not to mention our valiant team of ‘yellow-shirts’ the OCTO central and remote station volunteers, taking the smooth running and efficient delivery of OCTO P7C-1 to heart and ensuring we made a great demo for our current and future investors!

Please come and celebrate with us, share, retweet, all are welcome!

Cafe Buchhandlung is at Tucholskystr. 32

Here is a map: http://bit.ly/buchhandlung

9pm on.