Tagged: creative commons

Venture Communism and Technological Miscommunication: a Conversation with Dmytri Kleiner

https://guerrillatranslation.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/dmytri-kleiner_main1.jpgKMO, from the C-Realm Podcast, interviews Dmytri Kleiner

This interview with Dmytri Kleiner, conducted by KMO for his C-Realm Podcast, was transcripted by Guerrilla Translation at KMO’s request. The audio was, unfortunately, unusable for the podcast because of background noise, but the resulting interview was too good to not to share. The following is re-posted from the C-Realm blog

KMO: You are listening to the C-Realm Podcast, I am your host, KMO, and I’m speaking with Dmytri Kleiner, venture capitalist and miscommunications technologist. Dmytri, welcome to the C-Realm Podcast.

Dmytri: Thank you, but that’s “venture communist.”

KMO: Did I say “capitalist?”

Dmytri: [chuckles] It’s an easy mistake.

KMO: You know, I’ve read the phrase “venture communist” several times in the past few hours in preparing for this interview, and yeah… it just rolled out “venture capitalist,” didn’t it?

Dmytri: [chuckles]

KMO: So, Dmytri Kleiner, “Venture Communist” – what does that mean?

Dmytri: Well, it’s sort of the name of a research project I started awhile ago. My background comes from the social justice movement of the 90s. I was part of some of the kinds of hacker groups that eventually became things like Indymedia, and stuff that we called technology affinity groups. At that time there was something going on called the dotcom boom, that you probably remember. A lot of us who were part of these hacker affinity groups supporting activist projects were working for these dotcoms.

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Dmytri Kleiner

As the social justice movement began to fade, along with the dotcom boom itself going into bust, it became very clear to me that this was very problematic. These truly liberating and revolutionary communication platforms were not going to be funded by capital. And so, if venture capital wasn’t going to fund them, then we needed some other way to fund them. This is where the term originates from. It originates from the simple aversion to venture capital. If venture capital won’t fund what we need to do, then we have to create venture communism. And so, venture communism itself began as a research project. And over time, there has been some development of the concept, but I usually mean the term in the very broad sense. I have my own proposals that you’ll find in the manifesto and other texts for what approaches to venture communism might look like, or what a venture communism may be like, but I also use the term in a very broad sense that could include other ways of collectively forming the communication capital that we need.

KMO: I’ll just tell you a little bit about my relationship to capitalism and the dotcom period. I worked in customer service for Amazon.com from 1996 to 1998 and got some pretty decent stock options. When I sold them, I made more money with one phone call than I did in all the rest of my life selling my labor by the hour. I made that one call to the brokerage and said, “Exercise all of my options and sell the shares,” and I got about $660,000 with that call.

Dmytri: Wow…

KMO: Had I waited and made the call six weeks later, I would have made about $3 million.

Dmytri: Oh, wow.

KMO: And in hindsight, I’m so glad I didn’t wait. The money let me do what I wanted to do for many years, but then it ran out. By then I had moved to Arkansas where I was trying to start a homestead farm. That’s where I was living when I ran out of money and had to go back to work in my mid-30s, with a nearly decade-sized gap in my resume. There was not a lot of opportunity, really, in Berryville, Arkansas, in the early aughts. Well, I had a big change of heart, because, before that, I had been very much libertarian, politically. I had been a techno-utopian, a trans-humanist, and a Singularitarian. Those are meme complexes that tend to attract one another.

Dmytri: Sure.

KMO

KMO: Rarely are trans-humanists particularly critical of capitalism, or even cognizant that there might be something to criticize. And so, having to basically start again in my mid-30s, working really horrible jobs in sales – I started selling cell phones, and then I got into insurance, which is a really, really ugly business – my political views changed, and eventually my techno-utopian views gave way as well.

Now, I’m actively critical of capitalism. But I’m trying to articulate that criticism in such a way that it does not trigger an automatic ideological, reflexive rejection of what I have to say. Because, for so many people in this country, particularly in the middle of the country, the word “capitalism” just means “our side.” It represents everything that is right and good. Capitalism is synonymous with prosperity, and communism means totalitarian, evil dictatorship that brings austerity, and slavery. So, I’m trying to be very careful with my terms, but let me encourage you to say as much good as you can about the concepts of communism and peer to peer networks.

Dmytri: Well, I never imagined myself to be speaking to the masses or making an argument to the masses. From the beginning, I always considered myself to be an artist and to be somebody who had technological skills that could be of use to activist movements. So, I was never particularly concerned with the words that I used, and actually, I’ve always been rather attracted to strong or provocative language from “pirate” to “hacker” to “communist.” But, actually, now that I have, over the years, taken on a more “contributing to theory” kind of a role, I think that it’s quite important to continue using the word “communism”.

When I had my post-social justice, post-dotcom disillusionment, I started really engaging on a lot of forums where actual economists and political theorists participate. A little bit outside of the hacker community, in this sort of infoshop politics of “reclaim the streets,” and one thing that really frustrated the people that I was communicating with was that I wasn’t using any kind of language they recognized.

When you work in any kind of technical field, whether it’s computers, whether it’s politics, whether it’s economics, there is an established dialogue going on, and if you use the language that everybody else is using, that makes it a lot easier to communicate, to share ideas, and to really be very precise about what arguments you’re making. And so, I learned that I should understand the classical language, and that I should be able to use it.

A lot of people who like my work over the years that come from similar backgrounds as yourself, and they were reluctant to use the word “communism.” They would say, “Ah, this sounds really interesting, I like what you’re saying, but do we have to use that word? That word is so horrible and off-putting”. But, actually, that word connects you to hundreds of years of research and struggle and theory that goes far deeper and far broader than my own work does. So, by not just making up some random word – like what was it, “venture community-ism” was one of them, and other kinds of things – and by sticking to the word “communism,” it might connect you to that theory as well.

Another thing I think is really important is to understand that anything can go wrong. Anything can go badly. So even if we make up new words, it doesn’t mean that we will somehow protect ourselves from possible negative outcomes. By using the word “communism,” it is implicitly understood that negative outcomes are possible, because we have actually seen them. In using that word, we do it without naïveté. We use it with the understanding that it’s not necessarily problem-free.

KMO: I heard you say in a presentation, that when you use the word “communism,” you are talking about a theoretical society; one that has no historical example.

Dmytri: That’s true, but there are historical examples of people who tried to achieve it.

KMO: But there has never been a nation-state that embodied communism in the way that you’re describing it.

Dmytri: Well, there’s never been a nation-state that claimed to have achieved communism.

KMO: I think that’s an important point that American audiences in particular would find unfamiliar. Here, the Soviet Union is held up as the archetypal example of communism.

Dmytri: Right, but not a single leader of the Soviet Union would ever have claimed to have achieved communism.

KMO: I have been reading your “Telekommunist Manifesto,” and there’s one sentence from early in the manifesto that I think we could probably spend the rest of our time together just unpacking. So, let me read that, I’ll even read it twice, and then I’ll ask that you explain it piece by piece. You wrote, “The Internet started as a network that embodied the relations of peer-to-peer communism. However, it has been reshaped by capitalist finance into an inefficient and unfree client-server topology”.

So, let’s start with just the first part. “The Internet started as a network that embodied the relations of peer to peer communism”. Say more about that.

Dmytri: Well, for many of us in activist circles, in hacker circles in the 90s and some even before (that had access), the Internet didn’t just represent a new technology. It represented something that could have very broad social and political implications, in that, when you use the technology, especially the classic platforms of the Internet, – email, IRC, USENET, and the original classic platforms of the Internet – they didn’t mediate between users. All communication between users was based on mutual configurations. So therefore, if your computer and my computer agreed to exchange information with each other, we could do that without the mediation. Every intermediary node operated under the end-to-end principle, and just allowed us to communicate as if we were talking directly to each other. So this was very much a society of equals.

The “classic Internet” had this kind of ethos of sharing, like we really believed at that time that the Internet was uncensorable. We had this idea because of the topology, and because of the peer-to-peer nature of the communication tools we were using. But of course, what we didn’t fully realize back then, is that this Internet was very tiny.

The “classic Internet” had this kind of ethos of sharing, like we really believed at that time that the Internet was uncensorable. We had this idea because of the topology, and because of the peer-to-peer nature of the communication tools we were using. But of course, what we didn’t fully realize back then, is that this Internet was very tiny. It felt big to us, but it was really very tiny. It was mostly developed by universities, by NGOs, by the military, and other organizations, and the people developing it were developing it for use value, which is an important distinction in economics.

The people who were making things like email, make USENET, like IRC and Finger, were not making them so they could sell them for exchange. They were making them in order to use them. So it really embodied a communist ethic of “from each to each.” The people creating technology wanted to use and share it with everyone that needed it.

But of course, this can’t scale very much, in order for a communication system to be used by the billions of people on the planet, it can’t be entirely made by university students, NGOs and some military contractors. When the Internet became commercialized, it became commercialized by venture capital, and venture capital invests money not for use value but for exchange value. This means that when a venture capitalist provides money, he or she does so under the pretext that they will make more money in return. This is different from a use value Internet. It becomes an exchange value Internet. In order to capture exchange value, the network had to become less free. An internet that allows users to do whatever they want presents very limited opportunities for capitalists to earn profit.

In order to charge prices, communications could be centralized through areas where prices can be charged. And so, there you have the re-architecture of the Internet from what it was back then, based on peer-to-peer software like e-mail, IRC, USENET, Finger, and so forth, to what eventually became called social media, or, briefly, Web 2.0, which is where web applications were developed to mimic the kinds of interactions people were having on the real peer-topeer social media platforms of the early Internet, but in a client-server fashion reminiscent of the original capitalist online platforms like CompuServe, and the original AOL, where all users connected through a central point. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and other sorts of things used this same model, and by doing so, they were able to make a profit model based on the capture of user data and control of user interaction.

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Dmytri Kleiner

KMO: This will be a little bit of an aside, but just for my own personal curiosity, when I first started using the Internet, I was a graduate student at the University of Missouri in the early 1990s, and I used IRC, email and USENET, and I also got into listserv discussion groups, but I’m not familiar with Finger, what is Finger?

Dmytri: Finger is like status updates, you have a text file in your home directory, two text files actually, .project and .plan, and you could put your status updates in there, like you might do on Twitter now and then people could check what you are doing.

KMO: Hm, I wonder how I missed it?

Dmytri: You probably had one. People could Finger you.

KMO: Would you say what you mean when you describe the current state of the Internet as being, “an unfree, client-server topology”?

A free, open source, distributed micro-bloggin platformDmytri: Yes. That is because the current state of the Internet is based on big, centralized services like Facebook, but that’s not all that’s possible. You can still use Finger on the modern Internet as long as you still have TCP/IP to the house, which is, of course, not guaranteed. For one of Telekommunisten’s artworks in 2010 we made a clone of Twitter. It was a microblog based on Finger to show that these ideas have been around since the beginning of the Internet and that the kinds of things being made by modern social media platforms aren’t new in the sense of what kind of use of media they are proposing. The only thing that’s new about them is how they want to capture profits. Finger has existed since the 70s in a distributed fashion that nobody could make a profit on because nobody could control it. Twitter is, of course, very central. It requires millions and millions of dollars in funding. Because it can capture lots of data it can make a business model around monetizing that data and selling it to advertisers and other parties.

KMO: And later in your manifesto, you wrote, “No social order, no matter how entrenched and ruthlessly imposed, can resist transformation when new ways of producing and sharing emerge”.

Dmytri: Right.

KMO: And yet, new ways of producing and sharing did emerge with the early Internet, tools which you described as being very peer-to-peer and communist in structure. And yet it was resisted. That transformation was seemingly hijacked and redirected toward things that are very favorable to the preservation of inequality, a class system and commoditized art, and all the distasteful aspects of the modern Internet.

Dmytri: Well, that’s because, as I elaborate more in the section that talks about peer production, Benkler and stuff like that, is that we haven’t actually achieved peer production on any kind of massive level. If you look at what happens with the early Internet and free software, you see that what was going on was not a new mode of production, but just a very unique kind of distribution of an existing form of production at its core. The problem with free software and free networks is that they can’t capture any exchange value as we discussed already. And so because they can’t capture any exchange value, they cannot finance their own material cost of the upkeep of the people that take care of them. The networks and the programmers and the engineers, and all the people that contribute to the development of free software and free networks need sustenance. And that sustenance, then and now, still comes from capitalism. That, I think, is the point. A true mode of production can’t be resisted, but we haven’t actually seen peer production emerge as a real, significant form of production. For that to happen, we have to have material assets in the commons as well as immaterial assets. So long as the composition of the commons is entirely immaterial, they will not be able to sustain its material upkeep.

The networks and the programmers and the engineers, and all the people that contribute to the development of free software and free networks need sustenance. And that sustenance, then and now, still comes from capitalism. That, I think, is the point. A true mode of production can’t be resisted, but we haven’t actually seen peer production emerge as a real, significant form of production.

KMO: Is there any point in trying to request that the state serve the ends of a peer-to-peer society, or is the state completely at odds with that by definition?

Dmytri: There are a number of threads in the overall strategy that I think are necessary. On one hand, we need venture communism, which means independent, federated entrepreneurship along communist principles. But on the other hand, the state does exist, and I believe that we can’t just imagine that we live in a future state-less society. We have to understand what the state provides now, and we have to struggle within the state as a theater of struggle as well, to get what we can out of it. So I would say yes, but that it really depends on where you are.

In principle, if you look at public funding for other kinds of media, like film, television, and movies, in many cases there’s been quite significant public involvement in the development of those media. So, do I think that there is the prospect for public involvement in funding of social media for a positive impact? Certainly, but, in an era where we’re still not out of the neoliberal phase of history, in an era where governments don’t even want to pay for schools and housing and education and roads, the idea that they will suddenly become interested in paying for social media seems unlikely. So, it doesn’t seem to be a prospect that I have a lot of confidence will actually come about, though it could come about, and if it did, it could be positive. Perhaps, especially in areas that are trying to assert their independence from global neoliberalism, like South and Central America for instance, perhaps they will understand the public need to finance social media in the same way that they finance their broadcast media and their film media.

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Sousveillance. The Art of Inverse Surveillance February 8th – 9th, 2009, Aarhus University, Denmark.

KMO: Just last night, I was reading an essay by David Byrne, of the Talking Heads, about Spotify, streaming music, and the emerging situation in which all the money changing hands for streaming music is basically going to record labels. Not only are they selling the songs of their artists to the streaming services, but they are also in exchange, for the listing the music companies catalogs, they are getting a stake in services like Spotify, but that artists get very little, even though it is the creativity and passion of the artists whih create value of the end users. The contribution of the artists is absolutely vital and integral, but they get very little of the proceeds.

For example, this past summer, Daft Punk had a song that was so popular that even people who don’t pay follow the music business or make any effort to seek out new music would recognize it – “Get Lucky” is the song – and their Spotify revenues for this, which had been downloaded or streamed hundreds of millions of times, was $13,000 each. They are the megastars of streaming media right now, and the amount of money that they received was less than one would make flipping burgers at McDonald’s. And so, we’ve got this emerging structure where the assumption is that the artists themselves are expected to work a day job somewhere, and then, in their spare time, struggle and produce art which enriches corporations. I’m just wondering what way forward you can envision, and what’s actually worth the time and effort trying to bring it about, because I’m largely of the opinion that trying to request that corporations and governments stop their current collusion and help artists is probably a silly way to invest one’s energy, and I’m wondering about a viable way forward.

Dmytri: I think, in most places, I would agree. Though, as I said, I think in some places it’s more viable than others, but here in the Western world, I think that it wouldn’t be the best use of energy. You had John McChesney on the program, and I’m sure that my view is not so different than his.

The answer, as it’s always been, has been the organization of workers towards ownership of the means of production. It’s no surprise to me that artists are being squeezed out of the profits made by Spotify and other online streaming corporations, because, you understand that artists are paid for their labor value, not the value of what they produce. The value of what is produced is captured by the people that own the means of production and distribution. They are the ones who are going to capture the value, so, unless artists own their own means of distribution and production, they can’t hope to capture the value that is so produced. So the only real way forward is to have not Spotify and iTunes, but organizations made up of the people who actually make the music involved in the production and distribution of media, and to have those owned by the workers themselves.

KMO: I understand that, but I find it an unsatisfying answer. (laughter)

Dmytri: Yeah, I know, it’s the same answer we’ve had for a couple of hundred years.

KMO: Yeah…

Dmytri: It’s not a sexy new answer, but, unfortunately the basic economics makes it so.

KMO: Well, the very central point of McChesney’s message is that we are approaching or perhaps in the midst of what he calls a “critical juncture,” which is a convergence of crises in which a disruptive new technology, a legitimacy crisis around current institutions and economic turmoil all come together. When that happens, we get a moment where there is a possibility to make institutional changes which are sweeping and long-lasting, and it seems that our side, so to speak, is not as focused on capturing the opportunity of that moment, that critical juncture, as the capitalists are. They seem quite poised to take advantage whenever these opportunities open up.

Dmytri: Of course. And, you know, that’s very difficult to combat, because they have the accumulated wealth to be able to weather the storms. So, in a way, crisis serves a role in capitalism as well. It allows the stronger capitalists to squeeze out the weaker capitalists, because capitalism is competition even among the capitalists. The capitalists aren’t only struggling against us, but also struggling against each other.

KMO: And so, it’s no good to try to become a sort of minor, beneficent capitalist, because the larger and sociopathic capitalists will just outcompete you and reduce you back to the worker who is paid not for the value of what he creates before his time, basically.

Dmytri: Absolutely, that’s right. And I think it’s important to understand that capitalism is not a choice for capitalists either, because if you’re capitalist and you invest your capital in such a way that it fails to create more capital, you cease to be a capitalist, right? So, capitalists are just as much trapped within the capitalist system as everybody else.

KMO: But it’s a much more well-appointed cage that they inhabit than most everybody else inhabits (laughter).

Dmytri: Certainly, but it’s not that even if any individual or bunch of individual capitalists suddenly had an epiphany and decided to abandon their exploitive ways, that that would be a threat to the system itself. That would only be the opportunity for other capitalists to squeeze them out.

KMO: Although it seems that the capitalists who had this emerging sense of consciousness and esprit de corps and identification with people and other classes of society, if they had this awakening moment, but they also realized what will happen if they act on it overtly, they might, if they were clever (and they must be clever to be where they are), continue to use the language which pacifies the other capitalists, while working subtly and behind the scenes to implement improvements and some movement toward social justice.

Dmytri: I don’t think language actually has much to do with it. I think the only people that are queasy about radical language are people who position themselves on the left, because they feel that being portrayed as a radical will weaken their position. I think that the people in power are not particularly concerned with language, and you can see that very often if you look at media campaigns. We’ve seen all kinds of revolutionary language, and even revolutionary figures from historical events used in advertising, used to promote and describe capitalist products. So, of course the film industry uses these themes and figures quite liberally, and it’s funded by capitalists.

I don’t think that the capitalist has to make a semantic argument to his peers, I think they have to be successful. I think, in the end, they have to capture profit. And it doesn’t matter how they capture the profit. If they do capture it, they become successful. And that’s also very interesting.

I don’t know if you’ve read any of the work that I’ve done on macroeconomics, which is much more recent than the manifesto. It still consists of just random blog articles rather than a more substantial text, but there are a couple of ideas that I’m fleshing out, and they don’t have names as catchy as “venture communism,” but I think that they’re interesting ideas. The great Polish economist, Michał Kalecki, created an equation to separate profit and consumption by class, which is to say, by workers profit and by capitalist profit. This equation allows you to see the relationship between capital and labor within the profit model. Using Kalecki’s equation as inspiration, I tried to take an approach where I look at modes.

https://i1.wp.com/networkcultures.org/wpmu/weblog/files/2010/10/Screen-shot-2010-10-21-at-14.00.10.pngOne major problem that I have with a lot of progressive theories that you hear casually within the anarchist community and the communist community is this idea that communism is something that happens in the future, that it suddenly happens as an epiphany, where societies are transformed magically from the old society to the new society, and everything is completely different. I don’t think that this is the case. I think we have communism right now, as well as capitalism right now. If you look at the kinds of relationships we have in our day-to-day lives, we have relationships that are ruled or dominated by exchange value, but we also have relationships that approach the communist relationships of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” “From each, to each”, as I like to summarize it. And we experience these relationships among our friends, within our families, within intentional communities, and also within some of the emerging peer-production forms, like free software and information sharing, and things like that.

What we have is multimodal environment, and I think we need to look at the economy as having multiple modes of production happening at all given times. I don’t think it should be our objective to try to figure out how we can flip from one to the other, but how we can increase the kinds of producing and sharing that we think are beneficial and want more of and decrease the amount of producing and sharing that happens at ways that we think are destructive and not beneficial, and that we want less of. We need value to flow from one mode to another, this is what I’m thinking of, inter-modal value flows.

What we have is multimodal environment, and I think we need to look at the economy as having multiple modes of production happening at all given times. I don’t think it should be our objective to try to figure out how we can flip from one to the other, but how we can increase the kinds of producing and sharing that we think are beneficial and want more of and decrease the amount of producing and sharing that happens at ways that we think are destructive and not beneficial, and that we want less of. 

One kind of these flows is something that I’m calling “substantiation”, which I’ve already been told is a horrible term. The idea of “substantiation” is that there are certain forms of investment that benefit individual members of a class, while hurting the class as a whole.

One example of substantiation is workers supporting capitalists when they buy capitalist securities in their pension funds. Individual workers that buy the securities could very well benefit, but the class doesn’t, because, overall, it cedes more power to capital. The capitalists take that investment and use it to expand capitalist control of the means of production and their own political strength. So, even though funds may benefit the individual workers who invested in them, they hurt workers as a class.

Now, I think that we can also find examples of things that are going the other way. I think free software for instance is a good example of that. If you are capitalist whose business depends on software as an input — in other words, you don’t sell software but you need software in order to produce whatever it is you produce — and you capture your profit elsewhere in the circulation of that final product, so capital is an input to your production, you therefore invest in free software, and by doing so you may yourself benefit, because you get help from the community and cheaper and better software to use in your own production. But, the capitalist class loses, because the sale of software licenses is broadly damaged, is lost as a way to make profit for the capitalist class. So, even though in both cases the individual members of the class are benefiting, this kind of value flow hurts the class in general. These are just a couple of examples of the kind of thinking we need to develop further. We need to figure out how value flows between the different modes that are existing at the same time within the contemporary economy, and what kinds of methods and institutions and practices can we introduce and promote that will cause value to flow from exploitive means to liberating means.

KMO: I think I follow you, but would you summarize your last line of reasoning?

Dmytri: I think that it’s helpful to think of the society that we live in as not being either capitalist or communist, in essence, that it’s helpful to think that within our society we have many modes of production going on at the same time. We have capitalism. We have communism. We have all kinds of hybrid and alternative forms going on. But we have a lot of different kinds of social relations. So, what we need to do is think about that in a compositional way. We need to think about what kinds of ways of producing and sharing are already going on right now, that we could develop more broadly, and how can we move and make value flow from the more exploitive modes to the more liberating modes.

This is what I was trying to get at with the idea of substantiation. These modes are coexisting and drawing off each other, and so just as much as we are benefiting the capitalists with our production, because everything that happens within commons-based production right now as being captured by capital, because the commons is still largely an immaterial commons. But likewise, by contributing to that immaterial commons, the capitalists are also helping us. So, value is flowing. We need to think strategically and ask how can we reduce the loss and maximize the gain. We need to conceptualize how to structure the kinds of productive forms which enable a sustained and positive long-term exchange away from capitalism.

KMO: Well, Dmytri Kleiner, it has been a pleasure talking to you, I look forward to future conversations, and thank you very much for participating on the C-Realm Podcast.

Dmytri: Very nice talking to you as well.

“La misión de la Web 2.0 es destruir el aspecto P2P de Internet”

Marc Garrett entrevista a Dmytri Kleiner

“En los albores del nuevo milenio, los usuarios de la Red están desarrollando un modo de colaboración mucho más eficaz y ameno: el ciber-comunismo.” Richard Barbrook, “El Manifiesto CyberComunista

Dmytri Kleiner, autor del Manifiesto Telekomunista, es un desarrollador de software involucrado en proyectos que “investigan la economía política de Internet, junto al ideal de la autoorganización obrera de los medios de producción, como una forma de lucha de clases.” Nacido en la URSS, Kleiner se crió en Toronto y actualmente reside en Berlín. Es el fundador del Telekommunisten Collective (Colectivo Telekomunista), un proveedor de servicios de telefonía e Internet que también se dedica a proyectos artísticos como deadSwap (2009) y Thimbl (2010) a fin de explorar cómo las relaciones sociales están esquematizadas dentro de las tecnologías de la comunicación.

“Recientemente, recibimos una copia física del Manifiesto Telekomunista en la redacción de Furtherfield. Tras leer el manifiesto, es patente que supone un revulsivo en el debate sobre iniciativas colaborativas basadas en el procomún. Es una llamada a la acción que pone en entredicho nuestro comportamiento social y nuestra relación con la propiedad y los métodos de producción. El manifiesto propone alternativas a Creative Commons y a las manifestaciones jerárquicas del capitalismo (tanto en red como en espacios físicos) mediante una actitud Copyfarleft, así como las estrategias colectivas del Telekomunismo y su “Comunismo de Riesgo”.a Son muchos los colectivos de arte digital que intentan salvaguardar sus principios éticos en un mundo en el que es casi inevitable verse absorbido por el poder institucional. Esperamos que esta conversación ofrezca alternativas para proceder con cierta dignidad recíproca dentro de este torbellino al que llamamos vida…”

Que empiece la discusión…

Marc Garrett: ¿Por qué decidiste crear una copia en papel del Manifiesto republicada por el Institute of Networked Cultures (Instituto de Culturas en Red), de Amsterdam?

Dmytri Kleiner: Geert Lovink se puso en contacto conmigo ofreciéndose a publicarlo y acepté la oferta. Con textos largos, me parece más práctico poder leer copias físicas.

MG: ¿A quién va dirigido el Manifiesto?

DK: Me siento identificado con hackers y artistas con conciencia política, especialmente artistas cuya obra está relacionada con la tecnología y la cultura en red. Gran parte de la temática y la ideología expuesta en el Manifiesto proviene de una conversación continua con estas comunidades y el Manifiesto es una contribución más a ese diálogo.

MG: Desde la llegada de Internet, hemos vivido el auge de varias comunidades en red que han explorado una expresividad tanto individual como colectiva. Muchas coinciden en su oposición a los sistemas masivos desplegados por corporaciones como Facebook y MySpace. Evidentemente, vuestro proyecto critica toda esa hegemonía que influye en nuestro comportamiento mediante la esquematización en red, la apropiación neoliberal y un aparato de vigilancia cada vez más expandido. En el manifiesto dices “Para poder cambiar la sociedad debemos expandir activamente el alcance de nuestros bienes comunes, para que nuestras comunidades independientes, entre iguales, sean materialmente sostenibles y capaces de resistir los avances del capitalismo.” ¿Puedes dar algún ejemplo de alternativas “materialmente sostenibles”?

DK: Ahora mismo no hay ninguna. Para ser preciso, lo único que poseemos en común es la riqueza inmaterial, por lo que cualquier plusvalía derivada de estas nuevas plataformas y relaciones siempre acabará en manos de quien gestiona recursos escasos, bien porque son físicamente escasos, o porque se les ha impuesto la escasez mediante leyes que protegen patentes y marcas registradas. La sostenibilidad de las comunidades en red depende del acceso a unos bienes comunes capaces de sustentar a estas mismas comunidades. Tenemos que expandir el ámbito del procomún para incluir estos bienes.

Dmytri Kleiner en la presentación del ‘Manifiesto Telekomunista” en “Economies of the Commons 2”, noviembre de 2010, De Balie, Amsterdam.

MG: El Manifiesto reabre el debate en torno a la importancia de las clases, y dice “La condición de la clase obrera en la sociedad se ve esencialmente asociada a la falta de poder y a la pobreza; la condición de la clase obrera en Internet no dista mucho.” ¿Puedes darnos algunos ejemplos de esta clase obrera en el contexto de Internet?

DK: Mi concepto de clase obrera es muy clásico: cualquiera cuya subsistencia dependa de estar trabajando continuamente. El sistema de clase describe una serie de relaciones. El proletariado es aquella clase que carece de los medios de producción independientes necesarios para garantizar su propia subsistencia y, por tanto, necesita de un salario, de mecenazgo o de caridad para sobrevivir.

MG: Por una serie de motivos personales y sociales, me gustaría que la clase obrera no fuera exclusivamente percibida como marginada o económicamente desaventajada, sino verla también como una clase involucrada en situaciones de empoderamiento individual y colectivo.

DK: Claro, la clase obrera comprende a una gama muy amplia de personas. Lo que les une es que, por lo general, no son propietarios de bienes productivos. Como clase, no tienen capacidad de acumulación de plusvalía. Como verás, mi concepto de clase no tiene nada de novedoso.

MG: Tras las muerte de Marx, Engels le recordó a los estudiosos de éste que “Toda la historia ha de ser estudiada de nuevo”.1 Dentro de la clase obrera de la cultura contemporánea y la cultura en red ¿quiénes son los individuos o colectivos que ves con más posibilidad de escapar de su clase social?

DK: Siempre ha habido individuos capaces de superar su clase social. Muchos empresarios de la burbuja puntoCom le sacaron partido a las “ventas” multimillonarias de sus plataformas, al igual que otros individuos desprovistos de propiedad en otros ámbitos. Ahora mismo, la movilidad entre clases y a gran escala se ha vuelto mucho más improbable. Si naces pobre hoy en día, tendrás menos oportunidades de no morir siendo pobre o de evitar que tus hijos queden sumidos en la misma pobreza. Es la condición global.

No nos veo trascendiendo estas condiciones de clase hasta que haya una abolición de las clases. Aunque ahora, y a base de equivocación, se puede convencer a la gente de que el concepto de clase social ha dejado de ser aplicable. De hecho, es una táctica muy extendida entre la derecha para degradar la conciencia de clase. Aún así, las condiciones de clase son relacionales. El poder de las clases varía según la época y dependiendo de la condiciones históricas.

La condición de una clase reside en el equilibrio de su lucha contra las demás clases. Este equilibrio viene determinado por su capacidad de lucha. El procomún es uno de los componentes que afectan nuestra capacidad, especialmente al reemplazar bienes por los que, en otras circunstancias, hubiéramos tenido que comprar a dueños capitalistas. Si lograramos traspasar la producción desde bienes productivos propietarios hasta bienes comunes, habría un desplazamiento en este equilibrio de poder entre clases y, así, más que escapar de nuestra condición de clase, la transformaremos. Pero este traspaso es proporcional al valor económico de los bienes, por lo que requiere de una expansión del procomún para incluir bienes con valor económico o, lo que es lo mismo, bienes escasos capaces de producir rentas.

MG: El Manifiesto Telekomunista propone un “Comunismo de Riesgo” como nuevo modelo operativo para la producción entre iguales, alegando que “el comunismo de riesgo provee una estructura para que los productores independientes compartan un patrimonio común de activos productivos, permitiendo que las formas de producción antes asociadas exclusivamente con la creación de valor inmaterial, como el software libre, se extiendan a la esfera material”. Aparte de vuestra evidente apropiación lingüística del término “Capitalismo de Riesgo” para convertirlo en “Comunismo de Riesgo”, ¿cómo surgió la idea?

DK: Empezó con la apropiación del término.

La idea surgió de la comprensión de que todo lo que estábamos haciendo dentro de las comunidades de la cultura libre, el software libre y las redes libres, sólo era sostenible cuando servía a los intereses del capital y que, por tanto, no tenía la capacidad emancipadora que yo y otros veíamos en ellas. La financiación capitalista implica que, en el fondo, lo único que permanece libre es el capital en sí. El software libre estaba en su época de crecimiento, mientras que la cultura libre se vio sumida en una guerra en torno al derecho a compartir y reutilizar, con el resultante desplazamiento desde las redes libres hacia las plataformas centralizadas, la censura y la vigilancia. Al darme cuenta de que esto se debía a la lógica de captura de ingresos y la precondición del capital, supe que necesitábamos una alternativa y unos modos de financiación compatibles con los ideales emancipatorios que, para mí, van implícitos dentro de la comunicación libre, junto a una manera de construir infraestructuras comunicativas concebidas como libres y con la capacidad de permanecer como tal. Bauticé todo este concepto como “Comunismo de Riesgo” y me puse manos a la obra para entender cómo podría llevarse a cabo.

MG: Es un vehículo eficaz para la lucha revolucionaria de la clase obrera. También hay una propuesta para una “Comuna de Riesgo”, a modo de empresa. ¿Cómo funcionaría?

DK: La comuna de riesgo funcionaría de la misma manera que un fondo de inversión de capital de riesgo, pero financiando empresas basadas en torno al procomún. El papel de la comuna sería distribuir propiedades escasas de la misma forma que una red distribuye propiedades inmateriales. Adquiere sus fondos emitiendo titulización de créditos — por ejemplo, en forma de bonos — y adueñándose de bienes productivos para ponerlos en venta, beneficiando así a las empresas que están bajo su tutela. Los trabajadores de la empresas son también dueños de la comuna, y las rentas obtenidas se dividen equitativamente entre todos. Esto, como complemento a cualquier remuneración que puedan recibir por su trabajo dentro de las empresas.

Esto es sólo un boceto y en ningún momento digo que el modelo del comunismo de riesgo esté acabado, o que las ideas que expreso en torno a él sean definitivas. Se trata de un proyecto continuo y, en tanto que tenga un futuro, no me cabe duda de que evolucionará según se vaya topando con la realidad, por no mencionar las ideas de los demás y sus innovaciones.

Lo principal es que necesitamos un modelo como este, su implementación y los detalles que propongo son… pues eso, propuestas.

MG: Entonces, con esta combinación de software libre, licencias Copyleft y Copyfarleft y los medios de producción entre iguales, ¿habría propiedades a título del colectivo o cooperativa, igual que ocurre con las acciones de una empresa?

DK: El modelo que apoyo ahora mismo es el de comuna que agrupa muchas empresas, cada una de ellas independiente y de tal manera que la comuna sería la propietaria del 100% de las acciones de cada empresa. Los trabajadores de las empresas serían también propietarios de la comuna. La comuna tendría acciones que se distribuirán entre los propietarios y tocarían a una por cabeza.

MG: En el Manifiesto hay una sección titulada “CREATIVE ANTI-COMMONS” b en la que se habla de Creative Commons como algo contrario al procomún, vendiendo “la lógica de la privatización capitalista bajo un nombre deliberadamente engañoso”. Esto para muchos, ya sean liberales o con una mentalidad más radical, es un tema controvertido, dado que cuestiona la propia naturaleza de muchos comportamientos en red. Me siento intrigado por la elección de la palabra “privatización”. Muchos, y me incluyo a mí mismo, asumimos que describe un proceso en el que una organización sin ánimo de lucro pasa a ser un negocio privado, normalmente a instancias del gobierno y con el objetivo de añadir más ingresos a los presupuestos nacionales a través del desmantelamiento de servicios públicos generalizados. ¿Estás diciendo que Creative Commons actúa de la misma manera, pero dentro de su rol de corporación distribuida y basada en Internet?

DK: Hay partes significativas del Manifiesto que son remezclas de textos anteriores y esa frase originalmente proviene de un artículo más largo llamado “COPYRIGHT, COPYLEFTYCREATIVEANTICOMMONS,” escrito por mí y Joanne Richardson bajo el seudónimo de “Ana Nimus”.

Con esto queremos expresar que el “común de “Creative Commons” está privatizado porque el autor sigue reteniendo su copyright mientras que, en la mayoría de los casos, lo único que se ofrece a la comunidad está bajo cláusulas no comerciales. El autor original disfruta de privilegios especiales, mientras que los usuarios del procomún tienen derechos limitados, específicamente limitados y de tal manera que se elimina cualquier posibilidad de que se ganen la vida por medio de esa obra. Por tanto, estas obras no pertenecen al procomún, sino que son obras privadas. El autor original es el único con derecho a rentabilizar la obra.

Toda concepción previa de un procomún intelectual o cultural — incluyendo la cultura pre copyright y anti copyright, y los principios del movimiento del software libre — estaba basada sobre el concepto de no conceder privilegios especiales al autor original, prefiriendo insistir en el derecho de todos a utilizar y reutilizar este material en común. Las licencias no comerciales representan una privatización de la idea del procomún y la reintroducción del concepto de un artista original y único con derechos privados y exclusivos.

Es más, dado que considero toda expresión como una extensión de percepciones previas, las ideas “originales” sobre las cuales se derivan esta serie de derechos no son realmente originales, sino una apropiación ejecutada mediante los derechos auto-otorgados de los licenciadores de Creative Commons. Más allá de la mera privatización del concepto y composición del procomún moderno cultural, al determinar un autor único, Creative Commons coloniza nuestra cultura común, otorga una autoría exclusiva a un cuerpo de trabajo en crecimiento constante y, en efecto, expande el alcance de la cultura privada en detrimento de la cultura del procomún.

MG: Esto nos lleva a Thimbl, una platafroma de microblogging distribuida, de código abierto y gratuita que, según tus palabras, es “…similar a Twitter o identi.ca. Pero Thimbl es una aplicación web especializada basada en un protocolo de información de usuario llamado Finger. El protocolo Finger se desarrolló en los 70 y, como tal, es compatible con todas las plataformas de servidor actuales.” ¿Por qué creaste Thimbl y qué tipos de individuos y grupos crees que lo van a utilizar y cómo?

DK: En primer lugar, y por encima de todo, Thimbl es un concepto artístico.

Una de las corrientes base del Telekomunismo es que el capital no financia a plataformas distribuidas y libres, sino que prefiere financiar plataformas centralizadas y de propiedad privada. Thimbl es, en parte, una parodia de tecnologías supuestamente innovadoras como Twitter. Al crear una plataforma similar a Twitter pero utilizando el protocolo Finger, Thimbl demuestra que “el micro-blogging” ya era parte de la cultura en red de los 70 y que, por consiguiente, ni la inversión de capital multimillonario, ni los centros de datos centralizados masivos son realmente necesarios para ejecutar estas formas de comunicación, sino que más bien se utilizan para tener un control centralizado y obtener rentas de las propias plataformas.

MG: En InfoEnclosure-2.0 ,c un ensayo colaborativo con Brian Wyrick publicado en Mute Magazine, decís que “La misión de la Web 2.0 es destruir el aspecto P2P de Internet. Ahora tú, tu ordenador y tu conexión a Internet dependéis de un servicio centralizado que controla tu capacidad de comunicación. La Web 2.0 supone la ruina de los sistemas libres entre iguales y el regreso de los ‘servicios online’ monolíticos.”2 ¿Crees que Thimbl es un ejemplo del tipo de plataforma que nos liberará de la dominación de las corporaciones Web 2.0?

DK: Claro. Thimbl, aparte de ser una parodia, propone una visión de futuro viable, dado que extiende la utilización de las plataformas de Internet clásicas como alternativa a la implementación de plataformas “full-stack” hipercomplejas. De todas formas, explicamos por qué estas opciones se han ido dejando de lado y que “…el reto más significativo no es técnico sino político”. Nuestra subsistencia como desarrolladores de software nos obliga a trabajar para unos patrones que, la gran mayoría de las veces están financiados por el capital y, por tanto, tienen un interés primordial en el control de los datos de usuario y sus interacciones, dado que la comercialización de estos datos es un prerrequisito para recibir el capital.

Thimbl tendría que verse adoptado por una comunidad muy amplia antes de convertirse en una plataforma viable. Un colectivo pequeño como el nuestro sólo puede llevar el proyecto hasta cierto punto. Estamos encantados de ayudar a cualquiera que quiera unirse a través de nuestro servidor de Thimbl. Creo que “conoce” a la mayoría de los usuarios, dado que yo personalmente sigo a todos los usuarios existentes de Thimbl, o eso creo, y así es como puedes ver el estado de la “Thimbl-esfera” dentro de una línea temporal global.

Pero incluso si el desarrollo de una plataforma como Thimbl no es terriblemente significativo (porque hay mucho que lograr, muy rápidamente), el valor de una plataforma social se deriva del tamaño de su base de usuarios, por eso organizaciones con más alcance que Telekommunisten tendrán que adoptar la plataforma y contribuir a ella para que vaya más allá de ser un concepto gráfico y que funcione como plataforma.

Por otra parte, y como dice la propia página web, “la idea de Thimbl es más importante que el propio Thimbl”, y nos parecería genial ver la creación de otra plataforma libre y gratuita que extendiera los protocolos de Internet clásicos. Hay quien ha sugerido utilizar smtp/nntp, xmmp o incluso http/WebDav en vez de Thimbl, y cada uno de estos tiene sus ventajas e inconvenientes. Nuestro objetivo es desarrollar una plataforma abierta y libre, funcione como funcione, y Thimbl es una contribución artística técnica y conceptual en torno a este objetivo.

MG: Otro proyecto es la página de Facebook de Telekommunisten, donde ya tenéis más de 3000 fans. Es un buen ejemplo de la complejidad y las contradicciones que afectan a muchas iniciativas independientes. Tenemos la impresión de que Internet, en estos momentos, está controlado por una serie de nodos centrales; es como cuando un vecindario se ve dominado por grandes espacios comerciales, mientras que las tiendas más pequeñas e independientes se ven desplazadas. Con esto en cuenta, ¿cómo sorteas estas contradicciones?

DK: No quise utilizar Facebook ni otras plataformas similares durante mucho tiempo. Prefería utilizar el correo electrónico, Usenet y IRC, tal y como vengo haciendo desde los 90. Cuando escribí InfoEnclosure 2.0 aún no era usuario de estas plataformas. Aún así, cada vez era más evidente que la gente no sólo estaba adoptándolas, sino que prefería recibir información a través de ellas; prefiere que se le contacte por redes sociales antes que a través del correo electrónico. Compartir cosas en Facebook les interesa, mientras que recibir correos electrónicos resulta cansino para ciertas personas. Creo que esto se debe a una serie de motivos que, de por sí, son interesantes y comienzan con el hecho de que el capital ha invertido millones para mejorar la utilidad de estas plataformas, mientras que las plataformas de Internet “clásicas” se han quedado más o menos como estaban en los 90. Además, hay mucha gente utilizando las redes sociales que jamás fue partícipe del tipo de listas de correos o grupos de Usenet, etc que yo empleaba antes para compartir información.

Me di cuenta que, para alcanzar a más gente y compartir información, tendría que hacerlo a través de las tecnologías que empleaban los demás, que no son necesariamente las que yo preferiría utilizar.

Mi crítica de Facebook y de otras plataformas similares no es que no sean útiles, sino que son plataformas privadas, centralizadas y patentadas. Además, abstenerme de utilizar Facebook en nombre de mi propio ascetismo mediático no me interesa. No veo el capitalismo como una elección de consumo, estoy más interesado en la condición de las masas, que en mi propia corrección consumista. Al final está claro que criticar a plataformas como Facebook hoy en día supone una utilización de estas plataformas. Por todo esto me hice usuario y lancé la página de Telekommunisten en Facebook. No es sorprendente que haya tenido tanto éxito y que gracias a ella lleguemos a mucha más gente que a través de nuestros otros canales como páginas web, listas de correo, etc. La esperanza es que nos ayude a promover nuevos canales descentralizados, según se vayan implementando.

MG: Me he descargado deadSwap y quiero utilizarlo y explorarlo. En la página dice “Internet está muerto. Para evadir a la fanfarria del control capitalista, la comunicación entre iguales ha de abandonar Internet para asentarse en los callejones oscuros de las operaciones secretas. La cooperación entre iguales ha abandonado la Red y sólo puede sobrevivir en células clandestinas”. ¿Qué me puedes contar de este proyecto? ¿Hay gente utilizándolo ahora mismo?

DK: No tengo ni idea si hay gente utilizándolo, en estos momentos no estoy llevando ninguna red.

Al igual que Thimbl, deadSwap es un concepto artístico. Pero a diferencia de Thimbl, que tiene el potencial de convertirse en una plataforma utilizable, deadSwap es parodia pura y dura.

Se desarrolló para la conferencia Sousveillance de 2009, “El arte de la vigilancia inversa”, celebrada en la Universidad de Aarhus. deadSwap es un juego urbano distópico en el que los participantes hacen las veces de agentes secretos, comparten información en memorias USB, las esconden en localizaciones secretas o, de forma alternativa, las intercambian clandestinamente y se comunican a través de un portal anonimizador de SMS. Es una parodia de la “cúpula hacker” y su reacción al cerco de Internet: esa convicción de que las nuevas tecnologías encubiertas vencerán todo intento de censurar Internet y que, gracias a todo este aparato clandestino, siempre seremos más listos y andaremos un paso por delante de los propietarios y controladores de nuestros sistemas de comunicación. Esta actitud rechaza desde un principio cualquier análisis de clase, con una creencia inamovible en la habilidad que tenemos los hackers para superar la represión estatal y corporativa. Aunque es un concepto muy simple, deadSwap sería muy difícil de poner en práctica. El propio manual dice: “el éxito de la red depende de la competencia y diligencia de los participantes” y “convertirse en un superespía no es nada fácil.”

Sousveillance. “El arte de la vigilancia a inversa”. Universidad de Aarhus, Dinamarca, 8-9 de febrero, 2009

MG: ¿Qué otros servicios/plataformas/proyectos ofrece el Colectivo Telekommunisten a los hackers imaginativos, aventureros y con conciencia social?

DK: Ofrecemos servicios de hosting para individuos, pequeñas organizaciones y, especialmente, para artistas. Tenemos hosting para newsletters, y un servicio de llamadas a larga distancia. Nos puedes encontrar en IRC en in#telnik, dentro de freenode. Vamos a estar especialmente enfocados en Thimbl y damos la bienvenida a todo aquel que quiera participar en el proyecto. También tenemos un foro para la comunidad con el que coordinar todo esto que podéis encontrar aquí.

Quien quiera seguir mis actualizaciones personales, pero prefiere mantenerse apartado de redes sociales, casi todas mis actualizaciones también se publican aquí.

MG: Gracias por esta conversación fascinante, Dmytri.

DK: Gracias a ti, Marc. 🙂

Fin de la entrevista.

=============================<snip>

Referencias:

1. [Marx/Engels. Archivo de Internet(marxist.org/espanol) Correspondencia Marx-Engels: Engels a Conrad Schmidt, Londres, 5 de agosto de 1890. VersiónOnline.]

2. [InfoEnclosure-2.0. Dmytri Kleiner & Brian Wyrick. Lunes, 29 de enero, 2007.]

N.de.T.

a. [Venture Communism en el original, juego de palabras (y por admisión del propio Kleiner, como explica más adelante en la entrevista) sobre Venture Capitalism o “Capital de Riesgo”]

b. [“Creative Anti-procomún” juego de palabras con el nombre de la licencia Creative Commons.]

c. [InfoCercamiento 2.0.]


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