This is part 8 of a weekly series of articles to appear in the journal Critical Studies in Peer Production (CSPP). In the series I try to describe analytical patterns developed by the Oekonux Project since over ten years of research on Free Software and commons-based peer production. Please visit the introducing part for the background. Already released patterns: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
Pattern 8: Beyond Socialism
Socialism, as defined by Karl Marx in the “Critique of the Gotha Programme” (Marx, 1875) is a commodity-producing society ruled by the working class. Historically this was realized by the so called “real existing Socialism”. There have been many critiques of real socialist countries (lacking democracy, etc.) from within the left. Nevertheless, a good part of the left shares the assumption that an interphase between a free society (which may be called communism) and capitalism is unavoidable. The general concept is that the working class holding the power can reconstruct the whole economy according to their interests which represent the majority of the society. In short: power comes first, then a new mode of production will follow, in order to build a really free society. This concept has failed historically.
The reason for this failure is not due to internal tactical differences and shortcomings. Instead it is due to the unrealistic concept of qualitative historical transformation. Never in history was the question of power placed first, it was always the new mode of production which emerged from the old way of producing which prepared the historical transition. Capitalism initially developed from craftsmanship in medieval towns, then integrated manufactures, finally leading to the system of big industry. The question of power was solved “on the way”. This does not diminish the role of revolutions, but revolutions only realize and enhance what was already developing. The revolutions of the Arab Spring do not create anything new, but try to realize the potentials of a normal democratic bourgeois society.
This analysis of historical developments (discussed in more detail in pattern 10) has to be applied to the current situation. Historical transition can not be realized by taking over political power – be it by parliament or by street actions – but by developing a new mode of production. The criteria for being “new” can be derived from the negation of the old mode of production: instead of commodities: commons production, instead of exchange and mediation by money: free distribution, instead of labor: Selbstentfaltung, instead of exclusion mechanisms: potential inclusion of all people. However, care needs to be taken since not all developments of capitalism are to be abolished. Rather some continue – though in a transcended form.
Commons-based peer production transcends capitalism as well as commodity-based socialism.