the Telekommunist Party?

Originally published on my tumblr.

Recently Dmytri Kleiner, author of the Telekommunist Manifesto, raised the question of the party in relation to hacker-communism:

Who wants to be a Telekommunist?

What would being a Telekommunist mean to you? What would make you feel like and identify as a Telekommunist? What would make you embrace and promote Telekommunism? What would you like to do on behalf of Telekommunism?

This is a hard problem; one of the core challenges for socialist organisation. Various solutions have been attempted to the problem, most famously Leninist vanguardism, but also including the anarchist Especifismo school of thought and others.

The problem is that we know that mass movements are formed around struggle – most enduringly, the Trade Union movement – but also know that they always risk capture by the ruling class. Therefore we believe that it is vital that mass movements are guided by solid political-economic theory, that they are connected to the history of the working class, and that they carry forward the dream of a fairer, freer society.

In recent years Marxist hackers have begun to apply a materialist analysis to developments in information technology. A lack of economic knowledge in hackerdom has set us back some way; Kleiner’s observation that capitalism requires centralised web services is a brilliant bit of thinking, but if the hacker community was more used to thinking of economics as a power game then such thoughts would be common currency and Facebook would not have been such a horrible surprise.

So there is a clear need for Marxist hackers to band together in order to educate, agitate and organise our fellow geeks. Too often the hacker movement falls into thinking that technology alone can transform society, and is caught out of position when bricks-and-mortar politics intervenes.

The hacker movement is in many ways a classic mass movement founded on struggle. There is a difference of economic interest between technology workers (especially those who love to build and tinker) and the owners of technology companies. From that contradiction emerged not only a movement, but an entire subculture. As such, the usual questions around Communist parties apply here.

Leninist vanguardism would be very unpopular, and is inappropriate to the age we are in. Gramscian cultural hegemony is a far stronger model. In this model, Telekommunists would focus on education, agitation, and working with and within the institutions of hackerdom. The first tactical steps would be the formation of multiple think tank style groups to signal boost the agreed messages.

The word “communist” is problematic, because while on the one hand it links us to a vital tradition of thought, it is also completely off-putting to all the people who (quite reasonably) understand it to mean Stalinism. “Telekommunisten” is a pun on the old East German telephone company. Amusing as that may be, it doesn’t translate at all to English and has proved a barrier to adoption; even my Communist friends have been skeptical of reading the Manifesto on account of its odd name.

This article is more of a question than an answer itself; I look forward to the discussion ahead.

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  1. I’ve recently read the Telekommunist Manifesto, and it definitely resonates with some thinking I’ve been doing on my own (and together with some of the gang at the Spirit of Contradiction blog and the ##marxism channel at Freenode). Of particular interest are the ideas that we need to capture and withdraw economic resources from the capitalist cycle of accumulation, and place them at the service of an incipient new mode of production for use.

    There were things I wasn’t quite as happy about, like some in my view misplaced emphasis on decentralisation, and some major lacks, like an unclear path towards the formation of the firms that are described and the mechanisms for bond issuance etc. Some of it is problematic legally, and some of it just lacks a good technical implementation (one thing Eben Moglen I think got right is how proof of concept plus running code can make for revolutionary developments, we lack running code).

  2. An anonymous like open and underground non-party can be an idea may be. The below non-part in progress is inspired by Telecommunist manifesto:

    http://www.facebook.com/PeerToPeerCommunistPartyP2pcp?ref=hl

    Uniting all the Workers, Makers, and Hackers of the World
    For Commonification of the Internet, Knowledge, Life, Nature and all the Matter!

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