Artisanal Retro-Futurism and Team-Scale Anarcho-Syndicalism

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21 Responses to “Artisanal Retro-Futurism and Team-Scale Anarcho-Syndicalism”

  1. maxoid says:

    or, imagine: a team of a dozen spread out on many acres of rolling, grassy hills, each team-member positioned in the small valleys so as to see only two other team members at any given time. they are out of earshot, and it is overcast. only one member has something to write with, but lacks the knowledge to tackle software problems on their own.

    i have dreams like this. they are not nightmares.

  2. 9DOF says:

    Including the link to the blog entry in the article would probably be nice.

  3. Cory Doctorow says:

    @3: Oops, good point.

  4. Roku says:

    I used to be that guy, and I got away with a lot of things. Basically it all comes down to “easier to ask forgiveness than permission.”

    However, over time I realized that I wasn’t a fan of continually risking being fired in order to enrich a bunch of executives who were constantly trying to force the status quo back on us for no reason other than they were used to it.

    Live cheaply, save money, start your own company on the side (carefully reading your employment contract first to make sure your work doesn’t all belong to your day job,) quit your job once you’ve got some momentum, and take charge of your own lives. That’s worth a lot more than the ‘freedom’ to have Nerf wars.

    Just sayin’.

  5. Anonymous says:

    #15:
    These “sides” are a false dichotomy. The only “class” that actually exists is the political class: people who transfer wealth using force, rather than creating wealth through both-benefit trade.

    Let me guess; you’re a “libertarian” capitalist?
    Both benefit trade? Are you serious?

    How much trade benefits both parties equally when a small oligopaly controls the means of production, including the means of communications (which they use through advertising to create fads, bubbles, commodity fashion, etc unnecessary and harmful consumer desires).

    How much trade is just speculation? How many investment bankers, forex scammers, day traders, etc create nothing of value, yet enrich themselves at the public’s expense?

    What about the wealth that is transfered when workers are paid less then the value of what they produce? Wages can be kept low when the land, factories, computer networks, etc are owned by the capitalists.

    You also need to face the fact that in existing capitalism, corporations’ depend on that “political class: people who transfer wealth using force”. Corporations whole legal structure is supported by the state. Capitalists fund and control our government. Because markets value only short term profit, and only profit that can be realized by the entity that one invests in, capitalists in a competitive market have little incentive to do fundamental scientific and engineering research and development. Penis pills and incremental mechanical improvement is the best they can do. To get any real innovation: cures for serious illnesses or breakthroughs in physics, you need government funding.

    Remember that patents (temporary government supported monopolies themselves!) do not apply to the discovery of laws of nature. A particular implementation of a transistor may be patentable, but semiconductor physics cannot be. AT&T’s bell labs were able to develop such amazing R&D as the wave nature of light, the transistor, Unix, and C because they were a government supported monopoly. Aerospace, healthcare, and electronics industries would be a fraction of what they are now without the government support they receive.

    For all the horrors of the military industrial complex, one must admit that it produces technology that industry would fail to develop on it’s own.

    But your “class war” is just a rhetorical tool to empower new leaders ala Animal Farm.
    The first part of anarcho-syndicalism is “anarcho”, for anarchism. We don’t want any unjust hierarchy. Any person in a position of influence such as an organizer or spoke-council speaker must be elected and must be recallable by election at any time. We believe that federated, highly organized democratic structures can make decisions without hierarchy.

    Your defense of private property is just a rhetorical tool to empower the old leaders. Market capitalism is against everything Orwell believed in (he was a democratic socialist with anarchist sympathies). Read the Road to Wigan Pier, Down and out in Paris and London, or especially Homage to Catalonia.

    I believe in autonomy. You have the absolute right to do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t harm the person or personal possessions of another human being. However, autonomy without solidarity and mutual aid just means living as a hermit.

    Syndicalism may risk renam[ing] the “board of directors” as “workers collective”, this is why we must fiercely guard our democratic structures and work to build up power among the people.

  6. tkfu says:

    Video of the talk in various formats is already available here:

    http://arxta.net/video

  7. maxoid says:

    Roku @5, well said.

    Take the attitidue of not caring about being fired a step further, and quit to start a new thing with this (or another) team. The hardest part by far is getting over the fear of leaving.

  8. Anonymous says:

    #5:
    #7:

    Starting your own business on a working class budget isn’t possible in capital intensive industries. As long as there exists an employing class and a working class, the working class will need tactics for getting more power in the workplace.

    Convince your fellow workers to make demands and to stop work if they are not met. It’s called a strike, sabotage, or direct action, depending on the actual implementation and duration of the stoppage. Workers in every industry and nearly every industrialized society understand these basic ideas. For some reason American office workers consider themselves capitalists [with empty pockets], and resist mass organization.

    Is it reading too much Ayn Rand? The 401k invested in the stock market? The short term growth and meritocracy of the tech sector while the rest of the economy stagnates in bureaucracy? As the middle class shrinks, these “rugged individualists” will need to pick sides.

    Startups and cooperatives have their role, but if we really want more power and eventual emancipation from the boss, we need to look back at old school anarcho-syndicalism.

    Solidarity Forever!

    (ha! my capcha is “entails change”)

  9. Anonymous says:

    I watched the video and I find it amusing that Marick says that anarcho-syndicalism was irrelevant by the 1920′s as an economic/political movement.

    Maybe he should google “CNT/FAI” or the “Spanish civil war” ?!?

    Not to mention that the IWW, AIT, CNT, CGT, SAC, etc are still around, capitalism is destroying the environment, the wealth gap is growing, and state socialism has proven itself a failure. Anarcho-syndicalism looks like a pretty appealing alternative.

  10. Anonymous says:

    #18 Roku:

    I agree with much of what you’ve said. Many theoreticians seeking a more just economic system insist on small scale entities (firms, businesses, coops, whatever you want to call them). They have a lot of good points.

    However, I don’t believe that large scale enterprises are inherently antithetical to freedom. It may be more difficult to coordinate large federated associations than small ones, but large organizations can still be kept democratic with enough effort.

    Some environmental, medical, and technological problems probably require the cooperation of people on the bio-regional or global scale.

    Can we reverse global climate change in a completely horizontal fashion? Can we disseminate vaccines effectively with mere voluntary association? Can we produce semiconductors without centralized multi-billion dollar fabrication foundries?

    Maybe?

    Figuring out how makes the question interesting.

  11. Rindan says:

    My proposed solution: get rid of capital-intensive industries. Either figure out a smaller, more decentralized way to do things, figure out something else to do that meets the same needs, or figure out how to do without.

    I suppose the first thing that you are going to give up is your computer, right? I work for a company that makes part of one tiny chip in your computer. The process involves a few hundred million USD just to think about getting started. A single essential tool will set you back a few million, and the tool is worthless without a dozen others tools that start at the bar bottom price of half a million. Guess what? Some stuff takes a shit ton of capital to make.

    It is cute to say that you will go without and think that just means you have to switch from Windows to Ubuntu. The reality is that there exists many capital intensive things out there that anyone who isn’t living in a mud hut consider essential. Hell, even people living in a mud hut have cell phones these days, and while any idiot might be able to put together the parts of a cell phone on the cheap, no one can make any of the individual chips without sinking a few billion in capital first.

    But if you think you can do without transistors, by all means, do without. Eh, I’ll stick to the evil capitalist system.

  12. Roku says:

    #8: “Starting your own business on a working class budget isn’t possible in capital intensive industries. As long as there exists an employing class and a working class, the working class will need tactics for getting more power in the workplace.”

    My proposed solution: get rid of capital-intensive industries. Either figure out a smaller, more decentralized way to do things, figure out something else to do that meets the same needs, or figure out how to do without. By concentrating capital, we inevitably concentrate power, and the drive to gain power for selfish reasons is always greater than the drive to share it nicely.

    It’s like saying “What do you do about industries that are too big to fail?” Answer: “too big to fail” is “too big to exist.”

    The first step is to abolish the concept of the corporation altogether. Liability = responsibility, and “Limited liability” is just a fancy way of saying “the government has given me a legal fiction by which I avoid responsibility for my own actions.” Anyone who claims to be “libertarian,” yet still supports the concept of the corporation, has failed to realize this.

    Then, all the false economies of scale enabled by government fall out, and only the true economies remain. They are less than people think.

    This is a neverending task, but anything else is a half-measure that leaves us inevitably doomed to serfdom. The corporate structure is intrinsically fascist: it’s a top-down dictatorship in which the Board of Directors has absolute rule over everything, everyone has absolute rule over those below them, there is no upward accountability, and any appeal is at the sufferance of those above you.

    Back to the original article: sure, take what you can from your bosses; they’re doing the same to you. Just don’t pretend that you’re striking a blow for real freedom. A gilded cage is still a cage. Your job is to break out of it.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I can tell Zuzu does not suffer from grand mal epilepsy.

    And a rock feels no pain.

    And an island

    Never

    Cries

  14. billymeltdown says:

    You can keep up with the discussion amongst a lot of Future Ruby attendees (self included) by watching #futureruby on Twitter. There have been a couple of thoughtful comments and criticisms posted and linked via twitter and this hash tag, we’re all kinda using it to keep track of each other and to exchange ideas.

    It was a small but dynamic conference, just over 200 attendees. Highly recommended if Unspace throws another one next year. Last year’s Ruby Fringe was similarly interesting in terms of inspiriting debate and creativity. It’s more of a philosophical conference than a Ruby programming conf, tho everyone finds a way to tie it back into Ruby.

    Cheers,
    Billy

  15. billymeltdown says:

    Ugh, I really did not mean to type “inspiriting”. Here’s a link to the Twitter search to make this comment a tad more useful:

    http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23futureruby

  16. TroofSeeker says:

    The little laser co. I was working for was suddenly financed and moving into a big building. They hired an engineering manager who was a handsome bastard, but in way over his head. We had a big room for engineering, and he told me that he wanted an open floorplan. We wanted personal space- cubicles. He resisted. I told him that there would be a lot more socializing in open space (this was before Al Gore gave us the internets). The very next day, in come the partitions. Yay! I hate being bugged when I’m working.

  17. Robbo says:

    In my brief stint as Exec. Prod. for Kids CBC I guess I was “the scrum master”.

    We weren’t allowed to move the stultifying cubicle arrangement so my very first task as the dude in charge of this section of the boxy-office-land was to clamber up on the cubicle desks and kick out the panels that separated everyone. The looks on the faces of my team changed quickly from dull resignation – to abject fear at this crazy person who was straddling their keyboards and destroying the furniture around them – and ultimately to the wide-eyed wonderment and delight of the newly freed citizens of Logan’s Run as they beheld a larger world before them – and the faces of their fellow team mates. Real conversations ensued – no more emails to the cubicle next door!

    That, and tormenting the mail robot, was perhaps the highlight of the entire gig.

    Cheers.

  18. zuzu says:

    Convince your fellow workers to make demands and to stop work if they are not met. It’s called a strike, sabotage, or direct action, depending on the actual implementation and duration of the stoppage. Workers in every industry and nearly every industrialized society understand these basic ideas. For some reason American office workers consider themselves capitalists [with empty pockets], and resist mass organization.

    As the middle class shrinks, these “rugged individualists” will need to pick sides.

    These “sides” are a false dichotomy. The only “class” that actually exists is the political class: people who transfer wealth using force, rather than creating wealth through both-benefit trade.

    (That political class includes creating a fiat monetary system that provides artificially cheap credit for those aforementioned capital intensive industries.)

    But your “class war” is just a rhetorical tool to empower new leaders ala Animal Farm.

    Solidarity is a euphemism for “angry mob”. My life is my own; I am autonomous.

    # First, let’s consider what “anarcho-syndicalism” is

    Syndicalism just renames the “board of directors” as “workers collective”, while the organizational structure remains the same. It also has no answer for investment in new industries and ventures, rather than merely operating existing enterprises.

  19. zuzu says:

    @11 JeffGuiven

    People who program in Ruby aren’t like other coders

    There’s some truth to this. The self-selecting Ruby programmer population are, in part, attracted to the “syntactic sugar” and development philosophy of Ruby that combines genuine OOP “everything is an object” with some basic introspection, duck typing, and other convenient features borrowed from Lisp (e.g. closures).

    Or, at least, that’s how it was before Ruby on Rails made people want to learn Ruby just because it was the hot new web development language.

    p.s. Ruby is cool, but Erlang is cooler. Just as OOP is cool, but the Actor model is cooler.

  20. jeffguevin says:

    The talk is interesting and amusing, but I raise my electronic eyebrow at the following, from the FutureRuby website:

    People who program in Ruby aren’t like other coders

    We are the artists, philosophers, and troublemakers. We realize that the fringe of today is the mainstream of tomorrow. We grease the engines of progress, even when we’re working outside of the machine.

    Perhaps the first sentence is tongue-in-cheek, and I’m too grumpy in the morning to appreciate it.

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