by Dmytri Kleiner, Berlin, Germany.
Copyfarleft 2008-2011 Idiosyntactix Strategic Arts & Sciences Alliance Telekommunisten.
Reproduce at will, with or without attribution. Independent or collective commercial usage encouraged.

Debtors of The World Unite! The Initiative to form an International Debtors’ Party

Debtors’ of The World Unite! The Initiative to form an International Debtors’ Party. Congratulations to the Pirate Party having won an astounding 8.9% in the Berlin elections.

As I wrote two weeks ago, this is their moment of relevance, the emergence of Information politics as a mainstream political topic. Having 15 Piratenpartei representatives in the local government will certainly be of direct material benefit to activists fighting against software patents, for network neutrality, online security and privacy, etc, and that is a development to be celebrated.

Modern politics has become a politics of identities and causes. Major parties construct identities, these identities function as Legitimization Brands, not so much tied to specific social outcomes, but rather to specific personalities, representations, framings and forms of apology.

People vote for a Party because that’s the kind of person they identify as: the kind of person that votes for that party and imagines themselves having the essentialized, yet drifting, characteristics the party markets as their image. Party membership is just another consumer identity.

The interests of the State and it’s ruling class doesn’t change from election to election, and the elected politicians of the ruling party’s job is to represent the policies demanded by the ruling class to the people that support them. The election is a market survey, designed to identify which Legitimization Brand will most effectively deliver public support.

The political policies of the major parties are formed byway of the campaign contributions and lobbying of the holders of the major economic power, not by the interests of the voters whose support they deliver.

Political resistance is limited to activist movements, which occasionally manifest as minor parties, the Greens and more recently the Pirate Party are such manifestations.

As minor parities, they are not integrated into the ruling class system, but rather represent the social power of movements around specific causes. These parties retain relevance to the degree that they are primarily the representatives of the activist social movements they emerged from, when they grow beyond being minor parties, like the Greens have in Germany, they become integrated into the ruling class, and begin representing ruling class interests.


The social power they can mobilize, although often visible and noisy, is not enough to propel them beyond the political fringes, yet maybe enough to attract attention from the same economic powers whose contributions and lobbies animate the major parties, and are thereby transformed into Legitimization Brands, like the other major parties, trading in the support of their now expanded constituencies so long as their legitimacy survives.


And for very good reason, understanding complex causes like environmentalism and information politics seem complex and abstract to people, more concerned with their everyday lives. Activist campaigns often focus on the misdeeds of corporations and States. Most people feel unqualified to comment on it, and are therefore not so compelled to try to unravel the storms of claims and counter claims, accusations and apologies, all the rhetoric that drives such polemics. These are not their concerns, forming an opinion on such issues does not help in the daily challenges they face in their private lives. And the solutions presented are not clearly implied by their own conditions, thus they are happy to have these concerned administered for them, which the Legitimizing Apparatus is happy to do.


The traditional parties formed around the emerging power of different economic classes. Specifically from the interests of those who derived their incomes from the different Factors of Production, namely Land, Capital, and Labour.

Conservatives are called conservatives not because they have delicate sensibilities when it comes to sexuality or have regressive views of gender and racial roles, but because they wantwd to “Conserve” the system of Nobility, where elite families retained power and led society. Which, due to there superior genetic heritage, they where, aledgedly, uniquely able to do, and as they had done for centuries.


The Liberal are called Liberalis, not because they emerged as movement of people who believed in being a little less uptight and a little less xenophobic, but rather because they represented the emerging Capitalist class, they believed that the State, meaning at that time, the Nobility, should let them conduct their businesses as they see fit, and not intervene in the marke.


As Capitalism triumphed, and Feudalism disappeared, Liberals and Conservatives became not so much representatives of different classes in conflict, but rather competing brands to market the interests of Capital to the masses. Both parties represent only slightly differing views on how markets and governments aught to be run, and in whose interest.

Labour Parties began as dissenting, activist parties, formed by groups of political intellectuals such as the UK Fabians, and began as minor parties that had grown out of the workers’ movement.

Yet, the workers’ movement was different from the types of causes we have seen emerge more recently.

The workers’ movement was not fuelled by intellectual appeals to abstract technical concepts, and was not focused on the reported conduct of remote corporations or states, but on the direct conditions and interests experienced by workers, and workers where legion.

Their cause was not based on morality or belief, but on the conditions of their daily lives. What’s more, the platforms where directly implied by their conditions, they where not administered beliefs, but known facts. Workplace safety, wages, working hours and other matters of direct interest to workers did not require subscribing to one ideology or another to understand.

The workers movement, because of its class basis, did not need to rely on campaign contributions and lobby to have power, because the workers where the masses.

The power of the worker’s parties came from control of labour.

However, this language of Landlord, Capitalist and Worker emerged in quite a different era. The Power Loom was the driving force of industry, Nobility controlled the land and the State, and being a worker in early industry was torturous, inhumane, and importantly, most workers where direct-producers. The value they created took the form of stocks of goods that where literally taken from their hand and into the possession of the Capitalists, who became their owners and profited from their circulation, while the workers where left with nothing more than that which their subsistence demands so they could toil another day. Workers knew their class interests. The exploitation of labour was not a theory, but a felt, daily experience. There demands where not opinions, but terms of struggle.

The workers’ movement won many of these struggles. Working conditions and hours where improved as a result of fierce battles between workers and capitalists. This began to make the demands of workers’ parties less pressing, more marginal and abstract, while theories of value and economy developed further, the immediacy of the issues fell away.

More and more workers became non-direct producers, working in administrative or technical fields that did not directly produce stocks of goods, appropriation of the product of the labour became not a felt and observed experience, but yet another theory, something about which one could have an opinion, but not something that was a uniting term of struggle.

All the while the most oppressive and harsh conditions where relegated to the margins of society or even to other ends of the world, with whom the great body of workers in developed society had no relationship at all, or if any, then as yet another cause.

Politics has vanished and in it’s place is a marketplace for legitimization.

The commodity has become the voter themselves, delivered to a consciousness industry made up of parties, public relation firms and other agents of economic power.

Absent from organized opposition, Capital has reshaped society towards it’s own interests. Where the owners of productive assets have increased power and freedom, unchecked by any kind of political contestation, and the masses are subjected, administered, and controlled. Workers are just another economic input, like energy and natural resources, who matter only enough to ensure reliable supply. Capital is spreading poverty, social stratification, environmental degradation and war with impunity, checked only by the economic and natural limits of such outcomes, and able to socialize or transfer the costs even when such limits are exceeded and catastrophe ensues.

To make politics relevant, to challenge and contest the interests of Capital and to represent the interests of the masses we need workers to once again unite in their common interests and make their social power felt.

Yet, workers’ politics is now failing because workers do not identify as workers, and thus any appeal addressed to workers is unlikely to achieve results. As the economy has moved on from the simple model of production that classical language was born in, so must the language of class politics. The workers are no longer direct witnesses to the product of their labour being ripped from their hands and hoarded by the Capitalist. Many people may hate their job, or their boss, but as the production of value is more abstract and remote, they do not feel that their boss is taking anything from them, rather they feel they are being given something, their job and their paycheque, etc. It is not in the workplace that the appropriation is felt, but rather after work, when they go home to pay their bills.

We can’t mobilize the masses as workers, but we can mobilize them as Debtors.

Debt is not simply a cause to build awareness and support for, it is the felt condition of the masses, who are struggling to pay their bills, who are frustrated and angry and who demand representation which no mainstream party will give them.

The Time has come for The Debtors’ Party.

Join the initiative to found an International Debtors’ Party. So far, the resources are small, come help us build a movement.

– Facebook group: – irc channel: #debt on – wiki:

With your help, much more to come.

Anybody is Berlin is welcome to come to Stammtisch tonight and say hi, this is in no way an official meeting of the Debtors’ Party, just an informal get together, but no doubt the topic will be present. Stammtisch is at Cafe Buchhandlung, starting at 9pm.

Debtors’ of The World Unite!


One is about the prospect of automation leading to increased leisure under Capitalism:

“Rather than a future characterized by gleaming fully automated robot factories producing untold wealth while humans enjoy a life of leisure and pursuit of higher consciousness, a more realistic vision of capitalist automation is the panicked teenager frantically responding to various beeps and buzzers and flashing lights in the kitchen of a fast-food restaurant.”

One is about the prospect of automation leading to increased leisure under Capitalism:

“Rather than a future characterized by gleaming fully automated robot factories producing untold wealth while humans enjoy a life of leisure and pursuit of higher consciousness, a more realistic vision of capitalist automation is the panicked teenager frantically responding to various beeps and buzzers and flashing lights in the kitchen of a fast-food restaurant.”

The other is about the prospect of a junk bond financed insurgent Venture Communism:

“Milken believed that he was a liberator that broke open the Capitalist vaults, getting Capital in the hands of a new generation of businesses that would otherwise have been shut out by the conservative old elite. In some sense that is true. Milken helped fuel the rise of many insurgents into a previously well-heeled old guard, notably himself and the likes of Rupert Murdoch.”


The housing bubble caused housing prices to rise by making money cheap.

The boom in demand for housing attracted developers who wanted to cash in on high housing prices and the heavily government subsidized system of highways and big box retailers that is the life-support system of ever more remote satellite suburbs.

The increase in housing prices is the byproduct of money created by the banking system and government subsidized development, neither the banks nor the government have the economic basis to continue for ever. Driving up location rents by increasing money supply and subsidizing irresponsible development has no end-benefit, like any pyramid scheme, money just flows up the chain, or up the “property ladder,” until no more suckers can be found to build up the downline. In the end, prices must fall. Deflation is inevitable. There can be no bailout, a pyramid scheme can not be rescued, not even if public funds are used to add one more, one final, level to the pyramid. Of course, a new publicly funded level, thereby forcibly roping-in the many who did not choose to get in on the Ponzi scheme in the first place.

In every somber corner, from parliament to board room to coffee shop, the debate over a false dilemma rages on. Bail out the home owners not the lenders! First of all: AS IF! As if, a political class dripping wet with financial industry campaign contributions will really be interested in doing anything but soaking the small mortgage-holders further. This crisis, like any financial crisis is an opportunity for wealth to concentrate even more, and those who are in favorable political and economic proximities will happily take any public funds they can get to reduce the costs of all the juicy acquisitions while leaving the public holding assets no willing buyer would buy at any price.

Even so, bailout the Home owners? I’m sorry, it may be pointless to reject something that is never going to happen in any case, but fuck that too. How many people lack adequate housing or pay an unreasonable portion of their income for housing? If we’re throwing trillions around, shouldn’t that be the fundamental issue? In the same way that the farm subsidy lobby uses the myth of the independent rustic farmer to justify subsidies of massive corporate conglomerates, no doubt the hard working family will be used as the poster child for the “bailout” lobby. In truth, many of the “Home owners” are as driven by greed and delusions of the “property ladder” as the lenders, why should they be rewarded over renters and residents of co-operative and public housing? There is a lot of profit-motive speculation in the housing market among “home owners” and this is just as much money-for-nothing greed as that which motivates the money lenders. Private home ownership in ever-expanding satellite suburbs is neither socially, economically nor environmentally desirable and has been far over-subsidized already.

Bailout people with sustainable housing in livable communities with effective social benefits. Create a society where people do not require life-long wage-slavery to pay life-long debt for the privilege of having a place to live.

The False Defences Of Utopian Thought

There is a strange paradox in Marx’s approach to revolution. Generally speaking, when Marx speaks of material creativity, he speaks of production, and here he insists, as I have mentioned, that the defining feature of humanity is that we first imagine things, and then try to bring them into being. When he speaks of social creativity it is almost always in terms of revolution, but here, he insists that imagining something and then trying to bring it into being is precisely what we should never do. That would be utopianism, and for utopianism, he had only withering contempt.’ — David Graeber, The Revolution In Reverse

In this example David Graeber is suggesting that it is Utopian to imagine a better world in the future, before achieving it.

In ‘A Discussion on “Listen, Marxist!”‘ Bookchin writes of Marx: ‘

‘No less serious is the rejection of Utopian thought—the imaginative forays of Charles Fourier and William Morris. What Martin Buber called the “utopian element in socialism” is rejected for a “hardheaded” and “objective” treatment of “reality.” ‘

Bookchin is suggesting, citing Buber, that to be Utopian is to be overly imaginative and lacking hard-headedness and “objectivity.”

Now, clearly lacking objectivity could be drawback, but could Marx really have objected to imagination and for-sight? I don’t claim to match the scholarship of Graeber or Bookchin, so I wont hazard to prove what Marx really believed about Utopian thinking, but for me, both the above defences, which are unfortunately common ones, are completely missing the point.

The issue is not so much objectivity, vision, nor imagination, it is the belief that society can be changed without conflict, that oppressed classes can end their oppression without overcoming the ruling classes, often just by merely suggesting another system is possible. I have complete confidence that Graeber and Bookchin also reject such socialism, simply using other words.

Perhaps the most of famous of Marx and Engels’ rejection of Utopianism comes from this passage of the Communist Manifesto:

“The undeveloped state of the class struggle, as well as their own surroundings, causes Socialists of this kind to consider themselves far superior to all class antagonisms. They want to improve the condition of every member of society, even that of the most favored. Hence, they habitually appeal to society at large, without distinction of class; nay, by preference, to the ruling class. For how can people, when once they understand their system, fail to see it in the best possible plan of the best possible state of society?. Hence, they reject all political, and especially all revolutionary, action; they wish to attain their ends by peaceful means, and endeavor, by small experiments, necessarily doomed to failure, and by the force of example, to pave the way for the new social Gospel.” — Marx & Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1848.

It seems plain that what is being rejected here is not a vision for the future, nor imagination. Although ‘their own surroundings’ is mentioned as a cause, there is hardly a strong argument being made on the basis of a lack of objectivity. The criticism of the rejection of Utopian thought presented by Graeber and Bookchin seems to mis the mark.

Utopians are those activists who deny class struggle, who reject all political and revolutionary action, who, appeal to the oppressors themselves, instead of placing their hope in the revolutionary potential of the oppressed masses; “they habitually appeal to society at large, without distinction of class; nay, by preference, to the ruling class. For how can people, when once they understand their system, fail to see it in the best possible plan of the best possible state of society?”

That is Utopian thinking.

Class society does not exist simply because nobody has been clever enough to think-up a better system. Class society evolved over time, under force, to serve the interests of the most powerful. Who, as a predatory class require a productive class to exist and serve them. The control and oppression of the productive classes is not an accident, it is the purpose of the system.

The representatives of the predatory class will not abandon their privilege, they will fight to the death to keep it, and even bring down the whole society, if they can, to prevent losing their privilege.

Rulers would rather see everything they have destroyed, their own children slaughtered, and the greatest works of their society destroyed and undone, sooner than fall into the lower classes and accept their servants as their equals.

What makes certain thinking Utopian is denying conflict, imagining the economic and social structure of society can be overturned without conflict, thinking that we can go from a society of class stratification to a society without classes without conflict among the contesting classes. Such thinking is rightfully to be rejected.

Thinking is Utopian when it has no political program, no revolutionary theory, when it doesn’t address how the balance of power will be changed so that a new society is possible, when this issue of power is in fact the primary issue we must address to achieve a society where “In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

A social theory is not Utopian because the future society it envisions is unrealistic, but rather because it fails to answer, or often even consider, the issue of how we could possible get there and achieve such a society, how we can overcome the resistance of those who would love privilege and power in such a society. This lack makes such work not so much political thought, but better filed under Speculative Fiction.

We need to work with the consciousness we find, not the consciousness we wish was there. For the people to be united, they must be conscious of their common interests, for this consciousness to have political effect, they must also be conscious of how their interests are in conflict with other sectors of society.

There must be a consciousness of class, and a willingness to understand that the only way to change their class conditions is to unite and fight.

Last week I wrote about my initiative to form a Debtors’ Party, and this is quickly gaining interest. However, many have raised questions of why I feel “Debtor” is a more appropriate term of struggle that the traditional “worker.” After all, just because the masses don’t relate to the terminology of the workers’ movement any longer, doesn’t mean that they can not do so again, couldn’t we simply campaign to recreate this consciousness?

Consciousness is not something that we are in a position to create, as the consciousness industries working for those who wish to preserve the class structure, PR, Lobbies, parties, etc, have far more resources than those fighting to abolish class.

We need to work with the consciousness we find, not the consciousness we wish was there.

Consciousness comes from conditions, not theories or opinions. The consciousness that transformed the working conditions in developed nations and built the welfare state was not created by chartist charters nor syndicalist doctrines nor the program of the communist manifesto, but by the working conditions of the workers themselves.

Yet, now the issue in rich nations is no longer working conditions, work is not something you give, rather jobs are something you get, there is no concept of the appropriation of value, as the creation of value and the locale of appropriation is too abstract and remote for the masses of workers to contemplate, it’s an abstraction, not a fact.

What is a fact to them is precarity and financial strife, with Debt being it’s measure.

Class consciousness is currently based around personal Debt. Thus, Debt is the issue that can reintroduce class conflict into politics.

If you read the manifestos, signs and slogans of any recent movement or uprising, from the Strange-bedfellows Tent Cities of Tel Aviv, to the Blackberry Riots of London, to #occupywalltreet(tm).

Newspaper articles are daily reporting out of control debt. The topic of Debt is everywhere, ever-present, on the tip of every tongue.

Most centrally, debt from those goods that are not perceived as elective; Education, Housing and Medicine is spreading a wide spread feeling that Capitalism is unable to provision these goods.Yet, many people who would cary a placard saying this have no clue what surplus value is, much less the alienation of labour or what it’s abolition might look like.

They demand representation! And that is what social power is built on, when classes unite and demand representation.

This is an opportunity to push politics away from the moribund margins of identities and causes, to transcend the illusory politics of a legitimation marketplace, and perhaps a chance for workers to move one step closer to achieving their historic role; the abolition of classes.

Only the masses can bring class back into politics. And they don’t necessarily do so in the traditional language of political discourse, but in their own words.

In his article on Woody Guthrie, Steve Earle notes:

A few well-meaning outsiders were sympathetic to the plight of the migrants, but they were college boys who used a lot of big words like “proletariat” and “bourgeoisie” and unintentionally made the Okies feel small. But Woody was one of their own. He spoke their language and he sang their songs, and every once in a while he’d slip in one of those big words in between a tall tale and an outlaw ballad. As he became more outraged he became more radical, but his songs and his patter always maintained a sense of humor and hope. He said, “I ain’t a Communist necessarily, but I been in the red all my life.”

I guess Woody would think we where on the right track.

This is not a call for politics as usual to be appealed to to solve our problems, this is a call to Occupy Government. In a private conversation on that great modern Stoa, Facebook, my friend Tiziana Terranova, endorsed the Objectives of the Debtors’ Party, saying “there’s nothing about these objectives I could not share,” but went on to ask a rather pointed question:

“It is the notion of starting a political party that leaves me baffled, coming as you know from an autonomist political background that has been arguing for constituent power, that is the invention of new institutions altogether. Why try to reinvent an old formula like a political party?”

Why a Political Party?

The answer is all around us. mass movements are rising and spreading, squares world wide are being occupied, demonstrations are attracting thousands who want their voice heard and their dissent felt. These occupiers, these demonstrators, have not taken to the street as a practical means of forming new institutions, they have taken to the street to make demands.

They address their slogans, their posters and their signs, not to each other to call for new social forms, but to the “1%,” to the State, to the Police, in other words to authority, to power, to the ruling elite. Their demands are political damands; “Read My Lips: Tax The Rich”, “End Welfare for the Rich!”, “Create Jobs Not War!” among many others, demanding a right to housing, education, and health without inescapable debt, demanding a society governed according the interests of the masses, not the few.

Many of us in the currently exploding movement are also actively involved in building constituent power, in building new ways of producing and sharing, in forming and envisioning new institutions within the shell of the old, but we can do so only within the bounds of our class condition, and when we are strapped by debt and precarity, struggling with money and time to meet our basic responsibilities to family and community, we lack the means to form and grow our new institutions, and we lack the means to defend them.

These demands are urgent demands and can not be immediately met by autonomist means alone. So long as we live within a society ruled by Government, these demands must be met by Government, we require a political struggle, not in attempt to take power and impose new social relations through the power of the state, but to contest the interest of the ruling elite on the battlefield of the political process. We must undertake a political struggle to to create the space for alternative institutions to emerge, otherwise they are too easily snuffed out where they do rise.

We must undertake a political struggle because the masses are calling out for it, and we must heed that call and respond, not simply reject it and presume to educate them with theory and instruct then to leave the streets and the squares, to go back to Kansas and form a million Kibbutzim because it better suites our vision of the future. To achieve our future visions, we must address the conditions of the present.

All we need to do is read the signs, hear the slogans, listen to the demands of our movements.

The Existence of Demands Proves the Existence of the Demand for Political Representation.

And who is to provide such representation? Are we to expect the parties of the plutocrats to provide such representation? The existing parties have long lost their class character and are essentially publicity outfits selling voters to lobbies in the marketplace of political legitimization.

The time has come for new party, a party to stand up to the representatives of the interests of the ruling elite, the financial aristocracy, whose power has been unchallenged for decades.

We musrt have a new party that is formed by, and that represents, the masses that have been dispossessed and are being pushed towards destitution. A party to face down the profit-seeking interests of creditors, who having hoarded hoarded the majority of societies wealth among the few, have the masses into debtors.

The time has come for the Debtors’ Party.

This is not a call for politics as usual to be appealed to to solve our problems, this is a call to Occupy Government.

The Revolutionary Role of a Transnational Counterparty

In explaining the Initiative to form an International Debtors’ Party I have discussed the issues of why “Debtors” and why a “Party”, now I would like to introduce some ideas as to how the Debtors’ Party will be different from other parties, by proposing the idea of a “Transnational Counter-party.”

A Transnational Counterparty is a transformative political organisation, that works towards the goals of a world with no classes and therefore no state.

It is Transnational, because, within itself, it recognizes no borders, and it is a Counter-party, because it’s goal is not to transform society from top down by seizing the power of the State, but to fight for the social conditions required by existing and emerging community-initiated, bottom-up, forms of transformation. To engage in the political theatre and struggle against the plutocratic interests from the old society that would crush any new social developments that would challenge there privilege.

To be a transformative structure requires divergent outwardly and inwardly characteristics.

Being part of a transformation, such a structure is a creature of the current society, it’s outwardly appearance and interfaces must be structured according the laws and practices of the existing society in order for it to function. Within itself it is an incubator for a new society and thereby the relations contained within itself must reflect those it want to achieve. It must be the revolution it seeks. It’s external characteristics must be the characteristics it seeks in the society it strives to achieve.

Venture Communism is such a transformative model, externally a joint-stock corporation, internally fostering commons-based production, Copyleft and Copy-far-left are also such transformative models, externally claiming property rights, while internally creating an information commons.

Antithetical extrinsic and intrinsic characteristics are essential features of any transformative structure. Above all, the extrinsic structure must ensure that the regressive relations of the outside must not penetrate and corrupt those of the inside, the extrinsic characteristics must create a bastion that allows its intrinsic properties to develop and thrive.

A Transnational Counterparty is such a transformative model, externally a network of regionally-bound Political Parties that contest elections for representation within hierarchical, authoritarian Governments, but internally operating as a radically participatory, non-hierarchical collective that operates without borders.

The network of Political Parties it founds and co-ordinates must be legally recognized as eligible to participate in government, and thus, these local Parties are objects of specific Government jurisdiction. A Transnational Counterparty, however, must operate such local entities as extrinsic interfaces to local governments which are closely bound to it’s own, fluid and participatory international internal democracy, and likewise it’s elected candidates must not become holders of individual power, must must excercise power on behalf of the democratically established census of the global membership, contractually bound to do so, and to forfeit their position if they fail to do so. The ultimate power in the Transnational Counterparty must be held by the membership itself, and never either it’s internal executive officials, nor it’s candidates and representatives in local governments. All agents of the Transnational Counterparty must be held accountable to the global membership.

The Transnational Counterparty can not ever be a ruling party, though it may have electoral success in places, the plutocratic parties will always hold more power. This is not a rule or principle of that the party needs to observe, this is a simple biproduct of the fact that it represents the new society, the emerging autonomous, collective communities striving to create a new ways of living. The plutocratic parties represent the powerful economic forces of the current society, and thus will always have more power so-long as the current society is not yet transformed.

Once the social power of the communities represented by the Transnational Counterparty overcome the power of the plutocrats, this means that such a newtork of autonomous, independent and inter-dependant communities will be larger in it’s social and economic base than that of the old society. Society will have already been transforme. classes will no longer exist, and without them nations will vanish. There will no longer be any ruling class or ruling party, the State will have withered away and the Transnational Counterparty will have dissolved into the fabric of the new society.

By the time a Transnational Counterparty has the power to seize the State, their will no longer be any State to sieze.

A nation is a body of people kept together for the purposes of rivalry and war with other similar bodies, and when competition shall have given place to combination, the function of the nation will be gone.” — William Morris

Thimbl, Social Media Week, @dsearls and Economic Fiction as a Performative Artwork

Thimbl has been getting some attention lately, party because of my talk at Social Media Week Berlin, partly because of a Tweet by the legendary Doc Searls.

Despite being part of Transmediale 2010 and winning a distinction at the festival, many people don’t seem to realize that Thimbl is an artwork. It’s a part of Telekommnunisten’s Miscommunication Technologies series along with such works as deadSwap and r15n.

Miscommunication Technologies uncover the social relations embedded in communication technology, creating platforms that don’t often work as expected, or work in unexpected ways.

I suppose the fact that Thimbl is an artwork was a surprise to the organizers of Social Media Week, and perhaps would be to Doc Searls as well. Who, like many of the people in the audience an Social Media Week might be thinking. Huh? What makes this art exactly?

The answer is surprisingly simple, it’s art because it is carried out in an art context, at events like Transmediale, Hack.Fem.East, Sousevelance, and at places such Piet Zwart Institute and the Israeli Center for Digital Art.

These works function as a kind of performative science fiction. Introducing the narrative of the political economy of the Internet into the media arts community by way of interactive artworks in the form of telephone and internet platforms, much like the Telekommunist Manifesto introduces the same topics in text. Among the core messages that we wish to contribute to the media art dialogue is an understanding of how centralization and decentralization relate to exploitation and freedom, respectively.

Thimbl is an artwork, not really an alternative to Facebook, Twitter, or even, as it was billed at Social Media Week, unwittingly by the organisers, who where non-the-less quite pleased at the results, and with the discusion it caused.

Thimbl is about the need for decentralized social media, and illustrates that this is something that has always been a part of the Internet, while also showing that it’s not really so difficult to implement.

Even though it’s ambitions are symbolic, Thimbl actually works.

Because of it’s decentralized, we can’t know how many users it has, but you can see the global timeline of all users that we do know about on our own ThimblSinging instance. If you have a finger account on any server, anywhere, with a Thimbl-compatible plan file, you can use this site as well, and start using Thimbl without installing anything from the Thimbl project on your own server.

Or, you can grab the code and host a instance of ThimblSinging yourself.

If you prefer the command line, or want to script something, Thimbl-CLI is available, as is the thimblr gem that comes with ThimblSinging. Even the GMail of Thimbl already exists; Phimbl, where you can just sign up and have a Thimbl account. And PageKite has added support for Thimbl too, meaning you can even easily self-host your Thimbl account, if you want too, perhaps even on your mobile device.

So, if all this exists, why is Thimbl not a real alternative?

Well, for one, we made it as artwork because it has merit as such wether or not it becomes a viable platform, just like some ideas that emerge from science fiction become reality, and some don’t, yet the predictive science doesn’t directly determine the merit of the work of fiction.

However, that’s not the main reason. Perhaps even calling it science fiction is misleading here. It’s not Thimbl’s technical viability that’s speculative, but rather it’s economic viability. Thimbl is an economic fiction.

Making it work is not the greatest challenge, making it financially viable is. Thimbl does not provide investors with the ability to control it’s users or their data, and as Thimbl’s Manifesto states “This control is required by the logic of Capitalist finance in order to capture value. Without such control profit-seeking investors do not provide funds.”

For Thimbl, or any other platform with a simular vision, to become a real alternative to the capitalist financed platforms like Facebook and Twitter, we need more than running code, even more than a small, perhaps dedicated, user base. These assets are only enough to keep it going as a lively, yet marginal underground medium. A fun platform for experts and enthusiasts, unknown and unknowable to the masses.

To get beyond this and actually break the monopolizing grip of centralized social media we need to match their productive capacities. We need financing on a simular scale. so that the development, marketing, and operations budgets are comparable and sufficient to compete. That is what is required to be a true alternative, not a symbolic one. Yet, Capitalism can not provide such financing.

Just like science fiction becomes reality when science transcends the limitations that existed when it was imagined, for economic fiction like Thimbl to become reality economics will need to transcend the limitations that we currently face.

We can write code, we can write texts, we can create artworks. But as a small network of artists and hackers, we can’t change the economic conditions we work in by ourselves.

That is why Thimbl is an artwork; its message must transform society for its vision to become reality. It is a manifesto, written in code.

If you want to see the project succeed, join us, grab the code and ideas you want and run with them.

As usual, I will be enjoying some drinks with friends, at Stammtisch, our weekly casual drinking night here in Berlin at Cafe Buchhandlung.. Please come by.

DRAFT III, My Residency at Digital Art Lab

The JessyCom project will continue the Miscommunication Technologies series of works, following Miss Information, deadSwap, YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME!?, and Thimbl.

Miscommunication Technologies is an ongoing project by Dmytri Kleiner in collaboration with the Telekommunisten Network. Miscommunication Technologies employ satire and emphasize simplicity and human interactions over technological sophistication, creating platforms that don’t often work as expected, or work in unexpected ways. Miscommunication Technologies uncover the social relations embedded in network topologies and communications platforms.

During his residency at the Digital Art Center, Dmytri will give a presentation on the Telekommunist Manifesto, which discusses the Political Economy of networks and information. The manifesto outlines many ideas that are core to the practice of the Telekommunisten Network. Dmytri will also introduce Thimbl, deadSwap and other Telekommunisten projects.

The main focus of the residency will the development of jessyCom. With the help of Tsila Hassine and the Israeli Center for Digital Art Center, a storefront in the Jessy Cohen neighborhood will be converted into a kiosk that resembles those used to market mobile telephone service, but instead will promote “JessyCom” a platform where users can “Share Messages and Win Prizes.” The Jessy Cohen neighbourhood is an underprivileged neighbourhood, many neighbourhood people, especially youth, have mobile phones, but most have no credit, so they can receive calls, but not make any.

When JessyCom receives a phone call, it automatically connects the caller to a randomly selected person that has signed-up for JessyCom, the caller can then pass on a message to this person. Starting from these two people, JessyCom is an implementation of the “random phone call” model of network broadcasting. Information is passed by word of mouth throughout an entire network byway of a series of calls between randomly selected people.

The original message is passed vocally from person to person in a “broken telephone” style until every person in the group has received the message. Other than the original caller, nobody else needs to have any phone credit to participate, as all random calls are initiated by the JessyCom telephone switch and thus are incoming calls for the participants.

To build interest in JessyCom the project will focus around a contest. People will be encouraged to sign-up for JessyCom for the chance to win free top-up cards to get credit for their existing mobile operator. The contest will employ the system to spread special messages into the community, and then award prizes of phone credit to randomly selected community members who know the original message. Explaining this contest will be the primary role of the storefront, website and other materials. We hope that the contest will incentivize members of the community to join. Once they know how the system works by joining the contest, they can initiate new messages own and employ JessyCom as they like.

Unlike typical social networks, where communication is self-selected into circles of “friends,” JessyCom works byway of co-operation of randomly selected people. The “random phone call” broadcast model will connect random people. Users of different ages, with different ethnic and economic backgrounds will need to talk to each and work together for the communication platform to work.

With a bit of co-operation, JessyCom allows one phone call to reach an entire community.

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