From the times of appropriating land and water commons to today’s netarchical methods of exploiting commons from platforms, commons has always been a major component of accumulation. It is high time that all efforts come together as a collective to put commons as a context to social change and put forward the manifesto. Peers working on various commons ideas have come together and drafted the following manifesto.
The current social order under the dominance of capital spawns productive forces that it can't control. As these forces get matured, they will ultimately overthrow production relations of this order. Governments around the world are in a race to turn their nations into corporate run free economic zones. They compete with each other, primarily, over global supply chains, energy markets, industrial production, deregulated finance, technology, knowledge and talent. Politics of this order is around the pursuit of tight partnerships and alliances over the above mentioned aspects, in the matrix of tangible and intangible infrastructure across borders. Unlike the early 20th century, today, the competition among the nations is cohesive. Due to outsourcing of production, though nations are competing on one aspect of trade they can't stretch the negotiation beyond a point. They will have to save it for few other deals. Such are the negotiations which are reshaping the human life. Human life has become more fluid. With uncertainty over the spatio-temporal aspects of labour, the labour is getting continuously recommodified with pursuit of flexibility taking front seat. For peers, the cost of acquiring a skill has become more than the constant income it promises. Thereby, the old relations between capital & labour, where the disciplined labour got into stable careers, are broken by new forces such as volatile capital empowered by digital infrastructure.
During the 20th century this competition was between two blocs. While the capitalist bloc pursued its task of arranging opportunities for accumulation, the other bloc could show the example of an ideal such as free health, free education and making them part of the Commons. Such an ideal of commonifying, is worth pursuing to reshape human life beyond the single-dimension of profit pursuit. For the 99% in the capitalist bloc, living examples of commons with a partner state (though bureaucratized) fueled their ideas of progress. In the 21st century, people lost the spatio-temporal existence of an alternative. But, technology facilitated the growth of productive forces. The new forces are able to bring new social formation with its impact in multiple supply-chains. Growth of such examples can fuel an idea for generations to come. The collective idea of Commons and its survival becomes the primary task of the vanguard who's looking to change the system. An economy in solidarity with these Commons can evolve and live as a standing example. That economy is called the Solidarity Economy. In organizing such an economy and its success on a macroscopic scale, we need all the centers that connect this web, managed meticulously at a microscopic level. A collective which looks to organize shall do it with acute focus on organizing at such microscopic level.
To organize at a microscopic level, we should leave behind the metaphysical point of view of organization which proposes to vertically organize the society discarding the roots of production and mechanical point of view of rigid division between geographical areas (Urban, rural etc) ignoring the dynamics of supply-chain interconnection. Rather, we should look forward to building the collective addressing the contradiction between production relations and productive forces of every particular center. We shall introduce new technology, new markets, new supply chains or train the existing resources in such a way that the old relation can no longer be relevant after our intervention. Each center will take its own time for such maturity. Also, every center maturing isn't a cumulative success for all of the Ambit around the center. It's how well will the impact of maturity in center be on the Ambit around it, that matters.
The economic mainsprings of political struggle first began to become clear during the struggle of the rising mercantile class against feudal society in Europe. While all feudal societies were enmeshed in contradictions, and marked by antagonistic struggle between peasant and lord, it was Europe where those contradictions first ripened enough and in such a way that the feudal system collapsed. Slowly at first, the bonds of feudal society were corroded. Focusing on the way this worked itself out in England, by the mid 1400s the development of the Flemish wool manufacturers in Belgium created a tremendous demand for raw wool from England. The feudal nobility-already in anunstable state due to a series of wars and the rise of an independent small farmer peasantry began to take by force what had been the allotments of land to the peasantry and turn them into grazing areas for sheep. Tens of thousands of peasants were driven from the land. At the same time-and this was also an important factor spurring the turn to wool production for exchange instead of general production for use. THe lords had become deeply indebted to the merchants in the towns, due both to feudal wars and to their purchases of the luxury items beginning to flow into the trading towns. In order to economize, the lords began to drive off their purchases of the luxury items beginning to flow into the trading towns. In order to economize, the lords began to drive off their retainers. Leaving many peasants propertyless. Ultimately, they become the workers for the capital owner. Thus, a new force, the capital owner and accumulator is born. The fight between feudal lords and capital owners furthered as the cost to travel between feudal estates had to be borne by the capital owner. The development of productive forces pushed on by these transformations.
This new class of capital owners from Europe went on to plunder nations and their commons across the globe. For eg. in India, the mercantile class though has a lot to trade, was not as advanced as the European mercantile class in navy. Such advantages gave them scope to plunder India for over 300 years. By 1915, when the company got exclusive rights on all the wood in the country, the common arable lands were also in the hands of the company. Thereby, the commoners access to wood for cooking, agriculture etc was reduced. Such was the plunder where nothing was left for a scope of commons to flourish and produce.
By the advent of the 21st century, a new class of capital owners are born. They’re the netarcical class of capital owners. Their only task is to create platforms and inviting the peers to produce. Such production by peers could be for their survival or their will to create more commons. Such efforts of peers to commonify were plundered by the netarcicals and have created the world's largest empires of business. Today, the world's largest media company don’t employ at journalist while the media content is produced by the people or peers, the world’s largest hotelier doesn’t own a hotel room, instead is owned by small owners, the world’s largest taxi company doesn’t own a taxi instead only provides a platform to aggregate the taxis and hence plunder their labour. The value that is created by peers is getting commodified and while the efforts of peers is to commonify.
The order under capital moves from a competitive stage to a monopoly stage. Monopoly capital is as unplanned as its predecessor. The big corporations of monopoly capital relate to each other, to consumers, to labor, to smaller businesses primarily through the market. The way the system works is still the unintended outcome of the self-regarding actions of the numerous units that compose it. The fundamental difference between the competitive stage of this order under capital and the monopoly stage is that, in the former capital owner is price-taker and in the latter, owner is price maker. Monopolists set the price. Gives loans to purchase the products. Immerses the population in debt.
Tools are made by humans. When tools call for a social change, they will speak through humans. To begin with, while people create tools there is another sense in which tools create and create people. While sometime close to four million years ago a species of pre human primates went from carrying and utilizing found objects to refashioning them into tools, natural selection and other evolutionary pressures favored development of a bigger, more complex brain which could further enhance the advantage provided by the hand's new versatility and freedom to make tools. Later, as labor became more complex and these beings had ideas too complex to communicate by simple calls, evolutions similarly favored the development of the apparatus for speech in humans. With labour as the key link, this spirally dialectic, through many as yet uncharted phases and twists and turns, led to the emergence of modern humanity some 50000 years ago.
Labour, and the tools which it implies pushed forward not only the evolution of humans, but of human society as well. Because labour is conscious practice, because that is, people critically reflect on and alter what they are doing, they tend to constantly improve and develop new tools and methods, and to acquire a deeper understanding of the world. The leaps through history from hunting to agriculture, from draft animals to steam engines, from internal combustion machines to computers the advances are demonstrated. This process is never smooth. Who owns the means of production? Are the productive forces in control of themselves is what determines the production relations and shifts from one stage of society to another. In general, different assemblies of production relations arise on and correspond to different levels of development of the productive forces. The tools need to speak and be with people. That vision of tools with people will mark the image of the Commons as a collective preparing and fighting for a new society. For a change in a system, we need a point of departure not only for the transition to have clarity but also for the readiness ofsubjective factors. The evolution of subjective factors is largely dependent on making the next stage of society a common knowledge .
We the commoners, living on the fruits of our labour, solemnly take oath to protect and expand the interests of the Commons. To take forward this spirit into action, we come together as a collective called the Commons Collective. We inherit the legacy of centuries of struggles against the plunder of commons - from oil zones of North Africa to the forests of Amazon, to woods of India, to the uplands of East Asia, to the plains of Europe, to the knowledge commons emerged from new Information and Communication technologies and primarily the labour the humans. We believe technology and human collective labour has tremendous potential to transform the society into where human ascent is no more a matter of liberty but of primary responsibility. As long as the interests of Commons are subject to plunder, our efforts to commonify will go on and beyond. The principles we stand for as follows:
The fundamental unit that creates value is labour, physical or cognitive.
When labor is applied to Commonify, we collectively create the Commons. The value of commons comes from the labour that goes into it. In today’s order, the labour is primarily used to produce commodities with exchange value.
Netarchicals and the loaners appropriate the Commons created by the peers. Thereby, creating an oligarchy in the order.
This oligarcial order creates an illusion of democracy. In reality, all the political forces in this illusion are part of the oligarchy.
It’s the duty of the collective to build multiple points of departure from the existing order, create better forms of democracy and facilitate transition.
Our work in the collective shall stand on these principles and take forward the efforts where all the peers of the world, unite!
(+91) 88866 10365
Mithra Hills, Hyder Nagar, Hyderabad,India - 500072