Working Notes for a R-evolution

spa_rev_a5Simona Levi
(translation Nuria Rodríguez)
Barcelona, 23 June, 2011

The contribution I can make is basically some working notes in relation to the activities of the last few months, which are about the type of struggle we have been constructing over the past few years and, on a practical level, on how to face up to the problems that we are encountering at this point.
We believe that the struggle we have been participating in – for the defense of the Internet and sharing – has been crucial for arriving at the #15M movement.
Crucial at two levels.
Firstly for the maturity it has created, which cuts right across all layers of public opinion, both in terms of defending something that belongs to it and is in danger of being snatched away – the neutral Internet – , and secondly in terms of ethical ways of relating to others.

It is clear that the Network of Networks is changing the history of humanity. It does more than just allow for rhizomic forms of counterinformation and self-organisation, and more than just leave economic and political powers bewildered by the end of the univocity of their messages – of their monologues – in the face of the real-time dissolution of the impunity of their decisions aimed at perpetrating power and their own interests. Rather, the people – through the Net and like the Net – are dialectically putting an end to the fragmentation of ideas of change and the endogamy of groups, setting up a new ethical system that recognises the merits and skills of each person and allows for their maturity and autonomy, and normalising forms of organisation that are based on decentralised power, the empowerment of the end user and the shared distribution of resources.

Netiquette [1] enables and structures the behaviour of people in the group, providing an at least partial solution to one of the problems that we have always encountered in social movements: the psychological aspect, the personal fulfilment of each individual in the struggle. This aspect, which is often ignored, plays a particularly important role in destroying movements.

Using the same medium, although for reasons that are partly different here than in Arab countries for example, public opinion has been getting ready for the re-evolution.
It is not only possible when you reach rock bottom, it is not only desperation that makes it possible. It is also possible when we arm ourselves with tools that allow us to think and develop autonomy, ideas and intelligence.

In our text for last year’s FCForum, we tried to explain to our international activist comrades involved in the defense of the Internet that the way Spanish public opinion matured and evolved on the subject of the defense of the Internet and against the “Sinde Law” on intellectual property was not simply anecdotal – on the contrary, it was the construction of something.
We said that “Spain (where sharing is legal and people fight on a mass scale to ensure that it remains so; where a small business can sue multinational entertainment corporations and win, stripping them (we hope) of the digital levy that is their main source of funding; where the outdated practices of royalties management societies and cultural industry lobbies have created a lucid awareness of the abuses that were being perpetrated and of the flaws in the legislation, and a public that is very knowledgaeble and active on subjects that are apparently technical and apparently not a question of life-and-death; where over 200,000 people sign the Manifesto in Defense of Fundamental Rights on the Internet and support actions against the new “Sinde” copyright legislation, such as setting up Red Sostenible and “Sinde’s List” etc.; where 200,000 people interacted with D’evolution Summit during the meeting of EU Ministers of Culture; and where an action led to the resignation of a minister in 2009 with the Molina Pírate campaign…) should not be seen as an exception that is hanging in there but on the brink of extinction, but as leverage. As a spring board.”
They didn’t pay much notice, and now they’re astonished :-).

The awareness of the need to defend the Internet has taken root, and together with the organisation of struggles through social networks, this process has been a training and empowerment ground and the fuse underlying the explosion of the #15M movement (which is naturally influenced and constituted by the convergence of many years of a very diverse range of struggles, as well as the possibility of massively and collectively sharing the frustration of being fed up, which we used to experience in isolation).

Taking this as a starting premise, I want to look at how we have developed in this context by mentioning some basic “laws”:

Tempos
As one of the DRY comrades put it, the idea is to:
make people indignant first, then inform them, and then ensure the strategy catches on.
The idea is to inflame you, not teach you, Jean Genet said.

And I would add a stage four: normalise the mainstream, offer ourselves up for cooptation,
reveal the falseness of the cliches through irony and humour, not through dogma. We do not teach; we share and magnify shared perceptions.

Spaces
1 – Work that takes place out of the spotlight is carried out by groups that share common interests and collaborations on the Net.
We prefer to give priority to a non-open, protected space – although networked with the Net – so that the intensity of the struggle can be faced in a psychologically healthy environment. Contrary to some recent claims, we are in a hurry. Our tempo is the tempo of history, not the tempo of individual psychology. To convince ourselves of this, we use a phrase by Andretti, Formula 1 racing driver, who says: “If everything seems to be under control you’re not going fast enough.”

2 – The work directed outwards is of two kinds: either as anonymous, viral presences, under control but innumerable, ungraspable, which everybody can adopt as their own;
or else, as openly branded work by affinity groups or networked alliances. We participate in many of these “trademarks” in the area of the struggle for digital rights, each with its own frameworks and complicities, which cover different targets: X.net.net is more of a consultancy service; the oXcars is a show that rescues – or at least tries to – the artistic community from its role as serfs and as an excuse for the privatisation of knowledge and the destruction of Net neutrality. The oXcars are a practical example for normalising free culture at the mainstream level, a show that openly invites cooptation by the system and by any one who happens to be passing by; the FCFORUM, a serious and earnest international lobby, a Trojan horse in European ministries and commissions; and RedSOStenible, the Spanish lobby trademark…
To name just a few. Nobody knows how many there are, how many or who we are, who is responsible, or what they will do, but they are a trademark in the light of day, you can interact with them and obtain good results.

Finally, in these prosperous times, we dissolve, putting our skills at the service of collective decisions; we dissolve into the general assembly of the people which,with its extraordinary collective intelligence, never ceases to amazes us, even though has been theorised: when all is lost, a mature assembly, of people who have their own opinions and have been informed and counter-informed on the Net, free from dogmas of one tendency or another, an assembly of between 1000 and 4000 complete strangers, mysteriously does the right thing.

How
Lately we have been saying:
be radical, ask for the possible.
Here we come to an aspect that is violently confrontational with a sector – a small one, fortunately – of the 15M movement. If the reader will allow me a simplification that is somewhat exaggerated due to exasperation because of the number of hours we have spent on debating with it, the people who make up this sector are the people who we consider to be the real problem, Trolls aside, on one hand I’m talking about the “pure” radicals who think that the system cannot be reformed – so far, so good – but also sabotage attempts to use reformist demands as a guerrilla weapon. And on the other hand, the “critical intellectuals” who you don’t see much at assemblies because they’re busy rewriting history with texts of the “What now? A Pacific 19-J demostration Destroys Revolutionary Potential” variety.

We think that demands for reforms will destroy the current system, because the system is ready to face enemies, but it is not ready to have its own internal contradictions blown open.
Confronting the system with an ontological impossibility “destroy yourself”, determines its way of defending itself: to become your antagonist. If you force a closed system that is bunkered down in the defense of its privileges to “improve itself”, the only possible way out that remains to it is desertion and escape. We all know that it is necessary to leave an exit open for the enemy if we want to win.

We should also learn to win. In these times of great victories, we can clearly see how difficult it is to accept them as such.
We don’t know how to win. Those who exaggerate the confrontation cannot “do” anything anymore because the confrontation is its only way of “doing”. Now that we are winning, we need to abandon the trenches perspective and accept the freedom to mediate with our dependency without the need to destroy.

Transformation always entail loss, even when change is possible, but that is no reason to avoid it. We have to be aware of it in order to free ourselves of nostalgia.

The dynamic that has destroyed great revolutionary experiments is an inner fear of the new; this is why we want our message to be coopted, and we want to claim a victory when it happens.

Perhaps what I’m going to say next may appear to be a bit “Icelandic”, but if is an opinion I share with many people in the 15M movement.
If in the space of only a month, politicians have already taken several steps in an effort to copy or apply our demands, we should be pleased and claim it as a victory.
With VdeVivienda we didn’t claim victory when the Minister Chacón implemented the “youth funding” scheme. True, it is difficult to claim something as disgraceful as this as a victory, but not doing so may be what demoralised and weakened us at the time.

Because the accusation that hurts us most – given that it cuts off our communication with a large part of society – is not that we are violent, but that we’re just a bunch of kids protesting, with no ideas and no ability to govern ourselves.

Of course the politicians who take some scraps of what we say do so badly, of course they do it for populist reasons, but they are being forced to do it because we have demanded it. Of course it’s a joke payasada, but we should celebrate it as a victory, every time, because it proves that they are afraid of us, because, whether they like it or not, we equal votes, and for them losing votes means losing their job. Isn’t that what we want, to fire them?

Our strength lies in sneaking doubts into their minds, nightmares, thoughts of justice that they would never have imagined themselves having. To rupture their psychic structure, their imperturbable calm.
The techniques of escrache are essential.

It is curious to see that those who reject this tactical option later ferveently defend protests against the retalladas, the cutbacks, as if that weren’t the most reformist demand of all, and as if everything had been wonderful before the cutbacks.

This war is a language war

The first thing that has to change is language, and the change must be based on profound self-criticism. We can no longer rejoice in the martyrdom of asking for the impossible; we must evolve beyond accepting a role as antagonists on the losing side. The very language that we use is incomprehensible so that we can claim to be misunderstood.

We have to be responsible for our actions.
If we cannot be understood by the majority, we help society move towards “fascistisation”.

Because of the euphoria and then the strength that it gave us to see ourselves united in such a great multitude in the 15M movement, some people are now trying to impose particular aesthetics and language, dogmas that have been mentioned and repeated like mantras for many years now. It is understandable, these are words that we have fought for, and that we are very attached to, but they are overused and faded now.
Please don’t misunderstand me: words are one thing, ideas are another, and there can be excellent ideas but they can be expressed through synonyms, we could say, which ultimately have the same objective.

In fact, the massive consensus achieved through the 15M movement did not come from any of the words we have been repeating for years.

The new words are “Iceland”, for example, and “Time for Outrage!” (Indignez-vous!), a small book that is weak on content but introduces a new, inclusive imaginary and a word that hasn’t been exploited yet.
We’re getting it wrong; we’re not winning because of what we have always said, but because of what we have always defended. In other words, first comes the practical abolition of privileges, and then global justice. That’s how 15M was born and this is its wave, whether we like it or not.

What we have been defending for some time now already forms part of this wave, it goes without saying and we have to express it through new aesthetics and words, ones that are based on winning.
The old words only suggest defeat and division, and now is the time for victory and for infinite diversity with a few minimum common denominators. A global association of radical reformist egoists.

We have to be present at all levels. We have to work on the implementation of direct democracy, but also dismantle the existing power from the inside, as well as its media and memetic image. We have to be tactical with words and actions. We have to conceive our actions for the real, specific results that they want to achieve, not for visceral reasons or reasons of abstract justice…
If you ask people to hate their way of life they will position themselves against you; if you share their hatred arising from the same frustrations, we will be invincible.
As the Icelanders say in mundane terms, “occupy the media so as to win over the people who watch TV”.
Don’t we want that mass consensus? What’s wrong? Don’t we want to mix with the people? If we use the language that the majority understand, we will naturally be using a language that has been absorbed by the system. So? What’s the problem?
What people are asking for (and I include myself) is to understand the laws that govern us. People are starting to see that laws are accessible and quite surrealistic texts, written by mere mortals who are terrified of losing some of their privileges. This is the base of the great empowerment of the people that is taking place right now.
They no longer respect the law, and I’m not talking about the idea of the law, but the law-thing. They read laws and discuss them. They no longer delegate this operation to specialists.

We have been working like this since the time when Barcelona’s civic by-laws were being introduced (2005).
For us, the main part of the game is to study the law, understand it, explain it in other words, make fun of it, hack it to render it useless, destroy its authority by replacing it with other positive channels that will ultimately be coopted with the bad taste and time-lag that characterises the system, clearing away whatever had been there previously and leaving a blank slate.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN URGENT NEEDS NOW, IN TERMS OF THE #GLOBALREVOLUTION

1 – To create a “fork” between the “Iceland aesthetic” and the “Greek aesthetic” so both of these can co-exist without clipping the wings of either.
What is proving most difficult these days is to fight against the deeply rooted idea that it is “better to remain united” when internal tension is bringing things to a standstill and when our real strength is actually the fact that we have a thousand faces and a thousand names.

2 – The time has come to show immediate results. We’re working on it.

3 – For all of this, it is necessary to generate economy: we need cash. If we don’t free up time for political work within capitalism, they will win.
Conservas, the cultural association that we have set up, as an “anomalous” cultural institution, considers the cultural subsidies as an important contribution to the r-evolution, given that culture – as we understand it – is a fundamental ingredient of the r-evolution.
Obviously, this has also brought well-being to its members, because as I said earlier, without the economic health of artivists, the r-evolution loses a lot of energy.
Now that there are no more cultural grants, we must re-direct the litany of the cultural sector that “we want more money for artists.” The issue is not how society will feed artists, but rather where artists will get money from in order to take it to the r-evolution and society.

Aside from this, we are studying microcredit and crowdfunding systems, so that they can shed their aura of poverty and charity and become real sources of self-funding within and against the capitalist system, on the level of something like “venture anarchism”, to paraphrase our comrade D. Kleiner, Telekommunisten.

As a continuation of the How-To Guide for Sustainable Creativity which we released this year through the FCForum, we are experimenting with “formulas conceived
to allow commoners (all those who actively participate
in the production, reproduction and and management of common assets)
to share and exploit the commons, but conditioning the way in which companies or for-profit entities
relate to said commons.”
In cases that generate profit or other benefits, the “creating” community must receive part of these benefits.
X.net (ex EXGAE) proposes that 15% of the profits obtained by content distribution platforms be shared among those who contributed content to said platforms, based on a inversely proportional cube root estimate based on a scale of 1 to 1000 that goes from the works with the highest number of visits to a minimum, agreed-upon amount.

Finally, asking for an end to the privileges of politicians, bankers and the rich is not a moral position; it is a way of creating funding which is what we are really after.

And that’s all.

Justice and quality.

Simona Levi
Barcelona, 23 June, 2011

Licence: you can do whatever you like with this text, mentioning its authorship
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NOTE
[1] Excerpts from the Hacktivistas.net Netiquette guide:
Think, develop and then act.
Before you pitch an idea, investigate. Perhaps somebody had the same idea before you and has already put it in motion. Otherwise it would mean speculating with the prior non-existence of this project.
In your proposal or project, you must mention the resources that you need, the resources that you have, and most importantly, what you will contribute. Hacktivism consists of two parts: one is knowledge, the other is eagerness. You do not need to know how to intervene in the communications of half the planet. Others will take care of this, but you will have to contribute as much as you can to the project because it was your idea and you are the most interested party.
But the most important thing is to follow up on your proposal. Pitching ideas on the run and forgetting about them is a loss of energy. Of all of our energies. Threads without continuity always turn up sooner or later, and the work that was invested in them vanishes into thin air.
Many members are specialised in a specific subject; it is important to recognise the skills of each person.
Points of view.
It seems that the really difficult thing is to understand your interlocutor. We are too busy trying to think of an answer to understand everything we’re told. We hacktivists we are pioneers in reading, understanding and then, if it is really necessary, giving an opinion. We will put ourselves in your shoes before expressing disagreement with you. And we hope that you will do the same for us. There are two choices that you can consider, and you’ll see neither of them are correct. On one hand, you can assume that each person has a valid opinion that must be discussed and from which can give rise to a collective action. This is necessary for encouraging participation. The other option is to assume that we are all idiots, and that we don’t have the right to make mistakes, thus ruling out the message. As you can see, neither of the assumptions are totally reliable. This is why we position ourselves in the middle. In the option of understanding before acting.