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Probably because he didn't get what he really wanted for Christmas, on January 5 1991, Finnish computer science graduate student Linus Torvalds went out and bought himself an IBM PC. He then proceeded to waste the next month playing Prince of Persia before he began in earnest the work that resulted in the first iteration of what became the Linux kernel. While this means that Linux is now entering it's 20th year, the Free Software Movement is significantly older. Rooted in the hacker culture of the 1970's, it dates its formal beginnings to Richard Stallman and the founding of the GNU Project in 1983. The development of the Free Software Movement has been inextricably intertwined with the development of the Internet. Free Software could never have obtained the force that it has, had it not been able to utilize the power of the Internet to unite developers from around the world in massive programming projects.

At the same time, the vast majority of the software that actually runs the Internet, from websites to routers and search engines, is the freely given product of this community. The first web servers and browsers came from this community. As Open Source theoretician Eric Raymond has written:

Linux was the first project for which a conscious and successful effort to use the entire world as its talent pool was made. I don't think it's a coincidence that the gestation period of Linux coincided with the birth of the World Wide Web, and that Linux left its infancy during the same period in 1993–1994 that saw the takeoff of the ISP industry and the explosion of mainstream interest in the Internet. Linus was the first person who learned how to play by the new rules that pervasive Internet access made possible.

Free software and the Internet. Put simply, without one, the other ceases to exist. Both own their richness to the unalienated labor of those technical workers who have given us both.

The first time I ran the Linux Operating System on a computer was after Christmas 1995. I was mesmerized. Here was something that I previously had assumed was impossible! Here was a complete computer operating system, an interconnected, inter-dependent body of software code, then still in early childhood, that has grown into an adult that is every bit the equal of anything that has ever come out of Apple, IBM or Microsoft, and it has been created by thousands of programmers working in voluntary co-operation without corporate structure or bureaucratic controls. Here was a CDs worth of congealed high tech labor, the kind of thing that I had learned to expect to pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars for, and it was being given to me for free, or at any rate, for the cost of the CD! While every other computer OS that I had previously purchased from a corporation came with serious license restrictions and copy protections, this one allowed and even encouraged free copying and wide spread distribution. And while all of the above companies regarded the source code of their software to be of the highest level of trade secrets, these Open Source people made the source code as available and as free as the software, insuring that anyone can not only see it on demand but modify it as they like as well! The Linux movement even learned from the mistakes that caused Unix to splinter into dozens of sects and have built successful policies that have so far avoided the splits that tend to weaken any new movement. 20 years later, a unified code base is maintained as a commons by dozens of corporations and hundreds of Linux distributions.  

The historical materialism of Marx & Lenin long ago showed how advances in technology drive economic development and how, in turn, economic developments drive everything else. Computers themselves are so new to the human experience that Marx never spoke of them and Lenin never used one. But since about the middle of the last century, the advance of the computer has shown itself to be, by a very wide margin, the single greatest area of technological development. From the tube based Univacs of the post WW2 period ["could calculate the trajectory of an artillery shell in 5 seconds, however it took 2 days to program it to do so."] to the Iphones [private property] and Androids [free software] of today, it has been this technological development that has driven all other development -  economic, political and social, before it. Now an entirely new force was asserting itself in this critical area. A whole new way of doing the software "business" was being created and rapidly proceeding from victory to victory. By 2000, the Linux community was ready for its coming out party with a number of high profile IPO's and a documentary that gave public voice to some of the key leaders named the Revolution OS.

"You're free, now go help the others"
           - RedHat Linux slogan

In the computer industry it is hardware development that most drives the process because it is the hardware capabilities that determine the limits of what a computer can do. But it is software development that leads the process because it is the software that gives the hardware it's social utility. In our modern world, software is an extremely important industrial product. Nothing can be expected to change that in the foreseeable future.

Software is also a very unique industrial product. While tools are slowly consumed in its production, almost no raw materials are required. It is almost completely the product of human mental labor.  It contains within itself a very special unity of opposites. It is at once the perfect capitalist product and the perfect communist product, and for precisely the same reason: While the development costs of copy number one may be very high because it can be so labor intensive, the utility is generally very wide so those costs tend to amortize toward zero with distribution, and the cost of reproduction for software is extremely low in the case of CDs and DVDs or zero when Internet distribution is used.

The economics of this has long made Bill Gates the richest capitalist in the world, thanks to the Windows OS, while his biggest competitor, the Linux OS, is not owned by anybody and is available for free. [Some would argue that the Mac OS is currently MS's biggest competitor on the desktop but I would remind those people that as of OSX, the Mac has a GNU heart so for the purpose of this discussion, that question is mute.] If fact, thanks largely to Linux and other Free Software products including Google, most Internet appliances, most websites, Android phones, and more and more desktops worldwide. Bill Gates was demoted to the 2nd richest capitalist in the world this year.

Software is the perfect communism product because although the initial labor costs are very high, the very nature of the work and the existence of the Internet allows that burden to be born by many hands worldwide with each contributing according to his ability and since the cost of reproduction is zero, it can be freely given to each according to need.

Linux represents a philosophy about property rights, openness, equality and cooperation that is an anathema to everything Microsoft and the other proprietary software companies stand for. That is why, in 2001, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said "Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches."  A *revolutionary class war has been raging in a key sector of technology for the past two decades and what is even more important, the workers and progressives have been proceeding from victory to victory, even if few people have looked at it that way.

*[If hackers banded together to demand higher wages, that would be class struggle but it would hardly be revolutionary. But hackers banding together to promote a radically different view of intellectual property and property rights in general, and then proceeding to actually built a new system based on those radical views, and setting in up in public opposition to the bourgeois model, that's what I call revolutinary.]
Popular Linux T-Shirt also reported to be on the wall of Red Hat Headquarters

That was just on background. Now on to how Free Software and the Internet show that communism is possible:

A modern computer operating system has an awful lot to handle. It is the living brains of the computer that brings it alive when you turn it on and boot it up. It has to carry out or track literally millions of individual tasks and arbitrate access to disk drives, screen, memory, mouse etc for thousands of processes. It has to do all this without screwing up and it must have sufficient safeguards in place and have effective recovery plans in place for when something does screw up. The scope of tasks to be administrated compare favorably with those of running a small country. Several years ago Linux was calculated to be composed of 204.5 million lines of code representing a development cost of over $10.7 billion, but it has grown a lot since then.

Creating a modern OS is not easy because a computer is one of the most authoritarian constructs imaginable. A computer operates by certain rules and it is not flexible. The laws of a computer's operation are like the laws of nature of which they are a subset. They must be absolutely adhered to or bad things will happen. A modern computer operating system like Windows, the Mac OS, Unix or Linux consists of millions of lines of code produced by hundreds if not thousands of programmers working in concert. It is a collection of hundreds of utility programs that perform all of the basic tasks a computer must be able to perform before it can run an application or do anything useful. Before it is compiled into machine code, an operating system is nothing more than a collection of text files written by many different people. However, it is not like a collection of poems by different poets or an anthology of writings on a certain subject brought together by an editor. All of this writing must adhere to rules as absolute as those of physics. All those processes must communicate precisely with each other. Every writer must agree exactly on how, when and were a particular task will be handled. Everyone must agree to the letter on how information will be formated and passed from program to program. It is a jig saw puzzle in which a thousand workers create a thousand pieces and they all must fit together with no gaps or overlaps. Here practice is the final judge and that judgment is absolute. If any part of the OS fails to follow the rules of the computer or fails to work co-operatively with the other parts, the computer will crash. End of story.  

For this reason, while there have been many applications programs written by individual programmers or small teams and made available for free or as shareware, the creation of a complete, high level modern OS with a GUI interface and all the bells and whistles we have come to expect might seem to be another matter entirely. That would appear to be the exclusive preserve of large capitalist, institutional or state enterprises that could hire, and therefore direct, the activities of thousand of coders, designers, engineers, artists and testers. The authoritarian nature of the computer itself would almost seem to imply the need for an authoritarian hierarchy to manage the task of co-ordinating and strictly regulating the work of the incredible number of sub-groups that must work in concert if the final product is not to be constantly plagued by something like the famous Windows' "blue screen of death."

That was the conventional wisdom in OS creation before Linux and that was pretty much the way it was done. Early on AT&T created Unix in house, then licensed it out, mostly to other corporations who developed their own fork or brand. Apple developed the OS for their computers in house. So did IBM before the PC. For that they turned to a small software house in Seattle that in the course of producing the most dominate modern OS, also created the prototype of the modern authoritarian corporation, strictly controlling the work of it's thousands of Microserfs.

So based on my knowledge of the history prior to 1995, I just assumed that you must have something like a company to produce a modern computer OS, in the same way that most people assume you need a government or state to run a modern civil society. And while I have long understood and agreed with the theoretical proposition of Karl Marx that as history proceeds, and after a long period of socialism, under communism the state would cease to exist at all, it would winder away, I have always found the idea of a modern industrial country, in all its complexity, running without a government or state as we know it, quite beyond my ability to imagine, actually quite Utopian. But as I came to understand the inter-workings of the free software community, I realized that what Frederich Engels had said about the theory of Saint Simon could well be said about the practice of the Free Software Movement:

"Yet what is here already very plainly expressed is the idea of the future conversion of political rule over men into an administration of things and a direction of processes of production – that is to say, the "abolition of the state," about which recently there has been so much noise."
            -- Frederich Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific

It is worth quoting Engels from Anti-Duhring, as he was quoted by Lenin in State and Revolution for reference:

The proletariat seizes from state power and turns the means of production into state property to begin with. But thereby it abolishes itself as the proletariat, abolishes all class distinctions and class antagonisms, and abolishes also the state as state. Society thus far, operating amid class antagonisms, needed the state, that is, an organization of the particular exploiting class, for the maintenance of its external conditions of production, and, therefore, especially, for the purpose of forcibly keeping the exploited class in the conditions of oppression determined by the given mode of production (slavery, serfdom or bondage, wage-labor). The state was the official representative of society as a whole, its concentration in a visible corporation. But it was this only insofar as it was the state of that class which itself represented, for its own time, society as a whole: in ancient times, the state of slave-owning citizens; in the Middle Ages, of the feudal nobility; in our own time, of the bourgeoisie. When at last it becomes the real representative of the whole of society, it renders itself unnecessary. As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection, as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon the present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from this struggle, are removed, nothing more remains to be held in subjection — nothing necessitating a special coercive force, a state. The first act by which the state really comes forward as the representative of the whole of society — the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society — is also its last independent act as a state. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies down of itself. The government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The state is not 'abolished'. It withers away.

Marxists have always held that the state was the product of class antagonisms and the final form of government or state they advocated for was in fact no state at all, that the end goal of communism was a classless society in which government as we know it is replaced by something almost mythically referred to as the "free association of producers" or some such. "Free association of producers" is actually a very good description of this new model of industrial production that has been created by the Free Software Movement. Far from being a Utopian theory it is being proven to be the most effective organization for creating the most complex systems, all the new super computers run Linux, while the capitalist legacy method, far from being the only workable model for OS development, is beginning to show the real limitations of that system, as exampled by the most recent Microsoft offerings.

The methods, organizations and principles created by these workers in the course of creating a free OS together with those created by many of the same workers to administer the Internet have shown in embryonic form how a complex society could dispense with the authoritarian state and be run by the free association of the producers. This is the first way that Free Software and the Internet have shown from real world experience that one of the most radical ideas of communists, that an advanced, high-tech world could eventuality get along just find without governments, is not quite as impossible as most of our recorded experiences would have us believe.

The sheer energy and creativity that has gone into creating those 208 million lines of code and making them available for free, puts the lie to another thing that is always thrown up into the face of communism,  that it is entirely Utopian in its estimation of human character. It is held that notions such as "From each according to his ability and to each according to his needs" simply won't work because people are naturally lazy and greedy and unless there is some system that forces work, nothing will get done. And it must be said that if people are just naturally greedy and lazy, it is hard to see how communism could ever work and at the same time, it must be admitted that under capitalism there is no end to evidence that people are both greedy and lazy.

Yet if that were the case across the board, Google and the software that runs it wouldn't even exist today. The blogs of the Free Software Movement are filled with proof that when people aren't alienated from the product of their labor, they like working hard and enjoy giving it away. The Open Source Community is a very good example of a limited application of the principle of "From each according to his ability and to each according to his needs" that exists today and is having a great effect. As well described by Eric Raymond, in the Cathedral and the Bazaar, the Free Software culture breaks with the commodity exchange and private property relations of capitalism in favor of something more akin to the gift giving culture of primitive communist communities. But this is not primitive, this is modern high tech culture and that makes it very interesting.

Another feature that Linux shares with communism is its unashamed demand for Total World Domination!

Total World Domination

Here is a recap of my other DKos dairies on this subject:
Free Software & Internet Show Communism is Possible
BREAKING - Digital Sit-Ins: The Internet Strikes Back!
Cyber War Report: New Front Opens Against Internet Coup d'état
Operation PayBack: 1st Cyber War Begins over WikiLeaks
The Internet Takeover: Why Google is Next
BREAKING: Goodbye Internet Freedom as Wikileaks is Taken Down
BREAKING NEWS: Obama Admin Takes Control of Internet Domains!
Things Even Keith Olbermann Won't Cover - UPDATE: VICTORY!!!
Stop Internet Blacklist Bill Now!
Sweet Victory on Internet Censorship: Senate Backs Off!
Internet Engineers tell the Senate to Back Off!
Why is Net Neutrality advocate Free Press MIA?
Obama's Internet Coup d'état
Julian Assange on Threat to Internet Freedom
FCC Net Neutrality's Trojan Horse
Free Press: Country Codes for the Internet?
The Mountain comes to Mohammad
Keith Olbermann's Deception
Court rules -> Google Must Be Evil & Maximize Profits
EFF on the Google\Verizon Net Neutrality Proposal
Google-Verizon: What is the Free Press Agenda?
End of the Internet As We Know It!
Free Press would make this Illegal!
Google Verizon Announce Terms of Deal

Originally posted to Linux Beach on Mon Jan 03, 2011 at 12:08 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

    •  The Story ignores the extensive funding (4+ / 0-)

      Open Source has received from corporations in support of their business models.  This has been through having paid employees work on this for use in their products, and in buying services from Open Source businesses.

      Of the open source code in actual use, the vast bulk of it was developed by engineers being paid by businesses to do the development.

      Without this funding and commercial use, Open Source would be an interesting sidenote.

      For example, Google funds Open Source Android so it can sell ads and other services on Android devices while blocking businesses that don't have a powerful ad revenue business (i.e., Microsoft, Nokia and Research in Motion (Blackberry).

      Semiconductor, consumer electronics companies, etc., do open source as their products are tied to hardware devices - so Cisco, Nokia, Sony, Motorola, Samsung, Intel, etc., are able to charge for their software development by charging for their hardware.  This is similar to selling shoes where the right shoe is free but you only pay for the left shoe.

      Services companies use open source as they can charge for far more service man-hours while offsetting lower purchase prices for software licenses - See IBM, HP, Accenture, etc.

      The success of Open Source has been largely driven by businesses that have alternative ways of charging for their efforts than software license fees.

      The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

      by nextstep on Mon Jan 03, 2011 at 01:11:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  But the early days of Linux wasn't like that (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Odysseus, mint julep

        It was first adopted, not by corporations but by those mom-and-pop ISP's and webhosters (almost completely extinct nowadays).

        It is true - corporations like Intel had their own reasons to jump on the Linux bandwagen. But that was well after Linux had attained critical mass.

      •  Yes, I have left a lot out of the story. (6+ / 0-)

        I feel it is over long as it is, but the topic is a very complex one and I have set out here to only sketch some broad strokes.

        It is quite true that after Linux started to show what it was capable of, a certain segment of capitalist started pumping billions of dollars into Linux. I was there when IBM pledged to spent $4 billion/yr. on Linux. They tried to recruit me. (they tried to recruit everybody) Later I exposed a minor scandal in which 'big blue' got caught mis-representing OSS code to the EU. I was a Dr. Dobb's Journal reporter at the time and had a little more clout than usual. But I also saw IBM do a complete 180 and reverse maybe a half century of corporate policy preference for closed source software, and I have seen it be a good member of the OSS community since they stopped trying to take it over.

        Other corporations like Google and Red Hat are a different kettle of fish entirely. They are produces of the OSS community. When Google funds Android development they are asuring an ads outlet but they are also being good community members. Google funds an awful lot of OSS development that is not so easily monetized. And the internal pressures that are on Google now to change, and the changes that are going on, are ones that should be of interest to anyone who wants to understand how good revolutions get corrupted because there are a lot of parallels.

        The story the courtship between the free software movement and corporate America is a fascinating one with many important political lessons. I touched on this subject in The Mountain comes to Mohammad I will return to it again but your conclusion that

        The success of Open Source has been largely driven by businesses that have alternative ways of charging for their efforts than software license fees.

        is just completely wrong and I'll not miss the sunset to explain to you why. Let me just point out for openers that Linux has been so widely adopted by corporate America and the pentagon for the very simple reason that it works better than anything that has come out of corporate America. It is the method that creates such bullet proof software that drives the success of Open Source. It simply works better!

  •  exceptions (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    generally don't prove the rule.

  •  "We Live in Public" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mint julep

    I ran across this documentary and was utterly fascinated by it. He actually did "live in public" as in wiring his entire life for public view on the internet.

    His dark side however, won out. What a strange, strange story.

    We Live in Public
    Feature Film|1:28:43

    Ondi Timoner's documentary chronicles a decade in the life of Internet pioneer Josh Harris, who instigated an "artificial society" experiment in which more than 100 artists lived under 24-hour surveillance in an underground compound in New York City.

    "It's hell to pay when the fiddler stops." ~Leonard Cohen

    by Annalize5 on Mon Jan 03, 2011 at 12:39:28 PM PST

  •  ...which was a copy of an OS... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kurt from CMH

    ...developed by Bell Labs.

    I mean, the whole thing was originally started as a project to get an unencumbered, open source version of UNIX.

    •  My uncle was part of the development team (0+ / 0-)

      over there at Homestead including IR data communication:  applied research in new applications of computers, data communications.

      I've been involved in a number of cults, both as a leader and a follower. You have more fun as a follower. But you make more money as a leader. ~Creed Bratton

      by mydailydrunk on Mon Jan 03, 2011 at 01:06:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's easy when it isn't zero-sum. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    drewfromct, nextstep, icemilkcoffee

    If I download Linux, that doesn't mean someone else can't download the exact same file.

    Communism would be really easy if all resources could be infinitely copied like software.

    Unfortunately, the things we need for life - things like energy, land, food, water, fuel, etc. - cannot be infinitely copied.

    What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

    by mistersite on Mon Jan 03, 2011 at 12:48:36 PM PST

    •  Well, you just hit upon why it can sort of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mint julep

      be practiced there now. Doesn't mean it will work in other areas, but it certainly can't either. It the present organization of things was making everybody healthy, wealthy and wish, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

      •  Except that the "to each" part... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ...doesn't really work unless Linux development is actually addressing the needs of those putting in the labor. And the only way it will address the laborers' needs - like the need to put food in their mouths and a roof over their heads and all the rest - is if someone somewhere charges money for either Linux, or for services related to the implementation, installation, or maintenance of Linux for individual clients. (At which point, it ceases to be the ideal sort of Marxian free-exchange communism you espouse here.)

        There's a reason Jimmy Wales has had that gigantic banner blast all over Wikipedia for the past few months. Someone's got to pay the bills.

        What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

        by mistersite on Mon Jan 03, 2011 at 03:35:20 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You are confused (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mint julep, greycat

          just because money is paid for Linux service or product changes nothing about what I said above. The needs that Linux developers address as software developers are software needs like solving specific software problems.

          Food is a different matter, software developers don't directly produce food, that is why we have and will continue to have some sort of exchange system in an advanced economy.

  •  communism is impossible without technology (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mint julep, JimWilson

    And the internet is what really is pushing us towards it, socialism, communism, final stage being some for of anarchism, whatever you want to call it. The rich have been screwing us for centuries but most didn't know about it, even during 1917 revolution most of the soldiers fighting in the wars didn't know what communism really meant, just what their leaders were telling them, nowadays our leaders lie to us like usual but because of the internet we know it's mostly bunk. 20% approval for both partis says the propaganda ain't working. Now that's not leading to open revolt, things are too good and we're decades at least away but it is coming.

    •  I also believe that the Internet is also the (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mint julep, ybruti, greycat, Dvalkure

      missing piece of the puzzle in making real democracy work. With the easy access to information and discussion that it can afford to everyone, together with the 'leisure' time that a rational organization of our work and resources should allow us, I think each citizen would be able to play a much more involved role in the details of government. Then we could move leftward from our present republican form of government to something much closer to the direct democracy of ancient Greece, only this time with the vast majority voting instead of a ruling class elite. Maybe that is the way the state withers away, the business of government, or administration, becomes so democratic and involves so many people that it ceases to be a power over and apart from society.

      •  I agree with this: (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dvalkure, Clay Claiborne

        Ithink each citizen would be able to play a much more involved role in the details of government. Then we could move leftward from our present republican form of government to something much closer to the direct democracy of ancient Greece, only this time with the vast majority voting instead of a ruling class elite.

        The information revolution can and should be used to re-vamp democracy as we know it. Secure terminals could make it possible for every citizen to vote not for one representative for 700k people, but to vote on legislation directly. If that were the case, however, I would restrict such voting to those who could first pass a test proving that they have read and can understand the bill in question, as well as signing a pledge stating that they have no significant conflict-of-interest in the matter. But then, I also believe that these restrictions should be placed on the "representatives" we are currently saddled with.

        Al Qeada is a faith-based initiative.

        by drewfromct on Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 05:24:43 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Great thought provoking essay (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ybruti, drewfromct, congenitalefty

    There are indeed working alternatives to the top-down capital-controlled corporate model.

    As an aside, open-source has spred even to hardware. Here is an open source designed ECU for a car engine (why would anyone need that? It's for people who like to modify or hot-rod their cars.) called a Megasquirt:

    It's fully functional and lots of people are running these.

  •  MS' Ballmer: Linux is communism (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, mint julep

    This crafty capitalist sees the connection:

    MS Analysts Steve Ballmer was the only person to raise the issue of Linux when he wrapped up Microsoft's annual financial analysts meeting in Seattle, although he put Sun and Oracle ahead in terms of being stronger competitors. They of course are 'civilised' competitors - but the Linux crowd, in the world of Prez Steve, are communists.

    Ballmer wanted "to emphasise the competitive threat, and in some senses the competitive opportunity, that Linux represents. Linux is a tough competitor. There's no company called Linux, there's barely a Linux road map. Yet Linux sort of springs organically from the earth. And it had, you know, the characteristics of communism that people love so very, very much about it. That is, it's free. [Outlook Express is free, and also sometimes lets strangers share your hard disk - is this anarchism? - Ed] And I'm not trying to make fun of it, because it's a real competitive issue. Today, I would say, we still don't see a lot of Linux competition in most quarters on the desktop, and we see a lot of Linux competition in some server markets. And we could either say, hey, Linux is going to roll over the world, but I don't see that happening. That's not what's going on right now.

  •  There is a critical, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    drewfromct, annieli

    and IMHO insurmountable, difference between the kind of shared production that goes on in open source and "communism" as a system of economic/political/social organization.

    The difference is that an open source project, even one as large as the Linux kernel, is a community of choice. Every single contributor has chosen to join the community, and has done so in the full knowledge that they are trading control of their own work for the ability to leverage the work of others who have made the same choice. They can also leave at any time, with zero cost. The work they've contributed stays behind, although they still get to use it, but leaving a project is barrier-free.

    No such analog of uncoerced choice exists when you're talking about a government.

    The essential difference is that in open source development, everybody chooses to share, while in Communism, everyone is forced to share.

    it is that last bit that made every single Communist country, without exception, a totalitarian police state.

    It is also this difference that allows so many open source developers to be somewhere on the libertarian spectrum, while damned few of them are Communists. Raymond himself is an Anarcho-Capitalist, for Christ's sake.


    "It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." -- Emiliano Zapata Salazar
    "Dissent is patriotic. Blind obedience is treason." --me

    by Leftie Gunner on Mon Jan 03, 2011 at 08:00:27 PM PST

    •  And as much as we need (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mint julep

      The essential difference is that in open source development, everybody chooses to share, while in Communism, everyone is forced to share.

      it is that last bit that made every single Communist country, without exception, a totalitarian police state.

      a viable alternative to Capitalism, this is why Communism was not and never will be it.

      If anything even resembling a system of equitable distribution of wealth ever comes to fruition, it won't be called Communism because that word is forever blackened stained, and tainted by the genocidal actions of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and their murderous adherents. I strongly urge the diarist as well as all our fellow Kossacks to avoid the "C" word like the plague. You might as well come up with a political system devoted to peace and call it "Nazism". No one can get passed hearing the word "Communism" without conjuring up negative connotations that will instantly derail the conversation. Calling anything "Communism" is the best way to remove it from the realm of the credible and politically possible that I could imagine in this country.

      Al Qeada is a faith-based initiative.

      by drewfromct on Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 05:38:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Communist has existed in any country yet. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mint julep

      None of those countries ever claimed that they were praticing communism. They said they were building socialism and under socialism, the state still exists and is often made stronger. Even the Vietnam CP, which definitely runs that country says that now they are building a market economy with a socialist orientation. Not even socialism yet, let alone communism.

      And yes every 'communist' country so far has been screwed. It has been tried first in poor countries that found themselves in desperate straights and those experience leave a lot to be desired.

      That by no means proves that Marx was wrong about the fundamentals. The transition from capitalism through socialism to ultimately a(communism) will take a whole historical period. Hell,it might take 500 years.

      T wouldn't have wanted to be on the first planes that attempted flight. There has been a lot of crash and burn in socialist countries so far.

  •  I'd be interested in your comments on Michael (0+ / 0-)

    Perelman's Information, Social Relations, and the Economics of High Technology (1991) as well on the work of McKenzie Wark if you've had a chance to read them.

    Präsidentenelf-maßschach;Warning-Some Snark Above;Cascadia Lives

    by annieli on Mon Jan 03, 2011 at 08:38:59 PM PST

  •  Misconceptions (5+ / 0-)

    The worst meme i tend to hear these days is that "Capitalism = Democracy, Democracy = Capitalism." The second most is "Communism failed."

    Yeah, communism did fail in Russia. Yeah, China has only a nominal communist system.

    But know what else failed? Capitalism, and much, MUCH harder, nearly sinking the ENTIRE world economy in one blow, and given carte blanch to make these bubbles bigger and worse again. Theres been nothing changed to stop them. And they will do it again. Yes, they will. YES, they will.

    The lie is over, fully. Capitalism is not special. Capitalism, like communism, only functions in the make believe world where no one is gready, no one acts through malice, and everyone does what is best for the world. That is not the world we live in.

    And of course, we have given superlegal status to our AAA and AA corporations, and they have basically become soverign territory on our soil, without borders. They commit crimes of a truly vast nature, while any one of us would be sent to prison for stealing 1/1,000,000 the amount of money that they have. Not only do we NOT punish them, in any sense of the word, but we REWARD THEM with taxpayer money for destroying us. The police will shoot a normal person who didnt do anything wrong, and will protect CEOs who have destroyed the lives of millions of people the world over. We have allowed them to become monarchies: Now not even their shareholders can kick out dysfunctional CEOS.

    If you live in America, you are by default a second-class citizen, under the noble caste corporations. And our leaders have done nothing, NOTHING, to ensure that this cant happen again. So it will, over and over.

    At least communism had the decency to die. Capitalism is going to take us all with it when it does. Capitalism has failed, it has failed to a degree NEVER BEFORE SEEN IN HISTORY.

    Its a terrible idea, a wrong idea, a broken idea. Its supporters either benefit from the system, or are ignorant of its purpose: to take as much from people as they can, while giving as little back as they can. Most dont even pay taxes.

    America is Dead. Long live Americorp

    And When the Truth Finally Dawns: It dawns in fire! But, There's one they fear. In their tongue, he's Dovahkiin: Dragon Born!

    by kamrom on Mon Jan 03, 2011 at 10:29:10 PM PST

  •  the Cathedral and the Bazaar (0+ / 0-)

    Just didn't know why I didn't see this in a comment yet, but perhaps I missed it.

    I kind of think of politics like this. That the brick and mortar buildings of a cathedral with its stone edifice is much more like Wingers. They like to go inside the comfort of a building they see as solid, fortified (however, I do meet some R's in OSS, but not all that many, and that's when we talk politics at all). Dems tend toward the big tent idea, the concept of a Bazaar where you can pick from here or there and pull together awesomeness without having to hire exactly the right people to build exactly the right structure. Of course, I'm really over simplifying here, but I do find that when I picture the two ends of the spectrum, the Cathedral and the Bazaar are a fairly accurate way to describe them. And it's just a handy reference for OSS development, too. Fancy that?!

  •  I am a Linux guy (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, mint julep, ybruti, Dvalkure

    I have been running Linux only a few months longer than the OP (mid-1995).  I had been working with Windows NT and Banyan VINES on i486 hardware and I was interested to see what other OSses could be made to run on that hardware.  Linux has been my primary OS since ~2000 (although I did branch out into Apple-land in 2007 and that's where my laptop/creative work is done these days)

    I think the OP's take on the F/OSS movement as being "Communistic, but by choice" is a reasonable way to describe it.  What I'm finding now, though, is that businesses that use Linux today typically don't avail themselves of the freedom or the power that's available; PHBs know that you pay to get Red Hat Enterprise Linux and that therefore it must be fine to use it - except for when they're cheap and decide to run the exact same code packaged the same way for $0 by using CentOS instead.  What you get for that is slowed innovation - you'll have gotten hold of a new version of RHEL or CentOS and it's got packages that are a couple of years or so behind current upstream.  

    Now that I've been running Linux for almost 16 years, I've developed a way of going about selecting and implementing what I use that is idiosyncratic to me, in much the same way that if you book B.B. King for a gig, you know he's going to bring Lucille and play some blues.  By the same token, I have a Linux distribution of choice (Gentoo) and I wouldn't set up things the RHEL way by default on a bet (I might pick and choose aspects of the RHEL way for specific purposes, but that's still my choice).  This makes me countercultural even in places that use Linux because most people involved with Linux usage these says are relatively new to it and act as though it's "just like Windows" except for the part about getting away with not paying for it.  

    So, if you manage an organization or business and you need your computing to perform well and run reliably and effectively at minimal cost, give me a shout - I can do that. {/shameless_self_promotion}

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