Archive for November, 2010

Create Commons Manifesto English Translation

November 22, 2010

—> PDF here <—

I have been given the honourable task of translating the manifesto I wrote about in the previous post into English. I hope I have done a good job, if you find anything wrong or something you think I should change feel free to point it out. I have included some parts from the draft which was left out on the website as well as added a nifty vocabulary list, for context. I’ve also written it out below, if you don’t want to see the PDF:

Create Commons – Radicalize Voluntary Work

This is a manifesto of the network Skapa Allmänningar (Create Commons), which outlines our basic ideas. It is a work in progress This network is based in Sweden, though we are interested in create connections internationally. You can contact us at

Some important words clarified here to better understand this manifesto. Gemenskap is written in Swedish, though all other words in the list will be in English throughout the manifesto.

• Gemenskap = Community, Fellowship, Solidarity. No direct equivalent in English. It generally means having something in common, or a group of people who have something in common.
• Allmänningar = Commons. Spaces and things which are owned by all people, in contrast with the private and public sphere.
• Kommunisation = Communisation. The development in which the capitalist relations are broken down and at the same time new, non-measurable relations between people are created.
• Berättelse = Narrative. It forms our identities, and it can be a way to encourage collaboration, generate new ideas and ignite change.
• Fika = “Coffee break”. No direct equivalent in English. It traditionally includes coffee, though not necessarily. In the sense it is used in this manifesto, it is in its most simple form sitting together and talking. You can find out more about it here:

We want to…
…neither build a centralized organization our be content with independent initiatives. Rather we want to loosen up the line between the Organization on the one hand and independent projects on the other. Through having an image of why scattered actions and projects are important, they are given meaning and determination. By supporting an actual contact network and encourage physical meets this becomes more than just a request – it becomes an actual movement which moves in the borders between an organization and a way of thinking.

The name is a referral to one of the areas we see as central for the movement we want to be a part of. Through our manifesto we want to give an image of some of the most important tasks for the future and also show how they connect to each other. Within many of these areas there are at present already many promising organizations and initiatives, and we would like to cooperate with these. When it comes to the concept and strategy the commons, though, we feel that there is a big and important gap to fill. Therefore the biggest focus is in the name (skapaallmä as well as the practical activity of tying together and strengthening the development of commons – places for free production and our contribution to the economical debate.

Instead of traditional organizational meetings and local groups we are thinking of “fika groups”. Focus on fika, getting together, gemenskap. The idea is that the name ”fika” makes clear that a meeting is not political work in itself – instead we shall meet together to get strength and inspiration for concrete activities, not the other way around. The fika groups becomes contact spaces for those who are inspired by the ideas of the network but are unsure of how to put their ideas into practice. At the fika meets people who are active in concrete projects can exchange experiences and the inactive be inspired themselves and act. The network can centrally exchange contacts to fika groups or the contact people in their respective cities.

Narratives & Communication – The Narrative of Sweden
We need a narrative about the world which puts our struggles into context. Unfortunately the bourgeois Alliance (a bloc of right-wing parties in Sweden) has succeeded with this – a story about economy, freedom and exclusion which visibly are connected to each other and where the different parts strengthen each other. The Social Democrats the Left Party have chosen an impossible path where they have not succeeded – not even tried – to create their own counter-narrative, but instead largely accepted the right’s worldview. They have additionally combined this with politics which have mostly been a pale, somewhat softer version of the right’s.
The Alliance has unthreatened been able to use the double face of liberalism – they have exploited people’s genuine yearning for freedom and at the same time been carried by the strong authoritarian wave shown both by the advance of truncheon liberalism and the election results of the Sweden Democrats (a right-wing populist party not part of the Alliance which entered the parliament in September 2010). The Social Democrats have not been able to learn from their mistakes and cease with their betrayal against their voters, have not been able to present any new visions – and have fared worse in the election than in nearly a hundred years.
To admit the need for a counter-narrative is about taking clarity seriously, to actually try to not only reach people but understand them see and how their worldviews can be fudged together with your own. We need to create new, simple but powerful concepts which can lay the foundation for a scattered, common view of how the world works and what we want to do.

Information Channels or Communication Channels?
The total dominance of bourgeois media has been pointed out as one of the main reasons the left has lost two elections in a row. We think it is an important puzzle piece, but we must also admit that the problem with right-wing turning is not a lack of information or knowledge. Rather than to just create one-way information channels we must create new communities, places and contexts where information can arise. We need magazines, blogs and jungle drums where our thoughts can have a chance to be formulated, discussed and modified on their own terms, without always standing in relation to the current power’s truth. To create communication channels is about creating new gemenskaps which challenge the system, it’s about giving people power over the problem formulations. The main purpose with a magazine is not to transport out new information to unknowing readers – it’s to create something new to discuss in lunch rooms.

Gemenskap is about evaluating the real gemenskaps which we see around us. True gemenskap is the opposite to the false gemenskaps of racists and sexists. True gemenskap is about relations we actively choose. The joy in a meet which survives its expected end. True gemenskap is about seeing the political in friendship. Be loyal to your fellow employees. Set good examples which are followed by others and which builds trust to our collective strength. Smile at others and see how it infects. Not making a mess at the fast-food restaurant and think that some low-paid worker gets to clean. On the contrary: it is to live according to a revolting ethic which means that we acknowledge that how we treat others matters. That there is no revolutionary end goal, just a continuous building of gemenskap and defence of that which is good in the world against that which threatens it.
Simply communisation. To stop thinking of relations in economical terms and start to appreciate the immeasurable and invaluable.

With the constructive building we advocate – of gemenskaps and commons – comes a right to self-defence. What we have built will be attacked by to serve the current injustices of the world. To defend what we have achieved is obvious if we do not want let the mighty take everything away from us – and in extension coming generations, which will get an even worse starting point than what we’ve had. The developed countries’ large software companies do not accept being out-competed by free alternatives, and therefore exert pressure on poor countries which choose open source instead of Microsoft or Apple. The employers do not accept gemenskap between the employed, but do everything to break it with manpower companies and differences in salaries. The struggle at workplaces is central, for raised salaries, for better working conditions, through strikes, blockades, subordination, evasion and other methods we have not yet invented. This struggle creates not only breathing space for us and new gemenskaps in-between people. It also lessens the strength of capitalism and can in that way hurry the development of new alternative models.

Commons are places for free production, between both private public ownership. We are tired between the eternal tug-of-war between capitalism and socialism – two top-and-bottom ways of production which have their best years behind. Commons makes possible and encourages voluntary production – and in that way lays the foundation to decreasing or even abolishing the forced labour.
Commons are found everywhere today. Our task is to realize their importance, evaluate them and work towards them being more, better and stronger so they can seriously challenge the present capitalist and socialist models.
Clear examples of commons is Wikipedia and the operative system Linux, which are created by volunteers who cooperate on a global scale. There also examples of commons outside the internet. Friskis & Svettis is based on a commons logic – a folk movement of voluntary instructors makes it possible to keep the prices down. Cultural associations which engage themselves voluntarily to arrange events for the general public, free bicycle workshops where bikers can help each other fix their bikes and ecological farms where voluntary people living in cities spend their vacations with digging potatoes – all those are examples of commons. There are more commons on the internet because the electronic building material is almost free. Our task is to examine how we can spread this model also through the remaining service sector and in the industry, and above all see how the positive tendencies can be strengthened against the constant threats of commercialization and nationalization.


The Commons

November 4, 2010

I received a draft of a manifesto last week, and I promised to write something about it. Now that I have been given an update draft, I should get to work. The updated version is available as a PDF here (it’s in Swedish, though). I’ve just finished reading När vardagen blir politik and Stackars oss! En bok om jättemycket mer demokrati, as well.

It can be good to start with a little word list:

Gemenskap = Community, Fellowship, Solidarity. It’s a bit of a tricky word, as it doesn’t seem to have a direct equivalent in Swedish. I can’t even find the damn word in Nationalencyclopedin. It generally means having something in common, or a group of people who have something in common. The sense in which the word is used in the manifesto, it’s about looking past false gemenskap like that through nationality or biology, it’s a revolting ethic which means that we acknowledge that how we treat each other matters, and that there is no revolutionary end goal, just a continuous building of gemenskap and a defense of what is good in the world against what threatens it.

Allmänningar = Commons. Liberal democracy (under which socialism and conservatism also falls) splits society into two opposite parts: the private and the public. This sort of dividing is a child of the 19th century. It can be good to look back at Roman legal terms. They called that which belongs to all people res communes, that which belongs to the State res publicae, and that which belongs to the gods res sanctae, res religiosae, res sacrae. Of course, gods no longer have any juridical status, but there is instead a strong belief in market forces, ruled by an “invisible hand”, that which could be called the private sphere. I am astounded as to the degree in which res communes is ignored. It is our job to look at what commons exist, and try to expand the commons as much as possible. A world in which everything is res communes, one realises, is the communist utopia.

Communisation = The development in which the capitalist relations are broken down and at the same time new, non-measurable relations between people are created. It is a coin with two sides: one destructive and one constructive. Hate and love written on the fingers of each hand. It is an understanding that we do, in a sense, already have communism. A process without any clear end goal. A slow-motion revolution. As James Scott once said: “Just as millions of anthozoan polyps create, willy-nilly; a coral reef, so do the multiple acts of insubordination and evasion create political and economic barrier reefs of their own.”

Berättelse = Narrative. In this sense, it refers to the narrative in which our identities form, and the way in which one can encourage collaboration, generate new ideas and ignite change. This narrative form could perhaps be contrasted with the “information addiction” of some activists. Narratives are utopian and dystopian. They innovatively build up possiblities or catastrophies. Not as a paranoid future but as a possible now. Narratives are molecules, and the parts give each other new properties through resonance and pulse. Information is often atomic, and while they can sometimes be puzzled together and used in narratives, they often just make a heavy pulp.

Fika = a Swedish social institution. It traditionally includes coffee, but not necesarily. In the manifesto, fika was mentioned “fika groups” and contrasted them with traditional organizational meetings and local groups. I found it pretty interesting, considering coffee and coffee houses’ role in the public conversation, according to Jürgen Habermas. In the sense the manifesto means fika, I’m reminded of online internet forums. There certainly is something special about the public conversation, though. In a sense one feels disconnected with the world, in another sense one also feels connected with it. It’s a bit hard to explain. No doubt fika can be shown as a a contact space in which ideas can be shared and grow, it represents the whole network-thinking. It is a step towards breaking the role of passive consumers or producers of information, and becoming active shapers of it. It is what culture really is about.

I feel alltogether too tired to write anything more right now, but I know that this is grand project points towards organizing outside political parties, and laying the founding bricks for a whole new way of living.