Anti-Capitalist Tactics Discussion Session : March 24th


Session Title: Anti-capitalist Tactics/Strategies

Date: March 24th


  • Kaspar
  • Andrew Thaler
  • Schneel
  • Stacey K
  • Klie
  • Thomas Mboa
  • Coco Coyle
  • Juan P Maestre
  • Freyja
  • Ryan
  • Ellen
  • Lena Asai
  • Eduardo

Overview of topic:
In this session we first talked about why we do not like capitalism, and then tactics, strategies and mechanisms we have done, heard of, or seen that cultivate a subversion of capitalism – with the hope to bring them into our own practices. Discussions of issues around patent law and struggling to keep things open was raised. Some very important critiques and different viewpoints on how we define, engage, and are affected by capitalism were brought up in regards to the non-Western context – and the conversation ended on this note and the need to focus on social needs and community engagement.

Notes: [may still need some editing, re-organizing]

What do we dislike about capitalism?

  • How it is moving into and affecting/creating the market of the pharmaceutical industry and affecting medical treatments

  • People being oppressed, reproducing structures of domination

  • Mining for ideas into academia

  • Affecting the mechanisms of education ie. textbooks for 300 dollars

  • Paying for classes which are internships, if you fail you fail the company – not even working for free, you are paying to work for the company

  • Way of teaching that focuses on innovation – pushing kids to think about income/growth only, not on other kinds of needs within a community that are not production/money centric

  • Focusing on businesses to make art [no art for arts sake, shapes how artists view their educational outcomes] Even art schools advertise themselves as being successful for placing people in job positions – all about the output, making money [not about making art];

  • Outrageous costs of education [RCA]

  • Issues of crowd-funding, online contributions and the exploitation of people

  • Rankings in the realm of academics that is based on capitalism and profit/efficiency

Higher level, I don’t like the value system of efficiency, optimizing, and performance versus building up potential and human happiness – what are the tactics toward happiness? It is a problem that GDP is seen as the highest, ultimate goal of ‘success’ and ‘happiness’ within a country

Issue: all the opensource rely on political position, not on the effectiveness of the movement - have to demonstrate that it’s ‘better,’ not through morality or ritual.

Real Talk: opensource has been hugely successful for capitalism

Knowledge needs to drive what happens, not profit and capitalism
Problem: Entrepreneurs are driving the world [Venture Capitalism]. There is a drive to get more money, make more profit, achieve monetary successful

So: How does knowledge actually drive the economy forward?

Can we imagine a world without capitalism? Where would I get the stuff to make stuff?
Focusing on end of the spectrum, we need to go through the gradient though, what steps do we take, how do we transition?

We’re like a fish in the fish bowl and capitalism is the water – we can’t look beyond it – scheduling out days to the half hour [efficiency centric existence] - to take down the system is to really go against what we have had so deeply ingrained within us

How can we, within the capitalist system, tactically resist the capitalist system versus how can completely take down the system and fully reject it?

Not just based on morality - I think it depends on how it is phrased, it shifts how it effects me; if it produces good outcomes, then I’m for it. ie. Civil disobedience like with Aaron Schwartz

What we are trying to attack, in regards to intellectual property, is really against monopoly and big corporations. It’s not against people getting money and small businesses or economics, but the monopoly way of thinking about things

So What are some Ways to Subvert Capitalism?

  • Sharing papers/information freely and getting papers out from behind pay walls
    SciHub [uploading of papers]
    Google Plug-in for open source, open access button to papers [can’t remember how many ‘A’'s]
    Free online libraries
  • Dropping out of college and dropping out of the oppressive culture, finding freedom
    RESPONSE: But there are still people who don’t have that opportunity and choice – populations who do not have the luxury to “drop out” and travel the world freely
  • Wrestle with how to use capitalism against itself, versus just how to abolish it – intentionallity about how to spend money and where i spend it; where I spend my time and how I spend it. There is privilege regarding that and I own it. But spending money for businesses run by women and POC; we can be more intentional about the unfortunate capitalist actions that we do every day.

CAVEAT: Further response to ‘dropping out:’ Not sure dropping out is the true solution; academic institution helps you to be anti-capitalist in some way; abandoning it may not be the right way?

Everything is disseminated in an open manner, but not everyone respects knowledge – Need to retain what everyone else has done and value knowledge.
Sometimes, the second you give students education for free then there is not value associated to it by some people; In open science not everyone perceives it in the way you want them to

Back to sharing ideas of how to do this [big or small]. Thought is to maybe to create a document, the tips and tricks of what can be done:

  • Short the carbon bubble; put a 4 billion short on the carbon bubble [stocks and stuff]
  • Journal of speculative/visionary fiction [trying to relate/describe alternatives outside of the present, to work beyond through an imaginary]
  • Thought: Even our alternative systems still use capitalistic terms or framing - like gift economy, etc.
  • Co-operatively run businesses
  • Getting off grid, creating your own food; small islands of resistance
  • Co-operatively run science, and knowledge production practices
  • How to be anti-capitalist in all of my spaces - do we we work in a way that is anti-capitalist, can we support co-ops, can I join a community farm, divesting from the system one-by-one
  • Open source protocol to produce sex hormones as anti-capitalist, but something that still needs work: Don’t want a company to see the information, and then take the open knowledge, tweak it, and then co-opt it for making money. Have to think about hacking, how to maintain security online to share the information particularly [against companies] - working with a patent lawyer to create a document, but in our current system
    • The thing is that patents don’t recognize that knowledge is collectively owned - so how to recreate this system?
    • Can share a contract that Public Lab uses when we want to share information with academic institutions, to use in contracts
    • People can still commercially exploit that work?
    • But if it’s open source you can’t get investors and then you can’t get it approved through the FDA; sex hormones count as a generic, you don’t have to do human testing, but the ultimate fantasy is that communities can have co-ops to maintain and create their own medicines; but the ways to produce are not available yet
    • small generic facilities

Conversation diverges to talk about Issues and possibilities within patent law to get around this issue:

  • In US, problem with contracts is that it only works if you have money to lawyer-up and protect and maintain the contract and the patent
  • There was a kind of race to patent every little thing; we all know the moment you do research it is open; so you need a community to agree together to make it open, nobody can patent. The thing could be to combine all the little islands and communities doing the same thing
  • Why not to use GOSH as the community to point those things, the openness, the opensource. With GOSH we have the potential to create it, the ethical aspects, to make it public – to identify something in particular that is big
  • Open hardware telecomunications [Oaxaca]; great example; this is what they did in numbers against the major telecommunications corporations
  • Really important to identify specific areas within our system that we can change. Important to archive it and share it

IMPORTANT CRITICAL POINT MADE: Never seen such a thing in my culture, doesn’t happen in Japan; if we want to have a platform to discuss this around the world some cultures are more reserved in regards to talking about these things (anti-capitalism) - so creating an archive of these projects and to explain what exactly we are trying to achieve and to do stuff for people is important. Because it is interesting, but sometimes it’s hard to be a part of the conversation not coming from the West [in terms of how it is talked about]

Back to actions, mechanisms to foster anti-capitalism:

  • Valuing ecosystems for their economic value instead of their intrinsic values – need to flip that
  • We need to involve economics people, if they are open and other ways of thinking
  • Different ways to incentivize the grant proposal work, not just about building up the work force
  • Little things you can do to use capitalism against itself; but I do semi-constant civil disobedience; steal stuff from school a lot; steal stuff from wealthy institutions; making friends with facilities and maintenance workers who are treated invisibly [creating accomplice-ships, ally-ships across different needs/resources]

IMPORTANT CRITICAL POINT/ PERSPECTIVE: We have different visions of capitalism; In this conversation, there is a push to focus on the knowledge economy and what’s happening in universities, specifically in Western universities. Now want to bring up the narrative of what has happened with us in an African contexts; one of the damages is that we cannot travel, our diplomas are not recognized if you want to work; First trip was 2015. In general, you will not get a VISA, are not accepted to travel, not able to travel. It is prohibitively difficult to get VISA’s and expand and travel; getting called ‘Western’ - trying to follow the stream, don’t need a lot of money in Africa to live but the ideal of life and the comparative capitalist system [GDP] to which things are measured is based on Western ideals. With the Maker Movement there are more possibilities, but to try to get parts in Cameroon is ridiculous - also difficulties to travel to GOSH and spread ideas; there is marketing around MM and 3D printers and it becomes about ‘who can do it in Africa’ from the West, and they get paid to bring things in that are not necessarily helpful to people on the ground.

Other thoughts:

  • Scientists thought they could stay in the neutral zone, but I think there is no such thing as neutral knowledge. They often think, that’s not my role, not my job to think about how knowledge might be used. We have to change that mindset or help facilitate a shift in thinking that way
  • Thanks to all the non-Western inputs. Use open access to knowledge, work a lot in the West with high profile researchers who don’t end up caring.
  • Equity part of the conference is important. It’s hard having to constantly justify who you are and why you are here as an immigrant. So it’s great to have this type of conference to talk about technology, but with technology at the end. So social problems and social aspects from the beginning, and not as an afterthought – important that the tech comes through and after values are established.
  • Robin hoodesque situation. Mushroom maker who uses it as a building material. People in GOSH do really important work around environmental monitoring, for people in lower economic neighborhoods they are hit the hardest; already have all the technologies to be active against things
  • Mushroom guy needs money. Buy the wallets [wallets are priced for rich people to buy them and fund the project]; bricks that they build are really cool and you should check it out
  • Having a tiered price model according to how much money people have
  • Those who have companies, it can be better to give the skill locally in such a way that then we can do things locally. Yes we have internet, but there is a lack of skill. There’s a lot of money, you can spend it not by traveling to Africa or giving food – no we have food, we have the resources. All we want to do is transform locally, let us build ourselves and our own things locally instead of having it shipped in
  • Having/leading workshops
  • Having a list of local organizations in Africa that need money, rather than American organizations going in?
  • One problem is that these countries in Africa are very different, there is corruption in different governments and there are a lot of people who do not have good intentions. Who take money and use it for themselves, not sure how you can do it in a good way.
  • You bring money in Africa you bring troubles, you bring money in S. America you bring troubles – so maybe you need robin hoods who give money where it’s needed. 2nd point is Western cultures/philosophy, we need groups not to follow our examples
  • Want to reiterate the previous comment that people need things rather than money. Story about a friend who was adopted who is privileged now; she goes back every year to see where she came from, devastating to see where she came from. She said we don’t need money, we need soccer balls, books, equipment; let’s start looking for things to do, let’s start an art school; so starting after-school activities to teach art. Creating a network of people who could teach skills; from the capability of what these people can do and then donations of things; so a building up of skills, creating community; creating trust network between people to people for how can we help local children, how can we share skills, so creating a list of personal connections to share
  • Thomas has created a school since 2010; In this school, changed the colonial idea of school. Give training to how to create baby food for women because they don’t have money; wanting to make a solar oven, trying to help create local production to help with local needs; open science; the diploma is like a commercial thing does not give you the skills to life – trying to in my own way to fight against capitalism; is a formal school, but it connects to the society, social needs.

POSSIBLE OUTCOME: A list of readable resources for thinking about anti-capitalism; research the history, the mechanics; make a list of literature. Anything that would help us explore anti-capitalism beyond the lab


I didn’t attend this session, but when I read this question: “Where would I get the stuff to make stuff?”, it reminded me of the Open Source Ecology project (, which is developping basic open source equipment that is used to make other equipment:

An open source, libre economy is an efficient economy which increases innovation by open collaboration. To get there, OSE is currently developing a set of open source blueprints for the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) – a set of the 50 most important machines that it takes for modern life to exist – everything from a tractor, to an oven, to a circuit maker.

Browsing the website, I found that @dornawcox is a collaborator! Maybe he can add more information…