The Internet and the Milieu

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jk1921
The Internet and the Milieu
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Recently, I have heard a number of commentators assert the power of the Internet to affect social change, accelerate democatization and promote free-thinking and critical attitudes towards power. These themes were raised in relation to the end of the U.S. boycott of Cuba and the fight against ISIS--"Just get the Internet in there and things will quickly move in the right direction." These claims were raised in way to suggest that there is something about the technology itself that promotes these things--regardless of the social, cultural, political or economic context in which they are deployed. The Internet--and I suppose all the associated digital tehcnologies--are supposed to in some way engender forces that inevitably lead towards a more educated, more informed and thus freer and more critical public that increasingly calls power into question.

Of course, we know from the ISIS phenomenon that this narrative is problematic on a number of levels--even if there is other evidence that suggests it might be true--the use of the these technologies by the recent social protest movements such as the Indignadoes, Occupy, Arab Spring, etc. to circumvent traditional repressive measures, etc.

But my question today is about the role or value of the Internet to the revolutionary milieu. It has now been over a decade since the ICC has had a presence on the web and other groups preceded it by several years. I think enough time has passed where it is possible to try to draw a balance sheet of what the Internet has meant for the milieu. Has the Internet promoted its growth and development in an appreciable way? Clearly more people know about and are interested in left communism and the history of the workers' movement than prior to the Internet's development. There is more material available now in a much more easily accessible way.

However, at the same time it is difficult to conclude that the milieu is in a healthier place today than it was before the Internet came along. In fact, it might even be worse off. The existing organizations, depsite a period of initial gorwth, appear to be in decline today--while the Internet appears to promote a certain degree of individualism, where people "perform politics" in a rather atomised way behind the computer screen. Perhaps, one could even say there is a disincentive to regroupement? It is much easier to do politics from behind a keyboard and mouse (or smartphone) than actually come together with others a build an organization. Is there a kind of "pseudo-activism" or "slacktivism" going on that the revolutionary milieu is not immune from?

On one level, it seems kind of "un-Marxist" to attribute a certain power to a particular technology outside of the social relationships in which it is deployed. But perhaps this is just the point, perhaps the Internet and associated technologies are products of the captialist society which gave birth to them and thus they promote particular attitudes, cultures and social practices that fit captialism and are not conducive to the movement against it? There is a new book out--"The Internet is Not the Answer," in which the author points out how intimately tied these technolgies are with the neo-liberal regime of captialism.

I don't know the answers, but I have tended to feel that technologies are not always neutral in their social and cultural affects. Of course, one could also point to the personal automobile as a promotor of individualism--so it is not just the Internet that is in question--but to me, there seems something particularly unhealthy for revolutionary politics in the social, cultural and even psychological effects of the Internet that I am not sure are easily overcome or even severable from the technology itself. Look, I am not trying to construct a neo-Amish Marxism here (after all I am making this post online)--but I think, given the state of the milieu today, the state of the ICC, the failure to capitalize on the surge in interest in revolutionary politics following the economic crisis to make the generational transition, etc., etc. that perhaps it is worth some thought?

Redacted
Free Software, Free Society

They say there's a fine line between love and hate. There is also a fine line between hope and tradegy. As society slips further and further into decadence more and more things turn out to be "epic fucking fails", to quote Andrew Keen (just bought the book by the way, only because I couldn't find the download). Occupy, the indignados, etc. come to mind. But with the internet and a lot of things in this period, we have to be careful to not throw the baby out with the kitchen sink!

Keen and others like him have many, many valid points. As one youtube commenter put it "I like his discourse, not his ideas". But I question where his motivation lies. He's an entrepenuer, essentially a capitalist, he's described himself as "elitist", albeit semi-sarcastically (Colbert Report).

In his past books, like Cult of the Amateur and Web 2.0 he has actually compared the Internet to the failure of Russian Revolution, saying it's the "Law of Unintended Consequences" that's responsible in both cases. Here's something he said in a youtube video of his I watched: "I'm not a Marxist, I don't believe in conspiracies, it's not as if a group of technologists got together in the 90's and said, 'Ok, how are we going to wreck this thing?'"

...Yeah, he went there. And the thing is, I am a marxist and communist. And I believe 100% the ruling class has absolutely been waging a direct campaign against the "free and open" internet since at least the 1990's.

Keen points out that the economy overall since the 90's is shit, and then says...so what if there are a couple hundred internet jobs created in the wake of this. He's not all bad, because he does talk about the concentration of wealth, not the 1% but the .01%, things like this. So it shows some understanding of class society.

He says "We live in a world without increasing oppurtunity." We would all probably agree, but should we somehow blame the internet for this? I know I don't have any money invested in internet companies! I'm looking at it as a "social utility". What is dangerous, as Keen actually distinguishes, is companies like Facebook and Google becoming viewed and percieved by the public as social utilities, when they are corporations with profit incentive and a presence on the web.

Andrew Keen says that the Internet is just as "structural profound, radical, and changing" as the Industrial Revolution. He says "we have a collective responsiblity to build a better world [with the Internet] like the industrialists did in the 19th century." That's a total load of bullshit!

But we're just scratching the surface. Are comrades even aware of the history of "the Internet" and the "digital technologies" that jk mentions? Do comrades know how "the Internet" works fundamentally?

The history of "the Internet", opposite to what some might think, does not start in 1992, but actually at a pivotal moment in the class struggle– World War II. WWII was "the first electronic war" (Steve Blank, 2013).  The Nazis created the first significant long range electronic networks for their bomber defense systems, early warning radars, etc. Germany mainland for example was completely covered by these networks as early as 1940. The Allies didn't know this at the onset of war, and predicted an early victory. But these electronic networks allowed the Germans to also wage an unrivaled bombing campaign, with their bombers being able to bomb night and day in any weather because of the electronic radar networks they set up all across Western Europe. After the war, historians would figure out that the Allies had intelligence and reconnaisance photos of these systems very early on in the war. But since the technologies were not known to them yet, the images were interpreted as swimming pools.

To combat this, the Allies and specifically the US began secretly investigating and researching these German systems and ways to combat them. Initiatives like the Harvard Radio Research Lab and others were started. Many major American universities began to recieve funding from the US Department of Defense for similar initiatives. Eventually they hacked into the German networks and used them to their own advantage, winning the war.

But the funding and the research continued after the war, $60 billion plus worth, these funding and research structures continue on today. The universities, worried about hosting these programs for various reasons, eventually moved them to California and together they would become known as Silicon Valley. "The Internet", all it's predecessors, and even computers and microchips themselves are all a result of these WWII electronic warfare research initiatives.

It actually gets even freakier than that. The concept of "social networking" is not at all new either. Police and state security forces have been using these techniques since the early 20th century, when they figured out you could incriminate someone simply by watching where they go and who they associate with. William Benney, an NSA whistleblower during the Bush admin who has been in the news a lot lately post-Snowden, has revealed that the NSA in the 1980's and 90's modeled their social networking projects specifically on tactics and methods they observed being used by the Stalinist KGB against Russians.

I could go on an on..hopefully you're catching my drift. "The Internet" is and always was a State-funded project and is probably mostly nefarious in that sense. But "The Internet" doesn't have to be the internet. We could start our own internet just for comrades very quickly. We all have computers. One thing is for sure, I prefer the ideas of Richard Stallman over Andrew Keen.

Fred
Is tge medium still the message?

Perhaps the "medium is the message" after all and the message of the Internet, like the book, is isolated individuals doing their own thing. 

Even when some of us come together and "meet" as on this forum, it's all a bit remote and one-dimensional. But it's better than nothing isn't it? Most of us wouldn't know, and in present circumstances probably would never find out,  what communist -minded people were doing in Mexico, Venezuela, and the Philippines for instance if it wasn't for the Internet and  this web site.

The problem isn't some limitation of the technology, but limitation in its use.  Instead of all the world's bright young people  flocking to the net  to read what left communism is up to, and left communisms' latest analysis of dying capitalism, and noting eagerly when the next public meeting of interested parties is scheduled, and organizing themselves in  discussion type groups to go along  and join in, they are instead trapped somehow and ensnared deliberately by the bourgeoisie to be captivated solely by glitter, glitz,  rubbish and porn which dominate the net under bourgeois rule.  

In short, even the most modern and trendiest technology functions as part of bourgeois ideology, which is all-dominant, and all-powerful, and difficult to escape. This is the message transmitted non-stop by all media.    

Redacted
Re:

Fred wrote:
...They are instead trapped somehow and ensnared deliberately by the bourgeoisie to be captivated solely by glitter, glitz,  rubbish and porn which dominate the net under bourgeois rule...the most modern and trendiest technology functions as part of bourgeois ideology...

Fred, you hit the nail on the head. We need to ask more questions.

The internet and other useful technologies can be ideological weapons. But who is wielding these weapons? How does class power affect how these weapons are wielded? It can be used to promote the bourgeois ideal, sure. But is that more a reflection of the state of the overall class struggle and proletarian class consciousness, or a result of "the Internet" itself?

On the other hand, do the Internet and other digital technologies lead towards a more "educated, informed, freer, critical public, etc"? Can they? Or do they tend towards the opposite direction? What framework and data can we use in order to know for sure?

And on a seperate note, what does the recent classifiation of "the Internet" as a public utility say about the ruling class' stance on these issues, if anything at all? Can we infer the way the working class is using "the Internet" today, narcissitically, etc. (Keen) is in the class internets of the bourgeoisie? Was "the Internet" the missing piece of the puzzle that turned Big Brother...actually into Big Brother?

radicalchains
Yes & No

I was aware the net was started, developed and funded by the state, specifically the military. It obviously has positives and negatives. Something I find very positive is the wider access to information. We now have  a much wider selection to choose from. It used to be you could pick and choose from what was being promoted at the time in a book shop, or only the most recent film in a video rental place. And we only really had the opportunity to be drip fed news (read, mostly lies and distortions). Now we can actively search out precisely what we want and while we do that it leads to other more interesting things. We can watch and read from all around the world. And it is not just more capitalist outlets to choose from. Also the way we can communicate is fantastic, email, message boards, websites etc. However, we are now exposed to much geater levels of advertising and commerce. And the net can have an isolating effect. Somone once said to me half jokingly, "ten years lost to the internet". Of course, it is possible to propagandize on the net positively, discuss and debate but there is the strong possbility it is only in the 'virtual world' of the net and not effecting real life. I would compare 'vrtua struggle' to those 'socialists' who used to and still do give 'solidarity' to far off guerilla conflicts or similar. In fact I would go so far as to say fake solidarity - the act of doing fuck all but writing some meaningless word on a forum or whatever is pretty epidemic. It is an extension of the similarly fake solidarity leftists might do on the street, be it a march to Trafalgar Square - the homage to a battle won by the British ruling class no less!

Amir1
what do you think Most of

what do you think

Most of Iranian leftist individual and left of Capital Organisation whose abandon the countray have TV broadcasting from satellite for inside of country.

lem_
That may be true, but it

That may be true, but it seems less vain than that. You're also educating yourself, right? Militantism is diffiuclt today - left communism is a tiny movement and it's diffiuclt to believe that by abandoning computers individuals can surmount anything at all.

 

I maybe agree that it's quite fake, but then comvincing yourself you're not at the mercy of fate may be simialrly weird..I would like to be an effective militant, but yeah

radicalchains
Hi Amir, good question!

Amir1 wrote:

what do you think

Most of Iranian leftist individual and left of Capital Organisation whose abandon the countray have TV broadcasting from satellite for inside of country.

This has been said before and I think it is excellent. There are some individuals who do one off videos and put them on the internet which can be good like an anarchist here: 

https://www.youtube.com/user/RedAndBlackTelly

But there are not that many. A live streaming channel on the net would be the next step. Sadly I don't think the technical competence, knowledge or material support and cooperation exists for it to happen in the near future. I think anarchists are more likley to do their own thing but I could envisage a joint effort between leftcoms, anarchists and sympathizers. But seeing as leftcoms can't even put out joint statements it's not going to happen anytime soon and anarchists are always wary of any Marxists. A regular podcast might be a starting point?? Even just once a month. You'd be surprised how many might listen but you can't just limit it to being on one website, you have to get it out there in different places and promote it a bit.

Redacted
I'm working on a weekly left

I'm working on a weekly left communist podcast.

Amir1
In reply to : This has been

In reply to : This has been said before and I think it is excellent

I supose is not so easy

First of all we should consider what is the function of tv ? is it for recreation or propagate of consciousness then who are our audience are they class or mass after that challenge with bourgeoeis broadcasting and changing of miltant of organisation to clerk of tv

lem_
the function of tv depends on

the function of tv depends on the broadcast right, can you imagine a tv exec with commie sympathies, i know i cannot.

radicalchains
Russell Brand

I look forward to listening to it Jamal! A good example of broadcasting is I think Russell Brand, You can look at what he can do on television and then compare that to his YouTube channel. He's not perfect or left communist but I think he does a good job of challenging ruling class narratives in a popular and broad way. Many comments increasingly say (and YouTube is full of reactionary petty bourgeois) 'I don't like the guy but agree with him on this' or words to that effect. He has a lot of reach as a famous comedian/actor. He has over 1 million subscribers now!

https://www.youtube.com/user/russellbrand/videos

lem_
maybe, i just can't get over

maybe, i just can't get over the fact i don't find him funny tho

Redacted
Russell Brand is not too bad.

Russell Brand is not too bad. Has he been given any work since the "Trews" really picked up? Thanks for the well wishes, rc. But we still need tons of help–from each according to his/her ability! Small things help.

Amir: To me there is no question about the "class nature" of television. If it promoted social change it would be blocked. TV is used to support the dominant ideologies, those of the ruling class, the bourgeoisie.

radicalchains
The Trews

A quick look at his IMDB profile suggests he hasn't done much for a year or two but who knows. I'm sure he has plenty of offers to host, present, act, whatever he wants really. I wouldn't think 'The Trews' would be a barrier to getting any lucrative work. I think he's loaded enough to basically do what he wants for the rest of his life. Not sure where 'The Trews' will lead...hopefully something positive or stay as it is and not turned into a television program on Sky.

What kind of help?

Redacted
If you think of sort of a

If you think of sort of a public radio show, that's the type of programming we're aiming to make available–except about communism of course.

Basically looking for comrades we know with solid political outlooks to delicately layout their thoughts about whatever into their smartphones or computers on a regular weekly basis. With a little bit of dilligence anyone can create professional sounding recordings of themselves with all the tech available to us today. But we're ideally going to reject anything that gets to ranty, maintaining some editorial powers I guess.

That's the jist but it's still very much in the planning phase. Also, we're way off topic! PM me

Fred
Russell Brand

radicalchains wrote:

A quick look at his IMDB profile suggests he hasn't done much for a year or two but who knows. I'm sure he has plenty of offers to host, present, act, whatever he wants really. I wouldn't think 'The Trews' would be a barrier to getting any lucrative work. I think he's loaded enough to basically do what he wants for the rest of his life. Not sure where 'The Trews' will lead...hopefully something positive or stay as it is and not turned into a television program on Sky.

 

I hope he finds work soon. It would be terrible if he was  unemployed. 

lem_
fuck

Fred wrote:

radicalchains wrote:

A quick look at his IMDB profile suggests he hasn't done much for a year or two but who knows. I'm sure he has plenty of offers to host, present, act, whatever he wants really. I wouldn't think 'The Trews' would be a barrier to getting any lucrative work. I think he's loaded enough to basically do what he wants for the rest of his life. Not sure where 'The Trews' will lead...hopefully something positive or stay as it is and not turned into a television program on Sky.

 

I hope he finds work soon. It would be terrible if he was  unemployed. 

Oh you cynic :-)

 

This isn't about cynicism and it's certainly not fashionable cynicism. I feel that we could learn from the libcom model, not the brand one. NOT cos he's pretty humourless, it;s just jokes not art. But cos well what do we have to learn from the super rich playboys of the west? I dunno.

Fred
I always thought "trews" were

I always thought "trews" were what Scotsmen wore when they weren't wearing a kilt. And you are right comrade lem, we have nothing to learn from this particular playboy of the western world. He's just feeding off workers' gullibility while furthering his own interests. 

Redacted
He has 8 million youtube

He has 8 million youtube views, most of his videos averaging over 200,000. 1 million subscirbers. He thinks about shit and he talks critically. What a playboy! I would challenge both lem and Fred to somehow demonstrate how he is "furthering his own interests" with this show which has completely villified him in the mainstream media.

You know what, he's an attractive white male - fuck it - let's just hate him anyways

Just cause

All I said is he's "not too bad"

Is The Government Keeping People Poor?

Redacted
If nothing else Russell Brand

If nothing else Russell Brand should be an example to us. Take an attractive, slightly manic white male, invest a miniuscule amount of money in a decent production, and whatever he says will be heard by hundreds of thousands of people on a weekly basis.

But here we are debating about the internet itself, as homo erectus might have debated about the usefulness of a hand axe.

Redacted
And on a final note, I find

And on a final note, I find it insulting to imply workers can't watch and digest material like Russell Brand with a critical eye themselves.

lem_
Never said he's working in

Never said he's working in his interests, I don't follow him enough. Totally IS a playboy though,

lem_
fuck

Jamal wrote:

And on a final note, I find it insulting to imply workers can't watch and digest material like Russell Brand with a critical eye themselves.

substitutability. if it's not him, it's you ........
Fred
television is showbiz

Don't be insulted Jamal. Thats not necessary.  You are right that workers could watch and digest Russell Brand material with a critical eye, but I doubt they do.  For workers tv means entertainment and escapism.  That why the bourgeoisie provide it. Like they used to provide opium  and cock fighting. It's a distraction. 

Televsion is showbiz.  If some nice show biz personality - like David Frost, whose tv shows in the sixties were regarded generally as radical game changers, which is what they were "radical games" and Frost an establishment pillar with a radical  veneer - if an "attractive white male" nicely packaged in a decent production gets on the tv and makes being an outspoken-working-class type his show biz image he'll prove popular because working glass viewers like this type of show biz presentation because its a bit different.

To find what sound like working class responses and feelings being decently presented in the context of bourgeois showbiz can be a comfortable consolation for workers, and makes a change. But to suppose that radical political ideas are being put across successfully could be to fall for the trap. As lem suggested what's being transmitted is an imitation and substitution for the real living  thing and castrates  both the ideas and the consuming viewers. It turns the viewers into eunuchs. It's the SPECTACLE at work. It's marvelously dressed up alienation-via-showbiz  transmitted straight  into your living room. 

In a way television turns everything into ideology because of the way it packages and presents stuff. The fact that you sit passively to watch it.  The fact that these days we can all sit quietly and watch the awful executions ISIS presents us with as if really it isn't real it's just a drama, or a play, or part of the daily news which is also presented as showbiz 

In the bourgeois world it's very difficult to break through their careful ideological packaging and reach the real thing.  T.S. Eliot said: human beings cannot bear too much reality.  But he was wrong.  For we hardly ever come in touch with reality.  Everything is packaged and presented, like cheap Xmas gifts in fancy boxes, where the box cost more than the gift. 

So even if Russell Brand was actually a reincarnation of Rosa Luxembourg in drag the tv showbiz glitterama would reduce her to yet another talking head of no more consequence than Larry King.  (I wanted to use the name of that leftist American political entertainer  that jk sometimes mentions.  But can't recall his name.)

radicalchains
Larry King shows the power of bourgeois journos

I'm not sure The Trews technically is television but anyway. I don't think it is a commodity  either. So you're saying tv can never help in understanding or education? In the Trews he challenges dominant propaganda of the press and ideas in general. Isn't what the ICC do with their paper? Don't people passively consume WR? If you're referring to the Society of the Spectacle I don't think that's what it means. The Spectacle isn't advertising or a collection of images but relations between people mediated by images. The spectacle isn't me watching Brand but my relations with people around me. Our thoughts, the way we present ourselves to others, the image we have of ourselves, the way we compete with each other in something as simple as a conversation. Everything (if you agree with the Spectacle thesis) has been consumed by images and we base virtually everthing on them, even memory.  

I think comparing Brand to Larry King is nonsense, but then maybe you are unaware of his real role. You could watch a television propgramme to educate yourself on this matter which might lead to some understanding.

http://youtu.be/nhF27s4W9PE

Amir1
In the early years of  iran

In the early years of  iran islamic republic tv programme changed and authority said every thingh is for Islam no advertising no music ( music in Islam almost band ) in advance every thing change . every 15 minute is  advertising and music without word.

In time of shahe tv was unlawful for nearly 40% but now all people watches it . most of Iranian watch tv and educated well . in their home are different than outside ( hypocritical)

jk1921
As interesting as the

As interesting as the responses have been--they have gotten far away from the original intent of the thread, which was to try to open a critical discussion on the role the Internet has played in the development (or regression?) of the proletarian milieu.

I think Fred is right when he points out that the technology allows otherwise geographically isolated comrades to carry on some form of discussion and conversation when they otherwise wouldn't be able to. However, I also have to wonder that if the Internet wasn't there, would there be more of an impetus for militants and searching elements to come together in ways that look more like what we think of as "organization building" in the terms we have inherited from the historical left? Would the absence of such an easy way of communicating actually promote the development of solidarity and commitment in a way that doesn't appear to he happening today DESPITE the greater access to materials and communication? More specifically, does the internt promote a form of political subjectivity and forms of politicization that are less conducive--perhaps even obstacles--to the task of constructing an international organization? Or are the failures of the milieu to capitalizae on and consolidate the surge in interest in left communism following the 2008 crisis better understood in more traditional terms, like a reflux in consciousness following the collapse (defeat?) of the social protest movements of 2008-2011?

Of course, there is no going backwards. The Internet and associated technologies are here to stay. But the question is if they do promote different, less conducive forms of subjectivity and politicization then what do we do about that? Can we do anything about it? I find it interesting that nobody from the ICC has stepped in here......

Redacted
I firmly disagree with the

I firmly disagree with the direction that half of jk's conjecturing is headed.

I've already tried to demonstrate the bourgeois nature of the author that set him on that particular line of thought, the one that says the internet is somehow bad or counter inducive to social change. There is a failure to delineate between the technologies responsible for all of our present activities on a distributed network, and the actual World Wide Web. That's a problem because even if the ruling class manages to completely Stalin-ize the Internet, we could just totally abandon it and take whatever data we need along with us.

Another thing is Keen's economics seem shakey to me. He simply shows how a handful of companies, like Google, have a tiny workforce and already higher turnaround than General Motors, which employs like five or six times more people. So what? Isn't this just typical of this late period of capitalism? Was anyone here under the impression that the Internet was a magic solution for the crises of capitalism? Because that's what Keen seems to have been implying.

Jk wonders if the internet wasn't there, would there be more impetus for searching elements and existing militants to do revolutionary work. And earlier he asked about a balance sheet about the internet. How about a balance sheet of the effectiveness of the ICC's "analog" interventions up to the early to mid 90s? How was that working out?...

It's a techno-primitivist position.

Why not go back before the printing press while we're at it? These damn mass produced books focusing all these ideas in such a fluid manner. I can't take it!

Taking a balance sheet of the ICC's use of the internet up to this point in time...what internet presence? It's like the ICC has bought a car with no motor and is now dissapointed it doesn't drive.

Fred
the alienating spectacle

 

 

jk wrote:
 However, I also have to wonder that if the Internet wasn't there, would there be more of an impetus for militants and searching elements to come together in ways that look more like what we think of as "organization building" in the terms we have inherited from the historical left? Would the absence of such an easy way of communicating actually promote the development of solidarity and commitment in a way that doesn't appear to he happening today DESPITE the greater access to materials and communication?  
 

I sympathize with this thought of yours jk. To break out of the alienating spectacle imposed by bourgeois society - to which all their media contributes - something  politically dramatic has to take place to bring us out onto the streets and establish contact among us again. Communism is about relationships between people, and specifically about the new relationship of solidarity.  Only when we drag ourselves away from the tv and computer screen and meet, and talk, and discuss together openly can we develop our ideas and discover how much we have in common and dislike this society, and how to cooperate together to achieve our consciously formed aims in wanting to get rid of it.    I think comrades in Venezuela pointed this out in a recent piece they wrote about struggle. 

Class consciousness can't be achieved by isolated individuals. The Internet serves overall to isolate us even though it puts us in touch theoretically with the whole world. 

There's nothing techno-primitivist about people having face to-face communication with each other, it's just that we hardly ever do it.  I suppose that's why mass strikes were so invaluable. 

MH
decomposition?

I agree with Fred on this. I think jk is raising a valid question. Surely part of the framework for an answer is a recognition that developments like the internet at the very least reflect the current phase of capitalist decomposition… are shaped by it…and, at least outside periods of open class struggles, can only tend to deepen its effects?

Decomposition seems the crucial missing part of this debate to me, because it helps to explain the roots of all the problems faced by the working class, and its revolutionary minorities, in the last 30 years or so.

The whole way the bourgeoisie frames the ‘debate’ is completely false, hence I don’t think accusations of ‘techno-primitivism’ are very helpful here; isn't it just the other side of a false coin?  

We clearly can’t blame the internet for the current difficulties faced by the proletariat, just as we don’t blame opportunism in the Second International on the development of the telegraph; but.... the rise of opportunism was certainly fuelled by illusions in capitalist technological progress, so there is certainly a potential link to be understood here.

Fred
Thanks MH it's lovely to be

Thanks MH it's lovely to be agreed with.  I think it's only the second time anyone has said that to me on this forum. It may sound trivial. But in strengthening communist relationships, and inspiring confidence, such remarks carry a lot of weight. 

You wrote:

Quote:
 The whole way the bourgeoisie frames the ‘debate’ is completely false, hence I don’t think accusations of ‘techno-primitivism’ are very helpful here; isn't it just the other side of a false coin?  

This complex sentence leaves me hanging in the air.  Which "debate" are you referencing MH? Without knowing the answer it's impossible to agree that it's "completely false" or  that accusations of "techno-primitivism" are unhelpful.  (Accusations like that one are always offensive  anyway.) And finally what precisely are the two sides of the false coin? 

Perhaps you are too busy to answer?    Perhaps the answers are obvious?  But if you have a spare moment...! 

MH
Sorry Fred

Sorry Fred, I was being a bit ‘telegraphic’ in my comments – I was broadly referring to the ideas referenced mainly by Jamal of people like Steve Blank, Andrew Keen, Richard Stallman, etc.

 The ‘revelations’ of Blank in particular about the supposedly secret origins of Silicon Valley in WW2 I found distinctly underwhelming. WW2 was the"first electronic war"? The Germans had radar? No shit!

Redacted
Not just radars. An internet.

Not just radars. An electronic network, in the 1940's, which linked the radars.

Redacted
I'm almost too frustrated

I'm almost too frustrated with the comrades positions to formulate a worth while post, but I'd just like to throw one thing out there– the implications of comrades jk, Fred, and MH that internet technologies have more potential for isolation and attachment to "the spectacle" than for connecting people is as you all say in Britain "total bollocks".

It seems to have done a pretty fair job connecting all of us into this wonderful discussion, from what seems like at least 3 or 4 different continents.

Jk insists he's not trying to put forth a "Neo-Amish Marxist" construction, but in the same paragraph asks us if the idea that internet technologies isolate us from struggle–"perhaps it is worth some thought?"

What happened to "there's no going back now"?

Fred
MH, jk and myself are all

MH, jk and myself are all Luddites I guess. But I don't think we actually said the internet technologies have more potential for isolation than for connecting people.  It's just that they tend to connect people in a very individualistic and isolated way, and thus make a "spectacle" like contribution to everyday life. Like bourgeoisie democracy which means secret voting in secretive booths.  It's all a bit masturbatory. 

There's nothing like a good tweet for making you think you're  part of life. Nothing like getting a reply on Facebook for apparently confirming your existence.  Nothing like getting a positive reply on the ICC's forum for making you feel less isolated.  But it's all rather  remote. Its better than  nothing, but not to be compared with the real thing.  It's a substitute activity.

 A good demo, with comrades;  a mass strike with ripening consciousness breathing new life into tired brains; restoring confidence in us all and opening our minds to unimagined  possibilities and hope for the future, now that'll be something else.  Tweets and the like may have helped assemble  us all here, but the movement towards revolution won't take place on the Internet but on the streets. 

MH
Luddite?

Actually I think Fred is wrong to accept the label of ‘Luddite’.

The fact is this thread seems to have taken an increasingly bizarre turn.

For daring to suggest that there may be something inherent in the development of the internet that has a potential to isolate individuals in capitalist society, comrades are now denounced as ‘Luddites’.

As communists, we believe that by revolutionising the productive forces, capitalism has created the conditions for the liberation of humanity. The development of the internet is actually clear proof that these productive forces are now totally fettered by the relations of production (copyright law, ‘ownership’ of information, etc). The proletarian revolution is necessary in order to destroy these fetters and release the potential of these productive forces.  

So we’re not Luddites.

(who were in any case not actually opposed to technical progress per se).

We also believe, along with Marx, that periods of decadence are increasingly characterised by “development in decay”. So it is completely valid to enquire into the characteristics of this decay in particular developments.

Jamal, you’re obviously frustrated by what you see as the resistance of comrades to your arguments, but what is it exactly that you are arguing for?

jamal wrote:
 

"The Internet" is and always was a State-funded project and is probably mostly nefarious in that sense. But "The Internet" doesn't have to be the internet. We could start our own internet just for comrades very quickly. We all have computers. 

Should we make used of capitalist technologies to make revolutionary work more effective? Absolutely. But given the current historic difficulties faced by the proletariat and its revolutionary minorities – problems that have been written about and discussed at length - what problems would this solve exactly?

Are you suggesting that the problems of the milieu are due to the ICC’s inability to exploit the potential of the internet properly?

If not, what are the reasons for the current difficulties the proletariat finds itself in?

Signed,

Ned Lud

MH
Just to be clear...

Just to be clear, the term 'Luddite' was Fred's, not anyone else's, but  think the substantive argument is still valid. I did'nt mean to escalate the rhetoric... 

Redacted
Maybe you guys are right. And

Maybe you guys are right. And there's only one way to know for sure!

See you guys around if you ever make it to small town USA...

Alf
late to the internet....

Sorry for not coming into this discussion earlier but I have been following it. I agree with MH's last post that we can't look at the internet as a thing in itself. The issue is, as MH says, the conflict between productive forces and relations of production, even if the latter also tend to distort the former. The role of the military in the development of the internet is clearly an expression of this. 

We can be aware of the 'distorted' functioning of the internet, above all its tendency to atomise the participants and create sounding boards for all kinds of nonsense, pornography and cruelty, but that is to a large extent a reflection of the alienated social relations which have already separated us into isolated and deeply frustrated 'citizens'. If there is a tendency to oppose this alienation, we can also make use of the internet to widen contacts and discussion. The real problem regarding the milieu and its agonisingly slow progress (not to mention regress) over the past few decades is the enormous weight of capitalist ideology and modes of behaviour within it, a weight that presses even harder in the phase of decomposition.There are no technical fixes to this, even if we have to be open to new technical possibilities, however timid they may seem - an example would be (apart the website itself, which we also took a long time to get running and which requires a huge effort to keep going) the films that ICC sympathisers in particular have contributed to the site. 

lem_
Hey I firmly agree with Alf -

Hey I firmly agree with Alf - again.

So not that anyone ever includes me in their rhetoric hahah :-) 

Fred
post deleted Fred

 

 

 

Fred
post deleted. Fred

  

Redacted
I apologize for behaving out

I apologize for behaving out of character up to this point. It's been a stressful work week and I wasn't eating well. There's also so much to talk about here it's overwhelming. This is a crucial discussion for left communists today.

I did not call quite call anyone a Luddite, but I did pretty much call j backwards, etc. That was rash of me, I didn't really give the comrade a chance to put forward his own clear position and I hope he can accept my apologies. The most common reaction people have when faced with touchy subjects and new ideas is rejection, then critical consideration, acceptance, and then a denial of the original position. Having being suckled to the web since before puberty, something was stirred up that I did not see coming. Call it an immuno-reaction. Not from myself but from the ideological effect of the Web itself.

Now, I don't mean to throw unhelpful info out there like I already did with WWII, but I feel like we need to lay down some terms and definitions for the sake of this discussion if it is to be salvaged.

The World Wide Web is NOT the Internet. People use the terms interchangably. But the distinction is important. "The Internet" is just the dominant way our computers connect to each other. It's a network of networks based on the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP), a computer networking model and set of communications protocols used by "the Internet". What people call "the Web" is strictly just the collection of websites hosted on specific web servers, completely seperate and distinct from fax, email servers, etc.

If I link two networks together, I have an internetwork or an internet, which is distinct from what people call THE Internet. The Internet is an internetwork that was created by the United States Department of Defense and it's main aim has ALWAYS been to connect as many networks together as possible. The current Orwellian state of "the Internet" should be no surprise, I'm sure many saw it coming in a very deep and profound way. It's essential to point out "the Internet" is just one model of internetworks, one often referred to by computer scientists as the "DoD model". Communists should view it the same way they view the bus or the library, it's capitalist infrastructure.

For Keen and others, the Internet, internet technologies, electronic automation and robots all stand in opposition to the amorpheous mass he refers to as "the people".

It's an issue of "keeping good jobs for good folks", strangely not too unlike the right wing arugements against immigration. Keen asks us what will we all do when there are only jobs for the super elite coupled with a fully automated, computerized world.

He points out this is not a tenable social recipe. In other words, if we want to keep exploiting human labor (rather than leave people with nothing to do) we better not stroll too far down this path.

In Keen's own words, "In today's networked age, it's our entire society that is having it's center destroyed by a perfect storm of technological, social, and economic change."

What else is the "center" of our society today other than the bourgeoisie? Keen's William Gibson-esque verbage doesn't hide what he is talking about here. He means the "technological revolution" is a threat to capitalism.

Keen even goes as far as to say this "great leveling probably raises the specter of a socialist dystopia." Then he nostolgically refers to the Keynesian model and kinder, fairer capitalists often. He sounds like a shipwrecked Occupy Wall Street protester.

Comrades know by now that I agree with Keen–not about the "technological revolution" being the potential downfall of humanity-but instead about the potential of internet technologies, computers, automation and robots to bring down the "center" of capitalist society-the ruling class. Why does computer fraud get you as much jail time as murder in some cases? Why is being a hacker increasingly criminalized? "Black hat" usage of internet technologies is disruptive to capitalism. In 20 years, we might look at smart phones more like weapons than computers or communication devices.

Andrew Keen (whose book was very thought provoking if not totally off the mark) offers a vision of humanity that looks like Blade Runner, one where we can't distinguish between human and robot much less worker and boss. But is that dystopian image a real possibility? Is that what capitalism in decompostion could really look like? How ripe is comrade Fred's Apple in that future?

You comrades have heroically pointed out the issue is the conflict between the productive forces and relations of production. Though I agree somewhat, the framework was my light at the end of the tunnel after seriously considering disconnecting from the Web for a while.

I think it would be wrong to stuff all internet technologies into a box called "productive forces." There is a quality to them, a uniqueness, a potential. a soul, that sets them totally apart and I think represent something totally new and more at odds with the "center" of society than past disruptions in the productive forces did. Maybe even something embryonic of a future society of freely associated producers. But that might be blasphemy to some.

Demogorgon
"You comrades have heroically

"You comrades have heroically pointed out the issue is the conflict between the productive forces and relations of production ... I think it would be wrong to stuff all internet technologies into a box called "productive forces." There is a quality to them, a uniqueness, a potential. a soul, that sets them totally apart and I think represent something totally new and more at odds with the "center" of society than past disruptions in the productive forces did. Maybe even something embryonic of a future society of freely associated producers. But that might be blasphemy to some."

I don't think this vision is entirely foreign to Marx. He quite clearly linked the development of certain productive forces with certain social formations. After all, he said "The windmill gives you society with the feudal lord: the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist."

So there's no question that certain technological developments are conducive to certain social formations. After all, if productive forces didn't, by their technical character, have a certain ideal expression in terms of relations of production then there could never be a conflict between said forces and relationships.

So, it's quite possible for the internet (and telecommunication technologies in general) to have a character that is innately disruptive to capitalist social organisation. There may even be an inherently communist content to them.

But that doesn't mean that such content can be realised within capitalist social forms. On the contrary, it is the conflict between that inherent content and the form through which they are expressed which is an aggravating factor behind the degeneration of bourgeois economy and bourgeois society. In that sense, the internet (and all productive forces today) is responsible for the disintegration of the social order around us. Capitalist decadence (or its effects) has always involved a double potential. On the one hand, by cracking the foundations of society, it opens the door to revolution. On the other, it threatens to engulf society in barbarism and possibly threaten the survival of the human species. It's hardly a surprise to find that ambivalence within the technologies that underly this fundamental social contradiction.

To conclude, it's hard to disagree with Jamal's contention regarding the "potential of internet technologies, computers, automation and robots to bring down the "center" of capitalist society-the ruling class". That is why capitalism is decadent, after all! Yet these same technologies are, while they remain in their capitalist integument, are also factors in the increasing brutalisation of society and especially the working class.

lem_
found this article so very

found this article so very very depressing http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/mar/13/russell-brand-sxsw-cancels-d...

 

can we not even see brand's messiah complex ;....;

lem_
https://www.youtube.com/watch

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6J8I9XgwfmU

 

this is how i feel, right now, for what it's worth ......

Redacted
lem_ you're right. Fuck Brand

lem_ you're right. Fuck Brand and the rest of the ruling class. It's just nice to hear a figure head shit talk Israel every once and again.

Agree with Demo, at least the parts I can wrap my brain around...

The "technological revolution" could be a symptom of decadent capitalism but it doesn't provide much backbone to the concept of decompostion–the stand-still between classes, etc. In one sense it shows the ruling class gaining more and more ground, as human workers become less and less useful, less of us are working. But if you're educated well enough to land a job at Google, you're paid just short of the $3-4 million on average you as an individual generate for them in surplus labor value. This vision of the medium-late future where only 1 in 1,000 or 10,000 people are employed, that wouldn't exactly be a stand-still of class conflict, would it?

The reason I have respect for people like Stallman and Berners-Lee, Jacob Applebaum, Assange, is not because of the anarcho-capitalist or left liberal bullshit...but because out of anyone they seem to have the deepest understanding of the underlying power structures of the "technological revolution" and "the Internet". People value privacy, just ask them. But they don't understand the price of convienence. Privacy and convienence are at odds, and for now conviencence is winning. Because of this, people don't understand the difference between communication protocols and markup languages. They've been convinced it doesn't matter. To most people computers and the Internet are just magical, they don't question beyond that or take it any further. Stallman's "User-on-a-leash" cartoons are something to remember.

So I think another dimension to all this no one is mentioning is how it ties into fighting against austerity, or more specifically defensive struggle. It can't be a coincidence that in order to truly liberate the Internet we would have to first destroy capitalism. It seems logical enough to me–is it logical enough a point to win people to communism? The economy is fucked, the environment's fucked, and just you wait, the capitalist crisis is coming to an internet near you.

One things for sure, these contradictions are pilling up quickly and the ruling class seems to be at quite a low in terms of their class unity. Before they know it they're going to have some really pissed of protesters asking some really interesting questions. But even an inkling of class consciousness at that exact point in time would not mean proletarian revolution. I guess it would be just a sign of life post-"organic break". The social movements of 2011 didn't have quite the rhetorical fuel the social movements of 2015 could have. That is for sure! But the nonetheless it's still all about "real democracy".

Redacted
Jk–hope your internet fast

Jk–hope your internet fast doesn't last too long! We value and need your ideas around here comrade