Seventeen Theses on the Destiny of the Revolution in Communications and the Concept of Workers' Rule
the Concept of Workers' Rule
1. The necessary and inevitable result of the class struggle will be the overthrow of bourgeois rule and its replacement by workers' rule (and, later, by a classless society).
2. The goal of workers' rule is the goal around which, eventually, the left and all progressive humanity will unite.
3. The concept of workers' rule is central to the development of a progressive movement which is conscious and organized. The power of this concept to clarify our tasks is fully equivalent to the power of Darwin's theory of evolution to understanding biology or the theory of plate tectonics to understanding geology. Without this concept, we are reduced to feeling our way forward (and sometimes backward) in the dark. With this concept--the lights are on.
4. With rare exception, all political trends in modern society oppose placing the concept of workers' rule at the center of the progressive agenda:
(a) The strata of trade union hacks, poverty pimps, liberal media personalities, opinion makers and the like (sometimes referred to as the "labor aristocracy" or the political trend of social-democracy) oppose the concept of workers' rule because it threatens fundamental bourgeois interests which they are, essentially, paid to defend.
5. Of particular note in relation to this question, is the identity of interests (ie: the mutually beneficial relationship) between the social-democratic trends, on the one hand, and the sectarian trends on the other. The social-democrats, who oppose placing workers' rule on the progressive agenda, are eager to find "supporters" of workers' rule who, in the context of the theoretical struggle, act like buffoons. And the sectarians are more than happy to perform this service. The social-democrats, in return, assist the sectarians to hold their organizations together by providing an example of "the alternative" which, on the question of workers' rule, serves bourgeois interests and acts like spineless cowards.
6. Despite opposition from treacherous/cowardly social-democracy and clueless sectarians, the concept of workers' rule is bound to emerge from "the grave" and take its rightful place at the center of progressive thought and of humanity's aspirations. Workers' rule corresponds to the objective material interest of billions of people--the overwhelming majority of humanity. The efforts of its opponents to keep the concept of workers' rule out of sight and out of mind have less chance of success than the efforts of the Vatican to suppress the theory of Copernicus, championed by Galileo, that the earth moves around the sun.
7. Some consideration must be given to the tactics aimed at accelerating the emergence of workers' rule as the guiding aspiration of progressive humanity. At a minimum, there must be web sites and email discussion lists which maintain a strong focus on workers' rule in the context of modern conditions--and which can serve as a pole of attraction for serious thinkers struggling to discover the fundamental way forward for humanity. Such websites and discussion lists will also serve as public arenas of calm and scientific debate which will establish which ideas can be defended with scientific argument--and which cannot.
8. Ultimately, the concept of workers' rule must be taken directly to the masses. While efforts must be made to take the concept of workers' rule to forums where progressive people hang out, it is the destiny of this concept to emerge as the "ultimate virus" which will ride the splendid digital communications infrastructure the capitalists are rapidly building for us--and implant itself in the consciousness of hundreds of millions.
Revolution in Communications
and it Significance for
the Awakening of Proletarian
Political Life and Consciousness
9. Like a leviathan that cannot be stopped, the relentless march of Moore's Law advances, leaving in its wake digital machine elements that are steadily approaching the dimensions of mid-sized molecules. Thru all phases of the boom and bust of the capitalist economic cycle, the basic elements of computing machinery (ie: transistors) continue to become smaller and faster and to create communications devices that are more powerful, easier to use and, above all, cheaper. Further, as the possibilities of current technology exhaust themselves, new technologies, currently being developed, will be waiting in the wings to take their place.
10. We have already witnessed the first "wave" of digital communications technologies: email and the web. This first wave has not only dominated much of the business news, but has influenced the economic cycle itself, contributing to the length and the height of the recent boom and the timing of the current recession. The first wave of the revolution in digital communications has led to an increase in the productivity of labor in the countries with advanced economies.
Nor is this all. The first wave has also begun to impact the development of the progressive movements:
(a) making it easier to mobilize activists for militant mass actions such as WTO-Seattle in 1999 or, more recently, Gothenburg, Barcelona and GenoaFinally, it should be noted that the first wave, in the form of the Napster/MP3 phenomenon, has brought tens of millions of teenagers into direct conflict with the capitalist "intellectual property" laws. The present skirmishes on this front represent the prelude to a struggle which will be both immense and protracted.
11. While much ink, in the last few years, has been smeared on dead trees in order to describe the first wave, it is important to keep in mind that this first wave is only the beginning. Over the horizon, in the decades to come, other waves are heading our way:
(a) increased functionality (and decreased cost) of cell-phone-like wireless devices (for example: (i) web access, (ii) the text messages that teenagers create with their thumbs and (iii) the ability to capture and transmit images)
12. It has long been said that "freedom of the press belongs to him who owns a press". But what happens as the cost of this "press" plummets toward zero? The traditional media "gatekeepers" who protect bourgeois interests and who decide what is interesting and what is deserving of respect will find, increasingly, that their services are no longer in such high demand--that others, of greater talent, are performing these services on behalf of the interest of another class: the proletariat.
13. If we cast aside the narrow time frames used by stock market analysts, venture capitalists and business technology reporters--and think in terms of _decades_ rather than months or years, we will see that the emerging revolution in communications will be fully comparable, in its human impact, to the revolution in industry created in the 1800's by the then cutting edge technologies of steel and steam.
The industrial revolution created theThe development and mass production of digital communications devices "as cheap as sand" will bring, first hundreds of millions, and eventually billions, of people into contact with a digital "media sphere" which (while initially dominated by the slick Hollywood-style manufacturers of consumer culture) will include channels created _by_ the proletariat and oppressed _for_ the proletariat and oppressed.
These proletarian channels, small at first, will grow in popularity--and will prove extremely resistant to censorship--because the suppression of these channels would require _crippling_ the growth and development of the internet itself--which is steadily emerging as the beating heart at the center of all modern economies.
These channels, interactive (ie: two-way) by nature, will draw on the life experience of hundreds of millions of workers and the oppressed and will tear away the veil of bourgeois lies and ideology which hides all things. For the first time in history, the majority of suffering humanity will have access to a clear, accurate and comprehensive class-based understanding of what is wrong with the world and how to coordinate their actions in order to end bourgeois rule and usher in a world without hunger, privation or war.
14. The emerging revolution in digital communications holds promise to transform the terrain of the class struggle and, in particular, to transform the "left ecosystem" that conditions and determines the development of revolutionary organizations. Two emerging phenomena, strongly related to one another, must be noted. Both of these phenomena exist today more as promise than reality. But, as decade rolls after decade, they will transform world culture and world politics.
(a) Political TransparencyThe ultimate computer is the human mind. And the ultimate virus is the idea that the laws of the marketplace and commodity production are not destined to dominate humanity until the end of time--but will become extinct in the course of the events of the 21st century.
15. The proletarian channels are destined to evolve in the direction of becoming the digital nervous system of the working class. In this light, we must take particular interest in the relationship between these proletarian channels and the revolutionary organizations that will create them and, in turn, be created by them.
The proletarian channels must be seen, above all, as channels between progressive activists, on the one hand, and the masses on the other. These channels will, most assuredly, not be one-way channels. Revolutionary energy in vast and ever-increasing amounts, will flow in both directions. These channels will reduce the distance between the revolutionary organizations and the masses--and will place the masses in the position of being arbiters in the disputes between revolutionary organizations--and in all processes that will govern the dissolution of dysfunctional organizations and the creation of new organizations on a healthier basis. Organizations which fail to respond to criticism or act in an unprincipled way will lose reputation and mindshare relative to organizations which admit and correct their mistakes.
In particular, the proletarian channels will serve to concentrate revolutionary elements who emerge from the masses. Thousands (and eventually hundreds of thousands) of volunteer "reporters" will be drawn from the mass audience; will participate in the struggles of the day; will get to know one another by reputation; will guide scientific debate on the burning questions and will contribute their deepening convictions to the creation of revolutionary organizations.
The mass revolutionary parties that will organize the overthrow of bourgeois rule in the 21st century will likely crystallize in the process of the creation of these proletarian channels and will, in turn, use these channels to expand their influence.
16. There is no difference, in _principle_, between revolutionary organizations making use of electronic channels and the more traditional communist work making use of agitation on paper. The advantages of electronic channels, however, will lead to a qualitative and quantitative transformation of agitation and propaganda.
The electronic channels will, in the first place, be _interactive_. The forums and communities of opinion that are created will result in a relatively rapid "information metabolism" (ie: the gathering of related facts and the digestion of scientific arguments) of current issues as opposing views come into direct confrontation with one another in the catalyzing presence of an audience that demands scientific integrity.
Secondly, the electronic channels will differ from paper agitation in _scale_. The electronic format will eventually facilitate a much larger audience and, further, will allow numerous organizations (even competing and hostile organizations) to _aggregate_ their content in order to, collectively, better compete with mainstream bourgeois news services. The result will be a common database of agitation that will function as an _electronic backbone_ of a very wide variety of paper publications.
The resulting coopetition (ie: simultaneous competition and cooperation) of the various groups will help to break down the sectarian barriers which exist between groups and will facilitate the eventual formation of a pole of attraction based on an anti-reformist axis which recognizes the necessity of independence from the labor aristocracy and learns to effectively oppose the influence of these defenders of bourgeois interest.
17. Practical consideration of how to apply these principles in the first decade of the 21st century leads to the conclusion that:
It is an electronic news service thatSuch a news service is now possible. It can and must be built with minimal reliance on either money or copyright. It must be open to all contributors and must experiment with forms of collaborative filtering to separate the garbage from the gems.
Such public domain news services will eventually be able to compete with the more mainstream news organizations and will position themselves to overwhelm them in the same way that "free software" projects such as Linux are positioning themselves to eventually overwhelm the leading commercial operating systems created by Microsoft.
The proletarian channels, like the Linux project, will be overwhelmingly based on volunteer labor. This is the secret to their eventual victory: massive amounts of free labor drawn from every city on earth with a significant online population. For those struggling to see the fundamental path forward: it will be a free and open news service.