Class, Internet, and the Industrial System

glevy at acnet.pratt.edu glevy at acnet.pratt.edu
Wed Aug 2 17:14:02 MDT 1995


Since Tlmkr has written a lot, please bear with me while I try to
respond. I'll snip his posts to only those points that I am reponding to.
I agree with some other points that he made, so I will not respond by
saying "I agree" to those sections.

Tlmkr wrote:
>
>       2) The social relations of computer networks are (potentially)
> non-bureacratic, not the software.

I wrote that "bureaucratic structure and language are an integral part of
the software programs."   You must not have understood that sentence.  I
did not say that the programmers are bureaucrats, only that the "language
and structure" of the "programs" is bureaucratic.  Why?  For two reasons:
First, because the capitalist labor process is inherently bureaucratic
and designed for commodity production.  Second, because the product of
that process is the commodity (the software itself) which is written with
a consideration of the use value and exchange value of that commodity.
It is not designed, for example, to be efficient or user-friendly, it is
designed for the purpose of selling the programs on the market for a
profit. You make this point yourself.

>      The software industry employs abroad?? Women?? Mass production
> workers ?? I always thought that most software was written by white
> males in the "advanced" countries not by women flung into classical
> mass production  type "shops" . Do you mean that IBM  and Microsoft
> are training peasants in the third world to write C++ code, and that
> they are busy hacking out the latest OS's and apps in mass production
> shops?. This could be highly significant, please educate us with the
> details.
>
I will be pleased to "educate" you.  The programmers only write the
programs.  They do not compose the entire employment of the software
industry. For computer programs to become commodities additional labor
is required. The hardware industry, especially, pays workers abroad
(e.g. in production facilities in South Korea) *much* lower wages than
US workers would receive for producing silicon chips (a very large
understatement!).  The software industry as well employs labor abroad in
"developing countries" to copy and package the software and, sometimes,
advertising materials.

>    International movement for a free technically superior operating
> system. In the interest of programmers(workers) and every one else
> who can benefit from such a thing. Consumers are creatures of the market
> This OS is for workers, but it is available to all, free.
>
The above totally abstracts from the fact that *commercial* software
programs are written by programmers who work for capitalist firms to
produce a commodity.  The overwhelming majority of programmers are
employed by capitalist firms, is that not so?  Most of the remaining
programmers are employed by the state.  Is that not correct?  The
state does not allow these programmers to make available the majority of
their programs to the public for free.  Is that not true.

The OS that you refer to is free, but that does not mean (paradoxically)
that it will be chosen by workers over a OS that is a commodity.

> 	The bourgeois revolution had two sides to it. The money side, and
> the technique side. In the beginning they were separate, but they were
> dependent on each other for development. In advanced capitalism they are
> fused. Money dominates and controls technique.
>
The "money" side and the "technique" side (very imprecise designations in
this context), have always been fused under capitalism.  Money and
technique have a dialectical relationship to each other in the sense that
money is both required for and results from technologies. In turn, the
money that is received for selling technologies can be used to alter the
technology itself. This was true for early capitalism and it is true for
advanced capitalism.

> 	Workers are hired and forced to produce a commodity for the market to
> appease the interest of capital. In the software industry, the market
> produced Windows, OS2, and System7.  They suck. They are technically inferior
> systems, with very bad user interfaces, designed simply to sell in a mass
> market like breakfast cereal, hoola hoops, and disco music; for the soul
> purpose of capital accumulation.  Some industries like them because the user
> interface is designed to subjugate the worker to preprogrammed decision
> making.

I don't now if they "suck." Yet they are commodities (as you say) and I
like this last sentence since it shows what I meant about how
"bureaucratic structure and language is an integral part of the software
programs."
>
> 	With the development of Linux workers have created a tool that is
> uniquely proletarian, that demands the integration of education, and training
> with production, which eliminates the consumer as an alienated social category.
> The Linux community is not a program, it is an organization of workers that
> have acted in their own interest, and by doing so have come into direct
> conflict with the techniques and conventions of the capitalist system.
> If they are successful it means the defeat of capital in this sector of
> the economy, and an example for future proletarian activism. If this is
> not an example of Dual Power then what is it?

If we, as *consumers*, can take something that is currently a commodity
and make it available for free that is excellent and it would certainly
have an effect on software firms -- but that would not constitute what I
consider dual power to be.  In my understanding, "dual power" is where
(according to Trotsky's _History of the Russian Revolution, I believe)
two classes have power temporarily at the same time.  One power, the
capitalists in the case of Tsarist russia, control the state.  When
another class or classes, such as workers or peasants, has power at the
same time it creates a condition called "dual power" which presents a
political crisis for both workers and capitalists and must be resolved
for the benefit of one side or the other, according to Trotsky.  I don't
see how the Linux OS or UNIX will result in this condition.

I believe that a large reason for our failure to understand each other's
meanings is because of the language that each of us are using seems
to be different.  Beyond that, I believe that you overestimate the
potential of this new technology. *That* is my basic point.

> tlmkr- Bureacracy is one of the many concepts that petty bourgeois
> academia is unable to understand. I use it to mean a certain particular thing.
> I intend to give a rigorous account of its technical/social function and
> developmental progression.
>

Please do.  Without your further explanation it is very difficult for us
to communicate about this subject.

Jerry


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