Computers and socialism

glevy at glevy at
Wed Jul 12 18:18:15 MDT 1995

In recent exchanges concerning accounting and "industrial society" the
topic of computers and socialism has come up.  A few thoughts:

1) Computers or any technology are not going to end capitalism or bring
about socialism.

2) Computers and all other technologies developed under capitalism are
commodities produced to create capitalist profit.

3) The material basis for socialism is the increase in material wealth and
productivity of labor created in the previous society.

4) Computers have increased the productivity of labor in most branches of
production and it is reasonable to expect this trend to continue.

5) The quality of these technologies and their price has dropped rapidly
in recent years.

6)  One doesn't need to be a specialist to learn most computer applications.

7) Computers have become much more "user-friendly" and are beginning to
enter the mainstream of American life.

8) Computers can allow for increased communication and social interaction
by people in different areas/regions (the Internet is surely an example
of this).

Nothing that I have written above is particularly new or surprising.  I
would think that we could all agree on the above, very elementary,
propositions.  Hence, I would ask (on the basis of the foregoing):

Isn't it reasonable for us to say that computer technologies can be *a*
(but *not the only* means) whereby a socialist economy and society can
become "feasible"?

BTW, the earlier idea suggested by Hans concerning a reduction of the
working day and wookweek under socialism can become a *practical*
possibility only with technological advances which raise the productivity
of labor -- such as computers.  Computers, which can be used to increase
the intensity of labor and relative surplus value under capitalism (and
can also lead to an increase in absolute surplus value under capitalism
as Hans suggested) have the *potential* of being a *liberating tool*
under socialism.  All tools are designed for specific purposes.  The
computers which are designed today for the purpose of capitalist profit
can be re-designed by workers in order to serve socialist purposes.  This
process is obviously not without its dangers. Yet, it is not utopian to
suggest that computer technologies will be an essential tool that will be
needed to build socialist societies.


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