Class, Internet, and the Industrial System

glevy at glevy at
Fri Jul 28 12:24:26 MDT 1995

Tim wrote:

> 	While the hardware is easily assimilated into the rules
> of bourgeois property, the software is much less so. However, the social
> relations between people, that is the essence of computer networks, is
> developing completely out side of the confines of bourgeois property. It is
> non-bureaucratic and, in the context of work and workers, arises out of
> purely technical considerations.

Some comments:
1) software is covered by bourgeois property rules -- its just that some
consumers and *many* businesses choose to break those laws (more power
to them!);

2) the software is non-bureaucratic?  I don't know about that.  It seems
to me that bureaucratic structure and language is an integral part of the
software programs;

3) computers (hardware and software) are not purchased and deployed for
"purely technical reasons."  Economic considerations, such as the impact
on the productivity of labor and on the labor process, are very
significant (non-technical) reasons.

He continues:

2) > > 	 The advent of powerful, cheap microcomputer technology, is
> accelerating the development of internet. The computer software industry is
> exploding. Capital is moving into this sector, and workers (programmers),
> are being trained, and hired. Large numbers of formerly petty bourgeois
> workers are being proletarianized as the industry begins to concentrate, and
> force bourgeois techniques on production in order to appease the imperatives
> of price, profit and property.

The computer software industry is growing (and it is becomingly
increasingly centralized and concentrated) but that does not mean that
the demand for programmers is greater than the available supply of
programmers.  In fact, in most areas (especially urban areas) there is a
glut of programmers.  Are they becoming increasingly proletarianized?  To
the extent that they are increasingly employed by private capital for a
wage rather than employed administratively as managers, then one could
say that proletarianization was increasing in this sector.

Don't forget all of the people that the software industry employs abroad
where they super-exploit mass production workers.  In many cases, since
the overwhelming majority of these workers are young women who are
brought into the labor market for the fist time to meed the needs of
capital, there is increasing proletarianization here abroad as well.

In this connection, it's important to remember that only a small (but
significant) minority of workers in this country own a computer (and
still less are on the Internet).  Abroad, the Internet is only used by
the state, businesses, and a *small number* of the families of the elite
and intelligentsia.  Do doubt, decreasing computer costs in both hardware
and software will change these statistics in time.  But don't hold your
breath just yet.  Workers in this country will have to see a more
significant decline in computer costs before they purchase a computer or
go "on-line."  Even more so abroad where real incomes can be much lower
than in the US (somewhat of an understatement).

To continue:
> 	 Workers who lost the first Unix to property, have, 20 years later,
> begun the project again. But it is quite different this time. They are not
> petty bourgeois as before but are being quickly proletarianized. Organizing
> freely on the Internet, they are building an international movement.

International movement for what? In whose interest?  Don't most consumers
now buy computers for entertainment purposes rather than organizing?

To continue:

> rapid pace at which microcomputer technology is becoming available to all
> workers( in the "advanced" countries) is allowing for unprecedented
> participation of thousands of highly skilled workers in the project. They
> have armed to protect their work from property with the GNU (GNU's Not Unix)
> Projects General Public License (a copyleft ?). This movement has culminated
> in the Linux Community, and its great achievement the Linux operating system.
> It is a direct challenge to property, bureaucracy, and the market. It will
> rise as the single challenge of workers to the monopolistic, proprietary,
> software regime that has become Microsoft. It's strength is its technical
> superiority, the freedom of its membership, and the Unix experience.
> It is a beach head of the Dual Power that will catapult history out of
> its current impasse, into the new beginnings of the Proletarian Epoch.
> defeat
Wow!  Talk about "commodity fetishism"! Software programs will not bring
about social revolution.  Technical tools are useless unless they are
used in a certain way for certain purposes.  They will not create "dual
power" -- that can only be brought about by people.

The people who control the software industry also might have something to
say about the uses of their commodity.  Already, there are moves afoot to
privatize and increasingly commercialize the Net.  Moreover, software
producers are also going to make it more difficult for many of us to get
pirated software because they are planning to release new programs only
on CD-ROM (Boo! Hiss!).

All in all, I don't want to trust my fate or the fate of millions of other
workers to the promises of new technologies and computers.  If there is
going to be a proletarian revolution, we can't wait on this possible
development.  We control our own future -- not computers.


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