Marx and Communication speed...

Hugh Rodwell m-14970 at
Sat Oct 12 16:42:39 MDT 1996

Scott C writes:

>I am curious to know if there is anyone who has studied the possible
>connection between the speed of communication and the level of class
>consciousness.  What brought me to this question, is that it appears that
>now, with the Internet, I would see that it is very possible, given the
>assumption that all of society has access to the internet (yea, I know, for
>now a far fetched assumption), that teh pure speed of communication on the
>Internet is going to bring about a strong class consciousness and lead more
>closely towards full human freedom.

Rakesh will probably be able to help you with some books.

I'd say that "pure speed of communication on the Internet" in itself will
bring about nothing. It's the content of communications that influences
class consciousness.

What the speed does is make it easier for people in very different places
to learn of and from each other much more rapidly and generally than

But remember that in Marx's time, he was able to write from London to
Engels in Manchester and get a reply in two days. The telegraph would get a
message across in an hour or two. The mail was less effective

We've had telephones and radio for decades now. Universal telephone
services (in richer industrialized countries) for a couple of decades. This
made international communication easier, but the content advanced most was
that peddled by big bourgeois news media. Big advances in general
anti-government use of these media were made during the 1960s with the
anti-Vietnam War agitation in many different countries being easier to
coordinate than ever before, and in 1968 the wires were red hot between
France and other countries as the different events unfolded.

The fax played a notable role in the Chinese democratic movement of the
1980s up to Tien An Min.

For some Marxists such as Mandel the real possibilities of superfast
communication produced the impression of an unstoppable tide of democratic
mobilization. This led to conclusions such as the impossibility in the age
of the fax and the modem of successful reactionary mobilizations against
democracy and socialism, particularly in workers' states such as the Soviet
Union. But there are no short cuts in politics. Technology is used by
people, and people don't get their class interests or their class
consciousness from technology. If you substitute technology for political
organization and schooling you get nowhere.



PS Read Capital Vol 2 for an exciting account of the effect of faster
turnover, not on class consciousness but on the rate of surplus value.

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