Forwarded from Greg Schofield

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Apr 18 19:04:11 MDT 2001

Well I did not expect such a large response to an email on computing.

Before deciding to scissor off the discussion in a separate list consider
not how computers are used by business but domestically. And instead of
thinking of computers under the dictatorship of the proletariat, think of
them in the here and now.

Having been in the position of running communist party branches in the
past, of setting up and maintaining rank and file newsletters at worksites,
of having to deal with organisational correspondence and all the mind
wasting detail involved in maintaining organisational links of different
kinds, all I can say is the use and adaption of computers is a vital
political question.

Whether it is a question of cell/branch education, or lateral
communications, participation in debates, overseeing leadership decisions,
news dissemination or just simply keeping track of dues. Whether it is to
fill the needs of communists or that of some wild and woolly community
group, of rank and file unionists, or isolated individuals - the effective
use of PCs could be, but is not, a dream come true.

Comrades you make a mistake at dismissing such things as geek interests.

My first contribution praised the fact that computers seemed to be taken
seriously on this list. Perhaps because of the way I launched into
discussion has blunted the point I was trying to make. Would we laugh or
cry if communists before 1917 ignored the problems of newspaper production
and distribution, or organisational structure because they were seen as too

If communists are to reorganise themselves, this reorganisation cannot
resemble what went before, to wit a new means of communication is
available, new explorations of education, dissemination and organisation
are available to us now. Moreover a technology which encourages lateral
communications while still supporting centralist structures.

Having been screwed time and time again by the leadership of the old CPA,
having seen them disrupt and destroy rank and file agitation and misdirect
debate after debate. Having seen internal democracy corrupted beyond
recognition, do you think anyone could passively accept a new means of
communication, right under their nose, in the form it has been delivered?

To use computers now, in its present state, is to invite disorganisation
and incompatibilities. Worse, using computers directly, as they are now,
would increase the burdens. Yet technically, all bar a veil of software
that separates us from their potential, a means of communication, a
potential library, a small publishing box, a means of organisation, and
gatherer of information is before us which in practical political terms is
virtually untouched.

Consider a box, connected to the world and a printer, supported by software
which is tailored to the political needs of active communists and
adaptable. Here we no longer have a box but an entire branch/cell office,
before this we sat in rooms and the best technology available was a table,
some chairs, paper and a bic biro. Communications could not even include a
phone (useless in such situations), but relied on the early Victorian
invention of the Post.

Little wonder party leaderships of all hues are only too pleased to keep
political organisation chained to the past - what better form to keep them
in the dark fed copiously on bullshit. How often did I discover, too late,
that other branches thought the same as ours, that other comrades had
brought up the same ideas and had had the same experience. Lateral
communications alone would have changed the game-plan dynamically.

A little quote from the Communist Manifesto:

"The real fruit of their battles lie not in the immediate result, but in
the ever expanding union of the workers. This union is helped on by the
improved means of communication that are created by Modern Industry, and
that place the workers of different localities in contact with one another.
It was just this contact that was needed to centralize the numerous local
struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between
classes. But every class struggle is a political struggle. And that union,
to attain which the burghers of the Middle Ages, with their miserable
highways, required centuries, the modern proletarian, thanks to railways,
achieve in a few years."

I will later answer some of the things said in other responses later if
that is warranted, but do not make the mistake of underestimating the vital
importance of getting ontop of this new means of communication. It is no
mistake that the bourgeoisie has delivered it to the world in its present
mutilated form, it is perhaps one of our duties to straighten it out.

Louis Proyect
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