[Marxism] reply from SOCIALISM & DEMOCRACY to J. Bustelo

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Sun Dec 28 10:52:04 MST 2008

I thank comrade Wallis for the corrections to my post and clarification of
S&D's editorial group's stance. It is clear the comrades recognize the
contradictions in their position and are trying to ameliorate them, which is

However, my point was somewhat broader. There is now a fight between
defenders of 20th Century copyright and business models, on the one hand,
and advocates -- and even more than advocates, practitioners -- of a
different way of producing and distributing "content," one that begins to be
freed from the commodity form and monopolistic control. Call it free
culture, with free meaning both free as in freedom and free as in free beer,
for the two are inextricably intertwined in this context.

Insofar as content that can be presented digitally is concerned,
internetworked computers are the equivalent of the replicators of the
starship Enterprise. The marginal cost or the value of the socially
necessary labor time for producing an additional copy of any digital content
is negligible. This is WHY "information wants to be free," the material
basis for it.

And for this reason, in the last analysis, the ONLY way to prevent what the
media monopolies call "piracy" is to take the replicators out of the hands
of the population, cripple all digital equipment and networks so they only
make explicitly authorized copies. To be effective, this requires that the
content of every file transmitted or copied be scanned, for measures like a
"no copies flag" are relatively easy to defeat, as are various other "DRM"

The internetworked computers of the 21st Century are at the heart of freedom
of speech, of communication and association. The fight about copyright comes
down to a fight over who will control computers and networks. On one side is
control by media monopolies and the state. On the other, end-user control
which creates a commons.

The bourgeoisie is fighting to re-establish monopoly control over the
reproduction and distribution of content in digital form. By cooperating
with or acting like bourgeois publishers TODAY, instead of publishing and
distributing in and through the commons, we re-enforce the wrong side in
this fight.

There is, from my point of view, no small amount of irony in putting out a
call for "short essays relevant to the present conjuncture and aimed at
contributing to the development of a popular anticapitalist movement" in
order to publish them under the modalities S&D uses. 

There are in addition all the issues of access and privilege that have been
more extensively discussed in this thread and which the S&D comrades assure
us they are sensitive to and have taken steps to ameliorate. But despite
these efforts by the S&D comrades, more could be done. 

The amelioration (but not by a long shot elimination) of privilege would be
maximized by online free publication. 

The comrades also argue that all but the most recent year is freely
available online. 

But it is precisely the most current material that is of greatest interest,
which is why the publisher, Rutledge, tries to maximize people having to go
through its hundreds-of-dollars-a-year firewall to get to it. And giving the
odd individual who may write in an electronic copy of an article is no

For example, the current issue on immigration would be --I assume-- of
tremendous interest to hundreds of people in the immigrant rights movement
in the United States. And precisely the perspective of these activists would
be a vital contribution to advancing the discussion on the issues which the
various articles in the issue take up. Yet apart from an odd individual,
under current circumstances 99% of the leading activists will never even
know the material exists, never mind getting access to it.


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