[Marxism] Red Plenty

Andrew Pollack acpollack2 at gmail.com
Sun Mar 4 19:19:11 MST 2012


I've only had time so far to skim the long discussion at Crooked Timber.
And it seems way too much of it focuses on planning under Stalin, and not
on the early 60s attempt to use computers -- although given that the folks
advocating greater use of computers then generally saw it as helping with a
move toward greater reliance on market mechanisms, that period only goes so
far as an example of wasted potential.

But the key in this whole debate for me is what Louis wrote in his piece on
Nove:

"Not only does my experience in the business world at odds with Nove's
theories, I also have witnessed the impact automation can make in a
revolutionary society. I was formerly the President of Tecnica, a technical
aid project for Nicaragua. One of our volunteers wrote a database
application that ran on a single PC which kept track of spare parts for
private and government enterprises in Nicaragua at the height of the contra
war. This modest little application had a MAJOR impact on Nicaragua's
ability to keep key industries going during the war. Imagine what
large-scale automation could have meant in a Nicaragua at peace. "

That one seemingly tiny yet hugely historic example certainly agrees with
what I wrote in the MR anthology on "Capitalism and the Information Age"
about computers as an aid to democratic planning.

Ironically today's Times Business section has an article on IBM's
introduction in Rio of a software system which integrates data from many
different agencies covering different sectors of city life (weather,
traffic, housing, etc., etc.)  to aid with disaster planning:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/04/business/ibm-takes-smarter-cities-concept-to-rio-de-janeiro.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=business

One critic points out that they don't use it for infrastructure planning,
which sets the stage for how disasters play out.

But they COULD use it for that. And for purposes of our discussion, the
"they" should be workers and neighborhood councils who take an active part
in gathering, submitting, and analyzing the data at all levels.



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