brief sketches of the organization
of political, cultural and economic life
in a future where all authority flows from principles
that have been distributed universally
and are part of everyone's internal compass
rather than institutions
which are external to the individual
and which use one or another form of carrot or stick
We can lay the foundation for a
communist "trend of trends"
with the ability to eradicate sectarianism,
puncture the influence of reformism,
capture the imagination of workers
in their millions
and mobilize our class to ignite a fire
that cannot be extinguished.
On the 80th anniversary of the October Revolution:
1917 was the beta version
"cyberAddress" to the Spoon's Marxism-International ListServ
by Ben Seattle
What are the decisive tasks today to rebuild
a communist movement worthy of the name ?
- working to create a web-based news service without copyright
that would be open to all trends
- focusing discussion on the system of workers' rule
as it will exist in modern conditions--and on how such a system
could suppress the bourgeoisie without also suppressing the workers
* * * Comments, Criticism and Suggestions * * *
As most readers of this list are surely aware, this November 7th is the 80th anniversary of Lenin's October Revolution. The October Revolution represented the first time that a party guided by Marxism seized power anywhere--and it raised the hopes of workers and progressive people in every country that the era of the rule of capital would be coming to an end and the final liberation of all the productive forces of humanity was at hand. Unfortunately, this is not what happened. The October Revolution was suffocated. When this happened--and how--and why--are subjects over which there is little agreement today.
But November 7 does seem to be an appropriate day to send a message of greetings to readers. In M-I, and LeninList, I have seen news posted on a wide variety of struggles. The news and announcements from Colombia and the Kurdish parts of Turkey have, in particular, most recently caught my attention. In many countries revolutionaries are fighting under the most adverse conditions, risking death to build organizations capable of standing up to (and leading popular struggles against) extremely brutal and repressive regimes. For those of us who live in the relative comfort and safety of the countries of bourgeois democracy--one of the great values of forums such as this one--is that it helps us to understand that we are working in relatively comfortable and advantageous conditions (where, for example, it is easy and safe to send email and to communicate with other revolutionaries) and that our struggle is linked to that of courageous men and women who are fighting the world over--sometimes for the most simple of democratic rights: the right to speak and organize free of the censorship of death squads--and often for the same basic goal as on the the agenda in the more advanced countries: the liberation of the working class and all humanity from bourgeois rule and from the yoke of capitalism.
A salute to courage
So the first order of business is a salute to all the men and women everywhere who are fighting with courage, in the most difficult conditions, for the most basic democratic rights and also for societies free of exploitation. Their struggle is our struggle--and our duty is to assist them and to bring news of their struggle to the masses in the countries of bourgeois democracy--as part of our work to raise the consciousness of the masses and prepare them for struggle here. We look to the struggles around the world not only as a source of inspiration--but as a source of consciousness and guidance for our own struggles. And, especially as the coming revolution in communications unfolds, we must be on the active look-out for forms and methods of combining our struggles.
There is one more thing that is important to mention concerning the struggles of our comrades who daily risk their lives to defend the interests of the oppressed. There is something very important we can learn from men and women who have the courage to face bullets in their daily battles: the value of courage and integrity on a personal level. I have written previously on the need for all who wish to rebuild a communist movement worthy of the name--to fight tenaciously both reformism and sectarianism. But reformism and sectarianism are political qualities and I want to make brief mention of a personal quality. What I want to say is that the struggle for integrity, on a personal level, requires courage also. I can't, of course, say that such a struggle requires as much courage as facing bullets. But the struggle for personal integrity does all the same frequently require considerable courage. And my hope and belief is that the struggle of our comrades who daily risk their lives in the fight against death squads and machine guns--can in some way help revolutionary activists engaged in a safer form of struggle to find their courage also.
Why is this important ? This is important because the dynamics of the ideological and political struggle within the revolutionary movement--create immense pressure to capitulate to self-deception and engage in forms of charlatanism. Even the best and most committed of revolutionary activists, with the most sterling character, are not immune from this pressure. That was Lenin's view. Even the best may betray their principles, betray the proletariat and descend into charlatanism if, in the face of criticism, they refuse to honestly wrestle with their own mistakes. We must struggle to save such people. "Cure the disease to save the patient" was how Mao expressed it. And whatever Mao's shortcomings (and he had quite a few) I think we have to understand that he was right on this one. It is true, of course, that some patients cannot be saved. But we have to work to the limits of our abilities--and the communications revolution will give us, as we shall see, powerful new tools, that have never before existed, to confront denial in an organized way and on a mass scale.
The importance of integrity comes down to this: our weight in the world is proportional to our ability to face up to and resolve our internal contradictions. If, as revolutionary activists, we can soberly examine our internal contradictions (ie: the struggle of opposing principles that guide our own thinking) and work to resolve them--we will be able to build an organization that will enable us to lift on our shoulders the weight of the contradictions of the entire world.
I suppose I am in no position to lecture anyone about courage. I have led a very soft and comfortable life. I have never known real hardship or difficulty. I do not know if I have ever shown courage. But I have seen good men, men who faced bullets without flinching, broken by their inability to face their own mistakes.
A bit about myself
The second order of business is probably to give a little background. My name is Ben Seattle. I was a supporter of the Marxist-Leninst Party (MLP, USA) -- an organization which had a few dozen members at the time it dissolved itself four years ago this month. The MLP dissolved itself because it lacked the courage to face up to its internal contradictions. We did, in many ways, do some very good work, both practical and theoretical, in the service of our class--but in the end our organization abandoned its existence and its mission to provide clarity and consciousness--precisely at the moment when the communications revolution was poised to demonstrate something of its potential. November 1993, when our party dissolved itself, was, I believe, the same month that a computer program called Mosaic was ported over to the Windows platform. Mosaic is better known today as the ancestor of the Netscape web browser.
The coming revolution in communications
And that brings us to my third point: the communications revolution--which is still in its infancy. It has been said that if the history of the internet was compressed into a year--that we are now entering the second hour. In terms of the working and oppressed worldwide--internet connectivity is still a long ways off. While the web is very rapidly proving itself indispensible in the business world for white collar workers--home use is still largely limited to either the well-off or the more educated. Penetration rates in the United States are most likely (numbers can be interpreted in different ways) only about 15%. It will likely be another decade, and maybe longer, before the vast majority of the workers and poor in the United States have internet and web connectivity, most likely in the form of a device like WebTV--that will not be perceived as a computer and that will plug into the TV and telephone. Workers in most of western Europe and Japan will probably be on the net in roughly the same time frame, or possibly a few years later, as workers in the US. Workers in other parts of the world will take much longer to come on-line. The vast majority of the population in Asia (roughly half the population of the planet) has never even used a telephone.
Among those who consider themselves Marxists, there is considerable disagreement over how rapidly (or if at all) capitalism will bring about development in Asia. I would argue that capitalism does not bring an end to misery--but that it will bring development to those portions of the world in which in which the masses are cut off from access to a modern telecommunications infrastructure. It may take a long time, maybe as long as 50 years, but the masses in countries such as India and China will have access to telephones--not only because the standard of living in these countries will rise--but, more importantly, because the costs of the essential infrastructure, relative to everything else, will plummet. Phone lines are expensive to install but they are also not the only way to build an infrastructure. Cheap cellular repeating stations and devices that send and receive from networks of low earth orbit satellites may greatly speed up the access of the rural poor to phone service. And with phone service will come access to the internet, the web and the rest of the world--because the digital communications infrastructure that will make one possible is the identical infrastructure that will make possible the other. All of the devices that will be used in the digital communications infrastructure are based on essentially the same technology: computer microprocessors. Chips. And the cost of computer chips with a given amount of power (ie: transistors--that do the work) is falling very rapidly due to the action of Moore's Law. Moore's Law holds that the ratio of price to power in a computer chip will fall in half every 18 months to two years. And Moore's Law is expected to hold good for at least another decade and maybe a good time after that.
What this means, in practical terms, is that the technology for communication to the rest of the world will probably be available in some form that will be similar to the size, weight, complexity and cost of a $2.00 wristwatch--and will be available to essentially the entire population of the earth within the lifetimes of many people living today. In the next 50 years, the populations of not only the advanced nations like the US, Western Europe and Japan will come online--but so will the masses of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
And this has fairly formidable political implications--which the bourgeoisies of the world are tripping over themselves  trying to grapple with--and which the proletariat (and in particular those sections of the proletariat which consider themselves the advanced contingents) need to think about very seriously.
And this brings me to my fourth point: our tasks today.
I have been studying the revolution in communications for some time. I have concluded that it will deeply affect not only every sphere of human affairs but (more to the point) communist theory and communist practice. The influence of the communications revolution upon communist theory and practice is relatively small now. But it will grow. And it is the influence of the communications revolution upon communist work that is the focus of my interest and that I would like to discuss.
The end of communist confusion
There are at this time a great number of people thruout the world who consider themselves to be communists. There is a much larger number of people who consider themselves to be progressive. All of these people work, in their own fashion, doing what they believe, in one way or another, will mobilize even larger numbers of people to advance human progress. But it cannot be said that all these people (even if we restrict this argument to those who consider themselves to be communist) are working together very effectively. For example, in various parts of the world, on different continents, there are various incidents in which activists who consider themselves to be communists have assasinated other activists who also considered themselves to be communists. This, of course, is not a significant phenomenon in the sense that it happens very often. But it does illustrate the extreme confusion which is very widespread over what constitutes "communist work".
Much more significant is the fact that a "communist" government, like the one ruling in China today, can massacre hundreds of students (who were protesting high inflation and government corruption) at Tiananmen in 1989--and that many participants of these lists (who consider themselves to be communists and whom are sincerely attempting to build a movement capable of confronting and overthrowing bourgeois rule) will defend such barbarity as somehow necessary (after a successful popular revolution has had 40 years to consolidate itself) for the defence of "socialism".
What do I conclude from this ? More than 70 years after Lenin's death the "communist" movement is still in a period of immense confusion and under the domination of ideas and political forces hostile to genuine communism. But I believe that this period of confusion will be coming to an end in the next decade or so. Two factors will bring this about.
The first factor is the collapse of the revisionist regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. This collapse seems to have brought about a tremendous increase in hardship for many tens of millions of people. The average life expectancy in the Soviet Union, I have heard, has decreased by several years! This is a calamitous event and usually only happens in the event of a major war. But whatever the immense hardships associated with the collapse of these regimes into more ordinary-style free-market capitalism--there is one important benefit of this collapse for the communist movement: the utter bankruptcy of these regimes and their self-serving interpretations of communist theory--is becoming increasingly evident to everyone who is not blind.
The elimination of distance
The second factor that will end the period of confusion that has existed for more than 70 years--is the communications revolution itself. The communications revolution can be conceived of as something that will both eliminate distance and bring about transparency--that will catalyse the creation of immense amounts of both heat and light.
The elimination of distance represented by the coming revolution in communications can be conceived as having two principal features that will transform the nature of communist work.
1. The cauldron
First, the distances between the various organizations that claim to be (or consider themselves to be) communist--will tend to collapse--much as (with apologies to those who dislike analogies) matter within a black hole is drawn, without possibility of escape, into a single point. Cyberspace is both infinitely large and infinitely small. It is large in the sense that there is room without limit for all viewpoints and shades of opinion. It is small in the sense that information, traveling at essentially the speed of light, quickly travels from everyplace to everyplace else. And nothing will travel faster than one's reputation. Political trends which falsely claim to represent the interests of the masses--and which try to hide their internal hypocrisy--may not like the tune--but they will eventually have to face the music.
Analogies aside: Different trends which consider themselves to be communists will increasingly find that the maintenance of their credibility amongst their own supporters (and future, potential supporters) will require that they engage in both principled competition and principled cooperation with other trends. Principled cooperation does not require political trends to make compromises concerning theory--nor about such fundamental questions as public assessments of who is and who is not (and why) genuine communists and/or who is serving (or betraying) the interests of the working class.
Delicate glass flowers
Principled cooperation involves a series of common-sense measures that will assist the development of struggle and the clarification of important issues of theory. One such measure is a minimal participation in forums similar (in many ways) to this one--such that questions can be asked of any trend claiming to stand for the creation of a genuine communist movement--and such that such questions (and follow-up questions) will be answered--or a reason given for why they are not. Even such a minimal measure as this--would throw many trends into crisis. Many trends will act like they are tough--but in the face of public interaction will prove themselves to be as brittle and as fragile as delicate glass flowers.
Real communists welcome the opportunity to respond to public questions--because they want their views to be known and understood. Of course one issue that comes up here--are the objective limits to the time that organizations can devote to answering questions. Practical means of rationing time--such that questions can be answered without excessive expenditures of time--will be developed.
As the interplay of progressive political currents and trends becomes more accessible to the masses--the masses will have a role to play to refereeing, supervising or assisting the principled cooperation between various trends.
Many trends will not be at all comfortable in this new situation. They will be dragged into this cauldron kicking and screaming. But it doesn't matter how hard they kick and scream. Into the pot all must go. And the fire (generated, in the last analysis, from the struggle of the masses) that heats up this stew--will break down and decompose everything that deserves to distintegrate. So much the worse for reformists. So much the worse for sectarians. So much the worse for charlatans. So much the better for the rebirth, more than 7 decades after Lenin's death, of a communist movement capable of leading the masses in the overthrow of bourgeois rule !
A second trend will be taking place also. This will be slower than the first trend but it will be more profound in its import and will be the motive force moving everything else forward. The communications revolution will inevitably collapse the distance between communist organizations and the masses themselves. As the overwhelming majority of the workers and poor in the advanced nations find that web access and email come in the same package as the TV and telephone--they will find that the "communist channel" is never more than a click away.
In a single sentence
Our fundamental task can be expressed in a single sentence: we must learn how to use the coming revolution in communications as a weapon to raise the consciousness of the masses and mobilize them for the overthrow of bourgeois rule. This is what the bourgeosie is afraid of. And this is what is going to happen.
I don't, of course, mean to imply by this that all communist activity will be taking place in cyberspace. Earlier generations of communists skillfully combined the new technology (at the time) of the steam-driven printing press (making possible leaflets and newspapers that the masses could afford) with more traditional forms of verbal agitation and street actions. Similarly, communists today and tomorrow will skillfully combine cyberspace and traditional forms of work into a unified whole.
Rather, we can conceive, broadly, of communist use of the communications revolution as having two principal aspects--corresponding (in inverse order) to the two aspects (described above) concerning the collapse of distance. I am describing each of these aspects as a separate task below--although reflection will reveal that there can never be any clear boundary between them. Both of these tasks involve the concept of "information war" as the proletariat will wage it in the period ahead.
The bourgeoisie defines the concept of "information war" as being primarily focused on the sabotage of computer systems and so forth. To the bourgeoisie, the use of digital communications to systematically tell the truth and expose lies--is merely a side branch of information war labeled "psychological warfare". For example, when we carry out work to prove to the masses with facts that such and such bourgeois politician or news source--is lying thru their teeth--this is considered to be "psychological" in its nature. The proletariat has another definition of "information war". To us, information war represents the war for ideas as it is waged when all digital communication systems are working.
We need to be thinking, to the limits of our abilities, about information war. I want to make this as clear as if I were ringing a bell.
* * * *
Here then (in relation to the coming revolution in communications) are our principle tasks:
-- 1 --
A web-based news service without copyright
which will be open to all trends and which
will use collaborative filtering that will
allow the masses to decide what is spam
The collapse of distance to the masses will be best facilitated by a public domain news service based on the web. Such a news service would receive articles, commentaries and (most importantly) original and intelligent summaries (with political analysis) of key or important articles in mainstream newspapers, magazines and books.
Owned and controlled by no one
Such a news service could be owned by no trend (since nothing on it would be copyrighted--any trend would be free to copy or use the information as it sees fit--subject only to pressure from the masses to enforce such items of revolutionary courtesy as correct attribution). All progressive political trends would find themselves compelled to contribute to such a news service in order to maintain their prestige with the masses--who would correctly see such a news service as an appropriate forum, stage and venue for principled cooperation among trends competing with one another to win mass support for their views.
Who decides what is spam ?
Readers of such a news service would decide for themselves, using a variety of filters (and the technology of collaborative filtering ), what trends are clueless and what trends are clueful. Workers engaged in or thinking about strikes could find articles and analysis of all shades, some of which would praise the trade union misleaders and others which would give detailed evidence proving how the workers were sold-out.
Public comments on all articles by readers
Such a news service would also allow all readers to make their own comments in the "electronic margins" of all material. Such comments in the margins would also (of necessity) be subject to various kinds of filtering by readers and by collaborative methods which would flag and zap know-it-alls, bozo's and exposed charlatans.
Such an ability by readers to add their own comments and read the comments made by others--would greatly facilitate discussion, the sharing of experience and the gradual breakdown of the barriers between "active" writers and "passive" readers.
Breaking the monopoly of political thought
Such a news environment would, in the most systematic possible way, bring both news of the world and the entire communist world-view to the masses--in a way that would (in the most rapid way possible) break the near-monopoly on political thought exercized by the bourgeoisie.
Such a news service would, of course, initially contain a great predominance of analysis that reflected the reformist world-view (ie: of striving, above all, to preserve bourgeois rule and "make capitalism better" without stirring up the masses or threatening fundamental bourgeois interests). But since it would be the masses themselves who selected which articles to look at and which trends to follow--such a news service would allow the maximum possible freedom for the contention of ideas favorable to proletarian class interests. In such an environment, the most fundamental principle of the communist world-view -- that the fundamental solution of all of the problems in the modern world--requires the overthrow of bourgeois rule and the replacement of the capitalist system with a system of working class rule--would prove to be unstoppable.
Would not be magic
The speed at which this most fundamental principle would take root in the consciousness of the masses--would (of course) depend on the nature and intensity of the class struggle going on in society at the time--and the skill with which communist organizations give valuable guidance to popular and working-class struggles. People learn, above all, from their own experience. No system of news and information--can amount to magic--and do away with the need for a series of struggles over all issues that are important. Only in this way can the masses learn their true from their false friends. But such a news service can help to most rapidly allow the masses to learn from their own experience and most rapidly sum things up and draw conclusions.
Low-bandwidth sector is strategic
Such a news service would be focused, for a considerable period of time, on the low-bandwidth portion of the internet/web. (By "low-bandwidth"--I mean primarily text--as opposed to pictures, sound, video, etc.) The low-bandwidth portion would be the strategic sector because it would only be possible to operate such a news service for minimal money in the low bandwidth area. We cannot compete with bourgeois news sources in the higher bandwidth areas--because these areas are more dependent on money, resources and large numbers of full-time personnel. By running everything in the low-bandwidth section--we allow any trend to cheaply copy all information in our databases and engage in competition (friendly or otherwise) with the original. This also serves to help distribute the ever-growing database of news so as to make it more difficult (technically and politically) for bourgeois security services to attempt to block the information on our servers from reaching the masses.
Once such a news service establishes its existence in the low-bandwidth sector (and develops its reputation as a source of reliable news and analysis that serves the proletariat--much as the Wall Street Journal serves the bourgeoisie) this will also help to lay the groundwork for other, future, projects--which will ride the curve of the decreasing cost of bandwidth over time (ie: eventually--even the bandwidth sufficient for audio and video will be cheap enough that it will be practical to pump out vast amounts of it for very close to zero money).
What is the first step
in creating such a news service ?
I believe that such a news service will inevitably come into existence. This is because, in the wake of the coming revolution in communications, one of the weakest links in the system of bourgeois domination of society--will be the inability of the bourgeoisie to maintain their near-monopoly on the control of news to the masses.
Unfortunately, my own technical abilities are sharply limited. But the technology to do such things is getting cheaper and easier to understand with every month. I intend to take up tasks, to the extent of my abilities, related to the creation of such a news service--and believe that such work of mine would be more important than anything I write on questions of communist theory.
The first step in creating such a news service is to start to talk about it. Discussion will create ideas and help to create the kind of momentum that will attract progressive technical people who would like to help.
If we do not take steps to create such a news service today--then it will be created tomorrow--by others who have a more clear picture of what tasks are truely decisive and a greater sense of loyalty and devotion to the proletariat.
-- 2 --
A sharp focus on workers' rule
as it will exist in the modern world
will be the cutting edge against
reformism, sectarianism and charlatanism
The fundamental ideological focus for communist work in the countries of bourgeois democracy will increasingly be recognized to be the system of workers' rule in the modern world. It is the sharp and unrelenting focus on the system of workers rule--the dictatorship of the proletariat--as a system capable of suppressing the bourgeoisie without simultaneously suppressing the working class (and thus paving the way for another disaster)--that will allow the influence of reformism to be effectively fought in the workers movement and in the "communist" movement.
Unfortunately, most political trends which consider themselves to be communist will not touch this subject with a ten-foot pole.
No question is more important (and no question has been more completely fucked-up by the bankruptcy of communist theory over the last 70 years) than the question of what the dictatorship of the proletariat will look like in the modern world.
Will the "D of P" censor the internet ?
In one of my works, The Digital Fire (written a year ago and available at my website), I state that in a stable, modern society--the system of workers' rule will NOT censor the internet with respect to the expression of political views by individuals. Individuals, even those with reactionary views, will be able to post their views to the net and read the views of others. Of course it would be a different matter in regard to the promotion of material on the net that is backed by bourgeois money and resources. The ability of bourgeois money and resources to buy and assemble armies of slick flacks and skilled technical people to advertize greasy food and greasier politics would be most sharply and resolutely restricted. Such measures alone would change the nature of the playing field such that views corresponding to the material interests of the proletariat would be able to defeat bourgeois and/or reactionary views in all decisive forums.
Now my formulations are not necessarily the last word on this topic and are subject to criticism and improvement. And I welcome comments from readers (who I also invite to read The Digital Fire). But the point is that I am unaware of any political trend that has dealt with this subject at all. Will the dictatorship of the proletariat censor the internet? It is a question that cannot be avoided--but avoided it has been to date.
Reformism (naturally) avoids this question because it dare not speak of any systematic measures the victorious proletariat would use to keep the former bourgeoisie from asserting its sacred "right" to dominate society. Reformism as a trend avoids all talk of the dictatorship of the proletariat--because it does not want to give the workers hope that life without bourgeois rule can be imagined (much less fought for). Reformism is intelligent enough not to bite the hand that feeds it.
Sectarian trends tend to avoid this question also--in many cases because the mythology that glues them together generally involves a conception of working class rule that involves a complete and permanent monopoly of power by a single party--such as would be inconsistent with the unrestricted use of the internet by individuals not backed by bourgeois resources.
Charlatans avoid this question also. Charlatans very rarely achieve fame by making progress on the key questions necessary for the development of communist theory.
Why is this question so darn important ?
This question is important because a correct answer to it is inseparable from the repudiation of the "single point of control" theory. The "single point of control theory" is the theory that--under working class rule--all major political, economic and cultural decisions must be channeled thru (or approved) by a single authority (elected or otherwise) which is vested with veto power and which has dominion over lower authorities arranged in a hierarchical structure. This is more or less equivalent to saying that a single party calls the shots--and decides what ideas are healthy or unhealthy and should be allowed to circulate.
The "single point of control theory" concentrates all three elements of the "platform" which has served to drag communist theory thru the mud and bring joy to the bourgeoisie and their reformist lackies.
What is the real content of this bullshit platform
for what communism will bring to humanity ?
- A society which will produce less material
and cultural wealth than capitalism
- A society in which all political life is
- A system of rule under which all questions will
be answered when hell freezes over
I have formulated this platform with assistance from Joseph Green (my collaborator, in a manner of speaking, on The Self-Organizing Moneyless Economy). What is important is to understand is that this platform has been the real content of much of what has passed for communist theory in the past 70 years. And we must deal with this platform if we are to end the reign of confusion, reformism, sectarianism and charlatanism that has dominated the communist movement since the death of Lenin.
1917 was the beta version
Many of the measures taken by Lenin in the October Revolution are not features of workers' rule as it will exist in a stable and modern society. Nor did Lenin ever make such a claim.
On the contrary, such features of Bolshevik policy as one-party rule and the suppression of all opposing political trends--were nothing more than a series of emergency measures forced on the Bolsheviks by extreme circumstances and aimed at maintaining political stability and economic recovery in a highly unusual and unstable situation extremely unfavorable to the possibilities of workers' rule.
The features of the dictatorship of the proletariat during the time of Lenin--will resemble the dictatorship of the proletariat as it will exist in a modern, stable society--about as much as the conditions of 1920 Russia resemble modern conditions in the countries of bourgeois democracy.
The October Revolution opened the floodgates of history to an astounding range of phenomena--both positive and negative. The revolution could not be crushed--but it was suffocated. Great October greatly invigorated the workers' movement in all countries and inspired and helped unleash a wave of popular and powerful national liberation struggles against feudal, colonial and imperialist domination. But the October Revolution, as great and as powerful as it was, was only the "beta version". 70 years of historical experience--and the revolution in communications which is being brought to us courtesy of capitalist development--is allowing the working class to systematically sum things up--and correct the bugs of a program which, of necessity, was written for very disadvantageous hardware by a programmer who died before he had time to complete his work. The best is certainly yet to come.
For the proletariat,
Ben Seattle ----//-//
4 Nov 97
(Slightly edited for web publication -- November 7)
A brief report on my work
Interested readers are welcome to come to my website at:www.Leninism.org
(Important note: the "L" must be capitalized)
My current work is "How to Build the party of the Future" in which I am "very close" to posting the first of the chapters dealing with the experience of the dictatorship of the proletariat under Lenin. The first three chapters of this series (and the discussion at M-I) is posted at:
and other chapters (and discussion) will be posted as time permits (hopefully soon).
In addition, the "Self-Organizing Moneyless Economy" (aka "The S.O.M.E. Hypothesis") is posted at:
I invite everyone to look over this material. I believe that many may find it useful.
I strongly believe in being interactive and responding to public questions and criticisms--but at the same time must recognize the objective limits of my time and abilities. Experience has shown that it sometimes takes me months to reply to important questions I am asked. I therefore propose, as a bit of an experiment, the following:
Anyone who has a public question or requests a public comment from me: put your question or comment (in 200 words or less) surrounded by the following pair of "tags" (in pseudo-html) as shown here:<BenRR> blah, blah, blah (up to 200 words) </BenRR>
This pair of "tags" stands for "Ben, Response Requested" and I will be able to find this tag using the search function on my email program. I will make a strong effort to give a public reply (of not more than 200 words)--to all such comments/questions within ten days. I will also, of course, attempt to formulate replies at greater length--but these may take considerably longer than 10 days because I am somewhat overwhelmed with a fair number of tasks.
[Note for readers who are not subscribed to either M-I or LeninList: you can send "response requested" email to me at: "BenRR@communism.org". If you do not want your questions/comments made public--then send them to "BenPrivate@communism.org"]
(go back up)
[Note 1] The split in the bourgeoisie
over policy for the digital infrastructure
It seems unlikely that the bourgeoisie (both internationally and within each country) will be able to achieve unity (ie: anything more than a series of temporary and fragile agreements) in their policies toward the development of the communications infrastructure. This is because the infrastructure that will be increasingly necessary for economic growth and competition on the world market--is the same infrastructure that the working class will use to make itself conscious and do away with bourgeois rule.
Just one of many examples of this is the current split among the bourgeoisie in the U.S. over encryption policy--with one section accusing the other of endangering national security--and the other section accusing the first section of trying to sabotage the growth of the digital economy (see "The Netizen: I Encrypt, Therefore I Am" in Wired 5.11 [Nov 1997] with the sub-title "Clinton's radical move to mandate key escrow is not just invasion of privacy, it's state-sponsored terrorism that will fatally undermine the emerging Net economy").
Also, lest anyone think that it is only the wild-eyed techno-fetishists at Wired Magazine who see this split, here it is from the horse's mouth:Reuters -- November 6, 1997
Clinton administration digital policy czar Ira Magaziner said today:
"In every country there is a division between, on the one hand, the people at economy who see the interest of business in allowing encryption, and on the other hand, the law-enforcement people who want to remain capable of intercepting and reading messages."
The immediate issue at stake is whether workers will be able to engage in digital communications with one another without the security forces of the bourgeoisie being able to listen in. The supposed issue at stake is the prevention of kiddie porn, narcotics trafficking and "terrorism"--but what they are really afraid of--is workers using the digital infrastructure to raise the consciousness of the masses and mobilize them for the overthrow of bourgeois rule. And this is precisely what is going to happen.
Collaborative filtering is an emerging technology by which the decisions of many people concerning what articles are useful and interesting--is leveraged--such that readers can easily find material that has been rated as useful by other people who have tended to agree with them in the past.
An example might clarify how this could work: There are some people who actually liked and looked forward to the postings of Robert Malecki on M-I. If person A liked the stuff that Malecki wrote and rated it good--and person B also rated Malecki's rantings as useful--then other articles that person A rated favorably would be be given a favorable rating on the list of recommended articles that would be seen by person B. On the other hand, if I thought Malecki's ravings were crap--then I would see a list of articles that had been rated as useful by others who tended to agree with me.
The "ratings" would be calculated by simple and powerful mathematical algorithms. Such systems have been set up, for example, for people to rate music. People are then given lists of other music recommended by those who liked some of the same recordings. The general response that people have to such systems--is that they are suprised by how well it works.
Readers would naturally play with and experiment with a variety of filters and settings depending on their changing taste and mood--at any given moment. If you are quite busy you might set the spam filter at a higher level than when you had a little more time to check out things that you might ordinarily miss.
I don't know if this short explanation conveys a very clear idea of how this might work. Some may better understand how this type of thing would work when they see it in action. For now I will simply say that collaborative filtering does work and is both very flexible and very powerful. ----//-//
Comments, Criticism and Suggestions
The creation of a genuine communist movement concerns not only progressive people but the great majority of all humanity. I have outlined my views on what are the decisive tasks, in practice and in theory, for the next decade or so in the countries of bourgeois democracy. Readers who have comments, criticisms or suggestions are invited to participate in this public discussion. Send me e-mail at Ben@communism.org with subject: "1917 beta response" and the following:
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