Tag Archives | Marxism

Cybersyn, Salvador Allende’s Socialist Internet In 1970s Chile

Red_pepperRed Pepper on Cybersyn, an ingenious proto-internet largely unknown outside of a cult following:

The pioneering cybernetic planning work of the Chilean leader, his ministers and a British left-wing operations research scientist and management consultant named Stafford Beer was an ambitious, economy-wide experiment that has since been described as the ‘socialist internet’, an effort decades ahead of its time.

In 1970, Beer was hired to advise the government, and the scheme he plunged himself into was called Project Cybersyn, a ‘nervous system’ for the economy in which workers, community members and the government were to be connected together transmitting the resources they had on offer, their desires and needs via an interactive national communications network.

Although never completed, by the time General Augusto Pinochet overthrew the young administration in a US-backed coup, the advanced prototype of the system, which had been built in four months, involved a series of 500 telex machines distributed to firms connected to two government-operated mainframe computers and stretched the length of the narrow country and covered roughly between a quarter and half of the nationalised economy.

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Flying Saucers And The Working-Class Struggle

flying saucers and the working-class struggleWondering where socialist revolutionaries stand on the question of alien life? Via Marxists.org, a translation from a pamphlet distributed in 1968 Paris penned by J. Posadas (whose ideology was dubbed Posadism):

Capitalism has no interest in UFOs and, as such, makes no research into them. It has no interest in occupying itself with these matters because they cannot reap profits, nor are they useful to capitalism. But people see in UFOs the possibility of advancement and progress. This thus accelerates the fall of the bourgeoisie, shown in all its uselessness.

All the people who say that they have seen extra-terrestrials, UFOs, coincide in the fact that these beings have not frightened them, and that they have made themselves understood, without using an audible language, showing them that they mean no harm. They do not provoke a feeling of alarm, but of serenity. They create sensations of mellowness, suppleness, harmony, reassurance.

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Remember There’s No Such Thing As A Natural Disaster

Scottish radical geographer, professor, and author Neil Smith died at age 58 this past weekend. It’s worth revisiting his groundbreaking, established-wisdom-challenging work, including his well-known declaration post-Hurricane Katrina that there’s no such thing as a natural disaster:

It is generally accepted among environmental geographers that there is no such thing as a natural disaster. In every phase and aspect of a disaster – causes, vulnerability, preparedness, results and response, and reconstruction – the contours of disaster and the difference between who lives and who dies is to a greater or lesser extent a social calculus. Hurricane Katrina provides the most startling confirmation of that axiom.

The Bush administration…is happy to attribute the dismal record of death and destruction on the Gulf Coast – perhaps 1200 lives by the latest counts – to an act of nature. It has proven itself not just oblivious but ideologically opposed to mounting scientific evidence of global warming and the fact that rising sea-levels make cities such as New Orleans, Venice, or Dacca immediately vulnerable to future calamity.

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Brad DeLong v. Ludwig Von Mises: Ron Paul Better Watch Out!

Picture: Von Mises Institute (CC)

Brad DeLong has taken some time out of his busy day to try to explain to the rest of us why Ludwig von Mises, patron saint of goldbugs and PaulBots, got monetary policy so very very wrong:

The problem, I think Ludwig von Mises would say, is that the wealth of society is the amount of work has gone into creating the commodities in the economy: the food, the clothing, the houses, the little gold disks. The sum of past work crystalized in commodities is society’s wealth. The food is wealth, the housing is wealth, the clothing is wealth, and the little gold disks are wealth. Then add unbacked fiat money and bank credit–either public or private, it doesn’t matter–to the mix. The fiat money and the bank credit are counted as wealth, as if they were claims to little gold disks that took sweat and tears to create, but they are not wealth at all.

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What’s Black and White and Red All Over?

Pic: US Dept. of Labor (PD)

Turns out that on September 4, 2012 at least, the answer was the New York Times, which today published a startling demonstration by Robert Reich of the core Marxist principle of surplus value at work in the US economy:

Starting in the late 1970s, the middle class began to weaken. Although productivity continued to grow and the economy continued to expand, wages began flattening in the 1970s because new technologies — container ships, satellite communications, eventually computers and the Internet — started to undermine any American job that could be automated or done more cheaply abroad. The same technologies bestowed ever larger rewards on people who could use them to innovate and solve problems. Some were product entrepreneurs; a growing number were financial entrepreneurs. The pay of graduates of prestigious colleges and M.B.A. programs — the “talent” who reached the pinnacles of power in executive suites and on Wall Street — soared.

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New Studies Identify Sub-species of the Bourgeoisie

Picture: David Shankbone (CC)

Anti-capitalist agitprop has always lagged behind in producing the raw empirical support for the range of macro-economic theories deployed to oppose mainstream capitalist economics. As such, it often exhibits some of the same weaknesses inherent in freshwater capitalist macroeconomics. This may be because of the idealism and preferred style of argument inherited by the 19th Century First International cohort from their cultural surroundings. However, this traditional weakness is starting to be broken down. Some of the empirical work on the sociology of class, capital and power is now starting to emerge in popular form from the niche, highly specialized academic and policy journals that previously were the only places this sort of data was ever published.

As an example, one new research program has set out to assign names and faces to the abstract notion of the transnational capitalist class. Project Censored reports:

[W]e ask: Who are the the world’s 1 percent power elite?

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Is Democracy An Illusion?

Karl MarxJohn Stoehr writes on Al Jazeera:

In the US, the dominant political discourse consists of ideas put forth by the ruling class.

Karl Marx never visited the United States, but he nevertheless understood the country, because he understood capitalism. As you know, there’s no American ideology that’s mightier than capitalism. Equality, justice and the rule of law are nice and all, but money talks.

In their 1846 book The German Ideology, Marx and co-author Frederick Engels took a look at human history and made a plain but controversial observation. In any given historical period, the ideas that people generally think are the best and most important ideas are usually the ideas of the people in charge. If you have a lot of money and own a lot of property, then you have the power to propagandise your worldview and you have incentive to avoid appearing as if you’re propagandising your worldview.

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Marxism vs. Conspiracy Theory

illuminatiNick P. at Black Sun Gazette:

I am fully aware that much of what I write here can easily be categorized as “conspiracy theory.” However, I would like to take some time to differentiate what it is I do here from what you might read on a more obviously “conspiracy” oriented website.

For the record, and for anyone who is confused, I do not consider myself a “conspiracy theorist,” nor do I think that Marxism is some kind of “conspiracy theory of the left.”

Rather, I consider Marxism to be to the social sciences what Darwinism is to the evolutionary biology. Specifically, I consider it a scientific method of analyzing history and current events, particularly in its historical materialist form. Conspiracy theory, conversely, is an anti-scientific mish-mash that seems to have more to do with the neuroses of a defeated middle class than a working class on the move against the bosses.… Read the rest

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