A Marxist’s Defense of Privacy in The Age of Mass Surveillance

Over 200 hundred years ago today, a famous bourgeois revolutionary named John Adams wrote the following in a letter to Thomas Jefferson:

“When people talk of the Freedom of Writing, Speaking, or thinking, I cannot choose but laugh. No such thing ever existed. No such thing now exists; but I hope it will exist. But it must be hundreds of years after you and I shall write and speak no more.”(15 July 1817)

John Adams couldn’t have been more correct. As a bourgeois revolutionary who fought in the American revolution, John Adams and his contemporaries understood the revolutionary potential of capitalism. They understood that it had, was, and was going to transform human society irrevocably. For them, they hoped this progress would work towards the betterment of mankind. As such, the bourgeois-democratic republic they established was one in which individual liberty was to be protected by a rigid adherence to formal guarantees of liberty, to a jury by ones peers whose decisions were bound to interpretations of these texts, and to a free press which was to challenge a state power already limited by the separation of powers. These bourgeois republicans had found within their system something fundamental to any so-called free society. Most of the rights they proclaimed therein “for all” were not actualized for the majority until the civil rights movement, and the countless working class struggles from below. Every nation thus far which has attempted to ‘skip over’ a bourgeois stage of development and go directly into socialism has failed miserably not only because of economic backwardness and isolation, but because of the lack of liberty that came as a result of this backwardness, and the suffocating effect it has on any attempt of socialism or the rule of the masses. Trotsky once said “socialism needs democracy like the human body needs oxygen”. We can only affirm how right he was.

As Rosa Luxemburg has said, “Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party – however numerous they may be – is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of ‘justice’ but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when ‘freedom’ becomes a special privilege.”

Naturally, “On the other hand, it is a well-known and indisputable fact that without a free and untrammeled press, without the unlimited right of association and assemblage, the rule of the broad masses of the people is entirely unthinkable.”

(The Russian Revolution, Chapters 5 and 6).

Why did John Adams say to Jefferson he could “only laugh” at the assertion of any real freedom of speech, writing, or thought? Yes, we can say Adams recognized the limitations of formal bourgeois declarations of liberty and equality, especially in the 19th century. But more than that, Adams also realized the revolutionary potential of capitalism and the technological innovations it would inevitably bring, innovations that would revolutionize human communication forever. I do not think in this Adams predicted the coming invention of the internet per se, but I do think he believed a new form of anonymous communication was bound to come about. But as he said in his letter, it could come about only hundreds of years after he and Jefferson spoke no more.

As I have stated previously in my article ‘The Marxist Defense of Human Rights’, and ‘The Dictatorship of The Proletariat and America Today’, I believe the ethics of the bourgeoisie no longer are in line with liberty or equality, but are opposed to them. I believe that when the bourgeoisie in 1776 took control of society in the name of society, that its interests were those of the people at large. Hence the great slogan of sovereignty: “We the People”. But today, the bourgeoisie has outlived its usefulness and its right to rule. It has endangered the future of humanity by its reckless and nihilistic plundering of the earth, it’s destruction of the prerequisites of human prosperity for the generations to come, and its refusal to address the fundamental social ills that still plague humanity of which, it alone is responsible for. I believe that only the revolutionary proletariat has the potential and self-interest to preserve human freedom, strengthen it, and bring about real equality for all in actuality and not merely on paper.

When Adams and Jefferson spoke of liberty, their interests were those of the people at large. The interests of the bourgeoisie were, for a very long time, the actual interests of the people. It is in this that the bourgeois founders of the American republic said fearlessly to the tyrant king “We the People”. Today when Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton speaks of “freedom” it is an empty catch-phrase to gain the popular support of the bourgeoisie, petty-bourgeoisie, and the upper strata of the proletariat. It means nothing in actuality. At every possible instance the modern ruling class has acted against the interests of liberty by attacking its only real prerequisite in the modern age: privacy.

Teresa May of the United Kingdom, where GCHQ already siphons and stores not just the metadata, but the content of the digital communications of every citizen, has called for the total ban of encryption altogether! She later quietly changed her mind when told banking would be made impossible without encryption, but the fact remains. If the modern bourgeoisie could, it would place cameras in every home, it would collect and store every digital communication, it would ban encryption and any technology that gives the individual any power above that of the state. Not in the name of totalitarianism, not as some evil plan, but in the name of “national security” and “safety”. Far from being enthusiastic about the new recent actualization of fundamental liberties, the modern bourgeoisie is horrified by the technologies that have now been invented that make freedom of speech, thought, and writing a possibility. Sadly still, most people are apathetic to the abuses of mass surveillance, and to the possibilities these new technologies offer for liberty as such.

The Cypherpunks of the 1980’s and 1990’s rightfully predicted the importance freedom of privacy has to a “free” society. The Cypherpunk Manifesto by Eric Hughes is short. I have included it in its entirety here:

“Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age. Privacy is not secrecy. A private matter is something one doesn’t want the whole world to know, but a secret matter is something one doesn’t want anybody to know. Privacy is the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world.

If two parties have some sort of dealings, then each has a memory of their interaction. Each party can speak about their own memory of this; how could anyone prevent it? One could pass laws against it, but the freedom of speech, even more than privacy, is fundamental to an open society; we seek not to restrict any speech at all. If many parties speak together in the same forum, each can speak to all the others and aggregate together knowledge about individuals and other parties. The power of electronic communications has enabled such group speech, and it will not go away merely because we might want it to.

Since we desire privacy, we must ensure that each party to a transaction have knowledge only of that which is directly necessary for that transaction. Since any information can be spoken of, we must ensure that we reveal as little as possible. In most cases personal identity is not salient. When I purchase a magazine at a store and hand cash to the clerk, there is no need to know who I am. When I ask my electronic mail provider to send and receive messages, my provider need not know to whom I am speaking or what I am saying or what others are saying to me; my provider only need know how to get the message there and how much I owe them in fees. When my identity is revealed by the underlying mechanism of the transaction, I have no privacy. I cannot here selectively reveal myself; I must always reveal myself.

Therefore, privacy in an open society requires anonymous transaction systems. Until now, cash has been the primary such system. An anonymous transaction system is not a secret transaction system. An anonymous system empowers individuals to reveal their identity when desired and only when desired; this is the essence of privacy.

Privacy in an open society also requires cryptography. If I say something, I want it heard only by those for whom I intend it. If the content of my speech is available to the world, I have no privacy. To encrypt is to indicate the desire for privacy, and to encrypt with weak cryptography is to indicate not too much desire for privacy. Furthermore, to reveal one’s identity with assurance when the default is anonymity requires the cryptographic signature.

We cannot expect governments, corporations, or other large, faceless organizations to grant us privacy out of their beneficence. It is to their advantage to speak of us, and we should expect that they will speak. To try to prevent their speech is to fight against the realities of information. Information does not just want to be free, it longs to be free. Information expands to fill the available storage space. Information is Rumor’s younger, stronger cousin; Information is fleeter of foot, has more eyes, knows more, and understands less than Rumor.

We must defend our own privacy if we expect to have any. We must come together and create systems which allow anonymous transactions to take place. People have been defending their own privacy for centuries with whispers, darkness, envelopes, closed doors, secret handshakes, and couriers. The technologies of the past did not allow for strong privacy, but electronic technologies do.

We the Cypherpunks are dedicated to building anonymous systems. We are defending our privacy with cryptography, with anonymous mail forwarding systems, with digital signatures, and with electronic money.

Cypherpunks write code. We know that someone has to write software to defend privacy, and since we can’t get privacy unless we all do, we’re going to write it. We publish our code so that our fellow Cypherpunks may practice and play with it. Our code is free for all to use, worldwide. We don’t much care if you don’t approve of the software we write. We know that software can’t be destroyed and that a widely dispersed system can’t be shut down.

Cypherpunks deplore regulations on cryptography, for encryption is fundamentally a private act. The act of encryption, in fact, removes information from the public realm. Even laws against cryptography reach only so far as a nation’s border and the arm of its violence. Cryptography will ineluctably spread over the whole globe, and with it the anonymous transactions systems that it makes possible.

For privacy to be widespread it must be part of a social contract. People must come and together deploy these systems for the common good. Privacy only extends so far as the cooperation of one’s fellows in society. We the Cypherpunks seek your questions and your concerns and hope we may engage you so that we do not deceive ourselves. We will not, however, be moved out of our course because some may disagree with our goals.

The Cypherpunks are actively engaged in making the networks safer for privacy. Let us proceed together apace.

Onward.”

The technologies Hughes speaks of here, are the very same technologies spoken of by Adams to Jefferson. They are the very same technologies that the modern bourgeoisie opposes in every instance. The US funds the Tor project only because it serves its interests abroad by helping political dissidents in China, Russia, Turkey, and Iran speak out against an invasive government. But when the people use these tools against the invasions and abuses of our government, it tries to stop them. It detains Tor’s developers and spokespersons when they try to travel. It approaches developers of key technologies and services all over the board and subpoena’s them to place a backdoor in their software, and to hand over their records as a matter of “national security”. The NSA motto is the same as the Stasi’s: “Collect everything”, “Know everything”.

In addition to the class struggle on the streets, with its many signs of protest, another struggle is taking place all around us. The defenders of liberty in the modern age take to the keyboard and write software that realizes the freedoms Adams spoke of, they build software that makes freedom of speech, writing, and thought a reality. They give the individual with all their faults, supreme power over the state with cryptography: mathematical algorithms that not even the most determined state or three letter agency can solve. They continuously update and perfect software designed to anonymize and secure communications between individuals and organizations. They work to free information from the fetters of “intellectual copyrights” and to free individuals from data-capitalism and intrusive state surveillance at the same time. In small niche’s of digital communities, a heroic people of varying religious, political, social, national, and ethnic backgrounds are fighting with persistence and heroism for the preservation of liberty, and privacy. Their names are not known to us but in small corners of the internet. Many contribute without ever revealing their true identity. These are the real heroes of the modern age.

But those who do not regard these heroic acts and vital technologies with apathy, often view them with disdain. Like any freedom, there are those who abuse it. But a person who utilizes freedom of movement to strangle his neighbor does not merely use his freedom, he abuses it. In having the freedom to go where one wishes, there are inevitably casualties. But everytime someone strangles his neighbor, the enemies of liberty do not pop up to advocate the abolition of freedom of movement. In the digital world, by some strange alchemy, it is different. If someone uses Tor to create a marketplace where one can easily find unregistered firearms, we naturally condemn that person as far as morality is concerned. But the enemies of liberty go further. An abuse of the right to privacy in their mind necessitates the abolition of the right itself. Surely people wouldn’t sell guns over the internet if they had no right to privacy, but so too would a person never kidnap anyone if the police routinely barged into peoples homes without even the mere suspicion of a crime. Crime would be abolished overnight in a police state. But the question here is neither safety nor crime, it is one of liberty.

Those who do not regard these heroic technologies with apathy, all to often view them with the narrow lens of self-interest alone. A college student might use Tor to buy weed online instead of meeting a shady drug dealer. While I cannot condemn this act in particular as far as morality is concerned, one has to admit that the darknet is far too often used for criminal activities, many of which are far worse than buying the occasional gram.

Finally there are those who regard these heroic technologies as supremely benevolent. Those in authoritarian countries are extremely offended by the Western use of the term “Darknet”. For them it is the only place where they can speak freely, organize, and air grievances without fear of persecution. When one goes to ZeroTalk (a default site when one installs Zeronet), one will find a large amount of Chinese comments. What does one find when one translates these comments? They find that the Chinese people openly talk about the Tienanmen Square massacres without fear. People who were part of the protests speak out. They keenly re-post news articles from the West and discuss them with great interest. They talk about the tyranny the people suffer under the yoke of the Stalinist Communist Party. In other authoritarian countries, we find the same thing.

By design, these networks are resilient to censorship. Even when some form of speech is horrible or causes real world harm, information itself and the tools used to exchange it are morally neutral. The abundance of criminality on the darknet is a result only of the irrational comfort a people feel in a surveillance state that at any time could turn into a police state. They are convinced that such a thing “would never happen here”. But so said the people of Germany and countless other “free” nations before degenerating into totalitarianism. Free society is dying and we are fighting on the loosing side. But in this fight we will never surrender. And in the end when all is said and done, we just might win. The bourgeois politicians clamor on about “freedom” but at every instance they condemn the only prerequisite to civil liberty in the modern age: privacy. “National security” is not the same thing as public safety nor is the national interest the public interest. National security is and always will be, in a bourgeois republic, the security of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

When one buys a computer, they are by default forced into using proprietary software which limits the users freedom and invades their right to privacy. When you use a modern phone or computer, it is 99% of the time, defective by design. It comes with a proprietary operating system that spies on you. You use a search engine which sells your search history to advertisers and governments. As of 2017 your internet service provider in the United States can sell your internet history without your consent. When you connect to the internet without using a VPN or Tor, you are merely giving everything you do to an institution with almost unlimited power, that operates with virtually no oversight. When you do so, your information is being stored in massive state-owned data centers. Where in 5 or 10 years, the state can hypothetically blackmail or threaten you if and when you become “interesting”.

Those who do not oppose mass surveillance, consent to mass surveillance. Here there is no middle ground. For now real privacy is not a pipe-dream. It is realized by those who seek to find it. Right now, anyone in a western liberal democracy can use encryption tools, and with these tools you can circumvent mass surveillance and data-capitalism. You as an individual still have the freedom to say “I do not consent.”

By default, though, this freedom is illusory. By default you are forced to consent to mass surveillance, for wherever you, the average consumer turns, you will find only technologies, services, and computers that are privacy invasive. But those who seek out such tools will find them. And in finding them, the individual will find that in spite of the many complexities of the modern world, that they can exercise supreme power over the powers that be. They will find that far from being an inconvenience, they will be able to say and do whatever they like without fear of being watched and spied on.

Soon they will find the invasions of the modern world- mass surveillance and data capitalism, are intolerable. When they connect to the internet without using a VPN or Tor, they feel as a person changing feels in front of an open window at night. Suddenly the indifference and apathy they once felt, and were conditioned to feel by the modern world, peels away and they are at once horrified by those who still use privacy invasive technologies without thinking twice, and by those who oppose privacy respecting tools out of concerns for “national security”.

Many unintentionally quote Joseph Goebbels when they say, “If I have nothing to hide, I have nothing to fear”. Yet the same person closes their window blinds at night, and locks the door when they use the bathroom. The same person whispers when they speak of something private to a friend. Such a person may have “nothing to hide” but they certainly have nearly everything to protect.

Snowden hit the nail on the head when he said:

Technology can actually increase privacy. The question is: why are our private details that are transmitted online, why are private details that are stored on our personal devices, any different than the details and private records of our lives that are stored in our private journals? I think, you know, saying that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about freedom of speech because you have nothing to say. It’s a deeply anti-social principal because rights are not just individual – they’re collective. What may not have value to you today, may have value to an entire, you know, population, entire people, an entire way of life tomorrow. And if you don’t stand up for it, then who will?”

Such people expect people like us who use these tools to justify the use of our rights. But on the contrary, we do not have to defend our right to privacy. It is the government which has to defend any invasion of our right to privacy. And in the modern age of mass surveillance, where everyone is being spied on by default, it cannot do so. So I will not consent, nor will I ever consent. To defend privacy in the age of mass surveillance is to defend the very existence of liberty.

But more than that, I call on everyone reading this to refuse to consent also. Included on my blog (clearnet) is a mirror of PrivacyTools.io titled “Privacy Tools for Activists” which every person without exception should take advantage of. In my post “Why Every Activist Should Use a VPN/Tor” I elaborate further on this position. I Invite you, as an individual, to use a VPN, to install Tor, to install I2P, and to try out a Linux based operating system. I invite you to put tape over the cameras on your phone and computer. I invite you to use DuckDuckGo instead of Google. I invite you to encrypt every aspect of your digital life without exception and I invite everyone to do the same. In this fight for privacy only one side can win: the people who value their freedom, or the enemies of liberty. Edward Snowden made his choice. Now it is time to make yours.

The Dictatorship of The Proletariat and America Today

What do the Libertarian Marxists want?

The most pompous and misinformed servants of the existing order cry that because we are Marxists, even “Libertarian Marxists”, that we want to instill upon America the same despotism that reigned in East Germany, in Romania, in the Soviet Union, the same tyranny that reigns in China and North Korea today. “They want a dictatorship! They want to overthrow our democracy and create a dictatorship of the proletariat!” so our misinformed worker/ proletarian cries.

We certainly do want to bring about the dictatorship of the proletariat. But what even is “the proletariat”? The proletariat is really just another word for the working class. But in America the “working class” typically refers to the most impoverished subsection of the proletariat. A proletarian is anyone who lives off their own labor, is anyone who receives a wage or a salary. In popular terms, the “proletariat” refers to the 99%.

Our hypothetical critic (who no doubt exists) is horrified by the word “dictatorship”. But such a person has not the faintest knowledge of the class nature of our capitalist/ bourgeois society, or of the role social classes have played throughout human history generally.

The word “bourgeois” or “bourgeoisie” refers to the capitalist class, who does not derive its income from its own work, but rather lives off the labor of the proletariat, or the working class. The bourgeoisie is the ruling class in capitalist society, the class that owns the “means of production”, the factories, enterprises, and implements used by the workers to create all the wealth in our society. This is what is meant by the term “private property”.

Our most ancient knowledge of democracy in practice stems from where? The Greek city slave states. The first real exercise of democracy in practice, while an enormous step forward, was nonetheless an expression of a democracy and a dictatorship at the same time. No democracy in all of human history has ceased to be a class dictatorship in one form or another.

In Ancient Greece the only people allowed to vote and run for office, the only people with any real power or influence, were members of the ruling social class that owned the instruments of production– the slave-owners. Ancient Greek democracy, according to the Marxist interpretation of history, was a dictatorship of the slave-owning class by means of democracy. After those thousand or so years of feudalism, in which democracy was once again proclaimed by the nobility and feudal lords (the ruling class of feudalism) to be “against human nature” and something that “if tried always fails and reverts back to the God-ordained order of the monarchy”, democracy once again emerged supreme.

The early French and American revolutions only solidified the political and economic rule of the emerging bourgeoisie or capitalist class. The newly declared capitalist/ bourgeois republics did this by abolishing feudalism and toppling the monarchy, they then took control of society not in the name of its own class, but in the name of the whole of society. At once, it identified its own class interests with those of the people as a whole.

But history is not a straight line, progress is the trend, but not the rule. In France, for instance, the first French republic was overthrown and the monarchy was restored. The economic rule of the capitalist class, however, remained unchallenged. In America too the first real expression of bourgeois/ capitalist state power failed miserably and the Articles of Confederation were graduated into the dustbin of history. It was, nonetheless, a heroic attempt to establish a bourgeois republic.

The class dictatorship of the bourgeoisie historically becomes self-evident when looks at how the electoral process works. The bourgeois/ capitalist Founding Fathers of America, who were though well intentioned, the top 1% of the 1%, wanted to establish a system that, while serving the interests of the whole people and maintaining liberty, represented exclusively the minority bourgeois/ capitalist class to the exclusion of the majority proletariat/ working class, slave, and the agrarian petty-bourgeois classes. So it was said in the constitutional convention of Philadelphia by John Jay, “Those who own the country (the bourgeoisie) ought to control it”. The right to vote was restricted not only to the male sex, but to the minority subsection of the male sex that owned the means of production in one form or another (private, not personal property). No matter how benevolent and in the actual interests of the whole people this republic was, it was still a dictatorship of the bourgeois/ capitalist class minority to the exclusion of the majority. A bourgeois/ capitalist republic, no matter how open a society it creates, still represents a class dictatorship of the minority to the exclusion of the majority.

But, naturally, we must take into account the countless proletarian/ working class social movements from below that did away with the formal bourgeois/ capitalist restriction on electoral politics, that abolished slavery and gave the black man the right to vote and be elected, that gave women the right to vote and be elected, that opened the way for a democracy of “the whole people”. The natural development of our bourgeois/ capitalist democracy is a people unconsciously longing to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat, a democracy of the majority in practice and not merely on paper.

A proletarian today is not merely the “industrial factory worker of the 19th century”, but according to the Marxist analysis of society, is anyone who earns a salary or a wage, is anyone who works and does not live off the labor of others. This is why we refer to the Marxian “working class” as the proletariat, because “working class” refers to the lowest strata of the proletariat in American society. Certainly, then, the proletariat constitutes the overwhelming majority of society. The expression “the 99%” and “the proletariat” are in actuality, the same thing.

In spite of these formal declarations of a democracy “of the whole people”, we nonetheless find that those who hold positions of power in electoral politics are members of the bourgeois class, are capitalists, or rich men and women. We find that the two parties in this country are thoroughly bourgeois/ capitalist in nature. We find that candidates running for office only become successful through the corporate funding and financing of bourgeois/ capitalist institutions. To receive money from wall street is the only way to get elected to a high office in this country, with the small exception of people like Bernie Sanders and Kshama Sawant who had massive grass-roots social movements behind them.

Let us look at how corporations fund candidates. The workers in any industry or enterprise, produce all the wealth “made” by that enterprise (minus initial investments on the part of the capitalist). An individual worker, let’s call him Karl, produces 40$ an hour on average. Karl earns a salary that is the equivalent of about 10$ an hour. “But wait! What happens to the other 30$ that Karl makes?” you might ask. The answer is simple. To keep the business running, naturally 2$ or so needs to go to keeping the lights on and paying the bills, and another 3$ or so needs to go towards buying more raw materials needed in the production process. But that still leaves another $25 that Karl is making but not getting. Where does this go? Well Karl, working in a capitalist enterprise or corporation, has bosses, not merely the managers he “sees” everyday but the ones he doesn’t see, the ones who may have never even been to the place Karl works. Those bosses happen to be the ones who own the building Karl works at, who own the tools Karl uses to make whatever it is he makes. In other words, they own the means of production.

These bosses aren’t elected by people like Karl, Karl has no say in how the business (in which he spends over half of his life) operates, nor is he represented by them. Instead the board of directors at the top is elected by share-holders, where one share is equal to one vote. Naturally, the top 1% owns over 50% of all the stocks on the market, so naturally it is they who are being represented more than anyone else. The board of directors can do whatever it likes, if it wants to, it can decide not to pay any dividends to the share-holders at all (though this would probably be a bad idea and isn’t all too common). The board of directors, naturally, has to pay taxes to the government. Assuming there aren’t any Islands in the Caribbean where they can funnel their funds, let us assume that this business does, in fact, pay taxes. 5$, we will say, goes to taxes. From the $20 left, the board decides it will invest 5$ into the further expansion of the business. The bigger the company is, the more there is to make. But they realize that Karl is making 10$ an hour in America, and that workers in Mexico or China only are paid 3$ an hour. So that 5$ goes to the construction of a plant in Mexico or China, a plant that will eventually take Karl’s job. Karl has no say in this, in fact he doesn’t even know it’s going to happen. He will simply show up for work one day only to find he no longer has a job.

But then there is still 15$ Karl makes but does not receive. What happens to this? Well the board of directors and CEO feels they have been working very hard and deserve a raise, already they are taking 3$ of Karl’s labor every hour (all to go into the pockets of 10-15 people) but that is not enough, so they decide to give themselves a raise in celebration of the increased profit margins they will get out of foreign labor, say, an additional 2$ from Karl’s labor (which adds up to a whole lot, that’s 5$ from every working employee at the company per hour on average). They have 10$ left, and decide that they should pay dividends, so they give 1$ away to the share holders to encourage further investment. So what do they do with the remaining 9$? Well the workers have managers and clerks who do the paperwork and make sure the workers are actually working, so for the managers, 5$ from the remaining 9$ is taken. When that 5$ is taken from the average $40 or so every worker makes, the managers end up making significantly more than Karl.

But then of course there is the (albeit unlikely) danger that the workers will realize what a scam this all is in the future. The capitalists at the top want to ensure this system of exploitation (making lots of money without really working very hard) continues. But there is still 4$ left. Where does this go? The board of directors decides they want to fund a candidate who is running for office, a candidate that, being pro-capitalist, will look after their interests and ensure the cycle of exploitation continues unfettered (they may call it innovation of course). If the workers are seriously disgruntled, they can fund a democrat who will give the workers small enough concessions to keep everything running smoothly for the people on top. If they want, they can fund a candidate who will blame everyone but themselves (who are in actuality responsible) for all the jobs that are going overseas, someone who will blame the individual Mexican and Chinese workers instead of the people making the decisions. This is all very good for the capitalists/ bourgeois class.

In a nutshell, Karl says he “makes 10$ an hour”. In Karl’s mind, this is a “fair wage”. But Karl doesn’t think about the fact that he is in fact producing an average of $40 an hour because he never sees those numbers. Out of the 40$ made in one hour, 10$ is going to Karl (who made the entire $40), $5 goes to “necessary expenditures” paying the bills, buying more raw materials, another 5$ goes into investing further into the business (by exporting Karl’s job abroad), and another 5$ goes towards paying taxes, and another 5$ goes to the salaries of the clerks and managers. $10, though, is left over for the capitalists at the top to do with as they will. It should come as no surprise that they decide to make $5 an hour off of every $40 Karl produces (the equivalent of half of Karl’s wage), and that this “$5” is in fact exponentially greater than $5 alone because they make $5 per hour, per employee who works for the company. 1$ of the $5 left goes to dividends, and the remaining 4$ goes towards a politician who will look after not Karl’s interests, but the interests of the people running the corporations who funded said candidate.

Just over half of the total amount of work Karl does is actually necessary to produce his wage (and pay the bills, get the raw materials, pay his managers salaries, and pay taxes). This is Karl’s socially necessary labor time, the minimum amount of time he has to work to start producing a profit for those who own the means of production. For the rest of the time he spends at work though, he is actually producing the extremely high salary his bosses at the very top make He is also making money for share-holders and producing the funds that will be poured into the political system, to fund candidates chosen by the board of directors. It doesn’t matter if Karl here is pro-choice, his bosses can use the money he directly produced to fund a pro-life candidate or vice versa. He has no say in the matter. This is capitalism in a nutshell.

When Karl is fired from his job and learns that his job was taken by someone in Mexico, he rallies behind a billionaire politician (who was, consequently, funded by his former bosses) who demonizes the workers in Mexico and those who are coming across the border illegally to “take our jobs”. It never occurs to Karl how corrupt this whole system really is. The idea of democracy in the workplace (socialism) certainly never crossed Karl’s mind. Socialism to Karl, means the dictatorship of a central committee, of a one party state. Socialism in Karl’s (Karl being fictitious and bearing no relation to Karl Marx) mind, is a system where “the state controls everything and there is no freedom”.

It doesn’t matter what pompous slogans of a “democracy of the whole people” the bourgeoisie/ capitalist class promotes. Yes, everyone can vote, but not everyone can or does pour money into ensuring a particular political candidate is heard. That privilege belongs almost exclusively to the bourgeois/ capitalist class, the big capitalists who own the means of production. The American political system in a nutshell, belongs to Wall Street.

No matter how “open” a bourgeois/ capitalist democracy is, those who hold office will consist overwhelmingly of those who either are capitalists, or those who represent the interests of the capitalist class to the exclusion of the proletarian majority. Lenin once said the ratio of capitalists to non-capitalists in such a republic was about “nine tenths” to one. But if we look at the socioeconomic makeup of the federal Government in America, we see that “nine tenths” is far too conservative an estimate.

lenin_quote.jpg

Many people promote the idea of “going back” to a supposedly more democratic America, before Wall Street “corrupted” American democracy. But such a thing never existed. The dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and the relationship between wall street and American politics has always been there. Yes, America is an astoundingly free country, and all of human civilization should aspire to have such negative liberty as we Americans enjoy, but we have reached an impasse beyond which point America can only become a freer and more democratic nation by ousting the political and economic rule of the bourgeois/ capitalist class, by divorcing money from politics and abolishing the capitalist system. This can only be done by the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat, and with it, direct democracy at the local level.

To our misinformed critic who accuses us of wanting to abolish our bourgeois/ capitalist “democracy” and replace it with the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, we plead guilty. But in place of our bourgeois/ capitalist democracy we do not want a “dictatorship” of one party or of a small group of politicians as we saw under Stalinism in the 20th century. That is not the dictatorship of the proletariat, that is a dictatorship in the bourgeois/ capitalist sense of the word, in the sense of the Jacobin’s.

America, though a democracy, is a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie/ capitalist class because its democratic institutions are dominated almost exclusively by the bourgeois/ capitalist class, a class that is the 1%, or the extreme minority. When we say we want the “dictatorship of the proletariat” we mean that we want our political institutions to represent the majority, the 99% or proletarian class, and not the wealthy minority. Such a system can but only be a democracy so “open” and “free” that it would make modern America look like an authoritarian nation. We do not want to abolish freedom of the press as some accuse us. We are not Stalinists, we recognize that the political rule of the masses is impossible without an absolutely free and unfettered press. But we go further, as Rosa Luxemburg said,

Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party – however numerous they may be – is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of “justice” but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when “freedom” becomes a special privilege…

Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep, a few dozen party leaders of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule. Among them, in reality only a dozen outstanding heads do the leading and an elite of the working class is invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders, and to approve proposed resolutions unanimously – at bottom, then, a clique affair – a dictatorship, to be sure, not the dictatorship of the proletariat but only the dictatorship of a handful of politicians, that is a dictatorship in the bourgeois/ capitalist sense, in the sense of the rule of the Jacobins! Yes, we can go even further: such conditions must inevitably cause a brutalization of public life: attempted assassinations, shooting of hostages, etc.”

Rosa here foreshadows the Stalinist despotism that would rule in Europe for nearly a century, but in the same sentence she also dismisses any notion of such a tyranny being by any interpretation a “dictatorship of the proletariat” as many liberals and Stalinists claim today. The dictatorship of the proletariat means exorcising from our current flawed notions of “democracy” its domination by wall street, big business, and the bourgeois/ capitalist class generally. It means a political system “of the people, by the people, and for the people” in actuality and not merely on paper. Not of the bourgeoisie in the name of the people, but of the people themselves. We believe that political democracy without industrial democracy (socialism) amounts to virtual oligarchy in practice.

Some claim we are “totalitarians” because we say we are communists. But such a flawed understanding of the word “communism” negates entirely the entire school of socialist thought. By those standards, anarcho-communists too, are “totalitarians” because they too say they are communists. By such an absurd definition, we could call them “radically anti-authoritarian-totalitarians”. Such a contradiction in terms alone would make the entire broad school of anarcho-communist thought invalid. But communism means the establishment of a classless, moneyless, stateless society. We believe that with the expansion of industrial and scientific achievements, coupled with industrial and political democracy, such a state of being is inevitable. Unlike the Stalinists, we are vehemently opposed to the totalitarian pursuit of a socialist or communist society. Such a pursuit is, in and of itself, anti-Marxist. Communism has nothing to do with totalitarianism, it is the method of pursuing such a society, that can be either totalitarian or radically anti-authoritarian in nature. This goes for capitalism too.

The Jacobins were totalitarian capitalists, but no one today claims that “to be a capitalist means you must be a totalitarian”. Such notions are dismissed by the clearly non-totalitarian paths many nations took to establish a capitalist political and economic system. The only reason they say such things about communism is because the only notable historical expression of the attempt to realize such a society in the public’s mind, has thus far has been totalitarian in nature. We are as horrified by such systems as anyone else. If anything, the current state of affairs in America today is far more authoritarian than any political system we seek to bring about. We, for instance, view mass surveillance programs as indefensible in any society, and believe they should be done away with entirely. The broad consensus of the masses is that individual liberty is precious and should be protected at all costs, that state power is a threat to civil liberty and should be limited, that we should expand the rights we have now to include education, health-care, housing, etc. This is what the socialists want.

As Rosa Luxemburg said, “The proletarian revolution requires no terror for its aims; it hates and despises killing. It does not need these weapons because it does not combat individuals but institutions, because it does not enter the arena with naive illusions whose disappointment it would seek to revenge. It is not the desperate attempt of a minority to mold the world forcibly according to its ideal, but the action of the great massive millions of the people, destined to fulfill a historic mission and to transform historical necessity into reality.”

The dictatorship of the proletariat in America will not come as the result of some armed violent insurrection by a small party of intellectuals. On the contrary, it will come as a result of the conscious actions of tens of millions of people who want a freer, more equal and just world. It will not be something opposed to the popular will of the people, but something that is fully in line with the will of the overwhelming majority, and something that can only come about by the popular will of the people themselves. It will not declare itself militantly atheistic, but something compatible with all religious faiths.

As Leon Trotsky said, “Should America go communist as a result of the difficulties and problems that your capitalist social order is unable to solve, it will discover that communism, far from being an intolerable bureaucratic tyranny and individual regimentation, will be the means of greater individual liberty and shared abundance.

At present most Americans regard communism solely in the light of the experience of the Soviet Union. They fear lest Sovietism in America would produce the same material result as it has brought for the culturally backward peoples of the Soviet Union… Actually American soviets will be as different from the Russian soviets as the United States of President Roosevelt differs from the Russian Empire of Czar Nicholas II… Who else will fight against communism? Your corporal’s guard of billionaires and multimillionaires? Your Mellons, Morgans, Fords and Rockefellers? They will cease struggling as soon as they fail to find other people to fight for them.”

We are not utopians who claim the path to such a society lies as a ready-made formula in the book of some political party. On the contrary, it can come about only through the open and free democratic process itself. The arguments against industrial democracy (socialism) by the bourgeois/ capitalist class today are no different from the arguments against political democracy made by the feudal nobility in the middle ages. They too will be graduated into the dustbin of history. As Rosa Luxemburg said,

The modern proletarian class does not carry out its struggle according to a plan set out in some book or theory; the modern workers’ struggle is a part of history, a part of social progress, and in the middle of history, in the middle of progress, in the middle of the fight, we learn how we must fight… That’s exactly what is laudable about it, that’s exactly why this colossal piece of culture, within the modern workers’ movement, is epoch-defining: that the great masses of the working people first forge from their own consciousness, from their own belief, and even from their own understanding the weapons of their own liberation.”

The dictatorship of the proletariat is against the political rule of a “central committee”, which almost always constitutes itself as the “only thinking element” within a political party. As Rosa also correctly said,

The nimble acrobat fails to perceive that the only ‘subject’ which merits today the role of director is the collective ‘ego’ of the working class. The working class demands the right to make its mistakes and learn the dialectic of history.

Let us speak plainly. Historically, the errors committed by a truly revolutionary movement are infinitely more fruitful than the infallibility of the cleverest Central Committee.”

Our call is a call for the dictatorship of the proletariat is a call for the preservation of individual liberty in a world where privacy, the only real prerequisite to civil liberty in the digital age, is being eroded more and more, day by day, by an increasingly authoritarian far-right shift in global politics. We believe only the socialism can act to truly preserve the grand ideas of freedom, democracy, and equality. And more than that, we believe that only socialism can realize these grand ideas in actuality and not merely on paper. The cause of socialism is the cause of liberty. Such is the nature of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

 

Why Every Activist Should Use a VPN/Tor and Oppose Mass Surveillance

In terms of cyber-security, activists tend to be the most vulnerable to attack both in the sense of their likelihood to be targeted by  governments and mass surveillance programs, and in regards to the notoriously weak cyber-security measures they as individuals, and as a community take. In 2017 when the Senate voted to make it legal for Internet Service Provider’s (ISPs) to sell your internet history to the highest bidder, a tech blog I follow called ‘The Tin Hat‘ (who I borrowed the above image from) made the claim that “Privacy in America now starts with a VPN”. Every activist should have a VPN and use Tor, and I will explain why below. And it is certainly true that a good VPN can restore the internet to what it once was, that it can give you the freedom to have reasonable security from entities hell-bent on violating your right to privacy. But the situation is far graver than just “privacy” alone. Mass surveillance is a cancer in the very heart of our “free society”.

“When people talk of the Freedom of Writing, Speaking, or thinking, I cannot choose but laugh. No such thing ever existed. No such thing now exists; but I hope it will exist. But it must be hundreds of years after you and I shall write and speak no more.” — John Adams Letter to Thomas Jefferson (15 July 1817).

This freedom existed briefly, I claim, shortly after the internet exploded in popularity. Children could talk in forums about Astronomy with experts in the field and no one knew or had any way of knowing who the other person was. People were free to say and think and research anything they wanted without fear of being watched or meticulously recorded. But then 9/11 happened and the NSA started watching everyone. Finding out about that destroyed the sanctity of the web, but the people have the right to know what their government is doing and Edward Snowden is a hero for what he did.

We had those freedoms once. I remember what the Internet was like before the NSA started spying on everyone and the government made it legal for ISP’s to sell your internet history to the highest bidder. As I said in my article “The Marxist case for Human Rights”, “In the digital age the right to privacy is also withering away more and more even (and especially) in the most “freedom loving” liberal democracies. But as Rosa Luxemburg correctly pointed out, “freedom is always the freedom of the dissenters… of the one who thinks differently”. Privacy in the digital age is the only real prerequisite to civil liberty. One is not truly free to dissent if one is being watched at every moment, (it is a well known and independently verifiable fact that people alter their behaviors when they are being watched, especially by authorities, and especially when these authorities retain everything a person said or thought or did indefinitely) and if one is being watched at every moment, one is not free at all. One doesn’t even have to wield this power to the fullest extent possible to destroy human liberty, its very existence is a terminal illness to every form of human freedom. In light of the horrendous abuses of power by NSA, GCHQ, and its accomplices, the Marxist left is bound by its principles to fight against mass surveillance, for the preservation of human freedom.” We are bound by our principles to fight against these abuses of power in the political realm, but it is also necessary to protect ourselves and our communities at the individual level as well.

Freedom and mass surveillance are incompatible, period. And activists, who dutifully express their right to dissent, are under extra scrutiny by mass surveillance programs. In East Germany, the purpose of the Stasi’s mass surveillance was not merely to “catch dissidents”. It’s primary purpose was psychological: to cause the people to self-censor out of fear of how a certain action or conversation might look to the authorities. In Czechoslovakia before the Prague Spring people had a “public opinion” which venerated the Stalinist government and a “private opinion” which often was opposed to it. We are not yet at that point, but more and more people are silencing themselves out of fear. “I wonder what this will look like to a government agent or employer in 5 or 10 years when I search for this or go to this website.” Surely all of us have decided not to search for something because of how it might look to big brother. For me I avoided researching the war in Iraq because I was afraid. A family member’s professor, I remembered, was interrogated by the FBI for doing research on the very same topic. People often joke about appearing on “the list”, as if it’s some trivial thing. Well us activists actually are on “the list” and some of us aren’t even doing the bare minimum to protect ourselves against the illegal mass surveillance programs targeting activists and activist organizations explicitly.

I came across a Reddit post awhile ago that laid out the dangers of mass surveillance that I think best lays out why one ought to be politically opposed to mass surveillance programs:

“I live in a country generally assumed to be a dictatorship. One of the Arab spring countries. I have lived through curfews and have seen the outcomes of the sort of surveillance now being revealed in the US. People here talking about curfews aren’t realizing what that actually FEELS like. It isn’t about having to go inside, and the practicality of that. It’s about creating the feeling that everyone, everything is watching. A few points:

1) the purpose of this surveillance from the governments point of view is to control enemies of the state. Not terrorists. People who are coalescing around ideas that would destabilize the status quo. These could be religious ideas. These could be groups like anon who are too good with tech for the governments liking. It makes it very easy to know who these people are. It also makes it very simple to control these people.

Lets say you are a college student and you get in with some people who want to stop farming practices that hurt animals. So you make a plan and go to protest these practices. You get there, and wow, the protest is huge. You never expected this, you were just goofing off. Well now everyone who was there is suspect. Even though you technically had the right to protest, you’re now considered a dangerous person.

With this tech in place, the government doesn’t have to put you in jail. They can do something more sinister. They can just email you a sexy picture you took with a girlfriend. Or they can email you a note saying that they can prove your dad is cheating on his taxes. Or they can threaten to get your dad fired. All you have to do, the email says, is help them catch your friends in the group. You have to report back every week, or you dad might lose his job. So you do. You turn in your friends and even though they try to keep meetings off grid, you’re reporting on them to protect your dad.

2) Let’s say number one goes on. The country is a weird place now. Really weird. Pretty soon, a movement springs up like occupy, except its bigger this time. People are really serious, and they are saying they want a government without this power. I guess people are realizing that it is a serious deal. You see on the news that tear gas was fired. Your friend calls you, frantic. They’re shooting people. Oh my god. you never signed up for this. You say, fuck it. My dad might lose his job but I won’t be responsible for anyone dying. That’s going too far. You refuse to report anymore. You just stop going to meetings. You stay at home, and try not to watch the news. Three days later, police come to your door and arrest you. They confiscate your computer and phones, and they beat you up a bit. No one can help you so they all just sit quietly. They know if they say anything they’re next. This happened in the country I live in. It is not a joke.

3) Its hard to say how long you were in there. What you saw was horrible. Most of the time, you only heard screams. People begging to be killed. Noises you’ve never heard before. You, you were lucky. You got kicked every day when they threw your moldy food at you, but no one shocked you. No one used sexual violence on you, at least that you remember. There were some times they gave you pills, and you can’t say for sure what happened then. To be honest, sometimes the pills were the best part of your day, because at least then you didn’t feel anything. You have scars on you from the way you were treated. You learn in prison that torture is now common. But everyone who uploads videos or pictures of this torture is labeled a leaker. Its considered a threat to national security. Pretty soon, a cut you got on your leg is looking really bad. You think it’s infected. There were no doctors in prison, and it was so overcrowded, who knows what got in the cut. You go to the doctor, but he refuses to see you. He knows if he does the government can see the records that he treated you. Even you calling his office prompts a visit from the local police.

You decide to go home and see your parents. Maybe they can help. This leg is getting really bad. You get to their house. They aren’t home. You can’t reach them no matter how hard you try. A neighbor pulls you aside, and he quickly tells you they were arrested three weeks ago and haven’t been seen since. You vaguely remember mentioning to them on the phone you were going to that protest. Even your little brother isn’t there.

4) Is this even really happening? You look at the news. Sports scores. Celebrity news. It’s like nothing is wrong. What the hell is going on? A stranger smirks at you reading the paper. You lose it. You shout at him “fuck you dude what are you laughing at can’t you see I’ve got a fucking wound on my leg?”

“Sorry,” he says. “I just didn’t know anyone read the news anymore.” There haven’t been any real journalists for months. They’re all in jail.

Everyone walking around is scared. They can’t talk to anyone else because they don’t know who is reporting for the government. Hell, at one time YOU were reporting for the government. Maybe they just want their kid to get through school. Maybe they want to keep their job. Maybe they’re sick and want to be able to visit the doctor. It’s always a simple reason. Good people always do bad things for simple reasons.

You want to protest. You want your family back. You need help for your leg. This is way beyond anything you ever wanted. It started because you just wanted to see fair treatment in farms. Now you’re basically considered a terrorist, and everyone around you might be reporting on you. You definitely can’t use a phone or email. You can’t get a job. You can’t even trust people face to face anymore. On every corner, there are people with guns. They are as scared as you are. They just don’t want to lose their jobs. They don’t want to be labeled as traitors.

This all happened in the country where I live.

You want to know why revolutions happen? Because little by little by little things get worse and worse. But this thing that is happening now is big. This is the key ingredient. This allows them to know everything they need to know to accomplish the above. The fact that they are doing it is proof that they are the sort of people who might use it in the way I described. In the country I live in, they also claimed it was for the safety of the people. Same in Soviet Russia. Same in East Germany. In fact, that is always the excuse that is used to surveil everyone. But it has never ONCE proven to be the reality.

Maybe Obama won’t do it. Maybe the next guy won’t, or the one after him. Maybe this story isn’t about you. Maybe it happens 10 or 20 years from now, when a big war is happening, or after another big attack. Maybe it’s about your daughter or your son. We just don’t know yet. But what we do know is that right now, in this moment we have a choice. Are we okay with this, or not? Do we want this power to exist, or not?

You know for me, the reason I’m upset is that I grew up in school saying the pledge of allegiance. I was taught that the United States meant “liberty and justice for all.” You get older, you learn that in this country we define that phrase based on the constitution. That’s what tells us what liberty is and what justice is. Well, the government just violated that ideal. So if they aren’t standing for liberty and justice anymore, what are they standing for? Safety?

Ask yourself a question. In the story I told above, does anyone sound safe?

I didn’t make anything up. These things happened to people I know. We used to think it couldn’t happen in America. But guess what? It’s starting to happen.

I actually get really upset when people say “I don’t have anything to hide. Let them read everything.” People saying that have no idea what they are bringing down on their own heads. They are naive, and we need to listen to people in other countries who are clearly telling us that this is a horrible horrible sign and it is time to stand up and say no.”

Every activist who values human freedom regardless of their political affiliations or tendencies has a duty to abuse these programs. They are grotesque abuses of power and constitute a mortal threat to any notion of a “free society”. We are one terrorist attack away from the “turn-key tyranny” Edward Snowden warned us about. If the United States becomes a dictatorship, or becomes unstable in any way, the socialists and dissenters will be the first to go. The threat of such a thing happening within the next 10-20 years has never been higher. But the fight against these programs on the political level is indispensable from the fight against these abuses of power on the individual level.

DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) came out last year recommending intermittent Tor usage for their members and fellow activists. But Tor alone, in my view, does not go nearly far enough.

Many socialists and activists today happily use digital tools critically vulnerable to mass surveillance without thinking twice. Even socialist organizations coordinate their actions exclusively through Google and Facebook with no backup for if –god forbid– things go wrong. If some awful terrorist attack happened and the increasingly far-right government took emergency measures to ensure its “political stability and national security”, the socialist left today would disappear with a whimper not a cry.

Even in our pre-1984 world, political repression against the socialist left is very real. Members of Occupy Wall-street were routinely harassed and surveilled by the FBI, leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement even got their doors kicked in when protests became “too big” of “violent” (as if somehow they were responsible for the rogue actions of a few individuals!). The Stalinist-Maoist FRSO (Freedom Road Socialist Organization) was successfully infiltrated by the FBI less than 10 years ago, and these activities are routine even in the post-cold war era. And unlike Maoism, the ideas of democratic socialism actually resonate with millions of Americans today. Socialism is coming back, and so too is the government repression of the socialist movement. Surely DSA and other democratic socialist organizations are seen as a much bigger “threat” to the status quo than a few cloak-and-dagger Maoists. A Trotskyist comrade I know claims he even found out that his wife, the woman he married, was an undercover FBI agent. A black activist was recently jailed by the FBI for the speaking out against police brutality on Facebook. You cannot make this stuff up.

In light of Snowden’s revelations, you would have to be an idiot to assume that this harassment and surveillance was limited to the physical world alone.

If you are an activist with any level of influence or popularity, you are being watched, your communications are being intercepted. And I don’t mean you are being watched in the same sense that everyone is, I mean the bulk data the government collects on you is subject to actual scrutiny by real people. Content, not just metadata. If you go to a protest the police can find out who you are simply by intercepting your cell phone signal with an IMSI catcher, something extremely common in urban areas, and from then on you are on a list.

Everyone, but especially activists, should take measures to avoid and obfuscate the governments illegal mass surveillance programs.

Here is a list of resources you can use to gain the information you need to protect yourself:

Privacytools.io (mirrored on Thought Foundry Blog)

EFF’s Surveillance Self Defense Guide

EFF’s Surveillance Self Defense for Activists

EFF’s Guide for attending protests (US)

EFF’s Guide for attending protests (international)

Tor Project

Non-biased VPN reviews

As a standard for individual activists, I personally would recommend the following:

You should use a good VPN, not a “free” VPN but a paid one. Non-biased VPN reviews can be found at ThatOnePrivacySite. You should keep your VPN on all the time, and test for DNS leaks, so as to ensure all internet traffic 24/7 coming to and from your phone or computer is encrypted. When you are researching political topics, you should use the Tor Browser to further encrypt your communications. You should be running Linux by default, even an easy-to-use Linux distribution like Ubuntu or Linux Mint. You should avoid OS X, and Windows 10 like the plague. Don’t store anything embarrassing or that can be used against you on iCloud or Google Drive. Remember when the FBI tried to get Martin Luther King Jr. to kill himself by threatening to release knowledge of his affair? Yeah, don’t let that happen to you. Your computer and phone should use a strong passphrse (not password) and everything without exception should be encrypted. Don’t message other activists using SMS of Facebook Chat, use Signal or another end-to-end encrypted messaging system. If you go to a protest, bring a burner or keep your phone turned OFF. And finally, tape your damn webcams. Do it on your laptop, your phone, everything. You may think this is “paranoid”, but the reality is, you are being watched, and you are extremely vulnerable if you do not do even the bare minimum to protect yourself.

As a standard for socialist and activist organizations, I personally recommend the following:

Communications within an organization should be end-to-end encrypted by default. Emails should use PGP encryption as the standard. Websites for socialist organizations should use HTTPS encryption and ideally be mirrored on the Tor network. Facebook may be crucial to organizing protests and other events, but individual members of socialist organizations should use mediums of communication that are much more difficult for the government to intercept.

Now many people will probably try to defend these programs and claim “I have nothing to hide”! But you know, it was confirmed by the white house that mass surveillance programs haven’t stopped a single terrorist attack since their inception. Also the quote “if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear” was popularized by Joseph Goebbels, you know, the propaganda minister of Nazi Germany. I hope I have laid out why privacy in the digital age is the only real prerequisite to civil liberty today, that it isn’t a matter of having something to “hide” (i.e. wrongdoing) but a matter of having everything to protect. Freedom is always and exclusively the freedom of dissent! If this doesn’t convince you still, let me resort to the spirit of the law, as much as I hate legal formalism. Here is the fourth amendment, that by some alchemy “doesn’t apply” to the digital world- so say the enemies of liberty within our own government:

Amendment IV

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Also Article 12 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights echo’s this proclamation:

“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

As Benjamin Franklin correctly said, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty, to purchase a little Temporary safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”. We would be much “safer” if the police could search anyone at any time without reason, and surely crime would go down exponentially. This is the philosophy NSA uses to justify it’s illegal and immoral mass surveillance programs. But the point of liberty is to protect the people from the very threat the state poses to the people. The point of liberty is freedom, not “safety” or “security”. And as activists who face a much grander threat to our liberty than ordinary people, we can, should, and must defend ourselves from these malevolent intrusions and abuses of power.

Historical Justice For The Crimes of a People’s Ancestors. To What Degree it Justice?

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It is fun to joke about a Native American president deporting all Caucasians back to Europe, and this would be a form of ‘total historical justice’ for the Native American people, but are a people innately responsible for the crimes of their ancestors? No, but they are responsible for whatever injustice the present generation imposes onto a people. Every year that goes by after an occupation, the morality of restoring the old society in full grows increasingly grey as new generations emerge. But this grayness does not in the least give a people the right to continually oppress or exploit the deposed peoples. No, they have no such right.
 
Take for instance the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The initial act of “taking back” Israel was a criminal and unjust act, even if it was in response to another injustice (the holocaust). Most of Israel is not responsible for this. But the present generation of Israel mercilessly oppresses the Palestinian people, continues to steal the land that belongs to the Palestinian people, and wages a war against a people that borders on genocide. In this, all of Israel is guilty of crimes against humanity. Those who stand by and do nothing are guilty. Neutrality always is on the side of the oppressor.
 
The solution is not, however, the ousting of the present generation of Israel. Nor is the solution to the oppression of the indigenous peoples of America the “ousting” of all Caucasians to Europe. Israel and Palestine should be restored to the pre-1967 borders by force of arms if necessary. Those who advocate total seizure of the land by one group of another are morally bankrupt in either case, regardless of historical injustices. The Native American people today suffer horrendous injustices even if on a lesser scale than the Palestinian people. But nonetheless it is our fault if we do not help them, if we do not do what we can to restore the dignity and self-determination they have lost due to the crimes of our ancestors.
 
Force, naturally, is the only option to restore order to a people who have been brainwashed to hate one another, justly or unjustly, with good reason or without. Due to such a situation, the “right to national self-determination” of Israel has no moral grounds to exist, nor would it for America if we treated our natives as horribly as Israel treats the Palestinians. Historical justice is not necessarily justice proper, when total for one party, it is in nearly every instance a form of injustice against a people whose only crime was being caught in the cross-fire.

America Only Has A Criminal ‘Injustice’ System

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America does not have a criminal justice system, it has a criminal injustice system. It does not ‘rehabilitate’ people. On the contrary, it turns decent people convicted of petty or one-time crimes into actual criminals. 4/5ths of those ‘rehabilitated’ return to prison. It denies female prisoners the most basic of feminine hygiene products and punishes them when they bleed openly because of it. It punishes those who are troubled by isolating them from everyone and everything in a most cruel punishment, which only makes their problems worse. It makes those convicted of even petty sex crimes social outcasts by putting them on sex offender registries. It does nothing to help people when they are released from prison. It does nothing for transgender prisoners, forcing them into prisons populated by members of their birth sex where they are raped, abused, and murdered. It refuses them vitally needed hormone replacement therapy. It disproportionately targets people of color and the poor. It is a heartless institution. It does nothing to address the material conditions of physical and spiritual poverty that create crime, on the contrary, it worsens them. It is a racist, criminal, sadistic, unjust system that has no moral justification to exist.

Photo by Carles Rabada on Unsplash

‘Free Society’ is Dying: The Diagnosis of 21th Century Geopolitics And Its Remedy

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There has been a hard authoritarian right wing shift in global politics: the emergence of Trumpism, Brexit, and the triumph of Chinese state capitalism are all symptoms of this social transformation. What is happening and why? And what is to be done about it? I hope to address all of these things here.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF MODERN SOCIETY: THE REVOLUTION

There is a general trend in the course of recent human events. Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, the masses of common men and women have fought bravely for their individual liberty and their liberation from oppression and exploitation in all its forms. The American revolution, the French revolution, the Haitian revolution, the revolutions of the 1840’s, the workers revolution that founded The Paris Commune, the Russian revolution, the Cuban revolution, the Chinese revolution, and even the revolutions of 1989 have all been a part of this great revolution. Such a revolution undoes itself when it is betrayed, or when it no longer represents the interests of the liberation of the people. It may not do so immediately, it may take many years of struggle. This is what we saw in 1989 with the fall of Stalinism in Eastern Europe. This revolution is not a straight line, it is a spiral of self-contradictions. But the general trend is almost universal: two steps forward, one step back.

The revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries fought mainly and almost exclusively for negative liberty, the barest of human rights. The revolutions of the 20th century fought mainly and almost exclusively for positive liberty, in societies that never had negative liberty to begin with.  The revolutions of 1989 made clear that no people can achieve liberation by negating the most basic negative liberties in the pursuit of a society that guarantees positive liberty.

This is what the ‘fall of communism’ symbolized. There can be no socialism without unfettered liberty and democracy, and no real liberty and democracy without socialism. The latter, however, was lost on such a disillusioned people as the Eastern European’s of 1989, and for this we cannot blame them. All these social contradictions and antagonisms, and especially those of our modern society, make clear the need for yet another expansion in the realm of personal liberty, another great revolution, this time for positive liberty on top of the negative liberty we already have in Western countries. This time what is needed is a revolution for a truly democratic and free socialist society, a society in line with the ethics of all the major religions of the world, not one like ours which is against those ethics. This is what we socialists believe.

But the information and telecommunications revolution, itself a phase of the industrial revolution, has revolutionized society to such an extent that it has struck at the very heart of the revolution. It has placed all of ‘free society’ in mortal danger. Not because technology is evil or bad, but because of the way technology functions in our liberal bourgeois society.

WHAT IS THE DIAGNOSIS?

Global politics has taken a hard authoritarian right wing shift in recent few years. There are several reasons for this and I believe the diagnosis is far more serious than anyone realizes. The reasons and consequences of this are as follows:

1.) Neoliberalism is a failed economic and political system that has not only lost all faith in itself, but it has lost the faith of the people.

2.) The establishment liberal left offers no viable alternatives to the existing order. Since the collapse of the USSR and co, the social democratic left offers no viable alternatives to the existing social order that will not be completely undone by capital via privatization and neoliberal ‘reforms’ just years after implementation. This is not because said social programs ‘failed’, but because the bourgeoisie is in power and it puts its own interest above the general interest. There is no USSR left to compete with in regards to ensuring a social safety net for the common people of western nations. As a result, social democracy alone is no longer a viable alternative. The majority of far-left parties are Stalinist, advocating a return not to the democratic ideas of Marx and Rosa Luxemburg, but to a return to the totalitarianism of Stalinism. No one takes Stalinism seriously as a potential alternative. Politically it is a dead end. Anything other than Stalinism is preferable, including the existing social order. The almost total lack of a viable left wing alternative is entirely the fault of the left.

3.) In spite of the fact that we are statistically living in the safest era in all of human history, we are also more connected than we ever have been before thanks to the information and telecommunications revolution and with it, the creation of the internet. The human brain evolved to know only several hundred people that geographically live around the person in question. This is a recipe for disaster when terrorism is introduced to an over-informed and hyper-connected society. This is especially true given the fact that the media is a capitalist organization whose goal is typically to entertain and sensationalize rather then to objectively inform. A terrorist attack that happens 1000’s of miles away killing a few dozen people causes people all over the world to feel unsafe. Even though you are more likely to be struck by lightning, people FEEL like terrorism is a serious threat, they FEEL unsafe and are willing to give up their liberty for illusory promises of security. In our political era, feelings tend to be equated with facts: fear becomes policy.

4.) The later stages of the information and telecommunications revolution has caused a logarithmic growth in the emergence and creation new technologies and with it, new frontiers have emerged for the abuse of state power and the violation of the rights of the people. In combination with the perceived threat of terrorism, this threat is terminal to the existence of any ‘free’ society.

5.) Due to the nature of liberal democracies, there is a significant delay between the creation of new technologies and the creation of ethical legislation regarding the ethical use of said technologies by the state. The laws “protecting” our rights in the digital age are mostly from the 1980’s and earlier. The fourth amendment and the 12th article of the UN’s declaration of human rights guarantee privacy to be a fundamental human right. However, these rights are declared to be null and void in regards to the digital world. Freedom is always and exclusively the freedom of dissent. A free society is one in which the people can meaningfully oppose state power without fear, without self-censorship or surveillance. Privacy is therefore not only a right, but it is the only real prerequisite to the realization of virtually all other rights. Nearly all legislation passed in the United States and similar ‘liberal democracies’ in this regard has been unethical, illiberal, and in direct violation of the rights of the people (ex. House of Reps repealing regulation that forbade ISPs from selling your internet history to the highest bidder in 2017, NSA mass surveillance or ‘bulk collection’ of metadata as revealed by Snowden in 2014 w/ PRISM, TEMPORA, five, nine and fourteen eyes alliances, etc.)

6.) Despite ‘economic growth’ for the rich, real wages have not risen with productivity since the 1970’s and the life quality of working people continues to stagnate or decline. Working people have become increasingly disillusioned with establishment politics. The liberal left’s obsession with political correctness has only furthered this disillusionment. Liberal leaders such as Obama have failed to implement any transparency or “change”, but have instead done the exact opposite.

Conclusion:

7.) The combination of all these things has caused a resurgence in right wing and far-right politics and with it, vast increases in authoritarianism and gradual decreases in civil liberty. Privacy is not only a right, but it is the only real prerequisite to all human freedom. Freedom is always and exclusively the freedom of dissent, and the erosion of privacy means the erosion of the capacity of the people to effectively dissent. The state has vastly increased its own power and has effectively decreased the power the people have to meaningfully oppose said power. Censorship is superfluous in a society that imposes mass surveillance. Instead of implementing external censorship and physically crushing dissent, mass surveillance causes people to self-censor themselves because everyone’s most personal secrets are known or are readily available to the state with no real oversight. Anyone who stands effectively in defiance of the state or state policy is an easy target for state-sponsored blackmail, slander, or demonization- and these powers are only growing stronger with time. The safeguards in place, which are policy, not legislation, change every 2 to 4 years in a liberal democracy and are gradually being eroded in the name of ‘security’. This erosion will only speed up in the coming decades.

The governments of the western nations, of the ‘freest’ countries in the world, no longer represent either the will or the general interests of the people. They are the biggest threats to individual and liberal rights that have ever existed in all of human history. Snowden is right in claiming that they have constructed and are continually strengthening architectures of oppression far surpassing those of the wildest dreams of the Stasi and the Nazi Gestapo. Establishment liberal politicians who promise more transparency and less authoritarian measures are Machiavellians in the truest sense of the word. Even the White House review panel on NSA surveillance programs has come to the conclusion that these programs have not stopped a single terrorist attack since their inception. But our political system, like our whole bourgeois society, is not based on reason and facts, it is based on feelings. These Machiavellians know that if they end these Orwellian programs, that they personally will be blamed for the next terrorist attack that happens. It is far too rare for an elected official holding high office to subjugate the individual interest to the social interest, and as such, we cannot rely on elected officials to implement the changes that are necessary.

The common people are conditioned not to be involved in politics. The nature of the political system is such that it is designed to keep things the same, even when there is minor change, it is done by offering small enough concessions to continue the growth of the capitalist system. Freedom in a stable society is always only ever a fundamental issue to the dissenting minority, it is never a question of the majority interest but of the minority interest- and it is an absolutely crucial minority interest just the same. Only when a society becomes authoritarian or unstable (as our society is becoming) do these rights become essential for an entire society. The information and telecommunications revolution has created such an expanse in the emergence of new technologies that abuses of said technologies are deemed to be acceptable to the non-political class precisely because the current political system is designed to keep things the way they are, to maintain existing forms of oppression and exploitation. By design, it alienates the masses from the affairs of the political class, which just so happens to consist mainly of the petty-bourgeoisie and big bourgeoisie.

The only successful form of capitalism in our era is the Chinese model of authoritarian state capitalism, a capitalism wholly divorced from democracy. The future of the capitalist system is a capitalism divorced from democracy. If the United States and Europe continue under capitalism in the coming decades, they will likely and out of necessity, become more like China.

It is for these reasons that we believe that there is an extremely high risk that the late 21st century will consist mainly of a people crushed under the weight of totalitarianism if the current system is allowed to continue. The erosion of privacy, the only real prerequisite to civil liberty in our society, is but a first step in this social transformation. It is a betrayal of almost every revolution that has taken place since 1774. The increasingly authoritarian rightward shift in global geopolitics reflects this diagnosis of society.

WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

The solution to these grave social ills can only be a left wing solution. This cannot mean a solution consisting of a small group of intellectuals seizing power nor of any manner of individual terrorism. It must be a revolution if the people. It cannot aim to establish a Stalinist state or a one-party dictatorship. Only the people are capable of liberating themselves and governing themselves. Nothing can nor will change without the support of the people. We believe the solution to right wing authoritarianism is not left wing authoritarianism, but a democratic, anti-authoritarian, mass socialist movement. This is in line with the ideas of Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg as well as the principles of Trotskyism. Luxemburgism, Trotskyism, and some of the anarchist ideas on the radical left that no one took seriously for most of the 20th century, must be taken seriously today if the people of the 21st and 22nd century are to be free and healthy.

The slogan of socialism in the 21st century is that of expanded individual liberty as much as it is the introduction of industrial democracy, of this be sure. Rosa Luxemburg, in her perhaps misplaced criticism of the Russian Revolution (in Ch.6 of a pamphlet titled ‘The Russian Revolution’), famously declared the necessity of liberty in a socialist society. To quote,

“Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party – however numerous they may be – is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of ‘justice’ but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when ‘freedom’ becomes a special privilege…

Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep, a few dozen party leaders of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule. Among them, in reality only a dozen outstanding heads do the leading and an elite of the working class is invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders, and to approve proposed resolutions unanimously – at bottom, then, a clique affair – a dictatorship, to be sure, not the dictatorship of the proletariat but only the dictatorship of a handful of politicians, that is a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense, in the sense of the rule of the Jacobins (the postponement of the Soviet Congress from three-month periods to six-month periods!) Yes, we can go even further: such conditions must inevitably cause a brutalization of public life: attempted assassinations, shooting of hostages, etc.”

Any socialist movement worth its salt in the 21st century must defend and expand the liberal rights that have been won through decades of working class struggle.

The way for society to progress in a stable world would be to wait for the inevitable: the later stages of the information and telecommunications revolution will bring vast increases in automation technologies. The automation of most forms of physical labor will make communism (a stateless, classless, moneyless society) a virtual historical inevitability. But we do not live in a stable world. In addition to increasing authoritarianism and the erosion of civil liberty, the capitalist system is utterly nihilistic when it comes to acknowledging its own effect on the environment. To ensure its own survival, it has sacrificed the entire future of humanity to further its own ends. It accepts that it has destroyed the environment beyond repair and refuses to do anything of meaning to address this, it accepts that we are probably living in the final centuries of humanity. It blames the individual for climate change, not its own systematic rape of mother earth. From a species perspective, capitalist society has become so illogical that we would not be wrong to call it suicidal. By the time the automation revolution comes, the effects of climate change will become so acute that the potential such technologies have for ensuring human liberation will become superfluous in its wake.

For this reason, the working people of the world cannot wait for some far off historical inevitability. As Lenin said, “sometimes history needs a push”. And in the advanced capitalist countries where civil liberty already exists and the economy is highly industrialized, where socialism can already be built without the iron whip of Stalinism, we have to agree. As liberal democracies become increasingly unstable, it is only a matter of time before they degenerate completely into a system similar to the Chinese system of authoritarian state capitalism, and this will likely happen far before the automation revolution. It is precisely at this moment of destabilization and crisis that the common people, the working people, must seize all state power and work to ensure the future survival and freedom of the human race. This is the only way that we can cast Trumpism, the suicidal perpetuation of technologies that are destroying the environment, authoritarianism, and capitalism into the dustbin of history. The slogan of such a movement is the same as it was in the 20th century, “Workers of All Countries, Unite!” People should not fear political change, they should not fear a radical restructuring of society. If it is something done by the will of the people, with the people truly in power, have faith that it will be done in a way that changes the world for the better. Only this, we believe, can get us out of our current predicament.

What Would Socialism Look Like In The 21st Century?

I claim that only the revolutionary socialists of the 21st century can be the real guardians of unfettered liberty and true democracy. What would a socialist society look like in the 21st century? It would be as far different from Stalinism as Bernie Sanders is from Tsar Nicholas II. Unlike Marx we can take the liberty of guessing what such a society would look like. I claim that orthodox Marxism (the ideas and principles of Marx and Rosa Luxemburg) have more in common with anarchism than with the totalitarian distortions of Stalinism. This is true even of Leninism and Trotskyism. We would undoubtedly base many democratic principles on those of the Paris Commune. Unlike revolutionary Russia or France, advanced capitalist countries do not exist in such a state of material and spiritual poverty. The masses are educated, literate, and have an abundance of material wealth. Unlike these countries, liberal rights have already been won in our society and the people will not stand for any form of tyranny. As such, historical reflections of the ‘totalitarian excesses’ of the French and Russian revolutions would not be able to emerge if such a revolution emerged first in the advanced capitalist countries, as Marx predicted they would.

It would be a revolution not of a small group of intellectuals seizing power for themselves in the name of the workers or the people. This is a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense of the word. In our society, governing institutions could but only consist of elected representatives of the people themselves. Any socialist movement worth its salt would not only defend, but would expand the liberal and human rights won through decades of struggle. Representatives would have extremely short terms of service and would be instantly re-callable by popular petition at any time. This was a fundamental democratic aspect of the Paris Commune.

There would be no need for such governing institutions to suppress a free press or demonstrations of the people. A revolution at its purest is reason in revolt, a revolution IS dissent. If it is to truly be a revolution of the people, the people themselves would decide the course of the revolution and not an ‘enlightened’ central committee of a single monolithic party. This means also, that such a society would not be a one party state as were the Stalinist states of the 20th century.

Such a revolution by design would place a great amount of faith in the masses. In the Stalinist states of the 20th century, those in power tried to censor what information the masses could attain. It coddled the masses out of fear that the masses, if given a choice, would not support the existing social order. We see this today in North Korea, and to a lesser extent in Cuba, China, and Vietnam. Only Laos has taken real steps towards allowing unfettered access of the masses to free information. These restrictions on the rights of the people are an abomination to Marxism and to scientific socialism and must be seen in such a society as grotesque remnants of a much darker past.

In a socialist society of the 21st century there would be, on the contrary, unfettered and free access to information in the country in question and abroad. The internet would be free and democratically controlled with an abolition of intellectual property, proprietary software, and absurd copyright laws (downloading pirated movies would be legal). The established order by design would have no right to use powers of mass surveillance. The architectures of oppression that have been built in our society by shadowy intelligence organizations, and intelligence organizations generally, would be dismantled in full by the will of the people. The state would have no right to this criminally attained information. The only just course of action would be its destruction.

Such a society would have faith that the people would not join protests against the new order, that they would not petition and rally en mass to return to the old order. And if something was fundamentally wrong with the revolution, if something needed to be addressed, those elected would by design be forced either to address it or be instantly removed from office by popular petition. At no point would the approval ratings of those in power drop below the level of majority support of the masses. If it did those in power would be instantly removed from office by popular petition and a new election would take place to put into power a person genuinely supported by, and in support of, the popular masses. Those who did hold office would hold extremely short terms of service.

The purpose of such a revolution would be to bring about a spiritual rebirth in social life, to bring the masses into political life and political affairs directly, to have public debates and discussions, (subjected to reason, fact checks, and an analysis of logical fallacies,) about the necessary courses of action. The masses today cannot be bothered with politics. Even if they had the time, the bourgeois state only changes things just enough that the fundamental base and superstructure of society stay the same. By design the bourgeois state and bourgeois society in general alienate the masses of working people from political life. Such debates and discussions would educate the masses on various political, ethical, and philosophical issues. It would at no point indoctrinate them into an obscure political ideology. It would not convert Marxism into a political religion as did the Stalinist states of the 20th century. Such conversion of Marxism into a political religion is by is very nature, anti-Marxist. It would not dictate Marxism and Marxist philosophy to the masses. Marxism by design recognizes that not even Marxism is infallible. Like everything, it is constantly changing and reevaluating its validity in the dialectical process of world history.

Contrary to popular belief, a genuinely socialist economy would not mean state ownership and control of industry. This is not socialism. Socialism means social (can be state) ownership AND democratic control of industry. Neither state nor private controlled industry can be trusted to truly represent the people and not bring about vast abuses of power. Instead, the working people and public must have democratic control over production. Industrial democracy is socialism at its purest, not the tyrannical control of owners and board members as we see under modern capitalism, nor the despotism of state bureaucrats and unelected officials as we saw in the former Soviet Union.

Production would be democratically planned by public representatives in collaboration with similar industries and changes to the way business is done would require approval of the workers directly. No factory floor would ever have agreed to fire everyone and send their jobs to Mexico if workers had such power in our society. The same principles of democratic elections and the ability to instantly recall elected officials by popular petition would apply here too. Computers would be utilized to ensure that production was planned in accordance with the material and social resources available. The purpose of production would be to meet human and social needs directly, not to enrich a handful of ‘owners’, board members, and share holders as is the case under capitalism. The surplus value created by an industry would not be ‘profits’ or ‘capital’, it would rightfully be recognized as the unpaid wages of the working class.

Socialism would mean a democratization of the whole of society, industry included. It would expand, not squander the human and liberal rights won through decades of struggle, and those rights enshrined in the documents marking the establishment of the bourgeois era. It would add positive liberty to the negative liberty we enjoy in our bourgeois society. In addition to freedom of speech, religion, press, personal property, organization, etc. the people would for the first time have positive liberties such as the right to education, housing, healthcare, food, internet access, transportation, and the means necessary to truly realize their essential negative liberties. Make no mistake, it would be such an “open” society that the “open” society we have today, that liberals lust over, would look to this socialist society like a “closed” society. This is the goal of socialism in the 21st century.

The purpose of the press would no longer be the generation of capital for the bourgeois owners of the press. It would, after the overthrow of bourgeois ownership and rule, not use sensationalism and mindless entertainment to generate profit as the generation of capital would no longer be the goal. On the contrary, its purpose would be to objectively inform the masses. It would be allowed to maintain its adversarial and skeptical stance to government and the government by design would have no right to suppress a free press. At no point would it be converted into an organ for state or party propaganda as it was in the 20th century Stalinist states. A free press would be a cornerstone of such a socialist society. This includes the freedom of independent journalists and groups of people to form press organizations, even ones adversarial, freely.

Unlike the Stalinist states of the 20th century, the transition period between socialism and communism would be not only inherently democratic and anti-totalitarian, but it would have a visible end in sight. Its purpose would be to directly attain a free communist society. Here the democratic, not totalitarian pursuit of communism, would be the goal. The state would be designed to wither away and the armed people would ensure it attained this aim. I predict the tribal and nationalistic ‘intelligence organizations’ of the old society would be substituted in an an act of parody with WikiLeaks! It would be made clear that the state has no right to exist after the socialization of industry was achieved. The Stalinist “strengthening of the state against the ‘remnants’ of the bourgeoisie”, that gross totalitarian distortion of Marxism, would by design not possible and the armed people, organized into various voluntary militias, would be right to abolish it by force if it did not wither away. Here anarchists would serve a vital function as the protectors and ensurers of the attainment of a stateless society.

The increasing capacity of society to realize its full potential to meet human needs would usher in a new ethical paradigm. Working 40 hours a week would no longer be seen as morally desirable. It would be seen for what it is, a state of being that reduces the potential for individual growth, a state of being which deprives the individual of their humanity. The mass unemployment that will inevitably result from increasing automation would bring would not mean homelessness, hunger, misery and want for the working people as it means in our capitalist society. On the contrary, it would mean their freedom and liberation from ceaseless labor.

Unlike in the 20th century, the call of socialism would never be a call for militant atheism. Such a society by design would protect the peoples right to practice religion freely and publicly, for religious communities to construct new religious buildings and places of worship, to publish their teachings and to preach unfettered. State atheism would be deemed a grotesque remnant of the past. Not even in a communist society would atheism be enforced. The state and ruling apparatus by design would not be allowed to take a stance on religion. It would be a purely secular institution, neither ‘Christian’, ‘Muslim’, or ‘Atheist’. It would protect the rights of the people to follow whatever religious ideal or lack thereof which aligned with their conscience. The right to practice religion is a personal and a family matter, the state would have no right to to interfere with that right. Organized religious institutions would be compelled to either support the cause for human liberation from oppression and exploitation or the lose material and moral support of the masses. In addition to being grossly immoral, for the state to take an adversarial stance against religion in general would mean a loss of support for the cause of liberation from the people. I have written extensively on my views on the question of religion and socialism.

We are not Utopians. We make no such claim that such a revolution would solve all the problems of society. On the contrary, we openly admit that such a revolution is bound to cause even more problems. But the problems of homelessness, hunger, poverty, excesses of crime, overwork, and alienation- the problems of state and capitalist oppression and exploitation, the exploitation of man by man, those we aim to abolish. The abolition of every possibility of oppression and exploitation- this is our slogan!

These are not a series of ‘plans’ that an enlightened people should apply dogmatically to society. A revolution is a dialectical action. One learns from it and decides what principles to apply as it happens. There is no ‘guidebook’ to attaining a socialist or communist society to be found in small party of enlightened intellectuals that will liberate mankind ‘if only it is followed enthusiastically by the masses’. We can only make predictions and suggestions of what can and should emerge in our society. We libertarian Marxists, Luxemburgists, Trotskyists, and other revolutionary socialists wish to bring to the world a viable left wing alternative to the existing order. One thing is for sure, the totalitarian pursuit of a communist society is grossly immoral and should never be repeated. We accept only a truly democratic socialistic and communistic society. We accept only the rights respecting, democratic attainment of such a system.

We believe revolution will likely be necessary to end the capitalist system and destroy the bourgeois state, but we believe that this revolution can be achieved largely with only the threat of popular violence. It can be a largely bloodless revolution. Also, it can only be done with and by the will of the masses themselves. With the increasingly authoritarian right wing shift in geopolitics today, the world socialist revolution appears even more and more likely.

Should the overthrown ruling classes of bourgeois society rise up to seize power once again, any bloodshed would be on their hands alone. Should they start a civil war in one of these countries, the people would strive to re-implement democracy and liberal rights as soon as possible. For it is rule by terror that demoralizes, it is rule by terror that poses a greater threat to the revolution than anything else. We sincerely doubt the potential for victory of a dying social order in such a scenario.

Capitalism in the 21st century can only survive if it takes up the Chinese state capitalist model. The neoliberal model of capitalism is dead, the social democratic model is dead, even the Latin American model is dead. Even today neoliberalism has lost all faith in itself, first economically and now politically. Global capitalism can only survive if it further and further divorces itself from democracy, from even bourgeois democracy. The capitalism of the future, if it is to survive, is the capitalism of China increasingly turning to a sort of neo-fascism. It can only be a right wing surveillance state. This is late capitalism in decay. It is for this reason that the revolutionary socialists of the 21st century are the only real guardians of liberty and democracy. With the increasing rudeness and lack of respect of the conservative right, the socialist left must also become the guardians of decency, kindness, and respect for humanity. We must take a stand against the political correctness of the liberal left while at the same time reiterating the necessity of the rights for people of color, LGBT+ persons, women, Muslims, and other oppressed groups.

All of this relies on the principle that the first revolutions marking the end of capitalism, as Marx predicted, will happen in the most advanced capitalist countries first and not in the ‘weakest links in the chain of world imperialism’ as seemed to be the case in 1917. If a communist revolution succeeded in India or Africa today, it would likely be marked by a resurgence of Stalinist politics. It would be a deformed workers state from the beginning, and it would become a massive propaganda machine. Both the US and this Stalinist country would agree that the system these Stalinists have implemented is ‘socialism’, even if it is objectively not so. And it would be impossible for real revolutionary socialists to convince the masses that the one thing the two biggest propaganda machines in the world agree on is not actually true. The people of the western imperialist nations would never in principle support such a revolution. It would end up being confined to that country alone or to similarly impoverished countries. It would in principle stand against liberal rights and real workers democracy. In short, it would be another cold war with both sides being morally indefensible yet again.

If such a revolution happened in the advanced countries first, it would quickly spread to the rest of the world. The lackeys who work in the service of world imperialism, who hold power in the oppressed nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America would quickly be overthrown by the popular masses. It would be abundantly clear that this revolution was substantially different and infinitely more desirable and respectful of popular democracy and liberal rights than the Stalinist countries of the 20th century. As the wealthier countries met the human needs of the people in their own countries, there would be a decline in the exponential expansion of technological innovation and growth that we see in the present era of the later stages of the information and telecommunications revolution. This is not because socialism ‘squanders innovation’ as some bourgeois lackeys suggest. On the contrary, socialism has the potential to increase innovation to an extent far surpassing its ability under capitalism. This decline in innovation would be intentional and design. To advocate the slowing down of the information and telecommunications revolution, as I am aware, is political heresy. The wealthier countries would have a responsibility to provide aid for the newly socialist countries of Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. Those nations formerly oppressed by imperialism would be brought up to the standards of living and modernity we consider acceptable in the west with the aid of western countries. This would not mean a decline of the standards of living for people in western countries, but an increased standard of living as society was restructured to primarily meet human needs. It would however, mean a decrease in innovation temporarily.

This revolution would place the interests of humanity above those of capital. As such, the long term survival of the human species would be prioritized over the ‘profits’ of the fossil fuel industry and big corporations. The crisis of climate change would immediately be addressed by the transformation of the world energy system into one that runs on 100% renewable green energy. New cities would be built in preparation for the already inevitable drastic rise in sea levels. Plastics would be done away with and plans initiated to clean the oceans and rivers of plastic and other forms of waste. Fishing would be cut substantially to allow the fish populations to return to normal. The industrialization of the poorer countries would be done exclusively on ecological grounds and mass reforestation programs would be initiated globally.

Social democratic countries like Norway today claim that they have figured out how to be truly ecological under capitalism. “Norway has 100% renewable green energy!” says our petty-bourgeois democrat. Indeed it does, but even Norway, bastion of green social democracy, has fossil fuels overwhelmingly as its largest exports. Norway has created a fortress of ecology within its own national borders, it has merely ‘exported’ the crisis of climate change to other countries! A world socialist system would allow a country (Norway, for instance) to stop fossil fuel exports and resource exploitation entirely without a serious hit to that nations economy as other nations would provide it with aid.

I have taken the time also to make a series of points that would be generally applicable to nearly all the advanced countries, and could reasonably emerge in a socialist 21st century. Some of them have already been stated above and I hope the reader can forgive my repetition. Note that as I have said before, this is mostly speculation, I do not have a crystal ball. This is merely what one would hope to, and expect to see:

-Direct democracy on the local level, representative democracy on the higher levels. High officials occupying offices in specialized fields are to be elected by the people on the basis of their expertise in said specialized fields. Scientists only would be allowed to run for office and hold positions in fields dictating policy for scientific affairs (environmental regulations, etc.) The same applies to all other fields of government. The goal here would be to ensure that society ran smoothly and without constant “meetings of the masses” to discuss “how our community will get water this week”. We would want an engineer with experience with water systems to be responsible for the public water service, not merely a ‘comedic’ populist. We would want a scientist in control of a socialist EPA, not someone like Jeff Sessions.

-A spiritual rebirth and reemergence of the popular masses and workers into political life with the emergence of a system where the people are truly in power. An absence of Marxism as a political religion or mandated political dogma enforced by those in power.

-All political and industrial officials are to be elected, have an extremely short term of service, and be instantly recallable at any time by popular petition of the people.

-The abolition of private property, its substitution not with state ownership and control but with social ownership and democratic control by the workers themselves and representatives of the public at large. The state, we believe, can and should aid in this transformation. These representatives too would be democratically elected and instantly recallable by popular petition at any time. Such a change would not be implemented overnight and therefore necessitates the existence of a state to aid in this social transformation. The state should, upon seizing power, take the largest 500 or so corporations into social ownership and democratic control after a very brief transitional period of state ownership and control. Everyone would have to “go back to work” the day after a revolution. A revolution is an economic trauma as much as it is a political one. Effort would have to be made to return the (likely falling apart) economy to a stable state of being before serious reforms were implemented.

-An abolition of all rights to inheritance. Small businesses also would no longer be passed down from generation to generation. We have no intention of robbing small business owners of their businesses that they have legitimately worked hard to create without reason. Means of production would likely be seized by the state and transferred to the workers upon death of the respective owners. Small businesses as they exist today are a fundamental aspect of the economy. Simply seizing ALL the means of production instantly would be disastrous for the economy and for society at large, as would be a ‘too rapid’ transformation of society. It would be the biggest economic disaster in all of human history, far more so than the state of Eastern Europe and Russia in the 1990’s. The workers could still elect members of that persons family if they truly represent the interests of the workers and the public at large. It could in effect, still be a ‘family business’.

-The right of working people to form their own workers self directed enterprises. This necessarily entails an abolition of wage labor. All workers would be paid in proportion to their quality and quantity of work, and in proportion to their needs.

-An abolition of individual taxation for the overwhelming majority of society. Capitalists, millionaires, and billionaires possessing over 10 million dollars would have all funds seized except for 10 million dollars or its equivalent. 10 million dollars would be the maximum allowed net worth of an individual. Emigrants who fled the country and capitalists who took arms against the revolution would be deprived of all funds and property by default, both personal and private. The vast amounts of hoarded wealth would be distributed to the working people and be made to fund social welfare programs. It would also be reinvested back into production.

-The immediate release of all non-violent criminals and those arrested for crimes whose origins emerge from poverty. The total reconstitution of the criminal justice system on a reform, not a punishment basis. An abolition of the current criminal injustice system. Such a system should aim to spiritually enrich those imprisoned and give them the means to have a stable and meaningful life upon release. It should not dehumanize them, use cruel and unusual punishments like solitary confinement, etc. This also entails an abolition of the death penalty and the establishment of a “maximum” sentence for prisoners (perhaps ~30 years).

-An immediate abolition of homelessness via the seizure of all empty homes from their respective landowners and landlords. Systems should be put in place to help those with mental disorders and addiction. The formerly homeless should be guaranteed either employment or a guaranteed means of subsistence. (Even in America today there are 5 empty homes for every homeless person). All land and property rents would be abolished and the sacred and inviolable right of the home would be preserved.

-The abolition of all existing government institutions and their immediate replacement by grassroots workers councils representing the true will of the people. Such councils then would elect representatives of their local communities to the nation as a whole, who would naturally be instantly recallable by popular petition at any time.

-The organization and armament of the masses and their organization into various voluntary militias to replace the traditional military. An immediate recall of all troops stationed overseas and closure of foreign military bases. An immediate end to all wars and the abolition of all treaties and trade agreements made with all other countries. A backup reserve could still be maintained and recruited exclusively for the defense of country from foreign invasion. To go to war with another country would require a popular vote of the people themselves (not merely their federal representatives) and such a decision would have to be done on a purely rational and calm basis. This makes the likelihood of an aggressive war against another nation almost non-existent. No people in all of human history have ever willingly and in reason made the decision to start an act of aggression against the people of another nation without the indoctrination of the ruling class and profiteers of warfare. No nation at war has ever objectively informed the masses about the aims and views of the other side. Such a system would aim to do just that.

-The transformation of the police into a truly public service, not a weapon of the state. The police would be instantly recallable at all time by members of the community, and its head would be democratically elected and instantly recallable at any time. It would exist solely to stop violent crime, as an organization responsible exclusively to the public. If a community felt alienated by the police, it would have the right to bar the police from entering said community and to recall elected officials of the community and/or the policing institutions.

-Potentially a rotating office in the highest seats of leadership in both cities and in the country at large

-An established and expanded version of the Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the removal of all rights to private property (the exploitation of labor) and the inclusion of positive liberty.

-The withering away of the state as soon as the economy is sufficiently socialized. State power to be replaced with peoples self-government. This would mark the beginning of stateless communism.

-The transfer to 100% green energy globally, massive reforestation programs

-Large amounts of foreign aid to formerly oppressed countries to industrialize and modernize on an ecological basis

-An increase in public funds for arts and sciences, including the creation of a new space program

-Increased funds into organizations specializing in robotics and automation with the goal being the eventual full automation of production and the liberation of humanity from physical labor.

-Strict regulations put in place in regards to potentially dangerous new technologies and scientific discoveries such as genetic engineering, disease research, and artificial intelligence. (We don’t want to give an AI unfettered internet access without understanding it first)

-The reconstituion of the production of agriculture and foodstuffs for the purpose of ending world hunger entirely (We alredy produce enough food to feed 10 billion a year)

-The abolition of extreme poverty globally with an emphasis on the abolition of poverty generally. (In 2017 the profit of billionaires alone was enough to abolish extreme poverty globally over 7 times over)

-State secularism as opposed to state atheism

-An abolition of mass surveillance and the re-stressing of the importance of liberty over the elusive idea of ‘security’. Technology would be made to increase privacy by design and not to track users. The internet would be decentralized, proprietary software and current privacy laws would be abolished. (You could read the source code and the community could make edits to OS X, Microsoft Windows, Adobe Photoshop, etc.)

These are some of the general predictions of what a world socialist revolution in the 21st century would look like. Its purpose would be to bring ordinary working people into power, to overthrow capitalist and corporate domination of the state and to establish a system that truly represents the people. With this, it would end once and for all every form of private and state oppression and exploitation. It would aim to liberate humanity and all the oppressed peoples of the world. These are merely my own speculations.

In this era of increasing right-wing authoritarianism, the erosion of privacy (the only real prerequisite to individual liberty), and the further divorce of even bourgeois democracy from capitalism, we can definitively say once again, as Rosa Luxemburg correctly did in 1920’s Germany, that in this era, at this time in human history, it is either socialism or barbarism! Our slogan today is the same as it was then, Workers of All Countries, Unite! Unite under the banner of liberty and socialist democracy! You have a world to win, you have nothing to lose but your chains!