[repost from 2008] The days that we can continue to pretend that mankind will anyminutenow be emancipated by Ubuntu, Wikipedia and Facebook are over.

“The undeveloped state of the class struggle, as well as their
own surroundings, causes Socialists of this kind to consider
themselves far superior to all class antagonisms. They want to
improve the condition of every member of society, even that of the
most favored. Hence, they habitually appeal to society at large,
without distinction of class; nay, by preference, to the ruling
class. For how can people, when once they understand their system,
fail to see it in the best possible plan of the best possible state
of society?. Hence, they reject all political, and especially all
revolutionary, action; they wish to attain their ends by peaceful
means, and endeavor, by small experiments, necessarily doomed to
failure, and by the force of example, to pave the way for the new
social Gospel.”
— Marx & Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1848.

By 1848 the European continent may have been haunted by the spectre of
communism, as feudal relations where unraveling and transforming while
the major European powers where experiencing violent social spasms as
they adopted the Industrialism pioneered by Great Britain, however
back in the “Workshop of the World,” the newly privileged English
working class had noticeably mellowed.

As Great Britain entered the second phase of the Industrial
Revolution, her own industry turned away from (now highly competitive
and thus low profit) textile markets, and moved to far more lucrative
Capital Goods.

Income from Steel and Machines sold to newly industrialising nations
on the continent, the new world and beyond made the United Kingdom the
world’s dominant financial power. Her workers, if perhaps only for a
brief moment, enjoyed a level of relative wealth and social stability
far removed from the gruesome, inhumane conditions brutally imposed
during the first phase of Industry.
After a century of Capitalization, all the newly formed productive capacity created a massive increase in the supply of basic consumer goods, prices where in free-fall across the board. And, with the repeal of the protectionist Corn Laws in 1846, British tables where overflowing with cheap imported food.

The radical convulsions of Luddites, Levelers, and Diggers, from the
eras of enclosures, civil wars and the birth of industry, where long
over and even Chartism was quickly disappearing.

Wealth, however briefly, had fattened the worker, the Capitalist, the
Landlord and the State alike, whose raw, ruthless, violent power,
so crucial in the primitive accumulation that created the basis of
Capitalist social relationships, whose history is written in “Letters
of Blood and Fire,” was now hidden behind the chubby, smiling face
of British Imperialism and wrapped in the legitimizing veneer of

The Socialism of the day, the Socialism denounced by Marx & Engels in

Communist Manifesto, was Utopian Socialism. A Socialism that doesn’t
chose sides, denies struggle, denies even class. A socialism that
ignores the dialectic nature of change, and assumes that some new form
of organisation, born from the inspiration of a kind of enlightened
social designer, driven by a technologically determinist world view,
will be adopted whole-scale on the basis of it’s undeniable merit by
worker, capitalist, and landlord alike, the latter two classes happily
abandoning the privileges that distinguish them and uniting with the
meritous worker in a new homogeneous mono-class of postindustrial
Utopian Man, living happily in Phalanstère and New Harmonies ever

Utopian Man never came about.

The brief gravy train of the British worker derailed in a train-wreck
of depression, unemployment, general glut and Capital flight. The
teeth and claws of Power and naked Imperialism where again shamelessly
exposed as two world wars shook the world. Utopian Socialism quickly
became a historical curiosity as Anarchist and Marxist Communism
spread among workers, politicians, and intellectuals world wide and
erupted in various syndicalist, political and insurrectionist forms,
none of which hesitated in denouncing the Bosses.

In the aftermath of Soviet collapse, the dream of Homo Utopicus

An accelerated plundering of second and third world alike, unhindered
by a now lost geostrategic balance of power, valourised triumphant
Capitalism and the Capitalist State alike.

The Internet, born of Cold War military funding, introduced the most
significant technological development since the dawn of electricity,
a medium of communication and exchange that was synchronous, peer to
peer, and international.

A network of equals, communicating and exchanging globally, A free
network that could route around censorship and State intervention
alike, a network where citizen journalist played on equal footing with
media tycoon, a network that could expand anywhere where one node
consented to inter-connect with another.

The territorial monopoly on violence that was the essence of the
State and its landlords now made obsolete by Cyberspace. The control
of the circulation of capital and product that was the lynch-pin of
Capitalist wealth now undone by direct online commerce. The scarcity
of the instruments of production that chained the worker to his
employer and social station now obliterated by immaterial capital,
nonreciprocal production, free software, free culture.

“The Californian Ideology,” replaced class struggle with
techno-utopianism and economic liberalism. The Neo-Utopians where

However once again, Utopian man hasn’t come about.

The Internet, born in the generous nursery of the arms race, was now
forced to pander for finance from the very Capitalist ruling class
it’s anarchic structure was supposed to neutralize.

Mom and Pop ISPs with backrooms full of consumer-grade modems are
replaced by giant telecommunications corporations with shiny and
expensive DSL infrastructure. Networks become less neutral and more

Like the downfall of the heyday of the pre-Depression British
industrial worker, the dotCom bust marked the explosion of the era of
domino asset bubbles, precarious McJobs, wars of economic desperation
and naked State repression.

Strengthened copyright laws, enhanced data retention laws, digital
rights management, software patents and other. political legal, and
capital interventions combine to make the data you store, receive, and
transmit a matter of national security and property privilege. Usenet
is replaced by Yahoo! Groups, email is replaced by Facebook, Napster
is replaced by iTunes. IRC by Skype, All funded by great accumulations
of wealth and firmly in the hands of the ruling class.

Day by day, communications systems are becoming more and more
centralized and exclusively mediated.

The role of peer to peer technology, the core breakthrough of the
Internet, is more and more a contraband technology, a technology for
criminals, pirates, rebels, maybe even “terrorists.”

The days that we can continue to pretend, despite all evidence to the
contrary in a world of rapidly increasing wealth stratification, that
mankind will anyminutenow be emancipated by Ubuntu, Wikipedia and
Facebook are over.

If we are to create a society where we produce and share as peers,
where direct unmediated communications and commerce allows peer
producers in informal, translocal communities to throw off the chains
of Monopolist and Rentier, then we must resurrect the language of
resistance, of class struggle, and acknowledge the fact that no
privileged class will give up it’s advantage gladly, that bottom up
revolution will always face top-down repression.

If we are unwilling to identify the thieves, we can never end the

Leave a Reply