ANNOUNCEMENT: Scheduled downtime - 'SOPA Strike'

SOPA strike

At 1pm GMT tomorrow (Jan 18) we will take libcom offline in solidarity with the "SOPA strike" and in opposition to a more restrictive internet.

This kind of protest is new, as befits new areas of contestation, which the internet had developed into. We do not know yet if such tactics can work, if it is possible for such tactics to place economic pressure on governments, or if such movements can have any class content. But at this point, we feel it is worth a try. While we clearly have differences with many of the major websites involved, we believe there to be the potential for positive communist content, and the rejection of notions capitalist property rights in the free distribution of pirated content. This remains the case whether Wikipedia or icanhazcheeseburger like it or not.

SOPA and related legislation have importance well beyond the boundaries of the US nation state. And so, opposition to it must spread beyond such boundaries too. On the internet, more than anywhere, adherence to national borders makes no sense. In this small way, we join the many thousands of others worldwide taking digital direct action against repressive internet legislation.

The downtime is scheduled to last 12 hours. If you want to save a few long articles to read, you should do so before 1pm GMT on Wednesday Jan 18.

- libcom.org group

Posted By

libcom
Jan 17 2012 22:35

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Chilli Sauce
Jan 24 2012 22:37

Also, a wage increase is just as much of a reform as stopping a law getting passed. The point isn't that communists don't want reforms before the revolution, the point is how we achieve reforms. Is it through parties, politicians, and representatives or is it through self-organisation and direct action? So your example of writing to congress is absurd and not remotely synonymous.

Also probably worth noting that libcom's statement directly says:

Quote:
We do not know yet if such tactics can work, if it is possible for such tactics to place economic pressure on governments, or if such movements can have any class content. But at this point, we feel it is worth a try. While we clearly have differences with many of the major websites involved, we believe there to be the potential for positive communist content, and the rejection of notions capitalist property rights in the free distribution of pirated content.

So I'd get down off your holier-than-thou soapboax.

lettersjournal
Jan 25 2012 08:20

I don't think the internet is "the free flowing of information" (that is a cliche out of Wired magazine or a Google speech to shareholders), nor do I think the internet existing is in the interest of humanity, much less proletarians. The function of the internet is selling stuff as well as social and economic reproduction (primarily advertisement and media). Its function is not anti-capitalist. Quite the opposite.

The internet is no more "free" than television. Probably less so, as it has the illusion of participation and control. It seems to be the most effective apparatus of capture ever invented (unlike television, critiques of the internet are written on the internet). There is also a bit of evidence that the internet and computers generally are incredibly bad for our health and mental abilities.

Quote:
Also, a wage increase is just as much of a reform as stopping a law getting passed. The point isn't that communists don't want reforms before the revolution, the point is how we achieve reforms. Is it through parties, politicians, and representatives or is it through self-organisation and direct action? So your example of writing to congress is absurd and not remotely synonymous.

Struggles over wages and lobbying for the passage or non-passage of a law are qualitatively different. One involves working class struggle at the point of production. The other involves lobbying/petitioning/protesting to congress or parliament.

If websites like Wikipedia closing for a day is "self-organization" and "direct action", I don't know what those terms mean. I don't think my point about writing to congress is absurd. If you really want certain laws to be passed or not passed, writing to congress is probably a better bet than doing things with communist websites.

And on a most basic level - the reason some websites shutting down for a day put pressure on congress is that those websites play an important role in the economic and social reproduction. If every anarchist and communist website threatened to shut down indefinitely in protest of ____ law being passed, it would have no effect whatsoever.

lettersjournal
Jan 25 2012 08:17
radicalgraffiti wrote:
lettersjournal wrote:
I do not think a wage cut and a law being passed are the same thing.

no but this law and a cut to wages would both have a negative effect on workers, and so should be opposed by communists, if you don't understand that then your an idiot.

This does not make sense. Hundreds of laws are passed or not passed every year. Their passage or non passage are both 'bad for workers'. The senators and congressman who voted against SOPA did not vote act in the interest of workers, anymore than those who voted for it.

Pretty much everything in this society has a negative effect on everyone. If one takes the voluntarist position seriously - that pro-revolutionaries have something of value and importance to offer the working class in a future or current struggle (or say, an insurrection or revolution) - then the abdication of anti-parliamentary rigidness and the willingness of communists to adopt populist positions is far more negative than a stupid law.

tastybrain
Jan 25 2012 08:44
lettersjournal wrote:
I don't think the internet is "the free flowing of information" (that is a cliche out of Wired magazine or a Google speech to shareholders), nor do I think the internet existing is in the interest of humanity, much less proletarians. The function of the internet is selling stuff as well as social and economic reproduction (primarily advertisement and media). Its function is not anti-capitalist. Quite the opposite.

Yes it's true that a major function -- perhaps the major function -- of the internet is selling things. It has also enabled things like attacks on government and corporate websites, the rapid circulation of information the state would rather not have exposed (wikileaks for example), the posting of abusive managers' names and phone numbers, the free acquisition of music, software, and countless educational texts, even the rapid spread of large protests and/or riots...

lettersjournal wrote:
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Also, a wage increase is just as much of a reform as stopping a law getting passed. The point isn't that communists don't want reforms before the revolution, the point is how we achieve reforms. Is it through parties, politicians, and representatives or is it through self-organisation and direct action? So your example of writing to congress is absurd and not remotely synonymous.

Struggles over wages and lobbying for the passage or non-passage of a law are qualitatively different. One involves working class struggle at the point of production. The other involves lobbying/petitioning/protesting to congress or parliament.

So? There is nothing inherently more revolutionary about struggles at the point of production than about community struggles (look at the UAW). Things like this and this, while not organized at the point of production, are still potentially revolutionary. Anyway, what about all the proletarians who aren't wage earners?

lettersjournal wrote:
If websites like Wikipedia closing for a day is "self-organization" and "direct action", I don't know what those terms mean. I don't think my point about writing to congress is absurd. If you really want certain laws to be passed or not passed, writing to congress is probably a better bet than doing things with communist websites.

And on a most basic level - the reason some websites shutting down for a day put pressure on congress is that those websites play an important role in the economic and social reproduction. If every anarchist and communist website threatened to shut down indefinitely in protest of ____ law being passed, it would have no effect whatsoever.

You might be right about it not having much of an effect. But I wouldn't condemn the tactic as such just because some major corporations were doing it. In the 1877 strikes in the US, many small business owners supported the strikers against the railroads because the railroads charged exorbitant/discriminatory rates to carry freight from or to certain places. That doesn't mean the strikes weren't worthwhile...

Juan Conatz
Jan 25 2012 08:46
lettersjournal wrote:
Hi Juan,

I am not sure what looting has to do with the passage or non-passage of a law (ie. Facebook vs. Universal Music Group). I do not oppose or support looting. Certainly, I am opposed to anything police would do to looters, though when I lived in New Orleans briefly it was clear that the police looted more than anyone (a lot of them drove Cadillacs after the hurricanes). Why do you ask about looting?

I ask because the primary reason I opposed the law and why I was worried about it is because I am poor. I cannot afford to pay $6,000 for an Adobe package of programs. I like photoshop and in design. I have been trying to learn how to do graphic design and layout, both for organizing/political purposes and for personal hobby reasons. Writing is something I like to do and at some point I would like to self-learn as much as possible how to turn it into something presentable.

I also love music. Like many people, it has gotten me through hard times and serves as something that motivates me or even keeps me grounded to how I was raised and the culture I identify with. However, as I mentioned, I am poor, and have little money to spend on things that are not directly tied to basic survival.

Laws passed that would criminalize me illegally downloading or shut down with extreme prejudice areas of the internet that allow me to do so have a negative effect on my life. It certaintly isn't the same as rising food prices, unemployment or debt, but it would have a negative effect on my life regardless. I never really saw or cared about the whole tech industry VS movie/music industry angle, although I agree with you that this issue is partially about that.

Rob Ray
Jan 25 2012 09:13

ITT: lettersjournal shows how easy it is to lose touch with how people really interact with the existing conditions of society when you rely too much on your own scene for critical input.

Fall Back
Jan 25 2012 09:43

What Juan said. Sure, losing libcom, MIA, Wikipedia and various "free sources of info" would be shitty (of course that's not why the Internet exists, but who gives a fuck? The practical consequence is I have access to vast swathes of information, history, texts that I otherwise wouldn't).

But the big thing for me is the effect of these laws would mean I didn't have access to music/games/software/TV shows/films I have now. Of course they'd still exist, but for those of us without unlimited financial resources, it'd mean we didn't get them.

I can honestly say without the hint of hyperbole that if I lost this, the effect on my immediate material standard of living (and the same for millions of young workers) would take a hit massively beyond any austerity measures we've seen in the past few years - and tbh, worse than most anything that's realistically on the cards.

Once again, the idealist underpinnings of lettersjournal's (and tbh nicom as a whole) thought comes to the fore. It seems that for some people communism really is just a nice idea.

Chilli Sauce
Jan 25 2012 17:41
LJ wrote:
nor do I think the internet existing is in the interest of humanity, much less proletarians.

Hypocrisy much?

Arbeiten
Jan 25 2012 18:04
lettersjournal wrote:
I don't think the internet is "the free flowing of information" (that is a cliche out of Wired magazine or a Google speech to shareholders), nor do I think the internet existing is in the interest of humanity, much less proletarians. The function of the internet is selling stuff as well as social and economic reproduction (primarily advertisement and media). Its function is not anti-capitalist. Quite the opposite.

He writes on libcom, a website jam packed with anti-cap stuffs.

mons
Jan 25 2012 18:55

On the one hand we should only care about struggles at the point of production (although I don't know why you think that, or why you think that's a communist stance - I think it's a really mad, anti-social and totally wrong stance) - or try and act to affect them at least. Presumably you'd be equally ambivalent if, say, the government tried to make abortion illegal again. On the other hand, you take a stance that these laws being passed, and even the internet as a whole shutting down would be a positive thing. Can you not see the inconsistency there?
Also,

Quote:
Hundreds of laws are passed or not passed every year. Their passage or non passage are both 'bad for workers'.

is rubbish. Was the minimum wage being passed as law bad for workers? If something is bad then is that it, we don't need any nuance or need to distinguish between different 'bad' things? And, again, you reveal yourself the contradiction in your argument because you think a hypothetical law that would shut down the internet would - by inference - be in the 'interest of humanity'.

lettersjournal
Jan 25 2012 20:26

Hi mons,

I do not think 'we' should only care about struggles at the point of production. I actually do not particularly care about them, unless I encounter them in my life. What I argued is that such struggles are qualitatively different than legislative debates. Further, I contended that communists ought not involve themselves in legislative debates and proceedings. This is not a novel position. On this point I find myself in the company of (most) of the left communist, council communist, and anarchist traditions, at least on paper.

I do not think the state is capable of acting in the interest of the working class or humanity. If I did think it was capable of doing so, I would run for office or support candidates I thought would be most willing to exercise that capability. We can look at a couple centuries of political reform and politicians earnestly trying to 'help the workers' to draw this conclusion.

Shutting down the internet seems to have aided the anti-government revolts in Northern Africa. Anytime a state has shut down the internet it has been a temporary measure and has backfired. That said, I would not support or oppose legislative action re: the internet because laws are irrelevant.

As I'm sure most of you are aware, laws and law enforcement have little to do with each other, and the countries with the 'freest' laws about strikes (for example) are often the most brutal in crushing strikes. The case of abortion is similar. Abortion is currently 'legal', but there are states where extra-legal terrorism and so on has pushed out all abortion clinics. Relying on the state to guarantee anything is not a safe bet and forces one to play the legislative game.

Quote:
I can honestly say without the hint of hyperbole that if I lost this, the effect on my immediate material standard of living (and the same for millions of young workers) would take a hit massively beyond any austerity measures we've seen in the past few years - and tbh, worse than most anything that's realistically on the cards.

The same could be said about your favorite restaurant up the street closing or your favorite brand of gum going bankrupt. Or maybe a bit more close to SOPA, the ban on kosher and halal slaughter in Denmark negatively affected the lives of Jewish and Muslim workers there, but communists should not have lobbied parliament there about it.

There are so few communists in the world that it does not make sense for communists to act together for causes that are already supported by huge swathes of the political spectrum. Better to do what only we can do, which isn't much, but that's our lot in life.

lettersjournal
Jan 25 2012 20:00
Quote:
Yes it's true that a major function -- perhaps the major function -- of the internet is selling things. It has also enabled things like attacks on government and corporate websites, the rapid circulation of information the state would rather not have exposed (wikileaks for example), the posting of abusive managers' names and phone numbers, the free acquisition of music, software, and countless educational texts, even the rapid spread of large protests and/or riots...

That the internet enables attacks on websites is a bit like crediting syphilis with offering a use for penicillin.

The wikileaks case is a good example of how the internet (and media) operates. What came out of wikileaks does not seem to have changed anything, even on the level of official discourse. Certainly, the information that came out was not a surprise to anyone but the very naive (roughly: soldiers kill people in wars and states think mean things about each other). Wikileaks revealed that the state does not need to lie. The truth is just fine. Torture and extra-legal assassination can be openly announced policies. In the total cynicism of our age, one does not need to lie. Nothing really matters much.

The occasional posting of abusive managers phone numbers is far outweighed by the internet functioning as a sort of open-source blacklist for employers to search for the background of new hires. It is used extensively by law enforcement to gather evidence, with most people constructing elaborate and detailed files on themselves and their associates. That MIT and other major universities are offering free course materials online reveals the value of these modern 'education texts' and video lectures (none at all, or at least no more than what was already available, pre-internet, in the public library).

The last claim, about the internet speeding up the spread of protests and riots, is a hypothesis that has no evidence. One cannot say that protests/riots are larger or spread faster today than they did 30 years ago. It is more plausible to me that the internet slows the spread of riots and protests, but I don't have much evidence for this either. It is true, however, that the illusion of the internet making it easier to meet people is obviously false. Almost all social or 'public' space is now filled with people on their smart phones or listening to music through earbuds. The atomization enabled by this technological shit is really astounding.

Hi Chili Sauce,

Yes, very much.

Fall Back
Jan 25 2012 20:36
Quote:
The same could be said about your favorite restaurant up the street closing or your favorite brand of gum going bankrupt

Maybe I'm just stuck in the real world, but the idea that a (real terms) 10-15% paycut over the past 3 years isn't as bad as losing your favourite estaurant is complete fantasyland.

Guess you must really like that restaurant tho.

Chilli Sauce
Jan 25 2012 22:04
Quote:
The same could be said about your favorite restaurant up the street closing or your favorite brand of gum going bankrupt. Or maybe a bit more close to SOPA, the ban on kosher and halal slaughter in Denmark negatively affected the lives of Jewish and Muslim workers there, but communists should not have lobbied parliament there about it.

So that first part is just mental and not even worth a response. On the second point, who's arguing that we "lobby" parliament? Once again, I think you've missed a key point here:

Quote:
The point isn't that communists don't want reforms before the revolution, the point is how we achieve reforms. Is it through parties, politicians, and representatives or is it through self-organisation and direct action? So your example of writing to congress is absurd and not remotely synonymous.
Chilli Sauce
Jan 25 2012 22:11

Ah, found another strawman here:

Quote:
If websites like Wikipedia closing for a day is "self-organization" and "direct action", I don't know what those terms mean.

Did you read the initial statement?

Quote:
While we clearly have differences with many of the major websites involved, we believe there to be the potential for positive communist content, and the rejection of notions capitalist property rights in the free distribution of pirated content. This remains the case whether Wikipedia or icanhazcheeseburger like it or not.
Arbeiten
Jan 25 2012 23:03

At least if there was no internet I would never again have to read a self interview....

Hieronymous
Jan 25 2012 23:12

word

tastybrain
Jan 26 2012 09:21
lettersjournal wrote:
Quote:
Yes it's true that a major function -- perhaps the major function -- of the internet is selling things. It has also enabled things like attacks on government and corporate websites, the rapid circulation of information the state would rather not have exposed (wikileaks for example), the posting of abusive managers' names and phone numbers, the free acquisition of music, software, and countless educational texts, even the rapid spread of large protests and/or riots...

That the internet enables attacks on websites is a bit like crediting syphilis with offering a use for penicillin.

You're missing the point. I am merely pointing out that the internet is a terrain of struggle. The "point of production" is entirely "enemy territory," much like the internet, yet you are comparing it favorably to elsewhere as an arena for struggle. Yes the overall function of the internet is capitalist, just as the overall function of the manufacturing sector is capitalist. But you claim class struggle in the latter is important while discounting completely the possibility of struggle in the former. Why?

lettersjournal wrote:
The wikileaks case is a good example of how the internet (and media) operates. What came out of wikileaks does not seem to have changed anything, even on the level of official discourse. Certainly, the information that came out was not a surprise to anyone but the very naive

Well perhaps it didn't have an immediately apparent impact, but I think a good number of people were disenchanted by some of the things exposed ("collateral murder"). Yes I agree these people were probably all somewhat naive...that doesn't diminish the importance of the incident, nor the general phenomena of the availability of information on the internet the government would rather not have public. Plus, something "changing something" or not is a terrible way to judge something's significance...there were many strikes and other struggles that failed to change anything, yet they are still significant and worthy of study.

lettersjournal wrote:
The occasional posting of abusive managers phone numbers is far outweighed by the internet functioning as a sort of open-source blacklist for employers to search for the background of new hires. It is used extensively by law enforcement to gather evidence, with most people constructing elaborate and detailed files on themselves and their associates. That MIT and other major universities are offering free course materials online reveals the value of these modern 'education texts' and video lectures (none at all, or at least no more than what was already available, pre-internet, in the public library).

They use the internet, we use the internet.

lettersjournal wrote:
The last claim, about the internet speeding up the spread of protests and riots, is a hypothesis that has no evidence. One cannot say that protests/riots are larger or spread faster today than they did 30 years ago.

I never claimed riots/protests do in fact spread faster or are larger now than in the past. What I said was the internet has enabled the rapid spread of large riots and protests. In some cases. This is pretty much indisputable...many protests in recent years (the massive one in Portugal a year or so ago is a good example) have been facilitated through the internet and have been quite large at least compared to the last decade or so. Claiming the internet has no role in modern social movements is like saying paper pamphlets had absolutely no effect during, say, the American Revolution,

lettersjournal wrote:
It is more plausible to me that the internet slows the spread of riots and protests, but I don't have much evidence for this either. It is true, however, that the illusion of the internet making it easier to meet people is obviously false. Almost all social or 'public' space is now filled with people on their smart phones or listening to music through earbuds. The atomization enabled by this technological shit is really astounding.

I don't necessarily disagree with you here. But whether or not communists use these technologies they will be utilized by society at large, and the conditions you describe will still prevail. Communists gain no discernible advantage by not using such things. Us failing to do so would be the equivalent of, say, the Bolsheviks or the CNT refusing to use the written word. Several people (such as Juan) have outlined the material advantages of the internet. You actually seem to be giving the internet too much credit...it is a means, a tool, and not some all encompassing, all-corrupting entity...

Croy
Jan 26 2012 09:46
lettersjournal wrote:
There are so few communists in the world that it does not make sense for communists to act together for causes that are already supported by huge swathes of the political spectrum. Better to do what only we can do, which isn't much, but that's our lot in life

This is pretty worrying, this seems to totally fly in the face of the concept of solidarity, a core anarchist/communist principle. We will not be able to do anything if we are just doing it by ourselves, if you were to have a demonstration or protest, purely consisting of just communists or anarchists, it would get brutally supressed in an instant. There is no other way but to act with people that may not be exactly anarchist/communist, but judging by what your saying, you, like the media, would claim thats "hijacking" some groups protest or demo. Anti cuts for example, can be supported by these "huge swathes of the political spectrum", should we not participate in any anti cuts campaigns then ? Last time I checked, opposing austerity measures is a mainstay of what we can do practically at the moment.

lettersjournal
Jan 27 2012 05:55

Rather than reply to everything here, I am going to write a longer article on the subject and post it to the library. I will provide a link.

Maybe this thread could be split to a new thread about the role/function/structure of the internet.

radicalgraffiti
Jan 27 2012 15:16
lettersjournal wrote:
There are so few communists in the world that it does not make sense for communists to act together for causes that are already supported by huge swathes of the political spectrum. Better to do what only we can do, which isn't much, but that's our lot in life.

there is nothing only "we" can do

Steven.
Jan 27 2012 15:36
radicalgraffiti wrote:
lettersjournal wrote:
There are so few communists in the world that it does not make sense for communists to act together for causes that are already supported by huge swathes of the political spectrum. Better to do what only we can do, which isn't much, but that's our lot in life.

there is nothing only "we" can do

in general, I agree with letters on this. But of course taking the site down for a day didn't actually take any effort on our part at all (quite the opposite actually as we got a day off moderating it). He should also note that we didn't encourage anyone to write to their representatives either

lettersjournal
Jan 27 2012 16:24
Quote:
there is nothing only "we" can do

There is one thing: articulate a communist critique of capitalist social relations.

radicalgraffiti
Jan 27 2012 16:25
Steven. wrote:
radicalgraffiti wrote:
lettersjournal wrote:
There are so few communists in the world that it does not make sense for communists to act together for causes that are already supported by huge swathes of the political spectrum. Better to do what only we can do, which isn't much, but that's our lot in life.

there is nothing only "we" can do

in general, I agree with letters on this. But of course taking the site down for a day didn't actually take any effort on our part at all (quite the opposite actually as we got a day off moderating it). He should also note that we didn't encourage anyone to write to their representatives either

aside form the fact that i cant think of what political category me and lj would both belong to, what is there that only we can do?

radicalgraffiti
Jan 27 2012 16:28
lettersjournal wrote:
Quote:
there is nothing only "we" can do

There is one thing: articulate a communist critique of capitalist social relations.

unless you define the category we as articulating a communist critique of capitalist social relations, than i don't see how you can say only we can do this

lettersjournal
Jan 27 2012 16:40

I understood the category "we" to be communists.

lettersjournal
Jan 28 2012 04:24
Fall Back wrote:
Quote:
The same could be said about your favorite restaurant up the street closing or your favorite brand of gum going bankrupt

Maybe I'm just stuck in the real world, but the idea that a (real terms) 10-15% paycut over the past 3 years isn't as bad as losing your favourite estaurant is complete fantasyland.

Guess you must really like that restaurant tho.

Hi Fall Back,

I was not comparing the restaurant closure to a wage cut. I was comparing it to the absence of movies on the internet, which you compared to the wage cut. I prefer nice restaurants to movies, so my favorite restaurants disappearing would be worse for me than the internet disappearing. Still, I would not protest in favor of a restaurant, anymore than I would protest in favor of the internet. Protesting in favor of particular businesses or industries is not something I would ever do, even if I really liked their products.

As I wrote earlier, I characterize the anti-SOPA website shut-downs as lobbying the congress (in a definitional way - lobbying means taking action to persuade congress to act in a certain way towards particular legislation, which is what these website shutdowns were doing) in favor of one industry (internet companies) against the interests of another (music and movie companies). The former industry is ascendant or plateauing while the latter is in decline, so it makes sense that the former is 'winning'. It does not make sense for communists to join in the fight.

Mike Harman
Jan 28 2012 14:12

So I didn't personally think much of the SOPA 'strike' (really it was more of a boycott than anything else), but I also don't think it did any harm to observe it, and it took less effort than writing this post will have.

However while obviously some people have done lobbying over SOPA, and some sites were showing a message suggesting people lobby congress etc. shutting down a website in itself is not lobbying.

Or if it is, so was:

- the poll tax riot
- the UK student protests last year
- the 2005 anti-CPE movement

All of which had as a central demand stopping legislation being passed or otherwise going into effect.

Steven.
Jan 28 2012 14:29

Mike, you are exactly right. (Except the CPE was in 2006)

Also of course there have been big legislative struggles around length of the working day.

Letters journal, I think basically this is comparable to at the moment shoplifting being quite permitted legally, thus enabling proletarians to get many commodities for free, and the government attempting to enact stricter laws against shoplifting. So in this sense it is a class struggle, as effectively governments and corporations are attempting to stop proletarians getting commodities for free, and effectively increase their prices.

Chilli Sauce
Jan 29 2012 10:03
Quote:
lobbying the congress (in a definitional way - lobbying means taking action to persuade congress to act in a certain way towards particular legislation

I mean, it's already been covered, but by this logic if the Wisconsin general strike had come off that would have been "lobbying then congress". I mean, it would have been the state legislature, but same difference.

Anyway
, what have that Pirate Party had to say about SOPA, out of curiosity? Anyone know?