► NSA Spying in the Proletarian Century – [FoC.13.06.09]
Posted by Ben Seattle on June 9, 2013
The NSA Spying Scandal:
Information War in the Proletarian Century
Who will have the upper hand in the information war
which will dominate the 21st Century? It will not be the NSA.
Yes, now it is official. The phone calls you make,
the emails and texts you type, the racy photos you
send to someone special, every digital trace of
anything that you create–is all being scooped up
into a gigantic database maintained by the U.S.
What will the government do with this information?
The imperialist-in-chief, Obama, assures everyone
that this information is needed to fight “terrorism”.
But we already know that, in the U.S., the fight
against “terrorists” included coordinated attacks
on Occupy encampments in dozens of cities and throwing
activists from Portland and Seattle into solitary
confinement for the “crime” of refusing to talk about
the political beliefs of their friends.
History tells us something different, including that
the information in these spy databases will be used,
increasingly often, to decide who to kill.
There has already been a steady increase, in several
countries, in what are called “signature strikes” by
drones. These are assassinations from the sky where
the people who guide the drones don’t really know who
it is that they are rubbing out. All they know is that
the target has some of the same “observables” as a “bad
guy”. Or, in simpler, everyday language, if it looks
like a duck and quacks like a duck, kill the duck.
So, just to make sure that you are not in danger, make
sure that you don’t hang out with, or visit the same
websites, as anyone who might do something stupid.
Maybe you should just keep to yourself, and spend as
much time as possible hiding under your bed. Oh wait,
history also tells us that that won’t keep you safe
Some of the liberal pundits are professing to be
“shocked” by these revelations. This is like the
famous scene in “Casablanca” where the corrupt police
inspector is informed that gambling is taking place
in Rick’s Cafe. Anyone who claims to be “shocked” at
any of this–is either naive or a liar.
A top secret security clearance was not required to
know what is going on. Anyone who followed public
information on these things (with their eyes open) knew
what was happening.
Polls show that most people are not terribly up-in-arms
about the revelation that “their” government is spying
on everything they do. The reason for this is simple:
there is not a lot that can be done to stop the massive
At least for now.
The liberal and social-democratic political trends
may make various kinds of noise, but they are not
capable of organizing a serious struggle on this.
That would be like expecting a poodle to kick the butt
of its master.
My view is that this spying will continue until the
class rule of the bourgeoisie is overthrown. But
the liberals and social-democrats are not going to
talk about that.
I think it is useful to put these things in context.
This is the century in which the proletariat will
overthrow the class rule of the bourgeoisie. The
bourgeoisie (of course!) will collect every scrap of
information they can, in order to understand what is
going on and disorganize, defeat or destroy their
enemies. By doing this, they will postpone their
overthrow (for a little while). But in the long run,
it will not help them.
And we do not need to be afraid of them, or of “big
brother”. It will be the opposite. As we learn how
to organize ourselves, it is the bourgeoisie which
will become increasingly afraid of us.
So, if you get nervous about the government snooping,
keep this in mind:
The bourgeoisie (by means of its intelligence agencies)
will know what kind of toothpaste you use. It will
know when you get up and when you go to bed. It will
know what kind of porn you like to watch. But it will
not do them any good.
They are doomed.
Yes, at some point later in this century, the
bourgeoisie that “owns” this country will likely
attempt to “decapitate” the movement here by the
same methods they have so freely used in Asia, Africa
and Latin America: death squads and the like.
But they will not be able to stop a living movement
that has learned what it is fighting for and how to
Let’s consider why the proletariat will win the
information war in every way that really matters.
Digital information, broadly considered, can be
categorized, roughly, as being either public or private.
The bourgeoisie, by means of the billions and trillions
of private phone calls and emails they suck up, will
have knowledge of most of this private information.
But it will not help them–because the most important
information will be public.
It is the bourgeoisie that has everything to fear.
Edward Snowden has now added his name to the roll of
honor next to that of Bradley Manning, whose leak of
a quarter million diplomatic cables helped touch off
the revolt in Tunisia–which helped ignite the rest of
the Arab world and the Occupy movement here in the U.S.
In order to maintain its secrets, the bourgeoisie must
steadily shrink the population of analysts who have
access to the most important information. The position
of the proletariat will be the opposite–as it learns
to steadily increase the population of “analysts” (ie:
experienced activists) who help it digest and understand
every important item in the news.
Even those organizations on the left which are saturated
with hypocrisy and corruption (such as the British SWP,
which attempted (I think, I have not followed the details)
to protect a rapist in its ranks, and the local Seattle
branch of the ISO, which suffered a leak of emails as it
discussed its plan to compete for influence with the
militant wing of the Occupy movement) are learning to
their horror, that the world is becoming transparent.
As the proletariat learns how to organize and
understand public information, as it learns how to
digest the news so that it can give an accurate,
reliable and comprehensive understanding of politics,
culture, economics, technology, history and military
affairs to hundreds of millions, it will eventually
overwhelm the ability of the bourgeoisie to wage the
online war of ideas and, as it does so, will ignite a
conscious fire that cannot be extinguished.
So, instead of wringing our hands about the inevitable
snooping by the political police, we can be relaxed,
and spend our time, instead, on learning how to
collaborate in public, in full view of friend and foe
alike, to build a public, centralized news and culture
service which will be open to contributions from all
All Power to the Public Domain!
Appendix: Louis Proyect on why “internal” documents cannot be bottled up
Louis Proyect is a social-democratic, among other problems. He is also a damn fine writer. Here is an excerpt.
I imagine that if Martin Smith had not been such a sexist pig, the SWP would have meandered along in this fashion for a number of years. Like a match thrown into a room filled with gasoline fumes, the rape incident and the Central Committee’s role in covering it up has provoked a crisis threatening the very existence of the party.
Returning to Callinicos’s article, I was struck by his exasperation over how “internal” party matters have spilled over into the Internet:
One thing the entire business has reminded us of is the dark side of the Internet. Enormously liberating though the net is, it has long been known that it allows salacious gossip to be spread and perpetuated – unless the victim has the money and the lawyers to stop it. Unlike celebrities, small revolutionary organisations don’t have these resources, and their principles stop them from trying to settle political arguments in the bourgeois courts.
In a nutshell, this is the same mindset that is on display at MIT, the elite institution that insisted on prosecuting Aaron Swartz for purloining JSTOR documents. Like the Gutenberg printing press that made possible generations of revolutionary-minded print publications like Iskra, the Internet is the communications medium for 21st century socialism. If anything has become clear, the “internal” documents of the SWP cannot be bottled up behind a firewall. In the same way that a Madonna video will make its way into Pirate’s Bay, some controversial SWP document will get leaked to the wretched Andy Newman’s Socialist Unity website. I am not even taking a position on whether this is reflecting the “dark side” of the Internet–only that this is the reality we operate under.
But more to the point, there really is no basis for revolutionary socialist organizations to keep their business internal. This was not the case in Lenin’s day, nor should it be the case today whether we are communicating through the printed page or on the Internet. This idea that we discuss our differences behind closed doors every couple of years during preconvention discussion was alien to the way that the Russian social democracy operated. They debated in public. We are obviously more familiar with Lenin’s open polemics with the Mensheviks that some might interpret as permissible given that a cold split had taken place (a false interpretation as Pham Binh and Lars Lih have pointed out.) But even within the Bolsheviks, there was public debate as demonstrated over their differences on whether the bourgeois press should be shut down.