The Revolution Will Not Be Livestreamed

The Revolution Will Not Be Livestreamed


Lately there has been much adieu about the utilization of the internet for revolutionary ends. While this enthusiasm is well intentioned, it lacks insight into something much more basic that we lack.

Lets start with the basics. The far-right, the center-right, the center-left, and the far-left all pretty much want the same thing, control over the capitalist State. They want to run the thing a little differently, open up national health care so that the more highly paid workers can subsidize the profits of medical businesses through taxation, kill foreigners from country x instead of country y, criminalize hobby z of the working-class etc. The ability to do these things, to terrorize the working-class, already exists. It doesn’t need to be built. The task for these capitalist politicians is to wrest control of the capitalist state from one another. This need not, has not, and will not, always be a peaceful affair. A coup d’etat is just as valid as an election result. The capitalists behind the scenes, the ones actually raking in profits from the various maneuvers of the State, aren’t terribly picky about how the State works, just so long as it actually works, which is to say that their profits are left more or less unharmed.

The activities of the capitalists consist of reinforcing this or that part of the already existing state. Voter registration drives feed in to the electoral system, rallies which end in speeches by local politicians teach the participants to be passive and that the goal is victory at the polls, ‘free speech’ rallies use the ‘free speech’ to guarantee state protection while the attendants attack minorities and workers. It doesn’t even need to be stated explicitly that ‘free speech’ rallies are meant to function as lynch mobs because beating minorities is normal. It is the status quo for police. These rallies are merely an opportunity for the far-right to have some practice at exercising state power.

Then there’s us.

We have no state apparatus to quibble over. Our task is to build the structure for the future state during the struggle against the existent state. Maneuvering, manipulating, scheming, plotting, betraying, inspiring, and all other forms of jockeying for control of the existing capitalist state have very little importance for us. Take, for instance, the United States government. If we were to elect avowed sleeper communists to every single electable post tomorrow, we still would be unable to make any serious strides towards establishing a human community. Our constituents wouldn’t follow our orders, and neither would the unelected bureaucrats. We cannot trick the capitalist state into not existing, we have to engage it in class war.

Our activities must fundamentally consist of something new. Our propaganda invigorates workers to take actions they otherwise might not, not merely functioning to reinforce existing beliefs or behaviors. Our organizational work brings about new forms which border on, and include the, illegal. The new organizations that we create are oppositional in nature. We build bridges across communities that may have previously hated each other, but will have learned to struggle in class-solidarity together.

So where does the internet fit in to this picture?

The internet is, among other things, a tool for communication. As such, it can be a powerful tool for coordination and information dissemination. The trouble comes in when it is assumed that simply disseminating information and coordinating individuals is enough. The internet at large is more or less aware of the utter corruption of Trump, and most people are in favor of impeachment; hell, various polls point to the fact that most young people prefer socialism to capitalism (as though it were a matter of preference and not material necessity). All the information about the benefits of socialism or corruption of Trump amount to a hill of beans if there are no organisations capable of taking advantage of this information. The working class lacks combat organizations due to the past 40+ years of capitalist assaults directed against organized labour, black labour, and migrant labour. In short, the capitalists discovered existing cracks in the working class and drove a wedge as deep as possible to split apart our ranks. The only way forward, the only way to rebuild our combat organizations, is by uniting the entire working class with a program against police violence, against deportations, against dismantling the unions, for a universal wage paid at the highest levels, for a universal health care system set at the highest standards of care. The only way forward is with the most radical egalitarian program which refuses to sacrifice any part of the class.

On the flip-side, the internet works quite well in the favor of the capitalists who can now use the internet to massively advertise get out the vote campaigns or street events where the participants will be guaranteed police protection while they assault minorities. And that’s just the political side of the internet. We could quite easily, though shouldn’t, forget the commercial side to the internet. From Amazon selling real commodities, to Netflix streaming virtual commodities, to Facebook selling your personal information as commodity, the internet has proved to be a great accelerator of capitalist turnover.

At its fundamental level, the internet generates political interest, enthusiasm, and rarely education. It generates all these things just as any political rally in real life might, but it generates these things in the form of a cleanly presented web page. One web page presenting fringe racist ideas might appear as orderly as another web page presenting milque-toast liberal ideas about women’s rights. In real life you’d quickly spot the difference between the fundamentalist street preacher screaming at passersby and the stadiums that Obama filled for speaking events, but online all ideas are, apparently, given equal weight. But not all web pages are equal, it is relatively well-known that Google and Youtube search algorithms are designed to promote far-right and conspiracy content and to marginalize content that is critical of capitalism. It is also perfectly acceptable to purchase “likes” and “subscribers,” making an outlet appear far more popular than it actually is, it should go without stating that capitalists have far more funds at their disposal for such purchases than do the scant few worker’s organizations which still exist.

Having said this, it is not impossible for the internet to be utilized by ourselves. Many people still manage to find their way to socialist-centric content, and in this way find themselves energized to fight capitalism, but this energy needs to be translated from virtual space in to the meat space that we all inhabit. If there are no organisations capable of receiving this energy, the result can be frustration, burn-out, confusion, and apathy from the briefly invigorated internet reader. Further, this energy is then often directed at leftists of some different tendency, placing the blame for the present hopeless situation on the incorrect approach taken by others. This, of course, does not exhaust the potential of the internet. Doxxing fascists has proven quite useful in removing their interaction with the productive life of the species for instance, and the internet has played a huge role in this. But getting a Nazi fired from work doesn’t get us terribly much closer to a world where production is subordinated to meeting and expanding human need.

The fundamental task that presents itself to us today is to organize the working-class as we immediately interact with it in our workplaces such that these organizations can begin to act on issues that face the working-class as a whole. The internet will inevitably be used to coordinate actions between already existing organizations, but it is highly likely that the point at which we begin to use the internet to successfully wage class war is the same point at which the capitalists will try to cut off that avenue of struggle, leaving us with our original battle field, the workplace. After the revolution we will certainly seize and utilize control over the internet, but until then, it is almost assured that the revolution will not be livestreamed.

“Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and
Hooterville Junction will no longer be so damned relevant
and Women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day”

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