Labor and the Internet: A book review

I have read with great pleasure and reward, Eric Lee's book 'The Labour Movement and the Internet: the New Internationalism' (Pluto Press, 1997). I would advise it's reading to any labour activist and any marxist.

The book first caught my attention because - as I have expressed elsewhere a number of times - I share Lee's opinion that the rebirth of the International will have to be based on the labour movement. That is, we must go back to the same path followed by Marx's very own I International (the International Workingmen's Association). The workers will first of all unite internationally to defend their very immediate economic interests. It is only in the development and deepening of this struggle that a political platform will arise. The XX century saw the complete short-circuiting of this path by the political instrumentalization of the labour movement in the cold war and by the confinement of marxist politics back into sectist cults. It's time to start again.

The current offensive of international capital (globalization, privatization, deregulation, downsizing, lean production, union busting, compression of the real wages, etc.) will by itself create the dynamics of class struggle that will compel the workers to seek international solidarity. Of course, the new means of communication are a potent tool at the disposal of labour activists and organizations. Eric Lee's abundant anecdotal evidence of this in his book is compelling and his proposals for new developments seem to be sound and exciting.

I would like to question him however on the final purposes of the "new international" he envisages. Can we really honour Marx's project without contemplating the goal of the complete emancipation of labour from the yoke of capital?

Capitalism is a stagnating productive system, besieged by chronic overproduction and declining rates of profit. For new leases of oxygen it cannot but proceed with its continuous offensives against labour's remuneration and rights, the pillage of non renewable natural resources and imperialist aggression.

If we can organize a powerful labour movement (along with other social "internationals" and movements of opinion) world wide that does fight back and contains this so vital offensive for capital, we will surely have to contemplate - sooner or later - capitalism's overthrow altogether. That means the expropriation of the means of production and can only take place with a political revolution and the installation of what Marx called the dictatorship of the proletariat world wide. The rule of the associations of free producers will then pave the way for the abolition of the social classes and the advent of communism.

Day dreaming? Not at all. It's today's hard reality that compels us to go back to the "old man". The modern revolution in communications is not only good for labour activism. It puts the most vast possibilities, the most wild "messianic" visions staring you in the face.

I am of the opinion that one must never lose all hope on a good social democrat. So, to paraphrase the good marquis de Sade, I would like Eric Lee to contemplate making this last effort - "encore un effort" - to be a complete and consequent marxist.;-)

-- Joćo Paulo Monteiro