Net Neutrality Was Always Doomed by Capitalism

We called our congress reps and senators, we wrote letters to government officials, we signed petitions, and we hammered out thousands of angry Tweets and blog posts, but it happened all the same: Yesterday the FCC repealed regulations that guaranteed net neutrality for American citizens despite the fact that 80% of Americans are in favor of maintaining net neutrality regulations.

Many liberals are stunned by the move, which gives powerful corporations even more control over our daily lives and threatens our freedom to benefit from the most incredible human communication system the world has ever known. Leftists, on the other hand, understand that it was only a matter of time before the internet would become partitioned off and commodified by the capitalist class.

. . .human history has been a constant struggle between different classes vying for supremacy through various predictable stages.

In the 19th century, Karl Marx laid down the foundation for the theory of historical materialism. Marx suggested that human society is fundamentally determined at any given time by material conditions — the relationships people have with each other to fulfill their basic needs of survival such as food, clothing, shelter, and so on. From the historical materialist viewpoint, human history has been a constant struggle between different classes vying for supremacy through various predictable stages.

The key battleground for this never-ending class conflict has always been the means of production — the resources that are necessary to meet the material conditions of society. During the feudal stage of history, the most important material need was food, which required a tremendous amount of time and labor to produce. Because of this, the most important means of production in feudal society was the land itself. Kings and aristocrats battled for the land while peasants and serfs served as little more than slaves to develop the land and produce food to meet the materials needs of society. In exchange for their work this peasant class were allowed to have homes on the lord’s lands and were given enough food to survive.

Over time, a capitalist class emerged and grew incredibly powerful by advancing and developing industry. This lead to farming methods becoming much more advanced, so that more food could be produced with much less land and labor. Industry supplanted agriculture as the means of production of primary importance in society. The factory owners were the new rulers of society and the working class emerged. Workers were paid in wages and money became much more important to societal organization. Money itself came to be the new hallmark of power, and wealthy robber barons emerged who were just as mighty as any king had ever been.

Over time, workers began to develop a consciousness of the nature of class struggle. They began to form trade unions and organize to resist capitalist oppression. The capitalists fought back, often violently, and class conflict took on a new character.

Although industrial technology has advanced rapidly through the centuries, the nature of class conflict remains the same as it has been since Marx first developed his ideas nearly two centuries ago. Capitalists still fight to accrue as much power for their class as possible while the working class continues to struggle for freedom from capitalist oppression and to meet their material needs for survival.

The growth of capitalist power can only be sustained by developing new markets and convincing – or commanding – working class people into spending more money on capitalist-produced products and services.

In this sense, capitalism can be seen as a process. Capitalists and their corporations must maintain a constant rate of growth. Profits for shareholders must always increase over time. As these corporations grow larger and more powerful, they must seek out more markets in which to turn a profit. As the capitalist classes of nations develop, they will eventually grow so powerful that they are able to exploit poorer nations through imperialistic processes that force poorer people to work for lower wages to produce goods for the more wealthy homeland.

The United States of America entered this advanced stage of imperialist-capitalism some time in the late 20th century. In the decades since World War II, United States corporations have developed a global reach that exploits workers domestically and globally to rob wealth from the working class and transfer it to a small number of wealthy capitalist families.

The growth of capitalist power can only be sustained by developing new markets and convincing – or commanding – working class people into spending more money on capitalist-produced products and services.

As such, it is the nature of capitalists to “seek rent.” Rent-seeking is the process of increasing wealth without creating new wealth. In other words, capitalists will always try to make more money without producing any more value, whenever and wherever possible.

Sometimes capitalists seek rent through marketing. For example, when you buy a new smart phone at Verizon they will always try to get you to buy over-priced accessories like screen protectors and charging cables at exorbitantly marked-up prices.

Other times capitalists seek rent through government lobbying and coercion. This can include demanding that governments subsidize their businesses and give them benefits and hand-outs, or simply pushing legislators and officials to pass laws and regulations that benefit their business directly at the expense of working class consumers.

Example of legislative rent-seeking include mega-farms pushing for farm subsidies that help them reap obscene profits and giant corporations like Amazon demanding billion dollar incentives from local governments as bribes to open offices and facilities in their cities.

. . .the capitalists will always seek to own and commodify the internet.

The internet has become the single most important means of production in the world. There is not a single corporation that doesn’t require the web to do business. Working people also require the internet to do their jobs, educate themselves, fill out government forms and job applications, and communicate with one another. The internet today is every bit as important to us as farmland was to feudal society.

As such, it’s only natural that the capitalist class would seek rent from the internet by influencing the state to remove regulations that would interfere with the growth of their profits and power. This is the nature of class struggle — behavior that has repeated throughout history since the capitalists first wrenched power from the feudal class.

Perhaps the most outrageous aspect of this issue is that capitalists believe they have a right to own and control the internet at all. The internet was not developed by any individual capitalist. It is the end result of millions of humans toiling over hundreds of years to develop and refine science and technology.

As Pyotr Kropotkin puts it in The Conquest of Bread:

The means of production being the collective work of humanity, the product should be the collective property of the race. Individual appropriation is neither just nor serviceable. All belongs to all. All things are for all men, since all men have need of them, since all men have worked in the measure of their strength to produce them, and since it is not possible to evaluate every one’s part in the production of the world’s wealth.

Yet the capitalists will always seek to own and commodify the internet. They will always seek to collect rent on internet services through whatever means they can exploit. Corporations will never stop seeing you and all of your personal and private activities and relationships as products and revenue sources.

Lobbying our representatives is fine and good, but even if we receive some legislative relief from congress as it pertains to net neutrality it can only ever be a temporary stop-gap. As long as the capitalist class is allowed to own the means of production which humanity has collectively developed class struggle will continue and the ruling class will continue to seek to oppress us and limit our freedoms.

Yesterday was just one more day in which we lost a battle with our capitalist oppressors. But today — tomorrow — any day can become the day we take back all that we’ve lost! As Marx writes: “If conquest constitutes a natural right on the part of the few, the many have only to gather sufficient strength in order to acquire the natural right of reconquering what has been taken from them.”

The only lasting solution to the issue of net neutrality, as for all problems of inequity and freedom from oppression on this earth, is to end the practice of capitalism and develop a society that is socialist and truly democratic in nature. We, the workers of the world, must unite and demand that which is ours by right — a free and neutral internet which is shared and enjoyed by all without restriction or limitation.

One Response to “Net Neutrality Was Always Doomed by Capitalism

  • “The internet was not developed by any individual capitalist. It is the end result of millions of humans toiling over hundreds of years to develop and refine science and technology.”

    I’ve been reading your blog and I like it a lot. Though I disagree with you on a lot of things I always feel you come from a place of honesty. This is why I find strange that you refer to the Internet as «the end result of millions of humans toiling over hundreds of years». It’s not that that’s wrong… it’s just that the same can be said for airplanes and lampshades and golf balls. From a technical and historical perspective, you’re not giving your reader any palpable and concrete information.

    You are an intelligent man. So you also undoubtedly realize that you are, for some reason, downplaying the obvious importance that not only capitalist venture had in the development of technologies of communication (from the telegraph to the telephone) but also the pivotal role that the US Military had in the development of the technology in question, the Internet.

    This is a problem I have with so many people on the left, this subtle erasure of history and / or inconvenient facts that go against the ethos. However, as I read your post on Ho Chi Minh I couldn’t help but feel that you actually have a critical perspective on the events and a genuine thirst for historical truth. So that’s why I have a problem with this poetic and abstract portrayal of the Internet as the end result of millions of humans working together, holding hands and singing kumbaya. As if there were no state involved, as if there were no hierarchy involved, as if there were no militaristic and imperialistic purposes behind it.

    Why omit the historical role the Military had in the development of the Internet just because it “goes against” our anti-Military convictions? You understand what I’m saying? I am not attacking you. I just believe you are too intelligent to commit that kind of omission by mistake.

    Also, at the risk of sounding petulant, I would strongly advise you cut out the hyperbole and the purple prose. I say this as someone who admires your writing style… but in a blog about politics, specially one that espouses views that are not mainstream, you would benefit immensely from trying to be as objective and as clinical as possible. Think Noam Chomsky.

    For example, you have a post titled “White Supremacy is a Pyramid Scheme” or something to that effect. I clicked the post expecting to read something related to White Supremacy being a pyramid scheme (and we know that entire essays could be written about it – many neo-nazi leaders ripped off their followers like David Duke) only to find out it was, particularly, a post about the TWP fascists in particular. If you were specific, by titling it “The Traditionalist Workers Party is a Pyramid Scheme”, not only would you have an increased number of readers (because you are using specific tags), it would also have been neutral, objective, true and your readers wouldn’t feel slightly disappointed by expecting something the title promises but the text doesn’t deliver.

    Keep up the good work, my friend.

    Pedro

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