Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Mark Rudd

Only capitalism can produce “hackers”

First Published: Unity, Vol. 12, No. 9, June 20, 1989.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Both Michael Lee’s analysis of the issues in the Chinese students’ protests and Karen Engst’s first person account (Unity, May 31, 1989) were better reportage on China than I’ve seen in any other media. Lee was even balanced enough to predict the possibility of the government cracking down. Engst, on the other hand, represented the optimistic picture, which all of us clung to before the massacre of June 3-4. Thanks to Unity for presenting us an unbiased view of the situation.

Both writers, however, concur in portraying student admirers of the U.S. as “naive” (Lee’s word). I would like to suggest another interpretation.

One of the most obvious facts in the world today – and probably the one most responsible for the upheaval in socialism we are living through – is the fact that microprocessors are the product of capitalism, not socialism. This means that the capitalist “democracies” are leading the way into the third great technological revolution (agriculture, industrialization, information). The socialist states are so far behind that they probably have no chance of catching up unless they undergo significant transformations. Intellectuals in China and the Soviet Union realize this, and are adjusting their thinking accordingly.

Socialism was supposed to liberate human energy, but it has proven only adequate to serve as the organizing means for modernization of pre-industrial societies into the equivalent of early 20th century industrialization. The experience has proven that all modernization processes (capitalist in the 19th century, imperialist in the 20th) are inherently violent and brutal. People must be ripped from their land and forced into cities to toil, surplus must be sweated from their labor.

Whatever the cost is or has been, socialism as practiced virtually everywhere in the world does not have enough freedom to produce “hackers” – the people who are on the cutting edge of revolutionary technology. (Thanks to Carl Davidson for that insight.) Innovation takes complete, unfettered freedom, including market, political, intellectual, informational. What we used to call “bourgeois freedoms” are included. There are terrible dangers, for example, the reintroduction of class rule and privilege, but in the final analysis, socialist societies have little choice if they want to enter the 21st century.

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Mark Rudd is a teacher and is active in the Central America solidarity movement in Albuquerque, New Mexico.