by GLAU MONTGOMERY
The Internet could be considered the new face of socialism. The vast dissemination of information, often through individuals working with individuals, provides the chance to break the “final nexus” of capitalism, namely, self-interest. File-sharing and peer-to-peer networking are put in place simply for people to enjoy the artistic work of another, often in foreign countries and cultures. The underground system of information sharing provides an example of a system that has broken past the capitalist cage of individual control we have today.
File-sharing from Napster, to Kazaa, to Youtube, to simple P2P networks, is a great example of people providing others for the simply sake of providing others, not for profit, or even charity (though my music collection is often in need). It removes profit from the equation and people interact simply as people, individuals no longer need to dominate the means of production and exploit the needs of workers. It is the land where workers control the means of production, and as such, they work without exploiting others, without competition for profits, without a “race to the bottom.”
A few days ago, the Swedish Pirate Party won a seat in the European Parliament. The Party has constantly pursued a platform of freedom of information and the reform, if not outright abolishment, of copyright laws. The Party holds ancestry in The Pirate Bay, a group of file-sharing Swedes. They exploded in popularity after the arrest of the Bay’s architects, which came after agitation of the courts by numerous entertainment industry lawyers. Their victory in the EU Parliament reflects their new international popularity, with official PP branches in Spain, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Poland, and Finland. Active but unregistered branches exist in USA, UK, Australia, and Argentina. The PP has also made a deep impact on the European youth, picking up a fifth of the Swedish under 30 vote. With about 7% of the popular vote, the Pirate movement has caused a handful of left-wing Swedish political parties to shift on their stance to copyright laws.
The entertainment industry, predictably, fights the attempts of the PP at all turns. The ability of people to openly share resources and goods cuts into their profits. Not the profits of the artists mind you, but the profits of the executives who work as executives do, seeking to profit off the effort that others put forth. The industry will most likely brand the Swedes who voted PP as foolish kids or thieves seeking to profit off the hard work of industry executives. The PP shows an alternative, a limited alternative but an alternative nonetheless, to the classic corporate domination of information, entertainment, and media.
What does this have to do with democratic socialism? Well, quite simply, the Pirate Bay and their cousins in the Pirate Party have advocated in a small way for a world beyond capitalism, though that probably isn’t their intent. The Internet and its freedom of information give a glimpse into a world where people interact for the sake of interaction, for fun, and not for profit. It neither is democratic socialism, nor is it a world of communities controlling the natural resources and distribution of said resources, but it is a vision of a system that moves beyond capitalism. It’s a start, a step forward if we will. And in a world where we have seen “the end of history,” we could use all the steps we could get.