Announcements & Shorts
Subject: The Virtual Activist Online
March 23, 1998
LAUNCHES THE VIRTUAL ACTIVIST WEB SITE FOR CYBER-ACTIVISTS
Virtual Activist," NetAction's comprehensive training course
on cyber-activism, is now on the web and available globally to
activists who want to use technology effectively for grassroots
organizing, outreach, and advocacy.
course can be found at: http://www.netaction.org/training.
to the trend toward high-end graphics and complex technology that
has characterized the commercial evolution of the Internet, NetAction's
training course promotes a more text-oriented approach.
more complex the technology, the more limited the access,"
said NetAction Executive Director Audrie Krause. "If you
want to get information to people, keep it simple."
online training course was developed cooperatively by Krause;
Judi Clark, founder of WomensWork; and Michael Stein, Internet
Coordinator for Children Now. The training course is based on
the curriculum developed for a half-day workshop on cyber-activism,
which Stein and Krause co-taught last year in San Francisco, CA.
numerous inquiries about the class from activists outside the
Bay Area," said Krause. "Some specifically asked that
we put the training course on the web site."
course is a rich mix of information about technology tools and
examples of how activists have been using the tools. The examples,
drawn from a wide range of activist sites, are included as links.
technology is changing rapidly and activists are constantly experimenting
with the technology,"said Clark. "We hope to update
the site regularly to keep up with these changes."
who visit the site are encouraged to provide feedback to NetAction,
The training course provides helpful hints for using email and
the web, as well as examples of how the Internet can be used by
activist organizations to build membership and raise money. There
is also a chapter that addresses netiquette and the important
technology policy issues that could impact access to the Internet
by activists and non-profit organizations. A Virtual Activist
Reader is included with links to a wide range of relevant web
is a project of The Tides Center, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization.
NetAction works to educate the public, policy makers, and the
media about technology-based social and political issues, and
to promote the use of technology for grassroots organizing, outreach,
and advocacy. NetAction's web site is at: <http://www.netaction.org>
601 Van Ness Ave., No. 631 San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 775-8674 FAX: (415) 673-3813
2. Subject: MS Threat to E-Commerce
April 13, 1998
Threat to Electronic Commerce: DoJ Won the Intuit Battle, But
Microsoft Could Win the War
CA--An in-depth report by NetAction reveals how important antitrust
enforcement is to assuring vigorous competition in the emerging
online financial services marketplace. The report, released today,
describes how the Justice Department's 1995 opposition to the
proposed Microsoft-Intuit merger opened the door to industry competition
and ultimately resulted in the emergence of an open standard for
electronic banking protocols.
But continued vigilance by the Justice Department is necessary,
NetAction's report warns, because Microsoft continues to use its
financial and technological power to establish a monopoly in online
company is successful, it could ultimately gain control of the
economic lifeblood of Internet commerce," said Project Director
Nathan Newman, who wrote the report.
who criticize the Justice Department for investigating Microsoft
need to understand that the government's 1995 intervention is
the reason we have open competition today in online financial
transactions," Newman added.
"The Microsoft-Intuit Merger: The Intervention that Worked
and the Dangers Today from Microsoft's Monopoly Practices in the
Online Financial Marketplace" also examines Microsoft's more
recent attempts to monopolize Internet banking. The complete report
is available on NetAction's web site, at: <http://www.netaction.org/msoft/finance/>.
white paper explains how the government's intervention made it
possible for new competitors to enter the online financial marketplace,
and at least gain a foothold in some of the markets that Microsoft
was attempting to monopolize. Although Microsoft had sought to
control the standards of online commerce through its merger with
Intuit, the Justice Department's opposition killed the proposed
merger and forced the company to compromise with competitors in
building core open standards into the online financial economy.
Microsoft's increasing dominance of corporate computing and Internet
technology has led to a renewed monopoly threat in the world of
online financial transactions.
is inserting its Internet servers into most online financial transactions,"
said Newman. "With its growing control of the Internet browser
market, Microsoft is not only in a position to direct customers
to its Internet sites, it can direct consumers to the financial
services from which it gets a commission."
The most serious
threat is that Microsoft is building a partnership with First
Data Corporation in an effort to replace the role of banks in
processing online bills that were previously mailed to customers
by credit card companies, utilities or other merchants.
of this calls for increased government scrutiny of Microsoft,"
said NetAction Executive Director Audrie Krause.
danger is that rapid, unregulated changes in the financial world
can have dire economic results," warns Newman. "Just
look at the recent crisis in East Asia's banking system, or at
the Savings and Loan crisis a few years ago which cost American
taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars."
NetAction's report argues that government intervention now, oriented
toward promoting open competition and economic equity, will negate
the need for much broader, more expensive intervention, in the
NetAction launched the Consumer Choice Campaign to educate cyberspace
consumers about the threat of a Microsoft monopoly of the Internet,
and to mobilize Internet users to pressure federal officials for
more vigorous enforcement of antitrust laws. Additional information
about the campaign is on the NetAction web site at: http://www.netaction.org.
may contact Nathan Newman firstname.lastname@example.org for an email copy
of NetAction's list of Microsoft investments, along with the white
paper's Introduction and Table of Contents.
601 Van Ness Ave., No. 631 San Francisco, CA 94102
FAX: (415) 673-381
3. Subject: Labor and Technology
Date: 24 Dec
To: Recipients of conference email@example.com
I last night finished reading the essay by Jon King on biotechnology
that spotlights the legal maneuvers by big business to take ownership
of biotechnology. It is a part of the compilation of technology
essays by Marxist and radical scientists, engineers and commentators
on technology and the labor movement that was advertized on this
Jon is leading
the Labor Party's (LP) technology commission.
highlights some of the possibilities for vastly increased production
of food through biotechnological advances--gene splicing for example,
and the ongoing attempts by big money to control those advances
through a radical alteration of the patent laws. This is an area
of law that we should be paying a lot of attention to because
at both the national and the international levels the original
intents of the law are being bastardized for the sake of future
profit, and, as always, we are going to be the ones upon whom
the crime is perpetrated.
does a good job of outlining the important issue from a working
class perspective, without succumbing to the fashionable postmodernist
nee-jerk reaction against any and all use of biotechnology for
the benefit of humankind. He urges caution where it is warranted,
as in public safety issues, without resorting to Frankenstein-like
fantasies or the typical religious, anti-human-progress arguments
of many in the "postmodernist" left.
essays in the book tend to err in a way that is typical of many
Marxists over the last century and a half. They underestimate
the ability of Capitalism to remake itself at crucial stages,
often just in time to save itself, while overestimating the time
it is likely to take for many of Marx's predictions to unfold,
a problem Marx himself was prone toward.
labor theory of value is fraught with problems, it is certainly
the best, most workable value theory we have, at least to my knowledge,
yet the confusion between semi-automation and true-automation
(a feat that is still most likely many years off), leads many
of the authors to make dire predictions for the coming period
as far as the world market's ability to put labor to work.
My own predictions
for the coming period call for a new long-wave boom (based on
the cumulative work of both Marxist and Capitalist economists
on what have been called Kondrantieff Long-waves.) This long-wave
upswing in world economic growth will not be without its problems
and certainly, just as with similar periods, it will not be able
magically make the normal seven- to 10-year business cycle disappear,
but it will leave the slow-no-and-negative growth of the past
three decades behind.
The last time
we enter a long-wave upswing in this country, in the mid- to late
1940s, it was well into the 1950s before most Marxist economists
realized what was happening, certainly a poor record. I have taken
a look at the writing, both scholarly and in the popular Marxist
press, and found that the same kind of mistakes were being made
then, with economic gloom and doom predictions at the same time
when the economy worldwide was on the uphill side of a long-wave
What can be
said about the coming period is that it will be characterized
by incredible displacement of workers and misuse of workers' talents
if we do not create an effective worldwide campaign for a shorter
work week with no reduction in pay. That means creating an effective,
mass, working-class, electoral political party and ending the
disastrous, decades-old labor/liberal/left coalition in favor
of a new coalition of the majority that does not include liberal
forces. (In fact, attracting the majority, who do not vote at
this time and do not participate in politics is contingent on
separating ourselves from the liberals who have made it impossible
to attract most working class people into active support of the
left and labor.)
information technology in the next decade--will cause the displacement
of millions of workers in the world economy. That is inevitable.
However, predictions of a massive new class of unemployed, as
in Kurt Vonnegut's "Player Piano," is not in the cards
as long as the technologies coming online are of the semi-automated
variety. They are tools that add to the productivity of workers,
such that, for instance, much clerical office work is being eliminated.
(My daughter for instance, works as a records clerk for an insurance
company. As that company eliminates paper records in favor of
computerized records keeping systems, she is being trained for
the computerized jobs that will be available in the next year
as her paper bound job is eliminated. That process is taking place
all over the world today.)
A truly automated
system would allow the Capitalists to keep records without an
army of computer literate, minimum-wage workers. That will have
to wait for the truly automated computer system of the future.
Twenty years ago, it was commonly predicted that such systems
would be available in ten years! That prediction was way off!
intelligence computing has been far more evasive than was at first
anticipated. The experts in the field, at this point, do not even
have a clue as to which of several directions of research will
finally yield real artificial intelligence. Many in the field
of consciousness research even predict that the human brain is
so complex that a machine might never be able to duplicate its
computing power (See Roger Penrose, The Emperor's New Mind and
Shadows of the Mind, for example.)
I do not hold
with Penrose's pessimism and somewhat dualistic, almost supernatural
theory of consciousness that is based on the idea of quantum-level
organization of the consciousness; however, despite the enormous
stride forward in brain research and understanding of how intelligence
works, scientists have yet to come up with a convincing theory
of consciousness. The most popular theory of brain function, meanwhile,
suffers from the problem that it really does not adequately explain
the level of complexity of the brain. The "Connectionist"
theory is based on the idea that each brain cell is roughly equivalent
to a transistor in a computer, functioning as a switch that can
represent data by its chemo-electric state (See Paul Churchland,
Neurophilosophy, 1992). The problem is that when one counts up
all the neurons in the average brain, they fall magnitudes short
of the number that would be necessary to provide the kind of computing
power we know the brain actuall y has.
So to create
a machine that can do what the $5.20 per hour worker can do for
the capitalist is not just a ways off, it is in fact not known
for certain if can be done at all. My materialist and dialectical
philosophy leads me to believe that it can be done, but I have
no proof to point to.
Until we either learn the way nature evolved intelligence or figure
out a new form of intelligence, we are not going to be building
any machines that are intelligent. And until we create machines
that are intelligent, we are not going to see a moribund form
of Capitalism that creates a new, permanent "structurally
will rise and fall and there will be no permanent unemployed.
That is not in the cards. In fact, people who should have the
chance to be "permanently unemployed" for the purpose
of raising children are being kicked out into the streets by the
liberal/conservative welfare reform. They will work for minimum
wage, or less, and without the advent of a strong, mass, electoral
labor party, they will have little recourse.
In fact, the
same conditions exist today in regard to the fundamental drive
toward a permanent army of the unemployed as existed in Marx's
day. That is not new, it is as old as capitalism.
The idea, promoted by Nelson Peery, that this "new structurally
unemployed class" is the basis for a new revolutionary movement
is pure nonsense! At this juncture, we must shoot for a grander,
loftier vision of the working class, a vision of the 70 percent
or so of people in the United States who work for a living--for
one or another individual or corporate capitalist--but are not
a part of capitalist management as constituting the modern working
idea of class has never excluded the so-called unproductive workforce,
those in service, and other non-manufacturing, or not value-creating
positions. The working class has always been what it is in reality,
all non-management humans who work for someone other than themselves.
In fact, that can even include many types of so-called self-employed
when those people are actually locked into subservient contracts
or franchise deals that make them defacto workers (sans benefits).
The idea that
we should be abandoning the vast working class (70 percent of
the population) for the pipedream of organizing an illusionary
class that has no precedent in Marxist thought or in reality is
counterproductive to our real needs.
Not only is
this idea based on the faulty idea that automation is already
pervasive, when in fact it does not yet exist, but it is also
based on the idea that the working class is no longer worth trying
But to the
contrary, our class (even among those in the "aristocracy
of labor") is in a better position and predisposition to
be organized right now than at any other time since the 1940s!
I contend that we, the working class left and labor force, are
at least partly to blame for missing the opportunities other working
classes in other countries were able to make gains from in the
period from the late 1940s to the late 1960s, mainly because we
failed to see that that was a time of long-wave boom and because
we allowed the hopes of a cross-class coalition with the liberals
to cloud our judgement. Valuable opportunities were missed on
The idea that
today we face some kind of Capitalist economic meltdown based
on the inability of capitalism to put people to work because of
automation is premature, by at least decades! It also makes us
sound like nuts because the working class is smart enough to see
what is really going on and to see that this theory does not offer
them any positive way to organize in their interests. A massive,
worldwide labor campaign to shorten the workweek with no reduction
in pay, combined with a campaign for real full employment, social
security, free higher education and a drastic rise in the global
wage scale is the answer.
4. Subject: Re: Team Concept
Date: 09 Jul
To: Recipients of conference: firstname.lastname@example.org
Team concept is essentially an issue between unions and bosses/owners.
It is an issue
that should be superceded by political changes, if the LP ever
reaches the other 15/16ths of the union movement that is not yet
When we overturn
the bad parts of Taft-Hartley and other anti-union legislation
and enact legislation protecting the right to strike, and the
right to organize, issues like team concept will be much easier
to educate around.
If the LP
took an official stand on team concept now, it would only be used
to keep unions out of the party. That doesn't make much sense.
It is not a question of principle, since our responsibilities
are to take positions on political issues, not on contract issues.
We may abhor the underlying political ideas involved in team concept
(I certainly do!), but that does not mean we should take a position
on the issue as a party. This is just one more area where John,
Richard, Earl, Sean O'T. and others are confusing the mission
of a union with that of a political party.
We do not
have the luxury of letting our hearts rule our minds on this one.
We must stay principled, and keep to our own side of the line
that separates the issues that unions must debate and decide for
themselves, and those that the unions must work on together through
a union-based, union-led political party.
We can, however,
use the Labor Party to teach the ideas behind class solidarity.
One of the ideas behind class solidarity is that you side with
your own class when it is under attack. We are under attack today,
and team concept is being used as a blunt instrument against some
of us. While we can't tell the unions what to do with their contract
negotiations, or take stands on issues like team concept, we can
point out through our educational efforts that such concepts as
team concept undermine class solidarity.
We can point
out that the bosses and their government have been aiming their
class warfare against us for decades without stopping, and that
in warfare a common tactic is to make a temporary peace with one
side of an alliance while stepping up the fire against another
side. That is really a part of the bosses' aim with team concept.
to allow them to keep us from building a labor party by taking
a meaningless and stupid position against team concept or any
other minor irritants that the bosses throw at us, we need to
start attacking issues on a much higher level.
For instance, we need to change the laws that stop workers (even
government workers) from striking in solidarity with others. Right
now, we need to be doing what our brothers and sisters in Puerto
Rico are doing!
comments(***): ***Those who understand/believe this should openly
make our case against the 'team' practice and concept, beginning
now. Waiting until the LP is bigger will only mean that more official
unions will be there to defend their collaboration and attack
our views and us. Why wait till the opponents are stronger to
begin the open contest? Why would the people who want to push
the Team Concept be stronger after the Labor Party is more organized?
If you are trying to discourage endorsement by unions that already
engage in "co-participation," then that's just counter-intuitive
from a perspective of attempting to organize mass union support.
From my understanding of the situation that has led to the Team
Concept, it is the weakness of the unions that helps to bring
about this sort of collaboration. This is a rather complicated
issue as far as its effect on workers "self conception"
and so forth, but the Labor Party as s uch would seem to help
workers to identify with each other and with being members of
the "working class" in opposition to the Demoblicans
and their bourgeois politics. What's more, if our program to lessen
the risk of organizing is actually carried through, undoubtedly
more workers will organize. A revived "safety net" will
replace the floor that Rooseveltian programs presumably put under
workers such that "scabbing" will not be as attractive
as it is at this time because of sheer desperation. As far as
"participation" goes, and this is not an area that the
Labor Party will be involved in other than supporting strikers'
and picketers' political rights, etc, American workers can only
demand that management step aside if they are in a position like
(my favorite because it's the only real instance that I'm familiar
with) Eastern Airlines where the workforce was ungovernable and
management had to hand over prerogatives in order for the company
t o survive. The workers as managers improved the operations in
real efficiency and saved Eastern money overall. There was worker
solidarity and pride in the plant and they had union leadership
that believed in worker control. But, the Labor Party would not
be demanding such arrangements, we can only work for a program
which might make arrangements like that more likely.
the Labor Party walks a fine line between being reformist and
being anti-Capitalist per se. Unfortunately, I must say that we
are not now anti-Capitalist as such. When we gain strength, I
think that this will become more of an issue.***
comments: But that would ignore the testimony of workers from
these [Staley, CAT, etc - JDD] struggles that such cooperation
severely undermined their own self concept, gave management the
information needed to defeat and replace them, etc. We certainly
should, as union activists, warn people of the dangers of management
"picking our brains." This has been the classic means
by which to deskill the workforce, consolidating manpower, hiring
scabs, and developing machines to replace workers. It would be
difficult for the Labor Party to pass laws saying that the employer
can't ask you how you do your job. It's the unions' job to warn
against these co-optation techniques. I have told many people
to no avail that unions should have orientation sessions for members
in which issues like this, along with a basic Labor History lecture,
and basic Labor economics should be taught. This could be done
over a weekend or in several sessions. I know I was barely even
aware I was in the various unions for which I paid dues. The Labor
Party could participate in educationals like this, I suppose,
as could the various unions, Jobs with Justice, and others. I
think that it should be part of a Labor Education program so that
more than one union might be able to send their new members. I
doubt there are many unions that get enough new members at any
one time to fill such a class. As it stands now, you already openly
oppose these collaborationist concepts through WPAEN (Workers
Progressive Action and Educational Network), and that's legitimate.
You can invite people to come to your meetings and many of us
will come. But, the Labor Party is not going to put this specifically
in the platform. You are welcome to try, but I don't think it
will stand up on merit--even though I agree with your assessment
of the Team Concept otherwise.
Dennis Dixon (Chicago)
5. Subject: 1998 NETWORKS FOR PEOPLE
20 Oct 1998 11:28:56 -0400
From: Kevin Taglang <kevint@BENTON.ORG>
INFORMATION INFRASTRUCTURE, THE NEXT GENERATION
NTIA's forum to discuss the connections of people, information
technology, and services across a broad spectrum of American life
will be held December 8 - 9. Save the date to participate in this
(c) Benton Foundation, 1998. Redistribution of this email publication
-- both internally and externally -- is encouraged if it includes