Communicative and Digital Socialism

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* Special issue “Communicative Socialism/Digital Socialism”. Ed. by Christian Fuchs. TripleC,



"tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique’s special issue “Communicative Socialism/Digital Socialism” asks: What is digital/communicative socialism? The special issue presents besides this general introduction 14 contributions that explore perspectives on digital and communicative socialism in respect to theory, dialectics, history, internationalism, praxis, and class struggles.

Marx and Engels saw socialism as the movement for a society that is based on the principles of equality, justice, and solidarity. They also term such a society a socialist society and the movement struggling for it socialism. They distinguish different types of socialism, of which communism is one, while reactionary socialism, bourgeois socialism, and critical-utopian socialism are others. Marx and Engels argue that socialism is grounded in the antagonistic class structure of capitalism that pits workers against capitalists. In the 19th century, the socialist movement experienced a split between reformist revisionists and revolutionary socialists. After the First World War, the Communist International and the Labour and Socialist International were created. After the collapse of the Second International, there was an institutional distinction between Socialists and Communists. Whereas reformism dominated the Socialist International, Stalinism became dominant in the Communist International. The notion of ‘socialism’ became associated with social democratic parties and the notion of ‘communism’ with communist parties. From a historical point of view, both Stalinism and revisionist social democracy have failed.

With the rise of neoliberalism, social democracy turned towards the right and increasingly adopted neoliberal policies. When Tony Blair became British Prime Minster in 1997, his neoliberal version of social democracy influenced social democracy around the world. The crisis of capitalism and the emergence of new versions of socialist politics (Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Podemos, Syriza, etc.) has reinvigorated the debate about socialism today. Whereas the notion of communism is today still very often associated with Stalinism – though by the former term Marx did not mean terror and dictatorship, but the struggle for democracy (Marx and Engels 1848, 504) – there has been a new opening of and interest in the notion of socialism.

tripleC’s special issue explores perspectives on the digital and communicative dimensions of socialism today. It presents contributions that address one or more of the following questions:

· Theory: What is socialism today? What are the communicative and digital dimensions of socialism today? What is communicative/digital socialism? What theoretical approaches and concepts are best suited for understanding digital/communicative socialism today? Does it or does it not make sense to distinguish between digital/communicative socialism and digital/communicative communism? Why or why not?

· Dialectic: What are the contradictions of digital capitalism? How does digital/communicative socialism differ from and contradict digital/communicative capitalism?

· History: What lessons can we draw from the history of socialism, communism, social democracy and Marxist theory for the conceptualisation and praxis of digital/communicative socialism today?

· Internationalism: Socialism is a universalist and internationalist movement. What are the international(ist), global dimensions of digital/communicative socialism today?

· Praxis and class struggles:

What strategies, demands and struggles are important for digital/communicative socialism? How can socialism today best be communicated in public? What class struggles are there around communication and computing? What is the role of communication and digital technologies in contemporary class struggles? What is the role of social movements, the party, and trade unions in the organisation and self-organisation of digital and communication workers’ class struggles? What should class politics, unions and strikes look like today so that they adequately reflect changes of the working class and exploitation in the age of digital capitalism? What is a digital strike and what is its potential for digital socialism?

This introduction provides a preface to the contributions gathered in tripleC’s special issue “Communicative Socialism/Digital Socialism”. It outlines how Marx conceived of socialism (Sections 2, 3, 4, 5), introduces a model of a socialist society that consists of three dimensions (Section 6), and shows how, based on Marx, we can conceptualise communicative and digital socialism (Section 7). Section 8 introduces ten principles of communicative/digital socialist politics.

The remainder of this introduction focuses on a) how Marx conceived of socialism (Sections 2, 3, 4, 5); b) a model of a socialist society (Section 6); and c) how we can, based on Marx, conceptualise communicative and digital socialism (Section 7). Section 8 introduces ten principles of a communicative/digital socialist politics." (


"Christopher C. Barnes analyses how socialists use social media. He presents results from an analysis of interviews conducted with members of the Democratic Socialists of America. The DSA has supported Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns. Socialist senator Alexandria Orcasio-Cortez is a member of this political organisation. Barnes shows how socialists use social media to advance political stories, humour as politics, and media criticism, but also that they find aspects of social media use frustrating and alienating.

Dimitris Boucas analyses the theory, reality, and possibilities of digital and communicative socialism. He gives special attention to the theorisation of post-industrial socialism and the scientific and technological revolution in the works of André Gorz and Radovan Richta. The paper reports empirical results of research on how Internet alternatives could look like and discusses these results in the context of digital socialism.

Christopher M. Cox engages with the concept of fully automated communism/socialism that has become popular in recent times. The author stresses the importance of autonomy in the context of automation and reminds us that one needs to talk about both autonomous technology and autonomous humans.

Emiliana De Blasio and Michele Sorice analyse the role of digital technologies in the policies of contemporary socialist parties and movements. The analysis focuses on France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the USA. They show that work remains to be done in the establishment of a framework of practices that go beyond digital capitalism.

Donatella Della Ratta analyses the status of the social in and beyond communicative capitalism. She argues that user-generated spectacles, free labour, and capitalist realism on the Internet have brought about new forms of alienation and exploitation. She criticises the understandings of digital socialism advanced by Kevin Kelly, Daniel Saros, and Evgeny Morozov as ideological and suggests basing digital socialism on the ethics of care.

Nick Dyer-Witheford analyses left-wing responses to platform capitalism and in this context utilises Chantalle Mouffe’s notion of left populism. He focuses specifically on left populism with respect to five topics: Internet speech and surveillance; the concentration of ownership of digital platforms; the regulation of working conditions in the gig economy; alternative models for the ownership of digital resources and platforms; and digital postcapitalism.

Sai Englert, Jamie Woodcock, and Callum Cant discuss aspects of what they call a digital Workerism. Inspired by Marx’s and Italian Autonomist Marxism’s method of the workers’ inquiry, they ask how we can practice a similar method that fuses critical research and social struggles in the age of digital technologies .

Christian Fuchs discusses computing, communication, and communist utopias in the context of digital socialism in utopian literature, namely in William Morris’ News From Nowhere, Peter Kroptokin’s The Conquest of Bread, Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, and P.M.’s bolo’bolo and Kartoffeln und Computer (Potatoes and Computers). The paper contributes to discussions about hi-tech communism and how to create a utopian, socialist Internet.

Hardy Hanappi argues that we live in the age of alienation. He outlines the development and consequences of the capitalist algorithm and how this algorithm has deepened the gap between the working class in and of itself to the point of the emergence of new forms of fascism and a Third World War. In this context, the contribution discusses the role of organic intellectuals for the development of socialist counterpower.

Dmitry Kuznetsov and Milan Ismangil analyse the socialist YouTube-based video community Breadtube and discuss its political potentials for challenging right-wing ideology and capitalism. The analysis is focused on four major left-wing YouTube content creators – Contrapoints, Philosophy Tube, Shaun, and Hbomberguy.

Eleonora de Magalhães Carvalho, Afonso de Albuquerque, and Marcelo Alves dos Santos Jr analyse Brazil’s socialist blogosphere in the dark times of Bolsonaro. Blogosfera Progressista (Progressive Blogosphere, hereafter BP) is a leftist political communication initiative. It aims at bringing together an institutional form of organisation with networked forms of politics, doing so at the time of, and opposed to, the far-right Bolsonaro regime.

Joan Pedro-Carañana analyses mediation in the works of the three Ibero-American critical theorists Jesús Martín-Barbero, Manuel Martín-Serrano, and Luis Martín-Santos in terms of contributions to the critique of digital capitalism and foundations of digital socialism.

Jamie Ranger discusses how we can slow down/decelerate social media as a constitutive aspect of digital socialism. He draws on and extends Hartmut Rosa’s theory of speed and the notions of deceleration, acceleration, and hypermodulation, as well as critical theories of digital capitalism.

S. Harikrishnan analyses how the experience of the communist governance of the Indian state of Kerala has inspired and enabled the communication of communism. The focus is on the analysis of spaces (such as public spaces, libraries, reading rooms, tea-shops, cultural associations, forums, etc.) in the communication of communism, a development that the author analyses based on Lefebvre’s critical theory of space."



Christian Fuchs:

Conclusion: Ten Principles of Communicative/Digital Socialist Politics

"Communism and socialism are often associated with Stalin and Mao, whose ideas and societies had little to do with Marx and Engels’ democratic vision of society. Socialism is a framework for society and a movement towards a good society for all.

Common property, computerised high technology, a post-scarcity society that creates wealth and luxury for all, well-rounded individuals, distribution according to human needs, participatory governance, a common culture, and internationalism are some of the aspects of socialist society.

Capitalism is shaped by the antagonism between productive forces and relations of production, which takes on new relevance in the age of networked productive forces.

Commons-based communication is an alternative to alienated communication. Public service media and community media are two not-for-profit models. They face specific contradictions in capitalist society. In socialist society, communication and culture take on a common character. Socialist means of communication feature common control, common decision-making, and a common culture. Socialist communications are truly democratic communications.

Socialist politics should engage with and not ignore communication politics. A good society needs to be a socialist and commons-based society, which includes the perspectives of communicative and digital socialism. Socialism is a political-economic movement that has its economic foundations in socialised aspects of the economy already within capitalism and has its political foundations in class struggles against capitalism and for socialism. Socialist politics should think of both public services and civil society as the realms from where alternatives emerge.

There are ten principles of communicative/digital socialist politics:

1. Techno-dialectics:

Socialist communication politics avoids techno-optimism/techno-euphoria as well as techno-pessimism. Instead, it asks: How can technology and society be shaped in manners that benefit all humans, workers and citizens and develop the positive potentials of society and humanity?

2. Radical reformist communication politics:

Socialist communication politics is neither reactionary reformism that bows to bourgeois interests nor utopian revolutionary romanticism. It advances a dialectic of reform and revolution (radical reformism). It struggles for measures that simultaneously bring about immediate improvements and advance the possibilities and resourcing of alternative non-capitalist projects, and it struggles for communicative/digital socialism. Socialist communication politics operates both at the level of political parties and social movements. It brings about co-operations of both in the form of a politically co-operating multitude.

3. United class struggles of communication workers:

Communication corporations exploit different kinds of workers. Alternatives to communicative capitalism can only emerge out of class struggles. Socialist communication politics supports the digital and communication workers of the world in uniting. In order to make this struggle effective, we need national and international trade unions that unite all the different communication workers across branches, occupations, countries, corporations, cultures, etc. in one union of communication workers.

The class struggles of communication workers are often fragmented. In order to fight global capital in general and global communication capital in particular, communication workers of the world need to unite, avoid and fight the ideologies of fascism, nationalism, racism and xenophobia wherever they appear (including in communication networks), and develop strategies of international solidarity and joint struggles.

Capitalism exploits different kinds of workers, including unwaged workers who produce the commons and social relations. Unpaid workers’ interests are not best served by the demand for an individualised wage, but by the demand for a social wage in the form of a corporation-tax-funded, redistributive basic income guarantee.

4. Collective control of the means of communication as means of production:

In digital and communicative capitalism, communication technologies such as computers, apps, software, hardware, data, and content are means of production. Capital controls and commodifies communication resources. Where these resources matter in the context of labour, it is an important political task that workers demand, struggle for and obtain the collective control of the means of communication as means of economic production.

5. Break-up of communication monopolies:

Corporate communication monopolies centralise economic power and are a threat to democracy. Socialist communication politics argues for and works towards breaking up corporate monopolies. It neither favours national over international capital (or vice-versa) nor small or medium-size capital over large capital (or vice-versa), but no capital, public goods and common goods instead of capital.

6. Privacy friendliness, socialist privacy:

Public and commons-based communications should respect users’ privacy and minimise their economic and political surveillance as well as other forms of surveillance. Personal data collection and storage should be minimised to the data that is absolutely necessary. The surveillance capacities of the state should be re-directed from the constant surveillance of citizens towards the policing of tax-avoiding corporations and white-collar crime. An important task and demand is to criticise and demand abolishment of the surveillance of workers and the mass surveillance of citizens. Socialist privacy means that data collection is minimised, information and communication systems are designed in a privacy-friendly manner, and surveillance is directed against powerful corporations in order to increase the transparency of their economic and financial operations.

7. Public service media and communications co-operatives:

The struggle for socialism needs to be fought in the territories of public services, the state, and civil society. The political Left should struggle for three forms of collective communication services: those that are publicly operated or enabled by the state, those that are collective-owned by worker co-operatives, and those that are organised as public/commons-partnerships (partnerships of public institutions and civil society).

Services that involve lots of sensitive personal data (such as political opinions) ought not to be operated by the state in order to reduce the risk of state surveillance of political opinions. Services that involve the need for high storage capacity can best be operated by public institutions and public service media. Practically speaking this means, for example, that there should be a public service YouTube and a civil-society-based Facebook platform co-operative. The state should legally and economically enable public service media to create digital public services and digital public service corporations. Newspapers should best be operated as non-profit, advertising-free, self-managed companies. Press subsidies funded out of taxation should only be given to non-profit, advertising-free, non-tabloid newspapers. Alternative funding mechanisms for public service and commons-based non-profit, non-commercial media should be sought. They include, for example: corporation taxes; taxing online advertising and advertising in general; licence and media fees paid by users of public service media; donation models; a digital service tax for large transnational digital corporations; and so on.

8. Democratic, public sphere media:

The logic of communicative capitalism and the commodity form favours superficiality, high-speed flows of information and news, the personalisation of politics, tabloidisation, one-dimensionality, and partiality in the interest of the bourgeoisie. Alternatives decelerate information flows (slow media), foster informed political debate and learning through collective creation, and participation in spaces of public communication that are ad-free, non-commercial, and not-for-profit. Such spaces enable both professional media and citizen media as well as the dialectical fusion of both. Socialist communication politics supports the creation and sustenance of media that have the potential to help to advance critical, anti-ideological thought by fostering engagement with content that stimulates critical, dialectical, anti-ideological thought and debate, and opposes classist, fascist, racist, xenophobic and sexist discourse.

9. Political and protest communication:

Communication technologies are not the cause of protests, rebellions and revolutions, but they are an important part of protest communication. Socialist communication politics seeks to use communication technologies for spreading socialist politics to a broad public. Wherever possible, it supports the development and use of non-commercial, non-profit media for organisation and public communication. It aims to avoid creating ‘alternative ghettos’ of resource-poor alternative media that are based on precarious labour. For this purpose, one requires a politics that focuses on channelling resources towards alternative media.

Political education in schools and other educational institutions is also an aspect of political communication. Political education will enable humans to critically reflect on society as well as engage in complex, dialectical and independent thinking.

10. Self-managed, democratic governance:

Socialist communication politics supports, believes in the necessity of and advances the democratic and participatory governance of media organisations, so that the workers producing in these companies and representatives of everyday citizens affected by these media’s operations participate in the decision-making process.

The ethics of the commons is political because it requires praxis and the struggle for alternatives to capitalism in order to make humans and society flourish and realise their potentials. The society of the commons transcends capitalism because it goes beyond the latter. Love is the principle of the society of the commons." (