Technology Doesn’t Create Change… People Do! Report from the Internet/Tech Dept.

 
September 21, 2001

Speech given at the 27th National Convention of the CPUSA.

Greetings comrades and friends. This weekend
has convinced me yet again of two things: first, this world needs a strong
Communist Party USA more than ever and second, I hate computers. We in
the newly formed Internet Department are in solidarity with oppressed
computer users everywhere. We love to hate computers and especially that
damned Internet.

As you can see, I am not here to spin fairy tales of e-mail
and the world wide web saving the world, because technology does not create
progress…people do.

Technology is really not sexy, unless you are lying or
shopping. The Internet is just a tool among many we have, like the printing
press, the telephone, or the television. But because the Internet is new,
it is transforming the way we work internally and with our allies and
the general public. We all need to quicken the pace and make using the
Internet a completely everyday experience in the Party’s political life.

Hacking away stubbornly, the Party continues to install
advanced technology infrastructure so we can reach out. We know the Internet,
as developed under capitalism, has no easy on-ramp for communist and working
class organizing. Yet mass movements, organizations and the Party are
"getting wired" so they can organize better.

The very rich and interesting experience of our Yahoo!
discussion group is a harbinger of change for this period of getting the
Party wired. With the discussion group, we opened our arms to hundreds
to dialogue and grapple with basic questions, some of which really deepened
the profundity of this Convention. We have to study and learn from the
Yahoo! discussion. One question is how can we make future discussions
more focused, keeping it open without keeping it endless?

We communists take a lot of guidance from our science
of revolution, Marxism-Leninism. The predictive power of Marx’s theory
of historical materialism stems from paying close attention to new technology.
To change society, we must know how it works. We base our collective action
on specific and accurate knowledge of the current and changing tools of
production and how the classes of people struggle with each other by means
of the tools of production.

In today’s world imperialist system, computers hold an
ever more central place in production by the simple fact of the worldwide
interconnectedness of the computer networks, also known as the Internet.

The Internet revolution of the past decade could have
brought fruits of plenty for the world, but instead, it has been largely
twisted into yet another shackle on the many. And now as we speak, the
filthy rich Internet billionaires and bloated corporate monstrosities
are lashing out of their Internet hangover with waves of layoffs and right-wing
political terror.

Created in the public sector, the Internet itself is a
textbook case of the innovative power of socialized production on the
one hand and the suffocating grip of monopolized private ownership on
the other.

But resistance is not futile. We are searching for our
next generation Internet strategy so the whole Party can get in gear with
this powerful organizing vehicle. We have begun by instituting an Internet
Department with staff and resources needed to start "wiring the Party"
with more powerful communication and mobilization tools. This builds on
earlier initiatives and the dedicated work of many of our Party’s techno-savvy
workers.

Since January, we’ve resurrected the CPUSA
Web site, many thanks to Heather. The Young
Communist League
Web site has been renewed and we thank Anita. The
People’s Weekly World newspaper for
the first time has a staff Webmaster-thank you, Todd-and will soon announce
the launch date of its daily online edition. Political
Affairs
Magazine has a new Webmaster- thanks Anne. Changing America
is exploring a new production format-a streaming radio show on the Internet.
And as we mentioned, we took the plunge into Internet discussion groups
with the Yahoo! group-many thanks to Judith and Prasad.

And now, we are proud to unveil here, our draft of the
first phase of the overhaul of www.cpusa.org.

This sexy, big-screen demo is not very sexy yet, because
what we have here is a techno shell that all the collectives of the Party
can and must fill. I won’t bore you with the neato technology behind it-except
to thank Pete for helping put them in our grasp. The tech is not what
matters, it is the message and the dialogue that our Party invests into
it and the hold that the message and dialogue takes on the millions of
our brothers and sisters for positive change.

What we have on the screen is the draft of the new CPUSA
Web site which is close to going live. It looks better than the current
site, but the key difference is that every District and national collective
will have their own area of the site that they can give life to.

For example, the Economics Commission, under Discussions
of Issues and Struggles, like every national collective who wants one,
will have a discussion forum that they lead and moderate to help develop
their work. Or like my old District of Rhode Island, every District can
have their own home page as part of the CPUSA Web site.

Every District and national commission and working group
who assigns a member or members to be their Internet organizer will have
an e-mail address @ mail.cpusa.org. They will have their own home page,
articles and announcements, a discussion group which they will moderate,
and this is just the beginning.

The new Party Web site framework will empower non-experts
to add content to our Web sites. Whereas before just a handful could manage
content on the new Web sites, the new framework lets dozens take responsible
leadership for the Internet content in their area of work. This means
that mass politics will take the place of bottlenecks.

The new framework under development here will also be
applied to the upcoming online daily of the PWW, the new PA site and a
new YCL site.

Technology does not create progress. People do. Our Internet
and Tech Department staff is mastering new technologies that make this
progress possible, but only you the people and the leadership and the
collectives can give it life. We are at the service of the decisions of
this great Convention. We are confident that with our allies in the broad
labor-community coalitions, our Party will make our presence on the Internet
a lasting force for social progress and revolutionary change.

Thank you.

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