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Why CibCom?

Translation of ¿POR QUÉ CIBCOM?


What do we want?

After the Great Recession of 2008 and for a short but intense period, the sharpening of class conflict seemed to serve as a wind that propelled the sails of a left that believed it was going to change the balance of power in Spain, even within the capitalist mode of production. Today that cycle has clearly run out and the liberal-conservative reaction seems to be setting the political pace on many fronts: from the debate on the national question, immigration, culture and morality. But across all of them, they always uphold the defence of private property and the market economy as inalienable axes.

The left, meanwhile, is disorientated and in disarray, engaged in debates that, while mostly necessary, reveal a lack of alternatives to what is being criticised. Capitalism is attacked as something to be rejected, destroyed or overcome, but what should replace it is not specified. The importance of this point is key: we can list all the ills of our society, but unless one is already convinced, it will do little good to know that what exists is a bad thing. You need to know that what is proposed to replace it is better than what already exists, or folk wisdom will dictate that the bad things known are better than the good things yet to be known.

The proposal of our group, Cibcom (cyber-communism), is to stimulate, participate in and defend the debate on the democratic planning of the economy by taking advantage of the current technological conditions. Democratic planning of the economy as a feasible alternative to decide the what and the how of production and reproduction of our societies. Although the debate is of remarkable complexity and depth, it can be summarised in simple language, and indeed this is a requirement so that terminology or rhetoric does not lead to only a few intellectuals participating in it:

We aspire to the proliferation and international association of Republics founded on direct democracy, frameworks of social equality where each and everyone has equal decision-making power. A society in which participation and deliberation together with our fellow human beings is integrated into our lives, thus strengthening our mutual solidarity and enabling us to understand and overcome the serious problems of this century, without excluding anyone. This project has a clear limit: the market economy.

It is a declared fact that, in our capitalist society, companies produce for profit and only provide us with goods and services as a means to this end. It is a class system in which neither the braceros of the process (the workers), nor the supposed recipients (the consumer-citizens), have control over its drift. For this reason, the economic benefits of business do not necessarily translate into greater social welfare. The accumulation of capital is always unpaid labour that the capitalist appropriates; any sum of money is nothing more than a title that allows him to appropriate the labour of others. We have seen the clearest example of this with the patents on vaccines: while thousands of people were dying every day, the companies were only interested in selling them to the highest bidder, not in immunising people.

Therefore, our main objective is to organise society in such a way that we all distribute the total amount of working time in the different activities and sectors of the economy without independent producers and money; an economy centred on social needs and not on the profit of a few, in which democracy would reach its true splendour.

With whom?

In general, with all citizens, but especially with those most interested in social transformation: the working classes and their organisations. Our position is diametrically opposed to those who consider that public affairs are so highly complex that only specialists or, at most, representatives can manage them. These, in the wake of the US Founding Fathers and, in general, the vast majority of liberalism, have been trying for decades to convince us that what they call “representative democracy” is the only possible democracy. They regard the people as ignorant masses, incapable of self-government. However, we citizens today are not excluded from politics because we are incapable of it. We are not fit for it because we have been self-interestedly excluded from it, preventing us from learning.


At this point, the basic question is, what technological and mathematical tools are necessary to make what we advocate possible? Mathematically, it is a relatively simple problem whose theoretical solution requires only elementary optimisation, in particular some knowledge of convex optimisation and linear algebra. So much so that already in the 1940s we had the mathematical tools necessary to solve the problem theoretically. In practice, it is more complicated than this because we need: 

  1.  to be able to handle large flows of information in real time, 
  2. to have a high processing capacity to be able to apply certain mathematical algorithms to an economy with tens of thousands of different items and
  3. to be able to consult citizens in real time.

In particular, in the wake of Allende’s Cybersyn or the OGAS promoted by Glushkov, we believe that a quasi-ubiquitous technological infrastructure (with “roots” in all communities) was needed, to which all citizens would have guaranteed access and which would be able to store all the necessary data and transmit them in real time, as well as a sufficiently high arithmetic capacity to be able to execute the algorithms in reasonable times. Fortunately, since the technological development of the last three decades, all this and more is possible. In fact, large companies such as Amazon or Wal-Mart already exercise internal planning that works like clockwork for private profit. The Internet, mobile phones and computers are used by them as inexhaustible sources of information on consumer preferences. They are the feedback needed to efficiently readjust their production. It is precisely this use of these technologies that allows us to incorporate full citizen participation in socio-economic decision-making. Decisions such as how much and how do you want to invest taxes, what products do you want to see produced and in what quantities? Etc.

The question, in the end, is not “planning yes” or “planning no” – the latter is perfectly feasible and topical – but how and for whom to plan: democratic planning, in the service of social objectives, or oligarchic planning, oriented towards competition for private profit.

What for?

To avoid economic crises that destroy jobs and productive capacity, with the dire social consequences we are familiar with such as people suffering poverty, deteriorating working conditions, structural unemployment, evictions, etc.

So that no one is able to appropriate the work of others, but that it is society itself as a whole that decides how much of the social work is reinvested, where and how it is done.

To address global challenges that are intrinsically linked to the way we produce, such as global warming. These and other problems are so deep and so linked to the economic system that they cannot be solved by individual changes or small reforms alone, but require changing the very logic under which we produce. We need major investments in areas such as new forms of energy or transport that will be unattainable or will be postponed to the point of being unviable as long as profitability comes before social and environmental good.

To encourage technical development and progress leading to a reduction in working time and thus to an increasing share of leisure time. To ensure that unpleasant or routine, but still necessary, work can be taken on fairly by society, with working hours reduced as much as possible.

Finally, we believe that our ideas are useful for strengthening other emancipatory traditions. The demands of feminism, such as equal pay or the equitable sharing of domestic care, are today clearly limited by the fact that capitalism tends to place the burden of care in the family sphere, particularly on women. Against this backdrop, we believe that a democratically planned economy would provide a technical-institutional basis capable of channelling their demands. Thus, initiatives such as the promotion of community districts in which most of the care (cooking, cleaning, etc.) is assumed collectively by all adult neighbours would be possible.

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