Socialist Digital State

Is a digital state built on marxist ideology conceivable?

PHILOSOPHY OF TECHNOLOGY

8/7/20235 min read

ABSTRACT

Today’s Marxian project of subverting the system has lost its significance in the economic and cultural spheres. The accelerationist movement explains why this is and what we need to further push a Marxian agenda. Accelerationism views capitalism as the main accelerator of our society and is for the most part responsible for the technological disruptions we had in the last 70 years. Especially I am highlighting the use of smart contracts and blockchain technology in order to break away from the bleak capitalistic reality we find ourselves in. At last, I looked at many different games which implemented a DAO system. Star Atlas has the most sophisticated economy and government i.e., using Land Value Tax, Central Banks, and direct democracy. In the end I concluded that a socialist digital state is in principle feasible through the availability of the given tools, but more research needs to be done.

A SOCIALIST DIGITAL STATE

In this essay, I will first outline the fundamental critique of the accelerationist political perspective, which renders our conundrum of how to approach capitalism and where are our limits as humans. Then I will contextualize the socialist project in this new digital paradigm via the use of distributed ledger technology and why we ought to pursue such projects. Last, but not least I will point to some ideas on how to produce or at least approach a socialist digital state as such.

First and foremost, the accelerationist approach should not be understood as a political ideological movement, but much more as a critique, to render what is even possible. This is particularly in alignment with the works of Immanuel Kant, i.e. „The Critique of Pure Reason” or “Critique of Practical Reason”, where he tries to draw the limits of knowledge instead of building on first principles in order to get a theory of the object. So, accelerationism is not a political movement which you adhere to but draws a limit on what we can do.

There are many different strands of accelerationism with many different viewpoints – from right-wing accelerationism aka. r/acc, over to gender-accelerationism aka. g/acc, all over to left-wing accelerationism aka. l/acc. However, all these different strands have one theme in common called Capitalism Realism. (Fisher, 2009)

Mark Fisher described this concept as the utter incapability to even think beyond the scope of capitalism. He wrote in his book:

“ ...it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.”(Fisher, 2009; S.2)

Capitalism not only long for profit in a greed-driven moralistic sense, but it also seeps into our unconscious and channels our desires to change or subvert the system. It blatantly decodes our whole cultural and value structures and commodifies it into marketable products.

Furthermore, the idea of a coming class revolution is at best just a cope – maybe in order to belong to something bigger than yourself? Capitalism loves anti-capitalistic rhetoric and action because it can immediately channel the desire of frustrated leftists through ironic communist merchandise, which fills the pockets of the guy with the monocle.

Besides the limitations accelerationism sets, it also understands capitalism as the main accelerator in the system (therefore also the name accelerationism). It even alludes to what is called “The Great Acceleration” - from biosphere acceleration to environmental acceleration, to economic acceleration, and most notably to technological acceleration.

(Acceleration is here understood as positive feedback loops in a complex system). The idea is that with technological acceleration we can disrupt the system and steer it in a more humanistic way. Accelerationists basically give the Marxist project a firmware update. Marx's emphasis is on the class struggle being the determinant of the historical materialist superstructure. For accelerationists it is less about the class struggle, but more about the technological disruption it brings. As capitalism accelerates technological innovations, we can harness the new technology in order to defeat capitalism in the long term. (Haynes, 2021) (Roberts, 2007). Left accelerationists refer to the aesthetic movement of Solarpunk Cities (contrasted to Cyberpunk) as inspiration as depicted in the heading of the essay. As capitalism accelerates the whole system through positive feedback loops, new technology emerges i.e., Blockchain Technology and Smart Contracts.

Blockchain has many different approaches in order to utilize it in different ways. The first interpretation is called Bitcoin. Bitcoin allows users, through Blockchain Technology, to send and receive value over the internet without the need for a third party for example a commercial bank. This was a huge paradigm shift for the internet and finance. Now it is not anymore that you can only send information at high speed over cyberspace, you can also do this with value. In the case of finance, Bitcoin showed that it is possible to build a remittance system without the need for a centralized institution. This whole system could shift from a centralized banking system to a decentralized banking system.
However, the concept of smart contracts goes even one step further than the Bitcoin protocol. Ethereum is a smart contract platform where users and developers can decentralize nearly anything. The use cases for Smart Contracts range from lottery and gambling systems to decentralized marketplaces to more far-reaching concepts such as decentralized finance, short DeFi, and decentralized autonomous organizations, short DAO. Smart Contracts constitute the conceptual and practical framework of these new concepts. The Founder of Ethereum Vitalik Buterin said the following:

” Whereas most technologies tend to automate workers on the periphery doing menial tasks, blockchains automate away the center. Instead of putting the taxi driver out of a job, blockchain puts Uber out of a job and lets the taxi drivers work with the customer directly.” - Vitalik Buterin

A decentralized App or short dApp is a self-executable application that allows users to use for instance a decentralized gambling site without the usage of a company behind the gambling site.
A Decentralized Autonomous Organization, short DAO, is an organization on the blockchain which has smart contracts built into its system. If a dApp is completely managed by the blockchain and not controlled by the original innovators of the dApp and therefore becomes usable through automation, the dApp forms a DAO. These DAOs can be understood a self-driving companies or self-driving states. Many of the DAOs lack the qualities of a state, but right now by choice and not by capability. (Voshmgir, 2020)

DAOs are especially present in the gaming industry. From Pokemon-esque Games like Axie Infinity to building games like Sandbox or Decentraland, the sky is the limit on what we can build. However, Star Atlas stands out as the most sophisticated game right now. In their economic whitepaper, they elaborated on many different implementations to make a sustainable driving economy. They have their own stock exchange with their own tax systems. One of the tax systems borrows from the Georgist Ideology of Land Value Tax. In the game you have a limited number of planets and therefore land with their own resource to forge better ships and weapons. You also have your own democratic way of voting policies into the government and central bank. It is a complex system and pushes the notion on what is even possible in the digital realm. (Atlas)

This begs the question if we can shift the Marxist project into the digital realm, while our analogue reality and the internet converges into one reality. Research and experimentation need to be done, but the tools to forge a digital socialist state are scattered around. We just need to pick them up and start building.

Bibliography

Atlas, S. (kein Datum). Star Atlas - Objectives, Conditions, Balancing Mechanisms. Von Star Atlas - Objectives, Conditions, Balancing Mechanisms: https://staratlas.com/economics-paper.pdf abgerufen Fisher, M. (2009). Capitalist Realism - Is there no alternative? Hampshire SO24 9EE, UK: zer0 books. Haynes, P. (January 2021). emerald insight. Von emerald insight: https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JOCM-12-2019- 0398/full/html abgerufen Roberts, M. (May 2007). researchgate. Von researchgate: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6433468_Capitalism_psychiatry_and_sch izophrenia_a_critical_introduction_to_Deleuze_and_Guattari's_Anti-Oedipus abgerufen Voshmgir, S. (2020). Token Economy - How the Web3 reinvents the Internet. Luxemburg: BlockchainHub Berlin. Buterin, Vitalik (2017): https://www.huffpost.com/entry/blockchain—the-key-to- pb10537540; T apscott, Don(2017)