Tech workers are becoming politicized; can they also be radicalized?

The Trump administration is sparking a surprising amount of political and social mobilization among tech workers.  Some are protesting along lines that are concurrent with their bosses, such as the “walk-outs” at Google, which the CEO and other executives also attended; others are protesting companies like Palantir for their complicity in Trump’s ultra-reactionary programs.  Overall, while many tech elites are either ambivalent or even supportive of this new wave of political mobilization, its clear that workers are leading the charge, and not simply tailing the capitalists who pay them.

Right now, much of the unrest (within Silicon Valley or otherwise) seems tailor-made to get appropriated into mainstream liberal-progressive politics and act as an energizer for the Democratic Party, much like how the anti-war movement got co-opted during the Bush administration.  Discourse at protests seems targeted uniquely at Trump, as opposed to the general failures of establishment politicians, let alone capitalism.

But the radical left is in a much better position today than it was in the 2000s — socialist groups like the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) are seeing a big spike in new members, as are radical unions like the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).  And the election season saw tech workers breaking toward the left during the Democratic Party’s primary season, supporting Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton, and even engaging in protests against Silicon Valley venture capitalists and their participation in Clinton’s elite fundraisers, during which their own class grievances got brought up:

Much of the protesters’ language centered on white-collar work frustrations, as the man with the bullhorn asked: “How many people here have weekends off – hands up? They have us working around the clock so they can get richer. How many of you are expected to be online over the weekend? Or get a call from your boss at 9pm?”

Thus, there seems to be great potential for the radical left to carve out a revolutionary pole among the general mish-mash of anti-Trump unrest among tech workers.  Part of this strategy ought to be double-down on ongoing efforts to connect with radical and revolutionary tech workers, and put a spotlight on radical left perspectives on techno-scientific labor and the nature of technological development in capitalism.

In particular, the radical left and those of us who are tech workers ought to put an emphasis on rank-and-file workplace organizing, and help tech workers fight against both their immediate problems (i.e. long working hours) as well as the lack of control they have over their companies’ politics.  This will be key in getting people to think beyond liberal politics (electoral campaigns and protest theater) and view their workplace (and the means of production in general) as a key site of political engagement, build class consciousness, and bring tech workers into political compositions with other segments of the working class.

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2 thoughts on “Tech workers are becoming politicized; can they also be radicalized?

  1. […] programmers, scientists, and all the other workers within the tech industry.  They are also increasingly political, even radical.  Contemporary movements to overthrow capitalism will necessarily have to synthesize the workers […]

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  2. […] of information technologies, data analytics, and artificial intelligence, are not only becoming increasingly politicized, but are becoming outright radical and asserting their class position as workers.  The old […]

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