not groucho (Re: Apple jobs to Open Source dweebs)

Dave Long (
Wed, 28 Apr 1999 23:52:40 -0700

> This is 'exploiting the proletariat' in any communist manifesto, since
> these people have to gain payment elsewhere, and is ultimately
> selfish; calling non-corporate programming projects, such as Apache or
> Perl, 'open source' is like mixing up your Marx with your Stalin.

As you point out, Stalin showed in the 20's that some animals were more equal
than others, and the citizens of the CCCP got a chance to discover that when
The Man is Keeping You Down, it matters little whether a bourgeois class or a
governing class is doing the oppressing.

However, I'm not sure that there's a Marxian proletariat to be exploited in
this case. My understanding is that the proletariat are not defined by being
wage earners, but defined by having to accept mere subsistence wages due to
competition for employment.

1) It seems unlikely that one can be associated with software at an
involuntary subsistence wage. (I trust this isn't a "let them eat cake" line

2) Henry Ford in 1914 also discovered that instead of forcing subsistence
wages, he could afford to do the opposite, and paid his unskilled labor[1]
$5/day, doubling their wages. Part of the spin put on this move was that he
felt his workers ought to be able to afford to buy their product[2].

That spin may explain why the traditional proletariat seems a rarity rather
than a majority. Today's wage earners may be earning much more than
subsistence, but as long as they remain good consumers, the surplus wages will
return to the capitalist class. Marx was correct in predicting the eventual
balance sheets (taken as groups) of wage earners and capitalists; he failed to
predict that consumerism, with high wages[3] and high material culture,
doesn't leave people in a very revolutionary frame of mind.


[1] Mr. Ford being of the theory that the skill should go into designing the
line; if a man hadn't learned his job on the line in a matter of days, he was
unlikely to work out.

[2] Is "buy your dog food" a step up from "eat your dog food"?

[3] Every now and then one sees an article complaining about how a six-figure
(USD) income really isn't enough to get by. As long as we're looking at
things through red-colored glasses, such articles show that even the
petty-bourgeois can join the proletariat, if they try hard enough.