You May Not Be Interested in Cyber-War: Towards a Marxist Theorization of Militarized Networks

Nick Dyer-Witheford
  ncdyerwi@uwo.ca
  

Abstract

You May Not Be Interested in Cyber-War: Towards a Marxist Theorization of Militarized Networks
Nick Dyer-Witheford
University of Western Ontario
ncdyerwi@uwo.ca

In an era when Marxist maxims have fallen into disrepute, one has escaped the oblivion of capitalism’s memory-hole; Leon Trotsky’s alleged (actually mis-attributed) aphorism “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you” is today not only widely cited, but frequently given a fashionable high-tech gloss: “You may not be interested in cyber-war, but cyber-war is interested in you.” Drawing both on classic Marxian theories relating war to capital, class and revolution, and more recent formulations by Etienne Balibar, Paul Virilio and Benjamin Noys, this paper proposes conceptual categories through which to theorize the militarization of digital networks. This apparatus is then set in motion to trace the relation between capitalist techno-industry, national security apparatuses and social movements from the Cold War origins of the Internet, through Zapatistas in cyberspace, 9/11 and the war on terror, the so-called Facebook revolutions of 2011, to recent conflicts in Syria and the Ukraine. Today, the network of networks is a site where many different types of cyber-war are waged simultaneously, as nascent military confrontation between rival geopolitical blocs of global capital, social insurgencies (progressive and reactionary), and neoliberal security state social controls collide and combine with one another. This superimposition of multiple cyber-wars forges an environment in which surveillance and sous-surveillance, viral information and disinformation, encryption, anonymization, authentication, propagandizing chatbots, weaponized malware and the automation of war become inescapable factors of political practice. It is because militarized networks are shaping the present and future conditions of social struggle that we should be interested in cyber-war, even if it is, to dredge another sometime slogan from the archive of the left, in order to wage “krieg dem krieg”, “war on war”—or in this case, “cyber-war on cyber-war.”

war - Technology - Machines - class struggle - Imperialism