Accessibility, Openess & Security of Communist Activity

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Jamal's picture
Jamal
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Jun 19 2015 17:31
Accessibility, Openess & Security of Communist Activity

One of the major recurring issues in the internationalist proletarian milieu today is the question of who, where and how? The way workers talk today, the way information is transmitted between us, leaves me with deep and lingering questions. What level of secrecy is appropriate for the RO, or the militant, in these times? Do we all need pen names? How should we be reaching contacts? There are so many lingering questions on these subjects. And more than ever the average worker is technically equipped to face these problems.

What questions and concerns do you all have on this broad issue? As groups, as individuals, whatever.

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Jun 19 2015 20:15

Nice OP, I think this is an interesting topic.

It has been my experience in different kinds of organizing that openness / above ground activity is the norm. I think this is justified because openness /above groundness actually affords the organization an implicit level of protection; if you're repressed, your group is better positioned to marshal some form of public pressure.

That said, I've used a pen name for internet stuff. Thing is, I did this more out of worry for potential employment then I did the cops.

I can't cite anything offhand at the moment, but 'secret', underground stuff, seems to be notoriously full of cops. That said, I can't speak to its prevalence in above ground stuff, but in a few years with several above ground revolutionary groups, I can't say infiltration has surfaced as a serious issue.

I also don't wanna minimize those comrades who have been harassed / imprisoned / killed by the police. This is a thing. I just don't think the answer is the underground, at least where I'm at.

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Jun 19 2015 21:43

I think there are different levels of security. In the IWW, for example, many people write under pen names - but the organization is completely above ground, has certain meetings open to the public, is incorporated as a 501c4 labor organization, etc. At the same time, much of the work I've done in the IWW is clandestine - organizing campaigns take secrecy and 'vetting' people extremely seriously, sometimes for years, before ever going public.

For what it's worth, I don't think it's possible to avoid infiltration 100% of the time. It's going to happen whether you're underground or not. The only way to guard against it is to build resilient movements that can survive it.

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Jun 19 2015 21:46

levels of security in the agricultural workers organization:

Henry McGuckin wrote:
There was one serious problem that had always been a nightmare for the harvest worker. This was the hi-jacker, the holdup man. There were many of them, and not all were plain holdup men. They were, and we proved it many times, the train crews on the freights that the harvest workers were riding. Yes, and the railroad dicks and the law in some of the towns in the harvest country. We had always known this to be a fact, but never before were we organized to do something about it. Some of the old-time Wobblies got together to talk it over. Only the most tested and time-proven Wobs were involved, and this was never known to the membership of the organization as a whole.

Small units of not less than two or more than three were organized in such a way that each unit knew only itself, and while they knew there were others involved, they had no way of knowing who they were. Their purpose was to clean up the harvest fields of holdup men, whether they were parts of train crews, railroad detectives, law officers, or just plain holdup men. During the clean-up, freight trains might pull into their division points with a brakeman missing, never to be found. A railroad dick would be reported missing in the same way.

This might seem brutal to some, but when you have seen harvest workers thrown from freight trains at high speed, beaten up and robbed by small-town cops, shot by railroad dicks, whole groups of twenty to thirty held up at one time in a box car, then forced to jump off the train or be shot and thrown off - all of this over the years without recourse to any redress from the law or anyone else - you see only the need to stop it. That's what the Wobblies did.

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Jun 20 2015 21:03

Do comrades think a more secured, sort of invitation-only discussion forum would help things?

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Jun 21 2015 03:10

I've used / am using those in organizations I'm in. I think they are moderately helpful but not absolutely necessary.

Also, I'm with Fnordie, security should be scaled according to need /environment.

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Jun 21 2015 03:48
Jamal Rayyan wrote:
Do comrades think a more secured, sort of invitation-only discussion forum would help things?

Up to a point maybe...but if you're seriously worried about security on the internet, use encrypted communication. Pidgin, Tor, and TextSecure are your friends.

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Jun 21 2015 05:32

We could have a closed encrypted forum, too. Or even our own intranet, invitation only.

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Jun 21 2015 07:42

Jamal Rayyan wrote:

Quote:
We could have a closed encrypted forum, too. Or even our own intranet, invitation only.


Who's "we"? Are you taking about an organisation or an invite only forum? If you are talking about an invite only forum, there are probably a few reasons why these come about, and it's all about genuine security threats as opposed to imagined ones - I'm thinking in Britain possibly along the lines of anti fascism, in other countries no doubt they have many other reasons for invite only forums.
It's an interesting OP, but possibly for different reasons to different people. Without going over what Fnordie has said, from any organisation associated at any level with workplace conflict that wants ideally to keep as many of its members names anonymous whilst on the other hand needs public faces, needs to grow, and possibly is required to declare officer's names depending on the situation on the ground, it's clear there is an unsteady balance to be struck. Keep as much private as possible, disclose as little as possible, but unless you live in a country like China or Iran, FFS don't start going all tin foil hat and thinking they're all out to get you all the time. No organisation can ever grow without having public names and faces - but this doesn't mean that the general membership can't be protected.

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Jun 21 2015 14:50
plasmatelly wrote:
unless you live in a country like China or Iran, FFS don't start going all tin foil hat...

If Iran has the technical capacity for super-thorough Internet surveillance basically every country in the world does. North Korea has it's own intranet, for example. There should be no doubt that every political conversation on the Internet is being logged by a government agent somewhere.

In the event of an actual revolutionary wave, this would be a death knell.

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Jun 21 2015 14:52

~1:45

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Jun 21 2015 14:56
Jamal Rayyan wrote:
There should be no doubt that every political conversation on the Internet is being logged by a government agent somewhere.

The Library of Congress does archive the libcom forums.

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Jun 21 2015 15:48

Jamal Rayyan wrote:

Quote:
In the event of an actual revolutionary wave, this would be a death knell.

I don't want to presume your politics Jamal, so forgive me if it sounds like I'm bunching you up in this crowd when I say that there seems to be an overwhelming fixation amongst insurrectionists with security, and certainly in the uk they are the least likely people to actually take any meaningful steps in the direction of revolutionary change. In my own limited capacity of dealing with these people, they are keyboard warriors who suffer unnecessarily of paranoia built around their own sense of importance. Maybe not you, but just saying.
Regarding the accessibility, openness and security of a communist organisation's activity - well I'm assuming that people on Libcom are typically opposed to stashing AK's under the bed just yet, rather opting for the active participation in class struggle. And if this is so, then the State wouldn't need anything more complicated than a telephone or an infilitrator to find out that a new union is active in a workplace and the ring leaders are x,y and z. We can't escape this situation if we are to carry out class struggle activity, it's just up to those brave enough to stick their necks above the parapet.

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Jun 21 2015 17:21

My position is more about understanding how bourgeois think tanks work, policy institutes which formulate the plans of the State.

When they have a strong pulse on the workers movement and revolutionary politics in general, they can make effective interventions in the class struggle. They have the resources and time, they're bourgeois. We don't necessarily have the same luxuries.

Also just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they are not watching you. Do you realize how easy assassinations could happen in this period, in the event the working class produced someone with the gravitas of say, Lenin, Mahkno, Durruti?

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Jun 21 2015 17:25
Quote:
The Library of Congress does archive the libcom forums.

Haha, not sure about that. But you can bet it is absolutely being stored on the servers of the US Massive Data Repository.

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Jun 21 2015 17:50
Jamal Rayyan wrote:
In the event of an actual revolutionary wave, this would be a death knell.

I'm not so sure.

The PRISM surveillance program already logs massive amounts of online communications every day. The thing is, it's too big. It's too much data for human beings to sort through in any reasonable amount of time. That's why they scan for certain key words, or sift through the data retroactively to investigate a suspect who's already been caught. In the event of an actual revolutionary wave it would already be too late.

That's not to say targeted surveillance isn't a real thing, too. But there are necessarily still gaps in their coverage - they simply don't have the manpower to watch everyone all the time.

edit - beat me to it with the data repository thing

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Jun 21 2015 17:55
plasmatelly wrote:
well I'm assuming that people on Libcom are typically opposed to stashing AK's under the bed just yet, rather opting for the active participation in class struggle

A program, and rifles!

Fleur
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Jun 21 2015 18:25

plasmatelly wrote:

Quote:
well I'm assuming that people on Libcom are typically opposed to stashing AK's under the bed just yet

Well, no but I've got a really nice sword. Does that count?

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Jun 21 2015 18:42
Fnordie wrote:
It's too much data for human beings to sort through in any reasonable amount of time. That's why they scan for certain key words, or sift through the data retroactively to investigate a suspect who's already been caught. In the event of an actual revolutionary wave it would already be too late

That's exactly right. It's algorithms that do the sorting and they get faster and more efficient everyday. Today what can be done in 8 days on one high-end consumer PC, once quantum computers come out, becomes a matter of seconds.

It's not "too late" imho. Google for example, as a analogue, just started encrypting search results this year.

syndicalist
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Jun 21 2015 18:51

self-deleted added nothing of value

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Jamal
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Jul 3 2015 09:45

Still so many unanswered questions here

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Jul 3 2015 12:40

Except on the level of personal safety hiding is almost always the worst way of dealing with repression as it denies the one thing needed, counter mobilisation.

If in July 1936 anarchists had responded to the Franco coup by going into hiding many more would have survived, the fact so many choose to discount personal safety is why a revolution happened.