The Secret of Steve Jobs

October 27, 2011

La Verdad Obrera, only on internet

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The recent death of Steve Jobs has inundated the whole world’s media with praise for the new semi-deity of technologies whom, it is supposed, we must thank for all the products that many want to have, but few can afford. A businessman, an artist of technology, that, it is supposed, has revolutionized our lives. But ... is that the way it is? The increase in the abilities of computers has turned computing into a new branch of the economy that did not exist previously, with new and multiple applications. In recent years, beginning with the increasing massiveness of the internet and all types of digital devices, these changes have had a big impact on the world of communications. This new sector is also a niche of extraordinary profits for the capitalists that are running this industry, and conflicts with economic sectors whose interests are affected. Since it is a sector of the economy without a previous existence and in constant transformation, it is logical and inevitable that a large number of new developments and innovations will constantly be created. In order to appropriate, for a longer time, the extraordinary profit that is being generated with every innovation, a large number of the principal firms are patenting their "creations," trying to control their spread, which ends up acting as a brake on other new potential developments. [1]

This is the context in which these "innovative businessmen," like Jobs, that are presented as people who are making big "contributions to humanity," are emerging.

However, what characterized Steve Jobs, is not so much his contribution to technological development in pursuit of the well-being of society, but, on the contrary, the appropriation of profits based on the mechanism of defense of patents, that, through an army of lawyers, defends with tooth and nail, up to the slightest and most unusual of his ideas, in an attempt to prevent the spread of innovation and acting as a mechanism that retracts technological development.

This thirst for profits is what guides "innovation" in capitalism, by creating often superfluous needs with the aim of selling at all costs, instead of satisfying all the needs of society. On the other hand, this outline of capitalist competition constantly creates a war of standards, formats and technological dependencies that also cause big delays in technological development. This is another one of the "obsessions" of Apple, the company founded by Steve Jobs.

Because of all this, Steve Jobs has been strongly criticized by groups defending freedom of information, against patents and intellectual property [2]. These groups, with good reason, criticize the strong lobbying of capitalist groups, that constantly seek to defend their businesses through "anti-piracy" laws. [3]

Apple’s real secret

It would appear that the wealth created by Apple and its products, like the IPhone, magically sprang from the mind of Steve Jobs. Thus it is that, after the death of Apple’s founder, the big media were concerned to conceal what the secret of the wealth generated by Steve Jobs is. What is hidden behind the most recent technological innovations? Where do the "marvels" patented by Steve Jobs come from?

A large part of these products are manufactured in China, in an enterprise called Foxconn. A plant, located in the town of Shenzhen, belonging to the Taiwanese company Foxconn, employs 400,000 workers, who live in working-class cities and are responsible for making mobile phones for Apple and other cutting-edge companies.

During the year 2010, Foxconn became famous because of a wave of suicides of its employees. The workers, coming mostly from rural towns, work up to 12 hours a day, six days a week. The Chinese firm had said it would offer a 20% increase to the workers, who earn some $132 USD a month. And, at a press conference held in the United States, Steve Jobs stated that, "Foxconn is not a factory where the workers are exploited." In turn, the firm declared: "We want every employee to be happy working here.... We have done a lot of work; we have 70 psychiatrists to prevent suicides." The company forced the workers to sign agreements stating that they are not going to commit suicide (to avoid paying their relatives), and nets were installed around the building to cushion the fall in future attempts. A short time ago, an explosion in a Foxconn factory, in Chengdu, that produces iPads, caused three deaths and serious injuries to 15 other people. In view of these events, Apple has kept silent.

In this way, capitalism develops the most advanced technology, creating products that more and more people want to have, but fewer people can buy, while it causes millions to sink into poverty. Distributing the hours of work, freeing millions of workers from long days under subhuman conditions, devoting time to leisure and research, would allow the release of an enormous creative potential. But for that, it is necessary to abolish this decaying system and build an organization that will aim at that.

Notes

[1] Generally, these patents are the property of the big monopolies and not of the workers or scientists that are wage workers for capital. The case of Steve Jobs, like that of other "innovative" businessmen, like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, is used to show how it is possible to get rich, while beginning with very little. However, this is only possible if there is a completely new branch of the economy, without a previous existence, that rapidly develops a tendency to monopoly or oligopoly, by blocking competition from new capitalists. For instance, in their case, try to compete with Ford from a garage.

[2] On the death of Steve Jobs, Richard Stallman, considered to be the father of open source software, stated, "I’m not glad he’s dead but I’m glad he’s gone."

[3] We should also mention companies like Google, that promote open code, because their profits and their wager on capitalism do not come from the sale of these "products," but from publicity on the internet, a tendency that has been growing as the Web gains ever more ground as a means of mass communication (just like television makes money).