People are dying, Marc. Stick your flying cars up your ass.on April 21st, 2020
Marc Andreessen, the billionaire venture capitalist behind massive VC firm Andreessen-Horowitz, has a new article out responding to the Coronavirus crisis. Marc’s post offers a shocking view into the technofascist mindset in a time of crisis and rising tension between the people and the power. On display are a pure disdain for the working class, a total denial of the role of capitalism and manufactured inequality in disaster — and a thinly-veiled desperation to quash any growing worker’s organization in the industry.
As the facade of America falls off, the pandemic exposing massive systemic problems in health care, housing, wealth distribution and maltreatment of workers, Andreessen extols us simply to “build.” He pinpoints “a failure of action, and specifically our widespread inability to *build*” as the core failing leading to the pandemic’s devastating effect on society. He claims shortages in necessary medical equipment and the long wait times for stimulus money are because “we chose not to have the mechanisms, the factories, the systems to make these things. We chose not to *build*.” He positions this failing as a personal deficit of the nation’s working folk: “You don’t just see this smug complacency, this satisfaction with the status quo and the unwillingness to build, in the pandemic, or in healthcare generally. You see it throughout Western life, and specifically throughout American life…” “The problem is desire. We need to *want* these things.” Here he trades on long-standing tropes of the poor and the working class as stupid, unimaginative and apathetic — in the context of a deadly pandemic striking Black people and families the hardest, this logic is not only racist and victim-blaming but genocidial.
The complete sidestepping of the systemic for the personal is de rigueur for the venture capitalist class, which loves to mark up decades of discriminatory funding practices to ineffable differences in the “substance” of tech’s founders and early teams — all who turn out to be vast majority white and male, of course. At a moment when the tech billionaire class/oligarchy finds itself directly in the crosshairs — as Bezos’ cronies are exposed union hunting-and-busting and its minimum wage workers, not its computer scientists, emerge as the true necessary workers — Andreessen’s plea is a diversion from the actual societal fissures he disingenuously claims to address. As Gillian Ganesan points out, “the solution to manufactured scarcity and intentionally stripping the systems that poor people rely on of any and all resources is not ‘we need to build more,’ it’s we need to seize the means of production back from the capitalists and take all their money so they can’t keep destroying the things we build.”
Andreessen’s post is also an appeal to the vanities of the tech worker class at a moment when solidarity between software workers and front-line workers threatens the entire structure of tech companies today — for example, the Tech Speaks Out (#TechSolidarity) project where tech workers are standing with front-line Amazon workers against dangerous working conditions and massive underpayment in the COVID-19 crisis; or the fact that Amazon has fired both tech workers and front-end employees for worker organization against climate change and warehouse conditions. Tech’s big dirty secret is that behind the wonderland of automation and highly-paid “innovator” jobs it promises, are invariably hundreds of thousands of low-paid workers erased behind splashy propaganda like “just build” — whether they are content moderators, bus drivers, security professionals, cleaning staff, warehouse workers, delivery and gig drivers… COVID-19 is a crisis in which this essential truth of the industry is made perfectly clear. Trading on the conceits of the software worker, Andreesen’s plugs are a transparent ploy to ally the tech worker class with its billionaire management and subsume any conflict for a new era of venture-funded crap.
Indeed, Andreessen is a splendid purveyor of geek dreams, a propagandist-magician who waves his hands and promises a perfect world if we only follow the venture capitalist mandate to build, build, build — products THEY thought of, in an industry THEY own, in a housing market THEY fixed, in a system that is working just fucking fine for them. Nowhere is this appeal to technoutopia more evident than when Andreessen gets around to discussing housing. Chalking up San Francisco’s housing crisis to lack of building mentality rather than deliberant capture of real estate by the artificially created tech worker class, predatory landlords and speculation, and tech-created income inequality, Andreessen calls for “gleaming skyscrapers and spectacular living environments in all our best cities…” “Where are the supersonic aircraft? Where are the millions of delivery drones? Where are the high speed trains, the soaring monorails, the hyperloops, and yes, the flying cars?” It’s particularly alarming that in this moment of tension and worker uprising, Andreessen is calling for solutions like “millions of delivery drones” that would, at least in theory, replace the necessary low-paid workers organizing at this time… if the front-line workers won’t shut up, he sneakily implies we’ll just have the superior tech class build robots to replace them.
If indeed tensions between the technology system and the people threaten to openly explode into widespread class conflict, Marc sees a potential win for his team, an opportunity to exploit crisis to garner some quick ideological wins; to direct anxieties, tensions and introspection into labor that will pay off for the billionaire-funded tech class, and to double-down on the economic, social and political anti-patterns that got us here. As most VC slop goes, it is trite, obvious, self-serving to the point of self-parody; as evidence of what the super-investors have in store in a COVID-19 world, it’s a clear warning of the profiteering to come.