Rather, the takeover of our cities by firms like Airbnb shows the need for a more profound solution — one that changes the balance of power, through truly community-owned and -run platforms. By replacing extractive platforms with a democratic alternative, we can cut out the exploitative middleman, allowing service providers and users to benefit from the full fruits of their labor — and data.
But how would such an alternative be organized? One useful set of indications comes from the writings of the so-called “guild socialists.” In early twentieth-century Britain, this movement called for workers’ control over industry and the creation of a participatory socialist society. Adapted to our own conditions, their insights show the possibility of democratic workplaces and services — not just planned by the state but rather collectively managed by those with a direct interest in how they operate.
Considering the different possible ownership and governance structures can help us reimagine socialism in a digital age — one that innovates beyond the rigid strategies of twentieth-century state socialism and its top-down nationalizations. Marrying new technologies with the promise of democracy, they can give us a clearer picture of a digital future worth fighting for.