Why the left would be wrong to ignore Bitcoin
TRIBUNE. For Claire Balva, an independent consultant, bitcoin is not an extreme right-wing technology, but a counter-power, particularly financial, that the left should seize upon.
The subjects of agreement between Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen are rare enough to be noted.
In 2022, Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Nupes) explained that "the collapse of cryptocurrencies undermines the whole edifice of the casino economy". In the same year, Marine Le Pen (RN) responded that the sector was "propitious to deception, mistakes and stock market coups", having a few years earlier considered "preventing the use of crypto-currencies, such as Bitcoin in France."
So, is Bitcoin political and does it find its sources in the far right? Here again is a debate of great quality, which finds its sources, for its part, in a very simple motivation: to make cryptocurrencies unattractive in order to achieve political objectives.
That a technology can have political origins and impacts is obvious. To suggest, however, that a technical creation has in itself a political intention, that it would serve a single purpose, that it could only disseminate predefined ideas is both a personification and an essentialisation of technology. It is at best a convenient omission, at worst an intellectual fraud.
It should thus be fairly intuitive that a tool that challenges the banking system, whose protocol is open and transparent, that makes resistance possible in the face of authoritarianism of all stripes, not only is not destined to convey conservative or ultra-right-wing ideas, but can serve left-wing... progressive struggles.
Bitcoin cares neither about the identity nor the political stripe of the people who use it, but this indifference, for some, already makes Bitcoin a politically well-defined tool. Part of the French left, driven by the certainty of its convictions and the universalism of its battles, remains sceptical about this incensurable nature. By providing a network that is accessible to both the ultra-right and the ultra-left, by allowing both Russia and the Ukraine to make transactions on it, in short, by not choosing sides... Bitcoin is already choosing sides somewhere.
But which side? The answer can only be: the camp of those who need it, of those who are outside the norms, outside the system, because Bitcoin is above all an instrument of counter-power.
A first management of the commons on a global scale
Or a large part of the left is precisely calling for the development of counter-powers. It is not the right that is most critical of the current centralisation of power in the hands of the executive. These counter-powers can naturally be part of our institutions (parliamentary power is a counter-power to the executive), but they can also exist outside the state, via associations, organisations, in short the commons.
And that's exactly what Bitcoin is: a first management of the commons on a global scale. Bitcoin is a global guarantee that states cannot have total control over economic flows. While this will certainly cause new friction, it is nonetheless an effective bulwark against totalitarian attempts.
Maintaining this bulwark requires accepting that honest people can use it just as much as those who are not. For the same reasons that we need to be concerned about attacks by our public authorities on encrypted messaging systems, the epidermal rejection and conflation of Bitcoin should be a cause for alarm.
Trying to ban or stifle, for security reasons, a monetary network that acts as a counterweight to the State, is an act that is far more political than the tool itself. When you look around the world at the countries that ban or repress Bitcoin, there are the Taliban, China, Venezuela and the list could go on.
The selective indignation of part of the left -and the right, for that matter- at Bitcoin actually has a clearly identified cause: the spectre of speculation, which is enough to disqualify a new asset. But we may well dislike speculation, but believe, as many do, that Bitcoin is essential. We can very well pursue public policies, whether fiscal or regulatory, that aim to limit short-termist investments. This is what Germany is doing, for example, with an advantageous tax policy for long-term holdings (no tax after one year of holding cryptos).
It is therefore entirely possible to be left-wing, even radical, and to consider that Bitcoin is an asset for the balance of our societies and global power relations. Challenging the banking monopoly is a unique opportunity to transform our financial system to make it more inclusive, to rethink our financial regulations to adapt them to decentralised networks, where institutional violence is less of a problem. However, Bitcoin (and other cryptos) must not recreate the same players and the same system as those in the traditional financial world, and this requires us not to bury our heads in the sand.
It is all too easy to shrug off the regulations that have been put in place by accusing the tool itself of being politically oriented. What is far more political is the regulation which, under the guise of combating money laundering, favours large-scale financial intermediaries to the detriment of self-preservation and a decentralised internet. And this is not a left-wing policy.
If Bitcoin is not considered to be the right solution, it at least has the merit of asking the right questions: the disconnection of the Central Banks from the people, the lack of visibility of our monetary policies, the economic dependence of certain countries enslaved by the currencies of the most powerful, the risks of mass surveillance on the Internet, the hegemony of commercial banks and their lobbying power... So many political issues that the left could confront by observing Bitcoin with curiosity.