16 Propositions on Internationalist Labour Networking (and Others)

[InterLabNetWorking] [ILNW]

Peter Waterman waterman@antenna.nl www.antenna.nl/~waterman/  

 

Background

These propositions, the attached quotations and bibliography (subject to frequent updating), are drawn from a proposal for a panel on international labour networking [henceforth InterLabNetWorking, or INLW] at the Global Studies Association Conference, Manchester, UK, July 2-4, 2001.

The propositions are intended to provoke reflection, the quotations (drawn, as far as possible, from West, East and South) to either support or question the propositions.

Comments, additions, criticisms and – in particular – alternatives, would be more than welcome, will be credited, and should be sent to myself, waterman@antenna.nl, or Stuart Hodkinson, stuart@leedsalumni.org.uk. The panel now has a list, the ILNW List, labournetworking@listbot.com,

We also have a resource list, at ILNW Webpage, http://www.lmu/ies/im/people/swalker/labour_networking/ These are being maintained by Steve Walker, s.walker@lmu.ac.uk For registration and further information on the GSA Conference http://www.mmu.ac.uk/gsa/confmain.htm

Introduction

The purpose of these propositions is to advance the understanding and practice of internationalist networking, within and around a renewed labour movement, appropriate to the era of a corporate-driven, globalized and informatised capitalism. Beneath the propositions lie the assumptions that 1) networking is becoming the dominant ‘relational form’ under capitalism; 2) that it is a highly contradictory one, which can be more fully, creatively and democratically used by popular, radical-democratic and anti-capitalist forces; 3) that the general understanding in the international labour movement is of networking as a) limited to computer mediated communication (CMC), b) a ‘tool’ (instrument) to strengthen the inter/national union or party form - but which can also be misused to undermine this, 4) that networking is the most ancient, common, and therefore popular, relational form, today given worldwide reach and subversive capacity; 5) that it engenders new forms of work, workers, products and enterprises, with post-capitalist potential; 6) that it surpasses the traditional organisational forms (union, party) in so far as it allows for the articulation (joining, expression) of both general and particular interests within and between working classes – and others; 7) that CMC is not only a ‘tool’ but also a ‘community’ (cyberspace, meaning new supra-national places, with their own (disputed or disputable) laws, traditions and values, and also ‘utopia’ (a not yet existing but desirable place, to be imagined and created); 8) that networking is not simply an aspect or process within capitalism but also a way of understanding (and therefore surpassing) capitalism; 9) that the networking form allows for the development of a new and complex global solidarity movement surpassing the failed inter/nationalisms of the now-passing national-industrial capitalist era; 10) that insofar as networking is a communicational rather than an organisational form, it reminds us of the increasing centrality of the media and culture to both society and social movements, implying that any new internationalism is increasingly a communicative and cultural matter. These (underdeveloped) assumptions are suppressed in the text in favour of a form that is provocative of thought and – hopefully – of the formulation of a declaration or discussion document addressed and accessible to cybernauts, leaders and activists in the labour and allied movements.

 

The propositions

1.      Notions of networking and internationalism, understood as necessary for modernisation and/or human emancipation, can be traced back to at least the time of the French and Industrial Revolutions. Since that time they have been a matter of political dispute between capitalists/technocrats/authoritarians and socialists/democrats/libertarians.

‘The earth, thought Saint-Simon [1760-1825], must be "administered" by industrialists as a "great industrial corporation" rather than "governed" by a tutelary state. This axiom was the basis of "positive knowledge" about the management of human beings. In this project of planetary restructuring, the network, as a model of rationality, became the emblematic figure of the new organisation of society […] In the context of thinking focused on the social network, the notion of "internationality" appeared in the writings of a feminist pioneer, Flora Tristan (1803-1844), in 1843. The basis of her project for a Workers’ Union was the new principle of internationalism…In the table of contents of the Workers’ Union weekly, the first title mentioned was "General interests, that is, international European and worldwide interests". "Democratic cosmopolitanism" became the rallying cry of numerous movements that, matching action and words, created their own press, often had their own singers and poets, and travelled the roads to spread their ideas of "fraternity and solidarity between nations and individuals"’. (Armand Mattelart 2000: 15-18)

2.      The development of a globalised and informatised capitalism permits us to understand that communication is the nervous system of internationalism and solidarity.

‘Internationalism exists as an ideal because it is the new reality, the nascent reality. It is not an arbitrary ideal, it is not the absurd ideal of a few dreamers or utopians…Capitalism, under the reign of the bourgeoisie, does not produce for the national market; it produces for the international market…Its product, its merchandise, recognises no frontiers; it struggles to surpass and subjugate political restrictions...In this century everything tends to link, everything tends to connect, peoples and individuals…The progress of communications has to an incredible extent bound the activity and history of nations…Communications are the nervous system of this internationalism and human solidarity. One of the characteristics of our epoch is the rapidity, the velocity, with which ideas spread, with which currents of thought and culture are transmitted. A new idea that blossoms in Britain is not a British idea except for the time that it takes for it to be printed. Once launched into space by the press, this idea, if it expresses some universal truth, can also be instantaneously transformed into an internationalist idea.’ (Jose Carlo Mariategui 1986 (1923): 7).

3.      The structures, processes and values of the labour movement, understood primarily in terms of the national industrial phase of capitalism, are an obstacle to the general development of telematics within, between and beyond trade unions, parties and workers. ‘[T]here is a logic to the reticence of trade unions to put valuable information and intelligence on collective bargaining issues into a common pot (apart from the obvious fear of access by employers). The reality is that in the UK, at least, the unions are fighting a battle for their very survival…The quality of assistance given to members’ collective bargaining efforts by their national union is one crucial factor that could determine whether memberships rise or fall. Also, unions’ support and attractiveness to other unions becomes an issue when they negotiate mergers, inevitably invoking interunion competition. The strength and reputation of the union’s industrial research and intelligence capabilities – its knowledge base – is, therefore, a powerful asset in these matters, thus, the understandable reluctance to ‘give away’ high-grade information. (Dave Spooner 1998).

‘[T]he labour movement is fundamentally different from social movements based predominantly on information networks. It has to have some kind of command structure to function. The whole power of organised labour, particularly through its ultimate weapons, the strike and the picket line, is dependent on this. Union members are often required to act against their own individual interests in favour of a general interest. A degree of compulsion, with sanctions against those who refuse to take such actions, is essential. […] The present trade union command structures have become highly bureaucratized …Building a networked labour movement means taking on and ultimately eliminating these bureaucratic aspects of trade union organisation. […] But this cannot be done by simply building an information and communications network. Such a network remains peripheral to the functioning of the trade union movement and the needs of the mass of its membership unless it also contains an alternative command structure.’ (Chris Bailey 1999)

‘["V]ertical" models of organization and rule are more and more often failing to yield results. But it does not by any means follow that the need for parties and trade unions is disappearing. They simply need to undergo changes. From being hierarchical organizations aiming at a "monolithic" character, they need to transform themselves into flexible structures, linking and coordinating different struggles and actions. The key task of a party is to ensure hegemony. A party brings elements of consciousness to a movement, it brings purposefulness and coordination, and transforms casual, spontaneous actions into a united offensive […] The heart of the problem evidently lies in the fact that the epoch of globalisation requires far more concentrated and intensive collaboration on the level of concrete actions, while at the same time the new cultural heterogeneity of the left and its natural aversion to the centralised bureaucracy of the past are preventing the creation of unified leadership structures. The world has changed, and the old forms of the left movement are turning out to be unsuited to solving the new problems…The time has come for a change of organizational forms. (Boris Kagarlitsky 2000:146-7)

4.      If it is to become relevant to labour internationalism in the era of globalisation, the pyramidal international union organisation must be transformed into an information service that supports and stimulates direct horizontal contacts between workers. (The same actually holds for non-labour internationals).

‘[T]he traditional pyramid organisation of unions with international contacts carefully controlled and monitored at the very peak runs counter to the most useful forms of international contacts, which are horizontal, between workers employed by the same company (or industry) in different countries. Fax, E-mail and cheap travel are also enabling horizontal network-building between workers in different countries, which contrast with traditionally hierarchically-organised trade-union activity. These new developments facilitating international labour contacts will pose a challenge to existing trade-union structures and internal communication links. At the same time, they open immense possibilities for labour to regain power and influence. Unions could ride the globalisation process by becoming repositories of information about international developments as they emerge from, or impact on, the workplace. (Denis MacShane 1992)

‘The utopian idea that all websites are created equal, that every netizen can individually challenge corporate power, has been refuted by the reality of a commercialized, corporate-dominated web. Our unions' members come online by their millions, but they do not do so to visit our sites…[T]here are more than 1,500 labour websites, hundreds of mailing lists, chat rooms, web forums - and the labour movement still largely looks like and acts the same as it always did. And yet - everything we wrote and said from the first conferences at the beginning of this decade until today is true and valid. The new technology is empowering.

o        It does level the playing field between unions and corporations.

o        It does allow the creation of new, alternative international media.

o        In the end, the vision of a new International will emerge.

So what is holding things up? In my view, consciousness lags behind reality. In our own heads, we have not caught up with the reality of a globalized, digitized capitalism… Because I am convinced that consciousness ultimately follows reality, and because I see the first buds of spring in the work being done…I believe that we are on the brink of a great transformation of the labour movement. The new labour movement will be global, democratic, militant -- and it will be wired’. (Eric Lee 1999)

‘Many of the established [traditional international women’s organizations] retained a very bureaucratic and hierarchical organisational structure, with local chapters, national bodies and an international federation. The impetus for action at the international level came from international meetings every three, four or five years that gave policy direction… [W]hite, middle-class women from First World countries filled most of the executive positions…When combined with vague mandates, these organizations remained unable to provide the vitality and feminist direction that was needed at the international level […] The groups that emerged during the 1970s and 1980s made it their priority to mobilize women and co-ordinate local and national activities through networking…Of these groups well over half considered their work to be networking […]  In the 1970s a conscious attempt was made by many women’s organizations to develop a conceptual framework relating feminism to other structures or forces in the world. Initially, the attempts came through the link between women and development and dealt with the relationships between feminism and socialism…These discussions and follow-up work provided a conceptual basis for international women’s organizing. (Stienstra 2000:67-71)

5.      The challenge confronting international union organisations is both a networked capitalism and the networked state - and the networked anti-capitalist, anti-statist movement structured as a network.

‘[T]he concept of the network society [is] the specific social structure characteristic of our time…A network…is a set of interconnected nodes – and has no centre. The empirical proposition is that dominant activities in our societies are made of networks: global financial markets, production and consumption organised around the network enterprise, as a new form of economic organisation: global/local media connected in the electronic hypertext; science and technology; the internet as a universal, interactive communication network; the network state made of supranational, national, regional and local institutions linking up to exert joint influence on global flows of wealth and information, the global criminal economy, as an expanding network. I would also add that, increasingly, counter-domination operates through networks as well…Because networks are extremely efficient organisations, they eliminate, through competition, alternative structures, so their logic expands.’ (Manuel Castells 2000:110).

‘Networking is central to financial and economic globalisation and the social and cultural resistance to its negative impacts. However, it is useful to distinguish between dominant and opposition networks, even if they are more often than not inextricably interconnected (most resistance networks operate partially through, or engaging with, dominant ones). Oppositional networks are those that connect poor women and women’s groups with each other. These have been called… ‘meshworks’, the difference being that, as opposed to dominant networks, subaltern meshworks tend to be non-hierarchical and self-organising…[M]eshworks involve two parallel dynamics: strategies of localisation and of interweaving. (Wendy Harcourt 2001:7)

6.      If not informed by a broader vision or leadership, international labour networking can reinforce an enterprise or corporate identity and undermine broader solidarity.

‘[T]he informal and spontaneous networking issue cannot be kept separate from any analysis of…more formalised activities […W]hile a cooperative scenario between trade unionists may appear to be emerging (due to there being a network of some sort being established) the reality may be that the information is to be used to harness stronger plant-level alliances between management and worker representatives at the expense of other[s] in the same company […] Therefore, networking, when not ‘politically’ and organisationally conditioned by the trade unions, can actually facilitate enterprise unions and greater decentralisation. […] It will be the interaction of different circuits of power… - networks interacting with political movements, state bodies or company entities – which will eventually determine their behaviour […] Maybe others can take up the initiative. Who they are, and what their ideological profile is, will ultimately condition the nature of the organisational initiative and the eventual outcomes of contemporary capitalist developments.’ (Miguel Martinez Lucio and Syd Weston 1995:246-8).

7.      The new electronic media make possible and necessary a new kind of  fe/male labour activist, reaching out beyond the enterprise and the union office, listening to, linking waged-workers up with, and empowering, the increasing number of ‘foreign’, ‘marginal’ and other ‘a-typical’ workers.

‘[I]magine an educator who carries her wares with her. To visit [migrant] domestic workers…she goes to a local plaza (or laundromat) on Sunday afternoon…Instead of a crystal ball, she carries a small computer notebook and a cellular phone…She might have a recording Walkman and some music tapes. She is a kind of post-modern scribe, also a cultural worker, or maybe a travelling saleswoman…In possession of a large van…she can cover a wide territory. Parking near sex-trade zones, she lets workers know when she has arrived and offers them now a wider range of services, from bed, toilet, shower, food, condoms, blood tests to fax/telephone and Internet connections…The technology, the education, the services are mobile, like the workers. A fleet of such vans in different parts of Europe would form a true network…The concept of information needs to be reconceived to include not only ‘indigenous knowledge’ but ‘street smarts’…Let us go out out to those in the margins and listen to them. For, with all the rhetoric about the need to liberate ‘unheard voices’, we miss an essential point: those voices have been talking all along. The question is who is listening. (Laura Agustín 1999:155).

8.      The form taken by contemporary democratic international movements – networked, flexible, media-oriented and communication-sensitive - suggests the future model for an effective international labour movement in the age of globalisation.

‘[T]he women made Huariou [NGO Forum, 4th World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995] a festival of networking. Experiences were exchanged, alliances were formed between women from different regions or continents, between single-issue groups…who were fighting against discrimination and to construct their own identity. One novelty was the forging of a large number of South-South alliances. Thus, the womens’ movements gathered at Huariou themselves reflected the process of globalisation. They have spread to the farthest corner of this patriarchal planet and succeeded in forging closer links with one another, but at the same time they have remained diverse and fragmented. The Women’s International moves between the poles of globalisation and localization, networking and splitting. Networks appear to be the organizational and political form most appropriate to globalisation’. (Christa Wichterich 1999: 147-8)

‘Despite…common ground, these [anti-globalisation] campaigns have not coalesced into a single movement. Rather, they are intricately and tightly linked to one another, much as "hotlinks" connect their websites on the Internet. This analogy is more than coincidental and is in fact key to understanding the changing nature of political organizing. Although many have observed that the recent mass protests would have been impossible without the Internet, what has been overlooked is how the communication technology that facilitates these campaigns is shaping the movement in its own image. Thanks to the Net, mobilizations are able to unfold with sparse bureaucracy and minimal hierarchy; forced consensus and laboured manifestos are fading into the background, replaced instead by a culture of constant, loosely structured and sometimes compulsive information-swapping. What emerged on the streets of Seattle and Washington was an activist model that mirrors the organic, decentralized, interlinked pathways of the Internet—the Internet come to life’. (Naomi Klein 2000)

9.      The notion that international electronic networking is the inevitable province of the rich and privileged, or has to be diffused from the rich, advanced, developed countries/unions/people, to the poor, marginal and powerless ones is questioned by certain Third World experiences, emancipatory movements and even technological developments.

‘Access to and use of the Internet [in Trinidad] is vastly more widespread than might have been expected. Our house to house survey revealed that while around one in twenty households has an Internet account, around one-third of households include a regular Internet user. Even at very low income levels, people purchase top-of-the-range computers, including modems… This intense interest in the possibilities opened up by the Internet extends even to settlements of squatters; nonetheless, use of the Internet is strongly correlated to income. While class is expressed in inequalities of IT career prospects, people also attempt to use IT skills to bypass traditional educational qualifications... Domestic access to the Internet shows little distinction of gender or ethnicity, but gender and age are reflected in different patterns of use and in unequal institutional attitudes.’ (Daniel Miller and Don Slater 2000:23) 

‘The rapidity and thoroughness with which almost every aspect of modern computer communications have been used by pro-Zapatista forces has been central to this particular movement becoming "a prototype". From the use of mailing lists and conferences for the dissemination of information, the sharing of experience and the facilitation of discussion and organizing through the elaboration of multimedia web sites for the amplification and archiving of the developing history of the struggle to the use of electronic voting technology to make possible global participation in plebiscites on their political positions, the Zapatistas and their supporters have been on the cutting edge of the political use of computer communications. These analyses of this movement have also recognized how the content of these…networking forms of social mobilization has differed from traditional Leninist notions of revolution. Instead of a dedication to the seizure of power, the Zapatista rebellion, including its international dimensions, has involved a mobilization with the essentially political objectives of 1) pulling together grassroots movements against the current political and economic order in Mexico and the world and of 2) facilitating the elaboration and circulation of alternative approaches to social organization’. (Harry Cleaver 1999)

‘BRAZIL DESIGNS A CHEAP PC FOR THE MASSES. Researchers in Brazil have developed a no-frills PC that should retail for $300. Government officials hope that the low-cost computer, which consumers will be able to purchase in $15 monthly   installments, will help narrow Brazil's digital divide. Although Brazil has 170 million people, including 3.9 million regular Internet users, and a gross domestic product of $580 billion, many of its people lack phone lines, not to mention computers, and the average minimum wage is only $75 per month. Sergio Vale Campos of the Federal University of Minas Gerais, who led the team that designed the computer, said it is "cheap, but is not trash." The PC features the basic components: a monitor, a mouse, speakers, and a browser for the Internet. A printer or disk drive can be added as modular units. It has 64 MB of RAM, a 500 MHz processor, and a 56K modem. The researchers further reduced costs by relying on free Linux-based software. However,  the government may have difficulty finding a company that will manufacture the new PC. Several firms have said the projected market price is too low, and critics have suggested the country's lack of IT infrastructure may make using such a device problematic. (Associated Press, 5 March 2001)   10.  The desirability of the networked electronic union appears to be required by the nature of labour in the information industries but is today possible and even necessary for all working people, and for any effective international solidarity.

‘As in other industries, workers in the emerging digital economy also need to defend their common interests. However, most of the existing labour organisations are not responding quickly enough to the changes in people’s working lives. Although formed to fight the employers, industrial trade unions were also created in the image of the Fordist factory: bureaucratic, centralised and nationalist. For those working within the digital economy, such labour organisations seem anachronistic. Instead, new forms of unionism need to be developed which can represent the interests of digital workers. As well as reforming the structures of existing labour organisations, digital workers should start co-operating with each other using their own methods. As they’re already on-line, people could organise to advance their common interests through the Net. Formed within the digital economy, a virtual trade union should emphasise new principles of labour organisation: artisanal, networked and global’. (Richard Barbrook 1999)

‘It is easy to recognise that an urgent current need is for new models of transnational solidarity and for enhanced capacity for transnational intervention...sustaining and enhancing the scope for initiative and mobilisation at the base, to develop both stronger centralised structures and the mechanisms for more vigorous grassroots participation [...] To be effective at international level...trade unionism must...reconstitute unions as discursive organisations which foster interactive international relationships and serve more as networks than as hierarchies […M]odern information technologies offer the potential for labour movements to break out of the iron cage which for so long has trapped them in organisational structures which mimic those of capital...Forward to the "virtual trade union" of the future’. (Richard Hyman 1999:111-12)

‘Ultimately CMC [computer-mediated communication] is a tool to be used in building effective organisations…[T]he labour movement must still build the capacity to service its members, to link workplace struggles to broader political and economic issues, and to develop an ideological commitment to democratic practice... A labour movement is far more than an effective communication system, particularly a labour movement committed to building a "new international"...Collective action grows out of mass mobilization, out of forging a programme of ideas and action, out of building an organizational culture, out of creating a myriad of powerful human relationships which bring people together and convince them that their organization is worth living for and even worth dying for. Many would regard the experience of being part of an organization engaged in mass struggle as the most important form of expressing their humanity.’ (John Pape 1999:8)

11.  The potential of the electronic media is their capacity not to ‘mobilise’ working people for and within the old labour institutions – but to make them ‘more mobile’ under and against a globalised and networked capitalism more generally.

‘The open secret of the electronic media, the decisive political factor, which has been waiting, suppressed or crippled, for its moment to come, is their mobilising power. When I say mobilise I mean mobilise…namely to make [people] more mobile than they are. As free as dancers, as aware as football players, as surprising as guerrillas. Anyone who thinks of the masses only as the object of politics, cannot mobilize them. He wants to push them around. A parcel is not mobile; it can only be pushed to and fro. Marches, columns, parades, immobilize people […] The new media are egalitarian in structure. Anyone can take part in them by a simple switching process […] The new media are orientated towards action, not contemplation; towards the present, not tradition […] It is wrong to regard media equipment as mere means of consumption. It is always, in principle, also means of production […] In the socialist movements the dialectic of discipline and spontaneity, centralism and decentralization, authoritarian leadership and anti-authoritarian disintegration has long ago reached deadlock. Networklike communication models built on the principle of reversibility of circuits might give indications of how to overcome this situation […] "Pessimism of the intelligence, optimism of the Will" (Antonio Gramsci)’’’. (Hans Magnus Enzensberger 1976:21-53)

12.  There must be a dialectical interplay, in a new international labour movement, between the politics of cyberspace and the politics of place, inspired by a meaningful understanding of solidarity.

‘Cybercultural politics can be most effective if it fulfils two conditions: awareness of the dominant worlds that are being created by the same technologies on which the progressive networks rely (including awareness of how power works in the world of transnational networks and flows); and an ongoing tacking back and forth between cyberpolitics (political activism of the Internet) and what I call place politics, or political activism in the physical locations at which the networker sits and lives’. (Arturo Escobar 1999:32)

‘In practice, the concept of solidarity has often been distorted by the deeply unequal global distribution of wealth and power. The Zapatista view of solidarity is not a unilateral relationship that reflects and reinforces the paternalistic gaze from the "first world" to the "third world". Nor is it about solidarity among a few insiders (national, organizational or ideological). Nor is it a distant solidarity among cosmopolitan "global" activists and professionals found at official "global meetings" like the UN-sponsored Rio and Beijing summits. In the Zapatista mirror, solidarity is the building of alternative resistance networks around the world through the practice of radical democracy, liberty and social justice with a related emphasis on localism, autonomy and horizontal relationships among all the participating groups and organizations. (Fiona Jeffries 2001:136)

13.  Globalisation, computerisation and informatisation make it possible and necessary for the international labour movement to rethink ‘work’ and the wage-labour relationship in terms, for example, of locally-relevant, ecologically-friendly, cooperatively-controlled but high-tech production.

‘The spread of computerisation gives a constant boost to the potential of co-operative networks. Computers can be used to make their management transparent and easy to monitor by all the members […] The cooperative circle may thus lead gradually to the collective appropriation of the new technologies, including…flexible computerised manufacturing systems which would be acquired…on a hire-purchase basis, of which its members would ‘put together’, in much the same way as computer and mechanical equipment is recovered in the shanty towns of Africa or South America and ‘cannibalised’ to meet local needs. There is now no longer any great gulf between the performance of the brand-marked production tools of industry and the tools a local community can use for self-producing… (Andre Gorz 1999:107)

14.  Development of a networked labour internationalism requires political action by the labour movement – in partnership with civil society - in/against the institutions/arenas in which control is exercised over the technology, access to and the content of electronic media and cyberspace.

‘Any hope that ICTs [information and communication technologies] will enhance and universalise the capacity for social reflexivity and political action by social movements depends on radically new modes of governance of the ICTs and on free access. New markets, and NGO players concerned to promote the decommodification of the relations of definition must emerge. Indigenous peoples’ movements and cosmopolitan social movements should be able to ally on this project. A limited first step, albeit using the liberal legal technology of rights, would be to enact a new International Bill of Rights to Access to Information and Communication. Rights would include free public access to information and public supranational control of the ICTs. The Philippine Greens provided the only electronic resouce…I could find at the time of writing, outlining such a normative scheme’. (Paul Havemann 2000:28)

‘This proposal calls for civil society and NGOs to form an international alliance to address concerns and to work jointly on matters around media and communication. We believe a new social movement in this field is needed, and is ready to act internationally. […] Uniting civil society organisations that today use media and communication networks in their work for social change is:

o        An awareness of the growing importance of the mass media and communication networks for the aims they are trying to achieve;

o        A concern about current trends in the field of information and communication toward concentration of ownership and control into fewer hands;

o        A concern that state censorship is giving way only to more subtle censorship, through subjection to commercial exigencies and maximising shareholder gain;

o        An awareness of the lack of public influence on these trends, in both developed and developing countries, in democracies and under dictatorships.

The central focus of the movement would be to tackle problems and find solutions to one of the greatest challenges of our time: To ensure that the voices and concerns of ordinary people around the world are no longer excluded! […] A two-fold approach is required. […] First, strategic level cooperation amongst NGOs must build common agendas, joint funding proposals and exchange and cooperation mechanisms. Gathering, analysing and dissemination of information will be a key aspect of this. Second, concrete cooperation could begin through joint activities of the people and organisations participating in the movement, under the following suggested themes: Access and accessibility; Right to communicate; Diversity of expression; Security and privacy; Cultural environment.’ (Voices 21: 2000)

15.  An understanding of the international labour movement in network terms can break down the traditional division of labour within the movement, between the categories of ‘thinkers’ and ‘doers’.

‘As part of their struggle, AGSMs [anti-globalisation social movements] produce important flows of information and knowledge that often times amounts to a veritable theoretico-political framework for local and regional world making. The defence of local worlds/places, and the progressive transformation of DANs [dominant actor-networks) and other forms of globality… Some of these forms of knowledge concern matters of strategy, others the nature of domination, others the defense and re-constructing of local and regional worlds. In some cases, these [sic] knowledge is produced at the intersection of conversations in the disciplines (geography, anthropology, ecology, political economy, feminist theory) and conversations within/among social movements, but this production…is governed by considerations that are of course more pragmatic than scholastic. The "academic" argument about this form of knowledge, however, is that the knowledge produced by the meshworks [non-hierachical or centralizing networks – PW] should be an important part of our (academics’) own theorizing and research agendas. It is no longer the case that some produce knowledge (academics, intellectuals) that others apply (social movements); these boundaries are completely disrupted at present, as movements become knowledge producers and intellectuals are called upon to engage more and more in activism. (Arturo Escobar 2000)

16.  The question today is not whether a networked international labour movement is utopian; it is why it should be considered to be so.      ‘What is striking about the "network utopians" of the late twentieth century…is the new nature of the link made between technological forms and social ones….Within networks control in a technical sense can be devolved in ways that were not possible in the past…Technical openness in a network is very different from true openness in communication and widespread access to the competences needed to communicate effectively. Just as the rifle could be used in the most tyrannical armies, so can liberating technologies and networks organisational forms be used within structures that remain deeply authoritarian. But the power of network utopias remains resistant to qualifications of this kind. Like any modern revolutionary ideology its attraction stems from its ability to combine the "is" of existing transformations and the "ought" of a better world.’ (Geoff Mulgan 1991:23).      ‘[T]he new information-centred worker will have infinitely more ability to intercommunicate …Thus, common experience may lead to a unified and powerful class. But, just as the peasantry were usually split into innumerable geographic units, information-centred workers will be split into different communities of discourse…[Nonetheless] it would be possible to have "one big union" and still address, through intercommunication, the needs of workers in different industries and with different tastes…These workers need something very different from the existing union structure…Thus, while the present weaknesses of existing unions would only be compounded in an environment of evanescent capitalism, the new form of organization could do much to overcome all the problems…Existing union leadership could certainly facilitate the growth of such an alternative, and it could continue to play an important role as experienced advisers and consultants. But they would certainly have to relinquish, whether willingly or not, their current role as a filter of communication among rank-and-file members…In making their transition to an information culture, workers would lose their identity as a class: there would no longer have to be an underclass of any sort. But each worker could gain a rich new social identity. These thoughts are utopian, no doubt, but the new information technology holds forth, more than any technology or social arrangement in the past, the possibility of making utopian dreams come true. (Michael Goldhaber 1983:233-5, 242).      ‘Radio should be converted from a distribution system to a communication system. Radio could be the most wonderful communication system imaginable, a gigantic system of channels – could be, that is, if it were capable not only of transmitting but of receiving, of making the listener not only hear but also speak, not of isolating him but of connecting him…If you consider this is utopian then I would ask you to consider why it is utopian. (Bertold Brecht 1983/1930).   Relevant articles/chapters/papers

This listing concentrates on shorter items, hypothetically suitable for a post-panel reader, either printed or electronic. Any volunteer for such a task should present themselves in due course to the Panel Coordindators.

Agustin, Laura. 2000. ‘They Speak, But Who Listens?’, in Wendy Harcourt (ed.), Women@Internet: Creating New Cultures in Cyberspace. Pp. 140-155.

Athanasiou, Tom. 1985. ‘High-Tech Alternativism: The Case of the Community Memory Project’, Radical Science, No. 16 (Making Waves: The Politics of Communications), pp. 37-52.

Bailey, Chris. 2000. ‘The Labour Movement and the Internet’, (Chris Bailey, Labournet UK, in the 2nd Seoul International Labormedia'99 Conference), Asia Labour Update (Hong Kong). Issue 34. pp. 1, 3-5. http://www.amrc.org.hk/Arch/3401.htm

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