What

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We think the human race is headed for extinction and information technology is central to the future of our world, humanity and the movements committed to saving both.

We believe there is a crisis that threatens our access to and use of technology and that our movement does not have a common agenda to avert that crisis.

We believe the potential of technology is virtually limitless and that our movement has no unified conception of that potential.

We think our movement needs a technology strategy and that technology should be part of the strategy of all the organizations in our movement.

We are calling on the leaders of social change organizations nationwide to gather in one day congresses, in various parts of the country, to discuss these issues, explore whether common work around technology is possible and come up with some programmatic points our entire movement can agree on.

Currently, congresses are planned in 2018 and 2019 in: New York City, Atlanta GA, Boston, Bay Area, Albuquerque and Chicago.

This is a continuation of the “Technology and Revolution” project which brought together nearly 1,000 activists in 18 convergences throughout this country and in Mexico. In open discussions about what our movement should be doing about technology, they identified literally hundreds of priorities, from which themes consistently emerged:

  1. To assure a neutral internet
  2. To oppose, restrain and ultimately eliminate intrusive government internet surveillance
  3. To finally provide everyone full access to high-speed internet
  4. To develop an Internet that can be democratic, open and free of corporate pressure.
  5. To improve and deepend the collaboration between movement technologists and other movement activists and organizations.

We think that these common themes can help us start talking about the challenges of protecting a free and open internet and thinking about technology’s role in the future.

We think the agenda emerging from this extensive process should be concrete, concise and reinforced by a commitment from the participants to implement it as part of their work.

It’s never been done before. Now is the time!

Next: Goals

Goals

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  • Contribute to building a broad left movement strategy
  • Build tighter relationships between experienced movement organizers with limited understanding of technology and techie activists with limited movement experience
  • Practice developing inter-generational, mixed race and gender environments that builds respect and power

Next: Context

Context

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  1. Starting in the 1970s, information technology was introduced into production and many other aspects of our society. It transformed countless social functions, including work as it replaced the industrial working class as the primary motor of commodity production and eliminated this group of people who had their hands on capitalism’s means of production. For all practical purposes, what was traditionally called “the proletariat” disappeared as a social force. This was critical to the Left of that period because the strategy the Left had either embraced or debated was centered on working class organization at the “point of production”. The Left was left without a cohesive strategy.
  2. We have never gotten over that loss. The entire history of the Left in many of the economically powerful countries of the world since the 1970s has been response and resistance to various oppressions but very little vision of the future and almost none of a strategy to get there. As a result, despite great success in some of these struggles, our situation as a world has deteriorated consistently.
  3. In the midst of that deterioration, we confront a growing fascist movement world-wide: the traditional answer by capitalism to crisis. It has now taken government authority in the U.S. and, aside from increased surveillance and abuse of this technology, we can expect an increased attack on our ability to communicate and the technology we use to do that.
  4. And yet, because of information technology, our movement has never been more capable of rapid communications and response organizing. Our influence is broadening all the time. Our ability to deliver our message quickly and comprehensively has never been greater.
  5. And technology transformed us in another important way: for the first time, our ability to create a society we want surpasses our imagination of what kind of society that can be. For the first time in human history, we can realize more than we can imagine and the struggle is to expand, not our capabilities, but our imaginations.
  6. The priority of the movement in this country is to start developing a strategy for revolution that can unify us or at least serve as the source of debate. Because of the key role technology has played in all these developments, that strategy for revolution must include an approach to technology.
  7. Logically, a revolutionary program should include the “reconquest of technology” and that, in and of itself, is a huge undertaking that can only be accomplished inside a larger, more inconclusive strategy. It’s also not possible to elaborate without intense and large-scaled convergence and conversation.

We at May First/People Link are a technology organization of the Left and we feel a particular responsibility to contribute to our movement’s addressing of these issues.

Next: Readings

Readings

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The topic is huge. Here we offer a few readings that can help ground the conversation.

  • Our context document. If you have not read it yet, it’s the best place to start.
  • May First/People Link’s technical guide to security provides a primer on protecting yourself online.
  • Why Popular Assemblies Sweeping the Country Are Building Blocks of the Resistance. Sarah Lazare reviews the format of popular assemblies (which we are suggesting for these convergences). Ayako Maruyama, quoted in the article, says, “When done right, when done at its best, I think assemblies are the most profound tools of bottom-up, participatory democracy that holds the interests of the communities, unlike any other vehicle I have ever worked with.”
  • Brace yourself: the most disruptive phase of globalization is just beginning. In an interview by Eshe Nelson, Ricahrd Baldwin argues that globalization takes shape in three distinct stages: the ability to move goods, then ideas, and finally people. Moving people really means remote controlled machines - people don’t move, they simply operate remote robots.
  • Introduction to the privacy paradox (podcast). WNYC Note to Self host Manoush Zomorodi takes us through a multi-part series on Surveillance Capitalism and the impact of the digital revolution on our daily lives. This introduction is part of a 5 part series
  • Open Internet Closed to Women. Astra Taylor points out that “The Web is regularly hailed for its ‘openness’ and that’s where the confusion begins, since ‘open’ in no way means ‘equal.’ While the Internet may create space for many voices, it also reflects and often amplifies real-world inequities in striking ways.”
  • Contemporary Assumptions on Race and Technology. Michelle Wright examines the relationship between black people and technology, asking “After all, how many forgone conclusions are we to encounter using two terms, race and technology, that are not only Eurocentric in their definitions, but also in their connotations and denotations.”
  • Locking the Web Open: A call for a distributed web. Brewster Kahle, director of the Internet Archive, argues that “Over the last 25 years, millions of people have poured creativity and knowledge into the World Wide Web. New features have been added and dramatic flaws have emerged based on the original simple design. I would like to suggest we could now build a new Web on top of the existing Web that secures what we want most out of an expressive communication tool without giving up its inclusiveness. I believe we can do something quite counter-intuitive: We can lock the Web open.”

Next: Convergences

Convergences

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In 2017, we organized 16 convergences throughout the US and Mexico.

These convergences were wide open discussions about the role of technology in revolutionary change.

We published a Discussion Guide to help organize the discussion, but left final decisions on how to facilitate the conversations up to the organizers.

The results are below, showing both a tremendous diversity of thought, while still maintaining a consistent set of themes:

  1. To assure a neutral internet
  2. To oppose, restrain and ultimately eliminate intrusive government internet surveillance
  3. To finally provide everyone full access to high-speed internet
  4. To develop an Internet that can be democratic, open and free of corporate pressure.
  5. To improve and deepend the collaboration between movement technologists and other movement activists and organizations.

Next: Congresses

Convergences

Congresses

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In 2018 and 2019 we are organizing six congresses in New York, Atlanta, Boston, Bay Area, Albuquerque and Chicago to further develop and refine the themes that emerged from the convergences organized in 2017:

  1. To assure a neutral internet
  2. To oppose, restrain and ultimately eliminate intrusive government internet surveillance
  3. To finally provide everyone full access to high-speed internet
  4. To develop an Internet that can be democratic, open and free of corporate pressure.
  5. To improve and deepend the collaboration between movement technologists and other movement activists and organizations.

Reports from each congress will be published as they take place.

Congresses