May First/People Link is calling on the movement (our own members and beyond) to gather in convergences all over the country to discuss Technology and Revolution.
The threats we face are enormous yet simultaneously the responses to them have been extraordinary and overwhelming. We are indeed at a critical juncture when the need for and possibility of fundamental social change are unquestionable. The potential for radical and systemic change is unprecedented in the modern world.
This is a time to look forward at our next steps: a time to start talking about what we have in common, what we can do together, what kind of common strategies we can develop, what resources we have at our disposal.
For decades, this process has proven difficult. While our movements are vibrant and committed and most of us sympathize with and support the work others are doing, unified action has proven tough to organize. In fact, thinking about the future (even the near future) in a unified way is something we haven’t been able to do.
Maybe we should start by talking about what we have in common: our belief in fundamental change and our reliance on and development of technology. Maybe we need to start talking about the relationship between change and technology and how that relationship affects the practical and political work we are doing.
We think that’s worth exploring.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.”
There is no requisite format to a convergence. It can be comprised of a group of individuals (even a group of friends) or a “summit” of organizational representatives or both. A convergence can last two hours or as much as a full day.
What makes it “official” is that the convergence organizers:
- let us know it is taking place before it actually happens
- including at least one techie in the group
- send us a report (to firstname.lastname@example.org) of what conclusions your meeting came to.
Interested? See below.
Check out our Discussion Guide and Sign up to organize a convergence now!