While we’re often told that the past holds lessons for how to approach the present, we rarely look to older technologies for inspiration. Rarer still is it to suggest that the historical experiences of less industrialized nations may have something to teach us about the technological problems of today — let alone that a decades-old socialist project might offer ways to think about technologies touted by Silicon Valley capitalists.
Yet a computing system built in socialist Chile in the 1970s — Project Cybersyn — offers inspiration on how we should be thinking about technology and data today.
Project Cybersyn was a bold technological project tied to a bold political project. It emerged in the context of Chile’s peaceful road to socialism: Salvador Allende had won the Chilean presidency in 1970 with a promise to build a fundamentally different society. His political program would make Chile a democratic socialist state, with respect for the country’s constitution and individual freedoms.
Giving the state control of Chile’s most important industries constituted a central plank of Allende’s platform, but created management difficulties. The government had limited experience in this area. Yet by the end of 1971, it had taken control of more than one hundred and fifty enterprises, among them twelve of the twenty largest companies in Chile.
Shock and austerity. Stock market instability. Stagnant wages and the decline of purchasing power. War. Climate change. Despite these multiplying crises, capitalism retains an essential tool that allows it to perpetuate itself on a global level despite its internal contradictions: the ability to leverage technological developments to liquidate the political power of those who would oppose it. At such a crossroads, when labor as an organized force is being dissolved into flexible precarity, how does one attempt to tip the scales and reverse our accelerating fragility? The answer lies in a shift of focus, from a politics of power to a politics that looks critically at infrastructure, a politics of re-purpose, (re-)design, appropriation and the reclamation of space, and of new forms of economic expression.
Whatever the future will be, or whatever name we want to label the path to it, there is one realization that is facing us: it must be post-capitalist. We firmly believe that another world is possible, but it must be built, and the rules and programs for this construction are still largely unwritten.
We propose the creation of a zone of experimentation with the intention of bringing together dissenting agencies with critical practices in hopes of finding prototypes and models for a post-capitalist society. Such a platform calls for a cross-pollination of ideas, a shared and in-depth dialogue, and easily accessible means for hands-on experimentation. This new space will be open to all wanting to participate.
The topics we hope to cover include – but are not limited to:
The politics of infrastructure
The remaking of space by neoliberal capitalism
The relationships between big data, media, and infrastructure
Tactics and strategies for re-purposing technologies, complex systems, infrastructure and the politicization of spatial practices
D.I.Y. techniques and how-to guides
Sustainable living, agriculture, energy, and architecture
The possibilities and pitfalls of automation
Eco-activism and infra-activism
New and experimental cartographies
Peer-to-peer approaches to production and distribution
Social unionism and digital labor in the transnational space of European austerity
Over the past few years, European social movements have struggled to find new ways of cooperating and connecting in order to oppose the verticalization of European governance. Following the crash of 2008, in fact, a regime of austerity, that is severe cuts to public spending, has gone together with a remodulation of modes of welfare and work inspired by the German model. This model has seen the massive introduction of part-time, badly paid jobs (the so called mini-jobs ) which are part of a system of workfare where the state makes sure that everybody is forced to accept whatever job available through a new capillary control of recipients’ lives. While the European Central Bank like the Federal Reserve has deployed quantitative easing, and inundated the financial system with money, none of this has effectively gone into the creation of new jobs, into expanding credit to consumers and business or to essential public services. The process of complete precarization of labor and increasing accumulation of wealth is thus unfolding along the lines of a geographical and ethnic division of labor which sees the European Union divided between centre and periphery, North and South, East and West with war pressing in on its Eastern and Southern borders.
The verticalization of European governance has thus reinforced a whole series of trends: ‘the attack on waged labor, the compression of union rights, the dequalification and privatisation of learning and research, the enclosure of common goods, a new government of labor mobility and the exploitation of migrant labor’ (http://www.autistici.org/strikemeeting/). These considerations are central to the formation of a transnational space of action for social movements aiming to reverse the tide of complete neoliberalization of Europe and opening onto the global level as the only adequate dimension of struggle.
The modern prince, the myth-prince, cannot be a real person, a concrete individual. It can only be an organism, a complex element of society in which a collective will, which has already been recognised and has to some extent asserted itself in action, begins to take concrete form. (A. Gramsci)
Italian political activist and theorist Antonio Gramsci’s core concepts like hegemony, organic crisis, historic bloc, war of position and war of manoeuvre are central to our understanding of today’s complex global capitalist system as well as the catastrophic changes that are currently taking place in it. Referring to the original concept developed by Gramsci, global political economy theorist Stephen Gill describes the 2008 global financial turmoil as the manifestation of an organic crisis at the global level. We can also read the outcomes of the global organic crisis following another neo-Gramscian theorist Robert Cox as a mixture of three scenarios he describes. First one is a global (military) Keynesian recovery being pushed by the West. Regional wars moving from the periphery to the centre involving massive destruction of lives, cities and the nature, as we witness it happening since the 9/11. The second scenario is the rise of global fascism in tandem with the regional wars. This has also been happening, especially increasingly in the centre, since 2007; highlighting the race to the bottom caused by the strengthening of totalitarian forms of capitalism at the main contenders like China, Russia and India. Finally and the last scenario is accompanying transnational revolutions, like the uprisings in the northern Africa, Americas and Europe also happening.
What brought humanity to this point is not a secret and also made clear by many thinkers, intellectuals, and activists. The above mentioned article by Gill is only one of the public records. It is very clear however where we have to drive history as the humanity, the third option: Transnational revolutions. Again, following Gramsci and Gill, we can think of the realisation of the transnational revolutions in relation to the ‘Prince’. For his time Gramsci thought of it as the collective subjectivity which will give the moral leadership to a wider counter-hegemonic historic bloc, and shape the form and content of the communist revolution in a national context. And it was the communist part of the working class. Gill referred to the anti- and alter-globalisation movement.Continue reading →
Preparatory and test call for planning the ‘Organizing digital labour & digital labour organizing’ workshop. The actual workshop is being planned to take place in Berlin between 23-25 May 2014, during Labour Start‘s5. Global Solidarity Conference.
To open up the preparation process for the workshop as wide as possible and to allow those interested online participants to test and practice with the online system we will be using, we will be making several test conference calls in coming days. The first call will take place on Wednesday 14 May, between 10.00 am and 15.00 pm [UK time], so wider global participation will be possible during the day.
The draft description of the workshop, which we be taken as the starting point, can be found at ‘Union Upgrading’ Group Wiki created on Organizing Network -which we will be testing and using to document the workshop and the preperation, and to take the minutes. If you like to participate the preparatory call, and the workshop itself please add your name, affiliation, contact information, and any ideas or suggestion of yours on the wiki and click on ‘Save’. In order to be able to use all the functions of the Organizing Network, for instance the wiki, you will need to register first. Please read the user guide for the ON here.
The test call is open to all unionists, labour organizers, social justice activists, free information and knowledge [h]activists, researchers who are interested in and experienced on the topic. The call is especially set up for those who wish to actively collaborate in the preparation of the content of the workshop, and who needs to practice with the digital tools we will be using.
extensive discussion of the various workshops that Stephen attended
In particular the VW chattanooga panel on the UAW organizing drive met Chris who worked on the facebook Chattanooga for Workers in support of the UAW drive. Really good analysis from two workers that were in the plant organizing.
From the CWA telecom session a clear generational gap amongst the labor activists.
Considering the total enclosure of the Internet, the enslavement of mass free labor on it, and the rise of meta-data Orweillian society, what should one make of celebration of the rise of the Internet of Everything (IoE) or Industrial Internet and calling for the demise of capitalism by people like Jeremy Rifkin! What would be Rifkin’s advise to his ruling class clients, but more importantly why the neoconservatives and Chinese state class elite pay him high compensations?
The ruling elite way of dealing with the problem of ‘near zero marginal costs’ has been massive exploitation of zero labor cost (free labor). Now they like to capture free labor in the physical world by connecting devices and people “putting them at work on the move” -as Cisco and GE founders of the Industrial Internet Consortium publicly declare. While the translation of this ideal is the objectification of entire living labor and commons (should be read as human) to a global production process, why Rifkin celebrates this! If the plan is clearly to giving IP addresses to 50 billion devices in coming 10 years to form the IoE infrastructure, making it is possible a global scale surveillance an most logical outcome would be the total exploitation of artificially constructed happy playbouring produsers who would be living in sterile smart cities. As for the masses, there shall not be need for an hegemonic governance like bourgeois parliamentarian model what so ever in this new digital world. It has become clear by now that this ambitious capitalist project has the potential to replace the ancient industrial capitalism. It is certain by now that the fall of capitalism as we know it won’t be quite and painless. The attempt towards realizing this transition has brought about imperialist peripheral wars. If one look to the fierce clashes between Russian, Westerns and Chinese rulers in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Georgia, Chechnya, Ukraine and other frontiers of the Empires, the naked truth would appears in clear vision. The fact that crack between two giant tectonic plates is about to break up to a truly global corrective war between ruling classes. Titans are getting ready to clash, and planning for the aftermath of the great cleansing, of billions of un-exploitable and expensive to feed human.
GNUnion is an idea. It is a collaborative effort and a swarm like social activity aiming to interconnect emancipatory cultures, individuals, institutions, visions, strategies and networks to each other. Global networked labour union is a living, conscious and shared map of locally grounded, translocally interacting autonomous collectivities (simultaneously in and between local, regional, national, continental levels) that are forming a global whole. GNUnion of the nodes, hubs and ties involved serves to generate healthier, stronger and clearer path to emancipation beyond capitalist mode of production without destruction.
We therefore invite peers who share the idea, to network and organize to stitch a global mesh-network by linking thier struggles, network bases and labour to each other. Our call is to all who strive for building dynamic, free, libre, and open source spaces, where our autonomous agendas, geographies and visions can interact and become collectivised bottom up manner. While each of which becomes more empowered to move further independantly, in an harmony.
GNUnion encourages all its peers to collectivize their individual social and communicational power to swarm around dynamical, creative and positive actions. Such collective actions we know well by now that are capable of creating real impact at unpredicted magnitude on the chosen targets, regardless how large and powerful they are.
Combining peer to peer social relations and technologies and embedding them into all its internal and external processes and relationships, GNUnion ultimately aims at hyper-empowerment of all the nodes involved in one big mesh network.
Below are some of the spaces we collaborate on N-1, and the Organizing Network -online social network spaces developed as free nodes using Lorea.
Social Network-, Wiki-, Meta- Strikes
Our first direct and mesh networked action will be a transnational meta-strike to target PRISM contractors. Priority objectives of the strike will be forcing the state elite and capital to hand-off private and public data, and stop abusing people and democratic rights for their commercial and tyrannical objectives. The action will reclaim what is ‘social’ and belong to people in societal communication and bring about mass awareness about using FLOSS!
We will bring high-tech and industrial workers, hackers, system admins, digital artists and activists and their powers coming from production, consumption, communication and knowledge -so a being social individuals and society.