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Archive for the ‘media activism’ Category

While the mainstream media has mainly presented the current wildcat strikes in the UK as a nationalist phenomena, concentrating on the slogan ‘British jobs for British workers,’ they have seemed to largely ignore what the workers themselves have been saying.

For example one of the Lindsey Oil Strike refinery unofficial elected strike committee leaders wrote on UK Indymedia ‘The workers of LOR, Conoco and Easington did not take strike action against immigrant workers. Our action is rightly aimed against company bosses who attempt to play off one nationality of worker against the other and undermine the NAECI agreement.  THE B.N.P. SHOULD TAKE HEED, U.K. CONTRUCTION WORKERS WILL NOT TOLERATE ‘ANOTHER RACIST ATTEMPT’ TO SEVER FRATERNAL RELATIONS WITH WORKERS FROM OTHER NATIONS’

https://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2009/02/420969.html?c=on#c214752

Similarly Unite, the union which has underpinned much of the action has been issuing posters procaliming ‘Its TOTAL discrimination by a greedy corporation. Workers of all countries Unite.’ Hardly akin to any nationalism I’ve ever known.

Here’s an example of the BBC deliberately misrepresenting the opinions of the strikers last week. On the more heavily watched news at 10, an interview is spliced so that a statement about the difficulty of integrating with workers who are housed in temporary accomodation and privately bused in to work appears to be outright xenephobia. By quoting the worker out of context the BBC continue the wrongful portrayal of the workers as right wing nationalists. the 2 different versions can be viewed at the following link http://www.vimeo.com/3065190

BBC News at 10
Reporter… “beneath the anger ministers fear lies straightforward xenophobia”
Striker… “These portugese and Ities, we can’t work alongside of them”

BBC Newsnight
Same Striker… “These portugese and Ities, we can’t work alongside of them, they’re segregated, and coming in in full companies”

Finally… Here’s an online petition for the upcoming trade union congress, it can be signed at http://www.petitiononline.com/jobs0209/ looking through the signatories you’ll see that this has support from many of the unions which the mainstream media is accusing of xenophobia and BNP stlye politics.

‘An injury to one is an injury to all – unite to save jobs.

Thousands of construction workers have been out on unofficial strike at major sites across Britain. As the jobs slaughter continues many working people are rightly worried for the future. The behaviour of the sub-contracting bosses, in housing Italian workers separately, adds to this fear and division.

Across the whole of Europe, including Britain, thousands of jobs are being lost every day with no end in sight. Governments have handed hundreds of billions of pounds to the bankers but have told working people that they must pay the price for the crisis. But there is resistance. Last week a million French workers were out on strike against Nicolas Sarkozy’s “reforms”, Greek workers and farmers have been fighting to defend their livelihoods, in Ireland 400 workers are occupying Waterford Glass. In all of these examples of a fightback, the anger needs to be focused on those responsible -the employers and bankers out to protect their profits, and their allies in government.

We oppose the spread of neoliberalism across Europe, and support the unity of all workers to defend jobs and living standards, equal pay, binding national agreements negotiated by trade unions, and equal legal status for all, regardless of nationality. We oppose the ‘contracting out’ and privatisation system that uses competition to drive down wages and conditions.

We can sense the mood for a fightback in Britain. However, the slogan “British jobs for British workers” that has come to prominence around the dispute can only lead to deep divisions inside working class communities. The slogan, coined by Gordon Brown in his 2007 speech to Labour’s conference, is being taking up by the right wing press and the Nazi BNP. These are forces that have always been bitterly hostile to the trade union movement.

That is why, while supporting action to defend jobs, we believe that the action has to be directed against the employers and the contracting firms, not against migrant workers. We congratulate those strikers who ejected the BNP from the picket line at Immingham, and we urge other strikers to do the same. We support the demands of the Lindsey Oil Refinery strike committee.

We need a massive drive to unionise all workers, and a campaign to defend all jobs and create new ones. Every worker will benefit from a campaign to unionise overseas workers in order to prevent employers from using them as a weapon against fellow workers. Most importantly, we have to have unity if we are to fight back against the effects of the most severe economic crisis since the 1930s. “British jobs for British workers” is a slogan that focuses on what divides working people not what can unite them.

Every worker is facing the same horrors in the face of recession. We can’t let ourselves be divided. We should fight for well-paid jobs with decent conditions for all.

We support:

• The march for workers’ rights, and for global and environmental justice on 28 March in London on the eve of the G20 summit. This protest is supported by some 40 organisations including trade unions, the TUC, and campaigning groups. It is a protest against the neo-liberal policies that have encouraged ‘contracting out’ and competitive wage cutting.
• The protest called by Stop the War, CND and others on 2 April at the G20 summit itself.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned’

In conclusion then, despite the attempts of the mainstream press to purvey these strikes as a right wing, nationalist phemonenon, it is clear from looking at the material published using alternative forms of new media such as Indymedia, blogs and online petitions, that this is far from true. This does however emphasize the importance of alternative media in allowing subaltern groups a channel for communications which bypasses the business funded and owned mass media, and allows these groups to directly communicate their message to a broad audience.

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This book, published by Routledge in 2006, is a recent attempt at a sociological analysis of the alternative globalization movement (AGM) using a theoretical framework based on an almagamation of the works of Deleuze and Guattari, Hardt and Negri and Gregory Bateson, with complexity theory via D&G deployed to provide qualitative analysis of events such as the May Day 2000 demonstration, the anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle and Prague, the actions of the Zapatistas and the emergent forms of global civil society which seek to impact on globalized capitalism such as the World and regional social fora.

In their introduction, Chesters and Welsh describe their work as ‘offering ‘a qualitative sociology of the philosophical postulates of Empire and Multitude advanced by Hardt and Negri, rendering tangible the agency and constitutive processes immanent within their works,’ (p3) although in several key areas Chesters and Welsh go beyond Hardt and Negri’s works, which in places can seem overly centred on finding a revolutionary subject for the network society, by mapping the vectors of contemporary social movements and seeking practical instantiation of how these movements connect and combine to create emergent formations capable of challenging neoliberal capitalism.

The approach pursued by Chesters and Welsh does closely correlate with Hardt and Negi’s theoretical works closely in several important ways however; firstly in contesting that ‘One must look outside the state at networked processes of interaction between state and non-state actors. This does not mean that the state is no longer important, but that we must consider the meshwork of national and extra-national political institutions, corporate and civil society actors that co-produce the effects of the global.’ (p95) That capitalist globalization and the rise of the network society means that activism can no longer be effective if aimed purely at a local level, as the larger scale assemblages of global finances can overcode and render such localism ineffective as an activist strategy.

A second important point of agreement between Hardt and Negri and Chesters and Welsh is that the formal structuring of activist movements plays an integral role in the way that they function, that an organization’s internal structure will effect the way that organization operates, and furthermore that contemporary AGM activism is centred around the form of the decentred network, and that this structure allows for a more inclusive and democratic mode of action than the 20th century models of the people’s army, unions or political parties. Indeed, while Chesters and Welsh stress the diverse array of influences on the AGM, socialism, liberalism, environmentalism and situationism, they emphasise the central role of anarchism in the democratic, reflexive and inclusive structuring of the movments ‘The logic of an anarchist stance is that revolution cannot be led by a vanguard party or sedimented through a revolutionary government or state as these forms lead back to the establishment of old habits of mind. Instead revolution requires the dissipative undermining of established institutional forms, not their re-titling.’ (p145)

Finally, Chesters and Welsh approach Hardt and Negri’s work in the way that they highlight the importance of information communications technologies and their usages to contemporary social movements, briefly examining the Zapatistas use of digital communications, and broaching the role played by Indymedia in the AGM.

‘These processes of physical interaction that characterise the global social movements – the protest actions, encuentros and social fora are further understood to be dynamically interconnected and co-extensive with a digital commons that underpins computer mediated communications and which co-constructs the rhizome of the AGM.’ (p103)

The area of media is frequently touched upon by Chesters and Welsh, both in terms of the mainstream media’s portrayal of the AGM as thugs which prevents communication of their goals and beleifs, and also in terms of Indymedia as an alternative to the mass media which presents a decentralized, less hierarchical and more transparent alternative, however one area where this book is perhaps lacking is an in depth investigation of Indymedia, and how Indymedia alongside other elements of the digital commons underpin the physical movements which are covered in considerably more depth through case studies.

Chester and Welsh describe the AGM as operating as:

‘a strange attractor reconfiguring public opposition to global neoliberalism whilst simultaneously creating ‘spaces’ where Alternatives Globalisation pathways are fused through a multiplicity of engaged actors. This is not an anti-movement, this is not a movement that can be subordinated to national analytical frameworks, this is not a movement that is going to go away.

This is a movement which prefigures social forms, social processes and social forces which will become normalized as mobility and the information age redistribute the affinities historically associated with space and place. (p1)

For Chesters and Welsh then, the AGM presents an embryonic set of processes whose dynamism and flexibility provide socially and environmentally sustainable alternatives to neoliberalism whose properties will become dominant social forms. Such claims are perhaps exaggerated, but nonetheless provide a valuable starting point for thinking about how the nonhierarchical, dynamic forms of direct democracy practised by actors within the AGM can be mobilised into dominant social forms, how activist practices can become mainstream.

Similar to Hardt and Negri, Chesters and Welsh are keen to stress that the AGM is not an anti-movement which seeks to resurrect a romanticized pre-globalized version of the nation state, but instead seeks to create sustainable and ethical alternatives to the inequalities wrought by neoliberal globalization, quoting Z magazine founder Michael Albert, who says

we want social and global ties to advance universal equity, solidarity, diversity and self-management, not to subjugate ever wider populations to an elite minority. We want to globalise equity not poverty, solidarity not anti-solidarity, diversity not conformity, democracy not subordination, and ecological balance not suicidal rapaciousness. (Albert 2001, www.globalpolicy.org) (p94)

Chesters and Welsh introduce the concept of an ‘ecology of action’ in an attempt to formulate how contemporary activist interventions effect social ties and structures.

The key to understanding the AGM is not to be found amongst individual actors be they groups or organisations. Instead we must focus our attention upon the processes of interaction between actors, to the iterative outcomes of reflexive framing and to the emergence of an ecology of action within Global Civil Society that is actualised through the AGM.(p101)

This concept is grounded in Bateson’s ecology of mind, in which pathalogical epistemological constructions had to be erased in order to conceptualize the subject outside of the boundaries created by conscious purpose (the ego). Chesters and Welsh seek to scale this concept upwards through Bateson’s three ecologies, from the ecology of mind to the ecology of society, specifically examining ways in which social forms and actions impact upon the social ecology, with a view to mobilising effective activist campaigns in order to affect change in the world.

In conclusion then, in Complexity and Social Movements Chesters and Welsh provide a sociological investigation into certain aspects of the Alternative Globalization movement, and contextaulise this within a theoretical framework drawing on complexity theory, Deleuze and Guattari, Hardt and Negri, Bateson, Melucci and Goffman to provide a map of what they see to be an ecology of action, with the intent of understanding contemporary developments in activism with a view to energizing the ecology of action and creating positive changes in the world.

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The Three Ecologies is one of the final works published by Felix Guattari (1930-1992), a French philosopher, political militant and institutional psychoanalyst. While Guattari is perhaps best known for his co-authored projects with Gilles Deleuze; Anti-Oedipus, A Thousand Plateaus and What is Philosophy; The Three Ecologies provides an excellent insight into Guattari’s stance on politics, social movements and subjectivity.

The concept of the three ecologies; three interconnected networks existing at the scales of mind, society and the environment, was originally formulated by influential theorist Gregory Bateson in Steps to An Ecology of Mind, however Guattari seeks to elaborate and refine the concept in more detail, while additionally adding a more radical form of poststructuralist Marxism to Bateson’s ecological system.

Pre-empting the global networks of power and resistance described by Hardt and Negri in Empire and Multitude, Guattari argues that ‘The only true response to the ecological crisis is on a global scale, provided that it brings about an authentic political, social and cultural revolution, reshaping the objectives of the production of both material and immaterial assets.’ (28) Whereas previous revolutionary movements have concentrated on creating political changes at the level of the nation state, Guattari claims that the shared nature of the environment that we live in, and our collective impacts on it such as anthropogenic climate change, reveal the commons on which we are ultimately dependent, and thus the ecosophical position he advocates is one of global resistance to what he describes as ‘Integrated Wold Capitalism,’ which is very close to a less deeply theorised version of Hardt and Negri’s Empire, and resonates with Castells’ delineation of the rise of the network society, and Jameson’s understanding of postmodern capitalism.

Such a global and unificatory position may at first appear to contrast sharply with commonly understood models of postmodernism, which following Lyotard claim that postmodernity is marked by the death of the modernist meta-narrative, and indeed some such as George Myerson have claimed that ecology, and ecological crises mark the end of the fragmented and partial era of postmodernism. To such claims, Guattari argues that ‘The ecosophical perspective does not totally exclude unifying objectives such as the struggle against world hunger, an end to deforestation or to the blind proliferation of the nuclear industries; but it will no longer be a question of depending on reductionist, stereotypical orderworlds which only expropriate other more singular problematics and lead to the promotion of charismatic leaders.’ (34) While ecosophy can hold unifying ideas and objectives, these do not insist on a scalar homogeneity – difference and plurality are encouraged at each of the levels of ecology, mind, society and environment – however these differences themselves are not absolute, and so limited unifying objectives aimed at securing freedoms and rights for all subjects are possible under such a philosophical framework.

Consequently Guattari’s argument is that ‘Environmental ecology, as it exists today, has barely begun to prefigure the generalised ecology that I advocate here, the aim of which will be to radically decentre social struggles and ways of coming into one’s own psyche… Ecology must stop being associated with the image of a small nature-loving minority. Ecology in my sense questions the whole of subjectivity and capitalistic power formations.’ (2) For Guattari then, as with Bateson, ecology is far more than a concern for the environment, it is an epistemological system based on an understanding of nonlinear systems governed by feedback loops and nonlinear causality. An understanding of connectivity, of balanced systems, network topography and complexity theory are fundamental to the way in which this ecosophical model operates. In contrast to a capitalist system predicated on economic growth, Guattari’s ecosophy seeks balance allied with a reevaluation of what we value; going well beyond GDP as an indicator of quality of life, in what can be understood as a decentred socialism, or ecologically informed variant of anarchism, where goals are collectively negotiated rather than dictated by economic elites.

According to Guattari, creating such an ecosophical society requires a reorientation of thought, so that we understand ourselves, the society we live in and the ecosystem we inhabit as three different scales of ecology, linked by a series of processes (or abstract machines). ‘Now more than ever, nature cannot be separated from culture; in order to comprehend the interactions between ecosystems, the mecanosphere and the social and individual Universes of reference, we must learn to think ‘transversally’. (43) Indeed Guattari goes as far as to argue that ‘It is quite wrong to make a distinction between action on the psyche, the socius and the environment. Refusal to face up to the erosion of these three areas, as the media would have us do verges on a strategic infantilization of opinion and a destructive neutralization of democracy. We need to kick the habit of sedative discourse, particularly the ‘fix’ of television, in order to apprehend the world through the interchangeable lenses of the three ecologies.’ (42)

The role of mediated communications occupies a central position for Guattari, and he is particularly scathing about the effects of television as a centralising and hierarchical media which privileges economic and social elites’ perspective on public discourse, effectively negating the potentiality for a dialogic and democratic debate about how to create more sustainable and equitable relationships within and between the three ecologies. Indeed, Guattari states that ‘An essential programmatic point for social ecology will be to make the transition from the mass media era to the post-media age, in which the media will be re appropriated by a multitude of groups capable of directing its resingularization. Despite the seeming impossibility of such an eventuality, the current unparalleled level of media-related alienation is in no way an inherent necessity.’

The three ecologies was written a few years before the creation of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee, and Guattari’s death meant that he never saw the explosion of user-generated content and dialogic forms of communication which are currently to be found online, and it would have been fascinating to learn as to whether Guattari would classify some of the co-creative models for collaborative communication such as; Indymedia’s open publishing or the wiki’s used by sites such as Wikipedia and Crocodyl, as examples of ecosophic media.

One hugely positive message to be found within the ecological warning of impending disaster across all three ecological registers (the increase of mental health disorders and stress related disorder; warfare, failed states run by competing warlords, the rise of right wing religious fundamentalisms in both the East and the West, and of course the ecological crises of anthropogenic global warming and natural resource depletion) is that the solutions to these problems are already at our doorsteps. ‘Wherever we turn, there is the same nagging paradox: on the one hand, the continuous development of new techno scientific means to potentially resolve the dominant ecological issues and restate socially useful activities on the surface of the planet, and, on the other hand the inability of organised social forces and constituted subjective formations to take hold of these resources in order to make them work.’ (31) Industrial capitalism has enhanced our knowledge and technological capabilities beyond belief. Yet despite this technical and scientific advancement we still are faced with massive inequalities of wealth, poverty on an enormous scale, millions of annual deaths from easily treatable diseases and numerous wars, both between and inside states. As Martin Luther King famously stated back in the 1960′s “We have learned to swim the seas like fish, and fly the skies like birds, but we have not learned to walk the earth like brothers.’ Guattari’s ecosophy then is a philosophical attempt to remedy this situation, calling for a new way of understanding the world and our place in it allied with a new method of being to create an ecologically sustainable and socially equitable world. (more…)

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Freecycle has been a great, and highly popular idea/group. Unfortunately, the way it is run, as an email list via a Yahoo group means it simply isn’t capable of managing the workload placed on the system. Having to scroll through several hundred emails for the one which advertises what I’m looking for is not a marker of a well designed system.

Consequently Bristol Indymedia have launched a similar system called Indycyle this month which allows users to search by item or by postcode, so as to mean that finding what you want isn’t a time consuming and frustrating task…

http://bristol.indymedia.org/indycycle/index.php

Recycle Your Unwanted Stuff!

Bristol Indymedia is please to announce the launch of our Indycycle service. Indycycle a website similar to the ideas of Freecycle. Indycycle is a way of people re-cycling things they no longer need to people who may have a user for it. For example if you had an old bike you did not need, rather then throw it out to landfill, why not offer it to somebody else who may need it. Indycycle is a great way of us consuming less resources, stopping things going to landfill and building stronger communities. This system is based on the ideas of the freecycle movement, we don’t aim to replace freecycle, but to use our website to build on the ideas and make it even easier to pass your items on.

All items must be offered for free – no exchanges or cash are allowed. Indycycle allows you to post an item you don’t want (or are looking for) to the site along with a description, photo of the item and your postcode. This means users can search for and see items they may want but also how far they need to travel to pick it up. A Bristol Indymedia volunteer said, “We are really excited about the addition to what Indymedia does, we hope it will further build on the many green projects, campaigns and initiatives in the region. We see this project as a natural evolution of what Indymedia does – trying to connect people using democratic forms of medi

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