P2P Foundation

Researching, documenting and promoting peer to peer practices


Subscribe

Translate

Archive for 'Activism'

Movement of the Day: Solidarity Economy St. Louis

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
25th October 2014


ferguson-1

Here’s a very inspiring interview with Solidarity St. Louis, an anti-capitalist, social justice and commons-oriented collective out of St Louis, Missouri. We’d like to thank the author, Mira Luna, for encouraging us to republish it.


Since early August, the tragic killing of Mike Brown has caught fire in the news. It’s no surprise that mainstream media has limited the conversation to this one isolated incident. But it leaves a crucial void of voices for change that are working to solve the economic inequalities that create racial injustice in the first place.

Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) is a grassroots organization that has taken the lead in organizing the community around the Mike Brown case, systemic racism and building a solidarity economy in St. Louis through a new project called Solidarity Economy St. Louis. We caught up with MORE Organizer, Julia Ho, to get MORE’s unique take on how sharing projects can support social justice organizing and why we shouldn’t ignore social justice in the struggle to create a new economy.

Why did MORE shift into solidarity economy organizing from more traditional political organizing?

In 2011, the Occupy movement sparked a pattern of people thinking about the economy in a different way, so we shifted our organizing strategy. We asked ourselves, “How can we do decentralized, anti-capitalist work and support what’s already happening?” Around this time last year, we decided it would be most effective to create a campaign working from two angles 1) connecting and sharing best practices for solidarity economy projects and 2) building political and economic power through organizing. We also knew that racial divisions restricted access to resources in the city and felt that a robust solidarity economy network could play a role in addressing those problems.

In St. Louis, a major symptom of racial oppression is the criminalization of poverty, which leads to further economic insecurity and segregation. For example, cities depend heavily on traffic fine revenue to sustain themselves, which creates an unfair burden on the working poor and those affected by racial profiling because unpaid fines often lead to bench warrants and jail time. Currently, we are working on an initiative to get traffic fines paid through community service projects that are managed through our local timebank, the Cowry Collective, while also putting pressure on the municipal courts to stop issuing these warrants in the first place.

Launch event for Solidarity Economy St. Louis

Why did this work lead you to start a new project – Solidarity Economy (SE) St. Louis?

We wanted to build a local network of people who are doing similar projects and could also pull together to fight economic and racial injustice. Our idea was that MORE would help to convene this table, but that the network would consist of groups and organizations that extend beyond our membership.

SE St. Louis currently does campaign organizing, education, and strategy meetings with people affected by bench warrants. We work with the Cowry Collective Timebank, the Organization for Black Struggle, Sistahs Talkin’ Back, the Coalition to Abolish the Prison Industrial Complex, Grace Hill’s MORE Dollar Network, Blank Space, sustainable deconstruction and recycling organizations, free stores, art collectives, immigrant rights organizations like Latinos en Axion, the St. Louis Ecovillage Network, and are looking to connect with several urban gardens and neighborhood tool libraries.

Can you explain your plan to address the injustice of bench warrants for minor infractions through the use of timebanking or other alternative economic practices?

Through our work around bench warrants, we’re hoping to shift the conversation around alternative economics to call attention to systems that oppress people and exclude them from the current economy, such as the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). It’s hard for people to participate in the alternative economy if they have to fight daily to survive, to not get put in jail or lose their housing. Recently, a group of local lawyers sent a letter to Mayor Knowles, the mayor of Ferguson, to clear all fines for nonviolent offenses (there are about 3 warrants of this kind per household). The reasoning behind this amnesty initiative is documented in a white paper by the ArchCity Defenders.

As a result of the hard work of these lawyers, combined with pressure from our campaign and national media attention in the aftermath Mike Brown’s murder, Ferguson actually amended its city charter to include several reforms to the municipal court system. Most recently, St. Louis City announced on October 1st that 220,000 warrants for nonviolent offenses will be cleared. These changes were big victories for our campaign, but these are just first steps. Clearly, there is still an enormous amount of work to be done to ensure that people are not being exploited by the courts or the police. In addition to the other work that MORE has been doing in Ferguson, one of our next steps is to start a Timebanking program that will expand throughout St. Louis which will allow people to work off their fines by exchanging services in their community.

Cowry Collective Timebank Meetup

What’s your long-term vision for economic transformation in St. Louis and how do shared resources, the commons and cooperatives fit in?

Ultimately, our vision is to see people having true democratic power over their resources and the decisions that affect their lives. In St. Louis, corporate power rules. Peabody, the largest privately owned coal corporation in the world, is headquartered here. Monsanto is headquartered here. Boeing has a major base of operations here. These corporate powers, along with many others, heavily influence public policy and funnel money into nearly every cultural institution. As a result, people tend to turn a blind eye to the fact that these corporations are robbing millions of dollars in tax breaks per year from public schools and other city services.

Last year, we were working on a ballot initiative campaign called Take Back St. Louis that over 8 months received 36k signatures. Take Back St. Louis was essentially designed to divert tax breaks ($61,000,000 to Peabody alone) to green jobs, community gardens and renewable energy projects. It got on the ballot, but Peabody successfully filed an injunction and even inserted an amendment at the state level that prohibited St. Louisans from passing any initiatives that limit tax breaks to coal corporations. We are in the midst of an appeal process now, but the Take Back St. Louis campaign is a perfect example of how our democracy is currently being subverted.

Another major issue in the city is massive plots of vacant homes and land, which are a direct result of decades of white flight. St. Louis has over 10k vacant homes and many more private vacant lots. Developers see it as an opportunity, the city sees it as a blight, but what about the people that live there? How do we develop St. Louis in a way that’s constructive of a new economic paradigm? People are already doing it, but it’s not being recognized or supported in the ways that it should be. We want people who live in these communities, who are primarily low income people and people of color, to be dictating where the city’s resources are spent.

Map of Shared Resources in St. Louis

St. Louis has been the subject of a lot of media attention around racism lately with the murder of Michael Brown. How does your work address systemic racism?

This moment is significant because it is a chance to push forward a national movement against systemic racism. Mike Brown is not the first Black man to be killed by the police, and sadly he will not be the last–every 28 hours, a Black man or woman is extra-judicially killed. Bench warrants are just one small symptom of the widespread problem of the criminalization of Black and Brown communities. So we are doing what we can to uplift organizations that are already deeply rooted in the community, such as the Organization for Black Struggle and the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression, and also support newly politicized and radicalized young leaders off of the streets by training them in their organizing skills.

Do you have any particular models of cities or projects you look to for inspiration?

We originally took a lot of inspiration from Solidarity NYC, their mission and vision. We’re also excited to connect with organizers in Detroit with the Our Power campaign, as well as folks with Cooperation Jackson who are doing incredible work to transform their local economy.

How can people get involved?

  • We just organized an event about Mike Brown and the bench warrant campaign and have a upcoming big event called Ferguson October from October 10-13th.
  • You can get further updates on campaigns and events from the Solidarity Economy St. Louis or MOREFacebook pages or follow #UnWarranted.
  • Donate to the legal support fund for justice for Mike Brown
  • Donate to the Ferguson October Weekend of Resistance

Header photo courtesy of Ferguson October

FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditShare

Posted in Activism, Commons, Cooperatives, Featured Content, Featured Movement, P2P Collaboration, Politics | No Comments »

Video of the Day: 3 hacks for a resource-based economy

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
23rd October 2014


From the notes to the video:

The Zeitgeist Movement Ecuador invited Michel Bauwens to talk about a possible transition towards a Resource-based economic model and the “hacks” he proposes to achieve this (edited to include English audio only).

Michel Bauwens:

In this video I explain how, through the Commons-Based Reciprocity License, one can create an ethical entrepreurial coalition which co-produces commons, and which can, through the adoption of open book accounting and shared open logistics, move the ‘stigmergic’ mutual coordination which already exists for the production of immaterial goods (knowledge, code, design), to physical production itself.

This is a quote from our latest book, ‘Network Society and Four Scenarios for the Collaborative Economy‘, which touches on that issue:

“Through the ethical economy surrounding the Commons, by contrast, it becomes possible to create non-commodified production and exchange. We thus envision a resource-based economy which would utilize stigmergic mutual coordination through the gradual application of open book accounting and open supply chain. We believe that there will be no qualitative phase transition merely through emergence, but that it will require the reconstitution of powerful political and social movements which aim to become a democratic polis. And that democratic polis could indeed, through democratic decisions, accelerate the transition. It could take measures that obligate private economic forces to include externalities, thereby ending infinite capital accumulation.”

FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditShare

Posted in Activism, Culture & Ideas, Events, Featured Content, Featured Video, Original Content, P2P Foundation, P2P Subjectivity, Politics | No Comments »

Video of the Day: Dilar Dirik, Kurdish Women’s Movement

photo of hartsellml

hartsellml
21st October 2014


Dilar Dirik, Kurdish Women’s Movement at the New World Summit Brussels, 2014. http://vimeo.com/107639261.

At the New World Summit in Brussels (2014), Dilar Dirik, an activist with the Kurdhish women’s movement, and doctoral scholar discusses the conditions under which the PKK operates in the three autonomous cantons in northern Iraq, near the borders of Turkey and Syria. Currently, the region is under assault from Islamic State forces. Her thesis is the unnecessary imposition of the nation-state system in favor of the Stateless State and the role women play, on the front lines, and in society. States are inherently oppressive and violent and under oppressive, statist systems women play the role of reproducers of the state system. There must be emancipation in a meaningful way. In the region around Kobane, the cantons show a resiliency to exist and to maintain a peaceful and democratic system, which is multicultural, within a hostile region both from Turkey and now the Islamic State or “the disgusting mentality which calls itself the Islamic State” which they have been fighting for two years but a conflict which has only just made news, recently. She reports that 70,000 had been displaced in the first 24 hours of fighting.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditShare

Posted in Activism, Featured Video, P2P Warfare | No Comments »

Podcast of the Day/C-Realm: March Then Flood

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
16th October 2014


C-Realm_433_cover

KMO shares a variety of interviews, along with his impressions on the pseudo-mainstream People’s Climate March and the wilder affair that was Flood Wall Street. Originally published at C-Realm.com


From the Shownotes to the episode:

KMO attended the People’s Climate March on Sunday and Flood Wall Street the next day. The first event was a permitted march that respected authority and was timed not to disrupt business. The second was unauthorized and was deliberately disruptive to traffic around the icons of finance capital in lower Manhattan. There were zero arrests at the People’s Climate March. There were 102 arrests at Flood Wall Street. KMO shares interviews collected on location at both events.

 

Links:

Socialist Alternative: http://www.socialistalternative.org/
Autonomous Resilient Community 38: http://arc38.org/
Renée Renata Bergen: http://www.renegadepix.net/
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditShare

Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, Featured Content, Featured Podcast, Media, P2P Ecology, Podcasts, Politics | No Comments »

John Holloway on Changing the World Without Taking Power

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
15th October 2014


JohnHolloway-main

John Holloway, a sociology professor in Mexico, recently gave an interview with Roar magazine suggesting how to introduce a new social and economic logic in the face of the mighty machine of neoliberal capitalism.  Holloway’s idea, recapitulating themes from his previous book and 2002 thesis, is to build “cracks” in the system in which people can relate to each other and meet their needs in non-market ways:  “We have to keep building cracks and finding ways of recognizing them, strengthening them, expanding them, connecting them; seeking confluence, or preferably, the commoning of cracks.”

This strategic approach has immediate appeal to commoners, it seems to me — even though some engagement with state power is surely necessary at some point.  Below, Holloway’s interview with by Amador Fernández-Savater. It was translated by Richard Mac Duinnsleibhe and edited by Arianne Sved of Guerrilla Translation.

In 2002, John Holloway published a landmark book: Change the World Without Taking Power. Inspired by the ‘¡Ya basta!’ of the Zapatistas, by the movement that emerged in Argentina in 2001/’02, and by the anti-globalization movement, Holloway sets out a hypothesis: it is not the idea of revolution or transformation of the world that has been refuted as a result of the disaster of authoritarian communism, but rather the idea of revolution as the taking of power, and of the party as the political tool par excellence.

Holloway discerns another concept of social change at work in these movements, and generally in every practice—however visible or invisible it may be—where a logic different from that of profit is followed: the logic of cracking capitalism. That is, to create, within the very society that is being rejected, spaces, moments, or areas of activity in which a different world is prefigured. Rebellions in motion. From this perspective, the idea of organization is no longer equivalent to that of the party, but rather entails the question of how the different cracks that unravel the fabric of capitalism can recognize each other and connect.

But after Argentina’s “que se vayan todos” came the Kirchner government, and after Spain’s “no nos representan” appeared Podemos. We met with John Holloway in the city of Puebla, Mexico, to ask him if, after everything that has happened in the past decade, from the progressive governments of Latin America to Podemos and Syriza in Europe, along with the problems for self-organized practices to exist and multiply, he still thinks that it is possible to “change the world without taking power.”

:::::::::::::::::::::::

Firstly, John, we would like to ask you where the hegemonic idea of revolution in the 20th century comes from, what it is based on. That is, the idea of social change through the taking of power.

I think the central element is labor, understood as wage labor. In other words, alienated or abstract labor. Wage labor has been, and still is, the bedrock of the trade union movement, of the social democratic parties that were its political wing, and also of the communist movements. This concept defined the revolutionary theory of the labor movement: the struggle of wage labor against capital. But its struggle was limited because wage labor is the complement of capital, not its negation.

I don’t understand the relation between this idea of labor and that of revolution through the taking of state power.

One way of understanding the connection would be as follows: if you start off from the definition of labor as wage or alienated labor, you start off from the idea of the workers as victims and objects of the system of domination. And a movement that struggles to improve the living standards of workers (considered as victims and objects) immediately refers to the state. Why? Because the state, due to its very separation from society, is the ideal institution if one seeks to achieve benefits for people. This is the traditional thinking of the labor movement and that of the left governments that currently exist in Latin America.

But this tradition isn’t the only approach to a politics of emancipation…

Of course not. In the last twenty or thirty years we find a great many movements that claim something else: it is possible to emancipate human activity from alienated labor by opening up cracks where one is able to do things differently, to do something that seems useful, necessary, and worthwhile to us; an activity that is not subordinated to the logic of profit.

These cracks can be spatial (places where other social relations are generated), temporal (“Here, in this event, for the time that we are together, we are going to do things differently. We are going to open windows onto another world.”), or related to particular activities or resources (for example, cooperatives or activities that pursue a non-market logic with regard to water, software, education, etc.). The world, and each one of us, is full of these cracks.

The rejection of alienated and alienating labor entails, at the same time, a critique of the institutional and organizational structures, and the mindset that springs from it. This is how we can explain the rejection of trade unions, parties, and the state that we observe in so many contemporary movements, from the Zapatistas to the Greek or Spanish indignados.

But it isn’t a question of the opposition between an old and a new politics, I think. Because what we see in the movements born of the economic crisis is that those two things come to the fore at the same time: cracks such as protests in city squares, and new parties such as Syriza or Podemos.

I think it’s a reflection of the fact that our experience under capitalism is contradictory. We are victims and yet we are not. We seek to improve our living standards as workers, and also to go beyond that, to live differently. In one respect we are, in effect, people who have to sell their labor power in order to survive. But in another, each one of us has dreams, behaviors and projects that don’t fit into the capitalist definition of labor.

The difficulty, then as now, lies in envisioning the relation between those two types of movements. How can that relation avoid reproducing the old sectarianism? How can it be a fruitful relation without denying the fundamental differences between the two perspectives?

Argentina in 2001 and 2002, the indignados in Greece and Spain more recently. At a certain point, bottom-up movements stall, they enter a crisis or an impasse, or they vanish. Would you say that the politics of cracks has intrinsic limits in terms of enduring and expanding?

I wouldn’t call them limits, but rather problems. Ten years ago, when I published Change the World without Taking Power, the achievements and the power of movements from below were more apparent, whereas now we are more conscious of the problems. The movements you mention are enormously important beacons of hope, but capital continues to exist and it’s getting worse and worse; it progressively entails more misery and destruction. We cannot confine ourselves to singing the praises of movements. That’s not enough.

Could one response then be the option that focuses on the state?

It’s understandable why people want to go in that direction, very understandable. These have been years of ferocious struggles, but capital’s aggression remains unchanged. I sincerely hope that Podemos and Syriza do win the elections, because that would change the current kaleidoscope of social struggles. But I maintain all of my objections with regard to the state option.

Any government of this kind entails channeling aspirations and struggles into institutional conduits that, by necessity, force one to seek a conciliation between the anger that these movements express and the reproduction of capital. Because the existence of any government involves promoting the reproduction of capital (by attracting foreign investment, or through some other means), there is no way around it. This inevitably means taking part in the aggression that is capital. It’s what has already happened in Bolivia and Venezuela, and it will also be the problem in Greece or Spain.

Could it be a matter of complementing the movements from below with a movement oriented towards government institutions?

That’s the obvious answer that keeps coming up. But the problem with obvious answers is that they suppress contradictions. Things can’t be reconciled so easily. From above, it may be possible to improve people’s living conditions, but I don’t think one can break with capitalism and generate a different reality. And I sincerely believe that we’re in a situation where there are no long-term solutions for the whole of humanity within capitalism.

I’m not discrediting the state option because I myself don’t have an answer to offer, but I don’t think it’s the solution.

Where are you looking for the answer?

Whilst not considering parties of the left as enemies, since for me this is certainly not the case, I would say that the answer has to be thought of in terms of deepening the cracks.

If we’re not going to accept the annihilation of humanity, which, to me, seems to be on capitalism’s agenda as a real possibility, then the only alternative is to think that our movements are the birth of another world. We have to keep building cracks and finding ways of recognizing them, strengthening them, expanding them, connecting them; seeking the confluence or, preferably, the commoning of the cracks.

If we think in terms of state and elections, we are straying away from that, because Podemos or Syriza can improve things, but they cannot create another world outside the logic of capital. And that’s what this is all about, I think.

Finally, John, how do you see the relation between the two perspectives we’ve been talking about?

We need to keep a constant and respectful debate going without suppressing the differences and the contradictions. I think the basis for a dialogue could be this: no one has the solution.

For the moment, we have to recognize that we’re not strong enough to abolish capitalism. By strong, I am referring here to building ways of living that don’t depend on wage labor. To be able to say “I don’t really care whether I have a job or not, because if I don’t have one, I can dedicate my life to other things that interest me and that give me enough sustenance to live decently.” That’s not the case right now. Perhaps we have to build that before we can say “go to hell, capital.”

In that sense, let’s bear in mind that a precondition for the French Revolution was that, at a certain point, the social network of bourgeois relations no longer needed the aristocracy in order to exist. Likewise, we must work to reach a point where we can say “we don’t care if global capital isn’t investing in Spain, because we’ve built a mutual support network that’s strong enough to enable us to live with dignity.”

Right now the rage against banks is spreading throughout the world. However, I don’t think banks are the problem, but rather the existence of money as a social relation. How should we think about rage against money? I believe this necessarily entails building non-monetized, non-commodified social relations.

And there are a great many people dedicated to this effort, whether out of desire, conviction or necessity, even though they may not appear in the newspapers. They’re building other forms of community, of sociality, of thinking about technology and human capabilities in order to create a new life.

John Holloway is Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences of the Autonomous University of Puebla in Mexico. His latest book is Crack Capitalism (Pluto Press, 2010).


Originally posted at bollier.org

FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditShare

Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, Empire, Networks, Open Access, Politics | No Comments »

Podemos as a template for the New Left

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
11th October 2014


Mitin PODEMOS en Málaga
Joana Ramiro writing for Left Unity, describes how Podemos’ unprecedented tactics and organizational methods can reinvigorate the New Left in Europe though a wider (if not full) acceptance of P2P dynamics. You can read the original article here.


“Marketing guru Philip Kotler wrote that “the costumer will judge the offering by three basic elements: product features and quality, services mix and quality, and price. All three elements must be meshed into a competitively attractive offering.” It might sound obscene to some that I strongly believe there is much that the Left could take from this sort of advice.”

People push through in order to get into the room and reserve their seat. There is a buzz of euphoric expectation blending with rapid chatter in Castellano. This is the start of a Podemos meeting but it could have been a rock gig for all we know. When panel speakers finish their opening remarks ardent applause follows, people whoop and whistle in wondered appreciation. Credit, I suppose, has to be given mostly to the organisation at the core of it all.

Podemos is a Spanish anticapitalist party founded in January 2014. By beginnings of September it counted no less than 120,000 members and 20% ratings in the latest polls. It had elected five MEPs and is set to take Spain by storm at the next general election in December 2015. Its success is often described as part mystery, part formulaic “Twitter revolution” theory. And while it is true that Podemos reflects the political zeitgeist and has effectively built itself on the momentum of the 15M movement, there is much more to be said about its politics, strategy and exponential growth.

“I think we can emulate [Podemos] in the organising in the grassroots, drawing people in, speaking to the 90%, using social media when necessary”, Left Unity co-founder and revolutionary film-director Ken Loach tells me.

He adds another example of what Left Unity should be doing differently: “Using fresh language.”

But what does that mean?

It isn’t the first time I hear that we need to speak differently. During the build up to the British student movement of 2010/2011 I often had heated debates with members of the so-called “old Left” arguing for more Public Relations, more social media – on our side. It is well documented that uprisings don’t occur from a hashtag alone, but learning to communicate in progressive ways – even to co-opt some capitalist strategies of mass appeal – seems to be vital for any political organisation attempting to produce change in the twenty-first century.

“I think that what Podemos shows, and what other social movement groups like Juventud Sin Futuro or Oficina Precaria show, is that you can combine the autonomous, digital media campaigns with an active reaching-out to mass media”, says Cristina Flesher Fominaya, author of Social Movements and Globalization (Palgrave MacMillan, 2014).

And according to Cristina, the process of being publicly recognised as a legitimate organisation does not happen instantaneously.

“You know, it’s little by little. They didn’t just overnight end up on these morning talk shows. They established those media connections, their media savvy and catchy and interesting direct actions, and then they engaged.”

She agrees that much like corporations have adopted more democratic channels of communication – such as the social media platforms Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest – to promote their products, so must social movements learn how to take over and efficiently use mass media channels for their causes.

“Alternative media is absolutely crucial, don’t get me wrong, but also engaging with mainstream media and mass media and thinking very holistically about how to combine those campaigns.”

The key lies in “retro-feeding” your message through these many avenues. It’s a process through which groups must constantly try “to keep on message and keep tweaking it and subverting and contesting”, she argues.

But what does this essentially mean?

In short it means the ways of organising that the British Left has taken for granted so far are utterly necessary but useless if not linked to two other tactics:

Firstly, the mentioned multifaceted approach to putting your message across. Leafleting door to door and holding local branch meetings is necessary, but so is blogging and writing opinion pieces for your local paper (they might be a dying breed but they are still read by thousands of people in your neighbourhood).

Secondly, keeping the message simple, clear and to the point. The Podemos programme is built on six simple aims, all based on the principle of democracy. It abides to the usual “rules and regulations” of socialist organisations – standing against sexism, racism, homophobia and all other types of prejudice and exclusion – but it gives members a clear structure of argument. It is therefore easy to understand, support and regurgitate. Unlike what some crude critics argue, the point is not to unite under the lowest common denominator, but to leave very specific alignments to debate and to group scrutiny, rather than to make them be-all end-all foundations of the organisation. Where one stands on the issue of Palestine or Scottish independence is important, but it won’t be helpful if taken outside the context of the organisation’s original purpose – to be the genuine political representation of the overworked, underpaid, disaffected 99%.

Importantly too is that these messages can be improved as the organisation grows. “Keep tweaking it” – as Flesher puts it. Political organisations today (perhaps always) have to be adaptable to the demands of the majority. As long as the principles of democracy and equality are not broken, the organisation needs to know when to talk about austerity and when to talk elections. Political parties are propaganda tools as much as they are forums of expression and activity for their members. If the people on the street – the “Polish fruit-picker and the Nigerian nurse” as Owen Jones often describes them – want more from the Trades Union Congress (TUC), then the party needs to verbalise that discontent, not pander to cronyism.

Above all, perhaps what is impressive about the Podemos strategy, and which should definitely be a lesson to us all, is its ability to embrace nuance and not to give in to black and white solutions to the problems at hand. Realpolitik is after all the art of advancing your political project when possible and giving way when necessary, without ever compromising your ethos. The Podemos European elections’ strategy was the brainchild of Íñigo Errejón, the man who said that “each country has to find its tools” to “hijack democracy”. The understanding that one needs to be flexible whilst sticking to one’s core beliefs has often been amiss on the British Left.

But don’t you need mass to attract mass?

Newton’s law of universal gravitation only applies to politics to a point. It is true that social movements and political parties can snowball once they’ve gained momentum. But where that momentum comes from and how political attraction can operate despite inexistent visible mass are points that Left Unity should think about long and hard.

Sceptics have come forward saying that unlike countries like Greece and Spain, Britain does not currently have a political movement active on the streets. There are no occupations of public squares going on, no million-strong demonstrations. This often crystallises into what I see as a misunderstanding of Rosa Luxemburg’s Dialectic of Spontaneity and Organisation (but let us leave that for another article). Crucially, we need to recognise that whilst many of these social movements and new anticapitalist parties have come out of a fortuitous sequence of events, organisations of different forms were involved in creating them from the start.

In Spain the 15M and the Indignados movement grew out of the said “indignation” of certain layers of society with a series of oppressive laws pushed through by neoliberal knee-jerk reactions of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) then in power. A cull of digital activism through the Ley Sinde, a media crackdown on strikes and workers’ protests, and the generally declining life and working conditions in the country (youth unemployment at 47% by 2011) created an explosive environment. Different activist groups started mushrooming about, some visible only online, many others on the streets too, handing out manifestos printed on A5 sheets.

According to Pablo Gerbaudo – a lecturer in Digital Culture and Society at King’s College London and author of Tweets and the Streets (Pluto Press, 2012) – the popularity of the Democracia Real Ya campaign and the momentum towards the first May 15 demonstration was seen as “an opportunity to overcome division and inertia”. Several other groups joined in the call and “200 civil society organisations, including well-established groups like the anti-globalisation group ATTAC” joined in the call for action.

Their self-description as “neither left nor right” – which Podemos echoes and which is yet another discussion to be had in another article – did not mean they were actually outside or beyond the political spectrum. Standing for democracy, equality and collective decision-making processes the Indignados movement was well to the Left of the establishment, but also permeated with left-wing activists and even organisations from the get go. Our engagement with local issues and grassroots initiatives, not by demanding to lead them, but by fight side by side with those who are part of them is essential. Much like our duty to call for action where coordinated action is needed and yet not existent. To call for united action when there are three different campaigns. And to throw our weight behind those most representative, inclusive and efficient at that.

So what needs to be done?

I am not claiming to have the answer to the perfect left-wing party in Britain – I wish I did – but I do think there are lessons to be learnt from the successes and the failures of similar projects across Europe.

I also believe that, against my better (orthodox Marxist) judgement, we need to co-opt the dexterity and shrewdness of capitalist forms of propaganda in order to make ourselves visible and heard.

Marketing guru Philip Kotler wrote that “the costumer will judge the offering by three basic elements: product features and quality, services mix and quality, and price. All three elements must be meshed into a competitively attractive offering.” It might sound obscene to some that I strongly believe there is much that the Left could take from this sort of advice.

We know that our “product” is good – it is the best, in fact. In our politics we rest the hope for a better world. A world in which there is absolute equity, equality and equilibrium. The world socialists want to build is one of greatness, not just for a selected few but for every single person in this good old world. Who could possibly not want that?

Our “price” isn’t half bad. OK, so people know that building a better world is no smooth task. People know it because creating this not so amazing version we currently have is not that easy either. But when given the option to make things better for themselves and their loved ones, people do move mountains. People have always given their lives for their children, laboured harder to feed their elderly, gone to prison for the right to vote, the right to use the same facilities, the right to stand up straight and live with dignity. It wouldn’t be now – no matter how cynical this world might seem – that people would stop being inspired by a message of progress and prosperity.

But our “service” is poor. We have interiorised our weaknesses, made to act in defence, holding on dearly to creeds and formulas like deranged alchemists. The average Joe thinks it best to stay away from the Left or to mock it for its impractical project. We – the Left – have allowed political opponents to define us by what we are not. People that demand the impossible, they said. People that want to take away from you your individual freedoms and your right to chose between an iPhone and a Nokia Lumia, they said. And now we are faced with the task to prove them wrong.

Thankfully we are not alone. We have seen that change of rhetoric happen on our very doorstep. When UKUncut came around, it positively changed the message from “people living above their possibilities” to “corporations not living up to their responsibilities”. The Occupy movement pulled a similar trick with the creation of the now ubiquitous term 99%: we cannot be made to pay for the banking crisis when what we have in our billions adds up to the same amount of what those few, clearly responsible for this mess, have in their few hundreds.

How we create that change of speech, of poise and above all of doing politics is what is now in our hands.

“It’s easier to make speeches where we denounce what is happening, the difficulty is asking the question and finding specific organisational answers”, Ken Loach pointed out to me with a smile.

But we have a growing number of people out there on the streets hungry for change. We have the examples of the rest of Europe showing us the way. We have history on our side. Nos Podemos. We Can. Let’s do it.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditShare

Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, Featured Content, Featured Essay, Networks, Open Government, P2P Movements, P2P Public Policy, Politics | No Comments »

5 tips for making better team decisions

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
8th October 2014


You're making decisions by consensus, but are you collaborating?

Here is a guest contribution from our friend Richard D Bartlett, one of the developers at our favourite decision making tool, the wonderful Loomio. It was originally published at medium.com


Hi I’m Richard D. Bartlett: I work at Loomio, a team building an online tool for group decision-making. We started building software to coordinate activists, and now we help teams and organisations of all kinds make better decisions.
We’re a horizontal organisation, so good coordination is totally critical for us—not having a formal management structure means we’d fall apart without it. But all workplaces—even those with more traditional management structure—benefit when decisions are made with group input. With the right processes, you can leverage your team’s collective wisdom to make better decisions.

I asked our team of facilitators and software developers for their top tips for making better decisions, and surprisingly enough they had lots of great ideas! Here’s my favourite five:


1. Set the context and make the invitation

Decision-making is all about communication: your group can only make good decisions together if there’s a foundation of good communications in place first. This means being clear about what the purpose of a discussion or meeting is, who needs to be involved, what the time-frame is, and what people can expect.

Often, lack of engagement doesn’t mean people don’t care, it means something’s keeping them from real participation. Transparency isn’t about information not being secret, it means that the people closest to the information do the proactive work to make it accessible—physically and conceptually—to everyone who needs to understand it to participate in a decision effectively.


2. Try some simple process hacks

If you’re not happy with how your team is making decisions, don’t just try harder, try something different. We’ve found a bunch of different process hacks that have made us much more effective:

  • Stand up!
    Start the day with the team standing in a circle. Everyone answers 3 questions: what did you do yesterday? what are you doing today? is there anything blocking your way? Stand-up is only over once all the blocks are either solved, or people are assigned to resolve them. If you keep these meetings super short and strictly focussed on the process, you’ll find they’re like collaboration super-juice.
  • Check in
    We start many of our meetings with everyone ‘checking in’ before we get to the agenda. These check-ins are focused not on your work tasks, but on how you’re doing as a human being. If you’re going through a rough patch at home, or you’re sick, or you have exciting positive news, understanding your state of mind will help the entire group have the right context to interpret how you’re communicating.
  • Leave the office
    Periodically we’ll leave the office for an ‘Away Day’ or a weekend retreat. Getting out of the office means you leave the operational concerns behind so you have space for the deep strategic planning and culture-building that makes for a robust, agile organisation.

These practices are appropriate for different teams at different times. You might find some of them work for you, and you might need to invent some of your own.


3. Empower everyone to take acts of facilitation

Sometimes having a designated facilitator makes sense; you can also distribute the role so that everyone’s keeping their eye on group process. An act of facilitation is action taken from the perspective of what’s best for the group, as opposed to only your individual perspective.

This can take many forms, like:

  • noticing: “I’m sensing tension in this discussion, do we want to talk about where that’s coming from?”
  • giving feedback: “I hear what you’re saying, but the way you’re saying it might not being landing well for some people”
  • reflecting back to the group: “We seem to be bikeshedding on this—what if we left that aspect of the decision to the working group to determine, and we used our time now to focus on the core issues?”

These skills come from practice, and normalizing these kinds of statements through repetition and example. Acts of facilitation are not just for the manager, or the person who called the meeting—they are for everyone.


4. Listen for the people you’re not hearing

Good decisions come from diverse perspectives. Empowerment and innovation go hand in hand. If you want to innovate, you have to make space for different points of view—luckily, this is also what you need to do if you want a team where everyone is empowered. Whether you’re a software company building a product, or a community group organising for social change, you always need to be aware of who you’re listening to.

All kinds of cultural and technical factors conspire to privilege some voices at the expense of others. There are many practices you can implement to systematically challenge that bias, but just being aware of it is a good starting point.

A friend of mine named Charlie DeTar developed a neat little tool called the Progressive Clock, which is all about tracking how much speaking time in meetings is taken up by different demographic groups. Whether or not you use the software, the idea is super powerful—if everyone’s got the clock running in their head, you’re way less likely to only hear from the middle-aged white male contingent (don’t worry, I’m including myself in there) at the exclusion of everyone else.

Hearing new perspectives always lead to a more comprehensive understanding of an issue, which means you’re much more likely to make the right decision.


5. NEVER MAKE DECISIONS BY EMAIL!

Trying to make a group decision over email is like trying to tie a bunch of cats together with an eel while wearing oven mitts. Don’t bother! Email is great for one-to-one or one-to-many communication, but it just wasn’t designed for coming to clear outcomes. And neither was Facebook. Making decisions in a Facebook group is like trying to have a meeting in a shopping mall. You want to make sure you’re using the right tools for the job—when you need to bring an online group discussion to a clear decision, either use something purpose-built for decision-making (Loomio is obviously the one I’m pretty excited about) or get together in person.


When I had my first experience of a collective decision-making process that actually worked well, it totally changed my life. Since then I’ve been working with an amazing team to share this experience with as many people as possible.

Loomio co-founderRichard D. Bartlett

Getting group input into a decision always makes it better—it doesn’t just make people feel good, it leads to more innovative ideas and more effective collaboration. But it can be really challenging if you don’t have the right technical and cultural tools.

We’re pretty excited about the prototype tool we’ve developed so far, which all kinds of teams are already using to distribute decision-making and collaborate more effectively. Right now we’re crowdfunding so we can build an amazing new platform and give it away to the world.

These 5 tips are just a snapshot of what we’ve learnt so far. I’d love to hear from your experience! ?

FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditShare

Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Commons, Culture & Ideas, Networks, Open Models, P2P Collaboration, Sharing | No Comments »

Book of the Day: The Prince of Evolution

photo of hartsellml

hartsellml
29th September 2014


* Book: The Prince of Evolution, By Lee Alan Dugatkin.

= the story of the Russian prince, evolutionary theorist, and political radical Peter Alexeyevich Kropotkin

 

Description

Eric Michael Johnson:

“In The Prince of Evolution Dugatkin tells the story of the Russian prince, evolutionary theorist, and political radical Peter Alexeyevich Kropotkin whose Darwinian theory of mutual aid was the first to argue that cooperation was an integral part of natural selection. Today, the quest to understand how cooperative behavior evolved is one of the hotest areas in the life sciences, though few researchers realize that many of their questions were first posed by Kropotkin more than a century ago.

“Kropotkin was not only the first person who clearly demonstrated that cooperation was important among animals,” Dugatkin writes, “he was the first person to forcefully argue that understanding cooperation in animals would shed light on human cooperation.”

Dugatkin’s book [an excerpt of which has been posted at Scientific American.com] is a précis on Kropotkin’s life and work, an overview that highlights the common theme of mutual aid in both his scientific and political ideas. Some may be familiar with Kropotkin as the revolutionary theorist of anarchism, a political system in which people organize their own affairs at the local level without interference from an external government, but few are likely to realize that this “anarchist Prince” started out as a physical geographer and geologist whose work was celebrated around the world. The discoveries that Kropotkin made of glacial formations during the Quaternary Period in Russia were received with international acclaim and earned him invitations to join the Imperial Russian Geographical Society, the British Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as a Cambridge University endowed chair in geology (which he turned down because it came with the stipulation that he give up his political work).

The Prince of Evolution offers a tantalizing peek into the life and ideas of a man Dugatkin calls “one of the world’s first international celebrities,” someone who filled auditoriums throughout Europe, England, and the United States with talks ranging from biology to anarchy to Russian literature. Kropotkin was a thinker whose ideas were so large that a single discipline could not contain them, and they were thought to be so dangerous that he was arrested multiple times and spent lengthy prison terms in Russia and France for communicating them. Part of what made him such a threat to the monarchs of Europe, Dugatkin suggests, was that Kropotkin refused to accept any authority that wasn’t based on scientific principles. He urged people everywhere to reject illegitimate tyranny and to use the tools of critical thinking and science to build a more equitable society themselves.” (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/primate-diaries/2011/09/13/prince-of-evolution/)

 

Discussion

From an interview of author By Lee Alan Dugatkin by Eric Michael Johnson:

“He generally had a negative view of capitalism but, even more important, was his work on mutual aid in human evolution from early on through the medieval period. His research showed that over and over again people figured out a way to create small, interacting cooperative groups like the guilds in the Middle Ages. But the problem he found was that, as soon as these cooperative groups emerged, it immediately created selection pressures that favored parasites. These parasites would come in and suck up what they needed from individuals who were being good to one another and, eventually, cause the society to crumble. So, certainly, Kropotkin would not have been at all surprised by what has happened today.

I think this gets to the episodic nature of social change in Kropotkin’s view. As soon as you establish a cooperative society, you immediately create these dramatic forces that favor cheating. The question of how to stop that was one that Kropotkin was obsessed with.” (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/primate-diaries/2011/09/13/prince-of-evolution/)

FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditShare

Posted in Activism, Featured Book, P2P Epistemology, P2P Governance, P2P Theory | No Comments »

On the Dangers of Monetizing Nature

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
26th September 2014


double sérénité

“We can see the application of economic valuation in the real world and the damage that application has in far too many cases already done to communities who depend on and defend their territories against outside decisions that will destroy the land that provides them with a livelihood.”

I remember in the late 1970s how the corporate world essentially invented the use of cost-benefit analysis in health, safety and environmental regulation. It was a brazen attempt to redefine the terms for understanding social ethics and policy in terms favorable to capital and markets.  Instead of seeing the prevention of death, disease and ecological harm as a matter of social justice, period, American industry succeeded in recasting these issues aseconomic matters.  And of course, such arcane issues must be overseen by a credentialed priesthod of economists, not ordinary mortals whose concerns were snubbed as selfish NIMBYism (Not in My Backyard).

And so it came to be that, with the full sanction of law, a dollar sum could be assigned to our health, or to the cost of getting cancer, or to a statistical baby born with birth defects. Regulation was transformed into a pseudo-market transaction.  That mindset has become so pervasive three decades later that people can barely remember when ethical priorities actually trumped big money.

It is therefore a joy to see Barbara Unmüssig’s essay,“Monetizing Nature:  Taking Precaution on a Slippery Slope,”which recently appeared on the Great Transition Initiative website.  Unmüssig is President of the Heinrich Boell Foundation in Germany and a stalwart supporter of the commons, especially in her backing of the 2010 and 2013 conferences in Berlin.

Striking a note that is note heard much these days, Unmüssig points out the serious dangers of seeing the natural world through the scrim of money.  Here is the abstract for her piece:

In the wake of declining political will for environmental protection, many in the environmental community are advocating for the monetization of nature. Some argue that monetization, by revealing the economic contribution of nature and its services, can heighten public awareness and bolster conservation efforts. Others go beyond such broad conceptual calculations and seek to establish tradable prices for ecosystem services, claiming that markets can achieve what politics has not.

However, such an approach collapses nature’s complex functions into a set of commodities stripped from their social, cultural, and ecological context and can pose a threat to the poor and indigenous communities who depend on the land for their livelihood. Although the path from valuation to commodification is not inevitable, it is indeed a slippery slope. Avoiding this pitfall requires a reaffirmation of the precautionary principle and a commitment to democratic decision-making and social justice as the foundations of a sound environmental policy for the twenty-first century.

Unmüssig’s essay is followed by comments by some fantastic commentary by nine ecological economists and environmental policy experts, among others, who take issue with parts of the essay and elaborate on points of agreement.  Among the commentators are the noted ecological economists Herman Daly and Bob Costanza, but there are also some insightful comments by Neera Singh, Jutta Kill and Neil Glazer.

I especially liked biologist Jutta Kill’s comments:

We can see the application of economic valuation in the real world and the damage that application has in far too many cases already done to communities who depend on and defend their territories against outside decisions that will destroy the land that provides them with a livelihood.

And finally, adopting someone else’s frame—the frame that sees “nature” in a way that capital does—by default requires devaluing and undermining the values we (used to) consider worth fighting for. That would likely entail losing moral authority and legitimacy, at least over time. Adopting the concept of economic valuation means adopting the values of actors whose business model is built on limitless growth and the associated wrecking of “nature”—and many people’s livelihoods.

Forestry scholar Neera Singh also has a nice response to the perversity that sees ecological conservation as a sacrifice for which market payment should be paid:

“How can we honor the gift of conservation care labor that goes into the production of ecosystem services in ways that it is seen as a gift rather than as production of a service whose exchange can be sealed with a payment? And can we see these gifts—gifts by nature, by people who live in ecologically sensitive landscapes, gifts emerging from human-nature relations—as invitation for long-term exchanges in sharing the burden and joy of environmental care?”

Read the essay and then the comments.  Some terrific insights into the pathological monetization of nature.


Originally posted in Bollier.org

FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditShare

Posted in Activism, Culture & Ideas, Featured Content, Featured Essay, Original Content, P2P Bibliography, P2P Ecology, P2P Foundation, Politics | No Comments »

Book of the Day: Capitalism vs. the Climate

photo of hartsellml

hartsellml
26th September 2014


This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. By Naomi Klein.

D.R. Tucker:

“This Changes Everything deserves to be viewed not as one of the greatest nonfiction works of the 2010s, but as one of the greatest nonfiction works of all-time. Disregard that 2008 Obama speech—the publication of this book will truly mark the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow, and the planet began to heal. I write this filled with self-doubt; I’m not certain I can put into words the majesty, the power, the glory of this book. I grew covetous of her talent as I read it; how can one communicate so much truth so effectively, so clearly, so crisply?

“What is really preventing us from putting out the fire that is threatening to burn down our collective house?” Klein asks early on, before observing:

= I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe—and would benefit the vast majority—are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets.

As Klein observes, the twin demons of globalization and market fundamentalism began to possess the developed world in the late-1980s, and have yet to be exorcised. Only a powerful, determined, diverse, international, grassroots progressive movement can drive those demons out:

- The mainstream environmental movement…generally stands apart from…expressions of mass frustration, choosing to define climate activism narrowly—demanding a carbon tax, say, or even trying to stop a pipeline. And those campaigns are important. But building a mass movement that has a chance of taking on the corporate forces arrayed against science-based emission reduction will require the broadest possible spectrum of [progressive] allies.

Klein notes that climate-change deniers are so grotesque in their attacks on climate science because they know what’s at stake if concerned citizens take emissions seriously:

- More fundamentally than any of this, though, is [deniers’] deep fear that if the free market system really has set in motion physical and chemical processes that, if allowed to continue unchecked, threaten large parts of humanity at an existential level, then their entire crusade to morally redeem capitalism has been for naught. With stakes like these, clearly greed is not so very good after all. And that is what is behind the abrupt rise in climate change denial among hardcore conservatives: they have come to understand that as soon as they admit that climate change is real, they will lose the central ideological battle of our time—whether we need to plan and manage our societies to reflect our goals and values, or whether that task can be left to the magic of the market.

Klein holds nothing back, condemning the decision by certain prominent environmental organizations to play pattycake with polluters, faulting former Vice President Al Gore for being “largely responsible for getting so many Big Green groups on board” to support the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993, exposing the chasm between the words and the deeds of Richard Branson, Michael Bloomberg and President Obama on climate.

Klein notes that even the political center-left trembles at the implications of the climate crisis:

- This is where the right-wing climate deniers have overstated their conspiracy theories about what a cosmic gift global warming is to the left. It is true…that many climate responses reinforce progressive support for government intervention in the market, for greater equality, and for a more robust public sphere. But the deeper message carried by the [climate crisis] is a profound challenge to large parts of the left as well as the right. It’s a challenge to some trade unions, those trying to freeze in place the dirtiest jobs, instead of fighting for the good clean jobs their members deserve. It’s a challenge to the overwhelming majority of center-left Keynesians, who still define economic success in terms of traditional measures of GDP growth, regardless of whether that growth comes from rampant resource extraction.

The book is profoundly hopeful, praising the emergence of “a resurgent grassroots climate movement” opposed to tar sands mining, fracking, and the overall culture of contamination that the fossil-fuel industry has fought for decades to maintain, a movement that “is winning a series of startling victories against the fossil fuel sector as a result,” including victories on the divestment front. She notes that the fossil fuel industry’s obsession with sucking every last bit of dirty energy from the ground has awakened sleeping giants across the economic spectrum:

- …[T]he scope of many new extraction and transportation projects has created opportunities for people whose voices are traditionally shut out of the dominant conversation to form alliances with those who have significantly more social power…In the 1990s, it was trade deals that brought huge and unlikely coalitions together; today it is fossil fuel infrastructure.

Klein concludes by noting that in addition to resisting the abuse of the Earth by the fossil fuel industry, the new grassroots climate movement is “actively building an alternative economy based on very different principles and values” than the economy that gave birth to the climate crisis. Either this alternative economy is out future…or we won’t have a future.

Klein declares:

- …[A]ny attempt to rise to the climate challenge will be fruitless unless it is understood as part of a much broader battle of worldviews, a process of rebuilding and reinventing the very idea of the collective, the communal, the commons, the civil, and the civic after so many decades of attack and neglect. Because what is so overwhelming about the climate challenge is that it requires breaking so many rules at once—rules written into national laws and trade agreements, as well as powerful unwritten rules that tell us that no government can increase taxes and stay in power, or say no to major investments no matter how damaging, or plan to gradually contract those parts of our economies that endanger us all. Fundamentally, the task is to articulate not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis—embedded in interdependence rather than hyperindividualism, reciprocity rather than dominance, and cooperation rather than hierarchy. This is required not only to create a political context to dramatically lower emissions, but also to help us cope with the disasters we can no longer avoid. In the hot and stormy future, we have already made inevitable through our past emissions, an unshakable belief in the equal rights of all people and a capacity for deep compassion will be the only things left standing between civilization and barbarism.” (http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2014_09/damn_right_this_changes_everyt052173.php)

FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditShare

Posted in Activism, Featured Book, P2P Movements | No Comments »