Dialogue 7: Covid 19 - Visioning the Future: May First Movement Technology

This is session is part of the Webinar "Dialogue on Alternatives in the Time of Global Crises".

Dialogue 7: Covid 19 - Visioning the Future: May First Movement Technology

with Melanie Bush (USA), Alfredo Lopez (USA), Jerome Scott (USA) and Samantha Camacho (Mexico)

In this seventh session, we will carry on a collective dialogue about May First Movement Technology, a non-profit organization that engages in building movements by advancing the strategic use and collective control of technology for local struggles, global transformation, and emancipation without borders.
  • Date: Wednesday 15th July
  • Time: 13:30 (UTC/GMT)
  • Duration: 90 minutes

Download: [ Video ] (872Mb) | [ Audio only ] (72Mb)


Participants: Ashish Kothari (AK); Vasna Ramasar (VR); Ana Cecilia (AC); Jerome Scott (JS); Melanie Bush (MB); Samantha Camacho (SC); Alfredo Lopez (AL)

AK: Good morning good afternoon good evening wherever in whichever part of the world you're in. I'm Ashish Kothari, I work as part of the core team of the Global TapestryThe weaving of networks of Alternatives of AlternativesAre activities and initiatives, concepts, worldviews, or action proposals by collectives, groups, organizations, communities, or social movements challenging and replacing the dominant system that perpetuates inequality, exploitation, and unsustainabiity. In the GTA we focus primarily on what we call "radical or transformative alternatives", which we define as initiatives that are attempting to break with the dominant system and take paths towards direct and radical forms of political and economic democracy, localised self-reliance, social justice and equity, cultural and knowledge diversity, and ecological resilience. Their locus is neither the State nor the capitalist economy. They are advancing in the process of dismantling most forms of hierarchies, assuming the principles of sufficiency, autonomy, non-violence, justice and equality, solidarity, and the caring of life and the Earth. They do this in an integral way, not limited to a single aspect of life. Although such initiatives may have some kind of link with capitalist markets and the State, they prioritize their autonomy to avoid significant dependency on them and tend to reduce, as much as possible, any relationship with them. which is along with the Global Dialogue for Systemic Change organizing this set of webinars. We will start with a short introduction to the global tapestry and global dialogue and then introduction to today's speakers and then we will give our four speakers the floor and then open it up for at least about 45 minutes of open discussion. Just to quickly introduce this webinar series and the global tapestry and the global dialogue- As we all know, the world is going through a whole series of crises, not just the current Covid crisis and all the political and economic crisis related to Covid but also, as a background and ongoing, the various kinds of ecological crises that were going through: climate, biodiversity, pollution and much else. The crisis of increasing levels of abysmal inequality and deprivation across the world. Political conflicts, growing authoritarian and fascist tendencies in many parts of the world including by using Covid as an excuse cultural colonization that still continues from colonial times to even now. The attempts at homogenisation in many parts of the world whether it's to do with religion or faith or knowledge systems. And of course, linked to all of this, also various different kinds of personal crisis that many of us go through in terms of alienation from the rest of nature, from other people, depression, meaninglessness, tension and so on and so forth. So in this kind of scenario double multiplied global crises and now with Covid-19 which is obviously also related to many of these existing crises and is in many ways increasing them, exacerbating them, making them much more pronounced and more visible and also allowing states and corporations to take their exploitative tendencies or authoritarian tendencies that much further. You've seen for instance how some corporations have profited enormously from the Covid crisis and governments are using it as a- as an excuse for cracking down on dissent or being more authoritarian, that we need very fundamental transformations to take place. And amongst these fundamental transformations are resistance movements to various structural aspects of this kind of exploitation and domination and so on which are also showing us not just resistance to the dominant system but also showing us that there are other alternative ways of being, knowing, working, dreaming, many of which have existed for thousands of years many of which are emerging from the industrialized and unsustainable world. But also many many many many moments around the world of creative constructive alternatives to meeting human needs and aspirations without crashing the earth by doing things which is in consonance with and within natural limits and nature can also more peacefully with each other as human beings. One of the attempts of this series of webinars to actually showcase, to demonstrate, to feature these radical alternatives from different parts of the world. We've had 6 webinars so far to do that and this particular one is the seventh one trying to actually show an aspect of alternatives that we haven't really explored so far which is looking at digital technologies, which as we all know can go both ways to see how that could be leading to a lending to transformations.

VR: Ashish can you give Ana a moment to translate? You're going very fast.

AC: I think this is, sorry, for everybody who is going to speak- for everybody, I need- Can you hear me?

VR: Yes.

AK: So the attempt by the global tapestry of alternatives and also the global dialogue for systemic change is to create dialogues, exchange programs, learning from each other across cultures across geographies, offer active solidarity where communities and movements are threatened, give more visibility to the alternatives because a lot of people around the world don't even know that this kind of initiatives exist. Inspired the creation of more such alternatives and together, as we get closer and closer to each other, act in solidarity with each other to create a critical mass for the larger political economic social changes that we need. And also to collectively look at visions for a different world: visions for a more sustainable, more just, more equitable world. And to also do a lot of this with and for and by the youth so that they can create an alternative future for themselves. This is the website of the global tapestry. Please to look at it more for more information. Today's dialogue as I mentioned earlier a while back about digital technologies, the new technologies that all of us- that we are using for instance right now in this webinar. As we know there's a raging debate around the world on whether these digital technologies are good for the social transformations we need or they are actually lending themselves to even more domination by the states and by corporations and other regressive forces. So, we have with us our guests today are four people who are very much part of what is called the May First Movement Technology to help us to deal with these questions: How can digital and online technologies be democratic tools for empowerment and transformation? What are social movements doing to use them right now? What is the further potential for democratic and just transformations especially given that they are also used by states and corporations in dominant ways, exploitative ways? And what more needs to be done to enable their use for social movements? So, let me introduce the speakers today. We have with us four people from the May 1st Movement Technology. Melanie Bush is a professor of sociology at Adelphi University and also research fellow at the University of South Africa. She's currently the co-chair of the May 1st Movement Technology. Alfredo Lopez is founder of this movement and has spent half a century plus on movement activism including in the independence movement of Puerto Rico, in labour movements, in anti-war movements and so on. Jerome Scott is a former worker in the automobile industry, a labour organiser in Detroit automobile industry. He has been a member of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. He's a founder of the Project South: The Institute for Elimination of Poverty & Genocide and is a co-chair of the May 1st Movement Technology. And finally, we have Samantha Camacho who has studied geography in Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. She's a specialist in digital technologies, in spatial analysis- in geographical geography database management in digital mapping, community mapping and so on and has been part of many groups including something very interestingly called the feminist digital self-defence group and she will I'm sure tell us more about this. Before we give them the floor, just a couple of points about translation. I should have said that in the beginning. For those who in need Spanish to English translation English interpretation room. And for those who need reverse that is English to Spanish please go into the Spanish room. We have a volunteer translator with us, Ana Cecilia. And because she's a volunteer and not a professional translator, she will- she is asked to please be excused if mistakes are made or if she's a little slow in translation. So, if that is clear we can move to that. While people are speaking if everybody else could please keep your videos and your mikes on mute and your videos off. Thank you very much. Let’s do the explanation in Spanish now? Sí, para ellos que necesitan interpretación- Aquí en el canal principal, los presentadores van a presentar en su idioma, tres en inglés y una en español. Entonces las preguntas como- quiere- Si necesitan interpretación a por ejemplo el español, si alguien está hablando inglés y necesita interpretación al español traslade al canal de español. Y se necesita traducción al inglés pues al canal de inglés. Si entiende de ambos idiomas o si está cómodo con el idioma que se está usando, aquí en el canal principal. Pero eso- La compañera que está interpretando pide que se entiende que está tratando de hacer la interpretación en ambos idiomas, y la es difícil a veces, si haz algo error, o si se retrasa un poco, que entienden eso, que la compañera está haciendo lo máximo que pueda. Yo creo que eso cubre más o menos. I think that's it.

AK: Thank you. Also, there is a request from Ana Cecilia that when we speak if we can say a few sentences and then pause and then say again and pause because she is not- she's not able to listen and speak at the same time. So, there will be a little need for a slight- a bit of waiting in between, so for all the speakers if you can please remember that. Thank you. So, let us start with Jerome. Jerome Scott, please go ahead.

JS: Good morning everyone. At least it's morning for me here in Georgia. I think the biggest point that I think I would like to make about what's happening in the world today is that it is very teachable moment. I try to remember the pause. And what I mean by teachable moment is that there are subjects that is being discussed around the world and particularly here in the US that we never get a chance to discuss and really if you bring them up you almost- Is really the system of capitalism. We're talking about the notion that capitalism can meet the needs of the people. In this very- of this convergence of crisis. The pandemic crisis, which is really a crisis, you know there's one thing to have a virus and try to control the spread of their virus. It's another thing to have a pandemic which is- becomes a real crisis because of the handling of the crisis. I think that when we look at what's happening in the United States in particular and I suspect in other parts of the world as well that the whole political question has taken over you know the direction of how we respond to the virus. And what that mean is-

AK: Some pauses please.

JS: Oh yes, sorry. If you think about the crisis that has become as a result of the virus, it's really an example of state violence against the people when you think about it. You know when they refused to provide the necessary things to control this virus and refused to provide truth and explaining to people have dangerous does viruses. That's really state violence. And I think we're gonna label it that. Let's remember that this convergence of these crises right now you know the state violence not only of the virus but the state violence of the police. The militarized police in this country is another systematic example of how capitalism is not responding to the needs of its people. And I think we have to be clear that is the system of capitalism, it's not you know, when we think about the police violence, another form of statement, we often think about it only as the bad apples in the police force. But in reality, the police force in this country was organized to be an oppressive force. Our police force came from two different historical beginnings. The first, the local police. They emerged as a result of the slave catchers that were organised doing slavery in this country. You know it was those slave catchers that once the civil war was over here and the establishment of policing came up, it was those forces that were send out to capture runaway slaves that became the local police. That's one brand to the history but other brands of the history is that the police, the state police in our country, emerged as a result of strike breaking of Union strike breaking. You know, that was its historical origins. So, policing in this country has always been a force of oppression and it continues to be to this day. The other crisis that we have to pay attention to is the ecological crisis. We know that was going long before a pandemic but what we don't know is the connection between the destruction of our ecology, you know the destruction of rain forests and all that and the releasing of the various viruses into our environment. We know that capitalist expansion, the reckless expansion that capitalism has to have, is part of the problem with these viruses occurring being released, and the future says that there will be even more released as long as this expansion continues. The other crisis that I think we're really looking at, and I think it's important for us to mention, is the economic crisis. Now as we know with the environmental crisis, the economic crisis was with us before this virus. Here in the United States, black income, American black African American black income in this country is back to the same level as it was in 1950. That is a gap between white income and black income is the same today as it was in 1950. The economic crisis you know- and we have to ask ourselves: what is the root of the economic crisis that existed long before the pandemic? The main route is our mayor topic today and that is technology. You know the capitalism is being disrupted because it's in a transition from industrial production to digital and robotic production and that is causing a major disruption in the production in under capitalism. It is really advanced here in the US. I think it's going a little slower in other parts of the world and maybe faster in other parts of the world. But the fact that this transition is taking place and then this virus and this crisis develop in the midst of that transition means that capitalism is being more disruptive than we've ever seen at least in my lifetime. Now it's important to know that during this crisis, you know, crisis is in every crisis there's this possibility of opportunity. Now what the ruling circles in the world is doing with this crisis is speeding up this transition that has taken place the digital production. You know that the millions and millions and millions of jobs that have been lost throughout the world as a result of this intense moment, those jobs are not coming back many of them. Many of them are being digitized as we speak. And I think it's important for us to know that the deepening of this economic crisis that has happened as a result of the virus is gonna be with us for years to come. And that will bring me to my final point and that is the whole question of what is our response to this confluence of crisis? Our response here in the US and throughout the world has been an uprising, a major movement development, you know, toured revolution. Now, I say to what revolution because these struggles are bringing up these issues that can't be resolved within capitalism. You know, the major ideology of global capitalism and the state ideology of the US is white supremacy and the struggle in the US is pointing directly toward the need to eliminate white supremacy, but white supremacy is integrated throughout our society and I would say throughout the world. And I always have asked the question: can we eliminate White Supremacy given its predominance in every structure in the United States, can we eliminate that without eliminating capitalism? I think the answer to that question gives us a vision of what we have to fight for in the future. We have to go from a competitive society to a co-operative society and that means the elimination of capitalism. Thank you.

AK: Thank you so much, Jerome, that gives us a very good short and distinct historical and structural picture for for the need to move to challenge the technologies and then to move towards more emancipatory technologies or emancipatory use of technologies. Can I invite Melanie?

AL: Excuse me, Ashish. How was that for the interpreter, the pace of Jerome's remarks? Was that comfortable for her?

AK: Ana Cecilia, can you let us know in the chat message whether that pace is OK for you?

AC: Yes.

AK: Or anybody else listening in the Spanish room? Vasna is saying yes. Ana Cecilia, can you type in the chat room? Is it ok with you? Ok, great. Fine. Yes, it seems that the basis is perfect. So, can I request Melanie Bush now? To tell us about the movement.

MB: So, I first just to say thank you to Ana Cecilia and also to Global Tapestry of Alternatives for hosting us. May 1st Movement Technologies. I pasted the link to our website so that you can find more. We're trying to be as synched as possible so that we can have conversation. So, May 1st Movement Technology is a movement organization of over 600 movement organizations. And- My task is to take off from what Jerome said- that we think that the human race is headed for extinction- innovation, technology- the future of the world. To humanity and movements committed to saving both. We believe the potential of technology is virtually limitless. And yet has no one view of that potential. I'm going to hopefully share a video that if you see in the chat I pasted in Tech and Rev. It's a video that will describe briefly a set of 18 convergences we held in 2017. and five congresses in 2018 and 19 that engaged movement organizations and individuals in a conversation about what the movement should be doing about technology. We identified hundreds of priorities. This short video will give you insight and then I'll highlight one or two. I'm going to share my screen but do know that in the Tech and Rev link you can find the video if for some reason this doesn't work. Are you seeing the video? Our lives are driven by information technology. Our society has been fundamentally changed by it and our future as unclear as it is will be enabled by it. Your day from start to finish involves technology in a significant way. And that technology is in the hands and under the control of people whose strive for profit blinds them to human need. From 2017 to 2019 about 1500 activists in the United States and Mexico came together in in 25 local and regional convergences to talk about the intersection between technology and revolution. How to use it now and in the future and how to democratize it to make sure we have a future. Because the consensus was, if we don't control our technology, we have no future as a human race. In intense conversations often lasting several hours, these activists hammered out points of view unity they felt our movements should adopt and work around. As the process continued these points were refined and expanded to the eight points we are presenting today. The people who participated in Technology and Revolution propose that your organization make these eight points part of your own strategy and your work. Let's go over them. Provide everyone with full, free, high-speed, equitable, access to the internet, independent of content. Build an internet that is democratic, community-centred and governed, open, decentralized, and free of corporate pressure and monopolies. Build a political technology campaign to oppose, restrain, and ultimately eliminate surveillance. Move technology to prioritize sustainability, community thriving, climate justice and many worlds are possible. Seek out, build and embrace the potential of digital technologies to protect and advance our movements. Improve and deepen the collaboration and mutual education between movement technologists and other movement activists and organizations. Foster political consciousness about the centralization of technology in movement work and the urgency of revolutionary movement-based technologies. Expand the technology conversation beyond settler/colonial technology and thinking to be culturally relevant, intersectional and grounded in political education and historical context.

MB: So- you heard 8 of the priorities that emerged out of literally hundreds of strategies that were identified in these convergences and congresses. I'd like to highlight- and literally the movement organizations that are members of May 1st are engaged in different aspects of actualizing these priorities in real practice in every day organizing. I'd like to highlight two or three of the priorities that we feel are really critical. Number one: Improving and deepening the collaboration between movement technologies and other movement activists and organizations. That there's this conversation that needs to be had with a deep interaction between people who have some technological- technological knowledge but also people who are working in organizing spaces. This is all built on the notion of community centred and governed just technology that serves life itself. This involves political consciousness and education and engagement, conversations in raising awareness about the centrality of technology in movement work and the vast potential that exists within technology. If you look at the Tech and Ref website, there's a list of resources that we post in addition to a discussion guide. This ranges from things like a technical guide to security, why popular assemblies, or no less people movement assemblies, are critical to both visioning and implementing the priorities we discussed, to discussions of the ways the head of patriarchy white supremacy capitalist priorities are embedded in technology, and how to move technology to a world that includes all. And that's my part. I believe next is Samantha.

AK: Thanks Melanie. Samantha-

VR: And English speakers should move to the English room.

SC: Hello. Good morning. I hope that the health crisis that we all are going through- I don’t know if- good health. I would like to talk to you about what I understand about technology and how technology- different social movements- and obviously I will talk about the experience- First thing I would like to say is that for the social movements, technology appear like a great- It connects many people in many parts of the world, which is wonderful. Movements have experienced advantages and disadvantages with using technology. I agree with Melanie where she says that we need more people and we need more people who understands technology in this movement, but I think- What happen is that- The social movements are not using technology more than on a level that is very- They use only- very limited to- a little bit sometimes. It can be tricky. Trying to, what it means, this explanation- between spaces. I am trying to explain what I feel. The first case, the first cases, that I would like to explain are the open movements. They are using information tools. The basic things are communication and resistance. Towards open- for discussion or through different social networks to be able to communicate. It can be people that they know or people that coincide- They will invest time and invest in these spaces to be able to discuss these topics. In many cases, these spaces lack control for the very reason that they are open. The number of people can be very large, and control must be respected as-

AK: Samantha? Eh-

AC: You need to speak a bit slower. Just give me one minute, because-

SC: Ok, so- Movements advance openly and they organize themselves through these technological tools- through social networks. The interaction of the people- It is not clear under what context-

AK: Samantha, just a minute. Ana Cecilia you are translating into Spanish.

AC: I'm sorry.

AK: Ok, go.

AC: Please, start again. I'm so sorry, I got confused.

SC: Ok.

AC: So, these open movements they used to organize themselves and- it is not clear how to interact.

SC: There are some advantages. The advantages that I can- They can have discussions in a very fluid way almost in real time which allows for development of new narratives and it's a great advantage. It allows that they create different groups, different ways of thinking, within the same movement. It allows that there are spaces or places of encounter, like feminism for example- feminists in the global movement. The history of women- Different forums- within in which they allow the emergence of new narratives and to generate resistance. This is a marvellous and incredible advantage. There are disadvantages that have been identified- When we don’t have explicit agreements- to be connected- and the responsibility and respect that has to exist in the whole movement- as in good faith, that in these spaces they can talk clearly and establish forms of being together- it should be something that the movement should have to do together. And in this movement, that they are only communicating through technology, it is very difficult. A second point that I would like to touch upon is one that is more mistaken. One also has to look at the use of technology; how to communicate, how to organize so that the movement will flourish. In this closed movement, there are smaller groups. It could be people knowing each other personally outside the line. Here, the discussions can be much longer. One of the advantages is that- Clearer experiences, you can have things- possibilities that are clearer. Agreements that are more certain, deeper. It is not always carried out through technology because they can actually organize themselves by meeting and visiting each other and- One of the disadvantages- When they are required to use more elaborated technology as for example security protocols, the social movements have to- I agree with Melanie. There is a- particular movements that are criminalized, they need specialized people that know about technology to take care of them. These people in these movements can make use of or copy that way of understanding technology. Only the technologists who working on these issues- We have movements- the technological realities- Allow them to make use of these tools. It is complex. It is a disadvantage because the social movements that need these tools don't have the time- To finish, I will talk about those social movements that don't have an organization based on technology and whether they can deal with- make an argument, communicate, organize, the ability to coexist and have a clear responsibility. At this point I would like to mention that there are many many movements particularly in the suburbs and the rural areas that don't need technology to organize themselves. I want to emphasize that it is not only technology that gives us that capacity. It only gives us the capacity to- allows the movements to grow wider, expand, and reach more people, but not- let not the- that it is technology that has the ability to do that- Not in terms of how the movement develops and organize itself. I will leave it here and open to questions. Many thanks.

AK: Gracias Samantha. And finally we have Alfredo.

AL: Yes, thank you very much Ashish and thank you the entire organization global tapestry for the opportunity that you've given our organization to talk to all these people. I know that you're sitting in front of a computer watching and listening to people for the last about 25 minutes and that can be actually more gruelling than person to person presentations. So, I'm going to try to contain myself, something I rarely do but I'm going to- or I rarely do success. I always say I'm going to do it. And I just want to add for context a couple of points to the outstanding explanation of May 1st that Melanie gave us so it's clear, this is related to the rest of what I'm gonna say: We are a left wing organisation that specializes in internet work. We are fully democratic. That means our members meet every year to discuss the priorities of the organization and to elect our board. We are fully intentional, which means in the United States that we seek to elect to our leadership and to project in the public representation of our organization people of the global majority, known as people of colour, and women. And the great majority of our board is people of colour and or women. Great majority. We are also organized in the United States and Mexico as you've seen here. That's not a token representation, about a sixth of our members are in Mexico and one fifth of our board intentionally comes from there, one of the few organizations in the United States, in the world that has that bi-national Mexico and US character. And finally, when our members choose which priorities we're involved in they not only stress the technology we offer. As a co-op we are an alternative provider our members share our resources and so they can host limitless websites and email and all the rest, anything that any major internet provider is going to provide, our members have by virtue of being members of May 1st. But we're also involved in bunches of networks and coalitions doing all kinds of political work. Why do we do that? Why do we make that combination? I just want to speak briefly about that. I want to- I want to engage you in a momentary exercise. You're looking at a computer and step back if you would from any bias that you may have about what the internet is, what we're doing, all of this other terms and definitions, and see what's in front of you. And when you do that you realize you're looking at an electronic device in a box that have some wires coming out of it and that's all. That is the inanimate object that you're looking at and that you're using. It's just a machine using electricity and some communications wiring. That's all. It does nothing, it means nothing, effectively it is nothing more than what you see. But what happens when you connect it to the internet? At that point, this moment, in this moment your life is transformed. You are now connected to 3.2 billion people, an estimated 3.2 billion people using this internet technology conform the internet and we at May 1st believe that the people who use the internet are the internet. So, when people say, well is the internet a force for good or a force for bad the main point to remember is the internet is the human race communicating. I can be good; I can be bad. And the whole point of our work is to try to make sure that we make this good, that we do the good in communicating in this way. There's something very basic about this. Jerome with his excellent remarks laid up the crisis that the human race is facing. And we don't have to tell you what that is: you're living it. Something happens in human history when humanity faces a crisis and that is that it immediately goes into a co-operative and collaborative mode where it exaggerates its normal co-operation. Dance together, huddles together, exchanges ideas, exchanges strategies, share the tasks of survival. It's what we've done traditionally, and we've done that as a human race in order to survive. And we have survived based on that capability. That capability, that huddling together and bringing together is actually- goes hand-in-hand with another ability that we have that's separate from many species which is imagination. Other species work and they collaborate, all kinds of animals do all that. The one thing they don't do is they can't see the product of their work before they actually finish it. They can't see themselves beyond their work, but we do that all the time. We are constantly imagining- we're constantly thinking about the future. The Tech and Rev sessions that Melanie spoke about effectively did just that: try to look at what the future brings. What is possible? Bring together your imagination, bring together your mind and raise the question of what actually is imagination and what is the mind. And if you look at this and, you know, breaking down basic biases and contempts, think about what's in your mind right now, what's in your head right now. Think about your ideas. And if you work on that, if you if you take a second and try to trace them back, you find that every single idea in your head is a compendium of thinking of the rest of the human race, for its entire history. You go back to the premises of each thought to the contents of each thought back and forth. You are thinking right now the thoughts that the entirety of humanity have been thinking. That collaborative process is massified, made immediate and made much quicker through the Internet. If we look for a definition of the internet it is the mass intellectual collaboration of the entirety of the human race. It is a mega mind so to speak. So, this shows you how important it is. Because if the internet is used for bad purposes that mind is going to go in bad directions. If we can win the Internet, if we struggle for it and manage to democratize it, if we manage to use it for productive purposes, we can do anything we want with it. This was also the lesson of the Technology and Revolution session. People- I had this debate all the time. People say you can't really mean that we can do anything we want with the technology that we have. You can't mean that. For most of the 53 years I've been in the left-wing movement in the United States we have been talking about the possibility of realizing a powerful sustainable society someplace in the future. For us revolutionary activity for most of my life has been trying to win the right to begin the planning and hopefully in the long-term implement this society. And now in the last ten years of my life, these last 10 years, I have been able to say we can implement that society now. The stuff Jerome was talking about as threatening the human race, we had solutions for that right now and we can collaboratively and cooperatively implement them with the communication we have. We can do anything with these technological tools that we develop. And so, for that reason it's critically important that, number one we democratize the tools and hold on to them. We're using Zoom for example. We're using something because we don't have an alternative for this many people, but we need to have an alternative. Zoom is a corporate solution, it is not on our side, it's a company that does not believe the stuff that we, or most of us listening believe, certainly those of us talking. So, we have to democratize that software and Samantha was saying for example draw together technologists and movement activists in a constant process of developing new software and new ideas for software. That's what we try to do, one of the things we try to do at May 1st. We are an organization that combines those two- those two types of forces. We also need to begin thinking about what we want to do with this new society. Many of you are involved in the alternative economy movement. That's part of what we need to be doing. But we also need to open up the imagination as global tapestries has been doing with this series to some extent. This kind of thinking without any limits, you see- the crux of capitalist control of people is essentially the control of the imagination. “It's not practical” That it's a waste of time, that it doesn't belong in a productive environment when in fact imagination should be the centrepiece of a productive environment. And in order to continue doing that we must confront the system's control of our ideology and free yourself from that. And the internet is certainly one way to do it. In imagining the future there's one more point that has to be made here and, you know, it's the point of understanding the world and understanding this technology. Other speakers have mentioned this but I'm gonna emphasize it. The state in this country the United States and all the major capitalist countries of the world isn't blind. They see the internet and they know its potential. The struggle of the internet right now is not whether or not they gonna shut it down. The struggle of the internet is how it's going to be used. They want to use it for two ways: Commercialize it by advertising on it. And number two: Use it as part of the state, part of the repression surveillance and just horrible levels of almost unconscionable, inconceivable levels of surveillance that are going on and data collection on each of us. That's their use of the internet. How we combat that, I mean there are many ways of doing it, but the main way is to use and protect the liberatory use of the internet, to push ourselves to use the political activities, to come together and support those who are using it in these activities. To think of ways that we can collaborate to keep it free, to keep it used and to keep it growing with free software and all the rest of the tools that we need to keep this going. Here's the final point here, here's the submission. As part of the exercise at Tech and Rev we ask people to imagine the society that you would want and we would scribe it, we would write it on the board. People would popcorn, you know popcorn is they just shout it out. Freedom- da da da- and as they went on in a room of 35 or 40 people, they would end up with a couple of hundred elements, attributes that this society that they would like to see would have. All over we would fill 4 or 5 boards, I am not exaggerating. It's truly amazing. And then we could turn and say to them: you can now realize all of those boards with the technology you have at hand. I think that one thing that everyone listening to me right here can engage in is this process of imagining. Free yourselves and have confidence in yourselves and your comrades to actually imagine the society that you want and to figure out how, using the current technology that can happen. Think about life as compared to what we have. Not only does that help in organizing but it will help you, it will help your spirit and help your resilience in terms of the struggle. Because in the end what we are proposing is not only feasible but it's necessary, and it's not only necessary but it is absolutely essential for the survival of the human race. I'm gonna to stop there and- And thank you very much.

AK: Thank you, Alfredo. Thanks specially for the optimistic note that we can create the society that we want and that the tools that we have, technological, but as the other speakers also mentioned, the social tools, the political tools are available with us for making that transformation happen. We can move to a round of question, answer and discussions. I think my college Vasna has been following the chat messages. Before we get there, one is- at the global tapestry we're acutely aware of the irony of having to use Zoom for these webinars knowing fully well that is proprietary and not open source. But unfortunately the open-source ones that we have tried have not worked with a large number of people, so if anybody has ideas and also as part of our work the GTAGlobal Tapestry of Alternatives is trying to explore with others what kind of possibilities exist for more democratic online conference and webinar spaces. Second thing is that we apologise that for some reason the save chat function does not work on these webinars. We have self been facing problems. I can't even save it as a host. I think at the end of the recording and will happily send it to everybody. So, nobody needs to start accusing us of any kind of capitalist or other kinds of bias, please. Questions- Vasna, do you?

VR: Yeah, so the first question was from Jay and I don't know whether Jay wants to actually, there are several questions asked, I don't know Jay if you want to follow up on that or should I read it out? Jay: I think you please just read it out, I think it’s self-evident.

VR: Ok, so I mean some of these have been touched on by the other speakers, so the question was after Melanie's video. Great video, thanks. But what about the question of the production of digital hardware which we also need and are also dependent on aside from the internet. And then, follow-up questions, and the control of this production as well as the necessary and constant research and development by major corporations. Are you also proposing co-operative production and manufacture?

AK: Who would like to take that question? And there's also subsequent comments from Jack and others on this so it's obviously something that a lot of people are wondering about.

JS: I can start. Jerome.

AK: Please.

JS: I think the question hits its red on the head. I mean, first of all, technology- What we haven't talked about is who can prove it. I mean when you think about technology, it's not bad or good. It's how it's used, and the control of technology is in the hands of non-democratic forces that wanna use this technology to further their exploitation and oppression of people. And so, when I talked about that we had the move from a competitive to a cooperative society I think that means completely cooperative: the productive process, the political process, all have to be cooperative. We can see where this combative and competition have gotten us. It has gotten us to the brink of the end of humanity if you just look at the environmental crisis. So, the question really is power. Who have the power to determine how this technology is going to be used, and who have the power to determine how the productive process is going to be run and I think it all has to be run in a cooperative way. Thank you. Pass

AK: Thanks. Anybody else from the moment who wants to add?

AL: Just one- I will make just one point that ping back to Jerome's comments which I agree with completely. Much of the production of hardware occurs in countries for example that are not the consumer countries. In the United States, here in the United States we consume an enormous amount of hardware. Particularly cell phones and much of which is made in other countries. You know, China, portions of Africa, parts of Africa, some Latin American countries and India and a number of different places where the exploitation of labour can occur without much challenge, with a lot less challenge than would happen in the United States because people are paid more in the United States for this kind of work. That is why it's essential that the conversation about the future of the world take place worldwide. And that is very difficult for the left of the United States to internalize. In our country in the United States, we have a left that thinks sometimes, and I did say this with complete love- family member- sometimes thinks it is the only thing on the planet and doesn't realize how much more there is going on and how important the rest of the world is to our struggle. We need a worldwide movement, a world-wide collaboration. We don't have that. This is- I attempt to even take baby steps in that direction. That's what we need and that's what the internet gives us. But I think that in order to implement the democratization of all production which is what Jerome was talking about and the reassignment of the control of the means of production, I think we have to go worldwide in a collaborative arrangement. And that is only possible with the internet.

AK: Thanks, Alfredo. Jack, you had a comment on the question. Do you want to add your perspectives here? Jack: It's ok, I feel like I've spoken so much in the text, taken up so much space, so I'm happy to listen and see what other people have thoughts around. I mean, this is a really great rabbit hole to go into and I'm really glad that the question is raised.

AK: Thank you. Samantha?

SC: Is it me? Excuse me. With the production of hardware, I think it's very important to- It carries a symbolic weight- We can no longer say that technology is not bad or good. We cannot say that it is neutral. Who is it that develops it? Who is it that produces it, invests in it? It is a political idea- and the rest of humanity have to commit to that. It is important to talk about democratizing technology at that level. Yes, I think this is important. To think about democratizing the production- to consider this. Thank you.

AC: Is it possible for me to pose question?

VR: Yes.

AC: Ok. Sorry, Samantha sorry. So, I just want to ask to all the speakers this question because I agree with Samantha that technology is not neutral. So-

AK: Those of us in the English room, cancel. For everybody, if you can just be patient. Ana Cecilia is stuck in the interpretation and she has a question, so she's asking, and I will repeat the question to everybody.

AC: Ok. So, I agree with Samantha that technology is not neutral and I think I would like to speak us to reflect on the fact that technology cannot be separated from the way in which capitalism evolves and accumulates. So, my question is: What do you think about the idea of surveillance capitalism? Because I've seen this book written by Zuboff. Surveillance capitalism is not more limited to advertising anymore and so it's about capitalism accumulation, and it's about Silicon Valley embraced in you know, the way in which we do things, and also the way in which they go about internalizing and co-opting and integrating the way we seen the way we feel is not any more about advertising. So, I wonder, in what ways can we democratize technology if we don't produce an anti-capitalist revolution?

AK: Thanks. For those who are not in the English room I will just repeat the question to the best I can. She agrees with Samantha that technology is neutral but- not neutral. Sorry, is not neutral. And that it can't be separated from the attempts by capitalism to dominate our lives. And in the new surveillance, in the new regime of surveillance capitalism, something that an author called Zuboff has written about, we can see that it's not limited to advertising but in fact in the process of capitalist accumulation it has entered very much into all our lives and the way we think, the way we work, the way we feel. And so, how can we actually democratize technology unless we defeat and are able to do away with capitalism itself? Ok?

AL: Ok, hahaha, there you go! That's one way- that's the way to do it! It's an excellent question! This is an excellent discussion. It's a very important discussion. One of the things that has happened in capitalism in the current period- need for this system to create false need which has been the aim of marketing now for the last 50-60 even more years. Absolute false need, where you're constantly badgered and pushed to consume more than you actually need. Too many sets of clothing and all the rest. A fetishism, a mass fetishism of commodities, if you would, and the internet is used to assist you in doing this. So advertising and actual purchase, which is one of the main things you know, most people I know buy most of their products online. This has been a massive change in the functionality of the capitalist system in the United States. Amazon is the giant of consumption where it is the point where you, if you try to boycott, you literally can't do an effective boycott of Amazon even though people call for it. Because if you try to boycott Amazon, it's boycotting the entire capitalist system. They are in control of a major portion of the consumption in this country. So, this is a very very important question also in the terms of surveillance as you mentioned. Those are the two things. I think that the agenda is to pursue in an honest and upfront way the democratization of technology to for example organizations like us. I'm not trying to over-advertise us engaged in marketing that I just announced. But we are- that's one of the things we try to do, is to build an alternative to capitalist- the capitalist forms of internet provision as an internet provider, to build alternatives to that. And that the alternative economy becomes very very important- but the entire movement itself needs to start questioning these things and start building them. It is true that only through genuine social and economic transformation can we democratize technology. But it's also true that the fight to democratize technology contributes to that struggle for a new society. It is, there I say it, dialectical. And I think that you know, I can't give you a blueprint. I wish I could but that's the way that we can- That's the way we can proceed.

AK: Thanks, Alfredo. There is a question from, or a point coming from Nachicket, which is about the- Should we also be worrying about the ecological footprint of digital hardware, e-waste? And actually also of all the emails and webinars and everything that's going- flying back and forth. Each email also has a solid ecological footprint. Is that something that any of you would like to comment on? Melanie, Alfredo, Jerome, Samantha, anybody?

AL: Yeah, I'll say something about it because-

JS: I wanted to-

AL: Ok, good. Yeah go ahead please. Yeah, good. Do it, Jerome.

JS: Yeah. Thank you, Alfredo. First of all, I want to add something to what Alfredo was saying before you know, about the full question of democratizing the internet and capitalism. And I really agree, you know, that struggle to democratize it is really really critical because it is that trouble that we in the midst of- do what I started my conversation of with today. And that is understand this as a teachable moment and we can educate people to that struggle about the role of technology and the importance of it in our everyday life. And, you know, political education. I think that's the one weapon that we have that we can utilize in this technological world. They really can't stop and that is bringing people an understanding- Yeah, I know I'm sorry, too fast. An understanding of how critical this technology is. On this question of surveillance, we know that capitalism has always been a surveillance sort of country- a sort of system. But because of this technology and who controls it it means that now they have this enormous surveillance system that I think, really by teaching people how critical and deep this surveillance goes will help us mobilize the kind of force that it will take to democratize it. Now, I know in the final analysis, the internet or the economy or our political system will not be democratized under capitalism. That's an impossibility. You know, because that would interfere with the ability to make everything a commodity and make profit of everything single thing that exist in the world. So, we don't have capitalism in the final analysis. But that struggle to democratize everything is very very critical to that end. Pass.

AK: Thank you. We have a question or comment from Christian. Christian do you want to ask yourself or you want us to do it? Christian: Well, I wrote it there, I don't know if it's clear enough but yeah, I can ask it. Hello everybody. I'm down here in Chile. Nice to meet you, mucho gusto. If you could elaborate a little bit more maybe, Alfredo, that- something we spoke about a little bit the other day? Si pudiera, Alfredo, elaborar un poco más respecto algo que comentábamos el otro día. ¿El tema de la cómo identificamos que cosas necesitamos realmente proteger y que cosas no necesitamos y no podemos quizás proteger? What things do we really have to be careful about and what things are not essential in terms of more organizing and more massive actions being required even though we're being serveilled upon? Porque al final de cuenta la mayor seguridad va a ser cuando tenemos todo seguro, por lo tanto, tenemos que vencer el temor y actuar y salir y organizarnos. ¿Entonces- Cómo evitamos poniendo excesivamente paranoico? That's the question.

AC: I don't know whether to translate.

AK: Ana, that's ok he spoke both in English and Spanish. Alfredo, do you want to-?

AL: The main thing always is at this point to not turn inward and stop organizing even though the surveillance and that we're up against his brutal. The major tool or weapon against oppression is in fact not less activity but more activity. Because the purpose of surveillance isn't primarily to surveil. It is that, but the main purpose politically is to try shut down our movement. That's what they're trying to do. If you shut down the movement, they're fine. They're not gonna arrest anybody if there's no movement. It's cool. It's when you're out there struggling that you pose the threat. So, the response has to be more threat. But as we were saying the other day, there also has to be some intelligence and thinking about the way we use this. We can't use information technology like people have traditionally used telephones for example. That doesn't work. We have to be discrete and thoughtful in the way that we use this technology. There is some things that we can talk about, some things we probably should not talk about in public forums. We should, if we use email, we should use some form of encryption for at least some of that email when the topics are delicate. We need to do that, to have an encryption program we can turn on when there is some sensitivity to the information that we're- that we're mailing. If we use, if we do texting, we should be using Signal, which is an encrypted text program and not the text program that comes with your phone. If you own a website you should have appropriate protection of certain portions of your website that are more sensitive politically that you don't want people to get to that easily. You can't stop them from doing it but you can make it much harder. And most of all, all of us should insist, and this gonna sound like advertising and I don't mean it to be but, you have providers because you're all online. You have providers. You need to insist that your provider commits itself to protecting your data. This is very very important for movement activists. If your provider is the kind of provider that when the government comes with a warrant, or whatever it is, a demand for information, and immediately gives up the information- If that's the kind of provider, you can't work with that provider man. You can't. Because that provider is- becomes a form or department of the government. So, you have to look for a provider that will protect your information and when they come for, you know, they say “here, we want information on this particular person. It's on your server” you need a provider that says no, you're not getting that information. We know it's possible because that's who we are and that's what we do and we've been around the block with the US government a bunch of times, including one time when they actually stole a server from our cabinet. Actually stole the server from our cabinet. And many times when we've been threatened with all kinds of legal action etc and we stand up to that, up to now we've been doing that. So, if we can do it other providers can, so you need to look for a provider that can do that. I hope I at least addressed it somewhat Christian, I appreciate the question.

AK: Thank you, Alfredo. We're kind of overtime but that's ok if people can stay on an extra 5-10 minutes, we would be happy to go on. There are some comments and actually I'm going to add the comment from Michael Gaskell a question of my own. So, he's raised this issue about the harmful effects of minerals and mining that's used in hardware and IT and so on in places like Congo, Chile, Bolivia, Central America. The impacts on the communities there and the fact that when they oppose this kind of mining then they regularly- at the moment leaders get killed etc. We've seen that happening in many parts of the world. And so, related to that is I think my question, which is should we also be asking the question how much communication is appropriate? It's a bit like saving energy. We shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy but if our energy demands keep going up and up and up that even renewable energy is not sustainable, right? It needs mining somewhere, or to be set up somewhere etc. It needs land and resources. So, it's the same I guess with communication, because somebody somewhere is paying the price. And so, is that also a question that you folks in the moment are asking? Is there something like over-communication in terms of sustainability and impacts on environment and people. And the second question I have is, supposing capitalism is defeated and it goes away. We still have states and nation-states maybe in the pre-capitalist form. Would we still have an issue with control of technology by statism? By state domination? So, is it only a fight against capitalism? Or is it also a fight against state domination? And underlining both of these maybe patriarchy and masculinity. So, are those also part of the struggles for democratizing technologies? Thanks.

MB: So- I think there's several things that I'll try to very succinctly pull together. I think you hear in each of our comments, and many of your comments as well, the signs that we are at a critical moment and that when we're talking about visioning the future and technology, that unless we deal with issues of power capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy, the structure, then we will be- our energies will be very limited for short-term impact which is why we brought the analysis and understanding of technology in the historical moment and in the systemic and structural. So, even the question of surveillance. We recently had a meeting with many movement activists and we were talking about surveillance and what tools and not. And this point that of what Alfredo was saying about some things are better than worse. Nothing is secure. One of the board members said: Let's get beyond. The people are in the streets. What email we use is better or worse but we're at a critical historical moment that the issue is really whose vision of the future is going to prevail? And so even this question of you know more communication or less communication, what energy and so forth, part of the point of addressing the system is saying: Whose voices should decide? Whose visions should we put our power behind? And that's why I also in the work that we do and the work that we- of the members that we work with that we are deliberate in terms of really centring the most times most agreed in the leadership for a vision of all. And I think that the tremendous movements for alternative and for building as we go are very linked to the question of system and structure. And this is why we can't say, oh- vision for a future technology- Ok we should only limit this, or we should only use that, or we should create this. Because unless we get at the heart- We see the ebb and flow of history. If we are in fact at this critical juncture, you know, I think of Wallerstein saying 300- 30 years. But we're already move fast in the last 3 months. The jobs, the economy, the climate, everything, health. Look, in the US 130 000 people dead. And it's the beginning, it's not the end. And unless we deal with that, then what email system or how many emails is important but we need to be centred and grounded in the heart so that the actions and the energy- I mean, people wouldn't be here unless we care about what's gonna happen next. That's really the central part of our vision and purpose. Yes, we're focused on technology but rooted in the movement with that new world.

AK: Thank you, Melanie. We have some interesting comments from Mike and Jack, not so much as questions but just in case people haven't seen them, just read it out. Mike says, more than surveillance I suspect the impact on most people most of the time is in contributing to capitalist power to push our buttons economically, ideologically, and so on, and I think a lot of folks find that hard, quite hard to comprehend. It's not so much individual is more systemic. And Jack is- I think, and I'm not going to read the whole thing out. But his final comment is I think very important: that there's something about popular education, collective knowing, critical engagement and use, that is at the heart of all the work that we're doing in terms of movement building, movement organizing technology movements and so on. These are just comments which have come in not really as questions. I'm going to round up soon but does any of the four of you have any final cards or comments to offer? Yes, Jerome, did you want to speak?

JS: I would like to speak to this question, the last question. My computer is telling me my internet connection is unstable so-

AK: It's fine, go on.

JS: Whether we're dealing with anti-capitalism or are we dealing with various governmental forms that exist as well? You know, get to this question of boarders. One of the things that I don't think we've said is that, you know, most of the oppression and exploitation that exists end up being very profitable to the capitalist system. And it demands that all of these organizational institutions promote that profit that they can make of this oppression and exploitation. When we talk about a co-operative society, we're talking about removing the profit motive from the equation. If there's no money to be made there's a lot of the systems that the state employs or the local community employs will no longer have any validity. Now, none of us know how we're gonna totally re-organize, but the one thing we do know for sure, if we have a co-operative democratized society in every aspect of this existence, our ability to make sure that our institutions do not rebirth the oppressive and exploitative activity is a lot better. Cause there's going to be a struggle, I mean let's not be crazy. This is going to be a long-term struggle. This is a hell of a moment that were facing but this is not the moment. Capitalism is gonna fight back and the offensive will be dangerous and so we gotta get ready for that, so we gotta be ready for a marathon. This is not a sprint. Thank you.

AK: Thank you, Jerome. Any of the others?

AL: Yeah. No, I want to you thank you the global tapestry, the organizers of this and Ana Cecilia for her work in the interpretation, your work Ashish keeping all this the going and the rest of our crew here, we do appreciate it very much and are very honoured by the invitation, Vasna, Shrishtee for your organizing work on behalf of May 1st. We're at mayfirst.coop Anyone who wants to find out about us- and those of us, here I am advertising, those of you who wish to join our organization our membership is worldwide. We would gladly accept you into our family and and provides all of the benefits of membership but mainly you will be benefiting the rest of our organization by providing your opinions and thinking, adding that to the democratic mix that makes us run. So, by way of saying thank you to everyone.

AK: Thank you, Alfredo and thanks to the whole team from May 1st Movement Technology: Samantha, Jerome, Alfredo, Melanie. There's been a lot of back and forth to make this happen and thank you for your patience. Especially when we were goofing up occasionally. Ana Cecilia, muchas gracias, thank you very much for your jumping in to offer voluntary translation that's been- that was amazing. That's exactly the spirit I think is gonna make the movements work.

AC: I hope it worked.

AK: Absolutely. I would like to end with also just mentioning the next webinar will be on the 30th of July and it will be very interesting. It's the Quechua indigenous community from Peru who manage something called the Parque de la Papa which is a very large landscape that includes the area from where potatoes originated. And they actually conserve and use 800 or I think 1200 varieties of potato and do a lot of other very very interesting biocultural conservation and so on and they've done some amazing work in the Covid crisis so we will be speaking directly to them in the Highlands of Peru with one of the local groups that has been helping to facilitate that Alejandro Argumedo from Andes. That's on the 30th. We will send out an announcement, we will also send out- We will put up on our website the recording of this particular webinar including hopefully the chart that we should be getting a recording of and again sorry for those of you who wanted to see the chat but could not do it. We hopefully will get the chat and we will circulate that, make it public. So, unless there's any final words anybody? Thank you very much for joining. Muchas gracias everybody.

JS: Thank you for having us. Bye bye.


Melaine Bush

Professor of Sociology, Adelphi University; Research Fellow, University of South Africa. Publications include: Tensions in the American Dream: Rhetoric, Reverie or Reality (with Roderick D. Bush), Everyday Forms of Whiteness: Understanding Race in a “Post-Racial” World, and lead editor of Rod Bush: Lessons from a Radical Black Scholar on Liberation Love and Justice. She is co-chair of the Board of May First Movement Technology, a movement building organization focused on the role of technology in social transformation. As such Melanie locates home in the struggle for a just and loving world.

Alfredo Lopez

Founder of May First Movement Technology, the largest political progressive Internet membership organization in this country, where he coordinates the organization's work in campaigns, networks and coalitions. During his half-century of movement activism, he has been a leader in the Puerto Rican Independence, labor and anti-war movements; organizer of several major national demonstrations and scores of smaller ones; editor of two publications (Claridad and Sevendays Magazine); radio and television producer (and host); college teacher; and author of six published books and hundreds of published articles. His most recent book is “Goodies from the Yum Yum Tree: the Internet and Revolution in the Final Days of Capitalism”. He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his spouse: the writer, teacher and organizer Maritza Arrastía. They have two sons and a grand-daughter.

Jerome Scott

A former auto worker, labor organizer in the auto plants of Detroit in the 1960s-70s, and member of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, was the founding director of Project South: Institute for the Elimination of Poverty & Genocide. He serves on the board of the General Baker Institute, the National Planning Committee of the United States Social Forum, co-chair of the Board of May First Movement technology, and is active in social justice movement organizations, including the League of Revolutionaries for a New America. He is author and co-author of numerous chapters and articles on the global capitalist crisis, race, class, and gender, the revolutionary process, and transformative social movements toward socialism.

Samantha Camacho

Tiene una licenciatura en biología por la Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana y estudios de posgrado en Geografía por la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Samantha es especialista en análisis espacial, gestión de bases de datos geográficos, cartografía digital y cartografía comunitaria. Ella formo parte de la asamblea del Hackerspace Rancho Electrónico en la CDMX, involucrándose en diferentes proyectos de cartografía y visualización de datos y, en temas relacionados a la privacidad y la protección de datos personales, esto último con el grupo de Autodefensa Digital Feminista, ambos espacios fueron creados con el objetivo de facilitar la investigación y la experimentación con herramientas de software libre. Actualmente es Investigadora-Cartógrafa de PODER.

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