n_ik on Mon, 4 Nov 2002 02:32:01 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> From Tactical Media to Digital Multitudes

Title: Re: <nettime> From Tactical Media to Digital Multitude

<McKenzie Wark wrote>

He was wrong about a lot of things, but Marx did enjoin us to ask what he
called "the property question", and insisted that it was where the
critical spirit begins and ends. And what if we ask the "property
question" of the jumble of symptoms with which Lovink & Schneider confront
us? The network of power starts to reveal itself more clearly.

Did the new movements arise out of thin air? Or did they arise out of a
new stage in the development of the commodity economy? At both the level
of the tools it had at its disposal, and the range of issues it
confronted, the new movement confronts a new class power. Only rarely is
this class power named and identified at an abstract level. The symptoms
of its (mis)rule have been charted by brave advocates and actvists. But we
are all merely blind folks touching different parts of an elephant and
trying to describe the totality from the detail we sense before us, in our
fragment of everyday life.

I think the class struggle many 'counter-globalisation' protesters are engaged in is not so much a new class struggle but an age-old one.

the bulk of the actions that have taken place against the global institutions of capitalism in the last 5 or so years have taken place in the countries of the global South - Bolivia, South Africa, India, Mexico - or in countries "over the horizon", out of site of CNN - South Korea etc. There isn't a single day where a protest, blockade, occupation, etc takes place against the array of institutions, corporations and governments of the North.

I would say that the overwhelming amount of protesters, activists, revolutionaries, et al around the world are engaged with an old class working through relatively new global mechanisms. The issues they have been confronted with since the beginnings of colonisation and then industrialisation are still very much the same - land, dignity, autonomy, freedom

But the main point I wanted to address is the question "Did the new movements arise out of thin air? Or did they arise out of a new stage in the development of the commodity economy?". To which the short answer is they arose out of a set of catalytic 'encuentro's' organised by the Zapatistas and then by string of international actions organised through the Peoples Global Action network

[from http://www/agp.prg]

"The sense of possibility that this uprising gave to millions of people across the globe was extraordinary. In 1996, the Zapatistas, with trepidation as they thought no-one might come, sent out an email calling for a gathering, called an "encuentro" (encounter), of international activists and intellectuals to meet in specially constructed arenas in the Chiapas jungle to discuss commontactics, problems and solutions. Six thousand people attended, and spent days talking and sharing their stories of struggle against the common enemy: capitalism.

This was followed a year later by a gathering in Spain, where the idea for the construction of a more action focused network, to be named Peoples' Global Action (PGA), was hatched by a group made up of activists from ten of the largest and most innovative social movements. They included the Zapatistas, Movimento Sem Terra, (the Brazilian Landless Peasants Movement who occupy and live on large tracts of unproductive land) and the Karnataka State Farmers Union (KRRS), renowned for their "cremate Monsanto" campaign which involved burning fields of Genetically Modified crops.

The group (who became the PGA convenors committee, a role that rotates every year) drafted a document outlining some of the primary objectives and organisational principles of the emerging network. It outlined a firm rejection of appeals to those in power for reforms to the present world order. A support for direct action as a means of communities reclaiming control over their lives, and an organisational philosophy based on autonomy and decentralisation. In February 1998, Peoples' Global Action was born. For the first time ever the worlds grassroots movements were beginning to talk and share experiences without the mediation of the media or Non Governmental Organisations (NGO's)."

The string of actions - that arguably gave birth the current 'wave' of actions and movements of movements - started in May 1998 with an international day of action against the world bank. This was quickly followed by an 'intercontinental caravan' that traveled through Europe, and he 'J18' international day of action [you can read the reports here: http://www.nadir.org/nadir/initiativ/agp/free/global/j18.htm]. The next on the list of actions was N30 - or what CNN dubbed 'Seattle'

Now, I'm not just nit-picking here. Its important to remember what has come before - especially the histories of resistance. Its saddening to note that the 'counter-globalisation' movements, with their histories bound up with those of the Zapatistas - the ones who reminded us that remembering is a weapon - can be turned from an international network and a series of projects based on decentralised and confrontational actions into 'Seattle' - into a singular movement born from a city at the heart of Empire. Or at least that its mythology - one of its most potent weapons - can be so easily blunted by a TV camera, and that the faces of resistance can be so easily obscured.

And I think its not just the richness of the histories that this change obscures - it is also the vastness of the alternatives that it is throwing up that is obscured. Its not true that they don't offer 'alternatives' the current order of things. From farming methods, to communal land use, to systems of regional autonomy to mixed economies and markets, new mythologies and way of interacting with each other, from new media forms, and rich systems of participatory decision making to the rediscoveries of ways of community /barrio governance - the counter-globalisation movements, while not presenting programs for change, are most definitely creating 'the new in the old'.

The question as I see it is "can the strategy of the 'new in the old' work on a large enough scale?". Are the networks strong enough to fight these institutions, the corporations, and the governments of the North and win? Or will it all have to collapse before change can be made?

          + since I refuse 'reality' and since for me what is possible is already partly real, I am indeed a utopian ... a partisan of possibilitie  +