n_ik on Mon, 4 Nov 2002 14:11:50 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> From Tactical Media to Digital Multitudes

<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=8A

[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 

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 
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