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Political Organization in an Era of Network and Movements
main lines of the inquiry of the Barcelona seminar on “Political Organization in an Era of Network and Movements” are “the innovations and problems arising from movements in their approaches to knowledge and to principles and forms of action and organization; the potential and the limits of attempts at renewal taking place in
political parties of the left and more generally with transformative forms of the political representation; public institutions in the net society: the ambivalences, dangers and opportunities of the emergence of multi-level political systems and the idea of the governance; the new techno–political tools made possible by the revolution in Information Technology and their potentialities for transformative
thought, action and communication.” As it stands in the (.pdf) reader published for this occasion, “Networked Politics” is a contribution to the continuing debates and practical experiments concerning new forms of political organization. Its purpose is to help the activists who act in movements, collectives, associations, parties, and trade unions to develop a deeper understanding of the innovations of which we are all a part. Some of the people engaged in the meeting were participating in the movements
during 1960s and 1970s and they have witnessed unrevealed potential of movements such feminism is towards rethinking political practices. The others though more involved in the institutional organization, discussed in the direction even of the revival of left political parties, not in their traditional sense but more in a sense of “new
self-understanding of democracy”. From few days of distance, I would say that this meeting tried to give sort of overview of different models of political organizations and also, of the way we act, organize and live, but also to try to predict or detect what are the new, unexplored forms of political organization under present circumstances, joint with a great belief of unrealized resistance potential.
First part of the discussion was dedicated to the “principles & challenges”
that all participants presented, within the attempt to detect and to predict. During the discussions, many participant of the seminar have analyzed social movement from
its triggering point and Seattle, its successes from one point, and from the other, its failures as well as reasons which brought it to described position. It was explained that after 2003, social movement has been characterized by fragmentation of a community, sectarism inside the movement, by culturalisation of the movement and defeat of anti-war movement. Reason for this is that liberalism was brought up as the only solution; the crisis is present due to the successful survival of neo-liberal model of governance. Further on, Angel Calle, one of the meetings participants, said that our situation is characterized by a crisis of a body, subjectivity, and sovereignty. The result of this is that people don’t have control over their lives. The other kind of consequences that marked the whole 20th century is deconstruction of public spaces that are instrumentalized and over-symbolized, and further on, privatization of public services, actually of politics itself by economics, as Luciana Castellina put it. Brian Holmes has explained deep, closed and coded professionalism that people are into, especially in USA, which is shaping us and witnessing in the same time that individual fulfillment is capitalism based. Due to
Holmes, the question is how to put this fulfillment in the social movements. As an attempt to summarize, Mayo Fuster has been thinking how to organize the knowledge acquired so far; to identify what is happening by using the old form of consensus or networking. She was posing the question should we identify p2p file sharing and squatting, for example, as political movement. With her proposal of necessity for a huge network of dispersed, non-homogenic movement; for realizing which models are working and functional, I would say that the most interesting part of the meeting started, charged with theoretical exercises on what potential forms of political organizing there are and which facts should be taken into account when speaking of those.
Also, there was a proposal that people have to feel and exercise horizontality through locale initiatives that are taking into account global situation - towards
“bio-political struggle.” There is importance of collective and individual transformation, which has not been seen in the political left. But, it is difficult to talk about political transformation without economic transformation. What is certain is that we are trying to be in a constant conflict situation with institutions and that we should try to connect traditional with the new way of thinking. According to Marco Berlinguer, there is a belief that we have to realize and to rethink what is new radical language, what are new subjectivities; what is production of the motivation in the action. With this meeting and the research conducted, the idea is to try to make sort of map of our doubts and to define the environment in which we are working and then to work on transversalities. Berlinguer further has continued by proposing activities of de-institutionalization – reduction of the roll of institutional roots that are organizing political space. In that sense, we should be fighting for enlarging autonomous spaces. The other principle suggested by Berlinguer is the complexity, indicating that there is no singularity of solutions.
Several proposals coming from, for example, Hilary Wainwright, Dominique Cardon and Alex Foti, with respect to the existing differences among them, have indicated necessity of another, of new ways of political organization - to find the ways of expressing our capacities, which is important for organization of radical, transformational movement, which has been neglected for a long time and marked by hegemony of neo-conservative politics. The main challenge would be to articulate in another way politics and society and Alex Foti’s suggestion is, in order to achieve that, by recovering a community - to show the knowledge of alternative experiences, because, what exists is not the only possible. We need innovations in social and cultural area, different relations, new forms, etc. I wouldn’t say that the list of challenges ended here. Further proposals actually raised and marked some of the expectations of future political organization, structure and moves, which don’t leave the space for representation and leaders, but on the other hand are stressing principles of expanding of a network, of a consensus and of a individualization of involvement. In that sense, Ezequiel Adamovsky explained that transformative politics have to be based on radical ethics of equality, when it’s seen that left politics are dismissing ethics easily. According to Adamovsky, our aim is to “re-invent left culture and to explore institutions of a New.”
After this reflection round among seminar’s participant, re-organization to the groups took place. One group discussed crisis, present condition and the future of the institution. One of their conclusions was that local needs to be explored in order to find autonomous institutions. On the other hand the question raised is it possible to make current institutions evolve. It seems that people don’t engage anymore either with political parties or with social movement, which suppose to be a providers of socialization. Global pressure is still going on and it is necessary to realize how do people resist locally to the construction of liberalism. In this respect, creation of the community should be the aim that would link people and then further on, it should be linked to the experimentation with new institutions.
The other group was dealing with, first of all, chronology of the social movements, by creating a kind of timeline structure. As the main points in time, they have started from 19th century going all over 1999 and saying that this period of time was marked by workers’ unions, feminism and NGO structures. Further on, from 1999 to 2003, there was a global movement, and then after 2003, already mentioned sectarism and culturalisation of the movement have been found. What have been detected in between, roughly defined, two last time periods are “life involvement in parties vs. project involvement; identity culture vs. skills; program vs. project; production focus vs. consumerism or pro-sumerism; accountability of elected body vs. network or consensus. Following with the question what kind of tensions to make, they have given several proposals: to act in favor of a “New ecological rationality”, intermediate institutions and a social syndicalism coming from the weak.
The third group has been discussing techno-political tools, which has been partly a continuation of the debate that took place on the day before in Infoespai Social Center, in Barcelona. During the public debate, participants of the seminar in interaction with the local activists try to give answers to some of the following questions: “How could technologies introduce highlights on innovative forms of democracy and political organization? How could they improve the possibilities for, and the means of achieving, more direct, less mediated, forms of democratic organization? How can these new social tools open forms of democratic participation beyond the logic and the limits of the representative systems? Participants tried to explain how new technologies are affecting processes of mobilization and the facilitation of swarming dynamics; the development of new forms of organization, communication and internal decisional making of the movements, etc.
Brian Holmes said that the network itself tends to construct mechanisms of self-organization. But we should ask ourselves: What is efficacy of the machines that we are using? Some of the people from Barcelona activists’ scene were commenting usability of new technologies in improving already existing organization structure and principles inside the movement. In that sense, it was interesting to hear how political movements functioned before the Internet. Hilary Wainwright commented that women movements in 1970s were swarming, horizontal organizations without the Internet. It seems that friendship networks were vehicles of communication and that the networking was the base of the movement. This movement had impact on politics, and then became radical and marginalized. The question is what would happen if there were the Internet? It would have enabled people to deepen their debates and organization. She said that the term network could be also very misleading. What was one of the most interesting conclusions of this meeting is: crucial thing is that
driving force is not technology, but political motivation and desire.
In some opinions, ideological level of the movement has been substituted by the technology. It would be very presumptuous to think that the Internet is the top of the social organization. It would be very English culture based. Our models of political organization should go beyond the technology. It’s time to go beyond the innovation itself, to care about the content. In that sense, technology is seen here as the tool for maintaining the content. Ezequiel Adamovsky said that the Internet allows the emergence of self-organization, but we have seen that we have to go beyond it in order to realize political strategies.
In general picture, there is a practice of media privatization followed by accessibility to different technological tools by ordinary people, which in a way compromised initiatives who have been representing alternative media channels (such Indymedia is). Ordinary people are invited to accept this technology, to download through p2p networks, to edit they blogs by creating their own personal rules, or participate in MySpace as a new, corporation based public space, which is accessibility from one hand, but also it is practicing capital based social models, in this context. “People are talking and talking, but nobody is listening.” Jamie King concluded in a way, that new technologies are working in automatization of production and do aggregation from the other side. He said that new technologies disrupted our voices! Although being suspicious about the concept of "generation" as a “bio-reductionist concept”, Franco “Bifo” Berardi used the term “new generation” in order to construct “an analytical framework of the new century”, as the generation that is able to be different from “capitalists point of view, against psycho- pathologies and loneliness.”
In continuation of mentioned above, Brian Holmes started the debate by shooting out parole “Linux for operating System Earth”, where he used values of Free and Open Source Software movement as a metaphor for potential global political organization adapted to local situations. Very interesting debate followed, where the most significant part has been reflection from political point of view, about structure, modes of organization and values of Free Software movement. Holmes has explained that Free Software has precise protocol, which allows development and where person can actually decide where to go. There is value that anyone can take something and change it to his/her own needs and there is a value that everyone has to leave that invented model open for the others to follow. There is Free Software model organized as a “bazaar” (against a cathedral) based on individual collectivism, but there is no evaluation, there’s no looking back and reflecting on its values or achievements, from the movement itself. Free Software has common language, system of value and organization of institutions, a framework. Someone noticed that we have first, second, but where is the third? What in a way concluded the whole session and maybe also the seminar itself is Mayo Fuster’s idea that we need swarming of coming to nodes by affinities, then splitting and meeting again in different moments,
led by different kind of affinities. What she has been talking are a flexible organizing models and diverse mechanisms of managing and dealing with different organizational models, as well as maintaining arguments that come out of it.
It was interesting to experience this kind of reflective, non-academic gathering where certain type of rhetorics also could be felt as present, which witnesses in a way, a struggle for new solutions and a new models of political organization, that are not yet here or are to be come. This struggle actually doesn’t say what those new models are, but more tries to identify existing potential, intermediate solutions, having in mind a kind of a heritage of social and political movements, which have been realized in the past.
Networked Politics is an open project promoted by Transfrom! Italia (www.transform.it), Transnational Institute (www.tni.org) – New Politics, and Institut de Govern the Polítiques Públiques – IGOP (igop.uab.es) and developed in cooperation with Euromovements (www.euromovements.info).