(en) The Labour Movement & the Internet

pj lilley (pj@tao.ca)
Sun, 4 May 1997 00:14:51 GMT


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>---------- Forwarded message ----------
>Date: Thu, 17 Apr 1997 11:57:00 +0000
>From: heiko@easynet.co.uk
>To: WNR <heiko@easynet.co.uk>
>Subject: WNR New Book Reviews
>

>BOOK REVIEW Eric Lee's The Labour Movement and the Internet, The New
>Internationalism by Heiko Khoo for WNR
>
>This timely book investigates the most important question for the
>world Labour movement, the globalisation of capital. It shows the need
>for international information networks serving the Labour movement,
>charts the steps taken so far and provides a vision of future
>developments. Lee's book studies the impact of communications on the
>Labour movement and the various Internationals, from the letters
>carried on ships between members of the 1st International to the
>Internet. He traces the immense technological change and it's past,
>current and possible future effect on the Labour movement. The
>concepts of Cyber-Unionism and Cyber-Internationalism, were foreseen
>by a few pioneer Labour activists. They pushed hard for over 25 years
>for computer communications to be used as a tool for strengthening the
>Labour movement and transforming society. Levinson wrote
>"International Trade Unionism" in 1972 which discussed computer
>communications for the global movement only 3 years after the Internet
>was invented and at a time when it was still a state secret. In the
>1980s there were a number of unions using computer communications.
>However it is the explosion of Internet usage since the 1990s that has
>created the technological conditions in which the dreams of the past,
>of an ideal means of communication able to get the workers of all
>countries to unite, are now a reality. The speed of development of
>Internet exposes the immense international power of the working class,
>no longer will it be possible to prevent the workers everywhere from
>combining at all levels. Trade Union leaders are suddenly presented
>with the means to challenge the power of International Capital. If
>they fail to do so they may be bypassed by informal networks, adding a
>new fluidity to the battle for ideas within the workers movement. The
>International Labour movement can and will become conscious of itself,
>of it's immense power, through complementing it's past work forms with
>Internet communications. The networked structure of many of the
>International organisations such as Amnesty and Greenpeace, reveal
>both the advantages of such a structure of Internet combined sections
>and the present infancy of the Labour movement's efforts by
>comparison. The potential however is truly awe inspiring, individual
>trade unionists, the official national unions and International union
>federations will establish an internet publication and communication
>presence. The publication and exchange of communications at all levels
>will suddenly reach a critical mass which will transform quantity into
>quality. Information tools will become information weapons in what may
>well come to be called The First Trade Union Information Wars. These
>Information Wars will be fought against the Mass Media, the State and
>the Multinationals. The power to defend workers in repressive regimes
>will be enhanced, as will the power of the workers to exercise control
>over decisions made by the Multinationals, the State and the Mass
>Media. World councils of the workers will emerge, firstly collecting
>data for the defence of their members, then organising collective
>action. This idea is shown to be technologically possible with the
>Internet of today. Union solidarity, or the lack of it, that has
>operated within the confines of the nation state will be challenged,
>the birth of a new militant International Trade Unionism combined on
>the Internet is on the order of the day. More radical Unions worldwide
>will network together and discover cothinking organisations amongst
>International Unions with whom they can communicate and act, often far
>more effectively than fellow Unions inside the confines of the nation
>state. The relationship between the advanced Informationised nations
>and those with few telephone lines is also raised by Eric Lee, he
>raises the demand that the Unions in the advanced countries should
>campaign for Internet provision in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the
>former USSR and Eastern Europe. The Unions in the ex-colonial world
>require an adequate telecommunications infrastructure and training in
>both Internet and computing. Of course this demand is applicable in
>advanced industrial countries too, e-mail for all and Internet for
>every shop steward should now be part of the programme of every
>workers organisation. Any book about the Internet is out of date
>almost as soon as it is written, thus the constant updating of this
>book on the Web provides an example of another wonder of the net. It
>is a little disappointing that the full text of the book is not
>available on the net, as its depth and importance are not fully
>revealed in the excerpts on the net. The web is obviously a means by
>which Left wing news and literature can flourish, Mao's famous phrase
>"let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought
>contend" (which was never his real intention) is all of a sudden as
>nothing, for now we could say a "hundred million" and soon a
>"billion". My only criticism of the book, is that the vision is if
>anything understated, we need sweeping, bold projections about the
>future. This may be due to the nature of the beast under dissection.
>Internet cannot be segregated from society, the impact upon education
>has barely been felt...yet. The entire educational structure of today
>will face transformation, as should the demands of the workers in
>relation to work organisation, planning, accounting and administration
>in general. Internet is a tool which can lead to the abolition of the
>distinction between mental and physical Labour, or as now as a tool
>for increasing that same distinction. Who uses it and for what
>purposes? That is the question every trade unionist and socialist must
>ask. The political impact of the increasing level of
>intercommunication will first be felt in certain nodal points, where
>high density Internet usage coincides with radical protest movements,
>for example in Universities, in certain Strikes and in
>anti-Imperialist struggles. The Internet allows the Left to affect
>public opinion in a way unknown in the past, imagine a million youths
>across Europe networked together, organising protests of thousands in
>every major city, able to bring their presence to bear on history as a
>one body. The means for doing this exist already! Multinational
>Capital and the State have moved with extraordinary speed to adopt
>computers and communications as at the centre of their global
>ambitions. Internet is considered as important for US Capitalism as
>were the Space and Nuclear Programmes. When Internet is embraced by
>the Left and the Trade Unions, the balance of forces between Labour
>and Capital can shift radically back towards organised Labour.
>Organised Labour can realise its potential, for both in numerical
>terms and specific weight it has more latent power than ever before.
>
>Eric Lee's Web site address is provided below
>Kibbutz Ein Dor, D.N. Yezreel 19335, Israel
>URL: http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/2808/
+++ pj lilley + pj@tao.ca + vox/613.728.9292 + fax/613.728.8758 +++ ----- www.tao.ca ----- democracy's pretty nice, when do we get some??

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