I think part of what makes responding to this question difficult is how unprepared we are for this context. Obligatory or compulsory social distancing is not the environment for change that most social movements connected to May First have spent their time imagining. Unfortunately the conditions created by this global pandemic are exactly those most idealized and planned for by the far right fascists.
Sure we have to rethink how we come together for meetings but more importantly this is an opportunity to think about how we come together in a deeper sense.
We can already see evidence that when governments and capitalist systems fail them people can and will find ways to come to each other’s rescue.
We know that when used correctly, technology can be a powerful tool of resistance for those us who have decided we are unwilling to sacrifice each other to sustain a broken economic system. In that sense, anticipating and maintaining the tools and processes that help us do the practical work of coming together is what I’d like to see our our organization prioritize.
In some cases I think the answer is simple, our movements will continue to depend on and use the tools they have been using. Ensuring that our members can continue to count on basic communications services like web hosting, e-mail, and file sharing to be there for them as they go about doing the work is paramount.
But I’d also like to see May First anticipate new tools that might be needed as our movements find ways to take action and people rise to the occasion.
In doing this I think we should avoid getting caught up in the trap of feeling obligated to provide alternatives to all of the same services commercial entities dominate. Should we put all of our energy into trying to compete with video conferencing systems backed by millions of dollars of investor capital? Is that the most import thing?
What about the tools we need to help us come together that corporate providers don’t provide and don’t even consider?
- Tools to help track and facilitate collective decision making processes
- Tools to help us directly exchange labor and resources or route them to where they are needed most
And its not just about the tools. We have to continue the social and communication processes needed to help our movements use technology more effectively. Likewise we need to ensure that new generations of movement technologists have an opportunity to develop the experience and knowledge necessary to replicate these processes.