Since the protests in Seattle last year which contributed to bringing the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks to a halt, the anti-capitalist movement has developed real momentum. In subsequent demonstrations in Washington DC, Davos, Melbourne, London, Prague and Nice we have seen the phenomenon continue.
Who are the protestors and what are they protesting about? The demos have seen the coming together of a wide variety of leftists, trade unionists, environmentalists, anarchists and many others. Many demonstrators are not connected to any particular group, they simply want to protest about globalisation, the role of the IMF and the World Bank, the super-exploitation of the Third World by multinationals and the environmental destruction wrought by a global capitalism that is answerable to no-one.
Bringing these diverse forces together in an effective and practical way is a challenge. The Internet is currently one of the main tools for organising this new wave of international resistance. Sites like the Independent Media Centre, Indymedia (http://indymedia.org/) report on each mobilisation. They have local sites in various languages dedicated to reporting the action as it happens. Whether you are involved in supporting prison protests in Turkey or demonstrating against products made by child labour at the GAP there are resources there for you.
Indymedia was born out of the Seattle demonstrations. A coalition of activists and alternative media groups came together to provide the latest information for journalists, with photos, video, text and audio reports on the demos, the police attacks etc. This information was made available to everyone via the net. Gathering together their footage, the Seattle Independent Media Center (http://seattle.indymedia.org) produced a series of five documentaries, uplinked every day to satellite and distributed throughout the United States to public access stations. The revolution will be televised!
Since the Seattle demos Indymedia has expanded, with a 24hr internet radio station and a newspaper distributed via the net. Sister sites have been set up worldwide including in the UK (http://uk.indymedia.org/). There are debate bulletin boards where socialists can argue with anarchists, environmentalists or whoever. There are posters and leaflets that can be downloaded and reproduced.
Most impressive about how indymedia works is the reportage on events. Activists with video cameras, digital cameras and laptop computers report on events as they happen. You can see live streaming video footage of demos and actions. You can browse through a photo archive. You can listen to an audio clip report as well as text reports on the website. Then go and discuss it with other activists on the site. You get the news as it happens, uncensored by corporate TV channels owned by multi-millionaire capitalists like Rupert Murdoch.
Indymedias slogan is Dont Hate the Media. Be the Media. Anyone can upload photos, video footage or articles to the indymedia websites. Indymedia has been praised from all quarters and there is no doubt that their (and our) enemies in the state and big business will also have taken note of its success.
Naomi Klein, author of the anti-globalisation handbook No Logo said: We are in the early stages of a tremendously exciting international mass movement and the Independent Media Center is a leading player in its partner media movement. But the IMC is doing more than breaking the corporate monopoly on story telling, it is inventing new media models that are uniquely equipped to mirror the international and diverse nature of this protest movement. This is media that crosses borders and issues like no communication network we have ever seen before. Most importantly, the IMC represents the merger of media and activism: an organisation that doesnt only cover the actions on the street but spreads the very information that helps draw thousands to the streets in the first place. I strongly urge you to support the IMCs groundbreaking work.
The Indymedia family of sites are a good indication of the value of the internet to activists. The diverse groups represented in sites like this include the Zapatistas (http://www.ezln.org/), the American dockers union the ILWU (http://www.ilwu.org), technology activists (http://www.kuro5hin.org/) and the usual suspects among socialist and environmental groups.
In this these web sites have the same strengths and weaknesses as the anti-capitalist movement generally. They have strength in their breadth and enthusiasm but lack the analysis of the system that socialists can provide.
Serious questions about the access of poor and working class people to this information also need to be asked. However, sites like Indymedia are a pointer to the future of reporting and publicising the class struggle and we ignore it at our peril. Indymedia gives access to the side of events that the capitalist press ignore