Viva Maria or understanding 1968

In an ongoing personal quest to figure out what to learn from the uprisings of 1968, I recently read two books by Rudi Dutschke, the German student leader. (I read Cohn-Bendit years ago, he didn’t give me any clues.)

Dutschke seems like a decent and dedicated guy, standing up against tendencies of dogmatism and sectarianism and thinking strategically about the role of the extra parliamentary left. He would probably be a positive influence on today’s left, would he not have been tragically shot by a right-wing extremist.

The thing is though, some of his analysis is totally of the rails if you read him now, fifty years later. His whole (rightful) critique of the economic and political system of the Soviet Union, East Germany and the rest of the East Bloc, which he calls “state slavery”, is based on the premise that the Russian revolution was influenced by Asian instead of European values and culture. This Eurocentrism and Orientalism seems so out of place for someone who was on the front lines of anti-imperialism and international solidarity at the time.

From a foreword to one of the books, by his wife Gretchen Dutschke-Klotz, I learn that a major inspiration for his international solidarity came from a film called “Viva Maria”.

“Viva Maria” was a film with Jeanne Moreau and Birgitte Bardot about the Mexican revolution. It had become a symbol for the big interest and participation in the liberation struggle of the Third World. Rudi watched the film at least five times, if not more. When he had the time to go to the cinema, which was rare, he would usually fall asleep after five minutes — but never at “Viva Maria”.
Rudi Dutschke, Gå upprätt, p 12, my translation

So this film… I’m not going to review it, but let’s just say that Dutschke’s generation didn’t have a scooby doo about what was happening in the rest of the world. And seeing it, I realised that 1) I shouldn’t be too hard on his Eurocentrism, he didn’t know better 2) I still don’t know what to make of 1968.

The Hegemony Triangle, Part II

The idea of isolated utopianism, reformism or revolution is an afterthought, which does not correspond to what we can learn from successful hegemonic projects.

The Hegemony Triangle

 There is a common misconception that these three corners are not compatible with each other. On the contrary, they very much need each other in order to succeed. A crude understanding of left-wing strategy would put revolutionary communism in the top corner, anarchism in the bottom left and reform oriented social democracy to the right. In reality that is never really the case. Although these different movements might express their views according to this, they have never fully succeeded without utilising at least two poles of the triangle. The “prefigurative politics” associated with anarchists might be sneered at by people inclined to political parties and strategies for taking power. But when was the taking of hegemonic power in a modern society not proceeded by the experimentation with new modes of production or decision making?

Taking power through exodus

The Russian revolution was the direct effect of the prefigurative politics of the Soviets, local democratic assemblies of workers and soldiers, which created a situation of dual power, and eventually constituted a more legitimate and stable power than the ruling regime.

The Paris Commune was preceded by various economic experiments and countless underground communist cafés, where socialists practised utopian thinking and decision making by debating visionary ideas (discussions of concrete political proposals like shorter hours or higher pay were banned, so the lectures and talks had to be about the creation of utopian socialism).

Although dogmatic socialists have often scorned these kind of initiatives, they are crucial at building the power base required to take the nexts steps towards the contest of power. Marx whines about the utopian tendency of the proletarians of Paris, without realising that what the workers are effectively doing is laying the foundation for the taking of power through the Commune twenty years later.

[The Parisian proletariat] partly throws itself upon doctrinaire experiments, “co-operative banking” and “labor exchange” schemes; in other words, movements, in which … it gives up the task of revolutionizing the old world with its own large collective weapons and on the contrary, seek to bring about its emancipation, behind the back of society, in private ways, within the narrow bounds of its own class conditions, and, consequently, inevitably fails.
The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Karl Marx 1852

Likewise, the taking of power by Social Democracy in Sweden was not only preceded (and succeeded) by the transformation of existing institutions of power, but by vast initiatives of exodus from the dominating culture, economy, education and political practices of capitalism: “Peoples Parks” as alternative spaces for working class culture; the cooperative movement for creating a parallell economy of grocery stores, housing, insurance and so on; the Folk high schools and study groups for working class education; the Peoples Houses as arenas for popular political debating.

Revolutionary reformism

If we’re looking at the few examples of anarchist or explicitly utopian groups taking power, it was made possible by the long term institutionalising of radical ideas. The anarchists of Barcelona were organised in a dominant trade union. In recent times, the Zapatistas took years to establish themselves within the traditional existing structures of rural Chiapas before launching their attack on the state powers.

Likewise, the Kurds of Rojava, build their strength not only on utopian democratic experiments, but a combination of traditional structures and direct confrontations with the dominant powers in order to maintain their local autonomy.

…the most vital and creative revolutionary movements at the dawn of this new millennium – the Zapatistas of Chiapas, and Kurds of Rojava being only the most obvious examples – are those that simultaneously root themselves in a deep traditional past. Instead of imagining some primordial utopia, they can draw on a more mixed and complicated narrative.
How to change the course of human history, David Graeber and David Wengrow

Losing power

The losing of hegemony comes from insular tactics of a narrow minded focus on either exodus, reform or the taking of (or administration of) power.

The Soviet Union quickly got rid of their utopian side, by stripping to local assemblies of power and outlawing opposing political forces until it became a tragic mirroring of the Tzar regime.

For Swedish Social democracy the decline of hegemony happened gradually over a long time, by centralising the command of the movement and moving power from the many branches of exodus to the heart of the political party. To the point were the party stands isolated, and is merely able to administer a continuously diminishing position of power.

The paradox is that the more ties are cut to the exodus part of the movement, the more hegemony is lost. The ruling power becomes isolated and limited in it’s manoeuvring space until it is merely able to copy the actions of the previous powers under a new flag.

Maintaining hegemony

A strong hegemonic power needs to transcend to both bottom corners of the pyramid, by on the one hand facilitating the transformation of the dominant institutions of culture, jurisdiction and economy, and on the other hand nurture projects of the common, by handing more autonomy to the utopian side. In effect, this means strengthening your power by giving it away. This is what socialists back in the days would call the “withering away of the state”. We shouldn’t be surprised that this does not come easy. For it to happen, the two way interaction and reciprocity needs to be held intact by extensive pressure from below.

The Hegemony Triangle

The Hegemony Triangle

This is a remix and visualisation of Assembly by Hardt and Negri (Chapter 15) and Jonathan Matthew Smuckers writings on hegemony in Hegemony How-To.

Strategies for hegemony

To struggle against power is to build and wield a power of one’s own.

This is the coordinated formation of counterpowers and the real creation of a dualism of power, within and against the existing ruling system. We must cease viewing these three strategies as divergent and recognise their potential complementarity.

Exodus

Withdrawing from the dominant institutions to create new social relations.

Squats, square occupations, social centers, worker coops, Zone A Défendre – ZAD.

  • + Ability to open broader social debates about democracy and equality.
  • + Experimentation and development of new institutions
  • + Generating desires for and posing an example of a new world
  • – The contradictions of also being a part of the larger dominant society.
  • – Functions at the moral level which can result in moralism and internal policing.
  • – Inability to transform the broader social order, lacks the means to engage the dominant institutions, let alone overthrow the ruling order

Antagonistic reform

Engaging the existing institutions to transform them from within, while seeking maximal strategic autonomy.

Working within or campaigning for the reform of dominant institutions like corporations, governments, media, popular culture or the legal system.

  • + Long term effects can be significant.
  • – You get lost in the institutions and they change you more than you change them.

Taking power

Taking power and creating the institutions of a new society.

  • + Directly transforms society.
  • – Requires a transformation of power.
  • – New regime might repeat the characteristics of the old.
  • – Limited by the power of global capital, nation states and media.

Levels

Both levels are interventions into the ground game upon which all social interactions operate. To reshape this ground is to re-pattern everything that happens upon it.

Symbolic contest

The contest of popular meanings, culture, framing and common sense. Winning popular support while delegitimising and ultimately isolating political opponents.

Institutional contest

The contest of leadership, organisational capacity and institutional power in an institutional ground game whose victory is tied to its capacity to consolidate victories

Om Populistiska manifestet av Greider och Linderborg

Tack Göran Greider och Åsa Linderborg för det här initiativet för att starta en diskussion om vänsterpopulism i Sverige (även om förståelsen av rasism är provocerande oinitierad). Här kommer ett par teser till.

Vi måste förändra formerna för politiken, inte bara innehållet.

För att få folk att våga tro på politisk förändring och politiskt engagemang räcker det inte att fundera på vad vi har för krav och partiprogram, vi måste förändra hur vi gör politik. Corbyn och Sanders som ni tar upp kämpar för att förändra sina respektive partier och göra dem mer medlemsstyrda. De nya lokala partier som vunnit val i Reykjavik, Madrid och Barcelona efter den ekonomiska krisen har utvecklat nya former för utökad lokal demokrati och insyn i politiken, som ett direkt svar på folks ilska över de traditionella partiernas korruption och slutenhet. Storskaliga processer för medborgardeltagande genomförs just nu också Paris, Helsingfors och Taiwan.

Politik handlar om att vinna. Vi behöver studera och lära av progressiva politiska projekt som vunnit.

Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, Podemos och Syriza är alla intressanta exempel på mer eller mindre framgångsrika vänsterpopulistiska kampanjer, men det är på stadsnivå i Spanien som vänsterpopulistiska rörelser faktiskt har vunnit. (Syriza vann valet men förlorade mot bankerna.)
Städerna Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, A Coruña, Zaragoza och Cádiz styrs sedan ett par år av progressiva koalitioner av sociala rörelser. Totalt bor närmare 7 miljoner människor i de sex städerna. Vi har mycket att lära av hur de organiserar sig, vilka reformer de genomför och hur de lyckas utveckla den lokala demokratin. Omedelbara lärdomar är att de både har en stark lokal förankring och en förankring i aktiva sociala rörelser.

Vi behöver skapa ett nytt språk.

Högern är bra på att uppfinna nya ord: “näringsliv” (“näring “och “liv”… kom igen), “skattetryck”, “friskolor”, “utanförskap”. Vi behöver skapa nya ord och ett nytt språk för att beskriva de grundläggande konflikterna i samhället.

Vi behöver prata om vem vår fiende är.

Bernie Sanders är väldigt konsekvent i att kritisera “miljardärerna”. Han låter sig inte distraheras av Trumps olika skandaler och han hackar aldrig på de som röstade på Trump. Han fokuserar på den riktiga fienden (eller om du föredrar att kalla det motparten, antagonisten eller något annat snällare ord): alltså de vars intressen står i direkt motsats till reformerna han vill genomföra.
Podemos pratar om “la casta” – den ekonomiska och politiska eliten. Labour om “the few”.
Om folks liv är skit, men ingen pratar om vad det beror på, vems fel det är, eller vem som tjänar på det, kommer skulden lätt falla på svaga grupper som är inom synhåll.
En vänsterpopulistisk politik behöver, som Chantal Mouffe och Ernesto Laclau beskriver i Hegemony and socialist strategy, formulera en tydlig konflikt. Det innebär att skapa ett “vi och dom”, men att till skillnad från högerpopulismen göra det utifrån en verklig intressekonflikt. Och det innebär att synliggöra och benämna dem som vi kämpar emot.

Sluta deppa!

Ända sedan Sverigedemokraterna gick in på den politiska scenen på allvar för fyra år sedan har det legat som en blöt filt av pessimism över progressiva människor i Sverige.

Inspirerande internationella händelser de senaste fyra åren har gått folk förbi, som Syrizas (tillfälliga) framgångar, Nuit Debout i Frankrike, Bernie Sanders-kampanjen och de växande rörelserna i USA mot rasism och för demokratisk socialism, Podemos framväxt i Spanien, de lokala progressiva partierna som tagit makten i och börjat omforma Madrid och Barcelona, Jeremy Corbyn’s gräsrotsrevolution inom Labour-partiet i Storbritannien.

Allt det här har bleknat inför den kollektiva självrannsakan som skett i Sverige: “Hur kunde vi bli som Danmark!” Det finns så klart en välgrundad rädsla som spelar in, men för många av oss i vänstern tror jag att det också handlar om en rubbad självbild. Så länge jag varit aktiv har det funnits ett starkt drag av självgodhet och förtäckt nationalism i den svenska vänstern. Vi var mot svensk vapenexport, inte internationell vapenhandel; vi var mot Öresundsbron (vem gillar Danmark, amiright?); vi var mot att Sverige skulle gå med i EU, inte för att reformera eller ersätta EU; vi var mot svenskt NATO-medlemskap, inte för ett avskaffande av NATO.

Men nu står vi där lika smutsiga, eller kanske ännu värre, än våra europeiska grannar. Vi har ett skenande problem med högerextremism som vi uppenbarligen inte kan lösa på egen hand, med våra vanliga svenska metoder, rörelser eller partier.

Det är dags för två saker:

  1. Sluta deppa! Som politiska organisatörer och aktivister måste vi kunna visa på vägar framåt och positiva exempel på samhällsförändring.
  2. Sluta med navelskåderiet! Sverige är en del av västvärlden, och västvärlden har stora problem med högerextremism just nu. Men det finns också positiva exempel, som de som jag nämnde innan, på progressiva politiska kampanjer som lyckats vända trenden och samtidigt utmana nyliberalismen och utveckla demokratin.

Tony Soprano is the current phase of capitalism

Each phase of capitalism has a particular affect which holds it together.

We Are All Very Anxious, Plan C

 

olivertwist

In the nineteenth century, the dominant narrative was that capitalism leads to general enrichment. The public secret of this narrative was the misery of the working class.

Bonjour-Tristesse-Poster

In the mid twentieth century, the dominant public narrative was that the standard of living – which widened access to consumption, healthcare and education – was rising… The public secret was that everyone was bored.

tony

Today’s public secret is that everyone is anxious. Anxiety has spread from its previous localised locations (such as sexuality) to the whole of the social field. All forms of intensity, self-expression, emotional connection, immediacy, and enjoyment are now laced with anxiety.

What if’s about parliamentarianism

My current job for an organisation promoting new methods and tools for participation puts me in a lot of discussions about possible risks of doing new kinds of democratic processes, like participatory budgets, citizen’s proposals etcetera. Most of the objections start with a “what if…?”: “What if racist proposals win?” “What if people don’t have sufficient knowledge to make decisions?” “What if someone manages to vote twice on the digital platform?” And in almost all of the cases, those objections are not based on experiences or empirical studies, but are just worries about something new and unknown.

There is a lot of fear of new methods of participation, not just from the politicians or civil servants that might feel directly threatened by a deeper democracy, but also from people from the right to left who feel insecure by the prospect of letting “anyone” join in on the decision making.

The democratic experiment of parliamentarianism with one vote per person, that we have tried out for roughly a hundred years now, works tremendously well compared to what we had before, but it’s certainly not perfect. I would like to raise more questions about the possible democratic flaws of this current system, and keep a much more open mind to the possibilities that new methods can present. Here are a few of my “what if’s” about the current system of parliamentarianism.

  • What if the person you voted for change her/his political views during her/his four years in parliament?
  • what if you change your own views during those four years?
  • What if you really agree with one party on some issues but not on other issues?
  • What if you don’t agree with any of the political parties?
  • What if the politicians standing for election don’t represent the demographics of the population, when it comes to for example gender, age, class or ethnicity?
  • What if the professional politicians become distanced from the lives of their voters?
  • What if the politicians start representing their own interests instead of their voters?
  • What if the politicians don’t keep their promises from the election campaigns?
  • What if there are issues that the national parlament can’t control, like the international economy?
  • What if a lot of the actual decision making is made not by politicians, but unelected civil servants?
  • What if the election campaigns starts to be more about personal traits than political issues?
  • What if media starts favouring certain political parties or candidates and misrepresents others?
  • What if the political parties with the most economic resources have the best chance of winning?
  • What if established political parties have advantages over new and emerging ones?
  • What if the political parties lose a lot of their members, are they still representative of people’s opinions?
  • What if playing on people’s fear and xenophobia are used as a way of gaining votes?
  • What if the election programmes are written by a small group of people within the parties, not the actual voters?
  • What if the job as a politician attracts people more interested in power than serving the people?

Way Out West – som om Landvetter skulle ordna festival

VIP-toalett

VIP-toalett på Way Out West

Efter en halvtimmes köande skriker någon på oss i megafon att vi ska öppna våra väskor och hålla dem framför kroppen innan vi ska kroppsvisiteras. En kompis som är diabetiker får inte ta med en morot in på området. Jag minns en tidigare festival när en höggravid kompis fick argumentera länge med vakterna för att ta med en hopfällbar pall.

Väl inne på området är de första hundra meterna någon slags företagsmässa, där ett tobaksbolag erbjuder färgglada selfies och sköna beanbags.

Festivalområdet är uppdelat i ölområden och icke-ölområden, med staket och vakter emellan. Min vän får inte ta med en halv baguette in på ölområdet där vi andra står, det är bara maten som säljs där inne som får finnas där.

Väktare tränger sig runt bland publiken, och en vakt viftar åt en tjej att inte röka en (vanlig) cigarett på en av de glesare spelningarna på eftermiddagen.

Toalettköerna är långa, bredvid de vanliga toaletterna finns en rosa VIP-toalett med röd matta för de som tecknar upp sig för ett kreditkort.

När vi väntar på att M.I.A. ska börja spela visas en slinga med reklamfilm på två enorma skärmar bredvid scenen. Jag ser Zlatan dyka ner i en swimmingpool i slow motion minst tio gånger.

Välkommen till Way Out West.

Tidigare i sommar var jag på Roskildefestivalen i Danmark. Det är en många gånger större festival som funnits betydligt längre, men med liknande bandbokningar. Roskildefestivalen drivs, till skillnad mot Way Out West, som en ideell förening. De ger allt överskott till välgörenhet. När jag var där för två år sen öppnade de med Syriska Nationalorkestern, medan ensamkommande flyktingungdomar delade ut fika till besökarna. Ett konstnärskollektiv hade byggt en VIP-lounge till burksamlarna på området.

Lokala idrottsklubbar säljer billig pasta för de som vill ha det, medan en foodcourt med olika restauranger från Köpenhamn står för den lite mer fancy maten. Det finns marknadsstånd som säljer kläder och annat, men utan en massa sponsringsgrejer och utan att ta uppmärksamhet från musikscenerna.

Jag ser knappt någon väktare eller polis på det dygnet jag är där i år. Däremot trevliga funktionärer, med en ganska avslappnad inställning till att kontrollera de som går in på området. Därmed inte sagt att festivalen inte tar säkerhet på allvar. Det finns uttänkta system och särskilda publikvärdar för att hålla koll på publiktrycket vid scenerna.

Skillnaden är att funktionärerna fokuserar på säkerhet och trevlig stämning, inte överflödiga regler för att kunna sälja mer, eller förhindra fotografering eller vad nu de olika reglerna på Way Out West är till för.

Det är sällan kontrasten mellan ideella och kommersiella evenemang blir så tydlig som i skillnaden mellan de här två festivalerna. Inramningen på Way Out West är som om Landvetters flygplats skulle ordna en fest, komplett med säkerhetskontroller och dyr öl. Roskilde bygger upp en tillfällig fristad med en känsla av frihet och välkomnande stämning. Förutom att det blir en bättre fest ger det en glimt av hur ett samhälle med mer fri kultur och mindre kommersialism skulle kunna se ut.

Inspiration from the past

…the most vital and creative revolutionary movements at the dawn of this new millennium – the Zapatistas of Chiapas, and Kurds of Rojava being only the most obvious examples – are those that simultaneously root themselves in a deep traditional past. Instead of imagining some primordial utopia, they can draw on a more mixed and complicated narrative.

How to change the course of human history, David Graeber och David Wengrow

Recept på organisering från oväntat håll

Föreställ dig att alla grenar av arbetarrörelsen hade varit lokalt oberoende och medlemsstyrda: partiet, fackföreningarna, studieförbundet, folkets park, folkets hus, kooperationen, hyresgästföreningen.

Det låter kanske som en galen anarkistisk vision, men det finns faktiskt en över hundra år gammal rörelse i Sverige, med över 100 000 aktiva, som är organiserad precis så: Pingströrelsen.

Pingströrelsen är en sammanslutning av över 400 självbestämmande församlingar, som förutom att driva sina lokala samlingslokaler även arbetar med social verksamhet, gör internationellt arbete, driver utbildningsverksamhet och flera medieföretag. Församlingarna hade inte något centralorganisation förrän Pingst – fria församlingar i samverkan bildades 2001, med en samordnande, snarare än styrande roll.

Exemplet från Pingströrelsen visar att en demokratiskt och decentraliserad organisation både kan överleva långsiktigt och skapa stor mångfald och initiativrikedom.

Är det här en organisationsstruktur som en ny progressiv rörelse kan kopiera?

Socialdemokraternas väg till makten som inspiration

Samtidigt som Socialdemokraterna är det parti som varje ny progressiv rörelse behöver kämpa för att ersätta, är de också dem vi kan lära mest av om politisk organisering. Hur de, trots massivt motstånd, byggde upp en rörelse som tog den politiska makten i Sverige. Hur de genomförde en rad politiska reformer, som inte bara konkret förbättrade folks liv, utan även skapade en känsla av tilltro till det gemensamma och en kultur av jämlikhet.

Folk gick inte med i den tidiga arbetarrörelsen för att “påverka” eller “göra något bra”. De ville vinna den politiska makten och skapa ett nytt samhälle och en ny typ av människa. För att nå dit förde de en kamp på flera fronter samtidigt:

  • Partiet inom det politiska systemet
  • Fackföreningarna på arbetsplatserna
  • Studieförbundet för utbildningen
  • Folkets park för kulturen
  • Folkets hus för samlingsplatser och organisering
  • Kooperativen för ekonomisk kontroll
  • Hyresgästföreningen för bostäder
  • det finns säkert fler exempel…

Väl vid makten utvecklade Ernst Wigforss en ekonomisk politik som skulle populariseras av Keynes som keynesianism och bli vägledande för välfärdsstater internationellt. Rudolf Meidner utvecklade välfärdsekonomin vidare, och skapade långsiktiga planer för att göra ekonomin demokratisk (förslaget om löntagarfonderna, vilket inte genomfördes).

Vänsterpopulism som strategi mot högerpopulism

I boken Hegemony and socialist strategy från 1985 driver Chantal Mouffe och Ernesto Laclau tesen att vi behöver formulera en vänsterpopulistisk politik för att besegra nyliberalism och högerpopulism. Det dröjde ett tag innan någon lyssnade på dem, men nu ser vi hur det receptet följs av Podemos, inspirerade av latinamerikanska partier, i Spanien och av Jean-Luc Mélenchon i Frankrike.

Genom att lägga de gamla röda flaggorna på hyllan och prata om progressiv politik på ett nytt sätt lyckas de nå mycket större väljargrupper. Avgörande för Podemos, i ett land med utbredd politisk korruption, har också varit att visa på ett annat sätt att göra politik: med transparens och deltagande demokrati.

De nya vänsterpartierna skiljer sig taktiskt från andra vänster- och miljöpartier genom att de har en strategi för att vinna val, och på vägen dit inte falla för frestelsen att bli stödpartier åt socialdemokratin.

Grekiska Syriza var de som bevisade både möjligheterna och begränsningarna med ett nationellt vänsterpopulistiskt parti. Socialdemokraternas oförmåga att hantera den ekonomiska krisen öppnade vägen för att Syriza kunde vinna valet 2014, men de blev totalt utmanövrerade av EU-byråkratin och är oförmögna att föra en progressiv politik.

Efter den första euforin börjar Podemos också få problem med sin trovärdighet. De har svårigheter att kombinera ett karismatiskt och medialt ledarskap med gräsrotsdemokrati, och de har fastnat i växten på 20%, som tredje största parti.

Den största framgången för progressiva rörelser i Europa har istället skett på stadsnivå i Spanien med den “municipalistiska” rörelsen. Lokala progressiva partier regerar sedan 2015 i städerna Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, A Coruña, Zaragoza och Cádiz. De lokala partierna har anknytning till Podemos på riksnivå, men är självbestämmande och grundade i lokala sociala rörelser. Det ger dem en större förankring hos väljarna, bättre lokalkännedom och större möjligheter till intern demokrati, än det nationella Podemos.

Socialdemokratins sönderfall och svårigheten att bygga något nytt

The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.

Antonio Gramsci. Prison Notebooks Volume II, Notebook 3, 1930

Den europeiska socialdemokratins sönderfall efter dess oförmåga att stå upp mot nyliberalismen är ett internationellt nederlag. I Grekland, som har en annan ekonomisk ställning, ledde det till en plötslig kollaps av partiet. I Storbritannien kämpar partiets gamla elit mot en ny rörelse inom Labour. I Spanien och Tyskland ligger de runt 20% och famlar efter olika koalitioner för att kunna regera, vilket verkar vara den väg som de svenska socialdemokraterna kommer att gå.

Utvecklingen för svenska socialdemokraterna är ett utdraget nederlag: 1991 var första gången sedan 1928 som de fick mindre än 40% av rösterna. De senaste två valen (2010 och 2014) har de med 31% av rösterna sitt minsta stöd sedan 1911, då långt ifrån alla hade rösträtt.

I ett land med en traditionellt exceptionellt stark arbetarrörelse verkar det vara extra svårt att formulera nya politiska perspektiv. Socialdemokratin har haft en så totalt dominerande hegemonisk position att andra progressiva rörelser har vant sig vid att vara i utkanten av det politiska samtalet.

Lära av Miljöpartiet, Vänsterpartiet och FI

Miljöpartiet hade stora ambitioner om att bli ett annorlunda politiskt parti. Men både i partiets ursprungsland Tyskland och här i Sverige har utvecklingen gått att mer och mer bli en del av etablissemanget som de hade tänkt sig att bekämpa. Det har saknats en strategi för hur de ska hantera sin egna maktposition och hur de ska förhålla sig till politiska koalitioner. Genom sin roll som stödparti har de gradvis urholkat sin egna politiska identitet i utbyte mot kortsiktiga politiska vinster.

Vänsterpartiet, som har en helt annan politisk historia än Miljöpartiet, har också ingått i tveksamma allianser, men har inte urholkat sitt budskap på samma sätt. Problemet med Vänsterpartiet är att de är ett parti som inte växer. Under 100 års tid har de haft runt 5% av rösterna. Man hade kunnat hoppas att de skulle vinna röster på att Socialdemokraterna gått åt höger, men det har de inte.

Precis som sina systerpartier i andra europeiska länder saknar de förmågan att bryta sig loss från sin marginella roll och bli ett massparti för social förändring.

Det är kanske för tidigt att säga något om Feministiskt Initiativ, men min farhåga är att de kommer att förlora sig i att precis som Miljöpartiet och Vänsterpartiet vackla mellan att vara ett marginellt oppositionsparti och ett komprometterat stödparti.

On political subcultures

Radicals tend to become radicals when we become disillusioned with aspects of the dominant culture. When we become aware of the destructive impacts of capitalism, racism, sexism, and other social systems that we see perpetuating oppression, we do not want to be part of it… However, the desire to separate ourselves from injustice can easily morph into a tendency to set ourselves apart from society in general.

Jonathan Smucker

Plattformskooperativ utmanar internetjättarna

Idén till plattformskooperativ kommer ur insikten att det som vid första anblicken verkade vara ett praktiskt sätt att dela tjänster, så som AirBnb och Uber, spårat ur till vad som kallas plattformskapitalism.

Via sin digitala plattformar drar företagen in enorma pengar på folks vardagliga arbete, men ger väldigt lite tillbaka, både till lokalsamhällena och de som bidrar med sina tjänster. I ett plattformskooperativ är det istället de som hyr ut sin lägenhet eller skjutsar någon som gemensamt äger verksamheten, för att på så sätt skapa lösningar som är socialt hållbara och ekonomisk lönsamma för fler.

När vi tänker på konsumentkooperativ idag, alltså företag där konsumenterna gemensamt äger företaget, är det ofta stora etablerade företag som Coop och Folksam vi tänker på, där det kan vara svårt att se den ursprungliga tanken med den typen av organisation. Men när de traditionella kooperativen bildades var det ett sätt att bryta monopol, ta tillbaka kontrollen över en orättvis prissättning och se till att vinsten från verksamheten återinvesterades i bättre utbud och tjänster.

Med plattformskooperativen har vi möjlighet att bryta liknande monopolsituationer på nätet, och garantera att vinsterna av våra små arbetsinsatser med att köra taxi eller hyra ut en lägenhet inte automatiskt hamnar i Silicon Valley.

På internet betalar vi ofta inte i form av höga priser, som när Konsum utmanade lokala livsmedelsmonopol i början av 1900-talet, utan med vår arbetsinsats och vår personliga integritet. Dagens internetföretag kan göra mångdubbelt större vinster än traditionella företag, i förhållande till hur många anställda de har. Anledningen är det arbete vi som användare gör åt dem. Varje gång vi fyller i våra personuppgifter, gillar något eller kommunicerar med andra på deras plattformar, skapar vi värdefull data som kan säljas till annonsörer.

Genom att som kooperativ driva en egen molntjänst eller plattform kan vi utnyttja alla möjligheter och fördelar med decentraliserade plattformar utan att förlora kontrollen över vinsten eller vår personliga data.

En annan anledning till att organisera sig i kooperativ är att det ger konkreta praktiska fördelar att driva en verksamhet gemensamt. Det sparar kostnader och administration, och kan göra det möjligt att gemensamt anställa specialister för vissa arbetsuppgifter. Idag är bostadsföreningar och kooperativa förskolor småskaliga exempel på kooperativ organisering. Ett intressant historiskt exempel är de frysboxföreningar som var vanliga på 50-talet. Att ha en egen frys hemma var alldeles för dyrt, men genom att gå ihop med några familjer i en ekonomisk förening och dela på en frysbox blev det tillgängligt och prisvärt.

En modern variant på frysboxföreningen skulle kunna vara att gå samman för att driva en gemensamma server, för att få tillgång till krypterade och säkra alternativ till molntjänster som Google Drive, Dropbox och Messenger. Det kan göras i en relativt liten skala, men kräver att någon med teknisk kompetens finns tillgänglig för underhåll och är (precis som frysboxarna på 50-talet) dyrt att göra var och en för sig. Det finns redan många spännande exempel på det här, som kallas “Cloud Coops” och som är något jag tror att vi kommer att få se mycket mer av, ju mer vi ser konsekvenserna av att lämna vår personliga data i händerna på tvivelaktiga företag. I Sverige finns redan föreningen Fripost som driver en mail-server som en ideell förening och håller workshops i att lämna Googles tjänster.

På webbplatsen The Internet of Ownership finns en katalog över plattformskooperativ som tillämpar principen om gemensamt ägande av digitalt drivna verksamheter inom en mängd olika områden. Där finns till exempel Stocksy, ett slags Flickr som ägs av fotograferna; Fairmondo, ett Blocket ägt av säljarna och köparna och en lista på Cloud Coops för kooperativa molntjänster.

Hur ska föreningslivet förhålla sig till Facebook?

Efter den senaste tidens avslöjanden har det blivit uppenbart att Facebook inte är ett företag som värnar om demokrati, personlig integritet eller unga personers psykiska hälsa. Så hur kan föreningslivet förhålla sig till den här teknikjätten, som vi är så beroende av för att organisera oss och nå ut till medlemmar?

Foto av Shadowsun7

Vad vi vetat sedan tidigare är att Facebook samlar in all vår användardata för att sälja riktade annonser. Det kan låta harmlöst, men har till exempel använts för att sälja annonspaket som riktar sig specifikt till psykiskt instabila tonåringar.

Det nya som kommit fram de senaste veckorna är hur den sammantagna datan från miljontals användare använts för att påverka politiska val och folkomröstningar, utan användarnas godkännande och eventuellt i strid mot lagen.

För att ge en kort sammanfattning, så samlade tvivelaktiga forskare och företag 2014 in data från 50 miljoner ovetande användare. Baserat på den informationen skapade de ett system för “psykologisk profilering”, till exempel genom kartläggning av användarnas sexuella läggning, barndoms-trauman eller etnicitet. Det systemet användes sedan för att, ofta med skrämselpropaganda, skapa riktad annonsering för Trumps valkampanj och Brexit i Storbritannien. Facebook har känt till att användardatan missbrukats, men i princip inte gjort något alls för att stoppa det.

Hur kan demokratiska föreningar, speciellt föreningar för unga personer, förhålla sig till det här? Vi vet att många föreningar är beroende av Facebook för att nå ut till nya och gamla medlemmar, för att opinionsbilda, ordna event, diskutera och organisera sig internt.

Hur skyddar vi våra medlemmars personliga data från att missbrukas av skrupellösa företag eller xenofoba politiska kampanjer?

Är det överhuvudtaget förenligt med demokratiska värderingar att använda Facebook?

I Digidem Lab arbetar vi med att hitta och rekommendera säkra digitala verktyg för organisering för föreningslivet. Säkerhet är alltid relativt, och behöver ofta vägas mot användarvänlighet, effektivitet och förmåga att nå ut till många. Även om vi föredrar kryptering, öppen källkod och decentraliserade tjänster är det inte alltid praktiskt möjligt att använda den typen av tjänster.

Det finns ändå några saker som vi tycker att alla föreningar kan börja göra redan idag

  • Gör inte era medlemmar beroende av att skapa konton hos teknikjättar som Facebook och Google, som lever på att samla in och sälja personlig data. Det är en sak om medlemmar vill använda de tjänsterna privat, men som förening bör ni inte göra det valet åt dem. Se till att det finns fler ställen än Facebook för att hålla sig uppdaterad om vad som händer i föreningen.
  • Utforska alternativa tjänster för event-organisering, diskussioner, beslutsfattande och kommunikation i föreningen, för att successivt kunna byta till tjänster som respekterar demokrati och personlig integritet.
  • Flytta diskussioner och distansmöten mellan aktiva medlemmar till andra tjänster, även om ni fortsätter att använda Facebook för att nå ut till nya medlemmar.
  • Diskutera sociala medier med era medlemmar och vad det kan få för konsekvenser att dela personlig information och politiska åsikter.

I nästa blogginlägg kommer vi att rekommendera några säkrare digitala verktyg för föreningar.

När kommer krisen?

Det är valår, och vi har ett växande högerextremt parti som lyckas fylla det vakuum som en tynande Europeisk socialdemokrati lämnar efter sig och som gapar extra tomt i Sverige.

Vi vet från de senaste årets valkampanjer i andra länder att provokativa politiska kandidater kan använda sig av en kombination av sociala medier och överexponering i massmedia för att utmanövrera det traditionella politiska etablissemanget.

Sverigedemokraterna kommer knappast att vinna valet, men de kan definitivt skapa en politisk kris och förflytta den politiska debatten långt åt höger.

Tio år har gått sen den senaste ekonomiska krisen och om ekonomen Steve Keen har rätt står Sverige på tur, tillsammans med bland andra Kanada, Australien och Singapore för en bostadskrasch 2018.

Så utan att vara överdrivet alarmistisk finns det en viss risk att Sverige står inför en kombinerad ekonomisk och politisk kris.

Om det skulle hända skapar det ökat utrymme för politiska utmanare och drastiska lösningar, vilket – som Naomi Klein beskriver i Chockdoktrinen – ofta leder till försämringar för flertalet.

Det som ser så mörkt ut för Sverige är att de enda politiska “utmanarna” vi har är ett nyfascistiskt parti.

Än så länge saknar vi den typ av av nytänkande folkliga rörelser och partipolitiska experiment som växt fram i andra delar av Europa efter den förra ekonomiska krisen (till exempel 15M, Nuit Debout, Momentum, Syriza, Podemos, Barcelona en Comú, La France Insoumise), och som skulle kunna motverka fascism och ökade klyftor. Det är dags att fundera på hur en sådan svensk rörelse skulle kunna se ut.

No other country has seen a steeper fall — OECD reports about Sweden

Inequality

Sweden’s level of income inequality is low by international standards but has steadily increased since the mid-1980s, faster than in any other OECD country.

The long-term rise in income inequality was driven by widening gaps in market income, but also by weakening redistribution: tax rates fell and out-of-work benefits grew more slowly than wages.

http://www.oecd.org/sweden/sweden-achieving-greater-equality-of-opportunities-and-outcomes.pdf

Education

No other country taking part in PISA has seen a steeper fall.

http://www.oecd.org/sweden/sweden-should-urgently-reform-its-school-system-to-improve-quality-and-equity.htm

There are signs of growing inequalities in the distribution of learning outcomes in Sweden. The gap between the highest- and lowest-performing students has increased over the last decade and is now wider than the OECD average. The performance gap between socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged students is also increasing.

http://www.oecd.org/sweden/PISA-2015-Sweden.pdf

Housing

The Survey points out that housing prices have soared, and are now among the highest in the 35-member OECD. Household indebtedness has risen in tandem, while the lack of affordable housing has worsened both inequality and labour mobility. A comprehensive reform package is therefore needed.

http://www.oecd.org/sweden/sweden-s-economy-is-resilient-and-growing-strongly-but-must-address-rising-challenges.htm

The problem with people who only write books

To me, there is often something alienating about most left wing writers, be it David Harvey or Paul Mason. The analysis of the current situation can be spot on, but there is often a lack of practical ways forward. For younger people, and people who aren’t making a good living as writers or in academia, there isn’t really time to wait for the revolution to come. We need to see which the next step is, and we need to be able to take that step now. I suppose this has been marxism’s weakness since Marx: however brilliant he was at analysing capitalism, he was very vague about how ordinary people could break free from it.

If the next step forward doesn’t really involve you, but you need to give away your power to a party or wait for the historical conditions to be right or whatever, you are pretty likely to lose interest. But if you can in any way assert your own power and autonomy, however small it might be, it will empower you to keep going.

En svensk Corbyn?

Skulle en svensk Jeremy Corbyn vara möjlig, alltså en progressiv socialdemokratisk partiledare som kan reformera partiet? I det brittiska fallet skedde det genom att en rutinerad och respekterad politiker lyckades ta över partiledarposten, och hålla kvar den med hjälp av massiv organisering och stöd från sympatiserande gräsrotsmedlemmar. Det gjorde att Corbyn kunde stå emot oavbrutna attacker från media och sin egen partielit tillräckligt länge för att hinna göra en valkampanj, och visa att hans politik hade ett massivt folkligt stöd.

Skulle det kunna hända i Sverige? Det verkar otroligt. Men jag bodde i Storbritannien under Tony Blair’s regeringstid, och om någon skulle säga att Labour skulle få en folklig och progressiv partiledare om 10-15 år skulle nog ingen tro på det. En stor skillnad är att det som upplevdes som ett problem då, att tvåpartisystemet med majoritetsval i valkretsar gjorde att det inte fanns något vänsterparti att rösta på, faktiskt har blivit till en styrka nu. De progressiva har alltid haft en fot, eller åtminstone en tå, kvar i Labourpartiet. Och när tillfället till slut kom var de redo att mobilisera.

Eftersom vi inte har samma valsystem som britterna har vi ett Vänsterparti, Miljöparti och Feministiskt parti som fångar upp rösterna till vänster om Socialdemokratin. Det som verkar ge oss en större valfrihet har tyvärr bieffekterna att det utarmar Socialdemokraterna på intressanta kandidater, och samlar de progressiva rösterna i tre partier som aldrig har haft någon egen plan för att vinna ett val. Socialdemokraterna är fortfarande vårt enda förment socialistiska parti med populistiska ambitioner — och då menar jag populistisk i bemärkelsen att formulera en strategi för att vinna val.

Social Democracy revisited

As a Swedish person born in 1980, my relationship with social democracy is disillusioned, to put it mildly. Older generations have the memories of economic improvements of their daily lives, and can remember a time of optimism about future possibilities. Younger people, being brought up into neoliberalism and individualism, might look back with nostalgia and take inspiration from what social democracy once created. My generation on the other hand started out with high expectations, in one of the most equal and prosperous countries in the world, but saw it being scattered in front of our eyes in a process starting around the same year that I was born.

My personal memories of social democracy is from politicians handing out red roses to the police force who shot at fellow protesters in Gothenburg during the EU summit of 2001. It is the invasion of Afghanistan, the first war our country has been explicitly involved in since the Napoleon wars. And it is the lack of memory of who really did what, them or the conservatives, as to making a mess of the schools, railways, housing situation, immigration laws and pension system over the last thirty years.

The situation we are in now, with a former socialist party running a neoliberal economy, is sort of like a more democratic version of China: chaotic capitalism bundled with the paternalism, conformity and bureaucracy that always was the dark side of the welfare state.

So it’s hard to look beyond all this.

The way forward for progressives would be to create the exact opposite of this: rediscovering the tradition of populist social democratic reforms for the collective good, while making a clear break with the authoritarianism of both unregulated capitalism and state socialism.

Since we don’t have a Corbyn- or Sanders-like opposition within the party, and our left-wing alternatives hardly have any popular appeal nor ever had a strategy beyond being a sidekick to the lesser evil-party, there isn’t much hope for the future at the moment.

Clearly, there is a need for a new progressive populist movement, to fill the gap after the fall of Social Democracy and the collapse of neo-liberalism. So should that movement build on the social democratic movement in any way? Or should we do as the rebels of Paris in ’68 and “leave the party in the same condition as we found it” to be left as a something of the past, along with state communism?

The thing about the party, being an institution of power for about a hundred years, is that it is so much more than just a party. It is connected to the trade unions, the food and housing cooperatives, the organisation for study groups, the cultural houses and lots of other once-movement-run institutions.

At its best, it was a strong and diverse movement of cooperatives, self organised study groups, autonomous cultural and political spaces and radical trade unions, in coalition with a political force capable of articulating reforms benefiting the vast majority of the population. This is what Social democracy was at its height.

No other political force has managed to create the kind of populist hegemony around social reforms in Sweden. Their legacy is enormous. The only time the conservative party was close to becoming the largest party was when their pr-people rebranded them as “the new workers party” (and before they once again proved that they were not).

So, beside all the emotional resentment to the party and it’s recent policies, what was the movement at its best? And how can we create something with that same content, but in a different form?

Daenerys as Lenin and John Snow as Fidel — the kings and queens of Game of Thrones as socialist…


Maybe it’s a stretch to call Daenerys a Leninist, but she has his strong sense of entitlement, of thinking that she knows what is best for the common people and how to liberate them. She rules together with a small vanguard of close advisers, who may not always agree on strategic considerations, but nevertheless are for ever loyal to their leader. Spending most of her days in exile, she gathers her forces and waits for the right moment to return to the motherland. Her righteousness can lead to unnecessary cruelty, even if the ambition of universal liberation is admirable.

Jon Snow combines Fidel Castro’s strategic mind in pulling together a populist alliance against “the enemy in the North” with Che’s bearded charisma as a fighter. He’s not the most democratic leader, and god knows what he’ll become if he gets complete power, but being in the front-line and earning his people’s trust are central to his brand of leadership. Presenting himself as a down to earth guy, he still has all the confidence of being from a “high born” family.

And yes, Cersei certainly has an element of Stalinism to her. Being the ultimate real politician, there isn’t much room for ideology here, and any agreement or tactical alliance is okay as long as it consolidates her own power. Emerging from the shadows of seemingly more powerful people, she gradually extends her power by crushing one rival after another.

The guys who would rather die standing than live on their knees, aka the Wildlings, aka the Free Folk, are the anarchists of the realm. With a slight tendency to glorify violence and a deep mistrust of all kings and queens, they live by their own rules on the fringes of society. While democracy isn’t very highly regarded in the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, the Free Folk gets their general assembly together whenever it is decision making time. Mance Ryder is their Makhno or Durruti, someone who is looked up to not as a “rightful heir”, but for exceptional organising and fighting skills.

Making Madrid´s citizen platform accessible to a wider audience

Upcoming project at Medialab Prado’s Collective Intelligence 2017.

The citizen platform Consul is used by Madrid and over thirty other cities in Spain, as well as several cities in Latin America. In the last few months it has also been used by the social housing company of Paris for participatory budgeting and the British People’s Momentum for their annual meeting. This makes it one of the most interesting and well used open source projects for deliberative democracy right now.

Many of the organisations and social movements that we in Digidem Lab are in contact with are impressed by the possibilities of Consul. But it is also hard to demo the tool for them, and show them what their next step for implementing it would be.

Although a very useful tool with a wide range of use cases, the installation and setup process requires a lot from its administrators, and is something we believe is holding it back from being more widely used.


Adapting to new needs

With the new target audiences for Consul (cities abroad, NGO:s, different kind of participatory budgets), we need to look at the user journeys for adapting the tool for the different users and see how to best meet their needs and expectations.

This project is about finding the best ways to lower the threshold for the installation and setup process for these new target audiences. With an interdisciplinary team of marketers, developers and designers, we would be able to tackle many of the obstacles to wider implementation of Consul and provide a clear step by step process for any organisation interested in implementing and adapting it.

Any self hosted platform will of course have the problem of needing people with technical expertise. But some open source platforms, like for example Nextcloud, has shown an ability to meet their users half way by providing a range of options for installations, demo versions and documentation.

Finding the pain points

We will work in two phases, by first identifying new target audiences, their needs and pain points; then work iteratively on the setup process and documentation.

In the first phase we will get to know the users by defining target audiences, researching user experiences, defining personas and drawing user journeys.

Defining new target audiences: Which are the new groups using Consul, and how do we pinpoint and define these new users?

Researching user experiences: Interviewing for example Open Source Politics from France and Peoples Momentum from the UK about their experiences from using Consul in new contexts.

Personas and user journeys: Defining detailed profiles for our new personas. Creating user journeys for how the personas ideally would come to adopt Consul. Identifying pain points and obstacles where improvements in the documentation and installation process can be made.

Working on improvements in iterations

In the next stage, we work on improvements in iterations looking at for example automated installation options; a clearly designed installation guide; pre-configured installation profiles or demo versions based on the known user cases like citizen platforms, annual meetings, participatory budgeting.

Automated installation: Help the Consul development team with automated installation scripts for Ansible or Heroku. There are some progress in making Docker images that we could develop further.

Installation guide: There is a new drafted text from the Consul team. We could design and set up a manual in for example Read the docs or Hexo and work on the texts. Another option to explore is to make instruction videos for the different user cases.

Installation profiles and demo versions: The Consul team is working on a preconfigured setup file that we could extend to cover more cases that would be useful for demo versions.

Going worldwide

We are collaborating with the Consul development team to contribute to their work and base this development on their future needs. They are already making progress in these three areas, that we could feed into and develop further during the lab.

The overall theme is to make the installation and setup process easier and more accessible, to make it go worldwide! While these are general ideas about how to do it, the exact ways will depend on the identification of personas and user journeys, our contact with the Consul team, and the input and different skills that the working team contribute with during the lab.

The Jamie Oliver of anarchism

David Graeber is sort of the Jamie Oliver of anarchism: he demystifies the ideas and practices of modern activism and explains complex issues in a non academic language.

What makes him stand out as a left wing political thinker is also his actual experience of practical political organising, from the globalisation movement and Occupy Wall Street. That puts him in a special line of writers, like when Che writes about guerrilla warfare or Lenin about the state and the revolution. You don’t have to agree with these people to find their point of view relevant for discussion.

Unfortunately, this is also something that alienates him from “mainstream” Marxism. Most people in these circles base their ideas about organisation on the structure of the labour movement a hundred years ago. But lets face it, the organisational structure of the dominant protest movements of the last thirty years has been completely dominated by anarchist and feminist ideas.

Why not anxious?

I wonder how many percent of the population will have to suffer from anxiety before it stops getting treated as something caused by abnormal personal experiences. When you personalise a problem that effects a majority, you clearly must be missing the point.

My therapist sort of looked relieved when I said that I was brought up in the evangelical church — “there it is”. Yes, that probably contributed. But I also got anxious from the competitive grading system at school; the uncertainty of the job market when I left school; my growing student loan; the difficulty of finding a flat and the fifteen times I had to move in ten years; the police repression and vilification in media I got exposed to for being active against militarism and neo-liberalism; the prospect of climate chaos; living in a country with the fastest growing income equality in the western world; the rise of neo-fascism and the personal threat it poses to many of my friends; my dad’s early retirement for a rare disease, the lack of support from the healthcare system and ridiculously low pension he gets; the fact that most of my friends also have or have had mental health problems.

The real question to me is “how did I not have anxiety problems for so may years?”.

I take the blame for the millennials

In ’97 I was a quinoa-eating, gender-confused, yoga practising vegan, buying second hand clothes and de-cluttering my room.

http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3v4fs1

Me and others like me took the fight for the kind of lifestyle that the millennials take for granted. We fought against parents, the school cafeteria and the general perception to normalise all these things that we thought constituted a better lifestyle.

I don’t regret any of these things, yoga really helps my back problems. The sadness in retrospect comes from knowing that all these things didn’t help create a demilitarised, direct democratic society with economic equality, which I also hoped for in 1997.

While the millennials have a wider range of options when it comes to a lot of important choices in life, they are much worse off than my generation when it comes to some of the basic conditions of life — they have more unemployment, more income inequality, less housing and more mental health issues.

And I take part of the blame for that. Capitalism has an astonishing ability to co-opt and commodify every subversive act that doesn’t directly threatens its existence. So while I think it can be a good thing to have an alternative culture and lifestyle, that culture also needs to take some swings at the people that benefit from the exploitation of most of us. And I don’t think we did that enough.

What start-ups can learn from affinity groups

The start-up world has come to the same conclusion as many social movements, that a small group of people working together make the most effective and creative choices.

A group of around seven people is recommended by both Google Venture’s “Design Sprint” method, as well as various activist guides to “affinity groups”.

The idea with affinity groups however, is not only to organise your part of an event or action, but also to be a part of a bigger horizontal structure of other groups working towards the same ends.

While the close-knit cooperation in a start-up is a good thing for creativity, it hits a wall when it comes to cooperation with others. The economic incentives doesn’t encourage that. In the rule book of capitalism you can do four things: you can compete, you can merge, you can buy or be bought. This creates a tribal culture were you only look after your own little group. The priority is your clan, not innovation, cooperation or the free flow of ideas.

A small group will be good at coming up with creative ideas, but not at solving large scale or long term problems. And the clan culture stops the kind of collective intelligence where a large group of people can create truly innovative solutions.

As this clan culture clearly stifles innovation, some alternative cultures arise, like co-working spaces, meet-ups and hackathons. But this still has limited effect. The culture of competition and only looking after your own needs to be more consciously broken if we want to see more large scale innovation and proliferation of good ideas. That requires not only a cultural shift, but also creating economic incentives for cooperation.

A structure for sharing ideas and profits between different worker-controlled companies through a horizontal network of start-ups could be one way. This kind of large scale horizontal coordinating is done all the time at large activist gatherings, so the methods are just there ready to be used by future minded entrepreneurs.

Are we safe yet?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/javajoba/4013349543

If you have been to cognitive behavioural therapy, which is pretty standard now if you go to a therapist, you will know that they will look at what kind of safety behaviours you do. These are behaviours that make us feel good in the short run, but sustain our problems in the long run, like for example drinking alcohol or overeating to deal with your anxiety. The kind of things that our mind tricks us into thinking will make the problem go away, when in reality it only makes things worse.

I think a lot about this when I’m at airports. Many of the tedious things we do before boarding a plane is explained to us as “security measures”: putting your deodorant in a little plastic bag, getting searched, answering questions about who packed your bag. A lot of these extra measures were introduces or strengthened as a part of the War on terror over fifteen years ago. So with all the effort, time and money going into security, we should all feel extremely safe by now.

Is it far fetched to think that there is a collective anxiety at play here, and that we in Europe and the US deal with it in any way possible that does not actually look at the causes of terrorism, immigration and war? That we rather go through another security check, put our liquids in a plastic bag and take off our shoes before we go through the metal detector, just to feel that quick fix of security?

Pirates as democratic role models

A cool thing about pirates, that I only learned just recently, (the other ones being obvious: a bad-ass flag etc etc) is that they were extremely democratic, both in political and economic matters.

By Jean Leon Gerome Ferris — http://www.neatorama.com/2007/10/22/pirate-lore-7-myths-and-trrrrruths-about-pirates/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8643114

The 17th century pirates, during the golden days of ship-robbing in the Caribbean, elected their captains and quarter masters (the person responsible for the staff) and divided their loot equally among the staff, with some extra stuff for the captain (a cooperative counselling company in my city does the same thing, equal pay for everyone but an “anxiety bonus” for the coordinator, who gets to deal with some of the more anxiety creating stuff, like managing the workforce. Fair enough. The captain had to lead the battles, which probably also kept him awake at night once in a while).

This is maybe not what you would expect from violent outlaws, especially at a time when the rest of society, and in particular the other ships, had strict and brutally enforced hierarchies with no room for voting or fair distribution of wealth.

The pirates had in one way or another fled that oppressive society, knowing that if they got caught they would face a certain death. They were good fighters with nothing to lose, which ultimately made them impossible to govern. A despotic or unpopular captain wouldn’t last long with them, and an unfair distribution of the loot would create a mutiny. There was only one way to run a ship with these kind of people — with a just and democratic system that everyone could agree on.

Brittiska Labour har skapat en ny typ av gräsrotsaktivism med digitala tjänster

I juni är det val i Storbritannien. Labourpartiets gräsrötter har alla odds mot sig, men de har ett hemligt vapen: en sällsynt förmåga att skapa effektiva digitala kampanjverktyg.

Foto av PaulNUK

Kamp för medlemsdemokrati inom Labourpartiet

När Jeremy Corbyn nominerades som partiledarkandidat för brittiska Labourpartiet 2015 var det ingen som trodde att han skulle vinna. Stödet från de andra parlamentsledamöterna var rekordlågt, men han lyckades samla ett brett stöd från nya och gamla medlemmar i partiet och vinna stort.

Sedan dess har en maktkamp rasat mellan partiets elit och dess många medlemmar. Yrkespolitiker har sagt upp sig på löpande band i protest mot Corbyn, och försökt avsätta honom — samtidigt som nya medlemmar rasat in och alla omröstningar gett honom en överväldigande majoritet.

Digitala tjänster som en röd tråd

Något som inte syns mycket utåt, men gått som en röd tråd från partiledarvalet 2015 till den nuvarande valkampanjen är hur Corbyns supportrar utvecklat egna effektiva digitala tjänster.

Det började med en webbtjänst för att ringa och påverka medlemmar inför partiledarvalet, en enkel app som bara gjorde en sak: visade ett telefonnummer i taget, som ingen annan ringt tidigare. Med hjälp av den kunde tusentals medlemmar vara med och påverka valet, utan att det behövdes någon central organisering eller lokaler för telefonvärvning.

Därefter har Peoples Momentum, kampanjen för Corbyn inom Labourpartiet, fortsatt att spotta ur sig tjänster för gräsrotsorganisering: en samåkningstjänst för att få volontärer att åka till kritiska lokalval; en app för att maila till parlamentariker; kampanjverktyg för registrering inför valet.

Inför sitt senaste årsmöte visade Momentum även vilka möjligheter open source-tjänster öppnar för internationellt samarbete. För att hantera motioner från sina medlemmar översatte de och anpassade den webbplattform som används för medborgardemokrati i Madrid och flera andra spanska städer.

Den senaste tjänsten som utvecklats heter My Nearest Marginal och är en enkel webbtjänst för att hitta sin närmaste valkrets där det är jämnt resultat mellan Labour och Tories. Storbritannien, liksom USA, har majoritetsval i enmansvalkretsar. Det innebär att den parlamentsledamot som får majoriteten av rösterna i sin valkrets blir vald till parlamentet. Precis som i USA blir det viktigt att vinna avgörande valkretsar där resultatet står och väger.

Med My Nearest Marginal går det att se vilka aktiviteter som är planerade för varje valkrets, och enkelt organisera samåkning dit.

Effektiv strategi med små medel

Det är flera saker som gör Momentums digitala strategi så effektiv. Det är tydligt att det inte finns någon stor budget att ta av, istället förlitar de sig på enkla och tydliga tjänster som underlättar för medlemmarna. Den gamla programmerardevisen “Make each program do one thing well” märks tydligt i sättet de arbetar. Fascinerande är också hur varje tjänst lyckas distribuera ansvaret för kampanjarbetet mellan så många personer som möjligt, vilket sänker tröskeln för att engagera sig, minskar behovet för anställd personal och skapar nätverkseffekter.

Ben Soffa som utvecklade telefonappen konstaterar i en intervju 2015:

En skillnad [mellan andra kampanjer] och de som är engagerade i Jeremys kampanj, är att folk är vana vid att göra den här sortens kampanjer på en minimal budget … de andra kampanjerna har nog inte den erfarenheten.

Återstår att se hur det går i valet om två veckor. Trots att de knappat in de senaste veckorna ligger Labour fortfarande en bra bit efter regerande Tories. Gräsrotsaktivisterna i partiet har hur som helst visat på ett nytt sätt att bedriva kampanjarbete, som kan vara en inspirationskälla för partier och organisationer i andra länder som tror på aktiv medlemsdemokrati.

The public secret of anxiety

Only a small minority of people (13%) report living with high levels of good mental health.
 — Surviving or Thriving? The state of the UK’s mental health

Today’s public secret is that everyone is anxious.
 — We Are All Very Anxious, Plan C

It’s hard for me to think about anything more personal than my anxiety problems. Yet it’s becoming ridiculous to talk about mental health in any other way than as a problem that, in one way or another, effects us all. I just read in a magazine that three out of four bosses have sleeping problems. I can’t say I feel sorry for them. But it clearly means that you can’t buy your way out of all of the negative effects of this economic system any more.

Still, I find it hard to talk about my own anxiety in political terms. I’m in many aspects in a privileged position myself, as white, heterosexual, male and so on. And the way I was taught about activism is that your personal struggles only become something political if your part of an oppressed group. Which I’m not. But my anxiety, just like the bosses’ sleeping problems, is still caused by an oppressive and dysfunctional economic system.

Public secrets are typically personalised. The problem is only visible at an individual, psychological level; the social causes of the problem are concealed. Each phase [of capitalism] blames the system’s victims for the suffering that the system causes.
 — We Are All Very Anxious, Plan C

Work less, produce more

According to tradition, a programmer’s productivity was measured by “lines of code” in the old days. That is, the amount of code you wrote.

Anyone remotely interested in programming understands how crazy that is, because the less code you need to write to make something happen, the more talented programmer you are (if the code is documented, structured and can be understood by others).

The fact that this measurement was used isn’t that crazy though — that’s our economic system’s standard way of measuring work. We get rewarded for working hard, doing overtime, putting in the hours and so on. If I as an employee come up with a way to do my job in less hours, it’s not like I will be rewarded for it. Just imagine if I came up with a way of completely automating all of my assignments at work. I would probably lose my job.

So a lot of innovation when it comes to automation, which is what a lot of innovation is about, is hampered by how the economy is structured. There is simply no economic incentive for it.

As a result, a lot of amazing innovation comes from other incentives than economic ones. The autobiography of Linus Torvalds, the main guy behind Linux, is called “Just for fun”. That is also how he describes his motivation behind writing the operating system that powers most of the internet servers and supercomputers today. And that is how large sectors of the open source sector still works.

If we truly want an innovation driven economy though, we need to create more incentives for productivity and automation. For starters, collectively owned workplaces would help. That way you might actually benefit from automation and a rise in productivity. Sharing our results and ideas freely will also immensely benefit innovation. And last but not least, we need to get rid of the work ethos that are encouraging us to measure productivity in “lines of code”.

Why referendums don’t work

In the Colombian referendum last year, people got the options of “yes” or “no” to a thick pile of paper outlining the exact conditions for peace with the Farc guerilla. The result was even, but the no side won.

Referendums in general must be the least democratic process for decision making that you can possibly participate in (while still actually participating in a decision).

The problem is that you are not involved in the processes that should come before a decision, like defining the problems to solve and coming up with constructive solutions.

That leaves you with a decision that is not about solving peoples actual problems, but some other thing that the politicians can’t make up their mind about.

When you ask a confusing question and it’s unclear what actual problem it pretends to solve, you will get a random result. Like in the referendums in the UK or Colombia last year.

If the suggested solution was unclear to Colombian voters, the issues addressed must have been extremely confusing to UK voters.

Which problem did the people who voted for Brexit try to solve? A lot of the debate was about immigration. But “leave the EU” and “less immigration” are both suggested solutions, not actual problems. So the issues must be something else, but what were they?

Looking at the statistics, a qualified guess is that two immediate concerns for many of the no voters are a secured income and affordable housing.

… most of those not working voted to Leave. More than half of those retired on a private pension voted to leave, as did two thirds of those retired on a state pension.

Around two thirds of council and housing association tenants voted to Leave.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/who-voted-brexit-how-eu-8277077

When acute problems don’t get addressed in other ways, they spill over into referendums and general elections, where you at least get a chance to piss off the academic elite.

If our democratic processes were more about addressing peoples needs, and less about token participation, we would use methods for real participation and problem solving instead of confusing referendums.

Var 2016 året när digitalt deltagande slog igenom?

Det råder ingen tvekan om att 2016 på många sätt var ett dystert år politiskt. Men samtidigt med förvirrade folkomröstningar, personfixerade valkampanjer och ett katastrofalt presidentval hände något annat. Sett i backspegeln kan 2016 ha varit året när nya former för demokratiskt deltagande tog steget från periferin till de stora sammanhangen.

Här är en överblick över vad som hände internationellt 2016 med exempel på användning, initiativ och aktörer inom digitala demokrativerktyg. Den här listan gjordes i november 2016 och är långt ifrån fullständig. Kommentera gärna om vi har missat något viktigt!

Exempel på hur digitala demokrativerktyg används

  • Madrid använder en öppen plattform där medborgare kan debattera, prioritera och ge policyförslag för staden.
  • Podemos, Spaniens tredje största partis, plattform “Plaza Podemos” för att skriva och behandla förslag, har 15 000 aktiva besökare per dag. De använder även apparna Agora Voting och Loomio i stor skala för att diskutera och fatta beslut.
  • Via en mobilanpassad webbapplikation går det att prenumerera på uppdateringar om beslut i Helsingfors.
  • Reykjaviks invånare kan skapa och rösta på förslag till hur stadens budget ska användas i deras närområde. Engagemang belönas med en egen digital valuta som kan användas till offentliga tjänster. 18 miljoner euro har fördelats till olika medborgarförslag sedan 2011 och plattformen används nu även i Estland.
  • Parisborna ger förslag och röstar om 5% av stadens ekonomi i världens största medborgarbudget.
  • Taiwan har framgångsrikt använt plattformen Pol.is för att diskutera en ny alkohollagstiftning, en fråga som lamslog regeringen fram tills att den började använda digitala verktyg.

Intressanta initiativ under 2016

  • Två veckors workshop för Collective Intelligence on Democracy på Prado-museet i Madrid i november.
  • EU-projektet D-CENT har hållit workshops i utveckling av digitala demokrativerktyg i Reykjavik, Helsingfors, Barcelona och Madrid.
  • Konferensen Democratic Cities i Madrid samlade forskare, politiker och aktivister från hela Europa för att utveckla demokratin på stadsnivå.
  • Konferensen Network democracy and new forms of citizen participation hölls i Rom.
  • Decentralizing Democracy on our terms hölls i Amsterdam.
  • Communs — Contribution — Nouvelle puissance publique hölls i Paris.
  • Democracy Hackathon / International Open Data Day ordnade hackathons för att utveckla digitala demokrativerktyg i bland annat Helsingfors.

Aktörer som arbetar aktivt med att utveckla digital demokrati

  • Nesta, Storbritanniens innovationsfond, stödjer och forskar på nya digitala demokratitjänster.
  • D-CENT, EU:s projekt för digital demokrati, har tagit fram flera nya verktyg och skriver studier om tillämpning.
  • Madrid stad, använder framgångsrikt digitala verktyg.
  • Barcelona kommun, använder verktyg för beslutsfattande.
  • Media Lab Prado, museet i Madrid, sponsrar och ordnar utveckling av tjänster.
  • Världsbanken, forskar och publicerar rapporter om digital demokrati.

Övriga som gör undersökningar och stödjer digital demokratiutveckling:

Citizens Foundation, Forum Virium Helsinki, Open Knowledge Foundation, Thoughtworks, Centre d’economie de la Sorbonne.

Att förstå Paradise Hotel med Hardt och Negri

Alexander D’Rosso vann förra årets säsong av dokusåpan Paradise Hotel. Han var också den första svensken som tog alla pokémons i Pokémon Go.

Uppenbarligen har D’Rosso en talang. En talang som är svårplacerad i den traditionella ekonomin och inte riktigt passar in i något politiskt system. Sovjet hade inte lyft fram honom som en mönsterarbetare. Amerikanska skolbarn kommer inte studera hans talang i klassrummen.

Men det D’Rosso gör, vad det nu är, är framgångsrikt. Och om vi förstår vad det är, får vi ett bättre grepp om hur vår ekonomi faktiskt fungerar.

Det är skillnad på kändisar och kändisar. Att ärva kändisskap och rikedom är bara att leva på andras arbete, som vilken företagsägare som helst. Men att arbeta sig till kändisskap betyder att många personer måste uppskatta eller vara intresserade av det du är bra på. Om leder till rikedom bygger inte den rikedomen på exploatering, utan säger något om vad vi kollektivt värderar. Att Zlatan är rik beror på att han är extremt skicklig på något som väldigt många människor är beredda att betala för att se. Detsamma gäller till exempel inte för prinsessan Madeleine.

Att bli framgångsrik genom att plocka pokémons och vinna dokusåpor är en lite mer diffus talang, men ändå något som bygger på den egna arbetsinsatsen. Antonio Negri och Michael Hardt beskriver en ny typ av arbete som “biopolitisk produktion” i boken Commonwealth. Det bygger på Foucaults idé om biopolitik, som inte är helt lättbegriplig. Jag kallar det hellre “reality work”. Här kommer en snabb och inte så exakt förklaring.

Reality work handlar om att skapa relationer och att skapa sig själv. D’Rosso arbetar säkert många timmar per vecka med att förbättra sin egen kropp. I Paradise Hotel behövde han jobba oavbrutet med att bygga upp rätt typer av relationer och nätverk för att komma vidare i tävlingen. En intressant sak med Paradise Hotel är nämligen att det handlar mer om att vara omtyckt och “tillföra något till gruppen” än att spela ut de andra. De som “spelar” för mycket röstas ut. Milleniegenerationens dokusåpor är mycket mer fokuserade på att bygga relationer, än äldre dokusåpor som Expedition Robinson.

Enligt Hardt och Negri är reality work centralt i den nya ekonomin, ungefär som industrialismen var central när Marx skrev Kapitalet på 1800-talet, även om den fortfarande var en ganska liten del av ekonomin. Och precis som proletariatet hade en speciell plats i industrialismen, är reality workers avgörande för den nätverksbaserade ekonomin.

Den goda nyheten är att, precis som proletärerna kunde ta över fabriker och driva dem själva, kan reality workers klara sig utan de traditionella ekonomiska strukturerna. Stämpelklockor, arbetstider, ja lönearbete över huvud taget begränsar bara deras arbete. Det är fortfarande andra som tjänar pengar på deras arbete, tv-stationer, tidningar mfl. Men ju mer de kan kontrollera sina egna kanaler, desto friare blir de. Den moderna reality workern kan skapa sig själv via Instagram eller Youtube och behöver inte gå vägen via dokusåpor, som för tio år sedan. Det skapar fortfarande vinster åt andra, men till sin natur spränger reality workers ramarna för traditionellt arbete, vilket gör dem mer och mer självständiga.

Trying to think rationally about the nation state

There is this weird void in rational thinking when it comes to the state, and it really confuses me.

The far right holds a belief in the state that is somewhat religious. It’s unclear exactly what they love about it, and the affection don’t seem to be based on any rational ideas. They clearly don’t love everybody living in the particular geographic area at this given time, not even the ones who’s relatives have lived there forever. Historically they’ve also been known to mess with the nation state’s geographic borders, which really is the only thing that defines it from other states.

The conservatives and neoliberals seem to have a pretty clear idea about what the state is for: they let it do all the policing and warfare and leave the decision making to the capitalists. They also like the state to bail out crooked bankers if needed. What’s confusing about them is that they pretend to dislike the state, but really just want it do all the dirty work.

The whole spectrum of the left is confused on a much higher level: “it will fade away”, “we need to control it”, “it’s the enemy” and so on. Neither the communist/social democratic or anarchist camp ever get into any deep discussions about this (believe me, I’ve read their books).

My main question are: 1) Is the nation state a relevant tool to solve the big problems that humanity is facing right now? 2) Is it a practical entity to decide on day to day issues or administer our common wealth?

If we forget about the police and military for a while (which can and often is organised locally, regionally or internationally anyway), we’re left with the governing. I would say that decision making basically is about trying to solve common problems. The thing about common problems is that they need to be addressed on the right level. Kind of what the EU calls “subsidiarity” (“the principle that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed at a more local level”). It goes the other way too — you can’t solve an international problem in your local council. And geographically, it’s hard to solve a problem that happens somewhere else. In practise, this means that my city is a good place to decide about how to build our local park or how to deal with the trash, but not so good for solving the war in Syria or take international measures against climate change. That could be dealt with regionally in the Middle East (yes, that means that the US should stay out of it) or globally.

So it comes down to which entity is the right one to deal with any given problem. These entities don’t need to be geographically based, since we have ways to communicate with other people than those within shouting or horse riding distance.

So for my first question earlier, there’s the world market, climate change, global poverty and war. I would say the answer is no. These are problems on a global or at least continental level and we need to deal with them on that level. For the second question I guess it sort of depends on the issue. I might be confused about this, but I can’t really see for which particular problems the state is the exact right entity. I’m sure there are specific cases, but often it’s probably better to deal with things on a more local level.

I think this confusion has major political consequences. People feel alienated from national politics because it’s just not able to deal with things the right way. The traditional left (in a small country like mine) that still pretends it can set economic policies on a national level, will surely lose support, because people see that it’s just not working. The conservatives benefits from this, because they can still use the state for policing, but they never touch the real challenges people are facing. The far right is probably the ones taking the issues of decision making most seriously, but all they’ve got is a short term strategy of isolating each country (and being assholes to people they don’t like).

What’s lacking, especially in the left, is just some political imagination. There is no god given choice between a super strong nation state or everybody just hunting and gathering. We can organise in any shape or size, and we can’t expect one entity to solve all of humanities problems, be it the nation state, the UN or your local squat pub. But we have to be very practical about addressing some life threatening problems on the right level now, or we’re done.

Trapped between network and hierarchy

Technologically, we are headed for zero-priced goods, unmeasurable work, an exponential takeoff in productivity and the extensive automation of physical processes.

Socially, we are trapped in a world of monopolies, inefficiency, the ruins of a finance-dominated free market and a proliferation of ‘bullshit jobs’.

… everything is pervaded by a fight between network and hierarchy.

Paul Mason, PostCapitalism

Paul Mason sums up the conflict of systems on a societal level pretty well. The dying hierarchy and the emerging network. But what messes with you on a personal level is not just the hierarchy, but the fact that you’re constantly being trapped between the two systems.

Like when your boss finds your Instagram account where you make memes about your sexual identity and mental health issues. Which is really empowering on a personal level but not very good for your sales career. Or you are expected to check your work email when you are sunbathing on the Canary Islands. Which would be fine if all you ever did was chilling and checking the occasional email, but you’re trapped in an office most of your time, and your free time is precious as fuck. Or you’re unemployed and can’t pay your rent, cause thanks to automation we don’t have work that much. But it’s not like you’ll see the benefits of that.

The new celebrities of social media are the ones that supposedly have found a way of escaping the hierarchy altogether to only live in the network. My uneducated guess is that the people who pull that off are either:

  1. Exceptions, which are allowed in the hierarchy to make it look like there is an escape from the system if you’re lucky, talented or hard working.
  2. Really poor, but keeping up appearances.
  3. Selling the dream of living in the network to people who want to believe it. Like those inspirational speakers who talk about having a start-up, but make all their money from public speaking, not the actually start-up.

And no, having other people work for you is not a way out of the hierarchy, it’s a way of sustaining and prolonging an exploitative system.

I had a worker-owned cooperative for some years and thought that might be a way out, but it mostly just worked according to the same hierarchical logic, with the difference that we got to be our own exploiters.

There might be a forth way, and I’ll definitely do what I can to try to find it. Let me know if you have any ideas.

How-tos for the modern revolutionary

My monthly newsletter with positive news and strategies for social change, the October 2016 issue.

Winter is coming, and you should be watching a movie instead of reading your emails. So I’m going to keep it short, and just give you five easy ways of fighting the power.
 
 This is how to…
 
 1.Protest in style (like Jaden & Willow Smith at the Dakota Pipeline protests)
 http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/33478/1/jaden-and-willow-smith-join-the-dakota-pipeline-protests
 
 2. Find out about the ten dirtiest secrets from the rulers of the world
 http://www.versobooks.com/blogs/2869-10-years-10-million-documents-the-top-10-greatest-hits-of-wikileaks
 
 3. Become a political activist (like Nadya Tolokonnikova from Pussy Riot)
 http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/33090/1/the-pussy-riot-protest-manifesto-nadya-tolokonnikova
 
 4. Find out more about the soon-to-be most powerful person on earth (wops, got that one wrong!)
 https://www.versobooks.com/books/2121-false-choices 
 
 5. Fight transphobia, and get great nails
 http://thelongandshort.org/society/nail-transphobia
 
 See you next month!

Strong protest, weak song ✊

My monthly round up of positive news and strategies for social change, the September 2016 issue.

Do you remember in 2003 when Dixie Chicks said that they were ashamed that Bush was from Texas? If you are country stars from the south your protests will stir up emotions. The same seems to be true for American football stars. Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand up for the national anthem has gained more attention than any other celebrities speaking up for black lives.
 
 “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
 
 In a couple of tweets John Legend points out that it also happens to be a ”weak song”. And then there is the thing about the third verse being about killing slaves.
 
 “For those defending the current anthem, do you really truly love that song? I don’t and I’m very good at singing it. Like, one of the best”
 “My vote is for America the Beautiful. Star spangled banner is a weak song anyway. And then you read this…”
 https://theintercept.com/2016/08/28/colin-kaepernick-is-righter-than-you-know-the-national-anthem-is-a-celebration-of-slavery/
 
 As everyone, except a small isolated elite in media and politics expected, Jeremy Corbyn easily won the re-election as leader of the British Labour Party. And just as in Spain and other places were progressive forces are on the rise, the struggle is really between if we should have more or less democracy:
 https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/09/jeremy-corbyn-labour-leadership-democracy-doug-saunders/
 
 Here’s an inspiring interview with journalist Amy Goodman, who is facing arrest for covering the North Dakota pipeline protests that I wrote about last month. If you don’t like reading you can watch Neil Young’s song Indian Givers in support of the protests instead.
 http://www.huckmagazine.com/art-and-culture/amy-goodmans-fierce-brand-independent-journalism/
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CM-NkM-dIDA
 
 Also, the students in South Africa are taking to the streets.
 https://www.zedbooks.net/blog/posts/south-africas-insurgent-students/
 
 See you next month!

Algorithms are making internet into a small town

There is a sense of familiarity to how Facebook’s and other Internet giants’ algorithms are presuming what we want or don’t want to see. Having grown up in a small town in the 90’s I know what it is like when you only get exposed to cultural influences from the people in your immediate surrounding and with similar views and ideas.

As the Internet giants increasingly use algorithms to predict what we like and steer our preferences, what they really are doing is to replicate a small town.

What used to be so great about the Internet was that it offered a way out of this. You could explore political views, culture and ideas from anyone, anywhere, just based on what you searched for. Growing up without any other options that playing football, hockey or being a nerd it opened up immense possibilities to explore any subculture ever heard of.

The difference now is that Facebook rather wants me to see what people in my own area, with supposedly similar views, are up to. That sort of narrow-mindedness was the reason I moved to a bigger city when I was 18. Now I need to move to more open minded parts of the Internet.

Designing a guiding app for digital democracy

This is a description my project for as a part of the Collective Intelligence for Democracy workshop in November 2016 for MediaLab Prado Madrid.

In Sweden, more young people use Facebook every day than who voted in the last general election. This is an international trend, and most certainly does not come down to lack of interest in politics from young people, but from outdated and excluding tools and processes for democratic participation.

Digital tools open up completely new possibilities for instantaneous participation, discussions and decision making, without relying on geographical proximity. If traditional political instances and organisations do not adapt to new ways of working and thinking, they will keep losing trust and members. If they take advantage of the new possibilities of participation they will have enormous potential.

In the rest of Europe, we look up to you in Spain. You have found ways of implementing some interesting digital services in your local municipalities, political parties and NGO:s, and the rest of Europe has a lot to learn from you.

So we know that there are a lot of interesting tools already available, that needs to be tested and evaluated in local contexts.

In my organisations, Digidem Lab and ABF Göteborg, we are planning a long term project starting next year together with Sweden’s Local Municipalities, the Green Party, The National Council of Swedish Youth Organisations, Young People with Disabilities and Young Media. The project will research new ways for young people to get involved with digital democratic processes.

What we have seen in the run up to this project is that there is a demand for new technology, both in municipalities, parties and NGO:s. But also an urgent need for concrete examples of implementation, cost efficient solutions and practical guidance. And we think that this also is true in an international context.

Digidem Guide, the project that we will develop during this workshop, is an app guiding organisations to the digital tools that meet their specific needs for direct democratic participation via the Internet. The app will help organisations to find the right tools for digital democracy based on criteria like field of application, scope, need for security, technical knowledge and licensing.

The target group is decision makers in NGO:s, political parties and local municipalities. By developing it in an international context with all the valuable experiences from other team members, we will widen the reach to an international audience.

The project’s aim is to make existing tools available to a wider audience without technical knowledge or previous experience in the field. By broadening the user base we will also be able to get better feedback on the tools to help proceed the development further.

As a web strategist who has worked for NGO:s for about fifteen years, I know that it takes time to introduce new technologies and new ways of working. Having said that, there is often a willingness in organisations to find ways to get people involved and widen the reach of the organisation.

My experience is that usability is the key to succeeding in introducing new digital services. We need to be sure that the new tools and workflows that we introduce are as intuitive and user friendly as possible. To be honest, that is not always the case with open source applications. Therefore, to make the tools work for everyone, we need to involve people from all sorts of backgrounds and levels of technical experience who are willing to do user tests and evaluations, and help developers and designers in finding the right tools for the right task.

The development and design of the app will be focused on early user testing with the whole team, and I would therefore very much welcome the participation of activists, politicians and NGO representatives in the process.

The development of the app will kick off with an the initial workshop where we share ideas and visions for the project, after which we will all start researching and collecting tools to document in the app.

As I said earlier, focus then will be on creating an early prototype, with open source app frameworks, that can be tested by the whole team. We will prioritise the three most important improvements, and work on them until the next iteration of user testing and development. The process will be repeated three times, while we will also integrate a shiny user interface and a user friendly back-end for adding content. After that, we will be ready to launch the app as a web interface and eventually an Android and iPhone app!

I am very much looking forward to this workshop, as an opportunity to combine experiences from Sweden and the Spanish and international community, and to find ways of networking and collaborating on an international scale.

Modular and responsive design for Doctors Without Borders

This is a recap of a talk by Petter Joelson at Rabash’s Design Salon on February 19, 2015.

My agency Rabash was hired in 2014 to start redesigning Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF) Sweden’s website. The mission was to make the navigation intuitive, especially on smaller screens; optimise the donation interactions and enable moderators to create flexible campaign pages.

After the initial concept phase, I chose to start working on an early responsive prototype in html. Step by step, the prototype evolved to be equivalent to a full website. It might seem like a complicated process to make such vast prototypes in html, but I have learnt some tricks to make it quite easy. I have also seen three major advantages in this way of working, that I will walk you through one by one.

1. Responsive

Show the client how the website will look and behave.

Since responsive design came around a few years ago, I have worked according to the Mobile First-principle, and started the design process with wireframes for mobile screens. It is often an illustrative way of showing the client which priorities they have to make for the website to be easy to navigate. But it started to feel more and more impractical to show mockups of a page that does not look like the end result at all and can not be tested in its ”natural environment” which is the browser on a phone, tablet or desktop. This makes it unnecessary hard for the client, and even me as a designer, to envision the functionality and look of the final product.

Having to write complicated code just to show a quick idea for a client would not work for me. My first criteria for prototyping was that it should involve as little coding as possible. And even as front end development has become more and more specialised and complicated over the years, there are now more and more easy to use frameworks for building websites and other digital products.

A couple of years ago I started to experiment with simple prototypes in html. In the beginning it was just static pages built with Bootstrap. When I got the hang of it, I realised that it was actually as quick as drawing page by page in a wireframe app. For example: if I changed the height of an element at the top of the page, I did not have to move every other element; if I wanted to change the size of all headlines, I only had to do it once.

Now I use a combination of Bootstrap and Jekyll, with a few minor plugins that I install with Bower.

2. Modular

Give clients a custom design system with which they can modify, extend, and grow with into the future.

Brad Frost

A few years back, it was a really big deal when you every three to five years launched a new website. After the launch the sites became more and more out of date, until you did a complete redesign again. Most people understand now that their website has to be a living thing that evolves over time, in small adjustments, to stay relevant to users.

So how do we adapt to this workflow in the design process? Brad Frost advocates a method that he calls Atomic Design. He breaks down the design into smaller components to be able to present the client with a comprehensive design system, not just mockups for specific pages. Frost uses five levels for his design system:

  • Atoms: A single button or headline
  • Molecules: A search field with button and textfield; A byline for an article
  • Organisms: A campaign area, menu or list of news
  • Templates: The page template for news articles
  • Pages: Complete pages like About or Blog

To showcase the design system, Frost has developed something he calls Pattern Lab, that provides a kind of responsive style guide, documenting all parts of the website.

Inspired by Frost’s Pattern Lab, I developed a documentation for the different components of the website for Doctors Without Borders. It made it easier to explain to our AD which components needed graphic design, and the structure of the website became clearer for our developers.

For a vast project like this, it also made the whole workflow run smoother, as I could get an approval from the client for specific components, before the whole page template was done.

3. Content first

Separate content and presentation

A challenge with the new design was making huge amounts of information accessible on small screens. To achieve that, I needed to start with the content, and not make the mistake of building a perfect website, that get gets ”ruined” when the actual content is added.

The advantage of working with a system like Jekyll is that you can make a complete separation of design and content. The content files, using Markdown, are super simple text files that only defines the content, fields and template to use, nothing more.

That enables me to be able to work separately with the content, let a copy writer or the client go through the texts during the prototyping phase, and avoid surprises in later stages.

The prototype for Doctors Without Borders is nearly a complete version of the website, as I define templates in Jekyll and then only need to add ”raw” content.

From the prototype, I was able to generate a documentation page, that lists entry pages, types of articles, components and menu items.

To be able to make this separation of content and design is extremely valuable for responsive design. When the next gadget with a browser arrives (glasses, watches and so on), you will have the content files ready and can focus only on designing the presentation.

Next step: Integrating design and development

During this process, the prototyping has evolved parallell with the graphic design and the development of the final website. My aim for future projects is to better be able to integrate these processes, and be able to create both design and functionality in an iterative way and in dialoge with the client. When the CMSes become easier to work with, and the software for graphic design are better suited for responsive web it will of course get easier. But until then we need to experiment with ways of making the transitions between design and functionality as seamless as possible.

The perks of being an average coder

I’m not a great coder, I admit it. But the thing is, being average at it has made me really good at taking shortcuts. So I got into content management systems early (SPIP and later Joomla), cause I couldn’t make one myself. And then I found the one with the best dev community (Drupal). It had the most and best written code, so I didn’t have to write it. And when that system got overloaded with super well written code and libraries and plugins, to the point that it was way too hard to configure, I got into easier ways of making websites (Jekyll). I also got really good at finding ready-made digital services and open source systems for clients, so they didn’t have to spend lots of money on custom code. That’s where I am now, and that is why you should probably hire an average coder instead of a really, really good one.

People you can trust

My monthly round up of positive news and strategies for social change, the August 2016 issue. Subscribe here.

There are some people who you just know can trust. Who have organised and stood up for justice before, who are doing it now, and will most likely keep doing it in the future. Here a a few of them that did great stuff in August:

The people of Barcelona, the amazing story of one of the most progressive cities in Europe:
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/08/barcelona-en-comu-ada-colau-podemos-catalonia-housing/

The teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico, fighting for higher wages and against corruption:
https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/08/mexico-teacher-union-strikes-oaxaca/

Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, still standing up against capitalism (the TPP agreement which no-one knows what it is about but it’s an international secret trade agreement, so it’s probably not about basic income and better bike lanes)
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/01/musicians-election-2016-tpp-tom-morello-talib-kweli

The Greek anarchists, still standing up for refugees and against police repression:
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/08/refugee-solidarity-activists-released-greek-jail-160801140605585.html

Indigenous American activists (with some backup from Leonardo DiCaprio) are taking on a oil pipeline in North Dakota:
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/nationworld/la-na-sej-north-dakota-pipeline-20160827-story.html

Also, there is now an app for you if you’re a refugee caught in the German bureaucracy:
http://www.radiospaetkauf.com/2016/08/refugees-build-bureaucrazy-app-to-solve-german-paperwork-problems/

Writing better design briefs with User Stories

The thing about design briefs for web projects is that they can be very detailed and totally make sense for everyone, without being helpful at all for the developer. The briefs that I’ve read often describes features in too much detail, or is set on a specific solution for the design, without defining the actual user need or problem to be solved.

In comes User Stories, a really clever way to define exactly what the users need and why, without makes assumptions about how to make it happen.

User stories are written like this
As a <type of user>, I want <some goal> so that <some reason>.

For example
As a user I want to find contact information so that I can get in touch with the organisation.

I have found user stories really helpful, not only in cases of development, but also for design decisions. It is done in a language that the client can understand, and the developer or designer can interpret, without having to read between the lines.

Using Evidence Planning to develop new digital platforms for Friends of the Earth International

Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) came to me recently to develop a new digital platform, in a combined effort to replace an old intranet that no one was using, and finding ways of mobilising members to collaborate and take action.

With member organisation in 75 countries and around 5000 activist groups worldwide, there is clearly a challenge in finding the right tools for the task. I love matching the right digital tools for different tasks, but the big question is always ”will people use it?”. So the whole process will need to be thoroughly based on user needs and expectations in the organisation.

We decided early on to follow the United Nations backed Principles for Digital Development, as they set a framework that I believe most digital projects should follow, and gives both the client and developers a common understanding of the process.

We also narrowed down the scope to initially focus on a Minimal Viable Product (MVP), both in order to focus on the main objectives and maybe more importantly to be able to involve the stakeholders in testing and evaluation the product as early as possible.

I have worked with (my own take on) a method called Effect Mapping for years, and I find it invaluable for understanding the focus, user groups and user needs in a project. The downside of this and a lot of other methods is however that they only focus on the new product. There is always some old system in the background that we are looking to replace. And the limitations or advantages of that system will always effect the expectations for the new project.

Another limitation in only looking at the current project is missing how it is linked to other systems that the organisation use, and how it enhances or interacts with them.

Thanks to the Development Impact and You Toolkit by Nesta I found this awesome workshop exercise called Evidence Planning.
In a really basic template with five fields, you and the client go through what the Key focus of the project is; how it Enhances current systems; Re-uses stuff that is already in use; which tools to Replace and what the Limits of the project is.

This method can be used for a lot of other cases than digital systems, but I found it really useful to quickly get the full picture of where this project fits into the organisations workflow.

In the case of FoEI, we found that we need to enhance internal systems like an Odoo installation that holds lots of organisational data, and the external web that is recruiting new members. By being the middle ground between these two: not for office workers or complete newbies, but people inside the organisation who wants to get more active.

It will re-use and present all the activities that are happening in groups all over the world and give a chance to share all those stories. And the systems that it is looking to replace are the intranet and it’s document repository, and possibly systems for internal communication, like email lists.

Thanks to this I now have a better grasp of where this project fits in and what the expectations from the organisation might be.

Looking ahead, we will work with User Stories to get all the details about what we want to get out of this, or these, new platforms.