via Freedom News
The seriousness of our times hardly needs restating. In contrast to the temporary
“tightening of belts” we were promised, we’re now over a decade into what is increasingly
being understood as a permanent austerity that the ruling class wanted all along, while
Britain’s biggest far-right demonstrations since the 1930s combine with Tory overtures
towards overt white nationalists.
Yet on the other side, while the rise of Corbyn channelled energy away from the post-crisis student and anti-austerity movements into reanimating the corpse of social democracy, increasing dissatisfaction with Corbynism – and its promise of better-funded borders, increased police numbers, etc. – means that a return to extra-parliamentary working-class politics seems not just necessary, but inevitable.
The issue, then, will be how to create the infrastructure which can bring together these
existing pockets of grassroots organising into a movement really capable of changing the
Notes from a dying media
Even in these difficult times for libertarian radicals, there are numerous examples of
local groups waging class struggle. But these struggles are often poorly promoted, relying
on already over-stretched groups to publicise them via an array of blogs and social media
platforms. In bigger towns and cities, protests and actions fail to attract the numbers
they could, partly because people don’t know about them. And there exists an over-reliance
on social media to promote our activities, rendering pages redundant (and therefore also
the archive of content on them) as social media usage shifts from one platform to another.
All this has taken place in the vacuum created by the collapse of numerous anarchist
publications. Arguably however the disappearance which had the biggest material effect on
grassroots activism in Britain was the collapse of an online outlet, Indymedia.
For all its faults, Indymedia, with its slogan “Don’t hate the media, be the media,”
functioned as a crucial hub which held various activist movements together from 1999 to
the mid-2010s with sites across the country. As the anti-globalisation movement from which
it had emerged started to ebb away however Indymedia went into free fall. The open
publishing nature which had allowed anybody to take part, write up action reports and
publicise events, proved also to be its weakness as conspiracy theorists and anti-Semites
began posting whatever they liked.
It was partly in reaction to these drawbacks that we launched what eventually became
libcom.org. We felt there was a need to have an editorial collective able to stop
reactionary content being posted to activist websites and maintain a clearer commitment to
everyday class struggle within anti-authoritarian politics.
Ultimately, while our theory and history archives succeeded in this goal, our news
coverage (with the exception of specific struggles like France’s anti-CPE movement or the
Visteon occupation) remained patchy.
Our aim of covering every working-class struggle everywhere in the world was, in the end,
a tad too broad for our small collective. Though we had lots of good individual articles,
we failed at producing a news resource which consistently covered – and was used by –
collective social movements.
The task, then, for building radical media infrastructure is in finding a way to marry
these diverging elements: open publishing with editorial checks; a specific remit within
which individual articles can reflect and feed into wider movements.
Mutu’s model: transforming radical media
In May 2018, we attended a conference of the Mutu network in France, a network of local
radical media websites which operate much like Indymedia did, but with a completely
transparent editorial process.
We were blown away to discover how each of these sites, many we hadn’t even heard of, were
acting as hubs for the various social movements taking place in cities and regions across
France, focusing on local struggles and issues. With this focus, they became places where
people went to find out about social conflicts when they broke out. But as we listened to
descriptions of these sites connecting with groups of striking workers or occupying
students, we also realised they function to draw together the various struggles within a
given locality into a multi-faceted working-class movement.
Map showing the extent of the Mutu network
Each Mutu website (there are 15 at the time of writing) is run by an editorial collective
aiming to be representative of anti-authoritarian tendencies in their areas. In France
this typically involves a mixture of Tiqqunists*, anarcho-communists, green anarchists and
insurrectionaries and varied from place to place.
When we argued that nothing so multi-tendency would work in the UK we were told the same
thing was said about Paris: “Everyone in Paris hates each other.” Today Paris Luttes is
the most popular site in the network with 10,000-25,000 readers a day.
The network is committed to participatory publishing: like Indymedia, anybody can submit
an article or add an event to listings, but everything has to go through an editorial
process before it goes live on the site, with typically two or three editors’ approval
needed before something can appear. But this editorial process is completely transparent
and visible to all logged in users. If an article is rejected or changes need to be made,
users can see why.
By using this approach, Mutu has essentially fixed what was Indymedia’s problem with
reactionary content, while remaining true to the ethos of open publishing. Moreover, it
has turned radical media from something produced by overworked media collectives into a
resource which can be used by radical groups and social movements.
Being our own media
A Mutu-style network in the UK would be a massive boost for anti-authoritarian politics at
a time when we really need one. Website collectives in every major town and city could act
as vital infrastructure for local struggles while also serving as an entry point to
radical politics which we’re sorely lacking. Rather than having to navigate various blogs
and social media accounts to find out about local activity, there could be a central
resource for people interested in their area’s social movements.
The way the sites would operate, with self-organised collectives transparently editing
content anybody could submit, would be a practical example of how our politics can work.
And by working together to publicise our activity, we can begin to build a unity based
around the various struggles we’re involved in, from workplace and housing activism to
migrant solidarity and anti-fascism, saving services for domestic violence survivors to
To create such a network, we need to start by forming local editorial collectives. If you
want to start one, contact existing groups in your area and see who wants to be involved,
post on social media and forums to find people nearby to collaborate with. When you’ve got
enough, call a meeting and get your collective launched.
Most of the work done by the collectives will be editorial, such as editing articles or
making decisions on what to publish; not everyone needs to have an in-depth knowledge of
how to set up websites. The Mutu network use the same code for all their sites so they can
share technical support across the network; we could do something similar quite easily
with a small tech collective supporting multiple sites.
Once multiple collectives and websites are set up, we can begin to talk about networking.
Experience tells us we shouldn’t spend too much time thinking about how we network until
we have the local collectives to network in the first place. This must be built from the
bottom up; it may take time, but the result will be vital infrastructure for a radical
working-class movement and a radical media that is not simply the produce of overworked
media collectives, but a tool we can all use in the struggle for a better world.
E & J
Interested in starting a new network of anti-authoritarian local news sites? Email
towardsafreshradicalmedia at riseup.net