November 20, 2019

We must become the true social media

by Adrien Welsh

This article is the Editorial of the latest print issue of Rebel Youth - Jeunesse militante.

Two years ago, at the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students, the General Secretary of the World Federation of Trade Unions George Mavrikos addressed the anti-imperialist youth gathered in Sochi for the occasion. Having tackled different issues relating to the trade union struggle at the international level and among the youth, he took the time to broaden his address to young people in general.

"One of the main challenges facing you,” he told us, “is that capitalism has found in the internet a way of alienating you even further. You are being told that you can struggle on the internet, that you can have friends on the internet, and even that you can find love on the internet.”
Indeed, with these so-called social networks, our generation is being sold the illusion of a better connected world, unfettered and free. We are led to believe that there is no longer any point in distributing leaflets or selling newspapers through our militant networks. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram will take care of everything.

Of course, new media brings new perspectives to light. However, it would be a mistake to think that these perspectives are free from the dynamics of class struggle and imperialism – 40 percent of communications go through the United States, even though that country accounts for only 11 percent of global internet users. Moreover, as soon as a massively followed Facebook page ventures a tad too close to a forthright critique of capitalism, it takes barely a few hours for it to be muzzled by the tycoons of the “social networking” industry – not to mention that our browsing habits are greatly influenced by all sorts of algorithms.

Social media do not replace “old” methods of mobilization – rather, they represent new areas of struggle. As important as it is to occupy these new grounds, like any other field of class struggle, it would be wrong to think that the battles in which we engage online determine the battles in the streets and in our places of work and study.

Admittedly, these networks can make information accessible to a wider population – but the ruling class does not fear the spread of information as such. This is its turf, and it knows how to fight on this battleground better than we do. Our strength does not lie in our ability to inform. Our strength lies in our ability to organize, and that is precisely what our enemies fear most.

Our true social networks are not the ones we can activate with a single click. They are the ones we set in motion with “the newspaper we sell on Sunday morning and the poster we paste on the wall the next day,” as Jean Ferrat would say.

It is far too easy to believe that Facebook and Twitter will do the job for us, far too easy to hide behind a computer screen even as the decisive battles are being waged outside. It is not online avatars that we need to organize, but real people who will not be afraid to go out in the streets, with their faces uncovered, to spread our message in an organized way.

The real social network is an activist network on the ground. It is a network of people who are not afraid of the world, not afraid of how someone might react when we encourage them, face to face, to subscribe to our newspaper, the only truly socialist youth press.

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