Praxis: developing a popular education model in Ireland by Margaret Crean

Margaret Crean’s ‘PRAXIS: developing a popular education model in Ireland’, originally written in 2008 and made available here, represents a vital intervention into the discussion around the role of pedagogy in social change in the concrete context of Dublin today. The paper was developed within the context of the Praxis collective, which brings together community activists and radical educators focusing on the possibilities of popular education in challenging the existing model of formal education. Drawing extensively on the work of Paulo Freire, as well as feminist practices of conscientisation, Praxis believe that drawing on experiences of oppression and exploitation can facilitate a form of education that challenges the dominant and all too pervasive ideological consensus.

As well as setting out the specific role of popular education in relation to the current ideological context in Ireland, Crean’s paper engages with the problems thrown up around community development and, indeed, the notion of community itself. Community development, which represents (or at least once did) probably the most significant social movement in Dublin over the last decades, has become entangled with mechanisms of state governance, reducing it to a service provider and fomenting profesionalisation. Rather than falling into the trap of supporting or dismissing community development, Crean argues that we can defend the necessity of services provided by community organizations while recognizing the need for a renewed political engagement outside of the current logic of community development and the ‘partnership’ model. She describes this as ‘the possibility of claiming a space alongside the more instrumental aspects of community education and community development’ and insists on the continuing importance of community as a space of political intervention.

Taking the Squares, Tweeting the Revolution, Organizing the Common

This is a new text from the Edu-Factory collective, a transnational group focused on the crisis of the university and cognitive capitalism and autonomous education as a form of the commons. Edu-Factory have had an important influence on struggles in the university through their theoretical and analytical work, for example in their recently published Towards a Global Autonomous University. They emphasise the relationship between transformations in the university and the increasing centrality of knowledge, which they understand in terms of cooperative immaterial production, to capitalism. Within this relationship lies an antagonism protagonised by ‘cognitive workers’. Edu-Factory also place an emphasis on the transnational and post-colonial dimension of political organisation today. This text provides a useful summary of where Edu-Factory is at now and how they understand the potentials and challenges confronting the movements today. Given the important theoretical dimensions of their work, the section on the relationship between theory and practice is helpful.

 

Taking the Squares, Tweeting the Revolution, Organizing the Common

 

Edu-factory is entering into its fifth year of activity. This period has been formidable, both for edu-factory as well as for the changes in the general context. First and foremost, there is the global crisis, which is to say, the crisis of global capital. Reading the daily catastrophic reports and the desperate alarms of governments, think-tanks and the mainstream media all over the world, who can remember that only twenty years ago the universal rhetoric was the celebration of the end of history? So, without any sort of idealist purpose, by means of a materialist analysis we can say that the proposition and prospect of revolution is no longer a pipe dream or fantasy. Such a possibility can be formulated from the classical definition of revolutionary situation: the governors of the global capital cannot live like before; workers, precarious, students and the productive multitudes don’t want to live like before.

When we started the edu-factory project, the crisis had not yet exploded. Nevertheless, focusing on university transformations and conflicts in knowledge production, we identified an important quality of living labor: living knowledge and its cooperative production, i.e. the common. Following this material transformation, we collectively argued that capital can no longer organize the living production of knowledge from above but instead is forced to capture it ex post, only after it is produced. This is the general trend that allows us to explore changes in the university. This also indicates the potential autonomy of living knowledge: since capitalist valorization is based on the common, the latter being its most important resource and most mortal threat, capital and its corporations – including the university – are continuously facing catastrophe. So, when the subprime crash violently emerged, we pointed out the limits of a cyclical analysis: the crisis is a permanent element given in the nexus between the common and capital. This is why talking about the global university means talking about the university in crisis. Read more of this post

We have a dream: towards a Euro-Mediterranean social strike

This text was written by Madrilonia, a Madrid-based blog that writes about and participates in social movements. Madrilonia has been involved in the 15-M movement, which began with the mass protest organized by Real Democracy Now on the 15th of May 2011 and inspired Europe with the occupation of plazas across Spain. This text imagines a new form of strike across Europe and the Euro-Mediterranean region, a strike which is up to the task of confronting contemporary forms of exploitation and control.

 

Translated by Mick O’Broin, the Provisional University

 

The original Spanish language version is available here.

 

 

Here at Madrilonia we recently woke up with an inspiring dream: a vision of the Euro-Mediterranean region paralyzed at the level of re-production and inserted in a process of irreversible change, a dream that might just awaken us from an apparently endless neo-liberal nightmare. This dream, still cloudy, poses new questions and suggests new answers with respect to the increasing plausibility that the 15-M movement and the grassroots trade unions call a general strike in the coming months.

Now that our movement has overcome public opinion, taken the streets, and articulated, via assemblies, an incipient counter-power, we can begin to imagine the opening up of yet untraveled paths. On these paths we will find, as we walk, the fundamental importance of a dream governed by our collective unconscious, by that common sense (or sense of the common) which has served us so well until now. Dreams don’t allow us to see or feel with the same clarity as the cold light of reality, but they do allow us to enter, without fear, into the unknown, wherein we confront something as simple, yet definitive, as waking up.

If we decide to dream collectively and journey together in the unknown, we might just redefine the limits of the possible. To those who tell us that a Euro-Mediterranean strike is impossible, we respond that the path that has led us this far is made of such impossible dreams: taking the squares (Tahrir, Sol, Syntagma), creating virtual networks of collective intelligence, stopping evictions, assemblies in our neighborhoods, sit-ins, mass demonstrations, etc.

The question isn’t whether or not we can do it. The question is how to make it happen: how to turn this dream into a reality? The best way of beginning that process is to ask better questions: what will this strike look like?

Euro-Mediterranean Social Strike

Strike: Many questions confront us here and they represent major challenges. How might we construct the collective force necessary to interrupt the economy in the context we live in? Let’s forget those old images which have nothing to do with our lives. There are almost no big factories left. The assembly lines are gone. You don’t see many blue-overalls these days. In short, there’s no heavy industry. But there are public sector workers whose jobs grow more precarious every day; huge transnational service sector companies; networks of small sub-contracting enterprises; ‘freelance’ work with no security; hyper-exploited migrants; invisible workers in the home; the third sector; privatization; and a long etc.

Our social strike won’t be just about those we consider ‘traditional workers’ (although we hope they’ll join us), it will be about everyone. That’s what will make it a social strike.

Social: How can the unemployed go on strike? Or a community worker? Or a nurse? And what about a street-merchant in Cairo? How can we completely block production in a city or even in an international region? Fortunately, we have experiences which help to organize the phases of our dream (although these experiences don’t answer all our questions). Our experiences range from the road-blocking which shut down Buenos Aires in 2001 and the subsequent land occupations to the student mobilizations in Italy and the UK in 2010,  from the hacker attacks against the Sinde Act [1] to imagined but-not-yet-realized care-worker strikes or mortgage and rent strikes.

This is a Euro-Mediterranean strike which would paralyze or permanently reduce consumption in strategic sectors (transport, energy, etc.); which would return to collective ownership all that is being stolen from us, defending health care and education; which fights for free access to common resources and for the collective management of those resources against privatization. This is a social strike that would disturb the markets with constant attacks against the financial system (withdrawal of deposits, actions against the stock market); that would undermine the corporate media; send a message to the political class; and which takes back land, buildings and housing for social uses. Not a bad panorama.

Euro-Mediterranean: How can we even think about resisting the Europact without conflict on a European level? How can we challenge financial speculation without constructing a territory of struggle as wide as the territory of capital itself? How can we break with the exploitation by Europe of the southern Mediterranean countries, which are used as a cheap workforce and a source of energy, and where companies locate to benefit from reduced costs? How to eliminate the militarized border that stops the ‘threat’ sub-Saharan migrants pose to our ‘ideal’ welfare systems in Europe? How can we build real solidarity with our sisters and brothers in rebellion, from Greece to Egypt, without constructing moments of common conflict? The day of the French strike, the Spanish strike, or the Egyptian strike are over. We are immersed in shared problems and networks of exploitation, but we also have tools, organizational capacity and common interests that define our possibilities of attack and resistance.

The task is to change the scale, to transcend the national and ‘traditional worker’ identity of the strike in order to move forward in a new cycle of mobilizations. It is necessary to make clear to the EU institutions their responsibility in relation to the debt crisis. But we also have to put a stop to the complicity of Europe with countries that massacre their own populations. Only the response of our diverse Euro-Mediterranean societies can derail the policies and the politics which are pushing both sides of the Mediterranean towards disaster.

The movement must go on!

 

Notes

[1] The Sinde Act reinforces Intellectual Property and copyright laws in Spain and has been subject to widespread resistance.

No Borders Ireland Gathering

August 26-27, 11am-7pm, Seomra Spraoi, 10 Belvidere Court, Dublin 1

On Friday 26th and Saturday 27th of August, Seomra Spraoi will be host to the first gathering of the No Borders network to take place in Ireland.

No Borders campaigns struggle alongside those effected for freedom of movement, for the freedom for all to stay in the place which they have chosen, against repression and the many controls which multiply the borders everywhere in all countries. This gathering is working towards establishing a network of individuals and grassroots organisations within Ireland and abroad who are working on the questions of migrants and asylum seekers.

Read more here

Weekend At City Arts: Series of Talks and Workshops

Come down to the Old City Arts this weekend (friday and saturday) to discuss public space, nama and the university!

What do we want?

On Monday the campaign for the old city arts had an open meeting to discuss what we want to do with the building when we get it. Up until this point most of our energies have been channelled into the ‘campaign’. A large part of this process was meeting up with a wide variety of people to tell them about the campaign and gain their support. The hope was that by keeping the future open in terms of what we would do with the building a space would be created that could allow others to feel included, to put forward their own projects and desires. While this worked to some extent it was thought that we also needed to think about what we wanted, to remember that we were not just ‘campaign organizers’.

Those who came to the meeting suggested what they were personally interested in doing with the building. There were several suggestions for educational projects that were explicitly in opposition to the forms of teaching and research that currently prevail in schools and universities. These included critical pedagogical and research methods that sought to learn from concrete, everyday experiences and problems, learning and researching with people rather than at distance; holding regular and ongoing courses on subjects that were not usually taught or available to people and workshops or collaborative projects, including, for example, a hacker space. Related to these projects was the idea of using the building as a resource or archive, such as a library, but including recordings or records of various events that took place in the building. Also as a place to generate publications, zines etc.

A specific project called ‘Radical Love’ was proposed to take place from the 13th-15th September. This would take the form of an ongoing seminar involving up to 30 people presenting their various work.

Following on from the recent emergence of people’s assemblies in North Africa, Spain and Greece, and now in Ireland through Real Democracy Now, it was suggested the building could be used to hold regular and ongoing assemblies for people in the city. There are not many indoor spaces in the city where this kind of event can happen. The assembly would be a place for people to meet, to voice their problems and angers but also a way to generate political projects.

Other suggestions were more general in terms of how the building could be a place to support other projects: a roof garden or community garden; a cafe; language classes.

The question arose again, a question which had defined the discussion from the start: how much was the building to be defined by us and our desires and how much by others?

On one hand it was argued that it is more important to fight with people than fight for them: that it is better to put forward our own problems and needs in the hope that they will resonate with people rather than setting up a  building to ‘facilitate’ other people.

On the other it was argued that the building could quickly turn into another ‘independent space’ which was full of ‘our’ creativity and desires but had no impact politically in terms of creating some sort of counter-power to the state and market. The danger in this situation is that the building becomes another ‘island’ with no concrete support from beyond its limited circle, no political potency. In order to become a stronger force, more than just a building, requires strong connections of solidarity to be formed with other communities and individuals around the city.

Rather than being two opposing sides a common idea is that there needs to be something concrete and real in our demands for the building (something more than just getting an empty space) but these demands need to be universal not just specific to us.

But there has been a concrete demand that has resonated with people from the beginning: a frustration and anger at the way our collective lives are being constantly undermined and destroyed by a present and future ‘reality’ which the government and other ‘experts’ tell us is unavoidable. The campaign for the building came out of this anger, and a desire to do something to challenge it- by claiming a building. This anger has the capacity to resonate.

Autonomy was suggested as a term or concept that seemed to encapsulate much of what we had been talking about. Autonomy from an ideology that tells us we can’t do anything on our own: whether that be a ‘reliance’ on state funding (community development, arts, university) or a ‘reliance’ on keeping the market happy (austerity, commercialization of education). The building is an assertion of our autonomy. Within it people can pursue what they want as an expression of this political statement of autonomy. This seemed to overcome the problem of labeling it ‘educational’ or ‘cultural’ or ‘social’ which can, especially now, tend to be generic and meaningless. At the same time autonomy can suggest ideas of self-reliance which is the opposite of what is intended in terms of the building being part of the generation of a real, concrete counter-power in the city and country. But concepts are not static. Having a term like autonomy at least allows us to develop some common understanding of what we are doing, or feel we are doing.

We ended by deciding to hold a series of events over three days at the end of August (Thursday, 18th- Saturday, 20th) outside the building. These events would be a demonstration of the things we would like to see happen in the building. By doing something, with people, we also leave the comfort, and sometimes frustration, of only thinking in meetings.

If people have ideas for the three days please come along to our weekly meetings, Mondays at 6pm in Seomra Spraoi, or else email campaigncityarts@gmail.com.

Talking Shop 5: Debt.

The next talking shop will focus on the idea of debt and will take place on Monday 11 July at 7pm in Seomra Spraoi
The two suggested texts, which should provide a starting point for discusion, are David Graebers ‘Debt: The First Five Thousand Years’ and the recent Documentary by Katerina Kitidi and Aris Hatzistefanou called ‘Debtocracy’.
The Graeber text gives a breif history of debt from an anthropological point of view, conecting its inception to a history of slavery and state sanctioned violence.  The documentary focuses on Greece’s particular crisis in the context of the recent history of IMF and World Bank intervention. Particular highlights are an explanation of the concept of ‘odious debt’ and Equador’s unorthodox handling of their sovereign debt in 2006. 
David Graeber, ‘Debt: The First Five Thousand Years’: http://www.metamute.org/en/content/debt_the_first_five_thousand_years

Debtocracy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKpxPo-lInk