Class struggle moves into cyber space

Aditi Nigam New Delhi | Updated on November 20, 2017

Workers are increasingly using communication technology to fight corporate and Government control over information, and organise and campaign for theirstruggles.

Workers of the world, unite — and text! You have ‘virtually' nothing to lose…That could well be the new slogan for workers in the era of digitalisation.

Growth of social media and live streaming is now a 24x7 occurrence as labour unions and workers across the world take to social media networks such as Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and mobile texting to link up and mobilise opinion, says a new report.

“From factory workers at the Egyptian Mahalla textile plants, to Chinese workers in Honda factories, to Wisconsin public workers, social networks, the Internet and new communications technologies are playing a critical role in linking up workers locally, nationally and internationally, says “Global Information Society Watch 2011”.


The need to get connected is reflected in rising mobile phone coverage globally, largely owing to an economy that is creating a huge army of migrant workers.

Call them the ‘weapons of the weak', but workers are increasingly using communication technology to fight corporate and Government control over information, and organise and campaign for their struggles.

The report cites the example of the Egyptian Mahalla workers who used mobile phones to organise actions and overcome Government control of information. “The use of mobile phones has become a historic vehicle for workers' and people's struggles. Today, the Mahalla workers not only use their mobile phones for mobilisation, but also use social media sites like YouTube to get their action plans out,” says the report.


On the flip side, though, mobile phones are being used to spy on workers and prevent unionisation. In Korea, says the report, Samsung workers, who were seeking to organise and visited their labour lawyer, were shocked when they returned to the factory and their boss repeated word for word what they had questioned their lawyer about. Apparently, the company used their phones to track their locations and record their private meeting with the lawyer.


Referring to the Internet as “plaza pública”– a public place – an open and shared platform that everyone has the right to access, the report assesses its uses across the globe. It concludes that technological tools will play a critical role in building up powerful movements in future, especially of workers, who are paying the heaviest price for all that is going wrong with the world economy.

Alas, Indian workers and their leaders still seem stuck in staid, old ways. Barring a few unions, such as telecom and postal staff, most Indian workers' organisations are content with just issuing press releases and pasting these on their Web sites, which look archival rather than vibrant and interactive.


Published on December 27, 2011

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