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ALL AH WE IS ONE: Trayvon and Cyberpolitics

Tennyson Joseph

ALL AH WE IS ONE: Trayvon and Cyberpolitics

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On March 24, I delivered a talk through the Lloyd Best Foundation on New Politics and New Representation.
The gist of my presentation was that new technologies had now made it possible to transcend traditional forms of political organization and practice and to enter a potentially revolutionary era of new politics.  
I identified the experiences of Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring as hints to future political forms. Paraphrasing Marx, I argued that “we must resolve to put the whole machinery of the political party where it belongs: into the museum of antiquities, side by side of the spinning wheel and the bronze axe”.
It came as a surprise to me that many in the room, from retired public servants to young people, felt that I had exaggerated the impact of technology and had gone too far in my assumption that the political party could be replaced.
Many seemed wedded to the idea that we could not move beyond representative politics into the new forms of political participation, and many failed to see how the new technologies made such a transition possible. One young man even went as far as arguing that my ideas on Caribbean possibilities seemed “imported” given my references to OWS and the Arab Spring.  
What was unknown to my Trinidadian youth is the fact that my reflections on the democratizing role of technology had been shaped, not from the experiences of foreign countries, but from the ideas of a Trinidadian thinker, C.L.R. James.
It is in James’ notion of “free creative activity” that one first sees the possibilities of overcoming the dysfunctional and authoritarian tendencies within the political party through alternative forms of autonomous and independent self-activity of ordinary people.
Today, the new technology makes such self-activity possible in ways that James could only imagine.
It is whilst mulling on these questions that I was very pleased to read of Kevin Cunningham, an Irishman who was responsible for starting the online petition demanding the arrest of George Zimmerman, the individual who claimed responsibility for the shooting of the black American teenager Trayvon Martin.
The petition has gained more than two million signatures. What proved significant is that the material reality of the Internet had made it possible for the Trayvon Martin case to move from being more than just a domestic issue of American anti-racism politics, to becoming part of the global progressive movement.
In the Irishman Cunningham’s own words, “what I’ve learnt is that in the social media, you don’t have to go through institutions anymore”. It is not without significance that he had studied at Howard University (a black university), and that he was the son of “activist” parents.
Perhaps for the first time, we can now actualize Marx’s war cry of  “Workers of the World Unite”!