Bouncer’s Speech at the European Social Forum
Florence, November 2002
As we have heard, in the beginning, some time in 1997, the roots of what we now know and love (or hate as the case may be) as MWR started as an attempt to unionise a McDonald’s store, bringing forth comments from managers such as- “do you want to keep your job? You could go far”.
The struggle continued with some of us taking direct action within one restaurant. This continued for perhaps one year until we produced issue one of ‘McSues’ a spin off of the company magazine which nobody took seriously anyway. After this was distributed MWR began to take off and in June 2001 we began planning for the global day of action which we have also just heard about.
Getting to the point, at about this time we began to design a website and, with a little help from some friends, the website was launched at the turn of the year. Thanks to some high profile links we were soon getting several thousand hits a month, even while our site was still in construction. We tried to place the site at the middle of our struggle, we didn’t just see it as some sort of appendage.
However, as only one of us had regular internet access, although every page was deliberated and approved by the group, one person was left with the responsibility (and the phone bill) for putting it online.
The website has now been viewed by tens of thousands of people, including, most importantly, thousands of McDonalds workers. It has been essential in organising our resistance.
It is, however, important to understand that when we began, none of us knew how to send e-mail let alone design a web site. We knew fuck all about computers; in fact, we still know fuck all about computers. We think windows 2000 is a double glazing firm.
I feel this is a very important point- web activism should not be the preserve of the technically accomplished. For workers to make a website should be as everyday as to produce leaflets.
Additionally, we must not forget the point of our websites which is, for us, to encourage, enable and inspire workplace organisation. Everything we have done has been about encouraging direct involvement- we don’t just want people to look at our website, we want them to act on the issues it raises and, preferably be inspired to produce their own media.
There is a danger of becoming preoccupied with a website and forgetting that it is not an end in itself but is only useful so far as it can aid and inspire workers resistance. Undoubtedly a crucial task for those of us with any experience in web activism is to try and provide the support necessary to enable workers to produce their own electronic media so they can represent themselves. Nobody at MWR has ever wanted to represent other workers and we refuse passionately any attempt to represent us.
On the morning of October 16th, a single chrysanthemum flower arrived at McDonalds head office in London. The chrysanthemum was the symbol of the revolution that began in Hungary on October 16th 1918, so we delivered it as a token of our intent to build a world that puts people before profits. But the chrysanthemum is also a symbol of death, so we delivered it as a harbinger of the imminent destruction of the McDonalds empire and all wage labour; we neither need it nor want it. There is a new world growing in our hearts and we are taking our first tentative steps towards it
Web activism, workplace struggle, it’s really not that
difficult… if a bunch of uneducated, lazy, drunken bums like
us can do it, anyone can.
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