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Version 3 (modified by Enrique Rosas, 8 years ago) (diff)

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Forming an Alliance with Mexico, LaNeta Joins MF/PL Ross

Last month May First/People Link met with a similar Mexican based organization called LaNeta in order to assist that organization in a major transition. In essence, LaNeta could no longer support its user base as an IPS, and they requested that MF/PL absorb LaNeta users as members. This transition creates numerous opportunities and challenges for us moving forward, including internationalizing our web presence and becoming a fully bilingual membership organization. As a representative member, I traveled to Mexico to meet with longtime LaNeta staff and users. The experience gave me new insight into May First/People Link and the importance of our mission. What follows are some of my thoughts upon returning.

There are many things to discuss as we move forward with the migration of LaNeta to Primero de Mayo. First, I want to give everyone a report back on my trip to Mexico and my experiences working with the folks at LaNeta. Having had the opportunity to meet with some of the founders of the organization and others who have been with the organization for almost 15 years, one thing is quite clear. LaNeta has been an important technological force for the Mexican left. Its leadership represents a dedicated core of activists, researchers and teachers that intend to continue their work as an organization. In the end, they simply could no longer manage the resources needed for supporting users in the same technical capacity they had been.

The organization has been around since `92, and at it's peak handled somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 mailboxes with well over a thousand users. Like many tech organizations that began so early in the Internet's life cycle, LaNeta's services could not keep up with the significant shifts in the technical landscape. With easy to access free email accounts from corporate providers and the proliferation of DSL access to the Internet, LaNeta's user base shrank significantly from 1999 to the present. In addition, they faced a changing political landscape in which small community organizing became less the trend and larger policy and identity oriented movements became the norm. As a politically motivated organization, LaNeta's focus has always been on local needs, training and service. The political shifts in Mexican movement culture also impacted their user base. In order to continue focusing on the political mission, the organization made the difficult decision to sever the ISP component and work on bringing in funding geared toward their local community based projects...enter MF/PL.

With the hard work and dedication of Enrique, LaNeta decided that May First is the organization most capable politically and organizationally to handle the transition of LaNeta's users to another provider. My impression, after listening to both users and LaNeta staff, is that we are an excellent fit for this. This conclusion is based on two things: 0. The historical similarities of the organizations. 1. The unique model of May First/People Link.

Historically, I think LaNeta precedes People Link by about a year. A fact we should be aware of when claiming MF/PL is the oldest progressive Internet provider. Even still, the historical conjunction between what LaNeta saw in the Internet and what Alfredo saw in the Internet should not go unrecognized. People Link and LaNeta shared a vision across a cultural and geographic landscape from their inception. And like Media Jump Start or the May First Technology Collective, LaNeta faces a type of dissolution based on similar cultural, economic, and technical realities. Because of Jamie's vision and the hard work of Josue and others (including all of us), the May First Technology Collective successfully dissolved only to spawn something more robust and politically meaningful as is evidenced by our US/World Social Forum work and our support of the Occupy Movement. That is to say, not only have we created something unique and powerful, but we have the institutional memory required to assist LaNeta in a way that perhaps no other organization can.

Until talking with LaNeta's founders and long time organizers, I did not realize just how unique our membership model is (and can be). Our discussions were fraught with attempts to clarify the differences between what LaNeta has been doing for its users and what MF/PL does for its membership. Maria Lopez Garcia, a long time staff member of LaNeta, clarified it for me when she said, "What I see in a membership is an agreement to a political philosophy, a set of principles that we all agree upon and work to uphold" (my interpretation). While I'm not sure we have yet clearly defined membership, what we have done is create the 'conditions of possibility' for what we call members to access a technologically horizontal resource base. Because of this model, I believe that the influx of brothers and sisters south of the US into the MF/PL organization gives us an excellent opportunity to expand, develop and hone our conception of membership. While I cannot say exactly how this will happen, my experience in Mexico has already given me a clearer sense of membership as a concept. And I think, simply the process of having to translate our work will generate new understandings and force us to see problems in a new light as well as new possibilities.

This is not to say we have all the necessary resources in place to handle this transition. Those resources will need to be developed as part of the transition, a transition we would be foolish to think an easy one. Nonetheless, the difficulty involved will also spawn something meaningful and ultimately strengthen our organization. It will also enhance the breadth of our cultural perspective as well as our connection to tech activists based in places other than the US.

From my perspective, this transition is the single most important thing we, as an organization, have done to back our statement of unity with action. Regardless of the difficulties we will face in the coming months, as members of MF/PL, we now have the opportunity to demonstrate that the statement of unity is also a commitment to such unity.