Interview with Steve Zeltzer, Labor Activist from the US on the First International Labor Films Festival in Istanbul, Turkey

First of all, Welcome to Turkey. What do you think about 1st worker’s films festival in Turkey?

The professional work of the organizers in getting national publicity, providing translations, arranging the venues and reaching tens of thousands of working people in Turkey required a committed and talented group of people. This type of festival would not have been possible as well without this initiative and the support it received from organized labor and other organizations and individuals and it will certainly grow in the future. I am also sure that most people had no idea that this type of festival was feasible.
The people of Turkey are obviously very interested in getting the real story about how the imf/wb policies of deregulation and privatization are affecting working people around the world. This will help politically arm people so they can challenge these policies not only on how they are harming the people of Turkey but working people internationally. I also think it will encourage more labor video film makers in Turkey to illuminate the struggles here. It was also very important to honor and commemorate the work of labor film directors and film workers in Turkey. With limited resources and I am sure some resistance they persevered in producing films that tell the story of working people. As we all know this a constant battle to get these stories out and these film makers need our recognition. With the development of new communication technology it is now much easier to break the information blockade. In fact, this festival itself would not have been possible without the use of the internet and new media software and working people and their organizations need to develop and use these powerful communication tools. Communication networks and the media monopolies are mostly used to present the agenda and politics of those who benefit from the economic policies of the US/İMF and the need to present a working class point of view. The internet and communication technology is also used to increase exploitation of working people here and around the world and understanding this new technology is vital.

Finally the visit and participation by labor film and video makers from around the world also helped educate them about the history and experiences of people in this country. They will take back their experiences and feedback to the films to their respective countries and this will further strengthen labor solidarity and education which is vital to our work.

For these reasons I want to thank and applaud the resounding success for the first labor film and video festival in Turkey.

Do you follow sendika.org Turkish and English web page? What do you think about the role of worker’s news web site like sendika.org?

I regularly check the English portal of sendika.org since it provides a large wide variety of in depth labor and working class news from Turkey and has much other analysis that needs to get out not only in Turkey but internationally. It also now includes audio and video streaming which will be play a growing role in labor communication and media. This network which was the first labor news electronic network in Turkey has also done important work in spreading solidarity about workers in other countries including the strike of the locked out US Meredosia Boilermakers Local 484 and about workers in Turkey who need support. The experiences of workers in Turkey are useful and important for workers around the world and this site helps politically build international labor education and consiousness about working people in Turkey. This news is now available for the English speaking world and I am sure that it will grow in page hits. It will also be invaluable when workers in Turkey need international support especially when they are dealing with a multi-national which has no borders. This site is providing a critical link to workers in other countries who work for the same multi-nationals.

Could you please inform us about the labornet? Which is the first labornet in the world? And now how many labornet in the world?

Labornet.org in the US was established in 1991 before the web. It consisted mostly of internet email industry and topic conferences such as privatization and union organizing. We have a steering committee and we also help to build and support Labortech conferences. Labortech.net is planning to have another conference this November 17, 18 &19th in San Francisco. Part of Labornet’s original goals is to help build a labor media movement that uses new communication technology and video and film to tell workers stories. These Labortech/Labormedia conferences which have been held in Canada, Korea, the US and Russia. When the web was established, we started a web page in 1995 and we also helped support the first web page for the UK Liverpool dockers who went on strike and were in a battle against privatization. We also worked to spread Labornet internationally through the establishments of other Labornets in every country of the world. These Labornets have been established in Japan, Korea, UK, Germany, Austria, Denmark and now in Turkey.

These networks have also provided a democratic labor portal for workers in various industries to have news and information for their particular industries. They have played an important role. We hope to deepen international news and information about all working people. The idea of Labornet is to have a portal where all union news can be presented and different points of view can be discussed and shared in every country of the world. The internet provides the most powerful communication tool in the history of the working class for a democratic discussion and debate as well as a powerful tool for international solidarity.

Labornets were also founded on the need for a democratic trade union movement and there is a growing debate and discussion on Labornets around the world on the issues of democracy within the labor movement. In the US for example, US auto workers are now faced with the liquidation of jobs, cutbacks in healthcare and the use of pension laws to steal the pensions of millions of workers. Workers in this industry have established rank and file websites such as www.futureofunion.com that provide rank and file labor news as well as streaming labor videos. The power of the working class using this new technology will help transform the political situation within the world labor movement.

Could you please evaluate labor news websites in the world? What are the effects of labor websites on the national and global workers movements? According to you, which is the best example of these effects?

There are growing number of labor information and news websites around the world. Labornets have provided news on many international strike struggles and have helped raise solidarity funds and helped support direct action for striking or locked out workers. The labourstart web site launched by Eric Lee provides a regular newsfeed from many countries of the world and it is linked to many trade union web sites. Labornet websites have also supported struggles including the Korean workers, in support of Argentinean worker occupations, support the Palestinian workers and for labor action and solidarity against the war on Iraq and Afghanistan. Labornet sites have also helped publicize labor videos and audios on the web.

The labornet websites have supported the LaborTech conferences and have provided labor multi-media including audio and video. Labornet or Nodongnet in Korea has also launched the first labor radio channel and we hope to build labor radio and video channels in other countries. In the US, www.laborradio.org which provides a daily labor radio news feed in English and is developing this feed in other languages.

What do you think about internet radio, internet TV and internet
publishing related to workers struggle?

There are ma
ny opportunities to build an international labor media network that ties all labor websites together and also helps build labor media channels in video and audio. Most workers do not write about their struggles and most do not put their stories on the web. This will change as the use of the internet grows and we begin to educate workers about the need to get our stories out. It is also crucial that labor look at how to use new technology such as video and audio on cell phones. Many workers in developing countries do not have the means to purchase computers but they can use internet cafes and also a large number of workers are buying or renting cell phones. These will be of increasing value in getting labor news and information out through these phones and we must train ourselves on how to use this new streaming mobile cell technology.

We need a massive training program so workers can use this and other new communication technology to break the information blockade and as more a more labor unionists and activists use these tools we will overcome the technological and political barriers.