Notes from Below is published online by the Notes from Below Collective in the UK. ISSN 2631-9284 (Online)

It is a publication that is committed to socialism, by which we mean the self-emancipation of the working class from capitalism and the state. To this end we use the method of workers’ inquiry. We draw our methods and theory from the class composition tradition, which seeks to understand and change the world from the worker’s point of view. We want to ground revolutionary politics in the perspective of the working class, help circulate and develop struggles, and build workers’ confidence to take action by and for themselves.

We argue that an understanding of ‘class composition’, that is to say, how the classes within society are formed and operate, is an essential task for contemporary socialist militants if we are to develop strategies adequate to our moment without relying solely upon the past for guidance.

We divide our inquiries and our interventions over three interrelated categories of analysis.

These are:

Technical

We understand ‘technical composition’ to be the knowledge of how workers are organised, that is to say ‘technically arranged’ within any given work; how our time is managed or dictated, what we must produce and in what conditions, what talents or skills we must use and what managerial or technological mechanisms mediate our work. By extension ‘technical composition’ also explains where workers may sit in a larger ‘production cycle’ or ‘distribution circuit’. These arrangements are in part informed by the ‘social’ composition of workers and the political power we are able to exert over these conditions.

Social

We understand ‘social composition’ to be the knowledge of how workers are composed in society; where we live and in what conditions, what familial relationships we hold, what our cultures are like, what access to support (such as the welfare state or citizenship) we are afforded and how these factors impact upon our technical and political composition.

Political

We understand ‘political composition’ to be the knowledge of how workers are organised politically; what forms of political organisation we engage with, create or attempt to influence in order to exert demands drawing from our own knowledge of our technical and social compositions.

‘Meaningful action, for revolutionaries, is whatever increases the confidence, the autonomy, the initiative, the participation, the solidarity, the equalitarian tendencies and the self-activity of the masses and whatever assists in their demystification. Sterile and harmful action is whatever reinforces the passivity of the masses, their apathy, their cynicism, their differentiation through hierarchy, their alienation, their reliance on others to do things for them and the degree to which they can therefore be manipulated by others - even by those allegedly acting on their behalf.’

As We See It’, The Solidarity Group.


Editors

Callum Cant (@CallumCant1)

Callum Cant is currently writing Working for Deliveroo, forthcoming with Polity Press. He is a PhD student at the University of West London.

Felice Campanile

Felice Campanile is a member of the London IWW.

Jamie Woodcock (@jamie_woodcock)

Jamie Woodcock works as a researcher.

Lydia Hughes (@lydiakathleenh)

Lydia Hughes is a trade union organiser.

Sai Englert (@PerrierCommuni1)

Sai Englert is a researcher.

Seth Wheeler (@sethnotes)

Seth Wheeler is a PhD student at the University of Royal Holloway.

Wendy Liu (@dellsystem)

Wendy Liu is a software developer and (reformed) startup founder who built the website you’re on right now. She is an economics editor for New Socialist and is working on a book for Repeater called Abolish Silicon Valley, out in 2020.


Contributors

Adam Barr (@Adambaa13)

Adam is a writer on work, housing and mental health. He has previously written for Freedom News and is currently looking for a job.

Alberto Battaggia

Alberto Battaggia was a coordinator of the Italian workerist magazine Primo Maggio, which ran from 1973 to 1988.

Alessandro Delfanti

Alessandro Delfanti teaches at the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology at the University of Toronto. He tweets at @adelfanti and publishes his writing at delfanti.org.

Alessandro Gandini

is a sociologist and a senior researcher at the Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Milan. He is the author of The Reputation Economy, co-author with Alessandro Caliandro of Qualitative Research in Digital Environments, and a co-editor of Unboxing the Sharing Economy.

Amardeep Singh Dhillon (@amardeepsinghd)

Worker at The Ivy House and branch secretary of the union. He is a freelance journalist and editor at Ruthless Magazine.

Amrita Franco

Amrita Franco is a teacher for l’Education Nationale, based in Paris.

Arianna Tassinari (@Ari_Tassinari)

Arianna is a PhD student in Industrial Relations at the University of Warwick. Her research focuses on political economy, work & labour, unions & the gig economy in Southern Europe & beyond.

Arthur Hay

Arthur Hay is a rider from Bordeaux and member of the Syndicat de Coursiers a Velo de Gironde and the CGT

Asad Haider

Asad Haider is an editor of Viewpoint and author of Mistaken Identity: Anti-Racism and the Struggle Against White Supremacy (Verso, Spring 2018).

authornoai

authornoai is an indie game-developer, marxist, poet.

Balaji

Balaji is an IT worker and organises with FITE in India.

Ben Tippet (@BenTippet)

Ben Tippet is a researcher on secular stagnation and QE. Cofounder of London Learning Cooperative.

Bill Nugent

Bill Nugent has been a rep for UCATT and then Unite since 2013. He works as a Senior Liaison Officer for Manchester Working Limited and is now the workplace health and safety rep.

Bill Watson

Bill Watson is a published author in Radical America, Volume 5, Number 3: “Labor’s Mayday,” May-June 1971.

Bob Elliott

Bob is a call centre worker

Brendan Donegan

Brendan Donegan is an academic researcher who has focused on social inequality, community health, industrialisation and environmentalism in India. Brendan undertook the organising described in this article in 2012-13, while working as a lecturer in Anthropology at Goldsmiths.

Brian Garvey

Brian Garvey is from Armagh in the north of Ireland and now works as a Lecturer at University of Strathclyde, Scotland, in the Department of Work and Organisation. He was previously an organiser for the Independent Workers Union in Ireland and has been involved with a range of community and labour organisations in Ireland, Scotland and Brazil. He currently represents his branch of the University and Colleges Union.

Cailean Gallagher

Cailean Gallagher is a campaigns and communications officer with the STUC (Scottish Trades Union Congress), a PhD student in eighteenth century political economy at St Andrews university, and co-author in 2016 of Roch Winds: a Treacherous Guide to the State of Scotland.

Carrie Benjamin

Carrie was a fractional representative for SOAS UCU from 2016-2018, and is a research assistant for the Centre for Migration and Diaspora Studies. She is a member of FFFP. Her research looks at racism, gentrification and public space in France.

Chris Carlsson

Chris Carlsson co-director of the “history from below” project Shaping San Francisco, is a writer, publisher, editor, adjunct professor, and frequent public speaker. Carlsson was one of the founders in 1981 of the seminal underground San Francisco magazine Processed World. More here.

Chris Ealham

Chris Ealham is a historian and author of Anarchism and the City: Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Barcelona, 1898-1937 (2010) and Living Anarchism: Jose Peirats and the Spanish Anarcho-syndicalist Movement (2015)

Chris Fear

Chris Fear is the lead organiser for the IWW Couriers Network. You can contact the network at [email protected]

Chris McLachlan (@c_mclachlan89)

Chris McLachlan is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Leeds, researching industrial relations, restructuring, deindustrialisation, trade unions, and the steel industry.

Clara Mogno

Clara Mogno is a phd doctor in political philosophy, currently working on gig economy, gamefication and platform capitalism. Feminist, antiracist, anticapitalist, rider and cartoonist.

C MacDonald

C MacDonald is a hospitality worker, labour member, cartoonist and sign painter.

Colestia (@colestia3)

An indie gamedev making far-left games

Conrad Moriarty-Cole

Worker at the Ivy House for the past four years, currently doing a PhD at Goldsmiths College, University of London where he is also employed as an associate lecturer.

Dan C. Parkes (@dancparkes)

Dan C. Parkes has been working in the games industry for 5 and a half years, across multiple disciplines. Currently working as an audio engineer, Dan’s original passion is music. He recently did all the sound and music for the incredibly cute and innovative catformer, Bubbles The Cat. His most recent passion has been getting involved with the Game Workers Unite movement and he looks forward to seeing GWU UK expand across the country.

Daniel Randall

Daniel Randall is a railway worker and a rep for the National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport workers (RMT). He writes in a personal capacity.

Declan

Declan is the lead organiser of Game Workers Unite UK

Douglas Sepulchre

Douglas Sepulchre is a member of the Brussels Collective de Coursiers who was fired by Deliveroo in early 2018

Ed Emery

Ed Emery was as an activist around the motor industry [Ford and FIAT], translator of the theoretical writings of the Italian revolutionary movement and was the editor of Red Notes. He is currently working on a major project of the musics of the Kurdish migrant communities in France and elsewhere; with a special interest in establishing Music Rooms in all places where migrants and refugees are aggregated -“The Music Room Project”. He is a member of the Class Inquiry Group.

Enda Brophy (@enda_b)

Enda Brophy teaches in the School of Communication and the Labour Studies program at Simon Fraser University. He is the author of Language Put to Work: The Making of the Global Call Centre Workforce (2017). With Greig de Peuter, Nicole Cohen, Kate Oakley and Marisol Sandoval he collaborates on culturalworkersorganize.org.

Evelyn Ting (@evelynting610)

Evelyn Ting is a software engineer at Civis Analytics. She is also a member of a Chicago-wide CBA group organizing for workers rights and preservation of affordable housing in the city. In her free time, she practices Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Felix Holtwell (@AutomatedFully)

In real life, Felix is a tech journalist. After dark, however, he edits the Fully Automated Luxury Communism newsletter, a newsletter about the interactions between technology and the left. You can follow him on Twitter at @AutomatedFully.

Francesco Maria Pezzulli

Francesco Maria Pezzulli is a sociologist and independent researcher. Coordinator of “Sudcomune” magazine. Biopolitics inquiry subjectivations (DeriveApprodi [publisher])

Game Workers Unite (@gameworkers)

Game Workers Unite is an organization that connects pro-union activists, exploited workers, and allies in building a unionized game industry.

George Briley (@StephenJMai)

Worker at the Ivy House, research student in the Anthropology department at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Gifford Hartman

Gifford Hartman is an adult educator, labor trainer, and working class historian. He participates in educational events with the Tech Workers Coalition.

Goldsmiths Workers' Action

An organisation of Goldsmiths staff and students aimed towards building the unity and struggle of precarious workers all across campus.

Good Praxis

Good Praxis is a worker owned digital and design cooperative in London

Greig de Peuter

Greig de Peuter is an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University. He collaborates on culturalworkersorganize.org.

Hector Uniacke

Hector Uniacke is a writer and Master’s student living in Paris.

Helen Mackreath

Helen Mackreath is a writer and researcher based in Istanbul.

Hettie O’Brien (@hettieveronica)

Hettie O’Brien is a researcher at Rethinking Economics and writes about political economies and cities for Jacobin, CityLab, the London Review of Books and New Socialist. Before returning to South London she lived in Washington D.C. as a reporter covering monopolies and corporate capitalism.

Ian Allinson

Ian Allinson is a victimised union rep from Fujitsu Manchester and in 2017 was a rank-and-file candidate for Unite general secretary.

Ian Wright

Ian Wright worked for various startups in Silicon Valley for fifteen years. He writes an occasional blog at https://ianwrightsite.wordpress.com

Imogen Woods

Imogen Woods is a union organiser and housing activist living in Manchester.

Invisíveis

A network of university workers in Brazil, they publish a bulletin which can be found on their website.

James Halliday (@substack)

James Halliday is a programmer with hundreds of open source modules and a member of bits.coop.

Jason Prado (@jasonpjason)

Jason is a software engineer with a decade of experience building communication platforms at large tech companies. He is also a volunteer with Tech Workers Coalition.

Jeremy Large (@JeremyEBSLarge)

Jeremy Large is a freelance writer working and living in Toronto. He’s written fiction, entertainment journalism, screenplays and much more. He was radicalized by Twitter.

Jessica Thorne (@th0rnenotes)

Jessica Thorne is a Masters research student in History at Royal Holloway, University of London, addressing the histories of Spanish Anarchism and anti-francoist resistance movements in Europe. She tweets in a personal capacity @th0rnenotes and helps to run the Base Union Coordination twitter account @BaseUnion.

Jim Benfield

Jim Benfield is a food-delivery courier and a health care assistant. He is also an organiser and member of the IWGB.

Joe Buckley

Joe Buckley is a PhD candidate in International Development at SOAS, researching changing working conditions and labour militancy in Vietnam’s garment and textile industry.

Joe Hayns (@JoeHayns)

Joe Hayns is a student (UCU), and works in the arts industry (IWGB). He writes about the Maghreb, and trade unions.

Joe Kearsey

Joe Kearsey is a hospitality worker and trade union activist

John Evans

John Evans is a philosopher, software developer and anarchist with incredible vision and poor eyesight.

Julian Posada

Julian Posada is a Ph.D. student at the Faculty of Information of the University of Toronto and a Junior Fellow of Massey College.

Kolinko collective

kolinko collective existed in the second half of the 1990s and the first half of the 2000s. Their hotlines inquiry was documented in a book that can be read online.

Kristy Milland

Kristy Milland is community manager of Turker-Nation.com. She has been a crowd worker for more than a decade. She currently attends law school at the University of Toronto.

Kyle

Kyle is a Deliveroo worker from Gent

Lilly Irani

Lilly Irani is an Associate Professor of Communication & Science Studies at University of California, San Diego. She is author of Chasing Innovation: Making Entrepreneurial Citizens in Modern India and a co-founder and maintainer of digital labor activism tool Turkopticon.

Living Rent (@Living_Rent)

Living Rent is a Scottish renters’ union, with branches in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Perth.

London IWW (@LondonIWW)

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is a revolutionary global union fighting for for better conditions today and economic democracy tomorrow. The London branch is currently engaged in organising campaigns among couriers, logistics and manufacturing workers, and teachers.

Lorenzo

Lorenzo is a member of Riders Union Bologna

Lorenzo Cini

Lorenzo Cini is a research fellow at the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa and a member of COSMOS (Center on Social Movement Studies). He is also a militant of an Italian social center ([email protected])

Marcus Nicolson

Marcus is studying a PhD at Glasgow Caledonian University on the subject of sports volunteering as a tool for the integration of refugees and works part-time as a bike messenger in Helsinki. He’s a member of the Justice for Couriers campaign.

Marijam Didžgalvytė (@marijamdid)

Marijam is a writer on video games / technology and politics whose work has been published on GamesIndustry.biz, Kotaku, Novara Media, Waypoint and many others.

Marvin Harvey

Marvin Harvey works in an Amazon fulfillment center and is a Geography PhD candidate. His work focuses on class composition in the technology industry, with an applied effort to foster working class political formations centered in strategic economic sectors.

Matt Hurry (@seeknoise)

Matt Hurry is the regional chair of the Game Workers Unite UK London & South East group. He’s spent 15 years in the games industry, working in QA at several outsourcing companies and studios. In his own words: “I still love this industry, despite the challenges and hurdles we often face as employees, and I think it’s worth fighting to improve conditions for everyone”.

Max O’Donnell Savage

Max O’Donnell Savage is a part time MA student with a history of working retail, currently employed by an academic library and a student support service department. He is active within ACORN Tenants Union and a member of the Labour Party.

Michelle Gorman

Worker at the Ivy House and chairperson of the union branch. Currently training as a psychodynamic counsellor at Goldsmith’s College, University of London.

Mike Cook (@mtrc)

Mike Cook is an AI researcher studying creativity, generative software, and game design. He currently works at the University of Falmouth’s Metamakers Institute.

Navid Somani

Navid is currently a senior evaluator at a global human rights charity based in the UK. He has spent the past ten years working in the international development sector, working on a range of issues throughout the global south.

Nick Dyer-Witheford

Nick Dyer-Witheford is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. His most recent books are Cyberwar and Revolution: Digital Subterfuge in Global Capitalism, co-authored with Svitlana Matviyenko, and Inhuman Power: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Capitalism, with Atle Mikkola Kjøsen and James Steinhoff.

Nicole Cohen

Nicole Cohen is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto and the author of Writers’ Rights: Freelance Journalism in a Digital Age (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016). She collaborates on culturalworkersorganize.org.

Niels van Doorn

Niels van Doorn is an Assistant Professor of New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam. He is also the Principal Investigator of the Platform Labor research project (2018-2023), funded by the European Research Council.

Nithya Natarajan

Nithya is a former UCU Executive member at SOAS, University of London, having held the position of Fractional staff representative from 2015-2017. She is also a member of the Fractionals for Fair Play campaign. Alongside this, Nithya is an early career researcher, working on agrarian change, debt bonded labour and ecology. Her research is focused on South India and Cambodia.

Notts University Worker

Nottingham based cross-university campaign group and bulletin - made up of workers and students - for ALL workers and students!

Patrick Prax (@praxp)

Patrick Prax is an Assistant Professor of Game Design at Uppsala University where his work centers around the co-creation of digital games as participatory, alternative media. He is interested in how players can change the games they are playing to reflect an alternative perspective to a hegemonic capitalist worldview. You can see his TEDx Uppsala University talk about this topic here.

Patrick is also writing about problematic gaming and game addiction, and works in a research project at the Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology where he investigated the preservation and exhibition of digital games.

Paul Salgado

Paul Salgado is a Union Organiser at United Voices of the World

Paul Stewart

Paul Stewart was until recently Professor of Sociology of Work and Employment at the Strathclyde University and coordinated the Marie Curie “ChangingEmployment” programme (2012-2016). He has published on the impact of sectarianism on Polish and Lithuanian migrant workers in the north of Ireland. He is a member of UNITE and the IWU, and a non-executive director of CAIRDE Teo, an Irish language community association in Armagh City. He is co-author of “We Sell Our Time No More”, and was editor of the British Sociological Association’s journal Work, Employment and Society (2001-4). He is on the editorial committee of Capital and Class.

Plateforme d'Enquêtes Militantes

A French militant inquiry platform based in Paris. Formed in the wake of the 2016 Nuit debout protests, they seek to recast the frameworks of workers’ inquiry and co-research in the present conjuncture.

Rachel Knaebel

Rachel Knaebel is a journalist based in Berlin.

Rebel Roo

This newspaper exists to help Deliveroo workers in the UK and internationally communicate and organise. Together we can build solidarity and fight for better wages and conditions.

Rianka Singh

Rianka Singh is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information.

Richard Hames (@richardjhames)

Richard is a composer and writer, whose work engages with the orthogonal rationality of computational systems.

R.K. Upadhya

R.K. Upadhya is a control systems engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a member of the Tech Workers Coalition and the Industrial Workers of the World.

Roberto Mozzachiodi (@ucu_rankfile)

Roberto Mozzachiodi is a student, teacher, and organiser (UCU) at Goldsmiths College. He writes on postwar French Marxism and the border struggle in Calais.

Rohan Kon (@rohankon)

Rohan Kon is a Students’ Union campaigns staffer and member of community union ACORN.

Rona Lorimer

Rona Lorimer is a writer who lives in Paris.

Salar Mohandesi (@smohandesi)

Salar Mohandesi is a founding editor of Viewpoint and a postdoctoral fellow in History at Bowdoin College.

Sarah Collins

Sarah Collins is a policy officer with the STUC, has been active as a lay union rep since 2010, and has been involved in initiating wider social movement campaigns such as the Radical Independence Campaign. Sarah is also a Masters student in labour law at Strathclyde university.

Sarah Sharma

is an associate professor at the University of Toronto, where she teaches at the Institute of Communication, Culture, Information and Technology and directs the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology. She tweets at @sarahrsharma.

Scott Surette (@scottsurette)

Scott Surette is a software developer and a socialist organizer with Boston DSA.

Seamus Bright Grayer

Seamus Bright Grayer is an MA student, teaching assistant, and research assistant at Simon Fraser University. He is also a steward and member of the Teaching Support Staff Union

Shirley Wang

Shirley Wang is a Unite call centre organiser in Auckland

Sølvi Goard

Sølvi Goard was the education officer at Goldsmiths Students’ Union at the time of writing, providing support, resources, and design skills to the campaign.

Stan Mills

Stan Mills is a Glasgow based bike courier, and a member of Couriers network Glasgow and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). When not risking his life to deliver your McNuggets, he’s plotting how to bring the platform economy under direct workers control.

Steven Bouvier

Steven Bouvier a rider from Paris and a member of the Collectif des Livreurs Autonomes de Paris and Sud Solidaries

Steve Wright

Steve Wright teaches at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. He is the Author of ‘Storming Heaven: Class Composition and Struggle in Italian Autonomist Marxism‘ recently reissued (2017) by Pluto Press. In the anglophone world he is considered to be the leading historian of Operaismo.

Tamara Kneese

Tamara Kneese is an Assistant Professor of Media Studies and Director of Gender and Sexualities Studies at the University of San Francisco.

Tech Workers Coalition (@techworkersco)

The Tech Workers Coalition is a coalition of workers, labor organizers, community organizers, and friends organizing to build worker power in the tech industry.

Ted Anderson

Ted is a member of the worker-owned cooperative Pixel Pushers Union 512

The Editors (@NotesFrom_Below)

The Editorial collective of Notes from Below.

The ELT Worker

The ELT worker is a bulletin aiming to form an international network of English language teachers, build power from the grassroots, and change ELT!

The University and College Worker

Bulletin written for, and by, University and College Workers

Tommy McKearney

Tommy McKearney is a former member of the IRA, a political ex-prisoner and hunger striker. Remaining interested in contemporary politics he regularly contributes to media debates on Irish republican politics. He is the author of The Provisional IRA, from insurrection to parliament events and writes a regular column for the monthly Socialist Voice. An active trade unionist he is on the National Executive of the Independent Workers Union. He is involved in the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Congress which is building a united socialist movement in Ireland. Originally from Co. Tyrone, he lives in County Monaghan in the Irish Republic.

Tuomas Tammisto

Tuomas is a Helsinki bike courier, postdoc researcher, and former Foodora courier

Victoria O’Meara

Victoria O’Meara is a PhD Candidate in Media Studies in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at Western University. Her dissertation focuses on professional content creators on Instagram as a way to think about emergent forms of labour and resistance in platform capitalism.