By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On
Many people know the internet is full of instructional treasures for educating activists new to the left--and for the ongoing education of elder comrades as well.
One problem, however, is that these little gems are scattered far and wide, often in obscure places. It's a tedious task, even with Google and other research tools, to find and sort through them, making them handy and useful to key audiences.
Enter the `Online University of the Left,' a new `Left Unity' project initiated by the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. It's core orientation is Marxist, but it contains teaching resources reflecting the full range of views on the wider left. About 50 left academics are involved in the core group so far-Richard Wolff, David Schweickart, Rose Brewer, Tim Johnson, Gregory Morales, William Tabb, Ellen Schwartz, Jerry Harris, Linda Alcoff, Dana Cloud, Gar Alperovitz, to name a few.
One of the OUL's key aims is to solve this problem of scattered resources, creating a web portal that will bring much of this valuable material together in one spot in cyberspace. The link is http://ouleft.org, and you can also search for its Facebook page by name-and be sure to `like' it on Facebook, if you do. More `likes' expand the features available to it.
The core idea is that anyone with a smartphone, a laptop, a large computer screen or, best of all, a digital projector connected to any of these, can now run any mixture of hundreds of video lectures and documentary films on a wide range of topics. Whether for individuals, small groups or large classes, it offers a multimedia dimension to revolutionary education at no cost.
That's only the beginning. One marvelous feature will be the ability to hold lectures, classes and discussion groups in real time. The participants will be able to hear and see each other via video-conferencing, permitting back-and-forth dialogue. These can also be recorded, edited for improvement and added detailed, then preserved as on-line `webinars' for future repeated use. The OUL will likely charge a small fee, or require a low-cost subscription, however, for access to this particular feature.
This raises an important question: how will the OUL be sustained financially? For the moment, it's being supported by a small grant that will launch it and keep it going for a year or so. After, that, it will have to find or create a number of revenue streams to keep it rolls. One example is the subscriptions and fees for real-time events mentioned above. Another is the `Bookstore' tab, which connects the viewer to our `shelf' at Powell's, one of the country's major unionized booksellers. If you go to Powell's through this OUL link and purchase anything there, a small percentage in commission for the sale goes to the OUL.
The site is organized into academic departments-each with dozens of video lecture and documentaries, achieves with the entire range of theory and analysis of hundred of writers, and study guides and course outlines.
Make use of it! In the future, we will also pursue the usual package of fundraising efforts-donations, small and large, grant writing, public events, benefit dinners and so on. In the meantime, lend a hand by using the `Donate' button at http://cc-ds.org. Once again, check out the site itself at http://ouleft.org. If you want to link your own materials to it or make suggestions, contact Carl Davidson at firstname.lastname@example.org