THE Maharashtra state social media workshop was held on March 4, 2018 at BTR Bhavan, Belapur. A call for the same was given at the just concluded 22nd state conference of the Party in Sangli and all district committees were asked to send 2-3 Party members for the meet.
Some of the districts could not send their representatives due to the campaign for the upcoming AIKS long march from March 6-12. Hence, a total of 27 comrades attended from 11 districts across Maharashtra. From the state centre, CPI(M) central secretariat member Dr Ashok Dhawale, state secretariat member M H Shaikh and state committee members Shubha Shamim and Vijay Patil attended. From the centre, Pranjal attended the meet.
The meet started with Vijay Patil welcoming the comrades present and M H Shaikh delivering the inaugural speech on the importance of social media and its usage.
Pranjal presented the importance of social media for the propaganda of Party work. He emphasized the usage of twitter so that the media takes note of the same and takes up the news in the mainstream channels or newspapers. He explained the way hashtag has to be worked, the timing of the trend, the importance of tweeting at the same time in a given period, how important it is to add one’s own statement while retweeting etc. He also answered the questions put up by the delegates and gave examples of our intervention where we were able to trend and a news channel took it up in prime time.
Siddharth Adelkar from FSMM presented the history of social media, how effectively it was used in the struggle in Tunisia, how some struggle had been hijacked by the bourgeois media and examples of where the working class led the struggle and used social media effectively. He also stressed the historic responsibility that the Party social media has in the present situation. He stressed on how our Party can mount a credible challenge to the current government’s fascistic rule and how the working class can be unified with the use of social media propaganda. He gave a proper understanding on the digital gate (previously it was the factory gate where we used to do our propaganda) and other social media tools and the need for the Party to be present at this digital gate and unify the working class.
Prasad Subramaniam informed the schedule of the meet and asked each district to report on their present social media interventions on various platforms. He then presented the report on state social media interventions so far and on the previous workshops. Unlike previous workshops, this meet was focused on streamlining the work of social media in the state. This meet was not for training on any social media tools but on how effectively we must utilise social media to reach the masses and the need to make a robust network from centre to the booth level.
Representatives from 11 districts and one representative from the mainstream media presented their report. Each of the delegates was provided with the Marathi translation of the Central Committee circular on social media rules and regulations for Party comrades. Moreover, each district was given the state social media document on the Way Forward, To Do, and Thumb Rules.
From the presented reports, it was noted that some of the districts have not yet made a district FB page and a district twitter handle, some even did not have their district Party Whatsapp groups but different mass organisations had district Whatsapp group. Some of the talukas too do not have a Party WA Group. It was found that most of our young comrades are using social media but are mostly on Whatsapp and then on FB, but a very small percentage of our comrades is on Twitter. A comrade from Nanded district reported on how they used videos for effective propaganda in one taluka against closing down of the school. Solapur reported on how they have effectively used two-way SMS tool to reach to the masses by sending messages in their local language. They also insisted on conducting a workshop in order to learn poster making, video editing and the need to have content creators. Similarly, a representative from Mumbai also informed on how they are using Pinnacle SMS package in reaching to their members for RTE work.
Our free software organisation, FSMM, has also informed that they will be going to each district to provide basic computer literacy to our Party comrades working in various mass and class organisations and also provide training on tools of social media.
After the presentation of the report, the social media core committee along with Pranjal and Siddharth met and came up with certain decisions on the work that each district and the social media state centre had to follow and accomplish. Vijay Patil informed all the delegates of the decisions taken by the core committee. The decisions are as follows.
- Each district to have a Party FB page, WhatsApp group and Twitter handle
- Official Party page and handles to use official email ID as their user ID
- To have a target of 200 active Twitter handles from the state
- State centre will have a broadcast WA group for dissemination and forwarding of information from the state centre to the districts
- YouTube channel of the state centre to be revamped and the districts to create videos for campaign and have their YouTube channel as well
- Each district to have a better networking with their local mainstream media journalists
- Each district to provide proper and timely information on the struggles and the elections with proper images and posters
- Each district to actively participate in the propaganda campaign of the important upcoming struggles and events, namely
- Kisan Sabha Long March (Nashik to Mumbai) #KisanLongMarch and #KisanSabha hashtag will be used for the same
- March 7 Asha workers morcha in Azad Maidan, Mumbai
- March 15 – joint trade union public sector strike
- March 19 – Jati Ant Sangharsh Samiti morcha in Azad Maidan, Mumbai
- March 23 – SFI-DYFI chalo mantralaya struggle on issues of employment and education
- April – joint trade union struggle
- April 18-22 – 22nd Party Congress, Hyderabad
Ashok Dhawale concluded the state social media meet and urged all the delegates to follow and implement all the above mentioned decisions. He stressed why our Party needs to be in the forefront of using technology. He emphasized the role of social media in Party and mass organization building but said that it cannot be a substitute to the ground work and struggle which is the most important aspect of our Party. Social media has to be used effectively to boost our ground work and struggle and to support through propaganda the struggles, events of the Party and our mass organisations. He pointed out how the BJP is using its money power and strong arm tactics and fake social media news to get in power and how we could effectively counter them with our strong people’s power and robust social media network.