Spanish ZNet
The birth of a project

Account by Alfred Sola

Spanish ZNet is celebrating its first anniversary so we thought it might be a good idea to give a quick account of this first year.

Gabriel Alonso had the original idea: let’s translate articles from ZNet. When I read his appeal in the ZNet Pen Pals system (a message board), I thought it was a great idea so I wrote to him and we began working on it. In the beginning, Michael Albert wasn’t too delighted. ¿How would they know that we would follow znet’s line of work, how could they gauge the quality of our translations? We tried to assure him that, first, we would only translate articles from znet and second, each translation would be reviewed by the other person to ensure a minimum quality. Michael Albert accepted (to give it a try at least) and we set to it.

Almost at the same time John Rattagan and Mateu Llas joined us. We learned a lot discussing our first translations. We decided we’d send a monthly installment, for that would give us time enough to work on them and it would also give Michael the least hassle. We learned to make web pages and we designed  the index page and articles’ layout. We learned to review other people’s translations and we decided that the translator would always have the last word. We learned to communicate by mail and we discovered its shortcomings, such as not knowing if your mail had been received. We were a small, cohesive group. By then, we were wary of admitting more people, fearing the increased communication problems.

But we went on, including in our index page, at Michael’s suggestion, an explicit invitation for people to join us; many people contacted us and quite a nice number joined us. We created a group e-mail for improved communication. After some discussion, we set down some rules on what our group was about. We devised a system to distribute the reviews to be made - so that every member roughly made as many translations as reviews. We noticed that it had become necessary to inform the group when someone wanted to translate something, so that no two people did the same translation. We decided we would mainly translate from znet, also from featured links from ZNet to other sites, but other articles only when all members unanimously approved (and Michael approved it on condition that we would separate those articles under the heading ‘Articles from other sites that we found interesting’). Finally, we also decided we would not include original articles nor translations made for other sites except for outstanding reasons - for example, if there were a crisis in a small south-american country and znet had no material on it.

We’ve had our share of troubles too. From disparaging people for being too harsh on a review, to misunderstandings leading to making unwanted changes in articles, to a hearty, even offensive, argument when there was an article suggested and refused. But we’ve been able to go on, thanks to goodwill and to keeping to a very specific agenda -translating znet. Not only that, I think we’ve matured in our ability to interact even though we’ve also become acutely aware of important differences in vision and strategy.

Let me introduce to you the current members of our group:

Veterans are:

Newest additions include:

Others have come and gone in this time (let’s mention John Rattagan who was with us at the beginning), and some more are beginning to get acquainted with us. As for me, Alfred Sola, from Catalonia, Spain, I take care of setting up each month’s issue, answering the group’s mail and I am also, with Deborah, the most prolific translator.

Joining is easy. When we get a message from someone who wants to join, we write to him with an account of our goals and general rules, and also what we are looking for in a person who wants to join -that he/she can translate, wants to help and has regular access to e-mail). If she (or he) is still interested, we send her some article as translation to do. When she sends back the translation -which about 50% of those who write do--we review to verify it’s adequate -we haven’t turned down anyone yet- and we tell her all the rest about our group. We invite her to join our e-mail group and ask her to send an introductory message to the group, and that’s it. From then on, she’s a member of the group, she can translate whatever she wants and she’s included in the round robin of reviews to be made.

We have also been trying to improve our site. We added monthly indexes so as not to have a too big home page -we keep only the last three months there. We added a content index to facilitate searches. We have begun translating one of ZNet’s instructionales, the one on radical theory. And we keep thinking about how to improve, what new things we could do.

There are doubts about the future too. Will we be able to keep it up or will we drift away and no new people will take it on? Will we be able to maintain the balance on subjects and views -that which makes ZNet unique- or will we succumb to the left’s tendency to offer too much imperialist/capitalist critique and too little inspiring articles on strategy, activism and vision, as well as articles on feminism, racism, sexuality, ecology and so on?

At any rate, results so far can’t be more positive. Some twenty people, unknown to each other, have gathered at one time or another to create this project and we’ve managed to do it. Some more people have expressed their support and congratulations -including other better known spanish-language websites that have reprinted some of our articles. And still more people, I hope, keep looking and reading us with pleasure. Oh, and if you want to help us, just give our address ( to all spanish-reading people you know -and help support ZNet.