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A Proposal for a Preliminary Convention, from the San Diego Chapter

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We in the San Diego Chapter would like to intervene in the discussion of a founding convention, and the parameters leading to such a convention.  See discussion of a perceived need for a founding convention and proposals for preconditions for a convention here: (http://www.iopsociety.org/blog/founding-convention) and (http://www.iopsociety.org/blog/2650-convention-conditions).  And see Michael Albert’s blog suggesting a poll as part of the process of deciding under what circumstances a Founding Convention should be held here (http://www.iopsociety.org/blog/a-compromise-way-to-proceed).

 

We have two concerns: first, we feel that IOPS does not have the size or level of development necessary to be able to hold a legitimately democratic founding convention - especially if it is supposed to be representative of the entire globe.  This concern would lead us to favor a long period before the "founding convention" in the hopes that further development will take place in a prolonged interim period.

 

However, our second concern is that if IOPS does not take actions now (or sometime soon) that the ICC does not feel entitled/empowered to take, we may see stalled development, potentially leading to the failure of IOPS as a project. 

 

As such we propose that IOPS hold an interim convention to provide the limited structure and procedure necessary in an interim period but resisting the impulse to lay down permanent rules, procedures, and platforms for the organization.  We further suggest that this interim convention be followed by a founding convention when the preconditions for a founding convention (decided on by the ICC and members) are met, but to be held no later than 36 months after the interim the close of the interim convention.

 

A Note on our orientation favoring Chapter Building:

We of the San Diego chapter feel that IOPS should focus on organizing and developing chapters in the period between the proposed interim convention and the proposed founding convention 24-36 months there after.  We have two reasons.  First, it is in chapters where most members will develop the political sensibilities and confidence, which is a prerequisite to meaningfully participate in a founding convention. 

 

Second, it is at this scale (the level of the chapter) where much of the work of the organization will take place, both before and after the founding convention.  Initially, a great deal of the work of IOPS must be internal member development.  This will best take place in reading and discussion groups on the chapter level.  Thereafter, much of the work of IOPS will be agitating, educating and organizing externally.  Again, much of this work will be developed and implemented at the chapter level.

 

Through building chapters we will both be preparing for a founding convention and building the organization organically.  

 

The Need for a Skeletal Organization to Support Chapter Organizing:

One, reading this might ask, if the San Diego Chapter’s concern is that an adequate number of functioning chapters exist prior to the convention then how does their position differ from those who favor having a high bar in regards to how many chapters exist and function as a prerequisite for a founding convention?  The difference lies in the fact that we feel there is a need for an interim stage and quite possibly multiple interim stages, which require some level of formal organization above the chapter level, which will facilitate development and growth on the chapter level.

 

As such, the question to be answered at the interim convention we propose must be: What can the central organization provide now that will facilitate development on the ground (chapter) level?

 

We suggest we need a dues collecting structure to pay for various functions that at our current small scale could best be accomplished centrally.   Functions such as (some or all of): up-keep and development of our IOPS website; the development of pamphlets for recruitment and readers for internal development; a newsletter/newspaper; a magazine or central organ for propaganda; and shared funds for regional and national tours and gatherings. But we feel that these are the questions that should be hammered out at the interim convention

 

What we propose:

We ask that the following questions be put to the membership and ICC prior to the proposed poll on preconditions for a founding being held:

 

Do you support the following statements regarding an interim and a founding convention of IOPS? 

 

“The first convention of IOPS should be an interim convention, with the limited scope of developing central functions to facilitate chapter development on the ground level (for example, developing a dues structure to support any of the following: up-keep and development of our IOPS website; the development of pamphlets for recruitment and readers for internal education; a newsletter/newspaper; a magazine or central organ for propaganda; and shared funds for regional and national tours and gatherings, and any other functions the interim convention finds necessary for this purpose.).  However the interim convention should NOT lay down permanent rules, procedures, and platforms for the organization.

 

The interim convention should be held as soon as it can be organized, without further preconditions.

 

Further, a founding convention should be held when the preconditions decided by the ICC and membership have been reached but at least within a 36-month period after the holding of the interim convention” 

Discussion 41 Comments

  • Lambert Meertens 13th Jan 2013

    I agree with the emphasis on (local) chapter building. We should attempt to identify what we can do to stimulate this, and then design a campaign accordingly. If it needs a more developed interim scaffolding, then by all means let's erect that.

    I don't understand the 36-month thing. Is that intended as a kind of offer-in-compromise? It would seem to be a prematurely binding decision. I think it is wiser to identify what we need to do next as we go along, and not in advance.

  • Justin Hewgill 13th Jan 2013

    Lambert,

    You are right that the 36 months is somewhat arbitrary. We just thought it would be good to put a leash on how long the organization would wait between the "interim" convention for more ideal conditions before having a "founding" convention. The concern being that if we do have an "interim" convention in which temporary functions and procedures are developed to facilitate growth and organizing, but indefinite rules, procedures, and platforms are intentionally not developed, how long could the org go without revisiting the interim functions and procedures before they calcified and became more difficult to amend or remove. (Note I use the term indefinite here to mean rules and procedures which are permanent until changed through some procedure, as opposed to rules and procedures which are interim and intended to "sunset" after a given period of time).

    We chose 36 months as a limit in the hopes of preventing "interim" procedures and functions from uncritically becoming indefinite simply by our inaction. But, of course, the specific number of months could certainly be debated and amended. Or people may not share our concern and opt for no time limit.

  • Lambert Meertens 14th Jan 2013

    An interim convention should only take decisions on items a decision on which is necessary for IOPS to proceed. The same should hold for decision-taking polls. And likewise, the founding convention and any future conventions should wisely confine themselves to issues that are of actual relevance to furthering the goals of IOPS. There is no need to decide now on a 36-month restriction. 36 months from now the IOPS membership at that time can decide whether to formally launch, or wait, or disband, or whatever. We don't need to decide in advance for them.

    So what are those things for which a decision is necessary for IOPS to proceed? If we can identify them – which we will need to do anyway if an interim convention is to be held – perhaps we will find that there are other ways that will allow us to proceed.

    My fear is, though, that the complete inability of intermediate IOPS to reach any decisions at all – however obvious and uncontroversial – out of fear of undue commitment will effectively lead to suffocation by paralysis.

    • Justin Hewgill 14th Jan 2013

      Speaking personally, not as the San Diego Chapter, I think there are a series of resources that it would be good to collect dues to help produce. Obviously most of the activity of IOPS will be volunteer, but some compensation for time and monetary expenditure would help things get done. The list for me is:

      (1) Upkeep and development of the website
      (2) Production of literature for recruitment (pamphlets and short zines)
      (3) Production of literature for our membership - for membership development (as an example the Fan Fair series written by Albert and several co-authors.
      (4) Some funds to compensate people for expenses when big tours are undertaken, like the Albert European Tour, and the aborted Albert American Tour.
      (5) and finally, this is the most ambitious in an interim period, a theoretical outlet, like an online magazine, which is edited. Where various IOPS members and allied intellectuals can hash out theoretical differences, and develop radical holism and other theories close to the project of IOPS. To make this readable, there would need to be editing, which means consistent work. Which means it would require funds to support the people taking on that task.

      The last item may be too ambitious for the interim period, but that list is my general thinking. We should form a consensus or near consensus on resources like these, and how they should be implemented and paid for. That could happen on the website alone (as opposed to an interim convention), but I have my doubts as to the viability of purely web forum decision making.

    • Lambert Meertens 14th Jan 2013

      The editorial boards and referees (reviewers) of scientific journals operate almost purely on a volunteer basis, with some paid secretarial assistance to the editor-in-chief often (but not always) being provided by the publisher. The actual cost of an online journal could be quite low. In this phase I'd not expect to get a sufficiently constant stream of quality submissions, though, so I agree this is too ambitious.

      While reading this list I had an idea, and I'd like to hear your reaction – although it strays rather far from the original topic of this blog. If we can have donations in this interim phase – which apparently we can – as well as polls, why not combine the two in a kind of put your money where your mouth is crowd-sourcing system. Specifically, we could sollicit donations together with a list of possible targets (like the 5-item list above), in which donors would not only pledge a certain amount but also indicate how the amount should be distributed over the targets. Donated amounts that cannot be spent (target scored either below or above some limit) can runoff to other targets.

      Another thing. I know San Diego is not around the corner from San Francisco, but you can drive there in a day. Couldn't the San Diego chapter perform some missionary mission and help our sisters and brothers over there to organize some potentially chapter-building activities, like an Introduction to IOPS event?

      Which makes me think, we could have a general fund for helping to cover expenses for local activities aimed at chapter building that are reasonable enough by themselves but cannot yet be locally borne.

    • Justin Hewgill 15th Jan 2013

      Lambert,

      I do not think that is too far from the original topic. If we can get the resources together to put together a limited nucleus of tools we contemplate without a "interim" convention, which as many point out would be a logistical undertaking in itself, then I (not speaking for the San Diego Chapter) would be all for it.

      My concerns are these. I (again not speaking for the San Diego Chapter) do not like donation based fund raising. It leads to using a lot of time resources asking people for money. It leads to doing those things you can get a large amount of small donations for, or a few large donations for. It warps the matrix of the decision making of an organization. I see this all the time in the non-profit field I work in. As such, I would hope that any period in which we are wholly dependent on donations be short not long, which conflicts with my preference for giving the organization time to mature prior to having a founding convention.

    • Lambert Meertens 15th Jan 2013

      Looking at Wikipedia's yearly donation drive, I don't think it uses lots of resources, timewise or otherwise. The donation campaigns we already held for the website did not appear to use up a lot of precious time either.

      The source of these donations would largely be the current membership, so think of this as voluntary contributions paid in this interim phase in lieu of membership dues. If donations are used to make the chapter-building efforts more effective, they will help to shorten the time to launch.

    • Justin Hewgill 15th Jan 2013

      Lambert,

      I would offer Z as a counter example. 100s of thousands read it much much fewer donate. It is also instructive, that the community reading and supporting Z overlaps with the community coalescing around IOPS.

    • Gregory VanGaya 16th Jan 2013

      Dues is very contentious here in Vancouver. Dues immediately begs the question of 'what governing structure (who) does what with my money'.

      If our concern is being global ASAP then I think we need to focus on translation of the content that we do produce already. I'm in Mexico and trying to organize a chapter here, but there is no Spanish language aids even on the off chance I can get people to go to the web site (not everyone has a computer here). No Spanish means even though we have a hard core pareconista on the ground in Mexico, we're still dead in the water.

    • Justin Hewgill 17th Jan 2013

      I think the need for Spanish literature is a good illustration of the resources we are interested in developing.

  • Pontus Proteus 14th Jan 2013

    Thanks for the invitation to this post.

    I'm not keen on deviating from the course laid out by Michael Albert. But in a way, if you remove the idea of 'interim convention' (and specifically "convention") then there's not much you say to disagree with. There will be an extended period of time before the founding convention anyway, in which time we will need to start having more opportunities for conferences, meetings and more (if not conventions), and creating tools and literature etc. etc. to distribute throughout the organisation.

    Not impossible to host video conferences online, and find other methods of mass communication and arrange mass live conversations between members. To me that would be more productive and natural than trying to create pre-convention conventions, pre-preconditions and more.

    • Justin Hewgill 14th Jan 2013

      Pontus,

      You are correct that we (the San Diego Chapter) are late to this discussion. But our concern is that if we do not imagine the first convention as being limited in scope (to be followed by a convention of less limited or unlimited scope) one of two bad outcomes could ensue. One, we wait too long to put together the basic tools that will keep IOPS going out of fear that a founding convention is premature. Or, we have a premature founding convention out of desire to see the basic tools of the organization assembled.

    • Pontus Proteus 14th Jan 2013

      It's not inconceivable that what you have suggested here gets enormous support from the membership and suddenly becomes the preferable option. Just unlikely imo. Still, equally, nothing is stopping anyone from producing these tools in any programmatic fashion. I don't see how a convention necessarily helps that process, particularly when those tools will not be centrally defined anyway.

    • Justin Hewgill 15th Jan 2013

      Pontus,

      To say there is no rule prohibiting local chapters producing tools, is not the same as stating there is nothing preventing it from happening. Our point is simply, in our current underdeveloped state, few, if any, chapters can produce these resources. As such, it is logical that they be produced centrally. It is an economy of scale issue that we posit, not a governance issue proper.

      However, I think that Jason Chrysostomou's suggestion of a national or regional convention may offer the best solution. It would allow establishing dues on a national or regional level, but does not involve the cost of an international gathering.

    • Pontus Proteus 15th Jan 2013

      That's fair enough.

    • Gregory VanGaya 16th Jan 2013

      This is what I came in to say too. We've had 3 different founding convention (at least) proposals, now. Vancouver spent like 30 people hours discussing the Salem proposal, which promptly became moot, when M. Albert put up his one in (suppression)response to the Salem results. Whereby I then had to spend another 10 hours, and Vancouver's 9 members will have to discuss it for another 2..5-3 hours again, instead of doing the internal education you call for in your proposal. I decided not to say this, as participatory discourse is work and involved time, and as it's been brought up, ya... There is other shit to do to go global, like translating our current content, so I can organize a new chapter here in Mexico before I head back to Vancouver in May.
      We need more capacity, or we'll be at each others throats for some moisture knowing that we aren't moving to a renewing source of water for want of all the internal knit picking. I disagree with dues, I think mostly what dues will do is thin our numbers. Vancouver has a good economy, like really good comparatively right now, and only 2-3 of our members aren't accruing debt. Institute dues and those very few of us paying dues will quickly start to look to the 'assurance problem' in whether or not our continued cooperation is worthwhile. I think we need to establish a parecon business, and we need to invest in it, both time and money. We need income, but not necessarily dues.

    • Justin Hewgill 17th Jan 2013

      Gregory,

      I am sorry to say I do not think starting ParEcon-ish businesses is a good model for funding IOPS. I say this with a decent amount of remorse, I would of course prefer to be wrong on the subject. However, I see two practical reasons such a policy would fail, and one political reasons.

      The practical reasons are: (1) businesses take a long time to mature and produce profit to distributed to other sources; (2) businesses based on ParEcon are likely not to be financially successful when in direct competition with capitalist enterprises who can compete by paying terrible wages and externalizing costs onto communities and ecology.

      Politically it could be problematic for IOPS to be reliant on a series of businesses for funding. It could develop into a conflict of interest. Often businesses started on cooperative left theories overtime accommodate themselves to the capitalist market in order to succeed. As this process played out it could be a bad situation for IOPS to be reliant on those businesses for funding.

    • Gregory VanGaya 17th Jan 2013

      I heard most of your counter argument coming when I wrote mine. I personally was pushing for dues of as high as $35 a month within the Vancouver chapter. But, despite everyone else seeing the need for dues (income), uptake for dues was luke warm except for me, and I just barely have the income when my debt is considered... Because our demographic will be weighted to youth, students, and old socialists who never gave up (i.e, never played the capitalist games to get ahead financially), I just think it hurts our membership's good will for the organization to institute a culture of 'dues'. And I don't think the income from 300 (realistic meaningful membership) of us paying $5 a month is all that worth it. Plus look at how entrenched the geographical locations are, BC, England, California and manbe a few other locales hold most of our real membership. Based on the regional-national organizational basis being furthered in this thread, guess where the money will end up being used?.. How does that further our global reach?..

      Pop cultural artefacts, I think we need videos, animation, the graphic novel will be good (which took $1200 up front from me and mine and stupid amounts of work by Carl to get most of it back to us), PAID translators. According to this thread we'll be Trots in no time flat, have you read the history of just British Trotskyism?... this thread is calling for that organizing template!

      I emplore us to be more creative, more strategic than that. Yes many/most businesses, if they get past 18 months, won't pay out real profit for 3-5 years. But think about what else business achieves other than just money, they bring people together in a day-in-day out way, they'd allow us to achieve coherence and team work based in our participatory methodology. We'd have a cultural base of practiciouners for our model. There are some businesses we've already fleshed out, that with the support of hundreds of our members, could well be returning a profit shortly. I have cleared expenses and was paying us descent remuneration in a couple of businesses that, for a lack of minimal capital, went under. Jordan, a member in our local, and a venerably dedicated pareconista, still has the alpha web sites of domain names that were drawing 4000+ unique visits a day.

      Exploitation: is it really that much better that we're paid shit within capitalism, rather than paid shit (but not exploited) in a parecon co-op?
      I think that with hundreds of us behind a business (and these days just reviewing a business on google, or visiting it's google map location, as well as linking to it and talking it up on forums, can get you the valuable top three spots on google returns if you know how to do your meta tagging, and now I do).
      I think it is pretty up there in intellectual laziness to say you want a parecon eventually, but then give in to the defeatism of, 'well a nascent parecon federation would just succumb to the capitalist environment'. That isn't necessarily so, and I spent time proving, quite rationally, that it doesn't have to be so.

      In short, I won't be against dues if that's the way it's looking to go, there are challenges with my proposal, not least of which is our own lack of ambition and the sense of futility that lurks even within our best chapters (because Vancouver has got to be up there and defeatism lurks within us). I will gladly give up a good $40 a month for dues IF the assurance problem doesn't creep up too quickly to dilute the efficient scale of cooperative network logic. Although in my experience that is a big IF indeed.

      I agree that we should be holding once a week drop-in skype or tinychats right now - that's a no cost weekly conference. If the commitment is there for people to show up (i.e., put it in their calendars with reminder alarms and keep the time booked off, even before going out to the bar or the footsal pitch (my weakness)) just for that then we know we have traction to attempt other stuff. Otherwise, paying for some kind of conference center and prompting hundreds of members to spend thousands of dollars each on travel is amongst the furthest things I can imagine from productive. I would rather pay out $700 dollars per 10 chapters (in a bulk purchase) to get multiple mics and web cams each, so we can do more continual virtual conferences and ongoing media production across the International.

      Conferences are generally wasteful, feel good affairs, where the pressure of the 3 days and all the personal credit card debt run up to get there, assures that almost nothing but basic rapport is achieved anyways.

      I don't want to come off as disrespectful to the conversation, you people on here are my shining hope for a moral and intellectual fortitude still being a possibility on this planet. And actually, when I'm honest about it, fuck a localized conference all together, that is SOO dumb and wasteful. Until we have the income to not be sweating paying staff to achieve some basic recruitment and organizing capacities, I don't personally want to invest in a conference. I think we pay an animator.-video editor in the Global South to do a short video a month (in different languages) that we can pass around to garner new members, and propagate the basic values, and if that basic operation goes well, and we do get to 6000 ACTIVE interim members across a few languages, then lets look to become a International with all the trappings of a political body. We could also approach some youtube producers who are already successful and see if they'd put our web site link in their videos, doubtful but worth a try. Being in Latin America right now and looking for stuff on the web in Spanish, I can see there is huge, wide open opportunity for web based media and income.

    • Lambert Meertens 17th Jan 2013

      Gregory, can you think of a way to have a sustained conversation on what materials or "cultural artefacts" we could collectively develop with the largest effectiveness for the limited resources we have? I've suggested things all over the place, but they have never led to a good discussion of the kind that could lead to a consensus like "Yes, let's tackle that job."

    • Lambert Meertens 17th Jan 2013

      Are you aware of the work by IOPS member Raoul Martinez? (See http://www.iopsociety.org/england/greater-london/events/film-premiere.) Not a filmmaker in the Global South, but what he delivers is very professional work. We have several more members who are professional filmmakers. If we know what we need most, we could see if they can help to realize it with the resources we can muster.

    • Gregory VanGaya 19th Jan 2013

      I think we need to first have a polling feature so that people can have confidence that there will be clear directions, and decisive outcomes to discussing various ideas.
      Maybe you and I in the meantime though, could start a conversation on some viable ideas?

    • Justin Hewgill 17th Jan 2013

      Gregory,

      I think you are taking my last comments for more than they were meant to be. I do not think ParEcon-ish businesses are a good funding device for IOPS (at least not exclusively, and not in the short run), but that does not mean I think we should not try to start ParEcon-ish businesses.

      I think we start ParEcon-ish businesses because we want to build examples of real solidarity in the present to break the failure of imagination that is common among those who feel nothing but the social institutions we have now are possible. But, sadly I think that activity will be a net financial cost or maybe close to even, not a boon for income for IOPS.

      As to your concern of where dues would spent, and what they would be spent on, I think that is all very legitimate - but those concerns, as I read them do not argue against dues, but rather argue for parameters. I think parameters would certainly have to be hammered out.

      Regarding your point of our org being populated by older lefties and youth who will have little in the way extra money to pay in dues, point taken. That is absolutely a concern. I think our dues should be based on a sliding scale and set at low rate. And, accordingly, we should set our goals as to what to do with these dues modestly. Which is why I think focusing on keeping the IOPS page maintained, developing basic literature (both for recruitment and internal education of membership) in a target couple of languages, a little bit of money to differ costs of tours, and possibly a space (online magazine or something like that) for heavier theoretical discourse is good. If we try for things more ambitious than that we may back ourselves into asking for dues that would detrimentally high.

      I think having youtube videos and other visual media is a good idea worth developing. Perhaps instead of literature in my list above it I should say literature and other media for recruitment and internal education.

      In solidarity,

    • Justin Hewgill 17th Jan 2013

      P.S. Please elaborate on the history/pit falls of the Trot model of organizing in England. I am interested in that.

      Justin

    • Gregory VanGaya 19th Jan 2013

      I don’t have the book here, but about 3-4 years ago my brother bought me a book - The History of British Trotskyism - from a mutually respected trot we’ve each run with over the decades. As I recall, without the book on me, it’s about (at most) 19 nerd Trots mostly in London with some friends in other cities, including Durban, SA who are almost entirely dirt poor, on the doll and organizing full time handing out leaflets and newspapers when they can get the money to print them. They spend all their time (like over decades) trying to insert themselves in other left organizations, splitting very important, principled hairs between limited parties over limited periods before they fall out with them, then loyally report back to each other about petty contacts who could give a flying fuck about them, and generally nerd out on the particulars of communist principles that are impossibly far away even from their personal living circumstances as a group. They get as much money for basic printing from the British intelligence service bothering to infiltrate them now and then, as they do from sales and donations for their exceedingly peevish and academic papers. A British secret police who basically don’t care about them because they’re nothing but a bunch of geeky poppers trying to organize by rubbing a shilling and tooth-pick together. One of their group actually committed suicide because he was so far in debt and tired of living in dire poverty.

      What I got in the end from it, was “wow, and this Trot bothered to spend good time after bad by writing a book about his and his comrades’ waste of space... well at least I can better articulate the long history of futile ‘activist’ “organizing” even in the propper socialist left.”

      I've been around socialist organizing my whole life, my family was CPC, and it just seems to me that if the members don't own their own capacity, their own spaces, have staffing that aren't such few positions that people are slitting each other's throats for them, that you got squat. Building the alternative with your own capacity, with your own spaces, seems the only way to me. If you want to get more members so we can do that, then fine. However, if you're thinking so we can do more platformist organizing, or to distribute academically nerdy journals, socialists have been dere done dat, for generations and gotten no where.

    • Gregory VanGaya 19th Jan 2013

      Oh, Platformism is defined on wikipedia not by the meaning it's had in my traditions: I've always thought it meant piggybacking on current issues to try and radicalize people through the issues they're dealing with (i.e., as arise within capitalism), but not really modelling how those problems don't have to be in a clear alternative model.

  • Jason Chrysostomou 14th Jan 2013

    Hi Justin and others in San Diego Chapter. Here are some of my reactions to your proposal:

    "We have two concerns: first, we feel that IOPS does not have the size or level of development necessary to be able to hold a legitimately democratic founding convention - especially if it is supposed to be representative of the entire globe."

    Agreed, and this is also consistent with the logic of the interim strategy, except I don't think IOPS intends to be representative of every country of the entire globe before holding a founding convention. It should be open to any one from any country in the world, but I think having sufficient members in every country in the world before being able to call itself an international organisation would be too high a requirement. On the other hand, an organisation calling itself international does not have some kind of minimum diversity in it's membership to call itself international, I think. The latest proposed poll includes relevant questions on determining what this requirement should be. Questions 4 and 5: National Diversity and Geographical Diversity.

    "This concern would lead us to favor a long period before the "founding convention" in the hopes that further development will take place in a prolonged interim period."

    Question 7 is on time frame in the latest poll. The four options are 6 months, 1 year, 18 months, and 2 years. Do you think there should be longer options added? 3 years?

    Isn't your first concern dealt with in the poll?

    "However, our second concern is that if IOPS does not take actions now (or sometime soon) that the ICC does not feel entitled/empowered to take, we may see stalled development, potentially leading to the failure of IOPS as a project."

    I understand the frustrations operating within an interim framework, but I think there are solutions to some of the obstacles you raise through organising at the local, regional or national levels and so I would favour this over holding any kind of international gathering too early. One issue, which I agree with you on, is the problem of not having steady revenues that any serious organisation needs to have in order to fund activities.

    However, whilst the solution to this could try to be achieved now at the international level - it needn't necessarily be, and in fact I am not sure it should start there (I did think differently about this before but have changed my mind). For example, structures for membership dues collection and supporter donation facilities could all take place at the local, regional or national levels and there may be good reasons for doing this over payments going directly to an international bank account, before national, regional or local branches have the means to deal with finances.

    I think a better approach are for national branches to plan to hold their own founding national conventions, institute their own membership dues, setup their own bank accounts and appoint a finance working group/treasurer. I think these discussion can and should be taking place at lower levels. The benefits of this are that each national branch can more easily set their own level of dues and how they relate to membership rights and responsibilities of members in their branches, and the dues stay in their own currency (no money is lost in currency conversions) and managed by their own finance group. I am currently working on a proposal that would do this in IOPS England that I will be proposing to other members here in the next month: to hold a national gathering and establish an IOPS England constitution that would include things like dues, bank account, decision making methods, membership types, national working groups (communications, finance, etc). My hope is that if, or when, we implement this, it can act as an example for other chapters or branches to use and adapt as they see fit. Do you have or have you thought about a formal constitution in San Diego or California? If not, why not setup a bank account and introduce membership dues and supporter donations there?

    Ultimately, I see chapters and branches developing at different rates and whilst I agree that there are downsides to being in an international interim state, in particular financial constraints, I think trying to hold any kind of international interim convention prematurely before we reach agreed on conditions that would make an international founding convention meaningful, would be a costly and unnecessary exercise, as many of the solutions we currently face can be taken at local, regional or national levels.

    "A Note on our orientation favoring Chapter Building"

    When you say your orientation is to favour chapter building, are you implying the poll does not favour chapter building? If so, could you explain the difference, because the proposed poll includes questions on targets for building functional local chapters. What you are saying about your advocacy of chapter building seems, to me, to be the same as what the poll achieves - along with the addition of diversity requirements?

    • Alan Story 15th Jan 2013

      I, for one, appreciate the more practical and less grandiose focus on national structures (e.g. re- finances) in Jason's post [this blog, 14 Jan.] and his concerns about holding a premature and expensive international convention.

      PS - When colleagues refer to the comments/posts of other colleagues, can they please identify those other posts? Such simple referencing makes it easier to follow the many threads and blogs.

    • Justin Hewgill 15th Jan 2013

      Jason,

      I think you may have just suggested a fix, which had up to this point not occurred to me. A USA convention prior to an international convention would certainly solve a lot of the problems my chapter and I anticipate in a long interim period without more formal development.

      I will bring this suggestion back to the San Diego Chapter. I would still suggest that this first USA convention be limited to the purpose of designing tools to help facilitate chapter development. Which leads me to your question.

      Our point is simply that we need to develop some resources, which at this point no chapters nor regions that we are aware can develop alone, as such it would be best to develop these resources on a central level (international, or as you suggest national). Can the polls do that? Perhaps, I (not speaking for the San Diego Chapter ) am not a big fan of the polls. For example in this potential poll for the founding convention, I am unable to vote my preferences because the poll does not anticipate my (and the San Diego Chapters) concerns. I think this happens a lot. If we have no other device, sure use polls. But perhaps polls are more favorable than an extremely costly international gathering, prior to IOPS seriously being able to hold such a gathering. Which, I take it is what you are suggesting.

    • Jason Chrysostomou 16th Jan 2013

      Justin, glad my feedback was of use. You may also want to think about gatherings and developing means for dues and donation collections for IOPS San Diego or IOPS California, which could begin before a U.S gathering. You have over 200 people signed up in California, so if each interim member contributed $2 a month or more that would generate quite a bit of money to help support chapter building activities. Anyway, wish you luck with whatever you and others over there decide to do.

      The poll in itself won't achieve anything other than help us set international goals and targets for a founding international convention. Once set, it's then up to us to use the goals as a basis for building our strategies. So, in my view, I envisage things like conventions taking place at regional and national levels, the formalising of local and regional chapters, and national branches all being important actions and steps we take that would take us on the path towards reaching those international targets.

  • Marlo Pedroso 14th Jan 2013

    Interesting conversation.

    One place of friction that may come up in that tension between local versus international/central (which will probably come up on a regular basis in a variety of forms) is developing content for materials.

    Personally, I like the idea of each chapter, region, etc. having materials that are best suited to their cultures, needs, and communities. However, there may be issues of representation and ideology that come as we each define these things in different ways. Again, I don't have a clear solution, and I prefer a diversity of approaches rather than a homogenous approach, but I also understand that this may lead to confusion/conflict that will have to be ironed out at a later time.

    Besides that, when I first read the proposal I was in great agreement. But having read Jason's reply I feel that the process we are already engaged in, however, imperfect, is making slow and steady progress, so it is best to keep going rather than restart things.

    I think, as advised, groups can begin to develop recruitment materials locally and fund-raise locally. And that for expenses shared by the whole of IOPS, we can start online donation campaigns.

    I do share the desire to start meeting folks, face to face, and get a sense of personalities and what it would be like to work with people in real time, versus online. Of course, that can happen locally in the interim. It's a balancing acting between being patient/doing things thoughtfully and not losing momentum, it seems.

    • Justin Hewgill 15th Jan 2013

      Marlo,

      We agree that diversity is better than a central organ or authority making all our literature. The San Diego Chapter meant by no means to suggest a prohibition on local/regional/national chapters producing content.

      We only meant that the chapters we are aware of are too small to take on these tasks seriously. As such, we feel these tasks should be taken on (for the time being) centrally. I have read several responses to the San Diego Chapters concerns which essentially state that no one is stopping local chapters from developing the resources the San Diego Chapter wants to see created. This is of course the case, but circumstance does prevent this from being done in any short term horizon.

      However, I think that Jason Chrysostomou's suggestion of having national or regional conventions in the interim to develop some of these resources may be the best solution I have heard thus far for our (the San Diego Chapter's) concerns.

  • Deniz Kellecioglu 15th Jan 2013

    Hi San Diego IOPS and other friends. Although I share some of your concerns and find your suggestions interesting, I would prefer to see Michael Albert's proposals realised.

    In short, I believe IOPS is able to take off (chapters, diversity, activity, etc) if we manage to found the IOPS permanently. And I believe Michael's proposal ought to take us there. Yes, there is a risk of losing momentum and IOPS would not take off, but it's a risk we must take. If we spend 1-2 years to reach a founding convention, that risk is slimmer, in my opinion.

    My impression is that it is much more difficult to recruit and get things over interim periods.

    True, your plan is like a compromise to overcome these troubles, and I would not stand against it, if the majority of IOPS members prefer it. But I say, let's move ahead with the previous plan (i.e. Michael's proposal). What better time than now!

    In solidarity.

  • Deniz Kellecioglu 15th Jan 2013

    Oh, I would like to add that I like the discussion above, but I am particularly in line with Jason's long, but important contribution :-)

  • Will Henry Lapinel 15th Jan 2013

    Justin - I second Jason C.'s response [14 Jan] as well. I definitely agree with you that building the local chapter is absolutely essential and should be the first priority, but I also think the path to having a founding convention that has been roughly outlined doesn't preclude chapter-building in any way. And I don't think that path presents a danger of having a premature founding convention - I think any combination of the poll results will negate that possibility. I also don't see the feasibility of having smaller conventions; plane tickets are just too expensive and vacations are scarce. If I'm going to a convention, it had better be THE convention.

  • Kuan Phillips 15th Jan 2013

    Hi Justin and everyone. It's great that you folks at the San Diego Chapter are making this contribution and I want us to have a democratic culture where proposals are being suggested all the time. Unfortunately, though I think the interim approach is really bad and I can't understand it at all, I think this proposal makes things marginally worse and I would vote against it.

    I'm against having compulsory membership dues, though it's not something I have a massively strong opinion on. I think perhaps the main problem is that the fee will be a barrier to people joining, resulting in less members. Collecting the money will also be an extra hassle for us all. I'm not an expert in these things and maybe I'm wrong - maybe the money will turn into tours and leaflets etc. which will turn into more members. I've only been an activist about 3 years. The only other group I've been in is the Green Party of England and Wales. It has compulsory dues for all members. Only a tenth of the members are active, so there's a lot of people prepared to give money but who don't have much time to spare. I guess we'd probably lose about half our members if there were compulsory dues and be raking in say 10 thousand dollars U.S. a year. If this were centrally administered I doubt that members would have much of a say in how it was spent as I don't see a lot of democracy happening in this organisation. So unless we got a lot of democracy as part of this package membership dues would end up being taxation without representation, in my view.

    I'm also a bit different to other members in not being too worried about IOPS getting new members! I'm personally more interested in making the organisation a positive moral inspriation to people within it and without, whether that number be large or small. So stuff like tours and leaflets aren't really of interest to me, as they are costly to the environment and are like creating more advertising and travelling salesmen for our cause. I think the website is already and advert and a university and a living magazine for the organisation. If we make it free to be part of the online community here and keep on having honest, friendly discussions like we've been having then this strikes me as as good a way as any to promote our ideas and also very cheap in environmental and monetary terms.

    If every organisation just tries to do good then the collective effect should be pretty good. Wheras focussing exclusively on growing our group (which seems to be the policy) may just lead to a lot of sectarianism and dissapointment.

    As for international conventions, founding or otherwise, I see them as a bit pointless in the 21st century, to tell the truth. People on here seem to be almost universally massively in favour of face to face interactions over online ones. I admit that in an ideal world if there were no travel costs to the environment or resource shortage then I'd be arguing for face to face deliberation to be part of how IOPS decides things at international/organisational level. I say "a part" because even then I think that there's something to be said for online discussion and voting. Ok, people are generally more up for an argument online. But I think that people also have more time and space to express themselves precisely and there's also less peer pressure to toe the line - it's easier to disagree with someone and say exactly what you think. Also if someone rambles for a long time (as I'm doing now!) you can just skip reading it rather than sit listening to it. Also online is there 24/7 - if you think of a good idea at some ungodly hour you can share it with the meeting. Lastly the minutes of forum debates write themselves. You can look back through the thread and see exactly what people have said, which is good for openess, democracy and understanding.

    So basically, even if international travel were cheap, quick and easy and the biosphere wasn't cooking and people weren't starving and the oil wasn't running out I wouldn't see it as that pressing that we decide things face to face at international level. As it is in the real world I see it as a no-brainer that online is the place that IOPS should make its decisions for a long time to come.

    I guess if IOPS people are keen to meet each other then I'm in no position to stand in their way, but to give the tiny fraction of members who want to expend a load of money, resources and pollution to say things to each other that they can pretty well say face to face, sovereignty over decisions that affect the whole group, then I'm against that.

    The last point I'll make is that I really don't understand the view that we should avoid "laying down permanent rules, procedures and platforms", as you say it. Actually I probably agree with this statement, as it has literally been stated, but in a democracy no rule, procedure or platform should be permanent and probably none can be permanent. I'm a strong believer in rules, procedures and platforms. Without democratic rules I believe we are doomed to be an informal or formal hierarchy. Without democratic rules or procedures a group we cannot democratically decide anything. Without democratically agreed platforms IOPS cannot speak, it is mute. Sure, a few IOPS people can get together and make a decision or release a statement, but that's just an elite doing its thing. Without a process that involves the members, that has to be formal to work with more than a handful of people involved, we can't, or shouldn't make a decision about something like the dues, so I really think that the decision-making system is the thing that we should settle on first.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts, Justin. Thanks very much again for posting the proposal, and to the rest of your group. Sorry that I'm not in favour of it, but keep up the contributions and I look forward to interacting with you in future.

    • Jason Chrysostomou 16th Jan 2013

      Kuan,

      "I think perhaps the main problem is that the fee will be a barrier to people joining, resulting in less members."

      If the dues are pegged to income and the lowest level contribution is set very low, unemployed don't make any payment, if the dues are affordable, then it comes down to a decision of whether someone joining is really serious in helping the group win its goals, or not. There could be different flexible options setup for how people relate to IOPS allowing participants to choose their level of involvement and corresponding rights and responsibilities. For example, I and others favour having 'follower', 'supporter' and 'active member' types of membership. I guess, ultimately, chapters and branches will find different ways of collecting funds to finance activities and corresponding rights and responsibilities.

      "I'm also a bit different to other members in not being too worried about IOPS getting new members!"

      How will IOPS win a new participatory society without members? How would we be able to win our goals?

    • Kuan Phillips 18th Jan 2013

      Hi Jason. Thanks for the reply.

      It seems reasonably commonsensical to say that the expected effect of membership dues will be, at least initially, and maybe longterm, a lowering in the number of members. This is a drawback of having membership dues, as I see it. It doesn't mean that this drawback isn't outweighed by the upsides, but if I were you I'd acknowledge it as a drawback. It's perfectly fine for a plan to have some drawbacks. Not having membership dues has the drawback of we get less money coming into the organisation.

      Sorry I didn't respond to your proposal for chapter membership structures that you emailed me a month or so ago. I did read it and was fairly neutral about a lot of it but maybe negative about some things. I think its good that you have eventually decided to share the proposal publicly in the near future and I'll look at it with fresh eyes and an open mind.

      As for my lack of worry about getting new members (rather than "IOPS...without members" as you characterise it), all else equal I'm happy for IOPS to grow in membership. I think it should be one of our aims. But I think it's more sensible to focus on making IOPS a good experience which grows our skills and enlightens us, whether we are small or great in number. Basically, I don't want to sound defeatist, but I think the chance of IOPS ever becoming as well known as Occupy or Greenpeace or CND etc. is probably less than 5%. So a sensible strategy would focus on being a team player with other groups and, as I said, growing ourselves as people, who will take these experiences to other groups in the future. I think an exclusive focus on a membership drive is more likely to lead to sectarianism and repelling people from activism in general.

    • Jason Chrysostomou 19th Jan 2013

      "It seems reasonably commonsensical to say that the expected effect of membership dues will be, at least initially, and maybe longterm, a lowering in the number of members."

      It depends how one defines what a member is. If it includes people who do not invest any effort or money towards winning the group's goals then I don't see any loss in that number going down, other than for vanity reasons. This is why I argue for different flexible ways for people to choose to relate to IOPS so that there is a clearer differentiation and corresponding rights and responsibilities. To me, any serious organisation has this. Someone interested but not yet wanting to commit could keep up to date with IOPS news by becoming a follower (receiving the group email, being invited to events, etc), others wanting to only support the group financially can become supporters (making a monthly donation), and so on. I think there are many advantages of this setup and I'm not yet convinced of there being a drawback. But if you have other arguments, I'd like to hear them.

      "I think its good that you have eventually decided to share the proposal publicly in the near future"

      I always said I was going to share the proposal to the wider membership. Why wouldn't I? It's even stated in the proposal. I was just hoping that a few of us could discuss and refine the proposal first before submitting it to the wider interim membership. I've worked on the proposal further and will put it online in the next two weeks. I'd really like to know your thoughts on it once it is online.

      "But I think it's more sensible to focus on making IOPS a good experience which grows our skills and enlightens us, whether we are small or great in number."

      I agree with you that growing skills and knowledge within the group are important, but I also think growing numbers is equally important. Focusing on recruitment without enough attention on internal development I agree with you can lead to problems like sectarianism. But likewise, focusing primarily on internal development without recruitment, we'd end up with a nice small group that is too insignificant to make any serious impact on progressive social change. I'd argue that we need to prioritise both growing in size and developing internally.

      It's hard to make predictions on what will happen in the future, but I believe IOPS has the potential to become a significant revolutionary force. I think it has all the ingredients there - the focus on vision, self-management, prioritising all four spheres equally, etc. I don't think enough people yet realise the significance of the ideas IOPS is being founded on, and it will likely take many more years. If I didn't think that i would invest my time doing other things, but I think success will ultimately now come down to how much effort we put into it, using the theory to build formal structure.

  • Justin Hewgill 15th Jan 2013

    Kuan,

    Per dues, I think it is absolutely necessary. If we do not have dues we cannot pay for things our org does, but for donations. I feel donations come with a host of organizational and political problems. Probably a little large to discuss here. If dues reduced recruitment, I am ok with that. The reason being is that An organization like IOPS takes more commitment than our would be low dues would require - so if a person does not want to pay a reasonable sliding scale due, then I not sure how committed the person is to the org. This does not mean that we could not work with people who are not member - say in coalitions on various causes. This is the primary way I imagine people being introduced to us and recruitment taking place. But the person should not join IOPS until she has some level of commitment to the vision and politics of IOPS, at which point I think she would likely be fine with paying dues in some reasonable dues structure.

    Per international travel and its cost (both fiscal and environmental) yes that is a problem. I think the best solution offered as a counter to the San Diego Chapters suggested Interim Convention prior to the Founding Convention is that of regional/national conventions prior to the Founding Convention. See Jason's comments above.

    Per, the use of the word "permanent" in reference to platforms and rules and procedures. A better word probably would be indefinite, as in permanent until changed through democratic process. We in the San Diego Chapter feel that it is currently premature to make indfinite rules procedures, and platforms, and that we should restrain ourselves to first dealing with organziational issues that will allow us to develop to the point where we can take on making indefinite rules procedures and platforms more seriously.

    • Kuan Phillips 18th Jan 2013

      Hi again Justin. Hope you're good over there in San Diego. We've got snow today in London, a great day to stay in in front of the laptop! I expect it's a bit more pleasant there.

      I'm still not really seeing the "necessary" part of this dues thing, I'm afraid. The things you suggest that we need money for can mostly be done voluntarily. Basically we all love talking and writing about politics, we hardly need to pay money to some of us to do this. Computer skills also seem to be in abundance in this group.

      I agree that dues, if done fairly, are fairer and less corrupting than donations. I'm a member of the Green Party in Britain and we had a guy in my area of London who paid for the deposit and campaign for the local seat basically on the understanding that he'd be the candidate.

      However I still see dues as an imposition on all members, a hassle for us all and a barrier to joining - Something to do only if we really have to. Your right that we'd probably keep the committed members, but I think that the uncommited ones may be as important as the committed ones, in the sense that members probably don't start out as committed. People want to dip their toes into the water before they start swimming in the political ocean. Also even if someone doesn't ever become a committed member, it's not like their experience doesn't count towards the world becoming a better place. Just interacting slightly with the group over a few years, being essentially a spectator, might, say, change the way they vote or the way they present some issue to their kids or something. If we're as open as we can we might never know the good we do.

      I'm just guessing here, of course. I have very little experience of organisations. Maybe your experiences have taught you that dues are an essential step. I respect your view and, as I said in my previous posting, this isn't an issue I have a massively strong opinion on.

      On the last issue you talk about, yes, I agree the "indefinite" is what we're talking about. Rules etc. tend to be indefinite. I really don't understand this wish to avoid making rules. Rules allow us to make decisions such as the one about whether to have dues or not. Egalitarian rules would ensure that new members have a right to a say in shaping the group in the future when they join. I suspect you're more into informal structures in general than I am, as many are, and that may be why you are in no rush for us to establish any rules etc.

      I may be guessing wrong there, of course! Anyway, from a very cold London, I wish you all the best.

    • Justin Hewgill 18th Jan 2013

      Kuan,

      You are right it is more pleasant here. We in San Diego have been complaining about temperatures dipping down into the 50s (fahrenheit) over the last couple of week, but today it is back in the 70s.

      I think we agree about the role of the uncommitted in the general since that we in IOPS must work with people who are sympathetic to our goals, and not silo ourselves into sectarian cliques. However, we disagree on weather the uncommitted would be members of IOPS or allies.

      I think that we work with those folk by working on popular issues in organizations that are not entirely made up of IOPS members. Imagine for example an IOPS chapter of say 15 people working in an anti-austerity organization of some 50 people, which has rallies where hundreds or thousands attend. The IOPS members have lots of contact with people sympathetic to our positions, and have the opportunity to recruit some of those people. When they recruit them, they invite them to engage in some of the political reading and studying that the IOPS group is doing. However, people do not join IOPS until they have studied the positions and orientation of IOPS and decide they want to join IOPS.

      So you have to imagine in between stages between having no contact with IOPS and being an IOPS member. Also, it is through political struggle with people outside of IOPS that we will increase our allies and membership.

      Regarding your comment about rules, I think there are lots of things we are not in the position to decide currently. Take for example the relationship between local chapters, and national or regional chapters, and the international org. We do not currently have many local chapters, no formally organized national chapters, and no formal international organization. We would be legislating from pure abstraction if we were to try to come up with rules for the relations of these bodies. As such, I think we should wait until we develop a little more to make those kind of decisions.

      However, in the mean time I think we should develop some capacities, and resources. We certainly need rules to govern these activities and how the resources are used. But those rules should be re-envisioned after the interim period, because they will be made on assumptions (such as, there are no chapters large enough to house these resources on their own), which will hopefully not be the case after the close of the interim period.

      Does that make sense?