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« Organisation de collectivités : Théorie et pratique/ Community Organizing : The Theory & The Practice »

 

April 12-13, 2013

à Antigone Librairie-Bibliothèque-Café

22, rue des Violettes 38000 Grenoble

Tram C, arrêts "Vallier-Catane" ou "Dr Calmette"
Bus 32 arrêt "champs elysées"
Bus 26 arrêt "Vallier Catane"

 

Organized by

 

Francis Feeley, Professor of American Studies, The University of Grenoble 3,

( member of C.R.E.A. at The University of Paris 10)

and

Habib El Garès, Professor of Geography at The Institut d’Etudes Politiques-Grenoble

(member of P.A.C.T.E. at The IEP-Grenoble)

 

 

The purpose of this conference is to bring together a group of scholars and community activists for a series of roundtable discussions to talk about several aspects of the global crisis and specifically its effects on Latin America, Europe and the United States. The word ‘crisis’ in Chinese is represented with two characters: one means danger and the other means opportunity. Together they spell ‘crisis’. This conference will focus on the strategies, tactics and logistics of community organizing, as well as the underlying principles involved in mobilizing a democratic response to ‘hard times’.

 

We intend to organize this two-day event along two axes: one on the theme of ‘Practice’, the other on ‘Theory’. The first day of the conference will be devoted to conversations with local activists, who will share their varied experiences –describing the goals, the obstacles, and the necessary compromises they adopted in the course of their work to facilitate the development of democratic movements for progressive changes at the local level. On the second day, we have invited scholars from Latin America, Europe and the United States to discuss their views and analyses of social solidarity and the many forces at play in daily life which weaken and ultimately threaten to dissolve these social, cultural, and political bonds between ordinary people and to privatize a major area of their hitherto social life. The topics for theoretical discussions on this second day will include several contrary relationships:

 

 

·         Privatized space vs. public space;

·         Competition vs. Co-operation;

·         The “Iron Law of Oligarchy” vs. participatory democracy;

·         Emancipation vs. solidarity;

·         “Autopoiesis” vs. social conventions.

 

·         Representative democracy vs. Direct democracy;

·         Autonomy vs. Institutional hierarchies;

·         ‘Astroturf’ democracy vs. ‘Grassroots’ democracy;

·         Pro-active response vs. Reactive response;

·         Military interventions vs. police interventions;

·         Values clarification vs. class consciousness;

·         Grand Strategy vs. tactics.

 

·         Direct action vs. delegated political power;

·         ‘Democratic Centralism’ vs.  ‘consensus politics’;

·         Private language vs. mass communication;

·         ‘Mobbing’ : passive aggression vs. active aggression;

·         Revolt vs. revolution.

 

 

These poignant philosophical principles have been raised repeatedly during crises in the past. In 1824, for example, Thomas Jefferson, two years before his death, wrote to his friend, Henry Lee, alerting him to the enemies of democracy.

 

Men by their constitution are naturally divided into two parties: (1) Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes; [and] (2) those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depository of the public interests. In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, Liberals and Serviles; Jacobins and Ultras, Whigs and Tories, Republicans and Federalists, Aristocrats and Democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still and pursue the same object. The last appellation of Aristocrats and Democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all. [Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Henry Lee, written August 10, 1824, and cited by Saul Alinsky in ‘Reveille For Radicals’, p.8. Also, a contemporary discussion of this theoretical conflict is found in Jacques Rancière’s book, ‘La haine de la democratie’.]

 

 

The young Alex de Tocqueville expressed a similar concern about the direction of democracy in America, when he wrote, in 1835 :

It must not be forgotten that it is especially dangerous to enslave men in the minor details of life. For my own part, I should be inclined to think freedom less necessary in great things than in little ones, if it were possible to be secure of the one without possessing the other.

Subjection in minor affairs breaks out every day and is felt by the whole community indiscriminately. It does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to surrender the exercise of their own will. Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated; whereas that obedience which is exacted on a few important but rare occasions only exhibits servitude at certain intervals and throws the burden of it upon a small number of men. It is in vain to summon a people who have been rendered so dependent on the central power to choose from time to time the representatives of that power; this rare and brief exercise of their free choice, however important it may be, will not prevent them from gradually losing the faculties of thinking, feeling, and acting for themselves, and thus gradually falling below the level of humanity.

I add that they will soon become incapable of exercising the great and only privilege which remains to them. The democratic nations that have introduced freedom into their political constitution at the very time when they were augmenting the despotism of their administrative constitution have been led into strange paradoxes. To manage those minor affairs in which good sense is all that is wanted, the people are held to be unequal to the task; but when the government of the country is at stake, the people are invested with immense powers; they are alternately made the play things of their ruler, and his masters, more than kings and less than men. After having exhausted all the different modes of election without finding one to suit their purpose, they are still amazed and still bent on seeking further; as if the evil they notice did not originate in the constitution of the country far more than in that of the electoral body.

It is indeed difficult to conceive how men who have entirely given up the habit of self-government should succeed in making a proper choice of those by whom they are to be governed; and no one will ever believe that a liberal, wise, and energetic government can spring from the suffrages of a subservient people.

A constitution, republican in its head and ultra-monarchical in all its other parts, has always appeared to me to be a short-lived monster. The vices of rulers and the ineptitude of the people would speedily bring about its ruin; and the nation, weary of its representatives and of itself, would create freer institutions or soon return to stretch itself at the feet of a single master. [from “Democracy in America,” Chapter VI: ‘What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear,’ cited by Saul Alinsky in  “Reveille For Radicals,” pp 44-45. For a contemporary discussion of democracy and its subversive nature, see : « 50 ans de démocratie locale : Comment la participation citoyenne s'est laissée endormir, pourquoi elle doit reprendre le combat » by Adrien Roux, et al.]

 

 

We will examine these historic issues and more during the two days of discussions on the University of Grenoble campus in mid-April, and our intention is to test the propositions stated above against the real experiences of knowledgeable “students” of community organizing, in an effort to locate the necessary preconditions for true democratic participation for the realization of progressive social reforms.

 

Discussion 37 Comments

  • Margaux Rouchet 1st Apr 2013

    I wish I could attend... Is there any chance that someone will do the transcript of the conference? Thank you in advance

    • Francis FEELEY 4th Apr 2013

      answer not registered

    • Francis FEELEY 5th Apr 2013

      Well Margaux,
      We wish you could join us too. The entire conference will be filmed and posted on You Tube, as we have done in the past.
      F. Feeley

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 2nd Apr 2013

    "It is indeed difficult to conceive how men who have entirely given up the habit of self-government should succeed in making a proper choice of those by whom they are to be governed; and no one will ever believe that a liberal, wise, and energetic government can spring from the suffrages of a subservient people."

    This de Tocqueville quote above seems to me to be central to our contemporary predicaments as libertarian socialists/anarchists. IMO that's why IOPS should be focussed on looking at, linking and supporting grassroots movements all over the world expressing autonomy and anti-authoritarian self-organizing, i.e. the practical overcoming of ingrained subservience and beliefs in leaders, parties, elections, the state etc (beliefs that some in IOPS strangely seem to share despite IOPS' declared commitments to self-management and anti-authoritarianism).

    Sounds like a great conference, so congratulations on the idea of organizing it.

    • Francis FEELEY 4th Apr 2013

      answer not registered

    • Francis FEELEY 5th Apr 2013

      Thanks for your kind words, Peter. Wish you could join us.
      Digging ourselves out from under the despotism that is suffocating us is a challenge at every level. The micro-political movement within the realm of everyday human relations is advancing unevenly, but the macro-political hegemony seems almost overwhelming at times. The photo of Obama grinning at the computer screen showing drone attacks in real time says it all.... We are in a severe time warp concerning the mentality of our "leaders" compared to the rest of us ordinary people.
      The series of round table conversations in Grenoble next week should, if nothing else, strengthen our resolve to continue our micro-revolution and hope for the quantum leap to macro politics.
      best wishes,
      Francis

  • David Jones 3rd Apr 2013

    Jefferson's comment on "Aristocrats and Democrats" as "the true one expressing the essence of all." is interesting. Aristotle's Politics talks a lot about the difference between Aristocracy and Democracy as forms of government, and several times makes the point that democracy requires a similar degree of property/power/influence be shared amongst its citizens. For example:

    "But should there be one person, or a very few, eminent for an uncommon degree of virtue, though not enough to make up a civil state, so that the virtue of the many, or their political abilities, should be too inferior to come in comparison with theirs, if more than one; or if but one, with his only; such are not to be considered as part of the city; for it would be doing them injustice to rate them on a level with those who are so far their inferiors in virtue and political abilities, that they appear to them like a god amongst men. From whence it is evident, that a system of laws must be calculated for those who are equal to each other in nature and power. Such men, therefore, are not the object of law; for they are themselves a law: and it would be ridiculous in any one to endeavour to include them in the penalties of a law: for probably they might say what Antisthenes tells us the lions did to the hares when they demanded to be admitted to an equal share with them in the government.

    "And it is on this account that democratic states have established the ostracism; for an equality seems the principal object of their government. For which reason they compel all those who are very eminent for their power, their fortune, their friendships, or any other cause which may give them too great weight in the government, to submit to the ostracism, and leave the city for a stated time; as the fabulous histories relate the Argonauts served Hercules, for they refused to take him with them in the ship Argo on account of his superior valour."

    The United States was founded as an aristocracy, not a democracy - wealth and power was intended to be concentrated in the hands of "a very few, eminent" men (definitely MEN) and stay there. James Madison is very explicit about that in the Federal Convention of 1787:

    "Democratic communities may be unsteady, and be led to action by the impulse of the moment. Like individuals, they may be sensible of their own weakness, and may desire the counsels and checks of friends to guard them against the turbulency and weakness of unruly passions. Such are the various pursuits of this life, that in all civilized countries, the interest of a community will be divided. There will be debtors and creditors, and an unequal possession of property, and hence arises different views and different objects in government. This indeed is the ground-work of aristocracy; and we find it blended in every government, both ancient and modern. Even where titles have survived property, we discover the noble beggar haughty and assuming.

    "The man who is possessed of wealth, who lolls on his sofa, or rolls in his carriage, cannot judge of the wants or feelings of the day laborer. The government we mean to erect is intended to last for ages. The landed interest, at present, is prevalent; but in process of time, when we approximate to the states and kingdoms of Europe; when the number of landholders shall be comparatively small, through the various means of trade and manufactures, will not the landed interest be overbalanced in future elections, and unless wisely provided against, what will become of your government? In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of the landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. The senate, therefore, ought to be this body; and to answer these purposes, they ought to have permanency and stability. Various have been the propositions; but my opinion is, the longer they continue in office, the better will these views be answered."

    The "founding fathers" never intended the U.S. to be a democracy - they intended an aristocracy, moreover one to last "for ages", which it has, despite "the turbulency and weakness of unruly passions" and their consequent civilizing influence on the nation, now rendered somewhat less sexist and racist (but still remaining very classist and imperialist, unfortunately).

    • Francis FEELEY 4th Apr 2013

      answer not registered.

    • Francis FEELEY 5th Apr 2013

      Well David,
      Thanks for the history lesson on Jefferson. You may call his milieu aristocrats, or oligarchs, or a plutocrats. He was certainly a rich slave owner taking care of his property and his family --no more and no less than an creature of his times. His contradictory statements seemed to have driven the much more conservative Alexander Hamilton out of his mind with rage. He had no respect for TJ, while on the other hand Jefferson's admirers called him a visionary.
      Either way, we are left with 18th-century bourgeois intellectuals looking for external ideas to cover up the contradictions which threatened them, instead of relinquishing their power to the people, whom they despised and feared, but who alone could rescue them from their contradictions.
      Our conversations next weekend will focus on the internal relationships of life under capitalism-in-crisis, and the new despotism that is being put in place in order to rescue the 1 percent who are in possession of most power, wealth and privileged (by default).
      I'm sorry you won't be present to remind us of Jefferson's contributions to this debate.
      ff

    • David Jones 8th Apr 2013

      hah, thanks Francis, but I'm certainly no expect on Jefferson (or American history in general). I've just read a handful of books and thought these were interesting quotes to share. People in the States are the victims of a great deal of propaganda - there is a fairytale spun constantly about the "founding fathers" and their love of democracy that is important to dispel. The early chapters of Howard Zinn's People's History do this job quite well.

  • stephen lawton 3rd Apr 2013

    Peter---I'm one of those who think that we need to deal with state power by organizing within a political party and taking state power. For me its about reducing the suffering in the shortest time, a utilitarian position. Also at some point we or those after us will have to deal with the state. We need to organise from the bottom and build from the top within a party to hasten the demise of capitalism. Peter there is no single path there are many,in the UK Left Unity are about to form a Party I think IOPS should play a role from the very beginning.

    • aral kaat 4th Apr 2013

      We here are thinking of system better than even capitalism or LAW state.
      We can rely on our policies,and ideologies.If they are excellent, some people will come up for it. Then some more and this will go on,till some new vision or ideology comes.
      Thank to God,we all have independent heads. We can think of each possibility.

      We should try to make our life better.And aid others who wants the same in their own styles! A world of parallel lives and ideologies.Each ideology harmless to others.

      There is no absolute morality. If you think I am joking,try to have VOTING on simple issue--''Is killing other for self-defense a crime??''
      You will never get 100% consensus.Our mind has got both irrationality and rationality.Law only creates stress due to which our irrational component gets troubled.
      Make boundation on ideologies only on certain severe issues on which the wisdom of person cant be relied on, while rest of everything is all-right till its works

    • Francis FEELEY 5th Apr 2013

      Hello Stephen,
      Thanks for the in-put. The seizure of state power has not always worked well, despite the fact that many hoped it would and expected it to.
      It seems to me that one problem is that this strategy is based on the over simplification of the concept of Power. It ignores the multiple sources of social power, cultural power, economic power, and autonomous military power. The political power of the state overlaps and intertwines with these other sources of social power, and to simply grabbing the levers of state power, I think, is not sufficient.
      Wish you were able to come to Grenoble and participate in these conversations on April 12 and 13.
      All the best wishes,
      Francis Feeley

    • Francis FEELEY 5th Apr 2013

      Hello Stephen,
      Thanks for the input. The seizure of state power has not always worked well, despite the fact that many hoped it would and expected it to.
      It seems to me that one problem is that this strategy is based on the over simplification of the concept of Power. It ignores the multiple sources of social power, cultural power, economic power, and autonomous military power. The political power of the state overlaps and intertwines with these other sources of social power, and to simply grabbing the levers of state power, I think, is not sufficient.
      Wish you were able to come to Grenoble and participate in these conversations on April 12 and 13.
      All the best wishes,
      Francis Feeley

    • Peter Lach-Newinsky 6th Apr 2013

      Hi Stephen, thanks for the comment. I think we agree on, and have a similar sense of urgency about, the need for radical change. The issue of IOPS' relation to parties, elections and the corporate state will no doubt come up in the near future and I look forward to debating it. Suffice to say for now I deeply disagree with your notion of 'organizing within a political party and taking state power.' In contrast to Michael's hypothetical, personalizing, 'two-bob-each-way' constructions in his 'Lennie and Anna' piece, I find this statist/social democratic/parliamentary approach inherently incompatible with IOPS's core commitment to self-management, anti-authoritarianism, direct/participatory democracy, councillism.

      I would argue that IOPS, like most contemporary grassroots movements (e.g. Occupy), stands for 'a rejection both of revolutionary vanguardism and state-oriented reformism, the rejection of the party as an organisational form and of the pursuit of power as an aim' John Holloway, 'Zapatismo Urbano'). If it doesn't, I'm outa here.

      Here's a quote from the old councillist org Solidarity UK from the 70s that I think may be useful (from their 'As we see it' statement):

      '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 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 thos allegedly acting on their behalf.'

      If this libertarian viewpoint is conceded, I'm wondering why building parties, the mystifications of electioneering, 'taking (political) power', focussing all energies on the corporate state and on traditonal politicking should not fall squarely under the latter category? It certainly does not, by definition, help increase popular self-activity and experience of autonomy, the necessary basis of all participatory democracy and self-management.



  • aral kaat 4th Apr 2013

    Certainly there is no best way.
    There is no logic to try and make consensus about how we should breathe,how we should sit,how we should think,how we should eat,how we should eat.

    Try to initiate a system which can trackle the problems and give relief of atleast those who desire it.And make it flexible so that even it can be changed. Dont make it an immortal bible.
    We are not God.Hardly we could think of life for 80-100 years!
    Try to make this life good.

    Initiation will be better than planning!

    • Francis FEELEY 4th Apr 2013

      Hi Aral.
      I agree that there is no "best way". The processes are as important as the ends. Are Rondtable N° 5 includes a discussion of 'Autopoiesis' vs. social conventions. In place of the 18th-century quest for 'universal reason' we are today seeking communication, new ideas, new explanations. We know more about the human mind than ever before --the capacities for feelings derived from emotions, for reason, memory, and will power derived from feelings.
      Psychological science and neurology has provided us with revolutionary concepts that are rapidly changing our relationships at the micro level, and I believe that a connect is coming sooner or later with the macro level of policy making. How and when is largely a question of probability. Most of us believe the sooner the better and the more inclusive the participation the more complete the elimination of miseries of all kinds.
      I wish you could join us at the face-to-face discussion on these and other issues next week end.
      F. Feeley

  • aral kaat 5th Apr 2013

    Whats the problem in them?
    Initialisation:- they can initiate, they have got better resources, just think of those who havent got anything.We have intermitted internet supply.I belongs to 1 billion+ population country.My value here is absolutely zero.I havent got good food and nourishment,got education which say within few years I am to serve a Boss, who just because of virtue of his Property will rue over me. There is no simple way by which I can dream and get what they get.Its impossible.Whats it? I am born to be a slave,still, I think,may be other will be in slightly better condition.Whats the problem?Racism is gone I think, everyone is human,I think.If you got success and supported us,Indians and Chinese people will bless you for this.

    Unsustainability:- father of 99% sons and daughters will try to suppress the desires of their kids, since they cant buy it. Brothers/sisters of 99% console their borthers/sisters for a false dream of 'rich' life. And yes dont forget 44 rooms are alloted to a king's 3 member family, where millions live on street. If this much inequality is sustainalbe, How much we wait for tolerence.

    Discussion:- It requires good listeners and speakers. The movement,you are nothing in market.You are nothing in discussions on question which may reflect your own life.

    Wisdom in ideas: -make it simple,logic and proof based. Dreams cant be relied. Wisdom is reliable.Wisdo is there.There is only one person who is the richest.CARLOS SLIM,it means we all are only undignified humans as compared to his dignity because in capitalism money=talent!

    selection of ideas:- I agree group will bring 1000000000 ideas, repititions,stray thoughts,baseless ideologies. Still, science and technology is there to protet them and get some clear cut ideas for veto.

    awareness: -You know media of EVERY nation reflects only 6-9% upper middle class lifestye. You can see bolloywood. 36% live with earning less than 1$ per day still no movie reflect this.A global IOPS studio to express the voice of lowest should be there! Why they arent trying this.If they could ,all the nationalism of every nation will be evaporating.And people will shame on their countries policies.

    equity: -I doubt it.Untill we all are just humans,how can voting be reliable?No one see other or believe othe for equality.
    Voting=other mind is same as ours so if they think a issue wrong,Issue is wrong.This cant happen untill we are egalitarian.

    acceptance of best ideas- I dont know, people have this desire to accept the facts that even they can think! It doesnt matters how solid base you make,you are got to be boycotted,since the ideas belong to you not mine.Why ides have been regarded as property? Reason Einstein theory of relativity, Newtons laws. If idea comes in someone else's mind,its theirs not ours,even though it may be the best idea.Is this the reason???

    support:- we are their to support.Just you need to initiate,since we cant initiate.We will be.Everyone atleast 2 billion humans will support.

    Coexistence:- its not only mine life,its your,its same for all those who aspire for better life,coexistence is in danger,nature is in danger,mankind is in danger

  • aral kaat 5th Apr 2013

    oopsy! spelling mistakes are there.Actually spell check is not working so some spelling mistakes could be there.

    Initiation can happen in regions like himalayan areas near my locality. But you know,without media and anyone to protects us from bullets, how can we try?
    China, their government is as terrible as ours.

    Europe: I dont know,USA people cant dream in USA for equality.
    Australia, the country is less populated,canada has got less population.

    Latin America,we cant conncet since we dont know thier language.
    Best place would be middle EAST or europe.
    We expect start and a quick start for our future by Europe or Russia or even middle east.

    Not US, because of which our academic system teaches us PLANNING

    • Francis FEELEY 5th Apr 2013

      Hi again, Aral,
      Perhaps Booker T. Washington was right, after all, when he said: "Cast down your bucket where you are!"
      cheers,
      ff

  • aral kaat 5th Apr 2013

    I don't know what is ''"Cast down your bucket where you are!"
    Whatever it is, thanks for suggestion.

    Sir,actually I want to prevent my village from Indian businessmen. I don't have any desire for ''my ideology'' kind of menace.Ideas belongs to everyone,since it came because of something related to presence of other.

    May be in this year,in may or June,I got to do a little bit of campaigning for the participatory economic principle.Once my village stand out as 90-95% independent,then we can manage rest of needs by trade.Chinese,Pakistanis and domestic trading will do it. With this,we can implement consensus democracy there.Set of such independent villages were past of Indian culture. We had highly affectionate unions in which there was value for person.He/she was listened. Any harm to the person make whole union on strike. Such system insured good peace. Familism, Individualism and Pantheism were sprouting.

    Then kings came, owned our lands,became GODs. Our aspirations were muted.Control went from EVERYONE to just few on which whole epics were written.From then till today media doesn't recognize us.

    If you could give me some links where I could learn participatory economy,how to establish it. How to run it in a poor region like our village.If Police suit me,I can die peacefully, however I cant live seeing my other brothers and sisters,uncle,aunts and small kids without no desires,no values,no happiness.

    • Francis FEELEY 5th Apr 2013

      Dear Aral,
      Actually, Booker T. Washington's statement has been interpreted to mean many things. I interpret it today to mean simply Do what you can with what you have.
      India is in a terribly difficult situation, the complexity of which you know much better than me.
      Another quote, this time from a fictitious character in Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath, is the famous statement by Tom Joad: "A man alone is no good."
      I think this is true. We have to connect with people in our community and beyond in order to really make a difference. Social solidarity comes out of shared experiences. Ultimately we have the same enemies, but our immediate experiences define who we are and what we want. Breaking through the alienation begins at home for all of us.
      Good luck.
      Francis

  • aral kaat 5th Apr 2013

    You are very correct.
    India has some real problems.
    1.They take their population as the only mean to dominate the world.
    With this population and no control over it.No awareness for it.We got to suffer.
    2.Indian think sufferings are part of life. If they suffer,within this or next birth,they will get the richness.
    3. The dream to be rich(rich are less than 1% here) drive nearly 80% and they run for it, even though they know,they can never achieve equality with them,if played the game they play.Since they have got unequal baised nourishment and resources.
    4. Politics is being dominated by corruption.And what does it matters,the moment one relied on a free brain of someone,he axed his own neck by himself. I still dream consensus and discussion based social systems rather than giving our life to a person.
    5.Skewed gender ratio has made family system suffer. Money,power,religion and culture control marriages and relations.
    6.Caste system,religion,gender,age,etc every grouping is there to torture the person.No equality is there.They ensure no one to be a human,They ensure dominance.
    7.Individualism of 99% suffers.Media,mafia,police,politicians,businessmen have taken full control to make sure, the revolution doesnt starts.

    False nationalism cant deny our truth. We want GLOBAL FREE MEDIA to highlight our poor class.

  • aral kaat 5th Apr 2013

    Connection to a small independent economic organisation,where we can have a say and recognization in case someone crushes us with his/her irrational ideology.
    Then interconnection by trade and free media can ensure our well being.
    Participatory economy and consensus democracy are best tools till I know for this.

    Do you have any other suggestion?
    Then when money power and differences will fade away,we could be having good family possible. Pantheism,the religion of science and nature will sprout. Individualism will be respected and will not be troubled.

    I wish!
    Good Bye sir

  • stephen lawton 6th Apr 2013

    Peter and Frances--- The success of political parties in Latin America at the same time that a bottom up movement was and is growing suggests to me that we need to do both simultaneously. Also what is the harm in trying to win from both ends, if it fails then we re think. I like debating but doing is better we can learn from our mistakes and from the successes of others. And why should we leave the realm of the State or national politics to those of the Right because that's what they want us to do you know. We ought not to play into their hands.

    This is a key topic in the UK currently

    • Francis FEELEY 6th Apr 2013

      I'm with you there, Stephen! It's not either/or, but rather both/and: the state power and other sources of power must be challenged simultaneously, i.e. economic, military, ideological. Today's hegemony of the ruling class can be traced to their control to a greater or lesser extent over these different sources of power. We should do everything possible to break up these monopolies, not expect meaningful change of occur by simply replacing the "chef d'entreprise".
      ff

  • stephen lawton 6th Apr 2013

    Peter--- I agree with you about the problems with holding state power and a reformist programme via the State but this is not what I'm arguing for. The power of the State will not go away elections can be just one tactic of IOPS or Left Unit or some other anti-capitalist organisation. I do not want to hold state power but perhaps being involved in elections may be one way of changing and then dismantling the state itself, we need to have some skin in the game.

    I want the same world as you but we must be able to disagree on how to achieve it. There is no single correct way that's why the Left has failed in the past. We have got to trust one another and our differences. IOPS is marked out because it does not posit one way to utopia, rather lets debate then try it out and learn form what happens. In this way we develop as individuals and as a movement.


    Francis thanks for listening.

  • James Wilson 6th Apr 2013

    '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 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 thos[e] allegedly acting on their behalf.'


    I happen to think the two quotes above make sense. I'm not sure I am comfortable with the framing of Peter's position as being, well, somewhat narrow or closed minded or in any way in line with the thought that "there is no single correct way that's why the Left has failed in the past."

    I would suggest that engaging with the state on its own territory, via political parties etc, has been tried regularly in the past with radical progressive change drastically compromised in the process. If Latin America is to be used as an example of it working, then any party in control such as the PSUV, would have to be willingly self-erasing. As the bottom gained strength, the top would dissolve in proportion. In other words, as self-management and bottom up democracy strengthened, then the top down, hierarchical nature of the party would have to automatically erase itself. A bit like the notion that the working classes gaining control of the state, not as a party, but as a whole, would automatically erase the working class itself as there is no longer a capitalist class by which it stands in relation. I'm uncertain whether this would happen. Engaging in electoral politics may have strategic value, but I do feel the quotes above from Peter must be kept in mind, along with the fact that history has already delivered many answers regarding 'organizing within a political party and taking state power.'

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 6th Apr 2013

    Stephen, it's a pleasure conversing with you, even when we agree to disagree. Of course we agree there is not 'one way to utopia', nobody is suggesting there is. Let the proverbial 100 flowers bloom, nothing like revolutionary pluralism. However we are talking here about something else: whether IOPS should build or support parties, participate in elections, focus on the corporate state and parliaments. You would be in favour, I against for the reasons mentioned (and more).

    It's of course a bit of the old tension between social democrats (Labour, Democrats, Bolsheviks) and anarchists, n'est-ce pas, going right back to Marx v Bakunin? That tension exists within IOPS and needs a bit of airing in a friendly manner IMO. At the moment I read IOPS as a strange sort of org with a basically anarchist/libertarian socialist philosophy of self-management and participatory democracy filled, however, with members contemplating anti-libertarian, social democratic strategies. A similar tension seems to exist within the remnants of Occupy, los indignados etc: libertarian practices, welfare state-oriented mind sets. Partly this may be a generational thing. I'm an old codger and we defined ourselves in the anti-authoritarian student and youth movement against the authoritarian trad left, social democrats and leninists, the corporate state and the distracting delusions of parliamentary democracy.

    Stephen, you say: "Peter---I'm one of those who think that we need to deal with state power by organizing within a political party and taking state power."

    On the other hand you say: "Peter--- I agree with you about the problems with holding state power and a reformist programme via the State but this is not what I'm arguing for. The power of the State will not go away elections can be just one tactic of IOPS or Left Unit or some other anti-capitalist organisation. I do not want to hold state power but perhaps being involved in elections may be one way of changing and then dismantling the state itself, we need to have some skin in the game."

    'Taking state power', or 'do not want to hold state power', which is it to be?

    You say: "We need to organise from the bottom and build from the top within a party to hasten the demise of capitalism."

    How can any party 'hasten the demise of capitalism', given that self-management and participatory democracy entail a grassroots, social (rather than a merely political, state) revolution?

    How do elections not help legitimate and strengthen the farce of parliamentary democracy and the corporate state, the very opposite of what we are striving for? How do elections not help weaken the belief in self and the experience of autonomy and self-activity needed for our utopia?

    You say: "And why should we leave the realm of the State or national politics to those of the Right because that's what they want us to do you know. We ought not to play into their hands."

    I would argue the exact opposite: ENGAGING IN 'the realm of the State or national politics' is exactly what the ruling elites want you to do. That way you are speaking their own language, playing their own power games, legitimating the whole system by your so-called realistic opposition, distracting from where the real power and issues lie: the ecocidal transnational corporations.

    The whole sad recurring story of various 'Left' attempts at parties (e.g. the German Greens and Die Linke) and 'taking over power' (e.g. ANC), their inevitable 'betrayals' and 'cooption' as new 'coordinator' classes are living proof of this. (Not to mention the whole disaster of the communist trad left and their totalitarian, counter-revolutionary systems). This is a 'Left' as one branch of the ruling elites that we should have no truck with and radically criticise as much as any other faction of the ruling classes.

    As for the whole power and parties issue, I'll finish with another quote from the old Solidarity group's 'As We See It' from the 70s:

    "No ruling class in history has ever relinquished its power without a struggle and our present rulers are unlikely to be an exception. Power will only be taken from them through the conscious, autonomous action of the vast majority of the people themselves. The building of socialism will require mass understanding and mass participation. By their rigid hierarchical structures, by their ideas and by their activities, both social-democratic and bolshevik types of organisations discourage this kind of understanding and prevent this kind participation. The idea that socialism can somehow be achieved by an elite party (however 'revolutionary') acting 'on behalf of' the working class is both absurd and reactionary."

    Thus, unlike Michael's take on the 'lennies', this is not about 'good intentions' (the proverbial pavements to hell), this is about organisational structures and their inherent tendencies. Parties, an inherently undemocratic, bourgeois form of organisational hierarchy just made for parliamentarism, can have no place within anti-authoritarian, libertarian, participatory strategies.


  • stephen lawton 7th Apr 2013

    James your last paragraph is the way I'm thinking.


    Peter thanks for the well argued post it made me think. You are correct with your examples of the Russian and south African failures and any new attempt to take and hold state power needs to learn from the failures.

    My position is not sophisticated really I'm thinking out loud because I feel comfortable enough to share my thoughts with you guys. I aware of the history of Marx and Bakunin and indeed it seems as though it may be playing out here. My gut feeling is that IOPS needs to be involved in any push for state power by the left a well as building a movement and a social revolution from below.

    In the UK there is a possibility that an anti-capitalist party will be formed soon so IOPS UK need to debate the issue and establish a position. Do we get involved and argue for a democratic power sharing "Left Unity" from within or do we as IOPS step aside and see how it develops. Alternatively we as individual could join "Left Unity"

    Leo Panich argues that the left needs some sort of institutional form in order to make lasting gains. We hold demonstrations sometimes involving millions but what happens after that, we look to organising the next demonstration and so it goes on much effort is spent will little real gain.

    We know about the dangers of a Coordinator class and we know that one will probably emerge from within the ranks of "Left Unity" in the UK but would it not be better to fight against it from within rather saying we told you so after years of struggle and then inevitable failure.

    There is a time dimention too. Capital is global and varatious we are killing the planet how much time do we have ? have we got enough time to build social revolution from the bottom up or do we need to speed things up by getting involved in electoral politics

    • David Jones 8th Apr 2013

      "There is a time dimension too. Capital is global and voracious: we are killing the planet how much time do we have? Have we got enough time to build social revolution from the bottom up or do we need to speed things up by getting involved in electoral politics?"

      For me that is THE question, Stephen. History (e.g. Spain) suggests it takes a good few decades of prior organising to build a libertarian movement with the power to win. Do we have a few decades (given we are starting from "ground zero" in terms of people's cynicism and atomization)? I suspect not, and some of the climate change stuff is truly scary. For example, one can read this in talks by James Hansen (from his AGU presentation "The Venus Syndrome"):

      "There may have been times in the Earth’s history when CO2 was as high as 4000 ppm without causing a runaway greenhouse effect. But the solar irradiance was less at that time. What is different about the human-made forcing is the rapidity at which we are increasing it, on the time scale of a century or a few centuries. It does not provide enough time for negative feedbacks, such as changes in the weathering rate, to be a major factor. There is also a danger that humans could cause the release of methane hydrates, perhaps more rapidly than in some of the cases in the geologic record.

      "In my opinion, if we burn all the coal, there is a good chance that we will initiate the runaway greenhouse effect. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale (a.k.a. oil shale), I think it is a dead certainty. That would be the ultimate Faustian bargain. Mephistopheles would carry off shrieking not only the robber barons, but, unfortunately and permanently, all life on the planet."

      Let's be clear about the above quote: Hansen is saying decisions taken by humans in the coming decades (perhaps even years?) have the power to put an end to four billion years of life on Earth, permanently.

      I think the answer to your question should be: we need it all. But that doesn't necessarily mean IOPS should be trying to do it all...

  • stephen lawton 7th Apr 2013

    I didn't mean to post that, I pressed something and up it popped. I was going to say a little more and edit the damn thing.

    So what should IOPS UK do given the development of Left Unity?

  • David Jones 8th Apr 2013

    It's quite a complex question, the extent to which radical movements should become involved/entwined with more reformist/electoral efforts. I tend to share Peter's reservations on getting into electoral politics. I wouldn't want to rule it out in principle, but the burden of proof is perhaps quite high. If we do it I think it ought to constitute a small component of IOPS' radical "portfolio" - certainly not our main strategy for winning a new society. However, if a few IOPS members want to use the electoral system as a platform to spread more radical messages (going door to door around election time or what have you) that could make sense. I wouldn't necessarily expect (or plan for) our candidates to win, but mainstream candidates might feel pressured into stealing some of our policies!

    But the dangers are real IMO. Here are a couple of quotes. This is from Leo Tolstoy's essay On Anarchy:

    "Governments have already learnt how far they may allow the participation of men wishing to reform them. They admit only that which does not infringe, which is non-essential; and they are very sensitive concerning things harmful to them — sensitive because the matter concerns their own existence. They admit men who do not share their views, and who desire reform, not only in order to satisfy the demands of these men, but also in their own interest, in that of the Government. These men are dangerous to the Governments if they remain outside them and revolt against them — opposing to the Governments the only effective instrument the Governments possess — public opinion; they must therefore render these men harmless, attracting them by means of concessions, in order to render them innocuous (like cultivated microbes), and then make them serve the aims of the Governments, i.e., oppress and exploit the masses."

    This is from Rudolf Rocker's book Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice:

    "Those very parties which had once set out to conquer political power under the flag of Socialism saw themselves compelled by the iron logic of conditions to sacrifice their Socialist convictions bit by bit to the national policies of the state. They became, without the majority of their adherents ever becoming aware of it, political lightning rods for the security of the capitalist social order. The political power, which they had wanted to conquer had gradually conquered their Socialism until there was scarcely anything left of it."

  • stephen lawton 8th Apr 2013

    David I share your concerns and I can see the dangers but if we go into it in a participatory democratic way guided by IOPS membership there may well be benefits too. We could start and if it looks like its going pear shaped we pull out. The Left Unity issue is developing fast I think we need to continue this discussion with some urgency. We had to cancel our chapter meeting last week, we were going to debate the issue there.

    • David Jones 9th Apr 2013

      Perhaps starting a thread about this in the IOPS polity forums is a good idea?

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 10th Apr 2013

    Thanks for the Tolstoy and Rocker quotes, David. The issue is ancient, as we can see.

    Stephen, appreciate your urgency, but wouldn't rush things. Obviously we shall always be relating to many things that, pre-utopia, necessitate state action. That's not my point. The point is how we (both as individuals and as IOPS) relate, and if, as anti-authoritarian adherents of participatory democracy, mass understanding and SELF-organisation, this must necessarily be very different to statists (social democrats and leninists) and believers in parliamentary democracy and parties (Greens, Respect, Left Unity etc etc). I find the Solidarity guidelines for revolutionary orgs quoted above useful in that regard ('meaningful action' versus 'sterile and harmful action').

    My only argument was regarding IOPS as a whole. Obviously, both individuals and local chapters will decide differently regarding parties, elections etc. That's fine, that's what direct democracy and friendly debate among comrades is all about. If some people feel the need to be members of parties or unions, fine. Hopefully they'll be arguing for self-activity, autonomy, grassroots self-management within those hierarchical, top-down, authoritarian orgs until they either give up or give in. IOPS as a whole, however, cannot become part of a party IMO without giving up its central values and commitments, for the reasons given above. Good luck in your discussions.

    (Oh, Preeti's latest blog on the rev org skype discussion project includes a link to Maurice Brinton's (Solidarity UK) 1961 article on Revolutionary Organisation that I'd recommend reading too).

  • stephen lawton 10th Apr 2013

    Thanks Peter I'll read Brinton