I am writing this blog post in response to some discussions in recent blogs and that I have had with people. I have listed three issues that, to me, seem like are differences in what people perceive IOPS to be about and the current stage it is in. I hope that this will aid future discussion.
1.) IOPS is in creation
“Currently, IOPS is in an interim stage, and by joining IOPS you become an interim member. A convention, or series of conventions, will be planned within the next year, for membership to determine the organization's definition in more detail.”
The above is taken from the About IOPS page. IOPS is not an actual organisation - yet. It is in the process of being created which I believe will take some time, hard work and patience. I think some of the discussions have been with the assumption that IOPS is supposed to be an actual final functioning organisation - when it is not. The commitment to joining now in the interim phase is to be part of building a fully functioning self-managed organisation outlined in the organisational description. So I think our discussions should be in the context of the creation process that IOPS is in. These are only my personal suggestions, but things that I think we could be spending our time and energies focusing on in this creation period are trying to get to know others in our local/regional chapters, writing and talking to others about the ideas around IOPS, increasing interim membership, developing ourselves in communicating the ideas, and identifying issues that need to be decided at the founding convention.
Maybe the fact that IOPS is under creation, may not have been clearly communicated enough? Should the logo should say IOPS Interim. Any thoughts?
2.) Decision Making and the ICC
“...an Interim Consultative Committee, a kind of advisory body of an organization to be conceived and urged, but only made formal and structural by its own members, in the future. Still, the ICC, even functioning over the borders of many countries by email, would have to be able to make interim choices as the process unfolds - otherwise nothing could get done.”
The above is from the ‘history and future hopes’ page. Following on from the initial poll on ZNet, during the interim period, the Interim Consultative Committee (ICC) was setup to guide interim choices until the founding convention. So far the ICC has been asked to choose an interim name for the organisation and support two blogs calling for recruitment of more women to address the gender imbalance and support outreach to media.
Is having a small group guide decisions for the organisation - even if they are few and far between, provisional and subject to future change - self-managed and participatory? No, of course not. Ideally, there wouldn’t be any decisions being made during in an interim stage, until a founding convention, but if decisions do creep up before the founding convention then the justification for the ICC is that we need some means to make decisions because, currently, we don’t have any other means to do so over large distances. Local chapters can still make decisions face to face it they are meeting, but on wider, regional, national and international levels, there isn’t the infrastructure. Once we have an online voting system to facilitate the organisation making self-managed decisions, members can create proposals, have discussion and vote on issues - and this will move us in the transition from creation towards becoming a more functioning self-managed organisation. But until then, having a group of people who are made up of activists with a respected track record guide choices, only when needed, until the founding convention or infrastructure has been setup, is better than not being able to make any decisions, if necessary, no?
3.) Organisation versus Umbrella Network
An organisation is a group of people that come together with shared goals and commitments, forming a structure with roles and responsibilities.
IOPS has been conceived as an organisation around a particular set of ideas, including a mission, values and vision. Joining an organisation means you understand and share the same mission, values and vision as others joining who you work with. This does mean that organisations do exclude people; those who don’t share the goals, values and vision. Why? because you can’t work with people who have different goals than you. Saying you want a ‘participatory‘ society with features that facilitate self-management and participation is not the same as saying that you cannot exclude anyone from joining the organisation. For example, should a racist, homophobic, authoritarian be able to join IOPS because it has the word participatory in its name?
A network or umbrella movement is a much looser connection between different groups who come together on much broader issues. In time, IOPS, like any other organisation, or its members, could be part of a wider umbrella movement, like occupy for example, where people from very diverse political viewpoints come together around much broader issues, and I’d imagine that members of IOPS are also be part of other local groups, networks and organisations - which I think should be encouraged.
I think, though that this distinction needs to be made and whilst there is need for both organisations and umbrella movements, ultimately, when you join an organisation you do so because you like and share the politics, and if you don’t, you don’t join it. Personally, I have joined and committed to building IOPS into a functioning organisation because I share the goals and values, and I am excited by the potential it has over the long term to become an effective force in creating revolutionary social change, but I am under no illusions that this will take some time to create.
One request. In commenting on this blog, can we all try to interact in a constructive, respectful way, focusing on solutions if there are identified problems, without personal attacks or sarcasm, asking others to clarify anything if they are not sure what they mean, not using threats to leave, and so on. Disagreement and dissent is healthy, but looking at the way some of the previous blog discussions have developed, I think we need to practise in keeping the above things in mind when we communicate with each other. Myself included.