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IOPS Program Possibilities

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On a recent speaking trip I repeatedly encountered the query, what is IOPS doing? What can I do by way of IOPS if I join that I cannot do as or more easily without joining? What is the IOPS program for me to plug into?

 

I admit, I found it frustrating, even disturbing, that people wanted a fledgling institution to essentially give them a set of tasks to work on, without their having had any say in the origination and development of the character of those tasks. Still, one has to relate to what people feel, not simply what one wishes they felt, so, I thought about an answer and offered it, often.

 

What can, or ought, IOPS program look like, at this early stage of its development?

 

The first thing to highlight is that many possible components of program would make no sense. To say, for example, IOPS should have as a priority ending the war in Afghanistan, or redirecting budget expenditures around the world to end the current crisis, or pressing media all over to report and editorialize better and in response to the needs of different constituencies, or improving international policies vis a vis immigration, or battling for policies to curb global warming, and so on, would certainly make sense as far as the merits of the priorities are concerned. They would, however, just as certainly make no sense, at least to me, as statements of focus for IOPS as a whole. There are established, large and capable organizations, movements, and struggles, on all these and countless other fronts. It certainly makes sense for people in IOPS to relate to those efforts and to learn by participating in them, and to contribute to them, as well, of course. But for IOPS to announce its prioritization of any or all of these agendas would be utterly hollow, as well as inconsistent, it seems to me. 

 

The inconsistency would be that it would deny self management. For self management, there needs to be means for an involved, aware, and committed membership to deliberate and arrive at priorities and paths. More, there also needs to be sufficient involved, aware, and committed membership for its allegiances actions in these well trod areas to matter. It seems to me that none of that exists, yet. Even more so, what also doesn’t exist is infrastructure to sustain and make real such commitments beyond mere rhetoric. Of course IOPS members are for progressive aims such as those mentioned, obviously. Who does that need to be said to? But equally as obviously, it doesn’t, yet, add much to existing efforts for IOPS to say it is for such things. Does it imply that each member needs to join some campaign already out there? The commitments already make clear the importance of that. Does it imply each member should join with the rest of the members and create new campaigns duplicating what is already out there, but much smaller? Are there enough of us for either to make sense? Are we organized enough for either to make sense? 

 

Okay, maybe different people will answer these questions differently. My own views are that these type pronouncements of grand program or time spent duplicating existing efforts rather than people simply becoming involved in them would make little sense, in addition to arising from little participation and practice. Yes, I would like IOPS to be able to help launch, or even take the lead in launching an international campaign for shorter work week and associated redistribution of income and skills, as well, that would differ from anything now happening, be broader, and be deeper. And yes, I would like IOPS to be able to help launch, or even take the lead in launching an international campaign to press the press, seeking major transformations in mainstream media via massive campaigns and projects, all around the world. But, the reality is, such real activity is still a ways off. 

 

What then, does make sense, even now, both for its own merits and to lay the groundwork for more to come?

 

Well, how about creating chapters? For some reason many folks hear that and roll their eyes as if it isn’t real activism, real program. Well, chapter building entails people finding other members in their geographic vicinity and doing the hard work of getting together, starting to meet, raising levels of confidence, awareness, and trust, and establishing local operating norms for involvement. This is all very hard but incredibly valuable. Those who say they want things to do - why doesn’t this count? This is in fact the heart and soul of organizing - not holding rallies, making demands, etc. - which are also important, but are more like the arms and legs of organizing - unworkable without heart and soul, first.

 

Next, suppose a chapter arrives at ten, twenty or more members. Now it would seem possible for that chapter not to have international program, or national program, of course, but to have local program, arrived at in a self managed participatory way by its own members. There could be energy collectively applied to many programmatic matters including, for example, (1) self development of the membership’s knowledge and skills; (2) meeting the membership’s immediate needs; (3) outreach in the form of face to face meetings with others, speaking events for others, and other events that also seek new members and to raise awareness, etc.; and (4) finally, yes, even initiating local campaigns, say around foreclosures, or at a local workplace, or pollution dump site, or whatever. 

 

And so we return to all the folks saying, I don’t want to join, until there is program. Or I don’t want to give time, until there is program. My reply... make some program. Going to a demo is nice. But to call that real program, and say that organizing people, and structure, and the like, isn’t, is, honestly, horribly confused.

 

The hardest task in the long history of any revolutionary organization certainly include initially getting going by developing sufficient membership and awareness and skill and trust and commitments to be able to impact broader social relations in a sustained way. There are no magic steps to viable scale. You can’t go from disparate individuals to mass campaigns with nothing in between - or, at least, you can do it, and then sustain and enlarge on it. You can certainly join mass campaigns, work on them, learning lessons, making ties, etc., which is good. You can also develop local membership and local program, which is great. And when there is a lot of the latter, perhaps regional or even national campaigns could be undertaken. And finally international.

 

I am myself, regarding these matters, right where I was when the IOPS internet site first went online, and then, for point of reference, let’s say three months later. If between then and now, everyone had spend lots of time talking to - or even writing for, giving talks for, and otherwise reaching out to - two or three potential new members a month, recruiting even just one of those a month into IOPS - by now we would be talking very seriously about the relative merits of the programs many chapters were actively pursuing. If efforts among small groups and by individuals to become more confident in their views and skills had also been proceeding, and development of means of mutual aid among members, then all those new people would be ready to act, and eager. We would in that case now be talking about which local efforts had sufficient resonance and merit that they might be combined into national campaigns, and even into international ones. We would now be taking lessons from real experiences and seeing how to apply them. A convention would be on our near term agenda. 

 

There is no other activity that I can see having plausibly been undertaken - no other programmatic involvements - over this past span of time that could have had that type impact, than the outreach and internal development efforts mentioned above. And the same holds for the next six months, as best I can tell. 

 

Either we get with talking, holding gatherings, talking, having public events, talking, joining in campaigns that already exist, talking, and writing too - and then also thinking through procedures for internal skills and knowledge development and acting on our insights including to meet needs of members - or we are not going anywhere. I do believe the situation is that simple. I do believe the situation is that complex.

 

IOPS has enormous potential. But IOPS can drift into the ship-wrecking shoals of would have, could have, should have, very easily, then sinking into oblivion. Alternatively, IOPS can climb onto the raging currents of outreach and self development, as it grows into relevance. Which path we take is up to us.

Discussion 33 Comments

  • Will Henry Lapinel 17th Nov 2012

    Michael, I agree the situation is that simple. IOPS will not grow on its own; this is not Occupy. It is a much more serious undertaking than that, and its potential achievements are far greater than that of any popular movement in history. But it's going to take work. It's going to take sticking our necks out, risking our reputations. We have to recruit members. And we have to stay on task.

    Not to commandeer your blog Michael, but as a supplement: I posted a blog along similar lines, about the founding convention preconditions. I hope we can continue this discussion instead of continuously wringing our hands about the horrors of our current system.

  • Ian R. 17th Nov 2012

    Who is us? The maybe 250+ People (globally!) who are active and doing sth. or the 2700 signed members?

    I must confess, that I´m a little frustrated and tired, not just because of the tour, but because of the small number of really active members.

    Sure, if those whow were active now retreat too, IOPS will fail, but I want to see a kind of growth, I want to get feedback, and I don´t want to see the same people being active over and over again. And this got nothing to do with good or bad personal relations to those members, but with the feeling of being lost somehow when there is no sign of growth.

    I personally have to get somewhere also job and educational wise. I have the feeling that I spent more ressources and time into IOPS then necessary and I don´t see anything in return. No impact, no growth, no working chapters, nothing.

    And to those who signed, who may read sometimes , but never write or engage: Why don´t you just leave? Do you think it feels better to see nominal membership growing but active membership burning out because the development of IOPS is on too little shoulders?


    • Will Henry Lapinel 17th Nov 2012

      I.N. - I feel your frustration too. But, it may cheer you up a bit to know that there are a lot of people who are active members who don't check the website very often (my chapter for example, which is one of the most active chapters in the organization). It does give the appearance that IOPS is utterly inactive, unfortunately.

    • Lambert Meertens 17th Nov 2012

      Being active is not a yes-or-no thing; there are many gradations of activity. Going through the list of Dutch members, I see that almost half have displayed some form of IOPS-related activity, if only sending regrets of not being able to attend a meeting. And more than a third have attended a meeting, posted a blog or commented on a forum, or displayed other IOPS-centred activities. For those that I hear from, time constraints appear to be a real problem; they would do more in the IOPS context if they had more time.

      Another member just reminded me of something I wrote some time ago on another forum:

      "The activists that I meet are usually active in some action or movement with a relatively narrow focus. But that does not mean they have a narrowly focussed vision. On the contrary, most of them are in broad agreement with the programmatic vision of IOPS. When they look at IOPS, they must not see an organization that presents itself as an alternative to whatever it is they are doing, an organization that functions as an ally in parallel to them. What they should see instead is a home they can share with all those other people who have aspirations and visions that far transcend whatever it is their hands find to do right here and now, a place where they can meet and compare notes, discuss tactics and strategies, exchange experiences and dreams. I believe IOPS can be that home. I believe we should have the aspiration to be that home. We must make clear we are trying to be that home, make clear that that is the primary aim of our very existence."

      Clearly, such people who are currently active in some other movement – and this applies to several of the Dutch IOPS members I know – should not be expected to drop everything they're doing now and focus their energy instead on chapter building when they join IOPS. But we do want them as members and should try to convince more of them of the revolutionary potential of IOPS. Are we doing a good job there?

      So I think we have to be careful in dividing members into categories like "merely signed up" versus "really active". Doing so gives rise to (unnecessary and unproductive) feelings of frustration. Yes, we have to attract more people, and we also have to be realistic and accept that at any given moment only a minority of those people will be able to devote a significant amount of time and energy to IOPS.

    • Ian R. 17th Nov 2012

      Hi Will, hi Lambert,

      thank you for the comments.

      I know that ranting is not a good invitation, but I hoped that new people will join in.

      However, I´ll step back for a while and be more active locally. I hope that somebody else is stepping in.

      I´ll try to follow the program discussions, but don´t know if there will be longer posts.

      In general I think IOPS has some serious communication and image problems. We ignore very important developments and trends in our society and risk to lose the connection to the younger generation (for example, we give the image to be hostile against pop culture and against technology (just see the discussion about the Venus Project Blog), we don´t recognize event and image marketing and we don´t link or react to discussions in the nerd and geek communities.). Maybe I´ll write an article about it. When there´s time.

    • James Wilson 18th Nov 2012

      Also I.N, from a master of the rant, I send what little support I can. I see what you wrote as a personal and emotional reflection of what Michael wrote. I do believe the situation is that simple. I do believe the situation is that complex.

      For what it's worth, hang in there. I owe ya one.

    • Sarah Owens 21st Nov 2012

      You can't see the discussion about the Venus Project Blog. It was deleted as an advertisement after the poster left IOPS. Not wishing the site to be used for advertising hardly equates to hostility against pop culture and technology.

    • Ian R. 21st Nov 2012

      Hello Sarah, thank you for the reply. In that case I´d agree because the person posted regularly the same message and seemed only to have joined for getting this message abroad.

      Probably there are more important groups than artists and technophiles and we need especially more membership from non anglo-european countries.

      Nevertheless prominent artists and science bloggers have many followers and skills which would be usefull for IOPS.

      Unfortunately those people are often very apolitical and don´t engage in social activities. But I think IOPS members should raise awareness for IOPS in different media and their blogs by engaging in discussion.

      We´ve seen that this is difficult in left media, so why not trying to spread the word on wired, telepolis, gizmag and so on.

  • Sarah Owens 17th Nov 2012

    So Michael Albert, do you intend to pursue your proposal for agreeing to a shared campaign relating to a founding convention? I ask, 'cause the last proposed deadline for ending discussion and taking the favored campaigns (or favored goals and strategies) to the ICC for consideration has expired. Some of us tried to keep the discussion going over the last month, but we foundered a bit on process and authority issues, and plus, as you and others note, it got kinda quiet on the site. We need a way to move past the authority and process issues if we're to proceed, and closure if we're not. What do you say?

  • Michael Albert 17th Nov 2012

    I am not sure what you are asking. Is there something specific you want me to do, or think I should do?

    • Michael Livingston 18th Nov 2012

      I think what Sarah Owens is asking is stated in the opening and closing sentences of her comment:

      “So Michael Albert, do you intend to pursue your proposal for agreeing to a shared campaign relating to a founding convention? *** What do you say?”

      I have the same question, Michael, and here’s the background for it:

      In a blog published September 17th, you proposed that IOPS members engage in a “shared campaign” to achieve the preconditions for holding a founding convention, and you outlined a process for the development of the campaign and set a November 15th deadline for the IOPS membership to consider and respond to the proposal. (See http://www.iopsociety.org/blog/2650-convention-conditions). Three days after your shared-campaign blog appeared, Mark Evans posted his “2d Proposal” blog -- http://www.iopsociety.org/blog/2nd-proposal -- which focused on what the preconditions for the convention should be and, albeit unintentionally, diverted attention from the shared-campaign proposal. The preconditions-for-a convention discussion continues on the Forum -- http://www.iopsociety.org/forum/interim-goals-for-founding-convention) –and some of us have weighed in on the shared-campaign proposal (see http://www.iopsociety.org/blog/case-for-campaign), but, there’s been no follow up on the November 15th deadline, or the next steps outlined in your proposal. To me, those who have something to say about the merits of the proposal have had sufficient time to respond, and it’s time to move forward.

      Thus, the question: “do you intend to pursue your proposal” for a shared campaign? If you do, what are you going to do about it -- happens next? If you do not, why not? Have you reviewed and assessed the comments in the blogs and forum topics listed in the preceding paragraph? The questions whether to engage in a shared campaign to achieve the preconditions for a convention and what those preconditions should be are crucial and pressing, and they present an opportunity right now for this “interim” IOPS to be actively and cooperatively engaged in the pursuit of a goal that is essential to the organization’s future. However, although the international and US administrators could make different choices, those questions do not remain among the leading presentations on the IOPS website, but instead, they are relegated to relative obscurity as part of the ordinary blog and forum queue process. I think there’s something you and the ICC can do about that.

    • Michael Albert 18th Nov 2012

      As you perhaps know, I have been traveling, and also trying to make zsocial happen...as well as hoping others would take initiative regarding IOPS.

      So...I suggest you and Sarah, perhaps looking at the original proposal, etc., propose something very specific for the icc to address. Perhaps Jason can work with the programmers on a polling facility. Maybe you can involve others. if you want my reactions to some proposal, let me know. If yes on the polling, we can use that. If no, I guess we can use the interim decision mechanism of the icc supposing we can make the policy proposal very nearly completely uncontroversial.

      I did think the original proposal...pending some numbers...had that quality. But so few took it up, at least that I was aware of, it seemed to be waiting on participation.

    • Will Henry Lapinel 18th Nov 2012

      Michael A. - referring to your proposal at http://www.iopsociety.org/blog/2650-convention-conditions

      Michael - like Michael Livingston, I am confused and frustrated by the lack of discussion regarding the proposals. This is the next logical step for the organization to take, and merits discussion by members far more than any other subject.

      However - regardless of the lack of discussion, there are in fact 3 proposals out there, and there were a few members who dedicated a lot of time and energy into considering these proposals. You say "seemed to be waiting on participation" - what was the threshold number of participants you expected? I think Michael L. is saying, and I agree emphatically, that we should move forward with your proposal for a shared campaign, and we should come to a decision on one of the 3 proposals for the criteria/preconditions for the founding convention. In accordance with your proposal, I believe the ball is now in the ICC's court. That is why we have an ICC, is it not? We few who have spent a good amount of time considering and discussing the proposals are asking the ICC to move forward. It is very damaging to begin a serious discussion on possible goals, and then have that discussion fizzle out into nothingness before reaching the proposed deadline, let alone decide on setting one of the goals, let alone achieve it.

  • Mark Evans 18th Nov 2012

    The frustration that Michael talks about is often compounded by the fact that the people who want programme NOW are often the same people who (rightly) criticise current left organisations for being too elitist / not participatory enough. These people seem to want serious and powerful international revolutionary organising, on the one hand, but they also seem to want it to happen spontaneously, on the other, without any conscious effort or real work involved. In short they seem to want full participation and full programme from day one.

    As Michael says, part of the problem is that many people on the left just don't think of building the infrastructure of an organisation - local chapters / National branches / projects - as activism.

    Time and time again we get messages from people saying that they are too busy fighting the class war to join IOPS, or something along those lines - and this is sometimes from leading figures on the left! What these people are basically saying, it seems to me, is that they are too busy to do the important work - that they prioritise activism that has little chance of changing anything at the systemic level, and may even help maintain the illusion that we live in a free and democratic society where dissent is welcome.

    I can't help but sometimes think that people on the left are more comfortable on the loosing side - that maybe they view winning as somehow right-wing. Why else would the left keep making such irrational and self-defeating choices???

  • 18th Nov 2012

    Mark,
    "What these people are basically saying, it seems to me, is that they are too busy to do the important work "
    I don’t know if I’m doing "important work" but I’m very busy. And why should I give up my current activism or organization for IOPS ?
    As Lambert said : "Clearly, such people who are currently active in some other movement – and this applies to several of the Dutch IOPS members I know – should not be expected to drop everything they're doing now and focus their energy instead on chapter building when they join IOPS. But we do want them as members and should try to convince more of them of the revolutionary potential of IOPS. Are we doing a good job there? "
    A possible solution is to open the doors to organizations,and groups and to be a movement of movements. IOPS needs individuals, of course, but experienced organizers as well (they’re all busy)
    and groups acting as intermediary to reach workers, farmers, and déprived areas around the world.

    • Mark Evans 18th Nov 2012

      Hi Didier - by "important work" i mean activism that wins. By winning I mean changes that move us towards our shared vision. If you are already engaged in such activism then fine.

      With regards to the idea of a "movement of movements" - that sounds to me like the world social forum which, of course, already exists and IOPS was not set-up to duplicate existing organisational efforts. Such ideas are currently fashionable on the left - I think following the Zapatista's slogan "one no, many yeses" - but I personally find them ridiculous.

      Finally, as I am sure you would agree, being "very busy" is not the same thing as being engaged in serious organising - we all know that people can be very busy and produce nothing of any value. Furthermore there is a danger of feeling proud of ourselves for working so hard for a good cause even when it makes zero difference. Obviously the idea is to contribute but to contribute to something that actually gets results that matter and that generate more commitment and that can be used to win further gains.

      My question to you is - do you agree that building local chapters informed by our shared vision should be one of the priorities for IOPS members?

    • Michael Albert 18th Nov 2012

      Mark,

      I think you are writing in a way that goes too far...the issue isn't other work being not or even less valuable. We don't know what will turn out highly valuable or not, and that includes work on IOPS. All that I, or you, or anyone else has done may amount to very little, in time. Or may amount to a quite critical contribution. Ad the same goes for work on Global warming, or immigration, or peace, or foreclosure a, and so on. The main point is good works on campaigns should aid good organization building. Ad good organization building should aid campaigns. And both are sorely needed. But there is a ton of one out there in the world, and not so much of the other. So, giving it just a little time, we can each add dramatically to the organization building, taking nothing from, or proportionately quite little from, campaign work. And, in any case, if we do the organization building well, tha down the road it will ay off for campaigns too.

    • Mark Evans 18th Nov 2012

      Maybe the frustration is getting to me - but to clarify I certainly did not intend to convey the idea that campaign work is, in and of itself, a complete waste of time or that members need to completely change all of their activist priorities, but instead that if we want the kind of results that IOPS hopes to achieve then members need to engage in the preliminary organising work that currently seems to be devalued, to their own detriment in my opinion, by many on the left.

    • Michael Albert 18th Nov 2012

      I don't think anyone is suggesting people drop other activities. I certainly am not. Far from it. A good IOPS chapter will have members, many or most of whom are doing work I various projects, movements, etc. why would talking to a few people, each month, imply dropping other work? Indeed, doing other work makes it far more likely one has other people to talk to. I think quite modest effort from 3,000 members...talking personally to folks, writing some letters, writing comments in various systems, writing blogs various places, maybe ar article or two, would be quite enough. One effort at writing and three at talking to folks a month from 3,000 members would sum up to a whole lot of very visible presence.

  • Dave Jones 18th Nov 2012

    I think it was Jameson who said "it is easier for people to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism." The bottom line is, capitalism has won the class war and we have an incredibly difficult task ahead of us. I have no way of knowing if the people who clicked the IOPS sign-up button could picture themselves engaging a room full of comfortable liberals on the imperative of structural change. But I've learned that patient, articulate, effective organizers are rare, they need to be nurtured and developed and trained in a basic skill set.

    Occupy clearly showed us the difference between anger at perceived injustice and a well developed analysis and critique. Between an eruption and a sustained effort.

    In my experience, "activists" are some of the most resistant to the language of anti-capitalism and, as Mark suggests, the most comfortable "being on the loosing side" or defending the structural status quo. A "program" is too often a way to be busy and avoid having to re-evaluate the theoretical assumptions which under-gird your activity.

    On a positive note, here in Missoula, Montana, a community of sixty thousand or so, we have 13 solid, committed members who meet each week and we grow each month. As activists inside various movements (for instance, my current focus is coal and climate) we agitate constantly for more radical critique, tactics and goals. If we can do it here...

    • Michael Albert 18th Nov 2012

      I wish you guys in Missoula would tell your story, regularly. Everyone seems to very sorely u dieresis the the glue of reporting on successes, and for that matter even failures.

  • Lambert Meertens 18th Nov 2012

    13 out of 60,000! That is almost six times as much (pro capita) as Salem OR, 14 times as much as London, and 100 times the Netherlands. And then solid, committed members. What is your secret?

  • Michael Albert 18th Nov 2012

    My guess is until you get to rather high numbers, population size has little to do with it. Rather the key variables are general receptivity of the population you arr reachng out to, and...even more so, effectivity of the outreach, and, most likely most of all, persistence of the initial people who are enlisting others.

    After all, if you have five people reaching out in NYC, on the one hand, or in Missoula on the other hand, each of the five can only talk to a few folks a week or month, in either place.

  • 18th Nov 2012

    Michael,

    You wrote that there are established, large and capable organizations, movements, and struggles, on a countless number of important issues, and that it certainly makes sense for people in IOPS to relate to those efforts and to learn by participating in them, and to contribute to them, but for IOPS to announce its prioritization of any or all of these agendas would be utterly hollow, as well as inconsistent with self-management.

    Yes, I would agree with that, we don’t have, as you put it, the infrastructure or a sufficiently involved, aware, and committed membership to form allegiances with any of these existing groups and still retain our self-identity and ability to self manage.

    However, I’m concerned this doesn’t fully take into account the ongoing efforts of those other organizations, movements and struggles you mention which are taking similar steps to further their own ends through the increased involvement, awareness and commitment of their own members. My concern is that this creates a conflict for those considering where to put their time-constrained efforts.

    Take for instance a recent expression of need voiced by Media Benjiman of Codepink to the peace movement. If I distill what she wrote:

    “The peace movement has a challenge today to re-activate itself and to increase its effectiveness by forming coalitions with other sectors of the progressive movement.

    “Its job now is to coordinate those efforts, to launch a massive public education campaign to reverse pro-drone public opinion, pass city resolutions against drone use, and to call on our elected officials to start respecting the rule of law. If the movement can strengthen its ties with people in the nations most effected and join in with those at the UN bodies who are horrified by drone proliferation, it can make progress in setting global standards for the use of lethal drones. It can then continue to shift public opinion and gain more allies in Congress, with an openness to reaching out to libertarians and fiscal conservatives calling for cuts in foreign aid.

    “Key to building a vibrant peace movement in the next four years is coalition building, reaching out to a broad array of social justice groups to make the connection between their work and the billions drained from our economy for war. Environmentalists, women’s rights advocates, labor unions, civil rights – there are so many connections that have to be rekindled from the Bush years or started anew.

    “If the peace movement can connect these foreign policy issues with domestic needs and climate change, if it can follow the powerful examples of mass direct action movements from Chile to Egypt, and if enough people practice democracy daily rather than waiting until the next presidential election, then maybe it’ll be able to push the arc of the moral universe to bend toward justice.”

    I realize she is not talking about revolutionary change, nor does she say much about how the peace movement is going to achieve what she is suggesting. But it is not dissimilar to what is being suggested in your blog, and this in my opinion posses a problem for those who may be considering supporting efforts to rekindle existing movements for more immediate change and those hoping to plant the seeds for future revolutionary change by building IOPS. Both may be possible for some people, but I suspect many will not be able to do both, requiring people to make a decision, one or the other. It would be unrealistic to assume that this is a simple choice for both can be considered valid pursuits.

    And while Mark Evans is correct when he writes that those fighting class war or some other issue have little chance of changing anything at the SYSTEMIC level, he continues that such efforts are essentially irrational and self-defeating because they may even help maintain the illusion that we live in a free and democratic society where dissent is welcome. That’s writing off to many past gains and the current efforts of those organizing around such issues as climate change, and peace and justice.

    I think perhaps more needs to be said on how people are to effectively address these conflicts, or at least we need to acknowledge them so we can consider them in more depth in future discussions.

    • Michael Albert 18th Nov 2012

      The idea that everyone has to do one thing rarely makes sense - and certainly not for an organization like iops that so emphasizes diversity, preserving options, etc. Debating whether it is so, or not, typically makes even less sense, honestly.

      For those who see the importance of an organization like IOPS - and who think it is a priority - there will be one accounting. For those who don't, there will be a very different accounting, of course.

      Even among the first group, which is to say the membership, there will be many who are so deeply involved in other pursuits that their time for IOPS is quite limited - and others who will have much more time. This is of course true.

      Here is the part that to me seems rather simple, honestly - though perhaps not for others. To my mind everyone in IOPS should think all kinds of other pursuits are incredibly important and valuable, and should not denigrate any, or pose them as competing. So, you might think, for those who see things that way, they will all have a giant headache deciding how to apportion their time.

      But there is a very different type question to ask to help with that. When I think about what I ought to be doing at any given moment - the issue is rarely if ever to try to figure out what is most important in some abstract sense (we can rarely know) or even to figure out a few things that are highly important, then choosing among them after deciding their relative worth, or based on my propensity for them (which is certainly a factor to take in to account). The issue is more often, in the end, where can my contribution, given what I have to give, make the most productive difference.

      This often yields different results than other ways of assessing. Right now, for example, I might think that activism about global warming, say, or the mideast, is of paramount immediate importance. On the other hand, I know that relatively speaking there are tons of people who think that, and who will act on that, or try to. Now I also think building an organization like IOPS is very important - not as urgent, but certainly of long run consequence, and I know that there will, relatively speaking, be way less people who think that, and who will act on that, or try to.

      So, I assess - in which pursuit am I likely to contribute more? Everyone must decide such things for themselves. Given that building iops isn't full time at all, to me it seems like those who think it is important - in light of the relative dirth of people who will work on it compared to the number working on other agendas - giving some time to it makes sense. Others will hopefully feel similarly.

  • Michael Albert 18th Nov 2012

    The idea that I should formulate a proposal now - for the ICC - is one option. But, again, how about if you folks do it. You were in the discussion - but I refrained, mainly. So, again, how about you who were involved propose something for the ICC to vote on - or perhaps choose between.

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 18th Nov 2012

    Very useful discussion, and thank you Michael for initiating it (also much enjoyed the London video, good to actually see and hear a person rather than just read text without body language). Maybe it's time to reconsider the model, look at expectations re IOPS.

    You note that chapter building doesn't seem to be everyone's cup of tea ("for some reason many folks hear that and roll their eyes as if it isn't real activism") but seem to scratch your head and not seem to really understand why this might be. You rightly note that for IOPS to now develop programs or 'mass campaigns' would be both hollow and contradict the principle of self-management. If I've understood you rightly, your idea for developing 'mass campaigns' is that there first be a plethora of local campaigns by local chapters which then morph into national, and, finally into international ones, all this in some gradual, linear fashion.

    All this seems predicated on certain assumptions about IOPS as some kind of future International or global FAI, i.e. a mammoth organisation (one blog comment has, non-ironically I think, spoken of a billion members) that itself, as IOPS, somehow initiates systemic/revolutionary change through 'mass campaigns' or other means. Maybe that's an organisational assumption/vision that needs to be reconsidered.

    Could we now perhaps ask why it's fair to say there's been minute to no interest in forming chapters, participating in online discussion around most things but especially on organisational matters (like preconditions for a founding convention)? Why there's been a lot of 'Like button' membership but little willingness to 'find time in busy lives' to go beyond that.

    In the London video you noted that it would have been ideal for IOPS to grow from bottom-up, but considered that that wasn't likely anytime soon, and so initiated IOPS as a top-down venture. Maybe there's the essential rub (as I noted in my first blog a few months ago): IOPS is a top-down group trying to initiate bottom-up chapters so it can get rid of its initial top-down nature. Maybe that's a bit self-contradictory and ain't gonna work anytime soon (but I could be wrong, reality never ceases to amaze).

    Of course it's a truism that bottom-up mass movements happen spontaneously, and unpredictably, because of pressing, real issues driven by material interests and/or moral concerns. Thus there's automatically a real energy and drive and, often, 'utopian, imaginative surplus', all of which is largely missing in IOPS.

    I understand that IOPS doesn't want to be a movement but a lasting, coherent organisation that might provide some coherent vision and organisational continuity to the inherent fluctuations and ebbings of spontaneous movements. But IMO too much emphasis on organisational minutiae, or the relegation of debate and/or action on substantial issues to 'later', is usually the domain of the apparatchik-type of activist, the 'committee man or woman' who have often then become the new coordinator class and about whom many, including myself, are extremely wary. (Happily, the few IOPS contributors to online debate have merrily gotten stuck into debate about material issues of concern anyway...).

    What other expectations could IOPS have about itself if not as some kind of large International? I'd welcome debate on that. My own feelings, for what they're worth, tend towards something like what it is now: a smallish, global, internationalist network and affinity group of people sharing the self-management vision and communicating about local/national involvements/practices and theory, practising mutual aid, and, where possible, intervening in spontaneous grassroots movements with a coherent vision and alternative. Just some thoughts, and probably minoritarian.

    • Will Henry Lapinel 20th Nov 2012

      Peter - I was wondering what you were referring to, specifically, in your second to last paragraph, with - "too much emphasis on organisational minutiae, or the relegation of debate and/or action on substantial issues to 'later'"

      and

      "few IOPS contributors to online debate have merrily gotten stuck into debate about material issues of concern anyway"?

  • Michael Albert 19th Nov 2012

    Hi,

    > You note that chapter building doesn't seem to be everyone's cup of tea ("for some reason many folks hear that and roll their eyes as if it isn't real activism") but seem to scratch your head and not seem to really understand why this might be.

    That is correct.

    The idea that rallying, marching, or even sitting in is activism - which it is - but that talking to people, or even writing for them, and organizing, whether to just raise awareness, or to elicit participation and membership in projects or organizations, much less literally to build organization, is not - is a horrendous misconception.

    You are correct - I am boggled at the viewpoint. How can people think it, I wonder? Yet I know one reason is that the people who do the hard work that resides under and paves the way for rallying, marching, and even sitting in, rarely describe what they have done.

    > You rightly note that for IOPS to now develop programs or 'mass campaigns' would be both hollow and contradict the principle of self-management. If I've understood you rightly, your idea for developing 'mass campaigns' is that there first be a plethora of local campaigns by local chapters which then morph into national, and, finally into international ones, all this in some gradual, linear fashion.

    Did I use a word like plethora? I don't think so, but, if so, sorry.

    Let take a case. Suppose London has thirty people. Suppose they initiate a foreclosure campaign, and another campaign, say about war. They do work on those, among other things, such as holding events to reach out to new members, etc., or working on campaigns others have initiated. They are careful about their campaign work - trying to learn lessons and convey those carefully.

    Suppose Birminham picks up the campaigns, and adds another. Suppose Dublin and Edinbourgh do too. Maybe a couple more. Other chapters are forming. Some campus chapters too get going - and maybe grow more quickly once in existence.

    How does all this happen - partly people react to public efforts, seek out chapters and join. But I would bet that mostly, people who are on board already, talk to others who aren't, hold events that outreach to others who aren't, etc.

    At some point there is a UK meeting called, say. Then perhaps a UK Convention, and it settles on some UK Program. By now there are other cities in other countries following similar paths, likely with other campaigns, with nice sized chapters, doing outreach, doing internal development, developing local campaigns, moving toward national meetings. Sometimes this is gradual, sometimes in jumps. Morph?

    > All this seems predicated on certain assumptions about IOPS as some kind of future International or global FAI, i.e. a mammoth organisation (one blog comment has, non-ironically I think, spoken of a billion members) that itself, as IOPS, somehow initiates systemic/revolutionary change through 'mass campaigns' or other means. Maybe that's an organisational assumption/vision that needs to be reconsidered.

    I don't know that anyone has that organizational assumption/vision. I suppose something like that could happen. Countless other things could happen. Nothing will happen, however, unless people make it so.

    > Could we now perhaps ask why it's fair to say there's been minute to no interest in forming chapters, participating in online discussion around most things but especially on organisational matters (like preconditions for a founding convention)? Why there's been a lot of 'Like button' membership but little willingness to 'find time in busy lives' to go beyond that.

    I think you may be a tad harsh here, but, sure, it is a better question to ask than most... I agree...

    There are many possible answers. One you allude to yourself - the idea that politics is a like button, as harmful as the idea that politics is a once every few years lever pull - election. But I think another reason is skepticism that others will "find time" and so unwillingness to oneself "find time." It is a judgement call...and so far, one can make a case it has been largely correct. On the other hand, one can also make the case it is a stairway to disaster...

    > In the London video you noted that it would have been ideal for IOPS to grow from bottom-up, but considered that that wasn't likely anytime soon, and so initiated IOPS as a top-down venture.

    No. What we did, was to provide an overarching entity - but one that did not impose on the bottom up process but that could facilitate it, motivate it, aid it. To have done what you say would have been precisely what we have been aggressively avoiding - having some relatively or even very small group meet in some room and decide a program, detailed structure, etc. etc. and simply impose it. People did not do that. Quite the opposite.

    You write: "IOPS is a top-down group trying to initiate bottom-up chapters so it can get rid of its initial top-down nature."

    I think top-down is a catch phrase people may not mean. No one imposed anything. Things begin because some people act - that is simply a truism. In the case of IOPS it was an extended process, including 4,000 people voting about 98% for the undertaking. How any initial participants act bears on being top-down as compared to bottom-up. A call - and establishing a meager framework consistent with collective self management, plus entreaties for people to locally organize and act - plus commitments that are totally inconsistent with top down and totally consistent with bottom up, is not top-down.

    That said, if everyone simply abstains from participating and taking initiative, other than a very few - then, in time, yes, those few will be the only ones taking initiative.

    The point of the approach taken was, if we simply wait for local individuals to find other local individuals, and then to form local chapters, and then to find other local chapters, and then to federate, nationally and internationally, with no real mechanisms for any of that other than what isolated individuals generate - it is simply too much to ask of people. There is not enough motivation, connection, and context, to give hope and sustain activity.

    Okay, if that observation was true - and I still think it was, indeed more so than ever - then finding a broad level of agreement that could give evidence of potential, could attract people who others could easily connect with, and which could then motivate and sustain local effort, allowing sharing of lessons, etc. - that would help. If all that could be done without enshrining individuals into positions of power, much less establishing positions of dominance and subordination, and all while maintaining and enlarging structures of local self management and collective self management, then you could have both the overarching hope and connectivity generated by iops writ large - and the bottom-up reality of structure generated by iops participants and chapters.

    That is what is being tried.

    > Of course it's a truism that bottom-up mass movements happen spontaneously, and unpredictably, because of pressing, real issues driven by material interests and/or moral concerns.

    Actually, that is not a truism at all - rather, most often, I think it is quite wrong, at least in what most people understand the above sentence to mean. Most often, instead of things just magically appearing full blown, it is years and even decades of activity creating small but essential foundations that then finally undergirds and sustainers and engenders wide visibility, due mostly to emerging hope - not to increasing pain. It is a backdrop of tireless communications and activity, mostly invisible, generating more people and more commitment, though very few in the beginning, that then provides the basis for what appears to come from nowhere.

    > Thus there's automatically a real energy and drive and, often, 'utopian, imaginative surplus', all of which is largely missing in IOPS.

    There is virtually never automatically such a thing - and, worse, when the foundations for bursts of visible activism are less sound, the duration tends to be also.

    More, I have been in a great many places around the world talking to iops type people, and now iops members - and there is no deficit of insight and desire - there is an immense deficit of confidence and hope, and willingness to act without certainty of success. This is very very different - and precisely what building iops, and internal means of development, and means of outreach, and so on, are about addressing.

    > I understand that IOPS doesn't want to be a movement but a lasting, coherent organisation that might provide some coherent vision and organisational continuity to the inherent fluctuations and ebbings of spontaneous movements.

    Except for the word spontaneous - which is vague and very often quite misleading, fair enough - though I think a large iops can also initiate important campaigns, etc.

    > But IMO too much emphasis on organisational minutiae, or the relegation of debate and/or action on substantial issues to 'later', is usually the domain of the apparatchik-type of activist, the 'committee man or woman' who have often then become the new coordinator class and about whom many, including myself, are extremely wary. (Happily, the few IOPS contributors to online debate have merrily gotten stuck into debate about material issues of concern anyway...).

    Suppose it was the case that the icc was full of people who want to preserve some great benefit they have by virtue of being on the icc - a ludicrous formulation, honestly, since there is no such benefit and they would all happily melt into the membership instantly, given the choice to do so - but suppose it was true. What then? Well, the easiest way out of the threat that would represent would be simply to grow, create chapters, take responsibility - since as soon as that happens there is no icc.

    Now what organizational minutiae is anyone focusing on, I wonder? I don't even think minutiae have been raised, much less occupied people. The only organizational issues that exist, I think, are when to have a convention - and how to get to that point - on the one hand - and, for local chapters, how to convene and engage in self development, further local outreach, and, when able, institute local program. None of that seems to me to be minutiae.

    I know what you are feeling though - we used to call it, when I was much younger, paralysis of analysis. People can talk about the efficacy of doing x, or not doing x, for weeks, months, or even years - when a few week or months of actually doing x, instead of talking about doing or not doing x, would have been enough to resolve the issue of its efficacy, or not. Such talk, even though about something important - x - can begin to feel like talk about minutiae.

    > What other expectations could IOPS have about itself if not as some kind of large International? I'd welcome debate on that.

    This effort was undertaken based on people agreeing on the commitments and the broad structure - both of which presuppose seeking to become a large international organization, federation of national organizations, in turn federations of local chapters - all collectively self managing, etc. etc. To simply dump that set of aims based on a some people feeling differently, or worrying it might not succeed, would to me make no sense. Yes, if there were lots of chapters, and then if there was a convention, and if an aware and participating membership decided on new approaches - so be it. But to move from not doing one thing, in a collective and organized fashion recruiting and developing chapters - to not doing another thing, the whole aim of iops - seems to me much less desirable than to get on with trying the first thing...

    > My own feelings, for what they're worth, tend towards something like what it is now: a smallish, global, internationalist network and affinity group of people sharing the self-management vision and communicating about local/national involvements/practices and theory, practising mutual aid, and, where possible, intervening in spontaneous grassroots movements with a coherent vision and alternative. Just some thoughts, and probably minoritarian.

    And that image is one possibility. It may happen but should do so only if it proves impossible to grow - since then, by definition, the fall back is that one is small. But to decide to be small, having not made much attempt - honestly - to be large - seems worse than unwise.

    What if large is possible? What if we could have a hundred, or a thousand, or even five thousand chapters - averaging 100 members? To have foregone such a possibility, with the national and international campaigns and energy and desire and hope and actual gains such a possibility could generate - out of a preference for having less, or out of a very partial and limited effort to grow to that scale of course not growing to that scale - seems to me a very poor choice.

    I was in a Chinese restaurant yesterday for a family gathering. I kid you not. I rarely even open fortune cookies, but, this time, I wanted to eat the cookie. And I read the silly little slip of paper.

    "Failure is not defeat until you surrender."

    The advisory goes well with one of my favorites - you lose, you lose, you lose, you win - from Rosa Luxembourg - who understood the importance of participation and self management, but also of the foundation that mass activity rests upon...

  • 19th Nov 2012

    Mark
    My question to you is - do you agree that building local chapters informed by our shared vision should be one of the priorities for IOPS members?
    Do we consider that our vision is unique ?
    If so, the answer is yes.
    If not, our goals are different and larger.
    I’ve translated into French Andrej Grubacic and I share his vision. Just ignore the word "anarchism" if it hurts you.
    http://www.zcommunications.org/towards-another-anarchism-by-andrej-grubacic
    Local chapters, talking, writing. Yes . But for me the question is not or/or, and the answer is and/and.
    Sorry folks, but it’s getting to hard to debate in English
    In unity (there is strength )

  • Lambert Meertens 19th Nov 2012

    Quote from Peter Lach-Newinsky:

     "What other expectations could IOPS have about itself if not as some kind of large International? I'd welcome debate on that."

    There was some debate on that at http://www.iopsociety.org/blog/flying-high.
     "one blog comment has, non-ironically I think, spoken of a billion members"

    The blog http://www.iopsociety.org/blog/maths-of-recruitment even aspired to 7 billion! Even such a large number is entirely consistent with an organization in which the core is formed by self-managing local chapters. You don't need to think of this as a mammoth organization in which everyone walks to the beat of the same drummer. But a lasting fundamental and radical transformation of society such as we aspire to is not possible unless the people who are actively in favour of the change far outnumber those who will actively resist it.

  • Jay Bostrom 27th May 2013

    As a member of the Missoula branch, I am writing to say that we will be putting together our story very soon. And actually, at our first chapter meeting, we had over 20 people in attendance. (A