I thought that it might be a nice idea if members started to interview each other. My thinking behind this is that it is (1) an easy way to generate new content for the site - creating a lively online environment, (2) a good way to get to know each other - creating a stronger sense of community, and (3) an opportunity to start to take each others views more seriously - creating a more egalitarian culture.
If you think this is a good idea then maybe you will consider interviewing another member. Member2Mender Interviews can be as short or long as you like and with whoever you like. Pick a member at random or choose someone you know or are interested in learning more about. Alternatively, Liz might interview someone else, and then that person interview another member, and so on...
Mark Evans (IOPS England / Birmingham) interview with Elizabeth Meade (IOPS Ireland / Dublin).
Most people have experiences that lead them towards revolutionary politics. How did you become radicalised?
I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t broadly think this way about politics and human relationships in general, be that economic, social, kinship etc. and I generally don’t think of my view as ‘revolutionary’, although they would fit that category. Not that I have a problem with the term ‘revolutionary’ or ‘radicalised’, I just always saw the worldview that is in line with my own as straight forwardly just and fair, and therefore not that radical. Unfortunately, as the dominant ways of relating in the world are mostly opposed to those ‘radical’ values, the values I have always regarded as fair become ‘revolutionary’ by comparison.
My father was always active in trade unions, and certain views such as always respect workers on strike and never cross a picket line, have been with me from the beginning. I remember going to protest marches and rallies from a young age, and this obviously had a big impact on me. So, I can’t really say that I became radicalised in my thinking, but over time I have become more active.
There are many options available to people who are looking for radical social change. Various socialist parties, single issue campaigns, etc. Why did you join IOPS?
Over the years I have participated in different single issues campaigns, and I have tried out various political groups that seemed to fit with my way of thinking. Although I have had many positive experiences, I found these groups lacking in certain aspects that I think IOPS does not overlook. The broad analysis that IOPS brings to these single issue campaigns is crucial, as it looks at all aspects of human life, and doesn’t prioritise one area over the other. The long-term vision is also something that really attracted me, as I think it is important to keep in mind a broad vision for the future. I also like that IOPS is not weighed down by some of the historical baggage and particular vocabulary that other political groups are so hung up on, and that in my opinion function as a barrier to a wider membership.
I prefer to devote my limited time and energy to IOPS over other organisations as I think that IOPS has wider reaching potential both in terms of attracting a broad international membership in the present, and the potential for influencing change going forward into a better future.
What are your hopes for the future of IOPS, and how hopeful do you currently feel about our organisations future?
I hope that IOPS grows and strengthens at the most local level possible, whilst maintaining international ties and solidarity, and that this would result in the values we stand for being implemented in all areas of human relations. Ultimately, the biggest hope is that eventually this would lead to world wherein the values we currently stand for are no longer regarded as ‘radical’ and ‘revolutionary’, but simply how we relate to one another.
Obviously that is a long way off, if we get there at all, and the reality is that in the meantime there is a whole lot of work to be done if we have any hope of getting there. Nevertheless, it is achievable.
I remain optimistic about the future of IOPS. I know that many of our members are feeling disheartened, as we approach the summer deadline for the interim targets, but I think this disappointment is premature. IOPS is still in its infancy, and I think we need to be realistic about the time it takes to grow an organisation such as IOPS and the work that such organising entails. Whether we like it or not we are all, to an extent, products of the current system and perhaps it will take time and conscious effort to instil in ourselves the idea that each of us must work to make IOPS successful, as there is no hierarchy and no upper management going to delegate tasks. The most important activism we can do at this stage is establish and grow local chapters, only then will we have the structures in place to facilitate moving forward.
If we are to be successful, it is up to us. I still see that potential in IOPS. If we truly believe that a world based on participatory values can work day to day, free from unjust dominating power structures and hierarchy, then we ought to try to realise that now in our own actions and reach out to other members where possible.
The impression I got during my recent visit to Dublin was that you have a vibrant and committed group of people in your chapter. Is that an accurate impression?
I would say that impression is accurate. Of course, you visited Dublin at an important time for our chapter as it was the first time that we participated at a public event, with a stall at the Anarchist book fair and a public talk by one of our other members. So, energy levels were high and our confidence as a group was up. We have been meeting for over a year and a half now, focusing on equally important work, but it has been slow at times and not always as vibrant. Members have come and gone in that time but we have a committed core group and we are starting to come into our own. It has taken time to get to know one another, our different views, and to build trust. We are currently organising for another public event to be held in a couple of weeks, alongside ongoing education, and so we are hoping to keep up the momentum from the book fair.
What lessons, if any, have you learned so far from your experiences of organising within IOPS?
That we won’t achieve what we want to overnight. That progress is slow and disheartening at times. If you want to see something happening in your region, you should try to be the person that makes that happen. We met regularly at first for a few months, and then because we didn’t have anywhere to meet it died away again for a while. Another member stuck at looking for a place, and then contacted us all again and urged us to give it another go, which thankfully we did.
The online membership in Ireland does not reflect the active members, and despite numerous attempts at making contact most members have never replied. I found this difficult at first, but as you said above we now have a vibrant and committed group, small as that may currently be.
What do you think can be done to encourage more women, like yourself, to join and be active within IOPS?
I’m not too sure how to answer this question. Given that I am an active member, then it makes sense that if more women like myself knew about IOPS then they would join. I’m often uncomfortable with the notion that we can find a way to address ‘women’ in general, as this can imply that women are some kind of a homogeneous group that we can address and appeal to en masse. I suppose I experience myself as a person first and foremost, and I would like to be seen for my own personhood before I am counted as a representative for the gender. However, with that being said, I would still very much like to see a much more diverse membership, which would include many more female members from all walks of life. I suppose the only way we can do that is to spread the word about IOPS.
What do you think we should do if we fail to meet our interim targets?
I don’t think that this would be the disaster scenario that some other members believe it to be. I think we should use it as a good opportunity to reflect on what we have, or have not been doing, and what we could do differently.
There are a number of possibilities to choose from if the targets are not met. We could revaluate the targets and decide to change the criteria, for example, for a working chapter. Or, we could push the date back and work harder to try and meet the new deadline. Or, we could launch anyway. Or, we could see it as defeat and end IOPS before it has even been launched.
I’m really not in favour of the last option. Hopefully, the discussion that the lead up to the deadline generates will give members new hope and energy to work towards making IOPS a success. Some of that discussion has started already, and who knows, maybe we will make the targets yet!