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Poll Proposal

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(The picture is La Discussion Politique (1889) by Émile Friant, copied from wikimedia commons) 

Hi all! I’ve been very much enjoying the recent debates and excellent contributions by all the members here on the plans and decision making systems of IOPS. Michael Albert has been working on a poll which represents a great move in the democratic direction. Here I present an alternative poll, based on his, which would take us a lot further that way. I also, in the next section I suggest an alternative plan of how we should proceed with it. In the last few sections of this blog I try to justify my proposal and then make a few tentative suggestions for what direction IOPS might take after that - more for discussion purposes at this stage than anything else. I hope people will find this article valuable and any feedback will be greatly appreciated.

NOTE - Just before I posted this article I saw Jason’s blog suggesting that Michael has already sent a poll to the ICC, so the opportunity of improving Michael’s poll that this article is trying to take may have passed. However, I spent time on this article (slightly too much time ha ha!) and think it makes valid points, so here it is. Also, maybe we should put this poll, or questions from it that don’t overlap with Michaels to the Members and Committee anyway, or make some other use of it.

How We Might Proceed

The approach I suggest is the following. At the end of this month (Jan ‘13) we fire off the poll I’ve written below, or something like it to both the Committee and to the general membership at the same time. Hopefully they’ll come up with similar answers. If not, we can try to send the poll to both of them again, say a month later and see if they are ok to move their answers closer to one another (a bit like Participatory Planning). If they end up agreeing it should be a pretty good mandate to proceed, as both the Committee and the members will have said the same thing.

Poll to all members

In each of the questions below choose the statement that you most agree with.

For the purposes of the poll, let us define the Key Decisions of IOPS as ones that create or change its name, logo, decision making procedures, chapter relations, internal campaigns and projects, dues systems, refined commitments, other documents, political opinions, action plans, campaigns.

1) IOPS should avoid making key decisions from now until it has grown in terms of one or more of the following measures: number of online members, number of working chapters, number of nation states with working chapters, number of continents with working chapters, percentage of female online members (Yes or No)

If you answered No, you don’t need to answer questions 2 to 7. Proceed to question 8.

2) IOPS should avoid making key decisions from now until its number of online members reaches
a) 5000
b) 7500
c) 10,000
d) a figure larger than 10,000
e) I’m happy for IOPS to make key decisions with the number of members it currently has

Let us now define a Working Chapter as one which has an admin, at least 5 members, meets regularly face-to-face, has adopted a constitution that defines decision-making processes and dues expectations (if applicable) and has posted at least 3 regular chapter reports.

3) IOPS should avoid making key decisions from now until its number of working chapters reaches
a) 5
b) 10
c) 25
d) 50
e) a figure higher than 50
f) I’m happy for IOPS to make key decisions with the number of working chapters it currently has

4) IOPS should avoid making key decisions from now until the number of nation states with working IOPS chapters reaches
a) 5
b) 10
c) 15
d) I’m happy for IOPS to make key decisions with functioning chapters in as many nation states as is currently the case

5) IOPS should avoid making key decisions from now until the number of continents with working IOPS chapters reaches
a) 2
b) 3
c) 4
d) I’m happy for IOPS to make key decisions with working chapters on as many continents as is currently the case

6) IOPS should avoid making key decisions from now until its number of female online members as a percentage of online members overall reaches
a) 20%
b) 30%
c) 40%
d) I’m happy for IOPS to make key decisions with the percentage of female members it currently has

7) Suppose IOPS decides to set some preconditions for key decision-making, as discussed in questions 1 to 6. Suppose, then, at some point in the future, it meets these conditions. If, from then on, IOPS’s international/organisation-wide decisions have to be made either online, or face-to-face, or some combination of both, they should be made
a) online
b) 2/3rds online, 1/3rd face-to-face, as a general estimate
c) by both methods equally, as a general estimate
d) 2/3rds face-to-face, 1/3rd online, as a general estimate
e) face-to-face

8) If IOPS sets one or more preconditions discussed in questions 1 to 6, and these preconditions are not met within a certain amount of time, it might then have a discussion/decision making process to redefine the preconditions. This discussion/decision making process should happen
a) 6 months from now
b) 1 year from now
c) 18 months from now
d) 2 years from now
e) not within the next 2 and a half years

9) Returning to the present time, supposing any international/organisation-wide decisions that IOPS now makes have to be made either online, or face-to-face, or some combination of both, they should be made
a) online
b) 2/3rds online, 1/3rd face-to-face, as a general estimate
c) by both methods equally, as a general estimate
d) 2/3rds face-to-face, 1/3rd online, as a general estimate
e) face-to-face

10) If power over IOPS’s international/organisation-wide decisions has to rest with the either the Interim Consultative Committee, or the membership at large, or some combination of both, it should rest
a) with the ICC
b) 2/3rds with the ICC, 1/3rd with the membership, as a general estimate
c) with both equally, as a general estimate
d) 2/3rds with the membership, 1/3rd with the ICC, as a general estimate
e) with the membership

11) The Interim Consultative Committee, while it is in place, might rotate its members with the wider IOPS membership. It should be required to replace all its members with new ones every
a) year
b) 2 years
c) 3 years
d) 4 years or longer
e) no requirement of this kind should be in place

If you answered (e) to question 11 then skip the next question and go straight to Question 13

12) A member of the ICC who has been rotated should be required to stay off the committee for the following
a) 1 year
b) 2 years
c) 3 years
d) 4 years or longer
e) forever

13) IOPS should consider itself to be an organisation, rather than an interim one
a) now
b) when the criteria I specified in questions 2 to 6 are met
c) it shouldn’t plan to do this

14) IOPS should hold a founding conference
a) as soon as can be arranged
b) when the criteria I specified in questions 2 to 6 are met
c) it shouldn’t plan to do this

15) IOPS should make its international/organisation-wide decisions by
a) consensus
b) majority voting
c) a mixture of the two

My answers, in case anyone’s interested would be 1No 8a 9a 10e 11b 12c 13a 14c 15b

Justifications for this proposal

Let me try to explain why I think this proposal might be an improvement on Michael’s. The general difference between our respective proposals is that mine assumes that the members should determine all the main features of this organisation right away. I’m, personally, a radical egalitarian of power, and would have a rule saying that members should have a say in the organisation in proportion to the amount of time they put in. I don’t expect other members to be as radical as I am on this, however the principles stated in the side-tabs of this site say basically the same thing when they claim that we will strive to give members a say in decisions in proportion to how much they are affected by them (see Structure and Program tab - 2nd section, and Mission tab). It seems reasonable to suggest that IOPS members right now are affected by the decisions of the organisation to the extent that they are devoting time to it. So it seems to follow that we activists should be able to determine all the main aspects of the organisation, including what should and what should not be decided. This is also true at any time in IOPS’s development. The founders of the group a year ago were right to make decisions when the organisation began, the current membership should make the current decisions of the organisation and future members should make the future decisions. All should have the right to overturn the choices of a previous time, because past people are not being affected. If present members want to refrain from changing things in the organisation, then that’s their choice to make.

It is also very important, in my view, that we don’t put power in the hands of an unelected elite within the organisation. Again, this isn’t just my view - according to the principles written in the sidebars of our site we are supposed to be “internally classless” and avoiding “formal or informal decision-making hierarchies” and “monopolies of position” (Structure and Program tab, 2nd section).

Michael’s proposal, though an enormous step forward from the 3-option proposal he was making a month ago, still, by committing us to continuing our interim period a while longer, deny the members the say in the organisation they should have. Even if the members choose all the minimum preconditions he allows (and he gives them 5 chances to fail to do this) we’ll still probably end up in interim mode for the next few years. His membership requirement of 5,000 members, for example, looks at least 2 years from being achieved, and his female membership requirements may never be reached. During this interim phase he seems to be giving the members little say in determining the decision-making systems of IOPS. Under the plan (his Vote 1 for the committee) members are stuck with decisions being “kept to a minimum” and also as Lambert has pointed out, it’s not clear who gets to choose which matters are “truly essential to resolve” - this seems to leave the door open to an “informal decision making hierarchy”. While he does give all members the power to make proposals and give them the ultimate vote on changes - which are both very welcome - we still end up with several years where the members are denied their say over the organisation that affects them, and people on the Interim Committee get a “monopoly on position” in a “formal decision-making hierarchy”.

The plan, in which we will have an interim period followed by a convention at which lots of things will be decided, which Michael’s proposal commits the members to, is as far as I know a creation of the founders of IOPS, and has not been agreed to by the members at any time. So it seems pressing to give them the choices about this plan that I give them in my poll. Rather than a “take it or leave it” kind of approach to this deal, I divide the different elements of this plan into different questions, so the members can have the parts that they want. For example, a member might want the group to have a founding convention but not have many decisions made there, or want us not to become an organisation for a long time, but to take power away from the ICC right away. Giving separate choices like this is good democratic practice, as far as I can see.

Anyway, so feel free to criticise this proposal and my arguments for it, and don’t take it as a complete dismissal of Michael and other people’s contributions, which have all been of a very high standard. I also very much appreciate the time you have taken responding to my comments, Michael. Also, as I’m trying to give members democratic choices here folks, feel free to chip in suggestions for questions, if my current questions don’t let you express your preferences. Lastly, I should mention that this is the first poll I’ve ever written so I have no expertise in the area of polling (and little in the area of political organising) so there may well be things I’m failing to grasp here!

Some Suggestions for the Future of the Group

My personal opinion for where the group needs to go is that we should try to be radically democratic, as I discuss above. I also believe - which some of you probably won't like - that for any group bigger than a handful of people, consensus decision making isn’t really going to work. Its just a recipe for either chaos or hierarchy, in my view. For me the only way to run things is by simple majority voting. Kim Keyser, who regularly makes excellent comments on here, suggested that making decisions online is extremely cumbersome. I’ve already proposed an online majority voting system. I’ve revised this and posted new version as the last item in this blog, below - I personally think my system will make the decsions we want, fairly and efficiently, Kim, and I’m wondering if you and others are supporting the interim process because you think systems like mine can’t work, rather than that they would be undesirable if they did work.

Lastly, some members may be disappointed that my proposal doesn’t prioritise, say, the promotion of female membership or our need to get active chapters going or increase the membership. That’s because it is focussed on governance of the group and issues surrounding the Interim process. If people participate in this poll, or something like it, and the ICC don’t make too many differences with the members, then pretty soon we’re going to know who we're going to have making international decisions in the group, where they meet to do so and a little about how they decide things. That, in my view will be a step towards making decisions, including ones to get us more female members, active chapters and members etc. and any other thing that we want to achieve. I’m probably a bit obsessed with internal processes and formal rules for some of you, but I really think this is all going to be chaotic unless we get some of these governance issues sorted out first.

My Latest Online Decision Making System

Ok, here’s the latest version of my voting system. If the members get my poll and answer it to the effect that they want the members making all IOPS international decisions using online majority voting (as I would do) then this is the system I would propose for us.

Any IOPS member may have one active proposal at any one time, and officially support any number of active proposals of other members. At the end of every second calendar month (6 times a year) all proposals with 9 or more supporters are put forward to be voted on in an Instant Runoff election a month later, which is open to all IOPS members. In this election, members put the proposals, or as many of them as they wish to, in preference order (they may include a “reject all the proposals” option in the list). The option that wins the election is adopted by IOPS (and this might be the “reject all of the proposals” option, resulting in no change). All the other proposals are rejected on that occasion. All decisions made by this system must be respected by all members and override all previous decisions where they conflict. Proposals to abolish or change this system itself must also be put into effect if accepted according to the rules of this system.

For those unfamiliar with them, in Instant Runoff elections, also known as Alternative Voting, people’s first preferences are counted first and the candidate (or proposal, in our case) with the least of these votes is eliminated. His or her votes are donated to their second preferences and it continues in repeated rounds of eliminations like this until there is only one candidate left - who is declared the winner. 

Discussion 10 Comments

  • Lambert Meertens 10th Jan 2013

    At the moment any member can create a project any time. Why should creating an internal project be considered a key decision? It would be silly to commit ourselves not to have campaigns for attracting more members until we have attracted more members. It is unclear to me which of our commitments are "refined commitments".

    • Kuan Phillips 10th Jan 2013

      Hi Lambert. Good to talk to you on here for the first time, and thanks very much for commenting.

      Though I’m personally against postponing IOPS’s key decisions, this policy seems to be an important aspect of the plan that Michael Albert endorses. If the poll above is to settle some of the internal dilemmas of IOPS then I think Michael’s views, which are echoed by others, should be given as options.

      I defined Key Decisions as all the choices Michael says we should postpone until preconditions are met, when he listed them in his preamble to the poll questions in his latest blog. I admit I mindlessly copied his list of things without thinking very carefully about them. Thanks for pointing out that “internal projects” is on there - I agree that it doesn’t seem to belong on the list, and that they are clearly not a “key decision” of the group. My view remains, however that he really is saying that he wants people to avoid starting projects until the preconditions are met. Please correct me if you think I’m reading him wrong. I agree that this isn’t a very sensible policy especially as some projects might be specifically designed to attract new members.

      Maybe, therefore, we might give people a more sensible option by saying “key decisions” include ones that start or change political projects. So a project, say, to improve conditions in prison is key, but membership-drive type projects are not. That way they can vote to postpone projects like the prison one so we can focus on membership-drive type stuff.

      So the new wording might say
      let us define the Key Decisions of IOPS as ones that create or change its political opinions, campaigns/projects on political issues, name, logo, decision making procedures, chapter relations, dues systems, refined commitments and other documents

      As for “refined commitments” I think he’s referring to new commitments we might make in the future, instead of or in addition to our current commitments.

  • Lambert Meertens 10th Jan 2013

    Yes, sorry, I missed that you had just copied Michael's list verbatim. I think we are so much hung up on the idea of key decisions that we shouldn't take before a founding convention, that the effect is that we can't take any decisions at all. I wish we all could be a bit more relaxed about it.

    • Kuan Phillips 10th Jan 2013

      Yes, I very much agree with you.

    • Gregory VanGaya 12th Jan 2013

      I don't know, there is so much we could and should decide on to do. I very much have my priorities which I'm broadly convinced should be the foundation stones for building up the capacities by which we can do more diverse things, and I'm probably wrong, discourse will more likely bring out better strategic paths than any one of us can decide to go off on.

    • Kuan Phillips 13th Jan 2013

      Hi Gregory. Thanks very much for posting your reply. I can't speak for Lambert, I guess, but what I'm thinking about with regard to us making international/organisational-wide decisions would involve us having a month or two of discourse followed by us taking a certain course of action. An example might be to choose whether to have compulsory dues worldwide (which I'm against) or for IOPS to issue a specific statement about recent IMF policies on austerity (which I might well be for, depending, obviously on the details of the statement). I've proposed my ideal decision-making system in the last section of the blog above, to get the idea of the sort of thing I'm talking about. So I'm very much talking about bringing out a good strategic path based on discourse, and not going off down some road that one person wants to go down. The way the group seems to be going, by contrast, is to not make any strategic choices for a few years, which as well as being undemocratic and against the principle of self-management, as I also argue in blog, seems to be a very bad strategic path.

    • Lambert Meertens 13th Jan 2013

      Gregory, I'm very much interested in finding out which priorities you think will help to build up our capacities. We need to share our ideas, and I too believe that collective discourse can bring out the best ideas, and also that collective action can then make the best of these ideas, but we need some decision mechanism that allows us to decide that we're indeed going to take that collective action. The important thing is the discussion, which should lead to a shared understanding that provides the basis for a shared decision.

    • Gregory VanGaya 14th Jan 2013

      Because we need to effect so many realms, especially those of cultural thought and linguistics, in order to be successful revolutionaries will need to be where people are in their day-to-day realities, we will need to effect the very symbolisms present on the streets they walk down, in the conversation spaces they exist in, whether oral or not, etc., etc. Effecting community spaces this way is a day in day out thing, not a million man march in every city in the world. Effecting culture, kinship, etc., patterns requires much more capacity than 'building a mass movement' (in traditional 'activist' terms).

      It requires support for people to risk in the profoundly meaningful ways that would challenge the very structures they rely on, their jobs, their schools, their traffic patterns travelling to work in front of cops, etc., etc. Being in people's day to day, means being and helping out in their daily grind (negotiation/polity) for food (ecology), childcare (kinship), entertainment (culture), and procurement (economy). If we ask people to go into an insitution and risk to bring change in it, than we need to have a back up job or place for them in the r'evolution. Economy is so out of wack/balance, that it is what controls all other realms - in my city the housing and childcare for a family eats up ALL of a GOOD union wage, kinship is controlled by economy. I talk with more people who think poverty is the biggest single breaker of relationships. I say all this, because in our tendency we rightly have Complimentary Holism, and judging by your age you understand the old folly of 'economism'.

      And more than EVER, finance capitalism controls us. Seeking out a dollar for existence governs the vast majority of time for most everyone, and those who have a small cushion, are scared by the reality of how hard it was to get it, so work to pad that cushion more and more for the rest of their lives, so they can walk when they hit 55 (pay for the hip replacements) and buy some time with their grand kids, so maybe the family can get out of the cycle for a generation or three. Where people are at phenomenologically, is in the economy, in their work places and in the dollar hustle. Americans have overtaken the Japanese for most hours worked (49 per week), Canadians are right behind Americans, the most popular Japanese comic 2 years ago was all about Marx, income inequity in London is technically worse than in Dickens' age!! DICKENS like conditions radiating out from the the Square Mile! The Chinese choke on industrial pollution and watch their savings dwindle with %8 inflation or as scheister bankers walk off with their cash. All while Australia burns. This is where people spend all their actual and 'phenomenological' time. A revolutionary meets people where their at and creates revolutionary circles from there.

      So, we need to be creating revolutionary work place enterprises, that are the location for initial (paresoc) revolutionary communities where the profound cultural shift can be vetted practiced and modeled from. Enterprises that as they grow, can insulate each other from the capitalist world they must trade with by their federated scale and mechanisms for buffering from capitalist trade. And I fully expect that some of our businesses will have to be in entertainment (culture), child care (kinship), travel (international polity). And I fully expect that some of our businesses will return the movement a surplus value, by which we can undertake initiatives in international polity, etc.

      Also, our tendency, with parecon, is the best equipped in economy. The first ever, internally coherent, elegant METHODOLOGY for political-economy is no small asset to be looked over.

      I’ve been chasing after corner stone initiatives for a Federation of Participatory Co-ops for quite a while now, and it’s hard. From running slates in credit union elections, to wifi mesh co-ops for city wide mass-communications networks, it’s no small thing to Hercules on one’s own. Another member of our Vancouver Chapter, has also put in great effort and gotten no where, but we still have the skeletons of those businesses sitting around, committed to participatory co-op incorporation structure I spent the better part of 2 years developing. And I like Brad Lee’s proposal for online crowdsourced funding as the corner stone, as both of us in the Vancouver Chapter agree, we need some kind of investment mechanism so that hundreds and thousands of socialists the world over can put in $200 here and $50 there to the many productive tools we’ll need to create a self-sufficient ecosystem of participatory economy. Without an economy where you can get your whole consumption bundle with a parecon bond currency, we have little but a leaky bucket.

      And I suppose we’d need to focus our initial efforts for a full economy in just a couple of nearby regions. And despite having been working on it in Vancouver, I’d probably pick somewhere else. But we could focus on some enterprises that are, by their nature, inter-regional. Web businesses aren’t bad. We could have a couple of resorts (in Venezuela, Columbia, Mexico) where skilled labour could fly to and help train disadvantaged local youth in programming, computer animation so that the tendency can then pay them a good local (Remuneration by Effort and Sacrifice with international equalization being paid out maybe in development capital - i.e., tools, tech, infrastructure) wage, but a cheap Global North wage, to do the tendency’s mass propaganda and marketing for the FPCs (Federated Participatory Co-ops). My partner works for a SEO company with the world’s biggest brands, SEO is the new Madison avenue, without needing a local address like Madison Ave. A team of youth to create our mass pop-cultural artefacts of video-games, animated movies, online choose-your-own-adventure comics, etc.

  • Gregory VanGaya 14th Jan 2013

    Oh, and of course we need to prioritize the online discoursive-voting tools. I have written some algorythms for how I think we achieve Say Proportionate to Stake and other types of decisions.

    • Kuan Phillips 14th Jan 2013

      I'll have to take a look at this SPS stuff. I generally agree with where you seem to be coming from and appreciate what you've written here. I was trying to set up a Co-op in London which took Parecon as a starting-point. It folded after about 10 meetings unfortunately, but our website is still around! -

      Keep up the good work and I'll talk to you soon