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Who do we want as members?

Lambert Meertens
10th Jun 2014

A recent blog identified “the misconception that IOPS could be a mass organization, as opposed to a cadre organization” as “a fundamental flaw which led to swift disillusionment a complete loss of momentum before it could get off the ground”. But are these two views of what IOPS could be necessarily mutually exclusive? And is there any evidence that this “misconception” led to swift disillusionment?

I am much more inclined to ascribe the loss of momentum (of which we never had much anyway) to the lack of a strategy (see We need a strategy) and our inability, due to the “interim logic”, to take any organizational decisions.

What could IOPS be? We haven’t even answered the question what we want IOPS to be. Many people would subscribe to the claim that the idea that a better world is possible is a misconception. That does not stop me from believing in the possibility of a better world. If it seems impossible, it is only because not enough people believe it is possible. I also believe in the possibility of “a better IOPS”, but only if enough IOPS members are willing to believe in it.

Whether you want to see IOPS as an incipient revolutionary mass organization or a cadre organization, in either case we need more members to be effective. Who we would like to see as new members may seem to depend on the choice whether we aspire to be a mass organization or prefer to be a cadre organization.

In a revolutionary mass organization you want the participants to be committed to the goal of reaching a better world. Such commitment may take many forms, and the struggle can use almost any skill, from carpentry to calligraphy to website building to writing poetry, and can use the energy of many volunteers for many tasks, from distributing leaflets to writing protest letters to researching social issues. To me, everyone who shows their commitment to the cause by spending time and energy on any supporting activity, however trivial it may appear to some, I consider an activist. Everyone who aspires to be an activist in this sense should be welcome as member in the mass-organization conception of IOPS. They don’t have to be seasoned. On the contrary, they should be able to expect that the organization they are joining will offer them a somewhat structured framework that will empower them and allow them to develop all kinds of activist and organizational skills, both theoretical and practical. No member is more important than any other member, and we need such empowerment of our members to avoid developing an internal hierarchy and eventually turning into a bureaucracy.

In a revolutionary cadre organization the members don’t need training: they are already trained. Where are we going to recruit such members? Not from skimming the cadres of the mass-organization IOPS, because it does not exist in the cadre conception of IOPS. They can also not be bought on the market. In the wild they are in short supply. I think the only realistic possibility of attracting a sufficient supply of cadre members is to train them ourselves. And here we are back to the situation of IOPS as a mass organization.

In short, my claim is that the difference is less fundamental than it may appear. In either case we have to do more or less the same to move forward. We should welcome everyone as a member who is willing to spend some of their time and energy towards winning a better world, and we should work on creating a framework for empowering them and developing their skills.