History and Future Hopes
Prebirth and the Consultative Committee
In 2011, following up on an earlier poll, a number of spirited and inspired people around the world began laying groundwork for a new International Organization based on national branches and local chapters. Here is a recap of the earliest, urgent and promising prehistory of the organization.
First, at least first in this immediate effort, Z put up a poll asking peoples reactions to a hypothetical organization with various aims and other features specified. The response from about 4,000, over 95% of whom said they would either join immediately or as soon as they had confidence it really was going to be what it claimed, provided motivation and hope. Inspired by that, those most eager adopted the content of the poll as a guiding document for establishing an interim process of developing a new organization.
They next petitioned others to become an Interim Consultative Committee, a kind of advisory body of an organization to be conceived and urged, but only made formal and structural by its own members, in the future. Still, the ICC, even functioning over the borders of many countries by email, would have to be able to make interim choices as the process unfolds - otherwise nothing could get done. The idea, however, was for as few decisions as possible to be made, pending growing sufficiently and having better means for self managed participation, and a founding concention. Once the committee was formed, as its first acts, it had to settle on a temporary name and do initial fund raising to finance a powerful interim web system for the project.
Settling on a Name
Calling our goal "the organization" or "an organization" threatened to get clumsy and even a bit demoralizing before long, so finding an interim name seemed an essential first task. To arrive at such a name, a message from the most motivated, a relatively few folks who had long worked on related developments including, in some cases, creating local versions of the desired future organization, went to the Interim Consultative Committee, or ICC, reminding them that of course a name chosen by them would only be interim - like everything that is done before there is a membership that can convene and begin deciding structure and policy for itself - but, that said, the letter asked the committee members to consider three options proposed by various folks already building local chapters mostly in the U.S. and UK, but getting going in a few other countries as well. The three names were:
- Interim International Organization for a Free Society - which was then and is still being used by various people in the U.S. building local chapters.
- Interim International Organization for a Participatory Society - which was then and is still being used by various people in the UK and a number of other countries building local chapters.
- Interim International Organization for Participatory Socialism - which we offered as a possible way to mediate the above two, and perhaps appeal more broadly among some constituencies in Asia, Africa, Latin America, etc., though at risk of miscommunicating to other audiences, such as in the U.S., etc.
The operational arrangement for the ICC was then and remains that its members can ignore email queries about choices, thereby indicating a belief that all the choices being assessed are okay with them, or they can reply with their preferences to guide interim choices in accord with their preferences and insights. Regarding the name, about half the ICC replied, the rest presumably feeling there was not much to choose, not much at stake.
International Organization for a Participatory Society had a small majority but International Organization for Participatory Socialism had almost as much support. There were, however, nearly no votes for International Organization for a Free Society.
People's comments were what you might have expected. Some said, the word "free" is too vague and too identified with free market, neoliberalism, etc. Others noted that the word "socialism" carries negative baggage - or, on the other side, noted that the word "socialism" gives more substance. And finally, some said the word "participatory" is too vague - or, on the other side, said the word "participatory" conjures new and positive aims while avoiding the stigma of past flawed vision and practice.
Since the initials for the two leading options were the same, IOPS, it seemed like an an obvious compromise to call the organization IOPS and to note that for some the initials stand for International Organization for Participatory Socialism and for others the initials stand for International Organization for a Participatory Society - where a final determination between these two options, or perhaps a complete change, will come only at a founding convention of the organization's initial membership. So that is what we are trying, at least for now.
Raising Funds / Building the Sites
The initial cost to be covered was for building a powerful, flexible web system for the new organization. Why a web system?
The logic of this choice was that while the organization we seek, IOPS, needs to be built of local face-to-face groups or chapters, creating from the bottom up, and while it needs to be self managing and certainly not top down in its decision mechanisms and culture, it is also true that getting started in most places around the world has so far been and will no doubt continue to be quite difficult. One factor is that momentum matters, hope matters, and solidarity matters, and these come from working in context of many others working similarly, as well, and not from working in isolation.
Establishing an encompassing site as a preliminary step seeks to provide a means of sharing lessons and experiences, a significant sense of momentum due to knowing other are working in the same direction you are working, a lot of connectivity and mutual aid among people working on the broad project, and especially an easy and visible way for local folks to plug in as well as for the emergence of systems for local sites (which would otherwise perhaps be beyond their means to create) to use for their work, as well as, perhaps most important, supportive local members that neighboring members can easily find and relate to.
Such an encompassing international site - and the included networked country and city sites - will also permit - once there are, say, we hypothesized, 5,000 members internationally - regular dues payments that could in turn help local organizing, especially, via some redistribution, where funds would otherwise be in shortest supply.
So the dynamic is dualistic, one might say. On the one hand, create the interim International site, a step that won't and couldn't itself happen totally de-centrally, but, on the other hand, establish this International site precisely to facilitate and arguably even to make at all possible the local decentralized creation of chapters which can then take over the overarching organization as its self managing components and decision making core.
Can this dynamic be undertaken without establishing a self reinforcing small group, either by fiat, or even just by the weight of first come first served, who would thereafter disproportionately determine the nature of the project and its practice? Can this international venue but bottom up creativity be accomplished, put more positively, consistent with real participation and self management and without centralization of power or influence? It will not be easy. But we thought at the outset and still think now, yes, it can be done.
The organization description that was defined by the initial poll that spurred and now guides and will continue guiding interim choices, was "ratified" as desirable by about 4,000 people from all around the world. The ICC, created as an interim tool, will when a membership is able to convene, disappear into the organization, with no particular continuing rights or responsibilities. It will only have helped take the interim steps toward establishing a self managing organization, its members then becoming part of that organization like all other members.
Now, what about the money to pay for the site? Money often causes problems. We raised what was need initially, largely from poll takers, in just a few days. Further spontaneous online donations, now that the international site and its sub sites are in place, will probably bring the net donations above past costs - hopefully by a nice cushion. The extra will go to maintaining the sites, and especially to adding features - as they are requested by members but predictably including, soon, voting and debate mechanisms - and then, beyond that, anything additional will go to recruitment efforts or will just sit and wait on organizational choices to be made later, after a convention, as well as funding that convention.
IOPS Interim, Initial Plans
Hopefully in its early weeks and months of being online, many thousands of people will visit the IOPS site and its emerging branch and city sites, evaluate the descriptive materials, and decide that they wish to advocate those ideas and build the organization. Then, hopefully, to do that they will join IOPS, internationally and begin working with people in their vicinity.
Joining internationally, they will automatically become by entering their places residency, members of national and local chapters as well, which will in time be built not only or even mostly online, but via direct face to face work, including regular meetings, etc.
As membership in the overarching international organization and in its branches and chapters grows, digital voting facilities will facilitate arriving at plans at all three levels, not least for a convention - perhaps a year or so in the future - to establish actual (not interim) international organizational structure and procedures, as well as shared international program and campaigns.
Beyond this, what will happen once the organization is large enough, coherent enough, and defined enough to be operating, is clearly whatever people then make happen! Our Hopes appear in another left menu linked document, like this one. But of course, they are only the hopes of a few initially energetic folks - what matters most, is the hopes, and implementation, you and others will bring to the organization.
Meanwhile, in addition to a growing membership for the international overarching organization, one can also imagine national branches and local chapters emerging and growing enough, at least in some cases, to begin not only additional recruiting, always a primary need, and developing internally, similarly critically, but engaging in local organizing not just each member as individuals, but with collective agendas.
Hopes for IOPS
One cannot predict, before the fact, the results of any endeavor like this. Sometimes embarking on creating a new project or organization goes nowhere, or continues for a bit, and then folds. Other times, lasting structures come into existence that make important contributions for years or even decades. What do we hope for?
The aim of IOPS is simple. It means to be a powerful and important institution working for and facilitating the winning of a new world. Revolution is the name for going from one system - one world - to another. The aim is that IOPS and its branches and chapters are part of, hopefully an important part of, a revolutionary process around the world.
The hope is, therefore, that IOPS and its branches and chapters will exist and contribute to activism and struggle for as long as it takes to succeed in creating a new world, disbanding as a revolutionary organization only when it melts into the structures of new societies all around the world.
Joining IOPS is saying, yes, I want that to happen. Yes, I want to be part of attaining that new world, and, given my means and circumstances, yes, along with many other responsibilities that I have, I would like to help. Count me in.