Login Join IOPS

Flying high

  • Written by:
  • Published on:
  • Categories:
  • Comments:
  • Share:

Imagine the situation that IOPS is no longer a baby, that we have really managed to get it off the ground, that we have had a fruitful founding convention, and that the organization is bristling with activity. We'll still be a long way from having realized our vision, of course, but we are beginning to make a difference.


OK, imagine this, and imagine how you see this future IOPS making a difference. Imagine how it is functioning. Imagine your own role in this and how what you do makes a difference. Don't read on yet... please spend some time on this until you have formed an image in your mind, one that you could convey to others.



Now please use the "Make a Comment" feature below and tell us what that image is.



One thing I've observed is that different IOPS members have sometimes quite different notions of how the future IOPS is supposed to function. And sometimes they take it for granted that their notion is, or should be, everyone's notion. But this is something we should develop together. Not only will a founding convention before we have a shared basic understanding of the "what and how" of the organization be premature, it is bound to be a Babylonian confusion and disaster.


In my (thus far only moderately successful) recruiting efforts I've found that one (of many) barriers is that potential members don't quite see how IOPS can and will make a difference, and therefore also not how they can make a difference by joining IOPS. Also for the goal of recruiting it will be good if we can develop a coherent and convincing story of how an operational IOPS is going to function.

Discussion 21 Comments

  • Will Henry Lapinel 18th Sep 2012

    YES!! Thank you for posting this Lambert - great idea. An essential discussion to have. It often seems that we have so many different ideas about "what IOPS is" within IOPS itself.

    I suppose my visions are a little vague.

    On one hand - as a US American, I envision a massive organization on the scale of the giant leftist political parties of the early 20th century, holding rallies and debates, calling for strikes, making demands on every front, providing support for its members. Yet I envision IOPS as totally non-hierarchical, anarchistic in structure and aims, a much more capable, far-sighted and cohesive organization, international, more inclusive of all progressive causes, and armed with the lessons of its predecessors.

    I also want to see IOPS pose itself as a replacement to our current society - i.e. the Organization for Participatory Society organizes itself with a mind to BECOMING the Participatory Society.

    • Mark Evans 19th Sep 2012

      That is - more or less - the idea William, and I have to say that I don't understand how members who have read the key documents could understand IOPS in any other way.

      I guess some members may require some clarification on specific aspects of the key documents - which of course is fine - but to read them and to conclude that IOPS is anything but what you describe ... like i say, I don't understand that.

      My guess is that some members are not seeing what is clearly written in the key documents because they don't want to see it. They don't see what is there and then join thinking it is not there when in fact it is. Then they start a debate about what is not there seeking to fill a conceptual void that does not exists.

      I would suggest that members who feel this way go back to the key documents and take a closer look - seeking clarification if and where necessary. Reading Fanfare will help with the development of a more advanced understanding of what we are trying to accomplish here at IOPS.

    • Will Henry Lapinel 20th Sep 2012

      Mark - I too struggle to understand why the vision we share seems to differ so sharply from that of some other members.

      I think it is partly because it is unprecedented and so gigantic in scope. I think that, even though our methods are outlined, people really have no idea how to counter the systemic forces leading to and shaping our broken society. But to me, it is really simple. We all find something we agree on, we form an organization committed to fighting for what we agree on. I didn't say easy, but simple. When I read IOPS, I felt like I already knew what it was going to be about before I started. But it is very true that people tend to want to see IOPS as much more limited in scope. I don't understand why.

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 18th Sep 2012

    I've posted this in an earlier version elsewhere, but it fits in here too, so thanks, Lambert, for posting your blog. You raise the question of one's image or expectations about IOPS. My point of departure in answering that is to agree with Sarah when she observes (in a comment on a blog by Michael about recruitment and convention): 'To me, the fact that not much is happening at the country-al, regional, or local level should be as much of a concern in developing a plan as recruiting new ions.'

    Going further, I would even question this current focus on recruitment and haste for some sort of plan/founding convention.

    Surely the elephant in the room is the fact that the spontaneous reality of IOPS so far is quite different to the organisational concept of nested, bottom-up chapters of local activists, and, in my view, is most probably going to stay that way? The latter opinion is of course one that I don't expect many pushing for a recruitment/comvention focus will share, but I guess only time will tell, and I'd be happy to be proven wrong.

    However, should we not at least together somewhat reflect on the fact, now often reported not just by Sarah but by several members, that interest in forming local chapters or being local administrators is almost zero? Or the fact that perhaps 1-2% of members actually participate in online discussions around blogs, forums or projects?

    To me personally this, however, is no catastrophe simply because I have different expectations of IOPS. Let me try a What-If format to clarify what I mean. What if:

    most people click the join button at IOPS in the same way they click online petition buttons or become blog followers?

    What if most people (95-99%?) are not interested in participating in IOPS online discussions, much less meet up with others in local chapters?

    What if even many of those members signing up for IOPS projects are not so much interested in participating as in perhaps occasionally dropping by to see what's happening and learning more about some particular field of interest?

    What if all this is only a worry if there are other expectations of IOPS, e.g. (and here I'm only guessing) of IOPS as some kind of grand 'Fifth Internationale' made up of some kind of revolutionary activists who are somehow going to 'win another world' almost by themselves or else as IOPS-reps in leading positions within strategic alliances? (It's here that I'm afraid I don't share your vision William, and would argue for 'less is more'...)

    What if all this, on the other hand, is not much of a problem if IOPS is seen more as a largely online international community of leftist activists and (probably the majority?) non-active sympathizers sharing participatory, libertarian, utopian, anti-authoritarian values and visions (AND attitudes in their communication with each other) who enjoy belonging to IOPS because

    (a) it overcomes isolation and acts as an international affinity and support group for co-members engaged in local struggles

    (b) it provides an online forum for discussing theory and practice in comradely, 'prefigurative' ways

    (c) it provides online opportunities for self-education, information-sharing, consciousness expansion

    (d) where so spontaneously desired, it enables members to meet up locally and do whatever moves them

    (e) where feasible, and as opportunities arise, IOPS as a whole (after democratic online debate of course) initiates creative national/international campaigns, forms alliances in campaigns and/or actively participates in grassroots movements like Occupy or strike movements or eco-activism with anti-systemic and reconstructive suggestions from a libertarian, participatory perspective?

    The last two possibilities seem more down-the-track to me, i.e. should come 'organically', more or less spontaneously, rather than be, hopelessly, strenuously, pushed for too early and against the current of actual development. You can't 'push the river' of IOPS without getting awfully exhausted and frustrated and grumpy and moralistic and admonishing I reckon, just like some critical parent whose kids are turning out all different to what they want them to be. How about we just relax and go with the flow (and ebb) of things, folks? Just a suggestion.

  • Kim Keyser 19th Sep 2012

    @Peter: I agree with you in that getting more members and establishing local chapters must be a priority. But I see no need to contra-pose that to imagining IOPS in the future. Imagining can be important, in that it can help people get a clearer picture in their mind about what we'd like to do, and it can fill people with motivation, which makes them go out and get new members and establish chapters (that's how I work at least, I do both). As long as we're grounded, I think those two things can be complementary, instead of opposites. Wouldn't you agree?

    Another thing: I'm not sure how you could interpret William's opinion as "IOPS as some kind of grand 'Fifth Internationale' made up of some kind of revolutionary activists who are somehow going to 'win another world' almost by themselves or else as IOPS-reps in leading positions within strategic alliances?"

    William described what I'm looking for in IOPS almost perfectly, but that does not include neither of the two last assumptions you made, and I can't find neither of these neither explicit nor implicit in William's comment.

    It is possible to win influence in other ways than achieving leading positions. For instance, it's possible to convince people without leading positions and it's also possible to democratize movements to such a degree that there are less and less important leading positions within it. I think both should be the goal. It doesn't preclude trying to achieve leading positions some times too – that is some times wanted and necessary, until we have gotten to where we want –, but it precludes it as a strategy in itself.

    And even though we want to build the new society within the shell of the old, we don't want to "'win another world' almost by [our]selves". That is neither possible nor wanted (if it had been possible). It is necessary to influence the wider social movements, so that also they can become prefigurative. It's the wider social movements – and not IOPS members by themselves – which have the capacity to change our current social system. I think William would agree with us on that (but I won't speak for him, I can only speak for myself, so he could perhaps clarify if he wants to).

    • Will Henry Lapinel 19th Sep 2012

      Yes, Kim - I do agree. "Almost by ourselves" is not part of my vision - I don't think that the social progress won by 20th century leftists was won almost by themselves either. There were millions of members.

      Peter, I do think your (a-e) listed are essential and wonderful benefits of IOPS. But if this is all that I felt IOPS had the potential to be, I would not be nearly as dedicated to it as I am.

      Peter, I think we mostly agree. However, the vision of IOPS as "affinity group/support/community/forum for communication/network" seems to be quite prevalent among members. I think it indicates a lack of appreciation for what IOPS is really aiming for. Yes, it is aiming to be all those things - but don't stop there! Don't sell our dreams short! What this vision seems to lack is the appreciation for the monumental task of fundamentally altering society. It lacks the understanding that in order to change society, concerted action must be taken by a large number of people. Concerted actions require massive decisions. It requires a common vision. It requires commitments. It requires pushing people, bugging people (as pleasantly as possible). Spontaneity can be fun, but ineffective. Going with the flow does not sound like a plan for an organization. I am no pusher of dogma. I believe in anarchist principles. However, the "affinity group/support/community/forum for communication/network" strikes me as distinctly individualist, and therefore, any proponent of such a vision has not recognized one of the primary roots of the broken system - the individualist framework.

  • Thomas Hallbert 19th Sep 2012

    Thanks for starting up this Lambert, we all need to picture where we are going, for others to understand, help and criticize.

    Well as I see it, that what IOPS is trying to represent, is already on the move, since long time ago. The presence of IOPS today is an important and serious attempt to gather and explore experiences of the past as well as forging new tools for a sustainable worldly future.

    My personal view of what a non-authoritarian organization is compares pretty well with the present program of IOPS. That is why I am here and blow up some dust. An organization is the movement of consent participants, with a common goal. When the goal is achieved, the organization has no reason to persist just for its own sake. For sure there are thousands of other goals to achieve and new organizations of movements will grow up. Never an organization will be created for its own sake. I understand that is stupid to say.

    Creating a legal organization today in a capitalist democracy claims that it has to follow rules that are set up and maintained by the present hierarchy. I would like to see how we could turn IOPS into a movement organization that does not obey to present rules and at the same time does not become considered as illegal. I am aware that any movement becoming uncomfortable for the sitting powers at a certain moment might be pointed out as illegal. One day this will be an inevitable doorstep to pass.

    As I see IOPS it is already an organization, a movement, today. A great initiative is taken and it moves forward. In the horizon I can see a world where the humans are humans as the fish are fish, and live in mutual respect. Solutions are found for participating the good’s and bad’s without an accumulable monetary system as we suffer from today.

    @William: I share your image of “the Organization for Participatory Society organizes itself with a mind to BECOMING the Participatory Society.” That might be vague but it is clear.

    @ Peter: You are foot on earth in your reasoning. I recognize and share much of what you mention, and the opinions of anyone obviously reflect our close reality. We are not here to build another mirage of words; next step must be worth building a bridge on. This is what’s so interesting with a movement of diverse participants. That we can share, respect and react on each other’s diversities.

    @Kim: The only reasonable leading position I can see is being the one taking an initiative, if it is successful others will get encouraged, inspired and eventually follow the move, that is where leadership ends and cooperative and mutual action and self management takes over.

  • David Jones 20th Sep 2012

    Hi Lambert, I will have a go at your questions.

    “…imagine how you see this future IOPS making a difference.”

    Um, well... this is a pretty authoritarian society. A lot of privileged types such as myself don’t necessarily see this, but it’s there if you look - a bit like one of those optical illusion pictures – stare at the thing for a while and there’s a hidden image, something you didn’t see at first, but once it's seen you can’t “unsee” it. So that’s one thing IOPS could do – go around saying to incredulous privileged types “stare at that picture for a while and you’ll see this”. It’s up to them what they do with the knowledge of that hidden image once they manage to see it– they might surprise you by acting like human beings!

    “Imagine how it is functioning.”

    If those people subsequently get involved, IOPS might give them a “prefigurative” taste of what a free society could be like. Both as an imaginative exercise (workshops discussing vision etc.) and through practical experiences (community activism, workers co-ops etc.) Rousseau said about “the 1%” of his day:

    “They attribute to man a natural inclination to servitude, without thinking that it is the same for freedom as for innocence and virtue; their value is felt only as long as one enjoys them and a taste for them is lost as soon as one has lost them.”

    Give people a taste for freedom and they might want more. They might start to really struggle for it and actually win...

    That’s my “optimism” speaking. My “pessimism” says that there are really worrying aspects to living in such an authoritarian society, especially if these authoritarian tendencies are compounded as that society starts to fall apart. Today the elite are dismantling the life-support systems of this planet as a ploy for more short-run power and social status, with an entire cultural vanguard cheer-leading them to “victory” (I prefer not to think about what “victory” will look like - we have enough experience of recent history to suggest that people immersed in a deeply fragmented authoritarian society will being searching for scapegoats to blame as that society collapses. That could get ugly...particularly so if there is not enough food for most of us...)

    How much damage have we done already? Can it be repaired in time? If the planet’s climate is really moving to a new state, as some people say, we’ll need to move with it, and many facets of our present industrial civilisation may need to be abandoned along the way (will we still have international trade? Will we still have electricity? And so on...). Is our culture at a point where it can seek to humbly learn new ways of being, or will we try to cling on to the old authoritarian ways as they cause increasing, and potentially fatal, amounts of damage? I hope it’s the former and I hope IOPS can play a role here in challenging the staggering sense of entitlement my western-imperial culture has – to the lives of most of the planet’s seven billion human inhabitants and all of its countless billions of non-human inhabitants.

    “Imagine your own role in this and how what you do makes a difference.”

    This is where I get a bit stuck. I lack practical skills or experience organizing. I lack much experience with people, frankly. I’m hoping my role is something I’ll be able to feel my way into as I go. I’ll probably take something of a back seat to start with. I’d like to listen to and learn from people that have experience - watch the roles they play and hear their stories about how they first became involved, identified their “niche” and balanced it around other areas of their life.

    In fact, I think we should have a facility on the site for that sort of thing – post your stories about your life as an “activist” (or whatever you’d like to call yourself...) to make it seem more possible for others thinking about reorienting their lives along those lines.

  • 20th Sep 2012

    Thanks for your blog and inviting us to think to aeronautical heights. Imagining the future, what could we come up with that would be, objectively, an improvement on the present?

    Maybe taking care of basic needs for people, that people are fed, clothed, housed, educated, and medically cared for and their sense of humor not extinguished.

    The rest is up to people, how they want to labor and freely associate, the sorts of meaning they make about everything, how they express themselves.

    Respecting that a convention is important and desirable for many. One could also consider the last two years or the last four decades as a series of conventions.

    I don't see a problem with investing time energy resources in stuff other than a convention for this org. Website maintenance and improvement for example.

  • Alex of... 21st Sep 2012

    there are some splits in my thinking on this. the first is the idea of a better functioning world, what i often call a sustainable culture, versus iops as a visionary organization. i initially entered iops with the idea that the latter may help facilitate the former, but they are not actually one in the same and the relationship or integration is yet to be determined.

    so, i differentiate, when i imagine sustainable culture and when i imagine iops, but they COULD have a relationship. the former i see as necessary for survival and general happiness. the latter should strive to help meet that need if it is to have a role in that process, i think. there are many involved in that process that are not part of iops and it has been an ongoing question of mine on how to connect that. that is, there IS a movement. iops is not that movement, but it COULD and SHOULD create a role in that movement if seeking to pursue the principles of its founding documents.

    the next set of splits is in my own definition of sustainable culture. putting iops aside, there are plenty of questions when it comes to our future and how we presently conduct ourselves... questions that aren't really being asked, i think, seriously enough. i maintain that the future is not so much about what we want, but what is possible. as i say that, i mean so, less about what is possible when it comes to egalitarian living, but more so about our standard of living based on our relationship with all that is non-human. i consider sustainable culture to be life that maximizes all relationships with the best possible outcome.

    "will we still have electricity?" as david loosely quotes. as a physics guy, he knows well that electricity isn't going away, but is asking what should be asked about it's role and use by us. there's no way to write briefly on this really. it is the kind of question that needs to be taken seriously. to me, i can't really see looking to the future without getting a serious grasp on what is actually possible in this vein. we have surged from a gradual growth to a billion in population over thousands of years to 7 billion in a couple centuries. the shift corresponds to our use of energy as it fuels industrial civilization, and we exist in that bubble. that bubble is not only changing our climate in a menacing way, but has created a culture way beyond it's sustainable capacity in so many other ways. our politics, economics, beliefs and relationships are all intertwined in this.

    ok. that's part one of my comment. didn't get to breaking cultural cycles or splits on iops. try to come back :)

    • David Jones 21st Sep 2012


      "will we still have electricity?" as david loosely quotes. as a physics guy, he knows well that electricity isn't going away, but is asking what should be asked about it's role and use by us."

      Well, yes and no! Our knowledge of what it is and how to make it probably isn't going away. But will we still be able to implement that knowledge? I'm not at all sure what the reality of a collapse will be. We've built an integrated global society operating at a very high level of complexity. If the level of complexity falls, what aspects of that society will it still be possible (or desirable) for us to maintain? I mean, electricity needs power stations - or even small scale things like wind turbines and solar cells presumably need an industrial system to assemble and maintain them? Plus mining of rare earth metals and copper for wiring. Can you maintain the infrastructure behind all that stuff after a collapse? I don't know! That's what I'm essentially asking - we probably ought to question more what we're taking for granted in our visions for the future.

      A lot of the discussion and envisioning around IOPS seems to sort of assume that society will go on existing at a similar level of complexity to what it does at present. But what if it doesn't? What if we're living in a far less complex and necessarily more localized world - hence my other question, "will we still have international trade?" Michael Albert has criticized "bio-regionalism" in Parecon: LAC and I can agree that localism for the sake of localism is unhelpful, but... there is at least an explicit acknowledgement there amongst the "bio-regional" / "peak oil" folks that the world of tomorrow might be operating at a much lower lever of complexity than it does today, and their localism seems like an authentic response to that. I'm not sure whether or not ideas like parecon have really got to grips with what a world with climate chaos and economic/social/cultural collapse might bring up. Then again, neither have I!

    • David Jones 21st Sep 2012

      I was thinking a bit of Jared Diamond's account of the Greenland Norse in his book Collapse. He described how they brought along cultural and social assumptions that worked well in Scandinavia but didn't translate to the very different climate of Greenland. He said they had opportunities to survive if they abandoned many of their practices and adopted those of the Inuit people. They didn't take that option, and so they starved. I wonder if we'll be in a similar position someday soon? Will we cling to "entitlements" like electricity, even at the cost of our survival as a species?

    • Alex of... 21st Sep 2012


      "Will we cling to "entitlements" like electricity, even at the cost of our species?"

      i would have to say, at this point, that is what we are already doing, essentially. and i did mean, actually, that electricity isn't going away anymore than magnetism or gravity! so yes, the question is about the "we" part, which is how you put it forth, of course. so are we going away, or are we going to cling to privilege and unsustainable living at least to the point that our future generations will live in a decayed world without much of any of that implementation, except in salvage? sometimes, i don't think the Mad Max scenario is that far off as a possibility. or it may be worse.

      i seek a realistic assessment of now. maybe i'm wrong, but i think we're overpopulated. that is, we are exceeding the land base. that is, we cannot sustain this population while also maintaining ecological balance. and that population spurt is the result of tapping fossil fuel, i think in general. it's fueled industrial growth at a massive rate and is ultimately the backbone of this complex global structure. to not be over simplistic on that, that IS also part of a mentality, a system of beliefs and relationships beyond carbon power... that preexisted.

      just to take one example for thought. the indigenous of one part of the country i live in (or at least inhabitants for maybe ten millennia) hunted buffalo as part of their subsistence and culture. the buffalo continued to thrive as a species while some life was taken to feed another species in the chain. another culture came that began taking buffalo life for only its hide and tongue. those "products" were being exported for commercial purpose, no longer just for local sustainment, and the population of buffalo was quickly diminished to near extinction. eerie tales of open graveyards of the skinned rotting carcasses of one culture's reverence and sustainment are telling of the mindset of another's. of course, it would have been impractical to use all the parts of a buffalo given the transport of the time. stacking hides on a wagon cart carries a fair price, but given the load of full bodies and without refrigeration technology, the rest would be impractical. and of course, clearing buffalo would make way to raise cattle, a docile source of meat from selective breeding.

      so, hmm, fossil fuel technology would have improved the full use of the buffalo, but it would seem, under the mentality of resource and commerce, would probably just quicken the decimation. well, whale oil was being used for lamps until petrol, so petrol saved some of that extirpation. perhaps the point is, that those animals or similarly, the forests, have been, and continue to be fuel sources. the difference of whether we we still have forests, buffalo, whales or salmon cannot be entirely blamed on the fossil fuel explosion and the growth it brings. there is a belief system there that we, as a culture, can take as much as we want or feel we are entitled to to create our standard of living. all that is non-human is a "resource" and not something to be respected or relate to. the irony is when that belief threatens our very existence, which should be a wake up call. this goes back to your old proposal, david, of ecology to be viewed as fundamental. again, the earth can exist without us, but we are dependents.

      i am not sure who here envisions that "society will go on existing at a similar level of complexity to what it does at present". i'm not even sure what i might call complex or simplistic, entirely. complexity might be missing the real complexities ;) but you may be right in that perception, though. i have to question this of myself. and i do get the sense that we, as an industrialized culture, are used to having many things, and desires for progress are often based on addressing human inequality more than any thing else. that's a necessary address and could very well help solve our ecological imbalance. but i can't help but feel that there is a fundamental way of looking at life, one that other cultures have recognized, that has too much absence currently, that needs to be part of a real movement forward. so, as much as as i am interested in egalitarian living, it does not directly address that. and i can't help but feel, given the stack up of climate change and destruction of the biosphere, that we are the generation that bares that burden. but as much it is a weight, it is beautiful. we have the opportunity for an amazing catharsis and social transformation.

      i felt bio-regionalism was dismissed a little curtly. but i don't consider parecon to be iops, either, nor do i think fanfare should be hosted on the front page. to go back to assessments of now, i am very interested in taking a scientific look at the world's human population if it were right now, existing without fossil fuels. we would not have much in the way of international trade in the way we have come to expect, we would have boats. i want to know, as an assessment point, what regions could sustain their human populations without petrol augmented export.. without the energy to force water from a water rich region to a desert. i feel like that is realistic research toward then assessing what kind of extraction or destruction it takes to use so-called renewable energy, such as solar, wind, or even algae to fuel various levels of transport and what we might consider very beneficial like hospitals, and what population level that can work for with other life forms staying in relative balance. at this point, i'd say there is actually restorative work to be done, and there are many populations being driven to extinction. if we are going to be smart about planning the future, we should start to recognize what we really value. isn't the value about being here and experiencing each other? it's pretty nice if we can fix a broken back, so let's see if we can keep that. i like bananas, but if it makes no sense to transport them from a few thousand miles, it's okay, if life can be sustained with love and and a nice meal otherwise. it's a no brainer that we shouldn't be exporting apples from new zealand to washington, but that part is just the economic bullshit.

      i still haven't answered the question about iops really. maybe it doesn't matter. i like the question lambert! i like how you think. but don't we all have some personal vision of where the future might need to go? some questions about what the future might be? that's where i start, as an individual and i am hoping to collectively contribute, learn and improve together. so, i guess i have no vision for iops. i did once. i thought of it as being a great way to connect many movements in a hub. i see many groups and individuals working toward similar things that could make this world better. no "one" of those holds the "answer" but gains strength in numbers. resistance and movements are ongoing and there are many building to what, i think, needs to be a rise to the occasion.. maybe to the likes that has never been seen as it is now so global. the degree of hierarchy and destruction is truly unprecedented. and i truly believe we need a global transformation in our beliefs, relationships, and solidarity. we must win hearts and minds. to do so we must be offering, we must be asking, we must be creating. there's nothing to win or recruit for, the way see it. but there is something different to embrace that comes with a learning curve.

      well, more on that sometime, if it seems appropriate. hey david... how are you at writing grants? maybe an off question.. but there's a lot of research that the market won't drive that could be funded elsewhere.

      peace.. late...

    • Alex of... 22nd Sep 2012

      i'm not sure if my words about lacking vision for iops quite made sense as i re-read now. i wanted to clarify one thing. when is i say i start with my individual vision of the future, i do mean generally. i would think that we would want to have a collective grasp on the direction we think humanity should be traveling if we want to determine what role an organization such as iops could play, or how it should seek to construct itself. i would think we need to have ongoing refinement of that general direction to create specific goals and create connections.

      i was also just re-reading the section on bioregionalism in parecon. it has been awhile and i decided i should find out if i myself was being dismissive to say it was curtly dismissed. i'll write a couple things about that, but am on the way out the door soon. though, it reads as i remember. and again, that's ok. i like some ideas in parecon.

  • stephen lawton 21st Sep 2012

    Our vision is good but perhaps a long way ahead. I'm willing to fight for our vision but at the moment I keep coming back to the success of the Left in South America. In Venezuela peasants/grass roots parties drove the vision of their left. Strong women took the lead in many communities , cooperative were developed and 15 years down the line they won power.

    Do we need a political party structure now? Can IOPS become the go to anti capitalist party for the current crisis of capitalism? This is something that I can argue for on the doorsteps of my local housing estate. Can we make a bid for political power now/soon? This feels right to me but I'm new to this organising game and I could well be wrong.

  • Kim Keyser 21st Sep 2012

    Stephen: "Can IOPS become the go to anti capitalist party for the current crisis of capitalism? (…) This feels right to me but I'm new to this organising game and I could well be wrong."

    I think there are other in IOPS who would agree with you on that. But I think a rather large majority would disagree, even strongly. I would be one of those.

    The reason is that I don't see parliaments as a viable way forward (I'm not necessarily suggesting boycotting them out and out though, it makes sense voting in certain situations, and I've done so myself, here in Norway – here I'm simply talking about setting up a party or not).

    There are rather many reasons for this. One of the most important ones being that they're skewed against direct-democracy per se (reading about the majority of the anarchists during the revolution in Spain, 1936, is the most blatant example of this – as it turned their whole organization, and by that their whole revolution into a fundamentally anti-democratic affair, where members/workers/peasants were left to simply rubber stamp, but not actually participate in a directly-democratic manner, their leader's decisions).

    However, there are /a lot/ of other reasons as well (the majority of power is in board rooms and not parliamentary halls; the state administration have the actual power to sabotage the decisions of the parliamentary; politics become more personally focused, than politically focused; and more).

    If we'd gone for such a route – and I sincerely doubt that we would – I would leave this organization immediately.

  • stephen lawton 21st Sep 2012

    Kim-- okay it failed in Spain but it worked in Venezuela. In the UK at the moment, and I think in America, ordinary people and the bulk of the left are anti-all political parties. But what this does is leave the political sphere to the corporations and the parties they control.This is just what they want, at some level we have to get involved in the fight for power and this involves parties and elections. There is a split here and its probably because I come from the Marxist tradition and view controlling state power as inevitable and initially important.

    My long term vision is the same as yours Kim, this is really a question of tactics and I think we can build democratically from the bottom up and we can publicise ourselves, and win new members at a faster rate, by going for power but stating every step of the way that we are anti-capitalist, open and democratic.

    We can learn from the past but we should not be ruled by failures of the past. We need to exploit the current crisis in whatever way that helps us change society for the better. Rule nothing in and rule nothing out, a synthesis all views and all tactics.

  • stephen lawton 21st Sep 2012

    This is an essay from Red Pepper, which says it much better than me


  • stephen lawton 21st Sep 2012

    Kim Sorry link does not work so Kim take a look at the essay "Politics, our missing Link" by Mike Marqusee in the on-line Red Pepper

  • Lambert Meertens 25th Sep 2012

    I want to thank everyone for their responses thus far. When I first started, as a fresh member, to blog enthusiastically about my ideas of how to make IOPS become a vibrant movement, I was somewhat taken aback by a reaction suggesting this meant a fundamental change from what was canonized in the "key documents" and that it was disrespectful to even suggest a thing like that. I still don't understand which specific interpretation of the key documents precluded my vision of what IOPS could be.

    Considering the diversity of the responses here, there is clearly not a single specific dominant idea of how the future IOPS will function. It reminded me of the story of the blind men and an elephant. Maybe a functioning IOPS will be all of the above. And whether IOPS is an organization or a movement may depend on the observation you are trying to make, as in the particle-wave duality of quantum mechanics. Of course, different modes of operation may be appropriate in different phases of building up the organization, and one should hope that we'll have the fluidity to adapt to what local circumstances require, and the agility to take advantages of any opportunities that arise.

    Trying to analyze what is needed for fundamental and transformative change, I distinguish the following stages:
    (1) awareness that some things are very wrong;
    (2) consciousness that this is not an inevitable and natural situation;
    (3) conviction that together we can change this;
    (4) a plan and a strategy for change;
    (5) willingness to carry this through.

    I think that IOPS can and should play a role in furthering all five stages. But one thing we should avoid, in my opinion, is trying to function as a political party. We should encourage our members to be active in progressive movements and organizations, including political parties, and we should invite activists for all kinds of issues who share our vision to join IOPS, but we should not attempt to be a replacement that brings us into competition. The "added value" of IOPS to everything that is already going on is, primarily, twofold. First, we offer an encompassing vision of the direction the world should go, and not merely a single-issue or localized goal. Secondly, IOPS will offer a home to all who feel the need for change, by forming a network in which activists can meet and discuss issues and opportunities, supporting each other. But, ultimately, every member is individually responsible for what they say and do.

    Activism can take many forms. It doesn't need to mean you take to the streets in a march with banners and demands; that is only one specific expression. Participating in a reading group studying problems and solutions is also activism. So is writing a ballad exposing inequity, or supporting picketing workers on strike by bringing them food.

    One of the resources we can develop collectively is an online IOPS handbook presenting worked-out ideas of how individual members and local chapters can concretely contribute to our mission, such as awareness raising and recruiting, conducting meetings of various kinds, organizing neighbourhood events, lectures and debates, and so on.

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 25th Sep 2012

    And thank you, Lambert, for originally posting this blog. I totally concur with your summary/IOPS vision above. I would also not want to be a member if IOPS becomes anything like a political party in structure and thought.

    (BTW maybe I'm just a bit thick but I can't see how this party-like structure can be avoided if there are to be things like checking up - aka 'self-reporting' - on 'requisite' activity levels/numbers/finances etc of local chapters. WHO checks? The whole of IOPS? Or some sort of central committee? Maybe I'm missing something and someone can explain...)

    I also think your idea for an online handbook of local things to do an excellent idea. I posted a 120 item selection of Sharp's ideas for non-violent direct actions in the Resource section a while back, with similar intent.