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International Organization for a Participatory Society (IOPS)


Last week, Michael Albert’s Z Education Online  course “Parecon/Parsoc 2” seminar focused on issues surrounding the creation of an International Organization for a Participatory Society (IOPS). I have been thinking about this and so proposed my two cents in the seminar forum and also thought I’d share my thoughts here too. It seems to me that there are probably a few hundred—perhaps many hundred, and maybe even thousands more around the globe—who share broadly, or who would, vision for a participatory society, even though vision for other defining spheres remain way underdeveloped, as compared to parecon for the economic sphere. That said, I think lingering gains made by 60s and 70s activism, theory and practice provide us with a general orientation and intuition to get going organizing, theorizing, practicing and developing vision and strategy for those other spheres and what we aspire for in a participatory society.

Quickly, one possible strategy for an IOPS that I can foresee is based on assessments for how many people we need to have on our side to win. Michael Albert has said many times that he believes that we’ll need at least 1/3 of the population (here in the U.S.), with another 1/3 being opposed to any Left emancipatory social change, and the other 1/3 sitting at home or going about their daily lives. Other countries may have a other breakdowns in a sympathetic, oppositional, and otherwise swayable population. Here in the U.S. one possible approach I envision is strategically dealing with each of the 3rds, as we:

(1) Need to organize those who are sympathetic—the Left, progressives, labor, women, folks from the GLBTQ communities, blacks, Asians, Latinos, immigrants, and other allies.

(2) Counter right wing propaganda (about free markets, neoliberlism, capitalism, corporate hierarchies, corporate globalization, electoral and referendum based politics as they exist, foreign policy and international relations as they exist, right wing views on gender and sexuality, race, religion, culture, immigration, etc.

(3) Organize and seek to improve material and social conditions for all, including the remaining 1/3 who are unorganized across race, class, gender, sexuality, those disempowered from the political process, those concerned with environmental sustainability, etc.

(4) Conduct solidarity campaigns (and many other campaigns) with those oppressed by our own governments—domestically and internationally.

(5) Get going organizing, theorizing, practicing and developing vision and strategy for those other defining spheres of societal life and what we aspire for in a participatory society.

The above does not deal with organizational structure or relations for local, regional, national, or international chapters. The above is a very simple framework for how we may envision basic IOPS organizing and strategy being oriented. However, I will say that any IOPS structure and strategy should reject Leninist "democratic centralist" practices, and seek to avoid the failures of previous Internationals, i.e. a single country, group or individual holding the "correct line"; reproducing racist, sexist, classist, or imperialist dogma, sectarianism, policy, or practice; and being overly economistic to the detriment of the primary concerns of other social groupings.

The above paragraph is perhaps non-controversial for many folks accessing Z. However, here are a couple other strategic observations:

(1) Organizing the Left—It has been my own experience, and I’ve heard the experience from others that, when proposing vision, especially parecon or participatory society, the best response usually comes from those either new to the Left or outside the Left all together. My experience was in Canada, but I’m guessing this is the same wherever there is an "Old Left" (or people recently joining the Left who’ve adopted "Old Left" thinking). Or maybe, this is a North American phenomena, and is different internationally. These folks that I’m referring to though would be allies in many campaigns, and if we proved effective achieving our organizational and campaign goals, which overlap with the goals of many others, we may prove to be attractive to many on the Left. This is not an argument to not propose vision and strategy to the broader Left. It would obviously be important to win over grassroots organizers, activists, the rank and file, and even figure heads and theoreticians, as well as to have them as close allies and comrades in struggle. But those new to the Left or even the non-Left/Right seem, and perhaps I’m wrong (and I hope so), more open to vision such as an IOPS would be proposing. This is a very general observation made from personal and shared experience from organizing a couple years ago. Perhaps things have changed since, or will change in the near future. Again, perhaps this is simply a North American challenge to overcome for any national OPS in the U.S./Canada.

(2) Class—If in the U.S. 20% of the work force are coordinators, 80% are the working class, and 2-3% serious capitalists, than here in the U.S. our national OPS strategy towards class relations and class struggle should increase material and social costs to the coordinators for their cooperation with the capitalist class, and increase the costs of the capitalist class for being the wealthy bastards they are, so they give in to our programmatic demands—whatever we decide they are: increased wages, shorter work week, full employment programs, etc.

We will also have to develop strategy to address local, regional and national divisions of labor. And, complimentary to an International movement, once they have developed campaigns in their own countries, perhaps we could have OPS international solidarity campaigns aimed at pressuring international financial institutions and global capital, to address the international division of labor, working conditions, and un-equal remuneration between workers of different countries. Of course the above would require an effective mass international movement, but that is what we are talking about.

(3) We’ll need strategic orientation as well for gender/sexuality, race/community, and participation in the political events that shape peoples lives.

(4) As most of the above are general medium-range goals, once chapters got going identifying specific short-term goals with an aim to longer-term ever empowering strategy towards winning, will be necessary.

The above is a basic outline for possible IOPS orientation towards strategy. Real day to day organizing yields a much more mixed bag of obstacles and challenges to overcome. I did not want to get too detailed in any strategy proposal, but did want to throw some ideas out there.

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