The web site for the International Organisation for a Participatory Society / Socialism (IOPS) was launched a couple of months back. This represented the start of our interim phase where people can join IOPS and use the existing facilities to discuss ideas in the forum, initiate projects, organise face-to-face meetings with other members in their area, etc, all in preparation for the formal launch of the organisation. But some might wonder, why have an interim phase at all? Why not just launch the organisation and allow for full participation from day one?
Well, to launch IOPS in that way, with no interim phase, was an option. But the rationale for not doing so was / is that IOPS does not yet constitute a credible international organisation. This is felt for a number of reasons.
First there are the quality and quantity issues. To be a credible international organisation we need a significant number of members. In addition to numbers we also need the membership to have a good grasp of what IOPS is about, where it came from, its structure and program etc. This latter reason isn't suggested because I want to see IOPS become some secular religion or cult-like organisation where everyone mindlessly regurgitates what has been laid down by the ICC. On the contrary! What I would like to see is for members to familiarise themselves with the ideas that underpin IOPS so that we can have a rational and open discussion starting from a broadly shared set of convictions that can open out and develop over time. We should certainly try to avoid the stifling dogmatic intellectual culture that typifies much of the revolutionary left.
So I have already highlighted two important tasks for members to engage in during the interim period which, I suggest, would move us towards a credible international organisation – (1) recruitment (for quantity of membership) and (2) study (for quality of membership).
Second we need to think carefully about who we recruit. Part of being a credible international organisation also means that IOPS is representative of the constituents it hope to facilitate in their self-emancipation. This means that when we are recruiting for our National branches and local chapters we need to keep an eye on the demographic of our membership and using this information to inform recruitment priorities. Ultimately we need our membership to reflect the particular part of the world in which our members are organising.
A third consideration has to do with time. We need time to address the above three issues – quantity, quality and balance of membership – if we are to move towards a credible international organisation, and, as I have argued, this is what the interim phase is for. However, there likely will come a time when the interim period will start to have a negative impact on our organisation. We can imagine a situation, say a year down the line, whereby IOPS is still successfully recruiting whilst at the same time loosing members who get sick of waiting for the formal launch. We obviously want to avoid that situation. So it seems to me that we need to put some kind of timeframe on the interim phase.
To summarise, so far I have argued that in order to constitute being a credible international organisation IOPS needs:
- More members.
- Members that understand the basics of what IOPS is about – its vision and strategy, the significance of prefigurative organising, what it means to be part of a self-managed organisation, etc.
- National branches and local chapters that reflects the constituency within that area. Amongst other considerations this will mean that all National branches of IOPS will mostly need to have something like a 50-50 female / male membership.
In addition to the above three points I have also argued that we need to put a timeframe on these activities in order to avoid the danger of loosing existing members. That said, I do think that any such timeframe will need to be flexible. Having a fixed timeframe does not make sense and could prove costly. Imagine, for example, that we settle on a one year timeframe to undertake the above three tasks but that in the tenth or eleventh or twelfth month we suddenly have a rapid growth in membership or are making great gains in addressing the imbalance in say gender membership in a number of key branches. In such a scenario it would be completely irrational for us, as well as counterproductive for the organisation, to bring our interim phase to a close. Better, instead, to extend the timeframe by a month or two and see how things pan-out.
In a nutshell I am arguing that for IOPS to qualify as a credible international organisation we need quantity and quality of membership. We need membership that is representative of the constituents where we have branches / chapters. In addition to this criteria for credibility I feel that we need a timeframe in which to achieve these goals.
So here are some questions for members to think about and maybe comment on:
The timeframe question – Keeping in mind the point discussed above regarding flexibility, how long do we want to maintain the interim phase? Or put another way, how long should we give ourselves to do the above highlighted work?
The quantity question – How many members should we aim to recruit during this timeframe?
The quality question – What are the best ways in which members can help each other to gain an understanding of what IOPS is about in preparation for the launch?
The representative question – By what means can we ensure that we develop a membership that reflects the areas that we are organising in? Or put more harshly, how can we avoid IOPS becoming another left wing sect?