Below you will find a Q/A exchange that has just been posted in the International Organization for Participatory Society (IOPS) web system. It tries to address reasons people may have for hesitating to join, or for literally deciding not to, at least at the moment. The hope, of course, is to clarify IOPS logic and hopefully reduce the concerns. I repost the Q/A here, in the ZBlogs, in hopes ZUsers will give it serious attention and consider the option, again, to join or not join.
For myself, I find the exchange very convincing. Of course, I was already a member of IOPS – but still, it does seem to me that the Q/A addresses pretty much every concern I can imagine a person who agrees with the mission, vision, and structural commitments having. Of course one might not agree with those – you can find them at the IOPS Site, along with testimonials, forum discussions, blog post, comments, projects that have begun, etc. There are nearly 1600 members from 80 countries… IOPS is not a hypothetical. It is happening. Should we or should we not join? That is the question that the thirty questions and answers below address…
International Organization in General
Organization is not anti-action. Organization is a means to give action shared clarity, collective support, informed focus, and the lessons of accumulated wisdom. Organization is about acting collectively in light of insights preserved from past lessons. It is about increasing the number of people prepared to act and facilitating their doing so together.
To fear that organization might weigh down action with useless bickering or with norms that consign activists to boring self recriminations is warranted. If you look at IOPS and you feel that that is what this organization will do, then of course you should not join. But if you look at IOPS and you feel that it looks like a way to define and pursue organization that can, if we are careful, establish really desirable results, then you should seriously consider joining.
IOPS already has organizations in countries, regions, cities, and even parts of cities all over the world. So joining IOPS is in fact automatically joining (or perhaps beginning to form) organization in your local area. IOPS provides means, motivation and methods for emphasizing local organizing.
However, the difference between IOPS and a purely local organization that has, say, similar visionary and structural definition, isn't that IOPS ignores local effort. It is that IOPS entwines local efforts so they can mutually learn from and aid each other, and includes a national and international dimension so that members can address issues right where they are but also address larger issues that require larger response.
"Participatory society" names the aims IOPS has for new social institutions. A complete listing of these shared aims is available on the IOPS site – at http://www.iopsociety.org/vision – but the heart of IOPS vision is some key economic, political, cultural, and kinship institutional commitments designed to insure that whatever else is built by future people on these key features, there are no hierarchies of class, power, identity, or gender conveying to some people positions above and to other people positions below in fixed social hierarchies.
Participatory society is a society where all participate with self managing say and with solidarity from and toward others. It is a society where all enjoy diversity of options and outcomes and an equitable share of society's benefits and responsibilities. Participatory society's institutions literally propel and ensure these outcomes. All this is flexibly clarified in IOPS defining features, at the site. If the vision appeals to you, IOPS may already be for you. If not, then IOPS has work to do, if it is to gain your support.
In two main ways. First, vision of the key features of a better future provides a significant tool for understanding what is wrong with the present. For example, many worker coops and other projects seeking equitable, democratic relations tend, over time, to devolve from optimistic and hopeful to humdrum routine and finally to alienated doldrums. This leaves people feeling that maybe it is true that no better way of doing production is possible. Despondency replaces hope.
IOPS vision posits, as one of its key elements, a new way of dividing labor so that "each worker enjoys conditions suitable to be sufficiently confident and informed to participate effectively in decision making, including having a socially average share of empowering tasks via suitable new designs of work." This emphasizes the need not only to eliminate owners dominating production, but also to eliminate a group that by monopolizing empowering work, dominates production. Having this conception in mind, the IOPS member realizes that a problem afflicting many coops and movements is that while they institute formal democracy and equity, the coop (or movement) retains the old division of labor, which, in time, subverts and even obliterates sought worthy gains by giving disproportionate influence and reward to the few who monopolize empowering tasks, and in time, influence, income, and status.
Second, by conceiving and sharing the key defining features of a better future we become attuned to achievements that our strategies must attain. This helps us know what kinds of demands and actions, and what kinds of seeds of the future planted now, can actually lead us where we wish to arrive rather than causing us to wind up somewhere we had no intention of going.
The archetype example, of course, is well meaning movements that usher in authoritarian or class divided or still racist and sexist outcomes even against their own aspirations because they operated in ways that, unbeknownst to most involved, led to ends they did not desire.