Written for teleSUR English, which will launch on July 24
Over two years back, a poll about features that a new revolutionary international organization might have was posted on the web site ZNet and garnered considerable positive interest. Queries to many folks seconded the interest, so a project to create a new international organization with features that the poll takers ratified was begun.
An international consultative committee (ICC) was established including many prominent activists and writers. They were mandated to help with choices which, however, pending the effort becoming a fully functioning organization, would be kept to a bare minimum and only pursued when overwhelmingly simple and uncontroversial.
An IOPS web site was created. Initial commitments and definitions were established based on the poll results. Everything was understood to be interim until there could be a convention to finalize a working structure and principles.
The result was called IOPS – International Organization for a Participatory Society.
IOPS was aggressively promoted on the website, ZNet, and, as a result, IOPS membership grew from zero to about 2,500 quite quickly. Then, by grassroots enlistment efforts IOPS grew more slowly to currently include over 3,500 members. Some chapters formed and a few of those developed campaigns or worked on campaigns that other activists were already carrying out.
For me, a question arises.
By now, why aren’t there 50,000 members and a 100 or so chapters? Undoubtedly many factors have played a role.
For example, there were certainly some mistakes by those who worked on IOPS in its early days. However, I suspect that a far larger problem was and remains mostly skepticism, and even defeatism, among members themselves, and more broadly at large. People doubted that IOPS would succeed and reasoned, why join, or, if you do muster the energy to join, why give it much time?
At the outset, I felt there were a huge number of people who would. I thought if they heard about the broad commitments defining IOPS they would support them. I still think that was true then, and is also true now.
I also thought, that of all those who liked the IOPS commitments, nearly all would agree that if there were an organization based on the commitments, it would be a very large and perhaps even a giant step forward for activist clarity and unity around the world. I still think that that was true then, and is true now, as well.
Did alternative media cover this undertaking? With the exception of ZNet, barely at all.
Did prominent activists and intellectuals with an audience write about this effort, celebrate it, and try to contribute to people relating to it? Again, barely at all.
So, we had skepticism, plus relative invisibility. And that is a poisonous mix for growth and creativity.
Of course, there is another possible explanation for IOPS being less successful, at least so far, than I and others anticipated. Maybe there wasn’t widespread agreement with the commitments. Maybe I was wrong thinking that people would agree that having an international organization, with national branches and local chapters, based on those worthy commitments, would be a great step forward.
So, broadly speaking, which is it? Is IOPS relatively small because people don’t like the idea per se? Or is it relatively small because people assume IOPS will fail and therefore decide that it is not worth their time, or don’t even know it exists at all?
I can’t know for others, but we can each know regarding our self. Visit the IOPS site. Consider the defining commitments and an introductory video, and more, if you like. See what you think.
If I were standing there with you, after you read through and thought about the defining commitments, and I asked – are you ready to join – what would you answer?
If you would answer yes, then I would anticipate your joining. If you would answer no, is it because you don’t like the commitments, or is it because you are skeptical the project will go anywhere so you figure why bother?
What if you said yes, I like the commitments and I will join – and I then asked, will you now talk to people you know about IOPS, seeking their involvement? Will you try to hook up with others in your city to create a chapter? Will you, to the extent that you write or speak in public, at least in part write or speak about IOPS? In that case, how would you answer those questions? Would you answer, yes, sure, I will do those things? Or no, I won’t? And if you would answer no, I will not do those things, would it be because you felt that such actions would be worthless even if they succeeded, or would it be because you wouldn’t want to fail at such actions, or to be publicly accountable for having tried, or simply that you are really busy, and the payoff doesn’t seem to warrant taking even a little time from other pursuits?
What is interesting and worth considering is that answering these questions when the organization really exists, and answering them hypothetically before it existed, seem to be quite different. I say that because the poll we put up that eventually led to the organizational project ebing undertaken included questions about whether those who said they would join, would work to build it. Of those who answered at all, which was over 3,000 people, about 95% said they would join either immediately or as soon as they could verify the effort was serious, and almost all of those who said they would join also said they would try to enlist others to do so. It hasn’t happened.
In a recent interview I was asked what I thought were the most important or critical tasks for revolutionaries to accomplish in the next five or ten years. Here is how I answered:
No one ever knows, in advance, what is most important for achieving justice in some period. Still, my opinion would be that in five or ten years, to have hope of attaining a new society short of nearly apocalyptic collapse of the societies we now live in, we will need to have built at least one massive international organization, with national and local chapters, including millions of participating members, and that has clear vision, broad program and strategy, and that is heavily and tirelessly engaged in winning gains now and developing consciousness, commitment, and organization conceived to win more gains tomorrow, and ultimately, to win a new world.
Do you agree that to do that is, if not the most important task we face, at least a very important one?
If you do agree about that, do you see some better approach to building such an organization than the IOPS project? And are you trying to aid that other approach?
If not, doesn’t that imply that even if you are far from sure IOPS will succeed, you ought to lend a hand to IOPS?
Again, you can see the IOPS site, anytime, to judge all these matters for yourself.