17 April 2012 **** Front Page
International Organization for a Participatory Society (IOPS) was established in January 2012. Its membership is growing by the day, with participants joining from all parts of the world. One of the founding members, Michael Albert, the internatonally known Parecon (Participatory economy) thinker, explains how the new organization came about:
"The idea for IOPS came from a very long history of efforts to improve society, each in turn taking past efforts and trying to find lessons to inform better prospects. Writ more narrowly, however, it came from the vision called participatory economics , and then participatory society, together applied to the issue of how to best unite allies in an organization that could effectively combine their energies to win the new systems. Writ even more narrowly, though, it arose from a series of very specific efforts to align folks with similar vision and politics into unified actions, with the series of efforts stretching back over a decade or more. And writ most narrowly, it came from a poll implemented not long ago on the web system ZCommunications, that queried folks to see how they would react to a description of a hypothetical future organization. The poll presented the unifying vision, broad strategy, structure, and some hypothetical program, and tried to determine by reactions to all that if there was sufficient support for the descriptions to hold promise that a real world effort to build the envisioned organization might succeed.
"Well, it turned out that there appeared to be enough support, so we decided to try to make it happen. That's specifically the International or IOPS version. The same trajectory of desires and ambitious efforts had, however, already led to a few more local instances in New York, London, and a handful of other cities. So there was a lot of percolating desire for and even attempts to implement organization, and those local efforts, at least in some cases, wanted national efforts and also an international effort for the momentum those could provide, especially for the possible sharing of lessons and resources and mutual aid more generally, and hope. So, various people put in more thought, more effort, and the project is progressing." (For a New Left International Interview with Michael Albert and Jason Chrysostomou by Mark Evans, New Left Project, 30 March 2012.)
The IOPS web site is here: http://www.iopsociety.org/
Here are a few members' brief thoughts on the importance of this effort. Indeed, these are members of the consultative committee of IOPS.
Noam Chomsky (U.S.)
"Hardly a day goes by when I do not hear appeals – often laments – from people deeply concerned about the travails of human existence and the fate of the world, desperately eager to do something about what they rightly perceive to be intolerable and ominous, feeling helpless because each individual effort, however dedicated, seems to merely chip away at a mountain, placing band-aids on a cancer, never reaching to the sources of needless suffering and the threats of much worse,. It’s an understandable reaction, and can too often lead to despair and resignation. We all know the only answer, driven home by experience and history, and by simple reflection on the realities of the world: join together to construct and clarify long-term visions and goals, along with direct engagement and activism shaped by these guidelines and contributing to a deepening our understanding of what we hope to achieve. But the formula, while accurate enough, does not respond to the pleas. What is missing is concrete proposals as to how to proceed. IOPS strikes the right chords, and if the opportunities it opens are pursued with sufficient energy and participation, could carry us a long way towards unifying the many initiatives here and around the world and molding them into a powerful and effective force."
Patrick Bond (South Africa)
"By helping establish sound principles and processes to advance self-management, by avoiding blueprinting, by keeping in close touch with social movement demands for progressive public policies, and by linking committed lefties who eschew dogmatism, the IOPS will fill a huge gap. Internationalist networking and solidarity are amongst its members' passions, and anticipating their wisdom and energy I anticipate immense learning and activist opportunities."
Harpreet Paul (UK/India)
"Occupations and protests from London to Madrid, Cairo to New York have rocked the world – challenging conceptions on the Left that we do not have the numbers or support to win a more just and egalitarian world. And, through many creative direct actions, challenged conceptions that we – the globalised youth – are passive, self-interested, consumer citizens as we, instead, highlight the ways in which the seeds of a better future are embodied in the present. IOPS has created a space in which we can all come together, connect, share experiences, and organize together in our joint struggle for a better world. I hope to connect with you on the site as we share our experiences, thoughts, ideas and journeys - personal and political."
John Pilger (UK/Australia)
"We're at a critical stage in modern history with social democracy all but appropriated by something called corporatism. It's a drab, faceless word but it ideally explains why many of the freedoms won since the end of the second world war have been vandalised, and why so many people are confused. The iconography of the fascists of the mid-twentieth century does not apply, yet beneath the pin-striped, PR surface of corporatism is an ideology as wicked because it insinuates its ambition and inhumanity into our lives. At the same time we in so-called developed societies are distracted by the specious absurdities of 'post-modernism' and 'identity politics'. In the poor world, where the majority of humanity live and corporatism blundgeons its way with a military force of a kind never seen before, people better understand the nature of the beast. Above all, it is urgent we all make sense of it, and draw together the strands and build a resistance to the hi-jackers. In signalling the return of political imagination, IOPS is a way of beginning to achieve this."
Fernando Ramn Vegas Torrealba (Venezuela)
"Things go so fast that it seems a few days ago that a rather big group started this whole idea about putting up an internationale to face the power establishment of the world from the political left point of view no matter if it came from partisans of fair social distribution of wealth or defenders of the environment, combatants for a new world multipolar order or champions for the rights of the animals, fighters for social justice or advocates of formal justice for all. Yet, as contradictory as it sounds, somewhere on the road no real progress for the foundations of that internationale happened. This needs to be reversed. Time is now to get IOPS on its feet. There are many tasks ahead to be initiated and fulfilled. Of course one of them is to discuss among us on many subjects in order to arrive to feasible conclusions on theoretical matters, but also we have a lot of important and concrete tasks to achieve to defend social human rights, social revolutions that are developing at different stages in Latin-American countries, the war theaters that are in progress in the Middle East, the European workers rights that are under serious limitations by the savage financial capitalism, the unification of the left in the USA now divided and almost helpless in front of the conservatives. And these are only a few topics. There is a lot to do. Let us do it!"
Denitsa Dimitrova (UK/Bulgaria):
"The self-destructive nature of the present global order is not a chimera; and yet, the belief about its potential to finally bring about the development of humanity to its highest levels and put the end of history still serves as the dominant ideology. The project of IOPS is to stand as a buffer between the flaws of today and the belief that there is an alternative, that is, an endeavoured social organization, in which the notions of global capitalism, imperialism, authoritarianism, and discrimination are omitted from the agenda. IOPS envisages a community of value-sharing individuals, committed to bring change by the consent of their visions, rather than a consensus over a single idea. IOPS will become real if as many people as possible believe in the value of their ideas for change and the power of communicating them. I believe popularizing the idea of IOPS is the best way to demonstrate this."
Andrej Grubacic (U.S./Balkans)
"Many libertarian leftists think that we dont need revolutionary organizations. I think that we need them more then ever before. We need organizations to focus our energy, to clarify our strategy, and to carefully discuss our tactical choices. Revolutionary organizations are important to maintain a sense of community, to promote solidarity, to build a genuine community of struggle. If we are serious about being revolutionaries, and if we still chose to believe in social revolution as a process that results from our own self-activity, then we need participatory organizations that promote solidarity and organize our activity within mass movements. One important role of revolutionary organization is to defend horizontalist, participatory, self-managed aspects of struggle within mass movements, and to resist bureaucratization, professionalization, and vertical representation. Another one is to connect and translate different struggles, and promote global circulation and communication of struggles. IOPS could not come in a better time."
Elaine Bernard (U.S.)
"The best way to predict the future is to create it. IOPS offers an opportunity to reach across borders, time zones, organizations, communities, and individual interests and grow solidarity. Solidarity does not just happen. It needs to be developed, and it needs to have concrete expression in organization. Hopefully, with IOPS we can move beyond conversation and sharing analysis and experience into coordinated, cooperative democratic action."
Stephen Shalom (U.S.)
"Elites are very well organized. Those who challenge them, unfortunately, are not. To be sure, we don't want to match the hierarchical structures and monochrome character of elite organizations. But we do need to be organized, so that our countless, small individual efforts at reducing daily injustice and oppression can cross-fertilize and build on one another; so that we can learn from each other's political activities, victories and defeats, brainstorms and blunders; so that the political pressure we can mobilize can take on a critical mass; so that our campaigns can achieve strategic coordination; so that our theorizing about and imagining a participatory and democratic future can inform our political work; and so that the institutions that both embody and promote our values can link together. Will IOPS succeed? Who knows? But if we don't create and join an organization such as this, our prospects are likely to be rather grim."
Mandisi Majavu (SA/NZ)
"IOPS has a potential of becoming one of the few emancipatory spaces for internationalists who are opposed to sectarianism and, authoritarian and hierarchical structures My hope for the IOPS is that it will grow and become a forum that truly values and appreciates the contributions of people of colour, as well as women. Far too many leftist organisations fall into the trap of solely celebrating the work of white men thinkers and Western thinkers, while, on the other hand, the work of people of colour and the efforts of people from the “Third World” is either regarded as subpar or held with disdain and contempt."
Bill Fletcher (U.S.)
"Without organization, the people have nothing. The forces arrayed against the downtrodden and the dispossessed are immense. Mass actions and spontaneous movements are essential. All forms of progressive resistance to oppression must be embraced. Yet, in the absence of organization these struggles will exhaust themselves. Organization is about education; it is about training; it is about strategy; and tactics. But in this case it is also about building the international ties that are critical in taking on global capitalism and global injustice. No project toward the building of organization comes with any guarantees except one: This will not be easy. That said, if we want to win power for the global dispossessed, I don't think that we have any alternative but to build radical organizations. IOPS is one such effort."
Cynthia Peters (U.S.)
"You hear it all the time. There is always another urgent crisis. They don't just come in a steady stream, they seem to multiply geometrically. More draconian policies with life-threatening consequences, more corporate control, more prisons, more bombs, more funerals. With so many immediate fires to put out in our day-to-day organizing work, how can we make time to attend to larger issues, such as long-term strategy, vision, and movement building?
IOPS creates the space for us to do the essential work of movement building and envisioning a better world. Without these elements, we'll continue to work in isolation. By enlivening and enriching IOPS with your presence, you will both give solidarity to and receive solidarity from so many others -- across the world -- in the same situation -- up to their necks in the daily fight, and at the same time turning their creativity and energy towards revolutionary social change. That is not just good company. It's the solid beginnings of another world being possible."
Nikos Raptis (Greece)
"Nikos V. and his wife Ira are ordinary and politically "moderate" (i.e. not "rabid" leftists) middle class Greeks. In 2004 I gave them as a present a copy of the Greek translation of Mike Albert's "Parecon". As it usually happens on this happy planet they put the book in their bookcase and (I hope) they did not have the time to read it. Nikos and Ira are both rational and honest persons. A couple of days ago Nikos was on the phone and started talking to me about "Parecon", about "remuneration", about "sacrifice', about "job complexes", etc! Here is his most important phrase during our conversation: "Now is the exact time to apply something like that (meaning 'Parecon')". [His words]. Nikos and Ira are living in Athens of 2012, that is in the Athens of the IMF, of Merkel, etc. They were forced (repeat: forced) to find "refuge" in Albert's "Parecon". About 30% of the Greek population are now close to the poverty level, while a few months ago they considered themselves as members of the middle class.
David Marty of Spain, in his IOPS `testimonial' paragraph writes: `IOPS could not come at a better time...' Exactly! Also, the `I' of internationality in the title, is a very important factor in the entire effort. During the last couple of years I have been thinking about the peoples of the `Rim of the Mediterranean Basin' and the `Arab Spring'. There is fertile soil for our IOPS effort, in this rim. Spain, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Egypt, and so on, are part of this rim."
Paul Street (U.S.)
"As I have sought to show over and over again on ZNet and in other venues, a decent human future within and beyond the United States depends on “we the people” making a democratic and participatory revolution from the bottom up. The desire for such a future compels us to become revolutionaries. And, as Mike Albert says (quoting a friend of his), "there is no such thing as a revolutionary who is not in a revolutionary organization." One can advance revolutionary ideas and embody revolutionary principles to some degree as an organizationally unaffiliated individual. One can also protest and march and sit in and occupy with others in response to the endless outrages inflicted by the rich and powerful. But to bring about genuinely radical change one has to do the hard work of forming and joining together in an organization that embodies and expands common struggle, experience, strategizing, vision, and more.
For many of us on the Left, the vision, struggle, and strategy required for a genuinely revolutionary organization cannot be limited to the traditional conflict with capitalist/corporate property relations. It has to take on broad and interrelated forms of privilege, including the hierarchical organization of work (the modern capitalist and bureaucratic divisions of labor), repressive kinship and family structures, patriarchy, racism, national and cultural oppression, and more. It has to be international and internationalist in accord with the globalization of capitalist oppression and to overcome the savage existing disparities between rich and poor nations. It has to be strongly and centrally committed to ecologically sustainable development in recognition of our common dependence (shared with other species) on a livable environment and of the corporate/imperial system’s deadly war on the Earth. It must be designed for maximum engaged popular-participatory worker and citizen self-management and to resist internal counter-revolutionary tides of hierarchy and unbound egotism. It must have room for diverse currents and traditions of progressive/Left thought and activism.
The International Organization for a Participatory Society (IOPS ) has the very real potential to be all this and more. It is the “future” left-egalitarian organization we’ve been waiting for. It’s time to stop waiting and, as a start, to join."
Ann Ferguson (U.S.)
"We need the International Organization for Participatory Society (IOPS) so that we can bring in young activists such as the ones who are now in the Occupy movements as well as other social movements who are anti-capitalist, but don't trust any of the left political parties because they have been too authoritarian, top down and usually white male headed. I like the founding statement of the group that emphasizes the equal centrality of capitalism, racism, patriarchy, heterosexism and ignorant exploitation of nature (the environment and other living things) as domination structures to fight. I also like the emphasis on finding new models of democratic socialism that don't repeat the mistakes of the past authoritarian top-down states such as the USSR, Eastern European countries and China. Reclaiming the commons and thinking about our collective values of solidarity, community, and caring as well as equality, economic democracy (workers' cooperatives and self-management), social democracy (caring for all humans by working to meet their basic needs), and political democracy not just through representative democracy but participatory democracy at all levels is key to this vision. We can debate about whether this means market socialism or council socialism, participatory budgeting at all levels, the weakening of nation states in favor of regional economic planning and political decisionmaking, etc. We certainly don't have all the answers, but the only way we will get them is to continue to network and to work out our ideas with like-minded radical democrats and socialists around the world, and I hope IOPS can provide us a way to do this and to develop some global political clout as well."
Ezequiel Adamovsky (Argentina)
"In the past two decades we have seen many signs that new forms of resistance against capitalism are emerging. These new forms are still looking for their own political strategies and visions of the future, and trying to overcome the limitations of the traditional Left. By bringing together people and organizations that have been working in that direction for a long time, the International Organization for a Participatory Society (IOPS) has the potential to become a fundamental contribution to this process. Ever since the decadence of the Internationals, we have been looking for ways to connect local struggles globally. This is a great opportunity: the IOPS offers us the chance to rebuild the internationalist tradition of the Left by taking into account the lessons we have learned from history."
Florian Zollman (Germany)
"People know that capitalism but also centrally planned or market socialism are flawed - for various reasons: empowering work, income and wealth are unevenly distributed, important political and economic decisions are made by elites, rapacious wars are launched by the few at the expense of the many, environmental and economic disasters are immanent. Progressive movements have long been organising for a better world. This has led to enormous victories. Yet, concurrently, it has been difficult to sustain movements in sufficient numbers and activities because many so called progressive organisations are elitist: they empower some people over others and lack a visionary programme. What has been missing is an organisation that enables its members to act in a self-managing way and in accord with our values. What has been missing is an organisation that provides a vision broad enough to appeal to a wide constituency but also specific enough to sufficiently inform us on how another world could realistically look like. What has been missing is an organisation that encourages people to engage in political activism in a supportive and enjoyable environment. As its organizational descripton proves, IOPS can become this organisation if we make it happen!"
Greg Wilpert (Germany/U.S./Venezuela)
"Activists who believe in the values and vision of a participatory (socialist) society that opposes all forms of oppression (including gender, racial, ethnic, and class) need to organize, preferably in an organization with like-minded individuals. So far, as far as I know, there are no international multi-issue organizations that fit this bill. There are single-issue organizations or multi-issue local groups or dogmatic international groups that present themselves as being in favor of such a participatory society. This is fine and they have their place. However, I believe that for us participatory (anarcho-socialist?) activists to move forward, we ought to have a non-dogmatic international multi-issue organization. Single issue groups and local groups might occasionally come together in a coalition around particular issues and achieve great things, but for us to have a lasting and more than local impact, we need to organize globally around many issues - not just to talk, but to coordinate and to act. The International Organization for a Participatory Society/Socialism (IOPS) has the potential to be the organization we need. Please join us!"
Antti Jauhiainen (Finland)
"The new iopsociety.org is a serious, extremely well-thought out service that can, if used widely, work as a network to bring together in a new way various individuals, organizations and even whole movements from across the world. The site already helps us create local and even national events and discuss them, provides meaningful structures for debate and sharing, and in a way that can over time expand to actual systems of voting and decision making. It's an ambitious, carefully thought out site that can help us seek a more free, more participatory society. It's uniquely focused to the needs and goals of people and movements working for social justice. I recommend reading through the carefully crafted IOPS proposal, and if you agree with it as I do, signing up for the IOPS site and taking part in the new community of serious people committed to social change. You can share ideas, your events, your articles or actions, with people that can provide meaningful feedback and encouragement quickly. This is an opportunity we don't want to and can't afford to miss."
Jason Chrysostomou (UK)
"Society is crying out for an alternative to the injustice and destruction caused by our current social systems that privilege the few above the many. The international organisation for a participatory society (IOPS) seeks to be a truly participatory and effective revolutionary force that wins progressive social change by organising itself around a flexible vision of the kind of future society we want to live in, based on self-management, solidarity, equity and diversity. By joining IOPS, you become part of a growing community of people that are committed to constructing a new world."
Anders Sandström (Sweden)
"The decentralized and bottom-up based structure of IOPS should attract all activists and groups of activists with different focuses that aspire to values such as solidarity, diversity, equity, self management and sustainability. Its underlying logic to share resources and efforts and to give support among groups with shared basic values but different focuses and at the same time allow for local chapters and subgroups to keep their autonomy and self management makes IOPS one of the most promising, and personally I think the most attractive, concrete effort to organize activism with the goal to create a better world that has been seen in a long time. Especially so in a small country such as where I live, Sweden. It needs and deserves to be successful."
Michael Albert (U.S.)
"IOPS is an organizational idea trying to become an actual organization able to contribute to winning a new world. Its interim features and aims are widely consistent with contemporary critics of capitalism, patriarchy, racism, authoritarianism, ecological nightmare, and imperialism. It is a place for seekers of solidarity, diversity, equity, self management, sustainability, and internationalism. Flexible, growth oriented, embodying the seeds of a better future in the present, IOPS grows out of the best of the past and present and aims for a much better future. I believe IOPS can be a place for revolutionary activists and thinkers to share lessons, organize together, enjoy one another, and, most of all, win changes in a trajectory of growth and struggle leading to a better world. I hope that IOPS will move from being interim to being actual via a founding convention in a year or two, attaining by that time 5,000 to 50,000 members, and growing steadily from there. I believe this can happen, assuming those with compatible views set aside skepticism and despair and collectively energetically act on hope and desire. I intend to relate to IOPS with all the time and desire I can muster. I hope others will see this moment similarly."
David Marty (Spain)
"IOPS could not come at a better time in the context of Spanish project for a participatory society (PPS-Spain). If Spain has recently met with tough setbacks that put all activists of social change in a difficult position, it has also experienced one of its most exciting years of its history. There has been an explosion of solidarity, activism, class-consciousness but also and most importantly of ideas that another world is possible. These ideas, the big ones -- and especially the good ones -- need a home to stay, be nurtured and one day seek to become a reality. IOPS is such a place in my view. Talks around a new model are already happening: what our values are and what institutions we want our economies, our communities, gender relations and our political arenas to have in accordance. Efforts that aspire to become large scale participatory projects are in creation. The role of IOPS in these exciting developments should be obvious enough to all of us. It will provide a much needed network of national and international solidarity where members can exchange views, share ressources, raise funds, elaborate voting systems, and build projects together. This Saturday, March 31st, PPS-Spain will be launched in Madrid and Valencia: this will be an opportunity for us to talk about the IOPS network for the first time and invite people to join our chapter. The webpage for the Madrid chapter will be launched on the IOPS site on Labor Day, i.e May 1st.
Mark Evans (England)
"The only thing elites are terrified of is a popular movement. There is good reason for this. A popular movement is the only force that can change the way in which society functions. The transition from a society run by and for elites towards a truly democratic society run in the interests of the common good can only come about as a result of a popular movement.
But how to build a popular movement? There have been many attempts to answer this question - some more successful than others. IOPS is the latest attempt in this long history of revolutionary organising that attempts to build on these successes whilst also learning important lessons from past mistakes. IOPS is nothing less than an opportunity for a new generation of revolutionaries to transcend the serious flaws we typically find in old style revolutionary organising. With its prefigurative approach to organising IOPS offers its members the opportunity to contribute to the creation of the new society we desire and need on a daily basis. My hope is that many people from every part of the world will join in this creative endeavour in constructing a new world system and in-so-doing putting an end - once and for all - to unnecessary social injustice. If you are interested in helping build a popular organisation for revolutionary social transformation than please take a serous look at the IOPS site and consider joining."
Justin Podur (Canada)
"Activists and organizers know or sense that the diversity and multiplicity of our efforts and issues is worth celebrating, but we also know or sense that we somehow haven't been able to add up to more than the sum of our parts. Any effort to do so can invoke fears - fears that some party line might be imposed from without, or that we'll end up working in a group or organization whose values we don't endorse. But those are things to be careful of while trying, not reasons not to try. If you think about it, you'll see there is a need for something like IOPS. The only way to make it into what is needed is to do it."
Talking about IOPS and Spain with Oliver by David Marty, ZSpace, 10 April 2012
Imagine an Organization and Build It by Michael Albert, ZNet, 27 March 2012
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