One, Two, Many Languages
By Michael Albert at Jun 06, 2011
Based on the response to the Z Organization Blog, work has begun on a web site for iIOPS (temporarily, interim International Organization for a Participatory Society - or interim International Organization for Participatory Socialism, name to be resolved later).
On the one hand, of course many, people while interested, are doubtful. Why will something valuable emerge this time? Why will this effort, not some past effort, or, for that matter, some future effort give us worthy organization that lasts and succeeds? Why? Why? Why?
Well, there is no definitive answer to such questions. What makes this moment different some will say, is the character of the organizational definition that is guiding the work. Other might say, it is the times themselves that will make the difference, just look around. Still others will say, nothing makes this moment different except the will of we who choose to act now. Have you the will?
Yet, one thing is fairly certain. This effort, any effort, all efforts, rise and fall in large part with the mindsets of their advocates, their critics, and, in particular, their by standers.
Advocates' energy, steadfastness, and patience - assuming good ideas - are critical. So too is the constructive good will of critics. But mostly, it is the mindset of bystanders that is likely to prove paramount. What is the basis for skepticism that isn't critical, but is nonetheless standoffish? Can that mindset be sympathetically heard, compellingly addressed, and finally, positively altered?
At the moment, perhaps the key steps in a long road forward are threefold. Many eager advocates will think, let's get on with refining the description. Let's figure out policies, demands, the nuts and bolts. To my mind, however, this is not only not a priority, it is arguably not even positive. This is not a current key step because these are matters for a large membership. The initial description is - or hopefully will be - enough to guide initial and interim activity which won't impinge on the rights and responsibilities of future members of a real organization. And that is precisely as it should be because those who move earliest should not impinge on those rights and responsibilities of future members. That is what seeking participation requires.
So what is there to do, then?
One thing, which won't involve but which can affect many people, is preparing translations of the organizational description. We already have online (you can see them, for now, from the left menu of ZNet's top page) English, Spanish, Swedish, and Greek. We are told people are working on French, German, Russian, and Japanese. It should be obvious the value of these endeavors. Even more so since those doing the translations are also writing in their respective languages, to constituencies in their respective countries, about the project.
A second thing anyone can do, is to write articles, blogs, and or comments, not only on ZNet - but for any relevant constituency - noting that this is happening, perhaps summarizing or including excerpts from, or even including the whole guiding organizational description. Making such pieces not only analytic, but personal, as in explaining your hopes and indicating your likely types of involvement will prove inspiring to many, I am quite sure. The more people do this, in more voices, from more backgrounds, the more compelling the case becomes.
- Finally, there are the earliest steps to actually building local organization. Excited people wanting to do more than translate or blog or comment can hold meetings with a few friends or workmates or movement partners to talk about the organization description, and to think about whether you could see yourselves constituting a local chapter in the coming weeks, even without anything official, larger, publicly in place, or perhaps more easily in the Fall, when there is an overarching web system, when your efforts will get a site within the system, and so on. This will be, if it happens, the heart and soul of the creation of IOPS in many countries and cities, around the world.
The question isn't can we do this. We can, but will we?
Again - look around. Look at the pictures coming from Spain and Greece and the rest of Europe too. Look at the tumultuous events underway in Latin America. Look at the uprisings in Asia and fomentations in Africa. Look at the restive populace becoming indignant and even irate all over North America. Look at the disgust and anger visible in the daily utterances of people virtually everywhere. So of course the potential exists. Of course if enough people grasp the organizational description as being sufficiently consistent with their aspirations to accommodate, respect, and benefit from their participation, of course if it appears in enough languages, of course if the IOPS project gets energy from its advocates, insights from its critics, and respect and an open mind from those who are skeptically reticent - it can succeed.
The earliest days of any project are arguably most critical. Startup is when people have to act even though others will think they are doing a fool's errand or otherwise disparage their efforts. Startup is when people have to act despite themselves wondering if they aren't wasting their time on another doomed undertaking. And yet startup is also the time when those acting must be most flexible, patient, and open.
Rosa Luxembourg, the German Revolutionary, once wrote: "you lose, you lose, you lose, you win." Is this a moment for an organizational win? If we try hard enough. Maybe. If we learn as we go. Maybe. If we are patient, careful, and steadfast. Maybe. And what can make maybe into reality? We can. Of course.