By Justin Podur at Jul 05, 2012
I joined the International Organization for a Participatory Society.
I don't join organizations lightly. I worked pretty intensely for a couple of years in an organization called the Canada Colombia Solidarity Campaign about ten years ago. I was involved in the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid for a few years. I am in a collective called Pueblos en Camino. And, of course, I have been heavily involved with Z Communications, and in fact, that has probably been my longest- and most intense affiliation. And while I pay membership dues to the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, try relate to the Greater Toronto Worker's Assembly, and have warm feelings towards dozens of other organizations, actually joining an organization is a commitment that I think is a bit unfair to do if I am not going to be able to put in much time.
In my own political life, I have noticed an interesting pattern. Activist work is always issue based. Activists work on issues, and organizations are based on issues. Certainly the ones I have worked on here in Toronto have been issue-based. But, from one issue to the next, you see many of the same people working in the organizations, showing up to the events (which happen in a handful of locations). If you see someone at one of these issue-based events, there's a good chance you can predict their views on climate change, labor rights, women's rights, indigenous rights, who's to blame for unemployment...
This suggests that these activists are taking an overarching approach to their activism, and that there are some principles guiding what they do. The issues are examples where the principles apply. It makes sense, if you see the connections between the issues, to wonder whether there is some greater level of organization or work that could be done based on the principles. In recent years, the Greater Toronto Worker's Assembly is an effort in that direction. The GTWA has an encompassing set of goals, that many different political tendencies could find acceptable. It has a local focus on trying to build strength, and learn lessons, in Toronto. As I said, I have tried to relate to the GTWA, but have not been able to give as much time to it as I think the initiative merits, on principle.
Now to IOPS. IOPS actually specifies its social vision in considerable detail, which I think is a benefit. Instead of trying to write a basis of unity to create a coalition out of many other organizations, put the vision out there and see who shows up. It is conceived of as an international organization, which is another potential benefit. I see nothing in the vision, structure, or program that I disagree with.
Contrast IOPS with the World Social Forum process. The WSF process was conceived as an alternative to the WEF, and I believe it was intended to be a forum, a space for many different things to happen. IOPS, by contrast, is much more specific about the kind of society it is seeking and what it expects its members to do. But if IOPS could have a convention the size of the WSF, tens of thousands of people, with as much international and activist representation as the WSF, we could see what we wished could have come from the WSF: a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts.
If every city had a worker's assembly and we had a giant IOPS, I think people who held these values would feel a lot less alone and maybe a little less crazy.