what’s wrong with iops?

2 11 2012

What is IOPS?

IOPS is the International Organisation for a Participatory Society. It offers a vision of a society where people have a greater say in the decisions that affect their lives. The general principle is people have a say in proportion to the extent that the decision affects them. Its core values are:

  1. Self-management
  2. Equity/Justice
  3. Solidarity
  4. Diversity
  5. Ecological stewardship
  6. Internationalism

What is the theoretical foundation of IOPS?

Michael Albert has been the key figure in shaping the theory. Analysis is divided into four spheres:

  1. Community/culture
  2. Kinship/gender
  3. Polity/power
  4. Economy/class

These four spheres have two contexts:

  1. Ecology
  2. International Relations

The institutions of the four spheres generate relations of power, wealth, privilege & status.

Economics is just one of the four spheres & the two class analysis of Marxism (capitalists & workers) is rejected in favour of a three class analysis that includes a coordinator class. These are the people who have the empowering jobs, such as bankers, accountants, lawyers, doctors, etc. The argument is that these people, although not capitalists, are an obstacle to a classless society. Taking the means of production away from the capitalists will not create a classless society unless the empowering work is not shared out along with the repetitive, mundane tasks. It is not just about removing private property but abolishing the division of labour.

What is IOPS strategy?

IOPS, or at least Michael Albert, is very much aware of the importance of language. Being labelled a communist is a handicap anywhere in the world, but particularly in the USA. The same goes for the terms Marxist, socialist, anarchist, etc. All these words become obstacles to the central message of participation & having a real say over the decisions that affect us. Hence the emphasis on transcending 20th century central planning & not having an ideological driven blueprint. Rather to promote a revolutionary organisation that is anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-sexist & anti-authoritarian. It aims to win a better world by:

  1. Flexibly exploring & advocating long term vision
  2. Building the seeds of the future in the present
  3. Empowering the lives of its members
  4. Organising in an internally classless & self-managing way
  5. Winning changes in society that better the situations

So what’s wrong?

By trying to avoid the label of Marxist/Communist IOPS throws the Marxist bath out with the Leninist bath-water. This then runs the risk of the theoretical analysis losing its materialist foundations. A scientific analysis of human existence shows that societies are historically determined by the development of the forces of production that shape productive relations. In otherwords, pre-agricultural societies didn’t have the economic classes that agricultural societies had (e.g. feudal lords & serfs) & later capitalist societies have in the form of capitalists & workers. This arguably can be extended to include a coordinator class, as much as Einstein built on the work of Newton (pre-agricultural societies still had hierarchies of power). It certainly doesn’t mean that Marx should be discarded. The four spheres of life mentioned above may all be important & interact, but it is the economy which is the most important by far.

Albert perhaps implicitly realises this, hence why it is participatory economics (parecon) that has been given the most attention. Participatory politics (parpolity) is starting to catch up, but there is no par-kinship or par-culture, at least to my knowledge.

So is this just a tactic? Does Albert really recognise the importance of Marx privately, but publically prefers the impression of clear blue water? Maybe, & if so you can see the sense in the tactic. Note how being an anti-capitalist is no longer the obstacle it once was. Marx has made a comeback. The BBC’s economics editor even made a TV programme on him. The important thing to do is to distinguish between Marx’s analysis of capitalism & the one-party dictatorships of the 20th century, most notably the Soviet Union & China. This is where the concept of the coordinator class has power, rightly or wrongly.

Another issue IOPS have is the dominance of one man, Albert. IOPS & Albert appear to be almost one & the same. It would be healthy to generate more discussion about theory, vision & strategy, & for Albert to be defeated on something. This would show IOPS isn’t coordinated by one man, however able & dedicated he may be. The more IOPS grows & starts to organise, no doubt the more this will happen, & Albert would probably be the first to celebrate this.

Compared to other revolutionary gatherings IOPS appears to have more ‘normal’ people. Apart from some notable exceptions they seem to be very inexperienced though. They may not be so encumbered with language & therefore the potential to become sectarian, but can they organise & get things done? Again, this will come in time & the culture of diversity & helping others to grow is encouraging. It will mean that those more use to debating revolutionary politics will be frustrated, even horrified by ‘incorrect’ points of view, but such dyed-in-the-wool revolutionaries would do well to learn to be able to talk in everyday language to everyday people rather than setting themselves apart as the ‘experts’. I know this includes me.

So what next?

Personally, I’m encouraged by the approach of IOPS. It feels very much like the libertarian/council communism of the Commune. I need to learn more about parecon, but the basic concept of workers & consumer councils seems sensible. Engaging with IOPS will only encourage us to examine our language, make us explain our concepts in an easier to grasp way, ask ourselves just how sectarian we really are, & most importantly what does it really take to change the world. That’s after all what it’s all about.

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33 responses

4 11 2012

Well this poster does at least recognise a need not to throw Marx’s basic analysis overbooard in this latest enthusiasm for Albert’s parecon model and his relaunched international, (and of course concepts of ‘co-ordinator’ ‘middle’, manager’ etc class are not alien to a number of marxist tendencies).

Whatever it may have going for it though it is very definately NOT any kind of communist grouping as the economic model proposed with all it’s faults, not even having the outdated 19th century notion of some intermediate or transitional form on the way to a genuine communist society.

I’m not sure what kind of ‘libertarian communism’ the Commune claims to aspire to but other libertaian communists from differeing tendencies at the recent London Anarchist bookfair gave Albert a resounding rejection. Even David Graeber who has suprisingly signed up to iops (with other minor celebreties it seems) was heavily critical of the assumption behind parecon.

At the end of the day iops is seeking to sell a new untried model or blueprint rather than identifying and working for the destruction of capitalism through the development of the class struggle and the emergence of new ‘communising’ tendencies.

Even in terms of ‘models’ it has to compete with others of at least equal validity and equally problematical, for instance ‘Inclusive Democracy’ promoted by Takis Fotopoulos.

Both (together with the predecessor Castoriadis model of so called workers self-management) have been criticised in a number of related discussion threads on the libcom website which readers here who seem taken with iops would benefit from checking out.

5 11 2012
Lambert Meertens

As was stated in an open letter signed by, among many others, Ezequiel Adamovsky, Noam Chomsky, Eva Golinger, and John Pilger, “We believe [IOPS' Mission and Visionary and Programmatic Commitments] correspond closely to the most prevalent, advanced, and widely accessible political beliefs on which to build an organization for winning a better world.”

It is true that these commitments have also been informed by ideas advanced by Michael Albert, such as parecon. But they do not include parecon as an actual model. In other words, you can be critical of the parecon model and yet be a committed member of IOPS. IOPS does not and will not confine its vision to specific models, but instead realizes that the best choices may depend on the circumstances, which can differ from time to time and from place to place, and that it is up to the people involved to make these choices.

We need to rebuild the internationalist tradition of the Left, which we can only do if we take account of the lessons we can learn from history. The Left has allowed itself for too long to be divided by sectarian struggles. IOPS is very serious about self-management, and not only workers’ self-management, but self-management of all communities and polities, and also self-management of the people organizing for the struggle, which today must be waged on many fronts, and not be confined to only the class struggle.

5 11 2012

Lambert, you say “IOPS does not and will not confine its vision to specific models…”. Does this mean you can hold Marxist views & still be a member of IOPS?
Although I think the concept of a coordinator class is a serious challenge to Marxists (& should be addressed), I don’t think it implies a complete rejection of Marx’s analysis of capitalism. Marx recognised other classes, such as the petite-bourgeoisie & the lumpen-proletariat, but as sub-classes. An analysis of capital is difficult enough with just two classes.
Michael Albert is fully entitled to reject Marx’s analysis if he chooses, but if IOPS is about rebuilding the internationalist tradition in a self-managing way, libertarian & council communists of the type that belong to the Commune should be welcomed with open arms.

5 11 2012
Lambert Meertens

“Does this mean you can hold Marxist views & still be a member of IOPS?”
Yes, many members of IOPS hold Marxist views, although some of those who consider themselves Marxists may be seen as revisionists by others who call themselves Marxists. Others (including myself) do not consider themselves Marxists but are nevertheless inspired by much of Marx’ thinking.

My take on this is that if Marx were alive today, he himself would probably revise several critical aspects of his analysis in view of new evidence that was not available when he developed his theories.

Libertarian and council communists are welcome in IOPS, as are libertarian and democratic socialists, and anarchists of many stripes, including “anarchists without adjectives”. We have members with all kinds of backgrounds, who are committed to organizing the struggle and are flexible enough to work together with each other in the common goal to reach a better world.

5 11 2012

The Commune was founded on the recognition that state Socialism in Russia and China was not authentic Communism. Marx did not hold the view that state nationalisation or the end of private ownership was socialism or a transition to Socialism. As Engels put it in Anti During, it was nonsense to assume society can take possession of the means of production without revolutionizing production from top to bottom,without putting to an end the old division of Labour.For Marx, what allows the abolition of Capital as a determining relation is the creation of a new organisation of production founded on association.

In Contrast Michael Albert, in the interview with Davinrouge, appears to accept or base himself on the popular perception that Marxism means only the end of private ownership in the means of production or state Socialism in the Lenin, kautsky , Stalinist, tradition. He appears to understand the means of production and the economy as separate from society, as a technological sphere,rather than the Marxist/Communist concept of the economy as Social relations of production,in which Capital as a social relation dominates everything, including relations of power.

Instead of the Marxist view of the struggle between Labour and Capital, in a Society determined by Capital, as self expanding value, with all the Commodification. Alienation,Oppression and exploitation that goes with it, we have a view of Society as a number separate and distinct sphere’s, which elevate Gender, Race,Economy,Ecology and so on, in their own self determining space. No sphere has priority over any other, so we get a utopian social equality between each zone. Its rather like Althusser’s autonomous levels of capitalism, but without production determining in the last instance.

Michael Albert argues that we have to fight not only against capitalism,but fight for classlessness,as if the two could be separated. He seems to have in mind the popular perception of the failure of Communism in the Russian Revolution or Communism as synonymous with state socialism ,since he writes ,”because beyond Capitalism there is not only a desirable classless economy,but there is also an economy that elevates the co ordinator class to ruling status in which workers remain below”. The economy seems to be a technical machine demanding a specialist. In such an economy we would not get beyond the rule of capital.

The productive forces do not determine the mode of production,the greatest productive force is humanity, production is the production of ideas as well as things,relations of production are social not simply economic or matters for choice in the economic sphere as exterior to society and the state. For Labour to overcome capital in class struggle, to transform themselves and capitalism,entails overcoming,going beyond, the opposition between manual and intellectual Labour,wage slavery and the state. To accept the current structure of Capitalism, with the separation between the economy and society and other divisions, which keep it functioning, is to travel a along a different road to a separate destination.

5 11 2012
Lambert Meertens

Barry, I understand from your contribution that you don’t like Albert. But the topic was not Albert but IOPS. What do you think of IOPS?

6 11 2012
Gerry Conroy

Just to emphasise what Lambert said – it’s important that people taking a look at IOPS understand that proposals like Parecon, which is the economic model for the Parsoc (Participatory Society) ideas – are just that, a proposal, a suggestion in the overall context of the broad definition of IOPS.

IOPS has not adopted Parecon as its accepted economic model.

Unfortunately some people may draw that conclusion by making a quick association between Michael Albert, Parecon and IOPS and it’s probably a misconception we’ll have to deal with regularly. I think Mike, who made the first comment above may be under this impression?

John (Duvinrouge), you said you’ll be looking at Parecon and once you’ve had a chance to have a good look at it, I’d be interested to hear if you still think people should study Marx to understand it, or work towards implementing it in the economy. For myself, I think it’s fine for those with an interest in Marx to study his work but just not necessary for the rest of us – an unnecessary barrier, a bit like being told you should study classical Greek and Latin to be properly educated. And in that same way, it will repel the majority of people who we’re supposed to be reaching out to.
Analysis of capitalism is one thing – plenty in Marx about that – but construction of the alternative society we want, is what people really want to hear about – once you can get them to listen. :))
Nobody is rejecting Marx’s analysis of capital. However, in terms of organisational strategy, reaching millions of people, it’s crucial that unnecessary theoretical complexity be avoided.

I don’t agree that the economy should be seen to have primary importance over relations in the kinship/gender, community/cultural and polity/citizenship spheres. I think the relationship between those spheres is pretty inscrutable in terms of how they affect the development of society, in all its complexity. I did come across a post from a feminist on another forum recently, who was arguing that kinship was clearly the primary sphere…:))

I also don’t think it even serves a useful purpose to say, ‘mine is more important than yours’ and again in terms of strategy, it’s sectarian and divisive from the outset.

6 11 2012


Parecon is a vision of a post-capitalist society, Marx’s work is an analysis of capitalism.
They are two very different things.

Unfortunately, capitalism is actually very difficult to understand.
Today’s economists don’t have a very good understanding of it.
The reason they don’t is they haven’t studied Marx, or if they have, haven’t understood him.
There’s a good many ‘Marxists’ who haven’t got a good understanding of Marx.
There’s also Marxists who in my opinion have taken Marx’s analysis of capitalism forward & explained the nature of crises better – Sam Williams, for example (http://critiqueofcrisistheory.wordpress.com/).

But most people will not want to understand the nature of capitalism, or even be able to. So it that sense you’re right, Marx can be an obstacle.

This is why I agree that an organisation that promotes a vision of the future, especially in the simple to understand terms of ‘a say in decisions in proportion to the amount affected by them’ like IOPS is to be welcomed. You don’t need to understand Marx’s analysis of capitalism to realise that this means the common ownership of the means of production & the abolition of the division of labour. You’re right.

However, for those who really want to understand human existence & what’s going on in the world today Marx is invaluable. Those who dismiss him so lightly are all the poorer for doing so.

I’ll try & contribute to the forum on parecon on the IOPS website.

7 11 2012

I may come back to this but just to say that the parecon economic model continues to be heavily promoted through IOPS without any serious criticism as far as I can see and the economic section of the ‘mission statement’ whilst a fairly vague statement is clearly based on parecon.

The whole conceptual framework of this initiative is quite alien to that of libertarian communism and it’s class based analysis (as Barry has started to explain) and is rather a mixture of ‘citizen based democratism’ and the rainbow alliance of the ‘oppressed’.

Of course many of it’s broad aspirations can be shared (even if some of the language in which it is expressed may give us some doubts) but as yet these appear to lack any substance on which they can be judged. That may have to await their actual involvement in everyday social struggles and politics and in their proclaimed efforts to achieve ”short term changes” and in ”building institutions”.

The existing politics of many of it’s named contributors will surely give libertarian communists some reason to doubt it’s likely direction but we will see where it goes.

7 11 2012
Gerry Conroy

Mike wrote:

>”… just to say that the parecon economic model continues to be heavily promoted through IOPS without any serious criticism as far as I can see and the economic section of the ‘mission statement’ whilst a fairly vague statement is clearly based on parecon…”

The economics section of the IOPS commitments calls for an economy based on self-management and classlessness – a participatory economy then – and everything that a libertarian communist would agree with.

Parecon is one specific example of a participatory economy which fits within the range of that definition. There will be aspects of Parecon that people who agree fully with the IOPS economic component, would not agree with, or not be entirely convinced by, or just not be happy with, in one way or another. All well and good.

People who agree with the IOPS commitments, should join IOPS. From there, they can propose economic projects or other kinds of projects, as long as they fit within the basic IOPS definitions. That certainly includes libertarian communists projects. You can think of it as another space to put your case.

And the serious criticism of Parecon you mention would be extremely welcome!

I´m very interested in Parecon and the Parsoc ideas, though I haven´t had time to study the whole thing in detail. Other members of IOPS, are less taken with those ideas and we hope to see many suggestions for different possibilities and alternatives – which fit within the broad IOPS definitions – and then modifications, adjustments, experiments and so on, with constant discussion and debate.

I don´t see Parecon heavily promoted on the IOPS site – just a couple of threads or so on the forum – but as I said above it´s one example of a participatory economy, so it´s perfectly reasonable for there to be some discussion of it.

>”…The existing politics of many of it’s named contributors will surely give libertarian communists some reason to doubt it’s likely direction but we will see where it goes…”

Not sure who you´ve got in mind but all these people have declared their belief in and acceptance of, the IOPS mission, vision and structure and program statements.

7 11 2012
Lambert Meertens

An essential part of the whole IOPS experiment is that there is no central command structure, but that the local self-managing chapters develop their own action plans and methods – while of course learning from each others’ experiences and supporting each other to the extent possible. But we do realize we are part of a universal aspiration that has found expression throughout history, and we know we can learn much from the thoughts and experiences of those who came before us. Schooling – through study groups or whatever – is likely to be part of such local plans. Of course we will make mistakes, and our analyses will not be perfect, but in the end there is no better teacher than actual shared participation in the struggle.

If the broad aspirations are not made more concrete, that may be partly due to the fact that IOPS is an interim organization, set up as a precursor. But it also reflects the insight that the most desirable concrete forms may depend on local circumstances and conditions, and that it is up to those waging the actual struggle to define their demands and end terms.

It is easy to keep standing on the sidelines and see where it goes. Well… if everyone who shares the broad aspirations of IOPS keeps standing on the sidelines to see where it goes, then the answer is clear: it is not going to go anywhere. But if you are prepared to accept that people who are not wool-dyed libertarian communists can too have authentic revolutionary aspirations, and that the struggle for a better world can be won if enough determined people join in, then why would you remain at the sidelines? Come and join in the effort, and encourage others to join too.

8 11 2012

IOPS though is not by my understanding a social or economic ‘struggle’ rooted in actual conditions but rather a set of ‘beliefs’, ‘models’ and ‘aspirations’ that is essentially a new ‘ideology’ seeking supporters or perhaps ‘converts’.
Libertarian communists are already engaged in various ways (both theoretical and practical) in actual social and economic struggles (possibly already with some individual IOPS supporters who knows?) and are not on the sidelines of anything other than IOPS or other similar ideological organisations such as ‘Inclusive Democracy’ etc, which have already been criticised on the libcom site and elsewhere and which are readily accessible. Communist crtiques at a more fundamental level of ‘democracy’ and ‘self-management’, as a core concept in terms of social struggles now and future revolutionary alternatives, are also included as library material and discussion threads on libcom and other communist sites. IOPS may aspire to be the primary focus of radical and revolutionary energies but it is yet to justify such a position given the many other useful forums and networks around – it is not unique!

PS: Forgot to mention in my previous post that contrary to the communist class based analysis (incorporating as it does an understanding of related ‘oppressions’) that IOPS tends to treat ‘class’ as essentially just another in it’s list of ‘oppressions’ in it’s use of the term ‘classism’.

8 11 2012

I have to say I find it rather sad that Marxists, & Libertarian Communists at that, fail to reach out & engage with a revolutionary movement like IOPS.

IOPS have a vision of a post-capitalist world where the means of production are commonly owned & the division of labour abolished. A vision that is not different to Libertarian Communists. Although parecon isn’t the IOPS position at least it is trying to put meat on the bones & offer one particular concrete example of what could be. I don’t think the members of IOPS can be accused of lacking vision compared to Libertarian Communists.

Where IOPS does appear weak is the analysis of the here & now – capitalism. Albert isn’t IOPS, but currently its most influential member, & he doesn’t profess to be a Marxist. He rejects Marx on the basis of ignoring the coordinator class. This is a good challenge & should be answered.

It’s all to easy for those well versed in the terminology of Marx to remain wrapped in their comfort blanket. There’s a world to change. Sure the change won’t come about through subjective will alone & a materialist foundation resting upon the economics is key, but this does mean being able to engage with the working class.

This side of communism the vast majority of workers will never understand Marxist theory. But the workers are the revolution. That means looking for ways to make change happen. One of which is IOPS. A participatory society if it is to truly deliver a world where people have a say in decisions to the extent that they are affected by them must be communist & must have abolished the division of labour. We have the same vision.

8 11 2012
Gerry Conroy

Mike wrote:

>”…IOPS though is not by my understanding a social or economic ‘struggle’ rooted in actual conditions but rather a set of ‘beliefs’, ‘models’ and ‘aspirations’ that is essentially a new ‘ideology’ seeking supporters or perhaps ‘converts’…”

I’m not sure why you’d think IOPS isn’t focused on social or economic struggle rooted in actual conditions – apart from the fact that it has only just started up a few months ago and is still building its basic, physical chapter and branch structure. IOPS isn’t asking you to desert libertarian communism – it’s asking for your participation as a libertarian communist, while continuing with your present affiliations and activities and IOPS would hope to help with those, providing mutual reinforcment, resources and so on. Regarding supporters and converts, well of course – that’s what we’re all trying to do!

>”…given the many other useful forums and networks around…”

There needs to be a united effort to get the best out of our capacity.

>”…Forgot to mention in my previous post that contrary to the communist class based analysis (incorporating as it does an understanding of related ‘oppressions’) that IOPS tends to treat ‘class’ as essentially just another in it’s list of ‘oppressions’ in it’s use of the term ‘classism’…

This bit about the supposed primacy of the class struggle in the economic sphere over struggles in other spheres could be an ideological sticking point – but really shouldn’t be! To be honest, I don’t see why it should even matter in real terms, once you’ve got an organisation, such as IOPS, which values all the social struggles equally and supports and reinforces them all – so that they can then feed and encourage each other, building a positive synergy, with all the additional advantage of that. As opposed to creating a sectarian and organisationally debilitating, totally unnecessary, “My area of social struggle is more important than yours” and building that in right into the foundations. The point is obviously about the power of uniting struggles – and that’s not “utopian”.

Duvinrouge said above, “…A scientific analysis of human existence shows that societies are historically determined by the development of the forces of production that shape productive relations…”

Science can only prove things in areas that are relatively simple and straightforward and where problems can be reduced by taking out variables and holding other values constant so that experiments can be carried out. You can do that with the likes of Physics, Chemistry, etc. but only in a very limited and superficial way with regard to how human societies work. The level of complexity and the number of variables at work are just too great.

Just to give one example:
There’s a blog from a Turkish member of IOPS on the site at the moment about more than 600 Kurdish prisoners who have been on hunger strike for more than 55 days. That’s not about the class struggle but their rights to autonomy as an ethnic group or nation. They have been trying to get their court cases heard through the medium of their own language, rather than Turkish and are suffering the usual horrors of that kind of situation.

The truth of their experience does not tell them that the class struggle is more important than their struggle for recognition of their ethnic/national identity.

If you tell them class is more important, you will lose the possibility of their support and participation. That’s what the left in general has been doing for a very long time now. Same thing regarding alienating femininists.

8 11 2012

Gerry, whilst I agree with most of what you say above, in the case of the Kurds, a Kurdish state wouldn’t free the people. They may be better off, but they would just be subject to Kurdish capitalists & other multinational capitalist organisations & the rule of the market.
Marxists in many cases may support national liberation movements, but they will always point out that human liberation will only come from the means of production being commonly owned. Libertarian Communists will go further & agree with IOPS that the division of labour has also to be abolished.
So again a lot to agree upon.

8 11 2012
Gerry Conroy

Duvinrouge wrote:

“…They [Kurds] may be better off, but they would just be subject to Kurdish capitalists & other multinational capitalist organisations & the rule of the market…”

They would be better off in ways that are deeply important to them, psychologically. Struggles for national/ethnic recognition and ‘self-determination’ – as people typically see that in our societies – have a tremendous power to motivate people because of how they experience their reality. We know that discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, nationality is often felt much more than class discrimination. It’s a matter of openly and fully recognising that with respect rather than treating it as a matter for re-education on the basis of Marxist theory – an approach which will alienate so many of the people we want on board around the world.

“…human liberation will only come from the means of production being commonly owned. Libertarian Communists will go further & agree with IOPS that the division of labour has also to be abolished. So again a lot to agree upon…”

Sure. I suppose all I’m saying is that human liberation needs to be seen as much more complex, rather than as largely dependent on a base of economic relations with some superstructure for the rest. The spirit of libertarian communism shouldn’t have any trouble with that.

9 11 2012

Just to point out that a libertarian communist, marxist influenced analysis of capitalism does NOT view class struggle as something contained only within a supposed ‘economic sphere’ with everything else somehow relegated to a secondary superstructural sphere but rather as an overarching, all-encompasing social struggle for liberation from both exploitation and oppression. Libertarian communists fully reprect cultural differences, to the extent that they do not involve other oppressive relationships, but the creation and re-creation of nation states are not necessarily the answer to these needs, with nationalism as an ideology and in it’s practical political expressions being destructive of class unity (and real lives) and consequently unsupportable.

Perhaps Barry and some other marxist influenced commune supporters might have a go at this discussion since I’m clearly not getting my point accross, to GC and LM in particular, that IOPS are operating from a distinctly different basic analysis and political strategy to marxist influenced libertarian communists, (without that implying that I think everything they say is rubbish).

9 11 2012
Gerry Conroy

By its definition, I’d describe IOPS as a libertarian socialist initiative aimed at unifying social struggles for the potentially enormous advantages of complementarity and mutual reinforcement. An organisation with that intent must have an inclusive emphasis across the areas of social struggle and no one focus can be elevated at the cost of others. Otherwise, of course, you’ll lose the basis for that powerful unity. Do we not want a basis for unity? We’re trying to reach millions, hundreds of millions…Don’t we have to think big? Anyway, I’ll be interested to hear what the response to this is from the Commune’s meeting later in the month.

10 11 2012

I agree that IOPS vision of a post capitalist society and Marx’s view of Capitalism and within it the potentiality of a classless society, resulting from working class struggle are two fundamentally different things.

The IOPS project is a rational appeal,the appeal of a good idea or propelled by the idea of a good society, displacing the history and the dynamic of class conflict and class antagonism, objectively arising from the structure of Capitalism. The utopian idea is to divide up Capitalism into four classless spheres: Kinship,political community economic. This is because all these fragments are subjectively valued as equal. But these choices reflect the current divisions of Capitalist society, which keep it functioning.

Inside these “classless” spaces, citizens seek more democracy and workers fairer income. But as Marx pointed out, Capitalism is rooted in this separation of economics from politics. Citizens and the state are the alienated abstract community, which prevents the working class controlling and owning the productive resources. Just as the period of Liberal dominance is coming to an end, the IOPS project seems to be an echo of the retreat from history and class which emerged during the long period of Neo Liberal dominance.

Marxism is dismissed by Parecon as technological determinism; Political economy is irrelevant,or too theoretical or old fashioned Socialism which gives power to a coordinator class, which includes the technical specialists and other administrators. Communism is falsely identified with the previously existing State Socialism, in Russia and China and Nationalisation or the removal of private legal ownership of means of production.

As if Russian workers chose to leave it to the experts and the growth of technology at the expense of themselves. Historically It was a fusion of Bolshevik top down political apparatus and the state machine, with the Second International fetish of growth of the productive forces or the conception of the neutrality of technology as an economic base exterior to social relations. Not to mention Stalinist dictatorship.

The notion of the coordinator class seems to echo the old managerial post capitalist thesis. Managers of giant corporations were somehow not personifications of capital, but part of a growing modification or reform of capitalism.

For Communists ,following Marx, Capital is a Social relation which dominates bourgeois Society. Not base exterior to superstructure,but a general illumination which bathes all other colours and modifies their particularity. It is the particular ether which determines the specific gravity of everything. At the core of capital, at the centre of capitalist social relationships is the antagonism between labour and Capital embodied in exploitation.This underlies a lot of racist/sexist oppression and is an aspect of class struggle.

But respecting nationalism as a valued space and supporting self determination, whatever the historical context,shows some of the reactionary implications of valuing all social struggles equally.It seems we cannot say our working class struggle, rooted in the fight to abolish wage labour and the state is better than your nationalist war or mass communal violence for self determination. The differences with IOPS and PARECON which is integral to IOPS,is not a question of terminology, but basic fundamental differences.

11 11 2012
Lambert Meertens

Parecon is not integral to IOPS. This has been pointed out several times before, so I don’t understand why this claim is being repeated. Parecon is a specific model for replacing a market economy proposed by some IOPS members (for example, Michael Albert). Other members (for example David Graeber) are critical of this model. Likewise, the analytical tool of distinguishing four “spheres” in which human relations are formed – which are not assumed to be distinct, but instead seen to overlap in many ways – is one used by some members but not supposed to be shared or agreed on by IOPS members. Whether you find this a useful analytical tool or not, it is clear that kinship relations, for example, do not only exist under capitalism but have existed in all societies throughout history, and that institutionalized oppression in that sphere can exist independent of capitalist relations, so that the overthrow of capitalism does not automatically imply the overthrow of all oppressive relations.

If an IOPS member thinks a Marxist approach is a more fruitful way of analyzing current society, that’s just fine, as long as you agree that it is our human duty to overthrow all relations in which a human is a debased, enslaved, abandoned, despised being.

11 11 2012
Gerry Conroy

“…The IOPS project is a rational appeal,the appeal of a good idea or propelled by the idea of a good society, displacing the history and the dynamic of class conflict and class antagonism…”

That’s enough agreement for the Commune to join IOPS as a bloc – which is the appeal I don’t want to lose sight of here. You’re welcome to retain your class struggle, Marxist focus and related beliefs, just as groups involved in campaigns on race/culture/community issues are welcome to retain their prioritising of their focus, feminists theirs, gay liberationists theirs and so on.

Again, IOPS is aiming to create a basis for unity of all those struggles, as long as they commit to the IOPS statements on mission, vision and structure and program. Those statements are not vague. They’re deliberately broad enough, yet carefully defined, in order to channel a particular organisational flow allowing a libertarian socialist basis for unity across all the struggles.

IOPS is not competing with the Commune for members, it’s simply asking for your participation alongside all the other groups, movements and individuals – who also subscribe to the IOPS commitments. The idea is to build a complementarity among all the struggles, which if at all successful, would start to release an enormous pent-up potential.

We all have to be able to get along, of course, respecting each other’s differences but keeping in mind the benefits of freeing up that pent-up potential should be a very sticky glue. There will be some friction, of course!

Now obviously, if people choose to stay out and take a wait and see approach, it’s much less likely to work.

11 11 2012


I choose to engage with IOPS, you can choose to ignore it or even constructively criticise it.

What I would point out is the danger of reinforcing an impression that Marxists are dogmatic, even fundamentalist.

The point is to change the world. This will not be lead by an ideologically pure minority with their ‘correct’ theory. The vast majority of people will not be Marxists, they will not understand Marx’s law of value, they will not know of the law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit. They will not know about the Paris Commune of 1871 or the Kronstadt Rebellion of 1921. But they will know that life is bad as it is, that they are exploited & humiliated. They will look for a better alternative.

There are a number of initiatives now trying to offer this vision of a better world. There’s still the World Social Forum & their ‘Another World is Possible’, there’s the Occupy movement & their ‘We are the 99%’ & now we have in Britain the Anti-Capitalist Initiative trying to bring radicals together. IOPS is another attempt. It may or may not get anywhere. Do Marxists ignore all these & in small numbers sit in the pub discussing the finer points of the Russian Revolution or do they get out there & engage?

The reality is the language is a handicap at the moment. Things will change. Just like be anti-capitalist is no longer a problem. Eventually, & maybe sooner than many think Marx & communism may be resurrected & not equated with Stalinist Russia or Maoist China. But as it is currently there will be no Marxist International. Hence, in my opinion, the need to enage with IOPS, & Occupy & the WSF, & the ACI, & whoever else is promoting a vision of a society where the people rather than capital rule.

As pointed out IOPS isn’t parecon or Michael Albert, but he is a big influence. He too readily dismisses Marx’s analysis of capitalism & it’s historical materialist foundations, as do others. IOPS will no doubt have people join who support all kinds of reactionary causes, such as supporting small businesses against big supermarkets, or rebel movements, such as the one in Syria (as many Marxists do). But that is going to be the reality of any movement big enough to defeat the capitalist system. All the more reason to enage & shape. But doing this is a way that doesn’t alienate, doesn’t condescend. A way that listens rather than shouts down.

There’s far too many Marxist who come across as such zealots that Jehovah Witnesses come across as far more open-minded & reasonable. I think its important that us at the Commune, who have such a good understanding of how Marxism & communism has been distorted, do our bit to engage.

The time is ripe for change. Let’s make it happen.

12 11 2012

Up to this point there had been an ongoing discussion of ideas with myself and Mike making some very basic Marxist points about class struggle and how IOPS is totally at odds with a Communist perspective. And now we have this intervention from Duvinrouge, which, to give him the benefit of the doubt, is based on some serious misunderstandings and lack of awareness. I will put it down to his enthusiasm for the IOPS project as a new member.

Lets start with his overdrawn cartoon of Marxists as narrow minded purists who spend all their time arguing over interpretations of the Russian Revolution. This comment reminds me of Arthur Scargills remarks, in the Socialist Labour party,in the late 1990’s,directed at his Marxist and socialist opponents, including myself. Faced with demands for grass roots democracy in the formulation of party policy, his reply was to dishonestly claim that these people are obsessed with what one Marxist said to another in 1917. What was the Marxist left,including myself, doing in the SLP? We were engaging or reaching out to a layer,of something like two thousand experienced workers who had been involved in serious class battles, including the Great Miners Strike.
The Commune was based on the rejection of unity on the basis of one interpretation of the Russian Revolution. Anyone who has looked at the Commune over the last four or five years will be struck by the wide range of discussions and debates reaching far and wide and beyond the history of the Russian Revolution,including many contributions from myself under different names. I have made a number of contributions about cuts in Sheffield. I am a member of the GMB – now there’s a purist for you–because most people in my workplace are in that right wing union.

why were Marxists in the Socialist Alliance, including myself? You’ve got it we were reaching out to a layer of socialists, despite the reformist programme. And now we turn to the ACI. I contacted Simon Hardy expressing an interest in a branch in Sheffield in the early stages of the Project. Some Comrades might recollect that Simon apologised to me, at our last meeting in London, for not responding to my post. I suggested Simon speak at our next meeting on the 17th November. Why did I do that ? I think I have made the point.

Now what the SA,SLP and ACI have in common is that they were/are all based on class struggle and some form of Socialism and working class politics unlike the IOPS project. For many years the commune, including myself, have argued against Bolshevik Leninist vanguardism and substitutionism The difference with IOPS has nothing to do with the points made by Duvinrouge or with differences of Language, but a lot to do with a fundamental difference in Conceptual framework as Mike puts it. Hopefully we can go back to debating ideas.

12 11 2012
Lambert Meertens

The concept on which IOPS is based is that a better world is possible, a world that is not shaped by the greed and narrow interests of a few, but by the care for each other, and that we can win this world if enough people join in the struggle. Is this concept fundamentally wrong?

13 11 2012

The black mine worker in South Africa lives in a different world to the black president or the black police Boss. The female executive lives in a different better world that woman cleaner at John Lewis.Citizens are formally equal but some are more equal than others. Family can be hell as much as heaven,but it cannot escape the rule of capital. One Nations freedom fighter is another Nations terrorist. Technology and distribution of Goods on which everyone depends, serves capital and profit not worker participation. The religious sect wants everyone to care for each other and a better less greedy world,but the better world is imaginary outside human society. Mandela and Obama promised a better world but.

We cannot organise for real freedom on the basis of race,gender, family nationalist community,or on the idea of true participation across classes or for that matter a slogan of a better world.

13 11 2012

So there is only one way? That the good and just society emerges out from the belly of the beast? The very thing that grows the beast will devour it in the end. That’s it. Marx saw how that would work. That it’s a given. This is the only true way. It’s scientifically correct, rooted in history’s trajectory.

There have been major moments in history where those, intimately familiar with Marx’s work have led the revolution into horrendous places. So changes have been made. Shifts in Marxist thought.These shifts and changes have been made to account for previous mistakes by those who previously believed they had the right answer, the right interpretation. These people will point the working class in the right direction. Toward right consciousness, or capitalism will do it for them, without prompting? Does the working class need to understand the tendential fall of the rate of profit, or is that only necessary for the expert. For the expert will lead the bewildered herd out of the abyss and then, classlessness miraculously appears. Naturally, scientifically out of the belly of the beast. Because there was no where else for that tension to be released. The contradiction just naturally leads towards a just, free and equal classless society? Or is it from a lot of prompting and organising- appropriate organising according to doctrine- coming from those who know better? So any kind of organising based on gender/kinship, culture, economics, politics of a participatory sort, without framing one as more important, is ipso facto, doomed. It doesn’t fit into Marx’s way. Or some modern interpretation of Marx’s way. Communism, from each to each, is the natural way? With a bit of help from those who know how to correctly drive the revolution, who will, well at least now “we” know they will, give up the con, because “we” are wiser now. Wiser than Marx? Or is it “we” are just starting to understand him now. Previous dudes were just a little of base. The material base.

Classlessness has to emerge from working class struggle born of the innate contradictions of capitalism itself. There is no other way even though we have seen the bastardisation of such struggle as a result of those who thought they understood Marx better than others.

Sounds like I have a big decision to make.

15 11 2012
Gerry Conroy

Barry wrote:

“…We cannot organise for real freedom on the basis of race,gender, family nationalist community,or on the idea of true participation across classes or for that matter a slogan of a better world…”

For the benefit of other readers of this exchange, regarding this bit about organising ‘on the idea of true participation across classes’, it should be absolutely crystal clear from the posts above or from a brief examination of what IOPS is about, that IOPS is not aiming at any such notion as, ‘true participation across classes’. IOPS is aiming for a self-managing, classless society.

Regarding organising on the basis of environmentalism/ecology, race/ethnicity/community/cultural identity and gender/sexuality/kinship and against authoritarianism in the polity, these are all absolutely fundamental aspects of human liberation of equal importance to organising for classlessness in the economy. They are not distinct, separate spheres. They overlap and affect each other in ways which are far too complex to understand to any great depth. We can only make statements with any confidence, that are relatively superficial and simple in terms of what we can deduce about the interaction of those spheres of human existence.

If we don’t make serious advances in all of them at the same time, carrying them all with equal emphasis and support, the areas we ignore are capable of subverting the gains we make in areas we mistakenly favoured with an overall priority.

Of course, there are times and places and contexts in which one or other of them will be to the front and of greater importance.

However, I want to say again that to be part of IOPS, it’s not necessary for groups/organisations/campaigns/individuals to believe that their particular area of struggle should not be the priority area for everybody else too. But people thinking like this, do need to be able to recognise that their way of thinking is not going to become general any time soon and that, this being so, there are still absolutely huge advances to be made, a tremendous revolutionary energy to be released, simply by allying our struggles on a common base, such as defined by the IOPS commitments.

It might be useful to think of IOPS as a broad platform from which we’re able to fight on all fronts of the struggle for human liberation at the same time – while respecting our internal differences.

Why would anybody not want this?

15 11 2012
Michael Albert


I read through the above comments. I was hoping to react, reply, learn, etc. The thing is, I don’t find much that is actually addressing iops – not even a single commitment is actually quoted, I think – much less parecon, none of whose features are seriously addressed or even named – balanced job complexes, participatory planning, etc., or – and this is, or ought to be, totally beside the point – myself, though the names of all three appear often, in some cases dismissed, in others supported. Since of course I am more interested in criticisms – how else to learn anything new – I paid more attention to that.

IOPS, parecon, and/or myself, seem to be rejected, by some, on grounds they differ too greatly – or in some cases differ at all – with what the critic takes to be marxism, or libertarian communism, etc. I admit to being startled by people referring, still, to the labor theory of value, or falling rate of profit, or capitalism generating its own demise, etc. But, even putting such deep belief in all that that it is taken for granted aside for a minute, criticism based on not iops, parecon, or myself, not being the same as views others hold is very strange to me. I would think people here would, instead, seriously quote the views to be criticized, and then explain what is seen to be wrong views those views by making a case that what has been quoted is either outright flawed, or seriously incomplete, etc. But not by simply paraphrasing – often quite incorrectly – and then saying what has been presented isn’t what some heritage has claimed.

Does anyone want to claim that the corporate division of labor cannot generate class division even absent owners? That not only property differences but also differences in empowering work can do so? That realizing this is highly important to strategy if the aim is classlessness?

Does anyone want to claim, for example, that a movement can’t embody the agenda of the coordinator class, rather than that of classlessness?

Does anyone still really want to claim that gender, race, and power, dynamics and relations should be relegated to some subordinate level of importance, a priori, no less? I honestly did not expect to encounter such views here. And dismissing iops, parecon, or me, as not taking seriously class, or political economy, etc., really is pretty astounding, I think, unless the person doing it is reacting to gossip, basically, rather than substance.

But, if so, fine, in each case point to what you disagree with, and give reasons why, and perhaps reasons for a contrary view. Then there will be something to talk about.

Whether iops, parecon, or myself present different views then some school of thought, or some interpretation of some school of thought, however, seems to me utterly beside the point. And I should tell you, this type way of arguing and communicating is, at least to my mind, one of the central things I hope iops will get beyond. What matters is, instead, is what iops or parecon – or far less consequential – myself present, insightful, useful, and even, as best we can tell, correct. OR vice versa – are iops commitments, parecon’s claims, or my – whatever – dumb, counter productive, and wrong?

Perhaps someone would like to point out some commitment in iops, or claim and argument of parecon, or view or act of my own, by actually quoting so as to get them accurately – and make a case about it other than just saying it is different than what some heritage claims. If so, I would happily reply. And I apologize, if such already exists above, and I missed it.

Just a few general points – saying that I or parecon or ions doesn’t highlight class relations and conflict because I or parecon or Iops say other key aspects of social life are similarly important, is simply not logical. If someone said, however, that this indicates not alone highlighting class relations and class struggle, fair enough – that is true.

Dismissing the concerns iops, parecon, or I have – different for each – with coordinator class practices and the possibility of coordinator class rule by way of saying such concerns are not the view of some other school of thought is simply a non sequitor. That form of rejection would rule out everything that is new and different – as it typically does for sectarian organizations. Of course the additional oddity of this case is that these ideas go back at least to Bakunin, albeit changing considerably along the path from then to now.

As to joining iops, the commitments are the condition. Plus, I would say, an ability to communicate clearly with normal citizens, based on evidence and logic – rather than textual comparison. Judging from what I see in this exchange, my guess would be some here could join and might wish to consistent with accepting the commitments. And some others, likely not. This is not a big deal, I think. Just indicates some would agree, and might choose to join, and some would not agree, and should not join.

There is much above suggesting that many folks won’t understand the labor theory of value or falling rate of profit, or dialectical materialism, etc. I find this, arguably, most disturbing of anything above. Even setting aside whether these views have merit or are flawed, there is the issue of whether they have much, or even anything, to do with being an effective, fully participating, and able activist. I think not, myself. And I would like anyone on here to please provide me an example, from contemporary life, of where you think being highly familiar with these approaches and applying them would cause you to have different aims or methods than someone who is simply aware of class, race, gender, and power relations, etc. etc. Put differently, tell me some strategic or visionary insight you get from those “tehories” which you think is valid, and beyond my reckoning because I reject those theories.

I think, by the way, that these “theories” can be explained in plain language, to non professional folks. I just think it is vastly more important to understand, for example, the relation of the division of labor to class relations that persist even beyond capitalism…and the basis for sexism and its impact…and likewise racism…as but two examples.

15 11 2012

My post should really have had question marks all through it. I left many off. (typing skills!). It was in response to Barry’s posts and particularly the last one. I haven’t read any Marx. Just a bit of Marx interpretation. Shit about Marx. So my post was meant to be questioning of taking an approach to transformative change that seems to, by its very nature and logic, reject other approaches that are endeavouring to achieve the exact same thing. I read through my post again and could see it how it could be misread.

I happen to whole heartedly agree with Michael Albert here.Particularly this comment,

“And I would like anyone on here to please provide me an example, from contemporary life, of where you think being highly familiar with these approaches and applying them would cause you to have different aims or methods than someone who is simply aware of class, race, gender, and power relations, etc. etc. Put differently, tell me some strategic or visionary insight you get from those “tehories” which you think is valid, and beyond my reckoning because I reject those theories.”

This thought also came into my mind strongly while reading through the posts, critical of IOPS’s commitments, as if they had no real meat. “Subjective” and “utopian” ideas that apparently stand outside of histories materialist trajectory, while Marxian approaches and theories lead one in the right and appropriate direction, working hand in hand with the working class as “we” struggle towards classlessness and an egalitarian society.The comment that Gerry quotes above, opening his response to Barry I found startling. Myopic and ridiculous to say the least.

I think Michael’s post above pertinent and the bit I quoted, to be extremely pertinent given that “we “all seem to be wanting or aiming for pretty much the same thing.

For the record, I also found Libcom’s critique of Parecon to be based more on an attempt to find things that weren’t actually there in order to debunk it. Almost as if it were a threat rather than something that should be seen as an ally. Something the left could hold up with a bit of pride, rather than suggesting it has characteristics similar to capitalism and possibly other things that I would suggest are more likely to come out of “vague notions” and/or theoretical approaches rooted in doctrine, that have already proven can be distorted, giving a certain group or class control over the “rest”.

Sorry, if my original comment wasn’t clear!!

15 11 2012

Sorry, it should have been, history’s materialist trajectory, not historIES.

15 11 2012

Also, wanted to say I agree with Gerry’s post..

16 11 2012

I want to make a few points in reply to Michael Albert.

These comments on posts are conversational. They are not academic articles or fully worked out pieces with a lot of direct quotes, which a lot of the Commune articles are. For instance, the Enigma of David Harvey on our website. Most communists would and do dismiss IOPS rather than engage with it.

The Commune has taken IOPS seriously and engaged, although Michael has not reciprocated; he has not raised the level of debate by taking the comments on IOPS and Parecon and explaining in detail why they are misrepresentations. We just get condescending dismissive comments. I was preparing a critique of IOPS and Parcon for our website which would probably have been lost among other priorities,but now I will make it priority.

As for logic, if one commune comrade says, underneath the different language these people are communists or take a communist approach (IOPS/Parcon ) another one will say,no they have have a different conceptual framework. That’s a logical response in an ongoing conversation.

For those who have fully engaged in this discussion,I think it has been useful in the sense of an initial exchange of views. We will be debating the issue of organisation at our meeting tomorrow. If any of those who have views on IOPS/Parcon are in London and want to attend, do come along. But be warned, some of us do see the continuing relevance of the Labour Theory Value and the Fall in the Rate of Profit. These theories have been dismissed as logically inconsistent,but what from one point of view is a logical flaw, is from another standpoint, simply a misinterpretation.

16 11 2012
Michael Albert


I am not sure what you found condescending and dismissive. Sorry about whatever it may have been.

You say you have taken iops and parecon seriously – and perhaps so. I can only look at the comments above. IOPS, for purposes of evaluation, is overwhelmingly its commitments. Then secondarily its brief history to date. About the latter there is zero comment – which seems fine to me, given how brief it is. And maybe I am missing something, but I also see almost nothing about the commitments. IOPS views about race, gender, political power, ecology, and international relations go, I believe, completely unnoticed. Its structural commitments, again, completely unnoticed. Its programmatic commitments, also unnoticed. And regarding economy, while there are numerous comments – they simply are not about the iops commitments, or even parecon, or myself – when they refer to either of the latter. And more, they are overwhelmingly just statements of dislike, or disagreement, not real reasons. If I am wrong, my apologies…but all you have to do to show that, is repeat instances of commentary that I found missing.

I had to look at, I guess about thirty or so comments, when I first found my way here. I thought about replying in great detail to point after point… but it honestly did not seem very germane to do so. BUT – if you will list the points that you think are decisive, or even important, in one post – I would happily reply to each.

I look forward to seeing the critique you mention – but hope you, or perhaps someone else, will reply with a list here. But I will add one thing – I really do think that criticizing ideas, vision, and program is very important, of course. But I think it requires that one be very careful to accurately convey what is being criticized.


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