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:
- Ecological stewardship
What is the theoretical foundation of IOPS?
Michael Albert has been the key figure in shaping the theory. Analysis is divided into four spheres:
These four spheres have two contexts:
- 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:
- Flexibly exploring & advocating long term vision
- Building the seeds of the future in the present
- Empowering the lives of its members
- Organising in an internally classless & self-managing way
- 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.