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decision making in an organisation

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ernie
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Feb 7 2008 00:46

Decision making cannot be separated from discussion and theoretical discussion, To take a decision means theoretical discussion. This is not a question of 'political education' as some separate activity, which is a conception used by the leftist to cover up the lack of any real political discussion and deepening in these organisations. As this thread has shown the very process, structure and purpose of making a decision is a political process which demands the deepest possible theoretical understanding of what is centralisation etc. Otherwise this reduces decision making to pragmatism and empiricism. Thus there is no need for another thread but for continuing the deepening of this present one in order to gain the greatest possible clarification on this essential question.

ernie
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Feb 7 2008 01:04

To help develop the important point made by Beltov's here is an extract from our text: The structure and function of revolutionary organisation, adopted at our extraordinary congress in 1982. This point deals with the question of decision making, sorry for its length but I think comrades will agree that it does contribute the this discussion, whether you agree with it or not:

Quote:
This concern for the greatest possible unity within the organisation also applies to the definition of the mechanisms which allow for the taking up of positions and the nomination of central organs. There is no ideal mechanism that will guarantee that the best choice will be made when it comes to taking positions, adopting orientations, and nominating militants for the central organs. However, voting and elections are the best way of ensuring both the unity of the organisation and the widest participation of the whole organisation in its own life.

In general decisions at all levels (Congresses, central organs, local sections) are taken on the basis of a simple majority (when there is no of unanimity). However, certain decisions, which could have a direct repercussion on the unity of the organisation (modification of platform or statutes, integration or exclusion of militants) are taken by a stronger majority than a simple one (three-fifths, three-quarters, etc).

On the other hand, still with the same concern for unity, a minority of the organisation can call for an extraordinary Congress when it becomes a significant minority (for example two-fifths). As a general rule it's up to the Congress to settle essential questions, and the existence of a strong minority demanding that a Congress be held is an indication that there are important problems in the organisation.

Finally, it's clear that the votes only have a meaning if the members who are in a minority carry out the decisions made, decisions which become those of the organisation.

In the nomination of central organs the following three elements have to be taken into account:

*

the nature of the tasks which these organs have to carry out;
*

the candidates' aptitude with regard to these tasks;
*

their capacity to work in a collective living manner.

It's in this sense that you can say that the assembly (Congress or whatever) which elects a central organ is nominating a team; this is why in general, the outgoing central organ puts forward a proposed list of candidates. However it's up to this assembly (and this is also the right of each militant) to put forward other candidates if it thinks this is necessary, and in any case it elects members to central organs on an individual basis. This is the only kind of election which allows the organisation to equip itself with organs which have its maximum confidence.

It is the responsibility of the central organs to apply and defend the decisions and orientations adopted by the Congress which elected it. In this sense it is more opportune if, within the organ, there is a strong proportion of militants who, at the Congress, pronounce themselves in favour of its decisions and orientations. This, however, doesn't mean that only those who defended majority positions at the Congress, positions which then became those of the organisation, can be part of the central organ.

The three criteria defined above remain valid whatever positions defended during the debates by this or that candidate. Neither does this mean that there must be a principle of representation - for example proportional representation - of minority positions within the central organ. This is a typical practice of bourgeois parties, notably social democratic parties whose leadership is made up of representatives of different currents or tendencies in proportion to the votes received at the Congress. Such a way of designating the central organ corresponds to the fact that in a bourgeois organisation the existence of divergences is based on the defence of this or that orientation for managing capitalism, or simply on the defence of the interests of this or that sector of the ruling class or this or that clique, orientations and interests which are maintained on a long term basis and which have to be conciliated by a 'fair' distribution of posts among their representatives. This does not apply to a communist organisation where divergences in no way express the defence of material interests, of personal interests, or those of particular groups, but express a living and dynamic process of clarification of problems posed to the class and Which, as such, can be resolved through the deepening of discussion and in the light of experience. To have a stable, permanent, and proportional representation of the different positions, which appeared on the various points on the agenda of a Congress would thus be to ignore the fact that the members of central organs:

*

have as their first responsibility the task of applying the decisions and orientations of the Congress;
*

can perfectly easily change their personal positions (in one direction or another) with the evolution of the debate.

http://en.internationalism.org/specialtexts/IR033_functioning.htm

Beltov
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Feb 7 2008 16:11

Well, how does producing a leaflet on the recent postal struggles and then distributing it on picket lines sound? Or distributing an internationalist leaflet in over 12 countries in many languages during the war in Iraq? Very recently we decided to got to the Loren Goldner talks to take part in the discussion there, which has been reported elsewhere on this forum. I could give you many more examples. In no way is the ICC a 'talking shop'.

From what I can see on here 'taking part in struggles' amounts to 'a bit of anti-fash' activity, 'a bit of HOPI', 'a bit of IWU', 'a bit of anti-Shell', 'a bit of anti-Brighthouse'. Activity that amounts to jumping from one single-issue campaign to another with very little discussion - if any - of the content and political nature of the groups involved. IIRC, Tacks started this thread because he had a disagreement about participating in a HOPI meeting, or one where they were present. Am I right in thinking this?

B.

jack white
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Feb 7 2008 16:34
Beltov wrote:
From what I can see on here 'taking part in struggles' amounts to 'a bit of anti-fash' activity, 'a bit of HOPI', 'a bit of IWU', 'a bit of anti-Shell', 'a bit of anti-Brighthouse'. Activity that amounts to jumping from one single-issue campaign to another with very little discussion - if any - of the content and political nature of the groups involved.

We do get involved in campaigns, though why you think we hop from one to another is beyond me. Some campaigns like Shell 2 Sea or the Terence Wheelock campaign have a natural ending point (i.e. we win or are decisively beaten) and we'll be involved until that happens. We've been active in our unions and around issues such as abortion rights for literally decades now and thats not going to change.

I can't work out why you think we don't have any discussion or the issues or nature of the groups involved. To be honest I think its just a feeble attempt at an insult - and a fairly stupid insult at that, but maybe you could expand on it a bit?

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Tacks
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Feb 7 2008 17:06
Beltov wrote:
Well, how does producing a leaflet on the recent postal struggles and then distributing it on picket lines sound? Or distributing an internationalist leaflet in over 12 countries in many languages during the war in Iraq? Very recently we decided to got to the Loren Goldner talks to take part in the discussion there, which has been reported elsewhere on this forum. I could give you many more examples. In no way is the ICC a 'talking shop'.

Sorry mate, that is EXACTLY what a talking shop is.

Quote:
From what I can see on here 'taking part in struggles' amounts to 'a bit of anti-fash' activity, 'a bit of HOPI', 'a bit of IWU', 'a bit of anti-Shell', 'a bit of anti-Brighthouse'. Activity that amounts to jumping from one single-issue campaign to another with very little discussion - if any - of the content and political nature of the groups involved.

No - not at all. These campaigns are all linked by the WSM's day in day out presence as a revolutionary organisation, and they are not treated as single issue but things that come up and fade away or conclude. If you look at their engagement with rossport you will see how long they are willing to be involved in a campaign, physically involved (for want of a better term).

Quote:
IIRC, Tacks started this thread because he had a disagreement about participating in a HOPI meeting, or one where they were present. Am I right in thinking this?

No no at all... I mentioned HOPI as something i knew the WSM had debated thn decided on, as an illustration of how communist groups come to decisions. I started this thread cos i wanted to hear some criticisms of platformist decision making really. I haven't seen any.

Just to say if that sounds pissy, its not meant to be, i just think you are quite mistaken on the points i have covered.

gurrier
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Feb 7 2008 17:35
madashell wrote:
I don't actually have any problem with organisations following a strategy, I just find the idea of an organisation making a binding decision upon all of its members that they have to take part in this or that campaign a little odd, to say the least. Every single member of an organisation can't be involved in everything that organisation does, communists are people too, and we happen to have lives of our own ;)

In response to this, while it is theoretically possible that a member or branch might put forward a motion stipulating that every single member must participate in a campaign, in practice it has never happened, and it would need to be a very important campaign indeed, or else it would get voted down or amended - we do not have an organisational practice of ever compelling people to take part in any particular activity. In general, motions will contain the precise requirements - e.g. "the organisation will donate x and each branch will send a delegate to meetings of y." which gives plenty of space for individuals not participating personally in some activity. Our strongest worded motions tend to say something like "each branch will make every attempt to bring all members to x" or something like that.

Beltov
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Feb 7 2008 18:13

OK Tacks, thanks for clarifying that. I stand corrected. And JW, I wasn't trying to be insulting, just a little rushed I suppose. I've taken a longer look at this thread and it seems that Tacks is asking for criticisms of Platformist decision making structures from syndicalist and left communist perspectives.

I think an important difference between platformism and left communism is that while the former defends federalism the latter defends centralisation. The definition of federalism given in the platform is this,

Quote:
4. Federalism
Anarchism has always rejected centralist organization both where the social life of the masses is concerned as well as in the area of its political activity. The system of centralization relies upon the stifling of the spirit of criticism, initiative and independence of every individual and upon the masses' blind obedience to the "centre". The natural and inevitable upshot of this system is slavishness and mechanization, both in public life and in the life of parties.

Contrary to centralism, anarchism has always advocated and defended the principle of federalism, which combines the independence of the individual or organization with their initiative and service to the common cause.

By combining the idea of the independence and fullness of each individual's rights with service of social requirements and instincts, federalism paves the way to every wholesome manifestation of the faculties of each individual.
http://libcom.org/library/platform-5

However, I think this takes the 'Leninist' conception of centralism as the only one. For us this is a bourgeois conception of centralism. We defend a proletarian conception of centralisation, as Ernie pointed out in his quote above. Our conception of centralisation also rejects the 'top-down' hierarchical vision where the leaders tell the rank and file what to do.

ICC wrote:
Centralism is not an optional or abstract principle for the structure of the organisation. It is the concretisation of its unitary character. It expresses the fact that it is one and the same organisation which takes positions and acts within the class. In the various relations between the parts of the organisation and the whole, it's always the whole which takes precedence. In the face of the working class you cannot have political positions or conceptions of intervention which are particular to this or that territorial or local section. These latter must always see themselves as part of a whole. The analyses and positions expressed in the press, leaflets, public meetings discussions with sympathisers, the methods used in our propaganda and in our internal life are those of the organisation as a whole, even if there are disagreements with this or that point in this or that place or with this or that militant, and even if the organisation expresses in public the political debates going on within it. We must absolutely reject the conception according to which this or that part of the organisation can adopt, in front of the organisation or of the working class, the positions or attitudes which it thinks correct instead of those of the organisation which it thinks incorrect. This is because:
* if the organisation is going in the wrong direction, the responsibility of the members who consider that they defend the correct position is not to save themselves in their own little corner, but to wage a struggle within the organisation in order to help put it back in the right direction (note 1);
* such a conception leads a part of the organisation to arbitrarily impose its own position on the whole organisation with regard to this or that aspect of its work (local or specific).

In a revolutionary organisation the whole is not the sum of the parts. The latter are delegated by the whole organisation to carry out a particular activity (territorial publications, local interventions, etc), and are thus responsible in front of the whole for the mandate they have been given.

...Contrary to certain conceptions, notably so-called 'Leninist' ones, the central organ is an instrument of the organisation, not the other way round. It's not the summit of a pyramid as in the hierarchical and military view of revolutionary organisation. The organisation is not formed by a central organ plus militants, but is a tight, unified network in which all its component parts overlap and work together. The central organ should rather be seen as the nucleus of the cell which co-ordinates the metabolism of an organic entity.
http://en.internationalism.org/specialtexts/IR033_functioning.htm

Do you agree that there can be different conceptions of centralisation? One that doesn't crush the spirit of criticism and encourage slavishness but instead cherishes questioning and debate?

I have some other thoughts on all of this but must go and make the tea. The kids are chewing the carpet...

Beltov
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Feb 7 2008 22:56

Well, the ICC has well over thirty years of experience of organisation at the international level so I think we're above 'cock waving' by now. All I was trying to do was move the discussion on by drawing out the political differences between the platformist conception of federalism and our conception of centralism, which is far from what it is purported to be. In fact, the original Platform makes several criticisms of the 'distortions' of federalism by the individualists,

Quote:
But very often the federalist principle has been warped in anarchist ranks; too often has it been taken to mean primarily the right to display one's ego and neglect one’s duties towards the organization.

This distortion has caused a great deal of disorganization within our movement in the past and it is time to put an end to it once and for all.
http://libcom.org/library/platform-5

All I was trying to do was clarify what our conception of centralism is. The 'centralist principle' has also become warped by the leftists and the Bordigists, and to be honest even within the ICC there has been a constant struggle to defend and deepen on the question of centralisation, and we're still learning lessons.

What does federalism mean to you?

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Devrim
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Feb 8 2008 05:37
guydebordisdead wrote:
For the last year for example we produced 6 copies of our free paper (8,000 copies each time then upped to 10,000) as well as two issues of our magazine and...

Looking purely at publishing schedules, yours isn't actually that impressive. The WR (ICC in the UK) produce ten issues of their paper, and four issues of their magazine. They are also much smaller than WSM.

Devrim

jack white
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Feb 8 2008 09:31
Beltov wrote:
And JW, I wasn't trying to be insulting, just a little rushed I suppose.

Really? Accusing us of jumping from single issue campaign to single issue campaigh "with very little discussion" was a bit insulting I think. I guess you saying you were rushed is the closest we'll get to you saying that you were wrong...

Beltov wrote:
Do you agree that there can be different conceptions of centralisation? One that doesn't crush the spirit of criticism and encourage slavishness but instead cherishes questioning and debate?

I am actually interested in the idea of centralisation as espoused by the ICC (and by the EKS). I reckon I'll probably disagree with it but would be interesed to hear how it works in practice - maybe it would be best split to another thread though. this one was supposed to be about decision making in organisations.

Devrim wrote:
guydebordisdead wrote:
For the last year for example we produced 6 copies of our free paper (8,000 copies each time then upped to 10,000) as well as two issues of our magazine and...

Looking purely at publishing schedules, yours isn't actually that impressive. The WR (ICC in the UK) produce ten issues of their paper, and four issues of their magazine. They are also much smaller than WSM.

Devrim

Which brings us back to involvement in campaigns...

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Tacks
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Feb 8 2008 12:14

exactly dev.

You can't possibly print more than 10,000 copies of your paper....?

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Devrim
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Feb 8 2008 13:33
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What are the print runs and how many actually get sold/distributed?
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exactly dev.

You can't possibly print more than 10,000 copies of your paper....?

I was talking about the ICC in the UK. You will have to ask them for the figures.

It isn't that difficult to distribute 10,000 free things though.

Devrim

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Feb 8 2008 14:19

i said print, not sell, dev.

you'e be hard pushed to sell it mate.

How many do you print?

Mike Harman
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Feb 8 2008 14:22

Tacks, Devrim is neither in the ICC nor the UK.

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Tacks
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Feb 8 2008 14:39

oh fine.

jesus, ok dev - how many do...

oh he;s not in the ICC anyway....

how the fuck did this debate even come about then?

jog on dev.

Beltov
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Feb 8 2008 14:55
guydebordisdead wrote:
Devrim wrote:
It isn't that difficult to distribute 10,000 free things though.

We're not discussing what is and is not difficult though, we're discussing what organisations do and to put and end to this strand there is no way the ICC's UK section distro anything close to 60,000 papers a year.

That's true, we're nowhere near that in the UK. We wouldn't divulge figures anyway.

But I'm going to play the 'international' card and point out that the ICC is not an international federation of seperate organisations, but ONE single, unified international organisation:
- We have sections in 13 countries (Spain, Venezuela, USA, Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Britain, Mexico, India and Sweden). Each of these sections publishes a regular paper, and many have done so for over 30 years.
- We have ONE website with 18 languages, with several more in the pipeline.
- We have ONE quarterly journal published simultaneously in English, French and Spanish, which is in its 132nd issue (132/4 = 33 years)

When you join the ICC you join the ICC, not World Revolution. We have one platform that is valid for the whole globe. So, I don't think comparing WR and the WSM is comparing like with like. But I'd be interested in finding out more about the WSM's international activity. Is it part of the IAF?

Anyway, all this is rather secondary. I think the main question is not really how much is done, but what is done and with whom. It's really about the quality of the work, not the sheer quantity. I have a great difficulty with this 'campaigning' approach: it's like seeing your organisation as just another pressure group. I can see that the WSM and other organisations do have discussions on which campaigns to participate, but is there much discussion on the class nature of these campaigns? What is your attitude towards participating in campaigns with Trots and Stalinists? I'll try to find out more about the campaigns the WSM is involved in. Could someone PM me some links?

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AndrewF
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Feb 8 2008 15:06
Beltov wrote:
We wouldn't divulge figures anyway.

Why?

And http://www.wsm.ie

Beltov
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Feb 8 2008 15:23

Modesty.

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pingtiao
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Feb 8 2008 15:44

You don't need to be modest around us Beltov. You haven't got anything we haven't seen before

gurrier
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Feb 8 2008 16:41
Beltov wrote:
But I'm going to play the 'international' card and point out that the ICC is not an international federation of seperate organisations, but ONE single, unified international organisation:
- We have sections in 13 countries (Spain, Venezuela, USA, Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Britain, Mexico, India and Sweden). Each of these sections publishes a regular paper, and many have done so for over 30 years.

That's only because if any two of your members come within 200 km of each other, they have enough opportunities to argue with each other that they quickly split and form a new international.

Beltov wrote:
Anyway, all this is rather secondary. I think the main question is not really how much is done, but what is done and with whom. It's really about the quality of the work, not the sheer quantity. I have a great difficulty with this 'campaigning' approach: it's like seeing your organisation as just another pressure group. I can see that the WSM and other organisations do have discussions on which campaigns to participate, but is there much discussion on the class nature of these campaigns? What is your attitude towards participating in campaigns with Trots and Stalinists? I'll try to find out more about the campaigns the WSM is involved in. Could someone PM me some links?

You guys produce material that is only intelligible to a small fraction of left wing activists, those who are deeply versed in the terminology and value system of 19th century Marxism. That means the 'quantity' is inevitably miniscule and rapidly shrinking, that's for sure.

But, when it comes to quality, I feel that your disdain for campaigns means that you are not actually involved in struggle and are thus limited to abstract musings based on your highly antiquated and impossibly rigid theoretical framework. This limitation means that there is little incentive to stop yourselves from getting carried away by fantasy and wishful thinking which, I think, has a pretty negative effect on 'quality' too.

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Tacks
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Feb 8 2008 17:44

ITT: harsheness

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Devrim
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Feb 8 2008 18:16
guydebordisdead wrote:
We're not discussing what is and is not difficult though, we're discussing what organisations do and to put and end to this strand there is no way the ICC's UK section distro anything close to 60,000 papers a year.

Well actually it was discussing how people make decisions. Then you came in with:

guydebordisdead wrote:
But then again, the ICC doesnt ever make practical decisions to do with taking part in struggles - it only discusses theory. Essentially you're a talking shop for the trekkies of the far-left.

and:

guydebordisdead wrote:
The minutiae of what we do on a week to week basis relegates your organisation to the status of ultra-left talk-shop trekkies.

You then ranted on about what you did, and I said (emphasis added):

Devrim wrote:
Looking purely at publishing schedules, yours isn't actually that impressive. The WR (ICC in the UK) produce ten issues of their paper, and four issues of their magazine. They are also much smaller than WSM.

Now obviously an organisation decides upon its priorities. My point was though that the publishing schedule isn't that impressive. It may look good compared to UK anarchists who have bigger organisations than you, but that is not saying much as we both know.

Tacks wrote:
oh fine.

jesus, ok dev - how many do...

I am not sure, but I think that we sell between 300-500 a month depending on what is going on. A good month could double that though. Our paper is illegal, which means that it can't be sold in shops, which of course makes it difficult for us.

We have a monthly (16 pages) even though it is difficult for such a tiny organisation to publish that because we believe that a monthly is the minimum that is essential.

Devrim

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Feb 8 2008 18:48
Quote:
disdain for campaigns means that you are not actually involved in struggle

"Campaigns" and "struggle" are part of the problem. Just look at what it's done so far. And dont say the NHS like some Attlee fan.

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Demogorgon303
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Feb 8 2008 19:28

The campaigns that the WSM seem to be involved in seem to be no different to the kind of thing the Trots love to support. With an anti-authoritarian twist, no doubt, but fundamentally the same. They seem to support a "critical" version of nationalisation:

"The WSM believes that the natural resources of Ireland should be ultimately collectively owned and managed by the population of Ireland. This can only come about through a social revolution abolishing capitalism and the state. This can only come about through a social revolution abolishing capitalism and the state." This is basically an anarchist version of socialism in one country.

So it comes as no surprise that in answer to Beltov's earlier question about who the WSM is willing to work with, they claim "Our opposition to Trotskyism (and what it stand for in terms of analysis and solutions), as well as our principled objection to both the SWP's and SP's electoralist strategy is something we should keep on the agenda" but "this should not be a recipe for sectarianism or not working with these organisations in practice". In other words, they're against Trotskyism in words but not practice.

Nonetheless, they say "Our policies are different, our methods are different." How? Because you don't have an "electoral strategy"? In the meantime, they lend critical support to all the campaigns of the liberal left. Anti-Shell middle-class NIMBYism, abortion rights, etc, etc.

60,000 prints a year of papers tailgating leftist campaigns. Something to be proud of to be sure.

*All quotations are from http://www.wsm.ie/story/454.

Carousel
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Feb 8 2008 19:32

Well to be fair the only difference between you and them is that you know it’s futile and they don’t. Anyway, it's not so important how decisions are made, more what decisions are made. The campaign-model makes victims, the education-model makes confusion. The purpose of the organisation determines the structure of the organisation more than the ideological peccadilloes of its membership.

gurrier
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Feb 8 2008 21:01
Demogorgon303 wrote:
This is basically an anarchist version of socialism in one country.

That's right. We pretty much agree with Stalin on that one. We envisage a future where Ireland is an anarchist super-power with various satellite states, in epic battle with US imperialism.

Demogorgon303 wrote:
So it comes as no surprise that in answer to Beltov's earlier question about who the WSM is willing to work with, they claim "Our opposition to Trotskyism (and what it stand for in terms of analysis and solutions), as well as our principled objection to both the SWP's and SP's electoralist strategy is something we should keep on the agenda" but "this should not be a recipe for sectarianism or not working with these organisations in practice". In other words, they're against Trotskyism in words but not practice.

I think this is an area where a bit of experience working within campaigns alongside actual proles rather than the theoretical variety would do you some good.

You would quickly learn that most people think that small groups which concentrate on attacking the politics of other small groups in public fora are widely considered to be mentalists.

ronan
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Feb 8 2008 21:16

hi beltov, on the differences between federalism and centralism i would make the point that WSM don't adhere to the model of federalism espoused in the platform. we are, i think, quite close to the model of centralism that ernie quotes, only that we have more developed minority rights, i.e. comrades who disagree with particular positions or tactics generally aren't required to fulfil them (this of course does not apply to membership requirements such as attending meetings, paying dues etc). as with you, our local branches are functions of the national organisation, not the other way around as with federalist organisations. other platformist groups such as NEFAC and up until recently ZACF followed a more federalist model, however in ZACF's case this led to difficulties in maintaining political cohesion link!.

as i have argued elsewhere, i think that a centralised model makes sense for a political organisation, since it should be united in its politics and action.

devrim, on your sales figures i think that they are very good since people buying them implies a certain identification with your politics. do you sell them primarily on marches and to your friends and co-workers or how else do you distribute them? i doubt whether WSM could sell 500 copies of our paper, although i think that the general level of politicisation may be higher in turkey then it is here. i agree with you that there is an ambiguity in producing a free paper that goes through people's doors in that we don't know how many people read it, i.e. how influential we are. it has been argued in WSM that we shift to doing that form of propaganda primarily through the web, but the difficulty is that you're not getting your arguments out to new people who haven't heard of you before. it's a tricky one alright. i think it is often hoped that our distribution of the paper in an area will be accompanied by other forms of 'leftism' such as organising against council taxes etc, thus people would be meeting anarchists in meetings and reading the paper through the door. however, this type of work is quite limited at the moment for several reasons.

p.s. shifting 10, 000 papers does imply a lot in fact, about organisational capacity if nothing else.

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Demogorgon303
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Feb 8 2008 21:44
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That's right. We pretty much agree with Stalin on that one. We envisage a future where Ireland is an anarchist super-power with various satellite states, in epic battle with US imperialism.

Nice dodge, but doesn't get to the heart of the question does it?

Quote:
I think this is an area where a bit of experience working within campaigns alongside actual proles rather than the theoretical variety would do you some good.

Working with proles in campaigns that - at best - dilute their class interests with a load of middle-class claptrap when they're not objectively set against the interests of the working class. What "value" do you think this experience offers?

Quote:
You would quickly learn that most people think that small groups which concentrate on attacking the politics of other small groups in public fora are widely considered to be mentalists.

I'm not a member of any group, small or otherwise, so I'm afraid I'm a lone mentalist. Besides, I guess the rabid attacks made by certain members of your group against the ICC and their sympathisers don't count? Anyway, if it's mentalist to point out the absurdity of so-called "anarchists" tailing Trot campaigns for nationalisation of all things (!), etc. while saying "our policies are different, our methods are different" then a mentalist I am.

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Feb 8 2008 23:29
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Nice dodge, but doesn't get to the heart of the question does it?

What is the heart of the question? That anarchists tailgate Trotskyites? Fair play, but last time I checked it was the “left communists” setting up impromptu stalls outside the anarchists' book fair. You can try to differentiate between each other all you like but you can’t outrun your common William Morris style left wing tradition and vision, just like the pair of you can’t escape the snivelling “socialist appeal” that all the Marxist currents, including the Trots, share.

Now clearly, organisations formed to protest “issues” in social justice have an entirely different agenda from those formed to correctly interpret Marx and deliberate on the theoretical consistency of communist perspectives. So, it should come as no surprise to find that you differ in what decisions are made and have different senses of how they should be made.

The weird thing observable from outside the left milieu is, impulsive mentalists aside, how astonishingly wet socialists etc are when required to take decisive action. They hum and they ha, they prevaricate and deliberate, and they excuse themselves because “caring” is all part of their compassion-oriented value systems. No matter how innocuous the matter you can rely on a Marx-like personality type to turn it into a marathon tangle of arguments whose only outcome is stasis. Precisely the approach of the Trade Unions as it happens.

Spikymike
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Joined: 6-01-07
Feb 9 2008 14:28

I find myself in the 'uncomfortable' position somewhere in between the ICC and WSM in these exchanges.

In general it is clear that some forms of anarchist 'federalism' are fairly centralised and that some forms of 'marxist' centralism contain at least an element of federalism.

From the outside at least the WSM's organisational approach to political/theoretical discussion and activity seems sensible given their size and location and preferable to what I know of the ICC's centralised practice , as testified by the numerous unhealthy splits it has given rise to. Whilst the tendency towards the centralisation of pro revolutionary theory and practice is important, premature centralisation (pause for some humorous ripostes!) on the basis of tiny handfuls of pro revolutionaries scattered accross the globe, with only very limited connection to, or influence in, the everyday class struggle can stifle both good theoretical debate and innovative practice.

Whilst I have to agree with some of the political criticism which the ICC and others make of the WSM's positions (for instance it's soft nationalism and reformism) which I have expressed on other threads, the ICC dismissal of almost any activity with others of a different political hue on any issue goes too far. The dismissal for instance of 'abortion rights' as just another 'middle class' issue/campaign demonstrates this as well as anything. Whilst we might politically challenge the expression of this issue in terms of 'rights', access to safe abortion, contraception and sexual health is very much an issue for workers both male and female and inevitably involves from time to time activity on the ground with others not of our exact political pursuasion. A pro revolutionary group in Ireland in particular, which was unable to take a political and practical stance on this really wouldn't be worth it's salt. Similarly a citique of the Unions in workplace activity is essential but of little use if we take such a sectarian approach to anyone of a different political pursuasion that we are unable to work together on some particular practical issue we do agree on when it arises. So for all my criticism of the approach of the Sol Fed and the IWW this would not stop me from working with them in some specific circumstances on a particular practical workplace activity (unlike the ICC).