IOPS stands for International Organisation for a Participatory Society. IOPS London is a libertarian socialist group where we help each other learn about the political scene and take action.
Since 2014 we’ve held critical reading and discussion groups, and we’ve been running alternative-building projects based on what we have learnt. We’ve discussed revolutionary movements, alternative economic and political models, trends in activism – which we’ve learnt about through books, blogs, films, talks and experiences.
At the moment we have a have a particular focus on prefiguratisvism – this can be thought of as building the future society in the shell of the old, or as organizing now in ways consistent to the kind of society we’d like to build.
1. Education project. We educate ourselves and others by sharing and producing readings, videos and discussions, as well as getting involved in action. We work with other political groups to apply the ideas we discuss in IOPS to our action with them.
2. Privilege resistance project. A series of workshops focusing on the ways in which we all reproduce hierarchical and oppressive behaviours and thoughts in our everyday lives, and how we can tackle and change them. Using ideas and exercises from the Theatre of the Oppressed school of community drama, we help each other practice how to prevent or address racist, sexist, etc patterns in community organising.
3. Alternative institutions project. A series of events where we discuss existing prefigurative projects that we could support, or potential projects we could help start. This could be anything from co-operatives to participatory budgetting to solidarity networks.
To contact IOPS London email iops(insert a dot here)london(and another dot)tmp(at-symbol)gmail.com
The following is info about IOPS International, which IOPS London is affiliated to but independent from:
We are a committed group of people engaged in the struggle for a better world. Together, we are building an organization dedicated to global revolution, called the International Organization for a Participatory Society (IOPS). Since the launch of our website in 2012, some 3600 people from over 100 countries have become members. For more about how IOPS evolved please refer to our history page.
We are unified by three key documents, which outline our:
These documents are provisional. In due time we will revisit them and take other organizational decisions, but for now we are focusing on laying the groundwork for our organization, such as by forming self-managed local chapters and increasing the number and diversity of our members.
We are open to people from all walks of life. To find out about becoming a member please read how you can participate. If you have any questions or concerns, please use our open pre-members forum where non-members and members alike can view and participate in discussions. For inquiries or other issues that you prefer to be communicated privately, please contact us by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The International Organization for a Participatory Society (IOPS) is a revolutionary organization that aims to win a better world, through:
- flexibly exploring and advocating long term vision
- building the seeds of the future in the present
- empowering the lives of its members
- organizing in an internally classless and self-managing way
- winning changes in society that better the situations of suffering constituencies while also laying the ground work for more changes and construction to come
Decision making influence in proportion to the degree you are affected by a decision.
Distribution of circumstances and benefits in accord with duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor, or comparable factors in other aspects of life.
Creation of conditions that foster mutual aid and empathy.
Respect for dissent and difference, including making room for minority and dissident positions to develop and revisit earlier commitments.
Care for natural habitats and environment in accord with sustainability and the thriving of diversity for species and humans.
Applying the above mentioned values not merely to a society, but to the community of all societies.
Key Goals & Priorities
- IOPS is anti capitalist, anti racist, anti sexist, and anti authoritarian. It centrally addresses economics/class, politics, culture/race, kinship/gender, ecology, and international relations without privileging any one focus above the rest.
- IOPS seeks to transcend 20th Century market and centrally planned socialism with a new participatory society – or participatory socialism – that combines classless economy, feminist kinship, intercommunalist culture, and self managing polity.
- IOPS flexibly explores and advocates long term vision sufficiently to inspire and orient current activity but does not advocate or seek to implement detailed blueprints that transcend movement needs and knowledge.
- IOPS sees social strategy and especially tactics as largely contingent on place and time and therefore continually revises shared views in light of new evidence including regularly updating analysis, vision, and strategy.
IOPS seeks new political/governmental relations that:
- facilitate all citizens deliberating sufficiently to effectively participate in decision-making.
- utilize transparent mechanisms to carry out and evaluate decisions.
- convey to all citizens a self managing say in legislative decisions proportionate to effects on them.
- utilize grassroots assemblies, councils or communes, and direct participation or representation and delegation, and/or voting options such as majority rule, some other voting algorithm, or consensus, all as needed to attain self management.
- offer maximum civil liberties to all, including freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly, and organizing political parties and facilitates and protects dissent.
- promote diversity so individuals and groups can pursue their own goals consistent with not interfering with the same rights for others.
- builds solidarity and fairly, peacefully, and constructively adjudicates disputes and violations of norms and laws, seeking both justice and rehabilitation.
- support all community members contributing to solving problems and exploring possibilities to ensure that there are no political hierarchies that privilege some citizens over others.
IOPS seeks new economic relations such that:
- no individuals or groups own productive assets such as natural resources, factories, etc., so ownership doesn’t affect anyone’s decision making influence or share of income.
- there is no payment according to property, bargaining power, or the value of personal output.
- workers who work longer or harder or at more onerous conditions doing socially valued labor (including training) earn proportionately more for doing so.
- those unable to work receive income nonetheless.
- workers have a say in decisions to the extent possible, proportionate to effects on them, sometimes best attained by majority rule, sometimes by consensus or other arrangements.
- there is no corporate division of labor giving about a fifth of workers predominatly empowering tasks and four fifths mainly rote, repetitive, and obedient tasks.
- each worker enjoys conditions suitable to be sufficiently confident and informed to participate effectively in decision making, including having a socially average share of empowering tasks via suitable new designs of work.
- there is neither market competition nor top-down planning, but instead decentralized cooperative negotiation of inputs and outputs, whether accomplished by workers and consumers councils or some other suitable method.
Gender and Kin
IOPS seeks new gender and kin relations that:
- do not privilege certain types of family formation over others but instead actively support all types of families consistent with society’s other broad norms and practices.
- promote children’s well-being and affirm society’s responsibility for all its children, including affirming the right of diverse types of families to have children and to provide them with love and a sense of rootedness and belonging.
- minimize or eliminate age-based permissions, preferring non-arbitrary means for determining when an individual is old or young enough, to participate in economic, political or other activities, or to receive benefits/privileges.
- respect marriage and other lasting relations among adults as religious, cultural, or social practices, but reject marriage as a way to gain financial benefits or social status.
- respect care giving as a valuable function including making care giving a part of every citizen’s social responsibilities, or other worthy means to ensure equitable burdens and benefits.
- affirm diverse expressions of sexual pleasure, personal identity, and mutual intimacy while ensuring that each person honors the autonomy, humanity, and rights of others.
- provide diverse, empowering sex education about sex, including legal prohibition against all non-consensual sex.
Culture and Community
IOPS seeks a new cultural and community system that:
- ensures that people can have multiple cultural and social identities, including providing the space and resources necessary for people to positively express their identities, while recognizing as well that which identity is most important to any particular person at any particular time will depend on that person’s situation and assessments.
- explicitly recognizes that rights and values exist regardless of cultural identity, so that all people deserve self management, equity, solidarity, and liberty, and so that while society protects all people’s right to affiliate freely and fosters diversity, its core values are universal.
- guarantees free entry and exit to and from all cultural communities in society including affirming that communities that do have free entry and exit can be under the complete self determination of their members, so long as their policies and actions don’t conflict with society’s laws.
The organization seeks new international relations such that:
- international institutions put an end to imperialism in all its forms including colonialism, neo colonialism, neo liberalism, etc.
- international institutions are internationalist in that they diminish economic disparities in countries’ relative wealth.
- international institutions protect cultural and social patterns interior to each country from external violation.
- international relations facilitate international entwinement and ties as people desire, and thus internationalist globalization in place of corporate globalization.
The organization seeks new ecological relations that:
- recognize the urgency of dealing with diverse ecological trends such as resource depletion, environmental degradation, and global warming, not only for liberation, but for survival, and that therefore facilitate ecologically sound reconstruction of society.
- account for the full ecological (and social/personal) costs and benefits of both short and long term economic and social choices, so that future populations can make informed reconstructive and then day to day choices about levels of production and consumption, duration of work, self reliance, energy use and harvesting, stewardship, pollution, climate policies, conservation, consumption, and other aims and activities as part of their freely made decisions about future policy.
- foster a consciousness of ecological connection and responsibility so that future citizens understand and respect the ecological precautionary principle and are also well prepared to decide policies regarding animal rights, vegetarianism, or other matters that transcend sustainability, consistently with their ecological preferences and with their broader agendas for other social and economic functions.
Structure and program
Broad Action Agenda or Program
The organization’s broad action agenda or program, while of course regularly updated and adapted, nonetheless always:
- seeks to incorporate seeds of the future in its present projects at least regarding class, race, gender, sexual, age, and power relations, both in the ways members act as well as by actively building institutions that represent the values of the movement and which the organization can present as liberating alternatives to the status quo it combats.
- seeks to constantly grow its membership among the class, nationality, and gender constituencies it claims to aid.
- seeks to learn from and seek unity with audiences far wider than its own membership, including emphasizing attracting and affirmatively empowering younger members and participating in, supporting, building, and aiding diverse social movements and struggles.
- seeks changes in society both for citizens to enjoy immediately, and also to establish by the terms of its victories and by the means used in its organizing, a likelihood that citizens will pursue and win more change in the future.
- seeks to connect efforts, resources, and lessons across continents and from country to country, even as it also recognizes that strategies suitable to different places, and times will differ.
- seeks short term changes by its own actions and programs and by support of larger movements and projects as its affected members decide, both internationally, by country and also locally, including addressing global warming, arms control, war and peace, the level and composition of economic output, agricultural relations, education, health care, income distribution, duration of work, gender roles, racial relations, media, law, legislation, etc., as its members choose.
- seeks to develop mechanisms that provide financial, legal, employment, and emotional support to its members so that its members can be in a better position to participate as fully as they wish and negotiate the various challenges and sometimes negative effects of taking part in radical actions.
- works to substantially improve the life situations of its members, including aiding their feelings of self worth, their knowledge, skills, and confidence, their mental, physical, sexual, and spiritual health, and even their social ties and engagements and leisure enjoyments.
- seeks means to develop, debate, disseminate, and advocate truthful news, analysis, vision, and strategy among its members and especially in the wider society, including developing and sustaining needed media and means of face to face communication.
- uses diverse methods of agitation and struggle from educational efforts to rallies and marches, to demonstrations, boycotts, strikes, and direct actions, to win gains and build movements.
- places a very high burden of proof on utilizing violence, including cultivating a decidedly non violent attitude.
- assesses engaging in electoral politics case by case, including cultivating a very cautious electoral attitude.
Structure and Policy
The organization’s structure and policy while of course regularly updated and adapted, nonetheless always:
- seeks to be internally classless and self-managing including structuring itself so that a minority who are initially disproportionately equipped with needed skills, information, and confidence do not form a formal or informal decision-making hierarchy, leaving less prepared members to follow orders or perform only rote tasks.
- strives to implement the self management norm that “each member has decision making say proportional to the degree they are effected.”
- guarantees members rights to organize “currents” and guarantees “currents” full rights of democratic debate.
- celebrates internal debate and dissent, making room, as possible, for contrary views to exist and be tested alongside preferred views.
- respects diversity, so that national, regional, city, and local chapters can respond to their own circumstances and implement their own programs as they choose so long as their choices do not interfere with the shared goals and principles of the organization or with other groups addressing their own situations.
- provides extensive opportunities for members to participate in organizational decision making, including engaging in deliberation with others so as to arrive at the most well-considered decisions and also implementing mechanisms for carrying out collective decisions and to assure the decisions have been carried out correctly.
- strives to provide transparency regarding all actions by elected or delegated leaders with a high burden of proof for secreting any agenda to avoid repression or for any other reason.
- provides a mechanism to recall leaders or representatives who members believe are not adequately representing them.
- provides means for fairly, peacefully, and constructively resolving internal disputes.
- apportions empowering and disempowering tasks to ensure that no individuals control the organization by having a relative monopoly on information or position.
- expects members to actively participate in the life of the organization including taking collective responsibility for it and presenting a unified voice in action.
- incorporates its members in developing, debating, and deciding on proposals, and treats lack of participation as a serious problem to be addressed whenever it surfaces.
- Sets up internal structures that facilitate everyone’s participation including, when possible, offering childcare at meetings and events, finding ways to reach out to those who might be immersed in kinship duties, and aiding those with busy work schedules due to multiple jobs.
- Monitors and responds to sexism, racism, classism, and homophobia as they may be manifested internally, including having diverse roles in projects suitable to people with different situations.
Activism is globally on the rise. Within a short time we saw the emergence of movements for democracy in China and against corruption in India. We experienced the dawn of the Occupy movement in the United States and the Idle No More movement in Canada. We witnessed the formation of the Indignados (15-M) in Spain as well as the Gezi Park protests in Turkey. And there are countless other examples around the world – all unplanned and without leaders in any traditional sense, bearing witness to people’s desire to have control over their own lives.
The traditional left has mainly ignored these developments, unable to interpret them in their established ideological frameworks and to adapt to a new spirit of people who do not seek to be led but who want to be free to decide for themselves. The new movements have inspired people all over the world, giving a sense that change is possible, but they have remained relatively isolated and their aspiration to change the world for the better has not yet found an organizational form that allows for long-term sustained and effectively coordinated efforts.
One of the characteristics of the system of repressive tolerance is that it allows people to protest, but insists that they formulate “demands”. If the protest movement gives in to that requirement, these demands are like an opening bid in a negotiating process with the powers that be. But these are negotiations between parties with very unequal power: the authorities have behind them the full potential violence of the state apparatus – riot police, and if that is not enough military forces. The final bid will be described as the ultimate compromise, but leaves their power intact.
Formulating demands will not bring us much further, unless we “ask the impossible”. That is, we should not only criticize what is wrong, but if we believe that “another world is possible” – the slogan of the World Social Forum – we also need a unifying vision of that other world. With that in mind, people at ZNet started a project called Reimagining Society. Over a period of many months, people contributed and discussed concrete ideas for a unifying vision. The process culminated in a poll, presenting what appeared to emerge as the consensus in the form of a sequence of “vision and strategy” statements with which the poll takers could indicate (dis)agreement, with in some cases alternatives for issues on which no consensus was apparent. Many thousands of visitors took the poll, with generally overwhelming support, and thousands also stating that if there was an organization promoting this vision they would consider joining it.
The start of IOPS
Encouraged by the response to the poll, the initiators prepared an editorially improved compilation of the vision and strategy statements of the poll that had garnered a majority of agreements, elevating it to the status of founding key documents of a new organization to be established, provisionally dubbed “International Organization for a Participatory Society”, or IOPS for short. They also collected enough money to have a website built for the organization.
IOPS is meant to offer a home for everyone who believes another world is possible, as sketched in our vision statement, and who is willing to work together on reaching it.
In a nutshell, our vision is based on the conviction that everyone is important and that every person should count and have equal say in issues regarding them. The aim of the social and economic organization should be to cater to the needs of all, with no group being privileged, in a way that respects both people and nature. The many issues that confront us, from exploitation to discrimination to the ravaging of the ecology and natural resources, all result from the power being in the hands of a small elite who cling to it, abusing it to maintain their privileged status at the expense of the many. Therefore, we believe that no single issue should be singled out and elevated as having a special status, but that the aim should be to give the whole system a radical make-over, dismantling all forms of privileged status and instead empowering everyone as much as possible to take control of their lives, all in a spirit of community.
Working alone, each of us can achieve only little. It is only when enough people come and work together that we can hope that our efforts will have far-reaching results. As IOPS was conceived by its initiators, it was to consist of local self-managing “chapters” formed by members living sufficiently close to each other to have regular face-to-face meetings, growing and constituting itself in a bottom-up fashion until sufficient weight would be reached to tie the organizational knot at the international level. Unfortunately, after a promising start in the first few months that saw a rapid increase in membership, growth has become slow and a sufficient concentration of members to form active local chapters has arisen in only a few places. Part of the problem is that almost nobody even knows that IOPS exists, and that we are mostly spread too thin to draw attention. Yet we remain hopeful that this is essentially a starting-up problem that will eventually be overcome.
Management of the international chapter
Local chapters can and should be self-managing by using the methods of direct democracy. For chapters at higher levels, it is generally impractical or impossible to hold general assemblies in which all members attend. A possible model is to hold a convention attended by delegates from lower-level chapters.
What to do? In a subsequent poll, a majority of respondents indicated that they felt we should drop the set preconditions for holding a founding convention, and that responsibility and initiative in coming events should be transferred from the interim committee to the working chapters and overall membership. Since then, members of the working chapters and a few others have held regular online chats to ensure that central services, such as the website, remain operational. Any decisions are taken by consensus, but for the rest there are currently no laid-down procedures. As time proceeds, some rules may crystallize that can be presented for discussion to the general membership. The idea of a founding convention has been put on indefinite hold. Opinions on whether we need to put some process in place for central decision making, as would have been the task of a founding convention, are divided.