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We Need Mass Democracy
                Real organization cannot be built on a foundation of sand
If we can create a mass anti-imperialist organization where decisions and struggle are based on mass democracy -- then we will capture the imagination of serious activists everywhere -- and be in a position to change the dynamics of the entire antiwar movement. Ben Seattle

Proposal for the kind of anti-imperialist organization that our movement needs:

The Open and Democratic
Anti-Imperialist Network for
Mass Action and Information War

•   mission statement
1. democratic rights
2. democratic (and accountable) decision-making
3. program of work to build a revolutionary channel
•   further reading

Proposal for Anti-Imperialist Network

Posted by Ben Seattle November 7, 2005

Proposal for the kind of anti-imperialist organization that our movement needs:

The Open and Democratic Anti-Imperialist Network
for Mass Action and Information War (ODAINMAIW)

mission statement

I don't have a worked out mission statement but I believe we need one. It must be short (preferably a single sentence) and printed on every leaflet and at the top of every web page. The mission statement should reflect the ideas in the proposed name of the organization (see above) and also describe our goal as "the creation of an anti-imperialist pole of attraction within the antiwar movement".

Why use the phrase "pole of attraction" rather than "trend" or "organization"?

Because we want to convey the idea that we want to put something together that includes multiple trends that will compete with and struggle against one another as well as cooperate. This is what happens in any movement or organization which has a genuinely mass character. As the movement polarizes, various trends (and parts of trends -- as some trends break apart as the field strength, so to speak, increases) will be drawn to the anti-imperialist pole. The contradictions between the trends which gravitate to the anti-imperialist pole will not disappear -- but rather will become more concentrated and will likely manifest themselves in more visible ways. It will be necessary that we recognize the inevitability of the struggle between trends and take steps to assist the development of this struggle so that it takes place in conditions most suitable to the development and raising of consciousness.

The phrase "pole of attraction" also embodies another key idea: there can be only two main poles of attraction in the antiwar movement because there are only two main contending classes in society. One pole of attraction in the movement, the liberal, so-called "lesser evil" pole, represents the interests and the influence of bourgeois, pro-imperialist politics within the antiwar movement. The anti-imperialist pole of attraction represents the material interests of the working class.

This liberal, "lesser evil" pole of attraction today dominates the antiwar movement. It is not seen today as a pole of attraction mainly because it is has such overwhelming dominance and also because the anti-imperialist pole of attraction is so weakly developed, so paralyzed and ill-formed, that it remains on the margins of visibility and awareness.

As the anti-imperialist pole of attraction develops, so will the antiwar movement as a whole -- as hundreds of thousands of activists, for the first time, have an opportunity to see, and participate in, a relatively clear-cut struggle between two opposing sets of ideas, ideologies, tactics -- and class interests.

We must also recognize that no one (including ourselves) "owns" the anti-imperialist pole of attraction or has exclusive rights to it. Our responsibility is to help create a pole of attraction that is open to participation, in various ways, from _all_ activists who recognize and participate in the struggle between the two poles in the antiwar movement. We must recognize that it would be unprincipled, and a fundamental betrayal of the working class, for us to misuse or abuse our position as "first-movers" to attempt to lock out or shut out, for sectarian reasons, our political opponents who also have anti-imperialist politics.

1. democratic rights

a) READERS will have the right to post comments, questions and criticisms on every web page which contains a copy of printed agitation (and on every web page which reports on a formal vote within the organization).

Readers will be able to make comments without the need for registration and the comments will be public immediately without the need for prior review. All serious comments will remain permanently posted. We will only delete comments which contain threats, promote neo-nazi views or websites, include racist or homophobic abuse, personal or apolitical insults or which are obviously insincere, apolitical or commercial spam.

All printed agitation (and all copies posted to internet forums such as Indymedia or email lists) will include a notice: (1) giving the web page where the agitation is posted and (2) explaining that criticisms by readers can be posted and read there.

b) MEMBERS of the organization will have the right to a defined space on the organization's web site -- including space on a "member's page" where they can present their views on whatever they like -- including their views on the future direction of the organization and their criticisms of others in the organization; and also including a defined space on each web page which reports on a formal vote (see below for more on that)

Members will have the right to post replies to all comments posted by readers on any page.

Members will have the right to send out email to everyone on the organization's email list at least once per month.

c) ACTIVISTS will have the right to have a clear window into the internal contradictions of the organization by means of point (b) above and will have the right to intervene in these struggles by means of point (a) above

2. democratic (and accountable)
decision-making

Decisions will be made, whenever possible, by consensus or unanimous agreement -- with all sides making efforts to present their best arguments and thinking. In the event that a decision cannot be made by this means -- then a formal vote will become necessary. In order to discourage the common practice of bloc voting in which individuals are not accountable for their votes -- we will make use of the following principles:

a) A vote will not become valid unless supported by two-thirds of the membership.

b) Each issue on which a formal vote becomes necessary will be recorded on a separate "voting issue" page on the organization's website. All members will have a defined space (ie: such as a floating window) in which they can present their views on the issue. All readers will have the right to post comments, questions and criticisms on each "voting issue" page.

c) No vote will be valid except when the voter explains, using at least 25 words on the "vote issue" page, the reasons for his or her vote.

Members who vote will not be required to post their reasons using their normal pseudonyms. They can use "X1247" or anything else they want. However, we will encourage them to use their normal pseudonyms. The security considerations here are outweighed by the value of encouraging everyone to establish their individual reputation for careful, principled decision-making.

These principles will strongly encourage decision-making by consensus whenever possible. When not possible, these principles will help to enforce a minimal level of individual accountability by organization members and will give activists in the community a window into (and an opportunity to comment on) our decision-making process.

In addition, we should have public working meetings at least once a month. (Our aim should be to build up enough energy and interest from activists to eventually be able to sustain weekly meetings.) Anyone who opposes the war must be welcome to come and observe and have their say. Membership will be open to everyone who demonstrates, by their practice, that they agree with our mission statement. Decisions on who qualifies, and is accepted or expelled from membership, will be the same as any other decision: by unanimous decision -- or by formal vote.

3. program of work to build
a revolutionary channel

In addition to distributing agitation locally by printed means -- we will be committed to distributing on a national (and, eventually, international) scale by digital means.

This means that we will work to systematically build up a syndication channel that makes use of Indymedia sites, leftist or antiwar email lists and other internet-based forums.

We will build this channel in an interactive way -- where we develop the ability to systematically respond to serious comments, questions and criticisms that respond to our posted agitation.

We would probably start modestly -- for example, posting to three Indymedia sites and three email lists. Each posting would include notice of our "Service Level Agreement" (ie: SLA, a commonly used term in the business community) that might be something similar to the following:

> ---------------------------------------------------
> Our "Service Level Agreement" to other activists:
> ---------------------------------------------------
>   This is being posted at 8 pm on Tuesday.
>   We will check this email list or Indymedia site
>   on 8 pm Wednesday for replies -- and will do 
>   our best to have at least a short response by
>   8 pm Thursday to all serious questions or
>   criticisms which include:
>   "RR" (ie: response requested) in the title.
> ---------------------------------------------------

The details of the SLA, as far as what is practical, will be determined as we gain experience. We will need to have an SLA both in order to (a) avoid the apperance that we are simply "spamming" (ie: doing a one-way broadcast) indymedia sites and email lists and (b) actually develop the channel and our ability to respond quickly and respond well. This will prepare us for the future as we expand the channel.

Responses will be by individuals. Each member of the organization will commit to a certain number of minutes per week or per month (for example: 45 minutes per week) in order to help achieve our SLA. We may, at times, fail to achieve our SLA. As we gain experience, we will learn what is realistic. More than this, we will gain valuable experience in live interaction with friendly and hostile trends in a wide variety of forums.

I believe that we should start with a modest goal: send our anti-imperialist leaflet to 3 indymedia sites and 3 email lists. I believe that we should set a two-year goal of developing our channel to the point where we can post something of high quality (and respond within a reasonable SLA) to 50 Indymedia sites and 50 email lists -- and do this on a monthly (if not weekly) basis.

Once we do this -- we will be on our way toward capturing the attention and imagination of a new generation of activists.

Further reading

What kind of organization does the antiwar movement need?
An organization capable of overthrowing the system of imperialist rule cannot be built on a foundation of sand. Only principled, transparent and long-term collaboration between serious activists can:
(1) organize a decisive break from the confinement of liberal-imperialist politics,
(2) mobilize the masses in their millions and
(3) chart the couse forward to a world without imperialist war or capitalist exploitation

My suppressed criticism of SAIA:
The liquidation of SAIA and the struggle to create a revolutionary channel (July 2002)

 
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