An International Movement for a Participatory Society?

May 19, 2012

How does one approach the creation of a new world in the face of such confusion, cynicism, ignorance and alienation? The left has failed at offering an effective, unified resistance to rampant neo-liberal capitalism. Weak from the many assaults from the establishment and the constant propaganda of the corporate media, the progressive/radical movements and organisations plod along fatigued from incessant external and internal conflict. The divided strands of radical individuals and groups don’t stand a chance against the clinical structure of the elite with all the apparatus of the state at their disposal. The Occupy movement has gone some way to refresh the left and offer new hope…the Thatcherite mantra There is No Alternative has never sounded so hollow in the face of people coming together with a common purpose to show how a different, more sane way of living can emerge from the most difficult of circumstances. In this respect, the Occupy movement has much in common with (and yet can learn a lot from) much of the destitute of the world who struggle as whole communities as a means of survival. In our materialistic Western society, we often forget or underestimate the value of mutual aid, respect and spiritual health. Our egos are trained to take over our minds and put the selfish, superficial needs of the individual above all else. Even those of us who keep our egos in check and battle the predatory values of capitalism, be it the conscientious political activist, caring social worker or the wise old neighbour next door, fall victim to self-indulgence occasionally.

How then do we overcome our own conditioning and move from an oppositional force on the margins of public discourse to a wider movement with majority support and participation? At the beginning of 2012, leading activists from all over the world (including Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, David Graeber and others) came together to attempt to answer this question and formed the interim committee of the International Organisation for a Participatory Society (IOPS). The core values of this new, ambitious organisation were agreed to be: Self-Management, Equity/Justice, Solidarity, Diversity, Ecological Stewardship and Internationalism. These values would determine the vision of the organisation which would treat the Political, Economical, Kinship and Community/Culture spheres as being of equal importance to one another as part of a philosophy of complementary holism. In other words, all aspects of life should be considered in offering a vision for participatory societies, forming a network spanning the local, national and international. Self-determination for all peoples, whether in Shrewsbury or Shanghai, Lagos or Los Angeles wouldn’t contradict cooperation between the local and global. A bottom-up structure would facilitate this network of individuals and communities, groups and projects, to form a truly participatory world where every person could reach their full potential.

Needless to say, such an idea seems utopian to many but this is what means to think of a better world. We set the parameters; we decide our future, unhindered by what is promoted as realistic or acceptable by elites and their cronies. In April, the interim website of IOPS was launched to help fulfill this vision. Partially inspired by Occupy and the decision-making processes of its assemblies, IOPS aims to encourage people to deliberate online and face-to-face. Local, Regional and National Chapters in a framework of nested councils would link whole countries and continents showing how they can function horizontally, where real power is held by the people in a truly democratic way. We hope that in this initial stage, IOPS can help provide a platform for the Occupy movement, improving organisation and advocating the worldwide expansion of the activities and core values at its heart.

Obviously there are many challenges to such a radical, international organisation. It is our hope that existingcampaigns on many fronts can use IOPS to broaden and sustain their activism beyond local/one-off/single-issue campaigns. Being at the interim stage of the organisation and having most of the members on the interim committee from either the United States or Europe, it has a long way to go to be truly international in the sense of having the participation of members in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The website has been translated into 9 other languages so far and is continuing to look for volunteers to translate yet more. The name and logo or the site is also interim….this is all open for democratic discussion and will be open to a popular vote once there is sufficient participation internationally. There is also the issue of excluding the illiterate and those without regular access to the internet but this problem can be overcome at a later time if the organisation grows in such numbers internationally that it reaches critical mass and ensures its core values are effectively promoted to all. Once we effectively organise, the main obstacles are the governments, corporations and financial institutions. Their power is illegitimate – more and more people are become conscious of this and crying out for something that realises all their hopes. Once this becomes global, the old order would crumble under the weight of popular resistance and solidarity. Our main challenge is convincing ourselves that we are capable of winning a better world. If we do that and organise relentlessly to achieve our goals, all this may eventually become more than an impossible dream.

In this spirit, we are asking you to be part of this movement and help shape it. Please visit for more information, to become a member of your chapter and keep informed about upcoming events and meetings.


By Carragh, Giulio, Joe, Conor from the Greater London Chapter of the International Organisation for a Participatory Society

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