Changes between Initial Version and Version 1 of projects/membership-meeting/2015/org-memberdocs

Oct 23, 2015, 4:48:03 PM (5 years ago)



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     1== Transforming May First/People Link ==
     5The following document proposes a major change in the strategy and organizational character of May First/People Link from what has been, in essence, an alternative Internet provider recruiting through movement work to a mass membership organization whose main focus is the protection and independence of communications technology for the left-wing movements in the United States and Mexico.
     7The approval of this change would fundamentally alter our organization's strategy and structure.
     9'''-- The lessons of June --'''
     11The remarkable success of MF/PL's work during June, 2015 underscores the growth in our prestige and position as a movement organization but also makes clear the need for a major shift in our strategy and orientation.
     13Without question, June was the most successful month in our history and the result of our organization's most successful year. Never have we done so much movement leadership work, encountered so many people, made so many contacts and clearly impacted politically in so many struggles. And never has our leadership been more involved in MF/PL work than it was the four months leading up to the June events.
     15Movement work, above all else, is the driving force of our organization. It is during major moments of movement work that our techies are most unified with the activist majority of MF/PL, our LC is most active and engaged with MF/PL and our membership is most mobilized. At these moments, political thinking about May First -- both inside our organization and within the coalitions in which we work -- is clearest and most innovative. This reflects our history, was proven in June and hints about how we should proceed.
     17But the two-year period leading up to June and the June events themselves reveal significant problems which are weakening our organization and, if gone unsolved, would probably destroy it. These problems can be divided into several reflections:
     191 - Our organization is not recruiting new members. This has been going on for three years increasingly. It has now reached a near-zero state. What's more, a thorough analysis of active members that has almost been completed, reveals that our membership is only about 60 percent what we originally thought it was.
     212 - Many of the most important and front-end movements and organizations, including several we work with in coalition and who vigorously support us, refuse to become members.
     233 - Current members are not involved in our movement work although many of them are actually involved in the same movements and campaigns our organization is.
     254 - The principles and concepts we have espoused about software use, particularly Free and Open Source Software, have decreased in profile and, in many cases, are barely acknowledged by active movements and organizers.
     275 - As the Internet continuously brings people together world-wide, our international work has been sporadic and unfocused.
     296 - Our technology work, long the hallmark of May First, has become reduced to providing ongoing service to members and improving on that service. Its connection to movement work is virtually non-existent.
     31What is most disturbing and confusing here is that the situation in our world would seem to move us in the opposite, more robust, direction.
     33'''-- A World in Complete Crisis --'''
     35- There is no "stability" anywhere. People engage in increasingly desperate survival actions while the right-wing becomes more violent. Racism and sexism are becoming more pronounded and shrill. The state increases its mechanism for control and repression and has become more blatant about that. These are growing trends world-wide.
     37- Capitalism has completely failed, morphing into an unrecognizable system in which the generation of wealth seems unhinged from the work that produces profit. If the wealth being accumulated is built by speculation and cyclical lending, the system will soon collapse.
     39- The U.S. -- with a military budget that is almost as large as all other countries' military budgets combined (almost 70 percent of the U.S.'s budget by some estimates) -- is involved in six wars and scores of military occupations. This is reflected in our culture (with it's hero worshipping of combatants) and its politics.
     41- Mexico, among the most developed and advanced of all American countries, is experiencing highly sharpened crisis expressing itself in deepening economic collapse and quasi-government-sanctioned violence of escalating proportions.
     43- About a fifth of the human race has no water and all predictions indicate that that percentage will grow very quickly.
     45- A third of humanity suffers hunger and a major food shortage crisis is imminent in the United States.
     47- Scientists are now saying that the human race will experience widespread disappearance within the century and we are already seeing the first stages of that gradual extermination.
     49- There is no democracy in most of the world and the human race is not deciding its future.
     51All of this is motored by technology. When used oppressively under private property systems, technology makes all of this inevitable. At the same time, information technology is the only tool the human race has to communicate and organize world-wide and so its role in the struggle for human survival is clear and significant. As the Left's technology organization, MF/PL's role is just as clear.
     53But this technology role is threatened as state repression intensifies faster and more widely than at any point in our lifetime. The attack on privacy, prevention of access and government capture of personal data represent a state strategy that, if successful, will render the Internet useless as a tool for movement work and social change.
     55'''-- What is Our Movement's Response on Technology? --'''
     57The push-back against this state repression of technology communications has been vigorous and sometimes successful as with the Net Neutrality campaign. But it is fragmented, politically weakened by reformist campaigns, often led by liberal and civil liberties organizations, oriented to government lobbying, and spotty: focusing on specific repression issues like Net Neutrality while allowing other types of repression such as surveillance to continue to grow unabated and unchallenged.
     59There is no organization in either the U.S or Mexico that brings together the social change movements to confront, challenge and struggle against this technology repression. Such an organization would not only present a more inclusive picture of the threats we are struggling against but would fit all we currently do into a more logical and persuasive frame.
     61'''-- What is Our Movement Calling Us to Do? --'''
     63As the social justice movement in the United States has moved rapidly toward revolutionary thinking and the civil society movement in Mexico continues on that trend (which it has been following for decades now), the role of technology and our movement's "technology organization" has changed. We are increasingly viewed as:
     651 -- a political organization offering the left a space of convergence and tools of communication
     672 -- the movement's "expert" on technology and its political impact
     693 -- a force for convergence and unity within coalitions
     714 -- a leading defender against the State's repressive technology stratgegy and a leading advocate of communications freedom
     73Based on that, May First seems the logical candidate for launching the kind of organization described above or converting ourselves into that type of organization.
     75'''-- Are we ready? --'''
     77The answer, at this moment, is "no". Not with the structure we have, limiting membership to users of our technology; the division between technologists and members; the confusion among members about our role in the movement; and a leadership that continues to struggle to find the answer to that confusion and move us forward.
     79When looked at closely, all the problems we have had reside in this confusion about our role and our inability, and our movements' inability, to answer the challenges of a ruling class bent on destroying our communications.
     81The situation demands a major shift in our strategy, our role in civil society and our organizational identity, a redefinition of what it means to be a member of MF/PL and a rerouting of the political path we've chosen.
     83If we succeed in doing that, the solutions to the rest of our problems as an organization change and, in many senses, become more accessible.
     85'''-- Where To Go? --'''
     87The immediate is not to definitively answer all the questions that confront but to change our organization so it can provide those answers while meeting the challenges the movement has given us.
     89- Redefine our role and our concept of membership.
     91Clearly we should continue service provision. When movement organizations and activists are denied full use of the Internet, we are the solution. When data is under attack, we are the alternative. We are the home to political technologists and a place for potential development and popularization of movement-useful software.
     93That role, as repression grows, will grow as well.
     95But for that to happen, our movement must have access to a free Internet and we must survive as an organization.
     97Two changes must take place and they are monumental and transformative:
     991 -- We have to switch our strategy from being the technology organization that joins and participants in campaigns and coalitions started by our movement to an organization that actually proposes and sparks those campaigns and coalition: making movement work our absolute political priority.
     1012 -- We have to change our membership model to reflect that strategic change by dropping our insistence that members use our tech resources and allowing for membership that supports our strategic goals. In that model, organizations and individuals would join us because they are joining the effort to protect the Internet and keep it independent and, if they wish, they should have the option to use our technology.
     103In this model, May First/People Link would be an organization of left-wing organizations and people committed to Internet preservation and freedom (and whatever activities are necessary to make that happen) that also offers a suite of Internet services (the ones we currently have) for members who want and need them. Clearly, the dues would drop dramatically and the suite would be billed as an extra membership fee.
     105The implications of this change for our Leadership Committee and much of its structure are radical as are the implications for our strategic work and coalition building. But those conversations are only relevant after we have discussed our direction and role.