What is a "mass organisation"?

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Steven.
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Dec 13 2007 15:05
What is a "mass organisation"?

Discussion moved from wobbly forum:
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Dundee_United wrote:
Many mass organisations are tiny. Get over yourself.

This post from Dundee was in response to this:

OliverTwister wrote:
Dundee_United wrote:
We're [the IWW] a mass organisation.

Where's the "meat"?

John. wrote:
ftony wrote:
i guess it means that it is an organisation that has its sights on being a mass organisation. i'm under no misapprehension that the IWW right now is anything more than a speck on the map.

So, right now, it's the exact opposite of a "mass organisation," i.e. a tiny organisation. You can't describe your group as something you *want* it to be, when it's the exact opposite of what it is.

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Dec 13 2007 15:08

I may be being a bit slow, but to me a mass organisation is just that, a mass organisation. An organisation, with masses of people in. Say in the hundreds of thousands to the millions.

Big unions are mass organisations, some anarcho-syndicalist groups have been mass organisations, like the FORA, CNT.

How are you defining "mass organisation," dundee, and then how is this a useful definition? Especially if the vast majority of people would misunderstand it (and assume you actually meant a "mass organisation")?

Mike Harman
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Dec 13 2007 15:11

See also, "mass movement".

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AndrewF
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Dec 13 2007 15:24

A 'mass organization' in the sense it is being used an organization open to the masses rather than necessarly one with a massive membership. Of course some mass organizations also have a massive membership (eg mainstream unions may have memberships in millions) but some like community organizations or even some mainstream unions (eg ones for specialists) may have memberships in dozens, hundreds or the low thousands.

As the IWW is open to any workers more or less regardless of political affiliation, views etc its clearly a mass organization. It's also clearly not a massive one.

I'd say the same applies to mass movement, eg in Rossport probably over 50% of the locals are active around the Shell protests but as the adult populations if 90 odd that local mass movement is hardly a massive movement by any measure.

There is a good article on Anarkismo that discusses the various types of organization up to and including mass organization

Quote:
1. The level of the social, popular or mass organisations -the social level: This level is characterised by those organisations who bring together a single actor of struggle, regardless of their political leanings (trade unions, student unions, community associations, etc.). The unity has to be as broad as possible, we have to struggle against sectarianism in them, and the way to influence them is by agitating demands, practices and exposing the contradictions of the system in them. Here is where the unity of the bulk of the people is possible, and this should be regarded as the aim. And though they are not political by its nature, they can get political in the course of struggle and by the natural development of the class contradictions. No matter how political they can become, they cannot be confused with a political group or with a tendency. And we need to keep it clear that we aim that our ideas influence the majority, but minorities cannot be purged and we cannot impose ideological definitions or labels on them.

http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=1743

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Dec 13 2007 15:31

Joe, what does "open to the masses" mean?

Dundee_United
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Dec 13 2007 15:36
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A 'mass organization' in the sense it is being used an organization open to the masses rather than necessarly one with a massive membership. Of course some mass organizations also have a massive membership (eg mainstream unions may have memberships in millions) but some like community organizations or even some mainstream unions (eg ones for specialists) may have memberships in dozens, hundreds or the low thousands.

As the IWW is open to any workers more or less regardless of political affiliation, views etc its clearly a mass organization. It's also clearly not a massive one.

precisely. This is the political terminology. My tenants association has a few dozen members only, and it is clearly a mass organisation, not a political organisation, or a tendency.

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Dec 13 2007 15:36

I think this is an interesting discussion and raises a number of questions.

Is the nature of an organisation defined by its politics or its sociological composition? The answer to this question has a number of implications. If the latter, then clearly the unions as they are currently composed are proletarian organisations - why then is there any need for the IWW or the like?

If the former, then clearly the unions are anti-proletarian and in which case the IWW might seem like a good idea, except that "the IWW is open to any workers more or less regardless of political affiliation". In other words, in a period when the masses don't have a communist consciousness any mass organisation will inevitably come under the immense pressure of bourgeois ideology unless it has strict political criteria for membership.

The IWW and similar organisations seem to fall into this trap. It's certainly a reaction to the anti-proletarian nature of the present unions but it is faced with a contradiction: it can't become a "union" with any clout without being a "mass organisation" as JoeBlack2 has defined it; and if it succeeds in this it will inevitably be transformed into the very thing it was created in reaction to.

Dundee_United
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Dec 13 2007 15:37
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I may be being a bit slow, but to me a mass organisation is just that, a mass organisation. An organisation, with masses of people in. Say in the hundreds of thousands to the millions.

No. The communist part once boasted tens of thousands of members. It remained a political organisation, not a mass organisation.

Mike Harman
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Dec 13 2007 15:45
Anarkismo wrote:
No matter how political they can become, they cannot be confused with a political group or with a tendency.

Well the IWW is clearly a political group, pretending it's a mass organisation doesn't stop this from being the case.

Quote:
Joe, what does "open to the masses" mean?

Surely "let any twat join"?

Dundee_United
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Dec 13 2007 15:33

My tenants association is a mass organisation. It has no more than a few dozen members. It is a mass organisation because it exist on economistic terrain, as neither a political organisation, nor a tendency or NGO. That is what defines mass organisations. if we are going to go about redefining words to make polemical politicised arguments one may as well say the IWW has more claim to being a mass organisation than UNISON, becaus we have a more engaged membership base as a percentage of our membership, have therefore higher levels of participation, and therefore higher 'mass content'.

Now as for the BIROC - the organisation had 100 or so members in November 06. We now have around 350. this is clearly not the limits of our ambition, and we intend to continue growing, from being a very small mass organisation to a more sizeable one.

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Dec 13 2007 15:45
Dundee_United wrote:
Quote:
I may be being a bit slow, but to me a mass organisation is just that, a mass organisation. An organisation, with masses of people in. Say in the hundreds of thousands to the millions.

No. The communist part once boasted tens of thousands of members. It remained a political organisation, not a mass organisation.

My view of something like the Bolsheviks is that they are a mass political organisation. Are you trying to distinguish between political and economic organisation? i.e. between orgs based on common interest rather than shared ideology?

If so then why not call it an "economic organisation" like most people, and avoid the confusion, and silliness of having a tiny mass organisation?

In any case the IWW doesn't meet the purely "economic" definition either because it is based on a very niche political idea, outlined it its preamble:

Quote:
The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.

Not all workers agree with this, only a small minority of socialists and anarchists do.

Carousel
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Dec 13 2007 15:50
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if it succeeds in this it will inevitably be transformed into the very thing it was created in reaction to.

Same goes for the BNP. Contrary to your assertion, it’s their own ideological specifics that render them unable to thrive as-is, not that a majority organisation necessarily takes on a bourgeois character.

Deezer
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Dec 13 2007 16:01

What an utter load of shite. Edit - addressed to Dundee and JoeBlack

Using cack handed definitions does not in any meaningful way get around the fact that the IWW is not a mass organisation whether it wants to be or not. The piece from anarkismo is ridiculous and reduces a 'mass' movment to anything the platformists think it is useful to intervene as a political organisation in. Its formulation demands they protect other political minorities/tendencies in such movements - have any of the platformists even considered what this means?

There is a binary definition at work here that can only be of use to those who see the need at all times for the 'correct' political leadership of the proletariat - supplied from the outside. We have the organisation of the anarchist political party that intervenes in the 'mass' organisation be that 'mass' organisation a locally organised campaign of 90 people, or of a tenants group of a handful of self appointed busybodies.

There is no conception of the possibility of revolutionary self organisation which is perhaps telling of the period of low level struggle that we live in but it is also nonetheless an indication that 'platformism' is a current born of and informed, not by any grasp of the revolutionary potential of 'ordinary' working class people, but rather born of defeat, elitism and intellectual parallysis.

Smash Rich Bastards
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Dec 13 2007 16:18
Boulcolonialboy wrote:
What an utter load of shite. Edit - addressed to Dundee and JoeBlack

Using cack handed definitions does not in any meaningful way get around the fact that the IWW is not a mass organisation whether it wants to be or not. The piece from anarkismo is ridiculous and reduces a 'mass' movment to anything the platformists think it is useful to intervene as a political organisation in. Its formulation demands they protect other political minorities/tendencies in such movements - have any of the platformists even considered what this means?

There is a binary definition at work here that can only be of use to those who see the need at all times for the 'correct' political leadership of the proletariat - supplied from the outside. We have the organisation of the anarchist political party that intervenes in the 'mass' organisation be that 'mass' organisation a locally organised campaign of 90 people, or of a tenants group of a handful of self appointed busybodies.

There is no conception of the possibility of revolutionary self organisation which is perhaps telling of the period of low level struggle that we live in but it is also nonetheless an indication that 'platformism' is a current born of and informed, not by any grasp of the revolutionary potential of 'ordinary' working class people, but rather born of defeat, elitism and intellectual parallysis.

Uh, I think you missed the point. A "mass organization" (at least how its commonly used) is a social grouping who's membership is not restricted to specific political or religious ideology but open to anyone (aka, "the masses") engaged by the particular social issue being organized around... tenants groups, unions, neighborhood associations, welfare rights groups, civil rights groups, etc, etc. Outside of the wacky world of Libcom I don't think most people would consider it especially "elitist" or at all controversal to call a grouping essentially what it is...

Deezer
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Dec 13 2007 16:23
Smash Rich Bastards wrote:
Boulcolonialboy wrote:
What an utter load of shite. Edit - addressed to Dundee and JoeBlack

Using cack handed definitions does not in any meaningful way get around the fact that the IWW is not a mass organisation whether it wants to be or not. The piece from anarkismo is ridiculous and reduces a 'mass' movment to anything the platformists think it is useful to intervene as a political organisation in. Its formulation demands they protect other political minorities/tendencies in such movements - have any of the platformists even considered what this means?

There is a binary definition at work here that can only be of use to those who see the need at all times for the 'correct' political leadership of the proletariat - supplied from the outside. We have the organisation of the anarchist political party that intervenes in the 'mass' organisation be that 'mass' organisation a locally organised campaign of 90 people, or of a tenants group of a handful of self appointed busybodies.

There is no conception of the possibility of revolutionary self organisation which is perhaps telling of the period of low level struggle that we live in but it is also nonetheless an indication that 'platformism' is a current born of and informed, not by any grasp of the revolutionary potential of 'ordinary' working class people, but rather born of defeat, elitism and intellectual parallysis.

Uh, I think you missed the point. A "mass organization" (at least how its commonly used) is a social grouping who's membership is not restricted to specific political or religious ideology but open to anyone engaged by the particular social issue being organized around... tenants groups, unions, neighborhood associations, welfare rights groups, civil rights groups, etc, etc. Outside of the wacky world of Libcom I don't think it is considered to be especially "elitist" or at all controversal to call a grouping essentially what it is...

Duh, no I did not miss that we are talking about organisations that have 'open' membership I am pointing out that that does not necessarily make them 'mass' organisations. The elitist comment is a reference to approach and the stretching of definitions to suit that approach. So a 'mass' organisation is any half-assed or failed open membership group that wishes it was a mass organisation. Thats some useful definition going on there!

And in seeking to secure the platformist intervention in such 'mass' organisations we have:

Quote:
No matter how political they can become, they cannot be confused with a political group or with a tendency. And we need to keep it clear that we aim that our ideas influence the majority, but minorities cannot be purged and we cannot impose ideological definitions or labels on them.

Can you not see that sort of shit for what it is?

So, uh, I think you've missed the point.

Mike Harman
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Dec 13 2007 16:27
Quote:
A "mass organization" (at least how its commonly used) is a social grouping who's membership is not restricted to specific political or religious ideology but open to anyone engaged by the particular social issue being organized around...

Smash Rich Bastards - google disagrees. "Mass organisation", at least on the first three pages of google, refers almost to organisations manufactured by political groups of right and left: http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=mass+organisation

Dust
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Dec 13 2007 16:30

bad hair day boul?

boul wrote:
Its formulation demands they protect other political minorities/tendencies in such movements - have any of the platformists even considered what this means?

I assume this is a reference to

jose wrote:
here is where the unity of the bulk of the people is possible, and this should be regarded as the aim. And though they are not political by its nature, they can get political in the course of struggle and by the natural development of the class contradictions. No matter how political they can become, they cannot be confused with a political group or with a tendency. And we need to keep it clear that we aim that our ideas influence the majority, but minorities cannot be purged and we cannot impose ideological definitions or labels on them.

Which is just like protecting Stalinist and fascists yeah?

Quote:
There is a binary definition at work here that can only be of use to those who see the need at all times for the 'correct' political leadership of the proletariat - supplied from the outside.

Em.. where are you getting this from i.e Political leadership being supplied from outside the proletariat. Or are you doing the usual underhanded tactic of saying that an organised minority in the proletatariat that argues its line (intervenes) in broader organisations is just the same as the Leninist idea of trade union conciousness.

Quote:
There is no conception of the possibility of revolutionary self organisation which is perhaps telling of the period of low level struggle that we live in but it is also nonetheless an indication that 'platformism' is a current born of and informed, not by any grasp of the revolutionary potential of 'ordinary' working class people, but rather born of defeat, elitism and intellectual parallysis.

roll eyes

Dust
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Dec 13 2007 16:34

oh and for anyone interested the fdca have some stuff on this which seems to be decent at
http://www.fdca.it/fdcaen/organization/org_index.htm

Dundee_United
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Dec 13 2007 16:40
Quote:
the funniest thing is, that even by this rather unique definition of mass organisation, as an anti-capitalist political organisation

For fuck sake. The IWW is not 'an anti-capitalist political organisation'. If it was its members would all be required to be anti-capitalists. It's a small union with a anti-capitalist politcal orientation. That's clearly not the same thing.

When th CNT had 1 million members was it "an anticapitalist politiical organisation"? Wwhen the ITGWU was born was it an "an anaticapitalist political organisation"? Either you are dancing round in pseudo-chicanery and arguing for such bodies to have become 'a workers party', or you are blinded by your own total lack of ambittion into believing that the current growth exhibited by the IWW in the UK, must, inalienably be from more politicos joining up? Which is it?

I mean do you actually believe it is impossible to grow a union which has anti-capitalist politics (as John. obviously seems to)?

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Tojiah
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Dec 13 2007 16:40

If one terminology is confusing, or misleading, why not just use another?
If you want to talk about an organization that is open to all comers, why not just call it an "open" organization, as opposed to an "exclusive" one, like a party, or whatever? That way you can side-step the issue of how many people belong to it.

Deezer
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Dec 13 2007 16:43

No Dust, my hairs fine.

Well Dust it is the article on Anarkismo that claims minorities cannot be purged. It only makes sense that this would be written by people who are afraid that they'll be regarded as outsiders and open to being squeezed out of the 'mass' organisation. That, and yes, if taken seriously it does actually commit you to defending the position of all sorts of wacky and dangerous tendencies who may look to insert themselves into 'mass' organisations to gain some credibility for their politics.

You can pretend it doesn't all ye want but thats just balls.

Political leadeship supplied from outside the proletariat is pretty straight forward Dust. A political tendency 'inserts' itself into a 'mass' movement, argues its political line as an organisation and seeks to lead the majority - it is pretty much the same as the Leninist idea of trade union consciousness and yeah in common with these types of organisation the aim is as much to recruit as it is to win.

The proles are capable of creating organisations that will just never be up to scratch while the political leadership must be supplied by our anarchist party. Thats pretty much the approach innit?

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Steven.
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Dec 13 2007 16:47

boul - no flaming.

Smash Rich Bastards wrote:
Uh, I think you missed the point. A "mass organization" (at least how its commonly used) is a social grouping who's membership is not restricted to specific political or religious ideology but open to anyone (aka, "the masses")

Even by dundee's own terms the IWW's not mass then, because it's restricted to people with a very specific ideology.

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Joseph Kay
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Dec 13 2007 16:50
John. wrote:
Even by dundee's own terms the IWW's not mass then, because it's restricted to people with a very specific ideology.

but dundee's saying it's not, despite the fact members (i assume) have to agree with the (anti-capitalist) pre-amble/constitution, which may be part of the confusion

Dundee_United wrote:
The IWW is not 'an anti-capitalist political organisation'. If it was its members would all be required to be anti-capitalists.
Deezer
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Dec 13 2007 16:52
John. wrote:
boul - no flaming.
Smash Rich Bastards wrote:
Uh, I think you missed the point. A "mass organization" (at least how its commonly used) is a social grouping who's membership is not restricted to specific political or religious ideology but open to anyone (aka, "the masses")

Even by dundee's own terms the IWW's not mass then, because it's restricted to people with a very specific ideology.

eh? Aw, okay, dickhead comment removed sad

Dundee_United
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Dec 13 2007 16:56
Quote:
If one terminology is confusing, or misleading, why not just use another?
If you want to talk about an organization that is open to all comers, why not just call it an "open" organization, as opposed to an "exclusive" one, like a party, or whatever? That way you can side-step the issue of how many people belong to it.

I'd be more than happy to but it's fairly clear that there is a political agenda at play here, and that this quibbling about well accepted terms here is really another chance to say "NIM NIM NIM" tongue tongue tongue

It is however, as you point out a completely irrelevant debate, largely aimed I think at stoking up antipathy and anarcho-piety for another bitching sesh about the wobblies.

So to reframe the debate and get rid of all this contempible tosh about what is or is not a mass organisation, how exactly do contributors consider one might go about building a radical member controlled anti-partnership trade union along industrial lines?

Dundee_United
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Dec 13 2007 17:00
Quote:
Even by dundee's own terms the IWW's not mass then, because it's restricted to people with a very specific ideology.

It has been pointed out to you before that this is not the case.

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Dec 13 2007 17:01
Dundee_United wrote:
So to reframe the debate and get rid of all this contempible tosh about what is or is not a mass organisation, how exactly do contributors consider one might go about building a radical member controlled anti-partnership trade union along industrial lines?

stop derailing the thread dundee.

if you told a worker who wanted to unionise his small workplace "the iww is a mass organisation" do you think s/he would think that the IWW was a large organisation? And that that would be grossly misleading? It's not an irrelevant point.

Smash Rich Bastards
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Dec 13 2007 17:03
Mike Harman wrote:
Quote:
A "mass organization" (at least how its commonly used) is a social grouping who's membership is not restricted to specific political or religious ideology but open to anyone engaged by the particular social issue being organized around...

Smash Rich Bastards - google disagrees. "Mass organisation", at least on the first three pages of google, refers almost to organisations manufactured by political groups of right and left: http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=mass+organisation

So what? I'm the sure the wingnuts that hang at the park outside my work have their own definition too. Doesn't really change how the term is normally used, or what JoeBlack or Dundee Utd were implying with it.

Dundee_United
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Dec 13 2007 17:06
Quote:
stop derailing the thread dundee.

if you told a worker who wanted to unionise his small workplace "the iww is a mass organisation" do you think s/he would think that the IWW was a large organisation? And that that would be grossly misleading? It's not an irrelevant point.

I wouldn't use the phrase at all. I'd just say we were a small non-TUC union that disagrees with partnerhsip working, is controlled by the membership and takes a socialist stance on political questions, and that we have nothing to do with any political parties. However that's a long way away from what is written on libcom, so that's clearly a straw man and another wind up. Have your "nim nim nim".

Carousel
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Dec 13 2007 17:07
Dundee_United wrote:
The IWW is not 'an anti-capitalist political organisation'. If it was its members would all be required to be anti-capitalists.

The IWW lets self confessed pro-capitalists in? That explains a lot actually. At least the pro-capitalists in the Proletarian Camp are reactionary by accident rather than by design.

Smash Rich Bastards
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Dec 13 2007 17:08
Boulcolonialboy wrote:
Smash Rich Bastards wrote:
Boulcolonialboy wrote:
What an utter load of shite. Edit - addressed to Dundee and JoeBlack

Using cack handed definitions does not in any meaningful way get around the fact that the IWW is not a mass organisation whether it wants to be or not. The piece from anarkismo is ridiculous and reduces a 'mass' movment to anything the platformists think it is useful to intervene as a political organisation in. Its formulation demands they protect other political minorities/tendencies in such movements - have any of the platformists even considered what this means?

There is a binary definition at work here that can only be of use to those who see the need at all times for the 'correct' political leadership of the proletariat - supplied from the outside. We have the organisation of the anarchist political party that intervenes in the 'mass' organisation be that 'mass' organisation a locally organised campaign of 90 people, or of a tenants group of a handful of self appointed busybodies.

There is no conception of the possibility of revolutionary self organisation which is perhaps telling of the period of low level struggle that we live in but it is also nonetheless an indication that 'platformism' is a current born of and informed, not by any grasp of the revolutionary potential of 'ordinary' working class people, but rather born of defeat, elitism and intellectual parallysis.

Uh, I think you missed the point. A "mass organization" (at least how its commonly used) is a social grouping who's membership is not restricted to specific political or religious ideology but open to anyone engaged by the particular social issue being organized around... tenants groups, unions, neighborhood associations, welfare rights groups, civil rights groups, etc, etc. Outside of the wacky world of Libcom I don't think it is considered to be especially "elitist" or at all controversal to call a grouping essentially what it is...

Duh, no I did not miss that we are talking about organisations that have 'open' membership I am pointing out that that does not necessarily make them 'mass' organisations. The elitist comment is a reference to approach and the stretching of definitions to suit that approach. So a 'mass' organisation is any half-assed or failed open membership group that wishes it was a mass organisation. Thats some useful definition going on there!

And in seeking to secure the platformist intervention in such 'mass' organisations we have:

Quote:
No matter how political they can become, they cannot be confused with a political group or with a tendency. And we need to keep it clear that we aim that our ideas influence the majority, but minorities cannot be purged and we cannot impose ideological definitions or labels on them.

Can you not see that sort of shit for what it is?

So, uh, I think you've missed the point.

So you're arguing against anarchists trying to influence social struggles and movements and in favor of bread & butter reformism holding dominance instead? Say what you will about "platformist elitism" but it sure beats anarcho-liberalism if you ask me...