What is a "mass organisation"?

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Dec 13 2007 17:09

What is a "mass organization"?

The Catholic Church

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Dec 13 2007 17:09

I think in historical terms the 'Platformists' are mistaken about the meaning of the word. From what I understand from what they wrote they are using 'mass' organisation as others use 'unitary' organisation. The fact that in the past it was quite common to use the term 'mass party' suggests that their usage is not the historical one. Whatever, it is a necessary concept, and if that is the word that they want to use, it is up to them. It may even have been the word used historical in some languages. In English though I thing it is confusing as people presume it suggests mass.

I don't think that by whatever definition you use the IWW is a mass, or unitary organisation. I presume that one has to agree with the preamble to join. That makes it a political organisation.

Devrim

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Dec 13 2007 17:11
Devrim wrote:
I don't think that by whatever definition you use the IWW is a mass, or unitary organisation. I presume that one has to agree with the preamble to join. That makes it a political organisation.

I'd agree with that. (sorry Dundee)

Dust
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Dec 13 2007 17:14
boul wrote:
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.

No, in the context i read it a completely different way. it is saying that although we try and convince the majority of our ideas we won't argue for the expulsion of those who disagree. It lacks a clause, concerning fascists, but seeing it is an article written by a comrade whose first language isn't english, who is constantly extermely busy and prolific and the article wasn't submitted to any editorial process (that i know of) i would assume that it was a either an accidental ommision or thought that considering who the article was directed at, he didn't need to add that qualifier.

It is interesting how our readings differ though. While the platformists "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." can imagine anarchists leading a mass movement you seem to perceive ourselves as always being outsiders, tiny and marginal.

boul wrote:
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.

Well no. I have a train to catch but

fdca wrote:
On the other hand, history has also shown that the revolution will not be realized unless it is put into action by the proletarian masses themselves who, as proletarians, discover their revolutionary potential through the practices of the mass organizations and who decide to set in motion revolutionary practices.

From the introduction to the fdca article i linked to would be difficult to fit into the workers only being able to achieve "trade union conciousness". actually i would be interested in seeing an article that we wrote that implied anything like that.

Not sure where the recruit thing is coming from. It's not mentioned in the article or on the thread and has really no context in the discussion. Apart from that you know its bollox.

Dust
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Dec 13 2007 17:17
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In normal everyday use, the term would quite clearly mean a large organisation. And to be honest, i reckon if it wasn't against us, the wsm people would agree with our position on this.

yeah and what does communism, a front, anarchism etc mean in ordinary everyday use. Political language differers from normal language, it happens.

Smash Rich Bastards
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Dec 13 2007 17:19
Jack wrote:
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Doesn't really change how the term is normally used

In normal everyday use, the term would quite clearly mean a large organisation. And to be honest, i reckon if it wasn't against us, the wsm people would agree with our position on this.

I don't know how much "everyday use" the term gets. I only have ever heard it thrown around by activists and politicos, and as far as I can remember its always meant open social organizations. I know in Latin American countries, and also French speaking regions I believe, the term "popular organizations" is more commonly used (which are not always "popular" in the regular sense of the word... just that they are open to the populous).

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Dec 13 2007 17:21
Smash Rich Bastards wrote:
I don't know how much "everyday use" the term gets. I only have ever heard it thrown around by activists and politicos, and as far as I can remember its always meant open social organizations.

In which case what does 'mass party' mean?

Devrim

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Dec 13 2007 17:23
Devrim wrote:
Smash Rich Bastards wrote:
I don't know how much "everyday use" the term gets. I only have ever heard it thrown around by activists and politicos, and as far as I can remember its always meant open social organizations.

In which case what does 'mass party' mean?

I dunno, wishful thinking on the part of Leninists that loads of people wanna join their shitty groups?

Mike Harman
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Dec 13 2007 17:49
Dundee_United wrote:

For fuck sake. The IWW is not 'an anti-capitalist political organisation'. It's a small union with a anti-capitalist politcal orientation. That's clearly not the same thing.

clearly. confused

Mike Harman
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Dec 13 2007 17:53
Smash Rich Bastards wrote:
Mike Harman wrote:
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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.

Yeah it's normally used as in "mass party" or the big youth organisations which were common in the first part of the century (and normally attached to parties), massive unions as well.

As was said a few posts down, and you appear to have agreed with, the common term for organisations which are based on material interests and not at all politcs is "unitary" - I'm reading a pamphlet about dockers' struggles in Spain where they formed one and called it such (and the docker involved who wrote it up was careful to point out that it was clearly distinct from the unions, including the CNT).

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Dec 13 2007 18:05
revol68 wrote:
yes Dundee is not a retard he is a man who lives in Glasgow and suffers from mental retardation.

are you trying to say dundee has a mental disability? that's quite an accusation, true or otherwise, to be throwing around a public forum.

ftony
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Dec 13 2007 18:07
Dust wrote:
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In normal everyday use, the term would quite clearly mean a large organisation. And to be honest, i reckon if it wasn't against us, the wsm people would agree with our position on this.

yeah and what does communism, a front, anarchism etc mean in ordinary everyday use. Political language differers from normal language, it happens.

agree with this. however i'd still say that it is important to be careful when using political versions of words to people who may not knkow about it. e.g. 'recuperation' is something i've stumbled upon before. it sounds like people are talking about recovering from an illness.

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Dec 13 2007 18:15
revol68 wrote:
yes Dundee is not a retard he is a man who lives in Glasgow and suffers from mental retardation.
ftony wrote:
are you trying to say dundee has a mental disability? that's quite an accusation

Hardly. Mental disability is not a crime. It's a source of entertainment.

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Dec 13 2007 18:22
ftony wrote:
agree with this. however i'd still say that it is important to be careful when using political versions of words to people who may not knkow about it. e.g. 'recuperation' is something i've stumbled upon before. it sounds like people are talking about recovering from an illness.

come on ftony stop sitting on the fence - do you think the IWW is a "mass organisation"? on the other thread you implied you didn't, and that only 2 people ever called the IWW that.

revol - no flaming

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Dec 13 2007 18:24

I really don't understand the various tantrums being thrown on this thread by people who really are old enough to know better. At worst some of us are using a term in a way you don't like, that would hardly be the end of the world. 'Mass organization' is not in any case a everyday term of conversation outside of far left circles so quite what the man on the street might think is meant by its use on a political board is not relevant. I agree with SRB that 'popular organization' might be slightly more self-explanatory in English, I actually don't think unitary is though - it expresses a particular form of mass organization rather than mass organization in general. Mass Party is not really a standard part of anarchist vocablury - the term implies certain conclusions that anarchists would take issue with.

I think my first post clearly illustrated what I meant by mass organisation through the specific examples given. To be political rather than childish in relation to the OP I'd have said the question in relation to the IWW is whether or not the preamble makes it something other than a mass organization. That seems to depend on how essential IWW members see the preamble as a requirement for membership - Dundee and quite a few others don't. So in that context them referring to the IWW as a mass organization if fair enough.

Mostly though this thread is just another illustration of the miniscule point of trying to seriously discuss stuff on libcom.

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Dec 13 2007 18:37
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seriously discuss stuff on libcom.

I’ll discuss something seriously with you. What would you like to discuss?

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Dec 13 2007 18:51
JoeBlack2 wrote:
'Mass organization' is not in any case a everyday term of conversation outside of far left circles so quite what the man on the street might think is meant by its use on a political board is not relevant.

It is if you're trying to recruit "the man in the street." Unless you don't want to worry his pretty little head about what you think the organisation you want to recruit him to actually is.

It's fairly clear that the IWW aims to become a mass organisation (One Big Union, and all that). Some members see ditching or downplaying the preamble as a means to that end -- that's an internal debate for the IWW. However, the claim to be a mass organisation on the basis that it has the potential to become one strikes me as frankly bizarre, when (according to the 2006 return filed with the Certification Office at least), there are/were 163 members in the BIROC.

Anyway, I look forward to reading the 2007 return to find out how much the BIROC has grown.

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Dec 13 2007 18:59
the button wrote:
JoeBlack2 wrote:
'Mass organization' is not in any case a everyday term of conversation outside of far left circles so quite what the man on the street might think is meant by its use on a political board is not relevant.

It is if you're trying to recruit "the man in the street." Unless you don't want to worry his pretty little head about what you think the organisation you want to recruit him to actually is.

Exactly. And I was first told the IWW was a "mass organisation" not on a "political board" but by its national secretary following a public meeting about organising migrant workers.

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Dec 13 2007 19:05

Not really at all.

If I was trying to recruit the 'man on the street' to a mass organization I'd avoid the term altogether. Its not particularly self-explanatory - in fact even far left politicos don't agree on its meaning. I'd simply say it was an organization open to anyone who wanted to fight X (to give a concrete example X was the Water Tax during that campaign).

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Dec 13 2007 19:09
JoeBlack2 wrote:
Not really at all.

If I was trying to recruit the 'man on the street' to a mass organization I'd avoid the term altogether. Its not particularly self-explanatory - in fact even far left politicos don't agree on its meaning. I'd simply say it was an organization open to anyone who wanted to fight X (to give a concrete example X was the Water Tax during that campaign).

right, so even though you basically agreeing with our sentiment, you're arguing against us, using insults, and slagging off the entire discussion forum, because you don't like some of us. Brilliant. You truly are a shining example for people who want serious discussion.

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Dec 13 2007 19:36
JoeBlack2 wrote:
Its not particularly self-explanatory

It's certainly isn't the way that some use it.

If I'd never heard the term before, I reckon my thinking might be something along the lines of: -

Quote:
mass (adjective): suggestive of weight, bulk or size (cf massive)
organisation (noun): a group of individuals set up with a certain aim or purpose

So.... "mass organisation" = "a large group of individuals, set up with a certain aim or purpose."

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Dec 13 2007 19:37

Whats with this 'don't like some of us' rhetoric - I gave up replying to one one person I actually don't like months ago. I've no particular feelings in that regard towards the rest of you, most of whom I've never even met.

And while its good you have come around to my point of view on this please don't pretend this was your motivation at the start of this thread. Its rather transparent this was yet another one of your 'belittle Dundee' posts.

Finally I wasn't slagging off the forum, just observing that it was pretty useless for serious discussion. On the other hand its very good at being a gang of mates slagging each other off as is proven by its narrow but dedicated fan base - myself included. Its like infoshop in the good ole days before Chuck0 moderated it to death - repulsive but also fascinating and obviously addictive. Its quite clear that a number of people who disagree with the politics of the site still get a lot of entertainment from it.

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Dec 13 2007 19:42
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an organization open to anyone who wanted to fight X

“Organizations open to anyone who wanted to fight X” are the same, thankfully though inevitably, marginalised left milieu. They struggle to get massively popular things done because of internal conflicting objectives. That, and their values being generally away with the fairies compared to the “rest” of the working class. For an organisation to thrive it won’t be tainted by myths of the masses’ values being set by those of the elite. Indeed, as far as anyone can see, the opposite prevails.

The working class’ authentic party expresses a programme of action, not an ideological peccadillo. The question confronting revolutionaries is what tasks should be undertaken instead of “the fight”, because a turning-point within an up-turn in struggle is not going to materialise.

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Dec 13 2007 20:05
Mike Harman wrote:
Well the IWW is clearly a political group, pretending it's a mass organisation doesn't stop this from being the case.

Got any evidence, Catch? You do this a lot it feels like - "The IWW is..." when you're not and have not been a member and as far as I know are only familiar with some branches in the UK.
Some IWW branches have some really serious problems. As a whole the IWW has a lot of problems to work out. That said, some branches are doing a lot better and across the union there's a lot of progress that's happened. In my branch we had a gather recently of 80-100 people of a variety of perspectives (not huge, I admit), and we're actively bringing in workers in four campaigns (slowly, in fits and starts and with some real mistakes sometimes and it's really hard and we might ultimately fail) based on collective action around their self interest at the point of production. That's what I think of as a "mass organization" doing, as opposed to a political group.

But no, we're not massive. No one claims we are. We're really small.

John. wrote:
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?

Yes and yes. But I would never say that to a worker who wanted to unionize (and I don't think anyone would, and if they did they would probably fail to move that worker). No one in this discussion has told a worker who wants to organize "join the IWW, we're a mass organization" or "join the IWW we're massive." The discussion is about the kind of organization the IWW, how some of us in the union think about the union. This is a discussion between politicos some of who are in the IWW and some who are not. Most politicos in the IWW (the ones who are effective at building the IWW) don't talk in exactly the same way or about the same topics when doing union work vs talking with other politicos.

Devrim wrote:
I presume that one has to agree with the preamble to join.
John. wrote:
the IWW's (...) restricted to people with a very specific ideology.

No. It isn't. That's simply false. That may cause problems sometimes, it may be up for debate about whether or not what we're doing (or at least some of us in some IWW branches are doing anyway) is a good idea, but those are different debates. As for the preamble, you don't have to agree. You have to agree to be a member in an organization who believes in that stuff. We don't have beliefs tests. This will probably lead people to respond with the "oh you're letting in non-revolutionary workers, the organization is going to do this or that bad thing and end up in this or that bad place." I'm up for discussing why that's false if folk want but let's do so in another thread.

JoeBlack2 wrote:
Ithis thread is just another illustration of the miniscule point of trying to seriously discuss stuff on libcom.

Agreed. Sadly.

Carousel
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Dec 13 2007 20:10
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Agreed. Sadly.

Ahhh another one. Bless. I'll discuss something seriously. What's in question?

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We're really small.

It's all your own fault.

Mike Harman
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Dec 13 2007 21:14
Nate wrote:
Mike Harman wrote:
Well the IWW is clearly a political group, pretending it's a mass organisation doesn't stop this from being the case.

Got any evidence, Catch?

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.

We find that the centering of the management of industries into fewer and fewer hands makes the trade unions unable to cope with the ever growing power of the employing class. The trade unions foster a state of affairs which allows one set of workers to be pitted against another set of workers in the same industry, thereby helping defeat one another in wage wars. Moreover, the trade unions aid the employing class to mislead the workers into the belief that the working class have interests in common with their employers.

These conditions can be changed and the interest of the working class upheld only by an organization formed in such a way that all its members in any one industry, or in all industries if necessary, cease work whenever a strike or lockout is on in any department thereof, thus making an injury to one an injury to all.

Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day's wage for a fair day's work," we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, "Abolition of the wage system."

It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for everyday struggle with capitalists, but also to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.

Nate wrote:
You do this a lot it feels like - "The IWW is..." when you're not and have not been a member and as far as I know are only familiar with some branches in the UK.

OK next time I see you criticising the Republican party (or any organisation you've not been a member of) I'll quote this at you. That's not an argument, it's a very, very poor ad hominem.

Nate wrote:
In my branch we had a gather recently of 80-100 people of a variety of perspectives (not huge, I admit), and we're actively bringing in workers in four campaigns (slowly, in fits and starts and with some real mistakes sometimes and it's really hard and we might ultimately fail) based on collective action around their self interest at the point of production. That's what I think of as a "mass organization" doing, as opposed to a political group.

All the various communist and social democratic parties did this up until the '70s in most cases, they were also political organisations (and some were "massive").

Nate wrote:
As for the preamble, you don't have to agree. You have to agree to be a member in an organization who believes in that stuff.

Sorry this makes no sense to me at all, seriously. Please explain. The organisation does not have beliefs, the members do. Unless the organisation only reflects the beliefs of a small core of politicos which I'm sure you'd be very much against, then there seems to be a pretty fundamental contradiction here.

Quote:
"oh you're letting in non-revolutionary workers, the organization is going to do this or that bad thing and end up in this or that bad place." I'm up for discussing why that's false if folk want but let's do so in another thread.

OK good. You want to start one?

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Dec 13 2007 22:24

Catch, I don't have time right now but I am genuinely interested in that discussion. And I'd like to sort out this disagreement in this thread first.

As for ad hominem, I wasn't intending that as an attack. I just don't see how you're in a position to know the things you seem to claim to know about the IWW - and the IWW as a whole - and you say things about us that just don't fit with what I think the IWW is like. And I'm pretty familiar with the IWW, at least in the US. I know very little about the IWW in the UK. Also, please do call me out if I do what I say you're doing. I don't think it's super likely as I generally don't talk much about other organizations. I don't know much about them and in many cases don't care.

For now, this whole thing feels to me like a fight over words. To me, a political organization is a group that comes together based on pre-existing shared political ideology, tries to develop that ideology, and maybe to get others who hold it to join or to get others to convert to that ideology. Like a propaganda group. Maybe that's not a well-worked out definition, I dunno. I haven't thought about it a lot, it's not like I have this razor honed theory of what a political organization is. As for mass organization, here's what I wrote in the thread that this one split off of -

Nate wrote:
here's what I think about the mass organization stuff. Mass organization is not "big organization." It's an organization that's open to people of various political perspectives that aims to exert power, and aims to grow. At one time I helped build a tenant organization/committees in an apartment building in Chicago that the landlord was converting to condominiums illegally, he was trying to evict people and making the building a crap place to live (loud construction at odd hours, etc). The tenant organization/committee was connected to a tiny neighborhood group, and via that had some ties to fledgling tenant organizaitons/committees in a handful of other buildings. It never fully gelled, but we did beat that one landlord via a rent strike and other stuff. There were _tops_ fifty people involved in that. The active members were more like 10-20. I would call that "a mass organization." I do so not because I'm trying to inflate the numbers or seem all bad ass or whatever. It's just how I use the term "mass organization." As far as I can tell, that's how Dundee uses the term. If that's an idiosyncratic use, fine. If that idiosyncratic use is confusing, then sorry.

Does that make sense?

I also wrote in that thread that when this kind of thing comes up I often read the posts as implying that IWW member are misrepresenting the IWW - that wobblies are either lying or are deluded in some way about the nature of the IWW. (It's certainly possible that some of us are confused, but ....) If that's really not the implication intended, then I apologize for getting irritable, but I don't think it's a totally unreasonable on my part to read that in people's posts about this stuff. (I mean shit, people could just say " what do you mean by that term? cuz what I mean by that term is this, and I don't think the IWW fits this meaning of the term".)

jack white
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Dec 14 2007 01:21
Boulcolonialboy wrote:
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?

So we don't believe that the working class can create decent organisations? And we see ourselves as a leadership organisation in the same way that the Trots do?

Great stuff Boul, well done.

Dust
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Dec 14 2007 02:11

Wow, you usually scatter those five stock lines randomly across any thread that involves WSM.
Now that you've managed to fit them all into one post you better watch out that you don't suffer from burn out. You can only do so much in one week.

Oh and you forgot HOPI,

Deezer
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Dec 14 2007 07:47
Dust wrote:
It is interesting how our readings differ though. While the platformists "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." can imagine anarchists leading a mass movement you seem to perceive ourselves as always being outsiders, tiny and marginal.

Nah, its not that interesting that our 'readings' differ, its unsurprising that you defend an article by a fellow Platformist on the basis of what it doesn't actually say as opposed to seeing problems with what it does actually say.

But anyways no I, not being a Platformist, do not "perceive ourselves as always being outsiders, tiny and marginal", I may be starting to perceive Platformism that way though. I do think that the approach to 'mass' organisations is one that prioritises the Platformist political organisation and its leadership of a mass movement over the real possibility that a mass revolutionary organisation can be both mass and libertarian communist without the need for false division between the 'mass' who need led and the political organisation doing the leading.

And no SRB, no anarchist liberalism but unfortunately the need to point out that the class struggle is actually based on our bread and butter concerns and not the desire for political activists to lead every gathering of a few people with summat to moan about whether or not they are organising on what some people have referred to in the past as "the terrain of class struggle".