Lately there has been some obscurity around what ODS actually stands for and what it’s internal principles or tenets are as a movement. This obscurity is to blame, in part, by aggressive attempts at ‘pushing the party line’ or usage of entryist tactics at General Assemblies by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). These attempts have sewn a paranoia in the camp. It seems, as a result, that there is an atmosphere of distrust and distaste for anything left-wing that has been previously trying to achieve progressive change. To take a critical look at this obscurity, we have to refer back to the original press release which presumably still stands as the cornerstone of the movement’s principles.
No where in this press release does it say “individuals only”, “ONLY come as an individual”, “organisations aren’t allowed”, or “ODS will never work with or co-operate with other organisations, parties, or trade unions.” The variations of these claims goes on.
It merely states that ODS is a non-partisan movement in itself: “This is a diverse people’s initiative unaffiliated with any political parties” and “We invite any person to join us, but we ask that they leave their political party behind.”
Although the wording may be obscuring, the latter statement translates to me as “Do not bring an official political party line into ODS decision making, but rather give your own input and opinion.” Obviously a person is not going to literally “leave their political party behind.” They are still a member of it and entitled to be. Furthermore they are perfectly entitled to be a member of ‘X’ while working with and being an integral part of ODS. To be a truly “diverse people’s initiative”, people from all walks and backgrounds have to be included and welcomed. Indeed, to create a revolution, we should “ever call into action on our side the entire sum of all the forces and factors of social and political discontent”, to quote James Connolly.
It is important for us all to reflect on the original mandate, and to be open to change too. Nothing should be held as holy ritual — including the consensus decision making process, which in my opinion at this point in time is regressive. I would favour 90/10 weighted majority voting as a compromise. I agree with Andrew Flood when he speaks of people who blocked decisions (to march/work with Dublin Council of Trade Unions) as using a veto, as “this group had pre determined that they were going to block these proposals and had no interest in seeking compromise.” It’s important to clear up that I don’t think this ‘group’ had pre-organised themselves as ‘blockers’, but rather themselves pre-decided that no matter what, the DCTU initiative would be blocked due to ideological reasons, paranoia/hijackphobia, lack of knowledge on the complexity of the issue and/or due to an obscurity of what the principles of ODS actually are. Either way, as a movement we should “have the ability to change or cease as circumstances dictate and self-knowledge to initiate when change is required.”
People should have faith in the good intentions of their comrades. I think that the blocking of the DCTU proposal was a backward step. A lot of people at ODS did want this proposal to pass, and that is shown by this current show of solidarity with the DCTU march by a group of people who participate in ODS. It is simply incorrect to claim that had the proposal passed, it would have violated the principles of ODS, and so it leads me to making this post. It’s important now, 6 weeks on, to take a step back from the heat of the moment and to reflect on what we are doing and where we are going. We should ask some questions of ourselves and of the movement: as something that began as progressive, are we now continuing in a progressive direction?
Food for thought.
Jimmy Billings is a member of the #OccupyDameStreet camp and is writing in a personal capacity.