The right to intervene in private membership organizations

part of Post-ISO Reflections: Essays and proposals on democracy and organization

We are all human beings enduring the horrors of capitalism.  Therefore we are all affected by the state of the Left.  Telling people that they can simply go join another group or start another group is not enough.  While it might be too radical to give every single “outsider” a formal vote, we must reject the idea that people are out of place to comment on an organization they are not members of.

Dismissing  “outsiders” is an essentially capitalist argument.  Many companies argue for the right to hide their practices from the public, or hide their budgets from their employees and unions.  Leftists are often clobbered with the label of “outside agitator” – but we live in a world where conditions are interconnected, so truly there is no such thing as an outsider.

The reputation of every single Leftist is affected by the behavior of every single Leftist, and also by every Leftist organization.  When socialist groups appear to be undemocratic cults, it discredits us, even those of us who are not affiliated.

In fact, many people who intervene in private membership organizations are ex-members who were driven out of the organization for having alternative views.  They may not have been formally expelled, but many organizations make the political environment so uncomfortable for disagreement that only a masochist would stay.  Therefore, what is actually going on is not outside commentary, but essentially an internal opposition artificially forced into the form of an outside presence.  (Trotskyism has a long history of “external factions” if you read History of American Trotskyism).

As the Internet proliferates, “internal” discussion becomes impossible.  The boundaries between groups, and between the “inside” and “outside” of them, weakens.  Those who embrace this reality will come out ahead as progressive, and those who wage a futile struggle against the inevitable will be disadvantaged by a reputation of obsolescence and authoritarianism – and it will be deserved.

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