OCL - Organisation Communiste Libertaire

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L’OCL, the way it works ?

Tuesday 8 May 2007, by OCLibertaire

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The Libertarian Communist Organization (OCL) is not a party, in that we do not consider ourselves as a vanguard that should lead struggles. The OCL is one of the many parts of those social movements that are fighting the capitalist and patriarchal order. It is a place where people who are more or less on the same wavelength can exchange, discuss and act together.

One of the basic guidelines is that the functioning of the organization should reflect its political project, and that the means determine the end. The OCL therefore tries to be a place for experimenting and developing different relations between individuals and groups, by implementing a radical, libertarian way of running our political group. We function on the basis of a few principles such as direct democracy (the rejection of delegating power), general assemblies and collectivism, self-management and decentralization. Everything is done on a militant, voluntary basis, with no permanent or salaried workers of any sort.

Membership in the OCL requires acceptation by the nearest local group, since each local group is autonomous. Membership dues are in proportion to income, they ensure the financial independence of the local group, regional coordination when there is one, and contribute to the national budget, which is managed by a person mandated for a two-year period.

An inter-regional bulletin (BIR), reserved for members of the OCL (and for sympathizers for a period not exceeding six months) serves as a liaison between the different groups and isolated individuals. It is published twice monthly and gives everyone equal access to information on the life of the organization. It is fed by groups and individuals, and is put together by a given group over a two-year period. For more rapid consultations and contacts, there is also a minitel server and an internet site.

Our periodical, Courant alternatif, functions on the basis of rotating commissions (CJ), so that there is a meeting in a different town or city each month. There is no secretariat, no national council, or other disguised form of a politburo, at the OCL. Before it goes to work on the journal, each CJ begins with a discussion of organizational decisions. Each group mandates one or more members to attend the CJ, and if they are unable to attend they express their positions in the BIR, or directly inform the group hosting the CJ. This enables us to achieve great homogeneity in our positions and practices, since there is an ongoing discussion in general assemblies that tends to avoid inequality and differences in levels between the groups or individuals.

When it is involved in specific action, the OCL functions by theme-oriented commissions, to take charge of a campaign, draw up a document, prepare a technical dossier, etc. The mandate is purely technical in this case, and the entire organization must give its political approval to the work done by the commissions. The decisions may be approved by a vote by a majority of two-thirds, if required, with each group having 3 votes and isolated individuals a single vote. In point of fact we rarely vote, and decisions are usually taken by mutual consent when debate on the subject has been exhausted. In addition to these regular meetings, there are two important gatherings for exchange, analysis and the development of our politics:

– The national meetings, held at least every two years. These are three-day periods when all available members work on the OCL’s positions and functioning (write papers, define guidelines for strategy and tactics, define and assign mandates for two years...) – the OCL summer camp, which has been in existence for over 20 years now, and is a highlight in our collective life, for two weeks each summer. It is attended by militant members of the OCL as well as anyone who is interested in discussing the combats of the past year, and other issues, but also in getting to know each other through sharing and collectively managing our everyday life.

Alongside this national structure, groups may publish their own material (local papers, fliers, posters, etc.) and freely define the focuses of their action and positions, as a local OCL group. Because of the regular meetings, direct debate between groups and the small number of militants, the different groups rarely take any contradictory positions in their local action, even when there is no prior discussion. Since there is no power for fractions or individuals to struggle for, to win control over a central organizational position (there isn’t any !), disagreements generally resolve themselves through discussion, and do not lead to scissions and exclusions as they usually do in other organizations. As a result, when people leave the OCL it is generally because they are frazzled by the militant life rather than because of any political disagreement.

This assembly-based direct democracy has its pitfalls. At the OCL, exchange is mostly verbal, through talking and debating. This avoids the power of professional writers and motion-makers, but sometimes makes it difficult for people to participate, since our oral culture, achieved over the years, cannot necessarily be acquired in two or three meetings. And again, we can function this way because about twenty towns and some sixty-odd militants are involved. This is one thing that prevents our development, since we do not make any attempt to recruit, and to gain “card-holders”. Integration in the organization is achieved through gradual assimilation on the basis of shared practices, and not on agreement on some high-sounding manifesto. This way of functioning also maintains some confusion as to who is actually a member of the OCL and who isn’t, since anyone can participate in our activities without paying any dues. One outcome is that some of the conventional organizations become paranoid, and accuse us of manipulation and infiltration when our positions are espoused in struggles, since we don’t have any official spokespeople.

Despite these limits, the OCL is an original organizational tool that we have adopted to act, take initiatives collectively and participate, to the full extent of our possibilities in the political and social reconstruction required by the present situation ; that is , the need to up-date the idea that the world must be changed, to contribute to the emergence of a revolutionary pole that will not get its feet caught in the snares that the social democrats leave trailing behind them.

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