Organizing A Public Meeting

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devoration1
Organizing A Public Meeting
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I'd really like to hear from ICC comrades and sympathizers who have experience attending or more importantly setting up and organizing Public Forums, such as those on the West Coast of the US in 2008-

https://en.internationalism.org/inter/149/west-coast-forums-2008

I am interested mainly in the practical logistical issues involved with arranging, organizing and putting on such a public meeting with a purpose. There are some basic issues:

-Recognizing a need for a meeting/forum, due to a local event/local news or for an organizational purpose (establishing new contacts, engaging in propaganda and education work, etc).

-Finding a suitable meeting space, renting it after picking a date and time, arranging directions and transportation options (subway/metro, taxi services, bus lines, etc).

-Creating fliers containing pertinent information about the meeting, its content, purpose, who should come, where and when it is happening, etc.

Some specific questions I have are:

1) How far in advance does the ICC usually book and advertise a public forum/meeting? Is it wise to establish a time and place months in advance, or can making arrangements too far in advance be a bad thing?

2) After getting a small group to help organize and put on such a meeting, what has been the experience of the ICC with non-'proletarian camp' organizations being invited? Specifically of the leftist variety (members of Marxist-Leninist, social democratic, unionist, etc groups)- are there any pointers on how to bring a diverse audience without inviting a leftist group to 'Entryism' their way into running and controlling your meeting through sheer numbers and 'agitprop' tactics?

3) If a specific group of workers is being discussed, what is the best way to tell them about the meeting? If they are a unionized sector, should the union local and its officers be kept in the dark, or can they be beneficial in getting the word out to the workers and increase the liklihood of their attendance?

4) What is a good way to run the meeting, if members of other organizations are present along with local workers? What I mean is, if the purpose of the meeting is to establish new links and contacts, educate, promote discussion and debate, possibly create a local Discussion Circle, how would the organizing group maintain a civil and coherent structure for the meeting?

I've read in other reports on ICC public meetings (such as the one linked above about the 2008 West Coast forums) that an introduction and brief overview presentation is given at the start of the meeting/forum, followed by an organized discussion (I suppose a 'meeting chairperson' keeps order, prevents certain groups of individuals from monopolizing speaking time, encourages those in attendane to participate, etc). Is this a good description of such Public Forums?

I know that's a lot of questions, any answers/help would be much appreciate.

Devrim
Organising meetings

The ICC organises many public meetings across the world. In some ways it is difficult to generalise. The particular circumstances confronting, say the Turkish and UK sections, mean that many of the practical details can be different.

It isn't something that I have that much experience within the ICC at least, as it hasn't been one of the tasks that I have been personal working on. Nevertheless, I can try to transmit abit of knowledge I have picked up from the comrades who have done the aactual work, and I have had some involvement myself, of course doing things like flypostering, booking rooms, chairing meetings, etc. I also had some small involvement recently in organising a Turkish worker from the TEKEL struggle to go and speak at (I think) 12 public mettings in Germany, but my role was more setting up the contacts with the people we organised it with, the FAU, and I wasn't really involved in the nitty gritty of organising the events.

"-Recognizing a need for a meeting/forum, due to a local event/local news or for an organizational purpose (establishing new contacts, engaging in propaganda and education work, etc)."

The ICC runs many different sorts of meetings, including forums where people can just turn up to discuss what they want with the ICC, full tours like the tour of the TEKEL worker to Germany, longer all day structured discussion meetings for invited contacts, etc. Different situations call for different sort of meetings.

At the moment we in the Turkish sections have two projects on the agenda, one a day long (six hour) contact meeting in Istanbul, and two a possible short tour (Istanbul and Ankara) by the Greek TPTG, but this is as yet very much only in the pipe line. The meetings obviously play different roles. The contact meeting allows us to deepen the discussions with people who are close to us, whereas the Greek meetings if we organise them are also intended to bring in new people who are interested in that topic.

"-Finding a suitable meeting space, renting it after picking a date and time, arranging directions and transportation options (subway/metro, taxi services, bus lines, etc)."

I know that the UK section has its London public meetings at Conway Hall on Red Lion square. In Turkey with have held meetings in different places from universities to a sort of Trotskyist educational insititue.

"-Creating fliers containing pertinent information about the meeting, its content, purpose, who should come, where and when it is happening, etc."

We have done things ranging from flyposters to advertising on the internet.

"1) How far in advance does the ICC usually book and advertise a public forum/meeting? Is it wise to establish a time and place months in advance, or can making arrangements too far in advance be a bad thing?"

I think it depends on the meetings. With the ICC's London forums I presume they book them well in advance. With the public meetings in Germany we organised them very much at the last minute only after the TEKEL worker had got his visa.

2) After getting a small group to help organize and put on such a meeting, what has been the experience of the ICC with non-'proletarian camp' organizations being invited? Specifically of the leftist variety (members of Marxist-Leninist, social democratic, unionist, etc groups)- are there any pointers on how to bring a diverse audience without inviting a leftist group to 'Entryism' their way into running and controlling your meeting through sheer numbers and 'agitprop' tactics?

Ha, ha. Leo got called a "menshevik" by some leftist at an ICC meeting in Turkey. In our experience we get a couple of leftists turning up, but not turning up enmass to try and dominate meetings.

"3) If a specific group of workers is being discussed, what is the best way to tell them about the meeting? If they are a unionized sector, should the union local and its officers be kept in the dark, or can they be beneficial in getting the word out to the workers and increase the liklihood of their attendance?"

We don't work with unions in that way, but neither do we try to 'hide' what we are doing from them.

"4) What is a good way to run the meeting, if members of other organizations are present along with local workers? What I mean is, if the purpose of the meeting is to establish new links and contacts, educate, promote discussion and debate, possibly create a local Discussion Circle, how would the organizing group maintain a civil and coherent structure for the meeting?"

As you mentioned in the next paragraph, you need a chair. It is essential. There was an ICC public meeting in Ankara, which was organised together with some anarchists a few years ago. I didn't go, but from what the comrades who did said, they spent about half an hour arguing about whether to have a chair or not.

I hope that that helps a little, or at least can start some discussion. I have a couple of questions for you. Are you thinking of organising a meeting, and which country are you in? I am sure if we have anybody in that country, or we have contacts there, they would be more than willing to help you if you are.

Devrim

 

 

 

devoration1
I appreciate the response, it

I appreciate the response, it has been helpful. At the end of September, there was a large multi-site, multi-state longshoremen strike (which began as a wildcat walk-out on one dock, gained union cover, extended to other sites, and other docks refused to unload based on solidarity).

Quote:

Longshore workers shut down the East Coast’s biggest port yesterday for the first time in decades.

Members of the Longshoremen (ILA) brought the mammoth New York-New Jersey port complex to a halt, honoring a picket line by ILA members from Philadelphia. The Philadelphia dockers had come to the much larger New York port to protest the Del Monte fruit company’s plans to go non-union in Philadelphia.

The wildcat strike was the first East Coast port work stoppage since 1977, members said.

In New York, about 3,600 ILA members stayed off the job Tuesday and on Wednesday morning defied a federal injunction ordering them back to work. Another 1,000 members in Baltimore shut their port Wednesday afternoon.

“People are using their conscience,” said John Blom, a member of ILA Local 333 in Baltimore. “If we don’t stick together, we’ll fall together.”

The ILA has not sanctioned the strike and local officials urged members back to work. Shippers are expected to seek damages.

http://www.labornotes.org/2010/09/wildcat-strikes-halt-east-coast-shipping

The above is a clip from a Labor Notes article on the strike. The same article was recently published in the IWW newspaper Industrial Worker as well:

http://www.iww.org/en/node/5257

I think it would be a great opportunity to hold a public meeting, both for militant workers and elements of the working class political milieu in the East Coast area, and also to try and meet with workers from the Baltimore docks who were involved with the strike.

However, with a number of major holidays coming up over the next month and a half (Thanksgiving, Veterans Day, Christmas, Hannakuh, New Years, etc) it probably wouldn't be a good idea to arrange anything until at least the new year, or even the spring.

Quote:

Ha, ha. Leo got called a "menshevik" by some leftist at an ICC meeting in Turkey. In our experience we get a couple of leftists turning up, but not turning up enmass to try and dominate meetings.

Hah, the left is humorous if nothing else. In the US, leftists are pretty well organized and accustomed to amalgamating at eachothers meetings (the US Social Forum being a great example of how they like to all jump in the soup together). Though there are a couple of groups that are within the Leftist camp in the US that may have searching or 'healthier' elements within them- such as Solidarity (which wields some shop floor influence among certain sectors) and SPUSA (has at least a couple minorities of councilist, Luxemburgist and anarcho-syndicalist leaning members).

Solidarity:

http://www.solidarity-us.org/

Socialist Party USA:

http://www.sp-usa.org/

Though I'm not sure how 'wide a net' should be cast for a meeting like that, if such a meeting were to be organized.

Devrim
You should get in touch with

You should get in touch with our US section. It is very small, but we recently held a couple of meetings on the East coast:

"East Coast: Lessons from the class struggle

Moving over to the East Coast, our forum in Philadelphia was on the topic, “Lessons of the Tekel workers’ struggle in Turkey: How to struggle from below?” Right from the start the discussion took an historical and global approach when one of the audience members, who was in the process of reading Rosa Luxemburg’s “Mass Strike” for a reading group, started with a question on 1905, so we could deepen on the real meaning of the soviet form of organization, the mass strike (as opposed to the planned general strike), and the general assemblies, which have been the shape which every radical strike movement has tended to take ever since.

We also discussed more about the strikes in Tekel as examples of the present strike wave which brings the question of ‘solidarity’ to the center of struggles much more drastically than in the past: not only solidarity with workers of other sectors, but also between different generations, as shown by the student movements in France who invited pensioners and unemployed to their general assemblies, the NYC and Toronto Transit strikes who fought also for decent contracts for the next generations and were greeted by the public. In the Tekel strike, we saw new expressions of solidarity such as German workers who went to Turkey and Tekel workers who made a tour through Germany, Italy and even to Greece, which was a real blow to the ‘nationalists’ who have tried their utmost to separate Greek and Turkish workers ever since the beginning of the 20th century. In Turkey itself Turkish and Kurdish workers refused to be separated and overcame heavy cultural borders during the Tekel strike movement.

Another topic was the situation of the working class in the US and if it is weaker here than elsewhere. We said that maybe the ruling class was stronger and able to use the unions, the mass media and the rule of law in a very sophisticated way to quell class anger. This inevitably strengthens the influence and the ‘confidence’ in the state as an ‘impartial’ body above class conflicts and ultimately weakens the class identity of the workers.

There was a lively discussion on the union question and the difference between unions in the 19th and the 20/21th centuries. In the 19th century, workers saw the unions as their own organizations and sacrificed for them willingly and enthusiastically, whereas now unions are often hated because dues are paid involuntarily in many workplaces and workers, feeling that they derive no real benefit from the unions and see the dues as a kind of tax. Ever since the beginning of the decadent period of capitalism around the turn of the 20th century unions went gradually over to the other camp, supported the nationalist reformist framework, ended up mobilizing the workers for the First World War and ever since have belonged to the class enemy. The audience admitted that the unions certainly have a role in leading workers to defeat, but still wondered about the situation of workers in the US Southeast, where unions are illegal and workers are exploited very harshly. The question was asked whether the unions, despite their conservative and counter-revolutionary nature, could help those workers as an intermediate step before self-organization. Comrades responded that generally you have unions where the ruling class needs them and that better conditions are not the result of having a union but rather that both the existence of a union and better conditions are results of workers’ combativity in a given sector. The example of the recent wildcat strikes in the automobile industry in China was given as ample evidence that workers don’t need a union in place to struggle. In this country the unions are explicitly part of the state and workers were still able to struggle and win on their own.

This led to a discussion of how workers can organize outside the unions and the question of the IWW. We detailed also more about the IWW in the past and today: being an expression of radical class activity through its mass activities in the past and today being torn between 2 tendencies: one that seems to want the IWW to act as a union, represent workers in negotiations, sign contracts, etc., and another that wants the IWW to act more as a struggle committee aimed at stimulating solidarity in the class. All the audience agreed that this debate has to be deepened more in future discussions, and that the issue of the IWW will come up more and more both among revolutionaries and potentially among the working class at large as it looks for historical alternatives to the traditional union-controlled struggle.

In New York where the presentation was given on the latest phase of the crisis, the discussion tended to move very quickly toward the struggle against austerity. The first comments on the crisis asked: ‘Does it have to get worse for workers to react?’ as the leftists say, and all agreed that the answer is NO -- misery is not a good condition, that’s why we have to fight back, but why is the working class’ level of struggle not corresponding to the level of the attacks? The discussion advanced various reflections: first we have to look at the struggle from an international perspective; second, we have to take in account that there is a certain fear compared to the 1970s and 80s, when wildcat strikes were a common phenomenon and a much smaller rate of structural unemployment meant that workers risked much less by engaging in struggle, as they could quickly find other work if victimized by employers; third, the setback after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc is still present

Another discussion was about the loss of class solidarity. Also this question was deepened from different angles. Globally strikes now increasingly start for reasons of solidarity: the New York transit strike for a decent contract for future workers, the Tekel strike in Turkey, and solidarity strikes in Spain in support of immigrant workers. Also, historically, there was a difference in mood between the period around 1968 and since class struggle 2003. Back then the feeling was that revolution was possible, but maybe not necessary, and now that it is more obviously necessary, but might not be possible. There is a fear to overcome and a class identity to regain and his passes necessarily through to expression of solidarity, a capacity only the proletariat can develop.

Another discussion was on the role of leftists, who approach the working class struggle in order to derail it to hopelessly ‘reformist’ perspectives that lead ultimately to defeat. Also discussed was the upsurge of Capital reading groups and discussion circles, in many places in the US, which are part of an international phenomenon and a sign of revival of the reflection on how to overcome capitalism"

https://en.internationalism.org/inter/156/public-forums

I think we have a few members in New York, and some sympathisers in other places along the East coast including one in Philidelphia, which is where this strike took place. He organised the meeting it talks about above, and I think he would be only too happy to discuss it with you, and maybe we could put it on.

Devrim

 

 

 

KT
Meetings

A few thoughts (or maybe just statements of the 'bleedin obvious):

a) Decide what you want out of the meeting: “making new contacts”, ‘spreading the word’, even learning something: these seem worthwhile objectives to me.

b) Prepare what you want to say. Although it’s a ‘public’ or ‘open’ meeting, you’ve called it and you and any comrades you're working with should run it in a general sort of way. A two-person chair would be good in this regard.

c) Make a short presentation to kick off the discussion: Say why you’ve called it and inform the meeting of how the time will pan-out (see below).  If it’s ‘Lessons of the Longshoremens’ Strike’, for example, state briefly what happened; put it into some sort of context – ie as part of a worldwide movement amongst workers to oppose austerity – draw out what you see as the main strengths and weaknesses of the movement (ie positive, the active solidarity; negative, confined to one sector, or whatever) then do what it says on the tin – draw out the lessons as you see them in order to help arm the next struggle.

d) Then open up the meeting to contributions and debate. If no-one has anything to say, talk some more yourself! As Devrim has indicated, discussion can range over a wide range of current and historical issues. You can let it flow; you can from time to time make comments on the discussion, to agree, disagree, to stimulate further discussion: it’s not a rigid thing.

e) At the end, maybe attempt to make a conclusion to the discussion, at least highlighting the major areas tackled or points raised. Did the meeting agree with what you opened with? Did it disagree? What are the issues for future discussion? ICC public meetings in GB I’ve attended tend to run on these lines: Opening Presentation: 20-30 minutes. Discussion: 2 or so hours. Summary: 5-10 minutes. As Devrim also says, there are different kinds of meetings for different occasions, but from what you’ve so far written, this formula might work for you.

(f) Get someone (or a couple of people, it’s a demanding task) to take notes – preferably direct on to a laptop. Not verbatim, just the main lines of the discussions, points made. This will help you to make a report of the meeting (on the net or wherever) for those who weren’t there.

(g) Have a piece of paper around, or circulate one, asking if anyone is interested in leaving contact details in order to keep in touch, maybe to arrange future meetings.

(h) Allow 20 or so minutes after the meeting has ended, and before you have to quit the room, for people to chat to each other or to you: it is amazing how many folk who keep schtum throughout the entire proceedings suddenly come alive when it’s ‘officially’ ended!

(i) Ask for contributions towards the cost of the room and the fliers.

(j) I would advertise this meeting, and book a suitable room, at least 4 weeks in advance because this is a one-off thing and people won’t be looking for it. If you want to reach Longshoremen, you’ll have to distribute fliers at the port gates – maybe two or three days in advance – or at places where the workers gather outside the port.

(k) If you have any leaflets, papers, or publications of organisations with whom you agree, you could display them on a table in the room and encourage people to buy or take free leaflets.

(l) If the ICCNY folk can work with you, that would be great, but as D says, they are very pressed. Good luck!

 

Devrim
note writing

KT wrote:
(f) Get someone (or a couple of people, it’s a demanding task) to take notes – preferably direct on to a laptop. Not verbatim, just the main lines of the discussions, points made. This will help you to make a report of the meeting (on the net or wherever) for those who weren’t there.

In general I think the points were good advice. I am a bit uncertain about this one though. It makes some people feel quite uncomfortable. It depends on the situation.

Devrim