Hegemony: Case Study of Local Power

Posted on February 24, 2010 by

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This post addresses efforts recently made by socialists in Indianapolis in an effort to promote their form of democratic inclusion and freedom of expression. The purpose of this retelling is to express important points concerning the way socialists function throughout the United States.

Socialists in Indiana meet under the heading of the Indiana Socialist Fellowship. The fellowship consists of anyone and everyone interested in the promotion of socialist views within Indiana. Sounds noble doesn’t it?

In practical terms, the fellowship functions as joint business meetings for both the Indianapolis affiliate of SP-USA and the Indiana contingent of DSA. Both groups are so small that neither really has enough people to function separately. The fellowship is customarily attended by 9-12 individuals sitting around a kitchen table; approximately one-third are SP-USA members, one-third are DSA members, and one-third have no affiliation. These attendees include a few retirees, a few union workers, and an eclectic assortment of other interested parties.

The fellowship sends out a monthly newsletter – the Central Indiana Socialist – to update SP-USA and DSA Indiana members on what topics were discussed at their last joint business meeting. And, the newsletter often includes proclamations denouncing various political actions. The SP-USA’s name is included in the subheading of this obscure newsletter that potentially reaches 75 people sprinkled sparsely across Indiana. And again, one-third of these recipients are DSA members, one-third claim association with SP-USA, and one-third are unaffiliated persons with socialist tendencies.

What has the fellowship accomplished over the past several years of its existence? Unfortunately – Nothing! The meetings usually center around conversations of what the fellowship should do at some point in the future, but things that they never actually get around to doing.

A handful of attendees to this fellowship were disgruntled over the fellowship’s stagnation. These disgruntled attendees each contributed funds to establish the Socialist Central Committee. The Central Committee has office facilities; it developed a website; and it maintains this newsletter platform among other marketing activities, such as – YouTube videos, to develop brand recognition. These efforts are being made because contributing Central Committee members are full-time employed workers and small business owners that can afford to fund the Central Committee’s ventures.

From a recent Central Committee newsletter, SP-USA’s national secretary, Greg Pason, discovered SP-USA’s Indiana affiliate was holding joint meetings with DSA under the heading of the Indiana Socialist Fellowship. This apparently infuriated Pason. Consequently, the SP-USA’s national committee decreed that the SP-USA name could not be included on the SP-USA’s state newsletter – Central Indiana Socialist – because the newsletter is a joint effort with DSA. SP-USA in Indiana must now use only material provided by the SP-USA national office.

In addition, because it was a Central Committee communique that inadvertently called national attention to the Indiana Socialist Fellowship, the retired, fixed-income and under-employed members of SP-USA and DSA in Indiana are infuriated by the more affluent, self-sponsoring members of the Central Committee because the Central Committee attracted criticism by Greg Pason towards the Indiana Socialist Fellowship.

A particular under-employed DSA member now wants the spokesperson for the Central Committee to be removed from the the fellowship. And, to make the matter even more curious, the local SP-USA and DSA leaders endorsed this under-employed member’s demand. This says nothing to the fact that this under-employed member has a long history of psychological illness, that this under-employed member published public insults against a recently deceased fellowship member in an effort to defame her reputation, or that this under-employed member is the reason most potential recruits give for deciding not to participate in socialist activities in Indiana. But, enough with airing the Indiana Socialist Fellowship’s dirty laundry.

The situation does raise interesting questions:

  1. To what extent should the presence of disruptive members be tolerated when the presence of those members impede the growth of the national and local organizations?
  2. To what extent should the established national and local leaderships be tolerated when what few efforts they make clearly lack results?
  3. To what extent should the local affiliates impede the efforts of new socialist activists simply because these new organizers choose to function outside the authority of the dysfunctional national committee of SP-USA.

Lessons from the Case Study
What can we learn

  •  The speed by which SP-USA’s “National Committee” convened and acted demonstrates, in fact, there is no national committee apart from Greg Pason. SP-USA presents itself as a political party to its membership; but SP-USA functions as a private enterprise, owned and operated by Greg Pason, that provides a side-income – if not primary income – for its owner.
  • Apart from anecdotal claims of “raising awareness” for the Socialist Party, running a candidate for national office is an exercise in futility. Research shows these types of “political” activities merely strengthen the current membership’s sense of inclusion, which induces the membership to renew their annual dues – thus, perpetuating Greg Pason’s annual income.
  • If we are to be honest with ourselves, we must admit socialism in America primarily attracts individuals that feel marginalized by mainstream society. Irregardless of what the cause of that marginalization is, that sense of exclusion can be harnessed to build a true national party.
  • From the national office to local groups, marginalized members of mainstream America use participation in the national and local Socialist Parties to heighten their self-sense of importance. And, anything that may disrupt their self-elevated sense of importance is viewed with hostility. In short, American socialists are more interested in raising their personal self-esteem than acting in the best interest of a national or local socialist movement.
  • Since local groups are developed primarily to raise the esteem of their founders, local groups do not work cooperatively towards national goals. By focusing upon local franchise development, the ego-building drive of the numerous fractional organizations can be harnessed into a cohesive national movement.

National Goals
What should American socialists do?

  • The national committee should be disbanded. A national organization should have a Board of Directors that is comprised of the Chair of each state organization. Like any corporation’s Board of Directors, the national organization should hire a national secretary that functions as a CEO to fulfill the goals identified by the national committee.
  •  The Socialist Party – USA’s headquarters should be transferred to Washington DC where the national secretary would work on behalf of the national committee. A virtual office can easily be established at very reasonable costs (under $250 per month through Regus, which includes – a dedicated telephone number, professional receptionist, mail handling, etc.).
  • Technology should be embraced. While the day-to-day functions of an office is being cared for by the virtual office’s professional staff, a low-cost internet conferencing site can be used to hold monthly leadership meetings of the state Chairs. And, social-network media can provide forums in which all would-be socialists can interact together without Greg Pason acting as their intermediary.
  • Socialist Party membership should be FREE. One does not have to pay to be recognized as a Republican or Democrat; nor should one have to pay a annual dues to be recognized as a Socialist. A distinction should be made between voting members and participating members; an annual dues should be charged only to those who want to participate more fully in socialist activities.
  • Insomuch as the SP-USA can barely muster 2000 members nationally, which is a mere fraction of the democrat party members in just Indianapolis, socialist activities should focus on membership. The Central Committee wants to develop a socialist franchise in each county of all fifty states. The national focus should be the local development of socialist clubs.
  • Political hegemony should be restructured. The Central Committee proposes the following – A. A local club can organize with 3 or more dues paying members. B. It takes 3 or more local clubs to organize a county committee. C. It takes 3 or more county committees to organize a state committee. The goal of each state committee should be focused on establishing county committees in each county of the state. And, D. The national committee is comprised of the state Chair of each state committee.
  • Dues should be established by the local clubs. Local clubs fund county committees; county committees fund state committees; and state committees fund the national organization.
  • Rather than allow Greg Pason to use his wife and a few close friends to perpetuate his control over his family ran private enterprise, the nation’s socialists, through their new state Chair-based leadership council, should create adhoc committees comprised of knowledgeable professionals to guide national efforts, such as – in membership recruitment. The current amateurish leadership should no longer be tolerated.
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Posted in: General Interest