Why Not Being in an Organization Need Not Mean Individualism and Egoism

This piece is for all those who so vociferously defend “doing organizations”. Right at the onset, let me clearly point out that I am not anti-organization per se – a democratically functioning organization which allows individual voices to be heard is indeed necessary. But what about the nature of the organizations at present? Do they function democratically, internally as well as externally (i.e. vis-à-vis other orgs and society at large)? There is a good reason to doubt that. Given that is the case, isn’t it perfectly possible for an otherwise politically motivated person to not join any of the organizations because they find them ideologically problematic? Of course there can be reasons other than ideological concerns that may make a person avoid an organization. Some of these reasons may be personal, which is an entirely different matter.

I know that the pro-organization brigade will pounce on me at this stage and say – how do you know for sure that all those who say they are not doing organizations for ideological reasons are actually not acting that way for personal reasons? To them, I will say, yes, I am not sure. It can be difficult to separate the personal from the ideological at times. But that can also be a product of the organization’s doing. Particular leaders may make it a point to suffocate the voices of certain cadres within the organization. Is it so outlandish that a personal disliking can also develop towards such leaders (or other members for that matter)? Indeed such a disliking can have a rather political color to it. Let’s now ask the “organizationists” a return question – what makes you people so sure that those who are in them organizations are there entirely for ideological reasons? Indeed, it is quite possible that romantic attachments, blind following of some “dada” or “didi” or just the basic socio-psychological need for association is the driving motivating factor behind being in such organizations.

So is it justified to stifle someone’s opinion just because they happen to be an “individual”? The way most organizations, including the leftist ones, operate today, it is extremely difficult to remain within them while being critical of their activities. Hierarchical as most of them are, it would be immensely hard to avoid internal censorship. Expression of dissent is strongly discouraged, such is the organizational structure and modus operandi. The only way to remain in an organization is to either give your critical approach up or become an obedient cadre or to compromise with your ideals. You will be forbidden to openly criticize your organization, so what option will you have other than to toe the official line? Yet, if a person chooses not to do any such organization but still remains politically active, why should that person’s opinions be considered any lesser? Yet, rarely do we see, apart from a few “elite” and glorified intellectual elites (research scholars, teachers etc) or a handful of well known individual activists, individuals getting a space during movements or any other political process for that matter.

On the contrary, what we usually see is that there is always a slandering against certain individuals, especially if they are critical of the current organizations. Strangely, even those organizations who are otherwise at each others’ throats, join hands in building popular opinion against such individuals. Indeed, it is as if being an “individual” automatically means one is being escapist, opportunist, egoist and what not. I urge the “organizationists” to consider this aspect of the individual-organization binary as well. It is a false dichotomy I admit, but it cannot be denied that the present situation demands that a special focus be given on the rights of individuals to express their opinions and make meaningful contributions without hindrance from organizations.

by Kisholoy

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