by Plot Tracer
I haven’t written on this blog for quite some time, and indeed I haven’t been involved in SL for quite some time; flitting in and out to read notices and update viewers etc. but have always been keeping up to date with what is going on in the group. Firstly I want to put something straight.
The Charter and Aims and Principles entitled “For friend and foe alike” on our blog is NOT the most up to date one – it was mistakenly copied from an earlier version. The most up to date version is BELOW. The version that was agreed in 2008 was the forth incarnation. Slight tweaking of our “constitution” took place over the preceding period.
A source of pride has been the continuance of SLLU work through the SLLU Feminist Network. This group of people, who share an idea of left feminism, but not a rigid blueprint to feminism or of what feminism should be, have been an inspiration. They have been organising events, meetings, websites, information hubs and demonstrations and have been a huge part of other events and places and activism throughout the huge SL world. They are, and we are, a small group in a huge world, but a group who have influence from one end of SL to another (In the second ever post on this site, Bob Marley was quoted, and how true this is of our group - "If you are a big tree, we are a small axe."
The second thing that has impressed me in the past few months is the new “platform” within SLLU – SL Marxists (I will come back to the differences between platforms and networks in a while). Some of the people in SL Marxists have been on a political journey not unlike my own when I first came into SL. When I arrived in SL in 2006 there were a plethora of left wing groups – SL Socialist, communist, Leninist, Trotskyite and Marxist groups – all of whom rarely spoke to each other and none of whom got together for joint work. As a member of a real life left unity project, I thought I would try to get representatives from all of these groups together and come up with some sort of “hub” group – a group we could all use to plan and talk about projects we could work on side by side. I used the existing group’s IM facilities and membership lists to contact people to meet in the old SL Socialists building on Bora Bora. Two people turned up - Higgledpiggle Snoats and Dick Marellan and within our first or second meeting, we created SLLU (after a debate about it’s name! – SLLU could well have been SLUL!). Within weeks we had set up SLLU’s first HQ on a Scottish themed sim and membership rose relatively quickly. We set up the blog and rented a couple more premises on different sims, and people began to come to our meetings.
We formed a committee and issued invitations to others to join – and join they did!
Shortly after our formation, one of our new French members, Laura Gagliano told us that the French Front National had organised in SL for the French elections – setting up an HQ and recruiting “shop”. I went along and found that there was only one avatar sitting outside the Front National building with a placard. We sent the word out that we were organising demonstrations against them and more people turned up. We then sent out press releases to press organisations across the worlds both SL and RL, and both the demonstrations and SLLU took off!
Our membership at one point was over 700. It was agreed that every year we cull members because of inactivity for more than two years as it is preferable to know exactly how many active Second Lifers are in the group. We are at present 500 strong.
Why do I compare this journey to that of SL Marxists? Well, the fact is that the fight against Front National, and how big it became (at the time it has to be remembered that SL was still zeitgeisty and we hit major Television news channels and news papers across the globe) honed the committee and how we interacted, and it was the experience during the massive fight against Front National, with a cast of thousands, that informed our Charter and Aims and Principles. We very quickly, and “on the hoof,” came to decisions that have formed the basis of how SLLU conducts itself and is now “organised.” Consensus and a loose organisation were seen as essential. (I cannot understate, by the way, the work carried out by Higgledpiggle Snoats in this. She is a sadly missed founding member). SLLU FemNet have taken this further with their organisation and meetings structure. Within FemNet, there are people who agree on some things and disagree on others, but consensus is the key, not a creation of oppressed minority within the group through shouting loudly or voting to keep others views out of the mix. Listening is the key. FemNet is a true network – feminists from across the left with no “line” coming together with genuine intent to find consensus.
Where SL Marxists differ, is that they have an agreed a line – a minority one within the wider left, but a valid one nonetheless.
Back in the early days of SLLU, it was agreed that people could affiliate as an “affinity group.” This never really happened more or less because it was based on the RL anarchist system that had worked well from Seattle through to G8, Scotland in 2005 and onwards. What we found was that this didn’t translate to SL so well. We looked at how other political Unity groups worked and it was agreed we encourage people to affiliate either a full operating group, like SL Socialists (which never happened as it died) or create groups that could become platforms or networks within SLLU.
This was what was agreed back in 2007 (and was enacted only when SLLU FemNet and SLLU LGBTI were created much later).
1 Members have the right to organise in Platforms or Tendencies. The SLLU, as a pluralist group, recognises that a range of political points of view is a healthy source of debate and new ideas.
2 All Platforms/Tendencies should be open – their constitution and aims & objectives should be brought to the attention of the wider group.
3 Platforms/Tendencies have a right to be heard, to organise meetings, to produce literature and to distribute materials at SLLU meetings.
4 Platforms/Tendencies are not expected, however, to organise public campaigns against the overall aims or policy of the SLLU.
1 Members can organise in Networks.
2 (a)Networks can be set up to encourage the self organisation of members of SLLU who suffer from specific discrimination and to enable them to organise collectively in campaigns against oppression and to take a lead in the wider group on these issues.
(b) Networks can also be set up to bring together members of SLLU interested in campaigning on a specific issue. Such networks can help to bring together members who are active in campaigns in order to intervene more effectively, coordinate activity, promote the group and feedback experience into the party.
To sum that up, Networks tend to be based around identity politics (youth, women, feminism, Black, LGBTIQ) and platforms are traditionally sub-parties which have a specific left anti-capitalist stance (eg. Marxist; Marxist-Leninist; Anarchist etc). They are autonomous, but use SLLU to find consensus and share experiences with the SL Anti-capitalist left and indeed the anti-capitalist left across the world.
RL Left anti-capitalist political parties can also be part of SLLU by affiliating as a platform. However, those who claim to be representing a real political party must prove this as difficulties have sprung up in the past when enthusiastic members of RL groups have affiliated and then the RL group has disowned what they have claimed!
Oh – I also want to add, people do-not have to be a member of a network or tendency or platform or working group to be a member of SL Left Unity. Some prefer not to be identified as any of these things – or some – or all!
SL Left Unity is a hub for all who agree with our Charter and Aims and Principles. The work carried out by SL Marxists during the Egyptian protests has been superb – and inclusive. The work they did during the wikileaks demos was also exemplar – they ensured they did not upset the Swedish owner of the sim they wanted to demonstrate on and indeed, condemned the griefing of another left group. For their hard work and proven want to help build a non-sectarian left unity hub in the spirit of the SLLU during the defining months of late 2006/early 2007 I welcome them as a platform.