The Truth About NATLFED

Group (Unit) Meetings

One of the regular activities cadres participate in are the unit meetings, usually referred to in the Aesophian language as group meetings.  These meetings are only for Party members.  If one is a probational member, the person is allowed to opine and vote.  However, a probational member cannot vote in dissent of the consensus decision unless a sponsor is willing to yield his/her vote.  A sponsor may do so as a learning experience for the probational member.

Group meetings are called unit meetings because the groups are likened to military units regardless of whether or not all the members belong to the military fraction of the Party.  The meetings are never held in organizational offices because of concerns of wiretapping by authorities.  The different arenas would take turn arranging the locations, varying sites to prevent predictability.

The Arena OPS typically also served as the local chairperson.  The chair was usually a Central Committee member.  In the absence of an Arena OPS, the most senior member of the unit served as chair.  The meetings were conducted very formalized, observing Robert’s Rules of Order.  A secretary took semi-verbatim notes and was not allowed to vote in proceedings.  The sergeant-at-arms was responsible for basic security.

It was the primary forum for the Political Commissar to provide leadership within the unit as the ranking member of the commissariat.  It was a common misconception that an operations manager and a political commissar were considered persons of equal rank.  The operations manager was in charge of the daily practical work of the organization, the secretariat; whereas the political commissar was in charge of the political work, the commissariat.  This is a basic and reduced explanation of the structure system but for the purposes of this article will hopefully clarify the roles.

Agenda items came from a variety of sources.  There were often items sent by National or Regional for discussion.  The topics ranged from current strategies and campaigns, recruitment practices and administrative concerns of problems perceived to exist at the local level.  Local members were allowed to present items for discussion.

The meetings started with a reading of the Analysis, either in entirety or as a sectional reading.  The agenda was presented and organized, with members approving the agenda.  Some items were merely informational but typically required some level of discussion.  Consensus was required for all items requiring action, which meant all members must approve the item.  If one dissented, discussion would continue until the member would agree to yield (in that situation, the member would obey the decision as if he/she has originally voted in favor of the item).  If consensus could not be reached, the item was considered unapproved but could be re-agendized at a later meeting for continued discussion.

Sometimes a meeting could go on for eight or ten hours.  In rare circumstances, a meeting could go on for several days if the situation was warranted.  During the time of the purges and the better fewer but better campaign, units were charged to resolve local disagreements and demonstrate solidarity with the new national leadership.  It was one of the few times that an individual member had a sense of authority and power from within the Party.

Local problems must be addressed at the unit meeting.  There were situations, however, where local leaders decided against raising such problems at the unit, which was contradictory to the Constitution of the Party.  To reserve such discussion in absence of the unit could not be considered consensus nor binding.  Infractions committed by members must be discussed at the unit with that member present.

National or regional strategies must go before the unit for local approval.  It was the duty of the political commissar to ensure consensus was reached on these items.  Without consensus, the unit was not obligated to implement the strategies as directed.

I remember one meeting where a probational member was suffering difficulties with alcoholism.  It was decided by majority that the member should give her disability checks to the Operations Manager for safeguarding.  However, consensus was not achieved as some members felt the member should undergo re-education instead of being forced to surrender her disability checks.  A new course of action was agreed to by consensus, including daily meetings with the Political Commissar and the member participating in local AA meetings.

Sometimes a unit would agree to do things that ended up being too much to implement.  If everyone is trying to implement five strategies at once with limited manpower and/or resources, the strategies are doomed to failure.  This typically happened when enthusiasm was high but practical implementation limited.

It was usually encouraged for all members to actively participate in discussion.  Some units would go around the table soliciting opinions and discussion to ensure that all members were afforded the opportunity to participate.  Other units would extend the opportunity but if a member was “easy going” and willing to go with the majority then mandating his/her discussion was not considered important.  There were times when an agenda specially required discussion from every member.

Some would disagree that the local unit had any real power, that if a National or Regional agenda item failed to reach consensus the arena was still obligated to implement the item.  It could continue to be brought to the unit, with the commissar briefed on how to orchestrate the meeting such that it would eventually reach consensus.

The Party often boasted that this portion of democracy under a centralized leadership was an integral part of operations, with centralized leadership under democratic control.  It was considered a luxury because no one was shooting at the Party.  There were times when democratic avenues were suspended in favor of centralized leadership, times of internal strife and crisis, probably when the membership was most in need of such a forum.  During these periods, members were expected to follow orders unconditionally.

I believe that every former member can remember especially volatile meetings ranging in a variety of different topics.  Each unit had its own particular strengths and weaknesses.  It is difficult to try and explain it for someone who never participated in a meeting but I hope this helps in some fashion.

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