Democracy and Majority Rule

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Jun 5 2018 16:13

Haha, indeed she was an admirer of Nietzsche!
What I surmise from the many hours of her writing I’ve just listened to is that she was a class struggle/communist type of anarchist but doesn’t actually fit terribly comfortably into that particular pigeonhole. Certainly she seems to have an individualist streak a mile wide.
Anyways Zugzwang, whether you agree with her or not, her writing is an absolute joy to behold so maybe commit a bit of time to it? You won’t regret it, I’m sure.

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Jun 19 2018 20:24
Noah Fence wrote:
Well LBC, your concerns are entirely legitimate. So tell me, considering the points that I’ve made and your own additional points, how do you justify your assertion that
Quote:
majority rules direct democracy is the best way to make collective decisions.

???

Sorry I took so long to reply!

I don't know of any better alternative to majority rules direct democracy for collective decisions. It's possible there is a better alternative, so perhaps it's not fair for me to say this method is "the best." But I do believe it's the best of the known available options.

That said, direct democracy should be combined with strong support for individual freedom and local autonomy.

Also, I'm in favor of rebellion and resistance by the minority against decisions of the majority it finds unjust.

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Jun 22 2018 00:18

Noah Fence

Yea those remarks are obviously meant to get a chuckle, but I find them kind of crude. That is more a problem of my sensibilities then WildCat's writing, but...

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Jun 22 2018 00:45

I don't think I ever answered the op and I thought it would be nice to do so.

Democracy has three working definitions; a system of government where state officials are elected by the population, "rule by the people" (control of society and it's institutions by the masses of people themselves), and a method of decision making that includes the input of all parties involved. Anarchists oppose democracy in the first sense. Anarchists have always argued against representative government because it doesn't altar the basic function of the state, to carry out the domination of the exploited and oppressed masses by the ruling class. This is why if you look at how classical Anarchists such as Errico Malatesta and Emma Goldman talked about democracy you will see that they only ever talk about it in a negative light, they are referring to democracy in the sense of representative government.

Anarchists are for democracy in the latter two senses. Anarchists want a self-managed and self-organized society, one where institutions are created and maintained through the free cooperation of each individual. This is effectively "rule by the people", society controlled by the masses of people themselves. Self-management implies that each person governs their own activities and where they have to collaborate with others do so collectively with each person having an equal say. This is democracy in the last sense of decision making that includes the equal say of all involved.

The question of whether Anarchists are for majority rule is a bit stickier. Emma Goldman in her critique of women's suffrage in the United States argues that one person, one vote creates a situation where the majority effectively politically dominate the minority. This is because, according to Goldman, the majority vote will always trump the minority vote. There are a few counter-arguments that I think are pretty effective in favor of one person, one vote, though.

The majority is not one, constant entity with one person, one vote decision making. Whether you are in the majority, or the minority, depends on the way you vote. You could find yourself outnumbered on one decision, and then find another decision go your way. There is also room to discuss decisions and convince more people to vote the way you are, this means that consensus will happen when possible. Emma Goldman was also arguing against one person, one vote, in the form of representative government specifically, where the coercive state apparatus enforces the results of the vote on the whole population. An Anarchist society would be made up of free associations in which individuals are allowed to disassociate. Emma Goldman offers free association as an alternative to majority rule, but free associations can freely collectively adhere to one person, one vote and individuals can dissociate whenever they please.

Consensus is barely workable as a sustained method of decision making among small groups of friends. In large scale organizing consensus allows a minority of people to block any decisions they like and effectively mount a hostile take over. This is what happened when consensus was used in the Occupy Wall Street movement and Murray Bookchin observed this in movements he had been a part of much earlier than that. This means that to maintain self-management Anarchist "democracy" must be based on one person, one vote to make decisions quickly, effectively, and freely.

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Jun 24 2018 05:36
Noah Fence wrote:
I was listening to a recording of Emma Goldman a few days ago and she made a very strong case against majority rule. Essentially she was saying that the majority will always make the wrong decision, that the majority concerns itself with conformity and being accepted others rather than uniqueness and creativity before doing the right thing. I have to say that my experience certainly bears this out.

An easy way to deal with the conformity thing is to make all votes secret ballot.

As for worrying that the majority tends to get things wrong, I think this is down to human fallibility, and we wouldn't be more likely to reach the "right" decision with some other arrangement.

The fear of the majority being wrong has been used by monarchs, dictators, and the philosophers who support them, as a way of legitimizing their unilateral rule. Obviously this isn't your motive here, but "the stupid masses" argument has never really struck me as convincing, because no matter who you put in charge or how decisions are made, stupidity is bound to arise!

Finally, majority rules direct democracy is a way of achieving collective empowerment, and giving everyone shared control in decisions they're effected by. This is a good in itself, even though it can at times lead to bad outcomes.

A parallel to this is freedom. Freedom is a good in itself, though it can lead to bad outcomes... sometimes Very Bad outcomes. Think of all the people using their freedom to fuck up their lives! (Something I've been guilty of a few times!) But this is no reason to take away people's freedom.

The issue gets tricky, though, when people use their freedom to fuck up other people's lives. When they use their freedom to harm others. That's when we start to ask whether it's legitimate to limit this person's freedom. The solution used now is to put people in prison (though of course tons of prisoners didn't harm anyone). Prison abolitionists oppose putting even the worst offenders in prison, but pretty much everyone agrees that some sort of action needs to be taken to stop that harm.

Clearly, though, taking away everyone's freedom as a pre-emptive way of preventing anyone from causing harm to themselves or others, would be extremely unjust.

I see it that way with majority rules direct democracy. The collective empowerment it provides is a good in itself. We shouldn't turn away from it as a pre-emptive way of preventing harm. Especially cuz, no matter what method we use for collective decisions, whether majority rules or something else, the decisions made will no doubt sometimes be harmful. Because we're human and we're gonna fuck things up.

However, whenever a decision made through direct democracy is harmful, then action needs to be taken to stop it. Those who recognize that harm is being caused will have to mobilize. This is where resistance and rebellion by the minority becomes important.

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Jun 24 2018 07:44

You make a good case LBC. It falls way short of totally convincing me though. Possibly in current decision making, as part of a community or political group or whatever I could see DD being put to use but to make it part of the promotion of the anarchist ideology is something I would avoid absolutely.

Anybody that proposes DD as a way for collective decision making has a fundamental problem if they are interested in introducing maximum freedom into the process - anything other than consensus agreement to the process makes it tyrannical. Yet it seems that those who propose DD very often condemn consensus decision making on the grounds that it’s impractical(a fair point where large numbers of people are concerned) or that it leaves itself vulnerable to blocking by a minority, which is technically true although in general I think that a non coercive method of decision making encourages open mindedness and a genuine desire to to act with integrity and in the best interests of all rather than on a personal agenda, whilst the forcing of a decision on a minority is likely to create resentment in that minority, coupled with an unenthusiastic, uncooperative or even deliberately hindering approach to their part of the execution of that decision. It also shouldn’t be ignored that even a secret ballot can be vulnerable to manipulation by those with an agenda.

So if we don’t all agree to it, how can DD be considered fair and how can it be considered just to force somebody to act on a DD decision if they truly believe that harm will result or that their ethics will be compromised by their conformity? And how does the community deal with dissenters? I heard the argument that if individuals don’t agree with the majority in a community then they should leave that community and join another or go live somewhere on their own in self sufficiency. How does this fit with anarchist/communist principles?
This is a pretty simplified scenario, but what happens in our community Lucky, when a decision is made through DD in which me and you are the only two that see that decision as stupid or harmful or even immoral? As much as I’m sure it would be an absolute treat to skip off into the wilderness with you and live off of nut and berries and sleep under the starry blanket of heaven, Is it ok in your mind that we are forced to leave? Is it not our duty to challenge or even sabotage that decision? Is not our forced compliance or expulsion a disgusting act of authoritarianism?
Let’s face it, in our desire to destroy capitalism and the state we are in a tiny minority, should we never take any action that harms capital or the state until we have the majority in agreement with us? Majority rule sounds a little less attractive in these circumstances, right? But hey, when it comes to this, the majority are pretty stupid, so now it’s ok for us to ignore their wishes? Yep, in our very approach to creating this democratic ‘ideal’, we are absolutely undemocratic. I’ve never seen hypocrisy as a good foundation to build anything on.
So no, I have no alternative, but it seems to me that DD is way too full of holes to declare it acceptable as part of our overall ideology. In fact, I dispute the idea that an alternative is required - who made DD the default standard to which other ideas have to measure up? It’s like presenting a cube as the default means of rolling things around on as nobody has invented the wheel yet! No, the burden of proof is on those who propose DD, it’s nowhere near a strong enough proposition to be considered the accepted standard.
Finally, as I think I read in one of the links offered here, even in the most abstract way, regardless of the quality of its results, DD still fails in its principle objective, that is to give everyone affected by a decision, their influence in that decision - if you’re in the minority, your input has actually had no influence on that decision whatsoever.

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Jun 24 2018 09:03

Noah Fence #37

If I follow your logic, you do not agree with any form of collective decision making, as you may not get your own way. 'Individualism' is fine and dandy as long as no one else adopts the same attitude and sets about sabotaging your choices.

Direct democracy is not perfect, though ‘individualism’ promotes the kind of freedom capitalism loves – the survival of the fittest.

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Jun 24 2018 11:34

Auld-bod, your attempts to follow Noah Fence's logic trail have gone off the path. His trail actually leads not to individualism, but quite the opposite. He is not against collective decisions; that'd be wack and he knows it. He just wants to ensure that these collective decisions leave everyone satisfied.

So if you follow his logic trail correctly, it leads not to individualism but to the constructing of a Hive Mind, much like The Borg in Star Trek TNG. As we will all be of one mind, we will always agree on everything. Every decision will be both totally collective and totally satisfactory to all.

It's a bit too techno-utopian for my taste, due to the reliance on brain implants, but other than that it's not so bad. True communism, after all, is in the collective.

/piss-take response... wink real response will come at some point.

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Jun 24 2018 13:00
Auld-bod wrote:
Noah Fence #37

If I follow your logic, you do not agree with any form of collective decision making, as you may not get your own way. 'Individualism' is fine and dandy as long as no one else adopts the same attitude and sets about sabotaging your choices.

Direct democracy is not perfect, though ‘individualism’ promotes the kind of freedom capitalism loves – the survival of the fittest.

You read me completely wrongly. I’ve made a number of points which possibly could be challenged but a broad brush ‘you just want your own way’ doesn’t meet the case at all and is as insulting as it is wrong.

Edit: On reflection, I probably took this a little too personally. Sorry AB, as you know, I’m rather a sensitive so and so atm.
My point, that I’ve presented a number of questions that should be properly challenged rather than written of as individualism and therefore not worth considering, still stands though.

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Jun 24 2018 11:47

And as I’ve mentioned earlier on, I like concensus decision making where it is practical. Contrary to popular belief concensus does not require 100% agreement on the decision at hand, it merely requires everyone to agree to a decision being made.
This was practiced for many years in a group I belonged to and more often than not involved me, ever the contrarian, to let decisions pass that I didn’t agree with and then act on that decision knowing that I had freely agreed to it rather than being corralled into it by the insistent absolutist many headed.

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Jun 24 2018 15:49

Noah #40/41

This still appears to me to be a recipe for, “Everybody doing their own thing”. It was hippie bollocks back in the day and still is.

EDIT
I certainly did not wish to insult you.

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Jun 24 2018 14:40
Quote:
Auld-bod, your attempts to follow Noah Fence's logic trail have gone off the path. His trail actually leads not to individualism, but quite the opposite. He is not against collective decisions; that'd be wack and he knows it. He just wants to ensure that these collective decisions leave everyone satisfied.

Thank you LBC - Rem accu tetti gisti!

Auld Bod
I don’t know what you mean by “this”, as I haven’t actually proposed anything! I mention consensus in your response to your erroneous accusation that I don’t like any form of collective decision making. I have made it pretty clear that I don’t think it’s practical where a large number of people are involved. That said, my experience with consensus in a particular group was very extensive and was an incredibly thought provoking and creative way to make decisions, it insists upon the most thorough examination of the point at issue which can have enormous benefits. To dismiss it as “hippie bollocks” is once again failing to raise a criticism that even approaches adequacy. Anyways, I repeat that I am not proposing that method.
So to be clear, by no means am I saying that I have a fair and adequately functional method for making collective decisions, what I’m saying is that those that advocate direct democracy DON’T have one and that whether or not it is considered the default choice by many, it simply doesn’t live up to that status. That, to me, is a good starting point for a discussion that looks for new ideas, not a point to use ad hominems to bring it to an end.
My face always seems to develop a sudden magnetic attraction to the palm of my hand when the cry of ‘it's not perfect’ goes up. “Labour aren’t ideal but they’re the best option we’ve got”, “Liberal democracy isn’t without it’s problems but it’s the best of a bad bunch”, “direct democracy isn’t perfect but in the absence of an alternative...”
It’s seems to me that the similarity of the third, to the first and second statements is enough in itself to set alarm bells ringing but even putting that to one side, it’s my experience that these sort of statements indicate the end of constructive debate and in this particular case, the end of the type of progressive and creative thought needed for us to navigate our way to a decision making method that goes beyond the dull witted idea of 30%(or whatever) of those affected by a decision simply submitting to the will of the other 70%.
If some comrades feel that this isn’t worth debating then that’s fair enough, but I would suggest that if they don’t want to answer the perfectly legitimate objections raised then they shouldn’t swank about the place hollering “DIRECT DEMOCRACY WILL SAVE US” like the god botherer with the cheeseboard in the market place declaring the Good News to one and all! N.B. I would insert a winking emoji here but I haven’t the faintest idea how to do that!

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Jun 24 2018 15:04

Noah #43

We will have to disagree on this topic.

Your posts read to me as a set of propositions – on the multiple short comings of direct democracy – and a set of solutions these, including sabotage. Life is messy and people coalesce around ideas that are the best under the circumstances. The future will take care of itself.

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Jun 24 2018 15:10

No, I offer no solutions. Sabotage is not a solution, but it may be a reasonable reaction to an inhuman majority decision.
It’s frustrating beyond belief to have your position condemned without even an attempt being made to address the points you make. I’ve had that experience many times but honestly Auld Bod, you are the last person I would expect to have that experience with. I honestly don’t understand.

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Jun 24 2018 15:14
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Prison abolitionists oppose putting even the worst offenders in prison, but pretty much everyone agrees that some sort of action needs to be taken to stop that harm.

I think a lot of the objectionable behavior (not all) of prisoners has its roots in capitalism, and if we were to do away with the latter then the objectionable behavior would go with it. If people have their needs satisfied then "economic crimes" like stealing and whatnot would cease. (And that's to say nothing about the strange/perverse notions of justice under capitalism.)

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Jun 24 2018 15:19

Noah it just feels as if you are looking for a solution or a discussion of a solution of something we cannot resolve, it is not possible to see into the new society in any detail. The nature of human existence will change once free of the struggle for the necessities of life. Some problems may remain the same though many will enter into history.

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Jun 24 2018 15:37

Maybe, in which case, if you see it as a waste of time, and particularly as you say, we can’t actually see what the future may make necessary, why not just keep out of it rather than make unsubstantiated condemnations of the points being made?
For me, there is absolutely nothing wrong with studying any and all aspects of possibilities for the future in the knowledge that some of what you study may become redundant when that future unfolds. In fact, without the willingness to do that, there would be very few conversations about politics to be had at all!

Possibly though, the more pertinent disagreement here is that you see this issue as peripheral at most whereas I see it as absolutely fundamental. If this is the case I can see how my persistence here may seem somewhat unnecessary and equally irritating.

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Jun 24 2018 15:53
Noah Fence wrote:
No, I offer no solutions. Sabotage is not a solution, but it may be a reasonable reaction to an inhuman majority decision.
It’s frustrating beyond belief to have your position condemned without even an attempt being made to address the points you make. I’ve had that experience many times but honestly Auld Bod, you are the last person I would expect to have that experience with. I honestly don’t understand.

imagine that in a meeting, thats why consensus can never work

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Jun 24 2018 16:27

Hello RG. I gotta repeat myself - I have made it absolutely clear that I am not advocating for consensus here. I’m just not! I don’t know what other way I can put it! I only mentioned it to refute AB’s assertion that I didn’t agree with collective decisions, or in other words, that I believe in individualism, which I quite categorically don’t!

Quote:
imagine that in a meeting, thats why consensus can never work

Now this I can tell you from experience is something simply not true. If you say that it ‘may not work’, I would agree with you completely, if you said ‘it can never work on a large scale I’d be in agreement again, but when you say ‘it can never work I disagree absolutely - I have over a decade of experience in a community group which not only tells me it can work, it tells me it can work in the most beautiful, creative and productive way.
So now will anyone actually answer the questions I’ve posed as to the deep and various problems with DD or is it a case of entrenched beliefs trumping reason and debate?

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Jun 24 2018 17:14

Probably shouldn’t even engage with this insistence on talking about consensus as it seems to be a sort of metaphorical point change designed to run the train of this issue off into a dead end siding but with Auld Bod’s extraordinary assertion that it is “hippie bollocks” and RG’s assertion that it “can never work”, I’d be interested to know if these pretty damning conclusions are born of any actual experience, or are they based on second hand anecdotes or possibly just conjecture? Same question to anyone else reading this.
If I read RG’s opinion correctly, it carries the implication that it brings forth it's decisions without any real study of the subject on which a decision is being made, and by extension I’ll assume that he is suggesting that DD requires the study that is missing from consensus? This is only an assumption so sorry if I’m misrepresenting you RG. Anyways, having participated in two groups that used DD and two that used consensus(all groups of the same organisation) my experience is the polar opposite. I can explain further if anyone is interested.
However, my objections to DD are not based in this experience. They are simply what I have laid out in my other posts on this thread today, they are very clear and very simple and I wish they could be either answered or dropped instead of being swerved whilst simultaneously being condemned as somehow unworthy.

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Jun 24 2018 17:20

I think there is a bit of confusion here; you are insisting that 'consensus' works, and your argument for that is your personal experience with a group which used such method of decision making and which you found yourself "more often than not involved [you], ever the contrarian, to let decisions pass that [you] didn’t agree with and then act on that decision knowing that [you] had freely agreed to it rather than being corralled into it by the insistent absolutist many headed".

I don't think the problem we perceive in 'consensus' is that it never works. In the situations you found yourself in, it clearly did work, but it relied upon the generosity of the minority to go along with majority favored decisions. The problem is more so that is that it is elevated to a matter of principle by some anarchists. Those types often see in 'consensus' the most absolutist egalitarian power relation, and anything short of that undesirable. And what they mean by 'consensus' is one in which everyone agrees with the passed decision as a requirement. Decisions that are passed with a minority in disagreement are equated as an injustice.

If a group of people agree before hand to 'majority rule' as the method of decision making, then they are already coming into the situation with the expectation that all of them are not always going to be in agreement, and that they are willing to commit to carry out those decisions once made. But it's rather silly to hear from pro 'consensus' anarchists that those on the dissenting side of a passed decision are being oppressed.

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Jun 24 2018 17:56

Thanks for your input agent. I don’t know if you’ve read all my posts today but I have stated loud and clear that I am not advocating for consensus, I am not a concensus anarchist and I am not an individualist. In fact l absolutely support collective decision making as an essential in a communist society. The consensus stuff has only come up because others keep making statements about it that contradict my extensive experience. That experience has been good but for the last time I DO NOT THINK IT CAN WORK ON A LARGE SCALE.
The point of my posts is to challenge the idea that direct democracy should simply be accepted as a flawed but adequate solution. Maybe it is, but I have raised a number of clear objections that nobody has answered.
My further assertion is that this passive surrender to the entirely unsubstantiated idea that DD is an adequate way to make collective decisions restricts or even shuts down the pursuit of a more appropriate, more effective and altogether fairer solution.
I don’t see why this seems so fucking contentious, especially considering the hypocrisy of anarchists, a tiny minority, who propose using any means necessary to overthrow the entire system of societal organisation that has the backing of almost the entire population of the world, acting like you are being whiney little piss baby if you suggest that it may not be quite optimal for minority to have to comply with the majority’s preference based on an abitrary vote percentage.
Maybe you will tackle my objections Agent?

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Jun 24 2018 19:15
Noah Fence wrote:
Thanks for your input agent. I don’t know if you’ve read all my posts today but I have stated loud and clear that I am not advocating for consensus, I am not a concensus anarchist and I am not an individualist.

I didn't even assert that you were a 'consensus' anarchist, or that you were an individualist. I was trying to point out the perspectives that often informs these debates or discussions. And I'll add here that it is not only individualists who privilege 'consensus' as the principle decision making method, but also some of those who self identify as social anarchists, anarchist communists, etc. These types of anarchists are often online newbies who often have very little experience of doing actual organising.

Noah Fence wrote:
In fact l absolutely support collective decision making as an essential in a communist society.

I don't doubt that you support collective decision making as essential. And I'll also add here that I don't think being pro 'consensus' is being opposed to collective decision making.

Noah Fence wrote:
The consensus stuff has only come up because others keep making statements about it that contradict my extensive experience. That experience has been good but for the last time I DO NOT THINK IT CAN WORK ON A LARGE SCALE. The point of my posts is to challenge the idea that direct democracy should simply be accepted as a flawed but adequate solution. Maybe it is, but I have raised a number of clear objections that nobody has answered.
My further assertion is that this passive surrender to the entirely unsubstantiated idea that DD is an adequate way to make collective decisions restricts or even shuts down the pursuit of a more appropriate, more effective and altogether fairer solution.

And here you are asserting that some of the posters on this thread think 'direct democracy' is the solution. Solution to what exactly? And what would be the "more appropriate, more effective and altogether fairer solution"?

Noah Fence wrote:
...acting like anyone who suggests that it may not be quite optimal for minority to have to comply with the majority’s preference based on an abitrary vote percentage, are being whiney little piss babies!

I really think you are over reading into things others may have said on this thread.

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Jun 24 2018 19:29

To clarify this Agent, this portion of the conversation started with Lucky Black Cat stating that DD is the best option for collective decision making. That is the context for the objections I made and asked for a response to. Nobody has actually tackled any of the objections I have made today despite them being very clearly laid out in a single post and elaborated on in another. Obviously nobody is obliged to but the mind boggles somewhat at people challenging me on something I’ve repeatedly said I don’t think can work on a large scale yet not challenging my objections to the actual point of the whole discussion, namely direct democracy and majority rule.
I laid out my position on a few things in reply to you out of the frustration created by the earlier swerving of my objections and related questions. This was inappropriate and didn’t really make sense in the context of your post. Sorry about that.

Quote:
And here you are asserting that some of the posters on this thread think 'direct democracy' is the solution. Solution to what exactly? And what would be the "more appropriate, more effective and altogether fairer solution"?

Yes, as I said above, they are suggesting that DD is the main solution for collective decision making. I am asking them to substantiate that and raising objections that I believe make it far from a given that DD is really a decent option at all and that certainly it shouldn’t be thought of as the default option against which all other options should be measured. People then made responses that focused on things other things and almost totally ignored my objections/questions.
As for the alternative, well that’s one of my main points, it seems to be a debate that is pretty much drained of energy buy the passive acceptance that DD is the imperfect but acceptable way to make decisions on a large and small scale, the best of a bad job. I don’t know the answer to that question, that’s why I want to talk about it and if we gonna talk about it then the need for it is a good place to start, hence me raising objections to the decision making mechanism most commonly advocated and accepted by anarchists.
I don’t think I need to come up with an alternative to be justified in pointing out some major flaws and conflicts with principles that I believe DD has but I wonder if the swerving of the issue rather than just answering to the objections indicates that the questions themselves are a pretty tricky proposition?

Quote:
...acting like anyone who suggests that it may not be quite optimal for minority to have to comply with the majority’s preference based on an abitrary vote percentage, are being whiney little piss babies!

This was an intentionally bombastic comment born of the suggestion that those who object to DD don’t like any form of collective decision making and just want to get their own way. So a rather OTT reaction I’ll admit but a reaction justified by a pretty outrageous accusation.

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Jun 24 2018 21:02

Noah Fence,

If you can tell by my own posts on this thread, I think any decent anarchist - be they individualist, social, communist, etc. - should aim to be rather constructive when it comes to discussing these things, whether online or in offline circumstances where it really matters. I think that framing the question as choosing between 'direct' versus 'consensus' democracy, or somewhere in between is rather unhelpful. Auld-bod wrote earlier that it "feels as if you are looking for a solution or a discussion of a solution of something we cannot resolve"; I'll go even further than that and say (and please don't take this the wrong way) that it seems you believe that the solution to a potential injustice lies in another method of making decisions. How is conceiving this solution you seek for a scenario far off into a future post capitalist society is gonna help us in the here and now?

Anarchists such as ourselves need to encourage others to be thoughtful when it comes to discussing and designing decision making and accountability processes, and to avoid having blind faith in any method. I think the way you are looking at this topic is kinda misguided.

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Jun 24 2018 20:59
Noah Fence wrote:
Hello RG. I gotta repeat myself - I have made it absolutely clear that I am not advocating for consensus here. I’m just not! I don’t know what other way I can put it! I only mentioned it to refute AB’s assertion that I didn’t agree with collective decisions, or in other words, that I believe in individualism, which I quite categorically don’t!

yet you say you are fine with consensus and speak of it favourably while decrying voting and saying you would never use voting in an anarchist context

Noah Fence wrote:
Quote:
imagine that in a meeting, thats why consensus can never work

Now this I can tell you from experience is something simply not true. If you say that it ‘may not work’, I would agree with you completely, if you said ‘it can never work on a large scale I’d be in agreement again, but when you say ‘it can never work I disagree absolutely - I have over a decade of experience in a community group which not only tells me it can work, it tells me it can work in the most beautiful, creative and productive way.

so you quote EG claiming that the majority will always make the wrong decision, and think thats a legitimate point, but i say consensus cant work based on my experience of overly long meetings, point less blocks, pointless arguments getting drawn out forever and decisions not being made because of running out of time and thats not a legitimate point because a couple of times you didn't block something?

Noah Fence wrote:

So now will anyone actually answer the questions I’ve posed as to the deep and various problems with DD or is it a case of entrenched beliefs trumping reason and debate?

i dont believe you have raise legitimate points against voting on decisions. there is no decision making process that will always produce the correct decision, but consensus is clearly more prone to being manipulated and sabotaged than voting.

if someone's got a better way of deciding things let them present it, other wise we should go with the best, or least bad that we have

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Noah Fence
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Jun 24 2018 21:24

I said that I have had consistently good experiences with small scale concensus during a period over a decade. I said I don’t believe it can work on a large scale so I am not advocating in such circumstances. This contains no contradiction.
You didn’t say any of those things, you just said it can never work. This is factually wrong because I’ve seen it work extremely well, every two weeks for over ten years. I don’t doubt that you had shit experiences but you didn’t mention them previously. Presumably they were created by people not acting in good faith?

If I haven’t raised any legitimate points it should be a piece of piss to discredit them, right? So go ahead, quick! I’ve been fucking waiting long enough! Christ, this could have been done with this morning but instead I’ve had to repeat myself a thousand fucking times whilst other duck and dive and swerve.
Seriously, why not just address the points, demonstrate why I’m full of shit and send me off to the corner with a dunces hat on my head???!!!

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if someone's got a better way of deciding things let them present it, other wise we should go with the best, or least bad that we have

This is precisely what I was talking about. In no other area of life do we accept something that we all agree is far from perfect and never try to move on. Progression is achieved precisely by us looking at the problems with a system, a piece of technology, a lack of resource, or whatever and then collectively looking for ways to improve it or replace it. Our political ideas and strategies should not be exempt from this natural process. Surely some of you agree with this statement? Maybe we should take a vote...

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jef costello
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Jun 24 2018 21:15

First of all if the community has decided on a particular rule, then some childish impulse to do the opposite as some act against authority is ridiculous. Just because people are taking decisions does not mean that they are arbitrary, unfair and aimed at stopping you from doing what you want. That is how decisions are made in a capitalist society where you have no stake in most decisions and the people who make them couldn't care less about you.

I've no idea why the pool would close at 5, but if the community agreed on it then just live with it, it's not like you have to wait until the end of the work day to go for a swim. If you assume that decisions will be arbitrary and unfair then you are stuck in the mindset of our present society. Trust has been mentioned before, if we don't trust each other then there is no possibility of communism. Maybe the pool closes at 5 because all the naked rebels never volunteer for lifeguard duty? It seems like you have picked this example deliberately so you can paint this authoritarian fun police view of communism. Maybe the pool closes at 5 because it wouldn't be dangerous to use a cold pool in the dark and in this location energy is needed for other things? Who knows? You didn't give us a reason so it is useless as an example because that turns it into an unjustified exercise of power,and the whole point of a communist society is to not have those.

Noah Fence wrote:
So if we don’t all agree to it, how can DD be considered fair and how can it be considered just to force somebody to act on a DD decision if they truly believe that harm will result or that their ethics will be compromised by their conformity?

This is probably unlikely to happen once we are not facing an economic imperative to screw people over. As has been said before, it requires the majority to not force through decisions that can harm people and the minority to not throw their toys out of the plan, but on a more fundamental level, all situations are discussed exhaustively beforehand so you won't get given two bad choices. "Well I have to vote for Labour because they're basically the same as the Tories but are occasionally a little more restrained." That is not the way it works, democracy is the community trying to collectively decide what to do. In the same way as a discussion on a forum is not supposed to be about winning, but about trying, as a group, to understand an issue better. A vote is more a way of deciding whether the discussion has been succesful. If you can handle putting objections aside in a consensus system then this is not a big step. Do you just need the 'power' of allowing things to go through even though you oppose them?

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And how does the community deal with dissenters? I heard the argument that if individuals don’t agree with the majority in a community then they should leave that community and join another or go live somewhere on their own in self sufficiency. How does this fit with anarchist/communist principles?

I would lock you and No in a tin shack in the desert and not let either of you out until you had a civil discussion and reached a conclusion smile
The community would try to avoid having dissenters by examining the issues together and trying to understand why people disagreed and seeing if there was something to do about it. It wouldn't be a question of punishing people or forcing them out because they though the pool should close an hour earlier. Let's say we were dealing with a very serious issue, for example someone who had been drink driving several times and then killed someone. I think it would be acceptable for the community to bar this person from using vehicles, and I wouldn't want to live in a community that allowed someone to drive drunk and put people in danger. If we could not agree on this issue then I would consider leaving.

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This is a pretty simplified scenario, but what happens in our community Lucky, when a decision is made through DD in which me and you are the only two that see that decision as stupid or harmful or even immoral? As much as I’m sure it would be an absolute treat to skip off into the wilderness with you and live off of nut and berries and sleep under the starry blanket of heaven, Is it ok in your mind that we are forced to leave? Is it not our duty to challenge or even sabotage that decision? Is not our forced compliance or expulsion a disgusting act of authoritarianism?

Are you skipping off or expelled? There is a big difference.One is a punitive measure, the other could be an act of conscience or throwing your toys out of the pram. As a communist it is your duty to challenge an idea that you think is harmful or immoral and you do so throughout the decision-making process. It isn't a question of showing up for a vote and then leaving if you lose, this isn't Brexit. (Althoughh weirdly enough it seems to be the scum responsble for Brexit who want to keep their options open as regards leaving)

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Let’s face it, in our desire to destroy capitalism and the state we are in a tiny minority, should we never take any action that harms capital or the state until we have the majority in agreement with us? Majority rule sounds a little less attractive in these circumstances, right? But hey, when it comes to this, the majority are pretty stupid, so now it’s ok for us to ignore their wishes? Yep, in our very approach to creating this democratic ‘ideal’, we are absolutely undemocratic. I’ve never seen hypocrisy as a good foundation to build anything on.

You are having your cake and eating it. I don't think anyone here would want to 'impose' communism, because it wouldn't work. People need to act in good faith, accoridng to communist principles for a communist society to work.So we are a minority that seeks to influence people, I don't plan to win any elections, but I don't think a revolution comes unless a large amount of the population believes in communism and a larger amount is willing to try it out.
A minority rule is, by definition, uncommunist. You cannot let a minority make the decisions, now they might have a big effect on them. For example if we were deciding how much cotton to produce for gauze for hopsital supplies, I would listen to the comrades running the hospital rather than ones who don't. And we would all try to listen to the best advice as part of our responsibility to each other as communists. It's not someone voting for Trump because they are scared Clinton will take away their right to own guns, or someone being stuck voting for Clinton in the hope that abortion will remain legal.

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So no, I have no alternative, but it seems to me that DD is way too full of holes to declare it acceptable as part of our overall ideology. In fact, I dispute the idea that an alternative is required - who made DD the default standard to which other ideas have to measure up? It’s like presenting a cube as the default means of rolling things around on as nobody has invented the wheel yet! No, the burden of proof is on those who propose DD, it’s nowhere near a strong enough proposition to be considered the accepted standard.

As you have proposed absolutely nothing else, I think what you are saying is other people should think up a new system for you. Abdication of your role as a communist. Also tyranny of the minority to demand action even though the others on here do not agree with you. Trying to force them to answer questions that they don't want to etc. I think you are fundamentally wrong here. The Aztecs never invented the wheel, as far as I remember it wouldn't have helped too much due to geography and the nature of their society, but this isn't about using squares instead. As far as I can say communist thinking is saying "'the best way we can think of for now is using llamas to carry things, but we will always be looking for a better method and as such we will be adapting and improving this message and will replace it if necessary." You seem to be saying, "let's not move anything because there is something better than llamas but I don't know what it is."

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Finally, as I think I read in one of the links offered here, even in the most abstract way, regardless of the quality of its results, DD still fails in its principle objective, that is to give everyone affected by a decision, their influence in that decision - if you’re in the minority, your input has actually had no influence on that decision whatsoever.

This is a chhildish, winner-takes-all way to look at a decision. You are saying that if you don't "win" then you have no influence. Your input has a decision in the shaping of everything, not whether 'your' side wins. So as a communist you will be making suggestions about how to improve and maintain society, so you will be participating in the discussion about what are the actual questions facing the community, what are possible actions to take, how could they be done, what are the effects and so on. So long before we vote on anything everyone will have a huge amount of involvement, because we will be framing the wuestions which will lead to looking at answers which will lead to trying to determine which of them is the most suitable.

This is why you are accused of individualism, because you seem to view communism as a loss of your personal power to do things. You seem much more interested in defending this 'individual' power than in participating in the community. So you are much like the guy complaining about not having a right to do something under communism when the whole point of communism is the only limit is our respect for each other.

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Noah Fence
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Jun 24 2018 21:39

Jeff, thank you for your long and thoughtful response. On first reading I can see you have made some good points for me to consider and also that I think you have misinterpreted some of what I’m saying, if not that, you’ve certainly misunderstood my motivations for this discussion. If I have expressed myself poorly then my bad, but the motivation is to look for a better way to make decisions rather than just accept one that it seems everyone agrees falls far short of being ideal. I dare say an ideal solution will be extremely elusive but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, surely? Anyways, Lucky Black Cat at least has divined what motivates me pretty well...

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Auld-bod, your attempts to follow Noah Fence's logic trail have gone off the path. His trail actually leads not to individualism, but quite the opposite. He is not against collective decisions; that'd be wack and he knows it. He just wants to ensure that these collective decisions leave everyone satisfied.

I will take a closer look at your post in the morning but thanks again for actually engaging with me even if your conclusion is that I’m talking shit!

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Jun 24 2018 22:21
Agent of the International wrote:
Noah Fence,

If you can tell by my own posts on this thread, I think any decent anarchist - be they individualist, social, communist, etc. - should aim to be rather constructive when it comes to discussing these things, whether online or in offline circumstances where it really matters. I think that framing the question as choosing between 'direct' versus 'consensus' democracy, or somewhere in between is rather unhelpful. Auld-bod wrote earlier that it "feels as if you are looking for a solution or a discussion of a solution of something we cannot resolve"; I'll go even further than that and say (and please don't take this the wrong way) that it seems you believe that the solution to a potential injustice lies in another method of making decisions. How is conceiving this solution you seek for a scenario far off into a future post capitalist society is gonna help us in the here and now?

Anarchists such as ourselves need to encourage others to be thoughtful when it comes to discussing and designing decision making and accountability processes, and to avoid having blind faith in any method. I think the way you are looking at this topic is kinda misguided.

I somehow completely missed this post. You’re right, I have become rather jagged in my responses as I was getting more and more frustrated with nobody simply answering some direct questions in a direct way. Shouldn’t do it and I’ll try to reign it in.
I believe that you and Jeff have engaged in a genuine manner and that AB and RG have been at least a little evasive. That’s not to pick a fight with them, it’s just my honest assessment of the situation. All that said, I still haven’t seen many direct answers to direct questions which I’m still frustrated by.
This is an important issue for me for reasons you can probably surmise considering our recent PM conversation, hence my high level of frustration and anxiety around it. Hopefully this will also answer your point about why would I be so interested in something we can’t resolve? That’s fair enough if nobody is advocating DD for the future either, but if they are... Do you get me now?
Thanks again for your input.