Does anarchism understimate the possibility of "confederal" institutions devolving into representative democracy?

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autogestión
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Aug 14 2017 00:02
Does anarchism understimate the possibility of "confederal" institutions devolving into representative democracy?

A lot of anarchist ideas for large scale organisation posit base assemblies open to all, coordinated by confederal assemblies made up of recallable delegates. These are often envisaged to form a pyramid, from local, to smaller regions, to larger regions, etc., or economically, from workplace, to groups of workplaces, to sector, to "economy" etc.

A question that has been troubling me is to what degree there is a real danger of these higher assemblies degenerating into representative institutions of the sort we are all familiar with, and the shortcomings of which are well known. Recall is often posited as a remedy to this, but plenty of US states have recall provisions, yet the likelihood of them ever being successfully wielded is small, especially at the geographically broader levels. Isn't it likely that it might be quite easy to recall someone from a level directly above the base assemblies, but quite difficult to recall someone from high up in the pyramid. In fact, might the levels of indirection in this structure make this even more difficult?

The idea that the people in higher assemblies are "delegates", and have to follow a binding mandate is also put forward, but it raises the question of why have these higher assemblies at all if no deliberation, discussion and compromise is going to take place. Why not just vote directly in all of the assemblies?

If the danger of creeping oligarchy is real, what can be done to prevent it? One idea I have come across is a heavy dose of random selection, so-called "demarchy", so that some or all of the decision making institutions above the base are formed like juries, by lot. It then becomes very difficult to become a career politician, or create an oligarchical grouping like a political party to capture such randomly allocated institutions. But I would be interested to hear other ideas if people have them.

spaceman spiff
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Aug 14 2017 17:16

Could the issue be the size of the local council?

I'm reminded by a passage from A Pattern Language, by Christopher Alexander:

Individuals have no effective voice in any community of more than 5000-10,000 persons.

Quote:
People can only have a genuine effect on local government when the units of local government are autonomous, self-governing, self-budgeting communities, which are small enough to create the possibility of an immediate link between the man in the street and his local officials and elected tepresentstives.

...today the distance between people and the centres of power that govern them is vast - both psychologically and geographically. Milton Kotler, a Jeffersonian, had described the experience:

The process of city administration is invisible to the citizen who sees little evidence of it's human components but feels the sharp pain of taxation. With increasingly poor public service, his desires and needs are more insistently expressed. Yet his expressions of need seem to issue into this air, for government does not appear attentive to his demands this disjunction between citizen and government is the major political problem of civil disorder... (Milton Kotler, Neighborhood Foundations, Memorandum #24; "Neighborhood corporations and the reorganisation of city government," unpub. ms., August 1967)

There are two ways in which the physical environment, as it is now ordered, promoted and sustains the separation between citizens and their government. First, the size of the politic community is so large that it's members are separated from its leaders simply by their number. Second, government is invisible, physically located out of the realm of most citizens' daily lives. Unless these two conditions are altered,, political alienation is not likely to be overcome.

1. The size of the political community.

It is obvious that the larger the community the greater the distance between the average citizen and the heads of government. Paul Goodman has proposed a rule of thumb, based on cities like Athens in their prime, that no citizen be more than two friends away from the highest member of the local unit. Assume that everyone knows about 12 people in his local community. Using this notion and Goodman's rule we can see that an optimum size for a political community would be about 12^3 or 1728 households or 5500 persons. This figure corresponds to an old Chicago school estimate of 5000. And it is be same order of magnitude as the size of ECCO, the neighborhood corporation in Columbus, Ohio, of 6000 to 7000, described by Kotler (Committee on Government Operations, US Senate, 89th Congress, 2nd session, Part 9, December 1966)

The editors of The Ecologist have a similar intuition about the proper size for units of local government. (See their Blueprint for Survival, Penguin Books, 1972, pp. 50-55.) And Terence Lee in his study, "Urban neighborhood as a socio-spatial schema," Ekistics 177, August 1970, gives evidence for the importance of the spatial community. Lee gives 75 acres as a natural size for a community. At 25 persons per acre, such a community would acommodate some 2000 persons; at 60 persons per acre, some 4500.

2. The visible location of local government.

Even when local branches of government are decentralised in function, they are often still centralised in space, hidden in vast municipal city-county buildings out of the realm of everyday life. These places are intimidating and alienating. What is needed is for every person to feel at home in the place of his local government win his ideas and complaints. A person must feel that it is a forum, that it is his directly, that he can call and talk to the person in charge of such and such, and see him personally within a day or two.

For this purpose, local forums must be situated in highly visible and accessible places. They could, for instance, be located in the most active marketplace of each community of 5000 to 7000.

Maclane Horton
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Aug 15 2017 17:40

Yes. Random selection like juries is the way to go.

It's not unknown. The Athenians used random selection for organising between assembly meetings.

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Ugg
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Aug 18 2017 22:34

1. Would you be able to opt out of being a delegate if you didn't want to do it or would everybody be forced into being a delegate if they were randomly selected?
2. Would there be a way for people to recall randomly selected delegates and how?
3. Are you imagining the random selection process working something like this?:

-Every month or so there's a general assembly where people discuss the issues and deliberate for an hour or so after which one or more people are then randomly selected to be delegates.
-These delegates then go to a second higher level council where they also discuss issues and deliberate after which a certain amount of these delegates are then randomly selected to be delegates for the next level
- This process continues forever how many levels people think are necessary for coordinating

I'm asking because one of the main reasons why I don't like sortition is that I don't think it's a good system for communicating what the masses of people actually want- you're just asking some random person what they want and hoping that their own preferences are representative of the greater population without asking what the greater population wants.

For example if I was randomly selected to be a member of a 12 person jury that ruled the world I don't think any of us would be able to know what everybody else in the world wanted. I think the only way you could know is by asking people.

With this method I'd have no idea for example that someone in siberia wanted more schools built in their community.

But I think if you did random selection with this anarcho-syndicalist structure it would resolve this concern of mine. I'm not sure what the point of me explaining this was then but I'm just curious what you thought lol.

Also what do you think of these criticisms of sortition that are on wikipedia?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sortition#Disadvantages

Maclane Horton
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Aug 24 2017 08:45

No to compulsory random selection and no to recall of selected members. Yes to pressurising people to volunteer and, where necessary, yes to pressurising them to resign.

Random selection for the commune's planning group, but only selected from volunteers. That is if you can get the volunteers. Have you ever tried to set up a fund raising or social committee for a local group. Quite probably you wont get enough to fill the vacancies.

The first problem is to get people to come forward. The second problem is to discourage the bores and trouble makers without causing too much resentment. If you are lucky enough to get a surplus for your planning group, only then do you have to have random selection.

The same process applies equally to district, regional and national planning groups and organisers. Since, presumably, we are talking about a socialist, money free society, you should not have to worry about weeding out the greedy and the corrupt.

Everyone is free to offer to join or to quit. If a group has an impossible member, you do not have to use "recall." If you can't get the bore to resign, the other members of the group themselves simply resign leaving the individual isolated. If necessary a commune or set of communes can leave a district group or form a new district group

silent_starling
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Sep 23 2017 05:41

I have a couple questions for everyone:

1)

autogestión wrote:
A lot of anarchist ideas for large scale organisation posit base assemblies open to all, coordinated by confederal assemblies made up of recallable delegates. These are often envisaged to form a pyramid, from local, to smaller regions, to larger regions, etc., or economically, from workplace, to groups of workplaces, to sector, to "economy" etc.

Would the societal structure have to be pyramid shaped? What about a network, where members of each community could get in touch with other specific communities that they wanted to work with on certain projects, and the members of the other community could accept or reject their offer? Communities could work together through a web of relationships with each other, without any specific group of people gaining power over others. Does the pyramid structure offer any advantages over this?

2)

Maclane Horton wrote:
Since, presumably, we are talking about a socialist, money free society, you should not have to worry about weeding out the greedy and the corrupt.

I hope you'll go a little easy on me since I'm new to communist ideas, but if people are making choices about how to allocate resources and labor, (especially the collective labor of a workplace, commune, or other community,) then wouldn't greed still be a problem? In a pyramid, (federation?), especially, it seems like delegates would have incentives to get as much for the people back home as possible for as little as possible, or perhaps as much for themselves personally for as little as possible. Are these committees and such, in a communist system, not trying to decide what will be produced, how it will be produced, how and to whom it will be distributed, and so forth?

Again, I'm fairly new to communist ideas, so I hope you'll forgive me if these sound like really basic questions.

3)

Maclane Horton wrote:
Everyone is free to offer to join or to quit. If a group has an impossible member, you do not have to use "recall." If you can't get the bore to resign, the other members of the group themselves simply resign leaving the individual isolated. If necessary a commune or set of communes can leave a district group or form a new district group.

Do communes have any sort of claims to land or capital? If they do, do the members who remain in the commune keep control of those resources if someone leaves the group? If yes, then would the majority of a commune, in your example, be leaving control of their former commune's resources to the individual they left behind, while having little left themselves to start their new commune? What advantage does this method of collective resignation from one group in order to start a different group have over recall?

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Sep 23 2017 16:30

The main advantage of having a "pyramid" shape where all the communes/councils/whatever are invited is that it let's all of them get to hear what's going on, tell others their ideas and to have a say on decisions that might affect them negatively or positively.

I don't think anyone who supports more confederation-style of organizing society is against the idea of networks where say a couple of communes/councils might go off and do their own thing.

In fact I think that having these big confederation meetings would probably lead to these more network-style relations because these confederation meetings would be these big meetings with lots of delegates from various different areas- people might not get a chance to hear from delegates from other places otherwise. So delegates might meet a delegate from another place while they were both at a confederation style meeting, have a discussion and then they would report back to their councils about their discussion, etc.

silent_starling
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Sep 23 2017 18:01

Ah, ok, cool. That makes it sound a lot less dangerous. It seems like, if delegates are sharing information and having discussions, they wouldn't need any special power over others in their home community, or any ability to make binding decisions. In which case, the risk of the system transforming into a government would be far lower, I think.

I also wonder, though, whether the same thing could be accomplished through the Internet, with different groups making information available about their group to others, and then a search feature enabling people to sift through the information about different groups. Not that a meetup would be a bad thing, but one can only discuss so much in a meeting.

Thanks for your answer, Ugg!

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Ugg
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Sep 24 2017 01:22

no problem smile.

I still feel having meetings is useful to just get everyone who might be affected by a decision involved. It's like if you were going to a restaurant with a bunch of friends it might be useful to ask everyone if they had any preferences. Except instead of deciding what restaurant you're going to you're all saying what your needs and wants are, what issues each of you are facing, etc.

I also think that sometimes for example if you wanted to talk to ten people about an issue that it might be useful to instead of calling each one individually you could just meet up with all of them and talk about it. And if you regularly wanted to talk to them about certain issues it could be helpful to try to schedule those meetings to happen say every month or whatever time frame made sense.

That's just my opinion though and I'm pretty sure that many anarchists/ far leftists actually oppose the idea of even having for example "communal assemblies" where everyone in a certain neighbourhood would agree to meet periodically and make collective decisions.

Are you worried that people are going to be hostile to each other in meetings or that if decisions in meetings are made by majority-rule those in the majority will force the minority to follow rules they shouldn't have to?

Here are a couple of selections from "An anarchist Faq" about confederations:
http://anarchism.pageabode.com/afaq/secI5.html#seci52
http://anarchism.pageabode.com/afaq/secI3.html#seci35

Here's the link to the whole FAQ:
http://anarchism.pageabode.com/afaq/index.html

Here's a link to an essay that's kind of against assemblies:
https://libcom.org/library/against-democracy-wildcat-uk

radicalgraffiti
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Sep 24 2017 02:11

there is another thread witch covers some of the same stuff https://libcom.org/forums/theory/some-questions-about-delegate-democracy-22082017

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Sep 25 2017 12:25

I think these kinds of questions were worked out by the classical Anarchists (not to be condescending, or say that your question is a bad one). Delegates would have no decision making power of their own beyond being involved in the collective decision making that they are assigned to carry out the results of. The delegates don't exist to make decisions themselves, but to carry out the process of networking inter-regional (and regional where necessary) democratic self-organization. The use of delegates would also be limited by the fact that federal/horizontal organization means that each locality is as self-sufficient as possible, desirable, and practical. The delegates can not be career delegates because they are only delegates for a certain period of time and they are democratically chosen rather than competing with other career bureaucrats for a position.

I tend to run into mental barriers that many people (even seasoned radicals), but particular young people and those new to the concepts, have to Anarchism and radical politics in general where these people get to a point of having a hard time conceiving how these ideas will play out in practice. This concern often comes from uncertainty that there can never be a possibility of things going wrong. Things can always conceivably go south. None of us may live to see a social revolution because it is quite possible that a solar flare could kill all life on earth at any moment. We need not concern ourselves with making it impossible for anything to go wrong, but instead, with creating the most just, efficient, workable, and desirable social order possible.

As to your proposal of random selection, I would actually argue against it given that random selection ignores the qualifications for the position of delegate such as people skills, speaking skills, trustworthiness, knowledge of a particular issue, ect.

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Sep 26 2017 02:25

I'm confused then. What's the point of having delegates then when you could literally just vote on everything in a meeting and then mail the results to all the other communes/ councils in the region?

Also personally I don't want to have to decide everything- where all the pipes for the water are going to go, every single environmental or safety regulation that is put in place etc.

I want to be able to mandate delegates as generally and as specifically as I want- for example I'd want to be able to mandate my delegate to argue and try to put together a list of environmental regulations they would propose back to me to after which I could then approve, reject or demand modifications to that list. I also at the same time want to be able to say I want a general list of proposals and I want them to argue that these certain chemicals get banned from use.

It also bothers me that in your scenario it doesn't seem like delegates could actually discuss anything and resolve disputes between communes/councils. They aren't allowed to participate in any sort of consensus process to try to make everyone happy nor are they allowed to try to persuade each other. It seems like a wasted opportunity.

And I also don't like the idea of let's say I want my delegate to vote in favour of a big dam that will replace all the nuclear and coal plants in my area but then my delegate goes to the meeting and learns from scientists and from people in the next town over that this dam will actually flood their village and kill people. In your scenario my delegate cannot go against my wishes and must vote in favour of that dam anyway.

Am I misreading what you wrote?

Just to clarify I think that if my delegate voted against the dam I should have the right to reject this decision, modify it and give that delegate new instructions or select a new delegate to go argue for my dam and repeat this process as many times as I thought necessary.

I'm assuming you're more optimistic about this but I just think that given that today's society is extremely complex, globally interwoven, fragile, uneven, and impoverished I'm not sure it's possible for us all to become self-sufficient little communes. I'm not dismissing that as a worthwhile goal or as a requirement for anarchism to survive but it seems that for the time being we have an extremely complex system that would take at least some time to safely decentralize.

In that case I would want this process to be done in the most democratic and convenient way possible which in the meantime would require in my mind something like long lists of environmental and safety regulations to exist which I don't want to have to spend hours in a general assembly with others coming up with- holy christ please let me delegate this task to someone else after which I could reject or completely change them if I wanted to at any time lol.

Why would this be so horrible?

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Oct 7 2017 04:38
Quote:
I'm confused then. What's the point of having delegates then when you could literally just vote on everything in a meeting and then mail the results to all the other communes/ councils in the region?

Because decision making would need to be directly coordinated between some regional bodies and regions themselves. This would require the physical presence of members from different bodies and regions convening together.

Quote:
Also personally I don't want to have to decide everything- where all the pipes for the water are going to go, every single environmental or safety regulation that is put in place etc.

I don't know where I, or any other Anarchists described a situation where everyone deliberates on every minute decision. Bakunin argued for delegated authority, "in matters of boot-making, I bow to the authority of the boot-maker". People would make decisions according to their expertise while collectively people would make decisions that effect them as a collective.

Quote:
I want to be able to mandate delegates as generally and as specifically as I want- for example I'd want to be able to mandate my delegate to argue and try to put together a list of environmental regulations they would propose back to me to after which I could then approve, reject or demand modifications to that list. I also at the same time want to be able to say I want a general list of proposals and I want them to argue that these certain chemicals get banned from use.

I don't see that at all being incompatible with Anarchist federalism.

Quote:
It also bothers me that in your scenario it doesn't seem like delegates could actually discuss anything and resolve disputes between communes/councils. They aren't allowed to participate in any sort of consensus process to try to make everyone happy nor are they allowed to try to persuade each other. It seems like a wasted opportunity.

This is not true. I already stipulated that delegates would be part of the general decision making process as members of the community and society. They would only be barred from making decisions on behalf of everyone else without a majority mandate.

Quote:
And I also don't like the idea of let's say I want my delegate to vote in favour of a big dam that will replace all the nuclear and coal plants in my area but then my delegate goes to the meeting and learns from scientists and from people in the next town over that this dam will actually flood their village and kill people. In your scenario my delegate cannot go against my wishes and must vote in favour of that dam anyway.

I have much more faith in the masses of people to make rational decisions than I do one stand alone person. This is the foundation of the Anarchist critique of authoritarianism.

Quote:
I'm assuming you're more optimistic about this but I just think that given that today's society is extremely complex, globally interwoven, fragile, uneven, and impoverished I'm not sure it's possible for us all to become self-sufficient little communes. I'm not dismissing that as a worthwhile goal or as a requirement for anarchism to survive but it seems that for the time being we have an extremely complex system that would take at least some time to safely decentralize.

I was never arguing for self-sufficient communes.

Quote:
In that case I would want this process to be done in the most democratic and convenient way possible which in the meantime would require in my mind something like long lists of environmental and safety regulations to exist which I don't want to have to spend hours in a general assembly with others coming up with- holy christ please let me delegate this task to someone else after which I could reject or completely change them if I wanted to at any time lol.

Why would this be so horrible?

I refer to my above comment and my comment in my original post about delegation of authority.

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Ugg
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Oct 8 2017 08:07

Now I'm not sure if we even disagree lol. Sorry if I'm misinterpreting you and looking back on what you said I feel like I did.

I think we both agree that delegates should be mandated, recallable and that any decisions they make should be subject to the approval, rejection or modification at any time by the councils/communes. If people don't like a decision their delegates made they should be able to give them new instruction to change it or they could select a new delegate to change it.

Quote:
I have much more faith in the masses of people to make rational decisions than I do one stand alone person. This is the foundation of the Anarchist critique of authoritarianism.

So for example if I voted for my delegate to go meet with other delegates from the region argue for a giant windmill (let's say in this scenario a region had decided that all construction projects had to be approved of by a majority of the communities in the region or something).

Let's say that in this meeting my delegate learns that people from the neighbouring community don't want the windmill because it would block their sunlight. Would my delegate be able to try to use say a process like consensus or just offer that perhaps we could move the windmill to a different location or build two small ones or perhaps build a waterwheel by the river instead? Or if the other community made a convincing case that the materials would be better used for the building of a hospital would my delegate be able to come back to me and report this?

I personally would like my delegate to have the power to do this but I want them to have to come back and ask me if I was okay with this.

It's not that I don't have faith in the masses it's just that I'd like to be able to vote for a windmill without having to write in a million caveats like "I want a windmill so long as it doesn't block out the sun or prevent us from having enough resources to build a potentially needed hospital, etc." , and I feel like you'd agree with this.

I basically want my delegate to be able to say "hold on, I don't think the group of people that sent me here would support this mandate any longer if they were aware of this information" and so they would give a temporary vote against that proposal.

The delegate would then have to return to their council explain why they voted against their mandate after which people could choose to support that decision or send their delegate back with new instruction, or pick a new delegate to go say that they reject this decision.

--
Also in your opinion would it be compatible if say every month people would mandate their delegates to go meet with other delegates to have discussions and hear out any potential concerns or opinions from other councils in the federation? Once again any decisions they make would obviously have to be approved by their councils who would also have the right to modify or reject any of these decisions.

So for example one month a council might tell their delegate that they're happy with the federation's mandate (the list of agreements, rules and also projects the federation agreed to work on) and don't really want it to change while another council might tell their delegate that they are unhappy with that mandate and want it to be more environmentally friendly or something.

---
Also to the initial question Autogestion posed I think that in a council system you'd be able to remove the top level delegate or reverse decisions they made by changing your bottom level delegate or instructing your bottom level delegate to vote in favour of delegates who want to reverse those decisions.

In a parliamentary system it seems to me like it would be more difficult because you have to mobilize to get tons of signatures to call a by-election and then you have to try to get out the vote. And if you lose this election you don't have any representative or any say and are back to square one. It also might require a lot of coordination between different regions to organize calling a by-election like this.

This is different than in a system where the necessary resources and time are dedicated so everyone can attend frequent general assemblies where they frequently vote for delegates and all can participate in the process of putting together the mandates for their delegates.

I think it'd be easier in an "indirect" voting system like councils to change delegates or mandates not harder because in order to change your vote you just have to vote in your general assembly- not engage in a massive campaign for a referendum or something like that.

akai
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Oct 8 2017 07:58

Hi. l think the original question here is very good but that there is some confusion along the way. lt sounds to be that some of the folks here have limited experience in actual confederations of any time, thus are approaching this more from a theoretical position. So, if l may ...

First, we would have to imagine the reasons that communities or workplaces would be linked in some way. For example, nearby communities might want to discuss the trade and distribution of resources. Those involved may be the communities in which the resources are needed, the workers who obtain and produce with them and the communities that produce them. The needs and interests of all are interlinked and need to be discussed.

At the most base level, discussion is held on some points or questions that all the interested parties are made aware of. Each interested group considers any positions which have been sent to the others and either make decisions or decide some framework for discussing the question. lf a question is very straightforward, the mandate can be a specific vote to do X, but there may also be a mandate to seek some compromise,within X and Y. lf at the meeting between communities a proposal Z comes up, then the usual action would be to take that proposal back to the rest and discuss whether it is acceptable or not, or come up with another proposal.

Thus the question of delegates and discussion is not so hard. The actual issues may be harder, but the way to handle it, not really.

About the question of chosing delegates, again here it sounds like not having the practical circumstances in mind. First of all, there are different circumstances when people might be delegated to a job. One is as a delegate in a particular meeting and another is to be delegated to a longer function. For example, in the here and now, if you deal with money you might need a treasurer, but it is not feasible to change this task every week (unless you are dealing with only small change), so usually a person has a rotated period of functions.

With the above in mind, l think that ideas that people be chosen at random is not feasible in many situations, nor is the idea against recallability. For some concrete examples, in one of our unions, the minute taker role is rotated and there may be a "random" selection (from those who hadn't done it in a while), because this is a task that they consider that everybody can do. With another task though, the particular skills or knowledge of a person might have to be taken into account, or their character. Election cannot devolve into a meritorical process which is exclusive or discourages rotation, but it can. This is where committment to ideas has to play part and a decisive factor about whether or not anarchist ideas work well or devolve into something they shouldn't is the committment of people to them and the will to work them through, even if the easiest solution is different.

For example, if people are "experts", people might elect them, considering them the most appropriate. But we can see in practice that having "experts" has its negative tendencies - for example, there may be pressure to defer to their opinions or, in some cases, they may not care about the opinions of others as they should, or, the worst is that others just let the experts decide because they can't get their heads around things and then a hierarchy can form. This isn't something theoretical - it's something that there are currently real problems with in various organizations. So the only way to discourage this is to maintain a very strong commitment to another vision - for example, that the "experts" in whatever matter have to train and get other people ready to replace them.

One of my very unfortunate observations after 40 years of activism is that, unfortunately, some organizations go hierarchical and this definitely seems to occur more often in somewhat larger ones and it is always connected to a certain passivity in the rank and file. Passivity and leaders go hand and hand. Although there are tendencies that seem to think that having mega organizations is better, l think this is because they have some ideas connected to power. The idea of confederation though is that things are able to be discussed on the most basic level, where real discussion is feasible, but that the ideas and interests of all can be brought to all the co-confederated entities. For this to work in a truly libertarian way, there is also the question of respect of all entities interests and there must be mechanisms to avoid devolving into bourgeois democratic thought, where certain entities become centers of power, over and not together with the others.

Finally, why l think that the idea expressed here against recallability is not feasible. The idea that you just walk away from people who won't step down is something that might work in, for example, a small, voluntary political collective. ln other words, if you don't like the asshole who is trying to dominate and run the group, just leave the group. But anarchist ideas about delegation, recallability, etc., where not necessarily devised for these situations, but for the running of society in different aspects. So, if you live in a town, you are not gonna leave the town because one person is trying to run it and won't step down and if you are in a workplace, you are not going to leave it because you delegated somebody who doesn't follow the collective decisions. The idea of recalling somebody is to stop abuses from taking place and of course one can talk to such a delegate and tell them or reason with them about their role, but ultimately, those who do not act according to the will of those who chose them should be removed.

The more difficult situation is that there may not be consensus on issues of whether or not somebody breached their mandate or abused their mandated functions. This is where passivity also plays a role because at the first sign of something, people need to react to resolve the issue. For example, it might be that the delegated person was faced with an unexpected situation and assumed that they should do X. Maybe nobody gave any instructions of what to do in that situation. ln an active collective situation, provided nothing is urgent, all such situations get discussed with view to a solution. lf the collective situation is more passive, for example, few people give opinions, it is more likely the delegated person starts to act for themselves and somebody is dissatisfied, while another isn't. Or in general, there can be differences of opinions. These things are not simple, because direct democracy, frankly, is not simple. lt seems to me that it is necessary to build a common vision and similar ideas to achieve very good functioning, which is why some smaller groups/collectives/organizations l know run very well according to our principles, but larger ones, especially more open ones, are challenging.

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Auld-bod
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Oct 8 2017 15:20

It would be possible to spend hours puzzling over all the possible democratic permutations in a future society. I’ll comment on just one, the ‘random selection of delegates’.

It is bizarre in my opinion to reduce ‘worker’s control’ to a lottery system. I’ve known a few people who served on juries and their experiences were rum to put it mildly.

Also because of the ‘clustering effect’ found in genuine ‘random selections’ - like juries, some people are never selected and others may be asked to serve several times.

What makes this a total non-starter, in my opinion, is a ‘F**k you - I’m going fishing’ attitude that inevitably some people will exhibit. If it is not compulsory, then unlike the UK National Lottery, as the selection balls roll out the ‘designated delegate’ will state aye or nay, depending on their whim. In other words a self-serving ‘democratic’ farce.

Direct democracy will only work if the working class select their delegates and take responsibility for their actions. We should also accept that many people have no wish to do everything (and there is nothing wrong with going fishing, etc.).

Mike Harman
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Joined: 7-02-06
Oct 9 2017 12:04
silent_starling wrote:

Would the societal structure have to be pyramid shaped? What about a network, where members of each community could get in touch with other specific communities that they wanted to work with on certain projects, and the members of the other community could accept or reject their offer? Communities could work together through a web of relationships with each other, without any specific group of people gaining power over others. Does the pyramid structure offer any advantages over this?

There's no reason both couldn't happen, but if you had to make a decision that incorporates an entire geographical area or theoretically the entire planet, then you'd want to try to have a decision making structure that can handle it. An example would be the nuclear fallout from the tsunami damage in Fukushima - it's in no-one's interest to leave this just to the people in proximity to the plat to deal with, radiation spread all over the Pacific in the first few weeks of that incident, and it's going to take decades to properly decommission the plant.

silent_starling wrote:
it seems like delegates would have incentives to get as much for the people back home as possible for as little as possible, or perhaps as much for themselves personally for as little as possible. Are these committees and such, in a communist system, not trying to decide what will be produced, how it will be produced, how and to whom it will be distributed, and so forth?

Production now is entirely interdependent across regions and internationally, that should really be the starting point of where thing might end up (as opposed to a blank slate of subsistence farmers).

The argument for communism is that it's in everyone's interest to do as little work as possible while living in the best conditions possible. See the right to be greedy and the right to be lazy for examples a century apart that emphasises this.

The current irrationality of production and distribution (salad flown from the UK to west africa to be cut, washed and packaged into plastic bags, then flown back to supermarket distribution centres for just one example) which creates massive waste of both resources and human labour could be rationalised. You can eat the same amount of salad with less total work/resources and without the externalities of pollution etc.

Where you could have issues around resource distribution is specialist equipment and rare earth minerals or similar - but again the human interest would be in ensuring there's enough specialist equipment available for everyone (no artificial scarcity) and trying to engineer rare earth minerals out of the production process for things that need them - or at least rely on recycling more etc.

Even if there are hypothetical issues like this, it's nothing compared to the very concrete issues there are now with manufactured scarcity, resource depletion, responses to 'natural' disasters etc. and communisation allows for responses like rationing as opposed to hoarding when they come up.

autogestión
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Joined: 14-05-13
Nov 5 2017 17:19
Auld-bod wrote:
It is bizarre in my opinion to reduce ‘worker’s control’ to a lottery system. I’ve known a few people who served on juries and their experiences were rum to put it mildly.

I don't think it's an attempt to "reduce" anything, so much as to try to find structures that make it more difficult for oligarchical tendencies to take hold.

Auld-bod wrote:
Also because of the ‘clustering effect’ found in genuine ‘random selections’ - like juries, some people are never selected and others may be asked to serve several times.

I'm not familiar with these "clustering effects". I would be grateful if you could go into more detail or post some links to further reading on this.

Auld-bod wrote:
What makes this a total non-starter, in my opinion, is a ‘F**k you - I’m going fishing’ attitude that inevitably some people will exhibit. If it is not compulsory, then unlike the UK National Lottery, as the selection balls roll out the ‘designated delegate’ will state aye or nay, depending on their whim. In other words a self-serving ‘democratic’ farce.

Isn't that the same with a delegate system, unless putting yourself forward to be a delegate is also compulsory?