Some questions about delegate democracy

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Ugg's picture
Ugg
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Aug 22 2017 07:01
Some questions about delegate democracy

Hi I've been worrying about a few things regarding libertarian-communism/ anarcho-syndicalism and I'm wondering if anybody was interested in helping me with them, thanks smile

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1. Would it be possible if consensus couldn't be achieved for councils to also send delegates to represent the views of those in the minority? So for example a majority delegate might have 70% of their council's vote while a minority delegate would have 30% of it. All of my following questions are written presuming this would be okay.

2. Is secret ballot possible in an anarcho-syndicalist system? I'm worried some people might not want to vote if they couldn't do it anonymously, even if everyone was always nice and never judgemental.

I'm also sort of afraid people might still not want to attend meetings even WITH secret ballot because they feel that since councils are small groups of people regularly meeting face-to-face others within their council might be able to suspect how they voted or because they didn't want to do or feel expected to do things like public speaking. I'm also worried meetings might not always be friendly discussions but could turn into hostile arguments between people which aside from being just bad in itself would also discourage people from voting and participating.

I can't find much information about what anarchists think of secret ballot; I know some don't like it but to be fair it was one of the demands of the Krondstadt rebellion. Personally I just want it to be possible for people if they wanted it.

But for example these following problems I've been thinking about could basically be solved by abolishing secret ballot and forcing everyone to publicly speak or give their opinions. But if people wanted to keep secret ballot I can't think of any really good solutions to them.

3. I really like how in anarcho-syndicalism people can easily change which delegate and mandate they support.

For example let's say I voted for a delegate with a mandate that included building a hydroelectric dam. If I later realized that this dam was a bad idea I could just go to the next say monthly meeting (or maybe call an emergency one somehow) and when it was time to pick delegates and vote for that month's mandate I could vote for a delegate and their mandate that was against the dam. I think this is an important feature to have and I think it's good that people can easily change their vote without having to call a referendum on every issue which would probably be annoying and time-consuming for everyone.

But my fear is that this only works if people agreed with everything that was in the new mandate which I don't think is always possible.

I'm worried people that people might strongly disagree with their usual delegate on an issue wouldn't be able to just change their vote to a delegate who they did agree with on that issue because they strongly disagreed with them on everything else.

I think that it makes sense that rejecting and supporting proposals should be a seperate from voting for a delegate. For example if I want to support a specific proposal to build a windfarm I can do so without voting for the specific person that proposed it to be my delegate on every single issue. I also think that for example if my delegate came back from a higher council meeting and wanted to propose building a windfarm I think I should be able to reject this decision without having to replace my delegate with a new one. But I don't think this solves the problem. What if after I rejected the windfarm proposal I later realize I was wrong- How would I be able to change my vote without violating secret ballot or just re-voting on every single issue every month?

4. I'm wondering how an anarcho-syndicalist system would deal with people having multiple jobs.

How would you prevent people who perhaps worked more jobs than other people getting more votes when delegates from all the different workplaces in a region met to deliberate and vote on worker and production issues because they would have voted for a delegate in each of their workplaces?

Also if people are going to have multiple jobs and/or rotate them how would people even be able to attend all the meetings? For example if I worked 5 different jobs in a year I think it'd be really hard to attend 5 different say monthly meetings even if they were being held at some sort of central conference centre let alone at each individual workplace.

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Auld-bod
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Aug 22 2017 10:44

Forgive me if I appear to side step some of your questions.

I do not imagine a society organized along anarcho-communist lines as solely comprised of people who are doctrinaire politicos. Many folk will simply see it as a rational, though not a perfect system of organizing. There would be lots of discussion and compromises made, as sometimes a decision could be for or against your own position. In practice, decision making would be shaped by learning from experience, rather than following a set blueprint. Hence the need for maximum transparency to be able to draw accurate assessments. Secret ballots to arrive at a decision may be used at times – though it implies that some people are more trustworthy than others (as presumably some ‘trusties’ would be needed to supervise the ballot). Minority rights are important, as free/direct democracy is not the dictatorship of the majority.

The structure of individual councils I suspect will be based on the desires and agreement of the people involved. Over time some models may prove more successful than others. By ‘successful’ I mean in satisfying the needs of those involved. This would necessitate fraternal relations with other councils based on a free exchange of goods and services following the rejection of the market system (free communism).

I would not wish to see a society where everyone had to attend all meetings. Nor a society where anyone was excluded from any meeting. The fear of attending or not attending meetings would I believe dissipate, as the new society, based on mutual aid supersedes the capitalism system of class coercion and exploitation.

Your concern over multiple jobs is I think misplaced. Decision making based on the workplace would disenfranchise many or most people in society. Councils should be communist – based on those who live within the commune.

Free from the alienation of capitalism and the disappearance of paid employment, the nature of work and play will fuse, as humanity is transformed for the first time into whole human beings. Political skullduggery will pass into history.

Talisa
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Aug 23 2017 04:01

1. Yes, I think so. Or the same delegate could speak about different views.

2. Yes, why wouldn't it be? I think secret ballot would be preferable. Of course this doesn't apply to delegates, though. Their votes need to be public.

For those afraid of public speaking, they could attend meetings without speaking, and just listen. Hopefully we would try to encourage people to speak, but without making them feel pressured or uncomfortable.

3. Sorry, I don't really understand this question. Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but what you describe doesn't sound like delegate democracy. But it could be that I'm the one who's misinformed.

4. I think meeting attendance should be voluntary, so you wouldn't have to attend meetings for every job. But how to prevent someone from using this to vote multiple times on the same issue, I don't know.

Now I have a question of my own

Auld-bod wrote:
Your concern over multiple jobs is I think misplaced. Decision making based on the workplace would disenfranchise many or most people in society. Councils should be communist – based on those who live within the commune.

What about during a revolution? From what I've read it's important to have workplace based councils and decision making, rather than community based, to make sure they are working class bases of power. Or do you disagree?

radicalgraffiti
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Aug 23 2017 13:02

you dont vote for a delegate with specific agender, and vote for a different one for a different set of polices. the idea is the groups in the federation each meet, discuss the issues, and come to a decision, the delegate is mandated to take the decision to the federal meeting, depending on how the federation is organised the decisions can be of the nature the group votes for x, 30% of the group votes for x 60 for y and 10 abstain, we vote for x if a or otherwise for y, propose an amendment etc

the delegate simply conveys this to the federal meeting, and if the group that sends them they can be recalled. the delegate can be a different person every time, and could in principle be chosen at random, the only thing that matters is they are capable of accurately representing the mandate given by there group.

in principle votes could be organised to be anonymous, how ever this would make more complicated mandates difficult or impossible. one solution to marginalised groups (eg women, lgbtq, poc) is for them to form their own sub groups or caucuses to discuses things privately, and then bring issues to the rest of the organisation as a group.

i'm not a syndicalist, but it seems obvious to me that issues about how ot organise a workplace should be down to the workers of that workplace and that issues that affect hte community in general should be decided by the community

Talisa
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Aug 24 2017 02:06
radicalgraffiti wrote:
you dont vote for a delegate with specific agender, and vote for a different one for a different set of polices. the idea is the groups in the federation each meet, discuss the issues, and come to a decision, the delegate is mandated to take the decision to the federal meeting, depending on how the federation is organised the decisions can be of the nature the group votes for x, 30% of the group votes for x 60 for y and 10 abstain, we vote for x if a or otherwise for y, propose an amendment etc

the delegate simply conveys this to the federal meeting

Yeah, this is my understanding of it, too.

But why do we even need a delegate to pass that info on at a federal meeting? It could just be passed on by email, phone, etc.

Face to face meetings are important for making decisions, but they aren't deciding anything, just telling each other what their people decided.

If delegates can't decide things (only say what others decided) then what's the point of having a federal meeting?

Or are there other things going on at the federal meeting?

radicalgraffiti
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Aug 24 2017 02:12
Talisa wrote:
radicalgraffiti wrote:
you dont vote for a delegate with specific agender, and vote for a different one for a different set of polices. the idea is the groups in the federation each meet, discuss the issues, and come to a decision, the delegate is mandated to take the decision to the federal meeting, depending on how the federation is organised the decisions can be of the nature the group votes for x, 30% of the group votes for x 60 for y and 10 abstain, we vote for x if a or otherwise for y, propose an amendment etc

the delegate simply conveys this to the federal meeting

Yeah, this is my understanding of it, too.

But why do we even need a delegate to pass that info on at a federal meeting? It could just be passed on by email, phone, etc.

Face to face meetings are important for making decisions, but they aren't deciding anything, just telling each other what their people decided.

If delegates can't decide things (only say what others decided) then what's the point of having a federal meeting?

Or are there other things going on at the federal meeting?

who passes it by email/phone?

and no the delegate meeting decides things, there is more to it than just presenting there groups positions, they can talk to each other and figure out what there groups agree on, what changes/clariffications they are ok with and which they are not

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Aug 24 2017 09:26

Talisa #3:
‘What about during a revolution? From what I've read it's important to have workplace based councils and decision making, rather than community based, to make sure they are working class bases of power. Or do you disagree?’

I assume you are using the term ‘working class’ in the sociological sense of the word (as not ‘upper class’ or ‘middle class’), rather than what is sometimes termed the ‘Marxist sense’, meaning not of the ‘ruling class’ (and obviously forced to serve capital against their own class interest).

I believe the stress has been placed on workplace councils as the workers at ‘the point of production’ were understood to have their hands round the throat of the capitalists by being able to bring their profit making machinery to a halt. I would agree that the ‘proletariat’ are an essential component of a successful revolution, however isolated from the rest of the working class they are quickly impotent. I hope to explain this below.

radicalgraffiti: #4
‘I'm not a syndicalist, but it seems obvious to me that issues about how to organise a workplace should be down to the workers of that workplace and that issues that affect the community in general should be decided by the community.’

This statement is fair and logical, though the devil is in the detail.
Using the building industry as an example, it is obvious that on the details of construction of houses or bridges, etc., those who have experience in these matters, should be free to organize the work as they think fit. However the whole community should be engaged in the decision making on what is to be built, and where it is to be built.

No workplace is independent. The last UK miner’s strike was sustained month after month, only by the support of their communities. We are all interdependent, a workplace needs raw materials, transport infrastructure, etc. If we wish to replace production for profit with production for need, only the whole community knows what is needed.

I think of the working class rather like pieces in a jigsaw, we fit together, and obsolete pieces like bank workers, can be reintegrated into society as part of the revolution’s social transformation.

The working class is a creature of capitalism, with many of the contradictions of that system. Part of the social transformation into free communism, will be the ending of the demarcation lines of social class, into a classless society.
Some time ago a senior AUEW shop steward scornfully said to me, “Oh, don’t listen to him, that’s typical T&G, we always used to call them the horse and cart union”. Ironically they were both members of the Communist Party.

Talisa
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Aug 27 2017 02:48
radicalgraffiti wrote:

and no the delegate meeting decides things, there is more to it than just presenting there groups positions, they can talk to each other and figure out what there groups agree on, what changes/clariffications they are ok with and which they are not

Wow, I had no idea. This really shakes up my understanding of how delegate democracy works.

When you say that delegates are able to make changes, does that mean changes to the proposal being voted on?

Auld-bod wrote:
I assume you are using the term ‘working class’ in the sociological sense of the word (as not ‘upper class’ or ‘middle class’), rather than what is sometimes termed the ‘Marxist sense’, meaning not of the ‘ruling class’ (and obviously forced to serve capital against their own class interest).

Nah, I meant the 'Marxist' type of working class. When I said I'd heard that communities make a bad basis for councils or revolutionary power, it's because of their mixed class nature. But workers councils are purely proletariat, so avoid that problem.

I'm on the fence about it, because like you said, without community based councils there will be too many people excluded, including proletariat people who don't work for whatever reason (unemployment, stay at home childcare, etc.)

It would be great to here people's opinions on this.

radicalgraffiti
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Aug 28 2017 12:47
Talisa wrote:
radicalgraffiti wrote:

and no the delegate meeting decides things, there is more to it than just presenting there groups positions, they can talk to each other and figure out what there groups agree on, what changes/clariffications they are ok with and which they are not

Wow, I had no idea. This really shakes up my understanding of how delegate democracy works.

When you say that delegates are able to make changes, does that mean changes to the proposal being voted on?

this is going to depend on the individual organisation,, some may handle this differently, but as an example, based on how afed does things, suppose one item to be voted on is "produce a pamphlet on Bakunin" and some groups vote yes, others yes, but "it has to mention his anti-Semitism, and not white wash it" so this changes the original proposal slightly, but its still basically the same thing, so the delegates vote to pass it with the modification. But since its not the exact thing it its sent to ratification, where all members can review the changes, and if they have issues vote against them.

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Ugg
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Aug 30 2017 10:16

Hey friends! Thanks for everyone's thoughtful replies to the questions I posted. I'm in the middle of writing some responses but it's been taking me a while. I'll post them soon though.

Talisa
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Aug 31 2017 03:41

Thanks for clarifying that, radicalgraffiti!

The real life example from AFED is very helpful.

Does anyone else have any real life examples of their experiences in delegate democracy? Either from your own life or from history?

Concrete examples are a big help in understanding this, compare to abstract explanations.

ajjohnstone
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Aug 31 2017 05:17

Talisa, the Socialist Party of Great Britain for over a hundred years have been structured on a branch-based delegatory model and rarely is criticised for any lack of democracy nor suffer from any informal elites usurping their process and practice of decision making.

Have a look at their rule-book
http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/party-rules

Spikymike
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Aug 31 2017 16:58

Both the UK Anarchist Federation and the SPGB utilise some combined forms of delegate democracy with whole membership voting that seems to work for them up to a point, but neither would deny that there are not still problems with that in practice - Rule books can't solve everything! That has more to do with the material conditions of operating as struggling minorities within capitalism, it's inevitable division of labour and the stresses and strains of working class life. Social movements at a mass level can overcome some of those problems but as Auld-bod suggests it's a matter of trial and error through the experience of struggle and can only ever be a partial success outside of the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism.

ajjohnstone
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Sep 1 2017 05:38
Quote:
neither would deny that there are not still problems with that in practice - Rule books can't solve everything!

Seconded smile

But rule-books can be amended and after a hundred years, the SPGB are still debating motions and resolutions to fine-tune our organisation's one.

With our declining membership and less participation at branch meetings, executive committees and attendees at conferences, the shape and structure of the SPGB will need to be addressed and up-coming discussions are aimed to do just that and focus on necessary changes to decision-making.

Talisa i think should pix and mix, and my post was just to place another dish on the menu and as you say trial and error will determine what is palatable and digestible or not.

But an organisation must be suitably grounded in principles to survive the wrong choices.

Talisa
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Sep 5 2017 04:21
ajjohnstone wrote:

Talisa i think should pix and mix, and my post was just to place another dish on the menu and as you say trial and error will determine what is palatable and digestible or not.

I'm very grateful and it looks delicious. smile

Talisa
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Sep 5 2017 05:27

I just read it and I'm afraid it confused me quite a bit. I hope you can help clarify?

The quote below is about your annual conference. It says it's not until after the conference that there is a vote on the resolutions, and the voting is done by the wider membership in branch meetings. Is that right? So what do the delegates do at the conference? I guess discuss the resolutions, and base that discussion on what their fellow branch members said?

Quote:
20. A Conference of the Party shall be held annually in the Spring.

21. [...] Within five (5) weeks after Conference Branches shall hold at least one specially summoned meeting at which voting shall take place on the Final Agenda. The actual number of votes for and against each Amendment to Rule and Resolution as cast either in person or in writing by branch members shall be the vote recorded and sent to the Standing Orders Committee within six (6) weeks after the Conference. Similarly, Central Branch members' actual votes for and against shall be recorded as cast.

But if it's the case that voting takes place in branch meetings after the conference, as it says in #21, then why is it that in the next paragraph there is mention of delegates voting at the conference?

Quote:
22. [...] Delegates of Branches formed within the previous six months shall sit and vote only with the consent of the Conference. Where Branches are unable to send their full number of delegates, the votes of their delegates upon all questions where definite written instructions have been given (signed by the Branch Secretary and Chair) shall count according to the representation to which the Branch is entitled.
Talisa
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Sep 5 2017 05:32
ajjohnstone wrote:
With our declining membership and less participation at branch meetings

Sorry to hear that. I have my disagreements with SPGB but I agree with your long term vision for society and in the past I've learned a lot from your literature, which is very clear and easy to understand. (Unlike your Rule Book! tongue )

ajjohnstone
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Sep 5 2017 06:52

Understanding a rule book that is the fruit of over a hundred years and which is expected to apply to past, present, and future circumstances will be difficult.

This is a vote on the draft conference agenda put together by a standing orders committee of what has been submitted by the branches and the amendments added to it. Plus the supporting statements.

One of the safeguards the SPGB put into place was that Executive Committee or the figure-head General Secretary cannot place motions to conference so to stop any manipulation or untoward direction we see so commonly in other organisations. Branches have an opportunity to study conference agenda in advance and comment if necessary.

Branches must hold a special meeting in advance of conference with the final agenda in front of them and they can instruct the delegates on what view is to be presented as the opinion of the branch majority...or they are given a free-hand to listen to the debate, make their own determination and vote accordingly. We have seen one branch's delegates address conference and disagree with one another. It is an example of the wide representation of views that the SPGB encourage. None of the democratic centralism crap.

At the beginning the conference, delegates submit their credentials. It is a precaution to ensure that those who claim to represent a branch actually do. As usual, in practice, some do not possess them so it is put to the chair to ask conference to accept and permit their participation.

There are rules on how many delegates a branch gets determined by branch numbers but they do not exclude the delegates actually sitting. Often those members present with delegate credentials take turn around sitting at the table and debating.

The votes at conference are only advisory and guidance and do not carry any authority until the resolutions are voted by individual member polls in a postal ballot. Votes at conference are indicative votes. Special rules apply to floor resolutions and instructions to the EC. so that conference power without feedback from members not present and the branches is limited...conference cannot get carried away with the excitement of the moment and impose its views.

So we can have debates and discussions at a get together and then members receive later summaries of the exchanges and the results of the conference delegates show of hands on any particular topic...but it is not binding on the Party until after the party poll and again a special branch meeting is called to discuss face to face the actions of conference and hear the branch delegates report of the proceedings before the poll.

As i said, we have a problem that some branches no longer meet in person regularly and some do not have a delegate at conference for that essential personal report of how it went, what was said, et...and just as important...describe the feelings and emotions and whats being said in the pub or over tea...I don't think we can avoid the reality that gossip and informal exchanges takes place. We can only minimise the risk.

My own view is that technology exists for Skype or some other video-conferencing to be used. Not just for conference but also for the monthly EC meetings. I have a tendency to suggest that we can off-load all the material stuff and upload ...to go virtual...and make our assets liuid and spend on activities, not on bricks and mortar and paper-print.

I'm a minority of one and i'm not even 100% convinced i am right.

Talisa
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Sep 5 2017 17:47

That clears things up a lot. Thanks!

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Ugg
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Oct 13 2017 05:06
Talisa wrote:
3. Sorry, I don't really understand this question. Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but what you describe doesn't sound like delegate democracy. But it could be that I'm the one who's misinformed.

Yeah sorry, I'm confused by what I mean myself. I hope I'm not some kind of authoritarian without noticing it sad

I think that people through a process maybe like consensus should go to meetings and come up with mandates in their assembles for their delegates to deliberate in favour of and that people should be able to recall their delegate and approve, reject or modify any decisions they make and that delegates should be able to be recalled at any time. Assemblies where people vote for delegates and mandates should be frequent and everyone should be allowed to participate in the writing of these mandates.

Would for example a council system that maybe functioned something like this be too authoritarian?

1. Every month people go to a meeting where they discuss ideas, proposals, concerns and opinions they have. I sort of imagine a process like consensus could be used to collectively put together a mandate. If consensus wasn't possible I hope that a mandate with the majority and minority positions would be drafted, and delegates would be sent to go deliberate in favour of the majority and minority positions who would divide their council's vote proportionately between themselves based on how many people voted for each mandate.

2. Delegates would go to a higher council and basically repeat the process where delegates would state their mandates and then use consensus to try to put together one list of agreements. If consensus could not be achieved they would vote and the minorities would put together a list of their positions and how they think the list of agreements should be changed.

3. The delegates would return to their councils and present the list of agreements as well as the positions of the minorities. Then through a process like consensus people could approve of the list of agreements or mandate their delegate to go deliberate in favour of certain modifications or additions to be made to the list of agreements or to reject it. If there was disagreement majority and minority mandates would be drafted and majority and minority delegates would be sent to deliberate in favour of them.

4. Delegates would meet in a higher council and report the results of the votes within their councils. If the majority of people were in favour of the list of agreements being kept the way it was then it would be possible to pass the list of agreements and once that was settled councils could begin to put the plans into action. If there wasn't a majority in favour of the decision or the majority thought the minority had important concerns or wanted to have consensus then they might try to deliberate and make modifications to the list of agreements which would have to be sent back to their councils for another round of consensus.

Here are a few quotes that I think I generally agree with but maybe I'm not correctly understanding them.

"This character is reflected in the practice of all proceedings. The councils are no politicians, no government. They are messengers, carrying and interchanging the opinions, the intentions, the will of the groups of workers. Not, indeed, as indifferent messenger boys passively carrying letters or messages of which they themselves know nothing. They took part in the discussions, they stood out as spirited spokesmen of the prevailing opinions. So now, as delegates of the group, they are not only able to defend them in the council meeting, but at the same time they are sufficiently unbiased to be accessible to other arguments and to report to their group opinions more largely adhered to. Thus they are the organs of social intercourse and discussion."- Anton Pannekoek, Workers' Councils

I think that having delegates deliberate and listening to the concerns of others from other councils is good and that one of the benefits of having delegates is that they could perhaps spend longer amounts of time discussing conflicts and concerns which could maybe lead to people coming up with decisions that might make everyone happy.

I think delegates should have a certain amount of leeway to modify the mandate they were sent to argue for or to even vote against it in some circumstances. For example if people wanted their delegate to vote for a bridge to be built over a river but delegates from other councils convinced them that this bridge would be dangerous or have a really negative effect on their communities I think it would be okay for them to decide the bridge was a bad idea and then return to their council and tell them that they voted against the bridge for such and such reasons. If their council found these reasons to be unsatisfactory people would be able to reject this decision and send them or another delegate to go vote and argue for the bridge once again.

I think it's important that delegates are actually able to deliberate in favour of certain positions and to be on the watch out for proposals from other delegates that would go against those positions. This isn't to say they have to completely agree with their mandate- for example I think it's possible for a delegate to argue for mandates they found acceptable where they made big compromises with their opposition. I personally wouldn't want my delegate to be my dogmatic messenger but someone I could trust to express my opinions and concerns properly.

"In delegate democracy, delegates are elected for specific purposes with very specific limitations. They may be strictly mandated (ordered to vote in a certain way on a certain issue) or the mandate may be left open (delegates being free to vote as they think best) with the people who have elected them reserving the right to confirm or reject any decision thus taken. Delegates are generally elected for very short periods and are subject to recall at any time. " - Ken Knabb, Joy of Revolution

"But when the issues are not particularly controversial, mandating will probably be fairly loose. Having arrived at some general decision (e.g. “This building should be remodeled to serve as a daycare center”), an assembly might simply call for volunteers or elect a committee to implement it without bothering with detailed accountability."

- Ken Knabb, Joy of Revolution

I think that sometimes delegates might have loose mandates that are left open to do a general thing (ie. bottom council might not come up with a plan themselves on how to switch to green energy but they might mandate that their delegate come up with one themselves or through deliberation with other delegates. Maybe this is too vague but I personally would be okay with voting for this).

I also think that I might be okay with delegates being allowed to sometimes vote how they think best as Knabb says with that vote being subject to the approval, modification or rejection of their council. I don't see what the problem with giving a delegate responsibility to make decisions when they would have to report back their decisions after which they could be recalled and every little decision they make could immediately be cancelled by their councils by just a vote in their general assembly. In my view what they would be doing is nothing more than what everyone would do in a consensus process where someone makes a proposal (in this case a delegate).

I do however think it is really important for people to be able to change their delegates and mandates as often as possible.

"For more complicated matters, committees can be elected to look into various possibilities and report back to the assemblies about the ramifications of different options. Once a plan is adopted, smaller committees can continue to monitor developments, notifying the assemblies of any relevant new factors that might suggest modifying it. On controversial issues multiple committees reflecting opposing perspectives (e.g. protech versus antitech) might be set up to facilitate the formulation of alternative proposals and dissenting viewpoints. As always, delegates will not impose any decisions (except regarding the organization of their own work) and will be elected on a rotating and recallable basis, so as to ensure both that they do a good job and that their temporary responsibilities don’t go to their heads. Their work will be open to public scrutiny and final decisions will always revert to the assemblies." -Ken Knabb, Joy of Revolution

I'm not sure exactly what Knabb means in this quote but it makes sense to me that councils made of democratically elected, mandated, recallable delegates whose proposals can be rejected and/or modified at any time could serve a role like this.

I think that delegates should sometimes be able to receive proposals from other delegates- ie. A delegate from another council proposes that we all put solar panels on the roofs of our buildings and then all the delegates would discuss them in depth (ie. Have a discussion about the potential downsides, examining the proposal to see whether this would violate certain rules or positions their council had, perhaps delegates would modify the proposal if it did violate rules or just because they thought it would improve the proposal etc.) And then give a temporary vote in favour or against the proposal which would then have to be approved by the council. For example I think a delegate who had a mandate to pursue greener energy should be able to hear a proposal for solar panels and then deliberate in favour of it, propose any modifications that they think would help and then present this proposal to their own council.

I think this preliminary discussion would be useful for fixing potential problems or conflicts on certain proposals and I think for example it would be useful if my delegate had interrogated a proposal beforehand and could for example point out specific good or bad things about the proposal or how they thought it should be improved, etc.

This is more sketchy but I think sometimes it might help if delegates could give a good guess of whether or not their council would approve of a certain decision for coordination reasons- for example a delegate could say that they thought their council would want solar panels and so somebody would then begin counting how many solar panels they would need. I think this could be slightly dangerous in some cases because you wouldn't want delegates to give a tentative go ahead to actions that might accidentally wreck something on you- ie. Someone starts producing solar panels through an environmentally destructive manner and it later turns out no one wants solar panels and that they can't be re-purposed).

I also think that periodic meetings between delegates would be useful even if their councils had no specific goals for them- it might be useful for them to just update each other on what is going on or maybe even brainstorm ideas which could be then discussed in councils for consideration.

"Normally those periodic meetings would not last more than a few hours. They dealt with concrete, precise subjects concretely and precisely. And all who had something to say could express themselves. The Comite presented the new problems that had arisen since the previous assembly, the results obtained by the application of such and such a resolution . . . relations with other syndicates, production returns from the various workshops or factories. All this was the subject of reports and discussion. Then the assembly would nominate the commissions, the members of these commissions discussed between themselves what solutions to adopt, if there was disagreement, a majority report and a minority report would be prepared."- Gaston Levall, Collectives in the Spanish Revolution

"Mandated here means that the delegates from workers' assemblies and councils to meetings of higher confederal bodies would be instructed, at every level of confederation, by the workers who elected them on how to deal with any issue. They would be delegates, not representatives, and so would attend any confederal meeting with specific instructions on how to vote on a particular issue."- An Anarchist FAQ

I think I'm okay with these two quotes as well except I don't know what would be wrong with giving a delegate some general instructions instead of having to be specific all the time.

Radicalgraffiti wrote:
you dont vote for a delegate with specific agender, and vote for a different one for a different set of polices. the idea is the groups in the federation each meet, discuss the issues, and come to a decision, the delegate is mandated to take the decision to the federal meeting, depending on how the federation is organised the decisions can be of the nature the group votes for x, 30% of the group votes for x 60 for y and 10 abstain, we vote for x if a or otherwise for y, propose an amendment etc

How would people in the minority or people who changed their minds be able to make proposals to change the list of agreements between councils then?

For example let's say there was a list of 100 agreements between all the councils in a region and within one of the councils there was a group of say radical environmentalists who wanted to modify say 30 of those agreements and add something like 20 new agreements.

Would the only way for them to do this would be to go to each say monthly meeting and then every time make everyone vote on each of those proposals one by one?

This seems like it would be an annoying and time consuming system.

What's worse is that it seems like when that council sent delegates to go meet with delegates from other councils all of those delegates would have to go back to their own councils and make them vote on each of these 50 proposals one by one because people would not be allowed to give delegates any instruction or agenda on whether they wanted the list of agreements changed in some way or if they wanted it to stay the same or somewhere in between.

I know it causes problems but i feel like it would be just so much easier if people just had to vote for one list or platform of 50 proposals rather than having to propose them all one by one.
I also think it might be the case that people wouldn't be able to hear every single proposal others from their entire regional, national or even international federation were making.

I think if you gave your delegates some instruction on how you feel about the list of agreements between councils they would be able to patiently hear concerns and proposals from other councils and would be able to deliberate and see if they were compatible with their mandate or if perhaps it would make sense in some cases to change the mandate. If delegated thought it made sense to change the list of agreements they would report this back to the council who would have the right to reject, modify or support those proposals.

Even if people felt it was necessary to listen to every proposal someone in the world was making i still think that this process could save time by allowing delegates a chance to synthesize many different proposals, resolve some disagreements and also learn about the proposals which could be useful for people discussing proposals their delegate voted against in their councils.
I just feel like it would be so much easier to just say "I like this platform" over having to vote for a million different things every month.

I'm worried that the system you're describing would result in endless meetings because there would be no way for people in the minority or people who changed their mind to group all their proposals into one agenda and therefore they would instead have to force everyone in their federation to basically vote on each proposal one by one every meeting or special rules would have to be put into place that would make it really hard for people to make new proposals or changes to the list of agreements.

Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a mole hill. But I still think having the ability to EASILY change the list of agreements is really important, perhaps even more important than being able to easily get rid of corrupt delegates because I actually can’t imagine how a delegate could be corrupt without actually messing around with the list of agreements- for example a delegate could only engage in corrupt behavior if they say added things to the list of agreements that said that delegates should receive some unfair special treatment or power or they made agreements that were vague enough to be deliberately misinterpreted.

This is just rhetorical but I almost think if you had to make a choice it might even be better to have a system in which it was extremely difficult to remove corrupt delegates but they could easily be completely controlled and over-rided by changing mandates rather than a system in which delegates could easily be removed but it was really hard to change the corrupt mandates that they made which were against people's wishes.

Disregarding corruption it's possible people might vote for mandates they later want changed for a few reasons for example maybe:

- They had a change of mind
- They initially accidentally voted in favour of something without realizing what would happen if they did
- Changes in situations made them think changing them makes sense
- There was a miscommunication or a misinterpretation of the mandate between the delegates and people in their councils
- The ideas seemed good at a glance
- They were unaware that they even voted for certain things- maybe they lost track because of how things they had to vote on in a general assembly one month or whatever
- Maybe the proposal was too general (ie. people probably aren't going to be mandating the colour of every building that is made) which led to delegates or people from other councils to make an honest attempt to fill in the blanks but this turned out in a way people didn't want.

It would be one thing if it was just a wrong decision that wasn't too important or that they could change it later on. For example the IWA has international congresses every 3 years and I have to imagine sometimes people vote for things they regret but they could live with that decision for a few years without it causing them too much distress. I still think that this is a little unfortunate and it seems a bit like alienation to me but maybe I’m being a little dramatic.

One of the things that I’ve been thinking about is how something like DAPL could happen in an anarchist society. Hopefully in the future people won't be building huge pipelines but I don’t think it’s out of the question that somewhere in the world in an anarchist future there might be a construction project that was controversial and environmentally destructive that some people voted in favour of because they thought it might be helpful. For example many people wrongly supported the pipeline because they thought it provided jobs for people who needed them and that building pipelines was actually an environmentally wise decision because pipelines are technically less dangerous than transporting oil through rail and other methods. I don’t think you could wait 3 years for another congress in a situation like this and I think you would want to make it as easy as possible for people to change their vote.

I think that if you don’t make it easy to change lists of agreements it would mean that people would necessarily have to spend tons of time discussing and closely examining the lists of agreements, almost as if they were lawyers because if they accidentally voted for decisions that were wrong they would be mostly stuck with them.

The biggest reason why I think it is important and maybe this is just a stupid liberal in me but I think that this would actually make councils a useful place for activism. People in their general assemblies would be given the chance to tell others why something is wrong and they would have an avenue to change it.

I don’t think that making it easy to change and to have delegates regularly meet to deliberate on issues (perhaps allowing minority delegates to sometimes rehash issues more than once) would eliminate the need for direct action or lead to situations in which the majority is never severely wrong even after long discussions but I think that this would really help with those situations and perhaps lead to us avoiding them more often.

Auld-bod wrote:
I do not imagine a society organized along anarcho-communist lines as solely comprised of people who are doctrinaire politicos. Many folk will simply see it as a rational, though not a perfect system of organizing. There would be lots of discussion and compromises made, as sometimes a decision could be for or against your own position. In practice, decision making would be shaped by learning from experience, rather than following a set blueprint. Hence the need for maximum transparency to be able to draw accurate assessments. Secret ballots to arrive at a decision may be used at times – though it implies that some people are more trustworthy than others (as presumably some ‘trusties’ would be needed to supervise the ballot). Minority rights are important, as free/direct democracy is not the dictatorship of the majority.

I understand not wanting to make blueprints that we can't change or people can't add their own ideas to but do you think all hypothetical discussion about what potential problems a libertarian society might have or what it might look like between people is bad?

For example Is it too much of a blueprint for individuals to advocate that we should maybe have mandated recallable delegates and councils/communes?

One of the reasons I brought up the idea of minority delegates is because one of the main criticisms I've read of syndicalism and councils is that it unintentionally is really vulnerable to "vote distortion" even more so than parliamentary systems where the outcome of votes made at the top by delegates would not be actually representative of the total vote at the bottom.

I really like the IWA but I think that it suffers from this accidental problem as well. For example in order to pass a mandate in local you need at least 2/3rds of the vote to support it and to pass a vote in the national you would need 2/3rds of the mandated delegates to vote in favour of it. This means that it's technically possible if in 2/3rds of the locals 2/3rds of the people supported a proposal that everybody else opposed it could get passed even though 43.5% supported it. With each higher level of federation this distortion can get worse so for example if 2/3rds of the nationals supported a proposal even though only 43.5% of the vote within those nationals supported that proposal and 1/3 of the nationals opposed it the proposal would be able to pass even though 28.7% supported it.

Conversely it's possible for proposals I think in Solidarity Federation to not pass even though 86% support them and for proposals in the whole IWA to not pass even though 94% support them. This would be extremely unlikely, requiring that almost 2/3rds of locals/nationals vote unanimously for a proposal and then almost 2/3rds in the other locals/nationals to also be supportive of the proposal.

If the IWA was to expand its membership it might need to make intermediate federations to manage this which could lead to even further distortion. I know that the IWA says that locals and nationals should try to reach consensus but I don't think this is always possible- people are going to have to vote, and I think that the most important decisions are going to be ones in which people cannot agree, making vote distortion an even bigger issue.

The IWA I think tries to deal with this problem by saying that locals should try to sort out their problems and come to a consensus but I think that this is flawed because the issues that people cannot agree on, and thus are going to have to vote on are likely to be very important issues. It seems like a problem to me that the most important issues are going to be decided by a voting process that has a significant potential to distort the vote.

I don't agree with Paul Cockshott on many things but I remember a while back he wrote an article (that I can't find anywhere) where he makes an interesting point that not only does vote distortion lead to undemocratic decisions but that it itself may give an advantage to authoritarian, centralist and dogmatic ideologies and groups. Although there were obviously other factors he claims that vote distortion helped the Bolsheviks take over the soviets where they were then able to intentionally more undemocratic.

I support minority delegates because I think it's good to include everyone in decision-making and to have those in the minority from different councils be able to coordinate.

But more importantly it's because if you had minority delegates you would basically eliminate this problem of vote distortion.

Auld-bod wrote:
Your concern over multiple jobs is I think misplaced. Decision making based on the workplace would disenfranchise many or most people in society. Councils should be communist – based on those who live within the commune.

Free from the alienation of capitalism and the disappearance of paid employment, the nature of work and play will fuse, as humanity is transformed for the first time into whole human beings. Political skullduggery will pass into history.

First off in a system that DID have workplace councils everybody old enough to participate in the commune councils would be members of workplace councils or councils that were of a similar type. People who didn’t work for whatever reason or who do what is currently unpaid work would have their own councils. Absolutely no one would be disenfranchised by these types of councils organized around common activity/ affinity/ interest. For example maybe there would be councils for seniors or something. If you didn't care about voter anonmity you could give people who chose not to be a member of a council those extra votes in a commune council.

I don't know if children would be allowed to vote in communes- maybe they would always be allowed in which case there might be a type of workers' council for children at their school or something.

I think this has even been kind of the case historically- Sylvia Pankhurst nearly 100 years ago advocated for councils for "household soviets" so women who were housewives could be represented in the council system (she also advocated for simulataneously getting rid of the role of housewife in a socialist society); in many revolutions there's been councils for the unemployed, students, peasants etc.

"Household Soviets
In order that mothers and those who are organisers of the family life of the community may be adequately represented, and may take their due part in the management of society, a system of household Soviets shall be built up."- Sylvia Pankhurst, A Constitution for British soviets. Points for a communist programme

"But this time, the soviets were reproduced on a much wider scale--appearing among peasants, soldiers, even students and housewives--and were joined by other forms of workers' organizations."- Amy Muldoon How workers' power was organized

"The organization of the councils must be such that they embrace all of society. Assemblies will have to be constituted not only in work areas but in other areas as well. The delineation of the various tasks, powers, membership, etc., of these different forms of organization will be one of the first priorities of the assemblies."- Point Blank!- The power of the councils

The IWW for example doesn't exclude people not currently working or doing unpaid labour:

"(1) I am a student, a retired worker, and/or I am unemployed; can I still be an IWW member?

Yes. According to the IWW Constitution, under Article II (Membership), Section 1(b):

No unemployed or retired worker, no working-class student, apprentice, home- maker, prisoner or unwaged volunteer on a project initiated by the IWW or any subordinate body thereof shall be excluded from membership on the grounds that s/he is not currently receiving wages."

I worry that maybe people who didn't work who might participate in a commune might not want to be part of a workers' council for the not currently working because they might fear stigma over that but I don't know.

Do you not think that in a libertarian-communist society it wouldn't take some sort of federated cooperation to run a healthcare system or railways?

I'm not even against decentralization, deindustrialization or even primitivism as goals (I'll admit I'm personally somewhat still hopeful that current or future technology could be used to alleviate some suffering around the world) but I think given that we're currently living in a highly interdependent global economy to support our basic needs I think that we would need to be cooperating on an international level even if our end goal was to eliminate this interdependence.

I think there would still need to be cooperation to determine for example how to best divide our limited resources between different industries- how much do we devote for healthcare, how much we devote for making residences for people to live in, etc and what is the best way we provide those things or what combination of resources should we use to build those things ie. how much should we devote ourselves to producing steel and other materials.

It's interesting that you oppose workplace councils and instead just support the idea of regional councils/communes because I sort of thought it could be a good potential solution to the problem of people belonging to multiple councils- just make everyone part of only one council where all matters would be discussed.

However there's a few problems I have with this idea:

-I'm worried that there wouldn't always be people in your neighbourhood council who also worked at your workplaces, or that there'd only be a limited number. This would mean that in this setting you would be losing out on hearing their perspectives on issues which would be really relevant to you.

- Let's say that a decision being proposed at your neighbourhood council in your opinion might negatively effect your workplace. If you were the only one in your council you would be forced to speak publicly in the general assembly or maybe even have to attend the next higher level of council yourself because there was no one else in the council who had your perspective or could properly deliberate in favour of it. Even if there was a couple of other workers from your workplaces who were in your neighbourhood council your options would be limited.

In a workplace council you'd get to hear all the different perspectives of others who work in your workplace and you could participate in the discussion or sit back and vote in favour of one of the various different positions that might have been arrived at. It'd be a lot more likely that you would hear a perspective you agreed with and could vote in favour of.

I also think if instead of having delegates from different workplaces just expressing the concerns from 1 workplace you had everybody in a commune who might all work different jobs tell their delegate all their concerns from for example 50-100 different workplaces this would be really difficult for the delegate to understand and remember all this information and to not only state these concerns but also to deliberate in favour of them, determine whether proposals from other delegates conflicts with these concerns or make compromises that would best include all those concerns.

I'm not entirely against this idea but I think it would additionally be annoying and time-consuming if people had to give their delegate basically a 500 word essay or do some kind of interview or deliver a long speech about how a decision might affect their workplace or what their desires as workers were. Cornelius Castoriadis is often quoted as saying this (I copied and pasted this from the Anarchist FAQ):

"It might be claimed that the problem of numbers remains and that people never would be able to express themselves in a reasonable amount of time. This is not a valid argument. There would rarely be an assembly over twenty people where everyone would want to speak, for the very good reason that when there is something to be decided upon there are not an infinite number of options or an infinite number of arguments. In unhampered rank-and-file workers' gatherings (convened, for instance, to decide on a strike) there have never been 'too many' speeches. The two or three fundamental opinions having been voiced, and various arguments exchanged, a decision is soon reached.

[Political and Social Writings, vol. 2, pp. 144-5] "

I don't think this would always be the case though. For example if everybody in say a 100 person communal council worked at different workplaces making different things in different ways it makes sense to me that everyone might each have their own unique concerns about how decisions might affect them as workers. I feel like this means that everyone would probably have to speak at these meetings because there wouldn't be anybody else there who would know how they felt.

I think that every workplace as well would need to have at least some democratic coordination with other workplaces anyway as well.

I also think that delegates from a workplace, especially if there was delegates for minority positions as well would have better intuition over what their fellow workplace councils would want so when they went to discussion meetings with delegates from other workplaces I think there would be less chance that delegates would make wrong decisions that would later have to be corrected because they would have shared the same experiences with other people in their council and would not be having to also deliberate on behalf of a ton of other people who work a bunch of unique jobs they didn't work at.

I think it would just be a good idea in general for delegates from all the different workplaces to get together and discuss worker concerns and production.

Again this is only really a big problem with secret ballot. If people are perfectly happy to vote publicly and spend a significant time in meetings discussing and arguing about how a decision might affect them at their workplace then I don't think this is as much a problem. But if people don't want to do this

I'm worried that there won't be anyone to deliberate in favour of people's concerns as workers and there wouldn't be any balance between what people want as workers and what they want as consumers of goods and services.

I'm worried the way you describe it two things would happen: people who were not wanting to speak up at meetings for whatever reason would have their workplaces negatively affected by decisions their commune delegate made. Secondly if everybody did speak up this would make these meetings really long and probably almost everybody would have to practically be acting as their own delegate whether they wanted to or not.

I still think workers' councils have problems though. My only thought to deal with my original question would be that everybody would have to be part of the same number of workers' councils at a time or that people could only vote in one of them at a time or something. But I don't know.

EDIT: Sorry for bumping my thread, I edited a word and I guess that counts as a new post?