'Consensus' decision making

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gawkrodger
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Aug 30 2005 11:52
'Consensus' decision making

not sure which forum this should go in.

is it just amoung radical liberals that 'consensus' decision making is so fawned upon? Why did this trend become popular?

How successfull have people been in arguing against the use of it?

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PaulMarsh
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Aug 30 2005 12:06

Class War has always tended to vote on big things.

Don't see a problem with it.

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Steven.
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Aug 30 2005 12:45

Some good points here from the US, where consensus is more widespread than here:

http://libcom.org/organise/general/articles/decision-making-and-organisational-form.php

gawkrodger
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Aug 30 2005 14:29
PaulMarsh wrote:
Class War has always tended to vote on big things.

Don't see a problem with it.

if it was good enough for spanish peasents collectivising in 1936 it's good enough for me!

I've rarely come across class struggle, organisational (proper wink )anarchists fetishising it.

thanks for the link john

rebel_lion
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Sep 2 2005 13:15

i don't fetishise it, but i think in small groups (which is the only group size that can *really* be non-hierarchical, imo) it's better than voting, if it's possible.

majority voting causes a problem when you have a majority and a substantial minority who are opposed to that decision. imo it's pretty authoritarian to force a minority to go along with a decision they don't agree with...

the point where consensus decision making gets fucking stupid tho is where a consensus clearly *isn't* reached by a group but some members of a group are still insistent that a consensus *needs* to be reached that everyone can agree with, when it's blatantly clear that isn't possible... imo in that sort of situation it has to be accepted that consensus isn't possible, and then something else has to be done, but there can be very strong "moral" pressure to "keep the group together" that can lead to very bad feeling and ppl basically being accused of being anti-social or anti-communal for suggesting majority voting and/or splitting the group...

imo if consensus is impossible and voting becomes necessary, splitting the group is better than forcing the minority to go along with the majority decision. better to part amicably and become 2 separate groups (each of which then *does* have consensus) than have a reluctant minority feeling they are coerced to do something against their wishes, imo...

meanoldman
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Sep 2 2005 19:22

AF also uses majority voting for just about everything. Consensus decision making is rubbish with more than 10 people, and is definetly not a decision making mechanism suitable for an entire society.

Deezer
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Joined: 2-10-04
Sep 2 2005 22:23

Wasn't there a thread on this already?

circle A red n black star

l'agité
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Sep 3 2005 09:07
Quote:
AF also uses majority voting for just about everything. Consensus decision making is rubbish with more than 10 people, and is definetly not a decision making mechanism suitable for an entire society.

In France the Anarchist Federation decision making is the rule of unanimity (thus consensus)... and there are largley more than 10 guys. But groups are autonomous and they have their own rules of decision.

I never voted in my group, and i never voted in differents collectives or united meetings with others libertarian organisation to prepare demonstration or actions.

When you are in a united meeting the vote can't be used : you can't vote for a leaflet because if an organization is not ok theirs militiants will not distribut the leaflet. It's the same to prepare an action or an united demonstration, if an organization is not ok theirs militants will not participate and it will break the unit dynamics.

Mike Harman
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Sep 3 2005 10:23

I'd rather distribute something I've got some disagreement with after a proper discussion which I'd lost, than distribute something that's completely watered down because anything controversial has been removed to reach consensus.

l'agité
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Sep 4 2005 09:47

Yes consensus can make very light leaflets. I'm thinking about a leaflets from all the libertarian organizations in France about the G8 in 2003. it was very light. But however the consensus allowed to do a big mobilization by creating a paper, an alternative village, a radio, the biggest preocession in the final demonstration, etc...

In term of efficacity in France it's the AF which the more dynamics (with a radio, many bookshops, a color weekly magazine etc...) and use consensus. In the AF all dynamics come from the autonomous groups and individuals. Even if the group is in minority nobody can say "you can't do that". In organization who used majority rules, and it's a critic of platformism, the dynamics not come from groups but from the Congress (at least it validates)

In comparison the "rival" Alternative Libertaire(it's not pejorative, if i say "rival" it's because both AF and AL have same claims), using majority rules, is not very active , and no more radical....

meanoldman
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Sep 4 2005 10:25

None of the positive things you list are dependent on consensus. If the AF voted to produce a leaflet when I thought we should put our efforts into something else I'd still help distribute it. You appear to assume that voting against something means that people will then play no part in implementing that decision.

l'agité
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Sep 4 2005 17:43
Quote:
You appear to assume that voting against something means that people will then play no part in implementing that decision.

In certain case yes i think. For example : about the european referendum the AL organization position was to call and take part with the others lefts organization to vote NO, but their was a minority which do not want to vote. Which was to be the position of this minority : call also to defend their organizational position despite what they thinked ... or not and remain neutral.... but in the case where this minority wants to take part in an abstentionnist campaign : then this minority can't write in the paper of their organization, not take part in any action or do a simple leaflet.

In this type of case i reject the vote : why prevent guys to do what they want even their are in opposition with the majority, and why have obligatory an organizational position on a question when the entire organization is not ok ?

IrrationallyAngry
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Sep 4 2005 21:09

The one bit I find very difficult to understand in discussions about consensus decision making is the argument that it makes manipulation of a "broad" campaign by an organised group harder. After the experience of the ESF process this one should surely be put to bed. "Consensus" gibberish actually made it easier rather than harder for Socialist Action and the SWP to stitch things up.

Pilgrim
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Sep 6 2005 01:24

I use consensus decision making in Trident Ploughshares, and I have to say it isn't my favourite method of doing things.

For starters, it is often simply impossible to get a consensus within a large group. The larger the number of people present, the larger the number of dissenting views.

Then you have the vulnerability to factions or small cliques, who may have decided their group line in advance, and will push this line as far and as hard as possible to get their way.

Third, and I have witnessed this personally, consensus decision making in any group is always vulnerable to one or more group members being arsey if they can't get their way, deliberately holding up simple decisions and making a half hour meeting drag on endlessly, wasting everybody's time and causing no smallamount of bad feeling in the process.

Lastly, although I haven't seen this happen within my own outfit, a proposal can end up being so watered down in order to get consensus from all present that what starts out as a hard edged and solid idea can become a shadow of what it was originally intended to be.

dot
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Sep 6 2005 07:39

seems like consensus process (and i am *not* a fan) is a skill that has to be learned. people know what voting is, both its strengths and weaknesses are familiar...

the problem that consensus process tries to address is a real one, and of course consensus process is not the only way to address it.

the fact that it is always easy to warp something (to practice it according to its letter but not its spirit) is a larger problem than just with how decisions get made...

WeTheYouth
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Sep 6 2005 15:04

Consensus is something that would be nice to achieve, and we should try to reach consensus but not at the cost of long drawn out discussions and a watered down agreement. Majority voting is democratic i would much prefer to not have anything to do something if i disagreed with it, than spend forever arguing over it.

And gawk, you robbed my example! angry angry

rebel_lion
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Sep 8 2005 12:08

further to what i said before, i think the problem is not so much consensus decision making as an idea, but its misapplication: in the sorts of circumstances where aiming for consensus leads to a watered down consensus that satisfies no one or where there is a substantial faction who don't want to go along with the consensus, that group was never an appropriate group for consensus decision making in the first place...

in the latter case i think it's actually better to split into 2 groups - ppl in my experience seem to see that as some sort of unthinkably un-communitarian action or as a failure, whereas i think it actually ought to be seen as positive - the "factions" shouldn't be seen as forced into enmity with each other, but as choosing to do separate things that complement each other.

if a substantial minority can't go along with consensus, rather than using majority voting to compel them to go along with the majority decision against their own wishes, imo they ought to leave the group (without it being seen either as an expulsion or sectarian "splitting") and go by their own consensus.

ime there's a false ideology of "unity" being necessary all the time, that actually does more harm than good by trying to create consensus between different groups whose aims and/or tactics simply are too different...

dot
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Sep 9 2005 15:15

rebel lion - i agree with you strongly that it's better to have friendly factions than false unity. i can't imagine that anyone would argue that.

and talking about that as an option is probably a good/useful/necessary point, since people don't seem to be any good at it.

because people aren't good at it, it also means that it doesn't generally happen (i.e. the factions usually aren't, or don't stay, friendly).

wrapped up in a lof of this is the question of what do people really get out of being in these groups? false unity might not be "false" if the "unity" is really around seeing each other as friends and support, more than it's around getting some specific task accomplished.

political groups as socializing/play groups is something i've been thinking about for a while. so many of us are crappy at just hanging out with each other.