decision making in an organisation

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Jan 31 2008 20:18
decision making in an organisation

It actually seems fairly comical to me that I have got this far in calling myself and beleiving myself to be a communist without having settled the question of decision making, and that there are people three times my age in the movement who don't seem to have either would be hilarious if i didn't actually beleive anarchism had a chance.

I'd like to hear some of the different ways revolutionary groups make decisions and decide what they are going to do as an organisation.

For instance, the WSM have a practice of having position papers which are decide by a majority vote if there is no consensus, and say if a members views radically differ then they would be encouraged to leave. (i don;t know if this is the same for all Platformist orgs, so i'm using the WSM as an example) That's one way of doing things, considered absolutely unnacceptable by many anarchists i have spoken to.

Another way was the WOMBLES way of doing things, where they had no membership, no official positions and anyone could call themselves a womble. This i suppose is the other extreme, and considered equally unnacceptable by a lot of anarchists (again, this is probably the standard practice in insurrectionary groups, its just an example).

So, what are the other ways of making decisons in an anarchist organisation?

How do syndicalist groups do it? If you are a proper syndicalist group rather than a propaganda group - like the CNT - coming to decisions must be pretty bloody imperative. It won't be case of whether you write this or that article, but whether you go on strike or call off a strike etc - things which directly matter to your members.

How do left cmmunists do it?

Do people think it is even neccessary to decide what an organisation should collectively do, as a whole?

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Jan 31 2008 20:20

as usual, the OP is riddled with typo's cos good knows you can't edit OP's and loves to ruin up my shit.

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Jan 31 2008 20:21

On last thing, i don't read posts longer that 4 paragraphs, i'm a div, i know. I just don't.

It occurred to me that i should say that have just invited left communists to give their views.

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Jan 31 2008 20:35

Well I see guydebordisdead is online, what's your opinion guy?

c'maaaaaaaaaan talk to me ppl.

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Jan 31 2008 20:55

Right - fair enough, thats your Position Papers though.

Supposiign that your other example - sending delegates from each branch to a campaign - had serious dissent. Like you wanted to send people to a HOPI event and one branch just said plainly they totally rejected this and the majority vote of the org could fuck off, they weren't doing it - and they would slag it off in public.

what then?

I'm not so interested in written Positons, but how a group gets to its *active* decisions.

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Jan 31 2008 21:05
guydebordisdead wrote:
How do you propose anarchists make decisions?

you just added that!!11

Ok, here's what i think - and i'd rather have heard some other ideas first, but fuck it.

I think if anarchists have come together into an organisation, then there is no point in then deciding they won't actually utilise the fact they are an organisation and act instead like a network: they should have campaigns and targets which they pick democratically through debate and through a *shared purpose* that already exists (so no point in having a organisation of people who do not have shared purpose). They should review them. And all members should recogbnise that this is what they are meant to be doing. They don't *have* to do it, but that this is what the majority of the org want to do.

My question is, is what possible other way of doing things is there? Cos what i have just outlined above is apparently leninist or something to a lot of people i speak to.

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Jan 31 2008 21:12
guydebordisdead wrote:
Tacks wrote:
Right - fair enough, thats your Position Papers though.

No, thats our decision making structure. Do you not understand that? confused

yes yes, of course, just the example you gave was over position papers so i thought that it might differ over active policy.

Guy, what are the other ways organisations come to decions? What are the objections to your way, and why in your opinion, are they wrong?

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Jan 31 2008 21:17
guydebordisdead wrote:
Tacks wrote:
guydebordisdead wrote:
How do you propose anarchists make decisions?

you just added that!!11

Ok, here's what i think - and i'd rather have heard some other ideas first, but fuck it.

I think if anarchists have come together into an organisation, then there is no point in then deciding they won't actually utilise the fact they are an organisation and act instead like a network: they should have campaigns and targets which they pick democratically through debate and through a *shared purpose* that already exists (so no point in having a organisation of people who do not have shared purpose). They should review them. And all members should recognise that this is what they are meant to be doing. They don't *have* to do it, but that this is what the majority of the org want to do.

My question is, is what possible other way of doing things is there? Cos what i have just outlined above is apparently leninist or something to a lot of people i speak to.

Sounds like platformism to me. How does the AF currently operate?

1) is that platformism? There's a whole load of executive committees and national liberation missing. If that is platformism, why does it get so much fucking stick? How esle could you possibly, POSSIBLY have any rational intervention?

"Hello m'am, i'm an anarchist, i've heard everyone on this block has stopped paying council tax and has been organising community forums to make decisions - i could tell you what i believe but i wouldn't want to oppress you and be a vanguard and stuff, so actually, i have to go now - you didn't see me, right? Bye" confused

2) i'm not discussing how the AF works, i don' think i am qualified to say.... neutral I know i have mentioned WSM, but thats only cos you have stuff on your site that plainly states how you work, so you are a good example.

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Jan 31 2008 21:24

I'm not really asking about consensus, i have been there with bells on. What are the objections to what you have called Platformism on this thread, from serious class struggle anarchists? How would, how COULD syndicalists do it any different?

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Jan 31 2008 21:26

oh fuck this, Guy lets just both of us keep schtum til someone else posts grin

i'm sounding like a rather unconvincing plant in the audience - "well, i'm glad you asked that question tax..." grin

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Jan 31 2008 22:01
guydebordisdead wrote:
This is where you enter complex territory because you cant seperate the organisational criticisms of syndicalism (for example) from the historical and political arguments. Syndicalist unions, we would say, will always because of their nature end up with large reformist tendencies, we believe in the need for a specific highly organised anarchist organisation to serve as a 'leadership of ideas'.

oi, fucking derailment or what comrade!

i'm not interested in 'reformism' - a rather fast and loose term in this scene anyway, i want to know how they ake decisions on what they should do.

different things my man.

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Feb 1 2008 00:03

At HSG meetings majority votes decide whether something is worth doing, then members have to volunteer to actually do it.
Votes are taken for items on the agenda, anyone at the meeting can add an item to the agenda.
This does have its flaws and would be more problematic on a wider scale.

gurrier
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Feb 1 2008 00:27

I always think that the reluctance of anarchists to go along with majority decisions in organisations is little more than dilletantism.

Sure, you may be against us participating in HOPI, your whole branch might be, but if you lose the vote, what's the big deal? At the most it means that you personally might have to go to a meeting or event as a delegate the odd time and the organisation might give them a few hundred quid. Big deal. A majority of your anarchist comrades disagreed with you and, hey, you might be wrong, none of us is a fucking fortune teller. More to the point, it just means that you're going to have to try to persuade your comrades of your position, come up with better arguments and so on.

Of course if you're the type of person who thinks that participating alongside a miniscule authoritarian organisation in such a tiny initiative is a fundamental breach of principles, you're in the wrong organisation and you should consider joining the internet anarcho-spartoid jihad.

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Feb 1 2008 06:08
jef costello wrote:
At HSG meetings majority votes decide whether something is worth doing, then members have to volunteer to actually do it.
Votes are taken for items on the agenda, anyone at the meeting can add an item to the agenda.
This does have its flaws and would be more problematic on a wider scale.

what do you think of Guy's system, as outlined on this thread - is it how HSG would work if it were a national org?

Regardless of that, is it how you would want to work on a national level?

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Feb 1 2008 06:57

double post

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Feb 1 2008 06:58
Tacks wrote:
what do you think of Guy's system, as outlined on this thread - is it how HSG would work if it were a national org?

Regardless of that, is it how you would want to work on a national level?

I have no idea, as far as I can tell no one would be keen on a council telling branches to send delegates, it would have to be based on agreement and availability. If a branch had voted down a motion then I would not expect them to send members to put it into action. The job of delegates would be to report the results of branch votes and the capacity/willingness of branches to act. For example if an anti-poverty initiative was voted down by members involved with LCAP as they felt it was duplicating work then they, or other members might still be willing to do work even if they'd voted against it. If it was an ideological problem then that would be more difficult.
The problem with national orgs is that the effort in running them quickly becomes disproportionate, especially when they are as small as present.

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Feb 1 2008 12:53
guydebordisdead wrote:
jef costello wrote:
I have no idea, as far as I can tell no one would be keen on a council telling branches to send delegates

But there is no council beyond the delegates - the national secretary arrange the delegate council each month and branches elect delegates. There's no permanent sitting body or executive.

I was referring to this

Quote:
All members have a vote and all branches discuss motions put forward to delegate council, these motions of course are on matters which will have effect across the whole organisation like 'all wsm branches will send delegates to X campaign'.

I may not have been clear, but I meant to say that people would not be pleased to be obliged to contribute to something that they'd voted against.

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Feb 1 2008 13:18
Quote:
Guydebord:

All members have a vote and all branches discuss motions put forward to delegate council, these motions of course are on matters which will have effect across the whole organisation like 'all wsm branches will send delegates to X campaign'.

Quote:
Jef:
I may not have been clear, but I meant to say that people would not be pleased to be obliged to contribute to something that they'd voted against.

It's less of a problem than you'd think really. The position papers serve as a foundation stone that lays out in some detail the agreed principles of the organisation. This actually makes it easier to disagree on a whole range of issues as the differences are then usually over tactics. So while it’s obvious that everybody is against the development of a capitalist European state, the question of whether we should campaign against a European Treaty is a tactical question, as are the methods of doing so.

Quite often there are varying opinions as to the correct tactics, but simply because they are issues of tactics and not principles, the minority has always been happy to give the majority policy a go. If it doesn’t work, it can, as gurrier said, simply be improved by giving another idea a chance. The level of disagreement and heated internal debate can be fairly high – much higher then in the vaguer networks for instance – but it helps that you know people aren’t going to walk away because they’re getting a hard time over whatever the issue is.

Although it is rare that folks who join have numerous serious disagreements with our policies. I can think of a couple of people who developed differences though, and they left, including one last year.

The WSM is clear that we want to act as an organisation. In practice there is plenty (too much imo) of internal criticism regarding the efficiency with which we do this, though I suppose it’s better to be aware of short-fallings as something to be addressed. One of the practical problems in maintaining a coherent organisational approach is the range of things the WSM is involved in as it means that any one issue would garner less attention than maybe it merits. But for all the shortcomings, it is a strength of the WSM that it aims to act as an organisation and not simply to be a collection of individuals who share similar political views. I don’t see the point of being in an organisation that doesn’t aim to collectively implement its ideas.

One example of where we didn’t do that very well was a decision a couple of years ago to encourage members to become members or supporters of a small anti-partnership union. That policy was so vague and in practice left the decision up to individual members that there was no actual benefit to it and was subsequently scrapped. We should have either clearly prioritized the IWU or not at all. The initial decision was neither here nor there and thus had little real world effect.

The national decision making structure is as guydebord describes. The Delegate Council is not some stand alone entity dictating to the branches. Its most useful function, I think, is one of communication. Votes on motions could just as easily be collated on the internet, but getting verbal accounts of what other folks think is important and is essential to maintaining coherence, especially as we grow.

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Feb 1 2008 18:30

is anyone going to make a case against this set up?

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Feb 1 2008 20:20

Glad to see your promise of lolcats was not just a tease.

Gydebordisdead - he delivers.

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Feb 1 2008 20:25
Jack wrote:
i wish sol fed had wsm organisational structure. It obviously makes sense. Unless you hate democracy and effectiveness.

wow, thats a really interesting addition. No joke, cheers for saying that its proper illuminating.

Is there no alternative desion making structure in syndicalismin general? Does solfed/syndicalism have a critique of the way the WSM decide on things, or is it just something they do not do, and leave it at that?

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Feb 1 2008 20:43

SolFed is a federation of Locals. As such we operate on the basis of bottom-up organisation and discussion. The sovereign body of hte organisation is the National Conference, where Locals vote. The Locals have one vote each, though we do try to thrash out a concensus first. Motions have to be carried by a 2/3 majority if we have a vote. In the past, this was reflective of membership, so a big local might have more than one vote on a sliding scale. At present we are so small that it is not really relevant. This is how the CNT operates as well.

There isn't an equivalent of the delegate council that the WSM have, and I suspect that this is what Jack is referring to. In practice, the WSM's supreme body is conference, the same as ours, the difference is that they are all individual members of the national organisation, and we are individual members of the affiliated Local.

The DAM used to have a National Committee made up of the national officers and 2 delegates from each region. This was an easier structure to maintain when the bulk of our membership was young and/or unemployed. We wouldn't be able to sustain this at the moment and I'm not sure it is such a good idea. It's far easier to get one person coming from Cork to meet the rest of the Delegate Council who all live in Dublin than it is to get someone from Manchester, someone from Leeds and someone from Brighton to all meet up.

Hope this sheds some light wink

Regards,

Martin

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Feb 1 2008 21:38
Tacks wrote:
Jack wrote:
i wish sol fed had wsm organisational structure. It obviously makes sense. Unless you hate democracy and effectiveness.

wow, thats a really interesting addition. No joke, cheers for saying that its proper illuminating.

Is there no alternative desion making structure in syndicalismin general? Does solfed/syndicalism have a critique of the way the WSM decide on things, or is it just something they do not do, and leave it at that?

In so far as I gave it any thought, I always reckoned the WSM's national structure of local branches interacting via mandatable and recallable delegates etc is somewhat influenced by classic syndicalist ideas. After all, major anarchist-syndicalist unions have had to face similar organisational issues on a far larger scale. As you mentioned earlier, such unions would have great pressure to maintain unity of action. So I wouldn't claim that the WSM are particularly innovative in advocating this approach. Whatever about the actual details of the delegate structure, the key question is ensuring effective collective action. Without that, we may as well be reading groups.

Martin wrote:
The DAM used to have a National Committee made up of the national officers and 2 delegates from each region. This was an easier structure to maintain when the bulk of our membership was young and/or unemployed. We wouldn't be able to sustain this at the moment and I'm not sure it is such a good idea. It's far easier to get one person coming from Cork to meet the rest of the Delegate Council who all live in Dublin than it is to get someone from Manchester, someone from Leeds and someone from Brighton to all meet up.

Sure it's easier for us, but Britain isn't that big, it's not like North America or anything. Is it that hard to travel to one location once a month, or once every two months?

Martin wrote:
There isn't an equivalent of the delegate council that the WSM have, and I suspect that this is what Jack is referring to. In practice, the WSM's supreme body is conference, the same as ours, the difference is that they are all individual members of the national organisation, and we are individual members of the affiliated Local.

That's interesting. How do you co-ordinate national activity between conferences? What is the advantage of having locals that have one vote as opposed to individual votes? More initiative at a local level? Does it result in locals acting somewhat independently as Liverpool SolFed etc or is there still a good deal of national co-ordination to your activities?

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Feb 1 2008 22:16

TBH it varies from local to local, but the emphasis is on local initiative. I think we're still trying to work on some things, but, for example, if there's no national leaflet on something, the onus is on the local that thinks it's needed to write it and take it to the organisation as a whole.
In terms of national activity, I'm not sure that there is much that is separate from local activity. We agree priorities at National Conference and work to them, and would discuss issues and co-ordinate them separately.

We've recently started having regional meetings as well to increase the amount of discussion. The Local discusses things and votes because it increases the debate. We would encourage Locals to give their delegates mandates which reflect all their groups opinions.

And though Britain isn't that big, transport costs are sad

Regards,

Martin

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Feb 1 2008 23:56

In the WSM we certainly have less distance to travel, the longest any delegate has had to travel for a Delegate Council meeting is Cork to Derry and that's just 428km (266 miles).

But I don't thnk travel costs would ever be a problem for us. With branches keeping half of membership dues (most members pay around 3-5% of their income, a few better paid folk give considerably more) we always have cash on hand. And delegates can claim travel expenses from their branches.

We are a very small organisation of no more than 50 active members. Yet this level of dues paying allows us to print 8,000 copies of our free bi-monthly paper, 1,000 of our twice yearly magazine, rent an office, produce occasional local newsletters, organise well publicised public meetings, and lots of other stuff. And still have a reserve of money to enable us to take relatively large initiatives without having to burn up huge amounts of energy on fundraising rather than campaigning.

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Feb 2 2008 01:06
Tacks wrote:
1) is that platformism? There's a whole load of executive committees...

.
This, I suspect, is yet another of those language things. When most of us think of an executive committee the picture is of some body which makes whatever decisions it likes and tells the rest of what to do. The original meaning was somewhat different, a body entrusted to 'execute' , to implement decisions already made by a conference.

So, the big question is what, if any, powers you give them; and not whether you have some form of national committee/co-ordination/council/whatever you want to call it.

As an aside I would note that in many of our trade unions we often give the executive committee something close to a blank cheque by either referring conference motions to them for decision or by wording motions so loosely that nobody is actually committed to anything specific or within a set timeframe.

Anyway, the language thing keeps cropping up because words can have different meanings in other times and in other parts of the world.

A hundred years ago, in Mexico, the anarchists around the Magon brothers called themselves the Mexican Liberal Party. Party, in those days, just meant a group of people with similar views. The British media in Victorian times could talk of forces are wide apart as the radical insurrectionary Fenians and the landlord dominated Home Rule movement as the 'Irish party'. As for 'liberal', clearly that too had a radically different meaning in Mexico a century back!

And then there is the 'dictatorship of the proletariat', which once just meant that the working class should share power with no other class. The Bolshevik use of the slogan to mean their own party dictatorship over our class changed the common understanding of that one.

More importantly, about the Platform itself.. it's not some sort of Bible or Koran that we slavishly follow.

It is not a perfect programme now, and neither was it back in 1926. It has its weaknesses. It does not explain some of its ideas in enough depth, it may be argued that it does not cover some important issues at all. But remember that it is a small pamphlet and not a 26 volume encyclopaedia. It is not a completed analysis or programme, it is a contribution to necessary debate - a good starting point. And one that, I think, has stood the test time better than many others - if it hadn't there wouldn't be so much discussion of it today.

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Feb 2 2008 02:17

Just to say I think this is a bizarrely productive thread for libcom. Well done all involved.

I´ll post something when I am a bit more sober.

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Feb 2 2008 06:37

i am fucming drunk, but yes - this was actually ppstyed in hope of some serious answers.

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Feb 2 2008 06:39

...and i have got them.

Cheers cool

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Feb 2 2008 06:42

be good to see some actual counter arguments though.

Surely, the WSM are lenists draped in red and black? Someone denounce them already.

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Feb 2 2008 08:22
Quote:
Surely, the WSM are lenists draped in red and black? Someone denounce them already.

Why criticise it,? it works for the WSM. It's not like we're debating the fine points of the politics.
If you read the AF constitution you'll see that we are supposed to operate in a similar way. But the delegate meetings happen every three months and the conference every year. The reason Tacks is writing, I guess, is because our practice isn't exactly what it says on the tin. We do have the quarterly meetings and they are the bodies that make the decisions, but we need to tweak the system to make it work properly. We're in a strange state, having grown in the past two years both in terms of members and branches and are still adjusting to the new reality.

I can see problems if we tried to just nick the WSM method. We have comrades who'd have to travel 400 or 500 miles away if the meeting was in London and they'd have to travel a day there and back. Expenses aren't the issue - although people seldom ask for them, they are available. Even going from Manchester to London every month would be a problem for some of us - having jobs and being middle aged (and hence tiring easily) - it would inevitably mean the same delegates being sent all the time. Even on a mandated basis that could lead to the growth of informal groups running things.

Still an interesting discussion. It's giving me pause for thought and also helps me understand the WSM better.