Democracy and Majority Rule

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Agent of the International's picture
Agent of the In...
Joined: 17-08-12
Jun 26 2018 15:02

jef costello made a pretty good post noah. I'm curious to know if you think it addresses your concerns or not.

Noah Fence's picture
Noah Fence
Joined: 18-12-12
Jun 26 2018 17:04
Agent of the International wrote:
jef costello made a pretty good post noah. I'm curious to know if you think it addresses your concerns or not.

I agree it was a good post. I’ll try to address it all but I don’t think I’ll ever get it done if I try to use the quote facility - I don’t have a computer to work with, only a phone, so I’ll just copy and paste the whole thing and insert my comments.
It’s a big job so it probably won’t appear for a while, possibly for a day or two.

Noah Fence's picture
Noah Fence
Joined: 18-12-12
Jun 27 2018 22:55

Ok then, firstly I have to say that most of my objections were perfectly clear and could have been challenged in a straightforward way. I think that Jef’s excellent post exemplifies this.
What I can see that I did not make clear at all, in fact I don’t think I even hinted at it, is that my ideal outcome for this discussion would be for me to be convinced that DD is a sufficiently reliable procedure for procuring good decisions in a fair and equal way.
I won’t go into details but that result would remove a big problem from my life, a real life, here and now problem.
The other outcome I hoped for was a discussion on other potential ways to make collective decisions and I was appealing to others more experienced and quite possibly smarter than myself to suggest them or talk about other things that have been tried in the past as well as examples of DD in action. FTR, my meagre experience of it has been shit.
I put my hands up though and admit I conveyed my desires poorly at best. I really thought that straight answers to my objections would instigate a wide ranging discussion. Maybe they would but I think I framed it all very poorly so my bad.
My conclusion, particularly considering Jef’s points is that whilst I’m not yet convinced entirely, I have moved a very long way in that direction, and I do mean a very long way. I had not completely dismissed DD but I was very very sceptical about it. I’m feeling far more positive about it now and will continue to study all this.
Here’s my response to Jef but before that, dare I ask others to answer some of my original questions?

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

Ok, the last thing on my mind is to be rebelling against authority for the sake of it. I believe in communism and would not feel any desire at all to challenge the status quo as a general principle. In fact, I would consider myself part of it. But I do believe it’s entirely possible for a majority decision to be made that my ethics couldn’t possibly countenance. I can think of one thing in particular but I’m loathe to bring it up as it will undoubtedly create a sidetrack. So suffice to say, if a majority decision is made that is directly harmful then to challenge or even sabotage it may be something to consider.
Of course, I say ‘I’ and ‘my’ but obviously the chances are it would be a considerable number of people.

I never meant to imply that the decisions themselves would be made arbitrarily(although that’s not impossible), but more that the figures involved, the quorum and the percentages can’t help but be arbitrary to some degree.

My initial example was perhaps a bad choice but I thought it was clear that it was tongue in cheek and just there as an instrument to use for examining the issue...

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

But yes, it didn’t really work. If I did use it as a cheap shot it certainly wasn’t consciously but considering what you said I agree it’s a bit wanky.

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

I stick with my position here but to be clear I’m not saying that I couldn’t surrender to a community decision I disagree with but that sometimes my values may necessitate a challenge.
Your last sentence raises an excellent point and I could see how you reach that conclusion. The answer for me is an emphatic NO, for others though, who can say???

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

I actually loled at the first sentence!
Basically, whilst I think your description is a little utopian, I still think it’s a good base position to start from, so you’ve convinced me enough to concede the point.

This is a pretty simplified scenario, but what happens in our community Lucky, when a decision is made through DD in which me and you are the only two that see that decision as stupid or harmful or even immoral? As much as I’m sure it would be an absolute treat to skip off into the wilderness with you and live off of nut and berries and sleep under the starry blanket of heaven, Is it ok in your mind that we are forced to leave? Is it not our duty to challenge or even sabotage that decision? Is not our forced compliance or expulsion a disgusting act of authoritarianism?
Are you skipping off or expelled? There is a big difference.One is a punitive measure, the other could be an act of conscience or throwing your toys out of the pram. As a communist it is your duty to challenge an idea that you think is harmful or immoral and you do so throughout the decision-making process. It isn't a question of showing up for a vote and then leaving if you lose, this isn't Brexit. (Althoughh weirdly enough it seems to be the scum responsble for Brexit who want to keep their options open as regards leaving)”

I meant expelled but skipping as an act of defiance and with delight at the prospect of hanging out in the wilderness with a lucky black cat!
But yes, as a general point I think you’re right but I guess I’ve taken a deliberately pessimistic view as it’s unrealistic to think it’s a given that every decision will be examined with an open mind and an egalitarian attitude. I’ve seen many times that a majority view can seem to negate the need to listen to a minority especially if it seems to that majority that they may be deprived of some privilege or other form of comfort.

Let’s face it, in our desire to destroy capitalism and the state we are in a tiny minority, should we never take any action that harms capital or the state until we have the majority in agreement with us? Majority rule sounds a little less attractive in these circumstances, right? But hey, when it comes to this, the majority are pretty stupid, so now it’s ok for us to ignore their wishes? Yep, in our very approach to creating this democratic ‘ideal’, we are absolutely undemocratic. I’ve never seen hypocrisy as a good foundation to build anything on.
You are having your cake and eating it. I don't think anyone here would want to 'impose' communism, because it wouldn't work. People need to act in good faith, accoridng to communist principles for a communist society to work.So we are a minority that seeks to influence people, I don't plan to win any elections, but I don't think a revolution comes unless a large amount of the population believes in communism and a larger amount is willing to try it out.
A minority rule is, by definition, uncommunist. You cannot let a minority make the decisions, now they might have a big effect on them. For example if we were deciding how much cotton to produce for gauze for hopsital supplies, I would listen to the comrades running the hospital rather than ones who don't. And we would all try to listen to the best advice as part of our responsibility to each other as communists. It's not someone voting for Trump because they are scared Clinton will take away their right to own guns, or someone being stuck voting for Clinton in the hope that abortion will remain legal.”

I don’t see the point of cake if you can’t eat it!
You’re right though, a shitty ill thought through statement. My only excuse, poor though it is, is that I was almost insane with frustration at my questions not being answered!

So no, I have no alternative, but it seems to me that DD is way too full of holes to declare it acceptable as part of our overall ideology. In fact, I dispute the idea that an alternative is required - who made DD the default standard to which other ideas have to measure up? It’s like presenting a cube as the default means of rolling things around on as nobody has invented the wheel yet! No, the burden of proof is on those who propose DD, it’s nowhere near a strong enough proposition to be considered the accepted standard.
As you have proposed absolutely nothing else, I think what you are saying is other people should think up a new system for you. Abdication of your role as a communist. Also tyranny of the minority to demand action even though the others on here do not agree with you. Trying to force them to answer questions that they don't want to etc. I think you are fundamentally wrong here. The Aztecs never invented the wheel, as far as I remember it wouldn't have helped too much due to geography and the nature of their society, but this isn't about using squares instead. As far as I can say communist thinking is saying "'the best way we can think of for now is using llamas to carry things, but we will always be looking for a better method and as such we will be adapting and improving this message and will replace it if necessary." You seem to be saying, "let's not move anything because there is something better than llamas but I don't know what it is."”

No, I’m not saying that at all, I’m saying others should think up a new system WITH me, or with whoever. My criticisms were not supposed to condemn DD out of hand, but to show that it has a lot of potential flaws so we should be looking for a better way, or at least a way to make DD as functional as possible so that it can create the best quality results. Which actually syncs perfectly with your llama scenario. We are two minds with but a single thought comrade!

Finally, as I think I read in one of the links offered here, even in the most abstract way, regardless of the quality of its results, DD still fails in its principle objective, that is to give everyone affected by a decision, their influence in that decision - if you’re in the minority, your input has actually had no influence on that decision whatsoever.
This is a chhildish, winner-takes-all way to look at a decision. You are saying that if you don't "win" then you have no influence. Your input has a decision in the shaping of everything, not whether 'your' side wins. So as a communist you will be making suggestions about how to improve and maintain society, so you will be participating in the discussion about what are the actual questions facing the community, what are possible actions to take, how could they be done, what are the effects and so on. So long before we vote on anything everyone will have a huge amount of involvement, because we will be framing the wuestions which will lead to looking at answers which will lead to trying to determine which of them is the most suitable.”

Christ, I really fucked that one up! I meant it at the time but your explanation pretty much trashes it although once again, I’d say you’re a little optimistic if you think that the picture I paint could never happen.
I agree though, and one can always find possible negatives to anything so you have me on side here Jef.

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

No, I don’t view communism as a block to my individual freedom so if I’ve really(?) represented my feelings as that then I screwed up.
The truth is that I think true freedom and true individuality can only materialise and be expressed through the community experience. So your conclusion of my feelings about communism are simply wrong though I concede that I possibly haven’t made things very clear.
Oh, and your last sentence is very beautiful.