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Do you support hierarchical structure in a socialist society?

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yoda's walking stick
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Sep 11 2011 13:27
Do you support hierarchical structure in a socialist society?

So, no doubt, this will be read as another one of YWS' stupid, masturbatory questions. I'm sorry. I really don't intend it to be.

Anyway, I guess I think some degree of hierarchical structure is necessary and desirable for efficiency's sake.

I'm not a Trotskyist, but I'm sympathetic when Leon Trotsky writes, "There is a limit to the application of democratic methods. You can inquire of all the passengers as to what type of car they like to ride in, but it is impossible to question them as to whether to apply the brakes when the train is at full speed and accident threatens."

In a socialist society, there should be some people with authority over others, but the former's power should be contingent upon democratic support.

Anyway, I was mostly wondering what other people thought on this issue. Is my position a total outlier on this board?

LBird
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Sep 11 2011 13:34

Hey, yoda, how about answering the questions posed to you from an earlier 'question-post' of yours, before starting the next routine?

http://libcom.org/forums/theory/what-percentage-population-us-proletarian-07092011

Can't you give us your opinions on all our long-thought-out answers, and enter an active discussion, rather than just a seemingly endless sequence of essentially passive 'whats', 'whys' and 'hows'?

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chokingvictim
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Sep 11 2011 14:34

yeah,keep hierarchy in socialism and this sureley wont happen

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chokingvictim
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Sep 11 2011 15:01

or better said,READ ANIMAL FARM!!

yoda's walking stick
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Sep 11 2011 16:20
LBird wrote:
Hey, yoda, how about answering the questions posed to you from an earlier 'question-post' of yours, before starting the next routine?

http://libcom.org/forums/theory/what-percentage-population-us-proletarian-07092011

Can't you give us your opinions on all our long-thought-out answers, and enter an active discussion, rather than just a seemingly endless sequence of essentially passive 'whats', 'whys' and 'hows'?

What questions are posed to me in that thread? I've read it with interest. But I don't have a lot of opinions on a lot of these topics because I'm still trying to clarify a lot of my thinking. That's why I have a lot of questions. I like reading other people discuss various points of view and see which makes the most sense to me. If people don't want to answer my questions, I don't know why they feel like they have to.

yoda's walking stick
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Sep 11 2011 16:21

dp

yoda's walking stick
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Sep 11 2011 16:37
chokingvictim wrote:
yeah,keep hierarchy in socialism and this sureley wont happen

Right, because the slightest degree of hierarchical structure inevitably leads to millions bowing down to Dear Leader. This view is paranoid dogmatism, in my opinion.

Is a military organization expected to make spot life-and-death decisions by convening an election on a active battlefield? Good luck with that. Are the most minute policy decisions which require a scientific expertise, that the general public does not have time or inclination to acquire, to be made through a directly democratic process? It sounds very, very, very slow going and not really to anyone's benefit.

LBird
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Sep 11 2011 16:46
yoda's walking stick wrote:
What questions are posed to me in that thread?

.

LBird, post #9, wrote:
Yoda, I don't think that the other posters are really 'mocking' your reasonable question, but rather pointing out that both 'asking' and 'answering' a question contains ideological starting points.

If one uses liberal sociology, the answer is probably about 20%.

If one uses class analysis, the answer is probably about 80%.

I think our education system should teach people to be able to answer questions from multiple perspectives. But it doesn't, and it can't. That's because this way of thinking undermines authority, and one of the main purposes of the current 'education' (sic) system is to teach respect for 'authorities' of all stripes, from 'professors' to 'politicians' and 'scientists'.

Which ideological answer do you prefer? 20% or 80%? And why?

.

yoda's walking stick wrote:
If people don't want to answer my questions, I don't know why they feel like they have to.

You don't know why they feel like they have to? Probably for many, as well as interest, common decency.

Don't you feel like you too should actively participate, acknowledge answers, show us that you either agree or disagree, and why?

After all, it's supposed to be a discussion board. We learn too, from feedback, misunderstandings and clarifications.

To be clear, I'm not asking you to agree, just to participate.

yoda's walking stick
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Sep 11 2011 16:53
LBird wrote:
yoda's walking stick wrote:
What questions are posed to me in that thread?

.

LBird, post #9, wrote:
Yoda, I don't think that the other posters are really 'mocking' your reasonable question, but rather pointing out that both 'asking' and 'answering' a question contains ideological starting points.

If one uses liberal sociology, the answer is probably about 20%.

If one uses class analysis, the answer is probably about 80%.

I think our education system should teach people to be able to answer questions from multiple perspectives. But it doesn't, and it can't. That's because this way of thinking undermines authority, and one of the main purposes of the current 'education' (sic) system is to teach respect for 'authorities' of all stripes, from 'professors' to 'politicians' and 'scientists'.

Which ideological answer do you prefer? 20% or 80%? And why?

.

yoda's walking stick wrote:
If people don't want to answer my questions, I don't know why they feel like they have to.

You don't know why they feel like they have to? Probably for many, as well as interest, common decency.

Don't you feel like you too should actively participate, acknowledge answers, show us that you either agree or disagree, and why?

After all, it's supposed to be a discussion board. We learn too, from feedback, misunderstandings and clarifications.

To be clear, I'm not asking you to agree, just to participate.

I'm going over there now.

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powder keg
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Sep 11 2011 16:58
yoda's walking stick wrote:
I'm not a Trotskyist, but..

That does not make chauvinists of us, since the natural response to authority created a worldwide movement that was really not Russian. For instance, Spanish history shows its aspect was obscured by the authoritarian principle, in critical analysis, as is evident, prior to the global reaction, when Bakunin wrote about this inherent objective. In politics such forms of analytical separatism are due, in fact, to the horrific generation of social élitism, which followed the fall of the Paris Commune in 1871

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chokingvictim
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Sep 12 2011 14:39
yoda's walking stick wrote:
Right, because the slightest degree of hierarchical structure inevitably leads to millions bowing down to Dear Leader. This view is paranoid dogmatism, in my opinion.

Is a military organization expected to make spot life-and-death decisions by convening an election on a active battlefield? Good luck with that. Are the most minute policy decisions which require a scientific expertise, that the general public does not have time or inclination to acquire, to be made through a directly democratic process? It sounds very, very, very slow going and not really to anyone's benefit.

i think you see hierarchy a little bit odd. you see ability and need of an ability as hierarchy.take the military thing for instance.it is well known that a commander is needed.the question is give him/her authority or not.take the anarchis and poum-ist militias in spain 36-39.they elected thei commander and the structure wasn't authoritarian(no formal salute etc).and regarding the science think i don't understand exactly what do you see as hierarchy..do you think that direct democracy should be but in practice for EVERYTHING?take for example a wounded guy arriving at hospital;the doctor says he needs to do perform x surgery,is it necessary for the whole hospital to vote yes or no?take the doctor's word,it's his ability.it's like if you have a leak,you don't need to have a meeting with all your building neighbours to stop the main water pipe.you just stop it.and when you call a plumber and he says what must be done is it hyerachy who gives him the right to do so or ability? and furthermore think of a music gig.in a post-revol world the bands will play what the crowd has democratically decided??hell no!the band will play what the fuck they'll want.and think about a football team.is having a couch hierarchical(spelling) or a consensus that the players need a strategy and the best person to do that is one with the ability to do so..

wow..kinda tl;dr.sorry..hope you get my point though..

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devoration1
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Sep 12 2011 18:44

Right- that's the common sense aspect of it. Reading W.Z.Foster's text 'Syndicalism' (available from the IWW Literature Department, or was anyway) you see the argument taken to its extreme. Tendencies within 'Orthodox Syndicalism' (French CGT around turn of the 20th century) and certain tendencies of Wobbly or De Leonist industrial unionism see the workers within industries as the 'experts' to which the rest of society needs to listen to. If I get some time later I'll type up Foster's quote, which is really a great example of what I'm talking about from the 'horses mouth', but it goes like this:

-Since health care workers and professionals (nurses, doctors, technicians, specialists, etc) work day to day in the health care field and are well educated in their specific areas of the industry, we should as a society defer to their judgement when it comes to things like mandatory vaccinations, mandatory health screenings, etc. Depending on the tendency doing the advocating (Foster style syndicalism, hardline industrial unionists, etc) their should be a very open and democratic process within the industry itself to make these kinds of decisions, but once say the Health Care Socialist Industrial Union (or whatever) has its debates and votes, and tells society that every single person needs a flu shot or Hepatitis B vaccination by X date, the rest of society must acquiesce and take the shot as told. (Foster's logic is that a miner or a clerk or a concrete mixer has little or no knowledge of health care matters, so they are not in an informed position to make decisions as to whether or not society needs these things so it doesn't make sense to let them in on the democratic process).

This gets us into a technocratic syndicalism, where the profession or industry based unions decide what happens in their realm of influence, a world run by technocrats who are at the top of these unions. Different members of different groups have advocated this kind of system (as far as I know only some Pareconists and maybe some modern day industrial unionists still advocate this kind of thing to one degree or another).

Then it becomes no longer a question of giving a doctor the power to perform x surgery in an ER, or letting an engineer make changes to a construction projects blueprints, but decisions which affect everyone (supposedly in the name of common sense and/or industrial democracy).

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plasmatelly
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Sep 12 2011 19:18

Well, if you're a member now of a party or organisation that strives for some shift in society that it calls socialism and that party or organisation is already built in a hierarchical way, then you already support hierarchical structures. At some point, and on a daily basis, we all have to doff our caps to an expert in some field or other, but the nature of that exchange will decide whether you've entered into some sort power relationship. Nobody wants to visit a dentist who makes up for the lack of expertise with comradely vigour and self-belief. At least I don't think they do.

Baronarchist
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Sep 12 2011 20:27

I think this comes from natural and forced authority. If someone's ideas end up being recognised as the best applied method and is the most beneficial to all (as opposed to most beneficial to few, the current method) they will have their ideas most listened too within their own syndicate.

Authority without the absurdist idea that the people with the best ideas need huge numbers of armed enforces and complex institutions to make sure people do what they're fucking well told is best for them.

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devoration1
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Sep 12 2011 20:59
Baronarchist wrote:
I think this comes from natural and forced authority. If someone's ideas end up being recognised as the best applied method and is the most beneficial to all (as opposed to most beneficial to few, the current method) they will have their ideas most listened too within their own syndicate.

Authority without the absurdist idea that the people with the best ideas need huge numbers of armed enforces and complex institutions to make sure people do what they're fucking well told is best for them.

Exactly. That's a good term for it as well- 'natural authority'; such as gained through education and/or experience (specialists, professionals- like doctors, engineers, architects, etc).

In the cases of Parecon or technocratic syndicalism/'hardline' industrial unionism, I find it hard to believe there wouldn't be a system of institutions designed to coerce or forcefully influence the masses to comply with the decrees of the technocrats at the heads of the unions/committees/syndicates/etc that infringe on personal liberties and personal autonomy (such as mandatory vaccinations for example). Another example would be a prohibition of substances (whether tobacco or alcohol or drugs already banned and/or heavily regulated by capitalist societies such as opioids and amphetamines)- it seems like a pretty big problem that will have to be faced by a communist (socialist, anarchist, syndicalist, etc) society- whether it be the dictatorship of the proletariat, the collective commonwealth, whatever.

There will be those who wish for full personal autonomy to make decisions regarding drug use, harm reduction, social health, and so on. There will surely be those advocating complete de-regulation and de facto legalization of all substances, those who want a more liberal stance on drugs and drug education but some regulation or prohibition, and those who will want either to continue or strengthen current prohibitions in a future social revolutionary society and/or persecute addicts and drug users alike (as was done in previous revolutions- particularly China in the 1950's). To tackle this kind of problem there will have to be these coercive, hierchic institutions that utilize force to ensure the established order and carry out such directives from the 'revolutionary authorities'. A technocratic society will have to use force and types of organization and tactics we recognize now under capitalism if they want to issue directives that go against personal autonomy.

But this is a larger issue than whether or not we think individual professionals or specialists or experts can do this or that.

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ultraviolet
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Apr 6 2012 05:30
yoda's walking stick wrote:
Anyway, I guess I think some degree of hierarchical structure is necessary and desirable for efficiency's sake.

I think that having control over our lives is more important than efficiency. Those who don't agree don't have to come to the meeting where decisions are made. The option to not attend meetings is what ensures that people don't have to have their time "wasted" unless they want to. I'd hardly call these meetings a waste, but for those who feel it is, they don't go. Perhaps people can also have the option to only show up at the end of the meeting to vote (without being there for discussion), but I don’t like this idea since their decision would not be informed by the opinions of others.

I assume people will attend only the meetings where decisions are being made that matter to them. Maybe I don't give a damn about Issue X so I skip that meeting. But I do care about issue Y so I attend that one.

Also, we only have meetings about issues that effect our lives. So in your local assembly, all local issues are discussed/voted on because they all impact local residents. The issues of other local assemblies aren't discussed, because it doesn't really impact you or your neighbors. Some issues impact an entire ward/district, and your local assembly will discuss/vote on those. You'll also discuss/vote on issues that impact the municipality, the "provincial" level, the "national" level, and the global level. But the thing is that the higher up the geographical region you go, the less stuff is relevant to your life, and the less there is to discuss.

Most of what goes on in the world doesn't have to be discussed or voted on in your local assembly because it doesn't really impact you. It would be unfair to give you decision making power over it, not to mention a waste of your time! But some things on the global level do impact your community ... mostly environmental policy, that is a world issue that will be discussed/voted on by everyone. Also general agreements on the human rights and hopefully animal rights, too. Another thing is decisions about research and development: How much labor time this do we, as a world, want to dedicate to research/development for medical cures and treatments ... labor saving technology ... green/renewable energy ... more environmentally efficient production methods ... alternative/green fuels... etc. But the vast majority of stuff going on in other "countries" will not be on the agenda. I can't think of anything else at the world level. Voting on research & development would likely occur once a year. Environment and rights policy would be complex heated debates but once consensus was reached it would likely come up only infrequently.

Even as low as the municipal level there's not much to be discussed/vote on beyond municipal wide services like transit, sewage, garbage collection, libraries, as well as collective agreements about "laws" (or socially agreed rules, if you prefer). The daily details of services are carried out by the relevant worker councils but general policy is set by democracy -- for instance, democratic decision determines where to build the new subway route, but the relevant worker councils worry about the technical details of building it. The need to set policy on these issues is rare; it won't be a regular agenda item at meetings. And "laws" tend to be stable over long periods of time so it will only be rare that there will be discussion on changing them (except right after revolution I assume we'll make many changes).

The only exception when you would vote on affairs in another community that don't directly impact you is in case of rights violations. Let's say in another region far away that is part of your federation, there is persecution of an ethnic minority, all local assemblies in the federation can vote to take action against that.

The vast majority of meetings will be local issues only with a shorter period devoted to issues applying to larger geographical regions at the various levels (ward, municipal... up to global).

yoda's walking stick wrote:
I'm not a Trotskyist, but I'm sympathetic when Leon Trotsky writes, "There is a limit to the application of democratic methods. You can inquire of all the passengers as to what type of car they like to ride in, but it is impossible to question them as to whether to apply the brakes when the train is at full speed and accident threatens."

This is hard to argue against because it's a metaphor. Taking the metaphor literally though, we can say that anarchists are fine with a train conductor stopping a train without asking us to save our lives. This is not authoritarian because the conductor is carrying out their mandated task to ensure that we arrive safely at our destination.

In anarchism people can be delegated tasks in which they are mandated to do particular things. Sometimes part of that mandate means taking action which impacts others without first consulting them. This is ok as long as the mandate itself and the actions which they are allowed to take are set democratically and have the consent of the community. Using the train conductor example again, as passangers we consent to allow the conductor to control the train and s/he is mandated to get us to our destination safely and on time.

To apply that metaphor to a self-governance situation in anarchism, let's take the example of an Emergency Response Committee. If there is a hurricane or other disaster this committee springs into action. It doesn't call for a meeting asking communities what to do or how to do it. Is this undemocratic? No -- because the community has already democratically decided they want such a committee and that they want their mandate to be to save us in a disaster.

yoda's walking stick wrote:
Is a military organization expected to make spot life-and-death decisions by convening an election on a active battlefield? Good luck with that.
.

As chokingvictim said, in the Spanish revolution / civil war, militias elected generals who had the command power to give orders on the battlefield. The generals were also recallable. Military units during a battle are the only example I can think of where this type of command hierarchy is necessary.

But that's not to say the military itself is except from democratic control. The federation of communities must have democratic control over the military in the broad sense, of being able to decide if it goes to war or not, who our enemies are, who are allies are. But military strategy (i.e. what to do to win the war) is left to the (elected) generals. Figuring out how to win a war is their mandate, and it's not less democratic than, say, the workers in the Emergency Response Committee figuring out how to provide relief in a disaster, as per their mandate.

yoda's walking stick wrote:
Are the most minute policy decisions which require a scientific expertise, that the general public does not have time or inclination to acquire, to be made through a directly democratic process? It sounds very, very, very slow going and not really to anyone's benefit.

In democracy, there can be committees or subcommittees which are mandated with the task of doing research on a particular issue and then making policy proposals based on their research, which we then vote on. This may be a committee of scientists, or of other experts. They will come up with one, two, or maybe more policy recommendations which will be explained to the masses in the clearest of terms. But ultimately the decision is left to everyone what to vote on. This allows us to get the best of both world's -- expert knowledge and insight plus democratic control.

Did that address all your concerns? Did I miss anything?

I am not as informed about federalism as I'd like to be, and still have many questions of my own. I am going to make my own post with questions in the near future -- keep yer eyes open for that upcoming thread where you can learn more from others hopefully insightful answers! grin

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Croy
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Sep 24 2011 20:36
ultraviolet wrote:
yoda's walking stick wrote:
Anyway, I guess I think some degree of hierarchical structure is necessary and desirable for efficiency's sake.

I think that having control over our lives is more important than efficiency. Those who don't agree don't have to come to the meeting where decisions are made. The option to not attend meetings, or to only show up at the end to vote (without being there for discussion), is what ensures that people don't have to have their time "wasted" unless they want to. I'd hardly call these meetings a waste, but for those who feel it is, they don't go.

I assume people will attend only the meetings where decisions are being made that matter to them. Maybe I don't give a damn about Issue X so I skip that meeting. But I do care about issue Y so I attend that one.

Also, we only have meetings about issues that effect our lives. So in your local assembly, all local issues are discussed/voted on because they all impact local residents. The issues of other local assemblies aren't discussed, because it doesn't really impact you or your neighbors. Some issues impact an entire ward/district, and your local assembly will discuss/vote on those. You'll also discuss/vote on issues that impact the municipality, the "provincial" level, the "national" level, and the global level. But the thing is that the higher up the geographical region you go, the less stuff is relevant to your life, and the less there is to discuss.

Most of what goes on in the world doesn't have to be discussed or voted on in your local assembly because it doesn't really impact you. It would be unfair to give you decision making power over it, not to mention a waste of your time! But some things on the global level do impact your community ... mostly environmental policy, that is a world issue that will be discussed/voted on by everyone. Also general agreements on the human rights and hopefully animal rights, too. Another thing is decisions about research and development: How much labor time this do we, as a world, want to dedicate to research/development for medical cures and treatments ... labor saving technology ... green/renewable energy ... more environmentally efficient production methods ... alternative/green fuels... etc. But the vast majority of stuff going on in other "countries" will not be on the agenda. I can't think of anything else at the world level. Voting on research & development would likely occur once a year. Environment and rights policy would be complex heated debates but once consensus was reached it would likely come up only infrequently.

Even as low as the municipal level there's not much to be discussed/vote on beyond municipal wide services like transit, sewage, garbage collection, libraries, as well as collective agreements about "laws" (or socially agreed rules, if you prefer). The daily details of services are carried out by the relevant worker councils but general policy is set by democracy -- for instance, democratic decision determines where to build the new subway route, but the relevant worker councils worry about the technical details of building it. The need to set policy on these issues is rare; it won't be a regular agenda item at meetings. And "laws" tend to be stable over long periods of time so it will only be rare that there will be discussion on changing them (except right after revolution I assume we'll make many changes).

The only exception when you would vote on affairs in another community that don't directly impact you is in case of rights violations. Let's say in another region far away that is part of your federation, there is persecution of an ethnic minority, all local assemblies in the federation can vote to take action against that.

The vast majority of meetings will be local issues only with a shorter period devoted to issues applying to larger geographical regions at the various levels (ward, municipal... up to global).

yoda's walking stick wrote:
I'm not a Trotskyist, but I'm sympathetic when Leon Trotsky writes, "There is a limit to the application of democratic methods. You can inquire of all the passengers as to what type of car they like to ride in, but it is impossible to question them as to whether to apply the brakes when the train is at full speed and accident threatens."

This is hard to argue against because it's a metaphor. Taking the metaphor literally though, we can say that anarchists are fine with a train conductor stopping a train without asking us to save our lives. This is not authoritarian because the conductor is carrying out their mandated task to ensure that we arrive safely at our destination.

In anarchism people can be delegated tasks in which they are mandated to do particular things. Sometimes part of that mandate means taking action which impacts others without first consulting them. This is ok as long as the mandate itself and the actions which they are allowed to take are set democratically and have the consent of the community. Using the train conductor example again, as passangers we consent to allow the conductor to control the train and s/he is mandated to get us to our destination safely and on time.

To apply that metaphor to a self-governance situation in anarchism, let's take the example of an Emergency Response Committee. If there is a hurricane or other disaster this committee springs into action. It doesn't call for a meeting asking communities what to do or how to do it. Is this undemocratic? No -- because the community has already democratically decided they want such a committee and that they want their mandate to be to save us in a disaster.

yoda's walking stick wrote:
Is a military organization expected to make spot life-and-death decisions by convening an election on a active battlefield? Good luck with that.
.

As chokingvictim said, in the Spanish revolution / civil war, militias elected generals who had the command power to give orders on the battlefield. The generals were also recallable. Military units during a battle are the only example I can think of where this type of command hierarchy is necessary.

But that's not to say the military itself is except from democratic control. The federation of communities must have democratic control over the military in the broad sense, of being able to decide if it goes to war or not, who our enemies are, who are allies are. But military strategy (i.e. what to do to win the war) is left to the (elected) generals. Figuring out how to win a war is their mandate, and it's not less democratic than, say, the workers in the Emergency Response Committee figuring out how to provide relief in a disaster, as per their mandate.

yoda's walking stick wrote:
Are the most minute policy decisions which require a scientific expertise, that the general public does not have time or inclination to acquire, to be made through a directly democratic process? It sounds very, very, very slow going and not really to anyone's benefit.

In democracy, there can be committees or subcommittees which are mandated with the task of doing research on a particular issue and then making policy proposals based on their research, which we then vote on. This may be a committee of scientists, or of other experts. They will come up with one, two, or maybe more policy recommendations which will be explained to the masses in the clearest of terms. But ultimately the decision is left to everyone what to vote on. This allows us to get the best of both world's -- expert knowledge and insight plus democratic control.

Wow, that was a very good post. Cleared up a lot about direct democracy for me that's for sure.

Alexander Roxwell
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Sep 24 2011 21:57

A big problem of people on this website is their confusion over "what I want" with "what I can get." Most will (and have) viewed your question thru the lens of of "what I want" and when someone like me comes along and talks about "what we can get" they accuse me of "wanting Maoism" or some such nonsense.

The revolution, contrary to all those who would "wish" for a simultaneous worldwide proletarian uprising all at once," will likely take place in one country at a time - and even when we see it happen relatively simultaneously in several contiguous countries, the rate and tempo will be different and will result in the establishment, not of any kind of "socialism" but of a "dictatorship of the proletariat" - if they are lucky and win.

The "dictatorship of the proletariat" means the exclusive rule of a single class, not the exclusive rule of a single individual or even of a bureaucracy. It will, non-the-less, be an armed camp and will suffer a hierarchy, arbitrary arrests, and some gross errors. Only after we see enough countries with a "dictatorship of the proletariat" securely in power will this be able to be relaxed - and then not completely. "Socialism" will not come anywhere until after capitalism is defeated world wide or is at least restricted to a very small area of the globe.

This is not what I "wish."

This is what I think.

How we prepare the vanguard for this transition is a good question.

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ultraviolet
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Sep 25 2011 05:17
Alexander Roxwell wrote:
The revolution, contrary to all those who would "wish" for a simultaneous worldwide proletarian uprising all at once," will likely take place in one country at a time - and even when we see it happen relatively simultaneously in several contiguous countries, the rate and tempo will be different [...]

Agree with that point.

Alexander Roxwell wrote:
[...] and will result in the establishment, not of any kind of "socialism" but of a "dictatorship of the proletariat" - if they are lucky and win.

The "dictatorship of the proletariat" means the exclusive rule of a single class, not the exclusive rule of a single individual or even of a bureaucracy. It will, non-the-less, be an armed camp and will suffer a hierarchy, arbitrary arrests, and some gross errors.

I'm more sympathetic to your concerns and perspective than you might think from reading what I'm about to say. That being said, I disagree with you and am going to argue against you, but I am open minded to being challenged on any of my points.

If we expropriate the means of production in a country, we have destroyed the capitalist class in that country without killing them. Capitalists are defined by their ownership of the means of production. Take that away, and they're no longer capitalists. They will be proletariat. Angry, reactionary, counter-revolutionary, pro-capitalist proletariat... but you don't have to be an ex-capitalist to be of that sort!

My point though is that the term "working class dictatorship" becomes both redundant and inaccurate. Redundant because we have stripped the capitalist class of their class status and effectively abolished class.* Inaccurate because we want a democracy not a dictatorship.

*(This isn't to say that ex-capitalists aren't still thinking like capitalists and enemies of the revolution.)

I expect most of them will flee elsewhere in the world or to a non-liberated region of the country to plot their revenge. Those who remain will have to do so on our terms -- which is basically that they have to be a worker now like the rest of us. If they're willing to cooperate with that, I'd be willing to work with them in a collective, share a community space with them, and let them engage in democratic assemblies. Capitalists are already a small minority, and of them I expect only a minority of that minority would stick around at all. Being such a small minority, they can't outvote us. So I don't see them as a danger to democracy and I don't see democracy itself as a danger.

As for a lack of democracy (and by that I mean direct democracy, which is the only true democracy), this is what is the true danger... and I don't think I need to point to the many historical examples to prove why.

That isn't to say there won't be any "arbitrary arrests, and some gross errors." I don't think that this is inconsistent with democracy. If we as a federation of community assemblies/councils democratically decide that we want to arrest and imprison people suspected of counter-revolutionary activity, if we decide to mandate a Security Committee to carry out such activity, if members to this committee are elected and recallable, then how is this in violation of democracy?

(Note: It isn’t guaranteed that community assemblies will come to the democratic decision of creating a Security Committee with the power to arrest/imprison – but the point is that it is fully possible that such a decision would be made, and it is something politically “advanced” revolutionaries can advocate for. I also believe that communities will have the intelligence to make such a decision when the time comes.)

To balance the power of this mandated Security Committee, we can give the local assemblies the power to contest people's arrests/imprisonments. We can hear the evidence against them and if we decide a person should go free we vote to let them go, if not we vote that they stay in. That isn't to say that the local assemblies will want to be bothered with reviewing the case of every person arrested, but if someone puts a motion to review the case of someone else, we can do so. This provides the best of both worlds -- a Security Committee with the power to act quickly and make arrests if and when they decide (which is fine as it is acting within its mandate), and assembly/council based democracy with the power to review and overrule the decisions of the Security Committee -- as well as to elect/recall its members.

So democracy is entirely compatible with the suppression of counter-revolution. We do not need hierarchy, i.e. an all powerful Party, to do this for us.

That being said, I would hate and oppose a situation in which we arrested/imprisoned people who speak out against the revolution, and believe free speech rights should be maintained. But I would advocate for the arrest/imprisonment of anyone who (a) fought against the revolution, or (b) conspired to organize or pay others to fight against the revolution.

Back to the question of "do we need hierarchy," I suppose it depends on how you define hierarchy. Because the Security Committee has authoritarian power over those they arrest and imprison, and a prison system is inherently hierarchal... you could point to this and call it hierarchy. I suppose this is not an outlandish claim, if looked at in that way. So towards suspected enemies of the revolution one could say there is authority, there is hierarchy. But within the broad community there is no hierarchy and the democratic will of the majority is the authority, which may delegate limited authority to things like the Security Committee to take certain actions, but ultimately these committees are controlled by communities.

In a Party/state situation, the Party controls the Security Committee, and it controls the communities, and it controls the workers councils. The communities and worker councils have no control, and hence neither does the class. It is in fact a Party/state dictatorship not a proletarian one.

Getting back to the point made just above, that "towards suspected enemies of the revolution one could say there is authority, there is hierarchy" because we arrest/imprison them -- maybe this is what you and other mean by "dictatorship of the proletariat"? Still, I would disagree with this term being applied to this situation! Because enemies of the revolution are not only capitalists. They are also counter-revolutionary workers/peasants. The armies that fight against revolutionary militias consist mainly of workers/peasants. So if some workers are our enemies,and we imprison them, then we have a situation of some of the working class being the ones dictated over rather than dictating.

This can hardly be called a "dictatorship of the proletariat." A more fitting term would be "dictatorship of pro-revolutionaries." But even then the term still does not fit! Democratically deciding that those who are a threat to us should be imprisoned is NOT dictatorship! So should we call it "democracy of the pro-revolutionaries"? Not even that, because pro-revolutionaries will not be the only ones included in the democracy. As I said earlier, I oppose imprisoning someone merely on the grounds of their opinion / opposition to revolution. So the only fitting term is "democracy."

Furthermore, just as there are counter-revolutionary workers there can be pro-revolutionary ex-capitalists (probably almost all petite bourgeoise) who voluntarily give up their means of production and join the good fight. Petite bourgeoise have been known to "go both ways" during revolution. I say whoever supports the revolution is my comrade (even if former capitalists), whoever fights against it is my enemy (even workers/peasants).

Alexander Roxwell wrote:
Only after we see enough countries with a "dictatorship of the proletariat" securely in power will this be able to be relaxed - and then not completely.

Agree that security will have to be high until we see socialism in most of the world -- disagree with the term "dictatorship of the proletariat" for reasons described earlier.

Alexander Roxwell wrote:
"Socialism" will not come anywhere until after capitalism is defeated world wide or is at least restricted to a very small area of the globe.

This I disagree with perhaps most strongly. There's no way we will win the revolution unless we extend socialism (or communism) to the fullest extent possible. I'm no insurrectionist, but the slogan "propaganda of the deed" is apt here. Being liberated from capitalism and living the experience of socialism or communism is the best propaganda around, is it not? Capitalists only win by hiring workers/peasants to kill workers/peasants. The more we spread socialism, the harder it will be for them to find workers/peasants willing to fight for them. The more we insist that socialism has to be delayed until we win the revolution, the more workers/peasants will say TO HELL WITH THIS "REVOLUTION" and slaughter us for whatever wage and perks the capitalists are offering.

the croydonian anarchist wrote:
Wow, that was a very good post. Cleared up a lot about direct democracy for me that's for sure.

Thanks, comrade! grin

Alexander Roxwell
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Sep 26 2011 00:04

Ultraviolet:

I think you are still confusing your "hopes and prayers" with a realistic evaluation of what will actually happen in the real world.

In the manner that Marx used the term "dictatorship" every class society is a "dictatorship" of some ruling class - or is some kind of unstable balance of the rule of several classes. It does not connote "authoritarianism" but it is neither true "democracy" nor is it “socialism” or "communism." I was using the term in this sense.

In the real world one does not in one minute or one hour or one day or one week or one month successfully "take away" all of the resources of a ruling class. Yes. If we could do that then it might be possible to institute "socialism" within months of the revolution.

In reality the revolution will "start somewhere" or will be successful somewhere first. Capitalists of that nation will be able to transfer resources to other areas where there is no revolutionary uprising or it is on a lower level. There will be a fight. There will be presumably a very sizeable lumpenproletariat and many of these people will be easy to recruit to the side of the capitalists. There will be followers of various religious cults and policemen and people who have a past history that would make them deathly afraid of a revolution. They will also be easily duped into working with reactionaries. The revolutionaries will tend to "trust" those who have been with them for a long time as opposed to those who suddenly appear friendly out of the blue. Things will happen and revolutionaries will try to track down who is the culprit and their resources will be limited and precarious. In a very real sense you will indeed have a "dictatorship of the revolutionaries" and that is dangerous. That, however, is not "Stalinism" or even the pre-Stalinist substitution of the "Party" for the "class" in early Bolshevism but it does set the stage for a relatively seamless evolution from one to the other.

As the revolution spreads and is successful to more and more areas of the globe the pressure to root out counter-revolutionaries will subside and if the revolutionaries are not corrupt they will relax into a true "dictatorship of the proletariat" which will indeed "wither away" into "socialism." Even in the dual class revolution of Russia it required a long process punctuated by numerous purge trials to get from the revolution to the rule of Stalin.

People, however, have grown up in a bourgeois state where greed and avarice and the clever manipulation and suppression of others are looked upon as admirable qualities. The stress that leads to revolutionary consciousness in some will magnify these negative qualities in others and even honest revolutionaries will become "hardened" by the likely violence of the struggle.

The revolution will be messy and what we wish and what we hope will not come about unless we openly strive for it.

Alexander Roxwell
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Sep 28 2011 03:58

A little reality is too scary for those who "wish upon a star" and desperately need to stay there in lalaland.

radicalgraffiti
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Sep 28 2011 12:55

i'm sorry to hear your scared by reality

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ultraviolet
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Sep 28 2011 18:15
Alexander Roxwell wrote:
I think you are still confusing your "hopes and prayers" with a realistic evaluation of what will actually happen in the real world.

After reading this response by you and re-reading the post by you which I responded to initially, I don't see that my "evaluation of what will actually happen" is different from yours. I suspect there may be differences in our opinions, but am not sure there are, and if so I'm not clear on what they are. Whatever these differences may be, please specify, so that if the debate needs to continue it can be about specific differences.

Alexander Roxwell wrote:
In the manner that Marx used the term "dictatorship" every class society is a "dictatorship" of some ruling class - or is some kind of unstable balance of the rule of several classes. It does not connote "authoritarianism" but it is neither true "democracy" nor is it “socialism” or "communism." I was using the term in this sense.

Ok, I think I understand. I still disagree with using the term "dictatorship" and I disagree that we won't be able to implement socialism or communism -- but these seem to be disagreements over terminology, and I'm much less concerned with such disagreements than I am with disagreements over substance. I will clarify the substance of my argument... (1 to 3 is about the dictatorship vs. democracy issue, number 4 is about the socialism/communism issue)

It is my preference that during a revolutionary war:
1. Arrests/imprisonments are carried out by an elected/recallable committee (name is unimportant, but we can call it the Security Committee for convenience in this discussion).
2. Arrests/imprisonments made by the Security Committee can be contested and overturned through democratic decision by community councils (those who are not imprisoned, of course).
3. Direct democracy is used for decision making, in workplaces and in community councils, and those with voting power are anyone at/above an age of maturity who is not imprisoned.
4. As we expropriate the means of production, we must immediately abolish profit based production and must start to produce for need. Regions pursuing communism would abolish wages and distribute according to need; regions pursuing socialism would use equal wage per hour with income for those unable to work and would distribute at least necessities according to need.

Is there anything here you disagree with?

Alexander Roxwell wrote:
Things will happen and revolutionaries will try to track down who is the culprit and their resources will be limited and precarious. In a very real sense you will indeed have a "dictatorship of the revolutionaries" and that is dangerous. That, however, is not "Stalinism" or even the pre-Stalinist substitution of the "Party" for the "class" in early Bolshevism but it does set the stage for a relatively seamless evolution from one to the other.

I agree that this is what will likely occur in a revolutionary war. I agree that it does not necessitate Party rule but that it is dangerous and has the potential to degenerate into Party rule.

I think the only safeguard against this is to use direct democracy (for all those 18ish+ not in prison) - including for the Security Committee to be under the democratic control of communities. Do we agree here?

Harrison
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Sep 30 2011 17:02

Yoda, just a quick thought, it might be an idea to read around the different sides of the argument and come to your own conclusion that way, which can often be more fulfilling than a few replies on a message board.

Homage to Catalonia is quite good at outlining on a practical level how worker militia dealt with the problem of hierarchy (whether anarchist or POUM)

(this post was edited from being a gut reaction rude reply)

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ultraviolet
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Sep 28 2011 19:24

I did not see his/her question as incredibly ignorant. I have not noticed a post in which s/he was rude -- then again, I've only read a minority of his/her posts. I do, however, see your post as rude and hurtful, Harrison. We come to this board at all levels of knowledge about lib-com. I think it's a great resource for those who are leaning towards lib-com views but are not quite there yet. I happily welcome the opportunity to help push them further in the lib-com direction. This is the way we're going to change the world, by patiently converting others to lib-com views. Most people will have questions and concerns that to the more experienced among us seem ignorant. If we can't deal with their "ignorance" patiently and with respect, then we should give up hope for the masses every embracing revolution. I'd rather have a newbie ask many questions and through those answers be persuaded to become a lib-com (and then go on to persuade others), rather than keep those questions inside and remain in favor of capitalism or the State or whatever. I agree that if answers to questions are easily found then they should be looked up rather than asked, but many questions are not so easily answered, and even when there is plenty of material out there to answer the question, getting a diversity of views from comrades who are knowledgable on the topic is something for which there is no substitute, and that's the value of this board, from which I have learned as much as I have from reading articles and books. Those of us too busy to reply, or who feel impatient with the "rookieness" of certain questions, can just ignore those ones. No time wasted, no reason to complain.

The question yoda asked in this particular thread is one of the most common questions asked by non-anarchists -- from your average everyday apoliticals, liberals, and conservatives and also from pro-State socialists and communists. It is therefore a question we must put serious effort into answering clearly, thoroughly, and concisely. If this question is a reflection of incredible ignorance, then 99.999% of the world is incredibly ignorant.

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Arbeiten
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Sep 29 2011 02:03

Alex the problem with your weak dichotomy between what people want and what they can get is that it quite easily falls into the same trap that it sets up for its interlocutor. It is borderline sophistry...

Alexander Roxwell
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Sep 29 2011 15:33

I may have misread Ultraviolet. I, of course, would "wish" what s/he would wish - that the revolutionary vanguard would be mature enough to realize that many of the workers that we are supporting and that we hope support us do not do so blindly and may disagree, even vehemetly, with some actions that we will take. We have to navigate in that enviornment showing respect both for those who follow us and for those who oppose us.

But not all of us will do that. There seems to be little energy or concern with this possibility on the part of those who would designate themselves as a vanguard so I predict it will be alot ugler than I would like.

But we must get thru that to get to the other side. If we do not get to the other side we will remain stuck where we are today which is unacceptable.

I remain in disagreement with Ultraviolet in terms of his definition of what the various post-revolutionary phases are - the "dictatorship of the proletariat" being the lowest and most risky part - "socialism" and "communism" being the phases that come about when the revolution is past the point of imminent risk.

We can pursue this disagreement if s/he likes but I am not strongly motivated to do so.

Alexander Roxwell
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Sep 29 2011 16:00
Arbeiten wrote:
Alex the problem with your weak dichotomy between what people want and what they can get is that it quite easily falls into the same trap that it sets up for its interlocutor. It is borderline sophistry...

I do not understand what the purpose is of such a meaningless abstraction as this comment. First of all I do not know what you are talking about. Second I rather think that the author does not either.

Speak plainly, succinctly, and directly to the point please.

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Arbeiten
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Sep 29 2011 17:31

OK yeah I was pretty Boozy when I sent that last night sorry, but this,

Quote:
I think you are still confusing your "hopes and prayers" with a realistic evaluation of what will actually happen in the real world.

Got my back right up. It is pretty much, word for word, what one would expect out of the mouth of any liberal-left reformer of the past 150 years to protect the status quo. But never mind, it was a meagre point and I don't really want to go into it. I just find it a shame that we are reduced to this sort of empty phraseology of so called 'lalaland' vs. 'the real world'

EGADS
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Sep 29 2011 17:49
Arbeiten wrote:
I just find it a shame that we are reduced to this sort of empty phraseology of so called 'lalaland' vs. 'the real world'

That's the trump card most liberals/social democrats/etc seem to think will prove their ideology is the best and why revolution is pointless - because, you know, the thought of removing hierarchy is wide-eyed idealistic Utopian stuff. roll eyes

Alexander Roxwell
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Sep 29 2011 19:34

Touché Arbeiten.