would socialism take up too many evenings?

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sam sanchez
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Nov 4 2007 12:35
would socialism take up too many evenings?

A common criticism of libertarian communist ideas is that they are unrealistic in the following way: People would have to be having meetings all the time, in their workplaces, in their neighbourhoods. Research has shown that where institutions of face-to-face democracy exist, they are often not attended by many - take the surviving new england town meetings, for example. Do people think that the feasibility of an anarchist-communist society is threatened by the possibility that most people would not participate in participatory democratic instituitions even if they existed?

lem
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Nov 4 2007 12:42

i don't think it's feasibility would be challenged if that transpired.

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sam sanchez
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Nov 4 2007 14:00

I suppose I don't just mean feasibility, but also desirability compared with current arrangements.

lem
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Nov 4 2007 14:11

that's not really what i mean cos otherwise you've been forced into an untenable position as well [a slight improvement is not good] [ confused sentence of mine there]

i mean that at any point in time if people don't want direct democracy then direct democracy is not desirable for them, whereas an improvement is always desirable.

Deezer
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Nov 4 2007 14:24

I think what the examples of face to face democracy that any research that I'm aware of has discussed is often related to a range of institutions incorrectly identified as 'direct democratic'. These have included all sorts of clubs and associations, political parties, trades unions, works councils, town meetings etc., and they are all of limited value for those whose interests they serve, or counter productive, in terms of engaging people in them. Many are not at all 'direct democratic'.

What I mean is they all operate within the context of capitalism and unless there is the possibility of them achieving some significant gains for working class people well, they simply aren't likely to engage.

We will not have a social revolution without building up genuine direct democratic involvement that aims at carrying out a social revolution. Thats a process that has to involve more and more people in direct democratic decision making, the real challenge is in getting people more involved before the social revolution. And that does not mean encouraging town meeting attendance.

So, my answer is no.

tigersiskillers
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Nov 4 2007 14:26

It was someone like Wilde or Shaw that said that originally wasn't it?

I think it's a reasonable question – however I don't see it as being necessarily an issue. A saner society would involve less working hours, so meetings could be factored into 'normal' time.

If neighbourhood meetings were dull functional affairs I doubt I would want to go to them. And I wouldn't want people to be forced to participate. However if they were making decisions about things that actually matter and impact on my surroundings I be there, and more so if they were actually more like communal get togethers. By that I don't mean waving hands and appointing 'vibes monitors'.

On the example of New England town meetings – I'd like to see the difference between attendance now, where they have little more than symbolic power, and those where their decisions were meaningful.

lem
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Nov 4 2007 14:28

i don't mean bourgeois dd is desirable, i was thinking of it from the perspective of individual workers.

i doubt that any individuals will want less involvement than they have at any time if they are free to engage when they want. so the socialist movement will always be making a desirable improvment to people's lives.

i suppose there's a chance that levels of desired involvement will be so low that nothing would get done but i doubt it.

Terry
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Nov 4 2007 16:16

I'm sure only a minority attended the section meetings in Paris during the French Revolution. That is of course a singular experience and one 200 years ago.

Anarcho
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Nov 5 2007 09:40

I doubt that this would happen.

Anarchism is based on functional democracy, decisions are made at the appropriate level by the appropriate people. So, most decisions would not be made in mass assemblies but rather in by sub-groups associated with specific areas -- workplaces, universities, user groups and so on and their federations.

Mass assemblies would occur as and when required and deal with genuine collective issues and to address problems/issues with sub-groups which cannot be resolved in other ways.

The notion that self-management means everyone discussing everything is just silly. That is the reason we support federalism and group self-management, so we do not need to do that except in cases when it is really necessary.

This is discussed in section J of An Anarchist FAQ.

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Bill Shatner
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Nov 5 2007 16:26
Sam wrote:
would socialism take up too many evenings?

If you're referring to the new ruling class that exists under Socialism then you're absolutely right; Socialism will indeed take up too many of their "evenings".

Time that would be better used by these fat cats determining what big black car to drive, if they should summer in the Hamptons or Vale and sorting through chauffeur applications for someone that won't be too "uppity".

If you're talking about the people in general then the answer would be no - just like under Capitalism, history has shown us that Socialism in practise is just as detached from the masses as any other state body.

Quote:
common criticism of libertarian communist ideas is that they are unrealistic in the following way: People would have to be having meetings all the time, in their workplaces, in their neighbourhoods. Research has shown that where institutions of face-to-face democracy exist, they are often not attended by many

It mustn't be that common a "criticism" - I've been a revolutionary leftist for 25 years and have rarely, if ever, heard such a "criticism".

I would suspect that's the case because it's a pretty juvenile concept.

Quote:
Do people think that the feasibility of an anarchist-communist society is threatened by the possibility that most people would not participate in participatory democratic instituitions even if they existed?

Your first mistake is referring to Communist social practises in reference with the social conditions that exist in our current society.

Is it so hard to believe that in the future it's possible that the people will become socially responsible enough not fall into the same "routine" as their Capitalist ancestors?

Especially considering the type of massive social responsibility it would take for there to even be a Communist revolution to begin with.

ronan
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Nov 5 2007 16:38

no. we'll have lots more free time. things will need to be done anyway, so people will do them. (obviously some people will still try and avoid this 'work' but that's what we have commissars for wink.)

Deezer
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Nov 5 2007 18:48
ronan wrote:
no. we'll have lots more free time. things will need to be done anyway, so people will be made to do them. (obviously some people will still try and avoid this 'work' but we'll have commissars posts for them wink.)

fixed

Antieverything
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Nov 5 2007 20:20

Everyone I've ever talked to that worked in a small-scale workers coop has given me the same impression:

a) the meetings are tedious and unproductive, largely because of the presence of one or two manipulative wankers, something that left or progressive circles seem to have a disproportionate number of.

b) (and this is the kicker) they are seriously considering going back to 'real' jobs where, even with comparable compensation, the workplace environment is lower-stress and relationships with coworkers are smoother.

...of course this is just a handful of anecdotal evidence. If I were still in school I might consider doing a study on the topic.

At the least, we can't expect simple procedural trappings of self-management to automatically make life more fulfilling--rather, the increased access to resources and leisure that accompanies self-management in the context of the sort of larger-scale social transformation we are talking about is what we should focus on.

If anyone brings up breaking down the barrier between 'work' and 'play' I'm giving you a wedgie (if they don't say 'wedgie' in your culture, it means I'm going to pull your underwear over your head)

Antieverything
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Nov 5 2007 20:28

Hmmm...a quick scan of the literature (I'm in a research library) does show that the greater the degree of autonomy and responsibility, the greater the degree of job satisfaction.

So maybe the people I talked to are just bitching...or they are in counter-culture settings where people generally suck at life and can't abide differences of opinion (the fucking hypocrites).

Flint
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Nov 5 2007 20:44
Antieverything wrote:
Hmmm...a quick scan of the literature (I'm in a research library) does show that the greater the degree of autonomy and responsibility, the greater the degree of job satisfaction.

So maybe the people I talked to are just bitching...or they are in counter-culture settings where people generally suck at life and can't abide differences of opinion (the fucking hypocrites).

You also said small scale. I imagine they are also lacking in capital, possibly in a niche market and barely affording the rent. Worker cooperatives still exist within the capitalist market and the state. It's a common refrain in the U.S. that only one out of ten small businesses ever succeeds.

I'd be curious to see participation stats on something like Mondragon.

martinh
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Nov 5 2007 23:57

On the main question - no, 'cos it'll be on work's time wink

On the point from antieverything, my brother in law works at a rather well known retail/wholesale co-op on the south coast. His workplace sounds like heaven compared to anything in a similar sector and does allow for more autonomy than similar work elsewhere. Could an entire economy be run along such participatory lines? I think yes, but it takes imagination and some people will be more committed than others.

Regards,

Martin

martinh
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Nov 5 2007 23:57

double post

Antieverything
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Nov 6 2007 00:27
Quote:
You also said small scale. I imagine they are also lacking in capital, possibly in a niche market and barely affording the rent. Worker cooperatives still exist within the capitalist market and the state. It's a common refrain in the U.S. that only one out of ten small businesses ever succeeds.

I'd be curious to see participation stats on something like Mondragon.

Yeah, the small scale thing is important for the reasons you point out, but it is also especially significant to the discussion at hand because it involves face-to-face organization rooted in the principles of direct democracy. Larger cooperatives often feature a management structure similar to capitalist firms just with an [i[elected[/i] management hierarchy so the often tedious and unproductive day-to-day meetings are less of an issue. (Again, without a culture of mutual respect and cooperation, direct democracy can be really, really difficult)

Mondragon is definately an extreme example of representative management regimes (as opposed to direct democracy with either general meetings or some sort of delegate structure...and, of course, there is exists examples of everything in between). I've read a bit on Mondragon but I'm not sure what you mean by 'participation stats'. I think it may be illustrative to reference the comments made by a low-level employee at Mondragon to a researcher. She basically commented that working at Mondragon was pretty much the same as working anywhere else (presumably with regard to the day-to-day operations of the place) but when the researcher probed whether or not she would rather have another job the worker responded "of course not, here I can vote"...I'm sure job security is another big thing.