Social Revolution Party

"Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways: The point, however, is to change it."

Posts Tagged ‘direct democracy’

The Manual: A Brief What, Why, And How of the Popular Action Movement: Part 2

Posted by sorev on 14/01/2010

A Democratic Starting Point:

We have to start somewhere. Over time, with trial, error and reformulation, we will (hopefully) come to a Democratic framework for our new community. Or maybe we won’t. If we fail there is a good chance that others will be able to build on our attempt. You can look on this as progress.

Democracy is both impossible and unnecessary when dealing with few people. Democracy really comes into itself when the number of people involved in a project is larger than the number of people one can interact with on a personal level. At that point it is inevitable that some people are going to be more equal than others unless Democracy is enforced through each person’s internal discipline augmented with a structure which encourages Democracy. If you see that as being idealistic, consider the fact that people can talk with one another. If Democratic processes are considered to be the operational norm, then if people with special responsibilities repeatedly disregard the wishes of the masses, the masses themselves have to disregard the actions and policies of those people acting in a non-Democratic manner. Which is to say people must follow an intentionality of Democratic behaviour.

Let us then start by considering the organisational structure of an organisation with around a hundred members. I pick 100 because that is obviously more people than one can relate to on an interpersonal basis !!!1!!! . If one wishes to be able to maintain media, energy, food and educational facilities it is easy to see that more than a dozen individuals are going to have to co-operate without taking advantage of one another. There are 4,000 buses in the Montreal Transit Authority. If it is to be run Democratically some sort of structure will be required.

There are break over points. For example most people can maintain relationships that are close and egalitarian with generally between 8 and 13 people; some of us through circumstance, personality etc. can stretch upwards towards 13 people. Most of us however, fall somewhat shy of that number. How then can 100 people co-operate without hierarchies developing? Furthermore if there are between 21 and 33 people in a room it is just barely possible to run a meeting Democratically without some folks losing out. Some people speak better in public. Some people are shy or feel that what they have to say is not as important as what some other people have to say. How then can we possibly have a meeting attended by 100 people without the loud mouths taking over?

These are real problems which to date almost no movement or group has been able to solve.

So let’s break the situation down to the smallest number of people who if they really really tried could possibly get along without an inner and outer circle forming; that is to say, without two classes forming. We are back to the limit of an organisation of between 8 and 13 folks. We can’t provide for ourselves with that small an organisation. We couldn’t even operate the London Transit Commission. We would still be buying necessities from trans-national corporations, private capital or the state. Any of these “solutions” would lead once more to alienation and to wealth being transferred out of our community. Alienation, exploitation and oppression would follow !!!2!!! . Indeed, how many times in the 20th C. did we see that scenario play itself out? So a political programme that can not build Democratic consensus among more than a dozen people is useless. A social-economic-political programme that, whether by default or on purpose allows the continued existence of the current socio-economic-political model is useless.

So here is the problem in a nutshell: The upper limit for a functional egalitarian group seems to be around 8 to 13 people. On the other hand a political unit that small can’t functionally accomplish anything. The Popular Action Movement is posited as being a new state. Thus our hypothetical size is roughly the same as the population of Canada. There are, in fact, very few actual capitalists who matter. Most successful changes of state isolated about 7% of the population. That is the norm established by the French and Russian Revolutions. I don’t know this for sure but the English Revolution most likely isolated less than 1 % of the population and merely removed political influence from the governing strata. The NDP has 100,000 members but is unable to affect our quality of life. It can help a little bit, say in quantity: higher pensions, lower university fees, somewhat better health care. But it’s a game of inches. Our basic alienation and exploitation remain. The problems outlined at the beginning of the paper remain; I’m referring back to the ongoing fall in our standard of living and the very real possibility, perhaps even inevitability of a general collapse of society. On top of that there is the alienation and exploitation inherent in the system. In other words eight people acting alone can’t save themselves, let alone the world. This unit of eight or so people has to find a way of federating with other similar units so that the Democratic federation gains the strength of unity without giving up the immediacy of Direct Democracy.

We have to develop both a form and an intentionality in order to achieve and maintain Democratic norms of behaviour. The group of let’s say 12 people has to delegate two servants or messengers who will carry the messages of that dozen people to a convenor. That convenor will consult with messengers from three or four of these dozens and of course the agendas which emerge from these consultations will be returned to the dozens. To-ing and fro-ing might have to go on before everyone is satisfied but the numbers are small enough so that no one would be left out so long as the dozens themselves are vigilant, that is, in the final analysis each and every member should make sure that the representation is functioning.

Necessary conditions for the functioning of this fundamental grass roots Democracy include, but might not be limited to the two messengers being loyal to the people who send them. Further, they can’t operate for outside forces but must maintain internal loyalty and solidarity. They must be chosen by and be responsible to their little core group. These messenger/servants have to speak personally to each person they represent on a regular basis. E-Mail doesn’t cut it. Phone calls are out. There has to be person to person in person communication so that there can be no mistake about the message or the messenger. Two people between them can service and represent 12, including themselves. At this stage of the game this is a difficult task and therefore the number of people that each messenger is responsible for will be somewhat less. This is caused by the fact that we aren’t, at this stage, consolidated. The messengers don’t come into contact with the folks they are responsible for in the ordinary course of events. Thus the task weighs more heavily upon them than it will when most of the people one meets in the course of a day are in PAM and these tasks will be carried out without any extra effort by the messengers.

Three or four (at the most) of these groups can co-operate and pool resources for projects. A Unit with a maximum of around 36 people can be built. The leading figures in this group would be the six (or eight) messengers carrying the thoughts, wishes and desires of the membership at large, a convenor who directs and co-ordinates the group meetings making sure that every person has equal access to be heard and that the agenda is not captured by a clique. The convenor is also a servant of the membership but obviously not a messenger and therefore does not put items on the agenda any more than any other member. There should also be a secretary-treasurer. Everything the secretary-treasurer does must be monitored by the messengers.

However, even 30 to 40 people can’t run a power generation system, a public transit system, a food chain or an educational system. Industry would be impossible. A telephone system would be out of the question. Pharmaceuticals and health care would not exist. Every one with heart or kidney problems would die. Even setting a broken leg would be a dicey job.  Eye care and dentistry would not exist. We would have to take at least a 50% death rate. Setting up decentralised small collectives might improve the lives of the people in them but they do nothing for society at large. They do not, in any way, question the system. In many ways, like reformist politics, they actually reinforce our subservience to the Trans-national Corps and the Banksters. They are nice but they aren’t a political response that counts or matters.

In order for the forces of Democracy to actually run the system there will have to be active co-operation amongst and between these units of 30 or 40 people. Core Democracy can be maintained so long as the messengers remain loyal to their groups of 12.

Inter Unit Co-operation:

We can await the Fall of Rome due sometime between 2020 and 2050. If everyone does nothing to prepare for such an event perhaps some 20,000,000 Canadians will die. !!!3!!!

On the other hand we can figure out a way for these proposed Units of 30 to 40 people to co-operate in some sort of federation without exploitation or oppression. This way we will be able to keep the lights on and our houses heated. We will be able to maintain a functioning food chain; maintain and develop the Arts and Sciences; keep the buses running; maintain garbage and recycling programmes; etc.

Let us return to the model that we were developing: 100 people working together in harmony without interpersonal systematic oppression. Let us posit that the organisation be divided into three Units so that each Unit would have two messengers for each dozen or so members plus a convenor and secretary-treasurer. Each Unit would also have two delegates to a committee that would maintain lines of communications amongst and between the Units. It is this “committee of delegates” that allows the organisation with 100 members to function in a co-ordinated manner.

Larger Groups of People and the Transformation of Money into Capital:

Most socio-political groups seem to spend a large proportion of their money on self-promotion. (The exceptions to this are to be found among the ethnically based groups). We, however, are building a new society and are capitalising ourselves. Indeed we really require the propaganda of the deed !!!4!!! . In our case that would be working models of worker and consumer co-ops. Very little can be done with money an organisation (say, for example the Popular Action Movement [PAM]) collects whilst it has fewer than a hundred members. Any income in those circumstances would be used as the delegates to the Centre agreed. They would have to clear their spending policies with the Units which delegated them of course.

Let us now take a leap into fantasy. The fantasy we are about to explore (or one similar to it) will have to come into existence or else we will be in dire straits after the current regime falls apart. This fantasy deals with the concept that a self-defence organisation capable of focusing considerable energy and “capital” might actually develop. This organisation would be able to supply life-support services for a very significant sector of the population, that is for its own members.  People would be taking care of themselves/each other. In other words as the present system bankrupts itself we will be able to restructure without millions of people having to die.

Let’s assume that 100,000 people, in other words an organisation about the size of the NDP, were to group themselves into Democratic self-protection Units. In this hypothesis all numbers are approximate. When I say 100,000, I mean a number in that region. Apply this concept of “approximate number” to all subsequent numbers. I am trying to demonstrate relative sizes in an approximate manner.

In our outline above we put forward the organisational norm of 12 (or so) people in Democratically structured “dozens”. We then went on to develop how 30 to 35 people (or so) could form Units made up of the “dozens”. Each Unit of 30 (or so) people would choose two delegates to a co-ordinating committee. If we were to divide 100,000 by 30 we would come up with approximately 3,400 Units. Since we have called for two delegates from each Unit and since one can’t have a Democratic meeting of more than 35 people no matter how hard you try, the number we come up with is too large to be manageable. Thus we would have to form approximately 225 co-ordinating committees. Each of these would be structured exactly like the original Unit. With each of these sending two delegates each to Regional Committees we would end up with approximately fifteen Regional Committees and thus one Inner Committee of 30 people. Or to rewrite:

Dozen
Unit
Co-ordinating Committee
Regional Committee
Inner Committee

Look upon these as being circles within each other.

Who Spends the Money?

The Dozen and the Unit, may if they want, hold fundraisers for their own events and activities. Dues and general revenue of the organisation will, however, be split between the Co-ordinating Committees and the Regional Committees. The Inner Committee may hold bake sales etc. if they want. The key is that entry level organisations should not have disposable income. Income should be pooled so that larger projects can be undertaken. It is very easy for a special interest faction to use a Unit’s income for their own purpose and to bleed the organisation so that the main purpose of the dues is thwarted. Likewise the Inner Committee should not have access to the organisation’s funds. Money at the Centre is a corrupting influence and undermines the ability of the organisation to actually, in real terms not just rhetorically, act as a federation of self-governing sections.

The Organisation will divide its money into Three Purses:

1] Group Capital:

One third of the Group’s Income, after membership is more than around 100 people will go on Group Capital. This means buying capital goods to be owned by and used by the group (i.e. to be owned by the organisation as such and used by members of the organisation): buildings, large colour printer, equipment for trades-folk, etc. Or they could be things owned by the group and rented to members: ladders, canoes, sound and light equipment, etc. The point is this stuff should make a return on the investment for the organisation and further job or recreational activities of the members or provide goods or services for members of the organisation. These moneys might (see below) be investments in other capital holdings, that is buying into existing capital formations or going in on something with members or group of members. Group Capital in alliance with Private Capital is dodgy. Much care would have to be exercised. For example, the capital involved should be material and not a financial instrument. It should be local and easily controlled and monitored by the organisation and members thereof. Examples of this might be a building, bar/club, studio/exhibition space, video production facilities, camp grounds, etc. See below for a discussion of the organisation’s attitude towards interpersonal exploitation.

Group capital essentially builds the socialised sector of the economy. It should be noted that one might think of this as the “nationalised sector”. However the nationalised or crown corporation is not socialised unless the state is run by the working class. This has been pointed out for a hundred and fifty years. When the Tories nationalised Hydro they did not become socialists. No, they were just providing an infrastructure to benefit capital. Group capital builds the resources of the Group (the new state). However the group is founded in Democracy and has an anti-exploitation, that is pro-working class, orientation.

2] Member Capital:

One third of the organisation’s money, with the same provisos as above, would be Member Capital. As with the Group Capital above this does not include operating capital. Operating capital is best filed under “expenses”. Groups of members grouped into co-ops would get preference and workers’ co-ops would get preference over consumer co-ops. See a discussion of this below. Worker Co-ops/Group partnerships would rank the highest. These capital grants to members would be in the form of forgivable loans. In other words the organisation would fund member owned businesses with preference given to co-operatively owned businesses. See below for a discussion of the corporate model.

3] Expenses:

One third, and only one third of the revenue collected and generated by the organisation after it achieves a membership of around one hundred people will go to expenses. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. Most political movements and parties, social and support organisations, protest groups etc. spend almost all of their money on expenses. Most of it seems to be for publicity. PAM strives for the propaganda of the deed. Actually fund workers’ co-ops.  Actually build an alternate infrastructure. Also we must make sure that most of our expenses are not self-promotion. It is very important that the organisation actually provides services: health, education, pensions, affordable housing etc. come to mind.  We have to become the State.

A Quick Look at Three Words: Exploitation, Oppression and Alienation:

Exploitation:

One exploits to gain an advantage from. For example, one would exploit the natural resources, or a loop-hole in a tax law but one would not oppress them. Like wise one speaks of capital exploiting working people. In other words, money is made through the labour of others.

Oppression:

Oppression is a consequence of unequal social relations between people. If one set of people have a superior social position backed up by force or social convention (etc) they can oppress the other set of people, e.g. treat them poorly in some way. There are of course varying degrees.

Alienation:

Books have been written about this. The concept in this idea is that something is turned away from its proper functioning in a relationship. For example, one can be alienated from one’s work (or labour, or creativity) if the manner of doing the work and the product of the work are beyond the control of the worker/labourer. One can feel/be alienated from a situation, such as aspects of a social situation or society.

END NOTES:

1. Also because an organisation is impotent until it reaches a membership of around a hundred.

2. Partial definitions of these words will follow in due course.

3. I have written in other places, and will do again and again until you are sick of it, about business cycles and the problem of family, city, state, corporate and federal debt in the U. S. of A. This is not the place for a digression based upon the crises of overproduction given the current social arrangements in the U.S. The U.S. is currently entering a severe downturn in the economy from which they will never truly recover. Two more will follow each one worse than the preceding. The timing of these events can not possibly be known ahead of the events. This time around hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs, standard of living, pensions, etc. The government will be on the ropes financially and many services will be dramatically cut back. The U.S. is, don’t forget, “post-industrial”.

4. It is unfortunate (but necessary) that, at present, our meetings are so dominated by structural and programmatic details. This is meant to be a Popular Action Movement.  We are quite wanting in action at the moment.

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