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Democracy without Elections; Demarchy and Communism November 2, 2003 by RedStar2000


A few months ago, I posted a thread called...

Can We Ever Say "How Communism Will Work"?

and my answer was probably not.

Perhaps it's time to re-evaluate that answer. Here is an extremely interesting article by Brian Martin on the subject of "demarchy"--a term originally coined by John Burnheim in 1985.

Martin, an Australian professor, does not use Marxist terminology at all...though it appears that his conception of the state is fundamentally Marxist.

It also seems unlikely that Martin is a revolutionary, at least in the sense that we usually use the word. Frankly, that doesn't bother me...it's the content, actual and potential, of his ideas that may be genuinely revolutionary.

I think this stuff deserves some serious consideration.


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Democracy without Elections

Brian Martin

For many a jaded radical, the greens are the most exciting political development for ages. The green movements claim to bring together members of the most dynamic social movements, including the peace, environmental and feminist movements, combining their insights and numbers. This is something that many activists have long sought.

Beyond this, the rapidly achieved electoral success of green parties has really captured the imagination. The German Greens have been the centre of attention for a decade precisely because of their election to parliament. A number of other green parties have been electorally successful too.

But wait a moment. Before getting too carried away, isn't it worth asking whether elections are an appropriate way forward? After all, electoral politics is the standard, traditional approach, which has led to those traditional parties which have so frustrated many a radical. Isn't there a danger that participation in the electoral process remains a trap, a bottomless pit for political energy which will pacify activists and masses alike?

My aim here is to take a critical look at elections and their alternatives. I start in Part One with a summary of the case against elections. Much of this will be familiar to anarchists, but it may be useful in bringing together the arguments and perhaps raising one or two unfamiliar ones.

If elections have limitations, then what are the alternatives? This is a harder question. In Part Two I look at some of the methods favoured by those supporting 'participatory democracy,' namely actual rule by the people rather than through elected representatives. These participatory methods, naturally enough, have both strengths and weaknesses. One of their key weaknesses is that it is hard for them to deal with decision making involving large numbers of people without succumbing to some of the same problems as representative systems.

Finally, in Part Three I present the idea of demarchy, a participatory system based on random selection. This is, I believe, a most promising alternative. It is little known, but in recent years there have been important theoretical developments and practical experiences.

Full text...

http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/pubs/95sa.html
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First posted at Che-Lives on October 23, 2003
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I think that Martin's view is that for the most part people are willing to observe "reasonable" customs.

Most people do not run red traffic lights not because they fear the fine that could be imposed on them but because traffic lights "make sense".

Presuming that these "functional groups" would make sensible recommendations...precisely because they are likely to represent a broad section of working class opinion, most people would take them "seriously" and would conform to the expectations thereof.

From other pages on his website, I gather that Martin is something of a pacifist in principle...so I wouldn't expect him to have much to say on the subject of force--workers' militia, etc.

But I've read a number of his papers and I'm getting the initial book from the inter-library loan program--Is Democracy Possible? by John Burnheim--and, so far, this appears to be a strikingly original and useful idea.
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First posted at Che-Lives on October 26, 2003
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quote:

Imagine if a load of fascists volunteered and got in power. The problem with demarchy is that any one who put themselves forward, even if people hated them, could still get in power.


The whole point of this arrangement is that you don't get "in power" just by volunteering. You have to "win" the lottery.

If a "functional group" of 100 people is needed and 500 people, including 50 fascists, volunteer, then the chance of any individual being selected is 1 in 5. The chance that all 50 fascists would be selected is 1/5 multiplied by itself 50 times.

Do the math yourself if you wish...or trust me, it's a very, very small number.

Like maybe...

0.0000000000000000000000000000000000002252

(I think this is approximately right...but I'm no math geek.)

The other, and perhaps more important point, is that "power" in communist society doesn't mean what it means in capitalist society.

It's not a matter of "do what we tell you to or we will hurt you". Functional groups will make "decisions" but they are subject to an informal "referendum of practice"...people think the decisions are rational and carefully thought out (they have "confidence" in the "legitimacy" of the functional groups) and therefore implement those decisions...or they do not.

In the latter case, the decisions become a dead-letter and a new functional group is summoned...one that is more likely to genuinely represent the working class.

I would imagine, incidentally, that in the early years of communist society, bourgeois elements would not be permitted to volunteer for functional groups...although some bourgeois experts might serve as technical advisors to such groups.

And known Nazi/fascist elements would, in all likelihood, be summarily shot upon capture.

That would be the sensible thing to do.
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First posted at Che-Lives on October 26, 2003
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quote:

That is ludicrous, only people [with the] utmost level of devotion to the communist party, should be able to take part in government. Granted most people aren't even interested enough to even take part in politics, I am for the Maoist idea of "People's Councils" (also an idea supported by the FARC rebels)


Why is "devotion to a communist party" a measure of anything useful?

We saw a shitload of "communist" parties in the last century; pretty much all of them turned out to be cesspools of revisionism, capitulationism, careerism, social democratic opportunism, etc....and, when in power, arrogant, brutal, and corrupt.

The Leninist paradigm turned out, in practice, to be a disaster.

I wouldn't trust those fuckups to run a hot dog stand!

quote:

I was thinking of people of the utmost level of devotion as in people who [have] shown leadership ability and an interest for helping the working class.


"Leadership ability" is exactly what we don't want...some arrogant fat-mouthed bastard telling us what to do and threatening to shoot us if we don't do it.

As to "an interest in helping the workers", communism is not a damn charity!

"Helping people" is not the point. The point of communism is that workers take matters into their own hands!

quote:

Just imagine where Cuba would be if it had resorted to demarchy instead of supporting Fidel Castro?


Pure speculation, of course. But suppose the 26th of July Movement had introduced demarchy in 1960 or 1961? Is there any reason to suppose that things there would have turned out worse than they did?

What would that reason be?
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First posted at Che-Lives on October 26, 2003
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quote:

I'd rather not have some random fucker I've no choice about removing invested with power, thanks very much.


Then you must be a pretty unhappy fellow...as you certainly have no choice about the "random fuckers" who rule your life now.

But, more importantly, the nature of "power" is different in communist society.

These "functional groups" will indeed consist of randomly drawn individuals who've expressed a willingness to serve. But the "decisions" that they make are subject to an informal "referendum of practice". People either think the decisions are rational and well-thought-out (they have "confidence" in the "legitimacy" of the process) and therefore implement them...or they do not.

If a significant minority of people think the "decisions" are idiotic nonsense, then the "decisions" become moot and a new functional group is summoned to try again. It's statistically unlikely that a wildly unrepresentative functional group could be selected by random drawings...but should it happen, it will have no "state power" to use against people.
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First posted at Urban75 on October 26, 2003
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quote:

Hey redstar, even if there is a small chance, there is still a chance and half or more of the people standing right after a revolution would probably be reactionary cappies.


Pessimistic fellow, aren't you?

Why? Why do you assume that "half or more" would be "reactionary cappies"?

How many reactionaries were still around after the French Revolution of 1789? Or the February 1917 Revolution in Russia? Or the territories controlled by the Spanish anarcho-syndicalists after 1936?

Of course there were some...but history suggests rather strongly that when there is a massive revolution, the reactionaries mostly flee for their lives, taking with them whatever portable wealth they can carry in a suitcase.

Even in the case of the rather mild American "revolution" (the overthrow of one landed aristocracy by another), the wealthy pro-British elements of the population here mostly fled to Canada or England...they did not stay and try to fight for a restoration of the old order.

When proletarian revolution comes to western Europe (which is where I expect it to happen first), the reactionaries will flee to America or to eastern Europe or even as far as Russia.

Very few of them will remain within the borders of a new communist society...and even fewer will be allowed to participate in the demarchy.

Your fears are groundless.
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First posted at Che-Lives on October 27, 2003
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quote:

If "Leadership ability" is exactly what you don't want, then why don't you just take a random kindergarten classroom, and then make that into our new government, or simply vote into office more actors and bodybuilders who have no fucking idea what the hell they are doing...


It's not clear from this whether you're actually laughing or really pissed off.

Whatever the case might be, I suggest you begin by critically examining what you mean by the phrase "leadership ability".

Throughout the existence of class society, humans have been taught to believe that some humans are "more than human", "semi-divine", etc. We are "supposed" to "follow them"--the pseudo-science of "evolutionary psychology" says "followership" is in our genes.

Today, you can actually get degrees in business "leadership". (!)

Funny thing is, if you go talk to a historian who has actually looked into the performance of this or that "great leader"...it turns out they fuck up just as much as anyone!

Or, in the case of modern "great leaders", it's often sufficient to pay a couple of visits to the BBC website and read of their indictments. (!)

In other words, as the lesson of the Wizard of Oz teaches, look behind the curtain!

Look behind the mythologies, the press agents & public relations hacks, the academic apologists, etc. How important really was "the great leader"?

Or, as Bertolt Brecht once wrote, "Alexander conquered Asia...all by himself?"

There are a couple of other misunderstandings in your post. The fact that Americans vote for a celebrity like Arnold the Barbarian really has no political significance at all; the same people still run California and the United States regardless of who happens to occupy public offices at the time.

A random selection of small children would, in fact, tell us a great deal about the educational system that we have in place...and might well provide some very interesting suggestions on how to improve it.

Of course, nobody would ask them.

Well, except maybe some communists.
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First posted at Che-Lives on October 27, 2003
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quote:

The point is it is fundamentally undemocratic; it depends on how lucky some one is for them to get in power, not their policies or their integrity or their beliefs.


Well, luck is a very important part of politics now and always has been. To be "politically successful" has often meant being at the right place at the right time.

But consider this: I've read that the vast majority of past American presidents have been taller than the average man of their era...sometimes a lot taller.

Or consider speaking ability: Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, and Adolph Hitler were all accomplished public speakers.

My point is that one's physical stature or one's ability to be at ease speaking before a large audience is not a real measure of competence.

Whenever we "elect" a "leader", we rarely have any real insight into their "policies, integrity, or beliefs"...and, in fact, we often can't even tell if they are sane. Reagan was senile throughout his second term and both Churchill and Hitler suffered from megalomania.

The point of demarchy is to get past the idea of politics as a "choice" of celebrities...of "big names" artificially created/inflated. A sensible social order does not concern itself with "looks", "age", "speaking ability", etc. when setting its policies...what really counts is do the policies make sense.

And the best source of that wisdom, in my view, is ordinary working people, seriously interested in the matter at hand and knowledgeable or willing to become knowledgeable on a particular subject...and otherwise selected at random.

The "lust for leadership" is always suspicious, whether on the part of the wannabe "leader" or the wannabe follower. We really need to get rid of that shit if we want communist society to endure.

Demarchy seems to be a good way to do that.
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First posted at Che-Lives on October 28, 2003
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quote:

We should not elect a leader, but just stick with a general assembly like Congress. Furthermore, I think that those with high government positions should be the people elected by the representatives of the local people's councils, which would be regular voluntary meetings held which communist party members may attend regularly, which would ultimately take the job of the mayor. That way, you could actually get to know the people that they will be electing on a personal, face to face basis.

A sample Communist Hierarchy

I. People's Councils (All Communist Party members may participate, replaces the job of mayor)

II. High Council of the People (Contains local people's council's representatives to act as governor)

III. Supreme Council of the People (Contains representatives of the High Councils to act as president/prime minister/or just a larger version of governor)

IV. The Internationale (A periodic meeting via video-communication of all Supreme councils of the world, which holds highest authority)


This is just a refurbished version of "democratic" centralism. Each higher body is elected by the lower body.

By the time you reach the top of this hierarchy, the guys up there are totally "out of touch" with ordinary working people...they live in a different world.

Hierarchy is part of the problem and tinkering with it is no solution at all.

Ordinary working people must participate directly at every level...and demarchy shows one way that such participation could be guaranteed.
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First posted at Che-Lives on October 28, 2003
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quote:

Umm, no, right now there are specialised teams of representatives that work in the most functional, well funded, knowledgeable and competent congressional working groups in the world right there in Capitol Hill.


"Well-funded"? Yes, that's certainly true. (!)

Functional? Are you joking?

Knowledgeable? Are you joking again?

Competent? For the most part, they couldn't pour piss out of a boot if the directions were printed on the heel.

Representative? Yes, they represent the capitalist class with exemplary fidelity.

I note that your location is in London...and am willing to excuse your post on the grounds that you simply are unaware of how things work here.

But I would imagine it's much the same in the U.K., is it not?

All wankers!
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First posted at Urban75 on October 28, 2003
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quote:

The working groups in the states are good in the sense that they do their job in representing capitalist interests.

They might not do what you would do, or what people who operate according to your own political bias would do, but these people do know what they are talking about.


I don't understand what you are trying to say. It's common knowledge that congressional staffs are principally occupied with the task of cutting & pasting legislation originally drafted by corporate legal departments. If you wish to suggest that there is some special skill involved there, I won't dispute the point...it took me quite a while to master the counter-intuitive instructions in Windows(c).

quote:

Have you ever read the reports of the US House Committee on Foreign Policy?


No, I leave that sort of thing to Professor Chomsky and his students. If you are studying American politics, then you are aware that the House of Representatives has no power in that area and the U.S. Senate has very little; foreign policy is a monopoly of the executive branch.

quote:

They aren't stupid--they just believe in something different than you. Capitalism.


Perhaps...although even within their ideological constraints, I'm not aware of any brilliant insights on their part. It's not as if you pick up an issue of the Daily Bullshit and read that some congressional staffers have compiled a well-documented study conclusively demonstrating that Bush is a hopeless wanker.

quote:

...what experience do you speak from regarding the knowledgeability and competence of the congressional working groups?


Funny you should ask. The last such document that I personally had occasion to read was a "report" on the "new left" written in the early 1970s...it was so wildly inaccurate that lefties passed it around as comic reading.

I suppose you'll suggest that they're "smarter" now...

quote:

It's mostly filled with people who don't have any formal experience or education in politics and simply rant on about how evil GWB is all day- most of them haven't read anything other than Chomsky


I can see why you'd find demarchy distasteful...no "formal" experience or education is required.

Imagine! Letting the "rabble" decide?!?!?
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First posted at Urban75 on October 28, 2003
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quote:

As for the central point, I don't like the idea. Sounds too much like the American jury system to my liking.


Demarchy certainly bears a striking resemblance to the American jury system; yet there are also some rather obvious differences.

In a demarchic system, you would volunteer to be in the pool from which members of a particular function group would be drawn...presumably out of interest in that particular function.

American jurors have no idea when they are called what case they are being called to try; and if they admit to prior knowledge of a case, they are automatically excluded from the jury trying that case.

Being part of a function group would be just like a regular occupation. American jurors are generally not paid by their employers while they are serving on a jury; the state pays them a token amount, maybe $10 or so per day.

Once your name has been drawn for a demarchic function group, you're in. In the case of American juries, any unusual sign of intelligence will get you excluded. In fact, jury duty is regarded as such an all-around pain in the ass that the (sick) joke is "you are going to be tried by 12 people who were too dumb to get out of jury duty".

A demarchic function group makes decisions that, if generally accepted as legitimate, make real differences.

An American jury is intimidated by the presiding judge who threatens all manner of dire consequences if he is disobeyed. Once in a while, juries do defy the judge and acquit people charged with political crimes...but it is rare. In certain kinds of cases, an American judge can even order a "directed verdict"...the jury must vote the way the judge ordered them to vote. I've never heard of a jury refusing to deliver a "directed verdict"...if one ever did it, I suppose the jury would be held "in contempt of court" and imprisoned. (!)

An American jury serves for the length of a case (if that).

A demarchic function group might exist indefinitely, with half its membership rotated out and replaced every year or two.

So there are actually quite a few significant differences.
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First posted at Urban75 on October 29, 2003
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quote:

But the people ARE the working class, and were chosen by the working class.


No doubt, at least at the bottom level.

But look what happens as you move up the ladder. The people are more and more likely to have made a career out of government...they are less and less likely to grasp the realities of working class life.

As I say, by the time you get to the highest level, you're talking about people who haven't done any kind of real work in decades...if ever.

And then there's the problem of "deference"...the human tendency to be impressed by the "best talker", the tallest guy in the room with the biggest mouth, the best-looking, the most imposing. Sometimes people see through such pretensions...often they do not.

That quiet, "mousy" woman in the corner may have the best brain in the room...and she's totally "unelectable". Only something like demarchy would ever give her a chance to show what she could really do.

quote:

...and ensures that the government remains in competent hands rather than leaving the leadership of society to chance.


I think that is the core of the matter: the confusion of popularity (or electability) with competence.

But, if anything, the verdict of history is decisively against that equation. Just looking at the history of the United States, were there ever more than four or five (at the most!) competent presidents? Most were bumbling mediocrities and some were criminals. (!)

We've done worse than chance because we are swayed by factors that have nothing to do with competence.

Looking at the history of communist parties of all varieties, can one fairly assume that we would do any better "after the revolution"?

The random selection of collectives of ordinary working people to perform specific functions has to work better than what we've had up to now or what we could reasonably anticipate if we simply relied on yet another electoral system.

quote:

A representative or democratic centralist democracy are far more democratic than randomly chosen leaders and are far more likely to serve the masses.


History says the exact opposite.
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First Posted at Che-Lives on October 29, 2003
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quote:

When was the last time you have ever had a long, personal conversation with the governor? When was the last time you participated in a group discussion with him?


In fact, I "could" talk to the governor of my state...he has a talk show on the radio every Saturday. But he doesn't have to listen!

It would be the same way in what you propose; the guys at the top might indeed "talk" to ordinary people now and then--every Easter the pope washes the feet of a dozen or so poor Catholics as a symbol of his "humility". But they don't have to listen.

Even Hitler used to make personal appearances, "press the flesh" (shake hands), enjoy tea parties with "ordinary Germans" (carefully selected, of course), etc.

Hell, I once shook hands with JFK...little knowing of his plans to invade Cuba once he was elected.

quote:

If the quiet mousy woman sticks to it, maybe if she comes up with some good ideas within the people's commune, and has been loyal to the party and is a terrific worker, than her fellow comrades will see that in her and choose her.


It's barely possible that could happen but wildly unlikely. Remember, she's "quiet". That means, in a room full of big mouths, she will have a terrible time even getting heard. Also, she's a woman and not a particularly attractive one...which means that when she does get a chance to speak, a lot of the guys will "tune her out".

quote:

All the people's experiences of the various candidates amount to only a few televised speeches/debates, and some propaganda. That is all the voter has to work with.


True, but it would be the same in what you propose except at the lowest level. Ordinary people might get a chance to meet and talk with the first level of representatives...but above that first level, it's television and sound bites and ritual speaking appearances, period.

Imagine that you are someone who has been elected to the first level...and you want to "move up". The opinions of ordinary workers are no longer relevant; you have to convince the other first-level representatives that you are the best choice to be advanced to the second-level. And so on all the way up.

How do you do that? The usual methods: intrigue, under-the-table deals, unprincipled compromises, ass-kissing, etc.

Perhaps it would not be that way at first--when revolutionary enthusiasm was at its peak. But what would stop it from becoming that way as time passed?

My real point is that what we think of as "politics" has been deeply shaped by class society...which has always been concerned with "how" to determine a "legitimate" elite.

Demarchy is a proposition that simply rejects the idea of a "legitimate" elite altogether.

I can see why folks have a problem with the idea...it's outside of a paradigm that has dominated throughout recorded history.

So is the very idea of a classless society.
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First posted at Che-Lives on October 29, 2003
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quote:

You do not choose to move up, the people choose you to (whether you want to or not is irrelevant).


Yes, but in the context of "politics" as we know it, people who express clear unwillingness to "move up" are not selected and people choose, in fact, from those who "hint" or express openly their "willingness" to "move up".

quote:

The "First level representatives" just so happen to be every communist in the area who chooses to attend these communiques.[?] Shaking hands and having tea parties will instead be at least weekly face to face group discussion with the people he is representing.


I'm not clear exactly what this means. I assumed that your first level of representation consisted of the entire population voting for people on a local level. It appears that you are now suggesting that there is no voting for people who are not in the "communist" party...the first level is simply everyone who is a member of the party and who wishes to take part in the proceedings.

In other words, your first level doesn't "represent" anyone except active members of the party on the local level...who "represent" themselves.

Thus, ordinary working people are completely left out of your proposed alternative to demarchy. It looks more like what the Progressive Labor Party has proposed..."the party as a replacement for the state".

I think that's a really bad idea!

quote:

Part of the problem is a culture thing that can be dealt with because you could change the culture. A solution to the ass kissing problem is to make things more transparent and make the people who are in a "higher up" be completely accountable to the people below them.


I agree that it is, in large part, a "culture thing". But it is a culture that arises from the need to secure support for one's own election.

Is the "popular" person the most competent? That's one question.

Is there any reasonable way to actually force people, once elected, to be "completely accountable" to those who elected them? Even "instant recall" actually takes time to organize...and what irreparable damage can be done in the meantime? That's the other question.

It seems to me to be far superior to actually grant ordinary "unelectable" people the opportunity to really participate in "the administration of things" in communist society. In such an arrangement, the problems associated with "representative" democracy largely dissipate.

Ass-kissing, intrigue, wheeling-and-dealing, etc. become useless. With people being rotated out of the demarchic function groups on a reasonably frequent basis, no one can build an enduring "political machine"...and it would be useless to try. Accountability is "built-in" to demarchy...since each demarchic group would consist mostly or entirely of ordinary working people, there'd be little opportunity for "political specialists" to maneuver for gain.

It seems to me that you guys are still stuck in the old paradigm of class society politics; get some power and use it to impose the "good" and crush the "bad". Of course, only the "good" should be allowed the opportunity to do that.

This approach leaves the vast majority of the working class in a passive position...people who have "good" done to them, instead of determining the "good" for themselves.

Demarchy raises the ordinary worker to the level of participant...directly taking part in the making of substantive decisions.

That sounds exactly like the kind of thing we need to make communist society really work.
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First posted at Che-Lives on October 30, 2003
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quote:

People have an obligation to do certain things for society when they are called to, and that certain obligations must come before their own personal will.


Indeed?

And what do you plan to do to them if they decline to carry out those "certain obligations"?

You have ventured out on some extremely thin ice; how are you going to respond when people start asking you "what obligations"?

quote:

A people's council will in effect represent every working person who has an interest enough in politics to bother attending these meetings on a regular basis.


Well, I'm still not clear on your meaning. Is membership in your first level limited to members of the "communist party" or can any worker who shows up speak and vote?

quote:

The luck aspect is as bad as the personalty aspect in elections. But at least everyone gets a choice in who is going to be in power.


But your "choice" is a matter of "luck". Whatever process you use to "narrow down" the field of candidates, it is largely a matter of chance who is considered a "serious candidate" and who is not. In "representative" forms of democracy, we simply get to "choose" from among the lucky...and those thought to have a "winning" personality. (Did you know that there are some studies that strongly suggest that you can pick up a certain number of additional votes just by being listed first on the ballot?)

In other words, we get to comfort ourselves with the illusion of having "participated" in a political process by marking a ballot...when, in fact, that is not participation at all, in any meaningful sense of the word.

In all likelihood, someone else picked the candidates, someone else picked the "issues", someone else packaged the "campaign"...and all you did was choose between pre-packaged "alternatives" the way you choose one movie to watch over another.

There was no real choice at all.
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First posted at Che-Lives on October 31, 2003
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quote:

I think a person should have the responsibility to do what society calls on them to do. Whether it is to be a party representative, fight, or take up a certain occupation. The survival of society is more important that a person's individual will...


Well, if that's your position, then you may as well admit that neither demarchy nor representative democracy is suitable for your purpose. You need a dictatorship to impose those requirements on people as they will never, understandably, consent to them voluntarily.

What you propose has nothing in common with communism, though it bears a striking relationship to Maoist China...where people were indeed "assigned" (ordered at gunpoint) to their occupations without regard to their own wishes in the matter.

Why anyone would "want" to live in such an environment completely escapes me...much less suggesting that it is something that we should "strive for". It would be like capitalism...only worse.

quote:

I think only working communist party members should be able to participate in the people's councils.


So my assumption was correct--you do indeed favor a dictatorship of a minority over the working class as a whole.

It's the standard Leninist crap which I have argued against on many occasions. It would be interesting if you had any unique reasons for supporting those ideas...but I expect it's the usual two: "the working class is too incompetent to actually run things" and "the revolution must be defended against counter-revolutionaries and the working class can't do that".

*Yawns*
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First posted at Che-Lives on October 31, 2003
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quote:

The thing is that people do choose on policies as well as personalities; personality doesn't have anything like as big an effect as you're portraying.


Certainly under capitalism, you are completely wrong. Bourgeois politics is about the selling of personalities.

Policies have nothing to do with the matter.

In a post-revolutionary society, one would hope that things would be different. But how different?

Won't it still be some guy (almost certainly a guy) who projects an attitude of self-confidence, who speaks with a glib tongue, who gives the appearance of "just-plain-folks" while privately thinking his supporters are "sheep" that need to be led for their own "good"...is this not the kind of personality required for a successful career in electoral politics?

Competence is not in the job description...as history teaches all too clearly. The successful politician may be competent (as a matter of chance)...but it's not required.

quote:

Charisma would also make people more confident in their leaders.


But, you see, that's the wrong kind of "confidence" to have. It's not based on anything of substance...it's like the fans of a "rock star" doing whatever he suggests.

If we think that the working class should actually run the show, then what need do we actually have for people "with charisma"?

Only class societies need such folks...to "legitimize" the rule of an exploiting and repressive minority. We are supposed to worship the symbol and ignore the reality.

But communist society does not need such distractions. A random selection of working people will more likely be representative of the class as a whole and will certainly be sufficiently competent to perform the tasks for which they volunteered.

And, as I pointed out earlier, if they are not "representative", then their decisions will be largely ignored in practice and repealed after they have been rotated out of office.

Remember that no particular randomly-chosen individual is "in power" for more than a year or two...thus, no "great leader" ever has the chance to emerge and stay in power.

Which would be excellent!
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First posted at Che-Lives on November 1, 2003
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quote:

How do you figure that this New Democracy is a dictatorship? I believe that I outlined before that there is no one man leader on top, and that the representatives are held responsible for all their actions to the people that voted them in. Perhaps you can call this a dictatorship of the communist party...


I do call it a dictatorship or the "communist" party...since, according to your own summary, only active members of the party get to vote, even on the "lowest" level.

The vast majority of the working class has no role in the political process at all.

When I asked you (remember?) if any ordinary worker could show up at a local meeting and speak and vote on the issues at hand, your answer was no...only active members of the party could do that.

At best, that's exactly what you had in the USSR, China, etc. And of course, that doesn't even get into what a system like that evolves into...a permanent leadership which appoints candidates for the lower levels to "approve" (which they always do), etc.

It seems to me that demarchy is so much better than this that there is no contest...unless, perhaps, you want to be one of the "big dogs".

quote:

I'm just saying that the needs of society should come before those of the individual. For example, jury duty or the military draft (even though the American system is sexist). Of course, you won't be shot for not doing your jury duty, you just might be held in contempt or pay a fine, or in the more serious draft dodging, some jail time.


What do you think those "non-lethal" punishments are based on? Is there not a group of armed uniformed thugs in the background, prepared to shoot you if you resist their punishments?

Jury duty is bad enough--you get to act as a popular "figleaf" for codified injustice.

But conscription? Become a professional killer for the ruling class? No way!

A "socialist" or "communist" country that resorts to a military draft has demonstrated its political bankruptcy...the only way it can get people to defend it is by forcing them to do it at gunpoint.

What an utterly wretched pile of shit!

quote:

You are beginning to sound like an anarchist.


Horrors! I should be sentenced to read and memorize Lenin's Left-Wing Communism; an Infantile Disorder!

But in case you hadn't noticed, class-struggle anarchists and real communists agree on many points...one of them being no dictatorship over the working class.

Demarchy is a way to make sure that dictatorship never happens.
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First posted at Che-Lives on November 1, 2003
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quote:

How confident are you that it is a way?


Pretty confident.

The only way that demarchy could be "rigged" in such a way as to allow an elitist minority permanent control is to shrink the pool of potential members of function groups in such a way as to ensure that members of the minority elite are consistently picked over non-members.

From a statistical standpoint, such a minority would have to be huge to have a measurable impact on the outcome of random drawings year after year. A "Marxist"-Leninist party with a few tens of thousands of members cannot realistically hope to dominate a class of tens of millions of workers.

Also, keep in mind that even if a vanguard elite had a majority in a given function group, they wouldn't be able to keep it...half the members of the group are automatically rotated out of office every year or two.

And finally, there is the informal "referendum of practice"...if a function group makes outrageously unrepresentative decisions, those decisions will be ignored until the next drawing, and then, most likely, repealed. There's no "police state apparatus" to enforce wildly unpopular decisions.

I think demarchy is a fascinating idea.
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First posted at Che-Lives on November 3, 2003
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quote:

People do care about policies but they can be easily lied to about what they are and people often promise to do impossible things and then get voted in.


Something that can't happen in demarchy.

quote:

Another problem would be that because it is so random, there would be countless counteracting policies by people with counteracting views, and nothing could be done about it.


Yes, people randomly picked to serve as members of function groups could disagree so drastically that a majority in favor of any policy would be impossible to secure.

The logical solution would be to dissolve that group and randomly select a new one...in the hope that a working majority would emerge.

quote:

At least representative democracy stops people like the nazis [from] getting in power.


It most certainly does not! The Weimar Republic was the most representative democracy in the world in the late 1920s and early 1930s...and, thanks to the assistance of the capitalist ruling class and the army--dominated by the old Prussian aristocracy--the Nazis came to power anyway.
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First posted at Che-Lives on November 3, 2003
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quote:

Anyway, randomness would always get some pretty evil people in power even in a small percentage that wouldn't happen in a representative democracy.


If their percentage is small, they'll simply be outvoted in the function group...and probably be excluded from the pool of future volunteers thereafter.

If they're really "evil"--Nazis, etc.--they'll probably be shot or, if we're in a good mood that morning, exiled.
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First posted at Che-Lives on November 3, 2003
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quote:

the thing is as I have said many times people just get in randomly that is not based on anything like their competence or policies.

Representative democracy does this and more.


Yes, you have asserted that over and over again...and I have replied to it.

And I will again, one last time: there is no evidence to support a positive correlation between competence/policies and "electability".

If you seriously think that the "best people" run for and get elected to public office, you have correctly named yourself "crazy".

The "more" that you allude to regarding representative democracy is an even more serious problem. It creates a division in society between those who can win elections (for any reason) and everyone else...who expect the "winners" to do good things "for" them.

The mass of working people become passive, lethargic, and dependent...a perfect recipe for setting up a new class society!

Do you understand what I'm talking about here? The absolute imperative priority in classless society is the full participation of the working class.

You can't get that with representative democracy...any more than you can raise your kid by hiring someone to look after her 24/7/365.

quote:

Oh, and no one would control the party in a socialist representative democracy and people would have limited time to "advertise" themselves.


Good grief!
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First posted at Che-Lives on November 5, 2003
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quote:

There is no proof to the contrary of competence and electability.


Oh? You think Arnold the Barbarian will be a "competent" governor of California? You think Ronald Reagan was a "competent" president?

Do you comfort yourself with the thought of Tony Blair's "competence" every time you ride British Rail?

quote:

In your system some one who was arrogant and could not think about other people's beliefs could get into power easily but in representative democracy he probably wouldn't be elected because people don't like arrogance and any way arrogance is a bad tool for leadership.


Arrogant people are elected to office constantly...the only restraint on them is that they must never appear publicly arrogant. Have you ever listened to any of Richard Nixon's "White House tapes"?

When those people are among themselves, they are arrogant as hell...only when they come out in public do they pretend to be "just folks".

quote:

Surprisingly to you, being [a] quiet leader doesn't get you very far as you won't have the ability to argue and force a compromise which is necessary in politics.


This is bourgeois "political science"...that politics is the art of "forging compromises" between contending "interest groups"--and the more forceful a leader/representative of some interest group is, the more favorable compromise he can "force".

Do we want "special interest groups" under communism? Do we want "forceful leaders" under communism?

Do we need any of that crap?

No.
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First posted at Che-Lives on November 6, 2003
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