Tuesday, August 10, 2004


This week, I want to focus on democratic arguments, in favour, and counter argumets against (in order to demolish).

Firstly, I think we need to define democracy. It comes from the Greek meaning rule by the people, as distinct from aristocracy and oligarchy and the relatively meaningless anarchy - which, given the communal organisation of society can only ever turn out to be a form of oligarchy.

Thus, a group is democratic to the extent that its membership control what it does. Simple. Obviously, this ned not be a binary thing, there are tendential characteristics of democracy.

The thing you need to assess, is who may:

1: Initiate actions/policy proposals.
2: Ammend/refine policies and proposals.
3: Accept/Reject a policy or proposal.

Further, given any exteded organisation, and the need for division of labour, duties may need to be delegated, and people be appointed to post. In which case you need to know who may:

1: Propose/Nominate appointments.
2: Confirm/Accept appointments.

And of course, the corrolary:

who may remove a postholder.

The more people within a group have cobntrol over each of these functions/stages, the more democratic it is.

If we look around us, we see that in our daily lives we have precious little democratic control. In our workplaces, our owners or managers control policy, with at most consultation being allowed; they control appointments as well. Our input is limited to being able to nominate ourselves for our jobs.

Much the same aplies in politics proper. Initiation of policy is generally restricted to the Government's Minister's; MP's then amend and decide on the policy/legislation. Our input into ths process is that we may nominate and appoint MP's, who then in turn appoint a Prime Minister, who appoints the Ministers who make the policy. We are thus three stages removed from the initiation of policy. While we are consulted, our only effective control is to ensure that the MP's of our choice are elected. We may propose and select MP's, but may not remove them, save by choosing someone else at the next election.

This formed the basis of much of the SPGB's critique of the soviet system. In that, the electors elected a soviet, who elected delegates, who elected delegates who elected a supreme soviet, who elected Sovnarkom who elected Lenin...who made all the policy.

Likewise, Leninist parties can be very undemocratic, despite democratic centralism. Branches send delegates to conference/congress, which appoints a central committee (usually by accepting or rejecting a committee as a whole, which was nominated by the outgoing committee), the central committee then appoints an executive committee, which usually appoints a political committee. They then initiate all policy, consulting donwards through the structure, before deciding final outcomes. Although branches nominally have policy initiate, generally that remains in the hands of the central and executive committees.


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