It is worth reading this long and very thoughtful post from Andrew Flood at Anarchist Writers on the decision making processes (that should be a plural) involved in the Occupy Movement, but with particular reference to OccupyDameStreet, which Andrew has been active in from time to time, either by speaking at the OccupyUniversity, adding his voice to the General Assemblies or simply by turning up. Andrew has lots of experience as an activists and provides plenty of context for this serious discussion about how group decisions can be made. These points, however, are being raised in the context of the recent disagreement between the SWP and the OccupyDameStreet movement, members of which believe that the SWP attempted to pack General Assemblies on two occasions in the last couple of weeks in order to push through an agenda which went counter to the ODS policy of not engaging with political parties.
This has been fiercely debated on facebook, but its good to get this rounded point of view. Ultimately, Andrew argues that 100% consensus, which is the norm of the OccupyMovement and which is used in ODS, leaves itself open to the type of moves that the ODS movement accuse the SWP of. This is not to say that consensus will not work or that modifying the consensus apparatus to deal with the hijack scenario is somehow against the principles of democratic decision-making. I think there should be broader interest in this because its about the possibilities and difficulties of building a wider movement. There is not one form of democratic decision making that works and all other forms that don’t adhere to it are to be rejected. This is because, as Andrew acknowledges ‘there is no mechanism which avoids all the pitfalls’. Instead democratic decision making can come in many forms. It’s just a matter of picking the right one on the right occasion.
“The downside of consensus, particularly in its purest form, is that if abused it can allow one or two individuals to try and constantly block a proposal for reasons of political or personal disagreement. This can be a barrier to a movement growing from its original nucleus. In reality this problem may not be that real as most often social pressure prevents people behaving in such a manner. ODS for instance inherited an opposition to Union banners from Real Democracy but this was overturned at the first point it made any difference, when the Dublin Council of Trade Unions passed a motion in solidarity with ODS.
At a wider level it is rather hard to know what the ‘correct’ decision making mechanisms are for this sort of movement. There are none that avoid all pitfalls, at the moment I lean towards thinking the large super majority system adopted by Occupy Oakland makes sense. That requires a majority of 90% or greater, as there larger assemblies have approached 3,000 this means the numbers required to block proposals are in the low 100′s.
A final word on the difficulty of decision making in large crowds and the dangers of trying to impose a single model regardless of circumstances (whether that be consensus or simple majority). I attended a meeting at the 2011 London Anarchist Bookfair on the Egyptian revolution given by three Egyptian anarchists. One of them, a woman, made the point that on the night of 25th February when Mubarak failed to resign as expected the crowd was so large that none of the decision making mechanisms that had used could work. In the end the question of what to do next was settled though a spontaneous process of chanting with the chants coming to settle on ‘To the palace’ and ‘To the TV station’ which was of course what happened. Democratic decision making it turns out can come in many forms!”
The whole post is available here.
Photo of OccupyDameStreet taken by Andrew Flood.
Latest posts by Donagh (see all)
- The policy of transferring incomes to capital and the rich - September 6, 2012
- ILR Will Not Blink While Facing Down the Jaws of Excessive CPU Usage - September 6, 2012
- Dan Froomkin | The Jobs Crisis Obama, Romney and the Low-Wage Future of America - August 29, 2012
- Money as a Social Construct – Talk Given by Mary Mellor - August 27, 2012
- - August 23, 2012