Democratic control in socialism: extent and limits

February 2024 Forums General discussion Democratic control in socialism: extent and limits

Viewing 15 posts - 16 through 30 (of 75 total)
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  • #104817
    LBird
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    So you are saying that in socialism/communism literally everything (including for instance what people should eat and what they should wear) will in principle be subject to democratic social control and that only a democratic social decision can make exceptions to this? So the sort of "basic law" of society would be: the individual is only free to decide individually what society decides they can. In other words, society decides to grant certain "rights" to individuals rather than the classic Liberal position that it is individuals who grant certain rights ro society (the social contract myth)..The end result would be the same of course: that in practice democratic control would not be applied to everything (eg not to what people should eat or wear), i.e would be widespread not total. There will be limits but they would be self-imposed.

    That just about sums it up, ALB.'Self-imposed'. Why lie to ourselves or to others looking to Communism? A political movement that is honest – that'd be a novel experience for workers! Humans inescapably live in society – and we should all control that society and its 'impositions'.The only alternative is that somebody else will do the 'imposing'.Of course, there's always the bourgeois myth of the 'free individual'. But I think we all know where that one goes…

    #104818
    ALB
    Keymaster

    That didn't take long to agree on then. At least on the basic principle if not on how to express it. I don't think it helps to get our idea across by talking of "brainwashing" and telling people "what to do and think".  That's not honesty but shooting yourself in the foot by putting people off straightaway or having to explain what you don't mean. Much better to talk of "socialisation" and the encouragement of certain values and codes of conduct.Then there is still the extent to which socialist society should allow individuals to decide for themselves and also on what decisions should be subject to a democratic decision-making (quite apart from how this might be done, e.g by direct democracy or delegate democracy). Of course that's not for us to decide here (it's for the people around at the time). We can only speculate and discuss. Hopefully, we will be able to discuss and disagree on this without those who see the extent of democratic decision-making as being less than others being accused of being "anti-democratic" or "afraid of the masses".

    #104819
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Will the vast majority have to be socialist before a socialist revolution can come about? Will there be bourgeios perspectives in a socialist society? How would the new democratic social sciences work in practice? With their 'competing theoretical perspectives' of the new 'communist science'. Perhaps someone could form  the Capitalist Party of Great Britain with the aim of handing over the earth to a tiny minority and organising production for profit instead of human need. Convince people that this would bring about division, hunger, poverty, crime and war. See how many they can convince Perhaps this would avoid my own and Kuhn's 'totalitarianism' that LBird raised earlier 

    #104820
    ALB
    Keymaster
    LBird wrote:
    When the SPGB gain a majority in parliament, they are going to disband parliament and hand 'legitimacy' over to the parallel Workers' Councils, to legitimise "Workers' Power", aren't they? So that all the current state organs obey orders given by the Councils?

    This could be interpreted as seeing the socialist party (which may or may not be a mass SPGB) that wins a majority in parliament would be something different from the working class organised politically and democratically for socialism. Whether or not the workers organised in the socialist (small s) party will want to disband parliament and hand over "legitimacy" to parallel "workers councils" (which will surely exist in some form) is a policy decision they will have to decide at the time.It is not evident that this would be necessary.Why create another wheel when a workable one already exists? In any event, any socialist majority in parliament would reflect a socialist majority outside of parliament and a socialist majority outside of parliament can and no doubt would decide democratically what it considered the best course of action to take in the light of the exact circumstances of the time which we today can't predict and would be silly (and arrogant) to try to.

    #104821
    LBird
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    Why create another wheel when a workable one already exists?

    This is clarifying things for me, anyway.'Parliament' is not 'workable' for a class conscious proletariat, because power must reside in the political organs of the class.Of course, the physical buildings of The Houses of Parliament could be retained and used for a higher level commune within these islands, for example, but the political structures of the present 'parliamentary democracy' would be destroyed.I thought that the SPGB was arguing for 'Parliamentary Suicide'; that is, a vote for the SPGB was a vote to abolish parliament. This would legitimise the handing over of political control of the armed forces, police, civil service, etc. to the Workers' Councils, so that troops loyal to the proletariat, perhaps at the behest of revolutionary junior officers, could legitimately arrest any senior officers who had not yet declared for the new regime.That was my understanding of the SPGB strategy. It looks like I was wrong.

    #104822
    ALB
    Keymaster

    I didn't mean to suggest that parliament and its associated political structure was workable in its present form, but only that it could be made workable, so that there was no need to construct another structure to completely replace it. So let me correct myself on this.The basic position is that the working class needs to first win control of political power before attempting to change the basis of society and that elections and parliament are a means to do this. Because we advocate using these does mean that we accept "parliamentary democracy". Obviously the present state, including parliament, is not something that can be used in its present form to change society. As we say in our pamphlet What's Wrong with Using Parliament? (worth a read if you want to familiarise yourself more with our position):

    Quote:
    The state is an instrument of coercion, but it has assumed social functions that have to exist in any society and which have nothing to do with its coercive nature: it has taken over the role of being society’s central organ of administration and co-ordination. Gaining control of the state will at the same time give control of this social organ which can be used to co-ordinate the changeover from capitalism to socialism. Of course, it couldn’t be used in the form inherited from capitalism; it would have to be reorganised on a thoroughly democratic basis, with mandated and recallable delegates and popular participation replacing the unaccountable professional politicians and unelected top civil servants of today.

    I think this puts it clearly enough: the present structure of political power cannot be retained unchanged. It has first to be democratised (including the armed forces, though not necessarily in the way you speculate, until they are finally disbanded once the potential threat of any pro-capitalist armed resistance has disappeared) before it can be used for socialist purposes.The pamphlet also says:

    Quote:
    The socialist political party (of which we are just a potential embryo) will not be something separate from the socialist majority. It will be the socialist majority self-organised politically, an instrument they have formed to use to achieve a socialist society. The structure of the future mass socialist party will have to reflect – to prefigure – the democratic nature of the society it is seeking to establish. It must be democratic, without leaders, with major decisions made by conferences of mandated and recallable delegates or by referendum, and other decisions made by accountable individuals and committees. It won’t have a leadership with the power to make decisions and tell the general membership what to do. In other words, it will be quite different both from the parties of professional politicians that stand for election today and from the vanguard parties of the Leninists. This is not to say that the socialist majority only needs to organise itself politically. It does need to organise politically so as to be able to win control of political power. But it also needs to organise economically to take over and keep production going immediately after the winning of political control. We can’t anticipate how such socialist workplace organisations will emerge, whether from the reform of the existing trade unions, from breakaways from them or from the formation of completely new organisations. All we can say now is that such workplace organisations will arise and that they too, like the socialist political party, will have to organise themselves on a democratic basis, with mandated delegates instead of leaders.

    So perhaps your initial understanding of what we advocate was not so far wide of the mark after all. Though, once again, it's a question of how to express this. I'd prefer to talk of "dismantling the state" rather than "dismantling parliament". And, as you say, there's no reason why the building in Wesminster could not continue as the seat of what you call "a higher level commune" (after all, the House of Commons was originally the House of Communes, and still is in French as "la Chambre des communes"). Also, should the future administrative and decision-making structure be based on the places where people work rather that on where they live? Discuss.If a democratised political structure has already been created why not use it rather than construct another out of something else? That was the point I was trying to make.

    #104802
    SocialistPunk
    Participant

    Hi AdamI thought that parliament is the legislative body of the state in this country. So given it is such it would surely be  dismantled (not the building) as there will be no need for capitalist laws in a fully socialist society?The best use for that place in a socialist society would be a museum.

    #104823
    DJP
    Participant
    SocialistPunk wrote:
    I thought that parliament is the legislative body of the state in this country. So given it is such it would surely be  dismantled (not the building) as there will be no need for capitalist laws in a fully socialist society?
    ALB wrote:
    Obviously the present state, including parliament, is not something that can be used in its present form to change society.
    #104824
    SocialistPunk
    Participant

    Thank you for pointing out what I had read DJP.I realised after I posted that I should have included the bit of ALBs post I found odd,

    ALB wrote:
    I'd prefer to talk of "dismantling the state" rather than "dismantling parliament".

    So why not talk of "dismantling parliament". If party members go around talking of not dismantling parliament, I'm not surprised there is disagreement on this issue, from other socialist groups.Like I say, the only beneficial use for that monument to elitism, is as a museum. Perhaps then the truth of the insanity of the place could be seen in all its absurdity.

    #104825
    ALB
    Keymaster

    I know some members talk of abolishing parliament because it's part of the capitalist state but, frankly, it makes me wince as it suggests that socialists will abolish democracy as many have been taught socialists want and have done. It's to play into the hands of our opponents.In any event, why can't parliament, made more democratic, as an elected central decision-making body survive into socialism? There will have to be such a body anyway, so why not democratise parliament rather than create such a body from scratch? Which was my original point.

    #104826
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    SocialistPunk wrote:
    So why not talk of "dismantling parliament".
    LBird wrote:
    Of course, the physical buildings of The Houses of Parliament could be retained and used for a higher level commune within these islands, for example, but the political structures of the present 'parliamentary democracy' would be destroyed.
    ALB wrote:
    If a democratised political structure has already been created why not use it rather than construct another out of something else?
    SocialistPunk wrote:
    If party members go around talking of not dismantling parliament, I'm not surprised there is disagreement on this issue, from other socialist groups.

    Which 'socialist' groups would they be?

    #104827
    steve colborn
    Participant

    Lets put this in perspective. Parliament is a "building", nothing more, nor less. Demolishing "Parliament" or not, is an irrelevance. In a sane society, "Parliament" will be, for instance, where ever it is most appropriate and facilitative to be of use to we, human beings. Do we, in the internet age, presume that we will have discussion and decision made in an antiquated, outdated, unfit for purpose shit hole? I beg to say, not a fucking chance!!!It will be in and on, a facility like the "internet". Parliament is OK for "representative democracy", where we, the sheep, vote for "representatives" to take decisions on "our" behalf. For a method of direct participartive democracy, "Parliament" is a fucking joke and moreover, a farce.Technology offers us the chance for "real" democracy. Why be hindbound by the restrictions of "the past". Why not be set free, by the possibilities of the future? After all, as Soicialists, we want "the future", not the fucking 'decayed' past!!!

    #104828
    ALB
    Keymaster

    I don't agree. Direct democracy, whether through referendums (non-electronic as well as electronic) or town meetings,  has its place which will no doubt be much larger in socialism than under capitalism but it is only suitable for simple yes/no decisions (as for instance the currenrt referendum in Scotland). But there will still be a place for committees of elected delegates to examine and decide more complicated issues.Of c ourse, these delegates (and they would be delegates not "representatives" with a free hand as todays MPs see themselves) can be subject to much more democratic accountability than are today's so-called "representatives", as by short terms, restrictions on re-election, recall provisions, regular report-back meetings, etc.  One of these would be a "national, i.e large regional, one whatever its name — whether House of Communes, House of Delegates, Chamber of Deputies, even Supreme Soviet (on second thoughts, perhaps not that one).And why couldn't local councils continue to exist? We'll still need rubbish collection, street-lighting, even housing allocation. Would everybody really need to vote on these electronically?So, let's be practical and talk of a combination of direct democracy and delegate democracy in socialism.

    #104829
    LBird
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    But there will still be a place for committees of elected delegates to examine and decide more complicated issues.

    [my bold]This, to me, is where I fundmentally disagree. I'd phrase it as:"But there will still be a place for committees of elected delegates to examine and make recommendations on more complicated issues"The 'deciding' will be done by the widest vote possible. The 'delegates' won't be doing any 'deciding', unless for a specific issue that they are given a mandate to decide. I would expect this 'mandate of decision' to be only given for very unimportant decisions (colour of toilet rolls at the Commune building?).But, you go on to say:

    ALB wrote:
    Of course, these delegates (and they would be delegates not "representatives" with a free hand as todays MPs see themselves) can be subject to much more democratic accountability than are today's so-called "representatives", as by short terms, restrictions on re-election, recall provisions, regular report-back meetings, etc.

    This is far closer to my position, but is less precise, and leaves room for the 'delegates as pseudo-representatives' interpretation put on the SPGB's line by other organisations.Personally, I think it a mistake not to be brutally honest with any potential 'delegates', and better to tell them, from the start, they won't be making decisions.The proletariat will. (and, for the clowns who can't stop being childish, that means during the build-up to a revolution; afterwards, as we all know, there won't be a 'proletariat', but humanity).

    ALB wrote:
    So, let's be practical and talk of a combination of direct democracy and delegate democracy in socialism.

    I'm not a 'practical' man, ALB. I'm an ideologist. And I always see talk of 'practicalities' as a mark of conservative thinking.I want 'direct democracy'.Too much talk of 'delegate democracy' will slide into 'representative democracy', which is precisely what other organisations criticise the SPGB for. I think that there are some in the SPGB who would very easily slip from direct, to delegate, to representative, to dictating. We've only got to look at our discussions about science to see that trend emerging.As long as we make it clear that the 'delegates' decide the toilet roll colours, and the proletariat directly decide the meaning of scientific research, I think we're on the right track.

    #104830
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    Perhaps it was overlooked but i posted a couple of messages a while back upon the indigenous local administrative organisation in parts of Mexico that is being now over-ruled by central governments that are trying to concentrate power into hands of non-local authorities.Talk of "Parliament" or "Congress" continuing frightens me because the changes in democracy will transform it so radically that it simply won't be "Parliament" that is recognisable so why stick to the old terminology, …plus it reinforces an anglophile image! The cautionary note on Supreme Soviet certainly applies to the other institutions, none of which really possesses genuine trust by people.New forms of democracy i think wil arise, or older ones assuming new roles…parish councils, for instance, in parts of England, neighbourhood councils…plus lets be honest…a bunch of councillors do not determine the smooth running of the sewage..(cue for puns on them spouting shit  ), Technical details , technical projects come from the technicians employed and the scale of those determine the vote …and that will always be elastic, not bound by ward or constituency lines. We too must be felxible in what we define as democratic procedures and processes…It will be fifferent strokes for different folks in the diverse make-up of the world…and as world socialists, i return to my initial statement , we don't determine the hows and whys for the planet Earth, nor even for GB. Lbird somewhere on some thread mentions our responsibility to human values…that too transcends the limitations of pinning ourselves down to just a variant of "bourgeois" democratic form and structure which applies only to specific places at  specific time. If we don't accept the need for blueprints, i see no rel reason to offer up support for the present constitutional systems that are somehow simply needs amending, rather than turned into something totally new. 

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