What would real democracy look like?

June 2024 Forums General discussion What would real democracy look like?

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  • #82263
    J Surman
    Participant

    I wonder if anyone else has read this?

    http://roarmag.org/2013/08/real-direct-participatory-democracy/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+roarmag+%28ROAR+Magazine%29

    It's all about various ways in which some people in some parts of the world have more of a taste of democracy than most. Participatory democracy, managing part of municipal budgets, that sort of thing but all entrenched in the capitalist system of course.

    The site covers some interesting topics and usually in some depth. What struck me about this one is that the SPGB has the real and only answer to real democracy and I wondered if anyone fancied the task of extracting possible articles to send to them, offering them access to hearing about our alternative? Or other methods of approach?

    ROAR Magazine is an online journal of the radical imagination that seeks to amplify the voice of our generation amid the clamorous cacophony of a rapidly changing world.

    As representative democracy sinks into crisis, we need to go back to democracy in its original meaning as rule of the people. What could this look like?

    #95246
    ALB
    Keymaster

    To tell the truth, we don't seem to have written too much about this, perhaps because we think people at the time can work out the system of democratic decision-making which best suits them and which will probably differ from different part of the world to different part of the world in accordance with their traditions as well as preferences.But here's an article from 1978 (a bit dated now of course given the development of computers and means of communication):http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialism-or-your-money-back/turbulent-seventies/democracy-and-silicon-chipAnd here's what we say about this is chapter 3 on "Democratic decision-making" in our Socialism As A Practical Alternative pamphlet::http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/pamphlets/socialism-practical-alternative#ch3As this was written in 1987 it, too, needs updating. I think the Production for Use Committee is working on this.The form of democratic decision-making outlined there is not  "direct democracy" (which surely is only applicable at the very local level) but more akin to the "nest councils" proposed by Stephen Shalom in this article on "participatory politics":http://www.zcommunications.org/participatory-politics-by-stephen-shalomIt usefully sets out the pros and cons of the various schemes of "participatory politics" that have been proposed. Of course none of them would work properly under capitalism and could only work in socialism. I imagine a combination of direct democracy at local level, "nested councils" for decisions haveing a wider effect (up to world level), and referendums for points of principles. But who knows?

    #95247

    To start with a quote I quite like:

    Quote:
    In reality these words now have a social meaning in which the political meaning is dissolved. The Revolution itself was something quite different from a struggle for this or that form of State, as people in Germany still quite frequently imagine that it was. The connection of most insurrections of that time with famine, the significance which the provisioning of the capital and the distribution of supplies assumed already from 1789 onwards, the maximum, the laws against buying up food supplies, the battle cry of the revolutionary armies — “Guerre aux palais, paix aux chaumières” [War to the palaces, peace to the cottages] — the testimony of the Carmagnole[2] according to which Republicans must have du pain [Bread] as well as du fer [Arms] and du coeur [Heart, courage] — and a hundred other obvious superficialities already prove, without any more detailed investigation of the facts, how greatly democracy differed at that time from a mere political organisation. As it is it is well known that the Constitution of 1793 and the terror originated with the party which derived its support from the insurgent proletariat, that Robespierre’s overthrow signified the victory of the bourgeoisie over the proletariat, that Babeuf’s conspiracy for equality revealed the final consequences of the democracy of ‘93 — insofar as these were at all possible at that time. [3] The French Revolution was a social movement from beginning to end, and after it a purely political democracy became a complete absurdity.Democracy nowadays is communism. Any other democracy can only still, exist in the heads of theoretical visionaries who are not concerned with real events, in whose view it is not the men and the circumstances that develop the principles but the principles develop of themselves. Democracy has become the proletarian principle, the principle of the masses. The masses may be more or less clear about this, the only correct meaning of democracy, but all have at least an obscure feeling that social equality of rights is implicit in democracy. The democratic masses can be safely included in any calculation of the strength of the communist forces. And if the proletarian parties of the different nations unite they will be quite right to inscribe the word “Democracy” on their banners, since, except for those who do not count, all European democrats in 1846 are more or less Communists at heart.

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/12/01.htmApologies for extended quote, but the point remains, that the various logical and abstract tools we can imagine for democracy take secondary place to the real social movement and the classes that underlie it.  I see no reason, for example, for a socialist society not to use representative democracy, but also referendums, juries, etc.

    #95248
    admice
    Participant

    I'm new to extensively evaluating socialism, but I think with the internet (democratically managed and decentralized) and computer technology, direct democracy could have a larger role than ever before. 

    #95249
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Here's something (the bit in bold) from another thread which is better discussed here:

    LBird wrote:
    Our defence of science must rest upon Communist foundations, including the democratic control of all aspects of our future society: economy, polity, science… and ideology (including religion).[emphasis added].

    I'm not too sure what the "democratic control of ideology" means. On the face of it, this could be interpreted as meaning that in a socialist/communist society people's ideas should also be subject to democratic control, but surely, in a future socialist society, the field of democratic decision-making will have its limits (matters of collective interest). I can't see it extending to such things as the way people dress, what they eat or what they think. In fact, if it did that would be worse than what happens now under capitalism. Surely these are matters for individual choice?.

    #95250
    LBird
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    I'm not too sure what the "democratic control of ideology" means. On the face of it, this could be interpreted as meaning that in a socialist/communist society people's ideas should also be subject to democratic control, but surely, in a future socialist society, the field of democratic decision-making will have its limits (matters of collective interest).

    [my bold]To be a bit provocative, surely "in a socialist/communist society people's ideas would be subject to democratic control"?To be a bit more specific, every society that has ever existed has socialised its young into acceptable forms of behaviour. If that's not 'controlling people's ideas', from the very outset of a person's existence, what is?I think that we should be open about this inescapable 'brainwashing' social process, and discuss its contents.The bottom line here is, I think, that if society's basic ideas (including respect for democratic methods and minorities) aren't under our collective control, whose control will they be under?This is a long way from 'thought-control' in the the sense that it's usually used (state control of the individual), but it's worth getting to grips with just what would be our enforced basic social ideas.All societies enforce 'ideology', and personally I think that the contents of this 'ideology' should be discussed and voted upon by all of humanity. Someone or something has to set limits – if it isn't us, it'll be 'god'.In that case, I wonder who'll interpret his/her/its thoughts?

    #95251
    rodshaw
    Participant
    LBird wrote:
    All societies enforce 'ideology', and personally I think that the contents of this 'ideology' should be discussed and voted upon by all of humanity. Someone or something has to set limits – if it isn't us, it'll be 'god'.In that case, I wonder who'll interpret his/her/its thoughts?

    I take it the references to god are tongue in cheek. Or are you suggesting that people in a socialist society, having collectively rejected gods, will re-invent one to justify some form of social control? I don't think so.The first generation to be born into a socialist society will have an outlook on life that is radically different from ours. Any forms of social control or conditioning that are seen to be necessary will spring naturally from collective ownership and control of the means of production. I suspect they will be kept to a minimum.

    #95252
    LBird
    Participant
    rodshaw wrote:
    …spring naturally…

    Given that we usually claim that Communism will involve a 'coming-to-consciousness' of the proletariat, so that we humans consciously start to take control of our lives, I'm not sure how this 'natural springing' will happen.Surely the 'first generation to be born into a socialist society' will be inculcated with our Communist ideals?

    #95253
    rodshaw
    Participant
    LBird wrote:
    Given that we usually claim that Communism will involve a 'coming-to-consciousness' of the proletariat, so that we humans consciously start to take control of our lives, I'm not sure how this 'natural springing' will happen.Surely the 'first generation to be born into a socialist society' will be inculcated with our Communist ideals?

    I'm not sure what you mean by ideals.We want to see the end of class-divided society and the establishment of common ownership. We see that as being in the interest of the overwhelming majority. We don't see it as an ideal (at least I don't), but as necessary for our emancipation.A future socialist society will have freed themselves from the stranglehold of capitalism, and all the oppressive anti-working class wars, deprivations, laws, rules and restrictions that dog our lives now. Of course they will have taken control of their lives, and if that doesn't give rise to a radically different mindset and behaviour patterns, then I don't know what will. But whatever 'ideals' they hold, won't they be their ideals, not ours?

    #95254
    LBird
    Participant
    rodshaw wrote:
    I'm not sure what you mean by ideals.We want…

    They're 'ideals'.

    rodshaw wrote:
    But whatever 'ideals' they hold, won't they be their ideals, not ours?

    Well, since we'll have set up the society, that implies that we'll have set up the socialisation processes: as you say, class, private owndership, oppression, etc., will be taught to them as harmful for humanity.Personally, I think that 'democratic control' will be another 'ideal' that we will carry forward in our socialisation of our children.To pretend that Communism will be a 'year zero' or a blank slate, and that future generations will start from nothing, seems to me to be disingenuous: we, like every generation, will pass on our beliefs about what we consider to be moral, decent, etc.We should be open about this, and discuss it first, I think.

    #95256
    LBird
    Participant

    Apparently, 'democracy' is a cause for concern within the SPGB, to go by the 'Pannekoek' thread.

    #95255
    ALB
    Keymaster
    LBird wrote:
    ALB wrote:
    Do you really think that democratic control should extend to what people should think?

    What's the alternative? Leave it in the hands of a minority, as it is now?What? You actually believe the ruling class myth that 'we are all individuals'? That we all now think as 'individuals', and that future democratic control of our socialisation processes would be a retrograde step? That we shouldn't have a collective say in how we reproduce our society?

    No. I was just giving you a chance to clarify your view. Actually, I think it reasonable that education and even child-rearing should be subject to democratic decision-making. These are matters of collective concern and today are imposed by a minority in their interest.Obviously, as you've pointed out, socialist society will "socialise" its members to fit in with it (just as all societies do). If that's all you are saying and that this should be decided and implemented democratically, fair enough. The trouble is that the way you express it can be interpreted as suggesting more than this, e.g that we are all going to have think alike, though I'd imagine that education in a socialist society will encourage people to think critically. Remember this all started with an off-hand remark of yours about "the democratic control of ideology (including religion". Maybe it's just  a semantic thing about the meaning of "ideology"?

    #95257
    LBird
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    Remember this all started with an off-hand remark of yours about "the democratic control of ideology (including religion". Maybe it's just a semantic thing about the meaning of "ideology"?

    Well, according to 'democracy-hater' twc on the Pannekoek thread, Communism will involve the 'dialectical control of ideology'.I'll leave comrades to decide for themselves which is preferable.'Dialectics'? The 'Holy Water' of The Party, for use whilst genuflecting to Hegel.Perhaps I'm on the wrong site, after all, comrade. I was just impressed by the SPGB's commitment to democratic politics, as opposed to Leninist 'party consciousness'. Well, we all live and learn, eh?

    #95258
    ALB
    Keymaster

    I don't know why you assume that the Party is committed to Hegelianism. As far as I'm concerned, he just wrote incomprehensible quasi-religious mumbo-jumbo. But then different members have different views. But what has this got to do with issue under discussion?

    #95259
    LBird
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
    I don't know why you assume that the Party is committed to Hegelianism. As far as I'm concerned, he just wrote incomprehensible quasi-religious mumbo-jumbo.

    [my bold]Am I glad to hear that opinion expressed! You can add Engels to that comment, where he's talking about science and 'dialectics'.

    ALB wrote:
    But what has this got to do with issue under discussion?

    Well, whilst you've got twc 'saving the party's virtue' on the other thread, and no-one from the party seems to be taking twc to task for presuming to be 'the saviour', it seems obvious that twc's anti-democratic rantings will be taken to have the imprimatur of the wider party.And your unclear statements about the commitment to democracy read like a liberal plea for 'individualism'. If society in all its manifestations, and science in all its manifestations, aren't to be under our democratic control, just whose will they be under?Are there comrades reading who do believe that they are 'individuals', and not just products of bourgeois society and its ideology?Surely Communism is the only way to ensure that all humans do actually develop into thinking, critical social individuals? It's a collective task to produce such a society, not merely the 'freeing' of a biological imperative in humans from political ideologies (as liberal ideology would have it).

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