Fragments Of Comprehension

(semi-internal) Our consciousness and humility must reflect, refine and redeem every scattered fragment of the material world

► Reply to Art’s post “On Majority Rule” – [FoC.13.06.04]

Posted by Ben Seattle on June 4, 2013

Reply to Art’s post: “On Majority Rule”

Hi Art,

Overall, this is a good post. It puts a lot of things
into perspective.

I thought I should make just a few comments.

> Because working class rule is our guiding principle,
> we must also fight for democratic rights of freedom
> of speech and organization. Freedom of speech and
> organization must be protected because they are the
> democratic rights that will allow the masses to hold
> those in positions of power accountable. They are
> the rights that all other rights will rest upon.

Very good. The idea that higher democratic rights
rest on the foundation of free speech and independent
organization is a necessary and powerful idea, in
terms of understanding the nature of the kind of
world we want and need to create.

Continuing with your next sentence:

> When I describe these rights as being protected,
> I mean in very concrete ways using various
> organizational and technical devices, not simply
> just jotted down on a paper

We should understand that there is only one
fundamental protection for these rights: a
situation where everyone knows that, if the
government or state attempts to violate the
right to free speech or independent
organization in a major way on a Monday,
that millions of angry people will be
marching in the streets on Tuesday.

It is a case of “use it or lose it”. The democratic
rights of speech and organization are more fundamental
than all other rights because they are necessary to
organize the mass actions that can defend everything
else. On the other hand, if we lack those rights,
then all other rights eventually beome meaningless,
because we can’t defend our other rights if we are
blindfolded and our hands are tied. Without speech and
organization–then as soon as the ruling organization
becomes corrupt, we will not know what is going on and
would be unable to do anything about it even if we did

(see photo and caption below that I added June 5)

> A secondary mission might be for example, to study
> a book with the intention to learn from it and apply
> what we learned to our work. Or, a secondary mission
> might be to journalize exposures for propaganda. The
> former example may be done with a high degree of
> informality and lack of “policy,” but the second may
> require more formality and “policy” in order to be
> more effective. Furthermore, the former may get by
> on majority rule for quick decisions, such as how to
> organize the study group, or an action; but it may
> require broader consensus for decisions that require
> nearly unanimous support such as risky major actions
> or public statements.

Very good.

— Also —

Our movement will need to develop an understanding of
the term “democracy”. Currently, this term means two
entirely separate things (which are often confused with
one another).

The most common usage of the term “democracy” is to
describe the system of bourgeois parliamentary democracy
as practiced in the U.S., Europe, Japan and various
other countries.

Basically, this means the rule of capital disguised
with the fig leaf of (supposed) rule by the people.

For example, in the book “Tombstone”, which describes
the great Chinese famine, the author advocates China
developing a system of government based on “democracy”
as practiced in Western countries. Many people naively
view this system as representing the rule of the
majority of the people in each country.

In fact, the idea of “democracy” is central to the
system of bourgeois ideology. It is what everyone is
taught in school here in the U.S. The real nature of
our system, as the rule of the largest capitalists,
who use their money and control of the media to make
it appear that they represent the popular will, is
clear only to a minority of the population in normal
times, but to much larger sections of the population
during times in which the popular mass movements are
in motion.

The term “democracy” is also often used to mean a form
of government in which everyone has the democratic
rights of speech and organization. This is a sloppy
and incorrect use of language, but it is unfortunately
also common among a section of know-it-all philistine

For example, many times on some forum, when I assert
that workers’ rule will be based on the population
having the democratic rights of speech and organization,
there are people who will insist that such a thing
amounts to bourgeois rule. Their logic is that

“democratic rights” = “democracy”

and also that

“democracy” = bourgeois rule

and therefore that

“democratic rights” = “bourgeois rule”

So I agree with you that anyone who wants to throw the
term “democracy” around in discussion–must be compelled
to explain what they mean by it–because otherwise the
discussion is unlikely to rise above the level of
ignorant prejudice and a waste of everyone’s time.

Charles asked how an organization or party will be able
to make actionable decisions without “majority rule”.

Your answer was good. If the decision is on something
important–then a strong consensus is necessary. The
system used in the general assemblies was good, and
helped the general assemblies make the best decisions
here in Seattle in chaotic circumstances where many
new people with little experience were flooding into
the movement. The system in use forced debate and
discussion. This is what we need. The ability of a
small number to veto an important decision was also
necessary, as well as the safeguards which existed to
prevent abuse of the veto system.

The principle here is that decisions must be made in
a way that raises the consciousness of the maximum
number of people to the maximum extent practical in
the circumstances which exist at the time. The
differences in opinion concerning which action to
take–are also differences concerning which principles
must guide the movement. If a bad decision is made
(which will happen) then the maximum number of people
can learn from the experience and learn which
principles serve the movement and which do not.


Use it or lose it (photo and caption from AP News) Police detain an opposition supporter during an unsanctioned opposition rally in downtown Moscow, Russia, Friday, May 31, 2013. The Russian opposition protests on the 31st of each month are a nod to the 31st article of the Russian constitution, which guarantees the right of assembly.



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