anclondon at gn.apc.org
Fri Jun 16 22:01:52 MDT 1995
From: Paul_Cockshott <wpc at cs.strath.ac.uk> Sender:
owner-marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu Reply-To:
marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu
In reply to comments by Justin mainly
Justins original claim for the superiority of the American over
the Soviet revolution was that the first rapidly evolved into a
democracy and the latter into a dictatorship.
The question of DEMOCRACY interests me.
The satisfactory organization of society requires in ideal terms
the satisfaction of the needs of ALL members of the society.
This is impossible.
The usual solution is some form of pyramidal structure. At the top
of the pyramid is a group either representing the minority, a
class divided society capitalism , feudalism, slavery. Or a group
representing the majority, the old USSR, China, Cuba, etc.
Neither satisfies the criteria for a democracy. The capitalist
system maneuvers around the pretense of the bottom of the pyramid
electing the top. The "Socialist" systems at lease recognize that
there is a pyramid and talk and sometimes act in various degrees
of democratic centralism.
The pyramidal structure is incapable of implementing democracy.
The task is impossible because it requires approximate, flexible,
constantly, varying solutions. Solutions not only at the National
level but also at the factory, street, even group level.
If the group is small.
Approaching the problem at the simplest level, a group.
There are various solutions, discussions, meetings, elections of
chairman, secretary etc. Anyone involved at this level knows that
there are viable ways of working. There are likewise problems, the
cleaver one who hogs all the discussion, the quiet one who only
complains in private, the forceful one who while stupid demands
attention, the one who threatens to go and take the ball with him,
those who do not come to meetings but complain afterwards,.... But
by and large solutions evolve. 1) the group is small enough. Each
person represents themselves. 2) the problems are capable of being
understood. 3) solutions although imperfect are possible. 4)
tomorrow is another day when the group can try again. 5) the
decisions and actions of the group have a direct effect on members
of the group. There is immediate feedback.
If the pyramid structure is adopted and there is a ruling group at
1) If the group is small enough in number to perform its work
democratically it is too small to represent the millions it is
supposed to represent.
2) The problems at a national level are never understood except at
a very crude way. (Take a simple ones inflation, crime,
unemployment, etc. Things are just too complex.)
3) Solutions are essential so solutions are offered which seldom
work and have to be enforced. Restrictions on trade unions and
demonstrations, control of the media and information........
4) The group is semi permanent. Elections if held, are rigged by
money or party. Civil servants, the law, custom and practice, set
limits and direction.
5) The members of the ruling group are remote from the effects of
their decisions. Feedback is filtered and muted.
Groups of intermediate size with intermediate size problems.
There are many examples of attempts at democracy. The Kibbutz, Co-
Operatives, amateur football teams, clubs, most break down
because they work within a larger system or survive but within
limits set by the larger system.
Large size problems.
There is however much experience in the way in which large
problems have been approached and sometimes solved.
The ending of Apartheid in South Africa, the ending of the nuclear
holocaust threatened between the USSR and the USA, problems of
pollution and waste disposal, the Vietnam war.
Most importantly the problem was a major one, one which threatened
the very life of the society itself either nationally or
When one considers any of these cases the historical solutions
were found by the combination of a number of disparate forces at
all levels, of different sizes and philosophies. Temporary
alliances were made. Compromises, discussions, individual and mass
actions, sometimes force, sometimes passive resistance. To me what
was important was that the structure which evolved in these
struggles was democratic. Even the structure that evolved in the
early years of the revolution in the USSR was democratic. As was
that in South Africa.
The difficulties arose and arise immediately after the victory.
The USSR re-established a pyramidal structure. So far in South
Africa this has not as yet done so. The Government of National
Unity is lead by the ANC majority but incorporates the opposition.
(This is not new there was such a government in the UK during
world war II) In SA we shall see.
However it seems to me that there is a need for some sort of
pyramid but one with a different structure.
A Ministry for education should be run by an elected minister but
he should only be the chairman of the committee running the
ministry. The committee should consist of representatives of all
those whose basic concern is education, one from the finance
ministry, one from the trade unions, one from the students , one
from the parents, one from industry, and so on.
The same could apply to any other ministry.
Just prior to the changes in South Africa there was such a
committee which fought for a better education system. It was
called the Education Crisis Committee. There was one of the women
called the women's forum, it had representatives from the
nationalist party, Inkatha, ANC, SACP, Liberals and others.
Similarly the Peace committees.
A factory or institution consists of smaller groups of people. How
do we combine the democracy for the group with their democracy
within the larger institution. The group has at least two levels
of democracy they are interested in. Firstly the immediate
environment and secondly the institution wide environment. It
seems to me that the immediate environment could be within the
democratic control of the group. The institutions impingement on
the group could be subject to the democratic control of
representatives of each of the groups at a higher level. Attempts
at this have been tried. Some Japanese car factories use the
system , but clearly only at lower levels. At company level the
company could be run and organized by a central committee or board
which has representatives of all parties concerned. The Tade
Union, the bank, the accountant, the investor. But only on a basis
of one person one vote not on money invested.
The original Supreme Soviet was in fact a committee of
It has been said even now that the Greenpeace and the ecology
movement have done more for the environment that the British
Department of the Environment.
Such a structure or similar would only be possible under some from
Socialism did not fail in the Soviet Union the CPSU failed
socialism. The organizations of the people, the women's movement,
the trade unions, the cultural, scientific, all organizations were
subsumed into the structural leadership of the party. None was
independent. All the leading committees had communists at their
head. Thus when the top of the pyramid was blown away by history
the whole pyramid collapsed without a dissenting voice. Instead of
being an organization of organizations it became one organization.
Sorry for a long post
Democracy is more than a concept it is a structure. Just as the
brain is more than a bunch of neurons or capitalist society a
bunch of morons.
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