Democratic organisation

Posted: 08/10/2011 by zandtao in Democracy, Struggle
Tags: , , ,

In a recent blog I discussed the new democracy arising at Occupy. I say new but in truth new to me and perhaps new to the US, but not new to the global movement. In this clip from Democracy Now (3/10/11) ..

.. Penny Red describes her experience of these organisational structures in movements globally, and Mirina Sirtin describes them from her book called Horizontalism about how these structures were effective in Argentina in 2001 and the following years with the IMF instigation of the collapse of their currency.

Now when I say these structures are not new, Argentina is not the only example. In this blog the writer quotes this concerning the struggle in Egypt:-

“I finally heard on the Al Jazeera stream an answer from a real protester, instead of a talking head, to the question they keep flound[er]ing over, “Don’t the protesters need a leader?” — the answer finally came from a blogger who has been in the square, “the people are self organized, there’s no need for a leader to tell them what to do…people are feeding each other, cleaning the square, we all have the same demands, there’s no need for any leaders to tell us what to do”. …”

The organisational structure of #OWS appears the same, there are no leaders. This is significant because it means the leaders can’t be bought off – the usual corporatocratic ploy. I have much respect for the civil rights movement in the US but what do we have now? A small black middle class and many black people suffering in ghettoes amidst gangs and drugs. The common enemy of both is the corporatocracy, and the ill-educated the corporatocracy have turned into racists, but this middle-class were the leaders. On Democracy Now (5/10/11) a black leader, Kai Wright, quite rightly said that people of colour needed support because they were bearing the brunt of the fight on the poor. But he then called for the movement to bring this platform to the forefront of the struggle of #Occupy. Whilst I agree with his description of the attack on his people, his demands of solidarity with black people was almost a call for division – even though he never meant it as such.

Then on Democracy Now (6 October) I saw the old guard (I am old guard as well) coming out supporting #Occupy. Listen ..

.., apart form the mention of #Occupy have you heard this tone and approach before? With all due respect to these comrades it is time for a change. Union leadership and representation is not working, why do you think the corporatocracy are clamouring for leaders? They can control leaders, they can deal with demands; but what can’t they deal with? #Occupy.

Let me explain my own example as to how they use leaders to control. I was the union rep in a school that was run by an incompetent bully. This man was a fool who at times would recommend to stressed teachers beta blockers – he took them himself. He had somehow managed to wheedle his way into the position at interview, and then cultivated the governing body to stay there. This man had little interest in supporting the teachers in educating the students. The teachers wanted someone to step in and represent them against this bully, and because I wanted activism I jumped in. I organised meetings, passed motions democratically, and took letters and motions to the headteacher. They were ignored, and he reported to the local authority that I was a Trotskyist provocateur. Standard tactics. Over a period of 5 years as an experienced teacher I was refused promotion, repeatedly criticised by this management and the governing body, and whilst the membership would sign letters they stood by and watched as this man bullied me out of a career. This was management wanting leadership to focus their attention in.

Suppose these had been #Occupy teachers. #Occupy teachers would have refused to cooperate with this man and refused to follow his instructions. #Occupy teachers would have simply said we want education in the school, and refused to cooperate. When the head and the governors would ask where are your leaders? They would simply say “we want education” and refuse to cooperate. What are your demands? They would simply say “we want education” and refuse to cooperate. Once you get a leader, once you have demands, corporatocracy have targets – leaders and demands – that they can manipulate. Without the targets what can they do to contain the problem? They don’t know. They know what to do to solve the problem but they don’t want to do that – against their own vested interest. Give them a leader and demands, and they can contain the situation.

Listen to this statement from OccupyWallSt – no leaders no demands ..

.. what it is. Corporatocracy make you changes, don’t buy off our leaders, no demands to negotiate -just a description of the reality of corporatocratic occupation of the world.

With #OccupyWallSt what can the corporatocracy do? They have no targets. They get the police to mace women, they get the police to lead them onto Brooklyn Bridge and arrest 700, telling the world that the demonstrators broke the law. But as #Occupy keep coming back and increasing in numbers what can they do? Nothing. In Egypt what happened? They replacd Mubarek with a different face but this was no different for the Egyptians – they are still OCCUPYing. If the Egyptians had given demands they would have been reduced by negiotiation, and then some implemented. Then the media would have been used to say how unreasonable the people have been, we have met them half-way and they still want more. This is a ploy, an attempt at manipulation – not an attempt at helping the people or genuine democracy.

Significant in #Occupy is the use of technology. Previously I have been critical of online communities because communication is not complete and erratic; personal contact is the only complete communication not email, chat and even video-chat does not convey subtler levels of communication. But online can disseminate simmultaneous communication without the need for hierarchy. Look at this quote from the above-mentioned blog “Then I saw the term used again by a blogger at BBC News, who commented, “Horizontalism has become endemic because technology makes it easy: it kills vertical hierarchies spontaneously, whereas before – and the quintessential experience of the 20th century – was the killing of dissent within movements, the channeling of movements and their bureaucratisaton.””

22/10/11 Here is Micah White from adbusters promoting involvement with Occupy.

This change in communication structures is so accurate. One of the tedious duties as union rep was the handling of communication. Now in general people abdicated their responsibility for assimilating the communication – usually letters from head office – to the union rep. Often these letters were stylised and difficult to assimilate but usually it was because of apathy and lack of interest. Letters were recorded in minutes and filed, read only by the rep – me (if I read them there were so many). These hierarchical structures of communication were not democratic. But with the internet and without leadership people need to inform themselves. Action is called through tweets or facebook, not from head office passing down to representatives. Whilst this form of communication is open to misuse that is open to the people to resolve. But what you don’t have is people standing up and saying I am the target, single me out and manipulate me.


  1. […] the situation because of this headteacher, and when he moved on I gladly took on the union position as previously stated. This was a mistake. I wanted to be union rep, a rep in a representative democracy, because I […]

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