Hi. Welcome to the site. Please check out the About Us, and if you have a question about crime and/or punishment, perhaps look at some previous questions along those lines first.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

How is a direct democracy not a type of state?

+3 votes
I am perplexed when someone identifies as an anarchist, only to say that they are for the establishment of direct democracy. How is a direct democracy not a state?
asked Aug 3, 2012 by p_for_panchetta (150 points)
I like this question but I would like to also suggest another way to pose it.

"How does a direct democracy end up becoming just as statist or authoritarian (if not more so) than representative democracy?"

Bob Black wrote an excellent pamphlet called "Debunking Democracy" (available from C.AL. press) which helps to expose all the inadequacies (if not outright scams) of the numerous types of Democracy.

I think anarchists may at first be attracted to the idea of "direct" democracy at first without knowing what they are getting themselves into. Or perhaps they are intentionally referring to something that at least metaphorically represents direct action. The problem with this is that Democracy literally means the rule of the people which still implies the centralizing of decisions e.g. authoritarianism.

4 Answers

+4 votes
Best answer
to perhaps more directly answer your question (unless i missed something in the other responses), the question is at what level the democracy (direct or otherwise) is working. as padraig alluded to, any group can use direct democracy, and while that could be called a state-in-formation or -in-waiting, it's a little overblown to call it a state full stop.
even in your question the form changes from a verb (direct democracy) to a noun (A direct democracy). A democracy would be a government, but that is not how anarchists (at least the ones i have heard talk about this) are using the term. anarchists usually use "direct democracy" as a verb for a kind of problem solving. the degree of centralization of the problems, and whether it is appropriate for anarchists or not, are other questions.
answered Aug 4, 2012 by dot (50,920 points)
–3 votes
Free assembly/council, work place democracy or commune democracy perhaps?

If you have a collective without direct democracy (solely through my understanding) or some form of equal agreement would become dictatorial with time or lead to stagnation and break down.

The IWW works on the process of workplace democracy which is direct democracy however one would be hard press to call the IWW a state.

A commune of farmers comes together, seeing the benefit of working together as a collective. Rather than forming a group with elected leaders and such they form a free co-op with direct democracy where each member has a voice.

As to state, you could TECHNICAL have an anarchist state but not in the sense of a centralized government but as a free confederacy of collectives  and communes agreeing to work together for mutual aid. Direct democracy is used to create a fairer form of assembly between all. If one group feels its being forced into something against their own good will then they can leave.
I will be the first to quickly point out this idea is utopian. However than doesn't mean utopian ideals aren't worth fighting for.
answered Aug 4, 2012 by Pádraig Ó Sionnach (120 points)
–3 votes
there have been arguments that direct democracy because it is democracy of some form is a state. unfortunately then in the USA you normally have this because people fetishize consensus which is just as bad. actually most of the 15M/Occupy groups used consensus which I think leads to way shittier process and more state like if you ask me.

i think in general we are looking for directly deliberative forms of making decisions towards action and that help towards autonomous self-organization. as long as it is voluntary and sovereignty of decisions only apply to those making them then i think any form could be used from participatory consensus to >50% direct democracy, to the encuentro form proposed by AG Schwarz/Peter Gelderloos. the main thing is that decisions should only require accountability from those who make them. maybe an example?

many times in occupy or other movements large movement organizations or the GA would make decisions that some would think had to apply to anyone in the movement, seeing their group or assembly as representative of the movement, and that autonomous actors should obey them, well no autonomous actors are autonomous actors, sorry you are out of luck for trying to push your authoritarianism on others.
answered Aug 4, 2012 by sabotage (790 points)
0 votes
The words "anarchy" and "anarchism" can´t be reduced to being against the state and to "anti-statism". There are plenty of non state and even anti-state social groups that are hierarchical and authoritarian such as capitalist businesses and mafia and gang organizations and so they cannot be considered "anarchy" in existence or "anarchist" groups because of their being hierarchical (they have hierarchies, ranks, bosses and in the case of bussinesses specific "owners")

Anarchism means being against hierarchies and not just those present or created by the state and so perhaps the closest word to anarchism might be "anti-authoritarianism". Non-state hierarchies that have been fought by anarchists include class hierarchy at the workplace and at production, those created by religion and church, educational in school contexts both state, religious and private, and also others such as patriarchy.

Democracy can happen both at a state and outside it. For example in an assembly of a small collective, if things are decided on consensus, that is a democratic form of reaching a decision. The US Congress also reaches decisions through a democratic process. It is clear though that the difference there is the existence of a state, representation through elected congressmen, the existence of a central federal government and the power of money on campaigning. As such one should make a distinction between democracy as mediated by state and capital and democracy not mediated by those things.
answered Aug 6, 2012 by iconoclast (3,380 points)
edited Aug 6, 2012 by iconoclast
By definition it is.  The ruling class is the majority.  It says 'Rape is bad.  But gang rape is good.'  The good for the most people enacted and enforced on the few.  The worlds decisions cannot be properly aggregated universally by having 7 billion people vote on a proposition.