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.

Direct democracy, for or against it?

+1 vote
I want to know if there any arguments for Direct democracy among anarchists, and arguments against it as well.
asked Apr 5, 2014 by unp89 (380 points)
have you searched the site for "democracy" or "direct democracy"?
Yes, but I keep getting different answers.
Perhaps I should rephrase the question. Why are most anarchist against democracy even direct democracy?
i wouldn't say that "most anarchists" are against direct democracy. but here are the relevant bits (in my understanding) for those who are (at least as i understand it)
Anarchism /is/ about a lack of government, but more importantly it is about a lack of being controlled by institutions, economic forces, and people who should have no say in your life (hence why anarchist are also against capitalism, the church, etc). Therefore any form of governmental control is out of the equation. This includes institutions 'where people are in control of other people' (as another user defined democracy.)

And if we could opt out of being governed, it is was truly a voluntary system, it wouldn't be a government, it would be an advising body, with no ability to enforce its ideas without undermining its essential voluntary-ness. Such a system would be a waste of resources for all involved.

the issues with democratic decision-making is that a) it structures questions in dualistic ways (either this or that), b) people who disagree with those decisions are still supposed to abide by them, c) decision-making turns into a popularity contest, d) everyone is supposed to have an equal vote even when everyone *doesn't* have the same level of engagement with an issue.

I see, sorry about the assumption. I've been seeing a lot of people talking on here about "consensus." What is it?, and how is it different from direct democracy.
Direct consensus democracy is basically trying to make as many people happy as possible. ex. If a collective is trying to find out what to produce, or how to produce it, the collective members would get together, one vote a member, and well, vote..lets say 75% of people voted for planA, 25% voted for planB, in regular demcracy, direct, or indirect, the vote ends here. consensus is trying to make as many people happy as possible, soo the theoretical collective might have another vote, maybe with a new plan, or a compromise of both plans that reaches more people.  Anarchists who are against consensus democracy might not know exactly what it is, or maybe they hold the fallacy that everyone can always get their way, the way they want it. Which is ridiculous to me.. I would rather be in the minority sometimes, than be subjected to a bosses whim all the time. As long as no one is intruding in my life or exploiting me, I'm good. I see someone pulling dictionary definitions..sigh... definitions are arbitrary.. You look up anarchism in the dictionary you sure as hell won't see Proudhon or Bakunin.. you'll see something like "chaos. disorder" which is obviously non-sense... How else will any decision be made within a WORKERS collective, if you don't have some organization structure? horizontal organization of course as organization does not entail hierarchy, though can obviously lead to it. Consensus makes the most people happy, and is the most realistic way to achieve a functioning Anarchist society in my mind. Some people believe that the good speakers will dominate the collective meetings, and that's probably the only  argument that holds any weight in my opinion. Of course I'm open to ideas, I read a lot of the links on this page, but as of now, I'm still in favor of Direct consensus democracy as far as workers collectives go. But Direct consensus, if used to make laws or some other imposing action is not justifiable, and wouldn't exist in anarchism.
"[T]he major objections to
representative democracy also apply to direct democracy,
even if the latter is regarded as an, ideal form of pure
majoritarian democracy.
[S]chemes for direct democracy typically call for a federal
system with layers of "mandated and revocable delegates,
responsible to the base" by which the decisions of assemblies
are reconciled. Some delegates to the higher levels will
potentially speak for a different number of citizens than
other delegates but cast equal votes. In a federal system of
units of unequal population, voting equality for the units
means voting inequality for individuals. The federalist
- but single-member - simple-plurality system evidently
contemplated by most direct democrats, including
the syndicalists, is the least proportionate of all voting
'Ihe inequality will be compounded at every higher level.
The majority; the majority of the majority; the majority of
the majority of the majority - the higher up you go, the
greater the inequality." I like this, found it on one of the links... very good argument against direct democracy, I will definitely rethink views a little bit.

3 Answers

–5 votes
Personally I believe that as an anarchist one must be for direct democracy or be for organization at all.
answered Nov 17, 2014 by BangazCommander (60 points)
this answer doesn't make sense to me.
one must be for direct democracy or for organization?
+6 votes
Direct democracy is one of those terms that can mean a thousand different things to a thousand different people. I am against it, and here is why:

In the early 2000's when anarchists were still riding the final waves off the anti-globalization mass mobilization scene and the Bush regime was being elected and consolidating their power a lot of left-anarchists called for "direct democracy" as a way of making anarchism more palatable for the masses. In my experience, what talking about this did was actually weaken the anarchist position. Many of the folks who used that language ended up drifting out of anarchist organizing (even if they still call themselves such).

Direct democracy can work as a temporary decision making structure (just like consensus, or choosing to let one person call the shots while it makes sense to do so) but only as a temporary model, revocable by anyone at any time, which, frankly, makes the whole idea of labeling our choices as being any particular type of decision making process kind of pointless.
answered Nov 17, 2014 by ingrate (20,130 points)
edited Nov 17, 2014 by ingrate
+1 vote
A mere glance at the etymology of the word "democracy" (temporarily setting aside "direct" for now) reveals perhaps just how questionable it ought to be for anarchists.

"....from dēmos 'the people' + -kratia 'power, rule'."

"1570s, from Middle French démocratie (14c.), from Medieval Latin democratia (13c.), from Greek demokratia "popular government," from demos "common people," originally "district" (see demotic), + kratos "rule, strength"...."

So if the "common people" seek to "rule" collectively, then that too easily becomes a fixed tendency towards centralizing social power into a state or institution (a proto-state perhaps?). Never mind, for now, the usual ploys of collective decision making 'needs' and processes often ushered in as justifications. Individual need not "rule" themselves in an otherwise free society. I think anarchists would rather achieve self-determination, not self "rule".

The word "rule" also implies something "indirect" therefore DD seems conceptually incoherent. If it's so direct, then why bother to formalize any decisions at all?

Lastly, after reading Bob Blacks pamphlet http://sfbay-anarchists.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Bob-Black-Debunking-Democracy.pdf (which I definitely recommend), I was left with an overwhelming sense of just how ambiguous, abstract, and bewildering democracy is. Reading about the historical developments, the different types, and attempts at making democracy work, and how each attempt only ends up creating more problems (e.g. authoritarian manipulation, inequality) provides a real sense of context. To me that context is like a labyrinth of social relationships, out of which such supposedly 'noble' ideas are used by Statists to maneuver into positions of power.
answered Nov 26, 2014 by skitter (4,110 points)
edited Nov 26, 2014 by skitter