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–4 votes
Not every Anarchist supports consensus. It caught on in the USA only in the 1980s with the merger of Quaker pacifism and Anarchist opposition to nuclear industry....Mostly by 'Food not Bombs' which is Anti-Militarism.

Quaker consensus is rooted in pacifism, and the idea that nobody should ever do anything to offend anyone, even in communication......I wouldn't say I am especially violent, but I don't really subscribe to being a doormat. Nor do I agree that the lowest common denominator is always best.

I believe that Consensus can work, and work well, in small intentional groups of friends who are all on the same page. It works when you have a small group NO GREATER than 12, and everyone is on the same page. you can sometimes sort of do more, up to maybe 30 if everyone agrees to a platform.....but its rough.

Why is it that the largest Anarchist organizations, like the CNT in Spain, using Roberts rules of engagement, and not some Quaker pacifist model of decision making based on non-violent communication?....Because its inefficient, and its not a suitable way to run a union. These people have jobs and it takes long enough using simple or super-majority, rather than letting lone individuals "block" a mandate of the union.....also, there are infiltrators who would LOVE to exploit that.

If you use 100% consensus, all it would take is 3 agents to block every proposal that the state objected to.....Its a horrible idea. Its not even right in theory or principle, its just plain wrong.

The only way the harmful effects of Quaker decision making can be mitigated is by autonomy......If you respect autonomous actors, and dont require that they submit to their objectors, then suddenly consensus is viable again in your small group carrying out direct action.

But seriously guys, none of the effective Occupy camps used pure consensus. OWS did not. Occupy Oakland did not. Occupy Portland does not. Occupy Chicago does not.......The IWW uses 2/3 super-majority....they do this because they want to get things done, not just spend all day with their thumbs up in the air.

Consensus (if you want it) in small groups. Some kind of modified consensus or participatory democracy in large groups (or nothing). That is the only way it can work. Every camp that tried pure consensus fizzled out an got REALLY boring, like it was more about the process of sitting around talking than about getting to the Occupation and direct action itself.....yawn...
by (200 points)

1 Answer

+2 votes
i am not particularly interested in consensus, and definitely feel no need to defend it  but your initial question is overly sweeping.
in this society, for the purposes that consensus is likely to be put to, yes, 100% is difficult, unworkable, maybe not even desirable.

but there are other ways of structuring society, where people have the time to come to actual consensus--not the appearance of it, which is what is common here--so to say that "it's not even right in theory or principle, it's just plain wrong" is too broad for me.
by (53.1k points)
Can you show me a single example where 100% consensus is possible in cities with hundreds of thousands of people?

Do you even think its possible for entire neighborhoods to agree on where to put signs and when to fix pipes......Do you think they want to be talking about that for HOURS and HOURS and HOURS instead of DOING the stuff that needs to get done?

And here is an even more important 100% consensus even desirable? If it lacks autonomy and 1 person can block the will of another, is it even compatible with Anarchism at all?

I like modified consensus over Roberts Rules. Why? The part I like about consensus is the modification to proposal process, rather than 'take it or leave it'......But within voluntarily groups that are non-binding on external minorities that affect ONLY free and voluntary associations and what they occupy, I prefer the hybrid model with 2/3 needed to pass, and 3/4 to 9/10 for structural or constitutional changes. Simple majority should be sufficient for recall or reversal.

Ultimately it is up to each group how THEY want to organize......but I saw pure consensus in action in Occupy Santa Cruz, and it was a fucking disaster. It only got more functional after 90% of everyone left.......Then they were like "LOOK, we got meetings down to 4 hours"!!!.....Yay? 90% of why it got more functional isnt just that you got better at it, its that the group shrunk down to a manageable size. That is NOT a good thing when it comes to a class uprising.

So I disagree that it is ever plausible or ever desirable to stick to the Quaker approach to consensus, the version of consensus that lacks equal autonomy for affinity groups to carry out their own actions.
not sure why you're basically repeating what you wrote before.
but i get it, what i wrote didn't make sense to you somehow.
Please define "actual consensus"......While its possible to come to "actual consensus" on a trivial number of things, the number of things that virtually everyone agrees on is a poor basis for organizing society if 99.99999% of everything else has at least one person who disagrees.

I don't think we should even be aiming for 100% in large groups, even in principle. I don't think its even necessarily desirable to attain 'group-think' without deviation. Autonomy in this case trumps any alleged egalitarianism, though in truth it only gives unreasonable power to a minority over a majority.

The only way to get "true" consensus in large groups is to beat everyone down with fatigue until they just don't care to dispute it anymore.
I don't think we should mind, like at all, if a group decides to do something that a few people disagree with.

As long as the minority is free to break off and not be bound by a group they leave behind, it is not a problem to make decisions without 100% approval.
I gess actual consensus would be when people have enough tie to actually agree with each other. This is a thing that takes time and attention. So it does not lrealy happen in this society. Because in this society everyone is focussing on getting the decision made.