[EM] [MG] Helping the Pirate Party to vanish

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Wed Mar 13 11:46:33 PDT 2013

At 05:17 AM 3/13/2013, Paul Nollen wrote:
>Hi Michael and all, Freedom of organisation is, next to freedom of 
>expression, a necessary ingredient for democracy (by definition : 
>legislative power of the people). Organisations are a necessary tool 
>for any action. An action group is not a study group or discussion 
>group. But bear in mind that all organisations (except maybe study 
>and discussion groups) are, by iron law oligarchic.

Yes, I would merely broaden "study and discussion groups" to include 
what might be called "advisory groups," and then propose hybrids.

>Otherwise they achieve nothing.

That's the almost-universal opinion. There are counterexamples. But 
the Iron Law *is* the Iron Law.

A hybrid consists of a more-or-less classical organization, with 
central authority, plus a Free Association which only has the power 
to communicate -- and to coordinate and cooperate, through voluntary 
acceptance of advice.

>Lets look at the organisation: 
>: Group for a Switzerland without an Army. Without a doubt they 
>originated out of a discussion group (or groups) about peace and 
>armies in general, and maybe a lot of other items. Then they 
>formulated and got consensus around a basic text.

Actually, let's don't. I did look. Classic political movement, starts 
with ideals, gathers an action group, and then the action group takes 
over and dominates, and gradually the organization may lose power, it 
depends on how well the group represents a consensus of the 
population being served.

Essentially, an action group is not designed for the kind of 
intelligence necessary to determine and shift goals. It's optimized 
for effective action. But to what end?

Bill Wilson, founding Alcholics Anonymous, looked at the history of 
temperance organizations, and looked at what caused them to fail, in 
the long run. Hence he designed a structure that could avoid the 
pitfalls. This was life-and-death for him and for other alcoholics, 
he understood the importance of getting it right. And considered that 
what was needed was bigger than him, that his personal control would 
*ruin* the organization, as it had so many others.

But they did set up the Alcoholic Foundation, and later, Alcoholics 
Anonymous World Services, Inc. Classical board-controlled nonprofit 
organization. The board, technically, appoints its own members, and, 
at least initially, it was required that one-third be non-alcoholics. 
So what is to prevent AAWS from drifting away from consensus among 
the AA members. AA itself is *not organized*, as to formal 
organization. Membership is self-declared. There is no membership 
roster, centrally accessible. Local groups are autonomous and must be 
self-supporting, by the Traditions. Through intergroups and area 
organizations, delegates to the AA World Service Conference are 
elected by a method that encourages consenus, but that where 
consensus isn't found within so many ballots, they choose the 
delegate by lot from the top two candidates.

At the Conference issues are considered and there are votes. A 
"Conference Consensus" -- two-thirds vote -- is traditionally 
considered binding on AAWS, Inc., but legally is not. The Conference 
itself attempts to find *full consensus*, and will often go to great 
lengths to do so. The Conference elects the alcoholic members of the 
AASW Board, but legally, AAWS could decline the "advice."

However, another factor makes it quite unlikely that AAWS would do 
this without strong reason. The operating principles of AAWS are to 
not accumulate property beyond what's needed for current operating 
expenses plus a "prudent reserve." My own interpretation of this is 
enough money to shut down gracefully, paying all debts, if that 
became necessary. So AAWS is dependent upon a continual stream of 
donations. Donations from outside sources are not accepted. Bequests 
from alcoholics are allowed, up to a rather small limit. If AAWS ever 
seriously offends the membership, it would be committing economic suicide.

The main activity of AAWS is publications, so they publish 
'Conference-approved' literature, and sell it for enough to sustain 
publication, sales are almost entirely to local AA groups, which then 
resell it, usually for cost, or they give away pamphlets.

AAWS excercises practically no control over local groups; legally, if 
a group undertakes some controversial public activity, using the AA 
name, they could intervene, and I think they have done that. But they 
don't tell groups what to do, and don't enforce any central dogma. 
The consensus in AA is nature, it is not centrally enforced. And AA 
members know that.

AA itself isn't "organized." But there is a de-facto organization, 
and it's got a meeting in just about every small town in North 
America, and many around the world; in larger cities, there are many 
meetings, even many every day of the week.

Because of the no-dogma tradition, there is only natural consensus 
operating at the local meeting level. Yet there is a high degree of 
unity. It's not "enforced." Members can -- and do -- challenge it. 
And what they are told is "If this works for you, please come back 
and tell us, we'd all like to do the same."

>With this consensus amongst an active group of people, and the 
>establishment of an action group around this text, they became an 
>oligarchic organisation.

Yes, it's *inherent* in any large-scale human organization. However, 
it is *not* inherent in hybrids. That is, there will be a power 
structure, involving some kind of oligarchy, in the "action organization."

Large groups sometimes attempt to form without this, a classic 
example was the students at Tienanmen Square in China. Because they 
had no clearly representative structure, when the Chinese government 
*actually attempted to negotiate with them,* the government 
discovered that there wasn't anyone to negotiate with, there were 
just a collection of students with different motivates, cooperating 
ad hoc with no actual unity on goals and no discipline, i.e., coherence.

If the students had actually created an organization that represented 
them and that was responsible to them, history might have been quite different.

>Once started there is no room any more for internal discussion about 
>this basic text.

*Not within the action organization.* What happens, unfortunately, is 
that action organizations attract people whe are focused on *results* 
as distinct from *goals.* They *do* get things done -- or they simply 
fail, that also happens. The original group that formed the action 
organization becomes irrelevant, the network of connections that 
allowed that huge initial step to be taken *disappears,* to the 
extent that is is not subsumed in the action organization.

And the action organization takes on a life and develops goals of its 
own, the most natural being to survive, and survival is now defined 
as realizing the original stated goals, and continuing to be *the 
method* for realizing them. Staff is hired, and takes an interest in 
preservation of positions.

 From my point of view, looking at the "Group," it was formed with a 
specific purpose, shown in the name. It will naturally be, if 
properly set up, responsible to those who share that goal. This, 
however, is a narrow goal, a particular agenda. It was almost 
intrinsically "fringe." It was *not actually the shared goal,* it was 
one particular way of approaching that goal. (The general goal would 
be, presumably, peace.)

As a result of being a "special interest group," it frequently fails 
to inspire the majority of the electorate. Now, imagine that an 
advisory group had been set up, one that is able to negotiate 
consensus -- or to measure level of consensus -- among a very diverse 
"self-defined membership." Such a group could, in fact, *predict* the 
outcome of Group initiatives. A number of things become possible. It 
becomes possible to redefine the Group goals to reflect a broader 
consensus, and, particularly, a broader consensus as to how to 
realize the *original true goals.* The Group would not waste its 
efforts on initiatives likely to fail.

(It might seem that the Group should stand for principles, but, in 
fact, action organizations don't do that well. More practically 
speaking, proposing an initiative battle that is like to be *close* 
is to waste the resources of the Group. It might spend them, and 
might still have a fifty percent chance of failure. If it negotiates, 
through the advisory organization, a somewhat different intiative, 
having tested and measured the possible consensus on it, it may spend 
*fewer resources* with a *higher probability of success.*)

(But this is speculation. We don't know how a general-purpose Free 
Association would *actually function,* when the scale becomes large. 
It just seems that delegable proxy allows bottom-up formation of an 
*advisory hierarchy.*)

>People who don't agree have to leave because they will weaken the 
>long time involvement of the action group (many many years) that is 
>needed to achieve a goal.

Yes, and as a result, over the years, the organization bleeds 
members, and often those who leave are the best and brightest. 
Sometimes these people form rival organizations, more often they 
simply become discouraged and cynical.

>  This seems to be a problem for some people. You can't change the 
> goal or the basic principles of an action group (frequently) and 
> stay an action group. That is impossible and will not work.

Change has happened and it can work. But, yes, Paul added 
"frequently." That's correct.

>Therefore it is important to have a strong case, and as much 
>supporters as possible (and yes, discussion, amendments, counter 
>proposals and so on), to start with.

That might seem so. However, what *actually happens* is that someone 
starts an action group anyway, without waiting for that truly broad 
consensus. Other people, then, are faced with a choice: support the 
action group as it is, start their own rival group, or become irrelevant.

Example from the United States: There was a conference in the early 
1990s to discuss and support proportional representation. A small 
group of people then formed the Center for Proportional 
Representation, and leaders appeared. Eventually this because the 
Center for Voting and Democracy. Early on, this thinking developed 
among the activists involved:

1. The best method for proportinal representation is Single 
Transferable Vote. (it isn't but that's what they believed, these 
were not voting systems experts, but political activists.)
2. STV requires a complex voting system. Read, expensive to canvass, 
difficult to audit, etc.
3. The single-winner version of STV could substitute, it was thought, 
for the fairly common runoff voting, which requires, sometimes, a 
second ballot, which is expensive.
4. They invented the name Instant Runoff Voting, then, for 
single-winner STV, and represented it as equivalent to Runoff Voting. 
(It isn't, and studies have clearly shown this, but, again, they are 
coming up with an *action plan*, something they think they can sell.)
5. And so the primary activity of CVD became promoting instant runoff voting.

Early on, voting systems experts tapped them on the shoulder and 
pointed out that, while multiwinner STV is a decent voting system, 
the single-winner form wasn't, it suffered from some serious 
problems. They rejected these experts as impractical dreamers. Only 
their plan, they believed, had any chance of success. And, of course, 
they, and their Executive Director, became heavily committed to a 
whole series of deceptive arguments.

Because many people saw the defects in existing systems, they did 
succeed in getting IRV implemented in a few places. And then those 
places started to discover the problems with IRV, and quite a few 
have rescinded the implementations, and it's possible the backlash 
has made it unlikely for voting system reform to succeed in those 
places for many years. The experts whom they rejected have started to 
independently organize, and to present evidence at hearings and in 
campaigns, it's getting more difficult for FairVote, as they ended up 
calling themselves, to win implementations.

And it went this way because of how the original CPR was organized. 
It could have gone many different ways, depending on the 
*personalities* of the original organizers. What I see is the tragedy 
of the dissolution of the original ad-hoc coalition to support PR. If 
CPR had been organized to *serve that consensus,* it could have 
avoided, perhaps, getting frozen into the self-serving views of what 
amounted to the *staff* of CPR/CVD/FairVote.

Their plan of action, seeing to promote IRV, involved attacking the 
most-widely used election reform, Runoff Voting. Political scientists 
had, for years, proclaimed this as an important reform. Runoff Voting 
has its problems, and simple solutions are known. Instead of 
improving the best reform, they attempted to replace it, and 
sometimes succeeded, with something worse, all the while pretending 
that IRV would find "majorities."

(In nonpartisan elections, it usually fails to find a true majority 
of voters, and voters have been directly lied to about this, 
particularly in the Proposition that implemented Ranked Choice Voting 
(a 3-rank IRV) in San Francisco. In real elections with RCV, the 
winner sometimes had less than 40% of the vote.)

>  The group is now a political party that will engage in a struggle to win.

Yes. And "winning" can diverge from the real interests of the people. 
We need to redefine winning. "Winning" can mean "effectively 
empowering the people, to act collectively, with efficiency and intelligence."

Once this is *reduced* to specific goals, it is *not* empowering the 
people, it is empowering a *mechanism* which is controlled by ... the 

I'm not discrediting specific goals. They are necessary for 
performance. However, we need something beyond them, that is beyond 
the game of win/lose. That represents *us.*

There is nothing stopping this from happening except inertia. It's 
been known for a very long time how to do it.

>They started signature gathering, engaged in public discussion and 
>so on. They launched a legislative initiative  " For a Switzerland 
>without an army and an overall peaceful political stance" and they 
>lost. They lost, but they lost not completely. Their influence, 
>thanks to the nationwide discussions, was now big enough to enforce 
>the other political parties to review some laws who where proposed 
>and approved without a referendum started against those proposals.

Yes. They gained influence. Remember, I am *not* proposing that they 
were "wrong." But something was missing, and the history shows it.

>  By doing so the political parties "disarmed" in a matter of 
> speaking, the action group.

I'd put it this way. In order to exercise influence, as a practicasl 
matter, they had to become less strident. They needed to broaden 
their appeal. In so doing, in working for attainable good, as 
distinct from unattainable "rightness," they compromised, and some of 
the original formation group would think of this as a betrayal. 
Others would see it as working toward the ultimate goal, peace.

These things become factional battles in an action organization, and 
can easily weaken it.

This is why I suggest the formation of a broad interest group. That 
group *can* have a membership qualification, it *can* become 
specific. The action organization can be created out of an interest 
group consensus -- but anyone can form an action organization at any 
time, there is no way to stop it. Forming it out of a consensus, 
though, will make success more likely. And then the action 
organization *can continue to be advised by the larger group 
consensus. It can actually facilitate the larger group, as AAWS runs 
the World Service Conference periodically.

When the WSC cannot reach a consensus, AAWS still makes its own 
decisions. But, sensibly, it will pay attention to a genuine 
consensus at the WSC, or it would be cutting itself off from its 
roots. Even if the WSC is divided, AAWS can still seek to take 
consensus positions, advised by the WSC process, considering the arguments.

Consensus is powerful. Yet action organizations don't have the 
internal structures and process to fully seek it, usually. And they 
need focus, and intentional and coherent action.

Somewhere, somewhen, somehow, either a political party will create a 
broad advisory group, either to represent the members to the action 
organization, the "official party," or, even more powerful, to 
represent *the public* to it. The latter requires admitting, as 
members, people who support rival parties.

I predict that when it happens, it will quickly be all over. Other 
parties will follow suit or collapse out of irrelevance.

And then we will start to have, on a large scale for the first time 
in history, true democracy, that addresses the problems of scale, the 
need for efficiency, and full discussion of issues in a form that 
generates useful advice, which, if designed properly, could be 
*extremely difficult* to corrupt.

Yes, an oligarchy is formed, but an oligarchy, that, by design, 
serves the general membership, or becomes powerless and irrelevant.

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