Thursday, December 16, 2021

Socialist Organisation


As time and technology have moved on, I would suggest that an anarchistic decentralised form of socialist global organisation looks more and more feasible, while the 19th-century centralised model we have looks comparatively dated and inefficient. 

Consider the merits of a distributed peer-to-peer network over those of a hierarchy - a democratic hierarchy but a hierarchy nonetheless. 

- In a network, information can flow from anywhere to anywhere, taking any route, regardless of breakdowns or blockages. In a hierarchy, a blockage at just one or two key points can paralyse the whole structure. 

- In a network, information comes direct from the original source. In a hierarchy, it has to travel through multiple filters, risking data loss or corruption, so that the 'top' doesn't necessarily have a clear overall picture. 

- In a network, information travels fast through electronic media, in a hierarchy it is slow because it travels through people. 

- In a network, people's views and votes can be directly recorded, in a hierarchy they must be aggregated and to some extent unrepresentative. 

- In a network, any part can change independently if necessary, without involving the entire structure. In a hierarchy, a large part if not the entire structure has to be involved. 

- In a network, individual nodes contain comparatively low information content which means people can switch nodes with high adaptability. In a hierarchy, the higher up you go, the heavier the information load, and the less interchangeability, so people would tend to occupy positions for longer, creating the potential for factionalism, fiefdoms and structural sclerosis. 

- In a network, where previously it was hard for the right hand to know what the left hand was doing, now with blockchain technology, parts of a network can operate without the risk of resources being allocated (or the same vote being taken) twice in different places, a key advantage that only a centralised hierarchy could formerly boast. 

 Politically, a peer-to-peer network looks more like leaderless socialism, whereas a hierarchy still looks like a lot like class society except avowedly democratic, and with the question Quis custodes custodiat [Who watches the Watchmen?] left somewhat moot. 

Our de facto democratic model harks back to a historical period where communication was slow and limited by geography, it was impossible to disseminate information widely and efficiently, and no means existed to process mass decision-making except by reducing the number of decision-makers to a tiny minority who would attempt to fairly represent the majority.

Today, the only limiting factor in mass decision-making is the practical question of who should vote on what. I suggest the implementing of a rule of three: impact, information and interest. If it impacts on you, AND you are informed about it, AND you are interested enough to be involved, you should vote. If you can only claim two out of three, you can observe (and perhaps be a student or a consultant) but you should not vote. The decision rests solely with you, as is appropriate for a world based on the satisfaction of self-defined needs. But just as you are expected to show responsibility in other areas of your life, like not wasting resources, or not imposing on the liberty of others, you would be expected to uphold this democratic principle and would be the subject of social disapproval if you failed to do so.

Essentially this is a self-selection or opt-in model for democracy, and it has implications for how all structures could be formed and maintained, including everything from temporary and local social tasks to large and permanent institutions like health, emergency and other services. 

I think it would be interesting to explore this model, and indeed other models of how socialism might work in practice. There's no need to adopt any particular model as the definitive Party case, since it's not our decision to make, but we ought to be open to different possibilities, and certainly not fall back on easy assumptions based on century-old thinking.


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