Direct Democracy Applied

Direct Democracy Applied

How it really works? NEFAC* practicing of Direct democracy

Delegates do not make decision FOR the membership, they bring the decisions MADE BY the membership to the delegate councils. It isn't representative democracy, it is a way to communicate the votes by the membership. I think you've been reading too many anti-organizationalist strawman arguments about NEFAC.

This is an accurate example of how NEFAC's delegation works. The delegates collect the votes on issues from the membership. They way it typically works is someone makes a proposal to NEFAC, typically through the email list which every local group has atleast one person on (and in practice a super majority of the membership is on the email list). Local groups discuss the proposal locally, either at their next regular meeting... or if it's a quick issue a delegate might contact each member individually and get their vote on the proposal. Then there is a delegate council meeting, which is held over skype/conference call.
All the membership is welcome to participate, but delegates have a responsibility to participate. Calls generally last about an hour and happen once a month (though they can be called sooner in the event of an issue that needs immediate attention). Notes are taken from the conference call, including the proposals, any proposed amendments (which then have to be taken back to individual members for votes), and those notes are posted back to the email list. Also, we have a regular discussion bulletin where notes from the delegate council calls, proposals, and interesting discussions from the email list are compiled into a document and sent back to the list. The discussion bulletin is in an easy to print format and is intended for local circulation for folks who don't want to actively follow the chatter of the email list.

Major decisions are made at our conferences twice a year which have a requirement of a majority of the membership to be in attendance for quorum. Something as politically involved as a position paper might actually be debated over several conferences. One other detail is NEFAC also elects individuals to certain positions such as the national secretary (in charge of being the first point of contact for folks who contact NEFAC... basically they read and reply to the mail and they compile the internal discussion bulletin) and a treasurer. We also have a delegate to the Anarkismo editorial board. In the past editing Northeastern Anarchist was rotated between collectives, but these days it's a self-selected committee of volunteers. The website is run as an adhocracy (self-selected volunteers). Major funding decisions for publications go to the conferences. Minor funding issues might go through the delegate council. We also maintain a separate treasury as a legal warchest for helping comrades who need bail or lawyers with a specific set of rules that were agreed to at conference in terms of dispersing the funds.

Short of actually having everyone meet in the same room everytime we need to reach a decision, the process is as directly democratic and transparent as we can make it. Local groups have their own autonomy of action, often maintain their own treasuries and publish their own publications.

To get back to all this talk about vanguards and NEFAC... NEFAC's decision making structure is just for NEFAC's voluntary membership. NEFAC has no intention of imposing it's decisions on others. NEFAC's first position paper, The Question of the Revolutionary Anarchist Organization is very clear on the relationship of our organization to the working class as a whole and our working class social movements. I'll quote to be specific (emphasis added):

We reject the vision of the 'political-party-guide-of-the-masses', a vision which reduces the idea of revolution to the authoritarian seizure of power by a centralized party believing to be acting in the name of the masses. We know that this vision has led to bloody dictatorships and has nothing to do with socialism. It's goal not being the seizure of power, the anarchist organization is neither a party, nor a self-proclaimed vanguard, but an active minority in the working class. The anarchist organization is one of the moment within the social struggle; it's an assembly of like-minded activists, a place of confrontation and debate, a place of synthesis of ideas, social and political experiences...

Through this radicalization and our involvement as anarcho-communists in various movements of resistance, we want to aid the development of an autonomous class consciousness, the only safe-guard against political recuperation from all sides (including an eventual recuperation by an anarchist current). The revolution we want will not be the work of any one organization, even an anarchist one, but of a large class movement by which ordinary people will directly take back full control on the totality of their life and environment.

Further in regards to our relationship to other specific revolutionary organization:

Any revolutionary period will be preceded by organizations capable of popularizing anarchist alternatives and anarchist methods; organizations capable of leading the battle of ideas and able to serve as a rallying point for activists. To this end, we believe that a strong, and above all, organized presence in social struggles anarchist movement is necessary. Let's be clear, we do not believe that an organization is a movement in itself, and we do not pretend at all to represent to whole of the anarchist movement. While we have confidence in our ideas, we do not think we possess THE truth, and it is probable that we are wrong on this or that point. That is why we advocate revolutionary pluralism.

To be a bit more succinct about it, we are some folks who have some common ideas and we want to more effectively share those ideas with other people we know within social movements. When material conditions are such that allow for radicalization of struggle, we will argue from the position of rank and file members of those social movements that those movements democratically adopt our ideas.

NEFAC is far more about being a conversation between like-minded comrades. We aren't about being some sort of Leninist democratic-centralist committee.

(It's about this point in the conversation with someone who has convinced themselves that NEFAC is democratic centralist that they pull up that horrible piece from Black Star North--Why re Not Members of NEFAC: Some thoughts on Anarchist Organization. Those folks never even contacted anyone in NEFAC before they published that piece. If they had, we would have explained the different secretariats at that time were so folks who wanted to contact us in English could email/write one address, and those who wanted to contact us in French could write another. It's also noteworthy that after they published that article in issue #2 of their zine... they never published anything as Black Star North again. I guess the material conditions weren't right.)

* NEFAC = NorthEast Federation Anarchist Communist
(North East America) We