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Democracy, Elections, and Parties in Past and Future Socialist States.

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Democracy, Elections, and Parties in Past and Future Socialist States.

Elect good people to do good things, 1953 

by Andrei Kuznetsov

This following article isn't necessarily an essay- or is at most a rough draft of one that may be used at a future point for different purposes. However, it has been one that has been on my mind for some time in various shapes and forms, and one that I hope to dissect later in my personal professional career. After a long discussion yesterday with a comrade about the question- in which they challenged my heretofore positions on the subject- I hope this essay itself can spark some good discussion. I should also like to note that much of what I say is based on my current knowledge of the subjects at hand, so if at any point I am incorrect in facts or data, PLEASE by all means correct me so that I may make any necessary edits!

IT should be common sense (or is it?) that the communist goal within socialist society is to utilize the state as a democratic tool for exercising the proletariat's power and the emancipation of all humanity. In any exercising of state power, voting and elections will be part of that democratic process. But how have those elections worked in past socialist societies? What do we want elections to look like in the next wave of socialist revolutions? Where does the one-party state (or the dominant party state, the model which I more or less lean toward) system that has notably characterized Marxist-Leninist theory for the past 100 years come into play? Before I build on my own personal ideas of the future, let's get into how elections worked in past the main past socialist nations: the USSR and revolutionary-era China.

The U.S.S.R.

 Worker Men and Women: Everyone Vote in the Soviet Elections (Raboche i rabotnitsy: vse na perevybory sovetov)
Male and Female Workers: All to the Soviet Elections! (1929)


Allow me to begin with explaining the de jure aspects of Soviet electoral law: According to the 1918 Constitution of the RSFSR Article 3-A, the Soviet people directly elected their local leadership, which in turn elected their leadership, all the way to the Congress of Soviets. In 1936, this was replaced with a Constitution that allowed for direct elections on all levels, from local, to republic, to All-Union.

Up until the 1930’s, it was not unusual- such as in the 1924 and 1929 elections- for there to be multi-candidate elections. Indeed, there were in fact instances of the Left Opposition and even the Russian Orthodox Church running candidates against the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. However, by 1936- with the Great Purge in full swing- it became “unwise” for citizens to stand for election against the general line of the Party, and thus the standard model of one-candidate elections was cemented.

Soviet electoral nomination rounds followed this formula: the local electorate would nominate a group of candidates. Meanwhile, the local government appointed an election committee to approve the candidates and supervise the election process. The election committee was a key element in the nomination round: the local government was already dominated by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, thus those who were appointed to the committee tended to be Party cadres themselves. While technically independent candidates could stand in elections, the election committee makeup almost always acted as a shoe-in for Party candidates and independent candidates tended to be from CPSU-led organizations such as the Komsomol, the trade unions, or the Red Army.

After the nomination round, the voting process could go two ways:
-The first involved voters being given a ballot with the candidate’s name on it and boxes to check either "Да" or "Нет". If the candidate got 51% or more "Da's", he or she was elected to the post. Conversely, however, if the candidate received a majority "Nyet's", another candidate was to be nominated in their place. However, the factor of the CPSU's candidates all sharing a general identical line on the majority of issues made variety somewhat scarce in most situations. While this gave the people some choice in the matter of individuals, one must think: how far did this really go in terms of true choice?
-The second, and far more common method. involved voters being given a ballot with the election committee-approved candidate's name on it. In order to vote "Da", one would simply drop the slip into the ballot box. However, in order to show one's disapproval of the candidate, a voter had to step aside and write such, in somewhat clear view, thus nullifying the principle of the secret ballot. Being seen voting "Nyet" for a Party candidate could be quite dangerous: it could put your career, social status, Party membership, and freedom on the line.

joke_ballot_detail_895a3.jpg
A ballot for the 1947  RSFSR republic-level general elections, in which Soviet citizen Ivan Burylov
wrote "komediya" - [a] comedy or  [a] farce - in opposition to the candidate standing for election.
Comrade Burylov was sentenced to 8 years in the Gulag for spoiling his ballot and "obstructing
democracy."

Because this second form of voting became the norm in the Soviet Union, elections- even during the period of actual socialism and the rule of the proletarian class- were reduced to a mere formality, with the Party winning 99% of the vote in every election.

(For more information of elections in the Soviet Union, see:
-Fitzpatrick, Sheila. 1999. Everyday Stalinism: Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times: Soviet Russia in the 1930s. New York: Oxford University Press.
-"State and Society Under Stalin: Constitutions and Elections in the 1930s," article by J. Arch Getty in Slavic Review, Vol. 50, No. 1 (Spring, 1991).
-Brown, Dan. "Soviet Local Government". Russia Today magazine, a pro-Moscow magazine from 1946.)

Socialist China

The persons we are most statisfied with have been elected, 1953

The persons we are most satisfied with have been elected, 1953

 

I will admit my knowledge of democratic process in the People's Republic of China under Mao Zedong is much more limited than that under the Soviet Union. However, I will give what I know for everyone to consider:

Several years ago I read about the election of local committees in William H. Hinton's Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village. In it, I recall that there was a electoral process similar to the early Soviet one in which local candidates were nominated and elected to the local village committees, who in turn elected the local region committees, et. al. The first all-China post-Revolution election, however, did not occur until 1953, which required the number of candidates to be equal to the number of seats needed to be filled (which, I gather, means that an election for a single seat meant a one-candidate election). However, while I have found a breadth of information on pre-1949 and post-1979 general elections, elections to legislative bodies outside of the Revolutionary Committees of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution seem to be rather scarce.

I do know that there is some significant contrast between the Soviet and Chinese models, however. For one thing, the Chinese model was (and is still) a multiparty one thanks to the United Front and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee. While revolutionary China was still a dominant party system, political parties such as the Revolutionary Committee of the Koumintang, China Democratic League, and the Chinese Peasants' & Workers' Democratic Party were allowed to stand in elections under the United Front coalition ticket. Although the United Front was led by the Communist Party (and thus allowing the United Front to always gain 100% of the vote), and China still possessed the same form of election committees that the Soviet model did, the fact that CCP-aligned parties were allowed to have a voice in the system, often achieving significant amounts of seats in the National People's Congress, allowed for some ideological "breathing room" in the opinion of some scholars.

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution also brought about the Revolutionary Committees, which overthrew the local and regional legislative branches and brought about direct democratic procedure [note to audience: did this also include multiple candidates? I have read conflicting reports.] and acted as a realm of struggle between rival factions of Red Guards and Party tendencies. While it cannot be denied that the struggle between the Red Guard factions eventually became violent, the United Front parties were suppressed, and the Revolutionary Committee model was far from perfect, the experience of democracy under the Cultural Revolution is something to be learned from- particularly incidents such as the Shanghai Storm of 1967 and events in Tibet- in future models of socialist states.

The Vanguard Party & Future Democracy, or, Where Am I Going With This?


Mao casting his vote in the 1953 general elections. What will this look like after our revolution?

So where am I going with this? Why did I rant so long about the past? Well, let me (finally!) get to my point before I open up questions for the comments section:

Personally, I believe in the need for a revolutionary, Marxist-Leninist party to be in command of any future socialist project. I believe that the communist road must be led by a communist party. As a Maoist, I agree with Mao in his belief that "political power grows out of the barrel of a gun," and thus I believe that the vanguard party must control the armed forces of any socialist state. I do not believe that non-Marxist or revisionist parties should be allowed to take control of the state, which would dismantle proletarian rule.

However, I personally am torn between the one-party model or the dominant party model: the comrade I discussed the question of elections and democracy with yesterday said that he believes that the masses will, broadly, not rally around a programme of a one-party state or of single-candidate elections. I will say though: I certainly agree that the primary Soviet model (model #2, i.e. having to publicly demonstrate your opposition to the candidate in writing) will result in elections being stripped of democracy!

The comrade also reminded me that in The State & Revolution, at no point did Lenin discuss the need for a one-party state, and that Lenin offered the Left S-R's a position in any post-Civil War government (unfortunately, Fanny Kaplann felt otherwise, and thus the one-party system resulted out of necessity). There is also the point that Lenin never truly formulated the idea of democratic-centralism in the modern Marxist-Leninist sense, which could result in the aforementioned dilemma of multiple candidates putting forward nearly-identical platforms.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Here I put my questions to the floor:

1) How should democratic elections be held in future socialist societies? How shall the state supervise and enact them? Will we have things such as election committees, or something else?

2) Should we strive for a one-party state like the USSR, a dominant-party state (with a party-led united front) like China, or multi-party state of a new type?

3) In a one-party or dominant-party state, should multiple candidates be allowed to run in opposition to each other? Would it be helpful, or would it be divisive, to have communist party candidates run against fellow communist party candidates?

4) If other parties are allowed to exist, especially outside a party-led united front, how do we keep revolutionary communist politics in command within a state?

Let's put our heads together, and let's have fun with this one...

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  • There seem to be a few major presumptions here, many of which lean on the relatively simple (and in practice quite failed) models of heavy party-state leadership which existed in Russia and China. But the most troublesome of these presumptions, for your analysis, is the failure to problematize (or even define) what you mean by "state" in the first place. It's often presumed (on every side) that people just "know" what a state is -- but when I've asked self-identifying "statists" and "anti-statists" their respective definitions, I've frequently found enormous divergence. So what exactly are you defining here as a "state"? Is it ANY form of representation (as opposed to "direct" governance)? Is it simply the skeletal structure of police-military-prisons attached to the formal signifier of authority? Is it nothing but the monopoly on force?

    This issue is important, because your question of "what kind of state" should we have ATR is not going to make much sense within this presumed frame--and it instead just seems to sit in a little dogmatic nest built up from relatively outdated theories (circa, like 1900) of what a nation is, what a state is, etc. It also hurts your analysis of China quite a bit, because (for all the miserable failures), China actually experimented more than many realize, particularly in the countryside, with how one might mix "direct" and "representative" forms of management. But this is precisely where we get into the problem of definition. Would you consider the decisions made by a Womens' council in a Chinese village (i.e. direct-democratic decisions which are carried out by those same people in the community) to be a form of governance--the organ of a state? Because I know plenty of anarchists who would NOT consider this to be a state--who would argue that this is not at all what they mean to reject when they reject the state, etc, even IF they would reject the representative forms of state which existed ABOVE the womens' council (those forms of socialist governance which exploited the Chinese peasantry through the operation of the price scissors on grain, for instance).

    A second major issue is your presumptions about democracy. You seem to equate democracy with simple electoralism. Even worse, you conflate majority democracy (either performed by ppl directly or by representatives) with democracy AS SUCH. This ignores a lot of the breadth of the concept of democracy. First, it would ignore the (potentially non-majority) democratic action of things like the women's councils in revolutionary China -- as well as the democratic revolt of an oppressed people when those actively revolting are not the majority of the population (this is Badiou's argument w/ regard to the recent riots in Egypt, for example).

    Second, it ignores the basic lower-scale forms of democracy that can easily exist ATR, and have existed in previous societies -- forms of consensus for small groups, or mixed representative-consesus systems, basically categorized together as "direct" democracy. Eleanor Ostrom--kind of a miserable liberal, sure, but also one who's done a lot of empirical research here--has argued that this sort of direct management of a commons can be effective for large groups but has a scalar limit of about 15,000 people, meaning it would be insufficient for managing the basic functions of a city, for example (presuming you'll still have cities for a while even if you ultimately want their abolition). But it would equally be needless bureaucracy to try to IMPOSE some larger representative system if you can instead cultivate robust, directly participatory systems at this bottommost level. Basically, it ignores the idea that you might (and I think very much should) cultivate pools of direct "presentation" which are linked together (and interpolated) at a larger scale where necessary by forms of "representation"--whatever they may be.

    Third, you seem to pretty strongly conflate electoralism with democracy. If there was one thing that the village experiments in China (but especially in revolutionary Spain) showed it was that PARTICIPATION is a more key democratic act than VOTING. And the problems with the industrial functioning of the socialist states was precisely that they NEVER CHANGED the actual social relations "inside" production. The factories were more less run the same way, with the same lack of worker control, the same mechanical expectations of individual workers (even if they got better healthcare to deal with the physical problems this caused) and the same basic alienation and detachment (lack of "ownership") toward the entire process. Of far more interest should be the new experiments in cooperativization in places like Venezuela, which seem to be starting at least a little more from the expectation that the modes of participation ought to be changed within neighborhoods, factories, universities, etc.

    The basic Marxist point is that the political system and the economic system are not separate -- politics takes place at the directly economic level. But when socialist states took over, supposedly acting as direct vicars of the proletariat, they failed miserably to change these basic social relations, ESPECIALLY within urban industrial settings. One would expect that the type of economic change desired at the factory/neighborhood/farm/etc. level is one that gives people more direct control of decisions, what to produce and what not to produce, how they feel most comfortable producing it, what the nature of the relationship between the factory and surrounding community should be, etc, as well as giving them a basic ATTACHMENT which begins to dismantle decades upon decades of capitalist alienation. This is also the crux at which point the identity of someone as "worker" (i.e. as a human being reduced to their physical capacity for labor) begins to break down as the realms of "work" and "non-work" are directly mixed.

    You give these alternatives: "Should we strive for a one-party state like the USSR, a dominant-party state (with a party-led united front) like China, or multi-party state of a new type?"

    Why such a limited set? This sounds schematic--and quite unrealistic for the actual world, especially when you are really talking (necessarily) of the WORLD as such, not just some socialist state operating in a single nation--you seem to be either talking just about the limited national scale or presuming a pretty smooth jump to one world socialist government. You're also still talking about models which are all forms of representation top-to-bottom, with little to no room for direct forms of self-management, regional autonomy, etc. etc. You're presuming an expert organ of perfect knowledge which exists within this system (i.e. a [very dogmatically understood version of the] party), and its counterpart: a people which seems to have no more motive force than the inert mass of potential labor-power that exists under capitalism. And ultimately this schema is undercutting the very basic notion (which is Lenin's real "rational kernel" extracted from all his bitterly childish polemicism) that communist struggle does not seek to recreate a state as such but to seize the integuments of a former state (infrastructure, goods, land) and force them to operate in an entirely different (dare I say: "non-state") fashion.

    Finally, I would just point out that it always seems questionable (especially in articles that argue for the "necessity" of socialist stageism or party-states) when the author seems to infer that all of these elements had NOTHING TO DO with the failure of the old socialist projects. Even within the limited scope of your schema, it seems highly relevant to address whether or not these particular state-forms may have contributed to the "obscure disaster" of socialism in the 20th century.

  • Thank you for your substantial reply, NPC. I personally don't have time to get into an exhaustive reply right now, but allow me to make a few points before we continue the debate tomorrow:

    -The main concern of my article wasn't exactly to defend a position, but to throw out some questions.
    -The other main concern of my article was the question of democracy or the state itself, i.e. of essence,, but the question of a specific form of exercising power. Perhaps I should have clarified that I do not believe that elections are the end-all, be-all of democracy, and if any wording made it seem such then I accept the criticism.
    -I am aware of much of what you speak that I did not address in my essay (women's committees, autonomous organs, that different revolutions at different times will have different peculiarities, etc.), however, for the sake of brevity I kept it to some basics and to historical comparison, for better or for worse. Any omission of anything crucial was unintentional and/or due to lack of myself being unaware/uniformed.

    Anyway, everyone carry on with the conversation and I shall rejoin tomorrow. Thank you!

  • *was NOT the question of democracy etc. etc. Sorry for the typo!

  • Sure, I realize that your main concern wasn't to question what the state is or what democracy was -- but I'm saying that precisely because these concepts remain unquestioned or unproblematized your framing inherently relies on some very traditional (and very unfounded) dogma about precisely these questions. Each of the options you give, (agan: "Should we strive for a one-party state like the USSR, a dominant-party state (with a party-led united front) like China, or multi-party state of a new type?") take as given one particular (I think very outdated) definition of what a state (and "party") IS -- and one which seems to ignore the basic Marxist point (and even Lenin's major points) that the state is NOT separable from the economy as such.

    So I realize that it's not your intent to get into these other notions -- but I'm pointing out that in order to earnestly confront the questions that you pose you simply have to deal with these more basic questions as well, otherwise you're automatically relying on a pre-fabricated argument that seems to have been very much invalidated by historical experience--unless you intend to actually defend the ortho position. Voting, for instance, makes no sense if you have a directly participatory model at a smaller scale or a form of Democracy by Lot (among a set of nominees) at the larger scale. Similarly, parties make no sense as political bodies separated from economic activity (or reduced to "administering" a socialist economy).

  • Okay, as long as that's clear I think we're off to a good start; school me further, comrade.

  • Alright, let's get back to where we were... Once again, I must say that this post was written quite quickly, is based on the idea of history vs. future, and did not touch on many key issues for the sake of brevity. However, if I may, can I throw out some more questions at you?

    "So what exactly are you defining here as a "state"? Is it ANY form of representation (as opposed to "direct" governance)? Is it simply the skeletal structure of police-military-prisons attached to the formal signifier of authority? Is it nothing but the monopoly on force?"

    I think it's a mixture of all of these things. What do YOU think is the definition of the state?

    "This issue is important, because your question of "what kind of state" should we have ATR is not going to make much sense within this presumed frame--and it instead just seems to sit in a little dogmatic nest built up from relatively outdated theories"

    Well, I was asking HOW we can get out of that "little dogmatic nest", but I see your point in that maybe I wasn't looking far enough.

    "It also hurts your analysis of China quite a bit, because (for all the miserable failures), China actually experimented more than many realize, particularly in the countryside, with how one might mix "direct" and "representative" forms of management."

    Well, I reiterate, my knowledge of China is not nearly as strong as that of the USSR, but I do know that, indeed, the Chinese experimented with many different forms of management and mass participation. Any corrections or places where I can gain further information on these subjects would be greatly appreciated.

    "Would you consider the decisions made by a Womens' council in a Chinese village (i.e. direct-democratic decisions which are carried out by those same people in the community) to be a form of governance--the organ of a state?"

    "First, it would ignore the (potentially non-majority) democratic action of things like the women's councils in revolutionary China -- as well as the democratic revolt of an oppressed people when those actively revolting are not the majority of the population (this is Badiou's argument w/ regard to the recent riots in Egypt, for example). "

    I never said that they weren't a form of governance or mass democracy. They may not have been part of the "state" proper, but they were part of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Also, like I said, my article is mainly about the question of electoralism as a specific thing/form, and any forms of mass power that historically existed were not omitted intentionally or in order to downplay their importance.

    "[We should] cultivate pools of direct "presentation" which are linked together (and interpolated) at a larger scale where necessary by forms of "representation"--whatever they may be."

    I absolutely agree; never argued otherwise. However, do you think that there should still be a parallel state power, a la executive-legislative-and-judicial branches?

    "If there was one thing that the village experiments in China (but especially in revolutionary Spain) showed it was that PARTICIPATION is a more key democratic act than VOTING."

    Word. I can get behind that.

    "The basic Marxist point is that the political system and the economic system are not separate -- politics takes place at the directly economic level."

    Once again, never argued otherwise, but I accept the fact that I should've taken it into further account when opening the discussion.

    "Why such a limited set? This sounds schematic--and quite unrealistic for the actual world, especially when you are really talking (necessarily) of the WORLD as such, not just some socialist state operating in a single nation--you seem to be either talking just about the limited national scale or presuming a pretty smooth jump to one world socialist government."

    Okay, so maybe it's a limited set. Do you have any other ideas to posit? Also, I'm talking about a hypothetical individual socialist state, not once we get to a one-world socialist government.

    "I would just point out that it always seems questionable (especially in articles that argue for the "necessity" of socialist stageism or party-states) when the author seems to infer that all of these elements had NOTHING TO DO with the failure of the old socialist projects."

    I believe that many of these elements had to do with the failure of the old socialist projects, and in fact I noted the failures of past projects in paragraphs concerning the Soviet and Chinese experiences.

    ....Okay, let me ask you this, comrade: let's say it's ATR, and it's time for a legislative/presidential election on the government level, not the revolutionary or mass committees. What do you think such a thing would look like? How would YOU run it, if you could?

    Or am I still not hitting the mark that will answer my questions? ;)

  • I'll take your last question first, because I think in talking about it I can get through most of the others:

    You're still presuming, ATR, that we have a "president" and a "legistlature" -- otherwise elections to some executive administering body make no sense. You're assuming that some form of nation-state has been preserved and is more or less functional, that there has been no decentralization, that there are no allowable experiments in regional autonomy, that there is a single legitimate "authority" that speaks for the people, whether that be a plural authority (legislature) or a singular one (president) So I think we need to clarify:

    WHAT is the functioning of this state?

    You noted that it's fine to have these direct forms of presentation -- yet you describe them as parallel, as if they are separate or segmented off from the actual governing structure. My basic point was that THIS presumption is the problem, you are treating it as if there is a political system that is SEPARATE from the basic social (including economci) interactions (participatory or not, exploitative or not) that compose society. But there is not. This separability of the political sphere is a liberal illusion -- a smokescreen which obscures the real (economic) power relations.

    I think that many anarchists today make the same error (though they invert it) as did the Bolsheviks and Chinese Maoists. ALL of them assumed that the state itself was something autonomous. The former communist movement assumed it was both autonomous and neutral--meaning that you just had to get the *bad guys* out of the positions of power and you could take over those positions of power without really changing their form (whether that form remains liberal-parliamentary or a little more autocratic), just extending them to administer the economy through centralized planning. This was the case in the industrial core of both the USSR and PRC, though, as I said, the PRC included some original experiments in the countryside. It has the basic logic that, because of this large, mostly neutral administrative appratus (the state), the Party simply needs to infiltrate that state (whether in a parliamentary way like the PCI in Italy or by force like in Russia or China) and make it into a "good" state to fix the "bad" economy/society.

    Many anarchists make the same assumption just from the other side -- pretending that the economic/social sphere can be made "good" directly while the state as such is monolithically "bad." I think the anarchist presumption at least leads to propositions about *alternate*--i.e. "non-state"--forms of organization, such as Bookchin's confederated libertarian municipalities thing (which I disagree with, but still).

    So what do you see as composing the state? What materials make it up? What practices constitute and reconstitute these materials?


    You ask how I define a state, but I think this misses the point as well. I generally do NOT like to speak the state/anti-state language, simply because I think you'll inherently be miscommunicating if you don't define, up-front what you are actually talking about.

    But if you want a definition, I will give you my thoughts on that:

    Usually I think that the crux of state versus non-state (as I've generally heard them used) is the difference between forms of presentation and forms of representation. Any representative form is seen as a state (or at least state-like), whereas forms of direct presentation are seen as non-state. There is a lot of grey area here, though, when you're talking about representative forms of the kind used by the Zapatistas, for example, or forms which allow direct and quick retraction of leaders who betray their base (as is possible in many of the cooperativized factories in Venezuela and Argentina, if they have representatives/leaders at all). There are also problems of presentation when a direct-democratic decision by one group may have consequences for future generations (who can't vote) or people downstream not included in the quorum -- at which point this form of presentation, even if "non-state," can become authoritarian.

    I think the presentation/representation distinction is more useful, because many people who might never be won to the idea of needing a "state" can certainly be won to the idea of needing at SOME level SOME form of representation (especially in coordinating respones to the environmental crisis, for instance). Representation also does not come packaged with the immediate notions of having police, prisons and an imperial/colonial army.

    On another level, you have the nation component of the state--which is to say the "imagined community" that becomes the shared signifier for peoples' basic identity and coordination within a world. I think that existing nations, for instance, ought to and should be dissolved or in whatever way (say, with the black nation) incorporated into the general global signifier offered by emancipatory struggle, whether we call that communism, anarchism or something else entirely. This changes the basic signifying function of the existing nation-state, though, since it breaks down the contained (and racial/linguistic) aspects of the nation, instead arguing for a single truly global nation (though not a single global state) united in its momentum toward liberty.

    So with this broken down, I think we then have to dissolve the state into its material functions: again, what are we actually talking about?

    We're talking about how to administer/organize/coordinate material processes that take place over distances large enough that forms of direct common management is not possible--and even large enough that forms of easily retractable representation may not be possible.

    Now, at one level I think it might actually be very helpful to look at areas that today operate in a more decentralized fashion administratively, or have done so historically -- for example the Balkans or Upland Southeast Asia, areas that have immense diversity of cultures/languages/governments/nations. I know anarchists who have proposed, basically a Balkanization of the entire world ATR, where we have these miniature nations that are confederated together to coordinate larger tasks when those larger tasks come up (but with no "standing body" of consistent government above them at all times).

    Unfortunately, I think that there will be tasks to coordinate that will be simply impossible to do without some consistent regular body tending to them (such as global data-gathering on global warming, aggregating info on ecological health, and potentially organizing a global response if one micro-nation decides it will be profitable to burn down its ancient jungle to sell charcoal to its neighbors). Still, though, we have to accept that we will have to (and probably want to) decentralize most things that CAN be decentralized, producing much, much more food as locally as possible, even if this means a severe change in peoples' diets. Dauve says that the French might have to return to chestnuts as a staple food -- well ok. I'll eat nettles and be stoked about it, though plenty of foodies might cry over their long-lost quinoa.

    This is all relevant to your questions, because this determines the DOMAIN of what's actually being managed/administered/whatever by a "state" or general representative system. If that state is reduced to, for example, building high-speed railways between regions, keeping an eye on environmental data, keeping a power-grid up and running, doing general statistical bookkeeping (demographics, what's being produced where), etc. then you're still talking about a pretty skeletal system that won't have nearly as much influence as what people are able to directly do through their self-managed factories. By the same token, if you're basically just talking about the management of a military in armed struggle, then elections may be useless or impractical, since you'll either need a single consistent regional network of command that tries to stay intact until the dissolution of the struggle or you'll need a decentralized cell structure that won't have the same form of leadership in the first place.

    In other basic (even region-scale) projects doesn't it make much more sense to break up liberated territories so that different regions can engage in different experiments of how best to organize themselves -- even if you still have a somewhat centralized system giving them info on how much food, for example, region A might need from regions B and C? Certainly this will be quite a bit messy, with shortages of things early on before regions can learn to produce their own goods of a certain type--but the role of the centralized system ought not be to simply maintain the geographic divison of labor that exists under capitalism, at most it should try to coordinate the movement of skills and materials to regions that request them and to ensure (by force if necessary) that the value-form of capital does not reassert itself in any of the territories.

    Now, I don't want to get into the long communization discussion here, but I do want to mention that you'll have to presume a lot MORE management when you're maintaining a money system or trying to centralize ALL production, whether that be through a socialist state or a Proudhonian credit-bank. At all points possible we ought to begin the abolition of the value-form immediately, not look to "stages" of its abolition which become their own ends.

    Finally, I'll give you a few alternatives to the few representatives systems you outline for managing some territory:

    1. Democracy by Lot. This is not a majority democracy, and it is not a form of expert "administration." It will work in the political realm where no one has a SPECIAL expertise--or deals in areas so broad that specific expertise is pointless--and where you still need some executive/representative function. Democracy by Lot enforces a true equality, it can be a lot of nominees (decided by majority or nominated by other reps elected by lot) or at times a lot of anyone in an organization (for smaller orgs). I go into this idea in much more detail in a piece that I'm still working on which will be up on Kasama in a while. The piece is finished, PM me if you want to look over the draft it's at right now.

    2. Authority of the shoemaker. This is an old anarchist idea -- the notion (from Bakunin) that "in the manner of making shoes, I defer to the authority of the shoemaker." In other words, when it comes to specialized knowledge, let those with the knowledge make the decision as they see fit. No elections, the "party" is not allowed to purge scientists for coming to conclusions that contradict the party-line, and differences of scientific opinion can be settled by Lot, by elections WITHIN that community (among those who have the specialized knowledge) or by formalizing factions and experimenting with both options in different regions. The only function of the revolutionary org here is to help stave of ideological creep--requiring, for instance, that none of these projects re-institute a money-system.

    3. No electoral party or parties in elections, only platforms. There is often too much conflation between "the party" conceived of as a revolutionary body and as an electoral body -- even though the electoral aspect of even the historical communist parties was always secondary, a simple pragmatic tool used to take power. "The party" conceived of as a revolutionary organization or network of such organizations, is not necessarily the best paradigm to be used for elections -- because the point is not to have revolutionarIES driving all these material projects coordinated by a state (data-collection, rail-building, etc.), but to have all of society oriented toward revolution as such. So rather than having "party" elections, why not just require that individuals running present their platform for what they would do in the position--kind of similar to how many mayoral elections happen, where you are not allowed to run on any party's ticket or sometimes even accept any money from official parties. Candidates whose PLATFORMS track best with the most people (maybe in dispersed, internet-based primaries) move up in electoral stages until you have a manageable amount of candidates that people can keep track of.

    4. Elections always with a negative supplement. This would mean running your election regularly, but with a real option (similar to the Soviet option you point out above) of voting for no one, denying the election entirely--maybe the option to paint your ballot black or leave it blank, signalling that there is something wrong with the basic process--you reject the election as such, the options are bullshit, the positions should not exist, those in power ought to be taken out, etc. But this negative aspect ought to be somewhat formalized--in the sense that, if you get more than 50% blank/black ballots, say, it should be required that the election be nullified and a popular quorum/forum be held in every city/region to determine what the problem is and what should be done instead.

    So I'm a bit tired now and don't want to write more, but I think I completed two of your main questions, asking about specific alternatives as well as a state definition.

    Still, I'd like to hear what YOUR notion of state is -- what you think these people being elected ARE and what you think a party is (as well as its relation to a state--for instance, can you have a non-state party?).

    You say at the very beginning: "IT should be common sense (or is it?) that the communist goal within socialist society is to utilize the state as a democratic tool for exercising the proletariat's power and the emancipation of all humanity."

    I think the difference here may be that I think all former definitions of this socialist stage are defunct and socialism proved itself at several points and in several ways to be a failure--and failed to the degree that it will be hard to call any future transition to communism "socialism," especially when socialism begins to denote luxury socialism/social democracy exclusively--when socialism increasingly becomes the name for capitalism with a human face. So it's not common sense that we need a "stage" of socialism in the same way that the old vulgar marxist schematists thought we did, or that "the state" as such should be the democratic tool used to exercise the proletariat's power and the emancipation of all humanity. None of these things are evident, they are simply unfounded assumptions drawn from some of the worst dogmas of the last century. In order to confront this dogma, to get at the root of your question, you have to challenge these assumptions. WHY does this seem self-evident? What evidence do you have of its self-evidence? How do you explain the failure of this self-evident model last time? etc.

  • The most important aspect is that even in the most developed Socialist Societies insufficient revolutionary democracy or debate was created, be it in the Soviets in the U.S.S.R or the Peoples Communes or revolutionary Commitees in China.Not sufficient scope for debate or dissent was built nor enough freedom given to artists,writers etc,even during the G.P.C.R.in China..Greater democracy was needed in the mass organizations with the Communist party giving greater freedom to the peoples mass organizations.

    However whatever great heights the Socialist Societies scaled was principally because of the role of the vanguard party which negated the multi-party system.Mao's greatest contribution of continuous revolutions within a Socialist Society had the Communist party as it's backbone.We have to understand why even Lenin banned factions in 1921 or Mao discouraged them in the G.P.C.R. The centralism of the Communist party would be lost with a multi-party system.We have to be pupils of Marx,Lenin and Mao and learn from their experiences.

  • Perhaps we could form a constitutional multiple party system in which the constitution contains a set of immutable demarcations within which parties and laws must ideologically operate. This could potentially prevent both dogmatism as well as revisionism, but judging by the fact that I know of no other comrade that has promoted this, there are possibly problems with this idea that I'm not aware of.

    Comment last edited on about 1 year ago by Juliet
  • Now Cuba has plenty of problems, but I like this article from Gramna on their elections (http://www.granma.cu/ingles/cuba-i/1feb-electoral-system.html).

    "THE country’s Electoral Law, Law No. 72 (1992) establishes two types of elections:

    a) General elections every five years, to elect Delegates to Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power, their presidents and vice presidents; deputies to the National Assembly of People’s Power, its president, vice presidents and secretary; members of the Council of State, its president, vice presidents and secretary; as well as delegates to Provincial Assemblies of People’s Power, their presidents and vice presidents.

    b) Partial elections every two and a half years, to elect delegates to Municipal Assemblies of People’s Power, their Presidents and Vice Presidents.

    Therefore:

    - All legally recognized citizens have the right to participate in state decision-making, directly or through their representatives.

    - Nominations of candidates for Municipal Assemblies are made directly by the population in public meetings, on the basis of a freely determined, sovereign proposal. The plenums of mass organizations also nominate candidates for the National and Provincial Assemblies. The Party does not make nominations or promote candidates.

    - Voter registration is universal, automatic and free of charge. Electors’ names appear on a public, easily accessible list. Electors have the right to make whatever claims or corrections they consider relevant, related to their inclusion or exclusion.

    - Voting is freely determined, equal and secret. Every elector has the right to a single vote.

    - All Cubans 16 years of age or older have the right to vote, with the exception of those declared mentally disabled by court order and those legally excluded because of crimes committed.

    - All Cubans over the age of 16 may be elected as Municipal Assembly delegates, while National Assembly deputies must be at least 18.

    - Members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and other military institutions have the right to vote and be elected.

    - Voting stations are accessible, located in residential areas, each one serving a limited number of voters. There are no complicated procedures required of voters, who are only required to present their national identification card. Elderly or infirm voters may request that they be provided a ballot in their homes.

    - There are no election propaganda campaigns and candidates do not promote themselves. Candidates’ credentials and accomplishments are disseminated in brief biographies posted in public areas.

    - There is complete transparency throughout the election process, which is managed by the population itself. Voters, as well as any foreign visitors who so desire, are present when ballot boxes are sealed, to verify that they are empty before voting begins, and when ballots are counted. Results are announced and posted immediately.

    - To be elected, a candidate must receive a majority vote, more than 50% of valid votes cast.

    OTHER FUNDAMENTALS

    - The dissemination of information and the organization of elections is carried out by Election Commissions composed largely of local residents, guided by a sense of civic responsibility.

    - Ballot boxes are symbolically guarded by children and adolescents.

    - Representatives are required to report directly to the voters, describing their work and participation in the Assembly to which they were elected.

    - All members of state representative bodies must be elected and may be re-elected, as well as removed by voters.

    - Procedures exist to recall elected representatives at any time, for legally established reasons.

    - Neither delegates to Municipal and Provincial Assemblies or National Assembly deputies are professionals. They continue to work as they did prior to election, with the exception of those serving as Assembly president, vice president or in some other special role. Throughout their terms, these individuals receive a salary from the respective assembly. The Constitution of the Republic states that representatives do not enjoy any financial privileges. During any time they spend carrying out official duties, they continue to receive the same salary or wages from the entity for which they work and maintain their status as employees for all relevant purposes."

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