Compendium: Democracy and the Council State (Pt. III of III)

There are a number of potential disadvantages that may arise while conducting any serious implementation of Councilor governance. Council Democracy, despite overcoming much of the shortcomings with Parliamentary Democracy, still has its own set of disadvantages to offset. These disadvantages are inherently tied to the flaws found in all variants of Democracy as a political concept. The challenge for any Council Democracy is trying to avoid them while at the same time mitigating the ones which cannot be avoided. Below are a number of known examples documented by the Communist movement since the 20th century and are applicable to anyone interested in realizing Socialism with the Work-Standard.

First, there is a possibility that “Unity of Action,” a strong suit of Councilor governance, could be mistaken for “Unity of Thought.” The unanimous decision to pursue any particular goal does not necessarily have to entail everyone devolving in a herd mentality like in Parliamentarian governance. What matters far more is whether or not people actually have the same set of common interests in the pursuit of mutually-shared goals. It is alright for people under Councilor governance to propagate their own views and perspectives if they are polite, courteous, sincere and honest about offering constructive criticism. Helpful dissent from sympathetic orientations like Nationalists, Traditionalists, Communists, and non-Marxist Socialists should be considered.

This problem arose as a consequence of the Soviet Union’s application of Council Democracy in its early years. In order to consolidate power after the Russian Civil War and implement New Economic Policy (NEP), the CPSU had to crack down on dissent. The Bolsheviks’ motives were partly driven by the 1919 US military intervention in Siberia under the Jeffersonian presidency of Woodrow Wilson, perpetuate the Class Struggle, and prevent the pro-Czarist White Russians from continuing hostilities. While it may seem like a minor issue, the wartime experiences had resulted in the Marxist-Leninist application of Councilor governance to mimic what the Soviets had done. Communist Parties in other countries since the 20th century have conflated meaningful constructive criticism with subversive dissent, creating a social environment where actual debate and sympathetic viewpoints are seldom allowed. For other Communist Parties, this was partly driven by the fear that it could lead to petty factionalism and the tendency to treat Unity of Action as an end for its own sake rather as a step toward achieving Socialism. The result is the loss of potential opportunities for Marxist-Leninists to form meaningful “United Fronts” with others who may not necessarily agree on the tenets of Marxism, but who nonetheless share their common interests.

The problem there is not whether dissenting viewpoints should be allowed or not. Rather, it is the question of whether meaningful constructive criticism is acceptable or unacceptable. There is a real difference between people wanting to revive Liberal Capitalism and those seeking to address certain flaws in governmental policies. It is a matter of whether the People’s Party, the ruling party that is implementing Socialism, can distinguish constructive criticism from dissent.

Second, avoid discouraging independent critical thought and discussion within the People’s Party. Councilor governance excels at allowing people to speak out against or speak in favor of anything and address them in a public forum. Creative, innovative and unconventional approaches to implementing Socialism must always be allowed, otherwise any serious effort will devolve into bureaucratic inefficiency and overdependence on party leadership for key decisions. Those who demonstrate the potential to offer more practical ways of realizing Socialism should be listened and those who warn of impending catastrophes with undeniable evidence should be heeded. The challenge is as much an issue with the education and character of the People’s Party as it is also an organizational hurdle.

Third, superiors must stress their subordinates to always take the initiative and be ready to accept responsibility and criticism when something goes awry. For Socialists, the tendency toward not reporting on future problems or failures is a human error no different than the Liberal Capitalist tendency toward the same trends under Parliamentarian governance. The real difference is that, unlike the Liberal Capitalists, the error will not stem from discussions revolving around the question of Kapital. Rather, it will be result of people being afraid of party leaders and their peers accusing them of being disloyal or defeatist. The consequence is greater dependency on the decision-making of the leadership, who may not necessarily know all the answers. It all boils down to the question of whether there is any trust between superiors and subordinates in understanding the Intents of Command and Obedience.

Fourth, all superiors and subordinates alike must be held accountable for their actions. Nobody is above the rule of law. Council Democracy, like Socialism, relies on the Intents of Command and Obedience rather than the Incentives of Supply and Demand. Orders from the superiors are to be carried out with the superior’s Intent in mind and can be disregarded once new orders arrive or there is a change in social conditions. The same can be said for any orders from the subordinates. Since there is always the possibility that some orders will be more unrealistic than others, it is possible for superiors or subordinates to disobey them if they act on the Intent, rather than simply what is written on the fine print.

Fifth, if it becomes absolutely necessary to disobey orders, be aware of the differences between “Explicit Intents” and “Implicit Intents.” Council Democracy facilitate the existence of Explicit Intents and Socialism itself harbors the Implicit Intents. An “Explicit Intent” refers to any Intent that is publicly stated anywhere from the smallest of local councils to the State Council itself for everyone to think, discuss, and act upon. It often takes on the form of verbal and written statements, doctrines, or gathered from the questioning and answering portion of the political process. Explicit Intents should always be reiterated by everyone that it is applicable to.

Implicit Intents, however, are the non-verbal and unwritten expectations of both the superiors and the subordinates. They are more subtle and nuanced than Explicit Intents insofar as they arise over a longer period of Zeit, can arise naturally under Socialism, and are influenced by Socialization in the Socialist sense. An Implicit Intent manifests itself in the style of governance demonstrated by the superiors (or in this case, the party leadership) according to their worldview, upbringing, expectations, experiences, ethics, social norms and values, moral compass, creativity and tolerance of unconventional ideas. It even arises from how governmental policies, laws and concepts of political-economic practice are carried out under Councilor governance. Any Implicit Intent can be ascertained through Socialization and engaging in dialogue with others.  

Those are some of the well-known flaws that can be expected under Councilor governance. It is noteworthy that cults of personality or factionalism have not been covered in the final portion of this three-part series on Council Democracy. Although petty factionalism and personality cults have been well-known historical cases, they can also be found in Parliamentarian governance as well and there have been various historical and contemporary cases. They are problems inherently related to the political concept of Democracy, rather than flaws specifically tailored to either Council or Parliamentary Democracy per se. Thus, they will be covered in future entries related to the conduct of political governance under Socialism in the SMP Compendium.

Even so, the significance of the three-part series on Council Democracy and its importance to Socialism raises implications on the impact of the Work-Standard. The Work-Standard itself introduces a whole new dynamic to the role of Councilor governance and the effects deserve to be studied as being more indicative of political, as opposed to economic or financial, phenomena. One of those has to do with the conceptualization of a methodology designed to discern between dissenting viewpoints interested in helping the People’s Party and those seeking to hinder any serious efforts toward realizing Socialism. Therefore, it begs the question: Is there a possible heuristic device for anyone under Councilor governance to discern between those who can contribute constructive criticism and those seeking to derail Socialism?   

Categories: Compendium, Philosophy, Politics

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