Dec. 2. 1996
Thanks for your letter. Since the collapse of the USSR all discussions on alternatives to
Capitalism have stopped. Socialists stopped suggesting State ownership of the economy.
Anarchists barely mention communes. The collapse of the USSR has ruled out Socialism
as an alternative to Capitalism. The anarchist option cannot even be tested by history
due to its rejection of any kind of State.
As a result all those who reject Capitalism nowadays produce critiques of Capitalism
but no alternatives to replace it. We must go beyond criticizing and start to consider new alternatives.
Return to 'True Marxism', 'True Leninsm', Trotskyism, or Anarchism, is backward looking.
Marx, Bakunin, Lenin, or Trotsky, knew nothing about Magnetic Cards, Computers,
Sattelites, Optical fibres. These technologies were beyond the boundaries of their imagination.
The political implications of electronic communications revolution are ignored by all
political thinkers. The revolutionary changes in communications technology make it possible, for the first time in
history, to transfer and add up millions of decisions taken far appart into a single total
in seconds and to display it continously on millions of TV screens.
Political decision-making by millions of people is now possible. Politics is decision-making,
and when means of communications change, decision-making changes. Traditional
political thinkers, Left, Right, and Centre, ignore the consequences of the communications
revolution on political decision-making and thereby render themselves irrelevant
to 21st Century politics. We need NEW ideas taking account of new technologies, not return to old ones.
Political systems like those of the USSR/China are outdated and reactionary.
We need a political system more democratic than Capitalism and more egalitarian than Socialism.
Magnetic Card DirectDemocracy (M.C.D.D.) is such a system.
It can also be named Auto - narchy meaning Self - rule.
You asked :
" How can 200 million people rule themselves directly ? "
" What about production, distribution, police, courts, and the army ? "
" How can one guarantee that a small group will not take over power ? "
" What about the Constitution ? "
Let me try to aswer your questions :
FIRST. Every telephone must be equipped with a magnetic card-reading device enabling
users to pass a magnetic card through a slit and send its data to a local computer as
is done in supermarkets today.
The user dials a number and slides the card through the slit for identification.
Computer programs at the other end check the identity and prepare for further input.
Just as in an Autobank. Every citizen will have an additional secret PIN
(Personal Identification Number), or Voiceprint, to prevent people from using cards
that do not belong to them. In remote areas wireless telephones will
transmit this data via sattelite to the computer. Peoples decisions enter computers
which add up totals.
This technology functions in most banks and supermarkets
all over the world today. After the year 2000 much of telephone transmission will
be by optical fibres greatly increasing capacity and speed. Using this technology
every citizen can make every political decision.
The guiding principle of Auto-narchy is:
EVERY CITIZEN CAN PROPOSE AND VOTE ON EVERY POLITICAL DECISION.
Magnetic card technology can easily handle 200 million data inputs. A million or two
can be fed into a local computers calculating totals to pass on to central computers.
Solutions to problems of production, distribution, etc, will be given by panels of
experts for production and distribution when facing the need to do so.
There is a fundamental difference between creating solutions to social and political
problems and DECIDING WHICH SOLUTION TO USE. Experts invent solutions to problems.
Politics is about deciding which solution to use.
Many believe expertise grants authority to decide.It does not.
Deciding is choosing. Choosing depends on preference.
Preference is not a result of expertise, it stems from a priority principle.
Priorities have nothing to do with expertise. They are shaped by upbringing, education, beliefs.
Every decision depends on a priority principle and so do solutions to political problems.
There are no "Objective" decisions in politics. Decisions depends on priority principles.
The core of a political system is its decision-making system. This depends on two factors:
1. WHO HAS AUTHORITY TO MAKE POLITICAL DECISIONS ?
2. WHAT PRIORITY PRINCIPLE GUIDES THE DECISION-MAKERS ?
Suggesting a system for decision-making and a priority principle to guide decision-makers
is all we can do today. Solutions to actual problems will be suggested by
experts who will take into account circumstances we cannot foresee.
In Auto-narchy all citizens will decide which solution to use.
Do you want to impose solutions without familiarity with actual circumstances ?
Do you want to tell workers how to run their work ?
All we can do today is win people over to our egalitarian, Humanist, priority principle.
If people share our priority they'll decide like us when facing actual problems.
Restructuring the Police, the Courts, the Army, will be topical when the majority
will demand this. At present it does not.
What is topical today is the disgust with representative democracy.
In the last elections in the USA 51% of the electorate did'nt bother to vote !
This shows the enthusiasm people feel for politics by representatives.
Our task today is to convince the 51% there is another way to run society.
First we must deal with the structure of decision-making, later - with specific solutions.
SECOND. Proposals to vote on can be grouped like government departments today.
All TV sets will be fitted with cable\dish reception providing many channels.
Some channels will be permanently dedicated to political decision-making.
TV will show all proposals and vote totals in every government department.
Every proposal will require three votings before it becomes binding for the entire society.
A first vote will determine if a proposal is accepted by a necessary minimum of people.
Proposals failing to recieve a required minimum (say 1% of those entitled to vote)
will be dropped.
They can be proposed again later. Proposals achieving the required minimum will be discussed on
TV by panels of experts.
Citizens will have the right to question experts by phone, and to add new proposals.
These discussions can go on as long as the majority desires.
After hearing experts' opinions on possible outcomes of various decisions a second vote
takes place. Voters dial a number, identify themselves by their magnetic card, and key
in the number of the proposal and their decision on it: 1 = YES, 0 = NO, 2=ABSTAIN.
Computers add up the totals and display them on TV. Allowing time to study decisions
that passed the second vote, a final, third, vote is taken on proposals. A proposal which
recieved the majority becomes binding for everyone, else it goes back to the panel of
experts for ammendments, modifications, and the discussion and voting are resumed.
Votes via private or public phones go to regional computers adding up regional totals
then passing them on to central computers who add up grand totals and transmit
them continously to TV.
TV shows anytime the following details in every government department:
1) Proposals for 1st vote.
2) Proposals that passed /failed 1st vote.
3) Proposals passed/failed 2nd vote.
4) Proposals passed/failed 3rd vote. And vote totals of each.
Proposals are organized by subject matter. Those interested in education need only
switch into the channel dedicated to education.
Within minutes everyone can know every decision.
This is far more democratic and efficient than representative democracy.
THIRD. Voters can appoint people to oversee the implementation of decisions.
Appointees have no authority to make policy decisions, they are authorized only to
implement decisions. Appointees can be changed by voters any time.
This is similar to the role of Ambassadors today, they carry out foreign policy
but do not make the decisions shaping that foreign policy.
This Magnetic Card DirectDemocracy ( M.C.D.D.) is Auto-narchy, i.e. Self -rule.
Some people will vote on every decision, others will vote only on what they consider
All will be able to decide what their society should do.
By proposing and voting on most political decisions people will become involved
in their society and overcome their present political alienation, apathy, boredom,
and disgust, induced by politics through representatives.
Instead of representatives we shall have DirectDemocracy, Auto-narchy.
Auto-narchy goes beyond the Capitaslist\Socialist\Anarchist controversy on ownership.
It grants those who have to carry out decisions the right to make those decisions.
Auto-narchy is not A-narchy as the State is not abolished but run directly by all citizens.
Auto-narchy is not Olig-archy as the State is not run by a group but by all citizens.
Auto-narchy will end political indifference of most citizens, 'atomization' of society,
political favouritism, hypocrisy and corruption. Auto-narchy can be implemented today.
All technologies required function daily. Implementing the means enabling every
citizen to vote directly on every political decision costs a fraction of the Defense budget.
All employees in a country, trade, or firm, must form Employee autonarchies of the
country, trade, or firm.
Employee Auto-narchy is decision-making by all employees.
Such a system solves most conflicts at work. It makes owners, and Unions, redundant.
It improves production and makes work far more efficient, safe, and rewarding.
It puts an end to strikes and unemployment. It can be applied to any number of people.
There are many obstacles to overcome before Auto-narchy is implemented but size of
the population is not one of them. You asked: "What about the Constitution ? "
I suggest to leave details of a Constitution to those facing a situation where Constitution
is needed for actual running of the State. They will take into account circustances we
cannot foresee. One can propose a declaration of the basic principles of Auto-narchy
so as to provide a general idea what this system is about.
Auto-narchy is based on the principle of EQUALITY OF AUTHORITY of all people
in every domain of social life. To clarify this a bit more I suggest the following:
PRINCIPLES OF AUTO-NARCHY
Every citizen has the right to propose, and vote on, every political decision.
People represent themselves only. Representing others is illegal.
Every citizen has one vote, and only one vote, on every political decision.
All votes have equal weight. Majority decisions are binding.
Needs of the poorest must be attended before needs of the less poor.
Needs of the sickest must be attended before needs of the less sick.
Excepting these two, needs of the many must be attended before needs of the few.
Protecting species from extinction and Nature from destruction and pollution is compulsory.
All employees must have the right to propose and vote on every decision concerning their
All employees in a country, trade, or firm, can form employee autonarchies
of the country trade, or firm.
Employees at a site are the highest authority to decide matters of their site.
They have the right to veto any other decision concerning their site.
Teachers, students, and parents, have the right to propose and vote on the content
of their education and how they should be taught, on a national and local level.
At any educational site, staff, students, and their parents, are the highest authority
to decide policy and practice at that site.
Staff and students at an educational site can veto any decision concerning their site.
Students have the right to veto decisions by staff and parents.
Any minority, while obeying majority decisions, has the right to campaign for its
views and to propose - after a year - a new vote on previous decisions.
Any minority has the right to express its view.
Minority rights are irrevocable. They do not depend on the minority's views.
All cultural groups have equal cultural group-rights irrespective of their size.
People can be appointed to carry out decisions.
Appointees have no authority to make policy decisions.
They have authority only to carry out decisions of those who appointed them.
Appointees can be changed any time.
Each member of a family has equal authority in deciding matters of their family.
Obstacles to Auto-narchy are neither technical nor financial, but political, social,
and psychological. Auto-narchy is more democratic than any Democracy.
It is the ultimate democracy.
It gives people more political freedom than any other system by enabling them to live
according to their own decisions. Freedom means living by one's own decisions.
In society, work, family, freedom is limited by decisions of others.
Auto-narchy allows more freedom to more people than any other system.
Of the many objections to Auto-narchy I consider here two:.
Here are my answers:
- Is it desirable that all citizens decide directly all political issues ?.
- How can one prevent the 'Dictatorship of the majority ' ?.
1. There are many examples of majority decisions producing disasterous results.
Is it therefore wise to allow majorities to decide every political issue ?
Whatever the answer it cannot serve as a justification for any other political
system as there are examples of every decision-making system producing disasters for
the decision makers.
No political system can provide a guarantee against decisions
producing disasters for the decision makers.
We can leave aside unforseen factors not taken into account by the decision-makers.
Such factors will always emerge and cannot be avoided nor can decision-makers be
blamed for failing to foresee them. We must consider cases like, say, the majority
which voted the Nazis into power in Germany in 1933. The disasters
resulting from this decision were not brought about by unforseen accidents.
They resulted from the priority principle of a majority which put its own wellbeing above
the wellbeing of all others, and was willing to dominate, oppress, and exterminate 'inferior people'.
Such preferences by majorities, minorities, or individuals, can occur again in the future.
They prove nothing about a decision-making system.
The question that matters is :
Can disasterous consequences of decisions change
priority principles that led to such decisions ?
The possibility that decision-makers will stick to a priority principle that produced
disasters decreases as the number of decision-makers increases. A single person is
far more dominated by anxieties, obssesions, and fixations than a group.
Had Hitler's generals succeeded to assasinate him in 1944 they would have
surrendered long before he did thus saving Germany, and the rest of the world,
much suffering. Hitler survived the assasination attempt and due to his obssesion he
continued with a lost war for another year causing much suffering to Germany and to the
rest of the world..
Auto-narchy, based on political decision-making by all citizens, is
less prone to personal whims than any dictatorship, or representative democracy.
2. Majorities can do worse than err, they can try to oppress minorities.
Minorities oppressed by majority decisions will resist as best as they can, and
undermine the stability, security, and prosperity, of the entire society.
A wise Auto-narchy will introduce measures to safeguard minorities from oppressive
Laws protecting minorities from oppression and requiring a special majority to modify them
must be introduced. Minorities need laws protecting them from oppression by majorities.
A good example is the regime established by the ANC in South-Africa.
Having won an absolute majority in the last elections the ANC could have introduced laws
granting rights to blacks while denying them to whites.
This could have been done democratically, by majority vote.
Black racism would have been met by White resistance. This would have plunged
society into violence, insecurity, and instability, as in the former White racist regime.
Wisely, the ANC did not use its majority to grant special rights to blacks.
It created a regime where rights do not depend on colour of skin.
Auto-narchy must legislate laws to safeguard minorities.
An Auto-narchy will be viable, durable, and prosperous, only if it grants minorities
the same group-rights which the majority enjoys and desists from imposing the majority's
beliefs, culture, or language, on any minority.
In cases of differences between geo-cultural regions, as in the European Community, there is a point in creating a
federation of smaller Autonarchies rather than a single, large, Auto-narchy.
A system can be devised wherein some decisions are made directly by all citizens of
the federation while others are decided by citizens in each Autonarchic member of
the federation. The right of an Autonarchic member of the federation to veto decisions
of the entire federation must be ensured. Laws protecting minorities from majority
oppression enhance the cohesion of the Auto-narchy. Creativity in this direction can
produce a political system which its citizens will enjoy rather than just endure.
I'm sure I did'nt answer all your questions and probably created more than I answered.
Answers will be invented by people facing actual situations. No political party foresaw
the workers and soldiers councils in Russia in 1905 and 1917, they were invented
by ordinary people, so were the Action Committees in France in 1968.
I believe that unlike in October 1917 in Russia, when a politically fluid situation
was shaped by a sect into a preconceived mold and unlike the upheavel of
May 1968 in France when the situation was ripe for Auto-narchy but the technical
means were nonexistent, the next upheavel in a modern, industrialized, society will
have all that is required for a successful implementation of Auto-narchy.
It is possible to implement Auto-narchy first in one government department.
Lessons from this experience will be useful for implementing Auto-narchy generally.
The massive indifference to elections in the West today indicates the decline
of politics by representatives.
Political decison-making by representatives is a system whose time is up.
Democracy WITHOUT REPRESENTATIVES, AUTO-NARCHY, is the system whose time has come.