Saturday, February 23, 2008

Amongst many other interesting topics now having a hearing over at the new anarchist discussion board 'The Anarchist Black Cat' is one that I found of particular interest. 'Issues Surrounding Consensus' can be found under the 'Map Making' section, and it's new but already gathering quite a few intelligent comments. Consensus, for the uninitiated, is a process of decision making whereby a meeting and discussion continues (and very often continues and continues and continues and continues) until a "sense of the meeting" ie an agreement that all can subscribe to is finally reached. The late Murray Bookchin particularly disliked this sort of thing and wrote against it frequently. Molly's own experience with it is that is is an open invitation for the sort of personal manipulation that the New Class left is so famous for. It is also totally inappropriate where the issues being discussed are of any real importance and especially where there are real political differences that don't deserve to be argued into a false oblivion, only to resurface later (often at the very second when exhausted participants finally and mercifully exit the stage of the all too long meeting). In addition to this it gives huge power to salaried "professional leftists" and those amongst us with no jobs nor family (and with exceedingly strong bladders ie coffee drinkers are penalized). But all this and more is coming up in the discussion over there. Here's the introduction that started the debate...
" After a discussion got going on consensus (as the "default setting" for anarchist organizations, to steal Rogue's phrase) on another board, I decided to collect some stories and write a piece on it. Anyone willing to share stories about consensus? In what conditions and contexts has it worked? In what conditions and contexts has it not worked? Why? This isn't going to be a big sociological treatise or anything, but I would like some concrete experiences to evaluate and use as real world examples. I started collecting them about two weeks ago and, so far, I've only got a few responses that are usable. Ideally, I'd like to collect a decent number of stories before I sit down to read and write...So, if you're comfortable sharing a full story on consensus--good or bad--and don't mind me asking some probing questions and quoting you in a piece I'm working on, it'd be a huge, huge help. Feel free to e-mail me:, PM me here, or just tack something on to this thread.Thanks!"

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