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[Please click here to read about an eyewitness account of a local assembly of egalitarians in revolutionary Spain around 1937]


by John Spritzler

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Note that what is advocated here is NOT simply decentralization, because feudalism and warlordism are forms of decentralized government but are NOT good. What is being advocated here is something very different. 


One of the novel things about egalitarianism is that laws are only made by local assemblies of egalitarians (to read how this works, click here). Does this mean that people can enact terrible laws somewhere and good people elsewhere are prevented from stopping that? No. This is discussed in the "Egalitarianism: What Is It?" page where militias are discussed: click here.


Does this mean that there is no large scale order, no large scale planning and coordination and cooperation?


No. There is nothing about egalitarianism that prevents or discourages large scale--even planetary--cooperation and planning. The question is not whether there should be large scale social order, but rather upon what should this large scale order be based.


There are two ways to achieve large scale order. The way that it is usually done today (though there are some interesting exceptions discussed here) is to base it on the invalid authoritarian principle. This principle says that a supposedly legitimate central authority or highest level governmental body (such as the American Federal government or the World Trade Organization or the International Bank, etc.) has the right to make laws (or policies) that everybody in its jurisdiction must obey whether they agree with the law or not, simply because it IS the highest level supposedly legitimate authority. Read "What Makes a Government Legitimate?" for discussion of the valid authoritarian principle as opposed to the invalid one.


The source of supposed legitimacy for the highest level governing body can be whatever persuades most people of its legitimacy. In some cases the individuals comprising the highest level governing body claim they have the right to make laws that others must obey because they were elected. In other cases these individuals claim to be the representatives of God. In yet other cases they claim to have the greatest grasp of Marxism-Leninism. Regardless of the source of their claim to legitimacy, these individuals (or in some cases a single individual) act as a dictator: their will (called laws) must be unquestioningly obeyed by everybody--like it or not.


Once the invalid authoritarian principle is accepted by the population, all that an oppressive class of people must do to dominate and oppress the population is to gain control of the highest level governing body. Once in control of this relatively small governing body, the oppressive class of people have total control over the entire population.


No matter how reasonable the source of supposed legitimacy of the highest level governing body, such a body can often be taken over by a determined class of oppressors and used for its oppressive purposes. We see how this has happened in the United States, where government that is legitimized by elections as being of, by and for the people has been effectively taken over by Big Money.

So-Called "Direct Democracy by Referendum" Is Not the Solution


Big Money or other oppressors can remain the actual power even when the government's supposed legitimacy is based not on the election of representatives but rather on one or more referenda in which all the millions of eligible voters in the large (not just local) region ruled by the government are able to vote on binding (must be enforced) questions.


For example in the state of Massachusetts in the 1990s there was a binding referendum on the question, "Should there be Single Payer Health Care in the state?" The only reason the "Yes" vote lost was because Big Money totally out-spent the pro-Single Payer folks and dominated the air waves with T.V. ads showing doctors, wearing stethoscopes and looking directly into the camera, warning that "If you vote for this it will destroy the health care system and you'll lose your health care." It was an outright threat, and it worked.

Because the invalid authoritarian principle (i.e., "You must obey the highest body of supposedly legitimate government") is followed in the United States, egalitarian Americans feel obliged to obey laws that are written, in effect, by Big Money. Read here how, likewise, the Bolshevik Party gained oppressive power over millions of people in the Soviet Union. See footnote * about another serious problem with non-local government by referendum.

Egalitarians will not be under the thumb of Big Money or other anti-egalitarian oppressors when they are able personally--in their local assembly of egalitarians at which anti-egalitarians are excluded--to discuss with their fellow egalitarians and then write the only laws they are obliged to obey.


The invalid authoritarian principle--even when supposed legitimacy is based on binding referenda--is the friend of oppressors. Until people reject the invalid authoritarian principle they will be sitting ducks at the mercy of any oppressor who gains control of the highest level governing body or who, equivalently, is able to make credible threats to the voters when there are binding referenda votes.

Voluntary Federation of Local Assemblies of Egalitarians Is the Solution


The way to avoid this problem is to reject the invalid authoritarian principle by deciding to create large scale social order on a very different principle: voluntary federation of local assemblies of egalitarians, each in a different local community**. Voluntary federation of local assemblies achieves order on a large scale by having higher level bodies (formed of delegates from lower level bodies) craft proposals (not laws!) for the lower level bodies to accept or reject as they wish. Back and forth negotiations between lower level bodies and the proposal-writing higher level bodies seeks to reach a mutual agreement among however many lower-level bodies are required to implement a given proposal.


Local assemblies of egalitarians thus send delegates (whom they may recall whenever they wish) to meet with delegates from other nearby local assemblies as a one-step-higher level assembly of delegates. These assemblies of delegates in turn send delegates (whom they may recall whenever they wish) to meet with other such assemblies of delegates. This process continues as much as people desire, possibly to national assemblies of delegates sending delegates to a global assembly of delegates. This process can exist in parallel for different kinds of things with some assemblies of delegates focused, for example, on economic or transportation order and others, say, on organizing events like the World Olympics.


At every level, when an assembly of delegates has accepted a proposal from a higher level assembly, it then offers this proposal to the lower level assemblies from which its delegates come. Back and forth negotiations again take place to try to reach a mutual agreement among the lower level assemblies on a proposal. Eventually the local assemblies of egalitarians are presented with a proposal and at this local level they either accept or reject the proposal. If they reject it then negotiations may continue. If and when enough local assemblies agree with a proposal to make its implementation possible, it is implemented. This is how people can develop mutually agreed upon proposals, on the scale of a region of any size no matter how large, even on a planetary scale if so desired. This is genuine democracy. And this is how egalitarians can make it extremely difficult for any oppressive power to end up ordering them to do what they don't wish to do.

While the Local Assembly is the sovereign power (no higher authority has law-making power) in its local community, people would likely have all sorts of smaller meetings of the egalitarians in particular places of work or very small residential neighborhoods for three purposes: 1) to decide how to do routine things, or decide to do new things, in their place of work or neighborhood that do not require additional support from the larger community nor conflict with its laws and policies; 2) to develop proposals to take to the Local Assembly; 3) to participate in voluntary federation with people outside of their own local community to achieve cooperation with them for some goal or purpose on a larger than local scale (as mentioned above) with the only condition that they must abide by the laws and policies determined by their Local Assembly.


* When a national referendum determines the law(s) that millions of people living possibly more than a thousand miles away from each other must all obey, then a serious problem is likely to occur. A law passed by a majority through a referendum might make sense to most egalitarian people in some local communities, while in a different local community, let's call it community A, with different circumstances that same law might very well seem to most good egalitarian people to be just wrong or crazy or inappropriate. What happens in this case? Does the national government tell the people in local community A, "Tough. You must obey the law." This is a recipe for the breakdown in the "direct democracy" system because of the great discord between good egalitarian people that likely results. On the other hand, if the national government says to local community A, "OK. You don't have to obey the law," then this means it's not really a national government based on "direct democracy by referendum."


** How large is a local community? The local community would need to be small enough so that everybody in it who supports the values of equality and mutual aid and who wishes to attend its local-assembly-of-egalitarians meeting can fit in the same room (or interact with each other satisfactorily in a "virtual online room" if people choose to meet that way.)


Today many conventions take place with plenary meetings of more than 5,000 people. In a community of 40,000 people (including children) it is likely that fewer than 1 out of 8 people would attend a given community's local assembly meeting, which would mean 5000 or fewer people at the meeting. There is no need for all 40,000 people in the local community to know each other personally, because what the local assembly meeting does is establish general principles (i.e., laws) and appoint committees to implement them.


If people wish to limit the size of a local community to much smaller than 40,000 people, that would be easy to do. If a community with 40,000 people wanted to, it could divide into, say, ten smaller communities of 4,000 people each, and each local assembly meeting would then consist of only around 500 people. Then these small assemblies would each send a delegate to a “regional” assembly of delegates and voluntary federation would be used to achieve order for the larger region of 40,000 people. Even much smaller assemblies are possible if people so desire.



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