Discouraging Joint Leadership Statements

part of Post-ISO Reflections: Essays and proposals on democracy and organization

We need to get rid of joint leadership statements, documents, and proposals.  Some people think that joint leadership statements are an extension of democratic centralism – the leadership must move and speak as one.  However, just because an entire organization is democratic-central does not mean that all of its sub-units must be.  Instead, they should reflect the disagreements across the organization.

When a leadership issues joint statements, whether it intends to or not, it has effectively begun to act as a faction within the organization who campaigns for its specific position on most questions.  Many organizations consciously reject that model, but unconsciously practice it because they make joint leadership statements as a regular, not exceptional, practice.  Of course this is entirely rigged and unfair because the leadership is tightly-organized; in fact it is often paid to organize itself as its full-time job.  It already effectively exists as a faction, often in environments where other factions are discouraged or disallowed.

When the leadership makes joint statements it precludes democracy from the start, because the leadership also administrates the debate it is now taking a side in.  If you can’t understand why that’s a problem, spend more time on the Left.

The culture that follows is predictable.  The leadership makes a statement or issues a document.  Pretty much everyone after that is divided into good supporters/intelligent comrades, who agree with the statement, while those who disagree are problems/threats to stability, or even worse, thought of as not even understanding the leadership perspective, when possibly they understand it even better than the leadership does – understand it all too well.

What’s horrible, though, is not the fact that this categorization happens, but that this categorization is imposed mainly by the rank-and-file.  Yes, the leaders may argue hard.  Of course people will stand up for their own opinions, including the leaders!  But when the leaders all march lock-step with an internal party line of the leadership, imposed collectively on the leadership by its own small majority, the rest of the room seems to pretty much always follow suit.  The leaders both essentially own the room, as well as say the same things (or disagree but engage in complicit silence, for fear of rocking the boat/losing their position/violating this absurd interpretation of democratic centralism).  Anyone articulate, dissenting, and brave enough to put forward an alternative perspective that is complete and intelligent, not rudimentary and easily-dismissed, has probably either been pressured out or moved on of their own accord by this point.

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