I’m going to try to tackle this post, because it gives some good insight into the issues with getting Assemblies to work.
I agree that not only the Assembly, but even the entire economic and sociological model that has been created through the Occupation is extremely powerful. It really is envisioning the society you want in miniature, and is a great petri dish for experimenting with new ways of thinking of the economy, society and democracy.
There are a couple of concerns though I have though with using the GA in its current state to make a credible claim that this can work on a national scale.
There are two issues.
1) I’m skeptical we’re really achieving true consensus. I know personally that some people are not hard-blocking due to (for lack of a better word) peer pressure. Now on the one hand by refusing to participate in the process they have no right to complain. However it’s also true that when these decisions were made there was not true consensus within the entire GA. In fact what you may end up having is a more subtle version of “tyranny of the majority”. I’m not really sure how you remedy this.
This is a problem with the process itself, and it is a problem I’ve definitely witnessed as well, both on the streams and in the Assemblies I’ve attended. It can be remedied to some extent by making sure the people doing facilitation and stack-keeping are good at their job, but those jobs are really hard. It is also important to constantly remind the Assembly that it is their job to ensure the process is maintained, because ultimately the process is more important than the efficiency of the system, and it is worth the extra 5 minutes to check and ensure a legit consensus has been achieved than risk glossing over people who are too intimidated to speak.
Another option is to introduce another layer of bureaucracy: the process-keeper, who is in charge of ensuring that consensus is actually given instead of assumed, and that the facilitator and stack-keeper aren’t inadvertently using their position to circumvent the process. The facilitator and stack-keepers usually have too much other shit to worry about to ensure a horizontal process anyway. Ideally, the Assembly itself should be looking after the process, but maybe designating a role for process-keeping might empower some people to take responsibility for it directly.
Either way, though, the process is vitally important for the legitimacy of the Assembly. Without the process, the Assembly has no power at all.
2) The bigger problem is that it’s one thing to build consensus when you have people who for the most part tend to share a general political tendency (in this case leftward). It’s another to achieve consensus when you have a truly
diversified range of opinions from all political perspectives. Until the GA truly represents the 99%, truly represents the general public, it’s going to be difficult for people to believe that this model can work on a more national scale. I think it is possible. But we really need to diversify the occupation for us to make that as a credible claim.
This, I think, isn’t a problem with the process so much as a problem with the makeup of the Assembly. From what I can see, there are really only two requirements for the individuals in the Assembly :
1) Honest participation
The first one ensures that people won’t keep mum when the process is violated.
The second one, which is far more important, ensures that all the members of the Assembly are working towards common goals. Solidarity doesn’t mean agreement or consent. It means we are willing to stand together for mutual benefit. The way you make alliances across partisan division is by recognizing shared goals and working together to accomplish those goals. The Assemblies work because each of its members, whatever they believe, want it to succeed.
So the problem you mention, about the diversity of views across the country, is only a problem insofar as the goals of the nation are not shared by all its members. This can happen in two ways.
The first way is if different factions have different, incompatible visions of success. I think that if there are genuinely incompatible visions of success about which no consensus can be achieved, then the Assembly must necessarily remain silent on those issues. The Assembly is only useful in those cases where consensus is possible. If some people like to wear blue shirts and others like red shirts, there is no reason for the Assembly to decide what shirts people should wear, but it should just embrace the plurality of shirts and try to minimize cases where the that plurality causes significant conflict among the Assembly.
I think the effect is to reduce the scope of things that the Assembly can decide on, which is ultimately a good thing. The Assembly is only there to address issues that pertain to the whole community, about resource management and safety and organization, and presumably those issues where consensus can genuinely be reached if we all recognize the importance of the issue. Say we need to build a road, but every proposal for where to build is met by opposition from that part of the community. This is a surmountable problem as long as all parties see the need for a road in the first place, and then it becomes a matter of discussion and negotiation to find a place for it. If we all recognize the importance of the goal, then we will try to work out minor differences in order to achieve that goal.
The second, much more sinister way is if some faction explicitly does not want the assembly to succeed. I don’t know what to do about this, but given the desire for unanimous consent in LA and other Assemblies, it would be incredibly easy for a malevolent voice to step up and shut down the Assembly process by blocking proposals and generally being a dick. It would be incredibly easy for a political operative to infiltrate an Assembly and completely divert and wreck the whole process. I don’t know what to do about this, though I will just mention that in a participatory political system, exile is the harshest possible sentence, and it might also be the only feasible way forward in extreme cases.
Also, while I definitely agree the current system is untenable, not just in terms of our democratic process but even our economic system (especially due to the huge economic crisis we’re going to face due to climate change), and we have to be looking at new political and economic models, I don’t see why we can’t also use the occupation to push for smaller reforms or proposals in the meantime. People are seriously hurting now. And I think we could do a lot of good if we use the occupation to push for things like not only financial reform, but things like much higher investments in infrastructure, education, and energy. All of which we should be able to achieve with bipartisan public support if polls are any barometer. I understand the concept that if you work within the system you are legitimizing that system. But while we wait for a new system to emerge, people will be suffering. Also, if we did make serious positive change using the system, that would also strengthen and give more credibility and respect to the movement as a whole.
I agree with this.