Archive for the ‘OccupyWallStreet’ Category

*I believe that The Occupy Movement is in danger of adopting Groupthink instead of Democracy. We have seen this movie over and over since the 1960’s and we no how it ends. If you have attended an Occupy Decision Making Council (General Assembly) then every word in this essay will be familiar to you. Freeman’s essay covers a period when consensus-based Radical Feminist groups purged their movement of Butch Lesbian and Male-To-Female Transsexuals. Consensus does not lead to reason. It leads to Groupthink.

The Tyranny of Stuctureless.  (Freeman, 1970)


Contrary to what we would like to believe, there is no such thing as a structureless group. Any group of people of whatever nature that comes together for any length of time for any purpose will inevitably structure itself in some fashion. The structure may be flexible; it may vary over time; it may evenly or unevenly distribute tasks, power and resources over the members of the group. But it will be formed regardless of the abilities, personalities, or intentions of the people involved. The very fact that we are individuals, with different talents, predispositions, and backgrounds makes this inevitable. Only if we refused to relate or interact on any basis whatsoever could we approximate structurelessness — and that is not the nature of a human group.

This means that to strive for a structureless group is as useful, and as deceptive, as to aim at an “objective” news story, “value-free” social science, or a “free” economy. A “laissez faire” group is about as realistic as a “laissez faire” society; the idea becomes a smokescreen for the strong or the lucky to establish unquestioned hegemony over others. This hegemony can be so easily established because the idea of “structurelessness” does not prevent the formation of informal structures, only formal ones. Similarly “laissez faire” philosophy did not prevent the economically powerful from establishing control over wages, prices, and distribution of goods; it only prevented the government from doing so. Thus structurelessness becomes a way of masking power, and within the women’s movement is usually most strongly advocated by those who are the most powerful (whether they are conscious of their power or not). As long as the structure of the group is informal, the rules of how decisions are made are known only to a few and awareness of power is limited to those who know the rules. Those who do not know the rules and are not chosen for initiation must remain in confusion, or suffer from paranoid delusions that something is happening of which they are not quite aware.


For everyone to have the opportunity to be involved in a given group and to participate in its activities the structure must be explicit, not implicit. The rules of decision-making must be open and available to everyone, and this can happen only if they are formalized. This is not to say that formalization of a structure of a group will destroy the informal structure. It usually doesn’t. But it does hinder the informal structure from having predominant control and make available some means of attacking it if the people involved are not at least responsible to the needs of the group at large. “Structurelessness” is organizationally impossible. We cannot decide whether to have a structured or structureless group, only whether or not to have a formally structured one. Therefore the word will not he used any longer except to refer to the idea it represents. Unstructured will refer to those groups which have not been deliberately structured in a particular manner. Structured will refer to those which have. A Structured group always has formal structure, and may also have an informal, or covert, structure. It is this informal structure, particularly in Unstructured groups, which forms the basis for elites.



*Occupy Wall Street is the biggest chance we have had to change society in half a century. Please let’s learn from history. Radical Feminists, Situationists, Autonomists, and Squatters all adopted the horizontal consensus model that is being used by Occupy Wall Street. It was a disaster. Consensus models bring Orwellian NewSpeak. It is not to late to institute transparent democratic structures. Please read this plea from someone who has seen this before.

via I cite: The Tyranny of Consensus –Mark Read.

The Tyranny of Consensus –Mark Read

The occupiers have inherited and adopted a decision-making process that has come down from earlier left movements and is lauded as the most democratic form of decision making. Of courser those who wish to see a more democratic society naturally gravitate to what has been billed as the most democratic way to make decisions.  Consensus is what the radical left has responded with, for generations.  Those of us that have worked within a consensus process model should know better by now, and we do a disservice to younger activists by allowing the myth of consensus-as-always-most-democratic to persist.  We were told that the trade off was less efficiency for more democracy, and this simply is not borne out by experience, and most of my long-term comrades have come to recognize this.  The only place where I believe that consensus process is genuinely more democratic than a majoritarian aka voting process is within a close and closed community of collaborators/co-habitants that have practiced the process for years.  In virtually every other instance it yields less democratic decisions and processes, not more.  The consensus process, when applied to large heterogenous groups such as the one at #occupywallst, yields hierarchies at least as persistent and pernicious as other forms of decision making, probably more. I, and many others, would argue that voting yields more truly democratic outcomes, if practiced responsibly and ethically ie requiring 75% majorities and allowing ample time for discussion.  In the current context the consensus process favors those that feel comfortable addressing crowds, and feel entitled enough to argue endlessly for their point of view. This does not describe most people, and these traits are most prevalent in people that come from privilege, particularly educational privilege.  I hate to coin a Nixonian term, but the “silent majority” are those that don’t feel such confidence.  For most people voting on something is the best way to ensure that they have a say in the outcome.  The very idea that a marginalized, or even just shy person should be expected to feel confident enough to participate in an alien and confusing process, much less powerful enough to block a consensus decision is just plain ridiculous.  So, in practice, the very people that are intended to be emboldened and empowered by a consensus process, are in fact marginalized and silenced.  They cede the floor to the loud and the confident and the certain.  That is not what democracy looks like. The other problem that many of us know all too well is the creation of “invisible heirarchies.”  These come about in large measure due to the cumbersome nature of the decision making process.  Consensus process simply does not scale well, and it becomes so inefficient that groups of people begin to take decisions on their own, because they are essentially forced into that position. This leads to problems of accountability, accusations of betrayal, etc… And for what?  A decision making model that falsely claims to be more democratic than voting? Many of us from earlier movements are very familiar with these problems, and yet too many of us uncritically jump on the bandwagon of consensus.  Without some hard headed honesty about this, the fetishization of consensus will damage any efforts to build a more powerful, broad and diverse movement.