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Democracy for oligarchy

By Owen Paine on Friday January 25, 2008 10:31 PM

Noice how Father Smiff is so often pithish and to the point -- that is, when free of his sodomitic walt Mitty-ish daydreams... frolicking with a brace of mocha slave boys at his country villa... imagining the screams of bloody proscription haunting his neighborhood... er, where was I? At any rate Doc Smith asks us in a recent post "Whatever became of the people's own agency?"

Hell of a grand question. What has happened to direct mass action by the first world multitude?

Well, here's one avenue not crowded with a zillion heads wanting to be movers and shakers... our blessed union rank and filers. Most places these wage-clipped souls are being somehow co-opted by... mon Dieu, their own representative democracy!

An article I recently read somewhere (now alas misplaced) gives a nice MIT Sloan School industrial-relations take on this revoltin' development. Its upshot: a close examination of recent labor developments in Italy and Ireland suggests, contrary to conventional wisdom, that associative democracy, not top-down dictat, allows working class leadership the best shot at moderating rankers' "militant wage demands."

Yes, that's right, top-down self-perpetuating outfits, like unions spontaneously become over time, will ultimately lose the handle on job site level demands -- short of Benito and castor oil tactics -- only the steady injection of due and just process, combined with a fair airing of views, and, most importantly, one-member one-vote referenda, will lead over the longer haul to moderation negotiation and class harmony.

In short: "you piecards got to get the mates to do it -- voluntarily." That is, if you want wage increases to remain below the threshold of serious profit squeezery.

As we all too well know in our imperfect market world, for-profit managements, even just budget-constrained managements, have some degree of freedom to raise prices. So when profits are about to be squozen... yes, this triggers increases, and the increases spread through the system, triggering cost based increases, and then more wage reaction increases till nothing but wasteful inflationary spirals obtain. After all, you can't end up with 130% of the whole deal, now can you?

So profits and wages chase their own tails to nowhere, till the macro authorities (in grief or glee ) are forced to engineer a credit contraction, and let the burgeoning jobless sack eventually cool the fevered brow of wagery's rash ambition. Thoughts most foul indeed, eh?

More "democracy" is not the solution here, it's the problem. One vote per member, each equal to another, ends the rule of intensity. The will of the militant minority gets itself swamped by a flood of well meaning... just being realistic... don't give a shit cynical... apathetic... personal addictions-dominated and compulsions-distracted... exploiter-compatible go-along types.

The majority usually has the sense the pies laid out the reality, aired the debate fair and square, played by the rules and won anyway So hey "you hotheads, shut up and put up... you had your say!"

BTW obviously this works best the larger the unit involved -- i.e. national wage pacts, broad sectoral inclusions, etc. And better still, the more the lower cadre are beholden to the upper cadre, the more remote the peak of the outfit from the base, the more layers of hierarchy and yet the more direct and regular the voting in of the various layers of officialdom.

Yes, it will all work great, you'll have harmonics incorporated, so long as the mates' local "officials" can be fixed, of course, despite direct election from below.

But this is easy too, so long as this same on the spot leadership has a sense of investment in the institution and process, and as a result encourages due process to head toward stability and thus the correct moderated conclusion -- and persists in encouraging this sane calm open-minded posture even against red hot ragers. The haunch of the votin' rankers will generally vote in the reasonable compromise the profiteers require -- that is, the majority will vote yes to their own handcuffs and toxic pill packets. And alas they'll swallow 'em too, and prolly more often than not blame their subsequent pain on "can't be helped unforeseeable outside conditions."

The lesson for top level social engineer policy staff types is obviously the same institutional Rx for unions as the mind wizards prescribe for civil society as a whole: If you want unity of action at the top and at the same time willing pliability at the base -- use, errr, democratic centralism.

Heard that anywhere before?

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