Some Assembly Required: Beyond False Conceptions of Democracy

By Two Toronto Members

Democracy is a term of primary importance to liberals and radicals alike, used as a means of justifying the legitimacy of their power or political position. Whether the ability of all citizens to make decisions extends only to allowing them to periodically vote for their leaders, or whether it reaches the perceived-radical level of people directly making decisions on issues that affect them, it is democracy nevertheless. Similar to politicians who justify the legitimacy of their rule by pointing to a successful election result, the left points to our positions being the will of the people – or at least it would be, leftists tell themselves, if the working class ever had the opportunity to make decisions for themselves.

In this radical race to the most-democratic democracy, anarchists claim that directly democratic structures are the best way for the working class to make decisions according to their collective class interests. As anarchist communists, we herald a federated structure of assemblies and councils who provide delegates carrying directly-determined mandates to higher-scale decision-making bodies as the ideal decision-making structure, both as a way to bolster the class in workers’ bodies under capitalism, and the way to run a post-revolutionary society.

With the prevalence of Occupy, and the successes of the Québec student strike being attributed to CLASSE’s federated general assembly model, the topic of direct democracy has in the past couple years reached beyond the realm of anarchist lip-service, and become a more broadly talked about concept in the media, on the left, within universities and amongst community organizing bodies. What remains unclear is the political content of these discussions. Are leftists just looking to legitimize their positions and actions, as any politician does, by saying theirs is the will of the people, or is a true anarchist position being put forward: a decision-making process that assists in building an empowered working class ready for militant direct action, and free of the hierarchies and oppressions that are endemic in the current capitalist liberal democracy? One of these is revolutionary; the other is not. read more