that self-management, or decision making input in proportion as one is
affected, is a core goal for a participatory economic movement, what demands
can we fight for today that will help move
us toward self-management tomorrow?
1. We can create workers and consumers
worker in some workplace or industry or each consumer in a neighborhood or
county to have a private opinion isolated from her workmates or neighbors will
accomplish little. Instead, to make joint decisions and seek new relations,
workers and consumers need to meet together to hash out their views, arrive at collective desires, and advocate
councils are local institutions workers and consumers use to pursue
collective agendas. As
a first step to creating worker and consumer councils, meeting
to discuss the council idea is a good place to start. Moving on to formalize council
rules and agree on a local program lays a foundation for workers and consumers
to seek changes regarding everything from wages and conditions to budgets and
investments, refining their agendas in accord with their on-going experiences.
2. We can democratize information
can’t make good decisions without access to
the information that informed decision-making depends on. If you have a right
to vote, but you lack information bearing on the options you face, the vote
becomes a charade. To participate intelligently, people need information about
the decisions that affect them. Efforts
to “open the books” in workplaces and regarding city, county, state, and
national budgets promote self-management. More, demanding that the information
be packaged in readily available and comprehensible ways, and the right to access
it during paid work-time rather than at leisure, also furthers self
3. We can democratize workplace
councils with informed members creates the possibility to struggle for gains around wages, conditions, prices, investments,
and all of economic life. But why should workers and consumers struggle anew
for their desires each time around? What about winning the right to impact decisions directly,
rather than only by virtue of a long, debilitating struggle?
workers councils (or unions) to mount a campaign to coerce decision-makers to raise wages
and improve conditions. And it is similarly good for consumers councils or
movements to coerce government to alter
its budget allotments and enact pollution controls. But it would also be good for either workers’ or consumers’ councils to meet as part of
their members’ normal daily responsibilities and calmly raise wages, improve conditions, or
alter budgets by virtue of their authorized power in decision-making, without
having to fight about it.
other words, in addition to winning gains via
council and union struggles, democratizing economic decision-making requires winning sanctioned power for councils in the actual
decision-making process itself. This can range from the modest gain of having
a council representative or two at industry or government meetings for
reporting purposes, to winning some voting rights at such meetings, to
winning full empowerment over and above any other sectors of the workplace or
government regarding economic decisions.
short, we fight
over conditions and other reforms, of course, but we also fight over the
nature of the contest itself, over the rules of conflict.
4. We can increase consumers’ power over
workplace produces and whether it uses one or another technology should not be
entirely decided by folks only inside that workplace, even if they are
organized into workers councils. Rather, such decisions also affect the
workplace’s consumers and its neighbors and those consumers and neighbors
should therefore have a say as well.
To incorporate all
actors proportionately in decision-making requires demands that increase
the power of those who are under-represented. For example, demands
for neighborhood oversight committees regarding the ecological and other local
impacts of a workplace are desirable, as are demands for consumer movements to
have a say over workplace decisions about products and prices.
These demands can lead to gains that benefit those in need and can
also expand consciousness, strengthen commitment, and develop new organization
for winning still more in the future.
5. We can democratize social budgets
Think of a
city deciding on its budget for education, sanitation, new housing, a new
health clinic, snow removal, or whatever else. Who is affected? All citizens,
of course. Who makes the decision? Elite elected officials pressured by local and national corporations
trying to maximize profit, of course.
toward more participation, progressive demands over the size or purpose of
items such as national military expenditures, state welfare programs, or local
county payments toward a new hospital are certainly good. But demands that make budgets
public and that incorporate workers and consumers
councils into budget decisions are excellent, too.
Indeed, as with
every component of participatory economic program, the overarching idea is simple. Demands that make conditions better for
oppressed constituencies are of course good. Then, if the rhetoric and
process of campaigns to win such demands also increases participatory economic
solidarity, understanding, and organization, that’s an important improvement. And
finally, if the campaigns can win not only better conditions, but a new playing field on which
it is easier to win still more gains, that’s ideal.
6. We can institute self management in our own projects and movements
we have a movement that argues forcefully and uncompromisingly that actors should impact
economic decisions throughout the whole economy in proportion as they are affected by those decisions.
Now imagine that in its own operations this same movement elevates a fund
raiser, a big donor, or someone with a lot of training to a position of power over a large staff or
even over a vast rank and file, removing most participants from proportionate
influence or even from any influence at all over the movement’s agenda.
is not a pretty picture. This
movement wouldn’t learn from and become educated by its own self-managing
experience, because it wouldn’t have a self-managing experience. It wouldn’t
serve as a model legitimating the efficacy of its demands, because it would
function instead like the institutions it opposed. It wouldn’t have a new practice
embodying what it preaches, but would instead have an old-fashioned practice
undermining its credibility to those it addressed. It wouldn’t be congenial
and empowering for all its members nor welcome their fullest talents and
participation, but would instead breed internal strife and bad morale.
these reasons, a very critical programmatic component of a
participatory economic movement should be structuring itself
to incorporate steadily more self management in its own operations. Movement
projects headed by a few but staffed by many that do nothing to democratize
themselves are poor vehicles for seeking self management in the broader
society they inhabit.