A Program Seeking Self Management
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
For each 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 preferred options.
Democratic 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
You 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 management.
3. We can democratize workplace
Having 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?
It is good for 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.
In 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
What a 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.
To move toward more participation, progressive demands over the size or purpose of particular budget 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 movementsImagine 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.
This 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 wouldnt 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.
For 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.