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Semiformalishmaybe

On the boundary of a cloud

One of the differences between OccupyPhiladelphia and OccupyBoston is a matter of process; Boston's GA process is generally more slow-paced than that of OccupyPhiladelphia. One of the ways this is manifest is that their notion of consensus has an emergency valve for a stronger kind of dissent; the kind that says "if you do this, I will break with the movement".

Both of these are clickable for bigger versions:



I approve of this in principle, but there is a problem: entryism. It's an established tactic in activism on any level, when you're a narrow-focus group and might make use of a diverse movement to carry your message, to enter it as a bloc, vote (or use whatever self-governance mechanisms are present) as a bloc, and do your best to take over the larger organisation, many of the members of which will either not care about the distinction between you and everyone else, and many of the rest will not see it coming unless they have a similarly strong narrower perspective they've been pushing the whole time. Groups can work (and do quite well) as a loose coalition of strongly-defined groups; America's political parties have always worked this way. Entryism is at its most destructive when instead of entering a group of moderately cynical rivals to try to carve out a space for themselves, it's practiced on a largely-undifferentiated trusting group without the habits of defending its perspectives, and without institutional/process safeguards to slow entryists sufficiently to let groups get their act together in time to adapt. We've seen this in real governments (closing days of the Weimar Republic, the Fourth French Republic), political parties, and various movements.

Would we have to worry if an organised group joined OccupyBoston and used its "block" process to prevent any decisions it didn't like? There is the majority-vote on whether blocks are principled; that's presumably aimed at guarding against this. Is it strong enough?

It's a pity that political systems have this property; if we could assume that people always vote as individuals and that no comprehensive doctrines will emerge, it's easier to make working processes and to have trust. Still, without comprehensive doctrines, we lose out on theory and learning; in practice, we must be cynical, guarded, and crafty unless we want to be a doormat. Hopefully we can manage to be principled at the same time.


I am strongly considering going to next year's Reason Rally. If we atheists are growing in number, we've not made much headway in changing American politics to where we can be acknowledged and our interests figured into political calculus. Hopefully, we can change that.

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