Saturday, July 25, 2015

Is Unity a Democratic Organization: Unity Caucus and Democratic Centralism

I'm following up on my recent post: How Unity Caucus Uses the District Reps to Control.

I have much more to say about this as a way of explaining how Unity Caucus and other groups operate. On the surface, groups that operate under democratic centralism are democratic internally but all agree upon joining to adhere to the decisions of majority rule. Not outrageous - except when Unity considers itself the UFT and tries to force everyone else in the UFT who are not Unity members and did not sign on to dem cent to follow that in the mass organization - the UFT itself -- and that has been a tactic of smaller groups controlling larger mass orgs - stifle dissent by labeling it undemocratic - we voted, the majority won, not shut up and follow along. Except that they manipulate democracy in the UFT.

I also maintain that Unity itself is not a democracy but top-down -- there are votes but people vote the way they are supposed to. Shanker, Feldman, Randi - make basic decisions and people follow -- Mulgrew may be allowed to make a few of his own. Then they use the Unity cadre to impose those decisions on the rest of the UFT.

Here is a comment sent to me by email:
Democratic centralism seems to be a very idealistic principle. It claims to resolve an apparent contradiction of opposites. A diversity of perspective, emphasis of thought and idea wonderfully coalesces into an agreed upon unity of plan for collective action. But doesn't this idealistic principle ultimately morph into an actual reality on the ground that is far more specific and commonplace? 

Doesn't idealistic democratic centralism morph into either majority rule and/or consensus democracy (more or less what MORE does), or in the case of UNITY and some groups, rigid democratic dictatorship for either left or rightest policy? With the latter, you can forget the nice centralism. It's absolute conformity or be socially excluded, eliminated or demonized, and, in its extreme form, bodily assassination. 
Politically divergent dictatorial, totalitarian and subversive organizations have morphed into democratic dictatorships from socialist democratic centralist idealism? Meanwhile it amazes me how organizations manage to put group-think blinders on their followers. 
Actually ICE is a consensus group while MORE is a majority vote group - and I think not just a simple majority vote but something more than a majority for important issues. I think simple majority rule can cause deep splits in groups when the minority just misses.


  1. We are involved in a David and Goliath struggle despite greatly outnumbering our oppressors. Democratic centralism, consensus and simple majority are not the primary issues. Our challenge is to awaken the masses of teachers who refuse to glance beyond their closed classroom doors. In my little corner of the world, teachers I have considered friends consistently avoid acknowledging the forces we are fighting. They fall back on platitudes such as thinking positive and we leave teaching when we choose. As long as the tidal wave has not hit them, they remain complacent, The reformers are secure in their analysis of teachers' political ineptitude and lack of foresight.

    Abigail Shure

    1. Absolutely!! Most teachers live in a bubble!

  2. But when your own union leaders are often on the other side, or neutral, we are fighting a 3 front war. How can we awaken the masses of teachers when the major way to reach them is through the union and they lock the doors to voices of dissent? In fact they themselves can't or won't awake the masses and they are resistant to being woken up because they really have no voice -- the lack of democracy is a major obstacle.

  3. I think the fate of Occupy is an illustration of what happens when there is no centralism in a leadership (I stress in a leadership, not in the union as a whole which, as we see , becomes dictatorial if it is demanded of a union as a whole) There must be a balance between centralism and democracy with an elected leaderships major role being to protect democracy in the union.


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