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the assembly of the Russian Mir or village community as described by Wallace."
The meetings are held in the open air ... and they almost always take place on Sundays or holidays, when the peasants have plenty of leisure. . . . The discussions are occasionally very animated, but there is rarely any attempt at speech making. If any young member should show an inclination to indulge in oratory, he is sure to be unceremoniously interrupted by some of the older members, who have never any sympathy with fine talking. The assemblage has the appearance of a crowd of people who have accidentally come together and are discussing in little groups subjects of local interest. Gradually some one group, containing two or three peasants who have more moral influence than their fellows, attracts the others, and the discussion becomes general. Two or more peasants may speak at a time, and interrupt each other freely — using plain, unvarnished language, not at all parliamentary - and the discussion may become a confused, unintelligible din; but at the moment when the spectator imagines that the consultation is about to be transformed into a free fight, the tumult spontaneously subsides, or perhaps a general roar of laughter announces that some one has been Successfully hit by a strong argumentum ad hominem, or biting personal remark. In any case there is no danger of the disputants coming to blows.
The village elder is the principal personage in the crowd, but to call to order those who interrupt the discussion is no part of his functions. He comes forward prominently when it is necessary to take the sense of the meeting. On such occasions he may stand back a little from the crowd and say, "Well, orthodox, have you decided so?” and the crowd will probably shout, Ladno! Ladno! that is to say, “Agreed! Agreed !” Communal measures are generally carried in this way by acclamation; but it sometimes happens that there is such diversity of opinion that it is difficult to tell which of the two parties has a majority. In this case the elder requests the one party to stand to the right and the other to the left. The two groups are then counted, and the minority submits, for no one ever dreams of opposing openly the will of the Mir.
The chief improvement that has been made in this procedure is the regulation of discussion to the end that it may be kept to the point and not be smothered in confusion and disorder.
1 Wallace, "Russia,” pp. 116, 117.
How far general assembly makes for a free organizing of wills
XXIII depends upon a number of factors:
a) To what extent is the assembly protected from disturbance, Formal interruption, or intimidation ?
of Will b) Is it in the power of anyone to dissolve the assembly against its will?
c) Can it consider any matter? Or may it consider only such matters as are mentioned in the summons or are brought before it by the summoners?
d) Is the assembly convened for the purpose of ascertaining the wills of the members as to a matter, or in order to make known and win support for a policy which has already been decided upon by the head men?
e) Who may speak? Only officials, chiefs, or distinguished persons; anyone invited by the presiding officer; anyone called out by the assembly; or anyone " recognized " by the presiding officer?
1) Is discussion ample and complete before a vote is taken?
g) Is the prevalent will expressed by cheers, shouts, or clash of weapons — which method expresses intensity of conviction as well as numbers — or by registering the wills of individuals?
h) In case voting is viva voce instead of by ballot, is the order of voting haphazard or according to age, rank, or other mark of distinction? This is important because in the latter case the early voters may have an influence upon those who vote later.
i) Does a majority vote decide or is unanimity requisite as it was in the ancient Russian town assemblies and the Polish diet?
VARIETIES OF WILL ORGANIZATION As the matters to be settled become numerous or technical, Abandonthe method of always taking “the sense of the meeting" becomes Certain
Matters too burdensome, so that a board will be chosen to make minor to a Board decisions for the group, major matters still being reserved for the general assembly. These men may be granted power for only so long as the majority of the members are satisfied with them, or for a stated term. If experienced management and continuity of policy be essential to the prosperity of group affairs, and if the superior fitness of certain members for handling these affairs be evident to all, the group may clothe them with authority for a
Relation of the
the Execu. tive
long term or for life and cease to reserve certain fundamental
matters for popular decision. Relation
In case an association becomes large and the membership scatAssemblies tered, the periodical convening of all in general assembly has to be to the Represen. given up. The local assemblies sometimes take turns in lookAssembly ing after the common concerns of the entire society, as was the
practice during the early years of certain British trade unions. Then delegates are sent by these local assemblies to sit in a deliberative body which acts for the entire group, save perhaps in certain reserved matters. When the delegate becomes member of a permanent body during a fixed term and speaks for his constituents on all matters that may come up, he becomes a representative and the group comes under representative government.
With the officials who execute or serve the will of the group, Represen- this representative assembly may have various relations. It may sembly to appoint them, or they may be the choice of the group membership.
It may mark out their sphere, or they may have a sphere independent of it. It may make laws which they are to enforce, adopt policies which they are to carry out, or it may leave them for the most part a free hand, contenting itself with granting money according to its degree of satisfaction with their conduct. In the case of a hereditary executive, claiming rule as a matter of inheritance or of divine right, the representative body may serve as little more than a forum for free speech where the “state of the country” may be discussed, grievances ventilated, and criticisms brought to the attention of the government.
In short, the will of an organized group may be derived directly and in the simplest way from the wills of the members, or it may be so independent of them as to be able to defy them or to mold them at pleasure. The members may decide everything, they may decide only certain fundamental matters, they may decide only who shall decide, or they may be powerless with respect to quondam agents who have come to be their masters.
Now, what is it that determines how the will of a group shall be organized ?
HOW THE COMPOSITION OF THE GROUP DETERMINES ITS
It depends for one thing on how the group is composed. Is membership in the group a matter of free will? So far as asso
ciation is voluntary, there is a curb to the overriding of the
XXIII wishes of the rank and file by the head men. Arbitrary, high
Authority handed action may provoke so many withdrawals as to weaken or Moro break up the group. It is because one cannot quit civil society at will that in political government persist abuses of power which Civil Gov
ernment would never be tolerated for long in a voluntary association. Than in The cheapness of travel, however, has made population so mobile tary Asso
the Volun. that by migration people react in a very noticeable way to local diferences in the excellence of government. This imposes, no doubt, a certain check upon the irresponsible use of political power. In case quitting the group entails a serious sacrifice, members The More
Essential will be slow to resent the unauthorized exercise of power. There- the Organ
ization, fore, the more solid and obvious the advantages an organization the More offers, or the worse the lot of the man who stands outside it, the Helpless Is
the Indi. more patiently will the members submit themselves to a will not vidual
Member their own. The doctrine, “No salvation outside the Church," reconciles the devout to the control of a hierarchy. The vows of a religious order hold the brothers in line with the policy adopted by the head men. In China, where " the craftsman who is not a gild member is as one exposed to the wintry blast without a cloak," the deference of the member to gild authority is very great.
Much depends on whether or not a society is in its formative jeriod. A young society, holding out to the public rosy prospects rather than realized benefits, will be ostentatiously democratic, for it must be able to convince the inquirer that the members control everything, that there is no "inside ring," and that every penny officials spend is accounted for. One of the forces which savored the extension of political democracy in the L'nited States during the period of settlement was the sharp competition among young western states to attract settlers. On the other hand, a society that has a good record of service Governing
Cliques and has accumulated property, prestige, reputation, or other Flourish
in Old and valuable assets, will attract members even if it denies them an Successful immediate voice in its management. This is one reason why old
ciations and successful associations are free to develop a government as centralized as their affairs may require, whereas young associations must be democratic whether or not their affairs prosper under democracy. It also helps to explain why an old associa
Members Makes for the Concentration
tion is liable to become the prey of a small governing clique.
When the members of a group differ little among themselves Natural
in experience or intelligence, none of them is plainly marked Inequality Among the out to govern and hence the head men will be limited in power
and held to account for their official acts. In reform associa
tions, social clubs, professional bodies, and learned societies one of Power never finds blind submission to the dictates of the executive
council or board. But in religious orders, religious sects, and communistic groups, the great inequality among members in respect to wisdom, fervor, and vision often lodges mastery in the natural leaders. If, however, such individuals have ample opportunity to act upon and lead the opinion of the rest, they need no large grant of authority, seeing that they bring their superiority to bear through influence rather than through power. This is why a community under direct membership control may still be guided by its best men. Sam Adams, working within that purest of democracies, the town meeting of Boston, came nevertheless to be known as the master of the puppets,” and “the king of the caucus.”
Manifest integrity inspires trust and a willingness to confide power. It is possible that the decline of interest in local civic assemblies, which has become so marked among Americans in the course of a century, and the disposition to leave everything to the local board reflect a growing confidence in the honesty of the fellow-citizen. Conversely, one reason for the “almost pure democracy" of the Chinese craft gild appears to be “the deeprooted distrust of delegated authority or agency which is constant
in every Asiatic mind.” 2 All Large The shift from direct democracy to a representative system tions Must may come about as a consequence of mere growth in membership.
When an assembly includes more than four or five hundred, ora
tory and crowd-feeling are apt to run away with good judgment. Represen.
Advocates of sane and conservative policies are often hissed System
Make Much Use of the
down, rational deliberation is easily upset. The history of the ekklesia, or general assembly of Athens, shows what happens in a gathering so large as to induce in both speakers and hearers the theatrical spirit. At this point it is necessary to form a small representative body to take over all questions which cannot be answered by a simple “ Yes” or “No." The town meeting gives
2 Morse, “The Gilds of China," p. 12.