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The following are comments on the content of the Collective Book on Collective Process.
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Most recent feedback is at the bottom.
10 Aug 2002
After reading the first Chapter, my overall impression is very good and
covers all the most important things I can think of--it outlines the
the issues and problems. My main criticism is that it is written often
"what generally happens." It might help collectives that are somewhat
functional if they were presented with a range of happenings, so they
more clearly find where they fit.
Another little problem is the use of the word "cult" which may be too
"Cult" is a word filled with connotations, many of them bad, and I can
imagine collectives disregarding some of the Chapters arguments because
the presence of that word. Just like how calling Bush a "fascist"
help to convince someone to not vote for him, even if Bush fits the
definition of a fascist--the emotional content of the word distracts
from the more important issues and gives them an excuse to not change
15 Sep 2002
Subject: Comments on book!
Fascinating material, and not just the obvious part on "creating
"leadership phenomena" that are repeatedly and variously described and
deplored are uncannily similar to those I've repeatedly encountered and
to expose -- e.g., in Queer Nation/SF, with Joe Van Es in the GLYNY/FBI
fiasco, and at the Long Haul, among other instances.
I have two points of disagreement with the authors, however.
First, I don't believe, as they apparently do, that these sorts of
can best be solved by creating and/or enforcing ever-more-elaborate
prefabricated) rules and
procedures; I believe that these can always (by definition) be
usurped by those in de facto control, especially in "mature-stage"
those in control have attained their status by being particularly
to that organization's matrix of rules, customs, rhetoric, and
the first place.
Second, I have a problem with use of terms like "bullying" that are too
the very terms used to describe what is actually merely awkward social
behavior (such as loud or emotional outbursts), while enforced
often operates with quiet decorum and a code of politeness (albeit
note elsewhere) that by nature is too readily conflated with respect
(especially readily, in fact, in the very situations where it's most a
problem). In my experience, those who are characterized most often as
"bullies" in the real world are usually awkward scapegoats or
the real menaces or usurpers are slick operators who manipulate "group
process" and group conformity from behind-the-scenes -- too smoothly
be called out as "bullies"! The result may be "bullying" of the group,
apparent mechanism often involves the silencing of people scapegoated
"bullies" or "disrupters who disrespect the group process"! The
in the book should more closely reflect this reality, rather than
Incidentally -- in a similar vein -- a dogmatic emphasis on
become a pretext for discrediting or disparaging (and thereby even
discouraging) people who take pride in the pursuit of excellence.
I believe that both of these problems stem from a desire to emphasize
importance of creating and maintaining egalitarian organizations and
institutions, even at the expense of what (I believe) should be a
prior recognition of the importance of personal freedom, integrity, and
faith. Without that recognition (and its non-hypocritical
believe all the rules (or organizations) in the world can only serve to
enhance the very sorts of hazards and abuses that the authors deplore.
We may be able to describe how "process" works when it works well, and
goes wrong when it works poorly -- but using such observations and
descriptions to create rules for "good process" may be merely a means
treating symptoms while driving the disease to a deeper, more insidious
The real problems involve direct affronts to our core values --
like power-seeking, hypocrisy, cruelty and bad faith. Such virulent
motivations -- and our opposition to them -- need to be addressed
(and our energies) shouldn't be diverted by focusing excessively on the
elusive peculiarities and mechanics of their ever-evolving
-- Mitchell Halberstadt
17 Sep 2002
Subject: hierarchies of expertise
many thanks for your important work.
I'm a non-geek in a computer/internet support collective who aim to
work consensually: Community Access Technology (CAT or cata@lyst).
Within it there is inevitably a great range of what can only be called
expertise. And a range of differing areas of expertise.
In the last paragraph of The Formation of a Ruling Elite, under "Power-
Sharing" at http://www.oocities.com/collectivebook/power.html you say:
"Egalitarian collectives require that everyone be informed about every
aspect of the organization's functioning and that each person have the
skills to perform any and all of the tasks involved..."
I'd very much appreciate some consideration in the collectivebook of
how this inherent contradiction, surely not rare, might be handled.
Not to detract from the value of what you have already written.
all the best,
-=~ -=~ -=~ -=~ -=~ -=~ -=~ -=~ -=~ -=~ -=~ -=~ -=~ -=~ -=~ -=~ -=~
The State is a condition, a certain relationship among human beings,
a mode of behavior. We destroy it by contracting other relationships,
by behaving differently toward one and other...
------ Gustav Landauer
21 Feb 2003
Subject: feedback from Toronto
I'm really glad to see this initiaitve. A wide discussion on these
issues is very much needed. Nobody in this city really knows what to do
in cases of serious conflicts (which usually involve both personal
issues and political differences) or in cases of sexual assault.
Sometimes people argue that due process is fine but NOT in cases
involving rape or sexual assault. The argument is that the woman's
should be believed and she should should not be subjected to any kind
process. The guy involved should simply be 'kicked out of the scene.'
The process for this--or lack of proper process--is the closed meeting
scenario that you describe very well in Booklet Two.
I don't agree with this. I think that it is in everyone's interest that
proper process is observed. Here in Toronto one person was accused of
not doing anything to prevent a sexual assault and not supporting the
assaulted woman following the rape. This was dealt with very poorly in
the community. And broken telephone gossip soon changed the story and
this person was now (wrongly) described as the rapist. People calling
themselves anarchists walk by his girlfriend in the street and say
outloud 'There's the rapist's girlfriend.'
Another argument used to deny any kind of process--this is usually used
in cases of political disagreements--is to spread stories that your
opponent in the debate is sexist, racist or homophoic. That means the
fundemantal issues are never debated, your opponent is shunned and has
little opportunity to have their side of the story heard. Incidently,
this abuse of anti-oppression politics has the side effect that people
become very unwilling to engage with these issues because they know
are often used to destroy other people. A discussion about racism--for
example--is not an occasion where we're all going to learn something,
but an occasion to destroy other people's reputations.
In this city there have been really serious conflicts that have divided
the community and wrecked people's lives. One of these conflicts dates
from 1998 and has still not been resolved.
Is the process to be conflict resolution or some kind of tribunal? They
would seem to be very different models. Conflict resolution seems to be
more about trying to heal a situation. A tribunal sounds more like
establishing the 'truth' and deciding on a penalty.
Another issue is how do you force people to participate in a process if
they refuse? Here in Toronto one serious conflict happened at a
gathering where there was an agreed upon process for dealing with
confllict but the organizing committee refused to participate in their
own process! Today we are now starting to include in ground rules for
our collectives and events (along with such things as consensus
making) that participation in the collective or event involves a
committment to conflict resolution in the event of a conflict or
incident. This has helped a little but the old style of 'justice' of
talking shit about people behind their back continues. (This is called
'triangulation' by conflict resolution people and is considered to be
People love to gossip. Or put another way, we need to think very
carefully about our personal motivations for being involved in
Is it to be 'popular' or the centre of attention, or to feel part of a
group? Most people are involved as activists in the USA and Canada not
because of extreme poverty or oppresssion but because of deeply
issues. This needs a lot of thought because, in my opinon, this is the
cause of much of the problem of groupthink and the lack of process that
09 May 2003
Sorry that I don't have any thing to give in return except - WOW! This is amazing, you guys rock!
I'm going to be starting a project soon based on communitarian views and will surely return for your booklets.
Part of the project is that sharing information is EXTREMELY important and follows similar ideas to open source/free software/ copy left and anything we use from others will be returned with sharing directly or indirectly in the creative ways that we express ourselves!
Peace & Love,
Recommended links sent in by readers.