Since the inception of Occupy Wall Street in 2011, most public assemblies and working or affinity group meetings have adopted a formal or modified consensus model for decision making. This consensus model, as many general assembly participants are by now familiar, required all decisions passed by a “General Assembly” to enjoy the unanimous (formal consensus) or 9/10ths (modified consensus) support of its participants. The goal of this consensus model was that of allowing all concerns participants might have around any issue to be decided by the assembly. In this situation, it is possible for a very small percentage of the collective group to “block” or table any motion brought before the body. Instead of an up or down vote, rejected proposals would require being refined and reworked until all objections had been addressed.
Many have questioned the operating premises of this consensus building model citing the ease with which the process can be hijacked, diverted, or taken hostage by participants not operating in good faith or with hidden agendas. Critics blame consensus decision making for contributing to the unnecessarily grueling and drawn out nature of OWS meetings, and a serious impediment towards growing the movement beyond activist circles.
It is with the intent of opening up the debate around one of the most contentious issues within organizing the Occupy Wall Street community, that we are publishing a point-counterpoint on the limits, perils, and/or need for consensus as a decision making philosophy within the future of OWS. Both articles are written by respected founding occupiers. We hope, in the following days, to broaden the conversation beyond our Wall Street organizing, and invite all of you to participate with your comments. Please share widely, please contribute, and above all, please keep organizing, in whichever model most appeals to your organizing group.
We have global unfettered capitalism to defeat, and that is going to be much harder to fight, if we are fighting over the model with which to organize.