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A Free Federation

category scandinavia / denmark / iceland | repression / prisoners | policy statement author Saturday October 26, 2013 03:57author by Adrien A. Wilkins - Motmakt (Counterpower) Report this post to the editors

Counterpower's recent transition to federative structure

The 19th and 20th of October, Motmakt (Counterpower) held its fall congress in Oslo. This congress was slightly different from previous congresses we have had. For the first time representatives from three local chapters were gathered, and the question was how we were to coordinate these chapters moving forward. The Second day of the congress Counterpower was formally founded as a federation. It's only proper that we explain what we mean by it and why we have chosen this way of organizing. [Norsk]
Fall Congress participants and observers smile for the camera
Fall Congress participants and observers smile for the camera


A Free Federation


The 19th and 20th of October Motmakt (Counterpower) held its fall congress in Oslo. This congress was slightly different from previous congresses we have had. For the first time representatives from three local chapters were gathered, and the question was how we were to coordinate these chapters moving forward.

The Second day of the congress Counterpower was formally founded as a federation. But what does that mean? Now that we are one, its only proper that we explain what we mean by it and why we have chosen this way of organizing. With this short article we hope to inspire others who wish to organize themselves as democratic as possible.

The one and only

A Federation is when separate units come together to form a new whole. When we talk about nation-states we usually mean separate regions coming together to form a state, like the United States. When we are talking about organizations we often mean separate organizations coming together to form one whole.

In Counterpower these units are now Counterpower Oslo, Counterpower Trondheim and our freshest chapter; Counterpower Bergen. The whole is now Counterpower the federation.

What makes Counterpower unique in Norway is how far we go to insure that the local chapters have as much autonomy as possible. In fact every active member have the same amount of influence both when it comes to influencing their local chapter and the federation as a whole. We accomplish this by coordinating the local chapters in a coordinating council instead of pooling the power in a central board or in work groups.

The coordinating council is comprised of delegates from each local chapter, who bring suggestions from the chapters to the council where the motion is discussed and made ready for vote. The vote itself is taken at a local level and it’s the vote at this local level that determines policy.

The Challenge of different sized chapters

Because we vote directly on the motions, instead of on who gets to decide over our heads, we realized that it would be necessary to weigh the local chapters’ votes in a way that recognizes the different size of the chapters but at the same time denies the biggest chapter the opportunity to decide the outcome of our votes through sheer size alone. What we landed on was making a system where each local chapters gets a designated amount of votes based on size.

Every chapter gets a certain amount of “federation votes” depending on its size. These votes are distributed according to the vote at the local chapter. If for example there are sixteen members present at a meeting of a local chapter with four “federation votes”, and twelve of these members vote for a motion and four against, that would mean that the chapter sends three votes for and one vote against the motion to the coordinating council.

As much autonomy as possible

Every chapter will manage 80% of its own members monthly payments. The remaining 20% will be collected in federation coffers which will finance the yearly congress as well as any national campaigns.

But direct democracy is not only about voting. If we want to keep the power with our membership then we need ways of preforming tasks without a central board or closed work groups. In Counterpower this is done by having several small and comprehensible mandates. Like all mandates in Counterpower all mandates must be rotated frequently, so important knowledge and experience is spread among as many members as possible. This also minimizes the risk of informal hierarchies developing as a result of one person holding a position too long. All mandates, including the delegates sent to the coordinating council are revocable in every forum of decision-making we have, so if a mandate needs to be replaced for any reason we won’t have to wait for the next congress to replace someone.

We are very excited about seeing how our federative structure will work in when theory becomes praxis, and have already planned a new congress summer of 2014 to evaluate and if necessary change the structure. One does not come far without trial and error, and one accomplishes little if one is not prepared to critically examine our system and choices.

Our motivation for doing this springs from our conviction that how we organize today will be mirrored in what we accomplish tomorrow. Former, non-prefigurative, movements have ended up reproducing the same undemocratic power-relations they were supposed to combat. With dire consequences. We must therefore organize ourselves in a way that corresponds with our visions of how a future society will be structured: Free, horizontal, and direct-democratic!

Related Link: http://www.motmakt.no
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