Organisation democracy (was: Balance relationships with companies)

Bernhard E. Reiter bernhard at
Thu Sep 26 08:42:46 UTC 2019


Am Montag 01 Juli 2019 12:12:58 schrieb Paul Boddie:
> This reminds me of the still-unresolved matter of
> organisational democracy that was helpfully shunted over to the rogue
> mailing list only to disappear.

the question of "organisation democracy" in the FSFE has been discussed many 
times (over the ~18 years of FSFE's existence).

(From my perspective it has been answered so many times that it 
 is getting boring because arguments repeat themselfs,
 new arguments are rare. And without arguments people won't change
 their position.)

So a short summary from my personal perspective:
 * Democracy is "a system of government where the citizens
   exercise power by voting." The question is: who are the citizens?
 * FSFE is a social group (which "can be defined as two or more people who
   interact with one another, share similar characteristics, and collectively 
   have a sense of unity." backed up by a Germany registered association
   ("eingetragener Verein") and recognised tax charity to hold assets.
 * The association itself internally is governed by a membership
   assembly where votes are used according to the German association law
   You could call this "democratic" if you accept the members of the
   association to be the "citizens". If so we are fully "democratic"
   as the German courts and tax office monitor this.
 * It is normal to only accept members in a social group, if they share
   similiar goals (and matching personal behaviourial standards). 
   It is similiar normal for an association to only accept
   members if they share the constitutional goals. There is and cannot
   be a rule to accept everybody that is citizen in a country, aka real
   democracy, in an associations as this does not make sense for a social
   group holding on belive that wants to convice others. (As if the majority
   joins, it is the same representation that in the overal society, which
   already is reflected by the democratic government.)
 * To be able to hold and steer Free Software values for many years,
   FSFE was founded to rely on a number of trusted individuals (that
   originally FSF and Richard Stallmann approved of, and then let act in
   independency as a backup if they get in trouble somehow) in order to have
   long term stability. This was the reason the FSF* name could be used.
 * While everyone can easily join FSFE (as social group), the association
   is kept small, so that people individually know each other and can find
   a way to talk and come to an opinion over long term matters. But the
   association only facilities the work in many way. So the social group
   has a huge impact. But of course all social groups have power structures,
   so some people have more influence than others (just like everywhere).
   Introducing voting or more governance wouldn't change this.
 * There have been changes over the years in how many people join FSFE 
   and its associations, so it is discussed, things are tried. A long term
   trend ended as we found that people were not really interested in holding
   temporary seats in the association. So we are doing something else, to make
   it easier to join FSFE (both) and to promote and help Free Software.
 * FSFE (in both senses) has been growing (most time of its existance),
   more people, more diversity, more employees, more topic, contacts
   and obligations. Which is a challenge as personal contact between people
   is becoming more difficult and there is so much going on. 
 * This all is an ongoing challenge for 18 years and we are facing it.


FSFE -- Founding Member     Support our work for Free Software: | contribute
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