“In order to understand how civic assemblies function, one must understand the subtle, but crucial distinction between administration and decision-making power. Administration encompasses tasks and plans related to executing policy. The administration of a particular project may make minor decisions — such as what kind of stone to use for a bridge.

Power, on the other hand, refers to the ability to actually make policy and major decisions — whether or not to build a bridge. In communalism, power lies within this collective body, while smaller, mandated councils are delegated to execute them. Experts such as engineers, or public health practicioners play an important role in assemblies by informing citizens, but it is the collective body itself which is empowered to actually make decisions.

With clear distinctions between administration and power, the nature of individual leadership changes dramatically. Leaders cultivate dialogue and execute the will of the community. The Zapatistas expresses this is through the term cargo, meaning the charge or burden. Council membership execute the will of their community, leadership means “to obey and not to command, to represent and not to supplant…to move down and not upwards (in the sense of denying power-over).””

The above passage comes from an article in Roar Magazine written by Eleanor Finley which is all about the political system known as communalism. I like the way she explains civic assemblies here, distinguishing between administration and decision-making power. Good stuff!

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