Okay, sticking with the bch example, I believe whichever side won would have had that argument. But for the UASF and really dumb tactical errors on the big block side, bitcoin would have big blocks. Gavin Andreson was as OG a bitcoin guy as you can get, but he picked the wrong horse. Was he a part of the collective commitment? You can just say no, but the winners get to write the history.
I agree that it was a closer thing than the modern narrative suggests -- as you say, the winners have formed the story in a way favorable to themselves -- and it could easily have gone the other way. (It's a fun exercise to steelman the big block position, there are compelling arguments to be made there.)
I'd say that, in the early days of btc, there was a giant and (it later became clear) somewhat nebulous commitment as to what btc really was, at its most fundamental essence. Satoshi himself was unclear about this in the way he talked about it at first, which should be no surprise, since the essence of the system was revealing itself in the environment in which it found itself, and these things can't be foreseen in systems of non-trivial complexity. In the course of the blocksize war, the different commitments were crystallized, and in the end one held together better. In parlance bitcoiners seem to like, the commitment that held together became a Schelling point.
But many participants would have been happier with either, I'm under no illusion about that.
Yes. That's a good way of looking at it- Bitcoin's commitment was crystalized, and had essentially evolved. This line of thinking supports the idea that asking about a particular current controversy "what would Satoshi think" is irrelevant.
100%. It's also interesting to think of the power of Satoshi (or really, any prominent figure) in terms of coelescing these kinds of commitments; and how that changes with time, and the nature of the enterprise.
I expect that if Satoshi had returned six years ago (or whatever) like Gandalf the White, his opinion on the blocksize war would have had great impact. I suspect that if he returned, now, with a hot take on Ordinals, that it wouldn't matter much.