Lasserre: Sortition in politics – the false good idea, part 2

This is the second and final part of a translation of an article by Tommy Lasserre. The first part is here. Again, proofreading and corrections of the translation are welcome.

Sortition eliminates popular participation

While fewer and fewer Frenchpeople bother vote, the membership of parties evaporates, the feeling of powerlessness intensifies, the advocates of stochocracy seem to think that the new selection mechanism could revitalize popular participation. After all, since each person could be called upon to assume political responsibilities, or see their spouse, their neighbor, or their colleague be called to assume them, it is natural that they would grow interested in political questions. Likewise, the disappearance of the political caste would restore the enthusiasm which multiple betrayals have drained over the years. However, this argument in favor of sortition seems unconvincing.

First, everyone must know that the chance of finding yourself sitting in the assembly, or even seeing one of your acquaintances sitting in the assembly, remains extremely small. Using the proposal discussed in the introduction and considering the existing electorate, there are 45 million registered voters (that is without considering those who meet the criteria but are not registered, or expected population growth), the sample selected for exercising the sovereignty for the people in the assembly would represent 0.004% of the electorate. This means that each year only one person in 25,000 would be drawn. Of course, this is better than the chance at the lottery, but it must be admitted that the chances of knowing someone who was allotted remain tiny.

But above all, despite falling turnouts, we see that the French are never as interested in politics as when they are called to vote. Indeed, the elections remain today an important moment of exercising sovereignty. Of course, as demonstrated in the 19th century by a number of anarchist polemicists (Pouget, Mirbeau, Libertad…), this sovereignty is fundamentally illusory. It is nevertheless a fact that asking the French as a whole to make a decision, based on an evaluation of the proposals of each candidate, or even better, make a direct decision on a question through a referendum, still has a profound structural effect on the public debate.

Eliminating elections eliminates what little sovereignty that representative democracy permits. It is a representative system, so there is no direct decision-making, but the consultation process allows everyone to feel, despite everything, a citizen. Adding the fact that each French person has a tiny probability to know someone who was selected by lot, could you really think that stochocracy would be anything other than the death of citizenship and of popular participation?

Sortition eliminates politics and citizenship

Even worse, it can be legitimately thought that the arguments for statistical representation and the illusion that anyone could one day be allotted could be used to annihilate popular dissent. The conflation of the sample with the whole, which affects today the advocates of sortition, can be used to place all those who maintain positions against decisions made, who attempt to oppose a decision or to organize a popular struggle, in a position of illegitimacy, as opposing decisions supposedly made by the people, which in reality are made by a minute part of the it. The argument of the illegitimacy of opponents of elected government is largely echoed by mass media. In the context where the decision makers are part of the people and are conflated with it in the dominant discourse, it seems evident that whoever tries to oppose a law will confront this argument of authority, which is profoundly delegitimizing, that “this is how it is because this is how the people want it to be”, which of course would be an unverifiable claim. Therefore, stochocracy would in effect be the death of conflict, of the debate of ideas, the moving force of politics.

Let it be said: it is perfectly healthy to oppose political decisions, to oppose laws even after they were voted upon, to reject arguments outright, to reject basic principles, to confront their world views. Society is not a peaceful, consensual space, and politics cannot be so. By insisting on the legitimacy of a part of the people making decisions in the name of the whole, and so in effect on the illegitimacy of the whole in opposing the decisions made, the advocates of sortition, without malice, undermine the foundations of politics, creating a society where individuals become again more subjects than citizens.

Sortition does not protect against abuse by the decision makers

While all sortition advocates are in agreement in saying that this system would put an end to corruption, grounds for substantiating this idea remain thin. And for good reason. What person, who was selected by lot, could not be bought? For our opponents, the elected today betray their ideas in order to assure the support of influential financial supporters and opinion makers. However, the voters are the final choosers. If a person is prepared, because of narrow interests, to betray their constituents, and in this way risk provoking their displeasure, Why would someone who was not elected on a platform, and therefore not having to answer to anyone about his positions, and moreover being in office for an extremely limited time before returning to his everyday life, not put his personal interest first and support some project in exchange for a hefty check? Because of idealism, because of self-denial? Such expectations ignore the fact that a person is primarily a product of society, and that self-denial and idealism are frankly not the pillars of existing society; or that because sortition creates a sample that is representative of society, the majority of individuals could, in an economic systems based on the lure of profit, could be bought with difficulty.

But even if we accept that the allotted, galvanized by the task they were selected for, are revealed as incorruptible and play the game earnestly, the fact they would be politically inexperienced, far from being an asset, risks them being in a position where they are manipulated by interest groups. Indeed, we must not forget that society is not a place of social harmony, where everyone defends the general interest. Social or environmental legislation, for example, are of great interest to a dominant class which could exert ideological pressure in order to steer the choices of the assembly made of allottees, who do not know each other, and completely oblivious of these maneuvers, much more easily than with individuals who are experienced with such practices and maintaining a certain loyalty to their base, or at least to their party line. A person extracted from civil society, isolated and confronted with unfamiliar duties, regarding matters which he doesn’t fully understand, could be manipulated with ease and in record time by a lobby which has developed extremely sophisticated language tools and communication techniques, regardless of his degree of honesty.

This also brings up a theory of a fundamental fault of stochocracy advocates: thinking that allotted decision-makers cannot be manipulated is a symptom of the fact that they think that all our troubles are caused simply by the malfeasance of a group of individuals and forget that determining weight of the economic infrastructure organizing life in society.

Sortition denies the division between classes

The state apparatus, as it has gradually been formed, is, remember, one instrument among others of bourgeois rule. But modifying the way it functions does not necessarily imply a break with the bourgeois order. If there is something that capitalism has demonstrated well over course of the centuries is its ability to adapt. Giving the illusion of a society where consensus could exist, where allotted proletarians and bourgeois could come together to build together an ideal society, sortition advocates deny the existence of diametrically opposite interests, which are linked with the nature of the classes of society, and which govern political choices today. This denials cannot but serve the interests of the dominant class, which always engages in class warfare while trying to hide its existence from the majority in society. A society based on the illusion of social compromise and on a diminishment of political conflict is the dream of the bourgeoisie. We think we have demonstrated that stochocracy goes entirely in this direction. Of course it is unlikely that the dominant class will defend the idea of stochocracy, since the existing system suits it well, but if that was the only way to escape a real revolution, both political and social, don’t doubt that it will accommodate to it perfectly. It is vital today to consider radical changes to institutions, but this change must be guided by a materialistic worldview, and not by an approach that could be satisfactory from a purely philosophical point of view, but which ignores the actual power relations at play. With a view to ending the crisis, a proposed political system must allow breaking the back of the dominant class, and to give power to the social majority, not aim for a social peace that is impossible while class differences exist.

This is the reason why, now that we have more or less completed the discussion of sortition, it is important to start considering together a democratic system which fights together with the oppressed and which is inspired not by an idealization of the Athenian democracy, but by the experiences of the revolutionary workers movement.

Toward a democracy in the service of the social majority

As should be clear from the above, the fact that we oppose the false alternative of sortition does not imply that we are fierce defenders of the existing system. The real democracy, power by the people for the people, being wielded without being passed to representatives, did not remain in a state of untouched utopia as it was formulated 250 years ago by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. A number of intellectuals, incomparably more talented and interesting than Etienne Chouard, examined this question. Thinkers such as Pierre Kropotkine, Anton Pannekoek, Hannah Arendt, Cornélius Castoriadis, Claude Lefort and Daniel Guérin, whose works can be found without too much difficulty. But above all it is possible to find specific experiments, always fighting with great ferocity with the powers that be. To do this, there is no need to go searching for flimsy examples from the coast of British Columbia or useless neighborhood councils (examples demonstrating the fact that stochocracy can be contained within capitalism), it is enough for us to consider our own history: our social class, its struggles for emancipation and its revolutionary experiences.

We also find the assumptions of direct democracy of the French revolution and the reversal of monarchy within the structuring of the enlightened pre-proletarians, the famous sans-culottes, in their popular societies, before they were broken up by a central authority worried about losing hold of the revolution. We find the idea in the anti-authoritarian current of the International Workers Association. It was practiced in the Paris Commune. In the revolutionary syndicalism. In the Russian soviets of the 1917. In the revolutionary workers councils born during the attempted revolution in Germany and the Spartacist uprising. In Spain, of course, land of anarcho-syndicalism, in the collectives of Aragon, in the factories on Catalonia, and in the committees of the anti-Fascist militias. More recently, during the workers struggles of the 1970’s, at LIP for example, or in the coordinating bodies of the nurses or the postmen in the 1980’s, in the students’ general assemblies and coordinating committees in the 2000’s, or in the pension struggles of 2010, where coordination of general assemblies based on direct democracy was experimented with. Of course, these latest examples are primarily references to simple defensive struggles, as opposed to the Commune or to the Russian or Spanish revolutions, where the question of the organization of the city[?] was posed explicitly. But is that a reason to underestimate them? After all, the partial struggle, aiming for the satisfaction of immediate demands, may very well be “revolutionary gymnastics” allowing the experimentation with forms of social organization pre-figuring future society. And since the individual is oppressed by capitalism, this form of direct democracy is often found, sometimes very spontaneously, within collective movements of resistance and of construction of alternatives, always based fundamentally on a common set of tools:

  • The general assembly, or popular assembly, or revolutionary council, the basic decision-making body, gathering the people and allowing to debate and make decisions collectively.
  • The coordinating committee, a grouping of individuals appointed by the general assemblies to discuss the points of view of various general assemblies and and make decisions that apply at a large scale.
  • The binding mandate, assuring that the people appointed to participate in the coordinating committees, designated democratically by their general assembly, respect the position taken by their designators.
  • A-posteriori control and recallability, allowing the immediate sanction of those betraying their mandate.
  • The rotation of tasks and mandates, allowing avoidance of professionalization and the withholding of information.

Of course, these are no more than basic principles. The goal of this text is not to deliver a ready-made, state-scale system of direct democracy. We simply want to insist that there exist tools for creating a real democratic system, which is not a utopia. Without doubt there remains a lot to create, or to perfect, for example considering the ways in which new technologies can be used to facilitate the task such as those that today allow our Spanish comrades from Podemos to have a debate and a vote by 15,000 people simultaneously. Nothing is fixed, everything is to be made, preferably together. Perhaps the ideas developed in this paragraph are out of date, and other people will have better proposals.

Democracy is possible, even if it is complicated, and demands much of us. We need to start by not being distracted from our aspirations by ready made solutions and hazy concepts that have nothing for them other than their originality (as if every original idea is necessarily a good one), born the in the brains of intellectuals who are no doubt brilliant, but at least as disconnected from the real world as our politicians are.

Advertisements

23 Responses

  1. Lasserre’s criticisms of (poorly-designed models of) stochation are persuasive, apart from:

    >the advocates of stochocracy seem to think that the new selection mechanism could revitalize popular participation.

    I don’t make such a claim (and I’m not aware of any advocate of stochation who does), so this is a straw man. Stochation would be fully compatible with what Constant referred to as modern liberty.

    My own stochation proposal answers Lasserre’s other criticisms:

    >Sortition eliminates politics . . . annihilate popular dissent

    Yes, this is why it is essential for sortition to supplement, rather than replace, electoral representation.

    >Why would someone who was not elected on a platform, and therefore not having to answer to anyone about his positions, and moreover being in office for an extremely limited time before returning to his everyday life, not put his personal interest first and support some project in exchange for a hefty check?

    Agreed, sortition only eliminates ex ante corruption, there is a real danger that allotted representatives could easily be bought. That’s why they can have no role in introducing or arguing for or against a legislative proposal — all they can do is listen in silence and then vote in secret.

    >the fact they would be politically inexperienced, far from being an asset, risks them being in a position where they are manipulated by interest groups.

    Yes, that’s why balanced advocacy has to be provided exogenously and why there has to be a complete separation between lawmaking and administration.

    >A society based on the illusion of social compromise and on a diminishment of political conflict is the dream of the bourgeoisie.

    Yes indeed, and despite being a self-acknowledged bourgeois conservative, I find this equally troubling. Hence the need to maintain the agonistic political process (aka electoral democracy) alongside the new stochastic juries. Both Aristotle and Machiavelli would have described this in terms of class-based politics and that’s fine with me.

    Like

  2. Sortition is not an alternative to democracy. It is a means for getting the most vicious element in society out of power and replacing them with more humane humans.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Arthur,

    I remember well how in your book you viewed political leadership as a form of psychopathy (or whatever the PC word is now). That’s certainly true in some cases — and it was certainly Machiavelli’s view — but I think to condemn all public servants in this way is taking it a bit far. Your view would certainly chime with a lot of sortinistas who argue that it doesn’t really matter who gets allotted as the 99% will predominate, but I prefer a more fine-grained perspective on representativity. I think also that the sonofabitch theory (“he may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch”) also applies to electoral representation — voters want politicians who will act in their interests, and don’t care particularly how “humane” they are.

    Like

  4. Keith wrote:
    >”Hence the need to maintain the agonistic political process (aka electoral democracy) alongside the new stochastic juries.”

    Yes we need stochastic juries and agonistic presentations…but this is not particularly helped by elections of party candidates with a somewhat arbitrary laundry list of positions… Better to have agonistic presentations focused on each particular issue at hand, rather than propping up a party for electoral reasons. But further, this leaves out the THIRD useful element. problem solving deliberation. Deliberation certainly will NOT always find win-win compromises, but under the electoral scheme (even with a silent stochastic jury), there is NO attempt to seek out such higher order compromises, as they interfere with demonizing the other party. Thus (as I see it) we need all three legs of that stool (not carried out by the same set of individuals) 1.deliberation to seek optimal proposals, 2. agonistic argument for and against those proposals by well informed advocates and 3. stochastic juries to make the final decision. And elections only poison the process by elevating electoral imperatives above the public good.

    Like

  5. Terry,

    In my model political parties morph into simple advocacy organisations, alongside parallel mechanisms for the introduction of legislative proposals. As legislative juries will be appointed on an ad hoc basis, there will no longer be a need to put together arbitrary laundry lists, as winning parties will not be forming a government. They will be arguing to a particular jury on a particular law, not seeking a general mandate.

    I agree that problem-solving deliberation is sacrificed in this agonistic vision of politics. But I believe there are other ways of establishing the epistemic benefits resulting from cognitive diversity (crowd sourcing, knowledge markets, public competitions, citizen initiatives etc). And any group that wishes to convene for this purpose (for example John Burnheim’s voluntarist demarchic committees) can still do so although, as a civil society initiative, they will receive no statutory privileges. They need to exert their influence by persuasion, just like other agents in the public sphere. John is very clear in his new book (due out early next year) that demarchy is for the public sphere not the machinery of governance.

    Like

  6. Keith,

    I acknowledge that some of my objection to electoralism is actually focused on winner-take-all systems as in the U.S. and U.K., and that the severity of the harm done by elections would be less in a fully proportional voting system. But there still is a clumping of issues within a party platform that forces voters to pick and choose which issue they care to be represented on and which they have to sacrifice. For example, if a voter is anti-abortion, pro welfare state, anti-gay rights, pro racial equality, pro free markets, anti military, pro immigration and anti-private education, no party is likely to represent this voter. That is why advocacy should be case-by-case with the best pro and con arguments sought out by those who favor and oppose a piece of legislation, not by parties. And of course there is the added problem that political parties choose to ignore certain issues as impolitic, and elevate almost trivial hot-button issues.

    Like

  7. Terry, I’m not arguing for PR — my vision of the political party in the sortition age is simply an organised advocacy group. They will come and go like the rising and falling of the tide (on the basis of how sound their proposals turn out to be with the benefit of hindsight) and there will be no difference in principle between a political party and a single-issue advocacy group. So I don’t think we’re that far apart on this issue. And even if a party has put together a laundry list, they have to get each manifesto proposal past a new ad hoc jury on every occasion, and the jury will vote on the merits of each particular issue, as there will be no pork to trade.

    Like

  8. >The conflation of the sample with the whole … can be used to place all those who maintain positions against decisions made … in a position of illegitimacy, as opposing decisions supposedly made by the people …

    It seems ironic that a statistically-representative legislative body — assembled on the grounds of greatest democratic legitimacy — could become the worst collectivist ‘dictatorship of the majority.’
    Would the courts be the only bulwark?

    Like

  9. David,

    Yes – I think this is rather a black-is-white kind of argument: “because the government is perceived as democratic then it would delegitimatize dissent.” If we accept that then seemingly we should be aiming at a government that is perceived as non-democratic. That makes no sense.

    In general, I presented Lasserre’s arguments here not because I find them convincing but because I find them interesting. I plan to write a response/refutation post some time in the near future.

    Like

  10. >If we accept that then seemingly we should be aiming at a government that is perceived as non-democratic.

    Not so. In current democratic legislatures dissenting minorities (aka Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition) have formal representation (with their own allocated benches), so dissenters continue to have their advocates in the forum of the nation. They also have good grounds to believe that, if their parliamentary representatives oppose in an effective way, that it may well be their turn soon, and swings in the electoral cycle tend to bear this out — especially in FPTP electoral systems. There is no formal equivalent in randomly-selected assemblies, so minorities may well feel illegitimate. The UK has only one MP for the Green Party and one for UKIP and both MPs feel that when they speak they are standing up for the dissenting minorities that they represent (and are treated with appropriate respect by their peers and the media). That would simply not be the case with random selection as each allotted member has no formal representative status whatsoever. Note this would not be the case with assemblies that allocated a certain number of seats to selected minorities (ethnic, religious, gender, sexual orientation etc), but that is orthogonal to the principle of stochation.

    >It seems ironic that a statistically-representative legislative body — assembled on the grounds of greatest democratic legitimacy — could become the worst collectivist ‘dictatorship of the majority.’

    Ironic, but true.

    Would the courts be the only bulwark?

    Yes.

    Like

  11. > [In an electoral system] dissenters continue to have their advocates in the forum of the nation

    Obviously the same would continue to be true with an allotted chamber.

    > They also have good grounds to believe that, if their parliamentary representatives oppose in an effective way, that it may well be their turn soon

    If the dissenters manage to change public opinion, and of course public opinion has changed over the years on many issues, then policy would change. In other words, again, nothing changes materially in this respect.

    By the way, your arguments are not the ones given by Lasserre. To him it is the fact that the allotted chamber can credibly claim to represent the people that makes dissent illegitimate. This argument in fact demonstrates an anti-democratic mindset in which the majority can dictate not only policy but also the range of allowed opinion. It seems that in attacking sortition Lasserre betrays some of his own anti-democratic leanings.

    Like

  12. Yoram,

    My concern is with the formal status of advocates and the resulting sense of perceived legitimacy. Nobody can doubt that Caroline Lucas speaks on behalf of Greens or Douglas Carswell for Eurosceptics, even though they are both lone voices, crying in the wilderness. Proxy representatives can make no such claims as, individually, they are only speaking for themselves.

    >To Lasserre it is the fact that the allotted chamber can credibly claim to represent the people that makes dissent illegitimate.

    I do agree with Lasserre (and David?) on this point. The only output of the allotted chamber is the final majority decision, and at this point dissent has been overruled. The representation involved is an aggregate function and there would be no analogue for the above (Lucas/Carswell) example. The proxy relationship only applies at the collective level and the collective has decided against the views of its dissenting minority members. Majoritarianism cannot check itself, other (liberal) mechanisms are necessary — i.e. formal roles for opposition spokespersons and constitutional safeguards, including the courts. That’s why full mandate sortition is illiberal. Although Lasserre would not describe himself as a liberal, the concerns that he expresses here (protection of dissenting minorities) are impeccably liberal.

    Like

  13. > The only output of the allotted chamber is the final majority decision

    Why would that be the case? I presume you imply that allotted chamber discussions and votes would be secret. Yes – another good reason to have things in the open.

    Like

  14. The proceedings can be as open as you like, but randomly-selected persons only speak on their own behalf, nobody has chosen them, and they have no formal representative status. They can’t even claim to represent discourses (in the Dryzek sense) as no attempt has been made to ensure equitable representation of different perspectives. Randomly-selected persons only speak for themselves, so dissenters (i.e. who lose out in the final vote) will have no representation or protection. Indeed, a reductio of your own proposal might even see dissenters fined, imprisoned or put to death at the behest of their allotted peers, as you dismiss all constitutional safeguards as undemocratic. “Democratic” law courts provide no protection for human rights, as Socrates found to his cost.

    Like

  15. You are back to your usual sloganeering. Not worth a substantive response.

    Like

  16. Huh?

    Like

  17. *** If Lasserre’s essay is useful, it is first as a compendium of criticisms against democracy-through-minipublics; but presented with the most possible content of bad faith, of rhetorical tricks (« I will not say » – and he says), of fuzzy assessments (the French language changed since Montesquieu, without examples; if it is the word « démocratie », the extension of the word was not an ideologically innocent linguistic evolution, and I am here a « purist » who wants to come back to classical lexicon !), oblique un-truths (about sortition in Athens he forgets the juries which were one the two basic organs of the Second Athenian democracy) … Manipulation is everywhere.
    *** But there is something more interesting: I think Lasserre is a good example of logics of the « leftish anti-dêmokratia revolutionaries». For we must not mistake: his explicit discourse against sortition is (as often) actually based on an implicit discourse against dêmokratia, which sometimes comes to the surface.
    *** Especially revealing is his comment about corruption: he does not think that « because sortition creates a sample that is representative of society, the majority of individuals in an economic systems based on the lure of profit, could be bought with difficulty. ». If the majority of a sample of 2000 persons could be bought without difficulty, it is because the average citizens are already morally corrupted by capitalist ideology. Dêmokratia will be then a good regime only after the cleaning of citizens minds by the revolution – and when the revolutionaries will consider the cleaning efficiently carried out…. It is a line different from the rightist line, where there is no temporal hope (in religious version, the men being corrupt since the Original Sin, dêmokratia is an absurd dream), but practically, the anti-democratic conclusion is the same.
    *** Waiting for the revolution to come, these revolutionaries actually prefer polyarchy to dêmokratia, because its legitimacy is weaker; they think, rightly, that the « electoralist indoctrination » is much weaker than the « democratic myth ». This is a very logical line, at least if we think that in the more advanced Western societies there is some possibility of proletarian revolution guided by militant revolutionaries. Clearly the elites do not harbor any fear of this kind. Their discourses are not anti-proletarian, they are « anti-populist »; without a precise identification of likely dangers for the polyarchic system, but with an obscure fear of the loss of control of the elites on the average citizen’s minds.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Hi Andre,

    I agree very much with what you wrote. The argument about how sortition might delegitimize dissent, for example; seems like projection: the kind of thing that a Marxist regime might do (“Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State”).

    Do you know if any sortition advocate responded to Lasserre?

    Like

  19. *** I did not answer to Lasserre, because I saw this article late and because it is a big work, any line needs refutation. And such amount of bad faith is unpleasant to study.
    *** Among the comments in the blog I found few interesting, except one by Gilbert Pouillard who exprimes fear that democracy-through-minipublics would heighten the strength of the “class” of high civil servants and “experts”, which seem to be especially powerful in France.
    *** I will try to follow better the French discussion, but I am busy finishing a book with my brother on other subjects, and it uses much time.

    Like

  20. >> *** I did not answer to Lasserre

    I was thinking of Chouard or one of his supporters. But the article by Clément Sénéchal that I linked to above seems to make similar points, so maybe Chouard’s response to Sénéchal would also make a response to Lasserre. I’ll try to see if I can understand that exchange.

    Like

  21. *** Sénéchal’s essay is more or less a watered down version of the Lasserre’s essay, without the amount of bad faith and rhetorical tricks so unpleasant in Lasserre’s ; but less interesting, as less revealing.
    *** As far as I know, Clément Sénéchal is an intellectual follower of Mélenchon’s party, the « Parti de Gauche », a leftist populist party, kind of mirror of the rightist populist party of Marine Le Pen, the « Front National ». They are declared enemies, but, curiously, their institutional proposals are much alike; both say they want a more democratic republic, with changing of the political class, proportional representation, and wide use of referenda. Therefore keeping the electoralist-representative model, and rejecting sortition.
    *** Mélenchon represents a kind of blending of French revolutionary tradition and of practical acceptation of the polyarchic system, with his party as « populist » force inside this system. His love for Robespierre is logical, as Robespierre was both one of the first theorist of « representative democracy », for the future constitutional government, and the main Jacobin leader, for the provisional « revolutionary government ».
    *** The « populist » parties hope to use the growing disconnection between the average citizens and the established political elite, to substitute at least partially this elite; they are afraid that the loss of control of the average citizens’ minds could divert popular feeling towards modern dêmokratia, i.e. democracy-through-minipublics. Therefore the « populists » are, logically, among the fiercest enemies of sortition.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Since Paul Lucardie, author of Democratic Extremism in Theory and Practice, commented on his position in the first part, I’ll comment on Tommy Lasserre’s article here.

    Before I do, though, here are my participatory democracy bullet points:

    ==========
    1) All assemblies of the remaining representative democracy and all councils of an expanding participatory democracy shall become working bodies in continuous session, neither parliamentary talking shops nor rubber-stamping bodies, being legislative and executive-administrative at the same time and not checked and balanced by anything more professional than universal, full adjudication by commoner jury that dispenses with judges altogether;
    2) All political and related administrative offices shall be assigned by kleros (random selection or lot) as a fundamental basis of the demarchic commonwealth, since the elections of such would be in fact oligarchic in the classical sense;
    3) All political and related administrative offices, and also the ability to influence or participate in political decision-making, shall be free of any formal or de facto disqualifications due to non-ownership of non-possessive property or, more generally, of wealth;
    4) All jurisdiction over regular socioeconomic politics shall be materially transferred to sovereign socioeconomic governments directly representative of ordinary people – separate from structures responsible for high politics, security politics, and all other related state politics;
    5) All political and related administrative offices shall operate on the basis of occupants’ standards of living being at or slightly lower than the median equivalent for professional and other skilled workers – based on appropriate compensation and expense allowances, on mandated loss of other occupations alongside employment transition programs for occupants leaving office, and on other measures; and
    6) All political and related administrative offices shall be subject to immediate recall from any of multiple avenues, especially in cases of abuse of office.
    ==========

    Being who I am politically, I cannot help but actually agree with Lasserre’s point about class distinctions. Raw sortition alone is not a panacea for class divisions. I also cannot help but disagree with his other points, because councils are not a policymaking panacea for workers’ expropriation of the full political power of a ruling class.

    “The general assembly, or popular assembly, or revolutionary council, the basic decision-making body, gathering the people and allowing to debate and make decisions collectively.”

    Does this body meet in continuous session? If not, then by meeting only every few months at best (traditional councils), it cannot effectively hold subordinate bodies to account! The worst-case scenario, of course, is that it becomes a de facto rubber-stamping body.

    “The coordinating committee, a grouping of individuals appointed by the general assemblies to discuss the points of view of various general assemblies and and make decisions that apply at a large scale.”

    At least here Lasserre seems to acknowledge problems with the council pyramid structure where there are more than two layers of councils (i.e., Moshe Machover for his own criticisms).

    Now, of course, if the coordinating committee is instead the central executive body at the social scale, then it is this body that wields the real power (1871 Committee for Public Safety, 1917 Sovnarkom, etc.).

    “A-posteriori control and recallability, allowing the immediate sanction of those betraying their mandate.”

    I actually agree with this, which coincides with my sixth bullet point. This is, after all, one of the two classical planks of worker-class power that Engels outlined (the other being my fifth bullet point). However, the author does not place reasonable, representation-based limits on recallability. In more extreme forms, delegation would allow recallability on the basis of politico-cultural opposition to delegates having facial piercings or inappropriately funky hair, the kind of personalized mob rule that participatory democracy, demarchy, etc. should avoid.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: