Get rid of politicians? / Folkestone manifesto

‘Taxpayers fund radical anti-election lobby group’ read the shock horror headline in the Times (12 April). It was an article by two journalists about the Sortition Foundation that campaigns (as you might have guessed if you were familiar with the meaning of the word ‘sortition’) for political decisions to be made by people chosen by lot rather than by elections. This is something that is accepted by governments for at least advising them on some matters. Such ‘citizens’ assemblies’ are chosen by lot in the same sort of way that juries are in court cases. It was also practised in Ancient Athens. As such, it has as much democratic legitimacy as elections, despite what the article suggests.

The Sortition Foundation wants MPs to be chosen in this way. Which would of course eliminate the professional politician. A book by one of the Foundation’s founders, Brett Hennig, is called The End of Politicians. Naturally this wouldn’t be welcomed by the politicians. The journalists pointed out to one of the stupidest MPs, failed Tory leader Sir Ian Duncan Smith, that the foundation had been paid by the government to organise some citizens’ assemblies and got him to protest:

‘How could they award contracts and pay money over to such an organisation that wants to get rid of politicians?’

Getting rid of politicians might be considered a good idea by many. Being a career politician is a particularly unsavoury profession — trading on problems that people face and making a career out of making pie-crust promises to solve them. However, getting rid of them won’t solve those problems.

The Sortition Foundation argues that getting rid of politicians would make for better decision-making. ‘By removing elections’, one of its researchers is quoted as writing, ‘we remove the need for our representatives to court those with wealth and resources’. It wouldn’t, however, remove those with wealth and resources or their need to court political decision-makers.

The Foundation is assuming that in present-day society there is a common interest that a national citizens’ assembly — a ‘House of Citizens’ — would be better able to identify. But, under capitalism, there is no common social interest. Capitalism is a society divided into two basic classes — those who own the places where the wealth of society is produced and the rest who can only get a living by selling their ability to work for a wage or salary— with antagonistic and irreconcilable interests. In addition, different sections of the owning class have different and conflicting interests. MPs chosen by lot would still be subject to lobbying and influence by these sections and would not be able to overcome the antagonism of interests between the owners and the wage-working majority. Capitalist economic reality would give them no choice but to take decisions that gave priority to profit making and taking.

Choosing MPs by election is a better system for capitalism. It enables the support for differing sections of the owning class to be measured and for the section with the most support to have its way. As long as capitalism is in existence, it is also better from the socialist point of view since it enables the socialist movement to send its delegates to the law-making assembly that is the key to controlling political power. Sortition would get in the way of this as there is no guarantee that a Parliament chosen by lot would reflect the degree of support for socialism amongst the population or a majority for socialism.

This said, in socialism, where there would be a common social interest, there would be a wide opportunity to fill some posts by lot, maybe entire local councils, as one aspect of the participatory democracy that will be an essential part of socialism. But under capitalism it wouldn’t, and couldn’t, work as intended.

Homes for People, not ProfitsIf you ever need to see the brutal reality of capitalism at work, look no further than the new apartment blocks being built along Folkestone seafront.

According to a County Council report, parts of both the Harbour and Central wards of Folkestone are among the 10 percent most deprived areas of England*, so how many residents do you think will be able to afford the multi-million-pound apartments now being constructed in their front yard?

How many Folkestone residents got any real say in what the development would look like?

Of course, we already know the answer to those questions.

Like everything in the capitalist world we live in, profit is the only driving force. The only purpose in building homes under capitalism is that somebody somewhere makes a big fat profit. So despite the real housing needs of local residents, these apartments are not built for them.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain stands for the common and democratic ownership of the means of producing and distributing wealth in a global community without borders.

This means all of us will actually own the Folkestone Seafront. When we control the resources of the Earth – from the farms to the mines and quarries – nothing will stop us building the best quality houses, with real community participation, for the people that need them. Access to these houses and apartments will be free according to our real needs.

If we own everything, why do you need money?

Extend that to food production, clean energy, clean rivers and oceans. When we own the world, we will ensure that we live in harmony with nature. Taking what we need to live well and not destroying the planet in the name of profit.

That is why we are asking for your vote. We cannot fix the problems of poverty and conflict within capitalism. And that is why we stand for a world free from borders, free from wars over markets and trade routes – a world where our fellow humans are no longer forced to risk their lives to seek a dignified life.

This is a revolution. A world revolution. And it has to start somewhere – so why not Folkestone on Thursday, 4th May?

Next article: Cooking the Books 1 – ‘Woke capitalism’: a contradiction? ⮞

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