Newsletter of the Society for Democracy including Random Selection (SDRS)
Incorporating updates for the Campaign to Defend the Right to a Secret Ballot (CDRSB)
10th December 2010 Issue No. 5
ISSN 1756-4964 (Print)
Second Conference on International Electoral Standards Preparatory Statement
The centennial anniversary of the 1918 UK General Election can provide an appropriate occasion to convene the Second Conference on International Electoral Standards. The First, 2006 Conference focused on the unlimited use of absentee (postal) ballots and was convened by the Campaign to Defend the Right to a Secret Ballot (CDRSB) at the UN in New York. The 1872 UK Ballot Act was designed to protect this right by requiring that voters be officially witnessed to cast their vote in secret at polling stations. Postal ballots could only be used in the UK throughout the 20th century by voters unable through absence from home or illness to cast their vote in a polling station. In this way employers and landlords were prevented from demanding that their employees and tenants vote under their scrutiny. Unlimited use of postal ballots undermines the right to a secret ballot: it also leads to an increase in electoral fraud (see the 2006 Conference Report on www.sortition.com).
The CDRSB was formed in 2002 to oppose such practices. Most, if not all parties in Northern Ireland also oppose them. The unlimited use of absentee ballots was introduced in Oregon in 1992 and since then in over 20 USA states together with several European countries, including the UK. It is the Left who are the chief advocates of reforms aimed to encourage voter participation by lowering standards of integrity in regard to the electoral process. In 1918 it was the ‘forces of conservatism’ who sought to distort the verdict of the electorate by their refusal to recognize a General Election result which gave Sinn Fein 70% of the votes cast in Ireland and correspondingly probably the most legitimate basis in world history to form an independent republic.
The second conference on international electoral standards may accordingly focus on what the first conference recognized to be the main underlying cause of electoral fraud and malpractice: the conflict between conservatism and radicalism. As the chief impediment to global democratic progress this conflict must be addressed and resolved. Its origin may be traced to the birth of modern democracy and most especially the American and French revolutions.
Most conflict in the last two centuries arose ultimately as a consequence of the failure to fulfill the aspirations of American revolutionary radicalism in the regulation of inherited wealth and the development of non partisan forms of political participation and decision making. This failure may be attributed principally to two main factors: first, the incompetence of French revolutionary radicalism; second, the insufficient strength of American revolutionary radicalism in overcoming single-handedly the forces of global conservatism following the French defeat.
American radical leaders upheld consistently democratic aims based on a competently scientific understanding of the relation between political philosophy, consent and common sense. French radicalism had less understanding of this relation and instead relied largely on the prescientific Machiavellian belief that force and will are the prime levers of political change. The reasons for these shortcomings are rooted in the comparatively more backward level of French and European social and political development. The outcome of these difficulties was that the aspirations of American revolutionary radicalism have never been fulfilled and democratic development has been impeded in the following areas: first, on the relation between taxation and inherited wealth; second, on the principle of ongoing systemic change; third, on the development of jury forms of political participation.
The French defeat led to the development of confused, ultimately totalitarian modes of political theory within radicalism, none of which has been able to provide satisfactory leadership. At the heart of these difficulties is a persistent failure to distinguish between those truths which are self evident to common sense and those truths which can be derived from the self evident by means of empirical verification and practical experiment.
Marxism is the chief expression of such confusion. It represents a failure to properly study and incorporate the methods of American revolutionary radicalism based on common sense realism. In consequence, in betrayal of the American example, Marxist strategy has been based primarily on the use of force, not consent, presupposed by a narrow, monosystemic conception of democratic progress. Moreover, the justification given by Marx against prioritization of inheritance tax as likely to provoke a repressive backlash from the propertied classes while at the same time advocating dictatorship as a necessary goal of leftist strategy remains, at best, unconvincing. Marxism is a deeply flawed, unscientific and antidemocratic theory of change, as is also its closely related, equally monosystemic cousin of Fabian socialism. Both rely on force as their chief instruments of political action either by use of ‘revolutionary violence’ and dictatorship, or through deception.
Democratic progress may therefore best be assured by reaffirming the main achievements and aspirations of American revolutionary radicalism. These are first, the Bill of Rights as constitutional safeguard against government tyranny; second, the principle that the earth belongs to the living in its implications both for ongoing systemic change and the taxation of inherited wealth; thirdly, the further development of sortition by way of the jury form of democracy.
The development of sortition as a complementary form of election and appointment needs to be developed both in regard to its merit in promoting egalitarian methods of democratic participation and also in regard to its merit in helping to constrain the influence of factions, most especially secret factions, on the political process. Suspicion regarding secret factions gripped the public imagination in the formative years of the American republic and led to the formation of the American Antimasonic party. Such fears were exploited by extremism in World War Two, and remain of continuing importance in the modern era. Since the demise of Marxism in both its openly Leninist as well as its dictatorial, Stalinist expression career Leftism has increasingly favoured the secret factional methods of Fabian strategy: stealth, spin, infiltration and deception. Obama, Blair and even Saul Alinsky’s Tory disciple David Cameron are leaders who have all acquired somewhat suspect reputations in this context.
The European Union is largely a product of such tactics and is based on an assemblage of numerous treaties, constitutional claims and so called ‘human rights’ laws which are remarkable only by way of the fact that despite their voluminous complexity their authors have still managed to exclude from them virtually all provisions of the US Bill of Rights, the most important instrument in the history of the world in regard to the security of a free state. For these reasons the CDRSB placed an advert in the Irish Times opposing the European Treaty in the 2009 Irish referendum. Against this background greater use of sortition can help develop a less partisan form of deliberation and decision making complementary to present forms of parliamentary representation but better suited to providing more open, honest, trustworthy judgements on long term systemic change based on practical results, not secretively preconceived, ideologically driven wishful thinking.
If general agreement can be reached in regard to these goals then conflict between radicalism and conservatism may be better contained within the parameters of peaceful constitutional development properly protected against the threat of factional monopolies and attempts to promote tyranny by stealth. These parameters may facilitate multisystemic options in which socialist and capitalist forms of economy can be tested upon an informed but also substantively impartial foundation of democratic participation.
Such agreement would have positive implications both for the developed states and the developing world. Negative consequences of the conflict between radicalism and conservatism have included failure to establish cooperation between these factional tendencies upon a global scale for purposes of disarmament and rendering assistance to developing states. Corruption and indeed chaos reigns in many regions of the globe largely because the left is in principle opposed to capitalist development and will take any opportunity to frustrate conservative gains or stability in these regions even, and in fact quite usually, when this involves providing support for tyranny, terrorism, or both. Mass migration to the West to escape the resulting conditions of political instability and poverty in the developing world is seen as advantageous to the left because it destabilizes the cultural integrity of the advanced capitalist states and presents greater opportunities for electoral malpractice.
It is against this background that the ongoing refusal of the British government to obey the verdict of the people given in 1918 must be viewed. The significance of the centennial anniversary of this event lies in the possibility which it affords for reaching general, honest agreement between radicalism and conservatism such that democratic progress may be pursued upon a basis of constitutional understanding which can satisfy left aspirations for systemic change and the redistribution of inherited wealth while at the same time preserving choice and strengthening safeguards against tendencies towards factional monopoly in government and the development of tyranny by stealth. This of course would have major implications for the Irish question itself: in short, it could provide the basis for general government recognition of the 1918 election result in conditions of global agreement in which such concessions to radicalism by conservatism are no longer seen as the thin end of a left totalitarian wedge.
If you would like to be kept informed of preparations for the Second Conference on International Electoral Standards please contact:
CDRSB, 27 Old Gloucester Street, London, WC1N 3XX
Tel: +44 (0)7795464677
© Dr. Keith Nilsen