1.4 The necessity and centrality of democracy to address the challenges we face

The alternative to an irrational system of infinite expansion of mere busyness on a finite planet is the forging of a system that functions in harmony with nature. Getting there will require the greatest extension of cooperation and the most imaginative and knowledgeable participation in problem-solving of which we are capable. An unprecedented level of democracy is the necessary condition for inclusion of all the knowledge, ability and latent talent that will be needed if we are to successfully meet the challenges now confronting us. In that sense, democracy is not merely a desirable aim, a banner to attach to a movement or a cause, it is the only means available that can unleash all the forces that are critical to addressing the problems we now confront. No subset of our species is capable of doing this. No authoritarian, top-down form of organization is up to this challenge. A desired end, more democracy, has become the necessary means.

The history of capitalism is replete with movements and even governments committed to building alternative systems. Social democracy, socialism and communism are descriptors that come readily to mind. The defenders of capitalism – especially the representatives of its most privileged elite - spare no effort to remind us of the string of short-comings, failures and outright abuses attached to the political movements that have resisted and countered capitalism at its worst. Moving forward requires acknowledgement of the failures and identification of the causes of these failures. Foremost among these causes is the economic and political power of the capitalists and their successful efforts at diverting and misrepresenting their opponents. But we must acknowledge and address the powerful role of capitalism’s example as a model of behaviour – an example that is multiplied by historically recent experience with feudalism and even slavery, including their continuing traces in our current capitalist socio-economic system.

Most obvious should be the role of dogmatism and authoritarianism. These may begin as methods to hold together class-divided societies, but they persist as behavioural traits that when dominant create insuperable barriers to movement beyond capitalism.

The other primary cultural heritage from capitalism and prior exploitative societies is the rift in our consciousness and behaviour between ourselves as a species and the rest of nature. An exploitative attitude and habit in relation to nature, when dominant in our behaviour, is also an effective cultural barrier to moving beyond capitalism. This exploitative cultural habit may have been necessary to the historically rapid expansion of our species into every corner of the Earth and to the creation of great private wealth, but it has become painfully clear that we will have no future at all unless we successfully forge new attitudes and habits that accommodate our need for a healthy, supportive environment and our need for cooperation to achieve this.

To move beyond the impasse these cultural habits create, account also needs to be taken of one further cultural barrier. Probably a majority of those who want a more just, sustainable future identify their aims with a capitalism that has a more human face than the beast now on offer. This majority includes living generations that have experienced periods of time under capitalism during which their conditions and prospects improved. It also includes the increasingly smaller proportion of people who enjoy the kind of privileges that a sustainable path would no longer afford.

For the former, worsening conditions open the door to recognition that capitalism itself, by its very nature, is the main problem, not in the first place personal failings, that the fight for a healthy natural environment and the fight for social justice are two sides of one common struggle against the ravages of capitalism as a system. For this majority, educational activity features learning through engagement in the struggle against the worst features of the system.

For the latter, those who will necessarily lose privileges that are environmentally unsustainable, we can point out the obvious. No-one will survive an environment insufficiently healthy to support human life. Neither the grandchildren of the wealthy nor those of the poor will survive a lifeless planet.

Learning through experience will likely be delayed for most of the materially privileged – a likelihood we need to take into account. Probably only in the new society can the education of that minority through their new experiences convince them that maximum levels of human well-being are achievable at levels of material comfort that fall well-short of those now enjoyed by the ruling political-economic elites. It will be possible only then to test the logical expectation that ahead of all of us lies a practically unlimited horizon for cultural and social development and attendant happiness and well-being of future generations. In the meantime, however, it is possible to become acquainted with the supportive evidence that this is so from research comparing existing capitalist societies. The work of Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (2010, Bloomsbury Press) The Spirit Level: Why greater equality makes societies stronger is instructive in that regard. And if time is short, then perusal of the graphs and tables it contains may do.

In all events, our primary concern here needs to be to reduce the potential for violent resistance from our ruling political-economic elites. Neither human life nor nature can withstand the destruction that these latter have the means to cause. Our primary approach to the most materially privileged must come from our recognition and declaration that we are all bound up in the system that feeds us until we replace it. Our struggle is to replace the system and not those bound up by it, which now includes all of us. In doing so, the materially privileged who selflessly join the struggle for a more just, sustainable future are necessary allies.


This website was launched September 1, 2010 in support of a green social democratic alternative to neoliberal capitalist policy and practice. The primary result is a work by Charles and Karen McFadden of seven chapters, grouped under the title, Towards a Green Social Democratic Alternative to Capitalism available here in pdf and html formats.

Below under the heading What’s New can be found the most recent materials posted on this website, including opinion pieces, book reviews, articles and selections from the 2017 edition of the main work.  For the interest of new and returning visitors, new materials will be included quarterly.

What's New


Authors' Preface

1.6 The epochal nature of the period we are entering

6.0 The socialism we need against the "socialism" of the 20th century

6.8 Additional concerns about 20th century variants of "socialism"

6.9 The people united!

7.1 Policy alternatives and political movements to advance them


Charles and Karen McFadden, Is revolutionary transformation on the agenda

Charles and Karen McFaddenHumanity on the Brink

Charles and Karen McFaddenMovements of Resistance to Movements for System Change

Charles McFaddenTranslating Green Principles into Education Policy and Practice

Charles and Karen McFadden, The Role of Revolutionaries in the Labor Movement


Charles and Karen McFadden, “The Shape of Water” as an Antidote to the Age of Trump 

Charles McFadden, Decolonizing the U.S. & Canada: The People United for a More Just Sustainable Future

Karen and Charles McFaddenCan emergent early 21st century neo-fascism be defeated without coming to grips with late 20th century restructuring of capitalism into a global system

Karen and Charles McFaddenA Dominant Capitalism or a Sustainable Environment? Why we can't have both.


William I. RobinsonThe Crisis of Global Capitalism and Trump's March to War

William I. RobinsonTrumpism, 21st Century Fascism, and the Dictatorship of the Transnational Capitalist Class


George HewisonWINNIPEG 1919 & THE COLD WAR

George HewisonArt Manuel - "Unsettling Canada

George HewisonThe NDP and LEAP


Albert Einstein, David Swanson, Jill Stein, Chris Hedges, William I. Robinson, and others Selected articles for Winter 2018



1.7 The dynamics of capitalism as a system and the limits of single issue reforms

2.11 The economy in transition towards a new deal for labor and the community

3.1 The challenge of a moribund economic system

3.7 Public banking: A cornerstone of a green social democracy

4.7 Economics and culture

6.5 Using the non-market economy as an opportunity to begin moving beyond capitalism


1.6 The epochal nature of the period we are entering

2.0 Theoretical Perspective: Defining Green Social Democracy

2.5. Socialism and green social democracy in historical materialist theory

4.3 Culture in historical perspective

5.1 Contrasting a green social democratic world with the currently prevailing, but challenged neo-liberal one

6.2 Socialism and capitalism as coexisting social systems


2.11 The economy in transition towards a new deal for labor and the community

5.7 Defeating neo-liberal capitalism: The role of social movements

7.3 Justice: Creating a just society, based on the right of all to a dignified, secure existence

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) applies to all work posted on this website except that which appears with authors whose last name is other than McFadden, in which case standard copyright should be assumed to apply.