1.9 From Defense to Offense: From decades of a losing defensive battle to a winning offensive for a green social democracy

Decades have now come and gone during which labour productivity gains have nearly all gone to the increased income and wealth of Capital and its leading representatives. Among the consequences are the rapidly accumulating negative results for the health of people and nature. During these decades, Capital was largely victorious in its class struggles for unfettered exploitation of labour and the environment. It won on the economic front and on the political one, in a mutually supporting spiral, upwards for Capital, downwards for labour and the environment.

For decades it was commonplace to herald the newly cooperative relations between Capital and labour, the near disappearance into an amorphous middle class of the former working class. But quite evidently, this was the result of mere appearances, not reality. A far higher proportion of the people in every country on Earth now depends on working for someone else to make a living. By that definition today most of us are working class. An increasingly smaller proportion of the population enjoys the personal wealth now rapidly accumulating at the top of the pyramid. The ability of nature to sustain the current and still increasing human population has rapidly declined.

During these decades the ruling capitalist class has succeeded in using its political and economic power to grow the army of people who represent its financial and ideological interests. This army ranges in composition from the politicians whose campaigns it funds and the media it owns or controls to corporate spokespersons and lawyers, corporate funded researchers, public relations experts, and marketing personnel, and the top echelons of the security forces and military brass.

Capital's achieved level of influence and control over government also provides it a powerful lever for clawing back the income gains made by employees. For isn't that really a large part of what happens when the wealthiest corporations and the wealthiest citizens pay a declining share of taxes and receive an increasing share of government largesse? Add to that, the advantage that the wealthy have in capitalizing on government indebtedness. Do the wealthiest among us really want government deficits to disappear (which would mean a loss to them of this secure means of earning interest) or do their political representatives intend only to cut those social costs of government (the education, health care and other services needed by working people) which the wealthiest routinely purchase privately?

But the fightback against Capital's economic and political victories is well underway, as it needs to be. Our introductory arguments may help explain why the labour and environmental movements have no choice but to meet Capital on both the political and economic fronts of the struggle, to recover the ground lost over recent decades and re-gain resources of space and time for the struggle for a future for humankind and the environmental health of the planet that sustains us.

Capitalism has entered the period of its existential crisis. Until capitalism is ended, its net costs are greater than the good that can be accomplished within the system. Allowed to continue, the ultimate limit to capitalism, as already noted, is the end of human life. In other words the limits to capitalist economic growth are either those we consciously and deliberately set, or nature itself will end both human life and with it the capitalist system.

More than at any time in our history as a species, nature is now imposing its limits on us. The dominant social system, global capitalism, is unable to sustain our continuing existence. It is a system in its ultimate crisis. And so are we if we fail to replace capitalism with an alternative system, what we equate here to our definition of a green social democracy, but which popularly goes by a range of other names. Without the establishment of an alternative economic system, one that enables us to reverse the trend to growing wealth and income inequality and sustain the biosphere as a supportive environment for human life, we as a species and the healthy living nature we depend upon will continue to suffer what in its aggregate has become a downward, expanding spiral of the degradation of life on Earth and the health and stability of human society. Our destruction as a species on Earth will be one of the consequences of this downward spiral, sooner than later if we fail in our current emergent efforts to constrain capitalism and ultimately replace it with a green social democracy.

The alternative to an expanding, destructive capitalist market economy is to reverse course, thereby restoring and expanding the non-market economy (the commons) at the expense of the capitalist market economy, reinvesting profits from the former into the creation of the latter.

We can do so by turning increasing labor productivity into opportunities for non-market activity to meet the same human needs. Policies for doing so can include reduced hours per week of work in the market economy and earlier retirement from market economic participation, with the time freed in this way transferred to non-market economic activity, to building and restoring the commons, the free sharing of the knowledge, including technology, to which past generations contributed and of the resources which a restored nature can provide.

By eliminating material production of waste, human health, welfare and happiness can increase while total economic activity can actually decrease. Increasingly efficient use of materials can have the same effect. An environmentally necessary aim is the reduction in the use of non-renewable resources, relying on recycling and substitutions. Another necessary aim is the reduction in the use of renewable resources to the level that can be maintained by a restored nature through our increasingly knowledgeable stewardship.

A corollary to the fundamental law of capitalism (increasing capital accumulation in private hands) is the continuing concentration and centralization of capital and the corresponding concentration and centralization of economic and political power. An alternative is distributed economic and therefore political power, initially by reversing the neoliberal trend and ultimately by creating equality in economic and therefore political power. This probably means replacement over time of a declining market economy by a growing non-market one, as we discuss further in this essay. These economic and political gains will need to be institutionalized if they are to be maintained. A society that moves to a more just distribution of income and wealth will need corresponding changes towards more democratic methods of decision-making. The institutionalization of bottom-up forms of democracy at work in the market economy and the non-market one and in government and non-government organizations is an untried path that, in our view, leads away from capitalism to a just, sustainable future.


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.