2.9 Revolutionary character of green social democracy

Every revolution in human history has been characterized by a change in the nature of property relationships. As a reminder for comparative purposes, historically recent examples include, among others:

  • the establishment in 1688 of a constitutional monarchy in England, decisively moving the locus of economic and political power from the feudal landlord class to capitalist property owners, who have served as England's ruling class ever since;
  • the similar, but later French Revolution of 1789;
  • the revolutionary independence of the United States of America from British colonial rule in 1803, establishing in the United States the pre-eminence of its national capitalist economy over colonial economic ties;
  • the civil war in the United States, ending the practice there of slavery, i.e. human beings as a legal form of property;
  • the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the first of these decisively transferring political power from a feudal landowning class to a then recently emergent and growing capitalist class, and the second replacing the leading role of the capitalists and their representatives by the communists, who instituted state "socialism";
  • the successful anti-colonial revolutions following World War II, establishing independent nation-states in the former colonies; and
  • the revolution in the former Soviet Union in 1991, replacing state "socialism" with capitalist property relationships and arguably a limited capitalist democracy.

The latter illustrates with particular clarity that the system of property relationships and associated governance is a human choice, not God given. Indeed, having chosen capitalist democracy, the victorious Russian revolutionaries of 1991 literally had to select individuals for the role of capitalist property owners to get the new system started. In the absence of a capitalist class in Soviet Russia and of individuals with experience managing capitalist property, many, if not most, of the initial new capitalists were literally chosen by the new pro-capitalist government, particularly from among the former managers of state socialist enterprises, who became the owners of the enterprises they had managed. This revolution further illustrated that a fundamental change in political and economic institutions can occur with relatively little violence when the will to move to a new system is greater than the will to maintain the old one.

Parenthetically, if there is a bright side to Russia's pro-capitalist revolution, which included the attendant collapse of their former health care and educational subsystems, it is the opportunity the Russian people now have of finding a successful path to getting beyond capitalism. In doing so, they will be able to build on the courage, tenacity and imagination of their more farsighted predecessors, millions of whom sacrificed their lives so that the people would achieve the freedom they sought and continue to seek.

Recognizing that political-economic systems are not eternal - as their elites often claim, we can ask a further question. What changes in property relationships and forms of governance can be expected to characterize a green social democracy? The characteristic property relationship in most societies on earth today is a mixture of private and public property. In that relationship, private-for-profit ownership (capitalism) predominates and the advocates of capitalism play the leading role in society. This political-economic power of the capitalists is used by them to increase their already predominant position, with the usual consequence of deepening the social conflicts within capitalist society and increasing the tension between that society and Earth's capacity for sustaining human life.

The political representatives of capitalism have succeeded, so far, in avoiding the fate of the majority of ruling Communist parties by taking credit for sufficient economic growth to satisfy the short term needs of the majority of the population while successfully expanding capitalist property. We are experiencing the consequences, however, as reckless capitalist economic growth further undermines the environment upon which we all depend. The green social democratic alternative necessarily includes a more equitable sharing of resources and the democratic stewardship of these resources, including the aim of restoring balance between human population and Earth's capacity for supporting human life. The predominant form of property in a green social democratic society will necessarily be public rather than private when clean air, potable water and indeed all of nature is properly valued. The management of all property, public and private, will be strictly accountable to elected bodies with priority given to human rights, including the rights of the world's indigenous peoples, and the rights of future generations to a healthy, sustaining natural environment.

The proper valuing of nature is an aim sometimes encapsulated by the proposal to prioritize the rights of nature together with human rights over private property rights and corporate rights. (See for example: www.commondreams.org/view/2012/08/13-5.) Caution is necessary, however, that the human spokespersons for the rights of nature not be allowed to use this argument as moral cover for their own assertions of authority over others. Democratic, that is non-authoritarian, behavior is also a cultural change needed if green social democratic aims are to be realized.

A transformation to green social democratic property relationships is only possible with the strengthening of all democratic institutions and the democratizing of all private ones. It is a system in which the people rule, not a political-economic elite. For this, the dominant form of ownership of economic property must be public, probably by abolishing private ownership of the monopolistic-sized corporations that today have political dominance.

Large, monopolistic companies can be broken down into smaller ones, networked horizontally and vertically to the extent that may be necessary or desirable. Each separate or component unit can then be operationally managed by the associated producers within them, with governing economic policy set by the associated people's assemblies in consultation with the associated producers of the corresponding economic units.

Only in such a manner can we be guaranteed that the public interest and not the narrow interests of private-for-profit corporations will have the final say. Such a change in both property relationships and governance is properly understood as a revolution, comparable in scope to the prior revolutions in human society

But, will the transition in property and governmental relationships be a peaceful one?


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.