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

In outlining the transition to a green social democratic economy we are not offering a prediction of future events. We could, of course, continue on our present course, one that is leading to our extinction as a species. We are simply applying logic to identifying the essential milestones on the path to a green social democracy.

We begin by re-stating the end points (our goals): just, equitable relationships between people and sustainable relationships with nature. To this we add our identification of the principal barriers to achieving these goals: the hierarchical structure of class relationships for producing a surplus and transferring this surplus up the capitalist food chain to capitalism's ruling class and the hierarchical political-cultural-ideological superstructure that reproduces and maintains these class relationships. We then identify the logical path from the present system to its green social democratic alternative.

This path to a green social democracy can be envisioned as something like the world's river systems, which are fed by their sources and expand on their way to the oceans, overcoming the various obstacles along the way. In our case, the sources are the imagination and scientific knowledge we acquire through our self-education in the process of working to reach our goals. The gravitational force guiding us towards the oceans is democratic deliberation. All these elements (imagination, science, education and democracy) expand exponentially from their dried up roots within capitalism, along the tributaries and through the rivers of the various countries to their oceanic destination.

In the following brief paragraphs we address some of the obstacles in our path posed by the way we make a living from nature within our present capitalist system.

Labor's rights to a living income

The starting point for all other hierarchical relationships in society is the separation between the capitalist class of owners and deciders and the working class of doers. Those of us without sufficient independent resources are dependent on income from employment (our own or that of others to whom we are dependently attached). The risk of being without employment or other means of making a living from nature is real and palpable for billions of people. That fact alone establishes the primary steps on the path to a green social democracy: the struggles for guarantees of a living income and the right to employment from which we can earn a living income.

Labor's economic decision-making rights

Those of us working in the private sector can be deprived by our employers of the right to participate in economic decisions that are vital to our future and that of the communities in which we live, including the purposes and nature of the work we are expected to do in order to continue in employment. Many of us are employed, in effect, to be our own, our children's, grandchildren's and neighbors' gravediggers. This is the meaning of reserving for ownership the rights to make decisions about processes and products that put profit ahead of public interest, including the election of environmentally unsustainable practices, contracts that profit from the production of weapons of mass destruction, and donations from business income to the right wing politicians and think tanks that push for the governmental policies that pave the way for these same practices, to name a few examples. This fact establishes as a step on the path to a green social democracy the curtailment of management's exclusive rights to make decisions that concern the health and welfare of the community and future generations, replacing these with worker rights to have at least an equal say in business decisions that concern the health and welfare of the local community and future generations.

Labor's organizational rights

Whether in the private or public sector of the economy of a class-divided society, the achievement of a green social democracy requires that the economic and political benefits that now accrue to management need be countered through rights of labor to organize for the purpose of advancing the economic interests of working people and the health and welfare of the communities in which they live.

The path to a society governed by the associated producers ultimately must include making illegal all forms of employer intervention, including that of a political nature, which impedes employees from forming their own organizations. Green social democratic governments are those which cooperate with labor organizations in the defense of labor rights and against any employer actions that go counter to the public interest. This cooperation logically extends to provision by green social democratic governments of educational opportunities as may be required by working people for the purpose of taking on the responsibility of self-management of the economic units in which they work. This latter step then forms the educational and economic basis for the achievement of a green social democratic society.

Fighting for a healthy, life-supporting natural environment as an economic priority

Conservative approach. The movements for a green social democracy include priority to a conservative approach to the use of natural resources and a consequently more equitable sharing of the results. The right of individuals, families, groups and communities to manage resources will necessarily feature stewardship responsibilities.

Private property. Progress in the transition to a green social democracy will be measured by the extent of the transfer of private economic property into forms of collective and communal economic property, including associated stewardship rights and responsibilities. This transition includes respect and enforcement of indigenous rights, including indigenous usufruct rights. This progress will also feature fair distribution of personal use property, including private spaces. The maximum size and amount of personal use property will undoubtedly be limited by the aim of wealth equality and the communal needs for economic and recreational property. While we should anticipate resistance to these conclusions from some of the wealthiest among us, these are logical inferences from the definition of a green social democracy as one whose moral aims include wealth equality and the maintenance and passing along from generation to generation of a healthy environment.

Universal commons and failures to take stewardship responsibilities. The aim of a green social democracy also includes the expectation of personal responsibility for protection of the universal commons, including the air, land, water, and non-renewable resources of the earth shared by present and future generations. Stewardship responsibilities would be applicable to the universal commons as well as to personal use, economic and recreational use property. While public service and self-education might be the usual forms of rehabilitation of those who seriously fail to live up to their stewardship responsibilities, more might be required. In particular, those with remaining private economic property or more than average amounts of personal use property might also be required to transfer a part or even all of their temporal privileges to more immediate communal sharing and use if they seriously fail to meet their stewardship responsibilities.

Entrepreneurship. Economic initiative would need to be taken by individuals, groups and existing enterprises, facilitated and encouraged by locally-based, publicly-managed financial institutions established and backed by the people's legislative assemblies and guided by its economic policies. Interest made on funds loaned by the people as well as losses incurred would belong to the people.

Cooperation, competition and diversity. In a green social democracy, cooperation, competition and diversity to meet public needs would likely be encouraged legislatively. Regulation and public financing could be among the principal means of accomplishing these aims.

Establishing public banks as an economic policy priority

Public banks. The establishment and promotion of publicly owned financial institutions (henceforth named here as public "banks") would be characteristic of the transition to a green social democracy, first displacing and ultimately replacing private ones. For a thorough account of the consequences of private banking in the United States and advocacy of publicly owned banks as the responsible alternative see: Ellen Hodgson Brown (2010, Third Millennium Press) Web of Debt: The shocking truth about our money system and how we can break free. For methods of establishing public banks, interested readers can consult her more recent work (2013, Third Millennium Press) The Public Bank Solution: From austerity to prosperity.

The establishment of public banks is likely to be part of the agenda of transition to a green social democracy. Where they already exist within capitalist countries, they demonstrably serve the interests of economic stability and as necessary support for the achievement of the people's purposes. Rather than public rescues of failed private banks, such failures should be made occasions to make their physical assets public and ask their employees to become their stewards, working at arms-length from government but in support of public economic policy.

But can the transition to a green social democratic economy take place without a corresponding change in our culture from mindless egoism and consumerism to greater cooperation and human solidarity, particularly in the face of recent decades that have featured inroads against democracy, public education, the arts and sciences by a fearful ruling political and economic elite?


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.