Chapter 6

Socialist Alternatives to Capitalism

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

"The tragedy of ‘Marxism' is that a philosophy that originated (at least in Marx's hands) with the aim of abolishing any social powers that operate behind the backs of the producers ended up creating dictatorial regimes that imposed their will on individuals without even a minimum degree of democratic control or public accountability. Nor was this only a political problem: the economic plans of the state-controlled economies operated no less outside the control of the producers, who were reduced to wage-slavery (where they were not subjected to forced labor of a more nefarious kind). The notion that a ‘new' society can be imposed behind the backs of the populace and irrespective of specific social conditions faced by that society has done enormous damage – not least in leading large numbers of people around the world to question whether a viable alternative to capitalism is even possible…

"It can be argued that the greatest barrier in the way of a revolutionary challenge to capitalism today is not the material or ideological power of capital but rather the memory of the innumerable flawed and failed efforts to overcome it in the not-so-distant past. The past does hang like a dead weight upon the living – especially when alternative visions of a postcapitalist society that can animate the imagination of humanity are hard to come by...

"…precisely because we live in the shadow of the crimes committed in Marx's name, it does not seem possible to fully renew the Marxian project of issuing a full-throttled challenge to capital if the conception of the new society found in his writings remains only implicit…

"Given the fact that time may well be running out on the effort to save the planet from capital's rapacious self-expansionary nature, as seen in the ecological crisis, it has become necessary to project a much more explicit notion of what constitutes a viable notion of the alternative to capitalism than Marx himself envisaged."

Peter Hudis (2013, Haymarket Books) Marx's Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism, p.213-214.

Ours is an attempt to make "much more explicit … a viable notion of the alternative to capitalism," but with significant qualifications:

  1. Efforts to move beyond capitalism have so far not resulted in a single, enduring, incontrovertible success, that is, there is no firmly established model to emulate.
  2. All efforts to date have been undertaken in the environment of a global capitalist market, one in which goods and services are exchanged for money, including the transfer of profits to the owners of capital. No breakaway, including the mid-20th century bloc of communist trading partners that included in their orbit nearly one-third of the world's population, succeeded in escaping the economic, political and physical constraints imposed by a globally dominant capitalism.
  3. In most countries, those who attempt to break away from the constraints imposed by a dominant capitalism will necessarily have to come from those who are today economically and culturally embedded within capitalism.
  4. And the more educated a potential revolutionary is in knowledge of the present and past and the possibilities for the future, the more likely that person is to have strong, if often invisible, ties to the governing pro-capitalist economic and cultural elite, including the academic, electoral, communications and security institutions created by and for that elite.
  5. It is the existential threat capitalism poses to humanity that drives the search for an alternative.

It is this reality that in our view best explains the "flawed and failed efforts" of past revolutionary beginnings. We need to identify and acknowledge those flaws and failures in order to avoid them in the present and future. At the same time, it is our experience that those who choose to litigate history thereby expose their own "flawed and failed" knowledge. We include ourselves among those who have made this mistake in our attempt to understand and explain past failures to move beyond capitalism. What we have learned from further reading of the record left by those in struggle for a world beyond capitalism is admiration for their intelligence and courage and gratitude for their sacrifice.

Our arguments for a green social democratic alternative to capitalism draw not only upon Marx's writing and that of historians and social scientists before and since him, but also on the historical experience and example of the people in struggle against the continuing ravages of capitalism.


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

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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.