7.1 Policy alternatives and political movements to advance them

Aroused by the consequences of decades of neoliberal policy, popular resistance continues to grow. Unwilling – and perhaps unable - to reverse course, the two political wings of capitalism are relearning how to play on the vulnerabilities of those bearing the brunt of their policies, all the while doubling down on the same policies. The right wing of capitalism, its bad cops, play off our fears of the unknown, stirring up xenophobia, racism, misogyny and homophobia, encouraging some victims to blame others. The liberal wing, capitalism's "good" cops, play off our desire for a kinder, gentler capitalism, promising to take action on behalf of the victims, but only after what turn out to be endless, ultimately fruitless "consultations" with all the "stakeholders". Behind these political charades are the interests of the dominant "stakeholders", those with the greatest economic and therefore political clout. The intended outcome in both cases is to keep the system functioning in the accustomed capitalist manner, an impossibility on the real earth, both socially and environmentally.

Amidst seeming chaos, a serious challenge to the ruling neoliberal capitalist political and economic elite is re-emerging, with more latent potential than those of the last century. With exponentially increasing threats to the natural environment and a civilization destabilizing growth in income and wealth inequality, the re-emergent popular movements cannot mature too quickly.

Alongside the people's labor, environmental, and other social movements, political parties are needed that more fully correspond to the democratic methods and aims of the peoples' struggles. Needed is more effective linkage between forces within and outside of the legislative chambers. Alternatively, if and where the ruling elites effectively block popular democratic representation, the people always have the right and, if all efforts to open democratic access fail, to form new institutions that can challenge the existing governmental ones for the right to govern.

In many, if not most countries, the closest links that currently exist between an aroused people and government are often with reform parties focused on making the minimal changes they believe voters might support at the next election. Given the influence on thought of those with economic power, including power over the media and education, the changes proposed are usually those that the economic and political elite can absorb without conceding their ultimate authority and that of the system they represent. These are changes that leave transnational corporations the dominant force shaping our cultural, political and economic landscape.

This situation, however, corresponds to the final stage of a period in which a fictional view of the world has been methodically constructed by the ruling economic and political elites – the view that human history has led to contemporary capitalism as its final stage. That view is fading.

Needed now are 21st Century political parties dedicated to turning the people's demands into governing policies. Either some of our existing parties transform themselves into the agents of that change or the people will create new ones.

There are some immediate obstacles. One is the strength of the habit of seeking solutions within a system even as its failures become increasingly evident. In the past, people endured entire historical epochs of misalignment between the socio-economic systems they lived in and the needs and possibilities of those epochs.

Our main problem now may be time itself. In particular we don't have much time to transition from carbon fuels to safer alternative energy sources. Even the slow path incorporated in international agreements – and widely ignored in practice – risks enormous tragedy, if not worse.

A related problem is growing wealth and income inequality, which has made hundreds of millions of people vulnerable, even to that level of climate change that is already unalterable. The combination of the current level of wealth and income inequality with even small impacts from climate change on food production and distribution can already translate into millions of deaths in the absence of counter measures. These numbers can quickly reach hundreds of millions and then even billions if we fail to act in time.

A related consideration is that the achievement of a reasonably stable unified global community is necessary if the biosphere we share is to be saved for future generations. Clearly, climate change and increasing polarity in the distribution of wealth and income are destabilizing. Unchecked, the result can be the mutual destruction of the contending classes and irreversible damage to the biosphere we share with all other species. The alternative is fundamental change in the goals of socio-economic activity from private wealth accumulation to a just, sustainable future.

There is precedence, of course, for revolutionary transformation. But the major revolutions of the early and middle twentieth century set examples that discourage such a response in the present century. We need to have a more honest, nuanced view of those revolutions, one that our ruling elite has put great resources into denying us. Such an understanding is needed if we are to remove these examples as arguments against our need to build revolutionary movements fashioned to the needs of the 21st Century.

During the first half of the 20th Century, the communist parties won impressive victories, primarily in countries that had barely emerged from feudalism. A relatively small proportion of the people in those recently feudal countries, however, could initially read or write. And for many of those who could, a little bit of knowledge still left them vulnerable to a revolutionary leadership whose tendency to substitute themselves for the people as the creators of a new society ultimately undermined the very revolutions they had committed their lives to achieve.

Capitalism ultimately prevailed over communism, in part for the same reasons that capitalism overcame feudalism – greater freedom of expression and action, including opportunities to initiate and invent.

We should not, however, hesitate to build revolutionary parties for fear of the example set by the failed communist revolutions of the 20th Century. The historical circumstances of those revolutions and the fierce opposition of the economically and militarily most powerful capitalist ruled countries need to be taken into consideration. If we are convinced that a revolutionary transformation of the socio-economic system is the likely and necessary outcome of implementing the minimum set of policies needed to avert economic and environmental catastrophe, then we need corresponding political parties.

We need to place our trust in the level of literacy, the new means of communication, and the level of democratic practice that now prevails. We should expect in the course of the struggle to model and help achieve even higher levels of literacy, communication and democracy.

We can best challenge the inevitable misrepresentations of our actions and intentions by setting the highest example of civil discourse and courageous self-constraint in the face of acts of violence by the authorities. The many examples of successful non-violent civil action, up to and including the recent examples, confirm that a revolutionary movement can be synonymous with non-violence, and behave in a manner that is consistent with its proclaimed aims of a just, sustainable society.

The new bottom-up political parties we create or the old ones we transform will have to put forward and, when elected by the people to govern, implement at least the minimum set of policies that would lead to a more just society with a sustainable future. What follows is the authors' view of what that set of policies should include and what some of the options might be, depending on the country, its history, institutions, laws and current circumstances. Different circumstances are likely to necessitate different policies. Moreover, a diversity of options exists within the broad framework of green social democracy. The preceding chapters offer a framework for developing these policy options.

In the discussion below, policies are grouped according to the principal purposes they are designed to serve and presented in generic form. Included are the following sections:
Democratic Governance with the purpose of a non-hierarchical green social democratic form of government;
Justice with the purpose of a just society, including intergenerational justice;
Environment with the purpose of a healthy, sustainable environment;
Human Development with the purpose of healthy, well-educated and well-informed people;
Human Solidarity with the purpose of cooperation to achieve just, environmentally sustainable societies, from the local to the global level; and
Finance with the purpose of achieving income and wealth equality, expanding the non-market economy at the expense of the market economy, and supporting the other purposes of a green social democracy.

Actual policies will have to be fashioned in relation to the needs of specific countries, states, provinces and the circumstances faced by the people who inhabit them. These policies should be the product of democratic deliberation within the political parties and movements that generate policy proposals and within the constitutional assemblies and legislative bodies that turn policy proposals into laws and regulations.

We envision the need for most revolutionary governments to convene country-wide discussion and facilitate popular development and adoption of new or amended constitutions, incorporating the people's constitutional victories of the past and adding the new or amended articles needed for the revolutionary transition to a green social democracy. Policy areas most likely to need constitutional change are those of justice and government. Other policies are destined for amendment and adoption by representative legislative bodies, producing laws and regulations. The overall direction of change is from the priority given in capitalist legal systems to the assertion and protection of private property rights to the priority given by the green social democratic movements to the assertion and protection of communal property rights.

Following is a brief outline of the generic policies to be detailed and argued for in the remainder of this chapter:

Democratic Governance. With the purpose of a green social democracy, constitutional provisions, laws and regulations are needed with respect to the scope and democratic functioning of government and its relationship to economic activity, and the respective roles and relationships between international, national, provincial/state and local governments. These issues are addressed in section 7.2 below. The achievement of the kind and level of democracy envisioned here for a green social democracy would correspond to an unprecedented level of social inclusion in decision-making.

Justice: With the purpose of a just society, the legal framework of each country should provide for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Rights of Nations and National Minorities, Rights of Immigrants and Emigrants, Rights of Labor, Right to a Healthy, Sustainable Environment, Right to a Just Distribution of Wealth and Income, Right to Health Care and Education, Right to Peace and Personal Security, and the other Human and Civil Rights. These are elaborated in section 7.3 below. Going well beyond the rights so far accorded any people in a class divided society, the full enactment of the rights outlined in this section would mark a new epoch in human history, at last setting humankind on the path to a just, sustainable future.

Environment: With the purpose of a healthy, sustainable environment, Section 7.4 presents an outline of suggested regulatory policy, including laws and regulations that would make the transition to sustainable use of energy and natural resources obligatory and require the most rapid possible transformation or replacement of businesses and institutions whose practices or products are unsustainable. Enacted, these policies would reverse the destruction of nature, support the emergent culture of environmental stewardship, and remove from ownership and management of economic activity any found guilty of gross violation of environmental laws.

Human Development: Policies grouped in section 7.5 Health and Well-Being spell out the responsibility of government for the provision of free universal health care and recreational and sports activities, ending discrimination on the basis of ability to pay, making the health, happiness and well-being of the people the primary measure of the achievement of any society. Emphasis is placed here on education and quality of life to improve human health & well-being while reducing the financial burden health care otherwise creates. Section 7.6 Education, Science and Culture features policies for the provision of universal, free life-long public education and information services and the scientific research and cultural production that nourish education. Included is the broadest view of education, one that makes education the people's main investment in their future. Included are all sources of knowledge and culture and their development and communication, such as science, the arts and the communications media. Excluded are secular institutions, which it is argued should remain private, consistent with the principle of separation of Church and state. In the inclusive societies of the future, equal rights and respect are to be accorded to all belief systems and the private institutions that may represent them.

Human Solidarity: With the purpose of cooperation and support to achieve just, sustainable communities, policies grouped in section 7.7 concern support for the victims of war, environmental disaster and oppression and for those whose health, well-being and levels of education have for any reason been left behind the average international levels of achievement. Included is the transformation of the military-industrial-security complex, including the prison-industrial complex, corresponding to governmental departments of defense, security, state and external affairs and their private for profit beneficiaries, into public agencies of peace, human development and human solidarity.

Finance. Section 7.8 below features policies for financing the transition to a more just, sustainable society, ending the domination of government and the economy by transnational corporations. Included are policies to redistribute income and wealth, eliminate poverty, finance the rapid transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, create a level playing field for business, extend ownership and management of business to those employees who want to participate and proceed to create an increasingly egalitarian society, one in which cooperatively owned and operated non-profit businesses are ultimately likely to prevail, and in the process of democratization, grow the non-market economy, the one in which people voluntarily contribute to the welfare of others, learning along the way how and to what extent it is feasible and desirable to replace the market economy with the non-market one.

Welcome!

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

NEW & REVISED

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

OPINION

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

REVIEWS

Charles McFadden, 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.

US CORNER

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

CANADA CORNER

George HewisonWINNIPEG 1919 & THE COLD WAR

George HewisonArt Manuel - "Unsettling Canada

George HewisonThe NDP and LEAP

RECOMMENDED

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

FEATURED WORK

ECONOMICS

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

HISTORY

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

LABOR

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.