7.2 Democratic governance: Introducing bottom-up democratic decision-making within all institutions and organizations

7.2.1 What actions can we take now while oligarchic capitalism still prevails?

Our democratic demands at this moment in history, when capitalism prevails, include all those that are already widely shared (often in more colorful language) and whose achievement would go a long way towards establishing popular sovereignty:

  • take money out of politics and elections, including ending lobbying by powerful for-profit corporations; establish and enforce strict limitations on political campaign financing by wealthy individuals; outlaw the participation of private-for-profit corporations and the organizations they financially support from using their financial clout to enter into and influence public political discussion; and end revolving doors between government and the industries government regulates;
  • make government officials, elected and unelected, more accountable to the people, including effectively discouraging them from using command and control methods and from engaging in micromanagement of public institutions and officials; and
  • ensure that every vote counts in the outcome of elections, including representation of political parties in proportion to the vote that each party receives while also ensuring that every constituent has accessible, direct representatives accountable to them.

To these limited measures to achieve popular sovereignty within the electoral arena can be added measures that increase other democratic rights, such as those that

  • require internal democracy within businesses, institutions and organizations that receive government funding, tax benefits, loans and other assistance from the people; and
  • give equal rights of voice and vote to every permanent resident of a country and the means to exercise these rights

Our ruling corporate elite and their political representatives will undoubtedly continue to resist and even push in the opposite direction. But we cannot afford to abandon the struggle for these and our other democratic rights in the face of the black hole of inequality and environmental degradation to which our ruling elites are taking us. Instead, we need to make our struggle for democracy more effective, including, where possible, forging stronger links between spokespersons for the people within the legislative bodies of government and the democratic movements outside them.

Whatever democratic gains the people have made and preserved and whatever new ones the people may achieve, these will all remain at risk so long as corporate capitalism prevails. And capitalism in its present form will prevail until the people are determined to move beyond it, including taking the corresponding personal risks, and so long as the ruling capitalist class remains unwaveringly determined and still able to suppress or misdirect dissent. When even the limited forms of democracy associated with capitalism are at risk – and especially at times when these rights are being undermined, the project of a green social democracy needs to be put forward with all vigor as the alternative.

At the very least, this activity will serve as preparation for the inevitable crises of capitalism, when the alternatives, known to the people, are likely to appear more attractive than the status quo and in the face of which even the ruling elites may lose faith in business as usual. It is at such times when the majority of people are most likely to demand a change and the ruling capitalist class is least likely to offer effective resistance.

7.2.2 Transforming society on the basis of bottom-up forms of democracy

The transition from a struggle for reforms of capitalism to a victory of the forces for a green social democracy may take a variety of paths, depending on the conditions and circumstances of the transition. But one thing seems certain, if history is any guide. The transition will take place at a moment of weakness of the forces of oligarchic capitalist rule, almost necessarily including the abandonment of the ruling elites by the majority of the political, military and other forces that sustain their less than fully democratic rule.

The first revolutionary green social democratic government, in whatever conditions it comes to power, will need to take swift action at that time to displace the centralized economic and political power of oligarchic capitalism by securely vesting that political and economic power in the hands of the people. Forms of government fashioned to maintain the economic power of oligarchic capitalism will need to be transformed or replaced by government vested in the people. Constitutions and laws will need to be amended or replaced. The new rights of the people will need to find expression as the fundamental laws of the land.

A new constitutional mandate

In our view, the appropriate way to initiate this process is through the convening of a constitutional discussion leading to a new or revised constitutional mandate, using a bottom-up democratic process that itself would be a model for the functioning of a genuine government "of the people, by the people, for the people".

We can reasonably expect the results to include something like the following:

  1. The right and opportunity of the people to govern themselves through a non-hierarchical form of government, in which the greatest political power resides at the level most accessible to direct participation, that is, at the base, with each "higher" (that is, more centralized) level subordinate to the immediately "lower" level;
  2. The right of this form of government ("of the people, by the people, for the people") to set the socio-economic agenda for all economic units and related socio-economic organizations and institutions active within their jurisdiction;
  3. The requirement that all economic units and related socio-economic organizations and institutions wanting to participate in socio-economic activity qualify for and obtain charters for the jurisdictions in which they wish to operate from the corresponding people's assemblies (international, national, state and local) in which they conduct their activity;
  4. The right of the people, via their assemblies, to cancel the charters of economic units that violate environmental or labor laws or whose activity is no longer necessary or desired and the transfer of their assets to other, preferably newly created, economic units.

Of course, the devil would be found in the details. The above four broadly stated provisions would require a great deal of fine-tuning, based on the specific circumstances and experience with the new green social democratic form of governance. In particular:

  1. A non-hierarchical form of government will likely require some form of constraint on representatives from one assembly to the next more centralized ("higher") level of assembly to ensure that they do not resort to hierarchical practices and behavior (perhaps by right of recall or obligatory frequent rotation of the representatives);
  2. There are a wide variety of means for an assembly (government) to set an economic agenda, the specifics of which would clearly need to be worked out and might involve choices between the creation of laws, regulations, guidelines, targets or some combination of these, with our own preference for policy guidelines, avoiding micromanagement, but still providing a juridical basis for rescinding the charters of economic units whose activity is contrary to the aims of a just, sustainable society or simply no longer needed;
  3. The assemblies would need to set the qualifications for those wishing to obtain and maintain charters, including, for example, their past performance and their training for and ability to meet public standards for environmental protection, safety, and quality of results;
  4. The process of continual renewal of socio-economic activity, including the chartering of new, socio-economic units and the phasing out of no longer needed or desired socio-economic units would need careful attention and fine-tuning based on experience and changing socio-economic goals;
  5. In addition to the right and opportunity for an equal voice and vote on all the major decisions affecting their lives, the people would share the creative task and challenge of meeting the needs of every person for socially productive work, personal development and material security in a healthy sustainable natural and social environment; and
  6. In those countries (for example, in all countries of the American continent) where settler populations displaced indigenous ones, the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and any additional indigenous rights included in treaties between indigenous nations and the colonizing powers would have legal priority in the new constitutions, including, for example, the priority of indigenous stewardship and usufruct rights to natural resources over any contrary rights claimed by private economic interests.

The first legislative assemblies of the new government

Constitutional change would have set the table for the first legislative assemblies of the new form of government. We have argued in previous chapters that the following legislative tasks should have high priority, if they were not already accomplished prior to the establishment of the first green social democratic government:

  1. The break-up of oligopolistic corporations (those with effective price-setting power in what might otherwise be a competitive marketplace) into less powerful autonomous units or, when this is not possible, their conversion into public utilities; in either case giving their employees the option of operating and managing them in the public interest (as determined by the people's assemblies in the jurisdictions in which they operate); this change includes an opportunity for the former owners and managers of these corporations to join the new, chartered worker cooperative enterprises as co-workers, taking on the responsibilities for which by mutual agreement with their former employees they are judged best qualified to assume;
  2. The similar break-up or conversion of the old government departments, agencies and funded institutions into chartered non-profit economic units, both cooperating and competing to do the best job possible to meet the diversity of needs of the people;
  3. The break-up into small, non-profit, community based units of all financial companies, institutions and agencies, obliged by their new charters to provide the financial services which the people require; and
  4. The translation into law of all the people's pent-up demands for a more democratic government.

As in the case of the essential constitutional changes, these proposals for legislative action would need fine-tuning based on the specific circumstances, including what had already been accomplished and what new or remaining needs are identified. In particular,

  1. When economy of scale is needed (such as perhaps in power transmission or vehicle manufacturing), the new structure of the formerly oligopolistic companies may need to accommodate a democratic, bottom-up form of centralization, following the new model of government;
  2. Competition may be between two or more units engaged in providing the same service in the same way or, preferably, their competition might be to do a better job of meeting the full diversity of related needs by each unit having a slightly different, but probably overlapping, focus, thereby offering choice; and
  3. In order for community based financial units to also provide service to larger scale initiatives or initiatives that need to take place over a greater geographic area, there may arise the need for some form of centralization, again following the bottom-up democratic model of the new form of government.

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.