The shape of a new genuinely social democratic programme… August 15, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
Throwing around ideas on the concept of the left of the Labour Party it strikes me from contributions that the retreat of social democracy from actually envisaging confronting and eventually overthrowing capitalism – which was its basis originally (and arguably well into its lifespan), has left a considerable political gap for those who would seek to return to that goal. And that there’s real interest in staking out some territory there.
Now all this doesn’t predicate against any forms at all of organisation whether party, platform or campaign. But if we accept there is a social democratic impulse in opposition to capitalism and, as importantly, to self-ascribed contemporary social democracy which has assumed much of the garb of neo-liberalism, then it seems reasonable to ask what does that actually stand for?
Here are some ideas taken from earlier threads. It would be interesting to add others. And also to weigh where and how these differ from already existing political formations – for example, what parties currently seek to take back private entities or create new ones in the public sector?
Enya Rand – August 8, 2013
I’m all for recapturing the goals of Social Democracy from those who betrayed it entirely in the 80s and 90s.
Genuinely Social Democratic parties (like Die Linke in Germany) have potential to capture the public imagination, providing they recognise that structure of capitalism has changed dramatically from the time of the great Scandinavian Social Democracies which lasted from the end of the Second World War to the mid 1980s.
To name just three differences: Firstly capital is vastly more mobile and free of barriers than it was nearly sixty years ago, making single national Social Democracy in an island of increasingly vicious authoritarian capitalism a practical impossibility.
Secondly we’re not even half-way through the process of automation. We just don’t need collectively to work so much to produce and distribute the same amount of physical things. Much intellectual and organisational labour remains to be automated by computers.
And thirdly finance capital is much more dominant than it was before the late seventies with all the instability that entails.
So I’ll have a crack at it LATC and say that this means that new Social Democratic demands must as a minimum include:
a) Taking democratic control of finance. That means wiping out most the private banks, writing off much debt, outlawing the casino aspects of banking and hedge funds and replacing them with transparently controlled public investment funds.
b) Energy is far too important at this juncture to be left in private hands. Public investment should be directed towards renewable energy infrastructure before the resources needed to build it become too scarce.
c) We need to simply deny that economics is a science that describes and predicts some aspect of a quasi-natural system, and re-instate political economy as a collectively-willed creative process in a real material and social context.
d) Telecommunications must be brought into public ownership. The flow of information is, like energy and indeed water, too important to be left to a cartel to dam and intercept for profit.
e) Strict control of lobbying and maximal transparency of all decision-making is a sine-qua-non of restoring the possibility of genuine democracy.
I could go on, but I think I’ve been Utopian enough for one evening.
I guess the point I’m making is that taming capitalism in the Social Democratic sense is a taller order these days that at the end of the Second World War, and the demands have to be more radical.
Which doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try, because the alternative is looking increasingly bleak and chaotic.
hardcorefornerds - August 8, 2013
+1 I really like this, especially the second point about automation – something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately (and how it relates to wealth inequality and ideas like Basic Income)
the stuff about finance capitalism is probably what has the most popular resonance now, although it’s directed in a very simple way at ‘the banks’ and sections of the wealthy, so there’s room to focus that on the shape of that structure and not just the end products. Michael D. was putting a lot in his speeches about the historical shift of finance-based capitalism that seemed to be spooking some more wedded to an unquestioned orthodoxy. follow that thread and it sounds like a good way to crack the nut.
one thing I’d add (and in many ways it’s the obvious flip side of the financial control of capital) is importance of social democracy towards arguing labour rights. the capture of the ‘real’ economy by the shadow one, the pervasive effect of profit-based ‘efficiencies’ on all standards of work… the effect of automation obviously comes into play and needs to be accounted/adjusted for but labour will remain the primary interaction between the political citizen and the economy. even if it’s to challenge the idea that labour on behalf of capital ought to remain the focus of society (I’m not sure a narrowly political revolution is necessary for that change, a technological one will provide the means – its up to us to seize them, in a way that is rather different than it would have been 100-150 years ago).
I suppose social democracy ought to be a way of connecting those theories of society with practical political action.