11-point Plan for a New Socialism
The break with the old neoliberal and new authoritarian policies becomes a necessity in the face of the multiple crisis. An impending economic slump would exacerbate this situation. The "middle way" of post-ideological openness and left-wing liberal criticism is becoming powerless. Even those who advocate the preservation of liberal civil liberties and minimum standards of solidary living must take a stand against authoritarianism and neoliberalism, i.e. for a more radical left course. Now is the moment of decision, at a time of interregnum, when different developments are still possible. A socialist project is necessary in view of the danger of barbarism.
This is the ending of Mario Candeias' article in the December 2019 issue of Luxemburg. The German article is accessible at www.linksnet.de.
Mario Candeias Was tun und wo anfangen? 11-Punkte-Plan für einen neuen Sozialismus « Zeitschrift LuXemburg
11 Point Plan for a New Socialism (ending)
...What is socialist about it?
It is not so much the description of a finished goal as the determination of some orienting elements for the real movement that cancels the present state.
1 // Redistribution: It is not enough, and yet a radical redistribution of wealth is an essential element of any leftist policy. This is where it becomes clear who takes the change of direction seriously and brings the social surplus product to the general public. To mock the misery of the class of the haves, when a little is taken from them, is part of it. We should highlight those moments in which it is currently possible (and once was) to take something away from the haves to counteract the feeling that one cannot get at them anyway.
2 // Infrastructure socialism - reclaiming and expanding the public, the commons, the so-called freedom goods (Brie/Klein): By expanding collective consumption by strengthening the fundamental economy of social infrastructures, the basis for a solidary and democratic way of life is created. In this way, the fear of necessary social change can be removed from wage earners and the widespread fixation on wage increases and the consumption of goods can be countered without debates on renunciation. The public sphere must be experienced as a sphere of the common, the wealth of the public sphere must be emphasized.
Here we can start with various conflicts, apart from the housing sector (cf. LuXemburg 2/2019), for example in the health sector: it is about the abolition of flat-rate payments per case (DRG), two-class medicine and private health insurance, it is about legal and collective bargaining rules for personnel assessment, about re-municipalization or socialization of the large hospital and nursing care groups, the establishment of polyclinics and local health centers with nursing and health councils.
Steps towards a mobility turnaround, a car-free and green city, if only for ecological reasons, but also for the reappropriation of public space, are indispensable. The elements are: a massive expansion of local and long-distance public transport, significant price reductions up to and including free public transport, the return of businesses and infrastructure to the public sector, better working conditions and remuneration for those employed there, priority for pedestrians and cyclists, the end of the internal combustion engine.
All in all, the expansion of the public sector should be combined with a strengthening of the rights and finances of local authorities, which should be responsible for the immediate things in life in very important areas: from health, mobility, education and energy to security and employment to the production and preparation of food. A city for all - the community in the emphatic sense - would offer those freedoms that are fundamental for fear-free individual and collective development.
3 // Real democracy: Here it would be a matter of regaining a principle of subsidiarity, as it were: Local authorities decide on local issues. Where other levels or regions are affected beyond the smallest level, the other region is involved or the decision is shifted to a higher level. The expansion of the public sector in the sense of a precautionary economy must be accompanied by a radical democratization of the state. Neither the paternalistic and patriarchal Fordist welfare state nor authoritarian state socialism were particularly emancipative, not to mention the neoliberal restructuring of the public service. A left-wing state project must therefore realize the expansion of participation and transparency demanded by the democracy movements - and, from a socialist perspective, work towards the absorption of the state into civil society, as Gramsci puts it. It is not enough to be allowed to express your own opinion. Participation means being able to influence decisions. We need structures that prevent progressive changes from being reversed simply by a changed majority. Only if the subalterns appropriate the state, bring it into civil society, fill it with life, will they defend it. It is important to find functioning democratic routines. And yet it is always necessary to break up democratic institutions when bureaucratization threatens, to open them up to the masses by means of participatory processes that have to be renewed again and again. The stubbornness from below may not always correspond to the logic of leftist state projects, but it prevents the apparatuses from becoming independent. Here the municipalist approaches should be continued, neighborhood councils and participatory budgets should be linked and further developed.
4 // Economic democracy: It is time for a democratization of the economy that goes beyond the classic co-determination, for a far-reaching participation of employees, trade unions, associations and initiatives, consumers and other stakeholders in decisions in companies (along the entire transnational production chain). Employees should be given co-determination and veto rights in personnel assessment and company relocations, greater influence on working hours or in the organization of production. Regional councils and employees should decide on investments and the direction of innovation. Key enterprises must be transferred to public or cooperative ownership. The activities of companies have profound consequences for the municipalities, regions and beyond - they are not private matters in substance.
5 // Irreversibility? The question of ownership: In order to overcome the obstacles to the development of the health care system (hospital and care groups), to secure private data and digital infrastructures (Facebook & Co), to the mobility turnaround (automobile groups and the Bahn AG) or to housing construction (informal cartels in the construction industry), the companies concerned should be socialized. Their transfer to public or cooperative ownership is an essential prerequisite for a lasting shift in the balance of power. They would have to be controlled by councils made up of employees, users*, affected parties and politicians, because real socialization (not just formal nationalization) would be a more effective protection against reprivatization. The protection of public social infrastructure and a ban on privatization could also be enshrined in the constitution.
6 // Socialization of the investment function: The over-accumulation of capital produces speculative bubbles, followed by the destruction of capital and jobs, while ever larger areas of social reproduction are being destroyed. If companies do not perform their investment function, then this must become a much more public, participatory task.
Where do we want to invest? This question could also be asked in a campaign to socialize the innovation function and to give the development of productive forces a direction that is based on the needs of individuals and not on the goal of maximizing profits. The private sector is incapable of developing complicated nonsense, from digital gadgets to weapons, but it has no solution even to simple problems such as new materials for cheap and ecological housing. It would be a matter of developing ecological (lightweight) materials, ensuring 100% energy supply through renewable energy, reducing electricity consumption, developing smart public mobility systems while reducing traffic, replacing rare earths with alternative raw materials and promoting ecological farming methods to secure food sovereignty in the face of global warming. These are just a few examples of progressive innovation fronts that require investment in basic public research and applied research.
7 // A new concept of wealth: A socio-ecological transformation is oriented towards reproductive needs, with the goal of a "reproductive economy" that knows how to limit itself and at the same time create new wealth: social innovations, more meaningful productive forces, time prosperity, all-round development, space for tenderness, solidarity, support and incentive instead of competition. At the center of a transformation would be reproductive or caring work in the broad sense: Development of needs-oriented infrastructures in health care, nursing care (including human relations), education, training and social services, in research, nutrition and in the protection of our natural environment. These areas must not be abandoned to the market. They can contribute to the emancipative shaping of gender relations. Overcoming the gendered division of labor would also mean overcoming the separation of manual and manual labor (cf. Candeias 2011). The new "feminist International" is currently the most radical and visible counterpart to global authoritarianism and neoliberalism. This movement must be continued in terms of class politics, just as it began with the discussion about the feminist strike and reproductive justice (see Gago in this issue and LuXemburg 2/2018).
8 // A new concept of work: Such a socio-ecological and feminist offensive is also about the redefinition and redistribution of socially necessary work - by shortening working hours, expanding collective, publicly financed work, oriented towards the reduction of material and energy consumption, towards the contribution to human development, towards the wealth of mutual relations, not towards the production of added value.
Necessary social work is to be understood as a collective commitment, as a joint determination of what is to be done, how time and resources are to be used. This includes individual autonomy in work as well as voluntary associated or dissociated work according to inclination: for example, an individual "drawing right" (supiot for autonomous times, for self-willed projects and inventions, research, art, etc., which create space for creative and innovative development, even without the necessary approval by a collective. Individual drawing rights in the sense of sabbaticals are also conceivable, which are not directly bound to work that is socially necessary in the narrower sense (for example, for travel, leisure, excess and experiment). The common definition and distribution of social work is in the foreground, but is linked to the possibility of temporary individual exit options and collectively guaranteed autonomous spaces.
9 // Less is (sometimes) more: Global production chains have long been overstretched, leading to a waste of resources. The orientation towards reproductive needs goes hand in hand with a shortening of transport routes in the production and distribution of goods. It is not a matter of "naive anti-industrialism" (urban), but rather of alternative production, of regional production and reproduction cycles. It is necessary to continue the debate about a progressive relationship between selective "de-globalization" and another globalization based on solidarity. Certain political competences would indeed have to be taken back from the international or European level, such as the organization of services of general interest. Others, such as the guarantee of (global) social and ecological rights or the control of financial markets, would have to be addressed on a trans- or international level. It would be a new combination of decentralization and transnational mediation.
If the restructuring is pursued consistently, a destruction of old industries and capital is inevitable. Certain sectors will have to shrink (e.g. parts of the industrial production associated with high material turnover), others will have to grow first (e.g. the entire care economy), with a relative decoupling of material growth. The shift away from individual transport with combustion engines to collectively used public transport based on renewable energies requires, for example, a massive expansion of infrastructures and personnel in the public transport sector, while traditional car production must shrink. A "reproductive economy" means that needs and the economy develop qualitatively, but no longer grow quantitatively or materially.
10 // Fair transitions and universal job guarantee: Positive prospects are needed for those most affected by the climate crisis as well as for employees, communities and countries threatened by rising costs (e.g. the energy revolution) and restructuring (e.g. structural change through industrial conversion). All measures would have to be measured by whether they: 1. make a relevant contribution to reducing CO2 emissions, 2. reduce poverty and vulnerability, 3. reduce income and other inequalities, 4. promote employment and good work and 5. enable democratic participation.
A socio-ecological transformation conflict will arise in the structural change of the automotive industry: The upheaval in the industry changes everything, makes people insecure. As a preventive measure, state capital aid should be linked to alternative development paths and ownership interests or the full socialization of companies. Public participation would have to be combined with extended participation of employees, trade unions, environmental associations and the people of the region, for example by setting up regional councils to decide on concrete steps towards converting an automotive group into an ecologically oriented service provider for public mobility. Car workers threatened by job losses discuss, develop and help to determine how to organize a conversion of their industries and a fair transition - this is an urgent task also for the trade unions. In this way, those affected can become protagonists of change in the company or the region itself. The turnaround in mobility must be enforced against corporate interests, but with employees and their families: they too have an interest in the "compatibility" of adequate living, time for family and friends and a natural environment worth living in.
Employees will not always be able to stay in the same industry. Positive perspectives and guarantees are also needed so that a socio-ecological transformation is not filled with fear or even fought by those affected. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders have therefore included a job guarantee in their proposal for a Green New Deal (see Rehmann in this issue). All those who want to do so should have the right to a publicly financed, collectively guaranteed job with "short full-time" (Becker/Riexinger 2017). Such a guarantee would distribute work better and, moreover, break the power of capital to dictate the conditions of work, thus putting an end to precarization.
11 // Participatory planning: The need to bring about structural changes under time pressure requires participatory planning processes and decentralized democratic councils (see Williamson 2010; Gindin 2019). Regional councils were already under discussion in the debate on the crisis in the automotive industry (cf. Lötzer 2010). Indispensably rapid processes of change have also been achieved in the past through planning (e.g. in the USA in the 1930s and 1940s). Even Joseph Schumpeter (1942, 310ff), the ardent supporter of what he himself called "creative destruction" under capitalism, spoke of the "superiority of the socialist basic plan".
Thus, socialist positions have a strong argument when it comes to the problem of rapid transitions - but given the experience with authoritarian-centralist planning, it should be participatory planning. Regional experiments can provide an entry point. Democratization and decentralization of existing supra-regional planning processes, for example in the health system, in network planning in the energy and railway sector or in education, can be further starting points. Aborted experiments in cybernetically supported democratic planning (as in Chile under Allende) should be evaluated and rethought in the light of the latest developments. New productive forces and digital possibilities should be used here without overestimating them; capacities for planning and its implementation in administrations and companies should be built up and strengthened.
For the free development of every
It is crucial that all the elements mentioned above are geared towards the expansion of the common capacity for action, which enables individuals to become protagonists in their own history. Marx and Engels have already put this goal in a nutshell in the "Manifesto of the Communist Party": a society "in which the free development of everyone is the condition for the free development of all" (MEW 4, 482).
The break with the old neoliberal and new authoritarian policies becomes a necessity in the face of the multiple crisis. An impending economic slump would exacerbate this situation. The "middle way" of post-ideological openness and left-wing liberal criticism is becoming powerless. Even those who advocate the preservation of liberal civil liberties and minimum standards of solidary living must take a stand against authoritarianism and neoliberalism, i.e. for a more radical left course. Now is the moment of decision, at a time of interregnum, when different developments are still possible. A socialist project is necessary in view of the danger of barbarism. It is fed by the wishes and longings for the future, for concrete utopia. A socialist narrative is important here, but at the same time it must be very concrete, developed from the socialist interventions. The adjective socialist refers to practice and not to a finished blueprint.
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