Toward Democratic Eco-socialism
as the Next World System

3. Democratic Socialism

Book cover: Karl Marx's Ecosocialism: Capital, Nature, and the Unfinished Critique of Political Economy by Kohei Saito

Due to the shortcomings of efforts to create socialism in the twentieth century, the notion of socialism has been discredited in many quarters. This has prompted various progressive scholars and social activists who wish to preserve the ideals of socialism, such as collective ownership, social equality, and representative and participatory democracy, to refer to their visions of a better world in terms such as radical democracy, global democracy, and Earth democracy. Nevertheless, it is important for progressive people to come to terms with the historical discrepancies between the ideals of socialism and the realities of what passed for it. This is so they can reconstruct a viable global socialist system, with manifestations at regional and local levels, that is highly democratic rather than authoritarian, that ensures that all people have access to basic resources, and that is at the same time environmentally sustainable. It is my assertion that what I term post-revolutionary societies or what some term actually-existing socialist societies, exhibited, and in some cases still display, positive features. They also demonstrated, or still show, notable negative features. Unfortunately, all too many of the negative features have been tragic and horrific, to the point that they have discredited the notions of socialism and communism in the minds of many people.

Authentic socialism remains very much a vision, one which various individuals and groups seek to frame in new guises. Numerous Marxian scholars have asserted that socialism is inherently more democratic than capitalist societies could ever be and, thus, democracy is an inherent component of socialism. According to Ralph Miliband [1994: 3] in Socialism for a Sceptical Age, three core propositions define socialism:

  • democracy,
  • egalitarianism, and
  • socialization or public ownership of a predominant part of the economy.

Although some areas of a socialist society would require centralized planning and coordination, democratic socialism recognizes the need for decentralized economic, political, and social structures that would permit the greatest amount of popular participation in decision making. Socialist democracy would involve not only democracy in the workplace but also citizen involvement in the operation of educational institutions, health facilities, housing associations, and other organizations that impact people's lives. Miliband [1994: 93–4] envisions three distinct economic sectors:

Book cover: Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism by Victor Wallis
  • from the Noun Project a predominant and varied public sector;
  • from the Noun Project a sizable cooperative sector; and
  • from the Noun Project a sizeable private sector consisting primarily of small and medium companies that would play a significant role in providing various goods, services, and amenities.

In The Idea of Communism, Tariq Ali [2009] argues that twenty-first century socialism should include political pluralism, freedom of speech, access to the media, the right to form trade unions, and cultural liberty.

Copyright © 2016

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