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Toward Democratic Eco-socialism
as the Next World System

6. Transitional System-Challenging Reforms

Book cover: Climate Politics and the Climate Movement in Australia by Hans Baer and Verity Burgmann

Reforms, despite the best of intentions, are often problematic in that they may serve to stabilize capitalism, as has repeatedly been the case around the world. In light of this reality, André Gorz [1975] in Socialism and Revolution differentiates between 'reformist reforms' and 'non-reformist reforms'. He uses the term reformist reform to designate the conscious implementation of minor material improvements that avoid any alteration of the basic structure in the existing social system. Between the poles of reformist reform and complete structural transformation, Gorz identifies a category of applied work that he labels non-reformist reform. Here he refers to efforts aimed at making permanent changes in the social alignment of power. In reality, the distinction between these two types of reforms is sometimes hard to distinguish. But one distinction might be whether they are initiated by the powers-that-be or whether they are initiated by the working class, various other subaltern groups, or anti-systemic social movements.

The transition toward a democratic eco-socialist world system is not guaranteed and will require a tedious, even convoluted path that anti-systemic movements will have to play a central role in creating. Marx viewed blueprints as a distraction from the political tasks that needed to be undertaken in the present moment and, indeed, pressing issues are paramount. But history tells us that there always will be immediate struggles that must be addressed. I often find that when people ask me what it would take to make a transition to a democratic eco-socialist world system, they are seeking some basic guidelines on how to move forward beyond merely bumbling along haphazardly a step at a time.

While not seeking to create a blueprint per se for creating an alternative world system, which will be manifested in different ways in the many societies around the world, in this essay I delineate the following system-challenging reforms to facilitate a transition from the present existing capitalist world system to a democratic eco-socialist world system:

  • creating new progressive, anti-capitalist parties designed to capture the state;
  • implementing greenhouse gas emissions taxes at the sites of production that include measures to protect low-income people;
  • increasing public ownership, socialization, or nationalization in various means of production;
  • expanding social equality within and between nation-states and achieving a sustainable global population;
  • building workers' democracy;
  • creating meaningful work and shortening the work week;
  • achieving a net-zero-growth economy;
  • adopting energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, and green jobs;
  • expanding public transportation and massively diminishing reliance on private motor vehicles and air travel;
  • developing sustainable food production and forestry;
  • resisting the culture of consumption and adoption of sustainable and meaningful consumption;
  • introducing sustainable trade; and
  • building sustainable settlement patterns and local communities.
Book cover: Everyday Environmentalism by Alex Loftus

These transitional steps constitute loose guidelines for shifting human societies or countries toward democratic eco-socialism and a safe climate. But it is important to note that both of these phenomena will entail a global effort, including the creation of a progressive global climate governance regime. My litany of proposed transitional reforms is a modest effort to contribute to an ongoing dialogue and debate as to how to move forward from the present impasse in which the world finds itself today. The application of my suggested transitional reforms will have to be adapted by many countries, both developed and developing, around the world. Furthermore, my suggested transitional reforms are not exhaustive of possible changes necessary for creating an alternative world system.

Copyright © 2016

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