Posted in Political Philosophy, Scottish Politics

Socialism for a Modern Scotland

Socialism

Socialism was an alternative to free market fundamentalism throughout most of the 20th century. Its influence on world development is enormous. Over the past decades, the world has changed dramatically and continues to change rapidly. However, the rapid development of technology has not made the world more just, or freer, or more united. There are millions of people living in extreme poverty, and a continuing trend of deepening social inequality. The processes of globalization have shown even more clearly the barbaric nature of capitalism. Global free markets have created a new injustice, and their “invisible hand” is increasingly transformed into an iron fist. The world economy is divided, into affluent centres and poor peripheries. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer. Whole countries have been turned into raw material appendages of the multinationals.  There exists a huge gap between rich and poor countries and it provokes conflicts such as the ugly phenomenon of international terrorism.

The inefficiency of the current market, which rules via an unchallenged monopoly, was apparent even in the middle of the last century. Capital is becoming more speculative as money turns into more money without being tied to production. Hundreds of billions of dollars are carried around the world in search of profit. The pinnacle of the liberal “creativity” became the global financial crisis and the ensuing recession. This is the third large-scale economic crisis in the last quarter century.

To socialists, the current catastrophe being suffered by the international financial system was obvious long ago. The world pyramid of fictitious capital has reached such proportions that it threatens to collapse and crush beneath it the real sectors of the economies of many countries.

Now even the most orthodox adherents of the free market are beginning to speak the language of social democracy, although the need for state intervention in the economy has not even been discussed. What the discussion should really focus on is how to make government regulation of the economy most effective.

The world lives today, not just in times of change, but at the time of the change of epochs. Financial, economic, social and environmental issues should be part of a single progressive political plan, and its priority must be the interests of the people.

The Scottish Socialist Party recognises that in our modern age there exist not only serious threats, but also a huge opportunity. To take advantage of this opportunity requires the active use of public resources to stabilize the markets, which is unacceptable from the ideological positions of liberalism. Therefore, the alternative to the old world order can only be a socially oriented economy and a rejection of liberalism. The economy must be subordinate to the interests of society.

Only the socialist and social-democratic parties are able to take current global processes under public control, as well as protect the social rights of the common people and the national interests of their countries. Only they can create a more just and secure society, a society in which the interests of the people come first.

Socialism is not an abstract project; it is a necessary tool with which to reconstruct reality. Its current agenda is the humanization of the social and economic life of the community; ensuring public control over the use of the natural resource potential of the planet; respect for the rights and freedoms of citizens; improving living conditions for present and future generations. Socialism is based on the huge cultural and historical experience of mankind, and on the national, historical and spiritual heritage of each country.

Socialism in Scotland 

The party firmly believes that the economic model of neo-liberalism, implicit in the manifesto of all the major parties, has proven to be a complete failure and cannot continue to be the dominant economic structure in Scotland. Especially since the discovery of North Sea oil, but arguably for the entire history of the union with England, the country has failed to realise a significant part of its potential development. The current economic structure has been systematically unable to solve any social problems and has resulted in further alienation of the people.  

As a party, the SSP is deeply concerned about the situation in the country, the threats and challenges faced by the Scottish society and by every person. Social stratification and increasing inequality have become rampant. A recent report described Scotland as facing a “humanitarian crisis” caused by poverty.[1] Insecurity has lodged in the hearts of millions of people. The human resources of Scotland are being depleted, not only quantitatively but also qualitatively, as our people are forced to move abroad to find work. This is viewed by the party as not just a problem that must be solved immediately, but as a large scale threat to Scottish society and the future of our country.

The Scottish Socialist Party believes that socialism, as a conscious democratic choice in a fully independent Scotland, is needed to protect the long-term interests of Scottish society. Socialist ideas firmly anchored in the spiritual and moral values ​​of the people of Scotland. The party have been instrumental in developing the socialist idea so that it meets the challenges of the 21st century as well as the traditions of the Scottish people and culture. This is what I mean by a “new socialism”.

A “New Socialism”?

The term “new socialism” may be misleading, but not intentionally. I do not mean that socialism has been reinvented in Scotland, just that it has been “revamped”. The core values of our Scottish socialism are the same as they always have been, and are the same as values of other socialists in other places. There is no doubt, however, that the campaign for independence has injected freshness into the Scottish socialist movement and displayed on centre stage the relevance of socialism to 21st century politics.

Socialism can be understood as a promising socio-economic model for the modern age. It inherits all of the previous experience of human civilization, including market experience, but adds our advanced technology, social programs, democratic rights and freedoms. In the modern age, the basic condition of the people is achieved via education. Therefore, new socialism aims to provide free access to knowledge for the betterment of the basic conditions of human life, strengthening the autonomy of the individual. Access to free education is a guarantee of prosperity and security, for the individual and the society.

Socialism should also be understood as a workable government, based on the choice and confidence of the people, which is under rigid democratic control. The state is responsible for the welfare of its citizens and the citizens are responsible for the effectiveness of the state. The people do not exist for the state; the state exists for the people, ensuring full respect for their legitimate rights. The state is primarily a service provider to the people. The most important task of the state is to ensure that one part of society cannot dominate another (for example, to ensure that the media cannot dominate and influence the legal system).

Our socialism would actively use the state for the preservation of the spiritual traditions and values ​​of the people, and the protection of the national culture and languages.

The above ideas may not sound new, and serve to highlight that the “new socialism” I am discussing is in many ways just a continuation of previous socialist movements. However, there are some new ideas which socialism for our modern age must accommodate if it is to appeal to the population. A new socialism must also mean that there is no more “right” or “wrong” socialism; there is not a single ideology which is to be realised on the implementation of the socialist project. There are values ​​that unite the world socialist movement. The European social-democracy focuses on the implementation of democratic alternatives to the private market economy. Latin American countries and China implement socialist principles in the framework of their chosen model of state capitalism. Russians socialists study the Soviet Union and decide what to leave to historians and what to take with them into the future. We cannot build a socialist country in isolation, but that does not imply that we must build the same socialism everywhere. In Scotland we can choose our own path!

So what is it about this new Socialism that will win us support in Scotland? New Socialism involves an active state social policy of social security for its citizens. Basic social guarantees include minimum wages and pensions of at least legislatively mandated social standards, free medical care for all, free education for all, the right to social housing, the normalized cost for utilities and ease of access to the cultural heritage of the nation. This is not about handouts from the state; it is about caring for the main wealth of the country – the people. These are the obligations of any state to its people. The fate of the Soviet Union, amongst others, has demonstrated that if the state is not fulfilling its obligations to the people, then the people will relieve themselves of responsibility for the state.

Our socialism is also to be understood as a socially oriented market economy. The term “market economy” should not be understood in any way that is contrary to socialist ideals, and should definitely not be confused with capitalistic ideas of a free market. Although it does accept one truth that the capitalists got right, that competition is one of the most important aspects of economic justice. As opposed to the capitalists understanding of this truth, however, we use competition to empower the workers, not to forcibly reduce their wages and living conditions.   Socialism, so understood, essentially empowers people to engage in business, and stimulates private initiative and business activities. It allows workers to use their skills to take control of their own labour, which will result in more small businesses and self employed workers.

Acting most fiercely against this competition today, against the “fair rules of the game”, is the government in alliance with the multi-nationals who control capital. Public interest should prevail over the interests of the capitalists. If capitalists ignore the social consequences of their activities, then they have no right to continue in those activities. New Socialism does not accept the rule of unbridled market forces and instead redistributes power over the market; from the capitalists to civil society and the state. By implementing this new Socialism we will strengthen the institutions of civil society that can become a real force, as opposed to excessive government intervention and the unlimited power of the free market.

We are for a market economy but not a market society! The spread of market relations outside of the economy destroys the moral atmosphere in society and hardens people. There can be no market between the people and the government. Important spheres should also be kept beyond the power of the market, such as medical research. Likewise, the national culture should not live by the laws of the market.

Socialism must also embrace a variety of forms of ownership. Any form of property ownership, if law-abiding and competitive[2], has a right to exist. By socialism we do not mean the elimination of private property, but political regulation of property rights and the establishment of state controls over the ownership, disposal and use of the property. Private property is only to be abolished, and replaced with common ownership by the people in the spheres of natural resources, industries of national importance and the cultural heritage of the country.

Socialism in Scotland is now inseparably connected with democracy and can only be developed by relying on the democratic process. The Scottish Socialist Party places particular importance on consolidating all forms of participatory democracy, so that the working classes have the opportunity to influence the decision-making process, to take part in state affairs so to speak. A true representative democracy is a participatory democracy! Our socialism promotes the development of all levels of government and increases the participation of regional and local authorities in solving the pressing problems of life. Our Socialism gives impetus to the development of civil society institutions and promotes community based initiatives that form a proactive stance of the people to protect their interests. In this way our new socialism will be developed in close cooperation with other left wing parties and trade unions.

Another important aspect of our new socialism is respect for the environment. Throughout the world, it is left-wing parties that have elevated environmentalism to the rank of national policy.

Our policies are carefully thought out and offer a realistic path for Scotland to take in the future as a way of establishing the country as one of the leading countries in the world, a country that acts as a beacon to other progressive people around the world. Every great country should have great goals. This “new socialism” of the SSP, socialism for the 21st century both in theory and in practice, is able to respond to real threats and challenges posed to Scotland in our modern age.

Justice and Freedom

Our party shares with the Scottish people the core values ​​of justice, freedom and solidarity. For us socialism is a constant movement to a society of social justice. Justice is to be understood as equality for all people in terms of political rights and freedoms, and the distribution of benefits in accordance with the labour input and the abilities of the person. In short, each person has the right to a decent and dignified life regardless of their place of origin, place of residence, property status or age.

The pursuit of justice is firmly rooted in our national consciousness, in the values ​​passed down from generation to generation through culture, traditions, and historical memory. The party believes that the state has an obligation to ensure that justice is in fact pursued. Therefore the purpose of the development of democratic institutions is to achieve political and social justice. Without this goal, democracy is nothing more than an empty slogan.

Violations of social justice are the main obstacle to the development of the country. Such violations include government corruption and the obscene wealth of the super rich. We reject as arrogant the judgment that success is measured by adaptability to existing free market relations. A person’s potential can only be truly revealed, not in the current harsh conditions of survival, but in reasonably organized economic and social relations which are based on justice.

Within the manifesto of our party there are various policies that are the result of this conception of justice. The gap between the rich and the poor is to be tackled, everyone is to have equal access to educational resources and the health care system, while there is also to be targeted social assistance to poor people. For the Scottish Socialist Party, the idea of ​​justice is not a political slogan, but our main goal. It is evident in each line of our party’s manifesto. It is the common theme between the ultimate goals of the party and the specific tasks that must be addressed today.

Freedom in the socialist tradition is understood as man’s power over circumstances, freedom from exploitation and oppression of man by man. Freedom requires overcoming abject dependence, poverty and fear. Freedom enhances self-determination of the individual and his right to defend his own political position. It is not only the goal of social development, but also a means of building a truly civil society.

Freedom without justice is always and only freedom for the few. Such freedom is nothing but a vulgar selfishness. The Scottish Socialist Party does not believe that freedom can be achieved in the free market. An essential precondition for individual freedom is social security. The free market cannot deliver social security. To have true freedom, freedom for everyone, we must have social security.

The freedom of man is inseparable from his personal responsibility for what is happening around him. A freedom that ignores the rights of other people degenerates into tyranny. Freedom can only be realized in a legal state, with a well established system of justice which is completely impartial. Legal safeguards should be used to provide reliable protection from violence and humiliation, and from the dangers of abuse, fraud and arbitrary power, and to guarantee freedom of conscience, speech and political choice. We firmly believe that freedom and justice are the measure of the development and modernization of the country.

[1]  Press release 4 March 2014, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

[2] “competitive” in this sense means everyone having an equal shot at ownership

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