“Post-pandemic”: political outcomes

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Among numerous COVID-lessons, with health, financial and economic effects, political and ideological transformations are becoming vital too. People after pandemic would like to have a “more human capitalism” with a positive social orientation.

Eugene Eteris, EII Director, Copenhagen

The dominating ideology after pandemic crisis with “all eyes on social needs” would evidently be turning to the “forgotten instances” of socialism. I do imagine the horrors of “iron capitalists” reading these lines; but don’t be afraid of “socialism”! At various stages of people’s existence, which we presently call social transformations, certain types of socialist’s ideology have been in minds of numerous thinkers, starting from the utopian socialism’s fonder the English humanist Sir Thomas More with his Utopia as far away as 1516.

Hence, socialism has had rich traditions in political thought and practice, with a number of views and theories, often different in various continents and many empirical implementations. From its inception in England in 1833, it has acquired several different meanings. It used to refer to a system of social organization in which private property and the distribution of income are subject to social control, although the concept of that control varied.

The term of socialism has had a widely different interpretation (including some forms of social cooperation through trade unions and cooperative businesses initiated by Robert Owen in his “new Harmony”, 1825), ranging from statist to libertarian, from Marxist to liberal capitalism, from Nazi’s “national socialism” to China’s model of a one-party “communist-growth” strategy, which has been quite successful, as we can see.  

In modern time, the so-called “pure socialism” has been rarely present in political discussions: far more common have been such connotations as social democracy and democratic socialism, in which extensive state regulation (with limited state ownership) has been used by democratically elected governments. Numerous positive examples are visualized in the European Nordic states, i.e. Sweden, Norway and Denmark; their interpretation of socialism has shown that such system resulted in much fairer distribution of income without impairing economic growth.

See for example: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/socialism/

Strong socialist’s traditions still survive in European integration model: even in the European Parliament, EP among seven political groups there is a “Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats”, S&D the second largest (!) in the EP with 147 members (out of 705) from 25 EU states; with two members from each of the 3 Baltic States’ social-democratic parties. The biggest representation is from Spain-21, Italy-18, Germany-16, Romania-10, Portugal -9 and Poland-8. Besides, socialist movement has a separate “continental organisation”, the Party of European Socialists, PES.  

Therefore, there is nothing wrong in the ideas of socialism; they often refer to a system of governance concerning the distribution of public income (in a broader sense) subject to an effective social control. In this regard, democratic socialism refers not to an economic system but to a system of governance in which supreme power is vested in the people and exercised through a system of direct/indirect representation which is decided through periodic free elections.

Reference to: “Socialism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, in: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/socialism.   

As socialists argue, “true freedom and true equality” require social control over existing natural and human resources that provide the basis for prosperity in any society. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels made this point in Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848) when they proclaimed that in a socialist society “the condition for the free development of each is the free development of all”. Therefore it makes sense to put the society’s economic arrangements in the hands of its most knowledgeable and progressive members, so that they may direct economic production for the benefit of all.

Source: https://www.britannica.com/topic/socialism

The biggest puzzle, however, is that production, services and corporate activities are primarily oriented towards capital accumulation (i.e. production is primarily oriented to profit and secondly to the satisfaction of human needs). Even in modern multi-party electoral systems, members of the “ruling class” and elites (despite being a minority of the population) have significantly more influence than other population’s groups. Governing institutions have a tendency to adapt their agendas to the “wishes of elites”, as they depend on their political and economic influence in fiscal policies to finance the development of national socio-economic policies.

Post-pandemic lessons

Socialists argue that reducing inequality in decision-making (concerning mainly socio-economic spheres) was significant both “instrumentally”, i.e. to reduce inequality in governance and also “inherently”, to increase people’s self-determination in their role as the major “economic agents”. Therefore, most socialists call for resolving the conflict between democracy and governance by extending democratic principles into political economy.

Only socialism is expected to provide for a plausible rationale in all forces of production and services that would satisfy increasing societal needs rather than to strive for profit’s maximization. Thus, when a conflict arises between the increase in material production aimed at consumption and people’s off-work time (i.e. leisure and externalities with nature and environmental protection) is unavoidable, the present governing structures of “liberal capitalism” cannot resolve the dilemma due to the essential drive for profit; specifically when an economy has already reached a high level of “material productivity”.

Hence, the importance of resolving such key issues as participatory planning (or participatory economy) through a formulation of a nation-wide socio-economic priorities and closer cooperation of politics and economics for the benefit of all…

The primary aim of socialism is to “arrange and assemble” citizens in a democratic public “space”; however, in modern political and economic structures this notion’s implementation (although normatively appealing) is facing serious difficulties; practical “democratic spheres” are intensely disabled by numerous kind of social and economic inequalities, which socialists want to overcome. There are already approved means, for example, by introducing an universal basic income for all, by a significant expansion of public services (contrary to often corrupt private), or by some other mechanisms that secure for everybody minimally dignified socio-economic conditions independent of their position in society and/or in labor market.

Even presently in the US, a vanguard of modern capitalism, the prospect of socialism has been an issue during recent presidential election campaign, primarily through Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was seeking democratic party’s nomination.

Source: Fox News, “As CPAC opens, Rep. Dan Crenshaw releases video attacking socialism”, 27 Feb. 2020; and https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/socialism/  

The erosion of capitalism has been seen in numerous states and in all continents through its inability both to predict and to tackle the recent pandemic. The often suggested “institutional transformation” as an answer to the “post-pandemic” period cannot be either accepted or practically used: only fundamental changes in existing politico-economic structures suggested by socialists shall be the proper and necessary means to overcome the present and all other critical instances.

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