Ideologies as closed, ‘totalizing’ systems are a thing of the past. But if by ideology we mean a set of ideas which mark out positions which are more or less progressive or more or less conservative, then we can assert that ideologies are happily still with us and will continue to be so.
Values and ideas are the foundation of democratic socialism, but they are not enough in themselves. We are going to take up positions involving realities and the nuts and bolts of government as well. An ever-present temptation for the Left is to invent the future and let the Right get on with governing the present.
Democratic socialism must avoid this temptation. It is of course our bounden duty to invent the future and ‘imagine’ the 21st century, but that does not involve giving up on our calling to govern the present and attempting to transform it, realistically and rigorously, under the banner of social justice and equality of opportunities.
Democratic socialism seeks to represent the majority wishes of our peoples. This means taking on board the contradictions to be found within any majority.
Commitment and responses
The work of the Commission takes as its starting point the simple fact that the Left, faced with a radically – and sometimes dramatically – changing world and equally radical changes in economics and society, also needs to change and to put forward fresh approaches.
The Commission’s efforts are directed towards preparing these responses and above all, to debating them.
We went to avoid a discourse of false certainties and mere statements of general principles. That would be a ducking of responsibility. Nor are we going to take cosy refuge in a discourse consisting entirely of questions. Not because we do not ask questions, but because we must go further. We have a duty to provide answers, and that means committing ourselves.
Replying to neo-liberal fundamentalism
The new fundamentalism of the neo-liberals is seeking to establish a worldwide hegemony over ideas and impose its own blockade on communication.
Democratic socialism has to break this blockade. We have to start from the conviction that, despite the insistent neo-liberal message, it is not merely just, necessary and feasible to defend a social model founded on welfare and the idea of a cohesive, non-fragmented society, but that ordinary citizens will increasingly demand that we do porno mexicano, for the negative impact of the period of neo-liberal hegemony is already becoming apparent.
This forms part and parcel of the growing need to affirm democracy and reassert its dignity. The deification of ‘the market’ we are currently witnessing is rather disquieting, raising as it does the question of whether the market or democracy would be the first to go if there were ever to be a conflict of interest between democracy and the power of the market, backed by neo-liberal fundamentalism. It is worth recalling here that while there has never been democracy without a market, there are certainly market economies without democracy.
Globalization as the new frontier of development
Globalization is an irreversible phenomenon of our time. We have entered a new age based on the globalization of the world economy, and the Left cannot approach this reality in a spirit of rejection.
The Global Progress Commission proposes to analyse the phenomenon, see what effects it produces, and put forward progressive policies optimizing the advantages and minimizing the cost.
Globalization creates the possibility of opening up a new frontier of development, where old dogmas are no longer of any use.
The fundamental questions clamouring for answers are:
– what can and should States be doing in the face of the omnipotence of the market? What can be expected from coordinating economic policies or from a world economic government?
– what should the role of multilateral institutions be in regulating the world economy?
– how should open regionalism processes be handled with a view to reducing the gap between the developed countries and the developing countries, and avoid the creation of opposing blocs?
– how do we achieve the integration of peripheral areas which remain on the fringes of development?
There can be no question at all that the great challenge for democratic socialism is the globalization of progress and development.
The Commission chaired by Felipe González wishes to contribute to the debate on how this challenge should be tackled.
The technological revolution and employment
Democratic socialism’s first responsibility to our peoples is not to waste the opportunity provided by the technological revolution. And our first obligation is to create jobs and thus put an end to the misery which unemployment, the starkest expression of social exclusion, means for millions of individuals.
The development or under-development of any country depends on whether it is capable of joining to the information revolution circuit or not. Those countries which remain outside the technological revolution will suffer from ‘capacity impoverishment’: countries which have not been able or did not want to solve the problems of education, human capital, the incorporation of women into the on-going transformation of society, nor, finally, the problems of sustainable development.
These are the great issues of our time.
The responsibility of those in government is to ensure that the technological revolution is placed at the service of human beings, not the other way round. This means that citizens’ rights have to be our reference point.
Today the major obstacle to making these rights a reality and allowing individual human beings to achieve self-fulfilment is unemployment.
If we are to solve the problem of unemployment, the thinking required on how to share out the available working time needs to involve many countries. And the way in which it is shared out must preserve their ability to compete.
Over and above healthy, stable economic growth permanent structural reformand active employment policies will also be necessary.
Health macroeconomic policies
The sole social legitimization of a successful economic policy is that it creates a fairer society and constitutes progress towards equality of opportunities.
There is an area of general consensus which includes, for example, the need to implement healthy macroeconomic policies, and a conviction that the fight against inflation is not a question of Right or Left, since inflation is the cruellest form of taxation for those on low incomes.
At the same time, we know the political authorities need to take up a progressive stance on concern for citizens’ health, for education and social redistribution, and the need to put the technological revolution at the service of citizens.
Reform and the role of the State
The specifically progressive character of a political approach emerges when it comes to deciding on the role of the State. Neo-liberal fundamentalism advocates an emasculated state which abandons everything to the market or to the influence of powerful pressure groups.
We do not want nationalist, populist, bloated States, and we want bureaucratic centralism even less. But we do not want feeble public authorities and States whose capacity for democratic decision-making is dependent on the major concentration of power in a few hands which is created by the deregulated drive of the market and by globalization.
The social legitimation of political power involves the role of the State with regard to citizens’ welfare, educational opportunities, health, pensions and access to all the other social rights and public services – in short, social cohesion policies.
Not everything can be turned into a market. A market requires a regulatory framework, and that framework can only be defined by the public authorities. Public services involve citizens’ rights, and the State must guarantee those services.
Freedom of movement of capital
As regards the relationship between the market and democratic public authority, the Left would like to put forward a regulatory framework for international movements of capital to help prevent severe financial crisis situations from developing.
The Left should at the same time propose mechanisms for prevention of and rapid response to financial crises, which are more and more frequent and increasingly harsh.