The left in general lives far too much in the past. Society screams for radical solutions, but the left is seen as the defenders of the status quo because it lacks an alternative. The vicious demagogues of the so-called populist and extreme right parties and movements such as the Tea Party in the US are filling the gap.
As for the other sectors in society: revolution is ?le mot du jour? (Fr., ?the word of the day?): they speak about the technical revolution, the digital revolution, the bio-technical revolution, the scientific revolution, or talk about the need for a revolution in education, in business models, etc. The matter of fact is, that the only people who don?t speak about revolution, is the revolutionary left. Lots of examples ca be given. Workers understand that you won?t solve the budget crisis, the debt crisis, the migration crisis, mass unemployment, etc. with a tax on wealth or the establishment of a public bank. They know that radical measures are needed.
In Belgium, the idea of splitting the country is winning more and more support. The nationalists are saying sure, in the short run, a split will lead to economic difficulties and we will become poorer. But keeping Belgium as it is and the status quo will be worse. So, they are proposing a radical solution that will of course solve nothing and make matters much worse, but the party that put forward this idea is the main party in Flanders, with 30 percent of popular support.
We need to develop an offensive programme
defending the need to expand public services instead of cutting them. We should explain that this is necessary to solve the ecological crisis, the environmental crisis, the traffic crisis, etc. We should explain that the use of modern communication networks should be free! Why pay huge amounts of money for bits and bytes that can be easily and freely transported through the Internet. The culture of ?free knowledge?, ?free software?, ?free music? etc.? that rules the internet but is under threat by capitalist property rights should be extended to areas like public transport, energy, etc.
That needs huge investments in environmental friendly energy: solar energy, wind energy, the heat of the earth energy, etc. Then, the question arises what sort of institution can do these kinds of investments? We should really point to the fact that the ?collective? state sector in Europe build a tunnel under the English Chanel, build the massive particle accelerator for CERN in Geneva, developed Airbus, etc. The Internet as so many other inventions was an invention of the Pentagon. In fact, probably a majority of the developments in science and new inventions is done by the state, not in the least during times of war when the state usurps more powers.
We should defend ?the state? or rather the public sector,
but link it with the democratisation of the state institutions, and expose the lies of the neo-liberals about the so-called impotence of the state.
And if we go back to the question of property rights: what institution or which power will be able to expropriate the owners? If we talk about socialisation of the means of production, we need to start somewhere. Capitalism tries to overcome the limitations of the national state by creating international institutions like the EU, but the only instrument the EU gas to impose its rules, are the national states. They gave the European parliament more power over the Commission, in order to give the EU some democratic credentials, but the fact of the matter is that in reality, bourgeois democracy and parliamentarism is in decline. And even in its high days, parliamentary democracy is a very limited form of democracy anyway, that has nothing to do with real power of the people over their representatives.
On the question of freedom and democracy,
which is supposedly a neo-liberal value opposed to bureaucratic state dictatorship, I think we should stand for ?radical democracy? (I think that the concept of workers democracy is out of date and that using that kind of language is a barrier that alienates ourselves from workers), defending the idea of maximum freedom for the individual for matters concerning our personal life (choice of education, euthanasia, abortion, gay marriage, personal consumption etc.) but that people should have a say in all the collective decisions that have an influence on their personal life. These are decisions concerning the workplace, the local community: infrastructure, shops, parks, schools, Medicaid, etc., the regional community, the national and finally the international community. Some issues really have to be solved on a continental or even a world scale: the environment, the climate crisis, the use of natural resources, international transport, etc. The question of we should pose these issues as transitional demands aimed at existing international institutions is to me a secondary or tactical question. The main thing is that we need to develop a programme for all these different levels and work out in practice international alternatives based on the existing international organisations, not only of the working class, but also of different world social movements such as doctors without borders, NGO?s, Greenpeace, the anti-global movement, the P2P movement, etc.
Finally, that leaves us with
the question of the market.
I think that price mechanisms and the market would still play a role in the allocation and accounting of the means of production. I think that planning as perceived by classical Marxism is quite unrealistic and we need to learn from historical experiences of the NEP in Russia and present day reforms in China. In its own way, capitalism has already integrated the world economy. Financial markets are global, multinational are global, corporations are more and more integrated through all kinds of networks.
The main developments in modern technology did not follow a rational plan, but followed rather the laws of chaos theory: the Internet, Linux, Wikipedia, Flicker, Facebook, Twitter, etc. But the old, vertical hierarchic structures of the traditional capitalist business model is more and more a fetter on further development, just as intellectual property rights are a fetter on the further development of science and knowledge. Never before in history the means of communications have been more powerful and ?democratic? than today. With the use of the Internet and a cheap camera, everyone in the world can contribute to news channels. The possibilities of today?s technology are beyond our imagination. Education, culture? could be totally free and accessible to everyone on the planet. But this is not happening under capitalism. It will only become possible under socialism, on the condition that we can integrate all these possibilities (and necessities) in a clear and coherent socialist programme and arm the left again with a realistic vision of a new, socialist society.