Ever since the German Social Democrats’ rather embarrassed shelving of the Erfurt Programme, the venerable socialist tradition of a basic set of policies that would facilitate social transformation has gone out of fashion. Trotsky was at pains to distinguish his economistic Transitional Programme from the orthodox Marxists’ conception and in this he succeeded, albeit at the cost of downgrading the programme’s function as an agent of enlightenment.
Many modern far left parties, follow Trotsky in advocating policies they consider to be impossible to realise under capitalism and so their supporters, upon realising this, will become radicalised. In practice, these demands amount to a series of radical Keynesist proposals that languish curiously between the reality of capitalism and the possibility of socialism.
It is, moreover, the exact opposite of the mass party approach, which aims to enable a social transformation by winning a majority to a programme that explicitly points towards a socialist society itself. The reasoning behind this approach is that socialism depends on the conscious support of the majority and that requires that people understand the implications of the programme itself.
With this in mind, we offer for consideration a condensed programme for Europe – an EMP – that we think is the minimum necessary to effect a transition from capitalism to a democratic socialist world.
1. Unification of Europe into a single sovereign authority with paramount authority residing in a European parliament.
2. Parliament to be chosen by a party list system. Popular oversight of parliamentary representatives to be exercised through participation in a party.
3. Plebiscites on major issues, including budget priorities and military intervention abroad.
4. Replacement of standing army with militia; thorough reform of the security apparatus
5. Senior public service positions to be chosen from a pool of qualified personnel by a mixture of lot, internal elections, and parliamentary appointment for a set period.
6. Juries to decide cases regarding conflicts between employers and employees.
7. State support for only secular schools and hospitals.
8. Establishment of a single working language for all state affairs.
9. Fair trade on the basis of solidarity with all countries.
10. A normal working week of 25 hours.
11. Democratic control of investment via publicly owned banks issued with mandates from plebiscites and parliament.
12. Establishment of a tax on capital assets to fund investment.
13. Workers to have a legally enforceable right to the full value of their labour.
14. All goods, services, and wage slips to be stamped with their labour value.
15. Enterprises above X size to be organised on a co-operative basis if requested by majority of staff. Compensation to be paid out of future profits.
16. Guaranteed right to work with the State to be employer of last resort.
17. Other things being equal co-operatives to be favoured by the state in tendering for public contracts.
18. Transition to tax being collected in labour notes.
19. Abolition of indirect taxation.
20. Abolition of laws restricting the flow of scientific and technical information.
21. Promotion of the distribution of goods and services on the free software model. .
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Europe is composed of many different nations with massive cultural variation. A single state will not work.
Alabama is different from California, yet the US has been a stable formation for over 150 years. Multi-national empires were common until very recently. While it is true that many people in Europe retain a residual loyalty to their nation-state, this is neither inevitable nor desirable.
2. Why limit the state to Europe?
Pragmatism. The EU is an embryonic state so many of the institutions necessary for organising a continental sized polity already exist. A continental sized one is necessary if manners are to be put on the extremely powerful capitalists that currently hold sway over so much of the financial system. But there is no chauvinistic impulse behind it. If, say, including North African or even South American states should be feasible, we would welcome that.
3. Why a party list system for elections. Won’t that lead to party bureaucrats choosing the candidates?
We want elections to be as political as possible. In many western elections, the focus is on the personalities and good looks of the candidates. A party-list system by no means cures that affliction, but it does make it easier to conduct politics on a more political basis. As for party bureaucrats controlling the lists, it is up to people to join and participate in parties to ensure that does not occur.
4. Why not have direct democracy, with assemblies electing delegates to higher assemblies, as occurred with the soviets in 1917.
This topic merits lengthier treatment but a council democracy is too unwieldy to be stable over the medium term. Participative democracy can occur internally within a mass party and the party should be able to keep control of its representatives. This is a more streamlined process than attempting to keep control of representatives via recourse to assemblies open to the entire population (or class), since the representatives will have party allegiances anyway.
5. A single working language? That’ll never work.
People in any given region won’t stop speaking their local language, but for State business it is just easier to have one language. It doesn’t matter which one it is, as long as there is one that facilitates communication. In any case, if there are to be multiple official languages we should favour a tactic of minimisation thereof. The EU’s current policy of even having languages like Irish as working languages should just be junked.
6. What does fair trade on the basis of solidarity with other countries mean?
First of all, it means we shouldn’t attempt to rapaciously extract wealth from weaker developing countries. But also it aims to foster development in such countries while not throwing overboard workers in the advanced countries. So, for example, tariffs, the amount of which is contingent on the degree of exploitation and environmental degradation, can be applied to goods produced in the developing countries but the proceeds from these tariffs are remitted to like-minded ideological organisations, i.e. socialist co-operatives, there. This would ensure that production in Europe is not undercut by nefarious capitalists based in the third world, who cut corners on labour and environmental conditions.
We favour massive technological advancement both here and abroad. Shunting production to the third world where copious amounts of cheap labour still abounds delays technological progress. Tariffs that penalise for this create disincentives for favouring cheap labour as a factor of production.
We also want the third world to develop industrially and harbour no illusions about the joy of societies living in pre-capitalist conditions or those in the early, brutal stages of capitalism. Since we wish to foster development there too, we remit the proceeds from the tariffs so that investment in the productive infrastructure will gain a capital boost. This is additional to any solidarity and direct technological transfers that will also occur.
7. What is democratic control of investment and why not just tax the rich and redistribute to lessen social inequality?
This is a crucial issue, and in the choice lies the difference between classical socialism and modern social democracy. A strategy of taxation and redistribution through welfare and social spending, while vastly superior than neo-liberalism, is not a strategy that enables an exit from capitalism itself. It is, therefore, in the longer term constrained by the logic of capitalism and this makes it vulnerable to being rolled back.
No social gains are ever completely immune to reaction, of course, but we can minimise the possibilities. Democratic control of investment requires collective ownership of the means of production. This is inherently anti-capitalist because one of the defining features of capitalism is that investment decisions are made by the owners of capital (the capitalists), which is why the system is called what it is. Democratic or social ownership of capital – factories, communications, patents etc – enables those decisions to be made by and in the interests of the great majority. The benefits that result from such investments will be under the command of the population itself, thus making it harder for reaction to set it.
8. What is with workers “having a full right to the full value of their labour”, “goods, services, and wage slips to be stamped with their labour value” and taxation being collected in labour notes?
Another defining feature of capitalism is the use of wage-labour. Capitalists pay workers to produce goods and sell those goods for more than what they pay the workers.
For workers who are not ready to move towards co-operative ownership of their businesses, the use of labour values on wages, taxes etc is an excellent educational method that heightens their awareness of living within a capitalist system. If their pay-slip tells them they are being paid 40 labour hours but the money they receive only amounts to 25 hours (due to the subtraction of the surplus value by the capitalist) then it makes it easier to both ask and answer the question as to what is going on.
We said above that capitalists pay workers to produce goods and sell those goods for more than what they pay the workers. This profit, which is theirs alone and to which workers have no legal claim, provides them with the funds to invest in the next round of production. A socialist programme enables workers to have title to the full value of the goods they produce. The legal system which currently is biased towards capitalists (by giving them legal title to the goods and profit realised on them) will in the future be biased towards the workers who will be able to claim title. But it does not automatically give it to them. It is up to workers themselves to organise to attain it.
It is preferable to enable them to do so rather than just hand them title because socialism depends on mass support and simply transferring ownership by fiat to them we may miss out on the vital aspect of workers wanting it and organising to keep it. The aim is to facilitate socialisation rather than compel it. If it does occur – as it should, as it is in workers’ interests – it will be created on a very solid foundation compared to if it was dictated from on high.
The same reasoning applies to giving legal enforcement to the transformation of companies into co-ops if a majority of workers vote for it. The state can give it legal sanction, even encourage it. But to compel it would be to condemn the resulting enterprise to the dead hand of state compulsion.
9. Why favour direct as opposed to indirect taxation?
Some taxation is necessary to fund social services such as health care, park maintenance, street cleaning, a civic police force etc. It is better that the taxation process is transparent so that workers know how much they are paying and what they can, therefore, expect by way of services in return. Indirect taxes are more opaque and make it harder to retain support for necessary expenditure, which leads to calls for taxation to be reduced to unsustainable levels.
10. Why bother with a capital tax then?
A capital tax to fund reinvestment is put to a different use than the direct taxes that are used to fund day-to-day services. Co-operatives are not to be the private possessions of an arbitrary group of workers. Rather they are held in trust by them for the whole of society. Workers should pay a capital tax on the co-ops means of production to the state, as the incarnation of the collective interest, which funds future investment. That investment process, as we have seen, is conducted under the democratic auspices of parliament.
10. Isn’t a co-operative based system perilously close to market socialism?
Yes. Profits from the co-ops fall to the workers therein. This may prove to be a situation congenial to all and therefore stable into the foreseeable future. Since there is no exploitation in such a system, there is nothing to get too upset about per se. But it does not close off the possibility of evolution into a more tightly planned economy. Social ownership and democratic control of investment, together with the fostering of a co-operative mentality which has been engendered by the voluntary nature of the socialisation process, provides the basis for increased planning and, depending on the levels of abundance, for a transition to a communist mode of distribution.
11. Why is it a minimum programme?
Broadly speaking this constitutes a second phase of a socialist transformation project. It depends on a first stage, comprising the creation of a significant co-operative sector and the emergence of a mass European wide socialist party, having been completed. The second stage becomes operative when state power falls to the Socialist Party. It is a minimum programme because the programme itself does not promise to deliver socialism; it promises to enable it. The rest is up to people to take advantage of the gaps opened up by the minimum programme itself.
12. I’m interested! Tell me more!