Is social democratic reform a worthwhile goal?

If we had a society that had: strong unions to make sure that wages tracked with increasing productivity; high, mid-century-style marginal tax rates for the rich; universal and high-quality free public services; and intervention to minimise the severity of crashes, is that a society that needs to be radically changed by eliminating private property? I suppose my question is, for a young person, do you think it's worthwhile to think about ways that those sort of reforms could be implemented again, and made more resilient? Or, even if those reforms could be revived and made sustainable, would that society still be unlivable because most people are still subject to hierarchical control at work? (Or, is it impossible to make those reforms sustainable and resilient?) I ask because I'm a supporter of a social democratic labour party, and am agonising about moving to a more radical position. Thanks for all the great work that you do.

Official response from submitted

I think that train has left the station. In capitalism's greatest global meltdown, 1929-1941, critics and victims struggled over the question of reform vs revolution (much as you are doing now). They decided, with some exceptions, on reform. Many reforms were instituted after massive struggles: reforms quite like those you list. But because the capitalist organization of production (shareholders electing boards of directors that make all key enterprise decisions from which employees are 99% excluded) was preserved, the reforms that mass struggles won were weakened, evaded, or eventually repealed by the capitalists who retained the positions, hence socially dominant wealth and power.. That is the history of the half century since most of those reforms were instituted. It turns out that however helpful reforms were and can be, they are fundamentally insecure and temporary so long as not accompanied by a transition beyond the capitalist system. So now we know - deep in the second worst global capitalist meltdown - that only revolutionary change of economic system can secure reforms.

Showing 2 reactions

How would you tag this suggestion?
Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • Richard Wolff
    responded with submitted 2017-03-21 12:41:29 -0400
  • Declan Lawless
    published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2017-03-21 09:38:12 -0400