Saturday, January 30, 2010

Restoring Our Social Democratic Past

Warning! This is a thought experiment and not a serious political program. Imagine returning to the conditions and living standard we had in the 1970's. What would have to be re-established? Or, looking at the question another way, what have we lost and what needs restoring?

  1. Back then young workers could look forward to a life-long, well-paying, union job in manufacturing or resource industries. Thanks to corporate mercantilism, oops, I mean Free Trade and NAFTA, hundreds of thousands of these jobs disappeared never to return.

  2. Most consumer items were produced in Canada and were of relatively high quality. Today they are crap and imported from China.

  3. Thousands of decent jobs have also been sub-contracted out or corporatized, if of the government sector. These are now low wage and often "on contract" (not stable employment) Hundreds of millions in tax payer dollars now goes to foreign multi-nationals rather than staying in the community and being thus recycled within it.

  4. The resulting lower wages means lower tax intake, which means higher taxation for all workers.

  5. A multitude of hospitals, schools and post offices, built at public expense, have been closed, resulting in the destruction of community and job loss.

  6. Hundreds of billions of dollars of public facilities and property, built at public expense, have been handed over to corporations, often foreign, which means a net drain of wealth out of the country.

  7. Massive cuts to government services, leading to poorer service or fees where none exited before.

  8. Replacement of income and corporate tax by a regressive tax on goods.

  9. Cuts to welfare payments and a severe reduction in UI coverage, leading to a rapid increase in poverty.

  10. Deregulation of airlines leading to bad service, lower working conditions and pay.

  11. Curtailing of government-sponsored affordable housing and coop housing. Pushed housing costs out of range for most Canadians and led to homelessness.

  12. The loss of a multitude of Canadian companies. Bought up by US interests and many cannibalized. More unemployment, more wealth literally "heading south."

  13. Huge factory farms which are terrible polluters and use huge quantities of anti-biotics have destroyed the family farm and the relatively healthy products it used to produce.

In order to restore all that was taken away from us we would have to:

  1. Scrap NAFTA and free trade. Not move back to a tariff, but institute "free rider" charges.

  2. Reinvest in manufacturing

  3. encourage unionization

  4. Re-nationalize all corporatized public property.

  5. Restore UI to 90% of the work force and welfare payments brought up to changes in the cost of living since 1980. Reparations payments to all victims of these cuts.

  6. Insititute a massive program of low-cost housing and coops.

  7. Re-establish public employment for all corporatized former government employees. Abolish sub contracting. Reparations for everyone who suffered financially from these programs.

  8. Restore funding of all public institutions to previous levels.

  9. Make off-shoring illegal and confiscate any wealth that has been placed in off-shore accounts. Raise corporate and upper-end income tax to 1970 levels. Abolish GST and replace with a tax on luxuries.

  10. Nationalize and re-regulate air lines.

  11. Ban factory "farming" and severely restrict the use of anti-biotics. Ban caging of chickens and other cruel treatment of farm animals. Give financial encouragement to the restoration of true farming.

Just to restore life the way it was, would require truly massive changes. In fact, it is hard to believe any present government or party having the cojones to even suggest a partial restoration. Let's face it, restoration would require a revolution. This is one of the reasons all these cut-backs, deregulations, corporatizations etc., were proposed in the first place. This way they could destroy "socialism" by which these fanatics really meant social democracy, forever. They would destroy so many of the gains of the previous two generations that it would take a revolution to restore them. The idea being, that people would not want a revolution. This is how they planned to box us in, creating what their guru Thatcher called a TINA situation (There Is No Alternative, as totalitarian a slogan as one could ever have.)

The only thing is, this petard might blow up in their face. If it takes a revolution to restore social democracy, people might well say, "Why go half way. Why not eliminate the corporatist system entirely, so it can never threaten us again?"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would one want to reinstate social 'democracy'? Its just shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Yes - the corporatist system is corrupt and damaging, but so was the social democratic system which preceded it.

And I definitely do not want to suffer through stagflation, three day weeks, statist unions holding the workers of the country to ransom for their leaders own political ends.

No, we need free trade (not the mercantalism of the trade agreements), free markets (not the corporatist managed markets of today), trade unions which represent workers (not the political class who dominate the big unions).

Changing the management is not an option - we need to do away with them totally.

2:29 AM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

AS i said at the beginning it was a thought experiment, not a serious political program. The level of corruption was minuscule compared to what exists now. I know I was around then. While there were problems in the 1970's the average working person was better off. That is only what concerns me. Of course, I do not want to replace the present corporatist tyranny with a return to social democracy - I'd like to see the whole vile system swept away...

9:08 AM  
Blogger mollymew said...

Hi larry,
I've put this up over at Reddit under the 'canada' subreddit. Hopefully it will get you some traffic.
Interestingly enough the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has also had a similar article in the recent past ( ) about how real wages have been stagnant for 30 years.They also refer to a CCPA report 'Rising Profit Shares, Falling Wage Shares' which also makes the point that while real wages have been "stagnant" the real income of lower wage workers has been "declining" in the same few decades.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Let's bring back the Grizzlies, Expos, Jets and Nordiques too!

7:28 PM  
Blogger Renegade Eye said...

After WWI, it was the Social Democrats who stopped world revolution. It was the workers own leaders. What is interesting, is Ted Grant put together a concept called "democratic counterrevolution." Capitalists establishing both a counterrevolution and democratic institutions.

Even a democratic state, is based on force.

8:23 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

Absolutely! And cheap beer too...

9:03 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

All of this is true, Ren, but so is the fact that workers were better off 35 years ago than they are now. The point of this article is to recall they way things were, how and why they changed and the unlikelihood of a restoration. Anyone under 45 has no recollection of a time when there weren't cutbacks, corporatizations etc.

9:09 PM  
Blogger Werner said...

I agree that times were better 35 years ago or maybe its just age than makes the days of our youth seem benign.Maybe both. In the early seventies unemployment was below 5 percent everywhere. Some countries like Germany had labour shortages. In the UK it was around 1-to 2 percent. No wonder the provisions of the Beveridge report seemed reasonable to many people then. But what happens when a technology driven economy makes conventional employment difficult or impossible? Productivity has increased 1000 percent since the beginning of the twentieth century. Its true that low wages in some jobs are a problem but who wants to work at MacDonalds for any amount of money? Recently there has been renewed interest worldwide in an old idea, the basic income. Information resurfacing from experiments like Mincome in Manitoba showed that all the usual objections to "free" money were/are silly.

In Namibia a two year small scale experiment in the village of Otjivero demonstrated significant economic spinoffs, crime reduction, increased health yielding and net savings to the tax base.

In Germany increased public support for a guaranteed income or "Grundeinkommen" has been helped by an online petition forcing a parlimentary debate for later this year.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

Warner,interesting about the Mincome ideas. As for what I am writing about as a product of old age, I don't think so. Using statistical comparisons as to the costs of housing and rent, as but one example, people had it far easier 40 years ago. Bus fare has gone up 11X and if the minimum wage had, it would now be $14 an hour. Postage has gone from 4 cents to 52 cents. Then there was that free camping, dirt cheap government publications... I could go on and on...

By the way welcome back. I hope you are feeling better.

11:50 AM  
Blogger Werner said...

My situation if anything has worsened but I've gotten tired of comments going around by some other "comrades" about my complaints. This was mainly from the same guy who refused my "friend" request on facebook some time ago. I understand my situation is end stage but that doesn't justify being an asshole in the interim. If we had brought in a GAI in the seventies everything which I've been saying would not have happened. That might explain my obsession here.

I agree that things were more reasonable in 1970 in many ways. The overall cost of living has gone up by about 6 times for most things. But some consumer items now are extremely cheap compared to 40 years ago or just didn't exist back then. By today's standard a small colour television should have cost 20 dollars. Most cost as much as a good used car back then.

The GAI debate is now everywhere and supported by people from across the spectrum. The current jobless recovery has sparked renewed interest in an obvious idea. My own view is a basic income will eventually be seen as a necessity like a fire brigade. "Public" or "private" will have little to do with it, Economic survival is impossible otherwise unless you're a military keynesian. In the above video a rep from a German bank as well as a multi-millionaire like Gotz Werner support the basic income for reasons that would probably be acceptable to many libertarians. Of course their approach is statist but the general idea seems quite sound in my view. Overall this would go a long way to relieve the bottom of the barrel effects of social welfare ... the real reason for opposition by neocons and some "progressives". The worry here is not just about an end to serious poverty (and a convenient whipping boy) but unemployment for a large part of the "leftish" managerial class, shrinks, social workers,and so forth. Today from what I see on my facebook page is increasing communication between libertarians of different types. In the seventies we still had the tradition of red toryism and the left was starting to shed its Comrat heritage. These improvements starting screwing up in the late seventies and into the eighties and (semi)libertarian solutions got lost in the shuffle. At least that's how it appeared to me. Today remnants of old conservatism are talking to new new libertarians on the other 'side". The air is being cleared a little.

1:15 PM  

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