Social democracy

We have looked into three main strands of political thought: conservatism (keep what is there or revert to some prior situation), liberalism (freedom from state intervention), and socialism (equality for all, means of production owned by the state). We also looked into the concept of populism: simplify issues and get popular support.

The three main directions in politics were developed in the 18th and 19th century as the modern state in Europe took shape. When Karl Marx founded socialism (or communism, in his days these were the same) he lived in England and saw how in the industrial revolution the capitalists were profiting and the laborers were living and working in increasingly conditions. He said: this cannot go on, at some point the industrial laborers are going to stop this, take over the state and create a state where everyone produces as he can and consumes as he needs. History worked out differently.

The great Marxist revolutions were not in industrial states, but in mainly agrarian ones: first in 1917 Russia, which after the revolution grew to be the Soviet Union. Later in 1949 in China, which at that time was not industrialized at all. In Eastern Europe and China there was nothing like democracy and the old fashioned regimes were oppressive, so the only way open for the laborers to get improvement was through revolution.

In the industrialized countries of Western Europe history took a different turn: because there was some kind of democracy, the laborers could get gradual improvement of their lot, with political parties representing them, and with trade unions standing up for their cause. Also, after 1917 the capitalists in Western Europe became scared of the revolution spreading from the Soviet Union to Western European countries, so they were willing to do concessions to laborers demands.

In Western Europe there were socialist political parties organized, and these worked to create a socialist economy through democratic means. Over the years they made a lot of headway, and in the 1970s in most Western countries, even the United States, labor conditions were pretty good even for lowly educated workers. In the UK a lot of industries, like mines, railways and others were owned by the state. The trade unions were powerful institutions with close ties with the Labour Party. The Conservative Party (Tories) had to go along with this to a certain extend. In other western countries the socialist parties were working on a new model of socialism, in which not all companies were owned by the state, but a lot of them owned by private share holders. These companies did generate a lot of wealth, part of which was used by the state for the general welfare of the population. They had good public education, public health care, social work, public housing programs. Public utilities like electricity and water supply were owned by the state. The private sector was tightly regulated with collective labor agreements stipulating good working conditions. A reasonable minimum wage would be government controlled. Pensions would be government guaranteed, or collectively bargained for all workers in a certain sector.

This new type of political arrangement was called: SOCIAL DEMOCRACY. So the economy would be running largely in a capitalist way, with private sector companies running most industries. ON the other hand the state (government) would be a powerful player in the economy seeing that the poor were not too poor, and that children from poor parents could get a decent education and have an opportunity to improve their situation.

All this means that the state played a big role in the economy, and in making sure that all inhabitants of the country got an opportunity to share in the wealth of the country. There would be conscious efforts to make sure everyone had an opportunity to get his/her share of knowledge, power and income.

Social democracy is part socialism, part capitalism. It is less popular now than it was before 1980. But the Northern Countries: Denmark, Sweden and Norway still run largely this way and have a great standard of living, proving that this type of economy can run well in the long term. They also have low levels of inequality, and score very high on the Human Development Index that UNDP uses to measure the level of development in a country.

In Malawi, a social democrat politician would have a good legacy to work with, but it is only on paper, it is not being implemented anywhere near enough. A social democrat would look into inequality, and ensure that incomes were more equal, that education and health services were delivered better. That the civil service would improve its efficiency. A better pension scheme would need to be developed for Malawi to become social democrat. And labour laws would have to be enforced: an end to child labor, and a much better minimum wage, that would have to be strictly enforced. The Unions would have to improve their efficiency, and would be included in policy talks between the private sector, government and the workers. IN the tripartite talks, new policies would be agreed upon, that would work for workers, private sector companies and the general population. Overall, corruption would have to be prevented and fought. A social democrat would make sure the judicial system will work for everybody, rich or poor. The exponential rise in cost of education would be stopped by social democrats. In general: society would be more equal, with good opportunities for all. But if the ruling class keeps refusing to give up its privileges, a social democrat would turn to Marxism, and start strong action for the improvement of the situation of the poor. These action would first be demonstrations, court cases, and strikes. If this does not make the ruling class give in, harder action may be contemplated.


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