Tulostettu Pohtiva - Poliittisten ohjelmien tietovarannosta
Left Alliance: Party Program
- Puolue: Vasemmistoliitto
- Otsikko: Left Alliance: Party Program
- Vuosi: 1998
- Ohjelmatyyppi: yleisohjelma
Our time is marked by change. During the present century, Finland, Europe and the whole world have undergone unprecedented changes. They have profoundly affected the ordinary lives of people, self-understanding and social life, as well as the output, even the government of societies. The speed of change has been rapid, even faster than in the previous century. The changes in our time are based on the increase in scientific and technological knowledge and its ever wider adaptation in production and business.
The rapid pace of new inventions and their utilisation by industrial enterprises have forced a process of continuous change on to a long stable agrarian society. Alongside agriculture in 19th century Europe, first large industrial communities came into existence, and eventually whole industrial societies.
Technological progress and the rise in productivity in the present century, has gradually taken developments into a post-industrial, service-oriented direction. The change in the structure of production brought about by technological innovations - first the appearance of industrial and then post-industrial society - destroyed the social and economic structures of traditional agrarian society, thereby giving rise to new social classes and new conflicts. Industrial society offered many new opportunities, but also new kinds of oppressive relationships, exploitation and insecurity. Post-industrial developments also contain serious conflicts and threats, but also great opportunities.
Technological progress has created new means of facilitating the movement of people, goods and information. The development of this technology, in association with the political changes of the time, hastened the birth of national states and transformed them into natural local markets and administrative areas. National states also offered a natural framework for citizens to co-operate and exert their political influence.
The rapid development of transport and communications during recent decades has further blurred the borders of time and place. It has simultaneously destroyed the significance of locality and of national states based on locality. Modern information, production and transport technology now unite areas far more extensive than national states into one tight, worldwide market. The production of commodities, even the different stages of production within such extensive markets, can take place far from where the goods will eventually be consumed. It is finance capital which has more powerfully extended its market area, and its movement, thanks to advanced information technology, is not only easy but also extremely fast.
The expansion of markets and the increase in the mobility of capital have weakened the position of national states as natural marketing areas. The internationalisation of markets has not only increased national interdependency, but also the susceptibility of countries to problems originating elsewhere. This has narrowed the national sovereignty of states and their ability to control their own economic development. The decline in the importance of local markets and national borders has also diminished the influence of citizens. On the global market the power of national states and their citizens is increasingly replaced by major multinational corporations and highly mobile capital.
National states have tried to adapt to the globalisation of the market by increasing mutual cooperation through international agreements and the establishment of supranational institutions to supervise them. Cooperation has been carried out in such fields as trade, financing and peace-keeping, and to a lesser extent in questions relating to human development and environmental protection. Supranational institutions have so far, however, been relatively undemocratic. Particularly in economic matters, they have largely reflected the interests of global companies and investors. The interests of citizens have remained in the background.
There are, however, quite a number of international NGOs established by citizens and civic bodies, but they are still quite weak when compared to those formed by corporations and capital. This is the case regardless of the fact that globalisation is the most powerful force threatening the economic and social conditions of citizens. Within the industrialised countries, the civic and social rights gained by people over the course of time are threatened. And within the developing countries even the ability and opportunity to even start building up political and social rights are at stake. The absence of supranational influence within civil society is a serious matter, because global markets not only threaten human rights, but also makes it, if not totally impossible, at least very difficult for those rights to be expanded and developed on a purely national level in the future .
Globalisation on capital terms not only limits the independence of states and the social and civic rights of their citizens, but also threatens the everyday income of the majority of humankind. This threat to incomes derives from the ever increasing efficiency of production, and fiercer international competition weakens local employment, and via this the vitality of local and regional communities. It is also more difficult to maintain better working conditions and tighter environmental norms in a globalising market.
Work and income are essential to all. Therefore tougher competition easily leads to a spiral of dumping of social conditions by which international corporations pit states and their social, work and environmental legislation against each other. There are already examples of the dumping of social values and environmental protection and the impoverishment and environmental destruction it produces. The great question facing us in the new millennium is are we going to allow this process of dumping and the resulting social injustice to continue, or will we try to do something about it.
Behind social activities lie certain values. The predominant values of today are the centralised market with its emphasis on profit, competition and might is right.
If we wish to stop the dumping of working conditions, social rights and environmental values, we have to replace one-sided market values by those of humanity, freedom and equality. For the movements working for change - political parties, trade unions and civil organisations - this means that they must stop believing that there is no alternative to what the upper social echelons and business world would have us believe. In place of this single option, we must not only create a faith but also a genuine belief that there exist real alternatives and that the values and the cooperation they call for have a meaning. Political change powered by people working together is also possible now, just as it was during the last one or two centuries.
Freedom, democracy and sustainable development
The Left Alliance is a political movement formed by people desiring social change and a fair and equal development. The activities of the party are based on three core values - freedom, democracy and socially and ecologically sustainable development. Though operating in Finland, the values and political demands of the Left Alliance are universal and thus extend beyond the national borders. Change that advances freedom, democracy and sustainable development is required not only in Finland, but in Europe and throughout the whole world.
Real freedom for all
The most basic value of the left is genuine freedom for all - the freedom to self-realisation and self-fulfilment, the freedom to grow and develop into a complete person. The strength and revolutionary character of the value of freedom is that it is only real when it belongs to everyone. That is why real freedom can never be realised without the radical principles of mutual equality and social responsibility between people. Equality between people cannot be realised without extensive social and educational equality.
A free society cannot allow inequalities to exist. Everyone must be guaranteed the right to a full life irrespective of gender, age or dwelling place. Real freedom can only be achieved through respecting the equality of all people before the law. No person can be genuinely free if he or she accepts the discrimination of minorities on the basis of language, culture, race, belief or gender, or the mistreatment of the handicapped and the abuse of children. It also belongs to real freedom that ordinary life functions smoothly and controllably, and that people have a genuine responsibility for both themselves and others.
The condition for true freedom is the complete independence of the individual. Everybody should have a genuine opportunity to influence their own position and environment at home, at work as well as in society. This possibility for everybody to influence their own affairs is realised when democracy and basic social and educational rights are strengthened and increased. The ability of the individual to be independent comes through equal human relationships based on mutual respect, social community and the experience of individual worth.
Rights are not based on ownership
In order for real freedom to be realised, society and its constituent parts must be democratic. A democratic society is characterised by the fact that freedom and civil rights are not based on ownership or social position, but on the recognition of the equal human dignity of all people. In a democratic society all individuals have an equal and continuing opportunity to develop, study, work and influence irrespective of their social, linguistic, cultural or ethnic background. Real freedom for everyone is only achieved through the strong position and political guidance of democratically elected decision-makers as a counterweight to the market-oriented economic power.
The demand to limit the freedom and power of the market is no longer fashionable at the present moment, and to many people it is not even very realistic, as neither is the demand to increase collective responsibility and the social rights of people. The world, however, can only be changed through thinking and action based on values, not by remaining quiet and conforming to those values prevailing at any one time. Even radical demands for change can in time be realised, if they represent a striving towards equality by the vast majority of the people, and if there is enough patience to keep to them. History has shown that social change is never realised in a day or at one time, but progresses slowly until finally the world is radically different from before.
The people as the source of power
A good example of the historical process of change was the French Revolution. This marked the beginning of the end for a class society based on estates and the oligarchy it represented in Europe at that time. The French Revolution brought forth a new and powerful idea, that the ultimate source of power lay in the people. This was a radical and to many a utopian idea, because in the old class society, social and political power, as well as the inequality of men was thought to be ordained by God and thus a part of the natural order and beyond human influence. During the following two centuries, the idea of the sovereignty and rights of man has become the common starting point of almost every political movement and seldom brought into question.
In addition to the idea of the power of the people, the French Revolution brought the concepts of right and left into European political life. The right in those days meant the conservatives, i.e., those who still tried to hold on to the estate system and the privileges of the owner classes. The left meant those who were for the striving for equality between people. The first left created by the French Revolution consisted of the liberal bourgeoisie working for the freedom of the people. The second left, that of the socialist labour movement, came somewhat later.
The principle of collective responsibility
The ideas of the French Revolution were liberty, equality and fraternity. The liberal bourgeoisie believed that freedom for the people could be achieved through the pursuit of business and the freeing of trade, i.e., the market mechanism and ´the invisible hand` that controlled it. The second, socialist left, which emerged out of industrialisation, soon realised, however, that equality among people and genuine citizenship could not be achieved only through the mechanism of the free market. In addition to the free market, the socialist left demanded recognition of collective responsibility and the principle of solidarity.
In practical politics, the liberals and the socialist left also differed in their attitude towards the role of the state. The liberal bourgeoisie believed in the omnipotence of the market. Therefore they wished to develop a kind of a night-watchman state with as few tasks as possible and which allowed the market the greatest possible freedom. The socialist left, on the other hand, supported the idea of a wider, market-guiding state, in which the most important task of government would be to guarantee the social equality of its citizens. Accordingly, it was - and remains - the belief of the labour movement that individual freedom is only possible when material living conditions and social security were at a reasonable level. Thus the socialist left struggled for humane working conditions, adequate wages and regular leisure time. Alongside these, other powerful demands included the right of workers and their children to education and culture.
In Finland the goals of the socialist left were first postulated in the Forssa programme, approved of 1903. The programme was a kind of Red dream, the contemporary idea of the good society. During the decades that followed the Forssa programme, most of its demands were realised. The speed at which these goals were achieved was, of course, painstakingly slow, and the development of society often went in a completely opposite direction. After the second world war, in particular, socialist ideals formed the basis for the building of the Finnish and other European welfare states. In Finland, a comprehensive social security system was introduced in addition to diversified public services and the legislation of working conditions. Through the development of a comprehensive school system, education became more evidently a universal right.
The most basic value of the left - genuine freedom for all - can only be realised in the new millennium through widespread collective responsibility, that is through rights recognised by the whole of society and it guaranteeing an adequate system of social and spiritual security guaranteed by that society. Thus the rights gained by the people must be defended and extended. This extension is required not only in the direction of new rights that guarantee a new, socially and ecologically sustainable development, but also in the direction of expanding the group of people belonging to this circle of rights. Extensive rights, pertaining to nationality, social security and education are the road of every human being towards individualisation and individuality both in Finland, Europe and the whole world.
During the last two centuries, civil rights have been built and expanded mainly at a national level. There is every indication that in the new millennium the globalisation of companies and economic life will accelerate. Therefore the securing and expanding of political and social rights must increasingly move onto an international level encompassing the whole world.
Real freedom for all requires that the whole of society and all the communities belonging to it are democratic. In a democratic community, people can take an active part in the ways and means its operations are organised and led. Democratic communities are pluralistic so they respect the differences and individuality of their members and the opinions they hold. It is characteristic of a genuine democracy respecting individual freedom that, although based on majority rule, the rights of minorities and those in a weaker position are recognised and the freedom of opinion, assembly and organisation are guaranteed.
Democracy, i.e., listening to the voice of the people, is required in all communities. This is why democracy should be a desirable goal for every institution in society - in the home, school, company, government and working life. In a decentralised administrative culture embracing a variety of different communities, democracy is foremost the participation of those who decision-making concerns. Democracy means the opportunity for every individual to influence the rules and decisions of the community in which he or she functions. In a democratic society, personal freedom, the right to participate and influence are also fully realised in the working life.
Open and public decision making
For democracy to function, it is necessary that the handling of matters and decision-making be as open and public as possible. In a decentralised democracy, it is not possible or even always necessary, to establish permanent administrative and control organs for all decision-making. From the point of view of democracy, it is essential that all political decision-making is preceded by a genuine and interactive discussion in which all interested parties and even temporary coalitions of people are openly and impartially heard. In addition to political decision-making, essential economic decisions should also be as public as possible.
The openness and publicity of decision-making can only be guaranteed with the aid of free, pluralistic and diversified communications. In an open society, communications must go in all directions, which is why we need the possibility of interactive communication in addition to the mass media. In a democratic society the freedom of communication and the diversity of the media represent in principle a positive direction in development, because the fragmentation of the media and the public gives people a wider freedom and choice than before. Advanced information technology offers increasing possibilities for contacts and interaction between people and different NGOs. In a world of diversifying media, society ensures that ownership is not excessively concentrated, and that diversity and variability as well as the accessibility of the media and public communication services are supported by taxes whenever necessary.
The family is essential
The family and the emotional ties it produces are essential to people. The family is the place where the child makes its first contacts with other people and learns to fulfil and evaluate itself and its own characteristics. Due to the importance of the family, society must act in such a way that both sexes have sufficient time and opportunity for a family life. In the good society, adults would not have to spend all their time making a living or advancing their careers, but have time and energy enough for the other members of their families. This will be realised, for example, by granting the parents of small children to work a shorter day than normal, by work sharing, and receiving adequate financial support.
The spectrum of the modern family ranges from married and common-law couples, single-parent families to remarriages and communes. A democratic society supports a family culture, which understands the family as a community, but at the same time acknowledges the individual rights of all its members, particularly those of the children. As the family is also an economic unit, society must ensure that every adult member is economically independent and that there are equal incentives to work for both men and women. This means, for example, the right of spouses to be taxed separately, that social security is determined individually and that daycare services are easily available. In addition to supporting work, the good society will also ensure that both sexes have the possibility to participate in family life and look after the children.
The market itself is not sufficient
Markets based on exchange are an essential part of society and the lives of its members. Markets, which are governed by the laws of supply and demand that in turn determine prices, are often an effective and flexible way of organising production and exchange. Markets, however, only take those needs into account that are based on purchasing power and economic power. As the needs of people with limited or no means are often ignored, the market itself is not sufficient.
In completely free and regionally extensive markets it is quite easy for robbery to occur in which the right of might prevails. Equality, workers' rights, as well as the purity and diversity of nature are all trampled underfoot. In a society which respects human dignity and freedom the market mechanism always requires democratic control, mutually-approved rules and agreements, and a large number of public-funded activities.
It is particularly important to establish clear rules of the game on the labour market, as it is there where the individual skills of people are exchanged. Furthermore, the wage paid for work is for most people the main source of income. On the labour market the individual employee is usually in a weaker position than the employer. This is why the employee should have an inalienable right to organise and co-operate professionally and to the security offered by collective wage agreements. In addition to agreements, laws that protect the life, health and economic position of employees are also required.
In the good society, the benefits and protection provided by agreements and laws cover all employees and all types of employment contracts. Even the smallest type of company, the self-employed entrepreneur, need the protection provided by laws and rules against the arbitrariness and unjust competition of the big firms. The good society also encourages genuine entrepreneurialism based on varied orders and commissions, and which secure an economic income. It rejects, however, the use of micro businesses aimed at worsening working conditions.
Democracy also within the company
The company is an important unit of economic activity and the source of income for wage earners, entrepreneurs and investors. The working community formed by an enterprise is also an important community in which people fulfil themselves through social intercourse and work. Despite the great economic and social importance of companies and working communities, the model of democratic administration, in which all parties have a right to take part in decision making, is still not taken for granted or even accepted.
The openness of corporate administration has been improved in recent decades by laws and collective bargaining agreements. Also the duty to listen to and inform employees has widened. Moreover, a management culture emphasising equality has become more widespread. This management culture is, however, one-sided and voluntary, so in crisis situations it gives way to more authoritarian models. Likewise the duty to listen and inform is often only a formal fulfilsment of laws and agreements, and does not aim at the genuine participation of employees.
In a society which respects the broad right of people to participate, enterprises must accept and acquire a democratic administration and management culture. This is realised through such systems of participation which are based on legislation and agreements. These systems give employee groups the opportunity for real cooperation with the management and owners of companies. Through real cooperation employees can realise their civil rights and their own professionalism and skillfulness as fully as possible in the working life. The broadening of the right to participate will bring much activity, know-how and developing potential to the use by the companies, which in an authoritarian management culture will be totally unused owing to the disregard for the opinions and experiences of employees.
Remove the supremacy of capital
In the modern market economy the ownership of the means of production is often quite concentrated and capitalistic. The supremacy of capital which results from concentrated ownership distorts both the operation of the market and the democratic society. In addition to the concentration of ownership the operation of the market is influenced by the dominating position of the large companies and the consequent lack of competition. In a democratic society we need a functioning market, which is stripped of those features that maintain the capitalistic supremacy of capital. A functioning market presupposes both rejecting the concentration of corporate capital and promoting effective competition.
There is also room in a democratic society for industrial and service enterprises owned totally or partly by the public sector or different types of co-operatives. Active labour, business and competitive policies are also part of the good society. The government establishes clear rules and limits on the use of the economic power derived from ownership. When setting the norms, preference must always be given to the interests of those in the weakest position. Collective responsibility and public sector input is also required to smoothen out regional and local developmental differences. In a decentralised democracy, the ultimate use of the resources is decided principally by the regions themselves.
A diversity of opportunities
The good society offers people diverse opportunities to participate and influence, and supports their abilities to do so. Differences in income and opportunity caused by the market are actively levelled out by the government through taxation, income transfers and welfare services. The levelling of incomes in the interest of social justice and the provision of extensive public educational, health and social services provide the foundation for an extensive education, professional skills and know-how for all people, as well as the equal participation of both sexes in the working life, family life and other social activities.
A broad education and extensive, publicly-supported cultural and sporting services, create the basis for the spiritual development of people. Professional skills, know-how and equal opportunities for self-development also provide a good basis for industry and the everyday acquisition of income. Similarly they create the basis for civil action in the work place and participating in decision making in industrial life.
Democracy is participation and collective responsibility
The mark of a democratic society is the participation of those affected by its decisions. Another equally important characteristic is that society actively monitors and carries out the ideas of equality, justice and ecological sustainability. Education, health and social services have a great impact in securing equal opportunities and individual development. This is why the people, as the users of public services, should have a genuine possibility of exerting influence on the quality, content and production of services through direct consumer democracy.
The easiest way to realise a consumer democracy is just in these publicly produced services through putting their extent, dimension and monitoring under the direct control of the people. In addition to the public sector, the power of consumers is also well realised through the production of services based on cooperation. The co-operative production of welfare services presupposes, however, public subsidies and quality norms in order to guarantee the equal availability of the services provided. In some cases the competitive tendering or private production of services is justified. In competitive tendering, however, it is essential to ensure that it is not done at the expense of the employees' working conditions or the quality of the services.
Models based on cosmopolitanism
The creation and development of democratic channels for participation and influence over the last two centuries has mainly occurred within the limits of the national state and its regional and local communities. Internationally, however, the opportunities for people to directly participate and influence have been - and still are - weak.
So long as the operations of the market remained largely national, the national state and its democratisation offered good possibilities of increasing social rights and the material welfare of the people. Now with the powerful internationalisation of the market it is possible to circumvent the national state and the social obligations it places on the market. If we wish to build a counterweight to the international market by democracy and through agreements guaranteeing the political and social rights of people, we also have to build effective supranational administrative models based on the idea of cosmopolitanism alongside the channels for national participation and influence.
In the ecstasy of their faith in scientific and technological progress, people mistakenly believed that nature was there to be economically exploited and that its riches were inexhaustible. Industrialisation and the tremendous rise in productivity quickly increased not only the volume of material production, but also the amount of waste and environmentally-harmful emissions. The powerful growth in production also consumed more and more natural resources. During the last three decades the limits of nature's endurance have been reached as natural resources become exhausted and the human environment polluted. This, together with the destruction of original nature and the reduction in its diversity, has made many people realize that in spite of his technological abilities man is not ultimately the master of nature. Thus there are clear, already visible limits to the riches of nature and its ecological endurance.
Man cannot survive without nature
Nature will certainly survive without man, but not man without nature. That is why we have to ensure the renewal and preservation of nature if only in order to secure the physical living conditions for humankind. In the good society, economic activity must be adjusted to the limits set by the environment's ecological endurance. Nature must be respected and valued for itself and not only as a means.
A society striving for ecologically sustainable development will use resources to protect original nature and preserve its diversity. Such a society is obliged to consider the rights of the unborn generations. The good society also treats animals with respect. It endeavours to secure the living conditions for natural species, try to stop unnecessary experiments on animals, and treat livestock and pets ethically.
Emissions and other environmental hazards must be reduced
Ecologically sustainable development presupposes a new look at the idea of economic growth and continuously increasing living standards as the motor of industrialised societies. The emissions and environmental hazards increase in direct proportion to the volume of material production and the raw materials and energy used. This is why a decrease in harmful emissions and other environmental risks presupposes a reduction in material production or at least in the quantity of raw materials and energy used.
The idea of renouncing material growth, however, provokes great opposition because between individuals and countries there is continuous competition in regard to incomes and living standards that nobody wishes to give up. Because the continuous rise in productivity decreases jobs, economic growth is also needed to maintain employment.
Ecologically sustainable development presupposes that the industrialised countries diminish the intensity of the materials and energy used in production. Production in such a society is more information and service intensive than material and energy intensive. The production of personal services is by nature local and consumes hardly any natural resources. Therefore it can expand. With the aid of new information technology more services can be produced than ever before, also for a global market, so the importance of industry as the only significant currency earner is reduced. Because of the rapid development of information technology the main focus of economic activity is increasingly moving in the direction of non-material production.
The living standards race - no thanks!
An ecologically sustainable economy is largely based on the utilisation of renewable sources of energy and other natural resources. The use of non-renewable natural resources mainly depends on recycling. New technology that saves natural resources and reduces the unnecessary transportation of goods and people, ensures that material production continues even if the use of virgin raw materials and especially energy is reduced. Industrial emissions can be reduced through the use of various closed systems, the recycling of raw materials and minimising of transportation.
In addition to changing the methods of productions, sustainable development also requires examining the goals of economic activity. The continuous race in living standards cannot go on forever. That is why sustainable development also means that the rich countries give up the prevailing goal of a constant rise in living standards and strive only to maintain a reasonably level and a more equitable distribution of wealth. In this way, natural resources and the prosperity they produce will suffice worldwide, not only for the developing countries but also the generations to come.
Worldwide environmental norms
Most of the threats to the environment - such as the pollution of the air and water and the threat of global warming - are worldwide and the common concern of all countries. It is only possible to control wide-spread environmental problems by international agreements covering the whole world. Sustainable development presupposes worldwide environmental norms and a system of global taxes and charges that oblige all companies using non-renewable natural resources or producing harmful emissions to change their behaviour. All companies and their employees must be encouraged to take environmental considerations into account in all their activities. The demand for ecological life management also penetrates the ordinary lives of people - their homes, workplaces, leisure environment and transport. Ecologically sustainable preferences and life styles will only come about on a larger scale if favourable conditions can be created for them by political means. That is why the consumer goods market, for example, has to be steered into such a direction that environmentally-friendly choices are cheaper and therefore preferable. What is good for the environment is good for everybody.
The proviso is peace
Socially sustainable development requires peace and non-violence. It requires giving up the arms race, the maintenance of artificial threats and the dismantling of military alliances. Armies should only do what they are specifically supposed to do. Militarism has no place in a democratic society, especially in its kindergartens and schools.
A socially sustainable society is not built on the basis of strict social controls. Such a society is formed by the creation of contacts, interaction, dialogues and the art of settling conflicts. Social sustainability is also built by dismantling images of enemies and creating genuine opportunities for interaction between groups hostile to each other and parties with conflicts among themselves. The aim is a world without arms and violence.
Social exclusion is a threat to development
On the threshold of the new millennium, the social sustainability of post-industrial societies is being severely tried by mass unemployment. Millions of people and whole sections of the population are threatened by permanent exclusion from the labour market. As with ecologically untenable growth, so the threat of social exclusion has its roots in the technological and productive changes that dominate our time.
The declining demand for labour is historically a new problem, because until recent decades industrial life benefited from a widespread use of manpower. The development of societies was for long labour intensive, and main problems experienced by people and communities was the excessiveness and harshness of work rather than the lack of it. Even when it was possible to produce the same amount with less workers as productivity increased, the need for labour in industrialised societies grew, because of the expansion in production and markets and the powerful rise in living standards. Also in post-industrial societies, the need for labour increased at the beginning due to the expansion of the service sector.
The breath-taking advance in information technology and the rapid increase in automation have, however, together with the continuing rise in productivity, led to a situation whereby the demand for labour now decreased. This and the constant rationalisation of production are increasing the profits of companies operating in a highly competitive international environment. Thus the free working of the market mechanism increases unemployment rather than reduces it.
Even if economic growth increases incomes and the demand for goods, the increase in productivity means that even quite a considerable expansion in the economy only prevents the weakening of employment, but does nothing to ameliorate it. The problem is made worse by the fact that companies operating in an internationalising market try to avoid for the labour costs arising from maintaining social rights by transferring production to places where there are fewer norms and obligations. In addition, the demand for ecologically sustainable development questions the constant expansion of material production.
Income redistribution is not enough
Societies based on a mechanism that permanently excludes people from the labour market are not socially sustainable, because they deprive some of them of an essential aspect of their humanity and culture. The problem of income caused by being out of work can certainly be solved by income redistribution within a system of social security, but this can never offer the experience of social solidarity, being needed and self-fulfilment which work and other collective activities can at their best offer. Moreover, in today's welfare states social security is often distributed in a rather discriminatory fashion. Those living on it cannot freely use their time and fulfil themselves by studying or small-scale entrepreneurial activities without fear of losing their unemployment and other welfare benefits. This is why long-term unemployment in particular often leads to passivity and to the deplorable fact that the main part of people's skills and know-how remain unused.
This large-scale neglect of know-how and skills leads to alienation and a decline in social solidarity. The weakening of social solidarity, together with the growth of income differences due to people being forced to live on social security, gives rise to criminal or anti-social subcultures. Thus a permanent and deep division in society between those with work and those without, produces a conflict-prone society in which few, if any, feel happy and safe.
In a society striving for socially sustainable development, employment cannot be left to the mercy of the market mechanism and its logic of profit maximisation. In a world preparing for the new millennium, the questions of employment and the environment are the major political issues calling for changes in social planning and the prevailing rules of the market. In a society striving for social and ecological sustainability, the amount of work required to maintain an adequate material standard of living must be distributed more justly than before.
Also, work must be divided
The free market mechanism distributes work and incomes unevenly. Therefore the political mechanism must divide not only incomes as now, but also work itself in a new way. The aim for distributing work more justly should be full employment and a relatively even income distribution. Full employment - the right of every human being to work - is required because work, man's ability to mould his environment, is one of the cornerstones of spiritual development and self-fulfilment. In order for full employment to have a meaning for individuals, it must be combined with improving the quality of the working life, a widening of the meaning of work, and a shortening of a lifelong work time.
In the good society, all work is such that in performing it people will be able to use all their versatile skills and learn new things. The good society enables all people to enjoy life-long learning. School and study in youth are followed by an alternation between meaningful work and voluntary studying later on. In order for the divided work to provide a sufficient income for all people, sufficient public funds must be made available. Support is primarily required for low-paid workers who shorten their work time and divide the work with others.
The development of technology increases incomes from production, work productivity and corporate profits, but weakens employment. At the same time it increasingly transfers unpleasant, monotonous and arduous tasks from workers to machines. If, as technology advances, the reduced amount of necessary work can be redistributed, then humanity can finally reach the state it has long dreamed of where obligatory work has ceased and its arduousness considerably diminished. In such a state man is no longer part of a machine but increasingly its master. If work and also the income derived from production can be distributed equitably, there will be enough work and income for all. Because distributing work helps to redistribute familial obligations, it will also promote equality between men and women.
Decentralised decision making
The social and ecological sustainability of societal development also presuppose that, apart from the distribution of work, decision-making is as decentralised as possible. Localised decision making motivates people to participate and take a stand on issues important to themselves. Administrative and economic decentralising makes it easier to understand the subject matter of decision making.
The right to decentralised decision making should be real. That is why the resources required to realise the decisions should be directed to where the decisions are made. Local people are the best experts in matters concerning themselves. They also carry the responsibility in all cases, i.e., they experience the concrete economic and environmental consequences of the decisions.
In addition to local decision making, a socially and ecologically sustainable society also needs norms and rules that are binding nationally and even globally. These are required in questions relating to labour conditions, social policy, transport, community building, environmental policy, industrial and commercial policy, as well as the level and availability of public services.
The global issues that demand regulation concern wide-spread pollution, the disposal of hazardous waste, the use of non-renewable natural resources and the preservation of the diversity of nature. In a global economy, social policy must also be global. Only internationally common rules guarantee that human dignity is respected everywhere where work is performed and people live their ordinary lives.
International regulation and supranational intervention is needed also on the money market and in questions relating to taxation. The free movement of finance capital and the excessive profit goals of its owners can only be restrained by international means applicable to all countries. Likewise the taxation of capital-market companies can only succeed through a global system. International cooperation is needed also in environmental taxation and especially to ensure that environmental taxes are used to diminish the income differences both within and between countries.
The reduction in income differences is important because the world's major environmental problems are connected the serious inequality in income distribution. The continuously increasing level of consumption in the rich countries leads to pollution and the depletion of natural resources. Likewise the rapidly growing populations and extreme poverty of the poorest countries bring about the problems of erosion and desertification. The striving towards sustainable development presupposes that greed and excessive consumption is universally condemned and replaced by the goal of a moderate standard of living for all, which guarantees the prerequisites for a good life and the little pleasures that go with it.
Countries can become indebted
Social and ecological sustainability also means that countries can incur debts during economically difficult times. These debts become the inheritance of future generations. This is acceptable so long as the inheritance also includes a level of education and social security maintained by these debts or that they are used to invest in the environment. If tomorrow's generations also inherit a real ability to repay the debts, i.e., skills, know-how and enterprise, they will be able to repay them in due course. On the other hand, an inheritance that consists of environmental problems, the exhaustion of natural resources, and emerging conflicts within society can be an unreasonable burden on future generations, because the squandering of natural resources and spoliation of a viable environment and society will also prevent the greater part of income generation in the future.
The left can be proud of its achievements
For two centuries now the activities of the left have been directed by the values of liberty, equality and fraternity. These values, and the political programmes based upon them, have in different societal situations acquired different forms and accents. Also support for the values of the left has sometimes been limited, sometimes wider. The values and dreams of the left have over the years moulded the development of society and have particularly changed Europe and the destinies of Europeans.
Although the achievements are numerous ...
The idea of the sovereignty of the people and the national state it produced, was brought forth by the first left or bourgeois liberalism and this has undeniably led to an increase in civil rights and the franchise in Europe. Thinking based on the political rights of people has also taken root elsewhere in the world. Nowadays, the social systems of nearly every industrialized country are based on a universal and equal franchise. The highest legislative power resides in parliaments elected by the people, with the executives or governments, directly accountable to them. Within the framework of the national state, a variety of autonomous regional and local administrative systems have emerged. Local government, too, is principally based on democracy and the central position of the administration organs elected by the people.
Also the dreams of the second, socialist left concerning fraternity and social responsibility have to a great extent been realized in European, particularly Nordic welfare states. During the last century great progress has been made in improving workers' living standards, working conditions, social security and the position of women in society. The trade union movement has played a vital part in improving workers' rights and social security.
Thanks to the activities of the left, the values upon which the modern welfare state is based have received wide political acceptance. That is why the supporters of free or partially-free health services, comprehensive pension systems and unemployment benefits, can nowadays be found elsewhere than on the left, even if the situation was different when the systems were introduced. The increase in broad educational rights for the people - like Finland's extensive and free school system, free libraries, abundant public cultural and physical health institutions and increased leisure-time - can largely be attributed to the achievements of the left.
With the growth in democracy and the building of welfare states, the role of the state has also changed. In many countries the state has increasingly become a service state based on a civil society that exists to care for its citizens and their well-being. At the same time the state has lost much of its previous characters as a means of oppression and power directed at the people by the ruling classes. The state has also levelled out differences in regional development in many countries. In the Nordic countries, the extension of the services provided by the state and local government authorities have played an important role in improving the social position of women.
... so are the challenges that must be faced
Both the achievements of the first left in increasing and extending political rights, and those of the second left in alleviating the conflict between wage labour and capital, are historically unquestionable. There is, however, still much to be done, and societal changes constantly create new challenges which must be faced.
The growth in freedom at work, and the increase in the influence and rights of workers, has been much more modest than the expansion in civil freedom and influence. Also the problems connected to the social inequality between men and women, particularly within the labour market and the distortion of family responsibilities, are still largely unsolved. Hierarchies related to ownership, capital concentration, education and job evaluation are also waiting to be dissolved. The greatest challenges in recent decades concern the durability of the environment and the mass unemployment caused by increased productivity, which respectively threaten the equilibrium of nature and the social solidarity of society. A new, Third Left is required to solve these problems.
Globally speaking, the working conditions of millions of people are still inhumane. The absence of economic and social power, as well as the right to self-determination, are still for many people a real problem. Women in particular suffer from discriminatory structures; for instance, three-quarters of the world's poor and two-thirds of its illiterate members are women. These problems are most serious in the developing countries. But in recent years even the prosperous industrialised countries have taken a step backwards. For instance, mass unemployment, poverty and widespread insecurity have increased and the power of the market has expanded almost uncontrollably. Also at work people have had to abandon most of the civil rights they have outside the work place. These are the reasons why the left cannot rest on its laurels. The left must rise again and apply its values in solving social problems and fighting the new threats to prosperity.
The threats to prosperity
In recent decades, the ideology of neo-liberalism, with its call for maximum freedom for the market, has emerged to menace the favourable growth of freedom and social security for people attained within the framework of the national state. According to the neo-liberals, the welfare state has come to the end of the road.
Neo-liberalism has gained impetus from the financial difficulties experienced by European welfare states and their problem of mass unemployment caused by the periodic unstable development of the world economy. Neo-liberalism has also been fuelled by the expansion and internationalisation of the market due to technological advances, which has offered a wonderful opportunity for circumventing national regulation of the market and for furthering of the idea of a completely free market. Neo-liberalism threatens the existing values of liberty, fraternity and social security and the struggle of the left for sustainable growth.
The central argument of the neo-liberals for dismantling the welfare state is that the competitiveness of companies operating in an internationalising market cannot endure the high rates of taxation required to maintain the welfare state and its income levelling mechanisms. And because high taxes destroy corporate competitiveness and markets, it also leads to high unemployment. According to this logic, unemployment in welfare states will remains higher than elsewhere because the good social security does not encourage the unemployed to accept low-paid and less valued work. This is why, according to the neo-liberals, there is only one alternative in the globalising economy: the dismantling of the welfare state and the systems of security and regulation which prevent the efficient working of the market.
The corporate view is too narrow
When seen from a purely national point of view, the neo-liberal logic of the importance of international competitiveness is not completely mistaken. In open international competition, corporate competitiveness and jobs will suffer in a country with a higher tax rate than others. This logic appears in a different light when developments are viewed internationally and examined from the angle of the state and civil society and not only from that of companies.
The left believes that there is still room for the welfare state, market regulation and taxation. Moreover, the market has never been completely unregulated, as politically certain structures and limits have been imposed at all times. The neo-liberals like to claim that the laws of economics behave like the laws of nature and that new, better and more efficient methods of production and trade will, like the laws of nature, replace old and less efficient methods. This also is incorrect. Slavery, for example, came to an end - even if not completely - because it was forbidden and not because it suddenly became less profitable than employing workers on the labour market. If we have succeeded in ending most forms of slavery by forbidding it, then there are possibilities of forbidding and restricting many other activities which offend the dignity and value of man and pollute nature.
The limits to the market are set by people ...
The limits of the market have always been set by people and can be changed by political decisions. Whether society values the freedom of people more than companies is a matter of choice. A genuine social dialogue concerns the values upon which limitations to the structure of the market and its logic of profit making are based, and who establishes the rules and agreements according to which the market then operates. If we do not accept unreasonable working conditions, the exploitation of child labour, environmentally hazardous emissions and the ruthless waste of energy, we can forbid them. On the international market, such prohibitions are only effective only if they are universally applied and their enforcement controlled.
Once the rules and limits to the market are the same everywhere, the competitiveness of a company in one country is not significantly weakened due to environmental norms or social obligations. The left believes that a welfare state which promotes freedom for both people and nature, still has a sustainable road ahead. This presupposes, however, that the Nordic and European welfare states are proposed, supranational, as models for others to build. The globalisation of the economy makes the development of the welfare state as a national project more difficult, but it does not prevent the extension of its values and rights at a supranational project.
... and are changed by political decisions
Globalisation and the menace of the single alternative it produces are commonly used as a pretext for reforms based on the values of neo-liberalism. The political actors who invoke the inevitability of globalisation have, however, failed to notice or remark on one thing; namely, that the surrendering of power to the capital-dominated global market, has mainly been done by the political decisions of sovereign states. It is true that in respect to many small countries, such as Finland, the freeing of capital came about as the genuine outcome of ´market forces,` but this was because many large countries had first quite genuinely and voluntarily - in the interest of big business within their own countries - chosen the free movement of capital road.
The internationalisation of the market is not intrinsically a bad thing. Humankind as a whole gains more from the development of both technology and new institutions when markets are international, and trade, and the transmission of information, is free. But if only the market and the companies operating on it internationalise, but everything else remains national, then problems arise. The internationalisation of the economy means that not only are production and goods transferred from one country to another, but also ecological problems. The high level of consumption in the rich countries cause environmental problems for poor countries, and emissions originating in one place lead to the pollution of the environment elsewhere. This transfer of ecological problems occurs both spontaneously and consciously, as for example with the export of hazardous waste. Globalisation also threatens to diminish the social and political rights people have gained at a national level.
An international united front is difficult to build...
International market forces also distribute resources according to purchasing power. That is why, on an international market, all those who have no or little purchasing power - such as poor people and the unborn, not to mention the creatures of nature - also lack the possibility to influence the operation of the market and the distribution of resources. The impersonality of a global market is, if possible, even greater than a national or regional market.
Most people have seen poor people in their own village or town, but the poor in distant countries are only seen on television if at all. Because the global market is so impersonal and its point of contact so slight, it is considerably more difficult to build a united front of poor people internationally than it was - or is - nationally. The building of such a front is made more difficult by the fact, that globally there is no political power with authority to whom one could turn with demands for change.
... but it is not impossible
The ineffectiveness of international cooperation between states and supranational institutions when faced with the global market and the problems it has created is a fact, but not an inevitability. If it is wished to prevent the onslaught on social rights and the environment, rules must be established to regulate the market at an international level. When drawing up these rules, the authority of supranational institutions must be bolstered and the opportunities for people to influence increased.
Racism must also be repelled
Apart from neo-liberalism, modern totalitarianism can pose a threat to the democratic development requires to counterbalance internationalising of the market. Europe in this century has experienced totalitarianism in the shape of fascism and communism. Although ideologically very different, both share a common feature in that they were based on the ostensible acceptance of the idea of the sovereignty of the people. In both systems a closed political class arose, however, to represent the will and power of the people, and it assumed the right to act in the name of the people through a tight control over the flow of information, widespread censorship and physical terror, ensuring that things could be seen only in accordance with the ´truth` postulated by the group in power.
It is unlikely that totalitarianism in the shape of a fascist or communist system will ever return to Europe. The rapid growth in immigration and the problem of refugees have, however, considerably increased racist attitudes in Europe. These, together with widespread unemployment and the prevailing sense of despair, produce not only neo-fascist but other political movements based on a hatred of foreigners and anti-democracy. The whole European left must take a clear and strong stand against racism and act so that all those belonging to ethnic minorities enjoy the same civil rights and duties as the majority.
The fight against racism is particularly important because racist attitudes might, together with political radical movements defending narrow national interests, considerably slow down the expansion of a democracy based on the idea of genuine internationalism and cosmopolitanism required as a counterbalance to the internationalising market. Therefore the defenders of social and political rights must act on a broad front not only against neo-liberalism, but also against racism and narrow-minded nationalism.
It's time for a Third Left
Two centuries ago, the first left and its political ideology of liberalism pointed Europe in a democratic direction. It arose to demand the end to a class order based on estates and its replacement by a democratic political system based on the pursuit of business, free trade and the equality of man. Somewhat later the second, socialist left developed out of the labour movement that emerged with the industrialisation of the economy. This demanded collective responsibility, social justice and interference in the omnipotence of capital.
As the Socialist Left emerged, so the original goals of liberalism, democracy and equality, began to take a back seat in the political aims of the bourgeoisie. The liberal bourgeoisie allied itself with the conservative right to defend the free market system and the position of the new, prosperous classes against the demands of the socialists. In the ensuing conflict, the pursuit of democracy and social equality was characteristically left to the second, socialist left.
Alongside the rise of the second left and the conflict it produced, political language conceptualised within both the bourgeois and socialist parties. This use of language no longer separated the bourgeoisie into liberals and conservatives, although such difference had formerly been politically quite significant. Language differences and the splitting of the political field into two was the result of bourgeois circles understanding the aims of the left as the complete overthrow of the market economy and its replacement by a state-directed planned economy. Broad circles within the socialist labour movement believed that societal developments would, sooner or later, lead to the overthrow of the free ´capitalistic` market system. This was believed, even though many socialists considered the Soviet Union, which had introduced the planned economy, an undemocratic and totalitarian state.
Finally, the downfall of the Soviet totalitarian system provided the whole socialist left with an impetus to scrutinise its social theoretical visions. The overthrow of the market economy is no longer even a remote goal of any significant part of the socialist left. Instead, the goal is to remove those features that maintain a capitalistic, capital and monetary hegemony on the market and to get the market economy to serve the democratically-directed development of societies and the prosperity of all people.
The task of the Third Left is also to dismantle gender power structures and struggle to ensure that women's rights are considered human rights in all parts of the world.
This re-examination of the visions of the left also poses a challenge to bourgeois thinking and politics. The union between right-wing conservatism supporting the interests of the economically powerful groups and the economic thinking of neo-liberalism proclaiming complete freedom for the market, may be felt as a permanent hegemony of bourgeois politics. Pressured by the problems of declining civil rights and threats to environmental sustainability caused by accelerating globalisation classical political liberalism, which formerly strove to promote democracy and equality between people against class privileges could however be rekindled and become an ally of the socialist left.
Grouping around democracy
In this situation, the market-oriented democratic traditions of the first left and the efforts of the second left for social equality, could form a broad, historical Third Left, whose unifying value is democracy and the promotion of genuine participation. This grouping of the Third Left around democracy is taking place on the threshold of the new millennium. This offers a view of a society socially divided, where human dignity and nature are trampled upon and social exclusion prevails, or its alternative, a prosperous society stressing equality between people and a sustainable environment.
The Third Left considers civil rights as social contracts within a democratic society. These contracts form its basic structure, from which spring the activity and vitality of individuals, as well as economic and cultural life. Some of the agreements concerning rights have matured conceptually and materially in society relatively early, others somewhat later.
The political origins of the Third Left lie in the New Left movements of the 1960s, the radicalisation of the women's movement and from NGOs concerned with developing countries and the environment. These movements demand the extension of the rights and the removal of oppressive structures on women, the poor in developing countries, and nature. They also call for the formation of a global consciousness.
These heralds of the Third Left have had an important influence on the formation of the supranational consciousness and cosmopolitanism that is becoming the nucleus of the Third Left. These views unite people and groups which since the socialist left, the peace movement, the human rights movement and other NGOs of a feminist, ecological or Christian background promote democracy, equality and social security.
Initiating supranational democratic development
The economy is internationalising at a tremendous rate. Globalisation poses a challenge to political forces to take up the battle in defence of the conditions under which the political and social rights of people can be developed and maintained, if at all. For more than a decade now neo-liberalism, with its call to abandon national regulation of the market and support for the logic of greed, has had the upper hand.
In this battle, the new, Third Left - of which the Left Alliance is a genuine part - stands firmly on the side of democracy, equality and social security, against the complete freedom of the market, the right of the strongest and the permanent exclusion of people pursued by neo-liberalism. The Third Left demands international cooperation and the establishment of norms and the initiation of a supranational democratic development to counterbalance the global market. It also demands a redrawing of market structures to allow room for the dignity of man and the values of nature.
The Left Alliance defines itself through its own values - freedom, democracy and sustainable development. It acts according to these values at all levels of decision-making: work places, trade unions, local and central government, the European Parliament and other EU bodies and, whenever possible, also in the government of the country.
The Left Alliance co-operates with the trade union movement and various NGOs, as well as with other parties in matters relating to Finland, Europe and foreign policy. Cooperation is based on a realistic assessment of each situation and the resulting concrete programmes of action. The concrete political goals of the party are always set for one party conference period at a time and their attainment is monitored.
The Left Alliance is only as strong and active as its members and supporters are. As political power and strength can only come from the people who participate in party work, the party treats its members with respect and gives them every opportunity to function and participate. The goal of the Left Alliance is an open and democratic party culture. Thus members are offered a genuine opportunity to influence party policies through the open and frank discussions preceding their acceptance. All political decisions taken by the party openly and clearly explained to the members as well as to the general public.