The Red-Green Future
Approved by the Left Alliance Party Congress on 9 June 2013
Finland and the whole world need a thorough change in order to establish socially and ecologically sustainable and equal societies. The aim of this document is to describe that vision and sketch out the routes we can take to achieve that goal. The seeds of the new society have already been sown and we can embark on our journey towards these goals immediately.
In the current situation, achieving social justice can only be attempted by a full commitment to the demand for ecological sustainability: we must put a stop to the climate change, the depletion of natural resources and growing inequality.
The Red-Green Future document contains a comprehensive account of what kind of a future society and world Left Alliance hopes to achieve. It does not contain concrete legislative proposals for the current situation but it is not a utopia either. These changes are based on real, expressed needs. The Left Alliance has a political action programme that details the party’s concrete political goals, which can be used as the basis for legislative reforms. Left Alliance also has a party platform that outlines the values of the party.
The future society is characterised by the
• democratisation of the economic and political power structures,
• fair distribution of economic resources,
• increase of people’s civil liberties,
• respect for Earth’s limited resources,
• universal and equal rights – regardless of sex, world-view, ethnic background, wealth, age, illness or disability, etc.
Life is not a race. There is no need for us to run any faster and collapse under pressure for more efficiency or consume more. Instead, we can concentrate on having a good life, learning new things and enjoying the company of others. We can exchange hoarding more unnecessary things for the luxuries of creativity, humour and leading a civilised life.
The limits of ecological sustainability were already crossed several decades ago. The climate change is advancing faster than expected, and the Earth cannot give us more natural resources to meet the demands of our consumer habits or dispose of our waste. The biodiversity of nature and living organisms is declining at an accelerated speed.
At the same time, the inequalities between people are growing in many ways. In the past few years, a massive transfer of joint property to banks, big businesses and wealthy individuals has taken place on a global scale. Poverty and insecure livelihoods have increased. The position of people with low incomes has worsened in the rich countries of the West and the middle classes lead increasingly stressful lives. We are all in danger of dropping out at any time. As the result of the international economic crisis and the cutbacks in the public sector, crime rates are mounting, the extreme Right is gaining popularity and the social climate is getting harder.
Economic insecurity has also increased racism and other forms of intolerance. In addition, the conservative social climate has slowed down the progress of gender equality and, in some cases, especially women’s rights have even declined. The acceptance of sexual and gender diversity has increased but in that, too, there is a long way to go before real equality is achieved.
We cannot afford financial swindling, the support packages of banks, wars and production that destroys the nature. Instead, we must offer all people a decent livelihood, homes, health care and education within the limits allowed by the Earth.
As we build the future of the red-green society, we enter a partly uncharted territory. We do not yet have answers to all the questions, but the specifics will become clear to us gradually as a result of the democratic process. We can only advance towards the good society through trial and continuous learning.
As a result of the struggles of the workers’ movement, the welfare state was built in Finland, which enabled the eradication of extreme poverty and increased equality between people. The welfare state also supported gender equality by offering women financial independence by transforming some of the women’s traditional care work into paid work that is organised by the society. An early formulation of the struggles of Finnish workers was provided by the programme adopted in Forssa in 1903. The contents of that programme were two-fold. On the one hand, it was the basis for the reforms the workers were demanding, which led to the social struggle that resulted in the birth of the welfare state. On the other, an equally strong tenet of the Forssa programme was the class struggle and its international nature, which were seen as necessary prerequisites for overthrowing capitalism. What we need now are equally strong principles and expressions of solidarity.
There is an urgent need for change but it must be gradual in order for it to happen in an organised and sustainable manner. Our social value system is already undergoing a profound change. Speeding up this progress demands determined political cooperation and a wide-ranging popular movement at the local and global levels.
Redistributed wealth leads to a fair economy
Goals: The purpose of the economy is to create the preconditions that are necessary for striving for a good life. Redistributing wealth owned by just a few at both global and national levels is an investment in people’s freedom. Instead of capitalism, the aim is to achieve an economic system that is democratic, free of crises, adheres to solidarity and has varied and pluralistic ownership relations. Apart from the different private, joint and public ownership arrangements, versatile and fixed-term relations of ownership will also become common. The markets are subordinate to the good of the people and nature. When necessary, this mixed economy is directed towards democratically decided goals. Progressive taxation, legislation and investment programmes steer the economic activities in a socially and ecologically sustainable way.
In the red-green society, the economy is in democratic control. Moving towards an economy that is based on renewable energy sources and increased energy efficiency calls for substantial public investment programmes at both national and European levels. We need investments in green technologies, a structural change of industrial production as well as rail transport and intelligent infrastructures, housing and energy production. All this will also create new jobs. Fulfilling these goals demands that we should not just use European taxation and investment funds but that direct funding from the European Central Bank is used to support the public budgets. The European Central Bank is democratised and made an integral part of the general European economic policy. It must also be possible to fund the member states without merchant banks acting as intermediaries. The most important role of the ECB is to promote sustainable growth and employment and it must naturally also avoid increasing inflation.
The red-green society supports creativity and enterprising. Instead of centralised ownership and economic power, wealth is distributed equally at both national and global levels. Banks and businesses that are too large will be divided into smaller units, and the market rules are made more reasonable by legislation, taxation and international treaties. States and enterprises are no longer forced to compete with each other for investors and capital against their own interests. The task of the political community is to guarantee that business operations do not jeopardise the well-being of people or the environment.
As a step towards a stable and just world economy, the Tobin tax, a comprehensive tax on foreign-exchange transactions is introduced. The international tax evasion of wealthy individuals and large corporations is also restricted. The banking and finance sector is reorganised by separating venture capitalism from deposit banks. Money that circulates the speculative financial markets is invested in the real economy in a sustainable way. These measure also secure a sufficient financial basis for the red-green reforms. As an alternative to private banks, a new kind of banking sector is created that consists of publicly owned, ethical and cooperative banks, such as the Women’s Bank or other community development banks. Tax havens are abolished by international agreements and by putting a stop to the capital transfers that are made into them.
As we move on to the red-green society, the taxation of environmental damages and consumption of natural resources is increased. Taxation is simplified and a universal tax scale is applied to all types of income. All income taxation increases in the highest income brackets in order to reduce income differentials and finance the necessary reforms. The value added tax will be made progressive according to the environmental burden of the product.
The taxation of large inheritances will increase and the differences in ownership will be reduced by implementing a new progressive property tax on a considerably higher level than the tax that was previously abrogated. In the European Union, minimum tax rates are harmonised in order to avoid international tax evasion and tax competition. A common property tax and legislation on maximum earnings will also be introduced at the European level.
The goals of economic activity must be reconsidered in the red-green society. Instead of the gross national product, alternative indicators should be applied that measure the well-being of the people and sustainable development. Striving for economic growth has entailed a greater use of natural resources and an increased marketisation. Although economic growth can also be a part of ecologically sustainable activities that increase well-being, growth as such is no longer regarded as a categorical aim.
The question of who has control over natural resources also belongs to the economic domain. Earth, water and air are the joint property of all humans, not a means to gain private advantage. The right of all people to a clean environment, fresh water and unpolluted air must be guaranteed, and the benefits gained from natural resources should be equally distributed.
Instead of subjecting more human activities to private profit-seeking, different types of commons are systematically built. It is a basic human right that people can use their living environments to move about freely, have hobbies, engage in joint activities and develop their skills and know-how. Free services comprise health and care, education, libraries and transportation. Programmes that can be freely downloaded from the internet and versatile city cultures improve the well-being of the residents and create new opportunities for developing the commons. It is possible to organise the commons and the production that is based on them more ecologically and efficiently than if the commons were controlled by private interests. The more things we have available to us free of charge, the less we need markets that are ruled by competition.
Sustainable life-styles replace consumer frenzy
Goals: In the red-green society, people live in versatile communities and have homes that are reasonably sized. A dense community structure is favoured in central urban areas. Investments in public transportation and service provision help to ensure that the countryside with its low-density residential areas remains a desirable place to live. Physical objects are durable, energy is used sparingly and materials are recycled. The most important services are available close to homes, and people mostly walk, cycle or use public transportation. The production of energy and food is organised in a decentralised and environmentally friendly way and the degree of self-sufficiency rises. This means that renewable energy sources are used and organic and local production is increased. People eat healthy foods with lots of vegetables. Developing the red-green countryside is a part of the regional politics in the future.
Of all the basic human needs, accommodation, transportation and food cause the biggest ecological footprint. At present, the consumption of the world’s natural resources exceeds the nature’s power of regeneration by about a third. If the ecological footprint of all people were as large as that of the Finns, four globes would be needed to satisfy the needs of mankind. By using the natural resources prudently we can keep the Earth livable for future generations, pay back our environmental debts to poorer countries and ensure that all the people in the world can live a life worthy of human beings.
Compact and unique communities are built in red-green cities with space for parks, accessible forests and urban farming. The residential areas are diversified by mixing different population groups and types of accommodation. The right to reasonable accommodation is guaranteed by increasing the construction of not-for-profit social housing. Homes, workplaces and services are located close to each other so that there is little need for unnecessary traffic. Wooden houses that re-absorb carbon are favoured in new construction. Finland will become an internationally leading country in wood construction and it will also export that knowhow.
Urban traffic is primarily developed on the basis of cycling, walking and rail traffic. The internal public transportation in cities is free of charge, and the frequency of train and bus services is increased. At the same time, the road network is kept in a good condition, and the traffic connections to the countryside remain on a good level. Public transportation in residential and rural areas is improved by building feeder traffic to railway junctions and new stops along the railway lines. Fast trains to Europe via the Baltic and the taxation of air travel make railway traffic a better choice in foreign travel. Renewable energy will be used to recharge the batteries of electric cars.
Red-green regional politics provides new opportunities for developing the countryside. The degree of self-sufficiency is increased in the production of energy and food. Organic farming is developed on the basis of small and medium-sized producers and cooperatives. Ecological energy production, well-being and holiday services and other such supplementary activities can be combined with farming. Information networks, socially flexible work, new innovations and the decentralisation of operations create good preconditions for distance working and living in the countryside.
Sustainable food production means rejecting the intensive global agriculture that wastes food, pollutes the soil and waterways and warms the climate. Although there is enough food in the world, it is unevenly distributed and about half of it is wasted at the different stages of the global food system. A couple of large operators control agriculture and the industrial processing and trade of foodstuffs everywhere in the world. Overfishing and animal husbandry that is based on factory farming cause substantial ecological and ethical problems. Avoiding the consumption of meat, dairy products and the overfished species is an efficient means to reduce the ecological footprint of food.
Both small and large production units will protect the employees’ working conditions and the welfare of animals and the environment. Food that mainly consists of ethically and locally produced vegetables is a good choice from the employment, environment and health perspectives. It diminishes the emission of greenhouse gases, supports the domestic food production and creates jobs locally. Food that is grown and produced in this way is preferred in all public institutes, agencies and schools.
In the red-green society, nuclear and fossil fuels are no longer used. Instead, people use renewable energy sources, favour energy-efficient solutions and save energy. The production of energy and heat is mainly based on solar and wind power and terrestrial heat and it is supplemented by biomass and hydroelectric power.
There are a lot of renewable energy sources in the countryside and their use creates new jobs. The red-green society supports the use of micro generations, which helps fulfil the energy needs of houses and farms. One of the future challenges is to connect the various small-scale energy producers so that they can potentially produce energy for the main grid. Energy solutions that are based on micro grids can also be a part of the future energy production at the global level.
A suitable amount of work and a sufficient income for all
Goals: In the red-green society, working hours are shortened and work is more evenly distributed among people. The concept of work is broadened so that it also includes forms of work that take place outside the markets. The basic income is used to ensure that all people have a sufficient basic income and the opportunity to engage in different types of work in the markets, households or communities. The gendered division of labour is dismantled in both the labour markets and homes. Enterprises are increasingly owned by the workers who have better opportunities to influence their own work. When people are free to choose how they work, such categories as the unemployed or pensioners will gradually become obsolete. Everyone can undertake work to benefit the society according to their own abilities, knowledge and skills.
People can work in many different ways in the red-green society. The trade union movement acknowledges the limits of growth and develops and protects the terms and conditions of employment. Work can be regular paid work, domestic work, work undertaken to benefit the common good, exchange of services in time banks or self-generated creative work. People are free to move between these types of work and combine them in order to earn a sufficient income.
Moving on to the red-green society means that expectations concerning the employment rate are evaluated against social and ecological objectives. Ecological investments decrease production that is harmful to the environment and dangerous to the workers. Such investments are also more labour-intensive than the traditional fields of production. The use of renewable energies, the sustainable production of food and housing, repairing things, renovating buildings and recycling materials all increase the need for meaningful labour and sustain the community spirit. New jobs are created in the various fields of care. Work that is harmful to people or the nature will be made obsolete.
Work that generates well-being can also take place outside the markets. Thus, public participation and a life that benefits the community can also be built outside paid labour. Work inside and outside the markets is equally divided between the sexes. New forms of economic exchange can be developed outside the financial economy, for example in time banks in which the time spent on a service is used as the unit of exchange.
Among the most positive things happening today is the increase of cooperatives and various communal art, culture and social projects. It is possible to develop sustainable enterprising on the basis of cooperatives. As workers own the cooperatives, all members have equal rights in the company’s decision-making and profits and losses are also equally divided. The economic activities are motivated by jointly decided goals rather than profit-seeking at the expense of the workers’ well-being. Ecologically and socially sustainable production chains can be built on the basis of cooperatives, which also enables the networking of producers in different fields.
Small and medium-sized companies operate parallel to entrepreneurship in cooperatives and some people are self-employed. Large companies and mass production is justifiable in those branches of industry where they are a way to achieve the best results in terms of environmental protection and well-being. Traditional businesses also increase the employees’ ownership of the companies and their autonomy to influence the contents of work.
Education, research and knowledge support the new ecologically sustainable society. Technology has decreased the need for human labour and created possibilities for organising working time and work methods in radically new ways. Information networks enable distance working and the development of new social forms of work. Technological development has increased joint production that happens outside the traditional market economy.
The productivity of the information society is based on the fact that the most important means of production today – information – is freely available in global networks. The internet is based on information sharing instead of limiting and privatisation. It has enabled unforeseen opportunities for multiplying, distributing, updating and using information. Information that can be freely applied also opens up possibilities to develop new and old industry.
As automation develops further, the time spent on working can be shortened and people can concentrate on meaningful work. Different fields adopt flexible models to reduce the hourly, weekly and annual working hours. A part of the profits from all production will be shared as wages for work and a part as a universal basic income. The basic income will become the civil right of the 2000s and it will be promoted in international politics.
The basic income is not only a way to organise social security but, together with progressive taxation, a significant method for reducing income differentials. The basic income is also an investment in innovations, enterprising and the civic society. It frees people from the paralysing aspects of social benefits and makes them financially independent to build their own lives and add to the common good.
Because of the basic income, so many classifications of people are no longer needed. People are free to move between the various types of work and they can participate in both paid work and unpaid activities in diverse ways at different points of their lives.
Politics of the possible
Goals: In the red-green society, all people have the opportunity to seek the life they consider good. In the red-green society, we will move from the mere equality of opportunities and rights to real equality where everyone is fully able to realise their potential and abilities. Welfare services are supplied by the public sector, which also produces most of those services. Money is allocated to organise these services as needed based on jointly determined welfare goals. The service users’ possibilities to influence the content and way of organising services are increased. The aim of education is to train cultured and independent citizens of the world. Dynamic culture and art increase the well-being of people and create a basis for the public debate.
The red-green society trusts its citizens. The starting point of the politics of the possible is to support the people’s own efforts to build their lives as community members. People are no longer objects of measures but active agents in their own right who produce well-being. In the red-green society, the public sector has the final responsibility for ensuring that people always get the help they need and nobody is left to tackle their problems alone. Legislation and its implementation defend the position of the individual in relation to the corporate world and government authorities.
Cultured and responsible citizens of the world grow in the red-green society. Education aims at developing comprehensive knowledge, skills for learning, tolerant and ethical thinking and critical awareness about the society. One of the most important principles of schooling is to support the young people’s independent thinking, teach ethics and practise social skills. Education on democratic conduct is increased in schools by involving the pupils in the school activities and planning the teaching and their own environment.
Equal and universal education is a cornerstone of the red-green society, and people are offered the opportunity for free education and developing one’s skills at all ages. An essential element of the innovative red-green society is a broad network of educational institutions at the upper secondary level and a specialised network of higher education institutions.
In the red-green society, cultural and artistic services are a basic right and a central ingredient in the well-being of people. Culture and art are an essential part of developing both people and the entire society. In the red-green vision, culture and art thrive and give a boost to social activities. In the red-green society, the everyday living environment encourages people to take up sports according to their own capabilities.
Decreasing inequality and downshifting reduce many illnesses, such as stress, depression and substance abuse that result from the continuous competition and exclusion of people. At the same time, the society saves the costs of treating these disorders. An equal society is also a safer living environment.
There are also other than financial forms of inequality. Abolishing income differentials does not as such put a stop to racism, sexism, homophobia or other forms of discrimination. The red-green society acknowledges the connections between well-being, health, illness and power. Citizens’ self-determination and empowerment are the starting point for social and health policies of the red-green society. Education and increasing human interaction dismantle the artificial divisions and hierarchies between people.
The state and municipalities do not endorse any religious denominations or other doctrines.
Immigrants are welcome to Finland. All people must have the equal right to travel and choose their place of residence regardless of wealth or ethnic background. In global politics, the aim is to achieve such circumstances that people are no longer forced to leave their homes because of poverty, war or persecution.
In the red-green society, people can get doctor’s appointments quickly, older people get the care they need, the disabled are encouraged to be active, and small groups in schools enable personal teaching. The budgeting of services and personnel is made according to how much the services are needed. This goal can be reached by increasing taxes on the consumption of commodities and large incomes. Service users have the democratic opportunity to influence the content and organisation of services and control their quality.
The public sector is democratically responsible to the people and charged with organising the welfare services. It is also the main producer of the services that are vital to the society. The third sector and local enterprises can also produce welfare services in cooperation with the public sector.
In the red-green society, couples and families can only be based on love and attachment, not on financial needs or social pressure. The society and all the services it produces recognise the various family forms and all families are equally treated.
From centralised to decentralised power
Goals: In the red-green society, politics is freed from the rule of the markets. Political creativity grows and new alternatives are sought openly. Different forms of direct and participatory politics are increased at all levels of decision-making. People control the public authorities, services and the working life. Local democracy is strengthened and global democracy is developed in order to counterpoint the global economy. The world will move from the economic competition of nations to the joint democratic control of many global issues.
The time of having no alternatives is over and the time for alternatives has arrived. Democracy does not just mean people’s right to vote in elections but receptiveness to different options and a sustained endeavour to deepen and broaden the equality between people. Different points of view and the resulting intellectual fireworks belong to democracy and give spice to political decision-making. In democracy, power belongs to the people and their elected representatives whom the people control. The different old boy networks, corporate interests and lobby groups have too much influence in politics today. The development of the EU and the globalisation of the economy have also narrowed down the space for democratic politics.
The independence and equality of representative democracy are increased by setting a limit to election campaign finances. Parallel to representative democracy, direct and participatory forms of democracy, such as binding referendums and participatory budgeting, are developed at all levels of decision-making. Local democracy is strengthened so that decision-making related to people’s everyday lives happens as close to the people as possible. This can happen, for example, by establishing regional councils in cities with independent decision-making powers, their own budgets and a clearly defined mandate. The realisation of democracy also requires strengthening the role of the civil society.
All decision-making is made as transparent as possible by the advance publication of all relevant documents and streaming all the meetings of decision-making bodies and expert hearings live online. Electronic services are developed so that they can help increase people’s opportunities for participation.
The realisation of democracy entails a public debate that is as free and versatile as possible. The precondition for free public debate is that science, research and the media are not controlled by the government or the corporate world. Adequate public funding must be allocated to not-for-profit research, arts, culture and communications.
Different forms of democracy are developed and strengthened at all levels from the local to the global. At present, international economic organisations and financial institutions wield an unreasonable amount of power in political decision-making, and many international economic treaties have been concluded from the point of view of increasing private profits. In the red-green world, things are not looked at narrowly but by keeping in mind the bigger picture. Achieving the red-green goals presupposes that the European Union is made more democratic and that the international trade and investment treaties are rewritten. Instead of just freeing trade and the markets and protecting the investors’ rights we need liberal-minded and socially and ecologically sustainable control of the global economy.
Controlling the economy is an integral part of democracy. In a world where everything is interdependent also democracy is international and global. For example, a global tax on greenhouse gases can be implemented by creating a new fund and a democratically controlled governing body that involves governments, parliaments and civil societies. A general election will be held to elect a world parliament to coordinate the operations of the different bodies and nations and to interpret the joint legislation. The parliament will act as a part of the wide and varied global system. In all areas of life, groups that have been bypassed in the use of power, such as women, are empowered and their influence is increased.
Ending the use of non-renewable energy sources, having more just trade policies and the reconciliation of the tensions between nations decrease the risk of armed conflicts. Finland does not belong to any military alliances. Civilian crisis management and international diplomacy are strengthened instead. We also need general disarmament and active work for peace.