A democratic economy

It also implies a new economic egalitarianism, which starts from the recognition that the economy should exist to serve and empower people as a whole. Instead of capital being used to exploit, demean and disempower labour, the challenge is to build an economy in which labour exploits capital for the benefit of all; an economy which is thriving, dynamic, democratic, sensitive to, and capable of meeting the needs of all its people.

The conception of a democratic socialist society and economy takes us away from both the unfettered market economy and the centralised command economy and points in the direction of some form of democratic socialist market in which those undertakings essential to the common good are either owned and controlled by the people or are accountable to them.

We know of no way of achieving the fair and equitable democratic society, no way of achieving the society which delivers people from the tyranny of poverty and the abuse of power, without breaking the overbearing power of the few who control vast economic resources. We see no end to the misappropriation of wealth, social and economic imbalances, wasted resources, environmental crisis and endemic unemployment without a radical transformation of the unfettered market economy.

Equally, we know of no way of effectively avoiding the dominant role of a centralised planning bureaucracy unless the functions from which it derives its power are significantly reduced. And that means giving considerable autonomy and self management to the productive units scattered throughout a new democratic socialist society. This cannot be done without commodity production, over which the producers have considerable control, and that cannot be achieved without some kind of market.

In all this it is important to stress the different relations between planning and markets in very different societies, and to free socialists from the guilt-laden assumptions that a market in a democratic socialist order of increasing equality, empowerment, popular democratic control, regulation, purposeful development and social priorities is somehow as reprehensible as an unregulated market economy that sustains massively uneven distribution of wealth, unaccountable power and privilege.

Democratic socialist markets must be important instruments for free choice, in contrast to the perverse maldistribution of the market economy which we now experience and in contradistinction to bureaucratic command economies. Indeed, it must be stressed that a broad based free choice can only be fully realised if markets are organised within a democratic socialist context.

The market in a democratic socialist economy must allow and encourage diversity; a diversity of economic enterprise, a diversity of organisation and a diversity of practice. It would not allow distorting and undemocratic features, such as unlimited accumulation and inheritance of capital, that characterise the capitalist economy.

The ILP wants to help promote a dynamic economy serving the public interest, in which the enterprise of democratic socialist markets and the rigour of competition and consumer choice are joined to the forces of partnership, co-operation, social ownership and public accountability to produce the wealth that society needs, along with the growing empowerment of the people and the equal opportunity for all to work and prosper.