Well, well, @idonotlikeusernames inviting me to a political discussion?
My take on the Portuguese Carnation Revolution and its initial course of democratic socialism
Yeah, after we kicked out the fascists, our revolution went into PREC, “Processo Revolucionário em Curso” which translates to “Revolutionary Process in Course” or something like that. Basically, we weren’t that far from becoming a quasi-Socialist democracy, but in the end the progressive radicalization of the extreme-left parties (well, what is today the extreme left, even our current center-right larger party - PSD - had “socialism” in its manifest back then) and the success of Mário Soares in garnering enough popular support and political, popular and institutional strength to make sure we remained a democracy, even if we had to abdicate of socialism for a social democracy, made the chips fall into a capitalistic (even if the privatization of what was nationalized still took some years) social democracy.
But yeah, nationalizations of land and some larger corporations/industries was required, whether people nowadays support them or not when looking back, our whole regime had its main bastion of support in the wealthy part of the population (well, some segments of it, obviously). The lands were worked by starving peasants in degrading conditions (my grandparents were some of them, they worked all day and at the end of it received a slice of rancid hard-as-stones bread, keeping themselves barely alive to worked the next day (lots of our peasant population in Alentejo suffered from a lot of poverty-related almost always fatal sicknesses back then because of subnutrition). Most landowners inhabited in the cities and just collected large profits from their huge land properties (some others even had their lands uncultivated, while people not far from there starved), and Salazar saw in them (and had in them) some of the most loyal supporters of the regime (note that I’m obviously not saying all of them were fascist or fascist-supporters).
Also, we had some relatively large (well, for international parameters, they were just medium sized at best) companies who basically held a monopoly over large chunks of the industrial production, due to Salazar’s political choice to oblige companies to request the government’s permission if they wanted to buy industrial machines and hire industrial workers. By the end of the regime that policy had been repealed, in large part by the influence of Marcelo Caetano (the successor of Salazar) who attempted to open up our economy a bit. Still, most industries were only able to function because workers earned low wages (so they quickly went into bankruptcy when the revolutionary government had the “audacity” to establish a livable minimum wage, which if we adapt to our current currency and inflation was something like 500 euros). Still, the large corporations were mostly nationalized as a way to reduce the political influence of an economical class that had grown under the support (and supporting, even collaborating with our political police to arrest political dissidents) of the fascist regime.
So, lands were occupied by starving peasants, some houses by people who had none, and some industries were nationalized or practically taken over by worker committees. Our GDP fell a bit that year, something like 4 or 5% if I’m not miss-remembering, but that is normal after a revolution (and just recently, our GDP declined way more due to the austerity measures imposed by the IMF and the EU). The US thought about invading us, but the progressive radicalization of the extreme-left lead to the victory of the Socialist Party (social-democrat party founded by Mário Soares, who did became, in a way, the “father” of our current political system) and the reversion of the socialist course we had been following during the PREC.
Still, we have a pretty solid welfare state, with a huge chunk of our government expenditure going to the social security, national health service and public education. Until not so long ago, our people’s conditions thrived under the social-democracy that was basically agreed by the two larger parties, center-right and center-left respectively (well, our political spectrum is still pretty much to the left, our center-left party would be to the left, way to the left, of the Democrats in the US, and our center-right party would be the moderate wing of the Democrats in the US).
So yeah, we had a temporary “democratic socialism” experiment back in the day. It didn’t went that badly, I mean, from it and the political realities it gave origin to our people was able to leave the extreme poverty in which we had lived during the dictatorship.
Well, yes, that’s obviously one of the reasons it didn’t worked. The other reason is that socialism isn’t meant to rival capitalism in terms of what is deemed as “economic success”, which is usually GDP and the almost always inevitable increasing enrichment of the rich and the impoverishment of the low-class.
Socialism’s success needs to be measured by its ability to achieve what it tried to do: distribute wealth equally among everybody, equality of opportunities and elimination of extreme poverty. 70% of humanity has only 1% of the wealth, and the top 8 richest men have as much wealth as 4 billion people. Whether we support socialism or not (disclaimer: ideologically, I tend to be a democratic socialist, while pragmatically I’m a big supporter of social-democracy as the best and more realistically achievable system), we have to admit that our species is suffering from a profound and unjust inequality in terms of life quality and equality of opportunities.
Inefficient is a subjective analysis. Just to give and example, our post office national company (CTT) was owned by the State until recently (like most public service companies were), and as such it was managed by the “inefficient” public administrators and the “inefficient” state. Well, turns out that when we privatized it (by the same amount it gave of profit to our national budget each year, unhinged neo-liberalism leads to great political decisions such as that one), after a year it was in the red, firing people and closing down post offices. Why? Because previously it had provided an amazing public service and people used it all the time, so as long as they kept their budget on a moderate level of expense it gave solid profits every year. After the privatization the new administration decided to cut back on expenses, reducing the quality of the service and making it necessary for companies and people to start using private delivery companies.
So yeah, I don’t agree with the whole “the state runs any company into the ground” narrative.
Yep, receiving a shitty payment for a shitty job results in “slacking off” much more than everyone working for the same thing and receiving the same amount of wage. Collective contracts show that there is no reduction of productivity when every worker earns equally to everyone else doing a similar job.
Yep. I don’t know about the other countries (I have heard that at least in Germany and other parts of Europe it is different) but over here 99% of the research is done by public universities (the best ones, our private universities have much less prestige and a weaker body of teachers/researchers/students) and/or through public funding. Our companies just don’t care about research, they only care about paying the lowest amount of money possible to their workers, and get the maximum amount of profit from it. And oh my, don’t you even talk about increasing the minimum wage, because if you do the top 10 richest families will quickly make some weird comments about how they can’t possibly be expected to pay their workers more than they already do.
P.S. While my experience is mostly in the field of humanities, I’m speaking about “hard-science” research.
I think the problem is that our young-adults don’t have the financial stability to actually give much thought to the state of our world and our current decay whether from an environmental/natural resources perspective or from a more broad economical and political one. The middle class is usually the one from which most political thought and activism comes from, at least from a more ideological pov, and the younger generations are basically forming a new class of poor. I’m afraid capitalism has triumphed so astonishingly that we are utterly unable to imagine an alternative to it. The same thing happened in the past, whether with political, social or economic systems. With time, an alternative will present itself, but not until we hit rock bottom. The substitution of the less qualified workers by robots and machines will lead to an unsustainable level of poverty and unemployment. With time, when things get really bad and the middle class starts to also get really affected, an universal citizenship income will have to be provided by the State (when we take a look at the private intel from citizens such as you and me the States have access, we have to admit that revolutions will become more and more difficult, the change will need to come from the elites themselves, and only when their profits really start to get affected). By then, maybe democratic socialism becomes truly attainable. (sorry for the pessimism)
Even if I’m not currently represented in the parliament (the party I voted for didn’t managed to elect a single deputy, , hey @idonotlikeusernames, I discovered recently that it is the portuguese party associated with the european movement we had talked about), I do admit that I’m a big fan of the parliamentary system, mostly because almost every voter will have the party they voted for represented in the parliament. And from the necessity of consensus and coalitions a larger majority and a strengthened democratic culture arises.
Take our latest elections. The right-wing coalition (the austerity government) obtained more votes than any of the other parties of the parliament, getting something like 45% of the deputies, while the center-left Socialist Party came second with 38% of the deputies (I’m not talking about popular vote, in popular vote they were both on 30 something %). The leftist parties (Left Bloc, a democratic socialist party; Portuguese Communist Party, a communist party; and the Animals and Nature Party, an ecologist animal protection party) got the rest of the deputies. So, what happened? The Socialist Party made an alliance with the Left Bloc and the Communist Party (and also reached and agreement with the Animals and Nature Party, if I’m not miss-remembering) and it formed a government, why? Because together those parties had a majority in the parliament.
That doesn’t mean that all of the sudden the differences between all three parties got erased (lets just say that our revolution left some historical splits on the left, making it hard for these parties to agree with one another), they pretty much debate and negotiate a lot of what is done by the government (which only has ministers from the Socialist Party, the other parties only provide parliamentary support, as long as the political agreements established are respected), and in many things they disagree without a possible consensus.
My conclusion is: a democracy which is made by a parliament gives more breathing room for the small parties (and thus, the people they represent) to actually have a say in what the government does and doesn’t do. And that’s even more the case in countries like the Netherlands and Belgium where there are lots of parties in the parliament without any single one ever achieving an absolute majority (we have had absolute majorities here in Portugal, they are usually bad for the country).
And well, I wrote a wall-of-text, blame @idonotlikeusernames
Thanks for letting me pitch in with my current concerns and opinions on the different subjects at hand.