[TODAY]Visions and pragmatic policiesIn “The Origin of Species,” Charles Darwin explained his theory of natural selection that weak animals and plants would go extinct and only the strong would survive in nature without the intervention of God or humans. The British philosopher and scientist Herbert Spencer took a cue from Darwin’s theory and advocated the survival of the fittest in human society, where the members would infinitely compete for survival. Mr. Spencer’s theory is called social Darwinism.
Social Darwinism has provided philosophical legitimacy to the imperialism, colonialism, and the sense of cultural and biological supremacy of Anglo-Saxons. Also, it has bolstered capitalistic laissez- faire in economics and conservative theories in politics. In the latter half of the 20th century, especially after the 1980s, the neo-liberalism of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone and the likes of George Bush continued the spirit of social Darwinism.
Neo-liberalism champions competition. The winners take all the wealth and power. The poor and the losers are responsible for their own failures. The government and society should minimize their compassion for the weak. From the eight-year Reagan Administration to four years under George Bush to the current Bush administration, with the exception of eight years of Democratic rule under President Clinton, the Republican government in the United States has sided with the rich in its social and economic policies in this vein. In international relations, neo-liberalism emphasizes economic and political mutual dependence and, therefore, highly value the roles of the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
It is only logical that the Democratic Labor Party, which successfully joined the 17th National Assembly, proclaimed, “Down with neo-liberalism.” The party platform drafted in 2000 attacks and criticizes neo-liberalism seventeen times. From the Democratic Labor Party’s point of view, the capitalists and political powers “extort the people under the banner of neo-liberalism.”
The Democratic Labor Party promises to create a new, liberated community by succeeding the socialist values of liberating labor and the people from exploitation. The left-wing party wants to limit the right to private property, nationalize the means of production and install democratic ownership of the means of production by the workers.
The Democratic Labor Party proclaims that it would dismantle the conglomerates, make communications, transportation, hospitals and schools public and nationalize large landholdings. The party platform condemns the neo-liberal restructuring after the financial crisis of 1997, saying it has caused mass unemployment and social inequality. The party promises to resolve the serious problems of neo-liberal international economic dynamics by changing Korea’s production structure, which is subordinate to foreign influence due to overexposure to the capitalistic international order, to a self-reliant system.
There is no denying that neo-liberalism, a modern version of the 19th century laissez-faire, needs to be revised. If society does not care for the weak and the losers, it would, as a result, have to pay an enormous social cost, several times the cost of welfare. That is why European countries, including Great Britain and Germany, are seeking a third way that integrates socialism and a neo-liberalistic market economy.
The party’s platform contains many policies that were found ineffective and discarded after half-century-long experiments by the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe that ended in 1989. The question is how far the Democratic Labor Party can push the policies it has proclaimed in its platform.
Is it possible to dissolve the conglomerates and nationalize the means of production without shaking the basis of the economy and society? Would the wealthy still be motivated to earn money with a higher tax rate? Could hospitals provide quality medical service if they are nationalized?
Could the Korean economy operate as a self-reliant structure without being isolated in an age of globalization?
Let’s look at President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, the country the Democratic Labor Party considers a model. He was elected president on his fourth attempt by making a policy collaboration agreement with the moderate Liberal Party, naming a former businessman as a running mate, promising a balanced budget and inflation control measures, which labor unions oppose, and pledging to redeem foreign debts.
The Democratic Labor Party needs to revamp its party platform to fit its status as a political force in the establishment and ask the domestic public and the international community for responses. The actual policies do not necessarily have to match the vision all the time.
* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-hie