I was talking to my friend on the way back from school when he asked me what I meant with true progressivism. Since the name of my blog is called The Left Progressive, and since the word “progressive” is commonly used and generalized in the modern context thus being diluted by liberal worshippers like The Economist, it would be appropriate for me to manifest my interpretation of the word. The premise of progressivism is to establish pragmatic policies which do not favor particular interest groups based on partisan populism; instead it creates a political program based on necessary laws in order to ensure the welfare and will of the nation and its people. The growth of progressivism was a natural effect of the extension of universal suffrage between 1870-1945, in which the will of the growing proletariat and the sympathy for the workers entered the political arena through the growth of socialist parties and the growth of their influence.
Although my leftist views may be a contradiction to the non-partisan aspect of progressivism, (as progressivism is based on pragmatism not partisan ideology) I truly do believe that socialism will provide for a sustainable economic and social future, and therefore I consider myself a “true progressive”. The fact that capital can flow in and out of nations freely and unrestrictedly creates financial instability as well as economic inequality. The fact that investors can determine staple food prices through speculative investment which causes deadly inflation. And the fact that banks can unlimitedly issue loans causing credit bubbles and dissolution of our financial sytem. All of this is part of an inefficient form of capitalism where the 1% exploits the rest through their capital, creating economic hardships like the one following the financial crash in 2008. Instead I opt for pragmatic solutions to these problems through promoting the implementation of a public banking system, restricting capital flows and creating a more democratic capitalism which is not based on top to down corporatism, but through democratic enterprises where decisions on the allocation and production of resources are made by the producers, not the owners at Wall Street.
Yet true progressivism does not merely address economic issues, in fact the reason for addressing economic issues is for social purposes, because the current elitist mode of production prospers the rich but impoverishes the poor (see sustainability). Healthcare, education and poverty are all social issues which must be solved through progressivism. 2.1 billion people in the world do not have access to essential medicine, (World Health Organization)this is proof of the deficiencies of modern capitalism. Statistics from before 2012 showing the amount of people uninsured in the US clarifies the failure of privatized healthcare even further. As a progressive, I believe that free and public healthcare ensures equality and universal access to treatment which is a human right according to article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Similar trends can be seen with both education and poverty. Privatization of higher level education systems means that only the rich elite will profit from graduating from university as lower members of society are required to take out student loans, which in many cases take lifetimes to pay back. This can be solved through a public higher level education system ensuring social mobility and increased innovation. Poverty is the cause of western imperialism both through traditional and modern means such as the World Bank and the IMF, as well as unequal “free trade” agreements such as NAFTA. If these institutions were abolished it would allow for an end to western protectionism (which is limiting the growth of developing nations) thus creating free and fair trade and therefore reducing poverty.
Progressivism has however been used in inappropriate ways by liberal populists, most recently by the neo-liberal magazine The Economist. In its article “Policy Prescription: True Progressivism” it says “A freer financial sector [in China], with market-driven interest rates, would remove a potent source of income concentration and economic distortion.” They do not understand that the liberalization of financial markets was the prime cause of the financial collapse in 2008 due to the growing credit and housing bubble sponsored by Wall Street. And now they are calling for China to free the financial sector from capital regulations in order to increase capital flows? This is especially ironic when the highly statist economy in China has been achieving on average 10% annual growth rates since the early 1990s. Furthermore, in the subtitle it says, “Bold moves are needed to tackle inequality”. Essentially they are promoting policy-making that increases inequality, not tackling it. This is not progressivism. Progressivism is about being a revisionist and learning from historical mistakes. Instead of admitting that large financial sectors are the cause to economic instability (as they are the cause of speculation driven inflation and the fuel for credit bubbles) they blame low growth on “big government”. It is hypocritical, but a good example of the failure of corporate media.
Progressivism is not about expanding the financial market and allowing capital to squander the economy, while the bankers get richer through the “too big to fail” concept. It is about providing healthcare and education for the general population as well as economic stability and development. This cannot be achieved through the present corporatist model, only through democratizing the economy and granting greater influence over production to the actual producers. We need to re-initiate the progressive surge from 1870-1945 in order to overcome these issues. The problems cannot be solved by implementing Reaganite neo-liberal imperialism through institutions like the IMF and World Bank. I call for true progressivism, a progressivism that will change the world from exploitative to sustainable.