Social Democracy Project opens space for political discussions

In early March, the Project for a Social Democracy launched its national media campaign with two major op-ed columns in the national English-language media. The first, in the Bangkok Post of Monday 6 March, was followed the day after by another in The Nation. The columns comment on the release by the Project for a Social Democracy’s Working Group of its Statement of Purpose, available here in English and here in Thai.

In doing so, the PSD WG has successfully opened a space in the public sphere for meta-political discussion of a Center-Left political party. In other words, it has become possible to discuss how to set up a future Social Democrat Party and to discuss how a principled, philosophically-driven Center Left political party could contribute to the socio-political stability of the country.

Essentially, such a party would have to promote tax reform and incremental wealth redistribution concerning the super rich, as well as promote greater economic, social, and cultural rights, such as redistributive transfers to the elderly, opening up discussion of gay marriage and female monks, and initiating a Ministry for Ethnic Affairs or passing the draft National Language Policy. The latter would make accommodations for international languages such as English and Chinese, ASEAN languages such as Lao, Thai regional languages such as Thai Lao, and local languages such as Thai Malay and the varieties of Karen and fundamentally improve transnational communication and the cultural rights of the majority of Thais.

By building Center Left policies into its political position, the party, working together with those in the Center Left wings of both the Democrat Party and Pheu Thai, will be able to leverage tax reform and other progressive policies, as a condition of joining a coalition government. Without such a principled, philosophically-driven contribution to the Thai political arena, Thai politics will continue to be driven by populism, feudalism, machine politics, and factionalism, the result being a lack of consensus-driven politics capable of breaking deadlocks.

However, the first step is to work towards a Foundation for a Social Democracy. This foundation will have three goals: serving as a clearing house and market place for policies, attracting funding for policy research and publicity, and disbursing funding. The Foundation will network with Center Left and environmental think tanks, institutes, and foundations globally, such as the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Heinrich Böll Foundation, as well as universities, Thai NGOs, and supra-national agencies, such as UN agencies.

In doing so, the Foundation will take on the main counter-argument of the ultra-nationalists, ‘foreign interference’, by stressing the foundational philosophy of social democracy is human solidarity, cosmopolitanism, and internationalism, without which Bangkok, and indeed Thailand, would be a much poorer country, both in terms of political concepts and, crucially, economically.

While ultra-nationalists may oppose the Foundation for a Social Democracy, nationalists may be converted by the fact the Foundation would act in a principled, transparent, and accountable manner compatible with patriotic sentiment and the monarchical institution, incremental change, and growing Thai GDP in an ethical manner. It would thus largely be a known quantity, one making a significant contribution to socio-political stability.

The first steps towards making this Foundation a reality are to continue the push in the English language media to open up a meta-political space and to break into the Thai mainstream media. These are therefore two of the ongoing goals of the PSD WG. Any help in this would be appreciated, by emailing prosocdem@gmail.com. Following are the first parts of the Bangkok Post and The Nation columns.

The Bangkok Post

Social democracy offers a third force

With the regime's political reconciliation game plan faltering, Thailand faces the prospect of a seemingly unending cycle of crisis, coup and constitution. Neither military rule nor the next constitution, which both embed non-accountability, offer hope for long-term socio-political stability.

Disunity will hit Thailand hard: Pricewater House Coopers sees the country's GDP being overtaken by those of the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia by 2050.

The Project for a Social Democracy (PSD) which groups academics, labour unionists and human rights activists, recently, released a statement of purpose that offers a legitimate way forward.

The key problems with Thai politics are a lack of political philosophies underlying policy platforms, leading to populism; a lack of internal democracy in party elections, exemplified by the feudal nature of political parties; and an inability for major parties to cooperate in unity to reach a consensus on measures that benefit the state.

The emergence of a Thai social democrat party (SDP), where these principles are embedded through transparency, where civil society is invited to observe the development of the party's policies and its elections, would revitalise Thai politics.

For the full article, see http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/1209473/social-democracy-offers-a-third-force

The Nation

A Thai Social Democrat Party becomes an imperative

If recent decades have demonstrated anything, it is that multiple segments of the Thai populace have differing, often conflicting, needs, interests and aspirations – and that these segments will not tolerate neglect.

The current attempt at political reconciliation will likely be followed by the kind of upheaval that has repeatedly divided Thai society and laid waste the arena of politics and governance. A new group, the Project for a Social Democracy (PSD), is advocating the formation of a new, more inclusive, political party to move beyond upheaval through genuinely addressing differing needs.

What is social democracy? An ancient Confucian maxim has it that the purpose of the state is the welfare of the people. Most modern nations agree, and countries like Thailand have a long record of promoting the general welfare, for example through the health system and rural development. Social democracy demands even more robust welfare, with the state guaranteeing such services as universal access to quality health care, together with high quality education accessible to all, free and affordable through the university and post-graduate levels. Ideally, there is a minimum wage sufficient for a dignified life with enough resources and free time for education and sports. Childcare, maternity leave and a living income for the elderly are guaranteed.

At the same time a business-friendly environment is maintained so that enterprises, from SMEs to large corporations, may flourish. Welfare measures, including education, ensure a healthy workforce, a population less prone to crime and upheaval, and a broad base of informed consumers making ethical choices driving the economy. Regulations not only limit the ability of companies to exploit workers and consumers but also create a space for non-destructive market competition. The goal is a flourishing market economy that serves the needs of all and reduces wealth inequality while growing overall GDP.

For the full article, see http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/opinion/30308127