Publication Analysis of Capitalism - Social Movements / Organizing - Labour / Unions - Economic / Social Policy - Europe / EU - Socio-ecological Transformation - Changing Lanes A Left-Wing Green New Deal

For a mobility transition and a socially equitable, environmentally friendly, and democratic transformation of the automotive industry

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August 2020

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[Translate to en:] Fahrradparkhaus in Rotterdam am Hauptbahnhof
Bicycle parking station at Rotterdamm Central Station. CC BY 1.0, Philipp Böhme, via Qimby

The German automotive industry is facing its largest crisis in a century. Together with its many supplier companies, it forms the key economic sector in Germany, and with its 800,000 employees contributes significantly to the national economy and tax revenue as a highly productive export-oriented branch of the economy that places strong emphasis on quality. At the same time, the country’s industrial structure’s strong dependence on manufacturing cars for export is proving to be an increasingly mortal risk. Automotive corporations seek to maximize returns at the expense of their employees and society as a whole, while also blocking measures that would safeguard the climate and facilitate a transformation to a more sustainable future. Without state intervention, political regulation, and democratically made investments decisions, there will be a drastic reduction in employment levels across the sector. Should the industry descend into a structural crisis, a considerable portion of the broader industrial workforce could be faced with the prospect of downward social mobility. We cannot allow such a crisis to become a breeding ground for right-wing ideologies and discourses (the key term here being “climate change deniers”). The left must posit realistic alternatives that address the root of the problems: We need a left-wing Green New Deal.

Bernd Riexinger is co-chair of Die Linke. This position paper first appeared in LuXemburg, and wastranslated by Hunter Bolin and Ryan Eyers for Gegensatz Translation Collective.

The current crisis has several causes, including global overcapacity and the threat of a worldwide recession. The Volkswagen emissions scandal alone cost the company and its employees €40bn. The German automotive industry has been wracked with turmoil for years, however.  Despite trade union struggles, the workforce has become more fragmented, and many employees are burdened by work-related stress and an increased pressure to be flexible. The major brand manufacturers are focusing on ramping up automation, and all share a common strategy that consists of seeking salvation in new export markets, digitalized driving, and vehicles with ever more horsepower and more digital infrastructure. They want to make the car a “home” and an entertainment location. Vehicle models such as SUVs, luxury cars, or sports cars consume a lot of energy and resources, but provide corporations with higher returns than smaller cars. At the same time, the struggle to develop new leading technologies (electric motorization, digitalization) and the cut-throat battle between automotive groups over markets is in full swing. In China and parts of the European Union in particular, only electric models stand a chance of competing on the markets in the next two decades. When it comes to electric cars, countries like China or South Korea are at a production level that put them several years ahead of other countries.

Changing the means of propulsion will require billions in investment. German companies want the state to cover the necessary costs of transforming and expanding the infrastructure for e-mobility without also setting social and environmental requirements for production. Considering this technological gap, the intensified competition on the world market, and trade conflicts which are difficult to calculate, the question of whether e-mobility will prove to be a worthy investment for return-oriented investors remains unanswered. Overcapacity combined with the policies implemented by major brand manufacturers is already resulting in layoffs at supplier firms. A considerable portion of medium-sized suppliers could be forced to close down if a switch to electric drive systems takes place, since these require fewer vehicle components.

It is obvious that under current market conditions the strategies of the German car companies threaten employees’ futures. Both Shareholders and corporate leadership are trying to make employees bear the costs of the crisis and transformation. Without state intervention, political regulation, and democratic decision-making around investment, there will be a massive reduction of the workforce, working conditions will worsen, and employees’ wages will be negatively impacted. The federal government’s misguided policies and the problematic political standards that result from them are responsible for these problems, to which the government has no sustainable answers. Its industrial policy prioritizes the profits of the major exporters, rather than the medium-term future of the employees, environmental protection, and the benefits that the sector may be able to provide for society.

On the other hand, the crisis in the automotive industry and the impasse created by the export model require Germany’s entire industrial and economic structure to be fundamentally restructured. At stake is a radical and realistic “social, environmentally friendly, and democratic transformation” (IG Metall Manifesto 2019): this entails meaningful work and a better life for all employees in the industrial and in service sectors. It is important to lay the foundations for this now so employees and companies are able to reliably plan for the future. To this end, Die Linke proposes a future deal for a mobility transition and a “social, environmentally friendly, and democratic transformation” of the automotive industry.

There Is No Alternative to Socio-Ecological Transformation

Car traffic is one of the main factors that contributes to Germany’s failure to meet its climate targets. Continuing with a “business as usual” attitude without making significant changes would have devastating consequences. In order to save the climate, we must radically reduce CO2 emissions and the transport sector’s consumption of energy, raw material, and land, but car companies and the German government are blocking the necessary expansion of sustainable bus and train networks and forward-thinking transportation solutions in general. It is time for a fundamental change of direction, for a socio-ecological mobility transition. We want to make mobility less dependent on cars and to promote environmentally friendly and CO2-neutral alternatives that are publicly owned, affordable, and easily accessible for everyone.

Transport is the only sector that has shown a (slight) increase in emissions since 1990. Transport now accounts for more than 18 percent of CO2 emissions. Even though the need for a change of course is obvious, practically nothing has been done so far to achieve this. The fraudulent emissions reporting perpetrated by the automotive industry has already cost society billions of euros, with the culprits yet to face adequate consequences for their actions. The German government’s climate protection plan does not take the environmentally sound restructuring of the automotive industry into account; instead, it continues to fork out billion-euro subsidies for car companies. In particular, tax rebate on company cars has boosted sales of SUVs and luxury sedans. Billions of euros’ worth of investments are flowing in the wrong direction, with—170 times more money currently being put into new roads than into the expansion of the railways and the transport of goods and passengers by rail.

Climate change is causing a necessary change in social consciousness—especially among younger people. Additionally, climate change is having a polarizing effect on society. The car’s status in society is more controversial than ever. For many people, the car has already begun to lose its value as a status symbol. At the same time, the number of cars in Germany has continued to increase in recent years. In 2018, four million new cars were registered in Germany. While in 2000 there were 532 cars per 1,000 inhabitants, this number has now risen to around 600 per 1,000 in 2018 (see Federal Environment Agency 2018). One in five vehicle owners in Germany has two or more passenger cars, which amounts to around eight million second cars. Diesel vehicles and SUVs, which are particularly harmful to the environment, are being purchased at increasing rates: SUVs account for 40 percent of new registrations in Germany, with about 70 percent of them purchased as company cars. But around 25 percent of households—more than 15 million people—do not own a car, a large number of whom are low-wage earners, one-person households and environmentally conscious people in cities, as well as pensioners and the unemployed.

According to surveys, 48 percent of Germans would give up their car if there were reliable and cheaper alternatives. But many people have no affordable alternatives to cars that are suitable for everyday use. We want to change that. The mobility transition is not directed against car drivers, nor against employees in the car industry—these are myths spread by corporations and right-wing climate change deniers. A mobility transition means that affordable and environmentally-friendly mobility for all would replace our societal dependence on cars. It is about shifting away from the “car society”, i.e. a society in which everyday life, industry, and the economy are dependent on private car ownership and a reliance on driving as the dominant form of mobility, which dominates urban and transport planning as well as economic policy. Car companies are doing everything they can, including using a massive amount of political pressure, to maintain the car’s central position in society and want to delay the phasing out of the combustion engine for as long as possible. In the next few years these companies have their sights trained on India and the African continent. Years ago, the late VW boss Ferdinand Piëch declared that VW was at “war” with its competitors, a fight it intended to win. In the context of climate change, this amounts to a declaration of war on society. We want a mobility transition that will lead to a significant reduction in the number of cars in Germany and internationally over the next 15 years.

Promoting Climate-Neutral Alternatives

A policy of “fewer cars” cannot mean penalizing those who currently rely on them due to a lack of (affordable or feasible) alternatives in their everyday life. It is both possible and necessary to reduce the number of cars by half in the next ten years without burdening low and average wage earners, but this must be done by offering them convincing alternatives, not by coercion. The path proposed by Die Linke consists in expanding automobile alternatives which are environmentally friendly, CO2 neutral, affordable, and easily accessible, in the process reducing the number of cars by half over the next decade[1]. Such a change would see an increase rather than a decrease in people’s quality of life: shorter travel distances, car-free city centres, a safer environment, more free time, and less stress.

We want to invest in a comprehensive, socially just, and climate-friendly mobility transition.  This includes: 

  • Free local public transport and lower train prices: within five years we want to massively expand local public transport and make it comfortable, free of charge, and barrier-free. We want to significantly reduce train prices. We are the only party with a comprehensive plan for achieving this in a way that is both concrete and financially viable.
  • The expansion of local public transport and railways must be given priority over subsidizing automotive traffic (including e-cars). We want to abolish the hidden subsidies handed out to the automotive industry. We call for a strict halt on the construction of new roads and for funds to be redirected and invested into railway expansion instead. We want to invest nine billion euros per year into expanding railway infrastructure, and making trains more frequent and more punctual, creating— a citizen’s railway that is oriented towards people’s needs rather than profits.
  • Avoid traffic: In terms of urban planning and regional economic policy, we want a policy that shortens the distances people need to travel in their everyday lives and reduces mobility constraints (such as long commutes or having to travel long distances to shop or visit the doctor). crucial to this policy will be a more regionally oriented economy, better supply and infrastructure in rural areas, and urban planning that facilitates everyday convenience with respect to transport.
  • We want car-free city centres by 2025 and for a speed limit (maximum 30km/h in city centres and 120km/h on motorways) to be introduced immediately.
  • Expand complementary, collective mobility services: Even in small towns, rural and less densely populated areas, local public transport and a collective infrastructure for mobility (including on-call buses, taxis, fast cycle paths, car-sharing services such as “village cars”) must become real alternatives to private cars. We want to promote and expand rental and share systems in public, non-profit, and cooperative ownership.

What is necessary is a socially just mobility policy that operates on two different time scales simultaneously: in large cities, a majority of residents can become independent of cars within five years, while in rural areas people will continue to be dependent on regular car use for some years to come. A rapid and drastic increase in petrol prices is the wrong way to effect these changes. Instead, we want to force the industry to quickly transition to producing more environmentally friendly vehicles.

Electric Mobility Is Not Enough

Electric mobility options—especially in the form of (small) buses—can make an important contribution to a socio-ecological mobility transition. But simply shifting to e-cars alone is not enough. This is not a solution to the environmental and climate crisis. Likewise, promoting the production of e-cars to continue subsidizing the automotive industry—as proposed by the Greens—and thereby maintaining the German industry’s dependence on the export of luxury cars—is also not the answer. As Die Linke, we do not want just a change of propulsion system, but a fundamental change of direction. Our vision for the future of the car industry includes a conversion to CO2-neutral production which is oriented around for a change in transport needs within the context of a broader mobility transition.

  • Making cars electrically powered is not a solution to the environmental and climate crisis, as a considerable portion of CO2 emissions is generated by automotive production. Battery production for e-vehicles is particularly energy-intensive. Plans are currently underway to produce batteries in countries like Poland, where the proportion of coal-based electricity is particularly high. Production in China, Japan, and California also remains dependent on fossil fuels. E-mobility can thus lead to CO2-intensive production being hidden and relocated instead of being reduced worldwide.
  • Electric SUVs and sports cars do not solve any issues either. A vehicle’s carbon footprint depends largely on its size, weight, performance (horsepower), and equipment (fully digitalized interior). The production of electric SUVs and luxury cars is a dead end. Overall, a small three-litre conventional car is less harmful to the environment than an E-SUV. For passenger cars, electric propulsion only makes sense if they are powered entirely by renewable energies. However, recent decisions made by the German government mean that this will not be the case in Germany until 2035 at the earliest.
  • A massive expansion of e-mobility worldwide would exacerbate the crisis surrounding resources. The production of batteries for electric cars is dependent on increasingly scarce raw materials such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel. The production of lithium in Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia and of cobalt in the Congo takes place under environmentally harmful and extremely exploitative conditions. About 1.9 million litres of water are consumed to produce lithium for 20 batteries of Tesla’s latest electric models, often in regions with extreme water shortages.
  • The goal of a climate-neutral transport sector requires a massive reduction in energy consumption. Replacing combustion engines with electric motors without reducing the number, weight, and size of cars would—together with the increasing digitalization of everyday life and infrastructure—result in the consumption of massive amounts of energy. Anywhere upward of twelve million electric cars in Germany would also require a massive expansion of the electricity grid, especially the structure of distribution grids in dense urban areas and tourist districts, (and would cost over €10 billion).

As long as the number of vehicles is not significantly reduced (and, for example, electric cars are purchased as second cars), a change propulsion system will contribute little to a climate-friendly mobility transition. Automobile manufacturing’s dependence on oil and vast consumption of energy during production, on a growing demand for rare earths and metals, the high number of road deaths, and the massive usage of land and environmental damage caused by private transport all speak against the industry’s continued existence.

Over the next five years, we can create the conditions for a transformation of the automotive industry in Germany: away from high-powered, fuel- and energy-consuming cars and towards vehicles that will facilitate the collective and socially just mobility of the future. This includes three-litre cars as well as energy-efficient E-cars. The conversion from energy- and CO2-intensive vehicles to CO2-neutral and energy-efficient vehicle types requires state intervention and mandatory production standards in Germany and the EU. A conceivable blocking of stricter standards within the EU (e.g. by Hungary and Poland) is not an excuse not to take action.

This means:

  • Changing the means of propulsion: phasing out the combustion engine by 2030 at the latest not only makes sense from an environmental standpoint, but also helps provide planning security for employees and future investments. By 2030 at the latest, no more combustion-powered passenger cars should be able to be newly registered or exported.
  • Halting the production of SUVs, luxury cars, and gas and energy guzzlers: clear and mandatory standards for environmentally sustainable production need to be introduced as quickly as possible so that only vehicles with lower weight, lower horsepower, lower CO2 emissions (including those resulting from production and the entire supply chain) and lower energy consumption are manufactured.  Irrespective of a vehicle’s propulsion system (i.e. the same rules must also apply for the production of e-cars), strict limits must be set for energy and resource consumption as well as for CO2 emissions both during production and per kilometre driven. This includes supply chain legislation that takes into account the CO2 emissions and working conditions connected to the production of raw materials.
  • Promoting environmental innovation: we want to massively expand research into increasing vehicles’ lifespan and durability, CO2-neutral production, and recyclable materials. Research funding must be geared towards the goal of initiating a real mobility transition, and production must be adjusted to meet the needs of society rather than corporate profits. It must therefore be organized publicly and controlled by environmental associations, as well as other key stakeholders. It makes sense to endorse a “technological openness” for energy-efficient and climate-neutral propulsion systems and materials. But this must not lead to delays in the phasing out conventional diesel and combustion engines. We want to see more research into energy-efficient electric vehicles, battery production, recycling, and hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion systems  (especially for buses, minibuses, and perhaps also aviation).
  • Recycling instead of environmentally harmful exports: We call for a ban on the export of gas-guzzling used cars and car waste by 2025 and for a comprehensive recycling industry to be developed in Germany.
  • Environmentally and socially just reform of the motor vehicle tax.  Significantly higher taxes aimed at changing consumer behaviour must be levied on vehicles weighing over 1.5 tonnes, with over two litres of engine capacity, and over 120 hp of engine power. A person’s second, third, and fourth cars must be subject to heavy taxation. Additionally, tax benefits conferred on company cars that are not absolutely necessary for everyday business (e.g. assembly vehicles) must be abolished.
  • E-mobility must not pave the way for a return to nuclear power. Energy supply must be based on renewable energies, be publicly and cooperatively owned, and be oriented toward the common good.

Meaningful Work With a Future

Workers must not be forced to decide between a meaningful job, a good life in the present moment, and the future of their children and grandchildren. A successful mobility transition will secure existing jobs in the automotive industry and other sectors as well while also creating new ones. Die Linke is committed to a rapid transformation that is socially and environmentally just and a (medium-term) conversion of the car industry that incorporates fair transitions. This is the only way the car industry can become an anchor point for a socially just and environmentally sustainable mobility transition. Only this kind of approach over the next 15 years can secure sustainable, well-paid industrial jobs in Germany and create new alongside.

Although the goal of a socio-ecological transformation of the car industry is in conflict with the profit motives held by industry shareholders, it does in fact align with the interests of the sector’s employees. Unlike concepts of structural change in the (recent) past, the aim is not just to provide a “social cushion” to offset the consequences of corporate decisions and crises, but to create a better future for employees in the industry. This means meaningful and secure work, wages sufficient enough to support a decent life, less stress, and more free time. However, these goals cannot be achieved in the context of the manufacturing of e-cars that remains dependent on exports, but only in the context of a “social, environmentally sustainable, and democratic transformation” (see also IG Metall Manifesto 2019).

A successful mobility transition will both secure existing jobs in the automotive industry and other sectors while also creating new ones. This will require a massive expansion of the railway network (with a corresponding increase in the production of rail infrastructure and trains) and public transport (with correspondingly higher demand for buses, minibuses, and cars for car sharing programmes), which will also create jobs in industrial sectors. Only in this way will a switch to electric vehicles, “Industry 4.0”, and a decrease in exports be capable of compensating for the projected job losses.[2] 

Within the context of a Europe-wide mobility transition, however, the export of e-buses, minibuses, and commercial vehicles could continue to account for a considerable share of exports over the next 20 years, but it is crucial to set the required medium-term conversion of the automotive industry in motion now. By 2035, a successful social and environmentally conscious mobility transition comprised of expanded bus and rail services, car sharing, and new collective mobility options could make individual car ownership the exception rather than the rule. But even if the total number of cars registered in Germany declines, the mobility transition will still secure jobs in the direct production of cars. More cars will also be needed (including for collective mobility services such as car sharing). Even after 2035, at least ten million cars will still be needed, primarily for collective mobility services (such as car sharing). These cars will be used more frequently than most privately owned cars today. Despite likely future innovations, these vehicles will reach the end of their lifespan more quickly than the (current) average of eight years for private cars. A range of different vehicle models will be required in order to fulfil different societal needs, including electric minibuses, small passenger cars for inner-city and regional car sharing, larger family cars for people with specific space and mobility needs, heavy-duty commercial vehicles (e.g. for hunters, tradespeople, etc.) and specialized commercial vehicles (e.g. fire engines).

For these reasons, Die Linke is committed to pressing for a social, environmentally conscious, and democratic transformation of the automotive industry. Car and vehicle production must be geared towards the needs of society and the goal of a European (and, if possible, global) mobility transition—rather than towards shareholders’ desire for profit. Priority must therefore be given to the production of vehicle models that serve collective mobility goals (e.g. energy-efficient electric cars, electric minibuses, and electric buses). This makes sense from both an environmental and a social perspective, and will safeguard jobs that will offer workers a secure future even in 20 years’ time.

The major automotive corporations have billions in financial reserves resulting from recent profitability (VW alone has over €80 billion), funds which must be put towards an environmentally sound transformation of production and to secure jobs. The state must require that manufacturers abide by a set of rules: an environmentally conscious transformation of production (see above), the safeguarding of jobs, and gradual, collectively agreed-upon reductions in working hours with accompanying wage compensation. For us, the position is clear: large corporations that do not initiate the necessary social and environmental changes by 2025 should expect to be socialized under Article 15 of the German Basic Law.

A Change of Direction in Industrial Policy

Productive work in industrial sectors is an important foundation for a socially just and climate-friendly model of future prosperity. A socio-ecological mobility transition must therefore be accompanied by a fundamental change of direction in industrial policy that combines meaningful climate protection with a consideration of workers’ interests. Together with the workers and the climate movement, we want to implement a future deal for an environmentally conscious economy that ensures meaningful work and wages sufficient to guarantee a decent standard of living.

In order to prevent a devastating climate catastrophe, we must achieve a carbon-neutral economy and infrastructure within 15 to 20 years which will require radical changes to the way we work, live, and do business. Productive work in industrial sectors is a key basis for a socially just and climate-friendly model of prosperity in the future. Alongside the climate crisis, increasing conflicts over raw materials and sales markets and the struggle for hegemony on the world market (with new threats of war), make a fundamental change in industrial policy urgently necessary.

Our goal is to make industrial production carbon neutral and energy efficient by 2035 and to make Germany’s industrial structure less dependent on car exports (as well as the export of weapons, security technology, and environmentally harmful plastic and chemical products). Such a transformation can only succeed if it is socially equitable. Climate justice and social justice are inseparable. Achieving both requires massive state investment and democratic decision-making processes that will determine what to produce and how. The social, environmental, and democratic transformation of the auto sector must begin immediately and be designed with medium term goals in mind. This requires both innovation and the capacity to reliably make plans. Die Linke therefore proposes the following as guidelines for a future deal for an environmentally conscious economy, meaningful work, and wages that guarantee a decent standard of living:

  • Equitable transitions mean: guaranteed employment and income
  • Meaningful, secure, and well-paid work for all
  • More leisure time and less stress

Public loans and a climate levy on corporate profits could be used to finance a public investment programme for future investments in the sector. Such a programme could create one million sustainable and well-paid industrial jobs, with shortened full-time jobs (around 30 hours a week) also available to existing employees. Government investment must be to increase levels of public and employee ownership. By reducing working hours with complementary wage compensation, the intent is to safeguard industrial jobs in the face of digitalization and the restructuring of production that will occur in the years to come. The state must generate the conditions for this framework by strengthening nationwide collective bargaining agreements and gradually reducing the maximum work week to 40 hours (immediately) and then to 35 hours by 2030.

Democratic Decision-Making Around Investments

The federal government must work together with employees, trade unions, independent scientists, and regional economic councils to draw up legally binding guidelines for the industrial sector. We would seek to promote socio-ecological innovation in industrial companies by creating a special fund for transformation and conversion processes. The investment funds will be granted in return for job guarantees and employee ownership. Particularly in the automotive supplier industry, but also in the arms, chemical, steel, and mechanical engineering industries, this will secure jobs and help initiate necessary processes of transformation. For medium-sized supplier companies or medium-sized mechanical engineering firms, which often do not have the necessary capital to instigate a socio-ecological modernization of production, the state must step in to provide public bank loans and guarantees, among other forms of financial assistance. In addition, money set aside for transformation and conversion can be used to finance an additional fund to reimburse employees to the level of their current income if they lose their jobs in the transition or are required to undergo additional training.

Areas of alternative production could include:

  • the construction of buses, minibuses, trains, and railway infrastructure or e-bicycles tailored to the mobility transition
  • carbon-neutral steel production
  • mechanical engineering and (research and development for) material conversion: including medical devices, further development of the recycling industry, improved energy efficiency and raw material substitution in mechanical engineering, plant construction, and consumer electronics
  • expanded research and development of hydrogen fuel-cell propulsion systems for buses, heavy commercial vehicles, ships, and aircrafts
  • carbon-neutral aviation
  • sustainable electrical, household, and (digital) consumer appliances that come with a ten-year warranty
  • development of a sustainable and high-quality textile industry

Die Linke also supports more democracy in the workplace, for employee ownership of companies and corporations, as well as for the expansion and increased democratization of worker participation in management decisions via supervisory councils. This includes giving workers’ councils veto rights with respect to mass layoffs and site closures and giving them a say in workplace organization/staffing decisions. Additionally, binding staff meetings should be introduced to formalize employee involvement in determining such matters. We also wish to see democratic forms of ownership that facilitate a production model geared towards the changing needs of transport users and environmentally conscious production standards rather than towards shareholders’ profits. A combination of public involvement and employee ownership is the way forward. Together, the public sector and the workforce must hold 51 percent of shares and thus represent a majority on management boards and supervisory councils. Democratic ownership is one way of facilitating a fairer distribution of social wealth. The British Labour Party, for example, put forward the idea of a fund to build up employee ownership, with one percent of shares transferred into employee ownership each year. Profit dividends paid out to private investors would be restricted, and employees would receive up to £500 each per year from the fund, while the remainder would be invested in state infrastructure. These ideas are not new; in Sweden, for example, the “Meidner Plan” has also set aside funds to test the expansion of employee ownership and the public welfare system.

Our proposal for a left-wing Green New Deal would chime well with such approaches:  shareholder dividends would be capped and the remaining profits would go into a “solidarity, climate, and infrastructure fund”, which could also cross-finance co-operatives and reductions in working hours in less profitable areas of an operation’s business.

In order for social and environmental innovations to emerge from direct co-operation between workers, scientists, and researchers working at goals that go beyond the compulsion to make a profit, we need new forms of democratic enterprise: state-funded platform cooperatives linked to public research initiatives, such as digital co-operatives that function like communally-minded IT start-ups. The idea here is to cultivate the co-operative mindset at the level of the development of productive forces, and of helping co-operatives get to a position where they can drive innovation for society as a whole. In short: a “solidarity-based future sector”. A first step in this direction would be advocating for better legal conditions and creating economic development funds to facilitate the creation of “start-ups for the common good”, which focus on developing ideas and knowledge for socially relevant and meaningful services (e.g. improving quality of life for the elderly) or environmental innovation.

The cornerstones for a process of democratizing the economy would be the following:

  • Making it easier to found workers’ councils and linking state subsidies to comprehensive worker participation in company decision-making
  • Granting co-determination and veto rights for employees in all economic matters. In all companies with more than 500 employees, employees are to be granted extensive rights to participate in decision-making in the event of layoffs, relocations, the organization of working hours, and staffing
  • Promotion of co-operatives, employee ownership, and social start-ups
  • Regional economic councils and a nationwide transformation council to develop proposals for investment priorities and environmentally sustainable conversion. These entities would make decisions concerning the use of the transformation and conversion fund

[1]  The number of cars would be halved, for example, if the number of households with two cars tends towards zero (a reduction of eight million vehicles) and another 15 million households have no car of their own.

[2] In addition, about 150,000 employees will retire from the automotive industry in the next ten years.