Ota Šik

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Ota Šik (born September 11, 1919 in Pilsen ; † August 22, 2004 in St. Gallen ) was a Czechoslovakian - Swiss painter and economist . He became famous as the creator of the Prague Spring economic reforms , also known as The Third Way .


As the son of Jewish parents, Ota Šik grew up bilingually (Czech and German). His father was Oswald Šik and his mother Maria nee Vorisek. From 1924 to 1936 he attended the elementary school in Teplice . In 1933 he began studying painting at the Art School in Prague , which he had to drop out in 1934. From 1936 he worked for several companies. At the same time he worked as a painter and continued his education in evening courses. From 1939 he worked in resistance groups against the German occupation. In 1940 he became a member of the KSČ and was arrested a short time later for his resistance activities. He was brought to Mauthausen concentration camp in 1945 and was liberated by American troops.

After his liberation, it was important for him to be politically active: As a member of the communist party, he trained in economics at the party-affiliated college for politics and social affairs and completed his studies with a dissertation. In 1961 Ota Šik took over the management of the influential Economic Institute of the Academy of Sciences. The lack of efficiency in the economy prompted the party leadership under Antonín Novotný at the beginning of the 1960s to consider the possibilities of reforming the existing economic system.

From 1962 he was a member of the Central Committee of the KSČ, from 1964 he headed a state and party commission for economic reform and belonged to the state planning commission. At the beginning of 1967, a variant of his “New Economic Model” was implemented against strong opposition from the state and party apparatus. In April 1968, Alexander Dubček appointed him deputy prime minister and coordinator of economic reforms, which Moscow judged as a restoration of capitalism. The KSČ thus made a turn in economic policy. The decisive economic passages came from Šik:

The previous methods of managing and organizing the economy are outdated and urgently require changes, i. H. an economic management system that is able to push through a turn to intensive growth. "

The core of this economic program was that the economy should be controlled by economic means within a framework plan . According to these ideas, the directors of the companies would have been largely independent in their pricing and product policy. Valtr Komárek , a Šik employee, later described this economic formula as follows:

We wanted free goods prices, but, out of democratic responsibility, not free factor prices . "

When the “Prague Spring” was ended on August 21, 1968 by the Soviet intervention, Šik was in Belgrade , where he condemned the intervention. He was removed from office on September 3. He then temporarily held the post of embassy counselor in Belgrade and then emigrated to Switzerland. In 1970 he became professor for economics and social sciences at the University of St. Gallen . He received Swiss citizenship in 1983 . In St. Gallen he continued his work on the connection between planned and market economy - he described his model as the “third way”, with the plan elements increasingly taking a back seat to the market. In the 1970s Ota Šik was a guest at the Achberg (anthroposophical) annual conference on the Third Way several times. This also resulted in several anthroposophical publications that were based both on the threefold model of the social organism and on Ota Šik's ideas for economic reform. However, he never saw himself as a representative of Rudolf Steiner's threefold social structure . Looking back in 1990, he confessed to “full-blooded” capitalism in several interviews, for example to a Czech daily newspaper: “You see, we couldn't fully present all of our goals at the time. (...) So the third way was also a veiling maneuver. Even then I was convinced that the only solution for us is a full-blooded capitalist market. "

He published his main work "Humane Economic Democracy" in 1979.

In this area he achieved international success and has taken an important position in politics and science. He was a university professor, Vice Prime Minister in the era of the Prague Spring, and a globally recognized leader of the reform movement in the economy . From 1992 he only painted. On the night of August 22, 2004, he succumbed to a brain tumor.


Ota Šik had two sons. Jiří Polák (1948–2014) worked as a writer, screenplay and radio play writer, his second son Miroslav Šik (* 1953) is an architecture professor at the ETH Zurich .

Ota Šik's model of a humane economic democracy

Employee companies

At the microeconomic, i.e. operational level, the concept of a human economic democracy envisages companies that work efficiently and meet consumer demands via market pressure, and that are internally organized in such a way that the production process is as humane as possible, i.e. that operational alienation is reduced as far as possible. The material and immaterial participation (involvement) of the employees of an employee company (MAG), which is necessary for the latter, is expressed in various organizational principles of the same:

Capital neutralization

The share capital of a MAG is neutral towards individual persons or groups of persons. It cannot be shared with anyone. It belongs to the entire company collective or to itself, as it were. There are no share certificates. Anyone who becomes a member of a MAG is automatically co-owner, whoever leaves it automatically loses all rights and obligations. This avoids mobility problems. Neutralized capital is created through a legally stipulated quota of new operating profits that have to be converted into neutralized capital. Existing private capital is not affected. Neutralized capital is created little by little without expropriating existing private capital. In addition, capital neutralization only begins when the absolute profit figure to be determined by politics is reached, so it does not affect smaller private companies. The neutralization rate must be small enough to leave enough motivating profits for the private capital owners, but large enough to convert larger private companies into MAGs within a politically desired period of time. A mixed system of private small businesses, partly private medium-sized businesses and large MAGs would arise. Business start-ups could therefore continue to take place through private risk capital (filling in gaps in the market) and also through MAGs. As soon as the neutralized capital in previously private companies has reached a majority position after a transition period, the following organizational principles apply in MAGs:

Decision-making structures

The general meeting of all employees of a MAG elects a supervisory board, which in turn appoints an executive board. The supervisory board is responsible for all fundamental decisions (major investments, mergers, forms of profit sharing, etc. - more on the latter). It is the representative body of the employees vis-à-vis the board of directors and should therefore largely consist of employees of the MAG, who take turns in this function at certain time intervals (principle of rotation). The supervisory board primarily monitors the day-to-day business activities of the management board. This is made up of internal and external experts. In contrast to the supervisory board, the term of office of a board member is in principle unlimited and solely dependent on performance.

Work organization

In MAGs, specific working groups are set up as far as possible, in which the employees can democratically decide on the internal division of labor and other matters that affect the respective working group within the scope of the tasks specified by the executive board. The management style in the entire MAG is to be organized as democratically as possible (rule of expertise and the best argument and not rule of any kind).

Material participation

The people in a MAG should experience themselves as responsible employees, as people whose word is heard, who can have a say and participate in decision-making and who are no longer alien to their own company. In addition to immaterial participation (active and passive right to vote), the employees' feeling of identification is to be strengthened primarily through their co-ownership of the neutralized capital, which is specifically expressed in profit-sharing (material participation). This profit sharing is paid out in addition to the collectively agreed wages (or, in times of loss, not). Collective wages must remain in order to be able to operate a meaningful company profit and loss account and to make or maintain work performance and qualifications between companies and industries. Within the framework of a legally determined maximum profit-sharing quota (more of which), the supervisory board of a MAG determines the specific modalities of profit-sharing (per capita, according to salary levels, according to years of operation, etc.). In companies that are partially or completely privately run, modes of profit-sharing should also be regulated by law in order to prevent them from migrating to MAGs.

With this model of overcoming the contradiction between capital and labor at the company level, the model of a humane economic democracy is also differentiated from various so-called supra-company participation models. What none of these models, such as cross-company asset funds, can achieve is overcoming the specific, operational alienation of working people. A co-ownership of the “somewhere” of an economy does not allow people to develop any emotional ties or feelings of responsibility - see the experiences in the former “real existing socialism”. However, this is a basic requirement for overcoming operational alienation, i.e. humanizing the world of work.

Macroeconomic Distribution Planning

The concept of macroeconomic distribution planning has little in common with the former real socialist planning concept. All undesirable developments in capitalism can be traced back directly or indirectly to its distributional relationships (susceptibility to crises, insufficient satisfaction of social needs such as ecological requirements, insufficient macroeconomic participation). These macroeconomic distribution relationships are thus the subject of the concept of macroeconomic distribution planning. In this concept, no company is stipulated what to produce in what quantities or qualities. The market alone determines this - and that means: the consumer. Anything else would be a dictatorship over the concrete satisfaction of human needs - and an inefficient one, as the example of real socialism has shown, moreover.

Content and objects

The macroeconomic distribution planning (in the following short macro planning) are all primary distribution processes (distribution of national income between profits and wages) as well as the secondary redistribution processes (state and credit redistribution). The quantitative balance, avoiding crises and inflation, of the more investment-oriented final income (especially investment-oriented profit parts) and the more consumption-oriented final income (consumption-oriented profit parts, wage income and government expenditure) with the necessary, from the development of production and the Productivity-dependent total economic investment and consumption sums is the real task of macro planning.


The organization of macro-planning has to do justice to this main task as well as its other tasks of democratizing the macroeconomic decision-making processes as well as the social control of social consumption. On the one hand, the planning organization must ensure that the macroeconomic development processes are recorded as appropriately and scientifically as possible, i.e. the recording of what is productively possible in the near future (genetic side of the planning, i.e. the side of planning determined by the productive current state and further productive development). On the other hand, it must be determined as far as possible by a wide variety of democratically legitimized interests (teleological, i.e., side of the planning determined by wishes and goals), i. In other words, it must not be an expertocratic bureaucratic planning behind closed doors. In this respect, all relevant planning commissions must be composed of professionally qualified representatives from a wide variety of interest groups (experts from political parties, associations, trade unions, scientific representatives, etc.). They are recruited from existing institutions and so do not cause any further bureaucracy. These planning commissions work out two to three plan variants that are presented to the population for election. Planning is therefore democratically legitimized in terms of its origin and its results. The plans, which must be balanced to avoid all crises, differ primarily in the different modes of dividing overall economic consumption into private and social consumption and especially in the different internal division of the latter (more money for private or public transport, for Nuclear power plants or solar collectors, for armaments or education - insofar as these relationships can be influenced by public demand).


The method of macro planning is thus the indirect influence and control of the macroeconomic production process through the planning and control of the macroeconomic distribution processes. The level of total economic consumption is initially determined by the total economic sum of collectively agreed wages. It is determined - with a democratic expansion of the number of negotiating partners - also in the model of humane economic democracy through negotiation.

In this concept, however, the macroeconomic total consumption is also determined by the profit sharing. This is the place where macro planning intervenes to regulate the microeconomic process: the companies are legally prescribed a maximum profit participation rate. The company thus determines which parts of the profit may be distributed and which parts of the profit must remain in operation for investments (or reserves). It does not determine the absolute profit sizes, which may depend solely on market performance. It determines ratios or quotas and in this way ensures a macroeconomic balance, i.e. H. for correct proportions between the more consumer-oriented and more investment-oriented parts of the national income on the one hand and the proportions of the consumer and capital goods industry on the other.

In order not to jeopardize this equilibrium, macro-planning is also responsible for taking into account the state and credit redistribution processes when determining the consumption-oriented final income levels and the investment-oriented final income levels - i.e. the level of wage and profit taxation, indirect taxes, the structure of government spending, the savings amounts from wages and profits, consumption and investment credits and their different consumer or investment effects. A balance in the primary distribution of income (wages, profits) must not be jeopardized by secondary redistribution processes (government, banking, insurance).


The implementation of the plans is the responsibility of the democratically elected government or an economic council appointed by it. Contrary to the individual companies, the government is bound by the plan selected by referendum. As a rule, it will be made up of parties or party coalitions that have already backed certain plan variants, i.e. behind “their” plans, during the election campaign. The measures with which the planned goals will be achieved are already specified in the plans. It is a plan-adequate wage, profit-sharing, fiscal, currency and foreign trade policy, etc., i.e. economic policy measures that largely indirectly influence the economic process. In this sense, macroeconomic distribution planning is planned economic policy. A maximum of individual economic policy measures can (could) be contrary to the market, but not the planning of economic policy measures itself. Again: These are not production directives for individual companies. On the macro-planning side, the companies are as free (or unfree) in all of their decisions as they are today, apart from the profit-sharing quota.

Antimonopoly market regulation

Even democratically organized employee companies could be tempted to succumb to the lure of monopoly power to set prices and income. The third pillar in the model of a human economic democracy is therefore the concept of an anti-monopoly market regulation. It mainly includes two sets of measures:

First of all, general economic policy (regulatory and procedural policy) should optimally promote economic competition. This means the systematic promotion of start-ups, outsiders or, for example, competing imports into economic areas or industries that are threatened by monopolies.

Second, the model of a humane economic democracy provides for an anti-monopoly penalty tax for long-term above-average profit rates. This is precisely the criterion for a monopoly: Above-average profit rates normally attract capital, lead to expansion of production and supply and ultimately to relative price and profit reductions. If this process of equalizing the profit rates is not carried out in the long term, it can be assumed that a monopoly is using its power to prevent this equalizing process. An anti-monopoly punitive tax, as an economic policy instrument embedded in the democratic process of macro-planning, would have to simulate this normally occurring process of economic profit rate adjustment: over a politically determined period, a long-term excessive profit rate of an individual company would have to be adjusted to the economic or branch average. This has to be done slowly and gradually so as not to demotivate above-average profit rates as a reward for process and product innovations that are successful in the market.


Ota Šik in 1989 from the Department of Economics of the University of Kassel Dr. rer. pole. hc (honorary doctorate in economics).


  • Economy - Interests - Politics, Dietz Verlag Berlin, 1966
  • The Czechoslovak economy on new paths, Orbis Verlag, Prague 1966
  • Plan and Market in Socialism, Molden Verlag Vienna, 1967
  • Facts of the Czechoslovak economy, Molden Verlag Munich, 1969
  • Democratic and socialist planned and market economy, Verlag die Andere, Zurich, 1971
  • The structural change of the economic systems in the Eastern European countries, Verlag die Andere, Zurich, 1971
  • The Third Way: Marxist-Leninist Theory and Modern Industrial Society, Verlag Hoffmann and Campe Verlag Hamburg, 1972
  • Arguments for the Third Way, Verlag Hoffmann and Campe Hamburg, 1973
  • For an economy without dogma, List Verlag Munich, 1974
  • The communist power system, Hoffmann and Campe Verlag Hamburg, 1976
  • Humane economic democracy: a third way, Knaus Verlag Hamburg, 1979
  • An economic system of the future, Springer Verlag Berlin, 1985
  • Economic systems: comparisons, theories, reviews, Springer Verlag Berlin, 1987
  • Prague Spring Awakening: Memories, Busse Seewald Verlag Herfort, 1988
  • The Socially Just Market Economy - A Way for Eastern Europe (together with Leszek Balcerowicz), Herder Verlag Freiburg-Breisgau, 1990
  • Socialism today ?: the changing meaning of socialism, Macmillen Verlag, Basingtone, 1991

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Daniel Jetel, biography of Ota Šik, Switzerland (HLS) Historical Dictionary in. Hls-dhs-dss.ch/de/articles/046186/2012-11-01
  2. “On the way of knowledge. A conversation with Ota Šik about his life on the occasion of the publication of his biography ”. in: Mladá Fronta, Prague, vol. 46, no. 178, August 2, 1990, pp. 1-2. Complete translation of the interview, translated from the Czech by Bianca Lipanska, under Archived Copy ( Memento of the original from May 17, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.niqel.de