When humanists observe and participate in social, political and economic processes around the world, we cannot but reflect about the relevance to this moment of history of the Statement of the Humanist Movement written by Silo in 1993#. From its reading we can understand to what degree the path of history has confirmed the tendencies that this document explained and to what degree – today more than ever – the union of all humanists of the world has become necessary so that the deepest human aspirations may be turned into reality.
*The emergence of new generations*
In recent times around the world different social movements have sprung up and surprised analysts and opinion formers who had been suggesting the end of history.
Social expressions, varied in their causes and demands in countries as diverse as Tunisia, Egypt, Iceland, India, Spain, Chile and the USA, have in common that their protagonists have been the new generations. Thousands of young people have started to take to the streets to show their outrage at the unjust world they’ve inherited, accepting the challenge of becoming the protagonists for social change and adopting Active Nonviolence as a methodology of action.
The expression of these young people, added to the best efforts of previous generations, is starting to give rise to the birth of a new planetary sensibility.
This is a new sensibility that makes a void to leaders accustomed to manipulating everything. It not only speaks of horizontality but also exercises it on a daily basis in its different forms of self-managed organisation. It is a new sensibility that doesn’t just tolerate diversity but accepts it and drives it forward; comprehending that such diversity is necessary if the requirement is to produce real changes. It recognises the banks and speculative capital as the real adversaries who have hijacked representative democracy making plain the need to advance towards Direct Democracy.
This is a new sensibility that is no longer surrendering its subjectivity to the official communication media in the hands of Financial Capital but rather is using and appropriating new technologies and social networks in order to communicate, inform, denounce, organise and take to the streets.
And, perhaps, the most important thing is that this new sensibility’s intuition tells it that at the base of social injustice, physical, economic, racial and religious violence is to be found. And therefore its response to repression and defamation is a void, non-confrontation and civil disobedience, in sum: Active Nonviolence.
This new sensibility is a sign of the new world that is being born in the midst of an old world that, with great violence and repression, is trying to stay put.
*# The “Humanist Statement” forms part of the “Sixth Letter to my Friends”, written by Silo on the 5th of April, 1993, included in his Collected Works, Volume 1, Page 488, Latitude Press, USA.*
*Towards the Universal Human Nation*
Over the last 20 years, global communication and interconnection have been increasing and certain aspects of this phenomenon have been defined as “globalisation.” But humanists, as internationalists and aspiring to a plural and diverse world, see in this globalisation the signs of anti-humanism. Because it happens that global economic power has tried to direct this process in accordance with its own interests, creating a Parastate at both a national and global level. This Parastate operates within national borders by buying or blackmailing governments and manipulating public opinion through control of the mass media. And it also operates internationally, having at its service economic institutions such as the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO; creating international courts along the way such as ICSID; using the USA’s and NATO’s armies as the world’s police force; and covering all of its misdeeds with a veneer of legality by controlling the decisions of the United Nations. Public opinion is also manipulated through the international press.
So what happens is that the people of the world not only have to confront the problems within their own borders, but they also feel that many of their problems are generated globally, and that they don’t have the means to resolve them. And just as humanists say that within our borders we must take power through Real Democracy in order to have representatives that genuinely represent us; so also at a global level we must work to dismantle this Parastate that covers itself with a cloak of respectability through organisms that are mere proxies of global economic power.
Therefore, the image of advancing towards a Universal Human Nation must not only be a luminous utopia guiding the struggles of the people, but also a strategic conception from which tactical actions arise that lead to the power of this Global Parastate being disassembled, while simultaneously the pillars of a truly Universal Human Nation are being built. Because this Universal Human Nation, which might seem to be a mere expression of desires for older generations, is already appearing as a visible horizon for the new generations and for this new sensibility.
From now on, between the present situation and the horizon that is approaching, we must travel a path of action, and some of these actions are those that we propose in this document.
*A change of economic paradigms*
In a world in which money has become the central value of existence, we shouldn’t be surprised by the consequences of such denial of meaning of human life. We are not surprised by the growing inequity in the distribution of wealth as we are dealing with individualistic competition in which there has to be winners and losers by necessity. We are not surprised by the successive financial crises and their correlate of recession in a system that can only be sustained by growing debt. We are not surprised by wars over scarce natural resources in a world preyed upon by the consumerism of the most well off. We are not surprised by social violence when increasing numbers of people feel like failures and are marginalised, in contrast to the paradise offered by consumerist advertising. And we shouldn’t feel surprised by nihilism, madness and suicide when existence has lost its meaning, and material success is supposed to replace it.
Of course there are procedures to transform this inhuman economic system; improving the distribution of income, disciplining the financial system, and advancing towards sustainable development that allows a dignified life for every human being without devastating the planet. But it would be naïve to expect the spontaneous application of such procedures without previously driving forward a genuine change of paradigms in the conception of the economy based on a profound change of cultural values.
There are those who believe that, due to the mere fact that economic crises affect many people, there will be a majority convinced of the need to change the economic system. But it’s not so, because individualism has permeated deeply and the fact that many individuals converge in protest in the face of a generalised crisis does not mean that individualism has been transcended, and so it’s not so simple to move on to other organisational forms that can really replace the system.
So the proposal for transformation of the economic system cannot be proposed just in terms of technical feasibility or in terms of convenience for the majority. It must be proposed from a social mystique that has the ethic of coherence as a banner, which in economic terms means to place the resolution of the basic needs of all inhabitants of the world before the interests of any other sector or individual.
We know that today we have the conditions to resolve the basic needs for the whole world. There are more than enough examples of what could be done with the resources that are today destined to weapons, financial speculation, the production of luxury goods and irrational consumerism. This should be enough to change the direction of the economic forces themselves and, in a short time frame, convert and multiply the means of production, so ending up with less weapons and more food, less resources going to speculation and more into production. But the direction of economic forces will not change just because we ask those who live at the top of the pyramid to dismantle it. It will change when a good part of those of us who act like bricks in this pyramid stop sustaining it, and this will be achieved when we stop believing in the pyramid. And this means new values, new paradigms, and a social mystique that implants them in the hearts of human beings.
In fact the degree of growing perversion in the relationship between capital and labour is possible thanks to the fact that a reigning individualism in the population prevents joint responses and leaves the vast majority unarmed in front of a powerful economic minority. But this absurdity is so great that awareness is rising in increasingly large sections of the population. The Humanist Party around the world must work to organise and give analytical elements to the greatest possible number of people. Our response, active nonviolence, shows us that the first step is to denounce those who should not be collaborating with those who use violence. Just as at the right time we will have to press for non-collaboration with violent States, also we will have to advocate for non-collaboration with capital that mistreats the population. In some moment workers (and consumers) will have to take on social development projects built without the intervention of capitalist partners (or with those who allow for a fair and reciprocal relationship). In some moment the population will stop demanding their needs from capital and will decide to resolve them as a whole. “We don’t want your loans or your jobs, or your products or your services.” This will only be possible when reciprocity starts to take the place of individualism.
*Towards Real Democracy*
As humanists we reject totalitarianism and dictatorships of all kinds because we think that the freedom of human beings to decide their own destiny, without lords, or bosses is an unalienable right in all circumstances.
But we also denounce the hypocrisy of formal democracies, in which the powerful of the economic-political-media corporation use their capacity for manipulation to leave the population with false electoral choices, leaving them to choose between the “least bad” executioner and the supposed chaos of institutional instability.
It is clear that in today’s world not all freely elected governments are the same; there are those more progressive and those more conservative. But whether through complicity, inability, or the limitations imposed by economic power, they have not wanted or not been able to put the process into reverse. Because one thing is having the good intention of “compensating” those least favoured by this system (despite which marginalisation increases anyway), and another is to transform the very structure of the system so that it stops being a machine for marginalising people. And since the failure of real socialism, there have been no new alternatives to the present situation.
In any case, the possibility for people to intervene in public politics is barely more than electing their supposed representatives in elections. So if we want substantial transformations in the world, we must achieve greater participation of citizens in the decisions that affect them most, and not be at the mercy of the markets or the authorities.
In concrete terms, among other things, all of this means binding popular consultations for decisions of certain relevance, it means participatory budgets, it means direct elections for all positions of authority and the possibility to recall people from their positions at any time.
But it’s evident that just as we cannot pretend that those at the top of the economic pyramid are going to change the rules of the game by themselves, neither can we hope that those entrenched in political power thanks to formal democracy will legislate in order to give greater, real participation to the people in central decisions. So it will be necessary to promote the practice of Real Democracy right in the heart of society, supporting with our votes only those who commit themselves to implementing the necessary democratic transformations. And if there are no candidates with this commitment or those with it are not worthy of trust, then we will have to infiltrate the system with candidates of the people, at the same time as we organise non-collaboration and civil disobedience when enough organised people have become aware that this system is irreparable. However, there is no other way out of this trap of formal democracy, at least in the path that humanists propose, than through nonviolent struggle.
These proposals, besides being perfectible in their breadth and depth, and besides representing only a few examples of what could be done, may also be received in diverse ways by those who coincide with them according to their possibility to act. For some these may be ideals to be reached and used as a guide in the hour of choosing their governments. For others they may be mobilising images, a basis for organising to demand that governments take care to make them happen. Others will better see the option of participating politically and having such proposals in their own electoral platforms. And those that today have any modicum of power-political or economic – and genuinely aspire to a better world, perhaps may try to apply some of them.
Proposals for governments, advancing towards a confederation of national states with those who commit to these proposals
1. To establish at a constitutional level the obligation of the State to guarantee in concrete terms the coverage of the basic needs of the population with tax policies in accordance with this priority. Establishing, on the basis of the coverage of such needs, a percentage of the budget destined to helping less fortunate countries.
2. Dismantling all nuclear arsenals. The progressive reduction of conventional weapons by states. The renunciation of war as a means to resolve conflicts.
3. State control of the financial system. Creation of national and regional banks without interest, with a mixed administration including the participation of users and workers. Regulations that punish speculative practices and usury. International agreements to ensure productive reinvestment of company profits, the dismantling of tax havens and all evasive or speculative manipulation by private capital.
4. Free circulation and equality of rights in all countries, for all inhabitants of the planet. Freedom and equality of rights for all cultures and religions, guaranteeing the respect for diversity.
5. Implementation of mechanisms for a Real Democracy: binding consultations, direct elections to the three State powers, decentralisation, representation of minorities, the ability to recall mandates, political responsibility and participatory budgets in all State levels. Use of the mass media for informing people and debating issues to be decided, guaranteeing the plurality of opinions under equal conditions. International consultations for all inhabitants involved in regional or global politics.
Proposals for social mobilisation, to put pressure on governments and to build alternatives to the de-facto power
1. The demanding of popular consultations for every decision that governments must take in relation to economics, politics or social policy, denouncing non-consulted measures as anti-democratic.
2. The promotion of interchange, debate, education and circulation of information so that society as a whole may be able to form an opinion about all issues that should be subject to popular consultation. The utilisation of physical forums and social networks; demanding the media gives space for this and denouncing those who don’t as the accomplices of formal democracy.
3. The elaboration of draft laws, the demanding of their consideration, and their promotion by the social-political alternative being constructed. A Law of Real Democracy (with the incorporation of all its mechanisms). Tax reforms that guarantee the redistribution of wealth and the productive reinvestment of profits. An Employee Ownership Law in business. State control of the financial system and the creation of interest-free banks.
4. Permanent mobilisation for two fundamental rights, Education and Healthcare, so that they may be public, free, universal and of high quality; demanding not only their existence but also a budget commensurate with their importance.
5. The promotion and publicising through all possible channels of the paradigms of a new culture for the Universal Human Nation: nonviolence, non-discrimination, reciprocity, liberty, social justice and meaning in life. While denouncing the values of individualism, consumerism, violence, xenophobia and war as retrograde steps.
**THE ROLE OF THE INTERNATIONAL HUMANIST PARTY**
As members of the IHP we have been working for years, in all countries where we are present, on the issues that we have referred to here. But in this moment of history, we are highlighting – as never before – a growing predisposition of the population, and in particular in new generations, to mobilise for this end. We also highlight a growing affinity for some of these issues in a few progressive governments; those with which we have had some measure of closeness.
Nevertheless, the mere current coincidence with some of our historical proposals should not confuse us as we define our present and future role. Surely we cannot pretend to make ourselves out to be the “clear vanguard” of social processes, not only for reasons of scale, but above all because such a position would respond to schemes that are obsolete and vertical. Surely our role should be to place ourselves in a position of parity, establishing relationships of reciprocity with those with whom we coincide. But this horizontal placement, devoid of manipulating intentions, should not be incompatible with a willingness to take on the challenge of giving clear references about the world we aspire to and the steps to take in order to achieve it. Such references can in no way be imposed by vertical power, but neither should they be weakened, relativised or given up, due to the fear of being confused with manipulators, or because we believe that, because of our scale, we have no right to speak firmly, or because we think that somehow a revolutionary process will mature in the world naturally.
These are moments in which to give a very clear signal from, and a very defined profile to, the Humanist Party. The new generations are emerging; they seek the tools and ideas needed to consolidate. If, because of an apparent situational advantage, we dilute our message with that of other groups who are similar but different, we could be weakening the understanding of our proposal and the necessary inspiration to carry forward a political, economic, social, cultural, ethical, psychological and spiritual revolution.
There is no guarantee that massive discontent with the consequences of the economic system alone will oblige governments to carry out structural changes.
There is no guarantee that discontent with formal democracy will lead governments to carry out transformations that go beyond cosmetic changes.
There is no guarantee that progressive governments will manage to pass from well-intentioned measures to a real change of the foundations of the system themselves.
There is no guarantee that all those who say they are working for a better world, genuinely seek a revolution, not only in its material aspects, but above all in its existential foundations.
What we can guarantee is that while the world is not yet a Great Universal Human Nation, there will be increasing numbers of humanists working genuinely for this aspiration; an aspiration millions of human beings are clamouring for, sometimes in silence.