ON REVOLUTIONARY-HUMANIST PERSPECTIVES.
Of all the conscious life-forms on the planet, we humans have evolved to be the most influential and dominant species. The essential caretaker role this implies, is the starting point for the humanist part of the Revolutionary-Humanist perspective. Moreover, in the 20th and 21st centuries, the mode of production developed by humanity has accumulated overwhelming damaging results. It is the injurious role of the capitalist system to humanity and the planets resources which is the starting point for the revolutionary part of this perspective.
Two destructive world wars (the 1st and 2nd) fundamentally motivated by national conflicts over access to markets and sources of raw materials, with millions dead, highlighted the capitalist systems innate tendencies. The end of those two devastating 20th century conflicts did nothing to reverse these innate tendencies of the system. Poverty, inequality, pollution, ecological destruction and armed conflict have continued.
It should be self-evident that for any social species, the well-being of the whole community and its supportive environment is essential for the well-being of the individuals within it. No social species can afford to permanently tolerate a situation in which some individual interests threaten the well-being of the whole. These individuals need to conform or be driven out. Long-term survival requires the fundamental interests of the human collective and it’s individuals, coincide.
Such inter-dependence exists in the rest of the natural world as well as in the socio-economic nature of human societies. Beneficial association and symbiosis are the evolutionary basis of all life on this planet. However, what is not often recognised is that under the present capitalist mode of production, the private interests of the dominant economic and political elites do not coincide with the interests of humanity as a whole.
The reason for this disconnect is simple. Production, initiated by private enterprise is undertaken in order to obtain profit. This necessity typically requires large-scale production, distribution, consumption and disposal of unwanted materials. In order to assure profitability, these separate processes, are all conducted as inexpensively as possible.
The results of these profit maximising decisions are now visible everywhere. Dangerous levels of air, sea, river and land pollution, species extinction, low-paid, precarious employment, ecological destruction along with competitive wars for control of raw materials and markets. These symptoms are all inevitable results of gearing production to the needs of profit.
The revolutionary-humanist perspective,therefore, is one of the few which recognises that our modern global economic reality contradicts the religious and nationalist ideologies developed and established under previous tribal or aristocratic modes of production. It therefore, challenges those ideas which explain and justify the division of individuals within societies as well as dividing humanity into hostile religions and nations.
Since humanities ideas are influenced by human social reality, the struggle for humane and tolerant attitudes becomes not simply, nor primarily, a battle of ‘politically correct’ (sic) ideas. Instead it becomes primarily a struggle to create a more equal, tolerant and humane reality. In short, if we want to seriously change ideas we need to seriously change reality.
Reliable evidence concerning pollution, ecological destruction, poverty, military conflict and political reaction is everywhere. Such widespread deterioration suggests that new ideas corresponding to this reality should be widespread. However, there is a lag between the experience of global reality and the acceptance of a transformative set of ideas corresponding to it. In the 21st century, there has not been a sustained mainstream criticism of the existing mode of production nor of divisive sectarian religious and nationalist ideologies.
Yet it is common knowledge that religions, for example, are not humane to all those within their own denomination, let alone members of other religions. Nationalist ideologies are no better. National elites are not humane or egalitarian with regard to all members within their boundaries, let alone those of other nations. Adherence to these outmoded ideologies and practices are a recipe for confronting the growing crisis facing our species by mutual hostility and aggression.
Holding on to these outmoded ideologies will merely lead to more fighting among religious or national groups over who will hang onto the shrinking resources which sustain life. Any successful ones in such a divisive struggle would be the last to dysfunctionally survive before it too tore itself apart or became extinct.
However, the elite ‘middle’ classes, who administer the capitalist economic system, are mostly in denial of all this. They receive such benefits from the present system that it and it’s ideologies will not be seriously challenged by them.
For example, there are those in influential positions who are in denial over the seriousness of the negative symptoms briefly noted above. There are others who deny that this evidence results from the normal operations of capitalist production.
There are also those intellectuals who deny that their private interests prevent them from stating the obvious – that the present system needs to be radically changed. Denial in one form or another is an elite default response to criticism of the capitalist mode of production.
Until a new generation arises who are not chained to a sectarian ideological past, a nationalist present, or weak political reformism, but consider humanity as a whole, it is essential that the revolutionary-humanist perspective is kept alive for future generations to consider.
[This is the first in a series of short Beginners Guides to Revolutionary-Humanist perspectives. Others will follow at regular intervals covering contemporary and historical issues.]
Roy Ratcliffe (July 2019)