Sep Ose Savoir – Le Relié, France
Campus Verlag, Frankfurt
Círculo des Lectores, Barcelona
Columna, Barcelona (Catalan)
Planeta do Brasil, São Paulo
Dom Quixote, Portugal
Rights aquired by
Meram Yayincilik, Istanbul
House of Guides, Bucharest
Gorbachev – linking the start of the 21st century to three events: perestroika, Chernobyl and September 11 – addresses himself to all inhabitants of the planet. He recognizes three basic challenges for our time, all intertwined: military conflicts, poverty and ecology. None of them can be solved independently.
He calls his analysis “The Global Crisis: When the Cold War ended, one hoped for an end once and for all of the arms race, the era of international wars and conflicts at large and that Europe would be able to form a new foundation for common values and ideals and globalization in a humane way.
This idea was the subject of numerous talks with European politicians, especially with the late French President François Mitterrand: Such a Europe could have resisted the pattern of the uni-polar world the U.S. is imposing on mankind. But that chance was never courageously taken. – September 11 showed that this uni-polar world is not viable: even the world’s most powerful country is vulnerable. – That event tells us that no one can get somewhere all by himself.
Gorbachev sees the world confronted with five different crises:
„The political crisis“: Wars and conflicts are increasing world-wide without any adequate response by the world community. The Yugoslav conflict is there to demonstrate the dire consequences of the usual „peace missions“.
„The economic crisis“: Globalization rapidly deepens the gap between rich and poor and conjures up an explosive social and political situation. Every second human being is forced to live of one or two dollars a day; annually, 800 000 people starve to death.
„The social crisis“: Hardly anything of the „peace dividend“ expected at the end of the Cold war has reached the poor countries. As early as 30 years ago, the international community committed itself to the target of devoting 0,7 per cent of the GNP to development aid – in fact, it averages but 0,22 per cent today and amounts to mere 0,15 per cent for the U.S. Politics is to blame for that; there are, to quote Churchill, too many politicians and too few statesmen.
„The crisis of democracy“: Globalization and poverty lead to a profusion of religious fundamentalisms. At the same time, radically right-wing ideas are gaining influence in Europe.
„The ecological crisis“: In 1998 alone, natural disasters have caused more damage than during all the eighties. Climatic changes engender drought, hunger and catastrophes and seriously menace the ecosystem. Their consequences are particularly dramatic for the poor countries. As of today, 25 million people per year become ecological refugees. The population growth continues at alarming speed entailing wars for water and other resources.
The three challenges of our time – military conflicts, poverty and ecology – are intertwined and global. While they appeared before globalization, their solution can but be global. For a world divided into winners and losers of globalization would merely reproduce the old class struggle patterns. Today, there are no more boundaries, not only for trade, but also for organized crime and environmental destruction. Criticism of globalization is justified: it only benefits the rich countries, while the poor ones are being increasingly reduced to mere furnishers of resources and cheep labour.
What can and needs to be done?
Gorbachev is sceptical about the idea of a world government that would further reduce democracy; instead, he calls for reinforcing the existing institutions – especially the U.N., whose authority needs to be re-established („some countries act like cowboys of the Far West“). While sceptical in principle to bureaucracy, he suggests the creation of a Council of Elders with the U.N. consisting of representatives of culture, science (Nobel Prize winners) and various religions. He also proposes an International Ecological Court, in analogy to the International Court for War Criminals at The Hague.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the World Trade Organization (WTO) need to be reformed. Gorbachev supports the calls of globalization critics for the introduction of the Tobin tax on financial speculation; world-wide, such a tax could earn 228 billion dollars per year to be devoted to aid for poor countries. “We must not consider the economy as an enemy. Rather, we must develop other economic forms that are socially and ecologically compatible. The fundamentalism of globalizers is as dangerous as are the Islamic or Communist fundamentalisms.“
The role and independence of critical media needs to be enhanced (Gorbachev recounts a case in Russia where a journalist was sentenced to four years of jail for having written critical articles about environmental crimes).
And, most important: the “consumer society” mentality needs to be changed.
In 1992, Gorbachev founded the „International Green Cross“, now active in 26 countries. It aims at dealing with the three challenges of our times: one example demonstrates the interdependence between military conflicts, poverty and ecology:
Water is a source of big conflicts as of today. Only three per cent of the world’s water reserves are drinkable water, two thirds of which being frozen ice in the Arctic and Antarctic. Part of the remaining one per cent gets lost through evaporation and pollution or is inaccessible in the ground. Thus, a mere 0.1 per cent is accessible to mankind for effective use.
On a trip to the Near East, Gorbachev observed that biblical river Jordan resembled but a poor brook – a brook serving three countries: Jordan, Palestine and Israel, as source of drinkable water. The awareness that we all jointly depend on the resources of nature must turn into a motor for peace and security.
In conclusion, Gorbachev presents his „Charter for the Earth“, the „new Ten Commandments“ or „New Testament“ of ecology formulated after years of research by experts from 50 countries. Its basic idea: If we are to save mankind, we need to save the earth. “Environmental policy, the conservation of the creation, is the most important task confronting world politics in this new century. Time is running out …“
The „Universal Declaration of Human Rights“ no longer suffices as basis for responsible action – we need a new system of values for mankind as a whole, and that system must include ecological values. Such a Charter would stand, next to the Declaration of Human Rights and the U.N. Charter, as the third pillar on which the world community rests. “The Charter for the Earth is to heighten the conscience of mankind. To that end, we want to have all political philosophies and all religions join forces.“ The Green Cross wants to see the „Charter for the Earth“ voted by the United Nations – Gorbachev being of course well aware that many ecological initiatives have foundered in the corridors of bureaucracy. That is why this document addresses itself above all to the citizens on this earth: „We cannot wait any longer!“
The former Secretary General of the Soviet Communist Party takes courage from his experience with the revolutionary ideas of perestroika that changed the world within a few years. Today, we need a global perestroika (literally: restructuring) of values and conscience.
Even while science nowadays, by developing robots and producing artificial intelligence, aims to enter a “new stage” of evolution, the Darwinist idea of continuous evolution has long gone to pieces. The genesis of man is probably due to a cosmic accident – a gigantic meteorite falling on the earth in times bygone extinguishing the dinosaurs and opening a chance for man to develop. “Homo sapiens is a unique species, a unicum. And seeing how we are developing Golems and Frankensteins, I wonder whether we are not at the point of being driven anew from paradise, this time resulting in death not for the individual, but for mankind as such.“
With his Manifesto, Gorbachev submits a clear analysis and says what needs to be done, and he does so in very legible style, interspersed with biographical detail, close observation and excerpts of talks with international politicians, anecdotes even.