Year XXVIII, 1986, Number 1, Page 5
After the Chernobyl accident, the world will never be the same as it was before. Historically speaking, Chernobyl goes with Hiroshima, but with an additional feature because it proves that the threat that so far seemed to exist only as a military fact, and more precisely as the possibility of a nuclear war, does in fact affect a sector of social life, and the daily life of every man. Mankind runs frightful dangers, even the extreme danger of his self-destruction, and still does not know what to do to avoid these risks. The absurdity of nuclear war was such to ‘authorize’ the hope — a vain hope — that the risk was more theoretical than real, but after Chernobyl these hopes no longer have any sense.
The extension of the nuclear risk to the normal circumstances of life, due to events that occur in countries other than one’s own, is now a proven fact. We now know that the threat does not only come from war, but also from what we call “peaceful uses”, which, on close examination, do not exclusively concern the various applications of nuclear technology. In the last instance, the threat lies in the fact that the development of man’s technological power (per se unstoppable because it is one of the hallmarks of the human race) has now reached a point where it has already begun to endanger the fundamental equilibria of the biological and physical spheres, and should, therefore, be subject as such, and not just in this or that aspect or in this or that country, to effective political control, obviously on a world level.
That mankind has now reached this point was already known. Einstein understood that in the nuclear era there can no longer be any salvation for mankind without a world government, i.e. without a new way of thinking and acting. This was, however, a truth for a few people. With the Chernobyl accident, on the other hand, this truth has become a matter of great import for all, one that will not be forgotten. Potentially, it has become a risk for all mankind. The new way of thinking and acting, now demanded by many, but without instilling it with any recognisable meaning and without envisaging any effectively new form of action, will break through with difficulty in the long run, because historical-social reason proceeds by slow acquisition and not by sudden enlightenment. But its development is certain, because, henceforth, it will be sufficient to mention the world “Chernobyl” to arouse an immediate awareness of the absurdities in the old way of thinking and acting and the current political organization of the human race.
To understand the matter fully, we need to refer to the transformations that the political process will undergo. In this respect, one of the decisive factors is that everybody — everybody involved in some way in the world circuit of information, however minimally — now knows that, without effective controls, the technological evolution threatens their life and in particular that of their children. Moreover, the very facts of daily life will constantly feed this awareness.
It is thus reasonable to think that the awareness of the need for these controls — although not necessarily accompanied by sufficient knowledge of the nature of these controls — will increasingly condition the political struggle and the very formation of consensus. In this respect, it may already be observed that while consensus will go on being manipulated in every part of the world, because of the absence or imperfections of democracy, it will never again lend itself to manipulation to the point where the peoples of the world will, without reserve, trust powers that do not face up to and resolve this fundamental problem for the destiny of mankind.
Furthermore, the old powers (i.e. the concrete expression of the old way of thinking and acting), not being able to defend themselves with the resources of knowledge and truth, will defend themselves, as they have already begun to do, with the most ancient means of raison d’état: silence, arcana imperii and simulacra libertatis (the iura inana that “compensate citizens for what is taken away from them in terms of rights and liberty by the ghosts of rights and liberty”).
A struggle between raison d’état (nested in the absolute sovereignty of states and their subordination to the logic of power in international relationships) and the very ‘reason’ of mankind (practical reason assisted by scientific reason) begins to take shape: a struggle that, although very difficult to resolve because it requires all mankind to recognize itself in active political thinking (a new ideology), can nevertheless be won because it will not cease to exist while there is a gap between the awareness of the need to control technological development and the fact that no such control exists. And it is human to hope that reason will not fail to achieve its task, which is substantially to become master of itself and its works.
The vital premise by which to achieve this task lies in taking on the task as a personal one, i.e. in an act of will. This premise goes for knowledge as well. What must be remembered is that if this will is missing, the result is that even the perception of the real terms of the problem ends up by being clouded. We become convinced that it is an illusion, and with this comes the presumption of reading the future of this particular matter and knowing for certain what is possible and what is impossible. Against this presumption it should be simply observed that practical reason need not necessarily be subservient to anything that already exists, and that theoretical reason is not obliged to consider any situation that exists (for example presumed impossibility) as being natural a priori, and even less as eternal, merely because it exists.
The need to think the new, and the widespread incapacity of thinking about it seriously — i.e. the unconscious relapse into thinking about the old — act in such a way that recourse is still made to the idea of international agreements and regulations as a means by which to solve the problem of controlling the technological process. In the debate that developed after the Chernobyl accident, nobody went further, not even those who, evidently realizing the limits of the international agreements, called for “supranational” institutions. The fact is that this vague concept, which has not been defined even on this occasion, provides no real objective for political action, and therefore causes us to relapse into the routine of the past, which all those who exclude the need to transform the political setting of the world naturally conform to. We are thus still very far from the awareness of the fact that, to guide the transition from the current situation (absence of effective controls) to a new situation (effective controls), we need to know not only the point of departure, but the point of arrival, too. Only in this way will the first steps, however small they may be, really be steps in the right direction.
Confirming the sterility of the debate that has developed so far is the fact that, with rare exceptions, no mention has ever been made of the idea of a world government, not even when approaching the problem theoretically. Yet the need for a world government is evident. A small mental experiment is all that is needed to convince oneself of this. If we suppose, for example, that the “Chernobyl accident” had occurred in a political framework in which a world government already existed, whose tasks included controlling the technological process (even to ensure peace, etc.), we can immediately see that any opportune decision would have been possible, including, if need be, the decision to halt all the nuclear power stations existing in the world and to stop building any new ones. This would require measures in the energy sector and some form of compensation for the countries most affected economically by a measure of this kind. But for a world government this would not be a great difficulty.
It goes without saying that, with the current international system, apart from being impossible (which means will is paralyzed), all this is not even conceivable (which means thinking is paralyzed). To control the technological process we need to: a) take world political decisions that are binding on all countries — with the current international system, however, only compromises between preconceived points of view are possible, because, in this system, the process of forming will (and knowledge of the facts in question) is restricted to the national level; b) take decisions on the development of mankind’s technological power, i.e. vis-à-vis facts in constant evolution, while an international conference can only examine relatively static questions which can be identified in advance and which are well-defined; c) take world level decisions that, even when concerning individual cases, immediately involve the development, the security and balance of power in every country, i.e. situations which, with the current international system, can only be controlled by the states individually as holders of the faculty to decide in the last instance (absolute sovereignty, confederal limits to co-operation between the states).
The idea of controlling the technological process with international agreements is thus a pure and simple illusion. Having said this, it should also be observed that the greatest difficulty, as regards the acquisition of adequate knowledge of the problem, lies elsewhere. What I said about the relationship between decisions and mechanisms for taking them is present in the mind of many, but is relegated to the depths of the semiconscious, or even removed, because we have no idea of how a world government can be reached. This is the real problem which needs to be cleared up and, here too, a premise is in order which is that what does not exist as a scheme in our mind cannot exist as a fact in our knowledge. Kant said that “reason only perceives what reason itself produces according to its design”.
This criterion obviously applies to our case, too. Indeed, we realize immediately that whoever uses federalism as a scheme can identify the current regional integrations (the most advanced of which is taking place in Europe) with historical processes destined to lead Europe, Africa, Latin America etc. to the same political level already reached by the USA, the USSR, China, India, etc. (states of great dimensions with articulated sovereignty). In this light, a world government, founded on a few great continental pillars, is perfectly conceivable. Equally true is the fact that whoever for various reasons uses the traditional conception of state and nation coinciding — because, for example, he believes that this type of political community cannot be replaced, or maybe because he may not have thought about the historical problem of the evolution of states’ sizes — is naturally led to thinking that a world government is inconceivable both because of the presumed impossibility of transferring a part of the sovereignty of these states to a world government and, in any case, because of the great number of states, which would seem to be incompatible with a common government.
This analysis needs to be checked on one important point. The point is this: if the distinction between the federal system (which aims at world government) and the international system is interpreted in a mechanical way, only two situations are conceivable: one in which the support of power needed to take major world decisions exists and the other where this power support does not exist and where such decisions are thus impossible.
The consequences of this mechanical interpretation (whose error lies in taking a typology for reality) are serious. It is evident, firstly, that with this interpretation, on the theoretical level, the question of transition disappears (there would be no transition, but a jump); and) on the practical level, no consideration is given to the fact that the process of regional unification — which at a certain stage in its development will have to involve the reform and strengthening of the UN — must be considered as one of the episodes in the process of world unification. Equally clearly, ignoring the problem of the transition will fudge the prospect of intermediate power situations between the federal system and the international system.
In this respect, we have a useful experimental datum. The European Community has demonstrated that a process of unification of states, when reaching the stage where it is clearly perceived as such by the political class and by the population, constitutes a power support (generated by the change in expectations) that makes unitary decisions possible which, however inferior to those that a common government could take, are nevertheless clearly superior to international ones, i.e. to pure and simple compromises between governments.
The example of the European Community thus makes it possible to establish what could be the necessary power support for the first world decisions to be taken on controlling, however partially, some limited sectors of the technological process. It also makes it possible to assert that this power (which already exists minimally in the minimal awareness of the unity of the world) will express itself in a clear form — even by means of decisions of this kind — when the facts, already underway, of the process of world unification are recognized as such.
If we consider the observations made so far as a whole, we may say that of the three factors needed for the development of the unity of the world, two are already present. The first and basic one has been present for a very long time: the growing interdependence of human action at a world level, that per se produces the need for a world control, i.e. new state forms. With the Chernobyl accident, the second factor has now made itself felt, the political lever to be used, which is the awareness of mankind’s common destiny and the need for political decisions of world import. The third factor, the awareness of the way in which this lever should be used, is still missing.
Events of world significance, that brutally transcend the nations, go on increasing, but reactions to these facts are still purely national, in the precise sense that everyone tries to bring about only changes in the behaviour of his own national government. This condemns pacifists, ecologists, and many other people, to impotence. The new element to be introduced is a conception, common firstly to many and then to all (an ideology), that shifts the vision from the national to the world level and which, at the same time, directs action not only towards the improvement of one’s own state, but also, and in particular, towards the creation of great regional powers, and world power, which mankind needs to survive and prosper.
This ideology is federalism. It is a fact that federalism is the ideology which challenges the exclusive sovereignty of the national state and raison d’état, which liberalism, democracy and socialism had to bow to. It is also a fact that thanks to federalism a political formula was discovered by which to associate the nations (enlargement of the ‘orbit’ of democratic government from one to several states). The greatest problem is thus the development and the diffusion of federalism, i.e. the increase in the number of people capable of a true worldwide political reaction to facts of world significance.