The Left Needs a Vision A Response to Chris Hedges, Sheldon Wolin, and Pepe Escobar

Earth Constitution Mandala
“Virtually everything over which we could build a new politics
or a new social theory seems to be an illusion.” Pepe Escobar [1]
1. Overview

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Communist Manifesto in 1848. It became the “most widely
read and influential single document of modern socialism” [2]. The document presented the Left with a
focus and a vision that inspired generations of socialists right through the great depression of 1929-39
and into the “New Left” articulated by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) during the late 1960s and

In spite of the widespread knowledge that the Soviet Union embodied a perversion of Marxist
democratic principles, the existence of an apparent counterforce to the global imperialism of corporate
capital emanating from the United States helped sustain socialists around the world, struggling against
oppression, in their quest for justice, democracy, equality, freedom and peace, all fundamental values
of democratic socialism. However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, not only did
the global corporations and their billionaire masters declare victory for their vicious and immoral system,
but many democratic socialists on the left lost their vision of global transformation as well.

The masters of deceit and architects of the “New American Century” deftly replaced the “evil
empire” of the USSR with a perpetual war on global terrorism, now waged by the single, undisputed
“Superpower” with a global scope that abjured all treaties, legal principles, or other civilizational
restraints in an “exceptionalism” that placed global capital and imperial power above all other nations
and peoples, essentially appearing to trash any remaining hope the peoples of Earth might have had for
a world of peace with justice.

One of the results of these developments is that, in the U.S., we have democratic socialist thinkers
and leaders like Chris Hedges and Sheldon S. Wolin who give us profound criticisms of the horrors of the
union of the imperial state with corporate capitalism to create a bloody and merciless drive for global
domination and exploitation in the service of the 1%. They are excellent political analysts. Yet these
thinkers give us no credible vision of how it might really be different except that we need to “resist.”
They offer little hope of triumph, for real transformative change in the face of the overwhelming power
of “inverted totalitarianism” but only the belief that it is “right” to resist, even if it means our death and
destruction (Hedges) [3].

Hedges may be fundamentally correct when he asserts: “But I can promise you that an open and
sustained defiance of global capitalism and the merchants of death, along with the building of a socialist
movement, is our only hope.” [4] And Wolin affirms that “the survival and flourishing of democracy
depends, in the first instance, upon “the “people”’s changing themselves, sloughing off their political
passivity and, instead, acquiring some of the characteristics of a demos” [5]. Indeed, but perhaps not our
“only hope” as I intend to show in this article.

Both of these thinkers speak almost exclusively about the United States—in a world of militarized
sovereign nation-states with lightning fast weapons of mass-destruction. In such a world, democracy is
impossible within any state because there is only chaos at the international level beyond the states:
chaos and the threat of instant destruction unless one maintains a massive secret, ever-ready military.
Democracy is clearly impossible within such pervasive state secrecy and necessity for immediate
executive powers. However, people all around the global are become conscious that we are one world
and one human family.

The values behind democratic socialism, for example, are all found in one form or another in the
great texts of the world religions as in the universal “Golden Rule”: “Do unto others has you would have
them do unto you.” This maxim presupposes human equality, dignity, freedom, and justice [6]. Socialism
rests on fundamental moral truths. It argues that none of these moral values can exist effectively in
society unless economics, politics, and social organization (true democracy) are also based on these

Philosopher Michael Luntley correctly states that socialism makes possible a society based on moral
values and the good life for everyone. Capitalism, he says, destroys these conditions. Capitalism is based
on greed, brutal competition, and the struggle for power: drives that destroy the moral values of human
equality, dignity, freedom, and justice. Under capitalism, he says, we have a society “in which our moral
traditions have been erased by forces inimical to the moral life”[7]

Psychologists and philosophers from Lawrence Kohlberg to Carol Gilligan to Jürgen Habermas have
described human cognitive and moral development from immaturity to maturity. Kohlberg speaks of
maturity as developing an awareness in which moral principles derive from the fundamental laws of the
universe. Gilligan speaks of morally mature men and women becoming “worldcentric” and “integrated”
holistically. Habermas argues that the moral maturity of democratic socialism is implicit in the structure
of human languages [8].

Karl Marx held a progressive philosophy of history: he saw history moving to greater forms of selfawareness and hence toward awareness of the need to abolish all forms of class exploitation. Similarly,
many psychologists and spiritual thinkers today hold a progressive philosophy of human cognitive and
moral development: we human beings are growing in our understanding that we need a world system
based on equality, dignity, justice, freedom, and democracy [9]. The democratic socialist left needs to
recapture the vision of a progressive philosophy of history, a history no-longer simply dictated by a
dialectical class-conflict but nevertheless a history envisioning a real actualization of human potential
and maturity.

After the Enlightenment of the Eighteenth Century, when thinkers like John Locke spoke of the
“natural rights of mankind,” ordinary people around the world began realizing that they too had the
right to be encompassed by a political and economic framework premised on equality, dignity, freedom,
and justice. The organizational form that made these possible, it was then thought, was political
democracy. However, with the on-going development of capitalism that politically institutionalized the
so-called “right to private property,” ordinary people realized by the 19th century that political
democracy without economic democracy was simply continued slavery. Marxism was born, and the
Communist Manifesto soon appeared. Marx understood that “formal, political democracy” was “a great
step forward,” but that human beings could never be free, equal or fulfilled until we have “substantive,
economic and social democracy” [10].

Latin American Liberation Theology, in the documents produced at its great Bishop’s Conferences
beginning in 1968 in Medellin, Columbia, understood that unrestrained capitalism is immoral and that
socialism is implicit in the Christian scriptures. These conferences combined the Biblical prophetic and
Gospel visions of justice and compassion for the poor with a Marxist analysis of why the poor are poor.
Dom Helder Camara of Brazil famously captured this well when he declared: “When I give food to the
poor they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”

2. Elements of Human Liberation in the Communist Manifesto

The Communist Manifesto asserts that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of
class struggles.” There is a certain very real truth to this vast generalization. Throughout history the few
have always dominated the many, using a variety of ideological justifications for their roles as slave
owners, or members of a religious hierarchy, or as the wealthy and successful who deserve
corresponding political power (e.g., the Citizens United decision of the U.S. Supreme Court), or because
they have secret knowledge of the threats to our security and require undemocratic powers to keep us
safe (Homeland Security and the Pentagon). Marx and Engels assume a broad historical perspective that
includes progressive civilizational development. Even though Wolin goes back to the ancient Greeks in
his account of democracy, very little of this powerful progressive view of human history is found in
Democracy Incorporated or in the work of Hedges.

The Manisfesto continues: “All previous historical movements were the movements of minorities,
or in the interests of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement
of the immense majority, in the interests of the immense majority…. In the national struggles of the
proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the
entire proletariat, independently of all nationality.” In this visionary statement, Marx and Engels show
their understanding that the struggle is about what Marx termed our “species being,” our common

It is not about dividing the world into some 193 so-called “sovereign” nation-states and then trying
to establish a social democracy in each one, step by step. They understood that capitalism was
globalized, even in the 19th century, and that human liberation must be globalized. Today, with the global
reach of the Empire, no social democratic movement on Earth has much chance of lasting success
because currency manipulations, banker machinations, transnational corporate forces, and superpower
subversion will destroy these attempts in whatever countries they are undertaken. Naomi Klein, for
example, chronicles this process of subversion in Chile, led by the U.S., after democratic socialist Salvador
Allende was elected President in 1970 [11]. When I was in Venezuela this March, we heard much about
the subversion of the democratically elected socialist government that the U.S. was conducting from
nearby Columbia.

Democratic socialism means the realization of moral maturity for humankind. It means the
understanding that human freedom, equality, justice, and peace must be established for humankind as
a whole. We are all brothers and sisters; we are all one. It will mean the growing of humankind to a
mature understanding of our common humanity, our common need for peace, freedom, equality and a
sustainable environment. The U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights already expresses something
of this maturity, but it intimates in Article 28 that we need a new world system that really actualizes this
understanding: “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms
set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.”

Global capitalism intertwined with the system of so-called sovereign nation-states violates this
right for a decent international order at every turn. Growing to moral maturity simultaneously requires
structural transformation of our fractured and immature institutions: global capitalism intertwined with
the system of militarized sovereign nation-states. The people that dominate us at the heads of global
capitalism and militarized nation-states, by and large, are not the grown-ups. They are primarily morally
bankrupt sociopaths.

The Manifesto declares: “You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in
your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its
existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths.” What could
be truer than this? I have been travelling internationally since 1992, much of this as President of the
World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA). Everywhere on Earth I see vast poverty
interspersed with pockets of unimaginable wealth. Everywhere I see people in desperation: living
without basic necessities of food, housing, education or healthcare, and living with a degraded and
degrading environment. Four centuries of capitalism, deeply linked with European and North American
imperialism, has been an unmitigated disaster for the people of Earth. And with global climate collapse
it is getting even worse.

What the world needs, of course, is not some blanket threat to “do away with private property” but
to examine the legal nature and limits on property, and on “corporate personhood.” Who could possibly
have the power and authority to do this except a World Parliament representing the sovereignty of the
people of Earth? The world needs an economic system that allows for universal human flourishing within
a sustainable environment. Again, notice that the perspective of Marx and Engels was planetary, focusing
on our common humanity and our common need for conditions which allow people everywhere to
flourish in equality, freedom, justice, and peace. Where and when did socialists go wrong? Where and
when did socialists begin to think that they had to primarily operate within absolute territorial fragments
of humanity called sovereign nation-states?

The Manifesto continues: “We have seen above, that the first step in the revolution by the working
class, is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy. The
proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to
centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State.” Marx and Engels understand that the
battle is about democracy, that you cannot have real political democracy without substantial economic
democracy. Otherwise, worldwide economic slavery is inevitable. Democracy means that political and
economic arrangements are designed for the welfare of the vast majority, not the 1%. No power on
Earth could accomplish this transformation except a World Parliament.

Yet here the Manifesto introduces something that perhaps violates its own principle: it appears to
introduce the possibility of a dictatorship of the Proletariat, violating the fundamental ethical principle
that the moral ends do not justify contradictory means. If the ends are democracy, freedom, equality,
and peace, then the means must utilize these same values. Violent revolution, like dictatorship of the
revolutionary elite, remains an extremely problematic concept. Even the dimwit ideologues in the
Pentagon and State Department should have realized this by now: you cannot impose “democracy” on
some nation after first destroying their cities and killing them. Similarly, we cannot create a liberated
world system through violence and/or dictatorship. Nevertheless, the Manifesto is correct that global
democracy is the goal, not fragmented nation-state democracy (a contradiction in terms) but global
actualization of our human potential for cooperatively establishing justice, equality, freedom, and peace.

The Manifesto ends with these famous words: “In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes
and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the
condition of the free development of all.” In some versions, it added: “Let the ruling classes tremble at
a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to
win. Working men of all countries, unite!” Before the internet and international airborne travel, Marx
and Engels understood that it had to be all or none. And they understood that we are all dependent
upon one another for the possibility of “free development.”

The false ideology that capitalism spews forth about “freedom” (that it consists of “self-made”
capitalists who are somehow more fit for power because they have exploited others to become wealthy)
is as barbaric as it is childish. Ayn Rand’s famous books promoting capitalism represent the outpourings
of a childish moral midget. Whatever qualities or knowledge or skills any of us have derive from the
history of civilization and a complex combination of innumerable social factors. True human freedom
emerges from communities of trust and cooperation. The “free development of each is indeed the
condition of the free development of all.”

3. A New Manifesto for Human Liberation: The Earth Constitution

In the light of postmodern skepticism, grand-master social theories like those of Marx have fallen
upon hard times. The liberating elements in the Communist Manifesto point to elusive truths that
resonate at some level but fail to convince as a final answer. Pepe Escobar’s insight at the head of this
article perhaps signals the death-knell of grand social theory solutions to the immense complexity of our
apparently benighted human condition. The new “Manifesto for Human Liberation” is not a grandmaster social theory, but primarily an Owner’s Manuel, a set of directions (on-line and in print) for
operating Spaceship Earth [12]. Its basic principle is simple enough: do the 99% just want to put their
foot down and say “Enough!” We collectively have the sovereign authority to simply make it illegal for
the 1% to create chaos. We could, if we had the will, simply put them in jail where they belong. This is
the insight that struck me when I first came across the Earth Constitution in 1995.

Although the intellectual roots of democratic world law go back to the ancient Greek and Roman
Stoics, the movement for world federal government became a wide social reality during World War One,
spearheaded by leaders of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom such as Rosika
Schwimmer [13]. Federalism does not abolish the nations, but simply creates a democratic constitution
and hence enforceable law over all, making them all states within the Earth Federation.

Between the wars, world federalism flourished, and the movement became quite widespread after
World War Two. People began to understand that a system of absolute, militarized territorial nationstates, with no enforceable laws above them, was inherently a disaster for humankind. After WMDs
were invented and dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the idea of democratic world government
became a powerful international movement.

The Cold War effectively derailed this movement, but a few visionaries persisted and founded the
World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA) in 1958. Led by a group of dedicated world
citizens, international legal minds, and thousands of supporters from many countries, they organized
four international Constituent Assemblies between 1968 and 1991. At the fourth Constituent Assembly
in Troia, Portugal in 1991, the Constitution for the Federation of Earth was considered complete and
ready for ratification by the people and nations of the Earth. Let me compare the Earth Constitution to
the Communist Manifesto in 8 brief points.

(1) The Constitution recognizes the sovereignty of the people of Earth, superseding the selfcontradictory idea that you can divide the planet into some 193 territorial entities and somehow the
people within these arbitrary boundaries are “sovereign” over their little piece of land. If the people are
to be sovereign, as all credible democratic theory holds, then it must be all the people.

(2) The Preamble to the Constitution presents a progressive view of history and a new paradigm to
supersede the early modern paradigm that developed the fragmented systems of capitalism and
sovereign nation-states. It does not presuppose some grand social theory, but simply that people are
rational enough to see that unity, interrelationships, and democratic organization are better than
fragmentation, endless war, and chaos. The new paradigm that it proclaims involves a holistic
understanding “of the interdependence of people, nations, and all life,” and the realization that security
through military defense is a “total illusion” and that there is an “ever increasing disparity between rich
and poor.”

(3) The Preamble affirms our common humanity simultaneously with respect for diversity as a
foundational framework: “the principle of unity in diversity is the basis for a new age when war shall be
outlawed and peace prevail; when the earth’s total resources shall be used for human welfare; and when
basic human rights and responsibilities shall be shared by all without discrimination.” The detailed
structure for global democracy that it proceeds to set up is nothing short of brilliant in its construction
of a system by which human beings can democratically operate their Spaceship Earth without fear of
sinking into global totalitarianism. This should be studied and seriously discussed everywhere on the

(4) Without ever mentioning the word “socialism,” the Earth Constitution describes the detailed
workings of a democratic system that really does use the Earth’s “total resources for human welfare.” It
provides not only for universal education, nourishing food, adequate housing, clean and sufficient water
supplies for all, but it also sets up the global system to protect the planetary ecology and ensure
sustainability. One key to this transformation within the Constitution is “global public banking,” which is
also one of the goals that are listed in the Communist Manifesto, along with “free education for all
children” and “a heavy progressive income tax.” A global monetary system and public banking are set up
by the Constitution to ensure the common welfare of all the people on Earth.

(5) The planetary transformation to a decent world system based on equality, justice, freedom,
peace, and sustainability is to be achieved nonviolently and democratically, through ratification
procedures as described in Article 17. People, organizations, institutions, and nations can simply just sign
the Constitution and proceed to get it ratified by the popular will.

(6) World law is enforced over every person on Earth by civilian World Police and a civilian office of
Attorneys General. The Communist Manifesto, by contrast, is silent about enforcement after the
revolution. However, historically no major society other than Costa Rica has given up its military, which,
under the current world chaos, is deemed by most as impossible. Civilian police (accountable to obey
the law) are worlds apart from military (blindly obeying orders to kill).

(7) In the first stage of ratification under Article 17 (easily reached), all WMDs are eliminated. In the
second stage, the nations must begin to carefully and systematically demilitarize. In a civilized and
mature world system, there is no need for militaries of any sort. As Mahatma Gandhi declared, military
force is only necessary if there is injustice to protect or someone else’s resources to steal. Eventually, all
investment, design, transport, possession, or deployment of weapons of war will be prosecuted to the
full extent of the law. A peace system arises simply from the potential inherent in enforceable,
democratically legislated laws.

(8) Human rights as specified in detail by Articles 12 and 13 are protected everywhere on Earth by a
globalized office of the World Ombudsmus. The Communist Manifesto does not mention human rights,
considering them a bourgeois invention. But, theories aside, we need an official list of “inalienable” rights
carefully specified and protected. Here we have a vision and a program that the Left can genuinely
believe in.

Social scientists Terry Boswell and Christopher Chase-Dunn write: “Our fundamental starting point
is one of global democracy…. Global democracy assumes a democratic and collective rationality that
promotes greater equality between as well as within countries…. Undemocratic socialism is simply not
socialism regardless of the good intentions of its creators…. The lack of a “utopian” goal against which
to organize criticism and more importantly, to direct progress, has led erstwhile progressives and leftist
intellectuals into the nihilism and endless relativism of postmodernism” [14]. This is precisely the key
function of the Earth Constitution. It is not merely some vague, abstract set of unenforceable ideals like
the “Earth Charter” or the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, nor a grand theory of history like the
Communist Manifesto. It is a concrete blueprint that can be studied and promoted as a real practical
solution to our planetary nightmare.

It can serve the same function as did the Communist Manifesto, without the Manifesto’s serious
flaws of vagueness, theoretical overstatement, or threats of violence. It is already translated into many
languages and known by people worldwide. It is ready to go as a vision for the Left. It can serve both to
organize criticism and to direct progress. We need to overcome our parochial attachment to the flawed
war-system of sovereign states and recognize the universality of our social democratic values. Unless we
have somewhere positive and inspiring to direct our gaze, we will not likely have anything to see. We
need to adopt the Earth Constitution as our global manifesto. It provides a sorely needed vision for a
truly human and liberating future. It also includes a detailed operating manual for Spaceship Earth.

[1] Empire of Chaos: The Roving Eye Collection: Vol. 1. (Ann Arbor, MI: Nimble Books, LLC, 2014), 4.
[2] Robert C. Tucker, The Marx-Engels Reader, Second Edition (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1978), 469. Quotations
from the Communist Manifesto below are taken from this volume.
[3] Chris Hedges, “What it Means to Be a Socialist,” 20 September 2015:
[4] Ibid.
[5] Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 2008), 289.
[6] John Hick, An Interpretation of Religion: Human Responses to the Transcendent. Second Edition (New Haven: Yale
University Press), Chap.18.
[7] The Meaning of Socialism (LaSalle, IL: Open Court Publisher, 1990), 15.
[8] See my account of these thinkers in Millennium Dawn: The Philosophy of Planetary Crisis and Human Liberation
(Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2005), Chap. 6.
[9] See my One World Renaissance: Holistic Global Transformation Through a Global Social Contract (Appomattox, VA:
Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2016).
[10] Critique of the Gotha Program in Tucker, The Marx-Engels Reader.
[11] The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2007).
[12] See R. Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (New York: Pocket Books, 1972). Fuller writes:
“Capitalism and socialism are mutually extinct. Why? Because science now finds that there can be ample for all, but only if
sovereign fences are completely removed” (p. 35).
[13] See my Historical Introduction to the Constitution for the Federation of Earth (Appomattox, VA: Institute for Economic
Democracy Press, 2010).
[14] The Spiral of Capitalism and Socialism: Toward Global Democracy. (Boulder, CO: Lynne Reiner Publishers, 2000), 5, 6 & 9.