Un general assembly. Image: patzrick gruban/cc by-sa-2.0

Is a democratic world parliament the way out of the crisis of global politics? An interview with andreas bummel

The world politics is in a deep crisis. Whether trump, erdogan, le pen or afd: more and more voters even in western democracies are opting for nationalism and isolationism, underpinned by heavy-handed populism. In many places, old trouble spots and east-west conflicts that were thought to have been overcome are flaring up again. And while the whole world has long been globalized – from communication to culture and economy – democracy remains a nation-state affair. The supranational institutions appear as elitist bodies without citizen contact, an anachronistic institution like the un security council with its counterproductive veto power is removed from any democratic control.

Andreas bummel, founder of the ngo democracy without borders, and eu parliamentarian jo leinen see the solution in a democratic world parliament. For more than ten years, bummel has been doing painstaking persuasion work. As a first step, he proposes the establishment of a united nations parliamentary assembly (unpa). Bummel and leinen have now written a book about their idea: “the democratic world parliament. A cosmopolitan vision” (dietz verlag, bonn 2017).

They trace the development of democratic ideas from the beginnings of ancient philosophers to the present day – through the french and american revolutions, the league of nations, the frenzy of the world wars, the end of the cold war, and the shadows of globalization. They make clear the limitations of national sovereignty in times of global capitalism and address the major problems of humanity: wars, refugee movements, hunger, poverty, inequality, climate change, to name just a few examples. And they outline how all these problems could be better and more efficiently addressed by a world government under democratic control, coupled with a world legal system and a world tax system.

Despite all the convincing arguments, skepticism about such an approach remains high. Andreas bummel explains why this is so, and what to make of the counter-arguments, in an interview with telepolis.

At the moment there is a worldwide shift to the right. The usa elected trump, a good third of the french voted for le pen, in germany the afd is establishing itself in more and more state parliaments and will soon probably also be in the bundestag. Nationalism becomes hopeful again. Aren’t these bad omens for the establishment of global democracy?? Andreas bummel: hopefully, this will be a temporary phenomenon. But we must do something. I would say that populist nationalism is also a reaction to economic globalization and the inability of democrats to get globalization under control. The steering ability of politics is lost. People sense that democratic institutions at the national level are being undermined by global forces. The solution should be to go beyond the nation-state and establish control bodies at the international level. There is no way back. Many people are afraid of a world government. They fear that the loss of national sovereignty will put even more power in the hands of elites. But it is mainly these elites who are against a world parliament. Why actually? Andreas bummel: the status quo of the world order is already the ideal state for the 0.1 percent of elites. The fragmentation of the world into 193 nominally sovereign nation-states serves their interests by preventing effective global regulation. The states can be played off against each other. The best example is the tax system, which allows corporations and the super-rich to declare their profits where there is little or no tax. Why should the economic and political elites have an interest in changing that?? You profit from it after all. How can you prevent a trump or even an erdogan from being elected world president at some point?? In the book, you and jo leinen also quote hannah arendt, for whom a world government was a totalitarian horror vision… Andreas bummel: i would fundamentally distance myself from the idea of a world president. Instead, at the top of a world executive, there was more of a rotating body. No one wants a centralized world government in which all power is concentrated anyway. There was a world interception and systems and methods to exercise control and limit power, a federal order with checks and balances. This means that competencies were divided among the various levels of administration and government, from the local level to the global level. This includes, for example, a world jurisdiction to which one could appeal in the case of overstepping of authority by a world executive or a world parliament. The fear of a world government is paradoxical, because in principle there has been a kind of world government for a long time. But it is non-transparent and lacks visible, formal institutions subject to democratic control. In certain areas, we already have global governance, but it essentially only serves the interests of elites. The step towards a world legal system and a global tax system seems to be logical, but it would weaken the nation states considerably. Why would such a system make more sense from your point of view than the current one?? Andreas bummel: on the contrary, i would rather say that the sovereignty of nation states has been strengthened. The current state of affairs undermines sovereignty, because states can no longer effectively exercise their fiscal sovereignty when it comes to corporations and the super-rich. If, on the other hand, countries would jointly establish binding global rules, they would regain their sovereignty, just on a different level.

Globalization of democracy

on the one hand, the idea of a world parliament is supported worldwide, on the other hand, it is still rejected or even laughed at by important actors. What do you answer them? Andreas bummel: so far, every new idea has been laughed at or rejected as utopian at the outset. Take achievements such as social security systems, universal suffrage or, more recently, the establishment of the international criminal court. The idea of a world parliament dates back to the french revolution, and there are even earlier attempts. In the last twenty years, i.E. Since the end of the cold war, support has increased steadily. Following the argumentation of your book, the globalization of democracy seems to be the only viable solution to the democratic transformations of the last decades. How likely do you think it is that significant steps will be taken toward this goal before the end of this century?? Andreas bummel: i think that the chances for substantial steps towards the establishment of a united nations parliamentary assembly (unpa), to name the concrete project, are quite high. Even the electors of nationalist populists like donald trump will find that there are no slogans coming from this direction. The abolition of obamacare, for example, affects precisely those people who voted for trump. Theresa may and trump have already announced that they want to cut corporate taxes. Such measures are counterproductive and only exacerbate the problems. In this respect, we are currently faced with two scenarios: either there will be an even stronger radicalization. Or it will be followed by a reflection on the fact that a step forward is necessary and possible – namely the globalization of democracy. For this to happen, the progressive forces must move out of their comfort zone. In principle, their world view is also nationalistic. All in all this sounds optimistic. Many pessimists, on the other hand, see us on the brink of a third world war, others even fear the not-too-distant end of humanity if climate change, hunger, population growth and other problems are not seriously addressed very soon. Is this too much doom and gloom? Andreas bummel: no, this is a realistic possibility, especially in times when actors like putin or trump are at the head of important states. There are still, for example, around 2000 nuclear missiles in the usa and russia that are on constant alert and can be launched within seven minutes. There is also the question of the consequences of climate change. The earth system could irrevocably switch to a different mode of operation. Scenarios for a global civilizational collapse do not seem far-fetched to me. But that is precisely why the nation-state must not have been the last stage in the evolution of humanity. (gerrit wustmann)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.