Suomen ulkopolitiikan asiakirja-arkisto ja kronologia
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Liberalism in international politics: Outlook to the 1990s

Text of a lecture given in Kuopio, November 4, 1991, by Dr. Paavo Väyrynen, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland

The collapse of the socialist systems in Eastern Europe has been generally perceived as a victory for the market economy, capitalism and Western democracy. And so it is. It would be wrong to assume, however, that the fading away of socialism would automatically open up the way to the
well-being of all nations.

Socialism as applied under the Soviet leadership has been an all-embracing political ideology. Its realization was sought by means of both political totalitarianism and command economy. Democracy and market economy have appeared as alternatives to socialism only as far as the procedure is concerned. The two concepts do not as such provide final answers or solutions to the acute problems of nations or all mankind.

Liberalism is one of the ideologies for which democracy and market economy constitute the basic tenets of thinking and activity. The fact that Liberals remain absolutely committed to democratic procedures has set them apart not only from totalitarian socialism but also from totalitarian trends of the political right. The faith in economic liberalism, in genuine market economy, has inspired Liberals through ages.

It goes without saying that Liberals have rejoiced over the defeat of socialism. These feelings are shared by practically all political forces in the Western countries, as they, too, stand for democracy and market economy. The feeling of triumph has been greatest among Conservatives in different countries, for whom the recent developments appear as the victory of their own ideology.

Yet, democracy and market economy as such are not enough to make an ideology - the two concepts can only serve as instruments in implementing an ideology. In fact, an ideology has to provide answers to at least three basic questions:

- which values should form the basis for developing a society

- what kind of development and which goals should be pursued and promoted within the framework of democracy and

- in what direction and how should the (market) economy be oriented.

Liberals in different countries tend to give different answers to these questions. Certain Liberal politicians and parties are close to the Conservative conception. But on the whole Liberals in different countries show a clear-cut ideological profile.

Let me sum up the ideological similarities of the various Liberal parties by the notion of Humanism. Liberalism is an anthropocentric ideology, which considers diversity of human beings as an asset and as the driving force of human culture.

The Liberal party tradition goes back to political movements created by educated people and small-enterprise owners. Their engagement for the cause of democracy has been motivated by an attachement to the value of the individual and his or her inherent rights. These fundamentals have also served as the basis for in the Liberal aspiration for equality, as expressed in social Liberalism. Economic Liberalism, genuine market economy, has represented both the ideals and the material interests of its adherents. In the Nordic countryside Humanism has found its channel of expression in Centrist movements.

But what is Liberalism in international politics today and in the future?

Although socialism has lost its hold on Eastern Europe, there still are many countries in the world where the political system is not based on the freedom of expression of the individual or on his or her opportunity to influence the evolution of society.

Although, socialism has faded or is fading away in the countries of Eastern Europe, it is not at all clear that it will be replaced by democratic order. Russia, like most of the Soviet republics, has never known democracy. The Soviet society has lacked social structures based on individual initiative and originating from grass-roots level - such as local and regional self-government, free trade unions and other organized interest groups, religious movements, free press, pluralism of political parties - all of which together provide the foundations of modern civil societies.

Under these circumstances the establishment of democracy is a difficult process. The remolding of political structures along the lines of formal democracy does not yet mean that the revised system will work on democratic terms. In the last resort, democracy comes down to the way of thinking and acting of the people and their elected leaders. It will take a long time before a smoothly-functioning democracy has been solidly established in
Russia or elsewhere on Soviet territory. This must be well understood and borne in mind in the West.

This will be one of the missions of Liberalism on the international level in the 1990s: to actively support democratization in Eastern Europe and to promote democratic values all over the world. A good deal of realism will be needed here. Western democracy will thrive with great difficulty, if at all, in many cultures, and in others it will take root only slowly.

The upheaval in Eastern Europe has revealed a host of problems related to human rights and the treatment of minorities. In the times of totalitarian reign nationalist feelings were smothered and conflicts between nationalities silenced. Now the controversies have burst out into the open. Yugoslavia has drifted into a civil war.

All this gives Liberalism another international mission: to intensify efforts aimed at human rights and protection of minorities. Liberalism will also be faced with important tasks in promoting market economy. The former socialist countries in Europe as well as numerous developing countries are groping towards market economy. Liberals should support these efforts.

Even here a word of caution is in order. A jump from a strictly regulated planned economy to a market economy is not feasible overnight. Sudden moves will only provoke chaos and worsen the economy further. Then, in turn, even political democracy will be put at risk.

All this presents a serious intellectual challenge for economists and social scientists: how to make possible, without undue complications, a transition from a command economy to a market economy; what sort of model of market economy should the former socialist countries adopt? In any case the transition will be a drawn-out process.

In the international economy Liberalism seems to be gaining ground. Regional integration processes are going on in different parts of the world. Global efforts towards elimination of obstacles to trade are marking progress. A question arises, however: are such developments really in line with the fundamental ideals of Liberalism? Are we not rather witnessing a boom of free market economy, the consequences of which to both people and nature have not been considered to the last detail? Or have the consequences been taken into account at all?

The most powerful incentive to regional integration appears to be the global economic and technological competition among three centres of power, Europe (Germany), Japan and the United States. In the heat of this competition other considerations are bound to be left aside. The worldwide integration proned within GATT aims at a generally acceptable goal which would benefit also developing countries, but even these negotiations are
being pursued on terms given by the great economic powers. And all things considered we are witnessing processes which set the mankind increasingly at odds with the laws of nature: the incessant growth of production and consumption all over the world leads inevitably to a progressive exhaustion of natural resources and to serious environmental damage.

Here a most crucial task awaits the Liberals: the course of regional integration - particularly in Europe - must be reoriented in order to achieve an optimal, just outcome for all nations and the whole continent. The entire world should be brought within the range of ecologically sustainable development leading to the levelling off of disparities. In their home countries Liberals have been working to develop market economy, which would in turn promote individual freedom, equality and general welfare. These objectives must now be pursued even on the international scale.

The "new international order" is today a subject of topical interest. It is being used to describe the changed balance of power - something which every nation has to adapt to. Another term should, however, accompany it: architecture. Both in Europe and in the whole world a new architecture, based on the new international order, will have to be created. We have to build such new structures for international relations and co-operation, which will
allow positive trends to manifest themselves both in our part of the world and elsewhere.

One of the prerequisites for world architecture is the capability of mankind to plan tor and decide on its future together, a new, supreme level of political decision-making is called for - that of "a universal policy". To paraphrase the Foreign Minister of Germany, Mr. Hans-Dietrich Genscher, foreign policy is turning into domestic policy of the world, "Weltinnenpolitik". The new world architecture will have to be based on a new world order. The architecture should provide a framework for nations to co-operate and solve global problems relating to security, development and environment. Responsibilities
and duties must be shared according to the influence and resources of each country concerned.

Even the conception of European architecture requires a comprehensive approach. The objective here must be to effectively narrow the existing social and economic gap in Europe. The new architecture must respond to the needs of all European nations. The security structures should house the CSCE, NATO, WEU, as well as the EC. In the economic field, multilateral pan-European forms of co-operation have to be created, to complement co-operation within and around the EC. The pan-European approach is needed to speed up the economic and social development of the new democracies.

The future course of the EC will have the strongest impact on the future and the living conditions of the European nations. The evolution of the EC will determine the development of its member-states, but it will be of crucial importance for the other European states as well.

The European Community provides a great challenge to the Liberal forces in its member-states. How to put into practice values, ideals and goals cherished by Liberalism both on the EC and on national scales? How to safeguard the worth and the rights of the individual? How to increase the role of the individual in the decision-making affecting him- or herself? How to promote social justice? How to conciliate the objectives of growing production and consumption on one hand and the desire to maintain a clean environment on the other? Among others, these problems remain to be tackled by Liberals in the EC member-states. The present orientations of EC policies seem to conflict in many ways with Liberal ideals and goals.

Both in the context of universal policy and the European perspectives, the final question is whether mankind and in the first place people in industrialized countries will be disposed to adopt new values and a new way of life. We have to be able to move away from our materialistic values towards a society where cultural values, mature relationship to nature and attention to the well-being of other people will prevail. As a humanist ideology Liberalism is well placed to take the lead in this direction.

Liberalism will face, in my opinion, important tasks in the 1990s. To accomplish them, liberal forces should be strengthened in all societies where any ground is available. Liberal parties and the Liberal International must support in appropriate ways the founding and activities of new Liberal parties. A broad-minded approach is called for. Liberalism is not to be perceived as an exclusive privilege of already well-established formations. Different conditions give rise to different Liberal forces. All groupings that consider themselves as Liberal deserve support, provided that they stand for democracy and market economy and strive for the development of society in the spirit of Humanism. And label of Liberalism should not be understood as a restriction. In many countries Liberals prefer to call themselves "progressive", "radical" or "centrist". More essential than labels are the ideology proper and the policies actually pursued.

Humanistic Liberalism is passing through a time of trial. The reorientation of political discussion towards values and goals of human life and political activity may well create favourable conditions for Liberalism to regain its leading position among political ideologies. This opportunity has to be seized.

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