At the Stockport August meeting we had a debate on ‘Is Humanism a Leftist Philosophy?’
Speaking for the motion David Seddon opened his remarks by saying that if he had been writing an essay he would have started by defining the terms Humanism and Leftist, but he was limited by the time constraints of the meeting. He did say that Humanism is a philosophy and that Right and Left ideas are political ideologies. Humanism is not political.
Throughout history Humanism has been about equality and democracy the same as socialism. Modern Humanism started with Erasmus who was a Christian but began to think more about people than Heaven and Hell. Jesus was a socialist as evidences by his exhortations on ‘Blessed are the meek, suffer little children…, Easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle…', and giving money to the poor. The Quakers ,formed in 1652, searched for God in everyone, even paedophiles.
With the enlightenment we had philosophers such as Voltaire and Rousseau. The American revolution promised Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness, whilst the French revolution shortly afterwards promise Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Both countries rejected religion as an integral part of Government.
We need to value everyone whether they are on benefits or trying to leave Calais. We all inhabit one planet and as a race we are destroying it. Children who do well at school are not entitled to a better life than those less fortunate. All children should have a good education. Socialism and Humanism look to greater equality and agree about republicanism. We have one race and one planet, we need to work together.
Speaking against the motion Brian Stanyer said he believed he was as much a Humanist as David even though his politics were very different. He is also an republican and wants to see an end to the House of Lords. However, he is pragmatic and doesn’t believe that socialist thinking achieves what it sets out to do. He believes that Socialism does not encourage people to strive and does not accept that people have different qualities.
He does not believe in equal pay for everyone because if people at the top are not encouraged they stop working. Nationalised industries were run inefficiently. The philosophy is lovely but the results are disastrous. He wants harsh attitudes to drugs and wants to motivate people to do the right thing.
A lively debate followed. Here are some of the comments from the floor:
Christianity and Capitalism support the existing social order and are resistant to change.
Religion is right wing.
Inheritance of wealth perpetuates social inequality. Inheritance tax closes the door after the horse has bolted. We need to avoid letting people get rich in the first place.
The right wing is socially conservative whilst socialists want change.
The right wingers also want change in a different way.
You could not call yourself a Humanist and be on the far right.
Human nature determines your policies whether selfish or co-operative.
Are people motivate by money or by interesting work?
Many people have an idealistic streak as evidenced by the large number of volunteers.
Society should be change in the long term but we need to respond to emergencies now.
Most people just want to earn enough to live a reasonable life.
The Chair tried to get the debate back on track and the debate was wound up with a discussion on Free speech.