Bertrand Russell: “. . . the fundamental concept in social science is Power, in the same sense in which Energy is the fundamental concept in physics.”

Bertrand Russell, Power: A New Social Analysis, 1938.

Socialism or Primitivism?

Socialism, as understood by Karl Marx, is the organization of industrial production for the benefit of all. And a book like that of Peter Joseph, The New Human Rights Movement: Reinventing the Economy to End Oppression, 2017, is fundamentally making the claim that we already have the industrial capacity and technological capability for a free maintenance of the whole world. What is needed is a new organization of these productive forces.

I agree, but how are we to get there?

The governments and economy are in the hands of capitalistic corporate oligarchs who are not interested in moving towards this or any other utopia.

The other consideration is that a great portion of the world is presently living off subsistence farming, and the incessant wars and impending ecological collapse may force us to devolve to a primitive subsistence mode of survival, and the best advice is to prepare for an eventual collapse (as, for example, in the Middle East, parts of Africa, etc.), and to learn basic survival skills:

Is the United States really interested in a liberal (democracy) hegemony?

In the videos below, John J. Mearsheimer claims that the United States is interested in promoting liberal democracies in the world (i.e., liberal hegemony). I would qualify this in the following way. Promoting liberal democracy is a sufficient — though not a necessary condition — for promoting an American capitalist hegemony. Why? Because the sort of “liberal democracy” which the capitalists want is where there is president or a prime minister — a single individual who can be bribed or threatened, and who can be helped to be elected. The United States is not interested in promoting Swiss style democracy, for example. And, moreover, for capitalist interests, promoting dictatorships is also a sufficient — though not a necessary condition — for promoting an American capitalist hegemony, as long as the dictator cooperates with the American capitalist hegemony.

The rhetoric of liberal democracy as promoting individualism, inalienable rights, tolerance, community, and peace is a rationalization (a smoke screen) for promoting capitalist interests.

John Mearsheimer assumes that countries like the United States operate on the basis of ideologies. On the contrary, countries like the United States reflect the interests of a President and his friends. Ideology is a propaganda rationalization or smoke screen for economic reasons.

Bush’s invasion of Iraq was for control of oil and for a depletion of United States’ surplus of armaments; not for liberal democracy. And Trump’s saber rattling over Venezuela and Iran has nothing to do with promoting liberal democracy. It may be just a strategy for securing his reelection. I find it odd that Mearsheimer ignores the deeds of single leaders with their private interests.

Bullshit Propaganda about Venezuela

If President Maduro of Venezuela were a dictator, as the Trump administration and the sycophantic media claim, then there would be no mass demonstrations against Maduro, and Juan Guaido would be in jail for treason or dead. Meanwhile the US is economically strangling Venezuela and pretending to be supplying “humanitarian aid.” Its greed for OIL.

Noam Chomsky on Venezuela:

Real Politics

I am interested — but I judge myself impotent — in changing the course of current politics. Like George Carlin, the stand-up philosophical American comedian, I am pessimistic about the passing show. Given the universal prevalence of liberal (mass, macro-) democracy, with the executive power placed in one person, and the other branches of government in the claws of oligarchs, the game is petrified for the benefit of the international corporate monopolists.

 

The focus of all the media — corporate and independent — is on judging the actions of the leader (be it president, prime-minister, governor, or mayor). The only country which does not seem to bother with the actions of the executive is Switzerland. Why? Because it is composed of a council of seven individuals drawn from four political parties, deliberating in secret, but judging with one voice (unlike the Supreme Court of the United States, which broadcasts the opinions of the individual judges).

 

Name a single member of the Swiss Federal Council. You can’t, because they do not make the news. But you know the leaders of the US, Germany, France, England, Russia — because they are perpetually stirring things up — mostly from a sense of self-interest. And if we glance back at history, you can identify the individuals who caused genocides, wars, and conquests.

 

As I write, Ukrainians are all stirred up about their upcoming Presidential election. And, as usual, the question is who is the least evil. And, as in the United States, some form of evil will be chosen — it is almost guaranteed. And then for the next five years there will be perpetual complaints, with the hope that the next President will not be so evil. Become wiser! All leaders — once in power — are evil (except in Switzerland, of course).

The Universal Fetish of One Man Rule

It is an almost universally accepted and rightly believed that in all endeavors there is one person who is best: who is the most knowledgeable, who is the strongest, who is the most talented, who is the most courageous, who is the most moderate, and who is the wisest. And we devise competitions to determine who such persons are. We have all kinds of competitive sports, the Olympic Games, competitive entrance exams for universities, competitive civil service exams, America’s Got Talent (and other countries), and Eurovision. When such talented persons can articulate their talent or skill to others, we call them “authorities,” “leaders,” and “teachers.” Plato believed that such persons could be cultivated in all the virtues, especially wisdom, and singled out to rule a city-state. He called such persons “philosopher-kings.”

It was Thomas Carlyle who glorified such persons in his lectures, published as “On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History” (1841) .

It is true that within a tribe, i.e., a small group of about 150 adults, the best person in some area can be determined because everyone knows everyone else. And in such groups, there is usually some elder person who acts as a “moderator” in group meetings, and may even act as an adjudicator for minor disputes. But such a person is neither a king nor a military leader, nor Plato’s philosopher-king.

Plato’s philosopher-king is actually an idealized god. No human being has the capacity for universal knowledge or wisdom. But, something like what Plato wanted is being approximated in the world of computers in the form of artificial intelligence. [But take note of what happens when a quirk happens to a computer, as to HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey]. Humans are driven by different interests, and it is questionable which interests are to prevail, and how to reach compromise; and so, there is an intrinsic problem of decision which humans — not computers — must make.

The celebration of a one-man rule is originally the celebration of a military leader — a warlord. What we learn in school as history is the history of war and conquest. The State, as Franz Oppenheimer, Ludwig Gumplowicz and Karl Marx taught, is the product of conquest. It is conquest which explains the prevalence of the tradition and fetish or superstition of one man rule. The State is the result of military conquests of territories. If the territory is small, he is — to use the Japanese terminology — the warlord. If the territory is large, we can call him a Shogun or Emperor. We have our own names “king,” “prince,” “baron,” “landlord.” Consider the etymology of the word “lord”.

The State is a mirror of an army, except we call it a bureaucracy. In ancient Rome, there were the Consuls as the highest executives, and Proconsuls in distant territories. But ancient Romans and Spartans had a distrust of one man rule. In order to check their powers, they had two Consuls and two Kings. A single leader the Romans called a “dictator.”

I am convinced by the arguments of Franz Oppenheimer that the State is the product of conquest, and that the acceptance of a one man rule is both a tradition, a fetish, and a delusion.

When we study political history, we are studying how power is achieved and extended by war and conquest.

And war and conquest are a function of one man rule. Giving a single person the power to rule, he will use it to gain more power and more wealth, just as a capitalist will continue to expand his businesses ad infinitum. I think that a person who gets to rule, imagines he is playing chess with other rulers. And with computer technology, he is further removed from reality by playing a computer game of virtual chess.

There is competition among States, as there is competition among capitalists. And as Sheldon Wolin has shown, in Democracy Incorporated (2008), [Preface] that the State is now the instrument of the capitalist corporations, giving rise to “inverted totalitarianism.” Wolin means by “totalitarianism” a total political control by a single individual or a clique (a party) as in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Bolshevik Russia. The difference, it seems, is that neither Hitler, nor Mussolini, nor Stalin desired personal wealth, as do modern leaders like Putin or Trump, and their shadow oligarchs and corporations.

What am I driving at? Imitate Switzerland. Replace one man rule by a Federal Council.

“A Kind of Fascism Is Replacing Our Democracy”

by Sheldon S. Wolin, Newsday, July 18, 2003


Sept. 11, 2001, hastened a significant shift in our nation’s self-understanding. It became commonplace to refer to an “American empire” and to the United States as “the world’s only superpower.”

Instead of those formulations, try to conceive of ones like “superpower democracy” or “imperial democracy,” and they seem not only contradictory but opposed to basic assumptions that Americans hold about their political system and their place within it. Supposedly ours is a government of constitutionally limited powers in which equal citizens can take part in power. But one can no more assume that a superpower welcomes legal limits than believe that an empire finds democratic participation congenial.

No administration before George W. Bush’s ever claimed such sweeping powers for an enterprise as vaguely defined as the “war against terrorism” and the “axis of evil.” Nor has one begun to consume such an enormous amount of the nation’s resources for a mission whose end would be difficult to recognize even if achieved.

Like previous forms of totalitarianism, the Bush administration boasts a reckless unilateralism that believes the United States can demand unquestioning support, on terms it dictates; ignores treaties and violates international law at will; invades other countries without provocation; and incarcerates persons indefinitely without charging them with a crime or allowing access to counsel.

The drive toward total power can take different forms, as Mussolini’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union suggest.

The American system is evolving its own form: “inverted totalitarianism.” This has no official doctrine of racism or extermination camps but, as described above, it displays similar contempt for restraints.

It also has an upside-down character. For instance, the Nazis focused upon mobilizing and unifying the society, maintaining a continuous state of war preparations and demanding enthusiastic participation from the populace. In contrast, inverted totalitarianism exploits political apathy and encourages divisiveness. The turnout for a Nazi plebiscite was typically 90 percent or higher; in a good election year in the United States, participation is about 50 percent.

Another example: The Nazis abolished the parliamentary system, instituted single-party rule and controlled all forms of public communication. It is possible, however, to reach a similar result without seeming to suppress. An elected legislature is retained but a system of corruption (lobbyists, campaign contributions, payoffs to powerful interests) short-circuits the connection between voters and their representatives. The system responds primarily to corporate interests; voters become cynical, resigned; and opposition seems futile.

While Nazi control of the media meant that only the “official story” was communicated, that result is approximated by encouraging concentrated ownership of the media and thereby narrowing the range of permissible opinions.

This can be augmented by having “homeland security” envelop the entire nation with a maze of restrictions and by instilling fear among the general population by periodic alerts raised against a background of economic uncertainty, unemployment, downsizing and cutbacks in basic services.

Further, instead of outlawing all but one party, transform the two-party system. Have one, the Republican, radically change its identity:

From a moderately conservative party to a radically conservative one.

From a party of isolationism, skeptical of foreign adventures and viscerally opposed to deficit spending, to a party zealous for foreign wars.

From a party skeptical of ideologies and eggheads into an ideologically driven party nurturing its own intellectuals and supporting a network that transforms the national ideology from mildly liberal to predominantly conservative, while forcing the Democrats to the right and and enfeebling opposition.

From one that maintains space between business and government to one that merges governmental and corporate power and exploits the power-potential of scientific advances and technological innovation. (This would differ from the Nazi warfare organization, which subordinated “big business” to party leadership.)

The resulting dynamic unfolded spectacularly in the technology unleashed against Iraq and predictably in the corporate feeding frenzy over postwar contracts for Iraq’s reconstruction.

In institutionalizing the “war on terrorism” the Bush administration acquired a rationale for expanding its powers and furthering its domestic agenda. While the nation’s resources are directed toward endless war, the White House promoted tax cuts in the midst of recession, leaving scant resources available for domestic programs. The effect is to render the citizenry more dependent on government, and to empty the cash-box in case a reformist administration comes to power.

Americans are now facing a grim situation with no easy solution. Perhaps the just-passed anniversary of the Declaration of Independence might remind us that “whenever any form of Government becomes destructive …” it must be challenged.