Role of PPPs (Public Private Partnerships) in Transition ( by Arthur Dent)

Guest post by Arthur Dent via Bill Kerr blogspot .

The need that has not been acted on is investment having become generally paralysed by world economic crisis. Not just traditional infrastructure but all kinds of large scale fixed capital construction projects are needed. The essence of transition from capitalism under such a scenario is that it is partially public and partially private.

* * * *

PPP = Public Private Partnerships

A scenario for transition from capitalism with socialized investment following another Great Depression and its (im)plausibility is discussed elsewhere.

For present purposes those assumptions are as arbitrary as the selection of some hypothetical specific PPP infrastructure project to pitch to some hypothetical target audience.

The need that has not been acted on is investment having become generally paralysed by world economic crisis. Not just traditional infrastructure but all kinds of large scale fixed capital construction projects are needed.

The essence of transition from capitalism under such a scenario is that it is partially public and partially private.

PPPs would be used for all major fixed capital construction projects that are significant for planning resumption of economic growth and ending mass unemployment. Buildings and plant that were previously (not) being privately financed, by single enterprises or project finance, not just the closely related “utilities”. Public institutions would also initially be largely untransformed, so public procurement of a traditional public utility infrastructure facility by a public agency would be subsumed under PPP arrangements as just another private participant that happens to be a public agency.

Public financial and economic planning and management organizations would be involved either as sponsors or minor participants in many types of build, own and operate projects, often taking substantial financial positions in both debt and equity based on the expropriated funds they are now able to invest as well as making ordinary commercial PPP arrangements with private participants.

The relatively small amount of economic and management expertise fully supportive of transition available to an inexperienced government would be heavily focused on the preparation, procurement and contract management/implementation of PPPs. They would have to structure the contracts so the private participants use their know how to maximize the public benefit in their own commercial interests. This would be very difficult and error prone, but not as implausible as simultaneously taking over all existing large economic institutions without enough skills to actually manage them in the public interest.

The much wider role of PPPs requires much better resourced public institutions responsible for PPPs. The relatively small numbers of government decision makers with adequate skills must supervise and structure appropriate incentives to motivate, much larger number of employees and consultants recruited from the private sector for their know how, despite their lack of support for transition.

Currently known “best practices” for PPPs would be generally applicable. There is no point in listing them. But the assumption of quite different circumstances imply many new lessons could only be learned from experience with at least the following differences from the usual circumstances.

1. Much greater transparency and much less corruption would be imposed on both the public and private participants as part of the broader social changes involved in transition.

2. Greater flexibility for detailed renegotiations would be necessitated by the circumstances of economic crisis and the more dynamic situations arising from transition.

3. Political, foreign exchange and national macroeconomic risks (interest rates etc) would be exclusively borne by the public participants and corresponding contingent liabilities and hedging or insurance costs appear openly on the central balance sheets. The public institutions responsible for exchange rates and macroeconomic stability would be closely involved in understanding the financial flows and risks they are assuming and the prices they require for asuming those risks and any hedging arrangements they may be able to make separately. Both international and local private participants would not need to make separate judgments or their own hedging arrangements for particular projects but only apply the sovereign risk ratings assessed uniformly by their own trusted ratings agencies.

4. Land use and resource management public agencies would likewise manage and appropriately price the responsibilities for land acquisition, site and regulatory risks.

5. Design, operations, construction, completion and maintenance performance risks would be exclusively borne by the private parties directly responsible for each aspect with detailed incentives tailored to reward overperformance and penalize underperformance. They would be carefully separated according to the expected and actual costs and risks borne by the participants engaged in each aspect and related global, national and sectoral statistical indexes.

6. Allocation of upside and downside market risks for supply of inputs and sale of outputs would be significantly more complex since the expropriation of private wealth for public investment in PPPs was made necessary by lack of profitable investment outlets in the prevailing market conditions of economic crisis.

The aspect for which each private participant is responsible must be commercially viable to that participant at the low competitive rates of return prevailing under crisis conditions. But the overall project need only be value for money to the public participants based on accepting an even lower (or even negative) return on their investment in order to achieve planned economic growth and rapid recovery from mass unemployment.

Transition from Capitalism (by Arthur Dent)

Guest post by Arthur Dent via Bill Kerr blogspot.

Any transition from capitalism in advanced capitalist countries as a result of another Great Depression would involve:

Inexperienced left governments required to urgently get the economy moving again and end mass unemployment because previous governments, whether claiming to be left or right, had been unable to do so.

Some level of rapid expropriation of privately owned wealth that was immobilized by the crisis now made available for socialized investment in new fixed capital construction projects to get the economy moving again and absorb unemployment.

The day after a change in government would be similar to the day before. The same social relations based on money, wage labor and capital, the same social institutions such as globalized large corporations, and national and local large, medium and small enterprises and bureaucratic government departments and agencies, and the same economic paralysis.

* * * *

This article is a placeholder for an introduction to a series of articles on various aspects of economic policy to be advocated before, and implemented during, the early stages of, a transition from capitalism in advanced capitalist countries under various different possible scenarios.

I am nowhere near ready to write any such articles, even as tentative drafts, so I cannot write an actual introduction.

Meanwhile one of the courses I am studying to become able to write such tentative drafts is a MOOC on “Public Private Partnerships” by the World Bank.

This requires as a final project for the policy and procedures track, publication of a “digital artefact” plus a description of the target audience in one hundred words.

I have published as my “digital artefact” the eight hundred word article on “Role of PPPs in Transition” [which will be published later – c21styork):

The key requirement is:
“Topic: Identify an infrastructure need that could be developed as a PPP. This could be a project that is in process of development, one on a country’s PPP project lists, or a need that has not been acted on. Think about the key facts or ideas you wish to convey by answering the following questions:
What is the infrastructure problem that the PPP is trying to solve?
What services are to be provided and are these services affordable?
What are the reasons that the private sector would want to participate?
How should these risks be allocated? Consider the country context in judging the risks and who should take them.”

I have identified as a “need that has not been acted on” the general paralysis of investment resulting in prolonged mass unemployment in another Great Depression worse than the 1930s following a financial crisis worse than 2008.

Such a worse financial crisis than 2008 does not seem to be entirely implausible since the last one seems to have been merely postponed rather than resolved by the extraordinary measures taken. Nor does another Great Depression worse than the 1930s seem entirely implausible following such a worse financial crisis.

The need is for all the infrastructure required to resume economic growth, not just traditional infrastructure like existing public utilities. The problem that has to be solved is that there are no profitable outlets for private investment in crisis conditions so investment must be socialized rather than left up to private investors.

This would require some form of state capitalism either as a transition back to “normal” private capitalism or as a transition away from capitalism.

The absence of any significant left in advanced capitalist countries, at least in the english speaking ones I am familiar with, makes any transition away from capitalism seem completely implausible. But then the continued absence of any significant left under the conditions of prolonged mass unemployment and economic paralysis seems even more implausible.

There are already important changes in the political climate of countries like Greece, Spain and Iceland that could become precursors of something much bigger. These countries are peripheral rather than central to the advanced capitalist world, but they are part of it and they are already facing serious economic and political crisis situations.

So I am writing for the target audience described at the end of this introduction, in the conceivable scenario described below.

The services to be provided are not traditional public utilities but the ending of prolonged mass unemployment through resumption of economic growth.

These services are affordable because prolonged mass unemployment is not affordable and both labor and capital are cheap in depression conditions. What is missing is profitability, not affordability.

The private sector would not particularly want to participate, but would not have better options available. Corporations would still want whatever contracts are available at the best returns they can competitively get for the benefit of their shareholders, whether or not some of their shares that used to belong to wealthy private individuals now belong to public institutions. Board members and senior managers who no longer wanted to participate because their incentives had been expropriated would be replaced by board members and managers willing to work for the owners, old and new, under the incentives currently being offered.

But the social system would not yet have been changed and risks and incentives would still have to be allocated in the context of an advanced capitalist country in crisis that is merely beginning a transition from capitalism, not one that has completed such a transition. So many of the same principles would have to still apply and new ones could only be understood and evolved over time.

Scenario

Any transition from capitalism in advanced capitalist countries as a result of another Great Depression would involve:

Inexperienced left governments required to urgently get the economy moving again and end mass unemployment because previous governments, whether claiming to be left or right, had been unable to do so.

Some level of rapid expropriation of privately owned wealth that was immobilized by the crisis now made available for socialized investment in new fixed capital construction projects to get the economy moving again and absorb unemployment.

The day after a change in government would be similar to the day before. The same social relations based on money, wage labor and capital, the same social institutions such as globalized large corporations, and national and local large, medium and small enterprises and bureaucratic government departments and agencies, and the same economic paralysis.

To simplify things I further assume a “simple” scenario with:

Expropriation narrowly targeted to take all and only the excess wealth of the top 1% of nationals.

This results in substantial investment funds becoming available to governments starting transition but most of the capital in each such country would still be held privately and by foreigners.

The most important capitalist countries such as the USA, China, Japan, and Germany would not be the first to start making the transition. But international financial and investment flows as well as trade continues.

Many top layers of management in most social institutions would be quite hostile to transition but there are enough supporters capable of supervising or replacing them.

Some of these assumptions may not look very plausible. But advocating measures based on such a “simple” case, would place the responsibility for different policies firmly with those who might prevent the policies discussed for this scenario by resorting to the breakup of international financial investment and trade flows, and civil and international wars.

Target Audience

I am studying economics, finance and other subjects to understand how capitalism works and become able to propose economic policies for transition from capitalism in advanced capitalist countries. Currently there is no significant left movement in such countries, but I am drafting tentative ideas for a wider future audience of prospective government policy makers expected when a financial crisis like 2008 eventually becomes another Great Depression like the 1930s. They are not concerned with some specific PPP project. I am conveying one possible policy option for managing partially socialized and partially still private investment projects using PPPs.

Turn down the hype (by Arthur Dent, formerly Albert Langer)

the-end-isnt-near

 

Originally published as a guest post at Bill Kerr‘s blog by Arthur Dent on 21st May, 2015.

 

* * * * * *

According to the World Bank:

“By acting now, acting together and acting differently, we will be able to transition to a low emissions, climate resilient development path and hold warming below 2°C.”(1)

To help achieve this, a MOOC sponsored by the World Bank (Turn Down the Heat) requires students to produce “digital artefacts” with the aim “create a sense of urgency and a call to action for individuals, companies or countries to change behaviors associated with a warming planet”.

My call is for the World Bank to change its behaviour and “turn down the hype”.

It should be obvious that none of the measures advocated by the World Bank have had much impact on the planet warming, and there is no reason to expect that creating a sense of urgency in support of more of the same will have a better result.

The IPCC’s authoritative report on Mitigation of Climate Change(2) shows clearly that there is no realistic prospect of holding warming below 2°C.

The simple reality is that most emissions will result from the rapid industrialization of developing countries like India and China who cannot and will not switch from the cheapest energy sources available while they remain poor. No amount of hype will change that reality.

If the problem was as grave and urgent as claimed there would be no alternative but for developed nations who can afford the cost to switch from cheaper fossil fuels to more expensive nuclear power and also pay the costs of the entire world doing the same. But the World Bank does not advocate that, so it is difficult to believe it takes its own hype seriously.

Wind and solar power cannot solve the problem because they are intermittant. Power is also needed when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. There is no technology on the horizon that could store energy cheaply enough to compete with the dispatchable power from fossil fuels, even if wind and solar power was free. Instead of pretending that wind and solar could do the job it is clearly necessary to act differently. Since there is no viable replacement for fossil fuels on the horizon that developing countries could afford, it is necessary to do something very different from what the World Bank advocates.

We will need some breakthroughs in fundamental technology. Neither the regulatory nor the market pricing mechanisms advocated by the World Bank can achieve that. Massive investments in research and development and fundamental science are required. Contrary to the hype there is no “return” on that investment. As with all fundamental science, the results have to be made freely available to the countries that are too poor to pay for it. So the “free rider” problem ensures that no carbon pricing mechanism could motivate such investment. At present each developed country is hoping that somebody else will pay to develop the necessary technology. There is no “national” benefit in doing so. It is a global, not a national problem. The most ambitious national targets for R&D are about 3% of GDP for all purposes. These targets are not being met, despite the fact that new technology is the driving force for economic growth.

A global levy on developed countries that can afford it is required, to pay for the costs of a massive global R&D program that is not expected to produce any “return” on the investment, other than “merely” solving the problem of global warming.

That may require a significant expansion in the total scientific workforce and consequently a long lead time for education.

If it is not successful, then we will have to resort to some combination of geo-engineering, adaptation strategies and subsidizing nuclear power in all countries, at potentially vastly greater costs. But even if a massive global R&D program failed to produce clean energy competitive with fossil fuels, it would at least accelerate economic growth generally and enable the whole world to afford more expensive energy than fossil fuels more quickly.

“Modernization has liberated ever more people from lives of poverty and hard agricultural labor, women from chattel status, children and ethnic minorities from oppression, and societies from capricious and arbitrary governance. Greater resource productivity associated with modern socio-technological systems has allowed human societies to meet human needs with fewer resource inputs and less impact on the environment. More-productive economies are wealthier economies, capable of better meeting human needs while committing more of their economic surplus to non-economic amenities, including better human health, greater human freedom and opportunity, arts, culture, and the conservation of nature.”(3)

We need more modern technology, not medieval windmills.

(1) WDR 2010: Development and Climate Change
(2) Working Group 3
(3) An Ecomodernist Manifesto

Draining the Swamps: Correspondence with Chomsky (lead up to, and during, the Iraq War).

I have long believed in the importance of engagement with ideas and the exchange of ideas and analyses through debate. Our political culture has changed greatly since my early experiences with this process in the late 1960s. Today, it seems to me that too many people shun debate and are happy to be reinforced by group-think and their own sense of righteousness rather than be open to challenge. It really boils down to individuals stopping thinking and finding comfort in a kind of religious satisfaction.

It is telling, I think, as to who seeks debate, who is willing to be open to challenge and follow it through, and who is not. In the following email correspondence between Arthur Dent (formerly Albert Langer) and Noam Chomsky in 2002 and 2003, it is very clear as to who fits which category.

– C21styork

* * * *

In September 2002, Noam Chomsky wrote an article entitled ‘Drain The Swamps And There Will Be No More Mosquitoes’. Subsequently the article ‘Mayday – It’s the Festival of the Distressed’ was published, which argued that the US is indeed following a policy of draining the swamps. This view was presented to Chomsky who refused to give it any serious consideration.

This document contains:

1. First message to Noam Chomsky
2. Noam Chomsky’s reply .
3. Long explanation of why he thinks that Bush has adopted a policy very close to the one Chomsky proposed in  his article  Drain The Swamps  And There Will Be No More Mosquitoes (September 2002)
4. Noam Chomsky’s very short response.
5. Full text of Chomsky’s  article.
6. Full text of article May Day – it’s the festival of the distressed

**********************************************

First message to Chomsky:

Hi,

Some comments comparing your article on “Draining the Swamps” with  the
position George W Bush switched to more recently, are in an article I
published in “The Australian” (national serious mainstream broadsheet) today
(2003-05-01):

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/printpage/0,5942,6362012,00.html

(NB the above url no longer works. The article is included below (scroll down).  Alternatively you could open it in a separate window by right clicking here)

Apart from the courtesy notification, I was hoping you might be interested
in further discussion/debate.

Although you have clearly identified with the peace movement and, in my
view, adopted a very different position from your earlier article, it seems
to me that there is still a subtle difference between your analysis on Iraq
and many other articles I have seen on Znet.

Perhaps a debate could clarify the nature of those differences?

Finally, if you happen to know of any other “pro-war left” (as opposed to
pro-war liberal) web sites I would be grateful for any links.

Seeya


2. CHOMSKY’S RESPONSE

—–Original Message—–
From: Noam Chomsky [mailto:chomsky@MIT.EDU]
Sent: Sunday, May 04, 2003 12:12 AM
Subject: Re: Draining the swamp reply
Thanks for sending your article.  I’ve received 100s of letters in response to the article to which you refer, some of which misunderstood it, but nothing remotely like this.  I can only assume that you have not actually seen the article.  I’ll quote the relevant parts.

The quote from Harkabi is as follows:

Twenty years ago, the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Yehoshaphat Harkabi, also a leading Arabist, made a point that still holds true. “To offer an honourable solution to the Palestinians respecting their right to self-determination: that is the solution of the problem of terrorism,” he said. “When the swamp disappears, there will be no more mosquitoes.”

The reference to the campaign of hatred is as follows:

“The president is not the first to ask: “Why do they hate us?” In a staff discussion 44 years ago, President Eisenhower described “the campaign of hatred against us [in the Arab world], not by the governments but by the people”. His National Security Council outlined the basic reasons: the US supports corrupt and oppressive governments and is “opposing political or economic progress” because of its interest in controlling the oil resources of the region.  Post-September 11 surveys in the Arab world reveal that the same reasons hold today, compounded with resentment over specific policies. Strikingly, that is even true of privileged, western-oriented sectors in the region.”

The words you quote state — clearly and unambiguously — that the way to reduce the threat of terror is to change the policies that Eisenhower and his staff identified, and the subsequent policies that are identified.  That is, the US should stop supporting corrupt and oppressive government and blocking political and economic progress because of its interest in controlling Near East oil, and should stop its support for Israeli terror and integration of the occupied territories, and its murderous sanctions that are devastating the people of Iraq while strengthening Saddam Hussein.

I am sure you agree that the only relation between this and Bush’s policies is the relation of flat-out contradiction.

Once you look at the actual article to which you refer, I trust you will agree that a published retraction is in order.

I’m afraid I can’t answer your last question because of its assumptions, which are based on total misunderstanding.

Noam Chomsky


3. REPLY TO CHOMSKY:

Thanks for your prompt email response (May 4).
I had read your original article (“Drain the Swamps..”) before I wrote mine. My understanding when I read it agrees with the summary in your email quoted below. I agree that your article did “clearly and unambiguously” advocate that:
“…the way to reduce the threat of terror is to change the policies that Eisenhower and his staff identified, and the subsequent policies that are identified.  That is, the US should stop supporting corrupt and oppressive government and blocking political and economic progress because of its interest in controlling Near East oil, and should stop its support for Israeli terror and integration of the occupied territories, and its murderous sanctions that are devastating the people of Iraq while strengthening Saddam Hussein.”

If you believe readers of my article might gain some other impression of your views, you are welcome to include this email with the above acknowledgement in any request you make to ‘The Australian’ for a correction or clarification.
For my part I do not agree that a published retraction is in order as I do not believe my article would give any other impression. Further discussion/debate/clarification certainly is in order.
In my view the real disagreement between us is expressed by your statement:

“I am sure you agree that the only relation between this and Bush’s policies is the relation of flat-out contradiction.”
In fact I do not agree.
You must get a lot of email, and have reasonable defences against getting dragged into pointless disputes with random nutters. Before assuming I am one, I hope you will carefully consider the points below:

My position is that Bush has now switched to a policy very similar to the one you advocated both in your orginal article and as summarized by you above.  I  stated  this “clearly and unambiguously” in my article as follows:
“Stripped of the ‘God bless America’ stuff, the US President’s case now goes like this:
‘If we devote our resources to draining the swamps, addressing the roots of the “campaigns of hatred”, we can not only reduce the threats we face, but also live up to ideals that we profess and that are not beyond reach if we choose to take them seriously.’
Actually, those words are from Noam Chomsky two days before Bush’s UN speech on September 10, 2002.”

I made it clear that I was asserting that it was not a case of you endorsing Bush’s policy, but of Bush switching to a policy similar to yours, as follows:
“But if Bush had adopted Chomsky’s position so early, that would have prevented congressional authorisation. Such a position threatens to destabilise despotic, reactionary regimes everywhere. But those in the US foreign policy establishment have devoted their entire careers to supporting the most corrupt tyrannies in the Middle East, in the name of ‘stability’.”

The above also explicitly highlights that I am saying that traditional US policy has been to support the corrupt tyrannies and that Bush’s policy reverses direction. Clearly you are entitled to disagree as to whether Bush has changed direction.

But only Bush could claim to be misrepresented and ask for a retraction. You cannot ask for a retraction while reaffirming that you do in fact, as is well known, advocate a policy opposed to the traditional US foreign policy line of supporting corrupt tyrannies, as I implied above.
Again, I made it clear that despite what I believe should follow logically from your analysis, you in fact opposed the war:
For Chomsky, ‘draining the swamps’ apparently didn’t include killing people and blowing things up. Fortunately, Bush is made of sterner stuff.”
“Both Bush and Chomsky know the US cannot be secure from medievalist terrorist mosquitoes while the Middle East remains a swamp. But Bush also knows that modernity grows out of the barrel of a gun.”


I emphasized the depth of the switch I claimed had occurred in Bush’s policy as follows:

“That is a genuinely Left case for a revolutionary war of liberation, such as has occurred in Iraq. The pseudo-Left replies: ‘That’s illegal.'”
“Well, of course revolutionary war is illegal. Legal systems are created by revolutions, not revolutions by legal systems.”


Finally I highlighted my view that Bush’s new policy includes acceptance that the US “should stop its support for Israeli terror and integration of the occupied territories” as follows:
“The next logical step for the new policy is to establish a viable Palestinian state. Bush has put himself in a position where he can and must take that step. Naturally, he will not admit to the enormous strategic and policy retreat that such a step implies, so he has preceded it with enough triumphalist rhetoric to make even the Fox News team look queasy.”


Thus my position is that Bush’s actual policy now is the same as the policy you advocated in September last year – and which you summarized for me in your email. Namely Bush agrees that:
“the US should stop supporting corrupt and oppressive government and blocking political and economic progress because of its interest in controlling Near East oil, and should stop its support for Israeli terror and integration of the occupied territories, and its murderous sanctions that are devastating the people of Iraq while strengthening Saddam Hussein.”

Perhaps you find that view of Bush’s actual policy so bizarre that you cannot imagine I would be saying it?

Nevertheless, I am.

Of course I am not claiming that Bush admits that US policy was aimed at blocking political and economic progress because of US interest in controlling Near East oil, nor that he would endorse such terms as “Israeli terror” or “murderous sanctions”.
I am simply saying that Bush has changed policy, and done so for essentially the reasons you advocate. There should be nothing inconceivable about that. After all at one time US policy was to escalate the war in Vietnam until a US victory. Nixon changed that policy to withdrawing all troops and accepting defeat, but describing defeat as “peace with honour”. He did that by redefining the goal of the war as “return of all American Prisoners of War” and then rallying the American right to achieve that goal (which was won very simply by signing the peace agreement and withdrawing the troops).
I suggest something similar is going on now. Bush has redefined America’s goals in the middle east as being to promote democracy and has rallied the right by linking that to defeating terrorism. He doesn’t need to worry about the left because we’ve always been in favor of promoting democracy just as we were in favor of Vietnam defeating the US aggression.

He doesn’t need to worry about the pseudo-Left because they are just bizarre (the anti-war movement may have appeared to be a roaring flash flood that rose much faster and extended much wider than the Vietnam war movement but it was in fact also much more shallow and immediately turned into a puddle).

Even before September 11, Israeli goals were being redefined as an “end to Palestinian terrorism” rather than “Greater Israel”, as preparation for accepting defeat of the occupation and creation of a Palestinian state. That has now become mainstream. A victory against Palestinian terrorism can of course be achieved just as easily as the return of American POWs was achieved in Vietnam – by simply withdrawing from the occupied territories etc.
Instead of simply dismissing my view as inconceivable, you do need to consider and reply to it.

First, I’m not the only person on the left drawing similar conclusions about changes in US policy. It is also, less explicitly, part of the background to the collapse of the mass anti-war movement and the somewhat bizarre debates about whether it would be “irresponsible” to call for an immediate end to the occupation.

While you might be able to get away with simply brushing me off, the view of Bush’s policy that you seem to have just dismissed as inconceivable is going to keep coming up and will need to be debated eventually.

For example KADEK/PKK (the Kurdish Workers Party) has several thousand troops in Kurdistan, has been actively involved in armed struggle with the Turkish government and was originally opposed to the US attack on Iraq. Its May Day statement(same date as my article) included the following:

Middle East countries have been suffering from severe national and social problems but are now involved in a new process which started with the war on Iraq. Those severe problems are forcing the regimes to improve freedom and human rights. The prerequisites required for a solution are available now. The main characteristics of the new process are that the democratic unity issue involves both war and peaceful efforts. Although concrete results have not been achieved yet, as the Iraq case proves, if diplomatic and political methods, peaceful efforts, do not resolve the problem then the only option is war.”


Talking about peace, without offering a solution does not make any sense to people of the Middle East, who are suffering from severe problems. The collapse of the Iraqi regime will serve the interests of the society, and lead to social improvement.”


“The sovereign regimes in all Middle East countries have lost their capacities of solving the problems. In spite of colossally rich natural resources, making available opportunities to develop, those regimes could not solve the problems, but on the contrary have exacerbated them. This is the main reason for lack of developments in democracy, freedom, and human rights. The existing regimes reply to peoples’ demands for democracy, freedoms, and human rights by increasing pressures. Local people cannot benefit from their countries’ rich resources, but suffer from poverty, hunger and poor socio-economic living conditions. In spite of all this, the regimes refuse to change, do not reply the democratic change and transformation efforts and this will require their removal.”

[…]

“Whether the intervention in Iraq will succeed or not depends on the development of democracy, freedom, and human rights. The more improvements are achieved in these human values the more the US intervention in Iraq will succeed. Setting up the kind of regimes in continuity with the past will lead to chaos.”


“Therefore, the only option for the US should be to support democratic regimes. The wider dimension of the problem is the necessity of democratic change and transformation imposed upon the regimes within the region, which is the only option in order prevent war and conflict. Radical democratic reforms will prevent war.” […]



Note that KADEK/PKK is saying “The more improvements are achieved in these human values the more the US intervention in Iraq will succeed” – directly opposite to the line you have been taking. Of course they can be completely wrong, just as I can. But so can you be wrong and you certainly aren’t going to prove you are right just by saying “I am sure you agree”!
Next, note that your summary of your position is “clearly and unambiguously” advocated by former CIA Director James Woolsey, one of the leading proponents of the war in Iraq:
From his Washington Post article “Objective: Democracy“, Tuesday, November 27, 2001; Page A13:

[…] “This ought to be enough to make us call into question some of the European-generated ‘truths’ about another region, the Mideast, that have generally guided our conduct there for the past 80 years: that Arabs and Muslims have no aptitude for democracy, that we are well-advised to stay in bed with corrupt rulers — occasionally changing them if they seem to threaten, especially, our access to oil — and that the general rule should be: better the devil we know than the devil we don’t.”
“We have, on the whole, followed this European conceptual lead, and it has brought us Sept. 11, disdain and hatred. Only in Afghanistan, and in Iran, where we are perceived to be at odds with the repressive regime, do the demonstrating crowds chant ‘U-S-A.'”
“One of these days we’re going to get the picture. It has been the received wisdom at various times in the 20th century that Germans, Japanese, Koreans, Russians and Chinese would never be able to manage democracy. Yet from Berlin to Taipei, people seem to have figured out how to make it work. And no democracy threatens us, for the very good reason that, unlike dictators, democracies turn to war last, not first. And no democracy consciously harbors terrorists or encourages them to attack us.”
“The Mideast does present a special problem. Outside Israel and secular Turkey, the governments of the region comprise no democracies but rather vulnerable autocracies and pathological predators. Some of the autocracies have launched reforms and may evolve toward constitutional monarchies with parliaments and the rule of law — Jordan and Bahrain, for example — if a predator doesn’t get them first. Other autocracies, such as Saudi Arabia, seem mired in self-destructive behavior: spending vast sums to promote a whole set of domestic and foreign institutions, such as Saudi and Pakistani schools, that build hatred against both us and the modern world and that will, in time, undermine their own rule.”
“Many in the West see hatred and conclude that the people of the Muslim and Arab worlds are our enemies. They could not be more wrong. If we continue to follow the European paradigm — as, tragically, the first Bush administration did in the spring of 1991, when it failed to back the Iraqi resistance’s rebellion against Saddam — we will continue to be hated both by predator governments and by a vocal minority in the streets of the autocracies. Our only sound strategy is to take the side of the people against the predators and, albeit less urgently, the autocrats as well.”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A19477-2001Nov26?language=printer

Woolsey describes existing US policy as “staying in bed” with, or “tolerating” corrupt tyrannies rather than actively “supporting” them.

Also he bizarrely describes this policy, as “European” instead of using your presumably tongue in cheek phrase “live up to ideals that we profess”.

The policy recommendation as to how to reduce the threat of terrorist attacks from the Middle East is however, utterly clear and entirely the same as yours – “take the side of the people against (their oppressors, whether anti-US or pro-US regimes)”.

The only difference is that “take the side of the people” is rather stronger than “stop supporting” the oppressors”, and leads directly to support for a revolutionary war.
Incidentally, as well as describing US policy in terms of access to oil, Woolsey also describes the Baath regime as “fascist” in the same way that I do:
From JINSA Online, June 04, 2002.
The following interview with James Woolsey appeared on Insight Magaizine’s website on May 13, 2002.

Mr. Woolsey is a member of JINSA’s Board of Advisors and was Director of Central Intelligence from 1993 until 1995.

[…]

Insight: If the United States topples Saddam, what kind of regime will replace him?”

JW: That’s the right question for those folks in the U.S. government who might sponsor coups! But for those of us who want democracy to flourish in Iraq, there’s only one answer: whomever the Iraqi people choose. Mideast scholar Bernard Lewis is absolutely right – Iraq is one of the Arab states most suited to democracy. It has a well-educated populace and is far less tribally diverse or divisive than a number of other nations. Iraq also possesses great oil wealth. But, first, we need to de-Ba’ath the country as the U.S. and her allies de-Nazified Germany. Our role as Americans should be to assist the Iraqi nation in establishing new democratic institutions. Then, as good partners, we should stand back and let the Iraqi people decide who will rule their nation.

Insight: What is the Ba’ath Party?”

JW: It is a despotic organization modeled after the fascist regimes of Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. Essentially, Ba’athists are modern-day fascists. Indeed, among some circles in the Mideast, there is much admiration for German fascism of the 1930s.
Insight: How do you bring about regime change in the Mideast, yet avoid catastrophic upheaval?
JW: For the last 40 or 50 years we have tolerated Mideast tyrants because of the U.S. thirst for oil. Of the 22 Arab states in the region, not one is a democracy. The U.S. must rid the Mideast of its tyrants, beginning with the most horrible of predators, Saddam. As we stay the course in Afghanistan, eradicating the Taliban and al-Qaeda infrastructures, other autocrats in the region will realize the U.S. means business. In time, the region will progress toward democracy.

Insight: How do you dispel the notion that the West must coddle these regimes?”

JW: In 1945, a lot of people in the nation’s capital said Germany and Japan never would progress toward democracy. They also said nations like South Korea and even Russia would never become democracies. Yet these nations proved to be able to govern themselves. Spain, Portugal and Chile also were ruled by dictators. Today they are democracies. In 1914, there were not more than 10 democracies in the world; today there are more than 120.
The Mideast, however, remains a part of the world untouched by democracy, except for Israel and Turkey. The region systematically produces terrorists, weapons of mass destruction, autocrats and dictators.
Dictators start wars. They seek out external enemies. More often than not, they escalate conflict beyond their own borders to distract internal suspicions of the illegitimacy of their regimes. In the case of Iraq, Saddam invaded Iran in 1980, just one year after coming formally to power.
Democracies, on the other hand, use force as a last resort because they are responsive to the wishes of their citizens. If we make it clear that we are determined to bring democracy to this part of the world, it will encourage hundreds of millions of decent people in the Mideast. For us to win this war the entire face of the Mideast must change. But, first, all this hinges on our success in bringing down Saddam.
http://www.jinsa.org/articles/print.html/documentid/1494

Again, while it would be easy to wax sarcastic about the last paragraphs, and the role of the USA in escalating conflict beyond its borders, the fact remains that Woolsey has recognized the same policy imperatives that you pointed out and is simply presenting them in language that can appeal to fellow senior officials of US imperialism.
Would you agree that Woolsey is indeed seriously advocating a policy that “the US should stop supporting corrupt and oppressive government and blocking political and economic progress because of its interest in controlling Near East oil“?
If so, an assertion that Bush has also accepted this policy, and that it is actual rather than merely declaratory, should be considered seriously rather than merely dismissed as inconceivable.
The point is of course that nobody familiar with the Middle East could possibly reach any other conclusions, when studying the question of how to respond to September 11, even though they might have an interest in presenting those conclusions in a more apologetic way than you do.

It is difficult to imagine how any US imperialist policy making group reviewing US policy in the light of September 11 could possibly avoid advising that supporting Islamist terrorism hadn’t been such a good idea, supporting Baath fascism hadn’t been such a good idea, supporting the House of Saud isn’t a good idea, supporting “Greater Israel” isn’t a good idea and it’s way past time to drain the swamps.
As you noted in “Wars of Terror” on 30 April:

In serious scholarship, at least, it is recognized that “Unless the social, political, and economic conditions that spawned Al Qaeda and other associated groups are addressed, the United States and its allies in Western Europe and elsewhere will continue to be targeted by Islamist terrorists.” 13″

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=11&ItemID=3543
Given that, why on earth should we assume the real, as opposed to the declared conclusions of US policy makers differ from those reached by serious scholarship?
(Incidentally, the copy at the above URL appears to be broken as it ends in mid-sentence. Please let me know when it is fixed. I noticed that almost every paragraph from “Draining the Swamps” is expanded in “Wars of Terror” and am curious to see what happened to the concluding paragraph I quoted in my article, in the light of recent shifts in US rhetoric.)
Finally, although Bush stuck rigidly to the “Saddam must disarm” line right up until the last minute, this has now taken a back seat to more or less open explanations of the new policy.

As mentioned in my article, Bush presents the new line with lots of “God bless America” rhetoric as a triumphant reaffirmation of American values rather than an admission of defeat and retreat. He is able to get away with that precisely because of the stand taken by the anti-war movement.

Instead of taking credit for having opposed the criminal and disasterous policy that brought “Sept. 11, disdain and hatred” long before Woolsey, you allow Bush to present the adoption of your views as a triumph for US imperialism!
Unlike Woolsey, Bush needs to present his declaratory policy less clearly and unambiguously than either Woolsey or your summary of it in your email to me.
Nevertheless, here’s an example (from February 26, 2003), to show that Bush is indeed saying things that sound very similar to the words I quoted from your article:
[…] A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions. America’s interests in security, and America’s belief in liberty, both lead in the same direction: to a free and peaceful Iraq. (Applause.)
[…]

There was a time when many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values. Well, they were wrong. Some say the same of Iraq today. They are mistaken. (Applause.) The nation of Iraq — with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people — is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom.
(Applause.)

The world has a clear interest in the spread of democratic values, because stable and free nations do not breed the ideologies of murder. They encourage the peaceful pursuit of a better life. And there are hopeful signs of a desire for freedom in the Middle East. Arab intellectuals have called on Arab governments to address the “freedom gap” so their peoples can fully share in the progress of our times. Leaders in the region speak of a new Arab charter that champions internal reform, greater politics participation, economic openness, and free trade. And from Morocco to Bahrain and beyond, nations are taking genuine steps toward politics reform. A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region. (Applause.)
It is presumptuous and insulting to suggest that a whole region of the world — or the one-fifth of humanity that is Muslim — is somehow untouched by the most basic aspirations of life. Human cultures can be vastly different. Yet the human heart desires the same good things, everywhere on Earth. In our desire to be safe from brutal and bullying oppression, human beings are the same. In our desire to care for our children and give them a better life, we are the same. For these fundamental reasons, freedom and democracy will always and everywhere have greater appeal than the slogans of hatred and the tactics of terror. (Applause.)
[…]
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/02/iraq/20030226-11.html
Clearly Bush is deliberately linking the question of US security from terrorist attack (mosquitoes) to the question of liberating people from corrupt tyrannies (draining the swamps).

That is exactly the theme of the paragraph I quoted from your article. The context is support for a war that you oppose. But what is there in the words that Bush uses to make the case for linking US security from terrorist attack with freedom and democracy in the Middle East, that you would disagree with?
Of course the fact that Bush is making a (declaratory) “case” that includes quotes like the one above does not establish what his actual policy is.

Nevertheless, given such quotes it is necessary to seriously consider the question and argue the issue rather than simply dismiss it. Certainly raising expectations in this way is not going to be helpful to any US project for imposing a puppet dictatorship in Iraq.
In the summary of your views that I quoted above from your last email, you mentioned 3 policies that would have to be changed “in order to reduce the threat of terror”. These were the policies of:

1.    ”supporting corrupt and oppressive government and blocking political and economic progress because of the US interest in controlling Near East oil.”
2.    “supporting Israeli terror and integration of the occupied territories.”
3.    “maintaining murderous sanctions that are devastating the people of Iraq while strengthening Saddam Hussein.”

I will look at each of these separately:

1. ”supporting corrupt and oppressive government and blocking political and economic progress because of the US interest in controlling Near East oil.”

That has certainly been actual US policy in the past (though of course never “declaratory policy”). If there has been a change, the onus is clearly on those saying so to demonstrate it. I have attempted to demonstrate above the plausability of such a shift and the adoption of a declaratory policy that would correspond to it.
It’s too early to conclusively demonstrate to what extent actual policy has changed. However nothing that has happened so far either in Iraq itself or in its neighbours Saudi Arabia and Turkey has conformed to the expectations of people in the anti-war movement claiming there would be no shift towards democracy.

Already political parties such as the Iraqi Communist Party are free to setup offices and publish newspapers in Baghdad when they cannot do that elsewhere and pictures of (anti-US) demonstrations are being beamed into other capitals where the people know they do not have the same freedom to protest.
The governments of neighbouring regimes are clearly petrified. Bush and Blair have done nothing to reassure them by talking about Saddam wasting oil revenues on “palaces” and by allowing the Shia to very openly celebrate. Likewise democratic forces have been heartened.

Even people opposed to the war (as is still almost obligatory throughout the region) are able to point to the impotence of the current regimes in the face of US intervention as grounds for modernizing and democratizing.

2. “supporting Israeli terror and integration of the occupied territories.”

Again, that has clearly been US policy in the past and the onus is on me to demonstrate that actual US policy has changed, which I will attempt below.
Moreover Bush has gone out of his way to express unconditional declaratory support for Sharon’s stepped up Israeli terror against the Palestinians and has been very ostentatious about doing nothing to declare policies that hinder integration of the occupied territories. Declaratory policy in this case has been fairly close to actual policy (with the usual euphemisms instead of “Israeli terror”, and very minimal purely cosmetic reservations concerning the details of integration of the occupied territories).
First however, would you agree that your quote from Yehoshaphat Harkabi demonstrates that a former head of Israeli military intelligence advocates stopping “Israeli terror and integration of the occupied territories”?
If so, an assertion that Bush has also accepted this policy, and that it is actual rather than merely declaratory, should again be considered seriously rather than merely dismissed as inconceivable.
According to your article:

“One way for the US to lessen Israeli-Palestinian tensions would be to stop refusing to join the long-standing international consensus that calls for recognition of the right of all states in the region to live in peace and security, including a Palestinian state in the currently occupied territories (perhaps with minor and mutual border adjustments).”

Well, now the road map has been oficially released:

A settlement, negotiated between the parties, will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors. The settlement will resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and end the occupation that began in 1967, based on the foundations of the Madrid Conference, the principle of land for peace, UNSCRs 242, 338 and 1397, agreements previously reached by the parties, and the initiative of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah — endorsed by the Beirut Arab League Summit — calling for acceptance of Israel as a neighbor living in peace and security, in the context of a comprehensive settlement.”
http://usinfo.state.gov/regional/nea/summit/text2003/0430roadmap.htm

As well as the Palestine National Authority, this “road map” for ending the occupation of the territories that were occupied in 1967 has been endorsed by the Arab League, the UN, the EU and Russia. If that is not joining “the long-standing international consensus” what would be? Only Israel is complaining.

If Bush intends to persist with the previous policy, his recent moves to commit himself personally to major efforts for the achievement of a viable Palestinian state within a set time frame will be extremely damaging for him.
If on the other hand he intends to adopt your proposal, his reputation as a hard-line supporter of Israeli state terrorism against the Palestinians will make it much easier for him to do so. (“Only Nixon could go to Peking“).
Anyone attempting to defeat the Zionist lobby in the USA needs a plan and Bush’s plan for outflanking them seems like a good one.

Solidarity with the Palestinians is not expressed by endorsing defeatist propaganda that the Israeli position has been strengthened by the US occupation of Iraq. On the contrary we should be emphasizing that the Palestinian right of return is critical to the achievement of US goals in the Middle East as without it, even the establishment of a Palestinian state will not avoid an ongoing festering sense of grievance like that in Northern Ireland, which will continue to be exploited by terrorists.

3.“maintaining murderous sanctions that are devastating the people of Iraq while strengthening Saddam Hussein.”

Once again, sanctions have clearly been US policy in the past and the effect of those sanctions has clearly been murderous and devastating for the people of Iraq while strengthening Saddam.
It seems obvious that US policy is now opposed to continued sanctions, so I will not discuss this third element further.
However it is worth commenting on some aspects of how the US carried out and presented that change in policy, for the light it sheds on how I suggest the US has carried out and presented the changes I claim have been made policy on the other two elements.
It seems unlikely that the intended effect of the US sanctions policy was to strengthen Saddam. The US has sincerely and genuinely wanted to get rid of Saddam, at least since shortly after the immediate aftermath of the Kuwait war, even though they did not wish to get rid of the Baath regime (presided over by some other, more manageable dictator) until much later. The intended effect of the sanctions was to weaken Saddam, not to strengthen him.
Given that a policy had an actual effect opposite to the intention, the question must have arisen as to how to change that policy without damaging other US imperialist interests.
It seems reasonable to suppose that a serious problem for US policy makers must have been that simply dropping the sanctions would have been widely perceived as a defeat for US imperialism.
More specifically it would have been presented by both Saddam and Osama bin Laden as a victory for them. Any US policy maker would have had to propose some measure to counteract the impact of that.
By carrying out the dropping of sanctions as a simple consequence of the occupation of Iraq and destruction of Saddam’s regime, the US has certainly avoided any perception that abandoning sanctions was a victory for either Saddam Hussain or Osama bin Laden or indeed that it involved any defeat for US imperialism whatever.
Nevertheless, the long term impact of that on the roots of the ‘campaigns of hatred’ is the same. The US is no longer perceived as continuing murderous sanctions that are devastating the people of Iraq. Therefore the cumulative effect of campaigns about that (for example from supporters of Osama bin Laden), will cease growing, even though there will be short term damage to US interests from hostility to the deaths and devastation caused by the war.

Likewise the US has now announced that it will meet two other demands exploited by Osama bin Laden – withdrawal from Saudi Arabia and reducing the oppression of Palestinians – without any risk of Islamist victory celebrations.
My position is that in a similar way as with the other 2 policies, US policy makers have been looking for, and have adopted, a method of carrying out and presenting a reversal of previous policy that is intended to avoid any perception of a defeat for US imperialism (and that both the war in Iraq and the position adopted by the anti-war movement has been central to enabling them to get away with that).
In your Guardian interview of February 4, 2003 you were asked:
Matthew Tempest: Will the propaganda rebound if democracy is not established in Iraq after ‘liberation’?”

You replied:

NC: You’re right to call it propaganda. If this is a war aim, why don’t they say so? Why are they lying to the rest of the world? What is the point of having the UN inspectors? According to this propaganda, everything we are saying in public is pure farce – we don’t care about the weapons of mass destruction, we don’t care about disarmament, we have another goal in mind, which we’re not telling you, and that is, all of a sudden, we’re going to bring democracy by war. Well, if that’s the goal, let’s stop lying about it and put an end to the whole farce of inspections and everything else and just say now we’re on a crusade to bring democracies to countries that are suffering under miserable leadership. Actually that is a traditional crusade, that’s what lies behind the horrors of colonial wars and their modern equivalents, and we have a very long rich record to show just how that worked out. It’s not something new in history.”
http://www.zmag.org/content/Activism/chomsky_antiwar.cfm

Well, Bush pretty much took you up on that proposal too!

My suggestion is that in February you treated your question “why don’t they say so?” as rhetorical with an assumed answer that they would say they were on a crusade for democracy instead of maintaining the inspections farce if that was actually the case. Now that they have abandoned the farce and are speaking openly of the crusade, one must conclude that your assumed answer to the rhetorical question was wrong.

You should have treated it as a non-rhetorical question and thought about what the reason for them not saying so at the time might actually have been. In fact there were good reasons why it was not in their interests to say so then, just as you have mentioned that the US has a policy of sometimes attempting to appear less rational and more vindictive than it is.
Instead of developing the idea about “colonial wars”, which would at least be consistent with continued reactionary opposition, you advanced several demonstrably wrong reasons why the US could not promote democracy in Iraq:
“The chances that they will allow anything approximating real democracy are pretty slight. There’s major problems in the way of that – problems that motivated Bush No 1 to oppose the rebellions in 1991 that could have overthrown Saddam Hussein. After all, he could have been overthrown then if the US had not authorised Saddam to crush the rebellions.”

“One major problem is that roughly 60% of the population is Shi’ite. If there’s any form of democratic government, they’re going to have a say, in fact a majority say, in what the government is. Well they are not pro-Iranian but the chances are that a Shi’ite majority would join the rest of the region in trying to improve relations with Iran and reduce the levels of tension generally in the region by re-integrating Iran within it. There have been moves in that direction among the Arab states and Shi’ite majority in Iraq is likely to do that. That’s the last thing the US wants. Iran is its next target.”
“It doesn’t want improved relations. Furthermore if the Shi’ite majority gets for the first time a real voice in the government, the Kurdish minority will want something similar. And they will want a realisation of their quite just demands for a degree of autonomy in the northern regions. Well Turkey is not going to tolerate that. Turkey already has thousands of troops in Northern Iraq basically to prevent any such development. If there’ s a  move towards Kirkuk, which they regard as their capital city, Turkey will move to block it, the US will surely back them, just as the United States has strongly supported Turkey in its massive atrocities against the Kurds in the 1990s in the south-eastern regions. What you’re going to be left with is either a military dictatorship with some kind of democratic façade, like maybe a parliament that votes while the military runs it behind the scenes – it’s not unfamiliar – or else putting power back into the hands of something like the Sunni minority which has been running it in the past.
“Nobody can predict any of this. What happens when you start a war is unknown. The CIA can’t predict it, Rumsfeld can’t predict it, nobody can. It could be anywhere over this range. That’s why sane people refrain from the use of violence unless there are overwhelming reasons to undertake it – the dangers are simply far too great. However it’s striking that neither Bush nor Blair present anything like this as their war aim. Have they gone to the security council and said let’s have a resolution for the use of force to bring democracy to Iraq? Of course not. Because they know they’d be laughed at.
Essentially you were insisting that the policies of the Bush Senior administration would prevail, despite the change in US perceptions since September 11, 2001. Not much of the above has stood the test of time – except for your tacit admission that you cannot predict what is happening.

So far Rumsfeld’s predictions have held up quite well. But after only 3 months your own speculations have proved completely irrelevant. I suggest that your acknowledged inability to make accurate predictions and your demonstrated inability to even make relevant speculations is not because there is nothing predictable about current events but because we are in a new situation and your assumptions based on an analysis of the previous situation no longer reflect reality.

Once it becomes clear to you that the US actually is introducing (bourgeois) democracy in Iraq, you can of course simply abandon your arguments about why that would be inconceivable and just shift to opposing the “imposition” of democracy as being a colonialist “crusade”.
But you have demonstrated an ability to analyse new situations in the past and should not be afraid to do so now.
Regards,
PS Your concluding paragraph was:

“I’m afraid I can’t answer your last question because of its assumptions, which are based on total misunderstanding.”
I am not sure what this was referring to.
My last paragraph was an implicit question as follows:

“Finally, if you happen to know of any other ‘pro-war left’ (as opposed to pro-war liberal) web sites I would be grateful for any links.”
Your concluding paragraph does not seem to be responsive unless perhaps you thought I was under the bizarre impression that Znet is a “pro-war left” web site.
I was of course referring to the web site URL given in my article, and mentioned in my final PPS, following the article text, as being “pro-war left” – http://www.lastsuperpower.net.
If you don’t know of any others. Please say so.
Alternatively, perhaps more likely, you were referring to the assumptions in an earlier paragraph that was followed by a question as to whether debate might clarify the nature of “a subtle difference” I had perceived to exist between your analysis and other Znet articles.
At any rate I accept that your response rejects my suggestion that there might be some difference between your previous and current positions or between your current position and that of other Znet contributors. Note that I did not make that suggestion in my published article but only directly to you.


4. CHOMSKY’S RESPONSE:

Original Message—–
From: Noam Chomsky [mailto:chomsky@MIT.EDU]
Sent: Friday, May 09, 2003 11:54 PM
Subject: RE: Draining the swamp reply

I’m rather surprised that you see no need for public retraction of the extreme falsification in your article, particularly where it is so transparent.  But to be frank, that’s no concern of mine.

I won’t discuss the fallacies in your message.  I’m sure we both have better things to do than to enter into discussion where we do not even share the most elementary assumptions about fact and logic.

Noam Chomsky


5. CHOMSKY’S ARTICLE:

Drain The Swamp And There Will Be No More Mosquitoes

by Noam Chomsky; September 10, 2002

September 11 shocked many Americans into an awareness that they had better pay much closer attention to what the US government does in the world and how it is perceived. Many issues have been opened for discussion that were not on the agenda before. That’s all to the good.
It is also the merest sanity, if we hope to reduce the likelihood of future atrocities. It may be comforting to pretend that our enemies “hate our freedoms,” as President Bush stated, but it is hardly wise to ignore the real world, which conveys different lessons.
The president is not the first to ask: “Why do they hate us?” In a staff discussion 44 years ago, President Eisenhower described “the campaign of hatred against us [in the Arab world], not by the governments but by the people”. His National Security Council outlined the basic reasons: the US supports corrupt and oppressive governments and is “opposing political or economic progress” because of its interest in controlling the oil resources of the region.
Post-September 11 surveys in the Arab world reveal that the same reasons hold today, compounded with resentment over specific policies. Strikingly, that is even true of privileged, western-oriented sectors in the region.
To cite just one recent example: in the August 1 issue of Far Eastern Economic Review, the internationally recognised regional specialist Ahmed Rashid writes that in Pakistan “there is growing anger that US support is allowing [Musharraf’s] military regime to delay the promise of democracy”.
Today we do ourselves few favours by choosing to believe that “they hate us” and “hate our freedoms”. On the contrary, these are attitudes of people who like Americans and admire much about the US, including its freedoms. What they hate is official policies that deny them the freedoms to which they too aspire.
For such reasons, the post-September 11 rantings of Osama bin Laden – for example, about US support for corrupt and brutal regimes, or about the US “invasion” of Saudi Arabia – have a certain resonance, even among those who despise and fear him. From resentment, anger and frustration, terrorist bands hope to draw support and recruits.
We should also be aware that much of the world regards Washington as a terrorist regime. In recent years, the US has taken or backed actions in Colombia, Nicaragua, Panama, Sudan and Turkey, to name a few, that meet official US definitions of “terrorism” – that is, when Americans apply the term to enemies.
In the most sober establishment journal, Foreign Affairs, Samuel Huntington wrote in 1999: “While the US regularly denounces various countries as ‘rogue states,’ in the eyes of many countries it is becoming the rogue superpower … the single greatest external threat to their societies.”
Such perceptions are not changed by the fact that, on September 11, for the first time, a western country was subjected on home soil to a horrendous terrorist attack of a kind all too familiar to victims of western power. The attack goes far beyond what’s sometimes called the “retail terror” of the IRA, FLN or Red Brigades.
The September 11 terrorism elicited harsh condemnation throughout the world and an outpouring of sympathy for the innocent victims. But with qualifications.
An international Gallup poll in late September found little support for “a military attack” by the US in Afghanistan. In Latin America, the region with the most experience of US intervention, support ranged from 2% in Mexico to 16% in Panama.
The current “campaign of hatred” in the Arab world is, of course, also fuelled by US policies toward Israel-Palestine and Iraq. The US has provided the crucial support for Israel’s harsh military occupation, now in its 35th year.
One way for the US to lessen Israeli-Palestinian tensions would be to stop refusing to join the long-standing international consensus that calls for recognition of the right of all states in the region to live in peace and security, including a Palestinian state in the currently occupied territories (perhaps with minor and mutual border adjustments).
In Iraq, a decade of harsh sanctions under US pressure has strengthened Saddam Hussein while leading to the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis – perhaps more people “than have been slain by all so-called weapons of mass destruction throughout history”, military analysts John and Karl Mueller wrote in Foreign Affairs in 1999.
Washington’s present justifications to attack Iraq have far less credibility than when President Bush Sr was welcoming Saddam as an ally and a trading partner after he had committed his worst brutalities – as in Halabja, where Iraq attacked Kurds with poison gas in 1988. At the time, the murderer Saddam was more dangerous than he is today.
As for a US attack against Iraq, no one, including Donald Rumsfeld, can realistically guess the possible costs and consequences. Radical Islamist extremists surely hope that an attack on Iraq will kill many people and destroy much of the country, providing recruits for terrorist actions.
They presumably also welcome the “Bush doctrine” that proclaims the right of attack against potential threats, which are virtually limitless. The president has announced: “There’s no telling how many wars it will take to secure freedom in the homeland.” That’s true.
Threats are everywhere, even at home. The prescription for endless war poses a far greater danger to Americans than perceived enemies do, for reasons the terrorist organisations understand very well.
Twenty years ago, the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Yehoshaphat Harkabi, also a leading Arabist, made a point that still holds true. “To offer an honourable solution to the Palestinians respecting their right to self-determination: that is the solution of the problem of terrorism,” he said. “When the swamp disappears, there will be no more mosquitoes.”
At the time, Israel enjoyed the virtual immunity from retaliation within the occupied territories that lasted until very recently. But Harkabi’s warning was apt, and the lesson applies more generally.
Well before September 11 it was understood that with modern technology, the rich and powerful will lose their near monopoly of the means of violence and can expect to suffer atrocities on home soil.
If we insist on creating more swamps, there will be more mosquitoes, with awesome capacity for destruction.
If we devote our resources to draining the swamps, addressing the roots of the “campaigns of hatred”, we can not only reduce the threats we face but also live up to ideals that we profess and that are not beyond reach if we choose to take them seriously.


6. May Day article

May Day – it’s the festival of the distressed

THE Left tide that rose worldwide in the 1960s subsided in the ’70s, just as
the previous tides from the ’30s and ’40s subsided in the ’50s.

There was no significant Left upsurge in the ’80s or ’90s, partly because
reactionary forces were already on the retreat, with the liberation of
southern Africa, East Timor and Eastern Europe, the creation of the
Palestinian Authority and the shift from military to parliamentary rule
throughout Latin America, the Philippines and Indonesia.

When the left tide is rising, May Day provides an opportunity to sum up past
victories and preview the revolutionary “festival of the oppressed” to come.
When the tide is low or dropping, as now, Mayday is just the international
distress call – a cry for help.

For more than two decades, the genuine Left has been swamped by a
pseudo-Left whose hostility to capitalism is reactionary rather than
progressive. The pseudo-Left opposes modernity, development, globalisation,
technology and progress.

It embraces obscurantism, relativism, romanticism and even nature worship.
At May Day rallies, the pseudo-Left whines about how things aren’t what they
used to be.

The real Left has been marginalised, debating neither the neo-cons nor the
pseudo-Left, simply because there has been no audience for that debate.
Incoherent nonsense from complete imbeciles is published as “Left” comment
in newspapers just so right-wing commentators can pretend they have
something intelligent to say. In fact “Left” is used as a euphemism for
“pessimistic”, “unimaginative” and just plain “dull”.

But now there is an audience. The war in Iraq has woken people everywhere –
and the pseudo-Left has really blown its chance.

Millions who marched in mid February stopped marching two months later, as
soon as the argument shifted towards democratising and liberating the Iraqi
people. Those millions still agree that George W. Bush is an arrogant bully,
but they no longer believe the peacemongers have got it right. People want
to figure out what is going on and are joining the debate at websites such
as http://www.lastsuperpower.net.

For months, the argument was about weapons of mass destruction and the role
of the UN. If the demands of the US, and the UN, had been fully met, Saddam
Hussein could have lived happily, and the Iraqi people miserably, for ever
after.

But look at what happened next! Suddenly we were hearing a different song.
Bush has been making the argument not for disarming Iraq but for liberating
Iraq.

Stripped of the “God bless America” stuff, the US President’s case now goes
like this:

“If we devote our resources to draining the swamps, addressing the roots of
the ‘campaigns of hatred’, we can not only reduce the threats we face, but
also live up to ideals that we profess and that are not beyond reach if we
choose to take them seriously.”

Actually, those words are from Noam Chomsky two days before Bush’s UN speech
on September 10, 2002.

But if Bush had adopted Chomsky’s position so early, that would have pre
vented congressional authorisation. Such a position threatens to destabilise
despotic, reactionary regimes everywhere. But those in the US foreign policy
establishment have devoted their entire careers to supporting the most
corrupt tyrannies in the Middle East, in the name of “stability”.

For Chomsky, “draining the swamps” apparently didn’t include killing people
and blowing things up. Fortunately, Bush is made of sterner stuff.

Both Bush and Chomsky know the US cannot be secure from medievalist
terrorist mosquitoes while the Middle East remains a swamp. But Bush also
knows that modernity grows out of the barrel of a gun.

That is a genuinely Left case for a revolutionary war of liberation, such as
has occurred in Iraq. The pseudo-Left replies: “That’s illegal.”

Well, of course revolutionary war is illegal. Legal systems are created by
revolutions, not revolutions by legal systems.

The next logical step for the new policy is to establish a viable
Palestinian state. Bush has put himself in a position where he can and must
take that step. Naturally, he will not admit to the enormous strategic and
policy retreat that such a step implies, so he has preceded it with enough
triumphalist rhetoric to make even the Fox News team look queasy.

The revival of the Left in the ’60s only began once it was widely noticed
that the remnants of the previous movement were reactionaries obstructing
progress. After it tried so hard to preserve fascism in Iraq, even after
Bush Jr had wisely given up on Bush Sr’s policy of keeping the Iraqi
dictator in power, can anyone deny the pseudo-Left is reactionary?

End —

Review of the major “radical” trends and their attitudes: Part 4 (final part) of ‘Outline on technology and progress’ – a Marxist view (Written by Albert Langer in October 1979)

“Quite politically conservative people like businessmen or revisionist party bureaucrats can contribute to social progress by developing the productive forces, but only revolutionaries can tackle the central issue of overturning the obsolete social relations”.

* * * *

17. Let us now review the major “radical” trends and their attitudes to these issues.

18. The ideology of the “soft technology” trend is well expressed in the journal Resurgence whose Editor Satish Kumar has summarised its aims thus: “The breaking down of our over-large and over-centralised political and economic structure into smaller autonomous units in order that institutions should become responsive to the needs and desires of everybody and that everyone should thus feel involvement with and responsibility for the conduct of affairs.” (“Time Running Out? Best of Resurgence”, Prism Press 1976)

The belief that smaller autonomous units guarantee responsiveness to the needs and desires of everybody is somewhat quaint in view of the history of feudalism. Nevertheless, in one form or another, this whole approach is still extremely popular in “left” circles. It seems that Marxism never did defeat anarchism after all.

Although many adherents of this trend are very nice, gentle people who would probably find themselves on the right side of the barricades if it came to that (even if only as stretcher bearers), the ideological content of this trend is undiluted reaction against modern society.

The best known exponent of this trend is E.F. (“Small is Beautiful”) Schumacher, whose social views are not radically different from B.A. Santamaria’s and are based on the same papal encyclicals (ibid p103). But Resurgence points out Schumacher should be paired with Professor Leopold Kohr in a “Kohrmacher”, like the “Chesterbelloc” of the last generation’ (an interesting comparison with another pair of religious medievalists)(ibid p1).

To show just how openly reactionary this trend can be, without the admiring disciples even noticing, we need not consider the promotion of Zionist kibbutzes as a model for the new society (p108). Let us just take an article by Professor Kohr on “The Economics of Progress” (p18).

Kohr starts with a conversation between two college professors discussing how to wash their shirts, and also “plumbing, floor polishing and cooking, glorying in the fact that progress had so simplified matters that all these things could now be done by themselves”.

But one of them sighs and declares:

…fifty years ago we would have had maids. Instead of having to wash, plumb, and cook like unspecialised pioneers, we might have been better engineers and economists. Moreover, our shirts would have looked pressed, and our meals have tasted better. And instead of discussing housework at a party of scholars, we might have discussed our subjects.

According to Kohr:

“The experience of the two professors is shared by an increasing number of people. On one hand, we witness the gigantic pace of progress and continuously rising output figures. But on the other hand, we have the strange feeling that, instead of getting ahead in life, we have to give up every year something we could afford when, according to living standard experts, we must have had less”.

To support this conclusion, Kohr notes that:

“When I was a student in the early 30’s, I drove a racy sports car”. (During the Great Depression). Now as a University Professor he rides a bus.

“And the income classes above me have fared still worse… Mr Dupont had to abandon his palatial residence.. Now it is a museum…Where are the people who have become richer as a result of Mr Dupont having become poorer? On the contrary, most seem to be carried along the same road: downhill… Those who previously drank wine with their meals now drank water, and those who had maids now have none.”

“As to maids, it is frequently said that their disappearance is precisely a sign not of decline but of rising standards. For maids of former days are now housewives or businesswomen. Quite. But why should maids have aspired to these higher levels except in the hope of having maids themselves?…

“And workers seem to have fared only outwardly better. True, they have record incomes and record quantities of goods to spend them on. But if all is taken into account, can they really be said to be better off than workers of earlier times? They can write and read. But what is their main literature? They can send their children to college. But what has college education become under the levelling impact of intellectual mass production made necessary by the unprecedented numbers of those now able to afford it?…With so many other workers going to school, higher education, already intellectually sterile, seems without added material benefit, having become the competitive minimum requirement for almost any job.”

(Exactly the same point is made by Braverman, but dressed up as “Marxism”)

“As a result, what has actually risen under the impact of the enormously increased production of our time is not so much the standard of living as the level of subsistence. We swim in more water, but we are still in it up to our necks, In addition, along with the rising water level, many who previously enjoyed the luxury of the dry shore, are now up to their necks in water too”.

(Braverman makes a similar point to this too).

“…the problem is…no longer how to foster growth, but how to stop it..”

The above is not a distortion of Professor Kohr’s views, but an accurate picture of the introduction to an article that goes on with the usual theme of the need for smaller, more decentralised communities.

It is perfectly clear what section of society this “aristocratic socialism” speaks for – that part of the financial aristocracy being ruined as the proletarianisation of society proceeds (just as the old feudal socialism spoke for the declining feudal aristocracy).

To his credit, Professor Kohr does not attempt to conceal this in the slightest. But why are his views, or those of “Kohrmacher” nevertheless perfectly respectable in “left” circles?

Since a critique of Braverman’s romanticism necessarily includes a critique of this even more reactionary opposition to modern society, I will leave the matter there.

19. A second major trend, which may be called “Luddite” has closer connections with genuinely working class and socialist movements, and is in part a theoretical reflection of the ideas naturally arising in the course of trade union struggles to safeguard the rights of workers affected by automation.

This trend is not opposed to modern technology in itself, and emphasises the benefits that could flow from it in a socialist society. But it has a negative attitude towards the introduction of new technology within capitalist society, seeing this as a means of doing workers out of jobs and strengthening capitalist control.

The question “For Whom?” is repeated continuously and with enormous self-satisfaction as though it throws some penetrating light on the issues at stake, although in fact it obscures the question “What are the social implications?”. Since the answer to “For Whom?” in capitalist society is naturally “For them” (the capitalists), it is rare to find people who ask this question actually in favour of any new technology being introduced now.

20. Typical of this genre is a pamphlet called “Computers vs Journalists who wins?” (40 cents from Box 175, P.O. 367 Collins St Melbourne 3000)

Under the subhead “Problems, Problems, Problems…” we read:

“Sub editors are particularly affected, as the new technology not only means removal of some existing skills, but makes it more difficult to perform many traditional ones. ‘Casting off’, or determining the length of a story, can be done automatically by computer, making redundant a skill acquired over a long period by subs…The skill in writing a headline, which “fits” will be greatly de-valued because the computer can reject those which “bounce” before they are set in type.

Some subs will welcome the job of casting off, or headline counts being made easier, but by transferring the skills involved from men and women to a computer the human component involved in the highly-skilled task of good sub-editing is weakened”.

The appeal here is unmistakably conservative. One can imagine similar warnings about moveable type being addressed to monks in defence of their highly skilled craft copying manuscripts (which was indeed completely destroyed by the new technology).

It has not even occurred to the writer that it might be an advance for a machine to do routine counting operations while the human sub-editor concentrates on the content of the material sub edited. Obviously one should fight for people whose skills have been made obsolete by new technology to be re-trained, re-employed and not to suffer in the slightest. But this preference for human labour when something can be done as well by machine is really quite different, and quite reactionary. It means using people like machines.

The conservatism involved is made quite explicit when the pamphlet quotes approvingly from an agreement between the Swedish Unions of Journalists and Graphic Workers, recommending similar agreements between Australian unions:

“GF and SJF agree that the introduction of the new technology shall not affect the traditional basic principles of a division of labour among the categories of employees concerned. Thus, mechanical production tasks fall to the lot of graphic workers, while journalistic tasks are the domain of the staff members. Special importance must be attached to the workload of the staff, which must not be increased in such a manner that creative journalistic work is made to suffer. Nor may the tasks of graphic workers be made to include functions embracing journalistic work of a creative or decision-making nature”.

This desire to preserve “the traditional principles of a division of labour” against a new technology that tends to break down those divisions can only be called reactionary. Why shouldn’t journalists set their own copy? Why shouldn’t printers’ jobs include work of a creative or decision making nature?

The other side of this coin is attempts to prove that a new technology is deepening the division of labour and therefore should be opposed, when in fact like most new technology the actual effect is to break down that division.

Word processing is a classic example. No serious person could argue that a typewriter with editing and correcting features is in itself worse for humanity than one without these features (although some people have tried). Yet from all the “left” literature on the subject, one would think that the main social impact of word processing under capitalism would be to reduce the status of typist/secretaries to the level of the typing pool, and reinforce the division between “executive” and “clerical” Labor.

Naturally some reactionaries will try to take advantage of any change in work methods to make things worse for the workers by introducing typing pools and what have you. Although it is easier to maintain word counts and so forth with a word processor, there is nothing inherent in the technology that would make it easier for bosses to impose typing pools and other worse conditions on the workers, and in fact they have not been successful in doing so.

While word processors are still new and expensive, there is some tendency to try and achieve maximum utilisation of the machine and so attempt tighter control over the Labor using it (especially since such intensification of labour is feasible in the present economic climate of increasing unemployment). But the inherent trend of the technology is in the opposite direction (as will become clear, when word processing keyboards and VDUs become cheaper than electric typewriters and replace them on a one for one basis – with a separate printer shared between several typists).

The actual impact of word processing has been and will be to reduce the total requirement for typing Labor, especially by eliminating the repetitive typing of similar documents with minor variations (“personalized” form letters with different addresses, revised drafts etc). These are precisely the applications where typing pools have been common, and they are being eliminated, so typing pools must be declining.

The jobs previously done by “secretaries” are now being done by smaller numbers of “administrative assistants” on the one hand, and word processors on the other. This elimination of the Executive’s personal secretary/body slave is a clear-cut upgrading in job status (except for the Executive’s some of whom are complaining) and a break down in the division of Labor. As has already happened with printers and journalists, the next logical step is for all “word originators”, whether “Executives” or not, to do their own typing, since no special manual dexterity is required with the new machines and the difference in wage levels does not “justify” specialisation. These trends will be accelerated, with similar impacts on the Labor presently required for fileing and other clerical work, as communication between word processors on different desks, and direct access to mass data storage is developed. Even for purely “typist” Labor in typing pools, the use of a machine with editing and correcting facilities is a clear upgrade in job function.

People who are afraid to confront bosses with the simple demand that there be no intensification of Labor under cover of the new technology will rationalise this fear by pretending that the new technology, rather than the bosses, are the source of the pressure for Labor intensification. But most workers know how to fight such pressures and have been successful in doing so (although the degree of Success or failure always ultimately depends on the state of the Labor market and the ease of transferring between jobs, hence on the overall economic climate, rather than on the militancy of struggle in individual workplaces).

This awareness that one’s fate is bound up with that of all other workers develops in the proletariat and helps develop its consciousness as a class for itself. It seems to be sadly lacking in many “left” writers about the “Labor process” who picture the class struggle as unfolding in particular workplaces rather than on a national scale, and seem to be under the illusion that workers are tied to their particular employers for life.

21. Leaving aside the overall struggle for a new society, even within capitalism, the natural reaction of socialist toward new Labor saving technology should be to demand its speedy introduction and a share of the benefits. Thus the earlier replacement of handicrafts by machine industry prompted agitation for a shorter working day in the factories, and so should the latest stage in automation promote agitation for a shorter working day.

Instead we have the modern Luddites repeating the mistake of the earlier Luddites who tried to prevent the new machinery replacing handicraft Labor in the.first place. An attempt as futile as it is reactionary.

22. This term “Luddite” is not used here simply as a form of abuse. It is admitted by representatives of this trend themselves, despite the whole history of scientific socialism since the Industrial Revolution. Here is Chris Harmon of the UK Socialist Workers Party in a pamphlet titled “Is a machine after your job? New Technology and the Struggle for Socialism”. (p21)

“… the Luddites were a group of workers suffering from miserably low wages and facing a destruction of their jobs by new working methods. Their attempts to fight back by destroying machines may not have been successful (although they did succeed in holding down a bigger army than the Duke of Wellington had in the same years to fight his war against the French in Spain).

“But the result of their failure was not something good. It was grinding desperate poverty for hundreds of thousands of people, enduring for a whole generation…

“…Our response has to start from the same suspicion of the way the new technology is being used that motivates those who simply say “No”. We are on the same side as the Luddites, not against them .”

The “microprocessor revolution” promises (not “threatens”) to have as big an impact on the labor process as the development of automatic machinery in the earlier industrial revolution. Just as the dexterity of human fingers was for most purposes replaced by machinery, so now some higher functions of control and supervision will also be replaced (although not yet much in the way of actually creative intellectual processes). It is truly amazing that instead of the further development of Marxism, which based itself on a theoretical comprehension of the social consequences of the age of machinery, we should see a revival of earlier and cruder varieties of socialism that have long been discredited in favour of Marxism, by the history of modern society.

Once again, since a critique of Braverman’s romanticism necessarily embraces a critique of modern Luddism, I will leave the matter there. But I should stress that this “theoretical” difference does put me on the opposite side to modern Luddites on strictly practical questions. When they are agitating against the introduction of word processors, I would be agitating for workers to demand their immediate introduction and refuse to operate obsolete typewriters that haven’t got all mod cons.

23. Before turning to Braverman and romanticism, it may be worth pointing out the important differences between the Liberal and Social Democratic defence of modern technology and economic growth on the one hand, and the Marxist view on the other, since so far we have been mainly talking about the similarities.

Both the similarities and differences are made clear in an article on “Technology and the Left” in the CPGB organ Marxism Today of May 1979. Here Ian Benson, a British Labor Party and trade union activist, makes much the same criticisms of “romanticism” and the CPGB’s line (similar to the CPA’s), as would be made by Liberals on the one hand and Marxists on the other.

24. After quoting Lenin’s analysis of the socialisation of Labor, Benson argues:

“From this perspective the simple classification of technology into exploitative and non-exploitative is seen to contribute little either to the raising of the cultural level of mankind or the solution of the political problems of establishing democratic control over the means of production.

The defence of particular skills amounts to an attempt to freeze the existing division of Labor, and defers the satisfaction of material and cultural needs by the rest of the population which would be met by automation. The principled opposition to centralisation on the grounds of the alleged greater democracy of decentralised production, is both contrary to the need for further integration of the world economy as a prerequisite for the breakdown of skill, class and national barriers, and offers nothing to solving the problem of establishing democratic control over the economy as a whole.

A socialist technology policy with these ends must be based on an analysis of the constraints on the development of science as a productive force, “preparing the ground for the dissolution of human alienation”.

This whole approach is so foreign to the romantic outlook that dominates most “left” thinking that people replying cannot even grasp what is being said. Consider this from a reply titled “What Type of Technology do we want” by Dave Elliott in the same issue of Marxism Today:

“…Benson believes that science and technology somehow develop independently from other forces in society. They are “neutral” resources of knowledge and techniques which can be applied either to the benefit of society generally (under socialism) or for the benefit of a few (under capitalism).”

Manifestly Benson does not believe that at all.

He quite clearly treats technology as a positive force which pushes society forward and helps transform it from capitalism to socialism. This is a view common to Social Democrats and Marxists. But it is so unthinkable to romantics that the worst accusation they can fling at the pro-technology camp is that we view technology as merely neutral, which we do not!

I have seen numerous articles loftily criticising the “old fashioned”, “economic determinist” and “simplistic” view that technology is neutral and that a socialist society could simply take over the previous technology and apply it to more humane ends. This “neutral” view is often attributed to Engels, Lenin and Stalin although Marx and Mao are often claimed to have been more sympathetic to the romantic school. But I have hardly seen any material directly confronting the “unthinkable” explicitly pro-technology view which was in fact articulated loud and clear by Marx as well as the rest.

What this “criticism” proves is simply that the critics are quite ignorant of the views of their opponents, let alone being in a position to advance on those views from a more comprehensive understanding.

It is rather like accusing atheists of the Protestant heresy because we will not pray to the virgin Mary, when in fact the problem is even more serious!

26. The differences between the Marxist and Social Democratic approaches to the social implications of modern technology are made clear when Ian Benson proceeds “Towards a Socialist Technology Policy”: “It should call for the removal of all barriers to the full development of science and technology in the interests of society, through a programme of radical institutional, scientific and political reforms.”

Benson then outlines a program of reforms to promote “re-skilling,”Democratic Control”, “Social Ownership”, “Development of Science” and “Socially Useful Production” – all with the aim of “liberation of science”.

What this omits is precisely the Marxist concept that the main “institutional” barrier to the full development of science and technology in the interest of society, is the capitalist mode of production based on commodities and wage labour itself. This has been obsolete since the age of electricity (never mind micro-electronics) and needs to be swept away by revolution (not reform).

Social Democrats share with Marxists the fundamental concept that the development of the productive forces, modern technology and economic growth, is the positive dynamic factor which pushes forward the transformation of social relationships. But they stand this conclusion on its head by calling for reforms to push forward new technology and economic growth (which are dynamic and pushing forward spontaneously anyway), instead of concentrating on the obsolete social relations which are the passive factor that has been left behind and is acting as a brake on further progress. In fact in an era such as this, where the social relations are obsolete, it is precisely by social revolution that the productive forces can be unleashed for further and more rapid development (and in the act of social revolution, the relations of production temporarily assume the role of the most active dynamic factor).

Although the terms “productive forces” and “relations of production” have been turned into an almost meaningless cliche, once grasped, the concept is almost tautologous in its simplicity.

27. Economic growth, and especially technical progress, is essentially cumulative. New developments, even if quite useless, or only capable of being used in a harmful way, always add to the range of possibilities open and never shut off possibilities that were open before. We still spend most of our waking hours “Making a living” and our social relationships are formed in the course of doing so. It is hardly surprising that the continous opening up of new ways of making a living should continuously leave behind and render obsolete the old social relationships founded on the basis of obsolete ways of making a living.

28. The whole point about the productive forces being the active dynamic factor, is that they have an in-built tendency to develop spontaneously, which the relations between people do not.

Whenever an enterprise improves its production technique, or an individual worker improves his or her lot (eg. by obtaining a more responsible position), there is a development of the productive forces. But it is not automatically accompanied by any corresponding change in social relations. Under capitalism such developments are proceeding spontaneously all the time, indeed they are a necessary condition for the expansion of markets and the possibility of re-investing surplus value in the expanded reproduction.

29. The social relations of production can get left behind as the productive forces develop, so that today for example, we still have essentially capitalist relations between people, based on commodity exchange and wage labour, which were appropriate to the petty production of the middle ages but are no longer compatible with large scale machine industry (let alone being compatible with the latest developments).

30. Just as the institutions of slavery and serfdom once held back the further development of the productive forces and had to give way against the slave and surf revolts, so the institution of wage labour is now holding things back and giving rise to revolts. Eg. apart from the obvious contradictions between capitalism and economic growth expressed in business crises, there is the day to day stifling of the enormous creative energies of the workers themselves, which could be unleashed in a system where they had an interest as masters of production, instead of a direct interest in sabotaging it and “conserving” their jobs. Then scientific and technical innovation would not only be unhindered by mass unemployment and crises, but would be the conscious activity of the majority instead of the province of “management control”.

31. It follows from this analysis that the critical task facing society is to smash the obsolete social relations as the only way to liberate the productive forces or “liberate science” as Benson puts it.

32. Quite politically conservative people like businessmen or revisionist party bureaucrats can contribute to social progress by developing the productive forces, but only revolutionaries can tackle the central issue of overturning the obsolete social relations.

33. Therefore in every society in transition from capitalism to communism, whether a capitalist society like Australia or post-Mao China, with the bourgeoisie in power, or a socialist society like Mao’s China, the central political issues are often expressed in terms of whether to focus on developing the productive forces or on transforming the relations of production

34. The representatives of the old capitalist relations, the bourgeoisie, the conservatives, whether they be “businessmen” or “party officials” share much the same rhetoric in calling for “hard work” to “make more cake” and in dismissing the workers struggle to transform social relations as an interference in that process. It is interesting to note how Ian Benson appeals to both the Czechoslovak Communist Party Program of Dubcek’s time, and the “four modernisations” stuff coming out of China today, in support of his views. The only difference between Social Democrats and Liberals in this regard is that Social Democrats place greater stress on making necessary concessions to the workers: “share the cake more equally and don’t waste it”.

35. In opposition to the Malcolm Fraser’s and Hua Kuo-feng’s, the representatives of the new communist relations of production the proletariat, the radicals, raise the question of “all power to the cooks”. This (after a certain amount of cake-mix spoiling due to confusion among the cooks), is the only way to really transform cake production.

36. Unfortunately the Marxist analysis of forces and relations of production can only be grasped by the majority in communist society where the majority of humanity are consciously engaged in changing themselves. If it was the dominant view, even among the “left”, and did not have to continuously fend off assaults from reaction, Luddism, romanticism and Social Democracy, then we would have already have had the revolution.

* * * *

Technocratic priesthood, Centralisation, Unemployment : Part 3 of ‘Outline on technology and progress’ – a Marxist view (Written by Albert Langer in October 1979)

“… in its most absurd form, we even get complaints about the large scale and “centralisation” of the means of production themselves, and not of their ownership. Thus in arguments about nuclear power, we are told to beware of oppression by the controllers of big, centralised power stations. Apparently the theory is that if all power comes from a central source we have less control over our destiny than if we have smaller, local power stations. Taken to an extreme, some people are mad keen on windmills, solar panels, methane generators etc and hope to combine these with vegetable plots, mud brick construction and what have you to create a life style in which one can escape the clutches of capitalism as completely as possible by avoiding all buying and selling and isolating oneself from the market economy. While I have no objection to other people tinkering with such things if they really want to, personally I prefer being able to obtain electric power at the flick of a switch and without tinkering with anything. This does not “alienate” me in the slightest and I am quite sure most people feel exactly the same way”.

* * * *

14. f) Technocratic Priesthood

The very term “priesthood” evokes images of barbaric societies in which the mass of the population were ignorant of natural phenomena and paid homage to a minority elite who were sufficiently literate to be able to pass on knowledge about the seasons, tides and other matters essential to production as well as culture.

To believe that such a priesthood rules society today, requires considerable imagination. It is perfectly obvious that power in our society is held by capitalists and stems from their wealth and not from any monopoly of technical knowledge. In the more backward capitalist countries like the Soviet Union and China, one might confuse the ruling Party bourgeoisie with a priesthood because of superficial resemblances in forms of organisation and alleged service to a “Marxist-Leninist” religion. This may have something to do with the survival of more backward semi-feudal relationships. But there is clearly nothing “technocratic” about it and the interrelationship between wealth and power and the role of managers and bureaucrats is quite similar to more advanced Western capitalist countries.

Scientists and engineers are employed by the ruling class and work for wages like the rest of us. They too have no monopoly on technical information, which is widely diffused among the literate population and can be readily acquired in libraries and even newsagents. The mythology about a “technocratic priesthood” is most widespread among liberal arts graduates who have gone through school and university doing only “humanities” courses and have thus been denied the basic technical education which is acquired by most school and University students in our society.

There is no excuse for this one-sidedness however, since any literate person can pick up the fundamentals of modern technology by just browsing through the “How and Why” type of children’s’ encyclopaedias readily available in every newsagent.

Nuclear power is held up most often as an industry where the dangers of a “technocratic priesthood” are greatest. In fact it is the most publicly regulated industry with the least initiative in the hands of technocrats. The whole technology down to blueprints and detailed engineering reports is completely in the public domain and there is no mystery about it whatever.

The average worker today has far more grasp of basic industrial technology, and is given a far more “theoretical” education than in earlier times. If some liberal arts graduates feel left behind and overawed by modern technology, they would do better to learn something about it than to continue writing speculative nonsense about a “technocratic priesthood”.

15. g) Centralisation

Socialists have always welcomed the centralisation of capital as a progressive development paving the way for Communism. In everyday practical terms, most people understand that the big multi-nationals have more “enlightened” management, produce better products and pay better wages than the smaller “sweatshops”, that supermarkets are a better place to do one’s shopping, that family farms are on the way out and so forth.

But many “radicals” actually stake their hopes on retarding monopolisation, propping up the small businessmen, shopkeepers and farmers against the multi-nationals and so on.

Fundamentally the complaints about “centralisation” reflect an awareness that wealth and power in our society is concentrated in the hands of a very tiny elite, but with a conservative reaction to try to turn the clock back, instead of pushing forward to socialism and communism.

But in its most absurd form, we even get complaints about the large scale and “centralisation” of the means of production themselves, and not of their ownership. Thus in arguments about nuclear power, we are told to beware of oppression by the controllers of big, centralised power stations. Apparently the theory is that if all power comes from a central source we have less control over our destiny than if we have smaller, local power stations. Taken to an extreme, some people are mad keen on windmills, solar panels, methane generators etc and hope to combine these with vegetable plots, mud brick construction and what have you to create a life style in which one can escape the clutches of capitalism as completely as possible by avoiding all buying and selling and isolating oneself from the market economy.

While I have no objection to other people tinkering with such things if they really want to, personally I prefer being able to obtain electric power at the flick of a switch and without tinkering with anything. This does not “alienate” me in the slightest and I am quite sure most people feel exactly the same way. We have simply never felt oppressed by power stations (except by the bills which are of course much lower than they would be with less centralisation).

It is difficult to even imagine how centralisation of power stations could be used as an instrument of oppression. Is it suggested that in a crisis the embattled bourgeoisie might take refuge in the power station and threaten to turn it off if we didn’t return to wage slavery? On the contrary, they seem concerned to ensure that “essential services” are not disrupted during major strikes. In any case the electricity grid that links power stations in every industrialised country is about as “decentralised” as one could ask.

It is hard to imagine a more direct reversal of traditional socialist attitudes towards the implications of large scale industry. The point is not to refute this wooly thinking about “centralisation” but to ask what process of mental atrophy could produce such patent nonsense, repeated so often with such authority?

The only answer I can see is that the extinction of Marxism by revisionism during the period of capitalist re-stabilisation has been so complete that most “radicals” have never even heard of Marxist views and have had to re-discover for themselves all the pre-Marxian socialist theories. (This certainly seems to have been the case with the “New Left” that grew up in the middle sixties, even when Marxist phrases were used.)

16. h) Unemployment

It is a well known proposition of Marxism that as capitalism develops with an increasing organic composition of capital, the size of the industrial reserve army increases and this is particularly manifested in mass unemployment during crises.

The obvious conclusion is that capitalism should be abolished so that people are not “employed by” capital but instead “employ” means of production to satisfy their own requirements.

Instead we have extraordinary proposals from “radicals” to freeze technological development, or at least control and retard it, so as to “safeguard jobs”. The whole trend of most “left” analysis of technology and unemployment involves an acceptance of capitalist irrationality as permanent, and a willingness to restrict the growth in productive forces and therefore living standards so as to adapt them to this irrational economic system (without mass unemployment).

Surely the most elementary socialist consciousness would involve welcoming Labor saving technology and demanding its speediest and widest adoption. If the social and economic system can’t cope then that’s its problem! It is very strange to see “socialists” arguing that since capitalism can’t cope with new technology without unemployment, we should keep the capitalism, but do without the technology. Yet that is exactly what is implied when people complain about Labor saving technology. They are even prepared to put up with having to work longer hours to produce fewer goods, just as long as they can keep their precious capitalism!

Ricardian economics long ago accepted that the introduction of new technology can be against the real immediate interests of workers who lose their jobs because of it. But its a long way from there to adopting a program that tries to inhibit new technology. In fact it has always been when technological change is most rapid that the scope for expanded capital accumulation is greatest and new jobs are created soaking up the reserve army and raising wages. Stagnation simply means a larger and larger reserve army.

Actually most remarks about technology are prefaced by a reference to “the current economic climate”. This reflects awareness that technological change and the accompanying destruction and creation of jobs is a permanent factor of capitalism, both when there is “full employment” and when there is mass unemployment.

Obviously the fact that mass unemployment suddenly started to develop throughout the Western world a few years ago cannot be attributed to any equally sudden change in technology and must be attributed to the particular stage in the capitalist business cycle that was reached then. So why do people persist in blaming a process of technological change that has been going on all the time?

It can only be because they don’t want to face up to the implications of capitalism as the source of our problems. Its easier to fight “the machines” than “the bosses”, or at any rate it’s more respectable to do so.

Final installment next time… Reviewing the major “radical” trends and their attitudes…

Limits to growth, Third World dependency and Consumerism: Part 2 of ‘Outline on technology and progress’ – a Marxist view (Written by Albert Langer in October 1979)

… it is no task of the “left” to support protectionism and try to retard the integration of the world capitalist market. We can only support “Free Trade”, not oppose it – but in the same revolutionary and critical spirit that Karl Marx did.

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11. c) Limits to Growth

Depletion of non-renewable resources is another fashionable attempt to find some barrier other than capital itself. The club of Rome’s project, and all derivatives, carry out exactly the same exercise as Malthus in comparing geometric growth of consumption to arithmetic growth of production and drawing tautologous conclusions.

Of course it’s true that any positive rate of growth, no matter how small, must eventually (and in fact quite quickly) exhaust any finite non-renewable resources. But if this spells doom for industrial society, then it should be added that any positive rate of consumption at all even if there is a declining rate instead of growth, must also eventually exhaust any finite non-renewable resources, though it may take longer. The issue is whether “resources” are “finite”. If they are then we are doomed, growth or no growth.

As Ehrlich points out, with any positive rate of population growth, humanity would eventually occupy a volume larger than the planet earth and expanding faster than the speed of light. But what does this actually have to do with the real and pressing problems of the world we really live in?

Again the Liberal answer to these themes is straightforward and irrefutable:

“As an historical fact, the long-term trend has been for the cost of mineral inputs to decline as a proportion of total production costs. Numerous studies of the available statistical data, spanning more than a century, have demonstrated that the tendency during this phase of unprecedented growth in the world economy and in the use of minerals has not been towards scarcity but towards abundance. In the United States the real cost of minerals output was less than one-half the average 1870-1900 level by 1929; and by 1957 it was less than one-half the 1929 level…(ibid p33)

…Such resources may be being ‘used up’, but they are also – and as an integral part of the same process- being ‘created’. It is in the twentieth century that the essential uniformity of energy and matter has been discovered, that the development of new synthetic materials has become almost commonplace, and that technological advance has become virtually continuous, each improvement creating new opportunities for further advance. The extension of knowledge about the world has not only confounded past predictions of resource scarcity but has been in directions which make such predictions less and less defensible as time goes by.” (p39)

Since such predictions are less and less defensible, why are they also more and more popular? It seems clear that the degree of rejection of this “bourgeois optimism” is not related to the degree of one’s knowledge of industrial processes, but to the degree of one’s rejection of modern society. Those who recognise there is a barrier, but do not fully understand the barrier is capital itself, look for that barrier in something else, like “Limits to Growth”.

12. d) Third World Dependency

This theme has been adequately refuted by Bill Warren, who belongs to the Social Democratic rather than purely Liberal trend. As a Social Democrat, Warren tends to defend imperialism, playing down its contradictions in a Kautskyite way opposed to Leninism, although some of this can be excused as iconoclastic shock treatment against the excesses of “dependency theory”. Warren’s refutation of the “radical” conventional wisdom about the Third World is quite crushing and no serious attempt has been made to refute him.

It is a historical fact (not emphasised by Warren) that the development of technology and economic growth has been extremely uneven, with imperialist exploitation of the poor nations by the rich (just as internally too, industrialisation has meant the exploitation of the poor by the rich and polarisation of society).

But it is equally a historical fact (denied by dependency theorists), that imperialism has meant the more rapid spread of capitalist social relations throughout the world and that far from becoming more and more dependent, the backward countries are proceeding very rapidly along the same path of commercialisation and industrialisation that Europe undertook a few hundred years ago.

The world is becoming more polarised, with even imperialist “second world” countries joining the Third World in suffering from superpower exploitation and domination, but it is doing so in the course of a rapid progressive social development – just as the internal polarisation of capitalist societies into a smaller and smaller handful of exploiters (the Rockefellers and such) against a larger and larger proletariat including the ruined middle classes, was also part of a progressive social development.

Lenin’s classic work “The Development of Capitalism in Russia” described this process, which is now taking place in most Third World countries,as it took place in the then backward agrarian and semi-feudal Tsarist Russia. Answering the Narodnik “dependency theorists” of his day: “The Russia of the wooden plough and the flail, of the water-mill and the hand loom, began rapidly to be transformed into the Russia of the iron plough and the threshing machine, of the steam-mill and the power-loom. An equally thorough transformation of technique is seen in every branch of the national economy where capitalist production predominates. This process of transformation must, by the very nature of capitalism, take place in the midst of much that is uneven and disproportionate: periods of prosperity alternate with periods of crisis, the development of one industry leads to the decline of another, there is progress in one aspect of agriculture in one area and in another aspect in another area, the growth of trade and industry outstrips the growth of agriculture, etc. A large number of errors made by Narodnik writers spring from their efforts to prove that this disproportionate, spasmodic, feverish development is not development.” (Collected Works Vol 3, p597)

Precisely because the Third World is industrialising, its importance in world affairs is greatly increasing, to an extent that has not been recognised by most Western “radicals”. This profound social change which is affecting some two thirds of the world’s people is obviously of enormous importance and cannot simply be dismissed.

We have lived through the post-war decolonisation and have only recently experienced the defeat of the USA by Vietnam, as well as the general rise of the Third World in the United Nations. It is quite clear that economic growth and technical progress has not reinforced the conditions for dependence, but has been abolishing the situation which made it possible for backward regions to become colonies or “mandated territories” of the “civilised countries” who bore the “white man’s burden”. “Countries want independence, nations want liberation, and the people want revolution”.

On an international scale, the trans-national corporations are creating and uniting an international proletariat to be their grave diggers, as earlier the bourgeoisie broke down local boundaries and created nations with a national proletariat, In defending national independence and other democratic rights, it is no task of the “left” to support protectionism and try to retard the integration of the world capitalist market. We can only support “Free Trade”, not oppose it – but in the same revolutionary and critical spirit that Karl Marx did.

13. e) Consumerism

Instead of the “old-fashioned” socialist critique, which condemned capitalism, even in England, the richest capitalist country of the time, for holding down the living standards of the masses,we have a “new” critique which condemns it for inundating us with “useless” and “wasteful” products. Although often coupled with moralising lectures about the poverty of people in Third World countries, this is really quite irrelevant to the issue and the “new” theme bears a strong resemblance to the old “barracks communism” of Weitling.

Certainly some quite useless and even harmful products are sold because of advertising and this should be opposed. But people who make “consumerism” their theme are talking about something more fundamental than that, and calling for a far reaching change in Western consumption patterns towards a “simpler” and allegedly more “wholesome” lifestyle based on “necessities” and with less emphasis on “unnecessary” consumer durables, “gadgets”, motor vehicles etc.

It is not clear whether these changes are to be compulsory, with restrictions to prevent people from buying the dishwashers, cars or electric toothbrushes that our “radicals” disapprove of, by inhibiting their production. Or is it to be voluntary, with a massive propaganda (advertising) campaign to dissuade people from buying products the “radicals” don’t like?

Either way involves an enormous elitist contempt for the common sense of ordinary people. Part of this is a reaction against the political backwardness which has led many people to accept the continuation of capitalism without revolt, in exchange for the post-war “affluence” (a mess of potage). Understandable as this is, it is still elitist.

People are entitled to want, and to be satisfied to get, access to things that used to be regarded as luxuries. There has been a very substantial improvement in mass living standards since the 1930’s and it is hardly surprising that while the post-war boom continued, the capitalist social order was relatively stable. Not only material standards, but also the “quality of life” with access to culture, education etc has improved with the rise in real wages (even if the value of wages in terms of labour time has declined, exploitation increased and the social position of workers worsened). There are even some progressive aspects to the way capitalism stimulates new “wants” to expand its markets.

The higher standards of living which have been achieved involve an increase in people’s expectations and their determination to defend the greater dignity that they have won. It is sheer arrogance to condemn all this as “consumerism”. People will revolt when they find that the existing social order cannot provide them with what they want, not when some “radical” persuades them that they shouldn’t want it. Now that living standards are again starting to decline, we will see whether the generation that was brought up on “consumerism” will put up with more or less shit from capitalism than their parents did in the last Great Depression. From general attitudes towards “authority” etc, it seems likely that the “consumerist” generation will be more ready to revolt, not less.

At least Malcolm Fraser’s proposal to reduce living standards by cutting real wages is more democratic than the “radical” attacks on consumerism. Why can’t the radicals who oppose “wasteful consumption” settle for demanding a general wage cut? This would leave people free to choose for themselves without manipulation what they regard as necessary and what “wasteful” items they could do without.

Of course I’m not saying we’ll all still have private cars after the revolution despite the various social problems that go with them. We’ll have helicopters and spaceships. (“We want bread and roses too…”)

To be continued. Next installment, Part 3, Technocratic priesthood, Centralization and Unemployment…