Private property, and its derivative, unearned or property income, has enabled the ruling oligarchies of civilized communities to receive the first fruits of every enterprise. They have also enabled the oligarchs to establish a priority scale of income distribution under which those who held property and its derivatives could have first choice among available consumer goods and services. Second choice went to the associates, retainers and defenders of the oligarchs. Third choice went to the preferred, professional experts who spoke for and represented the oligarchy. Fourth choice went to the artisans—skilled designers, builders, fabricators. What remained went to hewers of wood and drawers of water, the workers, women and men, who provided the necessaries, comforts, luxuries upon which physical survival and social status depended. Generally this proletarian mass, including chattel slaves, serfs, tenant farmers and war captives, were outside the pale of respectability. In a caste-divided community they were scavengers and untouchables, living a life close to that of domestic animals.
Most civilizations have permitted gifted individuals to move vertically, from the bottom toward the top levels of the social pyramid. Vertical movement was severely restricted, however. Generally people lived, served and died on the class or caste level into which they were born.
Members of classes and castes are not free agents. They have privileges and rights. They also have obligations and duties. Classes and castes are functioning parts of an interdependent social whole which can maintain balanced order only so long as each segment recognizes its obligations and performs its duties.
Social balance therefore depended on class collaboration. Successful collaboration, in its turn, is the outcome of a general acceptance of class and caste and general willingness to go on living and functioning in a class divided society.
A fifth collective goal of civilization has been expansion from the nucleus outward, with final authority exercised by and from the nucleus. At the outset of the survival struggle which led to the establishment of one language, one religion, one law, one authority, one loyalty, each among the many contestants had its own language, its own religion, its own law, its own authority.
These rival forces were temporarily confederated against internal disruption or foreign invasion. ("Liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable.") In the course of the survival struggle, the separate parts of which the civilization was composed began with the local autonomy permitted by confederation, and ended up with one among the many contestants donning the imperial purple and establishing itself as the master and supreme dictator—the Caesar or Pharoah of the conquered, unified world.
Foreign territories conquered and brought by force of arms within this imperium were subjects of a central authority which they never really accepted. Authority continued to be exercised from the imperial nucleus. The newly conquered territories were policed by professional soldiers whose primary loyalty was national but whose responsibility was to the aggregate composing the Roman or the Egyptian civilization.
The acid test of the expanding civilization was embodied in the degree of acceptance of wholeness as opposed to self-determination. Were the individual members—the provinces and colonies composing the whole—willing and able to sink their differences in an unquestioned wholeness, or were they prepared at the first opportunity to exercise their right to self-determination and declare their independence of the whole?
The resolution of this question constituted the sixth collective goal of civilization: to establish a whole in which the component members were able and willing to recognize the axiom that the interests of the whole come before the interests of any of its component parts.
The issue of central authority versus local self determination has been one of the basic issues of the present century because during the preceding period, the British, French, Dutch and Spanish Empires had been built up by the conquest and occupation of foreign lands. If the nineteenth century was an epoch of expanding imperial authority, the twentieth century has been an epoch of the dismemberment of empires by movements for independence and self-determination.
Seventh, and finally, among the collective goals of civilization, each has developed an ideology that justified empire building by conquest, exploitation, chattel slavery, peonage, wagery, the supremacy of the empire nucleus, the subordination of the periphery to the nucleus and other aspects of ascendancy and mastery including "divine" rights in politics and "natural" rights in economics.
Civilizations expect the individuals and groups of which they are composed to preserve the status quo, work as disciplined members of an effective team and be satisfied with the outcome. This brings us back to the goal with which we began this discussion of the collective goals of civilizations: The primary task of any civilization is to survive.
Each individual human being, living and working in a civilized community occupies a sphere of action, enjoys the advantages and disadvantages and accepts the responsibilities and duties which pertain to his sphere. Within his sphere the individual succeeds or fails in so far as he leads a rewarding personal life and contributes his share toward the collective life of the group to which she or he belongs.
If the individual in a civilized community is to live a good life, the first task is to maintain normal health, good spirits and a determination to get the most out of life and to contribute at least the equivalent of what he receives in service to his group.
As a civilization expands and extends its influence, the individual must contribute his mite to the entire enterprise while adding to his own store of goods and services. Acquisition and accumulation satisfy a human desire to have and to keep. They also add to the wealth and well being of the community on the widely accepted utilitarian formula: happiness comes in direct proportion to the extent and variety of ones possessions.
In most civilized communities the building unit is a family. It is this family unit, usually directed by a male or father figure, who acts for the family and represents it in the community.
In passing, the reader should note that the breakdown in family life now so prevalent in many parts of western civilization is a departure from the civilized norm. It is really a measure of the extent to which western civilization itself is disintegrating.
The revolution in science and technology, mass production and the distribution of goods and services through a mass market have put acquisition and accumulation of goods and services as a life-goal to a severe test. Until the early years of the present century no civilization had provided affluence for more than a small fraction of its population. The vast majority consisted of slaves, serfs, war captives, and tenant farmers. Only an exceptional few were in a position to live in comfort or luxury on unearned income. As each civilization matured, ownership of land and capital diverted the flow of consumer goods and services into the coffers of a diminishing proportion of the total population. The vast majority lived at or below the subsistence level. General affluence was a goal that was talked about and dreamed about, but there was no way to test its practical effects on the population as a whole.
Under conditions presently existing in many parts of the West, millions of individuals and families following the utilitarian principles of acquisition and accumulation have secured and kept an abundance of goods and services in strict accordance with utilitarian principles. Yet they have not been and are not happy.
Quite the contrary, in many cases they are unhappy, particularly in the second and third generations of affluent family life. This is notably true in the United States, Scandinavia, Switzerland and other parts of western Europe. It is true to a lesser degree in New Zealand and Australia.
Millions of families in these countries, with all their possessions, fail to enjoy peace and happiness. On the contrary, they are so acutely unhappy that many of them have come to regard acquisition and accumulation as a sterile rat-race. Consequently multitudes of people, young and old, have turned their backs on civilization, separating themselves from their affluent homes with their glut of consumer goods to live at non-civilized or pre-civilized levels. These individuals are avowedly anti-civilization in so far as its material incentives are concerned.
Similar attitudes were expressed in previous civilizations. Socrates went barefoot through the streets of Athens. Diogenes lived in a tub. Uncounted numbers of Indian holy men and early Christians rejected all affluence, embraced poverty, lived simply and austerely. Religious asceticism is no novelty. But the wholesale rejection of acquisition and accumulation as a way of life certainly marks a turning point in the popular attitude toward the utilitarian axiom that human happiness is directly proportioned to the quantity and variety of material possessions.
Civilization presupposes getting, keeping and exercising power over nature, society and man. Each civilization has added to man's utilization of nature. This has been a notorious aspect of western civilization since the inauguration of the scientific-technological revolution. After a century of intensified exploitation of the natural environment, entire communities are reacting with dismay and disgust against the resulting pollution of air, water and land, the wanton waste of soil fertility, forests and minerals, and extermination of various forms of "wilderness." Freedom to exploit nature's storehouse has not brought happiness. On the contrary, it threatens the existence of other life forms and even the continuance of human life on the planet.
Private enterprise and other forms of permissiveness have led to practices that circumscribe and hamper life. Their declared objective is the liberation and enlargement of human life and well being. Where they have been tested out they have proved themselves to be obstructive and destructive rather than creative and constructive.
Notable advances in science and technology have greatly increased the human capacity to transform nature and remake society. Designed and executed as a means of enhancing the general welfare, science and technology might have promoted human well-being. But employed as a means of exploiting nature and society for the benefit of a favored few, science and technology, whether directed by European and American promoters of the African slave trade, Spanish conquerors in Latin America, by Belgians in the African Congo, by European whites in their dealings with the North American Indians, by the Nazis in Europe, or by Americans in South East Asia, have involved merciless exploitation accompanied by revolting atrocities.
Never in recorded history was the capacity of man to modify nature and exploit society more publicly tested out than in the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the purposeful devastation of jungle life and village life in large parts of Vietnam and Cambodia. Reported in the public press and pictured, live, over radio and television, these latest developments in the ugly record of man's exploitation of nature have become part of the record of the decline and dissolution of western civilization.
Exploitation of human society for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many is an old story that extends through the entire record of written history. Every civilization has produced a cluster of institutions and practices that enabled a few rich and privileged to live in affluence at the expense of the impoverished many. This juxtaposition of riches and poverty is the logical outcome of a system of social relations designed to provide the few with comfort and luxury while the many are forced to accept penury and hardship. Exploitation, carried to its logical conclusion, permits and requires a parasitic minority to live in abundance while the majority must content itself with scarcity, extending to death from malnutrition.
Another goal presented to individuals by the promoters and fashioners of civilization is individual perfection, physical, mental, emotional, moral. Every generation of human beings contains individuals who are beyond the average—bigger, stronger, more talented, seeing farther, searching more deeply, endowed with greater sensitivity, working more conscientiously, imbued with a love of their fellows and determination to serve them. Such individuals have genius in one or another form and offer themselves and their products as a gift to the general welfare of their generation. Scientists, poets, musicians, inventors, artists, teachers, healers, philosophers, statesmen have appeared in each civilization adding their mite to the sum-total of community culture.
Innovators, moralists and counselors of perfection have played a noteworthy part by advocating and often by living noteworthy lives. Reports of their sayings and doings are part of the folklore and the history of each civilization. If they did not set the tone of their generation, they provided it with a model toward which their less talented, less creative fellows might aspire. If they were creative artists their works provided models which were admired, copied and emulated by their successors. If they were moralists or philosophers their sayings were recorded, respected and repeated by successive generations.
Each civilization has adopted lines of thinking and codes of action which embody the best and most advantageous in theory and in practice. These codes of thought, feeling and action are attributed to some outstanding individual and passed on from generation to generation as codes of conduct to which all right-thinking individuals may or should aspire.
Human beings know everything about themselves except whence they came, what they should do and whither they will go. To compensate for this lack of knowledge and wisdom each civilization has established and maintained religious organizations and institutions whose duty it was to search out the truth, record it and teach it to successive generations.
In some civilizations the religious institutions have dominated the secular. At other times and in other places the secular has maintained its ascendancy over the religious. In still other cases the religious and the secular forces have maintained an uneasy balance leading to acrimonious bickering and sometimes to civil war.
Central to their discussions is the nature of life. Is it continuous, as it appears in vegetation and the animal kingdom, or is it discontinuous like the rocks on the mountainside or the grains of sand on the seashore? Those who live for the moment prefer discontinuity. Those who observe their natural environment are forced to the conclusion that life today is part of a sequence or progression which relates the life of yesterday to that of tomorrow.
Recorded history, from fossil and geological remains, to the books on library shelves assures us that man has had a past. Projecting this experience, it seems quite reasonable that barring accident or a purposed intervention, man will have at least some future. To prepare for that future, using the knowledge and wisdom at our disposal, seems to be a must for any reasoning creature.
Even for the short planetary life-span of the average human, the logic of this position seems inescapable, whether it applies to the next hour, day, year, or century. In terms of our children and grandchildren it is even more impressive. Today we find it desirable to live as well as possible. If there is any future, the same principle should apply to its implementation and utilization.
If the "hereafter" begins tomorrow and if those whose well-being concerns us will probably be "alive" tomorrow, the science and art of the future (futurology) takes its place beside other fields of theory and practice as a must for all responsible members of the human race.
If the conditions presently existing in human society affordment, skills and technical experience necessary to make significant changes, why wait? Why not proceed forthwith to live a better life?
This dilemma has confronted individuals and sub-groups in various civilizations. It has been particularly in evidence during periods of decline and social disintegration. It has led people of both sexes and all ages to uproot themselves from the old social order and reestablish themselves in a social order "nearer to the heart's desire."
Such efforts have been described as "intentional communities" to distinguish them from a traditional, currently existing social order which emerged from the past encumbered with vestigial remains and obsolete institutions and practices having little or no relation to the needs and wants of a changing world.
Pilgrim Fathers in New England, William Penn in Pennsylvania, Lord Baltimore in Maryland aimed to organize local intentional communities. Similar efforts were made by the Mennonites, the Dukhobors, the Hutterites, the Mormons in North America. The Christians during the decline of Roman civilization led a movement to convert a large geographical area to a new and better way of life. Followers of Mohammed, several centuries later, made a similar effort to convert the Eurasian-African world to their ways of thinking and acting.
Young people by the thousands, in the United States and other western countries, are turning their backs on western civilization and are organizing enlarged families and communes that provide their members with a modified social order which aims at improvements here and now.
Necessarily such social experiments are looked upon with suspicion by the Establishment. They are "new", "different", "subversive", "godless", "wicked." Hence, they are criticized, denounced, raided and often broken up as threats to existing law and order.
Intentional communities may grow out of consumers' cooperation. They may begin as farm collectives. Generally, however, they consist of the followers of outstanding leaders of religious or ethical sects. Many intentional communes spring up, mushroom-fashion, and disappear with equal rapidity. Others endure for generations and centuries.
In a very real sense they are pilot plants designed to correct individual or social maladjustments and substitute new ways for old ones. As pilot plants they experiment with deviations from existing social norms, acting as a social laboratory in which new ideas and practices are tested, modified, accepted, rejected.
Change is one of the essential aspects of every society. There are changes in personnel. In each generation individuals grow old and retire. Others grow up and take over the tasks of organizing the communities in which they live. Profound social changes result from discoveries and inventions: the wheel, the arch, steam and gas engines, electricity, atomic power. Cyclic changes occur in the economy. Social changes follow alterations in the weather. Nations, empires, civilizations are produced by the changing life forms.
During long periods, social changes are so gradual that they are unnoticed save by the more sensitive and perceptive. At other times, social changes tumble over one another in an overwhelming revolutionary flood which sweeps away the old, yielding place to new, "lest one good custom should corrupt the world".
Changes in society beget changes in ideology. Reciprocally, changes in ideology lead to changes in social structure and function. The more rigid the social order, the more stubborn its resistance to change. By the same token, more fluid societies lend themselves more readily to changes in practice and in theory.
It is not possible to discuss ideology without some reference to the closely related problems of means and ends. As we consider our existing social establishment, in the light of unceasing social change, we must deal with goals or objectives, with practicable modifications of social form and function and with the way in which changes can be, might be, will be brought about.
One fact is obvious. Whether social change is major or minor, local or general, it shifts the social balance. Any shift in the social balance involves reactionaries, conservatives, liberals, radicals, some of whom will gain, while others will lose in the course of each social transformation. All will be concerned and involved.
Since political change involves some alteration in the balance of social forces, it behooves those who advocate and those who oppose social change to maximize acceptance and minimize opposition in order to take advantage of the gains and cut down the losses incident to all change.
For present purposes we wish to make seven notes about means and ends.
1. Opportunists propose to act now and win what they can today. Never mind about tomorrow with its sequences and consequences of today's action. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.
2. Pragmatists believe in serving their own interests, on the theory that whatever serves personal interests must have first priority. "What is good for me/us is good for the universe".
3. Experimentalists are prepared to try out any suggestion which promises to achieve the desired goals. Singly and in working teams they test and try out, seeking the most effective means of reaching desired ends.
4. Innovators formulate projects and test out results, checking and rechecking as they search for more effective means of achieving results.
5. Radicals seek out the roots, digging, sifting, classifying, assembling their findings, announcing their conclusions and working to apply them in theory and practice to the structure and function of their communities.
6. Revolutionists are in a hurry. Disillusioned with the past and the present they seek by "direct action" to create a new social order, out of whole cloth, quickly, here and now. Never mind the means, get results!
7. Totalists have the whole truth, attained through reasoning, experimentation, revelation. Having learned the truth, they dedicate their energies to the propagation of the faith. Where they encounter opposition they counter it and, if necessary, annihilate it with its originators and advocates.
As a matter of practical experience, proponents of all seven approaches to social problems and social change employ a wide range of techniques from persuasion to coercion. To support their projects they advance logical arguments, elaborate half-truths, make emotional appeal; employ trickery, deceit, preferment, privilege, flattery, soft living, bribery, coercion, physical and social violence—individual and collective extermination.
Civilization as reported in history and in its current practice is based on five faulty ideological assumptions:
1. Competitive survival struggle results in social improvement. Survival struggle has certainly played a role in stimulating discovery, invention and the diffusion of culture traits. Its end results have always included civil and inter-group war with its unavoidable costs in destruction, dissolution and death.
2. The effort to grab and keep, with its accompanying competition, is a chief source of social progress. The game of grab and keep is play for children. Mature human beings should strive to create, produce, share.
3. The accumulation of goods and services brings happiness. At the out-set of life this may be true. But accumulation for its own sake produces the miser. Misers are not happy people. Riches yield happiness only as they are distributed. Accumulation brings many headaches, and few abiding satisfactions.
4. Successful accumulators "have fun." Perhaps they do, for a time, at the expense of others on whose backs they ride and whose life blood they suck. But mature men and women do not "have fun"; they shoulder and carry their share of social responsibility.
5. Progress can be measured by the multitude of personal possessions. Not so. True progress for humanity consists in movement from having to doing; from the possessive to the creative; from the material toward the spiritual.
Ideologies have played a role in determining the structure and function of every civilization. As civilization grows up, matures, and declines, ideologies change with the changing times. In its early history each civilization seeks acceptance for its picture of reality and its techniques for reaching individual and social goals. As each civilization declines and disintegrates, a multitude of counselors clamors for attention to a particular formula that will prove acceptable and workable in the existing emergent circumstances.
Civilization Is Becoming Obsolete
WORLDWIDE REVOLUTION DISRUPTS CIVILIZATION
Every organism, mechanism or social construct reaches a point in its life cycle at which its existing apparatus must be repaired, renovated and updated or scrapped, redesigned and replaced. Today western civilization in its totality faces that dilemma.
The culture pattern variously known as European, western or modern civilization, dating from the Crusades, has existed for about a thousand years, and spread across the planet. During that millennium western civilization has passed through a life cycle similar to that of its predecessors. According to Oswald Spengler's historical perspective, a civilization passes through its life cycle in about a thousand years. If the Spenglerian assumption is in line with the course of history, western civilization should be in an advanced stage of decline and should eventually disappear as a decisive factor in world affairs.
Spengler's argument is fully and floridly presented in The Decline of the West. The author offers a theory of history based on the existence of an arbitrary and rather mechanical life cycle. It includes a period of gestation, rise and expansion, a period of maturity and stability and a final period of decline and dissolution. Spengler believed that western civilization is in the grip of an irreversable decline.
The Spenglerian perspective is based on the assumption of a normal pattern in the growth and decline of civilizations. The normalcy on which Spengler based his assumption was disrupted around 1750 when a series of new dynamic factors entered the stream of modern social history:
I. Mankind gained access to immense stores of energy which supplemented human energy, the energies of domesticated animals and a miniscule use of water power and air power. To these traditional energy sources the revolution in science and technology has added steam, electricity, and the energy stored in the atom.
II. These new sources of energy were harnessed and directed through mechanical and chemical agencies that greatly extended human capacity to convert nature's stored wealth into goods and services available for human consumption, and to develop a surplus of wealth and a release of manpower sufficient to build up a backlog of capital which, in its turn, produced goods and services with economic surpluses convertible into additional capital.
III. This revolution in the tempo of production and capital accumulation was parallelled by a like revolution in transportation and communication by land, water, and eventually by air and in space. Electricity played an essential part in the process by speeding communication and helping to put transportation on wheels.
IV. Building construction was also revolutionized—metals, concrete, glass and synthetics replaced wood and stone as the basic construction materials.
V. New energy sources and the new capital expanded the volume and variety of production far more rapidly than the increase in population and turned the resulting surplus into a technical apparatus that made possible mass production for a mass market.
VI. Mass production, transportation, construction and marketing ushered in an era of surplus that replaced the age of comparative scarcity with an age of rapidly increasing abundance.
Changes in the means of production play havoc with any established social pattern. The economic alteration that accompanied and followed the eighteenth and early nineteenth century transformation of western economy overturned various aspects of the western social structure:
1. Representative government made its appearance and spread widely;
2. Social services and social security, previously reserved for the elite, were provided for wider and wider circles of the population;
3. Changes in technology, advances in science, the replacement of landlords, clergymen and soldiers by businessmen and professionals, including the military, as the recognized leaders of the modern society, put social control in the hands of a new ruling bourgeois class;
4. The bourgeois revolution brought into existence two other classes: the industrial proletariat as an ally and/or an acceptable leader of the peasant masses of Europe. At the same time it enlarged the middle class to a point at which it was able to play a decisive role in the formulation and direction of social policy in industrialized communities.
5. Fragments of the industrial proletariat and the greatly enlarged middle class came together in an avowedly revolutionary movement: socialism-communism, which reached the power summit between 1910 and 1917.
6. The bourgeoisie countered with a cold war aimed to exterminate socialism-communism, using propaganda, petty reform and armed intervention as its chief agencies.
7. The high birth rate, the prolongation of life and mass education provided society with a substantial body of skilled, experienced, socially conscious, alert citizens, increasingly aware of the historical changes through which they were living and determined to intervene whenever their well-being was threatened.
8. Extension and equalization of opportunity opened the way for an informed citizenry to express itself and defend its interests.
9. Emerging planet-wide social consciousness spread an awareness that the concerns, plans and programs of any part of the human family are of vital importance to the whole of mankind.
Change is a universal force which operates in nature, in society, in man himself. At times it takes place so gradually that one day seems like another. At other times it operates with furious energy, turning things upside-down overnight. Such change, whether it takes place in nature or in society is revolutionary.
Rome's demise as a world power was followed by centuries of quietude—The Dark Ages. These in turn yielded to a period of revolutionary change that found its early expression in the voyages and discoveries that spanned the earth after 1450. Three centuries later the rebirth of western humanity expressed itself in the industrial revolution that flooded across the planet and became an early stage of the planet-wide sweep that has played havoc with nature, turned the old society upside down and presently promises to produce a new society for a reborn human race.
World-wide revolution is the predominant force in the twentieth century. Its existence and some of its consequences have become an all-embracing theme for thought and discussion. They have put into the hands of present-day humanity the ideas, experiments and experiences needed for transforming nature, rebuilding social institutions and practices and opening the way for mankind to move confidently into a future replete with intriguing and exciting possibilities.
An excellent summary of this entire field is appearing in a six volume History of Mankind, sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Volume six of the history is titled The Twentieth Century. Particularly noteworthy is an Introduction of more than a hundred printed pages, Part I, The Development and Application of Scientific Knowledge, and Part II on The Transformation of Societies. Events surrounding the war of 1914-18 are correctly described as "a turning point in world history." (Vol. VI p. 11)
World revolution is one aspect of present-day society. From our present vantage point we cannot tell how far it will go or what it will do to humanity and its present habitat.
Advances in science and technology have provided mankind with a new stage on which to go through a new act and speak a new piece. What effect will they have on the institutions and practices of western civilization? Have they rendered the forms and functions of civilization obsolete? Or can western civilization adapt itself or be adapted to the very difficult situation created by the revolution through which human society is presently passing? Can western civilization be reformed to meet the new historical situation created by the great revolution or must it be rejected and replaced?
If the institutions and practices of western civilization can be adjusted to meet the demands of the new situation created by the scientific, technological, political and cultural revolution, the reformed social apparatus may function in a new day that is dawning for the human family. If reform proves to be impossible, the apparatus of western civilization must be replaced by a social structure in keeping with the requirements of the new age inaugurated by the innovations introduced into the human culture pattern by the revolution of our time.
There is widespread recognition of the need to keep the structure of a society in harmony with necessary functions and updated to the consequences of probable or possible discovery and invention. This is no mean task as western experience during recent centuries has so clearly demonstrated. Power elites of feudal Europe neither anticipated nor prepared for the consequences of the industrial revolution. The result was the smash and clatter of the American and French Revolutions (1776 and 1789) and minor revolutionary shocks through the nineteenth century. Power elites in western Europe dealt with mass production and its consequent abundance of goods and services with mass marketing, social security and other crumbs of affluence scattered among the restless masses. But when the trade winds of the scientific and technological revolution blew in the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the Chinese Revolution of 1911 and the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Romanoff dictatorship was still ordering back the tide of social change and the dominant United States oligarchy cold-shouldered the Mexican Revolution, took sixteen years to recognize officially the Russian Soviets and waited twenty-three years after 1949 before they were even on speaking terms with the Chinese Communists.
For two centuries, new ideas, institutions and practices have followed discoveries and inventions as regularly as day follows night. The consequent flood of innovations that has swept through the West and across the planet in the past two generations has made drastic social change a matter of the utmost urgency. The only open questions concern the direction of the changes, their rapidity, and the success of the social system in adapting itself to the shattering effects of newly released social forces.
Social change can come with the rush and turmoil of revolution or the studied step-by-considered-step constancy of the conscious improvement of society by society. Two powerful social forces limit gradualness. One is human impatience. The other is the rapidity with which masses of people all over the planet are being informed of the good-life potential implicit in present-day western affluence.
Impatience is emotional rather than rational. It is a compound of human urges on one hand and on the other hand of the frustrations built up in individuals and populations attracted by new wants and frustrated by barriers of custom-habit; the carefully constructed apparatus of direction, division and restriction (the State, the Church, the communication media), and the potent class forces of the counter-revolution.
In every modern community the media of mass communication are broadcasting information regarding the widening consumer prospects created by the current revolution in science and technology. In every modern community there are eager, ambitious, hopeful individuals urging their fellow workers and fellow citizens to get moving toward the promised land of peace and plenty. In every community the bureaucracy, representing the more comfortable and secure elements of the population, is asking the less well placed class groups to "take it easy," take "one step at a time," and remember that "Rome was not built in a day."
Conservatives, urging law and order under the status quo, have reason on their side. The movement of a technologically oriented community from monopoly capitalism into socialism-communism is without historical precedent and therefore largely experimental. Plans are tentative; there are shortages of materials and particularly of skills based on experience. Costly mistakes are made leading to delay until they can be corrected. The counter-revolution, abundantly financed by the forces of reaction, operates constantly, in critical situations almost always through the military, to preserve the "law and order" which are the prime forces behind its wealth and its power. In an untrod, untested area ignorance is a blank wall until it is pierced by ingenuity and innovation. There are many ways to miss a defined objective and only a few ways to reach it.
Cautious, experienced people, living comfortably, are inclined to let well enough alone. Restless, hopeful idealists are eager to reject, modify, improvise and replace.
Conservatives try to preserve both the structure and the traditional activities of a community on the plea that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Liberals (moderates) would preserve the structure but bring its activities up to date. Radicals would scrap the old and replace it with a new structure and new activities geared to the new possibilities and the new requirements.
Survival wars from 1914 to 1945 marked not only the end of Britain's planetary domination but the termination of Europe's planetary regency. The events of the period also loosened the bonds that had held western civilization together.
A social structure which includes imperial nuclei and colonial dependencies is constantly threatened by colonial unrest and revolt. Colonial revolt, endemic in every civilization, became epidemic after 1943. The path to independence had been blazed by North and South American colonials. It was followed after 1943 by the inhabitants of British, French, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Asia and Africa. The slogan of the independence movement was "self-determination."
Before self-determination can operate there must be a "self" capable of making decisions and carrying them into practice. Identification of the "self," or "nationhood" as it was called in this era, involved bitter domestic struggle, internal reorganization and consolidation. The process was typified in the British Colonies of North America between 1770 and 1789 which produced the United States of North America. Asians and Africans who gained their independence after 1945 faced a double problem: the establishment of nationhood, and regional consolidation.
The British colonies in North America won their independence as a loose confederation of sovereign states. After war's-end in 1783, they were able to form a regional federation: the United States of North America. Despite their efforts, they were unable to include Canada, which was under strong French influence. British colonials in Asia and Africa after 1943 were less fortunate. After winning their independence as Indians or Burmese, they were unable to take the next step and organize a United States of Southern Asia.
The Bandung Conference (in 1955) of representatives from Asia and African countries failed to realize the hopes of its conveners. After prolonged deliberations it was able to go no further than the "five principles" of self-determination and co-existence, under which the independence of each participating nation was reaffirmed and each agreed not to interfere in the internal affairs of its neighbors. The conference adjourned without establishing any form of organization or making provision for further meetings.
After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, hopes ran high for the establishment of a bloc of Latin American States, led by the elected president of Brazil, Joao Goulart, that might act as a bulwark against further "yankee aggression" in Latin America. In 1962 a military coup overthrew Goulart, drove him into exile, jailed and disenfranchised his supporters and lined up Brazil, largest and most populous nation of Latin America, solidly behind the Monroe Doctrine of United States supremacy in the Americas, implemented by Washington's burgeoning "Pentagon diplomacy."
African developments were even less fruitful than those in Asia and Latin America. Asians and Latin Americans generally had reached the level of self-identification necessary for statehood and national self-determination. Large parts of Africa living at pre-national levels of tribal identification, devoted their energies to the realization of nationhood. Their constitutions announced their frontiers and proclaimed their sovereignty, but inter-tribal rivalries and personal ambitions turned each new nation into a battle field for prestige and authority, with the military often making the final decisions.
Asians and Africans had won telling victories in their struggle to drive out their former imperial masters. When it came to the affirmative task of organizing responsible regional federations, their failure was dismal. Asia and Africa were regionally disunited. Former colonial people, still monitored by alien representatives of monopoly capitalism, were fragmented by the self-determination struggle into theoretically sovereign nations many of which lacked the experience and the local expertise which are the indispensible prerequisites of self-determination and of fruitful regional federation.
Another aspect of the world revolution produced more tangible results. The latter half of the nineteenth century brought into being a grass-roots movement of peoples demanding everything from petty reforms of administrative machinery to planned revolutionary transformations of the established monopoly capitalist structure. This movement crystallized as an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, pro-socialist national and international struggle. From the publication of the Communist Manifesto in 1848 until the beginnings of socialist construction in 1917, it was a movement of protest against poverty, unemployment, war, waste, inequality, exploitation. After 1917 it became a movement to end imperialism, war and exploitation and substitute a planet-wide social system that would give every human being a chance to play a meaningful part in utilizing nature, improving society and creating socialist women and men, capable of cooperating for the general welfare of mankind.
The Enlightenment had diminished ignorance, spread information and brought elementary education to the masses. Self-government had given people confidence in their ability to make the phrase "we, the people" a working formula for social improvement. The Industrial Revolution had converted millions of superstitious, frustrated peasants into craftsmen and professionals confident in their ability to use nature effectively, to advance their own interests and to improve society. These and secondary social forces laid the foundation for the social revolution that mushroomed across the planet during the opening years of the present century. The occasion for the revolution was four years of destructive war (1914-18) during which two rival gangs of imperialists led their dupes and victims to shed blood and destroy property in a struggle to decide which band of plunderers should exploit natural resources and labor power for its own advantage.
General war presented twentieth century man with a dilemma, an opportunity and a choice. Should he continue the grab-and-keep society that had flowered in Europe and elsewhere during the previous century, with its consequent poverty for the many, unemployment, exploitation and the power-struggle of the empires, or make a revolutionary change? As the stalemated war of 1914-18 with its frightful destruction of life and property continued year after year, the determination in favor of revolutionary change grew and crystalized.
David Lloyd George, Britain's Prime Minister, put the situation into words presented to the Versailles Peace Conference on March 25, 1919: "The whole of Europe is filled with the spirit of revolution.... The whole existing order in its political, social and economic aspects is questioned by the masses of the population from one end of Europe to the other." (Memorandum of Lloyd George to the Peace Conference, 1922 Cmd. 1614.)
Lloyd George proved a true prophet. Mass discontent and the spirit of revolt spread rapidly. Soldiers at the front mutinied. The armies of Tsarist Russia dissolved as the privates and officers alike returned to their homes, determined to stop war, end Romanoff tyranny and build a better life for the Russian people. To gain these results they replaced the Tsarist absolutism by local, regional and nationally elected people's Soviets.
Before the War began in July, 1914, the socialist parties of Europe were divided between moderates who were willing to accept welfare-state reforms and allow the grab-and-keep structure of monopoly capitalism to continue in authority, and revolutionaries who demanded the abolition of capitalist imperialism and its replacement by socialism. European reformist socialists shouldered arms in July, 1914, and shot down their comrades across the frontiers. European revolutionary socialists, led by Lenin in Russia, Liebknecht in Germany and Jaures in France gained in strength as the war proceeded. Liebknecht and Jaures were assassinated. Lenin lived in exile until he went back to Russia and led the revolutionary forces that liquidated Tsarism in the closing months of 1917.
For the first time in the history of western civilization, a proletarian revolutionary force had established its authority over one of the most extensive and populous nations on the planet. For the first time a responsible government threatened to abandon the fundamental assumptions and principles of western civilization. Could this new "subversive" government survive in the merciless free-for-all in which western man was engaged? Could it not only survive but build up a social system which contradicted and condemned the underlying precepts of the West? In a word, could socialism be built in one country, surrounded by civilized monopoly capitalist powers?
Historical events have answered these questions in the affirmative. At this writing the Soviet Government has survived continuously for more than half a century. During that period it has transformed economically, politically and culturally backward portions of Europe and Asia into one of the most advanced areas on the planet.
Monopoly capitalist society assumes that productivity, wealth and fire-power, effectively co-ordinated under competent authority, will guarantee survival and perhaps win supremacy. Beginning its life in one of the backward areas of the planet, the Soviet Union has met all of these tests by converting itself into a first class world power. Its productivity is second only to that of the United States. In wealth it stands second among the nations. Its fire power has carried the Soviet Union to victory in civil and international war. Its ruling oligarchy—the Soviet Communist Party—has maintained its authority through the stresses of domestic strife and major international conflict. In terms accepted by the existing free-for-all West, the Soviet Union is an established world power.
Through the first three decades of its existence the Soviet Union was the only government avowedly engaged in building a socialist rival to monopoly capitalism and determined to replace capitalism as the dominant planet-wide social system. After 1943 it was joined by a dozen other European, Asian and American countries, dedicated like the Soviet Union to the task of building socialism. In addition to these dozen countries, several others such as India, Burma, Indonesia, Ceylon, Ghana and Libya, declared their intention of building socialism by legal, and gradual stages. Almost all of the countries busied with socialist construction were in East Europe and Asia. The countries building toward socialism were more widely scattered, but by and large they were Eurasian.
From 1919 to 1943 socialist construction was directed, at least in theory, by the Communist International with headquarters in Moscow—the "general staff of the World Revolution". Under war pressure the Communist International was dissolved in 1943. No equally inclusive international socialist authority has since been established.
World revolution is not confined to the Old World of Africa—Asia—Europe. It is widely prevalent in the Americas where it can claim a certain priority. Outstanding among colonial uprisings of modern times was the rebellion of the British colonies of North America, from 1776 to 1783. Even more widespread was the rebellion of the Spanish, Portuguese and French colonies of Central and South America which spanned most of the nineteenth century and extended on into the twentieth. Russian Bolsheviks held the headlines on revolutionary activity from 1917 to 1943 but it should not be forgotten that one of the most prolonged and thorough-going revolutions of the present century gripped Mexico from 1910 to 1917. At the beginning of this period Mexico was a political semi-dependency of the United States. It was semi-feudal, with a large population of Amerindians and a pre-industrial economy. Foreign capitalists and entrepreneurs, including those from the United States, played a leading role in the country.
Mexico's 1910-1917 revolution was prolonged. It was also radical, up-rooting many aspects of its old social pattern, speeding up the bourgeois revolution, and preparing the way for a Mexican form of populism and a Mexican foretaste of a proletarian revolution, initiated, led and manned by Mexicans.
Mexico's revolution resulted in two important developments that have played a major role in socialist construction. Both contributions appeared in the Mexican Constitution of 1917, adopted eight months before the Russian Bolsheviks seized power in November.
The first contribution was a chapter on the rights of labor. Bourgeois constitutions had emphasized "civil" rights: the right to vote, trial by jury; freedom of speech, press, assembly; the right to go and come; the right to compensation when private property is taken for public purposes; the right to modify or replace the existing constitution. The Mexican Constitution of 1917 contained a detailed specification of the rights of labor, including proper working conditions, adequate compensation, education, health, social security. The Constitution also contained a crucial property provision: the natural resources of Mexico are the property of the Mexican people and cannot be alienated.
This second provision was inserted in the Mexican Constitution at a time when extensive concessions to develop Mexican resources had been handed out to North American and European capitalists. It was inserted in part because the social ownership and sharing of land and other natural resources has been one of the basic demands of the Socialist—Communist—Anarchist movements from their inception.
Monopoly capitalism depends primarily on the private ownership of the means of production, including natural resources. Capitalist opposition to socialism is not only a matter of theory. In practice the private ownership of natural resources enables the owner to charge rent to any and all users. Natural resources are sharply limited and usually localized. As population grows, demand for living space is intensified and rents rise. It is not an accident that the stretches of "black earth", of copper, iron, petroleum, the precious metals, and the land occupied by Mexico City, London, New York and other population centers, poured a stream of wealth into the treasuries and augmented the power of their owners.
Effects of the insertion into the Mexican Constitution of the provision making natural resources "the property of the Mexican people" have been far-reaching. One socialist country after another has written into its constitution a provision that its natural wealth is the inalienable heritage of its people. This provision has two important results: it establishes natural resources as part of the public sector of the national economy; it also limits the possibility of handing out concessions to foreign exploiters, private or public.
During the opening years of the present century socialist parties and other forward looking organizations were demanding social ownership of natural resources, public utilities and other social means of production as the next logical step toward a more equitable distribution of wealth and income. There was a possibility that such revolutionary changes could be made under bourgeois law by exercising the right of eminent domain, upon the payment of reasonable compensation to former owners. At least in theory, the democratic majority in any bourgeois country could put an end to private enterprise capitalism and establish socialism by a constitutional amendment, legislative enactment, and a caretaker political apparatus to administer and supervise the transition.
Socialist parties were making "reformist" demands for better working and living conditions and "revolutionary" demands for changes in property and class relationships. Increased productivity and growing affluence made it possible for a progressive bourgeois state to meet the reformist demands, establishing a welfare state legally and constitutionally.
Under the bourgeois constitutions generally existing at the beginning of the present century, a popular majority could adopt necessary constitutional amendments, pass the necessary enabling laws and launch a program of socialist construction.
Such a program was part of the thinking of European and other socialist leaders during the opening years of the present century. Inspired and encouraged by the successes of socialist construction in the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, middle of the road socialists proposed to move gradually and legally from capitalism to socialism.
Conservative socialists who were members of coalition governments in parts of Eurasia, described such welfare states as victories for socialism, despite the fact that they left the essentials of state power in bourgeois hands.
Between 1920 and 1950 the western world found itself in this essentially revolutionary situation: the world-wide revolution in science and technology had opened the way for the human race to turn its back on the limitations and inadequacies of civilization and advance to a new level of culture and human opportunity.
The impact of this revolutionary situation expressed itself at several levels:
1. Much of west and central Europe, important parts of North America, much of Australasia, important parts of East Asia and fringes of Africa had at least two generations of experience with some degree of affluence.
2. Scientifically and technologically maturing societies that had opted for socialism constitutionally and legally were engaged officially in socialist construction. These countries and peoples were located chiefly in Eurasia.
3. Former colonial and client dependencies of the nineteenth century empires struggling for self-determination and statehood were entering a stage of affluence. These countries and peoples were mainly Afro-Asian. Some of them were located in Latin America.
4. Countries and peoples still under the political, economic and cultural umbrella of the formerly dominant empires were at different stages in the completion of the bourgeois revolution. Their ruling oligarchies—fascist or neo-fascist—were stubborn defenders of remnants and fragments of the nineteenth century bourgeois culture. Their stronghold was the Atlantic Community.
During the cold war years following 1945 each of these groups was undergoing the drastic social changes incident to the worldwide revolution of the period. Meanwhile mini-wars, civil and international, were fought in the Americas, Africa and Asia. By common consent conventional weapons were used and atomic weapons were kept in mothballs.
These experiences were highlighted in British Guyana and Cuba. British Guyana was a Crown Colony, with a London-appointed Governor and a small occupying force of British troops with an elected legislative assembly and a considerable measure of home rule.
Democratic socialists Cheddi and Janet Jagan helped to organize the Peoples Progressive Party of British Guyana. Twice Jagan won a popular electoral majority and was established as Prime Minister of the British Colony. His two periods of administrative responsibility were badgered and hectored by every reactionary force that could be mobilized inside and outside British Guyana, from the British appointed governor to the domestic and foreign business interests and the urban trade unions. Before a third election British and American governments, business and labor interests got together. Money was funnelled into the country through trade union connections. Protests were staged. Riots were organized. The electoral system under which the Peoples Progressive Party had won its victories was altered in London and Jagan was replaced by a system of proportional representation under which the P.P.P. was defeated and a new regime inaugurated.
Throughout the struggle the Peoples Progressive Party had insisted upon winning popular majorities as a basis for establishing socialism in the colony by democratic methods and legal means. Imperialist reactionaries from Britain's Prime Minister and the President of the United States to the A.F. of L.-C.I.O. retorted: "No you don't", and backed up their veto with money, riots and guns. As a consequence of this counter-revolutionary conspiracy, the Peoples Progressive Party was forced out of office and an administration favorable to British, United States and native Guyanese capital was substituted.
A revolt was led by Fidel Castro and his associates against the Washington-backed Batista regime in Havana, Cuba. When Cuba was seized by United States armed forces during the Spanish-American War of 1898 much of the island was in the hands of anti-Spanish rebels who were demanding independence of Spain's imperialist rule. Between 1898 and 1959 seven million Cubans enjoyed technical independence. Actually the island, located only 90 miles from Florida, was economically a United States colony and politically a Washington dependency, with United States armed forces stationed in the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. After seizing power in 1959, Castro went to the United States seeking a market for Cuba's chief export, sugar; a source of food supplies not produced in Cuba, and the manufactures necessary for the economic and social life of an essentially agricultural island.
Batista had emptied the Cuban treasury before he fled the island in 1959. Castro therefore needed loans to meet the immediate needs of the Cuban economy. He also sought to continue arrangements under which the chief market of Cuban sugar was in the United States. Castro was turned down cold. All doors, political and economic, were closed to him. As a revolutionary with left leanings he got the cold shoulder in New York as well as in Washington.
Faced by economic bankruptcy and political hostility in the West, Castro turned to the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. They bought his sugar on long term contracts; provided him with manufactures; extended loans. Under these economic and political conditions Castro's Cuba had no choice. Of necessity it became a part of the socialist bloc, took over the property of Americans and other foreign investors, planned its economy and announced socialist goals, thus making the island of Cuba the only outpost of socialist construction in the Americas.
Socialists exercised authority in one country from 1917 until 1943. Thereafter the land area devoted to building socialism steadily increased. By the time China threw off imperialist leading strings and opted for socialist construction in 1949, a third of mankind was living on territory under nominally socialist control. Most of this territory was Asian. An important part lay in eastern Europe. Until 1917, effective control of the planet was held by a half-dozen empires headed by the British, who exercised authority over a quarter of the human race living on a quarter of the earth's land area. After 1917 socialism mushroomed as a potential competing social system, challenging monopoly capitalism in Europe, replacing it in large sections of Asia and even threatening to destroy the foundations of western civilization.
"Action and reaction are equal and opposite" is an axiom of physical science which is also applicable in the social field. The sweep of world revolution and the growth of socialism-communism after 1945 called into being an opposing force of counter-revolution. The greater the successes of socialism, the more ardent and assiduous was the counter drive, aimed to modify, negate and, if possible, to destroy the revolution and restore the social system of imperialism-colonialism built by monopoly capitalism to its prerevolutionary status of planet-wide ascendancy.
Winston Churchill personified this counter revolutionary drive. It was he who proposed to "strangle the Bolshevik infant in its cradle". The Peace Conferees, meeting in Versailles, heeded Lloyd George's warning of March, 1919, and turned their attention to the urgent task of strangling socialism. Revolutionary beginnings in central Europe were stamped out. Funds were raised and arms were supplied to the anti-Bolshevik forces in European Russia and Siberia. At the height of the counter-Bolshevik crusade there were sixteen armies in Soviet Russia with the common aim of destroying Bolshevism and restoring the country to its previous status as one of the pillars of western civilization. This military phase of the counter-revolution lasted for four years. It failed. By 1922 the Soviet leaders were able to turn their energies to the task of rebuilding a devastated country while they planned and organized a socialist society.
Counter revolutionary forces failed to overthrow the Bolsheviks during the civil war of 1918-1921. They failed again when the Nazi armies swarmed into the Soviet Union in June, 1941. The years from 1941 to 1945 cost the Russians perhaps twenty million dead, six million dwelling units and immense damage to their economy and their social organization. When the war ended, responsible observers in the West predicted that if the Soviet power survived, decades must elapse before the country was back on its feet.
War destruction had played havoc with much of Europe. The Soviet Union was especially hard hit. Under the Marshall Plan billions of dollars of United States aid were poured into Britain, France, Belgium and West Germany. At the same time, the Soviet request for United States loans was refused categorically by President Truman. Alone and unaided the Soviet People repaired the extensive damage inflicted by the 1914-18 war, the Russian Civil War and the 1941 military invasion from the West, and went on with the task of socialist construction which the war had interrupted. Within five years—by 1950—the Bolsheviks were again on their feet, going strong, extending substantial aid to China and other professedly socialist countries and playing a crucial part in the struggle for disarmament and peace.
At war's end in 1918 the Soviet Union was struggling to draw the first breath of socialist life. Three decades later, after expelling the Nazis, the Soviet Union was a sturdy giant of a nation standing head and shoulders above its nearest European competitors. During the interval, Soviet Russia was attacked, denounced, boycotted, encircled, invaded, ostracized as the leading figure in "an international communist conspiracy". When the policy of intervention and invasion failed, the counter-revolutionaries turned to cold war.
Whether or not there was a "communist conspiracy" to overthrow capitalism, there was certainly an organized capitalist conspiracy to overthrow socialism-communism. Representatives of the chief capitalist empires made repeated attempts to subsidize anti-Bolshevik forces in the Soviet Union. From 1918 to 1921 and from 1941 to 1945 they used every available means, including military invasion, to overthrow the Soviet Union and stamp out the beginnings of socialist construction in Central and East Europe.
From the military invasions of the Soviet Union immediately following war's end in 1918, western spokesmen, led by President Wilson, did their utmost to subsidize counter-revolution inside the Soviet Union, to send American and other armed forces into the country, to villify, denounce, boycott and handicap the Soviet Government. Sixteen years passed (1917-1933) before Washington extended diplomatic recognition to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. President Wilson did his best to keep the Soviet Union and Mexico, both under the control of revolutionary governments, out of the League of Nations.
After the 1936-1945 war Washington played the same role with regard to China, refusing for twenty-two years to recognize Socialist China diplomatically, leading the drive in the United Nations to exclude China from membership, although the United Nations Charter specified that China should be one of the permanent members of the Security Council. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles justified the policy of blacklisting and boycotting China by declaring that there was no such nation as China on the Asian mainland, only 650 million slaves, and that Chiang Kai Shek's rump government on the island of Formosa was the "China" specified in the U.N. Charter.
Under the Truman Doctrine announced immediately after war's end in 1945, the United States refused to tolerate any extension of socialism, whether by revolution from within or by invasion from without any country. This doctrine was applied to Greece, to Iran, to Guatemala, to Santo Domingo, to Chile. During the Korean War, which began in June, 1950, one of President Truman's first directives ordered the United States Seventh (Pacific) Fleet to occupy the waters about Taiwan (Formosa), which was historically part of China.
In order to implement this anti-communist policy, Washington used a newly created international secret service, the Central Intelligence Agency or C.I.A., gave it an initial appropriation of $100,000,000 and turned it loose to spy, corrupt, undermine and overthrow governments that refused to accept or follow Washington's leadership.
Between 1815 and 1914 the planet enjoyed a measure of peace and order. In the three decades between 1914 and 1945, two general wars, a plague of lesser wars, a general economic depression and a hurricane of revolutions scourged the planet. Meanwhile, the revolution in science and technology and its products penetrated almost every crack and cranny of human society.
Had the changes incidental to these rapid transformations been carefully planned and supervised, the disturbances in the ecology and the shocks to human society would have been less disturbing and upsetting. In the absence of any planet-wide authority, there could be neither general planning nor general supervision. There were warnings aplenty from liberals and radicals who were attempting to keep the situation in perspective, but such utterances failed to reach the great bulk of mankind.
Disturbing and upsetting products of the revolution in science and technology—the harnessing of steam, the internal combustion engine, the air plane, electronics, plastics, and the release of atomic energy—were used to mutilate, destroy and kill. During the half century that began in 1910, tens of millions were mobilized, fed, taught, armed, and led to the slaughter fields by the masters of western civilization in two long orgies of wholesale destruction and mass murder—1914-18 and 1936-1945. Energies and techniques that might have brought peace and plenty to the human family were used to set fire storms that incinerated property while it degraded humanity to the horrors of mass suicide.
In a very real sense these ghoulish results were the logical outcome of competitive nationalism armed and equipped with the technology produced during the two centuries of the great revolution. War is the most carefully planned, most elaborate and most intensive form of competition—the decisive climax of a life and death struggle for survival.
The great revolution had put into human hands almost infinite possibilities for utilizing nature and improving the social environment. With foresight, careful planning and skillful manipulation of forces and trends the cultivatable portions of the planetary land mass might have been turned into a garden of unending plenty dotted with marvelous city centers of light and learning.
In order to achieve such results it would have been necessary for the human family to coordinate its efforts around an agreed division of labor, share the goods and services produced and move from one level of affluence to a level of abundance.
Instead of joint efforts to achieve abundance and security, the most prosperous and most highly developed centers of western civilization consolidated their authority in sovereign states, surrounded by forbidding frontiers, armed them with the most destructive agencies that human imagination and ingenuity could devise, schooled the citizens of each nation in the suicidal formula: "might makes right; every nation for itself and woe betide the laggard and the loser."
The logical ideology of such a formula was egomania, suspicion, fear and hatred. Its outcome was a competitive life and death struggle for wealth and power, with the nation or a bloc of nations as the units of competition. The struggle at its highest level involved occasional local wars and periodical general wars like those of 1914-18 and 1936-45.
Before the great revolution such struggles were waged chiefly with weapons wielded by human muscle power, supplemented with whatever animal power was available. Equipped with the products of the technological revolution, the struggle became a war of machines, powered by the energies of nature. Retail killing and destruction was replaced by mass murder and wholesale annihilation.
Given the assumptions, the practices and the institutions of civilization, the catastrophic losses of the present century could have been foretold and, with competent leadership and disciplined followership, could have been averted. But leadership was self-serving, shortsighted and for the most part untrained, while followership was split up into national and local segments, each following the suicidal doctrine of every nation for itself and the devil take the laggards.
Socialists-communists around the earth have spent a wealth of time and energy during several generations predicting the present revolutionary upset and preparing for it. They have been derided, denounced and persecuted for their efforts. Despite bitter opposition they have prepared for change, they accept change, they welcome it, because in change they see the only path to improvement and betterment.
They are learning to live with change and even to welcome it because the time of troubles through which their society is passing is warning them of the dangers they face. At the same time they are learning, bit by bit, of the spectacular achievements of the billion human beings in socialist-communist countries.
The majority of mankind has been unprepared for revolutionary change. When change came they resented it, maybe resisted it at the outset.
Those who have a vested interest in capitalist imperialism—the real backbone of the counter-revolution—join and support counter-revolutionary organizations and take part in counter-revolutionary activities.
Planners and organizers of the counter-revolution have the bourgeois state generally on their side and enjoy the backing of the bourgeois establishment, its organizations and its facilities. Since their object is defense, they have no constructive program. Instead they stumble, fumble and bungle as their system flounders into one disastrous crisis after another.
WESTERN CIVILIZATION ATTEMPTS SUICIDE (1914-1945)
Each bit of handiwork, each artifact, tool and machine is an expression of man's wish and will. Each transcends nature and is an affirmation that takes its place in the vast storehouse of human culture.
Cities, the building blocks of civilization, not only transcend nature; they replace her. Up to a certain point man lived more or less consciously as a part of nature. Bit by bit and step by step man shifted from the stream, the glade, the tree and the cave to the hut, the village, the city, the nation, the empire, the civilization.
Early in this study I wrote of civilization as an experiment: an aspiration, a creative urge, a concept, a purpose, a unity of thought and act, a conscious sequence of related actions, a construct of multiplying complexity.
These terms, by and large, are constructive and, to a degree, creative. I might have written a parallel series of words associated with destructiviness. In every social situation construction and destruction are Siamese twins. One does not appear without the other. The same forces, the same implements, the same institutions and practices that construct can be used to destroy.
Through ages, men learned how to establish, maintain and perpetuate community and organize society. At every stage of the building process it was necessary to check, to question, to evaluate, unlearn, tear down, make a new start. Pushing up and tearing or wearing down is implicit in nature. It is an essential aspect of human society.
Each human being is a living example of production and destruction. Each generation repeats the affirmation, modifying it little or much in accord with circumstances.
Modification means purposeful change—partially or wholly abandoning the old and replacing it with something new. In the course of these changes the conservative elements in man and in society, voluntarily or under coercion, give up the old and learn how to use the new. The learning process is always more or less painful, especially to people past middle age.
The world-wide revolution resulted from a long-continued related series of affirmations, punctuated and interrupted by contradictions and conflicts.
Trends inherent in the world-wide revolution of 1750-1970 suggest a cycle that reached its high point at the turn of the century and began its downward course around 1900. The chief European empires were jointly and severally involved in the bitter struggle for survival and supremacy from 1870 onward. Until the outbreak of war in 1914, events followed an irregular course marked by the shifting relationships of Italy and the increased pressure from Germany for a showdown. The showdown was the war of 1914-18, continued in a second phase from 1936 to 1945.
Immediate political results of the showdown were victory for one side and defeat for the other side. Economic, sociological and ideological consequences were profound and far reaching. We noted some of them in the previous chapter.
UNESCO's History of Mankind devotes its final volume six to the twentieth century. The authors note that the chief European powers emerged from the general war of 1914-18 "weakened in every way: in men and wealth, in the balance of their economies and the stability of their political structure and above all in their relation to other powers rising or beginning to rise in other parts of the world". (Vol. VI p. 10.)
Aside from the victory-defeat relationship which led to political realignments during the post-war years, the essence of the experience is to be found in the UNESCO phrase "weakened in every way". Another way of describing the experience is to state that the participants in this four year blood bath were "bled white."
It is easy to be specific. In the course of the war sixty million people were mobilized. Most of these people stopped what they had been doing until mid-summer of 1914 and began an entirely new line of activity. Up to that point most of them had been living with their families, in their neighborhoods, going through a daily routine that included household cares, production or service work, the conduct of neighborhood affairs, the maintenance of normal livelihood activities, the upbringing of the new generation and perhaps most important of all, adaptation to a rapidly changing social situation.
The changes that took place in the summer of 1914 involved an almost complete reversal of purpose and direction. Up to that point Europeans were devoting a considerable proportion of their time to production and the maintenance of the normal life routine. At that point they left their homes, exchanged ordinary clothes for uniforms, laid down the implements of peace, picked up the weapons of war and prepared, under very expert leadership and direction, a series of mass movements designed to disrupt the ordinary life routine of other human beings on the other side of lines drawn on a map, but having little relation to customary life activity and even less to geography.
Execution of this purpose involved a mass movement from the home territory into that occupied by the "enemy". If the enemy resisted he must be forced to do the will of the invaders. Instead of cooperating in a joint effort to maintain and improve the general welfare, uniformed, armed, expertly-led masses began beating up each other, until one side gave in and cried "enough."
Plans for war had been drawn and redrawn for years, for decades. Elaborate preparations had been made. Destructive weapons had been designed and built. Transport had been provided, food stored. Defensive preparations had also been made in the form of fortifications so placed as to obstruct or prevent "the enemy" from crossing the "frontier".
When sport-lovers go from home for a day to play a competition in another city or province, they go, play the game and then go back home to continue the ordinary life routine. In the case of the project we are now considering they left home in July, 1914 and returned months or years later. Many never got back home because they were killed in battle or died of wounds; many were "missing"; they disappeared.
If casualties in the 1914-18 war had been numbered in dozens, or scores or even in hundreds, the communities from which they came could have gone on without them—handicapped perhaps but not seriously disrupted. But when they were numbered in thousands and tens of thousands it was a quite different story. Actually, they were numbered in millions.
Mobilized to carry on the war were 42.2 million on the Allied side. On the side of the Central Powers, 22.8 millions. The total: 65 million. 12 million of those mobilized were Russian, 11 million were Germans, 8.4 million were French, 8 million were from the British Empire. From Austro-Hungary came 7.8 million, from Italy, 5.6 million. Turkey furnished 2.9 million, Bulgaria 1.2 million; 4.4 million came from the United States; 0.8 million from Japan. Lesser numbers came from other countries.
Except for Spain, the largest contributions of war conscripts came from the countries with the largest populations. With the exception of Spain, all of the great powers of Europe provided the "cannon fodder"; the human beings which Europe's "great powers" assembled to take part in this profligate orgy of mass murder which went on for more than four years, from July 1914 until November 1918.
Body count reports and "estimates" give the total number of human beings murdered in the four year period as 8,538,315. (The legal definition of "murder" is killing, not accidentally but with the intention of taking life.)
This figure of 8.5 million murdered human adults, most of them in the prime of life, refers to the murdered bodies that were recovered and disposed of. In addition there were "prisoners" and "missing."
As the 1914-18 war proceeded it became less a series of combats between human beings; more and more it was a war of machines such as battleships, tanks, big guns and by war's end, of airplanes. Human beings drew up the plans, made the blueprints, shifted the gears, pushed the buttons. Their efforts were supplemented and multiplied by the killing power of physics, chemistry and mechanics brought to the task of wholesale murder, which produced 8.5 million dead human bodies.
"Prisoners and missing" accounted for 7,750,000 additional human beings. Many of them were torn to shreds and smithereens by the gigantic concentration of mechanical and explosive power, designed, constructed and transported to the European battlefields for the express purpose of carrying on this month-long and year-long collective endeavor to take as much life as possible and destroy as much property as possible while war declarations authorized and legalized mass murder and wholesale destruction.
Not all victims of the hideous 1914-18 blood bath were killed. "Wound casualties" numbered 12.8 million among the Allies; 8.4 million among the boys, young men and adults mobilized by the Central Powers. Some of the wounded were crippled for life. Some were less severely injured, but all 22.2 million were more or less severely handicapped when they stood up to face the rigors of civilian life at war's end. All were denied the possibility of living normal, productive, creative, satisfying lives.
Wars are fought on battlefields. In the war of 1914-18 many of the battlefields included villages, towns, cities. These complex institutions, occupied by men, women and children were smashed and burned wholesale.
The figures which I have used in listing the 1914-18 war losses were compiled by the United States War Department. They are more or less accurate, but they underline the fact that for years on end the centers of western civilization concentrated their energies and devoted every means at their disposal to cripple or destroy fellow human beings and their habitations.
When we read of the destruction of the Roman Empire we console and perhaps try to fool ourselves by saying that the immense network of civilization which the Romans and their Greek associates spread across Eurasia and Africa during the historical period that began about 700 B.C. was destroyed by hordes of migrating "barbarians." When we turn to our own civilization, however, there are no barbarian hordes to take the blame. The wholesale destruction which took place in Europe from 1914 to 1918 and which was repeated and multiplied during the wars of 1936-1945 was carried on officially by spokesmen for the most advanced, most highly developed, most civilized countries of the western world.
We have been using the word "murder" to describe the wholesale slaughter of Europeans by Europeans that took place from 1914 to 1918 and from 1936 to 1945. The word "murder" is inaccurate. The Europeans who carried on the wholesale destruction and mass murder during the two most general wars of modern times were committing murder in one sense. In quite another sense they were engaged in collective suicide. Europeans were blotting out the life and well-being of fellow Europeans. When the process came to a temporary halt in 1945 every European participant in the struggle was weaker in human potential and poorer in economic means than they were when the war began.
Arnold Toynbee describes the entire episode as the "down grading" of Europe. He might have added two words and reported "the down grading of Europe by Europeans", as a glaring example of large scale, long continued, deliberate self-destruction.
Fundamental social changes were bound to follow the revolutionary technical transformations that took place during the world-wide revolution of 1750-1970. Changes may be made in various ways. Some are slow and relatively painless, particularly when they extend over generations; other changes are so rapid that they are agonizingly painful. Involuntary changes, made under outside pressure are almost always painful. World-wide revolution, under the best of conditions, promises to be painful. When it comes from alien sources, and is under forced pressure, the costs are almost sure to be excessively high.
This brings us face to face with one of the most important problems facing mankind at the present moment. Given the worldwide revolution of the past two centuries, what changes—political, economic, sociological and ideological—must be made to prepare the way for the new society and shift the family from the old homestead to the new apartment with a minimum of pain and a maximum of satisfaction?
TALKING PEACE AND WAGING WAR
Blatant contradictions disorganized human life after war's end in 1945. In the crucial area of war and peace three groups were bidding for attention: dedicated peace partisans (peacenicks); nationalist enthusiasts waging wars of liberation; and massive semi-official and official nationalistic groups busily preparing for the next big war.
Occasionally these groups joined hands on "hot" issues. Generally they were far apart. Often they were in active opposition.
Dedicated peace advocates were an important factor in this post-war period. They had been vocal and influential in July, 1914 immediately before the outbreak of the first general war. They had continued to play an active role between the first and second general wars. In the autumn of 1972 the World Peace Council called together a peace assembly in Moscow representing significant elements from 143 countries. The largest single element in the World Peace Council was the Socialist bloc, headed by the Soviet Union.
Peace advocates mobilized wide public support for the "no more war" movement that developed during the closing months of the 1914-18 war; for the Briand-Kellogg Treaty of 1928 which renounced war as an instrument of policy; for the effort to secure general disarmament that resulted in the General Disarmament Conference of 1933 and for the United Nations Charter of 1945.
Official declarations in favor of disarmament and peace had been paralleled by the organization of unofficial peace committees and societies in western Europe, in the Americas and in the socialist countries.
Peace efforts had been strengthened by the outbreak of local wars—between India and Pakistan, between Israel and the Arab League; by wars of independence and liberation in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, North Africa.
Much of the public backing for the peacenicks came from student groups in official and private high schools, colleges and universities.
Nationalist liberation movements were active in settled communities such as Ireland and Canada's Province of Quebec. There were less established movements in newly liberated restless ex-colonies and remaining colonies of the chief European empires, of Japan and of the United States. The widely advertised World Peace Council turned more and more from general advocacy of peace, such as the Stockholm Peace Petition, to the support of liberation movements among colonials and supressed minor nationalities.
Preparations for another general war were expanded and intensified as the competitive struggle for oil and other natural resources mounted. By the end of the 1960's total arms expenditures of the chief powers were running at $200 billion per year. In 1973 the total reached $225 billion.
There was much general talk about peace, but the most insistent note sounded for a high level of spending on armaments. Britain's Prime Minister Heath voiced a sentiment vigorously promulgated by every representative of national security "British interests come first".
Confusion was heightened by the presence of men who faced all three ways: talking peace, waging small wars and preparing for the next big one. In February, 1974 in his State of the Union message to the U.S. Congress, President Nixon spoke of "our goal of building a structure of lasting peace in the world." At the same moment the Washington administration was feeding the fires of war in South East Asia and asking the United States Congress to increase 1975 U.S.A. defense appropriations from $80 billion to $90 billion per year.
When war ended in 1945 there was a planet-wide sigh of relief and a devout hope that after so many years of local and general wars, the time had come for western man to take a long decisive step in the direction of peace. The United Nations Charter expressed this hope to end the use of war as an instrument of policy.
Since the period of general social relaxation usually known as the Dark Ages was superceded by the multiple innovations of the Reformation, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the scientific-technical developments of the 1750-1970 Revolution, man the dreamer, inventor, designer, planner, architect and engineer has modified many aspects of nature and transformed the social environment.
Until the Reformation and the Renaissance, European ruling oligarchies in territories along the Mediterranean and throughout western Europe were able to perpetuate their privileges and preserve the life styles of an agricultural-feudal society. Improvements in navigation and the growth of trade, commerce and industry opened the way for the bourgeois revolution with its rapid growth of cities and the parallel increase of wealth, income, and living standards among the newly-enriched businessmen and their associates and dependents.
Social changes in feudal Europe had been gradual. The dynamism implicit in the bourgeois revolution escalated the rate of social change with corresponding modifications in the pattern of European political, economic and cultural institutions and practices.