Seven Roadblocks to the Good Life
(from The Conscience of a Radical, Scott Nearing, Harborside, Maine: Social Science Institute, 1965; Chapter III)
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Ignorance, Indifference, Inertia
Most universal of all the obstacles to human advancement and social improvement is the failure of most human beings to play a rational, energetic and conscious part in the direction of their own lives and of the social groups to which they belong. We attribute this failure to ignorance (not understanding or knowing); to indifference (not caring sufficiently to translate discomfort into action), and [to] inertia (continuing in the established ruts of tradition, custom and habit.
Ignorance, indifference and inertia are due to a failure of vision, and to unwillingness to couple understanding with effective action. Together they exercise their immense blocking influence over the thoughts and actions of human beings, because it is easier to stay put or drift with the current than it is to break away and swim upstream. Their influence is felt by all members of the human race. In the lives of most people, most of the time, these are the influences which determine both thought and action.
The immense hold which ignorance, indifference and inertia have over men’s lives is not due in the main to any deficiency in human nature, but to the deliberate, determined efforts of ruling minorities to maintain their authority and perpetuate their power. Until recent years, landlords, ecclesiasts and militarists needed docile, obedient dependents who would work, pay rent, contribute to the church and when necessary turn from their ordinary pursuits to fight in wars arranged by their masters.
Industrial revolution brought with it the need of sufficient technical skills to build, service, improve and direct the new machines and the increasingly complex social apparatus. A working class capable of reading drawings and specifications, carrying out technical directives and writing reports became a prime necessity. General education, developed to meet these new requirements, entailed grave dangers. Men and women trained to read and reason would not be content to promote the interests of their masters. Once trained, they were more than likely to advance their own interests and those of the groups or classes to which they belonged. In order to counter this danger, the masters provided the bread, beer and luxuries which have played such an important role in keeping industrial wage earners and the ranks of the rapidly growing middle class in line behind the interests of those who owned the economy and formulated public policy.
Today this phase of masters class activity is called variously advertising, persuasion, indoctrination, brain-washing or propaganda and is covered by one word: “promotion,” or, in the vernacular, “selling.” Men “sell” themselves. Enterprises “sell” ideas, merchandise, services, beliefs, policies. Promotion is taken for granted in business. It is equally widespread in politics. It is the coin current in religion, education and in the multitude of patriotic and social service organizations.
New means of communication and recently developed channels of information have played an important part in this process. Tidal waves of national loyalties, pride and aspiration have helped in the same direction. Equipped with the new technology of persuasion and coercion, the masters are able to keep 24 hour supervision over those who serve them and promote their interests. The same instruments are equally effective against their opponents and enemies at home and abroad.
Modern society is conditioned, rather than enlightened, at state expense and under state control. The process is called “educational.” Unquestionably modern education encourages and imparts technical skills. The educational apparatus presently existing in the “free world” turns out a citizen who is ignorant, insensitive and unaware of the forces, techniques, instruments and machinations which plan, arrange, organize and supervise the environment in which he exists. The products of this conditioning live in deadly fear of change, lest it lead to “communism.” Dulled into the belief that whatever is is right in this best of all possible worlds, citizens accept regulation, and conform to a social pattern designed by their exploiters to keep their victims ignorant, indifferent, inert.
Greed for Wealth, Prestige, Power
Webster’s dictionary defines greed as “an unsatiable desire to possess or acquire something to an amount inordinately beyond what one needs or desires.” I would modify this definition thus: greed is the desire to have more of a good, service, or experience after one has had a reasonable sufficiency. Greed violates the Greek slogan “nothing too much.”
Greed shows itself in five chief directions: getting and keeping goods and services; attracting attention to oneself; gaining recognition, prestige, status; attaining and maintaining security, and achieving and holding power.
Miserliness is the most extreme expression of greed for goods and services. The miser accumulates for the sake of accumulation, and short of extreme provocation he refuses to part with any of his hoard. In a society based on scarcity only a genius can reach this level of greed. In a modern, affluent society, however, the abundance and variety of goods and services makes it possible for even the rag-picker to acquire and accumulate more than he can use. Stories of beggars who die leaving valuable property and large bank accounts often make the news columns.
The average home in an industrialized community is littered, cluttered and stuffed with clothing, bric-a-brac, gadgets, utensils, appliances, most of which have no great aesthetic appeal and are seldom used. Despite this glut, the householder continues to acquire, greedily, as occasion offers.
Attracting notice to oneself is a second expression of greed. It begins in infancy and grows into extreme forms of egomania among adults. It is particularly prevalent in a society of potential abundance which measures success in life by the quantity and variety of possessions. “How much is he worth” means “how much has he accumulated.”
Greed finds a third outlet in the desire to gain and hold recognition, prestige, position, status. Status seeking and status keeping preoccupy people whose objective is to get ahead of others by climbing toward the top of the social pyramid.
Greed turned in the direction of power is usually called “ambition.” Power is the possibility of pushing others around, using others to advance the interests of the power-seeker, keeping others in a permanent position of subordination and, if possible, servility. The power-holder is able to satisfy his power urge by keeping the largest possible number of his fellows at his beck and call. In a private enterprise society the power-hungry gain and hold economic, political and social positions which enable them to say: “You work and I will enjoy the product of your labor.”
Greed for power may be seen in families, on school playgrounds, in the economy, notably in politics and in general social relations. It is found at all levels, local, regional, national.
Greed is one of the chief driving forces in an acquisitive society. The clever, the shrewd, the unscrupulous use their talents to get and keep more than their just share of life’s good things. By this unreasonable accumulation of material possessions the greedy separate themselves from their fellows and lay the foundations for a classand caste-divided society.
Greed is an essentially anti-social force. In an acquisitive society it not only has unique opportunities for expression but it absorbs attention, consumes energy and expresses itself in activities which are directed to the aggrandizement of one, rather than the advancement of general wellbeing.
Six Corrosives Which Deplete Vitality
Human beings are unable to devote themselves to constructive and creative tasks because of six corrosives which deplete vitality. They are malnutrition, ill health (physical, mental, emotional), worry, anger, fear, and hatred. Each one of the six is present, to a greater or less degree, in every human life.
Food intake is one of the chief sources of human energy. The human organism, like any other functional apparatus, can operate only so long as it is adequately supplied with the necessary nourishment. Perhaps three-fifths of mankind attempts to survive on a diet that is insufficient in quantity. Many among the other two-fifths consume stale, processed, devitalized food which is lacking in nutritive value. Comparatively few people are aware of the need for correct food combinations. A rapidly increasing proportion of mankind is being actively poisoned by pollution of the water supply, by the use of chemicals in food processing, and by spraying and dusting foods with high-power poisons aimed at the prevention of food deterioration and at the destruction of harmful micro-organisms and vermin.
Resulting malnutrition leads to a crippling failure of energy. Continued over long periods it lowers vitality, impairs the efficiency of body tissues and organs and becomes a major factor in physical degeneration. Malnutrition is one of the chief causes of physical, mental and emotional disability. There is a direct relation between nutritional deficiencies and the mal-functioning of the human organism.
Ill health also can be caused by natal influences, by accidents, by contagions and infections, by the disintegration of the organism. Where these causes are sufficiently severe, they result in premature death; otherwise they use up vital energy, and force their victims to drag themselves about, suffering constant pain or to spend their days in wheel chairs or in bed.
Worry is hard to measure. There are chronic worriers who devote their lives to this futile practice. There are victims of occasional worry spells. Under stress, most people worry-devoting their attention and consuming their energies upon some imaginary situation which seldom or never actually arises.
Anger, fear and hatred are widely prevalent in the daily lives of human beings. All consume energy, lower vitality and detract attention from constructive and creative endeavors.
Corrosive factors which deplete human vitality should be avoided with the same care that one takes in avoiding collision with a tree, a wall or a moving vehicle. All detract from health and well-being. The normal, healthy individual attempts to avoid them as a matter of course. But mass poverty, mass infection and mass unemployment cannot be dealt with by individuals acting singly. They are social mal-adjustments. As such they can be handled effectively only by social plans and action programs aimed to revive the victims of social maladjustment and to make the changes necessary to remove the causes that undermine individual health and fitness and thus lower the levels of community well-being.
Six Human Hungers Which Squander Resources, Time and Energy
Side by side with the six corrosives that devitalize human beings are six human hungers. Attempts to satisfy these hungers squander needed resources, consume time and use up energy that could be employed to greater advantage in other directions.
These hungers are for self-preservation; food and drink; sex satisfaction; power; something for nothing; soporifics. All six plead personal or social necessity as a justification for top priority. Over-indulgence in any or all of them warps, frustrates and cripples normal human functioning and prevents the rounded fruition of human life. All six demand attention, time and energy to a point at which the undisciplined individual is wholly involved and totally committed. Other aspects of life recede into the background until the satisfaction of particular human hungers enslaves the victim.
Food, drink, air, sunshine and sex are prerequisites to the continuance of human life. Without them there would be no life as we know it. All are essential elements in the preservation of the individual and the human race. They are the basis of life and are among the driving forces animating the individual and the race. Man shares these hungers with animals, birds and insects. They are general characteristics of terrestrial creatures.
In a previous section I commented on greed for power. Power hunger is easily stimulated in concentrations of population. The urge behind human hungers inheres in the individual. Sex satisfaction demands at least one partner. Power hunger is associated with population aggregates from the family to larger and more complex social groups.
Gambling (taking a chance on getting something for nothing) is an urge arising out of group life. Drug addiction stems from the effort to overcome pain, to compensate for nutritional imbalance, to off-set weariness and exhaustion or emotional disappointments, as an alternative to boredom.
Through the ages unscrupulous exploiters have used human hungers as a source of easy money. As society moved from a scarcity level to a level of abundance, crafty crooks and grasping businessmen have artfully stimulated human hungers by various forms of propaganda and cashed in on satisfying the hungers at top prices.
Urges to satisfy hungers arouse human beings and stimulate them to greater expenditures of interest and energy. Immoderate indulgence, especially in soporifics, diverts human beings from creative and social usefulness, makes them hapless victims of their animal appetites and denies them any effective role in broadening and ennobling human existence.
Combativeness and the Cult of Violence
Competition for existence, expression, recognition and supremacy in a complex, interdependent highly organized society generates a survival struggle in which man’s combativeness, courage, determination and tenacity are severely tested. Such rivalry sifts out weaklings, while it grades and regrades the strong, the shrewd, the masterful.
Survival struggle goes on locally in family and neighborhood. It goes on regionally and nationally. Survival struggle is central and basic in the life process. In its most elaborate form it is called war. Acts of war are exercises in the application of violence.
War is a form of human association in which one party to the combat seeks not only to impose his will upon his rival, but seeks to exterminate the rival by the use of a maximum of violence, directed against the person, the associates and the property of his opponents.
Preparations for war require training in the efficacious use of violence. Violence is therefore taught as an art. A cult of violence is developed and every effort is made to dignify and even deify violence. This process has been an essential phase of the military preparedness that has played so large a role in the life of Western civilization.
Since every tool is a potential weapon, as technology has advanced, the possibilities of violence have been multiplied and magnified until with the advent of atomic and nuclear weapons used in waging total war, it becomes possible, in an instant, to vaporize property and exterminate life wholesale.
Linking combativeness, the cult of violence and nuclear technology has created a situation so decisive that in one supreme combat the existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons could destroy the totality of man’s culture and exterminate man himself, bringing an end to the period of human habitation on the planet earth.
Among the roadblocks to further human progress, the destructive potential of nuclear war seems to impose the most emphatic finality on the future of the human race.
The Counter Revolution
I began this discussion of the roadblocks which prevent human advance to higher levels of social awareness and well-being by listing ignorance, greed and a number of corrosive and devitalizing forces and practices which blunt the cutting edge of the crusade to end social backwardness and promote the full use of nature, of human genius, of science, technology, and the social apparatus as means for opening wide the doors of opportunity for the entire human race. Ignorance, poverty, unemployment, dissipation, war and other forms of waste are barriers which must be surmounted and liquidated by the concerted demand of humanity as it struggles for enlightenment, and the fuller use of natural resources and technical equipment to enlarge opportunity, increase knowledge and thus broaden and deepen the stream of human culture.
There are other roadblocks which are deliberately built and maintained, to preserve obsolete features of Western civilization, to limit and restrict human advance and to make such minor reforms in the social apparatus as are necessary to blunt the worldwide movement for social betterment, and to preserve the wealth-poverty balance: wealth for the owners and masters; poverty for those who do much of the world’s work. I shall call these planned, tailor-made roadblocks to social advance “the counter-revolution” because they are the answer of property, privilege and the status quo to the planet-wide revolution of the past half century.
There is nothing casual or customary about the counter-revolution. It has been planned, organized, financed, armed and led by the richest and most powerful big businesses and the richest and most powerful governments of the “free world.” For years after 1917 the big business-military oligarchies which were running the Western empires considered the Russian Revolution and the Chinese, Cuban, Philippine, Turkish and other revolutions which clustered around the Russian Revolution as “impermanent rather than permanent.” When at long last they awoke to the fact that revolution at various levels was sweeping over the planet like a prairie fire, they took the matter seriously and began planning and organizing the counter-revolution.
Needless to say, the counter-revolution had as its purpose the preservation and strengthening of the status quo. It was stimulated and activated in all areas where revolution succeeded or threatened to succeed.
Counter-revolution was directed against revolutionary movements and revolutionary governments in Mexico, Russia, Central Europe, the Near and Middle East, South East Asia, Latin America, Africa. It was so successful in the United States that it all but eliminated the Left as an effective political factor.
Behind the counter-revolution were the prestige, wealth and political authority of western civilization. Immediately after the Russian Revolution it took organized form in the drive to overthrow the Bolsheviks and the parallel revolutions in Germany and Central Europe. Then it appeared as Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany. Later, as the threat of planet-wide revolution mounted after war’s end in 1945, it became the Cold War, waged by the remnants of the chief 19th century empires against syndicalism, socialism, communism or any other ideology which questioned the theory and practice of private enterprise and empire building as the logical end and aim of human life. Led aggressively by the business-military complex of the United States after 1946, the Cold War took the center of the western stage and has occupied it ever since, fighting the collectivist “enemy” in the Soviet Union, People’s China, Korea, Vietnam, Iran, the Congo, Cuba, Bolivia, Brazil, and wherever private enterprise profiteers were threatened by popular uprisings.
The counter-revolutionary drive has six chief aspects: the circus aspect; the convenience, confort, conformity aspect; the petty reform aspect; the corruption aspect; the espionage aspect; and the violence and terror aspect.
The circus aspect of counter-revolution is aimed to amuse, entertain and divert attention from some of the chief issues that concern mankind. Mass conditioning is a very old story. It is being repeated in the present-day West with camera, printing press, movies, radio, television and the other means of communication which modern technology has provided so generally and so generously. Thanks to these discoveries and inventions it is possible for those in authority to reach people in their homes, in their work places, in their schools and recreation centers and on the street, twenty-four hours of each day, with blandishments, scandal, horror stories, doctored “news,” admonitions, warning, threats. Since the means of present-day communication in the West are under the control of the same oligarchies that own the economy, operate the political apparatus and administer the social services, the people can be fed half-truths and lies, or, through silence, kept in virtual ignorance of t~le course of events. At the same time they are told, repeatedly, through the same channels that they are the most enlightened public anywhere on earth.
The convenience, comfort, conformity aspect of the counter-revolution was designed to buy off the popular masses by flooding the mass market with a dazzling, bewildering, engrossing supply of goods and services.
Counter-revolutionaries are in control of production apparatus capable of converting natural resources and human energy into a huge volume and an infinite variety of gadgets and appliances in addition to the assembly-line output of food, clothing, shelter and the social services. These goods and services were poured into the mass market and were matched by wage and salary payrolls which enabled their recipients to buy back two-thirds of the national product.
Trusts, cartels and other forms of economic concentration reduced the number of self-employed enterprisers and professionals. At the same time they increased the number of wage earners and salaried employes, so that those who wished to buy in the mass market were increasingly dependent on blue-collar and white-collar jobs. Holding a job owned by somebody else thus became the key to affluence and the economic basis for status, prestige, promotion.
Jobs were owned by the business-military-political oligarchies which controlled every essential aspect of the more highly industrialized communities. The oligarchs held the key to convenience, comfort, status, preferment.
Did job-holders and their families wish to share in the goods and services heaped on mass market shelves? Did they want to revel in processed food, drive their own cars, own their own homes, enjoy status and get promotions? There was one simple, universal credit card that gave the holder a job with its regular pay check admitting to the mass market. Conformity credit cards (jobs) were issued to those who followed the approved way of life. Approval came from the oligarchy. Acceptance was the oath of fealty sworn by the prospective job-holder. Those who differed and opposed were refused jobs and thus reduced to second-class economic status. They were subversive unemployables, screw balls, misfits, troublemakers.
The Way of Life was outlined in school, in church, in the press, over radio and television. The Way of Life became a religious obligation and a patriotic duty. Those who accepted and followed it had all of the rights and privileges provided for first-class citizens and job holders. Non-conformers received second-class treatment.
Petty reforms are part and parcel of the arsenal with which counter-revolution fights its battles. Revolutionary demands go to the roots and are far-reaching, involving changes in property, class relations and the status of those engaged in the revolutionary struggle. Petty reforms are crumbs, thrown to those who demand bread.
Petty reforms satisfy immediate demands, leaving property and class relations as they were before the reforms were offered. They may include limited hours of labor, better working conditions, broadened education, political representation, an extended suffrage, elections within a specified period, extension of civil rights and social services. Reform preserves the essential structure of society so that those presently in power continue to exercise authority.
Promises of petty reforms are the IOU’s with which the counter-revolution seeks to dull the edge of revolutionary demands and decrease revolutionary enthusiasm.
Nevertheless, each reform (conceded however grudgingly by the masters) involves some limitation of arbitrary authority and adds to the rights and privileges which the ruled are able to exercise and enjoy. Experience in Scandinavia and Great Britain is significant in this respect. In these countries manifold reforms have been made over recent years, in the working and living conditions of the populace. Social services have been improved. Housing has been bettered. Unemployment has been reduced. As a result, the revolutionary movements in these countries have been correspondingly weakened.
“Corrupt” means to debase, deprave, worsen. Corruption undermines integrity and purpose, impairs vitality, decreases effectiveness. It is therefore an important instrument of the counter-revolution. Corruption is particularly effective where the counter-revolutionaries own and control an efficient productive apparatus which is able to provide an abundant supply of goods, services, gadgets and (most important, in a society build around a money economy) to provide quantities of money.
The present-day counter-revolution can offer not only immense quantities and varieties of goods and services but, through its elaborate apparatus of credits and securities, can offer permanent parasitism to those who will follow its line and do its bidding.
Supplied with an abundance of goods, services, money, credit and securities, the counter-revolution can satisfy human hungers to the point of satiety, gratifying the appetites of drug addicts and gamblers, providing amusement and diversion on a grandiose scale, and guaranteeing the supply of such desiderata so long as the existing order endures.
Counter-revolutionaries aim their corrupting activities especially at the younger and less experienced leaders of the revolution, offering them secure, well-paid jobs, regular promotions, status and social recognition, and whatever money will buy.
Espionage is an important aspect of counter-revolution. Early in the present century spies and spying were generally regarded with disfavor in the United States. In Europe, with its semi-popular monarchies, its intense national rivalries and its militant revolutionary minorities, espionage was expected and even taken for granted. In a democratic republic it was considered an intruder.
Today, with the spread of revolutionary activities, the extension of the Cold War and the emergence of the United States government as the patron, financier, armorer and organizer of counter-revolution across the planet, spies and spying have become an integral part of the American Way of Life. In continental United States the Federal Bureau of Investigation fills its dossiers on millions of individuals with fact, fiction and gossip. Abroad the Central Intelligence Agency snoops, prys, plots, and organizes counter-revolution.
These two are the chief spy agencies under the immediate direction of the Federal Government. In addition, the diplomatic and consular services are spying agencies. Each of the armed services has its intelligence department. The treasury has its secret service. Both House and Senate have investigative committees patterned on the notorious House Committee on Un-American Activities. The Post Office, like the Internal Revenue and the Custom Service, have their under-cover men. The Post Office, Customs and the F.B.I. check printed matter coming into the country and exclude undesirable publications. The Post Office may check the personal mail of non-conformists. Individual states and cities have their spies, legislative committees and police departments.
United States big business is honey-combed with spies. Large corporations have their intelligence services which plant spies and spying apparatus in factory departments, in offices, in toilet and social rooms, in the room of the Board of Directors. For smaller enterprises there are national and international detective agencies which specialize in spying and place spies for business enterprises on the premises of their rivals.* Espionage is justified by the one word: security, but as the spy network proliferates and penetrates every corner of society, privacy disappears and insecurity becomes universal.
[*For details, see Vance Packard’s The Naked Society, N. Y.: David McKay 1964]
Most alarming to radicals, among activities of the counter-revolution, has been its use of violence and terror. During the opening years of the present century two assumptions were widespread among western intellectuals: first, western man was too civilized to permit another general war; second, the West had left behind terror tactics such as physical manhandling and physical torture. Both assumptions were blown to bits in the events that accompanied the wars after 1914.
It is difficult for anyone born since 1914 to realize the totality of the revolution in social techniques which took place during this period. In the Victorian Age, which ended in 1914, British, Germans, Frenchmen, and other peoples in the West took it for granted that mankind had advanced to a level far above that of the Middle Ages, with a consequent humanitarianism, a respect for human dignity and a whole-hearted rejection of practices associated with the words “savagery” and “barbarism.” The word “civilization,” as then used, automatically repudiated such savage and barbaric approaches to life. War, revolution and counter-revolution re-opened the flood gates to violence and terror on a scale far exceeding anything known to have existed among the pre-civilized peoples.
Revolution and counter-revolution in the same political area are, in effect, cold or hot civil war, with relative against relative and neighbor against neighbor. Such struggles are traditionally fierce and bloody. Experience during the present period of social revolution and counter-revolution runs true to civil war form.
Since the closing years of the 19th century there have been five parallel and inter-related movements: (1) the technological revolution; (2) the revolts of suppressed and oppressed peoples demanding self-determination and setting up republics dedicated by their constitutions to representative or democratic governments; (3) advances in military preparations and in the weaponry used in two general wars and scores of civil and local wars: (4) the growth of the economic and political labor movement, reaching its climax in the building of planned, socialist societies; and (5) the general and stubborn refusal of the bourgeois to accept and bow to the verdict of social evolution and history. It is the refusal of the business class, led by that of the U.S.A., which has involved humanity in the cold war with its accompanying violence and terror directed not only against socialism, but against the extension or use of the democratic process.
Violence and terror during the past half-century have included the formal denial of human rights as specified in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. These rights include movement, communication, persuasion, organization and joint acts up to the point of disturbing public order and endangering the continuance of existing governments. By common consent during grave emergencies civil rights are subordinated to the need of defending and promoting the common welfare. However, the denials and violations of human rights, especially among the colonial and other dependent peoples has been and still is a matter of course. These denials extend beyond colonial areas into the homelands of the great empires.
Vigilantism and mob violence are permitted, encouraged and often participated in by the police. Vigilante mobs, with no pretense of authority, violate human rights, destroy the property, maim and often take the lives of opponents and victims.
Political opponents are persecuted and prosecuted. They are arrested and detained for long periods without formal charges and without trial; they are tried in secret with public and press excluded. Long prison sentences are imposed and served, under sub-human conditions. Often political opponents are shot out of hand. Physical and psychological torture designed to force admissions of guilt or information concerning associates of the torture victims are carried out by public authorities.
Assassination by public authorities or by private agencies with the connivance of public authority is utilized as a political instrument.
There are mass killing and maiming by troops and police, firing on demonstrations of unarmed people, including women and children. Petrograd, at the Winter Palace in 1905, the Amritzar massacre in 1916 by the British authorities, and the official beating of unarmed Negroes and whites demonstrating in the Deep South of the United States during 1964-65 are outstanding examples.
Genocide is practiced. Mass extermination of political opponents or racial minorities; undernourishment in concentration camps; gas chambers are employed. These methods reached the highest level of scientific efficiency in Germany under the Nazis, when Jews, Poles, Russians, Yugoslavs and other opponents were destroyed by millions. The victims included men, women and children.
Police and military persecution and suppression of minority political organizations and religious faiths are carried on inside political frontiers. Examples are the anti-socialist drive in Central and East Europe after the Russian Revolution and the Cold War against communism after 1945.
Mob violence and public participation in drives against racial and religious minorities have occurred In South Africa, India, and the United States since the Civil War.
Mass deportations for political reasons have accompanied war and have been carried out for political purposes.
The entire half-century beginning with 1910 has been marred and scarred by unofficial and official violence and terror: by “man’s inhumanity to man.” A radical must describe human conduct during this entire period as disgusting, revolting, appalling, indefensible, degrading and unworthy of reasoning, ethically motivated human beings.*
[*The ghastly array of evidence supporting the charge that during the past half-century humanity had used violence and terror at levels ordinarily associated with one or another form of primitivism must be qualified by reference to another aspect of human behavior during the same period of war and revolution: the movement for non-violent action in opposition to violence.
Within the vast military machines built up by governments to destroy life and property across the frontiers, individual conscientious objectors have taken their stand against war and violence. Some of them were shot out of hand, but the movement of conscientious objection reached minority proportions in the war-ready and warring countries.
There were mass refusals of duty in the face of the enemy. The most massive was the disintegration of the Russian armies before the October Revolution of 1917. Armed men on the front lines during the War of 1914-18, fraternized with their opponents, abandoning diScipline and threatening the entire war-waging system. Armed men, waging civil war, turned to agriculture and industry, producing instead of destroying. This was notably true in the People’s Liberation Armies of China. Outstanding examples of non-violent action in the face of overwhelming military power were the campaigns organized by Mohandas Gandhi among Indians in South Africa and later in his native India.
Latest among examples of non-violent action are the campaigns of mass civil disobedience aimed to obstruct the activities of the military. Such demonstrations have been organized in Japan against United States armed forces there; in Britain against the installation of Polaris Missiles; in the United States against biological and chemical warfare. Most notable are the non-violent protests against racial segregation and discrimination in South Africa and in the Deep South of the United States. Mention should be made also of the impressive student demonstrations which frequently have .had profound political effects during the past half century. These have occurred in Japan, South Korea, South Vietnam, Turkey, Egypt, and now are occurring in the Western Hemisphere.
Revolution breaks up existing social relations, benefiting some individuals, groups and classes while depriving others of property, privilege and power held under the pre-revolutionary social or· der. The dispossessed, outraged by the deprivation of “rights” which they had taken for granted in the old society, protest, organize and endeavor to take back or “restore” their former privileges and authority. Such efforts are labeled counterrevolution.
Revolution on a planet-wide scale, during the past half century, stimulated and generated counter-revolution. Revolution in each country leads to counter-revolution, as the dispossessed attempt to seize the seats of unstable power. Generally such efforts at restoration depend upon aid from the propertied and privileged in neighboring countries. Where ferment is widespread, ruling elements in threatened countries invade the area in which a revolution is taking place in an effort to reverse the revolutionary process and restore the privileges of the dispossessed ruling classes.
The Mexican Revolution of 1910, the Chinese Revolution of 1911 and the Russian Revolution of 1917 all led to counter-revolutions which included military invasion by the armed forces of imperialist powers.
After war’s end in 1945, as colonial and dependent peoples rose against their imperial masters, counter-revolution was hurriedly organized on an international scale. The same imperialist elements that had sent arms and armies into Russia after the Revolution of 1917 prepared to use the United Nations as the spearhead of their counter-revolutionary drives. When that plan failed, they built up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. NATO was an exclusive clique into which representatives of all of the 19th century empires were welcomed. Its declared purpose was to contain, combat and finally to overthrow the revolutionary regimes that were being established in Europe, Asia and Latin America.
John Foster Dulles, one of the chief architects of NATO, declared that the aim of the organization was to destroy “the international communist conspiracy.” A century earlier, similar efforts were made by the Holy Alliance of monarchists and imperialists, whose purpose was to destroy “the international republican conspiracy.”
If a conspiracy is a joint effort to carry out an unlawful or harmful purpose, NATO, like the Holy Alliance of 1815, is a conspiracy. Both organizations represented the propertied and privileged of a passing social order. Both proposed, by the use of armed force, to turn back the clock of history, restore deposed masters to their former positions of prestige and power, and keep subject peoples in bondage.
Overthrow in April, 1964, of the duly elected progressive government of Brazil, is a first-class example of the work done by the International Imperialist Conspiracy. Brazilian progressives under the leadership of one of the large landholders of Brazil, Joao Goulart, were attempting, by constitutional and legal means, to clear out feudal survivals and modernize their country. The task was difficult and complicated but it might have been carried to a successful conclusion, had it not been for the illegal and unconstitutional action of Goulart’s Brazilian opponents, backed by the International Imperialist Conspiracy operating in Brazil. First among these forces was the Brazilian opposition to Goulart, led by the landlords, the church, the dominant factions in the Army and certain Brazilian business interests working closely with foreign investors. Important foreign interests worked against the Goulart Government: (1) foreign investors in Brazilian enterprises: oil, automobiles, mining; (2) representatives of U.S.A. and other foreign military establishments; (3) U.S.A. and other embassies, consulates, military missions; (4) foreign projects in Brazil such as the Alliance for Progress; (5) the C.I.A. and other foreign under-cover agencies. These agencies, operating with their Brazilian opposite numbers, and using the Brazilian military organization, overthrew the duly elected government of Brazil in 1964, imposed a military dictatorship on the country, acting for Brazilian property and privilege, while serving as the handymen of foreign imperialist interests.
Spokesmen for the “free world” presently are proclaiming their crusade to preserve freedom in Vietnam, Laos, the Congo, Cuba and China, using arms where necessary to uphold unpopular regimes. The proposed “freedom” would prevent local populations in Southeast Asia and elsewhere from choosing a communist way of life and force on them the “free enterprise” way under which the planetwide 19th century empires held more than a billion colonials in bondage.
Imperialists have suffered a shattering defeat during the past half century: first at their own hands, in two general suicidal wars fought by rival imperialist gangs; second, by a planetwide revolt of their erstwhile colonials and dependents, and third, through a series of social revolutions that turned a third of the planet from imperialist bondage to socialist construction.
Currently, in Iran, in Malaysia, in the Congo and in Southeast Asia attempts are being made by the International Imperialist Conspiracy to check the trend toward socialism-communism; return the imperialists to their former privileged positions in the colonies; re-establish white supremacy over the colored peoples, and restore the property and class relationships, the exploitation and military ascendancy associated with private enterprise and national (imperial) sovereignty.
(Chapter V, excerpts)
In the context of our discussion [good is that which benefits or advantages the most; evil disadvantages, harms the most], radicals choose the good and try to live it. Liberals choose the lesser evil and dress it up to look good. Conservatives accept the evil and make no bones about it. Reactionaries want to force the evil on everyone. ...
Private enterprise, laissez-faire capitalists, nation and empire builders have found the good-better-best [evolutionary] formula profitable when applied to natural science, engineering and business, but they have balked proposals to apply the same developmental formula to social practices and social institutions.
Conservatives support this static position. Liberals believe, theoretically, in improvement but they want to protect their property and preserve their privileges. Therefore in a crisis, they use their influence to perpetuate the exploitative institutions of capitalism and imperialism.
Radicals demand the application of the improvement principle: “How can we do a better job?” to the entire realm of social relations and social institutions. It is nearly 200 years since the American Revolution of 1776 and the French Revolution of 1789 opened the way for an application of the improvement formula to politics. It is half a century since the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the Chinese Revolution of 1911 and the Russian Revolution of 1917 opened the way for the application of the improvement formula to economics.
... These efforts to plan and construct an economy and a society on scientific principles (socialist construction) are welcomed and applauded by radicals, questioned and sabotaged by liberals and fought tooth and nail by conservatives and reactionaries.
(Chapter VI, excerpts)
Providing sufficient relief to end physical hardship and formulating a program aimed to achieve social justice is outside the scope of western civilization. Its institutions were not designed to share abundance. On the contrary, they reached their present proportions of planetwide diffusion under an economy of scarcity so organized that only a propertied and privileged minority of mankind, with their middle class retinues, could enjoy e necessaries and comforts, leaving the vast majority in the outer darkness of hunger, malnutrition, periodic famine, inadequate housing, ill health, ignorance, superstition and despair. A social pattern which has served for a thousand years as a means of benefiting the few at the expense of the many must be redesigned and rebuilt before it can serve as an instrument of shared abundance. Until that rebuilding is completed the obsolete social pattern must continue to be one of the chief obstacles blocking the path to social improvement.
Perhaps it would be more accurate to state that western civilization has had a thousand years to demonstrate its capacity to assimilate and utilize the abundance which science and technology make possible and, barring accidents, inevitable. By any standard of judgment the results of this millenium of testing permit only one interpretation: the outlooks, activities and institutions of western civilization are inadequate to share abundance or to achieve social justice.
First, it has been operated for generations by an aristocratic-business minority to defend and promote minority interests. This minority has concerned itself with the general welfare only in so far as advancing the general welfare furthered minority interests. Consequently, in the chief centers of western civilization (the capitals and the commercial and industrial cities) poverty and riches have existed side by side as two parts of the establishment. The oligarchs drew their necessary cheap exploitable labor and their cannon fodder from among the poor.
The countryside of civilized nations was run by and for the landlords who used unpaid forced labor or wretchedly paid seasonal farm hands to do the necessary work. Poverty was so widespread and exploitation was so savage in the countryside, especially in the more fertile areas, that workers hoping to better their lot fled to city slums as an escape from countryside under-employment, degradation and wretchedness.
Second, throughout their history the civilized oligarchies which decided the policies of European nations, devoted their energies to the concentration and monopoly of wealth and power in their own hands. Their chief source of wealth was the ownership of land in the countryside and of land and capital in the cities. Property ownership, one of the pillars of western civilization, enabled the owners to live without labor and accumulate rent and profit by exploiting the labor power of poverty-ridden peoples.
Third, during the last four centuries of western civilization, oligarchies of the wealthiest and most powerful European nations organized colonial empires in the Americas, Asia and Africa by invading, occupying, and sometimes colonizing the conquered territory, plundering its wealth and using slave labor, forced labor and grossly exploited wage labor to provide the European imperialists with cheap food and raw materials, captive markets and investment opportunities in which they made super profits. Living standards among the colonials were even lower than the poverty levels among workers in the European homelands. Such shocking conditions persisted until colonial independence movements and revolts put an end to the imperial-colonial relationship.
Fourth, the major political preoccupation of West European oligarchs was preparation for war and the waging of wars, organized by the oligarchs and fought by the healthiest and sturdiest sons of the people. The oligarchs planned and officered military operations. During the later centuries businessmen made fortunes providing money, supplies and weapons. It was into these wicked and wasteful enterprises that the West poured its wealth and manpower during five centuries of competitive free enterprise empire building.
Fifth, the economic, political and social institutions of the West were developed during an era of economic scarcity, intensified by the wastes of war and conspicuous consumption. Ideas, practices and institutions generated under conditions of scarcity cannot be adapted easily to conditions resulting from the abundance developed by mechanized and automated assembly lines.
Sixth, during the half century following 1910, western civilization suffered a catastrophic breakdown, including two general, devastating wars; economic inflation, insolvency and depression; planetwide colonial independence movements, and the rise, after 1917, of a socialist sector which presently includes about one-third of the planet.
The accumulation of this mass of damaging evidence led up to the anti-imperialist and essentially anti-western movement which has played so conspicuous a part in the international relations of the 1960s. On the face of the evidence, western civilization stands condemned as inadequate, anti-social and obsolete.
Leaders of western civilization do not aim at adapting their outmoded social apparatus to mechanized productivity with its consequent abundance, shared among the planet’s inhabitants on the basis of need. On the contrary, since 1946 they have utilized the surpluses of their vast mechanical, automated productivity to plan, construct and stockpile weapons of mass destructivity which threaten the existence on the planet of the entire human race.
Advocates of the new capitalism or “people’s capitalism” (symbolized by states like Britain and France, with large public sectors in their economies and an extended welfare program; or most important, the United States-the home of assembly-line production and widely distributed stock ownership in giant trusts and cartels) argue that western civilization has made a come-back and is adapting itself to the mandates of mechanization and abundance. The facts do not support this contention. Not only has widespread poverty continued among members of the Atlantic Alliance, but the Cold War, waged since 1946 against socialism-communism, is directed against the principle that income should be distributed according to need.
The weight of evidence today makes it probable that the coalition of empires and former empires, led by Washington, will fight another general war rather than permit the socialization of the social means of production, the ending of exploitation and unearned income, and the distribution of abundance according to need.
Recent developments, particularly the direction and scope of the Cold War, lead to only one conclusion: western civilization is out of line with presentday trends toward social justice, symbolized by shared abundance, and is the victim of internal contradictions and conflicts which must eventuate in its self-destruction.
While our fellow creatures are put behind bars or held captive in the camouflaged cages of modern zoos, where they are stared at and poked by the young, the curious and the idle, our consciences should continue to disturb us. So long as animal hunting and fishing licenses are issued by the million, permitting the holders to trap or shoot our fellow creatures for sport or as a business, we cannot rest content. While our fellow creatures are bred and raised by tens of millions to be butchered in cold blood, their bodies hung up or laid out for sale in public markets and finally cooked and eaten, cannibal fashion, those of us who are radicals in our interpretation of the precept “thou shalt not kill” must continue to agitate and organize on behalf of these myriad victims of artificially stimulated and jaded human appetites.
Restraint does not cease to be imprisonment when it is applied to our fellow creatures. Nor is a form of sport tolerable which maims its victims or deprives them of their lives. Deliberate killing is murder whether the object of the attack is a human being or a fellow creature.
Violations of fellow creature rights take many forms: trapping and shooting wild life for food or sport; saturation spraying and dusting of poisons which destroy birds, mammals and insects; raising and slaughtering creatures for food; torturing and killing fellow creatures for educational, diversional or experimental purposes; the use of fellow creatures as “work animals”; shearing the wool from sheep, goats, camels, rabbits; using the fur of wild or domestic animals; the incarceration of fellow creatures in circus and zoo cages; the maintenance, in permanent servitude, of domestic pets who would not know how to care for themselves if released, who “enjoy their servitude,” “love their masters,” and who, if released, would return voluntarily to live parasitical lives.
There was a time, not too long ago, in the United States or elsewhere, when human beings were hunted and eaten, bred, bought and sold as chattels. For the most part, this form of slavery is a thing of the past. The enslavement, torturing, imprisonment and killing of animal, bird and insect fellow creatures to satisfy human fancy. whim, habit or assumed need is still practiced, on a larger scale than elsewhere, in highly industrialized and civilized communities, where mass slaughter, mass chemical poisoning, mass experimentation with fellow creatures, and mass incarceration behind barbed wire and other restraining means are matters of every day occurrence.
Restraints, incarceration, exploitation, torture and murder of fellow creatures attracts no more attention and arouses no more comment in the leading civilized countries of today than the like treatment of human slaves aroused in the leading civilized countries of previous centuries. Humanity has passed through periods of cannibalism and of chattel slavery. In the course of its evolution, it will surely reach a point at which the greatest good to the greatest number of living creatures will be accepted and applied with equal rigor to humanity’s fellows and neighbors.
If there is a “right” to the demand for security, for dignity and for life itself, that right must apply with equal force to all living things. We humans, as trustees for the planet and its inhabitants are duty bound to recognize and uphold such rights and to protest against their denial, no matter who or what the victims of the denial may be.