Not till a natural science of collective life has been created… Can we expect to enter into a really human era of history… in which collective life evolves… according to reason.
-S. de Madariaga.
Throughout the ages, since the dawn of human society, men have quarrelled, fought and made war upon one another. Whatever their pretexts or beliefs for going to war, a large part, at least, of the general underlying cause has been economic: i.e., wars have almost invariably involved quarrels over possessions and wealth. Especially was this the case in the past when wealth could not be produced in the gigantic abundance that is possible to-day. But the cause of war never has been purely and absolutely economic. “It takes two to make a quarrel” – and though the beliefs for which wars are ostensibly fought vary and change from War to war, from side to side and from man to man, the fundamental fact remains: that under certain circumstances men will prefer to risk life and limb in physical combat and mutual slaughter, rather than endure what they consider to be an intolerable state of peace.
This fundamental fact – without which there would be no wars – is not economic but ideological. It is true that ideologies are conditioned by economic circumstances. But it is equally true that economic circumstances are conditional by ideologies. Men struggle with one another over wealth, they quarrel and fight about wealth, they struggle economically, politically and militarily, with wealth as the underlying prize and subject-matter. But the fact of the struggle itself, together with the series of different forms of that struggle – the changing phases of the struggle, that is through which man passes as his understanding of the struggle increases, changes and becomes more mature – these are phenomena which are determined largely by psychobiological and ideological laws and processes, independently of economic conditioning.
True, in order to quarrel you must have something to quarrel about. But even if, in a final analysis, this subject-matter of the quarrelling and argumentation of men turns out to be fundamentally and constantly economic, then that only accounts for the influence of the subject-matter upon the states or forms of the struggle and not for the inherent nature of the forms themselves. The omission to recognise this important limitation leads to the over-emphasis of the economic factor, and to the belief that it is only a matter of time before all men will acquire a scientific interest in, and an adequate knowledge of, their ultimate communal and economic interests.
The study of the inherent nature of the ideological forms of struggle, apart from the economic conditioning those forms undoubtedly receive, is becoming increasingly recognised, by serious students of society and men of science, as holding the key to the understanding of the social consciousness of man and hence to the control of those social forces which, if they remain beyond control, will eventually lead human society to the point of self-annihilation. As we have seen, the only real alternative to a disastrous and catastrophic end of civilisation is a world democratic system in which economic and political democracy are combined, united and mutually interpenetrative. Systems which fall short of these two fundamental freedoms will ever stir men to struggle, violence and war.
The real unification of these two components of a fuller democratic life becomes more and more a practical and vital ideological problem. Left to their own devices, the respective adherents of the two democratic systems – because of their mutually-exclusive conceptions of each other – can hardly do more than agree to respect each other’s territory and spheres of influence, and formally co-operate by each agreeing not to interfere in the other’s internal political and economic affairs! To expect them to do more than formally unite for the purpose of remaining mutually exclusive is to expect them, as opposing ideological groups, not to be ideologically prejudiced and not to manifest their basic ideological assumptions concerning each other. While the creation of this formal and external unity is certainly a step in the right direction, it would be utopian and unrealistic to expect, from these mutually-exclusive groups alone, the further development of an intimate and internal unity of the two systems.
On the other hand, we can expect no initial move in this direction from the broad masses anywhere in the world, for, as we have already seen, the mass of people are comparatively indifferent to all political issues which involve complex theoretical considerations, and an objective analytical mode of thought. Nor is it strange that the smooth-running and scientific control of a highly complicated organism, as human society undoubtedly is, should involve complex theoretical matters and a specialised technical knowledge of its ideological, political and economic structure and development. How, then, is this intimate and internal unity of the two forms of democracy, so vital for the future of mankind, to become a reality?
Ideological study shows, among other things, that it is possible to develop a scientific outlook in which the two systems are no longer regarded as irreconcilable and mutually exclusive, but as mutually complementary and necessary to each other as the poles of a magnet or other dialectical opposition are equally and mutually necessary to one another. Such an outlook, of course. because of its objective and scientific nature, could not be produced on anything like a mass scale. But ideological science also shows that a comparatively small number of scientifically-minded persons, with the appropriate outlook and technical knowledge of ideologies, their laws, mechanisms and processes – and particularly the ideology of the masses – could at least obtain mass support and approval for their outlook, if not mass understanding. Such mass support would be almost wholly emotional and would therefore depend, not so much upon logical and technical exposition of the central ideas, as upon a strong emphasis of their emotional side – which they indeed have – and their mass interpretation in almost exclusively emotional terms. Not that logical exposition of scientific ideas concerning society would be – or even could be – restricted. Scientific understanding of human society is vital to a scientifically-integrated and controlled social order and would, of course, in such a system be encouraged to the utmost degree.
This recognition and distinction of the respective functions of an intellectual and technical minority, on the one hand, and the emotional and the non-technical masses on the other, has already been made by the psychologist Serge Chakotin (a pupil of Pavlov) in his valuable book The Rape of the Masses – a book which everyone interested in social problems and social psychology should read. For the mass dissemination of what he terms “senso-propaganda’ (i.e., scientifically produced but highly emotional propaganda) Chakotin advocates the creation of a highly technical group of “soul engineers” as he calls them. These ideological engineers would be drawn from those who had made a thorough scientific study of ideologies in general and that ‘of the masses in particular.
With unprejudiced, objective and scientific knowledge of mass psychology and ideology, and given proper organisation, such a technical minority could, within a comparatively short space of time, win enough mass support and mass enthusiasm to become a formidable political force, a considerable pressure-group for the further and real unification of political and economic democracy. This union undoubtedly constitutes the next great and necessary advance in mankind’s age-old and tortuous struggle towards the light of complete social freedom, the last gasping struggle of man towards a world society in which the plentiful products of science no longer menace innocent lives but sustain and nourish them, and in which political oppression and economic misery are no longer grim realities of the present, but bitter memories of the past. Science exists to serve man not to destroy him: by using science to control society man can yet be saved from using science for self-destruction. This must surely be the final crusade of all. Either that, or perish.
Continue reading 999 – Emergency! (1946)
The Child with the Loaded Pistol | Social Hari-Kiri | Are Scientists Inhuman? | The Rape of Science | Scientific Superstitions | While Rome Burns | The International Volcano | The Final Crusade