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Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 02:12 am
A spectre is haunting 2035: the spectre of communism

The British Army has been brainstorming about what the world will be like thirty years into the future. They want to plan for the sort of risks, shocks and challenges the army might be facing in Britain in the year 2035.

According to Rear Admiral Chris Parry of the Ministry of Defense's Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, there'll be inequality, overpopulation in Africa and the Middle East, shanty town-style urbanization, climate change bringing heat and soil erosion to developing countries and a big freeze to Europe, people with computer chips in their brains, and Flash Mobs mobilizing faster than the authorities can respond. Oh, and the return of Marxism.

Yes, even as Vladimir Putin promises a new Cold War, the British Army is foreseeing a 21st century resurgence of communist ideology and preparing to battle, well, not the international proletariat but the middle classes:

"The middle classes could become a revolutionary class, taking the role envisaged for the proletariat by Marx," says the report. The thesis is based on a growing gap between the middle classes and the super-rich on one hand and an urban under-class threatening social order: "The world's middle classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest". Marxism could also be revived, it says, because of global inequality. An increased trend towards moral relativism and pragmatic values will encourage people to seek the "sanctuary provided by more rigid belief systems, including religious orthodoxy and doctrinaire political ideologies, such as popularism and Marxism".



I must say I think the British Army is right. We're all sick of postmodernism, yet we know that there are really only two ways out of it: fundamentalist Islam and communism. I know which side I'm on.

The idea that the British Army is preparing to fight the British middle class does raise the worrying question of who the army is actually for, though. Doesn't the British middle class basically fund the British Army with their taxes? And isn't "the world's middle classes uniting, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest" pretty much a definition of the normal workings of any republic?

But Britain isn't a republic, of course, and the army is still loyal to the royals. It's Her Majesty's Army, loyal, in 2035, to King William, presumably.

A republic is a nation which has had precisely the kind of revolution the army is preparing to quell; a middle class one. America had its middle class revolution in 1776, France in 1789. Britain, then, is scheduled to have its very own in 2035. Guardian readers -- middle class proto-Marxists every last one -- must be quailing to read that what they thought was their own army may well use "unmanned electromagnetic pulses" against their tactical Flash Mob uprisings, knocking out their communication networks and stymying their attempt to foment the kind of revolution other advanced states achieved in the late 18th century.



A child of the American republic, Jeffrey D. Sachs, sketches out a much more sensible vision of the future in the first of the 2007 Reith Lectures, Bursting at the Seams. Director of The Earth Institute, Professor of Sustainable Development at Columbia and a former advisor to Kofi Annan at the UN, Sachs also sees climate change and overpopulation as the major challenges the world faces. But instead of advocating, like the Rear Admiral, giving more money to the army so they can fight the very people who fund them, Sachs wants to take some of it away.

"One day's Pentagon spending could cover every sleeping site in Africa for five years with anti-malaria bed nets," he says.

90CommentReplyFlag

bricology
bricology
bricology
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 12:51 am (UTC)

"We're all sick of postmodernism, yet we know that there are really only two ways out of it: fundamentalist Islam and communism."

Well, I greatly doubt that 99% of the world's human inhabitants even know what postmodernism is, or that an exit from it is essential. Hell, I know what it is, and not only do I doubt that an exit from it is needed, I consider it an academic construct. Yes, I realize that the 500 avid readers of Social Text and another 500 university professors disagree with me, but I can live with that.

Even so, fundamentalist Islam or Communism is a false dilemma. The second-coming of Marx has been promised more often over the past 50 years than even the second-coming of Jesus. Marxism's (or communism's) return is only slightly less improbable, in my estimation. Both promise to better the lowest class at the expense of everyone else, and even that, neither has never delivered. Given the middle class' unprecedented access to historical information, how is anyone going to sell the middle class on giving up what they have?

The middle class is, and will always be, the most politically apathetic. As long as they have entertainment, wage-slavery and wheels, they'll be basically contented. There will be little societal and even political nudges from elements within the middle class, but that will be in the direction of social responsibility and charity, not communism.


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beketaten
beketaten
Juliet
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 01:34 am (UTC)

We're all sick of postmodernism, yet we know that there are really only two ways out of it: fundamentalist Islam and communism. I know which side I'm on.

I think that's a bit narrow.

Whatever incarnation human civilization mutates into next, is not going to be a simple retread--I mean, from what else you're saying, surely it would be a different way to look at an older philosophy, but I feel that it would all be fascism in both cases if: either no one would own their property and hence not care too much, or fundamentalists tell you what to do with what is yours, and could relinquish it any time in the name of some god, but mostly just for their earthly power-bloated sickness.

Granted, I don't believe most of the world is even smart enough to be truly redeemed, but if any improvement is to take root, why should it be "communism or radical islam"? why not democratic socialism? or libertarianism? or even anarchy? (i'd be with the first)


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ultrakurtzwelle
ultrakurtzwelle
radio valkyrie
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 02:25 am (UTC)

This post is really just an excuse to post marx as an anime character.
and i wholeheartedly approve.


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 03:47 pm (UTC)

hahaha I like you. Have a Sylvian icon.


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whirlings
whirlings
Nikolas
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 02:35 am (UTC)

it is about time. however, the observation that either fundamentalist islam or marxism to emerge draws a frail line of polarisation. fundamentalist islam as well has marxism both have taken on contradictory manifestations. with which conflict theories of marx and with which system bearing the ornamented crest of fundamentalist islam will the line be drawn?


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pay_option07
pay_option07
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 03:12 am (UTC)
Cyber-marxist punks

I'm sorta going with technology explosions
following extreme political obsessions. Nihilists everywhere unite! We'll meet up later at Starbucks Yah!


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 03:01 am (UTC)
Spectre of communism


What a great job it must be to daydream absurd scenarios of doctor's wives and vicars storming the barricades.
Where do I sign up?


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 03:23 am (UTC)
KEYNE + ABEL

WHAT KIND OF BBC LECTURE TRANSCRIBER CANT SPELL THE FUCKING NAME "KEYNES"


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 12:19 pm (UTC)
Re: KEYNE + ABEL

Your spelling it wrong too dumbass... it's KANYE


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bricology
bricology
bricology
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 05:43 am (UTC)

I don't think that the American middle class is "shrinking rapidly". It's fragmenting into subclasses, the definitions are evolving, and we're becoming a victim of our own success as the immigrant destination of choice. Despite our population doubling in the past 50 years (and the host of problems with things like job and housing competition and infrastructure degradation that causes), the median income of US families has never lost pace with inflation.

I'll have to leave the evaluation of Britain's middle class up to someone else.


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guest_informant
guest_informant
guest_informant
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 06:07 am (UTC)

Couldn't they have been reading their Ballard a little bit too closely?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 07:04 am (UTC)

One thing worth remembering is that by 2035 the world's biggest economy will be China, which I heard someone describe yesterday as "Leninist-Corporatist".


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bricology
bricology
bricology
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 07:42 am (UTC)

I think it's a pretty good bet that 28 years from now China will be at least as far removed from what it is today as it is removed today from what it was 28 years ago. And given the way that things tend to change exponentially and the ways that each generation finds workarounds to their parent's control sets, I suspect that China will be anything but "Leninist-Corporatist" even ten years from now.

"How you gonna keep 'em down on the farm, when they've seen Pare-ee on YouTube?"


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stanleylieber
stanleylieber
Stanley Lieber
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 07:10 am (UTC)

There's not gonna be a world to be Communist thirty years from now!


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 07:30 am (UTC)

Sachs pins that one pretty well in his Reith lecture:

"People have always denied the possibilities of concrete progress. We were expected to have an Armageddon when President Kennedy gave this speech in 1963. You look at public opinion in 1963 - the overwhelming expectation was that war with the Soviet Union was inevitable. And the expectation was on just about every piece of progress that it couldn't happen. The expectation was that by now India would be wracked by devastating famine year in, year out, that hundreds of millions would die, that the die was already cast. So frankly the extrapolation from the present to the future on current trends is the easiest thing in the world. The idea that there can be change perhaps is a hard thing to accept. The idea that there has been profound change should be understood by everybody. And I want to make a key message, which obviously in this first talk I can't amplify, which is that the choices are better than you think, because the cost of these solutions is much lower than is feared. And this is the most important point. Climate change is not going to end our civilisation unless we pretend that it doesn't exist or unless we are so afraid that we don't confront it. If we confront it in a timely and sensible way, we can head off the worst at quite low cost. We can end extreme poverty within our own generation if we stopped rubbing our hands in angst, or just turning our eyes away. The more people understand the real choices, the real consequences and the real power that we have, with the phenomenal technologies that we have available, the more likely it is that we make the right choices - that's why it's worth talking about these things."


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flyonawndshield
flyonawndshield
John
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 07:32 am (UTC)

My problem with Sachs is that he's invested far too much into the multilateral large-scale international plans for eliminating poverty without putting enough effort into considering the actual implementation of the aid.

For example, Malaria nets are clearly beneficial if used properly, but there are also reports of people not being educated in their use, resulting in them becoming chemically treated fishing nets and the like. We can't simply airlift millions of nets into these countries and hope that people will make good use of them. Education is a crucial factor in eliminating these problems.

Though it sounds terrible, the "powers that be" in the West (the Bonos) should definitely step back and rely on NGOs and small-scale Searchers to do the beneficial aid in Africa. The infrastructural systems are not in place for large-scale plans to be successfully implemented. In fact, studies show that the more IMF or Worldbank funds that flow into these areas, the worse the areas actually get. It's almost a direct inverse relationship.

Lastly, though I don't support a purely Laissez-faire approach to foreign interaction or aid (such as with the Rwandan genocides) I do think that every situation should be handled carefully, within context, and from a bottom-up approach.


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Apr. 13th, 2007 04:20 am (UTC)

Of course IMF and Worldbank loans don't benefit borrower countries, the problem there is not solely with borrower organization, it's more in the unfair manner these loans are handed out (as in, to make a quick buck for these banks, based on their high interest rates and short lending period).

I can see why you'd place NGO's as a bottom-up approach, but their organization and appeal to context also seem to me to be top down, or glocal.

I hope you are not suggesting that only bottom-up methods provide substantial and productive resistance. Are localities really so otherly that any top town intervention can't work with them, while only locally produced programs will? I think the local and global, top and bottom, have more steps and relations between them than we would assume.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 08:15 am (UTC)

A modernist post on post-modernism. I'm a die hard Marxist myself--"Duck Soup" is my favorite.

Ideological hand wringing is so 19th Century. If you see a person in a military or police uniform, just think of them as a clown like Ronald McDonald (not Ronald Dumsfeld, that's a different clown who used to work for another slaughterhouse). Or better yet, tell them you heard the Village People are looking for a replacement member. At any rate, just laugh at them. Start laughing hysterically. "Men in uniform" hate to be laughed at--it impuns their precious sense of authority. The sooner we all start acting like these people are ridiculous and useless to us, the sooner it'll happen.

Michael


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 08:25 am (UTC)

"Men in uniform" hate to be laughed at--it impuns their precious sense of authority. The sooner we all start acting like these people are ridiculous and useless to us, the sooner it'll happen.

...If by "it" you mean the soldier or policeman in question reaching for a gun and throwing you in a cell, I'm inclined to agree.

I don't think ideology is 19th century. Fukuyama himself now admits he got his "end of history" thing totally wrong. What's interesting is that even the army seems aware that the kind of increasing inequality we're now seeing makes socialist and communist ideology necessary. Even the Pope has been quoting Marx recently.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 09:06 am (UTC)

You look at public opinion in 1963 - the overwhelming expectation was that war with the Soviet Union was inevitable.

And yet public opinion wasn't far wrong though, was it? A nuclear showdown was avoided by a hair's breadth during the Cuban missile crisis. Castro was actually urging Krushchev to nuke America.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 09:18 am (UTC)

Sure, that's the closest it came. But where I think Sachs has a strong point is that defeatism and eschatology are cop outs, and the enemies of activism. And incremental progress, rather than chaotic or apocalpytic disruptions, tends to be what we see in history:

"When Wilberforce started in this city in the 1770s and said that slavery should end in the empire, he didn't have a talk to this group and they said. 'Oh that's very unrealistic, (LAUGHTER) there's some very powerful slave traders out there that are never going to go with it, just give up and go home.' You know it was a fight. (APPLAUSE) It was a fight for half a century. Don't be pessimistic because it doesn't happen immediately. Lots of things happen - they just take time. Let me give one example. In early 2001, based on work that I was leading for the World Health Organisation, I issued a statement with my colleagues at Harvard saying that people in Africa should be treated with anti-retroviral medicines. At the time there was a huge attack by officialdom - 'How could you do this? It's completely irresponsible.' Where are we today? Of course we now have a Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria. There are billions of dollars being spent on this. There is a rapid scaling up of treatment, there is a commitment that by 2010 there should be universal access to anti-retroviral medicines for all who need them. Don't tell me things can't change, and that they can't change fast. We just need to fight for them, based on the evidence."


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 10:51 am (UTC)

Doesn't british army analysts have to read history? Middle-class uprisings in the face of an under-class not doing as it's told and a decadent overclass has historically lead to fascism, not communism.


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eustaceplimsoll
Eustace Plimsoll
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 12:04 pm (UTC)

I don't think it's a case of being sick of postmodernism (or the postmodern condition) as much ceasing to be amused by it. When it becomes impossible to consume and be amused and mollified anymore (consumption being the soil from which 'postmodernism' grows) the emperor will be seen to be naked.

Non-relative truths of ecology and agriculture (that is to say; birth, death and sacrifice) will then become apparent. The truth of war too, perhaps. The silly shifting and groundless life of the modern Western consumer is as doomed as it is nearsighted.

Right, I'm off to dust down my copies of Das Capital and the Qu'ran. A synthesis of our two options may be in order.


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eustaceplimsoll
Eustace Plimsoll
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 12:16 pm (UTC)

Incidentally Momus, I just had a look over some of your recent posts, and found the one on Epicureanism particularly interesting. I'll limit myself to saying just one thing: your garden wall is going to have to be very strong in the coming years!


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 12:30 pm (UTC)

It all begs the question why people would want to live in a country where malaria nets are necessary.


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eustaceplimsoll
Eustace Plimsoll
Thu, Apr. 12th, 2007 12:38 pm (UTC)

Because their amount of collective and familial joy is inversely proportional to their lack of wealth. Or something. That's what my mate who went to Africa said anyway.


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