Edited by L. Kurt Engelhart
This document has been heavily edited to reduce its size and retain the essence of its message. The editor believes that, regardless of the reader's moral judgement of the writer's position, the position deserves to be accessible and understood.
The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in "advanced" countries, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of technology will worsen the situation. It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased physical suffering even in "advanced" countries.
The industrial-technological system may survive or it may break down. If the system survives, the consequences will be inevitable. There is no way of reforming or modifying the system so as to prevent it from depriving people of dignity and autonomy. If the system breaks down it had best break down sooner rather than later.
We therefore advocate a revolution against the industrial system. This is not to be a political revolution. Its object will be to overthrow not governments but the economic and technological basis of the present society.
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MODERN LEFTISM
Almost everyone will agree that we live in a deeply troubled society. One of the most widespread manifestations of the craziness of our world is leftism. When we speak of leftists in this article we have in mind mainly socialists, collectivists, "politically correct" types. All we are trying to do is indicate in a rough and approximate way the two psychological tendencies that we believe are the main driving force of modern leftism. The two psychological tendencies that underlie modern leftism we call "feelings of inferiority" and "over-socialization."
FEELINGS OF INFERIORITY
By "feelings of inferiority" we mean not only inferiority feelings in the strictest sense but a whole spectrum of related traits: low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, depressive tendencies, defeatism, guilt, self-hatred, etc. These feelings are expressed as political correctness. They have their stronghold among university professors, who have secure employment with comfortable salaries, and the majority of whom are heterosexual, white males from middle-class families.
Although leftists identify with minority groups, the leftists themselves feel that these groups are inferior. Leftists tend to hate anything that has an image of being strong, good and successful. The leftist is anti-individualistic, pro-collectivist. He wants society to satisfy everyone's needs for them, take care of them. The leftist is antagonistic to the concept of competition, as if there were no hope of accomplishing anything through rational calculation.
Modern leftist philosophers tend to dismiss reason, science, objective reality and to insist that everything is culturally relative. It is true that one can ask serious questions about the foundations of scientific knowledge and about how, if at all, the concept of objective reality can be defined. But their attack is an outlet for hostility, and, to the extent that it is successful, it satisfies the drive for power. More importantly, the leftist hates science and rationality because they classify certain beliefs as true (i.e., successful, superior) and other beliefs as false (i.e. failed, inferior). The leftist cannot tolerate any classification of some things as successful or superior and other things as failed or inferior. Leftists prefer to give society the credit or blame for an individual's ability or lack of it.
Notice the masochistic tendency of leftist tactics. The leftist cannot conceive of himself as individually strong and valuable. Self-hatred is a leftist trait. Hostility too is a prominent component of leftist behavior; so is the drive for power.
Our society socializes children by making them feel ashamed of behavior or speech that is contrary to society's expectations. The over-socialized person cannot even experience, without guilt, thoughts or feelings that are contrary to the accepted morality. Over-socialization is among the more serious cruelties that human beings inflict on one another. Leftists of the over-socialized type tend to be intellectuals or members of the upper-middle class. Notice that university intellectuals constitute the most highly socialized segment of our society and also the most left-wing segment.
Many leftists are not such rebels as they seem. The goals of today's leftists are not in conflict with the accepted morality: the duty of the individual to serve society and the duty of society to take care of the individual. These have been deeply rooted values of our society (or at least of its middle and upper classes). Leftists, especially those of the over-socialized type, usually do not rebel against these principles but justify their hostility to society by claiming (with some degree of truth) that society is not living up to these principles. In effect, however much he may deny it, the over-socialized leftist wants to integrate everyone into the system and make them adopt its values.
By their own account, violence is for them a form of "liberation." If they engage in violence they claim to be fighting against racism or the like. Today's society tries to socialize us to a greater extent than any previous society.
THE POWER PROCESS
Human beings have a need (probably based in biology) for something that we will call the "power process." Everyone needs to have goals whose attainment requires effort, and needs to succeed in attaining at least some of his goals. Power is not enough. One must have goals toward which to exercise one's power. Consistent failure to attain goals throughout life results in defeatism, low self-esteem or depression. Thus, in order to avoid serious psychological problems, a human being needs goals whose attainment requires effort, and he must have a reasonable rate of success in attaining his goals.
When people do not have to exert themselves to satisfy their physical needs they often set up artificial goals for themselves. We use the term "surrogate activity" to designate an activity that is directed toward an artificial goal that people set up for themselves merely in order to have some goal to work toward, or let us say, merely for the sake of the "fulfillment" that they get from pursuing the goal.
In modern industrial society only minimal effort is necessary to satisfy one's physical needs. Thus it is not surprising that modern society is full of surrogate activities. These are not always pure surrogate activities, since for many people they may be motivated in part by needs other than the need to have some goal to pursue. Scientific work may be motivated in part by a drive for prestige, artistic creation by a need to express feelings, militant social activism by hostility.
For many if not most people, surrogate activities are less satisfying than the pursuit of real goals. In our society the effort needed to satisfy the biological needs has been reduced to triviality. More importantly, in our society people do not satisfy their biological needs autonomously but by functioning as parts of an immense social machine. In contrast, people generally have a great deal of autonomy in pursuing their surrogate activities.
Autonomy as a part of the power process may not be necessary for every individual. But for most people, their efforts must be undertaken on their own initiative and must be under their own direction and control. For most people it is through the power process (having a goal, making an autonomous effort and attaining the goal) that self-esteem, self-confidence and a sense of power are acquired. When one does not have adequate opportunity to go throughout the power process the consequences are boredom, demoralization, low self-esteem, inferiority feelings, defeatism, depression, anxiety, guilt, frustration, hostility, etc.
SOURCES OF SOCIAL PROBLEMS
Any of the foregoing symptoms can occur in any society, but in modern industrial society they are present on a massive scale. This sort of thing is not normal for human societies. There is good reason to believe that these kinds of problems were far less common among primitive peoples than they are in modern society. We attribute the social and psychological problems of modern society to the fact that society requires people to live under conditions radically different from those under which the human race evolved and to behave in ways that conflict with the patterns of behavior that the human race developed while living under the earlier conditions.
It is well known that crowding increases stress and aggression. The degree of crowding that exists today and the isolation of man from nature are consequences of technological progress. Also, technology exacerbates the effects of crowding because it puts increased disruptive powers in people's hands. But if these machines had never been invented there would have been no conflict and no frustration generated by them.
For primitive societies the natural world provided a stable framework and therefore a sense of security. In the modern world human society dominates nature and modern society changes very rapidly owing to technological change. Thus there is no stable framework.
Rapid, drastic changes in the technology and the economy of a society inevitably break down traditional values. The breakdown of traditional values implies the breakdown of the bonds that hold together traditional small-scale social groups. A technological society has to weaken family ties and local communities if it is to function efficiently. Otherwise, such communities would pursue their own advantage at the expense of the system.
Crowding, rapid change and the breakdown of communities have been widely recognized as sources of social problems. but we do not believe they are enough to account for the extent of the problems that are seen today. The difference, we argue, is that modern man has the sense (largely justified) that change is imposed on him, whereas the 19th century frontiersman had the sense (also largely justified) that he created change himself, by his own choice. We contend that the most important cause of social and psychological problems in modern society is the fact that people have insufficient opportunity to go through the power process in a normal way. Leftism, at least in its recent (mid-to-late 20th century) form, is in part a symptom of deprivation with respect to the power process.
DISRUPTION OF THE POWER PROCESS IN MODERN SOCIETY
A theme that appears repeatedly in the writings of the social critics of the second half of the 20th century is the sense of purposelessness that afflicts many people in modern society. Very widespread in modern society is the search for "fulfillment." But we think that for the majority of people a surrogate activity does not bring completely satisfactory fulfillment. In other words, it does not fully satisfy the need for the power process. Today people live more by virtue of what the system does for them or to them than by virtue of what they do for themselves. Opportunities tend to be those that the system provides if there is to be a chance of success. The value of the opportunity is destroyed by the very fact that society gives it to them. What they need is to find or make their own opportunities.
Thus the power process is disrupted in our society through a deficiency of real goals and a deficiency of autonomy in pursuit of goals. One of our drives is the need for security. Yet our lives depend on decisions made by other people; we have no control over these decisions and usually we do not even know the people who make them. The individual's search for security is therefore frustrated, which leads to a sense of powerlessness. Modern man suffers from more than the amount of insecurity that is normal for human beings. What makes us feel secure is not so much objective security as a sense of confidence in our ability to take care of ourselves.
Threats to the modern individual tend to be man-made. They are not the results of chance but are imposed on him by other persons whose decisions he, as an individual, is unable to influence. Consequently, he feels frustrated, humiliated and angry. Modern man is strapped down by a network of rules and regulations (explicit or implicit) that frustrate many of his impulses and thus interfere with the power process. Most of these regulations cannot be disposed with, because they are necessary for the functioning of industrial society.
Modern society is in certain respects extremely permissive. We can do anything we like as long as it is unimportant. But in all important matters the system tends increasingly to regulate our behavior. Behavior is regulated not only through explicit rules and not only by the government. Control is often exercised through indirect coercion or through psychological pressure or manipulation, and by organizations other than the government, or by the system as a whole.
In primitive societies life is a succession of stages. The needs and purposes of one stage having been fulfilled, there is no particular reluctance about passing on to the next stage. Many modern people, on the other hand, are disturbed by the prospect of death, as is shown by the amount of effort they expend trying to maintain their physical condition, appearance and health. We argue that this is due to the fact that they have never gone through the power process using their bodies in a serious way. It is not the primitive man, who has used his body daily for practical purposes, who fears the deterioration of age, but the modern man, who has never had a practical use for his body.
HOW SOME PEOPLE ADJUST
Not everyone in industrial-technological society suffers from psychological problems. Some people even profess to be quite satisfied with society as it is. Material acquisition serves their need for the power process. But it does not necessarily follow that their need is fully satisfied. They may have insufficient autonomy in the power process (their work may consist of following orders) and some of their drives may be frustrated (e.g., security, aggression).
Some people partly satisfy their need for power by identifying themselves with a powerful organization or mass movement. In particular, leftist movements tend to attract people who are seeking to satisfy their need for power. But for most people identification with a large organization or a mass movement does not fully satisfy the need for power.
Another way in which people satisfy their need for the power process is through surrogate activities. In many cases a person's way of earning a living is also a surrogate activity. Many people put into their work far more effort than is necessary to earn whatever money and status they require, and this extra effort constitutes a surrogate activity. This extra effort, together with the emotional investment that accompanies it, is one of the most potent forces acting toward the continual development and perfecting of the system, with negative consequences for individual freedom. Especially, for the most creative scientists and engineers, work tends to be largely a surrogate activity.
Many people in modern society do satisfy their need for the power process to a greater or lesser extent. But we think that for the majority of people the need for the power process is not fully satisfied. But even if most people in industrial- technological society were well satisfied, we would still be opposed to that form of society, because we consider it demeaning to fulfill one's need for the power process through surrogate activities or through identification with an organization, rather than through pursuit of real goals.
THE MOTIVES OF SCIENTISTS
Science and technology provide the most important examples of surrogate activities. With possible rare exceptions, their motive is neither curiosity nor a desire to benefit humanity but the need to go through the power process: to have a goal (a scientific problem to solve), to make an effort (research) and to attain the goal (solution of the problem). Other motives do play a role for many scientists. Money and status for example. Thus science is not a pure surrogate activity. But it is in large part a surrogate activity. Also, science and technology constitute a mass power movement, and many scientists gratify their need for power through identification with this mass movement.
THE NATURE OF FREEDOM
Freedom means being in control (either as an individual or as a member of a small group) of the life-and-death issues of one's existence; food, clothing, shelter and defense against whatever threats there may be in one's environment. Freedom means having power; not the power to control other people but the power to control the circumstances of one's own life. The degree of personal freedom that exists in a society is determined more by the economic and technological structure of the society than by its laws or its form of government. Constitutional rights are useful up to a point, but they do not serve to guarantee much more than what could be called the bourgeois conception of freedom. According to the bourgeois conception, a "free" man is essentially an element of a social machine and has only a certain set of prescribed and delimited freedoms; freedoms that are designed to serve the needs of the social machine more than those of the individual. But what kind of freedom does one have if one can use it only as someone else prescribes?
It should not be assumed that a person has enough freedom just because he says he has enough. Freedom is restricted in part by psychological control of which people are unconscious, and moreover many people's ideas of what constitutes freedom are governed more by social convention than by their real needs.
SOME PRINCIPLES OF HISTORY
A society is a system in which all parts are interrelated, and you can't permanently change any important part without changing all the other parts as well. If a change is made that is large enough to alter permanently a long-term trend, then the consequences for the society as a whole cannot be predicted in advance. A new kind of society cannot be designed on paper. That is, you cannot plan out a new form of society in advance, then set it up and expect it to function as it was designed to. Changes in the economy and the environment will affect human behavior in complex, unpredictable ways. People do not consciously and rationally choose the form of their society. Societies develop through processes of social evolution that are not under rational human control.
A revolution does not necessarily involve an armed uprising or the overthrow of a government.
INDUSTRIAL-TECHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY CANNOT BE REFORMED
The foregoing principles help to show how hopelessly difficult it would be to reform the industrial system in such a way as to prevent it from progressively narrowing our sphere of freedom. Hence any change designed to protect freedom from technology would be contrary to a fundamental trend in the development of our society. Permanent changes in favor of freedom can be brought about only by persons prepared to accept radical, dangerous and unpredictable alteration of the entire system. In other words, by revolutionaries, not reformers.
RESTRICTION OF FREEDOM IS UNAVOIDABLE IN INDUSTRIAL SOCIETY
Modern man is strapped down by a network of rules and regulations, and his fate depends on the actions of persons remote from him whose decisions he cannot influence. This is not accidental or a result of the arbitrariness of arrogant bureaucrats. It is necessary and inevitable in any technologically advanced society. The system has to regulate human behavior closely in order to function. The system has to force people to behave in ways that are increasingly remote from the natural pattern of human behavior. Because of the constant pressure that the system exerts to modify human behavior, there is a gradual increase in the number of people who cannot or will not adjust to society's requirements.
In any technologically advanced society the individual's fate must depend on decisions that he personally cannot influence to any great extent. Thus most individuals are unable to influence measurably the major decisions that affect their lives. There is no conceivable way to remedy this in a technologically advanced society. The system tries to "solve" this problem by using propaganda to make people want the decisions that have been made for them, but even if this "solution" were completely successful in making people feel better, it would be demeaning.
The system does not and cannot exist to satisfy human needs. Instead, it is human behavior that has to be modified to fit the needs of the system. It is the fault of technology, because the system is guided not by ideology but by technical necessity. Of course the system does satisfy many human needs, but generally speaking it does this only to the extent that it is to the advantage of the system to do it. But the system, for good, solid, practical reasons, must exert constant pressure on people to mold their behavior to the needs of the system. The concept of "mental health" in our society is defined largely by the extent to which an individual behaves in accord with the needs of the system and does so without showing signs of stress.
Similarly, in any enterprise within a socialist system, workers must direct their efforts toward the goals of the enterprise, otherwise the enterprise will not serve its purpose as part of the system. For purely technical reasons it is not possible for most individuals or small groups to have much autonomy in industrial society.
THE 'BAD' PARTS OF TECHNOLOGY CANNOT BE SEPARATED FROM THE 'GOOD' PARTS
A further reason why industrial society cannot be reformed in favor of freedom is that modern technology is a unified system in which all parts are dependent on one another. You can't get rid of the "bad" parts of technology and retain only the "good" parts.
TECHNOLOGY IS A MORE POWERFUL SOCIAL FORCE THAN THE ASPIRATION FOR FREEDOM
Technology is a more powerful social force than the aspiration for freedom. When a new item of technology is introduced as an option that an individual can accept or not as he chooses, it does not necessarily remain optional. In many cases the new technology changes society in such a way that people eventually find themselves forced to use it. While technological progress as a whole continually narrows our sphere of freedom, each new technical advance considered by itself appears to be desirable. Within the context of a given society, technological progress marches in only one direction; it can never be reversed.
Technology advances with great rapidity and threatens freedom at many different points at the same time. To fight each of the threats separately would be futile. Success can be hoped for only by fighting the technological system as a whole; but that is revolution not reform. No social arrangements, whether laws, institutions, customs or ethical codes, can provide permanent protection against technology.
During the next several decades the industrial- technological system will be undergoing severe stresses due to economic and environmental problems, and especially due to problems of human behavior. We hope that the stresses through which the system is likely to pass will cause it to break down, or at least weaken it sufficiently so that a revolution occurs and is successful, then at that particular moment the aspiration for freedom will have proved more powerful than technology. While the industrial system is sick we must destroy it. If we compromise with it and let it recover from its sickness, it will eventually wipe out all of our freedom.
SIMPLER SOCIAL PROBLEMS HAVE PROVED INTRACTABLE
Consider how clumsily and for the most part unsuccessfully our society has dealt with other social problems that are far more simple and straightforward. Major social problems, if they get "solved" at all, are rarely or never solved through any rational, comprehensive plan. They just work themselves out.
Thus it is clear that the human race has at best a very limited capacity for solving even relatively straightforward social problems. How then is it going to solve the far more difficult and subtle problem of reconciling freedom with technology? Technology presents clear-cut material advantages, whereas freedom is an abstraction that means different things to different people. It is not in the interest of the system to preserve freedom or small-group autonomy. On the contrary, it is in the interest of the system to bring human behavior under control to the greatest possible extent.
REVOLUTION IS EASIER THAN REFORM
We hope we have convinced the reader that the system cannot be reformed in a such a way as to reconcile freedom with technology. The only way out is to dispense with the industrial-technological system altogether. This implies revolution, not necessarily an armed uprising, but certainly a radical and fundamental change in the nature of society.
CONTROL OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR
Since the beginning of civilization, organized societies have had to put pressures on human beings for the sake of the functioning of the social organism. Thus human nature has in the past put certain limits on the development of societies. People could be pushed only so far and no farther. But today this may be changing, because modern technology is developing ways of modifying human beings. Imagine a society that has a means of modifying an individual's internal state in such a way as to enable him to tolerate social conditions that he would otherwise find intolerable. "Mental health" programs, "intervention" techniques, psychotherapy and so forth are ostensibly designed to benefit individuals, but in practice they usually serve as methods for inducing individuals to think and behave as the system requires. (In a sense the system is acting for the benefit of the individual when it brainwashes him into conformity).
We think it unlikely that psychological techniques alone will be sufficient to adjust human beings to the kind of society that technology is creating. The system will be forced to use every practical means of controlling human behavior. In the future, social systems will not be adjusted to suit the needs of human beings. Instead, human beings will be adjusted to suit the needs of the system.
Technological control over human behavior will probably not be introduced with a totalitarian intention or even through a conscious desire to restrict human freedom. Control over human behavior will be introduced not by a calculated decision of the authorities but through a process of rapid social evolution. The process will be impossible to resist, because each advance, considered by itself, will appear to be beneficial, or at least the evil involved in making the advance will seem to be less than that which would result from not making it.
New technology tends to change society in such a way that it becomes difficult or impossible for an individual to function without using that technology. Technology will eventually acquire something approaching complete control over human behavior. The fact that human thoughts and feelings are so open to biological intervention shows that the problem of controlling human behavior is mainly a technical problem.
Given the outstanding record of our society in solving technical problems, it is overwhelmingly probable that great advances will be made in the control of human behavior. Since technological control will be introduced through a long sequence of small advances, there will be no rational and effective public resistance. As technology is increasingly applied to the human body and mind, man himself will be altered as radically as his environment and way of life have been.
HUMAN RACE AT A CROSSROADS
In spite of all its technical advances relating to human behavior the system to date has not been impressively successful in controlling human beings. There are growing numbers of people who in one way or another are rebels against the system. The system is currently engaged in a desperate struggle to overcome certain problems that threaten its survival, among which the problems of human behavior are the most important.
The principal problem that confronts it is that of "socializing" human beings; that is, making people sufficiently docile so that their behavior no longer threatens the system. That being accomplished, it does not appear that there would be any further obstacle to the development of technology, and it would presumably advance toward its logical conclusion, which is complete control over everything on Earth, including human beings and all other important organisms. Human freedom mostly will have vanished, because individuals and small groups will be impotent vis-a-vis large organizations armed with supertechnology and an arsenal of advanced psychological and biological tools for manipulating human beings, besides instruments of surveillance and physical coercion. Only a small number of people will have any real power, and even these probably will have only very limited freedom, because their behavior too will be regulated.
The system will not stop developing further techniques for controlling human beings and nature once the crisis of the next few decades is over and increasing control is no longer necessary for the system's survival. On the contrary, once the hard times are over the system will increase its control over people and nature more rapidly, because it will no longer be hampered by difficulties of the kind that it is currently experiencing. Survival is not the principal motive for extending control. Technicians and scientists carry on their work largely as a surrogate activity; that is, they satisfy their need for power by solving technical problems. They will continue to do this with unabated enthusiasm, and among the most interesting and challenging problems for them to solve will be those of understanding the human body and mind and intervening in their development. For the "good of humanity," of course.
Therefore two tasks confront those who hate the servitude to which the industrial system is reducing the human race. First, we must work to heighten the social stresses within the system so as to increase the likelihood that it will break down or be weakened sufficiently so that a revolution against it becomes possible. Second, it is necessary to develop and propagate an ideology that opposes technology and the industrial society if and when the system becomes sufficiently weakened.
The industrial system will not break down purely as a result of revolutionary action. It will not be vulnerable to revolutionary attack unless its own internal problems of development lead it into very serious difficulties. Revolutionaries, by hastening the onset of the breakdown, will be reducing the extent of the disaster.
One has to balance the struggle and death against the loss of freedom and dignity. To many of us, freedom and dignity are more important than a long life or avoidance of physical pain. It may be better to die fighting for survival, or for a cause, than to live a long but empty and purposeless life.
It is not certain that the survival of the system will lead to less suffering than the breakdown of the system would. Ancient cultures have been shattered by contact with industrial society, and the result has been a whole catalogue of economic, environmental, social and psychological problems.
The technophiles are hopelessly naive (or self-deceiving) in their understanding of social problems. In their attempt to end poverty and disease, engineer docile, happy personalities and so forth, the technophiles will create social systems that are terribly troubled, evermore so than the present one. Past experience has shown technical progress will lead to other new problems for society far more rapidly than it has been solving old ones. Technology has gotten the human race into a fix from which there is not likely to be any easy escape.
It is certain that technology is creating for human beings a new physical and social environment radically different from the environments to which natural selection has adapted the human race physically and psychological. If man is not adjusted to this new environment by being artificially re-engineered, then he will be adapted to it through a long and painful process of natural selection.
The two main tasks for the present are to promote social stress and instability in industrial society and to develop and propagate an ideology that opposes technology and the industrial system. But an ideology, in order to gain enthusiastic support, must have a positive ideal as well as a negative one. The positive ideal that we propose is wild nature. That is, those aspects of the functioning of the Earth and its living things that are independent of human management and free of human interference and control. And with wild nature we include human nature, by which we mean those aspects of the functioning of the human individual that are not subject to regulation by organized society.
Nature makes a perfect counter-ideal to technology. Nature takes care of itself. It was a spontaneous creation that existed long before any human society, and for countless centuries many different kinds of human societies coexisted with nature without doing it an excessive amount of damage. Getting rid of industrial society will relieve the worst of the pressure on nature so that the scars can begin to heal. It will remove the capacity of organized society to keep increasing its control over nature (including human nature). Whatever kind of society may exist after the demise of the industrial system, it is certain that most people will live close to nature, because in the absence of advanced technology there is no other way that people can live. And local autonomy should tend to increase, because lack of advanced technology and rapid communications will limit the capacity of governments or other large organizations to control local communities. As for the negative consequences of eliminating industrial society, to gain one thing you have to sacrifice another.
The ideology should address itself to people who are intelligent, thoughtful and rational. Care should be taken to avoid misrepresenting the truth or doing anything else that would destroy the intellectual respectability of the ideology. The ideology should be propagated in a simplified form that will enable the unthinking majority to see the conflict of technology vs. nature in unambiguous terms.
History is made by active, determined minorities, not by the majority, which seldom has a clear and consistent idea of what it really wants. The line of conflict should be drawn between the mass of the people and the power-holding elite of industrial society (politicians, scientists, upper-level business executives, government officials, etc.). Other conflicts tend to distract attention from the important conflicts (between power-elite and ordinary people, between technology and nature) because each side in such a conflict wants to use technological power to gain advantages over its adversary.
Our real enemy is the industrial-technological system, and in the struggle against the system, ethnic distinctions are of no importance. The kind of revolution we have in mind will not be a political revolution. Its focus will be on technology and economics, not politics. The revolutionaries should not try to acquire political power until the system has gotten itself into such a mess that any hardships will be seen as resulting from the failures of the industrial system itself and not from the policies of the revolutionaries. The revolution against technology will probably have to be a revolution by outsiders, a revolution from below and not from above. The industrial system should be attacked in all nations simultaneously, to the extent that this may be possible. The domination of the system by dictators is a risk that has to be taken. And it is worth taking, since the difference between a "democratic" industrial system and one controlled by dictators is small compared with the difference between an industrial system and a non-industrial one. It will be easier to destroy the industrial system on a worldwide basis if the world economy is so unified that its breakdown in any major nation will lead to its breakdown in all industrialized nations.
Some people take the line that modern man has too much power, too much control over nature; they argue for a more passive attitude on the part of the human race. Primitive individuals and small groups actually had considerable power over nature; or maybe it would be better to say power within nature. But primitive man did relatively little damage to nature because the collective power of primitive society was negligible compared to the collective power of industrial society. Instead of arguing for powerlessness and passivity, one should argue that the power of the industrial system should be broken, and that this will greatly increase the power and freedom of individuals and small groups.
If the revolutionaries permit themselves to have any other goal than the destruction of technology, they will be tempted to use technology as a tool for reaching that other goal. If they give in to that temptation, they will fall right back into the technological trap. It would be hopeless for revolutionaries to try to attack the system without using some modern technology. If nothing else they must use the communications media to spread their message. But they should use modern technology for only one purpose: to attack the technological system.
To insure the strength of the next generation of revolutionaries the present generation must reproduce itself abundantly. In doing so they will be worsening the population problem only slightly. And the most important problem is to get rid of the industrial system, because once the industrial system is gone the world's population necessarily will decrease. With regard to revolutionary strategy, the single overriding goal must be the elimination of modern technology, and no other goal can be allowed to compete with this one.
TWO KINDS OF TECHNOLOGY
An argument likely to be raised against our proposed revolution is that it is bound to fail, because throughout history technology has always progressed, never regressed, hence technological regression is impossible. But this claim is false. We distinguish between two kinds of technology, which we will call small-scale technology and organization-dependent technology. Small-scale technology is technology that can be used by small-scale communities without outside assistance. Organization-dependent technology is technology that depends on large-scale social organization. We are aware of no significant cases of regression in small-scale technology. But organization-dependent technology does regress when the social organization on which it depends breaks down.
The reason why technology has seemed always to progress is that, until perhaps a century or two before the Industrial Revolution, most technology was small-scale technology. But most of the technology developed since the Industrial Revolution is organization-dependent technology. If the industrial system were once thoroughly broken down, there is no reason to believe that anyone would be interested in rebuilding industrial society. The enthusiasm for "progress" is a phenomenon particular to the modern form of society. Rapid development toward a technological form of society occurs only under special conditions. So there is no reason to assume that long-lasting technological regression cannot be brought about.
THE DANGER OF LEFTISM
Leftist types can easily turn a non-leftist movement into a leftist one, so that leftist goals replace or distort the original goals of the movement. To avoid this, a movement that exalts nature and opposes technology must take a resolutely anti-leftist stance and must avoid all collaboration with leftists. Leftism is in the long run inconsistent with wild nature, with human freedom and with the elimination of modern technology. Leftism is unlikely ever to give up technology, because technology is too valuable a source of collective power.
Some leftists may seem to oppose technology, but they will oppose it only so long as they are outsiders and the technological system is controlled by non-leftists. If leftism ever becomes dominant in society, so that the technological system becomes a tool in the hands of leftists, they will enthusiastically use it and promote its growth. They will use it to oppress everyone else if they ever get it under their own control. Leftism is totalitarian force because of the leftists' drive for power. For them the drive for power has only one morally acceptable outlet, and that is in the struggle to impose their morality on everyone. Thus the fact that many individual leftists are personally mild and fairly tolerant people by no means prevents leftism as a whole from having a totalitarian tendency.
The leftist is oriented toward large-scale collectivism. He emphasizes the duty of the individual to serve society and the duty of society to take care of the individual. He has a negative attitude toward individualism. He often takes a moralistic tone. He tends to identify with victims. He tends to be against competition and against violence, but he often finds excuses for those leftists who do commit violence. The most dangerous leftists of all may be certain over-socialized types who avoid irritating displays of aggressiveness and refrain from advertising their leftism, but work quietly and unobtrusively to promote collectivist values.
We don't claim that this article expresses more than a crude approximation to the truth. All the same we are reasonably confident that the general outlines of the picture we have painted here are roughly correct.
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