Society is sick; and the politicians as usual have the cure. Only we don't want it. The cure is worse than the disease. In fact, the cure is the disease . . . We are sick to death of the attempts of the political medicine men to make us better. Human beings are quite all right as they are; the only thing wrong with society is - politics, the insane itch to do something about it.
The politicians are forever telling us we must get things done. Well, judging by the mess we are in, it's time we started getting things undone. It's time we started to unravel some of this vile knitting, these policies which keep men at useless work and senseless war. At the least, while there yet remains one corner of the world free enough from this dreary fanaticism to allow us to think, and before we commit ourselves to any course of action, let us have some cool, clear thought - about these "things" we are to get done or undone.
Before we act we must think. In fact, instead of acting we must think. For that is at least one certain value in thought - that in itself it "does nothing." Because it does nothing it cannot possibly do anything wrong. And this, when you consider the history of human society as it really is, the long record of mistakes made by its mentors, by its reformers, do-gooders, uplifters, its militarists and men of action, is a definite advance. The only advance. . . If we don't do anything to society we can't do it any harm. Of course, we can't do it any good either. But this is as it should be. If we stopped doing good for people they might get in and do some good for themselves.
What this world needs is more armchair revolutionaries. If every politician in the world was to retire to an ivory tower and there indulge in nothing but pure theory the world's problems would be solved. Of course there is no possibility of this. The politician hates thought, as he hates aesthetic appreciation, anything which differentiates man from the other animals. But we must reassert the supremacy of thought, of pure intellect over the "life of action."
Nor is this policy of inaction so negative really. It led one of the wisest of the ancients, Lao-Tse, to issue the command: "Do nothing and all things will be done." He explained himself very simply: "Who can make muddy water clear by stirring it with a stick? But leave it alone and it will settle down of itself to clarity." And this is precisely what would happen to society if it were allowed to find its own level. While precisely the opposite happens when reformers, revolutionists - agitators - agitate society, stir up its sediment with big stick propaganda. For, finally, that is the only way the problem of society can be solved - simply by leaving society, our fellow human beings, alone.
But that is not the end of the matter. It is a physical impossibility to do nothing. We must do something, act on something. Only we need not act on man. Lao-Tse's statement is incomplete. What it means is - do nothing to man; leave men alone. It does not mean leave the external world alone. It means, and it can only mean, that we must act on things.
And it is, of course, simply in acting on things - discovering or manufacturing, supplying things needed for social sustenance - that the problems of society are solved. The only valuable activity is the fashioning of some concrete material object. The man who grows one turnip or produces one pot, or one poem or one painting, is worth all the Napoleons, all the Alexanders, all the Lenins who ever breathed. It is in this sense only that we can "get things done," by getting to things, ordering them about, controlling them.
We just simply cannot control society. We cannot even think about society. For, in order to think about society, the thinker has to withdraw himself from it. In that withdrawal society ceases to exist to him, since he is a part of society. The part cannot think about or enter into any relations with the whole. What happens, and all that can happen, is that these social theorists are really thinking about the rest of society.
Now this sort of thinking is tragically wrong. It is wrong because the thinker places himself apart from and above his fellow human beings, in an antithetical position to them, and in the long run in inimical opposition to them. So we have Marxists and others who speak airily of "the workers", but never of we workers - implying by that, as in their other actions, that they themselves are not workers but potential members of the exploiting intelligentsia driving others to work. The-politicians speak of "the masses", and so it is not surprising that they become in their view, and actually in their manipulation of them - the messes. In dealing with human beings objectively we degrade them into objects, into mere things to dispose. We forget our subjective identity with them; we lose our common humanity.
But this is not just a lapse in morality - it is a lapse from scientific thought. The real problem confronting society is not society, or any part of it. Society never confronts society, whether as a problem or anything else. The real problem is presented by the environment of society - the extra-social things, food, raw materials, etc., we wrest from that environment to sustain society.
This is so even if we agree with the socialists that there are people - capitalists, bankers, etc., - who stand between the workers and the things society needs. It is true that these people exist. But it is false to suppose that they are in themselves responsible for reaction, and to try to remove them as such. These people are expressions of, or conditioned by their material environment - and it is that environment, the material things which occasion their behaviour, which must be changed. In actual fact the socialists have not emancipated themselves from the old ethical notion that people-capitalists, scabs, fascists, etc. - are in themselves wicked or perverse. Obviously the only way these people can be countered is by altering the concrete material conditions which give rise to them. But this means work, the shifting and transformation of hard matter - and the politician prefers to shove human beings around. We know that the only activist policy is to get in and change things. They are all we can change anyway . . .
For this policy, of direct action on things, is the only practical policy. It is practical because we can all, acting as ordinary people and without intermediaries, do something definite with a thing. With an axe, a brick, a girder - with something concrete and tangible, which we can see, feel, understand. We can get hold of these things in our hands. We cannot hold these eels, the politicians, much less their slippery political concepts. We can build a harbour bridge, roads, houses, according to a plan, knowing that we must succeed. We cannot plan, or do anything with human raw material - men are tenuous, unreliable, immeasurable. And this is the only scientific policy - simply because material things are measurable; and science is primarily a matter of measurement.
Finally, since this article started with a plea for clear thought - things are all we can think about with any clarity anyway. We must ensure that our terms have exact, concrete referents - relate to objects in the external world. Then our thoughts will be about something, lead to something. At present they are about nothing, and get us nowhere. Certainly this is so in that dismal subject we call political science, as it is at present . . . Before we go any further let us examine our current political terms in their commonly accepted sense. Let us start with that commonest of all terms, democracy. Despite, or because of the millions of words expended on it, this word and all it stands for has never been understood
What is democracy? Well, let us first consider what it is not. It is not equality, tolerance, brotherly love - no matter how much it may be connected with these. It is not a moral, religious, legal or social system; nor a system of human rights, or minority rights, or any other rights, rites or rituals - it is a political system. It is not a "way of life" - it is a way of politics. That is to say of one body ruling over another. Democracy is not the way or the truth or the life of the people. Democracy is simply the RULE of the people.
Well we know all that, or knew it - before the academic theorists clouded the issue with dust. But what is the people? Immediately after mouthing this correct definition - with its embellishments, by the people, for the people, etc., - our idiot mentors take it to mean the rule of the majority of the people, or of the representatives of the people, of some of the people, but never of all, which is what it does mean of course, really clearly and finally. For the people, no matter what it may be in itself, is most certainly not some of the people, or half the people, or most of the people, any more than an orange is some, or half, or most of an orange - it is all, the whole of the people, and that is all there is to it. No thing can be less than itself. Everything is all of itself. The people is - the people. And so democracy is the rule of every member of the people without exception.
It is quite evident then that we have never had democracy. This is not because the people includes criminals and cretins. We are used to the rule of criminals and cretins anyway. Democracy fails simply because it does not fit into any traditional political institution. Can the people, seven or seventy million strong, get its hydra head into a house of parliament? Could it make sense - could it do anything if it did. Obviously parliamentary democracy is a sheer contradiction in terms. the people cannot express itself through parliament. Parliaments are channels too narrow to accommodate the power of the people as a whole. The people as the ruling class is forced to look in a new direction for instruments through which to rule.
These instruments it finds in the new forces supplied by the industrial revolution. The people turn their attention to industry. But this is not only because the factories provide wider channels for the exercise of rule by the new ruling class - it lies in the provision of a new ruled class, in the productive forces engaged in industry. This is seen in the parallel rise in history of the other movements, variants on the broad democratic objective, co-operative, economic - industrial democracy. They are attempts to gain power, not in or over parliament, but in industry, to rule it, govern it.
Now this is democracy, with a difference. That difference lies in the existence in industry of an entirely new set of facts in the machines. All our attempts to resolve political problems are really attempts to rule machines - inanimate things. Because human beings are still involved in industry we govern men as well; but a full democracy would release all men from mechanical tasks, raise all men to the ruling personnel, and establish a "government" solely over machines.
We fail to see this because political tradition makes us suppose that power must inevitably be imposed on human beings. We suppose for instance that democratic power can be imposed on the people - that the rule of the people is in some way rule over the people. This is plain idiocy. We know that we, the people, cannot be members of the ruling class while we are so obviously still members of the ruled class. If we are to retain any clarity in political science, or any political science at all, we must preserve the distinction between the ruling class on one hand and some disparate, ruled class outside it, the rulers and the ruled. Our vile theorists identify them. So they give us in place of democracy the imbecilic ideal of - "self government". We are to relieve our bosses of the necessity of governing us by doing it for them. This would be most accommodating. Luckily this low ideal, this ideal of the perfect slave is quite impossible. No self can govern - itself. No thing can rule itself - simply because no thing can enter into any relations with itself. A force can only rule some other force outside it. A governing force necessarily involves a governed force, an external object for it to govern. And democracy, the government of the people, involves the existence of a separate and distinct force outside it for it to govern.
Now, if the people - all the people - is to compose the ruling class, just who or what is to be ruled? The answer is clear-cut, and absolute. There is only one thing outside the people left to be ruled, that is hard, non-human matter - roads, houses, cities, factories, machines, inanimate things. Democracy, in lifting the people into the position of the supreme ruling authority, lifts politics on to a higher plane, transforms it into technics.
But the politician sees democracy, not as the rule of the people as a whole, but, at best, as the rule of a majority over a minority. The first democrats seized parliament in order to rule over, to suppress - the king. But parliaments exist only for ruling people, for putting people to work. Of what value is it that we put kings to work? Their labour power is negligible. We could and did use political power to put the king to death. And, having done so, as was inevitable, we then proceeded to put human beings generally to death. What has happened everywhere is that politicians in power, after having suppressed reactionary minorities - aristocrats, capitalists, etc., - have turned round and put their own comrades, workers, scientists, artists to death. The rule of the majority has become that of a minority. the government of the people has become another government over the people. And it could not have been otherwise, while the "democrats" were prepared to divide society, the people, and to use any part, majority or otherwise, to rule over the rest of it.
The political theorists just don't realise that any government over men is vicious. They do not know that these governments exist only to kill . . . For what is the cause, the fundamental reason for the existence of politics, of all policies, all governments? It is simply the need, the necessity to get the work of society done, somehow, some way, any way. The final whip of the government has always been death, war on its slaves. In the past wars were waged on peoples to force them to work. In the present wars are waged on them - in order to eliminate them - because there is no work for them to do. In the past the work was all done by the people - today the bulk of the work is done by the machine. -We are all keeping machines out of jobs. The machines are "the workers" today. The necessity for the State as a coercive instrument over human beings has been removed; its place has been taken, should be taken by a technical apparatus able to exploit things. But the old instruments remain. And any attempt to use them - to suppress any human minorities or majorities, or any human being at all - is criminal insanity.
To suppose that democracy is the rule of the majority of the people over any reactionary minority is a top heavy travesty of reality. All rules are rules of minorities. A ruling class has meaning only in wielding power over working forces greater in extent than itself. The people in power are no-exception to this: they will exercise sway over the material forces of the universe - over a new politically subject "class" which is bigger than itself, which is as vast as infinity. To attempt to rule over any human being for no matter how short a time is tragic, a farce. A farce which is the fouler the more advanced, the more politically sophisticated, the more scientific its leaders have claimed to be. The Dictatorship of the Proletariat has become a dictatorship over the proletariat. We want a dictatorship over machines. This necessitates a revolution, not in blood shed by basher-gangs at the barricades or on the battlefields, but, in the first place, in social-political thought. A revolution in logic, in language - in terms. No one expects a politician to cope with the real problems of civilisation; he does not know they exist. But he does know that democracy as a political theory exists. He doesn't know the first thing about it; he doesn't understand the first term in it - the people. All politicians divide society into goodies and baddies, workers, shirkers, capitalists, proletarians. This is junk. The old antitheses, people v. kings, capitalists, scabs, witches, pews, trotskyists, etc., etc., are false. Modern technology has welded humanity into a unit. We must use the term people in the broader anthropological sense, as we use the term society, for all the people in a given area. And that is in the only scientific, the ecological sense - the way in which man faces up to and dictates to his environment of material things.
The Anarchist Dictatorship
It is obvious that this simple resolution of the democratic front presents us with innumerable difficulties. Well, it is more than a resolution; it is a revolution - and revolutions are always difficult. The main difficulty of course comes from the theoreticians who raise irrelevant side- issues to deflect revolutions from their aims. We shall be told for instance that our view is an "over-simplification", as if anything could be too simple - or too complex, or too anything - if it is true. But we shall be charged with everything under the sun but falsity - which is after all the only relevant theoretical criticism. Our critics will slur over the truth, it distresses them. They will agree - yes, they will say, that is true enough, but . . . Well, if a thing is true there are no buts. And these arguments are simply, finally irrevocably true. Let us take yet one more look at plain political truth.
Democracy involves us in revolution. Moreover this is the anarchist revolution. It is this because democracy, in effect, is anarchy . . . In a real democracy everyone rules. This is exactly the same state of affairs as that in which no one is ruled; and that is simply anarchy. Democracy makes everyone a member of the ruling class, it gives everyone power. Therefore it lifts everyone out of the ruled class, it makes everyone free. Democracy is at present incomplete. It covers only the positive side, the demand for people's power. To realise it in fact we must include in it anarchy - the demand for the people's freedom. The two systems complement each other. Despite their obvious distinction as terms, democracy and anarchy are identical.
But anarchism is as incomplete and as mistaken as democracy. The anarchist wants to set everyone free. Well there is only one way to do this, that is to give everyone power. The anarchist thinks he is going to "abolish" the ruling class; but he cannot - he can only usurp it, replace it with a stronger force. Anarchy cannot be just pure freedom - it would be nothing, a vacuum. And nothing will yield to a vacuum. Anarchy, like everything else in existence, is concrete. Like everything else, it is an expression of power. But the anarchist hates power - even when that power is his own. He hates democracy because it is a form of government. And he hates all government . . . It's easy to see why he does. All governments in the past have been imposed on human beings; and he lacks the imagination to conceive a government imposed only on things. The anarchist cannot see that what he has to "abolish" is not "government", which is nothing in itself, without its context, but only government over men.
But the trouble with anarchists, as with all political theorists, is that they are utterly enslaved to the current usage of words. They think that the word "govern" is used falsely if it is lifted out of its familiar human context. They do not know that it is precisely by lifting words up out of their commonly accepted context, using them figuratively to apply to newer, wider contexts, that language and with it life develops. We have to lift the whole of our political terminology bodily out of the human world and apply it to our non-human environment. The only way we can be free is to enslave things. But the anarchist is blind to things. All he can "see" is "freedom". He simply loves it. But when he has attained it, when he has eventually removed the force which governs him - just what is he going to do then? He is going to be the ruler in turn, establish his own government. It is no good protesting that he is not going to exert power. He is going to keep on living, and what is life but power? Since the anarchist, in order to be consistent, cannot impose his power on his fellow men, on just what will he impose it? What will he rule? The answer is as clear cut as was the answer to the democratic power - the same answer: There is only one thing left outside humanity on which he can impose his power, only one thing he can rule. That is matter - non-human materials. Anarchy is not the absence of rule. That would be the absence of life. Anarchy is a system of rule, a government - over things.
But mistaken as anarchist theory is it must be added to democracy. Democracy, the widest, fullest expression of human power, needs anarchism to inhibit its suicidal expression on human beings. For democratic power is still blind. It is expressed on both human beings and things indiscriminately. Anarchism, with its denial of the State, of the necessity for governing human beings, is needed to qualify that power, to turn it away from men to things. So what we must stand for, as contradictory as it may seem, is an anarchist democracy. But this, essential as it is, is only the start. What we must have if humanity is to reach the maximum of freedom and of power is - dictatorship.
We suppose that the modern, "left" systems, democracy, anarchy, on the one side, and dictatorship on the other are mutually exclusive and opposed to each other. This is wrong. Despite their obvious distinction as terms, democracy, anarchy and dictatorship are identical. As we have seen, in democracy everyone rules. This is the same as where no one is ruled, i.e., anarchy. And where we have this condition, where everyone rules but no one is ruled, well there we have rule, pure, simple and unqualified, that is dictatorship. But how our "progressives" hate this word! They don't believe in it. They believe in government, of course. They don't know the meaning of the word, or any other word. To the extent that any government is honest, clear and effective it is a pure dictatorship - it preserves the clear-cut distinction between the rulers and the ruled; it really rules. What time can we have for this half- government, self-government, government by the governed - or any of the other inane subtilisations of political theory? Politics is simply and only the rule of one body over another. The only question we have to answer is - what are we going to rule? And neither anarchy nor democracy nor dictatorship nor any other theory worries about that. All we have is anarchism, which at least tries to deny rule over men, and by implication asserts rule over something else. Therefore, in the development of our political theory we must come out with the clear-cut demand for an anarchist dictatorship - over things.
How are we going to attain this? The only way we can abolish this politics which governs men is to substitute another force for it, displace it with a greater force. Therefore we must transfer, not only our words, our ways of thinking, but the whole of our living physical activities, all our actions on to things. We have to translate all our interests, all our urgency and strength on to things. We have to do in fact what all great ruling classes have done in the past - become intensely absorbed in, exclusively preoccupied with our subject slaves, as they were with theirs.
Finally, we have to do precisely what the scientists are doing now - get to the machines, the new forces in organised matter, and direct, govern, establish a dictatorship over them. For the interests of science when rightly understood are political, using the word in its higher, wider sense; and these machines are our new subject-matter. They are our subjected matter, the new political subjects, the new ruled "class" - the new working- class.
All governments, dictatorships are expressions of one fundamental necessity - the need to get the work of society done. This has occasioned if it has not justified all the tyrannies of the past. But in the last hundred years technology has transformed work and the workers out of all recognition. Machines are "the workers" today. And the only effective human personnel, the key personnel, are the scientists - the technicians. We might know an axe, or a hammer, or sickle; but wouldn't know the components of the uranium atom if we saw them. We can't see them - they are in the main concepts of mathematical physics. Certainly we can't exploit them - without the aid of the technicians. Now it so happens that they have their own program, their own movement for a planned technical dictatorship - that is Technocracy. But this is still not enough. The technicians will rule things, the material resources of the community all right - but they nowhere disavow intent to rule us. Like democracy, the technocratic regime needs the one qualification of anarchism - that there can be no government over men. This new alignment is what I cover in the clumsy, but accurate, amalgam: Anarcho-Technocracy.
Anarchism, not realising how closely bound it is to democracy, thinks it must oppose any sort of power, but in actuality it seeks it. It found it, to some extent, fifty years ago in the workers - in syndicalism. And so we had the program, Anarcho-syndicalism. But this, although a definite advance on political socialism, was still oriented to human workers in the mass. Well, the old politics based on the workers in general is out. We cannot have the "General Stake" - what is needed is the Particular Strike, of the scientists. If the workers, the people generally, jacked up against war, a handful of scientists could still rub them out with-an atomic weapon . . . The socialists still talk about the abolition of wage slavery. They can only talk about it. The technician does it, by abolishing the wage slave - by replacing the human slave by a machine. Machines need no wages. Moreover they need no bureaucracy - no manpowerers, police, clerks, snivel servants - to drive them to work. The technicians abolish the State, as we know it, simply by abolishing us - as slaves. But we don't want to be abolished - we cling to our slave mentality, fight for our status as workers, as the politically subject people. Whether as democrats, liberals, libertarians, or as anarchists - no matter what our political label may be, we must welcome the technicians as the liberating force, as the living demonstration that there can be a government of, but not over, the people.
We dread the technicians as a new ruling class. But we do not need to be the ruled class. Let us join them, or, if we cannot help them - let us at least get out of their way. For the regrettable fact is that politicians do get in their way. The Technician in common with most of us is made, conditioned to accept some form of control over human beings as necessary in any regime. But in that conditioning he ceases to be a technician in the strict sense of the word. We must strengthen his own innate interest and theory, as a technician, in things, so that he will control things exclusively. But the trouble is we tend to despise his interests and values. It is the fashion to sneer at productivity. But what greater value is there? The man who can produce one pot, or one poem, to say nothing of the man who can open an atom, is worth more than all the priests, politicians, psychologists who ever existed. This holds despite all the falsifications of the last 50,000 years. Productivity will hold as a value as long as man lasts. It will be superseded only when man has become more than man, when he is superman; when it is succeeded in our scale of values by creativity. But the politicians, and the idiot "cultured" apes, the Lawrences, Aldous Huxleys, Mumfords, Toynbees - all our "thinkers" sneer at scientific production. The only sphere in which productivity reigns is that wherein it is not needed - in the mass production, the reproduction of humankind. Well, the technician counts that out, too. He doesn't need large populations to do his bidding. And we don't. We want a small society - one of quality, not quantity, in which every human being can be powerful and free. We need a small society, as Greek society was small. And like the Greeks we need slaves, a vast politically subject "class" to rule. We have this in the machines.
The engineers must rule. Who else could rule in a machine age - the Golden Philosopher King? All the political philosophies from Plato to Marx must be shot on to the scrap heap. We tend to think of technocracy as a crank cult of the thirties. This is tragic stupidity. A decade or two is nothing in the march of events. And there have never been enough cranks in the world. Of course, in adopting technocracy, in adapting it to our needs we must dissociate it from its present advocates. Its original theory is weak. And in practice it has gone the way of all human organisations. It has swung into line behind American nationalism. It would organise the material resources of the North American continent, and not a global abundance. It will finish advocating bigger and better atomic weapons. It needs the vision and principles of a revised anarchism. The first thing we have to do is frame, or help the engineers to frame, a theory and program of world power. The next thing we have to do is build the organisation which will make that power an effective reality. We must organise - but we must organise matter, not men. All organisations up to the present, including technocracy, have failed because they have set out to organise human beings - to discipline, rule their own members. This is wasted and vicious effort. Human beings cannot be organised; they are already organic, they are organisms-they are the organisers. Where these efforts have been made the results have been miniature human political states, and where they have attained power, actual human states as we know them. They will always be that. There is only one way we can avoid making these mistakes - that is to build a scientific organisation, one that imposes no rule of any kind on any of its members, one that imposes its rules only on things.
Of course the engineers must rule. And, of course, they must rule machines. But what are the machines? By machines we don't mean puffing billy locomotives, grease, grinding gears, deafening noise. So far as we are concerned ninety-nine per cent of modern machinery should be scrapped with the smoke, fumes, stench of the nineteenth century. Machines in this context are only popularly appreciable symbols for electronic devices, for the cleaner, more efficient and more aesthetically appealing slaves of the future. And by mechanic we do not mean the overalled unfortunate sweating in the oil and grit of present-day industry. By mechanic we mean any man or woman with taste - whether for the technique of verse, word structure, or the architectonics of world construction. Any person with a feeling for matter, with the understanding and resolve to mould it to their will . . . "We" dread this new ruling class, the technicians. But who are the technicians? The sheer use of the word, "the", betrays the user as a drone, a philistine - as placed in antithetical and inimical opposition to the makers and masters of things. We are the technicians! We creators of the new world.
in 21st Century, September, 1955