The Port Huron Statement
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)
Introduction: Agenda for a Generation
We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.
When we were kids the United States was the wealthiest and strongest country in the world: the only one with the atom bomb, the least scarred by modern war, an initiator of the United Nations that we thought would distribute Western influence throughout the world. Freedom and equality for each individual, government of, by, and for the people — these American values we found good, principles by which we could live as men. Many of us began maturing in complacency.
As we grew, however, our comfort was penetrated by events too troubling to dismiss. First, the permeating and victimizing fact of human degradation, symbolized by the Southern struggle against racial bigotry, compelled most of us from silence to activism. Second, the enclosing fact of the Cold War, symbolized by the presence of the Bomb, brought awareness that we ourselves, and our friends, and millions of abstract "others" we knew more directly because of our common peril, might die at any time. We might deliberately ignore, or avoid, or fail to feel all other human problems, but not these two, for these were too immediate and crushing in their impact, too challenging in the demand that we as individuals take the responsibility for encounter and resolution.
While these and other problems either directly oppressed us or rankled our consciences and became our own subjective concerns, we began to see complicated and disturbing paradoxes in our surrounding America. The declaration "all men are created equal . . . rang hollow before the facts of Negro life in the South and the big cities of the North. The proclaimed peaceful intentions of the United States contradicted its economic and military investments in the Cold War status quo.
We witnessed, and continue to witness, other paradoxes. With nuclear energy whole cities can easily be powered, yet the dominant nationstates seem more likely to unleash destruction greater than that incurred in all wars of human history. Although our own technology is destroying old and creating new forms of social organization, men still tolerate meaningless work and idleness. While two–thirds of mankind suffers undernourishment, our own upper classes revel amidst superfluous abundance. Although world population is expected to double in forty years, the nations still tolerate anarchy as a major principle of international conduct and uncontrolled exploitation governs the sapping of the earth’s physical resources. Although mankind desperately needs revolutionary leadership, America rests in national stalemate, its goals ambiguous and tradition–bound instead of informed and clear, its democratic system apathetic and manipulated rather than "of, by, and for the people."
Not only did tarnish appear on our image of American virtue, not only did disillusion occur when the hypocrisy of American ideals was discovered, but we began to sense that what we had originally seen as the American Golden Age was actually the decline of an era. The worldwide outbreak of revolution against colonialism and imperialism, the entrenchment of totalitarian states, the menace of war, overpopulation, international disorder, supertechnology — these trends were testing the tenacity of our own commitment to democracy and freedom and our abilities to visualize their application to a world in upheaval.
Our work is guided by the sense that we may be the last generation in the experiment with living. But we are a minority — the vast majority of our people regard the temporary equilibriums of our society and world as eternally–functional parts. In this is perhaps the outstanding paradox: we ourselves are imbued with urgency, yet the message of our society is that there is no viable alternative to the present. Beneath the reassuring tones of the politicians, beneath the common opinion that America will "muddle through", beneath the stagnation of those who have closed their minds to the future, is the pervading feeling that there simply are no alternatives, that our times have witnessed the exhaustion not only of Utopias, but of any new departures as well. Feeling the press of complexity upon the emptiness of life, people are fearful of the thought that at any moment things might thrust out of control. They fear change itself, since change might smash whatever invisible framework seems to hold back chaos for them now. For most Americans, all crusades are suspect, threatening. The fact that each individual sees apathy in his fellows perpetuates the common reluctance to organize for change. The dominant institutions are complex enough to blunt the minds of their potential critics, and entrenched enough to swiftly dissipate or entirely repel the energies of protest and reform, thus limiting human expectancies. Then, too, we are a materially improved society, and by our own improvements we seem to have weakened the case for further change.
Some would have us believe that Americans feel contentment amidst prosperity — but might it not better be called a glaze above deeplyfelt anxieties about their role in the new world? And if these anxieties produce a developed indifference to human affairs, do they not as well produce a yearning to believe there is an alternative to the present, that something can be done to change circumstances in the school, the workplaces, the bureaucracies, the government? It is to this latter yearning, at once the spark and engine of change, that we direct our present appeal. The search for truly democratic alternatives to the present, and a commitment to social experimentation with them, is a worthy and fulfilling human enterprise, one which moves us and, we hope, others today. On such a basis do we offer this document of our convictions and analysis: as an effort in understanding and changing the conditions of humanity in the late twentieth century, an effort rooted in the ancient, still unfulfilled conception of man attaining determining influence over his circumstances of life.
Making values explicit — an initial task in establishing alternatives — is an activity that has been devalued and corrupted. The conventional moral terms of the age, the politician moralities — "free world", "people’s democracies" — reflect realities poorly, if at all, and seem to function more as ruling myths than as descriptive principles. But neither has our experience in the universities brought as moral enlightenment. Our professors and administrators sacrifice controversy to public relations; their curriculums change more slowly than the living events of the world; their skills and silence are purchased by investors in the arms race; passion is called unscholastic. The questions we might want raised — what is really important? can we live in a different and better way? if we wanted to change society, how would we do it? — are not thought to be questions of a "fruitful, empirical nature", and thus are brushed aside.
Unlike youth in other countries we are used to moral leadership being exercised and moral dimensions being clarified by our elders. But today, for us, not even the liberal and socialist preachments of the past seem adequate to the forms of the present. Consider the old slogans; Capitalism Cannot Reform Itself, United Front Against Fascism, General Strike, All Out on May Day. Or, more recently, No Cooperation with Commies and Fellow Travellers, Ideologies Are Exhausted, Bipartisanship, No Utopias. These are incomplete, and there are few new prophets. It has been said that our liberal and socialist predecessors were plagued by vision without program, while our own generation is plagued by program without vision. All around us there is astute grasp of method, technique — the committee, the ad hoc group, the lobbyist, that hard and soft sell, the make, the projected image — but, if pressed critically, such expertise is incompetent to explain its implicit ideals. It is highly fashionable to identify oneself by old categories, or by naming a respected political figure, or by explaining "how we would vote" on various issues.
Theoretic chaos has replaced the idealistic thinking of old — and, unable to reconstitute theoretic order, men have condemned idealism itself. Doubt has replaced hopefulness — and men act out a defeatism that is labeled realistic. The decline of utopia and hope is in fact one of the defining features of social life today. The reasons are various: the dreams of the older left were perverted by Stalinism and never recreated; the congressional stalemate makes men narrow their view of the possible; the specialization of human activity leaves little room for sweeping thought; the horrors of the twentieth century, symbolized in the gas–ovens and concentration camps and atom bombs, have blasted hopefulness. To be idealistic is to be considered apocalyptic, deluded. To have no serious aspirations, on the contrary, is to be "toughminded".
In suggesting social goals and values, therefore, we are aware of entering a sphere of some disrepute. Perhaps matured by the past, we have no sure formulas, no closed theories — but that does not mean values are beyond discussion and tentative determination. A first task of any social movement is to convenience people that the search for orienting theories and the creation of human values is complex but worthwhile. We are aware that to avoid platitudes we must analyze the concrete conditions of social order. But to direct such an analysis we must use the guideposts of basic principles. Our own social values involve conceptions of human beings, human relationships, and social systems.
We regard men as infinitely precious and possessed of unfulfilled capacities for reason, freedom, and love. In affirming these principles we are aware of countering perhaps the dominant conceptions of man in the twentieth century: that he is a thing to be manipulated, and that he is inherently incapable of directing his own affairs. We oppose the depersonalization that reduces human beings to the status of things — if anything, the brutalities of the twentieth century teach that means and ends are intimately related, that vague appeals to "posterity" cannot justify the mutilations of the present. We oppose, too, the doctrine of human incompetence because it rests essentially on the modern fact that men have been "competently" manipulated into incompetence — we see little reason why men cannot meet with increasing skill the complexities and responsibilities of their situation, if society is organized not for minority, but for majority, participation in decision–making.
Men have unrealized potential for self–cultivation, self–direction, self–understanding, and creativity. It is this potential that we regard as crucial and to which we appeal, not to the human potentiality for violence, unreason, and submission to authority. The goal of man and society should be human independence: a concern not with image of popularity but with finding a meaning in life that is personally authentic: a quality of mind not compulsively driven by a sense of powerlessness, nor one which unthinkingly adopts status values, nor one which represses all threats to its habits, but one which has full, spontaneous access to present and past experiences, one which easily unites the fragmented parts of personal history, one which openly faces problems which are troubling and unresolved: one with an intuitive awareness of possibilities, an active sense of curiosity, an ability and willingness to learn.
This kind of independence does not mean egoistic individualism — the object is not to have one’s way so much as it is to have a way that is one’s own. Nor do we deify man — we merely have faith in his potential.
Human relationships should involve fraternity and honesty. Human interdependence is contemporary fact; human brotherhood must be willed however, as a condition of future survival and as the most appropriate form of social relations. Personal links between man and man are needed, especially to go beyond the partial and fragmentary bonds of function that bind men only as worker to worker, employer to employee, teacher to student, American to Russian.
Loneliness, estrangement, isolation describe the vast distance between man and man today. These dominant tendencies cannot be overcome by better personnel management, nor by improved gadgets, but only when a love of man overcomes the idolatrous worship of things by man.
As the individualism we affirm is not egoism, the selflessness we affirm is not self–elimination. On the contrary, we believe in generosity of a kind that imprints one’s unique individual qualities in the relation to other men, and to all human activity. Further, to dislike isolation is not to favor the abolition of privacy; the latter differs from isolation in that it occurs or is abolished according to individual will. Finally, we would replace power and personal uniqueness rooted in possession, privilege, or circumstance by power and uniqueness rooted in love, reflectiveness, reason, and creativity.
As a social system we seek the establishment of a democracy of individual participation, governed by two central aims: that the individual share in those social decisions determining the quality and direction of his life; that society be organized to encourage independence in men and provide the media for their common participation.
In a participatory democracy, the political life would be based in several root principles:
The economic sphere would have as its basis the principles:
Like the political and economic ones, major social institutions — cultural, education, rehabilitative, and others — should be generally organized with the well–being and dignity of man as the essential measure of success.
In social change or interchange, we find violence to be abhorrent because it requires generally the transformation of the target, be it a human being or a community of people, into a depersonalized object of hate. It is imperative that the means of violence be abolished and the institutions — local, national, international — that encourage nonviolence as a condition of conflict be developed.
These are our central values, in skeletal form. It remains vital
to understand their denial or attainment in the context of the modern
In the last few years, thousands of American students demonstrated that they at least felt the urgency of the times. They moved actively and directly against racial injustices, the threat of war, violations of individual rights of conscience and, less frequently, against economic manipulation. They succeeded in restoring a small measure of controversy to the campuses after the stillness of the McCarthy period. They succeeded, too, in gaining some concessions from the people and institutions they opposed, especially in the fight against racial bigotry.
The significance of these scattered movements lies not in their success or failure in gaining objectives — at least not yet. Nor does the significance lie in the intellectual "competence" or "maturity" of the students involved — as some pedantic elders allege. The significance is in the fact the students are breaking the crust of apathy and overcoming the inner alienation that remain the defining characteristics of American college life.
If student movements for change are rarities still on the campus scene, what is commonplace there? The real campus, the familiar campus, is a place of private people, engaged in their notorious "inner emigration." It is a place of commitment to business–as–usual, getting ahead, playing it cool. It is a place of mass affirmation of the Twist, but mass reluctance toward the controversial public stance. Rules are accepted as "inevitable", bureaucracy as "just circumstances", irrelevance as "scholarship", selflessness as "martyrdom", politics as "just another way to make people, and an unprofitable one, too."
Almost no students value activity as a citizen. Passive in public, they are hardly more idealistic in arranging their private lives: Gallup concludes they will settle for "low success, and won’t risk high failure." There is not much willingness to take risks (not even in business), no setting of dangerous goals, no real conception of personal identity except one manufactured in the image of others, no real urge for personal fulfillment except to be almost as successful as the very successful people. Attention is being paid to social status (the quality of shirt collars, meeting people, getting wives or husbands, making solid contacts for later on); much too, is paid to academic status (grades, honors, the med school rat–race). But neglected generally is real intellectual status, the personal cultivation of the mind.
"Students don’t even give a damn about the apathy," one has said. Apathy toward apathy begets a privately–constructed universe, a place of systematic study schedules, two nights each week for beer, a girl or two, and early marriage; a framework infused with personality, warmth, and under control, no matter how unsatisfying otherwise.
Under these conditions university life loses all relevance to some. Four hundred thousand of our classmates leave college every year.
But apathy is not simply an attitude; it is a product of social institutions, and of the structure and organization of higher education itself. The extracurricular life is ordered according to in loco parentis theory, which ratifies the Administration as the moral guardian of the young. The accompanying "let’s pretend" theory of student extracurricular affairs validates student government as a training center for those who want to spend their lives in political pretense, and discourages initiative from more articulate, honest, and sensitive students. The bounds and style of controversy are delimited before controversy begins. The university "prepares" the student for "citizenship" through perpetual rehearsals and, usually, through emasculation of what creative spirit there is in the individual.
The academic life contains reinforcing counterparts to the way in which extracurricular life is organized. The academic world is founded in a teacher–student relation analogous to the parent–child relation which characterizes in loco parentis. Further, academia includes a radical separation of student from the material of study. That which is studied, the social reality, is "objectified" to sterility, dividing the student from life — just as he is restrained in active involvement by the deans controlling student government. The specialization of function and knowledge, admittedly necessary to our complex technological and social structure, has produced and exaggerated compartmentalization of study and understanding. This has contributed to: an overly parochial view, by faculty, of the role of its research and scholarship; a discontinuous and truncated understanding, by students, of the surrounding social order; a loss of personal attachment, by nearly all, to the worth of study as a humanistic enterprise.
There is, finally, the cumbersome academic bureaucracy extending throughout the academic as well as extracurricular structures, contributing to the sense of outer complexity and inner powerlessness that transforms so many students from honest searching to ratification of convention and, worse, to a numbness of present and future catastrophes. The size and financing systems of the university enhance the permanent trusteeship of the administrative bureaucracy, their power leading to a shift to the value standards of business and administrative mentality within the university. Huge foundations and other private financial interests shape under–financed colleges and universities, not only making them more commercial, but less disposed to diagnose society critically, less open to dissent. Many social and physical scientists, neglecting the liberating heritage of higher learning, develop "human relations" or morale–producing" techniques for the corporate economy, while others exercise their intellectual skills to accelerate the arms race.
Tragically, the university could serve as a significant source
of social criticism and an initiator of new modes and molders of
attitudes. But the actual intellectual effect of the college experience
is hardly distinguishable from that of any other communications
channel — say, a television set — passing on the stock truths
of the day. Students leave college somewhat more "tolerant"
than when they arrived, but basically unchallenged in their values
and political orientations. With administrators ordering the institutions,
and faculty the curriculum, the student learns by his isolation
to accept elite rule within the university, which prepares him to
accept later forms of minority control. The real function of the
educational system — as opposed to its more rhetorical function
of "searching for truth" — is to impart the key information
and styles that will help the student get by, modestly but comfortably,
in the big society beyond.
The Society Beyond
Look beyond the campus, to America itself. That student life is more intellectual, and perhaps more comfortable, does not obscure the fact that the fundamental qualities of life on the campus reflect the habits of society at large. The fraternity president is seen at the junior manager levels; the sorority queen has gone to Grosse Pointe: the serious poet burns for a place, any place, or work; the once–serious and never serious poets work at the advertising agencies. The desperation of people threatened by forces about which they know little and of which they can say less; the cheerful emptiness of people "giving up" all hope of changing things; the faceless ones polled by Gallup who listed "international affairs" fourteenth on their list of "problems" but who also expected thermonuclear war in the next few years: in these and other forms, Americans are in withdrawal from public life, from any collective effort at directing their own affairs.
Some regard this national doldrums as a sign of healthy approval of the established order — but is it approval by consent or manipulated acquiescence? Others declare that the people are withdrawn because compelling issues are fast disappearing — perhaps there are fewer breadlines in America, but is Jim Crow gone, is there enough work and work more fulfilling, is world war a diminishing threat, and what of the revolutionary new peoples? Still others think the national quietude is a necessary consequence of the need for elites to resolve complex and specialized problems of modern industrial society — but, then, why should business elites help decide foreign policy, and who controls the elites anyway, and are they solving mankind’s problems? Others, finally, shrug knowingly and announce that full democracy never worked anywhere in the past — but why lump qualitatively different civilizations together, and how can a social order work well if its best thinkers are skeptics, and is man really doomed forever to the domination of today?
There are no convincing apologies for the contemporary malaise. While the world tumbles toward the final war, while men in other nations are trying desperately to alter events, while the very future qua future is uncertain — America is without community, impulse, without the inner momentum necessary for an age when societies cannot successfully perpetuate themselves by their military weapons, when democracy must be viable because of its quality of life, not its quantity of rockets.
The apathy here is, first subjective — the felt powerlessness of ordinary people, the resignation before the enormity of events. But subjective apathy is encouraged by the objective American situation — the actual structural separation of people from power, from relevant knowledge, from pinnacles of decision–making. Just as the university influences the student way of life, so do major social institutions create the circumstances in which the isolated citizen will try hopelessly to understand his world and himself.
The very isolation of the individual — from power and community
and ability to aspire — means the rise of a democracy without publics.
With the great mass of people structurally remote and psychologically
hesitant with respect to democratic institutions, those institutions
themselves attenuate and become, in the fashion of the vicious circle,
progressively less accessible to those few who aspire to serious
participation in social affairs. The vital democratic connection
between community and leadership, between the mass and the several
elites, has been so wrenched and perverted that disastrous policies
go unchallenged time and again.
Politics without Publics
The American political system is not the democratic model of which its glorifiers speak. In actuality it frustrates democracy by confusing the individual citizen, paralyzing policy discussion, and consolidating the irresponsible power of military and business interests.
A crucial feature of the political apparatus in America is that greater differences are harbored within each major party than the differences existing between them. Instead of two parties presenting distinctive and significant differences of approach, what dominates the system if a natural interlocking of Democrats from Southern states with the more conservative elements of the Republican party. This arrangement of forces is blessed by the seniority system of Congress which guarantees congressional committee domination by conservatives — ten of 17 committees in the Senate and 13 of 21 in House of Representatives are chaired currently by Dixiecrats.
The party overlap, however, is not the only structural antagonist of democracy in politics. First, the localized nature of the party system does not encourage discussion of national and international issues: thus problems are not raised by and for people, and political representatives usually are unfettered from any responsibilities to the general public except those regarding parochial matters. Second, whole constituencies are divested of the full political power they might have: many Negroes in the South are prevented from voting, migrant workers are disenfranchised by various residence requirements, some urban and suburban dwellers are victimized by gerrymandering, and poor people are too often without the power to obtain political representation. Third, the focus of political attention is significantly distorted by the enormous lobby force, composed predominantly of business interests, spending hundreds of millions each year in an attempt to conform facts about productivity, agriculture, defense, and social services, to the wants of private economic groupings.
What emerges from the party contradictions and insulation of privatelyheld power is the organized political stalemate: calcification dominates flexibility as the principle of parliamentary organization, frustration is the expectancy of legislators intending liberal reform, and Congress becomes less and less central to national decision–making, especially in the area of foreign policy. In this context, confusion and blurring is built into the formulation of issues, long–range priorities are not discussed in the rational manner needed for policymaking, the politics of personality and "image" become a more important mechanism than the construction of issues in a way that affords each voter a challenging and real option. The American voter is buffeted from all directions by pseudo–problems, by the structurally–initiated sense that nothing political is subject to human mastery. Worried by his mundane problems which never get solved, but constrained by the common belief that politics is an agonizingly slow accommodation of views, he quits all pretense of bothering.
A most alarming fact is that few, if any, politicians are calling for changes in these conditions. Only a handful even are calling on the President to "live up to" platform pledges; no one is demanding structural changes, such as the shuttling of Southern Democrats out of the Democratic Party. Rather than protesting the state of politics, most politicians are reinforcing and aggravating that state. While in practice they rig public opinion to suit their own interests, in word and ritual they enshrine "the sovereign public" and call for more and more letters. Their speeches and campaign actions are banal, based on a degrading conception of what people want to hear. They respond not to dialogue, but to pressure: and knowing this, the ordinary citizen sees even greater inclination to shun the political sphere. The politicians is usually a trumpeter to "citizenship" and "service to the nation", but since he is unwilling to seriously rearrange power relationships, his trumpetings only increase apathy by creating no outlets. Much of the time the call to "service" is justified not in idealistic terms, but in the crasser terms of "defending the free world from communism" — thus making future idealistic impulses harder to justify in anything but Cold War terms.
In such a setting of status quo politics, where most if not all
government activity is rationalized in Cold War anti–communist terms,
it is somewhat natural that discontented, super–patriotic groups
would emerge through political channels and explain their ultra–conservatism
as the best means of Victory over Communism. They have become a
politically influential force within the Republican Party, at a
national level through Senator Goldwater, and at a local level through
their important social and economic roles. Their political views
are defined generally as the opposite of the supposed views of communists:
complete individual freedom in the economic sphere, non–participation
by the government in the machinery of production. But actually "anticommunism"
becomes an umbrella by which to protest liberalism, internationalism,
welfarism, the active civil rights and labor movements. It is to
the disgrace of the United States that such a movement should become
a prominent kind of public participation in the modern world —
but, ironically, it is somewhat to the interests of the United States
that such a movement should be a public constituency pointed toward
realignment of the political parties, demanding a conservative Republican
Party in the South and an exclusion of the "leftist" elements
of the national GOP.
American capitalism today advertises itself as the Welfare State. Many of us comfortably expect pensions, medical care, unemployment compensation, and other social services in our lifetimes. Even with one–fourth of our productive capacity unused, the majority of Americans are living in relative comfort — although their nagging incentive to "keep up" makes them continually dissatisfied with their possessions. In many places, unrestrained bosses, uncontrolled machines, and sweatshop conditions have been reformed or abolished and suffering tremendously relieved. But in spite of the benign yet obscuring effects of the New Deal reforms and the reassuring phrases of government economists and politicians, the paradoxes and myths of the economy are sufficient to irritate our complacency and reveal to us some essential causes of the American malaise.
We live amidst a national celebration of economic prosperity while poverty and deprivation remain an unbreakable way of life for millions in the "affluent society", including many of our own generation. We hear glib reference to the "welfare state", "free enterprise", and "shareholder’s democracy" while military defense is the main item of "public" spending and obvious oligopoly and other forms of minority rule defy real individual initiative or popular control. Work, too, is often unfulfilling and victimizing, accepted as a channel to status or plenty, if not a way to pay the bills, rarely as a means of understanding and controlling self and events. In work and leisure the individual is regulated as part of the system, a consuming unit, bombarded by hardsell soft–sell, lies and semi–true appeals and his basest drives. He is always told what he is supposed to enjoy while being told, too, that he is a "free" man because of "free enterprise."
The Remote Control Economy. We are subject to a remote control economy, which excludes the mass of individual "units" — the people — from basic decisions affecting the nature and organization of work, rewards, and opportunities. The modern concentration of wealth is fantastic. The wealthiest one percent of Americans own more than 80 percent of all personal shares of stock. From World War II until the mid–Fifties, the 50 biggest corporations increased their manufacturing production from 17 to 23 percent of the national total, and the share of the largest 200 companies rose from 30 to 37 percent. To regard the various decisions of these elites as purely economic is short–sighted: their decisions affect in a momentous way the entire fabric of social life in America. Foreign investments influence political policies in under–developed areas — and our efforts to build a "profitable" capitalist world blind our foreign policy to mankind’s needs and destiny. The drive for sales spurs phenomenal advertising efforts; the ethical drug industry, for instance, spent more than $750 million on promotions in 1960, nearly for times the amount available to all American medical schools for their educational programs. The arts, too, are organized substantially according to their commercial appeal aesthetic values are subordinated to exchange values, and writers swiftly learn to consider the commercial market as much as the humanistic marketplace of ideas. The tendency to over–production, to gluts of surplus commodities, encourages "market research" techniques to deliberately create pseudo–needs in consumers — we learn to buy "smart" things, regardless of their utility — and introduces wasteful "planned obsolescence" as a permanent feature of business strategy. While real social needs accumulate as rapidly as profits, it becomes evident that Money, instead of dignity of character, remains a pivotal American value and Profitability, instead of social use, a pivotal standard in determining priorities of resource allocation.
Within existing arrangements, the American business community cannot be said to encourage a democratic process nationally. Economic minorities not responsible to a public in any democratic fashion make decisions of a more profound importance than even those made by Congress. Such a claim is usually dismissed by respectful and knowing citations of the ways in which government asserts itself as keeper of the public interest at times of business irresponsibility. But the real, as opposed to the mythical, range of government "control" of the economy includes only:
In short, the theory of government "countervailing" business neglects the extent to which government influence is marginal to the basic production decisions, the basic decision–making environment of society, the basic structure or distribution and allocation which is still determined by major corporations with power and wealth concentrated among the few. A conscious conspiracy — as in the case of pricerigging in the electrical industry — is by no means generally or continuously operative but power undeniably does rest in comparative insulation from the public and its political representatives.
The Military–Industrial Complex. The most spectacular and important creation of the authoritarian and oligopolistic structure of economic decision–making in America is the institution called "the militaryindustrial complex" by former President Eisenhower, the powerful congruence of interest and structure among military and business elites which affects so much of our development and destiny. Not only is ours the first generation to live with the possibility of world–wide cataclysm — it is the first to experience the actual social preparation for cataclysm, the general militarization of American society. In 1948 Congress established Universal Military Training, the first peacetime conscription. The military became a permanent institution. Four years earlier, General Motor’s Charles E. Wilson had heralded the creation of what he called the "permanent war economy," the continuous use of military spending as a solution to economic problems unsolved before the post–war boom, most notably the problem of the seventeen million jobless after eight years of the New Deal. This has left a "hidden crisis" in the allocation of resources by the American economy.
Since our childhood these two trends — the rise of the military and the installation of a defense–based economy — have grown fantastically. The Department of Defense, ironically the world’s largest single organization, is worth $160 billion, owns 32 million acres of America and employs half the 7.5 million persons directly dependent on the military for subsistence, has an $11 billion payroll which is larger than the net annual income of all American corporations. Defense spending in the Eisenhower era totaled $350 billions and President Kennedy entered office pledged to go even beyond the present defense allocation of sixty cents from every public dollar spent. Except for a war–induced boom immediately after "our side" bombed Hiroshima, American economic prosperity has coincided with a growing dependence on military outlay — from 1941 to 1959 America’s Gross National Product of $5.25 trillion included $700 billion in goods and services purchased for the defense effort, about one–seventh of the accumulated GNP. This pattern has included the steady concentration of military spending among a few corporations. In 1961, 86 percent of Defense Department contracts were awarded without competition. The ordnance industry of 100,000 people is completely engaged in military work; in the aircraft industry, 94 percent of 750,000 workers are linked to the war economy; shipbuilding, radio and communications equipment industries commit forty percent of their work to defense; iron and steel, petroleum, metal–stamping and machine shop products, motors and generators, tools and hardware, copper, aluminum and machine tools industries all devote at least 10 percent of their work to the same cause.
The intermingling of Big Military and Big Industry is evidenced in the 1,400 former officers working for the 100 corporations who received nearly all the $21 billion spent in procurement by the Defense Department in 1961. The overlap is most poignantly clear in the case of General Dynamics, the company which received the best 1961 contracts, employed the most retired officers (187), and is directed by a former Secretary of the Army. A Fortune magazine profile of General Dynamics said: "The unique group of men who run Dynamics are only incidentally in rivalry with other U.S. manufacturers, with many of whom they actually act in concert. Their chief competitor is the USSR. The core of General Dynamics corporate philosophy is the conviction that national defense is a more or less permanent business." Little has changed since Wilson’s proud declaration of the Permanent War Economy back in the 1944 days when the top 200 corporations possessed 80 percent of all active prime war–supply contracts.
Military Industrial Politics. The military and its supporting business foundation have found numerous forms of political expression, and we have heard their din endlessly. There has not been a major Congressional split on the issue of continued defense spending spirals in our lifetime. The triangular relation of the business, military and political arenas cannot be better expressed than in Dixiecrat Carl Vinson’s remarks as his House Armed Services Committee reported out a military construction bill of $808 million throughout the 50 states, for 1960–61: "There is something in this bill for everyone," he announced. President Kennedy had earlier acknowledged the valuable anti–recession features of the bill.
Imagine, on the other hand, $808 million suggested as an anti–recession measure, but being poured into programs of social welfare: the impossibility of receiving support for such a measure identifies a crucial feature of defense spending: it is beneficial to private enterprise, while welfare spending is not. Defense spending does not "compete" with the private sector; it contains a natural obsolescence; its "confidential" nature permits easier boondoggling; the tax burdens to which it leads can be shunted from corporation to consumer as a "cost of production." Welfare spending, however, involves the government in competition with private corporations and contractors; it conflicts with immediate interests of private pressure groups; it leads to taxes on business. Think of the opposition of private power companies to current proposals for river and valley development, or the hostility of the real estate lobby to urban renewal; or the attitude of the American Medical Association to a paltry medical care bill; or of all business lobbyists to foreign aid; these are the pressures leading to the schizophrenic public–military, private–civilian economy of our epoch. The politicians, of course, take the line of least resistance and thickest support: warfare, instead of welfare, is easiest to stand up for: after all, the Free World is at stake (and our constituency’s investments, too).
Automation, Abundance, and Challenge. But while the economy remains relatively static in its setting of priorities and allocation of resources, new conditions are emerging with enormous implications: the revolution of automation, and the replacement of scarcity by the potential of material abundance.
Automation, the process of machines replacing men in performing sensory, motoric and complex logical tasks, is transforming society in ways that are scarcely comprehensible. By 1959, industrial production regained its 1957 "pre–recession" level — but with 750,000 fewer workers required. In the Fifties as a whole, national production enlarged by 43 percent but the number of factory employees remained stationary, seventenths of one percent higher than in 1947. Automation is destroying whole categories of work — impersonal thinkers have efficiently labeled this "structural unemployment" — in blue–collar, service, and even middle management occupations. In addition it is eliminating employment opportunities for a youth force that numbers one million more than it did in 1950, and rendering work far more difficult both to find and do for people in the forties and up. The consequences of this economic drama, strengthened by the force of post–war recessions, are momentous: five million becomes an acceptable unemployment tabulation, and misery, uprootedness and anxiety become the lot of increasing numbers of Americans.
But while automation is creating social dislocation of a stunning kind, it paradoxically is imparting the opportunity for men the world around to rise in dignity from their knees. The dominant optimistic economic fact of this epoch is that fewer hands are needed now in actual production, although more goods and services are a real potentiality. The world could be fed, poverty abolished, the great public needs could be met, the brutish world of Darwinian scarcity could be brushed away, all men could have more time to pursue their leisure, drudgery in work could be cut to a minimum, education could become more of a continuing process for all people, both public and personal needs could be met rationally. But only in a system with selfish production motives and elitist control, a system which is less welfare than war–based, undemocratic rather than "stockholder participative" as "sold to us", does the potentiality for abundance become a curse and a cruel irony:
The Stance of Labor. Amidst all this, what of organized labor, the historic institutional representative of the exploited, the presumed "countervailing power" against the excesses of Big Business? The contemporary social assault on the labor movement is of crisis proportions. To the average American, "big labor" is a growing cancer equal in impact to Big Business — nothing could be more distorted, even granting a sizable union bureaucracy. But in addition to public exaggerations, the labor crisis can be measured in several ways. First, the high expectations of the newborn AFL–CIO of 30 million members by 1965 are suffering a reverse unimaginable five years ago. The demise of the dream of "organizing the unorganized" is dramatically reflected in the AFL–CIO decision, just two years after its creation, to slash its organizing staff in half. From 15 million members when the AFL and the CIO merged, the total has slipped to 13.5 million. During the post–war generation, union membership nationally has increased by four million — but the total number of workers has jumped by 13 million. Today only 40 percent of all non–agricultural workers are protected by any form or organization. Second, organizing conditions are going to worsen. Where labor now is strongest — in industries — automation is leading to an attrition of available work. As the number of jobs dwindles, so does labor’s power of bargaining, since management can handle a strike in an automated plant more easily than the older mass–operated ones.
More important perhaps, the American economy has changed radically in the last decade, as suddenly the number of workers producing goods became fewer than the number in "nonproductive" areas — government, trade, finance, services, utilities, transportation. Since World War II "white collar" and "service" jobs have grown twice as fast as have, "blue collar" production jobs. Labor has almost no organization in the expanding occupational areas of the new economy, but almost all of its entrenched strength in contracting areas. As big government hires more, as business seeks more office workers and skilled technicians, and as growing commercial America demands new hotels, service stations and the like, the conditions will become graver still. Further, there is continuing hostility to labor by the Southern states and their industrial interests — meaning " runaway plants, cheap labor threatening the organized trade union movement, and opposition from Dixiecrats to favorable labor legislation in Congress. Finally, there is indication that Big Business, for the sake of public relations if nothing more, has acknowledged labor’s "right" to exist, but has deliberately tried to contain labor at its present strength, preventing strong unions from helping weaker ones or from spreading or unorganized sectors of the economy. Business is aided in its efforts by proliferation of "right–to–work" laws at state levels (especially in areas where labor is without organizing strength to begin with), and anti–labor legislation in Congress.
In the midst of these besetting crises, labor itself faces its own problems of vision and program. Historically, there can be no doubt as to its worth in American politics — what progress there has been in meeting human needs in this century rests greatly with the labor movement. And to a considerable extent the social democracy for which labor has fought externally is reflected in its own essentially democratic character: representing millions of people, no millions of dollars; demanding their welfare, not eternal profit. Today labor remains the most liberal "mainstream" institution — but often its liberalism represents vestigial commitments self–interestedness, unradicalism. In some measure labor has succumbed to institutionalization, its social idealism waning under the tendencies of bureaucracy, materialism, business ethics. The successes of the last generation perhaps have braked, rather than accelerated labor’s zeal for change. Even the House of Labor has bay windows: not only is this true of the labor elites, but as well of some of the rank–and–file. Many of the latter are indifferent unionists, uninterested in meetings, alienated from the complexities of the labor–management negotiating apparatus, lulled to comfort by the accessibility of luxury and the opportunity of long–term contracts. "Union democracy" is not simply inhibited by labor leader elitism, but by the unrelated problem of rankand –file apathy to the tradition of unionism. The crisis of labor is reflected in the coexistence within the unions of militant Negro discontents and discriminatory locals, sweeping critics of the obscuring "public interest" marginal tinkering of government and willing handmaidens of conservative political leadership, austere sacrificers and business–like operators, visionaries and anachronisms — tensions between extremes that keep alive the possibilities for a more militant unionism. Too, there are seeds of rebirth in the "organizational crisis" itself: the technologically unemployed, the unorganized white collar men and women, the migrants and farm workers, the unprotected Negroes, the poor, all of whom are isolated now from the power structure of the economy, but who are the potential base for a broader and more forceful unionism.
Horizon. In summary: a more reformed, more human capitalism, functioning
at three–fourths capacity while one–third of America and two–thirds
of the world goes needy, domination of politics and the economy
by fantastically rich elites, accommodation and limited effectiveness
by the labor movement, hard–core poverty and unemployment, automation
confirming the dark ascension of machine over man instead of shared
abundance, technological change being introduced into the economy
by the criteria of profitability — this has been our inheritance.
However inadequate, it has instilled quiescence in liberal hearts
— partly reflecting the extent to which misery has been over–come
but also the eclipse of social ideals. Though many of us are "affluent",
poverty, waste, elitism, manipulation are too manifest to go unnoticed,
too clearly unnecessary to go accepted. To change the Cold War status
quo and other social evils, concern with the challenges to the American
economic machine must expand. Now, as a truly better social state
becomes visible, a new poverty impends: a poverty of vision, and
a poverty of political action to make that vision reality. Without
new vision, the failure to achieve our potentialities will spell
the inability of our society to endure in a world of obvious, crying
needs and rapid change.
The Individual in the Welfare State
Business and politics, when significantly militarized, affect the whole living condition of each American citizen. Worker and family depend on the Cold War for life. Half of all research and development is concentrated on military ends. The press mimics conventional cold war opinion in its editorials. In less than a full generation, most Americans accept the military–industrial structure as "the way things are." War is still pictured as one more kind of diplomacy, perhaps a gloriously satisfying kind. Our saturation and atomic bombings of Germany and Japan are little more than memories of past "policy necessities" that preceded the wonderful economic boom of 1946. The facts that our once–revolutionary 20,000 ton Hiroshima Bomb is now paled by 50 megaton weapons, that our lifetime has included the creation of intercontinental ballistic missiles, that "greater" weapons are to follow, that weapons refinement is more rapid than the development of weapons of defense, that soon a dozen or more nations will have the Bomb, that one simple miscalculation could incinerate mankind: these orienting facts are but remotely felt. A shell of moral callous separates the citizen from sensitivity of the common peril: this is the result of a lifetime saturation with horror. After all, some ask, where could we begin, even if we wanted to? After all, others declare, we can only assume things are in the best of hands. A coed at the University of Kentucky says, "we regard peace and war as fairy tales." And a child has asked in helplessness, perhaps for us all, "Daddy, why is there a cold war?"
Past senselessness permits present brutality; present brutality is prelude to future deeds of still greater inhumanity; that is the moral history of the twentieth century, from the First World War to the present. A half–century of accelerating destruction has flattened out the individual’s ability to make moral distinction, it has made people understandably give up, it has forced private worry and public silence.
To a decisive extent, the means of defense, the military technology itself, determines the political and social character of the state being defended — that is, defense mechanism themselves in the nuclear age alter the character of the system that creates them for protection. So it has been with American, as her democratic institutions and habits have shriveled in almost direct proportion to the growth of her armaments. Decisions about military strategy, including the monstrous decision to go to war, are more and more the property of the military and the industrial arms race machine, with the politicians assuming a ratifying role instead of a determining one. This is increasingly a fact not just because of the installation of the permanent military, but because of constant revolutions in military technology. The new technologies allegedly require military expertise, scientific comprehension, and the mantle of secrecy. As Congress relies more and more on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the existing chasm between people and decision–makers becomes irreconcilably wide, and more alienating in its effects.
A necessary part of the military effort is propaganda: to "sell" the need for congressional appropriations, to conceal various business scandals, and to convince the American people that the arms race is important enough to sacrifice civil liberties and social welfare. So confusion prevails about the national needs, while the three major services and the industrial allies jockey for power — the Air Force tending to support bombers and missilery, the Navy, Polaris and carriers, the Army, conventional ground forces and invulnerable nuclear arsenals, and all three feigning unity and support of the policy of weapons and agglomeration called the "mix". Strategies are advocated on the basis of power and profit, usually more so than on the basis of national military needs. In the meantime, Congressional investigating committees — most notably the House Un–American Activities Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee — attempt to curb the little dissent that finds its way into off–beat magazines. A huge militant anticommunist brigade throws in its support, patriotically willing to do anything to achieve "total victory" in the Cold War; the government advocates peaceful confrontation with international Communism, then utterly pillories and outlaws the tiny American Communist Party. University professors withdraw prudently from public issues; the very style of social science writing becomes more qualified. Needs in housing, education, minority rights, health care, land redevelopment, hourly wages, all are subordinated — though a political tear is shed gratuitously — to the primary objective of the "military and economic strength of the Free World."
What are the governing policies which supposedly justify all this human sacrifice and waste? With few exceptions they have reflected the quandaries and confusion, stagnation and anxiety, of a stalemated nation in a turbulent world. They have shown a slowness, sometimes a sheer inability to react to a sequence of new problems.
Of these problems, two of the newest are foremost: the existence
of poised nuclear weapons and the revolutions against the former
colonial powers. In the both areas, the Soviet Union and the various
national communist movements have aggravated internation relations
in inhuman and undesirable ways, but hardly so much as to blame
only communism for the present menacing situation.
The accumulation of nuclear arsenals, the threat of accidental war, the possibility of limited war becoming illimitable holocaust, the impossibility of achieving final arms superiority or invulnerability, the approaching nativity of a cluster of infant atomic powers; all of these events are tending to undermine traditional concepts of power relations among nations. War can no longer be considered as an effective instrument of foreign policy, a means of strengthening alliances, adjusting the balance of power, maintaining national sovereignty, or preserving human values. War is no longer simply a forceful extension of foreign policy; it can obtain no constructive ends in the modern world. Soviet or American "megatonnage" is sufficient to destroy all existing social structures as well as value systems. Missiles have (figuratively) thumbed their nosecones at national boundaries. But America, like other countries, still operates by means of national defense and deterrence systems. These are seen to be useful so long as they are never fully used: unless we as a national entity can convince Russia that we are willing to commit the most heinous action in human history, we will be forced to commit it.
Deterrence advocates, all of them prepared at least to threaten mass extermination, advance arguments of several kinds. At one pole are the minority of open partisans of preventive war — who falsely assume the inevitability of violent conflict and assert the lunatic efficacy of striking the first blow, assuming that it will be easier to "recover" after thermonuclear war than to recover now from the grip of the Cold War. Somewhat more reluctant to advocate initiating a war, but perhaps more disturbing for their numbers within the Kennedy Administration, are the many advocates of the "counterforce" theory of aiming strategic nuclear weapons at military installations — though this might "save" more lives than a preventive war, it would require drastic, provocative and perhaps impossible social change to separate many cities from weapons sites, it would be impossible to ensure the immunity of cities after one or two counterforce nuclear "exchanges", it would generate a perpetual arms race for less vulnerability and greater weapons power and mobility, it would make outer space a region subject to militarization, and accelerate the suspicions and arms build–ups which are incentives to precipitate nuclear action. Others would support fighting "limited wars" which use conventional (all but atomic) weapons, backed by deterrents so mighty that both sides would fear to use them — although underestimating the implications of numerous new atomic powers on the world stage, the extreme difficulty of anchoring international order with weapons of only transient invulnerability, the potential tendency for a "losing side" to push limited protracted fighting on the soil of underdeveloped countries. Still other deterrence artists propose limited, clearly defensive and retaliatory, nuclear capacity, always potent enough to deter an opponent’s aggressive designs — the best of deterrence stratagems, but inadequate when it rests on the equation of an arms "stalemate" with international stability.
All the deterrence theories suffer in several common ways. They allow insufficient attention to preserving, extending, and enriching democratic values, such matters being subordinate rather than governing in the process of conducting foreign policy. Second, they inadequately realize the inherent instabilities of the continuing arms race and balance of fear. Third, they operationally tend to eclipse interest and action towards disarmament by solidifying economic, political and even moral investments in continuation of tensions. Fourth, they offer a disinterested and even patriotic rationale for the boondoggling, belligerence, and privilege of military and economic elites. Finally, deterrence stratagems invariably understate or dismiss the relatedness of various dangers; they inevitably lend tolerability to the idea of war by neglecting the dynamic interaction of problems — such as the menace of accidental war, the probable future tensions surrounding the emergence of ex–colonial nations, the imminence of several new nations joining the "Nuclear Club," the destabilizing potential of technological breakthrough by either arms race contestant, the threat of Chinese atomic might, the fact that "recovery" after World War III would involve not only human survivors but, as well, a huge and fragile social structure and culture which would be decimated perhaps irreparably by total war.
Such a harsh critique of what we are doing as a nation by no means implies that sole blame for the Cold War rests on the United States. Both sides have behaved irresponsibly — the Russians by an exaggerated lack of trust, and by much dependence on aggressive military strategists rather than on proponents of nonviolent conflict and coexistence. But we do contend, as Americans concerned with the conduct of our representative institutions, that our government has blamed the Cold War stalemate on nearly everything but its own hesitations, its own anachronistic dependence on weapons. To be sure, there is more to disarmament than wishing for it. There are inadequacies in international rule–making institutions — which could be corrected. There are faulty inspection mechanisms — which could be perfected by disinterested scientists. There is Russian intransigency and evasiveness — which do not erase the fact that the Soviet Union, because of a strained economy, an expectant population, fears of Chinese potential, and interest in the colonial revolution, is increasingly disposed to real disarmament with real controls. But there is, too, our own reluctance to face the uncertain world beyond the Cold War, our own shocking assumption that the risks of the present are fewer than the risks of a policy re–orientation to disarmament, our own unwillingness to face the implementation of our rhetorical commitments to peace and freedom.
Today the world alternatively drifts and plunges towards a terrible
war when vision and change are required, our government pursues
a policy of macabre dead–end dimensions — conditioned, but not
justified, by actions of the Soviet bloc. Ironically, the war which
seems to close will not be fought between the United States and
Russia, not externally between two national entities, but as an
international civil war throughout the unrespected and unprotected
human civitas which spans the world.
The Colonial Revolution
While weapons have accelerated man’s opportunity for self–destruction, the counter–impulse to life and creation are superbly manifest in the revolutionary feelings of many Asian, African and Latin American peoples. Against the individual initiative and aspiration, and social sense of organicism characteristic of these upsurges, the American apathy and stalemate stand in embarrassing contrast.
It is difficult today to give human meaning to the welter of facts that surrounds us. That is why it is especially hard to understand the facts of "underdevelopment": in India, man and beast together produced 65 percent of the nation’s economic energy in a recent year, and of the remaining 35 percent of inanimately produced power almost three–fourths was obtained by burning dung. But in the United States, human and animal power together account for only one percent of the national economic energy — that is what stands humanly behind the vague term "industrialization". Even to maintain the misery of Asia today at a constant level will require a rate of growth tripling the national income and the aggregate production in Asian countries by the end of the century. For Asians to have the (unacceptable) 1950 standard of Europeans, less than $2,000 per year for a family, national production must increase 21–fold by the end the century, and that monstrous feat only to reach a level that Europeans find intolerable.
What has America done? During the years 1955–57 our total expenditures in economic aid were equal to one–tenth of one percent of our total Gross National Product. Prior to that time it was less; since then it has been a fraction higher. Immediate social and economic development is needed — we have helped little, seeming to prefer to create a growing gap between "have" and "have not" rather than to usher in social revolutions which would threaten our investors and out military alliances. The new nations want to avoid power entanglements that will open their countries to foreign domination — and we have often demanded loyalty oaths. They do not see the relevence of uncontrolled free enterprise in societies without accumulated capital and a significant middle class — and we have looked calumniously on those who would not try "our way". They seek empathy — and we have sided with the old colonialists, who now are trying to take credit for "giving" all the freedom that has been wrested from them, or we "empathize" when pressure absolutely demands it.
With rare variation, American foreign policy in the Fifties was guided by a concern for foreign investment and a negative anti–communist political stance linked to a series of military alliances, both undergirded by military threat. We participated unilaterally — usually through the Central Intelligence Agency — in revolutions against governments in Laos, Guatemala, Cuba, Egypt, Iran. We permitted economic investment to decisively affect our foreign policy: fruit in Cuba, oil in the Middle East, diamonds and gold in South Africa (with whom we trade more than with any African nation). More exactly: America’s "foreign market" in the late Fifties, including exports of goods and services plus overseas sales by American firms, averaged about $60 billion annually. This represented twice the investment of 1950, and it is predicted that the same rates of increase will continue. The reason is obvious: Fortune said in 1958, "foreign earnings will be more than double in four years, more than twice the probable gain in domestic profits". These investments are concentrated primarily in the Middle East and Latin America, neither region being an impressive candidate for the long–run stability, political caution, and lower–class tolerance that American investors typically demand.
Our pugnacious anti–communism and protection of interests has led us to an alliance inappropriately called the "Free World". It included four major parliamentary democracies: ourselves, Canada, Great Britain, and India. It also has included through the years Batista, Franco, Verwoerd, Salazar, De Gaulle, Boun Oum, Ngo Diem, Chiang Kai Shek, Trujillo, the Somozas, Saud, Ydigoras — all of these non–democrats separating us deeply from the colonial revolutions.
Since the Kennedy administration began, the American government seems to have initiated policy changes in the colonial and underdeveloped areas. It accepted "neutralism" as a tolerable principle; it sided more than once with the Angolans in the United Nations; it invited Souvanna Phouma to return to Laos after having overthrown his neutralist government there; it implemented the Alliance for Progress that President Eisenhower proposed when Latin America appeared on the verge of socialist revolutions; it made derogatory statements about the Trujillos; it cautiously suggested that a democratic socialist government in British Guiana might be necessary to support; in inaugural oratory, it suggested that a moral imperative was involved in sharing the world’s resources with those who have been previously dominated. These were hardly sufficient to heal the scars of past activity and present associations, but nevertheless they were motions away from the Fifties. But quite unexpectedly, the President ordered the Cuban invations, and while the American press railed about how we had been "shamed" and defied by that "monster Castro," the colonial peoples of the world wondered whether our foreign policy had really changed from its old imperialist ways (we had never supported Castro, even on the eve of his taking power, and had announced early that "the conduct of the Castro government toward foreign private enterprise in Cuba" would be a main State Department concern). Any heralded changes in our foreign policy are now further suspect in the wake of the Punta Del Este foreign minister’s conference where the five countries representing most of Latin America refused to cooperate in our plans to further "isolate" the Castro government.
Ever since the colonial revolution began, American policy makers have reacted to new problems with old "gunboat" remedies, often thinly disguised. The feeble but desirable efforts of the Kennedy administration to be more flexible are coming perhaps too late, and are of too little significance to really change the historical thrust of our policies. The hunger problem is increasing rapidly mostly as a result of the worldwide population explosion that cancels out the meager triumphs gained so far over starvation. The threat of population to economic growth is simply documented: in 1960–70 population in Africa south of the Sahara will increase 14 percent; in South Asia and the Far East by 22 percent; in North Africa 26 percent; in the Middle East by 27 percent; in Latin America 29 percent. Population explosion, no matter how devastating, is neutral. But how long will it take to create a relation of thrust between America and the newly–developing societies? How long to change our policies? And what length of time do we have?
The world is in transformation. But America is not. It can race
to industrialize the world, tolerating occasional authoritarianisms,
socialisms, neutralisms along the way — or it can slow the pace
of the inevitable and default to the eager and self–interested Soviets
and, much more importantly, to mankind itself. Only mystics would
guess we have opted thoroughly for the first. Consider what our
people think of this, the most urgent issue on the human agenda.
Fed by a bellicose press, manipulated by economic and political
opponents of change, drifting in their own history, they grumble
about "the foreign aid waste", or about "that beatnik
down in Cuba", or how "things will get us by" . .
. thinking confidently, albeit in the usual bewilderment, that Americans
can go right on like always, five percent of mankind producing forty
percent of its goods.
An unreasoning anti–communism has become a major social problem for those who want to construct a more democratic America. McCarthyism and other forms of exaggerated and conservative anti–communism seriously weaken democratic institutions and spawn movements contrary to the interests of basic freedoms and peace. In such an atmosphere even the most intelligent of Americans fear to join political organizations, sign petitions, speak out on serious issues. Militaristic policies are easily "sold" to a public fearful of a democratic enemy. Political debate is restricted, thought is standardized, action is inhibited by the demands of "unity" and "oneness" in the face of the declared danger. Even many liberals and socialists share static and repititious participation in the anti–communist crusade and often discourage tentative, inquiring discussion about "the Russian question" within their ranks — often by employing "stalinist", "stalinoid", trotskyite" and other epithets in an oversimplifying way to discredit opposition.
Thus much of the American anti–communism takes on the characteristics of paranoia. Not only does it lead to the perversion of democracy and to the political stagnation of a warfare society, but it also has the unintended consequence of preventing an honest and effective approach to the issues. Such an approach would require public analysis and debate of world politics. But almost nowhere in politics is such a rational analysis possible to make.
It would seem reasonable to expect that in America the basic issues of the Cold War should be rationally and fully debated, between persons of every opinion — on television, on platforms and through other media. It would seem, too, that there should be a way for the person or an organization to oppose communism without contributing to the common fear of associations and public actions. But these things do not happen; instead, there is finger–pointing and comical debate about the most serious of issues. This trend of events on the domestic scene, towards greater irrationality on major questions, moves us to greater concern than does the "internal threat" of domestic communism. Democracy, we are convinced, requires every effort to set in peaceful opposition the basic viewpoints of the day; only by conscious, determined, though difficult, efforts in this direction will the issue of communism be met appropriately.
As democrats we are in basic opposition to the communist system. The Soviet Union, as a system, rests on the total suppression of organized opposition, as well as on a vision of the future in the name of which much human life has been sacrificed, and numerous small and large denials of human dignity rationalized. The Communist Party has equated falsely the "triumph of true socialism" with centralized bureaucracy. The Soviet state lacks independent labor organizations and other liberties we consider basic. And despite certain reforms, the system remains almost totally divorced from the image officially promulgated by the Party. Communist parties throughout the rest of the world are generally undemocratic in internal structure and mode of action. Moreover, in most cases they subordinate radical programs to requirements of Soviet foreign policy. The communist movement has failed, in every sense, to achieve its stated intentions of leading a worldwide movement for human emancipation.
But present trends in American anti–communism are not sufficient for the creation of appropriate policies with which to relate to and counter communist movements in the world. In no instance is this better illustrated than in our basic national policy–making assumption that the Soviet Union is inherently expansionist and aggressive, prepared to dominate the rest of the world by military means. On this assumption rests the monstrous American structure of military "preparedness"; because of it we sacrifice values and social programs to the alleged needs of military power.
But the assumption itself is certainly open to question and debate. To be sure, the Soviet state has used force and the threat of force to promote or defend its perceived national interests. But the typical American response has been to equate the use of force — which in many cases might be dispassionately interpreted as a conservative, albeit brutal, action — with the initiation of a worldwide military onslaught. In addition, the Russian–Chinese conflicts and the emergency !! throughout the communist movement call for a re–evaluation of any monolithic interpretations. And the apparent Soviet disinterest in building a first–strike arsenal of weapons challenges the weight given to protection against surprise attack in formulations of American policy toward the Soviets.
Almost without regard to one’s conception of the dynamics of Soviet society and foreign policy, it is evident that the American military response has been more effective in deterring the growth of democracy than communism. Moreover, our prevailing policies make difficult the encouragement of skepticism, anti–war or pro–democratic attitudes in the communist systems. America has done a great deal to foment the easier, opposite tendency in Russia: suspicion, suppression, and stiff military resistance. We have established a system of military alliances which of even dubious deterrence value. It is reasonable of suggest the "Berlin" and "Laos" have been earth–shaking situations partly because rival systems of deterrence make impossible the withdrawal of threats. The "status quo" is not cemented by mutual threat but by mutual fear of receeding from pugnacity — since the latter course would undermine the "credibility" of our deterring system. Simultaneously, while billions in military aid were propping up right–wing Laotian, Formosan, Iranian and other regimes, American leadership never developed a purely political policy for offering concrete alternatives to either communism or the status quo for colonial revolutions. The results have been: fulfillment of the communist belief that capitalism is stagnant, its only defense being dangerous military adventurism; destabilizing incidents in numerous developing countries; an image of America allied with corrupt oligarchies counterposed to the Russian–Chinese image of rapid, though brutal, economic development. Again and again, America mistakes the static area of defense, rather than the dynamic area of development, as the master need of two–thirds of mankind.
Our paranoia about the Soviet Union has made us incapable of achieving agreements absolutely necessary for disarmament and the preservation of peace. We are hardly able to see the possibility that the Soviet Union, though not "peace loving", may be seriously interested in disarmament.
Infinite possibilities for both tragedy and progress lie before us. On the one hand, we can continue to be afraid, and out of fear commit suicide. On the other hand, we can develop a fresh and creative approach to world problems which will help to create democracy at home and establish conditions for its growth elsewhere in the world.
Our America is still white.
Consider the plight, statistically, of its greatest nonconformists, the "nonwhites" (a Census Bureau designation).
Even against this background, some will say progress is being made. The facts bely it, however, unless it is assumed that America has another century to deal with its racial inequalities. Others, more pompous, will blame the situation on "those people’s inability to pick themselves up", not understanding the automatic way in which such a system can frustrate reform efforts and diminish the aspirations of the oppressed. The one–party system in the South, attached to the Dixiecrat–Republican complex nationally, cuts off the Negro’s independent powers as a citizen. Discrimination in employment, along with labor’s accomodation to the "lily–white" hiring practises, guarantees the lowest slot in the economic order to the "nonwhite." North or South, these oppressed are conditioned by their inheritance and their surroundings to expect more of the same: in housing, schools, recreation, travel, all their potential is circumscribed, thwarted and often extinguished. Automation grinds up job opportunities, and ineffective or non–existent retraining programs make the already–handicapped "nonwhite" even less equipped to participate in "technological progress."
Horatio Alger Americans typically believe that the "nonwhites" are being "accepted" and "rising" gradually. They see more Negroes on television and so assume that Negroes are "better off". They hear the President talking about Negroes and so assume they are politically represented. They are aware of black peoples in the United Nations and so assume that the world is generally moving toward integration. They don’t drive through the South, or through the slum areas of the big cities, so they assume that squalor and naked exploitation are disappearing. They express generalities about "time and gradualism" to hide the fact that they don’t know what is happening.
The advancement of the Negro and other "nonwhites" in America has not been altogether by means of the crusades of liberalism, but rather through unavoidable changes in social structure. The economic pressures of World War II opened new jobs, new mobility, new insights to Southern Negroes, who then began great migrations from the South to the bigger urban areas of the North where their absolute wage was greater, though unchanged in relation to the white man of the same stratum. More important than the World War II openings was the colonial revolution. The world–wide upsurge of dark peoples against white colonial domination stirred the separation and created an urgancy among American Negroes, while simultaneously it threatened the power structure of the United States enough to produce concessions to the Negro. Produced by outer pressure from the newly–moving peoples rather than by the internal conscience of the Federal government, the gains were keyed to improving the American "image" more than to reconstructing the society that prospered on top of its minorities. Thus the historic Supreme Court decision of 1954, theoretically desegregating Southern schools, was more a proclamation than a harbinger of social change — and is reflected as such in the fraction of Southern school districts which have desegregated, with Federal officials doing little to spur the process.
It has been said that the Kennedy administration did more in two years than the Eisenhower administration did in eight. Of this there can be no doubt. But it is analogous to comparing whispers to silence when positively stentorian tones are demanded. President Kennedy lept ahead of the Eisenhower record when he made his second reference to the racial problem; Eisenhower did not utter a meaningful public statement until his last month in office when he mentioned the "blemish" of bigotry.
To avoid conflict with the Dixiecrat–Republican alliance, President Kennedy has developed a civil rights philosophy of "enforcement, not enactment", implying that existing statuatory tools are sufficient to change the lot of the Negro. So far he has employed executive power usefully to appoint Negroes to various offices, and seems interested in seeing the Southern Negro registered to vote. On the other hand, he has appointed at least four segregationist judges in areas where voter registration is a desperate need. Only two civil rights bills, one to abolish the poll tax in five states and another to prevent unfair use of literacy tests in registration, have been proposed — the President giving active support to neither. But even this legislation, lethargically supported, then defeated, was intended to extend only to Federal elections. More important, the Kennedy interest in voter registration has not been supplemented with interest in giving the Southern Negro the economic protection that only trade unions can provide. It seems evident that the President is attempting to win the Negro permanently to the Democratic Party without basically disturbing the reactionary one–party oligarchy in the South. Moreover, the administration is decidedly "cool" (a phrase of Robert Kennedy’s) toward mass nonviolent movements in the South, though by the support of racist Dixiecrats the Administration makes impossible gradual action through conventional channels. The Federal Bureau of Investigation in the South is composed of Southerners and their intervention in situations of racial tension is always after the incident, not before. Kennedy has refused to "enforce" the legal prerogative to keep Federal marshals active in Southern areas before, during and after any "situations" (this would invite Negroes to exercise their rights and it would infuriate the Southerners in Congress because of its "insulting" features).
While corrupt politicians, together with business interests happy with the absence of organized labor in Southern states and with the $50 billion in profits that results from paying the Negro half a "white wage", stymie and slow fundamental progress, it remains to be appreciated that the ultimate wages of discrimination are paid by individuals and not by the state. Indeed the other sides of the economic, political and sociological coins of racism represent their more profound implications in the private lives, liberties and pursuits of happiness of the citizen. While hungry nonwhites the world around assume rightful dominance, the majority of Americans fight to keep integrated housing out of the suburbs. While a fully interracial world becomes a biological probability, most Americans persist in opposing marriage between the races. While cultures generally interpenetrate, white America is ignorant still of nonwhite America — and perhaps glad of it. The white lives almost completely within his immediate, close–up world where things are tolerable, there are no Negroes except on the bus corner going to and from work, and where it is important that daughter marry right. White, like might, makes right in America today. Not knowing the "nonwhite", however, the white knows something less than himself. Not comfortable around "different people", he reclines in whiteness instead of preparing for diversity. Refusing to yield objective social freedoms to the "nonwhite", the white loses his personal subjective freedom by turning away "from all these damn causes."
White American ethnocentrism at home and abroad reflect most sharply the self–deprivation suffered by the majority of our country which effectively makes it an isolated minority in the world community of culture and fellowship. The awe inspired by the pervasiveness of racism in American life is only matched by the marvel of its historical span in American traditions. The national heritage of racial discrimination via slavery has been a part of America since Christopher Columbus’ advent on the new continent. As such, racism not only antedates the Republic and the thirteen Colonies, but even the use of the English language in this hemisphere. And it is well that we keep this as a background when trying to understand why racism stands as such a steadfast pillar in the culture and custom of the country. Racial–xenophobia is reflected in the admission of various racial stocks to the country. From the nineteenth century Oriental Exclusion Acts to the most recent up–dating of the Walter–McCarren Immigration Acts the nation has shown a continuous contemptuous regard for "nonwhites." More recently, the tragedies of Hiroshima and Korematsu, and our cooperation with Western Europe in the United Nations add treatment to the thoroughness of racist overtones in national life.
But the right to refuse service to anyone is no longer reserved
to the Americans. The minority groups, internationally, are changing
What is Needed?
How to end the Cold War? How to increase democracy in America? These are the decisive issues confronting liberal and socialist forces today. To us, the issues are intimately related, the struggle for one invariably being a struggle for the other. What policy and structural alternatives are needed to obtain these ends?
The Industrialization of the World
Many Americans are prone to think of the industrialization of the newlydeveloped countries as a modern form of American noblesse, undertaken sacrificially for the benefit of others. On the contrary, the task of world industrialization, of eliminating the disparity between have and have–not nations, is as important as any issue facing America. The colonial revolution signals the end of an era for the old Western powers and a time of new beginnings for most of the people of the earth. In the course of these upheavals, many problems will emerge: American policies must be revised or accelerated in several ways.
Towards American Democracy
Every effort to end the Cold War and expand the process of world industrialization is an effort hostile to people and institutions whose interests lie in perpetuation of the East–West military threat and the postponement of change in the "have not" nations of the world. Every such effort, too, is bound to establish greater democracy in America. The major goals of a domestic effort would be:
All these tendencies suggest that not only solutions to our present social needs but our future expansion rests upon our willingness to enlarge the "public sector" greatly. Unless we choose war as an economic solvent, future public spending will be of a non–military nature — a major intervention into civilian production by the government. The issues posed by this development are enormous:
The Area Redevelopment Act of 1961 is a first step in recognizing the underdeveloped areas of the United States, but is only a drop in the bucket financially and is not keyed to public planning and public works on a broad scale, but only to a few loan programs to lure industries and some grants to improve public facilities to "lure industries." The current public works bill in Congress is needed and a more sweeping, higher priced program of regional development with a proliferation of "TVAs" in such areas as the Appalachian region are needed desperately. It has been rejected by Mississippi already however, because of the improvement it bodes for the unskilled Negro worker. This program should be enlarged, given teeth, and pursued rigorously by Federal authorities.
Alternatives to Helplessness
The goals we have set are not realizable next month, or even next election — but that fact justifies neither giving up altogether nor a determination to work only on immediate, direct, tangible problems. Both responses are a sign of helplessness, fearfulness of visions, refusal to hope, and tend to bring on the very conditions to be avoided. Fearing vision, we justify rhetoric or myopia. Fearing hope, we reinforce despair.
The first effort, then, should be to state a vision: what is the perimeter of human possibility in this epoch? This we have tried to do. The second effort, if we are to be politically responsible, is to evaluate the prospects for obtaining at least a substantial part of that vision in our epoch: what are the social forces that exist, or that must exist, if we are to be at all successful? And what role have we ourselves to play as a social force?