The Rest of the World – Where Adversity Rules

Yesterday, I posted a selection from the history of humanity from the perspective of a synergic scientist. I began my focus by examining the American Revolution and the birth of institutional neutrality, but what about the rest of the world. This is the second post of the Human History Series.

Timothy Wilken

Institutionalized Neutrality has not become universal. It is only found in the so called free world today. Eighty percent of the world is not free. This includes most of the continents of Asia, Africa, and South America. This includes the majority of the world’s nations and peoples. Asia is by far the most populous of all the continents–it contains China, India, and the former U.S.S.R–with an estimated population in 1992 of 3,275,200,000, or more than 60% of the world’s total population. In 1995, Africa had an estimated 720 million people, or about 13% of the world’s total population, making it the world’s second-most populous continent after Asia. South America has a 1993 estimated population of 310 million, less than 6 percent of the world’s people.

Private ownership of property, personal freedom and independence are not accepted as human rights throughout the rest of the world. And, two hundred years after the birth of institutional neutrality most humans are still excluded from enjoying its benefits. This is why there is so little middle class outside the free world. Alfred Korzybski explains:

From an engineer’s point of view, humanity is apparently to be divided into three classes; (1) the intellectuals; (2) the rich; and (3) the poor. Of course some individuals belong to two of the classes.

(1) the intellectuals are the men and women who possess the knowledge produced by the labor of by-gone generations but do not possess the material wealth thus produced. In mastering and using this inheritance of knowledge, they are exercising their time-binding energies and making the labor of the dead live in the present and for the future.

(2) The rich are those who have possession and control of most of the material wealth produced by the toil of bygone generations–wealth that is dead unless animated and transformed by the time-binding labor of the living.

(3) The poor are those who have neither the knowledge possessed by the intellectuals nor the material wealth possessed by the rich and who, more-over, because nearly all their efforts, under present conditions, are limited to the struggle for mere existence, have little or no opportunity to exercise their time-binding capacity.”

The communist system, which was established in the name of human justice as an attempt to create a fair and just political-economic system, was still adversary. The history of Russia is a history of adversary domination. The names of the rulers changed frequently but the people have always been controlled with force. Marc Raeff, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies at Columbia University, explains:

European Russia was occupied by Indo-European and Ural-Altaic peoples from about the 2000BC. Among the peoples present were the Cimmerians. They were conquered by the Scythians in the 7th century BC. The Scythians in turn were largely displaced by the Sarmatians in the 3d century BC. In the early centuries AD a succession of tribes, the Goths, the Huns, and the Avars, ruled the area. The Khazars (7th century) and the Bulgars (8th century) established substantial states. Slavic settlements in the area are documented from the 6th century on.

The Slavs probably came from southern Poland and the Baltic shore and settled in the region of mixed forest and meadowlands north of the fertile but unprotected steppe lands of the south. The Slavs engaged in agriculture, hunting, and fishing and gathered products of the forest. They settled beside the rivers and lakes along the water route that was used by Viking warrior-traders (the Varangians) to reach Constantinople. Using their superior military and organizational skills, the Varangians exacted tribute from the Slavs and to this end consolidated their rule in key points on the route to Constantinople. About 862 a group of Varangians led by Rurik took control of Novgorod. From there Rurik moved south and established (879) his authority in Kiev, strategically located above the Dnepr rapids where the open steppe met with the belt of Slavic settlements in the forest-meadow region. This pattern continued until the political and cultural apogee of Kievan Rus’ was reached under Yaroslav the Wise, who ruled from 1019 to 1054.

The end of the Kievan Rus’ came swiftly when the Mongols, surging forth from Central Asia, overran the South Russian plain. Kiev was sacked in 1240, and the Mongol khans of the Golden Horde at Sarai on the Volga established their control over most of European Russia for about two centuries. The overlordship of the Mongols proved costly in economic terms, because the initial conquest and subsequent raids to maintain the Russians in obedience were destructive of urban life and severely depleted the population. Equally costly–even to cities that escaped conquest, such as Novgorod–were the tribute payments in silver.

Relying on his absolute power and increased military potential, Ivan IV attempted to eliminate the competition of Lithuania and gain a port on the Baltic. The 25-year war (1558-83) against Poland-Lithuania, Livonia, and Sweden–accompanied by several devastating raids of Crimean Tatars against Moscow (for example, in 1571)–ended in failure and seriously debilitated the country. To mobilize all resources and cope with internal opposition, Ivan IV set up his own personal guard and territorial administration (oprichnina, 1565-72), whose exactions and oppression did great damage to both the economy and the social stability of the realm. The combined needs of the military servitor class for labor and of the government for tax-paying peasants led to legislation limiting the mobility of peasants. The edicts of Ivan’s successors (Fyodor I, r. 1584-98, and Boris Godunov, r. 1598-1605) initiated a process that culminated in the complete enserfment of the Russian peasantry (Code of 1649).

Slavery would exist in Russia for the next two hundred years. Only the names of the tyrants would change.

The Muscovite dynasty ended in 1598 with the death of Ivan IV’s son Fyodor I. Real power during Fyodor’s reign had been exercised by his brother-in-law Boris Godunov, who was chosen to succeed him. Although Boris was a strong ruler, he was regarded by many as a usurper. The exhausted country was, therefore, precipitated into turmoil marked by the appearance of a series of pretenders to the throne and provoking invasions by Poland, Sweden, and the Crimean Tatars. Disgruntled boyar families, enserfed peasants, Cossacks, and lower clergy tried in turn to take advantage of the anarchy, but none succeeded. Eventually, a militia of noble servitors (dvoriane) and townspeople of the northeast, based in Nizhni Novgorod, expelled the Poles from Moscow, drove back the Swedes and Cossacks, and elected young Michael Romanov as tsar in 1613. The Romanov dynasty was to rule Russia until 1917.

Russia became embroiled in the Crimean War in1853. The Russians fought on home ground against British and French troops assisted by Sardinian and Austrian forces. The course of the war revealed the regime’s weaknesses, and the death (1855) of Nicholas allowed his son, Alexander II, to conclude a peace (the Treaty of Paris, 1856) that debarred Russian warships from the Black Sea and Straits.

Russian society now expected and demanded far-reaching reforms, and Alexander acted accordingly. The crucial reform was the abolition of serfdom on Mar. 3, 1861. Twenty million peasants became their own masters, they received land allotments that preserved them from immediate proletarization, and the emancipation process was accomplished peacefully.

Three other major reforms followed emancipation. The first was the introduction (1864) of elected institutions of local government, zemstvos, which were responsible for matters of education, health, and welfare; however, the zemstvos had limited powers of taxation, and they were subjected to close bureaucratic controls. Secondly, reform of the judiciary introduced jury trials, independent judges, and a professional class of lawyers. The courts, however, had no jurisdiction over ìpolitical” cases, and the emperor remained judge of the last resort. Finally, in 1874, the old-fashioned military recruiting system gave way to universal, compulsory 6-year military service.

Taken together, the reforms marked the end of the traditional socioeconomic system based on serfdom, and set Russia fully on the path to an industrial and capitalist revolution that brought problems of urbanization, proletarianization, and agrarian crisis in its wake. In part the difficulties resulted from unpreparedness and reluctance on the part of landowners (and many among the intellectual elites) to make necessary adjustments in their economic practices and social attitudes; but they were also caused by government policies that hindered the emergence of a genuine capitalist bourgeoisie and industrial labor force.

The impetus for reform was thwarted and arrested by external and domestic events. Externally, the Polish rebellion of 1863-64 gave pause to the government and, by exacerbating nationalistic feelings, strengthened the conservative opposition to further reforms. The Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 undermined the financial equilibrium, and chauvinistic passions were aroused when the Treaty of San Stefano, which greatly increased Russian influence in the Balkans, was substantially revised by the Congress of Berlin. At home in the 1860s radical university students and nihilist critics such as Nikolai Chernyshevsky voiced dissatisfaction with the pace and direction of the reforms. Radical associations were formed to propagandize socialist ideas, and student youth ìwent to the people” in 1874-76 to enlighten and revolutionize the peasantry. Repressed by the government, the young radicals turned to terrorism. Eventually a group of narodnik (populists) called the People’s Will condemned the emperor to death, and after several dramatic but unsuccessful attempts they killed him on Mar. 13, 1881.

Alexander II’s violent death inaugurated the conservative and restrictive reign of his son Alexander III. Nonetheless, the process of social and economic change released by the reforms could not be arrested. Now society proved more dynamic and took the lead in the drive for modernization and liberalization; the government, on the other hand, incapable of giving up its autocratic traditions, acted as a barrier.

The new political activity contributed to the remarkable upsurge of Russia’s artistic and intellectual creativity (called the Silver Age) that lasted until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. The Silver Age marked Russia’s coming of age as a contributing participant in Western culture. This happened, first of all, because of the high level of professionalization attained by Russian scholars, scientists, and artists. The process had been initiated in the field of humanities under Alexander I and was confined at first to the nobility. The reign of Nicholas I marked Russia’s take-off in science and scholarship within the framework of the universities and the Academy of Sciences. In the 1860s prominent Russian scientists such as N. I. Lobachevsky and D. I. Mendeleyev received full recognition in the West.

After the reforms of Alexander II, the needs of the zemstvos, the new judicial system, and of the rapidly developing industrial system produced an exponential increase in the number of technicians and professionals in such areas as law, medicine, engineering, agronomy, and statistics. Professional associations aimed at playing an active role in shaping government and public policies in their fields for the benefit of society.

By the first decade of the 20th century Russia had moved to the forefront of scholarly and scientific progress; the contributions of Russian scientists in such areas as chemistry, aeronautics, linguistics, history, archaeology, and statistics were universally recognized.

Equally significant was the renaissance of religious life, and growing interest in the question of church involvement in social problems. Reformist laymen and clergy demanded greater independence for the church, calling for a national church council to address the needs and define the character of Russia’s ecclesiastical institutions. Closely allied to the religious renaissance was the development of the personalist-existentialist school of Russian philosophy by N. A. Berdyayev, N. O. Lossky (1870-1965), L. Shestov (1866-1938), and others.

Last, but not least, the Silver Age witnessed an extraordinarily creative outburst in the arts. The composer Igor Stravinsky, ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev, and the painter Wassily Kandinsky each had a strong influence on the emergence of avant-garde modernism before and after World War I. In the same period, constructivism and suprematism were original Russian contributions to abstract art.

Thus the years 1905-14 were a period of great complexity and ferment. To many this feverish intellectual creativity, which had its social and political counterpart in rural unrest, industrial discontent, revolutionary agitation, and nationalist excesses (for example, the pogroms against the Jews), proved that the imperial regime was nearing its inevitable end, which the outbreak of war only served to delay. On the other side, liberals and moderate progressives saw in these phenomena harbingers of Russia’s decisive turn to political democracy and social and economic progress, which was abruptly stopped in 1914.

Eventually agrarian unrest, mass desertions at the front, turmoil in the cities, and disaffection of the non-Russian nationalities gave the Bolsheviks under Vladimir Ilich Lenin an opening to seize power in November (N.S.; October, O.S.) 1917. Thus the second of the two Russian Revolutions of 1917 occurred, leading to the establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

In the Russian Revolution of 1917, the creation of the Union of soviet Socialist Republics was not the creation of an institutionalized Neutrality. The same Time-binding power that worked in America was at work in Russia as well. The desire for a fair and just system was just as strong. The desire to avoid losing was perhaps even greater.

Marx’s historical studies convinced him that profit and other property income are the proceeds from force and fraud inflicted by the strong on the weak. Karl Marx envisioned a world full of justice. He wanted to remake the world in a way that would take care of all humans. From Microsoft Encarta 97:

Unlike the classical economists who believed that the self-interest of individuals would promote the general well-being of society, Karl Marx believed that individuals must concern themselves with the well-being of society as well as themselves and must keep in mind the interdependence of the individual and society. According to Marx, the state should not regulate individuals or society at all, but rather, the state should be subordinate to society.

Karl Marx believed that capitalism would destroy itself through spiraling competition. The owners of the means of production would eventually be swallowed up by the mass of workers. The ìdictatorship of the proletariat” would arise and eliminate the last remnants of capitalism. Industry and government would be run entirely by this group of workers. Marx believed that a Communist utopia would arise once the dictatorship was no longer needed and the state withered away. In his vision of utopia, Marx predicted that each person would give according to their means and receive according to their needs.

As Winefred Babcock explains:

What capitalist could look back into the practices of early industrialism and wish to perpetuate the abuses that were the accepted norm of Marx’s day? Who could tolerate nineteenth-century economic practices or theological demands?

Many will shudder, many will applaud when they read the name of Karl Marx in the category of political saints, which includes such men as Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. But the capitalism that Marx experienced and repudiated along with all its trappings was a disgrace to humanity–it was doomed to change or die, once the force of Marx’s pen had been turned against it. It changed and is still changing. It would be difficult to determine how much humanity owes this man, despite the evil that has been done in his name.

Marxism saved the life of the system it had set out to destroy. Marxism became the catalyst which so speeded the evolution of industrialism into modern capitalism with its more ethical practices that the economy of the Western world escaped the inevitable doom that its nineteenth-century portrait potended. Capitalism lived to become the most viable system on the economic scene, because it rapidly opened itself to the most beneficial of the socialistic practices.

Capitalistic countries are most in his debt. He forced them into a more ethical practice–made capitalism a more ethical system, if ethical is to be measured in terms of actual ownership by the greatest number of people of the means of production and the goods produced. Much poverty remains in capitalistic countries, but people also have much control over their lives.

Marxism and communism are not synonymous. The first is a ìreligion. The second is an economic and political system that is simply a monolithic corporation and a paternalistic, completely authoritarian government engineered by Lenin.

Lenin’s Communism is not a neutral system. Lenin did not embrace the concept of private ownership of property, personal freedom and independence. And although some of Marx’s ideas are synergic, these were not the ideas Lenin embraced. Lenin’s Communism was designed as an upside down Adversary system. Supposedly, the workers were the rulers, and the system was to serve the common people, but somehow the power remained in hands of a few who forced the people to do their bidding. All the people were ‘equal’, but some people were more ‘equal’ than others.

Institutional Neutrality was not attempted in Russia in 1917. There would be no private ownership of property, no personal freedom, no independence and no great market. The people would remain under the yoke of authoritarian rule. Only the name of the rulers had changed.

Recently in 1991, with the failure of Communism and the political breakdown of the U.S.S.R., there has been a shift of the entire Eastern Block towards private ownership of property, personal freedom and independence, it would seem that the danger to humanity faced since the end of World War II is over or will soon be over. As Russia moves to adopt western Neutrality, those humans living in the ìfree” world can be heard to release a collective sigh of relief.

Unfortunately, institutional Neutrality won’t work for the Russians. Remember, institutional Neutrality requires unlimited resources. Scarcity is the condition that best describes present day Russia. The Russians attempt to embrace capitalism and the free market system is doomed to failure. Russia’s need for a synergic revolution is even greater than the need of those of us living in the neutral world.