March 30, 2013

Money, Propaganda and Fanaticism

Bertrand Russell: Power

Ideology and Fanaticism

To understand Marx psychologically, one should use the following dictionary:

YahwehDialectical Materialism
The MessiahMarx
The ElectThe Proletariat
The ChurchThe Communist Party
The Second ComingThe Revolution
HellPunishment of the Capitalists
The MillenniumThe Communist Commonwealth

(p 361)

In the welter of conflicting fanaticisms, one of the few unifying forces is scientific truthfulness, by which I mean the habit of basing our beliefs upon observations and inferences as impersonal, and as much divested of local and temperamental bias, as is possible for human beings. …
The habit of careful veracity acquired in the practice of this philosophical method can be extended to the whole sphere of human activity, producing, wherever it exists, a lessening of fanaticism with an increasing capacity of sympathy and mutual understanding.
In abandoning a part of its dogmatic pretensions, philosophy does not cease to suggest and inspire a way of life.
(p 789)

(A History of Western Philosophy, 1961)

Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd. …
[It] is to be feared that the Nazis, as defeat draws nearer, will increase the intensity of their campaign for exterminating Jews.

(Power, p 205)

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Belief, when it is not simply traditional, is a product of several factors:
  • desire,
  • evidence, and
  • iteration. …
[When] there is no outside assertion, belief will only arise in exceptional characters, such as founders of religions, scientific discoverers, and lunatics. …
More propaganda is necessary to cause acceptance of a belief for which there is little evidence than of one for which the evidence is strong …

One of the advantages of democracy, from the governmental point of view, is that it makes the average citizen easier to deceive, since he regards the government as his government.
(p 96)

In the totalitarian countries, the State is virtually the sole propagandist.
(p 97)

The effect of organisation and unification, in the matter of propaganda as in other matters, is to delay revolution, but to make it more violent when it comes.
When only one doctrine is officially allowed, men get no practice in thinking or in weighing alternatives …
[Consequently,] only a great wave of passionate revolt can dethrone orthodoxy …
[Therefore] revolution in a totalitarian State is not necessarily a ground for rejoicing.
What is more to be desired is a gradual increase in the sense of security, leading to a lessening of zeal, and giving an opening for laziness — the greatest of all virtues in the ruler of a totalitarian State, with the sole exception of non-existence.
(p 98)





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Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970)

Nobel Prize for Literature (1950).

  • Power: A New Social Analysis, George Allen & Unwin, 1938.

    Economic Power

    Economic power, unlike military power, is not primary, but derivative.
    Within one State, it depends on law …
    [In] international dealings it is only on minor issues that it depends on law …
    [When] large issues are involved it depends upon war or the threat of war. …

    Apart from the economic power of labour, all other economic power, in its ultimate analysis, consists in being able to decide, by the use of armed force if necessary, who shall be allowed to stand upon a given piece of land and to put things into it and take things from it. …
    (p 82)

    Thus the economic power of private persons depends upon the decision of their government to employ its armed forces, if necessary, in accordance with a set of rules as to who shall be allowed access to land; while the economic power of governments depends in part upon their armed forces, and in part upon the respect of other governments for treaties and international law.

    [A] group of men may, by combination, acquire military power, and, having acquired it, may possess economic power.
    The ultimate acquisition of economic power may, in fact, be their original motive in combining.
    (p 83)

    [An] anarchic community composed of more or less civilised individuals … will soon evolve a government of some kind …
    Energetic men will combine to prevent others from plundering them …
    They may [then] sell protection in return for a percentage of a man’s earnings.
    This is called income tax.
    As soon as there are rules determining the giving of protection, the reign of military force is disguised as the reign of law, and anarchy has ceased to exist.
    But the ultimate basis of law and of economic relations is still … military power …
    (p 84)

    [In] the internal economic systems of civilised countries the legal foundations are complex.
    • The wealth of the Church depends upon tradition …
    • wage-earners have profited to some extent by trade unionism and by political action …
    • wives and children have rights which are based upon the moral sentiments of the community.
    But whatever the economic rules made by the State may be, military power in the background is essential to their enforcement.

    In the case of private persons, [this] part of the Law, like every other, is only effective when it is supported by public opinion.
    Public opinion … reprobates theft, and defines ‘theft’ as taking property in a manner condemned by the law.
    Thus the economic power of private persons rests ultimately on opinion, namely on the moral condemnation of theft, together with the sentiment which allows theft to be defined by the law. …
    We have seen how the power of the Pope to release men from the moral obligation [prohibition against theft] enabled him to control the Italian bankers in the thirteenth century.
    (p 85)

    [Where] industrialism has developed, credit has become stronger than nominal ownership of land.
    Landowners borrow … and in doing so become dependent upon the banks.
    [But] it is only where Law is respected and enforced that the borrower has to go on paying interest until he is ruined.
    Where that happens, the economic power derived from landed property passes from the borrower to the lender. …

    [In The Modern Corporation and Private Property (1932), Berle and Means concluded] that two thousand individuals control half the industry of the United States.
    They regard the modern executive as [more] analogous to the kings and Popes of former times [than] the tradesmen who appear in the pages of Adam Smith.
    The concentration of power in these vast economic organisations is analogous … to that in the mediaeval Church or in the National State, and is such as to enable corporations to compete with States on equal terms. …

    The ordinary shareholder in a railway company … has no voice in the management of the railway …
    [He] may, in theory, have about as much as the average voter at a Parliamentary election has in the management of the country, but in practice he has even less than this. …
    (p 87)

    The tendency for economic power to become concentrated in few hands is a commonplace, but this tendency applies to power in general, not only to economic power.

    The possession of economic power may lead to the possession of military or propaganda power, but the opposite process is just as apt to occur. …
    [Within] the Arab nation, the military and economic power of the Prophet and his family was derived from propaganda [as] was the power and wealth of the Church in the West. …
    There are a number of instances of States which have acquired military power because of their economic strength. …
    In all these instances … economic power was [largely] based upon commerce, not upon the ownership of raw materials.
    (p 88)

    Economic and military power have never … been so closely interconnected as they are at present.
    No nation can be powerful without developed industrialism and access to raw materials and food.
    [If necessary] it is by means of military power that nations [can] acquire access to such raw materials as are not obtainable on their own territory. …

    The part played by propaganda in national power has increased with the spread of education.
    A nation cannot succeed in modern war unless most people are willing to suffer hardship and many people are willing to die.
    In order to produce this willingness, the rulers have to persuade their subjects that the war is about something … worthy of martyrdom.

    [The] same causes which are leading to a coalescence of military and economic power are also tending towards a unification of both with propaganda power.
    (p 89)

    There is … a general tendency towards the combination of all forms of power in a single organisation, which must necessarily be the State.
    Unless counter-acting forces come into play, the distinction between different kinds of power will soon be of only historical interest.
    (p 90)

    [In the present civil war in Spain] Germany and Italy have nationalistic grounds for siding with Franco [while] England and France have nationalistic grounds for opposing him.
    It is true that British opposition to Franco has been much less … because Conservatives naturally sympathise with him.
    Nevertheless, as soon as such matters as Moroccan ore or naval control of the Mediterranean are in question, British interests override political sympathies.

    The grouping of the Great Powers is again what it was before 1914, in spite of the Russian Revolution. …

    [The] economic power of a military unit (which may be composed of several independent States) depends upon

    1. its capacity to defend its own territory,
    2. its ability to threaten the territory of others,
    3. its possession of raw materials, food, and industrial skill,
    4. its power of supplying goods and services needed by other military units.

    In all this, military and economic factors are inextricably mingled …
    … Japan, by purely military means, has acquired in China raw materials which are essential to great military strength …
    [In] like manner England and France have acquired oil in the Near East, but both would have been impossible without a considerable degree of previous industrial development.
    The importance of economic factors in war steadily increases as war becomes more mechanised and scientific, but it is not safe to assume that the side with superior economic resources must necessarily be victorious.
    The importance of propaganda in generating national feeling has increased as much as that of economic factors.
    (p 91)

    In the internal economic relations of a single State, the law sets limits to what can be done in the way of extracting wealth from others.
    An individual or a group must possess a complete or partial monopoly of something desired by others.
    Monopolies can be created by law; for example, patents, copyrights, and ownership of land.
    They can also be created by combination, as in the cases of trusts and trade unions.

    Apart from what private individuals or groups can extract by bargaining, the State retains the right to take by force whatever it considers necessary.
    And influential private groups can induce the State to use this right, as well as the power of making war, in a manner which is advantageous to themselves though not necessarily to the nation as whole …
    [They] can also cause the law to be such as is convenient to themselves, eg by allowing combinations of employers but not of wage-earners.
    Thus the actual degree of economic power possessed by an individual or group depends upon military strength and influence through propaganda quite as much as upon the factors usually considered in economics.
    (p 92)

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    Power Over Opinion

    [A] creed never has force at its command to begin with, and the first steps in the production of a widespread opinion must be taken by means of persuasion alone.
    We have thus a kind of see-saw:
    • first, pure persuasion leading to the conversion of a minority;
    • then force exerted to secure that the rest of the community shall be exposed to the right propaganda; and
    • finally a genuine belief on the part of the great majority, which makes the use of force again unnecessary. …
    (p 93)

    The Society of Friends has never got beyond persuasion.
    The other nonconformists acquired the forces of the State in the time of Cromwell, but failed in their propaganda after they had seized power.
    The Catholic Church, after three centuries of persuasion, captured the State in the time of Constantine, and then, by force, established a system of propaganda which converted almost all the pagans and enabled Christianity to survive the barbarian invasion.
    The Marxist creed has reached the second stage, if not the third, in Russia, but elsewhere is still in the first stage. …

    It is customary nowadays to decry Reason as a force in human affairs, yet the rise of science is an overwhelming argument on the other side.
    The men of science proved to intelligent laymen that a certain kind of intellectual outlook ministers to military prowess and to wealth …
    [These] ends were so ardently desired that the new intellectual outlook overcame that of the Middle Ages …
    It it is now generally recognised that science is indispensable both in war and in peace-time industry, and that, without science, a nation can be neither rich nor powerful.
    (p 94)

    In the case of science, Reason prevailed over prejudice because it provided means of realising existing purposes, and because the proof that it did so was overwhelming. …

    If, in the name of Reason, you summon a man to alter his fundamental purposes — to pursue, say, the general happiness rather than his own power — you will fail … since Reason alone cannot determine the ends of life.
    And you will fail equally if you attack deep-seated prejudices while your argument is still open to question, or is so difficult that only men of science can see its force.
    But if you can prove, by evidence which is convincing to every sane man who takes the trouble to examine it, that you possess a means of facilitating the satisfaction of existing desires, you [can have a certain degree of confidence] that men will ultimately believe what you say.
    [Provided] that the existing desires which you can satisfy are those of men who have power or are capable of acquiring it. …

    [Another] form of un-forceful persuasion [is] that of the founders of religions. Here the process, reduced to its bare formula, is this:
    • if a certain proposition is true, I shall be able to realise my desires;
    • therefore I wish this proposition to be true;
    • therefore, unless I have exceptional intellectual self-control, I believe it to be true.
    [A] virtuous life, I am told, will enable me to go to heaven when I die …
    [There] is pleasure in believing this, and therefore I shall probably believe it if it is forcibly presented to me.
    The cause of belief, here, is not, as in science, the evidence of fact, but the pleasant feelings derived from belief, together with sufficient vigour of assertion in the environment to make the belief seem not incredible.

    The power of advertisement comes under the same head. …
    Nonrational propaganda like the rational sort, must appeal to existing desires, but it substitutes iteration for the appeal to fact.
    (p 95)

    [In practice, the] opposition between a rational and an irrational appeal is … less clear-cut …
    Usually there power over opinion is some rational evidence, though not enough to be conclusive …
    [The] irrationality consists in attaching too much weight to it.
    (p 96)

    Systematic propaganda … in democratic countries [is] divided between
    • the Churches,
    • business advertisers,
    • political parties,
    • the plutocracy, and
    • the State.
    In the main, all these forces work on the same side, with the exception of political parties in opposition, and even they, if they have any hope of office, are unlikely to oppose the fundamentals of State propaganda. …

    It is easy to overestimate the power of official propaganda, especially when there is no competition. …
    When all opposing propaganda is forbidden, rulers are likely to think that they can cause anything to be believed, and so to become over-weening and careless.
    Lies need competition if they are to retain their vigour. …

    [Even] apart from war it would be rash to assume that a State monopoly of propaganda must make a government invulnerable.
    In the long run, those who possess the power are likely to become too flagrantly indifferent to the interests of the common man, as the Popes were in the time of Luther.
    Sooner or later, some new Luther will challenge the authority of the State …
    (p 97)

    This will happen because the rulers will believe that it cannot happen.
    But whether the change will be for the better it is impossible to foresee.
    (p 98)

    Creeds as Sources of Power

    The power of a community depends not only upon its numbers … economic resources and … technical capacity, but also upon its beliefs. …
    [Fanatical] creeds are much more in the fashion [now] than they were during the nineteenth century …

    One of the arguments against democracy is that a nation of united fanatics has more chance of success in war than a nation containing a large proportion of sane men. …

    The classic example of power through fanaticism is the rise of Islam.
    Mohammed added nothing to the knowledge or to the material resources of the Arabs, and yet, within a few years of his death, they had acquired a large empire by defeating their most powerful neighbours. …

    Fanaticism, while Mohammed lived, and for a few years after his death, united the Arab nation, gave it confidence in battle, and promoted courage by the promise of Paradise to those who fell fighting the infidel.
    (p 99)

    But although fanaticism inspired the first attempts of the Arabs, it was to other causes that they owed their prolonged career of victory.
    The Byzantine and Persian Empires were both weakened by long and indecisive wars …
    … Roman armies [were, at all times, weak] against cavalry.
    The Arab horsemen were incredibly mobile, and were inured to hardships which their more luxurious neighbours found intolerable. …

    Very soon — sooner than in the beginning of any other great religion — fanaticism was dethroned from the government.
    Ali, the Prophet’s son-in-law, kept alive the original enthusiasm among a section of the faithful, but he was defeated in civil war, and finally assassinated.
    He was succeeded in the Caliphate by the family of Ommiyah, who had been Mohammed’s bitterest opponents, and had never yielded more than a political assent to his religion. …

    [For] a long time [afterwards], the Caliphate was distinguished by free-thinking latitudinarianism, while the Christians remained fanatical.
    From the first, the Mohammedans showed themselves tolerant in their dealings with conquered Christians, and [it was] to this toleration [that] the ease of their conquest and the stability of their Empire were mainly due.

    Another case of the apparent success of fanaticism is the victory of the Independents under Cromwell.
    [Yet, in] the contest with the King, Parliament won mainly because [it] far exceeded … the King [in both manpower and economic resources.]
    The Presbyterians — as always happens with the moderates in a revolution — were gradually thrust aside because they did not wholeheartedly desire victory.
    (p 100)

    Cromwell … when he had achieved power, turned out to be a practical politician, anxious to make the best of a difficult situation …
    [However,] the fanaticism of his followers [proved] so unpopular as to lead, in the end, to the … downfall of his party.
    [In] the long run, fanaticism did [not bring any more] success to the English Independents than [it did] to their predecessors, the Anabaptists of M√ľnster.

    On a larger scale, the history of the French Revolution is analogous to that of the Commonwealth in England:

    1. fanaticism,
    2. victory,
    3. despotism,
    4. collapse, and
    5. reaction.

    Even in these two most favourable instances, the success of the fanatics was shortlived.

    The cases in which fanaticism has brought nothing but disaster are much more numerous than those in which it has brought even temporary success. …
    [Indeed,] the most successful nations, throughout modern times, have been those least addicted to the persecution of heretics.
    Nevertheless, there is now a widespread belief that doctrinal uniformity is essential to national strength.
    (p 101)

    The advantages of successful war are doubtful, but the disadvantages of unsuccessful war are certain.
    If, therefore, the supermen at the head of affairs could foresee who was going to win, there would be no wars.
    But in fact there are wars, and in every war the government on one side, if not on both, must have miscalculated its chances.
    For this there are many reasons:
    • of pride and vanity,
    • of ignorance, and
    • of contagious excitement.
    When the populace is kept ignorantly confident, its confidence and its bellicose sentiment may easily be communicated to the rulers, who can hardly attach the same weight to unpleasant facts which they know but conceal as to the pleasant facts that are being proclaimed in every newspaper and in every conversation.
    Hysteria and megalomania are catching, and governments have no immunity.

    When war comes, the policy of concealment may produce effects exactly opposite to those intended.
    Some, at least, of the unpleasant facts which had been kept dark are likely to become patent to all, and the more men have been made to live in a fool’s paradise, the more they will be horrified and discouraged by the reality.
    Revolution or sudden collapse is much more probable in such circumstances than when free discussion has prepared the public mind for painful events.

    An attitude of obedience, when it is exacted from subordinates, is inimical to intelligence.
    (p 103)

    In a community in which men have to accept, at least outwardly, some obviously absurd doctrine, the best men must become either stupid or disaffected.
    There will be, in consequence, a lowering of the intellectual level, which must, before long, interfere with technical progress.
    This is especially true when the official creed is one which few intelligent men can honestly accept.
    The Nazis have exiled most of the ablest Germans, and this must, sooner or later, have disastrous effects upon their military technique.
    It is impossible for technique to remain long progressive without science, or for science to flourish where there is no freedom of thought.
    Consequently insistence on doctrinal uniformity, even in matters quite remote from war, is ultimately fatal to military efficiency in a scientific age. …

    [Without] a creed, or a code of behaviour, or a prevailing sentiment, or, best, some combination of all three … a community disintegrates, and becomes subject to a tyrant or a foreign conqueror.
    [For] this means of cohesion … to be effective, it must be very deeply felt … genuine and spontaneous in the great majority.
    Loyalty to a leader, national pride, and religious fervour have proved, historically, the best means of securing cohesion …
    [But] loyalty to a leader is less … effective than it used to be, owing to the decay of hereditary sovereignty …
    [And] religious fervour is threatened by the spread of free thought.
    Thus national pride is left, and has become relatively more important than in former times. …

    How much interference with freedom is necessary for the maintenance of national pride? …
    [The] difficulty is that the class-conflict cuts across the conflicts of nations, causing the capitalists in democratic countries, and the Socialists and Communists in Fascist countries, to be guided, to some extent, by other considerations than those of the national interest.
    (p 104)

    If this diversion from nationalist aims can be prevented, a country’s strength is likely to be increased, but not, if it is necessary for the purpose, to lower the whole level of intelligence.
    For governments the problem is a difficult one, since nationalism is a stupid ideal, and intelligent people [rightly] perceive that it is bringing Europe to ruin.
    The best solution is to disguise it under some international slogan, such as democracy or communism or collective security. …

    To sum up: a creed or sentiment of some kind is essential to social cohesion, but if it is to be a source of strength it must be genuinely and deeply felt by the great majority of the population, including a considerable percentage of those upon whom technical efficiency depends.
    Where these conditions are absent, governments may seek to produce them by censorship and persecution …
    [But] censorship and persecution, if they are severe, cause men to become out of touch with reality, and ignorant or oblivious of facts which it is important to know.
    Since the holders of power are biased by their power-impulses, the amount of interference with freedom that conduces most to national power will always be less than governments are inclined to believe …
    [Therefore] a diffused sentiment against interference, provided it does not go so far as to lead to anarchy, is likely to add to the national strength. …

    [We] have considered only the more immediate effects of a fanatical creed.
    The long-term effects are quite different.
    A creed which is used as source of power inspires, for a time, great efforts, but these efforts, especially if they are not very successful, produce weariness, and weariness produces scepticism …
    The more the methods of propaganda have been used to produce excitement, the greater will be the reaction, until in the end a quiet life comes to seem the only thing worth having.
    (p 105)

    Hence creeds which are used too intensively are transitory in their effects. …
    [And the] ultimate limit to [their power] is set by boredom, weariness, and love of ease.
    (p 106)

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