On Marxism, Synarchy, Plato’s Republic, and The Omega Project
© 2003 Joseph George Caldwell. All rights reserved. Posted at Internet web sites http://www.foundation.bw and http://www.foundationwebsite.org . May be copied or reposted for non-commercial use, with attribution. (13 January 2003; updated 14 January 2003)
The Special Christmas Issue of The Economist (December 21, 2002) contains an article entitled, “Marx after Communism” (pp. 17-19). It observes the rather surprising fact that although communism as implemented during the twentieth century dramatically failed to deliver on its promises (equality, freedom from exploitation, true justice), interest in Marx’s philosophy continues strong. In a 1999 BBC poll, Marx was selected as the greatest thinker of the millennium, ahead of Einstein, Newton, and Darwin. Books on Marx continue to sell well, with new ones being written. The article notes that a search of Internet booksellers reveals that titles in print about Marx are outnumbered by five or ten to one by books on Adam Smith (advocate of liberal capitalism).
The BBC poll author wrote, “Although dictatorships throughout the twentieth century have distorted Marx’s original ideas, his work as a philosopher, social scientist, historian and revolutionary is respected by academics today.” The article goes on to note that significant economists, political philosophers and historians argue that Marx was misunderstood, and was right about far more than he is given credit for.
Given the dramatic failures of applied communism in the twentieth century, The Economist asks what can be of value in Marx’s writings. This article summarizes the observations of “Marx after Communism,” and compares the world-government views of Marxism to the planetary-management view presented in The Omega Project (i.e., a synarchic or Platonic-republic implementation of a minimal-regret global population of ten million people).
It should be noted that the terms “Marxism,” “Marxist,” or “Marxist-Leninist” are not particularly well defined. Marx himself was difficult to understand, and changed his opinions and definitions of terms over time. As noted in The Economist article, substantial portions of his work were edited, co-written or ghost written by Friedrich Engels. And Marx’s philosophy has been added to by countless others, with the recent body of Marxist philosophy referred to as “late Marxist.” This article shall compare the philosophy underlying The Omega Project to the core concepts of Marxism, as defined in the cited article in The Economist.
The Economist article summarizes four principal tenets of Marx’s political-economic philosophy. “First, Marx believed that societies follow laws of motion simple and all-encompassing enough to make long-range prediction fruitful. Second, he believed that these laws are exclusively economic in character: what shapes society, the only thing that shapes society, is the “material forces of production.” Third, he believed that these laws must invariably express themselves, until the end of history, as a bitter struggle of class against class. Fourth, he believed that at the end of history, classes and the state (whose sole purpose is to represent the interests of the ruling class) must dissolve to yield a heaven on earth.”
It is explained that Soviet-style communism failed because it attempted to move directly from feudalism to socialism, without first passing through the capitalism phase. Marx’s thesis was that society would move successively from feudalism to capitalism to socialism after the maximum productive potential of each previous phase had been realized. But Russia attempted to move directly from feudalism to socialism, and such an endeavor was doomed to fail.
Marx, as many others of the nineteenth century, observed the growing economic globalization of the planet, a trend that continues at an ever increasing pace today. He saw that giant corporations would come to dominate the world, and he emphasized the importance of economic cycles. Marx recognized the tremendous productive potential of capitalism, and he argued that it would be the massive productivity of capitalism that would cause its end as a socioeconomic system by making socialism, followed by communism, both materially necessary and logically possible. Marx believed that capitalism would be transformed into socialism by means of class warfare.
Marx’s concept that economic structure determines everything in human society, including morality, ethics, and the right to private property, is widely accepted today.
Because of the striking failures of Marxist-inspired communist regimes in the twentieth century, many argue that both Marxism and communism are thoroughly discredited, or “dead.” But proponents of Marxism and communism point out that the implementations to date were fatally flawed and hence doomed (since they attempted to skip the material development of the world that is made possible by capitalism), and that the full process described by Marx (feudalism – capitalism – socialism – heaven on earth) has not yet occurred (since the world is just now in the process of full-scale economic/industrial globalization).
Given this very abbreviated description of Marxism, some comments will now be made comparing Marx’s theory to that associated with The Omega Project. To do so, it is helpful to present a summary of the theory underlying and leading up to The Omega Project. A brief summary follows:
There are some similarities and some differences between the theories of Marx and those underlying The Omega Project. These similarities and differences will be described for each of the four principal aspects of Marx’s theories.
In summary, there is no fundamental conflict between some of Marx’s core concepts about the evolution of human society and the theory associated with The Omega Project; moreover, there is much general agreement. There are also, however, some strong differences. On the key point that capitalism will eventually destroy itself (and perhaps the entire biosphere in the process), there is complete agreement. On the issue of class war, which was also a core concept of Marx, there is agreement that the transition from capitalism (i.e., a high-population industrialized world) to the next system of government will very likely involve conflict (plague, famine, and war as the industrial world collapses when fossil fuels exhaust), albeit perhaps not a “class war” as envisioned by Marx. Marx envisioned that capitalism would be replaced by communism and then socialism. On that point, The Omega Project and Marxism are quite at odds. A synarchic or Platonic-republic form of government is not communism and it is not socialism. It is synarchy or Platonic society.
Marx conceived that socialism would be followed by “heaven on earth,” where he was referring to a world of equality, freedom, and justice. The objective of The Omega Project is to establish a world in which the biosphere is essentially the Garden-of-Eden paradise in which the human species evolved. In the restricted sense of returning the biosphere to its status of a few hundred years ago (once again flourishing, with only the species loss of a hundred years of global industrialization), the Omega Project is oriented toward reestablishing “heaven on earth.” But it will still be Earth, not Heaven, and it will still contain challenges and conflict. The war against economics, which has jeopardized the planet and brought it to the brink of extinction, will continue.
The things that Marx deplored about capitalism were inequality, exploitation and alienation, and he believed that world society would evolve to a state in which equality, freedom from exploitation, and true justice would prevail. Marx was not concerned with the destruction of the biosphere and extinction of human and other species. The Omega Project conceives a world that is long-term-sustainable, in which the human species can continue to exist for a very long time in the Garden-of-Eden biosphere in which it evolved. The Omega Project is concerned primarily with long-term survival (of mankind and the biosphere), rather than with equality, exploitation of the worker, and “true justice.” The evils that Marx saw and fought were the evils produced by a world system founded on economics. The Omega Project directs its efforts toward a system of planetary management that does not involve economics – and hence does not create the evils that so bothered Marx. It is a system of planetary management similar to running a ship (in this case, Spaceship Earth). An economics-based system is used for a laissez-faire world of many nations and uncontrolled exploitation of nature. It was a phase of Earth’s development that was an exciting, swashbuckling adventure, but it is soon to be finished.
Marx did not tell how to implement the social development process that he predicted and advocated. As noted in The Economist article, Marxism is “not a program for government; it is a program for gaining power, or rather for watching knowledgeably as power fell into one’s hands.” Marx provided no insight into details of how to implement communism or socialism or heaven-on-earth. He did not even define exactly what he meant by some of these terms (e.g., heaven on earth). He simply asserted (predicted and advocated) a particular developmental path, described in rather vague, loosely defined terms. He lectured strong on the evils of capitalism, without recognizing or admitting that many significant evils exist under communism and socialism. As noted, he was very wrong in asserting that social development would follow the path feudalism – capitalism – communism – socialism – heaven-on-earth, and he was very wrong in advocating that it should do so. The world does not have to follow this path, and it absolutely should not follow this path if it is to avoid extinction of mankind. Following this path does not help address the fundamental and crucial problem facing the world at the present time – the mass extinction of species, the destruction of the biosphere, and the extinction of mankind. Marx was obsessed with the perceived evil of private ownership of property – the inequity associated with the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few individuals. He viewed this as the fundamental evil in capitalism, and he was looking for an alternative system that avoided it. He fixed on communism and socialism. Unfortunately, simply changing the form of ownership of the means of production does nothing at all to stop the biospheric destruction caused by large human populations and industrial production. And it is clear that Marx intended for industrial production to continue full steam ahead under socialism just as under capitalism. The solution to the planet’s mass extinction problem is not to be found capitalism, or in socialism, or in communism, or in democracy, or in any other of the traditional forms of government, as long as large human numbers and industrial production continue. It is to be found in a new form of government (planetary management, spaceship management), such as synarchy or a Platonic republic, with a low human population.
Socialism operating in an economics-based system is every bit as destructive to the environment and biosphere as capitalism. Marx assumed that the productive capacity of capitalism would carry over into socialism, and provide material benefits for all people. But what he did not perceive is that the biosphere will be just as destroyed under socialism as under capitalism, if it supports the same number of people and produces the same level of material lifestyle. In fact, the destruction to the biosphere would eventually be worse under socialism than under capitalism, since it attempts to provide a high level of living for everyone, no matter how many their numbers. Changing the form of ownership of the means of production does not solve the problem of destruction of the biosphere and extinction of mankind. Without a drastic reduction in human population and industrial production, Marx’s “heaven on earth” will be an earth extinct of mankind. Marx was aware of the tremendous productive capacity of capitalism, but he was evidently unable to see, to predict, that it would quickly devour the planet and destroy the biosphere. He did not see that the final step of his development path – heaven on earth – was a planet extinct of many species, including man. (It is hard to believe that Marx anticipated the destruction of the planet by large human population and industrial production, and that his “heaven on earth” was a planet devoid of (physical) man. On the other hand, Marx was surely aware of Malthus.)
The Omega Project intends to take a different social-evolution path from the one first predicted and later advocated by Marx. That path is from capitalism to something quite different from capitalism (or socialism, or any of the other traditional forms of government) – synarchy or a Platonic republic, with a low human population. The evolutionary path of society predicted and then advocated by Marx is feudalism – capitalism – communism – socialism – heaven-on-earth. The evolution proposed by The Omega Project is feudalism – capitalism – synarchy (or Platonic republic), with the synarchic society living in a Garden-of-Eden biosphere in which mankind evolved.
A key issue that Marx did not address is: what is the purpose of the heaven-on-earth phase of human social evolution. The goal of The Omega Project is to establish a long-term-sustainable planet. With all of the resulting time on mankind’s hands, it is reasonable to ask, what is the point (for mankind) to long-term-survival of mankind and Earth. As I have remarked earlier, that new phase of social evolution will provide man with the time and conditions under which to further his spiritual development (sorely lacking at the present time). Synarchic government of a small human population will provide the time and conditions under which this will occur.
The Economist article concludes with the observation, “Antiglobalization has been aptly described as a secular religion. So is Marxism: a creed complete with prophet, sacred texts, and the promise of a heaven shrouded in mystery. Marx was not a scientist, as he claimed. He founded a faith. The economic and political systems he inspired are dead or dying. But his religion is a broad church, and lives on.” What The Economist failed to add was that the god of this religion is economics, and that this god is destroying the biosphere and mankind. It is responsible for the mass species extinction, and for the billions of people living in dire poverty and misery. The god, “Econom,” is never satisfied. No amount of production is sufficient. The planet’s biosphere will not return to good health until this god is destroyed, and economics is no longer the basis for planetary management.
Economics is defined as: “The social science that deals with the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services and with the theory and management of economies or economic systems.” Even this definition is misleading. It has been said that “social science” is “non science” (pronounced “nonsense” by some). There are certainly scientific aspects to economics (e.g., econometrics, a branch of statistics; optimization), but the salient aspect of economics today is that it is the philosophical and operational basis for planetary management on Earth. And this basis is truly a religious one. There is blind faith in economics, that it will cure the planets ills. How ironic, when it is the primary source of those ills – as has been remarked, tell a big enough lie, and people will believe it! As Marx observed, economics is controlling all aspects of human society. Anything that is economically inefficient is bad; all that matters is increased production, both in absolute and per-capita terms. Anything outside of economics is dismissed as an “externality.” It holds out the promise of salvation for mankind, yet it is inexorably driving the planet’s biosphere and mankind to complete annihilation.
In summary, Marxism provides some insight into the evolution of society, but the social system or social evolutionary path that it promotes leads to the destruction of the Earth’s biosphere. As The Economist observes, in spite of its very evident inadequacies, Marxism is alive and well today as a religion. Its precepts will not solve the cataclysmic mass-species-extinction problem that the Earth is currently facing – it is in fact the principal cause of those problems. At best, as a philosophy for understanding some aspects of social evolution, Marxism is irrelevant to the catastrophic problem facing Earth (mankind and the rest of the biosphere); at worst, as a religion or advocacy program for more industrial production (first under capitalism and then under socialism), it will lead surely to the extinction of countless more species and a ruined biosphere, and if carried on for a sufficiently long time (several more decades), to the extinction of mankind. Synarchic or Platonic government of a small global population (on the order of ten million) will solve the species-extinction problem facing Earth. Marxism (capitalism / communism / socialism, or any other system based on economics) will not.
As noted earlier, mathematician (/ economist) John Maynard Keynes pointed out the fatal limitations of economics as a long-term basis for human society. In 1930, he predicted that it would not last another hundred years. Others who have examined the situation reach the same conclusion (see, e.g., http://www.dieoff.com or http://solutions.synearth.net/2003/01/13 (“The Fossil Fuel Depletion Crisis”)). If nothing is done to change things, the industrial age will end (in a few decades) with a ruined biosphere, and the extinction of many species, perhaps including man. With positive action, this sorry end can be avoided. Under a Platonic / synarchic government, a world containing a population of a minimal-regret population of ten million people can last for a very long time, in a Garden-of-Eden biosphere. The time for action is now – tomorrow (i.e., a few decades from now) will be too late.