Commentary on Between Two Ages by Zbigniew Brzezinski
(From Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era, 1971, Viking Press, New York)
Brzezinski, writing in 1970, says it’s probable that some liberal democratic societies will opt for “authoritarian personal leadership” (a “dominant personality”). Society’s “emotional and rational needs may be fused … in the person of an individual who is seen as both preserving and making the necessary innovations in the social order.” (pg. 118) He seems to repeat the same idea later, referring to a “charismatic personality” (253).
Marxism and the Soviet Union
Brzezinski praises Marxism as supplying “the best available insight into contemporary reality” (123). He claimed it had strong “ethical elements”, provided a basis “for attacking ‘antiquated pre-industrial social institutions’, and it promoted “internationalism”. (123)
Communism came “too early”, he says, because available communications technologies were not ready to “reinforce a universal perspective” (124).
From 1930-1940, “that revolution consumed at least six and a half million lives” (126). Stalin’s emergence was facilitated by Lenin’s elitist attitudes towards trade unions and peasants (127). He asks whether industrialization and modernization could have been achieved without Stalin’s brutal methods (129). Trotsky concluded by 1930 the “physical liquidation of millions of kulaks was an immoral ‘monstrosity’…” (130).
Brzezinski criticized the the Soviet rulers as “conservative and nationalist, even when they sincerely believe themselves to be the advocates of an internationalist ideology.” (136)
He says that if Stalin hadn’t made communism so despotic, the West “might have made communism the truly dominant and vital force of our time.” (138)
Also he writes that a “more relevant vision of tomorrow” is needed than the backwards Soviet system in order to deal with the “highly personal as well as the broader social concerns of the technetronic age.” (139)
Brzezinski observes that the Soviet political system at one point used to be in a revolutionary relationship with society. It imposed “a process of radical transformation … by combining modernization (largely through intense industrialization and mass education) with ideologically derived, novel social institutions and relationships” (139). He says that this activity parallels what Marx described as the capitalist’s role: ‘Fanatically bent on making value expand itself, he ruthlessly forces the human race to produce for production’s sake; he thus forces the development of the productive forces of society, and he creates those material conditions which alone can form the real basis for a higher form of society, a society in which the full and free development of every individual forms the ruling principle [we wish].’ (139) So I believe that Marx in this case is explaining capitalism as a necessary phase before socialism.
To me, I doubt the whole idea that there is some kind of real “progress” with this way of looking at history, even if it stopped with capitalism. And I don’t think “modernization” or frantic production is necessary for a so-called “higher form” of society where freedom exists. There is either freedom, independence, private life, and respect for rights and morality, with wealth resulting from that, or else there are just varying degrees of slavery which become more and more intense as the technology is used to run over our rights. I suspect “modernization” mainly has to do with standardization in order to make totalitarian slave masters happy.