JA: As we’re talking, the Sandinista government has unilaterally cancelled the 19-month old cease-fire…
NC: The 19-month old unilateral cease-fire.
JA: … unilateral cease-fire, and we’re basically wondering what you thought about that—what will be the response of the U.S. government, and what brought about this decision by the Sandinistas?
NC: Well, what brought about their decision was I don’t think in any doubt. The Contra attacks have been picking up, a fair number of people have been killed, and it was getting to the point where they couldn’t maintain a unilateral cease-fire anymore. I suppose that’s what brought it about. Now as to why it was announced at this meeting, I suppose that the effort was to try to see if some pressure could be put on the United States and Honduras to live up to the Tela accords, which they’re both disrupting.
As to whether it was a wise move or not, I think the answer is “not,” and the reason is that the Nicaraguans, like a lot of people in the Third World, don’t understand the United States. They think that if you approach elite American opinion and American power on the assumption that things like truth and justice matter, that you’ll get some headway—and that’s wrong. They’re dealing with psychotics. It’s a very psychotic culture, the United States, and it’s been that way since its origin. It’s not that it’s unique in that respect (it may be unique in degree), it’s generally true of national cultures—the establishment cultures that are associated with whatever power is in the society—state power or economic power, or something else—they tend to be fanatical. And the intellectual community in the United States is unusually fanatical. To find anything comparable to the American intellectual community you’d have to go to some weird religious community where everybody is sitting around intoning something. That’s basically American intellectual culture, and it’s been that way for years.
Third World people typically don’t understand this, and they’re constantly making the same error. And you can see the nature of the error by the U.S. response. The basic U.S. response is outrage over the fact that anyone should dare to defend themselves against a U.S. attack. That is considered absolutely intolerable, in fact thuggish, outrageous, monstrous. What right does anybody have to defend themselves if the United States decides to attack them or sends forces to attack them? They have no right. And so you’ll have to search pretty hard in the editorial pages or anywhere else for somebody who will point out that Nicaraguans have the right to defend themselves. If Cuba, say, were sending armed mercenaries into Kentucky, who went around shooting up the place, we would consider that we had the right to send the cops, or the National Guard, or the army, or something. But when we’re doing it to someone else, they haven’t the right. It’s not just that a couple of propagandists say this; this is taken for granted by virtually everyone—everyone who can enter into a discussion must accept this. So it’s not just that there’s a group of psychotics, it’s that the culture is psychotic, in fact severely psychotic. And this goes way back.
In the case of Nicaragua, for instance, this went on right through the whole war. You remember the flap about Nicaragua getting MiGs? Well, when the story was floated about Nicaragua getting MiGs…
PG: At the time of the 1984 election.
NC: … at the time of the election, that’s right, to suppress coverage of the election, which worked of course—what was interesting was how the doves reacted. The way William Safire reacts is not interesting. But the way…
NC: Tsongas, Dodd, those guys. What Tsongas said is, if the story’s true, we’re going to have to bomb Managua. That was Tsongas. Dodd went along. Editorial opinion basically went along. What the doves said is, it’s probably false. But I don’t recall anybody saying I hope it’s true, I hope that they do get MiGs. And of course that’s the only sane response. Tsongas said we have to bomb Nicaragua because those MiGs could attack us. That’s another sign of psychosis. The idea that if Nicaragua has MiGs it will attack us is like Grenada invading us or something. That’s one part of the psychosis.
But more interesting is that everybody knew what they wanted MiGs for—they needed jet interceptors because the United States was flying supplies into Nicaragua for its band of terrorists. You couldn’t stop them with helicopters, or with pistols, but you could probably stop them with jet interceptors. So in order to protect their own air space and their own population, they needed jet interceptors. So they tried to get them from France (they didn’t want MiGs particularly), but the United States blocked that. It put pressure on France not to sell, because we want them to get Russian models. It’s crucial for us that they be heavily armed by the Soviet Union, so then Dan Rather and all these guys can talk about the Soviet-supplied Sandinistas instead of saying the French-supplied Sandinistas. So part of that whole thing is that you have to ensure that they’re armed by the Russians or the Cubans or one of the Soviet satellites—Washington was dying for them to get MiGs. But I assume they were trying to get them to defend their own territory. It’s interesting that everyone agreed, all the way over to Dodd and Tsongas, that if they tried to defend themselves from U.S. flights into Nicaragua that are supplying terrorist forces, that’s outrageous and we can bomb them. There’s one very simple principle that lies behind that: nobody has a right to defend themselves from us. If we want to attack somebody it’s our right, because we rule the world. And it’s not just that we say that. It’s a moral outrage if they try to defend themselves. I’m not sure that there’s an historical precedent for this, to tell you the truth. For example, I don’t know if Hitler ever said people don’t have the right to defend themselves—it’s an outrage if people in the Warsaw ghetto fight back. It would be interesting to check. But this is uniform in this culture, in fact goes way back to the origins.
PG: Isn’t that a result of the fact that the U.S. is the dominant economic and political power?
NC: No. It was true in the 1700s. Take a look at the Declaration of Independence. Ever read the Declaration of Independence?
PG: Not recently!
NC: Take a look at it some time. Everybody reads it all the time, but it’s one of those things which you read and you don’t see what it says. This is Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers and so on. In the Bill of Indictment against George III recording all the rotten things he did, they say (it goes something like this) “he incited against us the merciless Indian savages whose known way of warfare is the massacre of women and children”, and so on and so forth. Well, by now there’s been so much mythology that people may not see what’s wrong with that. But this was the eighteenth century, and Thomas Jefferson knew precisely what he was writing. He knew precisely that it was he and his buddies who were the merciless European savages who were teaching the Native Americans that the way you fight a war is you wait till all the braves leave the village and then you go in and murder everybody. That’s the way Europeans fight wars, and the colonists were busy teaching that to the native people who didn’t understand it—they thought you go out and fight each other when you’re armed. But nevertheless they could say that. The fact that they could produce the words is amazing enough. But the fact that those words can be read with reverence for 200 years without anybody noticing that there’s something funny about them, in this “great founding document”, that’s pretty astonishing. It’s the same thing. When scholars write about this they call it “American innocence” or “American naiveté ”, and it’s kind of an endearing characteristic of the United States. If you want to know how endearing it is, ask what it’s like to get slaughtered. And this is constant.
PG: I guess that exactly that same set of cultural influences existed in Britain during the time of the British Empire. Nobody was allowed to fight back against the British Empire. It still exists in British attitudes towards Ireland.
NC: I don’t know the British imperial literature well enough. But of course these guys were British, and so were probably carrying it over. It would be interesting to see through the later period whether European imperial powers thought that it was immoral for the natives to fight back. I’m not sure. I don’t know. But it’s certainly true of American culture. And today it’s uniform. For example, nobody says that the Salvadoran army should call off its activities before the election—that’s different, because they’re on our side, so they’re allowed to do anything they want. In fact right in the middle of this huge fuss about this outrageous act by Ortega, somebody [in El Salvador] blew up the left-wing union office, and the Mothers of the Disappeared were attacked, and a Salvadoran soldier was testifying in Washington about his participation in a military death squad which killed many people in the last couple of months with American advisors watching, and so on. None of this leads to an editorial saying that we shouldn’t raise the military spending for El Salvador, because they’re on our side, and they’re killing the guys we want killed, so what’s the problem? But in Nicaragua it’s the wrong side. And so Senator John Kerry said yesterday that it’s plain that Ortega is the worst enemy of the Nicaraguan people. Why? Because he announced that they’re planning to defend themselves, and that’s outrageous.
JA: You’ve said that it’s important for the U.S. that the Sandinistas are armed by the Russians, since this plays a very important role in harnessing public opinion and Congressional support for the policies against them. But in light of what’s been going on over the last year-and-a-half to two years in terms of U.S. policy towards Russia, has there been a shift? Is the cold war over? And what problems and opportunities does that present the United States?
NC: Well it’s interesting to watch American elite opinion react to this—it’s very ambivalent. On the one hand they’re nervous about it, very nervous about it. So, for example, The Wall Street Journal runs articles with headlines like “The Unsettling Specter of Peace Disturbs US Analysts”, or something like that. What’s the unsettling specter of peace? Well, the unsettling specter of peace is basically two things, one of which they put higher than the other. One thing is that the military system has been the device of state economic management. The military system is the way you force the public to subsidize high-technology industry. There’s no other way. This isn’t Japan, which is a quasi-fascist culture—Japan’s economic system—where the state and the big conglomerates just get together and do economic planning, and if they tell people they’re not going to consume, they don’t consume. You can’t do that in the United States. The population’s much too independent. The formal democratic mechanisms don’t function— nevertheless, there is a kind of democratic popular culture, and people won’t agree if you tell them that you’re going to subsidize IBM, so cut back your consumption. People won’t agree, so you have to terrorize them into it, you have to frighten them into it. It’s a classic device that the state uses to control its population. And you need an enemy, and the Soviet Union is a terrific enemy—it’s frightening and monstrous and all sorts of things. So one crucial function of the cold war has been domestic population control, and loss of that is threatened. And of course you need it for support for intervention, that’s the other aspect of it. The United States is a global power, it has to intervene all over the place, and the problem is how do you mobilize the population to support it? It’s very hard to get people to agree. Why could Tsongas say that Nicaragua is a threat to us? Only because it’s an outpost of the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union’s frightening. Nicaragua alone, people would laugh in the United States. Or Qaddafi—what kind of threat is Qaddafi? But if Qaddafi is run by the KGB, well it’s part of a plot by which the Russians are going to strangle the West, and so you can play the game. If the Russians make it very difficult to be [portrayed as] what John F. Kennedy called “the monolithic and ruthless conspiracy” that’s threatening to destroy us, the propaganda system has a big problem. It has a problem in mobilizing support for intervention, it has a problem in getting people to reduce consumption, to agree to pay the research and development costs of high-technology industry. The whole state capitalist management system begins to erode. And that’s a serious problem. That’s the unsettling specter of peace. So that’s the negative side of the Russian moves.
On the other hand it’s also recognized that there’s a positive side, and this is recognized quite publicly. The positive side (which is written about exactly in these terms) is that with the Russian deterrent reduced, we will be able to use military force more freely in the world. The official story—take a political science course, or an international affairs course, or read a newspaper or scholarly magazine, and they say containment is what we do to the Russians, deterrence is what we do to the Russians. But reality’s the opposite. Deterrence is what they do to us, because we’re a global power and we’re intervening all over the place, and there are some constraints. If we think it’s going to lead to a conflict with the Soviet Union, that’s scary, so we’ve got to back off. Furthermore, if we attack somebody and the Russians give them means of self-defense, that deters us, we have to pay higher costs to do what we want. So it imposes limits on the escalation of force and even on the use of force. Well, it’s understood that that deterrent effect will reduce. In fact in The Washington Post somebody writes an editorial about how we have to test Gorbachev’s new thinking. The criterion is that we’ll test Gorbachev’s new thinking by seeing if he stops providing arms to Nicaragua. In other words, if he lets us have our way by violence, without interfering, we’ll know he’s serious, but otherwise not. This goes back to the original point: since it’s immoral and outrageous for anyone to defend themselves against us, it’s also equally immoral to provide them with the means for defending themselves against us. So therefore we’ll know that Gorbachev is serious only if he stops being immoral—that is, if he lets us use force and violence and subversion freely without any concern for the costs to us, then we’ll know that he’s serious. Short of that it’s just a joke.
This concern over what have been called “peace scares”, that goes way back. It goes back to the late 1940s, with Business Week ’s concern over the fact that Stalin seemed to be serious about detente, and this was a problem because we were just getting the military Keynesian economy running after a couple of years of consumption. In fact the reasoning is interesting. The reasoning is pretty sophisticated, from the late 40s. The reasoning is that plainly capitalism doesn’t work—everybody knows that, the depression taught that—and it’s also understood how to make it work. You make it work by huge government intervention and control, so you turn it into something quasi-fascist, then it works. Hitler showed that, and Japan’s showing it today, and the wartime economy showed it to us. The war got us out of the Depression—the New Deal had very little effect. But the wartime expenses, they in fact revitalized production. It was sort of a government managed economy, and it was able to pour resources into industrial production, and that worked. American industrial production tripled during the war. And that lesson was taught to exactly the right people. It was taught to the corporate managers, who went to Washington to run the wartime economy. They got the point. They’d already known that capitalism was dead and that the only thing that works is some kind of fascism, and now they saw how to do it. I mean fascism in the technical sense—I don’t mean gas chambers, but an economic system with major state co-ordination and big concentrations of capital and so on. And they knew that’s the way it works. But the question is, how are you going to make it go on afterwards? That was a problem. Everyone expected that the country was going to sink right back into the Depression if this government stimulus disappears, and by 1948 and ’49 the signs were already evident. The reasoning was very plain. We have to have a big government stimulus. We need a state-guaranteed market, and we need state-subsidies for production, for research and development, and so on. The competitive parts of the economy are going to have to be government subsidized and co-ordinated, but how do we do it?
Well, one mechanism is military. And they said if Truman doesn’t turn to military spending, we’ll have to do it some other way. The only other way is social spending—you build infrastructure, or you set up a health program, all this kind of thing. Everybody by then had read Keynes, but they learned the lesson before they read Keynes, from Hitler. But once the lesson was learned there was kind of a theory for it, and you look at the theory and it says you’ll do just as well burying the money in the ground as building weapons, and you go to the Economics Department and that’s what they tell you. If you take an economics course they say it doesn’t make any difference whether it’s weapons or whether it’s hospitals, it comes out the same. Well, in the abstract world of ten-dimensional space maybe that comes out the same, but in the real world of power it doesn’t come out the same at all, and business was aware of this. They recognized that social spending would work. From an economic point of view it would work—it would even be profitable. But it’s no good. And the reason it’s no good is that military spending is just a gift to the corporate manager. It tells the corporate manager, whatever junk you produce, we’ll buy it, and if you need anything for research and development, we’ll pay it. Beyond that, it doesn’t interfere with corporate prerogatives. It’s a security blanket. You can use it when you need it, there’s a constant flow of funds, and there’s no interference with managerial role. It’s just like a gift from the public to the corporate managers.
On the other hand, social spending has all sorts of negative effects. It organizes new constituencies. People get interested. If you start building schools and hospitals and roads, well people care. If you build missiles they don’t know what’s going on. And so you’re going to organize new constituencies. You’ll increase democratic participation. There’ll be redistribution of income, very likely. There’ll be a direct attack on power. If the government gets involved in the production of anything that’s useful, it’s going to interfere with the market. If the government’s only involved in waste production, it doesn’t interfere with market decisions. So in fact all of these negative effects take place—redistribution of income, increase of democracy—all the kinds of things you want to block would be enhanced by the alternative economic program. Now the economics department doesn’t have those things as variables, because that’s not part of economic models. So therefore they can conclude, probably correctly, that you get the same effect from building schools and hospitals and roads as you get from building missiles and tanks. But the guys who want to keep the system of power going understand much better—social policy has to be geared to the interests of power, or what’s the point of it? And social spending’s not geared to their interests. Military spending’s ideal from the point of view of their interests, so naturally they choose military spending. So therefore you hope that Stalin isn’t serious in his efforts at detente. And on, right till today. They’re still hoping that Gorbachev isn’t serious.
PG: Isn’t part of the problem today that these old methods of managing the economy through massive state intervention are proving to have all kinds of adverse effects? So now you have people in the U.S. ruling class, like Baker for instance, who seem genuinely to want to push detente and push co-operation with Gorbachev.
NC: I don’t really think there’s much of a break in this in the United States, though there’s a point to what you’re saying.
JA: It would be too much to speak of a break, but there has been a shift in emphasis. If you look at four areas of the globe, South East Asia, Afghanistan, Southern Africa, Central America, how does the new thinking by both sides reflect itself in these four areas?
NC: I think that’s very important. What’s happened is two basic things, which went on independently, but fortuitously coincide. From a political point of view the Soviet Union’s a disaster, and I think it’s been since Lenin and Trotsky terminated any hope of Soviet socialism—we can get into that. Anyhow, currently there’s no doubt it’s a disaster. The economic system functions in an extremely inefficient fashion, and it plainly can’t be competitive internationally. The Soviet leadership has understood that. By the mid 1970s they began to cut back on military spending. There’s a lot of lies told here, but now that the pieces are beginning to be put together and you’re allowed to recognize what you already knew, it turns out that the rate of growth in Soviet military expenditures was leveling off by the mid 70s—exactly the opposite of what everybody claimed—and probably they were even literally outspent by the United States throughout that period and beyond—and it’s been staying level or falling off ever since. That’s now conceded. There’s a good analysis of it in the latest issue of National Security by Frank Holtzman, a very good economist who works on the Soviet Union, who’s been saying this for years, but by now even the CIA figures show it. So they had understood that the military expenditures were waste production, and they absorb major resources. Plus there were the political problems—workers won’t work, people won’t participate, everybody’s frightened. Well, by the time of Gorbachev it became recognized that they had to change this. This is what motivates the Gorbachev reforms. A prerequisite for the reforms is that there be some kind of detente. The Soviet Union has repeatedly over the years, even under Stalin, made moves towards detente, and it’s usually been blocked by the United States. But this time it’s impossible to block it, it’s gone too far, and the Europeans are too strong—they’re going to pursue their own course, they’ll make their own detente agreement. And the same with Japan. It’s not a bi-polar world anymore, it’s a three-pronged world—the United States, Europe and Japan. And Europe and Japan are by now able, to an increasing extent, to follow their own course. So the United States can’t just say, no, we won’t do it. That’s on the Soviet side.
Now on the American side there’s a parallel process. U.S. power in the world has been decreasing, relatively speaking for a long time. In fact both the Soviet Union and the United States probably hit their peak of relative power (not absolute power of course) around 1960, and it’s been declining since. You can see it on the United States side in the figures for the trade balance. The trade balance with Europe became favorable to Europe by the late 50s—Japan by the mid 60s. That’s a reflection of a shift in global economic power. Now the Vietnam War was extremely harmful to the American economy. There was so much popular opposition to the war that it had to be fought on deficit financing—they couldn’t declare a national mobilization like World War 1 and World War 2—and that was very harmful to the economy. On the other hand the Vietnam War was very beneficial to our major enemies, Europe and Japan. The Soviet Union is an abstract enemy, but they’re real enemies, they’re competitors. And Japan and Europe both enriched themselves on the destruction of Indo-China. So that shifted the balance, and Nixon recognized this. That’s why Nixon basically tore up the international economic agreements in 1971—Bretton Woods, and so on. And that’s why Nixon and Kissinger decided to accept some form of detente, they just couldn’t carry it off any longer. Starting in the early 70s, the American economy went into a tailspin from which it may never emerge. In 1973 real wages started to decline, and they’ve been declining ever since. That’s historically without any precedent—maybe before the Civil War, but since the Civil War there’s never been a period of decline of real wages that wasn’t business cycle related. But this looks like a steady downward progression. Hours of work are going up. A 40-hour week is a joke—labor fought for it for years, now they don’t talk about it anymore, it’s gone. People need two jobs in order to survive, and so on. So there’s a real severe blow to the economy.
Now we have a very class-conscious business class. Labor has been basically destroyed—it never really existed. It tried, but it was crushed. But business is very class conscious, in fact very Marxist. If you read the business journals they sound like vulgar Marxism, as do the National Security Council reports, and so on. It’s sort of laughable. But they don’t have to read Marx—they know the basic story. They know there’s a class war going on and that they’ve got to smash labor over the head and try to plan corporate profits and so on. So in fact business began to organize a very well co-ordinated class war beginning in the early 70s. The purpose was to break up whatever was left of labor, to erode and eliminate social programs and whatever marginal benefits came from public action since the New Deal, and to enhance the power of the wealthy. It was done at the ideological level, it was done with legislation, and so on. By the late Carter period, Carter proposed a massive increase in military spending and a cutback in social programs, which is exactly what was needed for the benefit of the wealthy. He couldn’t ram it through Congress at that time. But with the invasion of Afghanistan, the Iran crisis, and all the manufactured hysteria, they were able to ram it through Congress. It’s not that Congress blocked it. Public opinion opposed it, and therefore Congress couldn’t go along, even though it wanted to. But by 1980 there was a brief period there in which public opinion was carried away by fear of the Russians, the Iranians, and this kind of stuff, and they were able to ram it through. The Democratic-Republican coalition was able to ram through the Carter programs.
And then came the Reagan period, which was basically a party for the rich—a big increase in the power of the state and in state spending, the attack on civil liberties, the cutback in social programs. The Democrats always went along. They’d make some rhetoric, but they basically went along because they liked it. The public opposed it strongly. After a little blip in the early 80s the public opposed the whole business. But the public doesn’t matter unless it’s organized, and they’re not organized. So they were able to ram through these programs, and in fact there was a big shift of resources from the poor to the rich, there was an attack on the unions, there was an increase in military spending, a subsidy to high-tech industry, a lot of protectionism—Reagan was the most protectionist president, certainly in modern American history, maybe all American history. In general they did the things that looked sensible, except they were done in a really stupid way. The economic mismanagement was extraordinary. The huge government deficits that were built up were not used for productive investment, they were used for consumption by the wealthy…
PG: Isn’t there a reason for that, though? There just weren’t profitable investment opportunities in the U.S.
NC: To have profitable investments in the U.S. you’d have to have social planning. And the idea is you give money to the wealthy and you let them do what they feel like. That’s the way it’s done. And in the 1980s the way it’s done is you consume, you have financial manipulation, you invest overseas—capital flows much more easily than it did 30 years ago, so you can invest overseas, and so on—and the American economy gets nothing out of it, or very little. Within a couple of years the Reagan guys had succeeded in turning the United States from the world’s biggest creditor to the world’s biggest debtor. Foreign ownership in the United States had increased. They really had a problem. The problem’s delayed. Now it’s paid for by the poor. Basically it’s paid for by future generations, who are going to have to pay the costs. Reagan’s fiscal policies were basically a way of taxing the poor to pay the rich. He cut back taxes for the wealthy, who used some of their gains to finance the debt. They bought Treasury Bonds, along with Europeans, and they’re going to have to be paid—they’re going to have to be paid by the taxpayers, which is the poor again. So instead of taxing the rich, you pay the rich by this mechanism. And it sort of worked. For a large part of the population, in fact including the part I live in, it was a party. I haven’t worked it out in numbers, but I’m sure we gained economically in our class level in the Reagan years. And since that’s who runs the ideological system and everything else, well that’s the story. The story is a great success.
But it’s a devastating blow to the economy, and the people who care about the economy, like bankers and industrialists and so on, they know it. And by the mid 80s it was realized that this has got to stop. And in fact military spending was cut back by ’85, and the hysterical rhetoric got cut back, and the international aggressiveness was cut back, and it was recognized that you’ve got to deal somehow with the Russians. Also, at the same time, Europe and Japan were getting more powerful. Japan has a whole Yen-bloc—Japan, the four tigers in its periphery—Europe’s getting unified. If we don’t do something about the Soviet Union, they’re going to do it. They’re going to turn to the Soviet Union as an area of exploitation and investment, and that’s going to cut us out and we’ll really become a second-class power. The nightmare of American planners has always been that there would be a unified Eurasia. It’s like the way the British felt about a unified Europe. They’re a little country, we’re a big country. But all of British history is an effort to prevent Europe from becoming unified, because they’re an island power off Europe and they can survive with splits. That’s basically the attitude of the United States to Eurasia. We’re an island power, a big island, but we’re basically an island power off the Eurasian land mass. If they’re unified, we’re sunk, we’re a second or third-class power. And it’s conceivable with Europe restoring traditional quasi-colonial relations with the East, and with Japan now getting in on the act—setting up free-trade agreements in Vladivostok and in Siberia, and that kind of thing—that the Soviet Union, which is basically a developing country, will be treated as their Third World, instead of our Third World, and that puts the United States in a very dangerous position. Anyhow, that had to be blocked, and the decline of the American economy made it completely impossible to maintain the aggressiveness and militarism of the early 80s.
So you get a development in parallel in the Soviet Union and United States, leading to a degree of mutual accommodation. They both have to cut back for their own independent reasons. And that leads to the things you’re talking about. So they’re trying to back off a little bit from support for military intervention. The Russians pulled out of Afghanistan. The United States is trying to maintain the war, but it’s hopeless for reasons indigenous to Afghanistan. In Cambodia, the Vietnamese pulled out, as they said they were going to do—there’s no indication that they were influenced by any of this. They said they were going to pull out by 1990 and they did. The United States is now essentially backing a Khmer Rouge takeover, but we’ve been doing that for years. We began to switch towards support of the Khmer Rouge in fact in about 1978—it was part of the deal that was made with China. It’s not said in those words, but that’s in effect what it amounts to. In the case of Central America, it’s interesting—elite opinion in the United States had turned very strongly against the Contras by about 1985 or ’86. By ’86 the public opinion surveys were very clear—about 80% of elite opinion was opposed to the Contras in 1986.
PG: Why was that?
NC: Because they just thought it was not cost effective. There are much simpler ways to strangle a tiny little country, completely dependent on its relations with the United States for survival. If we cut off economic relations, they’ll just starve to death. So why send out gangsters to murder children?
PG: Were the costs that great?
NC: The Contra costs were great. It’s costs in world opinion and domestic disorder, not in money. Money’s nothing. But it stirred up a lot of domestic disorder. It got solidarity movements going. It again increased popular participation in the political system, which is the worst thing that could happen. And it looked bad internationally—if the United States is openly sponsoring murderous gangsters, people could see that. On the other hand you can essentially achieve the same results by softer measures which nobody’s going to care about.
PG: That does seem to show that there is some realization on the part of members of the U.S. ruling class that even if they regard what they’re doing as perfectly moral, others…
NC: “Moral” doesn’t arise. They care about public disorder.
PG: Yeah. But one of the things they take into account is the fact that other people around the world are going to regard what they’re doing as…
NC: Other people around the world, but mostly their own population. People are moral agents, governments aren’t. So people are going to react to moral issues, not states, which are instruments of power. And ruling classes are basically devoid of moral considerations, otherwise they couldn’t do it. The gateway that you have to pass through to become a respectable intellectual is to eliminate any concern for moral issues.
PG: We agree on that. That’s why I think the description of the U.S. ruling class as psychotic, or something like that, is to look at it on a personal level which isn’t…
NC: No, I think it is psychotic. It’s not that they make a cool calculation saying “we’ll get what we want”. That would be understandable. That would be like every other ruling class. But American intellectual culture is in fact different. It has a very moralistic strain. And the moralistic strain is, we have a right to whatever we want. If we want to kick somebody in the face, that’s morally right. There’s a difference. There’s a difference between saying “Look, I’m going to kick him in the face because I want what he has”, and the American way, which is to say “I’m going to kick him in the face because that’s right and just, and if he tries to get out of the way, he’s a criminal.” That’s psychotic.
PG: The difference that I’m trying to draw out is that maybe that’s the way that individuals that are part of the U.S. government think of these things…
NC: It’s not the U.S. government, it’s the faculty of universities. It’s guys who are on the editorial boards of the newspaper. It’s everybody. It is virtually 100% of the articulate, educated populous. To check that out, simply check the newspapers, or the radio or television, and ask who is saying now “Nicaragua has a right to defend itself.”
PG: But we’d say that that’s not what drives U.S. policy in these areas. What drives it is the…
NC: What drives it is interest. Sure. Undoubtedly. But covering over the interest there is an ideology and a culture, and those things vary. Take, say, the Nazis. There was something really psychotic about the Nazis. There were German ruling class interests underneath it, but they didn’t lead to the necessity of extermination camps. In fact extermination camps were extremely counter-productive. They’d have done better with slave labor. That would have been better than gassing people. But there do come times when psychotic elements do enter into policy formation, and the United States is a little bit unusual in that the reigning intellectual culture is like this and has been for years. If you read a British foreign affairs journal, say International Affairs, the Chatham House Journal, you don’t read articles on—at least I’ve never seen articles on—the “historic purpose” of Britain, where the “purpose of Britain” is to bring about justice and peace and democracy in the world, and of course we’ve sometimes strayed away from our historic purpose by error or inadvertence, but…
PG: There was an ideology of the white man’s burden in the nineteenth century and later.
NC: That’s true. It was there and so on. But what I just said is a paraphrase of the lead article in the last issue of Foreign Affairs. The “historic purpose” of America is to bring justice and freedom to the world. People can write that—and in fact that’s an old strain, it goes way back—people can write that and others don’t laugh. Nobody laughs, that’s what’s important. It’s not one guy who’s crazy or something. Everyone believes that. In fact Britain believes it about the United States. So when, say, Michael Howard, the Regius Professor at Oxford, writes about the United States, he describes the United States in these terms. He says the United States for two centuries has stood for the principle that all men are equal, and that you need justice and freedom for everybody, and that this is indivisible. He’s talking about slavery and the destruction of the native population, massacre of the Philippines. Doesn’t matter. That’s what the United States stands for.
PG: Even some parts of left opinion in Britain have those sorts of illusions.
NC: Western Europe is very heavily culturally colonized by the United States, a lot more than they believe. But here it’s a kind of reigning ideology, and it’s kind of intriguing to see how uniform it is. For example, I think (going back to your original point) this last event was a very striking example of it. There was a uniform reaction, very deeply felt, that it was outrageous for Nicaragua to try to defend itself. That’s unusual.
Let me just finish up with this Nicaragua bit. Elite opinion had turned against the Contras by the mid 80s, overwhelmingly. The administrators of the Reagan administration were kind of off the spectrum. Now, with the Bush administration, they’re back in the mainstream. And now there’s general agreement that the way you want to strangle and destroy Nicaragua is through economic and ideological warfare, not military action—keep the military threat up, because it’s useful, and it keeps them from disarming, and maybe can disrupt the elections, and so on, but it’s not the major role.
In many areas of the world I think that Soviet and American policy is running along parallel paths—it’s the same in Southern Africa—because of the internal weaknesses of the two societies. They can’t sustain the kind of confrontation, and military spending, and control over their own populations, that they could in a period of less international competition.
JA: Has the U.S. clearly won or lost in, say, these four areas of the globe?
NC: First of all these four areas of the globe don’t mean anything. They’re trivial. If Cambodia, Nicaragua, Afghanistan and Angola disappeared from the face of the earth, Western capitalism wouldn’t notice it.
JA: But Richard Pipes…
NC: Richard Pipes is technically a madman.
JA: I know, I know.
NC: I’m not joking. So, for example…
JA: Like that stuff of his in The New York Times.
NC: But did you ever see Richard Pipes’ articles when KAL 007 was shot down?
NC: Take a look at them some time. He wrote something like this…
PG: He’s the historian at Harvard?
NC: Yeah, big shot historian.
PG: Russian historian.
NC: It went something like this. I wouldn’t swear to the details, but it was some story like the Russians lured it off course in order to shoot it down. How did they do it? Well you know they’ve got this fantastically sophisticated technology, the Russians, way ahead of anything we can dream of, and they’ve got some way by which, sitting somewhere in Moscow, they can send beams to the airplane which get into the computer of the airplane, and they shift around the data, so it goes off course. And presumably people [who read this] weren’t cracking up and falling in the aisles, or at least there’s no record of it. If we’re talking about that, “psychotic” is maybe an understatement.
There is a big business about how the U.S. won the cold war, and how capitalism’s triumphant, but that’s for ideological reasons. It doesn’t reflect what’s happening in the world. That is so that we can sustain our own internal system. You’ve got to show that, since we’re obviously right about everything, and since the competition is declining, it must be that we won. That follows just by logic, it doesn’t matter what the facts are.
JA: A year ago the argument was that the U.S. was in constant decline. This year the argument is “the end of history”, “the triumph of capitalism”. But the response to that by somebody named Samuel Huntington is that, well, we may have defeated the Russians to a certain degree, but this may “bring about the end of the long peace and a new rivalry”, I would take it among the Western nations.
NC: This business about defeating the Russians is complete nonsense. Both the United States and Russia have declined. As far as capitalism and communism go, capitalism was abandoned decades ago. There’s no residue of real…
PG: You mean market capitalism?
NC: Well, free-market capitalism existed to an extent in England for a while in the mid-19th century, but it didn’t last very long. Ever since then, there’s been one or another form of state coordinated economy. The United States has always been extremely protectionist, all throughout its history. The way that the United States developed was by exactly the means that we deny to the Third World today. Why do we have a steel industry? Why isn’t it all owned by Britain? Because in the late nineteenth century, when they were building the railroads and stuff, they stuck such high tariffs on British steel that the American steel industry could develop, otherwise it would be all owned by England. And in fact if you take a look at the American economy today, there’s two parts of it that are internationally competitive. One is capital-intensive agriculture and the other is high-technology industry. Well, they’re both getting massive state subsidies. Agriculture gets huge subsidies, billions and billions of dollars of agricultural subsidies to keep it competitive. And as far as high-tech industry is concerned, that’s just an off shoot of the Pentagon. You want computers? You build space satellites, and that pays for the development of the next generation of computers, and if there’s anything to sell, IBM will sell it. In fact in the 1950s, when computers weren’t saleable on the market, the public paid 100%, literally, of the costs of development. By the 1960s you could sell some of them, so the profits went back to private enterprise. And it’s not just computers, it’s just about every aspect of high-tech. Right now, Silicon Valley—George Gilder writes about Silicon Valley and everybody gets excited—how are they trying to keep Silicon Valley alive? Well, first of all they got going because of the military and space expenditures, which is a government subsidy. Now they’re trying to keep it alive through a Pentagon-based consortium, because that’s the way quasi-fascist economies work. So capitalism you can forget about, it really never existed. Here the extreme right is correct. The right-wing libertarians are always complaining because they never gave capitalism a chance, and that’s perfectly true. No sane businessman ever gave capitalism a chance—it will destroy the environment, it will destroy the community, it will destroy everything in no time, so of course you have to call in the government to regulate it, and control it, and so on, for your own benefit. And by now it’s just forgotten. So that’s capitalism.
As for communism, that’s just a name that the Soviet Union and we give to the Soviet totalitarian society for different reasons. We call it “socialism” in order to defame socialism. They call it “socialism” in order to get whatever mileage they can get out of the positive associations in much of the world with socialism. So you’ve got the world’s two major propaganda systems calling this monstrosity “socialism” for their own purposes, but it has had nothing to do with socialism since the Bolshevik coup. The first thing that Lenin and Trotsky did was to eliminate and destroy the socialist institutions. They eliminated the soviets, they got rid of the factory councils, and so on.
PG: We argue that what happened in the Soviet Union is a result of the civil war, the intervention by imperialist powers and the disintegration of the working class by the end of the civil war.
NC: I don’t agree with that. By early 1918 they had already undermined the soviets and factory councils, before the civil war. Lenin and Trotsky simply went back to Lenin’s standard position—which now Trotsky accepted—which is that what you need is a labor army. What you need is a labor army run by the maximal leader, and that’s it. That’s Lenin’s…
PG: That was Trotsky’s position in 1920, but not Lenin’s position.
NC: It was basically Lenin’s position almost all his life. There’s one gap in Lenin. There’s a kind of a libertarian Lenin in 1917 with State and Revolution and The April Theses, and so on. But that’s a break from Lenin’s vanguardism all through his life, and I think that’s just a good politician pandering to his audience. There’s a chance to grab power…
PG: We’d like to debate you on that, but…
NC: Furthermore, Lenin himself was a good orthodox Marxist—he didn’t think that socialism was possible in the Soviet Union. They were carrying out a holding action to wait for the revolution in Germany. But they weren’t…
PG: Precisely. That we think is a second major factor in making the development of a socialist society in Russia in that period impossible, unless there was support…
NC: I think there would have been a possibility if the popular organizations had been able to develop, then maybe things could have happened. But Lenin and Trotsky were not going to allow that to happen—that was exactly inconsistent with their vanguardism. You can’t allow popular organizations to develop, which means you can’t have socialism.
PG: I think that misunderstands what both Lenin and Trotsky meant by “vanguardism”.
NC: I don’t agree. Anyhow, whatever date we put on it, there’s no socialism in the Soviet Union.
PG: We would say that both the Soviet Union and the United States, and the other major powers in the world, basically have the same economic dynamic—competitive accumulation of capital. They’re forced to expand their economies as a result of…
NC: That’s right, but there’s a difference between a bureaucratic state co-ordinated system of the Soviet kind and a kind of conglomerate state capitalist system of the American kind.
PG: Oh yeah, that’s true.
NC: But we could argue about the date at which this happened. I think the date was October 1917, you may put it a little later…
JA: We say 1927.
NC: OK, but wherever you put the date, it’s so long in the past that to talk about the decline of socialism is ludicrous. It doesn’t exist. It never has existed.
JA: Can I ask you a question about the left? We’ve been talking a lot about the shift in U.S. foreign policy, the changes in the Soviet Union, the issue of “Has the cold war ended?”, the shift politically by the Sandinista government in Nicaragua…
NC: What’s the shift?
JA: I mean just the signing of the peace accords and so forth.
NC: That‘s not a shift. They’ve been after that since the beginning. They’ve been calling for a peace accord since 1981.
JA: No, I know. But the goals they set in the early 80s—we’ll never negotiate with the Contras…
NC: Not with the Contras. But they were calling for a political settlement since 1981.
JA: No, I understand. It’s particular issues—releasing the Contra prisoners and things that they said they wouldn’t do, but obviously under the pressure they have. There’s been a lot of changes over the last 10 years. How do you see…
NC: “Under the pressure”—I don’t agree with that description. I think that from their point of view as they got certain gains they were going to give up certain things they’d been holding on to. From their point of view there would be nothing better than the 1987 accords, which is why they adopted them—they were the only country that adopted them. It’s true that they then did some things they said they weren’t going to do—they also gained some things they didn’t think they could gain, and they were willing to trade it off at that point.
JA: How do you see the American left and progressive activists adjusting to a lot of these changes that have happened? How successfully has the left been doing it? Have they gained anything from it? Has the left been weakened by it? Is the left in a state of disarray?
PG: Can I add something here as well? A lot of the left seem to have been captured by what the press calls “Gorbymania”—they’re looking to the reforms in the Eastern bloc as some way of renovating the systems there and see themselves as supporters of Gorbachev.
JA: Sometimes critical, but nonetheless…
NC: I find it very difficult to talk about the left in the United States because I’m not sure what the term refers to. Does it refer to Witnesses for Peace, for example?
JA: Probab… speaking in the broadest sense.
NC: But you know, Witnesses for Peace are conservative Christians, why are they part of the left? I mean, I happen to be a friend of theirs, and I think they’re terrific, and so on. But when you use the term ‘left’ in the United States, it’s a kind of a funny term for all dissidents, who range from fundamentalist Christians, like Sojourners, over to Marxist-Leninists and so on. The United States is a very depoliticized society and terms like ‘left’ and ‘right’ don’t mean very much.
PG: Ultimately we’d want to define it in terms of people who oppose the untrammeled interests of the ruling class.
NC: OK. Fine. I don’t disagree with identifying the category, but I’m a little worried about the term ‘left’. I don’t think most of it has much of a…
NC: Yeah, or even a conception of an alternative society, or not much. So there’s no animating set of ideas about how you want to change the existing society—maybe feelings here and there. But if you put together the environmentalist movement and the feminist movement and the anti-nuclear movement and the solidarity movements, the set of beliefs that are in common turn out to be basically moral commitments. It’s again characteristic of American society—it’s just that these moral commitments happen to be sane and human instead of crazy and murderous. But that’s partly related to the lack of a labor movement, and the lack of continuing organization, and all sorts of things. But in this whole grouping—call it “the movement”, whatever that means—it’s in disarray, but it’s always in disarray. And that has positive aspects and negative aspects. It’s always in disarray. It doesn’t have fixed institutions, it doesn’t have continuity, it doesn’t have organization, it doesn’t have communication—people on one side of the town don’t know what’s going on on the other side of the town—it’s very localized, not only geographically but even on issues—like we’re going to focus on this issue and you’re going to focus on that issue without worrying about each other, even if basically we’re in the same ballpark. It’s been that way ever since… forever. It’s part of the result of not having… If I go to England to give a talk, let’s say, well I talk in the Cambridge Guildhall, because there’s a union movement. Maybe the union movement doesn’t amount to anything, but at least they have… You want to do something in England you go to the Labour Party. The Labour Party’s a bunch of gangsters, but it has continuing institutions and buildings and mimeograph machines, and so on and so forth. You want do something in the United States, you do what you guys are doing for your next meeting: you go to a church. It at least exists. It’s an existing, continuing institution, so everyone winds up at a church.
Given a situation like that you’re going to have chaos. That has its advantages. For one thing it means that the dissident movement is extremely hard to control. You can’t get at the leadership. The government tried in the repression of the late 60s and the early 70s—it was a joke, because they don’t know who they were looking for. I can tell you some details about that, because I was part of the conspiracy trials and so on. They literally did not know who to look for. They looked for the people who were on television, but that doesn’t have anything to do with what’s going on. In fact the books about the 60s, even by activists, most of them miss a lot that happened because they’re telling you what happened in the SDS office, or something like that, which had very little to do with what was taking place. So there’s that. It’s hard to crush. It tends not to get distorted into kind of idle ideological conflicts. It doesn’t spend much time deciding whether socialism ended [in Russia] in 1917 or in 1921, or in getting the right interpretation of the Grundrisse or something, and in my view it’s very healthy not to get hung up on that kind of stuff. It’s very interesting, but it’s a side issue which has in many places absolutely destroyed the left—factionalized it and turned it into a bunch of Talmudic debates and so on. So it doesn’t have this sort of thing.
On the other hand, it has weaknesses. It means that you can’t sustain activism over a long period. And most people get carried away by illusions. So, for example, there’s a whole class of illusions around… there’s a kind of a—maybe it’s a little unfair—but call it a kind of paranoid streak. Take the idea that there’s a kind of collection of rogues who hijacked the government, and it’s because of them that all this stuff is happening. They killed Kennedy who was going to…
JA: Yeah, the Christic Institute type of thing. It’s 10 men from the mid 60s who gained control…
NC: Yeah, that kind of thing. Now here was Kennedy, this great hero who was going to lead to all kind of magnificent stuff, but then they killed him, oh my god, and then they took over, and then they ran the war in Vietnam, and if he was here… [Side one of tape ends.]
[Another example was the reaction of the solidarity movement to the Arias plan.] It should have been obvious to everyone from the beginning that Arias is a conservative businessman whose only real interest is how to enrich the wealthy in Costa Rica. He doesn’t care about human rights, he doesn’t care about democracy. He understood American elite opinion, and he was able to see that the Reagan people were off the spectrum and that major corporate opinion and so on really wanted other mechanisms, less bloody mechanisms, for bringing about business-rule in Nicaragua. So he’s naturally the hero of Congress, as you’d expect. But for the solidarity movements to have taken this guy seriously was a bad mistake, and they’re paying for it. Now when it turns out that Arias can’t see anything bad happening in El Salvador and Guatemala, but he’s outraged because business isn’t guaranteed victory in the Nicaraguan elections, the dissident movements are stuck. Here’s their hero, what are you going to do?
There’s that kind of illusion, and there are many, many examples. Part of this Gorbymania’s like that. As far as Gorbachev goes, I too hope that his reforms succeed—I think it’s probably a net benefit. It could lead to a lot of bad things too, but in my view it’s kind of a net benefit. He’s trying to impose from above the kind of reforms that would be much better if they came from popular organization, and they’re coming about in a different way. But considering the alternative, that’s probably better than the alternative. On the other hand, to think that he’s some kind of savior of the world is a bad error.
PG: We would distinguish the political reforms that he’s trying to introduce from the economic ones, and argue that while we’re in favor of any loosening up of political debate and so on, giving people, Russian workers and so forth, the opportunity to form unions and debate and have some influence, the economic reforms are basically a method of trying to get workers to produce more while cutting their living standards.
NC: That’s true. That’s the way every industrializing country has industrialized. If anybody knows another answer, I’d like to hear it. There’s no industrializing country that has not developed through repression, including the United States with all of its enormous advantages. You have to force people to produce and not consume.
PG: But Russia already is an industrialized country.
NC: Well, I think it’s a quasi-industrialized country. It has some of the structures of industrialism, but it doesn’t have the infrastructure. It might have a big heavy steel industry, but it doesn’t have the things that feed into it and the things that make use of it and so on. It’s kind of like a Third World country with pockets of very advanced industry. In a sense, it has some of the feel of India. Very heavy industry and advanced technology, and much of the society can barely function.
PG: In the Soviet Union there’s certainly enough wealth for the mass of the population to have the necessities of life in much greater abundance than they have now, but as it turns out there’s huge waste in the economy, vast amounts of money spent on the military, and so on.
NC: It isn’t just the military. Even if they cut down the military spending…
PG: No—the economy’s incredibly inefficient as a result of bureaucratic planning.
NC: That’s right. It’s a centralized command economy, and it never works.
JA: One of the biggest issues for the U.S ruling class now, domestically and in foreign policy, is the new-found “drug war”. It seems that the Evil Empire has shifted from Moscow to Medellin. In some sense it’s very unclear what they want out of this.
NC: I think it’s clear what they want.
JA: What do they want?
NC: They want population control. What you said before is on my view right on the button. The Evil Empire is extremely difficult to invoke, and it’s been getting harder to invoke for a long time. They tried international terrorism for a while. For a while everyone was supposed to be hysterical about crazed Arabs running around doing this and that—and it worked for a while. In ’85 and ’86 that was the top story of the year—terrorism in the Middle East. Nobody went to Europe that summer—they destroyed the European tourist industry because there were supposed to be terrorist Libyans running around European cities, where you’d be about a hundred times as safe as you are in any American cities. Well it worked, but very briefly. These things are transitory. The Soviet Union is a good enemy. They really are powerful, and they do bad things, and they’ve got missiles, and all this kind of stuff, which you can keep appealing to. International terrorism is a very hard game to play, so it worked for a little while, then it stopped. Invoking the Russians is getting harder and harder.
Along comes the Medellin Cartel, as you said. That’s the latest one. Let’s get hysterical about drugs. And of course the propaganda system leaps to cue, exactly as it’s supposed to. If you take a look at polls, it’s remarkable. When Bush was elected, November ’88, people were asked what’s the major problem facing the country, and the favorite one was the federal deficit. Drugs were 3%. At the end of last September, after this month long hysteria, drugs were 46%, and the budget deficit was down to 8%, or something like that. The numbers will vary depending on which poll you’re looking at, but anyhow, drugs shot way up. Not only had the budget deficit not gone down, the drugs situation hadn’t changed. The War on Drugs isn’t even aimed at drugs. If you’re concerned about casualties from drugs, the first thing you’ll go after is tobacco and alcohol. Tobacco and alcohol have maybe a hundred times as many casualties a year as hard drugs, plus the health costs associated with them, and everything else. Not only is nobody going after tobacco and alcohol, but the government is involved in trying to maximize the sales of them.
PG: Except C. Everett Koop!
NC: Alex Cockburn had a story about that. I’ve written about it too. Here’s a real example of the way the media works. Right in the middle of the hysteria about the Drug War—half the television commentaries on drugs, and half the stories in the newspapers are about drugs, and so on—comes a story whose content is that the United States is the biggest narcotic trafficker in the world. The United States is trying to ram drugs down the throats of the Asian countries. That’s not my opinion, that’s the opinion of the Surgeon General of the United States, who stated in Congressional testimony on drug trafficking that it’s absolutely scandalous for the United States to be pushing drugs—tobacco this is—down the throats of Asians who don’t want it and are trying to block it. Meanwhile the U.S. is making pretences about stopping the flow of opium. In fact it’s just reliving the Opium Wars. It barely made the newspapers. Nobody cares. So the United States is the greatest narcotic trafficker in the world—now let’s go back and talk about how the Medellin Cartel is trying to destroy us.
If you want to go after drugs, go after bankers. What’s the point of going after some kid in the street who’s selling drugs because it’s the only way he can live? Why don’t you go to the banks where they’re laundering the money? Well, that’s not the way you run social policy. You don’t go after the banks, you go after the poor. You go after peasants in the Andes, not rich tobacco farmers in North Carolina. And you go after a crack peddler in Harlem, not the bank that’s laundering the money for him. Anybody who understands the system knows that. But it can be used, and it is being used, to frighten the population into accepting militarism and loss of civil rights and passivity and so on, because we’ve got to defend ourselves from this. I don’t think it’s going to last very long, frankly.
PG: It has the advantage too that it justifies police harassment and social control.
NC: It justifies police harassment, jails—there’s nothing you can do with superfluous population in cities, so you stick them in jails—and so on. It has all these side effects. But it’s typical social planning.
JA: At the moment, I think what we would see as important—as opposed to, say, around the early Reagan years in office—is that, because of Contragate, because of the upsurge of struggle around South Africa, concern for the environment, and now abortion rights, there seems to be a small, but at least militant new layer of people interested in politics, wanting to be active, coming out around issues.
NC: It’s been there since the early 70s.
JA: You’ve spoken about how you see the labor movement being seriously weakened, the left in a state of perpetual disarray…
NC: But that has good sides too.
JA: It has good sides, but how do you see things evolving say in the near future, in the next two or three years?
NC: I don’t know. I suspect more of the same. There are objective problems, people sense them, they react to them—often they don’t react to them in constructive ways—but I think these movements have been growing since the early 70s. In my view there were more people active in the 70s than there were in the 60s, and more people in the 80s than in the 70s. The big popular movements that really brought a lot of people along are 70s and 80s—all the one’s you mentioned: the feminist movement, the environmental movement, the anti-nuclear movement, the solidarity movements. These are growing, in their own ways, with many conflicted elements—I don’t think it’s all positive by any means. But it is a reflection of exactly what you said—an increasing sense that we’ve somehow got to get control of our lives. Where that goes depends on what people are able to do in the way of organizing, educating, and so on.