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There are theories that the ‘Great Reset’ of the World Economic Forum is a programme for a technocratic fascist coup or revolution. There is little current Marxist analysis of these theories, which no doubt explains the comment in the otherwise informative book Pseudopandemic by Ian Davis: ‘Neither free market liberalism nor Marxist theory provide and adequate framework to describe the emerging Technate’ (p. 243)
However, the theory of emerging fascist Technate[s] was the subject of a wide ranging and explosive Marxist debate 80 years ago. Although that debate has since been sent down the “memory hole”; it did inspire and enter into the content of Orwell’s book 1984.
Here we need to briefly understand an integral part of Marxist theory: the core or essences of ideas associated with historical events can reappear in different forms or costumes.
This is a method to analyse history for a comparative analysis of modern events that removes potentially superficial differences in order to focus on common causes. Thus from one of the most famous opening passages of Karl Marx: ‘Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.’ And for example, regardless of the specific accuracy this application; the comparison of Stalin to Napoleon.
In 1941 a book was written on the topic of a technocratic revolution by a “dissident” (and prominent) Marxist theoretician. I will leave it to George Orwell to introduce the subject:
James Burnham’s book, The Managerial Revolution, made a considerable stir both in the United States and in this country at the time when it was published, and its main thesis has been so much discussed that a detailed exposition of it is hardly necessary. As shortly as I can summarize it, the thesis is this: The rulers of this new society will be the people who effectively control the means of production: that is, business executives, technicians, bureaucrats and soldiers, lumped together by Burnham under the name of ‘managers’. These people will eliminate the old capitalist class, crush the working class, and so organize society that all power and economic privilege remain in their own hands.Orwell’s ‘Second thoughts on James Burnham’, 1946
Burnham does not appear to draw on the historical antecedents to this kind of idea which in fact had been quite widespread, perhaps to generate the illusion of more originality than his idea deserved. However, Patrick Wood has drawn on this material whilst analysing the Great Reset in the context of the ‘pseudopandemic’ (here and here).
Burnham’s thesis was that the Italian and German fascism of the 1930s was a manifestation of his “managerial [ie, technocratic] revolution”. The sensational part of his thesis? So was the Bolshevik revolution. And thus fascism and Bolshevism were essentially different forms of the same thing. That part of the idea in 1941 was not particularly original either.
Now we need to understand another part of Marxist theory (which unfortunately is already fairly well understood by people who have never read a word of it): the ruling class will often pursue an agenda with the necessary support of a subservient class that is not in the ultimate interests of that subservient class.
Thus, spurious noble justifications or rationalisations have to be employed, whilst the real reasons have to be sublimated beneath the surface (like the oil in the Iraq war). Burnham draws attention to this early on in his book towards the end of chapter 2 and it is a reiterated theme throughout the book.
He would have warned us against the noble goals of technocracy, such as the following manifesto:
By clinging to an outdated economic structure that often directs technology’s uses strictly for profit we are missing the full value of technology for the betterment of society and the environment […] Technocracy is a better way to confront social problems than authoritarian politics divorced from technical expertise. Technocracy is about making scientifically proven decisions. We are about making balanced and responsible choices for society and the environmentManifesto of ‘Technocracy Works’
Equally, concerns about sustainable development and global warming might be merely a cover stories for a ruling class to pursue its material and economic interests. And the more they adopt, sponsor and support those advocating the noble ‘communitarian’ ideas the more they believe in those ideas themselves. Meanwhile, many of these advocates become either ‘useful idiots’ or cynics.
So when we read the World Economic Forum on stakeholder capitalism, for example, we should be highly suspicious, but should also take into consideration that Klaus Schwab and others may actually believe in it themselves.
There was an extremely impressive Marxist analysis of Burnham’s book from a young Tony Cliff in 1943. (Note: I am a libertarian communist so I am certainly not prejudiced in favour of famous Trotskyist theoreticians). Here, Cliff asks the question:
Is it possible for the servants of the oligarchy – namely the managers – to free themselves from its rule and become the workers’ exploiters? Before answering this question, let us deal with Burnham’s third argument, namely, that the process of displacement of capitalism by the ‘managerial society’ is taking place already?Tony Cliff, ‘Managerial Revolution (A counter-revolutionary theory of monopoly capitalism), 1943
In this debate or analysis you don’t need to agree or disagree with one side or another. It is about learning from history – which may about to repeat itself. It is possible that this pseudopandemic is:
- An attempt at a managerial revolution as described by Burnham
- An attempt at a capitalist global transnational totalitarian coup to subvert populism and a “crisis in democracy”
- A recognition by the capitalist class themselves, or sections of it, that capitalism has arrived at its own limitations and contradictions and requires some dramatic structural overhaul
Or it could be something else: perhaps, once its goals are achieved, the whole Great Reset agenda stop and the World Economic Forum will be the ‘Patsy’. Whatever the case, it is worth considering the possibility we have been here before.