A Return to the Dark Ages

It doesn’t matter what shade of authoritarianism the 0.1% cloak themselves in, they have always wanted the same thing: a return to the Dark Ages. Liberal education, open inquiry, transparency, freedom of expression, democracy, all spell trouble for the enemies of well-rounded human progress. Stalinism, McCarthyism, Neoliberalism have all actively suppressed knowledge, critical thought, and people power. They have done so because an agenda that is diametrically opposed to the interests of almost the entirety of humanity can only thrive in darkness. War is sold to the gullible with lies about the other. Opponents of global capitalism’s worst excesses are demonized as terrorists. National leaders who stand up to the Washington Consensus have CIA-orchestrated coups to contend with. Austerity, a policy without legitimate theoretical or empirical basis, is Economics’ version of the Big Lie. The aim is the greatest ignorance for the greatest number. Knowledge, not just wealth, is hoarded by a tiny few, while disinformation is disseminated freely. The aim is a widening of wealth inequality, but not just for the wealth itself, but for the power and control this enables.

Orbiting cyberspace, this theme came through very clearly today. It was evident in an OWS tweet, which drew attention to a tally of arrests:

Recession Scorecard: Occupiers Arrested: 7,732. Bankers Arrested: ZERO. Is there a problem here?

It has been overt in the mainstream media’s attempted demonization of Hugo Chavez. Even in the relatively sheltered world of the economist, in which I sought reprieve, it is just as obvious. I was reminded of this in reading an interesting biography of Michal Kalecki (see chapter 1). The link comes courtesy of Jeremy in the comments.

Kalecki’s career was outstanding. It was also rocky at times. Thankfully, a couple of windows of relative intellectual autonomy, first in 1930s and wartime England, then later in Poland, provided short-lived openings for free inquiry into the workings of capitalist, then socialist and developing, economies. The latter window, spanning from the late 1950s to 1968, enabled a circle of similar-minded Polish economists to develop his ideas into a school of thought. Although the political situation deteriorated and Kalecki’s colleagues were eventually fired, the ground made during this period must have contributed greatly to the subsequent spreading of Kalecki’s work. The earlier English period was undoubtedly also critical, especially thanks to the championing of his contributions by Joan Robinson.

In less propitious times, however, Kalecki came up against the purveyors of class-interested lies. Two instances of this, in particular, illustrate the irrelevance to the 0.1% of the particular form their authoritarianism takes. So long as humanity descends further into ignorance, the particular mode of descent is immaterial to them.

Kalecki’s period working at the United Nations in New York, where he successfully completed his Theory of Economic Dynamics

… coincided with the worst phase of the cold war which culminated in the political witch-hunts of Senators McCarren and McCarthy in the United States … Anyone daring to criticize, or even failing to co-operate with, McCarthyism, left himself open to the serious accusation of being a communist or a fellow traveller. A number of Kalecki’s colleagues were dismissed by the Secretary General (Trygve Lie) for undeniably political reasons. It was because of his uncompromising attitude, that eventually his superiors decided to push him out of the United Nations …

Later, in Poland, near the end of his life, Kalecki ran foul – not for the first time – of authoritarians of a different shade:

The Israeli Arab war of 1967, when all the communist camp had sided with the Arabs, and the liberalization attempts carried out in Czechoslovakia, led to a repressive move in Poland; which had also an anti-Semitic connotation. The situation worsened after March 1968, due to the emergence of student unrest and street protests. In that same month a conference was organized at the SGPiS [Central School of Planning and Statistics], in which Kalecki’s theories were attacked as being non-Marxist and bourgeois (!). Universities were purged against anyone not aligned with orthodoxy, and almost all of Kalecki’s closest collaborators were sacked. Thus, the very lively and original Kaleckian school of thought that had been created in that country was dismantled.

According to the Wikipedia entry on his life, Kalecki, as he grew older, showed “an increasingly pessimistic view of humanity”. This is hardly surprising considering that he brushed with police-state tendencies under both McCarthyism and Communism.

Dying in April, 1970, he was spared from witnessing the descent into neoliberal ignorance on macroeconomics, but probably saw the writing on the wall in his later years. The period since his death has brought with it almost a complete regression back to pre-Kaleckian (and pre-Keynesian) thought, other than on the fringes of the discipline. In economics, at least, the descent into a Dark Age has been almost complete.