Author Topic: "Cybernetics in the Service of Communism" 1967 essay by Col. Raymond S. Sleeper  (Read 10242 times)

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Colonel Raymond S. Sleeper (USMA; M.A., Harvard University) is Commander, Foreign Technology Division, Air Force Systems Command, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. During World War II he served with the 11th Bombardment Squadron, 7th Bombardment Group, in Java and Australia; in 1943 was transferred to General MacArthur’s staff as Chief of Military Personnel; and in 1944 became Deputy Chief, Enlisted Branch, Personnel, Hq USAF. Other assignments have been as Deputy Chief, Strategic Vulnerability Branch, ACS/Intelligence, Hq USAF, 1948-50; as student, then as faculty member, Air War College; as Deputy Commander, 11th Bombardment Wing, later Commander, 7th Bombardment Wing H (B-36), 1955-57; as Chief of War Plans, CINCPAC, from 1957 until he became Assistant to the DCS/Foreign Technology in 1960; and as DCS/Foreign Technology, Hq AFSC, from 1963 until he assumed his present position in August 1966.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

Air University Review, March-April 1967

Cybernetics in the Service of Communism

Colonel Raymond S. Sleeper

The Spearhead for the spread of Communism was forged in the Soviet Union when Lenin seized power and began to use this philosophy as the rallying standard for achieving world Communist domination. The Soviet Union’s progress from the revolutionary chaos of the early Twenties to the space-age discipline of the Sixties has been phenomenal. In response to a series of difficulties and events in attempting to accelerate this task, the Soviets have borrowed and adapted to their use a unique and powerful philosophical and technological tool—cybernetics.

the promise of cybernetics

This tool seems to offer the means to optimize the continued development and growth of the power of Soviet Russia, the subversive capture of free nations, and the establishment of worldwide educational, technological, military, and space superiority. But more important, cybernetics is now seen by some Soviet authorities as the means of facilitating the optimum (Communist) control of the complex system of states, peoples, and resources of the world which the Communists hope will result from Communist world domination.

Simply stated, cybernetics involves purposeful control of complex dynamic systems. Dynamic systems are those systems which can react to or adapt to a changing environment. In practice, the Soviets appear to be classifying almost any subject that has to do with information and control in man, machine, and society as cybernetics. Cybernetic systems, as opposed to automatic devices, are capable of responding in a predictable orderly manner to changes in the environment. An example of a crude cybernetic system is the home furnace that responds via thermostatic control to changes in temperature for the purpose of maintaining a reasonably constant temperature in the home. One of the first complex cybernetic systems developed was Norbert Wiener’s design of a system to link radar through a computer to a battery of automatic fire-controlled antiaircraft guns.

In facing this extremely difficult problem, Wiener realized that the complex system he was designing performed the same functions as a skilled skeet shooter who acquired the target, tracked it, allowed for an appropriate lead, and fired. The skilled marksman achieved a high degree of accuracy. Knowing that biological systems (man or animal) could adapt easily to rapidly changing environmental parameters, both external as in the case of the skeet shooter and internal as in the case of an athlete whose body adjusts to give him a second wind, he often consulted with neurologists and others to determine if he was on the right track in his basic design philosophy. There were several instances in which he found direct analogs between the behavior of his gun-laying systems and certain characteristics of the nervous systems.

Wiener’s great achievement was that he was able to synthesize existing technology and ideas into a basic conceptual framework that unified this technology to produce a high degree of control in any type of complex dynamic system. The basic elements of this concept are

(1) A well-defined goal or end state to be achieved.

(2) Sensors to detect changes in the environment, i.e., temperature, velocity, chemical reactions, learning states, etc.

(3) Communications nets connecting all elements of the system to assure information flow.

(4) Logic units to process the information flow according to criteria contained in the goal (1).

(5) Control units that are responsive to decisions from the logic center (4), which adjusts system units to the desired states as information from (1), (2), (3), and (4) changes.

Wiener felt that this scheme was basic to the control of all complex systems—technical, biological, or social. The Soviets regard the U.S. PERT management system, or the “critical path technique,” as they call it, to be a highly sophisticated example of applying cybernetic theory to an administrative system.

Cybernetics, as it developed tinder Wiener and in the U.S.S.R., imposes a rigid discipline for clear thinking upon both the theorist and the practitioner. If a true cybernetic approach to problem solving is adopted, the planner must first define his goals and criteria for their achievement as clearly and with as little ambiguity as possible.

the thrust of cybernetics in the Soviet system

The thrust of cybernetics in Russia extends from the microbiological to the macrocosmic dimensions of man’s relationship to the elements of the universe. The volume of Soviet literature on cybernetics is monumental. Academician A. I. Berg, chairman of the Governmental Council on Cybernetics, refers to over 5000 articles in 1961 alone on “the problems of the application of mathematics, electronics, and cybernetics to biology and medicine.” Since 1961, the volume of literature and research on this subject has continued to increase.

On the biological side of cybernetics one sees interesting developments, such as the “iron hand” which attaches pneumatically to the stump of the arm and, through electrodes connected to the stump muscles of the forearm, picks up myocurrents generated from the contraction of these muscles, which then control the opening and closing of the hand. There are many other devices which link the nervous system to machines, and vice versa. One example is the biostimulator, which uses the recorded muscle movements of a sharpshooter to provide programmed electronic sleeves for automated rifle training instruction. This device is slipped over the arms and torso and electronically “stimulates” the proper muscles of the student soldier to emulate the sharp-shooting techniques of an expert rifleman recorded in the simulator. Another device, the Soviet sleep machine, is claimed to produce a relaxed state, or sleep, which provides more rest than an equivalent amount of normal sleep. This device is used in medical treatment for a variety of symptoms. Soviet cybernetics includes, in addition to biologic and physiologic control techniques, a broad program of research in neurology, psychology, and related fields, especially those areas which have the potential for technological application and behavior control.

The Soviet concept and program of the “new man” involves the “creation” of a wholly superior type of individual. It begins with the separation of numbers of young children from their families at the ages 1 to 6 years. These children are trained in some 800 special boarding homes and schools, separated from their families. Estimates vary, but it appears that 1,500,000 to 2,500,000 children have been entered into this program. The training and education of these selected children has been called the “technocratization of youth” in Russia. In other references the Soviets have called this program the preparation for “the rationalization of world economics and cybernation.” The U.S.S.R. is thus planning for rapid development of automation and encourages, promotes, and fosters cybernetics at the highest level of government and party. Social adjustment to automation is planned through the preparation of students to accommodate to the “cybernated society.” And, according to the Soviets, the change will therefore be more orderly in Russia than in any other country.

At the machine level, the applications vary from guidance systems for missiles to automated power distribution centers for controlling the flow of electric power between widely dispersed nets so as to eliminate costly, redundant power generation.

But it is at the socioeconomic level that one sees the major innovations being attempted in the Soviet Union. A cybernetics center is planned for each state. Several are already being built, and the first one at Kiev is nearly finished. These, together with the Cybernetics Council in Moscow, the Moscow information storage and retrieval center (VINITI), the Moscow computer center, the developing nationwide unified information network, some 350 computer centers, and over 100 institutes that are working in cybernetic science and technology, if built as planned, will constitute the physical structure of the program. A typical center such as the one at Kiev will have mathematicians, physiologists, psychologists, sociologists, neurologists, economists, electronic scientists, engineers, and physicists assigned. Thus a very broad multidisciplinary scientific force will attack the problems involved in the automation of Soviet society. The implications of such an enormous undertaking cannot possibly be seen with clarity at this early date, but it deserves serious observation, study, and attempts at interpretation.

It helps us some in taking a serious view of these Soviet activities when we realize that such very large modeling and attempts to structure society are actually beginning here in the United States. San Francisco is using an operating mathematical model of the city in terms of its land, buildings, peoples, jobs, amenities, etc. This model is being used for forward planning, and other U.S. cities are now developing their own models. But the Soviet scheme involves all of Russia and promises to involve the world.

One interpretation of the Soviet effort describes the purpose of cybernetics in the U.S.S.R. as “threefold: improved military and civilian technology, rationalization of the economy, and mechanization of intellectual tasks.” l But it is likely that the main thrust of Soviet cybernetics is much more encompassing. For the central argument of the Soviets is that cybernetics can work only in a “socialist” society:

As distinct from capitalist countries where the various firms create, each for itself, separate automated systems of control, under socialism it is perfectly possible to organize a single, (integrated) complex, automated system of control of the country’s national economy. Obviously, the effect of such automation will be much greater than that of automating control of individual enterprises. 2

Probably this is the key to the major difference between the Soviet purpose in cybernetics and the purpose in the West. Not so much that the Soviets are already beginning to apply cybernetics to the optimum control of the entire Soviet society but that they are aiming to reconstruct society through the widest possible application of cybernetics and eventually to employ it as the principal system of Communist control of the world. Some observers of the Soviet scene have responded with ridicule; others have simply stated that such a grand scheme is impossible. Perhaps the most common reaction is that Soviet technology cannot possibly support such a plan in Russia, to say nothing of the world. It is normal among these latter observers to note that “the U.S. is still ahead in the design, analysis, and evaluation of complex and sophisticated systems. . . ; we are still ahead of Soviet technology in the fields of radar systems, television systems, telemetry systems; and still ahead of Soviet technology by a considerable margin in the design and manufacture of high speed computers with large memories.”3

But there are indications of steady Soviet progress: “Soviet science is ahead in the analysis of random-processes of shooting and random process representation; Soviet science is generally superior to U.S. science in the fields of detection theory, parameters, prediction and estimation, and the analysis of phase-keyed systems in the presence of fading; and Soviet science can be said to be slightly ahead of the U.S. sciences in the overall fields of cybernetics, logic algebra, automated theory, and pattern recognition.”4 And cybernetics seems to have given the Russian leaders a new vision of the utopian future of Communist social progress. For they now see in cybernetics, they think, a means to stimulate progress and to integrate advances in all fields of science. Again, the most fundamental and overriding point is that through cybernetics the integration of scientific progress now enables the construction of the ideal Communist society in Russia as well as throughout the rest of the world. 5

To restructure the Russian society, to establish a system for the optimum control of Russia, and to embark upon the study, plan, and implementation of a control system aimed at the restructuring of the societies of the world so that they will dovetail into a cybernated Communist Russia is a fantastic task. The task was not undertaken lightly. A comprehensive study was conducted from 1959 to 1961 for the purpose of determining the broad structure of the program and its consonance with Marxism-Leninism. Then in June 1962 the Soviet Council of the Academy of Sciences, the Scientific Council on the Philosophical Problems of the Natural Sciences, and the Party Committee of the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences met together in a joint conference on cybernetics. Over 1000 participants represented all the sciences connected with cybernetics. This all-union conference mapped out the implementation of the tasks set for cybernetics by the 22d World Communist Party Congress.

The general structure of the program has been analyzed and ably presented by Professor John J. Ford of American University. He believes that the 20-year plan approved by the 22d Party Congress is designed to test and implement the model. The model and its application to Russia is to be largely tested by 1981. Subsequent indications strongly support Ford’s analysis, e.g., a quote from the Technical Cybernetics All-Union Conference at Odessa in 1965: “Today, it is clear that the methods of technical cybernetics are finding growing applications in the control of the entire Soviet economy.”

Anyone with a deep interest in Soviet developments who wishes to understand Soviet activities through the next 10 to 20 years must take into consideration the Soviet cybernetics model. Scholars who continue to employ traditional concepts of Soviet behavior will surely be missing an important part of the picture.

The plan encompasses the development of a pattern for sociocultural, material-technical, and ideological subsystems. Each pattern must provide a “nervous structure” and “control center.” Similarly, each must be automatically operative but adapted to the goals of the “brain.” Harmonious transition of the parts toward a higher degree of centralized organization of social structure is thus insured. 6

This 20-year plan is based on the thesis that social (and biological) change is inevitable, but more important, the social change should be purposeful and progressive (i.e., toward Communism). To quote Professor Ford:

The strategy for social progress dictated by this general model calls for the establishment of a “nervous system” to tie together the system’s “sensors” of internal and external environments at all levels with the highest decision centers which can then determine optimal (in relation to system goals) courses of action and then transmit information to the effector organs of the social system (ministries, production complexes, schools, defense installations, people and so on). The cycle is then repeated. If the new behavior of the system brings it closer to the goals thereof as predicted, or moves away therefrom because the prediction was incorrect, the sensors once again detect the change and transmit the information upward in a continuous process analogous to that by which a helmsman steers a ship toward its destination.7

A model of world social structure seemingly visualized in this description is not attractive to most Americans, since it is deterministic and authoritarian. However, from a Communist viewpoint the whole process of “national liberation” and revolution involves the destruction of “capitalistic institutions” and the development and erection of Communist institutions in a purposeful mode.

transition of “capitalist societies”
to “socialist societies”

The transition of “capitalist societies” to “socialist societies” is the central aim of world Communism. It is the object, the content, and the substance of Communist activities across the world.

There are Communist parties in some 105 nations of the world. In certain countries there are more Communist parties than one, but for our purpose we will assume these parties are factions and that ultimately these factions either coordinate, cooperate, or are controlled by the dominant party in their struggle for take-over of the specific country.

Some 16 of these 105 nations are now controlled by the Communists. Each of the 16 is in fact ruled by the Communist Party therein. It is generally accepted that the world Communist movement is no longer monolithic but that polycentralism and a system of “World Commonwealth of Communist Nations” is evolving and expanding through subversive aggression.8 In spite of these and other doctrinal changes, a Marxist-Leninist model exists for the stages of Communist penetration and takeover in a target country. This doctrine elaborates five steps (called “stages” in Marxist-Leninist doctrine) in the “transition to a Marxist-Leninist Society”:

Step One is infiltration into the target country and the formation of a Communist Party.

Step Two is the infiltration of Communist Party members into the target country’s key institutions, parliament, political parties, unions, industry, communications services, police, military forces, and other important elements of the national life. The members who infiltrate the key institutions form units that are called fractions.9 When fractions are formed in most of the key institutions, a united national front is then organized to coordinate policy and action among all the fractions.

Step Three is the decision to seize power. According to the doctrine there exist both the objective and subjective situations in a target country. The objective situation is the current real-life situation in the target country. The subjective situation is the “power” of the Communist Party. Evaluation of this power involves assessment of the number of hard-core members and their deployment throughout the target country’s key institutions, together with the power that the members exert over the nation by virtue of the National Front. The doctrine states that when the subjective situation of the Communist Party is in favorable balance with the objective situation in the country as a whole, the decision is then made to seize power.10 This does not mean that an attempt to seize power is made at this time, but the decision is made. Then the action committees are organized and prepared for the eventual take-over. The process of determining the favorable revolutionary balance situation is obviously an extremely difficult and complex process. It is clear, for example, that the Communists misjudged the revolutionary balance in Indonesia at least twice in recent times.11

Step Four is to seize power. This step is initiated with the announcement of the time when power will be seized—and the timing is critical. The action committees are then armed, and direct operations are initiated against the anti-Communist, non-Communist, or national power in being. Insofar as possible, the Communist Party attempts to present this “seizure of power” in the light of a national revolution, a national uprising, or some similar camouflage for the Communist take-over. 12

Step Five is to consolidate the Communist control of the nation. This involves the progressive elimination of all anti-Communist, uncooperative control and influence in the nation and leads to the purges. This is the sort of operation we saw in China when Mao Tse-tung instituted his program to “let a hundred flowers of internal criticism grow,” and then when internal criticism appeared the critics were eliminated.13 It is the type of purge we have seen in Cuba since Castro seized power.

It may be claimed that our model for Communist subversive aggression against free nations is too simple. Communist manuals, doctrine, pamphlets, and publications have devoted hundreds of thousands of pages to the elaboration of the tactics and techniques of take-over, or the “transition of power from the capitalistic monopolies to the working class,” as they call it. The basic Communist bible, Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, devotes over 500 pages to the subject. There have been many variations in this model, and there will be many more. But how can cybernetics serve Communist subversion and take-over?

The key step in the process is the decision and timing of the take-over. Note the relationship that must be satisfied for the Communist take-over: One could write this very simply as

P= S/O

where P represents potential for take-over, S the subjective power of the Communist Party in the target country, and 0 the objective situation in the country itself. Now it can readily be seen that experience will be necessary to determine the proper values of P for evaluating take-over potential. It can also be seen that the quotient of S divided by O is essentially a summation of the Communist potential for takeover in each of the key institutional structures as related to the stabilizing anti-Communist elements in the country. It is the problem of measuring Communist potential for take-over in a national power structure sense that “scientific programs” using statistics, content analysis, sociological and anthropological social structure analysis, and experience factors, that we see as the task for cybernetics. The process can be shown as the objective situation deriving from real life in the target country feeding into the reference model (the Communist model) and with effectors and sensors from the Communist Party in its central role of subversion, take-over, command, and control, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Model for Communist take-over

The tremendous upheaval and social reorientation of Cuba which have been produced by the Castro regime may be seen as an example of Communist transition of society toward a “higher stage of social evolution” and as a transition toward the Soviet model.

Through a series of trade and finance agreements the Castro Regime has moved toward the adaptation of Cuba’s economy and industrial plan to that of the Sino-Soviet Bloc. . . . The degree to which Cuba has become economically dependent on the Bloc is evidenced by the fact that 80% of its trade is now tied up in arrangements with Iron Curtain countries. At the beginning of 1960 only 2% of Cuba’s total foreign trade was with the Bloc.

Cuba, under the Castro Regime, is rapidly becoming oriented toward the Sino-Soviet Bloc. This orientation is not taking the form of a merely cultural interchange with communist countries such as several Western countries are conducting. On the contrary, the emerging pattern is one of extensive cultural identification with the Bloc in which Cuban cultural patterns are being rapidly altered and the traditional cultural ties with countries of this hemisphere and Western Europe are deliberately severed. This is to be seen in the comprehensive cultural agreements, the exchange of students, performing artists, and exhibitions with the Soviet Union, Communist China and their satellites, the impediments placed before students wishing to study anywhere except in Iron Curtain countries, the virtual halting of the flow of movies, books and magazines from free countries with a commensurate rise in the influx of these materials from the Sino-Soviet Bloc, and the attacks on Western culture in general and that of the United States in particular.14

Thus one sees the total social, economic, and cultural restructuring of Cuba to fit the Communist model. Meanwhile, the Communist model appears to be moving toward a cybernetics model. This may lead to increased rationalization of Communist subversive aggression against free nations.

Under a cybernetic scheme the Communists need not export traditional ideology. Instead they need to export “scientific social changes” which fit the cybernetic model of the economy and sociological structure of scientific Marxism-Leninism now being built in Russia.

the drive for military superiority

The Soviets have consistently pushed for worldwide military superiority. Stalin supported this goal, and so did Khrushchev, on balance.

Some top American nuclear scientists believe that Soviet nuclear weapons technology is at least equivalent to if not ahead of U.S. in some areas. In the area of high-yield weapons it is conceded that they have the edge. They have demonstrated a device of 60 megatons which we believe could be weaponized or turned into a weapon at about a hundred megatons.

We were somewhat surprised in 1948 that the Soviets copied our B-29 (which they called TU-4). More surprising was that they built a significant number and built them at the expense of more rapidly rejuvenating the war-torn civilian economy.

Through the 1950’s the Soviets built modern fighters in large numbers, built bombers, and then moved into building and deploying ballistic missiles.

There is no question that the U.S. Minuteman and Polaris missiles remain superior to those of the Soviets, but the Russian weaponeers are not resting on their laurels. According to Hanson Baldwin, they are continuing to develop and deploy large numbers of new weapons of widely varying types.15

The Soviet development of new missiles appears to be most dramatic, and the evidence is that they are also developing new aircraft (e.g., the AN22, a huge transport) and modernizing their army and navy. The 1965 spring military parade in Moscow and again the 7 November 1965 parade showed new generations of ICBM’s, IRBM’s, “global rockets,” and anti-ICBM missiles, as well as many new army vehicles.

The Soviets apparently are building and deploying all these weapons. It is important that we recognize that they can, that they have the economic power to do so. In 1962 Secretary of Defense McNamara elaborated before Congress the new missiles, aircraft, antimissile missiles, agricultural improvements, and civilian consumer improvements that could be made by the Russians and then concluded that they could not do all these things—that they must make a choice. It would seem that they have made the choice at the expense of the civilian economy and that they have moved rapidly forward in strategic weapons.

One of the primary strengths of the Soviet R&D and production program is the use of scientific planning (cybernetics) throughout their weapons programs. Scientific planning, gaming theory, optimum solution of complex problems, development of block-aggregate computing systems, creation of the scientific basis for the synthesis of automatic control, and hundreds of similar subjects, all pertinent to the most modern techniques of scientific planning and development of aerospace weapon systems, appear in Soviet cybernetics literature.16 The hypothesis is suggested that analysis of overall Soviet power must now take into account the increased efficiency of the early applications of integrated cybernetic systems optimized for the creation of Soviet military and national security.

Similarly, cybernetics can be seen to impact on the Soviet space effort.

the thrust in space

Soviet work in space probably started in the early Forties with the work of Tsilkovskii, the Soviet Goddard. In the late Forties and early Fifties it appears that the basic technologies and vertical firings of components were accomplished. In the late Fifties we saw the first Sputnik and the beginning of the Soviet space spectaculars. Figure 2 shows the Soviet concentration on spectaculars—manned flight, near-earth orbital work, and some military and military support types of programs. There has been little direct evidence that any of these spectaculars will lead to direct Soviet military space capabilities, but there have been repeated Soviet references to the military uses of space. One of the first we saw was in Major General Pokrovsky’s book, Science and Technology in Contemporary War, published in 1956, in which he refers to the coming importance of the war in space. Since 1957 there have been innumerable Soviet references to orbital bombardment, orbital rockets, rockets from spaceships, attack or delivery of weapons from space, and the like.

Figure 2. Soviet space firsts

It would seem prudent to assume that the Soviets plan to use space for military purposes as rapidly as possible. The Soviet space effort is huge—surely as large as if not larger than that of the U.S. There is no record of the Soviets’ having made anything like this type of effort in aerospace research and development without a resultant direct enhancement of their military power.

In the U.S. we argue variously that space offensive nuclear-delivery forces are less efficient than ICBM’s, less accurate, and less credible. But when the Soviets are dedicated to offensive world objectives, the special effects of space military offensive forces may appear very useful—namely, prestige, terror, persuasion, coercion, pressure, psychological warfare, and demoralization. The sight and sound of Soviet military orbital forces in the free skies of the world day and night, plus Communist satellite television propaganda tuned into sets around the world, would not be attractive to contemplate in the service of Soviet goals of worldwide Communist domination.

Such major steps in space could not be taken except for the progress that the Soviets are seeking through cybernetics. This has been recognized by Soviet scientists and has been openly stated by several. A description of the impact of Soviet cybernetics on their space program is included in V. Denisov’s “Cybernetics and the Cosmos” (1962). Denisov describes the active flight of “The Cosmic Ship,” its automatic control features, and its manual control features. But, “No matter what the degree of automation of the engineering process of controlling the cosmic ship, the managing and organizing role always remains with man.  Hence, we must deal with complex cybernetic ‘man-machine’ systems in space ships. . . . Man is the controlling element or operator in the ‘man-machine’ system and the machine is the controlled object.” Denisov goes on to describe the working of the cosmic ship in detail and then projects developments into the future: “It can be that the foot of man will not take the first step on other planets, . . . but the foot of a cybernetic automaton may.” He then goes on to extend man’s influence into the cosmos through travel and communications, basing his predictions on progress in cybernetics as well as in astronautics and related sciences.

In cybernetics there is unquestionably a promise for improvement of the welfare of all humans. Robert Theobold, author and economist, proposes a minimum basic income for all adults in America based on the use of cybernetics by U.S. industry and economy, an income ensuring a standard of living by which one can live with dignity. He also makes the astounding point that a modern nation can produce anything it decides to produce.17 But Theobold decries the U.S. government’s inattention to these “facts,” stating that these facts demand new value systems in America.

There is not much question that cybernetics is seen by the Soviet elite not only as the path to Communist utopia but also as the road to development of a worldwide system of socialist states under Communist control. This view is reflected even by the American Communist Party.

Is there an inner compulsion in technological development which will transform the private appropriation of profit in America and the immense, unprecedented political power it brings, into an innocent surplus managed for the whole of society by the same small top group wearing different hats? . . . No . . . Once the profit motive is no longer a sacred absolute, the machines can be controlled, and, especially in the centralized society of today, cybernation can be developed and applied at a rate and in a manner that is in the interest of society as a whole. . . and this will come. . . only when the American people make a daily struggle in a progressive direction [toward Communism].18

If we wish to follow events in Soviet Russia and developments in worldwide Communism reasonably intelligently, we should begin to view them in terms of the changes wrought by the massive cybernetic program in Russia and in the worldwide Communist movement. Moreover, if cybernetics promises such a “paradise” for socialist countries and enables, in effect, a technological penetration of free nations, it behooves us to define the parameters of possible impact and the promise and direction of national and international automation in free societies as a counter. There is no doubt at all that American computer technology, program theory and application, and automation lead the world. But the proliferation of computers, computer languages, and computer centers has become truly an electronic Tower of Babel. In contrast, in Russia the computer centers, languages, and networks are planned and programmed to optimize control of the entire country. Does this lead to an efficiency of resource utilization that enables the Soviets, with a gross national product in 1965 of $303 billion—compared to $664 billion for the U.S.—to challenge the U.S. for world leadership and military superiority? Surely the American system with its redundancy, flexibility, and free choice is much more attractive to us, but is it too wasteful of resources? And is this American redundancy and flexibility optimized to meet aggressive, purposeful international competition? Will truly wide redundancy, flexibility, and choice invite penetration and restriction by a centrally controlled, integrated, and optimized system—a system optimized for the announced goal and program of world domination?

These are interesting questions that only time and intensive analysis will answer. Most Americans, if given the choice, would vote for the redundancy, individualism, flexibility, and optimization of private opportunity as opposed to the centralized authoritarian-imposed optimized control. However, the parameters of redundancy, individualism, flexibility, control, optimization, purposefulness, and private opportunity may have to be subjected to the burning crucible of public discussion and definition in the light of national interests before we have a national understanding of both the benefits and penalties of the promise of cybernetics to America and their portent in the world arena.19 We cannot begin to discuss and understand the national and international potential of cybernetics unless we devote adequate effort to the job. And this we are not doing—at least, not at a level of effort that is competitive with the Soviets.

The Soviet effort and progress are a definite technological threat to the U.S. because their multidiscipline attack on major problems has no counterpart in the U.S., and their broad intensive effort simply must produce, in due course, significant breakthroughs in sociological, economic, governmental, and military areas that we in the U.S. must be prepared to meet. This threat is, therefore, a challenge to military superiority, to social control, to economic/industrial advance, and to world power.

Unless we Americans as a people, and we in the Air Force in particular, understand these momentous trends, we may not have much choice. The system could be imposed upon us from an authoritarian, centralized, cybernated, world-powerful command and control center in Moscow.

Foreign Technology Division, AFSC


1. Roger Levien and M. E. Maron, “Cybernetics and Its Development in the Soviet Union,” RAND Memo 4156-PR, p.25.

2. C. Olgin, “Soviet Ideology and Cybernetics,” Bulletin of the Institute for the Study of the U.S.S.R., February 1962, from Kommunist, Vol. 37, No.9 (June 1960), p. 23.

3. Roshan Lal Sharma, “Information Theory in the Soviet Bloc,” June 1965, pp. 1-2, a study done for the Foreign Technology Division by McGraw-Hill, Inc.

4. Ibid.

5. A. I. Berg, “The Science of Optimum Control,” U.S. Department of Commerce. Translation JPRS-26, 581, 28 September 1964, p. 55.

6. John J. Ford, “Soviet Cybernetics,” a paper presented at Georgetown University Symposium on Cybernetics and Society, 19-20 November 1965.

7. Ibid.

8. Tan F. Triska, David O. Beim, and Noralou Roos, “The World Communist System,” Stanford Studies of the Communist System, Stanford University, 1964.

9. “Party Fractions in Non-party Organizations (Fronts),” International Press Correspondence (INPRELOR), 27 February 1924, and V, 25 (April 1925), 340-43.

10. Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, (second impression; Moscow: Foreign Language Publishing House, 1961); see parts four and five, especially pp. 609-20.

11. Ebed Van der Vlugt in Asia Aflame discusses earlier unsuccessful attempts of the Communists to seize power in Indonesia, pp. 160-202.

12. Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, pp. 585-620. Note that the manual describes many forms of the “transition to a socialist revolution.”

13. Roderick MacFarquhar, The Hundred Flowers Campaign and the Chinese Intellectuals (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1960). Some may criticize the author’s conclusion that this Chinese Communist criticism campaign became a general Communist purge technique. Of course, self-criticism has become an accepted feedback system of communication throughout the Communist countries and in certain instances clearly has led to severe purges for the fundamental purpose of optimizing Communist control.

14. “The Castro Regime in Cuba,” U.S. Department of State pamphlet, 1965.

15. Hanson W. Baldwin, “U.S. Lead in ICBM’s Is Said To Be Reduced by Buildup in Soviet Union,” New York Times, 14 July 1966.

16. Text of a Resolution Passed at the Third All-Union Conference on Automatic Control, Odessa, 1965, page 1, translated by L. A. Zadeh.

17. Robert Theobold, Free Men and Free Markets, Chapter 3.

18. Richard Loring, Communist Commentary on the Triple Revolution (Los Angeles. California: Progressive Book Shop, May 1964). (Italics are the author’s.)

19. Dr. Richard Bellman, “Russian Progressive Cybernetics and Its Relevance to Military Power,” a study done for the Air Force by McGraw-Hill, Inc.

Offline Satyagraha

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Red Prometheus

Engineering and Dictatorship in East Germany, 1945–1990

Dolores L.  Augustine

This is an excerpt of the most relevant part of the introduction

The MIT Press
Cambridge, Massachusetts
London, England


What is the relationship between dictatorship and science? How effectively can scientific and engineering communities resist the totalitarian impulse of a dictatorial ruling party? Was the Communist system able to produce good science and technology? What does this tell us about the degree to which an autonomous society continued to exist under Communist rule? These questions stand at the center of this study, which focuses on one of the most technically advanced East bloc countries, East Germany.  There, the German tradition of science-based technology was wedded to a socialist system that accorded technological progress a central place in modernization strategies.  German engineering and Communism held in common a profound belief in the transformative power of technology, but differed on how to unleash it.  Their alliance was complex and fraught with contradictions.

German engineering, which played a central role in the creation of the Nazi killing machine, enjoyed twin rebirths after the Second World War in East and West Germany.  Scientists and engineers tried to revive a culture of technological excellence and a tradition of science-based industry.  They brought with them attitudes and expectations that stemmed from the military-dominated Nazi research establishment and from patriarchal traditions of engineering going back to the nineteenth century and before.  German intellectual tradition viewed technology as a manifestation of culture.

The great men of science and technology—whether university-educated specialists or engineers trained on the job—were thought capable of forging unique cultural products that solved major technological puzzles.  Scientists and engineers in East Germany counted on the Communist state to give due recognition to their unique creative powers and mastery of complex technologies through experience and education.

Communism did not only accept technological modernity, but viewed technology as an essential part of socialist progress.  Radically rejecting the Nazi utopias of racial purity and absolute violence, after the war East German Communism embraced equality and technological modernity—the wonders of science harnessed to the needs of the people.  Marx believed technology to be essential to the triumph of socialism.1 Lenin made industrialization, rather than equality or the pursuit of world revolution, the centerpiece of efforts to win and keep the support of the masses, thus establishing priorities that would guide the Soviet bloc until the fall of Communism.2

Technology provided the basis of modern industrial production and became an important part of East German socialist identity.  This expressed itself in propaganda, high culture, and popular culture.  In East Germany, technology was central to the way Communists saw their system and citizens saw their state.  Technology was a crucial weapon in the Cold War struggle between East and West, and was seen as essential to the creation of a better socialist future.  To a much greater extent than any other Communist state, East Germany legitimized and under-girded its existence with technology.3

In the post-Stalin era, the universality of science, whether in East or West Germany, was affirmed, and the earlier doctrine of the superiority of “socialist science” was jettisoned.4 Technology was conceived as a derivation of science.  Unsullied by the system under which it was developed, technology could travel without difficulty from the capitalist world to the socialist world, believed supporters of the Communist system.  It was the use to which technology was put that differed drastically between capitalism and socialism.  While capitalists used technologies to promote exploitation and war, socialists deployed technology to the benefit of their people and all mankind.  According to this view, the work of engineers and scientists was not intrinsically good or bad. 

This “technical intelligentsia” could serve the bourgeoisie, and do its evil bidding, or it could become the partner of the working class, and help build a better, socialist society.  It was hoped that the “old intelligentsia,” educated and socialized in the pre-socialist era (i.e., the Imperial, Weimar, and Nazi eras), could be won over to the socialist project.  The trust-worthiness of these holdovers from the capitalist period was questioned by some, however.  Above question, at least in theory, were the loyalties of the “new technical intelligentsia”—engineers, scientists, and technicians recruited, educated, and socialized under socialism.  The creation and expansion of the ranks of “socialist engineers” became a major goal of the SED (the Socialist Unity Party, as the Communist Party of East Germany was known).

During the 1960s, socialist ideology came to be infused more and more with a belief in technology.  The GDR (German Democratic Republic) aspired to overtake the West through “technical-scientific revolution.” With this ambition came a profound shift in the relationship between technical professionals on the one hand and state and party bureaucrats on the other.  When the SED leadership started allowing itself to believe it could win the competitive race with the West, it came to believe it could become the central driving force behind technological innovation. 

A process of centralization, bureaucratization, and ideologization of decision-making took place.  The SED and the secret police also attempted to co-opt and penetrate the “technical intelligentsia,” replacing any alternate ideology or loyalty to professionalism with loyalty to the socialist system.  Now infused with a belief in technology, Communist ideology was seen as capable of becoming not only the guiding force behind “scientific-technological progress,” but the ultimate source of technical innovation.  This major shift in power relations and ideological claims made by the SED had a major impact on the innovative process.  In recent years, scholars have sought to overcome the “black-and-white picture...  [of] the oppressive state versus the victimized scientific community” under dictatorial rule.5

Research on the Nazi era has come to emphasize the complicity of engineers and scientists with the Nazi régime.6  In his work on Stalinist science, Nikolai Krementsov explores the maneuverings of scientists intent on promoting their own interests, careers, disciplines, and research institutes under Communism.  They worked within the context of a system in which the state not only held a monopoly over the funding of science, but also had at its disposal a considerable repertoire of methods of coercion.  Who won or lost in the competition for state sponsorship was not, however, determined by ideology, but rather by the resources and abilities of groups of scientists, organized in often competing networks.  To win out over its competitors, a discipline, subdiscipline, or institute needed spokesmen able to formulate a particular scientific approach in ideological terms, connections in the upper echelons of the party hierarchy, and the prospect of military applications of its scientific work.

According to Krementsov, the party pursued its own political and ideological aims, and “service to the party’s goals was the main criterion in defining the objects and subjects, and even the pace, of scientific studies .  .  .” Nonetheless, the outcomes were often unexpected, reflecting the needs and desires of segments of the scientific community as much as those of the party hierarchy, which itself was profoundly fragmented.7

Asif Siddiqi has shown that the Soviet space program was the brainchild of engineer Sergei Korolev and other missile experts, who induced the political leadership to embark on a project that they did not see as of central importance.8 The development of nuclear missiles was the main concern of political leaders, who were focused on the conflict with the United States.  Resources and personnel were shifted from the missile program into the space program on the initiative of missile scientists and engineers.  The Soviet leadership had extraordinary confidence in them because of their role in the build-up of Soviet defenses, and was therefore willing to accord them a good deal of autonomy.  The propaganda value of the space program was an unforeseen by-product.  Siddiqi sees this case as evidence of the dynamic quality of the relationship between scientists and political elite in the USSR.  Policy was not always dictated from above, he argues.

Slava Gerovitch has studied the way Soviet scientists used the ideas and language of cybernetics to reform society and to create a new sort of relationship between themselves and the rulers of the Soviet Union.  Under Stalin, “newspeak” dominated, a form of speech that placed ideology and philosophy above science.  Western ways of talking about the use of computers and cybernetics were thoroughly rejected as intrinsically capitalist. 

Based on ideas developed by American mathematician Norbert Wiener,
the central concept of cybernetics
was that much of reality could be reduced
to logical relationships within systems
that could be controlled with the help of computers.

With the Khrushchev-era liberalization and the acceptance of computers as essential to growth and progress, it became possible to completely overturn the ideologically motivated rejection of cybernetics, to make it into a kind of master science in the Soviet Union, and to replace “newspeak” with an entirely new form of speech, “cyberspeak.”

Scientists were now able to successfully impose their language and the supremacy of scientific rationality on philosophers.  Some even hoped that cybernetics would remake the power structures and economic system.

In the end, however,
cybernetics became a new orthodoxy,
a tool of the Communist elite.

Gerovitch shows that scientists in the Soviet Union had considerable resources at their disposal in their negotiations with the state, though he is more pessimistic than some historians about their ultimate ability to retain control over those resources.9

This emphasis on the agency of scientists in the Soviet Union has parallels in the broader literature on the nature of dictatorship.  Historians such as Robert Gellately have found much evidence of the complicity of the population in Nazi terror.10 Historian Sheila Fitzpatrick has argued that even in the darkest days of Stalinism, the masses played an active role in social and political life in the Soviet Union.  Social and cultural historians have made a similar argument with regard to East Germany.  They assert that although the East German leadership aspired to totalitarian rule, it did not fully achieve it, failing in important ways to control and direct society.  The resulting tensions within Communist societies often went right to the top, leading to competition between opposing factions within the elite.11

Others have sharply rejected such a view.  For them, the GDR was a totalitarian dictatorship terrorized to the end by the secret police.  An important group of historians who subscribe to this interpretation rely heavily on the files of the Ministry for State Security (or MfS), which ran the East German secret police, known as the Stasi.  They believe that these files reveal the true mechanisms at work in East German society.  A totalitarian state-within-a-state, the Stasi maintained labyrinthine networks of informers who not only kept the MfS informed of possible deviation from absolute loyalty to the Communist system, but also took action to root out the (supposedly) disloyal.  Security procedures increasingly took precedence over all other criteria (such as professional competence), with the result that only highly conformist individuals were given positions of responsibility and power.12

There are alternatives to the “totalitarianism” interpretation.  Sigrid Meuschel has given us a sociologist’s definition of the SED dictatorship, which she calls a “party state” (perhaps best rendered in English as a “one-party-state”).  According to her analysis, the SED effectively destroyed the autonomy of different sectors of society, insinuating the “logic” of Communism into all aspects of life.  This destroyed the functional differentiation of society, which Talcott Parsons and others have asserted is a central characteristic of modern societies.13 Alternate interpretations of the East German system include Jürgen Kocka’s concept of the “modern dictatorship” and Konrad Jarausch’s “welfare dictatorship,” which emphasize the linkage between coercion and consensus-building in Communist rule in the GDR.14

This study addresses this debate, making use of the kinds of sources used by the two major schools—secret police reports as well as all sorts of sources that provide the perspective of the common citizen.

This book explores the creation of technology in East German industry as a process of constantly renegotiated power relations.  But this is not the story of struggles between two homogeneous camps.  Both the bureaucracy of party and state and the technical professionals were torn by rivalry and competition.  The dynamics of their interactions were also profoundly influenced by two actors that cannot be left out of the equation.  The first is the Soviet Union.  Unfortunately, the thinking behind Soviet policymaking is often obscured by the lack of access to Soviet archives (though pioneering research has begun).

Nonetheless, a Soviet agenda can often be inferred from a multitude of decisions and interactions with East German industry.  The Soviet leadership was torn between two goals.  On the one hand, the Soviet leadership sought to gain whatever advantage it could from the advances of East German industrial research.  On the other hand, the Soviets viewed the East Germans as potential rivals whose advances, particularly in the atomic and high tech sectors, posed a potential threat to the Soviet Union.

The fourth actor in the process of creating technology is society.  To create an alternative to Western-style professionalism, society had to be mobilized.  The model of autonomous, self-regulating professions was to be replaced by a new loyalty to the SED.  Serious attempts were made to sever the historical links between the professions and the bourgeoisie, as well as to forge new ones between the professions and the proletariat—above all by recruiting university students from the working class.  Women were also to gain new professional opportunities.  It was thought that this “new intelligentsia” would promote “social progress.”15 The participation of society was not only essential to the creation of the “socialist engineer,” but also to the mobilization of the creative talents of the proletariat in the factory.  Art, literature, public representations, and educational efforts attempted to reach the masses with the message that they should help build socialism by promoting technological progress.

How successful was socialist science and technology? During the Cold War, it was often argued that in the Soviet Union, ideology had impeded the search for scientific truth.  The classic case of this is Trofim Lysenko, a poorly educated agronomist and a “clever and cruel political maneuverer” whose teachings began to supplant genetics in the 1930s and ruled supreme until 1965.16 The purges of the 1930s killed off or silenced the best scientists and engineers.  Initiative and critical thinking were suppressed. It has also been argued that theoretical work in the sciences suffered from an overemphasis of practical applications.  In numerous works, Loren Graham has argued that the oppressive role of the state slowly, over the decades, eroded the scientific and technical prowess of the Soviet Union. 

The central problem lay in the creation of a top-down, overly centralized system, particularly in its Stalinist incarnation.  As in the days of the tsars, engineers and scientists put pleasing the rulers first, and as a result oscillated between frenetic activity and passivity.  However, Graham has also argued that political interference was not great enough to prevent valuable scientific work from being done.  Soviet scientists often performed well because they were given tremendous social prestige and financial resources for research.  Marxist ideology not only did not stand in the way of scientific progress, but in some cases sparked new insights and profitable new paths.  Graham’s overall evaluation of Soviet science is nuanced: “The Russian experience points to a strong distinction between those conditions that are necessary for the survival, even prospering, of science, and those that are necessary for its most creative achievements.”17

Graham also points out the human costs, particularly of Soviet engineering.  Universities and engineering colleges churned out engineers with very narrow technical specializations and lacking a sense of the “broader social concerns” that earlier generations of Russian engineers had possessed.  Huge technical projects were carried out without giving thought to the human costs, environmental impact, or social utility, resulting in unnecessary human suffering and social problems, and thus contributing to the ultimate downfall of the Soviet Union.18

A younger generation of scholars has been more categorical than Graham in its rejection of the idea that democracy fosters better science.  In a book defiantly entitled Stalin’s Great Science, Alexei Kojevnikov argues that many of the factors that Western scholars have cited as causes of the failures of Soviet science and technology could just as easily be used to explain the triumphs of Soviet science.  Indeed, centralized control very much facilitated the emergence of Big Science, notably in the case of the Soviet atomic program.  Despite tremendous hardships and the political persecution around them, many scientists worked with great dedication, and were rewarded with great success.  They were motivated by careerism, but also by profound patriotism, fueled by their bitter experiences in the Second World War and fear of the United States.

Their attitudes toward socialism varied.  Many of the scientists educated in the early Soviet period were rebels whose socialist beliefs led them to embrace revolutionary scientific concepts and to reject the conservatism of the academic establishment.  The era of “High Stalinism,” which was also the era of the purges, brought sober careerists to the fore.  Although they publicly toed the party line, their primary concern was the preservation of the scientific community and its institutions, as well as the promotion of their own careers, institutes, schools, and disciplines.  Kojevnikov considers the triumph of Lysenkoism to be a very exceptional case.

He also argues that ideological opposition to quantum physics and Einstein’s theory of relativity hardly had a serious chance of success, due to nuclear physicists’ “skills—and some luck—in playing the rhetorical, ideological, and political games of that culture.” According to Kojevnikov, atomic scientists possessed enough freedom to pursue the ideas they found promising, and the state provided them with tremendous resources to do so.  Moreover, competition within the scientific community promoted scientific excellence.  Gradually abandoning attempts to develop a uniquely “socialist science,” the Soviet Union nonetheless developed its own brand of modern science.  Kojevnikov attributes what he sees as great successes to the “extraordinary cultural value and importance” accorded to science in the Soviet Union.19

Though the detonation of the first H-bomb in 1955 and the launching of Sputnik in 1957 unleashed a wave of intense anxiety about the technological and scientific capabilities of the Soviet Union, on the whole, the West underestimated the scientific capabilities and technological might of the Soviet Union.  In the West, it was argued that conformism and the inefficiencies of the planned economy stood in the way of good scientific and technical research.  With the end of the Cold War and the opening of Soviet archives, the debate over Soviet science and technology has become more complex and less colored by ideology.  The history of science and technology in Eastern Europe must be explored in a similar spirit.

East Germany makes for an interesting and unique case study on technology under Communism.  Unlike the Soviet Union, which was a relative backwater at the time of the Russian Revolution, Germany was one of the top scientific and technological powers in the world at the end of the war.  Its research and teaching infrastructure largely intact, East Germany inherited an academic tradition of excellence in science and a strong base for high-tech research in industry.  Along with this went certain cultural attitudes, notably a consensus that science and technology should be left to the experts.  Anxious to make use of German capabilities, the Soviet Union signaled a willingness to largely leave institutions and personnel alone after the war.

In time, de-Nazification, state control of industry, the introduction of the planned economy, and secret police surveillance had a considerable impact on the universities and industry.  Nonetheless, there were clear lines of continuity at the universities and in industry in the conception and organization of scientific and technical research and teaching.  A major reason for this is the deep respect the Communist leadership felt toward the German university tradition and German science.

German professionalism was also uninterrupted.  Although bureaucracy clearly triumphed over scientific and technical professionalism in the Soviet Union, this was much less the case in East Germany.  In part, this is due to the more pervasive impact of professionalization in German society.  In Germany, the professional ideal was intimately bound up with aspirations to join the bourgeoisie, as well as with the reconfiguration of masculine identity in the nineteenth century.  A period of de-professionalization in the Weimar Republic was followed by what was widely perceived as re-professionalization of engineering and industrial science in the Nazi era.  Professional autonomy in these fields was sharply curtailed during the Communist era. 

Nonetheless, a professional ethos persisted, thanks to traditions of university training, the persistence of the scientific ideal, the vitality of professional organizations, and continuities in research culture, particularly in large enterprises with a long history.
A third major difference between East Germany and the Soviet Union is the problematic transition from Nazism to Communism.  With some exceptions, one could say that the Germans chose National Socialism, whereas Communism was imposed on East Germany from the outside.

Some felt nostalgia for what they had perceived in the Nazi era as increased autonomy, greater opportunities for professional advancement, and the sheer joy of technical work, untroubled by political or ethical considerations (particularly in the militarized sector of the economy).  However, the Nazi era also set the stage for the Communist period.  Engineers and scientists working in the high-tech sector became accustomed to working in high-security facilities, cut off from society, unconcerned with consumers, enjoying job security and generous support for industrial research, responsible only to the state, but completely dependent upon that state. These were the conditions many encountered in East German industrial research after the war.  Ideologically, acceptance of the new political system was eased by a fourth German peculiarity, namely the cultural model of the apolitical scientist or engineer.

This ideology was based partly on the defense mechanisms developed by technical professionals working for the Nazis to justify themselves after the war.  It was, however, also rooted in professional ideology, as propagated by the Verein Deutscher Ingenieure (Association of German Engineers) since the nineteenth century.  This organization’s outlook combined a supposedly apolitical loyalty to Kaiser and nation with an ostensibly ideology-free dedication to technology.

Fifth, the existence of West Germany had a significant impact on the situation and mindset of the higher technical professions in East Germany.  Particularly in the era before the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961, West Germany provided a frame of reference that affected the way professionals saw their personal career trajectories, issues involving professional autonomy, and the economic and technical accomplishments of East German industry.  The greater earnings, status, and mobility of their Western counterparts, the public role played by West German engineering organization, and the successes of West German industry engendered discontent in the GDR.  Some of these disillusioned professionals fled across the border into West Germany.  The SED and secret police tried to combat this brain drain, as well as real or imagined acts of sabotage and espionage.

The identification of these five East German characteristics is useful in understanding the process of negotiation involved in the creation of new technologies and, in particular, why this process occurred so differently in the GDR than in the USSR.  Methods of analysis are drawn from disparate fields: social history, cultural history, the history of professions, the history of elites, the STS (“Science, Technology and Society”) school of the history of technology, analysis of the power structures of party and state (including the secret police), and biographical approaches.  I have chosen to focus on high-tech industry rather than consumption and production of consumer goods, although very important debates have developed concerning that sector.

The economic choices made in the GDR, choices that had a profound impact on the availability of consumer goods and that contributed to the downfall of the GDR, cannot be understood without a full appreciation of the cultural values that ascribed a central role in industrial development to high-tech industries.  I set out to study the East German obsession with high-tech industries as a cultural, political, social, ideological, and gendered phenomenon, a subject that, despite the extensive literature on these industries, has not really been explored in any great depth.  (This literature has concerned itself mainly with a chronicling of technological progress within the histories of individual enterprises.) In addition, high-tech industries lend themselves well to the science-under-dictatorship theme because science and industrial scientists play a prominent role in these industries, because they had leverage and influence as highly favored industries, and because they were swept up in power conflicts to a greater extent than other industries.

This book is not about the ways in which innovation was blocked by the economic inefficiencies of the planned economy or false incentives created by the socialist system—a fine literature already exists on this subject.20 Instead, I attempt here to look at the way engineers and industrial scientists—who were motivated by a complex mixture of professionalism, individualistic careerism, socialist ideology, a belief in science, company traditions, and personal goals and ties—interacted with the dictatorial system.  This will tell us something about the innovative process in the GDR, but also about many other things: the ways in which the SED mobilized society, the interaction of cultural forces coming from above but also from below, and the ways in which individuals conformed or did not conform to socialist norms in everyday situations.

My strategy is to delve deeply into individual examples, using biography as a vehicle.  This methodology has been tried too little in research on East German technology.  The analysis of biographies, autobiographies, and interviews illuminates vital aspects of the relationship between culture and technology, providing insights that institutional histories cannot.  They make it possible to examine motivations, ideology, and career strategies. 

A re-creation in detail of the interactions of individual and system in the factory, university, and research facility becomes possible.  What biographical and autobiographical approaches to these microcosms show is that the actors were seldom driven by simple opportunism or by blindly ideological thinking.  Rather, their lives were, like all lives, messy and driven by complex and contradictory forces.  To understand the nature of life under dictatorship and its impact on science and technology, we must understand these complexities.  This approach brings up problems with regard to sources, problems that are, however, surmountable.

Vast archives have opened up since the fall of Communism.  Official reports— the reports of party and government agencies, industrial reports, and other papers from enterprises, socialist “combines,” and other organizations—give a fairly good picture of the engineering profession and the development of technologies.  However, they do not make it possible to re-create in detail the process of negotiation among technical professionals, state, Soviet authorities, and society.  Almost entirely missing is the realm of public debate that existed in the West.  Biographical and autobiographical materials offer an alternative, yet they are extremely sparse for the GDR (unlike for the Soviet Union 21).

(Continued in source PDF: )

Extremely Important--Also see:  Global Warming/Climate Change Agenda Is Geo-Cybernetics In Disguise

"(1) In an industrial society the mode of production shifts from agriculture to industry, with the use of human and animal muscle supplanted by machine operation. In the technetronic society industrial employment yields to services, with automation and cybernetics replacing the operation of machines by individuals."
"The national community is the obvious one to turn to, and a definition of what a national community is may well become more restrictive as broader transnational cooperation develops. For many peoples the nationstate was a compromise dictated by economics, by security, and by other factors. An optimum balance was eventually struck, often after centuries of conflict. Today the balance is becoming unsettled, because newer and larger frameworks of cooperation are emerging, and the effective integration of much smaller, more cohesive units into much larger wholes is becoming increasingly possible because of computers, cybernetics, communications, and so on."
"Solid work has been done by Soviet scholars, primarily in the area of technologicaleconomic forecasting. For example, in 1964 the Soviet philosophical journal, Voprosy Filosofii, began publishing a series of articles on the theme of "The ScientificTechnical Revolution and Its Social Consequences." On the whole, these articles have been serious and frequently very informative treatments of such subjects as the methodology of forecasting, the organizational problems of science in the context of the scientific explosion, the role of cybernetics, comparative analyses of scientific development and projections for the United States and the Soviet Union, to say nothing of more specifically Sovietoriented economic and technological prognoses." 23
"Technological adaptation would involve the transformation of the bureaucraticdogmatic party into a party of technocrats. Primary emphasis would be on scientific expertise, efficiency, and discipline. As has already happened in Ulbricht's East Germany, the party would be composed of scientific experts, trained in the latest techniques, capable of relying on cybernetics and computers for social control, and looking to scientific innovation for the preservation of Soviet security and industrial growth.  Nationalism would replace ideological dogmas as the basic integrative principle linking society and the state. The younger, more technologically oriented leaders of the military establishment would, in all probability, favour this pattern. Political leadership, as in the first variant, could remain collective, though it would probably involve a wider coalition of partystate militaryeconomic leaders."
"The example of Ulbricht's East Germany may become particularly relevant. Though in Rumania explorations of the scientific revolution's significance have led some communists to suggest that this revolution requires a new theoretical framework based on the principle of universality, 34 Ulbricht has attempted to combine scientific innovation with strict adherence to the LeninistStalinist ideological tradition. Political leadership has remained highly centralized, and ideological dissent has been firmly suppressed. At the same time, Ulbricht, perhaps more than any other communist leader, has emphasized that "the development of the socialist system, above all the implementation of the economic system as a whole, is to a growing extent a matter of scientific leadership. . . . We orient ourselves on the conscious scientific control of complex processes and systems by the people and for the people. We make use of cybernetics in this sense." 35

During the second half of the 1960s, East German leadership made an intense effort to rationalize economic management in order to combine lowerlevel initiative with an effective system of controls and coordination. The Seventh Party Congress (April 1967) set itself the task of developing a general conception of the relations between the various partsystems with the economic system as a whole;more than any other communist country, East Germany utilized cybernetics, operational research, and electronic data processing.  Two years later, at the April 1969 Central Committee Plenum, Politburo member Kurt Hager proudly reported—and he repeatedly used this formula—that East Germany was not only ideologically sound but "correctly programmed."

In line with this "correct programming," the party has emphasized the importance of expertise among its members, 36 and the educational system has been reformed in order to link science closely with industry. † By the late 1960s, East Germany had transformed itself from one of the most warravaged societies into the most economically and ideologically advanced scienceoriented communist state. After a fiftyyear lapse, the combination of Prussian discipline, German scientific efficiency, and LeninistStalinist ideology has thus again made German communism a model for its eastern neighbors.

In the Soviet Union, however, other considerations will in all likelihood impede the pace of a similar "technologization" of the Soviet political system. For one thing, the Soviet Union is a much bigger country, is more difficult to integrate, and has many more areas of socioeconomic backwardness to overcome. In addition, over the last fifty years the ruling party has developed its own traditions and ideological style, and though it favors the acquisition of technical skills by its officials, it is likely to continue to resist the development of an essentially technical orientation among its members, since that would dilute the importance attached to ideology. 37 Moreover, perhaps intensified in the years to come by the SinoSoviet dispute, the role of the security factor in policymaking and of the military in the political process might tend to increase."

Monday, Oct. 12, 1970

"Contemporary America is often described—especially by the young—as a reactionary country. But in the opinion of Zbigniew Brzezinski, professor of government at Columbia University, the only revolution worth talking about these days is an American one—and it has not been run by the New Left. Brzezinski calls it the technetronic revolution. In Between Two Ages he discusses the repercussions of rapid change from an industrial era—with its emphasis on sheer productivity—to a period that stresses services, automation and cybernetics. Being that rarity among futurists, a cautious man, Brzezinski is not sure if utopia or bedlam will result. Meanwhile, between two ages is a time of uncertainty and some guarded hope.

Whatever military and political reverses it may have suffered, the U.S. is plunging ahead in the realm of technology and dragging the rest of the world with it. Such progress—if that is what it is—largely results from the fact that the U.S. spends more on scientific education and research than any other nation; it has indeed drained the world of the brains needed for its technical endeavors. "What makes America unique in our time," Brzezinski writes, "is that confrontation with the new is part of the daily American experience. For better or for worse, the rest of the world learns what is in store for it by observing what happens in the United States: whether it be the latest scientific discoveries in space and medicine or the electric toothbrush in the bathroom; pop art or LSD; air conditioning or air pollution; old-age problems or juvenile delinquency."

Polish-born Brzezinski has something of the pride of an adopted son in such achievements, though he recognizes that in some ways the U.S. is its own worst enemy. For the technetronic revolution it exports causes profound disturbances in the less developed nations. Suddenly aware of material progress, they conspicuously and maddeningly lack the means to achieve it. Their acute frustration causes not a revolution in rising expectations, says Brzezinski, but a "specter of insatiable aspirations."

Just as the technetronic revolution has further divided rich from poor nations, so is it beginning to fracture the nation-state. But the result of the breakup is not likely to lead to One World. Brzezinski amends Marshall Mc-Luhan's thesis that the world is shrinking into a "global village." A village implies shared tradition and intimacy. Today's technetronic world resembles rather a "global city—a nervous, agitated, tense, and fragmented web of interdependent relations." To recover some sense of identity, people are desperately turning back to their origins in race or region.

Flood of Technocrats. The New American Revolution, according to Brzezinski, is also fragmenting the mind of man. More than ever before, society is rigidly divided between those who think and those who feel. On the one side are the quiet, methodical technocrats who run the new machines pretty much without questioning their aims.On the other are the emotionalists, who have rebelled against the dehumanization of computer society.

Brzezinski harbors a good deal of contempt for what he calls the "new class" of alienated students and those intellectuals of the "Violent Left" who feel superfluous to society and for that reason want to bring the whole thing down. Paradoxically, he fears fellow technocrats even more than the New Left. Goaded mercilessly from the left, often deficient in traditional humanitarian values, a New Right of technocrats might eventually seize power. Unlike the left, they would know how to use it. To forestall such a disaster, Brzezinski strives for a formula that will fuse together the divided halves of the American soul. Lacking confidence in liberalism—partly because it lacks confidence in itself—Brzezinski proposes a kind of participatory democracy in which government, private business and the academic world join hands to solve the nation's social problems.

This limited solution, not so very different from a number of New Left panaceas, scarcely bears the weight of Brzezinski's earlier complaint. Like so many analysts, he is better at stating the problem thin supplying an answer. But, as he sees it, the problem may just turn out to be the answer. For if the miracles of technology have fragmented the world, they have made man more humble in the face of his own awesome creations. As Brzezinski suggests, man can no longer subscribe to one all-encompassing ideology; he must tolerate the existence of several world views. Between Two Ages is rich in respect for variety. Proposing neither to predict nor control the future, Brzezinski brilliantly explores some of its options and suggests that they can perhaps be lived with. These days that is a comforting view.

Edwin Warner

And  the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, 
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,  ye have done it unto me.

Matthew 25:40

Offline lordssyndicate

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Indeed. Excellent correlations.

As we all should realize, the cybernetic / technocratic regime has been at it for close to 100 years now. We are now coming to the fruition of  many of it's early pioneers goals and dreams.. :-/

"Biotechnology it's not so bad. It's just like all technologies it's in the wrong HANDS!"- Sepultura