In 1968, while responding to a journalist's question about his activities, Herman Kahn mentioned his involvement with the Hudson Institute, an organization he founded for future forecasting. Initially, Kahn worked at the RAND Corporation, but due to his contentious nature, which led to conflicts and departures from various institutions, he decided to establish his own entity focused on predicting the future. With his strong reputation as a nuclear war expert, Kahn received support to create the Hudson Institute of Future Prediction. When asked about the institute's work, he explained that they were preparing reports.
In 1976, Kahn published a report titled "The Next 200 Years," offering an alternative view to the Club of Rome's perspective. This report asserted the limitless potential of capitalism, technology, and industry. By the mid-1970s, the Club of Rome faced criticism from various quarters, including the Trilateral Commission with their "Crisis of Democracy" report, the Interfuturos project, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Kahn himself. This critique highlighted that the Club of Rome's perception as a leader in global future projects was a misconception. This misunderstanding stemmed from several reasons: the obscurity of projects like Interfuturos, lack of attention to certain works, and the fact that many ideas from the Club of Rome were eventually utilized, but only after the club itself had been sidelined as a significant think tank. Notably, the Trilateral Commission commissioned the "Crisis of Democracy" report, and Interfuturos focused on the West's governance challenges.
The essence of the matter is that, according to these individuals, the emergence of the Club of Rome and its aspiration to work in a tactical alliance with the Soviet Union reflected the problems of the "weakness of the West," which they attributed to poor governance. Consequently, the notion was that the West needed to improve its governance. One of the factors seen as hindering effective governance in Western societies, according to these individuals, was the welfare state or the social welfare state. While the term "welfare state" has a more precise meaning, "state of social security,"
By the early 1980s, figures such as Lesur and those who collaborated with Interfuturos, along with members of the Trilateral Commission, began actively criticizing the welfare state or the state of social security. Subsequently, within the frameworks of Thatcherism and Reaganomics, it was essentially dismantled. A group that significantly influenced Interfuturos was not only the Trilateral Commission but also the concurrent formation of the McCracken Group. Remarkably, little has been written about the McCracken Group. This group directed its criticism towards Keynesianism and Keynesian models.
Both the Interfuturos and McCracken Group connected internal structural problems in the West directly to changes in the global situation that generated inflation. Both groups operated on the premise that the primary drivers of rising prices were price revolutions and unmet aspirations in both the developing countries of the Third World and in the West. These rising prices were interpreted by these individuals as a psychological issue. Interfuturos' stance was straightforward: if developed countries wanted to successfully reject the ever-increasing demands of freeloaders from the Third World in the long term, they stated unequivocally that the Third World was freeloaders that we should not be feeding. To quote directly:
"It should be emphasized that merely stating the advantages of a free-market system is insufficient as long as the OECD countries themselves do not abandon the depreciation of the role of the market economy."
However, naturally, as long as the Soviet Union (USSR) existed, these problems could not be adequately addressed. Therefore, Interfuturos criticized the USSR and, by extension, its tactical allies within the Club of Rome, who were proponents of global bureaucratic planning, arguing that it was entirely unnecessary. In 1978, Interfuturos proposed three scenarios for future development.
The first scenario involved high growth rates that would restore social harmony in the West and provide new export markets for Third World countries. The second scenario centered on the oligopolization of social life by the state. The third scenario predicted low growth rates, increasing social unrest in the West, and further radical dissatisfaction in the Third World due to Western protectionism.
In 1978, a meeting of high-ranking government officials and corporations was planned at the Chateau de la Muette in Paris. Interfuturos prepared two additional scenarios for this meeting.
The first scenario envisioned a new era of growth in which the problem of Western states' rigidity would be addressed through the rapid adaptation of values to new forms of production and consumption. The second scenario described prolonged stagflation in which the West would be unable to resist the Third World. The primary objective was to transition from the second scenario to the first.
All of this did not imply an immediate shift from Keynesianism to monetarism and neoliberalism. Such a transition could not be immediate for economic and political reasons. However, after the 1978 meeting in Paris, the perception of the 1978 report itself changed. It began to be seen as a significant milestone in the development of a new Western strategy, both globally and in relation to the Global South. The report was viewed as a rejection of the New International Economic Order (NIEO) project, which had been proposed by 77 countries from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. To definitively bring the Third World to its knees, two tasks needed to be addressed.
Firstly, it was necessary to detach China from the Third World, as China had positioned itself as a leader of the Third World and had competed with the Soviet Union, Asian, African, and Latin American countries as a competitor.
The strategy, devised by Interfuturos, aimed to bend the Third World or the Global South to the will of the West. This required a significant weakening of the Soviet Union and establishing relations between the West and China, prompting China to initiate economic reforms. This move was also beneficial in positioning China against the Soviet Union.
The strategy, as mentioned, was not neoliberal in the form later realized by Thatcher and Reagan. Instead, it was proto-neoliberal, setting the stage for the market-centric futures realized under Thatcherism and Reaganomics. Interfuturos' strategy was a response to the Club of Rome, representing a different ideological path in the ideational battles of the 1970s and 1980s.
The passage also criticizes the Soviet leadership for missing out on these ideational battles, focusing too narrowly on the Club of Rome, and failing to respond adequately to the shifting geopolitical landscape. Despite their Marxist leanings, the Soviet nomenclature surprisingly endorsed the projects of the Club of Rome, which represented a cognitive dissonance given their commitment to fighting bourgeois ideology and their historical optimism, which was at odds with the Club of Rome's perspective.
It acknowledges that while a segment of the Soviet intellectual service was influenced by Western agents, the majority were simply out of touch with their times, belonging to an earlier era and failing to grasp the changes around them. There was a strong desire among many to integrate with the West and adopt its lifestyle.
The notable incident from 1974 involved Evgeny Primakov, a correspondent for "Pravda," during a conversation with Vyacheslav Matuzov, a member of the International Department of the CPSU Central Committee, and Rumyantsev, the Deputy Head of the same department. Primakov expressed the view that socialism had outlived its usefulness and that it was time to live like the West. Matuzov disagreed, but Rumyantsev intervened, indicating the sensitivity of debating such views.
The narrative suggests that figures like Primakov, while disillusioned with socialism and advocating for integration into the Western world, did not intend to surrender their country to the West. Instead, they naively believed that the West would accept them as equals. The Soviet elite, driven by a combination of overvaluing the West and an inferiority complex due to the West's higher living standards and their own significant accomplishments (such as defeating Hitler and being a nuclear power), failed to see the West's reluctance to accept them on equal terms. This complex interplay of attitudes and beliefs among the Soviet elite during this period highlights the psychological and ideological nuances of the era.
Many people, even among the Soviet nomenclature, based their perceptions of the West on Western cinema. This cinema predominantly showcased the luxurious lives of the middle and upper classes, leading to the belief that life in the West was universally splendid and desirable. This perception fueled a desire to integrate into the Western world, perceived as clean and bright.
The absence in the USSR of the materially affluent lifestyle abundantly present in the increasingly decadent West concerned not so much the common people but primarily the elite. They were keen on sending their children abroad. While the first generation of high-ranking nomenclature sent their sons into the military, the second and third generations gravitated towards foreign trade, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the international structures of the Central Committee, KGB, and GRU, ensuring a life in the West. This shift represented a psychological capitulation to the West.
This admiration for the Western way of life is evident in the memoirs of Germain Gvishiani, for instance. At times, it's almost embarrassing to read how this high-ranking Soviet official gushes over being hosted by the head of a multinational corporation, resembling a servant ecstatic about being admitted to the presence of his masters. This subservience was not lost on Western observers, who skillfully exploited it to build bridges to the future, as aptly stated in Gvishiani’s memoirs.
The passage discusses how the Soviet elite's fascination with the West, which began in the 1970s, became especially pronounced during the late 1980s and the period of Perestroika. This is exemplified by an incident during Zbigniew Brzezinski's visit to Moscow at the end of the 1980s. During his meeting with the Soviet academic community, including scholars and social scientists, the author of the memoirs, who accompanied Brzezinski, was unpleasantly surprised to see Soviet academics eagerly sharing anti-Soviet jokes with Brzezinski, keen to see his reaction. This behavior was a consequence of the processes that started in the 1970s and 1980s.
Furthermore, the passage highlights the irony in the Soviet leadership's attitudes. Despite having more advanced and moderately optimistic forecasting models, which suggested that the planet could sustain and resource far more people than currently inhabited, the higher-party nomenclature not only ignored these models but also actively dismantled the group that developed them. This was ostensibly to clear the way for the Club of Rome, which was still preparing its report.
The history of forecasting in the Soviet Union started in 1965 with the establishment of a forecasting sector at the Moscow State Pedagogical Institute. This initiative, ordered by Alexander Shelepin, the Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee for Defense and State Security, and approved by the President of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Keldysh, evolved into the Laboratory for Control Systems Development (LСSD) by 1967–1968. LСSD's objective was to forecast the medium- and long-term development of the USSR and the world. By mid-1969, using the methodologies of Glushkov (OGAS), Nikonos-Partak Nikonorov (soft semantic programming), Robert Bartini (mathematical algorithms), and Pobisko-Kuznetsov, the laboratory had completed its methodological and programmatic work, coinciding with the period when the Club of Rome was developing its report.
In 1970, the world was set to witness the first variant forecasts of global dynamics. It's important to note that "The Limits to Growth" was a simulation model, not a scenario-variant one. The model by Forrester, "Meadows of the Pistol," which formed the basis for the initial reports to the Club of Rome, was a simulation model using only five variables. In contrast, the forecasting model developed by the Pobisko-Kuznetsov group from LСSD, based on self-learning deep neural networks (now foundational to artificial intelligence) and soft semantic programming, was far more advanced.
The Kuznetsov group's model was less pessimistic for humanity as a whole than the Roman Club model and much more pessimistic for capitalism than the Club of Rome and its affiliates could have imagined. In essence, the Kuznetsov forecast distinguished the fates of humanity and socialism on the one hand and capitalism on the other.
The Roman Club predictions lumped the socialist system into the capitalist system, forecasting a catastrophe for both. However, American forecasts made in 1982 on Reagan's order by the Hellman, Collins, and Bonner groups contradicted the Roman Club scheme and essentially confirmed the Kuznetsov group's predictions.
By the second half of 1969, LСSD was ready to release a forecast that would significantly alter perceptions of global development dynamics, leaving the Club of Rome and its findings on a complete scientific and intellectual offside. However, the Soviet forecast was not published. Moreover, at the end of 1969, LСSD was shut down and dismantled.
Kuznetsov pursued postgraduate studies in general chemistry, becoming a colleague of Alexander King. In 1965, a financially self-sustaining sector was established at the Moscow State Pedagogical Institute (MGPI), which later transformed into LСSD (Laboratory for Control Systems Development). Kuznetsov's circle included philosophers like Evald Ilyenkov and scientists like Robert Bartini, a figure akin to Tesla and one of the most enigmatic characters of the 20th century.
In 1963, Kuznetsov applied for a patent for a system-specific globe at the State Committee for Inventions, which was denied. He was actively involved in the cybernetics council organization section and his group developed a concept called "Critical Path," defining the longest sequence of work determining the minimum time to achieve any scientific program's goal. This was a methodology of scientific search not seen in the West, leading to his role as head of the Laboratory for Control Systems Development.
Despite working in a financially self-sustaining structure, Kuznetsov was a strong opponent of the self-sufficiency approach. He believed that if the results justified the expenses incurred, that should be enough to validate any problem setting and account for it. However, he argued that major issues would remain sidelined under this approach. Utilizing new opportunities, which might not always be financially rewarding, was essential. Kuznetsov adhered to this principle even while working within a self-sustaining structure.
Under the leadership of Georgy Kuznetsov, LСSD achieved remarkable results in a very short time and developed its program in 1969, which they were prepared to publish in 1970. However, an unexpected event occurred at that time, which in retrospect seems not so surprising but rather a logical outcome, considering the Soviet nomenclature's eagerness to align with the West along the lines of the Club of Rome. In 1969, LСSD was dismantled.
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