Carrol Cox cbcox at SPAMilstu.edu
Fri Nov 17 16:01:41 MST 2000

Les Schaffer wrote:

> I'd be interested in advancing this discussion technically beyond
> where its already been, if i could tell what the parties in the debate
> think are relevant from the perspective of: if i don't model climates,
> how can i understand the work thats been done on this problem.

I think Les & Lou have raise a much broader issue which will be
crucial in the development of any large communist movement.
There was a movement in the 1930s (among a scattering of experts
in various fields) which advocated a technocracy. The assumption
was that expert knowledge and *only* expert knowledge was the basis
for making the major decisions in a social order in which technology
and science were so fundamental. The question is not limited to
technological issues, however. If we have to wait to make a revolution
until several 10s of millions of men and women have mastered
*Capital*, *Theories of Surplus Value*, *Grundrisse* and *Poverty
of Philosophy* the revolution will be a long time in coming.

To put it bluntly, any kind of democratic movement (or democratic
society) depends on working out ways in which masses of people can
make correct judgments in areas (physics, climatology, history,
linguistics, foreign cultures, manufacturing and transportation
technology, etc. etc. etc.) in which they are completely ignorant.
Even leaders and theorists of a movement are going to be seriously
lacking in direct knowledge of many of the fields in which they
must make judgments. Over a century ago Engels could (while heavily
engaged in revolutionary work) make himself knowledgeable in the
fields of physics, chemistry, biology, ancient civilizations,
industrial technology, but whether it would be possible for any
one person to achieve such breadth and depth of knowledge today is
doubtful. "The Information Revolution" and "Information Overload"
are cliches of current pop sociology and punditry, but they do point
to very real issues.

We have had extensive debates recently on this list which, were we
to demand they be solved by experts, would require recourse to persons
who had mastered (by my count) at least 14 languages:Chinese,
English, German, Japanese, Czech, Russian, French, Spanish, Arabic,
Portuguese, and three or four which I don't even know the names or
geographical location of. In practice, most experts in fields requiring
such extensive command of languages learn at most four or five and
then have to judge which of a limited number of specialists knowing
other languages is to be trusted. And when one reads specialized
knowledge in another language, one is at the mercy of those who
decide *which* writers in that language they will translate. That
is, the problem I speak of exists even among the experts themselves
in adjacent fields. A chemist has to know some physics. How does she
decide *how much*?

Very few of us are *ever* going to have the knowldege ourselves to
make valid judgments in the field of climatology. All of us must be
content with selecting which experts to trust -- or rather, which
semi-experts to trust to tell us which experts to trust. Or, rather,
to determine which semi-semi-experts to trust to select for us
which semi-experts to trust to evaluate which experts to trust.

For various reasons, and for the present, I personally put my trust in
Les as to his evaluation of the "experts" on climatology. And he more
or less confirms the general thrust of the arguments Lou Proyect and
Mark Jones have been making on global warming. But that does not at all
resolve the more fundamental questions I am raising here. Questions
which reverberate very much in any attempt to formulate the principles
and internal organization of a workers' party as well as the
of that party to the class as a whole.


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