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CHAPTER 3 INTRODUCTION: ORBITING WIENER WORLD

< CHAPTER 2 From Brahmins to Trotskyists | SMILING MAN FROM A DEAD PLANET: THE MYSTERY OF LYNDON LAROUCHE | CHAPTER 4 Lyndon in Wiener World: Cybernetics, MIT, CIA, and the Macy Foundation >

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The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. . . . Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbances of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations . . . are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify.

The Communist Manifesto


My own studies of the activities of the Cybernetics project of the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, dates from the very early 1950s, a study based, to a significant degree, on backtracking primary sources of the material reflected in the publications of that Foundation.

Lyndon LaRouche.1


In early July 1966 Lyndon LaRouche ("Lyn Marcus") began teaching his first class on "Elementary Marxist Economics" at the Free University of New York (FUNY) on 20 East 14th Street, just off Union Square.2 If you had met LaRouche at FUNY, you would have encountered a tall thin man with a thick Karl Marx beard and an upper-class New England accent. You would soon realize that his class on Marx was like nothing traditionally offered before. Along with discussion of Capital, LaRouche explored the ideas of the "young Marx" in The German Ideology as well as Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity and Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Yet LaRouche didn't stop there. He incorporated Emile Durkheim's Elementary Forms of the Religious Life and Suicide: A Study in Sociology into an examination of the social roots of alienation and personal identity; explored concepts like "negative entropy" and the mathematical ideas of Kurt Godel; and discussed the politics of creativity drawing from the writings of Erich Fromm as well as Lawrence Kubie's book Neurotic Distortions of the Creative Process all as part of a course on Marxism. His intellectual eclecticism, however, seemed very much in the spirit of the time.

LaRouche's classes gradually attracted student radicals from Columbia and CCNY. As the "SDS Labor Committees" branched out to Philadelphia, LaRouche found new followers at Swarthmore and the University of Pennsylvania. This core group instinctively felt that LaRouche's new conceptualization of Marxism was superior to both the antiquated "dialectical materialism" ("diamat") version of Marx promoted by the old leftist sects and the forever-alienated "young Marx" heralded by the early New Left. Beyond all his specific arguments, however, there was also the core belief both that the LaRouche took ideas "seriously" and that ideas "really mattered."

What made LaRouche's brand of Marxism so different from the very beginning was his refusal to view the working class from the cultural and ideological prism of the 1930s. LaRouche saw the working class as important strictly in terms of social reproduction of society as a whole. He did not deify workers per se as if they possessed some organic unique quality or were made noble victims by suffering. It was just this approach that alienated many on the Left who viewed him as an insufferable intellectual elitist who shamelessly "talked down to the masses."

LaRouche tried to reinterpret Marxism from the prism created by Norbert Wiener's vision of cybernetics. LaRouche "read Marx" not from the standpoint of the first industrial revolution but from the second one promised by cybernetics.3 In so doing, LaRouche developed arguments remarkably similar to ones then being articulated in the post-Stalinist Soviet Union even as the CPUSA and SWP still remained steeped in the "class struggle" paradigms and iconography of the 1930s. LaRouche's idiosyncratic interpretation of Marxism had been shaped by the intellectual world of Boston (and MIT in particular) of the late 1940s that was then dominated by mathematician Norbert Wiener's famous 1948 book Cybernetics. Inspired by Wiener's idea, a series of remarkable intellectual debates took place in the late 1940s and early 1950s that were sponsored by the Josiah Macy Foundation which, in turn, was intimately tied into the American military-industrial complex generally and the CIA in particular.

Now three basic points:

  • I am not a mathematician, physicist, or expert on cybernetics or information theory and (unlike LaRouche) I don't pretend to be. Fortunately, I don't have to. In the last two decades starting with Steve Heims' book The Cybernetics Group (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991) the early history of cybernetics and information theory is finally becoming clear. With the publication of Slava Gerovitch's book From Newspeak to Cyberspeak (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), we are now beginning to understand the role cybernetics played inside the USSR.
  • Writing about LaRouche in the context of the cybernetics revolution is a bit like trying to discuss Hamlet by focusing on the role of one of the guards in the opening scene. I hope the reader will understand why I feel the need to paint a broader picture of "Wiener World" both in America and the Soviet Union in order to place LaRouche in a larger historical context.
  • Another complicating factor is LaRouche himself. After the NCLC descended into a cult, LaRouche adopted an analysis of historical events that was both paranoid and clownish. His numerous attacks on Norbert Wiener in his writings obscure the obvious fact that LaRouche had been tremendously influenced by Wiener. What made LaRouche's ideas so original and appealing to the New Left student intellectuals at FUNY was precisely his attempt to view Marxist theory in the wake of the thought revolution provoked by Wiener.

In the 1988 version of The Power of Reason, LaRouche remarks on page 49 that "My understanding of this error of Wiener's [namely, Wiener's acceptance of the classic Boltzmann definition of statistical entropy -- HH] is the key to my discoveries in economic science . . . ." Yet fully understanding LaRouche's relationship to "Wiener World" raises complicated questions of LaRouche's personal biography and here he has frequently proved highly evasive. Norbert Wiener's name, for example, never even appears in the text of LaRouche's major Marxist opus Dialectical Economics.

LaRouche's distortion and concealment of much of his past raises yet another flag. Given the massive role that U.S. intelligence played in the field of cybernetics and with the Macy Foundation specifically, it is legitimate to wonder if somehow Lyndon LaRouche may have been "recruited" as some kind of intelligence agent. As far as I can tell, LaRouche's involvement in the heady world of the Macy Foundation strictly was limited to his careful reading into topics raised at Cybernetics Group conferences. Even his awareness of the world of cybernetics seems the result of quirks in his personal biography. LaRouche says he received an early Paris Hermann et Cie edition of Cybernetics shipped from Paris courtesy of this father who was in France at the time. In his 1988 version of The Power of Reason, LaRouche tells who he first became aware of the work:

I had struck up an acquaintance with Louis B. Muley at Northeastern shortly before leaving the place in 1947. By early 1948, Lou had moved on, too. Boston University had established what it called a communications curriculum, and Lou had joined that. The significance of these facts is that at Boston U., Lou had struck up an acquaintance with the daughter of MIT Professor Norbert Wiener. For that reason, one particular meeting with Lou had enormous significance for my life thereafter.
Lou had been a specialist in radar in his wartime military service, a profession to which he had returned at the time. Years later, I lost track of him. Professor Wiener's daughter had become aware of this aspect of Lou's background, and had loaned Lou a copy of the paper-bound Paris edition of her father's Cybernetics. Lou was absorbed by the book. He reported this development to me, and suggested that I skim through the book then and there. To a large degree, I shared Lou's fascination with the book except for one feature which infuriated me, Wiener's evil "information theory" dogma.(46)

LaRouche then asked his father to purchase a copy for him from France.4

It's almost impossible today to understand the enormous impact Cybernetics had when it was first published in 1948 and almost immediately became a surprise best seller. For LaRouche to first learn about the book in draft form from a friend of Wiener's daughter Barbara could only have heightened its impact on him.

FROM LECOMTE DU NOUY TO WIENER

LaRouche explains his fascination with Wiener and his 1948 book Cybernetics this way. In the 1988 edition of The Power of Reason, LaRouche writes how his initial critique of Cybernetics first emerged:

My plan of attack was influenced strongly by an issue which had absorbed my attention during late 1946 and early 1947, the doctrine of biological negentropy of Lecomte du Nouy. It had been a leading topic in an Anglican-sponsored discussion group in which I had participated during that period. The book of du Nouy's is of no importance in itself; the issue which that book merely restates, in its own fashion, is of crucial importance. (46-47)

There is much that is curious here. LaRouche is writing about the time when he again dropped out of Northeastern. As for the "Anglican-sponsored discussion group," this could mean almost anything. In any case, the Pierre Lecomte du Nouy book that LaRouche refers to is almost certainly Human Destiny, which first appeared in print in late 1946 or early 1947. (The book was reviewed in the New York Times on 23 February 1947, the same year Lecomte du Nouy died.) Another Lecomte du Nouy book, The Road to Reason, appeared in English translation in 1948 and continued his arguments. As for Lecomte du Nouy, he was a French biologist who worked for both the Rockefeller Institute and the Pasteur Institute. In Human Destiny, he argues against statistical ideas of entropy and evolution in order to prove that "God" (although clearly not an old white guy with a beard) had a role in the creation of the universe, as otherwise there could be no progress given the extreme state of randomness in the physical world. He explicitly attacks Laplace's notion of the universe as a machine as well. One of du Nouy's core arguments as a biologist is that life could not have simply begun out of random processes and that there was a colossal leap (not a slow evolution) between non-living and living matter. In this way, ideas of mechanical determinism or materialism had to be incorrect as being at best only limited to non-living matter. In Human Destiny, du Nouy argues that "God" is using evolution to produce morally perfect beings.

Lecomte du Nouy was very influenced by the Swiss physicist Charles Eugene Guye and, in particular, by Guye's book Physico-Chemical Evolution, that appeared first in Paris in 1922 and in English in 1925. In it, Guye -- a teacher of Einstein and a participant at the 5th and 7th Solvay conferences -- argued that chance alone could not produce life. Lecomte du Nouy took some of Guye's ideas to stress in his bestselling 1947 book Human Destiny what he believed were the limitations of the Second Law of Thermodynamics:

Indeed, when science declares that all phenomena of the universe must obey the principle of Carnot-Clausius and we discover phenomena which do not seem to do so, we have a proof that the science in question does not cover all phenomena, and this restrains its universality. This is the case for natural evolution, which unfolds in a direction forbidden by science, i.e., toward more and more improbable states. We conclude therefore that our science is not universal as yet and only governs inanimate matter. If we maintain our faith in science as far as inert matter is concerned -- and there is no reason for us not to do so -- there can be only one explanation for its failure: namely, that nature itself is not homogeneous, as we believed, and that there is a solution of continuity between inorganic matter and life which our actual science cannot account for. Thus we need not accuse science as a whole. It keeps all its value, as far as we are concerned, for everything that is not alive. Life, then, does not fit into the universal pattern we tried to build.(194)

For du Nouy, the idea of a different kind of order for "life" led him to what he called his "telefinalist hypothesis" that man "must continue to evolve toward spirituality" and triumph over his "animal" aspects. As he put his case:

But the evolution of living beings, as a whole, is in absolute contradiction to the science of inert matter. It is in disagreement with the second principle of thermodynamics, the keystone of our science based on the laws of chance. The reason and even the fact of evolution are, therefore, not in the realm of our present science. . . . Man, with his present brain, does not represent the end of evolution, but only an intermediary stage between the past, heavily weighed down with memories of the beast, and the future, rich in higher promise. Such is human destiny. (224-25).

Along with de Nouy, the Marxist left had a hard time as well with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, as formalized by Ludwig Boltzmann in physics. The issue at hand was "negentropy," a hot topic starting with Erwin Schrodinger's 1944 lecture turned short book entitled What Is Life?, a book LaRouche referenced quite a bit as Schrodinger discusses "negative entropy" in his text. LaRouche relates that after he first learned about the existence of Wiener's book, he was very impressed with it until he realized that Wiener's view of negentropy was based on the same mathematical-statistical view outlined by Boltzmann. Wiener saw ripples of negentropic systems being created in an overall universe still defined by the Second Law of Thermodynamics as opposed to seeing a living evolutionary universe moving not to "heat death" but to higher "manifolds" of complexity. The origins of life debate then became a critical test as to what conception of negentropy ruled the universe and whether or not the Second Law was itself a subset of some much higher law of cosmic negentropy that du Nouy had identified with God. In LaRouche: Will This Man Become President, the issue with Wiener is defined this way:

It was his fascination with this question of fundamental principles during 1946-47 which preconditioned his twofold reaction to Norbert Wiener's Cybernetics. Wiener et al. had performed the stimulating work of posing the idea of negentropy in a fresh way; Wiener's work was also stimulating because of its embedded central absurdity that it purported to adduce an anti-entropic principle of the universe by proceeding from axiomatic assumptions of Newton's clockwork physics: the statistical theory of heat. LaRouche's determination to refute Wiener's obvious fallacy on Wiener's own ground led him directly to a critical study of Nicholas Rashevsky's work on mathematical biophysics. The critical study of Rashevsky, the need to correct the reductionist fallacies in Rashevsky's method, led by various pathways into an intensive study of Georg Cantor's notion of transfinite orderings, and by that route, to a new appreciation of Riemann's core argument as summarized in the 1854 On the Hypotheses Which Underlie Geometry, by 1952. (162-63)
The Shannon-Wiener notion of "information theory" was based on the false assumption that all "information," whether in communications among persons, or as improvements in technology, must be defined from the standpoint of textbook versions of the statistical theory of heat. This theory assumes that the normal condition of matter is a "perfectly random" distribution of motion of particles, such that the universe is "running down" from improbable distributions of concentration of heat-equivalents in the direction of more probably, more random distributions. LaRouche rejected the Shannon-Wiener doctrine as an absurdity . . . . (30)

Wiener knew Rashevsky from at least the early 1940s when they corresponded; two of Rashevsky's students Warren McCulloch and Walter Pitts (both of whom would become members of the Macy Foundation conferences) first developed the concept of "neural networks." In short, LaRouche was following the Macy Foundation/MIT discussions on these key questions largely inspired in biology by Schrodinger's What Is Life?, and Rashevsky's attempts to understand that question from the point of view of mathematical biophysics.

LaRouche's background in religious thinking and his postwar interest in Marxism prepared him to adopt in the late 1940s/early 1950s his own version of a hylozoic monist worldview that he saw most clearly expressed in theory in Marxism and that he tried to extend into a view of the economy in which higher and higher breakthroughs in science and technology through the process of scientific creativity would induce evolutionary shifts in the economy to higher and higher levels of complexity and thus the development of new "singularities." This view, in turn, led him to examine the issue of Soviet central planning, automation, the role of artificial intelligence and its limitations, and how this related to the credit system, a view that he first tried to develop in public starting with his 1966 class at FUNY on Marxist economics. LaRouche states that all his ideas on economics emerged from this key period. In the 1988 edition of The Power of Reason he writes the issue of negentropy:

drew me to an extended study of the mathematical biophysics of Nicholas Rashevsky. Rashevsky's work was defective for reasons for reason of its adaptation to axiomatic-deductive methods. Nonetheless, it was most useful. . . . This approach to Rashevsky's work forced me to develop a sense of what mathematics terms "discontinuities." . . . The paradox in Rashevsky's "modelings" of living processes all centered around this problem of discontinuities. The living process continues to function beyond the point at which ordinary mathematical analysis can follow this development. So I reasoned, there must be a higher sort of function which must include ordinary sorts of mathematical functions as special cases. (54)

This thinking led LaRouche to a critique of science's stress on the determining factor of genetics, a view I believe he imported from the Soviet scientist Alexsandr Oparin, who was also a defender of Lysenko. Oparin's The Origin of Life was first translated into English in 1938 but LaRouche most likely read the 1952 edition that appeared as a Dover paperback. Hence in the 1988 edition of The Power of Reason, he writes:

Conventional biological thinking has over-stressed the role of genetics, and has moved away from the original approach of Leonardo da Vinci and the point of reference provided by Louis Pasteur's work on optical activity in living processes. The popular view of genetic determination exaggerates the view of genetics, subordinating biological research all too much to a statistical way of thinking consistent with the fallacious assumptions of statistical gas theory. (150)

LaRouche's Marxist Lysenko-lite view is also on display in the 1983 EIR biography LaRouche: Will This Man Become President?:

All living processes, as biological processes, have the morphological-functional characteristics implicit in the self-similar proportioning of form and function according to the Golden Section. It has been shown, for example, that plants can develop hereditable characteristics without genetic modification in a seemingly "Lamarckian" adaptation to favorable kinds of increase of the chemical and other energy-throughput features of their environment. It is suspected by some biologists, on the basis of this and other evidence, that the living organism's hereditable characteristics are not determined exclusively by genetic inheritance, but by larger processes of tissue as a whole, processes able to alter "willfully" the genetic fact of the reproductive process as a whole.
This sort of evidence complements the general picture of evolutionary development of the biosphere, when that biosphere is examined as a unified process. The general effect of alterations of primitive plant and animal life-forms, the alteration of their relative population densities, their changing interactions, LaRouche has long insisted since reflections on Rashevsky's biophysics, presents us over a span of perhaps some three billion years of development from proto-living processes, picture of the rising negentropy of the biosphere as a whole, and of related transformations in geology, geography, the creation of the atmosphere and oceans, the evolution of weather and climate, in a direction coherent with the rising negentropy of the biosphere as a whole. This evidence demonstrates a directed character to evolution of the biosphere, and therefore its constituents as a whole. This evidence conclusively refutes the Malthusian concoctions of Darwin, Wallace, Huxley, et al.(222-23)

In Dialectical Economics, 432, fn. 13, however, LaRouche strongly attacks Engels for having a Lamarckian mechanistic outlook. At the time of his writing Dialectical Economics, LaRouche was a strong Marxist and DE as it was called is dominated by Hegel, Marx, and Feuerbach. On page 478 of DE, he writes about Oparin's The Origin of Life,: "The seminal work in modern holistic biophysics: a brilliant, though substantially reductionist summary of the case for developing a universal theory embracing inorganic and organic processes within a single historical principle of evolutionary development.''

With the phrase "directed character to evolution," LaRouche's ideas remain in harmony with his early experience reading Lecomte du Nouy's Human Destiny (and, most likely, du Nouy's 1948 book The Road to Reason) decades earlier as well with his encounters with Oparin and the "hylozoic monist" tradition expressed in Russian Marxism starting with Plekhanov. Remarkably, however, in Dialectical Economics, neither Wiener's nor Rashevsky's names appears in the index. LaRouche does cites Oparin and in another footnote on page 469 of Dialectical Economics, he writes:

The necessary coherence of the laws of the physical universe with the laws demonstrated to apply to the deliberative process of the human mind, processes which progressively master nature. Oparin's approach, furthered by Haldane, Urey, Schrodinger, and others, represents for us a valuable pioneering reconnaissance, an effort preparatory to the development of the conceptually advanced approach demonstrated here. In a sense, the relationship of Oparin's approach to ours is approximately the same as that of the Physiocrats to that of Marx with respect to the notion of social reproduction.

LaRouche's bigger argument is that the mathematics and physics developed by Descartes and Newton led to the notion of the clockwork universe that only avoids entropic wind-down thanks to a deus ex machina that keeps the whole system going. When this view became "atheistic" in the 19th century, a kind of cultural pessimism began to spread into science. The core of the Descartes/Newton problem was that their mathematics had developed out of a Euclid/Aristotle view of mathematics as being premised on a reductionist "axiomatic-deductive" method.

In contrast, the correct view of the universe is based on not taking points and lines as axiomatic but seeing them derived from "constructive geometry" as developed first around the idea of the five Platonic solids and later in the modern era as emerging from the tradition of Gauss, Riemann, and Cantor and represented by "self-similar spiral action." Thus Wiener could not truly understand the meaning of negentropy because, for Wiener, the notion was linked to Boltzmann's wrong way of framing the issue mathematically. Hence he could not see negentropy as involving a transition from lower to higher order manifolds in a kind of gestalt processes in nature as well as in human creativity that is both part of nature and increases man's ability to further develop nature primarily through technological and scientific innovation. Instead, Wiener took the Second Law of Thermodynamics as an absolute law with negentropic processes within it being something like "exceptions to the rule." In contrast, LaRouche believes there is a fundamental self-developing Logos at work throughout the universe that is intrinsic to it and not somehow outside of it. In short we are back to a Marxist rethink of de Nouy. Contrast this with Wiener's views as described in Ronald Kline's 2015 book The Cybernetics Moment:

In 1953, at the urging of Jason Epstein, an editor at Doubleday, Wiener substantially revised The Human Use of Human Beings [his follow up to Cybernetics -- HH] for a second edition, in order to broaden its appeal. The structure of the book remained the same, but Wiener removed technical passages, shortened chapters, and tied his cybernetic vision to a philosophy of life based on entropy. That concept explained how humans, societies, and communications machines used information feedback systems to create life, to exist. Fed on information (negative entropy), these local entities could temporarily delay the inevitable increase of entropy, which would lead to the earth's heat death. At the suggestion of Epstein, he introduced the categories of Augustinian and Manichean to explain two views of nature. Wiener saw the statistical aspect of nature as Augustinian (as an organic incompleteness), rather than as Manichean (as a malicious opposition), and thus as knowable through mathematics, because nature would not trick the observer in a Manichean way. (82-83)

(Like Cybernetics, The Human Use of Human Beings was another best seller with some 50,000 books sold by the end of 1956.)

LAROUCHE: MATH WHIZ OR MATH FIZZ?

LaRouche's companion from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s was Carol White, who taught math for a living. She later recalled:

I believed that Lyn was extremely intelligent for a really long time. Some funny stories about that. He wrote one of my masters' term papers for me. This was a program for high school mathematics teachers and the MA program was not in the academic track -- i.e., it did not qualify me to proceed with a PhD -- but it was nonetheless excellent. A lot of theory. The kind of enrichment that teachers need. Anyway my paper was on the axioms of geometry. I generally got all A's but this paper written by Lyn was some shit about there being no such thing as points and lines and it only earned a C. He was angry at me and used to bring it up at NEC meetings as a sign that my A's showed my moral weakness.
It was [when] I was editing Fusion magazine that I began to learn some science although I was quite ready in the beginning to loftily dismiss quantum physics etc. The stance suited my arrogant ignorance (which I think was the lazy (and uneducated) man/woman's road to intellectual pretensions). I hoped Lyn would help me understand some of the material that was over my head. I came to realize Lyn couldn't understand the stuff either. On and off over the years he tried to push me out of the organization and force a separation between Chris and me. One such event was when he assigned me to write a book on geometry. It was not allowed to use points and lines as givens or the properties of parallel lines but had to be based entirely on circles as fundamental and it had to be entirely based on constructions. Interestingly his notions of Cantor's work were extremely confused. I had become fascinated by projective geometry when I was at Courant [the Courant Institute at NYU] and I had a teacher, Morris Kline, who was big on the need for construction in the teaching of mathematics. But . . . you will understand that a notion of the reality of infinity is crucial to considerations of evolution and process :) The big deal in the organization at the time (promoted by Uwe) was Steiner's [?] work. It was, however, rigorously and explicitly based on Euclid (a fact never mentioned in polite LaRouche circles). Well, needless to say, when I finished some kind of pastiche he didn't bother to read it. Similarly on Kepler and the asteroids and his solids Lyn distorted what Kepler actually wrote and wouldn't be budged even when shown the texts. Even in the case of his famous conic construction of ellipses (actually Jonathan's [Tannenbaum]), there were some glaring primitive mistakes because Lyn mistakenly assumed that ellipses in the cone always projected to ellipses in the plane. It took careful negotiations by Warren [Hammerman] and me working together to disabuse him of this embarrassment. When I became interested in cold fusion in 1991, I started to really study physics and learned some in a sketchy way and I realized that Lyn had very little understanding of physics. This is interesting with regard to his inability to master physics (his major subject) when he studied at Northeastern.
Computers were definitely a hot topic after WW II because of work one by Turing et al. during the war. I am sure Lyn was fascinated. He set out to prove that the human mind could not be replicated by a robot. He locates many of his later themes to things he figured out at that time. For example he had many books about information theory when I met him, but he opposed the whole approach. I don't know if you are up on this stuff so I shall just mention that information theory was developed originally [by Claude Shannon] to discuss how much information could be retrieved over a phone line despite noise that garbled the message. The noise was akin to entropy and the message to negative entropy (negentropy). This is the modern way of interpreting Boltzman's theory as well.
Now Lyn at that time viewed "negentropy" as a kind of Holy Spirit -- a secular version of the life force as it were. His "unique contribution" was to amalgamate the idea of negentropy as the guiding force of evolution to Marxism. When I met him he focused upon the reproductive potential of societies (measurable in growth in numbers of the population) as a metric for scientific truth. I was very confused about logical positivism which dominated the social science curriculum (Skinnerism and the like, I majored in psychology). This was his rebuttal of Bertrand Russell and Wiener. Was this an interest in "computers"? Well you might say so but it was way off the developments that brought us from mainframes that took up a room and were extremely slow to the technology of today, and unlikely to give him much of an edge as a management consultant.

CONCLUSION

LaRouche explored cybernetics in part because his own father made his living as a management consultant. When LaRouche decided to pursue a similar path as an independent business consultant in New York in the late 1950s, he tried to learn about the emerging technology of his day computers. Computers, however, were intimately related to the broader issue of "information theory" made famous at the time by both Wiener and Claude Shannon. The cybernetic revolution and its related technological and scientific practical applications directly affected a new generation of business consultants and industrial relations experts as well as scientists and mathematicians. The fact that LaRouche was trying to work as a consultant in the field of emerging automation and later more directly with the new computer industry -- combined with the simple reality that he lived in the Boston area -- led him to discover almost by accident an early version of Cybernetics as well as the Macy Foundation discussions.

Yet LaRouche's "spin" on cybernetics, automation, and "the Second Industrial Revolution" was itself highly creative. If LaRouche's ideas on Marxism in the summer of 1966 seemed a bit strange and off-kilter in New York and San Francisco, in both Moscow and Leningrad they would have been almost commonplace. The cybernetics vogue had an almost unimaginable impact in the post-Stalin Soviet Union.5 Rather incredibly, the one and only American radical who independently tried to "frame" cybernetic and related concepts in a Marxist world view similar to the one being advanced inside the USSR was none other than Lyndon LaRouche. Yet LaRouche tried to do much more than that. He actually set out to create a political movement around these very same ideas. Compared with the traditional class jargon that dominated the SWP, LaRouche might have well been speaking Chinese.

Although the relationship between innovations in production and the rise of political movements associated with such changes may seem a bit far fetched, it might be useful to recall two radicals from another era who built their own movement out of radical breakthroughs in production: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. The Communist Manifesto is in part, after all, an encomium to the vast power of capitalist industry to revolutionize the world. Nor was the idea of building a political movement around a radical notion of technocracy unique to Marxism as the strange saga of Howard Scott's Technocracy Inc. illustrates.6 More directly relevant to LaRouche, just two years before he began his first FUNY class, the political and cultural impact of cybernetics and related increased levels of automation crystallized around the once-famous "Triple Revolution" document written for the Kennedy administration but only presented to the White House in 1964 after Kennedy had been killed. The Triple Revolution Statement signed by a number of leading left liberals including some leaders of the very early SDS argued that automation in particular would trigger enormous social changes in America. The Triple Revolution Statement was even subtitled "Cybernation, Weaponry, Human Rights." In a way, then, LaRouche's arguments were an overtly Marxist response to the left liberal theorists of the Triple Revolution, many of whom had been inspired by Wiener.7 Lyndon LaRouche, however, would prove something like Norbert Wiener's own Golem/Frankenstein Monster; a role LaRouche first played to the hilt in a big room in a loft building just off Union Square in the early weeks of July 1966.


Notes:

1 See footnote 7 of LaRouche's 13 April 2000 EIR article, "Information Society: A Doomed Empire of Evil".

2 FUNY began as part of a broader SDS free university project. See Kirkpatrick Sale,SDS (New York: Random House, 1973), 264-69. FUNY's teachers included the Fugs' Tuli Kupferberg, Stanley Aronowitz, James Weinstein, the anarchist poet Jackson MacLow, Paul Krassner, and Robert Anton Wilson among many others. For a brief description of FUNY, see Edward Grossman, "New York's Schoolhouse for the Left," in the April 1966 issue of Harper's. For FUNY teachers, see http://www.antiqbook.com/boox/bibman/25388.shtml. Also see chapter one of How It All Began for more on FUNY.

3 In this sense one can see some vague similarities between LaRouche's approach and that of Guy Debord in The Society of the Spectacle as well as Herbert Marcuse in One Dimensional Man and even the French "new working class" and related "praxis" theorists inside SDS, whom the early SDS Labor Committee would attack. All rejected the traditional "Old Left" image of the heroic working class. The fundamental difference was that LaRouche did not buy the argument that capitalism had overcome its tendency to severe economic crisis and he believed the working class would become radicalized once the general economic breakdown crisis finally arrived. As I show in How It All Began, the Labor Committee clashed harshly with various "Praxis" or "New Working Class" theorists inside SDS.

4 In what follows, I try to reconstruct how LaRouche's earlier reading of du Nouy may have shaped his initial enthusiastic but also critical reaction to Wiener. For other possible influences on LaRouche's thinking, see the Appendix on Dirk Struik, the MIT mathematician and leading CPUSA thinker in Boston, whom LaRouche may have heard lecture in the late 1940s at http://laroucheplanet.info/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Library.RiemannAndTheRedScare.

5 I provide an outline of Soviet interest in cybernetics and Marxism in the appendix "Machines of Communism" at http://laroucheplanet.info/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Library.MachinesOfCommunism. For Marx's own interest in technology including his reading of Charles Babbage see Amy Wendling: Karl Marx on Technology and Alienation (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). Wendling draws in large part on until now largely unknown Marx notebooks on technology from the early 1860s, when he was researching Capital.

6 See the chapter of this study posted on LaRouche Planet entitled "Monad Man" on Howard Scott and Technocracy Inc. for more at http://laroucheplanet.info/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Library.MONADMAN.

7 For a copy of the Triple Revolution text and list of signers, see http://www.educationanddemocracy.org/FSCfiles/C_CC2a_TripleRevolution.htm. SWP leader James Cannon's talk on the Triple Revolution even is available on You Tube. The Triple Revolution Statement is also cited in Sale, SDS, 100. Although Norbert Wiener died before the Triple Revolution Statement was published, I think it is safe to say he would have been very much in agreement with it, given Wiener's work with Walter Reuther's UAW. Also see Eric Fromm (ed.), Socialist Humanism: An International Symposium (Garden City, NJ: Doubleday, [1966, c 1965] which includes a reprint of the Triple Revolution statement.

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