Two Parallel Revolutions
To the Editor:
Since the review of my book, The Military and Industrial Revolution of Our Time [by George Lichtheim, February] gave readers an inadequate and to some extent distorted picture of my ideas, a few observations seem necessary.
I wrote in my introduction that “The military revolution of our time is moving forward parallel with the second industrial revolution; in fact it was the military revolution which originally launched the industrial revolution.” The review quotes this passage, but quite fails to mention that it is the starting point of a series of ideas designed to prove that in certain important respects the relationship between the military and the industrial revolutions today is fundamentally different from their relationship in former historical periods.
In part Two of my book, “The Second Industrial Revolution,” a whole chapter, “The Relationship between the Military and Industrial Revolutions,” is devoted to a concrete analysis of these ideas.
On page 112 I wrote: “In modern times, from the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era up to the twentieth century and the two world wars, there has been absolutely no development which could even remotely be compared with the present-day military revolution. . . . The usual situation in such matters was that technical developments in industry came first [underlined in this connection—F.S.] and then gradually affected the military sphere, whereupon the requisite military organizational and technical conclusions were drawn and the army organization appropriately adapted. The wars of the twentieth century offer us a variety of instructive samples underlining this general process.” On page 114, I wrote: “Today, for the first time in modern history, the main source of technical revolutionization . . . lies in the military sphere. . . .” The book then proceeds to show in concrete detail how, as a result of the military revolution, the industrial revolution has been fundamentally effected, and will probably continue to be effected in the future.
The review quotes a passage from page 190: “The Asiatic revolutions have this in common with both the French and Russian Revolutions, that they are taking place in primarily agricultural countries. . . .” From this quotation, readers may get the impression that I am dealing with obvious matters of course. But this is not so, and immediately after the passage quoted in the review I write: “But to regard the modern Asiatic revolutions as analogous with the French Revolution would be to overlook certain decisive factors which are specific to Asiatic development.” Under the heading “The New Relationship between Town and Country,” I then go on to show that at the time of the Great French Revolution, France was one of the most highly developed countries in the world, whereas the Asiatic countries are very backward economically.
It is also pointed out that the Asiatic nations have entered their revolutionary phase during a period of history when those industries which are of great importance for the increase of productivity in agriculture have been highly developed in both Europe and the United States for generations. I then go on to say (on page 192): “Because those industries which can bring about the modernization of agriculture have been developed so powerfully outside Asia, the Asiatic countries will not have to wait until they have laboriously developed them as a result of their own industrialization. It will be possible to use artificial fertilizers, tractors, modern agricultural machinery, modern artificial irrigation, electricity, atomic energy, and so on, in the countries of Asia long before the requisite metallurgical, chemical and electrical industries are developed there.” The Asiatic countries have an opportunity—as Europe and the United States did not—to do two things at the same time: force forward their process of industrialization and simultaneously increase very considerably the productivity of their agriculture. From this it follows that in the future we shall see a different functional relationship between town and country in Asia than the one we have been accustomed to in Europe and the United States.
To the remark in my introduction that, “For the first time we have entered into the phase of world history,” the reviewer has two observations to make—the first: “Has there ever been a time which was not ‘a period of world history’?” and the second: “For Dr. Sternberg, however, everything that happened before 1945 is pre-history.”
I can only reply that we have had several thousand years of human history which was certainly not world history in the sense in which I defined it. In those days there was the history of individual states, even of individual continents—but there was not world history.
The second statement is completely misleading. What I really said about history before 1945 was that it was not world history. The reviewer goes on to say: “The meaning of this statement is a little obscure.” Not if you read my book with the necessary care and attention. On page 319, under the last headline in Chapter VIII, “The Period of World History Has Begun,” I stress the specific points which characterize the present period of world history and distinguish it from the periods which preceded it. . . .
On the question of financing investment in the work of construction in India, the reviewer writes: “This was the dilemma which drove the Russian Revolution into the Stalinist impasse. Dr. Sternberg . . . sees an easy solution in the availability of foreign economic aid to make up the balance.” In my opinion the differences between the development in Asia, and particularly in India, and the development in Russia far outweigh the similarities. . . . I pointed out in my book—as I have done again here—that the increase of agricultural production in India can be synchronized with the great process of industrialization. . . .
The second Indian Five-Year Plan experienced critical moments. If the Third Indian Five-Year Plan is to be a complete success, and if further economic convulsions are to be avoided, then greater assistance—to extend over the whole period of the new Five-Year Plan—will be necessary from the United States and from Western Europe.
Asiatic problems, however, were not the central issue of my book, and they were dealt with only in a very brief fashion—as they are in these notes.
Munich, West Germany