To Serve Man

Henry has written about Wendt and Duvall's "Sovereignty and the UFO" at The Monkey Cage. And my column yesterday lauded both the timely urgency of the paper and the aesthetically satisfying way it resists counterarguments.

But after thinking it over a little, I believe a critique from outside the poli-sci orbit is necessary.

Wendt and Duvall seem to mount a radical challenge to the anthropocentrism of contemporary ideas of sovereignty. But in so doing, they are complicit with the lingering effects of Cold War ideology -- for nowhere do W&D consider the work of Juan Posadas, who proved four decades ago (to his own satisfaction anyway) that flying saucers demonstrate the existence of communism elsewhere in the galaxy.
If memory serves, my first encounter with Posadas was in the pages of Robert Alexander's <em>Trotskyism in Latin America</em>, published by the Hoover Institution in 1973 and easily one of the most depressing books I have ever read. Between brutal repression and a certain fissiparousness, the odds were never good. But amidst all the gray, the story of Juan Posadas was at least...colorful.

Posadas was an Argentinian shoemaker and football star who, after many years as a fairly orthodox adherent of Bolshevik-Leninism, developed a number of rather distinctive positions. One of them was his belief that the process of world revolution might advance considerably if the Communist bloc would launch a preemptive thermonuclear war. He urged the Soviets to do so just as soon as it was convenient.

This was not, by and large, a popular idea within the Fourth International. In due course Posadas went off to found his own international movement, which was for the most part based in Latin America. Some of the Posadists were in Cuba, for example, where they ended up doing, so to speak, deep entry work in Castro's prison system. But there were also adherents in Europe. While in London on honeymoon in 1993, I visited a store where it was possible to buy recent issues of <em>Red Flag</em>, the official newspaper of the Revolutionary Workers Party of Great Britain (Posadist). I did. The paper consisted mainly of translations from the extensive writings of Posadas, who died in 1981. By some accounts, Posadas spent his final years yelling into a tape recorder, so perhaps the RWP-GB(P) was just trying to catch up with the backlog of transcripts.

He was a man of many theories. But his best-known thesis (which, once you grant the premises, is perfectly reasonable) is that flying saucers were a sign of hope for the revolutionary cause. As we know, development of the forces of production eventually reaches "a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument." It is obvious that interstellar travel would require a very, very high level of development of the forces of production. Therefore UFOs must be coming from a highly advanced communist civilization. Q.E.D.

Posadas explained all this in a brochure published in France in 1968, portions of which were translated in an issue of <em>Red Flag</em> that must itself be a collector's item by now.  A précis of his arguments appeared five years ago this month in The Fortean Times, in an extensive article by Matt Salusbury that, as of now, is only available in Google cache.

Here is the most pertinent excerpt:

Posadas's Les Soucoupes Volantes (Flying Saucers) opens in the baffling, tortured, long-winded style that became his hallmark: "A new ray has been discovered in the Soviet Union which is infinitely more rapid than light... This energy must have a property and strength infinitely superior to what we know."

The pamphlet continues to lurch from cliché to cliché, bordering on incomprehensibility: "In the same way it is conceivable that a being who raises his hand and produces light, attracts, remakes and organises energy... And the forms of the social organisation could be infinitely superior," and continues: "Even if these reports of flying saucers are fantasies, as is possible that the majority may be, many of them, their historical basis is correct... the scientific capacity of human beings is determined by their social organisation."

And there is a Marxist explanation for why the UFOs visit but do not stay: "Capitalism doesn't interest the UFO pilots, which is why they do not return. Similarly, the Soviet bureaucracy (doesn't interest them) as they don't have perspective."

UFOs, predicts Posadas, will show a greater interest in us "at the moment of the collapse of the bourgeoisie and the General Strike." Star Trek fans will recognise the similarity with the film First Contact, in which Vulcans passing Earth only show an interest in humans after they have developed warp drive.

"To draw conclusions from these problems... [it is] necessary to study attentively ... The answers to these mysteries would lie in a study of Marxism," advises Posadas. Presumably, it is necessary to study attentively in order to work out what the hell he means by other mind-boggling ideas expressed in Flying Saucers, including his conviction that elephants live for 260 years; that humans will disappear to be replaced by something else; that humans will ultimately reproduce asexually like amœbæ; and the puzzling statement that the UFO phenomenon is "not an accidental, occasional concern which arises because a person two metres tall arrives, fair haired and with transparent clothes."

Flying Saucers ends with a call to our extraterrestrial comrades: "We must call upon beings from other planets when they come to intervene, to collaborate with the inhabitants of the Earth to overcome misery. We must launch a call on them to use their resources to help us."

One can readily see why bourgeois conceptions of sovereignty would be threatened by such ideas -- and why those within the ranks of capitalist political science would refuse to consider them at all.

(crossposted from CT)
August 14, 2008 1:07 PM | | Comments (2)

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The Twilight Zone reference gave me a nice little shiver...

From the "Treehouse of Horror" episode (#16, season 2) -- the first appearance of Kang and Kodos:

Kang shows off a video screen that features the vintage video game Pong.)
Kang: Your primitive paddles have been replaced by an electronic--
Bart: Hey, that's just Pong. Get with the times, man.
Homer: Marge and I played that old game before we were married.
Kang: Well, we DID build this spaceship, you know.
Kodos: Anyone from a species that has mastered intergalactic travel, raise your hand.
(Kang and Kodos each raise a tentacle. Bart raises his hand, but Homer slaps it down.)
Kodos: All right, then.
Marge: Sorry. Your game is very nice.

The episode is, of course, a parody of "To Serve Man," the Twilight Zone episode based on the Damon Knight short story.

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