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Alastair Hatchett

The Technology of Political Control

(June 1977)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.99, June 1977, p.25.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Technology of Political Control
Ackroyd, Margolis, Rosenhead, & Shalice
Penguin £1.25

THE problem of reviewing this book is posed by a theme which is summarised on the cover.

‘They (the authors) have written a a careful, chilling and sane book on what is certainly the central political question of our time.’

This book is certainly carefully researched and provides chilling evidence of the new technology open to a state’s control agencies. But the issues raised do not constitute ‘the central political question of our time.’ Those people who do argue this view, or more frequently a less extreme version of it, tend to be paralysed by the politics of paranoia. The authors of this book are not at the extreme pole of this view but the presentation of their arguments nourish that interpretation. The more blood curdling aspects of the international use of new forms of torture, manipulation, intelligence operations etc., will come as a revelation to the majority of Penguin book buyers browsing through W.H. Smugs. The information in the book provides valuable ammunition for the debate on the use of science and the nature of technological innovation.

But the value of the information is distorted by the framework of political ideas in which it is placed. The central dynamic of class conflict is seen through a conspiratorial prism. The vision that appears takes the form of an encroaching Corporate ‘Strong State’. The message that filters through, seemingly derivative of Marcuse, is ‘They are many, we are few’.

Now this is not to argue that the state is not becoming more repressive; on the contrary. The needs of capital in Britain today are such that the state is attempting to be more coercive. But such measures over the last few years have only enjoyed a partial success. Working class organisation has shown itself to be extremely resilient. We need to go forward with courage, arguing for socialist alternatives, and not lose sight of the fact that it is in the workplace that we are capable fo building the forces that can combat state repression. Portugal and Spain are examples. We are many, they are few.

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