Monday, September 1, 2014

Chapter 16 - "Binding Time": Part 3 - "Binding Time"

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

The main formulation of what would become Alfred’s first published book, Manhood of Humanity (1921), had popped up in his sleep. But it had resulted from years of reading, contemplating and internal struggle. ‘Man’—a term which Korzybski used in the accepted 1920s sense as equivalent to all humankind, i.e., men, women, and children—constitutes the “binding time” class of life. (In the final published version, perhaps under the influence of native English-speaking editors, he changed the term to “time-binding”).

Our symbolic/linguistic capacities allow us humans to ‘bind’ or organize our experiences and/or the products of our experiences so as to transmit and receive from one person and one time to another. Because we have the potential to begin where the prior individual or generation left off, we can benefit from and build upon the experiences of others at an accelerating rate. Even though animals might communicate and transmit their experiences to some extent, the facility that humans have to do this puts us in a qualitatively different dimension from other creatures.

Alfred finished the first draft of the book rather quickly, possibly within a week or two. He had little in the way of reference books. The most ‘scientific’ book on his sister-in-law’s shelves seems to have been an old copy of Herbert Spencer’s The Principles of Biology. Korzybski’s completed manuscript entitled The Manhood of Humanity and its Universal Language (7)—the language being mathematics—made no direct reference to Charles Ferguson’s program of social reforms, although it seemed in keeping with Ferguson’s goal for a scientific sociology. More specifically, the manuscript explored what Alfred considered necessary for building an applied science of humanity, a human engineering as he termed it. Human engineering would make conscious use of the human capacity to “bind time” and thus apply it more usefully to all human activities. This would allow humanity as a whole to close the period of its childhood. 



Notes 
You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
7. The Manhood of Humanity and its Universal Language. AKDA 4. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Human Susceptibility To Un-Sanity

Korzybski's friend, Joshua Rosett wrote the following in a book published just before his death in 1940: 
"Representation and symbolism, of which all animals make use for the speedy recognition of objects and conditions, is subject to unavoidable error. The human being, who makes the most extensive use of representation and of symbolism in spoken and written language, who employs comparisons and other figures of speech for the purpose of conveying certain meanings, is therefore most subject to an erroneous mental reproduction of objective experiences, in those states in which likeness is confused with identity and in which illusion becomes delusion."
—Joshua Rosett, M.D., The Mechanism of Thought, Imagery, And Hallucination (1939), pp. 264-265 

Chapter 16 - "Binding Time": Part 2 - Epiphany

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

“What makes humans human?” and “Why do our social institutions collapse while bridges mostly don’t?” In his quest for answers to his questions Korzybski clearly seemed in part to have been inspired by Charles Ferguson. In The Revolution Absolute Ferguson had announced that,
The day has come to apply the Baconian principle [of inductive science] to politics. Inductive science has ruled for three hundred years in the realm of physics, and the whole body of modern technology is an achievement of the Baconian method. But in politics we are still sitting in the grove of Socrates discussing high abstractions...[p. 205]

[Bacon had avoided discussing] the inevitable antagonism between inductive science and the Aristotelian abstractions enthralling the politics of his day...[p. 8]

[Pursuing a Baconian sociology means dealing with] the all-inclusive social question…: How can the social constitution achieve the highest possible power over the forces and materials of nature? [p. 13] (4)
The desire to extend the reach of science into human life—even the criticism of “Aristotelian abstractions”—was already there in Ferguson’s work. Yet Alfred’s emphasis on the importance of mathematics was leading him further. If he could come up with a clear, definite, and scientifically sound definition of Man, he thought he would have something more exact and solid than a Baconian inductive science. He would have the basis for a deductive—a mathematics-like—science of humanity.

For their room, Amy had given Alfred and Mira the large, glass-enclosed porch of the farmhouse. They had a double bed and a table with a typewriter where Alfred began to peck in his two-fingered style. As he described it, “I spit out everything I could in big generalities about god and the devil, the world, and what not, science and mathematics.” He didn’t feel he was getting very far. “What makes man think? What is the special characteristic of humanity? This bothered me and bothered me and the sight from the Woolworth building…”(5) 
…I was brooding about the role of plants in this world. What did they do? They synthesized the chemistry of the soil and air and sun (I didn’t have the term chemistry-binding then). ‘What is the role of a dog or a horse or a monkey? ‘Well, they eat.’ ‘What do they eat?’ Animals depend on eating [plants or other animals], drinking, and then trotting around. They begin where they began, they end where they end.’ I was sitting on Amy’s farm on the porch. At night one night I sat up in bed. I knew about plants, then animals. Animals – you can not deny them communication – ‘talking’. They can transmit nothing. I sat up in bed – ‘We can transmit from generation to generation’ [Italics mine – BIK]. I solved this in sleep. I cried. I didn’t have the term ‘time-binding’ then. It took me a day, [maybe] about 2 or 3 -– I had to have a label. Then I built up the terminology. We can transmit —whether we do or not — theories, religion, tabus — they cut their heads off in some tribes, [a] method [of] stopping time-binding [that] is simple and effective. (6)
Notes 
You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
4. I originally obtained the Ferguson quotes from The Revolution Absolute in Michael Lane’s short book, Charles Ferguson: Herald of Social Credit [p. 35]. Lane provides a nice introduction to this neglected social theorist. Curious readers can now download Charles Ferguson’s otherwise hard to obtain book The Revolution Absolute from Archive.org . You can find more information on Ferguson and Social Credit on Lane’s webpage at http://www.alor.org/TriumphofthePastBooks.htm  

5. Korzybski 1947, p. 215. 

6. “Manhood & Credo Notes by CS [Charlotte Schuchardt]”,  (1948/1949). IGS Archives. Mira recalled Alfred’s nighttime insight as coming after a two-day long, tea-drinking discussion in Washington, D.C. soon after their marriage. See Charlotte Schuchardt Read 1955, pp. 54-55. While the insight may well have come after a marathon discussion/tussle with Mira (with lots of tea), evidence from Korzybski’s prior writings and letters, makes Alfred’s account here—that it happened in Missouri—more likely. 



Saturday, August 30, 2014

Chapter 16 - "Binding Time": Part 1 - Introduction

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

By mid-April 1920, Mira and Alfred were in Missouri, visiting Mira’s sister Amy before heading back east to New York City, from where they planned to go on to London and then to Poland. Amy’s farm in Lees Summit, Missouri—on the outskirts of Kansas City—served as a refuge for all of the Edgerly sisters at one time or another. Mira had last spent time there with Amy in the summer of 1918 after the unexpected death of Amy’s husband, Rush Lake, a well-liked Missouri politician. 
Farmhouse near Kansas City where first draft of Manhood of Humanity was written

Korzybski would often return to Kansas City and its environs over the next couple of decades, either to visit Amy’s farm or to work with associates in the city. He found the city and region around it unusually beautiful. But among many of the inhabitants he felt a certain “sad” quality, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Since, with whatever he observed, he was in the habit of looking for functional relationships, he wondered if there wasn’t something in the soil or water.

But he didn’t spend much time thinking about Kansas City’s denizens. He hoped to use his time on the farm to write. He had come there with a notion to abridge, and then write a commentary upon, the specific ideas for social-economic reform in Ferguson’s The Revolution Absolute. He had wanted to come up with a shorter and more widely accessible book in English that he could then translate into Polish and other languages. However, in conversations with Mira and others, it had become clear that the specific solutions suggested by Ferguson, Plumb, and the League of Nations advocates, among others, didn’t go far enough for him. Clearer answers to more general questions that had been plaguing him for a long time could make these efforts at specific solutions more useful. Alfred continued to circle around these questions.

One of the questions had started in childhood. Alfred had spent a lifetime observing animal behavior (horses, farm animals, etc.) He didn’t doubt that animals such as horses could ‘think’. Indeed he had known horses whose ‘sense’ seemed to greatly exceed that of humans he had known. Yet he also remembered the peasants who had exclaimed to him, “Master, we are not beasts.” That stuck with him. What made the difference between humans and animals?

Since the end of the war he had had more time to think, not only about the difference between a man and an animal, but along a second line of questioning. He had spent his life observing people and what they do in a variety of settings. Since childhood, he had managed and observed workers and peasants on his family’s farm. As a young man, he had studied extremes of human behavior in places that others might prefer to neglect, for example visiting jails to observe criminals, prostitutes, etc. And he had read, read, read: history, philosophy, science, mathematics, etc. These, as well as his personal experiences of the 1905 revolution and especially of the tragedies and suffering of World War I, had brought him to his present perplexity: What made the differences between different kinds of human activity and enterprise?

Perhaps he had been stimulated in this line of thinking by his “thrashing out” discussions with Mira and in his discussions with Ferguson, who felt strongly about “the need for science and engineering intelligence to govern the administration of credit, etc.”(1) His, by this time habitual, inclination to read a book by studying its author and to understand a subject by seeing it as a product of human behavior, led him along the following track:
Look [at] historical facts. Again I will not be exact because I would say among others that bridges do not collapse, and if they collapse we can always find the error in the calculations or blueprint. If they do collapse you always can trace. But in principle they do not collapse. And our civilization, also man-made, collapses all the time. War, revolution; war, revolution; war, revolution, through all history. Why is it, that bridges do not collapse—man-made—and human civilizations fall one after another?  
The question comes, who makes bridges, and how, that they do not collapse? Engineers make bridges. How do they do it? They are talking to themselves in mathematical language. They use a language which is similar in structure to the ‘facts’ they are dealing with, and therefore they are successful; their bridges and what not don’t collapse. They have predictability in their language, what will happen if they do that and that; and therefore they can do what is needed to make the given bridge or whatever function properly, and avoid doing something which will make it collapse.  
In the meantime who is building up civilization, culture and what not? Lawyers, politicians, philosophers—you know philosophers all through history have played a tremendously important role in building a given culture, a given civilization; I will not go into a long line of who built it, because we can add indefinitely—newspaper men among others, and so on and so on and so on. And the question is, how do they do [it]? They talk to themselves and talk to others, like the engineer—except they talk the vernacular, a language unfit to talk sense, and this is why the result collapse, collapse, collapse, one after another. Now this was the beginning. This was a long stretch of time: this was not simple. It was agony to analyze and come to these conclusions. (2) 
These questions and his pondering about them had been providing an ever-increasing internal background to Alfred’s activities over the past year. Sometime before in New York City between his various trips, he had visited the Woolworth Building in downtown Manhattan, at the time the tallest building in the world. As he stood atop it, Alfred looked down at the streets of New York and his puzzlement seemed to crystallize:
...I was looking over New York. That enormous city, steaming, boiling with life...And I asked myself the question, how it happens, the physical side of it looking at the street, at Broadway. You saw vermin crawling, and the vermin were humans. They were so small because the height was so great, and a streetcar was a caterpillar. …Looking at that, I was much intrigued. I was fully aware that everyone of those little bits of humans there, everyone was full of joy, sorrows, and what not. And who did that tremendous thing called New York? That vermin did it. I didn’t get my answer there, but I was asking how humans, little things like that with such a wealth of personal life, how in the dickens can they do such a thing as New York, London, Paris, wars, revolutions, and what not? (3)


Notes 
You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
1. Ferguson to AK, July 26, 1920. AKDA 32.555. 

2. Korzybski 1949, p. 59, 59a. (Mp3-5c, 5d.) 

3. Korzybski 1947, p. 213. Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler’s 1921 movie short, Manhatta, viewable on YouTube.com shows New York, much as Korzybski must have seen it from atop the Woolworth Building, in 1919 (or early 1920). Watching it you'll see vistas of the city, steaming and boiling with life. Near the end of the movie (8:30) you will see the little bits of humans...like vermin crawling...and the streetcars like caterpillars. And you may also ask yourself: How in the dickens did those little bits of humans do New York...etc.?

Part IV - Time-Binder


Notes 
You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
1. Keyser in "The Nature of Man" in Mole Philosophy and Other Essays, p. 211. 



Friday, August 29, 2014

Chapter 15 - "Let The Dead Be Heard": Part 6 - The Polish Mechanics Company

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

The International Labor Conference had not adjourned, but Alfred—either because his official role had ended or because he had resigned in disgust—left Washington with Mira at the end of December. The new year—1920—found them in New York City with their base of operations at the National Arts Club on 15th Street. Since they were delaying their move to Poland, Mira was in search of new painting commissions. In the meantime, Alfred had gotten involved with the Polish Mechanics Company, recently formed in Toledo, Ohio with branches in Chicago, New York, Detroit, Philadelphia, Rochester, and Warsaw, Poland. The company leaders, a group of Polish-American engineers and businessmen, hoped to get Polish immigrants in America to invest in manufacturing ventures in Poland. The firm, which continued operating until 1940, became the largest and most successful of a number of such companies set up by Poles in the U.S.

In mid-January, Korzybski began a whirlwind speaking/fund-raising tour for the company. From January 17 until the end of the month he traveled and lectured in Philadelphia, Chester, Wilmington, Camden, Trenton, Perth Amboy, Elizabeth, Passaic, Paterson, Jersey City, Newark, Schenectady, Amsterdam, Utica, Syracuse, Fulton and Oswego. Then it was back to New York City for a couple of weeks—he and Mira had moved to an apartment on 8th Street—before going on another lecture tour. In mid-February he went to Toledo, then Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Jackson, Detroit, and back to Toledo before returning to New York on February 25. (31) A poster in Polish advertised one of Korzybski’s talks in Michigan:
WHY? Every Pole and Polish Woman to whose hands this flyer will fall should participate in the great rally of the Polish Mechanics Company in America. Engineer A. Korzybski, the most gifted speaker in New York, a veteran of the last war, will speak on Saturday February 14 at 7 p.m. in the Polish Falcons’ Hall on Larch Ave. 1) The government of Poland and the whole society support our work. 2) You will assure a better future for your children. 3) You will return to Poland to your own benchwork. 4) You won’t give away the industry into foreign hands. 5) You will hear about the first cooperative organization in the world. 6) You will be a member of an organization numbering 6,000 intelligent Poles in the United States. 7) You will not disappoint the hope invested in you by your brothers and sisters waiting with happiness for you in the father land. 8) You will move the industry in Poland and you will pull from misery the Polish worker. 9) You will create an exemplary school. 10) You will be among your own where your heart and your understanding are calling you. All these questions will be mostly clarified at the rally. The attendance is free to everyone. No political disputes... (32)

Soon after Alfred’s return to New York City in the beginning of March, Mira went to Detroit to do a portrait. Meanwhile Alfred, continuing his work for the Polish Mechanics Company, applied to the Fidelity and Deposit Company in Maryland to become the company’s bonded representative, worked to set up a private banking business for the company in New York in order to help Poles forward money to their relations in Poland without the excessive exchange rates demanded from other banks, and investigated New York City real estate for the company, which wanted to buy an apartment building in the city. He was applying himself to company business with vigor. In turn, the people at the company seemed appreciative and eager for him to continue the relationship.

In April, he went to Michigan to meet Mira. Having completed the portrait in Detroit, she visited her childhood home of Jackson, where the Art Association was sponsoring an exhibition of her paintings. Alfred got there in time to attend a reception in Mira’s honor. From Michigan, they made their way to Kansas City to visit Mira’s sister, Amy, on her farm. From there they planned to return to New York and leave for Europe and Poland in the fall.

Before leaving New York City, at the beginning of April, Alfred had written a note to Ferguson, still expressing his admiration for The Revolution Absolute. He wanted to shorten the text and add more explicit chapters on cooperatives. It seems likely he was still planning to do this when he and Mira got to Amy’s farm in mid-April. However, Alfred’s focus was already shifting from Ferguson’s work, from his business with the Polish Mechanics Company, and from Poland. He had gotten sidetracked by a vision.

Notes 
You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
31. Bill to Polish Mechanics, 25 Lutego (February) 1920, (trans. by Zahava Sweet). AKDA 37.65. 

32. Polish Mechanics Poster, (trans. by Zahava Sweet). AKDA 37.143.



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chapter 15 - "Let The Dead Be Heard": Part 5 - The International Labor Conference

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

An International Labor Organization (I.L.O.) had been established earlier that year at the Paris Peace Conference. Although a separate body, it was set up to work in cooperation with the League of Nations. Even though Congress had rejected the peace treaty and U.S. membership in the League, the U.S. had membership among the I.L.O. National delegations, which included representatives from governments, labor unions, and employers, meeting periodically in international conferences throughout the life of the organization. The first International Labor Conference was held in Washington, D.C. from Oct. 29, 1919 until Jan. 27, 1920. Korzybski attended in November and December, as a member of the Polish delegation. 

Conference sessions involved discussions on proposals for reducing work hours, providing unemployment benefits, establishing child labor policies, setting up policies for working women, etc. The most memorable point of the meeting for Korzybski had less to do with these issues per se than with how they were evaluated and addressed by those attending:

…a problem [came up.] They were talking at cross-purposes. The groups [of employers, union representatives, etc.] could not understand each other at all. They were talking English, perfectly good English, but they were speaking such a language that it was [getting] in the way of intercommunication. Finally, [Samuel] Gompers got up, …“Ladies and gentlemen, may I ask a question?” Of course when Gompers was asking a question everybody was at attention. He was a real fellow, a very reasonable man. The answer, of course, was “Go ahead, Mr. Gompers.” And he asked, “Does yes mean always yes, or does yes sometimes mean no?” The conference was thrown into a panic. They adjourned. The verdict came back. Some professors of Harvard and Yale they were specialists in languages of some sort, or economists, I don’t know, wrote down the verdict that yes always means yes and no means always no. The most idiotic thing any group of scholars could do because even the question may be asked in such a way, the same question, that in one way you may answer yes, the same question, the same answer, and if you put the question otherwise you might have to answer no. It is so idiotic to have that kind of stuff… (28) 
[Some time later] Gompers…rose to his feet, waited solemnly for a longer while, and when everybody was expecting a flood of words, he said very calmly one word “YES.” The whole conference burst into laughter. (29)
Samuel Gompers (1850-1924)

Korzybski and everyone else who laughed with Gompers could sense the folly of the professors’ approach to language. But they had no decent language themselves to talk about it. It bothered Korzybski that “the whole conference collapsed. No results whatsoever.” He came away feeling disgusted: “…those international meetings, the League of Nations, they simply cannot talk sense.”(30) It would take a number of years before Korzybski would be able to explain the mechanism of the professors’ folly in terms of his future theory of human evaluating. His more immediate response was to run to do something practical. He was still planning to return to Poland and he wanted to get beyond the realm of empty words he had been listening to, to do something with down-to-earth value for his homeland.

Notes 
You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
28. Korzybski 1947, pp. 197-198. 

29. Korzybski. Manhood of Humanity and Its Universal Language, Unpublished First Draft, p. 40. AKDA 4.52. 

30. Korzybski 1947, p. 198.


Chapter 15 - "Let The Dead Be Heard": Part 4 - A Villain With A Smiling Cheek

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

Before heading to Washington where he was to meet Mira, Alfred attended a meeting of Ferguson’s group on October 31, where he introduced an acquaintance of his—Boris Brasol—to the group. Brasol, a cultured Russian émigré, worked for the Army Military Intelligence Department (MID). Korzybski, who had contacts at MID, may have met Brasol while visiting or lecturing there:
Mr. Brasol, who I am expecting this evening, is one of the most brilliant brains that Russia has ever produced. He is a lawyer and attorney general here for the old Russian Government. His analytical brain belongs to the international world. He may be some day a tremendous power in putting the New Machine in Russia.(19) 
Herein lies a curious tale of misevaluating. The literate and sophisticated Brasol, who arrived late to the October 31 meeting, surely qualified as what Shakespeare would call “a villain with a smiling cheek”.(20) Would Korzybski—hardly a lover of Tsarism—have spoken so highly of Brasol if he had known more about this “goodly apple rotten at the heart”(21), a member of the notorious “Black Hundreds” organization in Tsarist Russia? The Black Hundreds had supported the most extreme ideology of authoritarian monarchism with an associated army of thugs to terrorize those whom they considered enemies of the Tsarist state—among them Jews. As a lawyer in the Ukraine, Brasol had worked for the Tsarist Ministry of Justice assisting in the government prosecution of a Jew, Mendel Beilis, on charges of ritually murdering a boy in order to obtain his blood to make matzah. Beilis sat in jail from 1911 to 1913 before finally being released after trial; the jury accepted his innocence while agreeing that Jews sometimes did murder children to make matzah. (His travails were fictionalized in Bernard Malamud’s 1966 novel, The Fixer.) Brasol’s “analytic brain” now belonged to the expanding international world of proto-Nazi antisemitism that had infected Tsarist Russia and was spreading throughout Europe and the U.S. like an epidemic. Sometime during the war, Brasol—who had been working for the Russian government in London—met members of the MID. After the Russian Revolution, they helped him to come to the U.S., where he soon became an agent for the intelligence organization.

Brasol brought with him a copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which detailed a supposed secret meeting of Jewish leaders—the Elders of Zion—in Switzerland in 1897. (The place and date corresponded to those of the well publicized meeting of the First Zionist Congress in Basel, presided over by Theodore Herzl.) First published in 1905, the forged Protocols document was put together by agents of the Ochrana, the Tsar’s Secret Police which, as historian Norman Davies described it, “…learned how to invent the problems which it was supposed to solve. Working on the fail-safe principle of provokatsiya (provocation), the Ochrana fomented conspiracies in order to break them,…”.(22) The Protocols, which provided ‘proof’ of a ‘Jewish plot’ for world domination, was its pièce de résistance. (See Norman Cohn’s Warrant for Genocide and Will Eisner’s The Plot.)
http://archive.adl.org/education/curriculum_connections/the-protocols/default.html
People at the MID, as in other places, were becoming more and more concerned about the possible expansion of Bolshevism beyond Russia. For this very reason, at MID after the war there was strong support for the Polish national cause as a bulwark against a Soviet advance into Europe. This was probably one of the main reasons for Korzybski’s visits to MID headquarters. As Joseph Bendersky documents in his book The Jewish Threat, many of the MID staff found it relatively easy to at least seriously consider the possibility that the Russian Revolution was part of a Jewish plot to take over the world. In 1918, Brasol gave a copy of the Protocols to Natalie DeBogory, another Russian émigré employed as the assistant of Captain Harris Houghton, M.D, another MID intelligence officer. DeBogory translated it into English with Brasol’s help. Houghton, already obsessed with Jews and Bolshevism, became interested. He and Brasol began introducing the document to select people at MID and the State Department. 

By the beginning of 1919, Brasol’s and Houghton’s missionary work was succeeding. The notion of a Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy seemed to spread exponentially and was becoming familiar to many people in the U.S. government, especially in the Army and the State Department. One who believed this fundamentally unwarranted rumor about the Jews would transmit it (like an infectious disease) to others who, if they accepted it, would spread it to others still. At some point along the way, such a one might hear the rumor again from someone else, which to an uncritical person would ‘confirm’ the rumor’s correctness. A Senate Committee on Bolshevik Propaganda, headed by North Carolina Senator Lee S. Overman, began investigative hearings in February 1919. The Overman Committee heard hours of testimony concerning the supposed Jewish plot. Reverend George A. Simons of New York City, who had lived in Russia from 1907 to 1918, introduced the Protocols to the committee. Simons believed Jews from New York’s Lower East Side had fomented the Bolshevik Revolution.(23) Representatives of the American Jewish community testified to the Overman Committee to refute these claims.

By 1920 Boston publisher Small, Maynard & Company issued The Protocols and World Revolution, Brasol’s translation of the Protocols with his commentary. (Brasol seems to have decided he could insinuate his poison better if he remained anonymous as the author.) Brasol got a copy to the rabidly antisemitic automaker Henry Ford who then hired him to help promulgate the anti-Jewish creed in a series of articles based on the Protocols, which were published from 1920 to 1922 in Ford’s newpaper, The Dearborn Independent. Millions of copies of The International Jew, a book by Ford based on these articles, were distributed internationally. Ford’s book inspired Hitler and the Nazi movement. Later, in the 1930s, Brasol wrote for Social Justice, a magazine published by the antisemitic radio priest Father Coughlin. Brasol was suspected of working as a Nazi agent then and throughout World War II. He spoke modestly when, in 1921, he claimed in a letter to a friend: “Within the last year I have written three books, two of which have done the Jews more injury than would have been done by ten pogroms.”(24) 

No direct evidence exists that Brasol gave Alfred a copy of the Protocols or described its contents to him in 1919. (Korzybski later obtained a copy of the 1920 Small, Maynard book.) Yet it doesn’t seem unlikely that Brasol may have introduced the Protocol’s message to Korzybski and to the other people involved with the New Machine. He definitely had the opportunity at or around the time of the October 31, 1919 meeting. Although Ferguson himself seems to have remained free of antisemitism, many of his colleagues in the “Social Credit” movement did not. C. H. Douglas, the main social credit theorist, became a life-long advocate of the Protocols. (Korzybski probably met Douglas in New York in 1919 after Ferguson arranged a meeting between the two men.) Becoming acquainted with people like the M.I.D. conspiracy theorists, Boris Brasol, and C.H. Douglas was probably not the best way to reduce whatever stereotypes about Jews that Alfred had absorbed from his earlier days in Poland—where anti-Jewish sentiments had been festering since the last quarter of the 19th Century.(25) 

Only a few days after the New Machine meeting where he had introduced Brasol, Korzybski arrived in Washington for the International Labor Conference. He seemed to ‘have a bee in his bonnet’ about the Protocols since he almost immediately began trying to find the whereabouts of Harris Houghton, Brasol’s collaborator.(26) He also obtained a copy of the report of the Overman Committee—Mira had requested it from the office of California Senator James D. Phelen, who sent a copy of the document to the Korzybskis’ hotel room.(27) Whether he ever found Houghton is unknown. And until August 1920, there is little if any hint of what he did with the Overman Committee material or of his developing views about Jews.


Notes 
You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
19. Transcription of 10/31/1919 Meeting of “The New Machine”.  AKDA 32.646. 

20. The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene III 

21. Ibid. 

22. Davies 2005, p. 71. 

23. Overman Committee. See U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, 1919. Bolshevik Propaganda..., p. 135. The entire Overman Committee Report can be downloaded from Google Books or from Archive.org at this link.   

24. Carlson, p. 204. For more on Boris Brasol’s reprehensible career see Joseph W. Bendersky’s The Jewish Threat, John Roy Carlson’s Undercover, Albert Lee’s Henry Ford and the Jews, and Steven G. Marks’ How Russia Shaped The Modern World

25. See Blobaum, ed., Antisemitism And Its Opponents In Modern Poland. Here is a link to the comprehensive conference report upon which Blobaum's book was based: http://www.ucis.pitt.edu/nceeer/2003-817-09-Blobaum.pdf

26. W. S. Mackay [?] to AK, 11/5/1919. AKDA 32.610-611. 

27. John D. Costello to Mira Edgerly-Korzybska, Nov. 1, 1919. AKDA 32.593  



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Chapter 15 - "Let The Dead Be Heard": Part 3 - The New Machine

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

At the National Arts Club, Korzybski soon made contact with the writer Charles Ferguson, who had been living there. Ferguson, trained as a lawyer, and a former Episcopal and then Unitarian minister, had written a number of books and articles on social and economic reform and had traveled to Europe and Asia on study missions for President Wilson and the U.S. State Department. In New York, Ferguson had gotten involved with a circle of people centered around the industrial engineer, H. L. Gantt, whom Korzybski met just before Gantt’s sudden death from food poisoning at the end of 1919. (Gantt gave Alfred a signed copy of his last book Organizing for Work.) (17)
Gantt, considered one of the founders of Project Management, had earlier worked with Frederick W. Taylor, who founded the discipline of “Scientific Management”. Gantt had developed a method of charting found useful for large-scale industrial planning (indeed, it is still being used today). Ferguson, Gantt and others, mostly members of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, had hopes of applying this and other methods of industrial engineering to social problems and had formed an organization in 1916 called “The New Machine”, later called “The Technarchy”. This group had a natural attraction for Alfred, with his engineering bent and his urgency for political-social-economic reform. Korzybski became friendly with Ferguson and began to read his work. 


In Ferguson’s 1915 book, The Great News, he had coined the term “social credit” to label his own and related notions of economic reform developed by the English writer C. H. Douglas and others. In their view, cooperatives, under the advice of scientists and engineers, could wrest control of the credit system from bankers in order to ensure a more equitable distribution of buying power. Shortly, Korzybski became enthralled with Ferguson’s ideas and, for a time, seriously advocated them, recommending Ferguson’s 1918 book, The Revolution Absolute, to friends and correspondents.

Alfred may have rejected what he saw as the extremes of capitalistic commercialism but he also viewed socialism as unrealistic though he did seem to find it appealing. As can be seen in his “Profiteers” article, he already had an interest in cooperative economics and saw in Ferguson’s book a theoretical basis for the co-op movement—a kind of “social capitalism”—which he hoped could become strengthened in Poland and elsewhere.

At this time, Korzybski also had an interest in the efforts of Glenn Plumb, an attorney for the Railworker’s Union, who had formed an organization dedicated to nationalizing the U.S. railway system. The railroads would be purchased by the federal government with funds from a bond issue. The government would then lease them for an extended period of time to a managing organization made up of representatives from the government, present management, and railroad workers. The “Plumb Plan” was criticized as a move toward Bolshevism and never materialized. Korzybski had hoped to get Plumb together with Ferguson and Samuel Gompers, but was unable to arrange a meeting.

By the fall, Mira and Alfred had decided to put off the trip to Poland—the first of many times they did so. He had applied to become a manufacturer’s representative in Poland for International Harvester and for Ford Motor Company. They turned him down. But he was still looking for business opportunities which would enable him to inject something useful into the Polish economy while making a living there.

In the meantime, Korzybski threw his considerable energy into the cause of the “New Machine”. Perhaps there was some way to use Polish community resources in the U.S. and Canada to finance and create cooperative enterprises in Poland. Promoting Ferguson’s work might help inspire such activities. Alfred participated in several meetings of the New Machine which were held in New York. He was full of ideas. He contemplated editing a shortened version of The Revolution Absolute with added commentary by himself, and also doing a Polish translation of the work. Ferguson was grateful for Alfred’s offers to promote his work and eventually gave him translation rights to the book. He inscribed the following in Alfred’s copy of The Revolution Absolute
To Alfred Korzybski Soldier–Publicist, living spokesman of the dead who have been slain by the abominable politics—a man who thinks with emotion and feels with discretion, and so is fit for the greatest things. With affection and gratitude for wise counsils [sic].(18)

At the end of September, Alfred had occasion for severe disappointment. The U.S. Senate struck down the proposed Peace Treaty in a test vote. The sticking point had been U.S. membership in the League of Nations (the Treaty and the League were definitively voted down in November). A few days later, President Wilson—whom Alfred greatly admired—had to cut short his nationwide speaking tour promoting the Treaty, after suffering a stroke. (Amazingly, Wilson—bedridden and severely disabled—continued serving as President until the end of his term in March 1921, his wife and staff maintaining a kind of surrogate presidency in his name.) Notwithstanding these events, Washington was made the site of a League of Nations’ International Labor Conference starting at the end of October. Alfred was selected to serve the Polish delegation as a secretary.


Notes 
You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
17. IGS Library-Ft. Worth, Texas. 

18. IGS Library-Ft. Worth, Texas.