To Serve Man

by Scott McLemee on August 14, 2008

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 Trotskyism in Latin America, 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 Red Flag, 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 Red Flag 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 amÅ“bæ; 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.



belle le triste 08.14.08 at 5:31 pm

the posadists have been spotted organising in the UK as recently as six weeks ago — my friend texted me from the march to ask “who hell this?”

luckily i knew as the fortean times — last doughty bastion of the situationist international — had run a feature on them


belle le triste 08.14.08 at 5:32 pm

(as you pointed out yourself)


chris y 08.14.08 at 5:45 pm

In the late 70s I once bought a pamphlet from a Posadist, to make her go away. It turned out to be a long, rambling attack on Wolf Biermann, culminating in the epic denunciation, “Biermann is a twit!” Perhaps it sounds better in Argentinian Spanish, but I remained unconverted.


Jeff Rubard 08.14.08 at 6:28 pm

I’d like to out myself as a “speciesist”: I think human life is the best, because it’s my life. I don’t know, maybe aliens are okay too. I’d also like to say that the real story of the international communist movement and nuclear war should be totally apparent to everybody by this point.


Righteous Bubba 08.14.08 at 7:27 pm

I think human life is the best

I believe the lizard people put this as “tastiest”.


Jeff Rubard 08.14.08 at 7:44 pm

I believe the lizard people put this as “tastiest”.

Hell I care. The thought that the Reds might want to demonstrate their love for the US by not dropping the bomb is somewhat more interesting.


Chris Bertram 08.14.08 at 9:39 pm

I seem to remember getting a Posadist leaflet in about 1980 that went on obsessively about the shoddy state of British railway stations, evidence that capitalism had entered its final phase.


SusanC 08.14.08 at 9:46 pm

While the paper itself might be a bit flawed, it opens up a line of enquiry that looks worth pursuing.

On the one hand, we have widespread popular belief in contacts with extra-terrrestrials.

On the other, we have official ridicule.

We can’t explain both of these by saying that it is simply factually true that such contacts are taking place (and, conversely, that they are not taking place).

For at least one of them, we’re led to seek explanations for why people believe it, apart from factual truth. This is absolutely standard in anthropology. But there’s an obvious duality here. If people can believe something for reasons other than the empirical evidence for it, they can also disbelieve something for reasons other than the empirical evidence against it (even if, by coincidence, it happens to be false). So: what’s the state’s motive for disbelieving in extra-terrestrials?

Something about this reminds me of Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals. In an age where God is Dead, the people try to convince the state that there exists a source of power outside the state (namely, the extra-terrestrials); and the state strongly resists.


The New York City Math Teacher 08.15.08 at 12:11 am

I first encountered Posadism in Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum. Heh.


Roy Belmont 08.15.08 at 12:33 am

Telling that discussion of anthropocentricity in sovereignty and territorial claims would jump immediately to “alien” life forms, with their anthropoid technologies.
As opposed to say, indigenous human groupings like the Kan bushmen or the Yanomami or other tribal people, or primates, or songbirds, or sharks, or any of the great number of other beings whose territories the discussants have violated and are violating as by right of birth.
E.T. is the same old anthropo-chauvinism with an exotic glamor.
Nothing against actual aliens, mind you.


novakant 08.15.08 at 9:13 am

Never heard of them, but they’re quite right about Biermann being a twit.


randomvariable 08.15.08 at 10:49 am

Some of my best friends are aliens! Is Icke reading?


abb1 08.15.08 at 7:10 pm

Capitalism doesn’t interest the UFO pilots

Why, I suspect it probably does, but flying saucer politruks keep them safe from the corrupting influence.


lemuel pitkin 08.15.08 at 9:39 pm

the real story of the international communist movement and nuclear war should be totally apparent to everybody by this point.

That it saved us from it? and that we could really use a good interntaional communist movement right about now?

Or… ?


Will Scarlet 08.15.08 at 9:43 pm

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
I think I have it. This bit refers to E. T. It is, of course, well-known that E.T. is one of the more significant examples of Hollywood anti-anti-communism.


Walt 08.15.08 at 10:37 pm

I like the way Reason periodically reveals the totalitarian impulse behind modern libertarianism, in the way that they are distressed that all organs of society are not working relentlessly and at all times to advance the cause of capitalism.


Henry (not the famous one) 08.15.08 at 11:44 pm

And while the comment is not original, it bears repeating: Trotsky exposed the fallacy of socialism in one country; Posadas exposed the fallacy of socialism on one planet.


felix culpa 08.17.08 at 1:57 am

Trotsky exposed the fallacy of socialism in one country; Posadas exposed the fallacy of socialism on one planet.
With fallacies like these, who needs enemas?

Odd, the impulse to propagate oddity (speaking as one of the odder sort).
I’d love to see some evolutionary psychology studies, but I’m afraid if any have been done they’ve been performed and expressed with simplistic reductionist flattening and no sense of humour with which to bargain and wager.
And where’s the enlightenment in that, much less illumination?
Maybe if he’d tied it in with quantum chromodynamics he’d be Head of the World Federation today.
He might have been even now nearing completion of The Really Really Big Bomb.

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