Saul Mendlovitz (WOMP), 1993

Saul Mendlovitz, 1993 New York City
Interviewer — Metta Spencer

MS: I can check.

MENDLOVITZ: Okay. Four people became part of their core group in our World Order Models Project. A sociologist by the name of Eduard Arab-Ogly, who was prominent in their sociology establishment, but who also taught in the place where they train their foreign officers. He was a professor there.

MS: The diplomatic academy.

MENDLOVITZ: Maybe. Then Igor Beztotu-Vlota [can’t catch the spelling] who was the futurologist. I am blanking on one of them who was the son of a Lt. -General, a political economist, who came out in a book on economics and world order fifteen or twenty years ago edited by Jagdish Bhagwati. And a man by the name of Gennady Gerasimov, whom you know now. I haven’t seen him in about 18 months. He is now ambassador to Portugal. I had a fairly decent relationship with Arbatov throughout the entire period. I would see him, we would exchange opinions. I met a lot of people but those four and Arbatov were the ones who I would say knew about us and we knew about them. Now. Arab-Ogly, whether he was selected or not selected, although he was later censured by the party and I did not see him for a while, he introduced me to these other three guys and on each of the times we went outside and he told me what i should say to them. They were two-hour conversations. Gennady Gerasimov, there was no conversation the night before, there was nothing. But he said to me two minutes before we walked into the room, if all else fails, stay with Gerasimov. That’s all he said. If all else fails? The other guys were censured, or one was sent to Prague, the one whose name I cannot remember. The other two were censured and could not come out. But Gerasimov either was part of some apparatus, or — he never had any trouble going anywhere or doing anything. He, the person who was part of WOMP throughout all those years.

MS: Let me back you up. Somebody was sent to Prague as if that was punishment?

MENDOLOVITZ: He thought of it as punishment. He was sent to be on the Communist magazine.

MS: That’s very interesting because one of the main things I am trying to do is to explore the Prague circle. There were people who were in Prague at the time of the invasion. They all turned out to be — and whoever was there certainly got in on something interesting.

MENDOLOVITZ: He may have asked for it.

MS: Who sent him there?

MENDOLOVITZ: This fellow whose name I can’t remember. The man spoke seven languages. He was a political economist with a Ph.D. Marvelous storyteller. I just can’t remember his name. I knew that it was not exactly what he wanted to do but he went there because it was one way of keeping out of trouble.

MS: When was that?

MENDOLOVITZ: In the mid-seventies. Well, I had this theory that there was this group of that age, the cadre who knew that there was something wrong with the system that had to be changed. A not-so-invisible conspiracy group. And they knew each other, were promoting each other. They became the Gorbachev men. I didn’t know that Gene was part of that, but it turned out he was. Gennady was a part of that. So to state a conclusion not based yet on any specific evidence that I can give you at the moment, my sense is that they saw this particular group as an important group for them to be part of because it gave them a window, not just to the U.S., but to the world. That is, having to meet with Rajni Kothari and Ali Mazruli and Gustavo Lagos and going to Santiago and going to Delhi and having to meet these Third Worlders within the context of the U.S. interaction. The U.S. had always been these goddamn imperialists coming to tell us what we should be thinking about. Observing Falk and Mendlovitz trying to deal with this, they thought was extraordinarily useful. In addition, we had moved beyond the abolition of war to the problems of poverty, injustice, and ecological instability. And here was this analytic/value framework could give them a way of thinking about it that they knew was outside of power politics.

I can remember coming to the Council on Foreign Relations. Georgy Arbatov was the speaker that night, it was just four or five years ago. He’s looking down the hall and he jumps up and says “Ah, There’s Saul Mendlovitz!” comes out of the room. He was about to speak and here he was with the president of the council and he sees me down the hall. It was the sense that he knew they were dealing with kooks, utopians, etc. On the other hand they thought we were radicals, fellow-travelers, and so on because they knew we were very critical of our own society. So I don’t know if I can point to anything that shows they thought we were a group that they should take seriously. I can’t point to anything specific that either Gerasimov or Arbatov or any of them did. Although we did keep in front of them the notion of some form of global politics. That it’s something that you might take seriously, although they heard the Third Worlders say that’s a North American scheme, the fact that Mendlovitz is here preaching it doesn’t mean we have to buy it. They knew it was part of the dialogue anyway. So they found these discussions over 10 or 12 workshops that they came to, it was very important, sort of education. I think what rubbed off was that there were people in the United States and in the rest of the world who were interested in trying to produce a system in which neither power the SU or the US were dominant. It think that did get through, rubbed off on them. And that it was worth thinking about humanity as a whole, even though we went through wars of national liberation and positive identity that came out of that. At the moment that’s the best I can do. I would be hard pressed. I have heard Gerasimov use phrases that came out of our meetings.

MS: I think that’s important. I think of when I heard them use the word “GRIT.” Who else would know GRIT?

MENDLOVITZ: Oh, they all knew GRIT, that crowd.

MS: Give me some examples of language that got caught up.

MENDLOVITZ: Well, Dick Falk was inveighing against me because I was asking people to come up with a preferred world in which they filled out their institutional preference. He called it “premature specificity.” There’s not much point, says Dick Falk, in talking about what international institutions should look like when we don’t have a political process in place that would move us in the direction of getting rid of the cold war and starting some detente that would permit us to think about this. Why put that out? I think he was dead wrong.

The enterprise that I put these people through was that they should do a diagnosis of the current world, do a prognosis, state the likely outcome, and having done that, state what the preferred world was. The preferred world was what you want to get to, and describe the transition of how you get from this world to the preferred would. Recognizing the difference between where we are going and the preferred world. One of the elements of that, was to specify in the most concrete and behavioral way that you could, what the institutions of the global community would look like. While he ultimately did it, he kept inveighing against what he called “premature specificity.” Don’t get involved in the details of the Clark-Sohn plan, for example. That is just too remote from what we are thinking about. I kept saying that there are war games and I want to play peace games. Let’s take it out of the realm of the fantasy. I have heard Gerasimov speak of “beware of premature specificity.” Now obviously, I never anybody else use that term but Dick Falk. That one sprang to mind immediately.

These people knew of our four-valued orientation. They would occasionally just say, “Hey, here are the global problems: war, poverty, social injustice, ecological instability. “ It would come ticking off, okay? Or I would force them to think about peacekeeping beyond the consent of the host government, putting together battalions. If you could set up a peacekeeping regime, what would it look like? How close would you go to what Clark and Sohn suggested in a disarmed world, 200,000 to 300,000 troops. There was no question that they took the exercise quite seriously. They wrote papers on it.

MS: What happened to those papers?

MENDLOVITZ: They are someplace in my archives. Unfortunately, I really regret — you would find the article in the Bhaglati thing— the name of the article is, “Man does not Live by Bread Alone.” That’s what he wrote. Gerasimov, being the only person left of that original group, he wrote an essay for our book that I edited on the creation of a just world order, which was a single-edited thing. The publishers said that the article was so far below the level of scholarship that they didn’t want to put it in. That was a major mistake. I should have argued for it. He was a journalist and he wrote a journalist’s article, and it was not a bad article. I regret it to this day. Our archives are down at the Rutgers university library in New Brunswick under something like social policy, if you really wanted to look it up. There’s a whole bunch of stuff by the Soviets that I have already sent there which might be relevant. I am at Rutgers, on the faculty of the school of law there. I know it is all there, including Gerasimov’s stuff, some stuff on peacekeeping by Edward Arab-Ogly, some future stuff by Vladov? His feeling was that we would have technology to feed anybody on the face of the planet. Agriculture. He’s become a significant public TV figure in the field of family and marriage. Both he and Arab-0gly became prominent TV personalities.

I do know that four or five years ago, or maybe seven, eight years ago, when Gene was editing the Moscow News, he also was running what would be the equivalent to a Sixty Minutes program all by himself. He had me on that program talking about the abolition of war. He was willing to put me on. He used a half an hour on it.

MS: This was on radio?

MENDLOVITZ: Radio-TV. It came out on Sunday nights. A major audience.

MS: Did you get any feedback?

MENDLOVITZ: He had a heart attack about a month later. I spoke to his wife, Peggy, who said, Oh, that was terrific. People called and said what a nice program it was and so on. Something else that happened. You know the name Georgy Shakhnazarov?

MS: He’s sort of the node of that network in the Prague circle. Yes, I do know him personally.

MENDLOVITZ: Five years ago Georgy came to me in the United States, knocked on my door, introduced himself to me and said, I know about you people, the World Order Models people. I would like to talk to you about it. So I said, I think we should go and you should meet Dick Falk. So we went down and we had him speak at Princeton. And we dreamt up a project called Global Civilization: Challenges to Sovereignty, Democracy and Security. The result was four years of work and three conferences, the first one at IMEMO on sovereignty, the second one at Yokohama on Democracy that Sakamoto ran, and the third one at Notre Dame on security that Bob Johansen ran. And in that Shakh and his — a man by the name of William Smirnov—

MS: He’s one of my favorite people in the world.

MENDLOVITZ: Okay. He’s marvelous. Those two participated, not only participated, were engines in making sure that that project went. Shakhnazarov was writing letters for funding. Went to the Rockefeller Foundation, went to that guy in Argentina — Carlos Mendes, tried to get them aboard. Tried to get people at the UN aboard. Thinks that it’s one of the most important projects that ever happened! That’s part of the World Order Models project. He came to see us, I didn’t go see him. He obviously had learned — now, it may have been the Prague group, or he read an awful lot of futurology stuff, so somehow there was this notion that there was this group out here and now that Gorby had taken over, therefore they ought to get in touch with Mendlovitz and the WOMP people. And they did. Indeed they spent four years with us. And I was back there last July at the Gorbachev Foundation.

MS: I was there in July too.

MENDLOVITZ: I was there for the meeting on global civilization. They brought me there as the granddaddy of their project on global civilization.

MS: I was invited to that but I had to leave the day before it happened.

MENDLOVITZ: So that is direct, there is no question, right? Now, it clearly permeated the Gorbachev project. These people knew about the world order, knew of the world, not the way George Bush made it, but the way we were talking about value orientation. They were very much aware of it.

MS: Where did you get the word “new world order”?

MENDLOVITZ: We never used the word new world order. We used world order and “just world order.”

MS: So where did that come from?

MENDLOVITZ: Well, Hitler used it. And in the twenties, the labor movement before WWI used the terminology. There is a book written sometime in the late thirties on World Order, where somebody tried to trace the origin and history of its use.

MS: What’s going to happen to that project?

MENDLOVITZ: The World Order Civilization Project? I don’t believe much will happen to it. That’s my understanding.

MS: I talked to one guy who was there. A guy from Calgary. There were only two Canadians there.

MENDLOVITZ: Is he the guy who writes on World Federalism and Social movements?

MS: Probably.

MENDLOVITZ: He had an intelligent paper.

MS: His review of the whole thing was mixed.

MENDLOVITZ: Oh yeah, it was very mixed. As political drama it was fun because there was Gorby. He is either bored and has nothing else to do or else he wants to be part of the whole thing.

MS: Could you tell which by looking at his face?

MENDLOVITZ: No because he is a politician. The Russians got into a real debate with a political economist, a woman. They had obviously been through this debate before. They weren’t angry, but they got very intense, he arguing that shock therapy was just a drastic mistake, pragmatically and ethically, and furthermore he said, “I think Yeltsin will come down as a result of it.” It was quite a performance.

[I think he means Shakhnazarov, not Gorby.]

MS: Who was this woman?

MENDLOVITZ: A member of the city council, well known to everybody but me.

MS: I’ll ask my friends. I have a close friend who is on the city council.

MENDLOVITZ: I was introduced to Gorbachev during a coffee break and my sense was that he had already been touted before he ran afoul of all those problems there, had signed up with the World Order Models Project to an ongoing, continuing relationship in which we were supposed to do joint projects. To carry on joint seminars and workshops.

MS: That group being Shakhnazarov and Krasin and so on?

MENDLOVITZ: Yeah, right! Here we are, I was there in the ten days in which the dissolution of the Soviet Union took place. There was Krasin, there was Shakhnazarov, William Smirnov and myself. Everybody else is outside. We were sitting in the dining room with the big shots in their foundation. It’s not clear yet which way it’s going to go because there’s not been a decision as to whether there’s going to be the dissolution of the Soviet Union. And Shakh says, “I feel like I’m chronicling the breakdown of the Roman empire.” And I am writing it all down. Krasin says “Don’t worry, it’s going to be all right, we’re going to make it.” And we go on to discussing our project. That’s how close! Now, the sociology of this is that — how many other groups they were discussing this with, making them feel that they were part of it, I have no way of knowing.

MS: You know Lindsay Mattison?

MENDLOVITZ: Sure, I went on that thing. I went and Lindsay brought me because they said, if you’re going to hold this thing you’ve got to bring Mendlovitz.

MS: He’s my original best source.

MENDLOVITZ: Yeah, he knows everybody. He’s pissed off at those people, with some justification. He feels that when they broke and didn’t need him anymore, they let him go. He put out an enormous amount on Afghanistan. He really did some things for those people. He didn’t get upset with me but he saw that they were treating me preferentially and differently than they were treating him.

MS: When was that?

MENDLOVITZ: At that meeting. Not last summer. Before.

MS: Was that when they hauled down the flag? He said he was there when they hauled down the flag.

MENDLOVITZ: Yes, that’s right. He began to feel that they were withdrawing from him. I was mentioned twice in the opening session by Shakhnazarov and then by Mendez, who was the keynote speaker, We are so pleased to have Mendlovitz and for Christ sake they didn’t mention Lindsay and he was the one who —

MS: I haven’t talked to him about it.

MENDLOVITZ: I haven’t talked to him about it in a year.

MS: I wonder how he feels now?

MENDLOVITZ: He wrote an op ed that was published not in the Washington Post but in the other one. A few other places. That bad-mouthed them.

MS: He didn’t tell me that. He said, I love Shakh. I’m mad at him right now because he doesn’t answer my faxes.


MS: When I mentioned his name there, Smirnov practically jumped up and hugged me. I interviewed them separately, Smirnov first, then Shakhnazarov and Krasin at about the same time. And both Krasin and Shakhnazarov almost didn’t react.

MENDLOVITZ: I know. They treated him almost like a non-person, which was extraordinary. I mean, the effort he put into bringing this off! It was a good group. I didn’t like Scalia much. Our supreme court justice, Scalia. I found him such an arrogant son of a bitch. Maybe it was because I didn’t like his politics, but I don’t think that was the case. I had friends like Abner [Mikler?? Michloff? ] who was circuit in Washington D.C. and Lindsay went out of his way to help. He spent an inordinate amount of time with me.

MS: He did for me too! He was simply amazing. He is so generous. He gave me his whole list of phone numbers and he didn’t know me from Adam!

MENDLOVITZ: I know, he’s terrific. I found him enormously helpful and I should get back to him, but — Gerasimov for example told me a few years go, he went to Harare, Zimbabwe and he said, would you get in touch with Nathan — Nathan Shimarire is the foreign minister of Zimbabwe and a former WOMPer — and tell him I’m coming? So I sent a fax to Nathan. And Gerasimov came back and said that Nathan didn’t have much time for him when he was there. The reason I give that as an anecdote is that this network that we have around the world, people feel entitled to call on that network wherever they go. If they go to Santiago they should be able to call on ____ or _____. And that’s the way Gerasimov felt, I am a part of this enterprise. And that’s the way that Shakhnazarov feels even at this point, and Smirnov. So somehow this invisible college makes a difference.

Waitress: Want another drink?

MS: I do.

MENDLOVITZ: I don’t. I have to go drink some more elsewhere. I’m dressed this way because I am going to see my major donor, Ira Wallach. You know who Ira Wallach is? He is a significant philanthropist in the field of peace. He is the major donor for the Peace Academy, the major donor for the World Order Models Project, he is the major donor in the Institute for East-West Security that is run by John Rose. He has picked up a series of organizations and made them viable by his financial support. He has assisted us for thirty years. I figured I’d wear a tie for the occasion.

MS: What you are saying is that what you went to last summer was somehow connected to WOMP.

MENDLOVITZ: It was an entirely different enterprise. There were two different enterprises, one was the Global Civilization, the other was the Lindsay Mattison enterprise. The Lindsay Mattison one was in early December of 1991. The one of last July was run by the Foundation itself.

MS: Was this going to be something permanent? What Lindsay told me was that he had been invited to put together something in what became the Gorbachev Foundation. That obviously got pulled out from under him when the Foundation was created. But he told me he was bringing people –– he mentioned Scalia, I think. I don’t live in the US so people’s names don’t mean the same thing as they would. But I didn’t realize that this was meant to be part of an ongoing thing. Was that what you are saying

MENDLOVITZ: Lindsay thought he was establishing a relationship with that foundation that would continue, that would deal with the governance of the Soviet Union and the United States. You remember that the initial project was to deal with federalism and its applicability to the Soviet Union. But while we were there the Soviet Union fell apart. Nevertheless, we then went through the exercise. So you had people at the federal level, people at the state level, people at the city level, administrative local levels of county, village even. For the U.S. people it was a marvelous education. We got an opportunity to hear these guys succinctly state what they thought they were about.

MS: The guy out in Calgary is putting on a conference on federalism in March and Gorbachev is coming. He’s making a tour of Canada. I had offered to help in any way I could in Toronto. I belong to Pugwash and Science for Peace, and I know Alexander Likhotal.


MS: Likhotal. He is Gorbachev’s press person. I suggested I would help. Science for Peace and John Polanyi are still trying to have part of his itinerary.

MENDLOVITZ: I was speaking with Alan Cranston, who was going there. I was trying to get in touch with Shakhnazarov. Nobody was responding to our faxes. Cranston said he would get in touch with Shakhnazrov personally and tell him that I want him to come to Harare.

MS: Didn’t get through?

MENDLOVITZ: I don’t know. Cranston assured me that he was going to do that but I never heard from him or Shakhnazarov. I’ve tried calling Shakh but I have a hell of a time getting through. Anyway, I have no way of knowing what our direct impact was on these people but my sense was that they were listening carefully. Arbatov came to town to promote his book about a month ago and it’s one of these things that nobody is going to buy.

MS: I think it’s a wonderful book!

MENDLOVITZ: That’s a separate question. There are a few thousand people who are interested in the subject. It is no longer an expose. People went on to other matters.

MS: I’m not. I’m still stuck there.

MENDLOVITZ: I know. But he missed out. I saw him at the Gorbachev Foundation meeting. I said Georgy, are you coming? I gave him my numbers. The telephone rang, it’s Georgy Arbatov. We spent a couple of hours in a Korean restaurant on 46th Street telling each other stories. One of the things that came through which I felt rather poignant was that his institute is open for contract work for corporations who want entry to the Soviet market. … ..

According to Cranston the Gorbachev Foundation in some ways is better off because they have a smaller space and don’t have so much to worry about.

MS: But they don’t have any source of income.

MENDLOVITZ: According to Cranston, they do. The source is Gorby and the donations that come from the rest of the world. Running the hotel turned out not to be such a source of income as they thought it would be. I’m not saying that’s accurate. I’m just saying that’s what I heard. Let me ask you a question: Where did you do your sociology?

MS: Berkeley.

MENDLOVITZ: What period?

MS. I went there in 49 as a first year student, got married after a year, went back to school in 1961.

MENDLOVITZ: Was Erving there?

MS: Goffman?

MENDLOVITZ: Erving with an E as we used to say. We used to see each other at least four or five nights a week.

MS: Oh, yes, sure he was there. I was not his student. Before I became a student I was obsessed with his thinking and I decided if I became a student of his I wouldn’t ever do anything practical again, so I never became a Goffmanite. I worked for Lipset. Very different.

MENDLOVITZ: I’m a Chicago sociologist turned wrong by becoming a lawyer.

MS: I didn’t know that about you.

MENDLOVITZ: Nine years at THE university.

MS: Was Blumer still there?

MENDLOVITZ: Blumer, ____, Shils. I went back to teach there a couple of times. Extraordinary. Evenings with Shils. Evenings with Ed Levy. Evenings with Fred Strodtbeck. Fun.

MS: I am one of Blumer’s students.

MENDLOVITZ: Oh, symbolic interaction. George Herbert Mead.

MS: I think he would be disappointed in me now.

MENDLOVITZ: Oh, Blumer was a peacenik. It never came through. It never looked like he was engaged in political activity. Mind! Thought! The generalized other! But in our days there was a song we had. “There is a rumor that Herbert Blumer is vague, shallow, and ill-defined. He got that way from reading all day in Society, Self, and Mind.” (we laugh.) He actually was quite a liberal in his own way, but it never entered into anything he did. I was one of his favorite students and he was one of my favorite professors. I got to know him rather well, actually.

MS: One of my friends is editing a book on the first twenty women who got Ph. Ds in the Berkeley department, and they wanted us to tell stories. I told about how he referred me to a Catholic Women’s college to teach during the first semester after I started graduate school They told me I wasn’t ready. Of course I wasn’t, but he wouldn’t send them anybody else!

MENDLOVITZ: That’s a nice story. Who else? Selznick was there.

MS: Gertrude and I were friends. Insofar as someone twenty years younger can be friends.

MENDLOVITZ: The really strange person was Bill Kornhauser. What a waste. Erving, Bill Kornhauser, Ruth Kornhauser. What the hell happened to him? A real tragedy.

MS: I worked for him. We talked all day. They were in the process of separating. There were things going on that I didn’t understand. It was too intense. I can’t talk about it.

MENDLOVITZ: They were both such bright people. I called him a couple of times. I go out there to see Leo Goodman. I call him and it turns out — we set up appointments and each time he has cancelled out. So you’re a Berkeleyan. Marty Lipset. .

MS: Tell me where else I should go.

MENDLOVITZ: About 10 years ago I hoped organize something called the Lawyers Committee for Nuclear Policy. We were the same group that were the Lawyers Committee on Vietnam Policy. Round up the usual suspects. What we were trying to do was to demonstrate that the threat of use of nuclear weapons was illegal under international law. We got a series of articles published. In the process of doing that we teamed up with the Soviet legal establishment. I can’t remember the name of the people who got involved, but they were right out of that Soviet Peace Friendship House. Topnotch Soviet legal scholars. We started something called the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms — IALANA.

MS: That’s now doing this legal thing, yeah.

MENDLOVITZ: Oh, yeah! Okay, I’m their rep.

MS: Good for you.

MENDLOVITZ: That’s another group. You might want to interview them in terms of what impact we had. . . .

Spurgeon Keeney. He is the head of the Arms Control Association. He was high up in arms control negotiations for many years. He had an awful lot of contacts there. Have you decided to forego people like Paul Warnke? All those people who negotiated with the Soviets and kept contact with them. Paul was one of the most level-headed. If you look at the people on the board of the Arms Control Association there are people like Warnke, Bob McNamara, Resor. People who had a fair amount of interaction with the Soviets. I’m going to have to go. It’s been nice meeting you. . . .

The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy, by Metta Spencer, published by Lexington Books