Socialism and ultimate origins


Every scientific discovery that helps us to understand Nature is of interest to the Socialist. Socialism is grounded in science, and being a comparatively new philosophy is forced to be complete because, when, by means of the Materialist Conception of History, the Socialist has explained the growth and development of Society, he is called upon to explain every physical and natural phenomenon, even to the existence of life itself. Biology has its materialist conception in the “struggle for existence” ; life and the resulting struggle being engendered by the conditions existing previously, that can also be explained from a materialist basis. In one sense the Socialist is only concerned with the “class struggle,” but the scientist, as well as the priest and politician, is in the pay of the capitalist, and is expected to perform his share of the general work of mystifying the working class.

For centuries the only explanation of life and nature has been provided by religion, but religion has lost its hold on the majority of the workers. Nevertheless, nature’s methods and laws still remain unexplained to them. The discoveries of scientists and the generalisations that follow them are filtered through the capitalist Press and cheap magazines with criticism and comment calculated to discredit them if they conflict with orthodox dogma.

To keep the workers ignorant on all questions is obviously to the interest of the capitalist class and those who serve ihem. For that reason the worker who seeks information should go to the actual authorities themselves. Darwin can only be understood from his own works ; those who have tried to improve on them, either through design or through incompetency, have invariably failed. Marx and Engele, the founders of scientific Socialism, have never been improved upon, because the working-class position as laid down by them was, and still is, complete. The S.P.G.B. is organised on that position, and up to the present has discovered no reason for the slightest deviation.

The scientist—for a consideration—endeavours to reconcile opposites : science with religion, The B.S.P., I.L.P , and Fabian Society attempt the same reconciliation with regard to Socialism and religion, and with the same object in view—a place in the sun, a seat in the House, or a soft job in some Government department. But in spite of their attempts at reconciliation, the original works still remain irreconcilable.

Scientific discoveries invariably go to strengthen materialist conceptions ; they sometimes bring the whole question of ultimate origins under discussion. At first the scientists range themselves on either side, some favouring while others oppose the materialist concept ; but what the worker is finally asked to believe (chiefly on trust) is that the discovery does not clash with original superstitions, but in reality strengthens and makes them more clear.

The supposed discovery by Sir W. Ramsey is an instance. He claims to have created matter out of “immaterial ether.” The “London Budget” published an account of the supposed discovery under the heading: “Turning Energies into Matter,” and summed up the whole question in the following paragraph.

“Rather the greater effect of results of researches in this direction would be from a pschycical and ethical standpoint, confirming what has been urged by small bands of advanced thinkers. That the materialist conception of not only science, but of the whole world is a fallacy. Mrs. Eddy’s contention that the material world about us is merely apparent and non-existent seems to be a long way vindicated.”

In other words, scientists have succeeded in creating matter; the existence of matter is a fallacy.

The pseudo, newspaper scientist, with an apparent and non-existent tongue in an unreal cheek, propounds theories on the origin of matter while discrediting its actual existence. No doubt his salary is just as unreal. His employer would certainly be justified in ignoring his existence when it was due, if he did not know that such piffle is written in his class interest.

The scientist accepts matter as he finds it; he never thinks of questioning its reality in the laboratory. To him matter is an aggregation of atoms. He knows the relative weights of the atoms that make up the different elements. Dalton was the first to observe that elements combine with each other only in certain fixed proportions by weight, and he concluded that their ultimate atoms must bear to one another the same relationship of weight. The atom of hydrogen gas is the lightest known, and is taken as the unit by which to measure the rest. The scientist utilises that standard of measurement and the results always justify its adoption.

Although disagreeing as to the nature of the atom, no scientist denies its existence. Professor Thomson affirms the existence of atoms when he says : “Within the last few years improvement in methods/giving more direct information of the atom was almost entirely due to the fact that we had electrified it.”

The students of Nature in the Grecian period came to the conclusion that all matter was the same matter, the difference in the elements be ing due to the difference in size, weight, and formation of the atoms that composed them. They arrived at this conclusion merely by common observation, without the methods and appliances of modern science. They saw that a garment soaked with water parted with it gradually when exposed to wind and sun, that a ring worn on the finger was reduced in weight, by friction, the particles lost being so small that they were unable to detect them. They found this process common to all substances and concluded that matter was composed of atoms. More than 2,000 years afterwards Dalton verified their conclusions by discovering a method of weighing atoms. To-day scientists are electrifying them. Both these performances have confirmed the truth of what was postulated by the Greeks—a glowing testimony to their powers of observation and deduction.

It does not in the least detract from their intelligence that the modern scientist claims to split up the atom itself into still smaller particles and suggests that they are merely centres of energy. For he only rings the changes and tries to prove that matter is a manifestation of force instead of force being a manifestation or property of matter. The existence of both matter and force is never called in question, on the contrary, it is affirmed, even by those who deny its reality.

The capitalist class, owning an apparent world, real or not, do not value it the less because pseudo-scientists and faith healers say its material existence is a fallacy. They know it is better to be capitalists than wage slaves. There is no fallacy about possessing a share in the means of wealth production and living by exploitation. It matters nothing to the capitalist whether the universe was created by a supreme being or whether Gustave Le Bon says that “the ether of the universe is apparent to us as matter when it is whirled and pulsated into vortex rings.” The essential point is always admitted—that matter is apparent and not “merely apparent,” whatever difference or distinction there may be.

Mrs. Eddy’s contention that matter is nonexistent is destructive of her particular religion, for there is nothing miraculous about “the faith that moves mountains” if the mountains are not real. The everyday actions of faith healers and pseudo-scientists are a direct contradiction to the doctrines they profess to believe and teach. They continue to act exactly as other human beings do, in adapting themselves to their material surroundings—material interests dominate all their actions.

From another quarter comes the assertion that mind is the only thing of which we are certain, of which we know anything at all; and with it also comes the admission that all we do know about mind are the impressions received by it of a material world. Thus is confirmed what Frederick Engels so ably recorded : we know a thing by its properties. The mind manifests itself by its peculiar property, conception. That conception is a materialist conception, and answers the test by results everywhere within our experience.

We are seriously told that “the scientist of to-day knows a million times more than the ordinary “human.” The same old tale ; the same priestly gag on the common sense of the workers. We know ; put your trust in us ; have faith, was their cry and is still their cry. Yet with all their knowledge, with all their ability and intellect, they cannot make out an intelligible case to the “ordinary human.” Whatever they know of ultimate origins, they trip and splutter like babies over their mother tongue. Their columns of trash are as worthless as polar expeditions. They assert and re-assert with provisos that are flat contradictions of their premises. Their own statements contain their own refutation. The “ordinary human,” gifted merely with common sense, would never contradict himself in one breath so obviously as did Dr. Alfred Wallace when he said that “he and Sir William Crooks knew of the existence of phenomena which proved the existence of life without matter, as it were, certainly without ordinary matter.” As if matter could be more or less matter because it was not ordinary matter !

The scientist’s concern may be with molecules, atoms, or electrons. Ours is with the necessaries of life. Theirs with the elements, the ultimate origins ; ours with substance and social arrangements and relationships. Their wants are supplied, their position secure. The working class are merely receptacles more or less filled with energy, to be emptied into the mills of the capitalists, piling up wealth to be used by them in luxury, vice, charity, suppression, what they will; in a word, for everything that is degrading to humanity—the senile decay of an idle class and the perpetuation of the most abject form of slavery the world has ever known.

Genuine scientific discoveries clear up the mysteries of nature. Those who understand nature know best how to conform to her laws and make the most of life. The working class are kept in ignorance of the significance of scientific discoveries ; numbed and bewildered by social forces they do not understand, they submit tamely to the yoke of capitalism. Though they are in the majority, and can snap their chains more easily and with less suffering than they experience by continuing their submission, they prefer the latter course.

Once the working class understand the real mature of capitalist society, they will realise how their lives are being wasted. Their united strength would become manifest to them, and the class that has to hire all its champions, from the policeman to the scientist, would shake with fear as revolution became, not “merely apparent,” but inevitable.

F. F.

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