1920s >> 1927 >> no-278-october-1927

Socialism and Science

Concerning the beginnings of the cosmic system, we are without knowledge. Science is concerned with the universe as we find it, and speculations as to beginning or finality would both be futile. The indestructibility of matter seems fairly established, and we therefore, only look for efficient causes to effect the changes that would bring about the forms we know to-day. There is evidence of a continuity of processes, the totality of which we term evolution. From astrology to astronomy, from alchemy to chemistry, supernatural creation to naturally selected species, such has been the unfolding in the branches of knowledge that has given us the concept of the universe as a totality of its relations : Before we can formulate a science upon any particular subject, we proceed by a certain method. That method is similar whether the subject matter be the Solar System or the Social System. First induction or the gathering of the facts by experiment and observation; second, the classification and generalisation of such facts into sequences or series, and finally the deduction from such sequences of a theory or scientific law which allows of no other interpretation of the facts than the one consistently derived. By such methods came the Atomic Theory in chemistry, the Law of Gravitation in Physics, the Germ Theory in Pathology, and the Labour Theory of Value in Economics. By such methods we are enabled to understand and explain the facts of experience, and also to supply the antidote to the numbing effects of Capitalist mal-education. Laplace, seeking material for his Nebulae Hypothesis found that he had no need for the God Idea. All science dispenses with such products of man’s ignorant fear. It assigns him his place in nature, and lays to rest for ever the belief in the supernatural. True, there are gaps that require filling in, but they are gaps in our knowledge, not in nature. Aided by abstract thought and the service rendered to one science by another, the gaps are filling. Worlds are not born except of pre-existing matter, and the astronomer has but to turn his powerful telescope toward the heavens, and, with the aid of the spectroscope, analyse, review and reconstruct the birth, growth and decay of solar systems like our own. Piecing together what was previously “explained” by childish theology (He made the stars) we learn that this earth was once a whirling gaseous mass thrown off the sun. Allowing for immense periods of time, cooling would take place, and condensation would bring with it a covering of water and ultimately the formation of oceans. From various sources, we know that primitive life must have begun in these oceans, and through the over-laid strata of the earth disturbed and altered though it has been, we piece together the history of plant and animal life from the geological order in which their fossils are embedded. We find the many extinct forms that were modified and evolved toward those that began life in a world like the one we know to-day.

It was upon this background that Darwin projected the results of his observations. It provided him with the eras of time in which to account for the differentiation of animals and plants from earlier times. It also enabled him to show that continual changing of the earth’s surface would beget conditions which, with the prolific nature in all species, would involve intense struggle for the limited available subsistence. Those species that acquired any advantage from one generation to another in the quest for food, and in the struggle against natural obstacles, would be the species that nature’s sifting process considered fittest to survive.

Those unable to adapt themselves as species would become extinct. Instead of plan and design, as talked of by the Christian, nature has been found to be one huge slaughterhouse of those for whom no place has been found. Darwin knew, of course, from his researches, that man must be included in his evolutionary process. He did not say, as so many falsely assert, that “man came from monkeys” : Man comes from his parents, they from ancestors, and they in turn from more primitive ancestors.

The evidence upon which Darwin relied to establish man’s development from lower forms was the close resemblance of primitive man in structure to the apes known as anthropoid. The resemblance is a much closer one than that between some living races of men. This structural likeness with many other similarities, is too close to be explained in any other way than by common ancestry at some earlier period. Man’s body, too, contains rudimentary parts which point with certainty to his lowly origin. Life begets life, and all biological forms evolve in a similar manner. From the simple cell stage to the most complex organism, plant, animal and man all develop alike, the cell is the unit. The human embryo commences with the union of the male and female cell, and the main history of the species is retold during its development, the last form it passes through before birth being that of the anthropoid ape. Man’s journey commences where he develops language and the ability to construct tools. With a mean power over nature’s materials, he was for thousands of years cradled in the crude communism of the tribe. With a subsistence so mean that it permitted of no idlers, it seems paradoxical that it was the very increase in productivity that made slavery possible. Slavery and class society arrive together. Says Karl Marx, the founder of the science of Socialism : “All history is the history of class struggles.” True to the scientific method, Marx assembled his facts, and answered his critics, with a patience and a thoroughness equalled only by his contemporary Darwin. He bequeathed to the workers an analysis of Capitalist society that has withstood the onslaughts of the paid Professors of the Universities for over half-a-century. In the monumental work Capital, the cause of working-class poverty, is made obvious and clear, and there is shown, that to understand the cause, is to understand the remedy. To remove poverty the workers must by class conscious activity take from the Master Class their means of life. They must commonly own these means which to-day are the Private Property of the Capitalist few. To enjoy the leisurely life, the modern powers of wealth-production make possible, Social revolution is necessary. In order to change the basis of society from a production for profit to a production for use one, the workers themselves must first have the revolutionary outlook. No amount of Capitalist evolution can bring the change to Socialism that is necessary to free the workers. Capitalism has the seeds of its own destruction, but the workers must be the seeds. Lewis H. Morgan, in his “Ancient Society,” after a life study of the development of human society, came to conclusions similar to Marx in quite an independent manner. He says (p. 562) :

“The dissolution of society bids fair to become the termination of a career of which property is the end and aim ; because such a career contains the elements of self-destruction. Democracy in government, brotherhood in society, equality in rights and privileges, and universal education, foreshadow the next higher plane of society to which experience, intelligence and knowledge are steadily tending. It will be a revival in a higher form of the liberty, equality and fraternity, of the ancient gentes.”

Such conclusions the Socialist can endorse. From our own platform, and through our literature, can be obtained all the knowledge required by the workers for the establishment of that higher form of society. Time and truth will tell without empty slogans, or vote-catching reforms, but with the beacon-light of science we illuminate the road to Socialism.


(Socialist Standard, October 1927)

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