1950s >> 1950 >> no-549-may-1950

Science and Socialism

The world learned recently of the premature death of Professor Harold Laski, the well-known Labour Party writer.

One London daily stated that Professor Laski represented Scientific Socialism in the Labour Party— as against the “Socialism of to-day” of the Webbs, Attlee and Cripps.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has always held that with the discovery of the law of commodity value and the materialist conception of history, Socialism ceased to be Utopian and became scientific. At no time has the Labour Party supported these views. Their economics have always been muddled Liberalism leading to Nationalisation and Control of Finance theories. Indeed, for many years, the phrase “Scientific Socialists” was hurled at the Socialist Party as a term of abuse signifying inability to grasp “practical” details.

What then is Science? Science is the Latin word for knowledge. Science is just a knowledge of things which really exist.

The stupendous mass of knowledge acquired during the last one hundred years by the so-called “scientific method” has entirely exploded most of the previous “knowledge” believed by the ignorant.

The word “Scientific” has acquired a connotation almost like that of “royal” or “holy” in years gone by. Almost everybody has gone “scientific” and we have Christian Science, Psychic Science, Economic Science (meaning how to run a shop), “scientific” footballers, boxers and politicians, and “scientific” astrologers, who can read in the stars the day the cost of living will fall.

What is the AIM of Science? If, by definition, Science is a knowledge of things which really exist its AIM must be—TRUTH. To find out the truth of things, this is the quest of Science.

But what is Truth? This question has been the main problem of metaphysics for centuries.

The Scientist has his answer. “The Scientist looks on all truth as relative and temporary,” says Richard Gregory in his excellent little history “Discovery.

This means that he welcomes criticisms, rejects preconceived ideas and gladly acknowledges the exception to the rule.

This, T. H. Huxley called the “great tragedy of Science—the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.”

It means that Truth is finite, there can never be perfection. Truth is NOT revealed, it is never complete, cannot be finished.

“When men believe that complete truth has been revealed to them they restrain enquiry and persecute those who fail to see the same light.” (Gregory, p. 26.) This is the difference between Religion and Science.

The deeply religious man, however tolerant, is always a potential persecutor.

Therefore, by its method of verification. Science presupposes that the “scientific mind” is not special. The results of one must be verified by others. Scientific truth is objective, not subjective. The scientific eye looks out, not in.. Scientific Truth is open to ALL eyes. It is not a vision limited to one, or a few minds. ALL are potentially able to see great scientific truths —and eventually, with training, to test them.

What then is the METHOD of Science? Since its sole AIM is TRUTH its method must be completely unbiassed. The scientist is utterly impartial, his sole concern is to establish, collect facts. He starts with nothing—but the problem.

Said Charles Darwin—

  “By collecting all facts which bore in any way on the variations of animals and plants under domestication and nature, some light might perhaps be thrown on the whole subject. My first note-book was opened in July, 1837. I worked on true Baconian principles, and without any theory, collected facts on a wholesale scale.” (“Discovery” p. 114.)

“Poor innocent,” said the villagers, crossing themselves, when returning from their work in the fields they saw J. H. Fabre, the incomparable French naturalist, glued to the same spot, watching a wasps’ nest, as he had been in the morning.

In the work in which he announced his discovery of planetary motions, which occupied twenty years of his life, Kepler wrote—

  “. . .  that for which I have devoted the best part of my life to astronomical contemplations, at length I have brought to light . . . the book is written . . . it may well wait a century for a reader, as God has waited six thousand years for an observer.” (P. 99.)

Newton spent twenty years in his calculations on the gravitational pull of the earth on the moon, just as Karl Marx spent 23 years at the house in Maitland Park Villas collecting facts on commodities.

Thus for the scientist the facts come first, theory afterwards. The scientist does not merely collect facts, when he has sufficient evidence he applies the vital spark of the human brain to the material, frequently producing a tremendous explosion in human knowledge like the discoveries of Galileo, Darwin, Newton, Priestly, Harvey and Marx, and many others.

For 1500 years the cultured world believed that planetary motion was circular, because Plato had said that the circle was the perfect figure. Kepler’s work enabled Newton to calculate the orbit as an ellipse, and the Comet, which previously had petrified whole populations with fright, became harmless.

Aristotle wrote that the mason-bee carried a small stone to maintain its line of flight; this palpable nonsense was inviolate till Fabre proved by observation that it used the stones to build its nest.

“He must be stopped,” said the College Fathers, when Galileo took two iron balls to the top of the leaning tower of Pisa and proved that, although one was heavy and the other light, they fell at the same speed. This exploded the theories of 2000 years.

For 200 years men sought to explain the development of Society by money—instead of money by Society, until Marx arrived with no axe to grind. He was not writing a policy for Charles II like William Petty or expounding the necessity of Free Trade like Adam Smith, but collecting facts first.

When he has the knowledge the scientist can formulate a theory.

“Those who are infatuated by practice without science are like the navigator who sails a ship without helm or compass, he never knows with certainty whither he goes. Practice must be built on theory. Study Science first, then follow the practice which is born of Science,” said Leonardo da Vince, the greatest practical mechanical engineer of all time.

This meticulous application is to be seen in Marx’s dissection of Value into its Relative and Equivalent forms in the first pages of “Capital.”

We see then that Science is a battle, and that Truth must be, as it has been, fought for, inch by inch.

The history of Science is studded with the names of those mighty pioneers whom Authority has persecuted for experimenting, Bruno, Galileo, Roger Bacon, Da Vince, Marx and others. The truth of Capitalism has been discovered, but “Sight is invisible till it strikes a material body.”

We are a party of exponents, whose aim is the highest expression of the workers’ struggle—Socialism. In that struggle we shall encounter political biologists who will claim that Socialism is an impossibility. Geneticists who will want the poverty out-bred from the workers, Ecologists who will claim shortage as a law of nature. Psychologists who will attribute poverty to psychical maladjustment, and hosts of others.

Let every Socialist, however limited his opportunities, strive to gain more knowledge of the Science of Society-Socialism. In doing this he (and she) will convert himself from a number on the wall into a personality, and befit himself as a member of a new Society, whose ethics will be love of knowledge and whose precept will be voluntary labour.

Horatio