1960s >> 1965 >> no-734-october-1965

The Advance of Technology

The last decade is noted for its achievements in science and technology. Our age is one of continuous discovery, yet the problems of humanity seem to be intractable. Technical advances are relative. The used of flaked flint tools by primitive man is no less spectacular than the building of nuclear reactors by present-day man. The beginning of language is no less momentous than communication by telstar satellite. Primitive man’s innovations took tens of thousands of years to become perfected, today the momentum of technological and scientific advance is staggering.

Our age is dominated by savage contradictions. America and Russia may be on the brink of sending men to the moon, yet two-thirds of the world’s inhabitants have not enough to eat. Scientists have the skill to dissect living cells 6/10,000ths of an inch in diameter, but disease is still a major human affliction. Despite international communication men are divided by nationalism and race prejudice. Illiteracy and ignorance abound; violence, competition and privilege are the keynotes of the age. Workers fulfil economic functions that have no personal meaning, for them society is a prison house of economic servitude where hopes remain denied.

This then is the contradiction of today: In the field of science and technology men have asserted their genius more often than not towards anti-human ends; in the field of human relationships they have abysmally failed. Why?

Science serves the ends of the capitalist system. It serves the military might of nations. It serves industrial efficiency not by satisfying community’ needs, but by intensifying the exploitation of the working class. In dealing with today’s problems so-called social service is fettered by the prejudices of private property. It refuses to recognise that the cause of these problems is capitalism itself. Under socialism science will serve the whole community.

Capitalism has almost engulfed the whole world. Every nation is involved in world trade and cannot escape the influence of international power politics, with its alliances and war preparations. Technical innovation goes on apace, augmenting military might, intensifying the labour process and maximising the exploitation of the worker. This drive for greater technical efficiency is basic to capitalism’s insatiable thirst for profits; humanity’s real needs are not considered.

As commodity production spreads it diffuses its own ideology and culture. Industrialisation destroys the village communities with their rich cultural traditions. People are concentrated into towns and are set to work in factories, clocking on, clocking off. TV, the cinema, pop music, suburbia and the “Jones”, slums and overcrowding, are all features of what is becoming a universal way of life. And with all these go the so-called welfare and public services; “free” medicine, education, national assistance, etc.

Fifty years ago the British worker, the Chinese peasant and primitive African were living in different worlds. Today they live very similar lives. The same social problems are increasingly conditioning them. They are all cogs in the machinery of capitalism, and are exploited in the same way. Their diet and their language may be different, but the workers day-to-day material problems are essentially the same.

On the other hand, the tremendous development of the means of mass communication have made the world smaller. The worker is forced to widen his perspective. For the first time it becomes possible for him to communicate intelligibly with workers throughout the world. The Socialist demand for “one world, one people” becomes supported by the development of the productive forces of capitalism itself.

One may lament the break-up of the old local traditions, but capitalism has no time for sentiment when it devours technically backward communities, brutally converting them into commodity producers and reducing all values to money ones.

Seemingly, apart from Socialism, nothing can stop the further expansion of capitalism. It subjugates great numbers of people to wage slavery, but then it also destroys the worker’s insularity, forcing upon him experiences and problems shared universally by the whole working class.

Our propaganda must show that these problems can be resolved by the working class uniting and working for Socialism. Under capitalism science and technology have flowered mainly to serve the interest of capitalist profit making. This is the great contradiction. Mankind has the know how, yet poverty, misery and the threat of war remain.

The barrier of private ownership must be destroyed, and the means of living (aided by science and technology) be used to satisfy the needs of mankind.

Pieter Lawrence

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