1980s >> 1981 >> no-926-october-1981

From the stars to socialism

In the beginning god did not create the earth. What probably happened was that about 5-6,000 million years ago, all the mass and energy of the Universe was concentrated in a single great globe which exploded into a cloud of fundamental particles.

A few hundred million years later the temperature had dropped from hundreds of millions of degrees to below zero and gravity between particles merged them together. The cloud broke up into billions of units that became galaxies, all travelling outwards and becoming independently denser. The increased density resulted in concentrations which raised temperatures as stars formed.

The secondary condensations became planets and satellites which established themselves by gravitational attraction in families or planetary systems about their comparatively massive central stars. We shall concentrate our attention on the galaxy Milky Way, and the star we label the Sun. There, radiation pressure drew the large hydrogen envelopes away from the terrestrial planets, leaving their rocky cores exposed. Hundreds of millions of years later the planet Earth possessed an atmosphere of hydrogen, methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulphide, water vapour and carbon dioxide which combined to form hydrocarbons and their simpler formations. Ultra-violet rays from the Sun provided energy for the reactions that formed amino-acids, which themselves combined to form complex proteins which are the building blocks of living matter.

Finally, self-contained and self-reproducing bodies evolved, at first one-celled organisms. From these simple forms developed all plant and animal life. Homo Sapiens (humans), however, did not appear until sometime between 25 million and 1 million years ago, when there existed many forms intermediate between ape and human. By about 500,000 years ago an early species of human, the Heidelberg species, had appeared.

These people were in existence, in either Africa or Asia, at least 250,000 years ago and had reached Europe by about 150,000 years ago. This species was very similar to human beings today. Their brains were the same size as ours, though their bones were considerably heavier. In other words there was little biological evolution between that period and the modern day.

From roughly half-a-million years ago to about twelve thousand years ago, humankind was a food-gatherer, constituting a gathering economy, also termed paleolithic savagery. No class monopoly of the means of living existed then, and the period represented a good 98 per cent of human existence on the planet. Then, sometime between twenty and twelve thousand years ago human beings, most specifically in the Near East, actively and co-operatively increased their food supply by cultivating plants and breeding animals. This was a food-producing economy, also known as neolithic barbarism.

Then—about 8,000 years ago—came an economic revolution, particularly in the alluvial valleys of the Nile, the Tigris-Euphrates, and the Indus. Farmers produced a surplus, which supported an urban population of craftsmen, merchants, priests, officials and clerks. Class society was born. The next two thousand years saw the Bronze Age, so called because copper and bronze were the only metals used for tools and weapons. The social surplus, primarily created from subsistence agriculture, was concentrated in the hands of priests and officials.

Then followed the Early Iron Age which, thanks to a cheap method of producing wrought iron, popularised metal equipment at a time when the alphabet popularised writing, previously reserved to a few privileged clerks. Financial transactions w’ere aided by the circulation of coined money (about 800 BC). The social surplus, now derived from specialised farming, mainly supported a class of merchants, financiers and capitalist farmers. The next major economic revolution in history was feudalism, which tied to the soil the previously-nomadic cultivator, now a peasant, yet liberated the latter from chattel slavery. The guild system secured to the artisan, as well as to the merchant, not only freedom but economic status. Agriculture became more intensive and saw the arrival of water power; a population boom resulted. With the discovery of the New World and of seaways to India and the Far East, Atlantic Europe had opened a world market. Capitalism developed, sucking the peasantry from the rural economy into the industrialising cities, turning the wealth-producers into the wage-workers we are today.

From the time the Galaxy was formed to the emergence of life, to the appearance of intelligent life in the form of human beings, change was continuous. Our species crept out of their caves to challenge the threatening world and in a flash came to fly through the clouds in machines, communicate across the world in an instant, and travel to the Moon. Yet as long as we are bound as a majority to slave for a minority’s capital, we shall never realise our potential. We can have a decent, healthy, comfortable world, yet our very social organisation creates endless miseries and poverty and—final worry—a weapon that can destroy the planet.