Workers Vanguard No. 1036
13 December 2013
New Spartacist Pamphlet:
In Defense of Science and Marxism
The Spartacist League’s new pamphlet is a collection of seven articles reprinted from Workers Vanguard. The contents illustrate why Marxists passionately defend the acquisition of scientific knowledge and technological advances against retrograde ideology, e.g., mysticism, superstition, quackery, social reaction. The counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union two decades ago, combined with a low ebb in class struggle, has created a climate that provides a breeding ground for such backwardness.
The articles also situate scientific questions in their historical context. At the time of the Industrial Revolution, as the ascendant bourgeoisie was supplanting the feudal order, there was not only tremendous scientific progress but also leaps in the conception of human freedom, based on the Enlightenment. But capitalism’s progressive epoch ended long ago; the application of “liberty, equality and fraternity” was limited to what would allow the new ruling class to succeed in abolishing the feudal barriers to its making money through exploiting the working class. Today in the epoch of capitalist decay, science is heavily beholden to the bourgeois state and its purse strings.
Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky captured the contradiction of technological and scientific development under capitalism:
“Technology and science have their own logic—the logic of the cognition of nature and the mastering of it in the interests of man. But technology and science develop not in a vacuum but in human society, which consists of classes. The ruling class, the possessing class, controls technology and through it controls nature. Technology in itself cannot be called either militaristic or pacifistic. In a society in which the ruling class is militaristic, technology is in the service of militarism.”
—“Radio, Science, Technology, and Society,” March 1926
The articles in the pamphlet cover a wide range of topics. Since Marxism is the application of scientific observation and analysis to the realm of class society, Darwin’s theory of evolution, which freed the study of biology from the grip of religion by providing a material explanation for the origin of species, is fittingly featured. The lead article, “In Defense of Marxism and Science,” examines some key moments in the history of science and shows how leading figures were also committed to progressive social struggles of their time. “Science and the Battle Against Racism and Obscurantism” honors the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, who spent the better part of his life combating pseudo-scientific racist dogmas and Christian creationist nonsense.
An article on Alfred Kinsey explores his studies of human sexual behavior, aimed at challenging the fear and ignorance surrounding sex. “Capitalism and Global Warming” explains that tackling the human-derived aspects of global warming is futile within the boundaries of the anarchic capitalist system. An article on Richard Dawkins and other “new atheist” writers provides a historical materialist understanding of religion as against that offered by these bourgeois rationalists.
As scientific socialists, our defense of science is ultimately linked to the fight for world proletarian revolution. Socialist society will accept with gratitude the heritage of scientific knowledge and build on it in order to achieve the communist goal of eliminating scarcity and want.