From the March 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard
It is now evident that the science-fiction stories of yesterday are becoming the realities of today. Man is now literally “reaching for the stars” even though his feet still remain embedded in the mire of archaic institutions. Can it be that nauseated, malnourished and diseased—as it is—Humanity feels that its only salvation lies in the vastness of outer space? Does the cold, impersonality of the twinkling Firmament suggest that somewhere. Earth’s children will find ultimate rest on some plane different from that of their native element? This, if it is the case, savours somewhat of the idealistic religious philosophies with which man has sustained himself throughout the ages of his painful conquest of physical environment. Some, there are, who do, indeed, find solace in the constant stretching of the sinews of science out and beyond the confines of Earth for the above-mentioned reasons. This is of course a naive as well as a dangerous outlook.
We agree that it is in man’s nature as a thinking animal that he should continue to drag his way, relentlessly forward avoiding here, overcoming there, moving at an irregular pace, sometimes crawling, sometimes plunging—always with courage—towards some goal which some day will satisfy his dignity. This is no mere speculation. History is the story of the tortuous caravansery of human progress; the countless mirages that have beckoned only to deceive; the countless pitfalls dug with the tools of ignorance. It is a tale of leaders and the leadership cult: The Moses and the Moguls. Popes and Princes and all the fakirs and financiers that ever were. It is the tale of the primitive creature laboriously shaping his piece of stone and the gradual birth of the aesthetic. It is the mural winding its way back through time depicting courage, and above all concern for one’s own kind, the individual and the tribe. It is an examination of what goes to make up the fabric of total existence.
We feel that we must raise our small voice at this juncture. In an age of, among other things, the big lie we ask our readers to pause and think. It is easy to be carried away by the romance of the red satellite and to be over-awed by the destructive force of the hydrogen bomb (both the home and away variety). It is indeed easier for us to stop thinking altogether—to allow others to do it for us. On the other hand, if we are not content that this shall be the age of the last historian, the utter finality of reason the supreme violation of nature and human life, we, the vast majority, must cry “cease.” We must recognise the true nature of what is going on. Divorced of romanticism, we should realise that the various agents of world capitalism have reached the stage of being no longer able to disagree in the old-fashioned way, i.e., to compete with each other at the expense of wars that can be conducted with some degree of assurance; a kind of war where all is not lost apart from the loss of life for which due preparation and allowance is made. The fact now is, that capitalism has resolved itself into large power groups with the Russian and American orbits the most powerful. The next step is, obviously, to find ways and means whereby one or the other is to assume complete control of the world. The answer appears to be that this can be done by means of devices of which the inter-Continental rocket and the artificial earth satellite are the fore-runners.
It is perfectly obvious that Capitalism is not imbued with the romantic ideals that so many workers have regarding the experiments now going on to conquer outer space. Trips to the moon may sound thrilling enough to some people. Capitalism is far more “down to earth” than they give it credit for.
In the meantime we urge fellow members of the working class to see this politic moonshine in its true light and to do a little prospecting on their own account. This old planet of ours is far from finished despite the maltreatment handed out to it of late.
There are plenty of conquests to be made here and now. e.g., disease, poverty, ignorance and subjection. The rub is. that they will never be vanquished by any form of space warfare other than complete destruction of the human race. Our task may not sound as interesting as the work now going on to master space. Never-the-less it is the most important job facing the world’s people at the present time. It is the eradication of Capitalism itself—and we need not go to the moon or anywhere else to do this job.