From the November 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard
How Science Leads Capitalism To Its Doom
From the start of the great war up to the present day much has been said and written about German science and organisation. The extremely rapid advance upon the forts of Namur and Liege, where guns of unheard-of calibre and deadliness were used, and the subsequent sweeping descent upon Paris, were admitted by even Allied military critics to be remarkable examples of scientific military achievement. Realising that only by resorting to science could such methods be successfully met, Allied effort was unanimously directed to scientific research. So we see new departments set up in this country, specially staffed, to investigate new inventions likely to be of service in combating the scientist across the Rhine.
But turning from science in the service of Mars to science in applied to industry, we see again astonishing results. As far back as 1909 Mr. Balfour delivered an address at Manchester University upon the subject of science in its relation to economic affairs and as a basis for present-day education. The concluding words of bis speech are worthy of perusal. He said:
The great advancement of mankind is to be looked for in our ever-increasing knowledge of the secrets of nature — secrets, however, which dare not to be unlocked by those who pursue them for purely material ends, but secrets which are open in their fullness only to men who pursue them in a disinterested spirit. The motive power which is really going to change the external surface of civilisation, which is going to add to the well-being of mankind, which is going to stimulate the imagination of all those who are interested in the universe in which our lot is cast—that lies after all with science. I would sooner be known as having added to the sum of oar knowledge of the truth of nature than anything else I can imagine. Unfortunately for me, my opportunities have lain in different directions.
If Mr. Balfour has been unfortunate in that his opportunities have lain in a different direction, those opportunities have assuredly brought greater material fortune than generally falls to the lot of scientists. The life stories of Linnaeus, John Kay, Lavoisier, Marx, and countless others demonstrate the usual reward of the men of science. The capitalist system stands condemned if only by reason of its brutal crimes against its men of genius.
To day we hear unceasing talk of the need in this and other countries for improved industrial methods, and of the necessity for taking pattern from our more studious and scientific “enemies” from Dusseldorf and other towns in the German manufacturing districts. Yet what does all this mean even if carried out? It must lead to one thing—and here the Socialist explodes that nonsensical piffle anent the formation of a “league of nations”—it must mean competition in a more intensified form than anything hitherto endured, and as a natural sequence, more terrible struggles over trade routes and markets.
The history of science is a history of ceaseless opposition of the most brutal and degrading kind at the hands of the followers of Christian teaching. Galileo, who, when a boy, discovered the law of the pendulums motion by observing a lamp swinging from the roof of the cathedral at Pisa, and who later constructed one of the first telescopes, was subjected to the most persistent tyranny at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church. The most deliberate lying and hypocritical abuse was directed upon the youth of Pisa as he persistently swept the heavens with his telescope, more especially when he revealed the mountains and valleys of the moon. No less brutal was the spiteful war waged by the Christians against Nicholas Copernicus, up to that time a Christian follower himself, because of his compilation of his book “Revolution of the Heavenly Bodies.” Protestant and Catholic sank their differences in order to persecute Kepler, because his discovery of the motion of the planets undermined the chief tenets of the churches.
The extent to which scientific research has been hampered and put back by vitriolic Christian spite will never, perhaps, be known. It remained for such men as Halley and Newton to administer what is regarded a the coupe-de-grace to such opposition, and to definitely establish for all time the triumph of scientific achievement over ignorance and superstition.
But not merely in the field of astronomy was bitter opposition met with. Geography, geology, chemistry, physics, anatomy and medicine, and finally political economy, all aroused the deepest animosity on the part of those whose interests were affected. Such economists as Adam Smith, Ricardo, and John Stuart Mill were quite acceptable to the master class, but the genius of Marx, so damaging to the very foundations of capitalist domination, compelled the modern master class to resort to the weapons of its priestly predecessors.
To-day we perceive the international capitalist class falling over itself in its efforts to employ new methods of wealth production. With the securing of political power, to which all economic power is subservient, the masters were assured of all the benefits accruing from the genius of their slave-workers, since without capital the working of the discovery is usually impossible, and the capitalist State is careful never to assist the needy inventor to securely place his own invention.
More than one great thinker have embraced suicide rather than witness the exploitation of their life’s work by the financial thieves to whom they have been forced to entrust their theorisings. Others have died wretchedly, breathing hatred of the gross injustices of modem society. The tragedy of John Kay, and that of Heinrich Heine, one of the greatest of lyrical poets, were bad enough, in all conscience, but many worse are on record. The hostility which was turned upon Copernicus was later used in despair against Darwin, and with no more success. In 1874 Bishop Cummings, a well-known American Church dignitary, said with regard to the work of Darwin:
The Church has no fear of science; the persecution of Galileo was entirely unwarrantable; but Christians should resist to the last Darwinism, for that is evidently contrary to Scripture.Bishop Cummings apparently forgot that the theories of Galileo were just as much opposed to the Scriptures as were the theories of Darwin, else why the persecution of the man ?
The views of the Church upon the subject of the Darwinian theory were never better expressed than in a letter published in "The Church Chronicle" (New York), May 28,1874. It read: :
Darwinism—whether Darwin knows it or not; whether the clergy, who are half prepared to accept it as “science,” know it or not—is a denial of every article of the Christian faith. It is supreme folly to talk as some do about accommodating Christianity to Darwinism. Either those who talk so do not understand Christianity, or they do not understand Darwinism. If we have all—men and monkeys, women and baboons, oysters and eagles—all developed from an original monad or germ, then St. Paul’s grand deliverance—"All flesh is not the same flesh. There is one kind of flesh of men, another kind of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are bodies celestial and bodies terrestial"—may still be very grand in our funeral service, but very untrue to fact."So much, then, for the onslaught of the Church upon one more triumph of scientific research. To-day the masters are calling all the resources of science to their aid for the purpose of increasing their opportunities of exploiting the workers That such exploitation lies at the root of all modern wars has been pointed out by Socialists for many years.
The rapid advance in machinery means the creation of an ever-growing surplus of commodities. The need for foreign markets for the disposal of this produce is the cause of almost every international dispute. The struggle for international wealth grows greater even as the paucity of new markets makes itself more manifest. As is so clearly demonstrated by H. de B. Gibbins in his "Industrial History of England": “The nations must go on fighting for an outlet for the extra wealth produced, otherwise the whole gigantic system of international commerce must breakdown by the mere weight of its own intensity."
Analysis of the structure of capitalist society demonstrates how nations producing for profit and not for social use create a surplus of commodities. Thus we arrive at the keynote of this competitive system, and, incidentally, the true cause of all its warfare.
So long, therefore, as capitalism survives must we endure warfare. Socialisation of the means and instruments of production and distribution in the interest of the whole people is the only possible solution, and this can only be achieved by the working class itself. The more the master class try to delude themselves that science is on their side the greater becomes the instability of capitalist domination. Science can only find its true expression in a sane, commonsense order of society as outlined by tbs S.P.G.B. Once the workers become educated enough to realise the possibilities behind our proposals the doom of capitalism will most assuredly be at hand.