Closing the Gap between Illusion and Reality
This past Earth Day 2017, scientists marched on Washington and around the world to protest the ruling class’ war on science. During a revolutionary leap from one mode of production to another – a leap toward laborless production – the ruling class knows it cannot maintain control if people look at what’s happening scientifically. By contrast, the work of the revolutionary absolutely depends on science. The heart of the propaganda war between the tiny class of capitalists, who want to hang onto private property, and the great majority of humanity, whose needs must be met through cooperation, is a war between confusion and clarity.
This is why ruling class leaders dismiss scientific consensus and benefit from a “fake news” industry. The weekend of the Presidential inauguration, White House public relations introduced the concept of “alternative facts.” The President calls news that disagrees with his policies “the enemy of the people.” This is the logical outcome of over a decade of Democrats and Republicans calling out various media sources as biased against their parties, as well as the very real lies often told by the mainstream media itself.
More importantly, the ruling class wants to undermine popular understanding of the scientific method itself – those tools, which brought us out of a world of lords, serfs and the Black Plague, to a world of laborless production, ever-expanding biotechnology, and infinite knowledge accessible with the smart phone. The current war on journalism and science is a war against the world we live in. The war on a knowable reality is a war on the people.
We are living in a new era, like no other time in history. At the end of over five hundred years of scientific development, the world’s ruling class has reached a point where its greatest enemy is the science that promises to liberate its people. As revolutionaries we must promote a scientific understanding of the world that is possible at this moment.
The Science of History
To understand this moment, we need to keep in mind that science has revealed history as a series of stages of development. Humans lived cooperatively for most of their history. Over 10,000 years ago this began to change as hunter-gatherer societies began to domesticate animals and plants for trade. Money evolved as a form of exchange, representative of the division of labor behind the trade, and early social classes began to develop. Eventually, trade based on agriculture outpaced tribal forms of society. A leap occurred from the stage of development known as primitive communism to a class system based on private property.
However, today’s rapidly developing automation is destroying the division of labor that shaped the world we know. Out of thousands of years of private property and class struggle, a new leap is occurring into the need for cooperation that dominated 95 percent of human archeological history. The major difference between the communism of most of human history and the communism that is possible today is that the hunter-gatherer society cooperated out of the need to make do with scarcity. In today’s world science shows us scarcity can be a problem of the past, but only if we build a new system.
In fact, humanity’s survival depends upon a scientific understanding of the world. It depends on the practical solution of a cooperative, communist society to protect the world’s life-giving resources and to distribute the abundance made possible by the new technology.
New Ideas and History
A struggle over new ideas always arises in periods of great change and transition. This struggle is brought about by the necessity of society to change to align itself with the advances in new means of production, and has taken place throughout history. The more these new ideas explain and solve the problems created by such great change and transition, the more the ruling classes throughout history have sought to suppress and deny them and those who disseminate them.
From that moment in 1456 when Johannes Gutenberg proved the value of movable type, an explosion of shared knowledge unlocked the various European Renaissance movements of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. This ultimately led to new ideas about government, justice, equality, and individual freedom, that fueled the 17th to 18th century revolution in thought known as the Enlightenment. The United States’ experiment in a bourgeois democratic republic was launched by Thomas Paine’s 1776 revolutionary tract, Common Sense, but the groundwork for that experiment started with Sir Francis Bacon’s popularization of the scientific method a century before.
Bacon and others of his era systematized how we know the world into a new methodology. Scientific method relied on careful observation and measurement of what was observable through the five senses, but soon led to microscopes and telescopes to reach beyond what we might be able to perceive directly. Scientists developed models to understand how things might work, test each hypothesis, and create devices to make use of each new level of understanding. Science’s rigorous experimentation, testing, and collectivization of results soon led to the navigation of all of the world’s oceans and advances in technologies of production.
The scientific method began to be applied to how and why societies function as they do, and to justify the fight for social reform. Objectively, Common Sense was a scientific explanation of the feasibility of American independence. Abolitionists fought to end slavery, union activists fought to better wages and working conditions and to end child labor, anti-lynching activists fought to criminalize lynch mobs, and women fought for the right to vote.
Feeding this struggle for reform was a more scientific understanding of the capitalist system itself. After a series of failed democratic revolutions in Europe, Karl Marx spent almost two decades preparing the first volume of his scientific analysis of capitalism, Das Kapital, and his remaining sixteen years attempting to complete the remaining volumes. This objective understanding of the real world bolstered the communist movement, a call to end the capitalist exploitation of the worker and to create a world that could truly be run by and for the workers.
Until the great governmental propaganda machines of the 20th Century, propaganda was commonly understood as a neutral term for any effort to spread, “to propagate,” new ideas. Scientists have long used propaganda to spread health news, for instance, like the 19th Century “germ theory,” that would greatly curb the spread of disease. As the press became increasingly available to the people, it has been used to propagate an evolving understanding of the the world and our role in that world from the perspective of the interests of our class. Today’s electronics have turned anyone with access to a computer or cell phone into a potential propagandist.
To fight back against this threat, the corporate State and mass media sell fear like never before. Sixteen years of the War on Terror has left many resigned to a heavily militarized police State as our inevitable future. Nuclear annihilation is on people’s minds in a way it hasn’t been since the Cold War. Bomb shelters have once again become a growth industry. Meanwhile, just as we know advertisers use mass data to sell products through our smart phones and computers, the ruling class mines information to further its grip on our thinking.
The Demand for a New Society
As revolutionaries, our task is clearly to close the gap between the illusion created by the ruling class and the reality that surrounds us. Built upon our ability to sell our labor in order to buy its products, the capitalist system can no longer function, and it is dying. The electronic revolution – that has emptied factories, automated fast food jobs and even developed the robo-doctor – has rapidly driven the value of our labor power toward zero.
The communist movement used science to show that the abundance capitalism created was unevenly and inhumanely denied to wage laborers. The majority of the world lived in poverty, sometimes due to disability, sometimes due to racism, sometimes due to colonization and other factors, but always because of the fundamental inequality tied up with the accumulation of wealth in a class-based system. The communist movement always had to contend with how an expanding capitalist system made it possible to bribe certain sections of the working class against others.
But that era is behind us. The electronic revolution is destroying the underpinnings of the capitalist system, which no longer meets the needs of the people. All paid work is becoming insecure and those jobs that remain become increasingly miserable. Simple survival means a fight for basic human needs – clean air, clean water, healthy food, shelter, safety, security and hope – and that fight has become a fight against the wealth accumulated by a dying system.
At the same time, today’s science has made the world’s problems easier to solve. Our epoch demands that we get rid of the system in our way and build a cooperative communist system that puts first the needs of humanity and the planet that gives us life. As revolutionaries, our task is to sustain and extend that scientific call for the truth absolutely necessary for our survival. Unlike the ruling class, we have nothing to fear from the truth—it is, indeed, the only thing that can set us free.
July/August 2017 Vol27.Ed4
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011