With the greatest enthusiasm we welcome the republication of Reason in Revolt in Spanish. In the six years since the book was first published in English and Spanish it has received a favourable response from many parts of the world, both from labour movement activists and from scientists. Interest in our ideas has been expressed in many countries. It has so far been translated into Spanish, Italian, Greek, Urdu and Turkish, and new translations are being prepared in German and Flemish.
We take considerable pride from the fact that, to date, no-one has found serious fault with the science of the book. And every new discovery of science serves to confirm the statement of Engels that "in the last analysis, Nature works dialectically." We take advantage of this occasion to refer to some of these developments.
The human genome
The discoveries made by the Human Genome Project have dramatically confirmed the position of Marxism, as expounded in Reason in Revolt. For decades, a large number of geneticists have argued that everything from intelligence to homosexuality and criminality was determined by our genes. The most reactionary conclusions have been drawn from these assumptions: for example, that black people and women are genetically conditioned to be less intelligent than white people and men that rape and murder are somehow natural, because they are genetically determined; that there is no point in spending money on schools and houses for the poor because their poverty is rooted in genetics and therefore cannot be remedied. Above all, that the existence of inequality is natural and inevitable, and that all attempts to abolish class society are futile, since it is somehow rooted in our genes. This was a very good example of how science cannot be separated from politics and class interests, and how the most eminent scientists can be pressed - consciously or not - into the services of reaction. But leaving aside for a moment the social and political implications, in purely scientific terms this is a defining moment in history.
Up till now scientists had expected the human genome to contain instructions to create anywhere from 50,000 to 150,000 genes. This assumption was based on a comparison with simpler organisms such as fruit flies. It was argued that, if the humble fruit fly had 13,000 genes, then a human being - a far bigger and more complex entity - must have many times more. The estimate of up to 150,000 genes seemed reasonable after the first two animal genomes were deciphered. But this proved to be wrong. The probable number of human genes is no more than 30,000 to 40,000.
The small number of human genes posed a dilemma for scientists. As the modest number of human genes became apparent, biologists in both teams were forced to think how to account for the greater complexity of people, given that they seem to possess only 50 percent more genes than the roundworm. If humankind only has 13,000 more genes than Caenorhabditis elegans (a roundworm) or 6,000 more than Arabidopsis thaliana (a weed), what makes people so advanced by comparison? To quantify the position: the roundworm is a little tube of a creature with a body of 959 cells, of which 302 are neurons in what passes for its brain. Humans have 100 trillion cells in their body, including 100 billion brain cells. Despite the fashionable tendency to deny the existence of progress in evolution, it is surely reasonable to suppose there is something more to Homo sapiens than a roundworm like Caenorhabditis elegans!
Biological determinism exposed
Marxists, of course, accept that genes play a most important role. They provide to some extent the raw material out of which individual humans are developed. But they represent only one side of a very complex equation. The problem arises when certain people attempt to present genes as the sole agent conditioning human development and behaviour, as has been the case for quite some time now. In reality, genes ("nature") and environmental factors ("nurture") interact upon each other, and that in this process, the role of the environement, which has been systematically denied or downplayed by the biological determinists, is absolutely crucial.
The recent revelations of the human genome project have decisively settled the old "nature" - "nurture" controversy. The relatively small number of genes rules out the possibility of individual genes controlling and shaping behaviour patterns such as criminality and sexual preference. It completely destroys the case of people like Dean Hammer who claimed to have isolated a gene on the human X-chromosome which allegedly disposes people to homosexuality. Similar claims have been made for a whole series of human traits from running ability to artistic taste and even political tendencies! In reality human behaviour is extremely complex and cannot be reduced to genetics. The latest discoveries flatly contradict all the nonsense which has been put forward for years as irrefutable.
The biological determinists insisted that in some way genes are responsible for things, like homosexuality and criminality. They attempted to reduce all social problems to the level of genetics. In February 1995, a conference on Genetics of Criminal and Anti-Social Behaviour was held in London. Ten of the thirteen speakers were from the United States where a similar conference in 1992 with racist overtones was abandoned because of public pressure. While the chairperson, Sir Michael Rutter of the London Institute of Psychiatry stated "there can be no such thing as a gene for crime," other participants, like Dr. Gregory Carey of the Institute of Behavioural Genetics, University of Colorado, maintained that genetic factors as a whole were responsible for 40-50% of criminal violence. Although he said it would be impractical to "treat" criminality through genetic engineering, others said there were good prospects for developing drugs to control excessive aggression, once the responsible genes had been found. He suggested, however, that abortion should be considered when ante natal testing indicates a child is likely to be born with genes predisposing it to aggression or antisocial behaviour. His view was endorsed by Dr. David Goldman from the Laboratory of Neurogenetics at the US National Institutes of Health. "The families should be given the information and should be allowed to decide privately how to use it." (The Independent, 14th February 1995.)
There are many other examples. The notorious Bell Curve by Charles Murray, resurrected the old argument that genetics explains the gap between the average IQ of American whites and blacks. C. R. Jeffery wrote that "Science must tell us what individuals will or will not become criminals, what individuals will or will not become victims, and what law enforcement strategies will or will not work." Yudofsky reinforces Jeffery's enthusiasm with his assertion: "We are now on the verge of a revolution in genetic medicine. The future will be to understand the genetics of aggressive disorders and to identify those who have greater tendencies to become violent."
When we criticised these false theories in Reason in Revolt, we had no means of knowing that in a few years their unscientific character would be so clearly demonstrated. Now the revelation that the number of genes in humans is not more than 40,000 and possibly as few as 30,000 or less has shattered the case for biological-genetic determinism at a single stroke. Dr. Craig Venter, the US geneticist whose company Celera was one of the main groups responsible for the sequencing project, put the matter very simply: "We simply do not have enough genes for this idea of biological determinism to be right. The wonderful diversity of the human species is not hard-wired in our genetic code. Our environments are critical." (Observer, 11/ 2/ 2001, my emphasis)
The Observer goes on to explain:
"It is only when scientists looked at the way these genes are switched off and on and made to manufacture proteins that they could see a significant difference between various mammalian species. The key difference lies in the manner in which human genes are regulated in response to environmental stimulation compared with other animals."
That is to say, it is the environment - the external stimuli of both the physical world and the conditions in which we live - that condition evolution in a decisive way. The role of genes is important, but the relation between genes and development is not simple and mechanical, as maintained by the crude theory of biological determinism, but complex and dialectical, as argued by Marxism. Let us take one example of the dialectical interaction between genes and environment: perfect pitch. In his new book The Sequence, which describes the search for the human genome, Kevin Davies writes:
"There has been a recent study on perfect pitch, the ability to know the absolute pitch of a musical note, that strongly suggests that it is acquired through the inheritance of a single gene.
"This may sound like a clear-cut case of biological determinism. However, there is a crucial corollary - you have to be exposed to early music training for the ability to materialise. In other words, even in seemingly simple inherited abilities, nurture has a role to play."
Thus, there is a complex interplay between the genetic composition of the organism and the physical conditions that surround it. In Hegelian language, the genes represent potential. But this potential is only activated by external stimuli. The genes are "switched on" by the environment, producing small changes, some of which prove to be evolutionary useful, although in fact most genetic mutations are harmful or confer no benefit. Over a period, the beneficial mutations give rise to qualitative changes in the organism, giving rise to the process we refer to as natural selection.
The Observer's Editorial drew the political conclusions:
"Politically, it offers comfort to the Left, with its belief in the potential of all, however deprived their background. But it is damning to the Right, with its fondness for ruling classes and original sin." (Observer Editorial, 11/ 2/ 2001, my emphasis)
The revelation of the genome's long and complex history, so long hidden from view, has prompted discussions about the nature of man and the process of creation. Incredibly, in the first decade of the twenty first century, the ideas of Darwin are being challenged by the so-called Creationist movement in the USA, which wants American schoolchildren to be taught that God created the world in six days, that man was created from dust and that the first woman was made out of one of his ribs, the Almighty presumably being on an economy drive that day.
The Creationist movement is no joke. It involves millions of people and is -incredibly - spearheaded by scientists, included some geneticists. This is a graphic expression of the intellectual consequences of the decay of capitalism. It is an extremely striking example of the dialectical contradiction of the lag of human consciousness. In the most technologically advanced country in the world, the minds of millions of men and women are sunk in barbarism. Their level of consciousness is not much higher than when men sacrificed prisoners of war to the gods, prostrated themselves before graven idols and burnt witches at the stake. If this movement were to succeed, as one scientist recently put it, we would be back in the Dark Ages.
The latest discoveries have finally exploded the nonsense of Creationism. It has comprehensively demolished the notion that every species was created separately, and that Man, with his eternal soul, was especially created to sing the praises of the Lord. It is now clearly proved that humans are not at all unique creations. The results of the human genome project show conclusively that we share our genes with other species - that ancient genes helped to make us who we are. In fact, a small part of this common genetic inheritance can be traced back to primitive organisms such as bacteria. Humans share their genes with other species going far back into the mists of time. ''Evolution no longer has time to make new genes. It must make new genes from old parts,'' observes Eric Lander of the Whitehead Institute for Genomic Research in Cambridge, Mass. The two teams found an astonishing degree of gene conservation over the past 600 million years of evolution on earth: "In many cases we have found that humans have exactly the same genes as rats, mice, cats, dogs and even fruit flies, Venter continues. "Take the gene PAX-6. We have found that when it is damaged, eyes will not form. You can take a human gene, insert it into fruit flies, and the vision of their offspring will be restored."
Scientists have now found some 200 genes that humans share with bacteria - a revelation which surprised James Watson, the discoverer of DNA and arguably the world's most renowned geneticist: ''We knew that genes jumped between bacteria, but not that they jumped between bacteria and man.'' In this way, the final proof of evolution has been established. In a fundamental way, these genetic ''fossils'' have helped over billions of years of evolution to make us what we are. "No doubt the genomic view of our place in nature will be both a source of humility and a blow to the idea of human uniqueness," Svante Pääbo of Germany's Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology writes in a separate article in Science. And, he continues, "the realisation that one or a few genetic accidents made human history possible will provide us with a whole new set of philosophical challenges to think about." For Marxists too, the human genome holds important philosophical implications.
Science and dialectics
At the London launch of research to decipher the genetic code, Sir John Sulston, former director of the Sanger Centre, described the drawing of the human gene map as "a remarkable, iconic event in the era of molecular biology":
"It is remarkable that a living organism has got so smart and has made such clever machines that it can think about what it is doing, that it has actually read out the code, the instructions, to make itself. It's the sort of thing that causes philosophers to disappear up their navels if they think too hard about it. It really is a superficial paradox . . . but it's true. We are understanding how we work," he was quoted as saying.
Indeed, the spectacular march of science in our epoch makes the speculations of philosophy seem pale and uninteresting by comparison. The deeds of humanity have by far outstripped the general level of its consciousness, which remains largely mired in the barbarous past. The new discoveries provide the human race with inspiration and confidence in itself. It provides us with a vision of ourselves, who we really are, and where we have come from - perhaps also where we are going to.
Nevertheless, despite Sir John Sulston's disparaging remarks about philosophy, there are still a few areas where a knowledge of real philosophy would undoubtedly benefit scientists. Of course, there is philosophy and philosophy! Very little of what passes for philosophy in the universities nowadays is of any use to scientists - or anyone else. But there is one honourable exception, which is still awaiting the recognition that is long overdue: that is, dialectical materialism. Although many of the main tenets of dialectical materialism have re-surfaced in recent years, incorporated into the theories of chaos, complexity and, more recently, ubiquity, this debt has never been acknowledged. Dialectics in science is, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, the philosophy that dares not speak its name. This is a pity, since a knowledge of the dialectical method would certainly have helped avoid a number of pitfalls into which science has occasionally strayed as a result of incorrect assumptions. The human genome is a case in point.
Of course, there is no question of any philosophy dictating to science. The results of science must be determined by its own methods of investigation, observation and experiment. Nonetheless, it is a mistake to imagine that scientists approach their subject matter without any philosophical assumptions. Behind every hypothesis there are always many assumptions, not all of them derived from science itself. The role of formal logic, for example, is taken for granted. It is an important role, but one that has definite limitations. Trotsky explained that the relationship between formal logic and dialectics resembles that between elementary mathematics and calculus. The great advantage of dialectics over formal logic is that it deals with things in their motion and development, and moreover shows how all development takes place through contradictions. Thus, Marx predicted that the line of evolution was not a straight line, but a line in which long periods of slow development ("stasis" in modern terminology) was broken by sudden leaps - breaks in continuity that impelled the process in a new direction.
Let us take one instance. The dialectical method explains how quite small changes can, at a critical point, produce enormous transformations. This is the famous law of the transformation of quantity into quality - a wonderful and all-embracing law - that was first worked out by the ancient Greeks, and later fully developed by Hegel and placed on a scientific (materialist) basis by Marx and Engels. The importance of this law has only recently been recognised by science through chaos theory. The latest version of this ("ubiquity") has demonstrated that this law has a universal character and is of key importance in many of the most fundamental processes in nature. It has a crucial bearing on the present discussion.
What is the source of the error which led geneticists to conclude that humans possessed far more genes than is, in fact, the case? It is known in philosophy as reductionism, and flows from the mechanical assumption that nature knows only purely quantitative relations. This lies at the heart of biological determinism which approaches humans as a collection of genes, and not as complex organisms, processes, the product of a dialectical interrelation between genes and the environment. Their mode of reasoning is that of formal logic, not dialectics. And from this philosophical standpoint, their conclusions were quite consistent. Logical - but radically false. They reasoned that, since humans are bigger and more complex than fruit worms and roundworms, they must have vastly more genes. However, nature produces many examples to show how changes in quantity eventually beget changes in quality. In many instances, quite small modifications can produce huge changes. The apparent contradiction between the size and complexity of humans and the relatively small number of genes involved can only be explained by recourse to this law.
In Reason in Revolt, we subjected this method to a comprehensive criticism. Dealing with the method of Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene, we wrote:
"Dawkins’ method leads him into the swamp of idealism, when he attempts to argue that human culture can be reduced to units he calls memes, which, apparently, like genes, are self-replicating and compete for survival. This is clearly wrong. Human culture is passed down from generation to generation, not through memes, but through education in the broadest sense. It is not biologically inherited but has to be painstakingly relearned and developed by each new generation. Cultural diversity is bound up not with genes but social history. Dawkins’ approach is essentially reductionist."
In a commentary in Science magazine, Dr. Jean-Michel Claverie, of the French National Research Centre in Marseilles, notes that with a simple combinatorial scheme, a 30,000-gene organism like the human can in principle be made almost infinitely more complicated. This is a perfect example of the transformation of quantity into quality. Dr. Claverie suspects humans are not that much more elaborate than some of their creations. "In fact," he writes, "with 30,000 genes, each directly interacting with four or five others on average, the human genome is not significantly more complex than a modern jet aeroplane, which contains more than 200,000 unique parts, each of them interacting with three or four others on average."
The initial scanning of the genome suggests two specific ways in which humans have become more complex than worms. One comes from analysis of what are called protein domains. Proteins, the working parts of the cell, are often multipurpose tools, with each role being performed by a different section or domain of the protein. Many protein domains are very ancient. Comparing the domains of proteins made by the roundworm, the fruit fly and people, the consortium reports that only 7 percent of the protein domains found in people were absent from worm and fly, suggesting that "few new protein domains have been invented in the vertebrate lineage."
The most important thing to grasp thing is that very small genetic mutations can give rise to huge differences. For example, the genetic difference between humans and chimpanzees is less than two percent. As the latest research shows, we have a lot more in common with other animals than we would perhaps like to admit! Most of the genetic material present in modern humans is very old, and identical with the genes which are found even in such lowly beings as fruit flies. Nature is inherently conservative and economical in its workings! These facts are more than sufficient to blow sky-high all the nonsense of the Creationists who believe that Man was created by God in six days and that the first woman was manufactured out of one of his ribs.
Organic matter has evolved from inorganic matter, and higher life forms have evolved from lower ones. We share most of our genes, not just with monkeys and dogs, but with fishes and fruit flies. But merely to state this fact is insufficient. It is also necessary to explain the dialectical process whereby one species is transformed into another. It has recently become fashionable to blur the difference between humans and other animals, in what is obviously an over-reaction against the old idea of Man as a special creation, placed by the Almighty over all Creation. It has become fashionable to deny the existence of any progress at all, presumably in the interests of an ill-conceived evolutionary "democracy". As a matter of fact, the genetic difference between humans and chimpanzees may be less than two percent, but what a difference that makes! It is a dialectical leap that transforms quantity into quality. But unfortunately, dialectics is subjected to a conspiracy of silence in the universities and consequently remains completely unknown to most scientists.
The most likely explanation for how to generate extra complexity other than by adding more genes is the idea of combinatorial complexity - that is, with just a few extra proteins one could make a much larger number of different combinations between them to produce a qualitative change. The matter has not yet been decisively settled, and much more research will be necessary. But there is little doubt that the final solution will be found somewhere along these lines.
Black holes and the unity of opposites
One of the most exiting discoveries of the recent period was in relation to black holes - those monstrous objects in which the compression of matter has reached such an extremity, and the force of gravity has increased to such a point, that not even light can be emitted. These black giants suck in all surrounding matter, so that nothing can approach them without being crushed and devoured.
Over the past few years, the subject of black holes has occupied a central place in the discussions of cosmologists and physicists. However, until recently, concrete information about this phenomenon was very limited. In view of the paucity of hard evidence, and the mystifying interpretations that some writers were attempting to introduce into this issue, we initially adopted a fairly agnostic attitude. But the launching of the Hubble telescope has brought about a qualitative leap in our understanding of this question.
A few years ago, black holes were regarded almost as freak occurences, the nature of which was a mystery. Scientists studying this phenomenon were puzzled as to what role they could play. But the recent discoveries made possible by Hubble have shown that super massive black holes are not accidental or rare phenomena, but, on the contrary, are necessary, ubiquitous and play a fundamental role in the formation of galaxies. They are not exceptional, but are present at the centre of every galaxy.
Scientists also discovered that the size of the black hole was proportionate to the size of the galaxy where it was present. They found that every galaxy had a black hole that was half a percent of its total mass. There was also a correlation between the size of the black hole and the speed of the stars at the edge of the galaxy. Such symmetry powerfully suggests that black holes play - or have played - a necessary role within galaxies. Although there did not seem to be any present link between the galaxy and the black hole, they concluded that such a corollary must have existed in the past, and that the black holes played an important role in the formation of galaxies.
What was assumed to a purely destructive force has now been found to be a force for creation, an element that lies at the centre of every galaxy, holding it together and giving it cohesion: it is essential for all life, and for ourselves.
Prof. Joseph Silk of Oxford university pointed out: "We think of black holes normally as being destructive influences on their surroundings. In this case they're creative, they're having a very positive impact on the formation of the galaxies." Thus, the most destructive force in the universe turns out to have colossal creative powers. The dialectical conception of the unity of opposites has received powerful confirmation from a most unexpected source.
The Big Bang and the Hubble telescope
One of the most controversial sections of the book was the one on the Big Bang theory. In Reason in Revolt we wrote:
"We may take for granted that not just ten but a far larger number of these vast clusters exist and will be discovered. And these, in turn, will only represent a minute proportion of all the matter which stretches far beyond the limits of the observable universe and reaches out to infinity. All attempts to place a limit on the material universe are doomed to fail. Matter is boundless, both at the subatomic level, and with regard to time and space."
Since we wrote these lines, there have been new and startling advances in astronomy which have enabled us to penetrate far deeper and further into the universe than ever before. The Hubble telescope is the most striking example. The purpose of the Hubble telescope was to probe the origins of stars, galaxies and the Universe itself, and thus to resolve the great debate over the age of the Universe. We know that the light from distant galaxies takes a long time to reach the earth, even travelling at the speed of light.
What we see in the night sky is not what exists now, but things that existed in the past. Thus, the more distant objects we can observe, the further back in time we are seeing. If the date of the Universe is indeed 12 billion years, then at some point we should be able to see the Big Bang - or at least conclusive evidence of it.
What Hubble found was certainly a revelation, but it did not reveal what they were looking for. Astronomers had long believed that stars formed when clouds of gas collapse onto a centre of gravity. Now by pointing the Hubble into one of these vast clouds, called the Eagle Nebula, they had a unique chance to see it actually happening. The results were spectacular. Astronomers saw for the very first time the places where stars are born. The Hubble revealed huge pillars of gas, trillions of miles from top to bottom. Deep within these great columns were the tell-tale signs of newly forming stars.
Before the Hubble, no telescope could look back to the beginning 12 billion years ago to find the answer. Theory suggested that the Universe evolved slowly and that it took billions of years for the first galaxies to form. These ideas could be tested for the first time in a remarkable observation called Hubble Deep Field. It took over 5 years, but finally in May 1999 they had calculated that the age of the Universe was 12 billion years - a figure that was consistent with the Big bang theory.
In a blank patch of sky the Hubble unveiled a spectacular view. Galaxies never seen before that were nearly as old as the Universe itself. John Trauger, one of the scientists involved, said: "About 4,000 galaxies are seen in that one piece of sky that's about as big as a grain of sand at arm's length and, and there isn't much else which is to say that we are seeing the first glimmerings, the first light from the first stars in the Universe."
However, immediately the contradictions emerged. What astonished the astronomers was that these galaxies were already fully formed.
Ed Weiler, another member of the team commented: "We didn't see galaxies being born. We saw well formed galaxies. This was not expected. This showed us that we're not looking far enough back, we're not looking far enough into space, Instead of seeing the babies being born we saw one-year-olds, two-year-olds, 10-year-olds. We didn't see the one-day-olds, the one-hour-olds, the one-second-olds, so to speak. Quite a surprise."
Quite a surprise indeed! How could such perfectly formed galaxies exist so soon after the Universe began? Far from resolving the problem of the age of the universe, the Hubble has revealed new contradictions which it cannot solve.
They are now looking to the next generation space telescope to follow the Hubble Space Telescope to probe the so-called Dark Ages of the universe. This new and more powerful telescope will be put into space and will operate a large distance from Earth. This should give a far clearer and more detailed picture of the Universe. They hope to see galaxies in the process of formation, which would be powerful evidence in favour of the Big bang theory.
For our part, we welcome these epoch-making investigations, because they take the debate about the Big Bang out of the realm of abstract theorising and mathematical models, and into the field of practical observation.
We will predict now that they will see new surprises: not the Big Bang, but only galaxies and more galaxies stretching out to infinity.
The dialectics of optimism
The authors of Reason in Revolt have often been accused of being incorrigible optimists. To this charge we plead guilty. Marxists are optimistic people by their very nature. Our optimism is not artificial but rooted in two things: the philosophy of dialectical materialism, and our faith in the working class and the socialist future of humanity.
Dialectics teaches one to look beyond the immediate, to penetrate beyond the appearance of stability and calm, and to see the seething contradictions and ceaseless movement that lies beneath the surface. We are imbued with the idea of constant change, and that sooner or later everything changes into its opposite. The capitalist system, together with its values, morality, politics and what sometimes passes for philosophy, is not something eternal, which has no beginning and no end. In fact, it is a very recent phenomenon with a turbulent past, a shaky present, and no future at all. This, of course, is something the system's defenders find impossible to contemplate. So much the worse for them!
The growing interest in Marxist ideas is the best reward we could ask for. In the ten years since the fall of the Soviet Union, we have witnessed an unprecedented ideological offensive against the ideas of Marxism. But in society as in classical mechanics it is true that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
The collapse of Stalinism was not the end of history, but only the first act in a drama which must end in a general crisis of world capitalism. It did not take long to prick the bubble of euphoria that grew after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Ten years later, the bourgeoisie finds itself in an impasse. Its plans are unravelling on all fronts. In place of the former euphoria we have a general sense of foreboding and uncertainty. Capitalism has revealed its reactionary nature everywhere.
On a world scale the situation is increasingly volatile. The revolt of the productive forces against the straitjackets of private ownership and the national state is indicated by the present slowdown which is preparing the way for a global recession. The fears of the strategists of capital are expressed in one article after another.
The underlying instability is reflected in the wave of "anti-capitalist" demonstrations that accompany every meeting of the IMF and other institutions. This shows the existence of a ferment among the youth. At this stage, it is mainly the petit bourgeois youth that is affected. But it is always the case at the beginning of the movement. The students and similar layers are a sensitive barometer of developing contradictions in society. The present demonstrations are the heat lightening that presages a storm.
The objective situation is contradictory. The contradictory nature of the situation is an expression of the fact that this is a transitional stage between one period and another. In the so-called Third World, there is a revolutionary or pre-revolutionary ferment in one country after another. There is no stability anywhere. It is true that in the industrialised capitalist countries, the proletariat has still not moved in a decisive way, but that will change. The main problem is the horrendous degeneration of the workers' leaders everywhere. Trotsky pointed out that the crisis of humanity could be reduced to the crisis of leadership of the proletariat. These lines are more true today than ever before. In all countries an absolute abysm is openening up between the classes, yet the labour and trade union leaders have gone to the right.
Yet this too has its limits. Once the fresh winds of class struggle begin to blow, there will be a change in the psychology of the working class. The long boom in the USA appears to hold out the possibility of individual solutions: by working hard, overtime etc. But the onset of recession will shatter this bubble and compel people to question the existing system. In reality, this questioning of capitalism has already begun. It will be intensified in the turbulent period that lies ahead. Once the working class begins to move, the mood will change swiftly. What appeared to be fixed will dissolve into the air, compelling men and women to seek a way out along a different road.
The way forward would be immeasurably easier if the advanced workers and youth were armed with the scientific doctrines of Marxism, and especially of dialectical materialism. This is the most modern philosophy of all - a philosophy that perfectly corresponds to the needs of the 21st century. It provides one with all the basic tools needed to analyse and understand living reality, understood, not as a series of dry, unconnected, senseless events or "facts", but as a dynamic process, impelled by its internal contradictions, ever changing and with an infinitely rich content.
Most important of all, this is a philosophy which has come out of the scholar's study and entered the light of day. It is a philosophy that leads to action, and is unthinkable without action. It is the philosophy of revolution, the philosophy of the future, which inscribes upon its banner the prophetic words of the young Marx:
"Philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways: the point, however, is to change it."
London 7th July, 2001.
Back to the Main Index