Science & Technology

Automation640Marxists are fully in support of developing science and technology: replacing labour with machinery; producing more wealth for society with less work; and reducing the hours of the working day. In the science fiction of the past – influenced by the rise of automation in production at the beginning of the 20th Century – writers imagined a future utopia in which the biggest problem facing humanity would be what to do with all our leisure time whilst machines did all the work!

Such a society has been made entirely possible by capitalism, which played a most revolutionary and progressive role in the past in terms of its development of the productive forces. But now capitalism is unable to use these productive forces and has become an absolute fetter on further progress. Rather than realising the dream of a life of leisure for all, millions are consigned to forced idleness by a system that cannot create jobs, whilst millions of others work round the clock in order to feed themselves and their families.

— From the article Technology, innovation, growth, and capitalism

Brazil, along with Argentina, is one of the key countries for the Latin American revolution. Therefore it is with great satisfaction that we can announce the forthcoming publication of a Brazilian edition of Reason in Revolt. Here we provide the new Introduction written by Alan for a Brazilian and more in general, a Portuguese speaking audience.

The countries most affected by HIV/AIDS are among the poorest in the world. The layers of society affected are also among the most vulnerable, both in the underdeveloped and developed countries. Eradicating poverty is the first and most fundamental step in eradicating this disease, something which is impossible under capitalism. This article provides some convincing statistics and arguments in favour of a fundamental change in society.

Marx and Engels took a great interest in science, for the same dialectical processes of change that exist in society, economics and politics also exist in natural processes. Here our oil industry correspondent demonstrates how this is true even in the use of sound signals to find new oil fields. He also emphasizes how in private hands new technology does not enhance life but instead destroys it.

The Internet is open to all, but capitalism demands an owner of everything and payment for everything. This new privatisation of ideas has provoked widespread indignation and sense of injustice. Tight control over intellectual property rights can actually slow down innovation. New technology has transcended the standard capitalist business model. We need to get rid of capitalism in order to unchain human creativity. The Internet shows us a glimpse of what is possible under socialism. Don't let them take it away from us!

Our recent publication of the article Crisis in Cosmology continues to stimulate debate and comment. Here we have a reader from Italy commenting on the Olbers paradox which states that if galaxies and stars had existed for an infinite amount of time then the whole sky would look bright. So why is the night sky dark? Harry Nielsen comments.

We recently published an article on the Crisis in Cosmology by Harry Nielsen, which has provoked some comment from readers. Here we publish a letter which, in criticising the article, defends the main theories dominant in contemporary physics. This is followed by a reply which points out that the latest observations should at least lead scientists to question the validity of the Big Bang theory, a theory that dominates the thinking of mainstream physicists in spite of the all evidence.

An uncomfortable parallel can be drawn between the Big Bang story and the Christian myth of creation. At the root of the whole theory is faith, faith in things which cannot be seen or detected physically, such as an invisible form of matter and energy that is supposed to pervade the universe, or on a definite moment in time in which all matter as we know it came into being. The emphasis in theoretical physics and in mainstream cosmology is on pure thought and logic. Plasma cosmology on the other hand makes no assumption about the age of the universe; it places no limitations on the time available for large scale structures to form. The explanation for things that have occurred in the


Capitalism attempts to turn everything into private property, the air we breathe, the water we drink and even ideas. Attempts of capitalists to make money from “their” intellectual property are like the highway robbery of medieval aristocrats who levied tolls on traders and restricted the growth of commerce and prosperity. Today private property and the profit motive are the biggest threat to our enjoyment of new ideas, our progress and even our existence as a species.

A new Mexican edition of Reason in Revolt, Marxist Philosophy and Modern Science is coming out shortly. Here we provide a new introduction by Alan Woods, in which he looks at some of the more important scientific breakthroughs since the book was first published ten years ago. He also dedicates some words to the poverty of modern bourgeois philosophy which has sunk back to the level of subjective idealism.

Quantum mechanics has given scientists and engineers a new and deeper understanding of physical reality. It explains the behaviour of electrons, atoms and molecules, the nature of chemical reactions, how light interacts with matter, the evolution of stars, the bio-chemistry of life and the evolution of mankind itself. Despite its successes it remains an intensely controversial theory. It suggests that very small objects such as electrons or photons behave in ways that contradict the common sense ideas. Yet many scientists to this day refuse to accept the fact that contradiction is an essential part of all matter.

We publish two letters reacting to the recently published article Bill Gates, saviour of the world?. We seize the opportunity to call on left-wing programmers and anti-capitalist people with an interest in computer technology in general all over the world to get in touch.

Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft, recently committed himself to donating $750 million to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation charity. Using a lot of messianic words, the richest man in the world is more and more presenting himself as the saviour of the world. Maarten Vanheuverswyn looks at the reality behind the phrases and takes a look at his company Microsoft and its predatory tactics.

The discovery of the remains of an unknown pre-historic human on a little island near Indonesia shook up the scientific community a few weeks ago. This has been considered the most important event in palaeoanthropology in decades. However, the discovery is accompanied by the usual prejudices that dominate a significant part of the scientific community. Espe Espigares looks at what really distinguishes humans from the apes.

A recent Horizon programme on Channel Four asked the question “What Really Killed the Dinosaurs?” For a hundred and forty million years, the dinosaurs were dominant. Then, all of a sudden they all disappeared. Something must have killed them off. What was it?

Yesterday, US authorities issued a court order to Rackspace, a web hosting provider, to physically remove Global Indymedia servers in the US and UK. The agency requesting the seizure was the FBI. This has affected approximately 20 Indymedia sites around the world. This seizure of Indymedia’s hardware is a direct attack on civil liberties, the right to free speech, and a not-so-subtle attempt at internet censorship.

The summer of 2003 brought a very severe drought across southern Europe. Very high temperatures were recorded, sometimes exceeding the seasonal average by 8 to 10 degrees.

Even those who accept the theory of evolution frequently draw reactionary conclusions from the evidence provided by science. In Darwin’s day, natural selection was presented as a justification of capitalism and its dog-eat-dog morality. The fact that such ideas have no basis in what he actually wrote is conveniently ignored. A recent BBC documentary attempts something similar in trying to establish that the violence of human males is genetically determined and can be proved by looking at the behaviour of chimpanzees. Alan Woods explains why this theory is flawed.

Since last summer we have seen a widespread debate about the pros and the cons of GM products. There are people for and against GM products from all the different political shades. The bourgeois papers have been very keen on giving voice to different people in the debate. What is missing, however, is a class point of view. No one poses the question from the point of view of ordinary working people.

On December 23, 2003 the US government officially acknowledged the outbreak of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in a herd of cattle in the state of Washington.This is officially the first case of mad cow in the US, but is in reality the second case of an outbreak in the integrated Canadian and US cattle industry.  The farming and cattle crisis is at root a reflection of the crisis of capitalism worldwide and a result of "globalization".

On Sunday April 27, the British Channel 4 broadcast a documentary which went into detail into "how far drug companies are prepared to go to get their drugs approved and get the prices they want". Basing itself on four different cases, the program made a very powerful case for its main conclusion: "if the Big-Pharma powers remain unchecked soon many more people will be dying for drugs."

From the fourth to the twelfth of April, shortly after returning from an outstanding congress of the Pakistan Marxists, Alan Woods was in Austria on a speaking tour, organised by the Austrian Marxist newspaper, Der Funke ("The Spark"). The tour, which was partly taken up by anti-war meetings and partly to present the German language edition of Reason in Revolt, was a great success.

The first volume of Reason in Revolt has, by all accounts, been well received in the USA. In general, the Anglo Saxon world has been highly resistant to broad philosophical generalizations and to Marxism in particular. Yet without such philosophical generalizations it is impossible to acquire a rational understanding of the world in which we live.

Over 400 people attended 3 different meetings in Vienna and Linz organised to launch the German edition of Reason in Revolt in Austria between December 12 and 14. Alan Woods spoke at these meetings and huge interest was shown by those attending. Now several discussion groups have been set up around the book in different universities and schools, and the campaign around the book is to continue next year.

On Saturday, October 12, Alan Woods participated in the official launch of the German edition of Reason in Revolt(Aufstand der Vernunft) which has just come out. The publication has already aroused a lot of interest in left circles in Germany and Austria, where a series of public presentations is being prepared for the next few months.

We are publishing for the first time on our website the preface to the first volume of the US edition of Reason in Revolt, published last summer. Though written one year ago, we think that it is still an useful introduction to all the main subjects dealt with in the book, such as Marxism and religion, the Big Bang theory and chaos and complexity.

On Monday, May 20, the famous American palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould died of cancer at his home in New York. Gould made a major contribution to development of modern science with his theories on evolution, and challenged some of the accepted views of bourgeois science.

When Reason in Revolt was published seven years ago, it was greeted with enthusiasm by many people, not just by Marxists but those who were interested in the new scientific theories of chaos and complexity. But some readers found the authors' opposition to the theory of the Big Bang hard to accept, after all it seemed that the whole scientific community accepted the theory without question. But last week Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok published a paper in Science in which they propose an alternative model to the Big Bang theory. They suggest that the universe goes through and endless cycle of big bangs, expansion and then stagnation. Their ideas are at an early stage


The German translation of Reason in Revolt has just come out, and was presented at the recent Frankfurt book fair (see above article). Alan Woods wrote a new introduction for this edition, which for editorial reasons was shortened and slightly edited. Here we publish the full original text in English.

Shortly before this book went to print, we learned the sad news of the death of the Swedish Novel Prize winning physicist Hannes Alfvén. In addition to his important discoveries in the field of plasma physics and cosmology, Alfvén waged a tireless struggle against mystical and idealist tendencies in science. We publish below a brief tribute by the American physicist and independent researcher Eric J. Lerner, author of The Big Bang Never Happened:

"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 Dutch." Alan Woods and Ted Grant comment on


This is the headline of an article about Vygotsky written at the University of Joenkoeping in Sweden. Lev Semenovich Vygotsky (1896-1934) was a Russian Marxist psychologist and pedagogue active from the years before the revolution until his death in 1934. His theories, for a long period unknown outside Russia, have gained an increasing echo among radical psychologists and pedagogues during the last decade, not least in the US, but also in Europe.

Over the past weeks the news has been dominated by the story of yet another crisis in farming. The rapid spreading of the food and mouth epidemic in Britain is a direct consequence of capitalist farming methods.

Nearly 40 South African pharmaceutical companies are taking the South African government to court in order to defend their massive profits, even if this means the death of millions of people who are HIV positive. The case opened at the Pretoria High Court on March 5th. This article examines how the profit motive of the pharmaceutical multinationals prevails over the lives of millions of people.

Once every century or so great scientific breakthroughs grip the imagination of the world. With the publication of the results of the human genome project, we stand on the threshold of such a breakthrough. Science is now poised to understand the forces behind evolution, explode racial myths, change the way doctors diagnose disease, and try to help people live longer. The new approach - looking at systems of genes rather than individual genes - will transform biologists' view of the human body. Alan Woods explains how this discovery proves amongst other things that there is no scientific ground for racism or genetic determinism, and analyses the significance of this discovery from a


On June 26 this year Clinton and Blair made a joint statement saying that the human genome had been sequenced. Rikard Erlandsson looks at the scientific implications of this development.

We reprint this article by John Pickard which reviews Engels contribution to the understanding of human development and specifically his pamphlet The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man.

Science is big business, and none more so than genetics. The Human Genome Project, the deciphering of the make up of human DNA has already resulted in some startling breakthroughs. But, while our scientific understanding of life attempts to race ahead, once again we find ourselves hemmed in by the enormous waste of capitalism. In this field, as in any other, competition plus profit equals waste.

We received a letter from Hong Kong in reply to our articles on GM foods.

Genetic engineering has come upon the world with a rush, accompanied by the usual claims of being a way of feeding the earth's poor and removing want. However these claims need to examined in the light of what has actually been done to date, and what is planned for the future. In fact the impetus for the development of genetic engineering, namely the rapid pursuit of maximum profits and futher control of world agriculture runs counter to the stated aims as well as encouraging unsafe science.

Sewage-fed cows, "mad cows", dioxin contaminated chickens, hormone injected cattle, genetically modified Soya, animal carcasses used to make animal feed, contaminated mineral water and Coca- Cola. A common thread runs through all these cases: the search for the highest profits on the part of the food industry to the detriment of everybody's health. 

Heiko Khoo looks at the history of the internet and the relevance of issues like open source programming for socialists.

According to Monsanto, the American multinational currently making vast profits out of genetically modified food, the future's so bright that they could genetically modify us to wear shades! Joking apart, there is a serious issue here. Are GM foods safe?

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