The reemerging ‘Dark Ages’

How revealing it is of capitalism’s deepening decay that scientific workers in this country have felt it necessary to march by the tens of thousands in cities across the U.S. — just to defend science!

The U.S. had long been seen as the epitome of capitalism’s success in subduing nature for its own ends through scientific-technological development. Capitalism as a social system arose from the stagnant, stinking corpse of feudalism, full of its self-importance as the answer to all of humanity’s problems. The bourgeoisie unleashed the creative power of science in order to better navigate their merchant ships across the seas, turn ores into metals, and steam, coal and then oil into power for their burgeoning factories.

Science was no longer the passion of a few, relatively privileged individuals (almost all men) with the time and money to think and conduct experiments. As capitalism developed, it provided jobs for scientists in a myriad of fields, from medicine and agriculture to aerospace and climatology.

But along the way, science was harnessed to the profit needs of big pharma, agribusiness, the auto manufacturers and the military-industrial complex. The longer-term vision of scientists — to make the world a better place to live — was largely subordinated to Wall Street’s bottom line.

That is what has gotten the world into the mess it is in today. And because so many scientists blew the whistle on superfund pollution and lead poisoning and the biggest scandal of all — human-induced warming of the whole planet — and because the people affected have been in the streets for years protesting the threats to their lives, from Love Canal, N.Y., to New Orleans to Flint, Mich., to the massive marches against climate change, some steps were finally taken to mitigate the terrible environmental effects of unplanned, rampant capitalist development.

Now comes the Trump administration, with backing from Wall Street and the Pentagon, to say that the priority is building a wall on the Mexican border and raising the military budget to bomb the Middle East and confront China and north Korea. Everything else must be cut: environmental protection, consumer safety, medical research and so on. And, oh yes, deny there’s even a problem with global warming.

It feels like the Dark Ages once again. But it is not. The knowledge is there to deal with all these problems. It is not science that needs to be unleashed. It is the forces of production that need to be freed from control by the capitalists, so they can be used to solve humanity’s problems rather than exacerbate them even as millions lose their jobs due to the scientific-technological revolution. The needs of socially responsible scientists and the needs of the masses of workers and oppressed are in sync. Our enemy is the same.

Scientists belong with the struggle against capitalism that is openly taking root today, especially among the young and the most oppressed who see no future under this system.