[OPE-L:574] Re: Science or Manifesto for Communism

Paul Cockshott (wpc@clyder.gn.apc.org)
Mon, 27 Nov 1995 15:38:32 -0800

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Jerry asks 4 questions:
1 Was the _Communist Manifesto_ a work of science? If so, did Marx and
Engels use the same "scientific method" in examining that subject as
Marx later used preparing and then writing _Capital_?

2 Has the knowledge of "truth" and science been the main instrument of
social change in the past?

3 How has Einstein's theory of relativity helped to set people free?

4 Does one use the same scientific method to examine rocks (geology),
stars (astronomy), bacteria (bacteriology), and capitalism (political

Paul C
1. The Communist Manifesto was the first open publication of Scientific
Socialism. It presented conclusions from some of Marx and Engels
early investigations, in a propagandistic form. These investigations
themselves were written up primarily as The Condition of the
Working Class, and the German Ideology, prior to the publication of
the Manifesto.
The precondition for two middle class intellectuals doing this,
was the revolutionary crisis in Europe that threw them into
contact with the working classes.

2. I am not sure that knowledge and truth can ever be said to be the main
instrument of change either today or in the past. However with the
passage of time, they have played an increasingly important role.
To be able to do so, they must first exist, the ability of knowledge
to affect social struggles depends upon its own advance. Knowledge
of the 'true' text of the Bible was influential in the reformation
but this was still a pretty low level criterion of truth.

3. I said that only truth can set people free, I mean that lies cant.
It does not follow that all truths are equally relevant.
Relativity theory is a truth about the cosmos, as such its
effects on social relations are indirect, through its effects on
technology. The predictable effects of both special and general
relativity are subtle and difficult to measure, and the technologies
that have directly used them are few, at the moment I can only think
of optical gyroscopes as an example. It could be argued, however,
that the special theory enters in as a background component into
many technologies, including the modern communications technology
that we are using. If you had included his work on the Photo-Electric
effect, the argument would be much simpler.

4. I would say basically yes. The difference is the degree to which the
different sciences are beset by ideologies of class interests. In the
case of geology today this is slight, in Huttons time it took a major
step to free oneself from the religious conceptions of the age.
Geology, astronomy and political economy are in large measure
observational sciences. Bacteriology differs in being much more
directly experimental. At present political economy is by the nature
of what it studies most subject to ideological influences, astronomy,
or at least cosmology, the next most influenced.