Thursday, October 6, 2016

Only the working class can preserve life on earth as we know it.

Only the working class can preserve life on earth as we know it. 

Sean O'Torain.

I started my working life on my uncle's farm in County Donegal, Ireland. The tools were grapes and wheel barrows to clean out the dung of the cows and horses  from the byres and stables, spades and shovels to dig drains, horse drawn ploughs to turn over the soil to plant the crops, horse drawn carts to haul turnips and potatoes and grains, buckets to carry water, and here I am writing about Stephen Hawking and Assange and the rest. I have a hard neck on me. But we are familiar with the saying: “Audacity, Audacity, Audacity.

Stephen Hawking is one of the world’s most respected scientists.  He is a theoretical physicist, a cosmologist, and author and director of research at the center for theoretical cosmology at the university of Cambridge, England. (I never finished high school) Hawking holds left wing views.  In the 1960’s he marched in opposition to the Vietnam war.  In the 1990’s he called the US invasion of Iraq a “war crime.” He defends the British national health system. A man of the left and one of the world’s greatest brains, so it is with extreme trepidation I even write his name. Especially as in the fields in which he specializes I am an ignoramus. However it becomes more clear to me by the day that the fact people like Stephen Hawking, no matter how learned in other fields, that society as a whole, in spite of its scientific advances, because they do not base themselves, on historical materialism, and specifically the phase of historical materialism in which we now exist, it is impossible for such individuals and for society  to understand the world. Specifically to show a way forward for the world and society and in fact life on earth as we know it. It is more and more clear to me that this inability to base human thought on historical materialism is a major, perhaps the major obstacle to the human species having a future. I am afraid that Stephen Hawking is also lacking in this area. But let us back up a bit. What am I talking about when I speak of historical materialism? 

Historical materialism sees the world in this way. The human species clawed its way out of the swamps of pre history and in the process established and overthrew system after system, one following the other. First there were the were primitive hunting and gathering societies, then slavery, then feudalism and today capitalism. While there was some overlap here and there, some steps forward and some steps back here and there, this was roughly the process.  Each of these systems was replaced by a new system when the old system could no longer take society forward, and when a new system which could take society forward came into being. So in this way society was changed. The establishment of these new systems was led by the new progressive classes of the time. This does mean these new “progressive” classes were gentle entities, in a kindly way nudging society into a new form. Far from it they were ferocious new forces which, with as it has been said, emerged out of the old systems with blood dripping from every tooth and claw and fang.   

So where are we today, and where is society today and what has this to do with Stephen Hawking? Today we are in the catastrophic death throes of the capitalist system. That is of the system where the dominant sectors of the world economy are privately owned by the capitalist class and run for profit. And  where the capitalist class which owns and controls the dominant sectors of the world economy also own and control the worlds military and economic and political systems.   This reality is all around us and influences every aspect of our being, of our lives. Here is what Stephen Hawking has to say about it. This is from a piece on Stephen Hawking from Wikipedia entitled the: Future of humanity.

Wikipedia: “In 2006 Hawking posed an open question on the Internet: "In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?", later clarifying: "I don’t know the answer. That is why I asked the question, to get people to think about it, and to be aware of the dangers we now face."

Hawking has expressed concern that life on Earth is at risk from a sudden nuclear war, a genetically engineered virusglobal warming, or other dangers we have not yet thought of. However, such a planet-wide disaster need not result in human extinction if the human race were to be able to colonize additional planets before the disaster. Hawking views spaceflight and the colonization of space as necessary for the future of humanity. Hawking has stated that, given the vastness of the universe, aliens likely exist, but that contact with them should be avoided. He warned that aliens might pillage Earth for resources. In 2010 he said, "If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans.

"Hawking has argued superintelligent artificial intelligence (AI) could be pivotal in steering humanity's fate, stating that "the potential benefits are huge... Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. It might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks. Hawking has argued that computer viruses should be considered a new form of life, and has stated that "maybe it says something about human nature, that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. Talk about creating life in our own image."

These thinking’s of Hawking are of great interest and importance, not least because they come from a man of his scientific credentials. But also because of their content. They clearly recognize that life on earth is under threat. He outlines the various threats that exist. I would like to restate his points but in doing so give them a base in the system in which we live, that is state that they are the result of and flow from capitalism. I agree with Hawking that life on earth as we know it is under threat. In my opinion life on earth as we know it will be destroyed in the decades ahead by climate change, nuclear war, pollution, drought, flooding, starvation and possibly other forms of destruction, or a combination of all or some of these, and other threats as yet un-thought off except by people such as Hawking. 

I am totally unqualified to speak on viruses or artifical intelligence, though I doubt that life on earth can be destroyed by artifical intelligence. But I may be totally wrong on this as I know so little about it. But anyway there are enough other threats to life on earth as we know it to be going on with. Stephen Hawking outlines these. And I most emphatically agree, life on earth as we know it will be destroyed in the near future unless the system under which we live is changed. However as I have stated Hawking does not put the threat to life on earth as we know it in terms of the threat being one of the capitalist system. I believe this is a mistake. I see the threat to life on earth as we know it as a crisis of capitalism. The reality is that life on earth as we know it will be destroyed unless capitalism is overthrown. It is capitalism that is the basis of all these threats that Hawking outlines and with which I agree. The problem is not some general crisis of the human species it is a problem of the human species living under capitalism, the human species in this phase of history. It is here that I believe that Hawking makes a mistake. He avoids looking at society in a historical materialist way. By doing so he avoids, in fact he makes it impossible, to see a way out of the crisis in which humanity exists. If we do not see where we came from, if we cannot see where we are, we cannot see how to move forward, how to solve our problems.  

Hawking points to a future for the human species by traveling to other planets. He speaks of life on other planets, elsewhere in the universes. I agree it is unthinkable that with all the universes out there, all of endless space, all of endless time, there are not other intelligent forms of life. But as Hawking seems to say himself contact with such other forms would be unlikely to be positive for the human species. If other forms of life came to earth then he in my opinion correctly assumes they would be superior to the human species and would most likely dominate our species and loot the earth’s resources. Thus bringing only only negative results. I agree with this. But then Hawking seems to contradict himself by talking about emigrating to other planets. Or is he suggesting that we would find a less developed life form out there that we could exploit rather than they come to earth and exploit us. I think his talk about a way out for humanity through travel into space has no basis in reality. And what would we do with all the other species here on earth. Noah's Ark? I disagree with Hawking that there is any possibility of the human species having a future by traveling into space.  Life on earth in this degenerate rapidly decaying capitalist system will destroy itself before this would ever be possible, even if it were ever possible, which I do not think it is. 

So if I am correct in my opinion, if Stephen Hawking is wrong on this, how come a man of his intellect and thought makes such a mistake. We are I believe back to the issue of historical materialism. More specifically, the inability of Hawking to use the method of historical materialism to analyze the world in which we live  today, the society in which live today, the capitalist society, in which we live today. There are huge pressures that weigh against Hawking and people like him which make it difficult for them to see history in a historical materialist manner. Specifically a historical materialist approach to history sees every previous society has had a beginning a middle and an end. The ruling class in capitalism like all previous ruling classes do not want to see history in this way. After all it would mean that capitalism also has a beginning a middle and an end. The ruling capitalist calls wants to believe they will rule for ever. That we have reached the end of history. So there are great pressures to look in other directions for “solutions.”

And there are other pressures which make it difficult for people like Hawking to see the possibilities for the future. One of these and a central one, is his inability to base himself on the class struggle and the role of classes in the historical materialist manner in which society has developed. The old societies did not all progress. Where no class or force existed the old societies collapsed in on themselves or were overthrown by more backward societies which in turn themselves collapsed. The ruins of these old societies can be seen in the pyramids in the deserts and jungles, the old cities and magnificent ruins in the deserts and jungles. There was no class or force that could take these societies forward so they collapsed. It is in this context that we have to look at capitalism today. As it hurtles towards the cliff edge of its own destruction: is there a class or a force that can prevent this taking place? This is the issue. Not un-realizable speculating about the human species emigrating to other planets. Is there a class that can end capitalism and take society forward? This is the question.

The two main classes that exist today are the capitalist class and the working class. The capitalist class rules the world. It is the backward, regressive class, the class of the past. It regained control over the Stalinist former Soviet Union at the end of the last century and looks to be heading in the same direction in Stalinist China. Processes do not travel in a straight line. There are steps forward and steps back. The restoration of capitalism in parts of the world where it was ended, even under the reactionary dictatorships of Stalinism was a step back. Once again more established in a wider area the capitalist class is dragging the world and the human species backwards toward destruction. Stephen Hawking recognizes that society is heading in this direction but it is at this point, that in my opinion the wheels come of his wagon and he talks about one possible “solution”  being space travel.  That is the human species emigrating to other planets. The question I pose is this: How come a man of Stephen Hawking’s intelligence ends up with this non-solution? It is not hard to see why. It is because, inspite of his atheism and his left leanings, he does not base himself on the method of historical materialism and specifically seek a historical materialist vie, and this includes a class view to show the human species a way forward. 

Unlike with some of the older societies which could not progress, there is a progressive class in the world today which has the capability of taking society forward. . It is the working class. It is bigger and more wide spread and more diverse than every before. It is spread in every continent more than ever before. It works the huge machines and transportation systems and advanced machinery more than every before. It controls the new communications systems. 50% of the world’s factory workers are now women. Over 300 billion of the world’s population are workers. 200 million workers are in unions. This is the new progressive class. This is the force that can take society forward, that can give human society and life on earth as we know it a future. It is to this class that people who see that capitalism is going to destroy life on earth must look. It is the weakness in the thinking of Stephen Hawking that he speaks of space travel to save the human species and life on earth rather than look to and recognize the existence and potential role of the working class and its responsibility at this time in history.

This weakness of not seeing the existence, and role, and potential, of the working class is shared by many. In particular it is shared by, in fact it is caused by, the leaderships of the organizations of the working class – the trade unions and workers organizations. These leaderships of these organizations do not believe the working class can build a new society, can end capitalism. They give no alternative to the working class, that is to to their own members. But they also give no alternative to the Stephen Hawkings of the world. Serious people who see the developing catastrophe but because of the role of the leadership of the working class, the progressive class, in holding back that class, then that class in reality does not exist in the thinking, the imagination, of these people. And so this is where we end up with speculation about emigrating to other planets. The leadership of the working class organizations are the biggest obstacle to progress in the world today. They prevent the progressive class from taking the power in its hands and building a new society. they prevent people like Hawking from seeing the working class as the progressive class that can take society forward.

But it is not only in the imagination and thinking of the leadership of the workers’ organizations, and in the imagination and thinking of people like Hawkings that the working class does not exist as an alternative force which can build a new society. It also does not exist at present in the consciousness of the majority of the working class itself. The working class is objectively the progressive class in this period of history. But subjectively it is not yet so. That is while it is the progressive class it does not yet see itself as the progressive class.  It does not see itself as the progressive class, as the class that can change the world, as an independent class that can build a new world, as a class for itself and a class for itself and the class that holds in its hands  the future of humanity and life on earth. 

This weakness in the thinking of Stephen Hawking is shared by pioneers in other fields at this time when the working class is not showing a way forward.  We see the thinking and writings of Assange of Wikileaks. He sees and wishes to break down the censorship and control of knowledge and information and communication by the capitalist class, he calls it “technological imperialism” and make this knowledge available to all. He opposes this technological imperialism. This is an admirable and progressive position and objective, it would weaken, it already is weakening, the control of capitalism over the consciousness of the working class and society. But Assange’s thinking has the same weakness as the thinking of Stephen Hawking. It does not see the working class as an independent force. It does not see that it is the working class organized as an independent force. organized internationally as a class fighting for a socialist world, that is the only progressive force in society. It does not see that the future of the human species and life on earth as we know it depends on the organizing of the working class internationally as today’s progressive class, and then this class wresting power from the capitalist class which is dragging the world and life on earth as we know it to destruction. 

The reason for the weakness in the thinking of these two people and the many like them are the pro capitalist ideas and actions of the leaderships of the working class organizations. And along with this the inability of the small forces that over the last decades have claimed to be revolutionary socialist to put down roots in the working class. The revolutionary socialist Leon Trotsky explained that the future of humanity depends on the role played by the leadership of the working class. This is the historical materialist view. The working class is the progressive class today and it must take power if life on earth as we know it is to have a future. The question is this: Will there be a leadership built in the working class, by the working class, that organizes the working class to overthrow capitalism and save life on earth, and does so by whatever means necessary. Or will this task not be carried out and will capitalism continue until it implodes in on itself and destroys life on earth as we know it. If it does it will not be a few emptied out cities and pyramids and burial mounds in the deserts and the oceans that will remain. This time, given the degree to which science has developed, and to which science and knowledge has develop with the help of the Hawkings, it will be crippled deformed  stumps of creatures of former life on earth, plant and insect and animal and human which will gradually themselves disappear leaving close to a dead planet. 

The working class is the progressive class in history today. It is the only force that can prevent this catastrophe. The working class is like a huge chisel. It has weight, power, heft, but it has no cutting edge. It is blunt. It is blunt because of  its pro capitalist leadership. The task is to remove this leadership and replace this with an international revolutionary leadership, that is give the working class a cutting edge. This cutting edge is an organized theoretically based revolutionary leadership that can end capitalism. That is a mass revolutionary international of tens and hundreds of millions of workers. Hopefully such a cutting edge can be put on the presently blunt chisel of the working class before it is too late. Hopefully also the Hawkings and the Assanges of this world can see their way to help in this.    
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