Workers Hammer No. 209

Winter 2009-2010


Quote of the issue

Marxism, science and technology

Under capitalism the power of science is used largely to strengthen the imperialist military and advances in medicine are subject to the pursuit of profit. Anti-scientific quackery and all forms of religious and superstitious backwardness, including on sexuality and abortion, are on the rise in this period marked by the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92. In a 1926 radio broadcast in the Soviet Union, Leon Trotsky, co-leader with VI Lenin of the 1917 October Revolution, noted how under proletarian rule the development of science and technology will open the door to the most far-ranging improvement of the conditions of humanity.

Just as inside the hull of a steamship impenetrable partitions are placed so that in the event of an accident the ship will not sink all at once, so also in man’s consciousness there are numberless impenetrable partitions: in one sector, or even in a dozen sectors, you can find the most revolutionary scientific thinking; but beyond the partition lies philistinism of the highest degree. This is the great significance of Marxism, as thought that generalizes all human experience: that it helps to break down these internal partitions of consciousness through the integrity of its world outlook….

Technology and science develop not in a vacuum but in human society, which consists of classes. The ruling class, the possessing class, controls technology and through it controls nature. Technology in itself cannot be called either militaristic or pacifistic. In a society in which the ruling class is militaristic, technology is in the service of militarism.

It is considered unquestionable that technology and science undermine superstition. But the class character of society sets substantial limits here too. Take America. There, church sermons are broadcast by radio, which means that the radio is serving as a means of spreading prejudices. Such things don’t happen here, I think — the Society of Friends of Radio watches over this, I hope? Under the socialist system science and technology as a whole will undoubtedly be directed against religious prejudices, against superstition, which reflect the weakness of man before man or before nature. What, indeed, does a “voice from heaven” amount to when there is being broadcast all over the country a voice from the Polytechnical Museum?

— Leon Trotsky, “Radio, Science, Technology, and Society” (March 1926),
printed in Problems of Everyday Life (Monad Press [1973])