[pdf http://220.127.116.11/cpgb-ml/wp-content/mediastudents_20050910.pdf 700 800]Leaving home and starting university is a challenging and exciting time.
This is a valuable chance to learn more about humanity’s culture and achievements: its languages, arts and sciences; medicine and engineering; computing and electronics. All the accumulated knowledge of generations past, whose striving to understand their material environment bore fruits of knowledge and invention that transform our daily lives.
Many decisions will have led you to this point (what to study and where; whether to stay at home or to set out on a new footing), but many crucial ones remain. There is some knowledge, for example, that is not handed to us on a plate, whether it be life experience or a deeper understanding of the world and our place in it. Finding a useful role in life is particularly challenging for anyone who wishes not simply to be useful to capital, which wishes to set us in motion (sell us its idea of a ‘career’) merely to further enrich itself, but useful to humanity, and in particular to the dispossessed proletarians.
Proletarians are almost all of us who have nothing but our work (more or less skilled) to sell, and who must therefore sell ourselves – in one way or another – to the handful (250 or so) of billionaires who own and control (directly or indirectly) most of the world’s productive economy.
Knowledge is power
To understand the nature of the simple Hydrogen atom, to prove that understanding through experimentation, and to manipulate it through technological advance, led to man’s ability to harness the power of nuclear forces – for good or ill.
But knowledge does not exist in a vacuum. It comes into being in the very real context of a living and breathing human society at a definite stage of development, and in turn has profound impact upon that society. Nuclear energy has the capacity to save humanity from global warming that threatens to destroy our civilisation, or to engulf it in the final holocaust.
To understand the nature of society, to lay bare the seemingly blind forces driving history forward; to understand its class composition: who works and who rules in whose interest and why?; to understand the simple commodity, the basic unit of the mass market, and through it to understand capitalism and the forces and contradictions it brings forth – all this is needed to free us from servitude to those ‘blind forces’. This was the work of Karl Marx in his epoch-defining and revolutionary work Capital.
To know the work of Marx and Lenin and their great followers is to recognise the world as it really is, our place in it and how we can help to solve the most pressing problems of our own working class community and billions of our fellow workers and small farmers abroad who are oppressed by poverty, famine and preventable disease in the midst of superabundance; who are the victims of endless wars at a time when we already have the capacity to provide all humanity with peace and prosperity. These wars are waged for the most part by, or on behalf of, big business for domination of oil and other natural resources, for control of markets and labour, or merely to stop workers solving their own problems by turning out their exploiters and reorganising society in their own interests. Understanding all this is the beginning of the struggle to solve these world-embracing problems and, in that sense, knowledge is power.
In 1530, Copernicus postulated the theory that the earth and planets revolved around the sun. A hundred years later, Galileo used Fleming’s newly available telescope to make substantiating observations and the Copernican system was proved. But the revolutionising impact of his scientific discovery did not limit itself to the field of astronomy alone.
Galileo’s natural philosophical discovery shattered the formerly accepted doctrines of the catholic church, whose monopoly over men’s minds was never to recover. It was correctly perceived as a challenge to the church’s ‘god given’ right to rule; to hand out unending, unchanging (metaphysical) systems of order with lords temporal and spiritual ruling over the common men (predominantly peasants of feudal times). This great leap forward in understanding was part of the intellectual renaissance that came hand in hand with the rising of a new ruling class, the capitalist class, who were soon to make their powerful debut during the English Revolution of 1642. Consequently, for his great contribution to humanity, Galileo won not plaudits and prizes but harassment and persecution from the state authorities of the day.
After a brief age of reason, the capitalist class too began to find all kinds of religious and scholastic obscurantism useful for keeping the workers in their place. Hence Marx’s famous observation that religion “is the opium of the people”. In more recent times, we have seen modern imperialism breed a generation of ‘muslim fundamentalists’ to fight the Soviet Union and communist tendencies among the Arab masses – only to find that even these armies, once mobilised, could not but rebel against the oppressive and all-pervasive market fundamentalism of the British and US imperialist terrorists.
Since the capitalist system came of age in the early 19th century, it has ceased to be interested in true science and has instead dedicated itself to maintaining the status quo. Thus it was left to the exploited masses to complete the renaissance, strip away the relics of dogmatic idealism and lay bare the world as it truly stands, for only the working masses do not fear to reveal the truth – that exploitation and capitalism both have run their useful course and are due for abolition!
Only the proletariat can use the gifts of human knowledge and technology in the service of the working masses and hence to solve rather than compound the problems facing humanity. The Marxist renaissance of thought gave rise to scientific socialism, but the modern day ruling class fears this liberating knowledge as the devil fears holy water! Just as the feudal state authorities tried to suppress, refute and criminalise Copernicus’s teachings, so the capitalists have tried to do with the teachings of Marx and Lenin. Yet no sooner has Marxism been declared dead than it rises up, more relevant than ever. Marxism is the scientific basis of the class struggle of the working masses for liberation from oppression and exploitation; it shows humanity the way out of imperialism’s downward spiral; it can no more be destroyed than can the modern proletariat.
The choice is ours: we can seize the weapon that has been given to us and educate and organise ourselves – or remain stupid tools and willing slaves of a parasitic ruling class.
Communism – the only solution.
There is no need for anyone on this planet to be hungry or without a home, healthcare and education. It is not beyond the ingenuity and technical ability of mankind to afford a decent standard of living to all. But this can only be provided on the basis of the abolition of exploitation of man by man; on the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange. No longer can production be subservient to the interests of profit – it must be made subservient to the interests of the people.
Once the contradiction between social production and private appropriation is done away with, all its concomitant social ills – poverty, war, racism, sexism, inequality, environmental destruction – can be easily swept away, as they will no longer have an economic basis.
But first, capitalism must be defeated. No-one should think that this is an easy task. It is not simply a matter of printing up a few leaflets, getting elected into parliament and putting an end to exploitation – the examples of Chile and other places demonstrate that all too clearly.