Dialectics of nature: Marxism and modern science


The great philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel led a revolution in philosophy by breaking with the mechanical bourgeois materialism, dominant in the Europe of his day, in favour of a worldview that embraced contradiction and constant change. Marx and Engels’ scientific socialism placed Hegel’s ideas on a materialist basis, culminating in the highest accomplishment of philosophy: dialectical materialism.

Today, the most-advanced discoveries and theories in science continually validate Marx and Engels’ ideas. Rather than a world consisting of fixed, discrete, static entities moving in a predictable way for all eternity, or even a gradual shift from one state to another, science increasingly uncovers a cauldron of revolutionary transformation.

From chaos and complexity theory in mathematics, to the Gouldian theory of punctuated equilibrium in evolutionary zoology, to quantum mechanics in physics, the limits of formal logic are being exposed by the march of discovery. Scientists have to reckon with a world where particles behave like waves and vice versa, where matter and energy are equivalent, and species undergo sudden and dramatic flourishes and extinctions. In other words: nature is defined by motion, change and revolution!

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Ben: To start with a well-known quote from Lenin: without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. A revolutionary party absolutely needs a philosophy.

The ruling class certainly have their own philosophy. They see this system as the most natural system, as something unchangeable. They are empiricists; they see this system as an established fact, and they conclude, ”Thus it is and thus it shall always be”. But as their system decays, the ruling class is increasingly wracked with anxiety. They can only imagine one reality: this reality, this capitalist system. And so they turn away from the real world and the truths it reveals about their system; in turn, infecting all of society with their moods of mysticism and despair. They control the schools, the universities, the newspapers and the scientific journals; and through these channels, their mysticism and their empirical outlook seep into society, and their philosophical outlook takes on the dimensions of popular prejudices.

It is true that in our struggle against the capitalist class, they have an undeniable advantage in their resources. But they also suffer from one insurmountable disadvantage: at each turn in the situation, all the claims that they and their apologists make about the world conflict with reality, and with the experience of that reality that workers and other classes in society go through. They are in conflict with the truth itself. For that reason, their philosophy is contradicted at every stage by new discoveries in the natural sciences.

Conversely, our philosophy – dialectical materialism – finds some of its highest and most exquisite confirmations in the discoveries of the natural sciences.

Dialectics, at bottom, is a philosophy of change, and how it is intrinsic to nature and society. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus actually summed it up quite beautifully with an aphorism many millennia ago, when he said that “everything both is and is not, for everything is in flux”. This is a fascinating idea, because how can everything both be and not be? A chair is a chair, a person is a person, and as far as common sense is concerned, that’s the end of the matter. But reality isn’t so simple. Let's take the apparently simple idea that a person is a person: well, the cells lining the stomach replace every five days; your skin cells are replaced roughly every three to four weeks; the cells in your bones take roughly a decade to be replaced; and only a few parts of your body are not replaced at all (your teeth will stay with you, if you look after them, until you die). But over the course of a few months, or years, most of the matter in your body will have been replaced by new matter. So if I ask you in a few years time, “Am I the same person who gave that lead-off at IMU 2022?”, you would have to answer both yes and no, in a sense, in defiance of common sense.

Here is precisely where the philosophy of common sense – or, to give it its actual name, formal logic – completely fails us: when dealing with drawn-out processes, when dealing with change. Even in the moment, you think a person is a static thing; but biologists understand that appearances are very deceptive, because this apparent equilibrium is the product of a dynamic tension within each and all of our bodies. To give one example: my blood sugar level is static within strict limits – and that's a good thing, too, as otherwise I’d be in a lot of medical trouble. But this relative equilibrium is caused by the effects, the contradictory effects, of two hormones produced in the pancreas. One of them is called glucagon; it's released when my blood sugar drops and it causes my cells to release glucose into the bloodstream. The other is called insulin, and it’s released when my blood sugar level is elevated, such as after a large meal. It causes my body to take up glucose from the bloodstream. So this apparent stasis is the product of a dynamic tension of contradictory active processes, whilst other processes are at play in other parts of maintaining homeostasis.

These examples are from biology, but anywhere that we look in nature we can see the same thing. We can see how the interpenetration of opposing contradictory forces, in tension with each other, is intrinsic to the natural world. The atom is a unity of positively charged protons in the nucleus and negatively charged electrons in the shells orbiting. Enormous amounts of energy can be stored in these orbits that is not immediately apparent to the senses. Methane gas, for example, is completely odourless and it’s completely colourless; but if it reaches the correct concentrations in the presence of oxygen, a tiny spark can set off an enormous explosion, and that unperceived energy stored in those electron orbits is suddenly released.

We can look at the astrophysical level, at the stars in the sky. They seemed, and for millennia people thought they were, completely unchanging. We talk about the fixed stars, and our closest star, the sun, shines with an apparently unchanging intensity day to day, year to year. But appearances are deceptive. Today it appears stable because of two contradictory forces: gravity is constantly trying to make our sun collapse in on itself, and on the other hand, you have heat pressure generated by the fusion of light elements into heavier elements constantly pushing back against this gravitational collapse. It might appear that nothing much is happening in the constant battle between these forces, but in five billion years we’ll find out that a lot has been going on beneath the surface. Around this time, the process of hydrogen fusion will come to an end as there ceases to be sufficient hydrogen to fuse – and that dynamic equilibrium will be utterly disrupted. In what is a blink of an eye in astrophysical terms, all of the inner planets, possibly including the Earth, will be consumed as the sun suddenly expands.

The main point here is that at every level motion is the mode of existence of matter; but that this motion is often hidden beneath the surface. As Heraclitus says, “nature likes to hide”. But unperceived, beneath that surface, a quantitative accumulation of invisible changes – or apparently invisible changes – can prepare the way for that dramatic qualitative leap. The essence of science is to tear back the veil from nature and to look beneath that surface. And in our own way, this is also the role of the Marxists. The regular apologists of capitalism regularly challenge us: “Look, the working class hasn’t moved for forty years. They will never move, what are you wasting your time for?” They are empiricists: they worship the established so-called facts, and they disdain any so-called theory that goes beyond this supposed fact.

However, what are thought of as “facts” always contain some element of interpretation. Hegel answered these empiricists a long time ago when he said the following: “The fact is misshaped by the reflection that is incapable of grasping it”. They don’t understand what this fact is trying to tell them; so when the workers finally do begin to move, when revolutions do erupt despite their predictions, they are left in shock at the apparent outbreak of ‘anarchy’, as they call it. And the reason they call revolutions anarchy is because it always seems that a revolution is an outbreak of chaos or disorder to the ruling class. They don't understand that there is an order, a deeper causality which makes revolutions not just possible but inevitable at a certain stage.

Now, the 13th element to be discovered, and the first in the modern age, was phosphorous. The reason behind its discovery is quite interesting: in the 17th century, as capitalism was just emerging in Europe, there was a huge thirst for gold (another session at #IMU22 looked at how the Spanish conquistadors were driven across the Atlantic sea in search of it). But others searched in far stranger places for this substance. Alchemy became all the rage in Europe, as experimenters tried to turn everyday substances into gold. One German alchemist had a particularly brilliant idea – he realised that urine is kind of gold-coloured. So he decided to condense down huge quantities of urine to see what he got. It must have been an incredibly unpleasant experience, because it took him 1,100 litres of urine to end up with 60 grams of this powdery substance. And of course, he wasn’t left with gold; but he was left with phosphorus.

This is a good example of how science can advance under the pressures of factors other than intellectual interest alone. It's also a good example of how good science can be done with very bad hypotheses. But this stage was a stage that most all of the sciences went through: of collecting facts and collecting data, before we could draw out the necessity which binds it all together. And it was breakthroughs like these, isolating the elements, that laid the basis for a revolution in chemistry in the 19th century, when the Russian chemist Mendelev uncovered the periodic table.

We are taught about this in school; but not about how it is actually a tremendous confirmation of the dialectical method. This is because the periodic table is not just a list of elements lined up quantitatively by atomic weight or atomic number. It does that, but it links these quantities up to repeating qualitative features within the elements. As nuclei get bigger and bigger, you have the same periodic recurrence of the same qualities; and you have the soft, highly reactive, alkaline metals, the colourful oxides of the transition metals, and so on and so forth. At each stage you have this periodic process of negation of the negation; but eventually a tipping point is reached when nuclei get to a certain size. The short-range attraction of protons and neutrons within the nucleus, and the long-range electrostatic repulsion of protons away from each other within the same nuclei, cease to balance and quantity transforms into quality. From this, you have a new class of elements emerging from atomic number 84 onwards which only have unstable, radioactive isotopes – and thus we enter the realm of radiochemistry.

As with chemistry, likewise in biology it was necessary to go through a whole process of collecting facts before the necessity could really be drawn out in nature. Numerous species had to be categorised by kingdom, order, genus before any relationship between them could be established. A particularly large contribution in this respect was made by the Swedish taxonomist Carl Linnaeus. On the basis of collecting all of this data, all of this information, a genius of the stature of Darwin – standing upon the shoulders of other giants that came before – could bring out the real relationships between species in biology.

His advances showed that species are far from these fixed, static ‘things-in-themselves’; rather, they flow into one another – they are in a permanent process of change. A result of this is the fact that biology abounds with species that defy simple assortment into fixed, static categories. For example, 60 percent of amoeba-like plankton in the oceans are called “mixotrophs”. That’s because they literally mix photosynthesis – that is, taking light from the sun like a plant – with gobbling up and eating other plankton like an animal. Are they plants or animals? It is a bit arbitrary, whichever you say. The archaeopteryx is a celebrated fossil because it shares certain features with the non-avian theropod dinosaurs, but it also shares some with modern birds. Viruses defy you to answer the question: is this a living thing? Is this organic or is this inorganic? They reproduce like life, but they don’t metabolise like life; they are entirely dependent upon other cells.

The reason that species so often defy our attempts to categorise them is because they are always literally in transition. In every moment, they are ceasing to be what they once were and they are becoming something that they are not. The law of identity breaks down. We have difference within identity, and this is core to Darwin's discovery – because within populations of any species, we see all kinds of quantitative variation. A butterfly’s wings could be a shade lighter or darker, or a lion's claws could be a little sharper or a little longer.

Darwin showed how all that was necessary was the accumulation of these quantitative changes, under the pressure of natural selection, to explain the qualitative distinctions between species. The accumulation of this quantitative change reaches a tipping point; quantity transforms into quality. A population can no longer interbreed with another population, and thus they form distinct species. We take this idea for granted, of course, but it has not always been immediately apparent. For millennia, human thought has been dominated by creation myths, and Darwin’s discoveries were a scandal to the respectable Christian middle-classes of Victorian England.

Of course, Darwin also had his weak side. He was a product of his time, and he conceived of change as a slow, gradual process. This reflected the fact that the Victorian middle-classes were allergic to the idea of leaps in nature, or in society for that matter. But the problem Darwin faced is that the fossil record doesn’t bear this idea out. Throughout the fossil record, we are struck by the number of missing links that exist between species. Now, for Darwin, he was inclined to explain these missing links as an artefact of the patchy way in which remains are fossilised. But the question of these missing links dogged palaeontology until well into the 20th century. To repeat that phrase by Hegel, “The facts are misshapen by a reflection that is incapable of grasping them”.

The facts weren’t pointing to a simple problem with the preservation; the facts were pointing to the whole way that evolution unfolds. It is not gradualistic at all.The gaps in the fossil record reflect the fact that evolution has taken place by sudden bursts, leaving very little evidence of the rapid periods of speciation. This secret was really unlocked by two palaeontologists in the 1970s, Niles Eldredge and Stephen J. Gould.

Eldredge examined trilobite fossils, which can be found in fossil beds from all the world’s oceans dating back 550 million years – until they suddenly went extinct about 250 million years ago, during the Permian-Triassic mass extinction. Studying these, Gould and Eldredge realised that for most of their history species are relatively stable. Fossils are pretty much the same through entire geological strata. But, of course, quantitative change does take place: in the environment, in other species in the ecosystem, in the genes of these species – and this accumulation, at a certain point, leads to a situation where this equilibrium is suddenly punctuated by rapid bursts of evolution. New adaptations suddenly emerge. Species are wiped out. Entire groups of species go extinct, and new species rapidly take their place, and entire biological families that lived in the dark suddenly radiate out to fill every ecological niche available, as our ancestors did after the demise of the dinosaurs.

This idea was named ‘punctuated equilibrium' by Gould and Eldredge, and it’s a feature, not just of biology, but of the entirety of nature. A century and a half before Gould, Hegel came up with another name for it: he referred to it as the ‘nodal line of development’. Long periods of apparent stasis, or equilibrium, in which quantitative change builds up, are rapidly punctuated by qualitative leaps, catastrophes, phase changes (to use the physics expression).

Out of a simple mixture of hydrogen and helium gas, stars condense – until a tipping point is reached. They reach a temperature where they suddenly ignite into life and fusion takes place. In their interior, light nuclei are fused into heavier nuclei and a period of equilibrium sets in: slow, quantitative change. Billions of years may pass before this quantitative change lays the basis for a new catastrophe; a new qualitative leap. In the largest stars, heavy elements are cast out in tremendous explosions called supernovae and the process starts again. It seems to have gone back to the starting point, but that's not the case; because you have a new mixture of elements, much more greatly enriched by larger complex elements.

A new beginning doesn't symbolise a return to the starting point. In the dusty discs surrounding the new generation of stars, planets are formed which are richer in heavy elements. The Earth itself began as a hot, molten ball of magma. But it slowly cooled, and as it did so it dissipated large amounts of disordered energy into space. The other side of that dissipation, that growing disorder of that energy into space, was the cooling of the planet to a point where complex chemistry suddenly emerged. Chaos and order form two sides of the same process. In our planet’s early atmosphere, complex amino acids started to be formed, and an increasingly complex chemistry reached a tipping point in turn, where DNA and RNA began to be formed for the first time. Chemistry stood at the cusp of a new revolution: the birth of life.

With the emergence of life, for billions of years, single-celled organisms were all that existed. Apparent stasis set in. Then, 550 million years ago, an array of complex multicellular life burst onto the scene during the Cambrian explosion. Throughout this whole process, which has stretched back over billions and billions of years, matter has organised from the lower to the higher, from lighter to heavier elements. Chemistry emerged, and itself became more and more complex. Life, in turn, became increasingly sophisticated; until finally, in the human brain, matter has reached the most complex form of organisation that we’re yet aware of in the universe – matter has finally become conscious of itself.

This hasn’t been a smooth process: there have been sudden throwbacks, stars have died, enormous lava flows have interrupted the progress of life. But nevertheless, with all of these set-backs, there has been a clear trend to history: matter evolving, becoming more and more complex – until, finally, thought emerges. These discoveries about the history of this universe have marvellously confirmed the dialectical view of nature. But they have also confirmed the materialist view of nature: that matter is primary and mind is just an emergent property of the human brain – of matter organised as such.

Most scientists don’t have a conscious philosophy – which makes science as prone as any other field of human thinking to the ideological trend of creeping mysticism, so evident in the rest of society. But dialectics explains that the world is one interconnected whole; it’s constantly developing. For example, in chemistry and biology, for science to really progress it’s necessary for scientists to break down nature into its constituent parts. For the pioneers of physics, as well, it was necessary to imagine isolated systems in the physical world. For example, a point-like object falling through space without air resistance, or a perfect sphere sliding down a frictionless incline – the sort of things you never find in nature, of course. But in order to get to the essence of things, this was an absolutely vital approach. Scientists had to abstract from nature to isolate its different parts. They absolutely have to discard what is non-essential in order to grasp precisely what is essential. But you’ll run into philosophical problems if you forget to put nature back together again; if you forget that our models of nature are only approximations of nature – imperfect approximations.

In the 18th century, mechanics made tremendous advances, culminating in the discoveries of Isaac Newton; but for many, his mechanics of isolated, simple systems became a blueprint for an entire worldview. Thinkers started seeing everything as nothing more than the sum of its inert, mechanical parts. These parts move along straight-line trajectories through perfect geometrical space until they’re deflected by physical contact; by mechanical contact with other bodies. It’s a worldview which conceives of the world as something like a piece of clockwork, essentially. The planets and the stars continue their orbits eternally, without deflection. The Earth itself has existed for all eternity in much the same form as we see it now. All that was needed was a ‘prime mover’ – a ‘clockmaker’, to set this whole thing in motion. God, essentially, as Newton believed. But after that one act of creation, Newton's laws could describe the whole workings of reality for all eternity.

It was a very popular view that Newton had finished putting the last dot and comma on Physics. Physics was a closed book after Newton – he completed it! Of course, advances in quantum mechanics at the scale of the very small (and advances in relativity by Einstein at the scale of the very fast and the very large) have obviously exploded this idea. It was an illusion. However, it's a repeating illusion that we see in many ages, including our own – the illusion that we are on the cusp of knowing everything that can be known about the universe. But taken to their extreme, all ideas break down. They have their limits, they push up against those limits, and they turn into absurdities.

Thomas Kuhn explained this brilliantly in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. It's well worth a read. We have a theory of how things work, but new observations accumulate, particularly at the edges of our knowledge. We can, perhaps for a very long time, fit these observations into the old theory. But repeatedly, we see the accumulation of new observations weigh down upon the old theory – until a crisis erupts and the way is prepared for a scientific revolution. When a revolution takes place, however, the old view isn't completely discarded. Take Newton's laws, for example: they still have a huge range of applicability, and they're still taught in schools for that reason. But the rational kernel of those ideas has been subsumed into a higher, richer view of reality.

Thomas Kuhn, who described this process of scientific development, was not a Marxist by any stretch of the imagination. Nevertheless, this remains a remarkable demonstration of the operation of dialectics in the history of human thinking, and of science. Of course, we should not flatter ourselves by thinking that, living in this modern world, we are in any way immune to the philosophical errors of earlier generations. As previously stated, scientists don't have their own conscious philosophy for the most part, and therefore the same moods of mysticism that emanate from the capitalist class also seep into the sciences. Today, theoretical physics abounds with all sorts of mystical nonsense. You only have to open the pages of the New Scientist magazine to convince yourself of this fact. It is a popular science magazine, but they do a good job of collecting the idealist nonsense that comes from mainstream physics. You have ‘theories of everything’ – or ‘God equations’ as some people prefer to call them: finished mathematical abstractions that are meant to define all of the laws of nature, just as previous generations attempted to do. You have untestable ideas like string theory; multiple new dimensions and multiverses invoked willy-nilly; and there is a real tendency in which it is not observations and measurements that justify the theory, but the elegance of the complex mathematics deployed in the theory itself. We could describe it as a kind of mathematical idealism, which is being revived at the heart of the sciences.

Mathematics, of course, deals with a very high level of abstraction. It's the science of pure quantity, when we strip every other quality away from nature. But the act of abstracting all of the qualities from nature doesn't make the truths of mathematics any less dependent upon the material world. Just like any other science, its material origins are plainly evident – even in the language that we use. The fact that we have a number system with a base of 10 is simply down to the fact that we happen to have 10 digits on our hands. Our ancestors, just like a child does today, would have convinced themselves that two plus two equals four by counting the digits on their hands. The word ‘geometry’ translates literally as ‘earth measurement’, reflecting its origins precisely in the measurement of the physical earth. And yet, despite these origins that mathematics has, the fact that mathematics has its roots in the material world is regularly forgotten. You can go back to Pythagoras and the Pythagoreans who believed that mathematics has some sort of divine origin, separate from this material world. And idealist notions of mathematics dominate right down to the present day.

But perhaps the starkest expression of mystical revival within the sciences is the fact that cosmology has arrived at a fully-fledged creation myth! I am of course talking about the Big Bang Theory. This states that space, time, the universe, and everything within it was created within an instant roughly 13.8 billion years ago. Of course, this is a controversial thing to question, because it is an accepted truth among most cosmologists. But the truth is never established by consensus. For materialists, to say that matter can be created is as absurd as saying that matter can be destroyed. But for the idealists, on the contrary – who see spirit as primary and matter as something secondary, and dependent upon the former – the idea of some sort of world creation, and some sort of world creator, flows quite naturally from the idea that spirit is prior to the world.

Discoveries since Newton's day have exploded the idea that the cosmos is in any way static. It has a definite history, reaching up to the farthest distances and the grandest scales that we are capable of observing so far. In a manner of speaking, astronomers can look into space and they can see that history. The further that light has travelled to us, the longer ago it was emitted by the star which let off that light in some distant galaxy. Therefore, the further it is, the longer ago we're effectively seeing that galaxy. It is quite staggering to think that the most distant galaxies that you see in some of those pictures from the James Webb telescope are images of light as it was emitted billions of years ago.

In the 1920s, Edwin Hubble, the astronomer, observed something quite peculiar about these distant galaxies. It seems that the further they are away from us, the redder they appear; and the further they are, the faster they’re receding. It is as if we are in the midst of some sort of cosmic explosion. But, as previously mentioned, if you take an idea and you push it to its extreme, it becomes an absurdity; and this particular observation of Hubble was pushed to its extreme by a certain Georges Lemaître. If all galaxies are moving away from each other, Lemaître reasoned, then by rewinding the tape we arrive at a point where all matter was compressed in a single point – which he called the ‘primaeval atom’. At that moment everything was created from absolutely nothing, and we're forbidden from asking what came before it. But what caused it all to come into creation at that time? Lemaître, the originator of this theory, was in no doubt as to the answer to that question; because, being an ordained priest, he was certain it was God.

Now, the philosophical problem of infinity has always challenged men and women. Repeatedly, a finite limit – an imaginary finite limit – has been imposed upon the universe either in space or time. Before Copernicus, for example, the stars were thought to be ‘fixed’ to a crystal sphere roughly 20,000 earth radii away. One of the arguments that was thrown back at those who argued for a sun-centred universe was, “Why don't the stars move? If they aren't fixed on a crystal sphere in the sky then they should either appear to move – as we move, the earth moves – or else they must be enormous, stupendous distances away.” The opponents of Copernicus couldn't conceive of such distances. Of course, now we know that the stars are indeed stupendous distances away compared to the distance to our star, the sun.

Even as late as the 1920s, astronomers were debating whether some of the nebulae we see are part of the Milky Way, or are “island universes” – that is, galaxies in their own right. The vast majority of astronomers denied the possibility that there could be galaxies other than our own, because it would mean accepting that Andromeda – one of our nearest galactic neighbours – is more than a hundred million light years away. Philosophically speaking, they hadn't advanced an inch since the opponents of Copernicus threw back their rebuke to his heliocentric universe.

Such a failure of imagination seems quaint to us today when we consider the immense advances in observational astronomy. But again, do not imagine that astronomers have advanced that far at all philosophically since the 1920s. In Big Bang cosmology, the expansion that we see in this moment, in this corner of the universe, is taken to be the final word on the whole history of our cosmos. Big Bang cosmologists believe that, from the expansion rate of the universe, they can tell its whole history back to 0.000, with 35 zeros and then a one, seconds after the Big Bang. Which is a bold claim, considering that the accuracy with which we know the distance to our nearest galactic neighbours has a plus five or minus five percent error bar on it.

The whole of the universe is shoehorned into a set of equations called the Friedmann equations. These are simplified using sweeping generalisations about our universe, such as the idea that it is homogeneous and not lumpy – when we see it as lumpy, clearly. I studied astrophysics at university, and the justification that is used for these simplifications is that it makes the mass calculable. That's the justification, it makes it calculable! But the problem is, new observations will constantly impinge upon these abstractions. On this point, I should say that the Big Bang theory as it is today is not the Big Bang theory that existed in Lemaître’s day, because that theory did not fit into observation. Instead of questioning the theory, cosmologists have invented a host of mathematical constructions to make the facts fit the theory. “Dark matter and dark energy make up 90% of the stuff in the universe. No one's ever observed them, but we know they must be real because otherwise our theories fall down.”

But perhaps the most egregious of these mathematical inventions is something called the ‘inflation field’. We're told by cosmologists that barely a moment after the Big Bang, within the blink of an eye, each nanometer of space – that's roughly an atom – expanded to become 10 light years wide. Alpha Centauri is about four light years away, for a sense of scale; each atom went to that scale. I think it's needless to say that there isn't a known mechanism for doing that. But Big Bang cosmologists are absolutely certain it happened, otherwise our theory would not fit the observations. This is mathematical idealism writ large. It reminds us of the phrase of the mediaeval scholastics: “I believe it because it is absurd.”

The further we look out into space, the further we see back in time, the more impossible it becomes to believe in this creation myth. Deep space telescopes like Hubble and now the James Webb telescope are capable of imaging galaxies as they were a few hundred million years after the supposed Big Bang. That sounds like a long time, a few hundred million years, but in Big Bang terms that would make galaxies mere infants. But what are we seeing at this time in the universe's history? We are seeing enormous metal-rich galaxies that could not have formed in the time allotted to them, and structures that are so enormous that they defy the imagination.

Just last year, before the James Webb telescope even became operational, they discovered a structure that they called the Giant Arc. It's 9.2 billion light years away, but if we could see it with the unaided eye, it would cover a part of the sky 20 full moons in width. It's more than three billion light years across, and to have formed it would have taken an amount of time that defies the imagination – let alone the limited scope that is allowed by Big Bang cosmologists. These observations are weighing down on the Big Bang theory today, just as Kuhn explained, and they're producing a deep disquiet in cosmology. New devices like the James Webb telescope are sure to bring back data that will deepen this crisis.

One last comment about this new telescope. It was launched just 30 years after Hubble; but where Hubble orbits at 340 kilometres, it is 1.5 million kilometres from the Earth. It has three times the collection area of Hubble, and some of its instruments have to be cooled to seven degrees above absolute zero. It's an incredible feat of engineering, when you think about what we've put that far away from the Earth. It's a tribute to the ingenuity and the potential of our species.

But even more remarkable is the fact that Hubble was only launched 30 years after Sputnik 1, the first ever satellite in space. Now James Webb is going to send back vast amounts of data that call to the human mind to marvel at nature and to use our ingenuity to find out how it works; and yet capitalism is plunging the vast mass of humanity into a state where the only thought that can possess them is, “How can I survive?” In the last three years alone, the number of people suffering from acute hunger in West Africa and the Sahel region has increased from 10 million to 40 million. That's just one region of our planet. There aren’t many better illustrations of the crying gulf between the potential vistas that open up before humanity, with the modern technology and productive technique now available to us, and the bitter reality for the vast majority of human beings. Our duty is to fight for the material liberation of men and women from the horrors of this system, and materially liberating billions from the struggle for survival will also mean liberating billions of minds: for art, for culture, and also for science.


Daniel: One of the most common errors in science is actually an error of philosophy, and not so much of science itself. Frequently, scientists tend towards what we call ‘reductionist’ explanations; and they also tend to gravitate towards a narrowly quantitative approach, i.e. they ignore quality. In the main, scientists are attracted to, or they look for, definitive and measurable proofs of things, and so they tend to think that the only real explanation for something is when it has been measured. These problems are particularly acute when it comes to the science of consciousness.

For example, there is a school of neurology called ‘eliminative materialism’. One of its main proponents is called Paul Churchland. And this school's position is literally that mental states such as anger, fear, happiness – in other words, feelings – do not exist; and this is because they say we can find no ‘hard’ or measurable evidence for them when we study the neurons that make up the brain. All we can say is that somebody's neurons fire in a certain way, and that is associated with certain observable behaviour; but the feeling that the person says they have is an illusion. It isn't there – it's just a label. This is like saying that water is not wet, or that there is no such thing as liquidity, in fact, because all we actually have is lots and lots of individual water molecules. Since each of these water molecules is not itself ‘wet’ then there can be no ‘wetness’ at all. Essentially, they completely fail to understand that quality is something that emerges from the sum of the relations of these parts.

One of the major names of cognitive science at the moment is Donald Hoffman, and he is guilty of one of the other errors – which is to construct thought experiments to definitively prove something. Again, scientists find these thought experiments attractive because they appear to provide a simple, axiomatic proof that an empirical study can never quite provide.

His argument is that a result of evolution is inevitably that all perceiving animals, such as humans, cannot possibly perceive reality as it is. To prove this he comes up with the following thought experiment: “Consider a world” – which shows already that it's just a made-up scenario – “consider a world with a creature called Critter. Critter needs a resource called Stuff. If there's too little or too much Stuff, Critter dies. Suppose a Critter has two perceptions, black and white. A truth-seeing Critter would see as much as it can about the true nature of the world. It sees white when there's less stuff and black when there's more stuff. But a fitness-seeing Critter” – fitness meaning here perceiving what is useful for survival – “a fitness-seeing Critter sees only fitness and not reality. It sees white when there is only the wrong amount of stuff, i.e too little or too much, and black when there's just the right amount of stuff.” End quote.

He uses this to allegedly ‘prove’ that it is beneficial not to see reality, but instead to see something else, which is fitness, i.e prospects for survival. Of course, all that he has done is construct a made-up scenario deliberately designed to prove what he wants. In general, animals do not see only two things, i.e black or white, and also they have to be able to understand a vast range of different things in order to survive in an infinite number of combinations. And all the time, of course, new things come along which might affect fitness or our ability to survive. Hence, in order to survive, perception obviously must grasp the nature of reality to a significant extent. But to understand that, you would have to study real animals in their real environment, and not these made-up scenarios which are absurdly simplistic.

Of course, this is perhaps a slightly extreme example, but it is quite typical of a lot of mainstream science. After reading his book, I searched the internet for reviews – expecting that I would find a few pointing out how laughably poor his logic was. I did not find a single bad review, however, and in fact discovered that he had been featured on the front cover of New Scientist. All of the reviews marvelled at how ‘provocative’, ‘fascinating’ and ‘challenging’ his book was.

Now, there are many on the Left who sneer at the IMT for daring to criticise many contemporary scientists and their theories. They basically say, “Who are you, these non-scientists, to have an opinion on the work of a peer-reviewed professional scientist?” (Although, by the way, that was not Engels’ attitude, and many of the people saying this would say that they follow the ideas of Engels.) But I dare anyone to read some of this stuff and not think it is suitable to criticise it very harshly, or to have listened to Ben's excellent lead-off and not conclude that his criticisms are very sound.

Of course, many scientists today tower above these limitations; this is not to suggest that they're all fools. Many of their theories have a lot in common with dialectical materialism, in fact. But there is a large amount of this very poor science that is completely unscientific. It reflects the negative effects of competition and the marketplace in academia, as well as the limitations of bourgeois philosophy, which is mechanistic and individualistic, and the way in which a lot of science has been compartmentalised into different disciplines rather than looking at the interconnected nature of reality. It also reflects the individualistic mentality of the petty bourgeoisie, since most of these scientists are petty bourgeois. But of course, in a socialist society, those constraints from the marketplace would be removed, and science would go through an enormous flourishing onto a higher level – especially armed with the best ideas of Marxist philosophy, the method of Marxist philosophy.

Ilias: Science has the task of uncovering the hidden laws operating in different levels of reality. Many scientists, to do this, think that they don't need any kind of philosophy. They think they only need the scientific method. But scientists necessarily approach the subject matter with certain assumptions. Behind every hypothesis there are always many assumptions, and not all of them are derived from science. Many times they derive from the philosophical outlook of the researcher. So, philosophy is clearly important for science.

Of course, the role of philosophy does not and cannot replace the work of science in any field; but can give science guidance, a method. If it is the wrong philosophical approach, it can lead scientific thoughts down a blind alley, and this is often the case.

One such example – there are, of course, many others – is reductionism. Reductionism has been and still remains the dominant mode of analysis of the physical and biological world. It is based on the false assumption that the world is a collection of fixed qualities and categories, and that in order to understand the whole you must just add up the parts. So the main task of science is to analyse the parts – which is, of course, progressive – but then just put them back together like a machine, and that will be enough to understand the whole system. This is false, because this approach does not correspond with how the universe really works. If we base ourselves on dialectical materialism, we immediately dismiss the reductionist approach as a method of understanding everything.

One of the basic laws of dialectics is the transformation of quantity into quality. The universe is, in reality, a huge laboratory of constant such transformations, and this universal law can be applied to every realm of reality. From this law alone, we can assume that the whole in every system is qualitatively different from the parts. The whole has new qualities that do not exist at the level of parts. In Systems Theory, this has been described as ‘emergent properties’; for example, water has the quality of wetness, but this quality does not exist in isolated molecules of water. Moreover, water can change ‘quality’ as temperature changes – from liquid, can become solid or vapour. Also, the transition from quantity to quality is not gradual but constant, is immediate. When we reach a critical point you have a quick change from quantity to quality. One of the tasks of science is to find those critical points when quantity becomes quality, and also ask, what is this new quality? What are the laws and properties that arise on that level of the whole system?

That does not diminish the need to examine the parts, of course. On the contrary, it is necessary. It just removes the false assumption that, from the parts alone, you can understand the whole. In living organisms, for example, it's almost self-evident. You cannot explain the behaviour of a rabbit by knowing how the organs of the rabbit work, and you cannot explain how the organs work by knowing how the individual cells work.

In biology, you had a rapid growth of molecular biology in the 1950s, which led to the revolutionary discovery in the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003. However, this huge progress in science came with the baggage of reductionism: the belief that if you know all the parts, you can explain all the biological processes. This led to dead ends on many levels, as many scientists now are forced to admit. In 2014, a prominent cancer researcher named Robert Weinberg admitted in a paper that the current paradigm of cancer research – which is, of course, a reductionist paradigm – has ultimately failed to unravel the complexity of this set of diseases.

Reductionism not only led to dead ends but also reactionary theories, like genetic reductionism – which tries to understand human behaviour and social phenomenon from the point of view of the genes. Meaning there must be a gene for poverty, another gene for criminal activity, etc. This reactionary theory, of course, was embraced by the right wing, because it put the blame on the individual and not the system of capitalism. A small minority of biologists combated this; and not by chance either, as many of them had a different philosophical approach. One important such biologist was the recently-deceased Richard Lewontin, who was openly a Marxist and applied dialectical materialism in biology – making huge progress in different areas of biology.

The number of cases highlighting the inability of reductionism to explain complicated phenomena have been mounting, and so a new branch of biology started developing to give answers: and this is called systems biology. This branch of biology was affected by systems theory and chaos theory, both of which are a confirmation of dialectical materialism. In short, it says that you cannot explain the whole system from the parts. At every level of a biological system you have new properties called ‘emergent properties’. This branch of biology examines the phenomenon in its motion, not statically, which is a confirmation of dialectical materialism.

To sum up: sooner or later, science must find the underlying answers for every phenomenon. If our theory or method of analysis is wrong it will eventually be replaced. The problem is that the wrong philosophy and method is costing science many years of mistakes. Capitalism has now become an enormous obstacle in the development of science. And one of the reasons is the limitations of the capitalist philosophical approach. It is the duty of every progressive scientist to wedge an ideological war against those ideas; and, finally, when the capitalist system is overthrown, those ideas will be completely swept away. Under socialism, scientific thought will be freed from the shackles of empiricism, formal logic, and idealism, and will make leaps and bounds forward that we cannot even imagine.

John: In its beginnings, capitalism was a leap forward for humanity. It was a hugely progressive phenomenon which broke the chains of feudalism; grouped workers in work centres with machinery, production chains, in an economy of scale; brought the railroad, telegraph, etc.; and also fierce competition which promoted investment and scientific improvement.

But as Marx and Engels predicted, capitalism tends to monopolies, which we can now see. A few big companies share the market, especially in science and technology (for example, Amazon, Google, Microsoft) and nowadays there is hardly any interest in big investments or improvements. Those that do exist are purely to increase private profit margins, and never

focused on the interest of humanity.

We can see how, for example, electric battery patents are kept by the oil giants; and how technologies such as blockchain are used to create a thousand and one junk cryptocurrencies. Instead of making the banks disappear as they promised, these cryptocurrencies have created new and much worse ones; as well as scams that ruin the poor and enrich the usual suspects. However, blockchain is a good technology. It would give us the ability, in a socialist society, to have absolute control of all accounts, transactions, production chains, and so on, in a transparent and in a public way, which could eliminate bureaucracy and corruption. Precisely bureaucracy and corruption were amongst the most important reasons the USSR fell. We can see, therefore, that we already have the technology to help prevent that from happening again.

However, science and technology are hugely corrupt under capitalism. You cannot build a utopia inside capitalism. Another example in which capitalism proves us right and paves the way for socialism is the centralisation and democratisation of resources. This can be seen with cloud computing. We have gone from each company having to create and maintain its own computing resources, with the cost and limitations that this entails, to the existence of monopolies. For example, we have Amazon with its Amazon Web Services, Microsoft with Azure, and Google with its Google Cloud. Huge amounts of computing resources are hosted on demand on each of these.

In a socialist society, we could already have computer services on demand in a centralised cloud, so that anyone could access them in a democratic and free way. A socialist and harmonious control of these resources would allow them to be distributed equally and reasonably, avoiding the unnecessary waste and pollution that currently happens with these services under capitalism.

Again, we can see that we already have the technology to create socialism and to solve the problems of capitalism. There are many more examples, but not enough time to go into them. It is clear to see, therefore, that science, philosophy, and history can prove us right, and are proving us right in the present day.

We are living through a historic turning point, through countless wars and revolutions – one of these is right now, in the heart of Europe – as well as several economic crises, and even a pandemic. And people are saying enough is enough. People are deciding to fight.

But without an organisation, the struggle goes nowhere. Therefore, to those comrades who have not yet joined our organisation, I invite you from the bottom of my heart to join the International Marxist Tendency.

Pascal: In 1966, the American science journalist John Horgan wrote a rather provocative book titled The End of Science. In it, he says the following: “These are trying times for truth seekers. The scientific enterprise is threatened by technophobes, animal rights activists, religious fundamentalists, and most importantly, stingy politicians. Social, political, and economic constraints will make it more difficult to practise science, and peer science in particular, in the future.”

Horgan's main thesis is that the golden age of science is behind us; that most things which we can hope to discover have been discovered, and that all that remains for us is to apply our generally correct fundamental ideas to new practical problems. Other comrades have already touched on this idea, and this is not the place to deal extensively with Horgan's book, but there is no doubt that he puts his finger on a general unease surrounding the scientific enterprise.

After all, it has been a century since the last truly great scientific breakthroughs in fundamental science: quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity, upon which most of modern physics and much of modern technology rest. Theoretical physics, which was once regarded with a general sense of awe, now evokes, rather, a general sense of bemusement; because scientists have paid good money to develop grand unified theories of the world which require 10 or 11 dimensions to work and which have so far not made a single correct experimental prediction.

At the same time, experimental science is facing a replication crisis. For example, a few years ago, a biotechnology company tried to replicate the results of 53 landmark cancer studies. They succeeded in only 6 cases – 6 out of 53, or a little more than 10 percent. Science also seems completely incapable of dealing with the greatest threat of our time: climate change. The capitalist system – the same system which once revolutionised science, which put it on a materialist basis and used it as a battering ram against all the privileges of the church and the feudal order – this is what is now holding science back tremendously. To understand this we have to understand that the capitalists have never invested in science for its own sake or because it is beautiful or inspiring. They did so purely because it was profitable.

In the medical sciences, for example, this means that antibiotics simply aren't being researched anymore. Pharmaceutical companies, which make billions in profits every year, are quite honest about why: it is simply less profitable to cure a patient than to develop, say, a lifestyle drug which then can be sold for years. This is causing a crisis of antibiotic resistance, which the World Health Organization considers one of the greatest problems of our time.

More generally, science allowed the capitalists to revolutionise production. Whoever based their company on the most advanced science would have an advantage over their competitors and rake in super-profits. Today, the capitalists have neither the interest nor the means to use science in this way anymore. They don't want to revolutionise production because there is already massive overproduction. This is the root of the crisis we are currently in, and it’s because of this same crisis they cannot invest in science in the way they used to. Quite the opposite, in fact – science budgets are being cut everywhere. In the USA, which is still the largest economy in the world, funding for fundamental science declined from $40 to $30 billion, by 25 percent, in the span of only five years last decade. This means that scientists have to spend more time and effort trying to justify the research than they actually spend doing research. This leads to completely perverse incentives.

These days, to make a living out of science, it's not that important that you actually do good research. It's more important that you have flashy results published in respected journals, and ideally several times a year. This means that scientists who have less money to properly double check their results are incentivised to cut corners, to fudge the results, or even to commit outright fraud. As a result of these same pressures, research has become more short-term in its outlook. This is a big problem, because the greatest breakthroughs may take years or even decades. Peter Higgs, who you might know for predicting the Higgs boson decades before it was discovered experimentally, has said on this that he would not be regarded and could not be regarded as productive enough by today's universities and funding bodies. This is a man who's won the Nobel Prize recently! He takes this to its logical conclusion and explains that he doubts that similar breakthroughs could be achieved in today's academic culture.

But, not to end on too bleak a picture: the previously mentioned John Horgan is a pessimist. He is only almost correct that there will be no more scientific breakthroughs, because he does not have the perspective of the socialist revolution. He therefore forgets the most important bit: that there will be no more scientific breakthroughs as long as capitalism is allowed to continue to weigh down human spirit and human effort. So if you want to see science prosper, and, more importantly, if you want its fruits to be enjoyed by all, then there's only one thing you can do: get involved in the struggle to overthrow this decrepit system and fight for socialism.

Sum Up

Ben: Something that Ilias and Dan touched upon was where you end up when you have a lack of dialectics, in philosophical terms. Because of course, all of the description of Darwinian evolution, the various discoveries about stellar history, the history of our Earth, geology, and so on, all confirm dialectics. But Darwin had never read Hegel, Lyle had never read Hegel. These great scientists achieved this despite their lack of philosophical training. When we get to those sciences which are closer to the vital interests of the capitalist class, a lack of philosophy can become fatal. In a mood of creeping mysticism and despair, fields like neuroscience, like biology – with all of the so-called scientific justifications for racism, for example – all of these fields can be affected by the mood in society. All these prejudices can find their way into the sciences, and can be reflected in the sciences.

Daniel and Ilias gave us some examples of how a lack of philosophy can lead scientists to draw incorrect conclusions, particularly with the problem of reductionism in the sciences. There is the case of the scientist who claims that emotions don't exist, because when you look at a neuron under a microscope you don't see it with a sad face or an angry face, which presumably means – if all of our brain is neurons and chemicals – that there's no such thing as sadness, or happiness, or anything. So we should not imagine that scientists today have taken a step forward since the 17th century. This is the same philosophy, after all, put forward by Descartes – his idea that animals are mere mechanisms. To solve the problem of consciousness, therefore, he had to appeal to another realm, to a God or something similar. This is the problem with the mechanistic worldview, because no matter how you twist and turn the parts in their isolation, you'll never find the qualities that define the whole. And this is because the whole is more than the sum of its parts, as Ilias very well put it.

Quantity expresses itself in quality in an immediate sense. You have this emergence of the properties of the whole from its parts. Many neuroscientists have been led into a complete wilderness of confusion, because they don't understand this dialectical outlook. For example, there is a philosopher called David Chalmers in the University of Arizona, and every year at the university they put on this so-called “Conference of Consciousness”, and they get physicists, leading philosophers, and leading neuroscientists to attend. Even Roger Penrose, the Nobel Prize winning physicist, has regularly gone to this conference. All these people come with their quack theories of consciousness, and alongside them you have sessions being put on by mystics, on meditation, yoga, etc. This is where we see the best minds of academia today.

This mysticism and reductionism really converge in some of the wacky ideas that these theorists of consciousness come out with. One of their theories is that consciousness is basically a property of matter. It's the degree to which matter, organised, can integrate information. You can integrate a lot of information in a brain, so it's very conscious. But everything else can also integrate information, so everything else is a little bit conscious – a stone is a bit conscious, a molecule is a bit conscious. They actually believe this stuff! It's where you end up from the reductionist approach that the whole is nothing more than the sum of its parts – you can turn around a neuron or a stone and find a little bit of consciousness in it.

There are other theories that come out of this same conference. Roger Penrose has a pet theory as well, on the question of free will: what gives us free will? For Penrose, the idea that the world is determined by a deterministic necessity is completely incompatible with free will – and so he proposes that consciousness comes from these nanotubes in our neurons, because they're of such a small size that you can have quantum tunnelling across them. Accident obviously predominates at the quantum level, and therefore this is presumably where consciousness comes to us from: some quantum realm. It comes from a complete inability to understand the relationship between accident and necessity.

We as Marxists understand that accident and necessity are not opposites, they're two sides of the same coin. Accident appears to predominate at the quantum scale, but that can resolve itself into regular Newtonian motion at the macro scale, with its apparent iron necessity. Take each of the molecules in this room that I'm sitting in right now, and examine them. You could imagine them as more or less moving around, according to Newton's laws, randomly, and their motion would appear accidental. But take enough of those molecules and you have the necessary laws of thermodynamics – the ideal gas equation, that is. Whether an individual molecule will hit the wall of a chamber of a piston or not, and at what speed, is essentially random from the point of view of that molecule. But taken from a bulk perspective, all of the molecules taken together will apply a very specific pressure at a certain temperature with a certain energy. Accident expresses itself through necessity, as we've often explained. This is a completely closed book to people like the Nobel Prize winning Roger Penrose; and what gives us the sensation of freedom is precisely our ability to understand the laws of nature and therefore to bend them to our will.

To move on to some of the things that Ilias was talking about: the idea of biological reductionism. Comrades have probably all come across the same prejudice on every paper sale, about biological reductionism that Ilias was talking about. Whenever you're selling our literature, talking to friends and family, I'm sure there has been an occasion where every socialist has been answered with the following answer to their arguments: “Well, socialism sounds very nice, but have you stopped to consider human nature?” The implication expresses a reductionist philosophical prejudice. We see war, we see selfishness, greed, all of this sort of stuff in this society all around us, and this society is nothing more than the sum of its parts – the individuals that make it up – and therefore, a tendency towards violence, greed, selfishness, racism, sexism are all innate qualities of us as individuals. It's a static, undialectical attitude towards human nature, that it is this inherent thing that is a part of our essence, and that our essence as individuals is itself nothing more than the expression of our genes. Selfishness is inscribed in our genes, in other words, as is racism, sexism, and so on..

You might get this prejudice expressed on a paper sale, or by your friends or workmates; but some scientists have actually refined this into scientific theory. You have so-called evolutionary psychology, sociobiology, scientists like E.O. Wilson. The latter studied ants and discovered that they have a certain, apparently pre-programmed, behaviour to act in a certain way in their ant society. He extended this to explain all of the social phenomena that we see in human society, which can presumably be reduced to some sort of genetic predisposition. This was expressed by Richard Dawkins in his idea of a ‘selfish gene’ that simply wants to reproduce itself, whilst we are merely biological vessels for the reproduction of this gene. These are the sort of simplifications that Daniel was talking about, with his Critters that are looking for Stuff in the world. Arbitrary abstract constructions are taken for reality.

In reality, human development and the way that we exist as human beings is far more complex than merely being the expression of our genes. The Human Genome Project that Ilias mentioned uncovered that we only actually have about 100,000 genes. Most of our DNA is non-coding, so-called ‘junk DNA’. But fairly recently they have discovered genetic diseases which are associated with this non-coding DNA. If this DNA is not coding for the production of proteins or whatever else, then it is merely forming the environment for those genes that do code for certain things within ourselves. And so clearly it's an interaction of the genes and their environment – which includes junk DNA, it includes the hormones, the chemical situation within the womb at each stage of life. There's a dialectical interaction between our genes and their environment and our organism as a whole which determines our development.

It's impossible to reduce human development to DNA and genes, and in fact they've shown that certain characteristics from an organism can be inherited epigenetically. That is to say, not through our genes but through certain changes within those genes – how they are switched off and on during life. I read about a very cruel experiment on mice in which the mice were exposed to the smell of cherry blossom and they were then electrocuted, and they became afraid of the smell of cherry blossom. That fear of cherry blossom was then passed down for two generations, which I find fascinating. Their children and their grandchildren were also afraid of the smell of cherry blossom; behaviour which, of course, cannot be explained by the genes but by epigenetic mechanisms.

Comrades John and Pascal talked very well about the impasse of capitalism and the potential that exists in technology and in science to set humanity free. John used the example of blockchain and IT technology. I just want to mention the example of fusion technology, which is not a silver bullet for climate change, but it's an important area of active research. For the last 20 years, less than $500 million a year has been spent on this research which could have an enormous impact on climate change. That's less than is spent on research and development of new disposable razors each year, and most of that funding actually comes as an aside to the work that is done by those research centres in maintaining nuclear weapon stockpiles.

Now, Pascal mentioned all of the other ways, besides the philosophical aspect which I focused on, that science is mired in the crisis of capitalism. I mentioned the suffering that the vast mass of humanity is being plunged into, but under class society the masses have always suffered. The historical justification of any class society, however, has been that, at the expense of the masses, there has still been progress. Jorge talked yesterday about the horrors of the Spanish conquest; yet nevertheless capitalism at that stage was taking humanity forward as a whole. It was developing the productive forces, developing science. Can we say that now, with the replication crisis, the ‘publish or perish’ situation in universities? Can this system fundamentally justify its existence, justify the suffering of the masses that it enforces upon them?

I'm going to finish with this quote from Hegel, which I think summarises the point of this leadoff. He says, “Our youth has been persuaded that they possess the truth without further ado. In particular it's been said in this context that all adults are wooden and fossilised and immersed in untruth. ‘The dawn has appeared to the young people’, so they say, ‘but the older world is stuck in the muddle and morass of the everyday’. The older generation does indeed pin its hopes on young, for it is they who are supposed to keep the world and science advancing; but this hope is conferred upon the young only insofar as they do not remain as they are, but take on the bitter labour of the spirit.”

We are building a party of the youth, a party of the future. But we will only achieve what we can achieve if we do precisely what Hegel says, if we take on what he describes as the bitter labour of the spirit: to really conquer dialectics, to be able to understand the dialectic in nature and in society, and recognise it where it appears. It is only by doing so that we will be theoretically armed for the challenges that face us in the struggle to overthrow capitalism.