Summary of the Report of Prof. M. Rubinstein
Source: Science at the Crossroads: Papers Presented to the International Congress of the History of Science and technology Held in London from June 29th to July 3rd, 1931 by the delegates of the U.S.S.R, Frank Cass and Co., 1931
Online Version: For marxists.org May, 2002.
The relations between science, technology, and economics under the conditions of capitalist society and under the socialist system that is being built up in the Soviet Union, are distinctly different, and in many respects, diametrically opposite.
The capitalist system of production and social relations is antagonistic by its very nature. Along with its growth and development there goes on the development and growth of the profoundest intrinsic contradictions that are manifested in all branches of human existence without exception. The purpose of this report is to trace the development of these contradictions in the domain of scientific and technical work and to show how these contradictions vanish and fade away under the conditions of the new system of social relations that is now being built up in the Soviet Union.
It would be useless to describe before this audience the colossal achievements of science and technology during the last century. The report refers only to the basic stages of this development, to its most important present results.
The progress of technical development and the triumph of man over the forces of nature is accelerated with each decade that passes. Substantially speaking, for modern science and technology there are no insoluble problems, and it was quite proper for the Americas Society of Mechanical Engineers to adopt for their 50th jubilee the slogan: " What is not, may be !"
The development of technology in the epoch of capitalism has proceeded upon the basis of great achievements and growth of the practical application of science. The place of art, of empirics, was taken by exact science, by the application of mathematics, of the laws of mechanics, by investigation into the chemical and physical transformations of substances, by penetrating into the essence of the organic processes of the vegetable and animal world.
Each discovery, each step forward in natural science, has opened new possibilities of industrial development, new conquests for technology. The report adduces a number of instances of modern influences of this kind, which are manifested with particular prominence in the domain of chemistry and electro-technics.
Large scale machine production, constituting the fullest and most striking embodiment of the tendencies of technical development, as Marx said, by its very nature "postulates the replacement of human power by the forces of nature, and of the empirical routine methods by conscious application of science." At the same time the most characteristic feature of all these changes is their fluctuating character, a constant state of motion, revolutionary changes in the technical basis of production, as well as in the functions of the workers and in the social combinations of the process of labour.
Yet, while the technical development was determined to the highest degree by the achievements of science, on the other hand even far more important was the reverse effect. The development of science, including such branches of scientific investigation as would seem to be the most abstract, has gone on chiefly under the influence and requirements of technology. The correctness of this proposition may be demonstrated by thousands of examples from all branches of science.
The report adduces a series of characteristic examples of such kind of effect at the present time, when each of the maturing technological requirements of humanity lends an impetus to profound scientific analysis of natural phenomena, demanding an answer from science to a number of cardinal questions.
It is necessary also to observe that extensive scientific research in the domain of science at the present time cannot be carried on by those individual craft methods which prevailed in this respect even in the 19th century. It requires powerful laboratory equipment, intricate, expensive appliances and instruments, experiments upon a semi-factory scale, a considerable staff for systematic study of the immense literature growing up on each subject.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, it requires the collective organization of labour, the sub-division of the work, and the complex forms of co-operation in this work among specialists in various branches of science, and of various qualifications. Even when carried on by a large collective body, the treatment of many scientific-technical problems takes sometimes years, and even tens of years, calling in many cases for tens and hundreds of thousands of systematic experiments, tests, and observations. In other words, scientific investigation becomes itself a sort of large scale production organized after the type of industrial plants. And, however great the obstacles raised in this domain by the particularly lingering traditions of mediaevalism, the development of scientific research work in the advanced capitalist countries has followed precisely this course. For instance, the powerful laboratories of the world's leading chemical and electrical trusts (IG, General Electric, Westinghouse, etc.) have not only become centres where a number of highly important technical discoveries and inventions has been worked out, but they have also been instrumental in creating a series of new scientific theories. In those laboratories there is intense activity going on upon the study of questions which would seem to be most abstract and theoretical.
It seems to me, it would be quite futile here to debate the point as to which came first, the fowl or the egg, science or technology.
As is always the case in life and nature, which develop in dialectical manner, the cause becomes here the effect, and the effect, in its turn, the cause. Moreover, this very distinction becomes more and more conventional, vague, and questionable.
A number of discoveries and theories of the close of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century have fully undermined, and partly overthrown the rigid system of the division of the sciences in classical science.
Einstein has overthrown the traditional notions about gravity, space, and time. The quanta of the theory has dealt the knockout blow to the old metaphysical notions about power. Radium, work of Cavendish Laboratory, etc., has turned upside down the old views as to immobile and immutable elements. The study of the laws of electro-magnetic phenomena has enabled us to subject to them the most diverse natural phenomena, having turned upside down thousands of former habitual, deep-rooted notions and theories.
The old, immutable boundaries of the sciences are being obliterated, vanishing just as has vanished the Linnaean system, as has vanished the craft specialization of artisan production.
We are witnessing the progressive development of the socalled "contiguous sciences," such as physical chemistry, bio-chemistry and bio-physics, techno-economic disciplines, etc.
We see how each new economic problem, each new requirement of technology, calls for the collective work of a number of sciences for its solution.
We see how, upon the basis of dialectical materialism, all the sciences are showing, a tendency to become transformed into a single system of science (yet permitting of sub-division), into the single science about nature and society spoken of by Marx.
Genuine science studies all phenomena in their state of motion, in the antithesis, and in the development which eliminates the contradictions.
And in this new dialectical unity and sub-division of the sciences, technology occupies its place of equality and honour. It is not merely an "applied" science which used to be scorned by the high-priests of "pure" science and of caste exclusiveness. It is the domain in which man shows primarily his active attitude towards nature, in which he not only explains, but also modifies the world, at the same time modifying himself, too. While the development of technology would have been impossible without science, on the other hand, it is only technology, only industrial practice that can give the incontrovertible answer to a number of cardinal theoretical problems.
While to the priests of pure science it seems a profanation that Marx, in the debate of idealism versus materialism, has appealed to....alisarine, and other synthetic dyestuffs, to us, the very division of science into "pure" and "impure" seems monstrous metaphysics.
As was written by Marx in his great theses on Feuerbach, "only by practice should man demonstrate the truth, i.e., the reality and force of his thinking, in his world outlook." It is from this angle of vision that we examine the interdependence of theory and practice, of science and technology, of research work and industrial development.
Approaching the subject in this manner, we at once become confronted with the fact that the development of both science and technology is taking place not in super-terrestrial space, not high up in the clouds, not in the walls of laboratories and scientific" studies hermetically sealed off from the rest of the world, but in a distinct social environment, under the conditions of a distinct social system.
Technology and the Contradictions of Capitalist Society.
The social system during the last century was capitalism. And one cannot understand anything as regards the development and the interdependence of science and technology if one tries to examine them apart from a scientific analysis of the rise and decay of the capitalist social relations, apart from the scientific analysis that is furnished by the study of Marx.
The social system for one-sixth of the world has now become Socialism. And one cannot understand anything about the future perspectives of science and technology as well as about the perspectives of their interdependance, without the study of the laws of development, of the struggle and growth of the new socialist system of social relations.
Let us first deal with the first part.
Modern science and modern technology are the offspring of capitalism, and since the latter, by its very nature, is an antagonistic system, there is bound to be equal antagonism under capitalism in the forms of the development and interrelations of science and technology. To begin with, what are the problems of technical progress, and of the scientific development catering for this progress, under the conditions of capitalism?
The purpose and the motive power of capitalist production is the derivation of profits. Whatever the priests of pure science say about profanation, we must observe that under the conditions of capitalism, science as well as technology, whether consciously or unconsciously, serve the interests of capitalist profit.
In outlining the development of the first stages of machine production, Marx quotes a remark by John Stuart Mill to the effect that "it is doubtful whether the mechanical inventions so far made have rendered labour easier even for a single human being"; Marx replies to this: " Neither is this the purpose of machinery used in a capitalist manner. In common with all other methods of development in the productivity of labour, their purpose is to cheapen the price of commodities, to shorten that part of the working day which the worker uses for himself, and thus to lengthen the other part of the day which he gives away gratuitously to the capitalist. Machines are a means for the production of surplus value." ["Capital" Volume I, p. 961, Russian Edition, 1920.]
In this remark by Karl Marx is the whole crux of the question. Capitalism, in developing machine production, pursues the purpose not of developing the forces of production, but of increasing the profits. Therefore, capitalism introduces a new machine only when the difference between the price of this machine and the cost of labour-power that it replaces is sufficiently large to secure an average profit and successful competition in the market. Already at the commencement of capitalist development we find a number of cases when inventions or improvements in machinery were either entirely held in abeyance or they were utilized not in the country where they were originated, because labour in that country happened to be so cheap that the adoption of the machine was unprofitable and undesirable to the capitalists. Marx adduces the example of how a stone-crushing machine invented by Englishmen was not adopted in England because the labourers doing that work were paid such a miserable pittance that the introduction of the machine would have rendered stone-crushing more expensive to the capitalists. A large number of other English inventions was first applied in America for the reason that labour was too cheap in England. For scores of years the European Association of Bottle Manufacturers deliberately blocked on the continent the adoption of the American machine of Owen for the mechanical manufacturing of bottles. Even the famous Diesel motor was for a long time prevented from being put into use owing to the opposition of coal mine owners whose domination it threatened.
The report contains a minute analysis of the basic contradictions of technical progress and mechanization under the conditions of capitalism, which are demonstrated with particular fullness on the question of unemployment.
Unemployment, under capitalism, is the inevitable consequence of technical progress, and in its turn, it checks the further development of technical progress, the introduction of new machines, and the application of new scientific methods in industrial practice.
These tendencies to check and obstruct technical, and consequently also scientific development, become particularly pronounced in the final monopoly stage of capitalism.
We can demonstrate a thousand examples of how the powerful capitalist monopolies that have monopolized also the motive forces of technical progress (the apparatus of scientific research work, the laboratories, the patents, and the inventors and scientists themselves) are taking advantage of this monopoly, in the first place, to artificially check the technical progress.
A number of bourgeois scientists and economists, attentively studying the surrounding realities, were bound to admit the rapid growth of these tendencies.
Buying out patents, supporting obsolete plants, fixing cartel prices according to manufacturing costs of the worst plants, secrecy in scientific research work, fear of innovations that threaten depreciation of the old capital stock, etc.--such are everyday facts of industrial reality in the epoch of monopoly capitalism.
Under capitalism, the adoption of technical achievements is always considerably below the extent possible under a given level of scientific and technical development.
As a result we find that in the most advanced capitalist countries the utilization of the achievements of modern technology is limited to a relatively small proportion of plants while allowing the continued existence of obsolete plants in which human labour is wantonly squandered. That the real application of technical discoveries lags far behind the already possible development of the forces of production, is attested by a number of bourgeois economists. Glaring examples of this kind were furnished by the Hoover Commission which investigated the question of waste in industry.
According to calculation by "Iron Age," by putting all the industrial plants in the United States upon the level of modern technique, it would be possible to shorten the working day to one-third of the present, while at the same time doubling the output.
Under the conditions of monopoly capitalism, this discrepancy between technical possibilities and their industrial application becomes particularly great.
Naturally, all these facts and tendencies have a most direct bearing upon the development of scientific research work.
To begin with, these tendencies of monopoly capitalism, by hindering the growth of the forces of production, clip the wings of scientific creative activity, technical initiative, and inventiveness. A huge portion of scientific work, the labour of many years, is practically wasted finding no application in industry, in life, in reality.
As we shall presently see, even a greater portion of scientific thought and activity is squandered upon direct destruction, upon wars and preparations for wars.
Even those scientific achievements which are carried into effect are resulting only in worsening the conditions of millions of toilers, hence the latter are bound to treat them with indifference and hostility. As was written by Marx, "Under capitalism, to be a worker engaged in production is not a blessing, but a curse," and therefore "the worker considers the development of the productivity of his own labour as something inimical to him, and he is right."
This creates for scientific activity an atmosphere of isolation from the overwhelming majority of the population in which, naturally, real scientific creative work cannot be developed to its full extent. Such an extent can be created only under the conditions of the utmost sympathy, support, direct participation of the masses feeling that each forward step in science and technology means improvement in their conditions, relief in their labour, their emancipation. But such a situation we have only in the Soviet Union.
All these contradictions are manifested with particular force in times of capitalist crises.
Under the present world crisis of capitalism, the largest hitherto recorded, which has clearly destroyed all the hopes that were entertained for the possibility of a lengthy period of prosperity without crisis, these effects of capitalist economy on the development of science and technology have manifested themselves with quite unprecedented force.
The report alludes to a number of instances of the colossal waste of forces of production during the period of crisis, the deliberate curtailment of production, the direct destruction of foodstuffs and raw materials, machines and implements.
Science in many cases deliberately and systematically places itself in the service of reducing the food stocks of humanity (e.g., eosination and gasification of rye and wheat in Germany) and the supplies of raw materials. The reduced use of the industrial equipment of the basic capitalist countries to 1/4-1/3 of its capacity leads to the losing of all the advantages of mass production, to increased manufacturing costs, to the transformation of all the achievements of modern technique into hindrance for the capitalists and a source of poverty and destitution for millions of toilers.
No wonder that a number of influential representatives of capitalist industry, technology, science, and of the press, art expressing themselves for slackening the "jazz band of modern industry," for the discontinuance of technical rationalization, for "subordinating technique to the dictates of the merchant," and so forth. The report cites a number of utterances of this kind, as well as a number of attempts at carrying out these ideas in practice (e.g., the "pick and shovel plan" that is being carried out by a number of municipalities in America).
All these theories and plans clearly demonstrate how the conditions of modern capitalism have become an obstacle to the development of the forces of production, of science and technology.
The most stupendous kind of waste of the forces of production under the conditions of modern capitalism is presented by the unemployment crisis.
The fact of there being upwards of 15 million unemployed in the summer of 1930 and of upwards of 20-25 million in the summer of 1931, at the very height of the building and agricultural seasons, the exclusion of over a quarter, and in some countries over half of the working class from the process of production, and the sharp reduction in the consuming capacity of 80-100 million people, implies de-qualification, poverty, starvation, and consequently, emaciation, and partly physical destruction of the basis of the forces of production. This wasting of the most essential of the forces of production by far outweighs the results of all the technical changes, of all the achievements in the organization of production. Tens of millions have to starve and be deprived of sheer necessities for the alleged reason of over-production of commodities. At the same time this becomes no longer a temporary or partial situation, but is more and more becoming universal, lasting and constant for a considerable portion of the population. Just as modern capitalism--in some, although more and more frequent cases--burns or dumps into the sea stocks of food because they cannot be sold with a profit, so it is now "burning" labour power upon an unprecedented scale, not in the process of labour and exploitation, but because it cannot exploit these workers with a profit. The American journalist, Chase, calls this situation the "economics of a madhouse," but Marx has already long before Chase demonstrated that this "madhouse" must inevitably become the basis of capitalist economy.
Bearing in mind the deliberate curtailment of the production of raw materials and foodstuffs, the shortage of work for the staff of employees in production (calculated on the basis of one shift per diem) to the extent of 25 per cent, in "good years" of stabilization, and of almost 50 per cent. at the very commencement of the development of the crisis, the unemployment of a quarter to a third of the workers; taking inter account the millions of money that are paid to defray the cast of the last war, the expenditures on current "little" wars, and the incalculable expenditures that are being made in the preparations for future wars, we arrive then at the conclusion that modern capitalism does not utilize even one-hundredth part of the capacity and possibilities of production of the present available production apparatus and man-power. Yet, even in countries of powerful capitalist development, this production apparatus is composed of a motley mixture of modern plants with even larger remains of obsolete, backward production units that are artificially supported by monopoly capitalism, this being done on a particularly large scale in the old capitalist countries.
Bearing in mind, further, the artificial frequently forcible retention of the economic backwardness of the colonies, the enforced backwardness and wanton waste of labour in agriculture; the reparations, the tariff walls, and other numerous obstacles and barriers to the development of the forces of production, we see that in reality, the "co-efficient of useful action" of the modern capitalist machine is even still lower.
If the technical achievements already existing in some of the industrial plants were to be extended, at the present level of technical development, to the whole of industry, transport, and agriculture, then this alone would extend by several times the volume of the forces of production. All this, apart from the unquestionable fact that the further development goes on at an ever increasing pace. Emancipated from the brakes of capitalism, it may yield in the shortest historical periods an unheard of progress in economic development.
A further reflection of the crisis of scientific research work is that in the race for retrenchment, there is a constant diminution in the funds granted towards the upkeep of universities, scientific institutes, laboratories, stipends, etc. Unemployment involving tens of millions of workers, does not spare also the scientific workers, engineers, and technicians. The former Chairman of the German Society of Engineers, Prof. Matschos, draws in the Society's Journal a harrowing picture of the effect of the crisis.
"In the higher technical schools (of Germany) there are about 40,000 students of whom 8,000 annually graduate. Among the graduates there is terrific unemployment. On an average, only 20 per cent, secure jobs, 10 per cent. continue studying, 20 per cent. take on any work outside of their profession, and the remainder, about 50 per cent., are left without any occupation. It is no longer a rare sight to see engineers with diplomas sleeping in doss-houses that open their doors at 10 p.m., who do not enjoy a square meal, who consider themselves lucky if they manage to earn a few marks on any odd job, eg., as dish-washers, cigarette-vendors, hired dancing partners, etc. Charity tries to take care of most acute cases of distress, but it cannot do the most essential thing--to give these specialists jobs. The mental equipment secured at the price of many sacrifices finds no application.
"They dream of quitting the street, but when asked what they have been doing since having obtained the diploma, they can only reply, 'looking for a job.' The situation is such that the personnel is everywhere being reduced.
"Yet, thousands of young people flock to the universities. Everybody still believes the profession of an engineer to be rich in promise. At the same time, we find that the societies of engineers are warning more and more about the profession being overcrowded beyond all proportion, warning against all expectations, and demanding a rigid selection. What is going to be the outcome of all this? They are now figuring on 15,000 graduates, but we are told that there are going to be 40,000 of them by 1934. Provision is at present made for about 13,000 academic graduates to be employed in 1934, while there are now 30,000 of them unemployed. Can we afford to contemplate such a situation with folded arms? Is it not high time to put a stop to this mass striving after a diploma and higher learning?"--" V. D. I. Nachrichten," 1931.
The organ of the German industrials, "Deutsche Bergwerkszeitung," commenting on this article (April 21st, 1931), gives a "reassuring" reply to the rhetorical question put by Prof. Matschos, pointing out that in a certain city in Western Germany a group of graduates were generously given jobs as....tramway workers. However, the newspaper goes on to say (quite reasonably) that "the warning against academic professions would be far more effective if the warners would at the same time mention professions that are not overcrowded and hold out better promises. This is not done because there are no such professions." Quite so ! The newspaper notes also the fact that to a graduate technician the lack of employment implies the end of his career, as there is almost no possibility of adaptation to some other kind of work.
Quite identical is the situation in regard to various groups of intellectuals. As a rule, the conditions of scientific workers engaged directly in scientific research are not any better, but rather worse.
The only way out seen by the professor is to close further admission to the higher schools. These facts show how modern capitalism not only blindly destroys the material forces of production in periods of crisis, not only throws millions of workers out of the process of production, but also tries to cut the roots of future scientific and technical development.
Finally, the crisis introduces into the midst of scientific workers a mass of ideological incoherence and confusion. Unable to fathom the causes of the terrific economic concussions, to give a really scientific analysis of the phenomena taking place around them, and to indicate a way out (all this the Marxian method alone can give), the overwhelming portion of them fall into despondency and pessimism, looking for a way out in mysticism, spiritism, religious superstition, etc. Scientific workers are spending more and more of their time in scholastic exercises, in vain and fruitless attempts at reconciling science with a belief in the supernatural; entrapped in the maze of capitalist contradictions, in the anarchy of the capitalist system, their minds vainly seek salvation in the intercession of those transcendental powers.
The most appalling and ignominious part in the effect of capitalism on scientific and technical development is the role played by modern science and technique in the preparations for wars.
The report gives an analysis of the causes which prompt the modern capitalist states to prepare for new military collisions, and the basic technical features of future wars.
The report deals minutely with the incessant systematic activity going on in scientific institutions and laboratories on the preparation of new deadly weapons of warfare destined by their very nature for use not only against foreign armies, but also against the entire civil population of the country.
The greatest achievements of synthetic chemistry, aviation, bacteriology, etc., which serve the needs of humanity, are being adapted to the purpose of wholesale destruction eclipsing all the historic examples of barbarism and savagery. Suffice it to quote the following statement by Mr. Winston Churchill an the character of modern warfare:--
"It was not until the dawn of the twentieth century of the Christian era that War actually began to enter its kingdom as the potential destroyer of the human rare. The organization of mankind into great States and Empires and the rise of nations to full collective consciousness enabled enterprises of slaughter to be planned and executed upon a scale, with a perseverance, never before imagined. All the noblest virtues of individuals were gathered together to strengthen the destructive capacity of the mass... Science unfolded her treasures and her secrets to the desperate demands of men and placed in their hands agencies and apparatus almost decisive in their character."
After reviewing the great battles of the past, he goes on to describe what he believes the future war would look like:--
"All that happened in the four years of the Great War was only a prelude to what was preparing for the fifth year...ln 1919, thousands of aeroplanes would have shattered their (German) cities. Scores of thousands of cannon would have blasted their front...Poison gases of incredible ingenuity, against which only a secret mask...was proof, would have stifled all resistance and paralyzed all life on the hostile front ...
"These projects were put aside unfinished, unexecuted; but their knowledge was preserved; their data, calculations and discoveries were hastily bundled together and docketed 'for future reference' by the War Offices in every country. The campaign of 1919 was never fought; but its ideas go marching along. In every army they are being explored, elaborated, refined under the surface of peace... Death stands at attention; obedient, expectant, ready to serve, ready to shear away the peoples en masse; ready, it called on, to pulverize without hope of repair, what is left of civilization--He awaits only the command."--Winston Churchill, " The World Crisis. The Aftermath," London, 1929, pp. 452-455.
After describing the role of chemical science in this respect, and the pseudo-scientific attempts of some scientists to demonstrate the "humanitarianism" of chemical warfare, the report demonstrates how the war policy exercises the strongest effect on the whole character and trend of scientific research work. Thus, capitalism endeavours in a "planned" manner to subordinate science and technique, the apparatus of production, and the whole population to the task of organized wholesale destruction and extermination. In this respect, the contradictions of scientific and technical development are revealed with particular force, scope, and acuteness.
Already the present state of science and: technique secures such a gigantic growth of the forces of production as modern capitalism is unable to realize.
Scores of millions of workers are shut out from the process of production; they are eager to work but they cannot find it.
Other scores of millions are engaged in non-productive labour, in serving the incredibly swollen apparatus of trade, advertizing, the gigantic machinery for suppressing the masses, the manufacturing of public opinion, and, lastly, catering to the luxuries and whims of the upper crust of the bourgeoisie.
Hundreds of millions work from morn till night in factories, mines, plantations, burning away their stamina in a few years, turning old at 40; nevertheless, the social productivity of their labour is relatively negligible as the result of capitalist waste.
Hundreds of millions in agriculture are tied to their miserable plots of land, labouring in the sweat of their brow, under conditions which exclude the application of science and modern technique, not always eking out even the most miserable existence.
Lastly, many millions of workers are still spending all their strength to pay for the consequences of the world war of 1914-18, and the costs of preparations for new wars.
Huge reserves of fuel and metals are waiting in the bowels of the earth to be brought up to the surface.
Waterfalls and rivers are waiting tot be harnessed by dams, for the streams of water to set turbines and generators in motion, dispensing the vitalizing current of electricity.
Thousands of technical problems, quite realizable with the present state of technique are still held in abeyance.
Already the present state of science and technology permits, with relatively negligible expenditure of labour effort, the subjection of the elements, erection of new cities, the automaising of a number of production processes, the rendering of labour a joy.
Yet modern capitalism cannot make use of all of these possibilities.
Each attempt on the part of capitalism at the development of the forces of production creates ever new antagonism, leads to ever new and more appalling waste, destruction, crises, and wars. Capitalism cannot help it. No scientific forces can alter these laws which govern the rise and decline of the capitalist society, just as they cannot alter the laws of growth and decay of the human organism. And there is but one science which shows a way out--it is the Marxist scientific analysis of social development.
The Soviet Union constitutes the first experiment in human history of the application of this scientific analysis and scientific methods for the conscious construction of social relations, for planned guidance of the economic life, for directing the course of cultural, scientific, and technical development. The very existence and the whole course of development of the Soviet Union is thus connected with genuine scientific theory.
This year the Soviet State is in the thirteenth year of its existence. During the current year has been accomplished more than one-half of the great Five Year Plan of socialist reconstruction.
This makes it necessary for scientific analysis to sum up results, to compare the experiences of two systems, to ascertain their respective tendencies of development. This analysis shows:
Firstly, the unquestionable fact that the appalling world economic crisis engulfing with unprecedented force all the capitalist countries without exception, and all the branches of world economy, is halting at the borders of the Soviet Union. Not only does the Soviet Union not experience a crisis, but on the contrary, during the last two years it has shown a tremendous upward trend of economic development.
Secondly, this comparison shows that while the anarchy of capitalist economy throws millions of workers out of employment, the Soviet Union has disposed of the problem of unemployment, annually attracting millions of new workers into industry, and carrying out a great plan of mechanization to obviate the growing shortage of man-power.
Thirdly, this comparison shows that the tempo of economic development in the Soviet Union is many times faster than in all the capitalist countries, including the United States of America, during their best periods of development.
Fourthly, this comparison shows that while the anarchy of capitalist economy increases year by year and no successes of capital concentration, no efforts of scientific prognostication can soften the spasmodic fits of this fever; in the Soviet Union we see the constantly growing and enduring successes of deliberate planning of the entire economic life: the quarterly, annual, and the Five Year Plans are being carried out with a margin; work is now proceeding on the drafting of the second Five Year Plan during which this country is to overtake the leading capitalist countries and gain the mastery of the most advanced modern technique.
Fifthly, this comparison shows that while agriculture throughout the world has been suffering from a crisis for many years already, showing its total inadaptability to reorganization upon the basis of modern science and technique; the agriculture of the Soviet Union, for the first time in the history of mankind, is being remodelled into large-scale collective farming with the most advanced technical methods and new social relations.
Sixthly, this comparison shows that while the conditions of modern capitalism are aggravating more and more the antagonism between city and country, between physical and mental labour, the Soviet Union is taking decisive steps along the road of eliminating these ancient antagonisms upon the basis of drawing the millions of the toilers into the wave of cultural evolution, education, and enlightenment.
Lastly, this comparison shows that while the development of the capitalist antagonisms leads to a distinct intensification of the tendency to check the progress of technology and science; in the Soviet Union science and technology are finding an absolutely unlimited arena for development, quite new possibilities of practical application and of decisive effect upon all branches of life.
All these deductions are based upon facts which no objective, really scientific observer can dispute. These facts may be tested by anyone, and the Soviet Government is prepared to afford to any scientific and technical worker all the possibilities for testing and investigating these facts on the spot.
Notably, this report adduces a number of facts relating to the economic construction now developing in the Soviet Union in all branches of industry, transport, and agriculture. This construction, by its scope, is without precedent in history.
A number of statistical data cited in the report from official capitalist sources (the League of Nations, etc.) show the results of this development in comparison with the development of other countries.
These data, which have already been surpassed in actual life, indicate the results of the contest between the two systems more than volumes of arguments. Suffice it to observe that the index of industrial production of 1930 in all the capitalist countries has sunk below the level of 1925, whereas in the U.S.S.R. it has been tripled.
Moreover, the planned utilization of the immense natural wealth of the Soviet Union, and of the even greater reserves of enthusiasm, energy, and creative initiative of the masses, are really only beginning, to unfold to their full extent. A declining role in this unfoldment is now attached to science and technology.
The Soviet Union has set before itself the task of technically and economically overtaking and outstripping the advanced capitalist countries within the shortest historical period. The teeming millions of our country are at the present time animated by enthusiasm unknown in history for the mastering of modern science and technique, for the gaining of knowledge which would. enable them to remodel the whole of life, to subjugate the forces of nature to the collective will of the toilers. This alone shows the colossal importance attached in the Soviet Union to scientific and technological creative activity, to research work, to the spreading of knowledge among the masses. This, however, does not and cannot limit the role and tasks of science in the Soviet Union.
The endeavour to overtake the technique of the advanced capitalist countries does not imply that we can content ourselves with merely copying all the aspects of this technique.
Already in the history of the capitalist world we see that, for instance, the United States, having overtaken and outstripped the technique of the old European countries in the last few decades, was forced to raise and solve a number of quite new technical and scientific problems connected with the requirements of mass production, with the gigantic scope of industrialization in that country.
This applies to an incomparably greater extent to the problems which are at present raised and solved by the Soviet Union that is carrying out industrialization upon an entirely new basis and at a pace and on a scale unknown even to the United States.
Here it has neither previous experience nor examples. Already in the very process of this work it has to solve scientific and technical problems which have not yet been solved anywhere at all.
As a case in point, let us take the domain of agriculture.
Already last year the average annual working of tractors in the United States was 400-600 hours, whereas in the Soviet Union it was no less than 2,500 hours. The Soviet Union already now has thousands of mechanized grain farms surpassing all the records of the United States. In the current year the Soviet Union organizes cattle rearing ranches on a scale unprecedented in the world. It sets before itself the problem of mechanizing all the processes of agriculture in grain growing, commercial crops, gardening, etc. It carries out planned, scientifically thought out specialization of agriculture over vast territories, each of which is equal to the big European countries by its area.
All these tasks call for the creation of new types of machines and implements, for the working out of new forms of connection between the motor and the hitching appliances, for new forms of labour organization, plant selection, etc.
Thus, the technical reconstruction of agriculture involves thousands of new problems in economics, agronomy, chemistry, physics, botany, zoology, energetics, machine construction.
The solving of these problems is unthinkable without the unfolding of scientific research work upon a gigantic scale. And along with the utilization of all the achievements of science and technique of the advanced capitalist countries, utilization in many cases far more complete and effective than, in those very countries, the economic practice of the U.S.S.R. already now demands from science and agricultural technique a reply to a number of questions which have not yet been solved, the blazing of new trails, new discoveries and inventions, new scientific theories.
The same relates in equal measure to the problems of electrification of the Soviet Union and to a number of other problems relating to economic and cultural construction.
The completion of the Five Year Plan by next year (i.e., in four years) confronts the Soviet Union with the problem of working out a new, second Five Year Plan. This plan, accompanied by the gigantic quantitative growth of economy, should also afford the most profound qualitative readjustment of the technical basis of the national economy. It stands to reason chat the deciding r81e in the elaboration and execution of this plan should belong to science and technology outlining the course of future development.
What is the scientific-technical apparatus possessed by the Soviet Union for this purpose? What are the dynamics of its development, its organizational structure, its relations with other organs of the Soviet State?
The legacy inherited from tzarist Russia in this domain is even more miserable than it is in the domain of industry. Pre-revolutionary Russia had individual great scientists--mathematicians, physicists, chemists, biologists.
They gave a number of important discoveries and inventions, a number of profound, scientific theories, but all those theories and discoveries were in the overwhelming majority utilized only abroad, since neither the feeble industry nor the general atmosphere of the tzarist autocracy--that "prison of nations"--allowed the development and utilization of those discoveries in practice.
Suffice it to observe that in pre-revolutionary Russia there was not really a single scientific research institute worthy of the name. The whole of the scientific activity was concentrated in a few poorly equipped university laboratories that were detached from industry and completely isolated from the masses of the people. In order to furnish an idea of the growth of the network of scientific research organazations under Soviet rule, suffice it to mention that in industry alone there were:--
In 1928.--24 scientific research institutes with 8 branches.
In 1930.--72 scientific research institutes with 83 branches. (Included among these are such gigantic institutions as the Thermo-Technical Institute, the Physico-Technical Institute, etc., which have no equal in Europe).
Agriculture in the current year was served by 47 Institutes, transport--by 10, popular education--by 44, public health--by 34, and so on. The total number of scientific research institutes in the beginning of 1929 was 789.
The number of factory laboratories runs now into thousands. The scientific staffs of industrial institutes (exclusive of factory laboratories, as well as of administrative and service personnel) have reached the number of 11,000. In 1931 there were about 40,000 workers engaged exclusively in scientific research work in this country.
The financing of the network of scientific research institutions in industry alone (again exclusive of the factory laboratories) has reached the amount of about 250,000,000 roubles, as against 12,000,000 in 1925-26 and 58,000,000 in 1928-29.
These fragmentary data testify to a tremendous constant growth year by year.
Nevertheless, even this growth is quite inadequate to satisfy the evergrowing requirements.
The Soviet Government is taking a series of measures to accelerate further the pace of this growth, of the unfolding of the network of scientific research institutions, of the training of the necessary staffs.
The enrolment of students in the universities and technical colleges, which numbered less than 100,000 in 1929, grew into 157,000 in 1931, and has to be further raised to 230,000 for 1932.
Already in 1931 should be achieved the doubling of the number of our engineering and technical personnel, and the full completion of the Five-Year Plan in this respect. Enrolment in the technical schools under the 1932 plan calls for the admission of 420,000 students, of 350,000 students to the workers' faculties (as compared with 166,000 in 1931), and of 1,000,000 pupils in the factory apprenticeship schools as compared with 700,000 in 1931. The proportion of graduates of the workers' faculties in the higher schools should reach 75-80 per cent. This at a time when, according to official German data, among the students of all the higher schools in Germany there are only 2-3 per cent. of proletarian descent, and even In the intermediate schools in Prussia only 5.4 per cent. of the boys and 3.4 per cent. of the girls are of proletarian descent. A bourgeois journal, commenting on these data, observes that "the privilege of higher education is exceedingly rarely won by the sons of the workers. Even if a young worker should pass the examination for matriculation, he would have to work to earn his living. Of the 1,110 lucky ones who got a stipend in 1928 there were only 12 per cent. workers."
In the Soviet Union all the students are assured stipends and board. There is a steady increase in the numbers of proletarian students taking up scientific work upon graduating from the higher school.
Prospective plans for 1932 provide for a 40 per cent. increase in the total number of scientific workers.
One of the most essential features of the organization of scientific research work in the Soviet Union is the principle of planning.
At one time there were debates as to whether it was generally possible to plan scientific activity; those debates are now substantially concluded. The socialist plan, which has so brilliantly demonstrated its advantages in the guiding of economy, has been unanimously recognized as the leading principle in the domain of scientific work.
The whole network of research activity in industry is working in conformity with a single summary plan worked out by the Scientific Research Sector of the Supreme Council of National Economy with the assistance of the Institutes and of prominent workers in various branches of science. The same thing happens in agriculture, transport, and other branches.
In place of isolated individuals whose character and atmosphere of activity is really in the nature of petty craft: in place of the isolated scientific research organs of capitalism that are directly or indirectly subordinated to financial capital, we have here a planned, organized network of scientific research bodies united by the common task of raising the forces of production upon a socialist basis. Recently a new step was taken in the Soviet Union for the planning of the whole of the scientific research work of the country at large. The first Scientific Research Planning Conference, which was attended by over a thousand delegates from scientific organizations in all branches of science and technology, investigated the most essential problems confronting the research workers, outlined the methodology of planning in this domain, appealed to all scientists and scientific workers to join in the working out of this plan. The Conference went on amid tremendous enthusiasm and has demonstrated what inexhaustible reserves of thought and creative activity may become available by doing away with unplanned wastefulness in the domain of scientific work.
The decisions of that Conference may serve to scientific and technical workers of the capitalist countries as an example of the possibilities opened by the Soviet system to scientific thought. For instance, let us allude to the decision to impose the obligation upon all planning and operative economic organs to include in their industrial reconstruction plans, as an organic part thereof, the realization of the achievements of the scientific research institutes furnishing them with the necessary finances and material means.
Or the decision to oblige the economic organization to set apart and attach to the institutes the necessary number of industrial plants to be transformed into experimental works for carrying out the achievements of the new technique. Or the decision to oblige all newly building large industrial enterprises to provide for the installation of factory laboratories as an inseparable part of a given enterprise, or the awarding of premiums to enterprises adopting the advanced technique and fixing legal and material responsibility for delay in the realization of scientific achievements. No less important are the decisions concerning the publication of popular accounts by the scientific institutes on their activities, systematic travelling scholarships for practical industrial workers to take up temporary work in the scientific institutes, the inclusion of directors of scientific institutes upon managing boards of the respective trusts, the widest attraction of the trade unions to render assistance to the scientific institutes and to make propaganda for scientific and technical achievements.
Or let us take the decisions of such types as the inclusion of collective testing of important inventions and improvements in the general plan of the scientifico-technical work of all the branches of industry, transport, and agriculture; the working out of special tasks for inventors by factories and by branches of industry; the submission of plans and achievements of the Academy of Sciences, of the scientific institutes and laboratories, for wide discussion by workers interested in inventions, and so on and so forth.
In no capitalist country would it be possible to achieve anything resembling the measures of this kind. They are incompatible with the very nature of capitalism, they are possible only when science and technology become connected with the process of the great socialist construction, when the scientific workers, in organized and planned fashion, direct their efforts to the carrying out of the "social order" of the large masses of the toilers--to raise to the highest level the whole technique and economy of the great country that is building socialism.
In this connection it is necessary to observe that even more important than the planning of scientific research work is the direct organizational connection of science and technology with the large masses of the working class.
This connection is now beginning to be realized in the Soviet Union upon an entirely unprecedented scale. The struggle for the mastery of science and technique embraces already, not scores and hundreds of thousands, but millions of workers.
This opens up such reserves of energy, initiative, inventiveness, that could not even be dreamed of a short time ago. In each factory, Soviet farm, higher school, special organizations are formed for the mastery of technique, inventor circles, and vast activity is carried on for the spreading of scientific and technical knowledge. During dinner intervals, and in their leisure hours, the great masses of the workers are eagerly and stubbornly studying, attentively watching the possibilities of improvement in their particular line of industry, preparing themselves for admission to technical schools and colleges, enthusiastically welcoming prominent scientists reporting to them an their discoveries and researches. There is only a lack of men and time to satisfy this thirst for culture, knowledge, science, which has arisen even among the most backward strata among the working class. Thus we see the truth of the prognostication made by Engels when he wrote that "the society emancipated from the shackles of capitalist production, bringing forth a new generation of thoroughly developed producers who understand the scientific foundations of the whole of the industrial process and who study practically, each one in his branch, the whole series of branches of production from beginning to end, will be able to create a new force of production." ("Anti-During.")
In this manner the antagonism between physical and mental labour begins to be eliminated. Already now, at the very beginning of this development, the struggle of the masses for the mastery of science and technique, is performing miracles. Let us refer, for instance, to the domain of workers' inventions. The number of suggestions and inventions by workers has increased a hundredfold during the past year. Frequently one finds factories receiving thousands of suggestions from the workers in the course of the year. Among other things, the struggle of the masses for the mastery of technique reveals itself in the quite novel ways of organic combination of the planned activity of the scientific research institutes with the mass inventive activity of the workers, while the latter, in its turn, is connected with an even more powerful movement of the millions--socialist competition and shock work.
Mass inventive activity of the workers is becoming one of the highest forms of socialist competition, one of the most important and most promising stages of its development.
A brilliant example of the first manifestations of this tendency is furnished by the events of recent months in the Donetz Coal Basin.
When the mechanization of the Donetz Basin was taken up as a political task, when the carrying out of mechanization became the business of the large masses of the mine workers, the Donetz Basin saw the steady rise in the wave of technical initiative on the part of the workers and the engineering and technical forces. The start was made. And in the recent months there was something like a steady stream of inventions, suggestions, rationalization proposals, all tending to bring about a conveyor how of coal brought up from the mine, in other words, to bring about a profound technical revolution in the methods of coal mining.
The idea of continuous coal mining originated in the Donetz Basin mines at the end of 1930, when the methods of Kartashev, Kasaurov, Filimonov, and Liebhardt were put forth. This was followed by a steady how of invention and improvement proposals made by scores of other workers. The proposals are now pouring in from nearly every mechanized pit. Many of these proposals are not even particularly novel. Yet, while analogous ideas were held in abeyance for years in the past, at the present time, combining with the wave of socialistic competition, with the general mighty enthusiasm of the workers, they are bringing about a revolution in the methods of production, foreshadowing in many cases the possibility of not only overtaking, but also outstripping foreign technique in the very near future.
The wave of inventiveness in the Donetz Basin presents an exceedingly telling example of the boundless possibilities harboured in the struggle for the new technique and for industrial improvements rendered possible by arousing the initiative and the spirit of emulation among the masses of the workers.
Lately we saw even more interesting phenomena in this domain. No sooner did the news spread about the imminent underground revolution in the Donetz Basin, no sooner were the general features of the methods of Kartashev, Kasaurov, Filimonov, and Liebhardt made known, when from all parts of the Soviet Union, thousands of kilometers away from the Donetz Basin, in the Siberian mines, in the Urals, in the Kuznetsk Basin, there surged up a similar wave of the inventing initiative. Thus, in the Cheliabinsk coal basin the workers launched the remarkably expressive slogan: " The Cheliabinsk pits shall have their own Kartashevs!" And this slogan did not remain an empty sound. The Cheliabinsk pits did get their own Kartashevs. This slogan was taken up by the large masses of the workers, by engineers and technicians, by scientific research workers. The present slograns are as follows:--
Each factory, mine, Soviet farm, each scientific research institute and laboratory should have their own inventors. Each shock worker, having mastered the technique, may and should become an inventor, a rationalizer, contributing his mite to the improvement of production processes, to the development of technique, and consequently, to the development of science.
In this connection we may refer to another domain in which we see quite similar progress, namely, the study of the natural resources of the country. In all international statistical reference books you will find data about the reserves of petroleum, coal, ores, and other mineral wealth upon the territory of the Soviet Union. These data do not reflect a hundredth part of the real resources. Already the discoveries of the last few years have increased the old data tenfold.
Each expedition of the Academy of Sciences and of the geological exploration institutes to Siberia, Central Asia, Kasakstan, Caucasus, etc., reveals new deposits of wealth. The country is being newly discovered, in the literal sense of the term. Now this work, besides scientists and special institutes, attracts thousands of voluntary workers among the local population--school teachers, collective farmers, young people. In the most outlying parts of the country there are being formed circles and groups which study the local nature, and after mastering the rudiments of the technique of geological exploration, are enthusiastic in this work of exploring the underground wealth, not for the sake of personal gain, but to assist in the building of socialism. And this movement of the masses, fertilized by scientific thought and modern technique, yields the most unexpected discoveries resulting at times in the total transformation of the economic perspectives of entire districts and regions.
All this promises to give a new mighty stimulus to the "incessant, ever more rapid development of the process of production " prophesied by Engels as the result of shaking off the chains of capitalism.
This development of the force of production postulates similar incessant and ever more rapid development of science.
This outlook is no longer of the distant future, no longer a vague and nebulous aim. It is the very reality in which we are living, working, building. It is the beginning of the new historic stage into which we have just entered.
This outlook is bound to fascinate every honest specialist who loves his work, every scientist and research worker, just as it does the masses of the proletariat in this country.
Thus, the German Professor Bonn was forced to admit, in his book on the United States, that in the U.S.S.R. "the golden age of science and technology has come" and that this fact is of tremendous international importance. Lenin wrote once to the great American electro-technical expert Steinmetz:--
" You, as a representative of electrical technique of one of the most advanced countries in technical development, have become convinced of the necessity and inevitability of replacing capitalism by a new order of: society which will establish the planning regulation of economy and will secure the welfare of the whole mass of the people upon the basis of electrification of entire countries.
"In all countries throughout the world there is growing--slower than it might be desired, yet relentlessly and steadily--the number of representatives of science, technique, art, who become convinced of the necessity of substituting for capitalism a different social-economic order, and who, unscared by the tremendous difficulties of the struggle of Soviet Russia against the whole of the capitalist world, but rather attracted by them, are realizing the inevitability of the struggle and the necessity to take part in it, helping 'the new to overcome the old.' "
Tens of thousands of scientific workers, united in collective bodies and carrying on their work on definite plans, organically associated with the proletariat, constantly drawing re-inforcements from its ranks, blazing new paths for science and technique jointly with the millions of worker inventors and rationalizers, are not only helping- to overcome the old handicaps, but also to build up their country anew.
This evolution of progress in U.S.S.R. upon the background of unprecedented crisis of world capitalism is becoming ever more clearly realized by numerous representatives of the bourgeois intelligentsia, by prominent scientists and technicians who cannot shut their eyes to the, real facts.
Among numerous statements of this kind, let us refer, for; instance, to the remarks by the German economist Bonn on the significance of the American crisis and of the economic construction of the Soviets.
Professor Bonn writes: " The Olympus was wrecked by an earthquake. When the crumbling walls of the temple destroyed the roofs of the huts, and the dying gods, instead of giving protection, deal destruction around them, then the believers are seized, not with regret that the gods too are mortal, but with bitter doubt and blind hatred. What is the sense in worshipping such gods any longer?
"Millions of unemployed, hundreds of thousands of ruined lives, suffering in America under the blows of the crisis: they no longer grumble against individual economic leaders who failed to prevent the crisis, they are beginning to doubt the very system which has made the crisis possible.
"Capitalism and the capitalist economic system hitherto appeared to the average American to be the reasonable form of existence. These forces had built up the greatness of his country in the past, and afforded the opportunities of existence to his predecessors. He expected from them the possibilities of a reasonable existence along the same road.
"This the system can no longer yield. And in thousands of hearts and brains the question arises: has the capitalist system any right at all to exist, if in one of the richest countries in the world it cannot bring about an order of society securing to a relatively sparse, industrious and capable population, an existence that is consistent with the requirements, and with the development of modern technique, without periodically throwing millions of people out of work and damning them to destitution and to the aid of soup kitchens and doss-houses?
" The sense and significance of the American crisis consists in the fact that now not only the present possessing class in America or the ruling class, but the whole of the capitalist system as such is taken under a question mark."[Prof. Bonn in " Neue Rundschau," February, 1931.]
Professor Bonn observes a profound change in the moods of the intelligentsia, especially of the technical intelligentsia, under the great ideological effect of the Russian revolution, of the very fact of the existence of the Soviet Union. He writes: "Before the Bolshevik revolution it was always possible to object to advocates of socialism that their system was not only wrong, but even if true, it was unrealizable. Now one can no longer brush aside the socialist system as unrealizable. It does exist, and because it exists by the side of the capitalist system, it calls for comparisons." Professor Bonn draws this comparison from the standpoint of the technical intelligentsia of America: " Russian bolshevism implies rigid planning of economy under which the engineer, upon a vacant spot, erects gigantic enterprises with all the means of modern technique. The Americans picture it to themselves as a system which builds up skyscrapers on the prairie at even a quicker pace than it was done in America by private enterprise. This appears to them to be a grand experiment of directing all efforts to the building of a desirable world in place of the old one. The heart of the American engineer on hearing about the possibilities of activity in Russia, beats stronger and faster; because in his own country he cannot think of erecting greater technical structures than in the past without reducing the profit possibilities.
" The strata of intelligentsia that have gone through the collapse of the American prosperity with its terrible aftermath, are looking in amazement upon the Five-Year Plan which, in their eyes, points the way towards determining the economic fate by a firm hand will...
"There is a peculiar charm to the American world emanating from Russia. If the Five Year Plan will be carried out in reality, it will lead many people to the idea that the Russians, who not so very long ago used to be considered as emotional, gifted barbarians, capable of writing the novels of Dostoyevsky or the operas of Tchaikovsky, have now overtaken the Americans in the domain of technique, while in regard to conscious social guidance of society, as demonstrated by their success, they have surpassed the Americans.
" Should the capitalist system fail to draw the millions of unemployed into the industrial process again, the psychological effect of this development will be exceedingly far-reaching." [Ibid.]
Thus, upon the basis of socialist relations in society, overcoming thousands of difficulties and obstacles, combating the numerous survivals of the old, the routine and prejudices of individualism, the Soviet Union is working out the new relations between science, technology, and economics.
It is for this very reason that science in this country, descending from the metaphysical spaces above the clouds, joins in the great problems of socialist reconstruction. It is granted quite unlimited possibilities of development and becomes the leading principle of the whole progress of further construction. While modifying the whole of life, it modifies also itself, starting with the grand remodelling of all the scientific disciplines upon the basis of new methods, of a new monism of all the branches of science. It does not isolate itself from the masses of the workers like a priestly caste; it does not become a hostile force that carries new hardships and privations to the millions of the workers as the involuntary results of its achievements; but on the contrary, it draws ever closer to these masses, steadily obtaining reinforcements from their ranks, and organically joining with the masses in the struggle for common aims and purposes. In this way, it acquires entirely new forces, and opens entirely unprecedented perspectives. The prognosis of Marx and Engels rises more and more clearly, that of the passing of humanity from the reign of necessity into the reign of liberty, where not the machine nor the product governs the man, but the man governs the machine and the product. There is still a difficult road ahead, it will still require a good deal of struggle and many sacrifices, but there is no other way, and overcoming all the obstacles and difficulties, the human race will enter into this world of free and joyous labour by the aid of the subdued forces of nature and of its steel slaves--machines.