The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Science, Handcuffed by the Chase for Profit

Apr 30, 2017

People working in scientific fields took to the streets on Earth Day, April 22, to express their opposition to the growing attack on science.

Many who demonstrated said they were appalled by openly anti-scientific policies coming from Donald Trump’s administration.

Trump certainly made a name for himself during the campaign by declaring, “Global warming is a hoax” and “vaccination equals autism.”

But the problem is not just his cynical use of bankrupt claims. Behind Trump’s words, stands a real policy choice: to cut back funding for scientific research in order to free it up for tax breaks to the corporations. The budget Trump submitted would cut funds for research into climate change. He would cut funds to the National Institutes of Health, which carries out and funds biomedical research, including among other things into the development and effects of vaccines.

But Trump is hardly alone in his attack on scientific research.

Other presidents paid lip service to science, but cut funding for scientific research. Like Barack Obama, who took part in the Paris climate accord, their words ring hollow. Climate scientists have a fairly clear idea of what targets should be set on pollution in order to stop further damage to climate. But no U.S. president has dared even to talk about these concrete targets, much less push for them.

Other presidents lauded the findings of medical research. But, like Obama, their administrations ignored recommendations by scientists who warned that various drugs should not be released to the market.

Is the disregard of scientific research becoming more malignant today, as the scientists who demonstrated said? Undoubtedly – but this started long before Trump took office.

Our society has been mired in an economic crisis since the early 1970s. The reaction of the capitalist class, which dominates society, has been to carry out a widespread class war, whose aim has been to protect capitalist profit at the expense of the population’s standard of living.

Not only have our jobs and our income suffered, so has the environment in which we live. Big companies resurrect old, even more polluting equipment because it’s more profitable. They could give a damn about human health or the health of the planet. New medicines are introduced, which offer no benefit over the old ones or have even more side-effects. But pharmaceutical companies push them because they can charge more for new ones.

Little public money goes into projects that might interfere with the amassing of profit. In other words, science itself can’t be “pure.”

Public money for medical research floods into projects that will benefit the pharmaceutical industry and medical goods industries – while little goes into basic nutrition, although nutrition might be more beneficial for widespread conditions, like cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Yes, big research projects studying the minuscule parts of the atom, or the enormous size of the universe were funded – but mainly because their findings could be put to military use, and that aim shades their work. War has always been the biggest guarantor of profit for large companies.

Science could provide benefit to humanity. Of course, it has already, but its impact is severely limited and radically distorted by the fact that scientists work within a framework determined by the economic interests of the capitalist class. This is not new. But with the advent of the current economic crisis, the limits within which science works have shrunk.

To see science freed up, to see it flower, working for the benefit of humanity and the environment that all species inhabit, means to work so capitalist society can be ripped up and tossed aside. We need a society where the common good of the population determines what is to be done, that is a socialist society, a communist society.

We do not have that society today. But it’s not a utopia, not just a dream. To build it lies within the capacities of the working class.