The Spark

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

Neil Armstrong, 1930-2012:
Impossible Dreams in Space Until We Change this World

Sep 3, 2012

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, died in August, provoking sincere nostalgia around the world, especially among the people who witnessed his televised walk on the moon.

Many remember his words in 1969: “One small step for man, a giant leap for mankind.” Those words – which went way beyond the political situation that led to his walk – spoke to the immense capacity of human technology. It shows what is possible, what is best in all humanity. And it profoundly marked an entire generation.

But the dream of humanity rising to the level of its common interests was destroyed by the sordid reality of a disgusting social system, one which has only become more degenerate over the 43 years since Armstrong walked on the moon.

The United States in the 1950s and 1960s, that is, during what was called the Cold War, spent 12 years to prove its economic, military and technological prowess, after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, the first satellite in outer space.

Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy were willing to spend billions, not in the “interests of humanity” but simply to demonstrate U.S. military power, to show the rest of the world that it continued to hold industrial and technological supremacy.

These U.S. presidents knew very well that private enterprise operates only for profit. So the government created its own national agency, NASA, to provide the money and resources so researchers could fully use their talents. They overcame great obstacles, and the astronauts took the risk of death in space in order to be the first humans to walk on a celestial body other than the Earth.

The moon walk demonstrated the immense potential of human technology used in the service of a collective project. But the technological developments of this endeavor ended up enhancing only U.S. military efforts, the so-called Star Wars. The U.S. military turned outer space into an arena for launching nuclear weapons – to any place on the globe.

The potential for freeing the world from poverty and backwardness – something the immense industrial and economic capabilities that NASA developed could have done – that potential was wasted, even destroyed, by a system operating only for profit, with its never-ending crises.

That was the consequence of maintaining a completely out-of-date social system, that is, the capitalist system.

This world is still marked by the destruction of part of its industrial capacity in the pursuit of profit, by unemployment, and by increasing poverty. Capitalism is today destroying social gains made in education, in healthcare and in social services. The poorer parts of the world are threatened with famine while farmers in the rich part of the world can barely make a living. The total failure of the capitalist system is returning humanity to barbarism in all aspects of life.

The immense potential that humanity carries within itself remains obvious. But for that potential to develop and for humanity to live up to its dreams we must take control of all human productive activity. We will not have the future promised by Armstrong’s moon walk until we throw out this system of exploitation, capitalism.