Socialist Studies Socialist Studies

An Old Fossil

Reaching 65 years of age is a milestone of sorts. I had become an "old fossil" - so I was told. And to reinforce the point I received as a present, the fossilised specimen of a trilobite, meaning "three lobes". Trilly, as I have named her, lives on the top of my computer hard drive.

This example of the extinct marine arthropod is from a deposit in the wheeler Shale Formation, Utah, USA. It is from the middle Cambrian period, circa 500 million years old. A much older fossil than the writer. 500 million years is a vast incomprehensible expanse of time.

The fossil predates human existence. It predates all of humanities' social systems or "modes of production", as Marx put it. The fossil predates primitive communism, chattel slavery, feudalism and capitalism. In fact, the existence of the profit system is only a blink of an eye in terms of the elapse of time since the fossilised share was discovered. What are five or six centuries of wage slavery and class exploitation compared to the Cambrian period which lasted 55.6 million years.

What of human existence. Human beings are social animals and have created social organisations to survive and reproduce. Human social organisations have changed over time, from simple and primitive communities to complex capitalist societies. We now have advanced means of production which means society could feed, clothe and house everybody adequately and globally.

For most of human existence, before class societies, humans lived in primitive communist communities. We do not know much about them except from the work of archaeologists and anthropologists.

One human characteristic was ritual.

Dozens of handprints have been recently found in a cave in Mexico. They are believed to be part of an ancient Mayan ritual. Archaeologist Sergio Grosjean says the work is likely to be associated with a coming-of-age ritual and the colours of the handprints have meaning. The prints, mostly made by children could date back more than 1,200 years (BBC NEWS 2 May 2021)

Ritual is commonly associated with religion. This brings on to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

The former leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, blotted her copy book with her membership by abstaining in a vote challenging the efficacy of prayer to converts gays to straight. Leviticus looms large to the belief system of DUP. The DUP are very "Old Bible": vengeance, bigotry, genocide and misogyny.

They are all card carrying creationists where theology trumps science.

In May 2021 Mr Edwin Poots, became leader of the DUP. Poots is a young earth creationist and rejects the theory of evolution. When asked in an interview how old the Earth was, Poots replied: "My view on the earth is that it's a young earth. My view is 4,000 BC" ('Creationism and Political Power in Northern Ireland', NEW STATESMAN, 6 July 2012).

Poots, like all Christian fundamentalists, follows the teaching of the Archbishop of Armagh, James Ussher, who 'calculated' in the 1640s that the world was created in 4004BC - 22nd October, to be precise.

Apparently 90 percent of the DUP membership agrees with Mr Poots. If Mr Poots is to be taken as his word the Trilobite cannot exist beyond this 6000 year limit nor can the children's handprints found recently on a cave wall in Mexico. A Party led by politicians whose minds are filled with scientific illiteracy but they are all for capitalism and unity with the UK.

Not that Poot's political career as leader of the DUP lasted that long. His leadership of the DUP lasted 21 days. Less than the biblical flood. Although as one wit said, three weeks for a creationist is several decades in normal human years. So perhaps congratulations are in order.

And the creationists think they have all the answers. Apparently the 'reason' why the Bible does not mention dinosaurs going onto the Ark two by two is that Noah put them on the Ark as eggs and incubated them for 30 days and 30 nights.

The "family friendly" creation museum in Cincinnati, Kentucky - which you can visit as an on-line experience of crass stupidity - shows Dinosaurs living cheek by jowl with human beings. Fossils and fossil history is explained by the flood.

Madness, madness, madness.

But there again, Boris Johnson, Rees Mogg and Ian Duncan Smith belong to a church that believes in transubstantiation, angels, heaven and hell, a virgin birth, a resurrection and three Gods in one. Catholicism is a religion that has professional exorcists. They would write off socialism as a utopian fantasy. A world-wide social system without leaders, production just to meet human need, no borders, no money, no labour market and no buying and selling. Yes to angels, no to socialism.

They also all have a deep faith in profit making and amassing as much capital as it is humanly possible.

What does this all say for socialism? Socialists oppose all religion whether superficially stupid or laden with dense theology accumulated over hundreds of years.

Religion is a barrier to socialism. Religion prevents workers from having a true understand of the capitalist world, the need for class struggle and replacing the profit system with socialism. Religion warps sexuality and human relations; it places faith in charity rather than abolishing the wages system. And it is littered with religious leaders telling people what to think and how to lead their lives.

The socialist opposition to religion has not in any way changed since the formation of the Socialist Party of Great Britain in 1904. Unlike many others we do not see religion as a private affair. You cannot become a socialist and simultaneously hold religious views.

The case for socialism is built upon a materialist understanding of history, the fact that men and women make history through class struggles which are the motor force of change from one system of society to another.

Socialism is scientific in that the evidence of peoples' experience in social production supports it. The social relationships entered into to produce and sustain human existence show that social production must be harmonised with social ownership and class antagonism abolished. Socialism is underpinned by knowledge and the instability bred of conflicting class interests under capitalism.

Religion, on the contrary, has no basis in knowledge or science; it is built upon myths and superstition, and sustained by poverty, fear and ignorance. The study of religion reveals more than anything the seemingly infinite capacity of the human mind to fantasise and to believe the unbelievable.

The sheer diversity of religion both historically and currently throughout the world really goes full cycle and cancels itself out. They cannot all be right but they can certainly all be wrong. The myths of creation, of almighty spirits, the immortality of the soul and the efficacy of prayer have trapped believers in the grip of predatory ruling classes whose interest it is to perpetuate their submission and servility.

The appeal of socialism is of such a fundamentally different order that when it is asked why, after over a hundred years of socialist propaganda, so little progress has been made, a major part of the answer is that the lack of progress has been on the part of those who entertain religious views.

Before socialism can be established a majority of the working class must reject the pernicious ideas and beliefs of capitalism which includes religion and nationalism. To look at the persistence of religious myths and primitive superstitions gives us a sobering realisation of the distance we have yet to travel before the exploited class of capitalism prioritise their emancipation.

We do not know where we are in capitalism's anarchic trajectory through time. Integrated world capitalism is very new and took the profit system several centuries to reach this level of development. Are we in the middle or at the end? The level of socialist consciousness and the number of socialists on the ground shows that the working class has a long way to go.

Hopefully the establishment of socialism will not be as long as 500 million years or even 50,000.

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