Science, society, culture, as reflected in two quotes

Rolf Martens rolf.martens at mailbox.swipnet.se
Sun Aug 4 16:47:55 MDT 1996


Science, society, culture, as reflected in two quotes [Posted: 04.08.96]


[This is posted as "Appendix B" to my posting today:
{4} Why "reds are "nukes" - Debate with Louis N. P.]


At approximately the same point in time when there were the
initial developments, in the scientific-technical field, of jet
aircraft, computers and nuclear energy, there was also, in the
cultural field, in the USA that development, within the already
very popular form of music blending originally African culture
together with European/American, which its originators from the
late 1940:s on thought was appropriate to call "modern music".
It spread to many countries as another "new wave".

Is there a connection between the simultaneous developments
in these different fields? I think there is. The whole social
background to the development of this modern music of course
is a complicated thing, which I shall not try to analyze here.
But the reason why it was and is enthusiastically liked by so many
and in so many countries, while at the same time it was also
>from the start disliked and spoken ill of by some, must certainly
have something to do with its being an expression both of the
enormous possibilities which there are in our age and of the
sharp conflicts which accompany those possibilities.

In this connection, I think it may be of interest to note and
compare two things which were said by two persons of
widely different background.

The first one was some years ago by orchestra leader Leroy
Jones, USA, who held that "Charlie Parker's music is the music
of the nuclear age, in which we still live". With this, he IMO
correctly pointed at one of many aspects of it, and not so
badly characterized the present age either.

The second one was stated in a public speech by one of the
political leaders in then socialist China, Jiang Qing, on 18.11.
1966, i.e. during the Cultural Revolution in China (according to
U. S. historian Roxane Witke, from whose 1977 book
"Comrade Chiang Ching" [p. 325] I quote:)

"Capitalism has a history of several countries; but it has only
a pitiful number of 'classics'. They [capitalist writers] have
created some works modeled after the 'classics', but these are
stereotyped and no longer appeal to the people, and are
therefore completely on the decline. On the other hand, there
are some things that really flood the market, such as rock-and-
roll, jazz, strip tease, impressionism, symbolism, abstraction-
ism, Fauvism, modernism - there's no end to them... In a word,
there is decadence and obscenity to poison and corrupt the
minds of the people."

The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in China (1966-76)
was an earth-shaking and on the whole extremely positive
event, which not by chance enthusiasmed many people also
outside China, including people in the industrially more highly-
developed countries. But it's clear that it couldn't but have its
limitations and even negative aspects too, since China, despite
the modern nature of its system of society, on the whole still
was a comparatively backward country as far as industry,
technology and science were concerned.

In the above, Jiang Qing mixed together and mixed up many
different things which in reality have little to do with each
other, and ignorantly and erroneously slammed the stamp of
"decadent" etc on the lot. In retrospect, there IMO is no
particular reason to criticize her lack of knowledge of some
of the things she mentioned. This was not so unnatural in the
circumstances. But as a political leader she should at least
have realized this fact, that she knew very little about them.

Mao Zedong, as far as the documents show, always avoided
making judgements on matters about which he had no deeper
knowledge. In his last years, he correctly found it necessary to
criticize Jiang Qing, for her having turned into a phoney"leftist"
and a bourgeois carreerist, just as much as he also criticized
the more openly bourgeois deviation of the later No. 1 traitor
and revisionist dictator, Deng Xiaoping.

Today, there are some people among those calling themselves
"Marxists" who still acclaim Jiang Qing as a "standard-bearer"
of the Cultural Revolution. In my opinion, this is a very doubtful
judgement, in view of such standpoints of hers as the above.

It's a historical fact that in our century, socialism first has
had breakthroughs in some relatively less developed countries,
in Russia in 1917 and in China in 1949. Some people at these
points in time even spoke out against the Russians' (etc)
respectively against the Chinese's venturing to make socialist
revolutions, on the grounds that "their countries weren't
advanced enough for that". They were wrong of course.

But it's also wrong to think that if we're to get an approxima-
tively correct understanding of the world of today - which in part
of course is a "hi-tech" world - it would be sufficient to lean on
only that political experience which you can get from studying
the documents from those earlier socialist countries, Russia
(respectively the Soviet Union) and China. That experience is
important enough, but not sufficient for this.

Why, for instance, have the main rulers in the world today so
desperately, in the last 20-30 years, been trying to *get out of*
"the nuclear age" (at least, as far as the *peaceful* use of
nuclear energy is concerned)? Why have they more and more in
the last decade even tried to "get out of" the age of oil? Why
are some of their media just now quite busy "discovering" some
"very detrimental environmental side effects" of hydropower?

On these and some other rather important questions in the world
today, you'll get little guidance from the writings emanating from
the earlier revolutionary Russia or China. These need to be
complemented by some others in the political field (and I have
in earlier postings already pointed at one important source of
such experience) and also by some study of the natural sciences,
something which Marx, for instance, certainly did not neglect
and a point on which no doubt many of his present-day adherents
need to improve.

Rolf M.



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