[Marxism] Partisanship and Objectivity in Theoretical Work: Politics and natural science

Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Sun Mar 19 09:18:25 MST 2006

Cornforth : 

2. Misunderstandings about science and ideology

At this point a comment may be made on certain misunderstandings which have
been introduced into this topic, especially by Louis Althusser.

These misunderstandings concern "science" and "ideology". They come from
posing an antithesis between science and ideology. And when this antithesis
is posed, it is said that science, one the one side, is objective, and
ideology, on the other side, is partisan.

But the antithesis is a false one. For Marxist-socialist ideology is in fact
scientific - and in this case we find that science is partisan.

Following up this pretended antithesis, Althusser proceeds to divide 
philosophy from science. Philosophy, he says, is class struggle, and so it
is not science. Science, on the other hand, is not class struggle, and so it
is not partisan.

It is quite true that natural science is not class struggle and is 
not partisan. And whenever class-ideology and partisanship is brought into
natural science (as happens sometimes in scientific controversies) it is by
way of an importation of philosophical preconceptions into science which
have subsequently to be expelled in the development of science.

But the class struggle does come into science, in social 

Althusser does not, in fact, sufficiently consider the relationships and
differences in science between natural science and social science. But these
are important.

Marx waged working-class struggle in his scientific work of establishing the
scientific theory of historical materialism, and in writing Capital. In this
scientific work it is evident that, as Lenin insisted, "science is
partisan". Class struggle enters into the development of science.

Turning to natural sciences, we then find that one is not partisan on
physics, say, in investigating elementary particles and quantum-mechanical
interactions. But one is partisan in considering both the social use of
physics and the social organisation of physical research through the
management of scientific institutions. And physics as a science cannot
develop without partisanship in the organisation of research and of its

CB: I myself go further than Cornforth on this point of the relationship
between class struggle, working class partisanship and even natural
sciences, as I have said a number of times. 

 Given the history of physics in the twentieth century, and the role of the
most profound discovery in physics - relativity and E = MC squared - to the
bourgeois misuse of this genius idea to originate the most horrific weapons
in the history of humanity, natural scientists must take a step back and
consider politics before they discover something else that the bourgeoisie
will perversely engineer into some new form of mass destruction.

( I don't hold Einstein personally responsible for the misuse of his idea.
Einstein had very good social democratic politics, better than Kautsky, as
Einstein Germans warring in WWI, refusing to do physical and chemical work
for the war weapons, unlike all his fellow physicists. That his small error
resulted in such a big problem demonstrates a high level of precision in the
logic of politics)

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