Reason in Revolt

Marxist Philosophy and Modern Science

Alan Woods, Ted Grant


Aakar Books, New Delhi, 2014

423 pages

Price INR 595.00

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The achievements of science and technology during the past century are unparalleled in history. They provide the potential for the solution to all the problems faced by the planet, and equally for its total destruction. Allegedly scientific theories are being used to "prove" that criminality is caused, not by social conditions, but by a "criminal gene". Black people are alleged to be disadvantaged, not because of discrimination, but because of their genetic make-up.

Of course, such "science" is highly convenient to right-wing politicians intent on ruthlessly cutting welfare. In the field of theoretical physics and cosmology, there is a growing tendency towards mysticism. The "Big Bang" theory of the origin of the universe is being used to justify the existence of a Creator, as in the book of Genesis. For the first time in centuries, science appears to lend credence to religious obscurantism. Yet this is only one side of the story.

A growing number of scientists are becoming discontented with the old outlook. The rapid rise of the theory of Chaos and Complexity is one of the most significant developments in science at the turn of the new millennium. Many of the ideas expressed by this new trend are strikingly similar to the theories of dialectical materialism worked out by Marx and Engels over 160 years ago.

A significant part of the present work is devoted to an exploration of the relationship between Marxist philosophy and the new theories. Will this encounter provide the basis for a new and exciting breakthrough in the methodology of science?

Alan Woods

Alan Woods (born 23 October 1944) is a Trotskyist political theorist and author. He is one of the leading members of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), as well as its British affiliate group Socialist Appeal. He is political editor of the IMT's In Defence of Marxism website. Woods was a leading supporter within the Militant tendency within the UK Labour Party and its parent group the Committee for a Workers' International until the early 1990s. A series of disagreements on tactics and theory led to the expulsion of Woods and Ted Grant from the tendency, who founded the Committee for a Marxist International (soon renamed International Marxist Tendency) in 1992. They continued with the policy of entryism into the Labour Party. Woods has been particularly vocal in his support for the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, and repeatedly met with the socialist Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, leading to speculation he was a close political adviser.

Ted Grant

Ted Grant was born in South Africa in 1913. Travelling to Britain in search of broader horizons, he stopped off in Paris to talk with Leon Sedov, Trotsky's son. With Ralph Lee he formed the Workers' International League (WIL), which subsequently fused with the Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL) to become the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) in 1944.

After the war, he defended Trotsky's analysis of the Soviet Union in that it was a deformed workers' state – one in which private property and capitalism had been abolished, yet where the workers did not hold political power. He argued that the so-called 'communist' countries of Eastern Europe were in fact run on the same lines as the Soviet Union, and he used the term Proletarian Bonapartism to describe them.

During the 1960s he extended the analysis to the colonial countries that had become 'communist'. He argued that the intelligentsia of these countries looked towards Stalinism as a way to develop their economies and alleviate the desperate conditions; but since the masses had not been roused on a socialist programme, the bureaucratic nature of these regimes was inevitable.