From International Socialist Review, Vol.24 No.1, Winter 1963, p.2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
A recent article by Soviet scientist Peter Kapitza is a devastating criticism of the role of the Soviet bureaucracy in stifling progress in the USSR.
There are people who say: “Stalin committed crimes. But look at Russia today. He led the country for 30 years. Doesn’t he deserve some credit for helping build the USSR to its present status as an advanced scientific nation?”
Academician Kapitza puts the role of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the proper light as the strangler of Soviet science.
Kapitza refers to official attitudes toward cybernetics and he quotes from the Russian Philosophical Dictionary (1945) as follows: “Cybernetics (from the Greek denoting steering, controlling) – a reactionary pseudo-science, originated in the USA after the Second World War ...”
“It is impossible,” Mr. Kapitza says, “to control a spacecraft without cybernetic machinery.”
Says Kapitza, in his article published in the Soviet journal Ekonomicheskaya Gazeta: “If indeed our scientists had, in 1954, listened to the philosophers ... the conquest of the cosmos of which we are justly proud, and for which the whole world respects us, could not have been accomplished ...”
He lists a few other examples of the impeding of progress by the dogmatic imposition of what was pretended to be Marxist ideas on science: the opposition to relativity theory; the incorrect understanding of the principle of indeterminancy in atomic physics; and the criticism of the chemical theory of resonance.
Scientific progress was made despite, not because of the Stalinist bureaucracy, Kapitza’s article makes clear. Where the scientists listened (or had to listen) i.e., Lysenko with the backing of Stalin crushed the opposition, the damage to Soviet science was high.
It is a monument to October and to the original Bolsheviks, that Stalin even after 30 years rule, could not abort Soviet power and progress permanently or decisively.
Add another title to Stalin’s list: “Betrayer of Revolutions,” “Destroyer of Nationalities,” and now “Strangler of Soviet Science.”
New York, N.Y.
I’ve been reading the Military Background to Disarmament by P.M.S. Blackett. The article seems to be getting pretty wide distribution. It’s the first major literary breakthrough in the cold war hysteria. I think that its effects will be felt in the new peace movement.
Revolutionists, in my opinion, have a unique critique to make on this issue, i.e., the solution. To get a broad solution I suggest that International Socialist Review invite Monthly Review, the Nation, New America, Mainstream and/or some of the new student publications to co-publish each other’s evaluation of the Blackett report. (I remember the time of the Twentieth Congress when MR, Dissent, American Socialist and National Guardian made such arrangements.)
The articles could be the result of a co-sponsored seminar before a joint New York City audience with a question period. And the authors could simply revise their oral statements for a written seminar. At any rate I hope that this suggestion can be considered for its usefulness and practicability.
Last updated on 22 May 2009