Praising Communism one Sputnik at a time

My comment on the article This virus is a shot in the arm for science by David Aaronovitch in The Times, April 1 2020

A veiled praise of Soviet Communism through the praise of Sputnik. As the Soviet post-WWII space program was build on the backs of German scientific and engineering slave labourers, the author should also mention the Nazi leadership and their earlier commitment to their war-time rocket program.

The concern in the current situation is how to save human lives in the fight against the virus. This is 180 degrees opposite to the mindset of Communist leaders who did not care about human lives, as they were busy killing and otherwise eliminating millions of people. I am writing this as a son of parents who were imprisoned in Communist concentration camps. I am also a scientist, like Paul Nurse, referred to in the article. Like him, I come from a modest background. However, needless to say, I do not share his early fascination with Sputnik. Another difference between him and me is the fact, that he can continue his work while I was removed from university in Poland not long ago for political reasons.

There are more appropriate analogies and no shortage of scientific role models. One of them is Marie Curie. Let me quote from the BBC’s website: “The Curie’s research was crucial in the development of x-rays in surgery. During World War One Curie helped to equip ambulances with x-ray equipment, which she herself drove to the front lines. The International Red Cross made her head of its radiological service and she held training courses for medical orderlies and doctors in the new techniques.”

Both now and during World War One, proper testing and diagnosis is of crucial importance. Both situations are new in many ways and both involve designing and manufacturing new equipment to save human lives.