Billionaire Elon Musk's Falcon Heavy rocket launch is not "proof of private sector efficiency" - it is another demonstration of how parasitic the profit system is.

Billionaire Elon Musk hit the headlines earlier this month with the launch of his company's Falcon Heavy rocket. But this "proof of private sector efficiency" is in fact another demonstration of how parasitic the profit system is.

Earlier this month, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket was successfully launched into space. In the midst of all the media hype, however, some interesting facts have passed without comment.

The Falcon Heavy is the largest rocket to ever be launched into outer space. The launch was intended as a dummy run to show what the private company could do. SpaceX and its owner Elon Musk gained significant publicity by sticking a $200,000 Tesla Roadster car (produced by another of Musk’s companies) in the rocket, complete with robot driver.

Amongst all of this, the question nobody seemed interested in asking was: where did the money come from?

Feeding off the taxpayer

Elon MuskSpaceX was founded by the billionaire Musk to demonstrate that private firms could be more efficient than the public sector in the field of space technology. But far from being a great example of what so-called free enterprise can do, the Falcon Heavy launch came on the back of huge public funding, both direct and indirect.

After the ending of the Space Shuttle programme in 2011, the US was left totally reliant on the Russians for launches. To resolve this, the US government splashed out $6.8 billion in initial funding to Boeing and SpaceX to provide a homegrown alternative by 2017 - a deadline which they all missed.

And that was just the direct funding. A recent article by Rohan Silva in the Evening Standard notes that SpaceX also benefited from “decades of US government spending in space technology - adding up to more than a trillion dollars.

“This meant that when Musk wanted to start a rocket company, he could hire hundreds of highly-experienced engineers and build on all the state-funded work that came before.”

The same article also notes that Tesla - for good measure - also benefited from state funding, with a controversial state loan of $465 million, granted by President Obama.

In reality, the whole US space programme acted as a huge source of funding for a vast array of private companies. All of these have made billions in profits at the expense of the US taxpayer. Many of these companies have also picked up lucrative contracts from the US military complex.

The same applies elsewhere. In Britain, a huge number of contractors and companies feed off state funding for the UK arms industry, including the billions spent on our nuclear deterrent.

We have also seen the ongoing scandal of the outsourcing industry, with Carillion pocketing hundreds of millions in state funding before handing it (and more) on to company bosses and shareholders. Capita is another example of huge private firms feeding off the public purse.

Far from being ‘risk takers’, the capitalists are happiest when they can get us to take the risk for them. Under successive governments, both here and elsewhere, this is what they have all been doing across the board.

SpaceX now talk grandly about launching ever-larger rockets and going to Mars. But unless state funding is forthcoming for these vanity projects, Musk’s firm will just stick to launches of profitable commercial payloads.

Stuck on the launchpad

Fifty years this May, Stanley Kubrick’s masterwork 2001: A Space Odyssey hit the big screen. It depicted an expected time of space exploration to the planets and beyond. In 2018, thanks to the crumbling state of capitalism here on earth, that vision is further away than ever.

Capitalism shapes technology for profit, not to benefit humanity. They can send a flashy car hurtling into the heavens, but do nothing about poverty, hunger and deprivation. Only when public cash is made available do they try anything different. And even then the ultimate aim is still to benefit them, not us.

Rather than giving these ‘entrepreneurs’ tons of cash to boost profits, we should take their parasitic companies into public ownership. Under a socialist plan of production, the wealth and technology in society would work for us, not the rich few.

Socialist Appeal are proud to publish this education guide to help focus your studies of Marxist theory and practice. Visit the various tabs below to find links to introductory articles, classic texts, videos and audio talks for different topics. Read More
Check out this selection of writings for an excellent introduction to many of the fundamentals of Marxist theory, providing a strong basis for those wishing to equip themselves with the ideas necessary in order to fight for socialism. Read More
Dialectical materialism is the philosophy or methodology of Marxism. We must seek to understand the laws of society and nature in order to change them. Read More
Historical materialism is the general theory of how and why society develops in the way it does. Each social system has its inherent laws of motion. If we want to overthrow capitalist society, we must understand how capitalism works. Read More
Marxist economics is the study of the laws of motion of capitalist society, allowing us to understand why capitalism perpetually goes into crisis, where inequality comes from, and what the alternative is. Read More
The Russian Revolution is the greatest event in world history for Marxists. Studying the events of 1917, and understanding why the Revolution degenerated into Stalinism, provides vital lessons for revolutionaries today. Read More
For Marxists, the state is not at all neutral. We must understand the state’s real basis and strip away its mysticism by treating it historically - taking in its origins, rise, and eventual fall. Read More
Anarchism is naturally attractive for those wanting to abolish capitalism. But only Marxist ideas can explain why bureaucracy and oppression exist - and how to overthrow the exploitative capitalist system. Read More
Marxists are irreconcilably opposed to the oppression of women and fight determinedly for liberation and against discrimination. We believe this will be achieved through the class struggle - to abolish the oppressive capitalist system. Read More
The madness of fascism expresses the historic crisis and dead-end of capitalism. But it could have been avoided if the working class had a united revolutionary leadership, prepared to take power. Read More
Nations have not always existed, nor will they always exist in the future. Marxists are internationalists, fighting for world socialist revolution as the only way forward for humanity and our planet. Read More
Wars represent the sharp extreme of capitalism’s impasse. Imperialism, Lenin said, was the "highest stage of capitalism". As long as the profit system exists, there will be wars over markets and spheres of influence. Read More
All written history, Marx stated, is the history of class struggle. Our task is to learn the lessons from history in order to prepare for the revolutionary events taking place today and in the future. Read More
Our aim is to spread the ideas of Marxism, in an organised fashion, amongst workers and youth. In order to do this, we must study the history and traditions of the working class. Read More
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  • Women's liberation
  • Fascism
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