Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication between myself and the editor, the article on nuclear power above was actually a first draft which I had substantially revised.
There are two points that I made in this first draft which I now think are wrong.
I made a claim that thorium technology was not economically attractive because in involved “an enormous initial investment combined with very low levels of exploitable labour”. This section was omitted from the final draft because I think it is wrong.
The ratio between constant and variable capital is varied between different industries. Compare a fruit smoothie stall trading on the roadside with a driverless train network, like the Docklands Light Railway. The smoothie stall owner has very low amount of constant capital in the form of fruit, a blender, a table, some cups etc. in comparison to variable capital, the wages of the worker.
The DLR has a huge amount of constant capital in the form of trains, track, power supply, computer system compared with the variable capital in the form of the few workers needed to maintain the network. After the initial outlay on fixed capital, the value added by the DLR workforce is very small compared with the value added by the worker making the smoothies.
This poses a problem for advocates of the labour theory of value. It seems to imply that no capitalist in their right mind would ever invest in driverless train networks and everyone would be investing in smoothie stalls. Marx solves this problem with his theory of the equalisation of the rate of profit in Capital Volume 3.
In the final draft I omitted the section on the relationship between technology and unfolding human history. The implication is that technological decisions are shaped by class interests, as the title implies.
In the past I believed all sorts of technologies, such as televisions and cars, to be “capitalist” by their very nature. However, I now think this view is too crude and has more in common with the early Soviet advocates of Proletkult than a Marxist understanding of science and culture.
It is more correct to say that the requirements of the Cold War must have influenced the decision to back uranium power over thorium technology and avoid the sweeping generalisations.
Stuart Jordan, London
• The final draft is here.