Last updated: Nov 2, 2002
Never mind the crap they teach you in school, here are a few of
the real events that mark the struggle and progress of humankind
(other well-known events have been added to help provide context)
What have I left out
of this chart?
Help me make it better.

The History of the Universe,
Humankind and Communism

The history of the universe
is the history of the self-organization of matter


The struggle to overthrow the system of bourgeois rule
and replace the capitalist mode of production
with a self-organizing moneyless economy
is the culminating and decisive chapter
in a story billions of years old

--- Contents ---

The evolution of galaxies and stars (15 billion years ago to present)
    The evolution of matter, galaxies, stars (and the sun, earth and moon)

The development of life on earth
(4 billion years ago to present)
    primitive life, multi-cellular life, and the explosion of plants and animals

primitive communal society
    (under construction)
slave and feudal society
    (under construction)
The creation of the capitalist world (1500 to 1900)
    ThedevelopmentofcapitalisminEurope,
    bourgeoisrevolutionswhichoverthrewfeudalrule,
    theemergenceofthemodernnation-state--andtheindustrialrevolution

world wars and revolutions (1900 to 1950)
    World Wars I and II and the revolutions to which they gave birth
    (and the counter-revolution which followed)

the cold war (1950 to 2000)
    Confrontation and proxy wars between US imperialism (and its allies)
    and the state-capitalist regimes that emerged from failed revolutions

the future
(what we will see in the 21st century)
    • digital fire: the proletariat learns to make effective use of digital
      communications to organize itself and create its own channel
    • The first workers' state under modern conditions
    • The emergence of the self-organizing moneyless economy


Everything we do rests on the shoulders
of those who have struggled before us ...

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The evolution of galaxies and stars

The evolution of matter, galaxies and stars
(and the sun, earth and moon)

15 billion
years ago
until now
what happened
15 billion
years ago
The "big bang" Approximately 15 billion years ago all matter (and space itself) was compressed into an unimaginably hot and small volume that, in a tiny fraction of a second, violently expanded. It is still expanding.

What happened before the big bang? Nobody knows. But there are various theories, including that: (a) the initial blob was created by a "quantum fluctuation" in a vacuum (b) the initial blob was created by some event in some other universe (c) the universe recycles itself over trillions of years, creating a big bang every time that two multi-dimensional membranes collide and (d) other theories.

400,000 years
after the
big bang
Universe becomes transparent The particles that condensed out of the big bang (mainly electrons, protons and neutrons) combine to form atoms (mainly hydrogen, with some helium and small traces of lithium). Because the atoms are electrically neutral (unlike negatively charged electrons and positively charged protons), they do not interfere with moving particles of light (photons) which can now travel long distances. It is said that at this time the universe became transparent. The first unobstructed photons from that period can still be observed as the "cosmic microwave background radiation".
the next several
billions
of years
galaxy clusters created tiny, random, sub-atomic "quantum fluctuations" created in the first .00000000000000000000000000000001 second of the big bang result in "ripples" that become larger as the universe expands. These ripples (the smallest with a mass approximately equal to 500 trillion Suns) are the origin of the galaxy clusters we see today.

galaxies created gravitational attraction gradually intensifies small irregularities in the density of matter. The regions of greater density evolve into what we see today as galaxies.

first stars created hydrogen (and helium) atoms are also concentrated in local regions of greater density. Gravitational attraction eventually leads to the creation of regions of such intense density, pressure and heat that nuclear fusion between hydrogen atoms takes place--converting hydrogen into helium and transforming a fraction of the original mass into energy (heat and light). Thus were created the first stars.

elements of life created These first stars are thousands of times heavier than our sun. They are also very short-lived, consuming their hydrogen fuel in only a few million years. When their hydrogen fuel is used up, these first stars undergo a process of collapse and other nuclear reactions take place which create the heavier elements (ie: carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, etc without which life would be impossible) and which also eventually cause these stars to explode (ie: become a "supernova"), scattering their heavy elements into the galactic atmosphere.

second generation of stars created The shock waves from supernovas trigger the collapse of nearby gas clouds, creating a second generation of stars that are like our Sun: smaller in mass and much longer lived (living for billions of years instead of millions). The stars that we observe today are of this kind.


Science info: • Our galaxy, the Milky Way (links: 1, 2, 3, 4 ) may contain about 400 billion stars, is approximately 100,000 light years in diameter (a light year is approximately 6 trillion miles) and was formed about 8 billion (by some estimates) or 14 billion (by other estimates) years ago as it swallowed up smaller galaxies.
Our Sun (a typical star) is two million times as massive as the earth, and exists approximately half way from the center of our galaxy to its edge. Our Sun orbits the galactic center approximately every 250 million years.
Galaxies contain anywhere from a few billion to a few trillion stars. • The spiral structures found in many galaxies are organized by gravitational attraction which creates regions of greater density. Individual stars typically orbit around the galactic center at a faster rate than the spiral arms and therefore pass into and out of these regions of greater density on a periodic basis.
Why are galaxies shapped like plates? Galaxies get their disc or plate-like shape from the interaction of two forces: (a) gravitational attraction acts to concentrate matter at the center (b) rotational energy (ie: angular momentum) causes matter to move outward away from the axis of rotation.
Galaxy clusters contain from a few dozen to a few thousand individual galaxies.
Is there life on other planetary systems? Science has no evidence, so far, of life beyond earth. In the next several decades, as our telescopes become more powerful, we will use spectroscopic analysis to look for chemical signatures of life (for example oxygen molecules) in the atmosphere of planets that orbit nearby stars. Some researchers believe that life is unlikely on stars too close to the crowded center of the galaxy (too much radiation from nearby supernovas and too many collisions of life-bearing planets with comets) and also that life is unlikely too far away from the galactic center (the heavy elements necessary for life are too rare). Our Sun, according to this view, exist in the doughnut-shaped "habitable zone" where conditions are "just right".
4 and a half
billion years ago
Our solar system created Most likely a shock wave from a nearby supernova triggered the process of gravitational collapse (sometimes called "condensation") that led to the formation of our solar system from a cloud of hydrogen gas (called a "nebula") which also contained heavy elements left over from earlier supernova explosions. As this rotating nebula contracted it assumed the shape of a rotating disc (see explanation above for why galaxies have that shape--it works the same for rotating nebula). The greatest concentration of mass was at the center, which became our Sun. The remaining debris in the disc became the earth and the other planets.

Two ways that continental drift
creates mountain ranges

1. subduction

2. collision
Moon created at the time that the planets were forming out of the debris in the disc, an object about the size of Mars struck the earth. The object itself plunged into the earth, but much of the earth's outer layers were vaporized and ejected into space. Part of this ejected material eventually came back to earth while the rest became gravitationally bound together to create the moon.

surface of earth cools The heavier elements of the earth (primarily iron and magnesium) tended to sink into deeper layers while the lighter elements (primarily oxygen and silicon) floated toward the surface where they solidified and became the crust, which is half a dozen miles thick in oceanic areas and up to dozens of miles thick in the continents. The underlying movement of the molten rock (think of hot, gooey plastic) causes the the continents that float on top to drift around over the next several billion years (links: 1, 2, 3 ), collide into one another and be pushed underneath one another.

mountain ranges are created as (1) thin sections of the crust (ie: the ocean floor) are pushed underneath continents and partially melt, bubble up and push up against the overlying section of crust (creating coastal volcanic ranges), or (2) continental sections of the crust collide (creating ranges like the Himalayas).

metalic ore concentrated in veins Hot magma that penetrates cracks in the crust cools slowly, resulting in the segregation of elements based on the temperature at which they crystalize or precipitate into solid form. This results in the concentration of metalic ores into veins (this will later prove to be decisive for the development of technological civilization).

 

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The Development of Life on Earth

primitive life, multi-cellular life
and the explosion of plants and animals


(above) overview of the entire history of life on earth
(below) the half billion years since the Cambrian explosion

4 billion
years ago
until now
what happened
4 billion
to
3 billion
years ago
How phospholipids self-organize into double-layered membranes

One end of the phospholipid is polar and is strongly attracted to water molecules (which are also polar). The other end is repelled by water molecules. Hence phospholipids align themselves in double sheets with their heads in contact with water molecules and their tails in the interior of the double membrane.


( links: 1, 2, 3 )



primitive cells Relatively soon after the surface of earth cooled enough to become solid primitive forms of life may have emerged. If so, they would have been wiped out by a heavy rain of asteroids or meteors large enough to boil off the oceans and sterilize the earth. But eventually things quieted down and chemical evidence has been found which shows that life existed on the earth 3.85 billion years ago.

Modern science is still not developed enough to understand very much about how the first forms of life organized themselves. Some theories hold that life originated near energy-rich volcanic vents in the ocean. Other theories suggest that early life developed in layers of moist clay. Some theories even hold that many of the complex organic molecules useful to life were deposited on earth from meteorites which are known to contain them.

One way or another, the self-organization of large molecules led to small cells that (a) had membranes (a surface boundary made up of a double-layer of molecules that creates a distinction between inside and outside) (b) made use of energy derived from chemical reactions with simpler nonliving molecules outside the membrane and (c) could reproduce by dividing. This was the first life (at least in our little corner of the galaxy).

capture of light energy from the sun A huge step forward for early life was the development of chlorophyll, a molecule that captures light energy from the sun in a process called photosynthesis.
Chlorophyll systems could convert the energy from visible light into small energy-rich molecules easy for the cell to use. Visible light is more plentiful than ultraviolent light and also less damaging to molecular structures so at this point it became possible for these cells to manufacture their own food supply rather than rely on the random effects of ultraviolet light on molecules outside of their membranes.

The harnessing of the energy of visible light would have led to a vast expansion in the quantity of early life-forms. Fossilized layers, three and half billion years old, have been found of blue-green algae that lived on top of tidal rocks.

first plant-eaters Sometime after the first cells evolved that could capture energy from the sun, other cells evolved that could capture energy from these first cells by engulfing or ingesting them.

3 billion
to
2 billion
years ago
oxygen released into atmosphere The action of capturing energy from visible sunlight with chlorophyll (ie: photosynthesis) involves combining carbon dioxide with hydrogen from water molecules. Oxygen molecules are left over from this process and as early life increased in quantity vast amounts of oxygen were released into the atmosphere. Over billions of years the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was greatly reduced and the oxygen content was greatly increased. This led to the next step ...

oxygen metabolism Large quantities of oxygen in the atmosphere led to the development of chemical mechanisms in cells which used the oxygen to more efficiently extract energy from the small energy-rich molecules created by photosynthesis. Chemical combustion which makes use of oxygen may extract up to 20 times as much energy from the same fuel molecules. So oxygen metabolism was another big step forward by early life and led to cells that were bigger and much more complex than the early primitive cells.

cells within cells With the greater availability of energy, cells could now develop in ways that had not been possible earlier. In some cases when one cell ingested another the result was that the ingested cell continued to function inside the cell that became its host and evolved with specialized functionality (this is the origin of mitochondria). Specialized organs that developed inside the new, more complex cells included structures that specialized in information-processing and reproduction (the nucleus), oxygen-handling and metabolism (mitochondria), protein manufacture (ribosomes), movement (cilia), chlorophyll-content (chloroplyasts) and internal storage and transport (vesicles).


Science info: Complex cells with specialized internal cells or organs are called eukaryotes. The cells in our own bodies are complex cells of this type. Eukaryotic cells have existed for at least 2.7 billion years. Primitive cells without internal structures are called prokaryotes. Bacteria today are examples of prokaryotes.
800 million to 540 million years ago
multi-cellular life Cells that stayed together to form colonies had an advantage in the competition for survival because they could develop different kinds of cells with specialized functionality that was more efficient.

The first multicellular animals to appear were the sponges, which are the ancestors of all other complex animals. Sponges have no definite shape and cannot move around. They filter a ton of sea water for each ounce of nutrients they extract.

The next development was jellyfish-type animals which could move about randomly by drifting or by pulsing.

Finally, flatworms developed. Flatworms were the first hunters: they had sensory sections (not true eyes--but eyespots that were sensitive to light), and nervous systems. More than this, flatworms were the first animal to be bilaterally symmetric (ie: they had front and back ends and a left and right side that were mirror images of one another) and they could move forward rather than randomly.

Flatworms remained primitive compared to animals that followed. They had no circulatory system and only a single opening that served as both mouth and anus (ughh!). But for millions of years they were the most advanced animals on earth.


Science info: We can blame the sponges for having started sex. What are the advantages of sexual reproduction? (ie: why is there sex?) Sexual reproduction allows the accumulation (and recombination) of mutations (ie: random accidents in copying genetic information) in a recessive mode (ie: without being expressed). These mutations (and combinations of mutations) can then accumulate and, on a random basis, find expression in future generations where they may prove useful in making the organism resistant to parasites or better adapted to changes in the environment.
Speaking of sex, here is the weirdest sex ever ! This species of flatworm is hermaphroditic; that is, it has both male and female sexual characteristics. Being both male and female can have its advantages. When they encounter one another mating is always an option--but they must engage in a bizarre competition known as penis fencing--a fight to see who gets to play the role of the male. Each of these flatworms has two penises. The first to penetrate the other with one of its "weapons" will deposit sperm. The other flatworm will then grow the eggs which result from the encounter. The evolutionary logic behind this bizarre ritual--is that it takes more time and energy to grow the eggs than to deposit the sperm--so selection pressure favors the flatworms that can win the contest and then move on more quickly to reproduce itself in other encounters. (For larger picture, clear here and scroll down the page.)
540 to 520 million years ago
Explosion of life In a relatively brief period of only 10 or 20 million years there was a great explosion of different types of animals. This event is called the Cambrian explosion and during this period every type of the dozens of basic body plans that are still around made their first appearance.

Possible causes for this explosion of different kinds of life forms include: (1) increasing genetic sophistication that allowed for more complex structures, (2) increased concentrations of oxygen in the oceans that allowed animals to "invest" in hard parts (ie: shells and so forth) that served as offensive or defensive weapons, (3) the development of an evolutionary "arms race" in which the increasing complexity of the ecosystem created all sorts of environmental niches for different types of animals and, finally, (4) there is the "Snowball Earth" hypothesis that the Cambrian Explosion was triggered by rapid warming of a previously ice-bound Earth.

450 million
to
250 million
years ago
For nearly a hundred million years after the Cambrian explosion the land remained unpopulated. Land is a far harsher environment for life than water: there are problems in getting and retaining water, obtaining oxygen from the air, dealing with gravity, coping with temperature changes and wind and storms, and protection against the harsh ultraviolet radiation from the sun. (Fortunately, the oxygen that had been released into the atmosphere produced a layer of ozone which blocked most of the ultraviolet rays.) However the competition for ecosystem space eventually overcame all obstacles. The tides would sometimes strand plants and animals on the shore and any that could resist drying out during low tide had an advantage.

450 million years ago • plants invade the land Plants developed roots to absorb water and serve as anchors and stems to compete with other plants for sunlight.

370 million years ago • animals invade the land Once there was plenty of plant life on land animals could follow to seek out a new and untouched food supply. The first animals on land were anthropods such as spiders, scorpians and primitive insects. Larger animals followed, some to feed on the plants, some on the anthropods.

Fish had developed by now and dominated the seas. Fish had fins for propulsion and air bladders for bouyancy and these turned out to be useful, at first for flopping around from one pool of water (that was drying out or brackish) to another. Fins and air bladders became legs and lungs and the next step was amphibians, which live the first part of their life in the water. After that reptiles developed an egg which would not dry out because it was surrounded by a protective layer of limestone that was permeable to air but not to water. Such eggs could be laid on land and the animals that emerged from them did not need to start their life in the water.

Asimov notes that living on land may be decisive to the development of technological civilization: most animals living in water must be streamlined (dolphins do not have hands--nor a good reason to evolve them since they don't have to worry about falling out of trees). Furthermore, he notes: the foundation of all technology is fire--which can exist in an oxygen-rich atmosphere--but not in water. Hands and fire, Asimov notes, are why we developed technology and the dolphins, who have had big brains for far longer than us, did not.

250 million years ago • biggest mass extinction of all time The earth has gone thru five mass extinctions since the Cambrian explosion (not counting the one that is taking place at present due to the rapacious nature of capitalist development). The biggest of these extinctions was the Permian extinction 250 million years ago: 95% of all marine species and 70% of all land species were wiped out. It is not known for certain what causes these extinctions. Theories include: (a) collision of earth with an astroid or comet that creates a dust cloud blocking out the sun for years and causing a global cooling, (b) volcanism that also tends to block out the sun, (c) other factors that could cause the climate to cool, (d) changes in shorelines and (e) changes in the circulation and chemistry of oceans.

250 million
to
65 million
years ago
Dinosaurs ruled the earth They took over following the Permian extinction and ruled the planet until it was their turn to perish with the K-T extinction. With so much of the ecosystem cleared out the reptiles were set to undergo what is called "adaptive radiation" (ie: rapid, simultaneous evolutionary developments in a large number of directions in order to fill a wide variety of ecological niches).

65 million years ago • K-T extinction While there is not agreement on the causes for all mass extinctions, there is powerful evidence that this one was caused by an astroid six miles in diameter hitting the earth near the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico.

65 million
to
7 million
years ago
Mammals develop Mammals had already been around for 150 million years as small shrew-like animals but after the K-T extinction it was their turn to undergo adaptive radiation. The most significant result of this--was us.
7 million
years ago
to today
7 million years ago • Hominids begin to walk on two legs Between 5 and 8 million years ago humans branched off from chimpanzees, gorillas and other primates. The most significant step in this process may have been the ability to walk on two legs (ie: bipedalism). Recently a fossil was discovered in Chad of a primate that lived 7 million years ago and walked on two legs at least part of the time. Other animals, including bears and chimpanzees, can walk on their hind legs for short periods of time. But the ability to walk permanently and comfortably on two legs required a change in the backbone just above the pelvis, where the human spinal column bends backward in a shallow S-shape.

This chart includes a lot of guesswork. The human family tree is more like a bush
than a linear sequence of species that follow one another. What is shown here
is fragmentary and approximate (and has already been made obsolete
by the recent Chad discovery) [based on a chart at www.space.com]
Many researchers believe the change to an upright posture was associated with movement from forests to savannas or grasslands. In any event the change may have allowed our ancestors to keep cooler under a hot sun, spot danger at a further distance, and allowed for greater use of the hands.

2 million years ago • Humans use stone tools Two landmark events mark the emergence of humans from the animal kingdom:
(1) the creation and use of stone tools and
(2) the discovery of fire.

Lower primates may occasionally use stones as a tool. But using one stone to shape another was the beginning of all technology. One rock could be used to chip away at another to make tools of various kinds for chopping, scraping or cutting. Primates did this more than two million years ago. And because they did this, we consider these primates to be human.

Fire Sometime after that (no one knows exactly when--but it was at least half a million years ago) fire was harnessed. Most likely our ancestors learned how to retrieve some burning object from the edge of a natural fire caused by a lightning bolt. This stolen fire could then be kept alive by feeding it fuel whenever it showed signs of dying down. Fire gave heat and light and made it possible for early humans to extend their range into other climates. Fire was useful as protection against predators. Fire could also made it possible to cook food: many plant foods become edible and digestable only when cooked and the roasting of meat killed parasites and bacteria and made it safer.

And, as a result of these two great discoveries: stone tools and fire, our ancestors increased in weight and brain size and developed into modern humans.

 

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Primitive Communal Society

(under construction)

(This section needs overview explaining the distinction
between the classless and class society.
This is as important as the development of agriculture and cities)

xxxxxx
What happened
xxxx
2 million years ago • first migrations of early humans out of Africa. (Recent work has discovered early human ancestors in Georgia (near the Caspian Sea) from 1.8 million years ago)
300,000 years ago • hominids with modern human size and brain weight (Neanderthal)
200,000 years ago • recent research suggests that a mutation in the FOXP2 gene permitted greater complexity in the parts of the brain controlling movement of the face, throat and voice box. Researchers believe that this mutation spread quite rapidly, replacing more primitive versions of the gene within 500 or 1,000 human generations (ie: about 10,000 to 20,000 years)
100,000 years ago • development of modern human species (homo sapiens)
???? years ago • Domistication of dogs and herd animals

under construction under construction under construction under construction under construction under construction under construction

Estimated dates for the most recent migration out of Africa
under construction under construction under construction under construction under construction under construction under construction

10,000
years ago

to

4,000 B.C.

Dawn of civilization Development of agriculture under construction under construction under construction under construction under construction under construction under construction development of class society shift from matriarchal to patriarchal relations, etc, etc, etc ...

 

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Slave and Feudal Society

(under construction)

(This section needs overview explaining the distinction
between the slave system, feudalism and capitalism.
This is more important than Troy, Carthage or the Roman Empire)

4000 BC to 1500 AD
Middle East / Mediterranean
Asia
Technology
4000 BC to 3000 BC
4000 B.C. Sumerians found the city or Ur at the mouth of the Euphrates (it may have been the largest city in the world at a time when world population was about 85 million)
3100 B.C. Upper and lower Egypt are united
First cities in China--along the lower Hwang-Ho river 3500 B.C. Bronze age begins as Sumerians learn to mix copper with tin
first written language in Sumeria (cuneiform = "wedge-shaped"), then Egypt (hieroglyphic = "priestly writing")
3000 BC to 2000 BC
2800 B.C. Sumerian civilization devastated by huge flood covering an area 300 miles long by 100 miles wide with water 25 feet deep. (This flood becomes immortalized in the epic of Gilgamesh and is later transformed into the biblical story of Noah)
by 2500 B.C. Egypt becomes most prosperous and advanced nation in the world
after 2600 B.C. Minoan civilization established as Crete enters the Bronze age. Within a few hundred years Crete has developed a navy, dominates Greece and controls the trade in the eastern Mediterranean
Indus River civilization reaches a peak at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa 2530 B.C. Great pyramid
2000 BC to 1000 BC
1720 B.C. Egypt defeated by invading army using new weapon: chariots
1500 B.C. Minoan civilization fatally weakened by huge volcanic explosion at Thera, an island 80 miles to the north (many people today consider the destruction of Thera to be the origin of the legend of Atlantis)
1200 B.C. Mycenean Greeks sack Troy, a Hittite ally strategically guarding the trade routes to the Black Sea
Soon after the sack of Troy the Myceneans are conquered by the Dorians, who have no written language but do have high-tech swords made of iron
by 1500 B.C. Indus civilization destroyed by invaders with chariots. The invaders call themselves "Aryans" and speak a language called "Sanskrit"
by 1500 B.C. Northern China enters the Bronze age and develops its own system of writing. The Shang dynasty has a population of 5 million, larger than any kingdom in the west.
after 2000 B.C. Chariot developed, a devastating new weapon

1300 B.C. Iron age begins Hittites in Caucasian foothills, using charcoal instead of wood, make fires hot enough to smelt iron from its ore and develop a practical method of hardening iron by adding carbon

1000 BC to 500 BC
700 B.C. Sparta becomes the largest and most powerful city-state in Greece. asia before 800 B.C. Indian mathematicians use a symbol for zero
500 BC to 1 BC
rise of greek city states, Rome asia tech
1 AD to 500 AD
fall of Rome asia tech
500 AD to 1000 AD
development of feudalism asia tech
1000 AD to 1500 AD
further development of feudalism Mongol invasion of China Mogul invasion of India Chinese exploration plus stagnation tech

 

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The Creation of the Capitalist World

The development of capitalism in Europe, bourgeois revolutions to overthrow feudal rule,
the emergence of the modern nation-state and the industrial revolution

Capitalist development in Europe was made possible by
the extraction of surplus wealth from the African slave trade
and the vast expansion of the money supply that resulted
from the flood of new world gold and silver. The result was
colonial enslavement by Europe of the rest of the world

1500-1900
Western Europe
Germany, France, England, etc
Rest of World
including Russia, China, United States, Africa, etc.
Technology
What was "high tech" at the time?
1500-1600
(under construction) (under construction) (under construction)
1600-1700
1520's to the 1820's The african slave trade depopulated and destablized African kingdoms as between 10 and 50 million slaves were taken from West and Central Africa to destinations in the West where they were sold to provide the labour needed for the sugar, cotton and tobacco plantations in America and Brazil. (Links: 1 2 3 4 5 6 ) (under construction)
1700-1800
Western Europe

 

 

 

1789 French Revolution begins with storming of the Bastille

1794 Robespierre (under whom the French revolution reaches its peak) is guillotined as counter-revolution matures. France is now ruled by the bourgeoisie. By 1799, a successful general, Napoleon Bonaparte, gains power

Rest of world

(Need section here on British enslavement of India ...)

1776-83 War between Britain and North American colonies

technology
1760's-1780's Lavoisier (1) demonstrates conservation of mass in chemical reactions, (2) works out composition of atmosphere, (3) explains combustion as chemical combination with oxygen and (4) shows that animal respiration is a form of combustion
1779 Discovery of photsynthesis (metabolism by plants involving carbon dioxide, oxygen and light)
1783 Hot air balloon

industrial revolution begins

1787 First practical steam engine
1790 Steam engine is used to power textile machinery, represents the beginning of the factory system
1794 Cotton gin ("gin" was short for "engine") plucks cotton fibers from seeds mechanically. This results in 50-fold increase in the production of cotton and, as a result, slavery in the southern US increases
By 1800 500 steam engines are in use in Britain

1800-1850
Western Europe

1815 Final defeat of Napolean

 

 

 

1838-48 Chartist movement in Britain advocates such reforms as the right to vote and the secret ballot

1848 Revolutionary uprisings in France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Hungary, etc. In the midst of this, the Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Fredrick Engles appears.

Rest of world

1810-21 Mexican war of independence against Spain. (Links: 1 2)
1819 Simon Bolivar leads national movements against Spanish rule, liberates Venezuela, Columbia and Boliva (which was named after him). In the same period nationalist struggles also liberate Chile and Argentina

1830 Dutch crush the last native revolt in Indonesia

1839-42 Opium War. Britain defeats China's attempt to stop the opium trade and gains Hong Kong

1845-48 U.S. invades Mexico and seizes nearly half of its territory (California, Texas, Colorado, etc)

technology
1801 Mass production (a step toward the assembly line) is used to fulfill contract for 10,000 muskets
1807 Gas lighting used on London streets
1808 Atomic theory of matter developed
1810 The process of canning food is developed
1811 First fully operational steamboat
1814 Steam locomotive revolutionaizes land transportation
1830's Steam press makes newspapers affordable for workers, literacy becomes widespread
1839 Photography becomes practical
1841 standardized threaded screws
1844 Telegraph
1846 Sewing machine
1846 Ether used as anesthetic in surgery (making operations less like torture)
1847-50 First and second laws of thermodynamics discovered: "you can't win" (ie: conservation of energy) and "you can't break even" (ie: any closed system loses usable energy, so a perpetual motion machine is impossible)
1848 Marx and Engels assert (correctly) that the victory of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie is inevitable
1849 Speed of light measured
1850-1900
Western Europe
1864 1st International (ie: "International Workingmen's Association") created with inspiration from Karl Marx. It is dissolved a dozen years later.

1871 Paris Commune--the first dictatorship of the proletariat is crushed after less than three months. Tens of thousands of communards are massacred. (links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 )
1863-1875 German Social-Democratic Party (the original "communist" party, advised and assisted by Marx and Engels) is created. (The founding Gotha Congress of 1875 prompts Marx to write the famous "Critique of the Gotha Program" where he summarized a communist economy as: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!")
1878-1890 anti-socialist law introduced by Bismark outlaws the German Social-Democratic Party, trade unions and the legal socialist press. However socialists are allowed to run in elections and illegal papers were circulated underground. By 1890 the party was the largest political party in Germany with 1.4 million votes. By 1895, the party had 75 papers, 39 of which were dailies and some of which had circulations over 100,000.
1889 2nd International (the "Socialist International") created by social-democratic parties of Germany and other countries
Rest of world
1771-1900 India One estimate is that 100 million died in famines that were a direct result of British exploitation.

1850-1866 Tai-ping rebellion in China (actually a civil war) attracts many famine-stricken peasants, workers and miners with the slogan "share property in common". It is suppressed by the Manchu dynasty and the foreign powers that occupied China at the cost of 20 million lives. It will inspire both the communists and nationalists of the twentieth century.

1861 Russia -- Serfs officially emancipated (althou they could still be flogged for minor offenses up to 1903)

1861-65, US Civil War

technology
1854 Safe elevator makes tall buildings practical
1856 Blast furnace makes cheap steel possible
1856 First synthetic dye
1859 Darwin (after years of hesitation) publishes Origin of the Species explaining evolution as the central organizing principle in biology
1859 First oil well (Pennsylvania, US)
1860's Railroads used for troop transport in warfare, changing the size of scale of battles
1867 Breech-loaded rifle used in warfare

1860-80 Internal combustion engine developed
(ie: power comes from explosions inside
--not from steam outside
1887 First radio transmitter

 

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World Wars and Revolutions

World Wars I and II and the revolutions to which they gave birth
(and the counter-revolution which followed)

1900 to 1950
Western Europe
Germany, France, England, etc
Russia
China
Rest of World
including United States, Middle East, etc.
Technology
What was "high tech" at the time?
1900's

The European imperialist powers prepare for a major war

1900 Lenin creates Iskra to unite scattered underground Marxist groups

1902 Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party splits into two trends, known as the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks

1905 Workers' uprisings in Moscow and other Russian cities. It is eventually defeated.

1900-01 "Boxer Rebellion", a movement against the foreign control of China, is crushed by Japanese, Russian, French, German, British and US imperialism
1898-1910 US seizes Philippines, kills between 600,000 and a million Filipinos. U.S. General Shefter: "It may be necessary to kill half of the Filipinos in order that the remaining half of the population may be advanced to a higher plane of life than their present semi-barbarous state affords."
technology
1903 first airplane
1905 Einstein:
        E = MC2
1908 Haber process creates ammonia from nitrogen in atmosphere, making possible both artificial fertilizer and explosives in vast quantities
1908 Henry Ford uses "assembly line" to produce automobiles
1910's
Europe
Aug 1914 The great betrayal -- nearly all parties of the 2nd International solemnly declare "In the hour of danger we will not leave our fatherland unprotected" and vote for war credits--thereby putting their stamp of approval on the mutual slaughter of worker by worker known as the first World War
Russia

 

 

Feb 1917 - Tzar overthrown
Oct 1917 - Bolsheviks seize power
Summer 1918 - civil war unfolds, the former ruling class and landlords (supported by the armies of 14 imperialist powers) attempt to crush the Bolshevik revolution
Oct 1919 - 3rd International (the "Communist International", or CI) founded by Lenin.

China
1911 Manchu dynasty collapses, China ruled by warlords and foreign powers

 

 

1919 May 4th movement. Massive student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square against the Beijing government and Japan

rest of world
1890 thru 1930's US military intervention more or less continuous in Latin America and Carribean (Argentina, Chile, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador) and Asia/Pacific (Philippines, China, Korea, Hawaii, Samoa, Guam) and elsewhere (Russia, Yugoslavia, Turkey)
1911 Structure of atom determined
1911 Charge of electron measured
1910's Theory of continental drift proposed (and ridiculed)
1910's Motion pictures become popular
1916 Quick-freezing of food developed (an improvement over canning)
1918 Size of the Milky Way (ie: our galaxy) is measured
1920's
Europe

1922 Mussolini's "March on Rome", fascism begins in Europe

Russia
Winter 1920-21 - Bolsheviks win complete victory in civil war, but the economy is ruined

Spring 1921 - faced with widespread unrest and many armed rebellions, the Bolsheviks are forced to crush all opposition and severely limit democratic rights. If they had not done this they would have certainly been shoved aside and a "normal" bourgeois-landlord government would have returned to power. The repressive measures were intended to be temporary, emergency measures but (as we shall see) became permanent.
During this period famine (and diseases like typhoid that become epidemic during famine) kill an estimated twenty million people.
Spring 1922 - In his last major address to the party, Lenin warns the 11th congress that "History knows all sorts of metamorphoses" and that "the real and main danger" was that the party might degenerate along bourgeois lines but retain "communist flags inscribed with catchwords stuck all over the place". Shortly thereafter Lenin is incapacitated by a series of strokes. Lenin's political life will be over in a year.
The eventual restoration of democratic rights that are essential for a socialist society never took place because by the time the economy had been restored (a necessary condition for democratic rights) the party has degenerated.

Late 1920's - Stalin consolidates his power, Trotsky is exiled. This is probably also the period in which the counter-revolution is consolidated. By this time "Marxism-Leninism" has been turned into the opposite of everything for which Marx and Lenin struggled; transformed into a state religion used to justify the permanent suppression of the independent political voice and independent political life of the working class.
China
1921 Chinese Communist Party founded

 

 

 

 

 

 

1927 Chiang Kai-shek massacres thousands of communists in Shanghai with whom he had been allied. Communists then set up soviets in distant Jiangxi and other rural bases and soon control areas with a population of 50 million

rest of world

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1929 Depression in US spreads to the rest of the world (except Soviet Union)

technology

1920 First radio broadcasting station

1920's Electricty becomes widespread

1920's Telephone becomes widespread

1930's
Europe
1933 Hitler appointed to power by Hindenburg, communists are suppressed, no more free elections.
Western imperialist powers arm and finance Hitler, whom they see as the surgeon who can excise the Bolshevik cancer. For the same reason they follow the so-called policy of "appeasement" (ie: let Hitler grab territory as his "down payment" for his eventual invasion of the Soviet Union)
Russia

 

 

1935 Hoping to persuade the Western imperialist powers to put a leash on Hitler (whom they have armed and financed), Stalin orchestrates the liquidation of the revolutionary character of communist parties worldwide at 7th Congress of the CI (ie: the Dimitrov "United Front Against Fascism" congress)

1936-37 The Great Purges

1939 Stalin outmanuevers Western imperialist powers by signing non-agression pack with Hitler. Hitler invades Poland, Russia gains two more precious years to prepare for the inevitable Nazi invasion

China
1933-4 Chiang Kai-shek encircles Jiangxi. In various sieges, up to a million people die in the fighting and of starvation and disease brought on by the blockade. After suffering many defeats, Chiang Kai-shek, with help from one of Hitler's best generals, begins to close the noose
Oct '34- Oct '35 The Long March: 86,000 Red Army soldiers escape encirclement at Jiangxi and other bases. After marching 6,000 miles over 24 rivers, 18 mountain ranges and vast swamps 8,000 survivors reach base near Yenan
1937 Japan invades China, massacres quarter million civilians in "Rape of Nanking"
rest of world

 

 

1935--U.S. Following the signal from the 7th CI, CPUSA begins historic degeneration, liquidates its independent work and tails Roosevelt

technology

 

1930's Radio becomes widespread

1940's
Europe
 

 

1945 Germany and Europe (and Korea) are split between Russia and the Western imperialist powers. These become boundaries during "the cold war"

Russia
June '41 Hitler invades Russia
Nov '42 - Jan '43 Nazi army has back broken at Stalingrad

Apr '45 Russian forces reach Berlin--but by this time German fascism has killed 30 million Russians

China
1940 Japan launched a military campaign named by the Chinese "Kill all, Burn all, Loot all". Estimates of deaths range between twenty and thirty-four million

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1949 Mao's forces win total victory. Chiang Kai-shek retreats to Taiwan where he is protected by the U.S. navy.

rest of world
1945 US uses nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to demonstrate its power and intimidate its Soviet rival for world hedgemony
1947 India and Pakistan gain independence from Britain. Huge massacres are carried out during the partition as Hindus and Muslims are incited to attack one another. 10 million people are forced to flee from one country to the other. Up to one million are killed.
1948 Israel created with help from world imperialism as a colonial-style outpost in the strategic oil-rich part of the world. 800,000 Palestinians are forced to flee by guns and terror in what has become known as the nakba (ie: "catastrophe"). They are never allowed to return to their homes.
technology
1944 rockets and jet planes
1945 nuclear weapons

1947 invention of transistor

 

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The Cold War

Confrontation and proxy wars between US imperialism (and its allies)
and the state-capitalist regimes that emerged from failed revolutions

1950 to 2000
United States
and Latin America
Russia
and Europe
China
Rest of world
Africa, Middle East, South & SE Asia
Technology
What was "high tech"
at the time?
1950's
1954 Arbenz, national reformist leader of Guatemala expropriates some American plantations and is overthrown in CIA-backed coup. Large scale massacres kill a hundred thousand over the next several decades

1959 Fidel Castro leads successful revolution to overthrow the Batista dictatorship. The expropriation of the property of the wealthy leads to hostility from the US and the development of an alliance between Cuba and the Soviet Union

 

 

1956 Krushchev's "secret" speech denouncing Stalin leads to split with the Chinese and Albanians

early 1950's Chinese political and economic system is largely modeled after the degenerated Soviet system in which, on the one hand, there is a radical redistribution of wealth and transformation of property relations to the benefit of the workers and peasants but, on the other hand, a new elite is created that exploits the workers and peasants and suppresses all opposition

1956 Hundred flowers campaign: "Let a hundred flowers blossom, Let a hundred schools of thought contend" encourages criticism of the party and the expression of a wide range of views in science and culture
1957 "Anti-Rightist Struggle" launched when criticism goes too far and questions the legitimacy of Party leadership. Thousands are imprisoned or exiled
1958-60 Great Leap Forward--In the process of building an economy without Russian help disastrous experiments result in hardship and famine. One million may have perished in the famine.

1950-53 Korean War -- first of a series of proxy wars during the cold war. 2 million killed. US imperialism is pushed back by Chinese peasant army

1948-54 Philippines -- CIA directs war against Huk Rebellion

1953 Mossadeq, national reformist leader of Iran nationalizes oil refineries and is overthrown in CIA-backed coup and replaced by hated shah Pahlavi

1953 The genetic code is discovered to be DNA
1957 World's first satelite, Sputnik, launched by Soviet Union
1958 First integrated circuit or chip
late 50's Television develops a mass audience
1960's
US / Latin America
1961 US proxy army invades Cuba at Bay of Pigs, gets its butt kicked

1968 Antiwar protests at the Democratic Party national convention in Chicago are attacked by thousands of police on live TV. The antiwar movement becomes massive and very militant, with the most serious activists taking up marxism and creating revolutionary organizations

Russia

 

1961 At Moscow meeting of 81 parties the split between the Soviet revisionists on the one hand and the Chinese and Albanians on the other hand has become very sharp. This will lead to the Cultural Revolution in China.

China
1966 Mao Tse-tung launches the Culural Revolution to enlist the masses in his struggle against rival sections of the party leadership who want to follow the Soviet model. For the masses this represented a struggle to prevent China from following the revisionist Soviet path--where a new class of exploiters had come to power. (Links: 1, 2)
1967-68 The Cutural Revolution spins "out of control" and threatens chnages more fundamental than Mao bargained for. Mao uses the army to suppress the so-called "ultra-left" and exile millions of Red Guards to the countryside
rest of world
1961 Lumumba, national reformist leader of Congo is ordered killed by Eisenhower and replaced by the brutal dictator Mobutu who will later drive the Congo (a country bursting with natural resources) into the depths of poverty and finally civil war.
1965 US begins lengthy direct war against Vietnamese liberation struggle
1967 US client Israel grabs the West Bank, Gaza, the Sinai and the Golan Heights. Israeli settlement building begins in the West Bank and Gaza as part of a long-range plan to drive out the remaining Palestinians
technology
1962 A communications satellite, Telstar, makes the first transmission of live television across the Atlantic Ocean

1960's Accumulation of evidence supports theory of continental drift (which had been ridiculed when it has been proposed in the 1930's) as a central organizing principle of geology

1970's
US / Latin America
1973 CIA-backed coup ousts national reformist Allende, installs Pinochet. The usual bloodbath follows.

1974-80 Nixon, whose obvious lies tended to discredit the highest bourgeois office, is replaced, in 1976 by a smiling Sunday school preacher (Carter), then by a Hollywood actor

Russia
1979 Soviet Union invades Afghanistan in response to CIA giving money and arms to Islamic fundamentalists (like bin Laden) inside Afghanistan. Twenty years of civil war result, killing one and a half million people
China
1971 Lin Biao dies in power struggle with Mao
1972 Mao and Nixon kiss one another while bombs are falling like rain in Vietnam

 

1978 After Mao's death in 1976 China openly follows the path of capitalist development combined with political control by the party

rest of world
1971 American army officers by this time are more afraid of fragging by their own soldiers than combat with the Viet Cong (it is estimated that 20% to 25% of officers killed in the war were fragged)
1975 National liberation war of Vietnamese people is victorious. Total war dead is approximately 3 million (mostly civilian, mostly killed by US bombing)
1978 Shah overthrown in Iran. A power struggle erupts between Islamic fundamentalists and the progressive left
technology

early 70's predecessor of internet expands

1980's
US / Latin America
1981-90 Nicaragua -- CIA plants harbor mines and organizes Contra (exile) invasion to strangle the Sandinista revolution
Russia

 

1989 Various revisionist (ie: pseudo-communist) regimes collapse in Eastern Europe.

China

 

1989 June 4 Tiananmen massacres--Party leaders order brutal suppression of mass protests against inflation and rampant corruption. Hundreds (or thousands) are killed in Beijing and other major cities

rest of world
1980-88 Iraq invades Iran with encouragement and funding from US imperialism. The war makes it possible for the Islamic fundamentalist regime in Iran to suppress the left. Approximately one million people will die in this war
technology
1983 Cell phone
early to mid 80's Affordable personal computers developed and widely adopted
1990's
US / Latin America

 

Not much of world historic significance during this decade.

Russia
1991 Last remnants of revisionist system and other fossils are shoved aside as "free market capitalism" emerges in Russia. Russian mafia and oligarchs run much of the economy. Economy plummets. Living conditions plummet. Life expectancy plummets.
China
1999 China's export driven capitalist economy results in an expansion of China's national income estimated to average nearly 10% a year from 1978 to 1999 (approximately a seven-fold increase: 1, 2). China, with 1.3 billion people, has the highest sustained growth rate in the world and a Gross Domestic Product of $900 billion (7th in the world after the US, Japan, Germany, France, Britain and Italy with respective GDP's of $7.8, 4.2, 2.1, 1.4, 1.3 and 1.1 trillion). However nearly a hundred million migrant workers are left either unemployed or living at the margins of existence in scenes like those described by Charles Dickens.
rest of world
1991 US destroys much of the Iraqi economy during the Gulf War. Water purification facilities are deliberately destroyed. Half a million to a million Iraqis will die over the next decade as a result of this bombing and the sanctions that follow

1999 US bombs Serbia and Kosovo

technology
1990's Rapid, automated sequencing of DNA lays foundations for future advances in medicine.

mass digital communications revolution begins

1994-99 Internet usage explodes with development of the web. (Dot com boom will be followed by dot com bust)

 

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The Future

Leading up to, during and after
the rule of society by the working class

The 21st Century
Politics, Economics and Culture
Technology
Probably early in the 21st Century
Digital fire:
The working class learns to make systematic use of the revolution in communications technology to organize itself and create its own channels to the masses. "Information warfare" takes on a new meaning as the proletariat finds itself with the means and ability to challenge the supremacy of the bourgeois ideology, worldview and control of the news, first on text-based channels, and eventually on all media.
Internet communication devices: fast, cheap and out of control
Probably around the middle of the 21st Century
First workers' state under modern conditions:
The first workers state under modern conditions features open competition between multiple workers' parties and fundamental democratic rights for workers to speak their minds and form organizations to win mass support against incompetence, hypocrisy and corruption in their own government.
read more ...
The majority of the world's population has internet access which is cheap as sand and as easy to use as blowing your nose.
Possibly by the end of the 21st Century
Self-Organizing Moneyless Economy
based on the principle of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need", will not be based on money, capital, commodities or wages but will consist of myriad self-organizing assemblies of economic units in competition with one another to most efficiently transform skilled labor and other resources into forms of social wealth serving the the material and cultural needs of the masses. The forms in which the masses (thru their organization as producers, consumers and shapers of public opinion -- and the struggles flowing from and in turn heightening their consciousness) would effectively control the economy, culture and politics -- would be as advanced compared to the method of leaving the real decisions and real authority in the hands of either the marketplace, elected representatives or all-powerful central planners -- as the dexterity and deftness of the human hand is to the pseudopod of an amoeba.
read more ...
Internet devices are everywhere, cost essentially nothing and let you do almost anything.

 

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2. Help me make this chart more useful What do I need to add or change?


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2. Help me make this chart more useful:

I need your help to make this chart better. I need to know:

  • what events of world historic significance I have left out,
  • what I have summarised badly, and also
  • what kind of things could be done to improve or develop this chart
    and make it more useful to readers.
Soon I will put a textbox here so that criticisms, ideas and suggestions can be sent to me at the click of a button. Unitl then you can send me email at: history-chart-68(at)Leninism.org

Obviously any chart of this type must leave out all sorts of events and developments.
I have tried to include only:
(a) events of world historic significance, and
(b) other well-known events that will help readers place matters into context.

This chart is somewhat euro-centric. This is for several reasons:
(a) Europe was the center of capitalist development for several centuries
     and came to dominate the world,
(b) European (and US) history is more well-known (and of interest) to most readers of this site, and
(c) Historical information about Europe (and the US) is easier for me to find and understand.

Eventually, however, this and other defects must be overcome. So let me hear your ideas!

This chart was partially inspired by Asimov's Chronology of the World, by Isaac Asimov. Asimov has his limitations as a thinker because, like most intellectuals in our society, he tends to see the development of ideas as revolving around logic and reason--rather than being rooted in classes that have opposing material interests: as if the ancient Romans maintained slavery because they lacked enlightenment. However Asimov is one of the better (and most prolific) science writers, ever, and is highly recommended.

Also recommended is The Cartoon History of the Universe by Larry Gonick.


Finally, please check out some of my other work and projects at: http://struggle.net/ben. And, if my work seems like it might be of interest to you, I encourage you to subscribe to a small elist I maintain that will send you updates once or twice a year.

Sincerely,
Ben Seattle
Information theorist and infrastructure architect
----//-// 22.Aug.2002