Post Author: Bill Pratt
National Socialism (Nazism) and Marxism are, for the most part, dead and buried as movements. However, it is incumbent on us, the caretakers of the cemetery, to remind everyone of the past so that it won’t be repeated.
Perhaps you believe that we are just beating a dead horse by mentioning the profound effects that Darwin’s ideas had on the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I disagree. Darwin’s ideas, although certainly blunted and modified over time, are still an important foundation for our culture.
The theme of “survival of the fittest” can be found everywhere in the entertainment industry. Just take a look at the recent TV series Revolution. This post-apocalyptic narrative of life on earth after electrical power ceases repeatedly trades on the idea that civilized men revert back to savages when food and shelter become more scarce. As a culture, we continue to be fascinated by Darwin’s ideas.
So what movements found allies in Darwin in the beginning of the 20th century? Philosopher David Stove, in his book Darwinian Fairytales, first briefly recounts the connection between Darwin’s ideas and National Socialism.
It is less well known, but still is fairly well known, that Adolf Hitler found or thought he found an authorization for his policies in the Darwinian theory of evolution. He said, for example, that “if we did not respect the law of nature, imposing our will by the right of the stronger, a day would come when the wild animals would again devour us-then the insects would eat the wild animals, and finally nothing would exist except the microbes. By means of the struggle the elites are continually renewed. The law of selection justifies this incessant struggle by allowing the survival of the fittest. Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature.”
Hitler justified his policies because he was merely acting on the “law of selection” that demands that only the fit survive. Stove continues with a description of the link between Darwinism and Marxism.
What deserves to be well known, but has in fact been virtually forgotten, is this: that if Darwinism once furnished a justification, retrospective or prospective, for the crimes of . . . National Socialists, it performed the same office to an even greater extent, between about 1880 and 192o, for the crimes, already committed or still to be committed, of Marxists.
It is in fact scarcely possible to exaggerate the extent to which Marxist thought in this period incorporated Darwinism as an essential component. Marxists do not believe, of course, that there will be any struggle for life among human beings in the future classless society. But it was that Darwinian conception which Marxists at this time adopted as their description of human life under capitalism.
In part 2, we will look at some examples of period Marxist literature which lean on Darwin’s ideas for their justification.