Was Darwinism Connected to National Socialism and Marxism? Part 1

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.

4 thoughts on “Was Darwinism Connected to National Socialism and Marxism? Part 1”

  1. “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.”

    Hitler denied that speciation could occur. He also banned books on evolution.

    “Hitler justified his policies because he was merely acting on the “law of selection” that demands that only the fit survive.”

    He also justified his policies on the basis that he was carrying out the will of God. This was a theme he returned to again and again, far more than to any ideas of nature.

    And if he truly believed that the process of the stronger triumphing over the weak happened naturally, then he wouldn’t have needed to exterminate those he deemed to be weak – he would have believed the weak would have died off naturally without his intervention.

    What Hitler attempted to practice was in fact ‘artificial selection’.

    And of course, ‘survival of the fittest’ doesn’t actually mean ‘survival of the strongest’ anyway, or rabbits wouldn’t outnumber tigers!

  2. So the apologist tells us that an ethics of brutal totalitarianism are the straightforward logical implications of believing things like “whales and elephants share a more recent common ancestor than whales and salmon.”

    And yet apologists also tell me, over and over (and over and over and over, sometimes even writing seven-part series on their blogs about it) that it is logically impossible to derive any ethical conclusions if evolution is true, since there is no objective morality, one can’t derive an ought from an is, etc.

    Which set of apologists is wrong on this issue?

  3. There’s another mixed message. In the last series on this blog based on Stove’s book, Stove said Darwinism should mean all men fighting each other all the time, with no room for collaboration. Now Stove is arguing that Hitler forming a huge, disciplined, millions-strong army all working to a common goal must be influenced by Darwinism. If the latter is in fact true, then why did Stove reject the idea that ‘cave men’ joining together for a common goal couldn’t be consistent with Darwinism?

  4. Why did the Nazis put “God is With Us” on all their uniforms? Why did the Marxists violently oppose social darwinism? Why was Darwin literally banned in the Soviet Union? Why doesn’t a single one of the dreaded “New Atheists” advocate totalitarianism, or its philosophical opposite, laissez-faire capitalism, which evolution somehow manages to equally entail?

    Best not to think of these things. Because the truth — excuse me, The Truth — is simple, and historical facts are complicated. So we should ignore that which is complicated, and hew to that which is simple: evolution is bad Bad BAD!

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