Was Darwinism Connected to National Socialism and Marxism? Part 2

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

In part 1 philosopher David Stove reminded us what countless other historians have already noted, that the National Socialists drew justification of their policies from Darwin’s ideas. Stove then reminded us that Marxist writers also drew inspiration from Darwin. Not content to merely state the connection, Stove presents evidence:

The reader can easily verify this statement, by opening any Marxist book, pamphlet, or newspaper of that period, whether written by an American Marxist, a Russian one, a German, or whatever. For example, an American book which borrowed its title from Darwin and Wallace, The Struggle for Existence, and which, despite being a very large volume, had reached its seventh edition by about 1904: what sort of book would that have been? Hardly anyone nowadays could guess the right answer to this question. But to anyone familiar with the Marxist literature of this period, the right answer will he obvious: it was a manual of Marxism.

Stove continues:

In Russia in the 1880s, numerous small groups contended with one another for the leadership of the entire communist-terrorist movement. Sergius Stepniak was the leader of one of these groups, and he published a collection of his pamphlets, Nihilism As It Is, in about 1893. In this book he rests his own group’s claim to the leadership on its having arisen, from other “incomplete organizations, by virtue of natural selection” under Czarist pressure.

Of course Stepniak and W. T. Mills (who wrote The Struggle for Existence) are authors now forgotten. But not all the authors who combined Marxism with Darwinism have been forgotten. Jack London is one who has not. Another is Upton Sinclair, whose powerful Marxist novel The Jungle (1906) portrays life in Chicago under capitalism as life in a Darwinian Jungle.

Yet another is August Behel, the leader of Marxist Social Democracy in Germany in the late nineteenth century. His main book – and a good book too – was Woman Under Socialism (1879), which is a perfect example of the blending of Darwinism with Marxism, especially in Chapter V of its longest section, “Woman in the present.” The 1904 English translation of this book, I may add, was from the thirty-third German edition: a fact which will indicate how far from being idiosyncratic was Bebel’s combination of Darwinism with Marxism.

So Darwinism, in addition to National Socialism, was also tied to Marxism in the late 19th and early 20th century. In part 3, we will look at the implications for Darwin’s theory. Why has it been put to use by the worst mass murderers of the 20th century? Stay tuned.

  • “Another is Upton Sinclair, whose powerful Marxist novel The Jungle (1906) portrays life in Chicago under capitalism as life in a Darwinian Jungle.”

    So is Marxism being set out here as an ALTERNATIVE to the ‘Darwinian Jungle’? If so, I don’t see how this is an example of Darwinism being ‘connected’ to Marxism. Unless ‘connected’ is being used here to include ‘being opposed to’, in which case you can say theism and atheism are ‘connected’.

    “it was a manual of Marxism”

    What ideas from ‘Darwinism’ did it draw on? All we’re given here is its title, with no context as to how it was being used. For all we know Marxism was being offered in the book as an escape from the “Struggle for Existence”.

    The problem, Bill, as you hinted at in Part 1 of this, is that Marxists and Communists were were opposed to Capitalism, and Capitalism is basically Darwinism applied to business. The phrase ‘Survival of the Fittest’ was coined to describe not nature, but Capitalism. I don’t get how you can connect either to Darwinism except that they may well be described as a reaction AGAINST it. In which case you might as well say the New Atheists were heavily influenced by the Bible. Or, given that one can also find much Capitalist literature that discusses competition in Darwinian terms, you can simply conclude that Darwinism (like religion) had a huge influence on all areas of thought, and it’s pointless to cherry pick ones you see as negative.

  • Stove’s point is that both National Socialist and Marxist writers used Darwin’s ideas to forward their political positions, to bolster their ideologies. The connection seems obvious to me.

    Political ideologues who want to justify their position can portray mankind in a constant struggle to survive, with the winners coming out on top. From there is a small step to an ethics of “might makes right.”

    Darwin’s original ideas fit like a glove with people who wanted to throw out traditional morality and justify their actions by “might makes right.”

  • As Staircaseghost pointed out, there’s an ‘Is/Ought’ fallacy there.

    On top of that, Natural Selection isn’t ‘might makes right’, so there’s no justification in Darwinism anyway for that viewpoint. Sometimes the victor in nature is simply the one that needs the least food to survive (many large carnivores find it difficult to survive simply because they need to so much food to sustain their size and muscles). Sometimes it’s the ones that can produce the most offspring. Sometimes it’s a small vegetarian that happens to be poisonous to predators.

    The phrase ‘nature red in tooth and claw’ existed long before Darwin. People already say nature as being vicious before him. If anything, since Darwin we’ve come to understand symbiotic relationships in nature more, and how it’s NOT the strongest that always survives. If anything Darwinism has shown that one cannot say ‘might always wins’.

    “to bolster their ideologies”

    Marxism isn’t ‘Might makes right’ anyway. At its basis is that the weaker workers need protection from the overlord bosses. Marxism is in direct opposition to Capitalism, which is equivalent to being opposed to ‘Survival of the fittest’.

    “Darwin’s original ideas fit like a glove with people who wanted to throw out traditional morality”

    Again, is/ought fallacy. Darwin observing something happens doesn’t mean that thing is ‘right’. Any more than a historian describing the holocaust is endorsing the extermination of Jews.

  • staircaseghost

    Jumpin’ Jesus on a pogo stick, Bill.

    Someone compares Darwinism to a system they strongly oppose in a vicious satire, but this still counts because they “used” it?

    I guess since your posts repeatedly reference or “use” Darwinism, that Darwin is also responsible for Christian apologetics?

  • staircaseghost

    Note the continual usage of weasel words like “used” and “connected to”.

    Bill Pratt will never produce a citation of Darwin claiming to have “proved totalitarianism”, because he knows there is no such thing.

    Nor will he produce an argument that it logically implies or entails totalitarianism, because he knows it does not.

    So we are left with a kind of campaign of smear-by-association, a kind of sympathetic magic where a person simply “using” or “being connected to” something means that something is responsible for that person’s actions.

  • “Someone compares Darwinism to a system they strongly oppose in a vicious satire”

    Is that what’s been referred to here? That’s shocking if Stove knew that but didn’t make it clear when making his argument. I guessed it would be something like that but thanks for the confirmation, L’esprit d’escalier.

  • Please read the comments policy. Consider this to be strike 1.

  • staircaseghost

    Strange how me saying explicitly that you are not lying about what Darwin thought or wrote, and not giving an argument you know to be fallacious is a personal attack. However I am quite happy to leave you alone for ever and ever, depending on your answer to my next question:

    Do you at any time intend to address 1) the contradiction between your claims that atheists simultaneously cannot go from ought to is, and yet here you are saying evolution produces all kinds of oughts 2) the fact that this series has the logical form of smear-by-association rather than any straightforward argument, 3) the fact that you are counting someone who satirizes social darwinism as “using it”, and oh what the heck, let’s throw in 4) you are pretty much saying, even if only through innuendo, that me and Andrew and every skeptic who reads or posts to your blog are Nazis?

  • strike 2

  • Stephen B

    Can’t you just address his points?

  • Point 1:
    I have never said that evolution produces “all kinds of oughts.” That is just a gross misunderstanding of my position. Please show me where I ever said this.

    Point 2:
    It only seems like a smear because we are living in 2013 and most of us no longer view Darwinism in the same way that folks did in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If you could go back in time and talk to Marxists and National Socialists, I have no doubt that most of them would be proud to stand up for their use of Darwin’s ideas to justify their actions. They believed that Darwin’s ideas were true.

    Point 3:
    Stove provided examples of Marxist literature to show that they did indeed use Darwin’s theory to further their ideas. Not having read the authors he quotes, I don’t know exactly how they employed Darwin’s ideas in each case; Stove doesn’t give that information.

    However, his general point is that Marxists employed Darwinian ideas to justify their taking power.

    Point 4:
    Really? I am implying that every skeptic is a Nazi? For anyone who has read any number of my blog posts, they would know that this accusation is ridiculous, outrageous, asinine, (fill in as many adjectives as you’d like).

  • Stephen B

    “If you could go back in time…”

    Unfortunately though we can’t, so we need actual evidence to support Stove’s claims. Saying you have no doubts yourself is not evidence either.

    “I don’t know exactly how they employed Darwin’s ideas in each case; Stove doesn’t give that information.”

    You’re not at all concerned that he doesn’t provide such information? It should be key to his argument. For example, one of the books Stove references to bolster his claim: “…portrays life in Chicago under capitalism as life in a Darwinian Jungle”

    Given that Marxists were AGAINST capitalism, which do you think is more likely here:

    1) That the book uses Darwinism to justify Marxist ideas; or

    2) That the book is actual CRITICAL of Darwinist ideas?

    As you consider the two options, ask yourself how it could be possible that the book portrays Darwinism as supporting Marxist ideals at the same time as linking capitalism to the ‘Darwinian Jungle’.

  • no Hitler got all his ideas from Houston Nelson Chamberlain, who EXPLICITLY rejected evolution,and the Nazis even banned Charles Darwin’s books and Stalin and Mao banned the teaching of Darwinian evolution in his schools in favour of Lamarckianism

  • no Marxists used Lamackian theories, they constantly denouced Darwin