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.
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.