Charles Darwin and materialist science; Darwin the reluctant revolutionary

Two articles by Canadian Marxist Ian Angus discuss the important legacy of Charles Darwin in the 200th year since his birth and the 150th anniversary year of the publication of On the Origin of Species. This first article appeared in Canada's Socialist Voice, and the second in the Britain's Socialist Resistance. Ian Angus will be a featured guest at the World at a Crossroads conference, to be held in Sydney, Australia, on April 10-12, 2009, organised by the Democratic Socialist Perspective, Resistance and Green Left Weekly. Visit for full agenda and to book your tickets.

Darwin and materialist science

By Ian Angus

Socialist Voice -- February 12, 2009 is Darwin Day, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. His masterwork, On the Origin of Species, was published 150 years ago, in November 1859, initiating a revolution in science that continues to this day.

Although Darwin’s political views were far from radical, his insights became the central weapons in the battle to establish materialist science as the basis for our understanding of the world, and contributed to the development of Marxism.

Charles Robert Darwin was, to say the least, an unlikely revolutionary. His father was a prominent physician and wealthy investor; his grandfather was Josiah Wedgwood, founder of one of the largest manufacturing companies in Europe. He could have lived a life of leisure — instead he devoted his life to science.

After graduating from Cambridge in 1831, 22-year-old Charles Darwin boarded the British survey ship HMS Beagle as an unpaid naturalist, subsidised by his doting father. When he returned after five years, he had thousands of pages of scientific observations, over 1500 carefully preserved specimens — and growing doubts about the dominant scientific and religious ideas of his day.

A heretical conclusion

At that time, Darwin wrote in his 1861 introduction to Origin, “the great majority of naturalists believed that species were immutable productions, and had been separately created”. Biblical literalists and deists alike agreed that species were fixed by divine law. Dogs might vary in appearance, but dogs don’t give birth to cats.

After five years of travel and two years of study at home, Darwin came to a heretical conclusion: species were not immutable. All animals were descended from common ancestors, different species resulted from gradual changes over millions of years, and God had nothing to do with it.

It is difficult today to understand how shocking this idea would be to the middle and upper classes of Darwin’s time. Religion wasn’t just the “opium of the masses”— it gave the wealthy moral justification for their privileged lives in a world of constant change and gross inequality. The world was unfolding according to God’s wishes, and anyone who questioned that endangered the very fragile social order.

Nevertheless, by the 1830s educated people knew that the Genesis creation story couldn’t be literally true. The rise of capitalism in the 1700s had led to booms in mining and canal building: those works exposed geological layers and ancient fossils that clearly contradicted the idea of a recently-created earth.

In the same period, imperialism led to global exploration and the discovery of more varieties of plant and animal life than any European had ever imagined. Why had the Creator been so extravagant? And why, if each animal was created separately, were their underlying structures so similar — why do bats’ wings, whales’ flippers, lions’ paws and human hands all contain the same bones?

Many attempts were made to preserve a central role for God and creation in the face of this evidence. Perhaps the most sophisticated was developed in the 1850s by Richard Owen, head of natural science at the British Museum and inventor of the word “dinosaur”. He argued that all animals are variations on ideas — “archetypes” — in God’s mind. God “foreknew all variations” on those archetypes and made them real in forms that would suit various environments or situations over time.

At the opposite end of the philosophical spectrum, the great French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck offered a non-religious explanation. He proposed that there is a “chain of being”, a ladder of life, with single-celled animals at the bottom and humans at the top. Nature constantly and spontaneously creates new creatures that have an innate drive to climb the ladder, becoming more complex, or perfect, over time.

As they climb, they also adapt to environmental changes: giraffes have long necks because their ancestors had to stretch to reach high leaves, while fish that live in caves are blind because their ancestors’ vision declined as a result of disuse. This concept was not central to Lamarck’s theory, but “inheritance of acquired characteristics” has since become inextricably connected to his name.

A materialist explanation

While Lamarck and others just speculated that species changed over time, Darwin provided convincing evidence. More important, he showed that it happened by natural processes, without any help from gods or mysterious progressive forces. That is, his explanation of evolution was materialist.

In Darwin’s theory, three factors combine to create new species: variation, inheritance and natural selection. There are many differences between the members of any species, and those differences will result in some individuals being more likely to survive environmental changes and so pass on their variations to the next generation. Over long periods of time, such variations will spread through the population, while any that reduce the possibility of reproduction will decline. Eventually the accumulation of new characteristics results in new species.

Darwin developed the key elements of his theory by 1838, but didn’t publish it because he knew how hostile the scientific community of his day was to both materialism and evolution. Only after 20 years, when he had become one of the best-known and most respected naturalists in England, did he finally make his heresy public.

On the Origin of Species was an instant best seller. The publisher printed 1250 copies but received orders for 1500 copies on the first day. A second edition of 3000 copies followed in a few weeks, and some 110,000 copies were sold in England by the end of the century.

While Darwin’s ideas were quickly accepted by many scientists, especially younger ones, they were roundly condemned by the scientific establishment and by religious leaders. Adam Sedgwick, Darwin’s geology professor at Cambridge, called On the Origin of Species “utterly false and grievously mischievous” and declared his “detestation of the theory, because of its unflinching materialism”, while Richard Owen denounced it as an “abuse of science.”

Marx and Engels and Darwin

Outside official scientific circles, Darwin’s ideas found strong support in the workers' movement. Friedrich Engels said Origin was “absolutely splendid”, and Karl Marx called it “the book which contains the basis in natural history for our view”.

Marx’s friend Wilhelm Liebknecht later recalled that “when Darwin drew the conclusions from his research work and brought them to the knowledge of the public, we spoke of nothing else for months but Darwin and the enormous significance of his scientific discoveries”.

In Origin, Marx and Engels found a materialist explanation of nature’s history to complement and strengthen their materialist explanation of human history. They particularly valued Darwin’s demonstration that nature has a history that can be explained in materialist, natural terms. In Anti-Dühring, Engels wrote:

“Nature works dialectically and not metaphysically … she does not move in the eternal oneness of a perpetually recurring circle, but goes through a real historical evolution. In this connection, Darwin must be named before all others. He dealt the metaphysical conception of Nature the heaviest blow by his proof that all organic beings, plants, animals, and man himself, are the products of a process of evolution going on through millions of years.”

A triumph for humanity

Darwin spent most of the rest of his life researching evolution and natural selection, while his supporters defended his ideas against the most influential opinion leaders of his day. By the time he died in 1882, few scientists still disputed the fact of evolution—but it took much longer for most to accept the materialist core of Darwin’s work, that variation and natural selection are the processes that drive evolution. For decades scientists searched for an alternative to natural selection that would be compatible with the idealist conception that God, or some equivalent progressive tendency in nature, guided evolution upwards until humans emerged as the pinnacle of creation.

But twentieth-century genetic research proved that Darwin was right all along: that variations occur naturally, and that natural selection is the main force determining which variations survive and spread.

Darwin’s commitment to naturalist science has triumphed. No modern scientist, not even one with deep religious convictions, would today suggest that “then a miracle happened” is an acceptable explanation for anything in nature, including the origins, immense variety and constant changes in life on our planet.

This materialist victory in science is one of humanity’s greatest achievements. For that reason alone, no matter what his hesitations, delays or prejudices, Charles Darwin deserves to be remembered and honoured by everyone who looks forward to the ending of superstition and ignorance in all aspects of life.

The idea that nature has a history, that species come into existence, change and disappear through natural processes, is just as revolutionary, and just as important to socialist thought, as the idea that capitalism isn’t eternal but came into being at a given time and will one day disappear from the earth.

Darwin the reluctant revolutionary

By Ian Angus

Socialist Resistance -- In 1846, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote The German Ideology, the first mature statement of what became known as historical materialism. This passage was on the second page: “We know only a single science, the science of history. One can look at history from two sides and divide it into the history of nature and the history of men. The two sides are, however, inseparable; the history of nature and the history of men are dependent on each other so long as men exist. The history of nature, called natural science, does not concern us here...”

At the last minute, they deleted that paragraph from the final draft, deciding not even to mention a subject they had no time to investigate and discuss properly.

What the founders of scientific socialism couldn’t have known was that a compelling materialist explanation of the history of nature had already been written by an English gentleman who had no sympathy for socialism. They couldn’t read that account, because the author, Charles Darwin, was so shocked by the implications of his own ideas that he kept them secret for twenty years.

Darwin’s views on evolution were fully developed by 1838, and he wrote, then hid away, a 50,000-word essay on the subject in 1844. But he didn’t publish what Marx was to call his “epoch-making work” until 1859.

Darwin’s insight

Others had speculated about evolution before Charles Darwin, but the dominant view in scientific circles and society at large was that all the different types of plants and animals were created by God, and that the various species were forever fixed. The few who believed that species had changed over time couldn’t explain those changes without resort to the supernatural — that evolution was God’s long-term plan, or that some force (God by another name) caused nature to strive towards perfection.

What made Darwin’s work unique was not his assertion that evolution was a fact, but his entirely materialist explanation of how all of life’s wonderful variations and designs had come to be. He argued that the main factor in evolution is “natural selection”, a process that can be summarised simply.

1. All organisms produce more offspring than can possibly survive.

2. There are many differences between the individual members of any species.

3. Variations that increase individuals’ chances of surviving to reproduce are likely to be passed on to the next generation.

4. As a result, over long periods of time, such favourable characteristics will spread through the population, while harmful characteristics will decline, so the population as a whole will increasingly be better adapted to its environment.

5. If part of the population finds itself in a different environment, it will change in different ways, and those diverging changes can eventually lead to the development of separate species.

This simple and elegant concept took the evidence most commonly used to defend creationism — the seemingly perfect design of plants and animals — and explained it by natural processes. In the words of twentieth century evolutionist Ernst Mayr, Darwin “replaced theological, or supernatural, science with secular science. … Darwin’s explanation that all things have a natural cause made the belief in a creatively superior mind quite unnecessary.”

Darwin’s delay

Darwin’s theory was entirely materialist at a time when materialism wasn’t just unpopular in respectable circles, it was considered subversive and politically dangerous. Between 1838 and 1848, while he was working out his ideas, England was swept by an unprecedented wave of mass actions, political protests and strikes. Radical ideas — materialist, atheistic ideas — were infecting the working class, leading many to expect (or fear) revolutionary change.

Darwin was never actively involved in politics, but he was a privileged member of the wealthy middle class and that class was under attack. As John Bellamy Foster writes, “Darwin was a strong believer in the bourgeois order. His science was revolutionary, but Darwin was not.”

Rather than risk being identified with the radicals, Darwin set evolution aside, and devoted the next years to writing a popular account of his voyage around the world, two scientific books on coral reefs and volcanic islands, and an exhaustive four-volume study of barnacles. Only in the mid-1850s, when his scientific reputation was assured, and the social turbulence of the 1840s was clearly over, did he return to the subject he is now most famous for.

Even then he would likely have delayed into the next decade had not a younger naturalist, Alfred Russell Wallace, sent him an essay containing ideas virtually identical to his own, in June 1858. Pressed by friends to publish first, Darwin set aside “the big book on species” he had barely begun, and quickly wrote a much shorter one — On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. It was published in November 1859.

Brilliantly argued, and written to be understood by non-scientists, Origin was an instant best-seller. The publisher printed 1250 copies but received orders for 1500 copies on the first day. A second edition of 3000 copies followed in a few weeks, and four more editions in the next ten years: some 110,000 copies were sold in England alone by the end of the century.

While Darwin’s ideas were quickly accepted by many scientists, especially younger ones, they were roundly condemned by the scientific establishment and by religious leaders. Again and again the critics raised two related arguments: that natural selection excluded any role for God; and, that although Darwin had cautiously avoided the subject, human beings must also be products of natural selection. Both ideas were blasphemous; both would undermine the existing social order.

Even among scientists who rejected Biblical literalism and agreed with much of Darwin’s argument, there were many who insisted that God had to be part of the explanation, as the guiding force of evolution or as the divine source of the human soul and intelligence. Some used that view to defend their own reactionary and racist prejudices: for example, that God had created blacks and whites as separate species.

Working-class support

The discussion of Darwin’s book wasn’t limited to scientists and clergymen. At fifteen shillings, several days’ pay for a skilled craftsman, On the Origin of Species was too expensive to be found in many workers’ homes, but groups of radical workers in several cities took up collections to buy one copy that could be passed around.

One of Darwin’s closest collaborators, Thomas Huxley, organized a series of very well-attended public lectures on evolution for working men in London. In those talks, which were subsequently published as a popular pamphlet, Huxley had no hesitation in defending a key point Darwin only hinted at in Origin, that humans too are a product of natural selection and share common ancestors:

“there is no evidence whatever for saying that mankind sprang originally from any more than a single pair; I must say, that I cannot see any good ground whatever, or even any tenable sort of evidence, for believing that there is more than one species of Man.”

Karl Marx attended several of Huxley’s lectures and encouraged his political associates to do likewise. His friend and comrade Wilhelm Liebknecht later recalled that “when Darwin drew the conclusions from his research work and brought them to the knowledge of the public, we spoke of nothing else for months but Darwin and the enormous significance of his scientific discoveries”.

Friedrich Engels obtained one of the first 1250 copies of The Origin of Species: he wrote to Marx that it was “absolutely splendid”. Marx agreed, but that did not mean that they were uncritical. They disliked Darwin’s “clumsy English style of argument”, and ridiculed his positive references to Malthus. Since they were not themselves biologists, they didn’t take sides in the highly contentious debate on whether natural selection or some other natural process was the principal driver of evolution: in his strong defence of Darwin in Anti-Duhring (1877), Engels wrote, and Darwin would surely have agreed:

“The theory of evolution itself is however still in a very early stage, and it therefore cannot be doubted that further research will greatly modify our present conceptions, including strictly Darwinian ones, of the process of the evolution of species.”

What he and Marx most admired about Darwin was his demonstration that nature has a history. Again in Anti-Duhring:

“Nature works dialectically and not metaphysically … she does not move in the eternal oneness of a perpetually recurring circle, but goes through a real historical evolution. In this connection, Darwin must be named before all others. He dealt the metaphysical conception of Nature the heaviest blow by his proof that all organic beings, plants, animals, and man himself, are the products of a process of evolution going on through millions of years.”

The insight that Marx and Engels had written and then deleted in 1846 — that the history of nature and the history of men are inseparable and dependent on one another — was confirmed by The Origin of Species. In it they found a materialist explanation of nature’s history to complement their materialist explanation of human history. Darwin’s work was, as Marx wrote in 1861, “the basis in natural history for our own view.”

A triumph for humanity

It is a testimony to Darwin’s commitment to scientific truth that, once he overcame his reluctance to publish his ideas, he devoted the rest of his life to defending them against some of the most influential opinion leaders of his day. By the time he died in 1882, the fact of evolution was almost universally accepted in the scientific community.

Subsequent research has deepened our understanding of evolution — it has also confirmed Darwin’s conviction that natural selection plays a key role. Above all, Darwin’s commitment to materialist explanations of natural phenomena has triumphed. No modern scientist, not even one with deep religious convictions, would suggest that “then a miracle happened” is an acceptable explanation for any natural phenomenon, including the origins, immense variety and constantly changing nature of life on our planet.

This materialist victory in science is one of humanity’s greatest achievements. For that reason alone, no matter what his hesitations, delays or middle class prejudices, Charles Darwin deserves to be remembered and honoured by everyone who looks forward to the ending of superstition and ignorance in all aspects of life.

The idea that “nature does not just exist, but comes into being and passes away” (Engels) is just as revolutionary, and just as important to socialist thought, as the idea that capitalism doesn’t just exist, but came into being at a given time, and it too will pass away in the future.

Suggestions for further reading.

  • The best short overview of Darwin’s life and ideas is A Brief Guide to Charles Darwin, His Life and Times, by Cyril Aydon (Constable & Robinson, 2002).
  • Chapter six of John Bellamy Foster’s Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature (Monthly Review 2000) is essential reading on the relationship between Marxism and Darwinism.
  • John Bellamy Foster’s latest book, Critique of Intelligent Design: Materialism versus Creationism from Antiquity to the Present, was not yet available when I wrote this article, but having read his previous works, I have no hesitation in recommending it.
  • Ernst Mayr’s What Evolution Is (Basic Books, 2001) isn’t light reading, but it is a superb presentation of modern evolutionary theory for non-scientists.
  • Finally, Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species may be the only great work of science that is also a work of literature. The Penguin edition includes a good introduction by historian J.W. Burrow, and is widely available.

[Ian Angus is an associate editor of Socialist Voice and editor of the online journal Climate and Capitalism. He is currently writing a book on Darwin and materialism.]

Marx, Darwin, and the upheaval in the biological sciences

By Sam Marcy

Published Feb 9, 2009 10:56 PM

This essay by the founder of Workers World Party was originally published in the Workers World of March 25, 1983, to coincide with the centennial of the death of Karl Marx.
Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin

It would be wholly inappropriate and indeed regrettable to discuss the centennial of Marx’s death without touching on the relationship between Marxism and Darwinism, and on the relation of Marx and Darwin as contemporaries who also corresponded with each other. The current upheaval in the biological sciences should indeed deepen interest in both the natural sciences as well as Marxism. Had the capitalist mode of production already been eliminated, there would have been a double commemoration in the years 1982-83 for both Darwin and Marx.

Two giants of science
Karl Marx

Karl Marx

Kliment Timiriazev, one of the very first in old Russia to have been a great Darwinian naturalist and incidentally one of the first to acquaint himself with Marx’s’ “Capital” when it was first published in Russia, wrote on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee Year (1919) upon the publication of Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” and Marx’s “Critique of Political Economy”: “When we commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of the publication of these two books, when we think of it as a joint commemoration of Marx and Darwin, we do so recognizing that the two men marched side-by-side under the banner of natural science. Both of them regarded natural science as the one solid foundation for their revolutionary views, views that were destined to shake up both the ‘consciousness’ and the existence of all mankind. Is it not plain that the way to the overthrow of the outworn culture of the bourgeoisie, the way to the building up of the proletarian culture of tomorrow, is the way of science, of natural science which has discarded the mystical and metaphysical formulas of the past?” (From “Karl Marx: Man, Thinker, and Revolutionist,” a symposium edited by David Riazanov.)

Marx and Darwin were, as the early Darwinian naturalist Timiriazev recognized, both standing on the solid ground of science. Timiriazev refers of course to Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” and Marx’s “Critique of Political Economy” because the fact they were published in the same year is such a striking illustration of the nature of the epoch in which they made their great discoveries. It was still the so-called progressive epoch of the bourgeoisie. The enthusiasm with which Darwin’s book was received—almost an instant success in England—was in sharp contrast to Marx’s book. Darwin’s rather quick acceptance was due to the fact that some of the leading biologists at the time, including J. Hooker, A. Wallace, and Thomas Huxley in Great Britain, Haeckel, Muller, and Weisman in Germany, and some in the United States, accepted the Darwinian doctrine. Thus the bourgeoisie was ready, but not altogether and not until after a lot of acrimonious discussion and struggle, to accept Darwin. But it was altogether different with Marx. Under no circumstances could they accept Marx’s conclusions in his “Critique of Political Economy.” A conspiracy of silence veiled the discoveries of Marx except among the revolutionary working class elements of the time.

Marx and Engels hailed Darwin

That didn’t stop Marx and Engels from hailing Darwin’s epoch-making discoveries precisely because these discoveries confirmed the general world outlook which Marx and Engels had long held and propagated. Therefore it is no wonder that when “On the Origin of Species” was published on Nov. 24, 1859, Engels immediately got hold of the book and as early as Dec. 12 of that year wrote to Marx, “The Darwin which I am just reading is really stupendous. Teleology in one respect had still not been finished off hitherto. It is now. Moreover, there has never yet been such a magnificent attempt to demonstrate historical development in nature, or at least not so happily. Of course, you have to pass over the crude English method.”

The enthusiasm that Engels showed for Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” was precisely because it confirmed his and Marx’s own views of historical development. It was an application of the materialist method, a demonstration of the dialectical and materialist view of organic nature. It is precisely what Marx and Engels were formulating as applied to the field of social development, of historical materialism, and especially their economic doctrines.

Because of Marx’s preoccupation with other work at the time, he wrote to Engels somewhat later (Dec. 19, 1860), “However grossly unfolded in the English manner, this is the book that contains the natural historical foundation of our outlook.” Later he wrote to Lassalle (Jan. 16, 1861), “Darwin’s book is very important and serves me as a natural scientific basis for the class struggle in history. One has to put up with the gross English mode of development, of course. Despite all deficiencies, not only is the death blow dealt here for the first time to ‘teleology’ in the natural sciences, but its rational meaning is empirically explained.”

It should not be thought that what was new to Marx and Engels in Darwin was the idea of evolution. The idea of evolution in the natural sciences was not new, of course. It had been previously studied and brought to public attention as a theory by Lamarck, Diderot, Holbach, Maupertuis, and Buffon, but it was really merely of the strictly speculative type without the vast empirical data to support it.

None of these natural scientists was able to synthesize general evolutionary views without the indispensable empirical data.

Lenin on evolution

It should be noted that Lenin (who was only 24 years old at the time) in his polemic entitled “What the ‘Friends of the People’ are,” summed up the relation of Marxism to Darwinism as follows: “Just as Darwin put an end to the view of animal and plant species being unconnected, fortuitous, ‘created by God’ and immutable, and was the first to put biology on an absolutely scientific basis by establishing the mutability and the succession of species, so Marx put an end to the view of society being a mechanical aggregation of individuals which allows for all sorts of modification at the will of the authorities (or, if you like, at the will of society and the government) and which emerges and changes casually, and was the first to put sociology on a scientific basis by establishing the concept of the economic formation of society as the sum-total of given production relations, by establishing the fact that the development of such formations is a process of natural history.” (From Lenin’s Collected Works, Vol. 1, page 142.)

For all of those in the scientific community who are looking for links between Marx’s view and that of Darwin, Marx stated in the preface to the second edition of “Capital” that from his standpoint, “the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history.” This clearly underlines the relationship between Marxism and Darwinism—the common methodology employed by both Marx and Engels, who have both drawn the parallel between their scientific historical method in approaching social evolution and Darwin’s in organic evolution, have sometimes been subjected to criticism for going too far. For example, see McClellan’s “Karl Marx” in which he criticizes Engels for saying in his graveside speech on Marx: “Just as Darwin discovered the law of evolution in organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of evolution in human history; he discovered the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that humankind must first of all eat and drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc.; and that therefore the production of the immediate material means of life and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, the art and even the religious ideas of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which these things must therefore be explained, instead of vice versa as had hitherto been the case.”

McClellan presents it as though Marx and Engels had no reservations about Darwin. Of course they did, especially where Darwin unnecessarily draws in the doctrine of Malthus.

The reactionary evolutionism of Malthus

Engels in his withering criticism of Duhring, who erroneously attacked Darwin’s theory of the struggle for existence on the ground that Darwin had adopted the Malthusian theory lock, stock, and barrel so to speak, said: “Now Darwin would not dream of saying that the origin of the idea of the struggle for existence is to be found in Malthus. He only says that his theory of the struggle for existence is the theory of Malthus applied to the animal and plant world as a whole. However great the blunder made by Darwin in accepting the Malthusian theory so naively and uncritically, nevertheless anyone can see at the first glance that no Malthusian spectacles are needed to perceive the struggle for existence in nature—the contradiction between the countless host of germs which nature so lavishly produces and the small number of those which ever reach maturity; a contradiction which in fact for the most part finds its solution in a struggle for existence—often of extreme cruelty.”

Likewise, Marx in a letter to Kugelmann dated June 1870 says, “Herr Lange, you see, has made a great discovery. The whole of history can be brought under a single great natural law. This natural law is the phrase (in this application Darwin’s expression becomes nothing but a phrase) ‘the struggle for life.’ And the content of this phrase is the Malthusian law of population, or rather over-population. So instead of analyzing the struggle for life as represented historically in varying and definite forms of society, all that has to be done is to translate every concrete struggle into the phrase ‘struggle for life’ and this phrase itself into the Malthusian population fantasy. One must admit that this is a very impressive method—for staggering sham scientific bombastic ignorance and intellectual laziness.” (Marx & Engels Selected Correspondence, pages 239-40) Nevertheless, the relationship between Marx and Darwin was one of mutual respect for each one’s discipline.

Darwin wrote to Marx on Oct. 1, 1873, “Dear sir; I thank you for the honor that you have done me by sending me your great work on Capital and I heartily wish that I was more worthy to receive it, but understanding more of the deep and important subject of political economy. Though our studies have been so different, I believe that we both earnestly desire the extension of knowledge and that this in the long run is sure to add to the happiness of Mankind. I remain, Dear Sir, Yours faithfully, Charles Darwin.”

Yes indeed, the years 1982-83 should have been a double commemoration of both Marx and Darwin. However, 100 years after the death of these two giants of modern science, the bourgeoisie is less disposed than ever to commemorate Darwin, let alone to take note of Marx, whose diagnosis of the capitalist system is being confirmed by the profoundest capitalist crisis in more than half a century.

New attacks on Darwin

On April 19, 1982, the one hundredth anniversary of Darwin’s death, the London Times carried a commemorative article entitled “The descent of Darwin—100 years on” by Christopher Booker. It’s written in a sour, even surly, tone and is plainly derogatory as an accompanying cartoon demonstrates. The cartoon shows Darwin slipping on a banana peel. Booker, while grudgingly admitting that Darwin’s fame “has never stood higher,” nevertheless goes on to attack him for what really amounts to not discovering what yet remains to be accomplished by biological science.

“On the one hand,” Booker says, “particularly in the U.S., there has been a remarkable revival in old fashioned biblical fundamentalism, in the belief that evolution didn’t take place at all ... that somehow Genesis was literally right and that God created the world and every species in it pretty well simultaneously. On the other hand, a state of almost open war has broken out among the evolutionists themselves with every kind of sect urging some new modification to Darwin.” This is the usual ploy of the antievolutionists, exploiting and confusing differences within the Darwinian evolutionist camp by counter-posing them to the reactionary “creationists.”

“What does not seem to have occurred to more than a handful of people is to urge that life on earth has evolved from simple forms to complex—but that as to how and why it really happened, we have not the slightest idea, and probably never shall,” Booker writes. “It will simply remain God’s secret.”

Sneaking God in

This is a way to sneak God in through the back door, a more sophisticated version of the old teleological theory of design and purpose in nature with the Designer being the “final” answer.

Gone is the period of early progressive capitalism with its robust optimism about art, science, technology, and practically everything!

The optimism exuded then arose from the fact of the expansion of British capitalism abroad. One could say at that time, with some justification, that the sun never set on the British Empire, which then maintained a monopolistic position in world trade and capital accumulation. The Darwinian evolutionary doctrine seemed to parallel if not reflect the growth and development of the bourgeoisie. As long as the progressive developments coincided with the rise in stock market values, the evolutionary doctrine of Darwin could be tolerated if not wholly embraced. But it is a different Britain today. Now it is gloomy, wracked not only by a marauding capitalist crisis but by an ever-shrinking role in world affairs, having become a semi-satellite of U.S. imperialism. What need does the ruling class have now of the revolutionary materialist dialectical approach of a Darwin?

Darwin’s theory of the mutability of all organisms in plant and animal life does not have nearly the same appeal to them as when the capitalist system seemed to be “mutable,” developing on an ascending scale, reaping fabulous profits, and seemingly capable of warding off any challenges by its capitalist rivals.

Of course, not all the bourgeoisie accepted Darwin in the first place. But there were no formidable challenges of substantial stature or durable standing in science.

Here on the other side of the Atlantic, a hundred years ago during the gilded age of American capitalism, certain elements of the bourgeoisie became enchanted with the reactionary sociobiological views of Herbert Spencer, who somehow became the high priest in the preachment of the “survival of the fittest.” As the marauding ruling class advanced in its virtually untrammeled path of subjugation of the oppressed people, it became allured with that aspect of so-called Darwinism.

Things reached a point where even the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, could not avoid the Spencerian conception of the struggle for existence. For instance, a safety code for New York sweatshops was voided by a federal court in 1885 in an opinion extolling “the unceasing struggle for success and existence which pervades all societies of men.” The safety code was therefore unconstitutional because it ignored the “survival of the fittest”!

This transference of the laws governing life in the organic world in order to validate the class struggle of the bourgeoisie seemed quite appropriate and fitting as long as the “fittest” was expanding U.S. imperialism. We don’t hear much of this corruption of Darwinism in this late period, the twilight of U.S. imperialism. So it’s only natural that the bourgeoisie would fall back on the old “creationist” school.

Right wing has no credibility among scientists

It’s no wonder then that the field of biology has been under virtual siege by a flood tide of clerical obscurantism and political reaction. It seems that the biologists breathed a sigh of relief during the centennial of Darwin’s death when no big bombshell from the right-wing “creationist” camp was hurled at them. This year it was anthropology that came under attack with the sensational publication of Derek Freeman’s “Margaret Mead—the making and unmaking of an anthropological myth.” Freeman’s political motivation is clearly aimed to bolster the reactionary school of sociobiology.

In its struggle against Darwinian evolution, the reactionary right had hoped to capture at least one defector from the scientific community to hold up as exhibit No.1 to demolish Darwinism and fortify the fraudulent basis of “creationism.” But nothing like that occurred. Quite the contrary. The assaults of the “creationists,” well financed and well coordinated, were unable to gain a foothold in the biological scientific community. The 1983 Book of the Year of the Encyclopedia Britannica, which covers the events of 1982, remarks in its Life Sciences report, “The efforts of creationists notwithstanding, the theory of biological evolution remained alive and healthy and a powerful intellectual stimulus in 1982, a hundred years after the death of Charles Darwin.” It goes on to say, “The ongoing debate among evolutionary biologists did not at all question the fact that evolution took place, but concerned the exact details of how it operated.”

To the present time, the efforts of the creationists to intervene in the debate to try to exploit and obscure the issues have not affected the continuing struggle to find new approaches to evolutionary theory.

Scientists debate how evolution occurred, not if it occurred

The fact of the matter is that as early as October 1980, the question as to how evolution happened was discussed and debated in a four-day meeting in Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, where about 150 scientists specializing in evolutionary studies attended. According to a New York Times report of Nov. 4, 1980, nearly all of the leading evolutionists in paleontology, population genetics, taxonomy (the science of organisms), and related fields attended. There was, of course, no clear resolution of the controversy nor is there one now. At issue during the Chicago meeting was macro-evolution, a term that is itself a matter of debate but which generally refers to the evolution of major differences, such as those separating species or larger classifications.

Macro-evolution is, for example, what made crustaceans different from mollusks. Darwin suggested that such major products of evolution were the result of very long periods of gradual natural selection, the mechanism that is widely accepted today as accounting for minor adaptations. These small variations are considered products of micro-evolution.

Gradualism vs. great leaps

Niles Eldridge, a paleontologist from the Museum of Natural History in New York, along with Steven J. Gould, a Harvard University paleontologist, reiterated the hypothesis that new species arise not from gradual changes but from sudden bursts of evolution. As they see it, species remain largely stable for long periods and then suddenly change dramatically. Thus transitions happen so fast, they suggest, that the chance of intermediate forms being fossilized and found is nil.

Eldridge and Gould are by now very well known for their views and represent the school of thought called “punctuated equilibrium.” Others adhere to the more traditional pattern and consider themselves gradualists and closer to the older Darwinian mold. Among the proponents of the gradualist school at the gathering were Dr. Thomas J. M. Schopf of the University of Chicago. His contention is that species may not be as static as they seem. Fossils, he noted, represent only the hard parts of the organism.

As can be seen, this is a controversy among adherents of the general theory of Darwinian evolution. It is a scientific controversy. The reactionary sociobiologists and the fundamentalist clergy try to intervene solely for purposes of confusion and disruption, which has netted them not a single prominent scientist to desert the scientific evolutionary school in favor of clerical obscurantism.

The Gould-Eldridge school, it should be noted, has been significantly bolstered with the publication by Peter Williams of Harvard University of his findings from the thick fossil beds around Lake Turkana in northern Kenya. The controversy, however, continues.

The victory of either school can in no way affect, but rather would deepen, the historical materialist approach of Darwinian evolution. It would in no way be in conflict with the general laws of dialectical development, which encompass not only gradual growth but also leaps in development, breaks in continuity, the transformation into the opposite, and quantitative growth into qualitative changes. (See Lenin’s “On Dialectics,” Collected Works, Vol. 38, page 358.)

The Gould-Eldridge theory, if verified by empirical data, would include in the mechanism of evolution leaps in development, breaks in continuity.

The assault of the creationists and the current tide of reaction unloosed by the Reagan administration, important as they are, are not the main and fundamental danger to the scientific community in general and the biological scientists in particular. A far, far greater peril exists in the ever-stronger grip of the capitalist state, its military-industrial complex, and the giant multinational corporations. And it grows day by day without letup.

This is most dramatically illustrated in the case of biotechnology and the Supreme Court decision of June 1980 to allow scientists to patent genetically engineered life forms. Gene-splicing, hitherto the domain of molecular biologists working in university laboratories, was suddenly given a tremendous push into the vise-like grip of the giant multinational corporations, especially the pharmaceutical and chemical ones like DuPont, Dow, and others. Their close connection and fusion with the capitalist state seems inevitable.

Thus the upheaval in the biological sciences received an enormous push from the U.S. Supreme Court in the development of biotechnology.

A book published in 1981 claims on its jacket cover that “biotechnology will shake the very foundations of medicine, agriculture, energy production, and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.”

“Bacteria with human gene transplants can churn out vast quantities of man’s own body chemicals.... Manmade microbes will mine minerals, manufacture chemicals at half of today’s cost, transform plants into energy, and change the pollution of one industry into the feedstock of the next. Tomorrow’s genetically engineered crops will be impervious to disease and pests, make their own fertilizers, and thrive on deserts and salt marshes, all without man’s help.... By peering into our genes, scientists can now predict with uncanny accuracy which individuals are likely to be inflicted with what diseases.... The first attempts to cure human beings of hereditary defects were undertaken last year. The age of human genetics has already begun.” (“Life for Sale,” by Sharon McAuliffe and Kathleen McAuliffe)

All that needs to be added to this idyllic picture is that the genetic programming of the human race will be done in the spirit of the free enterprise system to serve the “humanitarian interests” of carnivorous, predatory monopoly capitalism.

We are told by Professor David Baltimore, a microbiologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Industry is already trying to get a genetic profile of workers in order to put those with one profile in this situation and those with a different profile in that setting. How are we going to face this challenge?” (U.S. News and World Report, March 28, 1983)

The McAuliffes’ idyllic view of genetic engineering is not shared by all in the scientific community.

Scientist warns of peril

The views, for instance, of Liebe F. Cavalieri are strikingly different and significant, but merely from an ecological and moral viewpoint. He’s a member of the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research and professor of biochemistry at Cornell Medical College. He’s the author of’ “The Double-edged Helix: Science in the Real World.”

“There’s a striking similarity between nuclear science and genetic engineering,” says Cavalieri in an article published in the Washington Post of May 14, 1982. (Substantially the same thing was published in a letter to the New York Times on Aug. 1, 1982.)

“Molecular biologists,” he says, “like nuclear physicists are euphoric over their success over deciphering another of nature’s secrets. But genetic engineering is not just another scientific accomplishment. Like nuclear physics, it confers on human beings a power for which they are psychologically and morally unprepared [in a capitalist society-S.M.].

“We know that the earth behaves like an indivisible delicately tuned mechanism in which the inanimate environment is strongly conditioned by living things and vice versa. But we have only begun to decipher the influence of each part on the whole,” he says. “For example, we recognize that certain micro-organisms convert organic wastes to usable nutrients and that this recycling process is critical in maintaining the composition of the atmosphere and other conditions favorable to human life and to the web of species that sustain us. But we cannot predict the effects on these vital micro-organisms of accelerated evolution engineered by man, coupled with accelerated environmental changes now produced by human activities such as the production of carbon dioxide on a vast scale from fossil fuels, the distribution of novel chemical pollutants around the earth, the large-scale clearing of forests, displacement of biological diversity by a minuscule number of cultivated species.”

150 firms producing new life forms

He then goes on to elaborate, “Nevertheless, genetic manipulation of micro-organisms by recombinant DNA technology has proceeded rapidly and is now a widespread practice. More than 150 genetic engineering firms, mainly oriented toward the design of industrially useful micro-organisms, have been formed in the last two years. From their laboratories, microorganisms with properties taken from higher forms of life will inevitably escape into the ecosphere; other engineered forms will eventually be released intentionally into the environment.

“We are laying the groundwork for unforeseen evolutionary changes that may create an inhospitable environment for present species. The human species has evolved to fit the present ecological conditions. If there were a drastic change in the environment some forms of life would undoubtedly adapt, but humans with their many exacting biological requirements could not evolve fast enough to become compatible with the new environment. The gene pool of the Earth, which comprises all living organisms, is a precious, irreplaceable legacy of natural evolution. It is in the truest sense a onetime occurrence and it would be naive to assume that we can manipulate it without harming ourselves. We do not have the infinite wisdom that would be required. “

“This is a unique moment in history,” he continues. “With the experience of the nuclear weapons threat to draw on, we ought now to be able to act before another crisis is upon us. We ought not to be blinded by the short-term promises of genetic engineering. Unlike pollution and other forms of assault on the environment, once new genetic forms have become established, they cannot be ‘cleaned up.’ It is not possible to reconstruct an earlier evolutionary era. Forty years ago, physicists discovered that energy could be released from the atomic nucleus. At the same time biologists discovered that DNA, the material of the cell nucleus, was the genetic stuff of life. These twin scientific feats, one at the core of matter, the other at the core of life, are without doubt the most momentous discoveries of the 20th century. We have mismanaged the application of the first discovery. Now as the second is about to be exploited, we must not permit the biosphere ... to become an experimental subject. There’s only one earthly biosphere and we are part of it. There’s no margin for error.”

As can be seen, Cavalieri is taking the high road of appealing to moral postulates and basing himself on the dangers to the entire ecological system. However, the entire course of historical development demonstrates that moral appeals to a class which is gripped by an uncontrollable drive for material benefits, such as the drive in our epoch for superprofits by the ruling class, are like blowing bubbles against a windstorm.

It is this that has to be taken into account in dealing with this very, very important question. The relative quiescence of the working class and progressive movement at this particular moment in history should not be taken as a reason for falling back on prayers and admonitions to the kings and princes of high finance and industry who are concerned with exploiting the biosphere, not improving it.

Such concessions as can be wrested from them are the results of mobilizing public opinion based on the broad mass of the workers and the progressive community as a whole. They alone can appreciate the dangers best, but then they have no conflict of material interest.

Cavalieri speaks in terms of “we,” as for instance “we have mismanaged,” “we know,” “we recognize,” or “we do not have the infinite wisdom that would be required.”

When he is speaking as a scientist, it must be borne in mind that he is speaking merely about U.S. scientists, and not the scientists of the world. Least of all would he include the scientists of the socialist countries, China and the USSR in particular. He therefore is speaking from a purely national point of view.

The scientific intelligentsia in this country are so securely tied to the military-industrial complex and the multinational corporations that it is virtually impossible to get a hearing before them characterized by that aloofness from material interests required by dispassionate and objective discussion. DuPont alone boasts that it has in excess of a thousand PhD’s in its laboratories.

Science tied to big business and military

What the U.S. Supreme Court did for business and industry by granting patents for genetic engineering was to tie the individual scientist, her or his laboratory, and the university securely to big business and the capitalist state by offering them a share in the profits. There are now many hundreds of patents pending by scientists. The large corporations have the funds and other wherewithal to gobble up all these patents and at the same time tie down the scientific community in so-called profit sharing schemes. It’s the same story as when workers in industry are asked to forsake their unions and independence from the corporations in the interests of some illusory share in the business.

The idea of granting patents to scientific investigators has created a further impediment to the free inquiry so indispensable to dispassionate scientific investigation. For instance, a lawyer speaking to a group of scientists advised them that before going to any conference they should have their notes certified by a notary public so as to protect their property. This openly deepens secrecy among the scientists, who should be discussing in common the results of their investigations.

Wall Street euphoric

Wall Street was delighted with the news of the Supreme Court’s decision and its effect on the DNA industry. “You can just feel the excitement in the air,” exclaimed Nelson Schneider, an investment analyst at E.F. Hutton, the securities firm. “Here we are sitting at the edge of a technological breakthrough that could be as important as electricity, splitting the atom, or going back to the invention of the wheel or the discovery of fire.” (Quoted in “Life for Sale”)

There is a furious struggle in the biotechnology companies to gobble up patents. It has reduced itself already to three—Genentech in San Francisco, Cetus in Berkeley, Calif., and Biogen in Geneva. The capitalist crisis has, for the time being, slowed the race down to a crawl. But the grip of the pharmaceutical, biomedical and bio-agricultural multinational corporations and their increasing fusion with the capitalist state, more particularly with the military-industrial complex, is beyond question.

Notwithstanding the commendable outcry by such distinguished scientists as Cavalieri and others, the dangerous grip that the ruling class now holds over more and more high technology and weaponry, particularly space weaponry, and including weapons that can be developed from biotechnology, makes the urgency for a struggle against the whole system of monopoly capitalism more imperative than ever.

Science and the class struggle

The survival of the human race depends on the development of a consciousness to join forces by the working class, the oppressed people, and the progressive element in the scientific community and in other disciplines in other industries.

The very universality of the capitalist crisis and the terrible toll it has taken in human suffering and destruction should be an impetus to the intelligentsia in general and the scientific community in particular to join hands with the workers in a common struggle.

Such an alliance has a materialist scientific basis for solving the crisis of humanity. The signpost says this is the road to the scientific solution to the crisis. The other is the beaten path that has already led to two devastating wars, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and to the building of the MX missiles, the B-1 bombers, and the most sophisticated technology for weapons in space.

Summary conclusions

With the development of genetic engineering, biology as a basic science is rapidly becoming transformed into an applied science. That puts it into a whole new category.

Even if the potential of genetic engineering does not turn out to have the enormous dangers of atomic energy, it nevertheless poses a very great peril unless the situation is in some way reversed, as Cavalieri suggests.

Professor David Baltimore, in the interview quoted above, said, “If we decided to organize our society so that we bred people for specific jobs, we could do that now. Just as we breed dogs, we could breed people.

“Hitler on a grand (sic) and very crude scale tried a first step along those lines. But we don’t do that in our society because of the type of social organization that we feel appropriate. As long as we maintain that principle, the advent of contemporary genetics doesn’t seem as frightening.”

We are not like Hitler. Very laudable.

But industry, he says in this same interview, is already trying to get a genetic profile of workers. For what purpose?

We are not like Hitler, “we don’t do that in our society because of the type of social organization that we feel appropriate.” While trying very hard to understand what Baltimore is saying here, we cannot but feel that he is embellishing the good, wonderful nature of “our society.” What’s so reassuring about this society? “The type of social organization we feel appropriate.” What is that supposed to mean?

Baltimore vs. Baltimore

It seems to us that this evaluation of “our society” in connection with genetic engineering is a considerable retreat from the position enunciated by the same Professor Baltimore on Feb. 28, 1982, in the Nova TV program (number 907) entitled “Life: Patent Pending.”

“The only way to exploit the new developments [in genetic engineering] was development through the standard commercial sector,” he said. “That means some people get the profits: the people who put in the money, the venture capitalists, corporations that are willing to fund it, and in many cases individual scientists who either were given or developed equity positions in these companies. It seems grossly unfair that a small number of people benefit enormously from the development of this new technology. Never mind whether it was funded publicly or privately. On the other hand the system is set up so that will happen.” (Page 24, official transcript)

That sounds wholly different from the view so recently enunciated by Professor Baltimore—”We don’t do that in our type of society because of the type of social organization we feel appropriate.” The social organization turns out to be venture capitalists, giant corporations, a handful of profiteers, and scientists who have equity in the multinational corporations. That is the general outline of the anatomy of capitalist society. As he says, “The system is set up so that will happen.” Indeed, it will happen.

Choice for scientists

Therefore it is not true, as he says later on, that the scientist has only two choices: either stop doing scientific work entirely or take the risk that your work might be misused.

No, there is a third choice. The choice is to fight for the complete and unconditional intellectual and political independence of the scientific community from the greed of the corporations—and from enslavement to the universities, too, for they are ever so tightly linked with the capitalist state and also with its infrastructure, the military-industrial complex.

The road ahead is very dangerous, and only organized resistance to maintain intellectual and scientific integrity can safeguard society, including the millions and millions of working people and oppressed masses.

It is necessary to invoke the struggle of scientists against control by governmental and clerical authorities in the Enlightenment period and earlier, when the church appeared omnipotent.

Should we not remember the lesson of Galileo? The verdict of the church more than 900 years after his death has not been reversed, notwithstanding the appeals of prominent Catholic scientists and lay people as well. Science cannot be neutral in a class society, riven by irreconcilable antagonisms. Efforts to escape from class society into prayer or to embellish this monopoly capitalist system by conjuring up the practices of Hitler is an evasion of public responsibility by scientists.

At the present time even the weak guidelines on genetic engineering enacted in June 1976 by the National Institutes of Health have been watered down, notwithstanding that these guidelines are not really mandatory. The marauding multinational corporations are really free to do virtually anything, especially with their hysteria against government regulation let loose by the Reaganites.

There’s no way that one can avoid taking a position in capitalist society, especially in the light of the great dangers that lie ahead.
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Marx of Respect


Dear Sir:
I thank you for the honour which you have done me by sending me your great work on Capital; & I heartily wish that I was more worthy to receive it, by understanding more of the deep and important subject of political Economy. Though our studies have been so different, I believe that we both earnestly desire the extension of Knowledge, & that this is in the long run sure to add to the happiness of Mankind.
I remain, Dear Sir
Yours faithfully,
Charles Darwin

Letter from Charles Darwin to Karl Marx
October, 1873

Although it is developed in the crude English style, this is a book which contains the basis of natural history for our views.
Karl Marx on Darwin's Origin of Species
December, 1860


Mythical Chestnut

It's a well-known chestnut of Darwinian trivia that the father of international socialism, Karl Marx, once offered to dedicate one of the volumes of his magnum opus, Das Kapital, to that other 19th Century bearded revolutionary living in the south of England, Charles Darwin. Unfortunately, it turns out that this particular chestnut is something of a myth, although the story of how it came about is of interest in its own right.
Kapital Idea

Marx genuinely admired Darwin's Origin, despite its crude English style. He even sent Darwin a personally inscribed copy of the recently published second edition of Das Kapital in 1873. Darwin's letter of acknowledgment (quoted above) delighted Marx, who used it as proof that the great scientist appreciated his work. In fact, Darwin, ever the gentleman (and no German scholar), was merely being polite: he never read Marx's book, the vast majority of whose pages remained uncut in his library.

But, although Marx admired Darwin's work, some of its implications, particularly the support it gave to the theories of Thomas Malthus, gave him great cause for concern. This makes it extremely unlikely that Marx would ever have considered dedicating Das Kapital to Darwin.
Myth Conception

So, how did the dedication story come about? The answer is given, amongst other places, in Francis Wheen's highly readable biography, Karl Marx (Fourth Estate, ISBN: 1-85702-637-3). It all started with a second Darwin letter unearthed amongst Marx's papers, dated 13th October, 1880:

Dear Sir:
I am much obliged for your kind letter & the Enclosure.— The publication in any form of your remarks on my writing really requires no consent on my part, & it would be ridiculous in me to give consent to what requires none. I shd prefer the Part or Volume not to be dedicated to me (though I thank you for the intended honour) as this implies to a certain extent my approval of the general publication, about which I know nothing.— Moreover though I am a strong advocate for free thought on all subjects, yet it appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity and theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men's minds, which follow from the advance of science. It has, therefore, always been my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biased by the pain which it would give some members of my family , if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion.— I am sorry to refuse you any request, but I am old & have very little strength, and looking over proof-sheets (as I know by present experience) fatigues me much.
I remain Dear Sir,
Yours faithfully,
Ch. Darwin

This letter was published in a Soviet newspaper in 1931, which went on to suggest that the enclosures referred to in the letter might have been chapters from Das Kapital that dealt with evolution. No matter that Das Kapital, a book on economics, could never be considered a direct attack on religion, whatever Marx's well-documented views on the subject.

So what on Earth was going on?
Mystery Solved

The mystery was investigated and solved by Margaret Fay of the University of California, who came across an obscure book published in 1881, entitled The Students' Darwin. This was the second in a series of books sponsored by a pair of evangelical atheists.

The author of the book, Edward Aveling, later became the lover of Marx's daughter, Eleanor. In 1895, he and Eleanor began organising her late father's papers (which she had recently inherited from Engels). Later, in 1897, Aveling wrote an article about Marx and Darwin, in which he mentioned having corresponded with Darwin. Presumably, he then filed Darwin's letter to him along with Marx's papers.

Eventually, a letter from Aveling to Darwin (dated 12th October, 1880) was discovered amongst Darwin's papers at Cambridge University. Enclosed with this letter were sample chapters from The Students' Darwin. The letter requested permission to dedicate the book to Darwin.

So, it wasn't Karl Marx's Das Kapital that Darwin politely declined the dedication of; it was Edward Aveling's The Students' Darwin.
What It's All About

I must admit to having experienced a certain degree of disappointment on learning that the famous Das Kapital dedication chestnut was a myth. On reflection, however, I like to think that Darwin would have approved of the sort of reasoning that questioned a cherished long-standing belief, and of the search for literary missing links that eventually led to the truth. That's what science and historical research are all about.

Anton Pannekoek 1912

Marxism and Darwinism

Written: 1909
Translated: 1912, Nathan Weiser.
Transcribed: Jon Muller
HTML Markup: Abu Nicole, proofed and corrected by Bas Streef;
Source: Charles H. Kerr & Company, Chicago, USA Original Copyright, 1912.

Marxism and the Class Struggle
Darwinism and the Class Struggle
Darwinism versus Socialism
Natural Law and Social Theory
The Sociability of Man
Tools, Thought and Language
Animal Organs and Human Tools
Capitalism and Socialism


Two scientists can hardly be named who have, in the second half of the 19th century, dominated the human mind to a greater degree than Darwin and Marx. Their teachings revolutionized the conception that the great masses had about the world. For decades their names have been on the tongues of everybody, and their teachings have become the central point of the mental struggles which accompany the social struggles of today. The cause of this lies primarily in the highly scientific contents of their teachings.

The scientific importance of Marxism as well as of Darwinism consists in their following out the theory of evolution, the one upon the domain of the organic world, of things animate; the other, upon the domain of society. This theory of evolution, however, was in no way new, it had its advocates before Darwin and Marx; the philosopher, Hegel, even made it the central point of his philosophy. It is, therefore, necessary to observe closely what were the achievements of Darwin and Marx in this domain.

The theory that plants and animals have developed one from another is met with first in the nineteenth century. Formerly the question, “Whence come all these thousands and hundreds of thousands of different kinds of plants and animals that we know?", was answered: “At the time of creation God created them all, each after its kind." This primitive theory was in conformity with experience had and with the best information about the past that was available. According to available information, all known plants and animals have always been the same. Scientifically, this experience was thus expressed, “All kinds are invariable because the parents transmit their characteristics to their children.”

There were, however, some peculiarities among plants and animals which gradually forced a different conception to be entertained. They so nicely let themselves be arranged into a system which was first set up by the Swedish scientist Linnaeus. According to this system, the animals are divided into phyla, which are divided into classes, classes into orders, orders into families, families into genera, each of which contain a few species. The more semblance there is in their characteristics, the nearer they stand towards each other in this system, and the smaller is the group to which they belong. All the animals classed as mammalian show the same general characteristics in their bodily frame. The herbivorous animals, and carnivorous animals, and monkeys, each of which belongs to a different order, are again differentiated. Bears, dogs, and cats, all of which are carnivorous animals, have much more in common in bodily form than they have with horses or monkeys. This conformity is still more obvious when we examine varieties of the same species; the cat, tiger and lion resemble each other in many respects where they differ from dogs and bears. If we turn from the class of mammals to other classes, such as birds or fishes, we find greater differences between classes than we find within a class. There still persists, however, a semblance in the formation of the body, the skeleton and the nervous system. These features first disappear when we turn from this main division, which embraces all the vertebrates, and go to the molluscs (soft bodied animals) or to the polyps.

The entire animal world may thus be arranged into divisions and subdivisions. Had every different kind of animal been created entirely independent of all the others, there would be no reason why such orders should exist. There would be no reason why there should not be mammals having six paws. We would have to assume, then, that at the time of creation, God had taken Linnaeus’ system as a plan and created everything according to this plan. Happily we have another way of accounting for it. The likeness in the construction of the body may be due to a real family relationship. According to this conception, the conformity of peculiarities show how near or remote the relationship is, just as the resemblance between brothers and sisters is greater than between remote relatives. The animal classes were, therefore, not created individually, but descended one from another. They form one trunk that started with simple foundations and which has continually developed; the last and thin twigs are our present existing kinds. All species of cats descend from a primitive cat, which together with the primitive dog and the primitive bear, is the descendant of some primitive type of carnivorous animal. The primitive carnivorous animal, the primitive hoofed animal and the primitive monkey have descended from some primitive mammal, etc.

This theory of descent was advocated by Lamarck and by Geoffrey St. Hilaire. It did not, however, meet with general approval. These naturalists could not prove the correctness of this theory and, therefore, it remained only a hypothesis, a mere assumption. When Darwin came, however, with his main book, The Origin of Species struck like a thunderbolt; his theory of evolution was immediately accepted as a strongly proved truth. Since then the theory of evolution has become inseparable from Darwin’s name. Why so?

This was partly due to the fact that through experience ever more material was accumulated which went to support this theory. Animals were found which could not very well be placed into the classification such as oviparous mammals (that is, animals which lay eggs and nourish their offspring from their breast. - Translator) fishes having lungs, and invertebrate animals. The theory of descent claimed that these are simply the remnants of the transition between the main groups. Excavations have revealed fossil remains which looked different from animals living now. These remains have partly proved to be the primitive forms of our animals, and that the primitive animals have gradually developed to existing ones. Then the theory of cells was formed; every plant, every animal, consists of millions of cells and has been developed by incessant division and differentiation of single cells. Having gone so far, the thought that the highest organisms have descended from primitive beings having but a single cell, could not appear as strange.

All these new experiences could not, however, raise the theory to a strongly proved truth. The best proof for the correctness of this theory would have been to have an actual transformation from one animal kind to another take place before our eyes, so that we could observe it. But this is impossible. How then is it at all possible to prove that animal forms are really changing into new forms? This can be done by showing the cause, the propelling force of such development. This Darwin did. Darwin discovered the mechanism of animal development, and in doing so he showed that under certain conditions some animal kinds will necessarily develop into other animal-kinds. We will now make clear this mechanism.

Its main foundation is the nature of transmission, the fact that parents transmit their peculiarities to children, but that at the same time the children diverge from their parents in some respects and also differ from each other. It is for this reason that animals of the same kind are not all alike, but differ in all directions from the average type. Without this so-called variation it would be wholly impossible for one animal species to develop into another. All that is necessary for the formation of a new species is that the divergence from the central type become greater and that it goes on in the same direction until this divergence has become so great that the new animal no longer resembles the one from which it descended. But where is that force that could call forth the ever growing variation in the same direction?

Lamarck declared that this was owing to the usage and much exercise of certain organs; that, owing to the continuous exercise of certain organs, these become ever more perfected. Just as the muscles of men’s legs get strong from running much, in the same way the lion acquired its powerful paws and the hare its speedy legs. In the same way the giraffes got their long necks because in order to reach the tree leaves, which they ate, their necks were stretched so that a short-necked animal developed to the long-necked giraffe. To many this explanation was incredible and it could not account for the fact that the frog should have such a green color which served him as a good protecting color.

To solve the same question, Darwin turned to another line of experience. The animal breeder and the gardener are able to raise artificially new races and varieties. When a gardener wants to raise from a certain plant a variety having large blossoms, all he has to do is to kill before maturity all those plants having small blossoms and preserve those having large ones. If he repeats this for a few years in succession, the blossoms will be ever larger, because each new generation resembles its predecessor, and our gardener, having always picked out the largest of the large for the purpose of propagation, succeeds in raising a plant with very large blossoms. Through such action, done sometimes deliberately and sometimes accidentally, people have raised a great number of races of our domesticated animals which differ from their original form much more than the wild kinds differ from each other.

If we should ask an animal-breeder to raise a long-necked animal from a short-necked one, it would not appear to him an impossibility. All he would have to do would be to choose those having partly longer necks, have them inter-bred, kill the young ones having narrow necks and again have the long-necked inter-breed. If he repeated this at every new generation the result would be that the neck would ever become longer and he would get an animal resembling the giraffe.

This result is achieved because there is a definite will with a definite object, which, to raise a certain variety, chooses certain animals. In nature there is no such will, and all the deviations must again be straightened out by interbreeding, so that it is impossible for an animal to keep on departing from the original stock and keep going in the same direction until it becomes an entirely different species. Where then, is that power in nature that chooses the animals just as the breeder does?

Darwin pondered this problem long before he found its solution in the “struggle for existence.” In this theory we have a reflex of the productive system of the time in which Darwin lived, because it was the capitalist competitive struggle which served him as a picture for the struggle for existence prevailing in nature. It was not through his own observation that this solution presented itself to him. It came to him by his reading the works of the economist Malthus. Malthus tried to explain that in our bourgeois world there is so much misery and starvation and privation because population increases much more rapidly than the existing means of subsistence. There is not enough food for all; people must therefore struggle with each other for their existence, and many must go down in this struggle. By this theory capitalist competition as well as the misery existing were declared as an unavoidable natural law. In his autobiography Darwin declares that it was Malthus’ book which made him think about the struggle for existence.

“In October, 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic inquiry, I happened to read for amusement Malthus on population, and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on from long continuous observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favorable variations would tend to be preserved and unfavorable ones to be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of new species. Here, then, I had at last got a theory by which to work.”

It is a fact that the increase in the birth of animals is greater than the existing food permits of sustaining. There is no exception to the rule that all organic beings tend to increase so rapidly that our earth would be overrun very soon by the offspring of a single pair, were these not destroyed. It is for this reason that a struggle for existence must arise. Every animal tries to live, does its best to eat, and seeks to avoid being eaten by others. With its particular peculiarities and weapons it struggles against the entire antagonistic world, against animals, cold, heat, dryness, inundations, and other natural occurrences that may threaten to destroy it. Above all, it struggles with the animals of its own kind, who live in the same way, have the same peculiarities, use the same weapons and live by the same nourishment. This struggle is not a direct one; the hare does not struggle directly with the hare, nor the lion with the lion- unless it is a struggle for the female - but it is a struggle for existence, a race, a competitive struggle. All of them can not reach a grown-up age; most of them are destroyed, and only those who win the race remain. But which are the ones to win in the race? Those which, through their peculiarities, through their bodily structures are best able to find food or to escape an enemy; in other words, those which are best adapted to existing conditions will survive. “Because there are ever more individuals born than can remain alive, the struggle as to which shall remain alive must start again and that creature that has some advantage over the others will survive, but as these diverging peculiarities are transmitted to the new generations, nature itself does the choosing, and a new generation will arise having changed peculiarities.”

Here we have another application for the origin of the giraffe. When grass does not grow in some places, the animals must nourish themselves on tree leaves, and all those whose necks are too short to reach these leaves must perish. In nature itself there is selection, and nature selects only those having long necks. In conformity with the selection done by the animal breeder, Darwin called this process “natural selection.”

This process must necessarily produce new species. Because too many are born of a certain species, more than the existing food supply can sustain, they are forever trying to spread over a larger area. In order to procure their food, those living in the woods go to the plain, those living on the soil go into the water, and those living on the ground climb on trees. Under these new conditions divergence is necessary. These divergencies are increased, and from the old species a new one develops. This continuous movement of existing species branching out into new relations results in these thousands of different animals changing still more.

While the Darwinian theory explains thus the general descent of the animals, their transmutation and formation out of primitive beings, it explains, at the same time, the wonderful conformity throughout nature. Formerly this wonderful conformity could only be explained through the wise superintending care of God. Now, however, this natural descent is clearly understood. For this conformity is nothing else than the adaptation to the means of life. Every animal and every plant is exactly adapted to existing circumstances, for all those whose build is less conformable are less adapted and are exterminated in the struggle for existence. The green-frog, having descended from the brown-frog, must preserve its protecting color, for all those that deviate from this color are sooner found by the enemies and destroyed or find greater difficulty in obtaining their food and must perish.

It was thus that Darwin showed us, for the first time, that new species continually formed out of old ones. The theory of descent, which until then was merely a presumptive inference of many phenomena that could not be explained well in any other way, gained the certainty of an absolute inference of definite forces that could be proved. In this lies the main reason that this theory had so quickly dominated the scientific discussions and public attention.


If we turn to Marxism we immediately see a great conformity with Darwinism. As with Darwin, the scientific importance of Marx’s work consists in this, that he discovered the propelling force, the cause of social development. He did not have to prove that such a development was taking place; every one knew that from the most primitive times new social forms ever supplanted older, but the causes and aims of this development were unknown.

In his theory Marx started with the information at hand in his time. The great political revolution that gave Europe the aspect it had, the French Revolution, was known to everyone to have been a struggle for supremacy, waged by the bourgeois against nobility and royalty. After this struggle new class struggles originated. The struggle carried on in England by the manufacturing capitalists against the landowners dominated politics; at the same time the working class revolted against the bourgeoisie. What were all these classes? Wherein did they differ from each other? Marx proved that these class distinctions were owing to the various functions each one played in the productive process. It is in the productive process that classes have their origin, and it is this process which determines to what class one belongs. Production is nothing else than the social labor process by which men obtain their means of subsistence from nature. It is the production of the material necessities of life that forms the main structure of society and that determines the political relations and social struggles.

The methods of production have continuously changed with the progress of time. Whence came these changes? The manner of labor and the productive relationship depend upon the tools with which people work, upon the development of technique and upon the means of production in general. Because in the Middle Ages people worked with crude tools, while now they work with gigantic machinery, we had at that time small trade and feudalism, while now we have capitalism; it is also for this reason that at that time the feudal nobility and the small bourgeoisie were the most important classes, while now it is the bourgeoisie and the proletarians which are the classes.

It is the development of tools, of these technical aids which men direct, which is the main cause, the propelling force of all social development. It is self-understood that the people are ever trying to improve these tools so that their labor be easier and more productive, and the practice they acquire in using these tools, leads their thoughts upon further improvements. Owing to this development, a slow or quick progress of technique takes place, which at the same time changes the social forms of labor. This leads to new class relations, new social institutions and new classes. At the same time social, i. e., political struggles arise. Those classes predominating under the old process of production try to preserve artificially their institutions, while the rising classes try to promote the new process of production; and by waging the class struggles against the ruling class and by conquering them they pave the way for the further unhindered development of technique.

Thus the Marxian theory disclosed the propelling force and the mechanism of social development. In doing this it has proved that history is not something irregular, and that the various social systems are not the result of chance or haphazard events, but that there is a regular development in a definite direction. In doing this it was also proved that social development does not cease with our system, because technique continually develops.

Thus, both teachings, the teachings of Darwin and of Marx, the one in the domain of the organic world and the other upon the field of human society, raised the theory of evolution to a positive science.

In doing this they made the theory of evolution acceptable to the masses as the basic conception of social and biological development.

Marxism and the Class Struggle

While it is true that for a certain theory to have a lasting influence on the human mind it must have a highly scientific value, yet this in itself is not enough. It quite often happened that a scientific theory was of utmost importance to science, nevertheless, with the probable exception of a few learned men, it evoked no interest whatsoever. Such, for instance, was Newton’s theory of gravitation. This theory is the foundation of astronomy, and it is owing to this theory that we have our knowledge of heavenly bodies, and can foretell the arrival of certain planets and eclipses. Yet, when Newton’s theory of gravitation made its appearance, a few English scientists were its only adherents. The broad mass paid no attention to this theory. It first became known to the mass by a popular book of Voltaire’s written a half century afterwards.

There is nothing surprising about this. Science has become a specialty for a certain group of learned men, and its progress concerns these men only, just as smelting is the smith’s specialty, and an improvement in the smelting of iron concerns him only. Only that which all people can make use of and which is found by everyone to be a life necessity can gain adherents among the large mass. When, therefore, we see that a certain scientific theory stirs up zeal and passion in the large mass, this can be attributed to the fact that this theory serves them as a weapon in the class struggle. For it is the class struggle that engages almost all the people.

This can be seen most clearly in Marxism. Were the Marxian economic teachings of no importance in the modern class struggle, then none but a few professional economists would spend their time on them. It is, however, owing to the fact that Marxism serves the proletarians as a weapon in the struggle against capitalism that the scientific struggles are centered on this theory. It is owing to this service that Marx’s name is honored by millions who know even very little of his teaching, and is despised by thousands that understand nothing of his theory. It is owing to the great role the Marxian theory plays in the class struggle that his theory is diligently studied by the large mass and that it dominates the human mind.

The proletarian class struggle existed before Marx for it is the offspring of capitalist exploitation. It was nothing more than natural that the workers, being exploited, should think about and demand another system of society where exploitation would be abolished. But all they could do was to hope and dream about it. They were not sure of its coming to pass. Marx gave to the labor movement and Socialism a theoretical foundation. His social theory showed that social systems were in a continuous flow wherein capitalism was only a temporary form. His studies of capitalism showed that owing to the continuous development of perfection of technique, capitalism must necessarily develop to Socialism. This new system of production can only be established by the proletarians struggling against the capitalists, whose interest it is to maintain the old system of production. Socialism is therefore the fruit and aim of the proletarian class struggle.

Thanks to Marx, the proletarian class struggle took on an entirely different form. Marxism became a weapon in the proletarian hands; in place of vague hopes he gave a positive aim, and in teaching a clear recognition of the social development he gave strength to the proletarian and at the same time he created the foundation for the correct tactics to be pursued. It is from Marxism that the workingmen can prove the transitoriness of capitalism and the necessity and certainty of their victory. At the same time Marxism has done away with the old utopian views that Socialism would be brought about by the intelligence and good will of some judicious men; as if Socialism were a demand for justice and morality; as if the object were to establish an infallible and perfect society. Justice and morality change with the productive system, and every class has different conceptions of them. Socialism can only be gained by the class whose interest lies in Socialism, and it is not a question about a perfect social system, but a change in the methods of production leading to a higher step, i. e., to social production.

Because the Marxian theory of social development is indispensable to the proletarians in their struggle, they, the proletarians, try to make it a part of their inner self; it dominates their thoughts, their feelings, their entire conception of the world. Because Marxism is the theory of social development, in the midst of which we stand, therefore Marxism itself stands at the central point of the great mental struggles that accompany our economic revolution.

Darwinism and the Class Struggle

That Marxism owes its importance and position only to the role it takes in the proletarian class struggle, is known to all. With Darwinism, however, things seem different to the superficial observer, for Darwinism deals with a new scientific truth which has to contend with religious prejudices and ignorance. Yet it is not hard to see that in reality Darwinism had to undergo the same experiences as Marxism. Darwinism is not a mere abstract theory which was adopted by the scientific world after discussing and testing it in a mere objective manner. No, immediately after Darwinism made its appearance, it had its enthusiastic advocates and passionate opponents; Darwin’s name, too, was either highly honored by people who understood something of his theory, or despised by people who knew nothing more of his theory than that “man descended from the monkey,” and who were surely unqualified to judge from a scientific standpoint the correctness or falsity of Darwin’s theory. Darwinism, too, played a role in the class-struggle, and it is owing to this role that it spread so rapidly and had enthusiastic advocates and venomous opponents.

Darwinism served as a tool to the bourgeoisie in their struggle against the feudal class, against the nobility, clergy-rights and feudal lords. This was an entirely different struggle from the struggle now waged by the proletarians. The bourgeoisie was not an exploited class striving to abolish exploitation. Oh no. What the bourgeoisie wanted was to get rid of the old ruling powers standing in their way. The bourgeoisie themselves wanted to rule, basing their demands upon the fact that they were the most important class, the leaders of industry. What argument could the old class, the class that became nothing but useless parasites, bring forth against them? They leaned on tradition, on their ancient divine rights. These were their pillars. With the aid of religion the priests held the great mass in subjection and ready to oppose the demands of the bourgeoisie.

It was therefore for their own interests that the bourgeoisie were in duty bound to undermine the “divinity” right of rulers. Natural science became a weapon in the opposition to belief and tradition; science and the newly discovered natural laws were put forward; it was with these weapons that the bourgeoisie fought. If the new discoveries could prove that what the priests were teaching was false, the “divine” authority of these priests would crumble and the “divine rights” enjoyed by the feudal class would be destroyed. Of course the feudal class was not conquered by this only, as material power can only be overthrown by material power, but mental weapons become material tools. It is for this reason that the bourgeoisie relied so much upon material science.

Darwinism came at the desired time; Darwin’s theory that man is the descendant of a lower animal destroyed the entire foundation of Christian dogma. It is for this reason that as soon as Darwinism made its appearance, the bourgeoisie grasped it with great zeal.

This was not the case in England. Here we again see how important the class struggle was for the spreading of Darwin’s theory. In England the bourgeoisie had already ruled a few centuries, and as a mass they had no interest to attack or destroy religion. It is for this reason that although this theory was widely read in England, it did not stir anybody; it merely remained a scientific theory without great practical importance. Darwin himself considered it as such, and for fear that his theory might shock the religious prejudices prevailing, he purposely avoided applying it immediately to men. It was only after numerous postponements and after others had done it before him, that he decided to make this step. In a letter to Haeckel he deplored the fact that his theory must hit upon so many prejudices and so much indifference that he did not expect to live long enough to see it break through these obstacles.

But in Germany things were entirely different, and Haeckel correctly answered Darwin that in Germany the Darwinian theory met with an enthusiastic reception. It so happened that when Darwin’s theory made its appearance, the bourgeoisie was preparing to carry on a new attack on absolutism and junkerism. The liberal bourgeoisie was headed by the intellectuals. Ernest Haeckel, a great scientist, and of still greater daring, immediately drew in his book, “Natural Creation,” most daring conclusions against religion. So, while Darwinism met with the most enthusiastic reception by the progressive bourgeoisie, it was also bitterly opposed by the reactionists.

The same struggle also took place in other European countries. Everywhere the progressive liberal bourgeoisie had to struggle against reactionary powers. These reactionists possessed, or were trying to obtain through religious followers, the power coveted. Under these circumstances, even the scientific discussions were carried on with the zeal and passion of a class struggle. The writings that appeared pro and con on Darwin have therefore the character of social polemics, despite the fact that they bear the names of scientific authors. Many of Haeckel’s popular writings, when looked at from a scientific standpoint, are very superficial, while the arguments and remonstrances of his opponents show unbelievable foolishness that can only be met which only find their equal in the arguments used against Marx.

The struggle carriedon by the liberal bourgeoisie against feudalism was not fought to its finish. This was partly owing to the fact that everywhere Socialist proletarians made their appearance, threatening all ruling powers, including the bourgeoisie. The liberal bourgeoisie relented, while the reactionary tendencies gained an upper hand. The former zeal in combatting religion disappeared entirely, and while it is true that the liberals and reactionists were still fighting among each other, in reality, however, they neared each other. The interest formerly manifested in science as a weapon in the class struggle, has entirely disappeared, while the reactionary tendency that the masses must be brought to religion, became ever more pronounced.

The estimation of science has also undergone a change. Formerly the educated bourgeoisie founded upon science a materialistic conception of the universe, wherein they saw the solution of the universal riddle. Now mysticism has gained the upper hand; all that was solved appeared as very trivial, while all things that remained unsolved, appeared as very great indeed, embracing the most important life question. A sceptical, critical and doubting frame of mind has taken the place of the former jubilant spirit in favor of science.

This could also be seen in the stand taken against Darwin. “What does his theory show? It leaves unsolved the universal riddle! Whence comes this wonderful nature of transmission, whence the ability of animate beings to change so fitly?” Here lies the mysterious life riddle that could not be overcome with mechanical principles. Then, what was left of Darwinism in the light of later criticism?

Of course, the advance of science began to make rapid progress. The solution of one problem always brings a few more problems to the surface to be solved, which were hidden underneath the theory of transmission. This theory, that Darwin had to accept as a basis of inquiry, was ever more investigated, and a hot discussion arose about the individual factors of development and the struggle for existence. While a few scientists directed their attention to variation, which they considered due to exercise and adaptation to life (following the principle laid down by Lamarck) this idea was expressly denied by scientists like Weissman and others. While Darwin only assumed gradual and slow changes, De Vries found sudden and leaping cases of variation resulting in the sudden appearance of new species. All this, while it went to strengthen and develop the theory of descent, in some cases made the impression that the new discoveries rent asunder the Darwinian theory, and therefore every new discovery that made it appear so was hailed by the reactionists as a bankruptcy of Darwinism. This social conception had its influence on science. Reactionary scientists claimed that a spiritual element is necessary. The supernatural and insolvable has taken the place of Darwinism and that class which in the beginning was the banner bearer of Darwinism became ever more reactionary.

Darwinism versus Socialism

Darwinism has been of inestimable service to the bourgeoisie in its struggle against the old powers. It was therefore only natural that bourgeoisdom should apply it against its later enemy, the proletarians; not because the proletarians were antagonistically disposed to Darwinism, but just the reverse. As soon as Darwinism made its appearance, the proletarian vanguard, the Socialists, hailed the Darwinian theory, because in Darwinism they saw a corroboration and completion of their own theory; not as some superficial opponents believe, that they wanted to base Socialism upon Darwinism but in the sense that the Darwinian discovery, – that even in the apparently stagnant organic world there is a continuous development – is a glorious corroboration and completion of the Marxian theory of social development.

Yet it was natural for the bourgeoisie to make use of Darwinism against the proletarians. The bourgeoisie had to contend with two armies, and the reactionary classes know this full well. When the bourgeoisie attacks their authority, they point at the proletarians and caution the bourgeoisie to beware lest all authority crumble. In doing this, the reactionists mean to frighten the bourgeoisie so that they may desist from any revolutionary activity. Of course, the bourgeois representatives answer that there is nothing to fear; that their science but refutes the groundless authority of the nobility and supports them in their struggle against enemies of order.

At a congress of naturalists, the reactionary politician and scientist Virchow assailed the Darwinian theory on the ground that it supported Socialism. “Be careful of this theory,” he said to the Darwinists, “for this theory is very nearly related to the theory that caused so much dread in our neighboring country.” This allusion to the Paris Commune, made in the year famous for the hunting of Socialists, must have had a great effect. What shall be said, however, about the science of a professor who attacks Darwinism with the argument that it is not correct because it is dangerous! This reproach, of being in league with the red revolutionists, caused a lot of annoyance to Haeckel, the defendant of this theory. He could not stand it. Immediately afterwards he tried to demonstrate that it is just the Darwinian theory that shows the untenableness of the Socialist demands, and that Darwinism and Socialism “endure each other as fire and water.”

Let us follow Haeckel’s contentions, whose main thoughts re-occur in most authors who base their arguments against Socialism on Darwinism.

Socialism is a theory which presupposes natural equality for people, and strives to bring about social equality; equal rights, equal duties, equal possessions and equal enjoyments. Darwinism, on the contrary, is the scientific proof of inequality. The theory of descent establishes the fact that animal development goes in the direction of ever greater differentiation or division of labor; the higher or more perfect the animal, the greater the inequality existing. The same holds also good in society. Here, too, we see the great division of labor between vocations, class, etc., and the more society has developed, the greater become the inequalities in strength, ability and faculty. The theory of descent is therefore to be recommended as “the best antidote to the Socialist demand of making all equal.”

The same holds good, but to a greater extent, of the Darwinian theory of survival. Socialism wants to abolish competition and the struggle for existence. But Darwinism teaches us that this struggle is unavoidable and is a natural law for the entire organic world. Not only is this struggle natural, but it is also useful and beneficial. This struggle brings an ever greater perfection, and this perfection consists in an ever greater extermination of the unfit. Only the chosen minority, those who are qualified to withstand competition, can survive; the great majority must perish. Many are called, but few are chosen. The struggle for existence results at the same time in a victory for the best, while the bad and unfit must perish. This may be lamentable, just as it is lamentable that all must die, but the fact can neither be denied nor changed.

We wish to remark here how a small change of almost similar words serves as a defence of capitalism. Darwin spoke about the survival of the fittest, of those that are best fitted to the conditions. Seeing that in this struggle those that are better organized conquer the others, the conquerors were called the vigilant, and later the “best.” This expression was coined by Herbert Spencer. In thus winning on their field, the conquerors in the social struggle, the large capitalists, were proclaimed the best people.

Haeckel retained and still upholds this conception. In 1892 he said,

“Darwinism, or the theory of selection, is thoroughly aristocratic; it is based upon the survival of the best. The division of labor brought about by development causes an ever greater variation in character, an ever greater inequality among the individuals, in their activity, education and condition. The higher the advance of human culture, the greater the difference and gulf between the various classes existing. Communism and the demands put up by the Socialists in demanding an equality of conditions and activity is synonymous with going back to the primitive stages of barbarism.”

The English philosopher Herbert Spencer already had a theory on social growth before Darwin. This was the bourgeois theory of individualism, based upon the struggle for existence. Later he brought this theory into close relation with Darwinism. “In the animal world,” he said, “the old, weak and sick are ever rooted out and only the strong and healthy survive. The struggle for existence serves therefore as a purification of the race, protecting it from deterioration. This is the happy effect of this struggle, for if this struggle should cease and each one were sure of procuring its existence without any struggle whatsoever, the race would necessarily deteriorate. The support given to the sick, weak and unfit causes a general race degeneration. If sympathy, finding its expressions in charity, goes beyond its reasonable bounds, it misses its object; instead of diminishing, it increases the suffering for the new generations. The good effect of the struggle for existence can best be seen in wild animals. They are all strong and healthy because they had to undergo thousands of dangers wherein all those that were not qualified had to perish. Among men and domestic animals sickness and weakness are so general because the sick and weak are preserved. Socialism, having as its aim to abolish the struggle for existence in the human world, will necessarily bring about an ever growing mental and physical deterioration.”

These are the main contentions of those who use Darwinism as a defence of the bourgeois system. Strong as these arguments might appear at first sights they were not hard for the Socialists to overcome. To a large extent, they are the old arguments used against Socialism, but wearing the new garb of Darwinistic terminology, and they show an utter ignorance of Socialism as well as of capitalism.

Those who compare the social organism with the animal body leave unconsidered the fact that men do not differ like various cells or organs. but only in degree of their capacity. In society the division of labor cannot go so far that all capacities should perish at the expense of one. What is more, everyone who understands something of Socialism knows that the efficient division of labor does not cease with Socialism; that first under Socialism real divisions will be possible. The difference between the workers, their ability, and employments will not cease; all that will cease is the difference between workers and exploiters.

While it is positively true that in the struggle for existence those animals that are strong, healthy and well survive; yet this does not happen under capitalist competition. Here victory does not depend upon perfection of those engaged in the struggle, but in something that lies outside of their body. While this struggle may hold good with the small bourgeois, where success depends upon personal abilities and qualifications, yet with the further development of capital, success does not depend upon personal abilities, but upon the possession of capital. The one who has a larger capital at command as will soon conquer the one who has a smaller capital at his disposal, although the latter may be more skillful. It is not the personal qualities, but the possession of money that decides who the victor shall be in the struggle. When the small capitalists perish, they do not perish as men but as capitalists; they are not weeded out from among the living, but from the bourgeoisie. They still exist, but no longer as capitalists. The competition existing in the capitalist system is therefore something different in requisites and results from the animal struggle for existence.

Those people that perish as people are members of an entirely different class, a class that does not take part in the competitive struggle. The workers do not compete with the capitalists, they only sell their labor power to them. Owing to their being propertyless, they have not even the opportunity to measure their great qualities and enter a race with the capitalists. Their poverty and misery cannot be attributed to the fact that they fell in the competitive struggle on account of weakness. but because they were paid very little for their labor power, it is for this very reason that, although their children are born strong and healthy, they perish in great mass, while the children born to rich parents, although born sick, remain alive by means of the nourishment and great care that is bestowed on them. These children of the poor do not die because they are sick or weak, but because of external causes. It is capitalism which creates all those unfavorable conditions by means of exploitation, reduction of wages, unemployment crises, bad dwellings, and long hours of employment. It is the capitalist system that causes so many strong and healthy ones to succumb.

Thus the Socialists prove that different from the animal world, the competitive struggle existing between men does not bring forth the best and most qualified, but destroys many strong and healthy ones because of their poverty, while those that are rich, even if weak and sick, survive. Socialists prove that personal strength is not the determining factor, but it is something outside of man; it is the possession of money that determines who shall survive and who shall perish.

Natural Law and Social Theory

The false conclusions reached by Haeckel and Spencer on Socialism are no surprise. Darwinism and Marxism are two distinct theories, one of which applies to the animal world, while the other applies to society. They supplement each other in the sense that, according to the Darwinian theory of evolution, the animal world develops up to the stage of man, and from then on, that is, after the animal has risen to man, the Marxian theory of evolution applies. When however, one wishes to carry the theory of one domain into that of the other, where different laws are applicable he must draw wrong inferences.

Such is the case when we wish to ascertain from natural law what social form is natural and applicable and this is just what the bourgeois Darwinists did. They drew the inference that the laws which govern in the animal world, where the Darwinian theory applies, apply with equal force in the capitalist system, and that therefore capitalism is a natural order and must endure forever. On the other hand, there were some Socialists who desired to prove that, according to Darwin, the Socialist system is the natural one. Said these Socialists,

“Under capitalism men do not carry on the struggle for existence with like tools, but with unlike ones artificially made. The natural superiority of those that are healthier, stronger, more intelligent or morally better, is of no avail so long as birth, class, or the possession of money control this struggle. Socialism, in abolishing all these artificial dissimilarities, will make equal provisions for all, and then only will the struggle for existence prevail, wherein the real personal superiorities will be the deciding factors.”

These critical arguments, while they are not bad when used as refutations against bourgeois Darwinists, are still faulty. Both sets of arguments, those used by the bourgeois Darwinists in favor of capitalism, and those of the Socialists, who base their Socialism on Darwin, are falsely rooted. Both arguments, although reaching opposite conclusions, are equally false because they proceed from the wrong premises that there is a natural and a permanent system of society.

Marxism has taught us that there is no such thing as a natural and a permanent social system, and that there can be none, or, to put it another way, every social system is natural, for every social system is necessary and natural under given conditions. There is not a single definite social system that can be accepted as natural; the various social systems take the place of one another as a result of developments in the means of production. Each system is therefore the natural one for its particular time. Capitalism is not the only natural order, as the bourgeoisie believes, and no Socialist system is the only natural system, as some Socialists try to prove. Capitalism was natural under the conditions of the nineteenth century, just as feudalism was in the Middle Ages, and as Socialism will be in the coming age. The attempt to put forward a certain system as the only natural and permanent one is as futile as if we were to take an animal and say that this animal is the most perfect of all animals. Darwinism teaches us that every animal is equally adapted and equally perfect in form to suit its special environments, and Marxism teaches us that every social system is particularly adapted to its conditions, and that in this sense it may be called good and perfect.

Herein lies the main reason why the endeavor of the bourgeois Darwinists to defend the foundering capitalist system is bound to fail. Arguments based on natural science, when applied to social questions, must almost always lead to wrong conclusions. This happens because, while nature is very slow in its development and changes during human history are practicably imperceptible, so that it may almost be regarded as stable, human society nevertheless undergoes quick and continuous changes. In order to understand the moving force and the cause of social development, we must study society as such. It is only here that we can find the reason of social development. Marxism and Darwinism should remain in their own domains; they are independent of each other and there is no direct connection between them.

Here arises a very important question. Can we stop at the conclusion that Marxism applies only to society and that Darwinism applies only to the organic world, and that neither of these theories is applicable in the other domain? In practice it is very convenient to have one principle for the human world and another one for the animal world. In having this, however, we forget that man is also an animal. Man has developed from an animal, and the laws that apply to the animal world cannot suddenly lose their applicability to man. It is true that man is a very peculiar animal, but if that is the case it is necessary to find from these very peculiarities why those principles applicable to all animals do not apply to men, and why they assume a different form.

Here we come to another grave problem. The bourgeois Darwinists do not encounter such a problem; they simply declare that man is an animal, and without further ado they set about to apply the Darwinian principles to men. We have seen to what erroneous conclusions they come. To us this question is not so simple; we must first be clear about the differences between men and animals, and then we can see why, in the human world, the Darwinian principles change into different ones, namely, into Marxism.

The Sociability of Man

The first peculiarity that we observe in man is that he is a social being. In this he does not differ from all animals, for even among the latter there are many species that live socially among themselves. But man differs from all those that we have observed until now in dealing with the Darwinian theory; he differs from those animals that do not live socially, but that struggle with each other for subsistence. It is not with the rapacious animals which live separately that man must be compared, but with those that live socially. The sociability of animals is a power that we have not yet spoken of; a power that calls forth new qualities among animals.

It is an error to regard the struggle for existence as the only power giving shape to the organic world. The struggle for existence is the main power that causes the origin of new species, but Darwin himself knew full well that other powers co-operate which give shape to the forms, habits, and peculiarities of animate things. In his “Descent of Man” Darwin elaborately treated sexual selection and showed that the competition of males for females gave rise to the gay colors of the birds and butterflies and also to the singing voices of birds. There he also devoted a chapter to social living. Many illustrations on this head are also to be found in Kropotkin’s book, “Mutual Aid as a Factor in Evolution.” The best representation of the effects of sociability are given in Kautsky’s “Ethics and the Materialistic Conception of History.”

When a number of animals live in a group, herd or flock, they carry on the struggle for existence in common against the outside world; within such a group the struggle for existence ceases. The animals which live socially no longer wage a struggle against each other, wherein the weak succumb; just the reverse, the weak enjoy the same advantages as the strong. When some animals have the advantage by means of greater strength, sharper smell, or experience in finding the best pasture or in warding off the enemy, this advantage does not accrue only to these better fitted, but also to the entire group. This combining of the animals’ separate powers into one unit gives to the group a new and much stronger power than any one individual possessed, even the strongest. It is owing to this united strength that the defenseless plant-eaters can ward off rapacious animals. It is only by means of this unity that some animals are able to protect their young.

A second advantage of sociability arises from the fact that where animals live socially, there is a possibility of the division of labor. Such animals send out scouts or place sentinels whose object it is to look after the safety of all, while others spend their time either in eating or in plucking, relying upon their guards to warn them of danger.

Such an animal society becomes, in some respects a unit, a single organism. Naturally, the relation remains much looser than the cells of a single animal body; nevertheless, the group becomes a coherent body, and there must be some power that holds together the individual members.

This power is found in the social motives, the instinct that holds them together and causes the continuance of the group. Every animal must place the interest of the entire group above his own; it must always act instinctively for the advantage and maintenance of the group without consideration of itself. As long as the weak plant-eaters think of themselves only and run away when attacked by a rapacious animal, each one minding his life only, the entire herd disappears. Only when the strong motive of self-preservation is suppressed by a stronger motive of union, and each animal risks its life for the protection of all, only then does the herd remain and enjoy the advantages of sticking together. In such a case, self-sacrifice, bravery, devotion, discipline and consciousness must arise, for where these do not exist society dissolves; society can only exist where these exist.

These instincts, while they have their origin in habit and necessity, are strengthened by the struggle for existence. Every animal herd still stands in a competitive struggle against the same animals of a different herd; those that are best fitted to withstand the enemy will survive, while those that are poorer equipped will perish. That group in which the social instinct is better developed will be able to hold its ground, while the group in which social instinct is low will either fall an easy prey to its enemies or will not be in a position to find favorable feeding places. These social instincts become therefore the most important and decisive factors that determine who shall survive in the struggle for existence. It is owing to this that the social instincts have been elevated to the position of predominant factors.

These relations throw an entirely new light upon the views of the bourgeois Darwinists. Their claim is that the extermination of the weak is natural and that it is necessary in order to prevent the corruption of the race, and that the protection given to the weak serves to deteriorate the race. But what do we see? In nature itself, in the animal world, we find that the weak are protected; that it is not by their own personal strength that they maintain themselves, and that they are not brushed aside on account of their personal weakness. This arrangement does not weaken the group, but gives to it new strength. The animal group in which mutual aid is best developed is best fit to maintain itself in the strife. That which, according to the narrow conception appeared as a cause of weakness, becomes just the reverse, a cause of strength.

The sociable animals are in a position to beat those that carry on the struggle individually. This so-called degenerating and deteriorating race carries off the victory and practically proves itself to be the most skilful and best.

Here we first see fully how near sighted, narrow and unscientific are the claims and arguments of the bourgeois Darwinists. Their natural laws and their conceptions of what is natural are derived from a part of the animal world, from those which man resembles least, while those animals that practically live under the same circumstances as man are left unobserved. The reason for this can be found in the bourgeoise’s own circumstances; they themselves belong to a class where each competes individually against the other. Therefore, they see among animals only that form of the struggle for existence. It is for this reason that they overlook those forms of the struggle that are of greatest importance to men.

It is true that these bourgeois Darwinists are aware of the fact that man is not ruled by mere egoism without regard for his neighbors. The bourgeois scientists say very often that every man is possessed of two feelings, the egotistical, or self-love, and the altruistic, the love of others. But as they do not know the social origin of this altruism, they cannot understand its limitations and conditions. Altruism in their mouths becomes a very indistinct idea which they don’t know how to handle.

Everything that applies to the social animals applies also to man. Our ape-like ancestors and the primitive men developing from them were all defenseless, weak animals who, as almost all apes do, lived in tribes. Here the same social motives and instincts had to arise which later developed to moral feelings. That our customs and morals are nothing other than social feelings, feelings that we find among animals, is known to all; even Darwin spoke about “the habits of animals which would be called moral among men.” The difference is only in the measure of consciousness; as soon as these social feelings become clear to men, they assume the character of moral feelings. Here we see that the moral conception – which bourgeois authors considered as the main distinction between men and animals – is not common to men, but is a direct product of conditions existing in the animal world.

It is in the nature of the origin of these moral feelings that they do not spread further than the social group to which the animal or the man belongs. These feelings serve the practical object of keeping the group together; beyond this they are useless. In the animal world, the range and nature of the social group is determined by the circumstances of life, and therefore the group almost always remains the same. Among men, however, the groups, these social units, are ever changing in accordance with economic development, and this also changes the social instincts.

The original groups, the stems of the wild and barbarian people, were more strongly united than the animal groups. Family relationship and a common language strengthened this union further. Every individual had the support of the entire tribe. Under such conditions, the social motives, the moral feelings, the subordination of the individual to the whole, must have developed to the utmost. With the further development of society, the tribes are dissolved and their places are taken by new unions, by towns and peoples.

New formations step into the place of the old ones, and the members of these groups carry on the struggle for existence in common against other peoples. In equal ratio with economic development, the size of these unions increases, the struggle of each against the other decreases, and social feelings spread. At the end of ancient times we find that all the people known then formed a unit, the Roman Empire, and at that time arose the theory – the moral feelings having their influence on almost all the people – which led to the maxim that all men are brothers.

When we regard our own times, we see that economically all the people form one unit, although a very weak one; nevertheless the abstract feeling of brotherhood becomes ever more popular. The social feelings are strongest among members of the same class, for classes are the essential units embodying particular interests and including certain members. Thus we see that the social units and social feelings change in human society. These changes are brought about by economic changes, and the higher the stage of economic development, the higher and nobler the social feelings.

Tools, Thought and Language

Sociability, with its consequences, the moral feelings, is a peculiarity which distinguishes man from some, but not from all, animals. There are, however, some peculiarities which belong to man only, and which separate him from the entire animal world. These, in the first instance, are language, then reason. Man is also the only animal that makes use of self-made tools.

For all these things, animals have but the slightest propensity, but among men, these have developed essentially new characteristics. Many animals have some kind of voice, and by means of sounds they can come to some understanding, but only man has such sounds as serve as a medium for naming things and actions. Animals also have brains with which they think, but the human mind shows, as we shall see later, an entirely new departure, which we designate as reasonable or abstract thinking. Animals, too, make use of inanimate things which they use for certain purposes; for instance, the building of nests. Monkeys sometimes use sticks or stones, but only man uses tools which he himself deliberately makes for particular purposes. These primitive tendencies among animals show us that the peculiarities possessed by man came to him, not by means of some wonderful creation, but by continuous development.

Animals living isolated can not arrive at such a stage of development. It is only as a social being that man can reach this stage. Outside the pale of society, language is just as useless as an eye in darkness, and is bound to die. Language is possible only in society, and only there is it needed as a means by which members may understand one another. All social animals possess some means of understanding each other, otherwise they would not be able to execute certain plans conjointly. The sounds that were necessary as a means of communication for the primitive man while at his tasks must have developed into names of activities, and later into names of things,

The use of tools also presupposes a society, for it is only through society that attainments can be preserved. In a state of isolated life every one has to make discoveries for himself and with the death of the discoverer the discovery also becomes extinct, and each has to start anew from the very beginning. It is only through society that the experience and knowledge of former generations can be preserved, perpetuated, and developed. In a group or body a few may die, but the group, as such, does not. It remains. Knowledge in the use of tools is not born with man, but is acquired later. Mental tradition, such as is possible only in society, is therefore necessary.

While these special characteristics of man are inseparable from his social life, they also stand in strong relation to each other. These characteristics have not been developed singly, but all have progressed in common. That thought and language can exist and develop only in common is known to everyone who has but tried to think of the nature of his own thoughts. When we think or consider, we, in fact, talk to our selves; we observe then that it is impossible for us to think clearly without using words. Where we do not think with words our thoughts remain indistinct and we can not combine the various thoughts. Everyone can realize this from his own experience. This is because so-called abstract reason is perceptive thought and can take place only by means of perceptions. Perceptions we can designate and hold only by means of names. Every attempt to broaden our minds, every attempt to advance our knowledge must begin by distinguishing and classifying by means of names or by giving to the old ones a more precise meaning. Language is the body of the mind, the material by which all human science can be built up.

The difference between the human mind and the animal mind was very aptly shown by Schopenhauer.

This citation is quoted by Kautsky in his “Ethics and the Materialist Conception of History” (pages 139-40, English Translation). The animal’s actions are dependent upon visual motives, it is only by these that it sees, hears or observes in any other way. We can always tell what induced the animal to do this or the other act, for we, too, can see it if we look. With man’s however, it is entirely different. We can not foretell what he will do, for we do not know the motives that induce him to act; they are thoughts in his head. Man considers, and in so doing, all his knowledge, the result of former experience, comes into play, and it is then that he decides how to act. The acts of an animal depend upon immediate impression, while those of man depend upon abstract conceptions, upon his thinking and perceiving. Man is at the same time influenced by finer invisible motives. Thus all his movements bear the impress of being guided by principles and intentions which give them the appearance of independence and obviously distinguishes them from those of animals.

Owing to their having bodily wants, men and animals are forced to seek to satisfy them in the natural objects surrounding them. The impression on the mind is the immediate impulse and beginning; the satisfaction of the wants is the aim and end of the act. With the animal, action follows immediately after impression. It sees its prey or food and immediately it jumps, grasps, eats, or does that which is necessary for grasping, and this is inherited as an instinct. The animal hears some hostile sound, and immediately it runs away if its legs are so developed to run quickly, or lies down like dead so as not to be seen if its color serves as a protector. Between man’s impressions and acts, however, there comes into his head a long chain of thoughts and considerations. His actions will depend upon the result of these considerations.

Whence comes this difference? It is not hard to see that it is closely associated with the use of tools. In the same manner that thought arises between man’s impressions and acts, the tool comes in between man and that which he seeks to attain. Furthermore, since the tool stands between man and outside objects, thought must arise between the impression and the performance. Man does not start empty-handed against his enemy or tear down fruit, but he goes about it in a roundabout manner, he takes a tool, a weapon (weapons are also tools) which he uses against the hostile animal; therefore his mind must also make the same circuit, not follow the first impressions, but it must think of the tools and then follow through to the object. This material circuit causes the mental circuit; the thoughts leading to a certain act are the result of the tools necessary for the performance of the act.

Here we took a very simple case of primitive tools and the first stages of mental development. The more complicated technique becomes, the greater is the material circuit, and as a result the mind has to make greater circuits. When each made his own tools, the thought of hunger and struggle must have directed the human mind to the making of tools. Here we have a longer chain of thoughts between the impressions and the ultimate satisfaction of men’s needs. When we come down to our own times, we find that this chain is very long and complicated. The worker who is discharged foresees the hunger that is bound to come; he buys a newspaper in order to see whether there is any demand for laborers; he goes to the railroad, offers himself for a wage which he will get only long afterwards, so that he may be in a position to buy food and thus protect himself from starvation. What a long circuitous chain the mind must make before it reaches its destiny. But it agrees with our highly developed technique, by means of which man can satisfy his wants.

Man, however, does not rule over one tool only, but over many, which he applies for different purposes, and from which he can choose. Man, because of these tools, is not like the animal. The animal never advances beyond the tools and weapons with which it was born, while man makes his tools and changes them at will. Man, being an animal using different tools, must possess the mental ability to choose them. In his head various thoughts come and go, his mind considers all the tools and the consequences of their application, and his actions depend upon these considerations. He also combines one thought with another, and holds fast to the idea that fits in with his purpose.

Animals have not this capacity; it would be useless for them for they would not know what to do with it. On account of their bodily form, their actions are circumscribed within narrow bounds. The lion can only jump upon his prey, but can not think of catching it by running after it. The hare is so formed that it can run; it has no other means of defense although it may like to have. These animals have nothing to consider except the moment of jumping or running. Every animal is so formed as to fit into some definite place. Their actions must become strong habits. These habits are not unchangeable. Animals are not machines, when brought into different circumstances they may acquire different habits. It is not in the quality of their brains, but in the formation of their bodies that animal restrictions lie. The animal’s action is limited by its bodily form and surroundings, and consequently it has little need for reflection. To reason would therefore be useless for it and would only lead to harm rather than to good.

Man, on the other hand, must possess this ability because he exercises discretion in the use of tools and weapons, which he chooses according to particular requirements. If he wants to kill the fleet hare, he takes the bow and arrow; if he meets the bear, he uses the axe, and if he wants to break open a certain fruit he takes a hammer. When threatened by danger, man must consider whether he shall run away or defend himself by fighting with weapons. This ability to think and to consider is indispensable to man in his use of artificial tools.

This strong connection between thoughts, language, and tools, each of which is impossible without the other, shows that they must have developed at the same time. How this development took place, we can only conjecture. Undoubtedly it was a change in the circumstances of life that changed men from our apelike ancestors. Having migrated from the woods, the original habitat of apes, to the plain, man had to undergo an entire change of life. The difference between hands and feet must have developed then. Sociability and the ape-like hand, well adapted for grasping, had a due share in the new development. The first rough objects, such as stones or sticks, came to hand unsought, and were thrown away. This must have been repeated so often that it must have left an impression on the minds of those primitive men.

To the animal, surrounding nature is a single unit, of the details of which it is unconscious. It can not distinguish between various objects. Our primitive man, at his lowest stage, must have been at the same level of consciousness. From the great mass surrounding him, some objects (tools) come into his hands which he used in procuring his existence. These tools, being very important objects, soon were given some designation, were designated by a sound which at the same time named the particular activity. Owing to this sound, or designation, the tool and the particular kind of activity stands out from the rest of the surroundings. Man begins to analyze the world by concepts and names, self-consciousness makes its appearance, artificial objects are purposely sought and knowingly made use of while working.

This process – for it is a very slow process – marks the beginning of our becoming men. As soon as men deliberately seek and apply certain tools, we can say that these are being developed; from this stage to the manufacturing of tools, there is only one step. The first crude tools differ according to use; from the sharp stone we get the knife, the bolt, the drill, and the spear; from the stick we get the hatchet. With the further differentiation of tools, serving later for the division of labor, language and thought develop into richer and newer forms, while thought leads man to use the tools in a better way, to improve old and invent new ones.

So we see that one thing brings on the other. The practice of sociability and the application to labor are the springs in which technique, thought, tools and science have their origin and continually develop. By his labor, the primitive ape-like man has risen to real manhood. The use of tools marks the great departure that is ever more widening between men and animals.

Animal Organs and Human Tools

In animal organs and human tools we have the main difference between men and animals. The animal obtains its food and subdues its enemies with its own bodily organs; man does the same thing with the aid of tools. Organ (organon) is a Greek word which also means tools. Organs are natural, adnated (grown-on) tools of the animal. Tools are the artificial organs of men. Better still, what the organ is to the animal, the hand and tool is to man. The hands and tools perform the functions that the animal must perform with its own organs. Owing to the construction of the hand to hold various tools, it becomes a general organ adapted to all kinds of work; it becomes therefore an organ that can perform a variety of functions.

With the division of these functions, a broad field of development is opened for men which animals do not know. Because the human hand can use various tools, it can combine the functions of all possible organs possessed by animals. Every animal is built and adapted to a certain definite surrounding. Man, with his tools, is adapted to all circumstances and equipped for all surroundings. The horse is built for the prairie, and the monkey is built for the forest. In the forest, the horse would be just as helpless as the monkey would be if brought to the prairie. Man, on the other hand, uses the axe in the forest, and the spade on the prairie. With his tools, man can force his way in all parts of the world and establish himself all over. While almost all animals can live in particular regions, such as supply their wants, and if taken to different regions cannot exist, man has conquered the whole world. Every animal has, as a zoologist expressed it once, its strength by which means it maintains itself in the struggle for existence, and its weakness, owing to which it falls a prey to others and cannot multiply itself. In this sense, man has only strength and no weakness. Owing to his having tools, man is the equal of all animals. As these tools do not remain stationary, but continually improve, man grows above every animal. His tools make him master of all creation, the king of the earth.

In the animal world there is also a continuous development and perfection of organs. This development, however, is connected with the changes of the animal’s body, which makes the development of the organs infinitely slow, as dictated by biological laws. In the development of the organic world, thousands of years amount to nothing. Man, however, by transferring his organic development upon external objects has been able to free himself from the chain of biologic law. Tools can be transformed quickly, and technique makes such rapid strides that, in comparison with the development of animal organs, it must be called marvelous. Owing to this new road, man has been able, within the short period of a few thousand years, to rise above the highest animal. With the invention of these implements, man got to be a divine power, and he takes possession of the earth as his exclusive dominion. The peaceful and hitherto unhindered development of the organic world ceases to develop according to the Darwinian theory. It is man that acts as breeder, tamer, cultivator; and it is man that does the weeding. It is man that changes the entire environment, making the further forms of plants and animals suit his aim and will.

With the origin of tools, further changes in the human body cease. The human organs remain what they were, with the exception of the brain. The human brain had to develop together with tools; and, in fact, we see that the difference between the higher and lower races of mankind consists mainly in the contents of their brains. But even the development of this organ had to stop at a certain stage. Since the beginning of civilization, the functions of the brain are ever more taken away by some artificial means; science is treasured up in books. Our reasoning faculty of today is not much better than the one possessed by the Greeks, Romans or even the Teutons, but our knowledge has grown immensely, and this is greatly due to the fact that the mental organ was unburdened by its substitutes, the books.

Having learned the difference between men and animals, let us now again consider how they are affected by the struggle for existence. That this struggle is the cause of perfection and the weeding out of the imperfect, can not be denied. In this struggle the animals become ever more perfect. Here, however, it is necessary to be more precise in expression and in observation of what perfection consists. In being so, we can no longer say that animals as a whole struggle and become perfected. Animals struggle and compete by means of their particular organs. Lions do not carry on the struggle by means of their tails; hares do not rely on their eyes; nor do the falcons succeed by means of their beaks. Lions carry on the struggle by means of their saltatory (leaping) muscles and their teeth; hares rely upon their paws and ears, and falcons succeed on account of their eyes and wings. If now we ask what is it that struggles and what competes, the answer is, the organs struggle. The muscles and teeth of the lion, the paws and ears of the hare, and the eyes and wings of the falcon carry on the struggle. It is in this struggle that the organs become perfected. The animal as a whole depends upon these organs and shares their fate.

Let us now ask the same question about the human world. Men do not struggle by means of their natural organs, but by means of artificial organs, by means of tools (and weapons we must understand as tools). Here, too, the principle of perfection and the weeding out of the imperfect, through struggle, holds true. The tools struggle, and this leads to the ever greater perfection of tools. Those groups of tribes that use better tools and weapons can best secure their maintenance, and when it comes to a direct struggle with another race, the race that is better equipped with artificial tools will win. Those races whose technical aids are better developed, can drive out or subdue those whose artificial aids are not developed. The European race dominates because its external aids are better.

Here we see that the principle of the struggle for existence, formulated by Darwin and emphasized by Spencer, has a different effect on men than on animals. The principle that struggle leads to the perfection of the weapons used in the strife, leads to different results between men and animals. In the animal, it leads to a continuous development of natural organs; that is the foundation of the theory of descent, the essence of Darwinism. In men, it leads to a continuous development of tools, of the means of production. This, however, is the foundation of Marxism. Here we see that Marxism and Darwinism are not two independent theories, each of which applies to its special domain, without having anything in common with the other. In reality, the same principle underlies both theories. They form one unit. The new course taken by men, the substitution of tools for natural organs, causes this fundamental principle to manifest itself differently in the two domains; that of the animal world to develop according to Darwinians principle, while among mankind the Marxian principle applies. When men freed themselves from the animal world, the development of tools and productive methods, the division of labor and knowledge became the propelling force in social development. It is these that brought about the various systems, such as primitive communism, the peasant system, the beginnings of commodity production, feudalism, and now modern capitalism, and which bring us ever nearer to Socialism.

Capitalism and Socialism

The particular form that the Darwinian struggle for existence assumes in development is determined by men’s sociability and their use of tools. The struggle for existence, while it is still carried on among members of different groups, nevertheless ceases among members of the same group, and its place is taken by mutual aid and social feeling. In the struggle between groups, technical equipment decides who shall be the victor; this results in the progress of technique. These two circumstances lead to different effects under different systems. Let us see in what manner they work out under capitalism.

When the bourgeoisie gained political power and made the capitalist system the dominating one, it began by breaking the feudal bonds and freeing the people from all feudal ties. It was essential for capitalism that every one should be able to take part in the competitive struggle; that no one’s movements be tied up or narrowed by corporate duties or hampered by legal statutes, for only thus was it possible for production to develop its full capacity. The workers must have free command over themselves and not be tied up by feudal or guild duties, for only as free workers can they sell their labor-power to the capitalists as a whole commodity, and only as free laborers can the capitalists use them. It is for this reason that the bourgeoisie has done away with all old ties and duties. It made the people entirely free, but at the same time left them entirely isolated and unprotected. Formerly the people were not isolated; they belonged to some corporation; they were under the protection of some lord or commune, and in this they found strength. They were a part of a social group to which they owed duties and from which they received protection. These duties the bourgeoisie abolished; it destroyed the corporations and abolished the feudal relations. The freeing of labor meant at the same time that all refuge was taken away from him and that he could no longer rely upon others.

Every one had to rely upon himself. Alone, free from all ties and protection, he must struggle against all.

It is for this reason that, under capitalism, the human world resembles mostly the world of rapacious animals and it is for this very reason that the bourgeois Darwinists looked for men’s prototype among animals living isolated. To this they were led by their own experience. Their mistake, however, consisted in considering capitalist conditions as everlasting. The relation existing between our capitalist competitive system and animals living isolated, was thus expressed by Engels in his book, “Anti-Duehring” (page 239. This may also be found on page 59 of “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific”) as follows:

“Finally, modern industry and the opening of the world market made the struggle universal and at the same time gave it unheard-of virulence. Advantages in natural or artificial conditions of production now decide the existence or non-existence of individual capitalists as well as of whole industries and countries. He that falls is remorselessly cast aside. It is the Darwinian struggle of the individual for existence transferred from Nature to society with intensified violence. The conditions of existence natural to the animal appear as the final term of human development.”

What is that which carries on the struggle in this capitalist competition, the perfectness of which decides the victory?

First come technical tools, machines. Here again applies the law that struggle leads to perfection. The machine that is more improved outstrips the less improved, the machines that cannot perform much, and the simple tools are exterminated and machine technique develops with gigantic strides to ever greater productivity. This is the real application of Darwinism to human society. The particular thing about it is that under capitalism there is private property, and behind every machine there is a man. Behind the gigantic machine there is a big capitalist and behind the small machine there is a small capitalist. With the defeat of the small machine, the small capitalist, as capitalist, perishes with all his hopes and happiness. At the same time the struggle is a race of capital. Large capital is better equipped; large capital is getting ever larger. This concentration of capital undermines capital itself, for it diminishes the bourgeoisie whose interest it is to maintain capitalism, and it increases that mass which seeks to abolish it. In this development, one of the characteristics of capitalism is gradually abolished. In the world where each struggles against all and all against each, a new association develops among the working class, the class organization. The working class organizations start with ending the competition existing between workers and combine their separate powers into one great power in their struggle with the outside world. Everything that applies to social groups also applies to this class organization, brought about by natural conditions. In the ranks of this class organization, social motives, moral feelings, self-sacrifice and devotion for the entire body develop in a most splendid way. This solid organization gives to the working class that great strength which it needs in order to conquer the capitalist class. The class struggle which is not a struggle with tools but for the possession of tools, a struggle for the right to direct industry, will be determined by the strength of the class organization.

Let us now look at the future system of production as carried on under Socialism. The struggle leading to the perfection of the tools does not cease. As before under capitalism, the inferior machine will be outdistanced and brushed aside by the one that is superior. As before, this process will lead to greater productivity of labor. But private property having been abolished, there will no longer be a man behind each machine calling it his own and sharing its fate. Machines will be common property, and the displacement of the less developed by the better developed machinery will be carried out upon careful consideration.

With the abolition of classes the entire civilized world will become one great productive community. Within this community mutual struggle among members will cease and will be carried on with the outside world. It will no longer be a struggle against our own kind, but a struggle for subsistence, a struggle against nature. But owing to development of technique and science, this can hardly be called a struggle. Nature is subject to man and with very little exertion from his side she supplies him with abundance. Here a new career opens for man: man’s rising from the animal world and carrying on his struggle for existence by the use of tools, ceases, and a new chapter of human history begins.


Darwin's revolutionary ideas

February 12 is the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth. Phil Gasper explains the significance of his ideas, and why they still spark controversy today.

CHARLES DARWIN'S ideas revolutionized biology in the 19th century, but they also had a profound and lasting impact far outside narrow scientific circles, challenging religious dogmas and affecting almost every field of human knowledge.

Yet Darwin himself was a reluctant revolutionary--a man who shunned the limelight, hated controversy and became physically ill worrying that his ideas would shock Victorian England.

Darwin was a child of the rising liberal bourgeoisie. His paternal grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, was a prominent doctor and freethinker who wrote a speculative work on biological evolution in the 1790s. His mother was the daughter of Josiah Wedgwood, founder of the famous pottery.

Darwin grew up in Shropshire in England, and later attended Edinburgh University to study medicine, but soon discovered he did not have the stomach for it. He transferred to Cambridge with ideas of becoming a country parson, but instead, the botanist John Stevens Henslow ignited his interest in science.

In 1831, Henslow arranged for Darwin to join a surveying voyage on HMS Beagle as personal companion to the ship's captain, Robert FitzRoy. The voyage lasted nearly five years and was the turning point in Darwin's life.

The Beagle took him to South America, the Galapagos Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia and southern Africa, before returning to England in 1836. Darwin made detailed geological, botanical and zoological observations and accumulated a large collection of specimens. Back in England, he gained respect for his work as a geologist, including proposing a novel theory for the origin of coral reefs.

Much more radically, however, by the time of his return, Darwin had come to privately reject orthodox accounts of the origin of biological species, which viewed them as having been created in pretty much their present forms.

His observations of the similarities between living and fossil mammals, and between the distinct species of plants and animals on the Galapagos Islands and their counterparts on the South American mainland, persuaded him that biological evolution had taken place, even though he was not yet sure how.

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WITHIN A few years, Darwin had elaborated his entire theory of evolution. The crucial idea is that evolution is the result of natural selection--organisms that are better adapted to their environments are more likely to survive and reproduce, thus passing on their advantageous traits to the next generation.

Although Darwin formulated his theory as early as 1837, it was to be more than 20 years before he finally made it public.

The main reason for this delay was his nervousness about the materialist implications of his views and the challenge they posed to the dogmas of orthodox religion, regarded by the upper classes as a bulwark of the status quo during a period of social unrest in early Victorian Britain.

In Darwin's account, evolutionary change was largely the result of the random, ultimately purposeless process of natural selection. This suggests a thoroughly materialist picture of the world that banishes vital forces and preordained purposes from nature, and which implies that mental phenomena emerge when matter is arranged in complex ways.

Such ideas undermine not only traditional religious views of divine creation, but also more sophisticated versions of theism, which claim that God works through evolution.

"Love of the deity effect of organization [of the brain], oh you materialist!" he wrote privately in the late 1830s. "Why is thought being a secretion of brain more wonderful than gravity a property of matter? It is our arrogance, our admiration of ourselves."

Darwin confided to his friends that going public with his ideas about evolution would be like "confessing to a murder." In 1839, Darwin married his cousin, Emma Wedgwood, who, unlike him, was devoutly religious, adding a personal dimension to this conflict.

Darwin and his wife moved to Down House in Kent, and from this period onwards, he was in poor health, probably caused at least in part by his intellectual anxieties. But Darwin's family inheritance allowed him to devote his time to science and to accumulate a mass of evidence supporting his views.

Darwin finally went public with his ideas in 1858, after learning that a young Welsh naturalist, Alfred Russel Wallace, had reached similar conclusions. The following year Darwin published his masterpiece, The Origin of Species, which makes a methodical case for evolution.

Darwin argues that natural selection is a real process, analogous to the way in which plant and animal breeders can dramatically alter the characteristics of a group of organisms over a series of generations by permitting only those with desired traits to reproduce.

In the natural world, a population of organisms can become better and better adapted to its environment over a period of time, and the characteristics of its members at the end of the process may be very different from those of their ancestors.

Darwin went on to argue that natural selection is capable of giving rise not simply to new varieties, but to new species, and that it can in principle account for all the characteristics of existing organisms, even "organs of extreme perfection" like the human eye.

In the Origin, Darwin presents an enormous quantity of evidence that natural selection is not only a possible explanation of the origin of species, but that it is the only reasonable one. The data ranges from the pattern of development revealed in the fossil record, to facts about the geographical distribution of organisms, to anatomical and developmental similarities between otherwise very different living things.

Darwin demonstrates that his view can provide satisfying explanations of such matters, while from the point of view of those who believe in divine creation, they remain conundrums.

For instance, the forelimbs of humans, cats, bats, porpoises and horses perform very different functions and have very different forms, but remarkably share the same underlying bone structure. This only makes sense if all these creatures had a common ancestor in the distant past.

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EVEN THOUGH Darwin avoided the issue of human evolution in the Origin (a subject he was later to discuss at length in The Descent of Man), its publication inevitably sparked intense controversy. The eminent geologist Adam Sedgwick condemned Darwin's views for their "unflinching materialism," and figures such as Samuel Wilberforce, the Bishop of Oxford, attacked evolution from a religious perspective.

But it was precisely Darwin's materialism that explains the enthusiasm of his contemporaries Karl Marx and Frederick Engels for his new theory. Less than a month after the Origin was published, Engels remarked in a letter to Marx: "Darwin, whom I am just now reading, is splendid."

Marx himself read the Origin the following year and commented to Engels, "Although it is developed in the crude English style, this is the book which contains the basis in natural history for our own view." Several years later, Marx sent Darwin an inscribed copy of Das Kapital (although the story that he wanted to dedicate the second edition of this work to Darwin is a myth).

Although Darwin didn't engage in the public debate around The Origin, several younger scientists, including Joseph Hooker and Thomas Huxley, came to his defense. Within less than a decade, the bulk of the scientific establishment had been won over to evolution, although it took longer for natural selection to be accepted as the central mechanism.

Darwin's ideas were initially viewed as a challenge to the existing social order, but attempts were soon being made to use them in its support. The political theorist Herbert Spencer formulated the doctrine of Social Darwinism, defending laissez-faire economics on the grounds that it represented the principle of the "survival of the fittest" applied to human society.

Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton, founded the eugenics movement, which viewed social inequalities as having a biological basis and advocated intervention to "improve" the human stock.

But while there have been many attempts to link Darwin's ideas to the claim that social inequalities are biologically determined, and while Darwin undoubtedly shared many of the prejudices of his era, there is evidence of the opposite--that his biological theories were shaped by a commitment to human equality.

Darwin was horrified by slavery, and from an early age was a committed abolitionist who believed that all men are brothers. According to a new book by Adrian Desmond and James Moore, his convictions played an important role in leading him to the idea of the common descent of all organisms.

New attempts to use Darwinian ideas to explain social inequality have emerged in recent decades, including sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, which argue that evolution has shaped human beings to live in hierarchical, competitive societies.

But the history of human evolution reveals that the distinctive characteristic of our species is its flexibility, and that for most of human history, our ancestors lived in societies based on common ownership, cooperation and equality.

While Darwin's ideas have been misused by defenders of the status quo, they continue to come under attack from religiously motivated critics who advocate creationism or its somewhat more sophisticated variant the theory of "intelligent design."

The truth is, however, that Darwin had already refuted such ideas 150 years ago. Today, they are utterly without merit, and represent an attack not just on evolutionary biology but on scientific rationality itself. Although Darwin did not get everything right, the evidence for evolution has only increased since his death in 1882.

Darwin's ideas represent one of the great achievements of humanity's efforts to understand the natural world. Properly understood, they should be part of the arsenal of everyone fighting for progressive social change today.

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What else to read

A collection of Darwin's writings can be found in The Darwin Reader [2], edited by Mark Ridley. Ridley is also the author of How to Read Darwin [3], a short and clear introduction. Darwin's complete works [4] are now available online.

The best biography of Darwin is Adrian Desmond and James Moore's Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist [5]. Desmond and Moore have also just published Darwin's Sacred Cause: How a Hatred of Slavery Shaped Darwin's Views on Human Evolution [6].

For those interested in the debate around creationism and "intelligent design," Philip Kitcher's Living With Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith [7] is a good introduction. The debate is put into a broader historical context in Critique of Intelligent Design: Materialism versus Creationism From Antiquity to the Present [8] by John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark and Richard York.

Finally, Ever Since Darwin [9], a collection of essays by the late Stephen Jay Gould, explores the continuing relevance of Darwin's ideas and criticizes their misappropriation by biological determinists of various stripes.

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Material on this Web site is licensed by, under a Creative Commons (by-nc-nd 3.0) [10] license, except for articles that are republished with permission. Readers are welcome to share and use material belonging to this site for non-commercial purposes, as long as they are attributed to the author and

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Freedom Socialist • Vol. 30, No. 2 • April-May 2009

Happy birthday to a revolutionary evolutionist

by Megan Cornish

It's no wonder that students in the U.S. score below average on international science achievement tests. They certainly have few role models who demonstrate the power of logical thinking! Politicians, CEOs, and the media stun with a flood of cynical doublespeak. Giving trillions of dollars away to banks is upholding "free enterprise," for example, while opposing gay marriage is defending "family values"!

In the middle of such intentional muddle comes a breath of fresh air: the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of his great work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. There will be a lot of revisiting of his monumental theory this year, and perhaps this will do us all some good.

The idea that forms of life evolve, rather than springing up as God's unchanging creations, had been developing for a century when Origin of Species was published. Darwin's contribution was to explain how evolution works.

Small variations between individuals in a species occur by chance. These sometimes result in a trait that either allows an individual to reproduce more successfully than other group members or helps it to exploit new sources of food or geographical areas. The beneficial trait is passed on to offspring.

Species gradually change. Over time, a quantity of small changes make a qualitative difference and new species emerge, while old ones die out. That is natural selection.

This is revolutionary stuff, and it caused an explosion that still reverberates today. Evolution means that the old order of things does not have to last forever; in fact, it cannot last forever. And the nature of the human species is not static and supernaturally defined, but fluid and conditioned by our material and social circumstances.

Darwin was one of many intellectual bomb-throwers of his time. Many modern spheres of investigation were just coming into being. Capitalism was still a rising star, able to make progressive use of technological discoveries. These were the days before it began to burn itself out and learned to fear exploration into climate science, or technologies that would reduce oil profits, or embryonic stem cell research. And, especially, before economics ceased to be an area of honest examination and became mere cheerleading for a dying system.

But, before that happened, the physical scientist Darwin had his counterparts in the social sciences: his contemporaries Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. The Communist Manifesto appeared in 1848, just before a revolutionary upsurge in Europe and 11 years before Darwin's Origin of Species.

Building on the work of philosophers and economists before them, Marx and Engels came up with a perspective that parallels Darwin's in its explanation of how society evolves. Every social system is born, develops, and dies, they said, because of identifiable historical and material reasons; change results from the interaction of one thing with another. No system can be eternal.

They recognized that their method of analysis, called dialectical materialism, applies both to social and natural reality. It's the method scientists use, whether or not they know the term. Engels wrote a brilliant treatment of its application to the physical world — including an appreciative analysis of Darwin — in his book Dialectics of Nature.

Darwin, Marx and Engels were kindred spirits because they saw things in this logical, dynamic way. Darwin's scientific approach led him to instinctively oppose oppression. He was horrified by the slavery he saw in Brazil. He objected to the exploitation of aboriginal peoples. His emphasis on human beings as one species was fundamentally at odds with the racist notion of "subhumans." And — oh, the horror! — he pointed out that humans are an integral part of the animal kingdom.

Darwin has much more in common with Marx and Engels than with the so-called social Darwinists who twist his theory into a simplistic glorification of competition between individuals ("survival of the fittest") and use it to justify the dog-eat-dog nature of capitalism.

Actually, a key element for species survival — one Darwin recognized — is the capacity to cooperate. Without it, humans would have been dinner for the large cats of Africa, our ancestral home, long before we could create modern society.

In today's global crisis, too, it will be our ability to work together that will determine our survival. In order to end war, act to save our planet, and take the reins of power away from the obscenely rich few, the overwhelming majority must cooperate to take the next logical step. The wealth of our world is collectively created; when it is also collectively shared, we can guarantee a continuing future for Homo sapiens.

Let's use the brain that evolution gave us to make sure we have a 300th birthday of Charles Darwin to celebrate!