Popular Science Monthly/Volume 14/March 1879/Science and Socialism
|SCIENCE AND SOCIALISM.|
I MUST assume it to be generally known that in last year's Congress of German Naturalists and Physicians, held at Munich, a prominent member incidentally referred to the points of contact between Socialist Democracy and Darwinism, as also to the momentous and redoubtable consequences which might thence ensue. These words of certainly well-meant admonition were received with delight by all those who in any event can not tolerate the doctrine of descent, and who accordingly heartily approved of making Darwinism responsible for the most exciting social phenomenon of the time.
It is, of course, all right enough if certain representatives of Socialist Democracy think they can with the aid of Darwinism add force to their opinions; but they jumble together doctrines which either are irrelevant, or which mutually exclude one another.
This fact, indeed, is recognized by another portion of the Socialist-Democratic party, who hold that the socialistic idea must have supplanted the Darwinian principle as applied to the human race, before the new form of society can be realized and made to stand.
The political economists have now for more than a century been studying the "Struggle for Life" in its bearings on the weal or woe of mankind yet not until the advent of Darwin did they consider the problem understandingly. Under what forms individuals and classes compete with one another; in what way this struggle is to be ennobled for the benefit of the race—these and other like questions are agitated on all sides, as witness one work among many, namely, A. Lange's thoughtful book, "On the Labor Question" ("Ueber die Arbeiterfrage"). It is not, therefore, with this well-known point of contact with Darwinism that we have to do, but with the special application of ostensibly Darwinian results to the justification and the execution of the Socialist-Democratic programme.
Although it has been raining "Quintessences of Socialism" for the instruction of the public, nevertheless we must briefly explain how far Socialist Democracy, as realized in the future, purports to be the ultimate term of a natural development.
Having passed through the period of absolute Inculture, a period which might be roughly characterized by community life in troops and minor family groups under the leadership of strong male individuals, traces of which are found in the mammoth and reindeer caves, man next entered the less rude condition of the hunter and the nomad in those minor groups, now developed into clans, rose above the primordial state by their complex organization, their division of labor, and their larger enterprise. But now, as we read in the writings of the Socialist Democrats, with distinction of classes and the institution of personal slavery opens the first epoch of human civilization. In this slavery period the whole man is an instrument of labor, and with all his faculties he is the property of the owner who commands his entire service.
In the second civilization period, characterized by handicraft and the possession of land on the small scale, the still widely diffused custom of socage or compulsory service is a reminiscence of the suppressed institution of slavery. The working people are now burgesses enjoying personal freedom, yet hindered in their spontaneous development by the guild. These craftsmen and workers of the soil are the owners and masters of the implements of their calling. Still they do not attain true enjoyment of life, inasmuch as their whole time is engrossed with mechanical toil, in order to procure a livelihood.
The third estate becomes emancipated from the control of the aristocracy of landlordism, the nobility, and the Church. But already the factory system, the system of production by division of labor, was in operation—a system which strips the workman of his little property, and places him under the control of capital.
The factory system is transformed into machine industry. The simpler tools and machinery of early times, worked by hand, have been in the present century developed into a vast complicity of machines producing motion, transferring motion, and doing the work of mechanical tools. These machines tie the workman fast to themselves, reduce his personal service to a minimum of manipulations, and complete the physical and moral wretchedness of the laboring population by increased employment of women and children.
Machinery is an instrument for the accumulation of capital, and of capital as "unpaid labor" at that.
The development of the various forms of production down to the present time when private capital rules everything, and when small capitalists have no chance as against the great, has been vividly portrayed by Marx. He regards the development of the economic social forms as a natural-history process. ("Capital," page 7.) The proposition on which the whole matter hinges, namely, that regarding "unpaid labor," has the appearance of being so simple and so true, that even to many among the laboring class the grand conclusion appears evident, namely, that "the doom of capitalistic private property is about to be sealed. The expropriators will suffer expropriation." (Ibid., page 793.)
Here we see set forth as the natural consequence of development the violent introduction of the Socialist-Democratic state. With the rise of that form of polity the domination of private capital comes to an end; machinery is no longer private property, but it, with all the other instruments of production, with all that which is understood by the term capital, is transformed into collective or state capital. Private production gives place to collective production. With the abolition, not indeed of all private property, but of all private capital in so far as the same is employed as a means of production, universal participation in the fruits of the collective production, in the means of enjoyment, and in the higher good things of life, is accorded to the whole race.
In this stage of future development the Socialist idea is fully realized. We will not dwell any further on the happy state of things which they say is sure to come about.
If any one would learn more concerning this "picture of fancy," as Socialism is innocently named in one of its chief organs, he may consult Leopold Jacoby's book, "The Idea of Development" ("Die Idee der Entwickelung," 1874, page 6), where he will find it painted in glowing-colors. Or he can get a notion of what it is from Engels's most recent utterances (Eug. Dühring's "Science revolutionized"—"Die Umwalzüng der Wissenschaft," 1878).
It would be a great mistake to suppose that in the camp of the Socialist Democrats we must find the state of the future represented as a refined copy of a type belonging to the brute creation: on the contrary, Socialistic writers stoutly maintain that the principle of development implies reconstruction. Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness, we will glance at the animal world and consider there the relations between private and collective capital and private and collective production.
Most animals labor for themselves alone. Their implements of labor (private capital) are represented by their members and their weapons of offense; their gains they employ to sustain life. They gather not into barns. Only among the higher classes of animals do we find association of labor and care on the part of the parents for the welfare of their posterity—instincts which can be regarded as confirmed and inherited habits, for all these instinctive actions resolve themselves into labor with gradually accumulated, inherited private capital.
The consociation of higher animals may have the look of work in common, and not instinctive, as for instance when wolves hunt in packs to obtain food, or when animals graze in herds—a habit originating in the need of mutual protection. The colony structures of beavers, the massed nests of the republican bird, are socialistic improvements, in the case of the beaver made under unfavorable outward conditions, and hence apparently the result of the animal's voluntary action.
This deceptive appearance is wanting in the structures of the inferior animals, where societies are formed through propagation by budding, the progeny remaining connected with the mother organism. The single individual of a colony of polyps enjoys not only protection against mechanical injuries in the polypidom secreted by all for all, but further, in case its local position in the polypidom is unfavorable for taking in food, it is fed by the collective alimentary canal, into which flows the surplus of the individual production. A still more complicated social condition, with strict division of labor, is seen in the jellyfish known as the "Portuguese man-of-war."
I call attention to these familiar facts in order to show that in the animal kingdom communism and socialism are all the more pronounced the lower the organization of the groups among which they appear; and that, on the other hand, wherever among the higher animals conditions occur which savor of the socialistic principle, in the division of the results of the collective production, the egoism of the individual appears all the stronger. I do not at all mean hence to conclude that the case can not be otherwise in human society.
From the selflessness of the polyp to the egoism of the wolf is a development. How this development has been brought about, and how man must come under its action, Darwin teaches; and Leopold Jacoby tells us that the already quoted gospel of the Social Democracy, namely, Marx's work on "Capital," is "a continuation and complement of Darwin's 'Origin of Species' and his 'Descent of Man.' "
This same opinion was expressed one year earlier in "The People's State" ("Der Volksstaat," 1873, No. 31), and it is now our task to examine into its ground.
The only passage in which Marx himself speaks of any complement of Darwinism, though not in connection with his own researches, but à propos of the need of a special history of technology, is where he says: "Darwin has drawn attention to the history of natural technology, that is, the formation of plant and animal organs as production-instruments for the life of animals and plants. Should not equal attention be given to the history of the formation of the production organs of man in society, seeing that these organs are the material basis of every special society organization?" ("Capital," page 385.)
But the scientific method, that of proving by facts the relations between phenomena, is employed by Marx; and in my opinion he is in the right when he protests against the supposition that his dialectic method is at bottom Hegelian. But neither does he collect all the facts—for example, he knows only on the one hand the oppressor and the extortioner, and on the other their victims reduced to misery—nor does he refrain from gratuitous assumptions, as for instance that of the "Unpaid Labor," the most momentous of them all. Again, it happens that, from his not understanding the results of the doctrine of development, the true and actual relations of sociology to Darwinism are hidden from him. For example, he says that "in reality each special historic mode of production has its own special and historically valid laws of population. An abstract law of population holds for plants and animals only in so far as man does not interfere."
Engels, in the work already quoted (page 491), repeats a similar proposition; but it is not correct, if we use the term "law" in the one sense permitted by exact natural science. The conditions of propagation among plants and animals, the results of their multiplication, vary according to circumstances; and man with his experiments in breeding does not correct Nature, he only copies her. It is plainly out of the question here to speak of laws of population; it were better instead to say that the conditions of population in each period are the effects of special, variable causes peculiar to each stage of development. Cases which are the result of varying circumstances and events are not laws, nor do they justify us in inferring fixed laws.
The attempt has been made, not indeed by Marx himself, but by one of his followers, Leopold Jacoby, to connect logically, in one continuous process, social evolution and its ultimate term, the Socialist-Democratic ideal, with nature's evolution.
He does the impossible with a sophistical argumentation that reminds us of Hegel's dialectic: he is an enthusiast, but it is not for me to pass judgment on his services to Socialist Democracy. Plainly he is an enfant terrible for his party. His scientific ideas are of the narrowest kind. Nevertheless, we must reckon with him, since he is the only Socialist-Democrat writer who makes any pretense to observe scientific method in this matter, i. e., the connection between the theory of development and Socialist Democracy. We will later consider Engels's relation to that subject.
Social evolution is nowadays represented by the leaders of Socialist Democracy as being a process of perfectionment necessarily progressing toward a definite end; and as, rightly enough, they do not divorce man from nature, it is plainly their purpose to discover oneness and continuity in social and in natural evolution.
Revolution, say the Social Democrats, is correction of perverted conditions or re-formation for the sake of improvement. Copernicus happily expressed this idea when he gave to his work which upset the astronomical notions of his time the title "De Revolutionibus." It is of no consequence whatever that this is not the true title of the book, but "De Orbium Cœlestium Revolutionibus," or that "revolutio" means a turning round and not an overturning.
In short, in these revolutions, as the Socialist-Democratic philosophy further teaches, "we recognize an ever self-perfecting origination and formation of things in the universe": so much we learn from Kant and Laplace. Then came Lamarck with the "doctrine of the continuous and successive development of organic beings on the earth," but for half a century he failed to obtain a hearing till Darwin procured for the doctrine full acceptance. Thus we have to thank Lamarck and Darwin for the fact that we understand the nature of the two great "revolutions," whereof the one produced the existence of organisms in the transition of the inorganic into the organic, while the idea of the other had for its object the appearance of man.
Thus the philosophy of Social Democracy resembles that of Plato, in teaching that the idea hovers over the bodily form. It is the idea that dominates everywhere, determining the forms of all things. Hence, down to the advent of man there was in nature a steady, thorough, unconscious striving.
And here comes in another great revolution, the third—viz., the universal apparition of the consciousness of the human race, the philosophical establishment of which is the task which Marx has set himself. Thus, then, as we read in the "Volksstaat" (ubi supra), "Darwin and Marx have, by their profound and ingenious researches, carried on in totally different scientific fields, attained results of the utmost importance to mankind, and which, being intimately correlated, mutually support and complement one another."
As Social Democracy holds the accomplishment of its ends to be inevitable and necessary, so, as we have seen, it is one of its cardinal principles that all the phenomena which take place in matter, and all developments of matter, are prefigured and predetermined in the idea. The honest workingman thus learns that a statue is less successful, the less conscious the sculptor was of the idea of the work of beauty inherent in the marble block, and the more he suffered himself during his labor to be influenced by considerations of profit and the like. "In this example of the sculptor and his work, we have," says Jacoby, "a direct proof (direct proof!) of the truth of the proposition that ideas are contained in unconscious nature."
I shall be asked whether the utterances just recounted represent the sympathy between Socialist Democracy and Darwinism—whether these abstract and rather curious and confused theses and propositions represent the dangerous elements, that is, the politically dangerous elements imported into Socialist Democracy from the development theory.
With a few additions, which we will make further on, they do!
How, then, does Darwinism stand with respect to these cardinal ideas of the socialistic development doctrine, as laid down by a philosopher of that school?
We find here two ideas wherein Socialist Democracy purports to be at one with the scientific doctrine of Evolution, viz., Development or Revolution is re-formation—i. e., correction of perverted conditions; and All development has for its basis an idea which designates the future goal, and which governs the movement toward the same. In themselves these propositions are plainly innocent enough, and if they were a result of Darwinian research, they need not be disowned. But Darwinism disclaims the honor of having established any such principles.
What we call origin, or development of species, is in the first place not a reversal of perverted conditions. In such play upon words we have never indulged. The Darwinian principle of development is Natural Selection, and people are not wont to select from perverted types. It is true that the struggle amid which selection goes on includes also the struggle against wrong, when it is waged consciously, but generally it is a struggle against environment.
We have first to take into consideration the downfall of the one that struggles. But nature, or if you choose the law of nature, recognizes here no distinction of right and wrong: the question is purely one of might. That one is defeated who possesses the least means, the least amount of fight-capital, however sufficient and abundant the same might be under circumstances different from those here and now prevailing. Certainly no scientific man has ever dreamed of subsuming this case under the Hegelian, phrases evil—good, negation—position, perversion—correction, etc.
The opposite of this first instance of the outcome of the struggle for existence is seen where one party, by a process of gradual perfectionment, prevails over its opponents and the environment. To the philosopher who is searching for analogies, this appears to be the practical fulfillment of the idea of perfectionment. Still, these two extremes do by no means exhaust every possible termination of the struggle; for there is another possible issue—one which, though it be overlooked by the Socialist-Democrat philosophers, is nevertheless of enormously frequent occurrence: the organism that makes the struggle adapts itself to the environment. In doing this, it must oftentimes pass through such straits that it parts with some of its perfections and falls to a lower grade, like many a European baron who has in America found use for himself as a cook's assistant. Or it so remolds itself and its habits in adapting itself to the environment that, while it in no wise becomes more perfect, it nevertheless, as far as possible, insures for the future its present rank.
Thus, to illustrate by an example, it has been observed that, as a rule, birds of brilliant plumage, which on that very account are more conspicuous objects to their enemies, are far more careful to conceal their nests than birds which are not so conspicuous. This we explain on the theory that the ancestors of the bright-colored species by degrees became wise by experience, and that this experience, reënforced by habit, was transmitted to their progeny by heredity. Natural selection keeps pace with experience and habit. In the case of these birds, the change in nesting is a step of progress, but they have not thereby gained any perfection.
If in the historic evolution of organic nature we saw progress only, we should be strongly tempted to regard progress, pure and simple, as a universal natural law for social development as well. But the lesson taught us by birds of brilliant plumage (to say nothing of the loss of acquired perfection) is repeated throughout the whole world of lowly and lowest organisms. These have stood stock-still and must so remain, despite the perfection attained in many directions. The persistence of the low and the imperfect finds its very simple explanation in the persistence of its universally prevailing life-conditions. Millions and millions of lowly species have perished one after another, giving way to better, i. e., to stronger; and many millions whose slightly variant ancestors escaped from their enemies and rivals have survived. A sea peopled only by fishes, or the land only by mammals, is something unnatural. Thus, the imperfect endures; the perfect, the homogeneous, left to itself alone, becomes self-destructive, as the New-Zealanders began to prey on each other so soon as they had exterminated their only edible wild animal, the dinornis.
In short, Darwinism shows that the evolution of organic life is not to be summed up in a few abstract formula. It calls attention to the fact that with the gradual succession of species goes on, with other movements, a slow perfectionment in different directions; and this necessary but yet only partial progress it seeks to explain by "selection of the fittest" in the decay or the backwardness of less gifted individuals and species.
In the whole system of Darwinism we find, unfortunately, no hint of a law which shall in advance determine this perfectionment; and it is laughable to observe how, on the one side, people are complaining that we set up Chance on a throne as a universal principle, while, on the other side, people are making the discovery that the guiding principles of the Socialist Democrats, those principles which are shaping the future, are corollaries of the theory of development.
The strength of the Socialist-Democratic teaching lies in this, that the candidates and members of the party, men unpracticed in logical thinking, are sternly schooled in a few principles, and taught to regard the actualization of the idea as something necessary ex necessitate rei. The fundamental mistake of supposing that Social Democracy has any point of contact with Darwinism arises, as we have explained, out of the supposition that Darwinism too has brought to light ideas which govern organic transformation—such ideas as are supposed to be necessary for calling forth social revolutions.
The Socialist Democrats do away, after their own fashion, with the personal Godhead, and for this, of course, "atheistic science" is held to answer. In L. Jacoby's work we read:
This thought, stripped of the studied verbiage in which it is here invested, has very generally become rooted in the minds of the Socialist Democrats. In this way they have set up, in the place of a personal God, a sort of infallible bugbear under the guise of an Omnipotent Idea. The whole thing is misty, mystic, supernatural, in no sense scientific, least of all is it a Darwinian explication of facts.
Darwinism holds the exact opposite of all this, maintaining that development does not proceed according to ideas. Darwinism sees in nature only forces, laws, causes, and effects. Ideas it must for the present leave to the philosophers; and, moreover, it has absolutely no points of contact with the doctrine of ideas contained in the Socialist-Democrat catechism. Hence, when the Socialist Democracy bases the realization of its ideal on the fact that men who are conscious of the impelling ideas must irresistibly push on the work, and so carries the masses on into a belief in these ideas, it must itself be held responsible. As for Darwinism, it gives no encouragement to such imaginings, and hence must, in this respect, be simply indifferent for all, whether they hate Social Democracy or whether they love it.
But there is a category of scientific men who look on the origin of species as a development of the higher out of the lower; who find the Darwinian principle insufficient; who will have nothing unaccounted for, and who therefore conceal their ignorance under such phrases as "tendency to perfection" or "aiming at an end." I might also refer to the "Philosophy of the Unconscious"—now, as I believe, in process of decay—a philosophy which, whenever it knows not how to explain anything, solemnly invokes the aid of its "Unconscious." Between these muddled auxiliaries and the Socialist Democrat's "ideas which govern revolutions and determine the re-formation of perverted conditions," there exists an unmistakable though perhaps "unconscious" relationship.
There is, then, a point of contact between Socialist Democracy and Darwinism; but, as far as we have examined it, it is seen to rest on erroneous suppositions and ignorance of the essence of the development doctrine. So far we have found it concerned only with a few theoretical propositions; and we have had nothing to say about the practical realization of the Socialistic idea, or of the doctrines which might perhaps be borrowed from Darwinism to add to it strength.
The Socialist Democrats are unanimous in expressing discontent with the social conditions at present existing. But with respect to the specific organization of society in the future their leaders are very reticent. So much is certain, that the great mass of the workingmen, who now have to sell their entire strength for wages that merely suffice to support life, will in the future perform no so-called "unpaid labor." They will have a share in those higher enjoyments the prerequisite condition of which is a higher mental development. Opportunity for attaining this is afforded every one in the Socialist-Democratic state, by a considerable shortening of the hours of purely mechanical toil, and by opening perfectly free schools of every grade. When the whole population has been in this way refined, there is no longer question of the "rude physical struggle for existence." For since in the time to come each individual will develop his reason, and reason can not endure perversion or wrong, each will labor for all and all for each. Whether, instead of the present division of labor, there will be an arrangement having the same effect, but based on personal inclination and personal fitness ("Zukunft," 1878, page 704); or whether the system of alternation of work will be introduced, so that, as Engels would have it (ubi supra, page 173), the man who in the forenoon wheels a barrow is an architect in the afternoon; what is to be done when no workmen offer themselves for certain kinds of labor, while for other kinds there are too many; whether and how the workman is to be entitled to a certain measure of the means of enjoyment according to the nature of his work, or the exertions he puts forth, or his individual needs: these are all open questions. The amicable settlement of these questions presupposes, as we have already observed, a general physical and moral elevation of the individual, of which the present mean intellectual status is but a faint foretaste.
Thus Socialist Democracy demands a more equitable general division of the good things of life, that every one shall have a share in life's pleasures, and it aims to demonstrate the justice and the naturalness of the claim. We are interested in it, inasmuch as appeal is made to Darwinism for its establishment.
The revolution which goes on quietly in Christendom has appealed to the equality which exists beyond the grave. The Revolution of 1789 was more practical, and championed the natural right of the Third Estate—the right of equality and fraternity here on earth. What it was that gave this direction to the revolution, and how it expounded the return to nature and to the truth of which so much was then said, is sufficiently well known. Now, again, as the Socialist Democracy is not alone in affirming, and truly enough too perhaps, we stand on the threshold of a social overturning. Again there is question of an appeal to be made to the inborn rights of man. Next after the basic idea controlling revolution, of which we have already spoken, the Socialistic programme, like the programme of all revolutions which proceed from a general state of distress, insists on the restoration of that equality which is the strictly natural right of every man, but which has been lost, owing to unnatural and perverted social conditions.
The Socialist Democrats are not content with Brentano's view, that humanity's goal is perfection, nor with Held's, that the ideal end of progress is the highest perfectionment of all. Hence they have enlarged the idea of perfectionment by making it include a reduction of labor and an increase of bodily and intellectual enjoyment. That, in the event of a refusal to recognize the justice of this demand, force would be employed to complete its demonstration, is expressed without ambiguity. But it is easy to see how welcome it would be to the leaders of the movement could biology be ranged on their side, and could Darwinism, "carried out to its logical conclusions," be inscribed on their banner.
If the Socialist-Democratic doctrines had any organic relationship to the anthropological side of Darwinism, science would find its way into it. It would ill befit Science to complain of this. In fact, the Socialist Democrats believe that such alliance has already been effected between science and their philosophy, and it will do no harm to consider the situation, though as conceived by the Socialist Democrats it implies a fundamental misunderstanding.
In the "Volksstaat" (ubi supra) we read:
Then the conclusion is drawn that, inasmuch as the reactionaries will not accept the descent of man, they do all they can to prevent the recognition of Darwinism as a support of Socialist Democracy, and to check its diffusion among the people.
How the Socialist Democrats picture to themselves the equality of all men, and first of all the equal natural condition of all men, we see in Jacoby: "Man is good from the beginning"; "The brain of each individual man is capable of being developed so that it shall of itself do all thinking, just as the hand of each individual man is capable of being developed so that it shall do everything with the aid of machinery." That hitherto we have seen only capacity for equal development, while in fact there exists great inequality of development, is due to the fact that only those who enjoy unnatural privileges have the time requisite for the development of their consciousness. When men shall once have been properly brought up to equality in the Socialistic state, then equal development, with bias toward the good, will come of itself, for "knowledge of nature compels us to regard all men as beings capable of development in precisely the same measure."
But by the term "all men" is to be understood the male portion of the race, for many Socialist Democrats agree with high authorities in holding that woman, by reason of her abnormal brain-structure, must, in the state of the future, act a subordinate part: judgment, action, are not for her, but only feeling, and the faculty of order.
In all this it were difficult to find a single trait that can be referred to the Darwinian anthropology. The Socialist's "aspiration toward perfection" is associated with his ideal of the equality of mankind. Now, this illusion Darwinism utterly demolishes. The very principle of development negatives the principle of equality. So far does Darwinism go in denying equality, that even where in idea we should have equality, Darwinism pronounces its realization an impossibility. Darwinism is the scientific establishment of inequality, and hence the assertion that the Darwinian doctrine is above all a recognition of the doctrine of the equality of all men needs no refutation from our side: it has no foundation in fact.
Again, nowhere in the literature of Darwinism do we find the axioms that "every man is from the beginning good," or that "all men are equal in their capacity for development."
As to what the Darwinians think, let me quote from my book, "Darwinism and the Doctrine of Descent": "The grade to which this (intellectual) development rises is generally dependent on the preceding generations. The psychical capacities of each individual bear the family type, and are determined by the laws of heredity. For it is simply untrue that, independently of color and descent, each man, under conditions otherwise alike, may attain a like pitch of mental development" (page 296).
Had it not been that we are held answerable for these ideas of the Socialist Democrats, we should never have esteemed them worthy of notice.
The Socialist Democrats anticipate, when their state shall have been founded, the universal contentment of all men, who shall labor partly out of personal inclination, partly by state ordinance. For this, good men will surely be needed, for one year after the proclamation of equality, the "Volksstaat" (1874, No. 30) demands that "the strong and the weak, the bright and the dull, force of mind and force of body, in so far as they are human, shall in a partnership such as befits human beings be associated in labor, and associated in the enjoyment of its fruits."
Here we must consider that fraction of the Socialist Democrats who with Engels (ubi supra, pages 223 sqq., and especially page 235) imagine that the inequality which man inherits from his brute origin, an inequality that can not be done away, will be paralyzed under the new social order. As we have seen, some of the Socialists deduce the inequality of human individuals from the unnaturalness of the old form of social organization; they not only maintain a vague idea of equality, but they also expect to see an equal development of individuals, though strong and weak, bright and dull, still continue.
On the other hand, Engels calls the advanced advocates of equality "ghosts," and the demand of the proletariat for an equality beyond the abolition of class, an "absurdity" (page 84); at the same time he is confident that the struggle for existence will cease on the abolition of class distinctions, and will give place to universal mutual good will. This would require that individuals should disregard all actually existent inequalities, whether mental or bodily. Plainly there is no Darwinism here either, and we leave it to others to contest this conversion of the doctrine of development, a doctrine grounded on observation, into a fiction of the imagination, for we have to do, not with Socialist Democracy as such, but with its relation to Darwinism.
The result of our investigation is, that Socialist Democracy, wherever it appeals to Darwinism, has failed to understand that hypothesis; that, if it has understood it, it knows not how to draw from it any advantage for itself; and that it must deny the unalterable principle of Darwinism, namely, competition.
Such is an account of our relations to Socialist Democracy, a movement whose gravity we look on as a sign of a diseased social state that calls for help and salvation.
It remains to define our position with respect to the views of a few of the friends and counselors of the Socialistic movement who, approaching more nearly to the Darwinian point of view, look for the best results for human progress to result from natural selection after present social ills have been cured. I refer in particular to Albert Lange. That so eminent a student of human life should estimate at its true value the struggle for existence which has come down to humanity from the unconscious animal world, was to have been expected. He well knew how little warrant there is for the expectation that the "struggle for the more desirable position" will ever cease. But he based his hope on the idea of liberty and equality, an idea that is slowly developed with the developing reason, and which brings men together, in spite of differences of race, or talents, or station. He hoped that the laws of the conscious intelligence would, as time went on, gain the mastery. He hoped for a deliverance to come in the very remote future from a current of thought and feeling which would arise in the developed human mind, and which would run counter to the natural process of differentiation and division. He hoped for a spiritualization of the physical struggle into a peaceful contest, having for its object the good of the race. It is therefore nothing new if in these days like views are put forth by Socialist Democrats.
In his work "The Labor Question," Lange has intimated that certain social evils are the results of artificial selection, and that these might be corrected by a return to simpler natural conditions. If we were to spin out this thought, as is done, for instance, by Dodel in his "Neuere Schöpfungsgeschichte" (1875, pages 145, 147), we might readily persuade ourselves that under the social conditions now existing the principle of natural selection, indeed any purely natural development, "comes into operation either not at all, or only to a limited extent." Then it seems to be an infraction of the natural order, that they who are born to station, so often, without personal worth or talents, monopolize, in virtue of their inherited wealth, the pleasures and enjoyments of life, leaving for their descendants the same even path. Do these favorites of Fortune, it is asked, who take no part in the struggle for existence, constitute the portion of society which is most highly endowed by nature? Ought we to foster such a class for generations to come? In fact, can it be that its continued and prosperous existence has the highest justification?
Out of this preposterous condition of things, where the salutary principle of natural selection is borne down by artificial selection, our one hope of deliverance, we are told, is in the coming of a time "when all the millions who day by day come into existence shall enjoy equal rights of development, so that each individual favored of Fortune, be his birthplace a hovel or a palace, each one endowed with talent or genius, shall find ready prepared for him all the means requisite for developing his natural powers in proportion to their value, and for afterward employing the same for the common good."
I can not accept as correct this explanation of natural and artificial selection. Each individual has, throughout the whole course of historical development, fortified his existence by all the means at his command, with property, with inherited station, by putting forth all his powers of body or of mind, inherited and personal. Artificial selection has a definite end in view: it aims at transforming for a special purpose that which is offered by nature, and then maintaining the new form for the same end. When the nobility, the great landholder class, maintains its position and becomes rooted, we have not an instance of artificial selection in the Darwinian sense, but it is the natural course of things, however unnatural the result may seem to be. If this be not admitted, then the whole education of mankind, and every arrangement in the state or in society made consciously and with the object of adding to man's happiness or developing his powers, must be accounted instruments of artificial selection. And among the most artificial of them all would be a regulation of the state which should insure unlimited freedom of development to each individual's talents.
At our point of view we are ever and again reminded that the idea of the natural struggle for existence does not imply that the victorious one is always physiologically, or, in the case of man, morally, the most deserving. We might, but we can not, imagine an ideal state wherein the most deserving shall always gain the victory, and thus we may represent to ourselves a universal perfectionment as the end of development. Hence we are not in the least pessimists; but, on the other hand, the innumerable evidences of progress which we see in nature, both animate and inanimate, do not suffice to make our idea of the universe purely optimistic. Progress is an asymptote of the ideal of perfectionment, and in recognizing this we give free play to the tendency perfectionward, without attempting on our own part to interfere.
With all the certainty that is attainable by inductive proof, the doctrine of development teaches the brute origin of man. Whether Pfeffel says aright—
Ist frommer Irrthum, der erhält,
Als kalte Wahrheit, die zerstört—
may perhaps be open to question in certain cases. In the present case it is worth while to reflect that oftentimes men who awaken from a long-cherished though pious error betray their kinship to the beasts; while truth, sedulously handed down from generation to generation, and advancing enlightenment, make men more human.
Would that we could diffuse abroad a conception of the full truth of the Darwinian doctrine of development, to the end that every thinking man who has not already been caught by the counter-current might know what it comprises and what consequences it does not warrant!
- Translated from the "Deutsche Rundschau," by J. Fitzgerald, A. M.
- In the "Zukunft" (1878, ubi supra) the competition of the future is narrowed down to "a competitive struggle between natural gifts."
- Far better for the welfare of the world is pious error, which sustains, than cold truth, which destroys.