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Theme: Development in Nature and Society
A first English translation from German was made in 1912, but the text deserved a new edition. This new translation and correction of the editorial notes made here by Ed Walker, 2020. Below, for comparison, the 1912 translation by Nathan Weiser.
It (1) is barely possible to name two thinkers who had as much influence over the intellectual life of mankind in the second half of the 19th century as Darwin (2) and Marx. What they taught transformed the way the broad masses view the world. For half a century, their names have been on everyone’s tongues and their theories at the centre of the intellectual struggle that accompanies today's social struggle. The primary reason for this is the great scientific value of their teachings.
In their scientific significance, Darwinism and Marxism are closely related. In both, the concept of development has been worked out and applied consistently, on the one hand in the field of the organic world of living entities, and on the other in the field of human society. Now this concept of development was not new; in the past it had already found advocates and the philosopher Hegel had even made it the core of his philosophy. (3) It is therefore necessary to explain more precisely the particular merits of Darwin and Marx in this area.
The doctrine that plants and the animals have evolved from others dates only from the last century. In the past the answer to the question, “Where did all those thousands and hundreds of thousands of species of animals and plants come from?” was answered thus: God created them all, each according to its kind. This primitive theory coincided with the experience that all known animals and plants, judging by the oldest reports, have always remained completely the same. Scientifically, this experience was expressed in the proposition that all species are invariable, because the parents always inherit their characteristics from the children.
However, there was something peculiar among the plants and animals, which gradually gave rise to a different view. They could be arranged into a neat system that was first drafted by the Swedish natural scientist Linnaeus. (4) In this system the animals are divided into main sections, these are divided into classes, the classes into orders, the orders into families, and the families into genera, each of which comprises several species. The greater the resemblance there is in their characteristics, the closer two animals stand in relation to each other in this system, and the smaller is the group to which they belong. All animals belonging to the class of mammals show the same general characteristics in their physique. The ungulates, predators, apes, etc., differ from each other according to less significant characteristics, each forming an order; bears, dogs and cats, which are all predators, have much more in common with each other than with the horses or the apes. The similarity between the different species within the same genus is even greater: the cat, the tiger and the lion have all kinds of similar characteristics that distinguish them from dogs and bears. If we now move from mammals to other classes, such as birds or fish, we will find much greater differences than exist among members of the same class. Yet for all of them the skeleton and the location of the nervous system down the vertebral column form the same basic physical characteristic. This characteristic only disappears when we move from this main division, which includes all vertebrates, to the molluscs, the articulated animals or polyps.
The entire animal kingdom can thus be classified and organised, as it were, into compartments and sub-compartments. There is no arbitrariness in the forms, but order. Had every different kind of animal been created entirely independently of all the others, there would be no reason why such order should exist. Then there would be no reason why, for instance, there should be no mammals with six legs, unless we are to assume that the Creator had taken the entire ordered system of Linnaeus into account as a model at the time of creation. (5) But there was another possible explanation. The physical relationship in animals could also arise from an actual family relationship.
According to this view, the greater or lesser similarity in physical attributes is a sign of closer or more distant family relationship, just as brothers and sisters look more alike than more distant relatives. Animal species are not created separately; instead, they descend from another species. They form a family tree which, starting with simply built protozoans, increasingly branches out so that the smallest final branches represent the currently existing species. All cat species descend from a primaeval cat, which, like a primaeval dog and a primaeval bear, is descended from an original type of predator. The primaeval predator, the primaeval ungulate and the primaeval ape all originated at an even more ancient time from a primitive primaeval mammal, and so it goes back further and further.
In the first half of the 19th century, this theory of evolution was first defended by Lamarck (6) and Geoffroy St. Hilaire, (7) but it found no general following. It remained an ingenious thought, but no more. Its correctness could not be proved by these scholars, so it remained a hypothesis, an assumption. However, when Darwin came forward in 1859 with his main work On the Origin of Species, it struck like a thunderbolt, winning over the mass of scholars and intellectuals as containing the authority a clearly proven scientific truth. Since then the theory of evolution has become inseparable from the name Darwin. Why so?
This was partly because more and more experiential material had been accumulated to support his theory. People found out about animals that did not fit well into the classification system, such as egg-laying mammals, lung fish and vertebrates without vertebrae; the theory of descent simply explained them as remaining transitional forms between the main groups. Excavations through layers of the earth have revealed more and more remnants of antediluvian animals, which looked different from present-day animals. In some cases these turned out to be the ancestral forms of present-day animals, and in others they also displayed such a series in the successive forms, as if the earliest had gradually transformed into later forms. Moreover, cell theory was established; every plant, every animal, consists of millions of cells and has been developed by incessant division and differentiation of a single egg. In the light of this theory, the idea that the higher organisms descended from primitive single-celled entities did not seem so strange.
But all these newly discovered facts could not raise the theory to a fixed truth. The most direct proof of their correctness would have been if a change from one species to another could actually occur before our eyes. But such observation is impossible. How then is it possible to prove that the animal species really do transform into new forms? By revealing the cause, the driving force behind such a transformation. That’s what Darwin did. Darwin uncovered the mechanism of animal development, demonstrating that, under certain conditions, other animal species necessarily evolve from other species. This mechanism should now be explained.
Its first basis is the nature of heredity, the fact that although the parents pass on their qualities to the children, at the same time the children always differ in detail from the parents and from each other. Therefore, the animals of the same species are not completely alike, but they deviate somewhat from the average type on all sides. Without this so-called variability, it would be impossible for one species ever to change to another. For such a new species to emerge it is then only necessary that a certain deviation from the average type becomes ever greater, continues more and more in the same direction, until it has become so large that the animal can no longer be counted as part of the earlier species. But where is the power that could bring about such an ever-increasing change in the same direction?
Lamarck had explained this from the use and exercise of certain organs, which makes them more and more perfect. Just as a person’s leg muscles become strong as a result of a lot of running, so the lion has acquired his strong muscles and the hare his quick feet through usage. Thus the giraffes also got their long necks by trying to reach higher and higher with their heads in order to reach the leaves they eat. As a result, the neck grew longer, and the strange long-necked giraffe evolved from some short-necked, antelope-like animal. This explanation seemed incredible to many people, and it proved insufficient to explain the green colour of the land frog, for example, which is so useful to the animal as a protective colour.
Darwin drew on another area of experience to resolve this issue. Animal and plant breeders are always able to create and grow new breeds and varieties by artificial means. If a gardener wants to grow a variety of a certain plant with large flowers, he only needs to extract all plants with small flowers from a flower bed and leave only the plants with the largest flowers. If he repeats this every year, then the flowers get bigger and bigger, because in general every genus is equal to its large-flowered parents, and what remains of the genus therefore always has larger flowers than the previous generation. Through this process, partly unconsciously and partly consciously managed, humans have bred a plethora of breeds of domestic animals and cultivated plants that often differ more from their ancestral form than wild species differ from one another.
If you gave a breeder the task of breeding a long-necked animal from a species of short-necked antelope, the matter would not, in principle, seem impossible to him. He only has to keep the specimens with the longest necks and to cross them with each other, removing all of the others before they are grown. If this is repeated with every subsequent generation, then the neck must become longer and longer, and a giraffe-like animal must be created in this way.
In this case the result is obtained because a conscious will deliberately envisages a particular goal and then selects the animals intended for breeding. However, such a will is not available in nature. (8) In nature, therefore, the deviations occurring in all directions must cancel each other out, so that none can enlarge more and more. Or, if not, where is the force in nature that makes a selection?
Darwin was faced with this mystery for a long time before he found its solution in the struggle for existence. This theory reflects the time and the prevailing the mode of production at the time when he lived; for it was the competitive rivalry between capitalists that served him as a model for the struggle for existence in nature. He recognised this struggle not from his own direct observation, but indirectly from a work by the economist Malthus. (9) Malthus tried to explain the fact that there is a lot of misery and hunger in the bourgeois world, and many people perish in the competition, to explain that population grows faster than the amount of food available. Consequently there is not enough food for everyone; people therefore have to fight each other for their existence, which means a large number must starve. (10)
Through this theory, both capitalist competition and poverty were declared to be an inevitable natural law. Darwin states in his autobiography (11) that this work brought him to the idea of the struggle for existence:
“In October 1838, that is, fifteen months after I had begun my systematic enquiry, 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-continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable 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.”
For animals, it is a fact that their number grows faster as a result of births than the available food permits. “There is no exception to the rule that every organic being naturally increases at so high a rate, that if not destroyed, the Earth would soon be covered by the progeny of a single pair.” Therefore, a fierce struggle for existence must arise. Every animal tries to stay alive by ensuring that it always has enough to eat and is not eaten by others. It fights with its special qualities and weapons against the entire hostile world: against its predators, against cold, drought, heat, floods and all the other natural events that threaten to ruin it. In particular it fights against the members of its own species, which have the same way of life, the same weapons and powers, the same food and the same enemies. Of course, this fight is not direct; the hare does not fight directly with the hare, the lion with the lion – except in the struggle for the females – but this fight for existence is a competition, a competitive struggle. All cannot reach adulthood; most must die and only those that win in the competition remain. Which are the ones that win in this competition? Those which, through their qualities, through their physique, find the best food and are best able to escape their enemies, which are thus most favourably adapted to the existing conditions of life. The best adapted will be the survivors. The struggle for existence leads to a natural selection. “Owing to this struggle for life, any variation, however slight and from whatever cause proceeding, if it be in any degree profitable to an individual of any species, in its infinitely complex relations to other organic beings and to external nature, will tend to the preservation of that individual, and will generally be inherited by its offspring. The offspring, also, will thus have a better chance of surviving, for, of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can survive.”
So there is another explanation for the origin of a giraffe. If no grass grows in a region, the animals must feed on tree leaves, and all those whose necks are too short to reach them will perish. Nature itself makes a choice and only lets the animals with the longest necks survive. In accordance with the selection made by a gardener or animal breeder, Darwin called this process “natural selection”.
This process must now always create new animal species. Because too many specimens of a species are always born, they try constantly to spread beyond the boundaries of their previous territory. What lives in the forest, goes into the plain, what lives in the country, into the water, what lives on the ground, climbs up the trees, all to find a livelihood in new conditions. In these new circumstances, facilities and variations prove to be useful that were not before, and they reinforce each other; the organs change with the way of life, they adapt to the new conditions, and a new species emerges from the old. If the thousands of living conditions on Earth bring thousands of animal forms adapted to them, the continual transfer of existing species into new conditions means that this number of forms is increased one hundredfold.
So while Darwin’s theory explains the common descent of animals, their change and their origin from simpler beings, it also explains the miraculous efficiency (12) that we find everywhere in nature. In the past, this could only be explained by the wise care of the Creator; here its natural origin occurred entirely naturally. Because this efficiency is nothing more than adaptation to living conditions. Every animal, every plant, is perfectly adapted to existing conditions, because all those that are less functional, less adapted, are eradicated in the struggle for existence. The green tree frog, once created from the brown frog, must keep the green protective colour because any specimen that deviates from it is more easily seen. He is therefore either more easily seen and eaten by his enemies, or avoided by the insects, so that he finds no food.
In this way, Darwin demonstrated for the first time that new species must always develop from the old ones. Thus, the theory of descent, which was previously only a probable conclusion of many individual phenomena that could not be well explained differently, suddenly gained the certainty of a necessary effect of certain designated forces. That was one of the main reasons why it so quickly mastered scientific discussions and attracted public attention.
If we now turn to Marxism, we immediately find there is broad agreement. Similar to Darwin, the scientific significance of Marx is that he has uncovered the driving force, the cause, the mechanism of social development. Admittedly, it was no longer necessary to prove that such development took place. Everyone knew that from the earliest times new forms of society had replaced the older ones. But the cause of this development, including its further course, was unknown.
Marx based his theory on the experience of his time. The great political upheaval that gave the Europe of the time its political form, the French Revolution, was generally understood to be a class struggle (13). Everyone knew that it had essentially been nothing more than a struggle for the rule of the bourgeoisie against nobility and kingship. After that, new class struggles had already arisen; in England, politics was dominated by the struggle of the industrial bourgeoisie against the landowners, and at the same time the working class was already resisting the bourgeoisie. What were these classes? How did they differ? Marx proved that these classes differ according to their various functions in the production process. It is not the privileges of status or the possession of money, but only the role that they play in the social production process that determines which class people belong to. Classes emerge from this production process, which determines their nature, their character. Production is nothing but the social labour process, whereby people gain their livelihood from nature. This production of the material needs of life forms the basic structure of society, which determines political conditions, social struggles and the various expressions of intellectual life.
The forms of this labour process have constantly changed over time. Where did this change come from? The forms of labour, the relations of production depend on the tools with which work is done, they depend on the technology, on the productive forces in general. (14) In the Middle Ages people worked with small tools and now they work with large machines; that is why small handicrafts and feudalism prevailed then, and large-scale capitalism today. As a result, the feudal nobility and petty bourgeoisie used to be the dominant classes, and now they are the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
The development of tools, of the technical aids that are available to people, is therefore the root cause, the driving force of all social development. Of course, people are eager to improve their tools to make their work easier and more productive, and the practice of using tools, the work itself, always keeps their minds on such new improvements. As a result, a continuous advance of technology takes place, sometimes slower, sometimes faster, which at the same time revolutionizes the social forms of labour. New production relationships, new social institutions and new classes emerge. And each time new social, that is to say new political struggles flare up – because the classes that rule under an old mode of production try to preserve the old institutions by artificial means. By contrast, the upcoming classes try to promote the new mode of production. As they wage the class struggle against the first ruling class and overcome it, they make way for the new mode of production and thus for the further unrestrained development of technology.
Thus, Marx’s theory revealed the driving force and the mechanism of social development. This proved that history is not a random succession of different forms of society, but a regular development that generally follows a certain direction. At the same time it also proved that social development does not stop with the current order, because the technology will always develop in the future to an even higher level of perfection.
In this way both theories, Darwinism and Marxism, one in the organic world, the other in human society, have turned the theory of evolution into a universal concept and have elevated it to an irrefutable science. With this they have made the theory of evolution the foundation of the world view of the widest sections of the population.
But that’s not just because of the scientific significance of these theories. A doctrine must have a great scientific value if it is to dominate people’s views in the long term. But this alone is not enough. It has often happened that a scientific doctrine was of the utmost importance to science, and yet scarcely received any attention except within a small circle of scholars. Such, for instance, was Newton’s theory of gravitation. (15) This theory is the foundation of astronomy, and it is to this theory that we owe our knowledge of the heavenly bodies. And yet when it appeared this theory found only a few supporters among English scholars, and it became known within wider circles only after half a century, having been popularised in the writings of Voltaire. (16)
But there is nothing surprising about this. Science is an aid to the production process in the broadest sense; it is a specialty of a special group of experts, just as blacksmithing is a blacksmith’s speciality; and its progress is initially addressed only to other scientific experts, just as a new type of iron is initially only of interest to blacksmiths. All that penetrates into wider circles is what can be practically used by an entire human class and what each member of that class feels to be in their interest. Whenever we see a scientific theory arousing the eagerness and passion of the broad masses, it is because this theory offers them a weapon in the class struggle. It is the class struggle that most powerfully excites the spirits of men and fills their hearts.
This is most clearly the case with Marxism. Had the economic theory of Marx not been of significance for the present class struggle, a few scholars at most would have been concerned with it. However, since Marxist theory is a weapon in the proletariat's class struggle, it is at the centre of a fierce scientific struggle; therefore the name Marx is revered by millions of people who know only a few general aspects of his doctrine, and hated by thousands who know nothing about it. The fact that Marxism is studied enthusiastically by large masses and dominates the intellectual struggle of our time is due to the significance it has for the proletarian class struggle.
The class struggle of the proletariat already existed before Marx, because it arises naturally from capitalist exploitation. The workers necessarily had to come to the idea and demand another social order in which exploitation was abolished. But socialism could not go beyond demands, hopes and dreams at that time. Marx gave the labour movement and socialism a theoretical basis. His social theory demonstrated that the social order is in constant flux, in which even capitalism itself is only a temporary form of society. His study of the developmental tendencies of capitalism showed that it must necessarily develop through the consequences of the increasing perfection of technology towards socialism. But the new mode of production can only be achieved by the working class through a struggle against the resistance of the bourgeoisie, which has an interest in maintaining the old mode of production. In this way, socialism will be the fruit and therefore also the objective of the workers’ class struggle. (17)
With this, the struggle of the workers themselves took on a new form. Marxism became a weapon in the hands of the proletariat; it gave the vague hope a well-defined goal, it strengthened those in struggle through clear insight into social development and thereby created the basis for the correct tactics. Based on Marxism, the workers were able to prove to everyone the impermanence of capitalism and the necessity and certainty of their victory. At the same time, Marxism cleared away the old utopian ideas, which expected socialism would arise from the understanding and goodwill of all sensible people, considered it a requirement of justice and morality, or thought it was about the introduction of a perfect society without defects. Law and morality change according to the mode of production and each class has its own perspective on this. Only the class that has an interest in socialism can fight for it, and it is not a question of a perfect world order, but rather of the transformation of the mode of production to a higher level of social production.
Therefore, because Marx’s theory of society is necessary to the struggle of the rising working class, this doctrine increasingly becomes the common property of the masses of the people, and for this reason it more and more dominates their thinking, their feeling, their whole world-view. Because it is the theory of the social revolution, in the middle of which we currently stand, Marxism itself is at the centre of the great intellectual struggles that accompany this economic revolution.
Everyone knows that Marxism owes its meaning and prestige only to its role in the class struggle of the proletariat. With Darwinism, according to the general view, the matter is different: for here it is a matter of a new scientific truth which has only to fight against religious prejudice and stupidity. Nevertheless, it is not difficult to see that in reality the situation is similar to that of Marxism. Darwinism, too, was not an abstract theory of scholarship, which gradually permeated itself after a thorough, objective examination in the circle of scholars and was dispassionately debated. No, immediately after it became known the theory was passionately propagated and fought over. The name Darwin, too, was either highly honoured or deeply abhorred by people who knew nothing more about his teaching than that man was descended from the ape and certainly were not competent to judge its correctness based on scientific reasoning. Darwinism also played a role in the class struggle and this explains its rapid dissemination and the passion with which it was defended and opposed.
Darwinism was a weapon in the hands of the bourgeoisie in its struggle against the feudal classes, nobility, clergy and monarchy. This was a completely different struggle from that of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie was not an exploited class that sought to abolish exploitation; no, it obstructed the rule of the old powers, because it wanted to rule in its own right. The bourgeoisie justified its claims with the consciousness that it was the most important class of society, as the leader of the production. What could the old classes, which had become useless, superfluous parasites, oppose to this? They relied on tradition, their ancient divine law. With the teachings of religion, the priests depended on the great, stupid mass of the people and opposed them to the claims of the bourgeoisie.
Therefore, the bourgeoisie was obliged in its own interest to undermine the sanctity of this tradition and the truth of religion. Natural science became its weapon; the bourgeoisie contrasted science with faith, the newly discovered natural laws with revelation. If the results, of natural science, showed that the doctrines of the priests were but deceptions, the divine authority of these priests was lost, and the sanctity of the traditional ancestral law of the feudal classes was destroyed. Of course, these classes themselves had not yet been overthrown; material power can only be brought down by material power, but intellectual weapons can also become material means of power. Therefore, the rising middle class placed so much value on science.
This is why Darwinism came along at just the right time. Far more than any other results of scientific enquiry, his theory contradicted biblical texts: the animal lineage of man destroyed the foundation of Christian dogmas. Therefore, Darwinism was immediately taken up zealously by the bourgeoisie.
Though not in England. Here we again see how important the class struggle was for spreading Darwin’s theory. In England, there was no class interested in using it as a weapon in a class struggle. In England, the bourgeoisie had ruled for a couple of centuries, and since it had made a compromise with the monarchy and the church, it had shown them traditional respect. As a whole, it had no interest in attacking or destroying the doctrines of religion. That is why the new theory was widely read in England but did not get anyone excited. It remained a theory for scholars, without any practical consequences. Darwin himself considered it as such and deliberately avoided applying his theory to humans immediately, in order not to offend religious prejudice. He only did this later, and hesitantly, when others had already taken this step. In a letter to Haeckel (18) he also complained that his theory met with so much prejudice and indifference that he did not expect to see its full breakthrough itself.
But in Germany, Haeckel could answer him, it was quite different; there his theory received an enthusiastic reception. In Germany, precisely at the time when Darwin's theory appeared, the bourgeoisie was preparing for a new struggle against absolutism and the rule of the Junker class. At the head of the liberal bourgeoisie stood the intelligentsia, which felt even more strongly constrained than the bourgeoisie itself by the backward conditions and had to lead an even noisier intellectual struggle as the bourgeoisie showed itself to be timid in its political struggle. Ernst Haeckel, an important scientist, but an even more provocative polemicist, immediately drew the most extensive consequences from Darwinian theory against religion in his work Natural Genesis. Thus, in Germany Darwinian theory soon found widespread enthusiasm in the public, which faced an equally sharp counter-attack from the opposing side. And the same struggle went on in other countries on the continent. Everywhere, the progressive liberal bourgeoisie had to fight against reactionary powers, which either controlled the government or, relying on the religious petty bourgeois classes, tried to conquer it. Under such circumstances, the scientific struggle was conducted with the passion of a class struggle. The writings that appeared for and against Darwinism therefore carry the character of social polemics, despite the scientific names of their authors. Measured by the standard of science, many of Haeckel's popular writings are extremely superficial, while the arguments and remonstrances of his opponents show unbelievable stupidity that only find their equal in the arguments used against Marx.
This close connection between Darwinism and the class struggle of the bourgeoisie has also linked their further destinies. This class struggle was not fought to the end, but soon fizzled out. In Germany in the 1860s and 1870s more and more layers of the bourgeoisie converted to imperial glory. The intelligentsia gradually took this turn and became obedient servants of the state. Among scholars, reactionary sentiment grew; the same professors, who proudly called themselves the Hohenzollerns’ (19) intellectual bodyguards, preached in their speeches about the boundaries of natural knowledge and the insoluble nature of the world's mysteries, the bankruptcy of the scientific worldview, proof of the close relationship between political and intellectual reaction.
This development took place to a greater or lesser extent in all countries. Everywhere the socialist proletariat began to act, everywhere the growing labour movement threatened the ruling order, and with this the reactionary tendencies in the bourgeoisie increasingly prevailed. Interest in the struggle against religion disappeared; the battle between progressive and reactionary tendencies, which had been so fierce in the past, became more and more a petty squabble within the circles of the ruling class, a party quarrel, in which the parties hurled big slogans at each other, but in reality they were getting closer to each other all the time. The interest in science as a revolutionary weapon in the class struggle disappeared, while the reactionary-Christian tendency, which wanted to preserve popular religion, intervened in an ever more powerful and brutal manner. With the need for science, the appreciation of science also changed. In the past, the educated bourgeoisie had built a materialistic antireligious world-view on science, in which it saw solutions to all the riddles of the world. Now mysticism was gaining more and more ground; what was explained seemed small; what remained unexplained and seemed inexplicable, seemed huge and covered the most important questions of life. A sceptical, critical, doubtful mood gained the upper hand against the previously acclaimed science.
This was also evident with regard to Darwinism. What did Darwin's teaching actually explain? It left all the essential riddles unresolved! Where did this marvellous nature of inheritance come from, where did the capacity of living beings change effectively? Here lies the real mysterious puzzle of life, which cannot be explained through the application of mechanical principles. And what is left of the whole Darwinian theory following later critical research?
Of course, the progress of science had not stopped with Darwin; on the contrary, it had gained an even faster impetus through his theory. The solution of a problem always throws up a number of new problems that stood behind it and now come to the fore. The laws of heredity, which Darwin had simply accepted as a basis for inquiry, were studied more and more thoroughly. The individual factors of development and the struggle for existence were hotly debated; while some drew attention to the changes that were a consequence of practice and adaptation during the course of life (thus the principle of Lamarck), such changes were decidedly denied by other researchers, such as Weissmann. (20) While Darwin had always adopted very slow, gradual changes, De Vries found cases of new species suddenly emerging. (21) While, in essence, the construction of the theory of descent was thus increasingly strengthened and better developed, these incessant improvements to the individual parts often gave the impression that the more recent researches left no component of the lofty Darwinian edifice entirely unscathed. This created the impression that the reactionaries had triumphed. Any progress that shed new light on the matter was immediately trumpeted as “the bankruptcy of Darwinism” and exploited in a reactionary manner. At the same time, this social outlook makes itself felt on science. Reactionary scholars introduce mysterious spiritual principles to explain the phenomena of life, and they claim that one cannot do without an inexplicable “inner purpose” inherent in sentient beings. This shows the need to re-introduce the supernatural, the inexplicable, which Darwinism had eliminated, through a back door – a consequence of the increasing reaction within the class that had, in the beginning, been the standard bearer of Darwinism. (22)
Darwinism has been of inestimable service to the bourgeoisie in its struggle against the old powers. It was therefore inevitable that the bourgeoisie would also use it against its other enemy, against the proletariat. Not that the proletariat was hostile to Darwinism. On the contrary; the spokesmen of the proletariat, and firstly the socialists Marx and Engels, had greeted Darwin’s theory with the liveliest interest, and the socialist workers studied Darwinism with the greatest diligence, because they saw it as a support for their own teaching. (*) Not in the sense, as superficial opponents sometimes believe, that they want to base socialism on Darwinism. Social demands can only be based on social reasoning. But in the sense that Darwin’s proof that development takes place in the apparently unchanged organic world beautifully complements and confirms Marx’s doctrine of ongoing social development.
Yet it was in the nature of the matter that the bourgeoisie used this Darwinism against the proletariat. It fights on two fronts, and the reactionary classes know that. When the bourgeoisie attacks their authority in order to replace them, they respond by pointing out the danger that all authority will be destroyed. They point to the proletariat, now marching behind the bourgeoisie, in the hope that this will deter the bourgeois class from taking revolutionary action. Of course, the representatives of the bourgeoisie then answer that there is no need to worry; our science merely refutes your untenable authority, and it sustains us in our struggle against the enemies of all order.
At a natural science congress in 1877, the reactionary politician and scholar Virchow fought Darwinism with the argument that it paved the way for socialism. “Be careful with this theory,” he told the Darwinists, “for it is related to the theories that have brought so many horrors to a neighbouring country.” This allusion to the Paris Commune must have had a huge impact, especially in the year of the anti-socialist law. (23). But what can one say about the science of a professor who fights Darwinism with the argument that it cannot be right because it is so dangerous? Haeckel, the defender of Darwinist theory, could not abide this accusation of being in league with the red subversives. He then immediately set forth the view, which he often repeated, that Darwinism shows the unsustainability of socialist demands and that Darwinism and socialism “tolerate each other like fire and water”!
We do not have to look far for the basis of these arguments. It is precisely because of the way in which Darwin’s teaching came about that they are immediately obvious. Darwin’s struggle for existence found its model in capitalist competition; now, capitalist competition was compared with the struggle for existence of animals and thereby elevated to the dignity of a natural law.
Let us follow Haeckel’s arguments, whose main ideas recur in most writers who similarly struggle against socialism with the help of Darwinism.
Socialism, he says, is a theory that puts the natural equality of humankind first and strives for the social equality of all people: equal rights, equal duties, equal property, equal enjoyment. But Darwinism is precisely the scientific justification for inequality. The theory of descent establishes that the development of the animals proceeds in the direction of an ever-greater differentiation or division of labour between the individual organs. The higher developed, the more perfect the animal, the greater this inner inequality has become. In society, too, we see this division of labour between occupations, classes, and so on, and the more advanced a state is, the further this division of labour, with its differences in effort, ability, wealth and income has advanced. Therefore, the theory of descent is “recommended as the best antidote to the bottomless absurdity of socialist egalitarianism.”
This applies even more to Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Socialism wants to abolish the competition for existence. But Darwinism teaches us that this struggle is natural and inevitable and nothing but the human form of a natural law valid for the whole organic world. And not only natural, but also useful and beneficial. The struggle brings ever greater perfection, and this perfection consists in a steady eradication of the unfit. Only the select minority of the most privileged are able to cope with competition, while the vast majority must necessarily perish miserably. All are called upon, but few are chosen. At one and the same time the struggle for existence means victory for the best and doom for the bad, the unfit. We might regret this, just as we might regret, for example, that all people must die, but we cannot deny or change this fact.
Here we must note how a small change of roughly equivalent words is indeed intended to defend capitalism. Darwin spoke of the survival of the fittest, those that are best adapted to conditions. However, since they defeat the others in the struggle through their better organization, one can easily come to call them the strongest and finally even the “best” – Herbert Spencer first used this expression. (24) In this way the victors in the social struggle, the great capitalists, were likewise proclaimed as the best people.
Haeckel has, for the most part, always maintained this view; in 1892 he expressed it in the following words:
“Darwinism – the theory of selection – appears, in the light of unbiased criticism, as an aristocratic principle; it is based on the “selection of the best”! The division of labour, upon which the progressive development of the organic world is based, necessarily causes a steadily increasing divergence of character, an ever-increasing inequality of individuals, their activity, their formation, their situation. The higher the rise of human culture, the greater must be the differences and gradations of the various classes of workers who co-operate in their intricate machinery. On the other hand, communism and the equality of conditions of existence and achievements aspired to by social democracy would be equivalent to the relapse into barbarism, into the primitive animal state of the brutish primitive peoples.”
Even before Darwin, the English philosopher Herbert Spencer had built up a theory of society, a theory of bourgeois individualism, based on the struggle for existence, which he later aligned very closely with Darwinism. In the animal kingdom, the old, sickly and weak animals are continually eradicated, leaving only the healthy and strong animals. Thus, the struggle for existence at the same time forms a process of purification of the race, which is thereby preserved from deterioration. This is the salutary effect of the struggle, in which everyone, according to their effort and quality, is more or less successful in ensuring the highest possible perfection through strict discipline. If this competition ends, and everyone is assured of a livelihood without struggle, without effort, then the race must necessarily deteriorate. If the weak, the inadequate, the sickly are artificially protected and maintained, then a gradual degeneration, a deterioration of the race must be an inevitable consequence. If the sympathy expressed in charity goes beyond its reasonable limits, it misses its purpose; instead of alleviating suffering, it increases the amount of suffering for the coming generations. We see the good effects of the relentless struggle in wild animals: they all radiate with health and strength, because they all had to work their way up through a hard school of thousands of dangers and difficulties, in which every creature that fell short of perfection in the slightest had to perish. In humans and domestic pets, disease and weakness are so common precisely because what is sick and weak is kept alive artificially for human reasons. Socialism, which seeks to abolish the current struggle for existence in the human world, will necessarily bring about a progressive physical and mental degeneration of humanity.
These are the main ideas behind the argumentation that Darwinism uses as a weapon in defence of bourgeois order. As strong as these arguments seem at first glance, it was not difficult for socialist spokespersons to prove that they are untenable. (25) For the most part the familiar old arguments for capitalism against socialism are being put forward here, spruced up with a few newly designed Darwinian expressions, and they bear witness to the great ignorance of socialism as well as of capitalism. (26)
If we compare society with an animal body, then we overlook the distinction that individual people, like the cells and organs of the body, are not entirely unequal; instead they only differ in the degree of their characteristics. Therefore, the division of labour in society cannot go so far that in a single individual, all other abilities are completely curtailed for the benefit of a single one. By the way, everyone who knows something about socialism knows that an efficient division of labour does not disappear with socialism, but rather, first becomes possible in the right direction. Only the distinction between workers and exploiters will disappear, not the differences between working people with their various aptitudes and activities.
It is undoubtedly true that in their struggle for existence the most physically perfect, the strongest and healthiest animals are victorious; but this does not apply to capitalist competition. In this case, victory does not depend on the personal perfection of the competitor. While in the petty-bourgeois world in particular, talent for doing business and energy can play a role, when it comes to further development, victory increasingly depends on the ownership of capital. Big capital defeats small capital, even when the latter is in the most capable hands. It is not personal qualities, but the possession of money, of wealth, that decides the success in the struggle for existence. The smaller owners of capital do not perish in consequence as people, but only as capitalists; they are not eradicated from life, but from the bourgeoisie. Capitalist rivalry is therefore something quite different from the struggle for existence in the animal world, in terms of both the conditions and the outcomes.
The people who perish as human beings are members of another class who do not participate in the competition between capitalists at all. The workers do not compete with the capitalists but sell them their labour power. Because they lack property, they do not even have the opportunity to measure their perhaps excellent personal abilities against those of the capitalists. They are not poor and miserable because they succumb to competition as a consequence of their inferior “fitness”, but because the wages they receive for their labour power are too low; that is why their children, even if they are powerful and healthy by nature, go under in large numbers, while the children of the rich, even those who are most unfavourably adapted, are carefully nursed and protected. The weakness that causes ruin in this case is not a natural, inherited predisposition, but an external circumstance. Capitalism artificially creates all those unfavourable circumstances through exploitation, the suppression of wages, unemployment, crises, housing conditions, and long working hours, thus causing many powerful, viable germs of human life, often the most viable of all, to succumb.
It was therefore not difficult for the Social Democrats to prove that it was untenable to apply Darwinism to society. But it was not only the Social Democrats who opposed the reasoning of the bourgeois Darwinists. Because this argument was not merely a defence of bourgeois society, no, it was the defence of the most brutal exploitation, the ruthless slaughter of all the weak. At the core of this doctrine was the message that might is right: success proves perfection. It was directed not only against socialism, but also against all social reforms and all philanthropy, which try to alleviate the worst misery and the most striking defects of our social order. That is why the social reformers and philanthropists, that is, the ethically minded bourgeois, actively opposed this doctrine. They had all the more reason to do so, as that doctrine was at bottom very dangerous for bourgeois society itself. For the proletariat was already basing its demand for justice on its growing power. Consequently all of those who wanted to avoid any power struggle and were trying to reconcile the proletariat with improved capitalism had to fight the doctrine of the bourgeois Darwinists. (27)
Of course, in so doing they emphasized the ethical side of the question in which they were supported by ethical socialists, those who want to base socialism on ethics. Are the qualities that ensure the victory in the capitalist struggle also the qualities that must be strengthened in the interest of progress? No, quite the opposite! Cunning, unscrupulousness, deceit, here is the “business acumen” that drives the business world forward. In the heat of competition, after all, every means that bypasses the prison gate is good, and the criminal code becomes the only arbiter of what is morally permissible. The capitalist struggle for existence does not lead to the victory of the most efficient in the moral sense; therefore, it does not lead to moral improvement; rather, a deterioration of humanity is its consequence. But that is precisely why people must intervene in this struggle. The struggle for existence in human society must not be conducted according to the crude, unsparing principles of the animal kingdom. Man is not a beast. As a free, moral being who sets himself a higher goal, he must eliminate the unrestrained working of this natural law. He can mitigate the struggle and substitute a rational, moral world order for that of the animal.
With regard to the last point, it should be noted that there can of course be no question of a cancellation of a natural law. (28) The idea that a law does not apply because it contradicts our moral feelings is nonsense with regard to a real, natural law. One can only investigate whether and to what extent it applies under different conditions. And on this point, it has now become abundantly clear that the uncritical transfer of Darwinian principles to the human world leads to fallacious and misleading conclusions.
This outcome is no coincidence. Darwinism and Marxism are two different theories, one for the animal world and the other for society. They complement each other in the sense that the animal world evolves into humans according to the Darwinian principle and that for humans, from the moment that they rise up out of the animal kingdom, Marxism expresses the law of further development. But if you want to transfer one theory to the realm of the other, where completely different laws apply, you will have to necessarily reach the wrong conclusions.
This is especially the case if you want to deduce from a principle of nature, which form of society is most natural and aligned with nature. That was precisely the aspiration of the bourgeois Darwinists: to deduce from Darwinism, which applies to the animal kingdom, that the capitalist social order is in agreement with nature, that is, it was the natural order and must always remain so. Conversely, there have been socialists who wanted, in the same way, to show that socialism is the natural order of things. Under capitalism, so goes their argument, the struggle for existence, competition, is waged by people who do not have the same, but artificially unequal weapons. The natural superiority of the healthier, stronger, more beautiful, more intelligent or morally better individuals cannot come into play because birth, status, and above all possession of money dominate the outcome of the struggle. Socialism abolishes this unnatural inequality, makes conditions equally favourable for everyone, and thus the real struggle for existence, in which personal superiority decides, can come into play for the first time. According to Darwinian principles, the socialist order of production would therefore be called truly natural and logical.
This argument is not bad as a critical counterpart to the views of the bourgeois Darwinists. But the root of the argument is as flawed as the other. These two arguments resulting in opposite conclusions are equally false, since they both take the long-since refuted view that there is one particular natural or logical order of society.
Marxism has taught us that there is no such thing as a natural social order, nor can there be. Or to put it another way: every social order is natural. Because every social order is the one that is necessary and natural under the prevailing conditions There is not a single definitive social order that can be regarded as the natural one; rather, the most varied social orders replace each other as a result of the development of productive forces, and each is as natural in its time as the following one at a later time. Capitalism is not the only natural order, as the bourgeoisie believes, any more than any socialist world order is the only natural one, as some socialists want to prove. Capitalism was the natural order under the conditions of the 19th century, as was feudalism under those of the Middle Ages and socialism will be under the conditions of the future level of development of productive forces. Trying to depict a single social order as the only natural one is just as pointless as trying to depict any animal as the most perfect animal. Darwinism teaches us that every animal is built entirely in its own way based on its unique environment, i.e. it is adapted accordingly; and similarly Marxism teaches that every social order is adapted to its environment, and in this sense, it may be considered good and perfect.
This is the basic reason why the attempt by bourgeois Darwinists to defend capitalism in decline by appealing to Darwinism must inevitably fail. Arguments based on the natural sciences would almost always lead to wrong conclusions on social issues, because nature remains the same throughout human history, while the forms of society have been changing rapidly and constantly in this period. What sets society in motion and plays a role in social development can only be seen from the study of this society itself. So Marxism and Darwinism should each remain in their own field; they stand side by side independently and have nothing directly to do with each other.
But now an important question arises. Can we stop at this result that only Marxism applies to society, only Darwinism applies to the organic world, without one imposing on the other? In practice, it is very convenient to have one principle for the human world and another principle for the animal world. But that overlooks the fact that humans are also animals. Humans have developed from animals, and the laws that apply to the animal world cannot suddenly lose their validity for humans. Humans are, indeed, a very peculiar animal. But then it is also necessary to deduce from the peculiarity, which distinguishes humans from the animals, why the principle that applies to animals no longer holds true for humans or takes on a different form.
So, here is another problem for us. This problem does not exist for the bourgeois Darwinists; they simply explain that humans are animals and therefore they apply the principle of Darwinism to humanity. As we have seen, this leads them to mistaken conclusions. For us, the matter is not that simple: we must first determine the difference between humans and animals, and then it must be clear from those differences why the principles of Darwinism in the human world changed to completely different principles, to those of Marxism.
The first peculiarity that we notice in humans is that they are social beings. (29) It is true that this does not distinguish humans from all animals, because even among the animals there are many species that live together socially. But in this respect humans distinguish themselves from those animals, as we have envisaged them until now in the presentation of Darwin’s teachings, which fight for their livelihood individually, each for itself, against all the others. Humans should not be compared with these animals, which, like most predators, live separately and which serve as the model for bourgeois Darwinists, but with those animals that in societies. Social coexistence is a new force that we have not considered so far, which creates new conditions and new properties in animals.
It is also completely wrong to see the struggle for existence as the all-embracing force that shapes everything in the organic world. The struggle for existence is the main force that explains the emergence of new species. But Darwin himself knew very well that other forces were involved in determining the forms, habits, and qualities of living things. In particular in his later work, “The Descent of Man”, he dealt extensively with sexual selection and explained how the competition of the males for the females caused the bright colours of the birds and butterflies and the singing voices of the birds. He also dedicated a chapter to social coexistence. Many examples can also be found in the work of the well-known anarchist Kropotkin, “Mutual Aid as a Factor of Evolution”. (30) The best explanation of how social life works can be found in Kautsky’s book: “Ethics and the Materialist Conception of History”. (31).
If a number of animals live together in a group, a herd or a pack, they struggle for their existence against the outside world collectively. The struggle for existence ends within such a group; the animals living together no longer compete with one another, whereby the weak die. On the contrary, the weak animals enjoy the same benefits as the strong animals. When some animals, because of their sharp sense of smell, their greater strength, or their greater experience, are better than the others, find the best places to graze and can best ward off their enemies, this advantage does not fall exclusively to them; the whole group, including the less fortunate individuals, enjoy these benefits too. Connection with the privileged thus mitigates the effect of the less favourable properties on the less privileged.
But the main benefit for all members of the herd or pack comes from living together. The union of their individual strengths gives the group a new, much greater strength than even the strongest animal possesses. This combined strength enables defenceless herbivores to ward off predators, which do not dare to attack. Only in this way is it possible to adequately protect the young animals; living together therefore offers all members significant advantages. Another advantage is that social co-existence enables a division of labour. Such animals send scouts ahead or set up guards to ensure security, while all the others quietly, without paying attention to anything else, takes advantage of the opportunity to eat or gather and rely entirely on the warning signals of the guards.
Such an animal society thus already becomes, to some extent a unit, an organism. Of course, the cohesion re-mains infinitely looser than between the cells of an animal body; for the members remain completely equal to each other – only with the ants, bees and some other in-sects is there an organic distinction – and they are able to live separately, even under less favourable circumstances. But at least the group becomes a coherent body and there must be a force that holds the individual members together.
This power forms the social driving forces, the instincts that hold the animals together and thus work for the survival of the group. Every animal must put the interest of the entire group above its own interest; instinctively it must always do what is necessary for the existence of the group, without regard to itself. So long as the weak herbivores think of their own bodies and take flight whenever a predator attacks, the herd that has come together randomly will scatter again over time. Only when this great drive for self-preservation is sup-pressed by an even stronger instinct for social cohesion and the individual animal risks its own life, only then does the herd stay together and all can enjoy the benefits of this social cohesion. Self-sacrifice, bravery, devotion, discipline, loyalty, conscientiousness must necessarily arise in this way, because where they are missing, the cohesion dissolves, and only where they are strong will it remain.
These instincts will have developed in the first place out of habit and necessity. Then they are gradually strengthened by the struggle for existence. “In social animals (32) it [natural selection] will adapt the structure of each individual for the benefit of the whole community; if the community profits by the selected change,” Darwin already wrote in The Origin of Species. Each herd of animals still lives in competition with similar other herds. The herd that knows best how to hold its own against the enemy continues to exist in this struggle, while the herd that is not so well predisposed will tend to perish. Now, however, the individuals in which social instincts are most strongly developed will assert themselves best. Where these instincts are weakest, animals will fall victim most easily to enemies, and they will find less suitable grazing land. These drives become the most important and decisive factors that determine survival in the struggle for existence. As a result, the social drive is raised to the highest degree by the struggle for existence.
All this sheds a whole new light on the views of the bourgeois Darwinists. They claimed that only the eradication of the weak is in harmony with nature and that this is necessary to prevent a deterioration of the race, whereas protecting the weak is unnatural and leads to degeneration. And what do we see now here? In nature itself, in the animal world, we find that the weak are protected, that they do not have to assert themselves through their personal strength and are not eliminated because of their personal weakness. And this feature leads the group, in which it prevails, not to weakness but to strength! The animal groups in which mutual aid is most pronounced best assert themselves in the struggle for existence. What the aforementioned Darwinists, in their short-sighted view, consider to be a source of weakness turns out to be a source of strength and on the contrary triumphs over the strong who fight alone. What they claim to be a degenerate and perverted race wins and shows itself in practice to be the soundest, the best.
This shows even more how short-sighted, how limited and unscientific the claims and arguments of the bourgeois Darwinists are. They take their laws of nature and their concepts of nature from a part of the animal world, the animals that live alone, those with which the human world has least in common, while they simply ignore the animals that live in similar conditions to hu-mans. Of course, this is due to their own circumstances; precisely because they themselves belong to a class in which everyone fights for themselves against their competitors, therefore they only have eyes for the forms of struggle for existence among animals that resemble this bourgeois competition. That is why they overlook the form that is most important for people.
However, they are aware that not everything in the animal and human world is ruthless egotism. The bourgeois scholars say that egotism, self-love, and altruism, the love of one's neighbour, are innate to every person. But since they do not know the social origin of this altruism, they also know nothing about the limits and conditions of these feelings, and all that remains is vague ideas about altruism, which they cannot handle.
Everything that applies to social animals now also ap-plies to humans. Our ape-like ancestors and the primeval humans that developed from them were defenceless, weak animals which, like almost all species of apes, originally lived together in troupes. So the same social instincts and feelings that subsequently developed into moral feelings among people had to arise here. It is well known that our ethics and morality are nothing more than the social feelings of the animal world; Darwin also spoke of the characteristics of animals related to their social institutions, “which one would call moral”. The difference is only in the level of consciousness; as soon as people become aware of social feelings themselves, they take on the character of moral feelings. Here it turns out that what bourgeois authors often consider to be the most important distinction between humans and animals, moral feelings, are not peculiar to humans, but come directly from the animal kingdom.
The origin of moral feelings already implies that they do not extend any further than the real social groups to which the animal or man belongs. They serve the practical purpose of holding this group together; beyond this they serve no purpose. For animal species, the size and nature of social groups is determined by their living conditions and they are therefore always approximately the same. In the case of humans, on the other hand, these groups, these social units, change with economic development, and with this, the scope of social instincts also changes.
The original groups, the tribes of wild and barbarian peoples, form much stronger associations than the ani-mal groups, because they are not merely competitors, but fight and wage war against each other directly. The well-known and conscious family relationship and the common language also make the bond much closer. Every individual is completely dependent on their own tribe, if they are not to perish helplessly. Under these conditions social impulses, moral feelings and the subordination of the individual to the whole must develop to the highest degree. In the further development of society, the tribes dissolve or are united into larger economic units, into cities and nations. New communities then replaced the old ones and their members fought the struggle for existence, especially against other nations; economic solidarity always determines the size of the human groups, within which the mutual competition for existence ceases and over which the social feelings extend.
At the end of antiquity we see all known mankind around the Mediterranean at that time organized into a single unit, the Roman Empire. And this is also the time when the doctrine arises that extends moral feelings to all of humanity and sets out the principle that all men are brothers.
If we look to our own time, all of humanity is increas-ingly forming an economic unit, albeit a very loose one; accordingly lives in, albeit mostly only an abstract feeling of global citizenship that relates to all civilized peoples. (33) The feeling of nationality is stronger, especially among the bourgeoisie, because the nations form the solid, opposing associations of the bourgeoisie. Social feelings are strongest in relation to members of the same class because the classes are the most essential social units within which people’s most important interests are the same. In this way, the social associations and social feelings in human society change depending on the level of economic development.
Social coexistence with its consequence, moral instincts, is a peculiarity that distinguishes humans from some, but not all, animals. On the other hand, there are some other peculiarities that sharply separate humans from the whole animal kingdom, which only belong to humans and no other animal. First of all there is language, and then rational thinking. Man is also the only animal that uses self-made tools. The first signs of these traits are apparent in animals, but they only developed into tangible and characteristic traits in humans. Many animals have a voice and can communicate through various sounds. But man alone has such sounds as names that indicate actions and things. Animals also have a brain with which to think; but, as we shall see, human thinking has a completely new character, which we call rational or abstract thinking. Animals also use lifeless objects from their environment for special purposes, for example to build a nest; monkeys sometimes also use sticks or stones; but only man uses tools that he deliberately manufactures for this purpose. These primitive attempts in the animal kingdom can lead us to the firm conviction that mankind has acquired its special characteristics not through a miraculous creation, but through gradual development. The question of the development of these first traces of language, thought and the use of tools to the new, all-controlling properties that we find in humans goes to the heart of the issue concerning the transformation of the animal into the human being.
It should first be noted that humans were only capable of this development as a social animal. Animals living alone would not have been able to do this. Outside of society, a language is as useless as an eye in the dark and has to wither in the long run. A language is only possible in a social setting and only necessary as a means of communication for the members of society. All animals that live together in society have some means of communication, otherwise they could not act according to a common plan. In the case of prehistoric people, those sounds with which they made themselves understood in their communal work must gradually have developed into the names of activities and then of things. (34)
Society is also needed for the use of tools, because only in a society can the required knowledge be retained. Prehistoric people living alone would have to reinvent the practice of using tools for themselves again and again; with the death of the inventor, the invention would disappear, and everyone would have to start over. Only in a society can the experiences and knowledge of the previous generations be preserved, reproduce and thereby increase steadily; because while individual members of a group or a tribe can die, the group or tribe as a whole is, so to speak, immortal. Knowledge of how to use tools is not innate, but only learned; therefore an intellectual tradition is necessary, which is only possible in social coexistence.
While these special characteristics of human beings are inseparable from their social life, they are also closely related. They did not develop for each individual separately, but collectively. That thinking and language can only exist together, and can only develop together, must be immediately apparent to anyone who is clear about the nature of their own thinking. When we think consciously, that is to say, when we reflect, we are actually talking to ourselves; we notice that we cannot think clearly without the words of the language. Where we do not think with words, thinking remains fuzzy; we cannot firmly grasp individual thoughts. Everyone knows this from their own experience. The reason is that human, so-called abstract, rational thinking is conceptual thinking and takes place through the medium of concepts. However, we can only indicate and retain concepts by means of names. Every deepening of thought, every expansion of knowledge begins by making a distinction by means of a name, either giving a new name or giving an old one a more precise meaning. Language is the body of thought, the material by means of which all human science can be built.
The difference between human and animal thinking is very aptly expressed by Schopenhauer (35) in a quotation that Kautsky also cites in his previously mentioned work. The animal’s actions are determined through its sensory organs, through what it sees, hears, smells or otherwise notices. Therefore, when we observe an animal’s action, we can almost always know what caused it to act that way, because we also notice it, if we pay attention. With humans it is quite different. We cannot predict what a human will do because the motives that drive him to act are invisible to us; there are thoughts in his head that we cannot see. The human reflects, using all of his knowledge, the result of past experiences, and this reflection determines his decision to act in one way or another. The actions of an animal are determined by direct impressions; those of a human by abstract ideas, by thoughts and concepts. The human being “is, as it were, drawn by finer, invisible threads; therefore all of his movements bear the stamp of the premeditated and deliberate, which gives them an appearance of independence that clearly distinguishes them from those of the animal”.
Both humans and animals are driven by their physical needs to seek their satisfaction from the natural objects surrounding them. Sensory impression is the direct drive and the beginning, and satisfaction the end goal of the appropriate action. In the animal, the action follows directly upon the impression; it sees its prey or food and leaps, seizes and eats its prey immediately, or takes whatever other action (such as stalking its prey) that is necessary, based on its particular way of life, and which is inherited as instinct. Or it hears a hostile sound and immediately takes flight or crouches motionless to remain undetected, depending on whether its build is designed for running at speed or its colour provides camouflage. In humans, a long chain of thoughts and considerations is inserted between the sensory impression and the action, and depending on the result of his considerations, the human chooses the appropriate action.
Where does this difference come from? It is not difficult to see that it is closely related to the use of tools. Just as thought shifts between the sensory impression and the action, so the tool shifts between the human and the object that he wants to grab hold of. And beyond this: because a tool intervenes between the human and the external object, the thought must also shift between perception and execution. Because the human does not throw his body directly at the target, for example the enemy animal or the fruit, but rather, he takes a detour, first grabbing the tool or weapon (weapons also being kinds of tools) and then using this tool to grab the fruit or aiming this weapon at the animal; therefore in his head the sensory perception may not be immediately followed by the act; the mind must also take a detour, whereby the sensory impression first focuses on the tool or the weapon and only then does it focus on the target. The material detour requires the mental detour; the additional thought is a necessary consequence of the additional tool.
This is a very simple case of a primitive tool and the beginning of mental development. As the technology becomes more complex, the material detour becomes longer, and therefore the mental detour must also become longer. If the tools themselves are manufactured beforehand, the memory of hunger and struggles must stimulate thought about the tool and the thought of making it in order to have it ready for later use. Here, a longer chain of thoughts is inserted between sensory perception and eventual satisfaction of the need. When we finally turn to the activities of contemporary human beings, the chain becomes extremely long and complex. The worker who has been dismissed and therefore anticipates future hunger buys a newspaper to see where he can start a new job; he puts himself on the market and offers himself for employment only to get the money with which he can buy food much later. These thoughts go through his head before he puts them into practice. What a long detour that the mind makes here through infinitely winding paths before the deed is done! But this corresponds to the complex construction of our present-day society, in which people first satisfy their needs by means of highly sophisticated technology.
So here we have already understood what Schopenhauer drew attention to, that hidden thread of thought that precedes action as a necessary consequence of the use of tools. But that does not mean we have reached the heart of the matter. Humans do not have only one tool, but more than one, which they can use differently and between which they can choose. Therefore, armed with his tools, he is not the same as the animal, because the animal always remains equipped with the same natural tools and weapons, whereas humans can change their artificial equipment. This is the main difference between humans and animals. A human being is like an animal with interchangeable organs. And that is why he must also be able to choose between his tools. In his head he follows various lines of thought, in which he directs his mind to each of his tools in turn and sees what are the consequences of this thought process; based on the result of this consideration, he decides how to act. He enters, so to speak, into the chain of thoughts, which takes various twists and turns from sensory perception through to action as interchangeable pieces, and finally holds onto the thought that is the best fit for his purpose. Deliberation, the free comparison of a number of self-chosen chains of thought, this essential distinguishing characteristic between animal and human thought, is directly connected with the use of arbitrarily chosen tools.
Animals do not have this ability, because it would be useless to them, because they would not know where to start with it. An animal’s actions are prescribed within very narrow limits by its physique. The lion is dependent on pouncing on its prey and cannot think of trying to catch up with it by running fast. The hare is built to take flight from a predator and has no weapons, no matter how much it would like to defend itself. So there is nothing to think about for these animals, just the moment of pouncing or running away, the moment when the sensory impressions reach the level that is necessary to trigger the action. Each animal is built for a specific way of life; its actions have to adapt to it and are therefore inherited as fixed habits, instinctual behaviours. Of course, these are not invariant, the animal is not a machine; when brought into new living conditions, animals quickly adapt, acquiring new habits. Depending on their aptitude, the functioning of their brains does not differ from ours, physiologically speaking. In practice, it differs only according to the result. What distinguishes them is not the quality of their brains, but of their bodies; their actions are very precisely prescribed by their physique and their environment, leaving only a very small margin of leeway for consideration. Therefore, rational thinking would be a completely useless pointless ability for an animal, which it would not know how to use, and which would do it more harm than good.
By contrast, a human being needs this ability absolutely, because he uses artificial tools and weapons, which he changes as required. If he wants to kill (36) the quick-footed deer, he takes the bow; if the bear approaches him, he grabs the axe; if he wants to smash a fruit, he takes the hammer. If he is threatened, he must decide if it is better to flee or to defend himself with a weapon. The ability to think and choose freely in one’s head is therefore an absolute necessity for human beings. This higher form of mental activity appertains just as much to the use of tools that only occurs among humans, as mental activity in general appertains to mobility in the animal world.
This close and fixed relationship between thought, language and tools, which cannot be achieved in isolation from each other, proves that they all had to develop together, gradually and simultaneously. We can of course only speculate about the details of this development. Undoubtedly, it was a change in living conditions that made an ape-like animal the ancestor of human beings. Moving from the forest, the home of the apes, to the plain, he had to adopt a new way of life; his feet had to evolve for walking upright, and his hands for grasping. This new being brought two main conditions for higher development from its origins, social coexistence and the hand of the ape, which was suitable for grasping objects. The first rough objects that were occasionally used in common labour, such as sticks and stones, fell, as it were, unintentionally into the hands of the early humans and were thrown away again. If this instinctive, unconscious use is repeated over and again, it must gradually penetrate into consciousness.
To the animal, the entire natural environment surrounding it is one single unit and it is unaware of the details. It cannot consciously distinguish between things, because it lacks the names for the individual parts and objects that we use to distinguish between things. It is true that this environment is not invariant: the animal reacts effectively to changes, which mean “food” or “danger” through its own actions; but the environment remains an undivided whole, and that is how it must have appeared to the primeval humans. By means of work itself, which is the most important part of life, the things that are used for work gradually emerge from this great mass. The tool, which is first an inanimate part of the outside world and then an organ of our body itself, animated by our will; however, it falls both outside the outside world and outside our own body, both of which for primeval humans are unremarked and self-evident. As an important link in the work process, the tool is given an appellation, indicated by a sound, which also indicates the activity itself, and through this name it stands out from the surrounding world as something special. Thus the dissection of the world by means of concepts and names begins, the self-consciousness begins to dim, the artificial objects are used deliberately and consciously in the work.
This process – because it is indeed an extremely slow process – is the beginning of human society proper. Because as soon as the tools are consciously used and therefore intentionally searched for, we can already say that they are “produced”: from here to production, there is only one step. With the first name and the first abstract thought, human beings have, in principle, already emerged. There is still a long way to go: the first rough tools must become different according to use, the sharp stone creates the knife, the wedge, the drill, the spearhead; the axe gradually emerges from the connection of the sharp stone to the stick. In this way, the wild primeval man can cope with the predator and the forest; he thus announces himself as the future King of the Earth. With the differentiation of tools, which forms the condition for the later division of labour, language and thinking also develop into new, richer forms, while more conscious thinking, conversely, leads to the more appropriate use of and improvement of tools.
In this way, they drive each other forwards. The practice of social life, work, is the source from which technology and thinking, tools and science develop and constantly improve. Through his work, the ape-man raised himself up to become a true human being. The use of tools is the material basis for the difference between humans and animals, which constantly increases in the course of development.
So here we have the main difference between humans and animals. The animal gets its food and fights its enemies with its own bodily organs, whereas man does this with artificial tools. The word organ comes from the Greek (organon), which also means tool. Organs are the naturally growing tools of the animal. Tools are the artificial organs of the human being. Or to express it more precisely: the combination of the human hand and the artificial tool correspond to the animal organ as an equivalent human organ. Acting together, these two perform the function that the animal organ must perform on its own. The hand becomes a general organ, which is not specially adapted to any particular task, because it serves all of them together; it is entirely capable of holding and carrying all tools. Tools are the dead things that are taken alternately in the hand and thereby turn the hand into a variable organ with variable functions.
This division of functions opens up infinite opportunities for human development that the animal does not know. Because the hand can be combined with the most diverse tools to form a whole, it equals all of the possible organs of the most diverse animals. Every animal is built for a certain environment, a certain way of life, and is adapted to it. The human being, with his tools, is adapted to all circumstances, and equipped for every environment. The horse is built for the grassy plain, the ape for the forest; the horse is as helpless in the forest as the ape is on the plain. The human being picks up the axe in the forest and the spade on the plain. With his artificial aids he can penetrate into any region and settle anywhere. While almost all animals can only live in certain areas, humans have conquered the entire Earth. Every animal, as one animal expert once put it, has its strong side, which keeps it going in the struggle for existence, and its weak side, which means it falls victim to others and prevents it from multiplying indefinitely. In this sense humans only have strengths and no weaknesses. Because of his tools, the human being is the equal of every animal, and because the tool does not remain the same, but can always be improved, the human being raises himself above every animal. The use of tools makes the human being the Lord of Creation, the King of the Earth.
In the animal world there is also a continuous development and perfection of the organs. But this development is tied to the transformation of the animal’s body and therefore takes place with the infinite slowness that the laws of biology dictate. Thousands of years count for nothing in the development of the organic world. But human beings have freed themselves from the constraints of these biological laws by transferring the development of their organs to inanimate objects outside of their bodies. Tools can be rapidly transformed; technology advances at a speed that is stupendous relative to the rate of development of animal organs. As a result, humanity has, from the moment that it embarked on this new path, climbed in a few thousand years to a height that raised it as far above the highly developed animals as the latter are above the lowest. The invention of the artificial tools puts an end to all further animal development. The moment that these descendants of the apes rise up at a furious pace to divine power and take possession of the entire Earth as its exclusive territory, the calm development of the organic world in the Darwinian sense suddenly ceases. Since then humans, by intervening to tame, exterminate, cultivate and breed the animal and plant world, have revolutionized, shaped and determined all of the conditions of life on Earth for their purpose and will do so in the development of further forms of animal and plant life.
Therefore, the further transformation of the human body stops with the creation of the tools. The organs remain, as they had become until now, with one single exception. The brain, the thought organ, had to develop alongside tools; and indeed we also see that the difference between higher and lower human races mainly consists of a difference in what is inside the brain. (37) But even the development of this organ ceases at a certain level. Since the beginning of civilization, the function of the brain has been increasingly taken over by artificial aids; scientific knowledge is stored in books. Our ability to think is not much better and higher today than it was with the Greeks and Romans and perhaps the Germanic peoples; (38) but our knowledge has grown tremendously, not least because the organ of the mind has been relieved through its artificial representatives, books.
Now that we have determined the difference between humans and animals, let us return to the question of how the struggle for existence takes place in both. The struggle for existence is the cause of perfection, since the imperfect is eliminated. This principle is unshakable. Animals move closer to perfection as a result of this struggle. But now we must express ourselves more accurately and see what this increasing perfection consists of. For in fact it is not the whole animals that compete with each other to become more perfect. They struggle and compete with their organs, with those organs that are important for them in the struggle for life.
Lions do not struggle for life with their tails, hares do not struggle with their eyes, falcons do not struggle with their beaks; lions struggle with the muscles that enable them to leap and with their teeth, hares with their legs and ears, and falcons with their eyes and wings. So let us ask: what is it that struggles, what lies behind this competition? Then the answer is: the organs struggle. And through this struggle, these organs become more and more perfect. The muscles and teeth of the lions, the paws and the ears of the hare, the eyes and the wings of the falcon lead this struggle, and through this competitive struggle, they are perfected. The whole animal is dependent on these organs and suffer their fate, the fate of the conquering strong or the conquered weak.
Let us now pose the question in the same way for the world of humans. People do not fight with their natural bodily organs, but with their artificial organs, with their tools (which, of course, we understand as weapons). The principle that the elimination of the imperfect leads the struggle to constant perfection also applies here: the tools struggle, and through this struggle the tools become more and more perfect. (39) Those groups or tribes that have the best tools and weapons are best placed to secure an adequate livelihood and defeat and exterminate the less well-armed tribes in direct combat. The great improvements in technology and working methods in prehistoric times, such as the introduction of arable farming and animal husbandry in particular, make humans a more physically powerful race that no longer suffers so much from the unfavourable natural conditions. The races whose technical aids are the most developed supplant the others, secure the best quality land, rise to the level of civilization and subdue the others. The rule of the European race is based on its technological superiority. (40)
So here we see how the same basic principle of the struggle for existence that Darwin formulated and was emphasized by Spencer works differently in humans and animals. The principle that the struggle leads to a perfecting of the weapons that are being used in struggle leads to different results for humans and animals. In the animal, this struggle leads to a continuous development of the natural bodily organs; this is the basis for the doctrine of descent, the core of Darwinism. In humans, it leads to a continuous development of tools, technology, productive forces. This, however, is the basis for Marxism.
So here it appears that Marxism and Darwinism are not two independent theories, each of which applies in its field and which have nothing to do with each other. In reality, they come down to the same basic principle. They form an entity. The new direction taken with the emergence of man, the replacement of the natural organs with artificial tools, causes this basic principle to express itself entirely differently in the human world than in the animal world; in the latter Darwinism, in the former, Marxism reflects the law of development.
From the moment people rise from the animal world, the development of tools and the associated development of working methods, of the division of labour and of knowledge, becomes the driving force of social development. It creates the various economic modes: the primitive communist society, the peasant economy, the beginnings of commodity production, medieval feudalism and finally modern capitalism. We now have to consider the current mode of production and its revolution in this deep context and to apply the Darwinian principles correctly.
The special form that the Darwinian struggle for existence takes as the driving force of development in the human world is determined by social coexistence and by the use of tools. People wage the struggle together in groups: within the group the mutual struggle for existence ceases and reciprocal help and social feelings arise, while the struggle continues to reign between the groups. And because technical means are decisive in this struggle, technological progress is the result. These two factors work in different ways under different economic systems; let’s see now how they work under capitalism.
When the bourgeoisie conquered political power and thus made capitalism the ruling economic order, it began by breaking feudal bonds and freeing people. This was necessary for capitalism; each producer had to be able to compete at his own discretion without any bond that restricted his freedom of movement, without any regard to corporate duties, and without any obstacles due to legal regulations; this was the only way to develop production to meet all requirements. The workers must not be restricted in freely offering their full labour power by any feudal or guild duties; only by selling their labour to the capitalists as an entire commodity could these latter exploit it fully. Therefore, the bourgeoisie abolished all of the old trade associations and the old duties. It made people completely free, but also completely isolated and defenceless. Before this, people were not isolated; they were members of a corporation or guild, they were protected by a lord or an association and found their strength in this. They formed part of a social group to which they owed duties and from which they received protection. The bourgeoisie abolished these duties, destroyed the corporations and did away with feudal dependency. The liberation of labour also meant that people were deprived of all recourse to their fellows, that they could no longer rely on others; each person became completely alone; he must struggle alone against all others, released from every bond and every source of protection.
Because of this, it is under capitalism that the human world most resembles the world of predators. Because of this, the bourgeois Darwinists sought their models for human society from the animals that wage the struggle for survival alone; in this, they indeed based their models on experience, but their only mistake was that they viewed capitalist relations as eternal for humans. Engels has described the similarity of the special capitalist methods of struggle with those of the animals living alone in the historical part of his Anti-Dühring in this manner:
“Finally, modern industry and the opening of the world-market made the struggle universal, and at the same time gave it an 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.” (41)
So what is it that actually competes in this capitalist struggle and whose perfection decides victory?
First, technical tools, the machines. Here, once again, the general law applies, that struggle leads to perfection. The more perfect machine beats the imperfect; the inefficient machines and small tools perish, and machine technology develops with giant strides to achieve ever greater productivity. This is the correct application of Darwinism to human society. What is special about this is that under capitalism there is private ownership and therefore a person is attached to every machine. A big capitalist is attached to the big machine, a petty bourgeois to the small machine, and with the defeat of the small machine the petty bourgeois also goes under, together with all his illusions and all his happiness in life.
In addition, the battle is a competition of the capitals. Big capital is the most perfect capital; the big capital beats the smaller one and therefore the capitals get bigger and bigger. This concentration of capital increasingly undermines capitalism itself, because it reduces the size of the bourgeoisie, which has an interest in its preservation, and increases the mass of people that want to abolish it.
With this process, one of the traits of capitalism is gradually removed. The working class develops a new union, the class union, in the world of isolated individuals struggling all against all. The coalitions start to eliminate the mutual competition between workers and to unite their strength into a common struggle. Everything that has been said of the social groups in general applies to this new class organization, which arises from natural circumstances. The social impulses, moral feelings, self-sacrifice and devotion to the whole grow up in them in a brilliant way. And this solid cohesion gives the working class the tremendous strength it needs to defeat the capitalist class. The class struggle, which is not a struggle with tools, but a struggle for tools, a struggle for control over humanity’s technical equipment, is decided by the power of organized action, by the power of the newly grown class organization. An element of socialist society already emerges up in the organized workforce.
Let us now apply the same train of thought to the coming order of production, to socialism. The competition between tools that leads perfection, which has dominated the entire history of mankind, does not end here. Just as is the case under capitalism, the worse machine is still beaten and eliminated by the better one; this process still leads to a rapid increase in the productivity of work. However, since the private ownership of the means of production has ceased to exist, there is no longer any person attached to each individual machine who calls that machine his property and shares its destiny. The machines are common property and their competition is now just a harmless process that is consciously carried out by people who, after reasonable consideration, simply replace the worse machines with better ones. So, if we call this progress a struggle, it is only in a figurative sense. At the same time, the mutual struggle of people against each other comes to an end. With the disappearance of the classes, all civilized humanity becomes a large solidarity-based production community. The same applies to every common group: within the group the mutual struggle for existence ends; this is only carried on outside. But instead of the former small groups, all humanity is now involved. This means that the struggle for existence in the human world comes to an end. The struggle is only outwards, no longer as a competition against other species, but as a fight for a livelihood against nature. (42) But the development of technology and the science that goes with it means that this struggle can hardly be called a struggle. Nature has become subject to human beings and offers them a safe, abundant livelihood with little effort. With this, the development of mankind breaks new ground; the period in which it gradually emerged from the animal world and led the struggle for existence in forms that it determined through the use of tools comes to an end; the human form of the struggle for existence ceases; a new chapter of human history begins.
*) Kropotkin points out that it was the Russian followers of Darwin who first drew attention to this factor of mutual aid, and he explains this by the fact that they had the best opportunity to observe animal life on the immense steppes . The main cause, however, will lie in the fact that in Russia, capitalist competition, which had made the idea of a struggle of all against all a common idea in Western Europe, had not yet taken root in Russia, where the spirit of village communism, based on mutual aid, still strongly influenced the views of all social circles. Humans always see nature through the eyes of their own social relationships.
1. Some of the German liberal materialists had taken the year 1909 (one hundred years after Lamarck’s book and Darwin’s birth, and fifty years after the appearance of the main work of the latter) as an occasion to reinforce the struggle against “absolutism” (German Junkerism, landed aristocracy) and “obscurantism” (the German clergy) by means of the theory of evolution. The general mood in biology in Germany, however, was leaning much more towards neo-Larmarckism (represented by the Frenchman Alfred Mathieu Giard , 1846-1908, though mainly a French affair) and especially neo-vitalism (represented by the German Hans Driesch , 1867-1941, the Frenchman Henri Bergson , 1859-1908, and the American Fairfield Osborn , 1857-1935).
2. Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882); English naturalist; studied medicine and theology; in 1854 he started his main work; in 1858 he received a letter from the British biologist Alfred Russel Wallace , with an essay which, in its outlines, contained the same theory; on this he made a resume of his manuscript, which together with Wallace’s essay was published without attracting attention; subsequently he published his great work: The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, 1859, which landed like a bombshell; the theoretical struggle which followed was left to Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895, “Darwin’s bulldog”; he coined the term agnostic). With Darwin, of course, there is no mention of class struggle, he stuck to an abstract evolutionary humanism, which depends on intellectual, moral and institutional progress, and which, although there was common ground, was entirely alien to the thinking of Marx and Engels (and later Pannekoek), and which Darwin himself summarized as:
3. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831); German dialectical philosopher; he led classical German philosophy to its end point by solving all the contradictions of earlier philosophy in the single contradiction of the absolute mind, which would be the subject of all development (in nature as well as in society), but which gradually, through a process of contradictions and through mediation of the outward nature, comes to self-consciousness in the mind of the philosopher and thus makes world history, in Marx’s words, only in appearance, in the speculative imagination of the philosopher; dialectics, wrote Marx, had a rational kernel in a mystical cartridge; the absolute mind was unmasked by him as the own human practice, which is not yet mastered, which in ideology is understood as a given situation. He concluded that philosophy cannot answer the questions which philosophy had brought to the surface. In the end, those questions are not philosophical but practical. Pannekoek refers to dialectics in general as developmental theory and often equates it to theory of evolution. Hegel’s dialectics, however, is not just a theory of development in general, but also, and in particular, the theory of unfolding contradictions, on which Pannekoek later wrote: “With the word dialectics much hocus-pocus has been committed, particularly by people who want, as a kind of ununderstood magical formula, to confess to the true religion. In reality it is a very simple thing (and as such can be found in Friedrich Engels’ Anti-Dühring) fitting to earlier forms of thought in philosophy, for which, however, later natural science created better ways of expression.” Letter of Anton Pannekoek to Ernst Bloch, 29 June 1948. In the Netherlands Hegelianism was in bad odour for Marxists (they rarely refer to Hegel; more to Immanuel Kant , 1724-1804, and especially his critic Joseph Dietzgen, 1828-1888) because of the noisy activities of the in three fields (thesis, antithesis, synthesis, which actually comes from Johann Gottlieb Fichte , 1762-1814) prognosticating Leyden’s professor G.J.P.J. Bolland – “the Hegelian Reason, which speaks Dutch (‘Hollandsch’), speaks Bollandsch” – (1854-1922) of whom Pannekoek underwent a speach, but which most of all annoyed him with his “irrelevantness” (Pannekoek, Herinneringen (Memoirs).
4. Carolus Linnaeus (Carl von Linné, 1707-1778); Swedish botanist, founder of taxonomy, classified the plant, animal and mineral kingdoms; classified humans as homo sapiens (thinking man) alongside chimpanzees and the troglodyte (dwarf), and classified him with the apes, which he accompanied in his Systema Naturae by nosce te ipsum (“know yourself!”, after the inscription at the oracle of Delphi). Classification, until then, consisted mainly of inventories of collectors; Linnaeus introduced the scientific criterium of classification by the characteristics of sexual organs, something which had some success for plants; his classification of minerals was arbitrary, for animals according to a mixture of all kinds of external characteristics. Of his system, meanwhile, little is left because of the new methods of cladistics (founder Willi Hennig , 1913-1976) in the 1950s, based on genetic relations rather than external characteristics) made possible by d.n.a.-research.
5. Some church representatives, for instance Abraham Kuyper in the Netherlands, suddenly realized that the story of creation in the Bible does not state that God created species, but that he summoned the Earth to bear them; likewise God would (in the much older ideology of freemasons of a Divine Plan of creation, which only waited to be discovered and was thus knowable) not have created a finished Earth, but only the elements and laws of development.
6. Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck (1744-1829); French biologist; developed the theory that species change (the principle of organic evolution) and arise from each other through adaptation of their organs to the needs imposed by the surroundings; necessary changes would inevitably occur. His opponent Georges Léopold Chrétien Frédéric Dagobert, baron de Cuvier (1769-1832) at the same time laid the foundation for comparative anatomy, which was initially used to demonstrate that the different species could not have developed from each other, but unintentionally turned out to be of decisive meaning for the further development of the theory of evolution. Lamarck, who was repeatedly challenged for proof, became most controversial through his fourth theses, according to which acquired characteristics would be inheritable. Philosophie zoologique, 1809. Histoire naturelle des animaux sans vertèbres, 1815-1822. The geologist Charles Lyell (1797-1875, The Antiquity of Man, 1863), a later adherent of Darwin, polemicized sharply against Lamarck. Lamarck’s theory was later reworked in a mystical direction from an “inner goal” that works through the changes of organs (neo-Lamarckism ) and then neo-vitalism developed by Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), according to which an undefined life principle, the will, must be assumed; see: Neulamarckismus und mechanischer Materialismus / Franz Mehring , 1910 in: Gesammelte Schriften, Bd. 13 (Philosophische Aufsätze), p. 227-238. In 1909 Josef Stalin published an essay (untraceble in his Collected Works; he is the only known author of which the subsequent editions comprise ever fewer texts) in which this same neo-Lamarckism that was dominant in Russian popular scientific periodicals; inspired by the theory of Ivan Vladinirovich Michurin , and which in France was represented by Alfred Giard , was defended as being orthodox Marxism; later this theory was canonized in the Soviet Union in Lysenkoism , a political campaign conducted by Trofim Lysenko , his followers and Soviet authorities against geneticists, with – as is being claimed – disastrous consequences (there might also have been other reasons); see: The Lysenko Affair / by David Joravsky. – Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1970. – 459 p.; Lysenko and the Tragedy of Soviet Science / Valerii N. Soyfer. – Rutgers University Press, 1994; L’éternel retour de Lysenko / Denis Buican. – Paris : Copernic, 1978; Trofim Denisovich Lysenko, Hugo S. Cunningham. – Ronald Fisher, 1948. Lysenkoism was later advocated as the champion of the struggle against the whether or not alleged racism of genetic researchers, something remarkable for the ruling class in Russia of the quite xenophobic Joseph Stalin, and long afterwards.
7. Etienne Geoffroy St. Hilaire (1772-1844); French biologist, defended the thesis that for nature there is only one underlying “plan”, from which the species could have developed. In 1830 he debated with Georges Cuvier in front of the Paris Academy, where Cuvier, defender of catastrophism, dealt some serious blows. Sur le principe de l’unité de composition organique, 1828. Other early evolutionists were the Englishman John Ray (1627-1705), the Frenchmen Benoît de Maillet (1656-1738), Pierre Louis Maupertius (1698-1759) and especially Georges Louis Leclerc de Buffon (1707-1788); the Germans J.G.J. Ballenstedt , F.S. Voigt , F. Tiedemann (1781-1861) and Christian Leopold von Buch (1774-1853), and finally the English botanist Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), the grandfather of Charles Darwin. The German speculative natural philosophers (Friedrich Schelling (1775-1854) and Lorenz Oken (1779-1851) mainly gave the theory of evolution a bad name with their irrelevances.
8. Compare: “Just as he creates things with conscious intent, so he attributes to nature his human manner, imagines the existence of an external and creative cause of the phenomena of sense perception, similar to himself who is the special cause of his own creations.”; in: The Nature of Human Brain Work / Joseph Dietzgen, 1869, Chapter 4. Thus Darwin in 1842 spoke of the Creator behind nature; in 1859 only of Nature as the last cause in itself.
9. Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834); English clergyman; wrote in 1798 his Essay on the Principle of Population, which he reworked in 1803; the importance of the theory is also shown therin, that also Alfred Russel Wallace (see note 2) was inspired by it. Malthus copied his theory from Robert Wallace (1697-1771) and others; in opposition to the idea of the French revolution that humans and society were perfectible after the example of harmony in nature, he asserted that the growth of the population meant that every ideal human society would rapidly collapse. Malthus himself added, against the ideas of the Marquis de Concordet (1743-1794) and William Godwin (1756-1838) the simplification that in society, other than in nature, the population tends to increase geometrically (1, 2, 4, 8, …) while the food supply increases only arithmetically (1, 2, 3, 4, …). The consequence would be poverty, diseases and war. With this theory to hand, it was argued that births should be limited (through sexual abstinence and late marriages) in the lower classes, who were thus held responsible for their own social misery. Reality rather shows the contrary: rates of birth in the working class decrease with a rising standard of living (because there is an increased chance of survival) and increase with a falling standard of living; poverty is a cause of high birth rates rather than their consequence. An irony of this is that poverty, seen from a purely social-Darwinian perspective, is quantitively superior in terms of reproduction to wealth, a disturbing thought for the bourgeoisie.
10. Compare: “I’m amused that Darwin, at whom I’ve been taking another look, should say that he also applies the ‘Malthusian’ theory to plants and animals, as though in Mr Malthus’s case the whole thing didn’t lie in its not being applied to plants and animals, but only – with its geometric progression – to humans as against plants and animals. It is remarkable how Darwin rediscovers, among the beasts and plants, the society of England with its division of labour, competition, opening up of new markets, ‘inventions’ and Malthusian ‘struggle for existence’. It is Hobbes’ bellum omnium contra omnes and is reminiscent of Hegel’s Phenomenology, in which civil society figures as an ‘intellectual animal kingdom’, whereas, in Darwin, the animal kingdom figures as civil society.” (Letter of Karl Marx to Friedrich Engels , 18 June 1862 ). This shows, as nature is observed through the social lens, most of all that the theory of evolution could not have been developed earlier on, and also that it is not yet at the end of its development.
11. The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin , including an autobiographical chapter – in 3 vols., ed. by Francis Darwin. – London, 1887.
12. Zielstrebigkeit (Dutch Doelstrevendheid) is a word that Pannekoek used to express efficacy in a teleological sense. Hegel described the inner goal already as a blind process; instead of a conscious divine intervention (creation) came coincidence, but this was itself still an expression of the divine, of the absolute spirit, which realized itself precisely though all coincidence. This vision accorded largely with that of Darwin. Thus it is not wholly correct to attribute to Darwin the destruction of teleology (the theory of goal-causes, the idea that a predetermined goal is effective in all events) in biology, as Marx did; it was rather a conclusion that Marx drew himself on the basis of Darwin’s theory. Compare: “Darwin’s book is very important and serves me as a basis in natural science for the class struggle in history. One has to put up with the crude English method 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 their rational meaning is empirically explained.” Letter of Karl Marx to Ferdinand Lasalle , 16 January 1861. Darwin formulated his vision as follows: “I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance. Not that this notion at all satisfies me. I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind of Newton.” Letter of Charles Darwin to Asa Gray , 22 May 1860. With Aristotle there is a final cause (causa finalis, telos), a cause which contains a purpose.
13. In the French revolution of 1789 the bourgeoisie (the Third Class, after Nobility and Clergy) took power and held it by means of the guillotine. This process was first described as a class struggle in the history writing of François Guizot (1787-1874), François Mignet (1796-1884), Augustin Thierry (1795-1856) and Adolphe Thiers (1797-1877). Compare: “And now as to myself, no credit is due to me for discovering the existence of classes in modern society or the struggle between them. Long before me bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this class struggle and bourgeois economists, the economic economy of the classes. What I did that was new was to prove: (1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production, (2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, (3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.” Letter of Karl Marx to Joseph Weydemeyer , 5 March 1852.
14. Compare: “Therefore, only the circumstances that are beyond human arbitrariness can be regarded as real determining root causes. These are called productive forces (Produktivkräfte) and among them the most important is technology, this is the set of working methods and work tools that people have at their disposal.” (Het Marxisme / Dr. A[nton]. Pannekoek in Berlin en Mr. M.W.F. Treub Hoogleraar in Amsterdam. – Baarn, Hollandia-drukkerij, 1908). It is a typical Stalinist mutilation of Marxism to narrow the definition of productive forces to tools and machinery and to exclude skills and knowledge needed (replaceable through terror), which was convenient when in the 1930s Russian heavy industry was constructed at the expense of whole generations of workers, while nature, just like labour power, was reduced to being a raw material.
15. Isaac Newton (1642-1727); English mathematician and astronomer; founded the law of gravitation and discovered the composition of light; the first to trace back all movement to simple mechanical laws with general applicability. Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, 1726. For Newton and his contemporaries the validity of natural laws was at the same time the best possible proof for a conscious design of the universe and a creator, as against literal interpreters of biblical revelation. Newton also left behind mystical writings on theology, chronology and alchemy.
16. Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire, 1694-1778); French philosopher of the Enlightenment; fought ecclesiastical abuses and saw the development of civilization as a struggle between fanaticism and reason. Pannekoek refers to: Les lettres philosophiques, 1734.
17. Compare: “The essence of bourgeois society consists precisely in this, that a priori there is no conscious social regulation of production. The rational and naturally necessary asserts itself only as a blindly working average. […] Once the interconnection is grasped, all theoretical belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions collapses before their collapse in practice.” Letter of Karl Marx to Ludwig Kugelmann , 11 July 1868.
18. Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919); German biologist; popularized the theory of evolution and drew conclusions from it in relation to the descent of man; prominent spokesman of the radical mechanical materialists and opponent of Rudolf Virchow. Generelle Morphologie der Organismen, 1866. Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte, 4. Aufl., 1873. Die Welträtsel, 1899. Haeckel coined the term ecology and is particularly known for his law of recapitulation (to which Pannekoek does not refer): the development of the species would be resumed in the development of the individual; see on the subject: Ontogeny and Phylogeny, Stephen J. Gould, Harvard University Press, 1977. Compare: “He [Ernst Haeckel] is materialist and monist, but not a historical one, only a natural scientific materialist; he believes that the laws which are valid in nature can be applied as such to society and, in doing so, he comes to philosophical results of which the poverty defies almost all description.” (Die Welträtsel, 1899, Franz Mehring, in Gesammelte Schriften, Bd. 13, Philosophische Aufsätze. – Berlin : Dietz Verlag, 1977. – p. 142-143).
19. Hohenzollern : the German dynasty which for centuries stood at the head of several German states; the last German Kaiser, Emperor Wilhelm II , reigned from 1888 until his abdication an desertion following the revolutionary uprising of November 1918.
20. August Weismann (1834-1914); German biologist (Pannekoek spelt it Weissmann) who, at the same time as others, localized hereditary material in the cell nucleus and was one of the first to reject the Lamarckian heredity of acquired properties on a scientific basis. The Germ Plasm: A Theory of Heredity, 1893 (translation of the original German, Das Keimplasma: eine Theorie der Vererbung). Über die Vererberung, 1883. Vorträge über Descendenztheorie, 1902. Just as Darwinism was immediately mutilated to transform it into social Darwinism, genetics was immediately mutilated to defend racism. And just as Darwinism was rejected under the pretext that it would inevitably lead to social Darwinism, genetics was rejected as it would lead to racism. Lysenko sought out the “mystical, reactionary, Malthusian nucleus” of Darwinism in the conception of species variability, and then rejected the genetics that laid the scientific foundation for an understanding of that variability.
21. Hugo de Vries (1848-1935); Dutch botanist, founder of mutation theory and one of the rediscoverers of the laws of Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), who gained posthumous recognition as the founder of the modern science of genetics. Intrazellulaire Pangenesis, 1889. Hoe ontstaan soorten, 1900. Die Mutationstheorie, 1901-1903.
22. Atheism, in itself, does not exclude mysticism; and mysticism does not necessarily turn against science, but might well appeal to it; it turns itself against worship, but not necessarily against religion in general. Richard Dawkins transformed Darwinism into an atheist religion supporting a pseudo-liberal crusade against all religion. People believe all kinds of things and know little; not everybody is a universal scientist. To the question on the existence of God it can only be answered that it is not a scientific question. Richard Dawkins however keeps it for a “probability close to a certainty” that God does not exist, and thus he tries to give a scientific answer to a question which is not scientific. He never asks himself the question why people want to believe in a “God”, a question to which only anthropology can give an answer, which is not really the ground on which Richard Dawkins excels.
23. Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902); German pathologist, anthropologist and liberal politician; founder of cellular pathology; fought Darwinism at the 50th Congress of German Naturalists and Physicians in Munich on 22 September 1877; he later embraced Darwinism. Die Freiheit der Wissenschaft im modernen Staat, Berlin, 1877. The Paris Commune of 1871 , after the defeat of Napoleon III by the German armies, was the first popular uprising in which the proletariat played the leading role. See Karl Marx, The Civil War in France , 1871.
24. Herbert Spencer (1820-1903); English engineer, philosopher and liberal “laissez faire” ideologue; published in 1852 a theory of evolution inspired by Karl Ernst von Baer , The Development Hypothesis; subsequently applied the notion of evolution, as a theory of gradual development, randomly to all sciences to come to a philosophical synthesis, of which social Darwinism was a part. A System of Synthetic Philosophy, in 10 volumes, 1862-1896. The Factors of Organic Evolution, 1887. An Autobiography, 1904.
25. See among others: The Student’s Darwin / Edward Aveling . – Freethought Publishing Co., 1881. The Darwinian Theory: Its Meaning, Difficulties, Evidence, History. – London : Progressive Publishing Co., 1884. Edward Aveling was the partner of Karl Marx’ daughter Eleanor, and a radical freethinker and a racist; he also, at the demand of Friedrich Engels, translated several chapters of the first volume of Karl Marx’s “Capital”. Also see the book by Karl Kautsky (note 31); and: Darwin-Marx / Cornelie Huygens, in: De Nieuwe Tijd, 5e jrg., 1900-1902; reprinted as pamphlet Amsterdam, 1901.
26. Compare: “The scientific method of the natural sciences has nothing to offer to Marxism, which after all is a completely different scientific method, and the historical-materialist method can withstand the attacks from other scientific disciplines wholly on its own terms, as comrade Pannekoek has demonstrated once again, in his clear and cautious, and for the workers easily understandable address of few pages, annihilated the Darwinist attacks on historical materialism.” Eine Antwort an Friedrich Adler, Franz Mehring, 1910, in: Gesammelte Schiften, Bd. 13, Philosophische Aufsätze, p. 218).
27. Die Darwinsche Theorie und der Sozialismus / Ludwig Woltmann . – Düsseldorf : Hermann Michels Verlag, 1899.
28. Peter A. Kropotkin (1842-1938); Russian revolutionary and natural researcher of aristocratic descent; ethical anarchist; 1872-1886 active as agitator, in which period he spent five years in prison; thereafter London; dedicated himself to journalism; in 1917 back to Russia; supported the Kerensky government and the Entente; after the October revolution returned to the anarchist camp. Mutual Aid, a Factor in Evolution, 1902. Kropotkin argues, in accordance with Darwin, that “cooperation” of the individuals of a species that lives socially delivers an evolutionary benefit. Memoirs of a Revolutionist, 1899. Compare: “1) Of the Darwinian doctrine I accept the theory of evolution, but Darwin’s method of proof (struggle for life, natural selection) I consider only a first, provisional, imperfect expression of a newly discovered fact. Until Darwin’s time the very people who now see everywhere only struggle for existence (Vogt, Büchner, Moleschott, etc.) emphasized precisely cooperation in organic nature, the fact that the vegetable kingdom supplies oxygen and nutriment to the animal kingdom and conversely the animal kingdom supplies plants with carbonic acid and manure, which was particularly stressed by Liebig. Both conceptions are justified within certain limits, but the one is as one-sided and narrowminded as the other. The interaction of bodies in nature – inanimate as well as animate – includes both harmony and collision, struggle and cooperation. When therefore a self-styled natural scientist takes the liberty of reducing the whole of historical development with all its wealth and variety to the one-sided and meagre phrase ‘struggle for existence,’ a phrase which even in the sphere of nature can be accepted only cum grano salis, such a procedure really contains its own condemnation. […] 3) […] The whole Darwinist teaching of the struggle for existence is simply a transference from society to living nature of Hobbes’s doctrine of bellum omnium contra omnes and of the bourgeois-economic doctrine of competition together with Malthus’s theory of population. When this conjurer’s trick has been performed (and I questioned its absolute permissibility, as I have indicated in point 1, particularly as far as the Malthusian theory is concerned), the same theories are transferred back again from organic nature into history and it is now claimed that their validity as eternal laws of human society has been proved. The puerility of this procedure is so obvious that not a word need be said about it. But if I wanted to go into the matter more thoroughly I should do so by depicting them in the first place as bad economists and only in the second place as bad naturalists and philosophers.” (Friedrich Engels to Peter Lavrovitsch Lavrow , 12 November 1875). See for the debates in Russia: Darwin without Malthus: The Struggle for Existence in Russian Evolutionary Thought / Daniel P. Todes. – Oxford University Press, 1989. When birds clean the teeth of crocodiles, then it is because it is a source of food, and not to do a favour to the crocodile. It is mutually advantageous, but not in any way “mutual aid”. In the village community there is something that exceeds this: aid without any immediate compensation, except for the respect of others.
29. In this chapter Pannekoek combats the social Darwinists with arguments from biology, following Darwin in The Descent of Man, and he demonstrates that they are bad biologists (compare the remark in the letter of Friedrich Engels to Peter Lavrov on bad economists in the previous note). According to Darwin, with human beings natural selection goes into the background, to be superseded by the development of not very detailed “institutions”, whereby he expressed the pious hope and wish that these would be brought to further development, and for which the most developed and civilized would have a task to extend it all over the world. This bourgeois-humanist vision was also precisely the limit of Darwin. With Marx the development of Darwin’s “institutions” takes the form of the development of productive forces and relations, which, in contrast to the animal social instincts, are specifically human. At the same time Marx made clear, with some irony, that the bourgeoisie had every reason to take in hand “popular education”, in order that the proletarian revolution would proceed less violently.
30. “No natural laws can be done away with. What can change in historically different circumstances is only the form in which these laws assert themselves.” Letter of Karl Marx to Ludwig Kugelmann , 11 July 1868.
32. Karl Kautsky (1854-1938); leading German theoretician of German social-democracy; in 1881 private secretary of Friedrich Engels; in 1883 founded the main theoretical publication of German social-democracy, Die Neue Zeit, which he edited until 1917; Kautsky wrote numerous books, pamphlets and articles to popularize Marxism; as representative of the party-centre from the years onwards from 1890 he had to defend himself against the revisionists led by Eduard Bernstein, and from 1909 onwards also against the left led by Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Radek, Franz Mehring, Anton Pannekoek and others; he was a centrist during the First World War and, in 1917, co-founder of the Independent Social Democratic Party (u.s.p.d.); polemicized against the Bolsheviks. Ethik und materialistische Geschichtsauffassung, 1906. The title of the fourth chapter reads: The Ethics of Darwinism. Pannekoek dealt with the theme ethics separately in: Ethiek en socialisme (Ethics and Socialism) in 1906 (no English translation is known to exist). Kautsky’s positions were retrospectively sharply criticized in: Die materialistische Geschichtsauffassung, (“The Materialist Conception of History” – there is no English translation to date) / Karl Korsch. – Frankfurt am Main : Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 1971 (original edition 1929).
33. For an extensive Marxist analysis of the role of language as a means of production, see: Factors of Race and Nation in Marxist Theory , first published in Il Programma Comunista, No 16-20, 1953. Compare: “You cannot explain the origin of languages and speech unless you start with the material characteristics pertaining to the environment and the organization of production. The language of a human group is itself one of the means of production.” (although language cannot be reduced to being a means of production).
34. With the old slogan of “All Men are Brothers” (which is in fact a slogan from the 18th Century against the nobility, and was initially copied by the 19th Century communists, but subsequently replaced by “Workers of all Countries, Unite!”) slaves and women were not included, for example; and Pannekoek had nothing to do with an abstract bourgeois “humanism”, in which the existence of classes was waived away. In his youth he did praise the “cosmopolitanism” of science, but that is different from the cosmopolitanism of trade.
35. Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860); German mystical philosopher; developed a vitalist vision of the “Will” as the Kantian “Thing in Itself” which would realize itself in the outer world; from this he drew pessimist conclusions; the need is infinite, the satisfaction temporary, ending with Buddhist-like positions on the need to negate the will and devotion to an ascetic life without passion. In 1848 he lent his opera glasses to Austrian soldiers who wanted to shoot at revolutionary demonstrators from his house in Frankfurt; he was afraid that his inherited capital on which he lived would be taken from him. Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, 1819. See on Schopenhauer: Gesammelte Schriften / Franz Mehring, Bd. 13 (Philosophische Aufsätze). Pannekoek doesn’t quote Schopenhauer directly and precisely, but indirectly via Kautsky.
37. “[…] and indeed we also see that the difference between higher and lower human races mainly consists of a difference in what is inside the brain”; this reflects the common prejudice of the time, which scientifically seemed to have been underpinned by measurements. Pannekoek however does not reproduce any other “racial” criterion, apparently he could not circumvent this one; he sees it as a secondary question, which moreover tends to disappear. Compare Pannekoek’s Anthropogenesis: A Study of the Origin of Man of 1945 in which the same isn’t reproduced any longer. There is no causal relationship between the use of tools and volume of brains, which, moreover, would be a Lamarckian and not a Darwinian argument. See on the subject: The Mismeasure of Man / Stephen J. Gould. – Revised and expanded edition. – London : Penguin Books, 1996. – 446 p. Otherwise, when humans are concerned, Pannekoek usually writes “groups”, sometimes “tribes”, and every once and then “race”, including in the sense of “human race”, clearly full synonyms, and sometimes also in an ironical sense.
38. “Germanic peoples” refers here to the ancient Celtic tribes of “Germany”, such as the Cimbri and Teutons , though Pannekoek may have been making a weak and somewhat misplaced joke for his listeners and readers in Germany, to learn them some modesty.
39. “[…] the tools struggle, and through this struggle the tools become more and more perfect”: this is, in modern Darwinian vocabulary, a “dangerous metaphor”, which might be understood as “technicist”, which could not have been Pannekoek’s intention, as the previous sentences clearly show. Of course, the tools do not struggle between themselves, as a struggle is conducted with them. If we find this, in the light of later developments, an unfortunate expression, which could be interpreted as technicist, then, for this reason, Anton Pannekoek cannot be related to the Stalinist forgers, who restricted the notion of the forces of production to technical means, and sacrificed the workers to it. The argument is invalidated by the following: “At once then it is obvious that not only the technique of labour, but equally, and still more so, the social organization, with its strong community-feeling, dominates intellectual life. For the use of tools operates as a barely conscious force, whereas the social community occupies the entire consciousness.” (from Anthropogenesis, thesis 43, Dutch 45). It would be interesting to compare this idea of Pannekoek with the pretended “technicism” of Herman Gorter. If we wait for intelligent and self-reproducing robots to take over the world, about which Stephen Hawkins warned just before his death in 2018, and, moreover, to be able to use genetic manipulation independently, it will of course be a completely different story. Last but not least Pannekoek seems to give the impression that competition with tools would remain a Darwinian social process, but this is incorrect as neither variation nor natural selection are implied; on the one hand it is about “inventions” and technological “innovation”, and on the other about artificial selection; for comparison: with breeding animals and cultivating plants it is about (natural) variation and artificial selection, yet that also changes as “variation” has become genetically modifiable. See also: Avant l’histoire; L’évolution des sociétés de Lascaux à Carnac / Alain Testart. – Paris, Gallimard, 2012, – III. Causes et mécanismes, La causalité technologique.
40. Meerderheid (Dutch, meant overwicht) and Überlegenheit (German) are translated here as “superiority” though they could also be translated as “ascendancy”. When Pannekoek speaks here of a “European race” it is admittedly unfortunate, but what is meant is the “European bourgeoisie” (he could hardly have held the European proletariat or peasantry responsible for imperialism) and it is not attributed to a biological, but only an ascendancy based on technological superiority, and thus the expression must have been meant ironically. Moreover, Pannekoek also refers to genocide committed by the most “civilized” groups, and he qualifies capitalism accordingly as a “barbaric” system. Darwin, who was just as little as Pannekoek convinced of the existence of human races, made the sarcastic remark that he hoped that it would come to something better than the “Caucacian race”. Pannekoek apparently could not make his pen write the word “Caucasian”. The idea that the “higher races” on the level of “civilization” might learn something from the “lower” is not explicitly expressed, yet not fully absent.
41. Anti-Dühring (German: Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft] / Friedrich Engels, 1878.
42. The fact that Anton Pannekoek writes “against nature” here may of course upset conservationists and eco-warriors who would like to return to a pre-human nature, or who advocate an illusory “balance” between man and nature. “Nature” in the proper sense exists mainly in tourist brochures on planet Earth (and elsewhere in the universe); the whole thing is managed on Earth by people, or rather plundered within class societies. The reduction of bio-diversity, the change of climate, and whatever else is the consequence of human activity, means it is no longer possible to turn things back again “to nature”, as there is always a man-made fence around it. “Nature”, in contrast to what was believed in the 19th Century, is not at all “managed” by humans, who are a part of it, because under capitalism, ever more needs to be produced; therefore, in the present society, for every problem solved a few others are created, while the whole complexity of the eco-system is barely understood.
Source: Marxism and Darwinism / Anton Pannekoek, translated by Nathan Weiser. – Chicago : Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1912. – 58 p; transcription by Jon Muller for Marxists’ Internet Archive in the 1990’s, proofed and corrected by Bas Streef, [s.d.].
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, that 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 [die also für die bestehenden Lebensverhältnisse am günstigsten gebaut sind]. Those which are best adapted to existing conditions will survive. [Der Kampf ums Dasein bewirkt eine Naturauslese] “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 [Zweckmäßigkeit = expediency] 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 [Zweckmäßigkeit] 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 [Kampf der Klassen], 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 [gesellschaftlichen Produktionsprozess] 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 [Formen dieser Arbeit] 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. [In dieser Weise haben beide Lehren, der Darwinismus und der Marxismus, der eine in der organischen Welt, der andere in der menschlichen Gesellschaft, dass Entwicklungsprinzip zu einer festbegründeten Wissenschaft erhoben und zum siegreichen Durchbruch verholfen. Damit haben sie die Entwicklungslehre zur Grundlage der Weltanschauung der weitesten Bevölkerungskreise gemacht.]
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.
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 [Waffe der 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 has been of inestimable service to the bourgeoisie in its struggle against the old powers. [Sie kämpft nach zwei Fronten, und das wissen die reaktionären Klassen] 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.”
[Missing paragraph: Die Argumente sind auch nicht weit zu suchen. Gerade durch die Entstehung der Darwinschen Lehre liegen sie unmittelbar zur Hand. Der Darwinsche Kampf ums Dasein fand sein Vorbild in der kapitalistischen Konkurrenz; jetzt wurde umgekehrt die kapitalistische Konkurrenz mit dem tierischen Kampf ums Dasein verglichen und dadurch zu der Würde eines Naturgesetz erhoben.]
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, the old, weak and sick are ever rooted out [Reinigungsprozess der Rasse] 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 [zu niedrich] 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 [wodurch eine so große Anzahl kräftiger, lebensfähiger Keime, oft die lebensfähigsten, zugrunde geht].
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. [Missing: Gewalt ist Recht, dass war der Inhalt dieser Lehre, der Erfolg beweist die Vollkommenheit. Sie war nicht nur gegen den Sozialismus, sondern auch gegen alle Sozialreform und alle Philanthropie gerichtet, die sich bemüht, dass schlimmste Elend und die auffälligsten Mängel unserer Gesellschaftsordnung zu lindern. Deshalb traten die Sozialreformer und die Philanthropen, die ethisch angehauchten Bourgeois gegen sie auf. Sie hatten um so mehr Grund dazu, als jene Lehre im Grunde für die bürgerliche Gesellschaft selbst sehr gefährlich war. Denn schon trat das Proletariat auf, das sein Recht auf seine steigende Macht gründete. Daher mussten alle, die von dem Machtkampf nichts wissen wollten und das Proletariat mit einem verbesserten Kapitalismus auszusöhnen suchten, die Lehre der Bourgeois-Darwinisten bekämpfen.]
[Missing paragraph: Sie betonten dabei natürlich vor allem die ethische Seite der Frage, worin sie von den ethischen Sozialisten, denjenigen, die den Sozialismus auf die Ethik gründen wollen, unterstützt wurden. Sind die Eigenschaften, die den Sieg in dem kapitalistischen Konkurrenzkampf sichern, auch diejenigen Eigenschaften, deren Stärkung man im Interesse des Fortschritts wünschen muss? Nein, gerade umgekehrt! Schlauheit, Rücksichtslosigkeit, Betrug, darin besteht die „Geschäftstüchtigkeit“, die in der Geschäftswelt zum Emporkommen befähigt. In dem heißen Konkurrenzkampf wird schließlich jedes Mittel, das gerade am Zuchthaus vorüber führt, angewandt, und das Strafgesetzbuch wird zum alleinigen Maßstab des sittlich Erlaubten. Der kapitalistische Kampf ums Dasein führt nicht zum Sieg der Tüchtigsten im moralischen Sinne; daher ist auch keine moralische Verbesserung, sondern eher eine Verschlechterung der Menschheit seine Folge. Aber gerade deshalb müssen die Menschen in diesen Kampf eingreifen. Der Kampf ums Dasein darf in der menschlichen Gesellschaft nicht nach den rohen, schonungslosen Prinzipien der Tierwelt geführt werden. Der Mensch ist keine Bestie. Als freies, sittliches Wesen, das sich höhere Ziele setzt, muss er das zügellose Walten dieses Naturgesetzes aufheben. Er kann den Kampf mildern und eine vernünftige, moralische Weltordnung an die Stelle der tierischen setzen.]
[Missing paragraph: Zu dieser letzten Auffassung ist zu bemerken, dass von einer Aufhebung eines Naturgesetzes natürlich nicht die Rede sein kann. Die Anschauung, das Gesetz darf nicht gelten, weil es unseren sittlichen Empfindungen widerspricht, hat gegenüber einem wirklichen Naturgesetz keinen Sinn. Man hat nur zu erforschen, ob und in welchem Maße es unter verschiedenen Bedingungen gilt. Und in diesem Punkte hat sich nun zur Genüge gezeigt, dass die kritiklose Übertragung der Darwinschen Prinzipien aus die Menschenwelt zu fehlerhaften und irrigen Schlüssen führt.]
[The following paragraphs does not correspond to the German original, which reads: Dieses Ergebnis ist kein Zufall. Darwinismus und Marxismus sind zwei verschiedene Lehren, deren eine für die Tierwelt, die andere für die Gesellschaft gilt. Sie ergänzen einander in dem Sinne, dass die Tierwelt sich nach dem Darwinschen Prinzip bis zum Menschen entwickelt, und dass für die Menschen von dem Augenblick an, dass sie aus der Tierwelt empor steigen, der Marxismus das weitere Entwicklungsgesetz darstellt. Will man aber die eine Lehre aus das Gebiet der anderen übertragen, wo ganz andere Gesetze gelten, so wird man notwendig zu Fehlschlüssen kommen müssen.] 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 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 [die sozialen Trieben], 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. [Missing: „Bei gesellig lebenden Tieren wird sie (die natürliche Zuchtwahl) jedes Individuum für das Heil der ganzen Gesellschaft geeignet machen, so dass jedes Mitglied Vorteile aus dieser Änderung zieht“, schrieb Darwin schon in seiner „Entstehung der Arten“.] 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.
[This whole chapter needs correction] 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. [The German edition follows: Die Frage nach der Entwicklung jener ersten Spuren von Sprache, Denken und Werkzeugsgebrauch zu dem neuen hervorragenden Charakter, den sie bei den Menschen tragen, enthält das eigentliche Problem der Menschwerdung des Tieres].
[Missing: Dabei ist zuerst zu bemerken, dass der Mensch zu dieser Entwicklung nur als gesellschaftliches Tier fähig war.] 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 [German: Die Ursache liegt darin, dass das menschliche, sogenannte abstrakte, vernünftige Denken begriffliches Denken ist, mittelst Begriffe stattfindet]. Perceptions [Begriffe] 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” (p. 139-140, 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.
[Omitted: Hier haben wir also schon das, was Schopenhauer hervorhob, den verborgenen, sich im Kopfe abspinnenden Faden der Überlegung, die der Handlung vorangeht, als einen notwendigen Ausfluss des Werkzeuggebrauchs ersaßt. Aber damit ist das Wesentlichste noch unerwähnt geblieben.] 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 [mit denselben natürlichen Werkzeugen und Waffen ausgestattet], 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.
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 [künstlichen Werkzeugen]. 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.
[Omitted paragraph: Die Löwen kämpfen nicht mit dem Schwanz, die Hasen nicht mit den Augen, die Falken nicht mit dem Schnabel, sondern die Löwen kämpfen mit ihren Springmuskeln und Zähnen, die Hasen mit ihren Pfoten und Ohren, die Falken mit ihren Augen und Flügeln. Fragen wir also: was kämpft, was führt den Wettkampf? Dann ist die Antwort: die Organe kämpfen. Und diese Organe werden dabei immer vollkommener. Die Muskeln und Zähne der Löwen, die Pfoten und Ohren der Hasen, die Augen und die Flügel der Falken führen den Konkurrenzkampfs, und sie werden durch diesen Kampf vervollkommnet. Die ganzen Tiere sitzen bloß an diesen Organen fest und erleiden ihr Schicksal, das des siegenden Starken oder des besiegten Schwachen mit.]
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. [Omitted: Die großen Fortschritte der Technik und der Arbeitsmethoden in der Urzeit, wie vor allem die Einführung des Ackerbaues und der Viehzucht machen den Menschen zu einer körperlich kräftigeren Rasse, die von der Unbill der Naturereignisse nicht mehr so schlimm zu leiden hat.] 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 Darwinian 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 [Should be: Es bleibt jetzt noch übrig, die heutige Produktionsweise und ihre Umwälzung in tiefem Zusammenhange zu betrachten und die darwinistischen Prinzipien in der richtigen Weise darauf anzuwenden.].
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-Dühring” (p. 239. This may also be found on p. 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 capitals. 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.
*) [Forgotten note to be translated, which has been done, see above] Kropotkin weist darauf hin, dass zuerst die russischen Schüler Darwins diesen Faktor der gegenseitigen Hilfe hervorhoben, und er führt dies daraus zurück, dass sie die beste Gelegenheit hatten, das Tierleben auf den weiten Steppen zu beobachten. Die Hauptursache wird jedoch darin zu suchen sein, dass in Russland die kapitalistische Konkurrenz, die in Westeuropa den Kampf non allen gegen alle zu einer jedem geläufigen Idee machte, noch nicht dass Leben beherrschte und der Geist des Dorfkommunismus, der aus der gegenseitigen Hilfe beruht, die Vorstellungen der russischen Gesellschaftskreise noch stark beeinflusste. Der Mensch sieht immer die Natur durch die Brille seiner eigenen gesellschaftlichen Verhältnisse.
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Compiled by Vico, 27 Mai 2018, latest additions 26 January 2020