Stranger Fruit

Marx was a Darwinist!!!! OMG!!!!

David Klinghoffer is promising to deliver some revisionism over at the Discovery Institute:

Starting tomorrow, I would like to devote a couple posts to the thesis that Communism has deeper Darwinian roots than many of us realize. That, in fact, even though Marx had already begun sketching the outlines of his ideas before Darwin published the Origin of Species ? the Communist Manifesto appeared in 1848, the Origin in 1859 ? he is fairly called a Darwinist. That, finally, the men who translated Marxism into practical political terms in the form of Soviet terror were evolutionary thinkers, just as they themselves claimed to be.

Yup, it is the old Darwin/Marx meme coupled with the evolution=genocide meme, both much beloved to creationists, anti-evolutionists, and cranky conservatives.

Let me repeat something I have posted before: While Marx initially described Origin
as containing ?the natural-historical basis of our outlook? and ?a
basis in natural science for the historical class struggle,? by 1861 he
was noting that ?[i]t is remarkable how Darwin recognises among beasts
and plants his English society with its labour, competition, opening up
of new markets, ‘inventions?, and the Malthusian ‘struggle for
existence?.? Indeed he would view Darwinism as a bourgeois ideology
which mirrored the bourgeois competitive struggle in capitalist
society. Marx?s use of Darwin is underwhelming – he twice mentions
Darwin?s theory in Das Kapital, both as footnotes and neither indicate that he can ?fairly be called a Darwinist?+.
These are the only published references of Marx to Darwin. More
importantly, Marx chastised a number of his followers, in particular
Ludwig Büchner and Friedrich Lange for attempting to link his ideas
with those of Darwin. Büchner?s work was described as ?superficial
nonsense? and Lange lead Marx to describe the struggle for life as ?the
Malthusian population fantasy?. Clearly, Marx was no Darwinist. As Ball
notes,

Marx clearly admired and agreed with Darwin?s
having finished off teleology in the natural sciences … [In Marx?s
view] Darwin?s theory of natural selection applies, at best,
only to prehuman, preconscious natural history; it does not apply to
the epoch of human history in which men consciously transform nature
and therefore themselves. (emphasis mine)

Marx
accepted the idea of organic evolution and the denial of teleology in
natural science. What he did not however accept were Mathusian
arguments and use of such to explain human history. In other words,
Marx – like many other thinkers of the time – ultimately denied the
efficacy of natural selection.

Clearly, Marx was no Darwinist and cannot ?fairly? be called so despite how Klinghoffer may squeal over the next few days.

+ Here are the two footnotes from Das Kapital
(1867). The first occurs in a discussion of tool specialization and the
second in one of the difference between tools and machines. Marx is
clearly not utilizing Darwin?s ideas (?epoch-making? though they may
be) in any meaningful way.

Darwin in his
epoch-making work on the origin of species, remarks, with reference to
the natural organs of plants and animals: ‘So long as one and the same
organ has different kinds of work to perform, a ground for its
changeability may possibly be found in this,that natural selection
preserves or suppresses each small variation of formless carefully than
if that organ were destined for one special purpose alone.Thus, knives
that are adapted to cut all sorts of things, may, on the whole, be of
one shape; but an implement destined to be used exclusively in one way
must have a different shape for every different use.?

Darwin
has interested us in the history of natural technology, i.e., in the
formation of the organs of plants and animals, which organs serve as
instruments of production for sustaining life. Does not the history of
the productive organs of man, of the organs that are the material basis
of all social organism, deserve equal attention?.

Comments

  1. #1 Cannonball Jones
    January 16, 2009

    I think the real point here is that even if Marx were a Darwinist it wouldn’t mean a damn thing. Hitler was a vegetarian (okay, that’s open to debate…) so does that mean all vegetarians support the Holocaust? I love it when they resort to this kind of argument, a clear sign that they’re losing the plot to a ridiculous degree.

  2. #2 DA
    January 16, 2009

    Good stuff. But in my mind, the real question is: Who cares if Marx was a Darwinist? I am sure there have been (and still are) hundreds of scientists that have ideologies or beliefs that I disagree with or find despicable, but that does not make their research or conclusions incorrect.

  3. #3 James F
    January 16, 2009

    Wehrner von Braun was a Nazi. That means rocket science is EVIL!!!1!!!!11!!!ONE!

    They’ve got a less than a month until Darwin Day, so I’m sure we can expect more of the same “research.”

  4. #4 Thony C.
    January 16, 2009

    I find one of the most fascinating aspects of these attempts to link Darwin and Marx is that the people doing the linking seem to be under the impression that this would automatically be a very, very bad thing for Darwinism. This is only potentially the case if you accept the cardboard cut-out carton picture of Karl Marx and his work that unfortunately all too many people and in particular most Americans have. Point one is that the totalitarian state fascism practiced in Russia and a hand full of other countries during most of the twentieth century has little or nothing to do with anything Marx wrote. Although I personally disagree with Marx’s political theory, he is, not just in my opinion, one of the most important social philosophers ever and like many of my European colleagues in some aspects of my work I am quite happy to call myself a Marxist historian. Marx is not and never was the devil incarnate and trying to besmirch Darwin’s work by claiming that one of the intellectual giants of the 19th century was a Darwinian appears to me to be totally puerile.

  5. #5 Martijn
    January 16, 2009

    To make this even worse for Klinghoffer: Stalin was definitely anti-evolution. He favored the lamarckian ideas of Lysenko.

  6. #6 Alex, FCD
    January 17, 2009

    I’ve heard (in a Gould essay, I think) that Marx sent Darwin a signed copy of Das Kapital, which Darwin never read. The problem, it seems, is not that Darwin objected to the content, but rather that his German was not up to it.

  7. #7 tresmal
    January 17, 2009

    Did Marx accept heliocentrism? If so, does that mean we can link Copernicanism to Pol Pot?

    @Alex #6: Somehow I think that Darwin, a wealthy landowner, would not have been entirely sympathetic to Marx’s views even if his German was up to the task. Marx may have been a “Darwinist”, but Darwin was no Marxist.

  8. #8 DLC
    January 18, 2009

    Marx was no more a “Darwinist” than he was a Rigellian.
    For that matter, I’m no “Darwinist” in the sense the opponents of evolution mean. I don’t follow Charles Darwin as a godhead and do not hold On the Origin of Species up as a holy text.

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