Marx & Engels on Eugenic Socialism and Darwin:
Karl Marx made his anti-slavery convictions known, well, by publishing them, while Darwin never publicly denounced it despite his immediate family’s long history of anti-slavery activism. It is thus of historical importance to document precisely how Karl Marx felt about his contemporary, Charles Darwin. Author Ronald E. Meek provides a thorough account of Marx and Engels view on population control, Darwinism, Malthus, and Keynes in his 1971 book, “Marx and Engels on the Population Bomb.” Meeks provides ample quotations to accurately depict their views on Darwinism and its relevance to socialist or collectivist movements. The unconditional adoption of Darwinism, Keynesian economics, and population control by the full spectrum of contemporary socialists and collectivists makes it entertaining to document just how disdainful Marx and Engels were of Darwin and Malthus:
…Herr Lange (Ueber die Arbeiterfrage, etc., 2. ed.) sings my praises loudly, but with the object of making himself important. Herr Lange, you see, has made a great discovery. The whole of history can be brought under a single great natural law. This natural law is the phrase (in this application Darwin’s expression becomes nothing but a phrase) “the struggle for existence,” and the content of this phrase is the Malthusian law of population or, rather, overpopulation. So, instead of analyzing the struggle for e3xistence as represented historically in varying and definite forms of society, all that has to be done is to translate every concrete struggle into the phrase, “struggle for existence,” and this phrase itself into the Malthusian population fantasy. One must admit that this is a very impressive method – for swaggering, sham-scientific, bombastic ignorance and intellectual laziness. From Marx’s letter to Kugelmann of June 27, 1870 (Pg. 196 – Meeks)
Malthus, as Meeks aptly points out, was a British Parson whom was equally obsessed with “the perfectibility of society” as his radical American counterparts whom ventured to the “New World” to establish their perfectly balanced “planned communities.” Meeks provides a quote from Malthus’ “Essay”:
This natural inequality of the two powers of population, and of production in the earth, and that great law of our nature which must constantly keep their effects equal, form the great difficulty that to me appears insurmountable in the way to the perfectibility of society. (Pg. 5 – Meeks)
Thus, herein lays the hold of Malthusian population control that grips and defines “left-of-center” theory hundreds of years after Malthus was proven wrong by the Agricultural Revolution, and into the “bombastic” and “sham-scientific” claims of contemporary Global Warming fanatics that have now married Marx and Malthus. Ironically, as Meeks documents, Karl Marx did not hesitate to provide his harsh opinion on Malthus:
Take, for instance, Malthus’s book On Population. In its first edition it was nothing but a “sensational pamphlet” and plagiarism from beginning to end into the bargain. And yet what a stimulus was produced by this libel on the human race!.” – Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, p. 170. (Pg. 18 – Meeks)
Then again in Marx’s “Capital”:
“Mr. John Stuart Mill the first propounder of a theory which was first published by James Anderson in A. Smith’s days, and was repeated in various works down to the beginning of the nineteenth century; a theory which Malthus, that master in plagiarism (the whole of his population theory is a shameless plagiarism), appropriated to himself in 1815. Marx’s Capital (Pg. 25 – Meeks)
And then more poignantly in Marx’s “Theories of Surplus Value,” vol. 3, 1861-1863:
Malthus’s work The Measure of Value, etc.. — is a very model of intellectual imbecility, winding its way casuistically through its own inner confusion. (Pg. 155 – Meeks)
If the reader reminds me of Malthus, whose “Essay on Population” appeared in 1798, I remind him that this work in its first form is nothing more than a schoolboyish, superficial plagiary of De Foe, Sir James Steuart, Townsend, Franklin, Wallace, etc., and does not contain a single sentence thought out by himself. Marx’s Capital, vol. 1 (Pg. 88 – Meeks)
Furthermore, Marx considers Malthus’ work to be a scientific fraud, cooked and prepared for a political purposes of the “English State Church,” instead of the honesty expected from science:
“Parson” Malthus does not sacrifice the exclusive interests to production, but does his best to sacrifice the demands of production to the exclusive interests of the existing ruling classes or sections of them, and to this end he falsifies his scientific conclusions. That is his scientific meanness, his sin against science, quite apart from his shameless and mechanical plagiarism. Malthus’s scientific conclusions are considerate when the ruling classes in general and the reactionary elements among these ruling classes in particular are concerned; that is, he falsifies science on behalf of these interests. His conclusions are, however, inconsiderate where the oppressed classes are concerned. And it is not only that he is inconsiderate. He affects inconsiderateness, takes a cynical pleasure in this role, and exaggerates the conclusions – insofar as they are directed against those living in poverty – to an even greater extent than could be scientifically justified from his own point of view. From Marx’s “Theories of Surplus Value,” vol. 2 (written 1861 – 1863) (Pg. 136-137 Meeks)
Both Marx and Engels thought that Darwin’s work relied too heavily on a work they considered to be deceitful, political, and a work of plagiarism:
…As regards Darwin, whom I have looked at again, it amuses me that he says he applies the “Malthusian” theory also to plants and animals, as if Malthus’s whole point did not consist in the fact that his theory is applied not to plants and animals, but only to human beings – in geometrical progression – as opposed to plants and animals. It is remarkable that Darwin recognizes among brutes and plants his English society with its division of labor, competition, opening up of new markets, “inventions,” and Malthusian “struggle for existence.” It is Hobbes’s belum omnium contra omnes, and it is reminiscent of Hegel in the Phenomenology, where bourgeois society figures as “spiritual animal kingdom,” while the Darwin the animal kingdom figures as bourgeois society.” From Marx’s letter to Engels of June 18, 1862 (Pg. 195 – Meeks)
I too was struck, the very first time I read Darwin, with the remarkable likeness between his account of plant and animal life and the Malthusian theory. From Engels’ letter of Lange of March 29, 1865 (Pg. 85 – Meeks)
Engels rightly points out that prior to Darwin, the same scientists and theoreticians were marveling, not at the “struggle for existence,” but at the wonderful balance of nature:
Before Darwin, the very people – who now see nothing but struggle for existence everywhere were stressing precisely the cooperation in organic nature – how the vegetable kingdom supplies the animal kingdom with oxygen and foodstuffs while the animal kingdom in turn supplies the vegetable kingdom with carbonic acid and manures…
Darwin had relied heavily on Malthus, despite the fact that the Agricultural Revolution had already proved Malthus wrong about the limitations of food production by the time Malthus published his infamous work. Darwin also relied heavily on Ernst Haeckel, despite the fact that reputable scientists like Rudolf Virchow had proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Haeckel had falsified and exaggerated several of his most important claims. Galton, in turn, relied heavily on Darwinism in proposing his eugenic theory, despite the fact that his proposals for “rational” human breeding had proven to be catastrophes when tried in the various socialist utopias in the United States, and ridiculed when these activists spoke of them in England. Keynes had relied heavily on Malthus and Darwin for his economic theory, and even persisted on popularizing central planning despite the catastrophic failures of such schemes in the first decade of Bolshevik Russia. Despite the fact that it was obvious that all these people were peddling in failed doctrines, several generations of the Huxley, Darwin, and Galton families were dedicated to making Darwinism the replacement for traditional religion, and their political counterparts worked equally zealously to make Keynes’ work the replacement for the emerging laissez faire democracy.
In 20/20 hindsight, Charles Darwin failed to explain in 1,500 pages compiled between “Origins” and “Descent” what Gregor Mendel explained in a mere 20 to 25 pages. If we are to believe Marx and Engels, it can be said that Darwin’s theory is a “plagiaristic” extrapolation of the speculations of Malthus. Darwin’s theory of evolution can be said to have been born on March of 1837. It is not to say that Mendel should be given the credit that is given to Darwin, but that that the science of evolution can exist without all the bloviating and politicking that Darwin, Huxley, Wallace, and Haeckel did.
Without the Malthusian checks and balances in nature, as described by Darwin, the competition for subsistence and existence that act as pruning tools to guide the evolutionary path would not happen. Malthus had to be revisited and legitimized or Darwin’s “theory” would otherwise fall apart like a house of cards. However, Malthus had been proved wrong by the time that Darwin had written his theory, and Marx and Engels knew it. The successive agricultural revolutions proved all of Malthus’ assumptions about the potential yield of the land to be wrong, and Marx and Engels knew Malthus had falsified the evidence in order to justify his politics. Yet, the need to legitimize Malthus only grew more persistent as the Darwinian revolution became a cultural revolution that later begot several political revolutions. As Meeks points out, Keynes and the Progressive movement greatly admired Malthus, and the “third way” movements that adopted Bellamy’s “nationalization” and Keynesian economics thus were married to Malthusian theory. Meek provides us with Keynes’ assessment of Malthus’ “Essay on Population”:
…profoundly in the English tradition of humane science — . . . a tradition marked by a love of truth and most noble lucidity, by a prosaic sanity free from sentiment or metaphysic, and by an immense disinterestedness and public spirit.”
The Malthusian doctrine of effective demand was also praised by Keynes:
If only Malthus, instead of Ricardo, had been the parent stem from which nineteenth-century economics proceeded, what a much wiser and richer place the world would be today!
Both Marx and Engels recognized the cruelty in Malthusian-based economics. Engels says as much in no uncertain terms in his 1845 “Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844”:
Malthus declares in plain English that the right to live, a right previously asserted in favor of every man in the world, is nonsense. He quotes the words of a poet, that the poor man comes to the feast of Nature and finds no cover laid for him, and adds that “she bids him begone,” for he did not before his birth ask of society whether or not he is welcome. This is now the pet theory of all genuine English bourgeois, and very naturally, since it is the most specious excuse for them, and has, moreover, a good deal of truth in it under existing conditions. If, then, the problem is not to make the “surplus population” useful, to transform it into available population, but merely to let it starve to death in the least objectionable way and to prevent its having too many children, this, of course, is simple enough, provided the surplus population perceives its own superfluousness and takes kindly to starvation.
Both Marx and Engels recognized that Charles Darwin had adopted Malthusian theory uncritically, and furthermore advanced it and stretched it beyond its intended use. With Darwin’s popularity, the blind application of Malthus’ work to political economic theory went much further than Malthus ever dreamed of or intended. Consider Engels’ “Anti-Dühring” of 1878:
The main reproach leveled against Darwin is that he transferred the Malthusian population theory from economics into natural science, that he never got beyond the ideas of an animal breeder, and that in his theory of the struggle for existence he pursued unscientific semi-poetry, and that the whole of Darwinism, after deducting what had been borrowed from Lamarck, is a piece of brutality directed against humanity. (Pg. 203 – Meeks)
Engels and Marx were right. Darwin himself had admitted that his theory of “Natural Selection” was wholeheartedly derived from Malthus. Elof Axel Carlson, author of the 2001 book titled “The Unfit: A History of a Bad Idea” cites Darwin:
Darwin acknowledged that his natural selection “is the doctrine of Malthus applied with manifold force to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms; for in this case there can be no artificial increase of food, and no prudential restraint from marriage.
Engels took exception to Darwin’s flaccid explanation:
Against this Darwinian theory, however, Herr Dühring says that the origin of the idea of the struggle for existence, as, he claims, Darwin himself admitted, has to be sought in a generalization of the views of the economic theorist of population, Malthus, and the idea is therefore marked by all the defects peculiar to the parsonical views of Malthus on the pressure of population. – Now Darwin would not dream of saying that the origin of the idea of the struggle for existence is to be found in Malthus. He only says that his theory of the struggle for existence is the theory of Malthus applied to the animal and plant world as a whole. However great the blunder made by Darwin in accepting so naively and without reflection the Malthusian theory, nevertheless anyone can see at the first glance that no Malthusian spectacles are required in order to perceive the struggle for existence in Nature – who was it that gave the most definite impulse to work in this direction? No other than Darwin. (Pgs. 205-205 – Meeks)
More importantly, for the topic of this book, is the fact that Engels recognized that a “controlled” and “planned” economy was the only economic and political system that could enact the controls over the growth of population that the Malthusians demanded:
There is, of course, the abstract possibility that the number of people will become so great that limits will have to be set to their increase. But if at some stage communists society finds itself obliged to regulate the production of human beings, just as it has already come to regulate the production of things, it will be precisely this society, and this society alone, which can carry this out without difficulty.” — From Engels’ letter to Kautsky of February 1st, 1881 (Pg. 119 – Meeks)
Engels is absolutely right; “control” is indispensable for a eugenic program. Absolute political control and eugenics go hand in hand. One cannot exist without the other. It should come as no surprise that all planned economies, whether the works of futuristic fictions by H.G. Wells and Edward Bellamy, or actual collectivist governments, that a eugenic program is a key component of the planned governmental and economic system.
“Control,” is the key to maintaining the fragile stasis that planned economies so desperately try to achieve. “Control” is indispensable in the effort to shield society from the violent upheavals in economic history. “Control” over every last detail of human life is vital in order to engineer the outcome of economic life, and ensure that equal results, as opposed to “equal opportunity” is achieved. There are several formidable threats to being able to guarantee equal results for all of society, and “excess population” or uncontrolled population is one of the largest threats to undermine the effort to achieve an engineered outcome. One simply cannot plan for an economic future with the population that needs to be fed and provided for by a collectivist government growing out of its planned boundaries. One simply cannot afford to have unproductive elements in one’s “industrial army,” or what the Bolsheviks would call “useless eaters.” Mr. Engels is absolutely right that it is only an all-encompassing, all-knowing, and all-powerful government, with power over the life and death of individual citizens, which can successfully enact a eugenic program. The goals of eugenics simply cannot be achieved without the totalitarian power to segregate, confiscate, incarcerate, and exterminate without fear of push-back from those elements of the population that are being manipulated. Absolute power which wields absolute fear in the population is a necessary ingredient for a eugenic program.
EXCERPT: This chapter was not included in its entirety in the final edit of “From a ‘Race of Masters’ to a ‘Master Race’: 1948-1848” and is presented here with all of its defects and imperfections.