8.5 Evolutionary Thinking in Political Theories

Karl Marx (1818-83) helped set the stage for communism by stressing the materialistic nature of history and the unpaid labor of the working class that accumulates as surplus value. He elaborated the Hegelian System (a proposition is opposed by equal idea and reconciled by third proposition). Marx used this system by representing the history of humankind as the evolution of humanity in the discovery of the dialectic law (elevation of matter over mind, material existence). Thus, he attempted to free history from metaphysics (spiritual existence). [284]

To Marx, nature works dialectically through a nonrecurring historical evolution. He credited Darwin as the one who had brought about the transition from the metaphysical to the dialectic conception of nature by proving that all organic beings, including humans, are the products of an evolutionary process that has been going on for millions of years. The methods of dialectics with their constant regard to the innumerable actions and reactions of life and death and of progressive or retrogressive changes provided Marx with the driving force for his system of historical evolution. The struggle for individual existence that culminates in the evolution of humans from animal ancestors disappeared when humans became really human. At that point humans could dominate the conditions of life and make their own history by controlling the extraneous factors that govern history. Humans try to regulate commodity production and appropriation, for they are the major factors by which society evolves.

Thus political systems evolve from the medieval balance of individualistic production and appropriation to the capitalistic conflict of social production versus individualistic appropriation. Marx believed the system would evolve finally to the triumph of classless society where production and appropriation are equally controlled by all people. He taught that proletarian revolution is the means by which the exploited working class can seize power and transform the socialized means of production, which is owned by the capitalists, into public property. Marx believed the development of public production would eventually abolish the different classes of society, and the culmination of human historical evolution would be achieved (1).

Engels (1820-95) built on Marx's theory. In spite of Engels' disregard for individual competition (2), he justified class struggle by Darwin's concept of the struggle for existence. He also exploited Hugo de Vries's mutation theory (see I.1.3-1.4) to explain the necessity of sudden and drastic reconstruction of the economic basis of societies (3).

Another political theory was put forth by Militaristic National Socialism (Nazism). They adopted a crude Darwinistic outlook and held that life is a ruthless struggle in which the weak, wounded, and allegedly biologically inferior must perish. They believed the Germans belong to the purest Aryan race who alone created civilization. Nazism held that decadent members of society are the intellectualist, internationalist, uprooted, and atomist and that they have to be purged to maintain national tradition, close group integration, and people's intuition and customs. This system was an irrational and inherently destructive force with no doctrinal center. It was committed to eternal dynamism for the sake of dynamism. [285]

Other political systems developed that extended Nazism. Nihilistic thinkers Nietzsche and von Bernhardi glorified wars and contributed directly to the inception of militarism. In addition, the political system of Fascism was influenced by the same thinkers. It shared with Nazism the conceptions of the survival of the fittest, the superiority of institution over intellect, and the organic nature of society.

References 8.5

1. Engels, F. Socialism: utopian and scientific. Chicago: C. H. Kerr; 1900. Aveling, E., translator.

2. Selsam, H.; Martel, H., editors. Readers in Marxist philosophy. New York: International; 1963: 188.
3. Ghent, W. J. Socialism and success. New York: John Lane; 1910: 47-49.