Socialism and Modern Science (Darwin, Spencer, Marx)
by Enrico Ferri
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It is because socialism knows and foresees that religious beliefs, whether one regards them, with Sergi,[33] as pathological phenomena of human psychology, or as useless phenomena of moral incrustation, are destined to perish by atrophy with the extension of even elementary scientific culture. This is why socialism does not feel the necessity of waging a special warfare against these religious beliefs which are destined to disappear. It has assumed this attitude although it knows that the absence or the impairment of the belief in God is one of the most powerful factors for its extension, because the priests of all religions have been, throughout all the phases of history, the most potent allies of the ruling classes in keeping the masses pliant and submissive under the yoke by means of the enchantment of religion, just as the tamer keeps wild beasts submissive by the terrors of the cracks of his whip.

And this is so true that the most clear-sighted conservatives, even though they are atheists, regret that the religious sentiment—that precious narcotic—is diminishing among the masses, because they see in it, though their pharisaism does not permit them to say it openly, an instrument of political domination.[34]

Unfortunately, or fortunately, the religious sentiment cannot be re-established by royal decree. If it is disappearing, the blame for this cannot be laid at the door of any particular individual, and there is no need of a special propaganda against it, because its antidote impregnates the air we breathe—saturated with the inductions of experimental science—and religion no longer meets with conditions favorable to its development as it did amid the superstitious ignorance of past centuries.

I have thus shown the direct influence of modern science, science based on observation and experiment,—which has substituted the idea of natural causality for the ideas of miracle and divinity,—on the extremely rapid development and on the experimental foundation of contemporary socialism.

Democratic socialism does not look with unfriendly eyes upon "Catholic Socialism" (the Christian Socialism of Southern Europe), since it has nothing to fear from it.

Catholic socialism, in fact, aids in the propagation of socialist ideas, especially in the rural districts where religious faith and practices are still very vigorous, but it will not win and wear the palm of victory ad majorem dei gloriam. As I have shown, there is a growing antagonism between science and religion, and the socialist varnish cannot preserve Catholicism. The "earthly" socialism has, moreover, a much greater attractive power.

When the peasants shall have become familiar with the views of Catholic socialism, it will be very easy for democratic socialism to rally them under its own flag—they will, indeed, convert themselves.

Socialism occupies an analogous position with regard to republicanism. Just as atheism is a private affair which concerns the individual conscience, so a republican form of government is a private affair which interests only a part of the bourgeoisie. Certainly, by the time that socialism draws near to its day of triumph, atheism will have made immense progress, and a republican form of government will have been established in many countries which to-day submit to a monarchical regime. But it is not socialism which develops atheism, any more than it is socialism which will establish republicanism. Atheism is a product of the theories of Darwin and Spencer in the present bourgeois civilization, and republicanism has been and will be, in the various countries, the work of a portion of the capitalist bourgeoisie, as was recently said in some of the conservative newspapers of Milan (Corriere della sera and Idea liberale), when "the monarchy shall no longer serve the interests of the country," that is to say of the class in power.

The evolution from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy and to republicanism is an obvious historical law; in the present phase of civilization the only difference between the two latter is in the elective or hereditary character of the head of the State. In the various countries of Europe, the bourgeoisie themselves Hill demand the transition from monarchy to republicanism, in order to put off as long as possible the triumph of socialism. In Italy as in France, in England as in Spain, we see only too many republicans or "radicals" whose attitude with regard to social questions is more bourgeois and more conservative than that of the intelligent conservatives. At Montecitorio, for example, there is Imbriani whose opinions on religious and social matters are more conservative than those of M. di Rudini. Imbriani, whose personality is moreover very attractive, has never attacked the priests or monks—this man who attacks the entire universe and very often with good reason, although without much success on account of mistaken methods—and he was the only one to oppose even the consideration of a law proposed by the Depute Ferrari, which increased the tax on estates inherited by collateral heirs!

Socialism then has no more interest in preaching republicanism than it has in preaching atheism. To each his role (or task), is the law of division of labor. The struggle for atheism is the business of science; the establishment of republicanism in the various countries of Europe has been and will be the work of the bourgeoisie themselves—whether they be conservative or radical. All this constitutes the historical progress toward socialism, and individuals are powerless to prevent or delay the succession of the phases of the moral, political and social evolution.


[26] Darwin never made a declaration of atheism, but that was in fact his way of looking at the problem ("sa maniere de voir.").

While Haeckel, concerned solely with triumphing over the opposition, said at the Congress of Eisenach (1882) that Darwin was not an atheist, Buechner, on the contrary, published shortly afterward a letter which Darwin had written him, and in which he avowed that "since the age of forty years, his scientific studies had led him to atheism."

(See also, "Charles Darwin and Karl Marx: A Comparison," by Ed. Aveling. Published by the Twentieth Century Press, London.—Translator.)

In the same way, John Stuart Mill never declared himself a Socialist, but that, nevertheless, in opinion he was one, is made evident by his autobiography and his posthumous fragments on Socialism. (See "The Socialism of John Stuart Mill." Humboldt Pub. Co., New York.—Tr.)

[27] ARDIGO, La Formazione naturale, Vol. II. of his Opere filologiche, and Vol. VI., La Ragione, Padone, 1894.

[28] Guyau, L'Irreligion de l'avenir. Paris. 1887.

[29] The dominant factor, nevertheless, in religious beliefs, is the hereditary or traditional sentimental factor; this it is which always renders them respectable when they are professed in good faith, and often makes them even appeal to our sympathies,—and this is precisely because of the ingenuous or refined sensibility of the persons in whom religious faith is the most vital and sincere.

[30] NITTI, Le Socialisme catholique, Paris, 1894, p. 27 and 393.

[31] Its usual form in America.—Translator.

[32] Nuova Rassegna, August, 1894.

[33] SERGI, L'origine dei fenomeni psichici e loro significazione biologica, Milan, 1885, p. 334, et seq.

[34] DURKHEIM, De la division du travail social. Paris. 1893. As regards the pretended influence of religion on personal morality I have shown how very slight a foundation there was for this opinion in my studies on criminal psychology, and more particularly in Omicidio nell' antropologia criminale.



It can also be shown that scientific socialism proceeds directly from Darwinism by an examination of the different modes of conceiving of the individual in relation to the species.

The eighteenth century closed with the exclusive glorification of the individual, of the man—as an entity in himself. In the works of Rousseau this was only a beneficent, though exaggerated re-action against the political and sacerdotal tyranny of the Middle Ages.

This individualism led directly to that artificiality in politics, which I will consider a little further on in studying the relations between the theory of evolution and socialism, and which is common to the ruling classes under the bourgeois regime and to the individualistic anarchists,—since both alike imagine that the social organization can be changed in a day by the magical effect of a bomb,—more or less murderous.

Modern biology has radically changed this conception of the individual and it has demonstrated, in the domain of biology as in that of sociology, that the individual is himself only an aggregation of more simple living elements, and likewise that the individual in himself, the Selbstwesen of the Germans, does not exist in independent isolation, but only as a member of a society (Gliedwesen).

Every living object is an association, a collectivity.

The monad itself, the living cell, the irreducible expression of biological individuality, is also an aggregate of various parts (nucleus, nucleole, protoplasm), and each one of them in its turn is an aggregate of molecules which are aggregates of atoms.

The atom does not exist alone, as an individual; the atom is invisible and impalpable and it does not live.

And the complexity of the aggregation, the federation of the parts constantly increases with the ascent in the zoological series from protozoa to Man.

Unifying, Jacobin artificiality corresponds to the metaphysics of individualism, just as the conception of national and international federalism corresponds to the scientific character of modern socialism.

The organism of a mammal is simply a federation of tissues, organs and anatomical machinery; the organism of a society can consist of nothing but a federation of communes, provinces and regions; the organism of humanity can be nothing but a federation of nations.

If it is absurd to conceive of a mammal whose head should have to move in the same fashion as the extremities and all of whose extremities would have to perform the same motions simultaneously, there is no less absurdity in a political and administrative organization in which the extreme northern province or the mountainous province, for instance, have to have the same bureaucratic machinery, the same body of laws, the same methods, etc., as the extreme southern province or the province made up of plains, solely through the passion for symmetrical uniformity, that pathological expression of unity.

If we disregard those considerations of a political order which make it possible to conclude, as I have done elsewhere,[35] that the only possible organization for Italy, as for every other country, appeared to me to be that of an administrative federalism combined with political unity, we can regard it as manifest, that at the close of the nineteenth century the individual, as an independent entity, is dethroned alike in biology and sociology.

The individual exists, but only in so far as he forms a part of a social aggregate.

Robinson Crusoe—that perfect type of individualism—can not possibly be aught but a legend or a pathological specimen.

The species—that is to say, the social aggregate—is the great, the living and eternal reality of life, as has been demonstrated by Darwinism and confirmed by all the inductive sciences from astronomy to sociology.

At the close of the eighteenth century Rousseau thought that the individual alone existed, and that society was an artificial product of the "social contract" and, as he attributed (just as Aristotle had done in the case of slavery) a permanent human character to the transitory manifestations of the period, such as the rottenness of the regime under which he lived, he further thought that Society was the cause of all evils, and that individuals are all born good and equal. At the end of the nineteenth century, on the contrary, all the inductive sciences agree in recognizing that society, the social aggregate, is a fact of Nature, inseparable from life, in the vegetable species as in the animal species, from the lowest "animal colonies" of zoophytes up to societies of mammals (herbivora), and to human society.[36]

All that is best in the individual, he owes to the social life, although every phase of evolution is marked at its decline by pathological conditions of social decay—essentially transitory, however—which inevitably precede a new cycle of social renovation.

The individual, as such, if he could live, would fulfill only one of the two fundamental requirements (needs) of existence: alimentation—that is to say, the selfish preservation of his own organism, by means of that primordial and fundamental function, which Aristotle designated by the name of ctesi—the conquest of food.

But all individuals have to live in society because a second fundamental requirement of life imposes itself upon the individual, viz., the reproduction of beings like himself for the preservation of the species. It is this life of relationship and reproduction (sexual and social) which gives birth to the moral or social sense, which enables the individual not only to be, but to co-exist with his fellows.

It may be said that these two fundamental instincts of life—bread and love—by their functioning maintain a social equilibrium in the life of animals, and especially in Man.

It is love which causes, in the great majority of men, the principal physiological and psychical expenditure of the forces accumulated in larger or smaller quantities by the consumption of daily bread, and which the daily labor has not absorbed or which parasitic inaction has left intact.

Even more—love is the only pleasure which truly has a universal and equalitarian character. The people have named it "the paradise of the poor;" and religions have always bidden them to enjoy it without limits—"be fruitful and multiply"—because the erotic exhaustion which results from it, especially in males, diminishes or hides beneath the pall of forgetfulness the tortures of hunger and servile labor, and permanently enervates the energy of the individual; and to this extent it performs a function useful to the ruling class.

But indissolubly linked to this effect of the sexual instinct there is an other, the increase of the population. Hence it happens that the desire to eternize a given social order is thwarted and defeated by the pressure of this population which in our epoch assumes the characteristic form of the proletariat,—and the social evolution continues its inexorable and inevitable forward march.

It follows from our discussion that while at the end of the eighteenth century it was thought that Society was made for the individual—and from that the deduction could be made that millions of individuals could and ought to toil and suffer for the exclusive advantage of a few individuals—at the end of our century the inductive sciences have demonstrated, just the opposite, that it is the individual who lives for the species and that the latter is the only eternal reality of life.

There we have the starting-point of the sociological or socialist tendency of modern scientific thought in the face of the exaggerated individualism inherited from the last century.

Modern biology also demonstrates that it is necessary to avoid the opposite excess—into which certain schools of utopian socialism and of communism fall—the excess of regarding only the interests of Society and altogether neglecting the individual. An other biological law shows us, in fact, that the existence of the aggregation is the resultant of the life of all the individuals, just as the existence of an individual is the resultant of the life of its constituent cells.

We have demonstrated that the socialism which characterizes the end of the nineteenth century and which will illumine the dawn of the coming century is in perfect harmony with the entire current of modern thought. This harmony manifests itself even on the fundamental question of the predominance given to the vital necessity of collective or social solidarity over the dogmatic exaggerations of individualism, and if the latter at the close of the last century was the outward sign of a potent and fruitful awakening, it inevitably leads, through the pathological manifestations of unbridled competition, to the "libertarian" explosions of anarchism which preaches "individual action," and which is entirely oblivious of human and social solidarity.

We now come to the last point of contact and essential oneness that there is between Darwinism and socialism.


[35] Sociologie criminelle, French trans., Paris, 1892.

[36] I cannot consider here the recent attempt at eclecticism made by M. Fouillee and others. M. Fouillee wishes to oppose, or at least to add, to the naturalistic conception of society the consensual or contractual conception. Evidently, since no theory is absolutely false, there is even in this consensual theory a share of truth, and the liberty of emigration may be an instance of it—as long as this liberty is compatible with the economic interests of the class in power. But, obviously, this consent, which does not exist at the birth of each individual into such or such a society (and this fact of birth is the most decisive and tyrannical factor in life) also has very little to do with the development of his aptitudes and tendencies, dominated as they are by the iron law of the economic and political organization in which he is an atom.



Darwinism has demonstrated that the entire mechanism of animal evolution may be reduced to the struggle for existence between individuals of the same species on the one hand, and between each species and the whole world of living beings.

In the same way all the machinery of social evolution has been reduced by Marxian socialism to the law of the Struggle between Classes. This theory not only gives us the secret motive-power and the only scientific explanation of the history of mankind; it also furnishes the ideal and rigid standard of discipline for political socialism and thus enables it to avoid all the elastic, vaporous, inconclusive uncertainties of sentimental socialism.

The only scientific explanation of the history of animal life is to be found in the grand Darwinian law of the struggle for existence; it alone enables us to determine the natural causes of the appearance, development and disappearance of vegetable and animal species from paleontological times down to our own day. In the same way the only explanation of the history of human life is to be found in the grand Marxian law of the struggle between classes; thanks to it the annals of primitive, barbarous and civilized humanity cease to be a capricious and superficial kaleidoscopic arrangement of individual episodes in order to become a grand and inevitable drama, determined—whether the actors realize it or not, in its smallest internal details as well as in its catastrophes—by the economic conditions, which form the indispensable, physical basis of life and by the struggle between the classes to obtain and keep control of the economic forces, upon which all the others—political, juridical and moral—necessarily depend.

I will have occasion to speak more at length—in studying the relations between sociology and socialism—of this grand conception, which is the imperishable glory of Marx and which assures him in sociology the place which Darwin occupies in biology and Spencer in philosophy.[37]

For the moment it suffices for me to point out this new point of contact between Socialism and Darwinism. The expression, Class-Struggle, so repugnant when first heard or seen (and I confess that it produced this impression on me when I had not yet grasped the scientific import of the Marxian theory), furnishes us, if it be correctly understood, the primary law of human history and, therefore, it alone can give us the certain index of the advent of the new phase of evolution which Socialism foresees and which it strives to hasten.

To assert the existence of the class-struggle is equivalent to saying that human society, like all other living organisms, is not a homogeneous whole, the sum of a greater or smaller number of individuals; it is, on the contrary, a living organism which is made up of diverse parts, and their differentiation constantly increases in direct ratio to the degree of social evolution attained.

Just as a protozoon is almost wholly composed of albuminoid gelatine, while a mammal is composed of tissues widely varying in kind, in the same way a tribe of primitive savages, without a chief, is composed simply of a few families and the aggregation is the result of mere material propinquity, while a civilized society of the historical or contemporaneous period is made up of social classes which differ, the one from the other, either through the physio-psychical constitutions of their component members, or through the whole of their customs and tendencies, and their personal, family or social life.

These different classes may be rigorously separated. In ancient India they range from the brahman to the sudra: in the Europe of the Middle Ages, from the Emperor and the Pope to the feudatory and the vassal, down to the artisan, and an individual cannot pass from one class into another, as his social condition is determined solely by the hazard of birth. Classes may lose their legal character, as happened in Europe and America after the French Revolution, and exceptionally there may be an instance of an individual passing from one class into another, analogously to the endosmose and exosmose of molecules, or, to use the phrase of M. Dumont, by a sort of "social capillarity." But, in any case, these different classes exist as an assured reality and they resist every juridical attempt at leveling as long as the fundamental reason for their differentiation remains.

It is Karl Marx who, better than any one else, has proved the truth of this theory by the mass of sociological observations which he has drawn from societies under the most diverse economic conditions.

The names (of the classes), the circumstances and phenomena of their hostile contact and conflict may vary with the varying phases of social evolution, but the tragic essence of history always appears in the antagonism between those who hold the monopoly of the means of production—and these are few—and those who have been robbed (expropriated) of them—and these are the great majority.

Warriors and shepherds in the primitive societies, as soon as first, family and then individual ownership of land has superseded the primitive collectivism; patricians and plebeiansfeudatories and vassalsnobles and common peoplebourgeoisie and proletariat; these are so many manifestations of one and the same fact—the monopoly of wealth on one side, and productive labor on the other.

Now, the great importance of the Marxian law—the struggle between classes—consists principally in the fact that it indicates with great exactness just what is in truth the vital point of the social question and by what method its solution may be reached.

As long as no one had shown on positive evidence the economic basis of the political, juridical and moral life, the aspirations of the great majority for the amelioration of social conditions aimed vaguely at the demand and the partial conquest of some accessory instrumentality, such as freedom of worship, political suffrage, public education, etc. And certainly, I have no desire to deny the great utility of these conquests.

But the sancta sanctorum always remained impenetrable to the eyes of the masses, and as economic power continued to be the privilege of a few, all the conquests and all the concessions had no real basis, separated, as they were, from the solid and fecund foundation which alone can give life and abiding power.

Now, that Socialism has shown—even before Marx, but never before with so much scientific precision—that individual ownership, private property in land and the means of production is the vital point of the question—the problem is formulated in exact terms in the consciousness of contemporaneous humanity.

What method will it be necessary to employ in order to abolish this monopoly of economic power, and the mass of suffering and ills, of hate and injustice which flow from it?

The method of the Class Struggle, based on the scientifically proven fact that every class tends to preserve and increase its acquired advantages and privileges, teaches the class deprived of economic power that in order to succeed in conquering it, the struggle (we will consider, further on, the forms of this struggle) must be a struggle of class against class, and not of individual against individual.

Hatred toward such or such an individual—even if it result in his death—does not advance us a single step toward the solution of the problem; it rather retards its solution, because it provokes a reaction in the general feeling against personal violence and it violates the principle of respect for the human person which socialism proclaims most emphatically for the benefit of all and against all opponents. The solution of the problem does not become easier because it is recognized that the present abnormal condition, which is becoming more and more acute—misery for the masses and pleasure for a few—is not the consequence of the bad intentions of such or such an individual.

Viewed from this side also socialism is, in fact, in perfect harmony with modern science, which denies the free will of man and sees in human activity, individual and collective, a necessary effect whose determining causes are the conditions of race and environment, acting concurrently.[38]

Crime, suicide, insanity, misery are not the fruits of free will, of individual faults, as metaphysical spiritualism believes, and neither is it an effect of free will, a fault of the individual capitalist if the workingman is badly paid, if he is without work, if he is poor and miserable.

All social phenomena are the necessary resultants of the historical conditions and of the environment. In the modern world the facility and the greater frequency of communication and relations of every kind between all parts of the earth have also increased the dependence of every fact—economic, political, juridical, ethical, artistic or scientific—upon the most remote and apparently unrelated conditions of the life of the great world.

The present organization of private property with no restrictions upon the right of inheritance by descent or upon personal accumulation; the ever increasing and more perfect application of scientific discoveries to the facilitation of human labor—the labor of adapting the materials furnished by Nature to human needs; the telegraph and the steam-engine, the constantly overflowing torrent of human migrations—all these bind, with invisible but infrangible threads, the existence of a family of peasants, work-people or petty trades-people to the life of the whole world. And the harvest of coffee, cotton or wheat in the most distant countries makes its effects felt in all parts of the civilized world, just as the decrease or increase of the sun-spots are phenomena co-incident with the periodical agricultural crises and have a direct influence on the destinies of millions of men.

This magnificent scientific conception of the "unity of physical forces," to use the expression of P. Secchi, or of universal solidarity is far, indeed, from that infantile conception which finds the causes of human phenomena in the free wills of individuals.

If a socialist were to attempt, even for philanthropic purposes, to establish a factory in order to give work to the unemployed, and if he were to produce articles out of fashion or for which there was no general demand, he would soon become bankrupt in spite of his philanthropic intentions by an inevitable effect of inexorable economic laws.

Or, again, if a socialist should give the laborers in his establishment wages two or three times as high as the current rate of wages, he would evidently have the same fate, since he would be dominated by the same economic laws, and he would have to sell his commodities at a loss or keep them unsold in his warehouses, because his prices for the same qualities of goods would be above the market price.

He would be declared a bankrupt and the only consolation the world would offer him would be to call him an honest man (brave homme); and in the present phase of "mercantile ethics" we know what this expression means.[39]

Therefore, without regard to the personal relations, more or less cordial, between capitalists and workingmen, their respective economic situations are inexorably determined by the present (industrial) organization, in accordance with the law of surplus-labor which enabled Marx to explain and demonstrate irrefutably how the capitalist is able to accumulate wealth without working,—because the laborer produces in his day's work an amount of wealth exceeding in value the wage he receives, and this surplus-product forms the gratuitous (unearned) profit of the capitalist. Even if we deduct from the total profits his pay for technical and administrative superintendence, this unearned surplus-product still remains.

Land, abandoned to the sun and the rain, does not, of itself, produce either wheat or wine. Minerals do not come forth, unaided, from the bowels of the earth. A bag of dollars shut up in a safe does not produce dollars, as a cow produces calves.

The production of wealth results only from a transformation of (Nature-given) materials effected by human labor. And it is only because the peasant tills the land, because the miner extracts minerals, because the laborer sets machinery in motion, because the chemist makes experiments in his laboratory, because the engineer invents machinery, etc., that the capitalist or the landlord—though the wealth inherited from his father may have cost him no labor, and though he may practise absenteeism and thus make no personal exertion—is able every year to enjoy riches that others have produced for him, in exchange for wretched lodgings and inadequate nourishment—while the workers are, in most cases, poisoned by the miasmatic vapors from rivers or marshes, by gas in mines and by dust in factories—in brief, in exchange for wages which are always inadequate, to assure the workers conditions of existence worthy of human creatures.

Even under a system of absolute metayage (share-farming)—which has been called a form of practical socialism—we always have this question left unanswered. By what miracle does the landlord, who does not work, get his barns and houses filled with wheat and oil and wine in sufficient quantities to enable him to live in ample comfort, while the metayer (the tenant on shares) is obliged to work every day, in order to wrest from the earth enough to support himself and his family in wretchedness?

And the system of metayage does at least give the tenant the tranquillizing assurance that he will reach the end of the year without experiencing all the horrors of enforced idleness to which the ordinary day or wage laborers are condemned in both city and country. But, in substance, the whole problem in its entirety remains unsolved (even under this system), and there is always one man who lives in comfort, without working, because ten others live poorly by working.[40]

This is the way the system of private property works, and these are the consequences it produces, without any regard to the wills or wishes of individuals.

Therefore, every attempt made against such or such an individual is condemned to remain barren of results; it is the ruling tendency of Society, the objective point which must be changed, it is private ownership which must be abolished, not by a partition ("dividing up"), which would result in the most extreme and pernicious form of private ownership, since by the end of a year the persistence of the old individualist principle would restore the status quo ante, and all the advantage would accrue solely to the most crafty and the least scrupulous.

Our aim must be the abolition of private ownership and the establishment of collective and social ownership in land and the means of production. This substitution cannot be the subject for a decree,—though the intention to effect it by a decree is attributed to us—but it is in course of accomplishment under our eyes, every day, from hour to hour, directly or indirectly.

Directly, because civilization shows us the continuous substitution of public ownership and social functions for private ownership and individual functions. Roads, postal systems, railways, museums, city lighting-plants, water-plants, schools, etc., which were only a few years since private properties and functions, have become social properties and functions. And it would be absurd to imagine that this direct process of socialization is destined to come to a halt to-day, instead of becoming progressively more and more marked, in accordance with every tendency of our modern life.

Indirectly, since it is the outcome toward which the economic individualism of the bourgeoisie tends. The bourgeois class, which takes its name from the dwellers in the bourgs (towns) which the feudal chateau and the Church—symbols of the class then dominant—protected, is the result of fecund labor intelligently directed toward its goal and of historical conditions which have changed the economic structure and tendency of the world (the discovery of America, for instance). This class achieved its revolution in the end of the eighteenth century, and conquered the political power. In the history of the civilized world, it has inscribed a page in letters of gold by those wondrous developments in the lives of nations that are truly epic in character, and by its marvelous applications of science to industry ... but it is now traversing the downward branch of the parabola, and symptoms are appearing which announce to us—and offer proof of their announcement—its dissolution; without its disappearance, moreover, the advent and establishment of a new social phase would be impossible.

Economic individualism carried out to its ultimate logical consequences, necessarily causes the progressive multiplication of property in hands of a constantly diminishing number of persons. Milliardaire (billionaire) is a new word, which is characteristic of the nineteenth century, and this new word serves to express and emphasize that phenomenon—in which Henry George saw the historic law of individualism—of the rich becoming richer while the poor become poorer.[41]

Now it is evident that the smaller is the number of those who hold possession of the land and the means of production the easier is their expropriation—with or without indemnification—for the benefit of a single proprietor which is and can be Society alone.

Land is the physical basis of the social organism. It is then absurd for it to belong to a few and not to the whole social collectivity; it would not be any more absurd for the air we breathe to be the monopoly of a few airlords.

That (the socialization of the land and the means of production) is truly the supreme goal of socialism, but evidently it can not be reached by attacking such or such a landlord, or such or such a capitalist. The individualist mode of conflict is destined to remain barren of results, or, to say the least, it requires a terribly extravagant expenditure of strength and efforts to obtain merely partial or provisional results.

And so those politicians, whose conception of statesmanship is a career of daily, trivial protests, who see nothing in politics but a struggle between individuals—and those tactics no longer produce any effect either on the public or on legislative assemblies, because they have at last become wonted to them—produce just about as much effect as would fantastic champions of hygiene who should attempt to render a marsh inhabitable by killing the mosquitoes one by one with shots from a revolver, instead of adopting as their method and their goal the draining of the pestilential marsh.

No individual conflicts, no personal violence, but a Class Struggle. It is necessary to make the immense army of workers of all trades and of all professions conscious of these fundamental truths. It is necessary to show them that their class interests are in opposition to the interests of the class who possess the economic power, and that it is by class-conscious organization that they will conquer this economic power through the instrumentality of the other public powers that modern civilization has assured to free peoples. It may, nevertheless, be foreseen that, in every country, the ruling class, before yielding, will abridge or destroy even these public liberties which were without danger for them when they were in the hands of laborers not organized into a class-conscious party, but forming the rearguard of other purely political parties, as radical on secondary questions as they are profoundly conservative on the fundamental question of the economic organization of property.

A Class-Struggle, therefore a struggle of class against class; and a struggle (this is understood), by the methods of which I will soon speak in discussing the four modes of social transformation: evolution—revolution—rebellion—individual violence. But a Class-Struggle in the Darwinian sense, which renews in the history of Man the magnificent drama of the struggle for life between species, instead of degrading us to the savage and meaningless brute strife of individual with individual.

We can stop here. The examination of the relations between Darwinism and socialism might lead us much further, but it would go on constantly eliminating the pretended contradiction between the two currents of modern scientific thought, and it would, on the contrary, confirm the essential, natural and indissoluble harmony that there is between them.

Thus the penetrating view of Virchow is confirmed by that of Leopold Jacoby.

"The same year in which appeared Darwin's book (1859) and coming from a quite different direction, an identical impulse was given to a very important development of social science by a work which long passed unnoticed, and which bore the title: Critique de l'economie politique by KARL MARX—it was the forerunner of Capital.

"What Darwin's book on the Origin of Species is on the subject of the genesis and evolution of organic life from non-sentient nature up to Man, the work of Marx is on the subject of the genesis and evolution of association among human beings, of States and the social forms of humanity."[42]

And this is why Germany, which has been the most fruitful field for the development of the Darwinian theories, is also the most fruitful field for the intelligent, systematic propaganda of socialist ideas.

And it is precisely for this reason that in Berlin, in the windows of the book-stores of the socialist propaganda, the works of Charles Darwin occupy the place of honor beside those of Karl Marx.[43]


[37] LARFARGUE, Le Materialisme economique, in Ere nouvelle, 1893.

[38] Avoiding both of the mutually exclusive theses that civilization is a consequence of race or a product of the environment, I have always maintained—by my theory of the natural factors in criminality—that it is the resultant of the combined action of the race and the environment.

Among the recent works which support the thesis of the exclusive or predominant influence of race, I must mention LE BON, Les lois psychologiques de l'evolution des peuples, Paris, 1894. This work is, however, very superficial. I refer the reader for a more thorough examination of these two theses to Chap. IV of my book Omicidio nell' anthropologia criminale, Turin, 1894.

[39] I use the expression "mercantile ethics," which LETOURNEAU used in his book on the Evolution of Ethics (L'evolution de la morale), Paris, 1887. In his scientific study of the facts relating to ethics, Letourneau has distinguished four phases: animal ethics—savage ethics—barbarous ethics—mercantile (or bourgeois) ethics; these phases will be followed by a higher phase of ethics which Malon has called social ethics.

[40] Some persons, still imbued with political (Jacobin) artificiality, think that in order to solve the social question it will be necessary to generalize the system of metayage. They imagine, then—though they do not say so—a royal or presidential decree: "Art. 1. Let all men become metayers!"

And it does not occur to them that if metayage, which was the rule, has become a less and less frequent exception, this must be the necessary result of natural causes.

The cause of the transformation is to be found in the fact that metayage represents (is a form typical of) petty agricultural industry, and that it is unable to compete with modern agricultural industry organized on a large scale and well equipped with machinery, just as handicrafts have not been able to endure competition with modern manufacturing industry. It is true that there still are to-day some handicraft industries in a few villages, but these are rudimentary organs which merely represent an anterior phase (of production), and which no longer have any important function in the economic world. They are, like the rudimentary organs of the higher species of animals, according to the theory of Darwin, permanent witnesses of past epochs.

The same Darwinian and economic law applies to metayage, which is also evidently destined to the same fate as handicrafts.

Conf. the excellent propagandist pamphlet of BIEL, Ai contadini toscani, Colle d' Elsa, 1894.

[41] HENRY GEORGE, Progress and Poverty, New York, 1898. Doubleday & McClure Co.

[42] L. JACOBY, L'Idea dell' evoluzione, in Bibliotheca dell' economista, serie III, vol. IX, 2d part, p. 69.

[43] At the death of Darwin the Sozialdemokrat of the 27th of April, 1882, wrote: "The proletariat who are struggling for their emancipation will ever honor the memory of Charles Darwin."

Conf. LAFARGUE, La theorie darwinienne.

I am well aware that in these last years, perhaps in consequence of the relations between Darwinism and socialism, consideration has again been given to the objections to the theory of Darwin, made by Voegeli, and more recently by Weismann, on the hereditary transmissibility of acquired characters. See SPENCER, The Inadequacy of Natural Selection, Paris, 1894.—VIRCHOW, Transformisme et descendance, Berlin, 1893. But all this merely concerns such or such a detail of Darwinism, while the fundamental theory of metamorphic organic development remains impregnable.



The theory of universal evolution which—apart from such or such a more or less disputable detail—is truly characteristic of the vital tendency of modern scientific thought, has also been made to appear in absolute contradiction with the theories and the practical ideals of socialism.

In this case the fallacy is obvious.

If socialism is understood as that vague complex of sentimental aspirations so often crystallized into the artificial utopian creations of a new human world to be substituted by some sort of magic in a single day for the old world in which we live; then it is quite true that the scientific theory of evolution condemns the presumptions and the illusions of artificial or utopian political theories, which, whether they are reactionary or revolutionary, are always romantic, or in the words of the American Senator Ingalls, are "iridescent dreams."

But, unfortunately for our adversaries, contemporary socialism is an entirely different thing from the socialism which preceded the work of Marx. Apart from the same sentiment of protest against present injustices and the same aspirations toward a better future, there is nothing in common between these two socialisms, neither in their logical structure nor in their deductions, unless it be the clear vision, which in modern socialism becomes a mathematically exact prediction (thanks to the theories of evolution) of the final social organization—based on the collective ownership of the land and the means of production.

These are the conclusions to which we are led by the evidence of the facts—facts verified by a scientific examination of the three principal contradictions which our opponents have sought to set up between socialism and scientific evolution.

From this point it is impossible not to see the direct causal connection between Marxian socialism and scientific evolution, since it must be recognized that the former is simply the logical consequence of the application of the evolutionary theory to the domain of economics.



What, in substance, is the message of socialism? That the present economic world can not be immutable and eternal, that it merely represents a transitory phase of social evolution and that an ulterior phase, a differently organized world, is destined to succeed it.

That this new organization must be collectivist or socialist—and no longer individualist—results, as an ultimate and certain conclusion, from the examination we have made of Darwinism and socialism.

I must now demonstrate that this fundamental affirmation of socialism—leaving out of consideration for the moment all the details of that future organization, of which I will speak further on—is in perfect harmony with the experiential theory of evolutionism.

Upon what point are orthodox political economy and socialism in absolute conflict? Political economy has held and holds that the economic laws governing the production and distribution of wealth which it has established are natural laws ... not in the sense that they are laws naturally determined by the conditions of the social organism (which would be correct), but that they are absolute laws, that is to say that they apply to humanity at all times and in all places, and, consequently, that they are immutable in their principal points, though they may be subject to modification in details.[44]

Scientific socialism holds, on the contrary, that the laws established by classical political economy, since the time of Adam Smith, are laws peculiar to the present period in the history of civilized humanity, and that they are, consequently, laws essentially relative to the period of their analysis and discovery, and that just as they no longer fit the facts when the attempt is made to extend their application to past historical epochs and, still more, to pre-historic and ante-historic times, so it is absurd to attempt to apply them to the future and thus vainly try to petrify and perpetuate present social forms.

Of these two fundamental theses, the orthodox thesis and the socialist thesis, which is the one which best agrees with the scientific theory of universal evolution?

The answer can not be doubtful.[45]

The theory of evolution, of which Herbert Spencer was the true creator, by applying to sociology the tendency to relativism which the historical school had followed in its studies in law and political economy (even then heterodox on more than one point), has shown that everything changes; that the present phase—of the facts in astronomy, geology, biology and sociology—is only the resultant of thousands on thousands of incessant, inevitable, natural transformations; that the present differs from the past and that the future will certainly be different from the present.

Spencerism has done nothing but to collate a vast amount of scientific evidence, from all branches of human knowledge, in support of these two abstract thoughts of Leibnitz and Hegel: "The present is the child of the past, but it is the parent of the future," and "Nothing is; everything is becoming." This demonstration had already been made in the case of geology by Lyell who substituted for the traditional catastrophic theory of cataclysmic changes, the scientific theory of the gradual and continuous transformation of the earth.[46]

It is true that, notwithstanding his encyclopaedic knowledge, Herbert Spencer has not made a really profound study of political economy, or that at least he has not furnished us the evidence of the facts to support his assertions in this field as he has done in the natural sciences. This does not alter the fact, however, that socialism is, after all, in its fundamental conception only the logical application of the scientific theory of natural evolution to economic phenomena.

It was Karl Marx who, in 1859 in his Critique de l'economie politique, and even before then, in 1847, in the famous Manifesto written in collaboration with Engels, nearly ten years before Spencer's First Principles, and finally in Capital (1867) supplemented, or rather completed, in the social domain, the scientific revolution begun by Darwin and Spencer.

The old metaphysics conceived of ethics—law—economics—as a finished compilation of absolute and eternal laws. This is the conception of Plato. It takes into consideration only historical times and it has, as an instrument of research, only the fantastic logic of the school-men. The generations which preceded us, have all been imbued with this notion of the absoluteness of natural laws, the conflicting laws of a dual universe of matter and spirit. Modern science, on the contrary, starts from the magnificent synthetic conception of monism, that is to say, of a single substance underlying all phenomena—matter and force being recognized as inseparable and indestructible, continuously evolving in a succession of forms—forms relative to their respective times and places. It has radically changed the direction of modern thought and directed it toward the grand idea of universal evolution.[47]

Ethics, law and politics are mere superstructures, effects of the economic structure; they vary with its variations, from one parallel (of latitude or longitude) to another, and from one century to another.

This is the great discovery which the genius of Karl Marx has expounded in his Critique de l'economie politique. I will examine further on the question as to what this sole source or basis of the varying economic conditions is, but the important point now is to emphasize their constant variability, from the pre-historic ages down to historical times and to the different periods of the latter.

Moral codes, religious creeds, juridical institutions both civil and criminal, political organization:—all are constantly undergoing transformation and all are relative to their respective historical and material environments.

To slay one's parents is the greatest of crimes in Europe and America; it is, on the contrary, a duty enjoined by religion in the island of Sumatra; in the same way, cannibalism is a permitted usage in Central Africa, and such it also was in Europe and America in pre-historic ages.

The family is, at first (as among animals), only a sort of sexual communism; then polyandry and the matriarchal system were established where the supply of food was scanty and permitted only a very limited increase of population; we find polygamy and the patriarchal system appearing whenever and wherever the tyranny of this fundamental economic cause of polyandry ceases to be felt; with the advent of historical times appears the monogamic form of the family the best and the most advanced form, although it is still requisite for it to be freed from the rigid conventionalism of the indissoluble tie and the disguised and legalised prostitution (the fruits of economic causes) which pollute it among us to-day.

How can any one hold that the constitution of property is bound to remain eternally just as it is, immutable, in the midst of the tremendous stream of changing social institutions and moral codes, all passing through evolutions and continuous and profound transformations? Property alone is subject to no changes and will remain petrified in its present form, i. e., a monopoly by a few of the land and the means of production![48]

This is the absurd contention of economic and juridical orthodoxy. To the irresistible proofs and demonstrations of the evolutionist theory, they make only this one concession: the subordinate rules may vary, the abuses may be diminished. The principle itself is unassailable and a few individuals may seize upon and appropriate the land and the means of production necessary to the life of the whole social organism which thus remains completely and eternally under the more or less direct domination of those who have control over the physical foundation of life.[49]

Nothing more than a perfectly clear statement of the two fundamental theses—the thesis of classical law and economics, and the economic and juridical thesis of socialism—is necessary to determine, without further discussion, this first point of the controversy. At all events, the theory of evolution is in perfect, unquestionable harmony with the inductions of socialism and, or the contrary, it flatly contradicts the hypothesis of the absoluteness and immutability of the "natural" laws of economies, etc.


[44] U. RABBENO, Le leggi economiche e il socialismo, in Rivista di filos. scientif., 1884, vol. III., fasc. 5.

[45] This is the thesis of COLAJANNI, in Il socialismo, Catane, 1884, P. 277. He errs when he thinks that I combatted this position in my book Socialismo e criminalita.

[46] MORSELLI, Antropologia generale—Lezioni sull' uomo secondo la teoria dell' evoluzione, Turin, 1890-94, gives an excellent resume of these general indications of modern scientific thought in their application to all branches of knowledge from geology to anthropology.

[47] BONARDI, Evoluzionismo e socialismo, Florence, 1894.

[48] ARCANGELI, Le evoluzioni della proprieta, in Critica sociale, July 1, 1894.

[49] This is exactly analogous to the conflict between the partisans and the opponents of free-will.

The old metaphysics accorded to man (alone, a marvelous exception from all the rest of the universe) an absolutely free will.

Modern physio-psychology absolutely denies every form of the free-will dogma in the name of the laws of natural causality.

An intermediate position is occupied by those who, while recognizing that the freedom of man's will is not absolute, hold that at least a remnant of freedom must be conceded to the human will, because otherwise there would no longer be any merit or any blameworthiness, any vice or any virtue, etc.

I considered this question in my first work: Teoria dell' imputabilita e negazione del libero arbitrio (Florence, 1878, out of print), and in the third chapter of my Sociologie criminelle, French trans., Paris, 1892.

I speak of it here only in order to show the analogy in the form of the debate on the economico-social question, and therefore the possibility of predicting a similar ultimate solution.

The true conservative, drawing his inspiration from the metaphysical tradition, sticks to the old philosophical or economic ideas with all their rigid absolutism; at least he is logical.

The determinist, in the name of science, upholds diametrically opposite ideas, in the domain of psychology as well as in those of the economic or juridical sciences.

The eclectic, in politics as in psychology, in political economy as in law, is a conservative through and through, but he fondly hopes to escape the difficulties of the conservative position by making a few partial concessions to save appearances. But if the eclecticism is a convenient and agreeable attitude for its champions, it is, like hybridism, sterile, and neither life nor science owe anything to it.

Therefore, the socialists are logical when they contend that in the last analysis there are only two political parties: the individualists (conservatives [or Republicans], progressives [or Democrats] and radicals [or Populists]) and the socialists.



Admitting, say our adversaries, that in demanding a social transformation socialism is in apparent accord with the evolutionist theory, it does not follow that its positive conclusions—notably the substitution of social ownership for individual ownership—are justified by that theory. Still further, they add, we maintain that those conclusions are in absolute contradiction with that very theory, and that they are therefore, to say the least, utopian and absurd.

The first alleged contradiction between socialism and evolutionism is that the return to collective ownership of the land would be, at the same time, a return to the primitive, savage state of mankind, and socialism would indeed be a transformation, but a transformation in a backward direction, that is to say, against the current of the social evolution which has led us from the primitive form of collective property in land to the present form of individual property in land—the form characteristic of advanced civilization. Socialism, then, would be a return to barbarism.

This objection contains an element of truth which can not be denied; it rightly points out that collective ownership should be a return—apparent—to the primitive social organization. But the conclusion drawn from this truth is absolutely false and anti-scientific because it altogether neglects a law—which is usually forgotten—but which is no less true, no less founded on scientific observation of the facts than is the law of social evolution.

This is a sociological law which an able French physician merely pointed out in his studies on the relations between Transmutation and Socialism,[50] and the truth and full importance of which I showed in my Sociologie criminelle (1892)—before I became a militant socialist—and which I again emphasized in my recent controversy with Morselli on the subject of divorce.[51]

This law of apparent retrogression proves that the reversion of social institutions to primitive forms and types is a fact of constant recurrence.

Before referring to some obvious illustrations of this law, I would recall to your notice the fact that M. Cognetti de Martiis, as far back as 1881, had a vague perception of this sociological law. His work, Forme primitive nell' evoluzione economica, (Turin, 1881), so remarkable for the fullness, accuracy and reliability of its collation of relevant facts, made it possible to foresee the possibility of the reappearance in the future economic evolution of the primitive forms characteristic of the status which formed the starting-point of the social evolution.

I also remember having heard Carducci say, in his lectures at the University of Bologna, that the later development of the forms and the substance of literature is often merely the reproduction of the forms and the substance of the primitive Graeco-Oriental literature; in the same way, the modern scientific theory of monism, the very soul of universal evolution and the typical and definitive form of systematic, scientific, experiential human thought boldly fronting the facts of the external world—following upon the brilliant but erratic speculations of metaphysics—is only a return to the ideas of the Greek philosophers and of Lucretius, the great poet of naturalism.

The examples of this reversion to primitive forms are only too obvious and too numerous, even in the category of social institutions.

I have already spoken of the religions evolution. According to Hartmann, in the primitive stage of human development happiness appeared attainable during the lifetime of the individual; this appeared impossible later on and its realization was referred to the life beyond the tomb; and now the tendency is to refer its realization to the earthly life of humanity, not to the life of the individual as in primitive times, but to series of generations yet unborn.

The same is true in the political domain. Herbert Spencer remarks (Principles of Sociology, Vol. II, Part V, Chap. V,) that the will of all—the sovereign element among primitive mankind—gradually gives way to the will of a single person, then to those of a few (these are the various aristocracies: military, hereditary, professional or feudal), and the popular will finally tends again to become sovereign with the progress of democracy (universal suffrage—the referendum—direct legislation by the people, etc.).

The right to administer punishment, a simple defensive function among primitive mankind tends to become the same once more. Criminal law no longer pretends to be a teleological agency for the distribution of ideal justice. This pretension in former days was an illusion that the belief in the freedom of the will had erected on the natural foundation of society's right of self-defense. Scientific investigations into the nature of crime, as a natural and social phenomenon, have demonstrated to-day how absurd and unjustified was the pretension of the lawmaker and the judge to weigh and measure the guilt of the delinquent to make the punishment exactly counterbalance it, instead of contenting themselves with excluding from civil society, temporarily or permanently, the individuals unable to adapt themselves to its requirements, as is done in the case of the insane and the victims of contagious diseases.

The same truth applies to marriage. The right of freely dissolving the tie, which was recognized in primitive society, has been gradually replaced by the absolute formulae of theology and mysticism which fancy that the "free will" can settle the destiny of a person by a monosyllable pronounced at a time when the physical equilibrium is as unstable as it is during courtship and at marriage. Later on the reversion to the spontaneous and primitive form of a union based on mutual consent imposes itself on men, and the matrimonial union, with the increase in the frequency and facility of divorce, reverts to its original forms and restores to the family, that it to say to the social cell, a healthier constitution.

This some phenomenon may be traced in the organization of property. Spencer himself has been forced to recognize that there has been an inexorable tendency to a reversion to primitive collectivism since ownership in land, at first a family attribute, then industrial, as he has himself demonstrated, has reached its culminating point, so that in some countries (Torrens act in Australia) land has become a sort of personal property, transferable as readily as a share in a stock-company.

Read as proof what such an individualist as Herbert Spencer has written:

"At first sight it seems fairly inferable that the absolute ownership of land by private persons, must be the ultimate state which industrialism brings about. But though industrialism has thus far tended to individualize possession of land, while individualizing all other possession, it may be doubted whether the final stage is at present reached. Ownership established by force does not stand on the same footing as ownership established by contract, and though multiplied sales and purchases, treating the two ownerships in the same way, have tacitly assimilated them, the assimilation may eventually be denied. The analogy furnished by assumed rights of possession over human beings, helps us to recognize this possibility. For while prisoners of war, taken by force and held as property in a vague way (being at first much on a footing with other members of a household), were reduced more definitely to the form of property when the buying and selling of slaves became general; and while it might, centuries ago, have been thence inferred that the ownership of man by man was an ownership in course of being permanently established;[52] yet we see that a later stage of civilization, reversing this process, has destroyed ownership of man by man. Similarly, at a stage still more advanced, it may be that private ownership of land will disappear."[53]

Moreover, this process of the socialization of property, though a partial and subordinate process, is nevertheless so evident and continuous that to deny its existence would be to maintain that the economic and consequently the juridical tendency of the organization of property is not in the direction of a greater and greater magnification of the interests and rights of the collectivity over those of the individual. This, which is only a preponderance to-day, will become by an inevitable evolution a complete substitution as regards property in land and the means of production.

The fundamental thesis of Socialism is then, to repeat it again, in perfect harmony with that sociological law of apparent retrogression, the natural reasons for which have been so admirably analyzed by M. Loria, thus: the thought and the life of primitive mankind are moulded and directed by the natural environment along the simplest and most fundamental lines; then the progress of intelligence and the complexity of life increasing by a law of evolution give us an analytical development of the principal elements contained in the first genus of each institution; this analytical development is often, when once finished, detrimental to each one of its elements; humanity itself, arrived at a certain stage of evolution, reconstructs and combines in a final synthesis these different elements, and thus returns to its primitive starting-point.[54]

This reversion to primitive forms is not, however, a pure and simple repetition. Therefore it is called the law of apparent retrogression, and this removes all force from the objection that socialism would be a "return to primitive barbarism." It is not a pure and simple repetition, but it is the concluding phase of a cycle, of a grand rhythm, as M. Asturaro recently put it, which infallibly and inevitably preserves in their integrity the achievements and conquests of the long preceding evolution, in so far as they are vital and fruitful; and the final outcome is far superior, objectively and subjectively, to the primitive social embryo.

The track of the social evolution is not represented by a closed circle, which, like the serpent in the old symbol, cuts off all hope of a better future; but, to use the figure of Goethe, it is represented by a spiral, which seems to return upon itself, but which always advances and ascends.


[50] L. DRAMARD, Transformisme et socialisme, in Revue Socialiste, Jan. and Feb., 1885.

[51] Divorzio e sociologia, in Scuola positiva nella geurisprudenza penale, Rome, 1893, No. 16.

[52] It is known that Aristotle, mistaking for an absolute sociological law a law relative to his own time, declared that slavery was a natural institution, and that men were divided, by Nature, into two classes—free men and slaves.

[53] SPENCER, Principles of Sociology, Vol. II, Part. V., Chap. XV., p. 553. New York, 1897. D. Appleton & Co.

This idea, which Spencer had expressed in 1850 in his Social Statics is found again in his recent work, Justice (Chap. XI, and Appendix 3). It is true that he has made a step backward. He thinks that the amount of the indemnity to be given to the present holders of the land would be so great that this would make next to impossible that "nationalization of the land" which, as long ago as 1881, Henry George considered as the only remedy, and that Gladstone had the courage to propose as a solution of the Irish question. Spencer adds: "I adhere to the inference originally drawn, that the aggregate of men forming the community are the supreme owners of the land, but a fuller consideration of the matter has led me to the conclusion that individual ownership, subject to State suzerainty, should be maintained."

The "profound study" which Spencer has made in Justice—(and, let us say between parentheses, this work, together with his "Positive and Negative Beneficence" furnishes sad evidence of the senile mental retrogression that even Herbert Spencer has been unable to escape; moreover its subjective aridity is in strange contrast with the marvelous wealth of scientific evidence poured forth in his earlier works)—is based on these two arguments: I. The present landed proprietors are not the direct descendants of the first conquerors; they have, in general, acquired their titles by free contract; II. Society is entitled to the ownership of the virgin soil, as it was before it was cleared, before any improvements or buildings were put upon it by private owners; the indemnity which would have to be paid for these improvements would reach an enormous figure.

The answer is that the first argument would hold good if socialism proposed to punish the present owners; but the question presents itself in a different form. Society places the expropriation of the owners of land on the ground of "public utility," and the individual right must give way before the rights of society. Just as it does at present, leaving out of consideration for the moment the question of indemnity. To reply to the second argument, in the first place, it must not be forgotten that the improvements are not exclusively the work of the personal exertions of the owners. They represent, at first, an enormous accumulation of fatigue and blood that many generations of laborers have left upon the soil, in order to bring it to its present state of cultivation ... and all of this for the profit of others; there is also this fact to be remembered that society itself, the social life, has been a great factor in producing these improvements (or increased values), since public roads, railways, the use of machinery in agriculture, etc., have been the means of bestowing freely upon the landowners large unearned increments that have greatly swollen the prices of their lands.

Why, finally, if we are to consider the amount and the character of this indemnity, should this indemnity be total and absolute? Why, even under present conditions, if a landowner, for various reasons, such as cherished memories connected with the land, values it at a sentimental price, he would be forced under the right of eminent domain to accept the market value, without any extra payment for his affection or sentiment. It would be just the same in the case of the collective appropriation which would, moreover, be facilitated by the progressive concentration of the land in the hands of a few great landed proprietors. If we were to assure these proprietors, for the term of the natural lives, a comfortable and tranquil life, it would suffice to make the indemnity meet all the requirements of the most rigorous equity.

[54] LORIA, La Teoria economica della constituzione politica, Turin, 1886. p. 141. The second edition of this work has appeared in French, considerably enlarged: Les bases economiques de la constitution sociale, Paris, 1893. (This has also been translated into English.—Tr.)

This law of apparent retrogression alone overthrows the greater part of the far too superficial criticisms that Guyot makes upon socialism in La Tyrannie socialiste, Paris, 1893 (published in English, by Swan Sonnenschein, London,) and in Les Principes de 1789 et le Socialisme, Paris, 1894.



The conclusion of the preceding chapter will be of use to us in the examination of the second contradiction that, it is pretended, exists between socialism and the theory of evolution. It is asserted and repeated in all possible tones that socialism constitutes a tyranny under a new form which will destroy all the blessings of liberty won with such toil and difficulty in our century, at the cost of so many sacrifices and of so many martyrs.

I have already shown, in speaking of anthropological inequalities, that socialism will, on the contrary, assure to all individuals the conditions of a human existence and the possibility of developing with the utmost freedom and completeness their own respective individualities.

It is sufficient here for me to refer to another law, which the scientific theory of evolution has established, to demonstrate (since I cannot in this monograph enter into details) that it is an error to assume that the advent of socialism would result in the suppression of the vital and vitalizing part of personal and political liberty.

It is a law of natural evolution, set forth and illustrated with remarkable clearness by M. Ardigo[55], that each succeeding phase of the natural and social evolution does not destroy the vital and life-giving manifestations of the preceding phases, but that, on the contrary, it preserves their existence in so far as they are vital and only eliminates their pathological manifestations.

In the biological evolution, the manifestations of vegetable life do not efface the first glimmerings of the dawn of life that are seen even before in the crystallization of minerals, any more than the manifestations of animal life efface those of vegetable life. The human form of life also permits the continued existence of the forms and links which precede it in the great series of living beings, but, more than this, the later forms only really live in so far as they are the product of the primitive forms and co-exist with them.

The social evolution follows the same law: and this is precisely the interpretation of transition periods given by scientific evolutionism. They did not annihilate the conquests of the preceding civilizations, but they preserved, on the contrary, whatever was vital in them and fecundated them for the Renaissance of a new civilization.

This law, which dominates all the magnificent development of the social life, equally governs the fate and the parabolic career of all social institutions.

One phase of social evolution by following upon another phase eliminates, it is true, the parts that are not vital, the pathological products of preceding institutions, but it preserves and develops the parts that are healthy and vigorous while ever elevating more and more the physical and moral diapason of humanity.

By this natural process the great stream of humanity issued from the virgin forests of savage life and developed with majestic grandeur during the periods of barbarism and the present civilization, which are superior in some respects to the preceding phases of the social life, but in many others are marred by the very products of their own degeneracy, as I pointed out in speaking of reactionary varieties of social selection.

And, as an example of this, it is certain that the laborers of the contemporaneous period, of the bourgeois civilization have, in general, a better physical and moral life than those of past centuries, but it cannot be denied none the less that their condition as free wage-workers is inferior in more than one particular to the condition of the slaves of antiquity and of the serfs of the Middle Ages.

The slave of antiquity was, it is true, the absolute property of his master, of the free man, and he was condemned to well nigh an animal existence, but it was to the interest of his master to assure him daily bread at the least, for the slave formed a part of his estate, like his cattle and horses.

Just so, the serf or villein of the Middle Ages enjoyed certain customary rights which attached him to the soil and assured him at the least—save in case of famine—of daily bread.

The free wage-worker of the modern world, on the contrary, is always condemned to labor inhuman both in its duration and its character, and this is the justification of that demand for an Eight-Hours day which can already count more than one victory and which is destined to a sure triumph. As no permanent legal relation binds the wage-slave either to the capitalist proprietor or to the soil, his daily bread is not assured to him, because the proprietor no longer has any interest to feed and support the laborers who toil in his factory or on his field. The death or sickness of the laborer cannot, in fact, cause any decrease of his estate and he can always draw from the inexhaustible multitude of laborers who are forced by lack of employment to offer themselves on the market.

That is why—not because present-day proprietors are more wicked than those of former times, but because even the moral sentiments are the result of economic conditions—the landed proprietor or the superintendent of his estate hastens to have a veterinary called if, in his stable, a cow becomes ill, while he is in no hurry to have a doctor called if it is the son of the cow-herd who is attacked by disease.

Certainly there may be—and these are more or less frequent exceptions—here and there a proprietor who contradicts this rule, especially when he lives in daily contact with his laborers. Neither can it be denied that the rich classes are moved at times by the spirit of benevolence—even apart from the charity fad—and that they thus put to rest the inner voice, the symptom of the moral disease from which they suffer, but the inexorable rule is nevertheless as follows: with the modern form of industry the laborer has gained political liberty, the right of suffrage, of association, etc. (rights which he is allowed to use only when he does not utilize them to form a class-party, based on intelligent apprehension of the essential point of the social question), but he has lost the guarantee of daily bread and of a home.

Socialism wishes to give this guarantee to all individuals—and it demonstrates the mathematical possibility of this by the substitution of social ownership for individual ownership of the means of production—but it does not follow from this that socialism will do away with all the useful and truly fruitful conquests of the present phase of civilization, and of the preceding phases.

And here is a characteristic example of this: the invention of industrial and agricultural machinery, that marvelous application of science to the transformation of natural forces which ought to have had only beneficent consequences, has caused and is still causing the misery and ruin of thousands and thousands of laborers. The substitution of machines for human labor has inevitably condemned multitudes of workers to the tortures of enforced idleness and to the ruthless action of the iron law of minimum wages barely sufficient to prevent them from dying of hunger.

The first instinctive reaction or impulse of these unfortunates was and still is, unhappily, to destroy the machines and to see in them only the instruments of their undeserved sufferings.

But the destruction of the machines would be, in fact, only a pure and simple return to barbarism, and this is not the wish or purpose of socialism which represents a higher phase of human civilization.

And this is why socialism alone can furnish a solution of this tragic difficulty which can not be solved by economic individualism which involves the constant employment and introduction of improved machinery because its use gives an evident and irresistible advantage to the capitalist.

It is necessary—and there is no other solution—that the machines become collective or social property. Then, obviously, their only effect will be to diminish the aggregate amount of labor and muscular effort necessary to produce a given quantity of products. And thus the daily work of each worker will be decreased, and his standard of existence will constantly rise and become more closely correspondent with the dignity of a human being.

This effect is already manifest, to a limited extent, in those cases where, for instance, several small farm proprietors found co-operative societies for the purchase of, for example, threshing-machines. If there should be joined to the small proprietors, in a grand fraternal co-operation, the laborers or peasants (and this will be possible only when the land shall have become social property), and if the machines were municipal property, for example, as are the fire-engines, and if the commune were to grant their use for the labors of the fields, the machines would no longer produce any evil effects and all men would see in them their liberators.

It is thus that socialism, because it represents a higher phase of human evolution, would eliminate from the present phase only the bad products of our unbridled economic individualism which creates, at one pole, the billionaires or "Napoleons of Finance" who enrich themselves in a few years by seizing upon—in ways more or less clearly described in the penal code—the public funds, and which, at the other pole, accumulates vast multitudes of poverty-stricken wretches in the slums of the cities or in the houses of straw and mud which reproduce in the South of Italy, the quarters of the Helots of antiquity, or in the valley of the Po, the huts of the Australian bushmen.[56]

No intelligent socialist has ever dreamt of not recognizing all that the bourgeoisie has done for human civilization, or of tearing out the pages of gold that it has written in the history of the civilized world by its brilliant development of the various nations, by its marvelous applications of science to industry, and by the commercial and intellectual relations which it has developed between different peoples.

These are permanent conquests of human progress, and socialism does not deny them any more than it wishes to destroy them, and it accords a just tribute of recognition to the generous pioneers who have achieved them. The attitude of socialism toward the bourgeoisie might be compared to that of atheists who do not wish either to destroy or to refuse their admiration to a painting of Raphael or to a statue of Michel-Angelo, because these works represent and give the seal of eternity to religious legends.

But socialism sees in the present bourgeois civilization, arrived at its decline, the sad symptoms of an irremediable dissolution, and it contends that it is necessary to rid the social organism of its infectious poison, and this not by ridding it of such or such a bankrupt, of such or such a corrupt official, of such or such a dishonest contractor ... but by going to the root of the evil, to the indisputable source of the virulent infection. By radically transforming the regime—through the substitution of social ownership for individual ownership—it is necessary to renew the healthy and vital forces of human society, to enable it to rise to a higher phase of civilization. Then, it is true, the privileged classes will no longer be able to pass their lives in idleness, luxury and dissipation, and they will have to make up their minds to lead an industrious and less ostentatious life, but the immense majority of men will rise to the heights of serene dignity, security and joyous brotherhood, instead of living in the sorrows, anxieties and bitter strife of the present.

An analogous response may be made to that banal objection that socialism will suppress all liberty—that objection repeated to satiety by all those who more or less consciously conceal, under the colors of political liberalism, the tendencies of economic conservatism.

That repugnance which many people, even in good faith, show toward socialism, is it not the manifestation of another law of human evolution which Herbert Spencer has formulated thus: "Every progress effected is an obstacle to further progress"?

This is, in fact, a natural psychological tendency, a tendency analogous to fetishism, to refuse to consider the ideal attained, the progress effected as a simple instrument, a starting-point for further progress and for the attainment of new ideals, instead of contentedly halting to adore as a fetish the progress already effected, which men are prone to look upon as being so complete that it leaves no room for new ideals and higher aspirations.

Just as the savage adores the fruit-tree, whose benefits he enjoys, for itself and not for the fruits it can yield, and, in the end, makes a fetish of it, an idol too holy to be touched and, therefore, barren; just as the miser who has learned in our individualist world the value of money, ends by adoring the money in itself and for itself, as a fetish and an idol, and keeps it buried in a safe where it remains sterile, instead of employing it as a means for procuring himself new pleasures; in the same way, the sincere liberal, the son of the French Revolution, has made Liberty an idol which is its own goal, a sterile fetish, instead of making use of it as an instrument for new conquests, for the realization of new ideals.

It is understood that under a regime of political tyranny, the first and most urgent ideal was necessarily the conquest of liberty and of political sovereignty.

And we who arrive upon the field after the battle is fought and the victory won, we gladly pay our tribute of gratitude for that conquest to all the martyrs and heroes who bought it at the price of their blood.

But Liberty is not and can not be its own end and object!

What is the liberty of holding public assemblages or the liberty of thought worth if the stomach has not its daily bread, and if millions of individuals have their moral strength paralyzed as a consequence of bodily or cerebral anemia?

Of what worth is the theoretic share in political sovereignty, the right to vote, if the people remain enslaved by misery, lack of employment, and acute or chronic hunger?

Liberty for liberty's sake—there you have the progress achieved turned into an obstacle to future progress; it is a sort of political masturbation, it is impotency face to face with the new necessities of life.

Socialism, on the other hand, says that just as the subsequent phase of the social evolution does not efface the conquests of the preceding phases, neither does it wish to suppress the liberty so gloriously conquered, by the bourgeois world in 1789—but it does desire the laborers, after they have become conscious of the interests and needs of their class, to make use of that liberty to realize a more equitable and more human social organization.

Nevertheless, it is only too indisputable that under the system of private property and its inevitable consequence, the monopoly of economic power, the liberty of the man who does not share in this monopoly, is only an impotent and sentimental toy. And when the workers, with a clear consciousness of their class-interests, wish to make use of this liberty, then the holders of political power are forced to disown the great liberal principles, "the principles of '89," by suppressing all public liberty, and they vainly fancy that they will be able, in this way, to stop the inevitable march of human evolution.

As much must be said of another accusation made against socialists. They renounce their fatherland (patrie), it is said, in the name of internationalism.

This also is false.

The national epopees which, in our century, have reconquered for Italy and Germany their unity and their independence, have really constituted great steps forward, and we are grateful to those who have given us a free country.

But our country can not become an obstacle to future progress, to the fraternity of all peoples, freed from national hatreds which are truly a relic of barbarism, or a mere bit of theatrical scenery to hide the interests of capitalism which has been shrewd enough to realize, for its own benefit, the broadest internationalism.

It was a true moral and social progress to rise above the phase of the communal wars in Italy, and to feel ourselves all brothers of one and the same nation; it will be just the same when we shall have risen above the phase of "patriotic" rivalries to feel ourselves all brothers of one and the same humanity.

It is, nevertheless, not difficult for us to penetrate, thanks to the historical key of class-interests, the secret of the contradictions, in which the classes in power move. When they form an international league—the London banker, thanks to telegraphy, is master of the markets in Pekin, New York and St. Petersburg—it is greatly to the advantage of that ruling class to maintain the artificial divisions between the laborers of the whole world, or even those of old Europe alone, because it is only the division of the workers which makes possible the maintenance of the power of the capitalists. And to attain their object, it suffices to exploit the primitive fund of savage hatred for "foreigners."

But this does not keep international socialism from being, even from this point of view, a definite moral scheme and an inevitable phase of human evolution.

Just so, and in consequence of the same sociological law, it is not correct to assert that, by establishing collective ownership, socialism will suppress every kind of individual ownership.

We must repeat again that one phase of evolution can not suppress all that has been accomplished during the preceding phases; it suppresses only the manifestations which have ceased to be vital, and it suppresses them because they are in contradiction with the new conditions of existence begotten by the new phases of evolution.

In substituting social ownership for individual ownership of the land and the means of production, it is obvious that it will not be necessary to suppress private property in the food necessary to the individual, nor in clothing and objects of personal use which will continue to be objects of individual or family consumption.

This form of individual ownership will then always continue to exist, since it is necessary and perfectly consistent with social ownership of the land, mines, factories, houses, machines, tools and instruments of labor, and means of transportation.

The collective ownership of libraries—which we see in operation under our eyes—does it deprive individuals of the personal use of rare and expensive books which they would be unable to procure in any other way, and does it not largely increase the utility that can be derived from these books, when compared to the services that these books could render if they were shut up in the private library of a useless book-collector? In the same way, the collective ownership of the land and the means of production, by securing to everyone the use of the machines, tools and land, will only increase their utility a hundred-fold.

And let no one say that, when men shall no longer have the exclusive and transferable (by inheritance, etc.) ownership of wealth, they will no longer be impelled to labor because they will no longer be constrained to work by personal or family self-interest.[57] We see, for example, that, even in our present individualist world, those survivals of collective property in land—to which Laveleye has so strikingly called the attention of sociologists—continue to be cultivated and yield a return which is not lower than that yielded by lands held in private ownership, although these communist or collectivist farmers have only the right of use and enjoyment, and not the absolute title.[58]

If some of these survivals of collective ownership are disappearing, or if their administration is bad, this can not be an argument against socialism, since it is easy to understand that, in the present economic organization based on absolute individualism, these organisms do not have an environment which furnishes them the conditions of a possible existence.

It is as though one were to wish a fish to live out of water, or a mammal in an atmosphere containing no oxygen.

These are the same considerations which condemn to a certain death all those famous experiments—the socialist, communist or anarchist colonies which it has been attempted to establish in various places as "experimental trials of socialism." It seems not to have been understood that such experiments could only result in inevitable abortions, obliged as they are to develop in an individualist economic and moral environment which can not furnish them the conditions essential for their physiological development, conditions which they will, on the contrary, have when the whole social organization shall be guided by the collectivist principle, that is to say, when society shall be socialized.[59]

Then individual tendencies and psychological aptitudes will adapt themselves to the environment. It is natural that in an individualist environment, a world of free competition, in which every individual sees in every other if not an adversary, at least a competitor, anti-social egoism should be the tendency which is inevitably most highly developed, as a necessary result of the instinct of self-preservation, especially in these latest phases of a civilization which seems to be driven at full steam, compared to the pacific and gentle individualism of past centuries.

In an environment where every one, in exchange for intellectual or manual labor furnished to society, will be assured of his daily bread and will thus be saved from daily anxiety, it is evident that egoism will have far fewer stimulants, fewer occasions to manifest itself than solidarity, sympathy and altruism will have. Then that pitiless maxim—homo homini lupus—will cease to be true—a maxim which, whether we admit it or not, poisons so much of our present life.

I can not dwell longer on these details and I conclude here the examination of this second pretended opposition between socialism and evolution by again pointing out that the sociological law which declares that the subsequent phase (of social evolution) does not efface the vital and fruitful manifestations of the preceding phases of evolution, gives us, in regard to the social organization in process of formation, a more exact (positive or fact-founded) idea than our opponents think, who always imagine that they have to refute the romantic and sentimental socialism of the first half of this century.[60]

This shows how little weight there is in the objection recently raised against socialism, in the name of a learned but vague sociological eclecticism, by a distinguished Italian professor, M. Vanni.

"Contemporary socialism is not identified with individualism, since it places at the foundation of the social organization a principle which is not that of individual autonomy, but rather its negation. If, notwithstanding this, it promulgates individualist ideas, which are in contradiction with its principles, this does not signify that it has changed its nature, or that it has ceased to be socialism: it means simply that it lives upon and by contradictions."[61]

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