Socialism and Modern Science (Darwin, Spencer, Marx)
by Enrico Ferri
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Copyright, 1900

by The International Library Publishing Co.

Table of Contents.

PAGE. Preface 5 Introduction 9



Virchow And Haeckel at the Congress of Munich 13 a) The equality of individuals 19 b) The struggle for life and its victims 35 c) The survival of the fittest 49


Socialism and religious beliefs 59 The individual and the species 67 The struggle for life and the class-struggle 74



The orthodox thesis and the socialist thesis confronted by the theory of evolution 92 The law of apparent retrogression and collective ownership 100 The social evolution and individual liberty 110 Evolution.—Revolution.—Rebellion.—Violence 129



Sterility of sociology 156 Marx completes Darwin And Spencer. Conservatives and socialists 159 Appendix I.—Reply to Spencer 173 Appendix II.—Socialist superstition and individualist myopia 177

Author's Preface.

(For the French Edition.)

This volume—which it has been desired to make known to the great public in the French language—in entering upon a question so complex and so vast as socialism, has but a single and definite aim.

My intention has been to point out, and in nearly all cases by rapid and concise observations, the general relations existing between contemporary socialism and the whole trend of modern scientific thought.

The opponents of contemporary socialism see in it, or wish to see in it, merely a reproduction of the sentimental socialism of the first half of the Nineteenth Century. They contend that socialism is in conflict with the fundamental facts and inductions of the physical, biological and social sciences, whose marvelous development and fruitful applications are the glory of our dying century.

To oppose socialism, recourse has been had to the individual interpretations and exaggerations of such or such a partisan of Darwinism, or to the opinions of such or such a sociologist—opinions and interpretations in obvious conflict with the premises of their theories on universal and inevitable evolution.

It has also been said—under the pressure of acute or chronic hunger—that "if science was against socialism, so much the worse for science." And those who thus spoke were right if they meant by "science"—even with a capital S—the whole mass of observations and conclusions ad usum delphini that orthodox science, academic and official—often in good faith, but sometimes also through interested motives—has always placed at the disposal of the ruling minorities.

I have believed it possible to show that modern experiential science is in complete harmony with contemporary socialism, which, since the work of Marx and Engels and their successors, differs essentially from sentimental socialism, both in its scientific system and in its political tactics, though it continues to put forth generous efforts for the attainment of the same goal: social justice for all men.

I have loyally and candidly maintained my thesis on scientific grounds; I have always recognized the partial truths of the theories of our opponents, and I have not ignored the glorious achievements of the bourgeoisie and bourgeois science since the outbreak of the French Revolution. The disappearance of the bourgeois class and science, which, at their advent marked the disappearance of the hieratic and aristocratic classes and science, will result in the triumph of social justice for all mankind, without distinction of classes, and in the triumph of truth carried to its ultimate consequences.

The appendix contains my replies to a letter of Herbert Spencer and to an anti-socialist book of M. Garofalo. It shows the present state of social science, and of the struggle between ultra-conservative orthodoxy, which is blinded to the sad truths of contemporary life by its traditional syllogisms and innovating heterodoxy which is ever becoming more marked among the learned, as well as strengthening its hold upon the collective intelligence.


Brussels, Nov., 1895.


Convinced Darwinian and Spencerian, as I am, it is my intention to demonstrate that Marxian Socialism—the only socialism which has a truly scientific method and value, and therefore the only socialism which from this time forth has power to inspire and unite the Social Democrats throughout the civilized world—is only the practical and fruitful fulfilment, in the social life, of that modern scientific revolution which—inaugurated some centuries since by the rebirth of the experimental method in all branches of human knowledge—has triumphed in our times, thanks to the works of Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer.

It is true that Darwin and especially Spencer halted when they had travelled only half way toward the conclusions of a religious, political or social order, which necessarily flow from their indisputable premises. But that is, as it were, only an individual episode, and has no power to stop the destined march of science and of its practical consequences, which are in wonderful accord with the necessities—necessities enforced upon our attention by want and misery—of contemporary life. This is simply one more reason why it is incumbent upon us to render justice to the scientific and political work of Karl Marx which completes the renovation of modern scientific thought.

Feeling and thought are the two inseparable impelling forces of the individual life and of the collective life.

Socialism, which was still, but a few years since, at the mercy of the strong and constantly recurring but undisciplined fluctuations of humanitarian sentimentalism, has found, in the work of that great man, Karl Marx, and of those who have developed and completed his thought, its scientific and political guide.[1] This is the explanation of every one of its conquests.

Civilization is the most fruitful and most beautiful development of human energies, but it contains also an infectious virus of tremendous power. Beside the splendor of its artistic, scientific and industrial achievements, it accumulates gangrenous products, idleness, poverty, misery, insanity, crime and physical suicide and moral suicide, i. e. servility.

Pessimism—that sad symptom of a life without ideals and, in part, the effect of the exhaustion or even of the degeneration of the nervous system—glorifies the final annihilation of all life and sensation as the only mode of escaping from or triumphing over pain and suffering.

We have faith, on the contrary, in the eternal virtus medicatrix naturae (healing power of Nature), and socialism is precisely that breath of a new and better life which will free humanity—after some access of fever perhaps—from the noxious products of the present phase of civilization, and which, in a more advanced phase, will give a new power and opportunity of expansion to all the healthy and fruitful energies of all human beings.


Rome, June, 1894.


[1] The word in the original means a mariner's compass.—Tr.





On the 18th of September, 1877, Ernest Haeckel, the celebrated embryologist of Jena, delivered at the Congress of Naturalists, which was held at Munich, an eloquent address defending and propagating Darwinism, which was at that time the object of the most bitter polemical attacks.

A few days afterward, Virchow, the great pathologist,—an active member of the "progressive" parliamentary party, hating new theories in politics just as much as in science—violently assailed the Darwinian theory of organic evolution, and, moved by a very just presentiment, hurled against it this cry of alarm, this political anathema: "Darwinism leads directly to socialism."

The German Darwinians, and at their head Messrs. Oscar Schmidt and Haeckel, immediately protested; and, in order to avert the addition of strong political opposition to the religious, philosophical, and biological opposition already made to Darwinism, they maintained, on the contrary, that the Darwinian theory is in direct, open and absolute opposition to socialism.

"If the Socialists were prudent," wrote Oscar Schmidt in the "Ausland" of November 27, 1877, "they would do their utmost to kill, by silent neglect, the theory of descent, for that theory most emphatically proclaims that the socialist ideas are impracticable."

"As a matter of fact," said Haeckel,[2] "there is no scientific doctrine which proclaims more openly than the theory of descent that the equality of individuals, toward which socialism tends, is an impossibility; that this chimerical equality is in absolute contradiction with the necessary and, in fact, universal inequality of individuals.

"Socialism demands for all citizens equal rights, equal duties, equal possessions and equal enjoyments; the theory of descent establishes, on the contrary, that the realization of these hopes is purely and simply impossible; that, in human societies, as in animal societies, neither the rights, nor the duties, nor the possessions, nor the enjoyments of all the members of a society are or ever can be equal.

"The great law of variation teaches—both in the general theory of evolution and in the smaller field of biology where it becomes the theory of descent—that the variety of phenomena flows from an original unity, the diversity of functions from a primitive identity, and the complexity of organization from a primordial simplicity. The conditions of existence for all individuals are, from their very birth, unequal. There must also be taken into consideration the inherited qualities and the innate tendencies which also vary more or less widely. In view of all this, how can the work and the reward be equal for all?

"The more highly the social life is developed, the more important becomes the great principle of the division of labor, the more requisite it becomes for the stable existence of the State as a whole that its members should distribute among themselves the multifarious tasks of life, each performing a single function; and as the labor which must be performed by the individuals, as well as the expenditure of strength, talent, money, etc., which it necessitates, differs more and more, it is natural that the remuneration of this labor should also vary widely. These are facts so simple and so obvious that it seems to me every intelligent and enlightened statesman ought to be an advocate of the theory of descent and the general doctrine of evolution, as the best antidote for the absurd equalitarian, utopian notions of the socialists.

"And it was Darwinism, the theory of selection, that Virchow, in his denunciation, had in mind, rather than mere metamorphic development, the theory of descent, with which it is always confused! Darwinism is anything rather than socialistic.

"If one wishes to attribute a political tendency to this English theory,—which is quite permissible,—this tendency can be nothing but aristocratic; by no means can it be democratic, still less socialistic.

"The theory of selection teaches that in the life of mankind, as in that of plants and animals, it is always and everywhere a small privileged minority alone which succeeds in living and developing itself; the immense majority, on the contrary, suffer and succumb more or less prematurely. Countless are the seeds and eggs of every species of plants and animals, and the young individuals who issue from them. But the number of those who have the good fortune to reach fully developed maturity and to attain the goal of their existence is relatively insignificant.

"The cruel and pitiless 'struggle for existence' which rages everywhere throughout animated nature, and which in the nature of things must rage, this eternal and inexorable competition between all living beings, is an undeniable fact. Only a small picked number of the strongest or fittest is able to come forth victoriously from this battle of competition. The great majority of their unfortunate competitors are inevitably destined to perish. It is well enough to deplore this tragic fatality, but one cannot deny it or change it. 'Many are called, but few are chosen!'

"The selection, the 'election' of these 'elect' is by absolute necessity bound up with the rejection or destruction of the vast multitude of beings whom they have survived. And so another learned Englishman has called the fundamental principle of Darwinism 'the survival of the fittest, the victory of the best.'

"At all events, the principle of selection is not in the slightest degree democratic; it is, on the contrary, thoroughly aristocratic. If, then, Darwinism, carried out to its ultimate logical consequences, has, according to Virchow, for the statesman 'an extraordinarily dangerous side,' the danger is doubtless that it favors aristocratic aspirations."

I have reproduced complete and in their exact form all the arguments of Haeckel, because they are those which are repeated—in varying tones, and with expressions which differ from his only to lose precision and eloquence—by those opponents of socialism who love to appear scientific, and who, for polemical convenience, make use of those ready-made or stereotyped phrases which have currency, even in science, more than is commonly imagined.

It is easy, nevertheless, to demonstrate that, in this debate, Virchow's way of looking at the subject was the more correct and more perspicacious, and that the history of these last twenty years has amply justified his position.

It has happened, indeed, that Darwinism and socialism have both progressed with a marvelous power of expansion. From that time the one was to conquer—for its fundamental theory—the unanimous endorsement of naturalists; the other was to continue to develop—in its general aspirations as in its political discipline—flooding all the conduits of the social consciousness, like a torrential inundation from internal wounds caused by the daily growth of physical and moral disease, or like a gradual, capillary, inevitable infiltration into minds freed from all prejudices, and which are not satisfied by the merely personal advantages that they derive from the orthodox distribution of spoils.

But, as political or scientific theories are natural phenomena and not the capricious and ephemeral products of the free wills of those who construct and propagate them, it is evident that if these two currents of modern thought have each been able to triumph over the opposition they first aroused—the strongest kind of opposition, scientific and political conservatism—and if every day increases the army of their avowed disciples, this of itself is enough to show us—I was about to say by a law of intellectual symbiosis—that they are neither irreconcilable with, nor contradictory to, each other.

Moreover, the three principal arguments which form the substance of the anti-socialist reasoning of Haeckel resist neither the most elementary criticisms, nor the most superficial observation of every-day life.

These arguments are:

I.—Socialism tends toward a chimerical equality of persons and property: Darwinism, on the contrary, not only establishes, but shows the organic necessity of the natural inequality of the capabilities and even the wants of individuals.

II.—In the life of mankind, as in that of plants and animals, the immense majority of those who are born are destined to perish, because only a small minority can triumph in the "struggle for existence"; socialism asserts, on the contrary, that all ought to triumph in this struggle, and that no one is inexorably destined to be conquered.

III.—The struggle for existence assures "the survival of the best, the victory of the fittest," and this results in an aristocratic hierarchic gradation of selected individuals—a continuous progress—instead of the democratic, collectivist leveling of socialism.


[2] Les preuves du transformisme.—Paris, 1879, page 110 et seq.



The first of the objections, which is brought against socialism in the name of Darwinism, is absolutely without foundation.

If it were true that socialism aspires to "the equality of all individuals," it would be correct to assert that Darwinism irrevocably condemns it.[3]

But although even to-day it is still currently repeated—by some in good faith, like parrots who recite their stereotyped phrases; by others in bad faith, with polemical skillfulness—that socialism is synonymous with equality and leveling; the truth is, on the contrary, that scientific socialism—the socialism which draws its inspiration from the theory of Marx, and which alone to-day is worthy of support or opposition,—has never denied the inequality of individuals, as of all living beings—inequality innate and acquired, physical and intellectual.[4]

It is just as if one should say that socialism asserts that a royal decree or a popular vote could settle it that "henceforth all men shall be five feet seven inches tall."

But in truth, socialism is something more serious and more difficult to refute.

Socialism says: Men are unequal, but they are all (of them) men.

And, in fact, although each individual is born and develops in a fashion more or less different from that of all other individuals,—just as there are not in a forest two leaves identically alike, so in the whole world there are not two men in all respects equals, the one of the other,—nevertheless every man, simply because he is a human being, has a right to the existence of a man, and not of a slave or a beast of burden.

We know, we as well as our opponents, that all men cannot perform the same kind and amount of labor—now, when social inequalities are added to equalities of natural origin—and that they will still be unable to do it under a socialist regime—when the social organization will tend to reduce the effect of congenital inequalities.

There will always be some people whose brains or muscular systems will be better adapted for scientific work or for artistic work, while others will be more fit for manual labor, or for work requiring mechanical precision, etc.

What ought not to be, and what will not be—is that there should be some men who do not work at all, and others who work too much or receive too little reward for their toil.

But we have reached the height of injustice and absurdity, and in these days it is the man who does not work who reaps the largest returns, who is thus guaranteed the individual monopoly of wealth which accumulates by means of hereditary transmission. This wealth, moreover, is only very rarely due to the economy and abstinence of the present possessor or of some industrious ancestor of his; it is most frequently the time-honored fruit of spoliation by military conquest, by unscrupulous "business" methods, or by the favoritism of sovereigns; but it is in every instance always independent of any exertion, of any socially useful labor of the inheritor, who often squanders his property in idleness or in the whirlpool of a life as inane as it is brilliant in appearance.

And, when we are not confronted with a fortune due to inheritance, we meet with wealth due to fraud. Without talking for the moment of the economic organization, the mechanism of which Karl Marx has revealed to us, and which, even without fraud, normally enables the capitalist or property owner to live upon his income without working, it is indisputable that the fortunes which are formed or enlarged with the greatest rapidity under our eyes cannot be the fruit of honest toil. The really honest workingman, no matter how indefatigable and economical he may be, if he succeeds in raising himself from the state of wage-slave to that of an overseer or contractor, can, by a long life of privations, accumulate at most a few hundreds of dollars. Those who, on the contrary, without making by their own talent industrial discoveries or inventions, accumulate in a few years millions, can be nothing but unscrupulous manipulators of affairs, if we except a few rare strokes of good luck. And it is these very parasites—bankers, etc.,—who live in the most ostentatious luxury enjoying public honors, and holding offices of trust, as a reward for their honorable business methods.

Those who toil, the immense majority, receive barely enough food to keep them from dying of hunger; they live in back-rooms, in garrets, in the filthy alleys of cities, or in the country in hovels not fit for stables for horses or cattle.

Besides all this, we must not forget the horrors of being unable to find work, the saddest and most frequent of the three symptoms of that equality in misery which is spreading like a pestilence over the economic world of modern Italy, as indeed, with varying degrees of intensity, it is everywhere else.

I refer to the ever-growing army of the unemployed in agriculture and industry—of those who have lost their foothold in the lower middle class,—and of those who have been expropriated (robbed) of their little possessions by taxes, debts or usury.

It is not correct, then, to assert that socialism demands for all citizens material and actual equality of labor and rewards.

The only possible equality is equality of obligation to work in order to live, with a guarantee to every laborer of conditions of existence worthy of a human being in exchange for the labor furnished to society.

Equality, according to socialism—as Benoit Malon said[5]—is a relative thing, and must be understood in a two-fold sense: 1st, All men, as men, must be guaranteed human conditions of existence; 2d, All men ought to be equal at the starting point, ought not to be handicapped, in the struggle for life, in order that each may freely develop his own personality in an environment of equality of social conditions, while to-day a child, sound and healthy, but poor, goes to the wall in competition with a child puny but rich.[6]

This is what constitutes the radical, immeasurable transformation that socialism demands, but that it also has discovered and announces as an evolution—already begun in the world around us—that will be necessarily, inevitably accomplished in the human society of the days to come.[7]

This transformation is summed up in the conversion of private or individual ownership of the means of production, i. e. of the physical foundation of human life (land, mines, houses, factories, machinery, instruments of labor or tools, and means of transportation) into collective or social ownership, by means of methods and processes which I will consider further on.

From this point we will consider it as proven that the first objection of the anti-socialist reasoning does not hold, since its starting-point is non-existent. It assumes, in short, that contemporary socialism aims at a chimerical physical and mental equality of all men, when the fact is that scientific and fact-founded socialism never, even in a dream, thought of such a thing.

Socialism maintains, on the contrary, that this inequality—though greatly diminished under a better social organization which will do away with all the physical and mental imperfections that are the cumulative results of generations of poverty and misery—can, nevertheless, never disappear for the reasons that Darwinism has discovered in the mysterious mechanism of life, in other words on account of the principle of variation that manifests itself in the continuous development of species culminating in man.

In every social organization that it is possible to conceive, there will always be some men large and others small, some weak and some strong, some phlegmatic and some nervous, some more intelligent, others less so, some superior in mental power, others in muscular strength; and it is well that it should be so; moreover, it is inevitable.

It is well that this is so, because the variety and inequality of individual aptitudes naturally produce that division of labor that Darwinism has rightly declared to be a law of individual physiology and of social economy.

All men ought to work in order to live, but each ought to devote himself to the kind of labor which best suits his peculiar aptitudes. An injurious waste of strength and abilities would thus be avoided, and labor would cease to be repugnant, and would become agreeable and necessary as a condition of physical and moral health.

And when all have given to society the labor best suited to their innate and acquired aptitudes, each has a right to the same rewards, since each has equally contributed to that solidarity of labor which sustains the life of the social aggregate and, in solidarity with it, the life of each individual.

The peasant who digs the earth performs a kind of labor in appearance more modest, but just as necessary, useful and meritorious as that of the workman who builds a locomotive, of the mechanical engineer who improves it or of the savant who strives to extend the bounds of human knowledge in his study or laboratory.

The one essential thing is that all the members of society work, just as in the individual organism all the cells perform their different functions, more or less modest in appearance—for example, the nerve-cells, the bone-cells or the muscular cells—but all biological functions, or sorts of labor, equally useful and necessary to the life of the organism as a whole.

In the biological organism no living cell remains inactive, and the cell obtains nourishment by material exchanges only in proportion to its labor; in the social organism no individual ought to live without working, whatever form his labor may take.

In this way the majority of the artificial difficulties that our opponents raise against socialism may be swept aside.

"Who, then, will black the boots under the socialist regime?" demands M. Richter in his book so poor in ideas, but which becomes positively grotesque when it assumes that, in the name of social equality the "grand chancellor" of the socialist society will be obliged, before attending to the public business, to black his own boots and mind his own clothes! In truth, if the adversaries of socialism had nothing but arguments of this sort, discussion would indeed be needless.

But all will want to do the least fatiguing and most agreeable kinds of work, says some one with a greater show of seriousness.

I will answer that this is equivalent to demanding to-day the promulgation of a decree as follows: Henceforth all men shall be born painters or surgeons!

The distribution to the proper persons of the different kinds of mental and manual labor will be effected in fact by the anthropological variations in temperament and character, and there will be no need to resort to monkish regulations (another baseless objection to socialism).

Propose to a peasant of average intelligence to devote himself to the study of anatomy or of the penal code or, inversely, tell him whose brain is more highly developed than his muscles to dig the earth, instead of observing with the microscope. They will each prefer the labor for which they feel themselves best fitted.

The changes of occupation or profession will not be as considerable as many imagine when society shall be organized under the collectivist regime. When once the industries ministering to purely personal luxury shall be suppressed—luxury which in most cases insults and aggravates the misery of the masses—the quantity and variety of work will adapt themselves gradually, that is to say naturally, to the socialist phase of civilization just as they now conform to the bourgeois phase.

Moreover, under the socialist regime, every one will have the fullest liberty to declare and make manifest his personal aptitudes, and it will not happen, as it does to-day, that many peasants, sons of the people and of the lower middle class, gifted with natural talents, will be compelled to allow their talents to atrophy while they toil as peasants, workingmen or employees, when they would be able to furnish society a different and more fruitful kind of labor, because it would be more in Harmony with their peculiar genius.

The one essential point is this: In exchange for the labor that they furnish to society, society must guarantee to the peasant and the artisan, as well as to the one who devotes himself to the liberal careers, conditions of existence worthy of a human being. Then we will no longer be affronted by the spectacle of a ballet girl, for instance, earning as much in one evening by whirling on her toes as a scientist, a doctor, a lawyer, etc., in a year's work. In fact to-day the latter are in luck if they do that well.

Certainly, the arts will not be neglected under the socialist regime, because socialism wishes life to be agreeable for all, instead of for a privileged few only, as it is to-day; it will, on the contrary, give to all the arts a marvelous impulse, and if it abolishes private luxury this will be all the more favorable to the splendor of the public edifices.

More attention will be paid to assuring to each one remuneration in proportion to the labor performed. This ratio will be ascertained by taking the difficulty and danger of the labor into account and allowing them to reduce the time required for a given compensation. If a peasant in the open air can work seven or eight hours a day, a miner ought not to work more than three or four hours. And, indeed, when everybody shall work, when much unproductive labor shall be suppressed, the aggregate of daily labor to be distributed among men will be much less heavy and more easily endured (by reason of the more abundant food, more comfortable lodging and recreation guaranteed to every worker) than it is to-day by those who toil and who are so poorly paid, and, besides this, the progress of science applied to industry will render human labor less and less toilsome.

Individuals will apply themselves to work, although the wages or remuneration cannot be accumulated as private wealth, because if the normal, healthy, well-fed man avoids excessive or poorly rewarded labor, he does not remain in idleness, since it is a physiological and psychological necessity for him to devote himself to a daily occupation in harmony with his capacities.

The different kinds of sport are for the leisure classes a substitute for productive labor which a physiological necessity imposes upon them, in order that they may escape the detrimental consequences of absolute repose and ennui.

The gravest problem will be to proportion the remuneration to the labor of each. You know that collectivism adopts the formula—to each according to his labor, while communism adopts this other—to each according to his needs.

No one can give, in its practical details, the solution of this problem; but this impossibility of predicting the future even in its slightest details does not justify those who brand socialism as a utopia incapable of realization. No one could have, a priori, in the dawn of any civilization predicted its successive developments, as I will demonstrate when I come to speak of the methods of social renovation.

This is what we are able to affirm with assurance, basing our position on the most certain inductions of psychology and sociology.

It cannot be denied, as Marx himself declared, that this second formula—which makes it possible to distinguish, according to some, anarchy from socialism—represents a more remote and more complex ideal. But it is equally impossible to deny that, in any case, the formula of collectivism represents a phase of social evolution, a period of individual discipline which must necessarily precede communism.[8]

There is no need to believe that socialism will realize in their fulness all the highest possible ideals of humanity and that after its advent there will be nothing left to desire or to battle for! Our descendants would be condemned to idleness and vagabondage if our immediate ideal was so perfect and all-inclusive as to leave them no ideal at which to aim.

The individual or the society which no longer has an ideal to strive toward is dead or about to die.[9] The formula of communism may then be a more remote ideal, when collectivism shall have been completely realized by the historical processes which I will consider further on.

We are now in a position to conclude that there is no contradiction between socialism and Darwinism on the subject of the equality of all men. Socialism has never laid down this proposition and like Darwinism its tendency is toward a better life for individuals and for society.

This enables us also to reply to this objection, too often repeated, that socialism stifles and suppresses human individuality under the leaden pall of collectivism, by subjecting individuals to uniform monastic regulations and by making them into so many human bees in the social honey-comb.

Exactly the opposite of this is true. Is it not obvious that it is under the present bourgeois organization of society that so many individualities atrophy and are lost to humanity, which under other conditions might be developed to their own advantage and to the advantage of society as a whole? To-day, in fact, apart from some rare exceptions, every man is valued for what he possesses and not for what he is.[10]

He who is born poor, obviously by no fault of his own, may be endowed by Nature with artistic or scientific genius, but if his patrimony is insufficient to enable him to triumph in the first struggles for development and to complete his education, or if he has not, like the shepherd Giotto, the luck to meet with a rich Cimabue, he must inevitably vanish in oblivion in the great prison of wage-slavery, and society itself thus loses treasures of intellectual power.[11]

He who is born rich, although he owes his fortune to no personal exertion, even if his mental capacity is below normal, will play a leading role on the stage of life's theatre, and all servile people will heap praise and flattery upon him, and he will imagine, simply because he has money, that he is quite a different person from what in reality he is.[12]

When property shall have become collective, that is to say, under the socialist regime, every one will be assured of the means of existence, and the daily labor will simply serve to give free play to the special aptitudes, more or less original, of each individual, and the best and most fruitful (potentially) years of life will not be completely taken up, as they are at present, by the grievous and tragic battle for daily bread.

Socialism will assure to every one a human life; it will give each individual true liberty to manifest and develop his or her own physical and intellectual individuality—individualities which they bring into the world at birth and which are infinitely varied and unequal. Socialism does not deny inequality; it merely wishes to utilize this inequality as one of the factors leading to the free, prolific and many-sided development of human life.


[3] J. De Johannis, Il concetto dell'equaglianza nel socialismo e nella scienza, in Rassegna delle scienza sociali, Florence, March 15, 1883, and more recently, Huxley, "On the Natural Inequality of Men," in the "Nineteenth Century," January, 1890.

[4] Utopian socialism has bequeathed to us as a mental habit, a habit surviving even in the most intelligent disciples of Marxian socialism, of asserting the existence of certain equalities—the equality of the two sexes, for example—assertions which cannot possibly be maintained.

BEBEL, Woman in the Past, Present and Future.

Bebel, the propagandist and expounder of Marxian theories, also repeats this assertion that, from the psycho-physiological point of view, woman is the equal of man, and he attempts to refute, without success, the scientific objections that have been made to this thesis.

Since the scientific investigations of Messrs. Lombroso and Ferrero, embodied in Donna delinquente, prostituta e normale, Turin, 1893 (This book has been translated into English, if my memory serves me right.—Tr.), one can no longer deny the physiological and psychological inferiority of woman to man. I have given a Darwinian explanation of this fact (Scuola positiva, 1893, Nos. 7-8), that Lombroso has since completely accepted (Uomo di genio, 6e edit, 1894. This book is also available in English, I believe.—Tr.) I pointed out that all the physio-psychical characteristics of woman are the consequences of her great biological function, maternity.

A being who creates another being—not in the fleeting moment of a voluptuous contact, but by the organic and psychical sacrifices of pregnancy, childbirth and giving suck—cannot preserve for herself as much strength, physical and mental, as man whose only function in the reproduction of the species is infinitely less of a drain.

And so, aside from certain individual exceptions, woman has a lower degree of physical sensibility than man (the current opinion is just the opposite), because if her sensibility were greater, she could not, according to the Darwinian law, survive the immense and repeated sacrifices of maternity, and the species would become extinct. Woman's intellect is weaker, especially in synthetic power, precisely because though there are no (Sergi, in Atti della societa romana di antropologia, 1894) women of genius, they nevertheless give birth to men of genius.

This is so true that greater sensibility and power of intellect are found in women in whom the function and sentiment of maternity are undeveloped or are only slightly developed (women of genius generally have a masculine physiognomy), and many of them attain their complete intellectual development only after they pass the critical period of life during which the maternal functions cease finally.

But, if it is scientifically certain that woman represents an inferior degree of biological evolution, and that she occupies a station, even as regards her physio-psychical characteristics, midway between the child and the adult male, it does not follow from this that the socialist conclusions concerning the woman question are false.

Quite the contrary. Society ought to place woman, as a human being and as a creatress of men—more worthy therefore of love and respect—in a better juridical and ethical situation than she enjoys at present. Now she is too often a beast of burden or an object of luxury. In the same way when, from the economic point of view, we demand at the present day special measures in behalf of women, we simply take into consideration their special physio-psychical conditions. The present economic individualism exhausts them in factories and rice-fields; socialism, on the contrary, will require from them only such professional, scientific or muscular labor as is in perfect harmony with the sacred function of maternity.

KULISCIOFF, Il monopolio dell'uomo, Milan, 1892, 2d edition.—MOZZONI, I socialisti e l'emancipazione della donna, Milan, 1891.

[5] B. MALON, Le Socialisme Integral, 2 vol., Paris, 1892.

[6] ZULIANI, Il privilegio della salute, Milan, 1893.

[7] LETOURNEAU, Passe, present et avenir du travail, in Revue mensuelle de l'ecole d'anthropologie, Paris, June 15, 1894.

[8] M. Zerboglio has very justly pointed out that individualism acting without the pressure of external sanction and by the simple internal impulse toward good (rightness)—this is the distant ideal of Herbert Spencer—can be realized only after a phase of collectivism, during which the individual activity and instincts can be disciplined into social solidarity and weaned from the essentially anarchist individualism of our times when every one, if he is clever enough to "slip through the meshes of the penal code" can do what he pleases without any regard to his fellows.

[9] "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp," is the way Robert Browning expresses this in "Andrea Del Sarto."—Translator.

[10] Note our common expression: He is worth so much.—Tr.


"Full many a gem of purest ray serene The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear: Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste its fragrance on the desert air.

"Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast The little tyrant of his field withstood, Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest, Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood." —Stanzas from GRAY'S "Elegy in a Country Church-yard." Translator.


"Cursed be the gold that gilds the straighten'd forehead of the fool!" —Tennyson, in "Locksley Hall."

"Gold, yellow, glittering, precious gold! Thus, much of this will make black, white; foul, fair; Wrong, right; base, noble; old, young; coward, valiant." —Shakespeare, in "Timon of Athens."—Translator.



Socialism and Darwinism, it is said, are in conflict on a second point. Darwinism demonstrates that the immense majority—of plants, animals and men—are destined to succumb, because only a small minority triumphs "in the struggle for life"; socialism, on its part, asserts that all ought to triumph and that no one ought to succumb.

It may be replied, in the first place, that, even in the biological domain of the "struggle for existence," the disproportion between the number of individuals who are born and the number of those who survive regularly and progressively grows smaller and smaller as we ascend in the biological scale from vegetables to animals, and from animals to Man.

This law of a decreasing disproportion between the "called" and the "chosen" is supported by the facts even if we limit our observation to the various species belonging to the same natural order. The higher and more complex the organization, the smaller the disproportion.

In fact, in the vegetables, each individual produces every year an infinite number of seeds, and an infinitesimal number of these survive. In the animals, the number of young of each individual diminishes and the number of those who survive continues on the contrary, to increase. Finally, for the human species, the number of individuals that each one can beget is very small and most of them survive.

But, moreover, in the cases of all three, vegetables, animals and men, we find that it is the lower and more simply organized species, the races and classes less advanced in the scale of existence, who reproduce their several kinds with the greatest prolificness and in which generation follows generation most rapidly on account of the brevity of individual life.

A fern produces millions of spores, and its life is very short—while a palm tree produces only a few dozen seeds, and lives a century.

A fish produces several thousand eggs—while the elephant or the chimpanzee have only a few young who live many years.

Within the human species the savage races are the most prolific and their lives are short—while the civilized races have a low birth-rate and live longer.

From all this it follows that, even confining ourselves to the purely biological domain, the number of victors in the struggle for existence constantly tends to approach nearer and nearer to the number of births with the advance or ascent in the biological scale from vegetables to animals, from animals to men, and from the lower species or varieties to the higher species or varieties.

The iron law of "the struggle for existence," then, constantly reduces the number of the victims forming its hecatomb with the ascent of the biological scale, and the rate of decrease becomes more and more rapid as the forms of life become more complex and more perfect.

It would then be a mistake to invoke against socialism the Darwinian law of Natural Selection in the form under which that law manifests itself in the primitive (or lower) forms of life, without taking into account its continuous attenuation as we pass from vegetables to animals, from animals to men, and within humanity itself, from the primitive races to the more advanced races.

And as socialism represents a yet more advanced phase of human progress, it is still less allowable to use as an objection to it such a gross and inaccurate interpretation of the Darwinian law.

It is certain that the opponents of socialism have made a wrong use of the Darwinian law or rather of its "brutal" interpretation in order to justify modern individualist competition which is too often only a disguised form of cannibalism, and which has made the maxim homo homini lupus (man to man a wolf; or, freely, "man eats man") the characteristic motto of our era, while Hobbes only made it the ruling principle of the "state of nature" of mankind, before the making of the "social contract."

But because a principle has been abused or misused we are not justified in concluding that the principle itself is false. Its abuse often serves as an incentive to define its nature and its limitations more accurately, so that in practice it may be applied more correctly. This will be the result of my demonstration of the perfect harmony that reigns between socialism and Darwinism.

As long ago as the first edition of my work Socialismo e Criminalita (pages 179 et seq.) I maintained that the struggle for existence is a law immanent in the human race, as it is a law of all living beings, although its forms continually change and though it undergoes more and more attenuation.

This is still the way it appears to me, and consequently, on this point I disagree with some socialists who have thought they could triumph more completely over the objection urged against them in the name of Darwinism by declaring that in human society the "struggle for existence" is a law which is destined to lose all meaning and applicability when the social transformation at which socialism aims shall have been effected.[13]

It is a law which dominates tyrannically all living beings, and it must cease to act and fall inert at the feet of Man, as if he were not merely a link inseparable from the great biological chain!

I maintained, and I still maintain, that the struggle for existence is a law inseparable from life, and consequently from humanity itself, but that, though remaining an inherent and constant law, it is gradually transformed in its essence and attenuated in its forms.

Among primitive mankind the struggle for existence is but slightly differentiated from that which obtains among the other animals. It is the brutal struggle for daily food or for possession of the females—hunger and love are, in fact, the two fundamental needs and the two poles of life—and almost its only method is muscular violence. In a more advanced phase there is joined to this basic struggle the struggle for political supremacy (in the clan, in the tribe, in the village, in the commune, in the State), and, more and more, muscular struggle is superseded by intellectual struggle.

In the historical period the Graeco-Latin society struggled for civil equality (the abolition of slavery); it triumphed, but it did not halt, because to live is to struggle; the society of the middle ages struggled for religious equality; it won the battle, but it did not halt; and at the end of the last century, it struggled for political equality. Must it now halt and remain stationary in the present state of progress? To-day society struggles for economic equality, not for an absolute material equality, but for that more practical, truer equality of which I have already spoken. And all the evidence enables us to foresee with mathematical certainty that this victory will be won to give place to new struggles and to new ideals among our descendants.

The successive changes in the subject-matter (or the ideals) of the struggles for existence are accompanied by a progressive mitigation of the methods of combat. Violent and muscular at first, the struggle is becoming, more and more, pacific and intellectual, notwithstanding some atavic recurrences of earlier methods or some psycho-pathological manifestations of individual violence against society and of social violence against individuals.

The remarkable work of Mr. Novicow[14] has recently given a signal confirmation to my opinion, although Novicow has not taken the sexual struggle into account. I will develop my demonstration more fully in the chapter devoted to l'avenir moral de l'humanite (the intellectual future of humanity), in the second edition of Socialismo e Criminalita.

For the moment I have sufficiently replied to the anti-socialist objection, since I have shown not merely that the disproportion between the number of births and the number of those who survive tends to constantly diminish, but also that the "struggle for existence" itself changes in its essence and grows milder in its processes at each successive phase of the biological and social evolution.

Socialism may then insist that human conditions of existence ought to be guaranteed to all men—in exchange for labor furnished to collective society—without thereby contradicting the Darwinian law of the survival of the victors in the struggle for existence, since this Darwinian law ought to be understood and applied in each of its varying manifestations, in harmony with the law of human progress.

Socialism, scientifically understood, does not deny, and cannot deny, that among mankind there are always some "losers" in the struggle for existence.

This question is more directly connected with the relations which exist between socialism and criminality, since those who contend that the struggle for existence is a law which does not apply to human society, declare, accordingly, that crime (an abnormal and anti-social form of the struggle for life, just as labor is its normal and social form) is destined to disappear. Likewise they think they discover a certain contradiction between socialism and the teachings of criminal anthropology concerning the congenital criminal, though these teachings are also deducted from Darwinism.[15]

I reserve this question for fuller treatment elsewhere. Here is in brief my thought as a socialist and as a criminal anthropologist.

In the first place the school of scientific criminologists deal with life as it now is—and undeniably it has the merit of having applied the methods of experimental science to the study of criminal phenomena, of having shown the hypocritical absurdity of modern penal systems based on the notion of free-will and moral delinquency and resulting in the system of cellular confinement, one of the mental aberrations of the nineteenth century, as I have elsewhere qualified it. In its stead the criminologists wish to substitute the simple segregation of individuals who are not fitted for social life on account of pathological conditions, congenital or acquired, permanent or transitory.

In the second place, to contend that socialism will cause the disappearance of all forms of crime is to act upon the impulse of a generous sentiment, but the contention is not supported by a rigorously scientific observation of the facts.

The scientific school of criminology demonstrates that crime is a natural and social phenomenon—like insanity and suicide—determined by the abnormal, organic and psychological constitution of the delinquent and by the influences of the physical and social environment. The anthropological, physical and social factors, all, always, act concurrently in the determination of all offences, the lightest as well as the gravest—as, moreover, they do in the case of all other human actions. What varies in the case of each delinquent and each offense, is the decisive intensity of each order of factors.[16]

For instance, if the case in point is an assassination committed through jealousy or hallucination, it is the anthropological factor which is the most important, although nevertheless consideration must also be paid to the physical environment and the social environment. If it is a question, on the contrary, of crimes against property or even against persons, committed by a riotous mob or induced by alcoholism, etc., it is the social environment which becomes the preponderating factor, though it is, notwithstanding, impossible to deny the influence of the physical environment and of the anthropological factor.

We may repeat the same reasoning—in order to make a complete examination of the objection brought against socialism in the name of Darwinism—on the subject of the ordinary diseases; crime, moreover, is a department of human pathology.

All diseases, acute or chronic, infectious or not infectious, severe or mild, are the product of the anthropological constitution of the individual and of the influence of the physical and social environment. The decisiveness of the personal conditions or of the environment varies in the various diseases; phthisis or heart disease, for instance, depend principally on the organic constitution of the individual, though it is necessary to take the influence of the environment into account; pellagra,[17] cholera, typhus, etc., on the contrary, depend principally on the physical and social conditions of the environment. And so phthisis makes its ravages even among well-to-do people, that is to say, among persons well nourished and well housed, while it is the badly nourished, that is to say, the poor, who furnish the greatest number of victims to pellagra and cholera.

It is, consequently, evident that a socialist regime of collective property which shall assure to every one human conditions of existence, will largely diminish or possibly annihilate—aided by the scientific discoveries and improvement in hygienic measures—the diseases which are principally caused by the conditions of the environment, that is to say by insufficient nourishment or by the want of protection from inclemency of the weather; but we shall not witness the disappearance of the diseases due to traumatic injuries, imprudence, pulmonary affections, etc.

The same conclusions are valid regarding crime. If we suppress poverty and the shocking inequality of economic conditions, hunger, acute and chronic, will no longer serve as a stimulus to crime. Better nourishment will bring about a physical and moral improvement. The abuses of power and of wealth will disappear, and there will be a considerable diminution in the number of crimes due to circumstances (crimes d'occasion), crimes caused principally by the social environment. But there are some crimes which will not disappear, such as revolting crimes against decency due to a pathological perversion of the sexual instinct, homicides induced by epilepsy, thefts which result from a psycho-pathological degeneration, etc.

For the same reasons popular education will be more widely diffused, talents of every kind will be able to develop and manifest themselves freely; but this will not cause the disappearance of idiocy and imbecility due to hereditary pathological conditions. Nevertheless it will be possible for different causes to have a preventive and mitigating influence on the various forms of congenital degeneration (ordinary diseases, criminality, insanity and nervous disorders). Among these preventive influences may be: a better economic and social organization, the prudential counsels, constantly growing in efficacy given by experimental biology, and less and less frequent procreation, by means of voluntary abstention, in cases of hereditary disease.

To conclude we will say that, even under the socialist regime—although they will be infinitely fewer—there will always be some who will be vanquished in the struggle for existence—these will be the victims of weakness, of disease, of dissipation, of nervous disorders, of suicide. We may then affirm that socialism does not deny the Darwinian law of the struggle for existence. Socialism will, however, have this indisputable advantage—the epidemic or endemic forms of human degeneracy will be entirely suppressed by the elimination of their principal cause—the physical poverty and (its necessary consequence) the mental suffering of the majority.

Then the struggle for existence, while remaining always the driving power of the life of society, will assume forms less and less brutal and more and more humane. It will become an intellectual struggle. Its ideal of physiological and intellectual progress will constantly grow in grandeur and sublimity when this progressive idealization of the ideal shall be made possible by the guarantee to every one of daily bread for the body and the mind.

The law of the "struggle for life" must not cause us to forget another law of natural and social Darwinian evolution. It is true many socialists have given to this latter law an excessive and exclusive importance, just as some individuals have entirely neglected it. I refer to the law of solidarity which knits together all the living beings of one and the same species—for instance animals who live gregariously in consequence of the abundance of the supply of their common food (herbivorous animals)—or even of different species. When species thus mutually aid each other to live they are called by naturalists symbiotic species, and instead of the struggle for life we have co-operation for life.

It is incorrect to state that the struggle for life is the sole sovereign law in Nature and society, just as it is false to contend that this law is wholly inapplicable to human society. The real truth is that even in human society the struggle for life is an eternal law which grows progressively milder in its methods and more elevated in its ideals. But operating concurrently with this we find a law, the influence of which upon the social evolution constantly increases, the law of solidarity or co-operation between living beings.

Even in animal societies mutual aid against the forces of Nature, or against other animals is of constant occurrence, and this is carried much further among human beings, even among savage tribes. One notes this phenomenon especially in tribes which on account of the favorable character of their environment, or because their subsistence is assured and abundant, become of the industrial or peaceful type. The military or warlike type which is unhappily predominant (on account of the uncertainty and insufficiency of subsistence) among primitive mankind and in reactionary phases of civilization, presents us with less frequent examples of it. The industrial type constantly tends, moreover, as Spencer has shown, to take the place of the warlike type.[18]

Confining ourselves to human society alone, we will say that, while in the first stages of the social evolution the law of the struggle for life takes precedence over the law of solidarity, with the growth within the social organism of the division of labor which binds the various parts of the social whole more closely together in inter-dependence, the struggle for life grows milder and is metamorphosed, and the law of co-operation or solidarity gains more and more both in efficiency and in the range of its influence, and this is due to that fundamental reason that Marx pointed out, and which constitutes his great scientific discovery, the reason that in the one case the conditions of existence—food especially—are not assured, and in the other case they are.

In the lives of individuals as in the life of societies, when the means of subsistence, that is to say, the physical basis of existence, are assured, the law of solidarity takes precedence over the law of the struggle for existence, and when they are not assured, the contrary is true. Among savages, infanticide and parricide are not only permitted but are obligatory and sanctioned by religion if the tribe inhabits an island where food is scarce (for instance, in Polynesia), and they are immoral and criminal acts on continents where the food supply is more abundant and certain.[19]

Just so, in our present society, as the majority of individuals are not sure of getting their daily bread, the struggle for life, or "free competition," as the individualists call it, assumes more cruel and more brutal forms.

Just as soon as through collective ownership every individual shall be assured of fitting conditions of existence, the law of solidarity will become preponderant.

When in a family financial affairs run smoothly and prosperously, harmony and mutual good-will prevail; as soon as poverty makes its appearance, discord and struggle ensue. Society as a whole shows us the picture on a large scale. A better social organization will insure universal harmony and mutual good-will.

This will be the achievement of socialism, and, to repeat, for this, the fullest and most fruitful interpretation of the inexorable natural laws discovered by Darwinism, we are indebted to socialism.



[14] NOVICOW, Les luttes entre societes, leurs phases successives, Paris, 1893. LERDA, La lotta per la vita, in Pensiero italiano, Milan, Feb. and March, 1894.

[15] I regret that M. Loria, ordinarily so profound and acute, has here been deceived by appearances. He has pointed out this pretended contradiction in his "Economic Foundations of Society" (available in English, Tr.). He has been completely answered, in the name of the school of scientific criminal anthropology, by M. RIVIERI DE ROCCHI, Il diritto penale e un'opera recente di Loria in Scuola positiva nella giurisprudenza penale of Feb. 15, 1894, and by M. LOMBROSO, in Archivio di psichiatria e scienza penali, 1894, XIV, fasc. C.

[16] ENRICO FERRI, Sociologie criminelle (French translation), 1893, Chaps. I. and II.

A recent work has just given scientific confirmation to our inductions: FORSINARI DI VERCE, Sulla criminalita e le vicende economiche d'Italia dal 1873 al 1890. Turin, 1894. The preface written by Lombroso concludes in the following words: "We do not wish, therefore, to slight or neglect the truth of the socialist movement, which is destined to changed the current of modern European thought and action, and which contends ad majorem gloriam of its conclusions that all criminality depends on the influence of the economic environment. We also believe in this doctrine, though we are unwilling and unable to accept the erroneous conclusions drawn from it. However enthusiastic we may be, we will never, in its honor, renounce the truth. We leave this useless servility to the upholders of classical orthodoxy."

[17] A skin-disease endemic in Northern Italy. Tr.

[18] See in this connection the famous monographs of Kropotkin, Mutual aid among the savages, in the "Nineteenth Century," April 9, 1891, and Among the barbarians, "Nineteenth Century," January, 1892, and also two recent articles signed: "Un Professeur," which appeared in the Revue Socialiste, of Paris, May and June, 1894, under the title: Lutte ou accord pour la vie.

[19] ENRICO FERRI, Omicidio nell' antropologia criminale, Introduction, Turin, 1894.



The third and last part of the argument of Haeckel is correct if applied solely to the purely biological and Darwinian domain, but its starting point is false if it is intended to apply it to the social domain and to turn it into an objection against socialism.

It is said the struggle for existence assures the survival of the fittest; it therefore causes an aristocratic, hierarchic gradation of selected individuals—a continuous progress—and not the democratic leveling of socialism.

Here again, let us begin by accurately ascertaining the nature of this famous natural selection which results from the struggle for existence.

The expression which Haeckel uses and which, moreover, is in current use, "survival of the best or of the best fitted," ought to be corrected. We must suppress the adjective best. This is simply a persisting relic of that teleology which used to see in Nature and history a premeditated goal to be reached by means of a process of continuous amelioration or progress.

Darwinism, on the contrary, and still more the theory of universal evolution, has completely banished the notion of final causes from modern scientific thought and from the interpretation of natural phenomena. Evolution consists both of involution and dissolution. It may be true, and indeed it is true, that by comparing the two extremes of the path traversed by humanity we find that there has really been a true progress, an improvement taking it all in all; but, in any case, progress has not followed a straight ascending line, but, as Goethe has said, a spiral with rhythms of progress and of retrogression, of evolution and of dissolution.

Every cycle of evolution, in the individual life as in the collective life, bears within it the germs of the corresponding cycle of dissolution; and, inversely, the latter, by the decay of the form already worn out, prepares in the eternal laboratory new evolutions and new forms of life.

It is thus that in the world of human society every phase of civilization bears within it and is constantly developing the germs of its own dissolution from which issues a new phase of civilization—which will be more or less different from its predecessor in geographical situation and range—in the eternal rhythm of living humanity. The ancient hieratic civilizations of the Orient decay, and through their dissolution they give birth to the Graeco-Roman world, which in turn is followed by the feudal and aristocratic civilization of Central Europe; it also decays and disintegrates through its own excesses, like the preceding civilizations, and it is replaced by the bourgeois civilization which has reached its culminating point in the Anglo-Saxon world. But it is already experiencing the first tremors of the fever of dissolution, while from its womb there emerges and is developing the socialist civilization which will flourish over a vaster domain than that of any of the civilizations which have preceded it.[20]

Hence it is not correct to assert that the natural selection caused by the struggle for existence assures the survival of the best; in fact, it assures the survival of the best fitted.

This is a very great difference, alike in natural Darwinism and in social Darwinism.

The struggle for existence necessarily causes the survival of the individuals best fitted for the environment and the particular historical period in which they live.

In the natural, biological domain, the free play of natural (cosmiques) forces and conditions causes a progressive advance or ascent of living forms, from the microbe up to Man.

In human society, on the contrary, that is to say, in the super-organic evolution of Herbert Spencer, the intervention of other forces and the occurrence of other conditions sometimes causes a retrograde selection which always assures the survival of those who are best fitted for a given environment at a given time, but the controlling principle of this selection is in turn affected by the vicious conditions—if they are vicious—of the environment.

Here we are dealing with the question of "social selection," or rather "social selections," for there is more than one kind of social selection. By starting from this idea—not clearly comprehended—some writers, both socialists and non-socialists, have come to deny that the Darwinian theories have any application to human society.

It is known, indeed, that in the contemporaneous civilized world natural selection is injuriously interfered with by military selection, by matrimonial selection, and, above all, by economic selection.[21]

The temporary celibacy imposed upon soldiers certainly has a deplorable effect upon the human race. It is the young men who on account of comparatively poor physical constitutions are excused from military service, who marry the first, while the healthier individuals are condemned to a transitory sterility, and in the great cities run the risk of contagion from syphilis which unfortunately has permanent effects.

Marriage also, corrupted as it is in the existent society by economic considerations, is ordinarily in practice a sort of retrogressive sexual selection. Women who are true degenerates, but who have good dowries or "prospects," readily find husbands on the marriage market, while the most robust women of the people or of the middle class who have no dowries are condemned to the sterility of compulsory old-maiddom or to surrender themselves to a more or less gilded prostitution.[22]

It is indisputable that the present economic conditions exercise an influence upon all the social relations of men. The monopoly of wealth assures to its possessor the victory in the struggle for existence. Rich people, even though they are less robust, have longer lives than those who are ill-fed. The day-and-night-work, under inhuman conditions, imposed upon grown men, and the still more baleful labor imposed upon women and children by modern capitalism causes a constant deterioration in the biological conditions of the toiling masses.[23]

In addition to all these we must not forget the moral selection—which is really immoral or retrograde—made at present by capitalism in its struggle with the proletariat, and which favors the survival of those with servile characters, while it persecutes and strives to suppress all those who are strong in character, and all who do not seem disposed to tamely submit to the yoke of the present economic order.[24]

The first impression which springs from the recognition of these facts is that the Darwinian law of natural selection does not hold good in human society—in short, is inapplicable to human society.

I have maintained, and I do maintain, on the contrary, in the first place, that these various kinds of retrograde social selection are not in contradiction with the Darwinian law, and that, moreover, they serve as the material for an argument in favor of socialism. Nothing but socialism, in fact, can make this inexorable law of natural selection work more beneficently.

As a matter of fact, the Darwinian law does not cause the "survival of the best," but simply the "survival of the fittest."

It is obvious that the forms of degeneracy produced by the divers kinds of social selection and notably by the present economic organization merely promote, indeed, and with growing efficiency, the survival of those best fitted for this very economic organization.

If the victors in the struggle for existence are the worst and the weakest, this does not mean that the Darwinian law does not hold good; it means simply that the environment is corrupt (and corrupting), and that those who survive are precisely those who are the fittest for this corrupt environment.

In my studies of criminal psychology I have too often had to recognize the fact that in prisons and in the criminal world it is the most cruel or the most cunning criminals who enjoy the fruits of victory; it is just the same in our modern economic individualist system; the victory goes to him who has the fewest scruples; the struggle for existence favors him who is fittest for a world where a man is valued for what he has (no matter how he got it), and not for what he is.

The Darwinian law of natural selection functions then even in human society. The error of those who deny this proposition springs from the fact that they confound the present environment and the present transitory historical era—which are known in history as the bourgeois environment and period, just as the Middle Ages are called feudal—with all history and all humanity, and therefore they fail to see that the disastrous effects of modern, retrograde, social selection are only confirmations of the Darwinian law of the "survival of the fittest." Popular common sense has long recognized this influence of the surroundings, as is shown by many a common proverb, and its scientific explanation is to be found in the necessary biological relations which exist between a given environment and the individuals who are born, struggle and survive in that environment.

On the other hand, this truth constitutes an unanswerable argument in favor of socialism. By freeing the environment from all the corruptions with which our unbridled economic individualism pollutes it, socialism will necessarily correct the ill effects of natural and social selection. In a physically and morally wholesome environment, the individuals best fitted to it, those who will therefore survive, will be the physically and morally healthy.

In the struggle for existence the victory will then go to him who has the greatest and most prolific physical, intellectual and moral energies. The collectivist economic organization, by assuring to everyone the conditions of existence, will and necessarily must, result in the physical and moral improvement of the human race.

To this some one replies: Suppose we grant that socialism and Darwinian selection may be reconciled, is it not obvious that the survival of the fittest tends to establish an aristocratic gradation of individuals, which is contrary to socialistic leveling?

I have already answered this objection in part by pointing out that socialism will assure to all individuals—instead of as at present only to a privileged few or to society's heroes—freedom to assert and develop their own individualities. Then in truth the result of the struggle for existence will be the survival of the best and this for the very reason that in a wholesome environment the victory is won by the healthiest individuals. Social Darwinism, then, as a continuation and complement of natural (biological) Darwinism, will result in a selection of the best.

To respond fully to this insistence upon an unlimited aristocratic selection, I must call attention to another natural law which serves to complete that rhythm of action and reaction which results in the equilibrium of life.

To the Darwinian law of natural inequalities we must add another law which is inseparable from it, and which Jacoby, following in the track of the labors of Morel, Lucas, Galton, De Caudole, Ribot, Spencer, Royer, Lombroso, and others, has clearly demonstrated and expounded.

This same Nature, which makes "choice" and aristocratic gradation a condition of vital progress, afterwards restores the equilibrium by a leveling and democratic law.

"From the infinite throng of humanity there emerge individuals, families and races which tend to rise above the common level; painfully climbing the steep heights they reach the summits of power, wealth, intelligence and talent, and, having reached the goal, they are hurled down and disappear in the abysses of insanity and degeneration. Death is the great leveler; by destroying every one who rises above the common herd, it democratizes humanity."[25]

Every one who attempts to create a monopoly of natural forces comes into violent conflict with that supreme law of Nature which has given to all living beings the use and disposal of the natural agents: air and light, water and land.

Everybody who is too much above or too much below the average of humanity—an average which rises with the flux of time, but is absolutely fixed at any given moment of history—does not live and disappears from the stage.

The idiot and the man of genius, the starving wretch and the millionaire, the dwarf and the giant, are so many natural or social monsters, and Nature inexorably blasts them with degeneracy or sterility, no matter whether they be the product of the organic life, or the effect of the social organization.

And so, all families possessing a monopoly of any kind—monopoly of power, of wealth or of talent—are inevitably destined to become in their latest offshoots imbeciles, sterile or suicides, and finally to become extinct. Noble houses, dynasties of sovereigns, descendants of millionaires—all follow the common law which, here again, serves to confirm the inductions—in this sense, equalitarian—of science and of socialism.


[20] One of the most characteristic processes of social dissolution is parasitism. MASSART and VANDERVELDE, Parasitism, organic and social. (English translation.) Swan, Sonnenschein & Co., London.

[21] BROCA, Les selections (Sec. 6. Les selections sociales) in Memoires d' anthropologie, Paris, 1877, III., 205. LAPOUGE, Les selections sociales, in Revue d' anthrop., 1887, p. 519. LORIA, Discourse su Carlo Darwin, SIENNE, 1882. VADALA, Darwinismo naturale e Darwinismo sociale, Turin, 1883. BORDIER, La vie des societes, Paris, 1887. SERGI, Le degenerazione umane, Milan, 1889, p. 158. BEBEL, Woman in the past, present and future.

[22] MAX NORDAU, Conventional Lies of our Civilization. (English trans.) Laird & Lee, Chicago, 1895.

[23] While this is shown by all official statistics, it is signally shown by the facts collated by M. Pagliani, the present Director-General of the Bureau of Health in the Interior Department, who has shown that the bodies of the poor are more backward and less developed than those of the rich, and that this difference, though but slightly manifest at birth, becomes greater and greater in after life, i. e. as soon as the influence of the economic conditions makes itself felt in all its inexorable tyranny.

[24] TURATI, Selezione servile, in Critica Sociale, June 1, 1894. SERGI, Degenerazione umane, Milan, 1889.

[25] JACOBY, Etudes sur la selection dans ses rapports avec l'heredite chez l'homme, Paris, 1881, p. 606.

LOMBROSO, L'uomo di genio, 6th edition, Turin, 1894, has developed and complemented this law. This law, so easily forgotten, is neglected by RITCHIE (Darwinism and Politics. London. Sonnenschein, 1891.) in the section called "Does the doctrine of Heredity support Aristocracy?"



Not one of the three contradictions between socialism and Darwinism, which Haeckel formulated, and which so many others have echoed since, resists a candid and more accurate examination of the natural laws which bear the name of Charles Darwin.

I add that not only is Darwinism not in contradiction with socialism, but that it constitutes one of its fundamental scientific premises. As Virchow justly remarked, socialism is nothing but a logical and vital corollary, in part of Darwinism, in part of Spencerian evolution.

The theory of Darwin, whether we wish it or not, by demonstrating that man is descended from the animals, has dealt a severe blow to the belief in God as the creator of the universe and of man by a special fiat. This, moreover, is why the most bitter opposition, and the only opposition which still continues, to its scientific inductions, was made and is made in the name of religion.

It is true that Darwin did not declare himself an atheist[26] and that Spencer is not one; it is also true that, strictly speaking, the theory of Darwin, like that of Spencer, can also be reconciled with the belief in God, since it may be admitted that God created matter and force, and that both afterward evolved into their successive forms in accordance with the initial creative impulse. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that these theories, by rendering the idea of causality more and more inflexible and universal, lead necessarily to the negation of God, since there always remains this question: And God, who created him? And if it is replied that God has always existed, the same reply may be flung back by asserting that the universe has always existed. To use the phrase of Ardigo, human thought is only able to conceive the chain which binds effects to causes as terminating at a given point, purely conventional.[27]

God, as Laplace said, is an hypothesis of which exact science has no need; he is, according to Herzen, at the most an X, which represents not the unknowable—as Spencer and Dubois Raymond contend—but all that which humanity does not yet know. Therefore, it is a variable X which decreases in direct ratio to the progress of the discoveries of science.

It is for this very reason that science and religion are in inverse ratio to each other; the one diminishes and grows weaker in the same proportion that the other increases and grows stronger in its struggle against the unknown.[28]

And if this is one of the consequences of Darwinism, its influence on the development of socialism is quite obvious.

The disappearance of faith in the hereafter, where the poor shall become the elect of the Lord, and where the miseries of the "vale of tears" will find an eternal compensation in paradise, gives greater strength to the desire for some semblance of an "earthly paradise" here below even for the unfortunate and the poor, who are the great majority.

Hartmann and Guyau[29] have shown that the evolution of religious beliefs may be summarized thus: All religions include, with various other matters, the promise of happiness; but the primitive religions concede that this happiness will be realized during the life of the individual himself, and the later religions, through an excess of reaction, place its realization after death, outside the human world; in the final phase, this realization of happiness is once more placed within the field of human life, no longer in the ephemeral moment of the individual existence, but indeed in the continuous evolution of all mankind.

On this side, then, socialism is closely related to the religious evolution, and tends to substitute itself for religion, since its aim is for humanity to have its own "earthly paradise" here, without having to wait for it in the hereafter, which, to say the least, is very problematical.

Therefore, it has been very justly remarked that the socialist movement has many traits in common with, for example, primitive Christianity, notably that ardent faith in the ideal that has definitively deserted the arid field of bourgeois skepticism, and some savants, not socialists, such as Messrs. Wallace, de Lavaleye and the Roberty, etc., admit that it is entirely possible for socialism to replace by its humanitarian faith the faith in the hereafter of the former religions.

More direct and potent than these relations (between socialism and faith in a hereafter) are, however, the relations which exist between socialism and the belief in God.

It is true that Marxian Socialism, since the Congress held at Erfurt (1891), has rightly declared that religious beliefs are private affairs[30] and that, therefore, the Socialist party combats religious intolerance under all its forms, whether it be directed against Catholics[31] or against Jews, as I have shown in an article against Anti-Semitism.[32] But this breadth of superiority of view is, at bottom, only a consequence of the confidence in final victory.

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