Friday, 9 October 2015

SOCIALISM V. DARWINISM

The social instinct appears primitively in the very lowest forms of animal life. With many of these forms it is, no doubt, merely a fortunate result of such circumstances as inferior powers of locomotion and the occurrence of the species in immense numbers. Later, with increasing complexity of organism, come more complex and multifarious factors in social relations. There arises the need of mutual defence and companionship. We find many instances of these motives toward socialism in all branches of the higher vertebrata. The former even appears strongly in the communities of the hymenoptera, of which order the bees head the insect kingdom in intelligence as we head the mammalia. The quadrumana, notably the dog-faced baboons of South Africa, develop instances of surprising self-sacrifice for the sake of even unrelated members of the same community. And most of us have seen cases of animals pining for companions, remote from any sexual considerations whatever. This idea of mutual love and protection seemingly arises, in the case of the mammals, from the intense maternal devotion which is shown by the order for its young. And that devotion undoubtedly arises as an indirect result of the law which Charles Darwin promulgated, the law of natural selection. For it is obvious that those species which took the greatest care of their young and showed the greatest fierceness or cunning in the defence or concealment of their offspring from raiding foes would stand a better chance of survival than those who were careless or unskilful. Of course there are other causes of survival protective mimicry of surroundings, extreme swiftness or strength, or immense numbers. But among the higher vertebrates this care of the young is perhaps the strongest cause to that desirable end. This maternal instinct, then, evolves by means of the sympathy and affection inherent to it into the, wider and broader sympathy for the whole race. And, although most of the primates have this larger view to a certain extent, man, in consequence of his undoubtedly superior mental endowment, his greater grasp of abstract ideas and future possibilities, has by far outstripped the other genera of his order in his full appreciation of its importance. Alone he knows himself weak, but in thousands, in millions, he takes pride that he is the strongest power in the animal kingdom.

In perfect mutual love and sympathy, therefore, our race might seem able at least to attain to that degree of socialism which is seen amongst the little workers amid the flowers. But the ideals of socialism fall piecemeal among men. Each unit of the community is powerfully impelled directly towards individualism. And this individualism, this selfishness is, according to the leaders of the socialist movement, a thing to he deplored as retarding the advance and unification of the human race. 

But examined in an unbiassed and careful manner, one must come to quite a different conclusion. For, although it is true that combination was a necessary factor in preserving our half-human and later our human ancestors against the attacks of monstrous feral beasts which would otherwise have exterminated them after they had lost the natural protection of the tree-climbing habit; yet it was the sudden brain efforts of the individual, rather than the fact of communism, which lifted them by slow degrees to their mental pre-eminence above the anthropomorphous apes. Dawnings of new things which were transmitted to their offspring with co-related dexterity of hand. One man, ingenious above his fellows, found that the club upon which he leaned was better adapted for defence and offence if he sharpened the end. The tribe copied the idea, and his son inherited a modification of some particular brain sulcus. His father had become a great chief; he resolved to emulate him. Some other genius discovered that the fire which warmed him would also make his meat more palatable. And now we cook our food in many ways by means of elaborate gas and electric apparatus. in each of these instances It must be fairly evident that individual effort was responsible, first as a mere selfish desire of personal luxury which the tribe copied, later as a more or less intellectual ambition, still selfish in essence, plus the desire of wealth through patents. Self, self, always self, drove the inventor to improve upon existing methods. Even scientific research, art, music, literature, spring from a selfish, because personal, desire. Always the individual first, the community afterwards. We must, in no way discount these personal motives as unworthy, for they have given us new knowledge, and have proved beneficial to our race. And upon individualism has the race so far evolved.

We see, therefore, that his instincts will prevent man from ever forming a socialistic community similar to the beehive, and that his consequent individualism has been the impelling cause of his progress. But the socialist rightly observes that the lot of the less fully endowed members of the Commonwealth is a mere painful existence, while that of the capitalist employer and the competent brain-worker is a never ending round of luxury. Without pausing to question this statement—and it might well be questioned—it must be admitted that the socialist's attempt to equalise the living conditions of the skilled and unskilled, the strong and the weak, does more honour to his heart than to his head. For Nature has clearly decreed that all men shall neither be equal at birth nor by any effort of their own. Nature is no doubt harsh, brutal. But there is the fact. She sends men into the world with   brains which differ in their convolutions as one leaf differs in its arrangement of nervures from another. She sends men into the world predestined, hopeless, with constitutions fatally liable to disease, through no fault of their own. She manufactures criminals, lunatics, congenital idiots. Besides her good material for race-building, there is an infinity of poor waste, for her method is so reckless in waste that a human chemist or engineer would stand aghast at a suggestion that he should model his work upon Nature's. She can afford lavishness; he cannot. As to whether she is justified by results we may not question, for most of her machinery is marvellously perfect, and besides, what use in questioning?

So the socialist, seeing this waste, seeing the unfit remorselessly weeded out by the competition of abler units, allows the pity which all feeling men must experience to bias his Judgment. As to whether a sympathetic heart is more admirable than a clear head must remain a by-issue, to be threshed out as such by those who find joy in profitless discussion. We here confine ourselves strictly to facts. Unless man's laws prove stronger than the law of natural selection this waste will ever continue. And most reasonable men have their doubts as to human law. We see every day instances of the battle 'twixt natural and artificial law—the divorce courts, the red passion of the murderer, the cold desire of unlawful gain. And just now, to men who think, occurs a particularly instructive case. A Court has been elected to deal with the issues which continually recur in dispute between master and man. It has given a decision in favour of the master; to be met with flat defiance by the man. This latter will fight in his own way, he will accept no dictation. Curiously enough, he fol lows the great leader of socialism in these colonies. When the socialists break their own laws there would seem a lurking fallacy. Perhaps, even though no doubt can exist as to the leader's sincerity, this follower is merely a socialist for selfish motives of self betterment.

Let us consider for one moment the ideals of socialism as effected. As in the case of a fleet, the advance of the weakest unit is the measure of the common advance, the strength of the weakest link in the chain is the strength of the chain. For, instead of casting out the obsolete cruiser or the strained link, as nature ordains, the stronger members are kept back by certain artificial laws so that they may in no manner encroach upon the equal rights of the weaker. A pernicious doctrine this, and inimical to that greatest human interest, the evolution of the race. The socialist, indeed, aiming at the curtailment of the individual right of competition, is doing incalculable harm to human progress, in the same manner as did the mediaeval Church by its persecution and extinction of the independent thinkers of that time. For as competition is checked, as the weakest has the same advantages as the strongest, the latter will lose that ambition which would have spurred him to emulation of those men whose brains, in happier periods, had placed them in the topmost places. Instead of taking a pride in his work as a matter personal to himself, he will find himself a mere cog in the great epicycloidal gear of the State mechanism. He will lose his vanity, and with it his ambition.

But our socialist leader has arranged all that. He would stimulate the brains and ambitions of these men by reward and competition. Apart from the inconsistency of deliberately cultivating individuality in a Socialistic community, it is seriously to be questioned whether an arranged competition would be sufficiently fascinating. There is a pleasure in the struggle for life, In the overcoming of dreaded rivals, in the ruthless exercise of growing power, a primitive and savage pleasure which would be absent in these trials of skill. And again the big man as a rule is not content that his work should be judged by a committee of his inferiors. It is, unless want actually pinches, the mediocre man who competes in such manner. The big man keeps wisely aloof, and as, under a perfect socialism, want would not be felt by any member of the community, that spur would be absent. It is doubtful whether Shakespeare's plays or Newton's laws could have been evolved from such conditions of intellectual slavery. And socialism, as interpreted by its leaders, is certainly a slavery of the most soul-crushing description.

Now the great man has in an open market the disposal of his brains. He crushes smaller men; he beats down opposition. He is bound by no petty rules. And, great as is his success, it Is conceivable that he looks upon the time when he was fighting desperately for bare existence as the finest and most interesting period of his career. To attempt to hold back this type of man to the level of mediocrity seems not only ill-advised but impossible. Even were such restraint effected, where would be the gain to the race? A level plain is always uninspiring by its very sameness, but at present the mountain ranges stand out blue and desirable in the distance, a welcome haven to those of strenuous habits who would attain something beyond the inglorious monotony of little minds.

So far, besides the Arbitration Act which has just been considered, we have had decreed for us that a man shall not be paid less than a certain sum, whether his labour be worth it or not. Wherefore the better workman has his pay reduced to make up to his employer the loss upon incompetents. And the shops are to close at certain hours, lest perchance in the war between big and small shopkeepers the little men should suffer, and the employees of the big ones should die. It is a hard thing to have to say, but the fear intrudes that these employees must, in large numbers, still die. But the more able and skilful of them will survive to better conditions, for that labour which will not keep two men comfortably will suffice for one. And, as the unfit are eliminated, the fit will be able to ask their own terms, as they do now. But they will also be able to obtain their just demands, as they certainly do not now. And as for population, the needs of the times will settle that question. We are at present just a little over populated, principally by the unfit. It seems possible that the present decline of the birth-rate is due to that fact.

In conclusion, a quotation from Darwin's "Descent of Man" may show his views as to the destiny of the race, and the means by which it must work out that destiny. Although he was liable to the errors which afflict mankind, his judgment cannot be said to be partisan; the opinions of men of real intellect are, indeed, rarely so.

"Man, like every other animal, has no doubt advanced to his present high condition through a struggle for existence consequent upon his rapid multiplication; and if he is to advance still higher, it is to be feared that he must remain subject to a severe struggle. Otherwise he would sink into indolence, and the more gifted man would not be more successful in the battle of life than the less gifted. Hence our natural rate of increase, though leading to many and obvious evils, must not be greatly diminished by any means. There should be open competition for all men; and the most able should not be prevented by laws and customs from succeeding best and raising the largest number of offspring."

This passage is inexorably true. And though the truth may be unpalatable, yet it must prevail in the long run over our finest theories and our most lovingly cherished illusions. This transcendental talk of the "brotherhood" and "equality" of man, Nature has shown again and again to be fallacious, and she may be trusted to work out our destiny in spite of the various "isms" and "ologies" of well-meaning but painfully futile dreamers. H.A.

The Sydney Morning Herald 21 January 1905


 TO THE EDITOR OF THE HERALD. 

Sir,-The article on the above subject in your issue of Saturday last is not lacking in interest, nor its argument in vigour and ingenuity. The question is important, and there is certainly another side to it, which I trust I may be permitted to put forward. Your able correspondent is a thorough-going individualist, but he unfortunately builds his sociological argument on a single principle in the evolutionary process. This is all the more surprising seeing that he fully and freely acknowledges that there are two principles at work. Writing of the devotion of animals for the young he says, "Such devotion undoubtedly arises as an indirect result of the law which Charles Darwin promulgated, the law of natural selection." He then adds that this instinct of devotion, through sympathy and affection, evolves into the wider and broaden sympathy of the whole race, and that it is developed most highly in man. Here he recognises the second principle in Nature—not only the principle of the struggle for existence, but the struggle for the existence or life of others, as another scientist calls it. Now one might expect after the expression at such truths the advocacy of an Individualism, at least, on broad and moderate lines. Practically your correspondent says, "Go to Nature and learn from her," for in one part he says, instead of doing one thing "as Nature ordains," another thing based on "socialism" is done. And instead of an argument for Individualism on broad and reasonable lines, in his anxiety to combat a certain type of socialism, individualistic teaching of the most extreme kind imaginable is advanced. The principle underlying' the historic phrase "struggle for existence" alone colours his argument, and the other principle, which Darwin does not overlook, is as though it were not.

According to "H. A." it is the instinct of Individualism, i.e., of selfishness, of competition, of self-assertion, "through which the race has so far evolved." It is difficult to reconcile this with former statements of his, but it is this principle that must prevail throughout organised social life. Now, Individualism in its true sense, as defined by Huxley and others, is the liberty for everyone to act in every way which does not limit the corresponding freedom of his fellow men, but after carefully reading the article in question Individualism may be defined as the liberty of each one to fight for himself without regard to his neighbour. It is unnecessary to take up space by giving lengthy extracts in proof of this, but it will be clearly enough shown by references to certain passages. Having referred to the "curtailment of the individual right of competition" aimed at by the socialist, he contrasts with it his own ideal in which "the great man in open market crushes smaller, men, beats down opposition, is bound by no petty rules;" and just previously he points out that "there is a pleasure in the struggle for life" that is in contradistinction to some 'socialistic arranged competition,' in the overcoming of dreaded rivals, in the ruthless exercise of growing power, a primitive and savage pleasure which would be absent in these trials of skill." And then comes an argument which seems to favour the elimination of the unfit with regard to shop employees, and the fit will survive to better conditions. And, finally, no room for doubt is left as to the ruthless spirit of the whole argument by a quotation in substantiation on it from Darwin, which we are told is "inexorably true," and though "unpalatable must prevail in the long run over our most lovingly cherished illusions." Expressed briefly, it is just the would be application of the old adage, "Let each look out for himself, and the Devil take the hindmost." For, so far as one can gather from the article, each one, great and small, fit and unfit, must enter the prize-ring for a fight to a finish. There will be no quarter. There must be no interference. The great men crush the smaller, beat down opposition, are bound by no petty rules. The poor may be plundered, the weak driven to the wall, and there is pleasure in it—the kind of pleasure presumably that the prize fighter experiences in giving a knock-out blow. Is this too harsh a presentation of the case? Is there no pity, no tenderness, no mercy for the small man, the weak, the unfit? Only so much as they can derive from the following: "So the socialist, seeing this waste, seeing the unfit remorselessly weeded out by the competition of abler units, allows the pity which all feeling men must experience to bias his judgment. As to whether a sympathetic heart is more admirable than a clear head must remain a by-issue, to be threshed out as such by those who find joy in profitless discussion." And, again, considering what he calls "the ideals of socialism," and drawing a parallel from a fleet or a chain in which there is a weak unit or link, "instead of casting out the obsolete cruiser or the strained link, as Nature ordains, the stronger members are kept back by certain artificial laws so that they may in no manner encroach upon the equal rights of the weaker. A pernicious doctrine this," he adds, "and inimical to that greatest human interest, the evolution of the race." The science of medicine must indeed be the black art.

If all this is based upon Darwinism as opposed to socialism, then heaven defend society from it; and no wonder a keen thinker and scientist once said that the first step in the reconstruction of sociology is to escape from the spirit of Darwinism.

Now, it has been again and again pointed out that Darwin meant no exclusive interpretation, to be put upon his phrase, "Struggle for existence." In his great chapter bearing the title he says:—"I should premise that I use this term in a large and metaphorical sense, including dependence of one being on another, and including (which is more important) not only the life of the individual, but success in leaving progeny." If, then, we are to go and learn from Nature, why emphasise only one principle in the evolutionary process the principle of struggle for existence? Why, if another principle exists, and which, in fact, is part and parcel of the other principle, disregard it? "Study evolution on its working side," wrote Professor Henry Drummond, by whom this whole idea is worked out in his "Ascent of Man," "and you will find that "nearly all the phenomena of social and national life are phenomena of these two principles—the struggle for life and the struggle for the life of others. Hence one must betake oneself in earnest to see what these mean in Nature. What gathers round them as they ascend, how each acts separately, how they work together, and whither they seem to lead. More than ever the method of sociology must be biological," and as Nature is carefully studied it will be found that she, too, who says "mind thyself," also says "look not everyone on his own things, but also on the things of others."

Now Huxley, although one would not expect him to subscribe to this view, yet, referring to the question of individual liberty, he uses these words:-"It appears to me that the amount of freedom which incorporate society may fitly leave to its members is not a fixed quantity, to be determined a priori by deduction from the fiction called 'natural rights'; but that it must be determined by and vary with circumstances. I conceive it to be demonstrable that the higher and more complex the organisation of the social body the more closely is the life of each member bound up with that of the whole; and the larger becomes the category of acts which cease to be merely self-regarding, and which, interfere with the freedom of others, more or less seriously." Such words as these are a wholesome corrective to the kind of individualism that H. A. seems to favour.

Summing up the whole question, your correspondent says:-"This transcendental talk of the 'brotherhood' and 'equality' of man Nature has shown again and again to be fallacious, and she may be trusted to work out our destiny in spite of the various 'isms' and 'ologies' of well-meaning but painfully futile dreamers."

"Dreamers," of course, there may be, "well-meaning" some may charitably believe. But "painfully futile," it is to be hoped these dreamers are not. And as for "transcendental talk," Bishop Westcott, in whose footsteps many a dreamer follows, has taught that that which is "transcendental" is practical as a motive and an inspiration. For, my own part, the "equality" that I recognise is an "equal" spiritual brotherhood; not that there can be any "equality," moral, intellectual, or physical; nor that there can be "equal participation in wealth, or in any 'concrete' good consistent with due regard to the various capacities of men." But neither this fact nor the study of the evolutionary process in Nature, even if she must be gone to for methods, should justify any callous type of Individualism such as is advocated in the article on socialism versus Darwinism. The two principles in Nature must be combined, and any sociological teaching based on one only is false. What is needed is not a weakening but a strengthening of the social bond, and with the qualities of energy and strength and self-assertion and courage and intellectual capacity there must be what Huxley calls the quality of sympathetic humanity. This is the force that restrains unbridled competition, and must go on restraining it; and in any enduring form of society it must prevail, even though according to H. A. it is "inimical to that greatest of human interests, the evolution of the race." There is at least some satisfaction in the reflection that the application of the principles of Individualism only does not come within the region of practical politics, nor could it, without the break-up of all social relations.

I am, etc, S. W.

The Sydney Morning Herald 28 January 1905

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