A glance at history

Although a vast mass of scientific knowledge has been placed before us during the last century we still hear the same inveterate cries: “We can’t change human nature” ; “We can’t change the system” ; “It always has been and always will be.”

These assertions are not so much due to ignorance as to want of thought. Ask anyone who uses these stock phrases whether the present system prevailed at the time of the Roman invasion, or if there has been no change in human nature since the period of cannibalism, and he will at once begin to perceive the absurdity of his statements.

The belief in the immutability of human nature necessarily follows from the acceptance of the Mosaic story of creation. But no intelligent person believes to-day that, as Col. Ingersoll puts it, “a supreme being decided to make a world and one man out of nothing, and then, having used up all the nothing in the process, had to take a part of the man to start the woman with.”

This belief held sway for many centuries and is still, unfortunately, adhered to by many ill-informed people, and preached on behalf of those interested in the economic subjection of the working class. And this in spite of the fact that the theory of evolution since the time of Lamarck, Wallace, and Darwin in the domain of natural history, and of Marx and others in sociology, has been demonstrated up to the hilt.

Let us take a cursory glance at the panorama of life and see if human nature is immutable and the system of society unchangeable.

Of the beginning of cosmological phenomena we know nothing. It is utterly impossible to conceive of a beginning or an end. But the Theist, in his ignorance, postulates a god as the cause of all things, ignoring the fact that the cause of God remains to be explained.

Since Science has proved the indestructibility of matter, it recognises no beginning or end of matter, but changeability of form.

Worlds are born of pre-existing matter and pass through the successive stages of maturity and decay. The earth upon which we exist was originally cast off from that rotating igneous sphere known as the sun, which was born of a mass of nebula similar to that seen by powerful telescopes in the heavens at the present time, and analysed by means of the spectroscope. Early in its history the earth was in an incandescent state, and life could not have existed upon it. Gradually it cooled sufficiently to allow water to settle upon it.

The appearance of water brought with it the possibilities of organic life upon the globe— which first appealed as minute specks of protoplasm. Even to-day there are organisms so low in the biological scale that the name organism, when applied to them, is a contradiction in terms, for they do not possess organs. Prof. Haeckel has told us (“Wonders of Life”) that they are nearer in every respect to the crystals than to the next biological form, which is the cell stage, and the genesis of all organic life proper.

All biological phenomena have evolved from the simple cell stage : the blade of grass and the giant Californian vegetation ; the worm and the highest expression of organic life—mankind.

The life of every human being commences with the coalescence of two such cells from the male and female respectively. These cells propagate by simple cleavage, and in time form a ball-like cluster of cells. A depression is now formed, and this becomes the primitive mouth and gut. Continuing to feed, it assumes different forms existing even to-day. At certain periods in the development of the human embryo it is so similar to other animal embryos, i.e., the dog, pig, etc., that scientists cannot distinguish it from them. Gradually the human embryo passes through many stages, including the fish stage, with gills. It follows the line of development of the anthropoid ape, which is the last form it leaves behind.

Prof. Haeckel informs us that, automatically, there is a greater difference between the anthropoid apes and the lower monkeys than there is between the former and man, while mentally there is a greater difference between the lowest human beings and the highest developed races, than there is between the lowest savages and the anthropoid apes.

After a lifelong study of the subject Prof. Haeckel comes to the conclusion that the embryological development of the individual is but a recapitulation of the evolution of the species. (“Evolution of Man” and “The Riddle of the Universe.”)

Of course, the classification of organic life into species is necessarily arbitrary, and no strict line of demarcation can be drawn. We know that when the human race first evolved from its ancestors and embarked on its long journey (having covered up to the present time, according to Prof. L. H. Morgan, about 200,000 years) mankind would have been found living in the huge forests (which offered tome protection from the wild beasts) and subsisting mainly on nuts and roots.

In this very primitive condition man must have existed until the knowledge of the use of fire was acquired. This brought with it the possibility of a fish diet, and enabled him to emerge from his original habitat and commence the diffusion of the human race by straying, along the banks of the rivers and huge lakes.

The invention of the bow and arrow brought with it a meat diet ; and from this primitive stage one discovery has led to another until we reach the elaborate and scientific inventions of the present day. And these, after all, are nothing but an accumulation of small inventions brought down to us through the ages.

With the development of the means of production mankind has risen from one ethnological stage to another. Amongst the discoveries, or inventions that have played a very prominent part in this advance, besides those mentioned above, were the invention of pottery, which Morgan makes the boundary between savagery and barbarism ; the domestication of animals and the art of agriculture ; the manufacture of iron ; and finally that epoch making event, the discovery of the phonetic alphabet. This last Morgan proclaims the distinguishing feature between barbarism and civilisation.

Lewis Morgan has proved the truth of the statement of Marx and Engels that: “In every historical epoch the prevailing mode of economic production and the social intercourse necessarily following from it form the basis upon which is built up, and from which alone can be explained, the political and the intellectual history of that epoch.” (“Communist Manifesto.”)

The progress of government which originated in savage society was based upon kin, its earliest expression being the council of the gens, which dealt with persons through their relation to the gens, as distinct from the form of government of to-day, which has a territorial basis. The council of the gens was a democratic assembly, because every male and female adult had a voice in all matters brought before it.

Higher in the development of gentile society came the tribes, which, to again quote Morgan, “are natural growths through separation of the same people in the area of their occupation, followed by divergence of speech, segmentation, and independence.”

The tribe was a collection of several gentes all speaking the same dialect, and which had come into existence through an overgrowth of an original gens which had been forced, owing to the lack of the means of subsistence, to extend their geographical area. The different gentes were united for defensive purposes into a tribe, with a common council elected by democratic vote within the gens, while still later the confederacy was formed by the uniting of a number of tribes. Finally there took place the coalescence of the tribes, and the government, based upon a territorial relation, as we have it to day, superseded the old form of gentile society based upon kin.

As with government so with all other institutions. The family life of the present day is the result of a gradual development through thousands of years from the promiscuous sexual intercourse of our primitive ancestors. The sexual relations have passed successively through the stage of the Consanguine Family, based upon the intermarriage of brothers and sisters, own and collateral, in a group ; the Punaluan system, based upon the intermarriage of several sisters, own and collateral, in a group, to several husbands (not necessarily related to each other) in a group ; and from this to the Syndyasmian or pairing family, which was only a temporary co-habitation, continuing during the pleasure of the parties concerned.

Later we had the Patriarchal Family, with its marriage of one man to several wives, and finally the Monogamian Family—the general form in modern civilisation.

Away back in savage society, where the means of producing wealth were very small and living for the whole of society was very precarious, it was the widespread custom to eat prisoners of war. But with the development of the means of production enabling men to produce a surplus, cannibalism gave place to chattel slavery, as being of greater advantage to the captors.

Slavery has passed through three distinct phases—first, chattel slavery, in which the slave was the property of the master ; secondly, serfdom, in which the serf was tied to the soil upon which he was born, and worked so many days for his feudal master, being free to till his own land during the remaining days; thirdly, wage-slavery, in which the worker, instead of receiving food, clothing, and shelter direct from the master, is given its money equivalent.

So we find that instead of it always being as it was, everything throughout the known universe is perpetually changing. Had the means of life remained in the undeveloped condition in which we find them in primitive society, government, the family, religion, and the morality of the people could have made no advance. All human progress is bound up with the economic conditions, and what is considered moral in one age becomes immoral in the next. The marriage of brothers and sisters, cannibalism, and chattel-slavery were each in their time quite moral, but are now regarded with loathing.

In conclusion, just as chattel-slavery begat feudalism, and feudalism begat capitalism, so the latter is already enceinte with the embryo of the system of the future. Socialism is developing within the womb of its parent, capitalism, and the time when the working class, “acting as the midwife,” will usher it into the world is drawing nigh.

But Socialists do not claim that Socialism is the final goal of humanity. It lies next in the path of evolution, but that evolution will not cease with the coming of Socialism, but will continue until the earth becomes unable to sustain organic life longer, and the human race becomes extinct.


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