Editorial: The Darwin Centenary

As this month is the hundredth anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species, a book that raised a storm in its day, we are devoting considerable space in this issue to Darwinism and its relation to Marxism, particularly as Marx published the first section of his main work the same year.

Darwinism is an outlook based upon certain fundamental propositions put forward by Charles Darwin, just as Marxism is an outlook based upon certain fundamental propositions put forward by Karl Marx. Books by both of them were published in 1859 which clearly stated their fundamental propositions, and each devoted the rest of his life to accumulating facts in support of the theories that had been put forward. In both instances their theories have been enriched and qualified in certain directions by subsequent investigation, but in neither instance has the accuracy of their fundamental propositions been affected.

Just as Darwin brought order into biological investigation, so Marx brought order into social investigations. Darwin demonstrated that living forms evolve and Marx demonstrated that social forms evolve.

Again, in both instances, their theories were assailed from all sides, and they were showered with vituperation, but, in spite of the critical efforts focussed upon them, a great deal that each put forward has become absorbed into accepted practice today. Every writer of repute in biological fields seeks to explain living forms at any period by delving into those that existed before them, in order to see how the new ones came into existence. In like manner, every writer of repute in sociological fields seeks to explain the social forms of a period by delving into the social organisation that preceded them, and observing the changes that brought into existence the new social form.

The idea of evolution was in the air long before Darwin wrote his book, but he brought it to earth by his observation and comparison of different living forms, and of the biological forms that had existed in past ages. In like manner the idea of Socialism was in the air long before Marx wrote anything, but it was ssociated with experimental colonies out of touch with the general conditions of life of the times, Marx brought the idea to earth by his analysis of capitalism and of the forces within it that made for change, the principal of which was an organised and understanding working class. He also brought hope by showing the inevitability of a change from the present sordid system of profit-hunting, into a system where everyone could enjoy the best that life could offer.

In articles in this issue will be found an assessment of the work of both Darwin and Marx, and the effect they have had upon subsequent ideas.

In the early years of the Socialist Party of Great Britain the Darwin controversy was still at white heat. We accepted his theory of evolution and had to defend it from the platforms and in our literature. Now the antagonists have fled the field, the evolutionary theory is generally accepted, and the various religious denominations, which used to be its bitterest opponents, are trying their hardest to digest it into their deluding creeds, just as the economists and historians are trying to digest and demoralize Marxism.