SOCIALISM AND ANARCHISM BY WILL DURANT (1914) – Part 2

II.
Fundamental with me is the conviction that
anarchism, like socialism, has roots deep down in
biologic fact. They are both of them factors in the
new evolution , the evolution that has become self-
conscious, the evolution that takes in hand, so far
as it can and will, the forces of merciless nature.
The frightened conservative who, after a day’s dal-
liance with a primer of biology, tells us that we
radicals are trying to interfere with “natural selection,”
is quite right; we are trying to do precisely
that. We think that the laisser-faire policy
with regard to Mother Nature (let us personify for
convenience sake) has gone far enough, and done
sufficient harm. We are not convinced that this
“survival of the fattest,” this elimination of the
uncrafty in the “struggle for existence,” is really
making for that kind of evolution which we should
be willing to call progress. Nature needs ethical
culture. She has had free rein these many thousand
years; and what has she done? To begin with, she
has used the most ridiculous methods,-not to
apply a more anthropomorphically ethical adjective.
She has subjected her creatures to more or less
rigorous conditions, and decreed that all organisms
unable to meet these rigors shall die a premature
death. Not content with that, she has fitted out
her creatures with elaborate apparatus-claws,
talons, horns, trichocysts, poison-glands, etc.-for
attack or self-defense,-i. e., for fighting. It is, one
might say, a cock-fight evolution, mitigated only by
that biologic socialism which Kropotkin has called
“mutual aid.” And its results?-the product of its
aeons of prolific wastefulness? We call the result
“civilization.”
Civilization. It is a comforting word, but what
does it mean?
Something like this: 2,ooo,ooo children working
in the factories and mines of the United States;
1,ooo,ooo married women ditto; 6,000,000
(sometimes 12,OOO,OOO) unemployed in the United
States ,-the city of Chicago forced to use its armories
to shelter the unemployed homeless ; 13,000
suicides in this country in one year; men
with $5oo,ooo,ooo, $600;000,000, $700,000,000 and
$8oo,ooo,ooo, and more coming out of workersqueezing
dividends faster than it can be spent;
that new disease-alcoholism-creeping generation
by generation into the very vitals of the race; insanity
increasing so rapidly that sober scientists
predict the speedy extinction of the white races by
less degenerate rivals ; the age of marriage being
further and further deferred (in England, in one
‘hundred years, from twenty-two to twenty-six) by
young men too insecure, financially, to care to
“groan and sweat” under the “holy bonds”
(it is a good word !) of matrimony ; marriage itself
becoming more and more a commercial matter to
women forced to do the work of men in the industrial
world ; 65,000 prostitutes flourishing in New
York City alone under the efficient management of
men viler than any type of man the world has ever
seen ; several Chicago factories paying their women
employees $1.50 a week (and making over $2,500-
ooo profit in one year) while the lowest prostitute
in Philadelphia, says Goodchild, makes $20 a
week; 90% of all prostitutes diseased; 20% of all
men sexually diseased before the age of twenty-one,
60% before twenty-five, 80% before thirty; 60%
of all men in New York now suffering from
gonorrhea, 80% of the men in Paris now or formerly
afflicted with the same disease ; 200,000 syphilitics
in New York City ; 10,000 of our 60,000 Philippine
troops sexually diseased; 1,OOO,OOO married women
in the United States who have been infected by their
husbands ; 2,000 women in England and Wales
forced to resort to excision of the sexual organs,-
and this in one year; 45% of sterility in women,
70% of sterility in men, due to gonorrhea; 20,000
children dying in France every year because
of syphilitic infection ; 15% of all infant blindness
due to gonorrhea1 infection ; IOO,OOO children dying
every year in this country alone before they have
lived a twelve-month, and from preventable causes;
and-but surely this is enough?* You may say the
foolishness of men has caused all this ; but if you
do you forget that I am arguing not against a supposedly
benevolent deity, but against a 1aissez-
faire evolution. And there are elements
in it not traceable, methinks, to the vices of men ;
an earthquake in the “evil city” of San Francisco
is followed by an earthquake among the Pope’s
“beloved people” of Calabria. And you tell me,
perhaps, that I have sketched only one side of the
picture; that there are still good things in the world,
still green fields, beautiful women, and good beer.
It is true; but are there as many good things as
there might be if laisser-faire were not for
most of us the sum and summit of our thinking?
Let me quote from Galton:
“Now that this new animal, man, finds himself
somehow in existence, endowed with a little
power and intelligence, he ought, I submit, to
awake to a fuller knowledge of his relatively
great position, and begin to assume a deliberate
part in furthering the work of evolution. He
may infer the course which it is bound to pursue
form his observation of that which it has already
followed, and he might devote his modicum of
intelligence, power and kindly feeling to rendering
its future progress less slow and painful.
Man has already furthered evolution very considerably,
half unconsciously, and for his personal
advantages ; but he has not yet risen to the conviction
that it is his religious duty to do so deliberately
and systematically.” (“Inquiries into
Human Faculty,” p. 196.)
Now socialism, as I understand it, is born precisely
of this conviction that to a certain extent
evolution can and should be humanly controlled.
Consciously a protest against the laisser-faire
attitude towards industry, it is, even if
unconsciously, a protest against the 1aisser-faire
attitude towards nature, For it is nature
that has evolved the type of man whose only religion
is the worship of commercial success (meaning
thereby a new fast auto and a new “fast” mistress
every year or so), and whose “free” unhindered
monopolization of the land and its products has
brought about that immense enrichment of the rich
and comparative impoverishment of the poor which
more and more passionately cries out to heaven
for revolution. It is nature which has made a
man’s success depend, other things equal, on the
elasticity of his conscience ; so that an honest man,
“noblest work of God” though he be, is doomed
from the beginning, unless he mend the goodness
of his ways,. to contumely, futility, and ultimate
“elimination.” And, therefore, it is nature which
produces the “white slave,” the “white slaver” and
the syphilitic; the intellectual “white slave,“-
lawyer, preacher, teacher, editor, dramatist, publicist
of any kind; the “wage-slave,” the “efficiency”
sweat-shop, and the idle, profit-gobbling wageslaver.
Such a prostitution-slavery civilization,
given the spread of intelligence which the printingpress
and the increasing facility of transportation
have made possible, was bound to engender its
antithesis (forgive the phrase; it is recovering from
Hegel !), was bound to produce the aspirations by
which it is condemned. That antithesis, those
aspirations we call socialism,-that larger socialism
which includes the sanities of anarchism and of
eugenics. And this larger socialism, recognizing the
biologic bases of capitalism, makes a series of pro-
posals which amount to a reform of nature. We
are accused of trying to “change human nature”;
-and it is true; we are trying to change human
nature. Nature makes dishonesty a “favorable”
“character,” a condition of survival and success:
socialism would eliminate, step by step, the dishonest
man, the exploiter, the parasite; it would
make honesty an indispensable condition of survival,
it would give the honest man a fair chance for the
first time since the twilight of private property
enveloped the world. It knows that socially, as well
as biologically, parasitism makes for degeneration.
And I say that socialism has its roots deep down in
biologic fact, deep down in the realities of the evolutionary
process, because self-conscious intelligence
interfering with unconscious nature is a new
factor in evolution and is produced
by evolution itself; it is a factor coming
more and more into selective power, just as the
selection of the craftiest is a factor that with the
relentless advance of socialism must lose day by
day its present dominance. Biologically, then,
socialism might be defined as self-conscious intelligence
interfering with unconscious nature for the
elimination of social parasitism. Which, to be sure,
is no new idea to the socialist, but is only my
pretentious way of putting the standard definition,
-that socialism is a plan for the elimination of
exploitation.

*The statistics here used are taken from the United
States Census for 1910, the writings of Drs. Holt, Morrow,
Sanger and ficordi, and the reports of the Illinois
“Vice” Commission, the Chicago “Vice” Commission,
and the New York Committee of Fifteen.

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