Forward Ho! Unilineal Evolutionism and Marxism

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Evolutionism in sociology and cultural anthropology is based on the idea that human culture and social organization have undergone cumulative and irreversible changes through the course of history. Unilineal Evolutionism is based on the idea that all human societies and cultural groups pass through the same series or steps of social, cultural, and economic development, which begins with a primitive communist order without private property, is followed by some form of capitalist order with private property as an intermediate phase, and ends with a higher form of communism again without private property.

Lewis Henry Morgan.

One of the problems with this line of thinking is that we know preciously little about the cultural structure and social and political order of past ethnic groups that did not leave any written documents behind. We have for example elaborate stone tools and weapons made by the people of the Solutrean Stone Age, but we know almost nothing about their religious beliefs, their value system, their social and political organization, their music, their poetry.

Early unilineal evolutionists such as e.g. Lewis Henry Morgan (1818-1881), a Jewish professor at the University of Rochester, NY, believed in the idea that non-literate cultures that exist at present are “preserves” or canned versions of vanished non-literate cultures and that we can therefore rightly conclude that vanished non-literate ethnic groups had a similar or the same social, political, and cultural structure as those still existing today. Morgan believed in a hierarchy of evolutionary development from “savagery” to “barbarism” to “civilization.” For Morgan the crucial distinction between civilized society and earlier societies is private property.

Even if we accept this premise as overall valid (which I do not), it is still rather strange that evolutionists seem to ignore certain facts when they do not fit into their theoretical framework. I have done field research among non-literate South American Indians myself, I studied and taught anthropology for many years, and I hold a PhD in this discipline, but I cannot confirm that non-literate peoples overall have a communist social order or that they do not have private property.

Primeval communism as the first stage of human social, political, and cultural development is wishful thinking on the part of unilineal evolutionists, who also believed that the European technical civilization of the 19th and 20th Centuries was superior to less technical or non-technical cultures. There is obviously an element of Eurocentrism and racism in the evolutionist approach, which was also part of the justification of imperialism and colonialism.

Morgan’s ideas influenced Friedrich Engels, the friend and mentor of Karl Marx and Author of the seminal book “Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State” (Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigentums und des Staats, 1884).

This book became the bible of historical materialism and the foundation of the claim that Marxism can explain human history, determine its developmental laws, and predict the future end product of human history, namely the classless society.

Since Marxism also claims that all development and movement follows the law of dialectics from thesis to antithesis to synthesis (Dialectical Materialism) the claim that early human societies were primitive forms of communism, came in handy, as it permitted Marxist historians to declare capitalism to be the antithesis to early communism and final Marxist communism to be the synthesis that overcomes capitalism as the final stage of human cultural and social development and hence the end of human history.

Friedrich Engels.

There are several problems with cultural unilineal evolutionism. One is that while human ethnic groups may indeed develop, i.e. change, they do not develop steadily and certainly not always in the same direction. Take Egypt and the Egyptians as an example. Five thousand years ago, they had developed from a tribal society of migrating nomads into a highly organized urban mercantile society with a despotic centralized government (the Pharaohs) and imperialistic militant ambitions. In the 18th century, they had reverted to their original tribal condition.

Or take the Greeks. At the time of Alexander, the Great, they were a dynamic, technically and scientifically advanced people, but at the end of the 18th Century, they had reverted to a rural economy and had completely lost their edge in science and technology. Or look at Rome and the Italians. A tribal agricultural society with central government developed into a pre-industrial empire with highly advanced technical and scientific capabilities, only to find itself back in the condition of local tribal fiefdoms after the demise of the Roman Empire, that had lost its dominion over other nations and its leadership role in engineering and technology.

Another major problem with unilineal evolutionism is one of epistemology, i.e. of the logic or science of science. The Austrian epistemologist Karl Raymund Popper argued that the entire process of human history in and of itself is a singular event. In simple words: the entire human history in its totality happens only once. As a principle of the logic of science, it is impossible to predict the outcome or end of a process or development that happens only once, leave alone to determine the necessary, inevitable course of the process and to predict its end product – unless, of course, you are a diviner. Last I looked, divination did not fall into the realm of science.

It seems almost comical that key Marxist thinkers maintain that they can predict how human society and culture will change under certain preconditions (industrialization/exploitation of workers/monopolization of capital etc.) but that they are apparently incapable of imagining that the conditions of change may also change. The claim that Marxism has discovered the “developmental law” of human history is not only not based on objective facts, but it is also contrary to the basic epistemological principle that it is impossible to scientifically predict the development and future outcomes of a singular event. Hence, the Marxist claim that human history must needs end with a communist classless society is divination or dreaming, but not science.

The firm belief in these unscientific prophesies about the future of human culture and society is what makes Marxism a secular religion and it is also what makes discussing Marxism with Marxists so frustrating. It is like discussing his own infallibility with the Pope.

Yet, Marxists, Socialist, and Communists, entirely internalize the conviction that Marx’ teachings and Engels’ theory of Historical Materialism have uncovered the developmental law of human history and determined its outcome. For the Marxist, therefore, history is not a chain of events with an uncertain end but a teleological (from the Greek τέλος, telos, ‘end’, ‘aim’, or ‘goal,’ and λόγος, logos, ‘explanation’ or ‘reason’) process with a predetermined and inevitable outcome.

The word ‘forward’ has become standard political lingo these days. Almost every day, you hear speakers say things like “Going forward, we will focus on bla bla bla …”. In most cases, the speaker means simply “from here on out” or “from now on” or quite generally “in the future”.

The term ‘forward’ is defined in various dictionaries as:

Near, being at, or belonging to the forepart of something, moving, tending, or leading toward a position in front of something, referring to a time or point in time in the future.

Forward can either have a topological meaning i.e. imply a location; or it can have a dynamic meaning i.e. imply movement and time. It can refer to a moving object or to a destination of a moving object. For example, the engine is mostly in a forward position in motor vehicles. You can drive your car forward or in reverse. If you are attempting to drive to NYC, you may say that you are moving forward as long as you are getting closer to NYC. You may drive forward to NYC even if you are driving your car in reverse.

When non-Marxists us the term ‘forward’, they mostly mean ‘future’ or ‘in the future’. When Marxists use the term ‘forward’, they mostly mean ‘moving closer toward the end goal of human history as proclaimed by Karl Marx, i.e. the classless communist society’. They judge an action or event as ‘forward’, if in their judgment it brings humankind closer to this goal and as ‘backward’ if it does not.

Their use of the word ‘forward’ reflects their understanding of history as a teleological process. One just wonders why Marxists are working so hard to subversively bring about their classless society, if its advent is the inevitable end of history anyway. If they are so sure that their teleological understanding of history is correct, why don’t they simply wait until the communist classless society falls into their lap like a ripe apple?

For the Marxist faithful, the term ‘forward’ enshrines something magical. It has a quasi-prophetic meaning to Marxists, and this is also the reason why the word has been chosen by so many Communist parties as a name for Party periodicals. Here only a few examples:

  • Vorwärts (Germany, Austria)
  • Avanti (Italy)
  • Avant ! (France)
  • ¡Adelante! (Paraguay, Cuba, Spain)
  • Вперёд (Russia)

In the relentless and often violent pursuit of their vision of a communist paradise on earth, they also conveniently ignore that they are pushing damaged goods. Communism has been tried and failed many times over. Instead of bestowing upon us, the people, an economic system that works better than capitalist free market economy and instead of blessing us with a society that is more just and equal than a society based on merit and competition they came up with bureaucratic nomenklaturas that were not democratically elected and controlled, and administered the lack of just about everything for just about everybody except themselves. Equality yes, but it was equal poverty and equal serfdom for all – except the Nomenklatura.

They are touting a type of society and economy that has already been proven faulty and that has been thrown on the junk heap of history. Nonetheless, they are trying the same nonsense again. They tell us that those who tried and failed with Communism previously did it all wrong. Democratic Socialism is the new buzzword. Nota bene: According to Marx, Socialism is just communism + government. Once the people have “matured” (probably in AOC’s “reprogramming camps”), Socialism no longer needs government and becomes Communism.

Ask yourself, how democratic a command-and-control planned economy can possibly be? You can never plan according to the needs and tastes of the consumers, because they change constantly. A capitalist market economy can quickly respond to new or changed demand. A government-run planned economy, which is based on five-year or even ten-year plans, cannot. This is why controlled production must be combined with controlled consumption. And that is where all liberty and freedom go down the drain. You buy the government’s Type A pink toilet seat or none at all. One size fits all. Period.

We are seeing the first signs of underproduction, supply chain problems, and price increases already happening in our food stores, hardware stores, and lumberyards, our car dealerships, and our gas stations. And our socialists have only just started.

In the old Soviet Union, the Kolkhoz agricultural collectives could never produce enough grain and vegetables to feed the people. Tractors, plows, harrows, combines etc. that were supposed to be used by all the Kolkhoz units in a certain region were never fully operational. Nobody felt responsible for their maintenance and they were in constant disrepair. Had it not been for the small private garden plots the farm workers were permitted to cultivate privately, there would have been permanent famine in the Soviet Union. The reason is simple: people care about what they own.

The same story happened with the first English settlers who arrived in America. They, too, had some lofty collectivist ideas derived from protestant sectarian movements. The first approach at agriculture and community organization made by the settlers of the Mayflower was collectivist and almost communist in character. Let me quote Charles W. Sasser’s online exclusive “How Collectivism Nearly Sunk Early Colonies”:

“The Mayflower Compact is often described as America’s first example of self-government. Drafted by William Bradford and signed by 41 male passengers, the compact stated simply that for the good of the colony and to encourage better order and preservation, a “civill body politick” would enact “just & equall lawes, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices” as required. … the Mayflower Compact reflected economic, philosophical, and religious thinking of the era and was based on the works of Plato, who believed in central planning in the context of communal priority.

The first winter was harsh. “In two or three months’ time, half their company had died, especially in January and February, being the depth of winter, and wanting houses and other comforts; being inflicted with scurvy and other disease which the long voyage and their inaccomodate condition had brought upon them,” Bradford wrote in his journal. “So as they died sometimes two or three a day during those months, that of the 100 odd persons from the Mayflower, scarcely fifty remained.

Governor John Garner collapsed in the fields and died in April 1621. The colonists elected Bradford to replace him. Friendly Pokanoket Indians helped the colonists grow enough crops that summer to survive the winter, whose start all hands marked with a celebratory dinner.

The Plimoth colony’s elation proved premature. That year’s collectively managed growing season had shambled unproductively, with crops rotting in the ground, resources squandered, and the tragedy of the commons rampant, a prelude to another hungry winter. In spring 1622, Bradford and the colony’s council voted out collectivism in favor of private property. “The failure of that experiment of communal system, the taking away of private property, and the possession of it in community by commonwealth, was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment which would have been to the general benefit,” Bradford wrote in his journal. “At length after much debate of things, I…gave way that they should eat corn every man for his own, and in this regard trust to themselves. And so assigned every family a parcel of land.” The dramatic change of heart at Plimoth Plantation, Bradford said, “had very good success, for it made all hands industrious, so as much corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any other means. . . Any general want or famine hath not been amongst them to this day.

I almost hesitate to repeat Sir Winston Churchill’s (or George Santayana’s?) words. He/they said:

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.

Seems our collectivists have learned nothing from history and are about to repeat the mistakes made by our early settlers and by other nations.

Backward Ho?

Only if we let them!

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