Essay: Temporal Factors of Communism and Evolution

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¶ … Temporal Factors of Communism and Evolution

Upon initial examination, there appears to be a multitude of similarities existent between the notions propounded by Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto and those posited by Charles Darwin in The Origin of Species. The unifying thread that runs throughout both of these works may be found in their adherence to (if not outright dependence upon) a longstanding conception of struggle which may in fact be traced back to Heraclitus. This particular Greek philosopher hypothesized that a state of war is fairly natural and has engendered virtually everything in existence. Such conflict theory is central to both communism and to evolution, as it is the primary means by which change is thought to manifest itself. However, there is a chief distinction lurking between the philosophies propounded by Marx and by Darwin in the aforementioned texts, which is primarily related to the concept of time. Darwin's view of evolution is largely based upon the fact that this process is consistently ongoing in a continual state that is responsible for the variation and furthering of disparate forms of life, many of which are intrinsically related one another. Marx's communist theory, on the other hand, depends upon time to account for the inherent change within what he determines to be a class struggle. However, the author believes that eventually, a time will come when that struggle will be resolved and will cease to exist in a state which is not dependent upon time.

In order to clarify the respective views of each author in regards to the importance they place upon conflict and its place within their theories, it becomes necessary to examine the texts in which such viewpoints are administered on an individual basis. The basis for the necessity of struggle among species of life to survive, and which do so by the process of evolution, is referred to as natural selection. Natural selection is the means by which particular traits of organisms evolve to further define, refine, and ultimately improve the ability of such an organism to exist, as the following quotation from the third chapter of The Origin of Species readily indicates.

Owing to this struggle for life, any variation…will tend to the preservation of that individual, and will generally be inherited by its offspring. The offspring, also, will thus have a better chance of surviving, for, of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can survive. I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term of Natural Selection (Darwin).

This quotation elucidates a number of important facts about Darwin's regards for the idea of struggle and the role it plays within evolution. It denotes this conflict as the "struggle for life" which manifests itself in the varieties of species in existence and in their innate attempt to survive in a world in which there is a conflict to do so. How they survive, which is by adapting, is what Darwin calls natural selection, and is a perpetual process that has virtually no beginning and certainly no end as a result of the ongoing nature of survival.

Yet another chief difference that may be found in Darwin and Marx's regards to the nature of struggle and the role it plays in their respective philosophies is related to the source of conflict. Whereas Darwin pinpoints the source of struggle as being an inherent component of the interdependence in which species exist and vie for the same essential sustenance they need to continue living, Marx identifies the source of conflict as being one primarily denoted by conceptions of class. In his Communist philosophy, the notions of class and the endemic struggles which they pose to their respective members are as innate as Darwin's conception of the forced engagement between different varieties of life, and which may be evinced in the opening lines of The Communist Manifesto, "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles" (Marx). By stratifying the two primary classes in existence as being either that of the proletariat (the working class) or that of the bourgeois (the ruling or controlling class), Marx writes of a state of struggle between the two in which the bourgeoisie will take possession of everything, from the production of labor to private property, and in which the proletariat will have nothing -- except for an extreme motive for revolt, which the following quote alludes to. "In depicting the most general phases of the development of the proletariat, we traced the more or less veiled civil war, raging within existing society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat" (Marx).

What is most salient about this quotation is the immutability that Marx foreshadows. Whereas Darwin's theory of evolution and the struggle with which it is based upon is widely unpredictable in its results -- which will engender new forms of variations, the features and forms of which are largely undeterminable -- it is significant to note that Marx has already predicted, if not somewhat incited, the end result of the class struggle he writes about. Such a result will conclude with the "overthrow" of the bourgeoisie, at which point the class struggle will end. In the history of man and even of nature, the class war depicted by Marx is largely ephemeral, and will result in a new era in which the proletariat is no longer exploited and in which communism and parity between individuals will reign.

But the struggle which Darwin writes about and which is intrinsically based upon nature (of which he believes man serves as one mere component, if not the most ultimate manifestation of ) is largely heedless of time, and will exist now, beforehand, and forevermore. The following quotation implies this fact quite succinctly.

Man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen, though not through his own exertions, to the very summit of the organic scale; and the fact of his having thus rise, instead of having been aboriginally placed there, may give him hope for a still higher destiny in the distant future…man…still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lower origin (Darwin).

This quotation is indicative of Darwin's theory of struggle, which is fairly similar to Heraclitus' conception that war has produced most things in existent. Darwin borrows from this theory by alluding to the fact that man has simply "risen" above the conflict to survive and adapt to be at the forefront of all species in existence today (and at the time of his writing, as well). However, the fact that such a "summit" has been reached is in and of itself testimony to the waging of the war, or to the inter-species struggle for adaptation and survival of the fittest that can be evinced in man's "stamp" of his "lower origin." Furthermore, the fact that this process of evolution is fairly timeless and continuous is demonstrated in the author's allusion to man's "higher destiny" in the "future."

It is also significant to note that the form in which such a higher destiny will evidence itself is largely unknown by Darwin or by anyone else due to the fact that the process of evolution hinges upon transitory factors or natural selection that cannot be determined in advance. Yet the finite nature of the struggle for existence posited in The Communist Manifesto, by contrast, can largely be determined in no small part to the predictable factors and conditions in which the proletariat has existed since the feudal system was erected and produced the exploiting class known as the bourgeoisie. Such factors include fairly deplorable… [END OF PREVIEW]

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