Difficulties in understanding socialist ideology arise when we try to correlate its doctrinal prescriptions for the organization of society with the actual forms of these principles as they are realized in history. For example, the picture of a society "in which the free development of each will be the precondition of the free development of all" contains no contradiction. But when the "leading theoretician" asserts that the creation of this harmonious man is achieved by shooting, we are face to face with a paradox. The view of socialism to which we have come encounters the same kind of difficulties and must be tested by this means for inconsistency. It is not enough to say that all the basic principles of socialist ideology derive from the urge to suppress individuality. It is necessary also to understand what this tendency portends for mankind and how it arises. We shall begin with the former question.
At the end of the preceding chapter we sketched the "ideal" socialist society as it appears in the classical writings of socialism. Of the features enumerated, we shall consider only one: state upbringing of children from infancy so that they do not know their parents. It is natural to begin with this aspect of the socialist ideal, if only because it would be the first thing that an individual born into this society would face. This measure is suggested with striking consistency from Plato to Liadov, a leading Soviet theoretician of the 1920s. In the 1970s, the Japanese police arrested members of the "Red Army," a Trotskyite organization, which was responsible for a number of murders. Although this group numbered only a few dozen people, it had all the attributes of a real socialist party--theoreticians, a split on the
question of whether revolution should occur in one country or in the entire world at once, terror against dissidents. The group established itself in a lonely mountain region. And the same trait surfaced here: they took newborn children away from their mothers, entrusted them to other women for upbringing and fed them on powdered milk, despite difficulties in obtaining it. Let us quote from a book by the modern ethologist Eibl-Eibesfeldt, which will help us evaluate the biological significance of this measure:
It is especially in the second half of the first year of life that a child establishes personal ties with its mother or a person substituting for her (a nurse, a matron). This contact is the precondition for the development of "primary trust" (E. H. Erikson), the basis for the attitude toward oneself and the world. The child learns to trust his partner, and this positive basic orientation is the foundation of a healthy personality. If these contacts are broken, "primary distrust" develops. A prolonged stay in the hospital during the child's second year may, for example, lead to such results. Though the child will try even there to establish close contact with a mother substitute, no nurse will be able to devote herself intensively enough to an infant for a close personal tie to be established. Nurses constantly change, and so the contacts that arise are constantly broken. The child, deceived in his expectations of contact, falls into a state of apathy after a brief outburst of protest. During the first month of his stay in the hospital he whines and clings to anyone available. During the second month he usually cries and loses weight. During the third month such children only weep quietly and finally become thoroughly apathetic. If after three to four months' separation they are taken home, they return to normal. But if they stay in the hospital longer, the trauma becomes irreversible.. ..In one orphanage where R. Spitz studied ninety-one children who had been separated from their mothers in the third month of their lives, thirty-four died before they reached the age of two. The level of development of the survivors was only 45 percent of normal and the children were almost like idiots. Many of them could neither walk nor stand nor speak at age four. (148: p.234)This may be applied to the whole of a society built on the consistent implementation of socialist ideals. Not only people but even animals cannot exist if reduced to the level of the cogs of a mechanism. Even such a seemingly elementary act as eating is not reducible to the mere satiation of the organism. For an animal to eat, it is not enough that it be hungry and that food be available; the food must be enticing, "appetizing," as well. And in more complex actions involving several ,individuals, such as raising of young, the common defense of territory or hunting, animals establish relations that usually are ritualistic in
nature and that elicit great excitement and undoubtedly provide deep satisfaction. For animals, these ties constitute "the meaning of life"; if they are broken, the animal becomes apathetic, does not take food, and becomes an easy victim for a predator. To a far greater extent, this applies to man. But for him, all the aspects of life that make it attractive and give it meaning are connected with manifestations of individuality. Therefore, a consistent implementation of the principles of socialism deprives human life of individuality and simultaneously deprives life of its meaning and attraction. As suggested by the example of the orphaned children, it would lead to the physical extinction of the group in which these principles are in force, and if they should triumph through the world--to the extinction of mankind. But the conclusion that we have reached has yet to be tested by history because the socialist ideals have nowhere achieved complete implementation. The primitive states of the ancient Orient and pre-Columbian America had a very weakly developed socialist ideology. In keeping with Shang Yang's principle ("When the people are weak the state is strong; when the state is weak the people are strong"), particularly strong, conservative and long-lived state structures were created. In these states, however, the principle of the "weak people" was understood only in the sense of external, physical limitations--choice of work, place of residence, severe limitations on private property, the large number of official duties. These duties did not touch the life within the family or cut deeply into man's soul. They were not ideologically inspired, and it was apparently the same patriarchal quality that preserved these states from dying out but, on the other hand, left them defenseless in the face of new spiritual forces called forth by the abrupt shifts of the first millennium B.C.
The socialist states of the twentieth century are also far from being a model of the complete realization of socialist ideals. But one must note that when survival is at stake, it was achieved in these states precisely by giving up some fundamental socialist principle. This occurred with the introduction of the New Economic Policy in Soviet Russia and with the halt ordered by Stalin in the persecution of religion during World War II.
However, it is possible to point out a number of similar situations which may serve, though indirectly, to support our point of view.
It happens not infrequently that a nation or a social group dies out not because of economic reasons or due to destruction by enemies
but because the spiritual conditions of its existence are destroyed. For example, H. G. Wells wrote the following after visiting Petro grad in 1920: "The mortality rate among the intellectually distinguished men in Russia has been terribly high. Much, no doubt, has been due to general hardship of life, but in many cases I believe that the sheer mortification of great gifts become futile has been the determining cause. They could no more live in the Russia of 1919 than they could have lived in a Kaffir kraal." (1: p. 57) Another example of far greater scope involves the confrontation of primitive peoples with modern civilization. The majority of ethnographers now agree that the main cause of the dying out of these peoples was not physical destruction or exploitation by Europeans or contagious disease or alcohol but the destruction of their spiritual world, their religion and their rituals. For example, the prominent specialist in the culture of the Australian aborigines, A. Elkin, paints the following picture:
What then is this secret life of the aborigines? It is the life apart--a life of ritual and mythology, of sacred rites and objects. It is the life in which man really finds his place in society and in nature, and in which he is brought in touch with the invisible things of the world of the past, present and future. Every now and then we find the tribe, or groups from more than one tribe, going apart from the workaday world. A special camp is arranged where the women remain unless some of them are called upon to playa subsidiary part in a ceremony. Then the men go on a mile or so to a secret site or to sites where they spend hours, or maybe days and weeks and even months, singing and performing rites, and in some cases even eating or sleeping there. When they return later to the world of secular affairs they are refreshed in mind and spirit. They now face the vicissitudes of everyday life with a new courage and a strength gained from the common participation in the rites, with a fresh appreciation of their social and moral ideals and patterns of life, and an assurance that having performed the rites well and truly, all will be well with themselves and with that part of nature with which their lives are so intimately linked. (149: pp. 162-163)
...The missionary or civilizing agent may be successful in putting an end to initiation and other secret rites, or in getting such a grip over the rising generation that the old men make the initiation a mere form and not an entry into the full secret life of the tribe. But this implies a breakdown of tribal authority and a loss of the knowledge of, let alone the respect for, those ideals, sentiments and sanctions which are essential , to tribal cohesion; and in Australia, such a condition is the accompaniment, and a cause of tribal extinction. (149: p. 161)
And G. Childe writes: "An ideology, however remote from obvious biological needs, is found in practice to be biologically useful, that is, favorable to the species' survival. Without such spiritual equipment, not only do societies tend to disintegrate, but the individuals composing them may just stop bothering to keep alive. The 'destruction of religion' among primitive peoples is always cited by experts as a major cause in their extinction in contact with white civilization. ...Evidently societies of men cannot live by bread alone." (150: p. 8)
An example which partly refers to the same sort of phenomenon and, at the same time, brings us back to the main theme of our investigation is the fall in the birthrate among the Guarani Indians in the Jesuit state. The Jesuits were compelled to resort to various means of pressure on the Indians in the hope of increasing the population. One can assume that the Draconian laws against abortion in the Inca state were also connected with a falling birthrate. Finally, should we not view in the same way the fact that the Russians, who were the most rapidly growing nation in Europe at the beginning of the century, now barely maintain their number?
We began with an example in which one can demonstrate experimentally the consequences of implementing only one principle in the socialist ideal, namely, the abolition of the family. Other examples illustrate the impact on society of the partial demolition of its spiritual structure (culture, religion, mythology). What, then, can be said of the possible situation where the socialist ideal would be embodied worldwide (since it evidently can reach its full potential only when it has overrun the entire world)? It is hardly possible to doubt that the same tendencies would then find their complete expression in the extinction of all of mankind.
This conclusion may be made more specific in two complementary ways. On the one hand, we may view our hypothetical case as a limit situation in the mathematical sense, as something that might never occur in reality. Just as in mathematics the concept of infinity clarifies the properties of constantly increasing sequences of numbers, so, too, this ultimate limit of historical development reveals the basic tendency of socialism: it is hostile toward human personality not only as a category, but ultimately to its very existence.
Or else we can assume that the complete victory of socialism is attainable. There is certainly nothing that suggests the existence of any kind of limit beyond which socialist principles cannot be applied. It would seem that everything depends only upon the depth of the
crisis with which mankind may be faced. In this case, one could regard the death of mankind as the final result to which the development of socialism leads. Here we touch on the most profound of all the many questions socialism evokes: How could a doctrine leading to such an end come into being and sway such tremendous masses of people over thousands of years? The answer to this question, to a large extent, depends on the view one takes of the interrelation of socialist ideology and the end point that we have postulated above. Are they quite independent of each other in the way that the improvement of living conditions and the resulting population crisis are, for instance? (However cruel and disastrous the effects of a demographic explosion might be, the factors that allow it to happen are the consequence of other, directly opposite motives.) Or perhaps there are essential features in socialist ideology that link it directly with what we have deduced to be the practical result of its rigorous implementation--the death of mankind? Several arguments incline us toward the second point of view.
To begin with, most socialist doctrines and movements are literally saturated with the mood of death, catastrophe and destruction. For the majority of them, it is this very mood that has constituted their basic inner motivation. The teaching of the Taborites is typical here: In the new age that was beginning, they asserted, Christ's law of charity would be abolished and each of the faithful must wash his hands in the blood of the godless. This is clearly expressed in a document that originated in Czech Picard circles but was known as far away as northern France. The text ends with the following exhortation:
Let each gird himself with the sword and let brother not spare brother; father, son; son, father; neighbor, neighbor. Kill all one after the other so that German heretics should flee in mobs, and we destroy in this world the gain and the greediness of the clergy. So we fulfill God's seventh Commandment, for according to the Apostle Paul, greed is idolatry, and idols and idolators should be killed, so we can wash our hands in their accursed blood, as Moses taught through example and in his writing, for what is written there is written for our edification. (16: p. 140)The same motifs are dominant in the Anabaptist revolution--in Müntzer's teaching and in Münster. In later years, they accompany the new upsurge in the activity of socialist movements and are manifest with equal clarity in the socialist-nihilist movement in the twentieth century. Thus Bakunin writes, in a proclamation entitled "The Principles of Revolution":
Therefore, in accordance with strict necessity and justice we must devote ourselves wholly and completely to unrestrained and relentless destruction, which must grow in a crescendo until there is nothing left of the existing social forms. ...We say: the most complete destruction is incompatible with creation, therefore destruction must be absolute and exclusive. The present generation must begin with real revolutions. It must begin with a complete change of all social living conditions; this means that the present generation must blindly raze everything to the ground with only one thought: As fast and as much as possible. ...(95: p. 361)It is striking that the mystique of destruction is here the only motivation; rapture in it is offered as the only reward, but one which must outweigh every sacrifice. And this is entirely consistent with a definition Bakunin and Nechayev constantly repeated: "A revolutionary is a doomed man." (151: p. 468) Death among universal destruction--this was subjectively the ultimate goal with which they lured their adherents. Higher feelings could not have fostered this activity, for they were utterly denied.
Though we do not recognize any other activity besides the task of destruction, we hold to the opinion that the form in which this activity manifests itself may be quite varied: poison, dagger, noose, and so forth. The revolution blesses everything in equal measure in this struggle. (95: 363)
"All tender and gentle feelings of kinship, friendship, love, gratitude and even honor itself should be choked off in the revolutionary's breast by the single cold passion of his revolutionary task. He is not a revolutionary if he has pity for anything in the world. He knows only one science--the science of destruction. He lives in the world with a single aim--its total and swift destruction." (151: pp. 468-470)
Even dreams of the bright future for the sake of which all the destruction was to occur could not serve as a stimulus and were forbidden outright.
"Since our generation has itself been under the influence of the abominable conditions which it is now destroying, creation must not be its task but the task of those pure forces that will come into being in the days of renewal. The loathsomeness of modern civilization, in which we have grown up, has deprived us of the capability of building the paradise-like structures of the future life, of which we can have but the vaguest idea, and our thoughts are taken with diametrically opposite, unpleasant matters. For people who are ready to start the practical task of revolution, we consider it criminal to have these thoughts of the dim future, as they hinder the cause of destruction
and delay the beginning of revolution. ...For the practical task at hand, it is a pointless spiritual corruption." (95: p. 361) It is often said that certain features so vividly expressed in nihilism--the goal of complete destruction, neglect of all moral principles, conspiracy, terror--are peculiar to this movement specifically, and that it is precisely these features that distinguish nihilism from its antipode, Marxist socialism. Sometimes this view is supplemented by the opinion that Bolshevism is a typically Russian phenomenon, the heritage of Nechayev and Bakunin and a perversion of Marxism. This view was expressed, for example, by Kautsky in his books (103 and 135) published in 1919 and 1921. (Kautsky notes that similar ideas had been expressed by Rosa Luxemburg as far back as 1904.) But what to do about the striking coincidence of Bolshevik ideology and practice with numerous statements by Marx and Engels? An attempt is usually made to explain these coincidences away by asserting that the particular statements of Marx and Engels are not characteristic and are at odds with their essential message. (Opinions, however, diverge about which part of their writing should be considered central. Kautsky believes that the later corpus of their writings, the works that appeared after the revolution of 1848, constitute the central core of Marxism, which was distorted by Bolshevism, while modern socialists--Fromm, Sartre--see the earlier works this way. Indeed, Sartre even speaks about those works by Marx that preceded his "ill-fated meeting with Engels.")
The facts hardly support such a view. Nihilism of the Bakunin type and Marxism developed from the same source. The differences between them (which explain, incidentally, why Bakunin has far less influence than Marx and Engels on history) lie not in the fact that Marxism renounced elements of nihilism but that it added to them some new and very significant elements. Marxism is based on the same psychological foundation as nihilism--a burning hatred for surrounding life that can be vented only through complete annihilation of that life. But Marxism finds a means of transferring this purely subjective perception of the world onto another, more objective plane. As with art, where passion is kept in check and transformed into creative works, Marxism accomplished a transformation of the elemental, destructive emotions that ruled Bakunin and Nechayev into a structure that seemed incomparably more objective and hence convincing--the concept of man's subordination to "immanent laws" or "the dialectics of production."
But the perception of the world on which the Marxist structure is founded is identical to that in Nechayev and Bakunin. This is particularly clear in the works of Marx and Engels written for a narrow circle of collaborators and, in particular, in their correspondence. (3: XXI-XXIV. It would seem that the full texts of these letters have been published only in Russian translation.) We encounter here the same feeling of disgust and seething hatred for the world, beginning with the writers' parents: "MyoId man will have to pay plenty for this, and in cash." (Engels to Marx, February 26, 1851) "Your old man is a pig." (Marx to Engels, November 1848) "Nothing to be done with myoId woman until I myself sit on her neck." (Marx to Engels, September 13, 1854) The same feelings are vented on close friends: "The dog has a monstrous memory for all such muck." (About Heine, Marx to Engels, January 17, 1853.) The same holds for party comrades: Liebknecht is usually called an ass, a brute, a beast, and so on, even "it." (E.g., in a letter from Marx to Engels, August 10, 1869.) Their own party gets the same treatment: "What significance does a 'party' have, i.e., a gang of asses, blindly believing in us because they consider us equal to themselves. ...In truth we would lose nothing if we were to be considered no longer 'a real and adequate' expression of these mediocre dogs with whom we have spent the last years." (Engels to Marx, February 13, 1851) The proletariat is not excluded:". ..stupid nonsense regarding his being compelled to defend me from that great hatred the workers (i.e., fools) feel for me." (Marx to Engels, May 18, 1859) Neither is democracy: ". ..a pack of new democratic bastards." (Marx to Engels, February 10, 1851)". ..democratic dogs and liberal scoundrels." (Marx to Engels, February 25, 1859) The people are sneered at: "Well, as for loving us, the democratic, the red, even the Communist mob never will." (Engels to Marx, May 9, 1851) And even the human race evokes disgust: "Not a single living soul visits me, and I am glad of that, for humanity here can go ...The pigs! With regards. Yours, K. M." (To Engels, June 18, 1862)
The tactical devices that derived from this perception of life are very similar to those used by Nechayev of Bakunin. Kautsky, who accuses Bakunin of leading a party to which he had appointed himself head, might have recalled Marx's letter to Engels (May 18, 1859): "I declared to them point-blank: we have received our mandate as the representatives of the proletarian party from no one but ourselves. And it is confirmed as ours by the exceptional and universal hatred which all segments of the old world and all the parties harbor for
us. You can imagine how these fools were taken aback." In criticizing Bakunin's penchant for conspiracy, Kautsky should have kept in mind a letter from Engels to Marx (September 16, 1868): "The method of engaging in trifles at public meetings and doing real business on the quiet justified itself brilliantly." And in claiming that the idea of terror and violence was an error of the young Marx and Engels, it would have been well to explain why Engels writes in Anti-Dühring: "It is only with sighs and groans that he [Dühring] admits the possibility that force will perhaps be necessary for the overthrow of the economic system of exploitation--unfortunately, don't you see, because any use of force demoralizes the person who uses it. And this in spite of the immense moral and spiritual impetus which has resulted from every victorious revolution!" (98: p. 185) And how is it that in the preface to History of the Peasant War in Germany, Engels advises contemporary Germans to follow the example of the "healthy vandalism" of the Peasant War? How can we explain his words in a letter to Bebel: "If, thanks to war, we should come to power prematurely, the technicians will become our special enemies, and will deceive and betray us wherever they can. We will have to resort to terror.. .." (3: XXVIII: p.365) And at the same time it is impossible to deny that these ideas came into being at the very beginning of the activity of Marx and Engels. "This is at least the best thing that remains for us to do, while we are compelled to use the pen and cannot bring our ideas into life with the help of our hands or, if necessary, with our fists." (Engels to Marx, November 19, 1844) Kautsky undoubtedly knew all these passages and others like them, since he took part in the editing of the German edition of the Marx-Engels correspondence, from which most expressions of this type were eliminated by the editors. It is clear from his books what it was that evoked such dislike for Bolshevism and the desire to prove, at any cost, that it distorts Marxism: the astonishing contagiousness of Bolshevik ideas and their rapid diffusion in the Western socialist parties raised the old fears of "Russian dominance" in the International. (This misgiving was first voiced by Engels about Bakunin.)
The other link connecting socialist ideology with the idea of humanity's demise is the notion of mankind's inevitable death that is present in many socialist doctrines. We have seen, for instance, that the Cathars, whose teaching contained ideas of a socialist character, believed that after the fallen angels are freed from material captivity, the remaining
people will die, and the entire material world will be plunged into primeval chaos. As a second example, we take the views of the future of mankind held by three prominent ideologues of socialism: Saint-Simon, Fourier and Engels. In Saint-Simon's On Universal Gravitation there is a section on "The Future of the Human Race." Here, in detail and with great feeling, he describes the death of mankind--presented in reverse chronological order for effect, something like a film shown backward.
Our planet has a tendency to desiccation. ...On the basis of these observations, geologists arrive at the inevitable conclusion that a time will come when our planet will have dried up completely. It is clear that it will then become uninhabitable and, consequently, from a certain point onward the human race will gradually begin to dwindle. ...Section Two: At the beginning of this section we shall describe the sensations of the last man, as he dies after having drunk the last drop of water on earth. We shall show that the sensation of death will be far more burdensome for him than for us because his own death will coincide with the death of the entire human race. Then, from the description of the moral state of the last man, we shall proceed backward to the investigation of the moral state of the remnants of mankind, until that point when it shall see the beginning of its destruction and become convinced that it is inevitable, a conviction that will paralyze all moral energy. ..the desires of these people will be the same as those of animals. (153: pp. 275-276)It is curious that Saint-Simon begins his work with this depiction, apparently supposing thereby to create a background against which the meaning and spirit of his system will be clearer.
Engels not only depicts the death of every living thing, but regards death as the other side of life, or its goal. "It is already accepted that the kind of physiology which does not consider death an essential moment of life cannot be regarded as a science; this is the kind of physiology that does not understand that the denial of life is innate to life itself, so that life is always seen in relation to the inevitable result that is inevitably part of it from the beginning--death. This is the essence of the dialectical perception of life." (3: XIV: p. 399) And more succinctly: "To live means to die."
Engels' picture of the end is one of the most vivid pages of his writing:
Everything that arises is worthy of death. Millions of years will pass, hundreds of thousands of generations will be born and go down into the grave, but inexorably the time will come when the weakening warmth
of the sun will not be able to melt the ice advancing from the poles; when mankind, crowded together at the equator, will cease to find the necessary warmth even there and the earth--a frozen dead sphere like the moon--will circle in profound darkness around a sun which is also dead and into which it will finally fall. The other planets will experience the same fate, some sooner, the others later than the earth, and instead of an orderly, bright and warm solar system there will remain a cold dead ball continuing on its lonely way in the universe. And the fate that will have befallen our solar system will sooner or later befall all other systems, even those whose light will never reach the earth while there is on it a human eye capable of perceiving it." (3: XIV: pp. 488-489)Fourier, who in other cases seemed to show such a sincere attachment to life and its pleasures, also gave this idea its due. His "Table of Social Motion," encompassing the entire past and future of the earth, concludes thus: "The end of the animal and vegetable kingdom, after approximately 80,000 years. (The spiritual death of the earth, the stopping of rotation on its axis, the violent translocation of the poles to the equators, fixation on the sun, natural death, fall and disintegration in the Milky Way.)"
Although Engels foresaw the end of life on earth from material causes that differ greatly from those suggested by Fourier, the basic idea evoked his obvious approval: "Fourier, as we see, is just as masterful at dialectics as his contemporary Hegel. In the same dialectical fashion he asserts, in contrast to statements about man's capacity for unlimited perfection, that each historical phase has not only its ascending line but also its descending one, and he applies this method of perception to the future of mankind as a whole. Just as Kant introduced into natural science the idea of the future death of the earth, Fourier introduced into the perception of history the concept of the future death of mankind." (98: p. 264)
We note how different this notion of the death of mankind is from the conception of the "end of the world" in a number of religions, including Christianity. The religious idea of the end of the world presupposes, in essence, its translation, after human history has achieved its goal, into some other state. Socialist ideology puts forward the idea of the complete destruction of mankind, proceeding from an external cause and depriving history of any meaning.
A new synthesis of socialist ideology with the ideas of death and destruction appears in Marcuse's works, which have greatly influenced the contemporary leftist movements. Here, too, Marcuse follows Freud.
In the Freudian view (first expressed in the article "Beyond the Pleasure Principle"), the human psyche can be reduced to a manifestation of two main instincts: the life instinct or Eros and the death instinct or Thanatos (or the Nirvana principle). Both are general biological categories, fundamental properties of living things in general. The death instinct is a manifestation of general "inertia" or a tendency of organic life to return to a more elementary state from which it had been aroused by an external disturbing force. The role of the life instinct is essentially to prevent a living organism from returning to the inorganic state by any path other than that which is immanent in it. Marcuse introduces a greater social factor into this scheme, asserting that the death instinct expresses itself in the desire to be liberated from tension, as an attempt to rid oneself of the suffering and discontent which are specifically engendered by social factors. In the Utopia proposed by him, these goals can be realized, Marcuse believes. He describes this new state in an extremely general way, making use of mythological analogies. Against Prometheus, the hero of repressive culture, he sets Narcissus and Orpheus--bearers of the principles upon which his Utopia is built. They symbolize "the redemption of pleasure, the halt of time, the absorption of death; silence, sleep, night, paradise--the Nirvana principle not as death but as life." (119: p. 164) "The Orphic-Narcissistic images do explode it [reality]; they do not convey a 'mode of living'; they are committed to the underworld and to death." (119: p. 165) About Narcissus he says: "If his erotic attitude is akin to death and brings death, then rest and sleep and death are not painfully separated and distinguished: the Nirvana principle rules throughout all these stages." (119: p. 167)
The less the difference between life and death is, the weaker will be the destructive manifestations of the death principle: "The death instinct operates under the Nirvana principle: it tends toward that state of 'constant gratification' where no tension is felt--a state without want. This trend of the instinct implies that its destructive manifestations would be minimized as it approached such a state." (119: p. 234) "In terms of the [death] instinct, the conflict between life and death is the more reduced, the closer life approximates the state of gratification." (119: p. 235)
This view has a more concrete interpretation: "Philosophy that does not work as the handmaiden of repression responds to the fact of death with the Great Refusal--the refusal of Orpheus the liberator.
Death can become a token of freedom. The necessity of death does not refute the possibility of final liberation. Like the other necessities, it can be made rational--painless. Men can die without anxiety if they know that what they love is protected from misery and oblivion. After a fulfilled life, they may take it upon themselves to die--at a moment of their own choosing." (119: pp. 236-237) There is, finally, the case where the notion of the death of mankind combines with socialist ideology in such a way as to affect directly the fate of the individual members of socialist movements. In the Catharist movement, for example, obvious socialist tendencies were joined to the practice of ritual suicide. Runciman (11) believes that their ideal was the suicide of all mankind--either directly or by nonreproduction. We may place Abbe Meslier's suicide in the same category: so intimately was suicide linked to his general view of the world that he concludes his book (Testament) on this note: "The dead, with whom I intend to travel the same road, are troubled by nothing; they care for nothing. And with this nothing I shall finish here. I, myself, am now no more than nothing, and soon shall be in the full sense of the word nothing."
This frame of mind was particularly apparent in the Russian revolutionary movement. In the article "On Intellectual Youth" included in the collection Landmarks [Vekhi, 1909], A. S. Izgoev wrote: "No matter what the convictions held by the different groups of Russian intellectual youth were, in the final analysis, if we go deeper into their psychology, we see that they are inspired by one and the same ideal. ...This is an ideal of deeply personal, intimate character, and it finds expression in the striving for death, in the desire to prove to oneself and to others the lack of fear of death and a readiness to accept it at any moment. This is, in essence, the only logical and moral substantiation of one's convictions that is accepted by the purest representatives of our revolutionary youth." (154: p. 116) Izgoev points out that the degree of "leftness" among political groups--Mensheviks, Bolsheviks, Social Revolutionaries, Anarchists and Maximalists--as this was evaluated by the intelligentsia, was not based on the political program of the given party. "It is clear that the criterion of 'leftness' lies elsewhere. 'Further left' is he who is closer to death, whose work is more 'dangerous'--not for the social system against which he is struggling, but for the activist himself, the individual in question." (154: p. 117) ,
He quotes a Maximalist pamphlet: " 'We repeat to the peasant and to the worker: when you go to fight and to die in the struggle, go
and fight and die, but for your own rights, your own needs.' In this 'go and die' is the center of gravity of everything. ...But this is nothing but suicide, and it is undeniable that for many years the Russian intelligentsia was an example of a peculiar monastic order of people who had doomed themselves to death, and the sooner the better." (154: pp. 117-118) Indeed, the recollections of the terrorists of the day convey a strange sense of ecstasy persistently interfused with thoughts of death. Here are, for example, some excerpts from the recollections of Boris Savinkov (155), speaking about his collaborators in the attempt on Plehve's life: "Kaliaev loved the revolution as deeply and tenderly as only those who give up their lives for it can love. ...He came to terror by his own peculiar and original route and saw in it not only the best form of political struggle but also a moral and, perhaps, a religious sacrifice." Kaliaev used to say that "a Social Revolutionary without a bomb is not a Social Revolutionary." Another participant, Sazonov, felt "strength beneath Kaliaev's expansiveness, burning faith beneath his inspired words, and beneath his love of life, a readiness to sacrifice this life and, even more, a passionate longing for such a sacrifice." And for Sazonov, too, "terrorist activity meant above all a personal sacrifice."
After the assassination, Sazonov wrote to his comrades from prison: "You gave me an opportunity to experience moral satisfaction incomparable to anything in the world. ...I had hardly come to after the operation when I sighed with relief. Finally, it's over. I was ready to sing and shout with delight." A third participant was Dora Brilliant. For her, just as for the others, "terror. ..was colored, first of all, with the sacrifice that the terrorist makes. ...Political questions did not interest her. Perhaps she had left all political activity with a certain degree of disenchantment; her days passed in silence, in silent and concentrated contemplation of the inner suffering with which she was filled. She seldom laughed, and even then, her eyes remained cold and sad. For her, terror personified the revolution; her whole world was enclosed within the militant organization." Savinkov recalls a conversation on the eve of the assassination attempt:
Dora Brilliant arrived. She was silent for a long while, staring in front of her with her black, sad eyes. "Veniamin!" [Boris Savinkov's pseudonym]
"I wanted to say. .." She stopped, as if hesitating to finish the sentence.
"I wanted ... I wanted to ask again that I be given the bomb."A multitude of similar examples leads us to suppose that the dying and, ultimately, the complete extinction of mankind is not a chance external consequence of the embodiment of the socialist ideal but that this impulse is a fundamental and organic part of socialist ideology. To a greater or lesser degree it is consciously perceived as such by its partisans and even serves them as inspiration.
"You? The bomb?"
"I want to take part in the attempt, too."
"No, don't say anything ... I also want to ... I must die. ..."*
The death of mankind is not only a conceivable result of the triumph of socialism--it constitutes the goal of socialism.
One reader of my earlier essay on socialism (156) drew my attention to the fact that this thought had already been expressed in Dostoyevsky's "Legend of the Grand Inquisitor." It is true that Dostoyevsky's argument was directed at Catholicism, but he considered socialism to be a development of the Catholicism that had distorted Christ's teachings. (This view is elaborated in his articles that appeared in The Diary of a Writer.) Indeed, the picture of life presented as an ideal by the Grand Inquisitor closely resembles Plato or Campanella. "Oh, we shall persuade them that they will only become free when they renounce their freedom to us, and submit to us. ...Yes, we shall set them to work, but in their leisure hours we shall make their life like a child's game, with children's songs and innocent dance. ... And they will have no secrets from us. We shall allow or forbid them to live with their wives and mistresses, to have or not to have children, according to whether they have been obedient or disobedient, and they will submit to us gladly and cheerfully." And the Grand Inquisitor understands the ultimate goal for whose sake this life will be built:
"He sees that he must follow the counsel of the wise spirit, the dread spirit of death and destruction, and therefore accept lying and deception, and lead men consciously to death and destruction, and yet deceive them all the way so that they may not notice where they are being led." (157: pp. 325-327)**
* "I know that he was obsessed with the idea of death," says Sartre about the well-known leftist Nizan. "He had been in the U.S.S.R. and had spoken about it with his Soviet comrades, and he told me about this on his return. 'A revolution that does not make us obsessed with death is no revolution.' An interesting thought." (143: p. 81) ** In his letters, Dostoyevsky says that in "The Legend of the Grand Inquisitor" he wanted to show a "synthesis" of the fundamental ideas of contemporary socialism.
This paradoxical phenomenon may be understood only if we allow that the idea of the death of humanity can be attractive to man and that the impulse to self-destruction (even if it is only one of many tendencies) plays a role in human history. And there is in fact much evidence to support this hypothesis, particularly among phenomena that play an essential role in the spiritual life of mankind. Quite independently of socialism, each of these leads to the same conclusion. We can cite several examples.
We have in mind phenomena that relate to a vast and ancient religious and philosophical current: pessimism or nihilism. In the many variants of these doctrines, either the death of mankind and universal destruction are regarded as the desirable goal of the historical process, or else Nothingness is pronounced the essence of the world; the goal is then to understand that all reality is but a reflection of this essence. Vladimir Soloviev, who devoted an article to the notion of pessimism, singles out what he calls absolute pessimism, which corresponds to the tendency that interests us. (109: X: pp. 254-258) Its first complete expression is contained in Buddhism. Soloviev characterizes Buddhism as a doctrine of "the four noble truths: (1) Existence is suffering; (2) the cause of suffering is senseless desire which has neither basis nor aims; (3) deliverance from this suffering is possible through destruction of all desire, and (4) the path to deliverance leads through the understanding of the ties between phenomena and observation of the perfect moral commandments given by the Buddha; the goal of this path is Nirvana, the complete 'extinction' of existence." (109: X: p. 254)
Is Nirvana (literally, "extinction" as in the blowing out of a flame) actually a way to "Nothingness"? Buddha's views on this question have been interpreted differently. Max Müller, for example, thought that for Buddha himself Nirvana was the fulfillment and not the elimination of existence, assuming that a religion that offered Nothingness as an ultimate goal could never have existed. H. Oldenberg devotes a section in his book (158) to this question. He cites a number of episodes which characterize Buddha's attitude to the question whether the 'T' exists and what the nature of Nirvana is. The import of these episodes is the same: Buddha refuses to answer such questions and by his authority forbids his disciples to consider them. But what is the meaning concealed here? The author believes that "if the Buddha avoids denying the existence of the 'I,' he does so only in order not to perplex the listeners who lack insight. In this denial of the question concerning the existence or nonexistence of the 'I,' an answer emerges in any case, something to which all the premises of the Buddha's teaching inevitably lead: the 'I' does not in truth exist. Or, what is one and the same thing: Nirvana is simply annihilation. ...But it is clear that the thinkers who grasped and mastered this view did not want to promote it to the status of an official doctrine of the Buddhist community. ...The official doctrine stopped short of questions on whether the 'I' exists, whether the perfect saint lives on or does not live on after death. The Great Buddha is said to have given no precept." (158: p. 227)
The fact that the Buddha left unanswered the questions of the existence of the 'I' and the nature of Nirvana naturally led to different interpretations of these problems within Buddhism. The two main Buddhist sects--Hīnayāna and Mahayana Buddhism--give opposite answers to the question of Nirvana. In Hīnayāna Buddhism, Nirvana is considered to be the cessation of the activity of consciousness. A contemporary Indian author characterizes the Hīnayāna teaching as follows: "In the Hīnayāna, Nirvana became interpreted negatively as the extinction of all being.. ..This view is an expression of weariness and disgust with the endless strife of becoming, and of the relief found in mere ceasing of effort. It is not a healthy-minded doctrine. A sort of world hatred is its inspiring motive." (159: pp. 590, 589) In Mahāyāna Buddhism, Nirvana is understood as a merging with the infinite, with the Great Soul of the universe, but it is not identified with the annihilation of existence.
However, it was to the Mahāyāna trend that Nāgārjuna belonged (he lived at a time around the beginning of the Christian era). His followers, the Mādhyamikas, are sometimes called nihilists.
Nāgārjuna proceeds on the assumption that that which is not understandable is not real. He then proves that the following are neither understandable nor explicable: motion and rest, time, causality, the notion of the part and the whole, the soul, the "I," Buddha, God and the universe. "There is no God apart from the universe, and there is no universe apart from God, and they both are equally appearances." (159: p. 655) "There is no death, no birth, no distinction, no persistence, no oneness, no manyness, no coming in, no going forth." (159: p. 655) "All things have the character of emptiness, they have no beginning, no end, they are faultless and not faultless, they are not imperfect and not perfect, therefore, O Sariputta, here in this emptiness there is no form, no perception, no name, no concept, no knowledge." (159: p. 656)
In China, the philosophy of Lao-tse (sixth century B.C.) may be seen as a part of the nihilist current. This is the teaching of the Tao, or "The Way." We find here a call for renunciation and quiescence that verges on the cessation of all activity:*
One who is aware does not talk.
One who talks is not aware.
Ceasing verbal expressions,
Stopping the entry of sensations,
Dulling its sharpness,
Releasing its entanglements,
Tempering its brightness,
And unifying with the earth:
This is called the identity of Tao.
Hence, no nearness can reach him nor
distance affect him.
No gain can touch him nor loss disturb him.
No esteem can move him nor shame distress him.
Thus, he is the most valuable man in the world. ...
Much learning means little wisdom.
...once the Way is lost,
There comes then Virtue;
Virtue lost, comes then compassion;
After that morality;
* The texts are given in the translation of Chang Chung-yuan (Tao: A New Way of Thinking, N.Y., 1977) and Raymond B. Blakney (Lao Tzu, The Way of Life, N.Y., 1955).
And when that's lost, there's etiquette,"Absolute pessimism" is expressed in a different way in ancient Scandinavian mythology in the collection of songs known as the Elder Edda. (160) In this tradition (and especially in the "Prophecy of the Vala," the so-called "Voluspo"), we see a picture of a world ruled by gods personifying the forces of order and life and elemental destructive forces, embodied in the wolf Fenrir, son of Loki, held in check by a magic net. But at the appointed hour, the Wolf breaks loose and devours the sun; the world Serpent rises from the bottom of the ocean and gains victory over Thor. A ship built from the fingernails of the dead sails the sea, bringing giants who come to fight the gods. All people perish, heaven is cleft, the earth sinks into the sea, and the stars fall. (The concluding stanzas of the "Voluspo" describe the birth of a new world, but differ so sharply from the rest of the text that one tends to agree with the scholars who see this as a later interpolation, possibly reflecting the influence of Christianity.)
The husk of all good faith,
The rising point of anarchy. ...
Let the people be free from discernment and
Then they will be many times better off.
Stop the teaching of benevolence and get rid of the
claim of justice,
Then the people will love each other once more.
Cease the teaching of cleverness and give up profit,
Then there will be no more stealing and fraud. ...
The Wise Man's policy, accordingly,
Will be to empty people's hearts and minds,
To fill their bellies, weaken their ambition,
Give them sturdy frames and always so,
To keep them uninformed, without desire,
And knowing ones not venturing to act. ...
Ten thousand things in the universe are created from
Being is created from nonbeing. ...
In Tao the only motion is returning;
The only useful quality, weakness. ...
The Way is a void.
Returning to Soloviev's article on pessimism, we find Schopenhauer and Hartmann presented as the major European representatives of
this tendency. Schopenhauer considers the World Will to be that essence which cannot be reduced to anything else. But, at the same time, all will is desire--unsatisfied desire, since it has stimulated the manifestation of will; hence will is suffering. "The will now turns away from life.. ..Man attains to the state of voluntary renunciation, resignation, true composure and complete will-lessness. ...His will turns about; it no longer affirms its own inner nature, mirrored in the phenomenon, but denies it." (The World as Will and Representation, I: section 68) The aim of this process is Nothingness, achieved through the voluntary renunciation of will.
"No will: no representation, no world.
"Before us there is certainly left only nothing; but that which struggles against this flowing away into nothing, namely our nature, is indeed just the will-to-live which we ourselves are, just as it is our world. That we abhor nothingness so much is simply another way of saying that we will life so much, and that we are nothing but this will and know nothing but it alone.. ..That which remains after the complete abolition of the will is, for all who are still full of the will, assuredly nothing. But also conversely, to those in whom the will has turned and denied itself, this very real world of ours with all its suns and galaxies, is--nothing." (op. cit., section 71)
To this system Hartmann adds the idea that the world process began through an initial irrational act of will and consists of the gradual preparation for the elimination of real existence. The aim is to return to nonexistence, implemented by the collective suicide of mankind and the destruction of the world, both of which are made possible by the development of technology.
The notion of Nothingness, which entered philosophy from theology through Hegel's system, plays an increasingly important role in the nineteenth century, until in the twentieth it becomes one of the dominant conceptions. For example, Max Stirner ends his famous book The Ego and His Own with the words: "I am the owner of my might and I am so when I know myself as unique. In the unique one the owner himself returns into his creative nothing, of which he is born. Every higher essence above me, be it God, be it man, weakens the feeling of my uniqueness, and pales only before the sun of this consciousness. If I found my affair on myself, the unique one, then my concern rests on its transitory, mortal creator, who consumes himself, and I may say:
I have founded my affair on nothing." (161: p. 246)
But it was within the framework of modern existentialism, especially in the works of Heidegger and Sartre, that Nothingness found its most important expression. Heidegger believes that man's individuality perishes in the leveling and the impulse toward mediocrity that is produced in society (something that is conveyed by the untranslatable German locution "man"). The only true individuality is death, which is always the death of a particular man and in which nothing links him to others. Therefore, a man can gain genuine existence only on the verge of death, only in what he calls "being-un to-death." (162: p. 144 f.) The being of every individuality is, from this point of view, merely Noch-nicht [not yet], a sort of period when death has not yet ripened. (162: p. 244) This concerns existence in general also: existence is Nothingness and Nothingness is--existence itself. (163: p. 104) Nothingness is the limit of existence determining its meaning. For Heidegger Nothingness is evidently an active force, for it functions--Das Nicht nochtet. It determines history's meaning, which is revealed in the attempts to overcome the senselessness of existence and to break through into Nothingness.
Nothingness is also the central category in Sartre's principal philosophic work, Being and Nothingness.
It is nothingness that connects consciousness and being. It is a fundamental property of consciousness; "Nothingness is putting into question of being by being--that is, precisely consciousness." (164: p. 121) Consciousness penetrates into the core of being as a worm into an apple and hollows it out. As it is only man who consciously strives for destruction, he is the bearer of Nothingness. "Man is the being through whom Nothingness comes to the world." (164: p. 60) Nothingness is so closely linked to man that, according to Sartre, human being-in-itself is also one of the manifestations of Nothingness. "The being by which Nothingness comes to the world must be its own Nothingness." (164: p. 59)
It is interesting to note that of these two best-known representatives of contemporary nihilism, Sartre adheres to Marxism, and Heidegger (until the end of World War II) inclined toward National Socialism. Heidegger, moreover, also views Communism (i.e., socialism of the Marxist brand) as a sort of incomplete nihilism. (165: pp. 145-395)
It seems to be no accident that the growth of influence of nihilistic philosophy coincided in Europe and in the U.S.A. with an extraordinary interest in Buddhism, particularly Zen Buddhism, which is a product
of the interaction between the conceptions of Buddhism and Taoism. Zen typically stresses the illusory nature of life's problems, and their absurdity. For example, Gustav Mahler's "Kindertotenlieder" presents an image of a senseless all-consuming death, a black hole into which life collapses. Conscious of his approaching death, Mahler composed his "Das Lied von der Erde." This work begins with a poem of Li Po (a Chinese poet close to Zen) set to music, which is constantly interrupted by a refrain: "Life is darkness and death is darkness." But the spectacular spread of Zen occurred after World War II, especially in the U.S.A. It was propagated by such well-known modern writers as J. D. Salinger. The hero of a series of his stories dispenses Zen wisdom to those around him--and commits suicide, not as an act of despair, but for the sake of the overcoming of the seeming difference between life and death. Zen was also the favorite philosophy of the American beatniks, who frequently compared themselves to wandering monks. Freud's world view is also pessimistic. He discerns a vicious circle in which society and human culture are locked: cultural activity is possible only at the expense of the suppression of sexuality, but this increases the role of aggressive and destructive forces in the psyche, and to keep them in check, still greater pressures on the part of social forces is needed. In this way, culture and society are not only organically tied to misfortune; they are also doomed to destruction. This is in conformity with Freud's view on the role of the "death instinct," a view that leaves to life only the choice of the "right path toward death." Freud's method, especially in establishing his basic concepts, is far from scientific. In general, Freud cannot be verified with concrete facts, so he must be accepted or rejected on the basis of one's inner feeling. In our day, when science is losing its role as an absolute authority, this characteristic of Freud's theories may not be regarded as a defect. In connection with Freud's anthropological and historical ideas, Marcuse writes: "The difficulties in scientific verification and even in logical consistency are obvious and perhaps insurmountable." (119: p. 59) "We use Freud's anthropological speculation only in this sense: for its symbolic value." (119: p. 60)
In just this way, we may regard Freud's conceptions not as indisputable scientific truth but as evidence of a certain perception of the world (the scope of whose influence may be judged by the success Freudianism has enjoyed).
Finally, the same tendency may be seen in theories according to which man (or animal) is regarded as a machine. All the aspects of life in man (or in animals) can be reduced in this way to the action of several simple forces. Thus Descartes expressed the opinion that an animal is an automaton incapable of thinking. The same idea was developed by La Mettrie in his book L 'homme machine. He asserts that "the human body is a self-starting machine" and then extends this principle to the human psyche. Descartes's idea was later realized in Loeb's theory of tropisms, according to which the actions of organisms are determined by certain simple, physical factors (for example, the bending of a plant in the direction of the sun is explained by the fact that sunlight retards the growth on the side of the stem that it strikes). According to Dembowski, this theory regards the organism as "a puppet, whose every motion depends upon some outward factor pulling a corresponding string." (166: p. 55) Similar views became popular again in the second half of the twentieth century, in the wake of the invention of computers. Theories that hold that man (or animal) is a machine differ completely in their opinion as to what sort of machine is involved--mechanical, electric or electronic. And as all these explanations cannot be correct simultaneously, it is evident that the point of departure in each case is a similar a priori assumption, an impulse that derives from elsewhere, to prove that man is a machine.
The conclusions we have drawn as a result of our analysis of socialism are also confirmed, as we see, by a series of independent arguments. We may formulate these conclusions as follows:
a. The idea of the death of mankind--not the death of specific people but literally the end of the human race--evokes a response in the human psyche. It arouses and attracts people, albeit with differing intensity in different epochs and in different individuals. The scope of influence of this idea causes us to suppose that every individual is affected by it to a greater or lesser degree and that it is a universal trait of the human psyche.
b. This idea is not only manifested in the individual experience of a great number of specific persons, but is also capable of uniting people (in contrast to delirium, for example) i.e., it is a social force. The impulse toward self-destruction may be regarded as an element in the psyche of mankind as a whole.
c. Socialism is one of the aspects of this impulse of mankind toward
self-destruction and Nothingness, specifically its manifestation in the sphere of organizing society. The last words of Meslier's Testament (". ..with this nothing I shall end here") express the "final mystery" of socialism, to use Feuerbach's favorite expression. We have arrived at this view of socialism in attempting to account for the contradictions evident in the phenomenon at first glance. And now, looking back, we feel confident that our approach indeed accounts for many of socialism's peculiarities. Understanding socialism as one of the manifestations of the allure of death explains its hostility toward individuality, its desire to destroy those forces which support and strengthen human personality: religion, culture, family, individual property. It is consistent with the tendency to reduce man to the level of a cog in the state mechanism, as well as with the attempt to prove that man exists only as a manifestation of nonindividual features, such as production or class interest. The view of man as an instrument of other forces, in turn, makes it possible to understand the astonishing psychology of the leaders of the socialist movements: on the one hand, the readiness and even the striving to erase one's own personality, to submit it completely to the aims of the movement (so obvious in the statements of Piatakov and Trotsky cited earlier) and, on the other hand, the complete collapse of will, the renunciation of one's convictions in case of defeat (Müntzer and Johann of Leyden, Bakunin in his "Confession," the behavior of Zinoviev, Bukharin and others at the trials, etc.). In fact, if the instrument is no longer needed, all meaning for its existence is lost, and in man's soul the source of courage and spiritual strength runs dry. (Bakunin, for example, both before and after his imprisonment is quite a different person from the utterly broken and self-abasing author of the "Confession." And Bukharin, in his emotional "Testament," says that he has no differences with Stalin and that he has had none for a long time. He thereby dismisses his entire activity and even deprives himself of the right to protest against his own execution, since that would involve a disagreement.) This point of view is consistent with the calls to universal destruction, with the attractiveness of destructive forces like wars and crises, with the allure of death and the idea of Nothingness.
The same set of facts that has led us to the point of view expressed above allows us to discern the mechanism of the force of which socialism is the incarnation and to learn through what channels it acts on the individual.
It would seem, first of all, that this is an example of activity that
is not guided by conscious intent. The proposition that a striving for self-destruction is the main impulse in socialism has been extracted from a multi-stage analysis of socialist ideology, and is not taken directly from the writings of socialist thinkers or the slogans of socialist movements. It seems that those in the grip of socialist ideology are as little governed by any conscious understanding of this goal as a singing nightingale is concerned with the future of its species. The ideology's impact is through the emotions, which render the ideology attractive to man and induce him to be ready for sacrifice on its behalf. Spiritual elation and inspiration are the kinds of emotions experienced by the participants in socialist movements. This accounts, too, for the behavior of the leaders of socialist movements in the thick of the fight, down through the ages--their seemingly inexhaustible reserves of energy as pamphleteers, agitators, and organizers. For the very reason that the basic driving force of socialist ideology is subconscious and emotional, reason and rational discussion of facts have always played only a subordinate role in it. The socialist doctrines are reconciled with contradictions with an ease reminiscent of "prelogical," primitive thinking, which functions outside any framework of consistency, as described by Lévy-Bruhl. They are equally unconcerned with the fact that socialist conclusions are radically at odds with experience. Most astonishing of all is that these contradictions do not diminish the impact of the doctrine in the least.
Marxism reflects all these traits to a remarkable degree. Well-known thinkers have pointed out numerous fundamental contradictions, each of which would have been sufficient to demonstrate the groundlessness of a theory that lays claim to being scientific. For example, Berdiaev demonstrated that the concept of dialectical materialism is contradictory, since it attributes to matter a logical category--dialectics. Stammler (167) showed that the idea of historical determinism postulated by Marxism contradicts its own appeal to influence history, since it is equivalent to taking a conscious decision to turn with the earth around the sun. (Sergius Bulgakov paraphrased this thought as follows: "Marxism predicts the onset of socialism just as astronomy predicts the beginning of a lunar eclipse, and to bring about the eclipse it organizes a party.") The very heart of Marxist doctrine--the labor theory of value--was demolished by the work of the Austrian school (in particular by Böhm-Bawerk) and has been abandoned by political economy. Yet even without this heart, Marxism proved to be capable of survival.
Just as extraordinary is the reaction of Marxist thinkers to the experimental evidence of history over the last century. Take, for example, the article by Professor Rappoport of the University of Michigan. (168: pp. 30-59) He cites a number of Marxist predictions which history has disproved and asks whether it is possible "to declare the theory refuted." Such a conclusion, he declares, appeals to people who view with suspicion any theory based on general philosophical concepts (people like Berdiaev, Bulgakov, Max Weber or Karl Jaspers). As for the concrete projections, Rappoport acknowledges that the prognosis of a total impoverishment of capitalist countries did not come true. But if one considers poverty on a worldwide scale, then one sees that the gap between the rich and the poor countries has increased. It is true that "the confirmation of the Marxist conception of history does not necessarily follow from this. But there arises a certain possibility of a new understanding of the vital concepts of Marxist theory appropriate to our time." After these arguments, which are beyond logic, it remains unclear whether or not Marxist theory is correct in the light of historical verification. The author evades this question and, without benefit of proof, accepts that in some ways it is "viable," as if it were possible to retain part of a structured world view and throwaway the rest.
Or consider Sartre, who declared, in the heyday of the Stalin epoch, that all information coming to the West about concentration camps in the Soviet Union should be ignored, even if true, as it might cause despair in the French proletariat (cited in The Great Terror by R. Conquest). Sartre now considers Soviet Marxism to be "repressive" and "bureaucratic," and of the French working class he says: "What is a proletariat if it is not revolutionary? And it is, indeed, not revolutionary." (143: p. 166) In what way were his judgments in the fifties incorrect? He does not inform us. No fundamentally new facts seem to have come to light in the interim. Therefore the change in his point of view cannot be attributed to a rational understanding of the situation, and his new infatuation with the "direct democracy" in China does not produce that impression either, for it leaves unanswered such elementary questions as why the details of this "direct democracy" should be so carefully concealed from foreigners? Why are foreign reporters forbidden even to read the wall posters?
All these characteristics prompt us to juxtapose the force displayed in socialism with instinct. Instinctive actions also have an emotional
coloring, their fulfillment evokes a feeling of satisfaction, and the impossibility of fulfilling them (the absence of signals "switching on" an action) causes anxiety, the so-called appetitive behavior. Ethologists speak of the "state of enthusiasm" to describe a common instinctive action in man which is connected with the defense of what one considers most precious. Furthermore, instincts combine badly with understanding and are even incompatible with it: if an animal can achieve a goal by virtue of its understanding, it will never attempt to achieve the same goal by instinct. Instinctive actions are not altered by the achievement of a goal, since they are not a result of training. In man, the influence of instinct is usually to lower critical abilities (for example, in the behavior of lovers), and arguments against the goal sought by instinct are not only disregarded but perceived as somehow base. For all these reasons, the term proposed by Freud--the "death instinct"--reflects many features of man's impulse toward self-destruction, which, as we have argued, is the driving force of socialism. (We use Freud's term but do not accept the meaning Freud ascribed to it; see the earlier discussion and the considerations offered below.) The term is applied with the reservation that it only partially describes the phenomenon; this is so for two reasons. First, the instinct in question is not that of separate people but of all mankind, which in this case is treated as a kind of individuality. It is evident that such an approach requires a sound substantiation. Second, instinct presupposes the achievement of a certain aim useful for the individual or at least for the species. This is extremely difficult to reconcile with the "death instinct," and until it can be shown that the striving for self-destruction plays some useful role for mankind, the analogy with instinct should be regarded as partial, illustrating only some aspect of this phenomenon.
Categories such as the striving for self-destruction or the "death instinct" are popularly associated with dualism, the conception of two equally powerful forces, the "life instinct" and the "death instinct," which determine the flow of history. It would be unfortunate if the views expressed here were interpreted as simply a variety of dualism, for dualism tends to be an unstable and fragmented world view. In the present study we examined two dualistic philosophies. One is the 'religion of the Manicheans and the Cathars, which undertakes to explain the phenomenon of evil by the existence of good and evil gods.
But by force of this religion's logic, the good God was expelled from the world, and hence the ground for the existence of good in the world also disappeared. S. Runciman, a student of this religion, believes that the Cathars, proceeding from the inexplicability of evil, arrived at the inexplicability of good. (11: p. 175) Another dualistic theory, Freudianism, underwent a strikingly similar process of evolution. Freud began with an assertion of the universal role of sexuality, regarded as an elementary life force. The development of this view led him to a dualistic conception of the "life instinct" or Eros (coinciding with broadly understood sexuality) and the "death instinct" or Thanatos. But gradually the role of the "death instinct" (or "Nirvana principle") grew until, in "The Ego and the Id," Freud calls it "the dominant tendency of all mental life and, possibly, of all neural activity in general." Marcuse points out a passage in Freud's essay "Beyond the Pleasure Principle" where the pleasure principle is described as the "expression of the "Nirvana principle." Freud also writes that "life is but a long detour to death." Marcuse's estimation of Freud's conception almost completely coincides with Runciman's views of the dualism of the Cathars. "The inability to uncover in the primary structure of the instincts anything that is not Eros, the monism of sexuality--an inability which, as we shall see, is the sure sign of truth--now seems to turn into its opposite: into a monism of death." (119: p. 28)
Evidently dualism is in general a transitional form from one monism to another, as we have seen in both examples here. But the same examples show that pure monism--the recognition of a single force which promotes improvement and development--also contains a contradiction. It leads eventually to the supposition of the existence of another equally powerful and active force moving in the opposite direction--i.e., toward dualism, then toward the monism of the second force. But it is also true that the idea of two forces acting in the opposite directions does not necessarily require the recognition of their equality--which would be fundamental for dualism. To show how the vicious circle of dualism may be avoided, we should like to point to Plato's splendid Timaeus. Plato here develops the notion of two souls--good and evil--innate in every living being. The whole cosmos is also a living being and also possesses two souls. Their influence alternates, and this is reflected in an alternation of cosmic catastrophes. But outside the cosmos and above it there is divinity--the incarnation of absolute good.
Returning to our specific theme, we see that the striving for self-destruction expressed in socialism not only is not analogous or "equivalent" to other forces acting in history, but is fundamentally distinct from them in character. For example, in contrast to a religious or a national ideology, which openly proclaims its goals, the "death instinct" that is embodied in socialism appears in the guise of religion, reason, social justice, national endeavors or science, and never shows its true face. Apparently its action is the stronger the more directly it is perceived by the subconscious part of the psyche, but only on condition that consciousness remains unaware.
We would like to propose, in a purely hypothetical manner and without insisting on this part of the argument, that the striving for self-destruction may perform a useful function in relation to other, creative, forces in history, and that humanity needs it in some way to achieve its goals. The only rational argument in favor of this supposition is the almost inexorable way, reminiscent of natural and scientific laws, with which different nations of the world, especially in our century, have been falling under the influence of socialist ideology. This could be an indication that it is an experience through which mankind must necessarily pass. The only question would then be the level on which this experience will run its course. Will it be on the spiritual plane? As the physical experience of certain peoples? Or of humanity as a whole? Soloviev, in his early works, developed an optimistic theory according to which mankind, in order to build life on religious principles, would first have to pass through an extreme phase of concern for individuality, to the point of hostility to God, finally coming to God by this route through a conscious act of this individuality. This is the reason for his interest in the pessimistic philosophies of Schopenhauer and Hartmann, which Soloviev regarded as a sign of the coming end of the individualistic epoch, as testimony of the spiritual death toward which the path of areligious development leads. However, this purely spiritual experience proved to be insufficient. Soloviev himself came to this realization, as is clear from his last and perhaps most profound works.
The last hundred years, particularly the twentieth century, have brought socialism unheard-of success. This has been primarily a success of socialism in its Marxist form, mostly because Marxism has been able , to answer two questions that always stand before socialist movements: where to seek the "chosen people"--i.e., who is to destroy the old world--and what is the supreme authority sanctioning the movement?
The answer to the first question was the proletariat; to the second, science. At present both answers have become ineffective, at least for the West. "The proletariat has become a support for the system," Marcuse complains. "What is a proletariat if it is not revolutionary? And it is, indeed, not revolutionary," Sartre confirms. And science has lost its prestige and its role as unquestionable authority; it has become too popular and widespread, and ceased being the secret knowledge of a select few. Moreover, many of its gifts have recently proved to be far from beneficial. For this reason, Marcuse calls for replacing science with a utopia, for granting the role held by reason to fantasy. Until these fundamental questions find answers adequate to the new epoch, it will scarcely be possible to expect success for socialism commensurate with that of Marxism. Meanwhile there have been and continue to be attempts in this direction. For example, the search for the "chosen people" seems to be the real meaning behind the "problem of minorities" which so engages the Western leftist movements: students or homosexuals or American blacks or local nationalities in France. ...There is no doubt that other answers will be found--the tendency toward socialism that grips the West speaks for this. But if we suppose that the significance of socialism for mankind consists in the acquisition of specific experience, then much has been acquired on this path in the last hundred years. There is, first of all, the profound experience of Russia, the significance of which we are only now beginning to understand. The question therefore arises: will this experience be sufficient? Is it sufficient for the entire world and especially for the West? Indeed, is it sufficient for Russia? Shall we be able to comprehend its meaning? Or is mankind destined to pass through this experience on an immeasurably larger scale?
There is no doubt that if the ideals of Utopia are realized universally, mankind, even in the barracks of the universal City of the Sun, shall find the strength to regain its freedom and to preserve God's image and likeness--human individuality--once it has glanced into the yawning abyss. But will even that experience be sufficient? For it seems just as certain that the freedom of will granted to man and to mankind is absolute, that it includes the freedom to make the ultimate choice--between life and death.