Marx/Darwin/and Freud Lectures: Synthesis


Marx, Darwin, and Freud present a natural selection of ideas that are a binding force; in a sense they interact in a highly erotic way. Why are they considered revolutionary thinkers in their time? Timeless classics? How do they tie together at this juncture?


Marx: Class Struggle


A revolution insofar as the single individual has no control over his historical circumstances, which are dictated by the mode of production. Hence, the individual lives in a highly alienated state: from himself, others, the product of his labor, the activity of his labor, and his species-being. He is no more than a fetish-commodity, where the human being has sold his labor power for a price in the marketplace. The abstract relationship between things replaces the social relationship between people, as the workers produce the wealth of a nation socially while the values created are privately appropriated.


Man is reduced to an animal existence where he can barely reproduce his own means of existence through the sale of his labor power for a price. This price is a fetish-commodity that in the final analysis reifies man. To redeem himself, he must submerge his identity to an organized working-class movement with an iron discipline from the vanguard elements of the bourgeoisie. There is little room for the expression of individuality and self-expression when there is a primacy of the political in which all is sacrificed to the goal of a communist revolution. Do the means overcome the end? From the historical record, we must answer yes.


If class origins condition consciousness, how did Marx and Engels emerge with a proletarian advocacy? Obviously, there are other factors than the merely material and economic.


Darwin: Natural Selection


Here there is at work the survival of the fittest, meaning that there is a general improvement in the breeding pool of a species' population, hence increasing variation in types and consequent survivability. Man is given a slap in the face because Darwin demonstrates how we are animal in nature. There is a sexual selection in which all individuals and species will die through competition. Descent by modification and continuous variation means endless, infinitesimal changes that add up to qualitative differences.


The human being has no meaning in evolution other than as a reproductive member in which the unit of analysis is a breeding population for a species. While morally unique, he is nevertheless in the scheme of biological evolution inconsequential for the survival of his species. There is a struggle for existence which is futile because invariably nature changes faster than man or any other species can adapt to a radically new environment. Even with genetic engineering, nature outsmarts man. For example, we develop a drug to kill a virus, the virus mutates, and in the end a more virulent strain arises. You might accelerate change, but the secondary effects cannot be foreseen because nature runs far ahead blindly in presenting entropic changes to the species.



Freud: The Unconscious


Man is a sexual animal who is largely driven by unconscious conflicts and even perverted desires. At a social level, there is the struggle between life (Eros) versus aggression and death (Thanatos). When frustrated as an individual, neurosis results; when collectively frustrated, war ensues. Man is driven by unconscious drives, forces, needs, and perversions of the will that are accessible only to psychoanalysis. By examining intra-personal and family conflicts, the major problems about adulthood and adjustment can be attained by frank "talking through." A therapist is your substitute parent. By delving into early childhood traumas, mainly of seduction, you can resolve problems about dealing with authority. Authority can be abused. 


Or the adult may actually have delusions that he has been abused. In a neurosis, there is thus no distinction between fact and fiction. In the Oedipus complex, the male child has fantasies about killing the father in order to have sexual relations with the mother. We can call this a phallocentric epistemology because of the consistent cultural bias toward favoring the esteemed status of males in society. There is an obvious incest taboo in civilization to preclude in-breeding. The parents must repress and socialize the child to take part in the work force. The consequent suppression of pleasure is called the reality principle; if you cannot work, you are neurotic and will be harshly judged by society. If you adjust to the work world, you will be chronically unhappy because you are denying urges to illuminate the body with life-affirming play which is really your natural state of being.


You are caught in what is known as the classic double bind—a lose/lose strategy no matter what you do; hence, human unhappiness. If you are alienated from work as Marx defined alienation, then you will truly be discontented and in a mood to rebel; however, if there is no outlet, you will develop psychosomatic illnesses. Indeed, your job can kill you. If we add Darwin, neurotic people will not succeed in the struggle for existence in society or in nature. Their family lines will die out, because deeply conflicted people tend not to reproduce. Yet, the cure rate for psychoanalysis is low, for there is resistance both by society and the individual, including still much of the medical establishment who use the medical model. If there is not a bacterial or viral origin, organic aetiology, then there cannot be a disease whatever the presenting symptoms. The idea of "childhood sexuality" is very demeaning of the innocence of children. But children by nature are "savages." They are that way naturally.


When you do not sublimate your instincts, then you have a problem. You can grow into quite a psychopath. There is at work a destructive will to power that we call aggression. If you cannot control the instincts of aggression, then the death of an organism or even a society follows as a consequence. You can will yourself to death. Aggression internalized can cause a suicide; outwardly, homicide may ensue. If you frustrate a whole nation in the case of Germany, as the allied powers did in inflicting national defeat and disgrace after World War I, the guilt resulting from the primal trauma, the sexual frustrations of a repressive society, the pent-up aggression from the Great Depression led to a collective rage against real targets or substitute and illusory enemies like the Jews.


Why the Jews? The Germans projected their own worst attributes onto a helpless minority: aggressiveness, ambitiousness, acquisitiveness, nationalism in the sense of being a historical elite with a mission and uniqueness induced a mutual antagonism. So, the Jews were easy for Germans to dislike, and, in fact, they were Germans themselves with citizenship for hundreds of years. The nonsense about the Aryan bloodlines being polluted by intermarrying with Jews resulted in the Nuremberg Racial Laws. Jews were helpless as the Germans stereotyped this minority group. Repeat a Big Lie often enough, then people eventually through sheer exhaustion learn to accept it. But how the Germans portrayed the Jews was a mirror reflection of their own inadequacies of their national psyche still traumatized by the First World War. So, jealousy and paranoia were key elements in anti-Semitism.


There was imputed to the Jews power, money, and sexuality that they did not enjoy any more than the normal population. Hence, the Germans suffered from a mass delusion. Sexual energy (the libido) was dammed up in the fruitless search for work and a stable society. When the binding forces of sexual energy were blocked, it became destructiveness, meanness, and vindictiveness, boiling over into an infantile rage and the result devolved into the Second World War in the final analysis. The Germans believed in the myth of being a superior race in competition for living space (Lebensraum) with other competing forces," namely the Jews and Slavs. Of course, these are not races but cultural and national groups defined by and large by language and religion. However, Hitler applied a ruthless, totalitarian Social Darwinism to these groups and tried to exterminate them to breed a new population. Nature does not work along these lines. Stalin, too, believed he could create a new communist man—Lysenko and Lysenkoism—in which traits could be acquired through reproduction. Traits can only be inherited, not acquired.

Both Hitler and Stalin failed because they worked on doctrines of Social Darwinism and Leninism-Stalinism, respectively, in which their ideologies did not have scientific underpinnings. There are no superior races in the first hand; on the other hand, Russia suffered under an agrarian, feudal mode of production at the time of the revolution. Marx had warned that you cannot skip over stages of history in the progression of class revolutions, any more than you can skip stages in evolution as outlined by Darwin, or skip over the stage of child development and infantile sexuality as illuminated by Freud. If you try to defy the logic of nature and human nature, you will come up against class hatreds, unjust wars, and plain everyday human unhappiness with all its perversities. The outcome of such a negative world view alienated people from civilization.

Nietzsche said the heroic man is the one who knows his limits and can rise above the finite quality of life to create his own system of values over against mass man. Here we have the will to power in its finest manifestation when we look at the Righteous Gentiles. Their motivations are "overdetermined" in a blend of enlightened selfishness, empathy, social beneficence, conscience, and the will to power and the will to truth to affirm the forces of life over death.