Back to Methuselah eBook

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Besides, the Socialists had an evolutionary prophet of their own, who had discredited Manchester as Darwin discredited the Garden of Eden.  Karl Marx had proclaimed in his Communist Manifesto of 1848 (now enjoying Scriptural authority in Russia) that civilization is an organism evolving irresistibly by circumstantial selection; and he published the first volume of his Das Kapital in 1867.  The revolt against anthropomorphic idolatry, which was, as we have seen, the secret of Darwin’s success, had been accompanied by a revolt against the conventional respectability which covered not only the brigandage and piracy of the feudal barons, but the hypocrisy, inhumanity, snobbery, and greed of the bourgeoisie, who were utterly corrupted by an essentially diabolical identification of success in life with big profits.  The moment Marx shewed that the relation of the bourgeoisie to society was grossly immoral and disastrous, and that the whited wall of starched shirt fronts concealed and defended the most infamous of all tyrannies and the basest of all robberies, he became an inspired prophet in the mind of every generous soul whom his book reached.  He had said and proved what they wanted to have proved; and they would hear nothing against him.  Now Marx was by no means infallible:  his economics, half borrowed, and half home-made by a literary amateur, were not, when strictly followed up, even favorable to Socialism.  His theory of civilisation had been promulgated already in Buckle’s History of Civilization, a book as epoch-making in the minds of its readers as Das Kapital.  There was nothing about Socialism in the widely read first volume of Das Kapital:  every reference it made to workers and capitalists shewed that Marx had never breathed industrial air, and had dug his case out of bluebooks in the British Museum.  Compared to Darwin, he seemed to have no power of observation:  there was not a fact in Das Kapital that had not been taken out of a book, nor a discussion that had not been opened by somebody else’s pamphlet.  No matter:  he exposed the bourgeoisie and made an end of its moral prestige.  That was enough:  like Darwin he had for the moment the World Will by the ear.  Marx had, too, what Darwin had not:  implacability and a fine Jewish literary gift, with terrible powers of hatred, invective, irony, and all the bitter qualities bred, first in the oppression of a rather pampered young genius (Marx was the spoilt child of a well-to-do family) by a social system utterly uncongenial to him, and later on by exile and poverty.  Thus Marx and Darwin between them toppled over two closely related idols, and became the prophets of two new creeds.


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