Evolution was the basis for Communism.
The alleged chain between Darwin and Stalin has at least two broken links: the alleged link between Darwin and Marx, and the alleged link between Marx and Stalin.
(a) Marxism has nothing to do with evolution. According to Marxism, economic forces are supposed to guide society inevitably down a path that culminates with communism. One searches in vain through the works of Darwin for any support for such an idea, and is even less likely find such support from molecular clocks or the equations of population biology.
The Defender's Guide contains a separate assessment of the assertion that Marx dedicated Das Kapital to Darwin.
(b) Communism has surprisingly little to do with Marxism. A movement's own claims about what it is based upon are not always accurate; such is the case with Communism. As political philosopher Jonathan Wolff explains, the Bolshevik Revolution fit poorly with Marxist theory:
Marx predicted that the communist revolution would take place in the most advanced capitalist systems. Such systems would have developed the productive forces—technology—to the highest point that capitalism is capable of, and then, through their own internal crises, give way. Russia had barely entered a capitalist phase, and no one could pretend that it had developed high productive capabilities. (Wolff 2002:84)
It was on this basis that a group of Marxists known as the Mensheviks argued that any attempt at revolution in Russia would meet with disaster (Wolff 2002:84). Likewise, although Marx believed in an initial "dictatorship of the proletariat," this was completely different than the kind of dictatorship that actually arose in the Soviet Union, in which a corrupt elite class continued to exploit the masses and keep scarce commodities for itself.
The Soviet Communists destroyed agriculture in the USSR by rejecting Darwinian evolutionary theory in favor of the Lamarckian hypotheses of Lysenko. Therefore, if there is anything unfortunate about the relationship of Soviet communism to evolution, it is that the relationship was not stronger, since a better appreciation for evolutionary biology probably would have prevented many thousands of innocent people in the USSR from starving. Soviet Communism thus actually provides a cautionary tale about the dangers of subjugating science to ideology the way the creationists seek to.
Ruse M. 2000. The Evolution Wars: A Guide to the Debates. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.
Wolff J. 2002. Why Read Marx Today? Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Last updated: 22 Feb 2016
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