This is the first part of some notes prepared a while ago by ‘Tom’ on the topic of ‘The Individual in communist thought’.
Human nature is not purely biological, nor an abstraction; it unfolds, develops. As we make our history, so we make ourselves.
“Human nature is not a machine to be built like a model, and set to exactly the work proscribed to it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of inward forces that make it a living thing.” J.S.Mill ‘On Liberty’
Human nature is the result of the meeting place between biology and historical processes. It is therefore capable of change.
“We cannot wait for favours from Nature, our task is to wrest them from her” Ivan Michurin, Soviet scientist
The idea to “give history a push”, cited by Christopher Hill ‘God’s Englishman’ (p 218) referring to 19th C Russian conspirator Zhelyabov.
This idea captures a dilemma of proletarian parties which led successful revolutions in backward societies. These revolutions were obviously on the side of historical development but the ‘push’ was not solely directed at proletarian revolution. There was first the not so small problem of the bourgeois revolution to complete – and in vast areas in both Russia and China – to actually get it started.
This both facilitated the opportunity for transforming the revolution from a bourgeois to a proletarian one and also frustrated and undermined it.
It is inherent in our nature to make all things new – including ourselves. (Marshall Berman, ‘The Politics of Authenticity: Radical Individualism and the Emergence of Modern Society’, p165)
(Next instalment: ‘The development of the individual’).
Another thoughtful post, thanks.
For me human nature has been significantly the same throughout history.
Ancient literature shows people dealing with the same issues, and pretty much with the same social tools, as today with allowances for technological innovation.
We are glorified apes and our ancestors came down out of the trees to walk upright on the savanna because of global cooling. Along the way we adapted to survive as hunter gatherers in small family groups.
Good with our hands and standing upright helped the brain to grow, but you probably already knew that.
A lot later it was glaciation and the drop in sea level which allowed homo sapiens exit out of Africa and eventually spread around the planet. Humans have adapted to every environment and are keen to utilize every advantage, its only natural.
In the 21st century there are some aspects of humanity which are pathetic, testosterone pumping beastly men need Soma to take their minds off what ails them. Social engineering of this nature is relatively benign and should go a long way in emptying the gaols.