Are We Prisoners of Our Genes? (SPGB, 2004)


Une nouvelle brochure en ligne du Parti socialiste de Grande-Bretagne (SPGB):

pdf externe


It may seem out of place that a political party should publish a pamphlet on an essentially scientific subject. What significance, it may be asked, have advances in our understanding of how heredity works got to do with a political programme aimed at changing the basis of society?

The answer is that it is not us socialists who have made genes a political issue. It is our opponents with their claim that the genetic make-up of humans would prevent the establishment of a co-operative, peaceful and non-hierarchical society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production.

Scientists had long posited that there had to exist some unit of heritable characteristics, which they called a “gene”, but it was only 50 years ago that Watson and Crick identified what this precisely was and how it was structured. Before that very few had heard of DNA. Even now it is not known exactly how a gene functions though advances are being made in this direction every year.

Opponents of socialism have of course always claimed that “human nature” would be a barrier to a socialist society working, but in the past this was manifestly only an unsubstantiated assertion based on popular prejudice and religious dogma. So the identification of the gene came as a godsend to them. They could now give their prejudice a pseudo-scientific appearance by claiming that scientists were in the process of discovering genes for such behaviour traits as aggression, selfishness and domination that would make socialism impossible.

It is to refute such claims, which not only go well beyond the evidence but completely misunderstand the role of genes in biology, that we are publishing this pamphlet. It does not claim to be an original scientific study. Far from it. Socialists have no qualifications in the field of genetics and we would not want to claim that this pamphlet does any more than give a journalistic summary, informed by socialist understanding, of the current state of knowledge in this particular field of scientific study.

Because scientific knowledge in this field is still advancing it is entirely possible that some of the theories that the pamphlet discusses may subsequently be abandoned and replaced by new theories. That is the way science works. But we are confident that no advances in molecular genetics (the study of how genes work at a chemical level) or in neuroscience (the study of how the brain works) will back up the prejudice that humans are incapable of living in a socialist society.

The Socialist Party, April 2004

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Une Réponse to “Are We Prisoners of Our Genes? (SPGB, 2004)”

  1. Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung Says:

    […] prolétarien (1992) * Socialisme Mondial, Nr. 27 (1985) * Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB): Are We Prisoners of Our Genes? Introduction (2004) * Marcel Body: Alexandra Kollontaï (1952) * Henri Guilbeaux: Loriot à Berne (1924, Auszug […]


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