Stalin: on the advantages of being a biped

In his long and intriguing piece from 1906-7, called ‘Anarchism or Socialism?’, Stalin writes on the fortunate reality that human beings walk upright on two legs. One can only imagine what the philosophy of a quadruped might look like.

It is wrong to think that in its development the ideal side, and consciousness in general, precedes the development of the material side. So-called external “non-living” nature existed before there were any living beings. The first living matter possessed no consciousness, it possessed only irritability and the first rudiments of sensation. Later, animals gradually developed the power of sensation, which slowly passed into consciousness, in conformity with the development of the structure of their organisms and nervous systems. If the ape had always walked on all fours, if it had never stood upright, its descendant — man — would not have been able freely to use his lungs and vocal chords and, therefore, would not have been able to speak; and that would have fundamentally retarded the development of his consciousness. If, furthermore, the ape had not risen up on its hind legs, its descendant — man — would have been compelled always to walk on all fours, to look downwards and obtain his impressions only from there; he would have been unable to look up and around himself and, consequently, his brain would have obtained no more impressions than the brain of a quadruped. All this would have fundamentally retarded the development of human consciousness (Works, vol. 1, pp. 315-16).


3 thoughts on “Stalin: on the advantages of being a biped

  1. Never had the luxury of reading all of Stalin but this quite reminiscent of Engel’s rumination on the importance of the human hands as an instrument of labor that helped differentiate us from other mammals. I also frequently encounter Mao talking about walking on two legs but in the context of socialist construction, i.e. learning technology from the West and adopting to local conditions as one leg while using local technology to conserve limited fixed capital as another leg.

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