Jack London in his office

The author of The Call of the Wild and dozens of other incredible stories was duped by Marxism, but don’t hold it against him.

It’s bizarre, but true: Jack London, literature’s greatest proponent of hardcore, survival-of-the-fittest philosophy, was a rabid socialist. What could bring about this anomaly? Was Jack bought off? Did he suffer a psychotic break?

No. Jack’s socialism, in fact, is understandable, and even forgivable.

Jack, you see, was trying to resolve a bad case of cognitive dissonance. He admired aristocracy in the natural world, he believe that some people (and animals) had it, and others simply lacked it. But he was, himself, born a bastard, and had been a hobo, a jailbird, a failed gold prospector, and a generally desperate character, for the first half of his life.

This put him in the position of either concluding that his ancestry was substandard, that his people had failed in the various competitions of life, or to find another explanation for the degrading circumstances of his birth. So, when he happened upon Marx, and was informed that he was a victim of systemic injustice, everything fell into place. Of course! thought Jack. The hoarders of wealth and respectability, i.e., the capitalists, had sabotaged him!

This is the eternal logic of socialism (and related theories): life isn’t fair, but to assign any blame to the unfortunate is to compound the unfairness, so the only humane solution is, obviously, to blame the fortunate for their good fortune.

And for someone like Jack, who happened to be the rare case of unqualified genius born from mediocrity, the logic held a special appeal. Jack had proved that he was just as good, and twice as smart, as the average fellow from the privileged classes. So it seemed reasonable to assume that most of his disadvantaged brethren were also diamonds in the rough.

The poor guy was like a dog raised among goats. Even after learning he was a higher order of animal, he never lost his suspicion of his own kind, and always thought the goats he’d come to love could be just as free and clever as dogs if the farmers would give them half a chance.

So, whenever and however it happened that Jack took his first syringe-load of Marxist theory, the ideas immediately brought on a euphoria. Suddenly, all of his instincts and urges were “scientifically” validated. The goats had been systematically oppressed! There it was in black and white!

We know just how captivated he was because he wrote a novel, The Iron Heel, to help Marx and Engles peddle their inarguably and eternally true—although never as-yet tested in Jack’s day—conclusions.

Jack (Dis)Proves Marxism

The irony is, in writing The Iron Heel, Jack displayed a mastery of concepts that, in and of itself, disproved Marx’s ideas. The dog, in trying to teach the goats to be dogs, only ended up underscoring what dogs can do and goats can’t.

And Jack not only disproved Marxism by being Jack, his specific argument in favor of Marxism is the most obvious argument against it.

Jack believed that Marxism was scientifically, which is to say empirically, provable, and that the rugged individualists and profit-seekers who resisted Marxism were reasoning from pure theory, rather than observed phenomena.

Here’s how Jack’s socialist superman, Ernest Everhard, takes down a roomful of capitalistic philosophers in The Iron Heel:

“I call you metaphysicians because you reason metaphysically … Your method of reasoning is the opposite to that of science. There is no validity to your conclusions. You can prove everything and nothing, and no two of you can agree upon anything. Each of you goes into his own consciousness to explain himself and the universe. As well may you lift yourselves by your own bootstraps as to explain consciousness by consciousness.”

But this is, in reality, a description of Marxist (and eventually woke) reasoning. Marx’s nonsensical predictions and “proofs” are drawn from ideas he simply asserts, without any actual data to back them, such as the idea that class distinctions are just historical accidents, the so-called “labor theory of value,” and the idea that workers are inevitably going to overthrow property-holders and build a paradise.

Wokeness, which has been among us for decades in the form of cultural Marxism, takes the “metaphysical” reasoning Jack describes to its ultimate conclusion.

What is that reasoning and how does it differ from legitimate science? Let Jack, speaking through Everhard, explain:

“The metaphysician reasons deductively out of his own subjectivity. The scientist reasons inductively from the facts of experience. The metaphysician reasons from theory to facts, the scientist reasons from facts to theory. The metaphysician explains the universe by himself, the scientist explains himself by the universe.”

You follow? In pure logic, one accepts certain premises as true, and then deduces, or extrapolates to, conclusions. So, as an example, we might say: Premise 1: Men have male genitalia; Premise 2: Aristotle has male genitalia; ergo, Aristotle is a man.

What Jack is describing is the fact that, depending on the premises one begins with, one can end up anywhere. If we begin, for instance, by stating as a premise that men do not necessarily have male genitalia … well, you get the point.

That is why Jack says that metaphysicians can prove everything and nothing. Because everything can be “proved” hypothetically, within a mental model, but nothing is proved objectively and inarguably unless it is tested against, and within, reality.

And Jack accurately contrasts metaphysics with science (empiricism), which, when done honestly, leads us only to reasonable conclusions, and repeatable results.

The Science of Lived Experience

There can be no question that if Jack was alive today he would be in full revolt against wokeness. Jack embraced Marxism because he was duped, like most Marxists, into believing socialism/communism had a scientific basis. No workers’ paradises had ever been attempted, at least on any meaningful scale, when he wrote The Iron Heel in 1908; and as we’ve covered, the Marxist fantasy appealed to his vanities and insecurities. Despite his clever explanation of the differences between hard science and metaphysics, the fact is that Jack was guilty of reasoning “metaphysically”—”proving” socialism using only deduction and extrapolation.

But Jack believed he was making reality-based calculations. Speaking through Everhard, he cites actual situations, numbers, etc. and arrives at conclusions that, although wrong, are not absurd.

Modern wokeness, by contrast, embodies the thinking Jack eviscerates in The Iron Heel. And no, I do not have to bend rules and stretch definitions to make this claim. It is the proudly acknowledged linchpin of woke methodology. The “scientific data” of wokeness is woke individuals’ “lived experience.” They decide what ought to be true, based strictly on their feelings—i.e., their lived experience—and then reject anything that contradicts their arbitrary conclusions.

In other words, they reason deductively from their own subjectivity; they reason from theory to facts, rather than from facts to theory; they explain the universe as an aspect of themselves, rather than understanding themselves as part of a grand scheme that they do not control.

And the woke go Jack’s metaphysicians one better. They don’t just toy with mental models, they impose their mental models on the world around them. Once they assert that men do not necessarily have male genitalia, they reach for the scalpel.

That is not just ineffectual intellectualizing. That is madness, evil, or both.

Redeeming Jack

The fact is, Jack was a hardcore guy. Once he made a decision he went all in. That’s why he was able to claw his way out of the muck of poverty and become a literary lion. That’s why he plunged headlong into so many adventures and misadventures and acquired an abstract sense of the world that allowed him to bring life-and-death struggles into such sharp focus in his writing.

And, unfortunately, that’s why he plunged headlong into Marxism.

But the actual philosophy that informs Jack’s writing, even The Iron Heel, is much closer to Darwinism, and social Darwinism, than to Marxism. Jack always celebrates competency—in nature, in group struggles, in individual striving, and in matters intellectual. That could even be said to be the theme of his life. He figured out early that he had to hold himself to superhuman standards in order to not wind up destitute. He knew, at a gut level, that what mattered was who won—and who won was a matter of who had it. And Jack proved, every step of the way that he had it.

Marx, a conniving propagandist, simply attacked Jack where his defenses were weakest—at the point where it might be asserted that Jack did not, after all, have it. Considering the innocence of the age, and Jack’s personal hardships—and considering everything he gave the world—we can forgive the author for being conned, this one time.

And we can be sure that, if Jack knew then what we know now, he would be the diametric opposite of a Marxist.

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By Matthew Louis

Founding editor of Out of the Gutter Magazine and Gutter Books. Author of The Wrong Man and Roots Down to Hell. Short stories published in a few places. Honorable mention in the Year's Best Mystery Stories. Other things...

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Sara the Editor

He has good physiognomy, so he could never become a total woketard. I see a strong jaw in that man.

Dylan Cooke

Another classic author I need to study more in-depth. I didn’t know Jack London had so many novels after The Call of the Wild. It’s disappointing to learn he was a socialist but I think your right about it being an artifact of his life’s circumstances.

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