George Novack: The mission of humankind

[Quotes and Insights #32]

God did not create humankind – or anything else. Humanity has created and re-created itself through the development of the labor process. At certain points in their history humans fabricated supernatural forces in their own social image to compensate for their lack of real power over nature and social life. Then, at a much higher stage of their economic development, they began to do away with all need to bow down before divine ghosts.

The life hereafter, touted by the churches, is as harmful a fiction as the preincarnations of the transmigrationists. The material universe that produced and sustains and reabsorbs us is the only real world. The mission of humankind is to keep perfecting human life on this global platform, to bring forth the unlimited potentialities of our organism by uncovering, using, and mastering the forces and treasures of the material environment. Our ability to do so is the objective measure of human advancement.

The supreme being for humanity is humanity itself – not as it is at any given stage, but humanity in the making, humankind as it can and will be. Socialist humanism recognizes that the essence of the achievements of past generations up to now has been to prepare the conditions for making free human beings. Humankind has had to crawl up from the animal state by barbarous means until at last we have reached the point where a truly human mode of existence is within sight. The present inhabitants of the earth are the raw material for the production of an authentically human race.

That is why Marx designated all earlier stages of social organization up to the advent of socialism as the prehistory of humankind. The distinctively human era of history will be inaugurated only with the establishment of human conditions of life-when, as Trotsky wrote, “the steady growth of social wealth has made us bipeds forget our miserly attitude toward every excess minute of labor, and our humiliating fear about the size of our ration.”


–George Novack, Humanism and Socialism (1973)

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