Socialism - A Summary and Interpretation of Socialist Principles
by John Spargo
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Set up and electrotyped. Published June, 1906. Reprinted November, 1906; December 1908.

New and revised edition, February, 1909; January, 1910; May 1912; March, 1913.

Norwood Press J. S. Cushing Co.—Berwick & Smith Co. Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.





A new edition of this little volume having been rendered necessary, I have availed myself of the opportunity thus afforded me by the publishers to revise it. Some slight revision was necessary to correct one or two errors which crept unavoidably into the earlier edition. By an oversight, an important typographical blunder went uncorrected into the former edition, making the date of the first use of the word "Socialism" 1835 instead of 1833. That error, I regret to say, has been subsequently copied into many important publications. Even more important were some errors in the biographical sketch of Marx, in Chapter III. These were not due to any carelessness upon the part of the present writer, but were reproduced from standard works, upon what seemed to be good authority—that of his youngest daughter and his intimate friend, the late Wilhelm Liebknecht. It is now known with certainty that the father of Karl Marx embraced Christianity of his own free choice, and not in obedience to an official edict.

These and some other minor changes having to be made, I took the time to rewrite large parts of the volume, making such substantial changes in it as to constitute practically a new book. The chapter on Robert Owen has been recast and greater emphasis placed upon his American career and its influence; in Chapter IV the sketch of the Materialistic Conception of History has been enlarged somewhat, special attention being given to the bearing of the theory upon religion. All the rest of the book has been changed, partly to meet the requirements of many students and others who have written to me in reference to various points of difficulty, and partly also to state some of my own ideas more successfully. I venture to hope that the brief chapter on "Means of Realization," which has been added to the book by way of postscript, will, in spite of its brevity, and the fact that it was not written for inclusion in this volume, prove helpful to some who read the book.

The thanks of the writer are due to all those friends—Socialists and others—whose kindly efforts made the earlier edition of the book a success.

YONKERS, N.Y., December, 1908.





Changed attitude of the public mind toward Socialism—Growth of the movement responsible for the change—Unanimity of friends and foes concerning the future triumph of Socialism—Herbert Spencer's pessimistic belief—Study of Socialism a civic duty—Nobility of the word "Socialism"—Its first use—Confusion arising from its indiscriminate use—"Socialism" and "Communism" in the Communist Manifesto—Unfair tactics of opponents—Engels on the significance of the word in 1847—Its present significance 1



Utopian Socialism and Robert Owen—Estimates of Owen by Liebknecht and Engels—His early life—Becomes a manufacturer—The industrial revolution in England—Introduction of machinery—"Luddite" riots against machinery—Early riots against machinery—Marx's views—Owen as manufacturer—As social reformer—The New Lanark experiment—He becomes a Socialist—The New Harmony experiment—Abraham Lincoln and New Harmony—Failure of New Harmony—Owen compared with Saint-Simon and Fourier—Emerson's tribute to Robert Owen a fair estimate of the Utopists 16



The Communist Manifesto called the birth-cry of modern Socialism—Conditions in 1848 when it was issued—Communism of the working class—Weitling and Cabet—Marx's parents become Christians—Marx and Engels—Religious spirit of Marx—Note upon the confusion of Marx with Wilhelm Marr—The Manifesto as the first declaration of a working-class movement—Literary merit of the Manifesto—Its fundamental proposition stated by Engels—Socialism becomes scientific—The authorship of the Manifesto—Engels' testimony 53



Socialism a theory of social evolution—Not economic fatalism—Leibnitz and the savage—Ideas and progress—Value of the materialistic conception of history—Foreshadowings of the theory—What is meant by the term "materialistic conception"—Results of overemphasis: Engels' testimony—Application of the theory to religion—Influence of social conditions upon religious forms—The doctrine of "free will"—Darwin and Marx—Application of the theory, specific and general—Columbus and the discovery of America—General view of historical progress—Antiquity of communism—Cooeperation and competition—Slavery—Serfdom—Class struggles—The rise of capitalism and the wage system 75



A new form of class division arises in the first stage of capitalism—The second stage of capitalism begins with the great mechanical inventions—The development of foreign and colonial trade—Theoretic individualism and practical collectivism—The law of capitalist concentration formulated by Marx—Competition, monopoly, socialization—Trustification, interindustrial and international—Criticisms of the Marxian theory—Engels on the attempts to make a "rigid orthodoxy" of the Marx theory—The small producers and traders—Concentration in production—Failure of the bonanza farms and persistence of the small farms—Other forms of agricultural concentration—Farm ownership and farm mortgages—The factory and the farm—The concentration of wealth—European and American statistics—Concentration of the control of wealth independent of actual ownership—Growth of immense fortunes—General summary 113



Opposition to the doctrine—Misrepresentations by the opponents of Socialism—Socialists not the creators of the class struggle—Antiquity of class struggles—The theory as stated in the Communist Manifesto—Fundamental propositions in the statement—Slavery the first system of class divisions—Class divisions in feudalism—Rise of the capitalist class and its triumph—Inherent antagonism of interests between employer and employee—Commonality of general interests and antagonism of special class interests—Adam Smith on class divisions—Individuals versus classes—Analysis of the class interests of the population of the United States—Class interests as they affect thoughts, opinions, and beliefs—Varying ethical standards of economic classes—Denial of class divisions in America—Our "untitled nobility"—Class divisions real though not legally established—They tend to become fixed and hereditary—Consciousness of class divisions new in America—Transition from class to class becoming more difficult—No hatred of individuals involved in the theory—Socialism versus Anarchism—The labor struggle in the United States—Not due to misunderstandings, but to antagonism of interests—The reason for trade unionism—Trade union methods—Dual exploitation of the workers—Government and the workers—Capitalistic use of police and military—Judicial injunctions—"Taff Vale" law—Political rising of the workers—Triumph of the working class will liberate all mankind and end class rule 151



First comprehensive statement of the materialist conception of history by Marx—La Misere de la Philosophie, a criticism of Proudhon—Marx's first essay in economic science—His frank recognition of the Ricardians—Marx in England becomes familiar with the work of the Ricardians from whom he is accused of "pillaging" his ideas—Criticisms of Menger and others—Marx expelled from Germany and France—Removal to London—The struggle with poverty—Domestic life—Capital an English work in all essentials—The Ricardians and their precursors—Superior method and insight of Marx—The sociological viewpoint in economics—Mr. W. H. Mallock's criticisms of Marx based upon misrepresentation and misstatement—Marx on the Gotha Programme of the German Social Democracy—Marx on the "ability of the directing few"—No ethical deductions in the Marxian theory—"Scientific Socialism," criticisms of the term 201



The sociological viewpoint pervades all Marx's work—Commodities defined—Use-values and economic values—Exchange of commodities through the medium of money—The labor theory of value in its crude form—Marx and Benjamin Franklin—Some notable statements by the classic economists—Scientific development of the labor theory of value by Marx—"Unique values"—Price and value—Money as a price-expression and as a commodity—The theory of supply and demand as determinants of value—The "Austrian" theory of final utility as the determinant of value—The Marxian theory not necessarily exclusive of the theory of final, or marginal, utility—Labor-power as a commodity—Wages, its price, determined as the prices of all other commodities are—Wherein labor-power differs from all other commodities—"Surplus Value": why Marx used the term—The theory stated—The division of surplus value—No moral judgment involved in the theory—Other theories of the source of capitalist income—Wherein they fail to solve the problem—Fundamental importance of the doctrine 235



Detailed specifications impossible—Principles which must characterize it—Man's egoism and sociability—Socialism and Individualism not opposites—The idea of the Socialist state as a huge bureaucracy—Mr. Anstey's picture and Herbert Spencer's fear—Justification of this view in Socialist propaganda literature—Means of production, individual and social—Professor Goldwin Smith's question—The Socialist ideal of individual liberty—Absolute personal liberty not possible—Spencer's abandonment of laissez faire—Political organization of Socialist regime must be democratic—Automatic democracy unattainable—The need of eternal vigilance—Delegated authority—The rights of the individual and of society briefly stated—Private property and industry not incompatible with Socialism—Public ownership not the end, but only a means to an end—Economic structure of the Socialist state—Efficiency the test for private or public industry—The application of democratic principles to industry—The right to labor guaranteed by society, and the duty to labor enforced by society—Free choice of labor—Mode of remuneration—Who will do the dirty work?—The "abolition of wages"—Approximate equality attainable by free play of economic law under Socialism—Hoarded wealth—Inheritance—The security of society against the improvidence of its members—The administration of justice—Education completely free—The question of religious education—The state as protector of the child—Strict neutrality upon religious matters—A maximum of personal liberty with a minimum of restraint 277



Impossible to tell definitely how the change will be brought about—Possible only to point out tendencies making for Socialism, and to show how the change can be brought about—Marx's "catastrophe theory" a lapse into Utopian methods of thought—His deeper thought—Testimony of Liebknecht—Socialism not to be reached through a coup de force—The political changes necessary for Socialism—Tendencies making for socialization of industry—Monopolies, cooeperative societies, the vast extension of collectivism within the capitalist system—Confiscation or compensation?—Change to Socialism to be legal and gradual—Engels and Marx favored compensation—The widow's savings—Elimination of unearned incomes—Violence not necessary 323









It is not a long time since the kindest estimate of Socialism by the average man was that expressed by Ebenezer Elliott, "the Corn-Law Rhymer," in the once familiar cynical doggerel:—

"What is a Socialist? One who is willing To give up his penny and pocket your shilling."

There was another view, brutally unjust and unkind, expressed in blood-curdling cartoons representing the Socialist as a bomb-throwing assassin. According to the one view, Socialists were all sordid, envious creatures, yearning for the

"Equal division of unequal earnings,"

while the other view represented them as ready to enforce this selfish demand by means of the cowardly weapons of the assassin.

Both these views are now, happily, well-nigh extinct. There is still a great deal of misconception of the meaning of Socialism; the ignorance concerning it which is manifested upon every hand is often disheartening, but neither of these puerile misrepresentations is commonly encountered in serious discussion. It is true that the average newspaper editorial confounds Socialism with Anarchism, often enlisting the prejudice which exists against the most violent forms of Anarchism in attacking Socialism, though the two systems of thought are fundamentally opposed to each other; it is likewise true that Socialists are not infrequently asked to explain their supposed intention to have a great general "dividing-up day" for the equal distribution of all the wealth of the nation. The Chancellor of a great American university returns from a sojourn in Norway, and naively hastens to inform the world that he has "refuted" Socialism by asking the members of some poor, struggling sect of Communists what would happen to their scheme of equality if babies should be born after midnight of the day of the equal division of wealth!

Recognizing it to be the supreme issue of the age, the Republican Party, in its national platform,[1] defines Socialism as meaning equality of ownership as against equality of opportunity, notwithstanding the fact that every recognized exponent of Socialism would deny that Socialism means equality of ownership, or that it goes beyond equality of opportunity; that the voluminous literature of Socialism teems with unequivocal and unmistakable disavowals of any desire for the periodic divisions of property and wealth which alone could make equality of ownership possible for brief periods.

Still, when all this has been said, it must be added that these criticisms do not represent the attitude of the mass of people toward the Socialist movement to the same extent as they once did. In serious discussions of the subject among thinking people it is becoming quite rare to encounter either of the two criticisms named. Most of those who seriously and honestly discuss the subject know that modern Socialism comprehends neither assassination nor the equal division of wealth. The enormous interest manifested in Socialism during recent years and the steady growth of the Socialist vote throughout the world bear witness to the fact that the views expressed in the satirical distich of the poet's fancy and the blood-curdling cartoon of the artist's invention are no longer the potent appeals to prejudice they once were.

The reason for the changed attitude of the public toward the Socialist movement and the Socialist ideal lies in the growth of the movement itself. There are many who would change the order of this proposition and say that the growth of the Socialist movement is a result of the changed attitude of the public mind toward it. In a sense, both views are right. Obviously, if the public mind had not revised its judgments somewhat, we should not have attained our present strength and development; but it is equally obvious that if we had not grown, if we had remained the small and feeble band we once were, the public mind would not have revised its judgments much, if at all. It is easy to enlist prejudice against a small body of men and women when they have no powerful influence, and to misrepresent and vilify them.

But it is otherwise when that small body has grown into a great body with far-reaching influence and power. So long as the Socialist movement in America consisted of a few poor workingmen in two or three of the largest cities, most of them foreigners, it was very easy for the average man to accept as true the wildest charges brought against them. But when the movement grew and developed a powerful organization, with branches in almost every city, and a well-conducted press of its own, it became a very different matter. The sixteen years from 1888 to 1904 saw the Socialist vote in the United States grow steadily from 2068 in the former year to 442,402 in the latter. Europe and America together had in 1870 only about 30,000 votes, but by 1906 the number had risen to considerably over 7,000,000. These figures constitute a vital challenge to the thoughtful and earnest men and women of the world.

It is manifestly impossible for a great world-wide movement, numbering its adherent by millions, and having for its advocates many of the foremost thinkers, artists, and poets of the world, to be based upon either sordid selfishness or murderous hate and envy. If that were true, if it were possible for such a thing to be true, the most gloomy forebodings of the pessimist would fall far short of the real measure of Humanity's impending doom. It is estimated that no less than thirty million adults are at present enrolled in the ranks of the Socialists throughout the world, and the number is constantly increasing. This vast army, drawn from every part of the civilized world, comprising men and women of all races and creeds, is not motivated by hate or envy, but by a consciousness that in their hands and the hands of their fellows rests the power to win greater happiness for themselves. Incidentally, their unity for this purpose is perhaps the greatest force in the world to-day making for international peace.

Still, notwithstanding the millions enlisted under the banner of Socialism, the word is spoken by many with the pallid lips of fear, the scowl of hate, or the amused shrug of contempt; while in the same land, people of the same race, facing the same problems and perils, speak it with glad voices and hopelit eyes. Many a mother crooning over her babe prays that it may be saved from the Socialism to which another, with equal mother love, looks as her child's heritage and hope. And with scholars and statesmen it is much the same. With wonderful unanimity agreeing that, in the words of Herbert Spencer, "Socialism will come inevitably, in spite of all opposition," they yet differ in their estimates of its character and probable effects upon the race quite as much as the unlearned. One welcomes and another fears; one envies the unborn generations, another pities. To one the coming of Socialism means the coming of Human Brotherhood, the long, long quest of Humanity's choicest spirits; to another it means the enslavement of the world through fear.

Many years ago Herbert Spencer wrote an article on "The Coming Slavery," which conveyed the impression that the great thinker saw what he thought to be signs of the inevitable triumph of Socialism. All over the world Socialists were cheered by this admission from their implacable enemy. In this connection it is worthy of note that Spencer continued to believe in the inevitability of Socialism. In October, 1905, a well-known Frenchman, M. G. Davenay, visited Mr. Spencer and had a long conversation with him on several subjects, Socialism among them. Soon after his return, he received a letter on the subject from Mr. Spencer, written in French, which was published in the Paris Figaro a few days after Mr. Spencer's death in December, 1905, two months or thereabouts from the time of the interview which called it forth.[2] After some brief reference to his health, Mr. Spencer wrote: "The opinions I have delivered here before you, and which you have the liberty to publish, are briefly these: (1) Socialism will triumph inevitably, in spite of all opposition; (2) its establishment will be the greatest disaster which the world has ever known; (3) sooner or later, it will be brought to an end by a military despotism."

Anything more terrible than this black pessimism which clouded the latter part of the life of the great thinker, it would be difficult to imagine. After living his long life of splendid service to the cause of intellectual progress, and studying as few men have ever done the history of the race, he went down to his grave fully believing that the world was doomed to inevitable disaster. How different from the confidence of the poet,[3] foretelling:—

"A wonderful day a-coming when all shall be better than well."

The last words of the great French Utopist, Saint-Simon, were, "The future is ours!" And thousands of times his words have been echoed by those who, believing equally with Herbert Spencer that Socialism must come, have seen in the prospect only the fulfillment of the age-long dream of Human Brotherhood. Men as profound as Spencer, and as sincere, rejoice at the very thing which blanched his cheeks and filled his heart with fear.

There is, then, a widespread conviction that Socialism will come and, in coming, vitally affect for good or ill every life. Millions of earnest men and women have enlisted themselves beneath its banner in various lands, and their number is steadily growing. In this country, as in Europe, the spread of Socialism is one of the most evident facts of the age, and its study is therefore most important. What does it mean, and what does it promise or threaten, are questions which civic duty prompts. The day is not far distant when ignorance of Socialism will be regarded as a disgrace, and neglect of it a civic wrong. No man can faithfully discharge the responsibilities of his citizenship until he is able to give an answer to these questions, to meet intelligently the challenge of Socialism to the age.


The word "Socialism" is admittedly one of the noblest and most inspiring words ever born of human speech. Whatever may be thought of the principles for which it is the accepted name, or of the political parties which contend for those principles, no one can dispute the beauty and moral grandeur of the word itself. I refer not merely, of course, to its etymology, but rather to its spiritual import. Derived from the Latin word, socius, meaning a comrade, it is, like the word "mother," for instance, one of those great universal speech symbols which find their way into every language.

Signifying as it does faith in the comradeship of man as the basis of social existence, prefiguring a social state in which there shall be no strife of man against man, or nation against nation, it is a verbal expression of a great ideal, man's loftiest aspirations crystallized into a single word. The old Hebrew prophet's dream of a world-righteousness that shall give peace, when nations "shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks,"[4] and the Angel-song of Peace and Goodwill in the legend of the Nativity, mean no more than the word "Socialism" in its best usage means. Plato, spiritual son of the Socrates who for truth's sake drained the hemlock cup to its dregs, dreamed of such social peace and unity, and the line of those who have seen the same vision of a love-welded world has never been broken: More and Campanella, Saint-Simon and Owen, Marx and Engels, Morris and Bellamy—and the end of the prophetic line is not yet.

But if the dream, the hope itself, is old, the word is comparatively new. It is hard to realize that the word which means so much to countless millions of human beings, and which plays such a part in the vital discussions of the world, in every civilized country, is no older than many of those whose lips speak it with reverence and hope. Yet such is the fact. Because it will help us to a clearer understanding of modern Socialism, and because, too, it is little known, notwithstanding its intensely interesting character, let us linger awhile over that page of history which records the origin of this noble word.

Some years ago, anxious to settle, if possible, the vexed question of the origin and first use of the word "Socialism," the present writer devoted a good deal of time to an investigation of the subject, spending much of it in a careful survey of all the early nineteenth-century radical literature. It soon appeared that the generally accepted account of its introduction, by the French writer, L. Reybaud, in 1840, was wrong. Indeed, when once fairly started on the investigation, it seemed rather surprising that the account should have been accepted, practically without challenge, for so long. Finally the conclusion was reached that an anonymous writer in an English paper was the first to use the word in print, the date being August 24, 1833.[5] Since that time an investigation of a commendably thorough nature has been made by three students of the University of Wisconsin,[6] with the result that they have been unable to find any earlier use of the word. It is somewhat disappointing that after thus tracing the word back to what may well be its first appearance in print, it should be impossible to identify its creator.

The letter in which the term is first used is signed "A Socialist," and it is quite evident that the writer uses it as a synonym for the commonly used term "Owenite," by which the disciples of Robert Owen were known. It is most probable that Owen himself had used the word, and, to some extent, made it popular; and that the writer of the letter had heard "our dear social father," as Owen was called, use it, either in some of his speeches or in conversation. This is the more likely as Owen was fond of inventing new words. At any rate, one of Owen's associates, now dead, told the present writer that Owen often specifically claimed to have used the word at least ten years before it was adopted by any other writer.

The word gradually became more familiar in England. Throughout the years 1835-1836, in the pages of Owen's paper, The New Moral World, there are many instances of the word occurring. The French writer, Reybaud, in his "Reformateurs Modernes," published in 1840, made the term equally familiar to the reading public of Continental Europe. By him it was used to designate the teachings not merely of Owen and his followers, but those of all social reformers and visionaries—Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, Louis Blanc, and others. By an easy transition, it soon came into general use as designating all altruistic visions, theories, and experiments, from the "Republic" of Plato onward through the centuries.

In this way much confusion arose. The word became too vague and indefinite to be distinctive. It was applied—frequently as an epithet—indiscriminately to persons of widely differing, and often conflicting, views. Every one who complained of social inequalities, every dreamer of social Utopias, was called a Socialist. The enthusiastic Christian, pleading for a return to the faith and practices of primitive Christianity, and the aggressive atheist, proclaiming religion to be the bulwark of the world's wrongs; the State worshiper, who would extol Law, and spread the net of government over the whole of life, and the iconoclastic Anarchist, who would destroy all forms of social authority, have all alike been dubbed Socialists, by their friends no less than by their opponents.

The confusion thus introduced has had the effect of seriously complicating the study of Socialism from the historical point of view. Much that one finds bearing the name of Socialism in the literature of the middle of the nineteenth century, for example, is not at all related to Socialism as that term is understood to-day. Thus the Socialists of the present day, who do not advocate Communism, regard as a classic presentation of their views the famous pamphlet by Karl Marx and Friederich Engels, The Communist Manifesto. They have circulated it by millions of copies in practically all the languages of the civilized world. Yet throughout it speaks of "Socialists" with ill-concealed disdain, and always in favor of Communism and the Communist Party. The reason for this is clearly explained by Engels himself in the preface written by him for the English edition, but that has not prevented many an unscrupulous opponent of Socialism from quoting the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels against the Socialists of the Marx-Engels school.[7] In like manner, the utterances and ideas of many of those who formerly called themselves Socialists have been quoted against the Socialists of to-day, notwithstanding that it was precisely on account of their desire to repudiate all connection with, and responsibility for, such ideas that the founders of the modern Socialist movement took the name "Communists."

Nothing could be clearer than the language in which Engels explains why the name Communist was chosen, and the name Socialist discarded. He says: "Yet, when it (the Manifesto) was written, we could not have called it a Socialist Manifesto. By Socialists, in 1847, were understood, on the one hand, the adherents of the various Utopian systems: Owenites in England, Fourierists in France, both of these already reduced to the position of mere sects, and gradually dying out; on the other hand, the most multifarious social quacks, who, by all manner of tinkering, professed to redress, without any danger to capital and profit, all sorts of social grievances; in both cases men outside of the working-class movement, and looking rather to the 'educated' classes for support. Whatever portion of the working class had become convinced of the insufficiency of mere political revolution and had proclaimed the necessity of a total social change, that portion, then, called itself Communist. It was a crude, rough-hewn, purely instinctive sort of Communism; still, it touched the cardinal point and was powerful enough among the working class to produce the Utopian Communism, in France, of Cabet, and in Germany, of Weitling. Thus Socialism was, in 1847, a middle-class movement; Communism a working-class movement. Socialism was, on the Continent at least, 'respectable'; Communism was the very opposite. And as our notion, from the very beginning, was that the 'emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself,' there could be no doubt as to which of the names we must take. Moreover, we have ever since been far from regretting it."[8]

There is still, unfortunately, much misuse of the word "Socialism," even by some accredited Socialist exponents. Writers like Tolstoy, Ibsen, Zola, and many others, are constantly referred to as Socialists, when, in fact, they are nothing of the sort. Still, the word is now pretty generally understood as defined by the Socialists—not the "Socialists" of sixty years ago, who were mostly Communists, but the Socialists of to-day, whose principles find classic expression in the Communist Manifesto, and to the attainment of which they have directed their political parties and programmes. In the words of Professor Thorstein Veblen: "The Socialism that inspires hopes and fears to-day is of the school of Marx. No one is seriously apprehensive of any other so-called Socialistic movement, and no one is seriously concerned to criticise or refute the doctrines set forth by any other school of 'Socialists.'"[9]


[1] Republican National Platform, 1908.

[2] I quote the English translation from the London Clarion, December 18, 1905.

[3] William Morris.

[4] Isaiah ii. 4.

[5] See Socialism and Social Democracy, by John Spargo. The Comrade, Vol. II, No. 6, March, 1903.

[6] In The International Socialist Review, Vol. VI, No. 1, July, 1905.

[7] As an instance of this I note the following example: "No severer critic of Socialists ever lived than Karl Marx. No one more bitterly attacked them and their policy toward the trade unions than he.... And yet Socialists regard him as their patron saint." Mr. Samuel Gompers, in The American Federationist, August, 1905.

[8] Preface to The Communist Manifesto, by F. Engels, Kerr edition, page 7.

[9] Quarterly Journal of Economics.




As a background to modern, or scientific, Socialism there is the Socialism of the Utopians, which the authors of the Manifesto so severely criticised. It is impossible to understand the modern Socialist movement, the Socialism which is rapidly becoming the dominant issue in the thought and politics of the world, without distinguishing sharply between it and the Utopian visions which preceded it. Failure to make this distinction is responsible for the complete misunderstanding of the Socialism of to-day by many earnest and intelligent persons.

It is not necessary that we study the Utopian movements which flourished and declined prior to the rise of scientific Socialism in detail. It will be sufficient if we consider the Utopian Socialism of Owen, which is Utopian Socialism at its best and nearest approach to the modern movement. Thus we shall get a clear view of the point of departure which marked the rise of the later scientific movement with its revolutionary political programmes. Incidentally, also, we shall get a view of the great and good Robert Owen, whom Liebknecht, greatest political leader of the movement, has called, "By far the most embracing, penetrating, and practical of all the harbingers of scientific Socialism."[10]

Friederich Engels, a man not given to praising overmuch, has spoken of Owen with an enthusiasm which he rarely showed in his descriptions of men. He calls him, "A man of almost sublime and childlike simplicity of character," and declares, "Every social movement, every real advance in England on behalf of the workers, links itself on to the name of Robert Owen."[11] And even this high praise from the part-author of The Communist Manifesto who for so many years was called the "Nestor of the Socialist movement," falls short, because it does not recognize the great influence of the man in the United States at a most important period of our history.

Robert Owen was born of humble parentage, in a little town in North Wales, on the fourteenth day of May, 1771. A most precocious child, at seven years of age, so he tells us in his "Autobiography," he had familiarized himself with Milton's "Paradise Lost," and by the time he was ten years old he had grappled with the ages-old problems of Whence and Whither and become a skeptic! It is doubtful whether his "skepticism" really consisted of anything more than the consciousness that there were apparent contradictions in the Bible, a discovery which many a precocious lad has made at quite as early an age, and the failure of the usual theological subterfuges to satisfy a boy's frank spirit. Still, it is worthy of note as indicating his inquiring spirit.

The great dream of his childhood was that he might become an educated man. He thirsted for knowledge and wanted above all things a university education. A passion for knowledge was the controlling force of his life. But his parents were too poor to gratify his desire for an extensive education. He was barely ten years old when his scanty schooling ended, and he set out to fight the battle of life for himself in London.

He was apprenticed to a draper, named McGuffeg, who seems to have been a rather superior type of man. From a small peddling business he had built up one of the largest and wealthiest establishments in that part of London, catering to the wealthy and the titled nobility. Above all, McGuffeg was a man of books, and in his well-stocked library young Owen could read several hours each day, and thus make up in a measure for his early lack of educational opportunities. During the three years of his apprenticeship he read prodigiously, and laid the foundations of that literary culture which characterized his whole life and added tremendously to his power.

This is not in any sense a biographical sketch of Robert Owen.[12] If it were, the story of the rise of this poor, strange, strong lad, from poverty to the very pinnacle of industrial and commercial power and fame, as one of the leading manufacturers of his day, would lead through pathways of romance as wonderful as any in our biographical literature. We are concerned, however, only with his career as a social reformer and the forces which molded it. And that, too, has its romantic side.


The closing years of the eighteenth century marked the beginning of a great and far-reaching industrial revolution. The introduction of new mechanical inventions enormously increased the productive powers of England. In 1770 Hargreaves patented his "spinning jenny," and in the following year Arkwright invented his "water frame," a patent spinning machine which derived its name from the fact that it was worked by water power. Later, in 1779, Crompton invented the "mule," which was really a combination of the principles of both machines. This was a long step forward, and greatly facilitated the spinning of the raw material into yarn. The invention was, in fact, a revolution in itself. Like so many other great inventors, Crompton died in poverty.

Even now, however, the actual weaving had to be done by hand. Not until 1785, when Dr. Cartwright, a parson, invented a "power loom," was it deemed possible to weave by machinery. Cartwright's invention, coming in the same year as the general introduction of Watt's steam engine in the cotton industry, made the industrial revolution. Had the revolution come slowly, had the inventors of the new industrial processes been able to accomplish that, it is most probable that much of the misery of the period would have been avoided. As it was, terrible poverty and hardship attended the birth of the new industrial order. Owing to the expense of introducing the machines, and the impossibility of competing with them by the old methods of production, the small manufacturers themselves were forced to the wall, and their misery, compelling them to become wage-workers in competition with other already far too numerous wage-workers, added greatly to the woe of the time. William Morris's fine lines, written a hundred years later, express vividly what many a manufacturer must have felt at that time:—

"Fast and faster our iron master, The thing we made, forever drives."

But perhaps the worst of all the results of the new regime was the destruction of the personal relations which had hitherto existed between the employers and their employees. No attention was paid to the interests of the latter. The personal relation was forever gone, and only a hard, cold cash nexus remained. Wages went down at an alarming rate, as might be expected; the housing conditions became simply inhuman. Now it was discovered that a child at one of the new looms could do more than a dozen men had done under the old conditions, and a tremendous demand for child workers was the result. At first, as H. de B. Gibbins[13] tells us, there was a strong repugnance on the part of parents to sending their children into the factories. It was, in fact, considered a disgrace to do so. The term "factory girl" was an insulting epithet, and it was impossible for a girl who had been employed in a factory to obtain other employment. She could not look forward to marriage with any but the very lowest of men, so degrading was factory employment considered to be. But the manufacturers had to get children somehow, and they got them. They got them from the workhouses. Pretending that they were going to apprentice them to a trade, they arranged with the overseers of the poor regular days for the inspection of these workhouse children. Those chosen were conveyed to their destination, packed in wagons or canal boats, and from that moment were doomed to the most awful form of slavery.

"Sometimes regular traffickers would take the place of the manufacturer," says Gibbins,[14] "and transfer a number of children to a factory district, and there keep them, generally in some dark cellar, till they could hand them over to a mill owner in want of hands, who would come and examine their height, strength, and bodily capacities, exactly as did the slave owners in the American markets. After that the children were simply at the mercy of their owners, nominally as apprentices, but in reality as mere slaves, who got no wages and whom it was not worth while even to feed and clothe properly, because they were so cheap and their places could be so easily supplied. It was often arranged by the parish authorities, in order to get rid of imbeciles, that one idiot should be taken by the mill owner with every twenty sane children. The fate of these unhappy idiots was even worse than that of the others. The secret of their final end has never been disclosed, but we can form some idea of their awful sufferings from the hardships of the other victims to capitalist greed and cruelty. The hours of their labor were only limited by exhaustion, after many modes of torture had been unavailingly applied to force continued work. Children were often worked sixteen hours a day, by day and by night."

Terrible as this summary is, it does not equal in horror the account given by "Alfred,"[15] in his "History of the Factory System": "In stench, in heated rooms, amid the constant whirl of a thousand wheels, little fingers and little feet were kept in ceaseless action, forced into unnatural activity by blows from the heavy hands and feet of the merciless overlooker, and the infliction of bodily pain by instruments of punishment invented by the sharpened ingenuity of insatiable selfishness." The children were fed upon the cheapest and coarsest food, often the same as that served to their master's pigs. They slept by turns, and in relays, in filthy beds that were never cool. There was often no discrimination between the sexes, and disease, misery, and vice flourished. Some of these miserable creatures would try to run away, and to prevent them, those suspected had irons riveted on their ankles, with long links reaching up to the hips, and were compelled to sleep and work with them on, young women and girls, as well as boys, suffering this brutal treatment. The number of deaths was so great that burials took place secretly, at night, lest an outcry should be raised. Many of the children committed suicide.

These statements are so appalling that, as Mr. R. W. Cooke-Taylor says,[16] they would be "absolutely incredible" were they not fully borne out by evidence from other sources. It is not contended, of course, that conditions in all factories were as bad as those described. But it must be said emphatically that there were worse horrors than any here quoted, and equally emphatically that the very best factories were only a little better than those described. Take, for instance, the account given by Robert Owen of the conditions which obtained in the "model factory" of the time, the establishment at New Lanark, Scotland, owned by Mr. David Dale, where Owen himself was destined to introduce so many striking reforms. Owen assumed control of the New Lanark mills on the first day of the year 1800. In his "Autobiography,"[17] he gives some account of the conditions which he found there, in the "best regulated factory in the world," at that time. There were, says Owen, about five hundred children employed, who "were received as early as six years old, the pauper authorities declining to send them at any later age." They worked from six in the morning until seven in the evening, and then their education began. They hated their slavery, and many absconded. Many were dwarfed and stunted in stature, and when they were through their "apprenticeship," at thirteen or fifteen years of age, they commonly went off to Glasgow or Edinburgh, with no guardians, ignorant and ready—"admirably suited," is Owen's phrase—to swell the great mass of vice and misery in the towns. The people in New Lanark lived "almost without control, in habits of vice, idleness, poverty, debt, and destitution. Thieving was general." With such conditions existing in a model factory, under a master whose benevolence was celebrated everywhere, it can be very readily believed that conditions elsewhere must have been abominable.

As a result of the appalling poverty which developed, it soon became necessary for poor parents to permit their children to go into the factories. The mighty machines were far too powerful for the prejudices of parental hearts. Child wage-workers became common. They were subjected to little better conditions than the parish apprentices had been; in fact, they were often employed alongside of them. Fathers were unemployed and frequently took meals to their little ones who were at work—a condition which sometimes obtains in some parts of the United States even to this day. Michael Sadler, a member of the House of Commons and a fearless champion of the rights of the poor and oppressed, described this aspect of the evil in touching verse.[18]

During all this time, let it be remembered, the English philanthropists, and among them many capitalists, were agitating against negro slavery in Africa and elsewhere, and raising funds for the emancipation of the slaves. Says Gibbins,[19] "The spectacle of England buying the freedom of black slaves by riches drawn from the labor of her white ones affords an interesting study for the cynical philosopher."

As we read the accounts of the distress which followed upon the introduction of the new mechanical inventions, it is impossible to regard with surprise or with condemnatory feelings, the riots of the misguided "Luddites" who went about destroying machinery in their blind desperation. Ned Lud, after whom the Luddites were named, was an idiot, but wiser men, finding themselves reduced to abject poverty through the introduction of the giant machines, could see no further than he. It was not to be expected that the masses should understand that it was not the machines, but the institution of their private ownership, and use for private gain, that was wrong. And just as we cannot regard with surprise the action of the Luddites in destroying machinery, it is easy to understand how the social unrest of the time produced Utopian movements with numerous and enthusiastic adherents.

The Luddites were not the first to make war upon machinery. In 1758, for example, Everet's first machine for dressing wool, an ingenious contrivance worked by water power, was set upon by a mob and reduced to ashes. From that time on similar outbreaks occurred with more or less frequency; but it was not until 1810 that the organized bodies of Luddites went from town to town, sacking factories and destroying the machines in their blind revolt. The contest between the capitalist and the wage-worker, which, as Karl Marx says, dates back to the very origin of capital, took on a new form when machinery was introduced. Henceforth, the worker fights not only, nor even mainly, against the capitalist, but against the machine, as the material basis of capitalist exploitation. This is a distinct phase of the struggle of the proletariat everywhere.

In the sixteenth century the ribbon loom, a machine for weaving ribbon, was invented in Germany. Marx quotes an Italian traveler, Abbe Lancellotti, who wrote in 1579, as follows: "Anthony Mueller, of Danzig, saw about fifty years ago, in that town, a very ingenious machine, which weaves four to six pieces at once. But the mayor, being apprehensive that this invention might throw a large number of workmen on the streets, caused the inventor to be secretly strangled or drowned."[20] In 1629 this ribbon loom was introduced into Leyden, where the riots of the ribbon weavers forced the town council to prohibit it. In 1676 its use was prohibited in Cologne, at the same time that its introduction was causing serious disturbances in England. "By an imperial Edict of the 19th of February, 1685, its use was forbidden throughout all Germany. In Hamburg it was burned in public, by order of the Senate. The Emperor Charles VI, on the 9th of February, 1719, renewed the Edict of 1685, and not till 1765 was its use openly allowed in the Electorate of Saxony. This machine, which shook all Europe to its foundations, was in fact the precursor of the mule and power loom, and of the industrial revolution of the eighteenth century. It enabled a totally inexperienced boy to set the whole loom, with all its shuttles, in motion by simply moving a rod backward and forward, and in its improved form produced from forty to fifty pieces at once."[21]

The introduction of machinery has universally caused the workers to revolt. Much futile denunciation has been poured upon the blind, stupid resistance of the workers, but in view of the misery and poverty which they have suffered, it is impossible to judge them harshly. Their passionate, futile resistance to the irresistible moves to pity rather than to condemnation. As Marx justly says, "It took both time and experience before the work people learned to distinguish between machinery and its employment by capital, and to direct their attacks, not against the material instruments of production, but against the mode in which they are used."[22]


Under the new industrial regime, Robert Owen, erstwhile a poor draper's apprentice, soon became one of the most successful manufacturers in England. At eighteen years of age we find him entering into the manufacture of the new cotton-spinning machines, with a borrowed capital of $500. His partner was a man named Jones, and though the enterprise was successful from a financial point of view, the partnership proved to be most disagreeable. Accordingly it was dissolved, Owen taking three of the "mules" which they were making as a reimbursement for his investment. With these and some other machinery, Owen entered the cotton manufacturing industry, employing at first only three men. He made $1500 as his first year's profit.

Erelong Owen ceased manufacturing upon his own account, and became superintendent of a Manchester cotton mill, owned by a Mr. Drinkwater, and employing some five hundred work people. A most progressive man, in his new position Owen was always ready to introduce new machinery, and to embark upon experiments, with a view to improving the quality of the product of the factory.[23] In this he was so successful that the goods manufactured at the Drinkwater mill soon commanded a fifty per cent advance above the regular market prices. Drinkwater, delighted at results like these, made Owen his partner. Thus when he was barely twenty years of age Owen had secured an eminent position among the cotton manufacturers of the time. It is interesting to recall that Owen, in that same year, 1791, used the first cotton ever brought into England from the United States. "American sea island cotton," as it was called from the fact that it was then grown only upon the islands near the southern coast of the United States, was not believed to be of any value for manufacture on account, chiefly, of its poor color. But when a cotton broker named Spear received three hundred pounds of it from an American planter, with the request that he get some competent spinner to test it, Owen, with characteristic readiness, undertook the test and succeeded in making a much finer product than had hitherto been made from the French cotton, though inferior to it in color. That was the first introduction of American cotton, destined soon to furnish English cotton mills with the greater part of their raw material.

Owen did not long remain with Mr. Drinkwater. He accepted another profitable partnership in Manchester, and it was at this time that he became active in social reform work. As a member of an important literary and philosophical society, he was thrown much into the company of men distinguished in all walks of life, one of his friends and admirers being the poet Coleridge. Here he began that agitation which led to the passing of the very first factory act of Sir Robert Peel, in 1802. The suffering of the children moved his great humane heart to pity. He well knew that his own wealth and the wealth of his fellow-capitalists had been purchased at a terrible cost in child life. He was only a philanthropist as yet; he saw only the pitiful waste of life involved, and sought to impress men of wealth with what he felt. His mind was constantly occupied with plans for practical, constructive philanthropy upon a scale never before attempted.

On the first day of the nineteenth century, Owen entered upon the wonderful philanthropic career at New Lanark, which attracted universal attention, and ultimately led him to those social experiments and theories which won for him the title of "Father of Modern Socialism." We have already seen what the conditions were in the "model factory" when Owen assumed control. His influence was at once directed to the task of ameliorating the condition of the work people. He shortened the hours of labor, introduced sanitary reforms, protected the people against the exploitation of traders through a vicious credit system, opening a store and supplying them with goods at cost, and established infant schools, the first of their kind, for the care and education of children from two years of age and upward. Still, the workers themselves were suspicious of this man who, so different from other employers, was zealous in doing things for them. He really knew nothing of the working class, and it had never occurred to him that they might do anything for themselves. New Lanark under Owen was, to use the phrase which Mr. Ghent has adopted from Fourier, "a benevolent feudalism." Owen complains pathetically, "Yet the work people were systematically opposed to every change which I proposed, and did whatever they could to frustrate my object."[24]

Opportunity to win the affection and confidence of his employees came to Owen at last, and he was not slow to embrace it. In 1806 the United States, in consequence of a diplomatic rupture with England, placed an embargo upon the shipment of raw cotton to that country. Everywhere mills were shut down, and there was the utmost distress in consequence. The New Lanark mills, in common with most others, were shut down for four months, during which time Owen paid every worker his or her wages in full, at a cost of over $35,000. Forever afterward he enjoyed the love and trust of his work people. In spite of all his seemingly reckless expenditure upon purely philanthropic work, the mills yielded an enormous profit. But Owen was constantly in conflict with his business associates, who sought to restrict his philanthropic expenditures, with the result that he was compelled again and again to change partners, always securing their interests and returning them big profits upon their investments, until finally, in 1829, he left New Lanark altogether.

During twenty-nine years he had carried on the business with splendid commercial success and at the same time attracted universal attention to New Lanark as the theater of the greatest experiments in social regeneration the modern world had known. Every year thousands of persons from all parts of the world, many of them statesmen and representatives of the crowned heads of Europe, visited New Lanark to study these experiments, and never were they seriously criticised or their success challenged. It was a wonderful achievement. Had Owen's life ended in 1829, he must have taken rank in history as one of the truly great men of the nineteenth century.


Let us now consider briefly the forces which led this gentle philanthropist onward to the goal of Communism. His experiences at New Lanark had convinced him that human character depends in large part upon, and is shaped by, environment. Others before Owen had perceived this, but he must ever be regarded as one of the pioneers in the spread of the idea, one of the first to give it definite form and to demonstrate its truth upon a large scale. In the first of those keen "Essays on the Formation of Human Character," in which he recounts the results of his New Lanark system of education, Owen says, "Any general character from the best to the worst, from the most ignorant to the most enlightened, may be given to any community, even to the world at large, by the application of proper means; which means are to a great extent at the command and under the control of those who have influence in the affairs of men."

We may admit that there is a good deal of overemphasis in this statement, but the doctrine itself does not seem strange or sensational to-day. It might be promulgated in any fashionable church, or in any ministerial conference, without exciting more than a languid, passing interest. But in Owen's time it was far otherwise. Such a doctrine struck at the very roots of current theology and all that organized Christianity consciously stood for. It denied the doctrine of the freedom of the will, upon which the elaborate theology of the church rested. No wonder, then, that it brought much bitter denunciation upon the heads of its promulgators. A poet of the period, in a poem dedicated to Owen, aptly expresses the doctrine in somewhat prosaic verse:—

"We are the creatures of external things, Acting on inward organs, and are made To think and do whate'er our tutors please. What folly, then, to punish or reward For deeds o'er which we never held a curb! What woeful ignorance, to teach the crime And then chastise the pupil for his guilt!"[25]

Owen learned other things at New Lanark besides the truth that character is formed largely by environment. Starting out with no other purpose than to ameliorate the conditions of his work people, he realized before many years had passed that he could never do for them the one essential thing—secure their real liberty. "The people were slaves of my mercy," he writes.[26] He saw, though but dimly at first, that no man could be free who depended upon another for the right to earn his bread, no matter how good the bread-master might be. The hopelessness of expecting reform from the manufacturers themselves was painfully forced upon him. First of all, there was the bitter hostility of those of his class who had no sympathy with his philanthropic ideas, manifested from the beginning of his agitation at Manchester. Then there was the incessant conflict with his own associates, who, though they represented the noblest and best elements of the manufacturing class, constantly opposed him and regarded as dangerous and immoral his belief in the inherent right of every child to the opportunities of sound physical, mental, and moral culture. Class consciousness had not yet become a recognized term in sociological discussions, but class consciousness, the instinctive conformity of thought and action with class interests, was a fact which confronted Owen at every step.

The Luddite riots of 1810-1811 awakened England to the importance of the labor question, and Owen, who since 1805 had been devoting much time to its study, secured a wider audience and a much more serious hearing than ever before. Then came the frightful misery of 1815, due to the crisis which the end of the great war produced. Every one seemed to think that when the war was over and peace restored, there would be a tremendous increase in prosperity. What happened was precisely the opposite; for a time at least things were immeasurably worse than before. Peace did not bring with it plenty, but penury.

Owen, more clearly than any other man of the time, explained the real nature of the crisis. The war had given an important spur to industry and encouraged many new inventions and chemical discoveries. "The war was the great and most extravagant customer of farmers, manufacturers, and other producers of wealth, and many during this period became very wealthy.... And on the day on which peace was signed, the great customer of the producers died, and prices fell as the demand diminished, until the prime cost of the articles required for war could not be obtained.... Barns and farmyards were full, warehouses loaded, and such was our artificial state of society that this very superabundance of wealth was the sole cause of the existing distress. Burn the stock in the farmyards and warehouses, and prosperity would immediately recommence, in the same manner as if the war had continued. This want of demand at remunerating prices compelled the master producers to consider what they could do to diminish the amount of their productions and the cost of producing until these surplus stocks could be taken out of the market. To effect these results, every economy in producing was resorted to, and men being more expensive machines for producing than mechanical and chemical inventions and discoveries so extensively brought into action during the war, the men were discharged and the machines were made to supersede them—while the numbers of the unemployed were increased by the discharge of men from the army and navy. Hence the great distress for want of work among all classes whose labor was so much in demand while the war continued. This increase of mechanical and chemical power was continually diminishing the demand for, and value of, manual labor, and would continue to do so, and would effect great changes throughout society."[27]

In this statement there are several points worthy of attention. In the first place, the analysis of the crisis of 1815 is very like the later analyses of commercial crises by the Marxists; secondly, the antagonism of class interests is clearly developed, so far as the basic interests of the employers and their employees are concerned. The former, in order to conserve their interests, have to dismiss the workers, thus forcing them into the direst poverty. Thirdly, the conflict between manual labor and machine production is frankly stated. Owen's studies were leading him from mere philanthropism to Socialism.

During the height of the distress of 1815, Owen called together a large number of cotton manufacturers at a conference, held in Glasgow, to consider the state of the cotton trade and the prevailing distress. He proposed (1) that they should petition Parliament for the repeal of the revenue tariff on raw cotton; (2) that they should call upon Parliament to shorten the hours of labor in the cotton mills by legislative enactment, and otherwise seek to improve the condition of the working people. The first proposition was carried with unanimity, but the second, and to Owen the more important, did not even secure a seconder.[28] The conference plainly showed the power of class interests. The spirit in which Owen faced his fellow-manufacturers is best seen in the following extract from the address delivered by him, with copies of which he afterward literally deluged the kingdom:—

"True, indeed, it is that the main pillar and prop of the political greatness and prosperity of our country is a manufacture which, as now carried on, is destructive of the health, morals, and social comfort of the mass of people engaged in it. It is only since the introduction of the cotton trade that children, at an age before they had acquired strength or mental instruction, have been forced into cotton mills,—those receptacles, in too many instances, for living human skeletons, almost disrobed of intellect, where, as the business is often now conducted, they linger out a few years of miserable existence, acquiring every bad habit which they may disseminate throughout society. It is only since the introduction of this trade that children and even grown people were required to labor more than twelve hours in a day, not including the time allotted for meals. It is only since the introduction of this trade that the sole recreation of the laborer is to be found in the pot-house or ginshop, and it is only since the introduction of this baneful trade that poverty, crime, and misery have made rapid and fearful strides throughout the community.

"Shall we then go unblushingly and ask the legislators of our country to pass legislative acts to sanction and increase this trade—to sign the death warrants of the strength, morals, and happiness of thousands of our fellow-creatures, and not attempt to propose corrections for the evils which it creates? If such shall be your determination, I, for one, will not join in the application,—no, I will, with all the faculties I possess, oppose every attempt made to extend the trade that, except in name, is more injurious to those employed in it than is the slavery in the West Indies to the poor negroes; for deeply as I am interested in the cotton manufacture, highly as I value the extended political power of my country, yet knowing as I do, from long experience both here and in England, the miseries which this trade, as it is now conducted, inflicts on those to whom it gives employment, I do not hesitate to say: Perish the cotton trade, perish even the political superiority of our country, if it depends on the cotton trade, rather than that they shall be upheld by the sacrifice of everything valuable in life."[29]

This conference doubtless had much to do with Owen's acceptance of a communistic ideal approaching that of modern Socialism in many important respects. It certainly intensified the hatred and fear of those manufacturers whose interests he had so courageously attacked. In 1817 we find him proposing to the British government the establishment of communistic villages, as the best means of remedying the terrible distress which prevailed at that time. From this time onward his interest in mere surface reforms such as he had been carrying on at New Lanark seemed to wane. He became at this juncture an apostle of Communism, or as he later preferred to say, Socialism. His ideal was a cooeperative world, with perfect equality between the sexes. He had completely demonstrated to his own mind that private property was incompatible with social well-being. Every month of his experience at New Lanark had deeply impressed him with the conviction that to make it possible for all people to live equally happy and moral lives they must have equal material resources and conditions of life, and he could not understand why it had never occurred to others before him.

Here we have the essential characteristic of Utopian Socialism as distinguished from modern, or scientific, Socialism. The Utopians regard human life as something plastic and capable of being shaped and molded according to systems and plans. All that is necessary is to take some abstract principle as a standard, and then prepare a plan for the reorganization of society in conformity with that principle. If the plan is perfect, it will be enough to demonstrate its advantages as one would demonstrate a sum in arithmetic. The scientific Socialists, on the other hand, are evolutionists. Society, they believe, cannot take leaps at will; social changes are products of the past and the present. They distrust social inventors and schemes. Socialism is not an ingenious plan for the realization of abstract Justice, or Brotherhood, but a necessary outgrowth of the centuries. Owen, then, was a Utopian. He regarded himself as one inspired, an inspired inventor of a new social system, and believed that it was only necessary for him to demonstrate the truth of his contentions and theories, by argument and practical experiment, to bring about the transformation of the world. He conducted a tremendous propaganda, by means of newspapers, pamphlets, lectures, and debates, and established various communities in England and this country. In face of a bitter opposition and repeated failure, he kept on with sublime faith and unbounded courage which nothing could shake.

In 1825 Owen began the greatest and most splendid of his social experiments in the village of Harmonie, Indiana, in the beautiful valley of the Wabash. The place had already been the theater of an interesting experiment in religious communism, Owen having bought the property from the Rappites. In February and March, 1825, the brave reformer addressed two of the most distinguished audiences ever gathered in the Hall of Representatives at the national capital. In the audiences were the President of the United States, the Judges of the Supreme Court, several members of the cabinet, and almost the entire membership of both houses of Congress. Owen explained his plans for the regeneration of society in detail, exhibiting a model of the buildings to be erected. It is almost impossible to realize at this day the tremendous interest which his appeal to Congress awakened. His vision of a re-created world caught the popular imagination.

Among those whose minds were fired was a boy of sixteen, tall, lank, uncouth, and poor. Word had come to him of Owen's splendid undertaking, and he had caught something of the enthusiasm of the great dreamer. Above all, it was said that New Harmony was to be a wonderful center of learning, that the foremost educators of the world would establish great schools there, fully equipped with books and all sorts of appliances. To be a scholar had been the boy's one great ambition, so he yearned wistfully for an opportunity to join the new community. But his father forbidding, claiming his services, the boy suffered grievous disappointment. One wonders what effect residence at New Harmony would have had upon the life of Abraham Lincoln, and upon the history of America! And how much, one wonders, was that splendid life influenced by that boyish interest in the regeneration of the world?

That the influence of New Harmony was felt by Lincoln we know. It was a child of New Harmony, Robert Dale Owen, son of Robert Owen, who, when emancipation seemed to hang in the balance, penned his remarkable letter to President Lincoln, dated September seventeenth, 1862. "Its perusal thrilled me like a trumpet call," said the great President. Five days after its receipt the Preliminary Proclamation was issued. "Your letter to the President had more influence on him than any other document which reached him on the subject—I think I might say than all others put together. I speak of that which I know from personal conference with him," wrote Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury.

New Harmony failed. Other communities established by Owen failed, but the story of their failure is nevertheless full of inspiration. The world has long since written the word "Failure" as an epitaph for Robert Owen. But what a splendid failure that life was! Standing by his grave one day, in the picturesque little churchyard at Newton, by a bend of the winding river, not far from the ruins of the ancient castle home of the famous Deist, Lord Herbert, the writer said to an old Welsh laborer, "But his life was a failure, was it not?" The old man gazed awhile at the grave, and then with a voice of unforgettable reverence and love answered, "I suppose it was, sir, as the world goes; a failure like Jesus Christ's. But I don't call it failure, sir. He established infant schools; he founded the great cooeperative movement; he helped to make the trade unions;[30] he helped to give us the factory acts; he worked for peace between two great countries. His Socialism has not been realized yet, nor has Christ's—but it will come!"


Owen was not the only builder of Utopias in his time. In the same year that Owen launched his New Harmony venture, there died in Paris another dreamer of social millenniums, a gentle mystic, Henry de Saint-Simon, and in 1837, the year of Owen's third Socialist congress, another great Utopist died in the French capital, Charles Fourier. Each of these contributed something to the development of the theories of Socialism, each has a legitimate place in the history of the Socialist movement. But this little work is not intended to give the history of Socialism.[31] I have taken only one of the three great Utopists, as representative of them all: one who seems to me to be much nearer to the later scientific movement pioneered by Marx and Engels than any of the others. In the Socialism of Owen, we have Utopian Socialism at its best.

What distinguishes the Utopian Socialists from their scientific successors we have already noted. Engels expresses the principle very clearly in the following luminous passage: "One thing is common to all three. Not one of them appears as a representative of the interests of that proletariat which historical development had ... produced. Like the French philosophers,[32] they do not claim to emancipate a particular class to begin with, but all humanity at once. Like them, they wish to bring in the kingdom of reason and eternal justice, but this kingdom, as they see it, is as far as heaven from earth from that of the French philosophers.

"For, to our three social reformers, the bourgeois world, based upon the principles of these philosophers, is quite as irrational and unjust, and, therefore, finds its way to the dust hole quite as readily, as feudalism and all the earlier stages of society. If pure reason and justice had not, hitherto, ruled the world, this has been the case only because men have not rightly understood them. What was wanted was the individual man of genius, who has now arisen and who understands the truth. That he has now arisen, that the truth has now been clearly understood, is not an inevitable event, following of necessity in the chain of historical development, but a mere happy accident. He might just as well have been born five hundred years earlier, and might then have spared humanity five hundred years of error, strife, and suffering."[33]

Neither of these great Utopists had anything like the conception of social evolution, determined by economic conditions and the resulting conflicts of economic classes, which constitutes the base of the philosophy of the scientific Socialists. Each of them had some faint comprehension of isolated facts, but neither of them developed his knowledge very far, nor could the facts appear to them as correlated later by Marx. Saint-Simon, as we know, recognized the class struggle in the French Revolution, and saw in the Reign of Terror only the momentary reign of the non-possessing masses;[34] he saw, too, that the political question was fundamentally an economic question, declaring that politics is the science of production, and prophesying that politics would be absorbed by economics.[35] Fourier, we also know, applied the principle of evolution to society. He divided the history of society into four great epochs—savagery, barbarism, the patriarchate, and civilization.[36] But just as Saint-Simon failed to grasp the significance of the class conflict, and its relation to the fundamental character of economic institutions, which he dimly perceived, so Fourier failed to grasp the significance of the evolutionary process which he described, and, like Saint-Simon, he halted upon the brink, so to speak, of an important discovery. His concept of social evolution meant little to him and possessed only an academic interest. And Owen, in many respects the greatest of the three, realized in a practical manner that the industrial problem was a class conflict. Not only had he found in 1815 that pity was powerless to move the hearts of his fellow-manufacturers when their class interests were concerned, but later, in 1818, when he went to present his famous memorial to the Congress of Sovereigns at Aix-la-Chapelle, he had another lesson of the same kind. At Frankfort, Germany, he tarried on his way to the Congress, and was invited to attend a notable dinner to meet the Secretary of the Congress, M. Gentz, a famous diplomat of the day, "who enjoyed the full confidence of the leading despots of Europe." After Owen had outlined his schemes for social amelioration, M. Gentz was asked for his reply, and Owen tells us that the diplomat answered, "We know very well that what you say is true, but how could we govern the masses, if they were wealthy, and so, independent of us?"[37] Lord Lauderdale, too, had exclaimed on another occasion, "Nothing [i.e. than Owen's plans] could be more complete for the poor and working classes, but what will become of us?"[38] Scattered throughout Owen's writings and speeches are numerous evidences that he at times recognized the class antagonisms in industrial society as the heart of the industrial problem,[39] but to him, also, the germ of an important truth meant practically nothing. He saw only the facts in their isolation, and made no attempt to discover their meaning or to relate them to his teaching.

Each of the three men regarded himself as the discoverer of the truth which would redeem the world; each devoted himself with magnificent faith and heroic courage to his task; each failed to realize his hopes; and each left behind him faithful disciples and followers, confident that the day must come at last when the suffering and disinherited of earth will be able to say, in Owen's dying words, "Relief has come." Perhaps no better estimate of the value of the visions of these great Utopists has ever been penned than that by Emerson in the following tribute to Owen:[40]—

"Robert Owen of New Lanark came hither from England in 1845 to read lectures or hold conversations wherever he could find listeners—the most amiable, sanguine, and candid of men. He had not the least doubt that he had hit on the plan of right and perfect Socialism, or that mankind would adopt it. He was then seventy years old, and being asked, 'Well, Mr. Owen, who is your disciple? how many men are there possessed of your views who will remain after you are gone to put them in practice?' 'Not one,' was the reply. Robert Owen knew Fourier in his old age. He said that Fourier learned of him all the truth that he had. The rest of his system was imagination, and the imagination of a visionary. Owen made the best impression by his rare benevolence. His love of men made us forget his 'three errors.' His charitable construction of men and their actions was invariable. He was the better Christian in his controversies with Christians.

"And truly I honor the generous ideas of the Socialists, the magnificence of their theories, and the enthusiasm with which they have been urged. They appeared inspired men of their time. Mr. Owen preached his doctrine of labor and reward with the fidelity and devotion of a saint in the slow ears of his generation.

"One feels that these philosophers have skipped no fact but one, namely, life. They treat man as a plastic thing, or something that may be put up or down, ripened or retarded, molded, polished, made into solid or fluid or gas at the will of the leader; or perhaps as a vegetable, from which, though now a very poor crab, a very good peach can by manure and exposure be in time produced—and skip the faculty of life which spawns and spurns systems and system makers; which eludes all conditions; which makes or supplants a thousand Phalanxes and New Harmonies with each pulsation....

"Yet, in a day of small, sour and fierce schemes, one is admonished and cheered by a project of such friendly aims, and of such bold and generous proportions; there is an intellectual courage and strength in it which is superior and commanding; it certifies the presence of so much truth in the theory, and in so far is destined to be fact.

"I regard these philanthropists as themselves the effects of the age in which they live, in common with so many other good facts the efflorescence of the period and predicting the good fruit that ripens. They were not the creators that they believed themselves to be; but they were unconscious prophets of the true state of society, one which the tendencies of nature lead unto, one which always establishes itself for the sane soul, though not in that manner in which they paint it."

"Our visions have not come to naught, Who saw by lightning in the night; The deeds we dreamed are being wrought By those who work in clearer light; In other ways our fight is fought, And other forms fulfill our thought Made visible to all men's sight."[41]


[10] Karl Marx: Biographical Memoirs, by Wilhelm Liebknecht, page 101.

[11] Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, by F. Engels, London, 1892, pages 20-25.

[12] For good accounts of the life of Owen the reader is referred to the Biography, by Lloyd Jones, in The Social Science Series, 1890, published by Swan, Sonnenschein & Co., London, and the Life of Robert Owen, by Frank Podmore, 2 vols., New York, 1907.

[13] The Industrial History of England, by H. de B. Gibbins, London, Methuen and Co.

[14] Industrial History of England, page 179.

[15] This anonymous historian is now known to have been Mr. Samuel Kydd, barrister-at-law (vide Cooke-Taylor).

[16] The Factory System and the Factory Acts, by R. W. Cooke-Taylor, London, 1894.

[17] In two volumes: London, Effingham Wilson, 1857 and 1858. Vol. I contains the Life; Vol. II is a Supplementary Appendix. Quotations are from Vol. I.

[18] See Songs of Freedom, by H. S. Salt, pages 81-83.

[19] Industrial History of England, page 181.

[20] Capital, by Karl Marx, Vol. I, page 467, Kerr edition.

[21] Idem, Vol. I, page 468.

[22] Capital, Vol. I, page 468.

[23] For instance, he so improved the machinery and increased the fineness of the threads that, instead of spinning seventy-five thousand yards of yarn to the pound of cotton, he spun two hundred and fifty thousand! At that time a pound of cotton, which in its raw state was worth $1.25, became worth $50 when spun.—Life of Robert Owen, Philadelphia, 1866.—Anonymous.

[24] Autobiography.

[25] The Force of Circumstances, a poem, by John Garwood, Birmingham, 1808.

[26] Quoted by Engels, Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, page 22 (English edition, 1892).

[27] Quoted by H. M. Hyndman, The Economics of Socialism, page 150.

[28] The New Harmony Communities, by George Browning Lockwood, page 71.

[29] Quoted by Lockwood, The New Harmony Communities, pages 71-72.

[30] Owen presided at the first organized Trade Union Congress in England.

[31] For the history of these and other Utopian Socialist schemes, the reader is referred to Professor Ely's French and German Socialism (1883); Kirkup's History of Socialism (1900); and Hillquit's History of Socialism in the United States (1903).

[32] The Encyclopaedists.

[33] Engels, Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, pages 6-7.

[34] Engels, Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, page 15.

[35] Idem.

[36] Idem, page 18.

[37] Autobiography.

[38] Idem.

[39] See, for instance, The Revolution in Mind and Practice, by Robert Owen, pages 21-22.

[40] Essay on Robert Owen.

[41] Gerald Massey.




The Communist Manifesto has been called the birth-cry of the modern scientific Socialist movement. When it was written, at the end of 1847, little remained of those great movements which in the early part of the century had inspired millions with high hopes of social regeneration and rekindled the beacon fires of faith in the world. The Saint-Simonians had, as an organized body, disappeared; the Fourierists were a dwindling sect, discouraged by the failure of the one great trial of their system, the famous Brook Farm experiment, in the United States; the Owenite movement had never recovered from the failures of the experiments at New Harmony and elsewhere, and had lost much of its identity through the multiplicity of interests embraced in Owen's later propaganda. Chartism and Trade Unionism on the one hand, and the Cooeperative Societies on the other, had, between them, absorbed most of the vital elements of the Owenite movement.

There was a multitude of what Engels calls "social quacks," but the really great social movements, Owenism in England, and Fourierism in France, were utterly demoralized and rapidly dwindling away. One thing only served to keep the flame of hope alive—"the crude, rough-hewn, purely instinctive sort of Communism" of the workers. This Communism of the working class differed very essentially from the Socialism of Fourier and Owen. It was Utopian, being based, like all Utopian movements, upon abstract ideas. It differed from Fourierism and Owenism, however, in that instead of a universal appeal based upon Brotherhood, Justice, Order, and Economy, its appeal was, primarily, to the laborer. Its basis was the crude class doctrine of "the rights of Labor." The laborer was appealed to as one suffering from oppression and injustice. It was, therefore, distinctly a class movement, and its class-consciousness was sufficiently developed to keep its leaders from wasting their lives in abortive appeals to the master class. The leading exponents of this Communism of the workers were Wilhelm Weitling, in Germany, and Etienne Cabet, in France.

Weitling was a man of the people. He was born in Magdeburg, Germany, in 1808, the illegitimate child of a humble woman and her soldier lover. He became a tailor, and, as was the custom in Germany at that time, traveled extensively during his apprenticeship. In 1838 his first important work, "The World As It Is, and As It Might Be," appeared, published in Paris by a secret revolutionary society consisting of German workingmen of the "Young Germany" movement. In this work Weitling first expounded at length his communistic theories. It is claimed[42] that his conversion to Communism was the result of the chance placing of a Fourierist paper upon the table of a Berlin coffeehouse, by Albert Brisbane, the brilliant friend and disciple of Fourier, his first exponent in the English language. This may well be true, for, as we shall see, Weitling's views are mainly based upon those of the great French Utopist. In 1842 Weitling published his best-known work, the book upon which his literary fame chiefly rests, "The Guaranties of Harmony and Freedom." This work at once attracted wide attention, and gave Weitling a foremost place among the writers of the time in the affections of the educated workers. It was an elaboration of the theories contained in his earlier book. Morris Hillquit[43] thus describes Weitling's philosophy and method:—

"In his social philosophy, Weitling may be said to have been the connecting link between primitive and modern Socialism. In the main, he is still a Utopian, and his writings betray the unmistakable influence of the early French Socialists. In common with all Utopians, he bases his philosophy exclusively upon moral grounds. Misery and poverty are to him but the results of human malice, and his cry is for 'eternal justice' and for the 'absolute liberty and equality of all mankind.' In his criticism of the existing order, he leans closely on Fourier, from whom he also borrowed the division of labor into three classes of the Necessary, Useful, and Attractive, and the plan of organization of 'attractive industry.'

"His ideal of the future state of society reminds us of the Saint-Simonian government of scientists. The administration of affairs of the entire globe is to be in the hands of the three greatest authorities on 'philosophical medicine,' physics, and mechanics, who are to be reenforced by a number of subordinate committees. His state of the future is a highly centralized government, and is described by the author with the customary details. Where Weitling, to some extent, approaches the conception of modern Socialism, is in his recognition of class distinctions between employer and employee. This distinction never amounted to a conscious indorsement of the modern Socialist doctrine of the 'class struggle,' but his views on the antagonism between the 'poor' and the 'wealthy' came quite close to it. He was a firm believer in labor organizations as a factor in developing the administrative abilities of the working class; the creation of an independent labor party was one of his pet schemes, and his appeals were principally addressed to the workingmen."

Weitling visited the United States in 1846, a group of German exiles, identified with the Free Soil movement, having invited him to become the editor of a magazine, the Volkstribun, devoted to the principles of the movement. By the time he reached America, however, the magazine had suspended publication. He stayed little more than a year, hastening back to the fatherland to share in the revolutionary activities of 1848. He returned to America again in 1849, after the failure of the "glorious revolution," and for many years thereafter was an active and tireless propagandist. He died in Brooklyn in 1871.

Etienne Cabet was, in many ways, a very different type of man from Weitling, but their ideas were not so dissimilar. Cabet, born in Dijon, France, in 1788, was the son of a fairly prosperous cooper, and received a good university education. He studied both medicine and law, adopting the profession of the latter and early achieving marked success in its practice. He took a leading part in the Revolution of 1830 as a member of the "Committee of Insurrection," and upon the accession of Louis Philippe was "rewarded" by being made Attorney-General for Corsica. There is no doubt that the government desired to remove Cabet from the political life of Paris, quite as much as to reward him for his services during the Revolution; his strong radicalism, combined with his sturdy independence of character, being rightly regarded as dangerous to Louis Philippe's regime. His reward, therefore, took the form of practical banishment. The wily advisers of Louis Philippe used the gloved hand. But the best-laid schemes of mice and courtiers "gang aft agley." Cabet, in Corsica, joined the radical anti-administration forces, and became a thorn in the side of the government. Removed from office, he returned to Paris, whereupon the citizens of Dijon, his native town, elected him as their deputy to the lower chamber in 1834. Here he continued his opposition to the administration, and was at last tried on a charge of lese majeste, and given the option of choosing between two years' imprisonment and five years' exile.

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