Max Nomad, Political Heretics: From Plato to Mao Tse-tung, 1963.

Chapter I



Prior to the Bolshevik Revolution the world at large was skeptical of the possibility or the practicability of a social system that would abolish the institution of private property. To refute those skeptics the opponents of the status quo often pointed to Plato, the Greek philosopher, who, more than two thousand years ago, in one of his best-known works gave a glowing description of an imaginary social system built upon the allegedly impracticable principle of community of property. To be sure, not all radical thinkers were particularly eager to recognize the Athenian sage as their legitimate ancestor. Some of them pointed out that while modern radicalism is based on a socialized form of production, what Plato suggested was in reality a communism of consumption for the ruling elite, while the old individualistic methods of production by the mass of population were not affected at all.

There are other reasons why modern radicals have little reason to be particularly proud of this ancestry. Plato's Utopia was not a plea for the plebeian underdog, but a protest in behalf of the aristocratic intelligentsia, the highly educated offspring of the landed nobility who resented the rule of the "democratic" merchants of Athens, whose policy of importing cheap grain from the colonies cut the profits of the landed aristocracy.

Plato's parasitic communism of the "knows" -- for his was an aristocracy of knowledge based neither on birth nor on wealth -- shows many similarities to the allegedly proletarian "communism" of the Soviet orbit. Plato's philosophers, who are the top stratum, correspond to the upper layers of the Communist party, whose familiarity with Marx's and Lenin's teachings constitutes the "ethical" basis of their rule, just as the rule of Plato's philosopher-kings is based on the knowledge and the practice of what he called "virtue." Below the top stratum in Plato's Republic are the warriors, who are obviously identical with the Soviet officers' corps. Plato's merchants, who are looked down upon by the philosophers and the warriors, have their counterparts in the technocrats of the Soviet system. In either case their high incomes are a consolation for their inferior status. The great mass of peasants and craftsmen, who were not free and were kept in their place by the warriors, differed from their counterparts in the Soviet orbit in that they were not mocked by the possession of a "vote" under a one-party system and were not told that they were the owners of all the wealth of their "classless" country. In one important respect, however, Plato's "ideal" had a familiar ring. Art and literature were to be tolerated only if considered helpful in the maintenance of the regime. There was to be a state religion which the subjects were forced to accept, though Plato did not believe in it himself.1 Considering the great intelligence of the present Soviet rulers it is doubtful whether Khrushchev and his partners actually believe in Marxism-Leninism, the official state religion of their regime.

Of Hippodamus of Miletus, who was apparently a contemporary of Plato, Aristotle reports that he worked out a plan for an ideal republic that to a certain extent shows similarities to the "classless" system established behind the Iron Curtain. The entire arable land area was to be divided into three parts. The first part comprised the sacred land, the produce of which was to be used for the needs of the religious cult, that is, for the priests; the second was to be devoted to the needs of the warriors; while the third was to belong to the common run of tillers of the soil (who apparently would have to till the soil for the first two categories of citizens as well). There were to be elections for public office in which all citizens would take part. There is a curious resemblance between this plan and the Inca communism of ancient Peru. It may be assumed that the officeholders were chosen either from among the priests or from the warriors. There is no such tripartite division under contemporary "communism," under which about half of the national income -- and not two-thirds -- is assigned in the form of higher salaries to the educated upper crust -- officeholders, army officers, technicians, and cultural workers -- constituting (including their families) about 20 per cent of the population.

A contemporary of Hippodamus was Phaleas of Chalcedon, an ancient Greek port on the Bosporus. In his ideal republic the population was to be divided into two classes -- landowners and workers. The principle of equalitarianism would prevail so far as the former were concerned, all owners possessing equal shares of land which they had no right to sell. Otherwise, there was what is now called "communism." All manual workers were to be slaves of the state, which had a monopoly of trade and industry. The works of Phaleas have been lost, and posterity has learned about them from Aristotle. Some of the ideas have a familiar ring.

Another variant of communism was advocated by the Greek mythographer Euhemerus, who lived around 300 b.c, the author of Sacred History, of which only a few fragments are preserved. His Sacred History reports an island south of Arabia whose population lived under a system of priestly communism. No one owned any property except a house and garden. All produce was handed over to the priests in charge of distribution, who are reported to have given to each one an equitable and satisfactory share.

For all the fantastic features of their schemes the Greek Utopians were nevertheless "realists" of sorts in that they stood firmly on the traditional concept of the majority's subjection to a ruling minority which controlled the state. However, a unique position was occupied by Zeno (336-264 b.c), the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy. One of his ancient biographers reports that in his Republic, a lost work, Zeno visualizes an ideal social system that dispensed with temples, courts, mints, and military training schools -- a system, in short, which two thousand years later was to find an echo in the works of the radical philosophers designated as anarchists. Zeno's superidealism might perhaps be explained by the fact that, as an "outsider" of sorts -- he was a Phoenician by birth -- he could rise above the nationalist concepts of the Greeks in whose opinion the best a "barbarian" could hope for was to be a slave of the Greek master race. Zeno's "anarchism" might also have been the extreme protest of a sensitive soul against the military rule established by the generals of Alexander the Great after his death. In this respect Zeno was the very antipode of Plato, whose system was inspired by the aristocratic "communism" of Sparta, where the military caste held the majority of the population in the most cruel subjection. Plato's "virtue" did not rebel against the treatment of the helots. As Karl Kautsky, an anticommunist Marxist, put it, he merely wanted to substitute the "philosophers" -- the intellectuals -- for the army officers, as the ruling stratum.


The question has often been asked as to why, over a period of nearly two thousand years, no attempt was made by philosophers or poets to present the image of an ideal state. The answer may perhaps be that during this period men resentful of the injustices of their time were inspired first by the teachings of Stoicism, which combined humanitarian ideas with resigned submission to fate. This attitude restrained those who might have striven beyond the inhuman reality. Then came the Christian idea of salvation with belief in the second coming and the thousand years of the kingdom of Christ on earth, which was a perfect Utopia of sorts and apparently needed no minute elaboration. And when that too lost its attraction, the theological constructions of the countless heretical sects and their struggles against the all-powerful Church may likewise have submerged all the potential authors of political romances.

A break came early in the sixteenth century with the appearance of Utopia (1516) by Thomas More, who achieved fame both as an author of this epic of a perfect society and as the martyred chancellor of King Henry VIII. That break coincided with the great change then occurring in the economic and social conditions of England. The change was characterized by the cruel "enclosures," the procedure by which thousands of families were driven off their farms because it was more profitable to the landed noblemen to convert them into grazing land and to engage in the wool export business. More's indignation was aroused by the reduction of those peasants to the status of homeless vagabonds who could find no work and were mercilessly executed when, to escape starvation, they were forced to steal. More's indignation found expression in his famous phrase about "sheep eating men," referring to the sacrifice of human lives for the sake of the wool trade.

The ideal system recommended in More's opus is a curious mixture of economic radicalism, political authoritarianism, and cultural totalitarianism. The basic principle is the negation of private property because, as the spokesman of that book puts it, under a regime of property and money, "all things will be divided among a few," and "the best things will fall to the share of the worst men." The absence of private property is to be accompanied by complete equality of all citizens in the enjoyment of the good things of life. All products are at the disposal of those who need them. There is, of course, a general obligation to work; only those exceptionally gifted are exempted so as to have a chance to follow some intellectual pursuit. Those who do not come up to the expectations must rejoin the ranks of the workers.

Some of the other features of More's Utopia bear the marks of its author's puritanical outlook on life. In his youth More aspired to become a Franciscan monk and to submit to the strict discipline of monastery life, a concept he introduced into his Utopia, whose inhabitants had to wear uniform clothes; however, provision was made so as to distinguish men from women and the married from the unmarried. Once established, fashions were never to change.

There were distinguishing symbolic insignia on the uniforms of the priests who, to all practical purposes, were the ruling class. More was a devout son of the Church, but he was more tolerant than the clergy of his time. Adherents of other creeds were not molested in his Utopia; even nonbelievers were permitted to live, but they were not permitted to hold public office. Nearly five centuries after More's death, there are sections in the United States in which atheist lawyers are not permitted to practice and in which the testimony of atheist witnesses is not considered valid evidence.

As in the case of many other idealistic advocates of social change, More combined humanitarianism with some features of a citizen of the non-Utopian world. He believed in the conquest of neighboring lands as a cure for overpopulation, and in the use of mercenary armies for that purpose. One of the weapons of Utopian warfare was also the now familiar policy of organizing fifth columns and of having the ruler of the enemy country assassinated by his own subjects. There is nothing new under the sun.

All in all, More was a philanthropist rather than a practical social reformer. When, years after the appearance of his book, More was appointed lord chancellor by Henry VIII, he made no attempt to carry out any of the changes which he had suggested. He died on the scaffold because, as a good Catholic, he opposed the King's divorce. It is most likely that he hardly believed in the possibility of an equitable regime such as was presented in his work. His dream of equality was apparently the protest of a highly cultured intellectual against the luxury and cruelty of a parasitic nobility.

More's Utopia, written in Latin, was soon translated into various languages of Western Europe. Needless to say it made a very deep impression on many intellectuals, who felt the way More did during the period of transition from feudalism to capitalism, and in whom the decline of the power of the lords of the manor subconsciously stimulated the dream of the decline of the lords of the moneybags as well.


One of the conscious or unconscious disciples of More and of Plato for that matter, was the Italian monk Tommaso Campanella (1568-1639). His City of the Sun was written in prison, to which he had been confined for twenty-seven years because he had headed a conspiracy aimed at wresting southern Italy from the rule of the Spaniards. As in More's Utopia, the inhabitants of Campanella's dreamland live in community houses, take their meals in public halls, and work together. And as in Utopia the whole roost is ruled by a hierarchy of priests and savants -- an aristocracy of knowledge as against the ascendancy of birth and wealth. That new aristocracy bases its power on the omnipotence of the state, to which every individual must be unflinchingly devoted. In this respect Campanella went much further than More. There is a community of wives and children -- not the result of the lecherous imagination of a sex-starved imprisoned monk, but as a prop for the authority of the state, which might not attain full power if individuals were devoted to their own families. Here one clearly sees the influence of Plato, except that the latter wanted to see his sex theory applied solely to the ruling minority of savants, while the masses lived on in the traditional manner. At bottom, Campanella's views in this respect were not such mad heresies as they seem at first sight. In support of his views the author of the City of the Sun quotes Saint Clemens who, in Campanella's words, "thought, in conformity with the teaching of the Apostles and of Plato, that there should be community of women as well as that of possessions."

Campanella was less tolerant than More, for he wrote his book in the heat of the struggle between the Church and the various branches of Protestantism. In Campanella's state all dissenters or nonbelievers are simply exterminated.

It would be a mistake to see in Campanella's vision merely the freakish fancy of a monk. What he wrote was undoubtedly symbolic of the protest of the lower clergy against the privileges of the upper classes, who at that time had begun to treat the clergymen as their flunkeys. It was also a prophetic dream of a totalitarian-communist society ruled by the clergy of an all-powerful church.


In direct contradiction to Campanella's authoritarian communism was the libertarian communism of a younger contemporary of his, Gerrard Winstanley (1609-52), who lived during the time of the Cromwellian revolution. The ultraradical religious and political sect of the "True Levellers" or "Diggers" took its inspiration from his ideas. In his New Law of Righteousness, Winstanley preached a system of communism under which there would be "no buying or selling of the earth, nor of the fruits thereof." There was to be no money. "If any man or family," he wrote, "want corn or other provisions, they may go to the storehouse and fetch without money. If they want a horse to ride, they may go into the fields in summer or to the common stables in winter, and receive one from the keepers, and when the journey is performed, bring him back." Similar ideas, short of Winstanley's religious mysticism, were to be encountered two and two-and-a-half centuries later in the writings of William Godwin and Peter Kropotkin. Winstanley is considered by some writers as one of the precursors of anarchism. In Winstanley's time these ideas were doubtless the expression of the protest of the strata at the bottom of the social ladder, propertyless peasants and urban workers or impoverished members of the lower middle class like Winstanley, who had been completely ruined during the Civil War.


The Age of Enlightenment, which set in after the religious wars of the seventeenth century, brought forth a large crop of Utopian writers of which only the most important can be mentioned here. They are the French political philosopher, Gabriel Bonnot de Mably (1709-85), and another writer of the eighteenth century about whom nothing definite is known except his surname -- Morelly.

Mably, who had studied for the ministry, renounced a clerical career to enter the service of the government. As secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs he became a leading expert on international relations. At first a staunch defender of the old regime, he experienced a complete change of heart in 1757 when he left government service to write a number of books in which he presented his political philosophy.

Accepting equality as the basic law of nature, he believed that real equality implied economic equality, that is, equality of incomes and not merely political equality. He assumed that communism was the original condition of mankind, and his ideal was a social system in which private property has been abolished and in which societies consisting of small numbers of families tilled the land in common. Everything produced was to be brought to public storehouses to be distributed according to the needs of the individuals. However, he did not believe that such a system could be realized under prevailing circumstances; he therefore made various proposals for the mitigation of injustice. He advocated the abolition of the right of inheritance by collaterals (brothers, nephews), the state to become heir where there were no lineal descendants. Thus, the state would eventually take over all private property.

Speaking about the possibility of a revolution, Mably thought it would be justified. He believed it would be best if the majority of the human race perished in the process, as long as a million happy people survived. Under the influence of Plato, he expressed great admiration for the simplicity of the Spartans and for what he thought was their communism, without considering that the aristocratic communism of the Spartans was built upon a foundation of the most abject slavery of the majority of the population.

Some of Mably's ideas exerted a great influence upon Babeuf, the organizer of the Conspiracy of the Equals. Mably's communist ideas are presented in his Des droits et des devoirs du citoyen (" On the Rights and the Duties of the Citizen") and in his Ordre naturel et essentiel des societes ("The Natural and Essential Order of Societies").

Somewhat related to the ideas of Mably are those of Morelly, whose Le Code de la nature (1755) has become one of the most famous classics of Utopian literature. The gist of his code is the idea that private property is the cause of all evil; to eliminate evils the state becomes the owner of all land and of all industries. Everyone works for the state, those between twenty and twenty-five years of age being employed in agriculture, while those above that age do less strenuous work. The state takes care of everybody. There is no trade or exchange; everyone receives everything he needs. Foreign trade is carried on by the government. The nation is divided into families, tribes, cities, and provinces. Government changes on the principle of rotation. The administration of cities is carried on by a senate composed of heads of households who are over fifty years of age, while the executive power is wielded by a civic officer who is the head of a tribe. After a year his office is taken over by another head of a tribe. In a similar way every province is ruled in rotation by an officer supplied every year by another city, while the various provinces supply successively the head of the state, who holds his office for life. There is a supreme senate holding authority over the entire nation. It is composed of representatives of the various cities, and its membership changes every year. Marriage is obligatory, and divorce is permitted only after ten years of marriage. It is the duty of every mother to nurse her child. The government takes care of the general and vocational education of the children.

Morelly's Code made a great impression. Having appeared anonymously, it was attributed to Diderot, one of the most outstanding writers of the period. It was even included in a collection of his works published in 1773. The influence of Morelly's work reached far beyond his own generation. One of his outstanding disciples was Gracchus Babeuf, whose equalitarian communism was based entirely upon Morelly's ideas. Babeuf, in turn, served as inspiration for the various French communist groups of the first half of the nineteenth century, known under the collective name of "Babouvists." And from the Babouvists the line goes directly to Auguste Blanqui, whose ideas of a revolutionary dictatorship made their imprint upon the early ideas of Karl Marx.

From the egalitarianism of Morelly and the near-egalitarianism of Mably there is a historical leap of more than two generations to those representatives of French anticapitalist thought who are usually designated as Utopian socialists and the basis of whose social philosophies was the very opposite of economic equality. These were the followers of Saint-Simon and Fourier.


At the very outset, it must be stated that most historians are guilty of gross negligence when they classify Claude Henri de Saint-Simon (1760-1825) as a socialist. A scion of the old French aristocracy and a prolific writer, Saint-Simon gave rise to and lent his name to a school of socialism whose adherents were called Saint-Simonians, even though there is no trace of any definite socialist concepts in his works. In spite of his background -- he was a count and a relative of the famous Due de Saint-Simon, the author of the Memoirs -- he identified himself with the rising bourgeoisie -- the industrial and commercial classes whose virtues he extolled as against the parasitism of the aristocrats. Hence, he has been called the prophet of big business, whose representatives he tried to inspire with a sense of social responsibility. His writings contain ideas which might have served as inspiration for the "technocrats" of our time. He championed the idea of a working aristocracy of merit in control of social processes, as against the feudal aristocracy of birth. The aristocracy of merit would include the chiefs of industry -- owners and managers -- and the scientists. He envisaged an industrial state whose spiritual administration was in the hands of men of science, while its industrial chiefs were to be educated or compelled to use their wealth in the interest of the entire nation. He expected the workers to submit voluntarily to a hierarchy of industrialists, managers, and savants who, in his opinion, were their natural masters. Individual property was to be respected, and there was no thought of collectivism, that is, of public ownership, in his mind. That idea was introduced into his philosophy after his death by his two outstanding disciples, Bazard and Enfantin, who thus became the originators of what is called Saint-Simonian socialism. Saint-Simon's most important works were Letters of an Inhabitant of Geneva, and New Christianity. (The title of this last work apparently misled Bertrand Russell, in his Freedom Versus Organization, p. 178, into asserting that "Saint-Simon was essentially a medievalist who disliked industrialism and the modern world, and sought renovation in a purified Christianity." Even the greatest and most charming philosopher of our time should not be exempt from the duty of reading the books he is writing about.)

Originally, Saint-Amand Bazard (1791-1832) was a liberal republican in whose ranks he fought against the Bourbons who had returned to power after Napoleon's fall. During the 1820's he became acquainted with the teachings of Saint-Simon, which he developed in the direction of socialism. After the death of his teacher in 1825, he became with Enfantin one of the two chief exponents of Saint-Simonian socialism. Aside from the mysticism which pervaded the theories of the Saint-Simonians, the concrete views of Bazard and his followers could be summed up in the following three propositions: The abolition of the right of inheritance and the transfer of all means of production to the State. The application of the principle that every person should be employed in accordance with his abilities and rewarded according to his works -- a principle which took for granted the inequality of rewards. The recognition of a hierarchical organization of society and what is called nowadays the "Fuehrer-Prinzip."

In a document addressed by Bazard and Enfantin to the Chamber of Deputies on October 1, 1830, in reply to the accusations directed against the Saint-Simonian school -- a document which is generally credited to Bazard -- the ideas of the school are expressed as follows: "The system of community of goods means an equal division among all the members of society either of the very means of production or of the fruits of the toil of all. The Saint-Simonians reject this equal division of property which in their opinion would constitute a more reprehensible act of violence, a more revolting act of injustice than the unequal division which has been effected originally by the force of arms, by conquest. For they believe in the natural inequality of men, and consider this inequality as the very basis of association, as the indispensable condition of social order. They reject the system of community of goods; for this community would be an obvious violation of the first of all the moral laws which it is their mission to teach, and which demands that in the future every one should rank according to his ability, and be rewarded according to his works. But in virtue of this law they demand the abolition of all privileges of birth without exception, and consequently the destruction of the right of inheritance, the principal among these privileges, which today includes all the other privileges, and the effect of which is to leave to chance the distribution of the social advantages among the small number of those who can claim them, and to condemn the most numerous class to deprivation, ignorance and misery. They demand that all the tools of production, land and capital, which today are distributed among individual owners, should be united into one single social capital and that this capital should be exploited in a collective (par association) and hierarchical way so that every one should be assigned a task in accordance with his ability and that every one's wealth should correspond to his works. The Saint-Simonians attack the institution of property only in so far as it perpetuates, for the few, the ungodly privilege of idleness, that is, the privilege of living off the labor of his fellow men; only in so far as it leaves to the accident of birth the determination of the social status of the individual."

In 1831 a conflict of opinions concerning the question of marriage and of sex relations led to a break between Bazard and Enfantin, whereupon Bazard attempted to form a new school of his own, of which he proclaimed himself chief.

In his writings Bazard anticipated many slogans of present-day socialism and communism, such as the phrase "exploitation of man by man." His insistence on the principle of hierarchy and the absolute authority of the leader seems to have found an echo in the theory and practice of both Fascism and communism.

It was under the influence of Prosper Enfantin (1796-1864), Bazard's cofounder of the Saint-Simonian school, that the Saint-Simonian movement evolved from a school of political thought to a religious sect with special rites and a clergy, with Enfantin as the "Father." Enfantin was convicted of "immorality"; the subsequent ridicule was also instrumental in bringing about the ruin of the movement.

Generally speaking, it may be said about the Saint-Simonians that their sympathy for socialist ideas was not an outcome of their devotion to the working class, but the result of their fears lest the horrors of the Revolution of 1789 recur if no reforms were adopted to mitigate the misery of the masses. They were not underpaid or unemployed declasse lower middle-class intellectuals, but middle- and upper middle-class professionals, like the British Fabians of half a century later, who, mutatis mutandis, were motivated by similar considerations.

The Saint-Simonians showed no particular partiality toward forms of government. They were ready to collaborate with any government which would organize a public school system for the masses and would undertake the establishment of credit institutions and the construction of public works, railways, canals, etc., which would further the industrialization of the country. Hence, they were ready to support Louis Philippe, the "citizen-king" (1830-48) and later Napoleon III. Several cabinet members under the Second Empire were former Saint-Simonians. "These practical men," says the French historian Georges Weill in his Histoire du mouvement social en France (p. 51) in referring to the Saint-Simonians under Napoleon III, "had not entirely renounced their erstwhile generous aspirations; some of them often repeated the formula of the Saint-Simonian school about the physical, moral, and intellectual amelioration of the most numerous and most destitute class; but while to some of them this meant a complete reconstruction of the social system in a remote future, the others were dreaming only about the ever-increasing development of trade and industry {circulation et production). Thus they were drawing close to the position of the liberal economic school, without, however, sharing its aversion to government intervention. Saint-Simonian inspiration is often perceptible in the doings of the Second Empire, particularly at its outset."


While the aristocrat Saint-Simon was extolling the idea of the new era of industrialism, and his upper middle-class followers were looking toward government ownership as a remedy against its evils, a humble bookkeeper and commercial traveler by the name of Charles Fourier (1773-1837) was writing volume after volume stigmatizing the evils, the misdeeds, and the corruption of the new commercial system that was emerging from the ruins of feudalism. His life was uneventful. Prosperous in his youth, he lost his inherited fortune during the French Revolution and was most of his life engaged in the humble occupations of traveling salesman or clerk. He wrote several volumes about the irrationality and waste of the existing competitive system and about an ideal society which he described in complete detail. He believed that if he could find one rich philanthropist ready to advance the means for the construction of the first "phalanstery," miniature sample of his ideal society, the human race would immediately proceed with the reorganization of the social system in accordance with the example given by him. He never lost hope that the expected philanthropist would appear some day, and he was always at home at noon in order not to miss the rich visitor whom he expected at that time. The imagination Fourier displayed in some of his writings justified the suspicion that his mind was unbalanced. Yet for all that, his books are full of ideas which are of interest and which have fructified the minds of his contemporaries.

There are some points in common between his philosophy and that of the Saint-Simonians. Both were opposed to violence as a method of effecting social change, and both accepted the idea of human inequality and the ensuing inevitability of unequal rewards. They were, however, at opposite poles when it came to the basic ideas of remedying the evils of nascent capitalism. At variance with the Saint-Simonians, Fourier ignored the state and expected salvation from voluntary organizations, for which he used the expression of phalanstere and phalanx. In his vocabulary and that of his followers, the phalanstere was the central building inhabited by all the members of a "phalanx," the name Fourier gave to the socialist communities, cultivating about 5,000 acres of land, which he hoped to see established in accordance with his plans. A phalanstery was to house between 1600 and 1800 persons with unequal accommodations in accordance with ability to pay, for there is no equality of income in the socialism conceived by Fourier. The entire income of the organizations was to be distributed among "capital" (those who had invested their money in the organization of the phalanx), "talent" (the men of education engaged in managerial, technical, and other intellectual functions), and physical labor. Labor, though constituting the majority, would get five-twelfths of the total product, while of the remaining seven-twelfths, "capital" would be awarded three and "talent" four.

Fourier believed that all human passions and inclinations were essentially beneficent and would contribute to the common welfare once society was reorganized in a "rational" way -- in accordance with his suggestions. Nature in his opinion was benevolent, and all evils were the result of ignorance and the ensuing faulty organization of society.

Fourier's teachings found many followers in France and the United States. They influenced the ideas of the Brook Farm group, which included among others such men as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Charles Dana. Albert Brisbane (1809-1890), an American Fourierist, founded a number of "phalanxes" in this country.

The revolution of 1848 turned the minds of many of Fourier's followers in another direction. Two of his French followers achieved a sort of freakish fame or notoriety. One of them, Victor Considerant, a gifted popularizer of Fourier's ideas, published in 1845 the Manifeste de la democratie, many passages of which, as some unfriendly critics of Marx claimed, reappeared three years later in a somewhat "rewritten" form in the Communist Manifesto. (In reality, these ideas were in the "air" at the time and were shared by most radicals of the period.) Another of his disciples, Al-phonse Toussenel, became in his time widely known for an anti-Semitic classic -- entitled Lcs Juifs mis de I'epoque -- directed against the influence of Jewish financial capital.

With his emphasis upon voluntary organizations, such as his phalansteres, Fourier became, in a way, one of the precursors of the movement which expected producers' and consumers' co-operatives to play an important role in the elimination of the capitalist system. For the same reason the champions of some anarchist schools, particularly that of Peter Kropotkin, the theorist of communist anarchism, likewise consider him as one of their forerunners. There are also those who, half-jocularly and half-seriously, point out that some of his ideas concerning community life in the phalansteres have actually been realized in modern large apartment hotels.


The millionaire on whose financial help in the organization of the first phalanstere Fourier built his hope for the world's salvation never made his appearance -- even though a man likely to advance the necessary money for any noble project was at that time very much alive in England. Unfortunately for Fourier, that Englishman had his own ideas for promoting the welfare of the human race. His name was Robert Owen (1771-1858). He shared the Saint-Simonian and Fourierist rejection of violence as a method of social change and also their belief that it would be possible to remove existing social evils by persuasion. He was, however, motivated chiefly by his compassion for the poor, while the writers of the two French schools maintained a sort of aloofness, if not contempt, as far as the masses were concerned, as evidenced by their uninhibited insistence upon inequality of rewards which would maintain the manual workers at the bottom of the social ladder.

Born in the family of a small shopkeeper, Robert Owen started earning his living at the age of nine. He showed great skill as an organizer and became an independent manufacturer at a very early age. A philanthropist by nature, he converted his factory in New Lanark, Scotland, into a model enterprise in which the conditions of the workers were better than anywhere else. He was a champion of social legislation and particularly an opponent of child labor. He also advocated the formation of "villages of co-operation" to be established by the government for the relief of the unemployed who, under this scheme, would be engaged in industrial and agricultural occupations. However, neither the government nor private philanthropists were interested in helping him carry out this scheme. Hoping to be more successful in his plans to help the poor, he went to the United States in 1825, where he established a communist colony called New Harmony in Indiana. After the failure of the project he returned to England in 1829.

The ideas which he had been preaching during the previous years had in the meantime taken root among workers and intellectuals. Co-operative organizations had sprung up all over the country, and the repeal of the Combination Acts (1824), which prevented the formation of labor organizations, facilitated the formation of trade unions. Those active in these two movements looked forward to the establishment of a co-operative commonwealth based upon a combination of producers' co-operatives and trade unions. One of the results of Owen's propaganda was the spread of consumers' co-operatives, whose founders were imbued with his ideas. Owen himself was not interested either in the practical aims of the consumers' cooperatives or in strikes for higher wages. He did not believe the position of the workers could be considerably improved within the existing system and looked upon both trade unions and co-operatives as instruments for effecting a peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism. In pursuance of this aim he founded in 1832 the Equitable Labor Exchange, a sort of banking institution whose members could deposit in it the goods they produced, receiving in exchange "labor notes," the value of the goods to be determined by the cost of the raw materials and the average time necessary for the production of the given merchandise. The enterprise collapsed.

Owen was not interested in political activities of any kind. He expected the triumph of his ideas to come from his appeals to the ethical sentiments of all men regardless of social status and from the example given by the colonies which he financed. An important component of his philosophy was his conviction that "man's character is made for and not by him." This meant that changed social institutions would change man's character. This point of view has been accepted by most later socialists and communists as well. One of the organizations formed under his influence was the "Association of All Classes of All Nations," whose members called themselves "socialists" since 1839. The very name of the organization shows that -- in contradistinction to the revolutionary socialists, both contemporary and of a later period -- the Owenites, true to their teacher, did not believe in the class struggle. Throughout his active years Owen was interested in making propaganda for a sort of rationalist or materialist religion. In his declining years he became a mystic and a believer in spiritism. Some of his attitudes -- such as his attempt to persuade members of the ultra-reactionary Holy Alliance to accept his ideas for relieving the plight of the poor -- show that his characterization by the Marxists as a Utopian in the meaning of a visionary, impractical thinker was fully justified.

One of Owen's best-known projects was the establishment, in the United States, of the aforementioned communist colony called New Harmony for which he had acquired the site of the former Rappist community, Harmony, in Indiana. The colonists were unable to make a success of it, and Owen, who lost most of his fortune in the experiment, was forced to give it up after three years. Various causes contributed to its failure, not the least of them being the fact that its managers were unable to rid the colony of the parasites who had joined it and took advantage of the principle of complete equality of rewards regardless of the contributions or accomplishments of the individual.


Some of Owen's ideas had repercussions on the thinking of a number of French malcontents who were to become known as "Icarians." They were followers of Etienne Cabet (1788-1856), author of the Utopian novel Voyage en Icarie. A lawyer by profession, Cabet had participated in the liberal movement directed against the Bourbons who had been restored after the fall of Napoleon. After the Revolution of 1830 he opposed in parliament the plutocratic regime of Louis Philippe. Because of his attitude he was forced in 1834 into exile in England; an amnesty permitted him to return to France five years later. In England he had become familiar with Thomas More's Utopia and with Robert Owen's views. Converted to communism, he wrote Voydge en Icarie, which was the starting point of the Icarian movement. The basic idea of his theory was government ownership of all industries with equal rewards to all, and government control of the nation's cultural life as well. Only books approved by the government were to be printed, while newspapers were to be edited by government officials. (They were to print only facts and the reports of the sessions of parliament.) Cabet was opposed to violence and believed in the triumph of his ideas by persuasion. In 1848 a number of his followers went to the United States, where a few colonies embodying his principles were founded. They all failed because of internal quarrels and the dictatorial attitude of their teacher.

Cabet was not concerned with evolving a theoretical system. His reply to objections on that score was as follows: "When they ask us to what science we adhere, our answer is: the science of brotherhood! What our basic principle is? Brotherhood! What our doctrine? Brotherhood! What our theory? Brotherhood! What our system? Brotherhood!"

To the question as to whether higher ability, intelligence, or genius should not be specially rewarded Cabet replies in his Voyage en Icarie: "No, are they not merely gifts of Nature? Would it be just to punish in any way him whom fortune has meanly endowed? Should not reason and society redress the inequality produced by blind chance? Is not the man whose superior ability makes him more useful fully recompensed by the satisfaction he derives from it?"

Cabet's views, a curious combination of the most idealistic and philanthropic egalitarianism with a cultural totalitarianism, outdoing even that of the Stalin regime, seems to confirm Schopenhauer's remark that "many things can exist alongside each other within the same man."


Another egalitarian, though of an altogether different kind, was Louis Blanc (1811-82), whose interest in radical ideas may have been aroused by the fact that the fall of Napoleon put an end to his father's position in the upper ranks of the Empire's bureaucracy. The Revolution of 1830, which overthrew the reactionary Bourbons and ushered in the comparatively liberal Orleans dynasty, enabled him to enter on a journalistic career and to contribute to various progressive publications. Under the influence of socialist and communist ideas then current in France he developed a system of his own which in 1839 he presented in Organisation du travail ("Organization of Work"). The gist of his system was that every human being has the right to live (droit a la vie) and that this right could be realized by the establishment of "social workshops" -- co-operative associations of producers equipped and financed by the government out of the resources it would obtain from the nationalized public utilities and enterprises such as railways, mines, insurance establishments, and banks. The government would not be the owner of these "social workshops" but merely their regulator. It would manage them during their first year; after that the workshops would take care of their own management. Remuneration should be realized according to the principle of equality of rewards. Louis Blanc's guiding ideas were, in the words of the Austrian political scientist Anton Menger, "not the right to the whole produce of labor, but the right to subsistence; not an economic principle, but the philanthropic conception of brotherhood."2 Louis Blanc expected that his "social workshops," established by the state, would successfully compete with private enterprises, driving them to bankruptcy and thus forcing them to establish themselves as "social workshops" as well. With regard to agriculture Blanc -- borrowing the idea of Mably -- believed in the abolition of collateral succession, so that eventually all land would be taken over by the government and organized on the principle of "social workshops." Louis Blanc did not expect to bring about his system by violent methods. He hoped the state -- which, in his opinion, existed to protect the poor -- and the rich would help in bringing about these reforms. It was he who coined the slogan "from each according to his capacity; to each according to his needs." He based his postulate of economic equality upon the ethical idea that those who were stronger and more gifted owed a debt to those who were not so endowed. The slogan of the "right to work"3 -- the right to have a job -- has been connected with his name. However, the idea and the slogan originated long before Blanc. It has been pointed out that to him the "right to work" was a corollary of the right to exist.

The Revolution of February 1848 raised Louis Blanc to a position of political power. He became a member of the Provisional Government and was put in charge of a commission for the study of economic conditions. Many historians believe that the government, afraid of his popularity among the workers and anxious to discredit his idea of the "social workshops," organized what was to be called the "national workshops," which were a caricature of Blanc's idea. The turbulent events of May and June 1848 strengthened the influence of the conservative element; as a result Blanc was forced into exile to escape an indictment and probable conviction. He remained in England throughout the reign of Napoleon III and returned to France only after his fall in 1870. Elected to the National Assembly in February 1871, he represented in that body a moderate concept of socialism. His radical reputation was tarnished by his violent opposition to the Paris Commune of 1871. He was, however, opposed to the cruelty with which that uprising was suppressed. During the 1870's until his death in 1882, he was a member of the Chamber of Deputies, where he represented the views of the extreme left wing of the "Radical" republicans. ("Radical" in French corresponds to "liberal" or "progressive" in other languages.)


Toward the end of the nineteenth century two more Utopias appeared in literature. It is worthy of note that they were written in the United States and England, countries in which socialism had not become a mass movement. One of them, Looking Backward 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy (1850-98), sold about half a million copies in America. It did a great deal to familiarize his contemporaries with the ideas of socialism. The novel, which was published in various languages throughout the world, pictures an ideal socialist commonwealth such as the United States might become in the year 2000 if all national resources and industries were to be taken over and run by a government regulating everything while maintaining the principle of full political and economic equality.

The success of the book encouraged its author to "cash in" politically on its vogue. The word "socialism," lacking popularity in America because it smacked of foreign importation, Bellamy chose the inoffensive though meaningless label of "Nationalism" for a movement which he hoped would become a powerful radical third party. If objective circumstances are not favorable, however, even the most popular book cannot produce more than royalties.

The author of Looking Backward visualized the realization of his Utopia as a result of a peaceful process. He anticipated that a benevolent government would simply take over the industrial fabric as soon as the entire economic life of the country had become dominated by a small number of big corporations. This view was not shared by William Morris (1834-96), a radical English poet and artist whose dreamland, as presented in the Utopian romance News From Nowhere (1891), was the outcome of a violent revolution. There was also this difference between the two Utopias: to Bellamy socialism represented the triumph of technical efficiency; his libertarian English counterpart anticipated in it the blossoming of individual craftsmanship and artistic endeavor.


In neither of the two Utopian romances is there an inkling as to the bureaucratic-totalitarian potentialities of a socialized economy. It took the Bolshevik Revolution and its aftereffects to inspire three novelists of note -- two of them disenchanted radicals -- to write what is called "anti-utopias," giving an ultra-pessimistic view of man's fate under the iron rule of an all-powerful state.

The first was Eugene Zamiatin's We. Written in Russian during the heat of the Civil War of 1918-20, it gave a picture of the world as it would be a thousand years hence. Obviously, a lampoon on the house that Lenin built, it had to be published abroad. The author was a leftist but not a Bolshevik. His book was translated into English, but nobody paid any attention to it. To the rightist enemies of new Russia it was too subtle, and to the leftist sympathizers it seemed a gross exaggeration and a malicious libel. It was doubtless the inspiration of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and of George Orwell's 1984.

As if to counteract the impact of this prophecy, Khrushchev, in his report to the Soviet Communist Party Convention of 1961, painted an enthralling picture of what Russia would be in 1980, four years before Orwell's sinister figure. In the meantime, however, the statistical yearbooks of the Soviet regime still refuse to publish any figures concerning the wages and salaries paid to the "owners of the national wealth."


1.  In Plato's opinion, as Bertrand Russell put it somewhere: "The State should teach a religion which he himself regarded as false, and [that] men should be persecuted for throwing doubt on it."

2.  Anton Menger, The Right to the Whole Produce of Labour (London, 1899), p. 119.

3.  It had, of course, nothing to do with what some American opponents of organized labor understand by this term today.