Accordingly, one of the most urgent questions of our time is what is socialism? What is its origin? What forces does it use? Where is it taking us? We can judge how far our understanding of the matter has progressed simply by the number of contradictory answers that are given to any one of these questions by representatives of the various socialist movements.
To avoid a multiplicity of examples we shall adduce just a few opinions concerning the origin of socialism:
(1) As Lenin noted: "When feudalism was overturned and capitalism appeared it was immediately discovered that this "freedom" denoted a new way of oppressing and exploiting the workers. Various socialist movements at once came into being as a reflection of this "tyranny" and a protest against the 'tyranny' of capitalism".
(2) "...African societies have always lived by an empirical, natural socialism, which can be termed instinctive" (African socialist, Dudu Tiam).
(3) "Socialism is a part of the religion of Islam and has been closely linked with the character of its people ever since that people existed as nomadic pagans" (Arab socialist, al-Afghani).
What kind of peculiar phenomenon is this, that it can evoke such different judgments? Is it a collection of unconnected movements which for some incomprehensible reason insist on sharing one name? Or do they really have something in common beneath their external variety?
The most basic and obvious questions about socialism do not seem to have been answered at all; other questions, as will be seen later, have not even been asked. This ability to repel rational consideration seems itself to be yet one more enigmatic characteristic of this enigmatic phenomenon.
In this essay I shall try to consider these questions and suggest some possible conclusions, using the best-known sources — the classics of socialism and composite histories. As a first approach let me try to describe the general features of present-day socialist states and doctrines.
The most emphatically proclaimed and the most widely known principle is, of course, the economic one: socialization of the means of production, nationalization, the various forms of state economic control.
The primacy of economic demands among the basic principles of socialism is also emphasized in The Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels: ". . . Communists can state their theory in one proposition: the destruction of private property."
If one considers this by itself, one naturally asks whether there is any difference in principle between socialism and capitalism. Isn't socialism just a monopolistic form of capitalism, isn't it "state capitalism"? Such a doubt can indeed arise if one concentrates on economics alone, though even in economics there are many profound differences between capitalism and socialism.
But in other areas we come up against the true contradictions in principle between these systems. Thus, the basis of all modern socialist states is the party, a new formation which has nothing but the name in common with the parties of capitalist countries. It is typical of the socialist states that they try to spread their brand of socialism to other countries. This tendency has no economic basis and is harmful for the state, because it usually leads to the emergence of young and more aggressive rivals in its own camp.
At the bottom of all these differences lies the fact that socialism is not just an economic system, as is capitalism, but also — above all — an ideology.
This is the only explanation for the hatred of Christianity in socialist states, a hatred which cannot be explained on economic or political grounds.
This hatred appears like a birthmark in all the socialist states, but with varying degrees of prominence: from the almost symbolic conflict of the Fascist state in Italy with the Vatican to the total prohibition of Christianity in Albania and its proclamation as "the world's first atheist state."
Turning from the socialist states to socialist teachings, we meet with the same familiar positions: abolition of private property and hostility toward Christianity. We have already quoted The Communist Manifesto on the destruction of private property.
The struggle with Christianity was the point of departure of Marxism and an indispensable element in the social reformation of the world. In his article Toward a Critique of Hegel's "Philosophy of Law" Marx said: ". . . the criticism of Christianity is the premise for any other form of criticism. . . . An obvious proof of the German theory's radicalism, and necessarily of its practical energy, is the fact that it starts by decisively casting Christianity aside. . . . The emancipation of the German is the emancipation of mankind.
The brain of this emancipation is philosophy" (he has the atheistic aspects of Ludwig Feuerbach's atheism in mind) "and its heart is the proletariat." Sergei Bulgakov, in his work "Karl Marx as a Religious Type", has shown how militant atheism, Marx's central motivation, gave birth to his historical and social ideas: the ignoring of the individual and the human personality in the historical process, "the materialist interpretation of history," and socialism.
This point of view is fully confirmed in the posthumously published drafts for Marx's book "The Holy Family". There, Marx regards socialism as the highest level of atheism: if atheism "affirms man through the denial of God," if it is the "negative affirmation of man," then socialism is "man's positive affirmation."
But socialist doctrine includes principles which are not proclaimed by the socialist states, at least not openly. Thus, anybody reading The Communist Manifesto with an open mind will be surprised at the amount of space devoted to the destruction of the family, to the rearing of children away from their parents in state schools, to wife-sharing.
In their arguments with their opponents the authors nowhere renounce these propositions, but try to prove that these principles are higher than those on which the bourgeois society of their time was based. There is no evidence of a subsequent renunciation of these views.
In modern left-wing movements which are socialist but not, for the most part, Marxist, the slogan of "sexual revolution," that is, the destruction of traditional family relationships, also plays a basic part. A clear recent example of this tendency is the "Red Army," the Trotskyist organization in Japan, which became famous after a series of murders committed by it at the beginning of the 1970s.
The victims were mostly members of the organization itself. New members were supposed to break all family ties and the murders took place when this rule was ignored. The accusation "he behaved like a husband" was considered to justify a death sentence. The murder of one partner was often entrusted to the other. Any children born were taken from their mothers and given to another woman, who fed them on dried milk.
Common Threads of Collectivism, Across Unconnected States
So, among the principles which are present in many unconnected socialist states or present-day movements and which can therefore be attributed to the basic premises of socialism, are:
(1) The abolition of private property
(2) The destruction of Christianity
(3) The destruction of the family
Socialism appears before us not as a purely economic concept, but as an incomparably wider system of views, a dogmatic ideology embracing almost every aspect of human existence.
SOCIALISM IN THE PAST
We may hope to evaluate socialism correctly if we can find the right scale by which to measure it. With this in mind it is natural to step back from the perhaps too narrow frame of contemporaneity, and to consider it in its wider historical context. This we shall do in relation to socialist states and to socialist teachings.
Are socialist states specific to our era, or do they have precedents? There can be no doubt about the answer: many centuries and even millennia ago there existed societies which embodied much more fully and consistently the socialist tendencies which we observe in modern states. Two examples will suffice.
(1) Mesopotamia, 22nd and 21st Centuries B.C.
Mesopotamia was one of the cradles of civilization where the first states known to historians arose in the fourth millennium before Christ. They were formed on the basis of the economies of separate temples, which collected large masses of peasants and craftsmen around them and developed an intensive agriculture based on irrigation.
Toward the middle of the third millennium, Mesopotamia broke up into small kingdoms in which the basic economic units remained the separate temples. Then, the Accadian king Sargon began the era when Mesopotamia was again united in a single state. I shall summarize some of the facts about the state which in the twenty-second and twenty-first centuries united Mesopotamia, Assyria, and Elam. Its capital was Ur, and the whole period is called the era of the Third Dynasty of Ur.
Archaeologists have found huge quantities of cuneiform tablets reflecting the economic life of the time. From these we know that the basis of the economy remained the temple units, but after the unification they lost all their independence and became cells in a unified state economy.
Their heads were appointed by the king, they submitted detailed accounts to the capital, and their work was reviewed by the king's inspectors. Groups of workers were often transported from one temple to another.
Agricultural workers, men, women and children, were divided into parties headed by overseers. They worked all the year round, moving from one field to another and receiving seed grain, tools and draft animals from temple and state stores. Similarly, in groups under a commander, they used to go to the stores for their food.
The family was not regarded as an economic unit: provisions were issued not to the head of a family but to each worker or more often to the commander. The documents relate separately to men, women, children and orphans. Evidently there was no question of being allowed even the use, let alone the ownership, of plots of land for this category of workers.
The other groups of inhabitants fed themselves by cultivating the plots set aside for them. Thus there were fields allocated to individuals, fields for craftsmen and fields for shepherds. But these fields were worked by the same workers as the state lands, and the work was supervised by state officials.
The towns contained state workshops, of which the biggest were in the capital, Ur. The workers received tools, raw materials and half-finished products from the state. The products of the workshops went into the state warehouses. Craftsmen, like agricultural workers, were divided into parties under overseers. Provisions were issued to them by the state stores on the basis of lists.
Agricultural workers and craftsmen figure in the accounts as workers of full strength, two-thirds strength, or one-sixth strength. On this depended the norms for their provisions. Work norms also existed which determined the scale of the worker's rations. The temples submitted lists of the dead, the sick, and of absentees (with reasons). Workers could be transferred from one field to another, from one workshop to another, sometimes from one town to another.
Agricultural workers were sent to assist in the workshops and craftsmen were sent to work in the fields or haul barges. The bondage of large classes of the population is highlighted by the numerous documents concerning fugitives. These documents name the fugitives and their relatives, and they concern not only barbers or the sons of shepherds, but also priests and their sons.
This picture of the life of the workers opens with regular statements about the death rate (for the removal of the dead from food lists). One document declares the percent mortality among its workers; another, 14 percent; yet another, 28 percent. Mortality was particularly high among women and children, who were employed on the heaviest work, such as hauling.
(2) The Empire of the Inca
This great empire, numbering several million inhabitants and covering the territory from present-day Chile to Ecuador, was conquered by Spain in the sixteenth century. The conquerors have left detailed descriptions which give an excellent picture of the life which they could see or learn about from the natives. The descriptions depict the nature of the social system there so clearly that even in modern histories of this state, the headings very often use the term "socialist."
The Inca state did not know private ownership of the means of production. Most of its inhabitants hardly owned a thing. Money was unknown. Trade played no perceptible role in the economy. The basis of the economy, the land, belonged theoretically to the head of the state, the Inca.
That is, it was state property and the inhabitants only had the use of it. Members of the governing class, the Incas, owned some land only in the sense that they received the income from it. The cultivation of these lands was done by the peasants as a form of service to the state and was supervised by state officials.
The peasant received for his use a plot of specified size and additional strips as his family grew. When the peasant died, all the land reverted to the state. There were two other large categories of land: that owned directly by the state, and that owned by the temples. All the land was worked by detachments of peasants commanded and supervised by officials.
Even the moment to begin work was indicated by a signal, which consisted of an official blowing a horn from a tower specially constructed for this purpose. Peasants also worked as craftsmen. They received raw materials from state officials and handed their products back to them. Peasants were also builders, and for this purpose they were organized into great work brigades of up to twenty thousand men. Finally, the peasants were liable for military service.
The whole life of the population was regulated by the state. For the Inca governing class there existed only one field of activity, service in the military or civilian bureaucracy, for which they were trained in closed state schools. The details of their personal life were controlled by the state. For instance, an official of a given rank could have a prescribed number of wives and concubines, a set amount of gold and silver vessels, and so on.
But the life of the peasant was, of course, much more regimented. All his activities were prescribed for each period of his life: between the ages of nine and sixteen he was to be a shepherd, from sixteen to twenty he had to serve in an Inca's house, and so on down to old age. Peasant girls could be sent by the officials to the Incas' houses as servants or concubines, and they supplied the material for the mass human sacrifices.
Peasant marriages were arranged by an official once a year according to lists prepared in advance. The peasants' diet, the size of their huts and their utensils were all laid down. Special inspectors traveled about the country to ensure that the peasants observed all these prohibitions and kept working.
The peasant received his clothing, a cape, from state stores, and in each province the cape was of a specified color and could not be dyed or altered. These measures, and the fact that each province prescribed a distinctive hairstyle, facilitated surveillance of the population. Peasants were forbidden to leave their village without the permission of the authorities. The bridges and town boundaries were guarded by checkpoints.
This whole system was supported by a schedule of punishments elaborated with striking thoroughness. Almost always they amounted to the death penalty, which was executed in an extraordinary variety of ways. The condemned were thrown into ravines, stoned, hung by the hair or the feet, thrown into a cave with poisonous snakes. Sometimes, in addition to this, they were tortured before being killed, and afterward the body was not allowed to be buried: instead, the bones were made into flutes and skins used for drums. These two examples cannot be ignored as isolated paradoxes.
One could quote many others. A hundred and fifty years after the Spanish conquest of the Incas, for example, the Jesuits constructed in a remote part of Paraguay a society on analogous principles. Private ownership of the land did not exist, there was neither trade nor money, and the life of the Indians was just as strictly controlled by the authorities. The Old Kingdom of Egypt was close to the Mesopotamian states both in time and because of its system.
The Pharaoh was considered the owner of all the land and gave it only for temporary use. The peasants were regarded as one of the products of the land and were always transferred with it. They had obligations of state service: digging canals, building pyramids, hauling barges, quarrying and transporting stone. In the state-owned enterprises craftsmen and workers received tools and raw materials from the king's stores and gave their products back to them.
The bureaucracy of scribes who managed these tasks is compared by Gordon Childe with the "commissars of Soviet Russia."
Childe writes: "Thus about three thousand years before Christ an economic revolution not only secured for the Egyptian craftsman his means of subsistence and his raw material, but also created the conditions for literacy and learning and gave birth to the State. But the social and economic organization created in Egypt by Menes and his successors as revolutionaries was centralized and totalitarian."
One could cite other examples of societies whose life was to a significant degree based on socialist principles. But the ones we have already indicated show sufficiently clearly that the emergence of socialist states is not the privilege of any specific era or continent.
The Primitive Nature of Socialism
It seems that this was the form in which the state arose: "the world's first socialist states" were the world's first states of any kind.
If we turn to socialist doctrine, we see a similar picture here too. These teachings did not arise either in the twentieth century or the nineteenth; they are more than two thousand years old. Their history can be divided into three periods.
(1) Socialist notions were well known in antiquity
The first socialist system, whose influence can be seen in all its countless variations right up to the present, was created by Plato. Through Platonism socialist notions penetrated to the Gnostic sects which surrounded early Christianity, and also to Manichaeism. In this period the ideas of socialism were propagated in schools of philosophy and in narrow mystical circles.
(2) In the Middle Ages socialist notions found their way to the masses
In a religious guise they were propagated within various heretical movements, the Catharists, the Brethren of the Free Spirit, the Apostolic Brethren, and the Beghards. They inspired several powerful popular movements, for example, the Patarenes of fourteenth-century Italy, or the Czech Taborites of the fifteenth century. Their influence was particularly strong during the Reformation and their traces can still be seen in the English revolution in the seventeenth century.
(3) Beginning in the 1500s, socialist ideology took a new direction
It threw off its mystical and religious form and based itself on a materialistic and rationalist view of the world. Typical of this was a militantly hostile attitude to Christianity. The spheres in which socialist notions were propagated changed yet again: the preachers, who had addressed themselves to craftsmen and peasants, were replaced by philosophers and writers who strove to influence the reading public and the higher strata of society.
This movement came to its peak in the eighteenth century, the "Age of Enlightenment." At the end of that century a new objective made itself felt, that of bringing socialism out of the salons, out of the philosopher's study, and into the suburbs, onto the streets. There followed a renewed attempt to put socialist ideas behind a mass movement.
In this writer's opinion, neither the nineteenth nor the twentieth century introduced anything that was new in principle into the development of socialist ideology.
Let us cite a few illustrations to give an idea of the nature of socialist teachings and to draw attention to certain features which will be important in the discussion to follow.
(1) Plato's Republic depicts an ideal social system
In Plato's state, power belongs to the philosophers, who govern the country with the help of warriors known as "guardians". Plato's main concern was with the way of life of these guardians, since not only were the philosophers to be chosen from among them, but they were also to control the rest of the population.
He wanted to subordinate their life completely to the interests of the state, and to organize it so as to exclude the possibility of a split and the emergence of conflicting interests. The first means of achieving this was the abolition of private property. The guardians were to own nothing but their own bodies.
Their dwellings could be entered by anybody who wished to. They were to live in the republic like hired laborers, serving only in return for food and no other reward. For the same purpose the individual family was also abolished. All the men and women in the guardian class were to share their mates with all the others. Instead of marriage there was to be brief, state-controlled sexual union, for the purposes of physical satisfaction and the production of perfect progeny. To this end the philosophers were to yield to distinguished guardians the right of more frequent sexual union with the more beautiful women.
Children, from the moment of birth, would not know their own fathers or even mothers. They were to be cared for communally by all the women who happened to be lactating, and the children passed around all the time. And the state would take care of their subsequent upbringing. At the same time a special role was assigned to art, which was to be purged mercilessly in the name of the same goals. A work of art was considered all the more dangerous, the more perfect it was from the aesthetic point of view.
The "fables of Hesiod and Homer" were to be destroyed, and most of classical literature with them — everything that might suggest the idea that the gods were imperfect and unjust, that might induce fear or gloom, or could inculcate disrespect for the authorities. New myths were to be invented, on the other hand, to develop in the guardians the necessary civic virtues.
Apart from this ideological supervision, the life of the guardians was to be biologically controlled as well. This control began with the careful selection of parents able to provide the best progeny, and selection was based on the achievements of agriculture. Children of unions not sanctioned by the state, like those with physical imperfections, were to be destroyed. The selection of adults was to be entrusted to medicine: doctors would treat some patients, allow others to die, and kill the remainder.
(2) The philosophy of the medieval heretics was based on the opposition between the spiritual and the material worlds as two antagonistic and mutually exclusive categories. It begot hostility toward the whole material world and in particular to all forms of social life. All these movements rejected military service, oaths or litigation, personal submission to ecclesiastical and secular authority, and some rejected marriage and property. Some movements considered only marriage a sin, but not adultery, so that this demand did not have an ascetic character but aimed at the destruction of the family.
Many sects were accused by their contemporaries of "free" or "sacred" love. One contemporary states, for instance, that the heretics considered that "marital ties contradict the laws of nature, since these laws demand that everything should be held in common. - In precisely the same way, the denial of private property was linked with its renunciation in favor of the sect, and the common ownership of property was fostered as an ideal. "In order to make their teaching more attractive, they introduced common ownership," according to the record of one thirteenth-century trial of some heretics.
These more radical aspects of the doctrine were usually communicated only to the elite of the sect, the "perfected," who were sharply set apart from the basic mass of "believers." But in times of social crisis the preachers and apostles of the sect used to take their socialist notions to the masses. As a rule these ideas were mingled with calls for the destruction of the whole existing order and above all of the Catholic Church.
Thus, at the beginning of the thirteenth century in Italy the Patarene movement, led by preachers from the sect of the Apostolic Brethren, provoked a bloody three-year war. The Apostolic Brethren taught that "in love everything must be held in common — property and wives. Those who joined the sect had to hand all their property over for common use.
They thought of the Catholic Church as the whore of Babylon and the pope as Antichrist, and they called for the murder of the pope, bishops, priests, monks, and of all the godless. Any action against the enemies of the true faith was proclaimed to be permissible.
A little over a hundred years later heretical sects dominated the Taborite movement, whose raids terrorized central Europe for a quarter of a century. Of them a contemporary says: "In the Citadel or Tabor there is no Mine or Thine, everybody uses everything equally: all must hold everything in common, and nobody must have anything separately, and he who does is a sinner.
Their preachers taught: "Everything, including wives, must be held in common. The sons and daughters of God will be free, and there will be no marriage as a union of just two — man and wife. . . .
All institutions and human decisions must be abolished, since none of them was created by the Heavenly Father. . . . The priests' houses and all church property must be destroyed: churches, altars and monasteries must be demolished. . . .
All those who have been elevated and given power must be bent like the twigs of trees and cut down, burned in the stove like straw, leaving not a root nor a shoot, they must be ground like sheaves, the blood must be drained from them, they must be killed by scorpions, snakes and wild animals, they must be put to death.
The great specialist on the history of the heresies, I. von Dollinger, describes their social principles as follows:
"Every heretical movement that appeared in the Middle Ages possessed, openly or secretly, a revolutionary character; in other words, if it had come to power it would have had to destroy the existing social order and produce a political and social revolution.
These Gnostic sects, the Catharists and Albigensians, whose activities evoked severe and implacable legislation against heresy and were bloodily opposed, were socialists and communists. They attacked marriage, the family, and property."
These features appeared still more clearly in the heretical movements after the Reformation, in the sixteenth century. We shall adduce one example, the teaching of Niklas Storch, leader of the so-called Zwickau prophets.
This teaching, as described in a contemporary book, included the following propositions:
A) No marital connection, whether secret or open, is to be observed.
B) On the contrary, any man can take wives when the flesh demands it and his passions rise, and live with them in bodily intimacy exactly as he pleases.
C) Everything is to be held in common, since God sent all people into the world equal. Similarly He gave equally to all the possession of the earth, of fowl in the air and fish in the sea.
D) Therefore all authorities, terrestrial and spiritual, must be dismissed once and for all, or be put to the sword, for they live untrammeled, they drink the blood and sweat of their poor subjects, they guzzle and drink day and night. . . . So we must all rise, the sooner the better, arm ourselves and fall upon the priests in their cozy little nests, massacre them and wipe them out. For if you deprive the sheep of their leader, you can do what you like with them. Then we must fall upon the bloodsuckers, seize their houses, loot their property and raze their castles to the ground."
(3) In 1516 appeared the book which started a new stage in the development of socialist thought, Thomas More's "Utopia". Being in the form of a description of an ideal state built on socialist principles, it continued, after a two-thousand year break, the tradition of Plato, but in the completely different conditions of Western Europe of the Renaissance.
The most significant works to follow in this new current were "The City of the Sun" by the Italian monk Tommaso Campanella (1602), and "The Law of Freedom in a Platform" by his contemporary in the English revolution, Gerrard Winstanley (1652).
From the end of the seventeenth century and in the eighteenth, socialist views spread more and more widely among writers and philosophers and there appeared a veritable torrent of socialist literature. The "socialist novel" came into being, in which descriptions of socialist states were intertwined with romance, travel and adventure (for example, The History of the Savarambi by Verras; The Republic of 41 Philosophers by Fontenelle; The Southern Discovery by Retif de la Bretonne).
The number of new philosophical, sociological and moral tracts preaching socialist views constantly increased (for example, Meslier's Testament; The Law of Nature by Morelly; Thoughts on the Condition of Nature by Mably; The True System by Deschamps; and passages in Diderot's Supplement to the "Journey of Bougainville").
All these works agree in proclaiming as a basic principle the common ownership of property. Most of them supplement it with compulsory labor and bureaucratic rule (More, Campanella, Winstanley, Verras, Morelly). Others depict a country divided into small agricultural communes ruled by their most experienced members or by old men (Meslier, Deschamps). Many systems presuppose the existence of slavery (More, Winstanley, Verras, Fenelon), and More and Winstanley regard it not only as an economic category but as a means of punishment upholding the stability of society.
They offer frequent elaborations of the ways in which society will subordinate the individuality of its members. Thus, More speaks of a system of passes which would be essential not only for journeys about the country but for walks outside the town, and he prescribes identical clothing and housing for everybody. Campanella has the inhabitants going about in platoons and the greatest crime for a woman is to lengthen her dress or paint her face.
Morelly forbids all thought on social or moral subjects. Deschamps assumes that all culture — art, science and even literacy — will wither away spontaneously. An important part is played in these works by consideration of the way in which the family and sexual relations are to change.
Campanella assumes absolute bureaucratic control in this domain. Bureaucrats decide which man is to couple with which woman, and when. The union itself is supervised by officials. Children are reared by the state. Deschamps thinks that the menfolk of a village will be the husbands of all the women, and that the children will never know their parents.
A new view of human history was worked out. Medieval mysticism had regarded it as a unified process of the revelation of God in three stages. Now this was transformed into the idea of a historical process subject to immanent laws and likewise consisting of three stages, the last of which leads inescapably to the triumph of the socialist ideal.
Unlike the medieval heresies, which had attacked Catholicism, the socialist world view now became hostile to any form of Christianity, and socialism fused with atheism. In More, freedom of conscience is linked with the recognition of pleasure as the highest objective in life. Campanella's "religion" resembles a pantheistic deification of the cosmos. Winstanley's attitude to religion is one of outright hostility, his "priests" are merely the agitators and propagandists of the system he describes.
Deschamps considers that Christianity will wither away, together with the rest of culture. But Meslier's Testament stands out for its aggressive attitude toward Christianity.
In Christianity he sees the root of mankind's misfortunes, he considers it a patent absurdity, a malignant superstition. He particularly loathes the person of Christ, whom he showers with abuse in protracted tirades, even blaming him because "he was always poor" and "he wasn't resourceful enough.
The very end of the eighteenth century saw the first attempt to put the socialist ideology which had been developed into practice. In 1786 in Paris a secret society called the "Union of the Equal" was founded with the aim of preparing a revolution. The plot was discovered and its participants arrested, but their plans have been preserved in detail, thanks to the documents published by the government and to the memoirs of the plotters who survived.
Among the aims which the plotters had set themselves, the first was the abolition of private property. The whole French economy was to be fully centralized. Trade was to be suspended and replaced by a system of state provisioning.
All aspects of life were to be controlled by a bureaucracy: "The fatherland takes possession of a man from the day of his birth and does not let him go until his very death." Every man was to be regarded to some extent as an official supervising both his own behavior and that of others. Everybody was to be obliged to work for the state, while "the uncooperative, the negligent, and people who lead dissolute lives or set a bad example by their absence of public spirit" were to be condemned to forced labor.
For this purpose many islands were to be turned into strictly isolated places of confinement. Everybody was to be obliged to eat in communal refectories. Moving about the country without official permission was to be forbidden. Entertainments which were not available to everybody were categorically forbidden. Censorship was to be introduced and publications "of a falsely denunciatory character" were forbidden.
SOCIALISM IN THEORY AND PRACTICE
We can now return to the basic topic of this essay. However short and disjointed our digression into the history of socialism has been, one essential conclusion is beyond doubt: "socialism cannot be linked with a specific area, geographical context, or culture.
All its features, familiar to us from contemporary experience, are met in various historical, geographical and cultural conditions: in socialist states we observe the abolition of private ownership of the means of production, state control of everyday life, and the subordination of the individual to the power of the bureaucracy; in socialist doctrines we observe the destruction of private property, of Christianity, of the family and of marriage, and the introduction of wife-sharing.
This cannot be considered a new conclusion: many writers have pointed to the socialist character of such societies as the empire of the Incas, the Jesuit state, or the early states of Mesopotamia, while the history of socialist doctrine has been the subject of numerous monographs (some of them even by "socialists"). Thus, in his book "An Outline of the History of Socialism in Most Recent Times", R. Y. Vipper writes: "one could say of socialism that it is as old as human society.
Curiously enough this observation has not been used to evaluate socialism as a historical phenomenon. But its significance cannot be exaggerated. It calls for a complete review and replacement of the established principles by which we seek to understand socialism. If socialism is a feature of nearly all historical periods and civilizations, then its origins cannot be explained by any reasons connected with the specific features of a specific period or culture: neither by the contradiction between the productive forces and industrial relations under capitalism, nor by the psychological characteristics of the Africans or Arabs.
To try to understand it in such a way hopelessly distorts the perspective, by squeezing
this great universal historical phenomenon into the unsuitable framework of economic, historical and racial categories. I shall try below to approach the same questions from the opposite point of view: that socialism is one of those basic and universal forces that have been in operation over the entire span of human history.
A recognition of this, of course, in no way clarifies the historical role of socialism. We can approach an understanding of this role by trying to elucidate the aims which socialism itself avows. But here we run up against the fact that apparently there are two answers to this question, depending on whether we are talking about socialism as a state structure or as a doctrine.
Whereas the socialist states (modern and ancient alike) all base themselves on the one principle of the destruction of private property, socialist doctrines advance a number of other basic propositions over and above that, such as the destruction of the family.
Here we meet two systems of views, one typical of "socialist theory," the other typical of "socialist practice. - How do we reconcile them and which is the true version of the aims of socialism?
The following answer suggests itself (and has in some particular cases been given): the slogans about the destruction of the family and marriage and — in their more radical form— about wife-sharing, are necessary only for the destruction of the existing social structures, for whipping up fanaticism and rallying the socialist movements.
These slogans cannot, in themselves, be put into practice; indeed, that is not their function — they are necessary only before the seizure of power. The only vital proposition in all the socialist teachings is the destruction of private property.
And this indeed is the true aim of the movement, and the only one which should be taken into consideration in discussing the role of socialism in history. It seems to me that this point of view is essentially false. First, because socialism, being an ideology capable of inspiring grandiose popular movements and creating its own saints and martyrs, cannot be founded on deception. It must be infused with a deep inner unity.
And on the contrary, history can show us many examples of the striking candor and, in
some sense, honesty with which similar movements have proclaimed their objectives. If there is any deception here it is on the side of the opponents of these movements, who are guilty of self-deception. How often they strive to persuade themselves that the most extreme ideological propositions of a movement are irresponsible demagogy and fanaticism.
Then they are perplexed to discover that actions which seemed improbable on account of their radical nature are the fulfillment of a program which was never concealed, but was proclaimed thunderously in public and expounded in all the known writings about it.
We should note furthermore that all the basic propositions of socialist doctrine can be found in the works of such "detached" thinkers as Plato and Campanella, who were not connected with any popular movements. Evidently these principles arose in their writings as a result of some inner logic and unity in socialist ideology, which consequently cannot be torn into two parts, one to be used in the seizure of power and then thrown away.
On the other hand, it is easy to see why socialist ideology goes beyond the practice of the socialist states and outstrips it. The thinker or organizer behind a popular movement on the one hand, and the socialist politician on the other, even though they base themselves on a unified ideology, have to solve different problems and work in different spheres.
For the creator or propounder of socialist doctrine it is important to take the system to its uttermost logical conclusions, since it is precisely in that form that they will be most accessible and most contagious.
But the head of state has to consider, above all, how to retain power. He begins to feel pressures that force him to move away from a program of rigid adherence to ideological norms, the pursuit of which would jeopardize the very existence of the socialist state.
It is no coincidence that for many decades the same phenomenon has been repeating itself with such monotony, namely, that as soon as a socialist movement comes to power (or at least to a share of power) its less fortunate brothers anathematize it, accusing it of betraying the socialist ideal — only to be accused of the same should fortune smile on them.
But the dividing line that separates the slogans of the socialist movements from the practice of the socialist states does not run at all between the economic principles of socialism and its demands for the destruction of the family and marriage. Indeed, the propositions relating to economics and to changing industrial relations are also not realized with equal degrees of radicalism in the various socialist states.
A dramatic attempt to embody these principles to the full was made during the period of "war communism" in our country. The aim then was to base the entire Russian economy on the direct exchange of goods, to reduce the market and the role of money to nothing, to introduce the universal conscription of industrial labor, to introduce collective working of the land, to replace trade in agricultural products by confiscations and state distribution.
The term "war communism" is itself misleading because it makes us think of wartime measures evoked by the exceptional situation during the civil war. But when this policy was being pursued that term was not used: it was introduced after the civil war, when "war communism" was renounced and recognized as a temporary expedient.
It was precisely when the civil war had in fact been won, and plans were being worked out for the governing of the country in peacetime conditions, that Trotsky, on behalf of the Central Committee, presented to the Ninth Congress of the Party the program for the "militarization" of the economy.
Peasants and workers were to be put in the position of mobilized soldiers formed into "work units approximating to military units" and provided with commanders. Everyone was to feel that he was a "soldier of work who cannot be his own master; if the order comes to transfer him he had to comply; if he refuses ho will be a deserter who is punished.
To justify these plans Trotsky developed this theory: "If we accept at face value the old bourgeois prejudice — or rather not the old bourgeois prejudice but the old bourgeois axiom which has become a prejudice — that forced labor is unproductive, then this would apply not only to the work armies but to conscripted labor as a whole, to the basis of our economic construction and to socialist organization in general." But it turns out that the "bourgeois axiom" is true only when applied to feudalism and capitalism, but is inapplicable to socialism! "We say: it is not true that forced labor is unproductive in all circumstances and in all conditions."
After a year "war communism" and "militarization" were replaced by the New Economic Policy as a result of devastation, hunger and rural uprisings. But the previous views were not deposed. On the contrary, the NEP was declared to be only a temporary retreat.
And indeed, those very ideas continued to permeate Stalin's activity and the pronouncements of the opposition whom he was fighting. They were stated in Stalin's last work The Economic Problems of Socialism, in which he called for a curtailment of trade and the circulation of money, and their replacement by a system of barter.
We see a similar picture in the appearance in our country of another basic feature of socialism, hostility to Christianity. Nineteen thirty-two saw the inauguration of the "godless five-year plan," under which the last church was planned to be closed by 1936, while by 1937 the name of God was no longer supposed to be uttered in our country. In spite of the unprecedented scale assumed by its religious persecutions, the "godless five-year plan" was not fulfilled.
The unforeseen readiness of believers to submit to any tortures, the birth of an underground Orthodox Church and the steadfastness of believers of other faiths, the war, the tumultuous rebirth of religious life in the territories occupied by the Germans — all these factors forced Stalin to give up his plan of uprooting Christianity and to recognize its right to exist.
But the principle of hostility to Christianity remained and found expression again in the persecutions under Khrushchev. Let us try to examine the socialist principles relating to the family and marriage from the same point of view. The first years after the revolution, the 1920s, again provide an example of how attempts were made to put these principles into practice.
The general Marxist views on the development of the family, on which the practice of those years was based, are expounded in detail in Engels' The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. They boil down to the assertion that the family is one of the "superstructures" erected on the economic base. In particular, "monogamy arose as a consequence of the concentration of great wealth in one person's hands — that person, moreover, being a man — and the need to bequeath this wealth to the children of that man and nobody else." In socialist society "the management of the individual household will be turned into a branch of social work.
The care and upbringing of children will become a social matter. - Thus the family will lose all its social functions, which from the Marxist point of view means it will die out. The Communist Manifesto proclaims the disappearance of the "bourgeois family." But by the twenties they were already managing without this epithet.
Professor S. Y. Volfson, in his lengthy work The Sociology of Marriage and the Family (1929), foresaw that the family would lose the following characteristics: its productive function (which it was already losing under capitalism), its joint household (people would take their meals communally), its child-rearing function (they would be reared in state nurseries and kindergartens), its role in the care of the aged, and the cohabitation of parents with children and of married couples. "The family will be purged of its social content, it will wither away. . . .
Practical measures were taken in accordance with these ideological propositions. Thus, in his note "Ten Theses Concerning Soviet Power," Lenin proposed taking "unflinching and systematic measures to replace individual housekeeping by separate families with the joint feeding of large groups of families." And for decades afterward many people languished in houses built in the twenties, where the communal flats had no kitchens in anticipation of the gigantic "factory-kitchens" of the future.
Legislation simplified the measures for entering into and dissolving marriage as much as possible, so that registration became merely one of the ways of confirming a marriage (together with its confirmation in the courts, for example), while divorce was granted at the immediate request of one of the partners. "To divorce in our country is in some cases easier than to sign out in the house register," wrote one jurist.
The family was viewed by leading personalities of the time as an institution opposed to society and the state. For instance, in her article entitled "Relations between the Sexes and Class Morality," Alexandra Kollontai wrote: "For the working class, greater 'fluidity' and less fixity in sexual relations fully corresponds to, and is even a direct consequence of, the basic tasks of that class.
In her opinion woman was to be regarded as a representative of the revolutionary class, "whose first duty is to serve the interests of the class as a whole and not of a differentiated separate unit." All these actions affected life in such a way that Lenin not only did not welcome the destruction of the "bourgeois family," predicted by The Communist Manifesto, but said: "You know, of course, about the famous theory that in Communist society the satisfaction of sexual desires and of the need for love is as simple and insignificant as drinking a glass of water.
This 'glass of water' theory has made our young people frantic, absolutely frantic. It has become the downfall of many of our young men and girls. Its adherents proclaim that this is a Marxist theory. We don't want that kind of Marxism" (Clara Tsetkin) Indeed, in an inquiry conducted by the Communist Sverdlov Institute, only 3.7 percent of respondents indicated love as a reason for their first intercourse.
As a result, in the European part of the USSR between 1924 and 1925 the proportion of divorces to marriages increased by 130 percent. In 1924, the number of divorces per thousand that took place during the first year of marriage was 26o in Minsk, 197 in Kharkov and 159 in Leningrad. A society was founded called "Down with Shame"; and "naked marches" anticipated the modern hippies by half a century.
This historical precedent seems to us to show that in more favorable circumstances the socialist principle of the destruction of the family might be realized in full, and marriage be stripped of all its functions except intercourse between its members.
Such a result may well come about in the near future, particularly in view of the increasing likelihood of government intervention in this sphere of human relations. "We shall interfere in the private relations between men and women only insofar as they disrupt our social structure," wrote Marx. But who is to say what disrupts "our structure"?
In the book by Professor Volfson which we have already quoted, he writes, ". . . we have every reason to believe that by the time socialism is established, childbirth will have been removed from the powers of nature. . . But this, I repeat, is the only side of marriage which, in our opinion, the socialist society will be able to control."
Such measures were in fact used in Nazi Germany, both to avert the appearance of progeny undesirable from the point of view of the state, and in order to obtain the desired progeny. For instance, the Lebensborn organization created by the SS selected Aryan mates for unmarried women, and there was propaganda in favor of a system of auxiliary wives for racially pure men.
And when China proclaimed the following norm for family life: "One child is indispensable, two are desirable, three are impermissible," one is entitled to think that the term "impermissible" was in some way enforced. It has nowadays become generally recognized that the crisis of overpopulation is one of the basic dangers (and perhaps the most frightening) that threaten mankind. Under these conditions attempts by governments to assume control of family relations may well be successful.
Arnold Toynbee, for instance, considers that government intervention in these most delicate of human relations is inevitable in the very near future, and that as a result the totalitarian empires of the world will place cruel restrictions on human freedom in family life, just as in economics and politics.
In such a situation, and particularly with the increasing impairment of the spiritual values on which mankind could lean, the century is bringing with it the very real prospect of transformation of family and marriage, a transformation whose spirit has already been divined by Plato and Campanella.
These and other examples lead one to the conclusion that socialist ideology contains a unified complex of ideas welded together by internal logic. Of course, socialism takes on a variety of forms in differing historical conditions, for it cannot help mixing with other views. This is not surprising, and we would meet the same in an analysis of any phenomenon of a similar historical scale, for instance, Christianity. However, it is possible to isolate a very distinct nucleus and to formulate the "socialist ideal" that manifests itself either fully or in part, with greater or lesser impurity, in a variety of situations.
Socialist theories have proclaimed this ideal in its most logical and radical form. The history of socialist states shows a chain of attempts to approximate to an ideal which has never yet been fully realized, but which can be reconstructed from those approximations. This reconstructible ideal of the socialist states coincides with the ideal of socialist doctrine, and in it we can see the unified "socialist ideal."
THE SOCIALIST IDEAL
The formulation of this ideal is now no longer a problem. The basic propositions of the socialist world view have often been proclaimed: the abolition of private property, Christianity, and the family.
One of the principles which is not so often represented as fundamental, though it is no less widespread, is the demand for equality through the destruction of the natural pecking order into which society has arranged itself.
The notion of "equality" in socialist ideology has a special character, which is particularly important for an understanding of socialism. In the more consistent socialist systems equality is understood in so radical a way that it leads to a negation of the existence of any genuine differences between individuals: "equality" is turned into "equivalence."
For instance, Lewis Mumford, in The Myth of the Machine, suggests that in their social structure the early states of Mesopotamia and Egypt expressed the concept of a machine whose components were the citizens of the state. In support of his argument he refers to contemporary drawings in which warriors or workers were depicted in a completely stereotyped manner, like the components of a machine.
The classic description of the socialist concept of equality is "Shigalyovism" — the socialist utopia quoted by Dostoyevsky in The Possessed: "The thirst for education is already an aristocratic thirst. As soon as there is a family or love, there is a desire for property.
We shall throttle that desire: we shall unleash drunkenness, scandal, denunciations; we shall unleash unprecedented debauchery; we shall extinguish every genius in his infancy. Everything must be reduced to the common denominator, total equality.
"Each belongs to all, and all to each. All are slaves and equal in slavery. In extreme cases it will mean defamation and murder, but the main thing is equality. First there will be a drop in the standard of education, in learning and talent. A high level of learning and talent is accessible only to the very brainy. We must abolish the brainy!
The brainy have always seized power and been despots. The brainy couldn't be anything other than despots and have always brought more debauchery than good. We will execute or exile them. We will cut out Cicero's tongue, gouge out Copernicus's eyes, stone Shakespeare to death — that's Shigalyovism!
Slaves must be equal: freedom and equality have never yet existed without despotism, but there must be equality in the herd, that's Shigalyovism!"
Supporters of socialism usually declare The Possessed to be a parody, a slander on socialism. However, we shall take the risk of quoting a few passages in a similar vein:
"This communism, everywhere negating the individuality of man, is merely the logical continuation of private property, which equally negates individuality. ". . . it so overestimates the role and dominion of material property that it wants to destroy everything that cannot become the possession and private property of the masses; it wants to eliminate talent by force. . . . . finally, this movement, which aims to oppose to private property the universal ownership of private property, expresses itself in a completely animal form when to marriage (which is, of course, a certain form of exclusive private property) it opposes the communal ownership of women, as a result of which woman becomes a low form of social property."
"In the way that a woman abandons marriage for the realm of general prostitution, so the whole world of wealth, that is, of man's objectified essence, passes from the condition of exclusive marriage with a private owner to general prostitution with the collective."
I should very much like the reader to try to guess the author of these thoughts before looking at the answer: K. Marx, sketches for The Holy Family. To calm the reader let me hasten to qualify this: Marx sees communism in this way only "in its initial stages."
Further on, Marx depicts "collectivism as the positive destruction of private property," in which he scientifically foresees quite other features. According to this book, for instance, every object will become "a humanified object or an objectified human" and "man assumes his many-sided essence in many-sided ways, that is, as an integral person."
There was also a socialist movement which endowed equality with such extraordinary significance that it derived its title, the "Union of the Equal," from it. Here is their interpretation of this concept:
"We want real equality or death, that's what we want. "For its sake we would agree to anything, we would sweep everything away in order to retain just this. Let all the arts vanish if necessary, so long as we are left with genuine equality."
Socialism as a Primitive Religion
The way in which equality is understood brings us to a striking correlation between socialism and religion.
They consist of identical elements which, in their different contexts, possess opposite meanings. "There is a similarity between them in their diametrical opposition," says Berdyayev of Christianity and Marxism. The idea of human equality is also fundamental to religion, but it is achieved in contact with God, that is, in the highest sphere of human existence.
Socialism, as is clearly evident from the examples above, aims to establish equality by the opposite means of destroying all the higher aspects of the personality. It is this concept of equality to which the socialist principles of communal property and the destruction of the family relate, and it also explains the hatred of Christianity which saturates socialist ideology.
The Four Key Elements of Socialism
The socialist ideal, that basic complex of notions which for many thousands of years has lain at the foundation of socialist ideology, can now be formulated:
(1) "Equality" via destruction of the natural pecking order
(2) The destruction of private property
(3) The destruction of Christianity
(4) The destruction of the family
Dostoyevsky was by no means parodying when he drew his portrait: Do away at last with the nobles, Do away with the tsar as well, Take the land for common owners, Let your vengeance forever swell Against church and marriage and family, And all the old world's villainy.
WHERE IS SOCIALISM TAKING US?
We concluded above that there exists a unified ideal proclaimed by socialist doctrine and implemented — with more or less faithfulness — in the socialist states. Our task now is to try to understand what essential changes in life its full implementation would produce. In doing so we will automatically arrive at a description of the aim of socialism and its role in history.
The various types of socialist system and the life of the socialist states give us an opportunity to imagine how these general propositions would be concretely embodied. We get a picture which, although frightening and apparently strange at first sight, has an integral, inner logic and is thoroughly plausible. We must imagine a world in which every man and woman is "militarized" and turned into a soldier.
They live in barracks or hostels, work under commanders, feed in communal refectories, and spend their leisure hours only with their own detachment. They need permits to go out in the The Possessed street at night, to go for a walk outside the town or to travel to another town. They are all dressed identically, so that it is hard to tell the men from the women, and only the uniforms of the commanders stand out. Childbirth and relations between the sexes are under the absolute control of the authorities.
The individual family, marriage and the familial rearing of children do not exist. Children do not know their parents and are brought up by the state. All that is permitted in art are works which contribute to the education of the citizens in the spirit required by the state, while all the old art that does not conform to this is destroyed.
Speculation is forbidden in the realms of philosophy, morality and particularly religion, of which all that remains is compulsory confession to one's chiefs and the adoration of a deified head of state.
Disobedience is punished by slavery, which plays an important role in the economy. There are many other punishments and the culprit is obliged to repent and thank his punishers. The people take part in executions (by expressing their public approval or stoning the offender.)
Medicine also plays a part in the elimination of undesirables. None of these features has been taken from the novels of Zamyatin, Huxley or Orwell: they have been borrowed from familiar socialist systems or the practice of socialist states, and we have selected only the typical ones which are met with in several variants.
What will be the consequences of the establishment of such a system, in what direction will it take human history? In asking this question I am not asking to what extent a socialist society will be able to maintain the standard of living, secure the population's food, clothing and housing, or protect it from epidemics.
These admittedly complex questions do not form the basic problem, which is really that the establishment of a social order fully embodying the principles of socialism will lead to a complete alteration in man's relation to life and to a radical break in the structure of human individuality.
One of the fundamental characteristics of human society is the existence of individual relations between people. As the excellent behaviorist researches of the last decades have shown, we are dealing here with a phenomenon of very ancient, prehuman origin. There are many kinds of social animals, and the societies they form are of two types: the anonymous and the individualized.
In the first (for instance, in a shoal of herrings) the members do not know each other individually, and they are interchangeable in their relations. In the second (for example, a gaggle of wild geese) relations arise in which one member plays a special role in the life of another and cannot be replaced.
The presence of such relations is, in a certain sense, the factor which determines individuality. And the destruction of these individual relations is one of the proclaimed goals of socialism — between husbands and wives and between parents and children.
It is striking that among the forces which, according to the behaviorists, support these individualized societies we find those of hierarchy and of territory. Likewise in human society hierarchy and property, above all one's own house and plot of land, help to strengthen individuality: they secure the individual's indisputable place in life and create a feeling of independence and personal dignity.
And their destruction figures among the basic aims advanced by socialism. Of course, only the very foundation of human society has a biological origin of that kind. The basic forces which promote the development of individuality are specifically human.
These are religion, morality, the feeling of personal participation in history, a sense of responsibility for the fate of mankind. Socialism is hostile to these too. We have already quoted many examples of the hatred of Christianity which characterizes socialist doctrine and socialist states.
In the most vivid socialist doctrines we usually find assertions that history is directed by factors independent of the human will, while man himself is the product of his social environment — doctrines which remove the yoke of responsibility which Christianity and morality place on man.
And finally, socialism is directly hostile to the very phenomenon of human individuality. Thus, Charles Fourier says that the basis of the future socialist structure will be the at present unknown feeling ("passion") of uniteisme. In contemporary life he could only indicate the antithesis of this feeling: "This disgusting inclination has been given various names by specialists: moralists call it egoism, ideologists call it the ` I,' a new term which, however, contributes nothing new and is only a useless paraphrase of egoism."
Marx, noticing that even after the acquisition of democratic freedom society remains Christian, concluded that it is still "flawed" in that ". . . man — not man in general but each individual man — considers himself a sovereign, higher being, and this is man in his uncultivated, nonsocial aspect in an accidental form of existence, as he is in life.. .
And even in Bebel, in whom participation in the parliamentary game and the enticing hopes of thus obtaining power so moderated all the radicalism of socialist ideology, we suddenly discover this picture: "The difference between the `lazy' and the 'industrious,' between the foolish and the wise cannot exist any more in the new society, since what we mean by those concepts will not exist either." The fact that socialism leads to the suppression of individuality has frequently been remarked on.
But this feature has usually been regarded as just a means for the attainment of
some end: the development of the economy, the good of the whole people, the triumph of justice or universal material well-being.
Such, for instance, was the point of view of S. Bulgakov, who juxtaposed socialism with the first temptation of Christ: in "turning stones to bread" socialism tried to limit all mankind's goals to the solution of purely material problems. In my opinion the whole history of socialism contradicts this view.
Socialist doctrines, for instance, show surprisingly little interest in the immediate conquest of injustice and poverty.
They condemn all efforts in this area as "bourgeois philanthropy," "reformism" and "Uncle Tomism," and the solution of these problems is postponed until the triumph of the socialist ideal.
As always, Nechaev is more candid than anyone: "If you don't watch out the government will suddenly dream up a reduction in taxation or some similar blessing. This would be a real disaster, because even under present conditions the people are moving gradually upward, and if their penury is eased by even a fraction, if they manage to get just one cow more, they will regress by decades and all our work will be wasted.
We must, on the contrary, oppress the people at every opportunity like, shall we say, sweatshop owners." And so we come to the opposite point of view, that the economic and social demands of socialism are the means for the attainment of its basic aim, the destruction of individuality. And many of the purely economic principles preached by socialists (such as planning) have been shown by experience not to be organically connected with socialism at all — which, in fact, has turned out to be badly adapted to their existence.
What will be the effect on life of a change in the spiritual atmosphere such that human individuality is destroyed in all its most essential forms?
Such a revolution would amount to the destruction of Man, at least in the sense that has hitherto been contained in this concept. And not just an abstract destruction of the concept, but a real one too. It is possible to point to a model for the situation we are considering in an analogous process which took place on a much smaller scale, namely, the clash between primitive peoples and European civilization.
Most ethnographers think that the main reason for the disappearance of many indigenous peoples was not their extermination by Europeans, not the diseases or alcoholism brought by the whites, but the destruction of their religious ideas and rituals, and of the way their life was arranged to give meaning to their existence.
Even when Europeans seemed to be helping by improving their living conditions, organizing medical aid, introducing new types of crops and farm animals or obstructing tribal wars, the situation did not change. The natives became generally apathetic, they aged prematurely, lost their will to live, died of diseases which previously they had survived with ease. The birthrate plummeted and the population dwindled.
It seems obvious that a way of life which fully embodies socialist ideals must have the same result, with the sole difference that the much more radical changes will bring a more universal result, the withering away of all mankind, and its death.
There appears to be an inner organic link here: socialism aims at the destruction of those aspects of life which form the true basis of human existence. That is why we think that the death of mankind is the inescapable logical consequence of socialist ideology and simultaneously a real possibility, hinted at in every socialist movement and state with a degree of clarity which depends on its fidelity to the socialist ideal.
THE MOTIVE FORCE OF SOCIALISM
If that is the objective conclusion toward which socialism is moving, what then is its subjective aim? What inspires all these movements and gives them their strength? The picture that emerges from our deliberations has all the appearances of a contradiction: socialist ideology, whose realization in full leads to the destruction of mankind, has for thousands of years inspired great philosophers and raised great popular movements.
Why have they not been aware of the debacle that is the true end of socialism? And if aware, why have they not recoiled from it? What error of thought, what aberration of the feelings can propel people along a path whose end is death?
It seems to me that the contradiction here is not real, but only apparent, as often happens when someone makes a proposition in an argument which seems so obvious that nobody pays any attention to it, yet it is this unnoticed proposition that embodies the contradiction.
In this particular argument the obvious element seems to be the proposition that the fatal nature of socialism has never been noticed, but the closer you become acquainted with socialist philosophy, the clearer it becomes that there is no error here, no aberration.
The organic connection between socialism and death is subconsciously or half-consciously felt by its followers without in the least frightening them at all. On the contrary, this is what gives the socialist movements their attraction and their motive force. This cannot of course be proved logically, it can be verified only by checking it against socialist literature and the psychology of socialist movements. And here we are obliged to limit ourselves to a few heterogeneous examples.
If Nechaev, for instance, in calling on young people to join the revolution, also warned them that "the majority of the revolutionaries will perish without trace — that's the prospect" (one of those rare prophecies that was realized in full), what attraction did he have for them?
He of all people could not appeal to God, or to the immortal soul, or to patriotism, or even to a sense of honor, since "in order to become a good socialist" he proposed the renunciation of "all feelings of kinship, friendship, love, gratitude, and even honor itself." In the proclamations issued by him and Bakunin one can see quite clearly what it was that attracted them and infected the others: the urge for death and "unbridled destruction," "absolute and extraordinary.
A whole generation of contemporary revolutionaries was doomed to perish in that conflagration, a generation poisoned by "the most squalid living conditions," fit only to destroy and be destroyed.
That was Bakunin's sole aim. Not only were positive ideals absent, it was forbidden even to think about them: "We refuse pointblank to work out the future conditions of life . . . we do not wish to deceive ourselves with the dream that we shall have enough strength left for creation.
In the USSR our generation well remembers how we marched in columns of young pioneers and sang with fervor (as did the young people in the civil war, and the Red Guards before us):
Bravely shall we enter battle
On behalf of Soviet power
And all together we shall die
In this struggle of ours.
And the greatest fervor, the greatest élan was evoked by that phrase "all together we shall die." Or here is how three of the most famous socialist writers of the last century imagined the future of the human race: Saint- Simon foresaw that mankind would perish as a result of the planet's drying up. Charles Fourier thought the same because the earth would "stop rotating on its axis and the poles would topple down to the equator," while Engels thought it would be because the planet would cool down.
These can hardly be regarded as the fruits of scholarly minds forced to bow to the truth, however drastic it might appear to be. Moreover, these three prophecies cannot all be true.
Religion predicts the end of our world too, but only after the attainment of its ultimate aim, which also supplies the meaning of its history. But socialism (on the principle of the similarity of diametrical opposites) attributes the end of mankind to some external accident and thus deprives its whole history of any meaning.
In the near future the leaders of the socialist movements will look forward with surprising sangfroid, and occasionally, in spite of his different arguments, Engels had a high opinion of even with open satisfaction, to the destruction, if not of all mankind, then of the greater part of it.
In our time Chairman Mao has already stated his conviction that the death of half the population of the globe would not be too high a price for the victory of socialism throughout the world.
Similarly, at the beginning of the fourteenth century, for example, the leader of the Patarene movement in Italy, Dolcino, predicted the imminent destruction of all mankind, relying on the authority of the prophet Isaiah: "And the remnant will be quite small and insignificant.
There are many indications that a tendency to self-destruction is not foreign to mankind: we have the pessimistic religion of Buddhism, which postulates as the ultimate aim of mankind its fusion with the Nothing, with Nirvana; the philosophy of Lao-Tse, in which the ultimate aim is dissolution in nonbeing; the philosophical system of Hartmann, who predicted the deliberate self-destruction of mankind; the appearance at various times of scientific and philosophical trends setting out to prove that man is a machine, though their proofs are in each case completely different and all they have in common is their (totally unscientific) urge to establish this fact.
Finally, the fundamental role of the urge to self-destruction has long since been indicated by biology. Thus, Freud considered it (under the title of the death instinct, or Thanatos) one of the two basic forces which determine man's psychic life.
And socialism, which captures and subordinates millions of people to its will in a movement whose ideal aim is the death of mankind, cannot of course be understood without the assumption that those same ideas are equally applicable to social phenomena, that is, that among the basic forces influencing historical development is the urge to selfdestruction, the human death instinct.
An understanding of this urge as a force analogous to instinct also enables us to explain some specific features of socialism. The manifestations of an instinct are always connected with the sphere of the emotions; the performance of an instinctive action evokes a deep feeling of satisfaction and emotional uplift, and in man a feeling of inspiration and happiness.
This can account for the attractiveness of the socialist world view, that condition of ardor and of spiritual uplift, and that inexhaustible energy which can be met in the leaders and members of the socialist movements. These movements have the quality of infectiousness which is typical of many instincts.
Conversely, understanding, the capacity for learning and for intellectual evaluation of a situation, are almost incompatible with instinctual action. In man, the influence of instinct as a rule lowers the critical faculty: arguments directed against the aims which the instinct is striving to achieve are not only not examined but are seen as base and contemptible.
All these features are found in the socialist world view. At the beginning of this essay we pointed out that socialism as it were repels rational consideration. It has often been remarked that to reveal contradictions in socialist teachings in no way reduces their attractive force, and socialist ideologists are not in the least scared of contradictions.
Only in the context of socialism, for instance, could there arise in the nineteenth century — and find numerous followers — such a doctrine as Charles Fourier's in which a basic role is played by the animistic notion of the "sexual life" of the planets.
Charles Fourier predicted that in the future socialist system the water of the seas and oceans would acquire the taste of lemonade, and that the present creatures of the sea would be replaced by antiwhales and antisharks, which would convey cargoes from one continent to another at colossal speed." This will seem less surprising, however, if we recall that it is only just over two hundred years since socialist ideology assumed a rational exterior.
And it was ony relatively recently that socialism, in the form of Marxism, exchanged this exterior for a scientific one. The brief period of "scientific socialism" is ending before our eyes, the scientific wrapping no longer increases the attraction of socialist notions and socialism is casting it off.
Thus Herbert Marcuse, in "The End of Utopia", says that for the modern "avant-garde Left" Charles Fourier is more relevant than Marx precisely because of his greater utopianism.
He calls for the replacement of the development of socialism "from utopia to science" by its development "from science to utopia."
All this shows that the force which manifests itself in socialism does not act through reason, but resembles an instinct. This accounts for the inability of socialist ideology to react to the results of experience, or, as behaviorists would say, its inability to learn.
A spider, spinning its web, will complete all the six thousand four hundred movements necessary even if its glands have dried up in the heat and will produce no silk. How much more dramatic is the example of the socialists, with the same automatism constructing for the nth time their recipe for a society of equality and justice: it would seem that for them the numerous and varied precedents which have always led to one and the same result do not exist.
The experience of many thousands of years is rejected and replaced by cliches from the realm of the irrational, such as the claim that all the different socialisms of today and yesterday or created in a different part of the globe were not the real thing, and that in the special conditions of "our" socialism everything will be different, and so on and so forth.
That is the explanation for the longevity of that mass of prejudices and catchphrases surrounding socialism, like the identification of socialism with "social justice" or the belief in its scientific character. They are accepted without the least verification and take root in people's minds like absolute truths.
At our present turning point the depth and complexity of the problem of collectivism facing mankind is becoming increasingly apparent. Mankind is being opposed by a powerful force which threatens its very existence and at the same time paralyzes its most reliable tool — reason.