of the Philosophers
1. The Great Utopias
The English revolution of the seventeenth century was the last occasion when the heretical movement appeared as one of the major forces shaping the course of history.
In later years, the chiliastic sects that had shaken Europe became transformed into such peaceable movements as those of the Mennonites, the Baptists and the Quakers. The socialist ideas of the medieval sects live on, albeit in peaceful form, in their successors. The most graphic manifestation of these ideas are the numerous communist settlements founded by these sects in America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Here we encounter attempts to implement familiar socialist ideals: communality of property, the ban on marriage and family (expressed either as celibacy or as communality of wives and communal upbringing of children). But the socialist ideas themselves acquire a new coloration; they lose their aggressiveness. A lesser role is assigned to propagandizing the doctrine, and the center of gravity is transferred to the life of the isolated community. Thanks to this, the influence of the socialist doctrine does not in these cases extend beyond the limits of the communities that profess them. In this form, socialist ideas lose their incendiary force and cease to inspire massive popular movements.
The development of socialist ideas did not cease, of course. On the contrary, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, socialist writings literally flooded Europe. But these ideas were produced by
different circumstances and by men of a different mentality. The preacher and the wandering Apostle gave way to a publicist and philosopher. Religious exaltation and references to revelation were replaced by appeals to reason. The literature of socialism acquired a purely secular and rationalistic character; new means of popularization were devised: works on this theme now frequently appear under the guise of voyages to unknown lands, interlarded with frivolous episodes. By the same token, the audience to whom the message is addressed is also different. It is no longer pitched to peasants or craftsmen but to the well-read and educated public. Thus socialism renounces for a time a direct influence on the broad masses. It is as if after failing in its direct assault on Christian civilization, the movement launches an evasive maneuver which lasts for several centuries. It is only at the very end of the eighteenth century that socialism once again comes out into the street, and we meet with a fresh attempt to create a popular movement based on its ideology.* This break in the development of socialist ideas had begun to take shape far earlier than the English revolution of the seventeenth century. In the beginning of the sixteenth century, at the time of the first tentative steps of the Reformation, a work appeared that exhibited numerous features of the new socialist literature--Thomas More's Utopia. In this work we first meet the literary devices that are later to become standard--e.g., a description of travel to a far-off land and the discovery of a previously unknown, exotic place where the ideals of socialism have been realized. Not surprisingly, the title of this work has become one of the terms denoting the teaching as a whole--"utopian socialism."
* It would be interesting to investigate the relation between these two periods in the development of socialist ideas--within the heretical movement and within the framework of Enlightenment literature. What is the influence of the former period on the latter? Through what channels was the tradition transmitted? The author is aware of only one historian who has studied this question--Ludwig Keller, who devoted a series of works to it. Keller points out two avenues by which this occurred; the first being the guilds and workshops, which were closely tied to the heretical movements throughout the Middle Ages and provided a refuge for persecuted heretics. This channel of influence leads to the Masonic movement and through it to the writers and philosophers of the Enlightenment. The second involves the academies of "poets" and "philosophers" of the Renaissance and Humanism. Of particular interest are the causes of such a sharp and sudden break in the character of chiliastic socialism and the decline of heretical mOvements in general. As one obvious explanation, we can point to the victory of the Reformation, which had achieved much of that which the sects had demanded (in particular, it satisfied those sects that had not set themselves the goal of destroying the entire social structure) and thereby decreased the destructive force of the sectarian movement.
Utopia by Thomas More.
This book was first published (in Latin) in 1516, and its complete title is: "A Truly Golden Handbook, No Less Beneficial than Entertaining, About the Best State of the Commonwealth and the New Island of Utopia." At the time, its author was an influential English statesman with a brilliant career. In 1529, More became Lord Chancellor of England, the first office below the king. But in 1534 he emerged as a strong opponent of the Church reform that was being carried out by Henry VIII. He refused to swear allegiance to the king as head of the newly created Anglican Church, was accused of high treason and beheaded in 1535. Four centuries later, in 1935, he was canonized by the Catholic Church.
Utopia is written in the form of a conversation among the author, his friend Peter Giles, and the traveler Raphael Hythloday (Hythlodaeus). Hythloday had seen the world and was a keen observer of life. Taking part in the voyage of Amerigo Vespucci, he was left, at his own request, with a few companions "near the limits of the last voyage." After wandering over seas and wastelands, Hythloday came upon the island of Utopia, where he found a state organized according to the just laws established long ago by the wise legislator Utopus. In order to appraise correctly the impression made by Utopia on contemporaries, we ought to bear in mind that it was written in the very beginning of the age of discovery, before Defoe's and Swift's great novels.
The whole of Utopia relates one way or another to two subjects: criticism of contemporary European society and a description of the ideal state on the island of Utopia. This corresponds roughly to the division of the work into two parts. The central thesis of the first section is that contemporary European states are tools of the mercenary interests of the rich:
"When I weigh in my mind all the other states which flourish today, so help me God, I can discover nothing but a conspiracy of the rich, who pursue their own aggrandizement under the name and title of the Commonwealth." (42: p. 138)*
The true source of this situation is private property and money:
"But, Master More, to speak plainly what is in my mind, as long as there is private property and while money is the standard of all things, I do not think that a nation can be governed either justly or
* Quotations from More are based primarily on the English translation of H. V. S. Ogden. Page references are to the Russian edition.
happily." (42: p. 73) "As long as private property remains, the largest and by far the best part of mankind will be oppressed with an inescapable load of cares and anxieties." (42: p. 74) By way of an example, criminal behavior is discussed; it is attributed entirely to flaws in the social system. "What else is this, I ask, but first making them thieves and then punishing them for it?" (42: p. 57) The laws of the day which punished thieves with death are considered to be not only unjust but ineffective as well. Instead, Hythloday offers the customs he had observed among people living in the mountains of Persia, the Polylerites. "I can find no better system in any country." (42: p. 59) The custom calls for a thief to be turned into a state slave. As a sign of his status, a thief's ear lobes are notched. The lazy "are sooner prompted with blows than punishment with fetters." (42: p. 60) Finally, as a measure against the escape of slaves, informing is encouraged--and rewarded by liberty (for slaves) or money (for a free man). A runaway slave who is caught is executed and any free man who helped him is turned into a slave. "You can easily see how humane and advantageous these laws are," concludes the narrator. (42: p. 61)
The gloomy depiction of contemporary Europe is contrasted with the ideal state on the island of Utopia. More's Utopia is no dry treatise on political systems, but a vivid picture of life. The clothing worn by the inhabitants is described, as are their occupations and amusements, the appearance of their towns, houses and temples. This enables us to discern those traits the author wishes to single out as essential.
Utopia is a republic governed by elected officials who are called "Fathers" by their subjects. All of life is regulated by the state. There is no private property and no money. The economy is based on universal labor conscription. In the first place, everyone (or almost so) is obliged to work for a certain period of time in agriculture: "For all men and women there is one common occupation--agriculture, from which no one is exempted." (42: p. 83) Upon reaching a certain age, citizens are sent to work in the countryside, where they labor for two years before being transferred back to the city. Apart from this, everyone learns some craft, which he practices when he is not at his assigned work. Work is done under the supervision of officials called "syphogrants." "The main and sole occupation of the syphogrants is care and observation lest anyone sit idle." (42: p. 84) The state also regulates the distribution of the population by means of mass resettlements.
"Each community consists of households for the most part made up of kinsfolk. ...In order that their cities may not have too many or too few inhabitants, they allow no city to have over six thousand households. ...If the population of any of their cities happens to decline so much that it cannot be made good from other parts of the island. ..the population is built up with citizens from the colonies. This has happened only twice in all their history, both times the result of a devastating plague." (42: p. 88) The narrator notes enthusiastically the uniformity and standardization of dress and way of life. "People wear the same sort of clothes throughout the island, except for the distinctions which mark the difference between the married and the unmarried. The fashion of the clothing never changes." (42: p. 83) "The color of the cloak is the same throughout the island. Furthermore, it is the natural color of wool." (42: p. 87) There is uniformity in other things as well. "There are fifty-four cities on the island, all large and well built, and with the same language, customs, institutions, and laws. All of them are built on the same plan, as far as the location permits." (42: p. 77) "Whoever knows one of the cities, will know them all, since they are exactly alike insofar as the terrain permits." (42: p. 80)
All products for consumption are distributed at public storehouses; moreover, everyone may take as much as he needs. Meals are taken in centralized facilities. "It is not forbidden to eat at home, though it is not thought proper. Besides no one would be so foolish as to prepare a poor meal at home when there is a sumptuous one ready for him so near at hand." (42: p. 90) The description of these common meals recalls food rationing more than simple distribution. "The best of each kind of food is first served to the elders, whose places are distinguished by some mark. Then the rest are served alike. The elders divide the choice bits, of which there is not enough to go around, as they wish. Thus due respect is paid them, yet all the rest fare as well as they." (42: p. 91)
Common meals are typical of the general tendency of the whole of life for the Utopians. "So you see no loafing is tolerated, and there are no pretexts for laziness, or opportunities. There are no tavernS or ale houses, no brothels, no chances for corruption, no hiding places, no secret meetings. Because they live in full view of all, they must do their accustomed labor and spend their leisure honorably." (42: p.92)
Every home has folding doors which, "easily opened by hand and then closing of themselves, give admission to anyone. As a result, nothing is private property anywhere. Every ten years they actually exchange their very home by lot." (42: p. 81)
In order to take a walk outside the town, it is necessary to get permission from one's father; a wife must ask her husband and a husband his wife. To leave for another town, permission must be obtained from the proper officials. "Several travel together, taking a letter from the prince, which certifies that permission to travel has been granted and states the day of return. ...If any man goes outside his district without leave and is caught without a passport from the prince, he is treated scornfully, brought back as a fugitive and severely punished. If he does it again, he is made a slave." (42: p. 93) (We shall give more details on slavery in Utopia somewhat later.)
In Utopia marriage is monogamous, but there is nothing to indicate whether it is contracted at the will of the bride and groom or is decided by parents or officials. The state does supervise strictly the observance of chastity prior to marriage and the faithfulness of the spouses after. Anyone guilty of infraction of these rules is sold into slavery. Utopians compare the contracting of marriage to the selling of a horse, and for this reason, prior to entering into wedlock, the bride is shown to the bridegroom naked--and he to her--for, it is argued, is not the blanket taken off a horse before it is sold?
Utopians are not burdened with heavy work; they spend only six hours a day on the job, in fact, devoting the rest of the time to the sciences, the arts and "decent entertainment." In spite of this, they experience no material need. This is explained by the fact that in Europe the labor of the poor creates riches which go to support the idle, while in Utopia everyone works. (The enumeration of European idle folk is curious: "almost all the women" are first on the list, next come priests and monks, followed by landlords and their servants.)
Utopians seem to be equal in everything--universal obligatory labor, the color and cut of dress, housing. But this equality is by no means absolute. Officials are exempted from obligatory work, as well as those who have been officially "exempted for profound study of the sciences." (42: p. 86) From this exempted class the scholars, ambassadors, priests and high officials ("tranibors") are selected. Yet elsewhere it is stated that "for the most part everyone grows up learning his father's craft." (42: p. 83) It seems to follow that a closed class,
almost a caste, controls the government. As for the rest of the citizens, the narrator has this to say of them (speaking of the necessity of making laws that are simple and require no complicated interpretation): "The common folk with their slow wits are unable to arrive at such conclusions, and their whole life would not suffice for it, as they spend it earning their living." (42: p. 116) And the picture of equality is utterly destroyed when we learn that life in Utopia is largely based on slavery. Slaves do all the dirty work. But slavery seems to have more than just an economic function. Slaves are obtained from two sources: "Their slaves are either their own citizens who have been sentenced to bondage for some crime, or men of other nations who have been condemned to death. The Utopians buy these men at a low price, or more often obtain them free of charge and bring them home." (42: p. 110) "All kinds of slaves are kept constantly at work and are always chained. The Utopians treat their native slaves more harshly than the others, thinking them baser and deserving of greater punishment." (42: p. Ill) It is thought that the labor of such people brings more use than their death would. At the same time, their example deters others. "If even after this treatment they still rebel and put up resistance, they are slaughtered like wild beasts." (42: p. 114)
The account of the Utopians includes a description of the prevailing philosophical views of the citizens, based as they are on the notion that pleasure is the supreme goal of life. But pleasure can be renounced: "Finally, they believe what religion easily persuades a well-disposed mind to believe, that God repays the loss of a short and transitory pleasure with great and endless joy." (42: p. 107)
Perfect freedom of conscience prevails in Utopia, with only this one reservation instituted by Utopus: "He made a solemn and severe law against any who sink so far below the dignity of human nature as to think that the soul dies with the body, or that the universe is carried along by chance without an over-ruling providence. The Utopians believe that after this life there are punishments for wickedness and rewards for virtue." (42: p. 128) Some Utopians consider the sun to be a god, others the moon, and still others, certain ancient heroes. But they all recognize some "universal deity, unknown, eternal, unfathomable, inexplicable, exceeding human intelligence, penetrating all this world not by its bulk but by its force. Him they call The Father." (42: p. 126)
The holy services of the Utopians are in keeping with this kind of abstract theism. The temples have no images of deities. The service consists of the faithful joining the priests in singing praise to God, to musical accompaniment. Women and married men may become priests, and priests may marry.
Of late, the narrator informs us, Christianity has become known in Utopia and has found many adherents there. It is true, however, that a preacher who had called other religions pagan and threatened their adherents with eternal fire was arrested and convicted. Of particular interest is the narrator's opinion that the rapid spread of Christianity in Utopia is explained by the resemblance between the communist structure of the Utopian state and the practices of the ancient Apostolic community which "are retained even now in the purest of Christian communities." (42: p. 127)
The reference to the communist character of the community described in the Acts of the Apostles was a favorite argument of the heretical sects. It is difficult to imagine what the author could have had in mind when he spoke of the "purest of Christian communities," except one or another of the heretical sects.
If we look upon More as a martyr who gave his life for the ideals of the Catholic Church, it is striking how remote his Utopia is from any such ideals. In addition to the sympathetic description of a hedonistic world view and of a colorless theistic religion, it is possible to find direct, if discreet, attacks on Christianity and the Pope. Apparently no one has yet succeeded in explaining away this disparity.
But if Utopia is considered as a work of chiliastic socialist literature, it seems surprisingly moderate. There is no mention of any abolition of the family or of communality of wives; there is no public upbringing of children. It seems that the new and secular movement in socialism did not at first base itself on the extreme beliefs that had been formulated within the heretical movement.
City of the Sun by Tommaso Campanella.
Almost a century passed after the first "Utopia" before Utopian socialism was able to absorb and assimilate the more radical principles developed in antiquity and the heretical movements. Campanella's celebrated work illustrates the new synthesis.
Campanella lived at the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth centuries. Up to the age of thirty-four, he was a
Dominican monk; he was then arrested and spent the next twenty-seven years in prison. The remaining years of his life he spent in France. Campanella was a philosopher, a religious thinker and a poet. He proclaimed (earlier than Bacon) the empirical nature of science, advocated the independence of science from Church authority and defended Galileo (while he himself was imprisoned by the Inquisition). In the theory of knowledge he was interested in the question of the means by which human consciousness, basing itself solely on subjective sensations, arrives at objective truth. His views on this subject are close to those later elaborated by Kant. His religious views, affirming that all things are with God, were pantheistic in character.
In Calabria in 1597, Campanella organized a conspiracy against the Spaniards, to whom the country belonged at that time. The conspiracy failed, and in 1599 Campanella was arrested and put to torture; in 1602 he was condemned to life imprisonment. In 1602, while in prison, he wrote his book City of the Sun.
The very title of the work--Civitas Soli--recalls St. Augustine's Civitas Dei--City of God. It is written in a sparse style, without any embellishments like exotic adventures in strange lands. The book takes the form of a dialogue between two speakers whose names are not even given: the Chief Host (apparently a reference to the Grandmaster of the Knights Hospitalers) and the Seafarer (of whom it is only said that he is a citizen of Genoa). The dialogue begins without any explanation with the words of the Host: "Please tell me of all your adventures during your last voyage." In reply, the Seafarer recounts that on an island in the Indian Ocean he visited the City of the Sun, the life of which he thereupon begins to describe.
The political system of the City of the Sun externally resembles a theocracy. "Their supreme ruler is a priest who is called Hoh, meaning 'Sun' in their language, but in our tongue we would call him the 'Metaphysic.' " (43: p. 146) This curious translation--Metaphysic for Sun--is not accidental. The role of the Sun priest could profitably be compared to the head of a technocratic hierarchy. The post is occupied by the most erudite inhabitant of the city. He knows "the history of all nations, their customs, religious rites and laws" and is well versed in all crafts, physical, mathematical and astrological sciences, and is especially knowledgeable in metaphysics and theology. He holds his office until "another man is found wiser than his predecessor and better capable to govern." (43: p. 153)
The Metaphysic has three co-rulers--Pon, Sin and Mor, meaning Might, Wisdom and Love. Each presides over the corresponding aspects of life. In some of its unexpected details, this division is reminiscent of Orwell. For instance, the area of Love's responsibility includes not only the supervision of the relations between men and women (of which, later) but also "agriculture, stock breeding and, in general, everything which pertains to food, clothing and sexual relations." (43: p. 149) The Metaphysic confers with his three co-rulers, but in major questions his decision is final. Numerous other officials are also mentioned; they are appointed by the four chief rulers or other members of the administration. There is also a Council, to which all citizens over twenty years of age belong, but it seems to possess only an advisory function. Candidates for office are nominated by the Council and confirmed at a conference of officials and finally by the four rulers. In this connection, one of Campanella's sentences remains unclear: "Officials are replaced according to the will of the people." (43 p. 175)
The social organization of the city is based on communal life, the implementation of which is directed by the administration.
"All things are common with them. The distribution of everything is in the hands of the officials, but since knowledge, honor and pleasure are common to all, no one can take anything for himself. They assert that among us property derives from and is maintained by our each having an individual dwelling and a wife and children of his own. From this self-love arises." (43: p. 149)
In the author's opinion, the communal principle is at odds with many other relations between men: "I am persuaded that the friars and monks and clergy of our country, if they were not seduced by love for their kin and friends, would be ...more imbued with the spirit of charity." In the City of the Sun, citizens "get everything they need from the community, and the officials take care to see that no one should get more than he deserves and that no one be refused a necessity." (43: p. 150)
"Houses, dormitories, beds and all necessities they have in common. But every six months the superiors decide who is to sleep in what circle, and who in the first dormitory, who in the second. .." (43: p. 154)
The Solarians (citizens of the City of the Sun) take their meals together, as in "monastery refectories," but the officials get "larger and better portions." (43: p. 155) The latter reward the children who
excel in studies with part of the most desirable rations. Production is based on universal obligatory labor. "There are no slaves among them," we read in one place. In another passage, however, there is the additional comment that "slaves taken at war are either sold away or used for digging ditches or other heavy work outside the city." (43: p. 169) Everyone has the duty of working four hours per day. (Like More, the author believes that with universal obligatory labor, this amount of work would suffice to provide the state with all the necessities.) However, only menial labor seems to be meant here, for later we read: "The remaining hours are spent in pleasant occupation with the sciences, in discourse and in reading." (43: p. 162) Thus scientific endeavors are not included in the four obligatory hours of "work."
That this labor is truly obligatory can be seen from the following description:
"But what is excellent and worthy of imitation with them is this: no bodily flaw compels them to idleness, excepting advanced age, when, however, they are still invited to consultations. The lame stand on guard since they have eyesight, the blind card wool and pluck fowl for cushions and featherbeds; those who are deprived of both eyes and hands serve the state with their ears, voice and so on. Finally, if someone possesses but a single limb, he makes use of it for work in the countryside, earning a good salary and serving as an informer to report to the state everything that he hears." (43: p. 163)
The Solarians work in detachments headed by a commander. "The commanders of both men's and women's detachments, that is, the heads of ten, fifty or a hundred persons," constitute the administrative body of the city immediately below the four supreme rulers. (43: p. 175) In the chapter on judicial procedures, we read that since the Solarians "always walk and work in detachments, there must be five witnesses to convict a criminal." (43: p. 177) It seems to follow that division into detachments continues even after work. At any rate, there is no question that Solarian life is regulated after work as well. For instance, during hours set aside for rest, even sedentary games are prohibited.
The uniformity of life is carried even further. Men and women wear almost identical attire; only the length of the cloak differs slightly. The form and color of clothing is prescribed, whether for wear inside or out of the city. Even the frequency with which clothes are to be
changed is fixed. Violation of such prescriptions is a grave crime: "And they would certainly put to death a woman who in order to appear beautiful started to rouge her face or in order to appear tall began to wear shoes with high heels, or took to wearing long dresses in order to hide her unattractive legs." (43: p. 160) The prescriptions concerning celebration of feasts are equally detailed, as are those covering the arts. At celebrations, "poets hymn the glorious commanders and their victories, but if one of them adds something of his own--even if adding to the glory of the hero--he is liable to penalty. Unworthy of the name of poet is he who engages in false fabrications." (43: p. 180)
The relations of the sexes are kept under a still stricter control. "The production of offspring bears directly on the interests of the state, and involves the interests of private persons only to the extent to which they are part of the state. And since individuals for the most part bear offspring wrongly and bring them up badly, to the peril of the state, the sacred duty of supervising this matter, which is considered the fundamental principle of state welfare, is entrusted to state officials, for it is only the community that can vouchsafe this and not private persons." (43: p. 160)
The procreation of children is compared to the breeding of livestock: "And they mock us in that we zealously care for improved breeds of dogs and horses but, at the same time, neglect the human race. ...Therefore, male and female breeders of the best natural qualities are chosen in accordance with the rules of philosophy." (43: p. 160)
A series of officials--the heads of labor brigades, an astrologer and a physician--decide which man should share the bed of which woman and how often. Copulation itself takes place under the supervision of a special official. In this connection a number of rules are set forth which we will refrain from quoting. Relations between the sexes are considered to have--apart from procreation--only one other function: satisfaction of a purely physiological need. Therefore, in cases of extreme need, men are permitted to copulate with sterile or pregnant Women. This is, however, possible only with the permission of a special Chief of Childbearing and on application from lower officials of the same agency, who keep this aspect of life in the city under constant Supervision. The rights of a woman are determined by similar considerations: "If a woman does not conceive from one man she is joined with another; if she turns out to be sterile in this case too, she passes
into common use but no longer enjoys respect." (43: p. 157) It goes without saying that the upbringing of children is also in the hands of the state. "The children, once weaned, are placed in the charge of the mistresses, if they are girls, or with the masters, if they are boys." (43: p. 159) Children being educated are also divided into detachments. After their seventh year they start natural sciences, then proceed to other disciplines at the discretion of the administration. Less capable children are sent to the countryside, but some who prove to be more capable are accepted back in the city. (43: p. 152) Finally, education ends and the young individuals are ready to perform their basic function--to become officials in the state: "Subsequently, they all receive positions in the area of those sciences or crafts for which they have the greatest aptitude, in each case as advised by the leader or supervisor." (43: p. 152)
In this society, naturally, there are no kinship relations. "All persons of the same age call one another brother; those who are twenty-two years older they call father, and those who are twenty-two years younger, son. And the officials attend to it carefully that no one offends another in this brotherhood." (43: p. 149)
The last sentence shows that in order to maintain communal life in the City of the Sun, the abolition of family, property, freedom of work and creativity are insufficient. Campanella realizes this clearly and gives a detailed description of the system of punishments which guarantee the stability of the social structure.
Considered as crimes are: "Ingratitude, malice, failure to give due respect to another, sloth, despondency, anger, buffoonery and falsehood, which they hate more than the plague. And the guilty are deprived of the common table, or relations with women, or other honors and advantages." (43: p. 151) Sodomy is punished by forced wearing of disgraceful clothing and, if repeated, by death. "Those guilty of violence are subject to execution or punishment according to the principle of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and so on." (43: p. 176)
The punishments for military crimes are severe: "The first man who takes flight can avoid death only if the entire army pleads for his life and certain soldiers take it upon themselves to suffer punishment for the guilty party. But this indulgence is given rarely and only when there are extenuating circumstances. A man who failed to bring help when needed to an ally or a companion is punished by the rod;
for failure to follow orders, the culprit is thrown into a pit, to be torn to pieces by wild beasts; he is given a truncheon and if he succeeds in killing the lions and bears that attack him, which is almost impossible, he is pardoned." (43: p. 167) Particularly noteworthy here is this early formulation of the idea that the accused should be granted a semblance of rights in order to give the appearance of justice to his sentence. There is no separation between the judicial and executive branches: "Everyone is judged by the senior master of his or her craft. Thus all the senior masters are judges and can sentence a person to exile, flogging, reprimand, deprivation of the common table and exclusion from the company of women." (43: p. 176) There are no professional executioners, either. "They have no hangmen. ..so as not to defile their state. ...The death penalty is carried out only by the hand of the people, who kill or stone the transgressor. ...Some are allowed to take their own lives: such persons surround themselves with small bags of powder which they set on fire and burn, while those present encourage them to die with dignity. All citizens meanwhile lament and beseech God to appease His wrath, grieving that they have been brought to the necessity of cutting off a rotten limb of the state. However, they persuade and cajole the transgressor until he himself acquiesces to his punishment and wishes for his death; otherwise he may not be executed. But if the crime is committed either against the liberty of the state or against God or the supreme authorities, then the sentence is carried out without delay or mercy." (43: pp. 176-177)
Punishment is regarded as an element in the education of citizens. "The defendant makes peace with his accusers and the witnesses as though with physicians who had treated his disease, embracing and kissing them.. ..And the sentences are genuine and reliable remedies and are seen as something pleasant rather than as punishment." (43: pp. 176, 173)
A religion of the sun is practiced in Campanella's state: "And in the Sun they perceive and recognize God, calling the Sun an image, a likeness and a living effigy of God from whom proceeds light, warmth, vital power and all things good. Therefore, they have erected an altar in the form of the Sun and their priests worship God in the Sun and the stars, regarding these as His altars and the sky as His temple." (43: p. 182)
Two specific aspects of these religious beliefs can be noted. First
of all, this is a state religion, and the governing of the state coincides with the priestly function. Therefore, the head of state is simultaneously the chief priest, and since he is called "Sun" he is apparently perceived as an incarnation of God. "Of the officials, only the senior ones are priests. Their duties include purging the consciences of the citizens; the whole City in secret confession (which is also practiced among us) reveals its offenses to the authorities, who thus simultaneously purify souls and come to know the sins to which the people are particularly given." (43: p. 178) Hence administrative and priestly functions are concentrated in the same hands which, as we have seen earlier, possess the authority to impose any kind of penalty. At the same time, the religion of the sun can be seen as veneration of the universe, rationalistically perceived as an ideal mechanism. In other words, it is a synthesis of religion and natural science (with an astrological bias). This accords with what we noted earlier: the title of the chief priest, "Sun," is translated as "Metaphysic," and the right to this post is determined by vast scientific knowledge.
A similar impression is produced by the description of the Temple of the Sun, which occupies the central position in the city. It resembles a museum of natural history far more than a church. "At the altar only a large globe representing the sky and another representing the earth are seen. Furthermore, on the vault of the main dome all celestial stars from the first to the sixth magnitude are depicted, with their names and their power to influence terrestrial events inscribed below each in three lines of verse." (43: p. 145) "The smaller dome is crowned only by a kind of weathervane showing the directions of the wind, of which they distinguish up to thirty-six." (43: p. 146) The word "only" seems to emphasize that the weathervane occupies the place given to the cross in Christian churches. In general, one gets the impression that throughout his work Campanella scattered remarks indicating hostility to the Catholic Church or to Christianity; moreover, these seem close in spirit to the attitude of some heretical sects. These hints are tendered obliquely and cautiously--and necessarily so, since City of the Sun was written in the prison of the Inquisition where Campanella was being kept in a cagelike cell. A veiled taunt of this type seems to have been intended by the enumeration of strange fish depicted on the town walls: the list begins with the "bishop fish" and ends with the "male-member fish." The following passage probably serves a similar function: "Dead bodies are not buried, but to prevent
pestilence are burned and turned into fire, a noble and living element that comes from the sun and returns to the sun. By this method no chance is given for idolatry." (43: p. 180) The last sentence is clearly directed against the veneration of relics. This is an early attempt to reinforce the ideological objections to Christian rites by purely utilitarian and hygienic arguments. The following ironic sentence is also intended as a thrust at Christianity: "After all is said and done, they recognize that happy is the Christian satisfied with the belief that such great confusion [the appearance of evil in the world] happened because of Adam's fall." (43: p. 186) And a gnostic concept in concealed form seems to be presented in the following sentence: "They also considered it possible that the acts of the lower world are governed by some lower deity at the connivance of the primary deity but now suppose this opinion to be ridiculous." (43: p. 185)
It is undoubtedly no accident that Jesus Christ is depicted on a wall of the city, in a gallery together with "all the inventors of the sciences and of armament and the legislators." True, Christ occupies "a most honorable place" next to Moses, Osiris, Jupiter, Lycurgus, Solon and others.
Several years after City of the Sun, Campanella wrote another work, On the Best State, in which he analyzes certain objections to the social concept expressed in his first book. He justifies, in particular, the communality of property by reference to the Apostolic community, and cautiously defends the communality of wives by quoting various Fathers of the Church. Especially interesting is the passage where he asserts that the possibility of such a state is confirmed by experience: "And this, moreover, has been demonstrated by monks and lately by the Anabaptists who live in communes; if they possessed the true dogma of the faith, they would have succeeded in this even more. Oh, were they not heretics and should they do justice as we preach it, then they would serve as an exemplar of this truth."
"The Law of Freedom" by Gerrard Winstanley.
In the previous chapter, we spoke about the socialist movement of the Diggers of the time of the English revolution. We also quoted from pamphlets by the most important theoretician of this movement, Gerrard Winstanley. "The Law of Freedom" is the most systematic and complete exposition of his ideas. This work belongs to utopian literature and contains a detailed
plan of the new society that is based, to a significant degree, on socialist principles. "The Law of Freedom" was published in 1652. It begins with a salutation to "His Excellency Oliver Cromwell, General of the Commonwealth's Army in England, Scotland and Ireland." Winstanley points out to Cromwell that despite the victory of the revolution and the execution of the king, the position of the common folk has not improved. They continue to be burdened with taxes and to suffer under the sway of the rich, the lawyers and the priests. The promise that "all popery and episcopacy and tyranny should be rooted out" has not been kept; the soldiers now ask what they were fighting for. And Winstanley appeals to Cromwell to give true liberty to the oppressed common people.
The main part of the work begins with an attempt "to find out where true freedom lies." Winstanley believes that it resides in the free use of the fruits of the earth. "A man had better to have had no body than to have no food for it." (35: pp. 295) More specifically, true freedom consists of the free use of land. For the sake of land, kings declare wars, ministers preach, and the rich oppress the poor. And this "outer bondage" engenders "inner bondage": "the inward bondages of the mind, as covetousness, pride, hypocrisy, envy, sorrow, fears, desperation and madness, are all occasioned by the outward bondage that one sort of people lay upon another." (35: p. 295)
Proceeding from this materialist view of society, Winstanley develops a plan for a new social structure in which private land use is abolished and where "external" and "internal" bondage disappear as a result. Subordination of private interests to common interests is put forward as the basic principle of social organization. "There is but bondage and freedom, particular interest or common interest; and he who pleads to bring in particular interest into a free commonwealth will presently be seen and cast out, as one bringing in kingly slavery again." (35: p. 342)
More specifically, according to Winstanley's scheme, private land ownership, trade and money are done away with. Land is tilled by individual large families under the supervision and control of state officials. Implements are kept in each family but not as private possessions: the head of the family is responsible for their care, under penalty of law. Horses are allotted by the state. After the harvest, all produce is brought to a state warehouse.
Craftsmen are in the same position; they get raw materials from state storehouses and deliver their products there. They work either in families or in communal workshops. Citizens are transferred by the administration from one family to another, depending on the demand for manpower or their skills for a specific job.
Besides free citizens, those who have been deprived of their freedom by the courts also work. Sometimes Winstanley refers to them as bondsmen. They work at the same jobs as the free men but generally do the more menial tasks. They are supervised by officials called task-masters.
"If they do their tasks, [the task-master] is to allow them sufficient victuals and clothing to preserve the health of their bodies. But if they prove desperate, wanton or idle, and will not quietly submit to the law, the task-master is to feed them with short diet, and to whip them, for a rod is prepared for the fool's back, till such time as their proud hearts do bend to the law. ...
"And if any of these offenders run away, there shall be hue and cry sent after him, and he shall die by the sentence of the judge when taken again." (35: p. 335)
The status of slave does not automatically extend to relatives, if they have done no wrong. The purpose of slavery is to reeducate citizens who have strayed in order to "kill their pride and unreasonableness, that they may become useful men in the commonwealth." (35: p. 386)
All necessities are obtained from state shops free of charge. Here, a difficulty clearly arises, for "covetous, proud and beastly-minded men desire more, either to lie by them to look upon, or else to waste and spoil it upon their lusts; while other brethren live in straits for want of the use thereof. But the laws and faithful officers of a free commonwealth do regulate the unrational practice of such men." (35: p. 369) Indeed, according to the law, the head of a family that consumes more than it needs is punished first by public reprimand and then by being made a bondsman for a fixed term. The same solution is proposed for another difficulty--how to provide motivation for everyone to work the necessary time and with the necessary productivity in the absence of a material incentive. A citizen who refuses to carry out assigned work or a youth avoiding apprenticeship in a craft is first punished by public reprimand. If this does not help, he is then whipped, and should he repeat his offense once more, he is made a bondsman.
The basic economic and administrative unit of the state is the family. It is headed by a "father" or "master." The list of the officials of the free commonwealth begins thus: "In a private family, a father or master is an officer." (35: p. 324) Regarding his relationship to other family members, he is "to command them their work and see they do it, and not suffer them to live idle; he is either to reprove by words or whip those who offend, for the rod is prepared to bring the unreasonable ones to experience and moderation." (35: p. 325)
Apparently, blood relationships do not play a substantial role. The "father" can get dismissed for some offense and be replaced by another person; family members can be transferred to another family if necessary.
Beginning with the family, the state is built up of bigger and bigger units that are administered by the officials listed by Winstanley. Those who govern the unit immediately superior to the family are: "a peacemaker, a four-fold office of overseers, a soldier, a task-master, an executioner." The peace-maker is obliged to appeal to the conscience of offenders or to dispatch them to a province or county at the discretion of a judge. The task-masters supervise production and consumption within the families. As for soldiers, the author states that in fact, "all officials are soldiers." (35: p. 333) The function of soldiers (in the direct sense of the word) is to offer assistance to officials and to provide defense for them during times of disorder. The task-master is in charge of those sentenced to forced labor. The executioner is obliged to "cut off the head, hang or shoot to death, or whip the offender according to the sentence of law." (35: p. 335)
All posts, from the lowest to the highest, are filled by election on a yearly basis. The country is governed by a parliament, also reelected annually. All citizens may vote from the age of twenty and are eligible for election at forty. Many citizens, however, are deprived of active participation in governing; some are even disenfranchised. "All uncivil livers, as drunkards, quarrellers, fearful ignorant men, who dare not speak truth lest they anger other men; likewise all who are wholly given to pleasure and sports, of men who are full of talk; all these are empty of substance, and cannot be experienced men, therefore not fit to be chosen officers in a commonwealth; yet they may have a voice in the choosing.
"Secondly, all those who are interested in the monarchical power and government ought neither to choose nor be chosen officers to
manage the commonwealth's affairs, for these cannot be friends to common freedom." (35: p. 321) Others deprived of rights include: "All those who have been so hasty to buy and sell the commonwealth's land, and so to entangle it upon a new account.. ..These are covetous men, not fearing God, and their portion is to be cast without the city of peace amongst the dogs." (35: pp. 322, 323) Earlier, during the first period of the Digger movement, Winstanley had been an opponent of all coercion and state power. He believed that law was necessary for those living under the curse of property but that it becomes unnecessary for those who live under principles of justice and community. In the pamphlet "Letter to Lord Fairfax," he asserts that no one who obeyed just law would dare to arrest or enslave a neighbor.
Following the logic of all such movements, however, Winstanley, in his "Law of Freedom" (published just three years later), readily grants that in the state he is planning it will be possible to arrest and (literally) enslave one's neighbor. His work contains a detailed account of the punishments to be invoked: "He who strikes his neighbour shall be struck himself by the executioner, blow for blow, and shall lose eye for eye, tooth for tooth, limb for limb, life for life; and the reason is that men may be tender of one another's bodies, doing as they would be done by." (35: pp. 375-380) Striking an official is punishable by a year of forced labor. "He who endeavours to stir up contention among neighbours, by tale-bearing or false report," is at first reproved, then whipped; third offenders become servants for three months, and if the offense is reported once again, "he shall be a servant forever." (35: p. 380) Forced labor is the penalty for failing to render assistance to the task-master or for attempting to engage in buying and selling. An actual sale or purchase of land is punishable by death. A man who calls land his own is to be "set upon a stool" and held up to ridicule, and if he becomes abusive, he can be executed.
The army is fundamental to the state. It is divided into the officers Corps, made up of all officials, and the soldiers, made up of the general population.
"The use or work of a fighting army in a commonwealth is to beat down all that arise to endeavor to destroy the liberties of the commonwealth." It must defend the state against those who "seek their own interest and not common freedom, and through treachery do endeavor to destroy the laws of common freedom, and to enslave both the land
and people of the commonwealth to their particular wills and lusts." (35: p. 357) The army also opposes foreign enemies; it has one more function--the establishment of the "Law of Freedom" in other lands. "If a land be conquered and so enslaved as England was under the kings and conquering laws, then an army is to be raised with as much secrecy as may be, to restore the land again and set it free, that the earth may become a common treasury to all her children." (35: p. 358) In many respects, Winstanley's socialist concepts, as we have seen, are much more moderate than those of his predecessors More and, especially, Campanella. Only private ownership of land, labor products and, partly, that which later came to be called the "means of production" are abolished. There is no mention of communal wives or the communal upbringing of children. In fact, Winstanley frequently objects to more extreme views, obviously attacking other more radical trends. In the section "A short declaration to take off prejudice," he writes: "Some, hearing of this common freedom, think there must be a community of all the fruits of the earth whether they work or no, therefore strive to live idle upon other men's labor. Others, through the same unreasonable beastly ignorance, think there must be a community of all men and women for copulation, and so strive to live a bestial life." (35: p. 302) The author asserts that, on the contrary, families will live separately and own their own furnishings in peace. (35: p. 288) Laws must insulate citizens from those who hold such "false opinions" and punish such "ignorant and insane behavior."
In one area, however, Winstanley went much further than More and Campanella--in his attitude toward religion. The lukewarm attitude toward religion and the Church of the earlier two writers goes hand in hand with their slant toward pantheism and their tendency to deify the "mechanism of the Universe." In Winstanley, on the other hand, we meet with an open hostility to the Church and a complete replacement of religion by ethics and rational science. He sees the chief goal of the religion of his day as assisting the rich in exploiting the poor. "This divining doctrine, which you call spiritual and heavenly things, is the thief and the robber." (35: p. 351) "This doctrine is made a cloak of policy by the subtle elder brother, to cheat his simple younger brother of the freedoms of the earth." Winstanley asserts: "They who preach this divining doctrine are murderers of many a poor heart who is bashful and simple." (35: p. 352) "So that this divining spiritual doctrine is a cheat; for while men are gazing up to heaven, imagining
after a happiness or fearing a hell after they are dead, their eyes are put out, that they see not what is their birthright, and what is to be done by them here on earth while they are living." (35: p. 353) But the end of this deception is near, according to the author: "And all the priests and clergy and preachers of these spiritual and heavenly things, as they call them, shall take up the lamentation, which is their portion, 'Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city divinity, which hath filled the whole earth with her sorcery and deceived all people, so that the whole world wondered after this Beast; how is it fallen, and how is her judgment come upon her in one hour?' And further, as you may read, Rev. 18:10." (35: p. 354)
In Winstanley's future society, ministers of religion will be elected for one year, just as all the officials are. The duties of the commonwealth's clergy consist of carrying out functions that, from the usual point of view, have nothing whatever to do with religion. The minister is obliged to give sermons on "the affairs of the whole land, as it is brought in by the postmaster" and on "the law of the commonwealth," and to comment on "the acts and passages of former ages and governments, setting forth the benefits of freedom by well-ordered governments," as well as on "all arts and sciences. ..physic, chirurgery, astrology, astronomy, navigation, husbandry and such like." Finally, speeches "may be made sometimes of the nature of mankind, of his darkness and of his light, of his weakness and of his strength, of his love and of his envy." (35: pp. 345-346) Moreover, any experienced person may deliver a sermon, not only a minister.
Thus, under the name of clergy, Winstanley intends a class of people engaged in propagandizing the official world view and fulfilling, to an extent, the role of educators. To the objections of a hypothetical "zealous but ignorant professor," Winstanley replies: "To know the secrets of nature is to know the works of God; and to know the works of God within the creation is to know God himself, for God dwells in every visible work or body." (35: p. 348)
2. The Socialist Novel
In the sixteenth century and the first half of the seventeenth century, We encounter several works of socialist thought separated by lengthy intervals of several decades or even longer. Toward the end of the seventeenth century and in the eighteenth, the situation changes; a steady stream of socialist literature comes into being. Socialist ideology
comes into fashion and acquires an influence; in one form or another, a majority of the thinkers of the time are affected by it. We can distinguish two trends in the general course of things: entertaining socialist novels intended for a broad audience and the drier socialist literature of a philosophical and sociological character. The sources of both types of writing are in More and Campanella, but by the late seventeenth century the differences become substantial and the two currents each attain a distinct character.
History of the Sevarites (L 'Histoire des Sévarambes) by Denis Vairasse may be considered the first of the typical socialist novels. Volume I, particularly interesting as a specimen of this new literature, was published in 1675. Adventures at sea are recounted, a shipwreck, landing on all unknown continent and the story of the travelers' life on shore. Finally, the travelers meet the inhabitants of the continent and become acquainted with their strange life. Instead of the dry descriptions of More and Campanella we are given vivid travel impressions rendered by the narrator, Captain Siden. Almost the entire book is devoted to the account of his travels across the land of the Sevarites and what he saw there. Only the last ten pages contain a description of the state and economic structure of the place.
The state was founded by a Persian named Sevarias, who discovered the continent and encountered the savage tribes living there in conditions of primitive communism--with communality of property and wives. By a series of ruses, he convinces them that he has arrived from the sun to tell them the laws and the will of the God of the Sun. These laws were accepted by the people and have shaped the structure of their state.
The religion of the Sun is accepted and the Sun itself is proclaimed king of the land. The Sun appoints a viceroy from among the inhabitants. In practice, the post of viceroy is filled by lot from among four candidates proposed by the council of high officials. The viceroy has absolute power, limited only by the right of the council to declare him mentally incapacitated. Beneath the viceroy there is a complex hierarchy of officials, partly elected by the people and partly appointed from above. These officials enjoy numerous privileges: they have more wives than other citizens, personal slaves, better houses, food and clothing.
The great mass of the population (all handsome and well-built people) live a carefree and happy life in well-organized cities and magnificent
communal abodes. A third part of the day they work under the supervision of officials and spend the rest of the time sleeping or enjoying themselves. Beneath them on the social ladder are the state and private slaves, who are obtained as tribute from conquered nations. They do the heavy work and their women serve as concubines to citizens and foreign guests.
The economy is based on complete state ownership: Sevarias "abolished the right of property, deprived private persons of it and willed it so that all land and wealth should belong exclusively to the state to dispose of it in such a way that subjects could receive only what was granted them by officials." (44: p. 422) The entire population lives and works in communes of a thousand persons; these are located in large square houses. The communes turn in the products of their work to the state warehouses, where they also receive all their necessities. In particular, they are all issued standard clothing; it varies only in color, depending on the age group of the owner.
"The state takes care of all this, demanding neither taxes nor tolls, and the whole people under the government of the monarch lives in happy affluence and with well-secured rest." All citizens are obliged to work to maintain the state warehouses and "for fear lest they grow restive in plenty and entertainment or be softened by idleness." (44: p. 423)
All the citizens of the land are beautiful and of fine bearing. Cripples are exiled to remote towns, as are sterile women.
The government painstakingly sees to the complete isolation of the country from the external world, but the Sevarites are aware of the latest developments in engineering and the sciences in Europe and Asia. This is possible because people are sent regularly to foreign lands in order to learn languages and all other useful knowledge. When abroad, citizens are forbidden to tell anything at all about their country. To guarantee that they return home, they are not permitted to leave their native land until they are able to put up at least three children as a pledge.
History of the Sevarites gives us a notion of the socialist novels that followed it. We shall therefore only briefly note a few other examples that illustrate various aspects of this genre.
The Southern Land (La Terre australe connue), ascribed by Bayle to Gabriel de Foigny, a monk from Lorraine, appeared in 1676. It is
the story of a voyage to the still unknown fifth part of the globe, in the Southern Hemisphere. The land discovered by the travelers is inhabited by an androgynous people--the "Australians." Their life is founded on complete freedom. Everyone acts as his reason dictates. There is only a single law according to which all must give birth to at least one child. The inhabitants exist in complete innocence, knowing neither clothing nor government nor the words "thine" and "mine." Everyone receives an identical upbringing, which from early infancy instills in the inhabitant the idea that all are equal. (45)
The Adventures of Telemachus (Les Aventures de Télémaque) by Fenelon appeared in 1699. The interest of this book lies in the fact that it surveys not only the ideal socialist society but intermediate forms as well. The "first" and "second" phases of socialism are discussed. In quest of Odysseus, Telemachus visits two different communities: Boetica and Salentum. Land tenure in Boetica is communal. All property--Iand, fruit of the earth and trees, cows' and goats' milk--is held in common. Most of the inhabitants are tillers or herdsmen. The arts are considered harmful and there are almost no craftsmen. The citizens see their happiness in simplicity, thanks to which no one feels any deprivation. They live in families in conditions of perfect equality.
Salentum had been brought to economic ruin by the extravagant and proud King Idomeneus. Mentor, the wise old man who accompanies Telemachus, and who is in reality the goddess Minerva in disguise, establishes a new regime which is an intermediate stage on the path to complete communality. The population is divided into seven classes, each with its own prescribed type of dwelling, clothing, food, furniture and parcel of land. Private ownership is preserved, but in a limited form; no one possesses more land than is necessary for his subsistence. Trade is also permitted. (46)
The Republic of Philosophers or the History of the Ajaoiens, attributed to Fontenelle, appeared in 1768. A storm tosses some travelers onto an unknown shore, the island of Ajao. The island had many years before been conquered by the Ajaoiens, who annihilated a large part of the indigenous population and made slaves of the rest. Production is based on slave labor. The slaves live in barracks, where they are locked in at night. The number of slaves is strictly controlled; excess children
were once killed, but at present they are taken to the shore of China and abandoned there. The free population of the island--the Ajaoiens--live in complete communality. The words "mine" and "thine" are unknown to them. The entire land belongs to the state, which regulates its cultivation and distributes its products. Everyone is obliged to work in agriculture for a certain length of time. Crafts are organized in the same way.
It is the duty of all citizens to enter into marriage; moreover, every man has two wives. Children are brought up not by their parents but in state schools. The Ajaoiens have no cults, no priests or sacred books. They worship nature as their good mother. They recognize no supreme being but believe that everything living has intelligence. They believe that the soul is material and mortal. (47)
The Southern Discovery by a Flying Man or the French Daedalus: Very Philosophical Novel by Restif de la Bretonne appeared in 1781. The complicated plot (a love story, the invention of a means of flying with artificial wings, the founding of a new state in the Southern Hemisphere) leads to the discovery of Megapatagonia--the antipode of France. The basic law of this country is communality: "Without perfect equality there is neither virtue nor happiness. ...Let everything be held in common among equals. ...Let everyone work for the common good." (48: p. 133) Twelve hours daily are given over to work in common and the other twelve to relaxation and sleep. Meals are taken in common. All social distinctions are determined solely by age: power is in the hands of the old men.
Marriage is temporary, contracted for one year. Emotions are not much taken into account; only services to the state entitles one to beautiful girls. The right of first choice therefore belongs to old men of 150 years or more.
When the wife becomes pregnant, the marriage is dissolved. The Woman nurses her child at first, then hands it over to official tutors. The relations between fathers and children are "essentially the same as between persons who hardly know one another. All children are children of the people." (48: p. 138)
Dramatic works and painting are forbidden. The Megapatagonians assert that they "wish only real things and only have time to enjoy the genuine pleasures, never thinking of imaginary ones." However, there is music among them, and they sing songs glorifying great men,
pleasure and love. All other subjects are banned from poetic expression. The ethics of this society is based on obtaining the greatest possible pleasure: "Get rid of all unpleasant sensations; use everything that legitimately supplies pleasure, but without weakening or overstraining the organs." (48: p. 149) "What especially strengthens sound morals among us is the fact that moral questions are not left to the whim of private persons. Thanks to our equality and our communality, the accepted morality is uniform and public." (48: p. 151)
Megapatagonians describe the content of their religious doctrine thus: "To use one's organs in accordance with the intention of nature, abusing nothing and neglecting nothing." (48: p. 140) In answer to the question of temples, they point to the sky and to the earth. They esteem the sun as the universal father and the earth as the universal mother.
3. The Age of Enlightenment
We now turn to sociological and philosophical socialist literature, once again touching on but a few works which exerted the greatest influence on the development of chiliastic socialism.
Jean Meslier's Testament stands out among writings of this type by many aspects of its composition, by its unusual fate, as well as by the astonishing figure of its author. Throughout his adult life, Jean Meslier (1664-1729) was a priest in Champagne. His Testament became known in copies and excerpts only in 1733, after his death. Voltaire and other representatives of the Enlightenment found the book of great interest, but so dangerous that they never dared to publish its complete text. The first full edition appeared only in 1864, in Amsterdam.
The main distinguishing feature of the Testament is that its socialist conception is merely an outgrowth of the central idea of the work: the struggle with religion. Meslier saw nothing in religion other than a social role, which consists, in his opinion, of the furtherance of violence and social inequality by means of deceit and propagation of superstitions:
"In short, all that your theologists and priests preach to you with such eloquence and fervor. ..all this is in reality nothing but illusion, error, falsehood, fabrication and deception: these things were first invented
by sly and cunning politicians, repeated by impostors and charlatans, then given credence by ignorant and benighted men from the common folk, and finally supported by the power of monarchs and the mighty who connived at the deceit and error, superstitions and fraudulence, and perpetuated them by their laws so as to bridle the masses in this way and make them dance to their tune." (49: I: pp. 67-69) These two passions--hatred for God and for any kind of inequality or hierarchy--are the driving forces of the Testament. Meslier considers religion to be responsible for the majority of human misfortunes. In particular, it sows dissent and promotes religious wars. But at the same time, he himself calls with sincere conviction for an uprising, the killing of kings, and the annihilation of all who could be considered more fortunate and prosperous.
"In this connection, I am reminded of the wish of one man who expressed the desire that 'all the mighty of this world and the noble lords be hanged and strangled with loops made of priests' bowels.' This judgment is certainly somewhat coarse and harsh, but there is some naive frankness about it. It is brief but eloquent and in a few words expresses what people of this kind really deserve." (49: I: p. 71)
To Meslier religion was an absurd superstition that cannot survive the slightest brush with reason. Of all the religions, the most absurd is the religion of the Christians, whom he calls Christ-worshipers. But it would be wrong to seek the reason for this attitude in an overly rationalistic turn of mind of the author. Refuting Christianity, Meslier is at the same time ready to believe the wildest superstitions and to repeat the most absurd rumors. For instance, it seems nonsensical to him that God could have had but a single Son, while much lesser creatures are much better endowed. Many animals bear ten or twelve offspring at once.
"They say that a Polish countess named Margaret has given birth to thirty-six babies at once. And a Dutch countess, also Margaret, who had laughed at a poor woman burdened with children, gave birth to as many children as there are days in the year, that is, 365, and all of them later got married. (See the Annals of Holland and Poland.)" (49: II: p. 19)
It is clear that Meslier's point of departure is a hatred for God and that his arguments are merely an attempt to justify this sentiment.
The person of Christ is especially hateful to him, and here he literally runs out of terms of abuse. "And what of our God--and Christ--worshipers? To whom do they ascribe divinity? To the paltry man who had neither talent, nor intelligence, nor knowledge, nor skill, and was utterly scorned in the world. Whom do they ascribe it to? Shall I say? Indeed I shall: they ascribe it to the lunatic, demented, wretched bigot and ill-starred gallows-bird." (49: II: p. 25) The champion of the rights of the poor perceives irrefutable proof of Christ's teaching in the fact that "he was always poor, and was merely the son of a carpenter." (49: II: p. 26) Religion is the source of most social evils and, in particular, of inequality, which is maintained solely by its authority. Meslier recognizes the need for "some dependence and subordination" in every society. But at present, power is based on violence, murder and crime. In his Testament there is nothing said about concrete measures for improving the position of the poor nor about the rich doing something to help. The book merely fans the hatred of the former for the latter.
"You are told, dear friends, about devils; they frighten you with the devil's name alone; you are forced to believe that devils are the most evil and repulsive of creatures, that they are the worst enemies of humankind, that they strive only to ruin people and render them unhappy in hell forever. ...But know, dear friends, that for you the most evil and true devils, those you ought to fear, are those people of whom I speak--you have no worse and no more evil enemies than the noble and the rich." (49: II: p. 166)
The essence and true cause of inequality is private property, which also is justified by religion.
"For this reason some drink and stuff themselves, wallowing in luxury, while others die from starvation. For this reason some are almost always happy and gay, while others are eternally sad and grieving." (49: II: p. 201)
Meslier's entire social program comes down to a few lines:
"What a great happiness it would be for people if they used all life's blessings together." (49: II: p. 209)
In a just society, Meslier feels, production and consumption must be organized according to principles of communality.
"People ought to possess all wealth and riches of the earth together
and on equal terms and also use them together and equitably." (49: II: p. 198) Food, clothing, education for children, ought not to differ greatly in different families. Everyone ought to work under the guidance of wise elders (in another passage, Meslier speaks about elected officials).
These measures would lead to miraculous results. No one would be in need; everyone would love his neighbor. Heavy work, deceit, vanity, would all disappear. Then, Meslier says, "no unhappy people would be seen on earth, whereas at present we come across them on every hand." (49: II: p. 217)
Family relations would also change, for a great evil introduced by the church would fall away--the indissolubility of marriage. "It is necessary to provide the identical freedom to men and to women to come together without hindrance, following their own inclination, and the freedom also to separate and leave one another when life together becomes intolerable or when a new attraction moves them to contracting a new union." (49: II: p. 214)
Meslier's Testament leaves the impression of a profoundly personal work revealing intimate aspects of its author's personality. Therefore, the passages that bear directly on this personality are especially interesting.
The book opens with Meslier addressing his parishioners:
"Dear friends, during my lifetime I was unable to say openly what I have thought about the order and method of governing men, of their religion and their rights, for this would have been fraught with highly dangerous and lamentable consequences. Therefore, I decided to tell you this after my death." (49: I: p. 55) Meslier says of himself: "I never was so foolish as to attach any significance to the sacraments and absurdities of religion; I have never felt bent to take part in them or even to speak of them with respect and approval." (49: II: p. 73) "With all my heart I detested the absurd duties of my profession and especially the idolatrous and superstitious masses and nonsensical and ridiculous holy communion that I was obliged to perform." (49: I: p. 77)
The book ends with these words:
"After all I have said, let people think about me, let them judge me and say of me and do whatever they please. I do not care. Let people adapt themselves and govern themselves as they please, let
them be wise or mad, let them be kind or evil, let them speak of me as they please after my death. I will have nothing to do with it at all. I have given up almost any participation in the things of the world. The dead with whom I will travel the same road are troubled by nothing, they care for nothing. And with this nothing I shall end here. I myself am not more than nothing and soon will be, in the full sense of the word, nothing." (49: II: p. 377) These were not idle words: Meslier committed suicide at the age of sixty-five.
The history of the Testament is curious. Its full text (or perhaps a series of extracts) came into the hands of Voltaire, who was greatly impressed. He wrote of the work: "This is a composition of absolute necessity for demons, an excellent catechism of Baal-zebub. Know that it is a rare book, a perfection." (49: III: p. 405)
To those he called "brethren," Voltaire wrote repeatedly, urging them to circulate extracts from the Testament.
"Know that God's blessing is on our nascent church: In one of the provinces, three hundred copies of Meslier have been distributed, which has produced many new converts." (49: III: p. 417)
The work was thought to be dangerous. In arguing for its publication, Voltaire wrote:
"Is it impossible, without compromising anyone, to turn to that good old soul Merlin? I would not wish for any of our brethren to take the slightest risk." (49: III: p. 416)
"Let us thank the good people who distribute it gratis and pray to the Lord to bless this useful reading." (49: III: p. 419)
"You have clever friends who would be not unwilling to have this book in a safe place; moreover, it is suitable for the edification of youth." (49: III: p. 408)
"Jean Meslier must convince the whole world. Why is his Gospel so little circulated? You are too retiring in Paris! You are hiding your lamp." (49: III: p. 410)
"In a Christian fashion, I wish for the Testament of the priest to be multiplied like the five loaves to nourish four or five thousand souls." (49: III: p. 411)
Later, in 1793, when the Convention was carrying out a program of de-Christianization and introducing the cult of Reason, Anacharsis Cloots proposed putting up in the temple of Reason a statue of the
first priest to reject religious error--"the brave, magnanimous and great Jean Meslier." The Code of Nature or the True Spirit of the Law by Morelly appeared in 1755. Almost nothing is known about the author; arguments are still going on as to whether he ever existed or whether "Morelly" is simply a pseudonym.
At the root of Morelly's system is a notion about the natural state or the "code of nature" to which mankind should adhere in order to live a moral and happy life. The breaking away from the natural state was caused by private property, the cause of all human misery. Only by abolishing it will mankind return to its natural and happy state.
Part four of the work contains a system of laws which, according to Morelly, ought to serve as the foundation of an ideal society.
A central place is occupied by three "fundamental and inviolable laws." The first abolishes private property. An exception is made only for things which a person uses "for his needs, his pleasures, or his daily work." The second law proclaims all the citizens to be public persons whom the state provides with work and maintenance. The third law proclaims universal obligatory service "in conformity with the Distributive Laws."
All citizens from the age of twenty to twenty-five are obliged to be engaged in agriculture; they are then either retained in their place or made artisans. At the age of forty, everyone has the right of free choice of profession.
Everything produced is distributed through communal storehouses. Trade and barter are forbidden by the "inviolable law."
The population lives in towns broken up into equal blocks. All buildings are of the same shape. Everyone wears clothing of the same fabric.
On reaching a certain age, everyone is to marry. Children are brought up in the family until the age of five, then they are placed in institutions designated for their further upbringing. The training (as well as the food and clothing) of all children is absolutely the same. At the age of ten, children move to workshops to continue their training.
The number of persons who devote themselves to science and the arts is strictly limited "for each type of occupation and for each town as well."
"Moral philosophy" is limited once and for all to the propositions worked out in Morelly's treatise:
"Nothing will be added beyond the limits prescribed by law." (50: p. 202)
On the other hand, unrestricted freedom of investigation is granted in the area of natural science.
The laws set forth by Morelly are to be engraved on columns or pyramids erected in the main square of each town.
Anyone attempting to change the sacred laws is to be declared mad and immured in a cave for life:
"His children and all his family will renounce his name." (50: p. 238)
We have already come across all these propositions in More and Campanella. But Morelly's system is of interest in that it contains the idea of the development of society from a primitive state to socialism.
Mankind once lived in a natural state, the Golden Age, the memory of which is preserved among all peoples. But this state was lost due to the mistaken introduction of private property by legislators. A return to a condition where no private property exists will take place thanks to progress, which Morelly considers to be the basic driving force of history.
"The phenomena that I observe demonstrate everywhere, even in a gnat's wing, the presence of a consistent development. I experience, I feel the progress of reason. I am justified, therefore, to say that by some miraculous analogy there also exist favorable transformations in the moral field, and that despite their power and pleasantness, the laws of nature do only gradually gain complete power over mankind." (50: p. 159)
Only after having experienced various forms of rule will the people understand what is truly good. The society described by Morelly will arise ultimately, as an inevitable triumph of reason, and mankind will come to the end of its journey from the unconscious Golden Age to the conscious one.
The spread of socialist ideas in the Age of Enlightenment may be judged by the open sympathy with which they are referred to in the most influential work of the day--the famous Encyclopédie. In an article on "The Legislator" (IX, 1765), the author of which is apparently Diderot, the fundamental goal of every legislator is described as the replacement of the "spirit of property" by the "spirit of community."
If the spirit of community is dominant in a state, its citizens do not regret that they have rejected their own will for the sake of the common will; love for their homeland becomes their only passion. These somewhat vague pronouncements are rendered more concrete by references to the laws of Peru as models of laws based on the spirit of community. * "The laws of Peru strove to unite the citizens by bonds of humanity; while the legislation of other countries forbid doing harm to another, in Peru the laws prescribe tirelessly doing good. Laws establishing (to the extent possible in the limitations of a natural state) the communality of property weakened the spirit of property--the source of all evil. The most festive days in Peru were those days when the common field was being tilled, the field of an old man or an orphan. He who was punished by not being permitted to work in the common field considered himself a most unhappy man. Each citizen worked for all the citizens and brought the fruits of his labor to state granaries and received the fruit of other citizens' labor as reward." (Quoted in 51: p. 127)
Later, in 1772, Diderot returned to thoughts on the socialist form of state organization. In his work Supplement au voyage de Bougainville, he describes the life of the people of Tahiti, whose island the traveler is supposed to have visited.
The savages have everything in common. They work their fields together. Marriage does not exist and children are brought up by the community. Addressing the traveler, an old Tahitian says:
"Here, everything belongs to all, while you have preached a difference between 'mine' and 'thine.' " (52: p. 43) "Leave us our morals. They are wiser and more virtuous than yours. We do not want to exchange what you call ignorance for your useless knowledge. We have everything that we need and whatever is useful to us. Do we deserve contempt merely because we did not invent superfluous necessities? Don't inspire in us either your false necessities or your chimerical virtues." (52: p. 44)
"Our girls and women belong to all. ...A young Tahitian girl giving herself up to the delights of a young Tahitian boy's embrace would wait impatiently for her mother to undress her and bare her
* In the first chapter of the next section of this book, the reader will find information on the social and economic structure of the Inca empire, which is what is meant here by Peru.
breasts. ...Without shame or fear she accepts in our presence, surrounded by innocent Tahitians, to the sound of flutes and the dance, the caresses of him who was chosen by her youthful heart and the secret voice of her feelings. Are you capable of replacing with a more worthy and greater feeling the feeling that we instilled in them and which inspires them?" (52: pp. 43-45) Diderot's attitude toward socialist theories may also be judged by the fact that when Morelly's Code of Nature was included in various collections of his works, he did not protest. This testifies not only to Diderot's moral principles but to his sympathy for socialist ideas as well.
Deschamps's Truth or the True System. In conclusion, we will take note of one of the theoreticians of socialism in the eighteenth century, the Benedictine monk Deschamps. During his lifetime, he published Letters on the Spirit of the Times (1769) and The Voice of Reason Against the Voice of Nature (1770), both anonymously. But his most original ideas are contained in his Truth or the True System, which remained in manuscript and was published only in our century (and in complete form only in the last few years; see 53).
Deschamps is the author of one of the most striking and internally consistent socialist systems. He is also a philosopher of the highest order, and is sometimes referred to as a precursor of Hegel. That is unquestionably correct, but while following a path similar to the one Hegel would take later, Deschamps also developed many concepts which were to be enunciated by Hegel's disciples of the left--Feuerbach, Engels, and Marx. And in his conception of Nothingness he anticipates in many respects the contemporary existentialists.
Deschamps's outlook is very close to materialism, although it does not coincide with materialism entirely. He sees only matter in the world, but his understanding of it is unusual.
"The world has existed always and will exist eternally." (53: p. 317) In it there is an unending process going on of the appearance of certain parts out of others and their destruction. "All beings emerge one out of the other, enter one into the other, and all the various species are essentially only aspects of a universal type. ...All beings have life in them no matter how dead they seem, for death is merely a lesser manifestation of life and not its negation." (53: p. 127)
Life for Deschamps is equated to various forms of motion. He says of nature: "Everything in it possesses a capacity for feeling, life,
thought, reason, i.e., motion. For what do all these words mean if not the action or motion of the particles we consist of?" (53: p. 135) This determines man's place in the universe and, in particular, his freedom of action: "If we believe that we possess a will and freedom, that results, first, from the absurdity that forces us to believe in a God and consequently to believe that we have a soul which has its merits and faults before God, and, secondly, because we cannot see the inner springs of our mechanism." (53: pp. 136-137)
Deschamps considers God to be an idea created by mankind, a product of definite social relations based on private property. Religion did not exist before these relations took shape, and it will no longer exist when they are destroyed. Religion itself is not only the result of the oppression of people but also a means facilitating this oppression. It is one of the basic obstacles to the transition of mankind to a happier social condition.
Deschamps says: "The word 'God' must be eliminated from our languages." (53: p. 133) Nevertheless, he was a passionate opponent of atheism. Of his system he has the following to say: "At first glance, it might be possible to think that it is a concise formulation of atheism, for all religion is destroyed in it. But upon consideration, it is impossible not to be convinced that it is not a formulation of atheism at all, for in place of a rational and moral God (whom I do subject to destruction, for he merely resembles a man more powerful than other men) I set being in the metaphysical sense, which is the basis of morality that is far from arbitrary." (53: p. 154)
Deschamps has in mind his understanding of the universe, to which he ascribed three specific aspects. The first is totality [le tout], that is, the universe as a unity of all its parts. This totality is the "basis whose manifestations are all visible beings," but which has another, nonphysical nature which is unlike its parts. Therefore, it cannot be seen but can be comprehended by reason. The second aspect is everything [tout], that is, the universe as a single concept.
"Totality presupposes the presence of the parts. Everything does not presuppose this.. ..I understand everything as existence in itself, existence by itself. ..in other words. ..existence through nothing but itself." (53: pp. 87-88) "Everything, not consisting of parts, exists; it is inseparable from totality, which consists of parts and of which everything is simultaneously a confirmation and a negation." (53: p. 124)
But perhaps the most striking of Deschamps's three aspects of the
universe is the third; it stresses the negative character of definitions of everything. "Everything is no longer a mass of entities but a mass without parts. ..not a single entity existing in many entities. .. but a singular entity which denies any existence apart from itself. .. about which it is possible only to deny that which is asserted in the other--for it is not sentient and not the result of sentient entities but, rather, nothing [rien], nonbeing itself, which alone cannot be anything but the negation of what is sentient." (53: pp. 125-126) "Everything is nothing." (53: p. 129) "No doubt no one before me has ever written that everything and nothing are one and the same." (53: p. 130) For Deschamps, this principle is basic to his doctrine on existence: "What is the cause of existence? Answer: Its cause resides in the fact that nothing is something, in that it is existence, in that it is everything." (53: p. 321) Here he finds a place for God as well: "God is nothing, nonexistence itself." (53: p. 318) Apparently, these principles, along with the deductions resulting from them, are what Deschamps opposes to atheism, which he declares a purely negative, destructive doctrine. He calls it the "atheism of cattle," i.e., of beings who have not overcome religion, and who have not even developed to the level of religion. Deschamps's arrogant and scornful attitude toward contemporary philosophers of the Enlightenment is connected with this view. He accuses them of creating unscientific schemes based on fantasy.
"Let our destroyer-philosophers realize how futile and worthless were their efforts directed against God and religion. The philosophers were powerless to carry out their task, until they touched upon the existence of the civil condition, which alone is the cause of the appearance of the idea of a moral and universal being and of all religions." (53: p. 107) "The condition of universal equality does not derive logically from the doctrine of atheism. It always seemed, to our atheists as well as to the majority of people, to be a product of fantasy." (54: p.41)
And fantasies of this sort are by no means harmless. There are only two ways out: the path proposed by religion and Deschamps's system. To undermine religion before the ground is prepared for the author's system is to hasten the coming of a destructive revolution. In The Voice of Reason, Deschamps says:
"This revolution will obviously have its source in the contemporary philosophical trends, although the majority does not suspect this. It will have much more lamentable consequences and bring much more
destruction than any revolution caused by heresy. But is this revolution not already beginning? Has destruction not already befallen the foundations of religion, are they not ready to collapse, and all the rest as well?" (Quoted in 54: p. 6) To the negative character of the philosophes' atheism Deschamps opposes what he sees as the positive character of his own system:
"The system I am proposing deprives us of the joys of paradise and the terrors of hell--just like atheism--but, in contrast to atheism, it leaves no doubt as to the rightness of the destruction of hell and paradise. Beyond that, it gives us the supremely important conviction, which atheism does not and can never give, that for us paradise can exist only in one place, namely, in this world." (53: p. 154)
Deschamps's social and historical doctrine is based on metaphysics. It is derived from a conception of the evolution of mankind in the direction of the greatest manifestation of the idea of oneness, of totality:
"The idea of totality is equivalent to the idea of order, harmony, unity, equality, perfection. The condition of unity or the social condition derives from the idea of totality, which is itself unity and union; for purposes of their own well-being, people must live in a social condition." (53: p. 335)
The mechanism of this evolution is the development of the social institutions which determine all other aspects of human life--Ianguage, religion, morality. ...For example:
"It would be absurd to suppose that man came from the hands of God already mature, moral and possessing the ability to speak: speech developed along with society as it became what it is today." (53: p. 102)
Deschamps considers various manifestations of evil to be the result of social conditions; he includes even homosexuality, for example.
The social institutions themselves take shape under the influence of material factors such as the necessity of hunting in groups and the guarding of herds, as well as the advantages of man's physical structure; in particular, that of his hand.
Deschamps divides the entire historical process into three stages or states through which mankind must pass:
"For man there exist only three states: the savage state or the state of the animals in the forest; the state of law,* and the state of morals. The first is a state of disunity without unity, without society; the second
* Elsewhere Deschamps calls this the civil state.
state--ours--one of extreme disunity within unity, and the third is the state of unity without disunity. This last is without doubt the only state capable of providing people, insofar as this is possible, with strength and happiness." (53: p. 275) In the savage state people are much happier than in the state of law, in which contemporary civilized mankind lives:
"The state of law for us ...is undoubtedly far worse than the savage state." (53: p. 184) This is true with respect to contemporary primitive peoples: "We treat them with disdain, yet there is no doubt that their condition is far less irrational than ours." (53: p. 185) But it is impossible for us to return to the savage state, which had to collapse and give birth to the state of law by force of objective causes--first and foremost, by the appearance of inequality, authority and private property.
Private property is the basic cause of all the vices inherent in the state of law: "The notions of thine and mine in relation to earthly blessings and women exist only under cover of our morals, giving birth to all the evil that sanctions these morals." (53: p. 178)
The state of law, in Deschamps's opinion, is the state of the greatest misfortune for the greatest number of people. Evil itself is considered an outgrowth of this state: "Evil in man is present only due to the existing civil state, which endlessly contradicts man's nature. There was no such evil in man when he was in a savage state." (53: p. 166)
But those very aspects of the state of law that make it especially unbearable prepare the transition to the state of morals which seems to be that paradise on earth about which Deschamps spoke in a passage quoted earlier. His description, replete with vivid detail, contains one of the most unique and consistent of socialist utopias.
All of life in the state of morals will be completely subordinated to one goal--the maximum implementation of the idea of equality and communality. People will live without mine and thine, all specialization will disappear, as will the division of labor.
"Women would be the common property of men, as men would be the common possession of women. ...Children would not belong to any particular man or woman." (53: p. 206) "Women capable of giving suck and who were not pregnant would nurse all children without distinction. ...But how is it, you will object, that a woman is not to have her own children? No, indeed! What would she need that property for?" (53: p. 212) The author is not alarmed by the fact that
such a way of life would lead to incest. "They say that incest goes against nature. But in fact it is merely against the nature of our morals." All people "would know only society and would belong only to it, the sole proprietor." (53: pp. 211-212) For transition into this state, much that is now considered of value would have to be destroyed, including "everything that we call beautiful works of art. This sacrifice would undoubtedly be a great one, but it would be necessary to make." (53: p. 202) It is not only the arts--poetry, painting, architecture--that would have to disappear, but science and technology as well. People would no longer build ships or study the globe. "And why should they need the learning of a Copernicus, a Newton and a Cassini?" (53: p. 224)
Language will be simplified and much less rich, and people will begin to speak one stable and unchanging language. Writing will disappear, together with the tedious chore of learning to read and write. Children will not study at all and, instead, will learn everything they need to know by imitating their elders.
The necessity of thinking will also fall away: "In the savage state no one thought or reasoned, because no one needed to. In the state of law, one thinks and reasons because one needs to; in the state of morals, one will neither think nor reason because no one will have any need to do this any longer." (53: p. 296) One of the most vivid illustrations of this change of consciousness will be the disappearance of all books. They will find a use in the only thing that they are in reality good for--lighting stoves. All books ever written had as their goal the preparation for the book which would prove their uselessness--Deschamps's study. It will outlive the rest, but finally it, too, will be burned.
People's lives will be simplified and made easier. They will scarcely use any metals; instead, almost everything will be made of wood. No large houses will be built and people will live in wooden huts. "Their furniture would consist only of benches, shelves and tables." (53: p. 217) "Fresh straw, which would later be used as cattle litter, would serve them as a good bed on which they would all rest together, men and women, after having put to bed the aged and the children, who would sleep separately." (53: p. 221) Food would be primarily vegetarian and, thus, easy to prepare. "In their modest existence they would need to know very few things, and these would be just the things that are easy to learn." (53: p. 225) This change of life style is connected
to fundamental psychic changes, which would tend to make "the inclination of each at the same time the common inclination." (53: p. 210) Individual ties between people and intense individual feelings would disappear. "There would be none of the vivid but fleeting sensations of the happy lover, the victorious hero, the ambitious man who had achieved his goal, or the laureled artist." (53: p. 205) "All days would be alike." (53: p. 211) And people would even come to resemble one another. "In the state of morals, no one would weep or laugh. All faces would be almost identical and would express satisfaction. In the eyes of men, all women would resemble all other women; and all men would be like all other men in the eyes of women!" (53: p. 205) People's heads "will be as harmonious as they now are dissimilar." (53: p. 214) "Much more than in our case, they would adhere to a similar mode of action in everything, and they would not conclude that this demonstrates a lack of reason or understanding, as we think about animals." (53: p. 219) This new society will give rise to a new world view. "And they would not doubt--and this would not frighten them in the least--that people, too, exist only as a result of the vicissitudes of life and someday are destined to perish as a consequence of the same vicissitudes and, perhaps, to be eventually reproduced once more by means of a transformation from one aspect to another." (53: p. 225) "Because they, like us, would not take into account that they were dead earlier, that is, that their constituent parts did not exist in the past in human form; they would also, being more consistent than we, not place any significance on the termination of this existence in this form in the future." (53: p. 228) "Their burials would not be distinguishable from those of cattle." (53: p. 229) For: "their dead fellows would not mean more to them than dead cattle. ...They would not be attached to any particular person sufficiently so that they would feel his death as a personal loss and mourn it." (53: p. 230) "They would die a quiet death, a death that would resemble their lives." (53: p. 228)
4. The First Steps
We have seen how socialism was nurtured by the philosophy of the Enlightenment. The new infant came into the world at the time of the Great Revolution and was suckled by Mother Guillotine. But it took its first steps down life's path after the heroic epoch of the Terror
had already passed. It is touching to see traits of the future shaker of kingdoms and shatterer of thrones emerge from the charming infantile awkwardness. In 1796, after Robespierre's fall and during the rule of the Directoire, a secret society was founded in Paris. It planned a political coup and worked out a program for a future socialist organization of the nation. The society was headed by the Secret Directory of Public Salvation, which relied on a network of agents. Among its leading members were Philippe Buonarroti and François Emile (who later called himself Caius Gracchus) Babeuf. A military committee was created to prepare for the uprising. The conspirators hoped for the support of the army. According to their calculations, seventeen thousand men would come to their active aid. After an informer's tip, the leaders of the conspiracy were arrested; two of them, including Babeuf, were exiled.
When he returned from exile, Buonarroti continued to propagandize his views. The majority of the socialist revolutionaries of the day were under his influence. In particular, he founded a circle in Geneva which was to exert a great influence on Weitling (whose role in the formation of Marx's views is well known).
Numerous documents in which the society set forth its views were published by the government immediately after the conspiracy was uncovered. A detailed description of the conspiracy and its plans was later given by Buonarroti in his book Conspiracy of Equals.
The central principle of this society's program was the need for equality at any cost. This was reflected in the very title of the work. The principle of equality was laid down in their "Manifesto" with invulnerable Gallic logic:
"All men are equal, are they not? This principle is irrefutable, for only a man who has lost his reason can in full earnestness call night day." (55: II: p. 134)
Having established this unshakable foundation, the "Manifesto" proceeds to draw conclusions from this axiom:
"We truly want equality--or death. This is what we want." (55: II: p. 134) "For its sake, we are ready for anything; we are willing to sweep everything away. Let all the arts vanish, if necessary, as long as genuine equality remains for us." (55: II: p. 135) "Let there be an end, at last, to the outrageous differences between the rich and the poor, the high and the low, the lords and the servants, the governors and the governed." (55: II: p. 136)
This led directly to the communality of property:
"The agrarian law, that is, the division of arable land, was a temporary requirement of unprincipled soldiers, of certain tribes, who were prompted more by instinct than by reason. We aspire to something more lofty and just--the community of property." (55: II: p. 135)
The right of individual property was to be abolished. The country was to be turned into a single economic unit built exclusively on bureaucratic principles. Trade, except for the smallest transactions, was to be stopped and money withdrawn from circulation.
"It is necessary that everything produced on the land or in industry be kept in general storehouses for equitable distribution among citizens under the supervision of the appropriate officials." (55: II: p. 309)
Simultaneously, universal obligatory labor is introduced.
"Individuals who do nothing for the fatherland cannot enjoy political rights of any kind; they are as foreigners afforded the hospitality of the Republic." (55: II: p. 206)
"To do nothing for the fatherland means not to serve it by useful labor.. ..The law treats as useful labor the following endeavors: agriculture, stock raising, fishing, navigation, mechanical and artisan crafts, petty trade, transportation of men and goods, military arts, education and scientific activities. ...Persons engaged in teaching or science must submit certificates of loyalty. Only in this case is their labor considered useful. ...Officials supervise work and see to it that jobs are equitably distributed. ...Foreigners are forbidden to take part in public gatherings. They are under the direct supervision of the supreme administration, which can deport them to a place of corrective labor." (55: II: pp. 296-297) Under pain of death they are forbidden to possess weapons.
The creators of this plan were aware that carrying it out would entail an unprecedented growth in the number of officials. They pose this question in broad terms:
"Indeed, never before has a nation possessed them in such great numbers. Apart from the fact that in certain circumstances every citizen would be an official supervising himself and others, it is beyond doubt that public offices would be very numerous and the number of officials very great." (55: I: p. 372)
Here is how the interrelationship of individuals with the bureaucracy is conceived:
"In the public structure devised by the Committee, the fatherland takes control of an individual from his birth till his death."
The authorities begin by educating the child:
"Protect him from dangerous false tenderness and by the hand of his mother lead him to a state institution where he will acquire the virtues and knowledge necessary for the true citizen." (55: I: p. 380)
Youths are transferred from state schools to military camps; only later, under the guidance of officials, do they undertake "useful labor."
"The municipal administration is to be kept constantly aware of the position of the working people of every class and of the assignments they are fulfilling. It is to inform the supreme administration in this regard." (55: II: p. 304) "The supreme administration will sentence to forced labor. ..persons of either sex who set society a bad example by absence of civic-mindedness, by idleness, a luxurious way of life, licentiousness." (55: II: p. 305)
This punishment is described lovingly and in great detail:
"The islands of Marguerite and Honoré, the Hyères, Oléron and Ré are to be turned into places of corrective labor, where foreigners who are suspicious and persons arrested for addressing proclamations to the French people will be sent. There will be no access to these islands. They will be administered by an organization directly subordinate to the government." (55: II: p. 299)
After these dark pictures, the section called "Freedom of the Press" is a positive joy.
"It will be necessary to devise means by which all the assistance that can be expected of the press can be extracted from it, without the risk of once again endangering the justice of equality and the rights of the people or of abandoning the Republic to interminable and fatal discussions." (55: I: p. 390)
The "means" turn out to very simple:
"No one will be allowed to utter views that are in direct contradiction to the sacred principles of equality and the sovereignty of the people.. ..The publication of any work having a psuedo-critical character is forbidden. ...All works are to be printed and disseminated only if the guardians of the will of the nation consider that its publication may benefit the Republic." (55: I: p. 391)
One cannot but admire how the creators of this system managed to Concern themselves with the slightest need of the citizen of the future Republic.
"In every commune, public meals will be taken, with compulsory attendance for all community members. ...A member of the national
community will be able to obtain his daily ration only in the district of his residence, except when he is traveling with the permission of the administration." (55: II: pp. 306-307) "Entertainment that is not available to everyone is to be strictly forbidden." (55: I: p. 299) This is explained in another passage: ". .. for fear lest imagination, released from the supervision of a strict judge, should engender abominable vices so contrary to the commonweal." (55: I: p. 348)
The "Equals" inform us that they are friends of all nations. But temporarily, after their victory, France is to be stringently isolated.
Until other nations would adhere to the political principles of France, no close contacts with them can be maintained. Until then, France will only see a menace for herself in their customs, institutions and, especially, their governments." (55: I: p. 357)
It appears that there was disagreement among Equals over one question. Buonarroti felt that a divine principle and immortality of the soul should be recognized, since for a society "it is essential that citizens recognize an infallible judge of their secret thoughts and acts, which cannot be persecuted by law, and that they should believe that a natural result of faithfulness to humanity and the fatherland will be eternal bliss." (55: I: p. 348) "All so-called revelation ought to be banished by law, together with maladies the germs of which ought to be gradually eradicated. Until that occurs, all were to be free to give vent to whims, so long as the social structure, universal brotherhood and the force of the law would not be disrupted." (55: I: pp. 348-349) Buonarroti believed that "the teaching of Jesus, if depicted as flowing out of the natural religion from which it does not differ, could become a support of a reform based on reason." (55: I: p. 168) But Babeuf held a more narrow view: "I attack relentlessly the main idol, until now venerated and feared by our philosophers, who dared to attack only his retinue and surroundings. ...Christ was neither a sans-culotte nor an honest Jacobin nor a wise man nor a moralist nor a philosopher nor a legislator." (55: II: p. 398)
Academician V. P. Volgin, an eminent specialist on the literature of utopian socialism, notes the important innovation introduced by Babeuf and the Equals in comparison with other socialist thinkers. While predecessors like More, Campanella and Morelly focused on a picture of a fully formed socialist community, Babeuf pondered the problems of the transitional period as well, suggesting methods for
establishing and strengthening the newly born socialist system. Indeed, the records of the Equals yield much that is fascinating and instructive in this connection. It goes without saying that in an already established socialist society, legislative power is to be entirely in the hands of the people. In all districts, "assemblies of popular sovereignty" are created; each is made up of all the citizens of a given district. Delegates appointed directly by the people constitute the "Central Assembly of Legislators." (The procedure for "appointment" is not further specified.) The legislative power of these assemblies is restricted, however, by certain basic principles which "the people themselves are not empowered to violate or to alter." In addition to legislative assemblies, and parallel to them, senates consisting of old men are to be instituted. Supreme power was to be given over to a corporation of "Guardians of the National Will." This was conceived as a kind of "tribunal responsible for overseeing the legislators, so that those who abuse the right of issuing decrees would not encroach upon legislative power." (55: I: p. 359)
In the period immediately following the revolution, however, a different structure of government was envisaged. "What kind of authority would this be? Such was the delicate question that the Secret Directory has subjected to thorough scrutiny." (55: I: p. 216) The answer to this "delicate question" could be summed up as follows: power would be concentrated in the hands of the conspirators or partly shared with individuals appointed by them.
"It will be proposed to the people of Paris to institute a National Assembly vested with supreme power and consisting of democrats, one from every department; meanwhile the Secret Directory will investigate thoroughly as to which of the democrats ought to be put forward after the revolution is completed. The Directory will not cease to act but will carryon supervision of the new Assembly." (55: I: p. 293) After prolonged hesitation, the conspirators almost made up their minds to "ask the people for a decree which would entrust the legislative initiative and the implementation of laws" to them alone. (55: I: p. 290)
In the section entitled "In the Initial Stage of Reform the Agencies Must Be Entrusted Only to Revolutionaries," we read:
"A true Republic should be founded only by those selfless friends of humanity and the fatherland whose wisdom and courage exceed the wisdom and courage of their contemporaries." (55: I: p. 375)
Therefore, a committee composed of these "selfless friends of humanity" would see to it that "public institutions consisting solely of the best revolutionaries" should have only a very gradual change of personnel. (55: I: p. 375)
In more concrete terms, sixty-eight deputies chosen from among those serving in the Convention of the day were designated by the Committee to be left in place. To these were to be added another one hundred deputies "selected by us jointly with the people."
Beginning with the first day of the revolution, economic reforms were to be undertaken, as set forth in their "economic decree." How good to learn that implementation was to be on a purely voluntary basis. All those who would renounce their property voluntarily would make up a large national community. But everyone would retain the right not to join this community. Those who did not would acquire the status of "foreigners" with all the attendant rights and duties sketched in above. The economic position of "foreigners" is defined in the "Decree on Taxation," which contains, among other points, such things as:
"1. The sole taxpayers are the individuals who do not join the community. ...
"4. The sum of tax payments in each current year is twice the amount of the preceding year. ...
"6. Persons not party to the national community may be required, in case of necessity and against payment of future taxes, to supply produce and manufactured goods to the storehouses of the national community." (55: II: pp. 312-313)
The decree "On Debts," article three, states that debts owed by "any Frenchman who has become a member of the national community to any other Frenchman are annulled." (55: II: p. 313)
Other measures designed to strengthen the newly established regime and to promote its reforms were elaborated. For instance, "distribution of the possessions of emigrants, conspirators and enemies of the people to defenders of the fatherland and to the poor." (55: II: p. 253)
It is tempting to think that it was profound knowledge of life, based on personal tragic experience, that prompted the "selfless friends of humanity" to plan instituting the following highly important reforms, on the very first day of the revolution:
"Objects belonging to the people [!] and in hock will be immediately returned without charge. ... On completion of the uprising, indigent
citizens now residing in poor lodgings will not return to their habitual abodes; they will be immediately installed in the houses of the conspirators." (55: II: p. 281) (The reader should note that the participants in the "Conspiracy of Equals" used the term "conspirator" not to refer to themselves but rather to the government and to representatives of hostile classes.) Unfortunately, the disciples of the Age of Reason did not leave a more detailed account of this operation. Had the economy of the time attained so high a level that the number of indigent citizens no longer surpassed that of the "conspirators"? Or, if the lodgings of the "conspirators" would not suffice to accommodate all the indigent, in what way would the lucky new owners of apartments be chosen? The documents of the "Conspiracy of Equals" are of little help on these points,* but we learn some other interesting details.
"The furniture of the above-mentioned rich will be confiscated as necessary for the adequate furnishing of the dwellings of the sans-culottes. "(55: II: p. 282)
Finally, terror was envisaged as one of the measures of strengthening the regime. The tribunals which had acted during the Jacobin terror until the ninth of Thermidor, 1794, were to be restored. And: "On pain of being held outside the law, return to prison all persons who were held there until the ninth of Thermidor of year II, if they have not complied with the call to limit themselves to the necessities for the benefit of the people." (55: I: p. 404) "Any resistance must be immediately suppressed by force; the persons involved are to be exterminated. Also liable to capital punishment are persons sounding an alarm themselves or causing others to do so; and foreigners, no matter what their nationality, who are apprehended on the street." (55: II: p. 232) Members of the existing government--members of the two Councils and of the Executive Directorate--were to be executed. "The crime was evident and the punishment had to be death--a great example was essential." (55: I: p. 283)
"In the Insurgent Committee, views were current to the effect that the condemned were to be buried under the rubble of their palaces, whose ruins would serve to remind future generations of the just punishment meted out on. the enemies of the people." (55: I: p. 284)
In elaborating their system of reforms and practical measures, the
* Although there is the following remark: "It would be an error to confuse the systematic distribution of lodgings and clothes with pillage." (55: I: p. 282)
activists of the "Conspiracy of Equals" did not close their eyes to objections which they might encounter: "Disorganizers, rebels, they say to us, all you want is massacre and plunder." Such charges are swept aside, however: "Never has so broad a plan been conceived and brought into existence." (55: II: p. 136) "Let them show us," they would exclaim, "another political system with which such great results could be obtained with more easily implemented means." (55: I: p. 339) We note with sorrow how such a perfectly conceived system was constantly hampered in practice by a host of petty and squalid difficulties. First of all, the conspirators did not avoid what Rabelais called "the incomparable grief," that is, lack of money. In the section entitled "The Participants in the Conspiracy Despised Money," Buonarotti says:
"Certain steps were undertaken to obtain means, but the greatest sum that the Secret Directory ever had at its disposal was 240 francs in cash, contributed by the ambassador of an allied [?] republic." (55: I: 251)
We cannot help but sympathize when Buonarotti laments: "How difficult it is to do good armed only with means acknowledged by reason." (55: I: p. 251)
And a second misfortune befell our heroes--internal discord over dividing power not yet seized. The Committee was at first joined by a small group that called itself the Montagnards. But soon, "the Committee was informed that they had secretly undertaken maneuvers to get around the conditions which had been agreed upon so as to guarantee that supreme power in the Republic would be in the Montagnards' hands. The Committee was so thoroughly convinced they could do no good that it considered the slightest movement which gave them any power to be an unforgivable crime." (55: I: p. 286)
And finally, a third misfortune: The Committee turned out to be under the influence of an agent provocateur. Grisel, a member of the military committee, "hurried his trusting colleagues along, overcame obstacles, suggested new measures and never forgot to encourage those around him with exaggerated pictures of the loyalty of the Grenelle democratic camp." (55: I: p. 265) And it was this Grisel who was denouncing the Committee to the authorities!
The Insurgent Committee was already working out the details of the uprising. One of its members was writing a proclamation called: "The Insurgent Committee of Public Salvation. ..The people have triumphed, tyranny is no more. ..." (55: I: p. 400)
"At this point, the writer was interrupted and seized," says Buonarotti, who seems not to have lost his French wit. The army and the people had not supported the conspirators: "The standing army, with weapons in hand, helped the campaign against democracy, while the population of Paris, persuaded that those arrested were thieves, remained a passive witness." (55: I: p. 417)
The circumstances of this astonishing episode prompted us to resort to a form of presentation that perhaps seems out of place in our narrative. But this dissonance reflects a curious objective property of the phenomenon under study. At the moment of their inception, socialist movements often strike one by their helplessness, their isolation from reality, their naIvely adventuristic character and their comic, "Gogolian" features (as Berdyaev put it). One gets the impression that these hopeless failures haven't a chance of success, and that in fact they do everything in their power to compromise the ideas they are proclaiming. However, they are merely biding their time. At some point, almost unexpectedly, these ideas find a broad popular reception, and become the forces that determine the course of history, while the leaders of these movements come to rule the destiny of nations. (In this way a frightened Müntzer climbed over the Allstedt city wall, having deceived his supporters, only to become, soon thereafter, one of the leading figures in the Peasant War which shook Germany.) It would seem that there was no contradiction when Dostoyevsky peopled his novel The Possessed with "three and a half' nihilists incapable of making a serious disturbance in a provincial town, while at the same time predicting an imminent revolution that would carry away one hundred million lives.
We shall attempt to sum up those new features of socialist ideology that we have encountered in utopian socialism and in works of the Enlightenment.
1. If in the Middle Ages and during the Reformation socialist ideas developed within movements that were religious, at least formally, utopian socialism tends to break with religious form and gradually acquire a character hostile to religion. In More and Campanella we were able to point out an alienated and at times ironic attitude toward Christianity. Winstanley is openly hostile to contemporary religions.
Deschamps rejects all religion, declaring the idea of God to be a human invention, the result of mankind's oppressed state and an instrument of oppression. In its stead, he puts forward the enigmatic conception of God who is Nothing. Finally, Meslier bases his world outlook on a hatred of religion and Christianity--and of Christ in particular. Thus one can speak of a gradual merging of socialist ideology and atheism. 2. The Socialism of this epoch borrows the idea derived from medieval mysticism (Joachim of Flore's, for instance) that history is an immanent and orderly evolutionary process. However, the goal and the driving force invested in this process by the mystics--knowledge of God and merging with Him--is eliminated. Instead, progress is recognized as the motivating force of history, and human reason is seen as its supreme product.
3. Socialist doctrines preserve the notion of the medieval mystics about the three stages in the historical process, as well as the scheme of the fall of mankind and its return to the original state in a more perfect form. The socialist doctrines contain the following components:
a. The myth of a primordial "natural state" or "golden age," which was destroyed by that bearer of evil called private property.4. The idea of "liberation," which was understood by the medieval heresies to be liberation of the spirit from the power of matter, is transformed into an appeal for liberation from the morality of contemporary society, from its social institutions and, most of all, from private property.
b. A castigation of the way things are. Contemporary society is pronounced incurably depraved, unjust and meaningless, ready only to be scrapped. Only on its ruins can a new social structure be built, a structure that would guarantee people every happiness of which they are capable. c. The prophecy of a new society built on socialist principles, a society in which all present shortcomings would disappear. This is the only path for mankind to return to the "natural state," as Morelly put it: from the unconscious Golden Age to the conscious one.
At first, reason is recognized to be the driving force of this liberation, but gradually its place is taken over by the people, the poor. In the world view of the participants in the "Conspiracy of Equals," we can see this conception in finished form. As a result, new concrete features appear in the plan for the establishment of the "society of the future": terror, occupation of the apartments of the rich by the poor, confiscation of furniture, abolition of debts, etc.