The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

Utopian socialism

Category: Short stories

In 1516 an outstanding English humanist Thomas More published in Latin a small book, called Utopia. It described an imaginary island, Utopia by name, the inhabitants of which had organized a kind of community life, rejected gold and all private property and where everyone had to work.

Thus, at the very beginning of the capitalist mode of production Thomas More formulated the main principles of Utopian Communism. He expressed vague aspirations of man for a classless society without exploitation.

Soon after that stories of other utopias began to appear— first in Italy, then in England and France. They too were stories about wonderful imaginary societies and states.

The first direct attempts of the proletariat to attain its own ends were made in times when feudal society was being overthrown. But these attempts necessarily failed, owing to the then undeveloped state of the proletariat, as well as to the absence of the economic conditions for its emancipation.

The systems of the Utopian Socialism of Saint-Simon, Fourier and Owen appeared in the early undeveloped period of the struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie. One thing was common to all three. Not one of them appeared as a representative of the interests of that proletariat which historical development had produced. They did not plan to emancipate a particular class to begin with, but all huma­nity at once, without distinction of class.

Hence, they rejected all political, and especially all revolutionary action; they wished to attain their ends by peaceful means, and by small experiments, necessarily doomed to failure. These new social systems were foredoomed as Utopian; they inevitably drifted off into pure phan­tasies.

But Utopian literature contained also a critical element. It attacked every principle of existing society. Hence it was full of the most valuable materials for the enlightenment of the working class.

In proportion as the class struggle of that time deve­loped and took definite shape, this fantastic standing apart from the contest, these fantastic attacks on it, lost all prac­tical value and all theoretical justification. Therefore, as K. Marx and F. Engels wrote in their Manifesto of the Communist Party, although the originators of these systems were, in many respects, revolutionary, their disciples had in every case, formed mere reactionary sects. They endevoured to deaden the class struggle and to reconcile the class antagonisms…

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