PIONEERS OF SOCIALISM

THERE were early Socialists in various countries, for instance, the Levellers in Cromwellian England and the followers of Baboeuf during the French Revolution. Both had been extremely unpopular with the official Republicans, whose reverence for the rights of middle-class men of property had, in fact, made rebels of them.

During the first quarter of the nineteenth century, while Owen [2] in England was developing ideas and schemes which were known, rather loosely, as Socialism, two French writers, Fourier and Saint-Simon, originated what became the chief revolutionary movement of the next hundred years. They assumed or disregarded the merely political side of democracy (one man, one vote, or more correctly, one head of a middle-class family, one vote) and looked forward to social and economic equality. With the optimism of innovators they proposed Utopian schemes which have not yet been realised, certainly not in the diluted form of State Socialism which has been set up in Russia. They intended to reorganise society in groups of producers, with roughly equal remuneration. The enormous productivity of modern industry, and its unequal division of profits, infliction of unemployment, and neglect of slum conditions were already clear to be seen. Socialists or Communists (the term can hardly be distinguished at this stage) desired to give mankind the benefits of productivity with none of the evils that arose under the industrial system (as yet almost unregulated and entirely competitive).

The three chief writers of the early Socialist movement in its second phase (Lassalle, Marx, and Engels) were all born before 1826. They grew to manhood with the worst aspects of the early Industrial Revolution around them in France and Germany, and they advanced beyond the romantic, Utopian, William Morris views of Fourier and Saint-Simon. The effect of their propaganda (and that of less famous men) in the 1830's and 1840's was to rouse the working-class to demand political rights as a preliminary to a Socialistic reorganisation of society. The appeal of such schemes was strengthened by the widespread starvation which inevitably followed the great wars. It was felt everywhere, and in Great Britain there was much unemployment, low wages, and very acute suffering in the twenties and thirties.



[2] In 1799 Robert Owen established his co-operative, communistic cotton-mills in New Lanark, Scotland. In 1844-5 the first of the modern co-operative stores was opened in Rochdale, Lancashire. It belonged to the type of co-operation that has flourished best in Britain-the Consumers' Society. Any one may become a member by taking one or more 1 shares, payable out of the dividend All goods are sold at the current retail prices, the profit, with expenses deducted, is divided among consumers according to purchases.