List of top eight Utopian thinkers:- 1. Thomas More 2. Thomas Campanella 3. Charles Fourier 4. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon 5. Wilhelm Weitling 6. Etienne Cabet 7. Louis-Auguste Bianqui 8. Louis Blanc
Utopian Thinker # 1. Thomas More:
Sir Thomas More was the first Utopian socialist thinker. He was born in 1478. He received his primary or early education from the Archbishop of Canterbury. More was sent to Oxford and after completing studies he went to London to study law.
He then became a Member of Parliament and his charming qualities and personality attracted many top-ranking persons of his time, including Henry VIII. In rapid succession he was awarded knighthood, made a member of the Privy Council, treasurer of the Exchequer, Speaker of the House of Commons and, finally, in 1529 he was appointed to the most coveted post of Lord Chancellor.
But this meteoric rise did not last long. He fell from the grace of the monarch because of his failure to support the king on the controversial issue of divorce. It has been said by his biographers that he always performed those acts which his conscience permitted. Because of this he could not support every act of the king.
This created a rift between him and the king. He was removed from office and was convicted of treason and finally beheaded in 1535. More published his Utopia in 1516. He coined Utopia from the Greek word “nowhere”. While Machiavelli was writing The Prince More was composing the Utopia.
Thomas More has portrayed satirically the decadent condition of the contemporary British society. He investigated the reason of the decadent condition of the British economic and social system and formed the conclusion that the entire British social and economic structure must be completely overhauled. His attack was focused at the capitalist structure of British economy.
In the capitalist system, more said, only few had the opportunity to be the owners of the means of production. The working masses were allowed to share a very small portion of the wealth. In this way inequality came to be the characteristic feature of the society.
He observed that along with inequality there was boundless exploitation of the toiling people. In the imaginary island of More there shall be no place of exploitation. The island shall be surrounded by natural boundaries. Every man and woman will learn trade and must labour six hours a day.
None shall work more than the stipulated hour. Every child will be trained in the arts of agriculture. All the products of the Utopia shall be stored in the common place and from there each citizen will receive his requirements. In the Utopia there shall be no government and no control. Complete brotherhood, equality and liberty will be the dominant features of Utopia.
The family is the basic unit of social organization and economic activity. In the Utopia parents, children and grand-children will live together and in large family mansions. The children will receive this education from teachers appointed by the parents.
The organization of the society will be hierarchical. People will elect their magistrates and all the magistrates assembled together will elect a chief magistrate. The chief magistrate is called the prince.
“One might say the prince is nominated by the people and elected by the magistracy. He holds office for life but may be removed for cause.”
People of the Utopia will have the opportunity to enjoy all sorts of democratic rights and privileges. There shall be a system of open general assembly and all adult citizens will participate in the assembly.
All decisions shall be taken in the meeting of the open assembly. Though more thought of an imaginary Utopia, we think that this was in the line of Greek City-states. More has also made provision for a national assembly.
Each city and its adjacent farm territory send each year three representatives to the national assembly. National assembly is the supreme governing body of the Utopia. The members of the imaginary island will lead a communistic way of life.
The members have their noon and evening meals together in the common refectory. Maxey says – “There is plenty for all and nothing that one may have that another may not likewise possess. Hence there is no disposition to accumulate.”
Utopian Thinker # 2. Thomas Campanella:
Thomas Campanella was another Utopian thinker who was born in 1568 and died in 1639. In his philosophy Campanella combined materialism with narrow Christian theology. He always insisted on the synthesis of philosophy and theology. His important Utopian work is The City of Sol or The City of Sun. The book contains the description of an imaginary commonwealth.
The City of Sol or Sun was represented as an absolute monarchy whose ruler was designated as Sun. The king would rule the state for life. He would be elected by a college of magistrates.
Since Campanella had a strong fascination for theology or religious activities the monarch of the commonwealth would perform both political and religious functions. He prepared a scheme of administrative organization of his commonwealth.
He divided the functions of the government into three. The functions relating to war and diplomacy; to superintending public instruction and public works and finally, to physical improvement of people.
The Utopian aspect of Campanella’s politics is that commonwealth or city of Sun was free from exploitation and slavery. Campanella’s commonwealth resembled More’s Utopia. Both were planned to offer a heavenly peace and happiness to all the citizens. Both More and Campanella wanted to combine intelligence with science to maximize the welfare of the people.
He did not make any provision for private property and accumulation of wealth. All the citizens would take their meals in the common dining hall. Campanella, of course, like Plato, recognized the existence of three classes. He envisaged of a priest-magistrate which corresponded to Plato’s philosopher guardians or king.
In the seventeenth century the Levellers and Diggers launched a movement which may appropriately be compared with utopianism. Although the movements of Levellers and Diggers were called republican, some of these ideas were really Utopian.
They emphasized upon people’s consent and wanted to exterminate the system of private property because it was the source of corruption. The leader of the movement was Winstanley.
In 1652, his Law of Freedom was published. His Utopian society based on exchange system. Selling and purchasing he did not allow People would draw their necessities from the public store. None would be allowed to take more than his requirement.
Utopian Thinker # 3. Charles Fourier:
Charles Fourier was the son of a wealthy French merchant and all their wealth was lost in the Revolution. His father wanted to make him a businessman but he had no liking for it.
He developed a keen interest in social problems and deeply studied books and journals to enrich his knowledge and ignite his enthusiasm and insight. He then started to write books and articles on various social problems which drew the attention of many educationists and well-known persons.
A number of persons became his disciples and they enthusiastically disseminated his ideas.
In the early years of his life he spent his energy and efforts to earn money but good luck did not favour him.
The last four decades of his life were spent in elaborating and publicizing the ideal of a perfect society. Fourier frequently said that he was in great need of large amount of money to implement his scheme of new society. He began writing in 1800 and he left behind a volume of manuscripts.
Fourier was different from other Utopian socialists in more than one respect. Both Saint-Simon and Owen were extremely moved by the exploitation and suffering of poor people. Surprisingly Fourier remained unmoved Maxey writes, “What did shock him to smoking indignation was the disorder and wastefulness of the competitive system. The exploitation of the unprivileged was too bad, but the waste of labour, materials, money, and time those were atrocious, damnable and ought to be corrected. So Fourier became an evangel of order, efficiency and economy in societal process.”
Fourier had formed the belief that in the kingdom of God there always prevailed harmony and rule of law and because of this there was no anarchy. He ardently desired that in the human society the same thing must reside.
Man has been created by God giving him certain instincts with the help of which he can build up a new and perfect society. These instinct or passions according to Fourier are sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, friendship, love, ambition, paternity, emulation, alternating, composite. In the existing society these could not be implemented, a new society was required.
Nature of Society:
The twelve instincts or passions we have just now pointed out may be divided into three broad categories five passions or senses tend to luxury. They aim at gratifying the desires of man. Four passions are affective and these make man sociable.
The last three passions are distributive. Fourier believed that the evils of society are largely derived from the fact that men’s natural instincts and their social environment were constantly opposed to each other.
That is, there was no reconciliation or adjustment between the passions and social environment. He proposed to set up a society which would make adjustment. Before giving a picture of such a society we need to see what the evils of society were.
Society, we are told by Fourier, is both repressive and wasteful. Parents are very often strict. They want to prepare their children for the society and for that purpose restrain the passions of their wards.
Children resent the attitude and behaviour of parents. This difference of attitude destroys love, affection, pleasure and respect. Fear and resentment become the dominant characteristics of every society Normal functioning of society is adversely affected.
The production of society is disorderly, because it responds to the speculation of middlemen. The middlemen, in one way or other, exploit both the producer and the consumer.
In this way the normal relationship is destroyed. Fourier also observes that the producers also monopolies the production and the distribution.
The consumer is helpless. The production of the commodity is determined not by the necessity of the consumer but by the profit- motive. This attitude of the producer affects the interests of the consumer and aggravates their suffering; wealth and power of the industrialists increase and, on the opposite side, the poverty and misery of workers also increase.
The state hardly comes to their help. The gap between the poor and the rich widens. Waste is enormous because there are idlers, because there is inefficiency and because much is produced which is not wanted or does not satisfy.
In all human societies there are several undesirable characteristics—or these may be called crises. These are speculation, crises in various forms. Above all, weaker sections of the population are variously exploited by the richer and powerful sections. He concludes that these evils are inevitable because of the social structure.
There are few rich people and innumerable poor men. So long as the prevailing social structure remains intact these evils will continue to exist. But in order to banish them it is necessary that the entire social structure be completely overhauled. He was of opinion that the system of labour and exchange was singularly responsible.
One cannot eradicate the passions or instincts of human beings. The society is to be organized in such a way as to adjust with these passions. There is a gap which we have already pointed out.
Modern civilization is contrary to the natural order as established by God. Fourier’s categorical suggestion is society is to be organized in accordance with nature’s order.
Plan of the Future Society:
In order to free the society from numerous evils and shortcomings Fourier devised a plan and it is known as phalanx. It is no doubt a unique creation and constitutes the vital aspect of Fourier’s Utopian thought. Phalanx is a type of community each consisting of 1,000 to 1,600 members of different age, fortune and experience.
In the phalanx all work will be voluntary. Every worker or member will do the work according to his choice or liking. In such a community there is no place of force or compulsion.
None will be forced to do any work against his liking. Man will find his passions fully realized. In other words, Fourier’s community will be the meeting point of passions and functions. The absence of discrepancy will make life pleasant.
The whole work-system of the community will be divided into several groups and there will be a group of members for each type of work. The members will decide what types of work they will do.
The basis of the community is the division of labour. Fourier further suggests that the groups doing similar works will be arranged in series. A competition between the groups doing similar work is inevitable and Fourier thinks that this competition will lead to better performance.
The competition is also healthy and cordial. Some workers may be interested in more than one work and the phalanx will make arrangement to allow them to be members of more than one groups. This arrangement furthers the incentive to work and also augments pleasure.
Fourier expects that there will be fifty to sixty groups in the series. In some cases the number of groups might be higher.
The system aims at making the best use of the three distributive passions – the butterfly passions for variety; the composite passion for blended or multiple satisfactions; and the cabalistic passion for intrigue.
These are reprobate passions in actual society, repressed and harmful, but in the phalanx they are respectable and useful. There is both cooperation and competition.
The competition is not out of ill-motive. All the members of the phalanx cooperate among themselves. The work performed by members satisfy their desires and increases pleasures. Absence of compulsion makes them feel free.
The arrangement leads to the betterment of community. Fourier has further stated that ill-feeling and harmful rivalry will be removed for ever.
There should prevail harmony, fellow-feeling and, above all, healthy competition. This atmosphere will inspire men to work and devise new plans for betterment. Since every group is the rival of other groups there is constant scheming and ample of persuasion and manoeuvre and the passion for intrigue is satisfied.
Fourier suggests that in the phalanx the unpleasant jobs such as killing of animals, cleaning sewers and drains are to be performed by children since they like to play and work in the dirt.
Life in the community will be both private and communal Women will enjoy equality with men. Family life will be abolished. Children will be brought up at public expenses. In the phalanx there will be two units agricultural and industrial.
These two units will be organized in such a manner as to meet the demands of the members. People may live monogamously if they like, but love will be free.
In Fourier’s phalanx there shall be no place of forced labour. Again, none will be idle. In capitalist society large number of men works hard to earn their daily bread and very few men are the owners of capital are idle. But these few men capture the almost entire profit and the toiling people are deprived of the benefit of production. In Fourier’s scheme there shall be no repetition of this system.
Everyone will have to do work to earn his daily bread. In the scheme of phalanx there shall be no scope of forced labour and, as a result, the work will be a potential source of pleasure.
The community will provide to every member the minimum subsistence. His hope is that by force private property will not be abolished, but if the phalanx succeeds it will be ultimately unnecessary. Because, if everyone gets his necessaries from the community, none will go to take the trouble of making private property.
Production will be made on cooperative basis. Each will be paid according to his ability. A man having various experiences will earn more. Fourier assures us that this will not generate unhealthy and envious feeling.
In the perfect society there will be provision for large buildings in which the members will live together, and take their meals and leisure together.
In Fourier’s term it is called Phalanstery. This is the communal aspect of the perfect society. But there will be arrangements for privacy. Love, affection, friendship or brotherhood all will develop in the phalanstery.
In the phalanx all groups are harmonious. There will also be provision for entertainment. So in all respects the community or phalanx will be an ideal one.
Phalanx will welcome all classes of persons and none will be forced to make any sacrifice. The rich will enter the phalanx with all their wealth and capital and will be given the opportunity to invest.
The return or profit will be distributed among the various factors of production, but the return on capital will gradually diminish. Fourier expects that when the phalanx will be a growing concern the rich will lose all their interest in saving more and more and investing it.
They will prefer a life of leisure and comfort to a life of anxiety. We have already noted that in the phalanx there will be difference of income, but that will have no significance. It will never be a cause of discord. Everyone will work and ability will be the sole criterion of reward.
Assessment of Fourier’s Utopianism:
James Joll in The Anarchists makes the following observation. Fourier’s communist society “is a truly anarchist society. Fourier at no point requires the intervention of a state to regulate the relations within and between the various phalansteries. He condemns the use of force. All ‘that is founded upon force is fragile and denotes the absence of genius”. Joll’s observation is correct because Fourier wanted to do away with the importance of any type of central or administrative system or organisation.
A community without a central organisation to enforce law and control the relations among the citizens is anarchical in nature. Fourier holds a very unreal and idealistic view of human nature.
It is true that the external environment moulds the character and behaviour of man. But only change of environment cannot make man good or ideal. Hobbes’s depiction of human nature may not be hundred percent correct. Fourier makes no provision to deal with that character. Because of the extravagance and naivety of perfect society Kolakowski calls him a “hopeless crank.”
The sexual promiscuity and glut-toning are no signs of any healthy society. Long before Fourier a Greek philosopher thought of communism of wife and children. But that was rejected by Aristotle. Such a proposal is absolutely absurd. Fourier offers that absurd proposal.
Fourier is a controversial figure of Utopian socialism. Though the thought of Fourier contains originality it is not free from inconsistency and un-clarity. He conceived of a compromise and adjustment between employer and employees without giving any specific plan or scheme.
So we can say his view of compromise is simply a pious hope.
“In depicting capitalism’s crimes, he could not discover their basic cause, for he did not have a clear understanding of production relations and class structures of bourgeois society.” Both Owen and Fourier were really friends of the working class and both had genuine sympathy for them. Both of them wanted a radical change of the existing social, political and economic structure of the society. But the scheme they prepared was absolutely impractical.
Owen wanted to build up a perfect society and behind this he spent all his resources and prime part of his life.
This made him a pauper, but he gained nothing. Fourier’s phalanx is out and out Utopian. Fourier’s scheme is suitable only for the gods and not for human beings. Only Saint-Simon had a clear conception of history and certain amount of practical knowledge.
“By comparison with Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier cuts a lesser figure, though nor for originality. He was the great eccentric of the early socialist movement, the inventor of fantastic cosmology; he was also the descendant of Rousseau.”
However, the loopholes and absurdities of Fourier’s Utopian socialism do not make it absolutely worthless. It has several bright and illuminating aspects which need clarification and emphasis.
Kolakowski correctly writes:
“Despite the absurdities, Fourier’s critique of civilization and his ideas of a future harmonious state contain many elements that became part of the socialist tradition. His view that exploitation and poverty are due to discrepancy between social conditions and developed instruments of production appears in a more precise form in Marx’s writings. Fourier pointed out the parasitic nature of trade in conditions of economic anarchy, and also the harm done by the tiny land holdings”.
He argued that more and more introduction of machinery increased the misery and poverty of the porletariat. Fourier correctly diagnosed the exact role and consequences of private property.
Fourier was against the system of employing labour and forcing him to do a job which he dislikes. In his phalanx everyone will have full freedom to choose any job according to his own choice and inclination.
It is interesting to note that modern public administration emphasizes upon workers’ personal liking and disliking.
“His Utopia was the antithesis of the monastic imaginations of the Renaissance and Enlightenment; he held that ascetism was contrary to nature and that the liberation of man signified the liberation of his passions”
In this respect Fourier’s Utopian socialism is different from the socialistic ides of others. He is more close to Marxian socialism than any other Utopian socialists.
Fourier was sure that it was impossible to change the nature of man. But the nature of society or physical environment could be easily changed and for that purpose he wanted to set up a communist society in which people could find realization of passions.
Fourier thought that if physical environment is changed that will have a positive and far-reaching impact upon the mind of people. This conception is correct. Modern behaviouralists and many others including materialists believe that men’s nature, mind, outlook and, above all, behaviour, cannot be changed overnight. But all these can be amended by reorganizing or remodeling the social system.
Recently Robert Nozick in his Anarchy, State and Utopia makes a modest attempt to throw light on this aspect. Extolling Fourier’s contribution to the socialist thought Engels in his Socialism – Utopian and Scientific has said that we find in Fourier a criticism of the existing conditions of society, genuinely French and witty, but not upon that account any less than thorough.
Fourier takes the bourgeoisie, their inspired prophets before the Revolution and their interested eulogists after it, at their own words. He lays bare remorselessly the material and moral misery of the bourgeois world.
His conception of history of society is an exceptionally realistic one. Engels calls it his greatest contribution. Fourier divides the evolution of society into four different stages savagery, barbarism, the patriarchate and civilisation. He says that civilized state has every vices practiced by the barbarian society. He has cited so many illustrations.
We do not find in Fourier’s analysis the realistic interpretation of capitalist system. But he never forgot to point out that capitalism was the cause of exploitation and according to him the remedy lies in setting up a communist society.
Anikin has aptly pointed out his genius consists in the fact that, basing his argument on his analysis of capitalism, he showed a number of true laws of socialist society. Both Marx and Engels have expressed in unequivocal language their indebtedness and also his contribution to the socialist thought.
He was not the father of scientific socialism, but he sincerely attempted, and largely succeeded, to free political and economic ideas and principles from the confinement of liberalism.
Fourier was not alone in this respect, but he helped the acceleration of socialist ideas and decay of liberalism. We do not agree with his views, but he was relevant in his own age.
Utopian Thinker # 4. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon:
In the Western political thought Pierre-Joseph Proudhon is known both as an anarchist and a Utopian socialist. We shall, however, focus our attention on his socialist ideas which are classed as Utopian.
His character is, eccentric. He wrote volumes and most of these writings have no importance or substance. Both Marx and Proudhon developed friendship for short period of time and this friendship was chiefly due to Proudhon’s socialist ideas. But within a very short time schism developed between the two—one reason is Marx did not give importance to the socialist ideas of Proudhon and the other factor is Proudhon did not know German quite well.
In the nineteenth century the autocratic governments of several European countries did not allow people to propagate socialist ideas and since Proudhon believed in socialism (though it was Utopian) he was imprisoned several times and each time he was acquitted.
After 1848 Proudhon took an active interest in political and economic matters He studied the economic life of people and economic conditions of society. He was well-aware of the miseries and exploitation of the workers. He believed that property was nothing but theft. So he wanted to do away with the system of property.
He was a great believer of reforms. Only reforms and mutual adjustment, he believed, could bring about emancipation of the workers. He had no faith in revolution which is generally used in the Marxian sense.
“His plan belongs to the category of socialist Utopias in so far as it is purely normative and invokes ideal of justice and equality.”
Proudhon was a sympathizer of the workers and poor people. He was himself poor and, therefore, his feeling for the poor was genuine. But he had no clear conception of class antagonism or the reactionary character of the bourgeois government.
After the Revolution of 1848 he appealed to the republican government to implement his reforms programme. He was elected to the Constituent Assembly, but there he could not stay long.
He was arrested because of his criticism of Louis Napoleon In 1851 there was a coup d’etat in France and he hoped that the Prince-President might carry out his socialist plans. But, again, his hopes could not see the light of the sun, it remained in darkness.
Proudhon believed in the inalienable rights of man. These rights are right to freedom, right to equality, and right of individual sovereignty.
These rights were prescribed by God and, therefore, could not be abrogated by any system economic and political. But he saw that the existing economic and political systems were not helpful for the fulfillment of these inalienable rights.
Inequality, competition and corruption were rampant. Workers were exploited to the point of in toleration. He blamed the existing economic system for all these evils. If all the natural rights were fully realized a natural social harmony could be affected.
Proudhon has said that property is a physical and mathematical impossibility. Here he wants to emphasize that every man will have to work to earn his bread. His income will be proportionate to his labour. Under such circumstances a man cannot get any scope to a mass property and, if anybody does it, then we must say that he has certain amount of income behind which he has no labour.
Such income or it may properly be called property is quite unjustified and immoral. A man cannot enjoy the benefits of dividends, interests, rent etc. on the ground that he owns wealth or capital.
If a man enjoys something or gets something over and above the remuneration which he receives in exchange of his labour that is immoral.
He said that the contemporary economy was based on false premise. Capital or land was the factor of production. Neither capital nor land could produce anything. To produce, he said, a piece of article, labour was essential.
So the owners of capital could not claim any extra privilege. In a just economy it could not happen that goods were bought and sold in accordance with the fluctuations of supply and demand instead of their true value.
The guiding principle of his economic utopia is that each man should receive what he produces. The value of his labour is to be measured in hours of labour.
Since a man cannot claim anything more than his labour, the system of unearned income is to be abolished. In order to eliminate the concentration of wealth and gradual pauperization of the poor the system of unearned income or what Proudhon calls monopoly of income, is to be done away with.
We therefore, see that Proudhon linked inequality and exploitation with the property or unearned income .These ideas of Proudhon are highly plausible. Though he was to some extent an eccentric, I believe, he fully understood the real nature of a capitalist society and mounting impoverishment of the workers. In one respects he frustrates us. A worker is a factor of production, but there are also other factors and naturally a worker cannot claim the entire profit of what he has produced. This is sheer utopia.
From his analysis it further appears that Proudhon was not against property. He was against that property which was the source of inequality, monopoly and impoverishment. If all men could get to which they were entitled then, in that case, property could not be regarded as immoral.
This view of Proudhon has been interpreted by many that he cannot be called a real communist. He was simply pointing out the cause of poverty and exploitation. Like Fourier and Owen he did not have any plan for setting up a communitarian society. He expected that reforms could achieve the desired results.
Many critics are averse to calling him a real socialist. Rather, he can be branded as a Utopian socialist like Saint-Simon, Owen etc.
It is observed that he had no concrete proposals for the implementation of the socialist ideas. These were simply dreams. Every proposal must be accompanied by clear and practical plans.
In this field he is to us a source of lot of frustration. He had no idea of class struggle or class antagonism. Nor did he recognize it.
It is, therefore, evident that he would be opposed to revolutions. He thought that a violent revolution would lead to disorder and chaos and aggravate the class relations. He did not want class hostility.
Proudhon did not believe in class antagonism and for that reason he always appealed to all class of people. To him both the oppressor and the oppressed were at the same level. He believed that human nature was always against any struggle or violence. So it would be unwise to resort to violent struggle.
Proudhon had so much faith on class collaboration that he repeatedly invited the capitalists to implement his reform proposals. There was an alliance between the property owners and the machinery of the state and for that reason he did not want the state. But Proudhon in this case suffered from a glaring inconsistency.
He desired that the state should play an auxiliary role. For several years he propagated class cooperation. Cooperation between the classes was the foundation of his “mutualism” Besides class cooperation endorsement of decentralization is to be found in his thought system. By this he mainly meant decentralization in productive system.
It has already been mentioned that Proudon was both an anarchist and a Utopian socialist. The consequence emerging from this is that thought suffers from inconsistencies. Conciliation between anarchism and socialism is practically impossibility. In some respects there are pole-like differences between the two. This is the main source of drawback of Proudhon’s thought.
Commenting upon Proudhon’s inconsistency Kolakowski writes:
“In his early writings he takes an anarchistic view of the state as an instrument of possessing classes, to be replaced by a system of free agreements among economic cooperatives. Later he came to acknowledge state power, not as the weapon of class, but as the organiser of production for the common good.”
Ryazanoff has revealed another aspect of his contradiction. He says – “in his early writings he criticized bourgeois society from the point of view of the French minor peasantry, whereas at the later date, in his Philosophy of Poverty, his criticism was made from the outlook of the petty-bourgeoisie, which was oscillating between the small producers and workers. Proudhon wished to refashion bourgeois society”.
Notwithstanding the numerous drawbacks of his socialist thought and programmes we humbly submit that in those days of nineteenth century to hold and propagate socialist ideas was a sort of “crime” and Proudhon committed that “crime”. Here lies his credit. It is correct that his socialist ideas were not always straight-forward.
Utopian Thinker # 5. Wilhelm Weitling:
Wilhelm Weitling (1808-1871) was a contemporary of Marx and propagated some Utopian thoughts, but he was not a forerunner of Marx. Ryozanoff observes that Weitling was one of the most notable communists before Marx and Engels.
He was a tailor by trade. His childhood passed through extreme poverty. He travelled to several countries as an itinerant tailor.
Weitling criticized the existing social order in the light of human passions. He recommended primitive evangelical communism. The existing economic and political system created a situation antagonistic to human freedom. Weitling claimed that since he was a very poor man he could feel the pulse of the proletariat. God has created all men equal.
The resources of nature are to be divided among all. Inequality, exploitation and tyranny are man-made and against the wishes of God. We can in this background say that Weitling was a Christian communist.
Weitling mixed socialism with religion and this in the characteristic feature of his socialism. But Marx was against this mixture.
According to Marx, socialism is a materialist idea and religion or God is other-worldly concept and, hence, the amalgamations of the two are fully unjustified.
According to Weitling there are mainly two classes in every society—poor and rich By virtue of greater power and position the rich people control the society in their favour .They are selfish and acquisitive.
Poor men are exploited in every sphere of their life. The wealthy persons pass through luxury. He did not blame machine for the exploitation and worsening conditions of the proletariat.
It is the misuse of machine that is responsible. Increasing use of machine is the indicator of progress. With the help of machine and other improved techniques the capitalists produce greater amount of wealth. The greater part of this goes to the pocket of industrialists or rich people. The resultant effect is gross inequality.
When the wealth is held in common through the communication of ownership all sorts of inequality will disappear, in constructing his plan of a future society he gave a leading position to the representatives of applied sciences.
He considered that the best way of establishing the new social order would be to bring the extant social disorder to such a pass that the patience of the people would be exhausted. He could not reconcile himself to the notion of a transitional period during which the bourgeoisie would functions as the ruling class.
Utopian Thinker # 6. Etienne Cabet:
Etienne Cabet (1788-1856) was another non-revolutionary Utopian socialist who wanted to set up a communist society within the capitalist order. By profession, Cabet was a lawyer and participated in the revolution of 1830.
His best-known work Voyage en Icarie was published from England where he stayed temporarily to escape prosecution. The publication of the book caused stir both in England and France.
At the beginning of 1849 Cabet sailed for America and settled there for some years to build up a communist society which he called New Jerusalem. His communism was also based on Christianity.
He rejected violence or revolution as technique of establishing a communist society. His belief was that violence was against Christianity. There is a common point among all the Utopian socialists.
All of them believed in the class-collaboration and attainment of socialism through appeal. Cabet or Weitling are no exceptions.
Cabet first of all appealed to the bourgeois class to eschew their profit motive and to make considerable concessions for the alleviation of the workers’ miseries. But when his appeal could not produce any results he advised the workers to collaborate with the capitalists. His hope was that this would be able to mitigate the sufferings. This again failed.
He also appealed to the Communist Workers Educational Society. But this Society did not take his appeal seriously. Some members of the society opposed his -scheme.
What was the scheme of Cabet? Kolakowski says, “Cabet’s Icarie is an egalitarian community with some totalitarian features, like many Utopias of the Renaissance and Enlightenment”. Like many other Utopian thinkers he held the view that it is the mal-distribution of property or wealth produced in industry which is full) responsible for all sorts of evil especially exploitation of workers and unequal distribution of wealth.
This he calls ulcer and in order to free the society from this ulcer it is essential that the system of private property is to be done away with. In his scheme of egalitarian community there is no place of monetary system. Society is the owner of all resources and all commodities are produced, under the full authority of the whole society.
In this scheme no particular section of the population will have control. Naturally everyone must have a legitimate share in the produce. Every able-bodied individual must work according to his ability and then he will claim a share of the revenue behind which he has invested his labour.
The share in revenue must be proportionate to his needs. All the socialists of the first half of nineteenth century held the same view. The community must see that all the members eat the same food, wear the same dress and live in the same type of building.
The purpose of Cabet was to bring about uniformity in the living conditions of all members of the egalitarian community. That is why it is also called totalitarian society.
There is a difference between Cabet and Babeuf as regards revolution. The latter was a revolutionary and favoured conspiratorial technique to achieve socialist goals. But Cabet did not agree with him.
In Cabet’s political scheme we find that people as a whole is sovereign. It elects administrators to rule the territory for a very limited period. The administrators will look after both administration and production. Cabet does not envisage any political party or club.
Cabet has added a new point or aspect of socialist thought in his analysis. In his opinion the capitalists are oppressors no doubt. But for this they are not fully responsible.
The defective education and other drawbacks have forced or encouraged them to be oppressors. We think that Cabet is partially right.
The society makes some people oppressors. Again, these people have reorganized society to help in all sorts of oppression. He has also the workers to cooperate with the capitalists.
He suggests the education system is to be reformed to meet the requirements of the larger section of the society. His excessive reliance on reforms differentiates him from revolutionaries. Like Proudhon he advocates gradualism.
“As a widely read writer in a popular style he did much to spread communist ideals, he had no influence whatever on Marx”.
Utopian Thinker # 7. Louis-Auguste Bianqui (1805-1881):
Louis-August Blanqui was the son of a Girondin. He studied law and medicine in Paris. While a student he came in close touch with various socialist doctrines and studied them. He also participated in the July Revolution.
In the history of Utopian socialism or socialist thought the name of Blanqui is remembered not because he was the originator of any particular theory or principles. He was the sincere adherent of Babouvism. He always indulged in revolutionary zeal and liked conspiratorial activities.
In the thirties of the nineteenth century Bianqui organized several clandestine societies to achieve socialist goals. He was imprisoned for his so-called subversive activities. In the trial room he did not defend himself but, on the contrary, he accused the existing system. Bianqui launched an unsuccessful revolt against the French monarchy in 1839. He was sentenced to death. But the Revolution of 1848 liberated him.
He then became the leader of the working class. From 1871 to 1879 he was in jail. When in 1879 he was released, he again jumped upon revolutionary activities.
Blanqui was not a writer and he did not make any attempt to establish himself as a writer. He was mainly a propagandist. He came under the influence of Enlightenment. It is said that Blanqui was the originator of the idea of “dictatorship of proletariat”, though not the phrase. He criticized the activities of capitalism and its mode of production. But all these were stereotyped.
“He shared the view that inequality and exploitation occur because goods are not exchanged at their true value as determined by labour orient; as to the future communist society. His chief role in the history of socialist movement is that he inculcated the importance of revolutionary organisation and helped to improve the technique of conspiracy.”
The term “Blanquism” in socialist parlance came to mean much the same as revolutionary voluntarism.
From the above analysis it appears that Blanqui was an agitator organiser. He did appeal to the working class and manufacturers for class collaboration. He ceaselessly fought against the oppressor.
He never brought the oppressors and oppressed to the same level. He believed that conspiratorial activities could succeed in bringing about socialism.
8. Louis Blanc:
Louis Blanc was a prominent nineteenth century scholar, agitator and, above all, a socialist. He had great interest in socialist philosophy and principles. He was contemporary of Marx and Engels.
He wrote a number of books and large number of articles. The most important of his books is L’ organisation du travail. His another important work is Le Socialism. It was published in 1848, the year of the Communist Manifesto’s publication.
In the socialist ideas of Blanqui and Blanc we find the combination of Babouvism and Saint-Simonism. Babeuf was the originator of revolutionary and conspiratorial tactics for achieving socialist goals.
Blanqui derived his inspiration from Babeuf Whereas Blanc followed the path of Saint-Simon who thought that exploitation and inequality could be eliminated through the implementation of reforms.
If we go through the revolutionary activities and principles we shall find lot of truth in the assessment of Kolakowski.
“His classic work L’ Organisation du travail argued that revolution was inevitable, but by this he meant radical social reform and not violent political change. Blanc set out to be a practical reformer and to indicate what steps might be taken on the basis of the existing state of affairs”.
Louis Blanc was a practical man. He did not believe in impractical or impossible plans and proposals. He suggested that the state should take immediate steps to stop unbridled competition among the capitalists. He never suggested the abolition of private enterprise by violent means Competition with socialist ways will ensure their extinction. To give a job to each unemployed person was of urgent necessity. Unemployment, poverty and exploitation had explosive power.
The natural order of the state could be destroyed at any moment if all these three evils were not eradicated with proper method. Crime, inequality, disease, degradation, debauchery all are the after-effects of the above evils. The competition among the manufacturers leads to all these harmful consequences.
The management of state property should be placed under the authority of all people. The state with its accumulated experience and knowledge will help its subjects in the conduct of economic affairs.The ultimate result of revolution is negative. The defeat of the revolutionaries is followed by repressive measures. It (revolution) invites pointless and ruthless slaughter. He has said that all these are not concocted stories.
In can be supported by illustrations drawn from different revolutions. Revolution as a guarantor of socialism is quite unreliable. It is therefore; better to rely upon the proposals of Samt-Simon, Robert Owen and Charles Fourier. Everything will come under the aegis of public property. Industries will be set up on national loan. Remuneration of the workers will be determined by their productivity. Yes, that will lead to a great enhancement of wages. Poverty and inequality will cease to be the characteristic features of society.
“No more competition, no more crises, no more so-called over-population; technical progress, instead of harming workers’ interests would lessen the weight of toil and shorten the working day. Free compulsory education would bring benefits to all. Wage rates would have to be differentiated for some time to come. The administrative hierarchy would be elective, and the units of production would enjoy autonomy. The right to work would be universally recognised as the basic principle of social organisation.”
In the vast field of Utopian socialism Blanc is comparatively a less-known figure, but his ideas are rich in contents. He did not travel in the imaginary world. He is called a Utopian thinker but compared to other Utopians he is less Utopian.
He was a practical socialist thinker. He knew quite well what was possible and what was not possible. Like Fabian Socialists he laid faith on reformism, gradualism and parliamentary practices.
Perhaps because of this Kolakowski rightly maintains that, “Blanc may justly be considered one of the chief precursors of the welfare state. He believed that it was possible, without violence or mass expropriation, to carry out peaceful economic reforms within a system of political and industrial democracy which would eliminate poverty and harmful competition and would gradually lead to social equality and the socialization of the means of production.”
Here lies the real credit of Blanc. He is less-known but his ideas are rich and well- known. In today’s world Louis Blanc is more relevant because we are inclined to welfare principles.
General Evaluation of the Ideas of Utopian Thinkers:
We have so far discussed the ideas of the socialist thinkers preceding Marx and Engels. It is now high time to make a general assessment of the in variegated thoughts. But while doing this we must adopt utmost caution. Because, in the light of modern age, it is very easy to criticize them ruthlessly or we can simply deny their importance. But if we adopt that approach, we shall no doubt inflict injustice on them.
The social, political and religious milieu is to be considered duly. The early socialists were not highly intellectual and talented persons, but they possessed impulses. Their sympathy for downtrodden persons was of high mark. If we extol Marx and Engels for their feelings and activities for the working class-, we must do the same for the early socialists.
Marx and Engels have criticized their predecessors form several standpoints. They have also admitted their contribution. “The Utopians’ mode of thought has for a long time governed the socialist ideas of the nineteenth century, and still governs some of them. Until very recently all French and English socialists did homage to it. The early German Communism, including that of Weitling, was one of the same schools to all this socialism is the expression of absolute truth, reason and justice and has only to be discovered to conquer the entire world by virtue of its own power.
It may frankly be said that Marxian socialism descends from the socialist doctrines held by Marx’s predecessors. Lenin’s frank admission is in the direction to that point. “But early socialism” said Lenin in his Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism “was Utopian socialism”.
It criticised capitalist society, it condemned and damned it, it dreamed of its destruction, it indulged in fancies of a better order and endeavoured to convince the rich of immorality of exploitation.
The idea of socialist thought was first ingrained by the earlier socialists in the mind of the people. They propagated the evils of capitalist system of production. They unequivocally noted that capitalism was the prime cause of corruption, inequality and all other evils.
We can safely say that of all the early socialists or Utopian socialists Saint-Simon was the only socialist thinker who viewed socialism from a scientific and materialist point of view and in this respect he is compared with Marx.
Marx has also highly appreciated him. The defect with Saint-Simon is he did not give us a complete programme and blue-print of a socialist society. Again, there is no denial of the fact that he had heart-full sympathy for the downtrodden section of capitalist society.
He had not the extraordinary genius of Marx but his sympathy for the poor may be compared with anybody’s sympathy.
The Utopian and other socialists were not hopeful of a revolution’s success. Only Babeuf and Blanqui thought of revolution and conspiracy. But even Marx and Engels did not get the opportunity to see the success of revolution.
It was Lenin who translated the hopes and doctrines of Marx and Engels into reality. Our humble submission in this respect is that the socio-politico-economic environment was not ripe for an armed struggle or revolution.
There were contradictions but hose did not reach the apex point when Saint-Simon, Fourier, Owen Blanc or Blanqui or scores of other socialists were writing or agitating. Babeuf and Blanqui had to swallow the dire consequences for revolutionary and conspiratorial activities.
The thought of early or Utopian socialists was circumscribed by historical conditions. They could not deny their influence because it was not possible for them.
Anikin aptly observes “utopian socialism, by virtue of historical condition in which it emerged, could not rid itself of petty bourgeois illusions all attempts to prescribe a certain method of action and behaviour of people of future and to regulate their life in detail are doomed to failure.”
We may not agree with them, but we must say that the early socialists were largely aware of the practical situation. Their dream of the future society was Utopian. But their understanding of society and the practicability or impracticability of anything was realistic. Babeuf s revolution could not get the support of majority.
The foundation of socialism is reason and justice and that was fully acknowledged by the early socialists. The ulcerous aspect of capitalism is exploitation. The raison d’etre of capitalists is to maximize the profit and this deprives the workers of their legitimate share of wealth. The socialist predecessors of Marx thought that it was quite unjust and unreasonable.
Justice and reason demand that everyone must get his due share. Maurice Cornforth in his noted work highly speaks of this attitude. He says, “The Utopians criticized the capitalist order of society as unreasonable and unjust. For them socialism was based on reason and justice. They contributed the first exposure and condemnation of capitalism and the first vision of socialism. But this vision was spun out of the heads of reformers”.
Their vision was correct but their path was wrong. It may reasonably be observed that the methods of early socialists could not ensure the attainment of socialism but their diagnosis of a capitalist society or the causes of the miseries of the large section of society were correct.
Their sympathy for the poor is beyond question. Particularly Owen’s love for the common people impresses us.
Admitting the contribution of early socialists Plamenatz has expressed his views in the following language:
“The early socialists never lost sight of the goal which made the journey worth taking; it was never beyond their horizon. The world since their time has become even more complicated, with even greater concentrations of power than they knew, and so their fears are more than ever our fears. And we still, in the West, share their aspirations. We want the poor to live more abundantly, we want equality of opportunity, and we want security and independence. Though we have abandoned all hope that state will grow weaker and disappear, we seek to make it our servant, rather than our master we are, in some respect, petit bourgeois, we share some of the fears and some of the aspirations of the early socialists”.
The early socialists were not impressed by the principles of ideas of laissez-faire principles. They firmly believed that the non-intervention of the state was no solution to the deep-rooted maladies of capitalism.
Rather, the state has something to do. This was the message of the Utopian socialists. Deliberate intervention with definite motive can make the purpose of the political process fruitful and welfare oriented.
Because of the automatic nature of social and political process of capitalist system the evils have cropped up. In order to free the society from all the evils created by capitalism the automaticity is to be abandoned.
The early socialist strongly argued for that abandonment. Like the anarchists they did agitate for the destruction of state but they moved for the curtailment of its absolute power.
The state can never be our master, it should be our servant. It must work within the ambit of planning. The consciousness, deliberateness and planning have important parts to play. This was emphasized by the early socialists.
The early socialists, writes Plamenatz are not to be reckoned among the most profound or subtle or many sided or lucid of social theorists. Nevertheless, taken collectively, the early socialists are intellectually rich. They are also important.
In the field of social theory it is they who, with Rousseau and Hegel, take us from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century.