Socialist and Communist Literatureby Karl Marx
1. Reactionary Socialism
A. Feudal Socialism
The French and English aristocracies wrote pamphlets against modern capitalist society.
- They fell to capitalism in the:
- French Revolution of July 1830, and
- the English reform agitation[A]
- This ended any hope of serious political struggle
- Only a literary battle remained possible.
In order to arouse sympathy, the aristocracy sided with the people.
- This led to feudal Socialism: half lamentation, half lampoon
- It struck ineffectively against capitalists
This was done by:
- one section of the French Legitimists
- “Young England”
In pointing out that their mode of exploitation was different to that of the capitalists, the feudalists forget that they exploited under circumstances and conditions that were quite different and that are now antiquated.
In showing that, under their rule, the modern proletariat never existed, they forget that the modern capitalists is the necessary offspring of their own form of society.
For the rest, so little do they conceal the reactionary character of their criticism that their chief accusation against the capitalist amounts to this, that under the capitalist régime a class is being developed which is destined to cut up root and branch the old order of society.
What they upbraid the capitalists with is not so much that it creates a proletariat as that it creates a revolutionary proletariat.
In political practice, therefore, they join in all coercive measures against the working class; and in ordinary life, despite their high-falutin phrases, they stoop to pick up the golden apples dropped from the tree of industry, and to barter truth, love, and honour, for traffic in wool, beetroot-sugar, and potato spirits.(2)
As the parson has ever gone hand in hand with the landlord, so has Clerical Socialism with Feudal Socialism.
Nothing is easier than to give Christian asceticism a Socialist tinge. Has not Christianity declaimed against private property, against marriage, against the State? Has it not preached in the place of these, charity and poverty, celibacy and mortification of the flesh, monastic life and Mother Church? Christian Socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat.
B. Sismondi’s Petty-Capitalist Socialism
The medieval burgesses and the small peasant proprietors were the precursors of the modern capitalists.
- In undeveloped countries, these two classes still vegetate side by side with the rising capitalists.
- In developed countries, these led to the Petty-Capitalist, a supplementary part of capitalist society
- These fluctuate between proletariat and capitalists, and are ruined by the real capitalists.
In countries like France, peasants make up far more than half of the population.
- It was natural for pro-proletariat writers to use the flag of the peasant and the petty-capitalist
This led to petty-capitalist Socialism.
- Sismondi was the head of this school in France and in England.
- It dissected with great acuteness the contradictions in the conditions of modern production.
- It laid bare the hypocritical apologies of economists.
- the disastrous effects of machinery and division of labour
- the concentration of capital and land in a few hands
- overproduction and crises
It pointed out:
- the inevitable ruin of the petty capitalist and peasant
- the misery of the proletariat
- the anarchy in production
- the crying inequalities in the distribution of wealth
- the industrial war of extermination between nations
- the dissolution of old moral bonds of the old family relations and the old nationalities.
In aims, however, either to:
- restore the old means of production and exchange, and with them the old property relations and the old society, or
- cramp the modern means of production and exchange within the framework of the old property relations
In either case, it is both reactionary and Utopian.
Its last words are: “corporate guilds for manufacture; patriarchal relations in agriculture”.
Ultimately, when stubborn historical facts were removed of self-deception, this form of Socialism ended in a miserable fit of the blues.