Since time immemorial, the world has always flirted with socialism. However, the system has taken on many forms over the centuries. The first known form of socialism was called utopian, fronted by three iconic utopians: Charles Fourier, Saint Simon and Robert Owen. While these three came up with their own ideals that were properly thought out, this form of socialism was not successful and it was simply unworkable. In fact, socialism as a whole suffered, since people hadno clear guidelines of what was required of them. Karl Marx wasthe most brilliant and best social thinker. Alongside Frederick Engels, Marx was able to come up with a clear, strategic and very workable socialistic system. Marxist socialism has stood the test of time,sinceits principles are simple and very much applicable. This is because it entails only two principles: worker emancipation and freeing up of the democratic space for all humankind. The ideals of Marxist socialism transcend all social barriers, even in Christianity. This simply means that it is not only beneficial to people, but it is alsonot secular.
Socialism is a discipline that has elicited many debatesfor years: it still does today. Socialism was applied in the former USSR and China in the early 20th century, but in both cases, it failed. The former Tanzanian President, Julius Nyerere, tried to apply socialism in his country, but the results were disastrous. It failed on three different occasions. Is socialism that bad for a country? When was socialism first applied in the society? Ok, what is socialism in the first place? Is there any possibility that the three aforementioned countries could not have applied the ideals of socialism properly? What was the role of Karl Marx in advancing socialism? This paper takes a depth look at socialism: what it is, when it gained prominence in the worldand what is Marxism. This paper argues that socialism is good for the societal well-being.
At the core of socialism,there is common ownership: the resources and the wealth of a community are owned by the whole community with everyone being viewed as equal. Under socialism, the world’s resourcesare owned commonly by everyone in the world. However,is such a scenario feasible in the world of today? This is not what socialism is about. This is because there are some resources that should not and cannot be shared, for exampleclothes, and they are solely meant for personal consumption. Socialism respects such situations. However, this does not distort the notion of socialism. Common ownership and socialismpracticallymean that everyone has a chance and the right to give his/her opinion on how the societal resources should be used. This implies that no one will have the sole authority to take control of resources, except forhis/her own personal possessions.
Socialism allows for the freedom of opinion for everyone. This simply means that democracy is controlled by everybody in the community. Therefore, socialism ensures that everyone has the right to take part in making social decisions that affect them, which may range from the production to the consumption of goods and services. This production would be for the sole and direct usage by the community. Since resources are communally owned and democratically controlled, the process of production under this scenario is meant to meet peoples’ needs. Everyone would take freely and equally their products, since they communally participated in the production. Therefore, socialism would bring an end to buying, selling, and money (World Socialism).
From the ideals mentioned above, it is clear that the former USSR, China of the early 20th century and Nyerere’s Tanzania did not apply fully the ideals of socialism. Their form of socialism was flawed, and resulted in its failure. There have been different forms of socialism for years. However, this paper discusses in detail twomain types: utopian socialism (pre-Marx) and the Marxist view of socialism. It also look at Christian take on socialism.
Utopia waswidely usedto refer to “nowheresville”, a hypothetical republic that was described by one of its supporters, Thomas More, which overcame all social conflicts and distress. This kind of socialism highly esteems the belief that to achieve the social ownership of the means of production, the wealthy and the propertied in the society should voluntarily give up their wealth and holdings. In the 19th century, utopian socialism took on various forms and had many advocates with its main advocators being Charles Fourier and Robert Owen. However, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels provided the greatest opposition to this type of socialism. Utopian socialism outlines how people in the society would live if they adhered to the utopian ethics. This description leads to the following: the weak and the oppressed in the society are encouraged to clamor for a better life, its main objective and meaning are clear to everyone in the society and outline how socialism can be applied, being very ethical (Marxist Internet Archive).
The Birth of Utopian Socialism
Utopian socialism is believed to takeits roots in Francebefore the birth of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Long before the birth of utopian socialism, great French men (read revolutionists) of that time prepared the rest of the society for a revolution. These men despised any external authority over humanity of any form, whatsoever be it science, religion, politics or the society in general. Therefore, all these had to justify their existence in the first place and had to be criticized and judged. If theyhad failed to do so, they would be done away with. Everything was to be measured using reason. The human head was the basis of each human action. However, the reality that contradicted these principles was to be overhauled. This meant that the already existing government, traditional notions and the form of the society were deemed irrational. Prejudice was easily a leader of this world. Utopian socialism was to be a new light of this world, which would end all forms of superstitions, injustice, oppression and privileges given to the elite. They would be replaced by truth and equality. Hegel was quick to point out that it was the time, when the world stood on its head (MIA).
Although this new phenomenon was to give equality to all humankind, it was basically a ploy to give the bourgeoisie even more privileges. The truth, equality and rights that were promised to all were specifically directed to the bourgeoisie instead. Alongside the struggle for power between feudal nobles and burghers (these two had the notion that they represented the whole society), there existed antagonisms between the oppressed and their masters, the rich and the poor and more specifically between the exploited and exploiters. However, this did not deter the bourgeoisie to claim that they were the sole representation of the suffering humankind rather than a special class. On the contrary, they had a belief that capitalists would cease existing without wage workers. Such bourgeoisie movements as the German Reformation and the Peasants War were caused by the oppressed (Anabaptists and Thomas Munzer), who did not like this idea. These two worked as precedents for more revolutionary uprisings in the 16th and 17th centuries. These uprisings took on more diverse directions as they did not only struggle for political equality, but also for social equality. All class distinctions wereto be abolished. This led to the first signs of utopian socialism, for which three iconic utopians Saint Simon, Fourier and Owen struggled and gained more prominence in this class struggle (MIA).
Saint Simon was a representative of the middle class. Owen lived in the society where capitalism was the most developed issue. He proposed for the systematic abolishment of social classes based on French materialism. These three utopians had a common weakness: they did not represent the interests of the proletariat of that time. They closely resembled the aforementioned early French philosophers, since they did not provide the way forward for the emancipation of any particular class.They proposed the emancipation of all humanity at once. The promise of eternal justice for all humankind was hollow. Therefore, from its very beginning, utopian socialism was deemed to fail.
Utopian socialismproved to be irrational at times. The use of reason and human head as the basis of judgment almost led to the collapse of the state. The earlier reign of terror left the bourgeoisie absolutely shake, finding solace in the corruption of the Directorate and, subsequently, of the Napoleonic despotism. Instead of a peaceful transition that was promised, there were never-ending conquest battles. The situation turned out to be similar to the erstwhile reign of terror and antagonism of the rich and the poor. General prosperity was never forthcoming, instead, it seemed that a gap had beenwidening between the rich and the poor, since utopians had abolished the Church and its charitable institutions. The promised freedom to own property made small capitalists and proprietors sell their goods under the uneven competition from large capitalists, inevitably to great capitalists and landlords. Industries developed under capitalistic conditions making the working class even poorer. Such social vices as crime increased within years. Feudal vices were not eradicated and began blossoming. Trade became uneven and oppressive to small proprietors. While oppression was earlieran order of the day, it was replaced by corruption in this new world. Gold was the sole social lever, as opposed to the sword. The level of prostitution was at its worst during this period. The institution of marriage was not spared. In fact, it acted as the legalized form of prostitution. Bourgeois manufacturers had the right of the first night. Adultery was glorified in this society: a society that had clearly no direction to go to. At the turn of the 19th century, utopians Saint Simon, Fourier and Robert Owen had come up with the formulations of the ideals of utopian socialism (MIA).
These three are known to be real founders of utopian socialism. The historical situation played a major role in their formulations. This simply means that crude conditions the society lived in causedthem to make crude formulations. There were many wrongs in the society,which brought many challenges to the utopians. They had to come up with a new immaculately perfect social order that would be imposed upon the society. This made them doomed fromthe very beginning, since the finer they were outlined, the more they turned out to be mere fantasies (Marxists). The next section discussesbriefly the roles of Saint Simon, Fourier and Robert Owen in advancing utopian socialism.