Author: Dr Franz Meffert
Translation: Isabel Garahan
Communism A Fact Today
Towards the end of the nineteenth century a so-called "novel" appeared which had an amazing effect at the time. It was written by the American, Bellamy, and bore the title: A.D. 2000 — A Retrospect. The story it tells is decidedly weak and the love episode a complete failure, the writer’s aim being rather to depict economic and social conditions as these might develop by the year 2000. In this the author made the aniére-pensée of demonstrating that the future socialistic-communistic State could be administered successfully. Many allowed themselves to be blinded by his dazzling picture of life in a State in which private property was unknown.
While some reviewers looked upon the work as the idle dalliance of a high-flying American, there were others (and these were right) who pronounced it a storm-signal, in that many readers, uncritical, would accept it without questioning whether things would pan out as simply as is indicated by the writer. In their eagerness for a world of happiness for all in the new millenium, these would be prepared to "philosophize with the axe," i.e. to destroy the existing social order without heed of the consequences.
The latter reviewers were justified in their warning as may be seen from the fact that today thousands of people are completely carried away by the idea of communism, and that a devastating storm of Bolshevism has swept over Eastern Europe.
It is not the first time that the ghost of Communism has "walked" among men. We have only to turn to history to learn what has been the outcome of the communistic plans and aims of an ideal State which have been put forward from time to time. History tells us that Communism has always appeared as a reaction against a preceding or existing state of mammonism in which the gulf separating rich and poor has widened, and the opposition between them become aggravated until a condition of open conflict or war was reached. So it happened in the Middle Ages when wealth poured into the industrial towns and parties came forward with a complete communistic programme. Only the appearance of St. Francis of Assisi and his followers under the flag of Poverty saved Europe from being plunged into a social revolution at that time.
History repeats itself. Following upon the development of the capitalistic-economic system and its abuses, Communism has appeared today once more, the inevitable accompaniment of Mammonism.
I. What is Communism?
Human Society depends on private property. Each individual has a right to possess as his own what he has earned, saved or inherited. Moreover, his property is legally protected by the State. The development of things, not least on the grounds of the difference that exists in human beings, in regard to industry, economy, business capacity and so on, has naturally led to inequality of means — a source of discontent for many. Communism tries to equalize the distribution of means, not only by abolishing private property, but also by apportioning work and the wages of work in equal shares to all (Communism of Consumption and Production!). The communist agitators of today do not concern themselves with whether such an ideal can be realized in the case of either small groups or a large State. Yet they could learn much about this subject from the works of thinkers in the past, such as Sir Thomas More (who died for his Faith and was recently canonized).
In his "Utopia" Sir Thomas has set forth his views of an ideal State. With regard to his opinion it is sufficient to say that the word "Utopia" (= nowhere) has since come to be used in all languages to denote something which cannot be realized. Others, writing on this subject, have described an ideal State as existing in an undiscovered island, or even in the sun, in this way showing that they themselves do not believe that, human nature being what it is, such an ideal State could be realized in this world. They consider the idea "Utopian."
Their reason for this is clear; they recognised that Nature is opposed to the equalizing of property demanded by communistic life; as long as there are two sexes, as long as some people are industrious and others lazy, some economical and others wasteful and so on, it is contrary to sense to demand equality for all. For this would mean the exploitation of the industrious by the lazy, the economical by the spendthrift, the clever by the stupid. There is no doubt that the industrious or skilful man will achieve more in a given time than the lazy or unskillful man. Therefore the work done by the former would go to support the latter. Again, owing to the difference that exists between men, it follows that, were property equalized today, it would be unequal again tomorrow, the difference increasing from day to day.
II. Why is the Abolition of Property Demanded by Communism?
This is not hard to see. The one who looks on private property itself as the cause of inequality and social misery, will see a remedy for this in the removal of private property. In capital he sees the enemy, in private property the weapon whereby the owner can make use of the proletarian in the machinery. This idea becomes a powerful demon which infuriates him when he further sees owners squandering their wealth in pleasures while thousands starve or eke out a bare existence. Therefore he says, "Away with private property, the cause of all evil!"
But the question here arises, might not the wrong condition of things be due rather to the abuse of private property itself? If this is true the radical remedy will not be found in its removal. Rather means must be sought whereby its abuse can be neutralized.
A few examples will suffice to make my meaning clear. Everybody is aware that putrid literature abounds in the world; if printing did not exist, this could not happen. Should printing be abolished for this reason? Similalry, knives and weapons of all kinds can be used for criminal purposes. Should we abolish all implements therefore and revert to the conditions of primitive man who had to live without these? So, too, with regard to fire and poisons.
Clearly the above conclusions are wrong. The error lies in a false generalisation, not seeing that all these things have a good as well as a bad use; nay, that they are indispensable to society and the cultural progress of mankind. For, not only bad books are spread by means of printing, but still greater number of useful and good works whereby knowledge is made accessible to all. Weapons and implements of all kinds, although a means of committing crime, are also the means of effecting much good. So, too, it would be utterly senseless to demand that fire should be extinguished all over the earth because of the terrible catastrophies it causes; for what would become of humanity without light or warmth? That poisons possess a virtue is shown by their use as narcotics and in the preparation of medicines.
Clearly then the above named evils do not proceed from the things themselves as such, but from the wrong use of them. But then, what is there in the world that is not open to abuse? Is all this not equally true of private property? Does it not hold an important, perhaps a necessary place in the cultural progress of humanity? And again, is all the evil which is attributed to private property not really due to its wrong use? Since this is true, surely to abolish it would be not only the greatest folly, but an irreparable injury to human society! The question then is: How can the abuse of wealth or private property be averted? Before dealing with this question we must first consider:
III. What Private Property Means
According to natural philosophy fixed bodies are governed by the law of inertia from which they are made free only by being set in motion. Those who know human nature are aware that the inclination of man is to obey this law also. Most people find it more pleasant to idle than to work. C’é dolce far niente. The Neapolitan beggar lying in the warm sunshine, enjoying the fresh sea breeze and the beautiful surroundings which nature provides, is not troubled about where he shall find his dinner tomorrow. And his example would be followed by many people in other countries if the climate were favourable. Moreover, it is an indisputable fact that easy work is preferred to that which is difficult.
Now what gives man the impetus to resist his inclination to idle and to undertake work, sometimes the hardest and most strenuous kind of work? Undoubtedly it is the prospect of remuneration. Personal interest impels him to think day and night of how he may succeed. This is true in minor matters no less than in great undertakings. A man works for certain wages and he looks upon these wages as belonging to him because he has earned them. Again, the man who sees some great success ahead will work harder, venture more.
Consider the case of a director of some great economic enterprise, who is envied by many perhaps. Personal interest has roused in him the courage to venture without which no great undertaking succeeds. Personal interest urges him to work untiringly at the perfecting of his task.
Personal interest, too, has caused many to sacrifice their night’s rest to think out some scientific discovery, invention or technical improvement of a machine. How much strenuous mental work (which the ordinary man knows nothing about,) is expressed in the numerous patent inventions in every branch of technical art and science! Would this work ever be undertaken or carried out if men were not urged by the prospect of remuneration? So, too, parents are urged to toil, unceasingly, by their love for their children whom they want to protect from the struggles and privations they themselves have had to endure. They work hard in order by their earnings to give their children a good education or to leave them independent.
Now, suppose this incentive to work — full remuneration — were eliminated in the above cases and labourer, contractor, inventor, received only a portion of their wages, the greater part to be distributed to others by the State. What would be the consequences? Part or entire loss of the pleasure in work and in consequence of this, decrease in wages — to the injury of society and civilization.
Thus private property is indispensable because of its importance for cultural progress and for society which is extremely interested in the highest possible increase in wages.
This is true above all in the case of the communistic State which must have the means to support its members. It is contrary to reason to ask that private property be abolished before a compensatory adjustment is, or can be made. Otherwise it would be no better than the case of the man who killed the goose that laid the golden eggs. It is always easier to destroy than to build up again. The question now is, what is being offered in the place of private property in the communistic plan?
The present partisans of communism do not concern themselves with this question. They promise all who care to believe them that the communistic State will contain only ideal people who will have no need of personal interest to spur them on to work, because each member will work for all with the greatest self-sacrifice. Each will be filled with self-denying love for the welfare of all and will toil for the community, looking upon this as no more than his duty!
"I receive the word but the faith is wanting," whether these fine things are promised by a Bebel, a Kaufsky or a communist babbler of today. Not one of these prophets realizes how much is implied by their promise of a future ideal man. (They admit that the communistic State cannot be realised with man as he is today). A different type of man must rise up, one wholly unselfish, who will only consider the good of the communistic society.
But, how are such ideal people to evolve? Quite simply — by abolishing private property! From which it may be deduced that the communistic, ideal man has failed to appear hitherto because of the existence of private property. For, according to a communistic dogma, man is by nature good, but is demoralized by society. Therefore, if the existing social order is altered a new Adam will rise up, no longer the egoist, living for his own interest, but the idealist, the communist who works only for others.
If we could but see some of these super-men! If the spirit of communism possessed such power of transforming human nature, even in the future, surely some of this idealism should be manifested in the communist prophets of today! For these men it is who should proclaim to all the world by noble, unselfish devotion to the common good (expressed in their own tactics), that with the new communistic gospel, men of the new type have indeed come whose front ranks are filled by — themselves.
We are justified in expecting this. But alas, the disillusion is complete. The communists of today whose mentality has been revealed by their tyranny, by enslaving men under the yoke of Russian Bolshevism, are not true communists, but well-seasoned egoists. Far from giving up their own claims in favour of others, they are out for their own enjoyment of the good things of life. They clamour for the wealth of others, not to use it for the common good, but to fill their own pockets. Their standard is not that of the true communist, "What is mine is yours," but rather, "What is yours is mine." The following comment made by a young soldier (an extract from a newspaper article) speaks for itself: "Everyone you meet talks about himself these days. One hears nothing but ‘I,’ ‘I,’ and again, ‘I,’ A communistic State is not built up that way."
Yet there are and have been true communists of the most ideal stamp, men and women, who practise communism according to the principle, "what is mine is yours," who give all they have to those in need and devote their lives to helping the poor. Such was the noble Roman lady, Melania (d. 439), who gave in charity wealth which would be accounted great even according to American reckoning — and lived herself poor among the poor. And she is only one of many such communists, for all those Christian families in the history of Rome acted with similar generosity.
In the thirteenth century the son of the rich merchant Bernardone of Assisi, left his home and wealth to live with and for the poor. And hundreds of thousands have chosen this true communist, St. Francis, as their model and followed in his footsteps.
Again, in the sixteenth century, there lived one, Charles Borromeo, the great friend of the poor and the needy, who worked heroically to relieve their suffering and did not hesitate on one occasion to pawn the insignia of his episcopal office to relieve urgent distress. History tells also of one, Vincent de Paul, around whom were gathered a society of men and women who belonged to the best social circles in Paris, who were not blinded by the brilliant court of Louis XIII and contributed large sums for the relieving of all kinds of distress, who founded orphanages and equipped hospitals.
Such, too, was that heroic band founded by the great Vincent, the Sisters of Charity, the least of whom contributes more towards relieving want in the truest sense than does the whole army of shouting communists of today. Legions of these Sisters of Charity, belonging to the highest nobility who have given up a life of luxury to don the garb of poverty devote their lives to helping the needy and the forsaken ones, visiting the poor from attic to cellar in the slums of the cities.
Let us be just. There are still true communists on the earth. But they flourish only on the soil of religion. They are hated by the self-styled communists whose lives are ruled by ill-concealed egoism.
IV. False Testimony Produced in Favour of Communism
Advocates of a communistic organisation have always tried to prove by historical facts that their communism can be realized. The most obvious way to do this would be to show that it has been carried out in the past and that not merely in the case of small groups, but in large territories. But the information required for this is attended by no small difficulties. For according to historical research private property has been in existence always and everywhere. Therefore, to prove their Statement that communism is possible, they attempt to go back further than History and produce testimony of their own invention, namely:
1. Primitive Communism
They maintain that primitive man lived under communistic administration and that, therefore, communism was the original condition natural to man.
But how can they arrive at the views of primitive man concerning property? These are obtained indirectly by discovering the customs of uncivilized men which are similar to those of primitive man. Whatever they discovered here in any way resembling communism they put down as proof of primitive communism. The quasi social scientists, Bebel, Kaufsky and Engels, ignorant dilletants, made bold incursions into the field of ethnology in search of these proofs which they claim to have found. But according to present-day ethnological research, these men have been entirely mistaken.
Owing to the inadequacy of their weapons (bow and arrow, slings and spears) uncivilized men clubbed together to hunt big game. After a successful expedition the best portion of the booty was awarded to the one whose shot went home! Surely this cannot be termed communism! Even the weapons and tools which they made themselves were looked upon as their own property. Moreover, the work of cultivating the earth and planting fruit trees was carried out on the basis of private ownership.
Those who maintain that communism existed in prehistoric times have still to explain why men altered this arrangement? Surely by recognizing the advantages to be gained by the change! Otherwise the whole thing remains a riddle. Another of their "proofs" is:
2. The Alleged Communism of the Early Christians
This is utterly false, for communism was unknown in the early days of the Church. According to the Acts of the Apostles the wealthy people in Jerusalem shared their riches with the poor; but this was entirely voluntary. We have only to read the passage in which Peter reproved Ananias and Saphira when they pretended to give all they possessed while they secretly withheld a part. Why, Peter asked, did they by fraud keep part of the price, since they could have kept all if they did not want to give!
3. The Fathers of the Church
Communism practised by the Fathers of the Church is often referred to by socialists and communists, although it has never occurred to a "father of the Church" to speak of communism. Not one word or passage can be cited in evidence of their statement — a fact which may be taken as testimony of the contrary.
The ecclesiastical writers from the apostolic era to the time of Gregory the Great (d. 604) were one and all opposed to the pagan idea of property; for this pagan idea did not disappear all at once from the minds and hearts of men — a fact which these interpreters of the fathers of the Church have ignored. For they cling to the erroneous notion that with the baptism of the Emperor Constantine the whole population of the Roman Empire became Christian, and all the pagan views which they held hitherto vanished like smoke leaving no trace! The truth is very different. Under Constantine the Christians were free from persecution by the State. That was all. There remained the difficult task of driving paganism out of men’s hearts.
This was not accomplished all at once, particularly where pagan views were in accordance with human interests as in the case of property, the pagan view being, "I can dispose of my wealth as I choose." For the pagans recognised no moral obligation concerning the use of property, and were strongly opposed to the Christian teaching on this point.
For this reason the ecclesiastical writers took pains to inculcate the Christian view, namely, that wealth carried its social and charitable obligations and should be used as a means to gain eternal salvation. They did not teach that all should give up their wealth as a moral duty, only that it should be used in the right way, in almsgiving and other good works. While they frequently denounced wealth and the owners of wealth on account of the abuses practised, they never once overstepped the border of the basic principle of private property.
The fathers of the Church often spoke in strong terms on this subject; and when conditions were hard owing to failure of the harvest and consequent rise in prices, they spoke more strongly, as one would expect. Then these pastors, for so the Fathers of the Church wished to be considered, warned their flock against avarice and greed, vices which generally accompany wealth. All which exhortations may be summed up in the words of the Saviour: What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul?
Whether a Clement of Alexandria (d. 215) speaks in a special discourse called, "Can the rich man be saved?" or a St. Basil (d. 379) a notable organizer of charitable societies, in a pamphlet, To the Rich — the exhortation recurs always and everywhere, to win the Kingdom of Heaven by the right use of material wealth. One and all take up arms against the foolish squandering and luxury of the rich and their neglect of their needy fellow-men. But in no case they denounce wealth as such, private property as such, but the abuse of these.
St. Gregory of Nazianzen delivered an address (which was published later) on Love of the Poor which won universal admiration at the time, and is looked upon as a model socialistic speech today. Yet this speech contains nothing to show that the speaker was in favour of communism. On the contrary, he could not conceive the realization of this ideal to be possible after the fall of our First Parents. Knowing that Original Sin cannot be undone, he does not cry out for the introduction of communism into the world again, but is content with exhorting the rich to give alms generously.
The sermons and exhortations of the Fathers of the Church were not without effect as is testified by the widespread charity exercised in the early days of the Church which was such as to call forth the admiration of the pagans themselves: "Behold, how they love one another!" But this charitable activity which overlooked no distress, which sought out the sick slave and the worker in the mines, took pity on the foundling and on the aged slave cast out on the street — all was dependent on the voluntary contributions made at the collection during the sacrifice of the holy Mass. This is expressly stated by writers, such as Tertullian (d. 240), who defended Christianity against the attacks of the pagans.
Finally, testimony might be sought among the pagans themselves who were always ready to utter complaints against the Christians. They made the wildest accusations but never a word to the effect that they favoured communism. Yet the pagans kept close watch on the Christians who lived among them everywhere. Had communism existed it would not have escaped their keen eye which was ever on the watch for some cause of complaint or suspicion. The ideal aimed at by the Fathers of the Church might be expressed as, moderate means for all, but never — communism.
Such then is the material brought forward by socialists and communists in favour of communistic administration. But there is something else which is extremely important in deciding the question of the possibility of communism — a factor completely overlooked by the partisans of communism, although it is concerned with events which took place, not in the dim, uncertain past, but comparatively recently and therefore easy of access.
4. Communism in Modern Times
The modern communistic experiments, especially those made in the nineteenth century in America with the express purpose of proving that communism is possible. We can understand the silence observed in regard to this subject when we know that all these experiments failed, except those which were influenced by religion and which therefore provide no testimony for the present-day communism.
In the nineteenth century all who for one reason or another were dissatisfied with life in Europe looked upon the New World as the Land of Freedom. Naturally those who cherished the idea of communism chose America in which to put the idea into practice and thus prove its possibility. Now, it was the theorist who set out to realize the communistic ideal in a colony founded far away from civilization. Now, it was a religious sect who looked upon the communism which they believed to have found in the Acts of the Apostles as the only form of society in keeping with Christianity and therefore believed it their duty to revive this communism. Finally, political refugees who had taken part in the Revolution of 1848 decided to cross the ocean and live according to their political, social ideas in the New World.
Are the experiences which these various "communists" have had in their attempts such as would be a recommendation of communism and invite an attempt on a large scale? If not, then what are the causes of failure? Can they be avoided? Or are they inextricably bound up with the entire system?
The answers to these questions will be found in the history of the experiments.
(a) The first of the communistic theorists in order of time was the well-known social former, Rob Owen, who purchased the colony, Harmony from the Suabian Separatists (Rappists) with the object of putting his theory into practice. In the year 1824 the undertaking consisted of 900 colonists who joined at theinvitation of the founder. A few years later, however, in 1827, these all dispersed. All subsequent attempts of Owen were equally shortlived, all ending in fiasco.
(b) Another theorist was the Frenchman, Cabet, who wrote a novel (1840) called A Journey to Icaria (the forerunner of Bellamy’s Retrospect) which made an enormous impression on the Paris proletariate. In Icaria there is no private property and the work, which is shared by all, is organized by order of the State. The people reside in beautiful, well-equipped houses, each family to itself. Meals are taken in restaurants; large stores supply all that the heart could desire; education is provided for all up to the age of 18. Men work until they are 65, and women until the age of 50, The State determines the kind of work to be done and the working hours — seven in summer and five in winter. The effect of this economic regime is wonderful — everywhere culture and virtue, peace and contentment.
The masses were intoxicated by this glowing account of a futuer State. A revolution broke out in Paris which was put down after much blood shed in June, 1848. Cabot crossed over to America to carry out his idea in a colony which he called "Icaria." The undertaking was promising at the beginning, but an attempt to interfere with private ownership brought catastrophe. Each family had been provided with a little garden which they were permitted to cultivate as they they pleased. This was considered by fanatics to be a departure frompure communism. A split in the colony followed. Cabet was driven out of Icaria and dies soon after in St. Louis. The rest of the settlers went to the State of Iowa to found a new Icaria. But this also collapsed and the last of the colonists dspersed in 1895.
(c) The experiments of the religious sects were more sucessful, but they, too, were shortlived. Among these were Shakers who made celibacy legal because they considered that the man with a family was too much exposed to the temptations of self-interest. The colony was maintained by adoption and flourshed from 1835 to 1860, since when it has been gradually dying out.
The colony of Amana has survived to the present day. It was founded by the Pietist sects of the "Inspirationists" who originated in Hessen and Alsace in the eighteenth century. About the middle of the nineteenth century some 1,800 members crossed to America and settled in the State of Iowa. They gave their settlement the name of "Amana" which they took from canticle 48 in the Testament and interpreted to mean, "Remain faithful." Today the colony contains seven villages, the members numbering in all 1,500. They live by farming, but they also carry on the weaving industry to some extent, through which clothing is supplied to the settlers without much strenuous labour. The people are content with what is supplied by agricultural produce.
The whole undertaking is built up on a religious basis. This is expressed clearly and concisely in the charter of the constitution drawn up after they came to Iowa in 1859: "Constitution of the True Inspirationist Society incorporated under the Name of Amana Society in the County and State of Iowa." In it occur the following:
Article 1. — The basis of our civil constitution also is and shall always be the Lord God and the faith He has imparted to us by His grace and mercy which is founded on
- The Word of God revealed in the Old and New Testament.
- The testimano of Jesus through the spirit of prophecy.
- The spirit of discipline and grace of the Lord.
Therefore the aim of our Association as a religious body is not a material or selfish aim, but the Love of God Who has called us by His grace...
Article II. — In this Bond of common ownership in which God has united us, it is our unanimous will and resolution that the land which we have purchased as also the land which may be purchased in the future is, and shall always be, property held in common together with all the works and the improvements thereon and the labour of each member who with all willingness takes upon him his modest share of toil.
Article III. — Agriculture, cattle-rearing and certaint manufacturs and trades shall, with God's blessing, for the branches of industry carried on by this Society.
From this it is clear that the Communism of these Amana societies cannot be taken as an example of a purely economic communism, but must be considered a findamentally religious communism, which owes its existence (up to the present) to its strong religious impetus.
A third group is that of the Hutterian Brothers in the State of South Dacota, which goes back to the Machrian Brothers and to the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century. It takes its name from a certain Jacob Hutter. When the sects became amalgamated in the nineteenth century, they emigrated to America in 1874 where they now number 1300 members, divided up on twelve farms and living on agriculture and cattle-rearing.
(d) Another religious colony was founded about the middle of the nineteenth century by a group of men from Baden (the Black Forest, Breisgan and Klettgan) under the leadership of Father Ambrose Oschwald. In 1854 they crossed over to America and settled in the State of Wisconsin near Milwaukee. This colony received the name St. Nazianz after St. Gregory of Nazianzen to whom Father Oschwald had a special devotion. This colony was marked by a religious spirit, and work and prayer went hand in hand. In the year 1858 a house was founded for a community of sisters which, together with a church built by Oschwald, still survives. The sisters instructed the girls of the colony and also the daughters of the neighbouring farmers in sewing and domestic work. It was due entirely to the wonderful influence and masterful control of their leader that this colony was kept together through a time of the most terrible hardship and privations.
In a booklet printed in 1867 in Manitowoc (an extract from the Chronicle of St. Nazianz) Oschwald refers to the settlement as "a school of preparation for the cloister." Thus the whole organization was built up on a religious foundation. To this it is due that the colony continued to exist after the death of the leader in 1873. At the beginning of the new century it was taken over by the German Salvatorian Fathers. They built a large seminary which gave a new impetus to the undertaking. No trace of the original communistic enterprise of Oschwald remains.
(e) The International Theosophic Society founded in Point Loma, South California, cannot be looked upon as really. communistic. It is mentioned here only because the Theosophists make enormous propaganda of the biilliant success of their communistic experiment. Actually their communism only exists on paper; for the settlement consists of wealthy people who could retire from business to a life of freedom which exacted no sacrifice through work or strenuous effort.
(f) History further relates that a State administered on communistic lines, known as the Jesuit State of Paraguay, was "the greatest communistic experiment known in the history of the world." It lasted from 1610 to 1768. Nor was its discontinuance due to failure from within, but to deliberate political interference from outside, through brute force. When the Jesuit Missionaries went to South America and saw how the native Indians were crushed and ill treated by the white race, they became the champions of the former in their struggle to preserve their rights. Then in order to protect them more securely against the brutal treatment of the rabble of white men, they established their missionary stations right in the middle of the country. There they set about the education of the natives , the Guarani tribe. Whithin this missionary territory which included 150,000 natives at the period when it was most flourishing, these pioneers of civilization carried out a system of settlement suited to the natural gifts of the natives.
This system proved so succsesful that it made an enormous impression, not only on their contemporaries but on succeeding generations. How did the Jesuit fathers come to build up this State on a communistic foundation? is a question that naturally rises in the reader’s mind. A Protestant historian, Haebler (in Helmolt’s History of the World) supplies the answer:
Personal property was still unknown among most of the uncivilized Indian people, community in all branches of work the rule. It is not surprising therefore that the missionaries were able to carry out similar arrangements by offering the Indian many things which he prized and struggled to attain, often enough without success: abundant and well-ordered food and protection against the attacks of his wild fellowmen as well as his white enemies. The missionaries took the only reasonable course ... that conversion must begin with civilization. Districts were laid out according to a plan which each would contain at least a couple of thousand inhabitants.
Each family received a plot of land for their own use which they could cultivate two days of the week, the remaining four week days being given up to working on the common land. The wages for the latter went to the stores which supplied the different families with the necessaries of life. According to another account,
The native thrives materially under this patriarchal régime. From the large stores of the settlement he receives an abundant supply of all that he needs for his support, of the best quality: beef in large quantities, Paraguay tea through the introduction of which he was broken off the habit of taking intoxicants, salt with which to season his food, clothes and tobacco.
Nor is his work strenuous. Sunday and the numerous feast days are days of complete rest. He has two days of the week for himself when he can work on his own farm; the remaining four are devoted to cultivating the common land. Moreover, the working hours are not long and are seasoned with music and song. After Mass the various contingents march to the fields singing and bearing a flag on which is the picture of a saint. In the evening they return in the same fashion to their homes where the rosary is said. — (Bohmer, The Jesuits)
These cultural stations were destroyed out of blind hatred of the Church by European powers. Instigated by greed for the supposed wealth of the settlement, they were not content until the Jesuits were expelled and their undertaking delivered into the hands of the enemies of the Church, vandals and fanatics. The fact that the natives of Paraguay urgently begged that they should be sent back to them is the best justification of the fathers!
The communists of today do not want to hear anything about this patriarchal form of communism. We can understand this. For here is proof that communism cannot be carried out for a long period unless the people possess a profound religious spirit. Therefore this greatest communistic experiment, the most successful in the history of the world, is conclusive evidence of the necessity of religion as a basis of such an administration.
V. What We May Learn From These Experiments in Communism
The history of these experiments shows that communism, and its administration in a large State is far from practicable. What strikes one most here is:
(a) the comparatively small number of members that have been attracted to such communistic foundations. A few numbered at most 2,000 at the time when they were most flourishing. But the numbers fell rapidly. In most cases the highest number reached was a few hundred.
This is surprising, for we should expect that people would be attracted from all sides, full of enthusiasm for the new cause, particularly on account of the advantages attributed to this much-lauded form of administration. They came, it is true, but they went away again as fast as they came. A sign that they did not find what they hoped to find. Thus the number of members was always low, which again is unmistakable proof that such a communistic organisation can only continue to exist when limited to a small circle of members not extending beyond the limits of an economic co-operative society. This is clear from the arrangement made by the Hutterian Brothers who divided up their members into groups of 100 to 125 persons, each group living on a separate farm; or the plan of the Amana settlers who were divided up among seven small villages.
(b) These communistic organisations are agricultural and self-supporting. The work is done by the members who have to be satisfied with the necessaries of life which are yielded by their agricultural pursuits. The Amana communities owe their existence to the fact that they were peasants, expert agricultural labourers, who are content with what their farm yields. If they desired different commodities, these would either have to be these at their disposal (which is not the case), or they would have to be bartered with agricultural products. This would put an end to the isolation of the colonies. They would be drawn into barter and trading relations with the surrounding countries which in turn would mean additional hours of work for the production of the required commodities, i.e., some members would have to do additional work in order that the requirements of others might be satisfied. This would put an end to equality.
(c) The main prop of such a colonyis the leader. Everything depends on him. It often happens that a man possessing imagination and eloquence exerts a magic influence on those around him when these are not over critical. Such a man will be the idol of the masses until he begins to put into practice what he has promised and fails miserably, unless he has been endowed by Nature with business capacity and talent for organizing. On this rock we have seen Rob Owen and Cabet wrecked. Entirely different is the case of the religious sects in which the leader carries the authority of a prophet, Heaven-sent on this mission. Such a leader will be obeyed implicitly, but only while the older generation lives; for the younger people who have not felt the magic influence of the leader in the same way, will take a different attitude, and this all the more quickly if outside influences have gained an entrance. Hence the aim of the colony to exclude rigidly the outer world.
In such a settlement the causes may continue to thrive to some extent even after the death of the inspired leader, especially if the sectarians themselves possess penetration and fanaticism; for then fresh stimulus will be drawn from the opposition to outside influences.
(d) Most important of all is the fact that those communistic undertakings which have the strongest religious spirit endure longest. The reason of this becomes clear as soon as we consider how in such a community life the individual must always forego his own claims, particularly his own individuality and adapt himself to the community in all matters. This will not come hard to him who in the spirit of religion serves an Ideal he himself has chosen, and from a religious motive undertakes to work for the community. The author of The History of American Socialism, H. Noyes, bears witness to this. Himself the founder and leader of a communistic body of people, he is in a position to give a decisive opinion which in the main is as follows :
Bourrier’s dream that from two to three thousand individuals with different dispositions, assembled in one household, centrally governed, could by a natural gravitation, arrive at a fundamental adjustment of their various inclinations and blend harmoniously in a way that could not be attained in the narrow circle of the family — this has not been confirmed by experience. On the contrary, for, it seems to me, the more extensive such a society is, the more unbearable is the hell created by the members of such a society. And just this has been the experience in all the experiments made hitherto.
Thus he finally comes to the conclusion that such communities could only be kept together by a powerful, religious impetus, i.e. the business of religion must be so to transform human nature that communistic motives take the place of selfish interests. The truth of this statement is testified by an inspired follower of Owen (his disciple Macdonald who died in 1854) in the following painful admission:
I had imagined men to be better than they are. I thought they would willingly act according to the prinicples which appeared to me to be right. But now, after many years of experience, I can only say I have witnessed the most pitiful truth.
In exactly the same vein was the comment made by a Chicago newspaper when the last group of Cabet’s Icarians dispersed:
Unless the Creator by an almighty Fiat transforms the nature of man, remoulding it in accordance with a purely communistic theory, the fate of the Icaria experiment will be repeated as long as grass grows and water runs.
Thus it is clear that the impetus of religion has contributed most to the success of communistic foundations in the past, even as it stands the test in religious communities today. But the communists of today leave religion entirely out of their plans! Ideal enthusiasm for the sacred cause of communism might compensate for the stimulus of religion and help over many difficulties. But even though it might be more than a flickering flame in the case of some, yet in the end the brightest fire will die out. And then comes the question: What incentive to work will men have then? Force alone remains! Yes, force and that the hardest that can be imagined, would have to be the general resource in a communistic experiment when other motives besides that of personal interest (providing for one’s children) are eliminated.
While the Shakers prohibited marriage, the Amana settlers only leave the children with their parents two years, after which the State takes charge of their education. Needless to say, the former arrangement is not, generally speaking, practical; and the latter eliminates a strong incentive to work. There may be mothers whom it costs nothing to give up their children; but these are not the ornaments of their sex. In this way people are reduced to slavery, impelled by sheer force to work.
Another point to be considered in this connection is the difference in men in regard to aptitude, one having taste for this kind of work, another for that. It has always been accounted one of man’s greatest blessings that the individual is free to choose his calling. In the communistic State this is not possible; where all receive an equal amount of work, none will be tempted to choose the more difficult task; therefore work must be commandeered; those who must obey today will soon ask that others take their place, and they be given easier work.
All these experiments show that communism may be carried out in the case of small groups (like a family on a large scale), but is quite impracticable in the case of a large State. This was proved when Russian Bolshevism attempted to organise the economic life of a large nation on a communistic basis. We will look at this question apart from the appalling outrage committed in the setting up of the Soviet Republic which was achieved only after the most terrible slaughter and bloodshed. We will consider only the question: was this communistic organisation followed by the great economic blessings which were promised?
VI. Russian Bolshevism
In 1919 the much-lauded Trotsky (now no longer heard of) made the wild statement: "Let the popes of all the religious denominations say what they will about the paradise of the next world; we say we are going to make a true paradise for man in this world." Now, after a decade of years, surely something of of this paradise should be visible. But on the contrary there is only chaos more resembling a hell, as the following extract from a socialist newspaper (published in April, 1928) testifies:
Behind the facade of the Soviet Industrialisation on which are recorded the achievements of this organisation, social misery of the masses prevails everywhere; enormous over population in the country and increasing unemployment in the towns. Scarcity of supplies, enormous rise in prices and falsification of wares — such is the lot of the masses of consumers today. Decay has entered into all the pores of political economy, paralysing the power of production and obstructing economic progress — a régime which condemns the masses to Asiatic indigence and Asiatic economic backwardness.
According to all reports scarcity of provisions is more and more noticeable. In October, 1928, the following report was published:
For a long time there has been a scarcity of various agricultural products required for food supplies in the provincial towns as well as in the cities; even in Moscow, always better cared for than the other towns, the queues outside the provision stores grow longer every day, waiting for the rationed milk or the grants for the favoured "Katscho" and other foods. The fact that the bread has not yet been rationed is not due to a sufficiency of flour, but to the use of substitutes. Even in Moscow this inferior bread is eaten. So great is the scarcity of food that the Soviet press speaks of a possible decrease in the supply of provisions in general in the towns and demands a very careful rationing and distribution of food among the masses throughout, especially in the case of bread. It is not surprising that a general rise in the price of all necessaries of daily life is clearly indicated here. — (Kolnische Volkszeitung, No. 775, in issue of 24th October, 1928)
A curious Paradise which none will envy the Russian people! Surely, all the world must consider the first step to a paradise on earth is to have enough bread to eat — and good bread at that, in a country which produced an enormous wheat supply!
Again, the most appalling accounts are given of the misery of women and children torn apart in the Soviet Republic. An unrestricted divorce legislation has delivered up the wife to the brutality of the husband who deserts her unhesitatingly when he is attracted to another woman. Small wonder that innumerable children, abandoned by their parents, wander through the country destined to increase the ranks of criminals.
The number of these vagabond children, who are registered as "uncared for," is given as seven to eight million; this alone is sufficient proof of the failure of this communism which has shown itself incapable of making provision for such children. A strange form of "provision" is their lot; from time to time "hunts" are organised, and these wretched creatures are rounded up and confined under lock and key in various parts of the country. These facts have been reported in the Russian State Advertiser by a Russian woman teacher (O. Kaydanova). In this report she severely denounces the former Government methods which still prevail and according to which uncared for children are classed among the morally degenerate, and hence are doomed to remain social outcasts. She further states her views of such methods in the following: "The 'uncared for' children are normal human beings who through unfavourable circumstances, have become beggars, procuring food in whatever way they can." The accounts which the children give of their "experiences" (reported in the Dutch newspaper De Maasbode) are fearful.
Such is the experiment in Communism made in a large State! The result — misery and want instead of the advantages promised. Communism is not, indeed, the dawn of a better future, but a will-o’-the-wisp leading only to the swamp of error. Hence, a fitting inscription above the entrance to such a communistic State would be the lines written over the gate of Hell in Dante’s Inferno :
Through me is the way into the woeful city;
through me is the way into the eternal woe;
through me is the way among the lost people...
Give up all hope, ye who enter here.