Superphysics Superphysics
Chapter 3c

Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism

by Karl Marx Icon
5 minutes  • 907 words
Table of contents

The first direct attempts of the proletariat to attain its own ends was during the overthrow of feudal society. It failed because of the:

  • undeveloped state of the proletariat
  • the absence of the economic conditions for its emancipation
    • Such conditions could only be produced by the impending capitalist epoch.

The revolutionary literature that accompanied these first movements of the proletariat necessarily:

  • was reactionary
  • inculcated universal asceticism and social levelling in its crudest form.

Such were the Socialist and Communist systems of:

  • Saint-Simon
  • Fourier
  • Owen, etc.

They saw the:

  • class antagonisms
  • the action of the decomposing elements in their society which began in the early undeveloped period of the manufacturing system.

But the proletariat back then was still in its infancy because industry was not developed yet to create class antagonism*.

  • It offered to them a class without any historical initiative or any independent political movement.

*Superphysics Note: Class antagonism is really just heightened jealousy between the different classes. This jealousy arises when one class becomes too strong or favored over another. This jealousy is seen in monkeys, fed with little food, upon them seeing other monkeys getting better food. It is not so easily seen in cats or dogs. Class antagonism, as well as ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, are merely signs of leftover monkey-behavior in humans.

They therefore search for a new social science with new social laws, that are to create these conditions.

  • Their personal inventive action eventually triggered such conditions
  • Such basic conditions led to extreme conditions
  • Such conditions led to a proletariat class
  • Such a class led to a society especially contrived by these inventors.

In their invented plans, they care chiefly for the working class, as being the most suffering class.

The undeveloped state of the class struggle causes Socialists of this kind to consider themselves far superior to all class antagonisms.

  • They want to improve the condition of every member of society, even that of the most favoured.

Hence, they habitually appeal to society at large, without the distinction of class, except to the ruling class.

This is why:

  • they reject all political and revolutionary action
  • they wish to attain their ends peacefully.

Because of this, they are doomed to fail. They merely pave the way for the new social Gospel.

But these Socialist and Communist publications contain also a critical element.

They attack every principle of existing society.

Hence, they are full of the most valuable materials for the enlightenment of the working class.

They have practical proposals such as:

  • the abolition of:
    • the distinction between urban and rural
    • the family
  • running industries for the account of private individuals and the wage system
  • the proclamation of social harmony
  • the conversion of the function of the state into a more superintendence of production

All of these aim at the disappearance of class antagonisms which were, back then, only just cropping up and still indistinct.

  • These proposals, therefore, are purely Utopian.

Such utopian systems were revolutionary. But their disciples were just reactionary sects.

  • They hold fast by the original views of their masters, in opposition to the progressive historical development of the proletariat.
  • They try to:
    • kill the class struggle
    • reconcile the class antagonisms.
  • They still dream of their social Utopias

Gradually, they become either:

  • reactionary, or
  • conservative Socialists, depicted above

They differ only by:

  • systematic pedantry
  • their fanatical belief in the miraculous effects of their social science.

They oppose all political action on the part of the working class. This is how the following groups got nowhere:

  • The Owenites in England oppose the Chartists
  • The Fourierists in France oppose the Réformistes.


(1) Not the English Restoration (1660-1689), but the French Restoration (1814-1830). [Note by Engels to the English edition of 1888.]

(2) This applies chiefly to Germany, where the landed aristocracy and squirearchy have large portions of their estates cultivated for their own account by stewards, and are, moreover, extensive beetroot-sugar manufacturers and distillers of potato spirits. The wealthier British aristocracy are, as yet, rather above that; but they, too, know how to make up for declining rents by lending their names to floaters or more or less shady joint-stock companies. [Note by Engels to the English edition of 1888.]

(3) The revolutionary storm of 1848 swept away this whole shabby tendency and cured its protagonists of the desire to dabble in socialism. The chief representative and classical type of this tendency is Mr Karl Gruen. [Note by Engels to the German edition of 1890.]

(4) Phalanstéres were Socialist colonies on the plan of Charles Fourier; Icaria was the name given by Cabet to his Utopia and, later on, to his American Communist colony. [Note by Engels to the English edition of 1888.]

“Home Colonies” were what Owen called his Communist model societies. Phalanstéres was the name of the public palaces planned by Fourier. Icaria was the name given to the Utopian land of fancy, whose Communist institutions Cabet portrayed. [Note by Engels to the German edition of 1890.]

[A] A reference to the movement for a reform of the electoral law which, under the pressure of the working class, was passed by the British House of Commons in 1831 and finally endorsed by the House of Lords in June, 1832. The reform was directed against monopoly rule of the landed and finance aristocracy and opened the way to Parliament for the representatives of the industrial capitalists. Neither workers nor the petty-capitalist were allowed electoral rights, despite assurances they would.

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