Plekhanov 1913

French Utopian Socialism of the Nineteenth Century

Source: From Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 3 (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1976), pp 492-533. Prepared for the Marxist Internet Archive by Paul Flewers.

Soviet Editor’s Note: ‘At the end of June 1911 Plekhanov was asked by Mir Publishers to write an essay on “development of social utopian theories in France and Hegelianism with its variants in Germany.” The essay was to be included in one of the volumes of The History of Western Literature in the Nineteenth Century which was being issued by these publishers. Early in 1912 the essay was ready and sent to the publishers, but they returned it back with a request to shorten it. Plekhanov published his article in Sovremenny Mir, nos 6-7, 1913. For The History of Western Literature in the Nineteenth Century he wrote two new articles: “Utopian Socialism of the Nineteenth Century” and “From Idealism to Materialism.”’

* * *

The various systems and doctrines of nineteenth-century French utopian socialism differ very much from one another on many important questions. [1] Nevertheless, all of them have several basic features in common that distinguish them from international scientific socialism as we know it today. Had they not had these features in common it would have been impossible for me to present here a characterisation of French utopian socialism as a whole; a detailed exposition of its various teachings and systems could not have been undertaken in this article, and in any case, would have been irrelevant.

Before one can ascertain the features common to all shades of French utopian socialism in the period mentioned, it is necessary to recall its historical origin.


In his polemic with Bruno Bauer and his associates, Marx wrote:

There is no need for any great penetration to see from the teaching of materialism on the original goodness and equal intellectual endowment of men, the omnipotence of experience, habit and education, and the influence of environment on man, the great significance of industry, the justification of enjoyment, etc., how necessarily materialism is connected with communism and socialism. [2]

Incidentally, Marx proceeds to confirm this remark with the consideration that if man draws all his knowledge, sensations, etc., from the world of the senses and the experience gained from it, as was taught by the eighteenth-century materialists, then the empirical world must be arranged so that in it man experiences and gets used to what is really human and that he becomes aware of himself as man. That is quite correct. Marx was also quite right in asserting that Fourier, for example, ‘proceeds directly from the teaching of the French materialists’.[3] If any one doubts this, he would be well advised to compare Fourier’s teaching on the passions with what is said about them in the first chapter of the first part of Holbach’s Système social. It would be no less interesting in this respect to compare Fourier with Helvétius. But it is important to remember the following.

Although Fourier[4] proceeds immediately from the teaching of French materialism, at the same time he has a completely negative attitude to the whole of the eighteenth-century French philosophy of Enlightenment. This attitude made itself felt already in his first work, Théorie des quatre mouvements et des destinées sociales, published in Lyons in 1888. [5] We read there:

From the time when the philosophers revealed their impotence in their very first experiment, the French Revolution, all agreed among themselves that their philosophy should be regarded as an error of the human intellect. And the streams of political and moral enlightenment were found to be streams of illusion. And could anything else be found in the works of scholars who, after spending 2500 years in perfecting their theories and uniting all ancient and modern enlightenment, at their first attempt gave birth to no fewer calamities than they had promised blessings, and caused the civilised world to decline to a state of barbarism? Such were the consequences of the first five years during which philosophical theories were put to the test in France. After the catastrophe of 1793, the illusions were dispelled... [6]

In another part of the same work, Fourier recalls with indignation the scholastic quarrels over equality (querelles scolastiques sur l'égalité) which wrecked thrones, altars and the laws of property, and thanks to which, he says, Europe was moving towards barbarism.

Fourier was never at any time a supporter of the old order. On the contrary, it is most probable that, in common with the entire third estate of the time, he did not approve of that order and wished to see an end of it. But the revolutionary struggle of the various classes of French society at that time assumed such a violent character — especially in 1793 — that Fourier along with the majority of his contemporaries took fright. Since he considered that the eighteenth-century philosophy of Enlightenment was responsible for the ‘catastrophe of 1793’, [7] he declared that philosophy to be totally bankrupt. In his opposition to it, he went to the length of working out two rules of procedure for himself: 1) ‘absolute doubt’ (le doute absolu) and 2) ‘absolute digression’ (l'écart absolu). ‘Absolute doubt’ consisted in regarding with scepticism even the most widespread opinions of his time. For example — and this is his own example — all the various philosophical trends were agreed in their attitude of respect for civilisation. But Fourier, in applying here his rule of ‘absolute doubt’, questioned the ‘perfection’ of civilisation. He asked himself:

Can there be anything more imperfect than this civilisation which is attended by so many calamities? Can there be anything more doubtful than its necessity and the inevitability of its future existence? Is it not probable that it represents but a stage in social development? [8]

Having set himself these questions, he soon became convinced that ‘civilisation’, that is to say, those social relations which prevail in the civilised nations, must give way to other forms of community; and he began to ponder over the nature of those future forms.

As far as Fourier’s ‘absolute digression’ is concerned, it consisted of his deciding ‘never to walk the paths laid down by the uncertain sciences’, that is, by the self-same eighteenth-century philosophy. It is interesting to note that, in justification of this rule of procedure, Fourier adduced the circumstance that the ‘uncertain sciences’, in spite of the enormous successes of industry, were unable even to ‘prevent poverty’.

However, the very application of these two rules demonstrated that, in rebelling against eighteenth-century philosophy, Fourier none the less remained very strongly influenced by it. As we know, that philosophy was essentially progressive. One of its most important distinguishing traits was a deep belief in progress, in the perfectibility (perfectibilité) of man and of human society. Fourier habitually sneered at this belief. But it should be noted that in applying the rule of ‘absolute doubt’ to civilisation, strictly speaking, he was casting doubt not on civilisation itself, but only on the inevitability of the existence of certain serious defects in the social structure of the civilised nations. When he finally reached the conclusion that these serious defects could be eliminated, when he had elaborated a plan of the new social system, he himself became an active worker in the cause of perfection, although he did not cease to sneer at the doctrine of the ‘uncertain sciences’ concerning the capacity of man and human society to perfect themselves. No less remarkable is the fact that this ‘absolute digressionist’ from the paths laid down by the ‘uncertain sciences’ immediately encountered the problem of poverty. The man who reproaches eighteenth-century French philosophy for not preventing poverty, himself remains loyal to its spirit, since that philosophy constantly reiterated: salus populi — suprema lex (the welfare of the people is the supreme law).

But if this is true, and if Fourier, while sharply opposing and malevolently sneering at eighteenth-century philosophy, did remain essentially its loyal follower and made its teaching the basis of his own theoretical constructions, it may well be asked: where did his ‘absolute doubt’ and his ‘absolute digression’ lead him to?

First, they led him into many theoretical eccentricities, which for a long time provided a target for the witticisms of socialism’s adversaries. ‘Absolute doubt’ led Fourier to disregard rules of theoretical reflection which no one can disregard with impunity. When he dilates upon ‘disyllabic immortality’ and erects a ‘general ladder of metempsychoses’ (échelle générale des métempsycoses); [9] when he assures us that ‘he who gave us lions will give us anti-lions upon which we may ride at great speed'; [10] when he describes the good qualities of the future anti-whales, anti-sharks, anti-hippopotami, and anti-seals, [11] he is obviously abusing the ‘digression’ which resulted from his revolt against all former philosophers. If he had not rebelled in this way, he would probably not have revealed so much of the self-assurance of the self-taught and would have tried to curb his flights of fantasy.

Secondly, in obeying the rule of ‘absolute digression’, Fourier, in his own words, tried to take up only those problems that eighteenth-century philosophy had not touched upon. Since this philosophy had been greatly occupied with politics and religion, Fourier felt bound in contrast ‘to seek social well-being only in measures that had nothing to do with the administration and the priesthood and extended only to industry and domestic life, and would be compatible with any government, without any need for its interference’. [12] This largely defines the nature of his social system; it is, in fact, devoid of any political aspirations.

But there is still more to it than that. Since Fourier’s revolt against French eighteenth-century philosophy was caused by his conviction that it was responsible for the ‘catastrophe of 1793’, not only did he stress at every convenient opportunity (and, perhaps, at some not so convenient) that his system had no revolutionary aspirations, but he recommended it as the sole reliable means of struggle against such aspirations. In the first volume of his book La fausse industrie, etc, there is an interesting chapter entitled ‘Notice sur les intèrêts du Roi — Moyens d'en finir des conspirations’ ('Notes on the King’s Interests — Means to put an End to Conspiracies’). In it, Fourier points out that since the infernal machine is the conspirators’ new weapon, it is essential ‘to test an invention that will avert conspiracies by creating general well-being and good morals’. [13] Then follows a fairly detailed exposition of his new social system. In the second volume of the same work, published a year later, this thought is repeated in a note: ‘Thème général, appliqué aux attentats régicides’ ('General theme, in its application to attempted regicide’). In it Fourier blames the philosophy of the Enlightenment for these attempts:

In the course of the last forty-eight years [he says], kings have been at war with philosophy, but they only use against it half-measures which strengthen it; they are incapable of creating an effective opposition to it, of exposing its false knowledge by opposing to it an exact science of the industrial mechanism and the destiny of society. [14]

It goes without saying that this exact science is Fourier’s system, recommended to Louis Philippe as the best means against conspiracies.

We shall see shortly that in this respect Fourier was not an exception among socialists of those days. On the contrary, such appeals were very typical of nineteenth-century French utopian socialism. Therefore, it would be useful if we ascertained their general psychological background.


See how Fourier portrays (in the book already mentioned — Théorie des quatre mouvements) — the revolutionary condition of society which, he says, may be got rid of only by putting into effect his plan for social reform:

Yes [he exclaims], the civilised order [15] is becoming more and more shaky; the volcano created by philosophy in 1789 is only in its first eruption; others will follow as soon as a weak rule favours the agitators; the war of the poor against the rich was so successful that the intriguers of all countries dream only of resuming it. It is useless to try to avert it; nature ridicules our enlightenment and our foresight; it will be able to bring forth revolution out of the same measures which we adopt to ensure social tranquillity. [16]

All this is worthy of the greatest attention. Already in 1808, Fourier sees in the Great Revolution an episode of the class struggle: the war of the poor against the rich. As though in regret, he announces that this war was successful. It might be thought from this that he sympathised with the old order; but, as has been said above, that is not the case. He had no sympathy with the old order; he simply rejected the class struggle in general and the revolutionary class struggle in particular. He maintained that France could have escaped the Great Revolution if the discoveries which he made after the ‘catastrophe of 1793’ had been made by some other genius under the old order, and made timely use of as the basis of social reform. But now the discoveries had been made; social upheavals could be forestalled and the war ‘of the poor against the rich’ avoided, if only those interested in the preservation of social tranquillity would understand the advantages of the social system that Fourier had thought out. Therefore, in his appeal to them, he spared no colours in depicting the upheavals that would be the price civilised society would pay for failing to heed his voice.

Such were his ‘tactics’. They were characterised, first, by indifference to politics; second, by a completely negative attitude to the class struggle. There was a very obvious and close connection between these two most important features of his system. The connection consisted in the second begetting the first.

Fourier’s negative attitude to the class struggle was the outcome of the ‘catastrophe of 1793’. And since politics is a weapon of the class struggle, it is natural that with Fourier negation of this struggle was followed by negation of politics.

Do not think that this is simply a special case in the history of utopian socialism. No! There are so many similar cases that we are fully entitled to speak of a general rule. Here is another example, perhaps less vivid, but no less important.

Saint-Simon [17] also regarded the French Revolution as a class struggle: to be exact, the struggle of the non-possessing class against the propertied class, and, like Fourier, he was very unfavourably disposed towards this struggle. In his brochure Lettres d'un habitant de Genève à ses contemporains, published in 1802, that is to say, six years before the appearance of Fourier’s first book, he calls the French Revolution the most terrifying explosion and the greatest of all scourges. [18] He writes at length of ‘frightful atrocities caused by this application of the principle of equality’, [19] and in an appeal to the non-possessing class, says: ‘See what happened in France when your comrades held sway there; they brought forth famine.’ [20] It is plain that the ‘catastrophe of 1793’ made the strongest impression on Saint-Simon too. If Fourier laid the blame for this ‘catastrophe’ at the door of eighteenth-century philosophers, Saint-Simon explained it by the ignorance of the non-possessing class. But this is only an apparent difference, since ‘the application of the principle of equality’ was, in Saint-Simon’s opinion, nothing more than the practical application of the extreme conclusions reached by the philosophers of the Enlightenment. Thus, Saint-Simon’s teaching reveals the same indifference to politics that we have seen in Fourier’s. [21] In a practical sense, Saint-Simonism (of the first style) is no more than a study of the measures required to put an end to revolution (sur les mesures à prendre pour terminer la révolution). The degree to which Saint-Simon was averse to all thought of revolution may be gauged from the following passage taken from his book Du système industriel. To the question, which force will produce the changes he is contemplating in social relationships and who will guide this force, he replies:

These changes will be accomplished by the force of moral feeling, and this force will have as its prime mover the belief that all political principles must be deduced from the general principle given to humanity by God. ['Love one another.’ — GP] This force will be directed by philanthropists who, as they were at the time when Christianity was being formed, will be the immediate agents of the Eternal.

A little further on Saint-Simon writes: ‘The sole means to which the philanthropists will have recourse will be oral and printed preaching.[22]

Like Fourier, Saint-Simon was horrified at the very thought of the class struggle and sometimes liked to intimidate his readers with ‘the propertyless class’, the ‘people’. In his Fourth Letter to Messrs the Industrialists, in demonstrating the undesirable turn which their struggle with ‘Bonaparte’s feudalism’ might take, he writes:

Besides, gentlemen, one cannot contemplate without trepidation that in case of open battle it [that is, Bonaparte’s feudalism — GP] could momentarily attract the people to its side. Although you are the natural and invariable leaders [chefs] of the people and although it acknowledges you as such, experience has shown you that it could be rallied for a time to the banner of the military and the legists. You think rightly that the influence which the agitators could have on the people has now [in comparison with the period of the Great Revolution — GP] diminished considerably... But it has not been altogether destroyed. The dogma of Turkish equality... [23] may still, unless you take precautions, make great ravages... What means have you to fight against the seductions of this dogma, unless you previously offer the people clear and precise notions of their true interests? [24]

This passage shows most convincingly that the propertyless class was not at all the class which Saint-Simon counted upon to realise his practical plans. Saint-Simon’s views, like Fourier’s, were by no means the views of the proletariat.

The followers of these two great founders of French utopian socialism were completely loyal to them in the extremely important respects I have indicated. They repudiated indignantly any idea of making the class struggle going on in society the basis of their social-reforming aspirations. As an example, I shall mention one of Fourier’s most talented followers — Victor Considérant. [25]


In his brochure Débâcle de la politique en France, issued in 1836, that is to say, while Fourier was still alive, Considérant defines politics as ‘the totality of contending opinions and theories relating to the fundamental principles of government or to the various administrative systems that wrangle over portfolios for the sake of the greatest good of the nation’. [26] The last words in this definition have a very noticeable touch of irony about them, and show that, in Considérant’s eyes, politics was of no great value; far from hiding this opinion, he notes with satisfaction that, in comparison with recent times, interest in and respect for politics in general had fallen considerably in France. [27] Why? In consequence of some theoretical errors of politics (erreurs théoriques de la politique). What were these errors? Reply:

Instead of bothering about the means necessary for realising the unity of interests [alliance des intérêts], which would be profitable to all interests, people [of the various political parties — GP] are taken up exclusively with supporting and strengthening their struggle, which is profitable only to those who traffic in that struggle [qui trafiquent de cette lutte]. [28]

Politics is a weapon of the class struggle; like his teacher Fourier, Considérant does not want the class struggle. Consequently — again like Fourier — he turns his back on politics. This could not be more logical. In another part of the same brochure, Considérant puts forward as a truth that admits of no denial the following proposition:

All of us are interested in everyone without exception being happy; and for each class the best means of ensuring its material interests is to link with its own interests the interests of the other classes. [29]

Considérant is as completely disapproving as Fourier in regard to eighteenth-century French philosophy. He calls it subversive, and says that when the fundamental idea of this philosophy, that is to say, the idea of overthrowing feudalism and the Catholic religion, began to be realised, great social upheavals occurred. He gives us to understand that at the end of the eighteenth century, in his opinion, the means were available to improve the social order without resorting to revolutionary struggle. [30] As far as his own epoch is concerned, he has not the slightest doubt about the possibility of a peaceful transformation of society. This possibility is fully assured by Fourier’s discoveries, which offer the most reliable means of reconciling the interests of all social classes. The revolutionaries who take so readily to acts of violence do not wish to understand this. [31] Hence his very severe condemnation of the revolutionaries. True, he gives no quarter either to the authorities, who, he says, compromise their own cause by their clumsiness. [32] But for all that, he is convinced that ‘at the present time, the party that is interested in the preservation of order, is less anti-social [moins anti-social] than the party that is striving to overthrow it’. Why?

Since it is evident from the contemporary condition of society [he replies] that now it is necessary not to fight, but to improve and organise, the party whose very position provides it with a love for order is less unfavourable [moins défavorable] to the action which must be taken now than the party that still wants to expel, smash, overthrow. [33]

Here in Russia, the late Leo Tolstoy reasoned in exactly the same way: he too, out of the selfsame considerations, was more sympathetic to the authorities than to the revolutionaries.

All this is, I trust, sufficiently characteristic. But Considérant’s views are even more vividly expressed in this passage: ‘Any uprising of one element against another is unlawful; only concord, harmony, free and full development, Order, are lawful.’ [34]

These words illustrate the whole tactics of utopian socialism. [35] I am not saying that the tactics never changed. That would have been completely unnatural in the feverish public life of France in those days. But in spite of modifications, the tactics of utopian socialism in general retained this character to the very end. No matter how numerous were the individual features distinguishing one school of utopian socialism from another, all of these schools — again with some few exceptions which I shall deal with later — were indifferent to politics, and all of them, again apart from a few exceptions, were against the class struggle.

Take the Saint-Simonists. In expounding their doctrine, they refer to the class struggle which has been taking place in history and to the exploitation of ‘man by man’. They say that in modern society the workers (les travailleurs) are exploited by the idle (les oisifs). Already in their first publication, Le Producteur, appearing in 1825-26, they state that it is already now ‘impossible to imagine that the interests of the idle are the same as those of the workers’. [36] The aim of social development, they say, is the elimination of class antagonisms and the triumph of ‘association’. But when the question is raised of how to bring about the triumph of ‘association’, they point to the reconciliation of classes. This can all be read in the interesting collection of their lectures: Doctrine saint-simonienne. Exposition (see the first volume especially). [37] But these views are presented with particular clarity in the Report on the Work of the Saint-Simonist Family, submitted by Stéphane Flachat to the ‘fathers’ [38] Bazard and Enfantin.

Stéphane Flachat not only recognises the division of contemporary society into two classes, but expresses himself much more precisely than most of those who shared his views. Whereas to the enormous majority of Saint-Simonists contemporary society is divided into a class of ‘idle’ and a class of ‘workers’, Flachat speaks of the opposition between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, naively supposing at the same time, however, that behind the difference in terms there is no difference in social relationships. He notes that after the 1830 revolution the bourgeoisie did not see any necessity of giving serious thought to the interests of the proletariat. And for all his readiness to excuse this error of the bourgeoisie, he does, nevertheless, think it is high time the error was corrected, since otherwise society is threatened with ‘upheavals more prolonged and more profound than those that marked the struggle of the bourgeoisie and feudalism’. [39] It is obvious from this that recollections of the class struggle in the period of the Great Revolution are very fresh in the memory of the socialist rapporteur. They compel him to strive for the reconciliation of classes. He quotes Saint-Simon as saying that the English proletarians are ready at the first favourable opportunity to launch a war of the poor against the rich, [40] and then goes on to say:

It is in these grave circumstances that we appear on the scene. We say to the bourgeoisie: we are the voice of the people demanding for them their just share in the association, an energetic voice because the demand is just, but peaceful because, being heralds of the future, we know from our teacher that violence is retrograde and that its reign is over. To the people we have said, we repeat every day: we are the voice of the bourgeoisie. All you who suffer, demand universal association and you will receive it, because it is God’s will. But it will be granted to you only if you demand it peacefully and gradually. For if you try to snatch by force the instruments of labour from the hands of those who now possess them, remember that the strong men who will be directing your fury would not find the mansions and palaces, whose owners they had evicted, too big or too sumptuous for themselves, and you would only have changed masters. [41]

This warning about the ‘strong men’ may astonish the present-day reader. But, there was nothing strange in it for the rapporteur. Flachat believed that the proletariat was incapable ‘in consequence of its ignorance of clearly formulating its needs and its hopes’. [42] Such a social class was really very easy to lead by the nose. The whole question was whether abstinence from politics would promote the intellectual development of such a class.

The extent to which this mood of conciliation was rooted in the spirit of that time, or, more correctly, in the minds of those people of that time who were interested in social questions, is shown, incidentally, by the following fact.

When Pierre Leroux [43] — who is known to have excited great interest in Russia, in the circle of Belinsky and Herzen, and, out of caution, was referred to by them as Pyotr Ryzhy — joined the Saint-Simonists, he mentioned the peaceful character of their ‘doctrine’ as the aspect which had had the greatest influence in converting him. [44]

Louis Blanc [45] was another who was utterly opposed to the class struggle. His famous work, Organisation du travail, begins in this way: ‘It is to you, the rich, that this book is addressed, since it is a question of the poor. For their cause is your cause.’ Further on, there is another, somewhat modified, version of this appeal:

This appeal is, I repeat, dedicated to you, the rich... Yes, it is your cause, this sacred cause of the poor. Their emancipation alone will be appropriate to reveal to you the treasures you have not yet known of serene joys. [46]

Even Proudhon, [47] whom many even yet, for some reason, regard as a great revolutionary, in reality rejected the posing of the social question in a revolutionary way. In a letter to Marx dated 17 March 1846, he says:

We must not lay down revolutionary action as a means of social reform, because this pretended means would be simply an appeal to force, to arbitrary rule, in short, a contradiction. Therefore I set the problem to myself as follows: by means of an economic combination to return to society the wealth taken from it by another economic combination (interest on capital, land rent, house rent, usury). In other words, to turn in political economy the theory of property against property, in order to ensure freedom and equality. [48]

This desire to solve the social problem by means of an economic combination spells the negation of politics we now know so well. This negation has always played the decisive part in Proudhon’s views. It led him into anarchism, and passed from him to MA Bakunin, Elisée Reclus, PA Kropotkin, J Grave and other theoreticians of anarchism, as well as to the present-day French and Italian ‘revolutionary syndicalists’.

In 1848 Proudhon, with the magnificent turn of phrase characteristic of him, proclaimed that the Provisional Government preferred the tricolour to the red flag. [49] ‘Poor red flag, everyone is abandoning you! But I kiss you, I press you to my breast... The red flag is the federal banner of the human race.’ [50] But this ardent devotion to the red flag did not in the least prevent him from preaching the union of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Thus, when his candidature was proposed at Besançon, he wrote in his election address: ‘Workers, offer your hand to your employers, and you, employers, do not reject the advances of those who were your workers.’ [51] In his paper La Voix du Peuple [52] (issue of 20 March 1850) he wrote:

The union of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat means, today as of old, the emancipation of the serf, a defensive and offensive alliance of the industrialists and the workers against the capitalist and the nobleman, the solidarity of interests of the proletarian and the master. [53]

The contrasting of the master to the capitalist shows that by bourgeoisie Proudhon understood, strictly speaking, the petty bourgeoisie: he invited the master to unite with the journeyman (le compagnon). This is worth noting as material for characterising the views of the utopian socialists on economic relations in the society of their day. I shall have to analyse these views in more detail later. Meantime, I shall add just one point: Proudhon’s book Idée générale de la révolution au dix-neuvième siècle, which was published in 1851 and left deep traces in the views of the socialists in the Latin countries and Russia for a very long time, was dedicated to the bourgeoisie. The dedication comprised a whole song of praise to that class:

To you, the bourgeois, the homage of these new essays [said Proudhon], you have in all ages been the most intrepid, the most skilful revolutionaries... You and you alone — yes, you elaborated the principles, laid the foundation of Revolution in the nineteenth century. Nothing undertaken without you or against you could survive. Nothing undertaken by you was in vain. Nothing prepared by you will fail... Is it possible that, having accomplished so many revolutions, you have in the end become irrecoverably, in spite of interest, in spite of reason, in spite of honour, counter- revolutionaries? [And so forth]

Later, Proudhon speaks of the 1793 revolution, during which the garrulous tribunes of the people could, as he put it, do absolutely nothing, and of the 1848 revolution, which was unable to solve the social question; and winds up by once more calling on the bourgeoisie to be reconciled with the proletariat: ‘I say to you: reconciliation is revolution.’ It might be thought from this that in 1851 Proudhon had become a revolutionary; but the content of his book refutes that idea. In the most detailed fashion, he sets out a plan for a quite peaceful ‘social liquidation’ which he presents as social revolution only because, in general, he badly misuses terminology.

The utopian socialists’ characteristic aversion to revolutionary action was classically expressed by Etienne Cabet: ‘If I had the revolution in my grasp, I would not open my hand even if I had to die in exile for it.[54]


Thus, the utopian socialists admit the existence of the class struggle in contemporary society. But they do not adapt their plans of reform to this struggle, and resolutely refuse to take advantage of it to further their aims. They hope to put their plans into effect through reconciling the classes. Accordingly, they reject revolutionary action and turn their back on politics. [55]

When the July revolution broke out, the Saint-Simonists decided to take no part in it. Their ‘fathers’, Bazard and Enfantin, wrote in a special message to the Saint-Simonists in the provinces:

Those who are triumphant today will doubtless be indignant at what they will call our coldness and indifference; we are prepared to put up with their insults and their violence — Dear children, a happier fate is in store for us.

This happier fate consisted in working for ‘the realisation of the kingdom of God on earth’ ('la réalisation du Régne de Dieu sur la terre’), as the authors of the message expressed it.

But to turn one’s back on politics does not mean to remove from the historical arena the political forces acting in it. Even while eschewing politics, the utopian socialists had to admit the presence of those political forces. Thus they conceived the wish somehow to utilise them for their own ends. But how? There was only one way open to them: to convince some influential representative of a particular political force that the interests of his own cause, properly understood, demanded the speediest realisation of the particular plan for social reform. But how to do the convincing? This depended on whom precisely the reformer appealed to and in which particular circumstances the appeal was made. When Saint-Simon wished to draw the attention of Napoleon I to his writings, he gave one of them a title which held the promise of showing how victory over England might be achieved — ‘Moyens de faire reconnaître aux anglais l'indépendance des pavillons’ — although the actual work itself was devoted to a quite different subject. When Fourier took it into his head to draw Louis Philippe, who was being harassed by conspirators, over to his side, he began repeating that the establishment of phalansteries was the best way of combating the revolutionaries. When the police of the July monarchy arrested the Duchess of Berry for attempting a restoration in favour of her son, the Duke of Bordeaux, and when the rumour spread throughout society that she was to be executed, ‘Father’ Enfantin immediately wrote an open ‘Letter to The Queen’, in which, protesting against the death penalty, he proclaimed (in bold type) the future emancipation of women — ‘la femme s'affranchira!’. Informing his ‘children’ of this letter, he expressed the hope that it would promote ‘the introduction of women into politics’. [56] Having departed subsequently for Algiers, Enfantin tried through one of his correspondents to establish contact with the Duke of Orleans. This attempt led to the tragi-comic consequence that the Duke graciously offered the ‘Supreme Father’ of the Saint-Simonists the post of sub-prefect. Unfortunately, this did not sober Enfantin. He did not cease to build far-reaching schemes for preaching to crowned heads ('apostolat princier’). These plans led him to commit some very crude errors, true, much more of a theoretical than a practical nature. Heine is known to have been interested in and sympathetic to the Saint-Simonists. The first edition of his book De l'Allemagne was dedicated to ‘Father’ Enfantin, who in reply printed a letter under the heading ‘To Heinrich Heine’ ('A Henri Heine’) in which he developed some, to say the least, astonishing political views.

In speaking of Germany, Enfantin revealed a tremendous sympathy for Austria (the Austria of Metternich!). In his opinion, Austria represented order, hierarchy, sense of duty and especially of peace:

Recognising that the dogma of freedom and equality is neither full enough nor perfect enough to guide the peoples, let us bless Austria for resisting the invasion of these purely revolutionary ideas and repelling them even in the person of a Joseph II; let us bless the sublime patience of that nation, incessantly subjected to the sabre thrusts of the revolution as personified by Napoleon... Let us bless Austria for providing a noble refuge to the last representatives of feudal law, our old Bourbons, since God has not yet said his last word on the form of the transition by means of which mankind abolishes the old law and ushers in the new. Finally, let us bless her for extending across the Alps a heavy hand which holds down the Italian peoples and prevents them from stabbing one another. Surrounded by nations in which there is a ferment of freedom, Austria constantly reiterates in her calm and authoritative voice: Children, you have no love for order, you have not matured for freedom.

Further on, Enfantin confesses that war against the Holy Alliance [57] and against the ‘obscurantism of the Cabinets’ seems to him to be a pretty shabby affair, ‘at least for men of a strong character’. [58]

Heine silently reacted to this letter by removing the dedication to Enfantin from the later editions of his book On Germany. This, of course, was in itself his most expressive criticism. [59]

It is unlikely that Enfantin had any predilection for legitimism. He simply wanted with diplomatic finesse to conduct his apostolic mission among persons in high places who, by their very position, were disposed to defend ‘order’.

When Louis Bonaparte, who could never have been accused of legitimism, carried out his coup d'état in France, Enfantin started to flirt with this lucky adventurer, and even worked out a whole programme of action for him. True, it was not a particularly definite programme. Enfantin wanted Louis Bonaparte to serve the cause of good socialism (bon socialisme). This service was to consist in renouncing militarism and energetically promoting France’s industrial development. [60]

The reader will perhaps have detected an ironical note running through my exposition. Needless to say, we can scarcely look back now on Enfantin’s apostolic mission among persons in high places without a smile. But it would be wrong to see this error as Enfantin’s alone. This sort of mistake was the persistent and logical outcome of the negative attitude taken by the utopian socialists to politics which I pointed out above. The rejection of politics led logically to political intrigues (just as it invariably does with those who commit the same error today). Of course, some representatives of utopian socialism committed in their intrigues more crude errors than others. But this is a detail. The essential thing is that, once having renounced politics and taken to intriguing, even the most outstanding people could not avoid blundering in a manner that seems to us nowadays to be quite improbable.

Here is convincing evidence of this. The ‘man-terror’ (l'homme-terreur) Proudhon, generally speaking, was very unlike the ‘Supreme Father’ Enfantin. In many respects, he was Enfantin’s exact opposite. But even he did not avoid making blunders exactly like those astonishing ones committed by Enfantin.

Proudhon is known to have been the father of French anarchism. [61] As an anarchist, he regarded politics with the greatest contempt. And yet his contempt for politics did not keep him out of political intrigues. On the contrary, it drove him into them. In one of his letters he remarks that he who engages in politics must ‘wash his hands in dung’. [62] This washing of hands in dung is precisely political intrigue. How fervently he indulged in it at times may be seen from his book La révolution sociale, démontrée par le coup d'état du 2 décembre, in which he does his utmost to convince the reader and above all, of course, Louis Bonaparte himself that the historical meaning of 2 December was ‘democratic and social revolution’. [63]

When political intriguing reaches such a pitch of intensity it is more than the logical outcome of a denial of politics. It is also perhaps the best indication of the inconsistency and confusion of the social views of the utopian socialists who engage in it.


I make haste to remind the reader that in nineteenth-century French utopian socialism there was a trend — one of the varieties of communism — which did not spurn the class struggle and did not at all reject politics, though regarding it in a very narrow sense. As I said above, this trend was the exception to the general rule. But to grasp well the meaning of this exception, we must first of all scrutinise the rule itself from all aspects.

Although they rejected the class struggle, the utopian socialists at the same time understood its historical significance. This may seem paradoxical, but it is true none the less. The reader already knows that in the eyes of Saint-Simon, Fourier and their followers, the Great French Revolution was ‘a war of the poor against the rich’. Indeed, Saint-Simon expressed this noteworthy view of the French Revolution as early as 1802, subsequently developing it in some detail. He said that the basic law in every country is that which governs property (gouverne la propriété) and the institutions protecting it. The aim of the social alliance is production. Consequently, people who are leaders of production have always headed this alliance and always will. Until the fifteenth century the most important branch of social production was agriculture. The leaders of agriculture were the nobility. The civil power was therefore concentrated in their hands. [64] Little by little, however, a new social force emerged — the third estate. In need of support, this estate concluded an alliance with the monarchy and through this alliance determined all the subsequent development of society. In saying this, Saint-Simon had in mind France in particular, and greatly deplored the fact that in the person of Louis XIV the monarchy betrayed the third estate and went over to the side of the aristocracy. The Bourbons paid very dearly for this mistake, which however did not halt the progress of the third estate. The struggle of the new industrial order against the obsolete feudal system gave rise to the French Revolution and determines the most important social events in our days.

Saint-Simon’s views on philosophy and history passed from him to Augustin Thierry. Saint-Simon even thought that Guizot, too, made them the basis of his historical researches. It is possible that the great French historian arrived at these views independently of Saint-Simon; such historical views were then fairly widespread. There is no doubt about one thing: Guizot, Thierry, Mignet and all French historians of that trend held precisely those historical views which were originally preached systematically by Saint-Simon. In studying those views, we are involuntarily and frequently reminded of the theory which later came into existence and became known as historical materialism. Those views were without doubt valuable material for the elaboration of this theory. But for some time they got on very well with the most extreme forms of historical idealism. Later, I will explain this apparently strange circumstance. For my present purpose it will suffice to note that, following Saint-Simon and Fourier, the overwhelming majority of the French utopian socialists saw (true, regretfully, but still saw) in the history of Europe a long process of class struggle which at times became extremely acute.

The utopian socialists saw the same class struggle in the society in which they lived; and indeed they never ceased to talk of it. They bemoaned the existence of this struggle and worked to bring the warring classes together. [65] In their practical part, their various systems were nothing more than an aggregate of measures intended to put an end to the class war and establish social peace. But the very fact that they did bemoan the class war and strive for social peace is evidence that they fully recognised the existence of that war. So the question naturally arises: which classes were, in the opinion of the French utopian socialists, the chief contestants in the war going on in modern society? The answer to this question is extremely important for the history of socialist ideas.

Saint-Simon held the view, as has been already indicated, that the most important events of the internal life of the society of his time were determined by the struggle of the new industrial order with the old feudal system — in short, of the industrialists with the feudalists. To Saint-Simon, this struggle was the most important class struggle of his time. He said:

In the course of fifteen centuries, the feudal system gradually disorganised and the industrial system gradually organised. Tactful behaviour on the part of the main representatives of industry will suffice to establish the industrial system once and for all, and to clear society of the ruins of the feudal structure in which our ancestors at one time lived. [66]

But who were those main representatives of industry? Not the proletarians, of course. They were, first, the bankers and, secondly, the big industrialists. Saint-Simon regarded them as the natural representatives and leaders of the entire class of workers. We have seen already how he sometimes intimidated them with what the workers might do. But he did this only to remind them of their duties as the natural leaders of the working class. It is also known that, at least towards the end of his life, Saint-Simon put as the first of these duties concern for the poorest part of the working class. ‘All social institutions’, he said then, ‘must aim at the moral, intellectual, and physical improvement [amélioration] of the most numerous and poorest class.’ This was the dominant idea of his last work Le nouveau christianisme. But ‘the most numerous and poorest class’ had to be under the guardianship of the representatives of industry placed over it; the leading role in social life, Saint-Simon argued, had to belong to just those higher-placed representatives of industry — the bankers and industrialists.

In so far as he held this opinion, Saint-Simon was the immediate continuer of the cause of the advanced eighteenth-century people, who saw the victory of the third estate over the temporal and spiritual aristocracy as their principal social task. The reader has, of course, heard of the famous words uttered by Sieyes: ‘What is the third estate? Nothing. What must it become? Everything.’ Saint-Simon was a son of the eighteenth century. True, during the second half of his life the third estate ceased to be ‘nothing’ and became very much. But it was not yet ‘everything’ (I remind you that Saint-Simon died in 1825, in the period of the Restoration), and he tried to make it ‘everything’ as quickly as possible. That is why, while persisting in inviting the rich to display concern for the lot of the poor, he did not analyse the relationships within the third estate itself, that is, the relations between the employers on the one hand and the wage-workers on the other. His attention was wholly taken up with the mutual relations established after the Revolution between the representatives of the old order and the ‘industrialists’. He gave a striking and fairly thorough analysis of these relationships in his celebrated Parabola. [67]

His pupils said more than once that, while sharing Saint-Simon’s views, they were simultaneously developing them further. It has to be admitted that in many respects they considerably surpassed their teacher. For instance, they were a great deal more interested in economic questions than he had been. They tried to define the meaning of the expressions: ‘idle class’ and ‘working class’ from the point of view of economics. Among the ‘idle class’ they included the landowners living on land rent, and the capitalists whose incomes were made up of interest paid on their capital. Enfantin had a lot to say about these categories of persons in his articles on economics published in Le Producteur. It is worth noting, though, that he identified the profits of the industrialists with wages. He says outright, in objecting to Ricardo’s theory of rent (with extremely little success, I should add): ‘We understand the term “wages” to cover the employer’s profits, since we regard his profits as payment for his labour.’ [68] Such a conception of the relations between the employers and his wage-workers precluded altogether any thought of antagonism between the interests of industrial capital and wage labour. The reader may not have forgotten that many years later Proudhon’s ideas suffered from a similar unclarity. Earlier in this article I quoted an extract from an article of his that appeared in 1850, inviting the bourgeoisie to join with the proletariat in the struggle against ‘the noble man and the capitalist’. [69] Invitations of this kind could have come only from the pen of a man who understood capitalists to mean only those who received interest on capital.

In examining the question of interest on capital, Enfantin dwells on the fact that in industrially developed countries, the rate of interest is considerably lower than in the backward countries. He concludes from this that the income of all the ‘idle class’ in general, by the very development of industry, tends constantly to diminish:

We think... [he says] that the business of the idle man, the inactive owner of property, grows worse and worse and that, like capital, the land is rented out on conditions more and more favourable to those who take the trouble to work it. [70]

This, you can see, is quite an optimistic view of the state of affairs in civilised society. To this should be added that, in Enfantin’s opinion, there was a constant increase not only of the share in the national income taken by the owners together with the wage-workers: he thought that the workers’ share, too, was constantly increasing. It is clear that if the total share of the national income received by the employers together with the workers constitutes a given sum, the part which goes to the workers proper can be increased only at the expense of the share that goes into the pockets of the employers. This shows that Enfantin had no grounds for considering that the interests of the wage-worker were at one with the interests of the employer. But he does not dwell on this side of the question at all. He is content with the remark that now the workers are better fed and clothed than they were before. [71] It did not occur to him that the improvement of the living conditions of the working class could go hand in hand with a diminution of their share in the national income, that is to say, with an increase in their exploitation by the employers, that is, with their relative impoverishment.

In general, it should be noted that Enfantin’s knowledge of economics was very superficial, though he was the chief theoretician in this field in the pages of Le Producteur. Ricardo, with whom he disputed much, was evidently known to him only at second hand, and JB Say appeared to him to be a great economist. There is nothing surprising in this. The main question for Enfantin as for all utopian socialists was not what is, but what should be. It was natural, therefore, that he scrutinised with care what is only until such times as his views on what should be were clearly formed. But, again, as with all other utopian socialists, even this conception was determined primarily by moral considerations. Consequently, Enfantin lectures the bourgeois economists on morality more often than he criticises their theories. [72]

Le Producteur was being published at a time when the views of the Saint-Simonists were still far from completely formed. It may be assumed that subsequently the economic theories of this school became more profound in content. In fact, that is not the case. The lectures delivered by Isaac Pereire in 1831 reveal the same unclarity concerning the relation between industrial capital and wage labour and the same quite untenable argument that ‘the dues paid by labour to idleness’ are constantly decreasing. ‘As these dues decrease, not only will the workers’ happiness increase, but production will be able to become much more regular.’ [73]

Taking into consideration the unclear views of the Saint-Simonists on the economy of society in their day, it must be admitted that their theory, to say nothing of their peaceful mood, provided them with no grounds whatever for working out plans of practical activity based on the existence of antagonistic interests of wage labour and business capital. On the contrary, it was bound to impel them to preach social peace. True, they recognised that the interests of the working class and the class of idle owners were antagonistic. To eliminate this antagonism, they proposed the abolition of inheritance, which they said would result in the transfer of the means of production to social ownership. In this respect they did really go a long way further than their teacher, who had given no thought to changing the form of property. But if, as Enfantin asserted, the business of the idle owner was worsening all the time, in other words, if the position of this class was becoming more and more difficult through the reduction of interest rates, the very course of events would ensure the possibility of a peaceful realisation of the most important of the reforms proposed by the Saint-Simonists — the abolition of inheritance. In this respect too, therefore, the Saint-Simonists could preserve their cherished belief in the peaceful course of social development.

The reader can easily realise that, in advancing the abolition of inheritance, the Saint-Simonists frightened the life out of the philistines of their day. The philistines looked on the Saint-Simonists as communists, and even do so to some extent today. (Only recently, one historian of Russian social thought referred to them as such.) However, there was and is no reason to consider them as communists, a fact which they themselves constantly pointed out in their publications.

According to the teaching of the Saint-Simonists, the means of production which became the property of society would be placed at the disposal of those producers who were most capable of operating them successfully. But there was never any thought in their minds of restoring small-scale industry; they were ardent supporters of large-scale industrial enterprises. How was the income from these enterprises to be distributed? The Saint-Simonists said: to each according to his ability, to each ability according to its works (à chacun selon sa capacité, à chaque capacité selon ses oeuvres). How to determine works? We know that Enfantin believed that the industrialist’s profit constituted his wages. It is but a simple step from this to the belief that if a particular owner receives an incomparably higher ‘wage’ than his worker, this is a result of the difference in the amount of his work. It is not surprising, therefore, that many socialists of other schools, — for instance, in France the communists, Louis Blanc and others, in Russia NG Chernyshevsky — decisively rejected the Saint-Simonist principle of to each according to ability and works. Arguments of this kind may seem quite pointless: what sense is there in disputing how to divide the bear’s skin before the animal is killed? And it is easy to observe that the critical methods of Saint-Simonists’ socialist opponents were not always satisfactory. Indeed, they mostly repeated the errors of the Saint-Simonists; questions that should have been examined from the angle of production relations, that is to say, of social economy, were discussed by them from the standpoint of morality, justice, and suchlike abstract principles. Yet despite the great error in their method, they were, after their own fashion, right. The Saint-Simonist principle of distribution which they condemned contained all the unclarity we noted already in the Saint-Simonist teaching on the production relations of society of their day. He who confuses the employer’s profit with wages when speaking of present-day society runs a very serious risk of retaining in his plan for a future social system a fairly wide place for ‘the exploitation of man by man’. It is all the same to the proletarian who owns the factory in which by his labour he enriches the employers: whether it belongs to the factory owner himself, or to some other private person, or, finally, to society. The Saint-Simonists could claim in their defence that in a society constructed according to their plan industry would be organised and not disorganised as it is now. The place of the present owners would be taken by leaders of industry in the service of society and receiving their remuneration from society. But this would again bring us back to the old question: how to assess the size of the remuneration to be given to the ‘leaders of industry'? In other words, will the Saint-Simonist society not be based upon the exploitation of the vast majority of the producing population by these relatively few leaders? To this, the Saint-Simonists could again give no reply except to refer to his ‘works’, which explains nothing. In fact, they simply could not think out this subject, in its economic aspect, to the end.


Other schools of utopian socialism did not share the optimistic views of the Saint-Simonists regarding the course of economic development in modern society. Saint-Simon’s great contemporary and rival, Fourier, categorically refused to admit that the position of the working — or, as he expressed it, the poor — class was improving. ‘Social progress is an illusion’, he insisted. ‘The wealthy class goes forward, but the poor class remains as it was, at zero.’ [74] At times he displays even greater pessimism, stating that:

... the position of the poor in modern society is worse than that of the savage, who has at least the right to kill game and to fish where he pleases, and even to steal from anyone apart from his fellow-tribesmen. The savage, moreover, is as carefree as the animals, a trait that is utterly foreign to civilised man. The freedom granted to the poor man by present-day society is a sham, since while depriving him of the advantages the savage has access to, it does not even guarantee him that minimum means of subsistence that might be a compensation for the loss of these advantages. [75]

Finally, Fourier declares that the position of the people in civilised society, in spite of the sophists who sing the praises of progress, is worse than the lot of the wild beasts. [76] True to his habit of calculating and classifying even what does not lend itself to calculation and classification Fourier indicates twelve ‘disgrâces des industrieux’ (misfortunes of industrial workers) to which, for the sake of exactitude, he adds another four. Although this attempt to calculate the misfortunes of civilised man may provoke a smile — the more so since our author apologises for his calculation being incomplete and suggests leaving it to more experienced people to finish — it does reveal a rare perspicacity. As an example, I shall refer to the ‘second’ misfortune, which is that civilised man is engaged in labour that overtaxes his strength, risks undermining his health, on which the existence of his children and his own depend. Then there is Fourier’s ‘tenth’ misfortune, which he calls anticipated poverty and which consists of the worker’s fear of losing his wage. Lastly, the ‘seventh’ misfortune, caused by the increasing luxury of the rich, at the sight of which the poor man feels himself to be even poorer (the present-day theory of relative impoverishment). [77] If the Saint-Simonists did not make any distinction between the positions of the wage-workers and the employers, Fourier on the other hand sees that the interests of these two social categories are antagonistic, and asserts that in modern society the success of industrial enterprises is founded upon the impoverishment of the workers, that is to say, the reduction of their wages to the lowest possible level. [78] Whereas the Saint-Simonists see in the development of banks the last word in progress, Fourier thunders against the bankers and the stock-exchange speculators. Where the Saint-Simonists are enraptured by the development of large-scale industry, Fourier proves that it brings with it the concentration of capital and the restoration of feudalism in a new financial, commercial and industrial form.

His followers express themselves in the same spirit. Considérant says:

The first feudalism, which emerged from military conquest, gave the land to the military leaders and tied the conquered population to the persons of the conquerors by the bonds of serfdom. Since the trade and industrial war, in the form of that competition whereby Capital and Speculation inevitably become the rulers over poor Labour has replaced military war [sic!], it has tended to establish and in fact has always established a new serfdom by means of its conquests. Now there comes into being, not personal and immediate dependence, but a mediate and collective dependence, mass rule over the destitute classes by the class that owns capital, machinery and the instruments of labour. In fact, taken collectively the urban and rural proletarians are in a position of absolute dependence on the owners of the instruments of labour. This great economic and political fact is expressed in the following formula of practical life: in order to have a piece of bread each worker must find himself a master. (I know that you now say employer, but in its pristine simplicity the tongue keeps repeating master: and it will be justified, until the New Order is established, until the economic relations of the present feudal order, of financial, industrial and commercial feudalism are replaced by new relations.) [79]

Fourier already called the industrial crises occurring periodically in modern society crises of plethora, and asserted that the poverty of this society was engendered by its wealth. Considérant developed this profound thought further. He pointed to the example of England, ‘choking from its own plethora’, and pronounced absurd and inhuman a social order that ‘condemns the working class to hunger, and at the same time suffers from a shortage of consumers’.

Competition destroys the intermediate social strata, he goes on, and leads to the division of society into two classes, ‘a few having everything and a large number having nothing’. [80]

Generally speaking, the Fourierists very often took the opposite view to the Saint-Simonists on economic questions, and this was vividly shown in their respective attitudes to the problem of the development of the productive forces in France as she was then, as well as in the whole civilised world. The Saint-Simonists were unreservedly enthusiastic in welcoming the construction of railways, and dreamed of the cutting of the Suez and Panama canals. [81] The Fourierists, on the contrary, considered that before building railways it was essential to reconcile the interests of the employers and the workers, and to establish the correct distribution of products between capital, labour and talent through the establishment of phalansteries. [82] Of course the Fourierists were completely in the wrong here; labour and capital in France have not been ‘reconciled’ even up to the present day. Yet what would France be like today without railways? In reply to the argument that the construction of railways would lead to the strengthening of industrial feudalism, Enfantin said that industrial feudalism was inevitable as a transitional stage of social development. That was right. But at once Enfantin slid back into utopia, adding that, thanks to the discoveries of Saint-Simon and the Saint-Simonists, the secret of peaceful social transformation was now known to mankind, so that the latter was able consciously and without upheavals to put an end to industrial feudalism. [83] He was also utopian when he maintained that, just as it had been necessary, for example, in the period of the Reformation to go along with Luther and Calvin, so now it was necessary to ‘fly to Rothschild’. The reformers of the nineteenth century had quite a different task. The urge ‘to Rothschild’ was the Saint-Simonist version of: ‘Let’s go for training to capitalism.’ [84]

Like the Fourierists, Louis Blanc decidedly did not share the Saint-Simonists’ optimistic views on the position of hired labour. In his Organisation du travail, he wrote that, under the impact of competition, wages tended consistently downwards, with the most serious consequences for the working class: it was degenerating. And — again like the Fourierists — Louis Blanc pointed to the growth of property inequality in contemporary society, and in this respect he also spoke of the concentration of landownership and not only of capital. [85] Whereas the Saint-Simonists opposed the industrial class to the idle class, Louis Blanc opposes the ‘people’ to the ‘bourgeoisie’. But it is well worth noting that his definition of the bourgeoisie fits the lower strata of this class more than it does the higher. ‘By the bourgeoisie’, he says, ‘I understand the aggregate of those citizens who, owning either instruments of labour or capital, work with means of their own and depend on others only to a certain extent.’ That is either very badly put or is very close to Proudhon’s conception of the bourgeoisie, that is, to the conception of the petty bourgeoisie. No less remarkable is the fact that, in speaking of the ‘people’, Louis Blanc has in mind the proletarians proper, ‘that aggregate of citizens who, having no capital, are entirely dependent on others as regards the primary necessities of life’. [86] Louis Blanc observes the formation of a new social class, but sees it through the spectacles of old democratic conceptions, and therefore gives this class an old name, dear to the hearts of the democrats.

I shall refer to two more socialist writers of those days: one of them is still fairly well known, while the other has been completely forgotten, although he fully deserves to be mentioned. I have in mind Pierre Leroux and his friend Jean Reynaud. Both of them went through the school of Saint-Simonism and early on took a critical attitude to this school. However, here I am interested only in their views on the role and position of labour in present-day society.

As early as 1832, when the vast majority of Saint-Simonists discerned in the prevailing society only the antagonism of interests between the working class and the idle owners, and regarded ‘politics’ as the obsolete prejudice of backward people, Jean Reynaud published an article in the April issue of Revue Encyclopédique under the heading: ‘De la nécessité d'une représentation spéciale pour les prolétaires’, in which he expounded views that were truly remarkable for that period:

I say [he wrote] that the people consists of two classes, distinct both in their situation and their interests: the proletarians and the bourgeoisie. I call proletarians the people who produce all the wealth of the nation; who have nothing apart from the daily wage for their labour; whose work depends on causes outside of their control; who from the fruits of their own labour receive daily only a small part, which is continuously being reduced by competition; whose future depends only on the precarious hopes of an industry that is unreliable and chaotic in its progress, and who have nothing to expect in their old age but a place in hospital or an untimely death.

To this vivid description of the proletariat, there is added an equally vivid description of the bourgeoisie:

By bourgeois I understand the people to whose fate the fate of the proletarians is subordinated and chained; the people who possess capital and live on the income from it; those who hold industry in their pay and who raise or lower it according to their whims in consumption; who fully enjoy the present and have no wish for their future except that what they had yesterday should continue, and that there should exist for all eternity the constitution which gives them the first place and the best share.

It might perhaps be assumed on the basis of Reynaud’s statement that the bourgeoisie are essentially those who live on the income from their capital, that like all other Saint-Simonists he too had in mind only the idle owners, that is, the rentiers. Such an assumption would be wrong. Further on in his article he explains his idea very well. As it turns out, he puts among the bourgeoisie ‘the 2000 manufacturers of Lyons, the 500 manufacturers of St Etienne and all the feudal possessors of industry’. This makes it clear that his definition fully includes the representatives of industrial capital. He is perfectly well aware that between the classes of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat there may be also intermediate social strata. But he is not dismayed by this:

I may be told [he says] that these two classes do not exist, since there is no insuperable barrier or indestructible wall between them, and there exist bourgeois who work and proletarians who own property. To this I will reply that between the most sharply distinct shades there are always intermediate shades, and that in our colonies it will not occur to anyone to deny the existence of black and white people, simply because there are mulattoes and half-breeds among them.

Reynaud believed there had been a time when the bourgeoisie, representing their own personal interests, simultaneously represented the interests of the proletariat. That was in the period of the Restoration. But now that the destruction of the feudal nobility, which was prepared by the bourgeoisie, has been completed by the proletariat, the interests of these two classes have parted, making it essential for the proletariat to have special political representation.

It would be difficult to put this more clearly. Reynaud, however, is yet a son of his time. He has not entirely lost the fearful recollections of 1793. He is afraid of civil war; consequently he makes reservations. According to him, although the interests of the bourgeoisie are distinct from the interests of the proletariat, nevertheless they do not contradict each other (ne sont pas contradictoires). Therefore the two classes can work amicably together to improve legislation. [87]

Pierre Leroux held the same opinions on the relationship of the proletariat to the bourgeoisie. [88] In the book I have just mentioned in a footnote, De la plutocratie ou du gouvernement des riches, he develops this view in detail. But the more detail he provides, the more obvious and even the greater is the unclarity of this view, an unclarity that can already be noticed to some extent in Reynaud’s work. It consists of this.

Reynaud had already said: ‘I call proletarians the workers in the towns and the peasants in the countryside’ (les paysans de campagne). One must suppose that in recognising the existence in present-day society of proletarians owning property, he was thinking precisely of the ‘peasants in the countryside’. With a wealth of detail, Leroux enlarges on this kind of ‘proletarian’. He asks: ‘Is the peasant with a hectare of land a proletarian or a property-owner?’ In his opinion, he is a proletarian, since his hectare of land furnishes him with a livelihood only to the degree that he applies heavy manual labour to it daily. What does it matter that this peasant is a landowner, if his ownership of land permits him to live only by arduous daily work? It is only when the instruments of labour have reached a certain limit that they are sufficiently productive to bring in a rent adequate for the subsistence of the owner. Within this limit one is a proletarian; one is a property-owner only beyond it. [89]

Leroux asks whether the man who owns a small plot of land is a property-owner or a proletarian. This question presumes that one cannot be a proletarian and an owner at one and the same time. But immediately after this, Leroux goes on to declare that the man to whom a hectare of land belongs, that is, the owner of one hectare, is a proletarian. Here, the presumption that one cannot be simultaneously a property-owner and a proletarian is quietly shelved. Why? Because the owner of the plot works. But this suffices only to acknowledge him as a working-owner. The identification of a working-owner with a proletarian is, in any case, arbitrary. Why did Leroux consider it not only permissible, but, indeed, inevitable? Only because the man who owns a small plot of land is often very poor. To Pierre Leroux, the poor man and the proletarian are one and the same. This is why he lists among the proletarians all beggars, whom he calculates in France to number four millions, whereas the number employed in industry and commerce, by his own calculation, is not more than half of that figure. [90] So that in France, according to him, out of a population of thirty-four and a half million there are as many as thirty million proletarians. [91]

In Reynaud’s argument ‘proletarian-owners’ were compared with mulattoes and half-breeds, who in the colonies occupy a middle position between the black and the white races. Leroux, however, made out that these ‘mulattoes’ and ‘half-breeds’ constituted the larger part of the French proletariat.

Needless to say, from the point of view of economics, Leroux’s calculations would often not hold water. But to understand him we have to remember that he is arguing not so much from the standpoint of economics as from the standpoint of morality. He saw his task not as having to determine exactly the relations of production prevailing in France, but to demonstrate how many French people were living in poverty and by their poverty were a reminder of the need for social reform. And inasmuch as he understood this to be his task he was in the right, although this did not prevent him from making obvious errors in logic: on the contrary, it caused him to make them.

From this angle, Leroux’s methods of reasoning remind one very much of our Narodniks’ mode of thought. [92] Be that as it may, it cannot be denied that his book De la plutocratie and some of his other works — for example, the articles published later under the title Malthus et les économistes, ou y aura-t-il toujours des pauvres? — contain a much deeper analysis of the relations between the wage-worker and the capitalist than what we find in the works of Enfantin and other orthodox Saint-Simonists. And, of course, this is certainly a great credit to him.

However, these first steps in socialist analysis sometimes lead to quite unexpected theoretical results. To Fourier and his pupils, especially Toussenel as well as Pierre Leroux, Désamy and others, the main culprits of financial and industrial ‘feudalism’ were the Jews. Fourier protested against equal rights for the Jews. Leroux pointed to them as ‘the kings of our epoch’. [93] The Fourierist Toussenel, as late as the first half of the 1840s, advocated an alliance between the July monarchy and the people for the struggle against the Jews. ‘Force to power! Death to parasitism!’ he proclaimed. ‘War on the Jews! There is the motto of the new revolution!’ [94] These theoretical errors, which, happily, did not do any great practical harm in France, had not been surmounted by some varieties of utopian socialism right to the end of their existence. And this, of course, is no small minus in the algebraic sum of their distinguishing features.

In conclusion, I will add that the economic views of the French socialists were far removed from the clarity and orderliness of the economic views expounded by English socialist writers in the 1820s and 1830s: Hodgskin, Thompson, Gray, Edmonds, Bray and others. The reason for this is clear: Britain was very far in advance of France in economic development.


Let us look back. In the person of Saint-Simon, French utopian socialism enters the scene as the direct continuation of the work performed by the ideologists of the third estate in the eighteenth century. It champions the interests of this estate against those of the aristocracy. But in doing so it has two distinctive features. First of all, under the influence of the events of 1793, it rejects the idea of the class struggle. [95] Secondly, it insists on attention to the plight of the disinherited, proclaiming — even in the form of religious precepts — as a duty the all-round improvement of the condition of ‘the poorest and most numerous class’. The fulfilling of this duty falls primarily on ‘the leaders of industry’, who are ordained to play a directing role in social life. To Saint-Simon and the Saint-Simonists, the interests of the leaders of industry are in complete conformity with the interests of the working class.

Fourier and his followers penetrate much more deeply into the mysteries of the rising capitalist order. Nevertheless, they no less determinedly reject the class struggle; they, too, address themselves to the ‘rich’ and not to the ‘poor’. The great majority of the founders of other socialist systems follow the example set by these first two schools of utopian socialism. The plans of social reform drawn up by these founders represent nothing else but a series of measures promising to reconcile the classes through the establishment of social harmony. The authors of these plans consider that the initiative for their realisation must belong to the upper classes. In other words, the utopian socialists leave no room for the self-activity of the proletariat: indeed, the very concept of the latter, at first, does not emerge from their general conception of the ‘working class’. This is in keeping with the comparatively undeveloped state of social relations in France in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. The very rejection of politics, which we know to be one of the main distinguishing features of utopian socialism, is in the closest causal connection with these poorly-developed social relations. Consciousness does not determine being; it is being that determines consciousness. So long as the proletariat had not emerged as an independent social force, the political struggle could signify only the struggle between different sections of the ruling class, who had not the slightest interest in the fate of ‘the poorest and most numerous class’. Consequently the political struggle presented no interest at all for the utopian socialists, inasmuch as they were seeking to better the lot of just that class. Besides, politics spells struggle, while the utopian socialists did not want struggle: their aim was to reconcile all sections of society. Consequently, they declared politics a mistake, and concentrated their attention on the social field. It seemed to them that reforms adopted in this field had no relation to politics, and so social reformers could live at peace with any government. [96] It is timely to add, finally, that the formation of such a view was facilitated by the reaction against the belief, current in the eighteenth century, that the political activity of the rulers was the cause and the social system the effect.

The utopian socialists retained their political indifference for a long time. We know already that this indifference explains their sometimes naive and sometimes unattractive political intriguing. But as France’s economic development advanced, the contradiction of interests between wage-labour and industrial capital became more acute. And as it became more acute, the ‘poor class’ of that country became the proletariat. I made reference earlier to Reynaud’s statement to the effect that the destruction of the nobility had been prepared by the bourgeoisie and completed by the proletariat. These remarkable words show that, already at the beginning of the 1830s, some representatives of French utopian socialism (true, very few), had begun to recognise the enormous political importance of the working class. This awakening consciousness was undoubtedly aroused by the impressions of the July revolution. If it did not develop much between July 1830 and February 1848, the collapse of the monarchy of Louis Philippe gave it a powerful impulse. The Fourierists, who had previously declared politics to be a mistake, themselves began to engage in politics. Elected as a ‘representative of the people’, Considérant joined the Montagnards and, in 1849, had to flee the country because of his participation in the well-known demonstration of 13 June. [97] In the revolutionary period of 1848 to 1850, Proudhon, Pierre Leroux, Louis Blanc, Buchez, Vidal and some others were deputies too. Of all the outstanding representatives of utopian socialism, Cabet was the only one occupied in this period mainly with establishing his communist colony ‘Icaria’ in Texas. ‘Politics’ turned out to be stronger than utopia. It imposed itself on utopian socialism, which had erstwhile called it an error. [98] But even while acting on the political scene, the utopian socialists did not cease to be utopians. In the period of the most acute class struggle, they went on dreaming of the reconciliation of classes. In the pamphlet I have already cited, Le socialisme devant le vieux monde, ou le vivant devant les morts, Considérant expressed his sincere regret that the bourgeoisie had given a bad example to the proletariat by forcibly abolishing the privileges of the nobility during the Great Revolution. On 14 April 1849, the same Considérant delivered a big speech before the National Assembly in which he proposed that the Assembly allocate funds to the Fourierists for the setting up of phalansteries. It need hardly be said that the Assembly did not grant any funds. Finally, I will mention the well-known errors committed by Louis Blanc in 1848.

Dragged into the political arena by the very course of events in France, the utopian socialists were unable to work out correct tactical principles for the simple reason that there was no sound theoretical basis to be found for such principles in utopian socialism. [99] This brings us to the question: what then is the distinguishing feature, the presence of which in a given socialist system imparts to it a utopian character, regardless of whether details of the system are worthy of attention and approval? This question is the more relevant here since anyone with an inadequate knowledge of the subject might imagine that the word ‘utopian’ has no precise theoretical meaning, and when applied to some plan or system simply indicates disapproval. Indeed the word ‘utopia’ was known to the French utopian socialists, and when one of them, say Fourier, wished to express his dissatisfaction with some aspects of some other socialist school, for example, the Saint-Simonist, he called it, among other things, utopian. Of course, to proclaim that a particular system was utopian was tantamount to proclaiming it impracticable. But not one of the utopian socialists had a clear conception of the criterion by which the practicability of a given system could be judged. This is why the word ‘utopia’ had only polemical significance in the writings of the utopian socialists. Nowadays, we see this differently.


In condemning the bad example set the proletariat by the bourgeoisie in forcibly abolishing the privileges of the nobility, Considérant believed that as early as the end of the eighteenth century it was feasible in France to project a plan of social reform which would by degrees win over all Frenchmen, irrespective of title, rank or estate. The whole trouble was that no one had devised such a plan. That such plans could be invented followed from the fact that their appearance depended on chance. Indeed, Fourier wrote a whole dissertation on this theme, in which he related how chance had led him to discover the ‘calculus of attraction’ (calcul de l'attraction). He said that, like Newton, he arrived at his brilliant discovery thanks to an apple he ate in a Paris restaurant. Subsequently he even remarked that ‘there were four famous apples, two of them noted for the trouble they caused (Adam’s apple and the apple of Paris), and the other two for having enriched science’. Fourier went so far as to say that these four famous apples were worthy of a special page in the history of human thought. [100] His artless gratitude to the apple is a good illustration of the fact that Fourier had no idea of man’s knowledge developing in conformity to law. He was convinced that discoveries depend entirely on ‘chance’. It did not even occur to him that in the history of human thought the action of ‘chance’ itself may be in causal dependence on a course of events in conformity to law. The utopian socialists not only did not recognise that the course of events determines the progress of ideas; on the contrary, they believed that the development of ideas is the cardinal cause of the historical development of mankind. This was a purely idealist view, borrowed by them from the French Enlighteners of the eighteenth century, who stubbornly maintained that opinion governs the world (c'est l'opinion, qui gouverne le monde). Reading the profound utterances of Saint-Simon on the role of the class struggle in the internal history of French society, one might think that he was a man who had completely abandoned the standpoint of historical idealism. In fact, he kept to that standpoint firmly to the end of his days. It may be said that he carried the idealist view of history to the extreme. Not only did he consider the development of ideas as the ultimate cause of the development of social relations, but among ideas he attributed the most important place to scientific ideas — the ‘scientific system of the world’ — from which flowed religious ideas which, in turn, determined man’s moral concepts. At the first glance, it is not easy to understand how Saint-Simon squared his extreme historical idealism with the idea we know he had that the law on property is the basic law of society. But the fact is that, even though Saint-Simon believed that property relations are at the root of every given social system, he nevertheless regarded them as having been brought into being by human sentiment and opinion. Thus to him, just as to the eighteenth-century Enlighteners, the world was governed, in the final analysis, by ‘opinion’. This idealist outlook was transmitted in its entirety to his pupils. The very same outlook is met with among other utopian socialists. We have already seen how little Fourier was able to link the course of development of human thought with the course of development of human life. His most outstanding pupil, Considérant, wrote: ‘Ideas are the mothers of facts, and today’s facts are the children of yesterday’s ideas.’ [101] Considérant did not ask himself where yesterday’s ideas came from. Neither did any of the other utopian socialists. When they were faced with the question of how the ideas of today — say, the ideas of the Saint-Simonist or the Fourierist school — would become the facts of tomorrow, they — again like the eighteenth-century Enlighteners — confined themselves to pointing to the unconquerable force of truth. In upholding this viewpoint, it was natural for them to reject the class struggle and politics as a weapon of that struggle, for once revealed the truth must be equally accessible to all social classes. More than that. The people of the upper classes, having more leisure and a certain education, are more able to assimilate truth. This makes it perfectly clear that the tactics of the utopian socialists were closely bound up with their historical idealism. I should add here that their political intrigues were also not unconnected with this idealism. Take the example of Fourier. If he did discover the truth by chance, thanks to a chance apple, then any kind of chance circumstance could promote its dissemination. Therefore it is equally useful to knock at all doors, to try to influence all and sundry, and, probably, even in particular those who have much money or much power. And so Fourier obstinately tried to bring influence to bear on the mighty of this world, though of course quite without success.

While describing their opponents’ systems as utopian, the socialists of the period under review with complete conviction referred to their own systems as scientific. [102] What did they take as a scientific criterion? Whether the given system corresponded to ‘the nature of man’. But to take as term of reference human nature, that is to say, the nature of man generally, taken independently of particular social relationships, is to abandon the ground of historical reality and to rely on an abstract conception: and this road leads directly to utopia. The more often these writers appeal to human nature, while accusing their opponents of utopianism, the more clearly is revealed the utopian character of their own theories.

In taking their conception of human nature as the criterion of scientific construction, the utopian socialists naturally deemed it possible to devise a perfect social system: the perfect social system being exactly that which conformed fully to the particular reformer’s conception of human nature. This was one of the motives behind the heated arguments that occurred among the utopian socialists, for example, on the principle of the distribution of products in the future society. They lost sight of the point that the mode of distribution would certainly change with the growth of society’s productive forces.

Thus, the utopian is one who endeavours to construct a perfect social system on the basis of some abstract principle. All socialists in the period we are discussing come under this definition. So there is no cause to wonder that we now call them utopians without in any way being inspired by ill-will towards them. From the viewpoint of science, utopianism is but a phase in the development of socialist thought. This phase came to an end only when the advanced societies of the civilised world had reached a certain level of economic development. Social being is not determined by consciousness, consciousness is determined by social being.

We have seen that this ultimate truth remained beyond the grasp of the utopian socialists. They were convinced that social being was conditioned by ‘opinion’. Only by taking account of this shall we be able to comprehend how, for example, Saint-Simon could arrive at his ‘religion’.

He says that religious ideas flow from the scientific system of the world. It follows that with the change of this system religious ideas must also change. But since the system has changed very much in comparison with what it was in the Middle Ages, the time has now arrived for the emergence of new religious ideas. With this in mind, Saint-Simon invented a ‘new Christianity’. It would be easy to show that he himself was a confirmed unbeliever. So the question arises: why did he create a new religion? The answer to this perplexing question is that Saint-Simon regarded religion from the standpoint of its usefulness: religious ideas determine moral concepts, consequently, whoever wishes to influence the moral conduct of his contemporaries must turn to religion. That is what Saint-Simon did. If my explanation seems improbable to the reader, I would remind him that Saint-Simon looked on this question too through the eyes of the eighteenth century: that is to say, he believed that religions are instituted by wise ‘legislators’ in the interests of social well-being. [103]

Approximately the same considerations were probably also behind the work of Cabet, Le vrai Christianisme suivant Jesus Christ. [104] In inventing his ‘true Christianity’, Cabet desired to imitate the wise legislators of older days, as the eighteenth-century philosophers imagined them.

By saying this, I do not want to assert that all the socialist writers we are interested in here shared the views of the eighteenth century on religion. That would be an unwarranted exaggeration. Not all of them had the same attitude to religion as Saint-Simon and Cabet. First of all, the Romantic reaction against the philosophical ideas of the eighteenth century, which was widespread among French intellectuals, also had its influence among the socialists of the 1830s and 1840s, that is to say, socialists, so to speak, of ‘the second generation’, and significantly weakened the influence on them of the anti-religious ideas inherited from the philosophy of the Enlightenment. Saint-Simon’s own pupils felt the attraction of the new religion invented by their teacher, not with their heads but with their hearts; with the result that their meetings were sometimes conducted in a spirit of real religious ecstasy. We must remember, too, that when socialism acquired great influence among the then French intelligentsia, it attracted even such people as had never at any time or in any way been subjected to the influence of eighteenth-century philosophy. The most outstanding among these was undoubtedly Jean Lamennais. [105] It was not by chance that George Sand, in her Histoire de ma vie, portrayed Lamennais in such vivid and fascinating colours. He was really a very remarkable man. In him were combined the powerful religious eloquence of the ancient Jewish prophets, the temperament of a revolutionary and a warm sympathy for the people in its miseries. After reading his Paroles d'un croyant (1834) Chateaubriand said: ‘This priest wants to build a revolutionary club in his belfry.’ Very likely he did. But while setting about the building of a ‘revolutionary club’, Lamennais still remained a Catholic priest. Even after he broke with the Church, his ideas did not throw off the yoke of old theological customs; and just because of this his religious views and sentiments cannot be considered as typical of French socialism of those days. The same might well be said of Philippe Buchez, [106] who, after a temporary infatuation with socialism in his youth, soon returned to Catholicism.

The ‘religious seekings’ of the French utopian socialists of the ‘second generation’ can be characterised only by religions such as those of the Saint-Simonists (but, I repeat, not Saint-Simon), Pierre Leroux, etc. The extent to which these religions were connected with the Romantic reaction against the Enlightenment philosophy of the eighteenth century may be seen, by the way, in the fact that many Saint-Simonists read with enthusiasm the works of Joseph de Maistre and other writers of that trend. This important circumstance shows that the romantic reaction affected French utopian socialism at a time when it itself still had absolutely nothing in common with any kind of aspiration to freedom. Consequently, we are entitled to compare the ‘religious seekings’ of the socialists of that day with their rejection of the class struggle and their endeavours to secure social peace at any price. All this: the ‘seekings’ for a religion, the aversion for the class struggle, and the love of peace which they elevated into a dogma, were nothing else but the result of the disappointment and weariness that followed ‘the catastrophe of 1793’. In the eyes of the utopian socialists, the terrifying year of revolutionary struggle was the most convincing evidence in favour of their belief that the class struggle in general was utterly futile. Indeed, some of them said that the futility of the class struggle was best demonstrated by the example of 1793. [107] Being unsympathetic to the revolutionaries of the eighteenth century, they began to pay careful attention to what was said and written by the enemies of the revolution. And though the theoreticians of reaction did not succeed in winning them over, although they continued in part the theoretical work of the eighteenth century, and in part took their own separate and, in a sense, new road, nevertheless the reaction left noticeable traces in their views. If this is not kept in mind, some important aspects of French utopian socialism will remain incomprehensible. Among these are its ‘religious seekings’ in the form they took in the 1830s and 1840s.


Now it is time to say at least a few words about the trend in French utopian socialism which I referred to above as being the exception to the general rule. Contrary to the general rule, this trend, firstly, was thoroughly impregnated with revolutionary spirit; secondly, it did not reject politics; thirdly, it was foreign to ‘religious seekings’. The most notable exponent of this trend was Auguste Blanqui, [108] who proclaimed the slogan: ‘Ni dieu, ni maître.’ ('Neither God nor master.’) [109] Whence came this trend which so sharply contradicted ‘the spirit of the times'?

To understand its origin one must remember that it was known initially as Babouvism. Those who belonged to this trend considered themselves to be followers of Babeuf, the famous communist conspirator of the end of the eighteenth century. [110] In the first half of the 1830s, the most influential figure among the French Babouvists was one who had participated in the ‘Conspiracy of Equals’, [111] a descendant of Michelangelo whose name was Filippo Buonarroti, and who wrote the history of this conspiracy. [112] It is generally known that Babeuf and the other participants of the ‘Conspiracy of Equals’ were extreme revolutionaries. ‘We demand real equality or death’, they wrote in their manifesto. ‘And we shall have it, it matters not at what price. Woe betide those who place themselves between us and it!’ And so on. This language bears no resemblance to the language of the nineteenth-century utopian socialists. And those — comparatively very few — French socialists who remained true to the testament of Babeuf and his comrades were in no way disposed to social peace. Auguste Blanqui contemptuously condemned this inclination of the French socialists of his time, and they, for their part, looked with fear at the incorrigible and tireless revolutionary conspirator. [113]

We see therefore where the trend we are discussing came from. It was a direct continuation of the revolutionary aspirations of the eighteenth century. Since the great revolutionary storm had fatigued the population of France and imbued a large section of the intelligentsia with a negative attitude to the class struggle, this trend could not be a strong one: it represented only a tiny ripple in the broad stream of French socialist thought. [114] That is why I described it as an exception to the general rule.

The reader will understand that the few representatives of the French intellectuals who were unaffected by the scare due to the ‘catastrophe of 1793’ had no special reason for rejecting the spiritual testament handed down from the eighteenth century. Consequently, their attitude to religion was exactly the same as that which distinguished the most prominent spokesmen of French philosophy of the Enlightenment. Here we have the source of August Blanqui’s challenge: ‘Neither God nor master!’ Similarly with regard to their appreciation of politics: here, too, they followed the example of the men of the eighteenth century. And these men did not turn their backs on politics: on the contrary, they attributed an exaggerated importance to political activity. They were simple enough to believe that the ‘legislator’ could reconstruct the whole of social relations, and even the habits, tastes and aspirations of the citizens, in accordance with his ideal. It is self-evident that the Babouvists and Blanquists of the period we are considering, who had largely adopted this conception of the activity of the ‘legislator’, were not at all disposed to political indifference. Just the opposite: they were bound to strive to put themselves in the position of ‘legislators’ in order to realise their communist ideals. That is what they hoped to achieve by means of secret societies and plots. Thus their tactics, which flowed logically from their conception of the role of the ‘legislator’, were directly opposed to the tactics of the then utopian socialists. But this was not enough to provide a concrete basis for their tactics. The communism of the Babouvists and the Blanquists suffered from utopianism no less than the socialism of Saint-Simon or Fourier, Cabet or Pierre Leroux. Only it was utopianism of a different colour. It was precisely belief in the omnipotence of the ‘legislator’, that is, of politics, which they had inherited from the eighteenth century that made it utopian. In this respect, the revolutionary communism of that time lagged far behind socialism, which, although it dreamed of class reconciliation and committed an enormous theoretical error by its negation of politics, nevertheless enriched theory through studies in the social field. The consequence was that some utopian socialists, the most numerous, concentrated their attention on ‘socialtheory, while others, representing an exception to the general rule, concentrated on political action. Both sinned by their one-sidedness. The elimination of such one-sidedness could only be a matter of the future. It presupposed an entire revolution in theory. Only when socialism renounced the idealist conception of history and assimilated the materialist conception, did it acquire the theoretical possibility of doing away with utopia. But it is outside the scope of this article to relate the story of how the transition of socialism from utopia to science took place in reality.


Notes are by Plekhanov, except those by the Moscow editors of this edition of the work, which are noted ‘Editor’, or the MIA, which are marked as such.

1. The word ‘socialism’ first appeared in English and French literature in the 1830s. The author of the article ‘Socialism’ in the Encyclopaedia Britannia (Volume 22, p 205) states that the word owes its origin to The Association of All Classes of All Nations formed in England in 1835. On the other hand, Pierre Leroux contends that it was used for the first time in an article written by him in 1834, ‘De l'individualisme et du socialisme’ (see Oeuvres de Pierre Leroux, Volume 1 (1850), p 370, footnote). It should be remarked, however, that in this article Leroux uses the word only in the sense of ‘exaggerating the idea of association’. Some time later it came to mean any striving to reconstruct the social system with the aim of raising the well-being of the lower classes and guaranteeing social peace. In view of the extremely vague meaning of the term, the word communism was often contrasted to it, as defining the much more definite aim of establishing social equality by transforming the means of production, and sometimes also the articles of consumption, into social property. Nowadays, the word ‘socialism’ has almost replaced the word ‘communism’ but as recompense it has lost its initial vagueness. Its present meaning approximates to the original meaning of the word ‘communism’.

2. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, ‘The Holy Family’, Collected Works, Volume 4 (Moscow, 1975), p 130 — Editor.

3. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, ‘The Holy Family’, Collected Works, Volume 4 (Moscow, 1975), p 131 — Editor.

4. Fourier was born at Besançon on 7 April 1772, and died in Paris on 10 October 1837.

5. ‘Leipzig’ is printed on the cover.

6. Théorie des quatre mouvements et des destinées sociales, p 3.

7. By the catastrophe of 1793 Fourier meant the Jacobin dictatorship during the French Revolution — Editor.

8. Théorie des quatre mouvements et des destinées sociales, p 7.

97. See Oeuvres complètes de Charles Fourier, Volume 2 (Paris, 1841), p 319.

10. Ibid, Volume 4, p 254. Fourier would have us believe that by travelling mounted on an anti-lion one could breakfast in Paris, lunch in Lyons, and dine in Marseilles; one need only change these good animals when they tire.

11. Ibid, p 255.

12. The book was issued in 1808, that is to say, during the reign of Napoleon I, who, as is known, did not show indulgence to ‘agitators’.

13. La fausse industrie, morcelée, répugnante, mensongère et l'antidote, l'industrie naturelle, combinée, p 337. The book was published in 1835 and the note was obviously written under the influence of Fieschi’s attempt on the life of Louis Philippe (on 28 July of that year).

14. This page is not numbered, but the one following it is marked M-616.

15. We have noticed already that this is Fourier’s way of referring to the social structure of civilised societies.

16. Théorie des quatre mouvements, p 8.

17. Born in Paris on 17 October 1760; died there on 19 May 1825.

18. See Oeuvres choisies de C-H de Saint Simon, Volume 1 (Bruxelles, 1859), pp 20-21.

19. Ibid, p 31.

20. Ibid, p 27.

21. Where Fourier thunders against the ‘philosophers’, Saint-Simon fulminates against the ‘legists’. In his opinion, their ‘metaphysical doctrines’ explain the unsuccessful outcome of the French Revolution. See Du système industriel, par Henri Saint-Simon, with the epigraph: ‘Dieu a dit: aimez-vous et secourez vous les uns les autres’ (Paris, 1821), preface, pp i-viii. [God said: ‘Love and help one another.’ — Editor.] Saint-Simon’s concept of ‘legist’, or representative of ‘metaphysical doctrine’ is analogous to Fourier’s concept (which we know from his book) of ‘philosopher’, or representative of ‘uncertain sciences’. To us, this concept is now conveyed by the words revolutionary intelligentsia.

22. The italics are Saint-Simon’s. See his Adresse aux philanthropes in the aforesaid book, pp 297-99 and 302. I make the point for those interested in the evolution of Saint-Simon’s ideas that the expressions ‘le nouveau christianisme’, and ‘le christianisme définitif’ are to be met with already in this book, and that he sometimes speaks in it in the style of the Scriptures, summonsing to himself les hérétiques en morale et en politique, and so on (p 310). Later we shall see how we must understand Saint-Simon’s attempt to rely on religion.

23. This is what Saint-Simon called the equality for which the communists were striving. He affirmed that such equality was possible only in Eastern despotisms.

24. Du système industriel, pp 205-07.

25. Born in 1808; died in 1893.

26. My italics.

27. Débâcle de la politique en France, pp 2, 52.

28. Ibid, p 16, Considérant’s italics.

29. Ibid, p 63, Considérant’s italics.

30. Ibid, p 147.

31. I will recall that Considérant’s brochure was published in 1836, that is, at the most stormy period of Louis Philippe’s reign.

32. He says they are always ready to attach a policeman to every noble sentiment (ibid, p 24). That is truly and strikingly apt.

33. Ibid, p 57, Considérant’s italics.

34. Ibid, p 91. Cf his Principes du socialisme, manifeste de la démocratie au XIX siècle, second edition (Paris, 1847). In this work, written at a time when Considérant was already less disposed to deny politics, the revolutionary party is otherwise called reactionary democracy, since only peaceful democracy is progressive (p 45). Of all the revolutionaries, Considérant’s most severe condemnation is reserved for the ‘political communists’, who ‘resolutely adopt a great material Revolution’ (p 46). I shall have something to say about these communists later.

35. Another of Fourier’s pupils, the former Sairit-Simonist A Paget says that his associates ‘abandoned the field of politics in order to exercise their intellect in the more fertile ground of social questions’ (Introduction à l'étude de la science sociale, Paris, 1838). Here politics is sharply contrasted with activity in the domain of social questions. This contrasting of politics with social questions is a common trait of the overwhelming majority of utopian socialists. We shall see later what explains the exceptions to this general rule. But it is precisely the rule and not the exception which is characteristic of utopian socialism. This opposing of politics to social activity, borrowed from the West, predominated also in Russian literature until the victory of Marxism.

36. See the article by Enfantin, ‘Opuscules financiers’, in Volume 2 of Producteur, p 479.

37. In December 1828 the Saint-Simonists Enfantin, Bazard and others organised a series of public lectures in Paris which are known as the ‘Lectures at the Street-Taranne’. A narrow circle of the leaders of the Saint-Simonist school discussed the subject-matter of each lecture. The first edition of the Exposition of Saint-Simon’s Theory included a series of lectures delivered during the period from 17 December 1828 to 12 August 1829 and was issued in Paris in 1830 — Editor.

38. At the end of 1829 the Saint-Simonist school was turned into a religious community, and Bazard and Enfantin were proclaimed its ‘fathers’. At the end of 1830, the most zealous adherents to Saint-Simon’s ideas constituted a ‘family’ residing in a separate building. Subsequently Enfantin and Bayard parted and the Saint-Simonist community dissolved — Editor.

39. See Oeuvres de Saint-Simon et d'Enfantin, Volume 4 (Paris, 1865), pp 58-59.

40. Flachat’s italics.

41. Ibid, pp 70-72.

42. Ibid, p 58.

43. Born in Paris in 1797; died there in 1871.

44. See his Open Letter published in Le Globe. [Le Globe — the Saint-Simonist organ founded in Paris in 1824. In 1832 its publication was discontinued — Editor.]

45. Born 29 October 1811; died 6 December 1882.

46. Organisation du travail, fourth edition (Paris, 1845), Introduction, pp v, 31-32. The first edition of this work was published in 1840.

47. Born 15 January 1809; died 19 January 1865.

48. Not having Proudhon’s correspondence at hand, I am quoting from Abrégé des oeuvres de Proudhon where the letter is printed, though not in full, unfortunately, on pages 414-15.

49. During the first days of the French Republic in 1848 the question of the state flag was raised. The workers were for the red flag, the bourgeoisie for the Tricolour which had been the flag of the French Revolution and of Napoleon’s empire. Workers’ representatives were forced to accept the Tricolour as the state flag of the French Republic — Editor.

50. See A Desjardins, PJ Proudhon, Volume 1 (Paris, 1896), p 90, note.

51. Cited from ibid, p 99.

52. La Voix du Peuple (The Voice of the People) — a daily newspaper published by Proudhon in Paris from 1 October 1849 to 14 May 1850 — Editor.

53. Quoted by Karl Diehl in PJ Proudhon, seine Lehre und sein Leben, Part 3 (Jena, 1896), p 100.

54. Voyage en Icarie (Paris, 1845), p 565. Italics in the original. Cabet was born on 2 January 1788, and died on 8 November 1856. The first edition of his book, Voyage en Icarie, was published in March 1842. [The first edition of Cabet’s book published in Paris in 1840 was entitled Voyage et aventures de lord William Carisdall en Icarie. In 1842 a second edition appeared under the title Voyage en Icarie. Roman philosophique et sociale — Editor.]

55. ‘Nous sommes religieux, c'est-à-dire pacifiques et aimants envers tous les homines, toutes les classes, tous les partis... Nous pensons que la violence est toujours funeste, toujours impie.’ ['We are religious, that is to say, peaceful and love all people, all classes, all parties... We think that violence is always pernicious, always ungodly.'] So said Charles Lemonnier in a call to the Saint-Simonists dated 7 July 1832. Further he declared that the Saint-Simonists loved all parties but associated with none of them, and laid down his own programme which was capable, as he thought, of uniting people of all political opinions: 1) the immediate construction of a railway from Paris to Marseilles; 2) the improvement of the water-supply and sewage system of Paris; 3) the building of a road from the Louvre to the Bastille. And so on.

56. Oeuvres de Saint-Simon et d‘Enfantin, Volume 8 (Paris, 1866), p 168. The letter is on pages 165-66 of this volume. The Duchess of Berry was arrested on 6 November, and the letter was written on 9 November 1832. It is clear from this how Enfantin hastened to draw women ‘into politics’. After what has been said it is scarcely necessary to add that the word ‘politics’ had here a very peculiar meaning.

57. The Holy Alliance — a reactionary alliance of European monarchies founded in 1815 by tsarist Russia, Austria and Prussia to suppress revolutionary movements in various countries and preserve the monarchical regimes there — Editor.

58. Oeuvres de Saint-Simon et d'Enfantin, Volume 10, pp 118-19.

59. However, the letter was favourably received by even such a prominent Saint-Simonist as Olinde Rodrigues (see S Charlety, Histoire du Saint-Simonisme, p 315, note).

60. On this subject see Oeuvres de Saint-Simon et d'Enfantin, Volume 10, pp 200, 205.

61. He derived his theory of anarchy from Saint-Simon’s idea that the role of government in social life diminishes in the course of historical development, and in time will be reduced to nothing.

62. ‘Se laver les mains dans la crotte.’ (Desjardins, Proudhon, Volume 1, p 190)

63. See the fifth edition of the book mentioned, p 93. [The reference is to the counter-revolutionary coup of 2 December 1851 by Louis Bonaparte, who was proclaimed Emperor of France under the name of Napoleon III — Editor.]

64. See Opinions littéraires, philosophiques et industrielles (Paris, 1825) pp 144-45. See also ‘Catéchisme des industriels’ in Oeuvres de Saint-Simon... (Paris, 1832), p 18.

65. See, for example, Considérant’s Principes du socialisme, pp 20-21.

66. Oeuvres, p 59.

67. This was published in 1819 in the Organisateur and led to Saint-Simon being prosecuted. Incidentally, this literary trial ended in a triumph for the accused, the jury finding him not guilty.

68. Le Producteur, Volume 1, p 245.

69. My italics.

70. Le Producteur, Volume 1, p 245.

71. Ibid, p 558.

72. One very prominent Saint-Simonist, who later became a famous financier, Isaac Pereire, in one of his lectures on political economy read in 1831, promising to examine the question of wealth distribution in contemporary society, said frankly: ‘Nous examinerons la moralité de cet état de choses.’ ['We shall examine the morality of this order of things.'] (Religion saint-simonienne. Leçons sur l'industrie et les finances (Paris, 1832), p 3) Do not imagine that the word ‘moralité’ is used here in a figurative sense. Pereire says in the preface to the volume of his lectures: ‘In the first two lectures, we set out to refute [repousser] the concept of value as it is taught by present-day economists; we fought it because it is an expression of the struggle, the antagonism prevailing in present-day society.’ That is nothing else but a lecture on morality addressed to the bourgeois economists, instead of an analysis of the bourgeois relations of production.

73. Ibid, p 14.

74. ‘Publication de manuscripts’, Volume 2, p 23, quoted from Bourgin’s Fourier (Paris, 1905), p 207.

75. Oeuvres complètes de Ch Fourier, Volume 3 (Paris, 1841), pp 163-70.

76. Oeuvres complètes de Ch Fourier, Volume 4, p 193.

77. Ibid, pp 191-92.

78. Publication de manuscripts, Volume 3, p 4 quoted from Bourgin’s Proudhon, p 231.

79. Le socialisme devant le vieux monde, ou le vivant devant les morts (Paris, 1849), p 13. Compare Principes du socialisme, p 6.

80. Principes du socialisme, pp 9-11, 22-23.

81. Enfantin himself took part in the French railway business and apparently helped to improve it. At the end of 1846, he founded the Société d'études pour le canal de Suez, but when the enterprise was well on the way to success, it was taken out of his hands by Ferdinand de Lesseps. In this connection, see Charlety’s Histoire du saint-simonisme, pp 372, 398, 399, et seq.

82. See the extremely interesting brochure by Considérant, Déraison et dangers de l'engouement pour les chemins en fer (Paris, 1838). In the phalansteries, the product had to be divided out as follows: five-twelfths to labour; four-twelfths to capital, and three-twelfths to talent. So that in spite of all, the Fourierists were at one with the Saint-Simonists in this sense, that in their plan for social construction they also set aside a place for the exploitation of labour by capital, as the communists of all shades pointed out at the time.

83. Charlety, op cit, p 368.

84. Criticising the Narodnik views on the development of capitalism in Russia, the ‘legal Marxist’ Struve wrote the following in his book Critical Remarks on Russia’s Economic Development (St Petersburg, 1894): ‘Let us recognise our lack of culture and go for training to capitalism.’ — Editor.

85. See the second edition of this work, pp 10, 11, 50, 56, and 64.

86. Histoire de dix ans, 1830-1840, fourth edition, Volume 1, p 8, footnote.

87. Reynaud’s remarkable article is reproduced in part in Chapter 34, ‘Le prolétaire et le bourgeois’, De la plutocratie ou du gouvernement des riches by Pierre Leroux (Boussac, 1848), and apparently was published in full in Volume 1 of the unfinished edition of Pierre Leroux’s Works (Paris, 1850), pp 346-64.

88. Leroux is quite aware that his views on industrialism differ radically from Saint-Simon’s. He even polemicises with his former teacher.

89. See the second edition of this book (the first edition was published in 1843), pp 23-24.

90. Ibid, pp 79, 167.

91. Ibid, p 25.

92. I think that Mr Peshekhonov, for instance, would have fully accepted them.

93. See the collection of articles Malthus et les économistes, Volume 1, ‘Les juifs, rois de l'époque’.

94. Les juifs, rois de l'époque. Histoire de la féodalité financière, Volume 1, second edition (Paris, 1847), pp 286-90.

95. Saint-Simon’s rejection of the idea of class struggle was, strictly speaking, a rejection of the revolutionary mode of action. He did not reject, but advocated peaceful struggle by the third estate against those who were defending the remnants of the old order. It was only the thought of a struggle between the workers and the employers which would have met a sharp and positive condemnation from him. In any case, Saint-Simon was less indifferent to politics than were his pupils.

96. This was a mistake characteristic of not only the utopian socialists. In his Traité d‘économie politique (discours préliminaire) JB Say asserts that ‘in essence, wealth does not depend on political organisation. A well-administered state can flourish under any form of government. Examples are known of nations prospering under absolute monarchs, and of other nations ruined under people’s governments’, etc. We all know that JB Say was in science a typical representative of the French bourgeoisie.

97. On 13 June 1849 the petty-bourgeois Mountain party organised a peaceful protest demonstration against the dispatch of the French troops to suppress the revolution in Italy. The demonstration was dispersed by the troops and many leaders of the Mountain were arrested and banished, or were compelled to leave France — Editor.

98. At that time their attitude to the intelligentsia was already more benevolent than in the period of Saint-Simon and Fourier. However, generally speaking, they continued to condemn the revolutionary mode of action.

99. I recall the plan proposed by Toussenel relating to an alliance of the people and the monarchy against the Jews.

100. See my article objecting to Bernstein’s report on the possibility of scientific socialism. [See ‘Preface to the Third Edition of Engels’ Socialism: Utopian and Scientific’, Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 3 (Moscow, 1976), pp 36-40 — Editor. Available at < > — MIA.]

101. Le socialisme devant le vieux monde, p 29.

102. For instance, the Fourierist journal, La Phalange, is known to have been called ‘the organ of social science’. [La Phalange — (full title: La Phalange. Revue de la science sociale. Politique, Industrie, sciences, arts et littérature) — the organ of the Fourierists published between 1832 and 1849 — Editor.]

103. He strongly approved of a book issued in 1798 by Dupuis, Abrégé de l‘origine de tous les cultes which contains just such a view on religion.

104. The first edition appeared in 1846 and is said to have had a great success among the workers.

105. Born on 19 June 1782; died on 28 February 1854. [Plekhanov is mistaken; the name of the author he is referring to was Felicité-Robert Lamennais — Editor.]

106. Born in 1796; died in 1865.

107. In opposition to them, the conscious bourgeois ideologists — Guizot, Thierry, Mignet and many others — who did not of course in the least approve of the statesmen of 1793, were decided and conscious advocates of the class struggle, so long as it remained a struggle of the bourgeoisie against the aristocracy. They started to preach social peace only after 1848, when the proletariat took action. I have explained this in detail in another place (see my preface to the second edition of my translation of the Manifesto of the Communist Party. [See Georgi Plekhanov, Selected Philosophical Works, Volume 2 (Moscow, 1976), pp 427-73 — Editor.]

108. Born in 1805; died in 1880.

109.Ni dieu, ni maître!’ (‘Neither God nor Master’) — the revolutionary slogan that the French revolutionary Blanqui used as the heading for his newspaper — Editor.

110. FN Babeuf was born in 1764. He was sentenced to death and died on the scaffold on 24 February 1797. On the eve of the execution he made an unsuccessful attempt to commit suicide.

111. Conspiracy of Equals — a utopian communist movement in France in 1795-96, guided by the conspiratorial society of ‘equals’ with Babeuf at its head. The aim of the society was to prepare and carry out the revolution, to attain complete equality of men through a communist reorganisation of society. The society of ‘equals’ attached to communism roughly egalitarian features. The conspiracy was disclosed, Babeuf and Darthé were sentenced to death, the rest of the members exiled — Editor.

112. Bounarroti’s book was entitled Conspiration pour l‘égalité dite de Babeuf, suivie du Procès auquel elle donna lieu et des pièces justificatives... and was published in 1828 — Editor.

113. He represented that trend of ‘political communism’ which seemed to Considérant to be the most dangerous (see above).

114. I insist that the revolutionary storm at the end of the eighteenth century engendered a negative attitude precisely to the class struggle. This attitude did not exclude now and then an inclination to a revolutionary mode of action. One of the two future supreme fathers of Saint-Simonism, Bazard, belonged at one time to the Carbonari. Buchez and several more of the future socialists were also in the Carbonari. But the aspirations of the Carbonari were purely ‘political’, that is to say, they did not concern themselves with property relations and so did not threaten to sound the call for ‘the war of the poor against the rich’. Socialism did concern itself with property relations and consequently reminded people of that war. This is why the former conspirators, Bazard, Buchez and others, hastened to proclaim themselves supporters of social peace as soon as they became socialists. Again: he will not understand the history of French utopian socialism who forgets the effect of the ‘catastrophe of 1793’ on the minds of the French intellectuals.