Origins of Communism

Origins of Communism

Throughout the history of the modern world,
man has sought out the perfect government. An invincible system of order.

And in our search for this ideal system, the idea of holding property in
common has been a reoccurring thought. From early Christian communities
to modern Marxist states, socialism and more specifically, communism has
had an important role in the development of this ideal system.

After the Great French Revolution of 1789-1794,
the roots of modern-day communism can be clearly seen. In 1795, Gracchus

Babeuf wrote the "Plebeiansí Manifesto" which stated, for full social and
economical equality:

"...to establish
a common administration; to suppress individual property; to
attach each man to the employment or occupation with which he is acquainted;
to oblige him to place the fruits of his labor in kind into a common store;
and to establish a simple administration for food supplies, which will
take note of all individuals and all provisions, and will have the latter
divided according to the most scrupulous equality." - "Plebeiansí Manifesto"1

Because of this and other acts considered
to be threatening to the Directory, Babeuf was executed in May of 1797.

Babeuf was not forgotten though, others followed in his footsteps. Another

19th century French reformer, Charles Fourier, shared many of Babeufís
ideas, but where Babeuf favored immediate political change, Fourier was
for longer-term social reform. The Comte de Saint-Simon, another political
thinker of that time, was similar to Fourier in many respects, although
he valued a mixed society of capitalist thinkers and socialist workers
which he believed would triumph in future French communities.

Meanwhile in England, Robert Owen, a Welsh
industrialist, was developing his own brand of Socialism. Unlike many philosophers
of his time, Owen based his ideas on experience rather than speculation.

He managed a factory and realized that labor was the essential "factor
of production". He looked to the workers rather than government for solutions
to economic problems. He proposed "cooperative societies", or self-contained
communities of producers and consumers which he hoped would prove his theories.

But his socialist experiment never took place because adequate funding
was denied.

In the mid-1830ís, the term "Communism"
was introduced to the world of French politics. First used to describe

Saint-Simon and Fourierís egalitarian slant on socialist ideas, Louis Blanc
built on the ideals of Fourier to establish an important point of modern-day
communism. He stated the principle, "...from each according to his capacities,
to each according to his needs", where as the old principle stated, "...from
each according to his capacities, to each according to his works." This
would prove necessary to later philosophers such as Marx and Engels whose
fundamental ideas were largely based on such principles.

Even more influential, though, was German
thinker Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Hegel introduced "radical" ideas
to European politics in the early 1800ís, but they would not be fully realized
by others until after his death in 1831. He was convinced that all life
evolves from total unconsciousness to full self-consciousness. By this
he meant that we as a race of people are gradually becoming more aware
of our existence. At his intellectual peak, Hegel said, "The real is the
rational." And although this may not have been Hegelís intent, many 19th
and 20th century followers interpreted this as a outward rejection of religion
which in itself is centered on faith.

But to fully understand the evolution
of modern-day Communism, we must first understand itís beginnings as a
communal system. It wasnít until about the 6th century B.C. that the Buddhist
monks who made up the "Sangha" tried to abolish the "caste" system. During
this time in Greece, Pythagoras and his disciples believed that friendship
was the basis for a good society, and to them is attributed the phrase,

"friends should have all things in common." But for obvious reasons, this
system could never work on a larger scale.

The idea gained momentum in late 5th century

Greece when Plato recorded his predecessorís dialogue in The Republic.

Socrates outlines two types of communism in his dialogue. The first was
a "utopian" communism which basically describes a peasant society not complicated
by luxuries. He goes on to say that such a society would work for "pigs"
but not a civilized 4th century Athenian. For this he explained a sophisticated
communism, one that would do away with the hardships caused by a wealthy
ruling class. Plato then goes on to lay out a community in which wealth
and power is separated, factoring social class out of the ruling equation.

But Socrates argues the impracticality of Platoís system being introduced
to an Aristocratic Greece.

Over a thousand years later and over a
thousand of miles away, Sir Thomas Moore wrote Utopia.