Thursday, 26 May 2016

Why We Use the Term Communism Today

Once upon a time, a Welsh by the name of Robert Owen came to America.

Owen had been able to turn an industry around, make a significant amount of money, and make a name for himself.  Along the way, he got charged up....there in England....on the idea of socialism.

In the 1790s....he had somehow found through effort, planning and luck....a business structure that succeed.  His gimmick that made him different?  He actually went on a move to make the work atmosphere positive....giving workers fair pay, a good atmosphere, and  in return got better production than his competition.

All of this led Owen to the idea of developing socialism.  He needed plenty of open land and territory to make this work.

So in 1824, he brought a fair amount of money into the Indiana Wabash River area, and created New Harmony.  This was supposed to be a massive farm, which had a lumbermill, farming operation, school, etc.  Everyone would cooperate.....share in the wealth....and operate under a very liberal atmosphere.  He attracted in the early stages a lot of free thinkers, opportunists, and people just looking for something different in life.

What can be said is that roughly a thousand people came into the operation, and within six months....it was already headed toward a doomed failure.

Most of what you can say about it today is that people got jealous of people doing easy work to make their place in the community versus those who were doing work that had significant dollars coming in.

Owen took the bulk of his fortune from England to make this work, and within twelve months.....had to modify the concept a good bit to make the people happy.  Almost every other month.....people were leaving or in-fighting created another chaotic mess for him to clean up.

By 1827, the utopia project was crapped out.  Owen sold off what he had and left.

Around five to ten years after this....some journalists came into the New Harmony area to ask questions and try to get locals who had been part of the deal to talk about the experience.  Most didn't want to say anything.  They considered socialism (exactly what Owen called it)....to be a utter failure.
So roughly twenty years after this failed experiment with socialism....it's a curious thing.

Karl Marx and Charles Engels sat around and had discussed publishing their Manifesto to cover their utopia ideas.  They had read the pamphlets of Owens, and admired all his talk about the better world that we could manufacture.

So in this period 1846 and 1847, as they read and talked to others....getting their 23-page document ready....they were still using the word socialism as the objective.  Somewhere in this talk with other people....they were told in strong words by different people of the identification of failure with the Owens experiment with socialism.  This failure.....noted by American journalists and British newspapers had soured people with socialism.

Who knows the moment of decision or how they debated this, but eventually, Engels and Marx came around to this idea....removing the word socialism and using the word communism instead.

So as the publisher got the basic draft book.....here was the Communist Manifesto instead of the Socialist Manifesto.

Owens?  You might ask about him at this point.  He died ten years after the Communist Manifesto was published (death in 1858).   From the late 1820s to 1858.....success eluded him for the most part.  He had enough income to survive, but his ideals and business views weren't shared by the bulk of English businessmen.  There's not much of a comment from Owens over the Manifesto or if he shared the ideals that Engels and Marx had.

We live with the term communism today....only because of a failed three-year experiment with socialism.  Curious piece of history.

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