Part 1 of 11 in the series Notes on Socialism

The following is an introduction to the series of notes on socialism. Its companion series is Socialism vs Capitalism and if possible, should be read together to get an understanding of these two competing political economic theories.

This series began as an investigation into the roots of modern socialism. Many trace its “origins in the French Revolution of 1789 and the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution.”1 In fact, the term “socialism” is often “attributed to Pierre Leroux in 1834, who called socialism ‘the doctrine which would not give up any of the principles of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity of the French Revolution of 1789.’”2

The Law of Consecration and Socialism Compared

Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution From a religious perspective, socialism is of interest to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because it bears some similarities with various attempts by the Church to implement the “law of consecration”. For example,

The Lord revealed several purposes for the law of consecration: to bring the Church to stand independent of all other institutions3; to strengthen Zion, adorning her in beautiful garments, as a bride prepared and worthy of the bridegroom4; and to prepare the Saints for a place in the Celestial Kingdom.5

Commenting on this subject, President John Taylor stated that consecration is a celestial law and, when observed, its adherents become a celestial people (JD 17:177-81). Thus, men and women today can become like as those of Enoch’s day, “of one heart and one mind,…with no poor among them.”6 Orson Pratt, an early apostle, observed that if the Lord’s people aspire to the Celestial Kingdom, they must begin to learn the order of life that is there (JD 2:102-103).7

Since Zion designates both a place of gathering8 and an ideal society where “the pure in heart” live in harmony9, it bears many resemblances to utopian societies – real and imagined – of the past.10

Continuing, John A. Widtsoe, an apostle, explained how the law of consecration was implemented in the early Church:

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  1. “History of Socialism”. Wikipedia. 9 Jan 2009.
  2. “Socialism”. Wikipedia. 9 Jan 2009.
  3. Doctrine and Covenants 78:14
  4. Doctrine and Covenants 33:17; 58:11; 65:3; 82:14, 18; etc.
  5. Doctrine and Covenants 78:7
  6. Moses 7:18
  7. Hirschi, Frank W. “Law of Consecration”. 1992. Encyclopedia of Mormonism. 9 Jan 2009.
  8. See the post about redeeming Zion.
  9. Sorensen, A. Don. “Zion”. 1992. Encyclopedia of Mormonism. 9 Jan 2009.
  10. Nibley, Hugh W. “The Utopians.” Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. 9 Jan 2009.

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Part 1 of 11 in the series Notes on Socialism

While in prison, Henri de Saint-Simon - a French utopian socialist1 – was visited in a dream by Charlemagne.2 It may be of interest that the man who many believe to be one of the modern founders of socialist thought and “social science”3 claimed to have been visited by one of his ancestors in a dream.

Saint-Simon wrote:
Henri de Saint-Simon

During the cruelest period of the Revolution, and during a night of my imprisonment at Luxembourg, Charlemagne appeared to me and said: “Since the world began no family has enjoyed the honor to produce both a hero and philosopher of first rank. This honor was reserved for my house. My son, your successes as a philosopher will equal mine as a soldier and a statesman.”4

Sources:

  1. “Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon”. Wikipedia. 16 November 2008.
  2. “Charlemagne”. Wikipedia. 16 November 2008.
  3. “Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon”. History of Economic Thought. 16 November 2008; see also “The Utopian Socialists: Robert Owen and Saint-Simon“. The History Guide. 16 November 2008.
  4. Heilbroner, Robert L. The Worldly Philosophers. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. 118. Google Book Search. 16 November 2008.

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Socialism

Part 2 of 11 in the series Notes on Socialism

Socialism is essentially governmental ownership and management of the essential means for production and distribution of goods. According to Wikipedia:

Fabian Society CrestSocialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and the creation of an egalitarian society. Modern socialism originated in the late nineteenth-century working class political movement. Karl Marx posited that socialism would be achieved via class struggle and a proletarian revolution, it being the transitional stage between capitalism and communism.1

The World Socialist Movement web site gives this definition:

Central to the meaning of socialism is common ownership. This means the resources of the world being owned in common by the entire global population.

But does it really make sense for everybody to own everything in common? Of course, some goods tend to be for personal consumption, rather than to share—clothes, for example. People ‘owning’ certain personal possessions does not contradict the principle of a society based upon common ownership.

In practice, common ownership will mean everybody having the right to participate in decisions on how global resources will be used. It means nobody being able to take personal control of resources, beyond their own personal possessions.2

The United States has already adopted many socialistic programs. When socialism is understood, people will likely realize that “common ownership” is under the direction of a small minority. Socialism actually harks back to the “days of the tyranny of kings – the autocracy of the few.”

Sources:

  1. “Socialism”. Wikipedia. 8 September 2008.
  2. What is Socialism?“. World Socialist Movement. 8 September 2008.

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Part 3 of 11 in the series Notes on Socialism

In 1843, Joseph Smith attended lectures on socialism given by John Finch, a follower of Robert Owen who attempted to create a utopian society in Indiana. Following the second lecture, Joseph stated “I did not believe the doctrine”:

Wednesday, 13.–I attended a lecture at the Grove, by Mr. John Finch, a Socialist, from England, and said a few words in reply.

Thursday, 14.–I attended a second lecture on Socialism, by Mr. Finch; and after he got through, I made a few remarks, alluding to Sidney Rigdon and Alexander Campbell getting up a community at Kirtland, and of the big fish there eating up all the little fish. I said I did not believe the doctrine. Mr. Finch replied in a few minutes, and said–”I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness. I am the spiritual Prophet–Mr. Smith the temporal.” Elder John Taylor replied to the lecture at some length.1

New Moral Order, Owen's envisioned successor to New Harmony, IndianaBackground Information

John Finch (1784-1857)2 was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England and became a follower of Robert Owen, “a Welsh social reformer and one of the founders of socialism and the cooperative movement”.3

In 1826, Owen purchased the city of New Harmony, Indiana in hope that the community would serve as the model for the “New Moral World”. After two years, the social experiment failed.

Sources:

  1. Roberts, Brigham Henry, ed. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1912. 6:33. Emphasis in original manuscript. Google Book Search. Retrieved August 15, 2008.
  2. John Finch is mentioned in Winskiill, Peter Turner. The Temperance Movement and Its Workers. London: Black & Son, Ltd, 1892. 84-86. Google Book Search. Retrieved August 15, 2008; see also Finch, John. Travels in the United States of America and Canada. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longman, 1833. Google Book Search. Retrieved August 15, 2008.
  3. “Robert Owen”. Wikipedia. 16 Aug 2008.

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Part 4 of 11 in the series Notes on Socialism

“Communists work for the establishment of socialism as a necessary transition stage on the road to communism,” said John Strachey.1 A British Labour politician, Strachey wrote in The Theory and Practice of Socialism:

The Theory and Practice of Socialism - John StracheyIt is impossible to establish communism as the immediate successor to capitalism. It is accordingly proposed to establish socialism as something which we can put in the place of our present decaying capitalism. Hence, communists work for the establishment of socialism as a necessary transition stage on the road to communism.2

Sources:

  1. For additional information, see”John Strachey”. Wikipedia. 3 Sep 2008.
  2. Strachey, John. The Theory and Practice of Socialism. London: Gollancz, 1936. 21. For a contemporary review of Strachey’s book – albeit from a Marxist point of view – see Mattick, Paul. “Strachey Confesses“. 1937. Marxists Internet Archive. 18 November 2008.

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