1. Definition of Socialism:

The socialist movement started side by side with new industry and was intended to remove the social evils created in part by power machinery and the factory system.

The word socialism is very commonly used but there is no clear and precise definition of it.

Socialism has been described as a way of life, a class struggle, the obliteration of class hatreds and class distinctions, an attitude towards life, a form of society, practical Christianity, a science, the antithesis of capitalism, a programme of action, an opposite of individualism, etc.

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Critics describe socialism, as “a plan that people often enthusiastically advocate when poor, which automatically ceases to interest them when they become wealthy” and “an attempt to legislate unsuccessful men into success by legislating successful men out of it.”

Ramsay Muir writes, “Socialism is a chameleon-like creed. It changes its colour according to its environments. For the street comer and the club room, it wears the flaming scarlet of class war; for the intellectuals it is red shot with tawny; for the sentimentalists, it becomes a delicate rose pink, and in clerical circles it assumes a virgin white just touched with a faint flush of generous aspiration.”

In-spite of it, there is certain things common to most of the socialists. All socialists aim at solving problems which are primarily economic. Socialism is primarily concerned with the production and distribution of wealth and all other considerations are secondary. Political power is desired by socialists only as a means of setting up an economic system.

Every form of modem socialism is in one sense or another a protest against or a condemnation of the economic system called capitalism which has not only failed to effect a just distribution of wealth but has given rise to a conflict of interests between the employers and the employees. All modem socialists agree that capitalism must be replaced by a new economic order.


It is true that there is no agreement among socialists regarding the precise form of the new order but they all agree that private property in land and industrial capital must be transformed into social or collective property. The idea of collective ownership is the core of socialism. Socialism stands for collective ownership and administration of land and industrial capital.

2. William Godwin:

In his work entitled “Enquiry Concerning Political Justice” published in 1793, William Godwin (1756-1836) surveyed the evils of contemporary society, including the extreme inequality of wealth, the wretchedness of the poor and the oppression on the part of the rich. According to him, those, evils could be removed by abolishing private property. Godwin stood for a society on an individualistic basis, without a state organisation.

3. Babeuf:

During the French Revolution, Babeuf (1760-1797) propounded a definite scheme for a socialist society and even attempted to establish it in 1796. He developed a plan according to which the state was to inherit all property until community of property was established.

4. Saint-Simon:

Saint Simon (1760-1825) was by birth an aristocrat and even claimed descent from Charlemagne. He renounced his title during the French Revolution of 1789 and made a fortune through speculation in church lands. His life was spent in the quest for a new source of authority and faith in an industrial age. He preached the gospel of work.


According to him, “Man must work”. He insisted that property rights must depend on their social utility’ and not on any imprescriptibly individual rights. He coined the slogan “From each according to his capacity, to each according to his work.”

Saint Simon was not a systematic thinker, but his speculations stimulated the minds of others. After his death, his disciples founded a school in which his doctrines were systematised and developed. For a time, the school attracted many artists, industrialists and men of letters but its success was short-lived.

5. Fourier:

Charles Fourier (1772-1837) was a contemporary of Saint-Simon and Robert Owen. He was the son of a well-to-do draper who regarded commerce as the great enemy. He attacked all the ills of a commercial civilisation which made vice more profitable than virtue and set men in enmity with one another. The great sources of the evil were cut-throat competition, deceit, greed and inhumanity.

In order to restore harmony to human life, there must be association and cooperation. In order to make work attractive, each worker must be given a share in the produce and be guaranteed a sufficient minimum to free him from anxiety. His suggestion was that die dirty and unattractive work of the community should be done by children who at a certain age are providentially endowed with a love of being dirty.

They would be “passionately attracted” to scavenging and would be always on foot or riding on their ponies at 3 A.M. even in the depths of winter, repairing roads, killing vermin, attending to animals and working in the slaughter houses. Communities after the teachings of Fourier were set up during the 1840s in New Jersey, Wisconsin and Massachusetts.

6. Louis Blanc:

The socialism of Saint Simon and Fourier was largely imaginative and Utopian. Louis Blanc (1811-1882) was the first to make use of the contemporary political machinery to achieve the ends of socialism. He was a journalist, author and politician. In 1840, he published his famous book entitled. “The Organisation of Labour”. He denounced the existing competitive system.

He advocated a political reform which would establish the state on a thoroughly democratic basis. Then, the state would provide social workshops—farms for agriculturists, factories for workmen and shops for tradesmen. The state was to provide the money for starting the workshops. During the February Revolution of 1848 in France, the ideas of Louis Blanc were put into practice and workshops were actually started but they failed.

7. Robert Owen:

Robert Owen (1771-1858) was not only the patron saint of English socialism but also the father of the cooperative movement. He was a pioneer in advocating factory legislation and democratic education. He was also the originator of the nursery school. As early as 1800, he started the experiment of creating a model factory at New Lanark.

He attracted international attention by showing that workers could be treated well, even generously, without the employer incurring any loss. His fellow mill-owners were impressed. In 1825, he made an experiment of “New Harmony” in Indiana in the United States. It was designed as a voluntary and freely self-governing cooperative community. Unfortunately, the experiment was a failure. Owen became a dreamer of dreams and his writings became more and more unrealistic and visionary.

However, the core of his message was that the condition of men would improve if they replaced competition by cooperation as the mainspring of their economic activities and social life. If social conditions were bad, those could be changed. If the conditions were bad on account of human beings being bad, those persons can be changed. The great need was for education, social and moral. The minds of the people be changed and they should appreciate the advantages of cooperation.

Owen helped the growth of cooperative societies and the trade union movement. His name is closely connected with all the steps towards real progress, with all social reform movements and all legislation in the interests of the working classes.

8. Proudhon:

Proudhon (1809-65) is generally known as “the father of anarchism”. He was a printer, journalist and a member of the French Constituent Assembly of 1848. He was one of the greatest critics of Karl Marx. Communism was his bug-bear. His view was that property is the exploitation of the weak by the strong and Communism is the exploitation of the strong by the weak.

To quote him, “Communism is Utopian. Whenever an attempt is made to introduce Communism, it results in a caricature of property. I am opposed to Communism and I am now considered as being the least advanced of socialists, it is because I have left Utopia while the socialists are still in it.” Proudhon regarded Communism as something incompatible with family. “It (Communism) is not science but annihilation of science. It is incapable of finding a formula of distribution and of organisation. It is eclectic, unintelligent and unintelligible. It is the religion of misery. It neither thinks nor does it reason. It does not know how to organise, produce and distribute; it suspects labour and is afraid of justice. It borrows its ideas from the most ancient, mystic, obsolete, vague and un-definable tradition. Communism means privation, everywhere and always.”

9. Karl Marx (1818-1883):

Karl Marx was born in 1818 at Trier, in the Rhineland. His father was a legal official in the Prussian service. He was a Jewish convert to Christianity. His home was one of enlightenment. Marx studied at the Universities of Bonn and Berlin. He concentrated mainly on history, philosophy, jurisprudence and political economy.

He came under the influence of Hegel from whom he imbibed the conception of history as a developing idea and an irresistible process that cannot be deflected. Marx became one of the keenest sympathisers of the revolutionary and democratic agitations of Germany. In 1841, he submitted a thesis for doctorate to the Jena University. He hoped to become a professor in the university but being unsuccessful, he became a journalist.

He undertook the editorship of a liberal newspaper known as the Rheinische Zeitung but the same was suppressed in 1843. He moved to Paris where he came into contact with the French socialists. He also met there Friedrich Engels (1820-95) who became his life-long friend and co-worker. In 1845, Marx was expelled from Paris. He went to Brussels where he carried on his activities.

He joined the League of the Just whose name was changed into the German Communist League in 1847. He was asked to draw a manifesto for the German Communist League and thus was published the Communist Manifesto in 1848, “the birth- cry of modem socialism.” Marx paid a brief visit to Cologne and edited a socialist paper.

In 1849, he went to London where he spent the rest of the 34 years of his life. He acted as he correspondent of the New York Tribune. He was instrumental in the formation of the First International in 1864.

Karl Marx died in London on 14 March 1883. The funeral address was read by Dr. Engels. To quote him, “His mission in life was to contribute in one way or another to the overthrow of capitalist society….. To contribute to the liberation of the present day proletariat this was the first to make conscious of its own position and its needs of the conditions under which it could win its freedom. Fighting was his element. And he fought with passion, tenacity and a success which few could rival…. and consequently was the best hated and most calumniated man of his time.

He died, beloved, revered and mourned by millions of revolutionary fellow-workers from the mines of Siberia to the coasts of California, in all points of Europe and America. His name and his work will endure through the ages.”

Karl Marx was a prolific writer. His writings are to be found in essays, tracts, correspondence and many complete works. Some of his important works are the Communist Manifesto, Das Kapital, Critique of Political Economy, The Holy Family, Value, Price and Profit, Poverty of Philosophy and the Civil War in France (1870-71).

The view of John Bowie is that the Communist Manifesto is “a masterpiece of propaganda. It IS simple, authoritative, and dogmatic; it struck home directly to the masses for which it was designed. It offered certainty, hope and revenge. Rousseau had written, ‘man is born free but he is everywhere in chains now to Rousseau’s heady phrases was added a sustained, apparently scientific, argument.

Where Rousseau worked with gun-powder, here was dynamite.” Berlin writes, “No summary can convey the quality of its opening or its closing pages. As an instrument of destructive propaganda, it has no equal anywhere; its effect upon succeeding generations is unparalleled outside religious history; had its author written nothing else, it would have ensured his lasting fame.”

The style of Marx was bound to create on impression on the minds of the people who were suffering day after day with little hope of any improvement in their lives. A specimen of his style is the following passage with which the Communist Manifesto begins. “A spectre haunts Europe—the spectre of Communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance in order to lay this spectre; Pope and Tzar, Metternich and Guizot French Radicals and German Police spies.

The Communists disdain to conceal their views and their aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose, but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries unite!”

The Communist Manifesto presents all history as the story of class struggles. Technical advances in the methods of producing wealth change the nature and balance of social classes. Modem industry and commerce give power to the bourgeoisie, the industrial, commercial and financial capitalists who own the means of production and whose ruthless exploitation of the world’s resources and of the labour of those who do not own the means of production shapes contemporary history.

The capitalists control the state and use it for exploiting and repressing the wage-earners. By the remorseless processes of history, the proletariat is destined to grow in size, misery and self-consciousness until it is able to overthrow the capitalists. To quote Marx, “What the bourgeoisie produces, above all, are its own grave diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.” Democracy is a sham. Parliamentary Government is only a mask for the class rule of the capitalists.

The workers should have no national loyalties. They have common interests with the oppressed wage-earners of other countries but none at all with their own employers. The destined revolution by the proletariat will be a world revolution which will be triumphant and inaugurate a proletarian state called “dictatorship of the proletariat”. Ultimately, a truly classless society will emerge.

Marxian Communism is primarily the offspring of German Hegelianism and French socialism. Its fundamental article is that of historical materialism. Marx followed Hegel in the interpretation of historical development on the basis of an irresistible, irreversible “dialectical” process.

However while Hegel found in this development the manifestation of the “Universal Spirit”, Marx saw only economic forces. The economic impulse provides the mainspring of human aspirations and shapes consciously or unconsciously human actions, judgments institutions and society. Religion, art, and systems of philosophy are “ideological veils” which emanate from primary economic factors.

The crises and transitions of history are economic in their real significance. Excepting the Hegelian doctrine that the historical process is dialectical which means the product of continual tension between ”opposites” Marx saw the development of history through continuous conflict or tension between “opposing” economic classes. The view of Marx was that history was perpetual class warfare.

The historical progress was from ancient to medieval and from medieval to modem. It was the record of the destruction of the oppressor and the liberation of the oppressed. The next historical development must consist in a conflict of economic classes. Time was ripe for the final war between capitalists and the proletariat.

The immediate programme was to bring about the class war, educate the proletariat in class-consciousness and the recognition of their capitalist enemy; to enlighten them as to their destiny and to prepare them for their “inevitable triumph and that of their disciples, to incite to revolution.

The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly disclose that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a communistic revolution.” Marx also developed the labour theory of value. The economic value of a commodity consists in “human labour crystalized.”

The whole case of Marx rests mainly upon the assumption that capitalism and proletarianism are true “opposites” whose tension produces the next synthetic historical development. However, history shows that modem industrial development is producing out of capital and labour not opposites but ever-coalescing groups whose differences and tension are being reduced by state regulation, trade union action, philanthropic interests, a rising common standard of living and the growth of a wage- earning class with capitalistic investments.

The result is that an inter-dependent labour-capitalist society is emerging which is an economic and financial organisation of wage-earners, shareholders and employers. Marx himself doubted the success of a proletarian revolution in England. In-spite of recurring economic agitation, the modem proletariat is not revolutionary according to the standard of Marx. The only countries where revolutionary Marxism has succeeded are Russia and China.

Many of the ideas of Marx have not stood the test of criticism. Some of his predictions have failed to materialise. Many socialist groups have discarded some of his teachings and modified others. Marx the theorist, the dogmatist, has been pushed into the background to some extent by Marx the leader and the tactician. What has been most effective is his general attitude, his hostility towards the capitalist system and his ability to envisage an alternative to this system.

For multitude of workers, the general attitude was and still is, enough. Marx was a prophet who denounced in scathing terms the system that brought them only toil and poverty and also gave them hope for the future. He told them that their present condition was not permanent and a better state of things was inevitable because history was working in their favour. The workers were going to be the leaders and controllers. They were to carry on energetically and unceasingly the working class struggle and thereby hasten the coming of a new order. Marxism became for millions a gospel of salvation.

10. First International:

The socialism of Marx was international. To quote him, “The Communists are further reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality. The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got.” The proletariat was united in bonds of self-interest throughout the world.

To promote that consciousness, Marx formed in 1864 the “International Working Men’s Association” which is known in history as the First International. It consisted of delegates from most of the countries of Europe. Its rules and programme were drawn up by Marx himself. The congresses were held in different towns of Europe. From about 1868, the Marxian socialists were joined by anarchists headed by Bakunin.

However, Marx and Bakunin quarrelled. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, Bakunin supported France and Marx supported Germany. In 1872, Marx was able to suppress the Bakunin faction and expelled it from the First International which died of inanition after the Congress at Geneva in 1874.

11. Second International:

The Second International was founded in 1889 after the death of Marx. It was a loose federation of national parties rather than an international association in the true sense of the word. Besides the national differences, there was also a division of opinion in regard to the means to be employed and the ends to be achieved. While the Left Wing adhered to the idea of violent revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, the Right Wing revised the Marxian doctrine on those points.

The members of the Right Wing were known as Revisionists and they were ready to compromise with the liberal democratic parties in order to gain legislation which could improve the condition of the working classes within the frame-work of existing institutions. This policy of reform led to rifts within the various national groups. When the World War I broke out in 1914, the Second International foundered on the rock of nationalism.

12. The Third International:

The Third International was formed in 1919. It was organised by the Russian Communists with headquarters in Moscow. It was definitely revolutionary in character. “Its chief purpose is to accelerate the development of events towards world revolution.” It was dissolved in 1943. It was replaced by the Cominform (Communist Information), 1947-56.

13. Bakunin (1814-76):

Count Michael Bakunin was a Russian anarchist. He belonged to a noble family and started his career as an Artillery Officer. In 1835, he went to Moscow for the purpose of studying philosophy. In 1841, he went to Berlin. On account of the influence of A. Beug, Bakunin became a Communist. In 1843, he went to Paris and there he came into contact with Proudhon.

However, four years after he was turned out from France on account of his criticism of the Russian Government. In 1849, he became one of the leaders of a revolt at Dresden. On three occasions, he was sentenced to death. However, he was not executed. He was transported to Siberia by the Russian Government, but he was able to escape.

He went first to Japan, then to the U.S.A. and finally to London. He joined the International under the influence of Marx and Engels. In 1869, he founded the Social Democratic Alliance for the purpose of propagating his ideas among the people. He emphatically rejected all the institutions of political control. It did not make much difference even if those institutions were based on the principle of universal suffrage.

Even the most democratic devices could not change the essential character of the State. The State had a demoralizing effect among the people. This applied both to the governors and the governed. The reason was obvious. The State did not act through persuasion and enlightenment. It acted through compulsion and force. It degraded the moral and intellectual level of the people. It made either tyrants or egoists

14. Kropotkin (1842-1921):

Kropotkin was born in a noble family in Russia. In his boyhood, he became interested in liberalism. He got his education in a military school. He worked in the army for six years but resigned in disgust. Then he devoted his time to the study of physical geography. He did survey work and prepared maps, and became an authority on physical geography.

In 1872, he visited Switzerland and got himself enrolled as a member of the International Workingmen’s Association at Geneva. Finding the programme of the Association conservative, he left it and became an anarchist. When he went back to Russia, he took part in the Nihilist movement.

He was arrested in 1874 and imprisoned. However, he managed to escape from jail in 1876. First he went to England and from there shifted to Switzerland. He also visited Paris in 1877 but returned to Switzerland. It was during his stay on the Swiss soil that he edited the revolutionary newspaper called Le Revolte.

In 1881 he was turned out from Switzerland. Again, he went to England and from there to France. He was imprisoned in 1883 but released in 1886. He did a lot of writing work.

The most important books written by him are the following:

(1) The Conquest of Bread (1888).

(2) Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Ideal (1896).

(3) The State, its Part in History (1898).

(4) Fields, Factories and Workshops (1899).

(5) Mutual Aid, a Factor of Evolution (1902).

(6) Modem Science and Anarchism (1903).

He continued to live in London till 1917 when the Russian Revolution took place. Then he went to Russia, but was disappointed by the developments there and died in 1921. On his death the Russian Government made an offer of a State funeral for him but the members of his family offer. Kropotkin was a man of gentle and attractive personality. He was respected by all who came into contact with him.