Q1. Trace the growth of ideas and conditions which gave birth to Socialism.
Under capitalism, the means of production such as factories and the things produced by factories were owned and controlled by a few people. The vast majority of the people who worked in the factories have no rights, frequently without jobs and conditions of work and living are miserable. for a long time there were laws against workers combining themselves into unions but gradually workers began to organize themselves into trade unions to protect their common rights though. The governments were also forced to pass laws against some of the worse features of capitalism. For example Laws to protect workers from unsafe conditions and regulating hours of work were passed in many countries.
In England, a new political movement started which aimed at winning political rights for workers, the Chartist movement.
The greatest challenge to capitalist system came from the ideas of socialism and the movements based on those ideas. The idea grew that capitalism itself is evil and that it needs to be replaced by a different kind and economic system in which the means a production would be owned by the society as a whole and not by a few individuals.
Many philosophers and reformers in the past had expressed their revulsion against inequalities in society and in favour of a system in which everyone would be equal. However these ideas had remained as mere dreams. The French Revolution a 1789 with its promise of equality had given a new impetus to these ideas. Though the French Revolution could put an end to the autocratic rule of the French king, it did not did not usher in an era of equality in economic, social and political life. The-wide gap between the aims of the French Revolution and the actual conditions in France after the revolution created serious discontent among the people. It led to an attempt to overthrow the existing government in France with a view to building a society based on socialist ideas. This attempt, known as Babeufs Conspiracy, is an important event in the history of socialism.
Babeuf was born in 1760 and had participated in the French Revolution. He organized a secret society called the Society of the Equals. Babeuf, in a manifesto, had declared, “Nature gave everyone an equal right to the enjoyment of all goods…..In a true society, there is no room for either rich or poor”. He said that it was necessary to make another revolution which would do away “with the terrible contrasts between rich and poor, masters and servants! The time has come to set up the republic of equals, whose welcoming doors will be open to all mankind.” The society planned an uprising but the government came to know of the plan and in May 1796, a large number of leaders including Babeuf were arrested. Babeuf was executed in 1797. Though Babeuf’s attempt at overthrowing the government had failed, his ideas exercised an important influence on the growth of socialist movement.
There was another group of socialists in the early history of socialism, known as Utopian Socialists who viewed property in relation to its usefulness to society. They recognized the evils of capitalism and proposed the establishment of a new and better system of society in its place. Saint-Simon (1760-1825) coined the slogan, ‘from each according to his capacity, to each according to his work‘. They visualized a society free from exploitation of any kind and one in which all would contribute their best and would share the fruits of their labour. However, the methods they advocated for the establishment of such a society were impracticable and ineffective. Hence they came to be called utopian socialists. Two other important Utopian socialists were: Charles Fourier (1772-1837), Robert Owen (1771-1858)
Louis-Auguste Blanqui (1805-81), French socialist and political activist played a leading role in every uprising in Paris from the 1830′s to 1871. His theory of Blanquism holds that socialist revolution should be carried out by a relatively small group of highly organised and secretive conspirators. Having seized power, the revolutionaries would then use the power of the state to introduce socialism. For Blanquists, the overturning of the bourgeois social order and the revolution are ends sufficient in themselves. He was one of the non-Marxist socialists of his day. His theory differed from Marxism in one important way that he did not believe in the predominant role of the working class, nor did he believe in popular movements.