Bulletin of the Marx Memorial Library

AMERICAN FORERUNNERS OF MODERN SOCIALISM (Conclusion)

Bulletin of the Marx Memorial Library (1968), 45, (1), 10–14.

Abstract

- 10 AMERI CAN FORERUNNERS OF MODERN· SOCIALISM (Conclusion ) In our l ast i ssue. we .l ooked at some of the Ameri can radicals of the ear l y 19th century, whose wor k has been the sub j ect of an admirable study by Dr. David Harris in his book Socialist Ori gins ·iri:the United Stat es . 1) We saw how the doctor Cornelius Blat chly, ,~iting in 1817, the lavr,yer Daniel Raymond in 1820 and the pr i nter - i nvent or - f armer Langdon Byllesby in 1826 , products of an ove rwheLmfng'ly agrarian s ociety in whi ch industrial capitalism had been born · ~d was -qutck .ly growing, contributed in turn t o t he growt h of a Socialist th~oty. A furt her step forward was taken by Wil l iam Maclure (1 763-1840), a Scot who , l ike Robert Owen , had made a fortune i n bus ines s, and who . came to l ive in America in 1796 . Maclure followed the three'·abovenamed in cons idering the 'unjust distribution of property as Lthe source of poverty and ens l avement - and, he add ed , also of war; and 'i n particul~r hel d , ~th Byllesby, that the ne ce $sary radical r edistribut ion would have to be made by t he workers thems elves . He argued ; indeed, that s ince i t is in the nature of human oreatures to s e ek 'the~ own maxUuum well-being , the interests of worker s and drones couidnot but be in direct opposition to each other . He therefore appli ed himself wi t h dedi ca t i on to the problem of he lpi ng the wor ke r s to equip thernselves f or the' task of social r-evo Iutrlon , He noted how the millions were not onl y expl oi ted , ' b~t conditioned t o accept exploitat ion as their right and natural lot . He 'per cei ves that it i s t he rlchwho ar e al so the governor s , tha~ t hey ,us e their pol i t i cal power t o maint ain and further s t rengt hen tneir pos{ti on as propertyovmer s , and that this i s just as true .in countri es wit h r epresentative government a s in thos e under despo t i c rul e. ' After haIfa century of . r epres entat i ve government in the ,United St ates , conditions are alo')st no better than in the Br itain from whi ch they have ' made themselves independent , and wher e t he political sys tem at th~stime was s t i l l frankly the excl usi ve preserve of t he weal t rii and ,. the "hi gh-born" . The r eason, he argues , with great f or ce and Pungency , is that the ucnf.ed and mer can t i le int erests have used all 't he means their· weal th :;i'l os them - not only church, pr-eas , and such s chool s as exis t , but t he whol e tone of 'soci ety, wit h its impressive shows of elegance and authority , i nspiring r everenc e for t he possessors - t o shape the thought of the mus s es , r epres enting t he int erests of the ri ch as the interes ts of the Lution . (What a topical r i ng t ha t has ! P. B.) Tho answer , he believes , must be knowledge - in the first place but education of a new kind , f ree 'of any control by the ruling ~~'Acut i on , ;-j) V~n Gor cum & CO a As s en. 1966 .

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P.B.