Heaven On Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism
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Socialism was man's most ambitious attempt to supplant religion with a doctrine claiming to ground itself in "science." Indeed, no religion ever spread so far so fast. Yet while socialism had established itself as a fact of life by the beginning of the 20th century, it did not create societies of abundance or give birth to "the New Man." Each failure inspired new searches for the path to the promised land: revolution, communes, social democracy, Communism, Fascism, Third World socialism. None worked, and some exacted staggering human tolls. Then, after two hundred years of wishful thinking and fitful governance, socialism suddenly imploded in a fin du siecle drama of falling walls and collapsing regimes. In Heaven on Earth, Joshua Muravchik traces this fiery trajectory through sketches of the thinkers and leaders who developed the theory, led it to power, and presided over its collapse. We see such dreamers and doers as the French revolutionary Gracchus Babeuf, whose "Conspiracy of Equals" were the first to try to outlaw private property; Robert Owen, who hoped to plant a model socialist utopia in the United States; Friedrich Engels, who created the cult of Karl Marx and "scientific" socialism; Benito Mussolini, self proclaimed socialist heretic and inventor of Fascism; Clement Attlee, who rejected the fanatics and set out to build socialism democratically in Britain; Julius Nyerere, who merged social democracy and communism in the hope of making Tanzania a model for the developing world; and Mikhail Gorbachev, Deng Xiaoping and Tony Blair, who became socialism's inadvertent undertakers. Muravchik's accomplishment in Heaven on Earth is to tell a story filled with character and event while at the same time giving us an epic chronicle of a movement that tried to turn the world upside down--and for a time succeeded.
privileges that only interfere with your own happiness.” Owen stressed that he sought no violent confrontation, and that he was not out to destroy the existing system, merely to render it obsolete. He likened the process to that by which rail travel had supplanted old gravel roads. More and more villages would be “made ready to receive willing passengers from the old road…until the new shall gradually…become sufficient to accommodate…the population of the world.” ▫ ▫ ▫ The prompt for launching
revolution to experimentation, in the form of small communities in which people could practice the life of collective ownership. The most important of these—in America and England—were led or inspired by Robert Owen. These experiments in socialism did not turn out well, and the idea itself might have wasted away in infancy had it not been taken up by a symbiotic team of unique prophetic power: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. They shifted the basis of socialist hopes from individual experiments to
create socialism, then how could you get there from here? Robert Dale Owen made a more honest attempt to diagnose New Harmony’s collapse. The “most potent factor,” he concluded, was that “All HEAVEN ON EARTH Joshua Muravchik 56 cooperative schemes which provide equal remuneration to the skilled and industrious and the ignorant and idle, must work their own downfall, for by this unjust plan of remuneration they must of necessity eliminate the valuable members—who find their services reaped by
trade unionists cooperated in a show of support for the Polish uprising against Russian rule, and the experience prompted them to reconvene the following year to set up a permanent organization. Labor and Leftist groups from across Europe were invited, and Marx attended as a representative of German exiles in England. A variety of progressive causes were in the air—work conditions, Polish and Italian independence, the defeat of slavery in the United States—and the conference displayed more spirit
hear the feet of children that go to work or play, Of children born to sorrow, The workers of tomorrow, How shall they work tomorrow Who get no bread today? In Limehouse, in Limehouse, today and every day I see the weary mothers who sweat their souls away: Poor, tired mothers trying To hush the feeble crying Of little babies dying For want of bread today. In Limehouse, in Limehouse, I’m dreaming of the day When evil times shall perish and be driven clean away. When father, child and mother Shall