I have already told you, my dear friend, that the socialization of the means of production is a dogma; that a dogma is proclaimed, taught, imposed; that it has its faithful, its apostles, its sectarians, its priests, its martyrs, and its visionaries; but that it is not opened, justified, demonstrated.
The dogma is by nature mysterious and obscure, and you ask me to throw some light upon it, on the ground that I have taken as my motto:
Whatsoever is not clear is not true.
Has any one ever thrown light on the dogmas of transubstantiation, incarnation, and the trinity? And yet millions and millions of men have believed in them. For them men have disputed with each other, beaten each other, tortured each other; for them generations, entire nations have been annihilated; and they have cost the wars of the Albigenses, the massacres of the sixteenth century, Saint Bartholomew, the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and the Inquisition.
The socialization of the means of production is the religion of the day; it has its adepts from the North to the South, from the Orient to the Occident; it is confessed in journals, magazines, meetings, congresses; it commands armies; and you, profane man, ask it to bring you proofs!
Have its adherents asked for proofs? And they are almost as numerous as the stars of heaven—visible to the naked eye. Have its apostles, its leaders themselves asked for proofs?
They have believed; believe! They have followed; follow! They have given the word of command; obey!
You make objection that you, being a libertarian, are not obedient; that to follow under such conditions is to take one’s place among Panurge’s sheep; and you send me the triumphant argument that you cannot believe without knowing.
Alas! no more can I.
Let us learn, then; and since one is never so well informed as by himself, let us inform ourselves and run for a little while, over mountains and through valleys, to lay hold of the said dogma and find out for ourselves whether it is so refractory to analysis.
It forms a part of the Christian baggage. Christianity is a championship of the exploited, the wretched, the poor, against the exploiters, the powerful, the rich.
Against the iniquity of distribution it has protested by the instinctive as well as unconscious cry of every social revolution in its infancy: Communism.
Listen to the fathers of the Church.
No more private property, everything in common, and then no more thieves, no more brigands, no more opulence, and no more iniquity.
You see, the solution is simple, direct, convenient, and easily dispenses with knowledge and even with thought. It may be subject to some illusions and disnechantments.
Application (Acts 4:34 and following):
Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,—today they would add tools, and the distribution indicated in the next verse would be made in kind,—
And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
That is the pure Communistic doctrine, as simple as the child just born, and not yet adulterated in view of the resistance of those people who, under the pretext of liberty, are disinclined to go to lay no matter what at the feet of no matter whom, and to go to beg, from the hands of no matter whom, no matter what.
And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
But Peter said: —the auditor of the time,—
Ananais, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?
and to keep back part of the price of the land?
And Ananais hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost; and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
Christian Communism inaugurated the tradition of all Communisms, past and future, which have always included in their methods of action a salutary terrorism.
And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
To add to the terror:
And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
And Peter answered unto her:
Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said:
Yea, for so much.
Then Peter said unto her:
How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the auditing committee? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
And great fear came upon all the church.
And this is the way they establish good communities.
This fear aiding, they continued, in the course of the centuries, to bring the prices of things, then the things themselves, actual property real and personal, and place them in the hands of the Christian collectivity, as it is called today.
You understand, of course, that the
hands of the collectivity is a metaphorical expression, and that these hands practically resolve themselves into a certain number of individuals appointed to receive private property and to distribute it afterwards,
according to needs.
Now, hands, though made to receive and even to distribute, are also excellently fitted to retain. You know the proverb:
What is good to take is good to keep.
And besides, hands are attached to arms, and arms to bodies endowed with strong appetites, passions, and other qualities, which do not abandon individuals, even in collectivity.
The delegated administrators, the executive committees of the Christian collectivity,—vicars, priests, bishops, popes,—quickly discovered that the best Communism is that which begins at home.
To each according to his needs, said the constitution.
These chiefs of the Christian community,—for delegates, even though elected in the most democratic fashion in the world, always become chiefs in communities,—popes, bishops, priests, and vicars had need of good food, fine clothes, splendid residences, and they distributed them to themselves; their appetites coming as they ate, they also had need of vast domains, numerous servants, and even immense collections of serfs, and they satisfied these needs according to the formula.
The needs of the shepherds being thus appeased, there doubtless was not much left for the sheep; nevertheless, when they were too bare, having been too closely shorn, and when they were too hungry, and if they bowed very, very low and even begged upon their knees, a few bits were thrown them from the social warehouse. . . . by way of charity.
The people, who had risen against exploitation, again became subject to exploitation. Their hatred of the rich had created rich; their cry for freedom died out in a slave’s prayer, and the most horrible, the most stupefying, the most debilitating, the most degrading, the most humiliating of systems marked the logical development and end of an attempt at Communism undertaken by reformers of conviction, who were courageous, energetic, sincere, honest, devoted to the point of sacrifice, to the point of persecution, to the point of martyrdom, to the point of death.
Through having abandoned their goods, men had lost their liberty, their dignity, their security.
This article is part of a serial: Socialistic Letters.
- This is the first instalment.
- Ernest Lesigne, Socialism is the opposite of governmentalism. »