History Optional Paper- 2 Solution – 2014: Q.6 (b)
Q.6 (b) “If we were to define our conception of the State, our answer would be that the State is the banker of the poor. The government would finance and supervise the purchase of productive equipments and the formation of workshops.” In light of the above statement of Louis Blanc, throw light on the Pre-Marxist Socialist Thought in Europe.
Pre-Marxist Socialist Thought in Europe was mainly utopian in nature which has the following characteristics:
(1) Utopian socialism is often described as the presentation of visions for imaginary or futuristic ideal societies.
(2) Utopian socialists believed it was possible to work within and reform capitalist society.
(3) Utopian socialists didn’t believe any form of class struggle or political revolution is necessary for socialism to emerge.
(4) Utopian socialists believed that people of all classes can voluntarily adopt their plan for society if it is presented convincingly. They felt their form of cooperative socialism can be established among like-minded people within the existing society.
Saint Simon, Robert Owen and Charles Fourier were famous utopian socialists.
Owen and Fourier relied on private initiative to build the model communities based on cooperarion that they so hopefully expected to become widely copied examples for the reconstruction of society. Robert Owen set out to establish a model of social organization, New Harmony, on land he had purchased in the U.S.A. This was to be a self-sufficient, cooperative community in which property was commonly owned, though this enterprise failed.
Saint Simon, with his stress on “organization,” presumably meant to give government a larger role and his follower, Louis Blanc, developed Saint-Simon’s vaguely formulated principle of “organization” into a doctrine of state intervention to achieve Utopian ends.
Blanc, the author of “The Organization of Labour”, promoted a scheme of state-financed but worker-controlled “social workshops” that would guarantee work for everyone and lead gradually to a socialist society.
According to Blanc, what proletarians need is the instruments of labor; it is the function of government to supply these. Louis Blanc advocated “social workshops,” which the workers themselves would own and run with the financial assistance of the state.
He believed that the government would withdraw its support and supervision once the workshops were on their feet. He hoped that as the workshops gradually spread throughout France, socialistic enterprise would replace private enterprise, private profits would vanish, and labor would emerge as the only class left in society, thereby achieving a classless society.
Much of Louis Blanc’s socialism was characteristically Utopian, particularly in his reliance on workers to make their own arrangements for communal living. The real novelty of his plan lay in the role he assigned to the state and in the fact that he began to move socialism from philanthropy to politics, which was a step ahead of utopian socialism.
However, Pre-Marxist Socialist Thought was not organized and as scientifically explained as done by Marx. Utopian socialists could not provide scientific approach to social problems and their vision remained utopia instead of coming into the reality. Nonetheless utopian socialism gave a start on which Marxism and later socialism built upon.