Description of Recently Founded Communist Colonies Still in Existence
Written: in mid-October 1844
First published: in Deutsches Bürgerbuch für 1845, Darmstadt 1845;
The “Description of Recently Founded Communist Colonies Still in Existence” was compiled by Engels on the basis of materials published in The New Moral World, The Northern Star and other publications. The main source was a series of 29 letters written by the Owenite John Finch and published in The New Moral World between January 13 and October 19, 1844, under the title “Notes of Travel in the United States”. Engels gives some excerpts from Finch’s letters in his own, rather free, German translation and italicises certain words and passages (the features of his method of quoting are taken into account in the present edition). In describing the communist colony of Harmony Hall in Hampshire, which Was founded by Owen’s followers in 1841 and existed until the be-ginning of 1846, Engels drew on Somerville’s essay A Journey to Harmony Hall, in Hampshire; with some particulars of the Socialist Community, to which the attention of the Nobility, Gentry and clergy is earnestly requested. This essay was published in The Morning Chronicle on December 13, 1842, and signed “One who has whistled at the Plough”. Engels’ “Description” was published in the annual Deutsches Bürgerbuch für 1845 without any signature. Engels’ authorship is confirmed by his own reference to this material in a series of articles on the progress of communism in Germany published in the spring of 1845 in The New Moral World (see p. 240 of this p. 214 volume).
When one talks to people about socialism or communism, one very frequently finds that they entirely agree with one regarding the substance of the matter and declare communism to be a very fine thing; “but”, they then say, “it is impossible ever to put such things into practice in real life”. One encounters this objection so frequently that it seems to the writer both useful and necessary to reply to it with a few facts which are still very little known in Germany and which completely and utterly dispose of this objection. For communism, social existence and activity based on community of goods, is not only possible but has actually already been realised in many communities in America and in one place in England, with the greatest success, as we shall see.
Incidentally, if one goes into this objection somewhat more deeply, one finds that it is made up of two further objections; these are, firstly: no workers would be prepared to carry out the menial and unpleasant manual tasks; and secondly, with everyone having an equal claim to the communal possessions, people would quarrel about these possessions, and in this way the community would break up again. The first objection is overcome very simply, as follows: these tasks, being now within the community, are no longer menial; and furthermore they can be almost entirely dispensed with by improved facilities, machines and so forth. For instance, in a large hotel in New York, the boots are cleaned by steam, and in the communist colony at Harmony in England (see below) not merely are the water-closets, which are so conveniently fitted out in the English fashion, cleaned automatically, but they are also provided with pipes which take the waste directly to the great dung-pit. — Regarding the second objection, however, all communist colonies so far have become so enormously rich after ten or fifteen years that they have everything they can desire in greater abundance than they can consume, so that no grounds for dispute exist.
The reader will discover that most of the colonies that will be described in this article had their origins in all kinds of religious sects most of which have quite absurd and irrational views on various issues; the author just wants to point out briefly that these views have nothing whatsoever to do with communism. It is in any case obviously a matter of indifference whether those who prove by their actions the practicability of communal living believe in one God, in twenty or in none at all; if they have an irrational religion, this is an obstacle in the way of communal living, and if communal living is successful in real life despite this, how much more feasible must it be with others who are free of such inanities. Of the more recent colonies, almost all are in any case quite free of religious nonsense, and nearly all the English Socialists are despite their great tolerance quite without religion, for which very reason they are particularly ill-spoken ‘ of and slandered in sanctimonious England. However, when it comes to providing proof, even their opponents have to admit that there is no foundation for all the evil things that are said of them.
The first people to set up a society on the basis of community of goods in America, indeed in the whole world, were the so-called Shakers. These people are a distinct sect who have the strangest religious beliefs, do not marry and allow no intercourse between the sexes, and these are not their only peculiarities of this kind. But this does not concern us here. The sect of the Shakers originated some seventy years ago. Its founders were poor people who united in order to live together in brotherly love and community of goods and to worship their God in their own way. Although their religious views and particularly the prohibition on marriage deterred many, they nevertheless attracted support and now have ten large communities, each of which is between three and eight hundred members strong. Each of these communities is a fine, well laid-out town, with dwelling houses, factories, workshops, assembly buildings and barns; they have flower and vegetable gardens, fruit trees, woods, vineyards, meadows and arable land in abundance; then, livestock of all kinds, horses and beef-cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry, in excess of their needs, and of the very best breeds. Their granaries are always full of corn, their store-rooms full of clothing materials, so that an English traveller who visited them said he could not understand why these people still worked, when after all they possessed an abundance of everything; unless it was that they worked simply as a pastime, having nothing else to do. Amongst these people no one is obliged to work against his will, and no one seeks work in vain. They have no poor-houses and infirmaries, having not a single person poor and destitute, nor any abandoned widows and orphans; all their needs are met and they need fear no want. In their ten towns there is not a single gendarme or police officer, no judge, lawyer or soldier, no prison or penitentiary; and yet there is proper order in all their affairs. The laws of the land are not for them and as far as they are concerned could just as well be abolished and nobody would notice any difference for they are the most peaceable citizens and have never yielded a single criminal for the prisons. They enjoy, as we said, the most absolute community of goods and have no trade and no money among themselves. One of these towns, Pleasant Hill near Lexington in the State of Kentucky, was visited last year by an English traveller named Finch, who gives the following description of it.
“Pleasant Hill consists of a great number of large, handsome hewn stone and brick houses, manufactories, workshops, farm buildings, all in the neatest order, some of the best in Kentucky; the Shaker farm-land was easily known by the fine stone wall fences by which it was enclosed, and by its superior cultivation; a great number of fat cows and sheep were grazing in the fields, and numerous fat swine were picking up fallen fruit in the orchards. The Shakers possess nearly four thousand acres of land here, of which about two-thirds is under cultivation. This colony was commenced by a single family about the year 1806; others joined afterwards and they gradually increased in numbers; some brought a little capital and others none at all. They had many difficulties to contend with, and suffered many privations at the first, being generally very poor persons; but by diligence, economy and temperance, they have overcome all and now have a great abundance of everything and owe nothing to any man. This Society consists at present of about three hundred individuals, out of which some fifty to sixty are children under sixteen years of age. They have no masters — no servants; far less do they have slaves; they are free, wealthy and happy. They have two schools, a Boys’ and a Girls’ School, in which are taught reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar and the principles of their religion; they do not teach science to the children as they believe science is not necessary to salvation. As they tolerate no marriages, they would inevitably die out, if new members were not always joining them; but although the prohibition on marriage deters many thousands and many of their best members leave again for that reason, so many new members nevertheless still come that their number constantly increases. They rear livestock and variously cultivate the fields, and themselves produce flax, wool and silk, spinning and weaving them in their own manufactories. What they produce in excess of their needs they sell or exchange amongst their neighbours. They generally labour from sunrise to sunset. The board of trustees keeps all the books and accounts in a public office, and the books are open for all members to see, as often as they choose. They not themselves how wealthy they are, as they never take account of their stock; they are satisfied to know that all they have is their own, for they are in debt to no one. All they do is to make out a list of the debts their neighbours have with them once a year.
“The Church is divided into five families (divisions) of from forty to eighty in each; each family has a separate domestic establishment and lives together in a large, handsome mansion; and all get every article required, and as much as they want from the common stores of the Society, and without any payment. A deacon is appointed to each family, whose business is to see that all are provided with every thing they want, and to anticipate their wants as far as possible. They all clothe in Quaker-fashion — plain, clean and neat; they have a great variety of articles of food and all of the very best description. If a new member seeks admission, he must, according to the laws of the Society, give up every thing he has to the community and is never allowed to claim it back, even if he leaves; nevertheless it is their practice to give back to each as much as he brought in. If a person leaves who has brought in no capital, he is not allowed by the laws to claim any thing for services either, as he has been fed and clothed at general expense whilst he was working; nevertheless it is their custom in this case too to make parting presents to every person if they leave in a kind and proper manner.
“Their government is established in the manner of the first Christians. There is a male and a female minister in each Society, and each has an assistant. These four . . ters are the highest power in the whole Society and decide all cases of contention. There are also two elders in each family of the Society, with two assistants and a deacon or administrator. The property of the Society is vested in the board of trustees, which consists of three persons, oversees the whole establishment, directs labour and carries on transactions with neighbours. They have no power to buy or sell any land without the consent of the Society. There are of course also foremen and managers in each department of labour; however they have made it a rule that no commands are ever given by any one, but all are to be persuaded by kindness.” [Finch, Letter V, The New Moral World, Feb. 10, 1844]
Another colony of Shakers, New Lebanon in the State of New York, was visited by a second English traveller, by the name of Pitkeithly, in the year 1842., Mr. Pitkeithly most thoroughly inspected the whole town, which numbers some eight hundred inhabitants and owns between seven and eight thousand acres of land, he examined its workshops and factories, its tanneries, sawmills and so on, and declares the whole arrangement to he perfect. He too is surprised at the wealth of these people who began with nothing and are now becoming richer with each passing year, and he says:
“They are happy and gay among themselves; there is no quarrelling but on the contrary friendliness and love prevail throughout their habitation, in every part of which reigns an orderliness and regularity which have not their equal.” 
So much regarding the Shakers. As we said, they enjoy complete community of goods and have ten such communities in the United States of North America.
Apart from the Shakers, however, there are other settlements in America based on community of goods. In particular the Rappites are to be mentioned here. Rapp is a minister from Württemberg who in about 1790 dissociated himself and his congregation from the Lutheran Church and, being persecuted by the government, went to America in 1802. His followers went after him in 1804, and thus he settled in Pennsylvania with about one hundred families. Their combined fortune amounted to about 25,000 dollars, and with this they bought land and tools. Their land was uncultivated virgin forest and cost them their total fortune; however they only paid for it in stages. They now joined together in community of goods [Gütergemeinschaft], and made the following agreement:
1) Each member surrenders all his possessions to the community, without gaining any privileges from this. All are equal within the community.
2) The laws and regulations of the society are equally binding on all.
3) Each member works only for the benefit of the whole society and not each for himself alone.
4) Whoever leaves the society has no claim to compensation for his work, but is given back everything he put in; and those who have put nothing in and depart in peace and friendship receive a parting gratuity.
5) In exchange the community undertakes to provide each member and his family with the necessities of life and the necessary care in sickness and old age, and if the parents die or withdraw, leaving their children behind, the community will bring up these children.
In the first years of their communal life, when they had to put a wilderness under the plough and also pay off some 7,000 dollars of the purchase price of the land each year, times were naturally hard for them. Several of the more wealthy were deterred by this, withdrew and took out their money, which much aggravated the colonists’ troubles. But most held out faithfully and in this way had paid off all their debts in 1810, within just five years. In 1815 for various reasons they sold up their whole colony and once more bought twenty thousand acres of virgin forest in the State of Indiana. Here they built the fine town of New Harmony after a few years and put most of the land under the plough, established vineyards and corn-fields, built a wool- and cotton-mill, and became richer with each passing day. In 1825 they sold up their whole colony to Mr. Robert Owen for twice one hundred thousand dollars and set off for the third time into the virgin forest. This time they settled by the great river Ohio and built the town of Economy, which is larger and more handsome than any in which they had previously lived. In 1831 Count Leon came to America with a company of some thirty Germans to join them. They received these new arrivals gladly, but the Count stirred up some of the members against Rapp, and for this reason it was decided at a meeting of the whole community that Leon and his followers should leave. Those remaining behind paid those who were dissatisfied more than one hundred and twenty thousand dollars, and with this money Leon founded a second colony, which failed, however, on account of mismanagement; its members dispersed and Count Leon died shortly afterwards as a tramp in Texas. Rapp’s settlement, on the other hand, has flourished to the present day. The above-mentioned traveller Finch reports about its present circumstances:
“The town of Economy consists of three long wide streets and five equally broad streets that cross these three at right angles; it has a church, a public hotel, a wooren factory, a cotton factory, and a silk-mill, a cocoonery for rearing silkworms, public stores for selling to strangers and for the supply of the members, a museum of natural curiosities, workshops for the various trades, agricultural buildings and large, handsome houses for the various families, with a large garden by each house. The farm-land belonging to it is about six miles in length and about one mile wide, contains large vineyards, an orchard of thirty-seven acres, and grain and pasture lands. The number of members is about four hundred and fifty, all well clothed, well fed and splendidly lodged, cheerful, contented, happy, and moral people who for many years have not known want.
“For a time marriage was greatly discouraged among them too, but they now marry and have families and are very desirous of increasing the number of members if proper persons would present themselves. Their religion is the New Testament, but they have no special creed and do not interfere with the opinion of the members, so long as they let the others be and abstain from sowing dissension on matters of faith. They call themselves Harmonists. They have no paid priests; Mr. Rapp, who is above eighty years of age, acts both as priest and governor. They like to make music and occasionally have concerts and music-meetings in the evenings. They commenced their harvest the day before my arrival with a grand concert in the fields. In their schools they teach reading, writing, arithmetic and grammar; but, like the Shakers, they do not teach any of the sciences. They labour much longer than they need, from sunrise till sunset all the year; all labour and those who cannot work in the factories in winter find employment with threshing and feeding cattle, etc. They have 75 milking cows, large flocks of sheep, and great numbers of horses, hogs and poultry, and from what they have saved, they have lent large sums to businessmen and bankers; through bankruptcies they have lost a great deal that they lent, but they have still a great amount of useless money which is constantly increasing.
“Their endeavour was always to make themselves every article they required so that they should need to buy from others as little as they could and eventually made more than they needed; later they acquired a flock of 100 merino sheep to improve the strain of their sheep, paying fifteen thousand dollars for them. They were among the first in establishing the woollen manufacture in America. Then they began to plant the vine, grow flax, erect a cotton factory and rear silkworms for manufacture. However in all things they first take care to abundantly supply their own wants before they sell anything.
“They live in families of from twenty to forty individuals, each of which has a separate house and domestic establishment. The family gets its supplies as much as it requires from the common stores. They have an abundance for all and they get as much as they wish without charge. When they need clothing, they apply to the head tailor, the head seamstress or shoemaker and are furnished with it made to their taste. Flesh meat and the other foods are divided among the families according to the number of individuals in each, and they have everything in abundance and plenitude.” [Finch, Letters VI and VII. The New Moral World, Feb. 17 and Feb. 24, 1844]
Another settlement enjoying community of goods was established at Zoar in the State of Ohio. These people are also Separatists from Württemberg who detached themselves from the Lutheran Church at the same time as Rapp and, after being persecuted for ten years by it and by the government, likewise emigrated. They were very poor and were only able to reach their destination with the support of philanthropic Quakers in London and America. Led by their minister, Bäumler, they arrived in Philadelphia in the autumn of 1817 and bought from a Quaker the land which they still own today and which is seven thousand acres in area. The purchase price, which amounted to some six thousand dollars, was to be paid off gradually. When they arrived at the site and counted their money, they found that they had just six dollars per person. That was all; not a penny of the purchase price of the land had yet been paid, and out of these few dollars they had to buy seed-corn, farm-tools and provisions until the next harvest. They were confronted with a forest with a few log cabins, and this they had to put under the plough; but they set to work with a will, soon had their fields ready for ploughing and in the very next year built a corn-mill. Initially they divided their land into fairly small pieces, each of which was farmed by one family on its own account and as its private property. But they soon saw that this would not do, because since each one was only working for himself, they could not clear the forest fast enough and put it under the plough, they could give each other no proper assistance at all, and in this way many got into debt and were in danger of becoming quite impoverished. After a year and a half therefore, in April 1819, they joined together in community of goods, worked out a constitution and unanimously chose their minister, Bäumler, as Director. They then paid all the members’ debts, were allowed two years extension on the purchase price of the land and worked with redoubled enthusiasm and united efforts. With this new arrangement they did so well that they had paid off the whole purchase price of their land together with the interest four whole years before the appointed time, and how they are faring in other respects, the following description of two eyewitnesses will show:
An American businessman who comes to Zoar very frequently portrays the place as a perfect model of cleanliness, order and beauty, with a splendid inn, a mansion for the aged Bäumler to live in, a fine public garden of two acres, with a large greenhouse, and fine, well-built houses and gardens. He portrays the people as very happy and contented, industrious and respectable. His description was published in the Pittsburg (Ohio) newspaper (Pittsburg Daily Advocate and Advertiser, July 17th 1843)
Finch, whom we have mentioned several times, declares this settlement to be the most perfectly organised of all those living in community of goods in America. He gives a long list of their wealth, and says that they have a flax-spinning mill and a woollen-mill, a tannery, iron-foundries, two corn-mills, two sawmills, two threshing-machines and a host of workshops for every conceivable trade. He also says that their arable land is better farmed than anything else he had seen in America. The Pfennig Magazin estimates the Separatists’ property at between one hundred and seventy and one hundred and eighty thousand dollars, all of which has been earned in twenty-five years, since they began with nothing at all except six dollars a head. There are about two hundred of them. They too had prohibited marriages for a time, but like the Rappites they have gone back on that and now they do marry.
Finch reproduces the Constitution of these Separatists, which consists principally in the following:
All the Society’s officers are elected, in fact by all its members who are above twenty-one years of age, from amongst their own number. These officers comprise:
1) Three managers, one of whom is re-elected each year, and who may be dismissed by the Society at any time. They administer all the property of the Society and provide the members with the necessities of life, dwelling, clothing and food, as well as circumstances permit and without favour for anyone. They appoint assistant managers for the different kinds of work, settle small disputes and may, jointly with the Council of the Society, promulgate new regulations, which, however, must never conflict with the Constitution.
2) The Director, who remains in office as long as he enjoys the confidence of the Society and manages all business as chief officer. He has the right to buy and sell, and to conclude contracts, but in all matters of importance he can only act with the consent of the three managers.
3) The Council of the Society, which consists of five members, one of whom resigns each year, and which enjoys the highest power in the Society, promulgates laws with the Managers and the Director, supervises the other officers and settles disputes when the parties are not satisfied with the Managers’ decision; and
4) The Paymaster, who is elected for four years and who alone of all the members and officers has the right to have money in his keeping.
Besides this, the Constitution decrees that an educational establishment shall be set up, that all members shall surrender all their possessions to the community for ever and can never demand them back, that new members may only be accepted after they have lived with the Society for a year and if all the members vote for them, and the Constitution can only be altered if two-thirds of the members are in favour.
These descriptions could easily be much expanded, for almost all the travellers who go into the American interior visit one or other of the above-mentioned colonies, and almost all accounts of these journeys describe them. But not even a single one has been able to report any ill of these people, on the contrary, they all have only praise for them and the most they can find to criticise are the religious prejudices, especially of the Shakers, which, however, clearly have nothing to do with the ideal of community of goods. I could thus also quote the works of Miss Martineau, Messrs. Melish and Buckingham and many others; but as sufficient has been said above and these people anyway all tell the same tale, this is not necessary.
The success enjoyed by the Shakers, Harmonists and Separatists, and also the general urge for a new order in human society and the efforts of the Socialists and Communists that this has given rise to, have caused many other people in America to undertake similar experiments in recent years. Thus Herr Ginal, a German minister in Philadelphia, has founded a society which has bought 37,000 acres of forest in the State of Philadelphia, built more than 80 houses there and already settled some five hundred people, mostly Germans, there. They have a large tannery and pottery, many workshops and storehouses, and they are really thriving. It goes without saying that they live in community of goods, as is the case with all the following examples. A Mr. Hizby, an ironmaster of Pittsburg (Ohio) has set up in his native town a similar society which last year bought some 4,000 acres of land in the vicinity of the town and is planning to establish a settlement there based on community of goods. — In addition there is a similar settlement in the State of New York at Shaneateles which was founded by J. A. Collins, an English Socialist, in the spring of 1843 with thirty members; then at Minden in the State of Massachusetts, where about a hundred people have been settled since 1842; then two in Pike County in the State of Pennsylvania, which were also recently set up; then one at Brook Farm, Massachusetts, where fifty members and thirty pupils live on about two hundred acres and have set up an excellent school under the leadership of the Unitarian  minister G. Ripley; and then one at Northampton, in the same State, which has been in existence since 1842 and provides work for one hundred and twenty members on five hundred acres of land, in arable and livestock farming as well as in sawmills, silk-mills and dyeing, and finally a colony of emigrant English Socialists at Equality near Milwaukee in the State of Wisconsin, which was started last year by Thomas Hunt and is making rapid progress. Apart from these, several other communities art said to have been founded recently, but there is as yet no news of them. — This much is however certain: the Americans, and particularly the poor workers in the large towns of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, etc., have taken the matter to their hearts and founded a large number of societies for the establishment of such colonies, and all the time new communities are being set up. The Americans are tired of continuing as the slaves of the few rich men who feed on the labour of the people; and it is obvious that with the great energy and endurance of this nation, community of goods will soon be introduced over a significant part of their country.
However, it is not just in America but in England too that attempts have been made to realise community of goods. Here the philanthropist Robert Owen has been preaching this ideal for thirty years, he has sunk the whole of his large fortune in it and given everything he had in order to found the present colony at Harmony in Hampshire. After he had founded a society with this aim, the latter bought up an estate of 1,200 acres and established a community there based on Owen’s suggestions. It now numbers over one hundred members, who all live together in a large building and have been mainly engaged so far in arable farming. As it was to he set up from the start as a perfect model for the new order of society, considerable capital was required for this, and up to now some two hundred thousand talers have already been put into it. Some of this money was borrowed and had to be paid back from time to time, with the result that many difficulties ensued from this, and for lack of money many of the installations could not be completed and made profitable. And as the members of the community were not the sole owners of the establishment, but were governed by the Directors of the Society of Socialists, to whom the establishment belongs, misunderstandings and dissatisfaction arose at intervals from this too. But despite all this, the matter is proceeding on its course, the members get on exceedingly well with each other, as every visitor testifies, help each other on, and for all the difficulties, the existence of the establishment is nevertheless now secured. The main thing is that all the difficulties arise not from within the community but from the fact that the community has not yet been fully realised. For if it were, the members would not have to use all their earnings to pay off interest and borrowed money but could use them to finish equipping the establishment and run it better; and then they would elect their managers themselves as well and not be always dependent on the Directors of the Society.
The following description of the establishment itself is given by a practising economist who has travelled the length and breadth of England to acquaint himself with the state of agriculture and report on it to the London newspaper Morning Chronicle, signing as “One who has whistled at the Plough” [Pseudonym of Alexander Somerville] (Morning Chronicle, Dec. 13th, 1842).
After passing through a very poorly cultivated district, where more weeds than corn were growing, in a nearby village he heard speak for the first time in his life of the Socialists at Harmony. A prosperous man there told him that they were farming a large estate, and doing it very well too, that all the lying rumours spread about them were untrue, that it would be very much to the credit of the parish if but half of its inhabitants would conduct themselves with as much propriety as these Socialists and that it would be equally desirable that the big landowners of the neighbourhood would give the poor as much and as beneficial employment as these people. They had their own views on property, but for all that they conducted themselves very well and set the whole neighbourhood a good example. He added: Their religious opinions vary: some go to this and others to that church, and they never speak about religion or politics with the people of the village. Two of them replied to my inquiries that there was no specific religious opinion among them and each man could believe what he wished. We were all very disturbed when we heard they were coming here; but now we find that they are very good neighbours, set our people a good example of morality, employ many of our poor, and as they never try to impose their opinions on us, we have no cause to be dissatisfied with them. They are all distinguished by respectable and well-bred behaviour, and no one here in the neighbourhood would dare criticise their moral conduct.
Our reporter heard the same from others too, and then went to Harmony. After once more passing through poorly cultivated fields, he came across a very well farmed turnip field with an abundant, fine crop, and said to his friend, a local tenant-farmer: If those are socialist turnips, they promise well. Shortly after, he encountered seven hundred socialist sheep, which were likewise in splendid condition, and then’ came to the large, handsome and solid dwelling-house. However, everything was still unfinished, bricks and timber, half-completed walls and the ground undug. They entered, were received in a courteous and friendly manner, and shown round the building. On the ground-floor there was a large dining-hall and the kitchen, from which the full dishes were taken by a machine to the dining-hall and the empty ones back to the kitchen. Some children showed the strangers this machine, and they were noticeable for clean, neat clothing, healthy appearance and proper behaviour. The women in the kitchen likewise looked very tidy and decent, and the visitor was most surprised that amid all the unwashed dishes — the midday meal was just over — they could still look so smart and clean. The fittings in the kitchen itself were finer than words could describe, and the London master-builder who had made it declared that even in London very few kitchens were so perfectly and expensively fitted, a remark with which our visitor concurs. Next to the kitchen were convenient washhouses, baths, cellars, and separate rooms where each member could wash on returning from work.
On the next floor was a large ball-room and above that the bedrooms, all very comfortably furnished.
The garden, twenty-seven acres in extent, was in perfect condition, and in general there was great activity to be observed on every side. Bricks were being made, lime burnt, builders were at work and roads were being laid down; a hundred acres of wheat had already been sown, and still more land was to be put under wheat; a pond to take liquid manure was being dug, and from the copse situated on the estate, humus was being gathered for spreading as fertiliser; in short, everything was done to increase the fertility of the soil.
Our visitor concludes:
“I believe their land to be well worth £3” (twenty-one talers) “per acre of rent, and they only pay 15s.” (five talers). “They have an excellent bargain, if they manage it well; and whatever may be said of their social crotchets, it must be said of them that their style of farming is of a superior kind.”
Let us add to this description something about the domestic arrangements of this community. The members live together in a large house, each with a separate bedroom, which is most comfortably furnished; the housekeeping is done for all of them together by some of the women, and this of course saves a great deal of expense, time and trouble, which would be wasted with a large number of small homes, and allows for many comforts which are quite impossible in small households. For example, the kitchen fire heats all the rooms in the building simultaneously with warm air, and there are pipes taking warm and cold water to each room, and other such agreeable and practical features which are only possible in a communal institution. The children are sent to the school which is connected with the establishments and educated there at communal expense. The parents can see them when they wish and the education is designed both for physical and intellectual development and for life in the community. The children are not tormented with religious and theological controversies, nor with Greek and Latin; instead they become the better acquainted with nature, their own bodies and their intellectual capacities, and in the fields they relax from the small amount of sitting that is expected of them; for the classes are held as often in the open air as in enclosed rooms, and work is part of their education. Their moral education is restricted to the application of the one principle: Do not do to others what you would not hive them do to you, in other words, the practice of complete equality and brotherly love.
As we said, the colony is under the management of the President and Directors of the Society of Socialists; these directors are chosen annually by the congress, to which each local Society sends a member, and they have full, unrestricted powers within the Statutes of the Society, and are responsible to the congress. The community is thus governed by people who live outside it, and in these circumstances there cannot fail to be misunderstandings and irritations; but even if the experiment at Harmony were to fail in consequence of this and of financial problems, which however is not in the slightest degree in prospect, this would only be one further argument for community of goods, as these two difficulties have their cause only in the fact that the community has not yet been fully realised. But despite all this the existence of the colony is assured, and even if it cannot progress and reach completion very rapidly, at least the opponents of the community will not enjoy the triumph of seeing it collapse.
We see then that community of goods is by no means an impossibility but that on the contrary all these experiments have been entirely successful. We also see that the people who are living communally live better with less work, have more leisure for the development of their minds, and that they are better, more moral people than their neighbours who have retained private property. And all this has already been acknowledged by the Americans, British, French and Belgian ‘ s and by a large number of Germans. In every country there are a number of people who are busy spreading the ideal and have already taken up the communal cause.
If this question is important for everyone, it is most particularly so for the poor workers who own nothing, who tomorrow consume the wage they earn today and may at any time become destitute through unforeseen and unavoidable contingencies. To them it offers the prospect of an independent, secure existence without anxiety, of complete equality of rights with those who can now through their wealth turn the worker into their slave. These workers are the ones to whom the question matters most. In other countries the workers form the core of the party which is demanding community of goods, and it is the duty of the German workers also to take the question seriously to their hearts.
If the workers are united among themselves, hold together and pursue one purpose, they are infinitely stronger than the rich. And if, moreover, they have set their sights upon such a rational purpose, and one which desires the best for all mankind, as community of goods, it is self-evident that the better and more intelligent among the rich will declare themselves in agreement with the workers and support them. And there are already many prosperous and educated people in all parts of Germany who have openly declared for community of goods and defend the people’s claims to the good things of this earth which have been appropriated by the wealthy class.
- The quotation is taken from the correspondence of Lawrence Pitkeithly of Huddersfield, “Where to, and how to proceed. Description of the Shaker Villages” (The Northern Star No. 286, May 6, 1843)
- The Unitarians (or Anti-Trinitarians) reject the dogma of the “Holy Trinity”. The Unitarian Church first arose in England and America in the 17th century, and its teachings emphasise the moral and ethical side of the Christian religion in contrast to its external ritualist aspect