Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther Second Lecture on Communism and Socialism
Regarding the history of Communism and Socialism from its beginning until this lecture was given in 1879.
Communism and Socialism
Minutes of the First German Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, U.A.C.
at Saint Louis, Missouri.
A Stenographic Report of Four Lectures Delivered, and by Resolution of the Congregation, First published by Prof. C.F.W. Walther, D.D.
Translated from the German by Rev. D. Simon and published in 1879 by Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Missouri.
Revised English Translation by The Lutheran Research Society, Detroit, Michigan, 1947.
[p. 34] Second Lecture
O God, thou hast not created man for this short earthly life. The immortal mind of man is not bound to time and earth, like th soul of irrational animals, but lifts itself beyond all things created, even into boundless eternity. The heart of man cannot be satisfied with things temporal and earthly, like the blind instinct of animals, but it hungers and thirsts for eternal, for perfect gifts. In this present world Thou wouldst only prepare man for his final world, Thou woulds only prepare man for his final goal, in another world he shall attain it; here he is to sow, there he shall reap; here he is to labor, there he shall receive the reward; here he is to pass through trials, there he shall be elevated to glory; here truth and falsehood, right and oppression are to contend with each other, there truth and right shall be crowned victorious.
O grant, then, that we may not seek our happiness, rest and peace in all the perishable things of this world; we would not find it after all. Grant also that midst the troubles of this life we may not despair; but that we may be strong like men and cheerfully engage in the appointed contest. But above all, grant that in these times of falling away and infidelity, our faith in Thy Word may not waver, that we may find comfort in Thine only begotten Son Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, and that we may eventually, by His grace, depart this life in peace and behold Thee face to face in the joys of that eternal Day. Amen.
My friends, whoever thinks that we Lutherans take no part in the agitations of the socialists and communists, but rather oppose them, because we are not acquainted with the troubles of laboring-men, or because we have no sympathy for them, or because under all circumstances we side with the rich, the so-called great and rulers, is greatly in error. How could it be otherwise than that we should be well acquainted with the troubles, particularly of these times, of the laboring-men? The greatest number, by far, of the members of our Lutheran congregations are persons who are oppressed with the troubles common among the laboring-men. It is and exceedingly rare occurrence, if once in a great while, a man of wealth or influence connects himself with one our congregations. We also well know, that the present great troubles which have come upon our laboring-men are not by any means simply a natural neces-[p. 36] sity; the cause of the trouble is to be found somewhere else; namely, in part, yes almost altogether, in the self-interest, avarice and selfishness, in the cruelty and heartlessness, an, to speak plainly, in the vampirism and tyrannical oppression of the worker on the part of the rich. Let no one think that we do not sympathize with the laboring-men, it causes our hearts to bleed, and we are willing and ready to do our part, little as it may be, to improve the condition of the poor laboring-man. No, when the rich are unchristian in their conduct towards the poor, when they look upon them as existing simply for their profit, when they treat them as a cow is treated, which is milked an then turned into the woods, if they will not, when such is possible, give the laborer proper wages, if they will not, when such is possible, procure for him paying labor, if they will not pay for the damages sustained to the laborer who has been unfortunate while in their services, if they will not support the laborer and his family in case of sickness, if they can live in luxury and be unconcerned when the laborer is suffering: then we are not their friends, but, from principle, their enemies!
O my brethren, what term of reproach might not be justly applied to us, if we sided with the human vampires and not with the oppressed!
We would be the most infamous and abject hypocrites under the sun, or that ever walked on the earth, if we would, notwithstanding this, pretend that the Holy Scriptures were the book of our religion. The Holy Scriptures are the very book, which does not only declare that the first and greatest command is that we “love God above all things,” but also adds: “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” It is this book which declares: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets,” that is, this is the essence, the sum and substance, the common center of the legal part of the entire Scriptures. It is the Scriptures which cry vengeance upon the heads of the unrighteous capitalists, and which proclaim a thousandfold vengeance upon those who [p. 37] have capital simply to increase it, or to make themselves comfortable, who never concern themselves about their neighbors, who never think that it is because of the poor that they are rich, who, accordingly leave the poor Lazarus lying at the door of their palaces, while they are within faring sumptuously every day. No, we do not side with them, and if socialism and communism are now causing them trouble and anxiety, it is no more than they deserve.
But, my brethren, notwithstanding this, we cannot side with the socialists or with the communists, and that principally for these reasons: They would go too far, they would accomplish more than they either can or should accomplish, and then again because they would employ means which no God-fearing man can employ. If, accordingly, the communists and socialists would equalize everything in the world, introduce the community of goods, so that no one will be rich and no one poor, or if they would, in order to gain this end, shed blood, if necessary, we cannot side with them. For we know, that it is God's order, that in spiritual things, i.e.. things pertaining to our relation to God, we are all equal, for with God there is no respect of persons, but that in this world there must be a difference between men both as respects to their possessions and their positions. Without this difference the world could not exist. In the second place, the Scriptures teach us that the individual does not bear the sword, but this is the prerogative of the government. When the Apostle Peter would defend his Master with the sword, and for which he seemed to have a perfect right—for who was ever more shamefully and unjustly taken by violence than our Lord Jesus Christ!--Christ tells him: “Put up thy sword into the sheath, for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” Even when the Lord was in the presence of Pilate, who among the rulers was the most unjust, he acknowledged: “Thou couldst have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.” Pilate was a ruler and in virtue of his office had the power. Moreover, if the communists and socialists would even partly gain their desired object, they would not only have to gain it by the shedding of blood, but their glory would continue only for a short time, and they would soon see how sadly they had deceived themselves [p. 38] and others. This is the subject we will now consider more in detail.--
We left off with the fourth subdivision of the first part of our essay. The first part reads: No reasonable man, much less a Christian, can take part in the efforts of the communists an socialists, much less become a member of one of their organizations, because these effort are contrary to reason, nature, and experience. It is then said:
4. It is a fact well established by experience, that the communists never attained their professed end, and only introduced sorrow and suffering.
These beautiful whims of the Communists, relating to the future, are of no consequence; the same can be said of their representations of the golden times which will come after they have fully organized the world. History must decide. But history condemns communism. Schiller's words may well be applied here, although used by him for a godless sense: “The history of the world is the judgment of the world.” There are in reality things which are already judged by history; to these belong these new systems, which are, however, already old.
Going back then in history, we find that the first state, which was to a certain extent arranged communistically, was that of the Spartans. They divided all their goods; but it is doubtful whether the communists and socialists will recognize the Spartans as their real ancestors, inasmuch as they had, in connection with their communistic arrangements, slavery, and at that a terrible slavery. So-called helots had to do the farming, and carry on all trades and professions; the Spartan nobility concerned itself nothing about these things. They concerned themselves only about military affairs. The Spartan state was evidently not altogether communistic. Lycurgus gave Sparta a constitution 800 years before Christ.
Six hundred years before Christ Pythagoras arranged his school of philosophy on the Communistic plan. But I doubt whether the communists would recognize in him a tru ancestor. For no one was admitted into this society until he had the abstained from speaking for a number of years—and to this the communists would hardly consent; then again, they Pythagoreans did not intend to organize the whole human race into [p. 39] a society on the basis of these principles, but considered these a more exalted position on which the philosopher must stand, inasmuch as he is not concerned about the earthly and visible, but only regards the idea which governs his mind.
Plato, the renowned philosopher, lived 400 years before Christ. He wrote a book treating exclusively of government and the common-wealth. In this book he also says that the most beautiful and most perfect form of a republic is that of communism. It is remarkable, however, that he forbids only those in the higher stations of life to hold private or personal property; the people, on the other hand, were not to be organized on the principles of communism.
In speaking of an impracticable theory it is now generally said to be a Platonic idea, or a Platonic republic. The expression occurs in the symbolical books of our Lutheran Church in the article treating of the church, in which it is said that the fanatical spirits imagined the church to be a Platonic republic, the description of which looks well on paper, but can never be realized.
Two hundred years before Christ there existed a sect among the Jewish people, called the Essenes, who also had their possessions in common. But it was not their intention to recommend their constitution to the whole world, as do our communists. They did not expect that this form of government would bring happiness to man, but on the contrary, they would live in this manner for the very purpose of denying themselves many things, hoping thereby to merit something before God. It was self-righteousness, feigned holiness, that prompted them to this.
With reference to the early Christians, we will have occasion to speak under the second main devision, from which we will see that the early Christians were not for Communism as some affirm.
In the Romish church there is a strong communistic tendency: for every order of monks and nuns is based on communistic principles. But our communists will hardly recognize these either. The Romish monks and nuns also declare that they do not enter the cloister for the purpose of taking part in the common happiness of man, but much rather to withdraw them- [p. 40] selves from the happiness of the world, to lead a life of abstinence, that by this means they may gain a more lofty position in heaven. These then do not come into consideration here.
At the time of the Reformation, communism as it is now developing itself, was already in existence. The first communist during Luther's time was Thomas Muenzer, a Lutheran preacher, a talented man, but very fanatical. History gives us the following account of him.
In the year 1524 there arose a Lutheran preacher in Thuringia, by the name of Thomas Muenzer; he advocated communistic principles, which he summed up in these words: “omnia simul communia,” which he circumscribed as follows: “All things shall be common, and occasionally they shall be distributed according to each one's necessity; and whatever prince, count, or lord will not submit to this, and being forewarned, his head shall be stricken off or he shall be hung.”3 He traveled through Germany and Switzerland and executing his scheme, stirred up the flames of sedition everywhere; returned to Thuringia, took possession of Muelhausen, had cannons cast in the Franciscan cloister, issued a proclamation to all the princes demanding their resignation, finally collected together 8,000 peasants, ransacked the cloisters and the houses of the rich, and after the peasants had rejected the offer of mercy, provided they would deliver up the ringleaders, he gave the princes battle at Frankenhausen, singing the hymn: “Now we pray the Holy Spirit.” he was, however, most ignominiously defeated, his whole army destroyed, nearly 7,000 of his men perished, and he himself was captured and put to death. This was the beginning and the end of the first communistic movement during the time of the Reformation.
At the same time there was a sedition raised among the peasants in Swabia by the prorogation of communistic ideas. Luther's doctrine of Christian liberty was misunderstood. That which Luther had preached concerning the liberty in the kingdom of God, was also applied to the kingdom of this world. The peasants had a preacher draw up 12 articles which contained their demands. Among other things, they demanded liberty in [p.41] hunting, liberty in fishing, liberty in cutting wood, deliverance from villenage, etc.; but without waiting for the acceptance of the articles, they marched through the land with devastation and murder, assaulted and destroyed castles and cloisters, declaring that everything wearing spurs should die. They made a fearful slaughter and in many instances in the most inhuman manner. Count Lewis of Helfenstein was driven upon the spears of the peasants during the sounding of the drum and the shalm. His wife, who with he little boy cast herself upon her knees before the peasants and begged for mercy, was hauled away on a dungcart midst jeers and mockery. Many of the nobility yielded. But even Goetz of Berlichingen, their leader, could endure the horrible crimes only 8 days. 179 castles and 28 cloisters were consumed in the flames. All of Upper-Germany yielded. Finally the princes arose against them, the result of which was that nearly 100,000 peasants perished most miserably, some in battle and some on the gallows, and their condition was made worse.
What Luther thought of this movement, is evident from one of his writings, which he published on the subject. It was called: “An admonition for peace, in answer to the 12 articles of the peasants.” The peasants themselves had send a request to him, asking him to give his opinion on the matter; for they had thus far seen that he severely reproved all oppression, tyranny and injustice. They hoped that he would side with them; and, in part, Luther did side with them. In the above named writing, he in the first place speaks of the princes, prelates, the great and the rich, and shows them, that in reality they, and no one else, were the cause of this great calamity.--This is truly a good warning to us Lutherans living at this age, that we may not suffer ourselves to be misled by the fact that the communists and socialists are doing wrong, so that we could at once side with all those against whom this warfare is carried on; for truly, if righteousness and love had ruled the world, such aggregations would never have been called forth. Unrighteousness is undoubtedly the source of all these troubles; only this is to be condemned, that they go too far and do not use the right means to improve the condition of affairs.
Luther did not flatter the princes. He was not afraid of their wrath, for he was thoroughly convinced, that he was [p. 42] called of God, now, and after the lie had triumphed so many years, to declare the truth, not only to the poorer class, but also to the big Jacks, as he calls them—He continues:
“The sword is upon your necks; and yet you imagine that you are so firmly seated in the saddle that no one shall be able to lift you out. Such security and obdurate presumption will break your necks; you will see it. I have frequently declared unto you before this, that you should take warning from the 107th Ps. v. 40: 'He poureth contempt upon princes.' You are striving for it, and want to receive a blow upon your heads, there is no use in warning and admonishing you. Be it then so, since you have caused this wrath of God, it shall undoubtedly also come upon you, if you do not change your course in time ... For this you shall know, my lords, that God so manages affairs, that your raving neither can, nor will, nor should be endured. You must change your course and yield to God's Word. If you will dot do so in a cheerful and friendly way, you will be compelled to do so by force and destruction. Should these peasants not accomplish it, others must do it, and if you should kill them all, you would not be victorious, God will raise up others. For He has determined to destroy you, and He will destroy you. It is not the peasants who are contending against you; it it God himself, He is contending against you with his just retribution for your madness ... Now then, my lords, if you will yet receive advice, for God's sake make way somewhat for their wrath. A load of hay should a void a drunkard's way, how much more should not you give up your raving and tyrannical obstinacy and conduct yourselves with reason towards the peasants being either in frenzy or in error. Do not begin to quarrel with them, for there is no telling what the end would be. Use kindness first, for you cannot tell what God is about to do, lest a spark should begin to burn and set all Germany on fire, so that no one shall be able to quench it. Our sins have come before God, in consequence of which we are to fear this wrath, even if we but hear the rustling of a leaf, and why not when such a crowd is in commotion?”
He says: “our sins.” A true Lutheran must also count himself among those who have deserved it, when such fearful parties arise in society, who are bent on turning everything upside down and on drowning the world, excepting themselves, [p. 43] in its own blood. It is a divine judgment of the world. --Luther continues:
“By kindness you lose nothing; and if you should lose any thing, it can be restored to you again in time of peace tenfold, whereas by strife you may lose life and property .. They have set up 12 articles, some of which are so just and right that they expose you lack of kindness before God and the world and verify the 107th Psalm, inasmuch as they are pouring contempt upon the princes. But nearly all of these articles were set up professedly for their special benefit and advantage and are really not intended for their good. I might write other articles against you, with reference to the community and government of Germany, as I did in the book to the German nobility, which would be of even more importance that the latter.”
He would say: “Principles which care nothing if the rest of the world perish if only help is procured for one particular station in life, can only work injury in the world.” Luther says: “While considering the misery and distress of Germany, even in civil matters, I also had thought of giving advice for the improvement of every station of life, and not only for the clerical in which I stood,--if there is actually such a station.” He continues:
But because you would not take warning, you must needs hear and endure such articles, and it is no more than you have deserved for disregarding the warning. The first article, in which they desire to hear the gospel, and to have the right of electing their own pastors, you can in no way refuse ...”
At that time Luther made these declarations to the counts and princes, and even today the people in most parts of Germany have no right to call their own pastors: this is done by the consistory, or the princes or the nobility; and the unfortunate people mus be satisfied with anyone who may be on good terms with the princes, of whom they can expect that he will rebuke only the sins of the people, but not those of the great. Luther says further:
“No government can or should be opposed to this. A government should not oppose anything that is taught or believed, whether it be the gospel or falsehood; it is enough if they oppose the teaching of sedition and dissension.”
The brethren can clearly see from this, that Luther was thoroughly in favor of religious liberty. The government shall not oppose the preaching of anything, whether it be gospel or eternal life, but simply for her earthly welfare. It has no right to dictate to anyone what he shall believe, neither what he shall teach or preach.
“The other articles,” Luther continues, “pertaining to oppressive taxation, as exercised in the escheats, imposition and the like, are no more than just and right. For the government was not instituted that the rulers might be benefited and live in luxury at the expense of the subject, but that they may seek the public welfare. This extortion cannot be endured very long; of what benefit would it be to the peasant if his land would produce as many florins as straws and grains, when the rulers only take the more that they may increase their luxury, and waste the goods like chaff, in dress, in banqueting, drinking, building and the like! This pomp must be put away, these expenses stopped, if the poor are to retain anything ... My lords, you have the Scriptures and history against you. See how the tyrants seldom died a natural death, but were generally put to death and perished in their own blood. Since, then, it is certain that you rule in tyranny and recklessness and that you rob and crush the poor, you can have no other prospect than that you shall perish as those of your character have perished before you .. I would then, with all faithfulness, advise, that several counts and lords be selected from the nobility, that several councilmen be chosen from the cities, and that you cool down your rage, --this you will be compelled to do finally whether you desire it or not—at least relax your tyranny and oppression that the poor may also breathe freely. The peasants should also be advised to give up, and pass by several articles which ask too much; so that the matter might then be composed, if not in a Christian manner, at least in accordance with human rights and forbearance.”4
This rebuke and admonition of the princes and the great who lived in his time, is the beginning of Luther's address [p. 45] These quotations cover only a small portion of it. Then he also speaks plainly to the peasants, shows them in particular, that hey have no right to call themselves Christians if they would overcome violence with violence, and take up the sword, to which God had given them no right. Otherwise he yields to their position in many things.
This was in 1524 and '25. Ten years later there was a similar movement in Muenster, in Westphalia, at which place the Anabaptists were forming a conspiracy. A certain tailor, John Bockhold of Leyden, declared himself king, and Mathiesson, a baker of Harlem, became his minister. They made sad work. It is revolting to give an account of the association. Things were carried on so shamefully that it seemed the devil was celebrating his wedding. Among other things they also introduced the community of wives. These doings came to a most fearful end on the 24th and 25th of June 1535. Although these people continued in Muenster some time, they were finally driven out of their nest, the majority of them were most unmercifully slaughtered and the prisoners cruelly put to death. Such was the beginning and such the end of these communistic movements.
From this time up to the time of the first French revolution, which lasted from 1789 to 1797, there were no developments of the communistic theory worth mentioning. while the leaders of the first revolution in France, the “Jacobins,” still recognized the right of personal property, a certain Babeuf formed a communistic conspiracy with the downfall of Robespierre. The following was his doctrine: “Every individual has the same rights to make use of all goods, which right is based on common labor. Every exclusive appropriation of products of the soil and industries is criminal.” Besides, some of the members declared, that the necessary equality required “the destruction of aristocratic cities, the preservation of inequality in knowledge and education and the establishment of a censorship for the preservation of permanent relations.”
Do not imagine then, that communist ideas, if carried out, would introduce liberty. They would much rather bring about the most horrid slavery imaginable. For the holding of personal property, which the communists condemn, is the very condition on which man may freely develop and exercise him-[p. 46] self. However, as soon as a communist state would be established, everyone would receive his orders: “This is what you have to do, you will do so much, and you so much.” They would then be as the helots among the Spartans. Should a person, however, have been in want for a long time, even of his daily bread, and would then get among the communists and sit down to a loaded table, he would of course think that he had entered heaven. It would not continue long, however, until he would say: “May God preserve me against such a condition of affairs, let me be liberated from this slavery!” And the censorship is a similar slavery. But no one is more bitterly opposed to it than the communists. It is something dreadful to them; the very word is dreadful to them. And yet whenever they obtained the power, they introduced a most stringent censorship; for they have always feared that if their principles should be found open to objection with the poor and uneducated, these people would begin to doubt their correctness, and their reign would again be overthrown.--Babeuf's principles are further stated as follows:
“The only rulers should be a board of distributors, whose duty it shall be to appoint each one to his labor and to distribute to the communities and individuals the provisions gathered into the public warehouses. A higher being is to be recognized, but no Church, no priest, no marriage and no family.” The conspiracy was discovered and called to account; Babeuf permitted himself to be stabbed, some of the others were beheaded, some burned. This was the year 1796.
This closed the first communist movement during the first revolution in France. The next movement began during the first thirty years of the nineteenth century. After the so-called July revolution, new Babeufs arose in France. The strictest among them called themselves Egaliteurs, who declared that they would make all things equal, advocated not only the abrogation of personal property, but also of marriage and family life, and proclaimed Atheism. In consequence of a revolt, they were divided in the year 1839, and thereby lost the influence they had in the beginning. But the seed remained in the hearts of the people and is at present taking root. Now a word regarding other communists of this century.
Count de Saint-Simon (who committed suicide in 1825, [p. 47] after he had lost all his property and had been driven into dire necessity) proclaimed the following theories to the world: “The laboring class must be elevated to the highest position of human society, because they furnish the means by which man's desires and wants are satisfied, while at present they unjustly occupy the lowest. The self-sacrificing love of all alone make this possible. This doctrine is the new Christianity, which will introduce the kingdom of God into the world, inasmuch as it converts the religion of love into a religion of joy and pleasure.” His pupil Bazard added to this: “Labor must be freed from the slavery of capital, instead of the individual inheritance, the State alone shall have the right of inheritance, and the State must divide this inheritance according to the principle that labor alone is entitled to possession, that everyone shall labor according to his ability and that everyone be rewarded according to his labor.” Enfantin called Saint-Simone the new Messiah who combined the doctrines of Moses and Christ in demanding the sanctifying of one's self by means of labor and enjoyment. All things in man are holy, the flesh with its inherent inclinations as well as the spirit. Extensive holy families are to be established in which community of wives shall also exist. This caused a division and finally the entire overthrow of Saint-Simonism.
It is not enough to tell people: “You must love each other, and if you walk in love, heaven will be established on earth.” As true as it is, that such would be the case, so true is it that no one will have love as a consequence of this demand. Love is implanted into the heart by the grace of God alone. Those who know not the grace of God and will not accept it, but despise it, and tread it under foot, they have no love, though their deeds should often appear as if they were deeds of love.
After the overthrow of Louis Phillip during the revolution of February, 1848, a communist insurrection broke out in Paris on the 23rd of June. A rabble of more than 30,000 took to arms; laborers from the national workhouses and escaped criminals, led by the discharged officers or by the leaders of the communist clubs, constituted this rabble. Barricades were erected in the eastern part of the city. The socialist republic aimed to introduce the community of goods and of wives. On several flags was inscribed: “If victorious, we plunder; if conquered, we burn.” Bishop Affre of Paris admonished them to peace, [p. 48] but was shot on a barricade. A furious struggle ensued. Women pored boiling water and oil from the barricades upon the soldiers. On the 26th of June, Cavignac became victorious. There were 5,000 dead and wounded upon both sides, 14,000 were taken captive, of which 3. 423 were transported. Louis Blanc was the instigator of the trouble.
The actual pioneers of Communism in Germany were the representatives of the so-called “Young-Germany,” at the head of whom we find the noted poet Heine, and next to him were the novel-writers Mund and Gutzkow. They declared that the rehabilitation of the flesh,” as they termed it, must at last be carried out, i.e. the flesh of man must have its former rights restored. To express this intelligibly, man must again have the right to gluttonize, to drink to excess, to carry on fornication, to commit adultery and, in short, to do everything that the flesh might desire. I am not exaggerating the matter, it is even so. Those persons mentioned above announced such principles, even if they did not express themselves so rudely; for if they had used such coarse language, they would not have been able to entangle the inexperienced youth. When I was a student at Leipzig, they were in their glory. They are little noticed now. But the seed sown by them is now growing and bearing fruit.--Now a few words about the German Communists.
A certain Weitling, a tailor's apprentice in Magdeburg, but a very talented young man (in America he would be called a self0made man) had never attended an academy or uiversity, and yet had acquired a good education. This Weitling describes the introduction of the new order of things, as he would have them, in the following words:
“All promissory [sic] notes, bonds, and exchange, shall be null and void in the transactions of the board of directors. The same hods good with regard to inheritance ... Consequently every difference between poor and rich, between the low and the high, between the greatest statesmen and their lowest servants, between the highest officers and the lowest soldiers, shall be forever abolished ... All the gold and silver in hand shall be used in purchasing provisions and ammunition in foreign lands. Money shall not be used in the inland trade.” (Only a few days ago the “Volksstimme” of this place partial- [p. 49] ly expressed the same idea, as the idea of the editor.) “All government and church property shall be appropriated for the good of the society. The religious instruction in the schools must be of a general character, favoring neither Catholicism nor Protestantism, nor any other of the many Christian sects.”5
He wrote this in 1842. At that time he did not yet venture fully to express his meaning; for if he had really done this, he would have had to say: “We want no particular religion, but only a universal religion, the natural religion, just as we find it in America in the non-religious free schools.”
Of a similar character was Ferdinand Lassalle, a highly gifted and finely educated Jew of Breslau, who wrote many ingenious works in justification of the communist theories. Although yet young, he was killed in a duel with a rival in 1869. But before going further we must hear more from our German Weitling. In his book: “Harantien der harmonie und Freheit” (1842) he writes:
“If I did not want the natural equality of all, I would say with many others: Our principle will be realized alone in the way of progressive enlightenment. Yea, all good may be realized in this way, except the abrogation of personal interests of all those in possession of power and money. When have such listened to reason? If you doubt it, ask history. Their papers are filled with numberless accounts of struggles between personal interests and the general interests of the people. By wars and revolutions dynasties have changed, obtained power and strengthened themselves. Our principle will be realized by means of revolution. The longer the present confusion shall continue, the more dreadful will be the result of such a revolution ... In time of peace, let us instruct, and in time of trouble, let us act. When once the storm is raging, it is folly to waste precious time with speeching, as was done once at Hambach, but we must act quick as lightning, strike blow upon blow, while the people are yet in the first stages of excitement ...”
Very prudent indeed. As long as the people are drunk with excitement, something can be done. But as soon as they take a [p. 50] second thought, they become sober and will then no longer follow their wild and fanatical leaders into the fire, endangering their own lives for the destruction of thousands of other lives.
Weitling continues: “No armistice, no stipulations with the enemies can be entered into, and no promise shall be trusted. As soon as the struggle begins, they must be considered no better than irrational brutes, who are not capable of understanding a rational language.”
In other words, he says: “We will either send a bullet through our opponents' heads or hang them on the nearest lamppost, for they will not learn to be rational; they will never say that we are right, and give us their money that we may divide it.”
He further states: “Should those in power, in opposition to the realization of our principle, endeavor to confine us in prison, our philosophers must then let loose that fearful fireship which alone can destroy the plans of our enemies.
“He holds in reserve an instrument, even if all the agitators ventured to preach a morality which will make every government for selfish ends impossible, a morality which will convert the gory battlefield on the street, where the people have always fallen short, into a never-ceasing guerrilla war, a morality which will add to us countless numbers of defenders whose assistance we would dread at present ...”
He means to say: “A morality must be preached by means of which those then will be added to our number, to assist us in our undertaking, whom we at present dread because of their immorality and filthiness; for their principle is: Rob, steal, plunder, murder.” Therefore he continues.
“A morality, which leaves our opponents no way of escape, that by the adoption of our principle ... This morality can, however, only be instilled into the minds of the masses of those people found in our large cities who have fallen into the depth of misery and have become the victims of despair.”6
When Weitling recommended those allies from among the [p. 51] criminals to the French communists, they manifested a little more soberness. They answered him:
“Imagine yourself at the head of 10,000 scoundrels, the time for action being at hand. Call upon you assistance to place their body upon the altar of reason and justice, that the system of community may be begun! How you would be ridiculed!”
The other evening I already referred to a certain French writer by the name of Fourier. Fourier was the clerk of a merchant in France. He was unfortunate and lost his valuable possessions. He died in 1837. He set up the following communistic theory:
“Means are necessary to this end, wealth is accordingly the source of all happiness. Wealth is attained by means of labor. Wealth is attained by means of labor. But in order that labor may produce happiness, an order of things must be introduced according to which all work together, and in such a manner that each one engages in the work in which he delights. In order that this may be accomplished, the individual must be persuaded to give his possessions into the hands of the society, for which he would then have a proportionate claim on the income of the whole; and these persons, thus united, will then also give up their separate homes, families, and training.”
What, accordingly, is the man entering into this communist society to give up? In the first place he must give up his possessions even if he has acquired them ever so lawfully by means of hard labor. Then he shall give up his home and, in company with many others, move into a large building. He is to give up his marriage, and accordingly his family and the training of his own children. His wife is not his own, but is the property of the society. Neither are his children his own. As soon as they are born, someone appointed for this purpose [p. 52] will take them into care and train them. I ask: Could a theory be more insane than this? Would it not be necessary for a person to have become bankrupt in every respect and despair of every thing, before he could enter into such an organization? If a person had yet any hope at all for the future, would he connect himself with the communists? Truly not! What greater happiness can the earth afford than that of the family? And this is to be sacrificed? --Fourier gives on:
“They form clubs or phalanxes (a square mile of land was to be the tract of land on which a phalanx or phalanstery was to be erected) consisting of 1800 to 2000 persons, who are collected in a large house, the phalanstery, where everyone finds work according to his inclination.”
As already stated, in putting his theory in practice, he failed. Mr. Fourier went for 12 years to a certain place, to which he had requested any philanthropist to come and bring a million dollars for his use in the endeavor to realize his glorious theory. Foruier's pupil, Victor Considerant, conducted the phalanstery established on a large tract of land. But the undertaking was a failure. Being accused of high-treason, he left for Texas.7 What has become of him I cannot say.
Lawyer Cabet was another French communist. He founded a party called the “Icarian Communists.” He died here in St. Louis. It was a strange self-ridicule to call his communism the Icarian communism. In the Greek fables we read of a certain Icarus whose father had made him wings and had cemented them with wax, that he might escape with him from bondage and fly across the sea. The fable declares that the father reached the opposite shore in safety, but that the son was too bold, flew too high, and getting too near the sun, the wax melted and he fell into the sea and was drowned. Very strange that Cabet should call his followers the Icarian communists. They were Icarian however, for they flew up high, but had wings cemented together with wax, which would not hold.
Cabet, however, recognized the family and marriage relation, and hoped to secure liberty for the so-called proletariat without using force, by means of equal training, labor, order [p. 53] and, above all, brotherly love. He made an attempt in Texas in 1848, but utterly failed; the colonists sued him for fraud, but he was declared not guilty. He then made a second attempt in Nauvoo, Illinois, where the Mormons formerly had their home; he failed again. The colony was again dissatisfied. Cabet had to flee to St. Louis, where he died in 1856.
Proudhon proclaimed as his principle: “The holding of property is theft; God is the evil; marriage and the family are unnecessary.” He died in 1865.
History brings us yet to the last communist movement in France in 1871. The capitulations of the Parisians to the German besiegers gave the Internationals an opportunity to take possession of the city. Generals Lecomte and Thomas, who had remained faithful to the government, were caught on the 18th of March 1871 and shot that very afternoon. The leader of the national guard, Blanqui, a zealous International, now ordered an election for a so-called “Commune,” i.e. for an independent board of directors of the city of Paris. His plan, as well as that of his associates, was to divide the whole of France into “communes,” that is, small independent districts, which should have their own administration of justice and, all combined, should form a French confederacy.
An officer bearing a flag of truce was shot down. Church property was confiscated. The laborers took possession of the factories from which the owners had fled. Arch-bishop Darboy and other prelates and priests were put to death and a stringent censorship instituted. The Commune even excelled Robspierre's reign of terror. “War against the palaces,” was their watchword. A corps of “rocket-men,” associated with male and female incendiaries, called petroleurs and petroleuses, was formed. Persons of high rank were seized and held as hostages. For an entire week the most inhuman and most frightful scenes of fatricidal massacre took place on the streets. 794 of MacMahon's soldier's [sic] were killed, and 6,000 wounded. It is difficult to ascertain how many of the Internationals perished, but the number would evidently reach thousands. To conclude, the leaders of the Communes were arrested and tried for life; the most notorious were banished, officers who had deserted, were executed. [p. 54]
This is then the history of communism in its main features. What have the communists accomplished?--Nothing!--They have hurled themselves into indescribable misery, filled the world with dread and apprehension, and continually caused destruction, misery and heart-rending woe. And just as they have been unable to accomplish anything in the past, they will not accomplish anything in the future. The communists will be no more able to realize their fanatical ideas in human society, than they will be able to change the laws of nature, or cause the Mississippi to flow northward, or change the course of the stars. It is, however, apparent that they will do a great deal of mischief. For the number of the poor is continually increasing, many of whom neither believe in God nor in His word, in consequence of which they soon despair when in trouble, having no God and no comfort. These the theoretical communists would combine, and notwithstanding the fact that they have been repeatedly conquered, they would resume their efforts, but only to be again brought under judgment and to be hurled into unspeakable wretchedness.
Editor's Note to the present edition [ dated 1947]: Walther's statements at the conclusion of this second lecture may be denied by some in the light of subsequent history. These pople may say that Walther was wrong for Communism has been established in the Soviet Union since 1879. However, Walther is absolutely right. There is no actual communism in Russia today. Russia is as far from actual communism as any country could possibly be. The people of the Soviet Union are slaves in the hands of a few. Consequently Walther's statement still stand! Honest communism carried out to the fullest meaning of the word, would result in dissatisfaction and chaos. Although true communism has never been attained even in the Soviet Union, that country nevertheless labors under a strict military dictatorship as ruthless as any the world has ever known!
3See Luther's Works XVI, 157
4See Erlangen E. of Luther's Works, Vol. 24, 260 also 262. and 283, 285 [corrected? from printing]
5See “Garantien der Harmonie und Freiheit. 1842” page 243 ff.
6Ibid, P. 229.
7Wernicke's History of the World, V, 469.