The Socialist Phenomenon

Socialism is a system for the production of human misery as old as the hills.

PRAXAGORA:
Compulsory Universal Community Property is what I propose to propose; across-the-board Economic Equality, to fill those fissures that scar our society’s face. No more the division between Rich and Poor. …
…We’ll wear the same clothes, and share the same food. …
…My initial move will be to communalize land, and money, and all other property, personal and real.
BLEPYROS:
But take the landless man who’s invisibly wealthy…because he hides his silver and gold in his pockets. What about him?
PRAXAGORA:
He’ll deposit it all in the Fund. …
…I’ll knock out walls and remodel the City into one big happy household, where all can come and go as they choose. …
…I’m pooling the women, creating a public hoard for the use of every man who wishes to take them to bed and make babies.
BLEPYROS:
A system like this requires a pretty wise father to know his own children.
PRAXAGORA:
But why does he need to? Age is the new criterion: Children will henceforth trace their descent from all men who might have begot them. …
BLEPYROS:
Who’s going to work the land and produce the food?
PRAXAGORA:
The slaves. This leaves you just one civic function: When the shades of night draw on, slip sleekly down to dinner. …
…The State’s not going to stint. Its hand is full and open, its heart is large, it’ll stuff its menfolk free of charge, then issue them torches when dinner’s done and send them out to hunt for fun.
(2: pp. 43-51)

(Link)

That play fragment comes from Aristophanes’ The Congresswomen, written in 392 B.C. It demonstrates that socialism is not new. Not even close. The tyranny of socialism has been around since the first agricultural societies, since the first city state declared independence from the tyrant king and established its own form of tyranny over citizens, foreigners and slaves alike.

There is more where the play fragment came from. Read The Socialist Phenomenon, by Igor Shafarevich, translated by William Tjalsma, with a forward by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn.

And if you want a truly modern system, the most radical system of all, try individualism: the classical liberalism of free markets, equal opportunity for all, the acknowledgment of God-given human rights, and representative government. Now that is radical! And it is the most optimistic and hopeful of all methods of organizing human life.

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2 thoughts on “The Socialist Phenomenon

  1. Oh, no! Please! Let’s not have any of that “free markets, equal opportunity for all, the acknowledgment of God-given human right” stuff! We all belong on The Government’s Plantation, working to fulfill the Mass Media Podpeople Hivemind’s view of The End of Class Warfare (and the government by the elite).

    Aristophanes’ play presents a view that is blind to the effects of slavery, of course, except as a means of freeing slaveowners from work. Some dark humor, from a modern perspective, in Praxagora’s proposal to pool all the women for any man to “use” in that she’s not all that far from the morality of modern soi disant feministas who seek to simply make all women willing to be freer with sex than a street walker. Plus ça change and all that, eh?

    (BTW, by “The Congresswomen” you mean, “Ἐκκλησιάζουσαι” don’t you? “congresswomen” might be an acceptable translation, but given the connotation we have for the word “congress” today, “Assemblywomen” might be better, closer to the play in fact.)

  2. Dave, Thanks. You know Greek far better than I. To me, “it’s greek to me” is more than a saying: It’s reality.

    However, I’m not sure that the translation you point out is preferable. For whether the connotation of congress to which you refer is the reproductive or the 9% approval one, both are sharp as needles in context. And assemblywoman has mechanical connotations as well. Try to imagine a state driven by a LEGO philosophy.

    The funny thing that I noticed was that Aristophanes states that such a totalitarian socialist state was brought into being by a woman who usurped the man’s role as lawmaker. Just to defend myself against charges of misogyny, I’m not claiming this as my own POV, but as the message of the play. To carry it further, does the Nanny State ring any bells? It may be that the American experience reinforces the message of the play.

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