COMMUNISM, the name given to one class of the arrangements by which certain speculators have proposed to dispense with those laws of social and political economy which are supposed to keep society together, through the influence of the domestic affections and the spirit of competition, and to substitute in their stead a set of artificial rules for the government of mankind. The word socialist has generally been applied to those who only propose to interfere with labor by abolishing competition and wages, leaving men to work under the influence of public spirit, and making an equal division of the produce. See SOCIALISM. The term communist, on the other band, has been applied to those who go a step further, and propose to abolish the relation of husband and wife, along with the system of domestic government which is founded on the parental authority. While Louis Blanc may be considered the head of the socialists— though his ultimate aim was work according to capacity, and payment accordimg to wants—the representatives of the communists are Robert Owen, St. Simon, Fourier, Proudhon, and Enfantin..
Although we usually consider C. an especially French fallacy, the first consistent practical teacher of it was our own countryman, Robert Owen. Ile published, in 1813, A Nero Vino of Society, or Essays on the Principle of the Formation of the Human Char acter and the Application of the Principle to Practice—in which he printed in large capital letters, as the key-note of his system, the following announcement: "That any character—from the best to the worst, from the most ignorant to the most enlightened— may be given to any community, even to the world at large, by applying certain means which are to a great extent at the command and under the control, or easily made so, of those who possess the government of nations." No alarm was felt either at such a test or the comments made on it; nor did the world sec what the author meant by the hint that there were special artificial means for improving the breed, as it were, of mankind, until he struck at the root of the domestic organization, by such announcements as the following: "The affections of parents for their own children are too strong for their judgments ever to do justice to themselves, their children, or the public in the educa tion of their own offspring—even if private families possessed the machinery (which they never do) to well-manufacture character from birth." He formed an organization, too complex to be here detailed, by which families were to be subjected to a discipline which, that it might be perfectlh uniform, should be carried out in parallelograms. Anticipating the results, he said: "These new associstions can scarcely be formed before it will be discovered that by the most simple and easy regulations all the natural wants of human nature may be abundantly supplied; and the principle of selfishness— in the sense in which that term is here used—will cease to exist, for want of an adequate motive to produce it." He attested his reliance on the efficacy of his invention by sink ing his own fortune in an attempt to build a parallelogram. It was commenced in the
year 1825. at Orbiston, in Lanarkshire; but he did mg meet with sufficient co-operation, and as his own funds only sufficed to build one corner of the parallelogram, it was impossible to give effect to arrangements which were fitted only for a completed edifice in that geometrical form. A considerable number of people—about 200, it is said— lived for some time in the building, little to their own advantage or that of the neigh bors, who were naturally prejudiced against them, and probably exaggerated their irreg ularities; the building was soon deserted, and afterwards was totally obliterated. Owen had another opportunity of trying his parallelogram organization in 1843, when "Harmony Hall" was established in Hampshire by the zealous efforts of his followers, who formed a sort of sect in England. Still, his theory had, as he deemed it, anything but fair-play, since so far did his disciples depart from that absolute undeviating con formity to the "rational" system, as laid down by him, that they got tired of his incessant reiteration of it, and deposed him from his office of "President of the Con gress." Attempts to realize C. abroad were not more fortunate. Fourier's system was to be realized in " phalanxes," each containing four hundred families, or about 1800 persons. A sum of about half a million of pounds is said to have been spent in the establishment of a " phalanstery " at Bambouillet. It failed, and the founder of the system, like Owen, attributed the failure to the scheme being but imperfectly developed. The St. Simonians established a college or corporation at Menihnontant, with a "supreme father" at their head. The leaders were brought to trial by the government of Louis Philippe, on a charge of undermining morality and religion. They were subjected to imprisonment, and not having public feeling with them, they were unable to bear up against the contumely thus thrown on them.
Communism, in the sense of having all things in common, is not to be confounded with the idea for which the communists of Paris fought in 1871 (see PArms); that idea was political rather than social, although the same persons may often hold both doctrines. Commune is the designation of the lowest administrative division in France, correspond ing in rural districts to an English parish or rather township, and in regard to cities, being equivalent to municipality. The communist doctrine is, that every such commune, or at least every important city commune, like Paris, Marseilles, etc., should be a kind of independent state in itself, and France merely a federation of such states. This idea has taken deep hold of the extreme democrats, not only among the town pop ulations of France, but also in Spain, and, to a less extent, in other parts of the continent. It was the very opposite idea for which the great civil war in the United States was fought and won.