A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance
By Benjamin J. Montoya
About the Author
Joshua Muravchik is the author of hundreds of articles appearing in major U.S. newspapers and intellectual magazines, and eleven books including Making David into Goliath: How the World Turned Against Israel; Exporting Democracy: Fulfilling America’s Destiny; The Imperative of American Leadership: A Challenge to Neo-Isolationism; and Trailblazers of the Arab Spring: Voices of Democracy in the Middle East.
Joshua Muravchik used to be a socialist. He admits that the idea is like that of many well-known religions except that it has been more successful in gaining support. But, unfortunately, after socialism is built, its epitaph would read something like: “if you build it, they will leave.” People do not really want what socialism turns into—a system that never delivers on its promises. Read this important book and its summary to learn more!
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Conspiracy of Equals: Babeuf plots a revolution
Chapter 2 New Harmony: Owen conducts an experiment
Chapter 3 Scientific Socialism: Engels interprets the oracle
Chapter 4 What Is to Be Done?: Bernstein develops doubts
Chapter 5 Real Existing Socialism: Lenin seizes power
Chapter 6 Fascism: Mussolini becomes a heretic
Chapter 7 Social Democracy: Attlee takes the slow road
Chapter 8 Ujamaa: Nyerere forges a synthesis
Chapter 9 Union Card: Gompers and Meany hear a different drummer
Chapter 10 Perestroika and Modernization: Deng and Gorbachev repeal communism
Chapter 11 The Party of Business: Blair redefines social democracy
Chapter 12 The Kibbutz Goes to Market
Chapter 13 Epilogue
Chapter 1: Conspiracy of Equals: Babeuf plots a revolution
The idea of socialism is owed to the French revolution. As a reminder of the history of the French Revolution, it had a lot in common with the American ideals of freedom and the opportunity to pursue happiness. But where the French Revolution differs is that the leaders of the French Revolution sought to guarantee the egalitarian promise of equality instead of providing opportunity for it. That is a massive economic and societal difference that separates the capitalistic model and the socialistic model.
The man to whom the idea owes its credit is François-Noël Babeuf. His goal was to do as follows,
[To] organize a communal regime which will suppress private property, set each to work at the skill or job he understands, require each to deposit the fruits of his labor in kind at the common store, and establish an agency for the distribution of basic necessities. This agency will maintain a complete list of people and of supplies, will distribute the latter with scrupulous fairness, and will deliver them to the home of each worker.
How does someone get an economy in place by which Babeuf can enact such a system? His words are probably the best place to start, “Society must be made to operate in such a way that it eradicates once and for all the desire of a man to become richer, or wiser, or more powerful than others.” Essentially, people must be changed into what the societal leaders/planners want them to be. Otherwise, this system will not work. And if people do not do what the societal planners want, people are forced to obey.
Babeuf did not call his idea socialism, but the next chapter will identify the man who did.
Chapter 2: New Harmony: Owen conducts an experiment
Socialism has been tried in many places, and it was even tried within a small group of people known as New Harmony. Robert Owen founded this community and left his son to operate it. But before we get into what happened there, or, more accurately, what did not happen, a few words need to be written about Owen. He was an interesting man. He demanded to leave out on his own from his parents at the young age of 10. They eventually let him with some money in his pocket and some oversight from other family. Whereas others may have failed under such circumstances, Owen became a very successful businessman.
Owen shared the same societal ideas as Babeuf, and Owen is the one to whom the name “socialism” is credited. He began to enact these ideas before moving to the US for a short time to start New Harmony by enforcing an ethical code of rights and wrongs for his workers. Afterward gaining some fortunes in his business ventures in Europe, he decided to conduct an experiment to test this economic and societal idea out in the US.[To continue reading this summary, please see below....]
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HEAVEN ON EARTH: THE RISE, FALL, AND AFTERLIFE OF SOCIALISM, by Joshua Muravchik