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Letters from an Inhabitant of Geneva to His Contemporaries

By Claude-Henry Saint-Simon, 1803

Critique by Punkerslut

From RadicalGraphics.org
Image: From "Biotechnology" Gallery from RadicalGraphics.org

Start Date: June 19, 2003
Finish Date: June 19, 2003


     Claude-Henry Saint-Simon has been regarded as most as one of the early Socialists. However, according to the modern accepted definition of "Socialist," he might only slightly fit this picture. He believed in reorganizing society in a way that was beneficial to everyone involved. In this work, by "everyone involved," he meant three classes: inventors, industrialists, and laborers (the last who he justly calls the largest group of society). Mostly, he believed in regarding the inventors, scientists, and artists as the most prominent members of society. In support of these innovators, he suggested a subscription, where members would pledge their money to a fund, and then the members collectively voting on their three most favored artists or scientists, and then donating the money to these individuals. The primary criticism that I have of his is the disregard for the right of workers to govern themselves.

Workers of the World

[To the workers] Compared with those who own no property, you are not very many in number: how, then, does it come about that they consent to obey you? It is because the superiority of your intellect enables you to combine your forces (as they cannot), thus for the most part giving you an advantage over them in the struggle which, in the nature of things, must always exist between you and them.


[To the industrialist class] Think of yourselves as the regulators of the progress of the human mind;


[To the workers] You say: we are ten, twenty, a hundred times more numerous than the proprietors and yet they exercise a power over us veg much greater than that which we wield over them. I can understand, my friends, that you are aggrieved. But notice that the proprietors, although fewer in number are more enlightened than you are and for the general good power should be distributed according to the degree of enlightenment.


I think that all classes of society would be happy in the following situation: spiritual power in the hands of the scientists; temporal power in those of the proprietors; power to nominate those called upon to carry out the functions of the great leaders of mankind in the hands of everyone; the reward for those who govern to be - esteem.

     The problem with Saint-Simon's idea of the industrialist class being allowed to have more rights than the laboring class is unfounded. Society does not suffer from the ailment of lacking scientists, or artists, or others. The greatest evil in society is wealth being concentrated in the hands of the few. To confound this evil, the few are those who do not create the wealth, while those who create the wealth have none of it. That is the greatest evil to society, and creating a subscription for scientists or artists will do nothing to change this. Robert Owen, an Industrialist and Utopian Socialist of the early 1800's, wrote that in one particular incident, a factory owner had employed children ages 6, 7, and 8. They worked for thirteen hours a day. Their work was so grueling and difficult for such tender bodies, a great deal of them became permanently deformed. ["A New View of Society," by Robert Owen, essay 2.] Thomas Malthus also noted the same, "Boys that you would guess to be fourteen or fifteen are, upon inquiry, frequently found to be eighteen or nineteen." ["An Essay on the Principle of Population," by Thomas Malthus.] So one can see, the problem is not a lack of scientists or artists, but rather it is the inability to be fed without consenting to the brutal conditions of an employer.

     The capitalists are not more "enlightened" than the working man. At least the working men of all nations have the common sense to know that they deserve the wealth of their labor, though a great deal of them are convinced of the lies told to them by the media and the governments. Capitalists do have some enhanced skills, though. They know how to exploit. They know how to treat children to get them to make soccer balls for sixty cents a day. They know that the whip and the chain are the only way to harness the workers under slavery, so that they are debilitated. The industrialist class cannot be recognized as an advantage to any nation. To argue that they are enlightened, or better, or more intelligent, is to perpetrate the greatest lies against humanity, and I cannot see how Saint-Simon could believe such utter absurdities.


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