[from] The Downfall of France and the Future of Europe, Lvov 1871.
The socialist ideal is a worker state, something along the lines of ancient Sparta, with modifications suited to modern views and requirements. There is no doubt that the relation between workers and the capital which exploits them is unfair, that the working class in Western and Central Europe, atomized, with unsatisfied moral needs and often inadequately satisfied material needs, is the most neglected and oppressed class of our times. Hence it poses the greatest threat to the contemporary order; and the right to free association which the liberal outlook typically proposed as a cure, has only exacerbated the threat. No one knows what force, what mysterious hand is behind the associations which sometimes emerge and unexpectedly bring one or another industry to a halt. It is, therefore, a bad and dangerous thing which, if our governments had time to think about the future, would have long ago become a matter of concern for them. However, who would agree to resolving this social and political misery through the enacting the principles of socialism, so that a modern Sparta, without religion, would represent the progress of civilization? Would it not rather be a return to ultimate barbarity?
There are two foundations of human society from which it would be suicidal to separate ourselves: liberty and property. Socialism removes them both. True, today’s evil arises from the abuse both of freedom and property; but a person who in order to uproot the abuse would also uproot the use, would be like a doctor who as a cure for headache would administer beheading. It is virtually impossible to enact socialism because socialism is in conflict with human nature. To be sure, there are groups of people who willingly renounce freedom of thought and property, but it is so great, so exceptional, and so unnatural a sacrifice, that without transcendent help no one can make and sustain it. Non omnes capiunt hoc verbum sed quibus datum est. However, socialism wages the fiercest war not only against precisely those things which bring this transcendent help, but also against things which in any way remind us that there is a transcendent world. Unlike liberalism, socialism does not tolerate the individual need for religion, but denies the existence of this need; today it fights it mostly in a covert way, but tomorrow it will confront religion openly and axe in hand. So how is it possible to persuade people so deeply absorbed by the coarsest matter to renounce their innermost self? One can, by inducing fear in their hearts, make them cower slavishly for some time, but as soon as such a Spartan state established itself, the noblest elements in it would start fleeing, salvaging what they could from their property. And even if the whole of Europe became such a workers’ republic, people would escape even to the Sahara, to the furthest reaches of Siberia – any place where a father would be allowed to raise his children according to the precepts of his conscience and where he would be able to pass onto them in his final hour, together with a blessing, at least a piece of furniture or clothing. For to be a father and to be prevented from raising one’s children according to one’s own outlook, to inherit property and to be prevented from keeping it, to earn money and to be prevented from freely disposing of one’s earnings, this is all contrary to human instinct. If one achieves submission by force, it will only be a pretended submission; and soon everyone will shift heavier burdens on other people, keeping the lighter ones; they will take as much as possible from the fruit of other people’s labor, always the first to eat and the last to toil. It would be the most abject, the most corrupting despotism, representing not progress, but a return to bestiality.
Yet socialism may triumph some day. As we have seen, its triumph stems directly and inevitably from liberal principles. This will be a terrible moment: the subversion of everything that exists, the oppression of the wealthier classes, and bitter disappointment for the victors – but it will be just a moment. Earthquakes may swallow whole areas but later the ground calms down and vegetation again covers the debris. No utopia has ever reached such heights of absurdity as socialism will, if it triumphs.
No, this is not where the future of Europe lies.