The selected fragments are from On communism published first in “Przegląd Poznański” 1848, vol. IX, pp. 2-5, 93-103.
Communism is not a new doctrine, either in theory or in practice. Ancient philosophers and modern writers composed numerous formulas for it, presenting them sometimes as the fruit of honest conviction, sometimes as an allegorical symbol which lends itself easily to criticizing the abuses of the times. On the other hand, legislators, churchmen, party bosses, and fanatical sectarians attempted to enact a utopia that corresponds to squaring the circle in the political domain. To review the history of communism is to make apparent its insanity. To assess its effects on the morality of humankind is to prove beyond all doubt that communism represents an onslaught on the individuality of man as well as on nationhood. [...]
Christ did not preach communism. Communism was championed by sects hostile to Christianity, namely by the neo-Platonists, the most passionate defenders of sinking paganism. Plato’s communist republic was the dream of Porphyry, Plotinus, and Iamblichus, the ideal of perfection employed to refute Christianity. In the early second century, Carpocrates and Epiphanius, founders of one of the sects which would later merge with the Gnostic heresy, proclaimed communal ownership and sanctified dissoluteness. Nourished by Platonic principles, Epiphanius wrote a book about Justice where he held that God’s justice on the earth finds its expression in common ownership and equality; that common ownership arises from natural and divine law, and property and marriage from human law. His disciples prayed without any clothes on, they hated fasting, men and women worshiped their own bodies, perfumed and fed them. Property and women were held in common. The host offered his wife to the guest. This custom was clothed in the mantle of charity. After a collective dinner they put the lights out and indulged in debauchery. [...]
The recognition of property by Christianity went so far that churches soon became owners. In fact, the beginnings of the tithe and of church estates reach back to the first centuries of Christianity. Collective life based on ecclesiastical rules can be seen only in monasteries, but as we shall see, this life is not communistic in the least. [...]
Ancient communism gave priority to satisfying sensual needs, sacrificing to them property and morality, while monasteries renounced everything that was of the flesh. Monks pursued moral perfection, and communal life was for them only a means for detaching themselves from worldly obligations. Communism was an exaggeration of sensuality, while the monasteries were an exaggeration of the spirituality of life. The opposition is no less evident in the economic sphere. Monasteries did not attempt to solve the riddle of whether property may be abolished and individual labor replaced with collective labor. Monasteries existed among the secular community, based on property, and lived on offerings received from it; they were even owners themselves. Communism is not so restrained. It intends to introduce common ownership everywhere and among all sections of the populace, while monasteries introduced it only among selected disciples. Although religiously motivated, monasteries were forced to expel those members for whom collective life became unbearable, while communism boasts that under the auspices of one passion it will suppress opposition and satisfy everybody. Experience has shown that monastic life requires the despotic direction of one person; the same would have to be instituted under communism. In monasteries celibacy was a precondition of collective life, while under communism it would have to be replaced by the abolition of the family and the proclamation of the common ownership of women. [...]
Mickiewicz said that Poland had always provided a testing ground for foreign theories. Unfortunately this is true: during Reformation Poland bore the brunt of all charlatans. However, it is no less true that no foreign system established itself here, because public conscience and the disposition of the nation condemned them. We firmly proclaim that no phalanstery could sustain itself in Poland. This was proposed by Jan Czyński, a disciple of Fourier, and provoked exhilaration. As the only means of progress for Poland we see the way of individual property, of the abolition of serfdom, which, as forced labor, is wrong and degrading. Indeed, what has brought Polish farming to ruin? The degradation of the individuality of the peasantry, caused by the institution of serfdom on a large scale and the transformation of villages into sorts of phalansteries, or communism under the direction of the gentry. Someone will say that these phalanxes were arranged along the lines of a leonine partnership and to the detriment of the peasantry; this is true, but would improving conditions reduce the inactivity of the Ministry and the inefficiency of feudal or communal labor? History teaches that all communal labor has been inefficient and harmful to domestic economy. [...]
In Poland there a great many communists have been driven into the communist fold not by poverty, but by theory; this is the most dangerous kind, as they exude an aura of selflessness, righteousness, and humanity. They were led into this error by imitating foreigners, by a licentious imagination and an inadequate understanding of our society, but also by the traditional Polish pursuit of equality. As we know, when our parliaments were established, our nobility had equality in mind as their principal purpose. Pursing this goal, the nobility encountered insurmountable obstacles, it even perceived the impossibility of achieving it, and yet it never deviated from the fatal path it had chosen. This was the source of the majority of our domestic feuds, this led to the election of kings and to anarchy, this gave rise to the resentment of established hierarchies, fear of a standing army, treasury, taxes, education, tribunals, honors, dignities, etc. Since the downfall of Poland our society has come out of the narrow confines of nobility: burghers and peasantry were allowed access to civil life, but gathering momentum, the egalitarian striving has not been extinguished in our hearts. This explains the fondness which Poland has always had for France, animated by the same inclination towards a revolutionary spirit, towards socialism, and finally towards communism, the ultimate effect of absolute equality and ultra-democracy. To avoid the calamities that such an inclination generates, one should take good note of the transformation of notions that has occurred in France since the recent Revolution.
Reaching the ultimate end of the egalitarian principle by means of communism, France realized that equality overdone is antisocial and leads to barbarity; that such an equality is also contrary to freedom. This is illustrated by the advocates of a social-democratic republic, who supplant freedom with solidarity. To act this way is to misunderstand human nature. In the moral order the notion of equality does not precede freedom: on the contrary, it follows from freedom. In his soul man feels free, independent, and responsible for his actions, he feels he has rights and overcomes obstacles he encounters in his activity. Free in the eyes of psychology, man also wants to be free in political life. Thus freedom is his first right, which the community ought to confer on him. Now this right to liberty is common to all; no man can be divested of it for the benefit of others. Hence the principle of political equality. This understanding of the equality of rights, that is equality before the law, is only a safeguard of liberty for all. Equality before the law does not remove inequalities of wealth and power, but it allows everyone to develop his abilities, it allows us to take up our stations in life according to our merit.
The most important expressions of human freedom are property and family. Property, being the effect of labor, shows the superiority of mind over matter, while the family satisfies the moral striving of the heart. From the family and the right to dispose of property there follows inheritance. Property, family, and inheritance become the preconditions of labor, of man, and of the nation, preconditions of the growth and enlightenment of states. Matters are different when we place equality before freedom, when we regard equality as a social end, rather than a means. Then problems multiply and the community slides towards barbarity. The negation of freedom, in which the egalitarian principle culminates, leads to despotism, to the restriction labor and production, to the maximum, to progressive and sumptuary taxes, to arbitrary measures divesting citizens of their rights. It leads to the right to work and to welfare, and when this is not enough, to the overthrowing of property and family. Freedom then becomes the victim: man becomes the subject of an abstraction called the state, the slave of a power which interferes in all his activities. In order to defend itself from the natural pursuit of individuality, the state then institutes the collective upbringing of children, collective kitchens, it rewrites books, expels sciences, arts, etc. In this condition of society man becomes an instrument, a cipher devoid of will and thinking, with no motivation to work, which leads to the bastardization of the people. To avoid these consequences, socialists try to make work pleasurable or to stir up the spirit of sacrifice, which is a contradiction in terms, since sacrifice stems from human individuality. The distribution of income poses the greatest difficulties. Therefore socialists are divided into various camps on that score. Some would set up joint ownership on the state level; some would confine it to communes. In any case, the impossibility cannot be overcome, and the collapse of the state is the consequence. [...]
Instead of being an instrument of progress and enlightenment, communism has impeded these goals. Humanity has progressed because it renounced the principles of communism, because it recognized property, freedom, and equality before the law, because it rectified the principle of marriage and family, because it elevated the sciences and the arts. Communism, says Alfred Sudre, has not made any great contribution to the heritage of mankind, while Christianity gradually abolished serfdom, and Galileo, Bacon, and Descartes emancipated knowledge. Neither is equality of rights an accomplishment of communism, but of the night of the 4th of August. Communist principles are wicked, its deeds abominable, its politics horrible and Machiavellian. Lycurgus enforced communism through violence, Anabaptists through hypocrisy and treason. Such too was the politics of the Jacobins: to infiltrate parties, take advantage of factional strife, and seize power by stealth – such were the communist methods. Communism always speaks on behalf of the people, but it does nothing to improve their condition. History teaches us that progress and the wellbeing of the people have nothing to do with communism. The relief of poverty is a difficult task: humankind will never fully accomplish it and communism only makes it harder. The relief of poverty depends on progress towards reasonable democracy, which grants everybody freedom, which respects individual rights without sacrificing the interest of the nation. The relief of poverty depends on extending credit, on creating saving societies, on spreading the spirit of association and the love of work, and this requires safeguarding property, the strongest agent of production. Last but not least, the relief of poverty depends on the progress of enlightenment, on the improvement of education, on turning to religion, morality, and family spirit, the source of all virtues, both domestic and public.
No, communism will not remove social problems or reduce them, and that should be the aim of every enlightened government. In Poland the problems are smaller; poverty stems only from lack of education, credit, transport, social welfare, and the freedom of work. Poland is in the same position as France before 1789. Our land ownership is still blemished by many abuses, great trespasses, and sometimes even violence. Let us purify it of abuses and iniquity, let us free peasant land from serfdom. Let us sanction property so purified. Let us rebuild the institutions of rural communities, as it was attempted under the Duchy of Warsaw. Let us reorganize the guilds on the principles of freedom. Then we will enter the path of rational progress unstoppable by anything, because we constitute a vigorous, not overpopulated, moral, and religious nation, but still only an agricultural nation. No, communism will not remove problems, it will not emancipate the peasantry, and it will not enhance our power. The communism of Mickiewicz, Trentowski, and Królikowski would ultimately debase the peasantry; it would set up a disgusting despotism and degrade the nation. Let us always bear in mind that independence, freedom, property, and family are the immortal preconditions of every society, that communism undermines these preconditions, that it establishes forced labor, a version of the serfdom which has driven our villages to ruin. Let us always bear in mind that despotism stemming from the general will, always exposed to all kinds of intrigue, is even worse that autocracy. Trentowski’s nobleman’s coat, allocating village labor and distributing the village’s income, will become the master of the peasant’s wife and soul in the name of equality and fraternity.
 Communism is not a separate, independent science, but only a one-sided branch of the whole social theorem. The principal difference lies in the fact that while socialism assumes an artificial organization of labor as the foundation of an artificial social arrangement and regards the abolition of private property only as a necessary consequence of social theories, communism makes the abolition of private property the foundation of its theories, arguing that only this way can one achieve absolute equality and absolute freedom in society.
Socialism attempts to introduce an artificial social arrangement, taking labor as a norm in accordance with which all utilities and objective values are to be distributed, granting to every individual the possession (not ownership) of values in accordance with the talents, merits, and diligence displayed. But this means that socialism abolishes absolute equality, since equality is not to be found in the area of talents and work, and so it is not to be found in the merits of the individuals of which society is composed.
Socialism, then, could not respond to the demands of communists pursuing absolute equality and claiming that in the new social arrangement no individual as such should possess anything and mean anything, for any kind of independence of the individual entails the necessity of discriminating, that is introducing inequality into relations between the members of society, an inequality which embraces the entire social arrangement. Pursuing absolute equality and absolute freedom, communists make the abolition of property into the cornerstone of their whole social theorem.
Yet we can subject the communist theory to the judgement of dispassionate reason, experience, and logic. We then recognize that it strives at achieving absolute freedom and absolute equality through the abolition of private property and through every kind of human independence. This reveals an inevitable contradiction between the end and the means, which, mutually destroying and canceling each other out, can only generate negation, that is, absurdity. By comprehensively restricting personal freedom, by forcing man into a terrible mould, and by eliminating all independence, what effects, what benefits have they achieved from the point of view of absolute equality? Surely only the fact that they made everybody equal in the face of slavery, oppression, and the most ruthless tyranny inflicted by the shepherds, who usurp for themselves sovereignty over the human cattle arranged in this fashion. Communism, then, is nothing other than the subjection of the individual will to the will of all, a new form of the antiquated and now universally condemned Oriental despotism.
The contradiction between the purpose of communist theories and their results will not be surprising to anyone who is familiar with the new tendency of German philosophy and who notices that this is where communism has drawn its fine chimeras from. […] The essence of man, composed of soul and body, is neither pure spirit nor pure matter, but a being which enacts various combinations of soul and body. Man can and should aim at perfecting his being, but achieving absolute perfection in anything is outside his power and ability; for absolute perfection is an ideal, and ideals can never be reconciled with objective reality. Hence absolute equality and absolute freedom cannot be realized in man without separating the soul from the body, that is without death. Moreover, in society, composed of human beings and constituting an overall person, that is, an entity that is both subjective and objective, the realization of absolute freedom and absolute equality, requiring the separation of soul from body, entails the death of society.
Hence communism, contradictory in theory, because it pursues absolute equality and through material equality abolishes moral equality, proves to be just as contradictory in practical application. For when we envisage communism in any actual form, after the first distribution of existing utilities and values a second and a third distribution will be needed, with no end in sight. This spells social chaos, driving everybody into increasing poverty, since when one infinitely splits, divides, and abolishes private property one also abolishes the most powerful incentive to work, and therefore the generation of social prosperity. Ultimately, having reached the bottom of poverty and having descended to the primitive animal state, people will seek the satisfaction of their primary needs in force, violence, and their own individual effort.
If communism, both in theory and in practice, is a miserable tissue of contradictions and absurdities, how did it manage to insinuate itself among the social sciences, and not only to gain sympathy of the insane proletariat, but also to strike fear into the hearts of more enlightened people, familiar with the social sciences?
This double development must be attributed, on the one hand, to the passions of the poor, pursuing the phantom of promises, and on the other hand, to the fallacies contained in the science of political economy, which by virtue of its calling should defend natural rights and the right to private property deriving from them, but in fact, due to a spurious conception of value, handed the opponents of private property a weapon against itself.
The principle of private property rests on not denying what is due: when we recognize the true meaning of value, we shall see that private property is nothing other than an equitable and just right to own value. […]
Value, with which every political economy must concern itself, since it is the foundation of this science, has not been distinguished by all economists from the utility which God granted to man freely (gratuite). Erroneously identifying utility – to which all people have equal right – with value, these economists to a certain extent supported the sophistry of the communists. For taking the definition of value proposed by the economists as the premise of their argument, the communists could claim, preserving the appearance of cogency, that the owner inequitably appropriates for himself that part of value which in fact is utility freely granted by God. Hence Proudhon’s famous dictum: “Property is theft”, is only a cogent, logical consequence of the fallacious theory of value, still prevailing in political economy.[…]
To establish property rights is to combat all socialist and communist theories; and one cannot prove these rights unless one proves that value has nothing to do with utilities freely (gratuite) granted by God. Therefore, the private owner does not appropriate these gifts if he utilizes only the value which he has created through his own labor or through the labor of those whose rights he has equitably and justly come into possession of by way of inheritance or purchase. […]
We have said that God created the earth; he placed on its surface and in its entrails things capable of satisfying the needs and demands of man. He endowed these things with certain powers of movement and transformation. He entrusted these forces to the management of man, so that by subjecting matter to their action, he could produce value from it.
I have said that man should produce value. For all gifts of God, useful for man, are only invested with value when man adapts them through labor to the purpose of satisfying the needs or whims of other people, and the value of the service thus rendered will be determined by the mutuality of exchange.[…]
A gift of God always changes hands free of charge, and the person selling value does not include in the price the gift of God, but only labor added to it in any place and at any time, in order to adapt this utility to the needs and uses of man.
With such a concept of value it is easy to prove that the private owner does not appropriate the use of and right to God’s gift, but only to the value which is the effect of the labor exerted by him or by those whose rights he inherited.
The right to transfer property on someone else stems from the same principle, since I transfer the right to property, that is the fruit of my personal labor, which I can dispose of as I see fit without violating any principles of equity. […]
The new theory of value will be the ultimate and terminal blow to communism, and when reflecting on the concepts of this theory, we will find a light that will allow us to discern easily the falsehood and utopia hiding in the shadows (K. Ma³ecki, Socialism and Some remarks on Its Rules,