Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Socialistic Communities

From volume 14 of the work.

This title comprehends those societies which maintain common ownership of the means of production and distribution, e.g., land, factories, and stores, and also those which further extend the practice of common ownership to consumable goods, e.g., houses and food. While the majority of the groups treated in the present article are, strictly speaking, communistic rather than socialistic, they are frequently designated by the latter term. The most important of them have already been described under . Below a more nearly complete list is given, together with brief notices of those societies that have not been discussed in the former articles. At the time of the Protestant Reformation certain socialistic experiments were made by several heretical sects, including the Anabaptists, the Libertines, and the Familists; but these sects did not convert their beliefs along this line into practice with sufficient thoroughness or for a sufficient length of time to give their attempts any considerable value or interest (see Kautsky, "Communism in Central Europe at the Time of the Reformation", London, 1897).

The Labadists, a religious sect with communistic features, founded a community in Westphalia, in 1672, under the leadership of Jean de le Badie, an apostate priest. A few years later about one hundred members of the sect established a colony in Northern Maryland, but within half a century both communities ceased to exist.

The Ephrata (Pennsylvania) Community was founded in 1732, and contained at one time 300 members, but in 1900 numbered only 17.

The Shakers adopted a socialistic form of organization at Watervliet, New York, in 1776. At their most prosperous period their various societies comprised about 5000 persons; to-day (1911) they do not exceed 1000.

The Harmonists, or Rappists, were established in Pennsylvania in 1805. Their maximum membership was 1000; in 1900 they numbered 9. Connected with this society is the Bethel Community, which was founded (1844) in Missouri by a group which included some seceders from Harmony. In 1855 the Bethel leader, Dr. Keil, organized another community at Aurora, Oregon. The combined membership of the two settlements never exceeded 1000 persons. Bethel dissolved in 1880 and Aurora in 1881.

The Separatists of Zoar (Ohio) were organized as a socialistic community in 1818, and dissolved in 1898. At one time they had 500 members.

The New Harmony Community, the greatest attempt ever made in this form of social organization, was founded in Indiana in 1824 by Robert Owen. Its maximum number of members was 900 and its length of life two years. Eighteen other communities formed by seceders from the New Harmony society were about equally short-lived. Other socialistic settlements that owed their foundation to the teachings of Owen were set up at Yellow Springs, Ohio; Nashoba, Tennessee (composed mostly of negroes); Haverstraw, New York; and Kendal, Oregon. None of them lasted more than two years.

The Hopedale (Massachusetts) Community was organized in 1842 by the Rev. Adin Ballou; it never had more than 175 members, and it came to an end in 1857.

The Brook Farm (Massachusetts) Community was established in 1842 by the Transcendentalist group of scholars and writers. In 1844 it was converted into a Fourierist phalanx; this, however, was dissolved in 1846.

Of the Fourieristic phalanges two had a very brief existence in France, and about thirty were organized in the United States between 1840 and 1850. Their aggregate membership was about 4500, and their longevity varied from a few months to twelve years. Aside from the one at Brook Farm, the most noteworthy were: the North American phalanx, founded in 1843 in New Jersey under the direction of Greeley, Brisbane, Channing, and other gifted men, and dissolved in 1855; the Wisconsin, or Cresco, phalanx, organized in 1844, and dispersed in 1850; and the Sylvania Association of Pennsylvania, which has the distinction of being the earliest Fourieristic experiment in the United States, though it lasted only eighteen months.

The Oneida (New York) Community, the members of which called themselves Perfectionists because they believed that all who followed their way of life could become perfect, became a communistic organization in 1848, and was converted into a joint-stock corporation in 1881. Its largest number of members was 300.

The first Icarian community was set up in Texas in 1848, and the last came to an end in 1895 in Iowa. Their most prosperous settlement, a Nauvoo, numbered more than 500 souls.

The Amana Community was organized on socialistic lines in 1843 near Buffalo, New York, but moved to Amana, Iowa, in 1845. It is the one communistic settlement that has increased steadily, though not rapidly, in wealth and numbers. Its members rightly attribute this fact to its religious character and motive. The community embraces about 1800 persons.

A unique community is the Woman's Commonwealth, established about 1875 near Belton, Texas, and transferred to Mount Pleasant, D.C., in 1898. It was organized by women who from motives of religious and conscience had separated themselves from their husbands. As the members number less than thirty and are mostly those who instituted the community more than thirty-five years ago, the experiment cannot last many years longer.

The most important of recently founded communities was the Ruskin Co-operative Colony, organized in 1894 in Tennessee by J. A. Wayland, editors of the socialist paper, "The Coming Nation". While the capital of the community was collectively owned, its products were distributed among the members in the form of wages. Owing to dissensions and withdrawals, the colony was reorganized on a new site in 1896, but it also was soon dissolved. About 250 of the colonists moved to Georgia, and set up another community, but this in a few years ceased to exist.

A number of other communities have been formed within recent years, most of which permit private ownership of consumption-goods and private family life. As none of them has became strong either in numbers or in wealth, and as all of them seem destined to an early death, they will receive only the briefest mention here. Those worthy of any notice are: The Christian Commonwealth of Georgia, organized in 1896, and dissolved in 1900; the Cooperative Brotherhood, of Burley, Washington; the Straight Edge Industrial Settlement, of New York City; the Home Colony in the State of Washington, which has the distinction of being the only anarchist colony; the Mutual Home Association, located in the same state; the Topolambo Colony in Mexico, which lasted but a few months; and the Fairhope (Alabama) Single-Tax Corporation, which has had a fair measure of success, but which is neither socialistic nor communistic in the proper sense.

Reviewing the history of socialistic experiments, we perceive that only those that were avowedly and strongly religious, adopting a socialistic organization as incidental to their religious purposes, have achieved even temporary and partial success. Practically speaking, only two of these religious communities remain; of these the Shakers are growing steadily weaker, while the Amana Society is almost stationary, and, besides, is obliged to carry on some of its industries with the aid of outside hired labor.

See bibliography under COMMUNISM. HILQUIT, History of Socialism in the United States (New York, 1903); KENT in Bulletin No. 35 of the Department of Labor; MALLOCK, A Century of Socialistic Experiments in the Dublin Review, July, 1909; WOLFF, Socialistic Communism in the United States in the American Catholic Quarterly Review, III (Philadelphia, 1878), 522; Socialist Colony in Mexico in Dublin Review, CXIV (London, 1894), 180.

John A. Ryan.