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COMMUNISM


aspects of the question, and of works on the history of individual towns. The latter alone covers two large octavo pages of small print. As a sort of complement to Schröder’s chapters may be considered, F. Keutgen, Urkunden zur städtischen Verfassungsgeschichte (Berlin, 1901 = Ausgewählte Urkunden zur deutschen Verfassungsgeschichte, by G. von Below and F. Keutgen, vol. i.), a collection of 437 select charters and other documents, with a very full index. The great work of G. L. von Maurer, Geschichte der Städteverfassung von Deutschland (4 thick vols., Erlangen, 1869–1871), contains an enormous mass of information not always treated quite so critically as the present age requires. There is an excellent succinct account for general readers by Georg von Below, “Das ältere deutsche Städtewesen und Bürgertum,” Monographien zur Weltgeschichte, vol. vi. (Bielefeld and Leipzig, 1898, illustrated). A number of the most important recent monographs have been mentioned above. As for Italy, the most valuable general work for the early times is still Carl Hegel, Geschichte der Städteverfassung von Italien seit der Zeit der römischen Herrschaft bis zum Ausgang des zwölften Jahrhunderts (2 small vols., Leipzig, 1847, price second-hand, M. 40), in which it was for the first time fully proved that there is no connexion between Roman and modern municipal constitutions. For the period from the 13th century it will perhaps be best to consult W. Assmann, Geschichte des Mittelalters, 3rd ed., by L. Viereck, dritte Abteilung, Die letzten beiden Jahrhunderts des Mittelalters: Deutschland, die Schweiz, und Italien, by R. Fischer, R. Scheppig and L. Viereck (Brunswick, 1906). In this volume, pp. 679-943 contain an excellent account of the various Italian states and cities during that period, with a full bibliography for each. Among recent critical contributions to the history of individual towns, the following works deserve to be specially mentioned: Robert Davidsohn, Geschichte von Florenz (Berlin, 1896–1908); down to the beginning of the 14th century; the same, Forschungen zur Geschichte von Florenz (vols. i.-iv., Berlin, 1896–1908); Heinrich Kretschmayr, Geschichte von Venedig (vol. i., Gotha, 1905, to 1205). For France, there are the works by Achille Luchaire, Les Communes françaises à l’époque des Capétiens directs (Paris, 1890), and Paul Viollet, “Les Communes françaises au moyen âge,” Mémoires de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-lettres, tome xxxvi. (Paris, 1900). There are, of course, also accounts in the great works on French institutions by Flach, Glasson, Viollet, Luchaire, but perhaps the one in Luchaire’s Manuel des institutions françaises, période des Capétiens directs (Paris, 1892) deserves special recommendation. Another valuable account for France north of the Loire is that contained in the great work by Karl Hegel, Städte und Gilden der germanischen Völker im Mittelaller (2 vols., Leipzig, 1891; see English Historical Review, viii. 120-127). Of course, there are also numerous monographs, among which the following may be mentioned: Édouard Bonvalot, Le Tiers État d’après la charte de Beaumont et ses filiales (Paris, 1884); and A. Giry, Les Êtablissements de Rouen (2 vols., Paris, 1883–1885); also a collection of documents by Gustave Fagniez, Documents relatifs à l’histoire de l’industrie et du commerce en France (2 vols., Paris, 1898, 1900). Some valuable works on the commercial history of southern Europe should still be mentioned, such as W. Heyd, Geschichte des Levantehandels im Mittelalter (2 vols., Stuttgart, 1879; French edition by Furcy Raynaud, 2 vols., Paris, 1885 seq., improved by the author), recognized as a standard work; Adolf Schaube, Handelsgeschichte der romanischen Völker des Mittelmeergebietes bis zum Ende der Kreuzzüge (Munich and Berlin, 1906); Aloys Schulte, Geschichte des mittelalterlichen Handels und Verkehrs zwischen Westdeutschland und Italien mit Ausschluss Venedigs (2 vols., Leipzig, 1900); L. Goldschmidt, Universalgesdiichte des Handelsrechts (vol. i., Stuttgart, 1891). As for the Scandinavian towns, the best guide is perhaps the book by K. Hegel, Städte und Gilden der germanischen Völker, already mentioned; but see also Dietrich Schäfer, “Der Stand der Geschichtswissenschaft im skandinavischen Norden,” Internationale Wochenschrift, November 16, 1907.  (F. K.) 


COMMUNISM, the name loosely given to schemes of social organizations depending on the abolition of private property and its absorption into the property of a community as such. It is a form of what is now generally called socialism (q.v.), the terminology of which has varied a good deal according to time and place; but the expression “communism” may be conveniently used, as opposed to “socialism” in its wider political sense, or to the political and municipal varieties known as “collectivism,” “state socialism,” &c., in order to indicate more particularly the historical schemes propounded or put into practice for establishing certain ideally arranged communities composed of individuals living and working on the basis of holding their property in common. It has nothing, of course, to do with the Paris Commune, overthrown in May 1871, which was a political and not an economic movement. Communistic schemes have been advocated in almost every age and country, and have to be distinguished from mere anarchism or from the selfish desire to transfer other people’s property into one’s own pockets. The opinion that a communist is merely a man who has no property to lose, and therefore advocates a redistribution of wealth, is contrary to the established facts as to those who have historically supported the theory of communism. The Corn-law Rhymer’s lines on this subject are amusing, but only apply to the baser sort:—

 “What is a Communist! One that hath yearnings
For equal division of unequal earnings.
Idler or bungler, or both, he is willing
To fork out his penny and pocket your shilling.”

This is the communist of hostile criticism—a criticism, no doubt, ultimately based on certain fundamental facts in human nature, which have usually wrecked communistic schemes of a purely altruistic type in conception. But the great communists, like Plato, More, Saint-Simon, Robert Owen, were the very reverse of selfish or idle in their aims; and communism as a force in the historical evolution of economic and social opinion must be regarded on its ideal side, and not merely in its lapses, however natural the latter may be in operation, owing to the defects of human character. As a theory it has inspired not only some of the finest characters in history, but also much of the gradual evolution of economic organization—especially in the case of co-operation (q.v.); and its opportunities have naturally varied according to the state of social organization in particular countries. The communism of the early Christians, for instance, was rather a voluntary sharing of private property than any abnegation of property as such. The Essenes and the Therapeutae, however, in Palestine, had a stricter form of communism, and the former required the surrender of individual property; and in the middle ages various religious sects, followed by the monastic orders, were based on the communistic principle.

Communistic schemes have found advocates in almost every age and in many different countries. The one thing that is shared by all communists, whether speculative or practical, is deep dissatisfaction with the economic conditions by which they are surrounded. In Plato’s Republic the dissatisfaction is not limited to merely economic conditions. In his examination of the body politic there is hardly any part which he can pronounce to be healthy. He would alter the life of the citizens of his state from the very moment of birth. Children are to be taken away from their parents and nurtured under the supervision of the state. The old nursery tales, “the blasphemous nonsense with which mothers fool the manhood out of their children,” are to be suppressed. Dramatic and imitative poetry are not to be allowed. Education, marriage, the number of births, the occupations of the citizens are to be controlled by the guardians or heads of the state. The most perfect equality of conditions and careers is to be preserved; the women are to have similar training with the men, no careers and no ambition are to be forbidden to them; the inequalities and rivalries between rich and poor are to cease, because all will be provided for by the state. Other cities are divided against themselves. “Any ordinary city, however small, is in fact two cities, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich, at war with one another” (Republic, bk. iv. p. 249, Jowett’s translation). But this ideal state is to be a perfect unit; although the citizens are divided into classes according to their capacity and ability, there is none of the exclusiveness of birth, and no inequality is to break the accord which binds all the citizens, both male and female, together into one harmonious whole. The marvellous comprehensiveness of the scheme for the government of this ideal state makes it belong as much to the modern as to the ancient world. Many of the social problems to which Plato draws attention are yet unsolved, and some are in process of solution in the direction indicated by him. He is not appalled by the immensity of the task which he has sketched out for himself and his followers. He admits that there are difficulties to be overcome, but he says in a sort of parenthesis, “Nothing great is easy.” He refuses to be satisfied with half measures and patchwork reforms. “Enough, my friend! but what is enough while anything remains wanting?” These sentences indicate the spirit in which philosophical as distinguished from practical communists from the time of Plato till to-day have undertaken to reconstruct human society.