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Why the Pilgrims Abandoned Communism
November 2003 | bobjam

Posted on 11/22/2004 9:31:00 AM PST by bobjam

The Pilgrims’ Short Lived Experiment in Communism

Many have credited Karl Marx with inventing what we now know as communism in the middle of the 19th century. The concept of communal living and dependence, however, came long before The Communist Manifesto. Over the centuries, the concept has been applied by different people in different places. While the reasons for applying the communal approach varied as widely as the people who attempted it, one thing did remain constant: failure. From Roman latifundiae to the Soviet Union, communism time and again proved the failure inherent in its concept. Americans do not need to look to distant lands and little known peoples for evidence of the failure of communism. They simply need to look back at one of the most celebrated groups of people in their history: the Pilgrims.

As most educated Americans know, Puritan Separatists, or Pilgrims, landed in Massachusetts in 1620. What many don’t realize is that the original economic system of their colony, Plymouth Plantation, was a form of communism. There was neither private property nor division of labor. Food was grown for the town and distributed equally amongst all. The women who washed clothes and dressed meat did so for everyone and not just for their own families. This sounds like the perfect agrarian utopia envisioned by Marx and Lenin. What happened to it? To find the answer to that question, one must turn to Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford. Bradford served as Governor of Plymouth Colony from 1620 to 1647 and chronicled in great detail everything that happened in the colony.

By 1623, it was obvious the colony was barely producing enough corn to keep everyone alive. Fresh supplies from England were few and far between. Without some major change, the colony would face famine again. In his chronicle, Bradford described what was going wrong and how it was solved (pardon the King James English):

All this while no supply was heard of, neither knew they when they might expect any. So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advise of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of the number, for that end, only for present use (but made no division for inheritance) and ranged all boys and youth under some family. This had very good success, for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.

With weak crops and little hope of supply, the Pilgrims divided the parcels among the families and told them to grow their own food. They found that those who would pretend they couldn’t work due to infirmity, weakness or inability (sound familiar?) gladly went to work in the fields. Corn production increased dramatically and famine was averted because communism was eliminated. Bradford’s account doesn’t end here; he goes on to describe why he believed the communal system failed. Understanding the reasons for the failure is just as important, if not more important, than learning about the failure itself. Governor Bradford wrote:

The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato’s and other ancients applauded by some of later times; that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter than the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labours, victuals, clothes, etc., with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it.

The communal system failed because it treated the older and wiser the same way as the young and brash. It failed because it rewarded the less productive as much as the more productive. It failed because members of the community found that they could do less and still get the same benefit. All of these problems arose in a very religious community in which gluttony and laziness were considered sins and drunkenness was rare. How much more would communism fail in a larger society where such problems are rampant! By returning to a system in which the older and wiser are respected, and by reorganizing so that one’s benefit was directly tied to his production, the Pilgrims ensured the survival of their colony. Governor Bradford, however, ultimately attributes the failure of the “common cause” to something much deeper:

Upon the point all being to have alike and to do alike, they thought themselves in the like condition, and one as good as another; and so, if it did not cut off those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet it did at least much diminish and take off the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst them. And would have been worse if they had been men of another condition. Let none object this is men’s corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them.

Governor Bradford is basically saying that communism failed because of the corrupt nature of humans. People are imperfect and sinful. The utopia Marx and Lenin dreamed of could only work if it were filled with perfect people- and no such infallible people can be found in this world. Furthermore, the communal system undermines the relations God instituted among men- marriage and family. With husbands growing food for other people’s children, wives washing other men’s clothes, and children doing chores for other families, the basic foundational social unit of society is undermined. Without that, no society can hope to survive.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Government; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Philosophy; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: communism; pilgrims; plymouth; propertyrights; socialism; thanksgiving
I posted this last year, but I thought it was worth posting again this year.
1 posted on 11/22/2004 9:31:01 AM PST by bobjam
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To: bobjam

I remember this from last year, and I think it's good to read it every year. Thanks.


2 posted on 11/22/2004 9:32:51 AM PST by EggsAckley (...............stop unnecessary excerpting.................)
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To: bobjam
Why the Pilgrims Abandoned Communism

They didn't want to starve to death.

3 posted on 11/22/2004 9:35:09 AM PST by Phantom Lord (Advantages are taken, not handed out)
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To: bobjam

It seems that most, if not all, groups/societies, have started out cummunal in nature.


4 posted on 11/22/2004 9:35:33 AM PST by stuartcr
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To: bobjam
I agree that it was absolutely worth a re-post!
5 posted on 11/22/2004 9:36:17 AM PST by jdsteel
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To: bobjam

Good article. Could be an annual tradition.


6 posted on 11/22/2004 9:38:59 AM PST by Maximilian
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To: bobjam

I think there's a difference between what the pilgrims did and what Karl Marx proposed. The pilgrims pooled their resources together to help out the whole community and the people voted on their leaders every year, so they had a closer hand in what was happening. In theory, it was to help one another through their early harsh winters. Marx gave authority to an authoritarian state to run and redistribute wealth and sold the plan to the workers as a way to get their hands on something that wasn't theirs. But you're right. Collectivism and redistributed wealth never works because it takes away incentive. The Pilgrims discovered that early on and made the appropriate changes. Marx wanted to create a hierarchy where he would be one of the top few in command.


7 posted on 11/22/2004 9:43:03 AM PST by twigs
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To: bobjam
Rush has this in his book, See, I Told You So. My family and I read the essay every year for the holiday.
8 posted on 11/22/2004 9:43:22 AM PST by MAEsser (Ok, now I have to go back and study...)
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To: bobjam

Rush has something about this in his first book.


9 posted on 11/22/2004 9:48:53 AM PST by Straight Vermonter (Liberalism: The irrational fear of self reliance.)
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To: stuartcr
It seems that most, if not all, groups/societies, have started out cummunal in nature.

That's why Hayek called it atavistic socialism.

10 posted on 11/22/2004 9:50:44 AM PST by AdamSelene235
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To: jdsteel

should be read in all public (and nonpublic) schools as part of elementary history and economics.


11 posted on 11/22/2004 9:50:58 AM PST by epluribus_2
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To: AdamSelene235

I'm not familiar with Hayek.


12 posted on 11/22/2004 9:55:24 AM PST by stuartcr
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To: bobjam

good post, I would encourage everyone to tune into Rush in the third hour on Wednesday, he'll read the real story of Thanksgiving that covers a good bit of this also.


13 posted on 11/22/2004 9:56:32 AM PST by WoodstockCat (W2 !!! Four more Years!!)
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To: bobjam

Always worth reading.

Nice to see schools hop right on board to tell this side of history (not).


14 posted on 11/22/2004 10:00:28 AM PST by AmericanChef
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To: bobjam
You forgot to read FR regulation 34789306789345678923-23465789 which states; You may only post the same post every three thousand years or in a blue moon, whichever comes first.

I hope this clears it up for you.



15 posted on 11/22/2004 10:02:21 AM PST by Cacique (quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat)
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To: bobjam

BTTT


16 posted on 11/22/2004 10:03:22 AM PST by Fiddlstix (This Tagline for sale. (Presented by TagLines R US))
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To: bobjam

Because it doesn't work. When people wake up and realize the masses are working their collective tails off so that the few can live like lazy kings, it ends.


17 posted on 11/22/2004 10:04:48 AM PST by marty60
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To: bobjam
Socialism/Communism is at the very best a survival measure. The primary motivation for participation is that the group should live to see another day dawn. The problem arises when the group exceeds a level of subsistence where group and individual survival is no longer in question. At that point there is no reasonable motivation to surrender the products of one's efforts and toil to others who will do quite fine on their own.

Such communal resolve serves it's purpose at times. In early Neolithic communities, it was perhaps the only viable manner in which to exist. During severe warfare, socialistic tendencies arise in societies as a means of mutual protection for the culture in question. However, it is an inadequate means to sustain a society outside of severe circumstances.

As a society evolves there is less and less a cohesive force to bind a community to such behavior. Self interest and individuality develop further and those who produced are more inclined to focus on their individual family groups rather than the community. The betterment of one's own family group overrides the need to improve the overall state of the community.

Thus the ideals of Capitalism are so appropriate for an evolving society. Performance and excellence are rewarded by the enhancement of the quality of life for the individuals family group. Returns of such wealth to the community are made on a voluntary basis, but not made on the basis of survival for the community itself.

In this environment, Socialism and Communism are societal poison. The redistribution of wealth earned by the individual done for no other need than perceived "fairness" destroys one's motivation to strive for and achieve excellence. Under such conditions implied by socialism, a society begins to decay.

The Pilgrims apparently understood this. For the survival of their culture, they progressed into a more suitable system to not only promote the survival of their society, but to raise it to a level still yet undreamed of in some parts of the world.

Thoughts?

18 posted on 11/22/2004 10:09:32 AM PST by Caipirabob (Democrats.. Socialists..Commies..Traitors...Who can tell the difference?)
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To: bobjam

To read later


19 posted on 11/22/2004 10:12:35 AM PST by It's me
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To: bobjam
In the days of the Soviet Union there was a saying in Russion..."They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work."
20 posted on 11/22/2004 10:14:55 AM PST by The Duke
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To: bobjam

I've talked at length to several people who lived at The Farm and other similar communal ventures in the '70s.

They all basically reported this same truth.


21 posted on 11/22/2004 10:25:53 AM PST by headsonpikes (Spirit of '76 bttt!)
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To: bobjam

Always a good read.


22 posted on 11/22/2004 10:29:22 AM PST by Ciexyz (I use the term Blue Cities, not Blue States. PA is red except for Philly, Pgh & Erie.)
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To: bobjam
Communism is your basic MOB control... as is democracy...
No democracy ever created has NOT been a socialist system. Socialism is a symptom of democracy not the other way around.. Mob rule and Mob control are two sides of the same coin.. Communism "IS" socialism.. Socialism, communism and democracy are versions of the same thing and are mob control by mobsters that are all mobbed up.. The biggest Mob has the turf or consortium of mobs.. Like the Mafias "protection scam" they all return veritably nothing in return for your honor and courage.. The money paid is just a token of your cowardice.. for not revolting..

Democracy is the road to socialism. Karl Marx

Democracy is indispensable to socialism. The goal of socialism is communism. V.I. Lenin

The meaning of peace is the absence of opposition to socialism.- Karl Marx

23 posted on 11/22/2004 10:29:49 AM PST by hosepipe (This propaganda has been edited to included some fully orbed hyperbole....)
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To: bobjam

Make Plymouth read Plimouth.


24 posted on 11/22/2004 11:27:23 AM PST by truth_seeker
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To: bobjam

Anyone ever been to Arcosanti in Arizona? It's a commune, complete with the hideous commie architecture. It's right off I-17 near the Prescott exit. You can see it from the freeway as you drive by (that's the closest I want to get to it after seeing some literature about the place).


25 posted on 11/22/2004 11:43:39 AM PST by Disambiguator
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To: bobjam

This is worth repeating every Thanksgiving, at least.


26 posted on 11/22/2004 11:45:56 AM PST by AFPhys ((.Praying for President Bush, our troops, their families, and all my American neighbors..))
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To: RhoTheta; Orgiveme

Ping!


27 posted on 11/22/2004 12:25:00 PM PST by Egon (Government is a guard-dog to be fed, not a cow to be milked.)
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To: bobjam

I think you should post this again.


28 posted on 11/21/2012 6:32:25 AM PST by Skeez
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