Socialist Plymouth 400 Years Later
December 16, 2020
Precisely 400 years ago, on December 16, 1620 (according to the Gregorian calendar, December 26), the ship Mayflower anchored in Plymouth Bay in the New World, and on December 18 (28), daredevils landed on a deserted, cold coast, which is now in the state of Massachusetts. The Plymouth Rock now symbolizes the approximate landing site. The city of the same name still exists, as, in fact, does the country founded by the Puritans: the United States of America.
Landing of the Pilgrims, painted by Charles Lucy
New York Public Library Public Domain Collection
One hundred and two people set off by ship from Plymouth in the Old World, but on the way, one man died and one boy was born. One of the team members also died. Among the travelers were the Puritans, religious dissidents, adventurers, and merchants. All the passengers of the Mayflower were daring and brave people. They can be safely referred to as the pioneers – but not only in the geographical sense.
They were the first to establish socialism in North America.
The word "socialism" had not yet been invented, but we know all the details of the Puritans' socialist epic from the diaries of William Bradford, one of the Plymouth colony leaders for a third of a century. By the time the pilgrims landed, Thomas More's Utopia had already gone through dozens of editions (the English translation of Utopia was published in 1551), and ersatz-socialist ideas were widespread in Europe. As it is known, Utopia's hypothetical state was based on the primitive idea of the monastic community. While still in exile in Holland before sailing to the New World, the Puritans had already begun introducing commune elements. They arrived in the New World with a clear plan for a collective community.
The Spaniards, who established colonies In the New World long before the British, also made several attempts to extend communal monastic rules to their territories in South and Central America. The Spaniards viewed the discovery of America as Divine Providence, and it was America that was to become the place for the creation of the ideal, utopian-like state-community. All such communities they established have sunk into oblivion, but the idea itself persists. That may perhaps explain why South America still has a disproportionate number of leftist regimes.
The Puritans had signed an agreement on what the community would be like before landing. The Plymouth colony's beginning was traditionally socialist – anyone who refused to sign the document was prohibited from landing. There is nothing extraordinary in this one-page document by modern standards, but it was the first document establishing democratic self-government in the New World. The Puritans agreed that the power in the community should belong to the Law. However, the problem was which laws were adopted in this utterly democratic way.
Understanding why the colonists chose the socialist way of organizing the commune is pretty straightforward; it should be noted that after Thomas More, the ideas of the commune spread so widely in Europe that many of his followers and many other utopian models were born. For example, in 1619, even before the Puritans' landing, Johann André's Reipublicae Christianopolitanae (known as Protestant Utopia) was published, and in 1623 – The City of the Sun by Tommaso Campanella.
These utopias bore all the features that were fully manifested when the wave of socialist upheavals swept the planet in the 20th century – total control, brutal social engineering, political power that belongs to the intellectual elite, and forceful egalitarianism (which, of course, did not extend to the elite).
Like the Spaniards, the Puritans viewed America as the second Promised Land. From a religious point of view – from the Anglican and Catholic churches' perspective – they were dissidents. Still, their initial beliefs on society's economic structure did not go beyond the commune with its primitive collectivism.
In the Plymouth Colony, collective ownership of everything except women was established, and the concept of private property did not exist at all. The harvest and prey of the hunters were distributed equally among the colonists. Women were required to cook for all men and wash all their clothes, and men had to work to provide for other people's wives and children.
For the next two years, each colonist worked for everyone else and not for himself. Labor productivity was disastrously low, and the result was not long in coming – by the summer of 1621, about half of the colonists had died of hunger and disease.
It should be noted that this experience is not unusual in human history; it has been endlessly and unsuccessfully repeated, and with the same devastating results – for example, collective farms in Russia and the first kibbutzim in Israel. The statistics here are unambiguous – all egalitarian communes have collapsed sooner or later. Nevertheless, the Plymouth collective farm differs from all the others in that the Puritans realized and corrected their mistake rather quickly, in a few years, unlike other social experiments that lasted for decades.
In the spring of 1623, after two and a half years of hunger, poverty, and despair, the colonists' wives rebelled. They did not want to cook food for the husbands of other women anymore. They regarded the forced service of other men as de facto slavery. As a result, after a lengthy debate, the colonists made a decision that laid the foundation for modern American society – each family received its piece of land. Furthermore, only 70 years after these events, John Locke intellectually substantiated the right to private property.
As soon as the colonists abandoned collectivism and allowed private property, prosperity came. The first harvest in 1623 was a celebration of abundance. The colony became so thriving that it even welcomed a new wave of emigrants. Contrary to the myth, it was not the Indians who fed the colonists in 1963, but the colonists saved the Indians from starvation. Thanksgiving, which America now celebrates every year, is, in fact, the 1623 harvest festival of the Plymouth Colony based on private property.
As a religious people, the Puritans believed Divine Providence showed them the right way out of a difficult situation. Therefore, Thanksgiving Day is not as much gratitude for a bountiful harvest as gratitude for the pointing out from Heaven the correct economic solution to the problem.
If the Plymouth Colony's rejection of socialism was almost instantaneous on a historical scale, then the reverse transformation – from capitalism to socialism – has been brewing in America for precisely 400 years. If Donald Trump loses his quest for the second term, then the transition to a socialist America seems inevitable.
The commune planned for America is by no means as primitive as the Plymouth Plantation. The commune in America is intended as an American version of Maoism, which allows for the temporary coexistence of private, collective, and government enterprises. However, all of them will have to be under the control of the "intellectual elite" – the Communist Party in China -- that operates in America under a completely different name.
In America, of course, there are communists, but they prefer Marxist-Leninist, not Maoist, positions. Therefore, the road to power in openly pro-Chinese Washington is closed to them, but for the so-called "Democrats" (like Joe Biden), doors are wide open. The second serious attempt in the past 400 years to introduce the religion of collectivism in America is the exclusively the work of "Democrats.".
Has Donald Trump stopped America's slide into oblivion, or has he barely slowed it down? The answer to this question depends on who will reside in the White House for the next four years. The phrase many attributed to Churchill best describes the current moment: "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they have tried everything else."