Pilgrim socialism

By now everyone knows the real story of thanksgiving.  The pilgrim fathers attempted socialism, as usual famine ensued, followed by mass die off, they appointed a new governor who concluded that when God expelled Adam and Eve from the garden, God ordained private property in the means of production.  Famine solved, prosperity ensues.  Pilgrims ordain a day of thanksgiving to thank God for their prosperity.

But strangely, the New York Times, and the left generally, is fighting back, attempting to speak power to truth.  According to the New York Times:

Historians say that the settlers in Plymouth, and their supporters in England, did indeed agree to hold their property in common — William Bradford, the governor, referred to it in his writings as the “common course.” But the plan was in the interest of realizing a profit sooner, and was only intended for the short term; historians say the Pilgrims were more like shareholders in an early corporation than subjects of socialism.

“It was directed ultimately to private profit,”

This assertion of course, is based on precisely nothing.  Governor Bradford, the reforming governor, attributes socialism to unnamed socialists, who believed that they were “wiser than god” and that socialism would produce prosperity and harmony, not to those funding the colony, who were in any case not much interested in profit.

Governor Bradford’s description of puritan socialism shows that it was based on socialist idealism, on leftism.

Like the early Kibbutzim, they imposed perfect economic equality. Economic equality between the productive and the unproductive is not aimed at private profit, but demonstrates utter contempt for profit, indeed bitter, angry, hostility towards private profit.

Governor Bradford tells us:

The strong or man of parts had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could;

That is not what you do if you want private profit.

Like Pol Pot, and like the early Israeli Kibbutzim, they sought to smash the family and patriarchy.

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.

That is not directed at private profit.

When the natural order, ordained by God, was restored by governor Bradford, private property in the means of production and the patriarchal nuclear family, they had food and prosperity, and to celebrate, set a day on which they would give thanks.

They had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. 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”. By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the faces of things were changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God.

Thanksgiving is the day on which you thank God for the prosperity provided by divinely ordained capitalism and the intact nuclear family.

If the Cathedral did not intend socialism after the fashion of Pol Pot and to destroy the family, why would they lie about this?  Governor Bradford’s retreat from socialism was a defeat, and for four hundred years they have sought to reverse this defeat.

26 Responses to “Pilgrim socialism”

  1. Candide III says:

    >> “It was directed ultimately to private profit,”
    > This assertion of course, is based on precisely nothing.
    Not on nothing. NYT is clutching at straws, true, but you are overplaying your hand here. Please turn your copy of Governor Bradford’s History of the Plymouth Plantation to page 45:

    5. That at the end of the 7 years, the capital and profits, viz. the houses, lands, goods and chattels, be divided equally between the adventurers, and planters; which done, every man shall be free of them from any debt or detriment concerning this adventure.

    and page 135, where the editor remarks that

    the community of interest which the colonists had hitherto maintained did not arise, as has been sometimes supposed, from any peculiar fantastic notions, but was required by the nature of their engagements with the merchant adventurers in England

    • jim says:

      The editor’s remark is untrue: For:

      I don’t see anything on page forty five requiring equal pay for unequal ability.

      I don’t see anything on page forty five requiring the dissolution of the patriarchal family.

      I don’t see anything on page forty five preventing the colonists from doing what Governor Bradford in fact did – assign land to each family right away rather than waiting for the end of the seven years.

      • Candide III says:

        Okay, it was page 46. Article 3:

        The persons transported & the adventurers [investors] shall continue their joint stock & partnership together, the space of 7 years […] during which time, all profits & benefits that are got by trade, traffic, trucking, working, fishing, or any other means of any person or persons, remain still in the common stock until the division.

        I.e. no private property in the profits of the colony, the fruits of the colonists’ work must be held in common until the term expires, and then equally divided between colonists and investors (Article 5). I don’t see how Governor Bradford’s decision did not violate these conditions. Article 10:

        10. That all such persons as are of this colony, are to have their meat [food], drink, apparel and all provisions out of the common stock and goods of the said colony.

        This does seem to mean equal pay, or rather “to each according to his need”. Also, if these necessities are to be provided by the colony, they would not ipso facto be provided by the families. Maybe this does not amount to dissolution — I’ve never heard of the colonists sharing wives, for instance — but it is not peanuts either.

        To reiterate, I believe that the experience of the Plymouth Plantation represents a clean failure of a clean socialist/communist experiment, and gives ground to the conclusions about human nature, the importance of traditional family for civilization as we understand it etc. that we in our corner of the internet share. Being in addition a mythologically notable example, particularly for US readership, it is the more important, as witnessed by NYT’s feeble attempts to defuse its potential. We shouldn’t want to spoil the value of this example by overstating our case beyond what is supported by the sources, especially as these sources amply support our conclusions. If the colonists and investors agreed to these articles of incorporation, then so they did. On the other hand, the fact of their voluntarily agreeing to the articles indicates that they did not find the idea of a socialist/communist colony repugnant; if they did, they would have negotiated for a different agreement. This train of thought permits us to reinterpret Judge Davis’ remark on page 135 as meaning that while the proximate cause of the colonists’ community of interest was the nature of their engagement with English investors, the nature of their engagement arose from their peculiar fantastic notions.

        • jim says:

          OK: Article three mandates socialism, but who mandates article three, and why?

          That they gave equal pay for unequal ability shows that this was ideological socialism, not a plan to make a profit, shows that it was leftism, not capitalism.

          That they dissolved the patriarchal family shows that this was ideological socialism, not a plan to make a profit, shows that it was leftism, not capitalism.

          And the fact that Governor Bradford could toss article three at the same time as he tossed equal pay for unequal ability and restored family life shows that this socialism was chosen by the colonists for reasons of ideology, not imposed by the investors, who were in any case not investing for profit, but contributing for religion.

          10. That all such persons as are of this colony, are to have their meat [food], drink, apparel and all provisions out of the common stock and goods of the said colony.

          This does seem to mean equal pay, or rather “to each according to his need”.

          If that is what it means, motivated by radical left wing ideology among the colonists, not corporate pursuit of profit by the investors. Whoever heard of private for profit business that compensated its employees on the basis of need or equality?

          Hmm, yes, I recall such a business: In “Atlas Shrugged”, the fictional equivalent of the real life General Motors, “Twentieth Century Motors” was run into the ground by leftists, pretty much as the real General Motors was about to be, though in a more extreme fashion. The fictional General Motors crashed very much the way the real life Puritan colony crashed, which is to say, even faster and more disastrously than the real life General Motors.

          • Candide III says:

            OK: Article three mandates socialism, but who mandates article three, and why?

            This train of thought permits us to reinterpret Judge Davis’ remark on page 135 as meaning that while the proximate cause of the colonists’ community of interest was the nature of their engagement with English investors, the nature of their engagement arose from their peculiar fantastic notions.

            We’re saying much the same thing here.

            And the fact that Governor Bradford could toss article three at the same time as he tossed equal pay for unequal ability and restored family life shows that this socialism was chosen by the colonists for reasons of ideology, not imposed by the investors

            I don’t say it was imposed either. The colonists had voluntarily agreed to this harebrained scheme. See my quoted paragraph above. As for Governor Bradford, he was faced with the very real possibility of losing the whole colony, so he could sort of declare force majeure and set aside the original articles. Indeed it might be argued that it was his fiduciary duty to do so 🙂

            • jim says:

              OK, we are in agreement that the New York Times is overstating the case, but does it have any case at all?

              The articles don’t require the dissolution of the patriarchal nuclear family, and it is not obvious that they require pay on the basis of equality or need, rather than ability.

              The New York Times case is that they were socialist in the same way, and for the same reasons, as a normal corporation is internally socialist, and indeed the agreement requires this level of socialism. But they were a hell of a lot more socialist than that, and then they were a hell of a lot less socialist than that.

              If it had been true that they had merely been socialist in in the same way as a normal corporation is internally socialist, one could plausibly claim that they were internally socialist for the same reasons, which is the New York Times claim. But they were not

          • Candide III says:

            I think NYT’s case is laughable. As for what the articles require, article 5 clearly says that after 7 years the proceeds are to be equally divided between colonists and investors, and while article 10 does not specifically mention equal provision of resources, in view of article 5 it is difficult to argue that the article intended a provision according to ability, and then the rest of our position follows.

        • jim says:

          If the colonists and investors agreed to these articles of incorporation, then so they did. On the other hand, the fact of their voluntarily agreeing to the articles indicates that they did not find the idea of a socialist/communist colony repugnant; if they did, they would have negotiated for a different agreement.

          The articles could be interpreted as requiring socialism to the extent that a normal corporation is internally socialist, which is the New York Times argument. But the pilgrims had a good deal more socialism than that, they were radically socialist.

          And then they switched to having a good deal less socialism than a normal corporation has internally, which shows that the articles were not primarily an agreement with evil bloated capitalists wearing top hats and having big hooked noses greedily sniffing for profit, but an agreement between the colonists themselves.

          • Candide III says:

            The articles could be interpreted as requiring socialism to the extent that a normal corporation is internally socialist, which is the New York Times argument.

            And I wrote above that NYT is clutching at straws with this interpretation. A normal corporation is only a little bit socialist. It does not invade private life etc. Again, we’re saying much the same thing.

            which shows that the articles were not primarily an agreement with evil bloated capitalists wearing top hats and having big hooked noses greedily sniffing for profit

            Krokodil imagery aside, it doesn’t show this — I have little doubt that any self-respecting hook-nosed capitalist would prefer receiving his investment back with profit and tossing the articles to losing his investment and keeping the articles — but we don’t need this particular bit of argument. Would you sign those articles? Would most Americans? No. Only the most starry-eyed NYT readers would consider it. So why insist on the one bit of argument where our case is rather weak, and which we don’t really need to support our position?

            • jim says:

              So why insist on the one bit of argument where our case is rather weak, and which we don’t really need to support our position?

              What is the one bit of argument that I am making where our case is weak?

              The NYT tells us:

              historians say the Pilgrims were more like shareholders in an early corporation than subjects of socialism.

              “It was directed ultimately to private profit,”

              They were not like shareholders in a corporation, they were like subjects of socialism, and it was not directed to private profit.

              Substantial common property, but with unequal pay, status, and with patriarchal nuclear families would be like shareholders in a corporation.

              My argument expressed in that post comes back again and again to the words “directed at private profit”. It was not directed a private profit. It was not like the internal socialism of a normal corporation.

          • Candide III says:

            Since the articles existed and were agreed to, formally the colonists were shareholders. Why dispute this point? Being a shareholder in a corporation does not preclude being part of a socialist colony. Articles could be drafted for a corporation where shareholders would be slaves or indentured servants of the corporation. A clever lawyer could set up a forced labor camp as a corporation of this sort. NYT is making too much of the formal aspect of the thing.

            It was not directed a private profit. It was not like the internal socialism of a normal corporation.

            You keep mixing these two things together. No, it wasn’t like the internal socialism of a normal corporation, but this does not preclude the whole enterprise having been for private profit. I don’t know whether it was, in fact, directed at private profit or no; if you can demonstrate this using primary sources, nothing would be better. But arguing that the thing was not directed at private profit because it wasn’t like the internal socialism of a normal corporation is invalid. Lots of corporations go into business with crazy business plans and go bust, so why not this one? I can totally see socialist investors investing in a socialist colony, doing God’s work and expecting to make a profit on it.

            • jim says:

              Since the articles existed and were agreed to, formally the colonists were shareholders. Why dispute this point?

              I don’t dispute it. I dispute that “It was directed ultimately to private profit,” and I dispute that the colonial socialism was analogous to the common ownership of a corporation by shareholders. A corporation does not dispense payments on the basis of need or equality, nor abolish the family.

              this does not preclude the whole enterprise having been for private profit.

              Firstly, as a matter of historical fact, the enterprise was not for private profit, but to implement a holy utopia. The investors were not much concerned with getting their money back. Secondly, as a matter of logic, you don’t pay people on the basis of need or equality if your objective is private profit, so equality of outcome without regard to ability does preclude the whole enterprise having been for private profit.

          • Candide III says:

            Since the articles existed and were agreed to, formally the colonists were shareholders. Why dispute this point?

            I don’t dispute it.

            OK.

            I dispute that “It was directed ultimately to private profit,”

            I dispute the word “ultimately” here. Let NYT keep the rest for a fig leaf; it is more comical that way.

            and I dispute that the colonial socialism was analogous to the common ownership of a corporation by shareholders.

            So do I.

            Firstly, as a matter of historical fact, the enterprise was not for private profit, but to implement a holy utopia. The investors were not much concerned with getting their money back.

            I sort of know this third-hand, and I believe it is just as you say, but what I want is to see the actual sources of this historical fact. A single page would blow up NYT’s case sky-high.

            Secondly, as a matter of logic, you don’t pay people on the basis of need or equality if your objective is private profit, so equality of outcome without regard to ability does preclude the whole enterprise having been for private profit.

            That is assuming you know beforehand that such an enterprise will not work well. However, we have evidence that the investors, those godly men, believed themselves “wiser than God” and thought that “the taking away of property, and bringing in community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing” (p. 135) and you enlarge on this at length above. On the basis of such beliefs they could very well expect to make a profit. I don’t understand quite what you are really objecting to here. Are you so reluctant to admit that NYT might be correct on a trivial point? The stupidest man in the world may say that the sun is shining; this does not make it go out.

            • jim says:

              equality of outcome without regard to ability does preclude the whole enterprise having been for private profit.

              That is assuming you know beforehand that such an enterprise will not work well. However, we have evidence that the investors, those godly men, believed themselves “wiser than God” and thought that “the taking away of property, and bringing in community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing”

              People who believe that, are communists. It is a political belief system, which is precisely what the New York Times denies. People who believe that are hostile to private profit.

          • Candide III says:

            People who believe that, are communists. It is a political belief system, which is precisely what the New York Times denies. People who believe that are hostile to private profit.

            Ah, I see what you mean. But today’s communists, or a century ago’s communists, are bound to be at least somewhat different to today’s communists. The most glaring thing, those XVII century Puritans did believe in God. Another thing they inherited from Calvin, is viewing worldly success as a sign of election. The Lockean branch of the Puritans eventually discarded this view as inconsistent with communism, but that came later.

        • jim says:

          This train of thought permits us to reinterpret Judge Davis’ remark on page 135 as meaning that while the proximate cause of the colonists’ community of interest was the nature of their engagement with English investors, the nature of their engagement arose from their peculiar fantastic notions.

          I would interpret Judge Davis’s remark as commie aplogetics similar to those of the New York Times.

          The plymouth settlement simply was not an investor owned corporation, and while the “investors” hoped to get their money back, preferably with profit, that was not their motivation. They were donating their money to creating a Christian Communist Utopia, and the settlers were donating their lives.

          • Candide III says:

            I would interpret Judge Davis’s remark as commie aplogetics similar to those of the New York Times.

            That was my idea also. If I am correct in believing that the Judge Davis quoted there was this person, it would be very easy to believe.

            The plymouth settlement simply was not an investor owned corporation, and while the “investors” hoped to get their money back, preferably with profit, that was not their motivation. They were donating their money to creating a Christian Communist Utopia, and the settlers were donating their lives.

            There you go again. Formally, it was a corporation with investors. Their motivations for setting up the corporation in such a way are very important, but separate from the fact that the colony was set up as a corporation. We can question their motivation without disputing the formal fact of incorporation. What’s so difficult about this? A private school is formally a corporation, with shareholders and a board of directors, but it’s still a school.

  2. Handle says:

    Heh, same wavelength. Skip to the “Slow History” section at my “Who Knew?”

    • jim says:

      Yes

      America Is A Communist Country because it has been pursuing this dream, and spreading it by the sword, since it was born. For every two steps forward it takes a reckless action and tries for a bridge too far, stumbles, gathers its senses for a brief moment, and then reacts and takes a step back away from the cliff. The Pilgrims restore private property; Reconstruction ends, the country returns to normalcy; It’s morning in America.

      But some collectivist innovations become permanently part of each new foundation, and the space for restorative corrections shrinks and shrinks

      Yes, America is a communist country in that it endlessly attempts to re-impose the ideal that the pilgrims temporarily backed away from, and impose this ideal world wide by the sword.

      Obamacare is a step towards the pilgrim program of from each according to his ability, from each according to his need. Gay marriage is a step towards the pilgrim program of dissolution of patriarchy and the nuclear family.

      And that is why the NYT lies about it.

      That they are lying about it means that they are still at it. Still commie after all these years.

  3. […] If the Cathedral did not intend socialism after the fashion of Pol Pot and to destroy the family, wh… […]

  4. […] goes one way after all and that Kulaks always deserve a good kicking. The Puritans where made to enforce communal property and starved, not because of noble pursuit of equality but because a corporation made them do it und […]

  5. In other words, sometimes time really does run backwards.

    OTOH, this might be an example of a common left-wing trick. The left finally realizes that one of its ideals doesn’t actually make sense and reverses course. They then cover their tracks by blaming the right.

  6. Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as experienced during the first harsh winter. Bradford decided to take bold action. He assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of the marketplace. Long before Karl Marx was born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what today is described as socialism .

  7. […] socialism and the thanksgiving story. Related: Thanksgiving, then and […]

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