Last week, I had occasion to attend a meeting with some proper old-fashioned Marxists. They should be reminded where full-blooded state socialism leads:
Pictures of the Socialistic Future tells an engrossing story about a socialist paradise that swiftly degenerates into a societal dungeon. Originally published in an English translation back in 1893 — which adds immeasurably to its resonance — it has been reissued recently in paperback by the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a research center on free-market economics.
The story is narrated by a middle-aged bookbinder named Schmidt, who initially welcomes the “entirely new and glorious times … in store for us” as socialism takes over Germany. As events unfold, he grows increasingly troubled, providing reasoned analysis suffused with denial that borders on the comic. Vowing to “set down, in a humble way, some little account of the beginning of this new reign of brotherhood and universal philanthropy,” he never reveals his first name. But we hear about his son, Franz, daughter, Annie, daughter-in-law, Agnes, and his “better half, Paula,” while experiencing his pain as he recounts their reversals at the hands of the new socialist order, climaxing in his own tragic end.
This is not a socialism of Stalinist murderers, but of social engineers who unhesitantly subordinate freedom to their egalitarian ideals, a path that leads inevitably to totalitarianism, material impoverishment, and violence. When the government’s plan to confiscate all financial assets leaves the narrator’s daughter-in-law, Agnes, “inconsolable,” Schmidt sympathizes, explaining that “for a long time past she has been industriously saving up.”