The longing for the socialist dream comes in part from the great success of capitalism as an engine of prosperity. From the nineteenth century onwards, the entrepreneurial economy created prosperity on a scale that had never been seen before in history.The socialists, however, believed economic success would become even greater in a society of egalitarian redistribution.The socialists expect that under their rule, the economy would become more productive and society more just.
This illusion of obtaining prosperity and justice under socialism was already evident in the Communist Manifesto of 1848. In their pamphlet, Karl Marx and his sponsor Friedrich Engels enthusiastically praised capitalist achievements:
“The bourgeoisie,” they declared, “has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades.”
During its rule, the bourgeoisie
has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalization of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground – what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labor?