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Zitat der Woche, 06.01.2014: Robert Owen an den König

Dienstag 7. Januar 2014 von Ш.Ю. Голц

Robert Owen (1771-1858) gilt als Begründer des Genossenschaftswesens und wird auch im Marxismus als Vordenker geschätzt. Dies jedoch mit der etwas unrühmlichen Einstufung als „utopischer Sozialist“, die leicht missverstanden werden kann. Die Kritik von Engels richtet sich weniger gegen seine Ideen, sondern die abstruse Weise, wie er sie umsetzen wollte. Oder genauer: Umsetzen lassen wollte. Ein Eindrucksvolles Bild hierzu gibt sein offener Brief an König William IV [1], der vor naiver Königstreue und Schnulzigkeit geradezu strotzt. Das eigentlich utopische ist die aus der Aufklärung übernommene Marotte, dass man den Herrschenden einfach mal die Sachlage erklären muss - z.B. in einem siebenbändigen Werk über Sozialpolitik - und dann irgendwie alles gut wird.

(Foto: Mike Peel)

Sire,

circumstances, not under your control, have placed you at the head of the most powerful association of men for good or for evil, that has hitherto existed in any part of the globe ; and other circumstances are about to arise, also beyond your control, which will render it necessary for you, Sire, and those whom you may call to your councils, to decide whether this power shall be now directed to produce the good or the evil.

The book, the first part of which, with this letter prefixed, I submit to Your Majesty, contains truths, of the highest import to you, Sire, to every member of your family; to every subject of the wide-spread empire over which you preside; to every human being, high or low, now living, and to all those who shall live hereafter. It unfolds the fundamental principles of a NEW MORAL WORLD, and it thus lays a new foundation on which to re-construct society and re-create the character of the human race. It opens to the family of man, without a single exception, the means of endless progressive improvement, physical, intellectual, and moral, and of happiness, without the possibility of retrogression or of assignable limit.

Society has emanated from fundamental errors of the imagination, and all the institutions and social arrangements of man over the world have been based on these errors. Society is, therefore, through all its ramifications, artificial and corrupt, and, in consequence, ignorance, falsehood and grave folly alone, govern all the affairs of mankind.

Under your reign, Sire, the change from this system with all its evil consequences, to another founded on self-evident truths, ensuring happiness to all, will, in all probability, be achieved; and your name, and the names of those who now govern the nations of the world, will be recorded, as prominent actors, in a period the most important that has ever occurred in the history of mankind.

The world, in its present mental darkness, will rashly pronounce this change to be impracticable; or, if practicable, that it will be the work of ages. Herein all men err. The great circumstances of nature and the existing state of human affairs, are full ripe for the change; no one material is deficient, and man cannot longer govern man, without forming a union of governments and nations to effect this change.

As the change will be permanently beneficial for high and low, rich and poor, it may be effected by wise general arrangements, in peace, in order, and with high gratification to all nations and people.

At the termination of the late war of, what are called, the civilized nations, an alliance was formed by the leading governments to protect each other from individual national revolutions; and it was a wise measure to prevent premature changes in each state,—changes desired by the people before they had acquired wisdom to give such changes a right direction.

The world has undergone a revolution of principle since that alliance was formed; the folly and wickedness of all wars, civil or national, have become too glaring not to be opposed by the cultivated mind of Europe and America. The empire, Sire, over which you preside can no longer be governed by party proceedings, and, in consequence, your present Administration, as well as any other that can now be formed, must be one of mere necessity; because in the present state of society individuals cannot be found to constitute one that shall be efficient. Difficulties of a similar character are arising in all countries; the old prejudices, or errors of the world have been shaken to their foundation, and are tottering previous to their fall and final destruction.

A union of governments and nations is now required, to re- constitute society, upon a new and solid basis, and to secure to the human race peace and happiness through the right application of the discoveries both scientific and moral, made within the last century.

Your ancestors, Sire, a hundred years ago, directed a mixed manual and scientific national power for the production of wealth and happiness, equal together to the exertions of about fifteen millions of men, to supply a population of about fifteen millions; the population and power being equal, or as one to one. You, Sire, have the direction of a mixed national power of production more than equal to the exertions of six hundred millions of men, with no assignable limit to its rapid increase, to supply a population of twenty-five millions, or as twenty-four to one. This enormous new power, of the British Empire, may be most advantageously given to all other populations in proportion to their number, and it is the immediate interest of Great Britain that this new power should be spread, as rapidly as possible, over all the nations of the earth. It is a boon that will be more beneficial to the givers than to the receivers.

The British Nation is in the most advantageous position to propose and negotiate this alliance, now called for by an irresistible necessity, arising from the progress of knowledge. This alliance is imperative, to protect, alike, both the governments and people from the effects of ignorant violence, and to ensure their progressive improvement and happiness.

Two conditions, only, are required to found this alliance upon a basis that will ensure its permanence and success; conditions, too, that will be highly advantageous to all governments and people.

The first, That the contracting parties shall abandon, by the most public declaration, the fundamental error on which society has been hitherto based: and second, That they shall adopt the opposite truth for the base of all their future measures.

The ERROR is unsupported by a single fact, and opposed by all facts bearing upon it; the TRUTH is supported by every fact, and opposed by no one fact having reference to it. The necessary consequence of acting upon the error is misery; the necessary consequence of acting upon the truth will be happiness. The change may now be effected from the one to the other without injury to the mind, body or estate of a single individual of any age, class or rank in any country; and every material to effect the change now, is at the control of society, almost without effort, but certainly, with only agreeable and beneficial exercise. Neither will it be necessary to disturb private property, as now existing, or to require any labor from those who have not been trained to employment.

I offer to make all these matters plain in principle, and easy of practice, to your Government and to all civilized Governments. The whole subject has been long familiar to.

Your Majesty’s faithful Friend,

ROBERT OWEN.

[1] vgl. Owen, Robert: „The Book of the New Moral World“, London 1836, s. III-VIII.


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