Socialism was arguably a reactionary response to how the Industrial Revolution transformed society. Industrialization created a class of nouveau riche who gained wealth through market transactions rather than by birthright, threatening the old order: “enfeebling traditional authority… and weakening hereditary influences.” Factories also brought women into the labor force en masse, granting them economic independence and bargaining power that altered family dynamics and disturbed old-fashioned sensibilities.
In short, commoners and women were earning money, and traditionalists were aghast. The prominent Victorian social thinker John Ruskin wrote in his 1860 critique of capitalism, Unto the Last, that his aim was “to show the superiority of some men to others” and the wisdom of a hierarchical society that keeps “inferiors” in their place.
Socialism presented an alternative to the unprecedented social mobility and rapid changes of the industrial age. Watson notes that many people felt the classical liberals advocating “free trade and the free market were rapidly destroying traditional patterns of life, loosening family ties and threatening morality itself”. As the socialist Bertolt Brecht once said: “Communism is not radical. It is capitalism that is radical.”
Socialism historically has resulted in the installation of hereditary systems of entrenched privilege, “since only privilege educates for the due exercise of centralized power in a planned economy.” Children of the bourgeoisie were relegated to a subordinate caste in the Soviet Union. Stalin’s eldest son, had he not died, would have been destined for high office. President Ceausescu of Romania gave his wife and son cabinet posts.
A Woman's Place Is in the Gulag
Today’s Marxist feminists might be shocked not only by socialist attitudes towards hereditary privilege but also by original socialist attitudes towards gender roles. In the Condition of the Working Class of England, Friedrich Engels observed with horror that in some households, women factory workers acted as breadwinners and their husbands as homemakers. Such an arrangement, he lamented, was not only “insane” but also “unsexes the man and takes from the woman all womanliness”. Gender role reversal, Engels continued, “degrades, in the most shameful way, both sexes, and, through them, Humanity.”
In practice, wherever socialism has been enacted, women were expected both to work outside the home and to do all the housework as well. And in centrally planned economic systems without any market incentive to fulfill human needs, it is women’s needs that were forgotten first.
On the flip side, this is another mild confirmation of what we already knew: "cultural marxism" is just the end product of liberalism