How Communism Almost Prevented The First Thanksgiving

TDB's picture

Via The Daily Bell

When settlers first arrived at Plymouth, their first attempts to survive were disastrous.

It sounded like a good idea. They all shared and worked for the common good. They followed the tenet, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” over 150 years before Marx coined the phrase.

Everyone was expected to work in the fields planting and harvesting, and everyone got to share the final product.

But under these conditions life was misery. In the first year, many of the first settlers starved to death. They needed to come up with something quick, for the sake of survival. So what did they do to encourage a great boom in their tiny economy?

In his journal, “Of Plymouth Plantation” 1620-1647, Governor William Bradford writes about the dilemma and the solution they found.

So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves.

They abandoned the supposedly utopian system of communal sharing and decided that people were now responsible for their own survival. The land was portioned among families based on their numbers, and anyone who did not have a family in Plymouth was assigned to a household.

This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. 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.

What happened was simple. Now people knew that their survival, and that of their family, relied entirely on their own production. They knew that whatever excess they grew or manufactured would benefit them rather than being given to someone who hadn’t worked as hard. This got more people into the fields to work. And of course, the excess production still benefited the whole of the colony. People could now specialize and trade, meaning more wealth for everyone. Now it paid to innovate.

No one was going to force women and children into the fields before. That would have been tyrannical. But now, worrying for the survival of her family, a mother would take her children into the fields with her to work.

In his journal Bradford discusses what happened when the settlement shifted to every-man-for-himself. He laments the “vanity and conceit” of Plato and other philosophers’ claim:

…that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.

When you get to keep what you work for, people work harder, and produce more. When people produce more than they can consume, this benefits others in the society who get to trade for the extra goods. This type of situation also leads to specialization in a particular field.

If someone produces extra food, he can then trade it. Then if someone else produces extra cloth, she can trade that. People who are good at something, can market that skill in exchange for something which they are not good at producing. When they have something to gain from extra cloth and food, they will work harder to produce more in order to trade the excess. Again, this benefits everyone, as there are now more goods available—overall production has increased because there is more to be gained from working hard.

For the young men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. 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; this was thought injustice.

And rightfully so. Why should one person spend their time working to support others for no reward? When he is rewarded for his effort, it is justified that he works for “other men’s wives.” And as the pilgrims found out, this actually puts him in a better position to support others.

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.

Instead of being compelled to wash others’ clothes and dress others’ meat, it was now done in exchange for another good or service. They moved on from “slavery” to mutually beneficial transactions. Bradford adds that such was the experience of good standing, God fearing men, “And would have been worse if they had been men of another condition.”

This provides us a perfect microcosm of society to study. In isolation, the principles of economics were obvious. On such a small scale it is easier to see that when you consume something you have not produced, you are taking that away from the producer. When society is set up to allow those conditions, there is less produced. When people are allowed to keep the products of their labor, more is produced, and all of society benefits. This also encourages innovation to create excess goods, which can be traded for the benefit of the producer, while also benefitting the other trader.

The plantation started with a restrictive economy. People were compelled to work, yet this requirement did not produce enough for every to live. They thought it was an unjust society, they lamented having to work for “others’ wives” or wives having to work for other men. Morale was down, and production was down, since there was no benefit to working harder. People starved to death, because of the lack of necessities grown and produced.

If they hadn’t realized their mistake and turned things around, they would never have produced enough to hold the first Thanksgiving. Only a free market allowed the conditions to give thanks for how much they produced.

The pilgrims were thankful that they had solved the problems of starvation. No one felt enslaved, instead they felt empowered. They could go as far as their brain and hard work would take them. The quality of life advanced for everyone because of the seemingly selfish doctrine that each person keeps what they produce.  And even the people in Plymouth who could not support themselves benefited because now there were enough excess goods to go around.

This Thanksgiving we can be thankful that Plymouth Plantation set the tone for individual freedom. They tried an experiment in government, and it paid off.

 

 

Be thankful for freedom.

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kwaremont's picture

btw. the same shit kept russian peasants in eternal poverty for centuries - "commonly" administered land in the villages, decided by the "elderly" (pieces of land were regularly reallocated, so nobody had any incentive to fertilize it properly or improve anything, because it was not for his future (typical tragedy of commons)

then, for few years of (proto)capitalism, before bolsheviks robbed everyone of everything, those who took the land from the village pool were prosperous whithin few years... only to cause massive discontent in the village because they were suddenly better off

Kidbuck's picture

It's also a historical fact, if you read or listen to any commie apologists, that the weather always plots against communism. Droughts and floods and early freezes always start where ever communism is tried. This is a corollary to the bullshit commie excuse that there are more natural resources (including more fertile land) in prosperous countries.

The Indians were primitive stone age heathens and would have remained so forever if the Europeans had just let them be, though they sat on all the resources save one (gumption), necessary to construct a modern civilization.

stiler's picture

"They abandoned the supposedly utopian system of communal sharing and decided that people were now responsible for their own survival."

But it wasn't seen by them as utopian. Their idea was taken from Acts 2.

 

A sense of awe came over everyone, and the apostles performed many wonders and signs. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they shared with anyone who was in need.…

 

This doesn't mean they had to share everything. This can quickly become cult-like. The Spirit of Christ was leading the early church (all Jewish by the way), and the Pilgrims after they got it right. There is freedom in Christ.

bluez's picture

Oh fuck this "communist turkey worship." I guess Zero Head thinks we are five-year-olds.

Fuck the "author" and the fucking turkey he rode in on.

Assholes.

nmewn's picture

Whats the problem? Its historical fact. 

There's another often overlooked line in there that points to the fatal flaw of communism/socialism...

"This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. 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."

...in modern English that means, if they had been FORCED into the fields to work they would have thought it tyranny and oppression. 

Mao proved that yet again centuries later with his "five year plan" which is something they still like to dabble with (five year plans...lol) which "produced" tens of millions of dead Chinese. I am speaking here of course of his Great Leap Forward land redistribution scheme which was a massive failure and is recognized universally by anyone who is not a Maxist as genocide.   

Well, they may recognize it as genocide but they certainly never admit it ;-)

ThirdWorldDude's picture

TDB, you just went full retard. Don't you know that you should never go full retard?

praps's picture

That sounds fine if everyone has land.  In the US most land is owned by a minority.  The majority do not have land and effectively pay rent to the minority.

 

That's why the US is essentially a slavery system where the majority work for the minority.  It in no way resembles the early Plymouth days when all were given land.  In those days you could rightly claim to be free - nowadays most are slaves.

bluez's picture

Those would be our rentiers. Like Bill Gates.

Cloud9.5's picture

Land is still pretty cheap if you are willing to live in an area where the natives are dangerous.  Look on Zillow.  There are numerous listings of houses going for $1,000 in Detroit.  If you want your own farm there is plenty of vacant land in the city that is open to urban farmers.  The Michigan Department of Agriculture even has an initiative to help get you started.  http://www.dailydetroit.com/2015/07/06/10-detroit-urban-farms-rooting-goodness-into-the-city/

 

So, if you have a frontier spirit and want the same chances the early settlers had, then go for it.

bluez's picture

Yeah, brown fields where nothing grows. Chemically saturated land. Cancer gardens.

andrej's picture

Marx & Engels would probably agree - more or less.

Means and relations of production are interconnected. They evolve and devolve together. Discrepancies, in either direction, end badly.

Communism will be possible only when and if the means of production are developed enough. For the time being, it exists only in the field of open source software development. If corn was as easy to reproduce as software, the abovementioned settlers could have communism. But it wasn't.

 

bluez's picture

Corn is the easiest thing to reproduce. Reproducing software lands you in jail in "the land of the free."

andrej's picture

Without tractors, nothing is easy to grow.

 

DrData02's picture

Fuckin' Russians. They must have a time machine which they use(d) to screw over the Pilgrims.

crazzziecanuck's picture

The soil of the area is actually rather poor for agriculture.  When the first colonials came over, newly cleared land would not produce much just as newly cleared jungle is poor soil for agriculture as well.  Even today, if you want to create new farmland on the East Coast, in particular, you have to clear and add either lots of chemicals or animal biomass.  There are certain other tricks and crops to speed this up, but that wasn't available in the 1600s.

That's why they had a hard time, plus, most starvation happened in spring.  They steadfastly avoided the local diet which sustained the local population for 25,000 years didn't help them, either.  

I've seen "city slickers" go rural around here only to watch as they repeatedly fail.  Their dreams of homesteading crashing on the rocks because they didn't prepare.  They didn't have the knowledge to prepare.

It wasn't "communal" communism that threatened them, it was their own lack of knowledge.  It was biology.  Their descendants learned from their experiences.  Their initial assumption was that they could immediate transfer over agricultural practices from the old world to the new and get the same yields.  That was never going to be the case, as agricultural land in Europe has been built up over centuries.  It was a MAJOR blunder on the part of the planners.

So, one reason why the Pilgrims were able to survive was the fact that a large portion of the population starved after these same people toiled to start the initial land conversion.

Kidbuck's picture

Grew up in Maine, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. neither me or my neighbors ever had any trouble producing a bountiful garden in any of them with just hard work, hand tools, and attention to detail. My grandfather fed a family of five on a half acre he tilled by hand. My great grandfather raised 8 kids with a dory and trot lines fishing the Atlantic coast.

When government gets its hand out of your pocket good things happen.

MegaOlmecanManiac's picture

Big deal. My grampa did all that and he still had time to let other men's wives dress his meat.

Future Jim's picture

I have a similar take:

Communism vs. Free Markets at Plymouth Rock

I learned from an article entitled  Our Forefather’s Failure (at LibertyUnbound.com) that the colonies at Plymouth Rock and Jamestown tried both free market and communist systems—long before Karl Marx was born.

The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock in December 1620, and in spite of help from the Native Americans, half of them died the first year as a result of their initial system. During the second year, more of them died. They would quickly learn that their initial system was tragically incompatible with human nature. It was simply unnatural.

The colonists had the ideal conditions for their initial system because they all had a reputation as virtuous hard working people, they all were of the same race, religion, politics, and nationality; and of course, they all had agreed to this system voluntarily. They also knew that failure meant death.

Nevertheless, under their initial system, they simply weren’t producing and storing enough food, which lead to starvation, disease, and discontent. Their first solution, in their second year, was to institute beatings for those who did not work hard enough, but this had little effect on productivity, and it further increased discontent.

The colonists astutely observed that their system tended to retard productivity while breeding confusion and discontent. We know this because they wrote about it in their journals. Clearly, their initial system was incompatible with human nature.

By the spring of 1623 the Pilgrims feared they would not survive another winter, so in desperation, they adopted a radically different system, and it saved their lives. Productivity increased, and in 1623, they had the first real Thanksgiving.

Which system failed the colonists initially, and which radically different system saved them? Which system was so incompatible with human nature, and which system was so compatible with human nature? Which system was so ugly, and which system was so beautiful?

According to their original governing document, the Mayflower Compact, they shared everything produced by any one of them—from each according to his ability—to each according to his need. The result was that only a small percentage of them worked hard, and the rest were freeloaders to varying degrees because they would rather risk death than be exploited by others. They were so reluctant to work that they even left food rotting on the vine! The result was indeed death. Half of them died! This reminds me of the saying by the people of the USSR, “They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work.”

Then, in the spring of 1623, the surviving colonists decided to let each person keep the fruits of his labor, and the colony’s total output increased so much that they were never hungry again.

The governor wrote in his journal that under their initial (communist) system that some of them claimed to be too sick to work, and they were so convincing that it would have been the height of tyranny to force them work. Then, after they learned they could keep the fruits of their labor, those who were too sick to walk suddenly recovered and began working the fields!

Communism was killing the colonists at Plymouth Rock, and by switching to a free market system, they became more productive and saved themselves—in a single growing season.

The transition from communism to free markets still lacked full property rights however. Whereas each individual owned the fruits of his labor, he did not own the land he worked, and thus he did not own any improvements he made to that land.

In 1623, the colonists were still growing food on parcels of land that were reassigned by random lots each year, which they astutely observed was a disincentive for each farmer to make permanent improvements to his parcel of land because in the following year, someone else would inherit the fruits of any labor he devoted to improvements. Therefore, in 1624, they adopted full property rights where everyone owned the land he worked, and the result was another productivity boost. Whereas, the first step toward property rights and the free market increased productivity enough to feed everyone, the move to full property rights produced enough extra food to export and trade for furs and other goods.

The article goes on to explain the similar experience in Jamestown:

Jamestown, the first permanent English colony in America, established in Virginia in 1607, had an experience similar to the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Early years of starvation were followed by converting to a system of property rights and a free market, which brought abundance. Under collectivism, less than half of every shipload of settlers survived the first 12 months at Jamestown. Most of the work was done by only one-fifth of the men, to whom the socialist system gave the same rations as to the others. During the winter of 1609–10, called “The Starving Time,” the population fell from 500 to 60.

But when Jamestown converted to a free market, there was “plenty of food, which every man by his own industry may easily and doth procure,” wrote the colony secretary Ralph Hamor in 1614. Under the previous system, he said, “we reaped not so much corn from the labors of thirty men as three men have done for themselves now.”

The article didn’t mention the Roanoke colony, which just disappeared, and many speculate that they were killed by the Native Americans, but I think we can all deduce what really happened to them … They were killed by communism.

Although both my first hand experience and observations as well as my research and analysis have long since led me to conclude that the free market and property rights are superior to communism, I would have believed that communism could have worked in the case of the first American colonies because they had every advantage one could give communism. They had already unanimously agreed to communism. They all shared the same race, nationality, religion, political views and economic views. Failure meant starvation, and slackers were beaten, but in spite of every advantage possible, communism was a catastrophic and systemic failure in the first American colonies.

Consider that the colonists at Plymouth Rock had no historical precedent on which to evaluate communism vs. the free market, and yet when communism failed them, they invented and adopted a complete free market system with full property rights in just two years.

In just four years, the colonists proved that that communism was a very unnatural and ugly thing, and that free-markets and property rights were a very natural and beautiful thing.

Our ancestors’ understanding of the superiority of the free market and property rights made us the dominant nation on earth; whereas, today we are rapidly losing that status. Could it be that  Americans have forgotten the hard won knowledge of our ancestors?

Consider that the Barack Obama had 400 years of additional historical precedent as well as a Harvard education, and yet he still doesn’t understand how the free market is superior to communism. He says that that when the government forcibly takes the fruits of your labor and gives it to others to “spread the wealth around”, then that’s “good for everybody”.

Those colonists at Plymouth Rock, who seem so much more in touch with reality than the President of the United States, remind me of small town Americans of my childhood. Of course, the President sees small town Americans as basically racists who have “antipathy toward those who are different” and who “cling to their guns and religion”.

Although, the Barack Obama is a dilettante, whose image was manufactured by the media, progressives have told me that he is right because communism in early America was too soon. They claim that it is not human nature to be a freeloader and that the people themselves have learned and would no longer be freeloaders. In case anyone cannot see that the progressive argument is BS, then consider that the Danish recently proved that 90% still prefer to be freeloaders when they can—even when they can make more money working.

HopefulCynical's picture

The only ones spreading shit are you commie apologists. You had your chance, for over a century of overt control, and for much longer as a subversive influence. You fucked up the world. You can go away on your own, or you can be done away with.

Your. Choice.

Colonel's picture

"Slate" Really? FuckTARD. That article in no way conflicts with what Bradford discovered when they moved to a more free market system. And the dates in the article are dubious as well. Your weak attempts at discrediting is standard lefTARD fare. And socialism has been tried and FAILED, want to see articles on that? Thought so. Move to North Korea asshole!

shovelhead's picture

LOL.

They just needed more socialism to get it to work...

Please stop spreading this crap...

It makes me look fucking stupid. Please.