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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a petit bourgeois Utopian philosophy advocating universal leveling as the organizing principle of society.

In its earliest forms, in classical times and the Middle Ages, egalitarianism was associated with a demand for equal redistribution of the land. Under early capitalism two basic trends developed within egalitarianism. The first advocated equalization of the property of individual producers; the institution of private property was to be retained. The Jacobin dictatorship attempted to put into practice this ideal, which derived from the teachings of J.-J. Rousseau. The second trend in egalitarianism was associated with the earliest communist Utopian groups, such as the Babouvists; it advocated equal distribution of labor and goods on the basis of communal property.

K. Marx and F. Engels considered the principles of universal asceticism and crude leveling, which were characteristic of early communist literature, to be reactionary elements (see Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 4, p. 455). The reactionary features of egalitarianism found particularly vivid expression in “barracks communism,” which reduced people’s capabilities and needs to one level. Under conditions in which the proletariat has not yet taken shape as a class, the advancement of the principle of egalitarianism against the exploiting classes is, as Engels said, “a necessary stage of transition” from plebeian and petit bourgeois revolutionism to proletarian revolutionism (ibid., vol. 7, p. 377). In modern times, however, egalitarianism is a reactionary principle that is in opposition to the revolutionary ideals and the principle of equality advanced by the working class.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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