“The Republic of the Future: or Socialism a Reality” was an anti-utopian novella that was part of a field of satirical responses to Utopian Socialist novels like Looking Backward. (I discuss one of the more curious forms of that genre in Socialists from Mars)
Written by Anna Bowman Dodd, a New York journalist, The Republic of the Future spoofs the futuristic Socialist travelogues of the utopian writers by visiting a Socialist New York City in the year 2050. ABD’s views on some subjects don’t hold up that well and her version of New York where all the houses and people are the same doesn’t actually exist, but under one mayor obsessed with food and another obsessed with equality, it appears rather timely in places.
Diet in the Socialist New York is regulated to a degree that Bloomberg and Bill de Blasio could only fantasize about with no more kitchens, only a centrally planned single food production center in Chicago and dietary inspections for all.
When travelers had found themselves forced to abide by the rules and regulations governing the socialists’ diet. But what was this diet?
The State scientists now regulate all such matters. Once a month our Officer of Hygiene comes and examines each member of the household. He then prescribes the kind of food he thinks you require for the next few weeks, whether it shall be more or less phosphates, or cereals, or carnivorous preparations.
Of the shops in the Socialist New York of 2050, ABD writes;
The total lack of contrast which is the result of the plan on which this socialistic city has been built, comes, of course, from the principle which has decreed that no man can have any finer house or better interior, or finer clothes than his neighbor.
There is, consequently, neither rivalry nor competition. The shop keepers, who are in reality only clerks and salesmen under government jurisdiction, take naturally, no personal or vital interest either in the amount of goods sold, or in the way in which these latter are placed before the public.
The shop-windows, therefore, are as uninviting as are the goods displayed. Only useful, necessary objects and articles are to be seen.
This has yet to be true of New York store windows, but it was true of store windows in the Soviet Union. ABD describes the dulness of the people who have nothing to strive toward.
They have the look of people who have come to the end of things and who have failed to find it amusing.
The entire population appear to be eternally in the streets, wandering up and down, with their hands in their pockets, on the lookout for something that never happens. What indeed, is there to happen ? Have they not come to the consummation of everything, of their dreams and their hopes and desires? A man can’t have his dream and dream it too. Realization has been found before now, to be exceedingly dull play.
As it is, I am free to confess, that the dullness and apathy of these ideally-perfect socialists weighs on me.
ABD goes on to conjecture about social changes.
Both men and women are muscled like athletes, from their continual exercises and perpetual bathing.
This would be somewhat true for the upper classes, though the Greek baths she envisioned aren’t a reality.
It is now nearly two hundred years since women have enjoyed the same freedom and rights as men. It is interesting and curious to note the changes, both upon the character and nature of the two sexes, which has been the result of this development.
One’s first impression, in coming here, is that women are the sole inhabitants of the country. One sees them
everywhere — in all the public offices, as heads of departments, as government clerks, as officials, as engineers, machinists, aeronauts, tax collectors, firemen, filling, in fact, every office and vocation in civil, political and social life.
The few men — by comparison, whom I saw seemed to me to be allowed to exist as specimen examples of a fallen race. Of course, this view is more or less exaggeration. But the women here do appear to possess by far the most energy, vigor, vitality and ambition. Their predominance in office just now is owing to their over-powering number, the women’s vote polled being ten to one over that of the men.
ABD didn’t anticipate the service industry shift and did assume, for the purposes of the narrative, that machinery could fill in.
As motherhood came in course of time to be considered in its true light, as perhaps the chief cause of the degradation of women, it was finally abolished by act of legislature. Women were still to continue to bear children, or else the socialistic society itself would cease to be. A law was passed providing that children almost immediately after birth, should be brought up, educated and trained under state direction to be returned to their parents when fully grown, and ready for their duties as men and women citizens.
It has followed, of course, that with the jurisdiction of the state over the children of the community, all family life has died out. Men and women live together as man and wife, but the relation between them has become more nominal than real. It is significant of the changes that have been brought about between the sexes, that the word ” home ** has entirely dropped out of the language. A man’s house has in truth ceased to be his home. There are no children there to greet him, his wife, who is his comrade, a man, a citizen like himself, is as rarely at home as he.
The word wife has also lost all its original significance. It stands for nothing. Husband and wife arc in reality two men having equal rights, with the same range of occupation, the same duties as citizens to perform, the .same haunts and the same dreary leisure.
The word wife has already nearly vanished in the UK to be replaced by Partner. Under the influence of the gay rights lobby, the US will probably be next.
The collective child-rearing scheme that ABD describes was pursued by Socialists in her day, but it hasn’t been fully implemented on a national level. The push for universal Pre-K is a manifestation of the same phenomenon.
This too forms a rather familiar scene…
The exercises of the day began at the great Ethical Temple. Here ten thousand children were gathered to listen first to a lecture on the history of Christmas. There was a play in which Santa Claus appeared and a number of other legendary characters, to show the children in what mythological, absurd beings the children of the unenlightened nineteenth century believed in. Then ten thousand toys were distributed, dolls and whips and tops, and sleighs and skates. But as all were distributed indiscriminately by State officers to the children as they passed out on review, of course all the boys got the dolls and the girls the whips and tops.
ABD notes accurately that happiness will becoming the great missing quality and indeed much of modern culture is preoccupied with the search for happiness.
I asked myself, again and again, why should this people, of all people, be full of this discontent and unhappiness ? Haven’t they come to the realization of all their dreams? Have they not attained to the very summit and to the full glory of the possession of their social, civic and political desires and aspirations? Is there not equality of sex? Has not leisure instead of labor become a law ?
Is not private property abolished — is not the land the property of the State — the wage’system become a thing of the past, and the possession of capital made a crime punishable bylaw? Does not the State also exist for the people, educating them, training them for their work in life, distributing among them any surplus funds that the public treasury may accumulate, and furnishing for their amusement and leisure a vast system of educational clubs, educational theaters, public games, museums and shows ?
If a people are not happy under such conditions, what will insure content ?