In the nineteenth century, when the Saint-Simonians took to mysticism under the leadership of Bathelemy Prosper Enfantin, they began to talk up “the rehabilitation of the flesh” , a principle which inderlay the growing advocacy of free-love in the movement. It also gave rise to the broader traditions of the French left, its views on women, on the family,and on pleasure-especially sexual pleasure- as a measure of happiness, and on the relationship of sex to politics sometimes half dressed and sprinkled with spices from mysticism and the occult.
Politically and socially, it defined what would be adopted as the artistic aesthetic of the left: ” We, the artists, will serve as the avant-garde: for amongst all the arms at our disposal, the power of the arts is the swiftest and most expeditious. When we wish to spread new ideas amongst men, we use, in turn, the lyre, ode or song, story or novel; we inscribe those ideas on marble or canvas, and we popularise them in poetry and in song. We also make use of the stage, and it is there above all that our influence is most electric and triumphant…” ( Olinde Rodrigues )
“It is understandable to remain puzzled by how French can conjugate social collectivism and capitalism. But it will no longer remain that irrational as soon as you will get interested in a particular period of the French history beginning from, say, the last years of the era of Napoleon 1st and this of Napoleon III, and be interested in particular in names such as Claude Henri de Saint Simon (the founding father of French socialism who inspired Karl Marx) and his followers Barthélemy Prosper Enfantin, Armand Bazard, Ferdinand de Lesseps, and even Louis Napoléon Bonaparte.”
The incomparable Enfantin: A moral tale.How he sought the perfect woman to beget the future Saviour. How he lost faith and went into the desert. And how he came to a happy ending as General Manager of the P.-L.-M. railroad. Familiar enough in history are the mighty rulers who have attained godhead and commanded the worship of their subjects. Unique, however, is the case of Le Pere Enfantin, who, after a stage as deity, became General Manager of an important railroad.
Barthelemy Prosper Enfantin emerged from a humility suitable for the origin of divinity. He was born in Paris in 1796, the illegitimate son of an impoverished banker. A brilliant student, he gained entry to the Ecole Polytechnique, the government school of engineering. After only a year, in 1814 his course was interrupted by the fall of Napoleon. He became a wine merchant. His powers of persuasion proving remarkable, he explored sales possibilities in Germany, Switzerland and Holland. He spent two years in St. Petersburg as an employee of a French banker, thus learning the ways of finance. With a group of radical French expatriates he learned also to cogitate loftily on political economy and social theory, the making of a new world through the overturn of the old. He returned to France, worked as a bank teller, later becoming a director, and addressed proposals for fiscal reform to the government. And he became a convert to the theories of Saint-Simon.
Claude Henri de Rouvroy, Comte de Saint-Simon, was the founder of French socialism. A touching idealist who fought for liberty in the American Revolution, he demanded a total reorganization of society on a basis of economics. Production of goods should replace landholding, for “the social aim is to produce things useful to life.” Industrialists should take the place of nobles; scientists, artists, and philosophers, instead of churchmen, should direct society, with the well-being of the proletariat as their aim. His followers preached that the inheritance of wealth should be forbidden, the gold base of money abolished, women emancipated, and a kind of United Nations established. Saint-Simon proclaimed: “From each according to his capacities, to each according to his works.”
“It will allow you understanding that the tenets of the forerunner of socialism, that is to say “Saint-Simonianism”, said that capitalism is a mean for socialism to survive. For Claude Henri de Saint Simon – and later Barthélemy Prosper Enfantin – knew very well that socialism cannot reach its goals at home and worldwide without adapting to the driving force of progress: entrepreneurship.
Barthélemy Prosper Enfantin was all at the same time a Mason, a member of the Carbonari, a friend and follower of Claude Henri de Saint-Simon, and a former bank employee who worked for a couple of years in the biggest Russian bank in Saint Petersburg. He was pretty knowledgeable about capitalism, markets and entrepreneurship. Once in France, and after the death of Claude Henri de Saint Simon, Enfantin successfully created the sect of the Saint-Simonians, whose aims was to take control of the political power in France in an informal way, and to unite the “eastern world” and the “western world” so as to make the whole world a two-social classes (masters and apprentices) collectivism led by a “council of wise men” (one per country) selected among the best scientists. The “apprentices” were supposed to live in military-style quarters known as “phalansteres”, and one could become a “master” through apprenticeship or in being Mason already (this rules was created by the Carbonari).The Saint-simonians challenged marriage and advocated free love (in the early XIXth century, already).”