On Richter’s “Pictures of a Socialistic Future”

Unfortunately, this book’s strength is just as advertised: it is old, yet accurate. The story itself could be a lot more enjoyable if the author had not written it in such a heavy and inaccessible language. Don’t get me wrong, the book is not written badly and is also not very hard to read. The problem is that it is a story in semi-diary form, which requires much simpler language.

If one thinks of the fact that this story was translated to English already in 1893, the whole thing is so much more enjoyable. But the reader does best in remembering this fact throughout the book. The story line is okay, the portrayals of people and situations are also okay. But what makes this book extraordinary is that it describes a socialist society and how it degenerates into social unrest, chaos, and is subject to a counter-revolution as well as war – written long before there were any socialist countries!

In fact, the author Eugen Richter is right on with his description. He might as well have published this one hundred years later, in 1993, and described the development and implosion of the Soviet Union. No doubt, Richter knew what he was talking about and he masterfully makes his knowledge tell the story of the socialist father who is overly enthusiastic about his socialist Germany… but finds himself personally experiencing all the horrors arising due to the lack of market. His son is located to another region because of central government’s “need” for his labor there, he is moved to a smaller apartment in which he lives alone, his father is placed in a home for the elderly, and his young daughter is placed in a government child-raising facility (much like Sweden, but added the mandate).

This is a quite interesting read! But it should be read primarily as a description of socialism and why it will always fail – and how amazingly straight on the author was in describing the developments in socialist society before there was one.