First posted on Friday, 29 March 2013 at 22:17
No-one would accuse Richard Wagner of having been a communist. How was it, therefore, that he advocated an equal distribution of property.
As a traditionalist, he took the view that, of all things, land, the soil to which we are attached, was a sacred thing, not to be sullied by the money corruption and the squalid principles of buying and selling. Economic activity had its place, but it was to be controlled. This was unlike the situation in the society of Wagner’s time and that which exists in our own, where money dominates all, including the ‘values’ we hold dear - such as liberty.
But Wagner knew a liberty founded on money was only an apparition. True freedom could only be attained in a society that valued unity in multiplicity - in which a diversity of roles is equally valued as contributing to the well being of the social organism as a whole.
For individuals to find freedom and fulfilment in these roles - then they must at least have equal access to the means by which the roles can be fulfilled. That was Wagner’s point.
Here is what Wagner wrote only two years before his death.
"Property" is practically held to be more sacred than religion in our state-run society . . . Since property is deemed the foundation of our entire existence as a society, it seems all the more destructive that we do not all own property, and that the greatest part of society even comes disinherited into the world. Society is thus manifestly reduced by its own principle to such a state of dangerous discontent, that it is forced to estimate all its laws to the impossibly of settling this antagonism. Protection of property, in its widest universal legal sense —what armed force is selectively maintained for — can truly mean nothing else than a defence of the Haves [Besitzenden] against the Have-Nots [Nichtbesitzenden]. As many serious and keen calculating minds have applied themselves to the study of the problem before us, a solution to this — the final one perhaps being an equal distribution of all property— is something nobody has wished to bring to fruition; and it seems as if, through state exploitation of an apparently so simple a concept as property, a stake had been driven into the body of mankind that makes it waste away from the misery of a painful illness.
Erkenne dich selbst. Bayreuther Blätter, February-March issue, 1881