We The People

A Commune Called Plymouth: What the Pilgrims Taught Us About Socialism

This article was originally printed in Volume 12, Issue 5 of Amac Advantage Magazine. 


Architect of the Capitol, “Landing of the Pilgrims”

Each Thanksgiving season, we are reminded of the Pilgrims and their early settlement at Plymouth in 1620. The story of the Pilgrims is an important example of one of the first failures of socialism, and since most of today’s youth will be taught a different version of these events, it is crucial we pass this lesson down to our children and grandchildren each year at our own family Thanksgiving celebrations, lest we forget the real meaning of this uniquely American holiday.

The Pilgrims’ early settlement, by today’s standards, was essentially a socialist commune. The settlers received their clothing, food, and supplies from the colony’s “common stock,” all farmland was collectively owned, and each family received provisions according to their needs, with the profits of labor being divided equally rather than by what was earned through hard work.

This system quickly led to discontent: The healthy and able-bodied colonists who worked in the fields all day began to resent the colonists who claimed to be ill, frustrated that they received the same amount of food and supplies as those who performed zero labor. The socialist system was also harmful to the health of the Pilgrims: Nearly half of the colonists died of starvation during their first winter in the New World, unable to feed themselves and stay healthy with the colony’s shrinking harvest sizes.

Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, none of this is all too different from the system currently in place in Venezuela, a once-wealthy country currently crumbling under a socialist regime. Just like the Pilgrims, Venezuelan citizens today are dealing with major social upheaval, mass starvation, and lack of basic supplies like toilet paper, water, and over-the-counter medicines. The collapse of the country shows the grim reality of living in a socialist “paradise”, with thousands of citizens fleeing the country each month to escape its hellish conditions.


After about two years of famine and disaffection, the Pilgrims finally had a meeting amongst themselves and chose to abandon the socialist system for all of the suffering it had caused. The colony’s new system required each family to take care of themselves, and made the settlers personally responsible for their own means of survival. Colonists were encouraged to grow their own food knowing that there was no “common stock” to provide for them. This led to the entire colony becoming more prosperous—those who earlier claimed to be infirm became motivated and industrious, with men, women, and youth alike working in the fields eager to reap the benefits of their labor. Interestingly, the settlers in the Jamestown colony went through the same experience and passed a rule: “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”

These Pilgrims taught us a valuable lesson: Communal arrangements only foster discontent, and the only “cure” for this social collapse is the free market. The only way for a society to prosper as a whole is through hard work and personal responsibility, not through promises of equal outcomes.

The Pilgrims saved their settlement by abandoning socialism and embracing the free market. Today’s socialist countries like Venezuela should take a page from their book before it is too late.


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Mary Sue Butch
2 years ago

What this article and all of you are ignoring is that the above is one-sided and way way oversimplified – nothing is that simple. If you don’t want to get into detail though, consider the following: (1) no one, anywhere, least of all Venezuela, has a real socialist system. Venezuela is authoritarian. The truest socialism you see is the capitalist / socialist mix in Scandinavia, and that’s what “Democratic socialists” want here. (2) It’s obviously not true that people who are poor are “lazy.” Sure, every society has people who are lazy. But there are many more people who are willing to work and can’t find work to sustain their families. I read recently that a minimum wage, full time job is nowhere near enough money, in most places, for people to live on. (3) The money that is “taken” from you in taxes is overwhelmingly spend on military adventures. We spent over a trillion dollars in Iraq as of sometime in the Bush II administration and have been spending ever increasing amounts since. THAT is what your taxes are paying. If you don’t believe me, do an internet search of something like “How are federal taxes spent?” (4) Almost all of you who have commented, unless you have several MILLION dollars, would be better off with the Dem. proposed programs. By accepting the idea that everyone who needs help is scamming you, instead of the billionaires scamming you, you are being duped. Look at the numbers.

I guess people can just... Say things
2 years ago

Source: Dude trust me

3 years ago

If you don’t think taxing people is not communism or socialism your opinion is skewed. Taxes are forced upon people and threat. Taking by force is not liberty and people can make excuses for it and at the end of the day fails. If what currently exists is capitalism it too will fail. Capitalism does not exist and one should look to the existing national emergency, still in play, of 1933. People are side tracked while others in the know get richer

Rochelle Porto
3 years ago

Great Article and MUST be shared by all to all – Our children were not taught any of this history -just that pilgrims and Columbus were evil and took native lands…..

Thomas H
3 years ago

Just imagine, if socialism didn’t work for a relatively decent and religious group of people, how much worse will it be when the (d)s pass it here, in our country presently torn by strife, anger, and envy from the left!

3 years ago

Many millennials have been programed into believing socialism can work if they all pull together. It reminds me of the 60s communes, people were so together going in, but then after a time they have to adopt rules on who to let in or who to kick out or punish.

I read the same kind of idealism in the current generation who embrace socialism. They can’t fathom it’s underlying flaws. Human nature does not work in a manufactured political utopia except on a predatorial level of taking advantage of delegated power. We see that all the time in government at all levels. As testament to that a study reveal that most psychopaths live in the DC area.

Joe McKay
3 years ago
Reply to  Scottar

This brings to mind the Jimmy Jones experiment in creating. Utopia.

4 years ago

We really need to get History and Civic taught in our schools again. Many of our young people are so naive about Socialism and how our government works.

4 years ago

Socialism is great…until you run out of other people’s money or stuff to give out. It seems strange how we so easily fall to the temptation to play Santa Claus when giving out the goods. It will always be easier to be a consumer than a producer. The lesson these early Americans learned and passed down to their posterity is to be self sufficient and responsible for themselves.

3 years ago
Reply to  Andie

Kind of like when the kids have a party at the parent’s house when they are gone.

4 years ago

One very disturbing fact that was missing from the article! That leader (s) of the ‘social paradise’ didn’t go hungry with the others. They were ‘leaders’, they were fed.

Gary W. Brown
4 years ago

Hopefully, our school system teaches our children about the Pilgrim story. I know, I know…how stupid can one be!

MaryLee Bradley
4 years ago

I just learned November is National American Indian Heritage month and the day after Thanksgiving is National American Indian Heritage Day. A day of giving thanks at harvest time was the tradition of the Indians.
Wondering if AMAC willing to give this attention before the end of this month this year.

4 years ago

This would be of interest to the topic if one were providing evidence that the Native Americans lived under a socialistic rule. Of course, there is evidence that many tribes did not. As a Native American descendant myself, I wish I could say that all Native American cultures were more “Christian” in their governance. But, more often than not, they were just like any other human tribal cohort. If you weren’t a male, weren’t healthy, didn’t work, etc., you got left behind and/or ostracized in many Native American cultures. (You won’t learn of that in most liberal teachers classrooms. I clarify “liberal,” as not all of us teachers are leftists.)

David S Moon
4 years ago

Thank you, it’s wonderful to have you send these wonderful explanations to us. Also with a way to post them to our Face Book pages.

Jack Haskins
4 years ago

These are all good lessons but I think that it is a shame that our school children are never taught, and have not been taught for several generations that the settlers who lived in St Augustine, Florida had been thriving there for nearly one hundred years before the Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock.

4 years ago
Reply to  Jack Haskins

I don’t see how that is pertinent to the topic unless you are pointing out that St. Augustine was (or was not) affected by socialist behavior.

4 years ago
Reply to  Jack Haskins

Those settlers were Catholics from Spain (hence the colony named after the Catholic bishop of Hippo in North Africa). The Pilgrims were Puritans (Calvinism transplanted to England and Scotland). The Puritans, though Protestant, did not get along well with the other Protestants in England (Anglicans) because they were too “Catholic” for their tastes. When their attempts failed to “purify” the Anglican Church of remnants of Englands Catholic heritage, they left to form their own community in America. We were taught in school that the Pilgrims came here for freedom of religion. More accurately, they wanted the freedom to practice their flavor of religion and persecute any others. Read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “Maypole at Marymount”.

Scott C Fisher Sr
4 years ago

Its seems to me the same going on today those that can work refuse to they take advantage of system I worked in steel mill for 42 yrs am paying for idle and LAZY people

James Carter
4 years ago

“..he who will not work will not eat” comes from the New Testament, specifically 2 Thessalonians 3:10. Work and responsibility are Biblical, socialism is not!

4 years ago

While the point of this article is accurate (Socialism didn’t work even for men and women of sterling character) there are several innaccuracy that are regrettable because they discredit the whole article and make its main point suspect.

For example: “Nearly half of the colonists died of starvation during their first winter in the New World, unable to feed themselves and stay healthy (true) with the colony’s shrinking harvest sizes.” (Not the reason. Doesn’t even make sense. They arrived in November. No time for even one harvest – let alone shrinking harvest sizes). They died because delays in leaving England consumed many supplies that were supposed to get them through that winter plus they just weren’t equipped / trained properly for survival in the wilderness of America.

I could point out several other wrong “facts.” But the point is, this would be a great article to print and distribute (because it’s main message is one that desperately needs to be shared) but with such blatant errors – that even someone not familiar with the story would spot, it undermines its credibility.

Please, get the facts straight and re-publish. It would then be a great tool for all of us to copy and share.

4 years ago

The pilgrims saw the error of they way and adopted h biblical, yes the BIBLICAL method according to 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10. The pilgrims all worked for themselves and were there for one another when one of them needed help. The result was a bumper crop. Do you want to put an end to all poverty in America? It is remarkably simple. Stop giving the “poor” welfare checks and give them a JOB!

Joseph Biamonte
4 years ago

This is a very poor example of socialism first of all socialism wasn’t even out back then it didn’t exist as a system also you had a group of very rich people who had no farming experience that’s why it fell not socialism there were other groups that had farmers and it worked quite well I am a historian I don’t believe in socialism but this is a very poor example socialism didn’t exist until after the French Revolution some say it existed in early Christianity the fact remains as an economic system it didn’t exist what you have here is a group of people trying to survive with barely no means to survive not socialism they did the best they could get your facts straight this is not socialism I know you’re a capitalist and I know you want to prove capitalism or socialism there are plenty of good examples like what is going on in Europe you don’t need to go all the way back you don’t need to kill a dead dog what happened in Europe is ample evidence enough you guys go too far to the extreme to prove a point also may I remind you extreme socialism according to economics experts is no good either why because the rich get richer and the poor get poorer in extreme capitalism and that brings our country down to the extremes of any economic system is bad the best economic system is a little of both. We have both a little bit of each that’s the best and economic say this not what the politician say or want you to believe

3 years ago

Compare the living standards of any socialist country to that of the US, even the poor here have it better. What you are talking about is an oligarchy of which our present government is subject to as it has too much power and has grown too big.

4 years ago

an addition is that when you work for something you gain pride and a feeling of self accomplishment. A sense of “worth”. I believe that this is one of the biggest problems in America at this time, a very decreasing sense of worth.

P.m Buckwalter
4 years ago

ThNks for reminding us about sacialism

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