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Should anyone here have some sources or reputable background history to the below quotation, would you please consider making it available here?

[...] from each according to his ability, to each according to his need [...]

- Marx

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    Hello and welcome to Politics! Your question is a bit confusing, what does the US constitution has to do with the quote? In any case, the source of the quote is Critique of the Gotha Program. – yannis Apr 20 '13 at 5:11
  • @YannisRizos You find it confusing? Check page 4 of Noam Chomsky's "Necessary Illusions." – Trancot Apr 20 '13 at 5:27
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    Hm... now I'm even more confused. I know the quote has been misattributed to almost everyone (from Jesus, to George Washington, to Barack Obama), but... what's your question? Be specific and explicit, please. – yannis Apr 20 '13 at 5:37
  • With a little bit of effort, it can be seen quite clearly that I am asking for background history of the quote. I guess more specifically I'd like to know who is the originator? What was meant by the quote? – Trancot Apr 21 '13 at 4:31
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    @Trancot - what does US Constitution have to do with the history of the quote, though? – user4012 Apr 21 '13 at 18:50
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The quote has a storied history (and more complicated by the fact that there are 2 versions of it).

The first time it was formally put down was by a french socialist Louis Jean Joseph Charles Blanc, who said "à chacun selon ses besoins, de chacun selon ses facultés", which is often translated as "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs".

I wasn't yet able to find a formal Blanc cite (it seems that it was in L'Organisation du travail in 1839 but can't find the text yet).


He was next cited with the phrase by a french socialist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, in his 1851 The General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century:

The formula of association then is as follows; it is thus enunciated by Louis Blanc:

From each according to his ability.
To each according to his needs.


Next, it was of course famously appropriated by Karl Marx in 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program, which is why the quote is frequently (and erroneously, as in English Wikipedia), attributed to Marx.

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly -- only then then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs! (src)


Later on, a version of the quote was forked off as part of Stalin's 1936 USSR Constitution:

«В СССР осуществляется принцип социализма: от каждого по его способности, каждому — по его труду». - Первый раздел, «Общественное устройство».

"In USSR we implement the principle of socialism: from each according to his ability, to each according to his labor" - Stalin's 1936 USSR Constitution, Chapter 1, "Social Structure"

This was backed up by Stalin thusly:

Наше советское общество добилось того, что оно уже осуществило в основном социализм, создало социалистический строй, то есть осуществило то, что у марксистов называется иначе первой, или низшей, фазой коммунизма. Значит, у нас уже осуществлена в основном первая фаза коммунизма, социализм. Основным принципом этой фазы коммунизма является, как известно, формула: «от каждого — по его способностям, каждому — по его труду». Должна ли наша Конституция отразить этот факт, факт завоевания социализма? Должна ли она базироваться на этом завоевании? Безусловно должна. Должна, так как социализм для СССР есть то, что уже добыто и завоевано. Но советское общество еще не добилось осуществления высшей фазы коммунизма, где господствующим принципом будет формула: «от каждого — по его способностям, каждому — по его потребностям» (Stalin I.V., III. ОСНОВНЫЕ ОСОБЕННОСТИ ПРОЕКТА КОНСТИТУЦИИ)

(Short short English version - because they still haven't reached communism, and the 2 versions are what distinguishes the principles of one from the other)

  • BTW, Blanc origins are murky - everone and everywhere attributes it to him, but text search of the main work gets me zilch – user4012 Apr 21 '13 at 19:24
  • The phrase also receives extensive treatment by Lenin in The State and Revolution, where the same passage of the Critique of the Gotha Programme is quoted. The State and Revolution is probably Lenin's single most important piece of political writing, and even Stalin (not a great man for the books - or otherwise) would have surely read it. – tmgr Nov 5 '18 at 23:18
  • I think it's a little too harsh to say that it's an error to attribute the quote to Marx... it would be by no means insignificant to say "that's something Marx said" even if he had only repeated it from somebody who we don't know as well. Unless somebody was saying specifically that Marx had coined the expression. – elliot svensson Nov 6 '18 at 15:03
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The possible origin of that quote is in Acts, 4:34-35:

Those who owned fields or houses sold them and brought the price of the sale to the apostles and made an offering of it. The apostles then distributed it according to each person’s need.

The utopic socialists, such as Blanc, probably reformulated this, "according to their needs".

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    It would be naive to underestimate the presence of Biblical expressions in 18th and 19th century European philosophy. – elliot svensson Nov 6 '18 at 15:06

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