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Alvin Victor Sellers.

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ment ? "

" I am helping it on, and that in the best way.



THE BEGINNING OF THE END 125

For all we can do is to prepare the soil and rely on
Nature to do the rest. You would have me stop
competition by law, and tell each of the thirty-five
millions of people what to do and how to do it.
Do you not see how impossible it would be for one
man, or a dozen of men, to devise a system that
should have the approval of all ? and if you were to
exact their submission and obedience by force,
would that be a Communistic State ? Why, you
would have resistance and friction without end.
But leave them to themselves, your only interference
being to prevent one individual obstructing another,
and they will soon find what is best for them ; they
will soon discover the true meaning of the old saw
' Union is strength,' and that the co-operation of
several in an undertaking of whatever kind is to
the best interest of all."

" We are agreed on that. But then your inter-
ference should also extend to where one man tries
to take away the living of another by underselling
him ; where one soapmaker, for instance, tries to
concentrate the whole industry into his own hands,
and to push others out of the market. In short,
if you are to protect the liberties of the individuals,
you will have to stop competition."

'' You are mistaken, and that because you are
forgetting that man's actions are modified by altered
circumstances."

" But have you not yourself said that people's
dispositions are not changed at a moment's notice ?
And if they were greedy yesterday, will they not
be so to-day ? "

:< Yes ; but the conditions under which this
greed can be satisfied are different. If Brown,
for instance, strove to get the control of the soap



126 THE STORY OF MY DICTATORSHIP

market into his own hands, it was not out of con-
sideration for the cleanliness or health of his fellows ;
nor because he could or would, by his own individual
labour, supply them all with soap. He did it because
he could make a profit on every man he employed.
But this profit or ' surplus value ' is only possible
while there is a surplus population ; or, as learned
economists and able editors expressed it, a free
labour market. But when there are no longer any
unemployed, excepting those who no longer require
employment ; when Dick, Tom, and Harry are
no longer dependent for their existence on the favour
of soapmaker Brown, or landlord Jones, such surplus
profits are no longer possible. This is not mere
theory ; for you remember that an increase of
wages was always feared by capitalists, because it
might cut profits so fine as to make it unprofitable
for them to continue their works. You remember
how greedy Brown threatened to give up being a
taskmaster, as soon as he finds that his slaves no
longer yield him his 2J per cent."

" And so you think that now he will shut up his
factory, or cease competing ? "

" I don't know. What I do know for certain is,
that he will cease to fleece his workers ; and that
because the latter won't let him ; because, in short,
the workers are as selfish and as greedy as the master.
Now that they are independent they will ask higher
wages than they earn, and the employer will offer
them less than they are worth. But they will soon
find their level."

" And is this system of ultra -individualism and
keen competition to be the be-all and end-all of
everything ? "

" No ; it is but the beginning of everything.



THE BEGINNING OF THE END 127

Selfish people will still seek their own self-interests ;
and under such conditions, can you doubt for a
moment as to where they will find it ? "
" In combination ! "

;< Yes, most assuredly. And it is not such a new
discovery either. Men have found it out long ago.
The natural tendency has always been towards united
action. It was not man's natural depravity that
made him fight his brother, but necessity, the in-
stinct of self-preservation, drove him to it. There
was not room for all in this world under the old
forms of government. Only few could be accommo-
dated in comfort. The large body of the people had
to scramble for the means of life, and many had to
succumb altogether. Under such circumstances each
had to scramble for himself. But this was not
because they did not see the benefits of united
action, 1 but because all could not be saved, and
nobody wished to be the one to be sacrificed. Once

this fear done away with "

" And you think they will act more in unison ? "
" Of course they will ; their self-interest will
prompt them. One hundred men, each tilling a
small plot of land, would soon find out the advantage
of working together, which will make possible the
employment of machinery and more permanent
works at a lesser expense to each. Again, plenty
of everything and no fear of poverty, will gradually
heal them of the disease of insatiable greed. People
never hoard things of which they are assured there
will always be plenty. Water is treasured only
in countries where it is scarce."

" And is that to establish Communism ? "
" If Communism is good and natural, then it will.
I myself think it is ; and that it will be the ultimate



128 THE STORY OF MY DICTATORSHIP

form of social bond. But it can only thrive under
natural conditions. The seeds and germs of it we
could behold sprouting everywhere, even under that
old and pernicious system to which we have just
put an end. People entered into partnerships and
worked together for each other's good through life,
the only bond that kept them faithful to each other
being their common interest. Joint-stock companies
and co-operative societies, to say nothing of municipal
and district councils and State undertakings : were
not all of these evidence that the tendency of man
is not to live in reciprocal fear and enmity, but to
co-operate for mutual advantages ? But the plant
could not develop, for the soil was inimical to such
fruits."

" It was indeed. And so you think that the
natural tendency is towards Communism ; and that
in the midst of plenty men will cease to be greedy ? "

" What makes man greedy, but the fear of want ?
What makes man chary of helping another, but the
fear of parting with what he might need for himself ?
In the past, to look after one's brother often meant
the neglect of one's children. And yet men were
kind to one another, still assisted each other, when
they could do so without endangering their own
existence or that of those dependent upon them.
Greedy of material things ! Why, of what can
they be greedy, when they know that their labours
will always command sufficient of everything and
to spare ?

" To make man good, kind, and noble you must
first satisfy his material needs. When one's whole
time and energy are needed to fight for the bare
necessaries of life, what opportunities can there be
for cultivating those higher qualities/ which dis-



THE BEGINNING OF THE END 129

tinguish man from the brute ? Poverty is not a
genial soil for culture. Only the weeds of ignorance
can thrive on it. There can be no moral considera-
tions side by side with starvation and ignorance,
nor intellectual needs while the material wants
remain unsatisfied."

" True, very true. We find this exemplified all
over the world. Poverty, ignorance, and crime
always go together."

" That is so. Therefore let us banish poverty
and the fear of poverty. This once accomplished,
you may rely on human nature for the rest. You
will not transform the ignorant and vulgar peasant
into a cultured man all at once. Such miracles
are possible on paper only. But you will rouse
his ambition to be ' as good as his neighbour.'
Thus you may turn another propensity of man,
generally counted among his vices, to good account,
by making use of his vanity to lead him on the path
to knowledge and culture, which, in the end, are
the death of vanity."

" Their vanity ? "

" Yes, that propensity which impels men to
imitate those whom they regard as superior to
themselves. You have seen this all your life. The
costermonger who, by some lucky windfall, came
suddenly into a fortune, dressed and lived as near
as possible like a ' gentleman.' True, it did not make
a gentleman of him ; but the ambition was there,
and, having the money, he tried to secure to his
children what he felt he lacked himself. He dressed
them like guys, but gave them a good education ;
in fact, would have gladly crammed whole uni-
versities down their throats if they could but have
digested them. And although he himself died a
9



130 THE STORY OF MY DICTATORSHIP

vulgar rich man, he left more cultured children
behind him to take his place. Every one of your
cultured men of to-day, be he ever so refined, has
risen to his position owing to the working of this
self-same principle, straight from his savage an-
cestors. Now that people have their material wants
satisfied, you will find them more ready to attend
to the cultivation of their higher faculties. Do you
doubt these conclusions ? "

" No ; for while you have been engaged with
deputations we have been busy outside, and have
proved their truth. We were dissatisfied with your
individualism, and thought to counteract it by
awakening the people to the benefits of co-operation,
to the beauties of art and science, and to the pos-
sibilities of a more perfect social life. You are right ;
we did find them more ready than of yore to listen
to us, and even anxious to adopt our proposals.
We have already done much, and should have
sought your co-operation, but were afraid you would
disapprove of our activities."

" I ? Not I. My sole object was to clear away
the rubbish, and to prepare the ground for your
actions. Go on, and make as many cultured men
as you can, and you will find that you have made
just as many Communists. And having done so,
what law is there required to tell them to act in
their own interests ? "

" That being so, there is but one other point to
complete the regeneration of society."

" And that is ? "

" That there should be perfect equality among
all citizens."

" Have you not that already ? "

" Not while you are Boss ! Now that your work



THE BEGINNING OF THE END 131

is done of course you will resign. What ! you
hesitate ? "

I did hesitate ; and gladly would I suppress this
part of my dream, were it not that duty compels me
to record the truth, the whole truth, and nothing
but the truth. I hesitated, because I was thinking
for excuses to urge why I should not be required to
resign. Yes, I actually thought of excuses that
would enable me to stick to the office to which I
had all my life most objected. Perhaps it was Puck,
who was sporting with me. Perhaps it was human
nature, which, while reason was dormant, asserted
itself. But I did object to resign, and made a strong
stand against any such proposal. There is something
alluring in being a ruler of men ; to be able to say
to this man come, and he cometh ; and to that
man go, and he goeth. And, therefore, perhaps, it
is so dangerous to put such a mighty weapon in the
hands of any single individual, be he ever so well-
intentioned. " Put not your trust in princes " is a
sound advice, but it did not occur to me in my dream,
while in the full enjoyment of my absolute power.
I refused to resign, and they threatened to expel me
by main force, William foremost amongst them.

" Get up ; get up ; " he called to me, and somebody
actually put his hands on my shoulders. I was
speechless. I tried to resent the insolence, to shake
off the rude hands, but could not move a muscle.
" Get up," I heard a second time, whilst somebody
hit me right in the face. For the moment I thought
I had been shot at, and I made a quick motion with
my hand towards my nose, when I felt a second
assault and heard cheerful laughter ; and as I opened
my eyes and looked up, I saw my child, who was
just raising her rattle to repeat her assault, laughing



132 THE STORY OF MY DICTATORSHIP

cheerily ; while her mother was calling out for the
third time, " Get up, my dear ; get up. You must
be quite stiff, sleeping all night on that hard chair."

I have told my dream, and everybody can put
on it his own interpretation. To myself it was a
revelation, a beacon-light illuming the road along
which reformers will have to travel if they would
speedily and safely reach the desired goal. It has
shown me the many pitfalls in the way of the pil-
grims, and the dangers of the many fair, but delusive,
promises by which many of our earnest leaders are
diverted from the one true path. To me the whole
dream has but one meaning and but one moral. It
is this : Let all the various sections in charge of the
van of progress cease their internecine feuds, their
petty differences and jealousies, and, instead of
pulling in so many different directions, unite their
efforts towards one common aim. Nor is there any
doubt in my mind as to the direction in which
they should proceed. They all wish to reform the
institutions of the land. Then let them conquer the
land first, and, if it be found necessary, quarrel about
the methods of governing it after the enemy has
been driven out. To do this they should make
common cause against the common foe, and inscribe
high on their banners the legend

" THE LAND FOR THE PEOPLE."




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Online LibraryAlvin Victor SellersThe story of my dictatorship .. → online text (page 9 of 9)