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The Socialist Library. V.

The Socialist Library — V.

Edited by J. Ramsay MacDonald, M.P.



Industrial Evolution


Emile Vandervelde

Translated by R. P. Farley.




i 9 oy.

Table of Contents.


Preface to the English Edition ix

Introduction ... xi

Capitalist Concentration.
Chapter I. — The Decadence of Personal Property.

i. Peasant Proprietors 16

2. Artisans 26

3. Small Retail Dealers 35

4. Summary and Conclusions 4 1

Chapter II. — The Growth of Capitalist Ownership.

1. Joint-Stock Companies ••• 48

2. Capitalist Monopolies ... 58

I. Cartels 58

II. Trusts 62

Chapter III.— Objections.

1. Working Men's Thrift ... 76

2. The Democratization of Capital 77

3. The numerical increase of small undertakings 82

I. Commercial Enterprises ... ... ... 83

II. Agricultural „ 84

III. Industrial ,, ... 86

4. Summary and Conclusions ... ... ... 88


The Socialization of the Means of Production and

Chapter I. — The Three Elements of Profit.

1. Wages of Insurance 101

2. Wages of Abstinence ... 104

3. Wages of Superintendence 107

4. Surplus Value and Profit 113



Chapter II. — The Advantages op Social Property,
i. The Profits of Public Enterprises 120

2. The Condition of Employees 122

3. The Purchase of Raw Material 125

4. The Cost of Products and of Services .. ... 128

5. The Quality of Products 133

6. The Interest of Generations to come 138

7. Summary and Conclusions ... 140

Chapter III. — The Administration of Things.

1. The Proletarian Conquest of Public Powers ... 145

2. The Government State and the Industrial State 148

3. The Decentralisation of Social Enterprises ... 154

4. The State of the Future 159

Chapter IV. — Formulas of Distribution.

1. The Right to the Whole Product of Labour ... 167

2. The Right to Existence 171

3. Summary and Conclusions 175

Chapter V. — The Means of Realisation.

1. Expropriation without Indemnity 182

2. Expropriation with Indemnity ... ... ... 186

3. Expropriation in consideration of Indemnity

for Life 188

4. Inheritance without testament 191

5. Inheritance by testament 191

6. Societies for Production 193

7. The System of Penetration 197

8. The Complete Socialization of Industries ... 203

9. Summary and Conclusions ... 206

Chapter VI — Objections.

1. Socialism and Individual Initiative 213

2. Socialism and Liberty 22 4

3. Socialism and Art ... 235


This little book does not pretend to add any-
thing to Socialist doctrine. My only aim in
writing it was to explain, in a form accessible
to all, the collectivist conception which is at
the basis of the programme of all the Labour
Parties of the western world. At the time
when it appeared, England was, of all the
countries of Europe, that which gave us the
least hope. I remember still the disdain with
which political men, whom I had the oppor-
tunity of meeting in London, spoke of
Utopians, these " enlightened " men who were
attempting to penetrate the English working
class with the ideas which dominate Con-
tinental Socialism.

To-day all this is changed. The Trade
Unions have understood the necessity of an
autonomous political action on the part of the
proletariat. Since the elections of 1906, the
House of Commons is, of all Parliaments,
that which has the largest proportion of
manual workers. I know well that all do not
profess adherence to Socialism, but, consciously
or unconsciously, workers who group them-
selves in a class party are, by sheer force of

ix B

circumstances, future recruits for the great
army of Socialism.

Thus at this time the Socialist Library
founded in England responds to an imperious
necessity. I am happy and proud that they
have asked me to be their collaborator, and I
thank them fraternally.

E. Vandervelde.
1st March, 1907.


" / think that vihat is contains the epitome of what was,
of which it is the grave ; and the germ of what shall be, of
which it is the cradle.'' — Enjantin.

The prodigious chance which has made civil-
isation possible, says Rodbertus somewhere,
consists in this, that labour in common is
more productive than solitary labour.

By himself, man would hardly produce the
wherewithal to live. Should he find himself
on the contrary, incorporated in a social
organisation the productivity of his labour
goes on continually increasing in proportion
as the division of labour, the convergence of
effort, and the improvement of tools, increase
his power over things.

In every society then, whatever be its
structure, free or servile, capitalist or com-
munist, social labour produces a margin, a
surplus value ; that is to say, a value greater
than the forces of labour and the means of
labour, expended during the process of pro-

But, whilst under a communal regime this
margin would benefit all, in capitalist society,


characterised by the more or less complete
divorce of property and labour, the surplus
value produced by labour does not return to
labour. It is monopolised under the form of
profit by the holders of the means of produc-
tion and exchange alone.

This view A. Menger, Professor of Law in
the University of Vienna, expresses in the
following terms " Our present law of patri-
mony, the chief point of which is property,
does not guarantee to the worker the whole
produce of his labour. By giving up existing
wealth, especially the means of production,
to the free enjoyment of certain persons,
through the right of private ownership which
it allows them, our law of private property
allows these persons a power, thanks to which
they are able without personal labour to
secure an income and to employ it to satisfy
their wants. This income, which the persons
privileged by the organisation of the law
receive from society without any personal
contribution, is, by Saint Simonians, by
disciples of Buchez and of Rodbertus, named
rent ; by Thompson and Marx surplus value
(Mehrwert) ; I shall call it unearned income "
(Arbeitloses Einkommen).

Thus, thanks to the individual appropriation
of capital, the holders of the means of pro-
duction and exchange enjoy hereditarily the
right to divide the surplus value created
by the labour of others. They are able, at


their pleasure, to consume it productively or
unproductively, to spend it on orgies, or to
accumulate it, in order to increase by that
amount the exploitation of labour. In their
capacity of masters, they manage workshops
and factories, unless they prefer to appoint
salaried directors in their stead, and either
directly or by deputies, they throw merchan-
dise, exchange values, on the national or
international market with the sole object not
of satisfying needs, but of realising profits.

In short, what characterises the present
regime, from the point of view of production
and distribution, in spite of the survivals from
the past or the germs of the future which it
contains, is the omnipotence of private capital
with no other object than profit, with no other
social rule than competition, with no other
restraint than the organisation of the workers,
and the intervention, too often illusory, of the
law. What constitutes, on the contrary the
final end, which Socialism has in view, is the
collective appropriation of the means of
production and exchange, the social organisa-
tion of labour, the distribution of the surplus
value between the workers — the quantum
necessary for the satisfaction of the general
needs of society having been deducted.

Consequently, under a regime of pure col-
lectivism — to suppose, what we do not assume
beforehand, that this regime is to be realised
some day — the land, mines, manufacturing


establishments, the instruments of credit,
the means of communication and transport
will belong to the community : only articles
of consumption would remain personal pro-

The management of affairs, instead of being
as to-day monarchical or oligarchical, would
take the republican form ; instead of being
given over by right of birth or by right of
conquest, to capitalists competing or combined
it would belong not to the State, as is said
and repeated in order to mislead, but to
autonomous public corporations under the
control of the State.

" Collective capital," said Schaeffle, " ought
to be assigned and appropriated, once for all,
to different local and professional groups, and
to their sub-divisions, by the special organs of
the community, administrative authorities
established by virtue of law, or popular
readers exercising a purely moral authority.
These same organs would have to provide for
the renewal and increase of the means of
production. This management and this
economic administration would then be a
public and centralised affair, and not the
work of competing capitalists."

Finally, from the point of view of
distribution, the exchange of goods for
the purpose of realising profits, would
give way to the distribution of utilities,
of use values, for the purpose of satisfying


needs whether social or individual. The
remuneration of the workers instead of being
determined by the cost of production of their
labour-power — the surplus value being left to
the capitalists — would be proportioned either
to their needs or to the value of the products
of their labour. We shall have to explain
ourselves on this point in a subsequent
chapter. Let us confine ourselves, for the
moment, to stating that the complete realisa-
tion of collectivism does not merely involve
— as certain too brief definitions might imply
— the collective appropriation of the means of
labour, but a complete revolution in the
regime of production and distribution.

By the very fact of its magnitude, this
revolution can only be the result of a long
and complex series of partial variations ;
" radical changes cannot be sudden: sudden
changes cannot be radical."

But, henceforth — for socialism is nothing
but the ideal extension as well as the organic
completion of present tendencies — the social
revolution is on the march. The whole
movement of capitalist production in the
sense of the socialisation of labour, prepares
and necessitates the socialisation of property.

It is chiefly at this productivist point of
view that we intend to take our stand in this
statement of doctrine.

Indeed, the fact that our principles of dis-
tribution were fairer than the principles at


present recognised, would be of very little
moment if their application should bring
about a retreat or even a check in the expan-
sion of productive forms.

The fundamental postulate, which emerges
from the whole economic history of the world,
is that a regime of production, whatever be
the injustices which it involves, the protests
which it arouses, the revolts which it pro-
vokes, never disappears unless before a regime,
superior not merely from the point of view of
abstract justice, but more especially from the
point of view of social productivity.

Slavery and serfdom, condemned by moral-
ists for centuries, have been suppressed in the
countries of Christian civilisation, only from
the moment when the necessities of production
demanded the formal emancipation of labour.
Likewise, all the sentimental considerations
which one may evoke in favour of socialism
would not be sufficient to cause labour's real
emancipation, if collectivism was not destined
to get the better of the existing regime by
reason of its superior productivity.

This is what we propose to show, by
exhibiting the consequences of the concentra-
tion of capital, the results of the increasing
extension of the collective domain, and the
problems raised by the democratic organisa-
tion of the labour of society, as well as the
distribution of its products.



" New conditions of production superior to the aid, do not
take their place until their material justifications are
developed in the midst of the old society." — Marx.

In proportion as societies progress, as the
relations between men multiply, as communi-
cation becomes easier and more frequent,
division of labour goes on increasing con-
tinually. Whilst in a rural commune one
hardly finds half-a-dozen distinct occupations,
the industrial census of the German Empire
for 1895 establishes the existence of 10,397
names of professions, 5,506 of which being
connected with industry properly so-called.

And, naturally, the greatest number of these
occupations are sub-divided in their turn into
specialized operations, performed by separate
workers. So it is that Levasseur, comparing
the modern manufacture of boots with
primitive shoe-making, relates that in Lynn
(Mass.) 52 workmen and workwomen take
part in the construction of a woman's shoe —
each of those operations lasting hardly a few
seconds, and being repeated thousands of
times in the same day. But by the very fact
of this infinite division and sub-division of


the labour of the community, the mutual
dependence of the workers inevitably increases.
Farmers, merchants, manufacturers, comrades
in the same workshop, workmen passing their
whole lives in sewing on the same kind of
button, or in cutting the same kind of button-
hole, are bound to other producers all the
more closely, as their social function is more
specialized. Processes of technical co ordina-
tion and of social coordination, which
re-establish on a wider basis the unity of
trades, and the solidarity of different branches
of production, give immediate response to
processes of division of labour. From the
technical point of view, the modern factory
substitutes for the individual worker a
collective worker, a gigantic automaton,
accomplishing, and by itself too, the sum
total of productive operations. It is actually
the division of labour which engenders
socialization and makes it possible.

From the social point of view, organizations
which have become too narrow, the
framework of which is shattered by progress
in technique, are not long in being replaced
by new organizations adapted to new forms
of production.

The close family economy, producing
use-values, consumed by the producers them-
selves, gives way to the economy of exchange
under three successive aspects : the urban, the
national, the international economy.

Close Family Economy.

When division of labour is as yet rudi-
mentary, the economic unit is the family, in
the large sense of the word — that is to say,
the community of all those who live under the
same roof, or, to use a mediaeval expression,
" with the same spoon and the same pot."*
Such, for example, were the primitive Roman
familia, the peasant community of the Middle
Ages, the zadruga of the southern Slavs.
These domestic economies — whatever be the
number, often very considerable, of persons
who compose them — present this common
characteristic of being self-sufficing, save
for some products (iron, for example, and
in the interior of countries, salt), of being
side by side, and not bound up with similar
economies with which they have only very
slender ties : real social cells, almost without
communication with the outside world, they
produce all that they consume, and consume
all that they produce. It is hardly necessary
to add that, under such conditions, the
productivity of labour is reduced to the

Economy of Exchange.
Urban Economy.
At this stage of transition from domestic


*A good description of this state of things, for the
England of the Middle Ages, will be found in Economics
and Industrial History, by H. W. Thurston. (Chicago :
Scott, 1899.)

economy to the superior forms of social
economy, production and consumption begin
to differentiate ; the relations of exchange
become more numerous ; industry is separated
from agriculture ; trade-guilds are established
in the towns ; the economic unit becomes the
city, with the country round about it.

" A map of the ancient Germanic Empire,"
said K. Biicher, " shows us about 3,000
scattered towns in the south and west, from
4 to 5 leagues apart on the average ; in the
north and east, from 7 to 8. All had the
same importance ; but they were nevertheless
the centre of an economic territory which had
its limits like the ancient feudal farm, and
which, confined to 2 or i\ square miles in the
south-west, to 3 or 4 in the north, to 5 or 8 in
the east, always allowed the peasant to reach
the town market and to return home in a

So, then, by a slow transformation which
has lasted centuries, and is still carried on in
our day, the community of the family loses in
part its independence. Nevertheless during
the whole of the guild period, the ancient
communal forms persist. The greater part of
the things necessary for 'life is still 'produced
by the economy which consumes them :
division of labour'remains little developed ;
commerce, national and international, bears
on but a small number of commodities — spices
and southern fruits, for example, dried or

salted fish for the feeding of the people,
cloaks, fine clothes, and in northern countries


But with the great over-sea discoveries,
markets are extended, and manufacture
appears : division of labour, purely pro-
fessional, among the artisans of the Middle
Ages, now breaks up into parts the different
operations, which result in the completion of
products. Inferior in productivity, the guild
regime draws near its end ; the capitalist era

National and International Economy.

At the outset, it is true, the national
economy, protectionist and mercantile, only
reproduces the guild organisation on a wider
basis, and preserves a large share of previous

Moreover, the industrial and commercial
classes represent as yet, even in the most
advanced countries, only a very small fraction
of the total population. In England, for
example, according to the calculations of
Gregory King for 1688, the agricultural
classes numbered 4,265,000, as against only
240,000 engaged in industry, and 246,000 in
commerce. But in 1769, less than a century
later, these proportions have already under-
gone radical modifications. According to
Young, the agricultural classes represent no
more than 3,600,000 inhabitants ; 3,000,000


are employed in manufacture, and in the other
professions 1,900,000 !

It is at this moment that the industrial
revolution is accomplished with alarming
rapidity. The world- market is established ;
the network of communication develops ; all
the minerals emerge from the earth ; machino-
facture is substituted for manufacture ; factory
industry wins the supremacy over all other
modes of production. A veritable struggle
for existence, a merciless combat on a limit-
less battlefield, is waged between the different
forms of enterprise.

The social consequences of this transforma-
tion are described by Marx in the celebrated
chapters, which conclude the first volume of
" Capital."

The great capital of to-day, he says in
substance, has its source in the destruction of
small properties (belonging to small artisans
and peasants) in which labour and private
property were really associated, and in which
the worker was also the real proprietor of his
own means of production, and of the product
of his own labour. This form of private
property, equitable in itself, in which the
worker was the free proprietor of the means
of labour employed by him ; the peasant, of
the field, which he tilled ; the workman, of
the tool whereof he made ingenious use — this
form we say, beneficial for its time, in ac-
cordance with justice and identifying itself


with labour, had the great defect of scattering
the means of production, and this splitting-up
had the effect of injuring its productivity and
its means of action. The small property ] was
to be destroyed owing to this defect, and what
remains of it (small artisans, and small
peasant proprietors) dwindles away day by
day, compelled as it is to yield to the power
of great landed and industrial capital.

Private property, acquired by personal
labour, and based, so to speak, on the union
of the individual, independent and isolated,
with the conditions of his particular work,
has been supplanted by private capitalist
property based on the exploitation of the
labour of others. As soon as this process of
transformation, destroying the small properties
of artisans and peasants, had sufficiently dis-
integrated the old society ; as soon as the old
individual workers were converted into
proletarians, — that is to say, into workers
separated from their means of production ; as
soon as their means of labour (the old private
property) were converted into great modern
capital, the struggle of capital went still
further. Great capital, in its second phase
of development, fought against the small
capitalist himself. Thanks to the continuous
concentration of the means of production in
great industries, one capital slays many others;
but, at the same time, in the domain of great
private capital, the co-operative form of


labour on an ever increasing scale, the ap"
plication of science to technique, the exploita-
tion of the land with method and uniformity,
the transformation of private means of labour
into means of labour which can only be
employed socially, the intertwining of all
nations in the network of a universal
market, develop equally and simultaneously.
But in proportion to the diminution in the
number of the potentates of capital, who usurp
and monopolise all the advantages of this
period of social evolution, there is an increase
in the distress, the oppression, the bondage,
the degradation, the exploitation, but also in
the resistance of the working class, unceasingly
growing, and more and more disciplined,
united, and organised by the very mechanism
of capitalist production. The monopoly of
capital becomes an impediment to the mode
of production which has grown and prospered
with it, and under its auspices.

The socialisation of labour, and the
centralisation of its material forces reach a
point at which they can no longer hold to-
gether in their capitalist covering. This
covering is shattered into fragments. The
hour of capitalist property has struck. The
expropriators are in their turn expropriated.

We have been anxious to reproduce this
admirable page almost in its entirety in order
to show how unjust it is to pretend, as is
sometimes done, that socialism, preoccupied


above all with the injustices of distribution,
neglects to take account of the demands of
production. The whole Marxist conception,
on the contrary, rests on this fundamental
idea, that the transformation of personal
property into capitalist property, and of
capitalist property into social property has as
determining factor the productive superiority
of capitalism over small production, and of
socialist over capitalist production.

If the independent producers, the master
artisans, the peasant proprietors, in a word
all those who work for themselves, without
sharing with anyone the fruit of their toil,
tend to disappear, it is, above all, because
their energy for labour is not sufficient to
counterbalance the advantages of socialised
labour. If the number of undertakings is
decreasing — at least in certain branches of
industry — whilst the number of workmen
employed by them goes on increasing per-
petually, it is because great enterprises are
usually more productive than small.

Finally, if social property is some day to
succeed capitalist property, once more it is
because the suppression of private monopolies,
of hereditary privileges, of unearned incomes,
of the impediments of every kind which
capitalist appropriation puts in the way of
the expansion of productive forces, would
increase the productivity of social work in
unheard of proportions. Certainly, we do


not pretend that this scheme, which tries to
embrace the whole evolution of modern pro-
perty in a formula necessarily too simple —
personal property, capitalist property, social
property — is rigorously and absolutely adapted
to the appalling complexity of the phenomena.

We are the first to admit that Marx's asser-
tions with regard to the growing degradation

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Online LibraryEmile VanderveldeCollectivism and industrial evolution → online text (page 1 of 15)