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either arrested or abnormal. This is espe-
cially true of the women. They have been
thwarted in love and remained unmarried,
their normal desires being starved, or if mar-
ried they are sterile. Such people come as
near attaining "the passionless pursuits of
passionless knowledge" as human beings may.



The type is hard, dried-up, brilliant, and ca-
pable of great callousness and cruelty. Minds
of this cold, mechanically exact type are often
remorselessly analytical, and they find con-
stant exercise in the dissection of social insti-
tutions, laws, and customs, in exposing the
multitudinous imperfections of these and in
devising perfectly working substitutes for
them. They are natural born Utopia-makers.
Spurning sentiment, indifferent to traditions,
careless of others' feelings, they take into ac-
count every fact but one, namely, life, as
Emerson said of Robert Owen and his asso-

To such minds democracy, even at its best,
must appear crude, ill-working, and inca-
pable of efficient functioning. Soviet govern-
ment can be diagrammed and made to appear,
on paper, very much better adapted to the
needs of a complex industrial society. The
same type of mind is allured by artificial and
arbitrary schemes and systems of all kinds,
such as systems of human stirpiculture, new
forms of family life, methods of feeding, cur-
rency systems, and so on. From people possess-
ing minds of this type and plenty of cash
come most of those curious books propound-
ing new and elaborately devised schemes for

4 37


remaking society which start out by putting
aside as of no consequence the whole past
history of mankind and all the strongest
forces of human nature. There is a god-like
detachment in the attitude of these cold-
blooded supermen: they seem to say "Come,
let us remake mankind and the world accord-
ing to our own patterns."

A much more numerous group in this class
is composed of men and women, the latter be-
ing the more numerous, in whom hyperes-
thesia takes the form of a modified Christian
asceticism. They are morbidly sensitive of
the privileged position they occupy as a re-
sult of the possession of wealth they have not
earned, and feel a keen sense of personal re-
sponsibility for the existence of the ills which
attend the production of the wealth they
possess, especially poverty and its ill effects
upon the wage-earners and their families.
Philanthropy cannot satisfy minds of this
order. They are too literally Christian for
that. The social implications of the Christian
religion lead far beyond philanthropic make-
shifts. It requires something quite different
than poverty relieved by private bounty, noth-
ing less, in fact, than a complete revolution
in society which shall make possible full



equality of opportunity for every human be-
ing, which is the Christian ideal.

Recognition of these facts and a profound
social consciousness are admirable and praise-
worthy. The sincere Christian who conse-
crates his or her wealth to bring society to the
Christian ideal is all too rare in the world to-
day and merits praise and reverence. But the
problem which this presents to the individual
is exceedingly intricate and difficult, as Tol-
stoy, among others, found. The advice given
by Jesus to the rich young man, to sell all he
had and give the proceeds to the poor, how-
ever well suited to the particular case, is not
a solution of the problem as it presents itself
to the average rich man or woman. Be the
difficulties ever so great, however, the goal
will always challenge the earnest effort of
souls whose faith is simple and direct and in-
capable of subtle adaptations.

The borderland which divides healthy re-
ligious idealism from morbidity is narrow
and easily crossed, as the history of numerous
religious ascetics clearly shows. Frequently
the difference is the result of sexual discon-
tent. Definition here may be practically im-
possible, but the distinction is valid and im-
portant. That most of the wealthy supporters



of Bolshevism belonging to the group under
consideration have crossed the narrow border-
land is evident. As a rule they are ready to
believe the worst of the system and also of
its beneficiaries, the class to which they be-
long. On the other hand, they idealize the
class below, even its vices. The luxury by
which they are surrounded becomes intoler-
able to them, yet no degree of simplicity or
austerity in the manner of living possible to
them without disrupting all family and social
ties can bring contentment. Consequently,
every advantage they possess becomes a source
of secret torment. They develop a psychic
state differing not in kind, but only in degree,
from that of the religious ascetics and mystics
who in all ages have sought and found solace
in self-abasement, living in caves, wearing
hair shirts, and other forms of "mortification
of the flesh." They hold education and cul-
ture lightly, even despising them as fruits of
cursed wealth, and readily accept the leader-
ship of ignorant fanatics and demagogues.
Apocalyptic preachers of rapidly approach-
ing equalitarian milleniums readily attain
ascendancy over such minds.

Because the inner tension is so great and
compelling, minds in this psychic state are



immune to impressions from without. The
appeal of rationality, therefore, is quite fruit-
less when directed against convictions result-
ing from that inner tension. The most
abundant and conclusive evidence which tells
against their convictions is rejected. The
paltriest excuse suffices to justify this rejec-
tion: "It comes from the capitalist press,"
"He is a 'capitalist and would naturally say
that," "He does not understand" with such
phrases the most important and amply
validated testimony is swept aside. On the
other hand, the wildest and most improbable
statements are believed when they are agree-
able and conform to convictions already
firmly established. Rumors and fancies be-
come facts, and no amount of exposure will
suffice to discredit them.

That persons of this type should support
the propaganda of Bolshevism and similar
cults in this country is perfectly natural. They
are dangerous in proportion to the wealth and
the social influence they possess. Yet they are
only differentiated by indefinable and almost
imperceptible degrees of sensibility and sug-
gestibility from an extremely important and
useful social group, men and women of
wealth and social influence who, keenly aware



of the evils which beset modern society, and
earnestly and intelligently seeking to serve
the common good, devote their wealth and
their influence to the furtherance of well-con-
sidered social reforms and programs of social
reconstruction. Women's trade unionism,
movements for equal suffrage, child labor
legislation, housing reform, Single Tax, and
Socialism are among the many constructive
movements which have thus been advanced.
Another fairly definite group included in
this class of rich pro-Bolshevists differs from
the religious type simply in the source of their
exaggerated emotional sensibility. Religion
in the formal sense is lacking as a causative
factor: their hyperesthesia is of secular origin.
In this group, as in the others, women greatly
outnumber men, though the disparity of
numbers is not so great as in the religious
group. A very important factor in the
psychology of this group is what for lack of
a better term may be called the impatient re-
action from experienced disillusionment.
Ardent idealists, deeply stirred by the poverty
and sufferings of the poor, and by the injus-
tice too often meted out to the workers in the
conflict of the classes, they have tried, through
Settlement work and other non-revolutionary



agencies, to bring about better conditions.
Even where their work, when seen in proper
perspective, has been admirably effective and
successful, they have experienced a crushing
and bitter sense of failure and disappoint-
ment. It is ever thus with the reformer : the
effect of the outpouring of the whole energy
of a single life is so microscopic and im-
ponderable; the fair ideal seems, after a life-
time spent in its quest, as far away as ever.
Such disillusionment brings a state of de-
pression and exaggerated sensibility, the most
fertile soil for desperate suggestions con-
firmatory of, or logically developing, their
mood. In this state of mind they are easily
persuaded that daring and drastic revolution-
ary practices are imperative. They are easily
persuaded, too, that "things cannot be worse."
Political methods with their innumerable
compromises, delays, intrigues, and decep-
tions, exasperate such persons and they are
readily converted to "direct action."

There remains the intellectually heterog-
enous group composed of individuals who
belong to none of the foregoing classifications.
Some are simple romanticists, always living
in a dream-world of their own, ignoring
realities and governed in their actions by ab-



stract ideas and ideals: War is wrong, there-
fore let us end it by making the fighting men
see that they are doing wrong; let us get the
men out of the trenches and send them home.
We believe in the Brotherhood of Man, there-
fore let us urge the intermarriage of negroes
and whites. It was a rich Northern woman
of this type who proposed to go into the
Southern States to "wipe out the distinctions
which keep the children of a common Father
apart." In her recklessness she was ready to
make a terrible experiment upon the life of
a great nation, to risk the most disastrous con-
sequences. Others in this heterogeneous group
are innately rebellious spirits, instinctive
anarchists as it were, who can recognize the
presence of no authority, law, or binding cus-
tom without feeling an overpowering resent-
ment and passion to defy it. Finally, there
are the neurasthenics whose mental nerves re-
quire the constant excitation of novelty, pre-
cisely as others require the excitation of al-
coholic exhilaration, and those who similarly
crave the stimulus derived from notoriety.
These last find their contracts with revolu-
tionary agitations an easy way into the head-
lines of the daily press.




Considered either as the faith or the fad of
rich men and women, or of little coteries of
bourgeois Intellectuals, Bolshevism would not
be very important. The association of such
individuals and groups with this revolution-
ary propaganda merits attention mainly be-
cause of its value as an auxiliary to a really
formidable force which has its origin and its
location in lower social levels. Apart from
this fact it would be of interest to the psychol-
ogist only for its illustration of certain
minor forms of abnormal psychology. Bol-
shevism is important as a manifestation of as-
piration and energy by a section of the
proletariat, as the hope and the effort of a
fairly considerable and growing portion of
the most numerous class in society, a class
potentially powerful enough in this and other
highly developed industrial nations to impose
its rule, whether for good or ill.

As we have already noted, the term pro-
letariat which Marx used, and which has
come into our common everyday usage
through Marxian Socialist literature, hardly
applies, in the sense in which Marx used it,
to the bulk of the working-class in this or al-



most any other great modern nation. It is a
misnomer to apply the term to a citizen class.
Little or no good can result, however, from
attempting to overcome this error and to im-
pose a new and restricted meaning to a word
so popularly misused. Presumably the word
"proletariat" will continue to be used as a
synonym for "wage-working class."

To account for the spread of Bolshevist
ideas and ideals among the members of this
class to such an extent that it constitutes one
one of the greatest political facts of our time,
a knowledge of the historical background is
imperatively necessary. It is impossible to
understand Bolshevism unless and until we
understand the class psychology which pro-
duces it, and that requires an intelligent
understanding of the great struggle of oppos-
ing classes which characterizes modern
capitalist society. Bolshevism is a product
of that struggle and inseparable from it. The
struggle of the classes is not a mere Marxian
hypothesis; it is a profound fact of fun-
damental importance, a major factor among
the determinants of social evolution. Whether
we accept the class struggle theory of Marx
or reject it, and whatever we may think of the
philosophy of history of which it is a part,



we must accept the fact of class conflict or
fail to reach an intelligent comprehension of
Bolshevism. To refuse recognition to so
obvious a fact, to deny that there are classes
in America, classes with opposing interests,
each with a distinct psychology of its own, is
to darken counsel and make intelligent cit-
izenship difficult.

Marx pointed to the fact that the great
stages in the historical development of man-
kind were the culmination of struggles be-
tween classes with opposing interests and
ideals. A dominant class is overthrown by a
class hitherto subject but henceforth domi-
nant. Thus feudalism was supplanted when
the feudal nobility was overthrown by the
newer and more powerful manufacturing or
capitalist class. It was not only in their basic
economic interests, in the sources of their in-
come, that these two great classes differed.
They differed quite as much in their political
and social ideals. In precisely the same way,
the modern working-class and the capitalist
class whose power it challenges have different
and antagonistic economic interests and also
different and antagonistic political and social
ideals. Marx called upon the proletariat to
unite against a common foe, to subordinate



every difference of race, creed, or craft to the
end of reaching a common goal. A desperate
note rang through his stirring appeal: he was
addressing, not workers merely, but prole-
tarians, men who were in fact wage-slaves,
recognized only as subjects for economic ex-
ploitation, property-less, and without the pro-
tective and assertive powers conferred by cit-
izenship. It was to a class which had no
share and no stake in the State that he ad-
dressed the appeal, "Proletarians, of all coun-
tries, Unite ! you have nothing to lose but your
chains; you have a world to gain!" This same
appeal is being made today to a working-class
which has, indeed, much to lose, because in
the meantime it has gained an immense
possession. Bolsheviki, Spartacists, Anar-
chists, Syndicalists, Communists, and Social-
ists reiterate the old cry, notwithstanding
the gains made by trades and labor unions,
the immense progress of the co-operatives,
the great body of protective and remedial
legislation, and the extension of full political
rights to the working class now, almost uni-
versal. The potency of the old appeal in the
new order of the world proves that there is
still a great sense of injustice. The language
of the appeal may be attacked for its



hyperbolic exaggeration, but millions re-
spond to it because they feel that they are
victims of intolerable wrongs and because they
feel that there is "a world to gain" by pro-
test and sacrificial struggle.

When we are inclined to content ourselves
with the judgment that a class which has
gained so much should be gratefully content,
there are two facts to be remembered: the
first fact is that these gains have been won
by the workers themselves by heroic effort
and sacrifice. They wrested the franchise
from the ruling class;. they created the unions
and raised the standards of living; their agita-
tion and organization forced the enactment
of the protective and remedial legislation.
The second fact is that the social ideals of a
class advance with improvements in its con-
ditions. In the upward evolution new wants
have been realized, wrongs newly discovered,
fresh ambitions developed, new and higher
standards perceived. To vote, to choose gov-
ernors, is no longer a satisfying ambition ; that
sufficed in the middle of the nineteenth cen-
tury, but today the desire is to participate in
actually governing. "Fair wages for a fair
day's work" was a far vision then; today's
vision is of a system of industrial democracy



dependent on no such cash nexus, but on col-
lectively and democratically organized labor
for the collective good. Bearing these things
in mind, why should a struggle which has
succeeded so admirably so far be abandoned?
And why should we expect the workers to be
silent concerning the new things they have

The Marxian shibboleth, so old yet ever
new, appears in its extremist form in the
preamble to the constitution of the I. W. W.
which declares that "The working class and
the capitalist class have nothing in common."
This is quite obviously untrue. Probably no
one really believes it to be true. It is a notable
example of the extent to which the minds of
man may be influenced by the iteration of a
misleading phrase. Every individual in an
I. W. W. Convention could probably be made
to see and to admit that the sentence above
quoted is inaccurate, yet it would almost cer-
tainly be impossible to get such a Convention
to abandon the statement in favor of one
which every individual delegate would ac-
cept as accurate and truthful.

That workers and capitalists living in the
same city, or the same nation, have a great

and ever-increasing number of common in-



terests is obvious. They have common in-
terests in good sanitation, fire protection, the
integrity of the courts, the inviolability of
the ballot, the security of wives and children
against violent assault, the regular transporta-
tion of food, and so through an almost in-
terminable list. There is often an important
identity of interests between capitalists and
wage-earners, even in the industrial field,
where conflicting interests are most ac-
centuated. Prolonged unemployment is
equally undesirable to both classes. The at-
tempt to enact legislation injurious to or
calculated to destroy a particular industry
unites employers and employees in opposition
to it.

There is an important element of truth in
the exaggerated aphorism. There is a con-
flict of economic interest inherent in the rela-
tions of the two classes. Leaving narrow and
shortsighted individual policies out of ac-
count, and considering only the relations of
the two classes exemplified by the most in-
telligent and progressive policies of both, the
following rule is reached: the undiluted
economic interest of the capitalist class is to
maintain between the sum of values produced
by labor and the sum of wages paid to labor



the greatest difference consistent with the ef-
ficiency and contentment of the laborers. On
the other hand, the undiluted economic in-
terest of the workers is to receive in wages
the largest possible proportion of the sum of
values created consistent with the existence
and growth of the enterprises concerned.
This is the abstract law: of course, other fac-
tors, such as humanitarian idealism, love of
approbation, tradition, and so on, may enter
in and exert a modifying influence. The
economic law, however, is as stated.

From this fundamental difference of
economic interest there inevitably proceeds an
equally great difference in class consciousness
and feeling. How otherwise, shall we account
for the uniformity with which the employing
class has opposed the unionism of the work-
ers, and the marked degree of uniformity
with which the two classes have taken op-
posite sides in almost every movement to bring
the State into the regulation of industrial con-
ditions? In the early stages of capitalism the
capitalist class held the principle of laissez
faire to be the ideal basis for industry and
for the guidance of the conduct of the State
in its relations with industry. The workers,
on the other hand, manifested a detestation



of this principle, too uniformly diffused
throughout the entire class to be accidental,
and held that the State must impose limita-
tions and restrictions upon industry in such
matters as hours of employment, the age of
availability for employment, working condi-
tions, and the like. Today the capitalist class
in general accepts the principle of active in-
terference by the State, but wants this inter-
ference kept within bounds. It wants private
industrial enterprise in every field with only
as much State regulation as may from time
to time be found necessary to maintain the
physical well-being of the workers and to
avert more revolutionary action. On the
other hand, in proportion to its increase of
control over the forces of the State, the work-
ing class seeks to increase the regulative func-
tions of the State in industry, and even to have
the State supplant private industrial enter-
prise in many important fields.


Bolshevism marks the extreme point of
working class antagonism to the capitalist
ideal. Here as elsewhere extremes meet and
there are many resemblances between the most

5 53


anti-social ways of the capitalist class and
some of the anti-social ways of the Bolsheviki.
But increasing opposition to private capital
and industrial enterprise is characteristic of
the entire organized labor movement, and not
of the Bolshevist minority alone. Year by
year the most conservative unions progress
toward a collectivist ideal in their demands.
This is true of the labor movement of every
great industrial nation and is not ma-
terially affected by the form of govern-
ment. It is as true of England as of
the United States and of Japan as of
either of these great Occidental countries.
Labor's instinctive ideal is democratic as op-
posed to the instinctively autocratic ideal of
the capitalist class. But for the modifying
factors of State interference and the influence
of labor organizations, industry would still
be conducted upon the lines of absolute autoc-
racy. Labor during the last fifty years or so
has effectually smashed autocracy in indus-
try. It is now bent upon realizing the op-
posite ideal of industrial democracy. Even
Bolshevism, utterly autocratic and hostile to
democracy as it is, doubtless aims at some
form of industrial democracy as an ultimate
ideal. Lenine and all the other recognized



spokesmen of the cult have insisted that the
despotism of the minority euphemistically
designated the "Dictatorship of the Prole-
tariat" is to be transitory; that the ultimate
goal is industrial democracy.

Soviet government must not be confounded
with Bolshevism. The two things are quite
distinct and each must be judged upon its
own merits. Not all who believe that the
Soviet form of government should replace
political government of the forms familiar to
us are believers in Bolshevism. Many of the
most earnest opponents of Bolshevism are
equally earnest supporters of the Soviet type
of government. They would achieve the
transformation by constitutional methods, in
countries where constitutional government ex-
ists, and in any case they would base the new
system upon democratic suffrage. The fact
that Bolshevism first appeared as a political
force in association with government by Soviet
authority does not warrant us in regarding
them as identical, or as being necessarily in-
terdependent, any more than the fact that Bol-
shevism first appeared in Russia warrants the
conclusion that it is essentially and peculiarly

That in some manner the democratization



of industry will be accomplished in a not far
distant future is a safe prediction. It is prob-
able that the best features of Soviet govern-
ment will be grafted on to the political State.
With the attainment of political democracy
industrial autocracy was doomed. The ex-
istence of a superior ruling economic caste
speedily becomes an intolerable anachronism
in a State where political democracy is safely
established. The idea that masses of men and
women must spend the greater part of their
lives working under conditions determined by
others, without any effective and established
right to control their labor and its fruits is

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Online LibraryJohn SpargoThe psychology of bolshevism → online text (page 3 of 8)