Laurence Gronlund.

The coöperative commonwealth in its outlines. An exposition of modern socialism online

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Professor R. G. Gettell







'•' My objeet is not to make people read,
But to make them think."

Montesquieu — Spirit of Lawn.




Copyright, 1884,
By Laubence Gbonluhix



In the progress of my work;


I dedicate this book.



Chapter. Tage.

To the Reader 7

I. The Profit System 12

II. Social Anarchy 34

III. The Culmination 55

IV. The Sphere of the State 75

Y. Expediency of the Co-operative Common-
wealth 100

VI. Social Economy 132

VII. Democracy vs. Party Government 155

VIII. Administration of Affairs 168

IX. Administration of Justice ........ 186

X. Woman 201

XI. Education 215

XII. Morals 234

XIII. The Coming Revolution 259



A dialogue on " Political Optimism" in the Nineteenth Cen-
tury for August, 18S0, contains the following language :

u We see that political systems in all progressive societies
tend toward socialistic democracy. We see everywhere that
it must come to that. We all of us feel this conviction, or all
of us. I suppose, who have reflected on the matter. We feel,
too, that nothing we can do can avert or possibly long delay
the consummation. Then, we must believe that the movement
is being guided, or is guiding itself to happy issues."

This passage may serve as a key to the following pages.

They have been written that you may see that the social and
political phenomena in all progressive countries, and particu-
larly in our own country and Great Britain, are, in a perfectly
natural manner, evolving a New Social Order, a Social Demo- '
cratic Order, which we have called The Cooperative Common-
wealth ; in other words, — to speak pointedly, — that Socialism
is no importation, but a home-growth, wherever found. They
are written to give you good reasons for expecting that this
New Social Order will be, indeed, a " happy issue " to the
brain-worker as well as to the hand- worker, to woman as well
as to man. They are written to give reasons for our convic-
tions that it must come to that, here as elsewhere, within a
comparatively short period, or to barbarism.

Barbarism! — Yes. Let not yourself be led astray by the
remarkable increase everywhere of wealth on the whole, —
possibly the under-current is, nevertheless, carrying us swiftly
backwards. Suppose you had told a Roman citizen in the age
of Augustus that his proud country then had entered on its de-
cline, — as every school-boy now knows it had, — he would
have thought you insane. Now, the many striking parallels
between that period and the times in which we are living


must have forced themselves on your attention, if you are of
a reflective turn of mind, as we assume you are. You will
have observed the same destructive forces to which History
attributes the fall of pagan Rome busily at work under your
very eyes. You see the same mad chase after wealth; you
find everywhere the same deadening scepticism in regard to
high ideals. You observe in all our centres of activity a cor-
ruption — I will not say as great as, but — promising in due
time to rival that of the Roman Empire. Be careful not to be
too scornful if we prophesy that in, say, twenty-five years from
now,— if not the Cooperative Commonwealth should then, per-
chance, be realized — the demagogues of New York City will
buy voters by free public feasts and theatricals, that you will
hear the cry of " panem et circenses " — "give us bread and cir-
cuses," if you live theu ! Indeed, we have already read in
the N. Y. Tribune : " Every one of our civil Justices has giv-
en a day's * outing ' to the wives and children of his district."
Even now in many of the States wealth seems a pre-requisite
to the attainment of Senatorial honors and millionaires and
sons of millionaires are bidding for seats in the lower house of

But, for reasons hereafter set forth, we do not believe
our race will return to barbarism. The Roman Em-
pire was saved from that fate, finally, by being reanimated.
Our age as fully needs reanimation as the period of the
Caesars. We shall be reanimated : history will once more see
Society reconstructed on a new basis.

Says Huxley : " The reconstruction of Society on a scientific
basis is not only possible, but the only political object much
worth striving for." True, emphatically true! Except so far as
it is implied in this sentence that any individual or any nation
can go to work and arbitrarily reconstruct Society on a scien-
tific or any other basis.

Socialism — modern Socialism. German Socialism, which is
fast becoming the Socialism the world over — holds that the
impending reconstruction of Society will be brought about
by the Logic of Events; teaches that The Coming Revolution is
strictly an Evolution. Socialists of that school reason from no


assumed first principle, like the French who start from "So-
cial equality " or like Herbert Spencer, when in his Social
Statics he lays it down as an axiom, that * k every man has free-
dom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the like
freedom of every other man ; " but basing themselves on ex-
perience — not individual but universal experience — they cau
and do present clear-cut, definite solutions.

It is this German Socialism which is presented in the follow-
ing pages, with this important modification that it has been di-
gested by a mind. Anglo-Saxon in its dislike of all extrava-
gancies and in its freedom from any vindictive feeling against
persons, who are from circumstances what thoy are. In the first
three chapters we 'present the Socialist critique of the phe-
nomena of the era in which we are living ; in the next three
chapters we indicate the coming Social order which will, prob-
ably, develop itself out of the present system; in the three
that follow we outline the political and legal machinery which
very likely will be found necessary to the working of that new
order ; in chapters X, XI and XII, we point out the principal
social effects which may be expected to follow from it, and in
the last chapter we consider how the revolution — the change —
is likely to be accomplished in our country and England.

We believe it is time that a work, containing all the leading
tenets of Socialism in a concise, consecutive form should be
presented in the English language— in the language of the
two countries where the social, and specially the industrial
conditions, are ripening quicker than anywhere else. Such
a work, in fact, exists nowhere. Whenever any one now
wishes to inform himself on the subject he has to wade through
innumerable books and pamphlets, mostly German. That such a
candid man as John S. Mill, who had a truly Socialist heart, did
not become a Socialist we attribute to this fragmentary shape
of Socialist thought, and that in a tongue unknown to him ; for
his ""Chapters on Socialism.' 1 published after his death, show
that he was familiar only with French speculations, of a time
when Socialism was yet in its Infancy. We can dismiss nearly
all that thus far has been written in our language by Socialists
on the subject with the remark that it is not exactly adapted


to people of judgment and culture. We think that all Amer-
icans who simply want to be well-informed ought to make
themselves acquainted with this new philosophy — and Social-
ism is nothing less than that— which is believed in by hun-
dreds of thousands of our fellow-men with a fervor equalling
She enthusiasm of the earlv Christians. We think they will
make themselves acquainted with it, as soon as it is presented
to them in readable English, and applied to American phe-
nomena and American conditions by a writer possessing the
American bias for the practical. Such Socialism, whether
true or false, whether destined to be successful or unsuc-
cessful, is a matter that concerns you personally.

But if the writer of this work did not hope to accomplish
something beyond giving some, or even many, Americans
more correct notions of the aims of Socialists than those they
have, it would never have been written. We have a deeper
purpose, far nearer our heart. Most reflective minds, if they
do not go the whole length of the one who speaks in the dia-
logue with which we started, do admit that we are at the brink
of an extraordinary change ; that a crisis of some sort is im-
pending, no matter if it is likely to burst out now or in ten or
fifty years from now. We then say that the only thing that
can save us and our children from horrors, ten-fold worse
than those of the French Revolution, that can save us from
the infliction of such a scourge as Napoleon, will be the activ-
ity of a minority, acting as the brains of the Revolution. For
while there will be a revolution, it need not necessarily be one
marked by blood. "We hope it will not be such a one : a rev-
olution by violence is to Society what a hurricane is to a ship
struggling on the stormy ocean ; it is only by herculean efforts
that we shall succeed in avoiding the rocks and bring it
Into the secure haven, and even then we shall be bnt at the
threshold of our task.

But. then, we must first have in our country this minority ; a
vigorous minority, even if but a small one ; a minority of in-
telligent and energetic American men and women ; a minor-
ity with sound convictions as to what the crisis means and


how it may be made to redound to the welfare of the whole
of Society and with the courage of their convictions. Such
a minority will be indispensable to render the revolution a bless-
ing, whether it comes peaceably or forcibly. Not that this
minority is to make the coming Revolution — an individual, a
clique, a majority even can as little make a revolution as the
fly makes the carriage wheel roll ; the Revolution makes it-
self or '• grows itself; " — but this minority is to prepare for it
and, when the decisive moment has arrived, act on the mass-
es, as the power acts on the lever. To reach and possibly
win this minority — however small — this book has mainly been

We shall, for that purpose, address ourselves to the reflec-
tive minds of all classes, rich as well as poor, professional as
well as working men — and, indeed, many, very many, literary
men and women, very many lawyers, very many physicians
and teachers are just as much in need of this Coming Revolu-
tion as most working men. ' But we shall assume, reader, that
you are not one of those who are personally interested in the
maintenance of the present Social Order, or rather Social An-
archy. for then it is hopeless to try to win you over. Very
likely you will deem it a difficult feat to win you over, to turn
you into a Socialist — All we ask of you is with us to view fa-
miliar facts of' life from a standpoint, very different from the
one you have hitherto beei occupying, to look at them in oth-
er lights and shades, and then await the result. A man ia
never the same any more after he has once got a new impres-
sion. Much that we are going to say cannot but shock your
preconceived ideas, but from St. Paul down many have been*" at first hearing what afterwards became their most
cherished convictions. We &hall discard all common-places and
phrases and throughout be mindful ot Samuel Johnson's ad-
monition : kt Let us empty our minds of cant, gentlemen! M




" The working class is the only class which is not a class.
It is the nation. It represents, so to speak, the body as a
whole, of which the other classes only represent special or-
gans. These organs, no doubt, have great and indispensable
functions, but for most purpose* of government the State
consists of the vnst laboring majority. Its welfare depends
on what their Jives are like." — Frederic Harrison.

u They (Political Economists) are men of only one idea —
Wealth, how to procure and increase it. Their rules seemed
infallibly certain to that supreme end. What did it signify
that a great part of mankind was made meanwhile even
more wretched than before, provided wealth on the whole
increased?" — Catholic Quarterly Review, Jan. 1880.

"That the masses of men are robbed of their fair earnings
— that they have to work much harder than they ought to
work for a very much poorer living than they ought to get,
is to my mind clear." — Henry George*



We shall commonce with an object lesson ; it will consist chief-
ly of figures, aiul figures are tiresome things; — but the lesson
will be a short one. Here are four diagrams, — "'cakes" let us
call them : * lS6o%


Wages for

" hands."

8 c

3 </>

$ 437,000,000.

Wages foi
" hands."

53 per cent.

$ 805,000,000,


Wages for


" hands."

53 per cent.

$ 1,310,000,000.


Wages for



48 1-3 per cent.


$ 1,834,000,000.

These "cakes " represent the net produce of all manufacturing


Industries of the United States for the respective years;
mark! not the gross value of the products on leaving the fac-
tories, but only that value which has been given to them in
the factories minus the wear and tear of machinery. That is
to say, we have arrived at the above figures by first adding
the value of the raw materials and the depreciation of all ma-
chinery, implements and buildings together, and then deduct-
ing that sum from the value of the finished products. The
value of tho raw-materials used, and the gross value we have
gathered from the respective U. S. Census Reports, but for the
estimate of the wear and tear of machinery &c there are ab-
solutely no data anywhere to be had. We have taken five per
cent, of all the capital invested in all manufactures in the re-
spective years as probably a fair estimate of such wear and
tear, as but a small part of all capital is invested in machinery
and implements, where most of the wear and tear occurs. Sup-
posing that we are somewhat out of the way on one side or
the other in this guess, it will not materially affect the conclu-
sions of this chapter.

Observe, first, that these " cakes" grow at an even and a
very great rate ;

The cake of 1850 has a value of $ 437 million dollars ;
that of 1860 " '* " " S05 " "

that of 1870 (reduced to gold) 1310 i4 "

that of 1880 a value of 1834 " "

Observe, next, that these •■ cakes " are divided by a vertical
line into two very nearly equal portions. That to the left was
paid to the workers in the form of wages; that to the right we
shall, for the time being, call the " Surplus."

Note, also. — for we do not want to make facts, but simply
to declare and explain them — that the portion: wages, in-
creases both absolutely and relatively in proportion to th«
number of workers:

The average wage in 1850 was 248 dollars;
u .. k . a 18G o u 292 "

" " " k - 1870 " 310 (gold.)

" " " " 1880 " 346 "

The portion : surplus grows at a great rate:


In 1850 it amounted to 200 million dollars;
" 1860 it was 426 * ; "

" 1870 it was 690 k - (gold.)

" 1880 it rose to 886 " k *

The average " surplus," that is, when divided by the num-
ber of establishments, was as follows :
In 1850 it was $ 1,500.
4k 1860 •' " 3.000.

" 1870 it fell to 2,736, because the number of establish-
ments had nearly doubled.

In 1880 it rose to 3,490. the number of establishments being
nearly the same as in 1870.

Here ends the lesson. It was all figures ; but we should say that
to a reflective mind these figures are not dumb, but speaking.

The central point of interest seems to us to be this "surplus."
How does this surplus originate ? For to know what a thing
is, we must know the process of its origin. Mow come these
cakes — the net results of our industrial production — to be di-
vided that way? In order to answer these questions we shall
have to dissect the system of production which now prevails.

Take a number of moneyed men who agree to invest their
superfluities in some industrial enterprise. They come togeth-
er, form themselves into a joint-stock company and elect of-
ficers ; such companies, in fact, now own and operate some of
our largest establishments, and the tendency is that all indus-
tries of any consequence in time will be carried on by them.
Suppose then our moneyed men engaged in the cotton, or wool-
en, or iron and steel industry; either one of these will
serve our purpose equally well, as the w surplus ' was in 1880
about the same in proportion in all of them. Suppose they
engage in the making of cotton cloth. None of these men need
have any knowledge whatever of the work to be done, and as
a matter of fact the stockholders of existing joint-stock com-
panies have no such knowledge. They need not know any-
thing, indeed, except to add and divide — this is not added im-
pertinently, but simply to emphasize a fact most pertinent to
our subject. All that they need do is to hire a manager at a


Stated salary and place their funds at his disposal.

This manager then rents a factory — a cotton-" mill " — or hag
one built; goes then into the market and buys spindles, bales
of cotton, and other machinery and raw materials. ATI that
low is wanting is Labor; but that is also to be found in the
market — plenty of it. The manager buys as much as he wants
of it. Note, however, here a difference. The machinery and
raw material he has to pay for on, or a short time after, de-
livery ; not quite so with Labor. With that a contract is made
to employ it for a week or a month at an agreed price, and then
to pay for it after having used it.

All these wares — machinery, cotton and Labor — are
now taken to the cotton mill, where our men with money may,
if they think fit, look on while Labor spins and weaves the
cotton into cloth, using up in that process a certain small por-
tion of the machinery and factory. Everybody now knows,
that this cloth is not made for the personal use of these mon-
eyed men or their families — and we shall see in another chap-
ter that this fact is a truly distinguishing mark ol the era we
are living in — but that it is manufactured wholly for other peo-
ple whom these men never saw or heard of. This cloth is
made for the express purpose of being taken into and disposed
of in the market of the world. For there, all wares, from
guano to gold, from rags to silk, have one quality in com-
mon ; that of possessing value.

Now, please mark that nothing can so effectually kill our
cause as the successful impeachment of the answer we shall
give, to the question : What is value? or the deductions we
shall draw from it. Our explanation of what this "surplus" is
and what Capital is. hinges on this question, which is, indeed,
"• /'idee mere'"' — the "mother idea" of Socialism. We shall, there-
fore, suspend our sketch of the present mode of production,
in order first to answer it.

But mark again, our exposition of "value" is none other
than that of David Kicardo. Socialists regard Ricardo as the
last political economist who made any substantial addition to
the science ; the one who, in regard to value and wages, ad-
vanced it to its highest plane. And it was only alter the sup-


porters of the present social order found out, what use could
be made of his teachings, that Bastiat and his disciples came
to their succor and tried to impugn these teachings. We build
on Iiicardo as our foundation.

To the question then. By "value*' we mean value in ex-
change; we do not mean value in use. or utility, or, what
seems to us a more luminous name, and what Locke called it:
worth. The worth or utility of shoes is their capacity to pro-
tect the feet; their value is what they will fetch in the mar-
ket. Their value is their relation to other wares, in some way
or other; is another name for equivalence.

But relation in what way? Not relation of worths. Worth,
or utility, is undoubtedly presupposed, but it does not deter-
mine the value. That will be seen from the following illus-
trations :

The reason why a man wants to purchase a pair of
shoes, is that he needs them, that they are useful, that
they possess "worth'' to him. But their usefulness
is not at all the reason why he pays $2.00 for them
He does not pay twenty times as much for them as for a ten
cent loaf of bread, because they are twenty times as useful to
him. Why not ? Because the two •• worths" or two useful-
nesses are just as incomparable as a pound of butter and a
peck of apples would be. Again, a loaf of bread is ■• worth"
infinitely more to a man who has not eaten anything for forty-
eight hours than to one who just comes from a hearty dinner;
yet the former can buy the loaf just as cheaply as the latter.
Value, then, is no relation of •' worths.*' of usefulnesses.

Nor litis money anything to do with determining values.
Wares would have value, the same as they have now, if all
money of all kinds were suddenly annihilated. In order to
eliminate that disturbing factor: money, we shall suppose an
exchange of goods for goods — pure barter.

Assume, then, a shoemaker to exchange one pair of boots
for a coat, another similar pair for a table, a third pair for one
hundred pounds of bread, a fourth pair for forty bushels ot
coal, and a fifth pair for a book. All these articles are said to
be equal in value.


But equality presupposes comparison. We only compare
Bach articles with each other that are similar. In what re-
spect, then, are the above articles similar, except that of be-
ing useful, which we saw was no point ot comparison?
They are dissimilar in regard to the material, out of which
they are made and the purposes for which they are made.
They are, ou the other hand, similar in this respect that
they have been produced by human labor, working
on natural products, which, again, have been won by hu-
man labor. They have, then, this property in common, that
they have sprung from Xature, and contain in them a certain
amount of human labor. Labor is their father and Nature is
their mother.

Nature, however, performs her work gratuitously. It must,
then, be human labor which gives these various articles their

That is, also, the teaching of Ricardo. He lays it down as
a fundamental principle, that the exchange values of wares
the supply of which may be indefinitely increased, (as is the
case with these articles we enumerated) depend, exclusively,
on the quantities of labor, necessarily required to produce them
and bring them to market, in all states of society. In an-
other place he says: *• In all cases, wares rise in value, be-
cause more labor is expended."

These various articles, however. have not only value; they
were supposed to have equal value, consequently they must
contain an equal amount of human labor. And so it is.

These amounts are first measured by the time devoted to pro-
duce these articles. Thus, it is easy enough to say, how much
bakenng labor is comained in the bread; how much tailoring
labor in the coat &c.

These various labors, however, are very different in kind,
you will say. Undoubtedly. But the difference consists simply
in being more or less complicated. It takes, simply, more
time to learn the one than the other. The most complicated
kind of work can always be reduced to ordinary unskilled la-
bor, may always be considered as multiplied common labor.
Thub digging is easier to learn than type betting. There Is eon-


tained in every hour's work of the carpenter a part of the time
he devoted to learning his trade. This is still more apparent
in the literary labor contained in a book. Years may be requi-
site for the preliminary work, months or even years may have
to be devoted to special studies, while the mere writing of the
manuscript may take but a few months. One hour of writing
may thus, be equivalent to twelve, or many more, hours of
common labor.

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Online LibraryLaurence GronlundThe coöperative commonwealth in its outlines. An exposition of modern socialism → online text (page 1 of 23)