Laurence Gronlund.

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

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in Agriculture :, it will prevent waste; it will do away with
nearly all risk ; and, lastly, it will permit, the most advantage-
ous Division of Labor.

He is said to be one of the greatest benefactors of mankind
who makes two blades of grass grow where one grew before.
What then is to be said of the men who arc determined tode-
velop society, as quickly as possible, up to the adoption of a
system of production, demanded by the conditions of the age,
and which will increase, to an unprecedented degree, the net
results of all our industries, and evidently lead to innumera-
ble technical improvements in all their branches'?

This fructification of Labor, will on the first view readily
make Social Cooperation appear highly desirable. But the
objection, that this increase of the means of subsistence and
enjoyment really means a far greater '"overproduction" than
has yet confronted us, lies very near. It is precisely the prin-
cipal excellence of the Cooperative Commonwealth that it will
create an effective demand for even the greatest imaginable

We said in the preceding chapter that the full-grown State
will help every one of its citizens to help himself. That, first


t i i

of sill,- means that it will furnish employment, productive em«

. ptoymfentij and , such employment as the}', respectively, maj r

be best fitted for to all citizens; thus enabling them to pay

"for 'anything they may want or wish for — which is what is

'ih'eiuit by - effective " demand.

After what we already have remarked in regard to " natural
' ( righcs," it cannot be supposed that we lay anj r stress on tlie
socalled natural ",) right to Labor." And yet more can be said
in favor of that claim than for any other " natural right." Of
' course " right to labor" is a very inapt phrase; nobody real-
;I ,, ly complains of not being sufficiently burdened with toil, lint
all know well enough that it is meant to assert a claim to a
lh.-i decent livelihood, to be gained by profitable Labor. Now, if
tfiii . it be once admitted, what even Herbert Spencer affirms, that
M i. hind Ts'^the common heritage of all, then there is very griat
force hi thVavguinent of such philosophers as Fichte and Coll-
in ,,. , sjderiinti that "* those who are not proprietors of land must, as
(din i . a c(y)n P £ nsat> on for the common property which they have lost, be
\. guaranteeed the right to labor." And communities have, as
^ a matter of fact, recognized the force of that claim. The
Poor-law of England is a recognition of it. And, though it
seems unknown to even professional lawyers, a Pennsylvania
Statute provides as follows: '■"If such poor person be able to
work, but cannot find employment, it shall be the duty of the
overseers to provide work for him according to his ability, and
for this purpose they shall procure suitable places and a suit-
able stock of materials."

But it should be distinctly understood that we do not think
the Coming Commonwealth will base its action on this ground,
but on quite another.

Malthus says bluntly, in his u Essay on Population," that the
man born into the world whose family cannot support him ?i\d
whose labor is not in demand must take himself away. w for
him there is no cover laid at nature's table."

Now we affirm that in our Commonwealth there toill be a de-
mand for the labor of every citizen. This is a proposition that
every one on a little reflection will assent to.

Mark ! we speak of productive labor, and mean thereby labor


that creates anything which men desire. This desire is abso-
lutely unlimited. The desire for certain staple articles of food
or for this or that manufactured article or for a given means
of enjoyment may be limited, but the desire for the products
of human laoor and skill in general, physical, artistic or in*^l-
leetual — never.

The desire for — that is, the power of — consumption in the body
of the citizens is thus boundless. And they will have the means
to pay for all there is to consume. Under the New Order all
will be productive workers ; they will be paid an equivalent for
what they produce — not merely one half of it as now under
the wage-system — in some form. Consequently their pur-
chasing power will in all cases balance the total production.

'there is a demand for the labor of every man under any
well-ordered Social system. If there is a waste of men now,
it is the fault of the Wage-System. A slave was actually
worth what he would fetch, and there were very few slaves,
who would fetch nothing. Why, in a free Commonwealth,
should men be of less account? Cattle are valuable, why not
men? Carlyle remarks : ." a white European man, standing
on his two legs, with his tw T o five-lingered hands at bis shack-
le bones and miraculous head on his shoulders, is worth, I
should say, from 50 to 100 horses."

Dy giving all the idle employment; by putting all our para-
sites and superfluous workers where they can work product-
ive^', the Commonwealth will create the needed effective de-
mand, and more than that: The stock of the good things of
this life will thereby be very much cwZar^ecZ.perhaps doubled.

But do not believe, that when we say that the State will
furnish all profitable employment, that we mean that every
one will have to do manual labor. Labor undoubtedly will
then come to honor; work will then be a beneficent law, and
not an oppressive rule as now, but brain-work will have its
due weight : the New Commonwealth will not be a state of
mechanics. In all States that at present pretend to give its
citizens educational facilities, it seems to be entirely overlooked
that education and aspiration go hand in hand. Our coun-
try, i l particular, which gives such of our young men and


women who can afford to improve themselves free access to
high-schools, colleges and universities, afterwards leaves them
to scramble for a precarious existence, for which their very
education lias unfitted them ; yet an educated pauper is the
most pitiable subject of all. Our Commonwealth, on the oth-
er hand, will nourish the aspirations it has awakened ; it will
use for its own good the talents it has matured and enable ev-
ery man and woman to develop his or her peculiar aptitudes',
whether it be in brain-work or hand-work. This fact, that
every citizen will be able to follow his or her peculiar bent,
will also itself vastly increase the productive result of all so-
cial activity 6, for it is well-known that a person accomplishes
most when he works in the line of his greatest inclination.

We may note here that the enlargement of the purchasing
power of the masses will also eontribute considerably to in-
crease the wealth of Society by materially changing the char-
acter of the demand from what it is at present. That is to sa} r :
articles of use and beauty will more and more crowd out the
costty goods, which at present are principally in demand be-
cause, and only because, they are costly and by that quality
enable our money-aristocracy to display their wealth.

It has been computed that if everybody now worked at
some useful calling, everybody could live in comfort on four
hours' daily labor. There is some good reason for believing
that this computation is not so very far from being correct.
But who can doubt that in the Coming Commonwealth, with
all objects of desire thus increased, the hours of Labor could
be very much reduced, and j-et everybody, willing to work
have everything that heart could wish'?

Why should anybody then object to being restrained from
working more than six or four hours a day'? That very many
workingrnen should object to such a check on their liberty now,
when they often are reduced to absolute want by seasons of
enforced idleness, is natural enough and may be noted as the
immovable stumbling-block in the way of those who agitate
for u compulsory eight-hour law under the present system.

In our Commonwealth all men and women can be endowed
witli that supreme good — Leisure, the mother of Culture. Ob-


serve, there is the greatest difference in the world between
Leisure and Idleness. The idler, whether poor or rich, has no
leisure, for it means the delightful hours reserved from some
regular employment, of not too long duration, and which se-
cures the satisfaction of all material wants.

Under the New Regime "'Charity " and l * charitable institu-
tions' 1 will be things of the past. By-the-way, is it not a
pity that the noble word : •' Charity " has in this hypocritical
era come to mean — alms-giving? In our Commonwealth no
alms will be given ; indeed, nothing will be had gratis. Every-
body will get the full produce of his labor in direct revenues
or in public benefit. Every citizen will be entitled to the use
of all public institutions: be it of libraries, of schools for his
children, of hospitals, asylums, or assistance in his old age,
on the same principle as the insured is entitled to the amount
named in his policy, on the happening of a certain event.
This makes it clear how our Commonwealth is to be the Gen-
eral Insurer; and our various companies that insure again-t
so many forms of risk point out the right road to pursue. They,
indeed, embody whatever of corporate responsibility there is
left in this chaotic age.

We should therefore say that the Cooperative Commonwealth
will be highly promotive of social welfare by securing to all
its citizens abundance; by furnishing them leisure; and by
enabling them to follow their natural bent. Work will no
longer be a tribute to physical necessil y but a glad performance
of social office. It will for the first time in human history es-
tablish harmony between personal Egoism and the Public
Welfare, by, simply, distributing the forces of the social or-
ganism in accordance with its real needs.

We make a distinction between the soil of cities and towns
and agricultural lauds. The former will have to be taken un-
der collective control simultaneously with other Capital, while
the nationalization of the latter, in a country like ours espec-
ially, rnay be postponed for years. That this change will prove
highly beneficial to our city population is not difficult to see.

The greater a city is, the worse are the " homes " — as they


are still by courtesy called — of the masses that inhabit it, main-
ly because the ruling class, the moneyed aristocracy, becomes
the more exclusive. There was a time when this aristocracy*
formed one class with the masses : called in England the" Com-
nioiis," in France the " Third Estate " For a long' time after
the settlement ol our country we had only this one class. As
long as this state of things continued, the chiefs of industry
and commerce lived over their shops, near their offices among
their people. Now they have deserted their posts of social
duty. They live in separate districts, in the suburbs and only
come into town to spend a few hours in their places of busi-
ness on week-days. This modern fashionable suburbanisui
and exclusiveness is a real grievance of the working-classes.
Had the rich men continued to live among" the masses, they
would with their wealth and have made our large
towns pleasant places to live in, especially as they are almost
the exclusive owners of the ground and buildings.

It is evident that when the Community assumes the owner-
ship, all kinds of improvements can and will be carried on in
a far grander and more systematic manner than now when
many a measure, imperatively demanded even by the Public
Good, is met and often checked by some opposing private in-
terest. Then the many unsightly vacant lots in the veiy heart
of cities will disappear. Then, and only then, we can hope
for the introduction of such sanitary measures. both indwell-
ings and factories, as the present development of Public Hy-
giene recommends and as the aggregation of workers imper-
atively demands. Compare now the public institutions in any
city: schools, asylums or even jails with the factories found
in the same place and note the difference in the workings of
corporate responsibility, on the one hand, and private greed
ai I indifference, on the other. Every community owning the
soil on which it lives, can be. made responsible for the death
of nearly every person who may fall a victim to the Yellow
Fever or any other epidemic. For all the conditions of epi-
demic diseases, like foul air, stagnant pools, alleys tilled with
garbage, can be brought wholly within the control of an en-


ergetic administration, as General Butler conclusively proved
in New Orleans.

But this subject leads up to another problem. The present
relation of city to country is an abnormal one. Every civilized
country, with its overgrown cities may fairly be compared to
a man whose belly is steadily increasing in bulk, out of all
proportion to the body, and whose legs are constantly growing
thinner. This evolution is as yet perfectly legitimate. Our
large cities and towns are the necessary fruits of our indus-
trial sj'stem, and are destined to become the needed and in-
evitable centres for the coming changes; in their hands will
chiefly lie the threads of destiny. But then their purpose will
have been fulfilled. Then the evolution will necessarily have
to go back in the contrary direction : population will have to
take its march back into the country. It will become a

Why do the sons of farmers now flock into our cities ? Because
their fathers and especially mothers lead a life of drudgery and
privation that no mechanic in the city would wish to undergo;
beeause they want to get rid of the prosy, stunting, isolated,
barbarian life on a farm. The working masses stay in our
overcrowded cities because such a farm-life has no attractions
for them. They are not going to leave the cities before they
can carry with them the civilization in which they have been
reared ; and well it is that they cannot be made to do it. Only
our Commonwealth and collective control of all land can bring
the pleasures and comforts of city life, the blessings of our
civilization, into the country. This consideration, beside the
financial one we already have suggested, may in time make
our farmers see the beauties of Socialism.

But the nationalization of the land and Social-cooperative
farming will not prove beneficial merely to the agricultural
class and our surplus city-population, but also preeminently
to Society at large. It may. indeed, in a short time, be im-
perative on Society to adopt it.

Our present mode of farming impoverishes the soil ; t% bon-
anza " — farming does so to a still greater extent. Every bush-
el of wheat sent to our large cities or abroad, robs the soil of


a certain amount of nutriment. And next to nothing.— in fact,
on the bonanza-farms nothing at all, — is done to reimburse
the soil for that loss. The object of the bonanza-farmers is
simply to plunder the soil as much as possible in order to lill
their own pockets. When it becomes no longer profitable to
work the lands with e/ven the most extensive machinery, they
will be left mere deserts.

Manure is just as requisite for the soil as food is for a hu-
man being. Our large cities, constantly growing, are the es-
pecial consumers of the substance of the soil, without return-
ing to it their refuse : this manure which is so all important to
it. Evidently the result must be that our agricultural produc-
tion will be paralyzed, if an end be not put to this system of

Nothing but Social Cooperation will put an end to it. Only
that can institute a wise system of gathering and of distributing
this invaluable refuse of men and animals. This is evidently
a matter in which Society at large is vitally interested. Anil
there are other measures, that only yield in importance to this
matter of manure, which only Social Cooperation will know
how to deal with properly: as a comprehensive system of
drainage, without which land cannot be cultivated to its high-
est degree; and the preservation and culture of our forests,
which even in our days call loudly for the interposition of
national authority.

However,volumes would be requisite to give an adequate
conception of all the benefits to be conferred by the Coope-
rative Commonwealth in detail, for as has been truly observed
by the reputable German Political Econo mist, Prof Schaeille i
4 * it requires years to think one -self into it."

But all this will not satisfy people who pride themselves on
being practical. ''Practical people are people whose knowl-
edge is limited to what is going on under their eyes "' — this is
Buckle's definition, not ours. These nearsighted gentlemen will
gay: k, YourCommonwealth may be ever so much in harmony
with the conditions of this age; it may be able to create ever
so great an abundance and even to furnish the most ellcctive


demand for it ; it may be able to establish the most perfect
Bocial adjustment; yet it is impracticable ; it cannot be made
to work for many reasons."

Now, we are not here concerned about how to institute that
New Order. — when the time is ready, when we reach that brink,
a bridge will grow before our way, somehow — but it may be
worth our while to notice some of these reasons.

"It is a stupendous scheme ! That is enough to make it im-
practicable. It is an insane idea to propose to make fifty or
a hundred million people work in concert."

Yes, the Philistines of the Middle Ages, likewise, undoubted-
ly whuld have scorned, as insane, the idea, that a city like
London could possibly be provided with the necessaries of
life under any system of free competition. And now. when it
is daily done, our modern Philistines consider the tact as an
evidence ot "the beautiful harmony between private interests
and public necessities." Yet it is a far greater wonder, that
we get along under the present system as well as we do. than
that our Commonwealth should work without the least fric-
tion. "We have, indeed, every reason to expect, that it will be
a Social Order, as regular and unobtrusive as if it were a Law
of Nature.

u But how are you going to nationalize the land? How would
you go to work to bring these innumerable private enterprises
under collective control? Even Herbert Spencer. who. lik<> you,
condemns private ownership in land — in that very Social Sta-
tics that you criticized — sees no means of overcoming the dim%
culties in the way of making land collective property."

It would be easy enough. Suppose our national constitu-
tion were tomorrow amended to this effect :

14 All titles in fee in private per.-ons to any Real Estate are
hereby abolished; all such titles shall henceforth vest in the
United States, exclusively."

What then? Not anything like the overturning of existing
relations which followed the abolition of slavery would be
caused by such an amendment. Not a single person would n ?ed
to be ousted from the premises he uses, still Jess from the dwell-
ing he inhabits. The tenants of private parties would simply


be turned into tenants of the Nation; the payments of the
present proprietors to the community would be changed from
'•Taxes" into '• Rents."

Undoubtedly in other respects the change would be tremen-
dous. The occupants of lands and buildings could no longer
sell them, no longer mortgage them, no longer rent them.
Land as Capital and as source of Capital would evaporate into
thin air like mist before the morning sun, but would remain
as Social Wealth. It would lose its speculative, unreal value,
but would retain its intrinsic, real value. Then an u enterpris-
ing" individual could no longer one day acquire a piece of land
for twenty five cents an acre, and, without spending a day's
work or one dollar for improvements on it, ten years thence
dispose of it for ten or a hundred dollars an acre; this way of
fleecing the community would be stopped. In short, Land
held for speculative purposes would be dropped like a hot po-
tato, to be sure, but occupants in good faith could use it pre-
cisely as they do now. The difriculties of such a measure
would be reduced to absolutely nothing, if the amendment
proposed, instead of taking effect at once, were made opera-
tive, say. twenty five years from the date of its adoption; for
then values and relations would have ample time to settle them-

This is Henry George's " Remedy." Now, from the very
moment when we read the title-page of George's book we did
not think well of his being ready with a remedy at all. This
fact shows that he considers Society sick and thinks it must
have some medicine. Afterwards he seems to recoil from the
drastic operation of his medicine, the confiscation of land —
it might shock the preconceived notions of people — and pro-
poses, instead of that heroic treatment, the confiscation of rent.

We admit that either of these two remedies would have two
results, highly beneficial in themselves : the revenues of the
community from land would be largely increased, and the vast
sums, now squandered as purchase-money and rents for pure-
ly fictitious values, would be saved.

But after having shown our men-in-spectacles that it would
be easy enough to nationalize the land, we must emphasize


that to do so would be, especially in onr country and in Ger-
many and France, commencing from the wrong end. Society is
not sick; but Society may be said to be suffering the pangs of
child-birth. Now, to assist, her deliverance by touching agri-
cultural lands with the Socialist wand would be as inexpedi-
ent as to help a woman in travail by forcing the feet of the
infant out first, and inexpedient everywhere— even in Great Brit-
tain where only a comparatively few owners would have to be
expropriated — for the simple. reason that the evolution in agri-
culture is everywhere far behind the evolution in all otlier
industries. This objection, of course, would not apply to land
used for manufacturing and mining purposes or to that of
towns and cities, as we already have remarked. But the na-
tionalization of such land should not be considered as a meas-
ure by itself, but as an adjunct to the taking our Manufac-
tures, Distribution of products and Transportation under col-
lective control.

What practical difficulties would there be in the way of do-
ing that?

Why ! If our u statesmen " were less blind to the Logic of
Events, which is pushing us with railroad-speed toward a to-
tal and abrupt revolution, they might from to-morrow bring it
about gradually and peaceably l»y a series of measures, each
consistentl}' developing itself out of the previous ones. They
might begin from the two poles of Society at once.

See how ! It is now proposed to take the Telegraph-system
of our country under government control and incorporate it
in our Postofflce-department. The latter is already essential-
ly a Socialist institution, though to make it such fully, will
require some important changes that we shall refer to in the
lollowing chapter. Suppose this measure realized as it is sure
to be sometime. Then do likewise with our Railroads, our
Express-business and thus onward : absorb one great enter-
prise after another, as quickly as practicable.

And so from the other pole. We now speak of those inter-
ests which so vital Iv affect the inhabitants of different com-
munities, but which are confined to them. Why could not
our cities commence by furnishing to their citizens fuel in


winter and ice in summer? Are not these things just as essen-
tial to the Public Health as water? After that let them furnish
all the milk needed. Then let them take under their control
and operate their gas-works and horse-railways; their baker-
ies and drugstores. Yes, and let them take charge of the liquor-
traffic, so that the number of saloons may be restricted to the
wants of their respective populations and be conducted as the
beer-selling cooperative stores of England— not the least ben-
eficial of her many cooperative establishments — are conducted.

Now please observe, we do not say, — or even think — that the
social question will be solved in that manner, but that it seems
to us the most practical way in which to solve it for " practi-
cal" people. And mark further! that to carry out one or a
few of these measures (as the nationalization of Land, or col-

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Online LibraryLaurence GronlundThe coöperative commonwealth in its outlines. An exposition of modern socialism → online text (page 10 of 23)