Laurence Gronlund.

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

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that they will be distributed in the most equitable manner, and
cannot be burdensome to anybody; but the Commonwealth
will at all times have the whole wealth of the Nation at its
command. Suppose the rate of percentage for the eusuiug


fiscal year, as estimated, be found to be too low, or any sudden
emergency to arise ! There are the warehouses ! No need
any more of issuing bonds, to be bought for half their face-
value by greedy capitalists.

Next, we can affirm, that money — by which we understand
Gold-and Silver-coin and their representatives — will become
entirely useless in the Coming Commonwealth. We do not
say that Society may not go on for an indefinite period using
it for various reasons of convenience, but that not a trace of
the necessity which makes money play such important role in
our present system will remain.

Money is now the quintessence of Capital, or " Capital par
excellence, ^ as Lassalle called it. The manufacturer or mer-
chant cannot make a move without Money. They may have
their warehouses tilled with merchandise, but they cannot pay
their drafts with them. Yet many, even men of the acutest
intellect, do not sufficiently appreciate the important function
which Money performs in our present social system.

Thus John Ruskin compares people with partiality for mon-
ey to children who would tear furniture to pieces and light
each other for brassheaded nails.

And an economist and logician like John S. Mill speaks of
Money as "only (!) a contrivance for saving time and labor."

Very naive, indeed! As if that were not enough! lie might
just as well dispose of railroads by remarking: " Bah! they
are only contrivances for saving time and labor."

Mone}' is precisely so precious, because it, under the indus-
trial system which we have now, is the greatest of all labor-
saving instruments. People are separated by their interests,
by a multiplicity of interests. Money brings them together;
is, as it is termed, a medium of exchange between them. That is
the vital function of Money. That medium of exchange is the
best which brings people together in the easiest and quickest
way; and that is just what Money does better than any other
commodity. Just as a railroad is a more efficient contrivance
than a stage-coach, and this again than a lumber-wagon, so
Gold and Silver are better media of exchange than wheat or


tobacco or oxen or any other commodity that has been tried.
Money was invented, as any other hibor-saving instrument has
been invented : to save time and labor; to escape the deadlock
of Barter.

Cut what is it that makes a railroad at all useful? The fact,
that men are separated in space. Imagine, however, that dis-
tance were annihilated, then there would certainly be no earth-
ly use for a railroad.

In the same manner, whenever men's interest cease to be
adverse; whenever these interests become identical, as they
will become under our Commonwealth by perfect association,
then evidently, the business of Money will begone. Gold and
Silver will then become absolutely worthless as Alone}-, as far
as the internal affairs ol Society are concerned — they will have,
of course, to be used as Money in all intercourse with other
Nations who have not yet embraced Socialism. Then John
Ruskin may assert, that they are not worth much more than
brassheaded nails — but not till then.

How will Exchange then be carried on? By Account, fa-
cilitated by some such contrivance as labor-checks. The cur-
rent of development is running in that direction : first we have
Barter, then Money, and even now Account is more and more
supplanting the latter, the more and more closely we are be-
coming associated. When in the Cooperative Commonwealth
Money has been superannuated we shall have nothing but
checks, notes, tickets — whatever you will call them — issued
by authority.

*• Ah ! So you Socialists are half-Greenbackers."

You are mistaken, sir ! It would be more correct to saj r ,
that Greenbackers are /ia7/-Socialists; and because they are
only that '■•half" we maintain they are wholly wrong, even
on the money-question. We have already seen that on the
broader question of social development they are absolute re-
actionists ; that they have no fault to find with individual own-
ership of the i istruinents of labor, but war against its inevit-
able natural development.

By the way, there is really something curious about this
greenback movement in our country. How shall we account


for it? May not the reason for this abnormal phenomenon be
sought in the fact that the u Almighty Dollar 1 ' is peculiarly
the American fetish?

But to return to the distinction between Socialists and the
consistent Greenbackers : the flat-men. The latter propose,
that the State shall issue its notes, tender them to its creditors
and give them to the People saying: "Take this! With this
dollar-note you can go anywhere within my jurisdiction and
buy one dollar's worth of goods with it."

The great trouble, however, is that the State of these fiat-
men is the present State. They want to abolish Money — that
is the precious metals as Money — and yet to retain the present
system of production, which is just as irrational as a scheme
Mould be to abolish the Pope and still to preserve the Catho-
lic church. For what does an assertion like the above by the
present State amount to? Tt is a promise, without any possi-
ble performance, for the simple reason that this State has ab-
solutely no title to the goods which it thus disposes of. These
belong, by its own sanction and concession, to individual citi-

Now note how much more logical the Socialist position is. We
claim that the state shall first take possession of and own the
"warehouses and the wares, and thereafter issue its notes.
Then, and not till then, the State will be so conditioned, that
it can perform what it promises. For then it can say: "Go
into any of my warehouses, and I will sell } r ou a dollar's worth
of my goods for this dollar note of mine.'"

The distinction on the monej'-question then is. not alone that
Greenbackers arc but half-Socialists but that it is ihflatter part,
of the Socialist program which they have appropriated ; they
have put the cart before the horse.

It will further he seen from this, that we differ from the
Greenbackers. anil agree with Political Economists in holding,
that "money is the tool we use for effecting exchange by the
help ot two half-exchanges of commodity for commodity:' 1
that Money, therefore, is a commodity, and could not be Money,
if it were not a commodity, and that this commodity, like all
other wares, derives its Value, partly from its scarcity.


but mainly from the labor crystalized in it ; and that our pres-
ent paper-money is but a representative of Money. *

But we agree with the Greenbackers in holding that Money
is destined to be " superannuated."' if we may use the term.
as payment in kind has long since been, and that the Credit of
tbe Nation will take its place.

We shall here make a digression to state definitely our po-
sition in regard to compensation to the dispossessed owners
of property, which we left somewhat unsettled in the last

We suggested there that, if the final change were aceom-
plished by force, the State would possibly expropriate our men
of wealth without any compensation whatever. Their existing
rights are such whi> h the law gives and what the lawgi es lair can
take cm-ay. That would be done without any compunction of
conscience, seeing that much of that wealth is obtained by
questionable methods, and very much of it by tlu trickery < t
buying and selling, which never can create v . U3. and. indeed,
ought net to furnish the manipulator mere subsist nee. But as
a matter of policy the State may see fit to give the proprietors
a fair compensation for that property which Society took
under its control. But there are two important w " huts"' to

They will not receive any interest on the sums allowed them.
When all interest has ceased to be legitimate throughout So-
ciety, Society itself will hardly charge itself with that burden.

They will not be paid in Money, hut in goods, in articles of
enjoyment, furnished in annuities to those whose claim is suf-
ficiently large.

Suppose we owe Vanderbilt a sum equal to one hundred
million of Dollars. We pay him a million a year for a hundred
years, and cancel the debt. Vanderbilt could then take his
one million in labor-checks, or whatever products -he chose,
and ninety-nine millions in non-interest bearing U. S. eeitifi-
cates of indebtedness, and use them in Europe or elsewhere

* We may here remark, that we also, with Political Econo-
mist*, consider our fractional currency, not Money at all. but
mere counters, tokens; just what our labor-checks will be.


just as he pleased. We should say that this would be acting
very generously with him, when we remember — what it will
not do any harm onee more to call attention to. — that Society
never yet has acted in a like spirit of social justice towards the
working classes, whenever they suffered injury, and grievous
injury, by new machinery and new inventions.

Socialists of old used to insist upon the abolition of the Right
of Inheritance and Bequest. Now we can see, that there ab-
solutely will be no need for that. And it is well. For if that
which I gain by my own labor is rightfully my property — and
the Cooperative Commonwealth will, as we have seen, exact-
ly sanction that claim — it will be decidedly inexpedient in that
Commonwealth to destroy any of the essential qualities of
propertyship ; and 1 can hardly call that my property, which
I may not give to whom I please after my death. Further, to
deny me that right is undeniable to lessen, by so much, my in-
centives to effort.

There will be no need to do away with that right, for when
property can no longer increase from interest, and tleecings;
when it no more confers power on its possessor, then Private
wealth will become harmless.

Take even a Rothschild. Suppose him compensated in full
for all he is " worth." — How abominable this phrase is! so
very significant of our age, to call a man whose body and soul
may not be worth a farthing to Society •* worth " millions of
dollars — well, he will be paid in bread and meat and luxuries
and wine and theatre-tickets. Let him enjoy these things.
Let him till himself to repletion! Let him give away and
squander the rest! Do not be afraid, that the State will be
burdened for many generations with these charges; his very
next heirs will see to it, that it will not. These immense ac-
cumulations will not last so very long, when they cease to be

But our present laws of inheritance may very likely expe-
rience great modifications. It, certainly, is absurd, that a sec-
ond cousin ot mine who does not know himself related to me,
until there is something to be gained by it, should have any


claim to my property after my death. But that is a matter
foreign to our purpose.

'• But. to return to the money question, how will you dis-
pense with the other function which Money now performs :
that of measuring values?"

This function of Money as a Measurer of Values is really
hut an incidental one, while that of acting as a Medium of Ex-
change is its principal and true function. There are abundant
reasons why the precious metals should be the media of ex-
change, as long as we need any, bat ahsolutely no reason can
be given for either gold or silver being a better measurer of
values than any other commodity. They have, in fact, always
pei formed that function poorly; gold and silver have fluctua-
ted nearly as much as most of the wares whose values they
had to measure.

AVe saw in the first chapter, that it is really the amount of
labor, crystalized in an article, which determines its value;
that it is labor which determines the k * level " value of even
gold and silver; that is, the value round which their market
price vibrates. Why. then, would not a definite amount of
labor be a far more appropriate, constant and convenient meas-
ure? The change would have the great advantage of enabling
the worker to know for certain what returns he receives fur
his work, lie does not know it now. for Money obscures the
transactions of all buying and selling; it serves as a mask,
which this change will tear oft. Instead of saj ing. that a coat is
worth so many ••dollars," we shall in the New Commonwealth
discard all mystery and call it worth so much work. We, there-
fore, apprehend, that, just as one of our greenbacks promises to
pay one dollar on demand, these labor-clucks of which we
spoUe will promise to pay on demand anything of the value
of, say, one day's labor or fractional part thereof.

"Well, but a day's labor by one person, and a day's la-
bor by another are, certainly, very different things. To talk
of a day's labor as a measure is about as definite as the boy's
comparison : * long as a string; ' is it not?"

Yes, but it would make some difference, if the boy said:
" long as this string" and showed it to you, without allowing


yon to measure it exactly. The unit: " a day's work " will
ni an the simplest work of average ell '.iency of a normal work-
ing day. We would here recall to our readers what was said
o i Value in the first chapter. It was there stated, among 1 oth-
er things, that all skilled and professional work is nothing hut
multiplied common, or unskilled, work. We once more cite the
words of Iticardo: "The estimation of different qualities of
Labor com^s soon to be adjusted in the market with sufficient
precision for all practical purposes." While therefore we
grant that ''a day's labor," as a unit of value, has not the sci-
entific precision of a foot-rule as a unit of length, we claim,
that it is well fitted to supplant the dollar-unit. When five
days' labor is demanded for a coat, it will not be at all difficult
for the buyer to compare that with the amount of common
work, contained in his own day's labor.

The distinguishing economic traits of the New Order, con-
sidered so far in this chapter, were of a negative character:
they consisted in the elimination of features that we now every-
where meet with; yet this change alone would make it a dif-
ferent world from ours. In passing over to the positive char-
acteristics of the Cooperative Commonwealth we should keep
in mind that it is not an imaginary picture drawn on a blank
tablet, but that it will bear the same relation to the Established
Order that the full-blown flower bears to the green bud. This
relationship, indeed, will make us feel quite at ho n . if we in
imagination take a bird's-eye view of its economic workings,
though we should find ourselves irretrievably lost in its labyr-
inths, if we attempted to tread our way through its details, For
its grand industrial processes will be carried on pretty much as
they now are, or might be, conducted iu some of our best man-
aged manufacturing or retail-selling establishments. Or it
might perhaps mit our purpose better if we take the present
State-management of our postal affairs as an illustration, and
compare that with Socialist management of all our industries.

The Postoitiee Department was self-sustaining, before the
two-cent rate was intro luced, and will beyond doubt be so
again iu a short time. That is to say, its expenditures iu sal-


aries for all in its service, and in paying for transportation of
the mails and printing of stamps equaled, at the end of the
fiscal year, its receipts. That is the summit of success, for to
have a surplus, to make any "profit," is contrary to the end
for which it is instituted.

Let us now see how this most important matter will stand
in our Commonwealth. Its receipts, — not the '• revenues " of
which we spoke a few pages back but — its gross Receipts, the
National Income, will consist of the total results of the pro-
ductive labor performed in a given year; — by "-productive la-
bor" is of course not meant merely agricultural and manu-
facturing labor, but also the labor of transporting and hand-
ling the goods, of writing books; every kind of labor, in short,
that creates values-in-exchange. Its Expenditures-Outgoings—
will consist of these very receipts Zessall buildings and machinery,
constructed during the year, and all that is reserved as addi-
tion to its Capital. As the products were received or as services
were rendered, labor-checks will have been issued, (or perhaps
such money as we use now, which then, however, will have no
other function than the checks : that of being tickets, tokens.)
each check will represent so and so many normal days of com-
mon labor, and there will during each fiscal year have been
exactly as many checks issued as will correspond to the days
of labor, productive or unproductive, actually performed.

The outgoings will be distributed at the various depots or
bazaars of the Commonwealth to the holders of these checks,
*• sold" there, in other words. These check-holders may be
those to whom they were originally issued, or strangers visit-
ing the country or citizens who have parted with something
valuable for them. These bazaars will be one -price establish-
ments. The wares will have their value, real, •• natural " val-
ue, asKicardo termed it, which is— as we saw in Chapter 7, —
the amount of human labor embodied iu them; that deter-
mines their value now. has always done it, and will de-
termine it under the New Order. The wares will be sold for
a price equal to that value, with possibly a percentage added.

For it will be noted that the ehecks issued represent and eall
for more davs labor than arc contained in the products, des-


tined for distribution. There are, first, the checks issued to citizens who have performed unproductive labor: phys-
icians, judges, teachers, clerks, domestic helpers &c. and, next,

checks for ihe labor contained in what is set aside as Capital.
There are thus a good many legitimate claims which must be
extraordinarily provided for. The Commonwealth has already
a fund on which it can draw considerably for these purposes:
its rent-fund. In all probabilit3 r , however, an impost will, in
addition, have to be laid on the sales; that is, goods represent-
ing 20 days of Labor will be sold for checks, representing, say,
21 days of labor. This, though really plain, may seem intri-
cate to many, but if the social transactions of to-day were sim-
ilarly analyzed, they would appear far more complex.

But it is of the highest importance that the Commonwealth
shall dispose of all the products it thus offers f»r distribution,
or else there will be labor-checks outstanding which it has no
means of satisfying. Somebody might bring forward some
such objection as this :

"I understood you to say that the prices will be rigidly fixed.
But what if Demand and Supply should play you tricks'? Sup-
pose a fabric goes out of fashion, so that your citizens will
not buy it at all. or at all events refuse to pay the price that
is put upon it. Is your Commonwealth going to force it down
the throats of consumers? You Socialists do not propose to
abolish a law of Nature, do you? *'

This is our answer : We admit that Demand and Supply is
a natural law; that is, that if consumption and production
does not fit together throughout the entire extent of both, mis-
chief will be the consequence, at all times, and Socialists are
not such fools as to suppose, that they can decree away any
natural law or force. We do, however, suppose, that we may
Lu time become as much master of the force implied in Demand
and Supply, as we already are of other natural forces. We
have not decreed away the laws of steam, and yet we make
now the steam propel our ships across the ocean and carry
our burdens across the continent. We can change or remove
entirely the conditions under which those natural forces act,
ami, thus, without abolishing any law whatever, compel them



to act in a more beneficent manner; or to become latent, that
is, to suspend their effects altogether.

Indeed, we see almost every day how powerful private indi-
viduals under our present system do control Supply tor their
own sinister purposes. The combinations ot railroad com-
panies between each other or among themselves and oil-com-
panies of which we spoke in Chapter such interferences
with a natural force which, if it only were permitted to act
spontaneously, would act most beneficently, and as to Demand,
it may be worth while to note that the freaks of fashion oriin-
nate usually in the private cupidity of manufacturers and even
in that of insignificant tailors and milliners.

The Commonwealth will use its vast power over the con-
ditions of Demand and Supply to establish and preserve econ-
omic equilibrium. It undoubtedly can by proper foresight and
abuuda nt statistics accurately adjust the supply of all prod-
ucts to the demand for them; make Supply and Demand bal-
ance each other. This function of Statistician will be one of
the most important within its sphere, and the principal way
in which it will control the workers in their industrial pur-
feuits. We think the Commonwealth will thereby be quite suc-
cessful in keeping prices steady, and in making the chance for
Demand and Supply to play any '* tricks " extremely small.
We think so, because we see. with what accuracy the mana-
ger of a large hotel hits upon the proper quantities of the innu-
merable articles of food, required by his guests.

But Demand and Supply will, as a matter of course, when
ever it gets the chance, make the prices vibrate above and be-
low the real value. Thus, should the supply anywhere be ex-
cessive, either from miscalculation or from the whim of fash-
ion — which by the way, we may rest assured will be pretty ef-
fectually curbed by Public Opinion in a society like the Co-
operative Commonwealth — then the goods may have to he sac-
rificed, and the prices correspondingly lowered. The Com-
monwealth may have to stand the loss, as the universal insurer,
which it will be abundantly able to do. ShouLI, on the other
ha id. the supply be deficient, as must, always be the case with
a iimitcd number of products (particular kinds of wine, for


instance.) in such case the Commonwealth w ill raise tlv* pT ice
co correspond to the demand and be to that extent a gainer.
Very likely this gain and loss will generally balance each other.

Of course all export and import will be under collective con-
trol. Apart of its receipts, so much as it judges will not be need-
ed for home-consumption, the Commonwealth will exchange
for such foieign products as there will be a home-demand for,
and which it cannot itself produce so profitably or success-
fully, whether it be on account of climate or other causes.
The lines of our commerce will therefore very likely come to
run from North to South rather than from East to West.

That is an arrangement that everybody will be satisfied with,
a consummation which will change the discord which now ob-
tains in regard to a tariff into complete harmony. It will sat-
isfy those who now sincerely advocate a policy of protection.
We cannot agree with Henry George when he cannot see any-
thing but " fallacies v and t% absurdities " in the protection-
theory. This theory is so much in harmony with the present
tendency of the State in the direction of Socialism, that we can-
notbnt sympathize with it But the trouble is that our **protec-
tive v tariffs do not protect those who need protection, but protect
simply the profit-rate of employers; the trouble is. that our
tariffs are adopted and m untained in hypocrisy, again hypocrisy
and nothing but HYPOCRISY.

There is, on the other hand, this sound element in the free-
trade theory that it is foolish for this country to produce here
what we can get much more profitably and better from for-
eign countries. But those who agitate so violently for it. ev-
idently, do it because a free-trade policy would put money in-
to their pockets. As long as one set of individuals see profit
in one policy and another set in another, the tariff can but he
a shuttlecock, tossed back and forth by conflicting interests.
To frame a tariff law that will pacify all interests is about as
ingenious an idea as to pray to Go 1 for a mild winter without

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Online LibraryLaurence GronlundThe coöperative commonwealth in its outlines. An exposition of modern socialism → online text (page 12 of 23)