Laurence Gronlund.

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

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prejudice to the coal-dealers.

Now we come to one of the rao3t important differences be-
tween the condition of the workers under the New Order and


their condition under a system of private enterprise. Now
the wages of the workers — and also wages of letter carriers —
are determined, as we have seen, in the last place by what it
costs to live and raise a family; in the Commonwealth, as our
definition shows, the workers will be rewarded according to
remits, whether mechanics or chiefs of industry or transporters
or salesmen. The productive workers will each receive for every
dny's common labor a check, entitling him to one day's com-
mon labor in return — less his share of the impost, (his pre-
mium, it may be called, which he pays to the National Insur-
ance Company, and his part of the public charges.) Those
engaged in unproductive vocations will receive similar sal-
aries out of the rent or impost-fund. They all will thus re-
ceive the full value of their labors, and whenever they buy
anything, they will simply pay wages and salaries, and no

' % \'es, it is easy to say, that every one, whether he be teacher
or physician or chief of industry or artisan or hodcarrier will re-
ceive a day's labor lor a day's labor, by which I understand you
to mean a day of common labor for a day of common labor. But
ho wis such a comparison of common labor (of a day of the hod-
carrier's labor for instance) to be made with skilled labor or
professional labor with perfect justice to all? And who are the
persons who are to be intrusted with such a delicate and dic-
tatorial function? You Socialists seem to treat this important
matter with too great flippancy. Such a gradation of labor is,
in fact, entirely visionary, and that is enough to relegate your
Cooperative Commonwealth into the realm of Utopia."

Hold on, sir! The New Order will, by no means, hinge up-
on this matter. It will be realized, because Nature ordains it,
because at a certain point in time, Society willhaveto realize ft,
or decay.

And when we s'lall have arrived at that crisis, we hope, that
the leaders of the Revolution will not be such nsiouaries as
to commence by trying to do perfect j ustice to any body. They
will know better, than to assume to themselves the attributes
of gods. They will, we hope, be practical men who simp-
ly try to be as just as they can be, consistently with the best


interests of the whole. And we think, that they can not bct-
ter show their practical co n non sense, than by adopting the
gradation already made, that is, by retaining for an unlimited
period the ratio of wages which, at the time; of the change,
will obtain in the various branches of manual work and for
the different qualities of workmen. This ratio will furnish
them a sufficiently accurate " gradation of labor."

To go a little into details: Suppose they go to work and
establish, first of all. a normal day, say. of eight hours, and
pay the workers twice the wages which eaeh one has been
receiving, on an average, for the ten years im nediately pre-
ceeding. We have no d mbt, that the wages can be raised and
the working day shortened thit much with perfect safety, con-
sidering the enor n rus advantages of Cooperative Industry,
which we dwelt up >n in th j prcee ling chapter. Anyway, a
few months experience will teach them, whether they have
raised the wages too much, or not high enough.

An:i please bear in mind that the members of each branch
of industry and every calling will settle that matter of remu-
neration for themselves. They will be entitled as a body to the
proceeds of all the lab >rthey haveemb >die 1 i i the product they
create, and that they distribute a nong thems >lves just as they
please — subject to appeal to the Commonwealth as Arbitrator.
Dr. Green, the President of the Western Union, is reported to
have remarked in his evidence before a Senate-Committee:
" 1 shall never agree that the operators should have, or believe
they had, th; power of fixing their own salaries." They
nevertheless will have that power sometime, doctor, as sure as
the world moves!

But in regard to the work of the chiefs of industry and pro-
fessionals they, undoubtedly, will institute a new "gradation of
labor." There will b » no more $5 1,0 ) ) or $25,009 or even 810.
00J salaries paid. These fancy salaries arc now possible, and
now considered proper, only, because large fortunes can at
present be made in what is known as u business." Wheii**bus-
iness" is done away with; then their services will be compared
with manual work, as they ought to be, and be paid for accor-


That constitutes one of the points, in which our postal sys-
tem is not yet socialistic. In the Cooperative Commonwealth,
the Postmaster General will not receive $10,093 while letter
carriers must be satisfied with $800.

Of course, in instituting the new k * gradation " in the labors of
the teacher, the doctor, they will make allowance for the many
years <>f study these men have needed to properly quality
themselves, lint just i.i the same way the watchmaker's la-
bor will be. and is, rated above that of thehodcarrier, because
his years of apprenticeship must be compensated for. It means
simply, that both professional and skilled labor is multiplied
common labor.

Do not here object, that if the rewards of captains of in-
dustries and of the professions are thus reduced to a level with
manual labor, men of genius and of natural gifts will then
part with the management of affairs and with the professions.

They will not, unless you also can show, that they, also,
will leave the world on that account.

Tney will find their ulterior reward in the zest of intellectu-
al activity, the joys of creative genius, the honor of directing
affairs and the social distinction they will enjoy.

Do not object, either, that such a compensation runs counter
to the Socialist principle, that everyone is entitled to the full
proceeds of his own labor; that, therefore, a manager who by
his skill causes a factory to earn $100,000 may claim that
amotint as his reward.

A man is entitled to the full proceeds of his labor — againsc
any other individual, but not against Society. Society is not
bound to reward a man either in proportion to his services,
nor yet of his wants, but according to expediency; according
to the behests of her own welfare. Man's work is not a quid
pro quo but a trust. The other construction would lead to the
absurdity, that no existing fortunes could give any idea of the
monstrous accumulation of riches of the heirs of a Kepler or
a Newton, or still more of a Robert Fulton, a Watts or a Morse,
if these men could have claimed all the results of their inven-

It will thus be seen, that the labors of those invested with


the " delicate" function of apportioning the rewards— who
these persons are likely to be we shall consider in the eighth
chapter — will not be so very herculean, for the first generation.
at least; nor need these persons be at all " dictatorial." We
do not call our Congress " dictatorial," when it fixes the sal-
aries of the President or of Judges.

This will be the glorious achievement of the Cooperative
Commonwealth : that the whole proceeds of Labor will be dis-
tributed, exclusively, among those who do the labor. But
what needs to be impressed upon Socialist workmen especial-
ly, is : that common prudence should make them turn the cold
shoulder to the idea of ideally just wages, and on the other
hand, make them satisfied with the present ratio of wages—
at all events till a more perfect, and at the same time expedi-
ent gradation of labor has been perfected.

When the Cooperative Commonwealth has worked for a
con pie of generations; when the student and the watchmaker
are supported by the State during their years of study and
apprenticeship and furnished all appliances requisite to their
training, then another rule may obtain. Then, perhaps, as
some Socialists now contend, one hour of the teacher's work
and one hour of the hodcarrier's work will be paid for alike—
though it must be observed, that/, i. in difficulty the teacher's
work does not at all resemble the work of the hod-airier —
but to speculate upon that in our generation can properly be
termed "Utopian."

Tt is worth while for workingmen to study the ease of the
tailor association, founded by Louis Blanc at Clichy in 1848,
which had to give up equal pay.

We now. lastly, come to the greatest economic achievement
of the Coining Commonwealth. Our definition said, that its
citizens wotdd be. consciously and avowedly, public function-
aries. That, alone, is an object worth striving for. worth dy-
ing for.

When reformers call our workingmen " white slaves'" and
speak of (heir condition as '• slavery," many well-meaning por-
tions deem these terms extravagant and attribute them to dein-


agogism. Now, in all soberness, are they extravagant?

We shall entirely omit any reference to extreme ease? of
oppresssion on the part of employer? towards their employees,
and confine ourselves to what all wage-workers must submit
to — whether they be mechanics, clerks or telegraph-operators.
And let ns remark that here, as wherever we have spoken of
"• wage- workers,"" we have excluded and do exclude domestic
servants of every sort. We have already seen that these
workers are obliged to go into the general market with their
labor, which is their ware, and there sell it for a price, vibra-
ting now a little above, now a little below, what is necessary to
their subsistence.

Now, what does this " selling their labor" amount to?

We know a man who, though he is far from being a Robert
Owen, may very well in regard to sincerity, kindness and ha-
tred of all shams be compared to that philanthropist. He was
a prominent Abolitionist, but is not particularly averse to the
present industrial system, which, indeed, has enabled him to
gather in quite a respectable fortune by the simple process of
buying and selling. We think he is a good sample of the best
kind of employers. To his clerks he is fond of remarking:
'•Your time is mine, you know' 1 and he puts this theory into prac-
tice to its fullest extent. If any one should suggest to him that
he, the model of an employer, was a — slaveholder, ( !) he
would be very much surprised.

Yet what does this phrase imply? "Your time is mine"
means ; ' your body is mine, your actions are mine for so many
hours out of the twenty four. You must do nothing, say noth-
ing, go nowhere as you please but as / please. / want you to
do this thing now,or," of course it is understood. " I discharge
you." His clerks are subject to his indivi lual. irresponsible will ;
their preferences are not so much as ihought of.

What in the name of reason is that but slavery? Was not
" your time is mine " the ver}' essence, the definition of negro-
slavery? True, a master could sell his slave; but there cer-
tainly were many masters who did not dream of ever selling
their negroes; were these therefore less slaves? True, a mas-
ter could whip his slave ; but our employer can discharge his


clerks wheneverit takes his fancy, which probably would have
worse consequences for the clerks than a whipping would.
The fact is. these were mere accessories. Slavery is not yet
abolished. The very principle, subjection, which ruled under
ancient slavery, under serfage, and negro slavery, rules yet
under the wage-system. That makes the system essentially
immoral ; it demoralizes the employer as well as the em-

And this relation becomes absolutely unbearable, if. as very
often is the case, the employee has more knowledge, more
brains, a fuller head, in short, than his employer — for it has
rightly been said that all that is necessary to success in busi-
ness is k4 great concentration, continuous application and an
absurdly exaggerated idea of one's own importance'''' — it z's unbear-
able, when the employee feels that in a social system where
position depended upon merit he would be the one in authority.

There is no halting place between Subjection and Inter-de-
pendence. Independence cannot be had for all. The em-
ployer we referred to boasts of being independent. The trouble
is he is too independent : one man cannot be independent, with-
out making others dependent on him. The wage-system is
only Subjection in a milder form, perhaps; another instance
of the chronic hypocrisy of our age. That is shown very well
by the constant talk about the relation of the wage-workers
being one of contract. "Well ! if it is, it is a very one-sided
contract, one where the employee has but to say w * Amen."
By selling his labor the wage-worker virtually sells himself.

The Cooperative Commonwealth will abolish slavery by the
roots by raising all private employments to the dignity of pub-
lic functions. This change, while it will not essentially alter
the existing mode of exercising them, will yet alone transform
their general spirit, for it will forever, first, do away with De-
pendence of one individual upon another; next, take away
from those in authority the irresponsible power of Discharge.
and. lastly, relieve the worker from the necessity of going in-
to the market and selling himself as a ware.

Do not, however, suppose, that there will be no subordina-
tion under the new order of things. Subordination is an ab-


solute essential of Cooperation; indeed, Cooperation is Disci-

Do not suppose, either, that Demand and Supply will cease
altogether to have an influence on Lahor. As a natural force,
it will exert itself whenever it gets a chance, but the com-
ing Commonwealth will see to it that, whenever it docs act. it
acts beneficently. We shall see here in what manner.

It is as we have stated, for the Commonwealth to determine,
in its character of Statistician, how much of a given product
shall be produced the coming year or season. That is pre-
emiii < j'**ly its sphere, however much the workers of the differ-
ent branches will otherwise be left to manage their own affairs.
Mippose in a given industry production will have to be narrow-
ed down to one half the usual quantum. It follows, that in
such case the workmen can only work half the usual time and
that there will only be one half the usual proceeds to be dis-
tributed among them.

What must be the result? Evidently the men's remunera-
tion will have to be reduced one half, or a corresponding num-
ber of workers will have to pass over to some other employment
— for the consequences of such a disorder, which may he per-
manent and is not the result of either miscalculation or misfor-
tune, will, certainly, not be borne by Society at large: and the
Commonwealth, while it guarantees suitable employment, can
certainly not guarantee a particular employment, to every-

A change of occupation, however, will in that Commonwealth
be tolerably easy for the worker. On account of the high gnide
of general education, and because all will have passed through
a thorough apprenticeship in general mechanics. Certain crit-
ics of Socialism object that no person under it will have any
effective choice in regard to employment. The above shows
how little foundation there is for such a criticism. P>ut we
should like to know how much *- effective choice" thev:ist ma-
jority of men now have in regard to employment or wages, or
place of abode or anything else.

Another critic once remarked to the writer in regard to the
Commonwealth absorbing all social activities : " What a tyr-


anny, to forbid a Meissonier to paint a little bit of canvass and
sell it for §100.000. if anyone would buy it?" Why, it would
be tyranny to forbid it. And we have no reason to think it
will be forbidden. We therefore also said that there might
be citizens who would acquire labor-checks by parting with
something valuable to other citizens, But, really, we do not
suppose there will be any citizen in The Cooperative Common-
wealth, when some time has elapsed, who has got $100,000 to
squander on a bit of canvass, and none should deplore it, for
if that fact would deprive the Commonwealth of Meissonier »,
it surely will not rob it of Raphaels or Michael Angelos. It is
just one of the curses of this age that it has out of artists made
lackeys of the rich. Phidias, Raphael, Michael Angelo, min-
istered to the People.

We now shall consider how it is possible to have due subor-
dination in a State where all dependence of one individual
upon another is destroyed. The political expression of Inter-
dependence is — Democracy.



" ' Behold ! Now I, too, have my twenty-thousandth part of
a Talker in our National Palaver/ — What a notion of Lib-
erty!" — Carlyle.

" I believe that party, instead of being a machinery neces-
sary to the existence of free government, is its most danger-
ous foe, and that in order to get anything which really do-
serves the name of republican government, we must destroy
party altogether." — A True Republic by Albert SUckney.

" Nay, m ;st we not rather confess, that that unlovely crea-
ture, the habitual office-seeker, is as natural a product of our
political and social conditions as the scrub-oak is of the soil,
when it has been laid waste by the removal of the primeval
forest?" — Richard Grant White, N. A. Review, July 1882.

At this stage, certainly — and probably as soon as the idea of
Collective Control of all the affairs of the Nation was broached
— many an inquirer exclaims with supreme disgust:

u So you actually propose to increase the spoils of office a
hundred, yea a thousandfold ! What a bedlam you would make
of these United States at election times ! ! ! And then noth-
ing short of a revolution would ever suffice to dislodge the
party in possession of the government, however much it
may have mismanaged public affairs. Why, this is enough to
prove the Utopian nature of your scheme!"


Wait a moment, friends. We have so far only shown you
the front-view of our Common wealth, its economic side. Your
objections would be unanswerable and your disgust in order,
if the Socialist Regime implied the retention of our present
political machinery.

We insist on apolitical change hand in hand with the econ-
omic change. We insist on new machinery for the new mo-
tive power; on new bottles for the new wine. Our political
program is just as vital a part of our prospective Common-
wealth as our economic program is. The political machinery
of our country would be most clumsy and unsuitable to the
workings of the New Order. It would of necessity have to
be discarded for something more suitable, just as the j'oung
man has to discard the clothes of his boyhood which he has

This frank avowal will, undoubtedly, hurt more prejudices,
than even our economic ideas did.

"What! do you. Socialists, dare to think of laying your im-
pious hands on this glorious Constitution of ours? What a
sacrilege! "

Softly! Listen to the following:

" The idea that some men now hold, that this Constitution
is the one perfect piece of political machinery that the world
has ever seen, is a weak growth of later years. The men of
1787 knew better. No one of them thought it the best form of
government that could be devised. Tt was the only form on
which they could then agree. They began an experiment —
Ave have its results. Is it possible, that from those results we
can learn nothing? And are we forever to use the machinery
of a past age. throwing away all the teachings of later years? "

Ho who wrote those sentences is no Socialist. He is an
American to the manor born, and a matter-of-fact lawyer.
His name is Albert Stickney, author of •• A True Republic,"
published by the Harpers. His 4th and Gth Chapters ought
to be read by every inquirer as an introduction to the politi-
cal ideas of Socialists. The fact of Stickney being a lawyer
makes him exceedingly keen in exposing the detects in our
political machinery, while his practical commonseusc, in


which he shows himself a typical American, renders him one
of the hest advocates we couM have. As Ricardo prepared
the way for our analysis of our present economic relations, and
Spencer tor constructive Socialism, so Stiekney performs
that service for us with our countrymen in regard to the po-
etical changes which we contemplate.

In the two chapters we have called attention to he discuss-
es first, with a wealth ot illustration, the evils and abuses of
party-rule as we have it here. If that were all, he would not
have done anything extraordinary. Most people admit these
evils. But most men, also, think them mere accidents of the
time and that they are far outweighed by the good results
"whch party brings. Stickney's merit consists in showing,
that parties — by which term must always be understood perma-
nent parties — have no good results at all, and that it is our
frame of government which is responsible for those evi/s.

He says very pointedly:

u When we said (as we did in effect in our Constitution.) all
public servants shall depend for keeping their offices, not on
whether they do their work well or ill, but on carrying the next
election, then, instead of giving them each a separate interest
to do his own work well, we gave them all one common in-
terest to carry the next election. We made it certain, that they
would combine and form parties, for the purpose of carrying

"But there was another point. The knowledge which all
men had, that at the end of a fixed time there would be a
large number of vacancies, made it certain, that other men
who were not in office would combine for the purpose of get-
ting out the men who were in office, and getting in them-
selves. The term-system was certain, then, to create two
great parties for the purpose of carrying elections. The men
who were in formed a party to keep office. The men who were
out formed a party to get office.

••Whether they wished it or not, our public servants were
driven by this point in our system of government to make
this work of carrying elections their regular profession: In
that profession they gained great skill. In that work they


were sure to have more skill than the ordinary citizens who
gave their time and thought to other things. The profession-
al n list always beat the amateur. * * * The natural and cer-
tain result was that party leaders, for party purposes, con-
trolled the elections of public servants, and the action of pub-
lic .servants after they were elected."

lint enough of quotation. Stiekney comes to the conclusion
that the term-system will have to be abolished; but the term
system is the very corner-stone of our "Constitution."

That is certainly a v( 1 y vigorous way of questioning that
instrument — especially for an American lawyer.

We shall have to be broader i 1 1 our criticism than Stiekney
(though we can hardly be said to be more radical,) for the
objective points at which he and we aim are rather different.
He wants a machinery which shall insure good work in the
affairs with which government is now charged. We want a
machineiy lit to transact all the affairs of the Nation.

Tlie New Order cannot use a machinery which allows the retim-
ing party, to be master of the situat on.

Now the successful party appoints the people's rulers, and
all public affairs are conducted with a, view to party interests.

For as Stiekney remarks :

'"The people on the day of election have at most the
choice between two men or sets of men; and with the point
who these two sets of 1113:1 are to b;3 the people at large
have little or nothing to d::>. It may be said, that the
people can have something to do with the selection of the
candidates However that may be, it is the fact, that they do
not, and we are here considering the way our system really works."

No one will deny that all our elective officers, from head to
font, are elected, not by the people, but by the caucus of the
party which happens to be successful. And the caucusor con-
vention is simply an irresponsible gathering of men whom sel-
fish interests draw and bind together. Listen to the **N. Y.
Tribune, " now a good party-organ :

kk The Republican vote i:i this city (New York) two years

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Online LibraryLaurence GronlundThe coöperative commonwealth in its outlines. An exposition of modern socialism → online text (page 13 of 23)