Laurence Gronlund.

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

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ago was 81,730. It is the simple truth to say that not more


than fifty men had anything to do with the actual choioe of
the delegates who went to Saratoga (1SS2) with a pretence
of representing the great body of vot ts."

Next, official action has ever since Thomas Jefferson found-
ed the first opposition party, been directed to the service of
party interests instead of the people's interests. Our officials
nre and must be pliant men ; if not, they are driven from pub*
lie life; these are matters of uotoriety. Evan such an honest
man as Lincoln had to make scandalous appointments. His
Secretary of the Interior declared, that, if he dared, he could
run his department with half his force of cljrks and for half
its cost. Such another would-be-honest president as Hayes
had to pay for electoral votes with the people's offices.

Our institutions, instead of subserving public interests, are
political fo rtresses. "Think what is at stake this fall — a total
of two hundred and thirty places in the county of Oneida /" ex-
claimed a Utica paper during a late election. And yet people
who superciliously call Socialism a Utopia imagine that an act
of Congress can give us civil service reform ! Do they really
believe that figs will grow on thistles?

No, attend for once to the essentials: destroy these parties
which at present are the people's masters ; which, as Stickney
so abundantly proves, in a normal State are unmitigated evils
and these trifles are certain to right themselves. But please
distinguish between combinations of men for the purpose of
carrying measures — which always will exist — and our perma-
nent parties, standing parties as they may be called. In our
party contests men do not battle for measures, they fight for
candidates. "• Our parties do not elect men to put into action
certain principles; they use principles as battle-cries to elect
certain men." Take a glance. /. i. through the socalled ; * po-
litical records" of Harper's Magazine. We find from first to
last, nothing, absolutely nothing, but the names of men and
the offices for which they, respectively, have been nominated
or elected. ** Politics," then, from being the Science of Gov-
ernment has become — Cooperative Office-seeking !

It was wise to form a party as a necessary organ of j resist-
ance to negro-slavery. But when that object was gained, ther


the need of party was gone; from that moment the Republi-
can party became nothing but a faction, stuffed full with

The New Order cannot use a machinery which renders our leg-
iilaiors the people's masters and allows them to conduct public
ajjaifs with a view to private and class interests.

Our history furnishes some signal instances i:i point. The
people have quite frequently demanded the resignation of their

representatives; State legislatures have demanded it of their
senators — instances therefore where there could be no doubt
of the identity of the constituency — and what has been the
a ns wet *?

" You have no business at all to demand my resignation. It
is absolute presumption in you to do so.*'

A perfectly correct answer according to our constitution.
They might with perfect propriety, constitutionally speaking,
have added ; ••You call yourselves Sovereigns, and verily think
yourselves such. Deluded Nobodies that you are! You were
Sovereigns the moment you elected me, hut in doing so, you
abdicated in favor of me. Please wait -till my term is out.
Fill then I am the Sovereign. Then you can once more call
yourselves " Sovereigns " for a moment in order to elect some
other Master over you."

Is not that literally true? — And yet our Government is called
a Democracy !

H'e, with Stickney, propose to put an end to this terw-sys-
tein, but we go further and say that the whole system of m>-
resenlation is unfit for a higher civilization.

Is not < arlyle perfectly right when he sneers at that kind of
" liberty " which consists in having, as a voter has in our coun-
try, a forty-thousandth part of a Talker in our u National Pa-
laver?" And even that Talker, though he is called my repre-
sentative, may not, to that infinitesimal fraction represent me.
That is a nice sort of " representative," against whose election
I voted and perhaDS worked. No matter! by voting at all [
express my willingness to subn it to :i possible or probable ma-
jority against me. But 1 should lune had to submit, if 1 had


\Ot voted at all; so whether I vote against hhn or not at all %
v .hat man is still my •' representative ! "

Very many schemes for doing away with this monstrous fea-
ture have been propounded, preeminently that of the English-
man Hare, which is almost perfect in its way. but which is ab-
solutely impracticable, as long as we have standing parties.

All these schemes, moreover, are in themselves failures, be-
cause they aim at giving theoretical improvement to that which
is fallacious in itself, for that is what representation is.

How can I saj r that what my representative will tomorrow
that I also will ?

t% Nice sovereigns ! " Rousseau said, u whose only function
in government is to obey."

The simple and plain fact is that our boast of " self-govern-
ment " is mere cant ; the " representative " or " parliamentary "
government was not intended to represent the People, but is a
rude device for securing power to our leading classes', that is
why we find so many lawyers — the retainers of our Plutocracy
— in the legislative seats. Hence it is an essentially tempora-
ry expedient.

The New Order will have no use for Presidents and Governors
who, for their term of office, are masters of the situation.

Our President is, even when he rebels against his party,
excedingly powerful for mischief, at all events. But when
loyal to his party he is a veritable king, a dress-coat-king, 'tis
true, but more powerful than any crowned king.

He cannot declare war, but he can create one. He cannot
make treaties, but he can force them on the nation. He can
nullify the laws by his pardon. His will and temper is the
only rule for his veto power, He acts, Congress talks. He
tnis a thousand means at his command to show favors to Con-
gressmen. He is every year for many months the uncontrolled
monarch of the country. In war he is almost absc lute. And
yet our country is called a Bepublic! — But then, it must be ad-
mitted that it was only an accident that made us a republic.

The New Order will know nothing of such an office.

It will know nothing of it because, as Goldwiu Smith said


in an excellent article in the Atlantic Monthly for January
1879, entitled : '' Is Universal Suffrage a Failure? "

* It (the Presidency) is at once the grand prize and the
most powerful stimulant of faction/'

The Presidency is truly under our system '-the grand prize"
that fosters an ambition which no citizen in a republic oiujlii
to entertain and which has ruined the usefulness of so many
of our best men.

The Presidency is the chief " ; spoil " and source of other
spoils. We all remember the frankness of Flanagan in a late
National Convention : "What are we here for if not the spoils?"
When the Cooperative Commonwealth abolishes this chief
spoil with all other spoils, and thus stops their pay, our stand-
ing parties will dissolve for want of cohesion, as standing
armies do. when their pay stops,

But what does this discarding of these prominent features
of our government mean? It means that the only political ma
ehinery fit for the Cooperative Commonwealth is Democracy.

For however hazy the meaning of that word is. nobody can
fairly object if we, temporarily, define " Democracy " as that
form of administration where no one of the public officers is
at any time the master of the situation; where, consequently,
none of the public affairs can at any time be conducted with a view
to private or class interests.

The New Order will, further, discard the system of ap-
pointments from above* which is simply the principal means by
which our ruling classes exercise their power.

It will throw overboard the doctrine of the three "coordinate"
powers; that is, the doctrine that the functions of government
should be distributed among three departments: the legisla-
tive, executive and judicial, wholly iifdependent of, and yet
checking each other.

This doctrine amounts to this, that laws should be enacted
in one spirit, interpreted in another, and executed in a third
spirit, which is preposterous. The theory of click* and bal-
ances is one born of passions, engendered by struggle against
arbitrary power; not one born of philosophical observations.
This fact was entirely misconceived by Montesquieu— that cue


bodied Empiricism — and strangely enough, also overlooked by
our practical forefathers, us noticed by Prof. Goldwin Smith
in the article above mentioned.

The New Order will have no use whatever for a Senate.

It is useless. As John Stuart Mill remarks: "In times of
violent excitement, the only times, when it might proch c«
more good than harm, it is destined to become inoperative."'
Those who object, that the one chamber system has always
been the forerunner of the usurper, seem never to have thought
of the circumstance.. that the usurper has always introduced the
two-chamber system. With the National Senate will go the
doctrine of state-sovereignty, which, though decrepit, is not
yet dead. The doctrine is a relic of our infancy, when we were
small, undeveloped scattered communities such as all civilized
nations have started with. It is worthy of observation, that
dual sovereignty has been the historical development of Great
Britain, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Spain and France, as well
as our country.

The Cooperative Commonwealth will only know of a Nation,
with a big, very big N. Our present state-lines only work mis-
chief. Parts of New Jersey and Delaware belong as much to
Philadelphia as anjr part of Pennsylvania does, and New Jer-
sey, llhode Island and Connecticut are far more intimately
connected with New York city than is Western New York.

"And when you. thus, have succeeded in doing away with
the Term System, the Representative System, the Presidency,
the three Coordinate Powers, the Senate. State Sovereignty and
Appointments from above — in short with our whole Consti-
tution, be good enough to tell us what other constitution
it will please your Cooperative Commonwealth to give us "

An inquirer will very naturally, at this stage, ask some such
question. It would remind us, that we have not yet made our
fundamental position iu regard to polit'cal changes clear.

Constitutions, are not at all things to bi given or taken away at

What is a Constitution?


When we speak of the Constitution of the solar system, we
mean by that term the attraction of the sun which so regulates
the movements of the planets that this movement cannot be
otherwise than what it i«. When we in the same sense— the
proper sense — speak of the Constitution of a country, we do
not mean that piece of paper which is called a " Constitution,"
but, the organic power that makes necessary the institutions
which we find. It is therefore a fundamental mistake to think,
that our country with her written " constitution" occupies a
peculiar position.

Every country has and always had a constitution. A king
with an army at his back is a large part of a constitution. The
motto of Louis XIV: *"&etat e'estmoi" 1 (" I am the State")
was as fully the constitution of France as any constitution she.
or any country, ever had. The peculiarity of modern times con-
sists simply in a piece of paper, simply in the giving written ex-
pression to the organic power. But if such a written *• constitu-
tion" does not correctly respond to this organic power — as
the " constitutions " ot France during the Revolution did not,
and as the "constitution" of the present German Empire
does not — it is not worth the paper it is written on. If it, on
the other hand, does so respond, it is like a swiftly ttying buzz-
saw — dangerous to go too near to.

The short history of our own country, even, bears us out
in this view. Our present "constitution" is a very different one
from what it was in 1850. The point of change was the
period when people prated about "upholding the constitu-
tion." Whenever a "'Constitution" needs being " upheld,"
it is going, or gone. During that period was promulgated
the "DredScot' 1 ' decision, which, undoubtedly, was a cor-
rect "constitutional" decision. Yet it was but an idle breath,
or. if it had any effect, it was to make our people, (so approv-
ingly styled *• a law abiding people,") subvert the very lt con-
stitution,'" that was the sanction of the decision.
What was the matter?

The organic power in the Nation was simply changing.
Mark ! it was the Abolition of Slavery which amended our " con~


rtitution," emphatically not the amendments to the "• constiti*
tution " which abolished Slavery.

Is this Socialist view of the organic law of a country not iai
more philosophic than th« vulgar one, held by onr '' states-
men" or even by such an eminent authority as Judge Story,
who reduces the whole science of government to — a eulogy
of the •'Constitution?"

It remains true, reader ! No army of lawyers, nor of soldiers,
can uphold a ;t constitution," when the centre of gravity of
Society has changed its position.

Socialists, then, have no thought whatever of ■* laying im-
pious hands" on this glorious paper "* constitution " ol ours,
or of u giving " to, or imposing upon, our country a new frame
of government of our own; just as little as we fancy, that we
can change its economic conditions.

It is the Logic of Events that will accomplish both these

But mark the radical difference between the economic and
the political revolution.

The economic relations of the Cooperative Commonwealth
will evolve out of our present industrial conditions, as we at-
tempted to show in the preceding chapters. But the form of
administration of that Commonwealth will not be an out-
growth of our present form of government.

It is true, that the political system we now are living under
is an outgrowth of our colonial system, but the representative,
parliamentary system (the only one with which our country in
her short history has been familiar, and which at present pre-
vails in a more or less developed form in all civilized countries
except Russia) is not an outgrowth of the feudal system, pre-
vailing during the Middle Ages, nor was the latter an out-
growth of the ancient forms of government.

For forms of government are nothing but forms. They are not
the substance of society. They are only coats, that may, or may
not, fit the backs . But they are not the backs; economic con-
ditions are the backs. Or. to use the other appropriate figure:
forms of governments are nothing but machinery, but econo-
mic conditions are the steam, without which the machinery


is useless.

It will be seen from this, that those are egregiously mistaken
who charge Socialists with having a "'faith in the sovereign
power of political machinery." We believe, on the contrary,
that forms of governments, in themselves, amount to noth-
ing; that eivil liberty, by itself, is hardly worth the trouble
of agitation, that, political freedom won, nothing may yet be
won — but emptiness.

We believe, that economic and industrial relations are every-
thing, wherefore also we devoted the first six chapters to
them. Just as the steam-loom took the place of the hand-
loom, and the steam-thrasher of the flail, when steam became
the motive power instead of human muscles, or as the man
must discard his boy's jacket, so we say the Cooperative Com-
monwealth will have as it stows into existence to relegate
the whole machinery with which we are now familiar: Pres-
ident and Representatives and coordinate powers and state-
lines to the lumber-room of the past.

That is what this capitalist regime did as soon as it had grown
up to manhood. It dispensed as fast as it could with every
feature of the feudal system and substituted for it the system
which allowed it to work to the best advantage, to-wit, the
representative system.

If. therefore, we want to form any conception of the political
or judicial administration of the Cooperative Commonwealth,
we must imagine this present "constitution-' of ours wiped
out. first of all. Our inquirer and those opponents of Social-
ism who call attention to the incompatibility between it and
our present frame of government, are therefore perfectly right :
The United States would, in truth, become a bedlam at election

We hail it as a good sign, that an Amercan, lawyer like
Stickney, and with him the whole new generation, is getting
into the habit of questioning even " the wisdom of our fore-

Well, they were wise in their generation. They conformed
to the organic power of their day Let us and those who will
come immediately after us be as wise in our and their genera-


tions! At any rate we cannot help ourselves. Democracy is
tvhat we are inevitably tending to. which will crush the JJe-
publican and " Democratic" parties as easily as if they wer<

And do not have any fear, that we shall then or ever be with-
ont a constitution. No. not for one moment. The new con-
stitution will form irself as naturally as the ice forms upon the
water, when the freezing point is reached.

But we must now know, not alone what "Democracy" is not,
but what it is, and not so much, what the word means, but
what the thing really is which we have in mind when we pro-
nounce the word.

The word comes from the Greek word ''demos/* which
means " the people.'* That gives us. however, just as poor
an idea of what ki Democracy.'' is, as the information that " Ev-
olution " is derived from a word that means *• to roll out " en-
ables us to know what evolution is. That it is winch has giv-
en us the definition found in dictionaries, that •* Democracy"
is "government by majorities," government by u counting of
heads," as Carlyle has it. But government of majorities may be
just as •* undemocratic*' as the rule of any other class.

No, let us turn to the " back ** which the ** coat " is to fit.

We saw that the Cooperative Commonwealth will incorpor-
ate the whole population into Society. It wil 1 destroy classes en-
tirely. And with classes will go all '' rule."

The ''•whole people" does not want, or need, any " govern-
ment*' at all. It simply wants administ ration — good adminis-

That will be had by putting every one in the position fo r
which he is best fitted, and making everyone aware of the fact

That is what Democracy means; it means

Administration by the Competent.



u Our self-government is amateur-administration, govern-
ment by amateurs. " — Greg.

"The feeling of Equality is growing fast. It makes men
chafe more and more under the personal power of individuals,
on a political level with themselves. But they will submit
willingly to power that comes from above and is impersonal."
— Dr. Woolsey, Communism and Socialism.

u In your trades-societies you have acquired the instinct of
trusting )'our leaders, of acting with decision, concentration
and responsibility. * * * The ma-s supplying breadth and en-
ergy of principle; your agents giving it concentration and
unit)''. Let yonr watchword be : * Confidence in tried leaders!
Loyal cooperation each with all! ' , '' — Frederic Harrison, Order
and Progress.

We have now two definitions of Democracy, * one negative,
the other affirmative, which together complete our conception
of a Socialist Administration: that of competent and qualified

* It is annoying, that when we in our country use the word
" Democracy," we have to apologize for its debasement from
being appropriated by that party of negations calling itself
"the Democratic Party," whose only afufiiiative principle is
the decrepit doctrine of " State-Rights."


functionaries, whose interest is entirely coincident with their duty.

But right here we shall be challenged. It may be said that
this may be a good conception of a good administration. bu t
that it is not " Democracy." Some will quote Frederic H:ir-
rison to the effect that - k Democracy exists when each man
holds himself as wise a ruler as his fellow; where Govern-
ment is a scramble open to every glib talker."' Others thin \
with Carlyle that in a Democracy the people solve c\ery prob-
lem by saying "let us take a vote" and counting the heads.
Others, again, will point to the article by Jesse Jones on " the
Labor Question " which we in a former chapter mentioned with
approval, and remind us that Jones there takes for granted, that
our future economic sj'stem will conform to our primitive politi-
cal system; that is, assumes that all affairs will be conducted on
the "town-meeting "'-plan. " What is that." they will ask,
"but the Abomination of Frederic Harrison and Carlyle?"

This is a perfectly fair objection, to which we shall give an
answer that cannot possibly be misunderstood. If the " town-
meeting-plan," if that which Frederic Harrison. Carlyle and
Jesse Jones agree in calling " Democracy " is properly named
by them, then we must find another name for the Administration
of Public Affairs under the New Social Order. The object of
Chapter VII was not so much to show that our present
form of government, our written " constitution." is wi-demo-
cratic. as to point out that it is utterly unfit to furnish a good
administration of the people's affairs. The object of this Chap-
ter, in the first place, is to suggest the machinery that we have
reason to assume will be adopted to carry on all the affairs of
the Coming Commonwealth. This is the important matter
for consideration, which we shall not allow to degenerate into
a dispute about words. Yet, we shall also claim, that the Ad-
ministration of the Future has an eminent, perhaps an exclu-
sive, right to the name of " Democracy; " but that is a subor-
dinate matter.

The "town-meeting" plan, the plan of "counting heads,"
will evidently be wholly unsuitable in the Cooperative Com-
monwealth. If our public affairs now have altogether out-
grown that primitive plan, how much more when " public af-


fairs" will mean all affairs, with industrial affairs in the fore-
ground? No argument should really be needed to convince
anybody, that a Nation that conducted all its affairs as Jones
will have them conducted would very soon become bankrupt.

But this, that such an Administration as we have indicated
ill our deiinition will be the veiy one needed is not all: it will
be the very one which the future Constitution — real constitu-
tion — of Society will necessitate.

We have already emphasized as much as we could, that the
great achievemeut of the Coming Commonwealth will be to
incorporate the whole population into Societ} r ,to shift the
Centre of Gravity of Society, to make the Working-Classes
the organic power of Society. The great body of our people
are manifestly dictated to as much as any other people.
Though legally, that is, theoretically , tin; people here are
governors, practically they have no more power over leg-
islation than they have over Crises, over Production or Com-
merce. Aud the reason is, simply, that the Working-Classes
have not yet got the real social power, for whatever is the
strongest power in Society is the governing authority.

Well, all the evidence we now possess tends to prove that
the Working-Classes, when they once become the organic foive
in the State, will favor such an Administration as we have de-

Study the Trades-Unions here and those of England and learn
from them, how workingmen go about their own affairs. Have
the members of these Unions ever shown any anarchic spirit?
Amongst the many things that have been said of and against
them, have they ever been charged with evincing any instinct-
ive thirst for each man having his own way ?— which is the spirit
of Anarchy. Is it not. contrariwise, true, that they always

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Online LibraryLaurence GronlundThe coöperative commonwealth in its outlines. An exposition of modern socialism → online text (page 14 of 23)