Laurence Gronlund.

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

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have been willing to acknowledge that some were wiser than
themselves, and that, when they thought the}' had hit upon
the right leaders, they have been willing to thrust their whole
collective power into their hands? In short, is it not true,
wnat Frederic Harrison says of theui, that "• they trust their
leaders and act with decision, concentration and responsibil-
ity. "


Now, these "Working-Classes, who represent so to speak,
the whole social body, of which the other classes only are
special organs, will decide what the Administration of the Fu-
ture is to he.

We avoid, purposely, saying that they will have the political
power, for "political" power, "Politics" "Politicians" will
be unknown terms under the New Order.

Political power is, fundamen tally, nothing hut the organized
power of classes, or men, or sets of men, to " govern " others ;
that is, to dictate to them what they shall do and what they
must not no. In our Commonwealth, where there will be no
" classes " at all, there will be no set, of men who can by " sov-
eign authority" dictate to the re-t of the Nation, but every
citizen will actually perform his appropriate share of the ad-

Again, the terms " State " and " Society " are now apart in
speech, because they are in fact apart. But under the New so-
cial System they will, as we have seen, come to cover each
other, become synonymous. Between the economic and So-
cial organization, and the "political" organization of the Fu-
ture State there will not be a particle of distinction.

Before we proceed to outline the Administration of the Fu-
ture we wish to repeat the warning that we gave, when the
economic features of the New Order were under discussion :
Socialists lay no claim to be'' architects" hence do not insist upon
details from us! Speculations herein detail would be liable to
be far more Utopian than those in economic matters, since, as
we have seen, the administrative features of a given society are
bu the ulterior results of its economic relations. We can,
hovt :ver, pretty safely predict that the following features will
take the place of those we have discarded.

Appointments will be made from below. This is the second re-
spect in which our Post Office Department is not a socialist
institution — the other respect, as will be remembered, was the
discrepancy in salaries. At present the Postmaster-General
or President appoints the postmasters, and they again their
subordinates and the letter-carriers. Under Socialism it will



certainly be the reverse. There the letter-carriers will elect
their immediate superiors; these, we will say. the postmasters
and these in their turn the Postmaster General. Why should
it not be so?

Are not the letter-carriers just as competent to elect their
superintendents as the Chief in Washington is to appoint the
postmaster of Boston? The qualifications ol an elector are
evidently these : a knowledge of the capacity of the candidate
for a given office and a knowledge of what the duties of that
office are (quite a different thing from a knowledge of how to
perform those duties.) Who possesses these qualiticatious in
a greater degree than those who are to be his immediate sub-
ordinates, and who. perhaps, have worked with the candidate
throughout a series of years?

Understand! by appointment from below, we do not mean,
that/, i. the whole people of a city shall elect their postmaster.
Such a principle is altogether too much in vogue now. We
maintain exactly the reverse of it: that a man is not qualified
to vote for a candidate whose qualifications he is ignorant of,
for an office the duties of which he is not acquainted with.
It will be admitted that it is quite a different proposition, that
the workers in a factory should elect their Foreman, teachers
their Superintendent &c. This is the only method by which
harmonious loyal cooperation of subordinates with superiors
can be secured. No one ought to be a superior who has not
the good will of those he has to direct.

Understand, also, that Appointment from below does not
necessarily imply Removal from below.

Think but a moment over it, and notice the important and
beneficent results that will tlow from such a system.

We said that every citizen would be actual!)/ a part of the
Administration. This that he will have a voice in the election
ot his immediate superior, will be one way, and perhaps the
most important way, of being such part. That kind of Suf-
frage will be worth something. We have now cut what we call
»' political power" into such little bits, that a single man's
share of it is hardly thought worth having ;it all. But hia
vote will count for something in a shop when a foreman is to


be elected ; will indeed, confer such a dignity on him. that he
will be a different man from the servile " hand" of our pres-
ent irresponsible autocrats.

Again, this system will furnish one of the securities for good
administration. It is not likely that under it there will any
lc nger be any ** government by amateurs." Then the greatest
ability will in every sphere of activity in all likelihood gravi-
tate towards all positions of influence, (ju->t as we find it to be
the case in the English Trades-societies according to the most
competent authority) and the subordinates will be aware of the

Instead of any term of office, long or short, we shall have a
tenure daring Good Behavior.

The directors of affairs will hold their offices as long as the
people's interests are best served by having them hold them,
but not one moment beyond. They all, from Foreman up to the
Chiefs, will have to do good work, and will not stay in their
office one Week, nay, not one day, if they fail in their duties,
ay. if they fail to give satisfaction. Every such officer will be
held responsible, not for good intentions, but for accomplished
results. Of all causes for removal the best of all will be one,
unrecognized now, the misdemeanor of Failure. i; Good Be-
havior " will mean first of all : Efficiency. And as a very im-
portant part of the work of every officer will consist in over-
seeing others, lie will be held responsible, if the work done
by those under him is not done well, lie will be driven to en-
force the utmost efficiency from every one of his subordinates.
His holding his place will depend on what they do, as much
as on what he himself does.

This personal respousiblity and instant dismissal for failure
will permeate the whole service from top to bottom. This is
what the Cooperative Commonwealth will need, for as Stick-
ney w T ell remarks : " If his future advancement (and we add :
the tenure of a functionary) depends on a king he will serve
the king; if oh party he will serve party; if only on doing
his work well, he will do his work well. It is no miracle. It
is nothing but a law of human nature." Which remark we


commend to our Utopian Civil-Service-Reformers who wish,
and no doubt sincerely, to reform the service in the same di-
rection as Socialists do, bnt want to retain Party-government.

. But, on the other hand, when a good mail has got into the
proper place and performs his work well, he will go on and

do it as long as lie has a mind to stay. AVe have tried that
plan to some extent and we have had some good results from
it. Everybody will admit, that our judicial tenure of ollice
lias had a great deal to do with the fact, that our judiciary has
been so pure and uncorrupted as has been the case — while the
greatest blot on its fair fame (the Electoral Commission busi-
ness of 1877) can be just as directly traced to the evil influ-
ences of Party. The principal objection we have to our Judic-
ial Tenure is that " Good Behavior*' means nothing but *• re-
Draining respectable.'''' In a Socialist Administration a judge
would not remain one day in office when he was notoriously
untit to perform his duties, as was for years the case with
members of our National Supreme Court. Again, whatever
opinion is entertained of the expediency of West Point and
our army, Socialists will cheerfully admit the high moral tone
of the Army Service — until lately, at any rate— compared with
our Civil Service, which is directly traceable to the secure ten-
ure of office of the former.

The Directors of Affairs, furthermore, will be trusted with
all the power necessary to perform their work well. They
will not be hampered by any petty technicalities. The peo-
ple wiil abstain from meddling with details, as long as the re-
sults are satisfactory. That is the sensible practical method
which world ngunen always adopt whenever they associate to
accomplish anything, as also is exemplified in the English
Trades-Unions. Workingmcn know, that the direction of af-
fairs ought to be a function of the competent, as much as the
planning of a suspension bridge i.<. and not a play for num-
bers. They always, as Frederic Harrison puts it, '-put con-
fidence in tried leaders."

Some one may here object that when in that way under So-
cialism all the high talent of the country is concentrated in


the Administration, it will be exactly the l * Bureaucracy " we
find in Prussia, Russia and China.

It would indeed be a bureaucracy, if it were proposed that
our civil officers under our present system should have a life-
tenure of their places. But it will be quite a different thing,
when, as in the Cooperative Commonwealth every citizen has
a life-tenure somewhere, and when "good behavior" means
something else than not to commit an infamous crime. Is a
physician a bureaucrat? When a patient has found a good
physician he keeps him and follows his directions, and yet we
should say, that that patient's power over this physician is
not nugatory, though he does not direct what medicines shall
be administered.

Such a tenure during " Good Behavior," as we have defined
it, will be another security for good administration. When-
ever the directors of affairs have such power as is their due,
when they are secure in their positions and permitted to do
the best they know how, we can be sure to find merit in t he-
commanding positions, for it will ever remain true that the
direction of affairs has wonderful charms for all men who have
any gifts, fitting them for it.

Instead of representation we shall have, what is technically
called, the referendum.

I»y the '■ referendum " is meant the submitting all bills of a
general nature to the people they are intended to affect, before
they have the validity of laws, as already exemplified for some
years past by Switzerland to some extent, both in national and
cantonal affairs.

We claim, that this feature represents exactly the function
which the people are fitted to perform and which it is every
way expedient they should perforin.

They are peculiarly fitted to perform this function of rati-
fying, or rather, of vetoing measures (with which our Presi-
dent and governors are at present and — as we contended in
the previous chapter — improperly entrusted) while they are
peculiarly unfitted for the function with which they are now
constitutionally invested : that of selecting men of whose qual-


ifications they can know nothing for offices of the duties of

which they are ignorant.

The people should leave the framing of laws to the wisest
and most competent. But because I should not attempt to
make my own shoes, since I am no shoemaker, that is no reason
why I should not decline to buy a certain pair of shoes which
the shoemaker has made. I need not be a shoemaker to know,
whether the shoes pinch me or not. Exactly so with laws
and institutions. The people are amply qualified to say that
they ao not want certain laws.

John S. Mill says in regard to representative bodies, that
their proper office is " not to make law but to see them made
by the right persons, and to give or withhold its ratification
of them.'' '• Good sense" and **good intentions," the only
requisites for that function, we must assume in the body of
citizens or we must, indeed, despair of the Nation.

By the way. it was Uobespierre — for whom, however, neither
the writer of this nor Socialists generally have any great ad-
miration — who first proposed the referendum, by advising the
king to say : " My people, here are the laws I have made for
you ; will you accept them? "

The referendum is expedient, because the stability and good-
ness of all laws and institutions depend on their suitableness.
We have compared political institutions to coats that may or
may not fit the backs. The referendum will insure, that " the
coat will fit the back," in other words, that the measures adopt-
ed are commensurate with the development of the people.
U the coat does not fit, if a given measure does not suit them,
they will simply reject it.

It is expedient, because it and it alone will arouse and keep
alive in the people the interest in public affairs.

It is a notorious fact that the voters in our country and in
all countries are absolutely indifferent to— we may say truth-
fully, that they look witli a sort of contempt on — the electoral
franchise; and the humbug of representation that we adverted
to in the preceding chapter is a sufficiently good reason. Vo-
ters will naturally remain indifferent, as long as a political cam-
paign means but a strife for candidates. Whenever they do


vote, they will continue to do so from the same reasons which
solely influence them now. to-wit: habit, or the desire to ad-
vance a friend or a " hero," or the chance of gettting a drink.

But when the voters have measures before them, — not merely
general, and therefore vague, constitutional provisions, but
direct* special measures — to discuss and then to ratify or reject,
it may fairly be expected, that they will take a considerable
and increasing interest i:i public affairs. Then, also, they will
very likely come more and more to appreciate the fact, that
Suffrage is not a right at all — if it were, votes would, indeed,
be things to be sold or given away, at pleasure — but a, public

The referendum is expedient, because bills will then be intel-
ligently discussed before they become laws. We shall then
no more witness the indecency, that important laws the pro-
visions of which even often are unknown to the legislators
are enacted in the hurry of the last night of a session, under
the spur of the party whip. Then we shall no longer see huge
volumes of trash issuing yearly from legislative halls, but. shall
have few, and none but necessary, laws.

" But this is all nonsense to propose to get along without
representatives. The people of a large country, like that of
ours, cannot possibly pass upon all laws."

Yes, we know, that once upon a time somebody made a re-
mark of that kind, and that it has been echoed and re-echoed
ever since. Humanity does really resemble a flock of sheep
which are known to be so conscientious, that if you hold a
Stick before the wether so that he is forced to vault in his pas-
sage, the whole flock will do the like when the stick is with-

Why cannot the people, even of so populous and extensive
a country as ours, vote upon all laws? Do not, as a matter
of fact, our people vote to reject or accept the constitutions of
their several states? Do they not practically vote for the Pres-
ident? What reason in the world is there, why they cannot
just as well vote upon a law as upon a constitution or upou
men ?

And what reason is there for the people to have "represen-


tatives" .at all? True, they needs must have men to direct af-
fairs and to do certain work for them. These men are their
agents for certain purposes, but in no sense their representatives.
It is their fictitious "representative" character which permits
Pennsylvania legislators to drag along the scandalous extra
session and prevents their being kicked out of their seats as
they ought to be. It is tiiis " representative" character that
is the father of all parliamentary nonsense, blundering work
and the "practical politics " in which Garfield was such an
adept, and of which he fell such a signal victim.

Under the Socialist Regime the Administrators will form a
working Body, not a talking Body. The people in their organ-
ic capacity will watch, stimulate and control them but not
meddle with details. Their agents will have been put into the
positions they occupy, because they know better than anybody
else how to contrive the means and execute the measures de-
manded. They will administer the Nation's affairs as a pilot
directs and handles a ship, but the direction of the Ship of
State will be indicated by Public Opinion.

But the pertinacious curiosity of critics will, undoubtedly,
not be satisfied, before they have a sketch of such a Socialist
administration before them for examination.

Well, anybody can construct such an administration in his
imagination as well as we can, if he only will keep steadily
before him these three requirements : first, that all appoint-
ments be made from below ; next, that the directors stay in
office as long as they give satisfaction and not one moment
beyond ; and. lastly, that all laws and regulations of a general
nature must first be ratified by those immediately interested.
We have no better means of guessing how those who come
after us will construct their administrative machinery in de-
tail than anybody else; and mode rn Socialists are not fond of
laying down rules for the guidance of coming generations.

In order, however, to show that an administration without
President, without national or local "debating societies'" of
any kind is really possible, we shall draw such a one in out-
line; but please beai in mind that Socialism must not be made


responsible for this fancy-sketch of ours. We do this tne
more willingly, because, as our thoughtful readers must have
observed, there is one highly important provision that we for
good reasons have left entirely unnoticed.

Suppose, then, every distinct branch of industry, of agri-
culture, and. also teachers, physicians etc. to form, each trade
and profession by itself, a distinct body, a Trades-Union (we
simply use the term, because it is convenient) a guild, a cor-
poration managing its internal affairs itself, but subject to
collective control.

Suppose, further, that/, i. the u heelers'' among the opera-
tives in a shoe- factory in Lynn come together and elect their
Foreman and that the 'tappers,' the * soh*rs,' the * finishers.'
and whatever else the various operators may be called, do
likewise. Suppose that these Foremen assemble and elect a
Superintendent of the factory, and that the Superintendents
of all the shoe-factories in Lynn, in their turn, elect a— let us call
him — District-Superintendent. Again, we shall suppose these
District-Superintendents of the whole boot and shoe industry to
assemble themselves somewhere from all parts of the country
and elect a Bureau-Chief, aud he with other Bureau-Chiefs of
related industries, say, the tanning industry, to elect a Chief
of Department.

In the same manner we shall suppose, that we have got a
Chief for every group of related mechanical and agricultural
and mining pursuits, a Chief for the teachers, another for the
physicians, another for the judges — see next chapter — further,
one or more Chiefs for transportation, one or more for com-
merce — in fact, suppose, that there is not asocial function
whatever that does not converge in some way in such Chief
of Department.

However, we do not want too many of those Chiefs, for we
mean to make a working Body, not a talking Body, out of
them We mean that these Chiefs of Department shall form
The National- Board of Administrators, whose function it shall
be to supervise the whole social activity of the country. Each
Chief will supervise the internal affairs of his own department


and the whole Board control all those matters in which the
General Public is interested.

But just as all inferior officers this National Board will be
nothing but a body of administrators; they will be merely
trusted agents to do a particular work ; they will be in no sense
'•governors" or kk rulers ;" or if anybody should choose to
call their supervision and control ,l government, ,, it will, at all
events, rather be a government over things than over men. For
they will decree no Jaws.

If a general law is thought expedient, one that will affect
the people at large or those of any one department, then we
suppose this National Board simply to agree on the general
features of the measure, and thereupon entrust the drafting
of the proper bill either to the Chief whose department it prin-
cipally concerns, or. what might be the usual course, to the
Chief of the Judges. When this draft has been discussed and
adopted, the Board will submit it to the people either of the
whole country or of the department, as may be, for their rat-
ification. The National Board is thus no lawmaker, therefore
no *• government " but an executive body strictly.

But how shall we exact that rssponsibilitij on which we laid so
much stress; which we considered the very keystone of De-
mocracy? That important question we have hitherto not
touched upon at all. for the simple reason that there is abso-
lutely nothing in the tendency of things that can guide us to
any solution. The constantly reiterated demands of the work-
ing-classes and their modi 1 , of procedure in their own affairs
teach us what course they will pursue as to Appointments,
Tenure of Office and the Passage of Law* but nothing definite
about Removals. And yet this point is second to none in im-
portance : How shall we prevent these Foremen, Superintend-
ents and especially the Chiefs of Departments from being at
any time the masters of the situation?

Well, the writer of this can say how itmay be accomplished,
but does not at all pretend to say, how it will be done.

Experience, has shown, that responsibility to many is. in
ordinary eases, no responsibility at all. We therefore hoM,
that if these directing functionaries are to be made respond-


ble for their work, they must be made responsible to some one
person. But who is the proper one person?

We noticed, that every directing 1 officer should be responsi-
ble not alone for the work he himself does, but also for th:
work of his subordinates. He must see to it, that they do then
work well. Is not this a sufficiently good reason why every
directing official should be given the right instantly to dismiss
any one of his subordinates for cause assigned; inefficiency
being, as already stated, the very best of causes. When then
a foreman was inefficient, he would be removed instantly,
without trial, by his superintendent ; he again might be re-
moved by his bureau-chief — perhaps for abuse of power in re-
moving the foreman ; — this bureau-chief again by his depart-

But the latter official, to whom shall he be responsible? Some
would say. to the whole Body of Administrators. And yet
the very obvious objection might be raised to such an arrange-
ment, that it would really be no responsibility, for are not those
administrators all equals, and interested in upholding each
other in power?

Suppose we make every Department Chief liable to removal
by the whole body of his subordinates.

That is to say, suppose, that, whenever the workers of a
given department, inclusive of Foremen, Superintendents and
other officials, become dissatisfied with their Chief, they all
meet in their different localities and vote on the dismissal of
that Chief, and that he be considered removed from office the
moment the collective judgment of the whole department is
known, if that judgment be adverse to him. Then the Bureau-
Chiefs immediately proceed to elect another Chief of Depart-
ment who can be removed in like manner, if he should not
suit the workers.

That feature, then, of the plan we have sketched which
must be charged to the personal bias of the writer of this is,
that, while the subordinates elect, the superiors dismiss. This
feature we hold will divide power b tween skill and numbers
in the proper proportion. We deem it a pretty good applica-
tion of the famous proposition of Harrington in his " Oceana"


who wanted power divided on the principle which governs two
children in fairly dividing a cake : that the one halves the cake,

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Online LibraryLaurence GronlundThe coöperative commonwealth in its outlines. An exposition of modern socialism → online text (page 15 of 23)