Laurence Gronlund.

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

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and vigor to active life, and they will certainly agree on such
a theory as will explain the mystery to them and satisfy their
highest intelligence. This is not the place to state the thoughts
which the writer of this has on that subject.

Let us only say that this future religion will make this world
a real one. The existing religions fail to satisfy mankind
especially because they inculcate that this present existence
is vaiu and that all the affairs of this world are petty and worth-
less; that some other world is the real one.

The religion of the future, besides, will lay special stress on
our interdependence; it will tea<h men that the only way in
which they can enter into vital relations with the Great Mystery
is through Humanity; Socialism, in other words, will elevate
religion from being a narrow personal concern between the in-
dividual and his maker into a social concern betvjeen Humanity
and its Destiny. Humanity will not become a god, as Comte
would have it, but the mediator between man and the Mystery.

When at some time you are lying sleepless in bed in the solemn
hours ot the night, do what I often have done: project your-
self into space and fancy the insignificant little planet which
is our dwelling place rolling swiftly past you. swarming with
its ant-colonies of kings and beggars, capitalists and workers,
all in the hollow of the hand of that Great Mj^stery ! Is not
that a train of thought that should make manifest to us the
*• solidarity." the interdependence of mankind? What is more
natural than that each of us should desire and try to help our
species along on the road to its destiny, since the ability has
mercifully been granted to us to cooperate with that Will of
Lac Universe vviiU.ii our own nature suggests to us!

Who can then deny that Socialists are religious in thehisrh-
est sense of the world? Our creed can be expressed in these
words of the preacher of Village Politics;

*" The modern Christ would be a politician. His aim would
be to raise the whole platform of modern society. He would


not try to make the poor contented with a lot in which they
cannot be much better than savages or brutes. He would
work at the destruction of caste, which is the vice at the root
of all our creeds and institutions. He would not content him-
self with denouncing sin as merely spiritual evil; he would
go into its economic causes, and destroy the flower by cutting
at the roots — poverty and ignorance. He would accept the
truths of science, and he would teach that a man saves his soul
best by helping his neighbor."



"Be careful, sirs! how you judge God's revolutions as the
products of man's invention." — Oliver Cromwell.

" The Revolution is a work of the Unknown. Call it good
or bad, as you yearn towards the Future or the Past.-'

Victor Hugo.

" Twas hut the ruin of the bad,
The wasting of the wrong and ill,
Whate'er of good the old time had

IV as living still."


We commenced this book by quoting these words from a
dialogue in "The Nineteenth Century: "

"We see that political systems in all progressive societies
tend toward socialistic democracy. We see everywhere that
it must come to that. We all of us feel this conviction, or all
of us, I suppose, who have reflected on the matter. We feel,
too, that nothing we can do can avert or possibly long delay
the consummation. Then, we must believe that the movement
is being guided, or is guiding itself, to happy issues."

We now add the response immediately following, from the
same dialogue:


'■ IIope that the inevitable may prove the ultimately desirable.


but act towards it in public affairs as you do in private, i. e. —
ignore it altogether /"

It is, of course, two of u our best people" who thus dis«
course. The one who warns his friend that the political s}*s-
tems of all progressive countries are drifting towards " social-
istic'* democracy u uncommonly far-seeing and candid, lie
is undoubtedly right; the simple fact that household-suffrage
was introduced in his country under Tory auspices proves it.
But he is not profound enough. Political phenomena are mere-
ly the straws on the surface that show the direction of the cur-
rent. That all the tendencies are and, especially, that the un-
dercurrent is towards Socialism, towards Social-Cooperation,
is the principal proposition of these pages.

Of the surface-tendencies there are, moreover, several of
more significance than the political symptoms. Such are : the
success of our common-school system and the efforts in other
u progressive societies" by the State for the education of the
masses; the fact that, though " Individualism" is rampant
enough, practically, as a doctrine it is declining in the Protes-
tant countries that gave it birth, and that the sects that were
its apostles are now of next to no influence; and, most signifi-
cant of all, the remarkable growth of fellow-feeling among
the masses, due to the concentration of the workers in our
cities, for there man meets man and spirit quickens spirit and
intercourse breeds sympathy, and sympathy combination and
enthusiasm, while the agriculturists remain comparatively un-
sympathetic and weak on account of their isolated situation.

But the undercurrent is the decisive factor. We mean the
force that i3 unfolding the material, the industrial relations of
life. Already Goethe remarked of animals that subordination
and difference of parts is the measure of the height of their
organization; we have learned that precisely the same applies
to the social organization. This undercurrent manifests itself
in the concentration of manufactures, of transportation, of
commerce, and in the rise of large farms ; in short, in the growth
of monopolies. These, however, furnish us no halting place,
V<*v while these monopolies, on the one hand, have immense-
ly increased the productivity of labor, they have on the other

THE co:mixg revolution. 2G1

i,and, been unable to furnish the requisite effective demand,
however paradoxical it seems the resulthas been, that our large
accessions of wealth and comfort have created an extended
sense of unhappiness. As a consequeuce the undercurrent
carries us beyond individual monopolies and calls forth the
popular cry for collective control of material interests, lirst
of all, of telegraphs and railways.

Now nght here this current meets another, a parallel current :
that which has been propelling the State unwillingly, in oppo-
sition to all received theories, to take charge of one social ac-
tivity after another; a tendency that perhaps can be made
clear in no better manner than by stating that the national ex-
penses of England were in 1841 forty times as great as in IGS.j,
while the population had only trebled — of England where the
doctrine of " let alone " has had undisputed authority !

How the exercise of national authority has been extended in
our country in the last generation we have already noted, and
we are convinced that this centralization so-called would have.
been jnstas irresistible, though perhaps slower, if the Democratic
party had been in power — look at the alacrity with which the
Democrats vote for appropriations for rivers and harbors ! The
proposition of such an astute politician as Blaine to make the
National Government the fiscal ageut of the States and the deep
impression it has made is another sign of the times. But onr
civil war, of course, was the giant step of our social evolution,
and it is very diiicult to decide, whether its main issue, the
Union, or its side issue. Slavery, will prove of most importance.
All other progressive countries, however, have kept pace with
us. The struggles for nationality everywhere have mightily
advanced the evolution of the social organism. Even the
enormous standing armies of the European continent do this,
as does everything that drills the masses as a whole and that
teaches the people to work in concert. Why, it is through the
German standing army that the German peasant has become
accessible to ^oci.-ilist ideas!

Buckle lays it down that 4i the movements of nations are
perfectly natural; like others, they are determined solely by
their antecedents. " We may, in passing, remark that the fact


that this view is now the generally adopted one, the fact that
the law of evolution has been discovered and recognized as
governing also Societies, is itself an important step of the so-
cial evolution. In the light of that philosophy it is easy to
see that our whole civilization has been a lesson in cooperatiou,
that slavery was the first lesson, that serfdom was the second,
that our present wage-system is but a modified form of the
latter, and that social-cooperation, State Cooperation, Socialism,
is to be the system of the future, for this idea is in harmony
with all antecedents and all our surroundings, and our whole
age cooperates with it.

However, there is something else of importance to be noted.
Herbert Spencer, as we have seen, is one with us in holding
that Society will in the course of evolution arrive at u an ad-
vanced social state." But, besides shutting his eyes complete-
ly to the growing influence of the collective authority, he holds
that this evolution is a purely blind natural force. Virtually
he teaches: u Do not try to do anything at all; it is simply
folly. In the first place, you cannot do anything; and, next,
any effort on your part is unnecessary; if you only let things
alone, they will come out all right of themselves sometime
in the far distant future.'' 1 It is no wonder that this indolent
ootimism does not attract the masses. How can Spencer have
any sympathy with his fellowmen? What gospel has he or
have his disciples for the poor, the suffering and oppressed?
The greatest objection, however, to this scientific fatalism is
that it is unsound, fallacious.

The fact is, that, though Societ} r is truly an organism, the
evolution of Society does not take place precisely like the
growth of plants or animals. The former is the result of ef-
forts consciously put forth ; the progress of man requires the
cooperation of men. Therefore, while Buckle's view, that the
movements of nations depend upon their antecedents is true, it
is not the whole truth; it must be supplemented by Carlylc's
idea, that " the history of what man has accomplished is at
bottom the history of the great men who have worked hen 1 .''
Again it is true that an idea, to be successful, must be in har-
mony with surrounding conditions, and yet, that is not enough r


it must also be incarnated, so to speak,— made alive — in men
and women. There must be a fow people, at least, who care
a great deal about the idea and who feel a resistless impulse
towards its propagation

Hence we add. that perhaps the most important part of the
evolution is the fact that there are Socialists in the icorld at the
present time, that there are resolute men and women, intelli-
gent representatives of all classes, who are determined to lead
the world into the new channels ! The most precious product
of the evolution, therefore, we say. is that practical and ener-
getic band, consisting less of dreamers than any number of
men hitherto concerned in any great movement, and yet tired
with an ideal that makes people forget their national antip-
athies — what even Christianity has been powerless to do!
The pledge of success precisely are these men and women
who act as if the fortunes of the world depended on their per-
sonal endeavors, proudly conscious that the fortunes of the
world have depended on the struggles of just such mm as they !

One such man — a man with a faith — is a social power, equal
to 999 who have only interests.

The distinguishing trait of Socialists is that they boldly aim
at a revolution and care not a jot about reforms.

We know that good people now-a-days shudder at the mere
whisper of the word "revolution." It was not always so.
There was a time when the ej^es of patriots sparkled when-
ever "The American Revolution " was spoken ; there was a
time when " The English Revolution " sounded tolerably well
in polite ears. Now the term " revolution " seems to suggest
nothing but blood and destruction and violence. Yet, it means
nothing of the kind. It simply denotes a complete change, the
vigorous adaptation of old social elements to new conditions,
most orderly, but effecting vast and permanent alterations.
That is what all philosophic Socialists mean by a revolution.
Their red flag has no relation to blood, or if it has, certainly
not to cold clotted blood but the blood that courses warm and
throbbing through the veins of every youth and maiden.
But " reforms " only attack abuses, and in this are just as un-
scientific and stupid as bleeding for a fever in olden times


was; both being simply crude methods of suppressing 1 symp-
toms. How can any one ik reform " away abuses that are in*
hercnt in the system ! Reforms even often do immense mischief :
they open the safety-valves and thereby render evils tolerable
for the moment, but it is well to bear in mind that evil
u evolves " as well as good.

The Coming Revolution is the new social force which will so
act on the constitution of Society that the old withered husks
are cast off. permitting the social butterfly to emerge from its
chrysalis state.

For Spencer is wrong again, when he places his " advanced
social state" in the very distant future, and teaches that the
progress of Society is altogether accomplished by slow, very
slow, gradual stages. Historic experience does not at all
bear him out; it tells us. on the other hand, that when a so-
cial order has once been attained, there is first a period, quite
a long period, of virtual stagnation, then Society begins to
move slowly (the stage on which Spencer has wholly fixed
his attention,) followed by an advance, constantly increasing
in velocity — the nineteenth century is a good illustration of
this stage, for are we not moving along in every department
with railroad speed? — last of all. the decisive change to a new
social system is accomplished almost before the living gener-
ation can recover its breath.
Will this New Socinl Order be u a hanpy issue?"
That is really a consideration of secondary importance and
will perhaps be answered differently according to the stand-
point one occupies. To our money-bags, prominent politicians,
prominent lawyers, who now lord it over us; to " independ-
ent." overbearing, domineering u Philistines," buoyed
up at the top, it will probably not seem a very •• happy issue,"
looking at it through spectacles, colored by their class-inter-
ests, as they do. For the very gist of the Coming Revolu-
tion will consist in unseating them, in abrogating their vested
rights, the divine right which they have been taught that they
have to the fruits of the labor of other people. It will abol-
ish u freedom "as they practise it. that i<. the light to do what
they please and to make others do as they (the '•independent "1


pic use. But to the great multitude it will be, we should say,
a happy issue, for it will put an end to their subjection and put
inieraeptndence — genuine freedom — in its place. And if we
consider the welfare of the social organism there can be no
doubt about the New System being a happy issue. Instead
of the quackery, charlatanism, amateurship which now bears
sway in all activities of Society we shall have skill, compe-
tence and qualitiedness (if we may coin a word) at the head
of affairs, and indeed from top to bottom. Why, the main
reasons why the workers will dismiss those who " rule " us
now, is the very fact that they have proved themselves inca-
pable of " governing,'* of administering affairs. The anarchy
which now obtains, the discontent of the masses, our crises,
our bankruptcies are all so many proofs of their incapacity,
imbecility and ignorance. And most important of all. instead
of being a croxed, not able even to keep our streets clean, we
shall have organization ; instead of gregariousness we shall have
association; instead of everybody pursuing his individual pet-
ty interests absolutely indifferent, and often hostile, to the
interests of Society, everybody will instinctive^ be con-
scious ot himself as a being who, of course, considers the so-
cial welfare in his every act.

We can be sure that the Coming Revolution will not destroy
an atom of what is really good now. We can be sure that it
does not mean destruction as much as upbuilding. We can be
sure that should anybody thereafter serious ] .y propose to go
back to the present Social Order, he will be laughed at as a
fool, fit for the lunatic asylum.

But — " ignore it altogether ! "

Those who are now at the head of affairs affecting — to ignore !
That is a dangerous policy. Those who will not see become in
time those who cannot see. Think of 4 - leaders" who wilfully
shut their eyes, and advise '• ignore it altogether! " of 4 - states*
men "' with the motto : k ' after us the delude ! "

So, however, it has always been. '• Force has been the mid-
wife at the birth of every New Order." But the responsibili-
ty be on our incapable " leaders! "


Meanwhile the evolution of society marches forward in
spite ot all stumbling-blocks ; one moment quietly in the brain
of the thinker, the next moment unmercifully over corpses
But it does net want blood. On the contrary, it sends warn.
ing in advance of every catastrophe. Woe to those who do
not heed that warning!

As yet, and first of all, it is a contest of ideas. We aim to

put the Socialist idea into the minds of the people, knowing

* that if it be there actions will follow fast enough. However,

as was intimated in the Introduction, the writer of this does not

expect that the majority will in that way be excited to action.

The majority are always ignorant, always indolent ; you can-
not expect them to be anything e'se with their present so-
cial surroundings. They never have brought about, conscious-
ly and deliberately, any great social change. They always
have permitted an energetic minority to accomplish that for
them, and then — they always have sanctioned the accomplish-
ed fact.

That our people is no exception was proven by the aboli-
tion of slavery. That was accomplished by the emancipation
proclamation of Lincoln who was egged on to issue it bv an
energetic minority; when it was accomplished, the people
sanctioned it by amending their constitution ; though even
now. as a matter of course, '"prominent" lawyers can be
found who verily believe, that said proclamation was not worth
the paper it is written on.

This, then, is our objective point: a respectable minority ; re-
spectable as to numbers; respectable as representing the most
advanced intelligence; respectable as containing sincere
and energetic representatives from all classes: the minority
to reach which these pages are written. Give Socialists such
a minority — give them only 10.000 such men in, say, twenty
years from now, in a population of 75 millions, and our coun-
try and its future is theirs!

Socialists are the only social philosophers who can be called
purposeful, the only ones in the whole wide world who can
dispense with commonplaces and slippery words and phrases
and who present clear cut, definite solutions. It is, of course.


to the discontented that they address themselves ; they havl
nothing to s:iy to such as think that the world is good enough
as it is. Neither have they any business with that very huge
class of poor men, clerks especially, who toil on from day to
day, in the hope of heing some day. by some lucky accident,
rich themselves, so that they in their turn can lord it over oth-
ers. It is that class particularly that fill the ranks of our
state-militia and who with alacrity ohey the command to shoot
down such of their fellows as have been goaded on to rebel-
lion. It is a most contemptible class of men ; the motive that
leads them is a contemptible one. and yet it is such men who
are patted on the hack by •* our best people " and called "' am-

It is, of course, to the discontented wage-workers that So-
cialists can appeal with the greatest chance of success. To
them they can say :

u Look the future confidently in the face. The golden age
of which poets have sung has proved a cruel illusion — cruel,
for as long as it lasted, it served as the greatest stumbling-
block to your improvement. In exchange for that will-o-the-
wisp we give yon another, a real Golden Age. at whose thresh-
old you stand. If you do not enter into it, j^our children may.*'
It is to the wage-class that the rankest injustice is being: done.
To lay bare that injustice is. first of all. the mission of So-
cialism, and as Carlyle says: '* Hunger, nakedness, death
even, may be borne sometimes with cheerfulness, but injustice
is insupportable to all men."

To the thoughtful among our small middle-men it ought to
be easy enough to prove the Socialist State their sole refuge
from the cares and troubles that now beset them.

It will not take many years, before the eyes of farmers will
be opened to the fact that the vast majority of them must neces-
sarily become tenant-farmers and their farms gobbled up by
the rich under a system of unrestricted competition. Then we
undoubtedly can convince some, that Socialism is the only
system that can secure a civilized life to their descendants.

And even to many in the professions we can with propriety
appeal. Indeed, as we already have said, many, if not most


of our literary men, lawyers, physicians, journalists, and last,
though not least, teachers are among the dis-inherited. Only
those at the top — most of whom are in one way or another the
retainers of our money-bags — have any motive to side with the
Established Order. Of course, all aspiring young professional
men start out with great expectations; but what a grievous
disappointment does life prove to the great majority of them !
Before they reach middle age they will have given up all their
grand plans, and they will consider it the summit of success,
if they can secure a decent livelihood. Most of them will fail
lamentably even in that. To my personal knowledge hun-
dreds of talented persons of that class now live a most pre-
carious existence, and are glad to sleep at night on the lounge
in the office of some more successful brother, and do not know
for certain whether they will have a meal the next day. Such
a man's refinement has become his curse.

To such men the Coming Revolution should be just as wel-
come as to any mechanic or common laborer. How their tal-
ents would unfold themselves and their energies be roused un-
der that inspiring emulation which the New Order will inau-
gurate! Talent, genius and intellect will in our Common-
wealth have their due influence, what they never had before.

Neither ought it to be very difficult to convince such women
who take any interest in public affairs and labor tor the ele-
vation of their sex that no lasting benefit will be conferred
either on Society or their sisters by making women into sec-
ond-rate men, and very, very little benefit by their obtaining
the suffrage in the present state of things; while it is very mucli
to be apprehended that when political ••rights"' are minced
twice as much again as they already arc, they will seem and
in fact become absolutely worthless. Socialism is evidently
far more capable of elevating the female sex both by ennobling
the men and by enabling women themselves to assert their

And everywhere in all conditions of life there are thought-
ful, gei.eious youths who cannot keep wondering at the man-
ifest iv unjust arrangements of Ibis world. Youths whoeau-
nvt help asking why so many whose work is only nominal


snould live in splendor, while those whose daily toil produces
all that makes existence enjoyable and even possible have such
a hard struggle for life. Youths, who then dream of impos-
sible '* remedies " and, like Thomas More in his " Utopia, " con-
struct castles in the air. Youths who by and by, when they
have been chilled by contact with the cold realities of life un-
der this Established Order, will come to look back on these

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Online LibraryLaurence GronlundThe coöperative commonwealth in its outlines. An exposition of modern socialism → online text (page 21 of 23)