Laurence Gronlund.

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

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dreams as mere foolishness!

Ah, youths! "when those phantoms fade, some portions of
your better nature will die within you. too ! "

Might we not expect that the eyes of such youths, — and
even of mature men who have had such dreams and not for-
gotten them — to kindle with enthusiasm, and their hearts to
beat quicker upon learning that many of their fellows are bent
with all their energies on making glorious realities out of those
dreams? As Novalis says : " My belief has gained infinitely
to me from the moment any other human being has begun to
believe the same." Why then might we not expect many of
such men to throw themselves into this movement of ours, as
soon as they find out what it really means?

It is a slander to say that the American people cannot be
excited by an ideal, that they only care for the ''Almighty
"Dollar." Our war of the Revolution was fought for a point
of honor. The Rebellion was fought for ideas. But small
ends do not rouse anybody's enthusiasm. Civil service " re-
forms" and other "Utopias*' — and small Utopias at that — are
not likely to make one's blood throb the quicker. To cut off
each head of an ever-growing hydra as it appears is a tire-
some process, and will seem an idle, wasteful proceeding to
any practical mind. But to help evolve a New Social Order
which is " struggling — convulsively, desperatel3 r struggling —
to be born " is an end, grand enough to fill the noblest soul with
the most ardent zeal !

And because it is well known what repelling effects mere
words may have on the minds of men, and because " Social-
ism " once had such an effect on the writer himself, we add :
Let not the consideration frighten you, that it is an "ism!"
Why, even Christianity was for four hundred years an "ism."


Every ideal, that is. every ;i soul of the future"' is an " ism "
as long ms it is waiting for its body. When Socialism becomes
embodied, it leaves its •■ ism '' behind and is realized as the New
Social Order. — Social Cooperation.

It is for various reasons just such young men as those of whom
we have spoken, of all classes, that we should try to enroll as
members of our effective minority and for which 1 have written
this book. Elderly people have already made up their minds —
indeed the man who lias reached forty and has not made up his
mind may pretty safely be put down as a poor specimen of
a man. And then there is a weightier reason. Though there
is no man living wise enough to say when the Coming Revo-
lution will occur, we can say that there is little probability
that it will occur this century. Now. you cannot ask an elder-
ly man to prepare for something which he probably will
not live to witness. You. on the other hand, can with the
greatest show of success appeal to the ardor and hope and
sympathy of youth or young men of, say, 30 years to prepare
for an event in which they may be principal actors when they
reach ripe manhood. And that is just what that effective minor-
ity principally will have to do — prepare, prepare themselves and
their people for the Great Change. Not, as we already said in
the Introduction, to make any revolution, but to make them-
selves, and the Nation as much as possible, ready for the Com-
ing Revolution, to meet it when it comes, peaceably or " chid in
iron sandals' 1 and to cany it out. To accomplish this, the
iirst thing needed is organization, next, organization, and, last-
ly, organization, in order that they may become perfectly ac-
quainted with each other, come to have confidence in each
other, 'ind study together the great philosophy and the means
of realizing it. That minority ought, indeed, to come to a
unanimous agreement as to every principal step that must be
taken to make the Cooperative Commonwealth a success from
the very start and until it is in full working order.

And they should also, as we said, as much as possible pre-
pare their countrymen. They should continually keep — not
themselves, mark you! — but their cause before the people.
They can do this very effectually in two ways: each one in


his own neighborhood, in his immediate cirele of personal
friends and acquaintances, by direct appeals to their under-
standing, sympathies and interests, and all, in mutual accord,
through the general newspapers of the country. It is f o 1 i 5 r
to waste money and energy in starting special journals for tin;
propagation of new ideas — that is my private opinion. I have
always found that there are in every city of any consequence
soin« newspapers of established circulation, ready enough to
publish notices and articles, if only they are temperately, and
especially well written— just such comments and appeals as
we may expect from the class of persons we have in mind —
force and fire and no fioth. But the important thing, always
to be heeded, about this latter form of agitation, is that it be
earned on systematically.

This will be work enough for anybody, however zealous : be-
side this that minority can do nothing better than — wait with

Wait for what?

For the natural culmination of the present system, (as to
which we refer to our third chapter) and for the outburst of

Passion? — Yes. We are not indebted to Reason for the land-
marks of human progress : not for the introduction of Chris-
tianity, not for the institution of the monastic order*, not
for the Crusades, not for the Reformation, not for the Ameri-
can Revolution, not for the abolition of slavery. Man is only
'irresistible when he acts from passion. We are first to be
philosophers in order to prepare for and carry out the Coming
Revolution, but no walls are now-a-days thrown down by blasts
of trumpets. The masses of men are never moved except by
passions, feelings, interest.

Now it is possible that these passions of our people, or of
the British people. w r ill be roused by what may transpire on
the continent of Europe. For we have no doubt that tbe first
serious attempt to realize Socialism wn'll be made there. There
is Germany, where our ideas have reached their highest devel-
opment both in depth and in breadth, and whose people seeju


ill the last generation to have modified their former pure re*
llectivc ness. Formerly tiiey paused to reflect so much, that

they were slow in action; now they simply make sure be fore-
hand of every detail which might make them hesitate in ac-

Then there is France, there is Paris. Not the frivolous de-
based Paris of the sight-seer, hut earnest Paris, for a century
the heart of the world ; whose victories have been the victories
of mankind, her defeats its defeats.

We know what an excitement the French Revolution of a
hundred years ago caused in the minds of the people of
'England, and notably among her working men, then in their
swaddling clothes. Certainly, then, in this age the establish-
ment of Socialism either in Germany or France would exer-
cise a tremendous influence both here and in Great Britain.

If we, the American Nation, are anything, we are practical.
If we are not apt to originate any new political and social ideas,
we have a wonderful aptitude for copying the good points of
successfully working models. We, therefore, think, that it
might not take very many years — in fact no longer time than
won Id be needful to rub our eyes in order to find out whether
we were really awake — before we should set to work to copy
that Socialist State.

But the difficulties in the way of success on the continent
are so great — the consideration, that even a completely suc-
cessful revolution in any one of these countries may. on ac-
count of their geographical position, not prove sullicient to
insure the stability of the New Social Order, — these diffi-
culties form such a threatening shadow on the horizon, that
we cannot but tremble for a possible successful counter-revo-

And then there are really many reasons why either Great Brit-
ain or our own country — the universal colon;/ — may be consid-
ered the place where the New Commonwealth will be first suc-
cessfully established.

The United States possesses the immense advantage that it
can salely make the first experiment, without danger of any
foreign interference. We possess the advantage of being an


eminently practical as well as a thoroughgoing people, when
we are roused. Wo have within its' the reflectiveness of the
German as well as the momentum of the Anglo-Saxon, who. if
he wills to jump across a brook, does not hesitate, but runs
and clears it with a bound. We furthermore possess for an
indefinite period— to be determined by the fears and blind
anger of our masters — the privilege to agitate without restraint
by pen and tongue and thus educate and organize the effect-
ive minority.

Great Britain has the same advantages, and in addition the
glorious precedent: Cromwell's revolution, "the English
Commonwealth," the first popular revolt against divine rights,
"vested" rights. In botli countries the culmination of the
economic evolution is nearer than elsewhere, that is, division
of labor and concentration of wealth are carried further than '
elsewhere, a fact of tremendous importance, and another fact,
only second in importance, in both countries, is the organiza-
tion of their workers, the splendid Trades-Unions of England
and our own Knights of Labor.

" Socialism is not suited to the genius of our people" we
have heard some say, as if we had patented a new order of life.
These Trade-unions, and Trades-assemblies, and Grangers and
Knights of Labor precisely prove that Socialism is suited to
the genius of our and the British people. The central spirit
that rules these unions is that of Socialism, to wit, that the
interests of all workers are the same, that each must postpone
his own advantage to the common good and each yield his in-
dividual prejudice and crochet to the collective judgment.

Those of the working-classes who become enrolled in our
effective minority can do ";o better work than strengthen these
unions in every possible way. Through them their fellow-
workers are sure of getting Socialist hearts — the Socialist heads
will come in due time. And bear in mind, that it is these or-
ganized labor-battalions that ^re to form the lever by means of
which the new ideas are t^ move Society.

Just on account of these organizations, and because they will
become '.nvaluable skeletons on the establishment of the New
Order (as we have emphasized in another place,) we think that


the United States, but particularly Great Brittain, are nearer
tlie realization of Socialism than generally supposed.

Most Americans remember the rising of the workingmen in
July 1877. That rising was to all Socialists, also to those who
held aloof from it, a most promising sign. The first revolt
of American white slaves against their task-masters!

That it was accompanied by excesses by the most neglected
si ratum of Society was unfortunate but unavoidable. This
stratum is just the worst heritage which capitalism leaves on
our hand.

In a very short time we shall have another series of years
of hard time. Remember what we said about l * Crises " in the
second chapter. We expect another revolt then, more serious
than the first. That most likely will also be suppressed with
comparative ease.

A few more years elapse. Another " crisis,'' yet more se-
vere, shows its hideous head. The screws of distress are turned
yet more on the wage-workers. Another most serious revolt.
Possibly powder and shot will suppress that, too.

But. in the fulness of time we shall have a labor revolt that
will not be put down. Then is the time for the energetic So-
cialist minority to exert its influence. There is nothing that
the people in such a crisis hail more than leaders, nothing they
hunger and thirst more after than clear-cut, definite solutions.

All the horrors of the French Revolution and the sad fact
that Napoleon the First became a necessity were due to the
circumstance, that the revolution had no leaders. We do not
mean to say. that that revolution was a failure, for it did ac-
complish every one of its objects: the abolition of privi-
leges, the dispossession of the land-owners and free competi-
tion, but the price paid was exorbitant.

In our civil war, on the other hand, it was the abolitionists
that successfully assumed the leadership, and probably exer-
ted all the influence to whicn they were entitled.

That the Socialist minority must do when the crisis comes,
and make out of a revolt — another revolution.

Be confident that the people will follow. In such times men
become awake, shake off nightmares ; the experience of years


is crowded into hours. Novelties which at first sight inspire
dread become in a few days familiar, then endurable, then

That is one way in which Socialism may be realized.

Here our mind Is involuntarily directed to a remarkable
book : Tlie Coming Bace, said to be by Buhver. It represents
a race, living underground in a great number of small com-
munities, as having attained to a perfect social state. It may bf
considered an ingenious satire on a Socialist Commonwealth
but no matter, it is highly interesting. That which at thifc
point led our thoughts upon it is a wonderful natural force
which those people are said to have discovered, which they
call Vril. It can be stored in a small wand, which rests in the
hollow of the palm and, when skillfully wielded, can rend
rocks, remove any natural obstacles, scatter the strongest
fortress and make the weak a perfect match for any combin-
ation of number, skill and discipline. No wonder that these
people attribute their equality, their freedom, felicity and ad-
vancement to this discovery.

What if this u Vril " is but a poetic anticipation of the civ-
ilizing power of that real, energetic substance which we call —
dynamite !

Again, we all have heard of the " anti-monopoly " move-
ment. That is a war, political and otherwise, of one class of
fleecers against another class of fleecers ; of industrial and
mcrcantiiecannibalsiigainst moneyed and corporate cannibals.
There is no love lost between the two classes just as little as
between two veritable cannibals. No one can tell to what ex-
tremities the war between them may not go. But the follow-
ing correspondence to the New York Sun from Titusville Pa.,
of Nov. 4th 1878, may give us an idea of possible coming

•• The fact is, the State of Pennsylvania has had a narrow
escape from an internal civil war. Had certain men given the
word, there would have been an outbreak that contemplated
the seizure of the railroads and running them, the capture and
control of the United Pipe Lines property, and in all
probability the burning of all the property of the Stand-


aril Oil Company in the region. The men who would have
done this, and may do it yet, are not laborers or tramps."

The Coming Revolution may arise out of a similar struggle
between our fleecing classes. Revolutions, however, have no
precedents. The wisest of us may err as much as Ulrich Von
Ilutten did in the days preceding the Reformation. Ulrich
was far in advance of Luther when the latter took hold of his
mission. Then he wrote iii a letter, still extant, to the effect
that he heard that a monk had become rebellious. " It de-
lights me" he wrote in substance, "'to hear of a rebellion in
the bosom of Holy Mother Church. How I wish the two par-
ties may tear each other to pieces ! " Yet it was just Luther
and not the clear-sighted nobleman whom the logic of events
selected as its organ.

Just as impossible it is to say, zohen we may expect the Com-
ing devolution. But it is worth reflecting on, that a prudent
man in 1853 would hardly have taken upon himself to foretell
the abolition of slavery in 1863.

Rut the Great Change is coming.

In the words of Carlyle:

" Will not one French Revolution suffice, or must there be
two? There will be two if needed; there will be twenty if
needed; there ivill be just as many as needed."

When the Cooperative Commonwealth is achieved, there
will be no room for any more revolutions. For revolutions
are caused by the clashings of cla^s-inteiests, and all class-
distinctions are forever abolished the moment the lowest clas3
is fully incorporated into Society.

But there will be plenty of room for progress, for further
evolution. Even our Commonwealth, though it may take a
long period to develop it. is but a step of the evolution. One
Commonwealth after another may decay and disappear, but
they will all contribute to the upbuilding of the Organism of

With Organized Humanity will be evolved the Coming Re-
ligion, though we already noticed it in the preceding chapter,
because people persist in mixing up morals and religion. But


morals really relates to the social organism : it makes the good
citizen. Religion relates to Humanity and makes the saint.
The Coming Religion will make us feel that we are here for
the sake of Humanity, with whose fate it may be found that
we are personally far more concerned than is now supposed;
it will make holiness consist in identifying ourselves with Hu-
manity — the redeemed form of man — as the lover merges him-
self in the beloved. Individualism : the deception that we
have been born into this world each for the sake of himself
or family, friend or kindred, Selfness, will be acknowledged to
be the satanic element of our nature.

We therefore more than doubt, we deny. Ward's proposition
that individual happiness is the end of human life. If it is,
the existences that were made miserable in order that man-
kind might be trained up to Social-Cooperation were failures;
they are decidedly not failures, if, as we hold, the end of
the individual existence is to further the evolution of Human-
ity, in whose fate it may be found, as we repeat, that we have
a greater stake than is supposed. But happiness is a, fact; as
an incident ot life and not an object of pursuit, it is a bless-
ed fact. It is to man what the odor is to the rose.

That the Xew Commonwealth will very much diffuse and
increase individual happiness there can be no doubt. It will •
make possible the harmonious exercise and development of
all human faculties in everybody— that itself is happiness.
It will, by banishing care and giving leisure, enable everyone
to become familiar with all that is known about the universe
and to explore its perpetual wonders and pore over its num-
berless riddles for himself — and that is more than happiness,
it is rapture. Finally, it will be the grandest vehicle for serv-
ing Humanity and thereby generate the purest happiness, per-
fect blessedness.

But blessedness it is even now our privilege to obtain. We
have the choice to live as Individualists and on our deathbed
look back in despair on a dreary, hateful life of play-acting, s
or as Socialists fill our existences with those serious moods
that make the grand tone of life, and in the hour of death
stand on the mountain-top, as it were, and see with entranced


eyes the rays of the Sun that soon will illumine the dark valleys
below. I, for my part, deem it worth ten crucifixions to win
for my memory a fraction of the adoring love which millions
ot the noblest men and women have felt for a Jesus.




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Online LibraryLaurence GronlundThe coöperative commonwealth in its outlines. An exposition of modern socialism → online text (page 22 of 23)