Laurence Gronlund.

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

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There is, as a matter of fact. cZzs-harmony between Labor,
reduced to a ware, and Capital, whether in the form of grain,
or meat, or stone, or metal, or wood. or clay which is labelled :
u hands off ! '■ There is. as a matter of fact, discord between
the worker — to whom nothing is coming beyond necessaries
and decencies of life; to whom even the most loathsome and
irksome labor does not insure subsistance; who is not benefit-
ted by his own increased capacity of production ; who is fir
from becoming richer the more ho works — and the capitalist
who. contrariwise, becomes richer the more the workers toil
for him ; who is constantly being immensely benefited by ev-
ery increase in productive capacity. Instead of harmony there
is, asa matter of fact, more than discord; there is a chronicwar-
fare between Capitalists and Laborers, and as an evidence of
it we point to — Strikes.

Capital and Labor Siamese Twins! Are capitalists and la-
borers Siamese Twins'? Why? Because they are in contact with
each other? So are the horse-leech and its victim.

Socialism has a serious dispute with Political Economy or
rather with its present teachers. The founders of the science
taught many truths; truths which we acknowledge and on
which Socialism, indeed, builds. But its professors claim that
it tells nations how to become prosperous. It does no such
thing. It tells individuals how to get rich : and it has found
apt pupils in every civilized country. The wealth of the
civilized world is incrediblv large and increasing iitanincred-

f Cj *— "

ible rate. Its present magnitude may be appreciated from the
fact, that the wealth accumulated in England during the, pres-
ent century is far greater than all the wealth accumulated dur-
ing all previous centuries. Or to come down to figures: The
wealth of the United Kingdom was:

In 1800 Nine Thousand Million Dollars;

In 1340 Twenty kt " '•

In 18G0 Thirty " " "

In 1S80 Forty-five %l a "

Could human efforts have accomplished more.' But is this
enormous Wealth "' National Wealth,"' as is pretended?


What part have the beggars in the streets of London in it?
What part have the British workingmen, who created this
wealth, in it? We shall see.

The income of the United Kingdom in 1879 amounted to
5,325 million dollars, distributed as follows:

The working-classes (12 million persons) had 2,140 million
dollars, or $ 178 to the person ; while all others (3 million per-
sons) had 3,185 million dollars; of the latter, again a little
over 9.300 individuals had $100,000 apiece. One hundred and
seventy-eight dollars a year — that, then, is the share of the
British worker in the ''National" wealth. *

Our Political Economists are yet more guilty. They make
their science sanction our present industrial arrangements, in-
stead of explaining them. They virtually teach that, be-
cause things are as they are, they will always remain, and
ought always to remain so. Socialists, or Social — Econo-
mists, as they might call themselves, use the truths of Po-
litical Economy to prepare for a higher stage of development,
show the workers that though now

" The seed ye sow another reaps ;
The wealth ye find another keeps ; "

it will not always be so, and urge that a Social Order which per-
mits certain individuals to appropriate the withheld wages of
generations of w r eary workers ought not to last.

The first lesson of Socialism, then, is that the Wage-System^
the Profit-System, the Fleecing-System, is utterly unfit for
a higher civilization.

u But you are not fair. You have entirely omitted to state
that these individuals do contribute to the size of your 'cakes.'

* Do not jump at the conclusion, that because the British
workingman is paid $178 a year and the American $346, that
therefore the latter is twice as well off as the former. \\\
England a given sun; may go twice as far as here — for many
reasons, one <>t which is t natt lie " store-order "system, so ex-
tensively practised here, is in England sternly forbidden by
law .


They direct all these enterprises, a work of considerable impor-

Granted. Thoy do direct, or see to it that somebody directs.
But is half the cake not a pretty dear price for overseeing
its baking? Could not that work be doue in some other
way, just as well and somewhat cheaper?



"We nil can Pre that there are all over our country energies
which can find no employment or, at all events, minds which
are cruelly compressed into duties far too narrow, and, on the
other hand, work which remains undone for want of adequate
energies, hecanse no systematic attempt has yet been made to
estimate' the real needs of the social organism and to distrib-
ute its lorces in accordance witli them. — There is no organic
adjustment any where." — The "Value of Life," an American
work. anon.

••Competition gluts our markets, enables the rich to take ad-
vantage of the necessities of the poor, makes each man snatch
the bread out of his neighbor's mouth, converts a nation of
brethren into ;i mass of hostile, isolated units, and finally in-
volves capitalists and laborers in one common ruin." — Greg.

'•It is not to die, or even to die of hunger that makes a man
wretched; many men have died; all men must die. But it is
to live miserable, we know not why; to work sore and yet
gain nothing; to be heartworn, weary, yet isolated, unrelated,
girt in with a cold universal Laissez-faire." — Carlyle.

The wage-system may be said to be of vital interest only to
the wage-workers. They are a considerable part of the na-


tion. They include not only the operatives in our factories
and mines, but the whole army of railroad employees, all hired
mon on farms, all clerks engaged in stores and mercantile es-
tablishments; all. in fact, who help to create Values and re-
ceive a stated salary. And if not their numbers but the Val-
ues produced by them constitute the measure of their impor-
tance, they will be found very much to overbalance our inde-
pendent farmers. The whole agricultural class (7.600.000 per-
sons.) indeed, did not create more wealth in 1S80 than our
manufacturing operatives alone (2.700.000 in number.) But
though the wage-workers are an important fraction of our
population they, nevertheless, are but a fraction. If Socialism
had regard to them only, it were nothing but a cZass-rnove-

We claim there is a something-wrong in Society which vi-
tally affects the whole nation and every individual of it. In
prosperous years it may not obtrude itself on the attention of
thoughtless people, but let " hard times " come on, and it
makes everybody feel uneasy. What is this "something-
wrong " ? Socialists say that it is nothing less than the meth-
od, the policy, which governs all activities of the principal
nations of our time. It is spreading itself in Catholic socie-
ties, and throughout the whole world, but it arose in Protes-
tant countries. It is, in fact, simply the exaggerated form of
one of the principles of Protestantism : the independence of
the individual ; which exaggerated individual independence
we can properly call : Individualism. We can also call the pol-
icy : the ki let alone " policy; its admirers give it a more eu-
phonious name : Private Enterprise.

Lee alone ichom — what?

In the middle ages the feudal barons erected castles, from
which they issued forth with their retainers, when they espied
merchants and adventurers approaching on the contiguous
highways laden with wealth, stopped them — and levied tolls.
All that these -barons desired was to be "let alone." Incur
age it is the spiritual descendants of these merchants and ad-
venturers who have grown powerful, fattened on " fleecings."
They in their turn demand to " be let alone;" they demand


that society shall be an unrestricted hunting ground for their
''enterprise." They are let alone; we shall now note with
what results to the different classes of society.

Before our present industrial system got into full swing —
that is, betore the power of steam was utilized — the master-
workman was an adept in his trade and owned his tools and
the raw-materials he used. This is all now changed. The work-
man is now divorced from his implements and raw materials
which have got under the complete control of the capitalist
class; he now has nothing left but his naked labor. This it
is, again, which enables employers to buy labor in the market
for a price much below the productivity of that labor; that is
at a value much below its worth.

This monopoly has made employers into a class of autocrats,
the laborers into a class of dependents — of hirelings. As
Jesse Jones says In tbe* ••International llevicw," of October
1S80: •• A class is fixed, when nine-tenths of those comprising
it can never get out of it. * * * Why mock workingmen by
putting rare exceptions for a general rule?"

The laboring men are dealt with by our managers as mere
tools. They are spoken of as tools, as things. This humani-
tarian age counts steers and sheep by " heads " and the work-
ers by "•hands." A pity God did not make them only " hands ! "

It is a paltry evasion to say, that the workers are free to con-
sent or to refuse the terms of the employer. It is an evasion
worthy of the man who asked permission of the Virgin to rob
her of her necklace — and then did it. taking silence for con-
sent. The Laborers have to consent. If they refuse the terms,
capitalists simply stop business; they can stand it. "Hard
times' 1 are really only hard on those whose subsistence de-
pends on having work to do. The wives and daughters of
capitalists do, as a rule, not leave off during •* hard times" at-
tending operas in their silks, satins and diamonds; do not, as
a rule, quit their luxurious brownstone-f runts or dismiss their
liveried servants.

Henry George in his u Progress and Poverty" epitomizes
the position of our laborers as follows : " Compelled to more


continuous labor than the savage, the laborer — a mere, link in
an enormous chain of producers and consumers, helpless to
separate himself and helpless to move, except as they move
— gains the mere necessaries of life, just what the savage
gets, and loses the independence of the savage." And as to
security he is not much better off The irregularity of his
employment, the frequency with which he is out of work, is
ih j uust alarming feature of the workingman's condition. And
that irregularity is often, very often, purposely brought about
by tne employing capitalist class. For instance, in order to
put up the prise of anthracite coal, out of twenty-four work-
ing days of a certain month nine were made idle days by the
coal companies of Pennsylvania. The mining was interrupt-
ed to limit supply and the miners were left to do the best they
could with work for two days out of every three.

This condition has been rendered yet enormously more pre-
carious by the remarkable industrial inventions of the age.

These victories of man, of Society, over Nature's physical
forces ought certainly to have been unqualified blessing* to

Yet, how often have they proven instruments of torture to the
working class! How many has the introduction of new ma-
chinery not thrown out of employment; how many exist-
ences have not thereby been destroyed!

We are familiar with the commonplace, that the outcry of
laborers against ** newfangled machinery " is a complaint born
of ignorance; that in the end the working classes areas much
benefitted as other classes. This outcry is by no means noth-
ing but an ignorant childish complaint. Machinery would be
an unqualified blessing, if the temporary injury which it so
often has caused to individuals and whole bodies of men were
considered in a spirit of social justice and brotherliness, That
has never been done wherever the working classes are con<
sidered, either in this or any other country. In their case our
legislators persistently repudiate the duty to take care of the
interests of those who are sacrificed for the benefit of their
fellow citizens and of posterity, iiut whenever other classes
have been thus affected there has never been the slightest hesita-


lion to liberally compensate those, prejudicially affected. It
is the action of Society that has made machinery an evil. This
is the real meaning of the outcry against i4 newfangled ma-

And we deny that working people hitherto have been essen-
tially benefitted by machinery and inventions at all. The sew-
ing machine is a pointed illustration. That was thought, at
all events, to be a blessing to the overworked, famishing needle-
woman. Yet what has followed? That she is now still more
overworked, more poorly paid and her health still more en-

But, to be sure — these inventions were not adopted by cap-
italists for the benefit of workpe >ple. or for the general bene-
fit; no, indeed! For, of course, this machinery and these in-
ventions have also gone into the hands of capitalists and are
controlled by them for their exclusive benefit; and with ad-
mirable results. It has been calculated that two-thirds of all
benefit arising from the use of machinery have gone to these
"pushing" fellows and the remaining one-third to the con-
sumers. Even our patent laws, with the general advantage for
their primary idea, have become a means of enabling these
capitalists, in no sense inventors, to levy heavy tribute upou
the community for an indefinite length of time.

•' Ah ! but the workers are also consumers, we should think,
and form the majority in fact of all consumers. ''

Hold on, sir! Has machinery lightened the day's toil of any
worker? That is what ought to measure the benefits of ina-
chim ry to him. Let us see, if it has.

Here is one picture: Massachusetts is a model state, we
suppose. Well, a statute; of that State in 18G0 made ten hours
a maxium working day for children under twelve years of age.

In 1SG7 her legislators became a little more humane and en-
acted that no child under fifteen years of age should work more
than sixty hours a week-. Go to Pennsylvania, and see children
ten years old taken down every morning into the mines to
work! Here is another picture: In England, two hundred
years back ten hours were a normal working day for strong black-


tmiths and robust agricultural laborers. *

" But compare the comforts of our laborers two hundred

years ago. What a wonderful betterment in that respect ! "

What of it? What comfort is that to our laborers? You
might as well compare their condition with that of a savage
in Africa who does not need a coat, does not need soap. Just
so the laborers of a former age did not need a good many
things which now are necessaries or decencies of life. We say
their condition has not improved, because it takes considera-
ble more toil to procure the needful now than it did then, as
testified to, among others, by Ilallam : " The laborer is much
inferior in ability to support a family than were his ancestors
four centuries ago." Why ! before the beginning of this "'cap-
italistic" svstem laborers couid in England live a whole week
upon the earnings of four days; now in Massachusetts he often
cannot live a week upon the earnings of a week of much more
continuous toil. No, in many cases he is obliged to disrupt
his familjr and send his wife and children to the factory.

For that is the greatest curse of machinery — or rather of
"individualistic" monopoly of machinery — that capital can be
and is coined out of women and even out of infancy ; that
women and children can be and are substituted for men. Thus,
not alone are men turned into wares, governed by Demand and
Supply, but men are made to scramble for a precarious living
with their wives, sisters and children. In the cotton and woollen
factories of enlightened Massachusetts women and children
now compose two-thirds of the working force. The necessa-
ry result is a great reduction in wages. It is notorious that
the wages thus earned by a whole family do not, on an aver-
age, exceed those of the head of the family in occupations
w here it has not yet become habitual to employ women and

And do uot venture to compare the independence of our work-
ing classes with the artisans of England of a former age, who
partly worked for themselves, and possessed a cottage and a

♦Thornton: Over population and its remedy Prof. Thor-
aldHogers: History of Agriculture in England. Ilallam,
2nd part of 9th Chap, of '* The Middle Ages."


cow and a strip of land to cultivate. Our ox-eyed, docile
wage-workers, restrained by arbitrary shop rules prescribed
by their lord — rules that forbid them to talk to each other or
even to laugh ( / ) — will not for a moment bear comparison with
the merry families of master and men of the despised Middle

The first result of the u Let alone" System, thus, is that
capitalists monopolize all the instruments of production, all
the previous acquisitions of Society, all increase in the produc-
tivity of Labor, and therefore, exercise an autocratic control of
all industries and over the whole working class.

The great weapon at the command of the capitalist is Com-

tk Competition," like most economical terms, is a very slip-
pery word. At one time it means something which advances
the successful, but leaves the unsuccessful o\\ his former level,
that kind of competition rouses the energy of both, of the un-
successful as well as of the successful and increases the ca-
pacity of both. We shall call that by a much more appropri-
ate term : Emulation.

At another time " competition " means the advancing one-
self at the cost of others; the pulling the many down, the el-
bowing the many aside, in order to advance the one. That
"competition" is most cruel to the individual and. in the
long run, mostfinjurious to Society.

It deserves the name of u cut-throat competition " when the
wage-workers are forced into a struggle to see who shall live
and who shall starve.

But these are by no means the only sufferers. The small
employers, the small merchants are just as much victims of
that cruel kind of competition as the wage-worker. For every
one of the fleecers lives in a state of nature with all of hi3
brethren; the hand of the one is against the other, and no
foe is more terrible than the one who is running a neck-to-neck
race with him every day. The mammoth factory, the mam-
moth store is a most implacable foe. The fierce competition
lessens the profit on each article, and that must be coinpensa*


ted foi by a greater number of them being produced and sold,
that is, the cheaper the goods, the more capital is required.

Precisely, therefore, for the same reason that the mechanic
with his own shop and working on his own account nearly has
disappeared in the struggle between hand-work and machine-
work, the small employers with their little machinery, their
small capital and their little stock of goods are being driven
from the field.

Look at those queer princes of ours —vulgar men, far from
possessing eminent faculties or high attainments; men having
no more knowledge or mental capacity than is required in
many mechanical pursuits — who by the employment and
power of their capital yearly ruin multitudes of hard working
merchants, and boast that they are selling more goods in a
day than the whole " crowd " of other stores in a week ! .Scores
of such small merchants, driven to the wall by an A. T. Stew-
art, had to be glad, if the " prince " would make them his ser-
vants and graciously allow them to help swell his millions.

In short, the smaller fortunes invested in productive or com-
mercial enterprises are by this cnt-throat competition attract-
ed to the great capitals, just as iron tilings are to the magnet.
The great; capitalist triumphs, the small capitalist becomes a
clerk, wage-laborer or parasite of some kind or other; the
middle class disappears little by little. Our social order may fit-
ly be compared to a ladder of which the middle rounds are
being torn away, one by one.

This, then, is another fruit of Private " Enterprise." that
the small employers are gradually being rooted out by the great

I n former periods Society was tormented with plagues, caused,
as we now know, by ignorance and consequent violation of
the laws of health. Our era is cursed with Crises, occurring
far more frequently than plagues and causing with each oe-
currence as much misery.

Economists say, that these crises are caused by overproduc-
tion. kl ' Overproduction ! " — a remarkable word, in truth, as
long as (Tie unfed and unclad human being, willing to work,


roams the earth. Would not our ancestors of any preceeding
age have considered anyone who would have talked to them
of overproduction a lunatic? Could they, you think, have con-
ceived of such an abnormity as that any nation could ever suf-
fer from too much industry, too much commerce, too many tools
and too much food? But we ought, in order to be fair, to take
the word in the sense of these economists. They mean by
14 overproduction " a too large production, compared with the
effective demand. But, then, what is the cause of the too large

Private Enterprise Socialists say. Private Enterprise com-
pels every producer to produce for himself, to sell for himself,
to keep all his transactions secret, without any regard what-
ever for anybody else in the wide world. But the producer
and merchant — the small ones, especially — find daily out, that
their success or failure depend, in the first place, precisely on
how much others produce and sell, and, in the second place, on a
multitude of causes — often on things that may happen thou-
sands of miles away — which determine the power of purchase
of their customers. They have got no measure at hand at all
by which they can, even approximately, estimate the actual
effective demand of consumers or ascertain the producing ca-
pacity of their rivals. In other words : Private '•Enterprise"
is a defiance of Nature's law which decrees that the interests
of Society are interdependent; and Nature punishes that defi-
' ance in her own crude way by playing ball with these individ-
ualist^, and what is worse, by rendering all production, all
commerce chaotic. Iiislc is Nature's llevenge.

Just take a bird's-eye view of the way Private i4 Enterprise "'
manages affairs. Observe how every manufacturer, every incr-
< hant strives in every possible way — by glaring advertise-
ment-. i>y underselling others, by giving long credits, by send-
ing out an army of drummers — to beat his rivals. Not one
here and there, not a few do this; they all do it. We shall
suppose the season a favorable one; all of them receive or-
d irs in greater number than they expected. These orders
Stimulate each one of the manufacturers to a more and more
enlarged production far ahead of the orders received, in the


hope of being able to dispose of all that is being produced.
But mark! this production of all these manufacturers is and
must necessarily be, absolutely planless. It depends altogeth-
er on chance and the private guesswork of these ** enterprising "
individuals, who ail are guessing entirely in the dark. That
means that all their production, all their commerce, is in the
nature of gambling. To a thoughtful observer nothing will seem
more inevitable, than that this planless production must end in
the market being at some time overstocked with commodities
of one kind or another; that is, that it must end in *• overpro-
duction" as to those goods. In that branch of production prices,
consequently, fall, wages come down, or a great manufactur-
er fails, and a smaller or greater number of workmen are dis-

But one branch of industry depends upon another; one
branch suffers when another is depressed! The stoppage of pro-
duction at one point, therefore, necessarily shows itself at an-
other point in the industrial network. The circle of depression
thus grows larger and larger from month to month, failure
succeeds failure, the general consumption diminishes, all pro-
duction and commerce is paral3 r zed. We have got the crisis.
To those who were all the time planning and working in the
dark everything seemed to be going on as usual ; it has natural-

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Online LibraryLaurence GronlundThe coöperative commonwealth in its outlines. An exposition of modern socialism → online text (page 3 of 23)