Laurence Gronlund.

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

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ly come on them like a thunderbolt from a clear sky.

Vast quantities of stored up goods now have to be disposed
of at great sacrifice, to the ruin not alone of their owners but
of many others who thereby are forced, likewise, to sell under
cost-price. Then it is we hear from everyone in every calling
tins the .strongest of all condemnations of this Social •• Order'
of ours: w * We have too many competitors; half of us must
perish, before the other half can live." All the result of plan-
less work.

When such a crisis ha« lasted for years, when such sacrifice
of goods and standstill of production has finally overcome
the •* overproduction,," then the inevitable demand at length
calls for renewed production; aid Society commences to re-
cover slowly, but only to repeat the old story. Producers
want to indemnify themselves for what they have lost and


hope to u make" sufficient, before another crisis comes on.
Because all producers act in like manner, each one trying to
outflank the other, another catastrophe is invited. It responds
to the call and approaches with accelerated strides and with
more damaging effects than any of its predecessors.

These crises very much quicken the absorption of the small-
er fortunes by the large ones, for the capitalist with large re-
sources is the only one capable in the long run of withstand-
ing this rough treatment; of outraged Nature. The smaller cap-
italists the crises swallow np like veritable maelstroms.

Tliese maelstroms : the crises, then, are the direct production oj
Private Enterprise.

Again, we saw how the workingmen were driven out of their
employment as producers, how the small employers were push-
ed out of their business by this cut-throat competition. In
nine cases out of ten they have only one refuge left: that of
squeezing themselves in between producers and con -timers as
shopkeepers, saloonkeepers, peddlers, •'agents.'' boarding-and
lodging-house-keepers; that is, of becoming parasites.

It may seem hard to speak thus of persons who by no means
lead an enviable existence, who honestly try to make some
sort of a living, whose life often is a tread-mill of drudgery
and, if different from that of the working-man's. i> only dif-
ferent in this, that while the latter struggles for the nee jssities
of today, the lormer struggle for the threatened necessities uf

They are, nevertheless, parasites, unnecessary workers. Going
along our streets you observe one small store, one boarding-
house crowding another, one saloon, and often several, in one
block: you will have all kinds of men and women tin list their
small stock into your face; in your house you will be annoyed
by all kinds of peddlers and agents, socalled.

All these people live. Somebody must earn their living for

In the first place, they live by enhancing the price <>f pro-
visions and all other goods twice and three times what the pro-
ducers get. The difference between their prices and whole-


sale prices makes just the difference between healthful plenty
and half satisfied hunger for the poor. It is a great mistake to
suppose that competition always, or necessarily, lowers prices.
It often has just the contrary effect. Probably two-thirds of
existing small shopkeepers can not make a decent living with-
out extravagant profits. Or, if the prices can not be enhanced,

In the second place, they live by depreciating the quality
of their goods and by short weights and measures. Adulter-
ation of provisions and merchandize is notoriously carried on
in every branch of trade that will permit of it ; has indeed become
a social institution, against which no law can make any head-
way. A representative of a leading spice house lately said:
44 We sell to the trade more adulterated goods than pure. We
cannot help it. AVe simply sell the retailer what he wants.
It would ruin the trade to prohibit adulteration." Competition
in drugs is now so hot, dealers, in order to live, are compelled
to adulterate, to weaken and to substitute It has gone so far,
that manufacturers of *• mineral pulp,*' now boldl} T importune
respectable millers and grocers to mix rock-dust with their
Hour and sugar,

The laboring class, more than any other, is the natural prey
of these parasites. Remember, that the laborer's ware, his
labor, is never paid for till it has been used ; that he must
give his employer credit, always for a week, often for two
weeks or a month; that he will have to wait for his compen-
sation, even while the values he has created have been long
since converted into cash in his employer's hands. It is a neces-
sary consequence, that he, on his part, must ask credit from
his shopkeeper. He becomes the prey, bound hand and foot, of
that shopkeeper. He dare not murmur at the price charged,
dares not be over particular as to weight or quality. He is pret-
ty much in the same fix as the fly in the spider's web.

Thus the portion of the industrial cake allotted to labor is
further considerably curtailed, and all on account of Private
44 Enterprise ;" for it, also, is exclusively responsible for these


Let us puss over to our farmers. They, as yet the majority
of our working- population, are still the great conservative
force, the brake, so to speak, on the wheel of progress. Is it
likely that they will continue to be? We shall see.

Our fanners were half a generation ago considered and are
still considered the most independent and prosperous class of
the community.

True, the prosperity of the western farmer, especially, was
and is not of a character to excite the envy of anybody. His
whole life, and more particularly that of his wife, was one of
toil. lie had to break our lands and clear our forests. His
family had to subject themselves to all kinds of privations for
a lifetime of dreary years. The social life of the farmers' wives
was a mockery of our civilization; their sisters struggling in
the cities had. at least, the comfort of suffering in company.
To the family of the farmer sugar, tea and coffee were, for a
series of years, luxuries, especially when droughts and grass-
hoppers destroyed the fruits ot his toil, generally as severe as
that of his horse. And his reward? That of vegetating and
'•raising" a family, as we so expressively term it; yes —
and of beiiig the owner of his farm.

But his ownership is even now. frequently, one in name
only. The capitalist has got hold of him also. Very many
of the western farms are covered with mortgages, which their
nominal owners have no hope of ever raising. This fact is so
well known, that the N. Y. '• Times " some time ago advised
the farmers to prepare themselves for their fate. What
fate? That of becoming tenant-farmers like their brethren
of Great Britain.

It is, especially, since the commencement of the last decade
that they are falling victims to " Private Enterprise."

There is in the ** Atlantic .Monthly" for .Ian try 1SS3 a most
instructive article.* entitled * 4 liouanza Farms." containing
many startling facts, which in the near future cannot but have
an important bearing on tho condition of our farmers. These
" Bonanza Farms" are vast cultivated tracts of land in Min-

* Embodied in a book called •' Land and Labor," published
by Scribner and Sons. Mr. Moody of BoscO.i is the author.



nesota, Dakota, Texas, Kansas and California, each containing
thousands of acres of land owned by presidents and directors
of railways, by bankers in St. Paul and New York, London
and Frankfort-on-the-Main. They are conducted on purely
'* business." — that is, capitalist principles. On these farms
there are no families, no women, no children, no homes. There
is no need for them. But there is plenty of "' Labor" in the
neighborhood. There is such an abundance of unemployed
men, that the managers of the farms can hire all the labor they
want for $16,00 a month, during the busy seasons with thir-
teen hours of daily labor, and for $8. 00 a month during the
balance of the year.

This fact alone would render it absolutely out of the ques-
tion for the surrounding small farmers to compete with the
bonanzas. For the former have to support a family, and to
feed, clothe and shelter, and altogether provide for the same
number of persons throughout the whole year, while the lat-
ter only need to hire about one-fourth the number of persons,
in proportion to the work to be done, and that for less than
one-fourth of the year. But the small farmer has other and
greater odds still to contend with : the discrimination practised
by other large corporations. Thus, the bonanzas obtain spec-
ial rates from the railroad companies : /. i. they are charged
for the transportation of their produce rates, fifty per cent be-
low those which the other farmers are obliged to pay; they
buy their machinery and farming implements of the manu-
facturers and dealers at a discount of 33 1-3 per cent.
from the published rates. We ought, therefore, not to won-
der, when we are told, that the surrounding small farmers are
hop lessly in debt, while the owners oi these bonanza farms
— the aforesaid bankers and railroad-presidents — are amassing
colossal fortunes; that they even with wheat at only 70 cts. a
bushel realize twenty per cent, the lirst year on their capital
and the second year — fifty-live per cent.

The article concludes with the remark : " We are taking im-
mense strides in placing our country in the position of Great
Britain, and even worse." So it seems. For there the farms
are practically homesteads, while the bonanza farms have noth-


ing suggesting homes, except a building for the bachelor su-
perintendent and the boarding house for the '* hands."
There is no doubt that these bonanzas will in the near
future increase greatly in number. Thus our publie lands,
which were intended for happy homes are in a fair way u* be-
coming no better than penal colonies, and of being robbed o/
their rich soil for the benefit of capitalist pockets. What
will then become of our farmer- 44 proprietors " but farmer-
tenantsf If they are already running behindhand now^ how
much time will it take for the bonanza farmers to put an end
to their proprietorship, by means of Private 4l Enterprise? "
Especially if our export to Europe, on account of good har-
vest there, should happen to cease. Bear in mind, that our
country already now produces far more food than our popula-
tion could possibly consume, and yet thousands of acres are
yearly added to the area under cultivation.

Yes. the time will come, when our farmers will learn, that
Socialism is the only refuge alike for them and the other work-
ing classes, and their eyes may be opened to the advantage of
the Cooperative Commonwealth. The great dairy farms in New
York State and elsewhere may also contribute their quota to
this lesson.

Thus even our farmers, as yet the most splendid yeomanry
the world has ever seen, are becoming the victims of Private
Enterprise to fully the same extent as our workingman and small

lint our big capitalists have a still more powerful sledge-
hammer than that of Competition ready at hand, to wit : Com-

These gentlemen know practical dialectics. They know,
that, though Competition and Combination areopposites, they
yet may come to mean the same thing — to them. They have
already found that while Competition is a very excellent weap-
on to use against their weaker rivals, Combination pays far bet-
ter in relation to their peers. It is evident, that it is combin-
ation they mainly rely upon for their future aggrandizement.

Combination consists in one or several capitalists or corpora-


tions helping along a third, on the condition of participating
in the fleecings. We have already mentioned one such instance.
We saw how railroad officers united with bonanza farmers to
crush out the small farmers. We read of another instructive
instance in an article published in the '' Atlantic Monthly " for
March 1881, and headed: "The story of a great Monopoly."

it tells, how the Erie and Pennsylvania Railroads and Van-
deruiit ** pooled their interests with the " Standard Oil Com-
pany," how they agreed to carry, and did carry its oil at much
lower rates than the oils of other companies, and in many cases
absolutely refused to carry the oils of the latter. It tells how,
by such discrimination, the fleecings of the kk Standard "
swelled to such an extent that, starting with a capital stock of
one million, it paid to its stockholders a dividend of one mil-
lion dollars a month, and has now piled up in undivided profits
and other forms a capital of Thirty Millions. Truly a • "Great
Monopoly," a very dangerous monopoly, one should think, for
Pennsylvania and the public at large.

"By the same tactics," says the u.'ter, "the Railroads can
give other combinations of capitalists the control of the lum-
ber, cotton, iron and coal of the United States."

In Europe such alliances between Railroads and corporations
would be impossible. But in our country, where Private " En-
terprise " runs rampant, where the "Let Alone" abomination is
carried to its highest logical pitch, such alliances are certain
to be a prominent feature of our future.

But the evils which flow from the somethiug-wrong in So-
ciety is not confined to wage- workers, farmers and small em-
ployers. The at present existing relations of men constitute
the comfortless mutual slavery of us all, as we shall tind,
wherever we turn. Professional men of every kind can. al-o.
be divided into those who have and those who have not; and
those among them who have not are fully as bad off as the
wage-workers, indeed worse off, for their culture becomes an
additional curse to them. We will suppose such a man has
talents, that he has qualified himself by hard study for a re-
sponsible function in Society, yet this anarchical Society has


no opening for him. He perhaps becomes a clerk, jnst as mucli
dependent on his employer just as much a hireling as the wage-
worker is; he likewise mast hold his tongue, and constantly
be on the lookout to preserve the favor of his august autocrat,
while he all the while is doing the work of others who really
receive the pay.

AVliat a spectacle, for instance, does the medical profession
present! One successful practitioner we find burdened with
more work than mortal man can perform — in the surrounding
streets twenty unhappy men, eacli ot whom as laboriously
trained, wasting their capabilities, starving, perhaps, for want.
Under better arrangements these twenty would form a corps
of subalterns under the really ablest physician — and not mere-
ly the most successful impostor — physicking people for head-
aches, while the latter treated only more difficult cases.

But now. even in all professions, the watchword is, ** Every
one look out for himself and the devil take the hindmost " —
all due to Unrestricted Private ,k Enterprise.' 1 ''

Our era may be called the Jewish Age. The Jews have,
indeed, had a remarkable influence on our civilization. Long
ago they infused in our race the idea of one God, and now
they have made our whole race worship a new true God :
The Golden Calf; but, again, it is Jews — such noble Jews as
Karl Marx and Lassalle — who have sounded the alarm for the
most determined battle against this very Jcwism. * l Jewism."
to our mind, best expresses that special curse of our age.
Speculation^ the transfer of wealth from others to themselves
by chicanery without giving an equivalent.

If there is one species of gambling more despicable than
another, it is gambling in grain. The sales of grain on our
Produce-Exchanges are merely gambling transactions Cliques
of the wealthiest men in Chicago, Milwaukee and New York,
having behind them banks and other moneyed corporations,
make enormous combinations of capital to " corner '' the mark-
et, locking up millions of bushels of wheat, and maintain fam-
ine-prices in the midst of plenty. Their profits are enormous.
So are those of another clique who owns all pork. And where


do those profits come from? From the workers, of coarse
from the bread- winners, who thus earn the support and the
wealth, not only of their employers, their so-called " bread-
givers," but of those Vampires who use their backs as the green
table on which to play their games.

The Vampires are quite different creatures from the para-
sites we already have treated of. The latter are workers, though
superfluous workers, the former are not workers at all. Fait
then, they do not call themselves workers either, but — " t busi-
ness men." There is quite a difference between work and
business as that word is now commonly used. •• Work " is ef-
fort to satisfy wants, and may be either useful or useless; but
u business " is effort to benefit by the work of others, and if that
xS to be called " work." it is at any rate mischievous work; in
that sense our criminals, also, work and generally pretty hard.
" Work " is being busy in benefit; "business" being busy in
mischief. Our parasites are useless workers; our Vampires
are not better than thieves and swindlers.

On a par with Speculation is much of our "Traffic." The
"enterprise" of our mercantile " kings " and "princes" is
very often but another name for chicanery and swindling.
"Suppose," John Ruskin says, "a community of three men
on an island. Two, the one a farmer and the other a mechan-
ic, are so far apart, that they are wholly at the mercy of the
third who travels between them, and effects their exchanges.
He is constantly watching his opportunities, and retains the
products of the one with which he has been intrusted
and which are needed hy the other, until there comes a period
of extreme need for them and he can exact enormous gains
from their necessities. It is easy to see that, while he may in
that way draw the whole wealth of the community to him-
self and make li is principals his servants, he also in fact di-
minishes the amount of wealth by cramping the operations of
his two customers and diminishing the effective results of their
labors. That is Wealth, acquired on the strict principles of
Political Economy." And the millions which go into the pock-
ets of these mercantile men of ours as " profits " are by them
called reward for " enterprise'' " compensation for risk," —


Do we call the gains of the swindler or the robher "compen-
sation forrisks?" Xo, commerce, \v\ibh is the interchange of
commodities, is a most beneficial social activity ; Traffic Trade,
which, as Herbert Spencer says, is "essentially corrupt,"
which partakes of the nature either of gambling or overreach-
ing, is not

Ylicse Vampires are the offspring of the '* Let Alone" Policy.

i% Laissez-faire,"' %t Let alone , " — leave the upright at the mer-
cy of the cunning; leave the ignorant ta teach themselves;
leave everyone who profits by a corrupt system to make the
most for himself; let Labor remain something wholesale out
of which fortunes arc made and which during that process
yields such and such a per cent age of Misery and Sin — what a
grand "principle!" By adopting it for its guiding-star our
Society has achieved — Anarchy.

Our comfortable classes talk much of " Social Order." In
ancient Greece and Rome there was Social •• Order." such
as it was; during part of the Middle Age, there was Social
• % Order," such as it was. But in our age there is, as we have
seen, throughout our whole economic sphere no social order
at all. There is absolute Social Anarchy. It is against this
Social Anarchy that Socialism, chiefly, is a protest.

We have seen the various phases of this anarchy, all the le-
gitimate outgrowth of private *" enterprise: "

All instruments of production are monopolized. The evil
of this monopoly d;>es not so much consist in the plutocrat
being the undisputed owner of that which In; has acquired
(the sum total of which is now so very inappropriately called
National wealth.) Though formed out of fieecings and in no oth-
er manner whatsoever, he can claim these acquisitions as his
property, because he has got hold of them by the express con-
sent of Societ}'. The evil lies in this, that he is able and per-
mitted to use this property of his to further fleece his fellow-
men out of the proceeds of their toil.

This private enterprise is responsible for our crises, the in-
evitable consequences of defying the natuial law of /Solidarity
between all the members ot Societ}'.


It has produced our parasites and vampires.

ft has given us Competition with all its baneful conse-

Not Emulation, which no Society can afford to do without,
the loss of which would check all advance and deaden all en-

But Cannibalism, that poisonous tooth the extraction ol
which would immensely relieve society.

It has put into the hands of our Plutocrats a deadlier club
than competition for them to use whenever it serves their pur-
pose: Combination among themselves.

it has destroyed all the patriarchal, idyllic relations which
formerlly existed among men and left only the one "
relation: Cash-payment. It has drowned the chivalrous
enthusiasm, the pious idealism which existed in previous
ages iu a chilly shower of realistic egotism. It has put ex-
change-value in place of personal human dignity and license
iu place or* freedom. It has made the physician, the jurist, the
poet, the scientist, retainers of the Plutocracy. It has made
marriage a commercial relation and prostitution one of the es-
tablished institutions of Society.

But let us be fair.

So far we have discussed only the evil workings of " private
enterprise." We heartily admit that, on the other hand, it has
performed wonders. It hj-s built monuments greater than the
pyramids. Its Universal Expositions have moved greater
masses of men than the Crusades ever did. It has done man-
kind an immense service in proving by hard facts, that whole-
sale manufacture is the most sensible form of Labor.

But we contend that it now has done all the good it can,
that the evils which now How from '•'* private enterprise " far
outweigh the benefits it confers.

That is why we condemn it. We condemn it just as we con-
demn an old. decaying building, however useful it may have
been in its time; or as Nature condemns the cocoon of a
chrysalis, when a butterfly is ready to be born.

But we know full well that "private enterprise" will for some
time yet go on working mischief. We know it must become


a good deal worse than it is, before it can become better.

But we also know that in the fullness of time the Logic of
Events will, imperatively, demand a change from this Social
Anarchy to true Social Order.



"Real history is a history of tendencies, not of events."—

"Nothing would lead the mass of men to embrace Socialism
sooner than the conviction, that this enormous accumulation
of Capital in a few hands was to be. not only an evil in fact if
not prevented, but a necessary evil beyond prevention.

"If such a tendency should manifest itself, it would run
through all forms of property. A Stewart or a Claflin would
root out small trades-people. Holders of small farms would
sink into tenants. The buildings of a city would belong to a
few owners. Small manufacturers would have to take pay
from mammoths of their own kind or be ruined. * * * *
If this went to an extreme in a free country, the 'expropriated'
could not endure it. They would go to some other country,
and leave the proprietors alone in the land, or they would
drive them away. A revolution, slow or rapid, would cer-
tainly bring about a new order of things." — "Communism and
Socialism^ by Dr. Th. D. Woolsey.

That Capital— not "Wealth,'* not "Property" but Capital—
*n private hands involves the dependence of the masses; that
^wr Established Older is nothing but Established Anarchy


are the conclusions we have arrived at. Will such a state
of things last forever?

Here we meet with one of the greatest obstacles with which
Socialists have to contend : the notion that whatever is, is the
innnutableorder of nature. Because the wage-system and the
" Let-alone " policy now prevail and have prevailed as far back
as any one can remember, people, even well-informed people,
fancy that this policy and that system constitute the necessa-

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Online LibraryLaurence GronlundThe coöperative commonwealth in its outlines. An exposition of modern socialism → online text (page 4 of 23)