Laurence Gronlund.

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

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working-day; two objects which may be said always to go
hand in hand.

We and all Socialists, indeed, have nothing but commenda-
tion for and active sympathy with every effort that is made to
bind all the workers of the various crafts together, and to gather
these crafts again into greater unions. These Trades-unions
and Trades-assemblies are powerful instruments for educating
their members for the coming Social Order, whether they are
aware of it or not; in another connexion we shall have more
to say on that point. They impress vividly on their mem-
bers the fact, that their interests are mutual, and that their
employers, far from being identified with them, are diametri-
cally opposed to them in interests. They open the eyes of
their members to the fact, that their masters are not wage-
givers but take wages from them; that their inn sters do not
suport them but that they support their masters.

Again, while we do not recommend strikes — what the Trades-
unions, indeed, are also far from doing — we accept them as
necessary evils. We claim that as a matter of fact (what wo
have already stated) there is an existing warfare between
capitalists and laborers, and that strikes are simply the skirm-
ishes in that warfare. Strikes are the efforts of wares to
act like men.

We also hold as a matter of course, that eight hours of hard
daily work, is asufficie jt, more than a sufficient, task for a
mere living.

But we are at the same time convinced 'that Trades-unions
and all these efforts of theirs are absolutely impotent to coun-


teract the workings of " unrestricted private enterprise."

The Trades-unions of England have indeed succeeded in rais-
ingthe wages in various trades and shortening the daily toil —
yes, they and they only, have succeeded in procuring for the
English working-classes the great boon of a nine-hours
working day, — but only because the masters have not combined
sufficiently. Strikes must necessarily fail, if due resistance
be made, because the immediate effect of them is to deprive
the worker of his means of subsistence, and the capitalist of
his profit simply. When " wares " try to act like men, they
naturally fail, for wares are only things.

And suppose the Trades-union movement of England to ac-
complish its ultimate object: that of uniting all the workers
of all the trades of Great Britain into one compact, compre-
hensive body, the result will evidently be, that the employers
and capitalists will be compelled to follow suit; that is, such
a union of workingmen will call into existence a Power, that
can crush them at ibe first trial of strength.

The writer of this is, furthermore, decidedly of the opinion
that the efforts to establish in our country by law a normal
working day of eight hours will prove equally futile.

We shall not enlarge upon the point, that one state of the
Union cannot afford to establish it. except all states do so;
that therefore national legislation is the only object worth
striving for. But what sort of legislation? Our Congress and
some local legislatures have passed laws which lix eight hours
as a working day for government employees and which pro-
vide, or at least imply, that the same wages shall be paid for
the eight as formerly for the ten hours. All friends of an
eight-hour law agree as to the propriety and expediency of
these statutes, and claim, that if honestly enforced, they will
by the example they set lead— nay, compel— private employ-
ers to follow suit.

Have they done that so far? Some of the noblest and most
unselfish of martyrs witness by their gray hairs or the broken
hearts with which they have gone to their graves, that the.-e
statutes have had no such effect, that they have had no effect
at all; that they have, indeed, been nothing but dead letters.


Ah, but if they had been enforce* I. it would have been differ-
ent, it iu said. May it not be that there is one underlying rea-
son, why they have not been enforced and why they could
not have affected other laborers if. perchance, they had been
enforced? The point is, that the less does not include the
greater. Under the Established Order our national Govei n-
ment and all state governments are on exactly the same foot-
ing as private parties and the employment they give is but a
small part of all employments. It is therefore the rate of wages
paid in private employments and the hours of labor obtaining
there which, as long as this system lasts, will regulate public
employments, and not reversely. To hope that it will be oth-
erwise is Utopian.

There are more radical eight-hour men, among them many So-
cialists, who agitate for ^n enactment to the effect, that all pri-
vate employers who work their men more than eight hours a
day (and presumably, that all wage-workers who work more
than that number of hours) shall be punished in a certain way.
They do not care whether anything is provided about wages,
arguing that, if eight hours become a normal work-day. wnges
will soon rise to their former level, all other things being equal,
— in which we agree with them. But ic seems to be entirely
overlooked in all discussions on such an enactment of a na-
tional character, that it requires a constitutional amendment.
We for our part believe that we might just as soon expect to
have this nation changed into a Socialist Commonwealth by a
constitutional amendment, passed in the constitutional way,
as such a compulsory eight-hour la w. But we need say nothing
further here, for we are discussing the workings of unrestrict-
ed private enterprise, of the ^ free use " of private property.
Only one word more. It may be objected that we admitted
that the Trades-Unions of England did obtain a nine-hour
work-day in England; and that in many of our states a ten-
hour law prevails and is obeyed. There is perhaps a misap-
prehension here. There is neither here nor in England any le-
gal normal working-day for men. Whatever legal restriction
exists applies to women and children exclusively, and as to

them even only, when they are working in factories. The


English Trades-Unions did succeed, for the time being, in wrest-
ing from their employers their consent to a nine-hour work-
day, simply because at the time the market-demand exceeded
the supply.

A fourth "remedy," advocated by the Greenback-party — of
whose doctrines we shall have more to say in another place —
is that the Government should advance to its citizens all the
capital they may be in need of, at a very low rate of interest,
say one per cent. This "remedy," which was also the hob-
by of Proudhon, we can dismiss with a very few words. Even
if it were not impossible, what it is as we shall afterwards see,
it would not help the masses in the least. The proportion be-
tween wages and lleecings in our " cakes" remains the same,
whether interest is large or small. The reduction of interest
would simply increase the balance -of fleecings which go to
profit and rent. Such a measure, if practicable, would thus
only benefit the employing class, the small producer and mer-
chant, and, possibly, the landowners.

But then, the Greenback-party is a middle-class-party, that
is to say: a reactionary party, as Prowihon was a reactionist;
for the middle-class (what we in America call the " middle-
class" and the English the " lower middle-class ") is doomed
to extinction.

Tims it truly seems. Dr. TVoolsey! that "this enormous
accumulation of Capital in a few hands " is to be a •* necessary
*vil, beyond prevention!" It, undoubtedlj-, will "run through all
the forms of property." Our manufacturers, our merchant
k> princes," our transporters, our money lenders, and. finally,
our land owners will go on dwindling in numbers, as they
swell in size. The millionaires will gobble up the Cap-
ital of the whole middle-class, and the more their own pos-
sessions grow, the wilder will be their chase after the
smaller game. Our working classes, on the other hand, will
go on being gathered into larger centres. There is no "if" at
all about the matter and there is, absolutely, no patent med-
ieine in the market that can prevent it.


But is it philosophical to call that " an eri'Z," Dr. Woolsey ;

When a child is growing its teeth it is, we know, a season
of misery to it : yet we do not therefore call the process of
teething an " evil." What if the present and future workings
of " capitalism,*' that is of the " free use " of Capital were the
teething period of Society? We know, of course, that the
parallel is imperfect ; for there is this terrible difference, that
in the latter case the suffering of myriads of sentient beings
is involved, for which reason the agitation for shortening the
daily toil and all other efforts to alleviate the condition of the
working-classes are worthy of all our sympathy.

Just as the teething process runs its course according to the
physical laws of our organization, and must run its course, so
the centralization of all social activities goes on according to
laws indwelling in our social organism, and to stop it. if we
could, would be turning back the wheels of progress. This is
the consolation left to the self-sacrificing eight-hour agitators
for the failure of their efforts. For there is no doubt that, if
they could succeed, the wage-workers would be rendered al-
most satisfied with their lot as wage-slaves, be reconciled to
the wage-system, just what the partial success of the Trades-
Unions in England, unfortunately, seems to have done with
the British wa<re-workers.

When the culmination is reached, then comes the dawn.

And what will be the culmination?

That the Established Order will be d}^ing of exhaustion.
This conclusion lay indeed, potentially, in our exposition of
4k Value" in chapter I, wherefore we also there called it the
tw mother-idea" of Socialism. Since all real Values are the
results of Labor, and since Labor under our wage-system, our
profit-system, our fleecings-sy stem, only receives about one-
half thereof as its share, it follows that the producers cannot buy
back that which they create.

Now we can see, that this wage-system concerns the
whole Nation, and not merely the wage-workers, as w T e
for argument's sake granted at the commencement of Chapter
XI. For the more Capital is being accumulated in private
hands, the more impossible this wage-system renders it for th«


producers to buy what they produce. The more necessary
it becomes for capitalists to dispose of their ever increasing
fleecings, the less the ability of the people to purchase them
will, relatively, become. The greater the supply the smaller the
consumption. The more Capital, the more ** overproduction."

This is a fatal contradiction. This u Individualism " which
has created and nourished Capital and is making it bigger and
bigger, is at the same time digging the grave of Capital.

The logic of the upholders of the present Social Order, when
they fancy it will last forever, or hope, that it, like its prede-
cessors, will last for a thousand years, is sadly at fault. Slavery
and Serfdom were long-lived, because they rested on broad
endurable foundations, so that they had a chance to petrify ;
their nature, in other words, was stability. But our Social Or-
der cannot exist without repeated industrial revolutions: its
very nature is insecurity and movement. It can be fitly compared
to a spinning top which only is saved from toppling over by
being made to turn swiftly about on its apex. It is unrestrict-
ed Private Enterprise which imparts to our Social Order this
wild movement. But just as the top is sure to finally topple
over, so is this Social Order of ours.

That is the '-Logic of Events." That events have logic
simply means, that " statesmen " and '• leaders" have none.

And we have no need of trusting to logic; we need only
trust our senses. Any one who has eyes to see can perceive
this Social Order tottering, not alone in our own country, but
in all industrial countries. Do we not hear from everywhere
the cry of the fleecers : "Foreign markets! We must have
foreign markets !?" Did we not say that the fleecers had ex-
cellent reasons of their own for hunting for them? This cry
is the first frantic death-gasp of Capitalism, showing it is dying
of inanition. What better evidence need we? Socialists raiirht
simply fold their arms and calmly await its dissolution. Thus
our plutocrats, who a hundred years ago untied the fetters
that bound all industrial and social relations in their unyield-
ing embrace, now iind themselves in the position of the ma-
gician who unloosed the elemental forces of Nature, and after-
wards, not being able to control them, was overwhelmed by



We are approaching tho culmination with giant strides, with
railroad speed, in fact. Every invention that renders produc-
tion 0:1 a smaller scale more unprofitable, every bankruptcy,
every so-called •• crisis " brings us nearer to the end.

Then will come the real k - crisis.'''' We do not say it will not
come before; but, if not before, it will surely come with the

And then, what?

Well, Political Economy cannot tell us; it came in with the
present Social order, and it will go out with it; its whole scope
is to bring the present social arrangements into a system.

Only Socialism can lift the veil of the future, for it only con-
templates this Social Order and the whole previous history of
our race with a philosophic eye. Therefore it can predict with
the same claim to certainty, with which the Signal Service Bu-
reau predicts to-morrow's weather.

There are two alternatives. Barbarism may be the outcome.
But we do not believe it will.

Thoughtful men observe that there never before was diffusee
through society so large a sense of unhappiness. Our large
accessions and acquisitions of comfort have enhanced and ag-
gravated our ideas of poverty. Capitalists, for their own pur-
poses, have taught the masses a thousand needs, and at the
same time rendered it impossible for them to satisfy these needs.
Society is irom top to bottom seized by discontent — next to
hope the gieatest gift from the gods to man.

There is an old saga of a King and Queen to whom a fair
son was born. Twelve fairies came to the christening, each
with a gift. A noble presence, wisdom, strength, beauty-
all were poured upon him until it seemed he must excel all
moi tal men. Then came the twelfth fairy with the gift of dis-
content, but the angry father turned away the lairy and her
gift. And the lad grew apace, a wonder of perfect powers ;
but, content in their possession, he cared to use them for neith-
er good nor ill; there was no eagerness in him ; good-natured
and quiet, he let life use him as it would. And at last the King




knew that the rejected had been the crowning gift.

Again, the masses are becoming more and more intelligent,
too intelligent to submit to a new slavery, or a new serfdom.
The working-masses now feel themselves human beings and
have become, conscious of their power; their concentration in
large centres of industry has given them that consciousness,
which, perhaps, will make them too impatient to await the fi-
nal crash.

And then — we Socialists have now been bom into the world, a
guarantee, that Society will go forward, not backwards.

The other alternative is Dr. Woolsey's: i- that a revolution,
slow or rapid, will certainly bring about a new order of things.'' 1
There we agree with him.

Whatever is, is not the immutable order of nature. It is very
natural that our well-to-do classes should believe that arrange-
ments which suit them have been settled by some law of the
Modes and Persians ! nevertheless when these arrangements
have done their work they are destined to disappear. But
whatever is, is rational. It exists, because, and so long as it ful-
fill 5 some u-eful office.

Private Enterprise has done civilization excellent service, but
after having run this Social fc ' Order" into the ground it will
be supplanted by a new principle: Social Cooperation, up to
which the whole Martyrdom of Man during his whole previ-
ous history b;;s been training us. " Individualism.'' a rhythmi-
cal swiag of the human mind, will then commence its back-
ward movement and find its compensation in due time.

The divorce between Capital and Labor will cease. Cap-
ital will no longer be the master of Labor but, as true Nation-
al Wealth, the invaluable hand-maid of Labor.

The steward of that National Wealth will be the State; it
havirg, as we shall now see, a title to all Capital, para-
mount to that of either capitalists or laborers.



4> Tt is onl v by being citizen of a well-ordered State that, the
individual has got Rights."— Hegel,

'• Xot State-action i:i itself, but State-action exercised bv a
hostile class it is that ought to be deprecated."— Matthew Arnold.

w 'Look to the State ! From that you can expect the highest
experience and skill, real and efficient control, a national aim
and spirit." — Frederic Harrison.

We have concluded the Socialist critique of the present or-
der of things. In a nutshell it is this : The Fleecings increase
i:i our country and in all industrial countries at a very great
rate. In order that Capital (the sum of these Fleecings) may
be simply maintained, (mark that!) it must be constantly em-
ployed in production and a market must be found for the prod-
ucts which it enables Labor to create. Foreign markets will
soon dry up ; our autocrats, therefore, will be confined to their
respective home-markets. But the masses at home are more
and more becoming wage-workers from the operation of* In-
dividualism ; " wage-workers receive in wages only about half
of what they produce; the masses, consequently, are becom-
ing more and more unable to buy back the Values the)'- civate.
Thus for lack of consumption, Capital will be more and more


threatened with depreciation. The more Capital, the more
-'overproduction." TheWage-System and Private '"Enter-
prise" will, indeed, involve capitalists and laborers in one
common ruin.

This is the foundation for what may be called: " construct-
ive" Socialism. We are not under the delusion, that Nations
can ho. persuaded by the grandeur, excellence and equity of our
system. The Future is ours, because the present system will
soon be unbearable ; because, as we said, we might fold our arms
and calmly wait to see the Established Order fall to pieces by
its own weight. Our conception of Value, therefore, truly com-
prises the ichole of Socialism.

When the culmination has been reached, the reins will drop
from the impotent hands of our autocrats and will be taken
up by an impersonal Power, coeval with human nature: The

It is a pity that we must commence by guarding ourselves
against the corrupt American use of the term fr * State; " but,
writing mainly for our American countrymen, we cannot help

The '• State" of Pennsylvania and the other thirty seven
" States" are not, and never were, States. By State we mean
with Webster k * a whole people, united in one body politic."
That is the meaning of State in all languages, English included
— except the American language. Now, not one of our Amer-
ican ,c states " was ever for one moment a " whole people."
They either were subjects to the crown of England, or parts
of the Confederation, or of the Union. The Union then is a
tftate, just as France and Spain are States, and it is emphati-
cally so since the American people commenced to call them-
selves a Nation with a big N. This, however, by no means
excludes local centres of authority, what we are wont to call
k - local self-government."

%k The State " is a stumbling block to many very worthy per-
sons. They apprehend — a fear very honorable in them — that
State-supremacy would be prejudicial to Freedom Wo hope
to make it apparent, that State-action and individual Freedom,
far from being antagonistic, are really complementary of each



The reason why " the State " is now-a-days such a bugbear
to so many, is that this word has quite another meaning in the
mouth of an individualist, wherever you find him, than when
used by a Socialist. Indeed, the fundamental distinction be-
tween kt Individualism " and Socialism must be sought in the
oj 'position of these two conceptions.

Individualists, and foremost amongst them our autocrats
cherish this degrading notion of the State: that it is merely
an organ of Society, synonimous with ••■ Government " — with
the political machinery ot Society. We claim — to quote Web-
ster once more — that the State is '* a whole people, united in
one body politic,'" in other words, that
TJie State is the organized Society.

We cannot better contrast these two conceptions than by
comparing the views of Herbert Spencer when he was a young
philosopher with his present views now that he is a mature

Young Spencer wrote a book, called u Soeial Statics," which
to a great extent, has become a manual to our ** lot-alone "
politicians. In that work he starts out with a t% first princi-
ple " from which he proposes to reason out, deductively, the
whole science of government — a method, by the way, that is
thought, rather precarious by scientific men of to-day. This
assumed axiom which, undoubtedly, looks very captivating
at first sight, is that kt every man has freedom to do all that
he wills, provided he infringes not the like freedom of any oth-
er man." From this "principle" — of which we shall pres-
ently have more to say — he proves with flawless logic,
that Society is simply a voluntary association of men for
mutual protection and the State merely its organ to that end.
The business of the State, therefore, is only to secure to each
citizen unlimited freedom to exercise his faculties. Then, to
be sure, the State has no right to tax men of property for ed-
ucating other men's children, or for feeding the poor or even
for looking after the Public Health. In taking upon itself
those functions the State is acting the part of an aggressor in.
stead of that of a protector.


The State is a rjoliceman — nothing more. By and by, when
the millennium arrives, the State will lose even that function;
it will become a rudimentary organ. The State will then dis-
appear altogether. As long as it exists. ;t is nothing but a
necessary evil; only instituted for the bad, and only a burden
to the good. If the facts do not verify that conclusion, so
much the worse for the facts. If the State's activity does spread
more and more, even in Spencer's own country — in response
to the pressure of the u Logic of Events," and in spite of the
frantic struggles of its ruling class: the wealthy middle-class
—so much the worse for the State.

Such was the reasoning of Spencer in 1850; and these views
are accepted and practiced by the ruling powers of our coun-
try, as far as in them lies. Our capital-holders cry out:
" You, State ! You Government ! Your whole business, you
know, consists in securing us unlimited freedom to exercise
our faculties. That is all we are doing here ; the whole crowd
of us are exercising our faculties, each to the extent of his
ability. It does not concern you a bit whom or how many
we are able to fleece or how much we fleece them; or how
many fall and are trampled upon. Let r.s alone, then, and
simply see to it that we are not interfered with ! That is what
you are paid for, you know. 'Every one look out for him-
self, and the devil take the hindmost,' is our and your rule
of action.". And the "'government " lets them alone. That
is to say, it allows itself to be made into a peace-officer of a
singular sort. For suppose a policeman should see a bully at-
tack a weaker man, and should say to himself: " It is not my
business to protect that weak man or to interfere with the com-
batants at all. I take it to be my duty, just to see to it that
no one interferes with them. So I will make a ring round
them and let the best man win." That is what our so called
14 Governments" virtually do. and so the shrewd greedy indi-
viduals who can exercise their faculties do so to their heart's
content and grow fat at the expense of other individuals. Prob-
ably in no other age did individuals have such a power over

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Online LibraryLaurence GronlundThe coöperative commonwealth in its outlines. An exposition of modern socialism → online text (page 6 of 23)