Laurence Gronlund.

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

. (page 8 of 23)
Online LibraryLaurence GronlundThe coöperative commonwealth in its outlines. An exposition of modern socialism → online text (page 8 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

grown State, a fully developed organism. In all of them,
our own country included, classes exercise the authority and
direct all social activity.

Do not here bring forward the insipid commonplace that,
properly speaking, we have no k% classes " in our country and
that the ** people " govern here ! No classes? Indeed !

Roam around in New York, Boston, Philadelphia or any of
our towns above a country-village, for that matter, and you
will find them all mapped out into districts strictly according
to the poverty or wealth of the inhabitants. Those who live
in the poorer districts along neglected dirty streets irubadly
arranged and badly furnished houses constitute a lower caste
in fact, since nine-tenths of them cannot by any possibility^ un-
der our Social system, get out of it. They and their children
after them must remain in their poverty, squalor and degrada-
tion as long as this system endures. In the healthy, beauti-
ful and comfortable quarters we find those who arrogate to
themselves the name of "" Society, " our ki best people," "prom-
inent citizens."

Which of these two classes govern — the majority living in
tenement-houses, back-alleys and ill-smelling neighborhoods
or the minority in the aristocratic districts'?

It is frequently remarked that * k our best people " have with-
drawn themselves from polities. Suppose that is so — though
»t is also noticed that men of wealth lately have secured seats
in Congress to such an extent that our national Senate, to a
great extent, consists of very rich people — still that is very
tittle to the point. For, since the State is the organized So-
ciety, •' politics " constitute but a trifle of the social activi-
ties, compared with the various forms of industry. We have
g'len that it is our k * prominent citizens " who control our man-
ufactures, transportation and commerce, who indeed exercise



an autocratic control over these, and that they are destined to
do the like in agriculture within a short time. Their control over
the transporting interests of the country,— interests so dom-
inant that it has been justly said : Ci He who controls the high-
ways of a Nation, controls the Nation itself " — is indeed so su.
preme that Vanderbilt is reported to have observed with re-
freshing candor: "The roads are not run for the benefit of
"the dear public." No matter, whether he has been so candid
or not, they certainly are not.

P litics then form but a very small part of our social activ-
ities. The people are said to govern these; their "govern-
ment," in fact, consists in choosing on election day between
iwo sets of men presented for their suffrages. What that
amounts to we shall see in another chapter, and shall here
simply remark, that as soon as the one or the other set of men
have been elected they pass entirely out of the control of the
voters. Who then contiol the actions of those thus chosen?

We shall entirely pass by the ever-recurring charges of bri-
bery of legislators and whole legislatures; we shall pass by
another reported candid admission by Vaaderbilt: " When I
want to buy up any politician I always find — the most purchase-
able;" we shall pass by the solemn declaration of a com-
mittee of the legislature of the State of New York, that no
bill could pass the Senate without Vanderbilt's consent. We
let all these things pass as perhaps non proven.

But one thing is so evident that no one will dream of dis-
puting it, as soon as its meaning is fail ly understood : these
autocrats of our industrial affairs dictate the policy of the gov-
ernment to legislatures and Congress, to presidents, governors
and judges, and have dictated it since the establishment of our
government. What we mean is simply what we have all along
insisted upon, that both our national anel local governments
throughout profess allegiance to the "'let alone' 1 policy;
that all executive, legislative and judicial officers are trained
from the day they enter school or college to look on public
affairs through capitalistic spectacles. We simply mean to
say that not one so-called statesman of any influence in either
of the two great political parties ever dreams of interier-


ing with the "business" — interests of our plutocrats, if he
can h«*lp it. They all echo the sentiment of Judge Foraker,
the Republican candidate for governor of Ohio: ** Capital is
sensitive, it shrinks from the very appearance of danger."

What need then for them "to go into politics" when they
already have their devoted retainers in every place of author*


They need have no fear ever to be interfered with as long
as they retain their preeminent position in industrial affairs.
The ruling class industrially will always be the ruling class

Therefore we say it is Utopian to hope to have a legal nor-
mal working day of eight hours, much more so one of six hours,
as Moody proposes in his Land and Labor, as long as the Es-
tablished Order lasts.

Therefore it is Utopian to hope to have land nationalized as
George advocates, as long as we have the wage-system.

Therefore capitalists will very likely succeed in their strenuous
opposition to the proposition made by a late Postmaster Gen-
eral, that the Nation shall take possession of the telegraphs
of the country. But if they should at last be compelled to
yield — because the necessities of the Social organism command
it — they are sure to demand and receive extravagant compen-
sation for their '* property," for the ''vested rights" of cap-
italists have always been appreciated, while as we already have
noted the working-classes have never been thought entitled
to compensation when new machinery drove them out of old

While now our autocrats generally are satisfied, aid well
may be satisfied, with their veto on all proposed public meas-
ures, prejudicial to their sinister interests, and with interdict-
ing all legislation in favor of the masses, they never have ob-
jected to any State-action that would put money into their
pockets. They have been, and still are to a great extent, ben-
eti caries of the Nation, another proof that they really govern,
even politically.

Wc all know that the National Government has presented


six railroad companies with an empire of land as large as
Great Britain and Ireland and half as much more, and in ad-
dition has guaranteed bonds of theirs, which with accrued in-
terest at the maturity of these bonds will amount to more than
ISO million dollars.

We have already seen, how the whole machinery of Govern-
ment has been set and kept in motion to acquire foreign mar-
ie ets for our autocrats and to prepare our working-classes for
the requisite reduction in wages, simply that this wage-sys-
tem might secure a new lease of life, however short and pre-
carious and however injurious the effect which this policy
would have on the condition of the workers.

We see to-day, as our forefathers have often seen, how agi-
tated the two great political parties of our country are on the
questions of Free-Trade or Protection. This issue makes it
so very plain how paramount the influence of our autocrats is
in political affairs. It is our manufacturers who want protec-
tion ; it is our commercial men who want free-trade. The form-
er undoubtedly pretend, that protection benefits the laboring
classes ; but that this claim is a mere sham is evident from the
fact that they never have proposed to discourage the immigra-
tion of foreign laborers; that they would violently oppose a
proposal to that effect; that they, on the contrary, always
have done all they could to encourage foreign laborers to come
here, that they even send agents over to Europe to coax them
by false pretences over here. Our protectionist fleecers want
protection for the results of Labor, but free-trade in Labor. The
commercial men. on the other hand, whose interest it is to
have free-trade in all things, never have objected to handsome
gifts from Government for their ships in the guise of subsidies
for the, performance of mail-servici s.

Class-rule is always detrimental to the welfare of the whole
uncial organism, because classes, when in power, cannot help
considering themselves pre-eminently the State. They, fur-
thermore, cannot help being biased in favor of their special
interests and therefore are necessarily hostile to the rest of the
Nation, and as we daily see in our free-traders and protection-
ists, hostiie to each other. Matthew Arnold speaks truly



when lie savs that State-action bv a hostile class ought to be

Our Republic, therefore, just as all other modernStates. may
properly be compared to some imaginable animal organism,
where the blood, proceeding from the collective digestion, is
principally diverted to the stomach or the brain, while the
arms and legs are stinted as much as possible.

This C7ass-State will develop into a Commonwealth — bless
the Puritans for that splendid English word! It will develop
into a State that will know of no *• clas-es " either in theory
or practice ; in other words into a State ichere the whole popu-
lation is incorporated into Society. In the place of the present
partially evolved organism in which the arms and legs, and
to a great extent the brain, are stinted in blood as much as
possible, we shall have an organism ' 4 whose every organ shall
receive blood in proportion to the work it does " in the lan-
guage of Spencer.

That is to say: the Commonwealth will be a State of Equal-

It is said that " we already have equalitv," and when we
ask the meaning of the phrase we are told that all are " eqial
before the law." If that were really the case — what it is not
— it would be but a poor kind of equality. The cells of the
root and of the flower in a plant are " equal ; " the cells of
the foot and of the heart in an animal are " equal," for they
are all properly cared for ; the organism knows of no ** higher "
and *' lower" organs or cells. And so it will be in the future
Commonwealth; there * k Equality" will mean that every unit
of Society can truly say to any other unit : *• I am not less
than a man, and thou art not more than a man."

Again, our Commonwealth will put Interdependence in the
place of the phrases of our Declaration of Independence, which
claims tor every citizen the " right" to life, liberty and the pur-
suit of "happiness." This declaration was evidently adopted
by " Individualists," as the French Revolution was a revolution
of " Individualism," for of what use is it to possess the "right"
to do something, when yon have not the power, the means,
the opportunity to do it? Is this "right to the pursuit of


happiness " not a mocking irony to the masses who cannot pur-
sue "happiness"? We saw how the millionaire and beggar
would be equally miserable outside of the State, and behold,
how much this Rights-of-Man doctrine has done for the former
and how very little for the latter !

The future Commonwealth will help every individual to attain
the highest development he or she has capacity for. It will '
lay a cover for every one at Nature's table. "State" and
w State- help " will be as inseparable as a piano and music.

Do not now object, as young Spencer did in " Social Statics,"
that this means '■ transforming every citizen into a grown-up
baby ; " for the objection is not to the point at all.

State-help is not to do away with a man's own efforts. I do
not do away with a man's own efforts, when I hand him a lad-
der. I do not set aside; his own exertions in cultivating a field,
because I give him a plow. Our State does not render useless
the powers ot a boy. when it furnishes Mm s hools, teachers
and libraries. Our Commonwealth wiil relieve none of self-
help, but make self-help possible to all. It ivill help everybody
to help himself.

That is to say : this Commonwealth will be a Society all of
whose units have a sense of belonging together, ot being re-
sponsible for one another; a Society, pervaded by a feeling
of what we, using a foreign word, call Solidarity, but what
we not inaptly may in English term Corporate Responsi-

It is worth noting that our modern Insurance companies,
particularly those of Life-insurance, are teaching us that re-
sponsibility for do they not make the strong and temper »te
of us use their prolonged lives to pay up premiums which go
to th^ progeny of the weak and reckless?

• fc Bnt what about Libert;/ f " the reader may ask.

Many worthy persons, as we said commencing this chapter,
entertain the fear which shines forth in Mill's famous essay
on k * Liberty; " the fear lest freedom should be drilled and
disciplined out of human life, in order that the great mill vt
the Commonwealth should grind smoothly. To ascertain
whether this fear is w r ell grounded or not we must first know,


what we are to understand by the words : " Freedom " and
" Liberty."

Everybody calls the not being oppressed : ''Liberty." That is,
undoubtedly, an indispensable and yet, as has been said, a most
Insignificant fractional part of human freedom. Then, again,
we mean by ' 4 Liberty" the not being restrained, being »* at
Liberty" to do this or that. Now, that may be a good thing
or otherwise. Whether it is the one or the other depends en-
tirely upon the answer to the question : to do ichat?

To be "at liberty " to be a tramp or to die of starvation, or
to steal, or to be lodged in a jail are not good things. We
sometimes find a great lout in a railroad car who thinks he is
" at liberty" to spread himself over four seats, but occasion-
ally he finds out, that he is not; that he must take his feet
down and sit along. The liberty of this lout is the " liberty "
which our shrewd, grasping, vulgar autocrats glorify, for it
means the predominance of their interests over everybody else's
interests, over the General Welfare. It is in the name of that
''liberty" that all fleecing is done.

Of that kind of liberty there always has been too much in
the world — somewhere. That kind of liberty means slavery
to somebody; means as the Yankee defined it u to do what he
liked and make everybody else."

Every struggle for real liberty has been a struggle against
that sort of " Liberty," entrenched in classes. Progress de-
mands the curbing of that kind of " liberty," and our Com-
monwealth will use no gloves in handling it.

The fact is. there is a radical difference between liberty to
do the right thing and liberty to do the wrong thing. That
is why young Spencer could not draw any sound conclusion
from his so-called " principle : " " that every man has freedom
to do all that he wills provided he does not infringe on the
like freedom of any other man," because no one can do any
wrong act, without doing harm to other men; or as Professor
Huxley puts it: "The higher the state of civilization,
the more completely do the actions of one member of the so-
cial body influence all the rest, and the less possible is it for
one man to do a wrong thing without interfering, more or less,


with the freedom of all his fellow-citizens.'*
As Liberty is such a hazy term, why use it at all, wh( n we have
such a glorious word in the English language as Freedom?
There is the same difference between " Liberty" and " Free-
dom " as between " Right " and "' Might," between "Fiction "
and *' Fact," between " Shadow and *• Substance."

'•Freedom"' is something substantial. A man who is igno-
rant is not free. A man who is a tramp is not free. A man
wlio sees his wife and children starving is not free. A man
Mho must toil twelve hours a day, in order to vegetate, is not
free. A man who is full of cares is not free. A wage-worker,
whether laborer or clerk, who every day for certain hours
must be at the beck and call of a" master " is not free. As
Shelley says in the Apostrophe to Freedom.

"For the laborer thou art bread."

Eight so far. But Freedom is not alone bread, but leisure,
absence of cares, self-determination, ability and means to do
the right thing . Restraint very often is just requisite to de-
velop that ability; indeed, Restraint is the very life of Free-

Freedom is something the individual unaided can never
achieve, lie is as drift-wood in a flood. It is something to
be conferred on him by a well organized body politic.

Now certain people have altogether too much u liberty."
Our Commonwealth will evolve that priceless good : Freedom.

This is by no means a finished Humanity, but there is a con-
stant unfolding, a steady advance towards completeness and
perfection. True, this or that Nation may decay, but some
other Nation then comes to the rescue. All that Socialists un-
dertake to do is to ascertain the several stages so far reached
by Humanity on its onward march, therefrom to infer the
next advance that will be made by some one of the social or-
ganisms in the van of progress, and then they rev rrently pro-
pose to help Humanity in taking the next step. They full
well know that all that individuals can do is to aid or check
that onward movement, but that to stop it is even beyond a
Czar's control.


We have observed that it is round the working-classes thai
the battle of progress has been waged ; their condition has
determined the stage of civilization though history has given
but scant account of thein. During the two great periods
that lie behind us : Slavery and Serfdom, they were in fact
and in law subject to their lords who took the lion's share
without disguise, as a matter of right. Based on that subjec-
tion, however, there was an intense feeling of Unity which
pervaded the whole of Society ; a Unity that made these sys-
tems so strong and so lasting, and without which Unity no
social system can be enduring. But men rebelled against the
subjection. Luther was fortunate enough to start that rebel-
lion in the religious sphere, for it is always at the top that
all radical changes commence.

Then was inaugurated the era in which we are living, which
really is nothing but a transition period between the two great
systems of the past and another great system of the future,
for it possesses no unity. It corresponds exactly to the transi-
tion-period betweeen Slavery and Serfdom, when Christianity
was striving for mastery. It is an era of anarchy, of criticism,
of negations, of opposition, of hypocrisy, as this was one.
Instead of Slavery or Serfdom and Subjection we now have
the wage-system aud contracts. That is to say, while for-
merly the lords appropriated the results of labor
openly, they now do it underhandedly. The wage-work-
er, if he will live, must ayree to relinquish one-half of what
he produces. There is, in fact, fully as much subjection now
as formerly, but it has taken on a softer, a more hypocritic
form. That is why the rebellion not only continues, but has
reached down into the material sphere and is shaking the very
foundation of Society. It will not cease before all slavish
subjection is done away with.

Then this '• Individu .lism," this re-action against unques-
tioned submission, will find its compensation in another Unify.
Everybody will again feel a dread of living for himself only.
We shall have Corporate Responsibility, Equality, Freedom, all
three combined in Interdependence, Social Cooperation.
It is with the Social organism as with a harmoniously (level-


oped man. who has three stages of growth : implicit obedi-
ence, then restless self-assertion, at last intelligent,, loyal co-
operation with what has a rightful claim to his allegiance.

This Inter-dependence will find its practical expression in
The Cooperative Commonwealth, which in the following

chapter will l>e seen to be now expedient, for the first time in
human history.



'•The relations of structures are actually such, that, by the
help of a central regulative system, each organ is supplied
with blood in proportion to the work it does." — Herbert

•••No thinking man will controvert, that associated industry
is the most powerful agent of production, and that the princi-
ple of association is susceptible of further and beneficial de-
velopment." — J. S. Mill.

" All human interests, combined human endeavors and so-
cial growths in this world, have at a certain stage of their de-
velopment required organizing; and work, the grandest of
human interests, does now require it." — Carlyle.

We now have reached our objective point : the Cooperative


The previous chapters were mere stepping-stones, leading us
to where we are, but as such indispensable, for it is their reason-
ing, rather than its own reasonableness. which will determine
whether the Socialist System is to be. like Thomas More's
imaginary island, a " Utopia: " an un-reality, or not.

The observation in our Declaration of Independence *'that
mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable
th;m to right themselves by abolishing the forms to wliich


they are accustomed" is true of changes in forms of govern-
ment, but much more true of alterations in the structure of
Society. To these, in fact, Nations must be driven by an in-
ward necessity.

For this reason we had to show that the present chaotic sys-
tem, with all instruments of Labor in private bauds, will soon
become unbearable and renders a change of some kind inev-
itably impending. For this reason, further, we had to point
out the significance of the recent factory and educational leg-
islation and State-action in regard to railroads and telegraphs,
accomplished or proposed in our country and Great Britain,
and to show that this extension of the State's activity was a
sign that Society is approaching a crisis in its development;
an indication that this transitory state in which we are living,
after having lasted about as long as that other transitory state
between Paganism and Christianity, is on the point of crys-
tallizing into another enduring Social Order.

These reflections will make it clear — and we cannot lay too
much stress upon it — that Modern Socialists do not pretend to
be architects of the New Order. That is to say; they do not
propose to demolish the present order of things, as we tear
down an old building, and then compel humanity to rear a new
edifice according to any plan that they have drawn. They
have no such absurd idea, just because they know that Society
is not an edifice at all, but an organism; and men are not in
the habit of 'planning" the development of a dog or a rosebush.

Right here is the radical distinction between us, Socialists
of the German school, and such Socialists as St. Simon and
Fourier. These had the same faults to find with the present
social order as we have; they were, indeed, capital critics, but
as reformers they were miserable failures simply because they
wanted to be architects — inventors. They entirely ignored all
social and political conditions and wanted mankind to don their
ready-made systems as men do ready-made clothes. Fourier
fancied that he had only to publish his system and all classes
of Frenchmen would eagerly embrace it and in the twinkling
of an eye transform all France into ; * phalansteries." St. Si-


mon went even to the length of having his first scheme patent-

They and all the old-style socialists represent the childhood,
of our movement, stand in the same relation to it as astrology
and alchemy do to physical science. All great changes that
have taken place in the world have had to pass through a
"Utopian "phase. These primitive Socialists were true u Uto-
pists : " they invented Systems ; we are intent on discovering
the laws of development. They framed universal precepts;
we ascertain universal sequences.

For what is u the Cooperative Commonwealth?"

Extend in your mind Division of Labor and all the other
factors that increase the productivity of Labor; apply them
to all human pursuits as far as can be; imagine manufactures,
transportation and commerce conducted on the grandest possi-
ble scale, and in the most effective manner; then add to Di-
vision of Labor its complement: Concert; introduce adjust-
ment everywhere where now there is anarchy; add that central
regulative system which Spencer says distinguishes all highly

1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryLaurence GronlundThe coöperative commonwealth in its outlines. An exposition of modern socialism → online text (page 8 of 23)