Laurence Gronlund.

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

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organized structures, and which supplies u each organ with
blood in proportion to the work it does " and — behold the Co-
operative COMMONWEALTH !

The Cooperative Commonwealth, then, is that future Social
Order — the natural heir of the present one — in which all im-
portant instruments of production have been taken under col-
lective control; in which the citizens are consciously public
functionaries, and in which their labors are rewarded accord-
ing to results.

A definition is an argument.

It shows that our critics, when they style Socialism a Utopia,
do not know about what they are talking. We can imagine a
caterpillar, more knowing than its fellows, predicting to an-
other that some day they both will be butterflies, and the oth-
er sneeringly replying: " What Utopian nonsense you are talk-
ing there! " Our censors are just as ignorant of the ground-
work of Socialism. For our definition makes it evident that
the Cooperative Commonwealth is not to be regarded as a prod-
uct of personal conceit, but as an historical product, as a proii-


uct iii which our whole people are unconscious partakers.
When the times are ripe for Social Cooperation, it will be just
as expedient, as Feudalism Mas, or as Private Enterprise was,
when each, respectively, made its appearance. It will prove its
right to control by virtue of its own superior fitness.

Or is there anything Utopian in predicting that Division of
Labor will go on increasing? Has not wholesale production
already vindicated its right to be the ruling sj'stem, and is it
Utopian to assert that Private Ownership of Capital, so far
from being necessary to production in wholesale, will prove a
greater and greater obstruction to its inevitable development?
Is it Utopian to expect that all enterprises will become more
and more centralized, until in the fulness of time they all end
in one monopoly, that of Society? Are not, indeed, Anti-mo~
nopolists — as far as they believe that they can crush the bi.j
establishments or even prevent their growth — the real Uto-

But that is by no means all. We have not yet sufficiently
emphasized the central fact of Society of to-day. Not alone is
the necessity which we claim will drive the nations into So-
cialism steadily growing, but all civilized Societies are being
driven into Socialism under our very eyes — if we may apply the
word " driven " to an inward impulse. Not alone are the con-
ditions for the establishment of the New Order fast ripening,
but the New Order is amongst us and asserting itself vigor-
ously. Not only is the social organism growing from the cir-
cumference by Society multiplying and subdividing its activ-
ities and again concentrating them, but the central regulative
system has silently put in an appearance and is irresistibly or-
ganizing one social activity after another. This is a fact, of
transcendent significance', and yet our politicians, the gentle-
men of our *• editorial staffs," our would-be wise leaders and
statesmen, all, indeed, except Socialists, seem not to have the
smallest inkling of it. They all look upon the factory legis-
lation across the ocean and here and the agitation for nation-
alization of the land and national control of the telegraphs as
isolated, rash expedients, and those who have adopted the
accepted theories forthwith condemn this legislation and a^i-


tation and loudly proclaim that Society — is going astray!

But the fact is, that our modern civilization mainly consists
in this that the State — that is, Society in its organized form —
has of late been constantly expanding its jurisdiction, and
has more and more contracted the sphere of individual own-
ership and control. Why, nearly everything the State now
manages for us, was once entrusted to private individuals.

Consider, criminal jurisprudence was once in private hands,
and was the first in time to be taken in charge by the State.
There was a time when the customs and national finances were
farmed out to private persons, but that time is long passed by.
Then the State turned its attention to postal affairs, and they
are now everywhere under national control. The world has
entirely forgotten that these affairs once were private enter-
prises, simply because the State has managed them so much
better than was formally done. The whole struggle between
State and Church is also here in point; the principal conse-
quence of that struggle has been that nearly all civilized States
have taken charge of education, which undoubtedly will also
soon in our country be a matter of national concern. There
are still other matters, in which the older States of Europe in
this development are ahead of us : national control of railroads
and telegraphs. And in proposing that the State shall insure
workingmen against accidents and against want in their old
age, Bismark is virtually impelled by the same spirit, rather
than by any concern for the welfare of the working-classes.

This fact of '• the centralization of Power in the National
Government," as it is called, is the central fact of Society
everywhere now. You may deny everything else, but you
cannot deny that. You cannot look at a democratic paper
without seeing a lament over the fact. The Democrats, though,
are giving undue credit to the Republicans in charging it to
their account, for they were but humble instruments in the
hands of the laws of the Universe; if the Democrats should
come into power, they would have to be k * centralizers " to the
game extent. The social organism has once for all got the
impetus in that direction, and the movement is gathering
greater momentum. That is why it is now everywhere in the


air. That is why this fact is the true rationale of Socialism.

The cry: "Beware, it is Socialistic!" will have absolutely
no effect. The State will go on expanding its jurisdiction, hur-
ry on to its destiny, without asking or caring if it is " Social-
istic." The workingmen and grangers will continue to im-
portune the State to come to their relief, without knowing
anything about Socialism. Henry George has written a book
that has enticed very many persons very far out on the road
to Socialism, protesting all the time that he is not a Socialist.
Frederic Harrison abominates Socialism, and yet preaches
ki Look to the State ! From that you can expect the highest
experience and skill, publicity, concentration of power, real
and efficient control, a national aim and spiiit and far more
true responsibility."

But it is evident that the process of placing all industries
and all instruments of labor under collective control will be
carried on with far more energy and directness, when once
the true leaders learn that the State is not some power out-
side of the people, but that it is the social organism itself, and
that, as an organism, it is destined to grow until it embraces all
social activities. Hitherto the State has acted from impulse,
in opposition to accepted theories. But a logical foundation of
some sort is necessary to all great movements. Rousseau's
theory of a^Social Contract," though false, did in that way a
great service to Humanity.

The New Social Order to which we look forward is thus,
certainly, the very reverse of Utopian. As a historical prod-
uct from every point of view we consider it. it will be a natur-
al product, hence rational. "Whatever is, is rational"
Hegel said ; that is, it necessarily conforms to the innermost
nature of things; and so: whatever is to be is rational. As
soon as the people learn not to be scared by the word " So-
cialism;" as soon as they learn the true nature of the State
and see whither they are drifting, the Cooperative Common-
wealth will be the only expedient system. But it certainly
was not expedient when Plato wrote his Republic, it was not
expedient, but it was a "Utopia" in the times of Thomas
More; it was not expedient when St. Simon "invented" his


system, for Private Enterprise with the steam engine and oth-
er inventions had first to increase the productive capacity of
man a thousand times, and thus to prepare the way tor it.
Aid when it becomes expedient, it will be so for the lirst time
in human history.

When the Cooperative Commonwealth becomes an accom-
plished fact we shall have the full-grown Society ; the normal
State. That commonwealth — whose citizens will, consciously
and avo vedly be public functionaries — will not know of a
particle of distinction between the terms u State " and '* Soci-
ety;" the two ideas will come to cover each other, will be-
come synonymous. It will be a social order that will endure
as long as Society itself, for no higher evolution is thinkable,
except Organized Humanity, and that is but Social-Coopera-
tion extended to the whole human race. It will effect a com-
plete regeneration of Society: in its economic, politic and
jnridic relations; in the condition of women and in the edu-
cation of youth (indeed its chief concern, its true starting
point;) in morals and, we may add, in religion and philoso-
phy. The remainder of this treatise will draw in barest out-
line this normal State in these various relations, in the order
above named, for the economic features are the foundation of
every social system, out of which grow all the others, morals
and religion last ot all. It is, as we o ice observed, at the top :
ii morals and philosophy, that all changes from one Social
Order to another commence, from whence they insinuate them-
selves down to the material conditions; there the change of
base takes place and the new superstructure is then gradually
built up. Therefore, also, we deliued our system in econo-
mic terms alone.

If now Social-Cooperation is that to which we are certain-
ly drifting, it is undeniably the wiser course, instead of calling
it names, to inquire if not that which is u socialistic" may
also be good, and to try to find out the character of that New
Regime. We shall therefore here suggest the most notable re-
spects in which its economic features are likely to promote the
soeial well are.


It must be evident to every fair-minded man that tins New
Order — where every worker will be remunerated according to
results — is in no sense communistic. Socialism and Commun-
ism are. in met. two radically different systems; and yet they
are constantly confounded, even by well-informed people.
We wish W3 could in a serious work like this entirely ignore
the vulgar conception of Communism: that it proposes '-to
divide all property into equal parts," but when a man like
Prof. Fawcett of England gives currency to this vulgarism in
these very words and then proceeds to lecture us, saying:
'* if the State divided all lands among the inhabitants, there
would gradually arise the same inequality of wealth which
exists now," we must notice it sufficiently to say that now-a-
days no one outside of a lunatic asylum proposes any such
thing, and that Prof. Fawcett ought to know it.

The Communism we refer to is that practised by the Shakers
and similar bodies, bound together by some form of religious
belief or unbelief. Their peculiar rueth od of giving practical
effect to their doctrines* is different from ours; we believe that
to retire from the world, as they do, is a poor way of reform-
ing the world; we believe it is with reformers as with yeast:
it must be mixed witli the dough tc act upon it ; if kept to itself,
it spoils. But their principles — in which they agree with po-
litical communists — are diametrically opposed t > ours. Com-
munists make nil property common property, while our Com-
monwealth will place only the instruments of production — land,
machinery, raw-materials &c. — under collective control. They
require every one to do his share of labor, and allow him to
consume as he needs. Our Commonwealth leaves everybody
at perfect liberty to work as much or as little as he pleases,
or not at all, but makes his consumption exactly commensur-
ate with his performances. Adam Smith observed that "the pro-
duce of labor is the natural recompense of Labor" and St. Paul
laid it down: t; whoever does not work, neither shall he eat"
and the New System — as our definition points out — will put
these doctrines into practice.

In short, the motto of Socialism is : •' Everybody accord-
ing to his deeds] " that of Communism is: "Everybody ac«


cording to his needs." The communist motto is undoubtedly
a very generous one, more generous than ours ; but our motto
is more just, taking human nature as it is, — and the fact that So-
cialists take human nature as it is, is just their merit. In-
deed, if we dctine Capitalism as the fleecing of the weak by
the strong. Communism might be said to be a fleecing of the
strong by the weak, an observation already made b}^ Proud-
hon ; though the * ; strong " under our system simply means
those buoyed up to the top, while under the latter system
they would mean the truly, physically or intellectually, strong.

Communism must therefore plead guilty to the charges:
first, that it means to abolish the institution of property and,
next, that it must result i:i crushing out all individuality.
Socialism not only will do neither of these things but the
very reverse. Instead of t aking property away from everybody,
it will enable everybody to acquire property. It will truly sanc-
tify the institution of individual ownership by placing prop-
erty on an unimpeachable basis: that of being the result of
one's individual exertions. Thereby it will afford the very
mightiest stimulus for individuality to unfold itself. Proper-
ty will belong to its possessor by the strongest of all titles,
to be enjoyed as he thinks proper, but not to be used as an in-
strument of fleecing his fellow-citizens.

Next let us pass in review one of the chief industries after
Another and note the most obvious advantages that will flow
from Social Cooperation. But especially here will our motto
apply: that " our purpose is not to make people read but to
make them think.*' For the experience of our readers will
naturally supply them with innumerable other cases in point;

Take, first, manufactures.

Suppose there are at present in a given city a hundred black-
smiths, who together emploj r four hundred men. The hundred
bosses spend necessarily a great deal of their time in seeking
jobs. In this pursuit they are constantly thwarting each oth-
er's purposes, and trying to beat each other. When in their
shops, they have directions to give, estimates to prepare, let-
ters to write and bills to make out. They all perform a labor-


ious and necessary work, and yet the productive result of theii

work isverj* insignificant.

Again, these hundred employers have a hundred different
shops, a hundred different fire-places, which take up very
much space and use up very much fuel. The money spent
in renting these shops, in constructing these fireplaces
and bellows and for the fuel which is thus wasted, would
be sufficient to build a most magnificent cooperative factory
in which these bosses and wage-workers might, as co-
operative workers, find steady and remunerative employment.

Again, in these hundred shops there are a number of tools
and machines that might be reduced immensely, if these five
hundred blacksmiths worked in common; while, on the oth-
er hand, a good many machines and implements could be in-
troduced into such a co-operative factory which at present
even the richest of those employers is not able, or at least not
willing to procure, because even his business is not large
enough to warrant the outlay.

Add to this that very seldom a man is a good artisan and a
good man of business, and it will be evident from this exam-
ple, that if all manufacturing enterprises were concentrated
to the same extent that we might imagine this smithing busi-
ness concentrated, the dispensing with much useless, and there-
fore unproductive work, the reduction in operative expenses
and especially the most fruitful division of Labor which could
be inaugurated would immensely enrich Society. Every large
factory which arises on the ruin of the shops of the small ar-
tisans we consider an advance in civilization, simply because
the more production is being organized on a large scale, the
easier it will be for the associated workers, by the authority
of the Cooperative Commonwealth, to take charge of it. and
secure to themselves the utmost benefit of inventions, ma-
chinery and division of employments.

Further: At present our hundred bosses are frequently
in financial embarrassment; but few of them accumulate a
competence for their old age; many succumb to competition
and crises, while their workmen are nothing but wage-slaves,
having violent periods of overwork, followed by long andter-


ribie stagnation. The working in concert under the Cooper-
ative Commonwealth will reduce all risk, all crises, all pro-
duction beyond the effective demand, to a minimum.

Peter and Paul run risks, because the cannibals John and
James stand ready to eat them up at a given opportunity. But
the whole production of a country in any given branch need
run hardly any risk at all. Do away with the secrecy which
now obtains in our manufacturing establishments, shut up
those gambling shops: the stock and produce-exchanges; let
scientific statistics be taken of the demand and supply in all
parts of the country, and elsewhere if practicable; in other
words : introduce systematic work instead of planless work, and
crises and "•overproduction'" will be next to impossible. What-
ever losses mav occur from inaccuracies in statistics or una-
voiJable mishaps will be almost inappreciable, being borne
by the whole country. Thus, our Commonwealth will be
what a Commonwealth ought to be: the General Insurance
Company; but of that more hereafter.

The advantages of the Commonwealth being the sole Mer-
chant are evid mt : they will be all that our grangers and vol-
untary cooperationists are in the habit of expecting from their
schemes and not include one of the disadvantages, which, in
a previous chapter, Ave saw necessarily resulting from these.
Under our Commonwealth the small shopkeepers, pedlers.
commission-merchants and all of that sort will disappear.
No more need for bribing newspapers for puffs; no longer
any temptation to use lying labels or sell adulterated goods.
A bale of cotton will not as now have to be sold ten times
over to get from the producer into the hands of the con miner;
nor will the people of Philadelphia be bled to the extent of
$G.f>0 for a ton of co:il which only costs, all expeuses and out-
lays included, $1.50 at the mouth of the mine. Nevermore
shall we iind twenty drugstores in a little town that only needs

No. indeed ! In place of that we shall have great perma-
nent bazaars, embracing all possible articles of consumption,
of which stores like that of Jordan Marsh & Co., in Uos-
ton, or still better the one, once mentioned, in Philadelphia are


only insignificant miniature models — but thanks to their chiefs
for furnishing us those models!

The salesmen and saleswomen in those bazaars will be quite
different beings from those of the present day. who are
v< ry often slaves from morning till late at night. They will,
like all other citizens, be independent human beings, with
plenty of leisure at their command.

The greatest gain to Society, however, in taking control of
commerce, will perhaps be found in the suppression of that
talent, so peculiar to our Plutocrats and seemingly acquired
by them with their mother's milk: the faculty of speculation;
a talent which contributes nothing to production, but whose
only end and aim is the transfer of wealth from one pocket
into another. Nearly all workers are devoid of that talent.
The Mew Regime will, like the Man of the New Testament,
lash the howling lunatics, the brokers and cornerers, out of
our stoek-and other exchanges, which will be devoted to no-
bler uses; for Cooperation and Speculation are strangers.

ki Trade " — as far as it means the buying and selling ot goods
for the sake of profit — will at home be changed into distribu-
tion of the produce of labor among the workers, and as to for-
eign countries into genuine commerce i. e. the exchange of
such home-products w T e do not need for such foreign products
we may need.

These changes in manufactures and Commerce will naturally
affect Transportation in a remarkable degree. While now our
mails, railroads, ships and wagons do business for innumer-
able private concerns, in the New Commonwealth they will do
business for one, only. What a colossal concentration and sim-
plification of Transportation does that, iu itself, imply ! Bear
in mind simply the mass of drays and wagons of every sort,
M hich now in every one of our populous cities choke up our
streets and distract most people's nerves ! Think of the amount
of human and animal labor now absolutely wasted in this
way! It might, indeed, be difficult for those now living to
recognize the aspect of our cities, to be brought about by this
simplification, alone, under the new order of things. Even
New York may thereby become a clean city.


Transportation itself, of course, will betaken under collect*
ive control, and thus the radical wrong undone of granting
public concessions to individuals for the express purpose of
making our highways subservient to private interests. For
what are now our railway corporations but a clique of persons
empowered by law to use these highways, in the first place, for
their own, benefit, and only incidentally for the public conven-

It is just as easy to demonstrate the vast superiority of so-
cial-cooperative farming over the present style.

The prevailing isolated mode of Agriculture wastes an im-
mense amount of human and animal labor, of time and of ma-
terials. What an economy would there not be in having one
large stable, one large yard, one large barn, in the place of
one hundred stables, yards and barns? Any one can esti-
mate for himself what an enormous sum of money could
be saved in one single item, when he learns that the fences
of Indiana alone, if extended in a single line, would go
around the globe nearly 14 times, and cost no less than $200,-
003.000. How many wagons and horses will not be rendered
superfluous, when the Cooperative Commonwealth takes
charge of Agriculture? How many persons will not be made
available for manufacturing and other productive pursuits?
And as to time, these words of Professor Fawcett are sugges-
tive : " It has been calculated, that a steam-cultivator would
plough a square field of ten acres in half the time, occupied
in ploughing two fields of five acres each, and with two-thirds
the expense."

But why waste any words in abstract demonstration? Do
not our t; bonanza farms " teach us practically the lesson ? And
will not the hundreds of •' bonanza farms" of the near future,
eventually knock the lesson even into the heads of our coun-
try-cousins? Do they not already practically demonstrate,
that there are a hundred things requisite for thorough fann-
ing, that only can be had by cultivation on a grand scale?
Do not the "creameries*' that everywhere are springing up
show that butter and cheese can be made much better and
more cheaply in one dairy than on a hundred farms?


Our farmers cannot help finding out by and by, that social-
cooperative farming will prove to them an immense benefit,
simply in a. financial point of view.

It is certainly easy to comprehend that association, in Mill's
words, **is the most powerful agent of production" — few
words ought to suffice to prove that. It ought, indeed, to be
easy to see, that Social Cooperation will increase the total pro-
duction of our country at least as much beyond the capability
of the present system as the latter surpasses that of the Mid-
dle Ages in proportion to population. This it will do by add-
ing, simply, Concert; by inoculating into the Social Organism
that central regulative system which Spencer finds in all oth-
er high organisms, but of which he apparently sees no need
in the Social Organism, the highest of all. For this Concert,
this Regulative System, will reduce iimnensly all operative
expenses, in Manufactures, in Exchange, in Transportation,

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Online LibraryLaurence GronlundThe coöperative commonwealth in its outlines. An exposition of modern socialism → online text (page 9 of 23)