Copyright
Morris Hillquit.

Socialism in theory and practice online

. (page 12 of 26)
Online LibraryMorris HillquitSocialism in theory and practice → online text (page 12 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


of the old ones.

" Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeois, possesses, how-
ever, this distinctive feature; it has simplified the class
antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more split-
ting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes
directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat."^

The principal classes in modern society are thus, accord-
ing to Marx and Engels, the classes of the "Bourgeoisie"
and the "Proletariat," and a few words must be said here
in explanation of these terms very current in the literature
of socialism.

"Bourgeois," literally a "townsman," was originally a
term used in opposition to that of gentle or nohle, and signi-
fied a manufacturer or tradesman. The class of the " bour-
geoisie," in an economic sense, has come to stand for the
entire propertied class: it includes the modern manufac-
turer, money lender, and even the landowner who employs
his land for industrial or other business purposes. It is
the entire "third estate," less the wage workers.

The term "Proletariat" is borrowed from the political
nomenclature of ancient Rome, where it was used to
denote the class of free citizens without property or assured
means of existence. ^ In a more restricted and technical

^ "The Communist Manifesto," New York, Socialist Cooperative
Publishing Assn., 1901, pp. 10, 11.

^ The etymological derivation of the term is by no means free from
doubt. The Roman grammarians, and most of the modern writers after
them, derive it from the word "proles" — descendants, and interpret
the original meaning of proletariat as a descendant-begetting or child-
bearing class. The Austrian philologist, Stowasser, recently suggested
the derivation of the word from "pro-oletarius," i.e., substitute for ma-
nure worker, hired slave or common wage laborer.

"Deutsche Worte," September, 1901, quoted in Neue Zeit of October 2,
1901.



156 THE SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT

sense, the word Proletarian signifies a workingman who
does not own his tools of labor, a wage worker; but in its
wider application it embraces the entire propertyless class
of workers. Thus we speak not only of the "industrial"
proletarian, but also of the "agricultural" proletarian,
the farmer who does not own his land, or the hired farm
hand; and even of the "intellectual" proletarian, the pro-
fessional who depends upon an unsteady and uncertain
hiring out of his talents for a living.

Such then are the main characteristics of the two prin-
cipal classes of modern society, the Bourgeoisie and Proleta-
riat, or Capitalists and Workingmen, and the antagonism
between them to which the authors of " The Communist
Manifesto" refer, is the conflict of material interests which
springs from their mutual economic relations.

The principal wealth of modern society is represented
by an accumulation of commodities owned by individual
competing capitalists and used for the purpose of exchange.
The process of modern industry is a process of manufacture
and exchange of such commodities. All wealth is created
in that process, and all profits are derived through it. The
different commodities exchange for each other at their
actual value; hence, the accumulation of profit and wealth
must not be looked for in the process of exchange, but in
the process of production.

The value of a commodity is determined by the average
social labor expended on its production, and if the manu-
facturing capitalist should pay to the laborer a wage
equivalent to the products of his labor, there would remain
no margin of profit for him, and the hoarding up of indi-
vidual wealth would be impossible. But, as a matter of
fact, the manufacturing capitalist does not return to the



SOCIALISM AND POLITICS 1 57

workingman, in the form of a money wage, commodities
of a value representing his full hours of labor, but only
such quantity as will enable him to maintain his existence
according to the established standard of living and
to reproduce his species. Thus assuming that the
quantity of food, clothing and other necessaries of a work-
ingman's life per day are produced in six hours of average
social labor time, his wages will represent the portion of
his labor equivalent to six hours, and if he works ten hours
per day, the product of the remaining four hours of his
labor is appropriated by his employer.

Since the individual capitalist owns the tools without
which no labor can be performed in modern society, and
the laborer owns nothing but his ability to work — his la-
bor power, the workingman is compelled to sell that labor
power to the capitalist for a fixed daily wage. His labor
power is sold to the capitalist to be used for a day of a
duration of eight, ten or twelve hours, according to agree-
ment, and the products of his labor are divided between
him and his employer. The portion of such labor that
falls to the share of the workingman is his wage, and the
portion retained by the manufacturing capitalist Marx
calls "surplus value."

The "surplus value" of the manufacturing capitalist is
by no means his clear profit ; as a rule, he is forced to di-
vide it with the landlord, the money lender and the mer-
chant. "Surplus value" is the source of all profits of the
manufacturing and ' trading capitalists, the rents of the
landowning capitalists, and the interest of the money-lend-
ing capitalists. Thus the capitalists of all types depend
upon the production of "surplus value," while the working
class depends upon wages. Since wages and "surplus



158 THE SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT

value" come from the same source, i.e., labor power,
it is clear that the proportion of the one will be relatively
larger as the proportion of the other is relatively smaller,
and vice versa; in other words, the greater the share of
capital in the created values, the smaller the share of labor.

The economic interests of capital and labor are, there-
fore, opposed to each other, and while it is in the interest
of the class deriving its income from "surplus value" to
maintain the present system of distribution of wealth, the
interests of the working class lie in the abolition of that
system.

These are the main lines on which the modern class
struggles are conducted, but a closer analysis of the process
will show that they are by no means the sole lines of modern
class division.

The capitalists or bourgeoisie constitute but one class
in their common interest to exploit the working class, but
among themselves they are separated in many groups
with reference to the special interests of the respective
fields of their operation. The three main forms of capi-
talist revenue, rent, interest and profits, spring, as we have
seen, from the same source, the "surplus value" of the
producing capitalists; and the shares of these three cate-
gories of income stand in inverse relation to each other.
It is, of course, conceivable that rent, interest and profits
may rise simultaneously, at the expense of the working class
and the consumers, but they need not and do not always
increase in equal proportions, and the total quantity of
"surplus value" remaining equal, an increase of rents or
a rise of the rate of interest will signify a lowering of profits,
and vice versa. The three main economic divisions of
capitalists, dependent on the three forms of income men-



SOCIALISM AND TOLITICS 1 59

tioned, the rent-gathering landowner, the interest-drawing
money lender, and the profit-making manufacturer and
merchant, are thus by no means united in interest between
themselves. The money lender or banker exploits the
mortgaged landowner and the borrowing industrial alike,
while the owner of the factory site and store property ex-
ploits the manufacturer and merchant with equal thorough-
ness. Nor is the industrial group of the capitalist class
always a unit in interests: the interests of the manufac-
turers usually run counter to those of the sellers, and vice
versa; and even within the manufacturing class the interests
of separate trades are frequently opposed to each other —
for instance, where the producers of one certain commodity,
a finished article, are the consumers of the products of
another class of manufacturers, those engaged in the
production of materials.

As compared with the divergent interests of the capital-
ists among themselves, the interests of the working class
are, on the whole, harmonious. The workingmen are
frequently forced to compete with each other for employ-
ment, which, as a rule, results in a general reduction of
wages. But this competition is no evidence of a conflict
of interest among different groups of workingmen; on
the contrary, its efifect is strong proof of the solidarity of
their interests; and the recognition of the pernicious effects
of their competition ultimately leads the workers to a more
compact class organization. No group of workingmen
benefits by the fall of wages of another group, no class of
workingmen exploits another class ; hence, there exists no
economic cause for antagonism between the workingmen
of the different trades.

We have thus described and analyzed the two main



l6o THE SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT

classes of modern society and their component parts. But
between and besides them there are several economic
groups which cannot properly be classed with the one or
the other — the groups characterized by the general desig-
nation of the "middle classes." These consist of small
merchants, manufacturers and farmers, who, while they
own their business, implements or land, and sometimes
employ hired labor, still extract but little "surplus value,"
and chiefly depend for their living upon their own efforts.
The members of the middle class are engaged in a strenuous
and losing battle for the maintenance of their economic
independence against the invading large industries. Their
hope is to develop some day into large and wealthy capi-
talists, their fate most commonly is to succumb to the
superior means and organization of the great industries,
and to find refuge in the employment of their victorious
rivals or to be forced down to the ranks of the wage laborer.
By their sympathies and sentiments, these men incline
towards the capitalist class, by their immediate economic
interests they are arrayed against it, and at times they
break out in a feeble or more vigorous revolt against om-
nivorous capitalism.

Another middle-class group of considerable impor-
tance is that of the "intellectuals" in the direct employ of
the capitalists; the managers, superintendents, foremen,
engineers, accountants, clerks, etc. The economic posi-
tion of these is similar to that of the proletarian
wage worker, inasmuch as they are also hired by their
employers and paid a fixed remuneration for their
services, but it is different with respect to the size of that
remuneration. The average income of the men of this
class is frequently larger than that of the middle-class



SOCIALISM AND POLITICS l6l

manufacturers, traders or farmers; they are styled "em-
ployees," not "workingmen" ; they receive "salaries,"
not "wages," and by their education, social environment,
tastes and habits, they feel themselves more akin to the
capitalist class than to the working class.

And finally we must mention the variety of the mid-
dle class known as the "professionals," i.e., physicians,
lawyers, clergymen, teachers, journalists, artists, etc.
These constitute a class by themselves. They do not
operate with capital, and their incomes are not derived
from exploitation of labor, nor, on the other hand, do they
as a rule sell their labor or talents to a permanent individual
employer in return for a fixed periodical compensation.
They are "free" practitioners, who sell their services to
whomsoever pays for them from time to time. The men of
this group usually find their most remunerative clientele
among the possessing class, and place their skill and talent
at the disposal of that class. It is from among this group
that the capitalists primarily gather the apologists and
defenders of their class interests, their "retainers," to
borrow an expression from W. J. Ghent.* But the pro-
fessionals are not permanently tied to the dominant classes.
They are alert in perceiving every coming social change,
and whenever a new class enters upon a promising cam-
paign to displace the old order, these professionals desert
their former patrons in large numbers and place them-
selves at the head of the new movement.

The Class Struggle in Politics

In the preceding pages we have attempted to outline
the main class divisions in modern society. In the general

* "Mass and Class," New York, 1905.

M



1 62 THE SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT

struggle for social existence, each of these classes of ne-
cessity seeks to fortify its economic position by the strong
arm of the state. The dominant and possessing class as a
whole needs the protection of the state, its laws, courts of
justice, police power, and sometimes even its armed force
to preserve its "vested rights" and privileges and to main-
tain its power over the working class ; and within the capi-
talist class each interest group needs the special services
and support of the state against the hostile groups of other
interests. The transportation industries need charters,
grants and franchises, the manufacturing industries want
subsidies and protective import tariffs on manufactured
articles, while they oppose tariffs on food stuffs; the agri-
cultural landowning class, on the other hand, demands a
high tariff on imported food stuffs, but combats the tariff
on articles of foreign manufacture; the commercial classes
generally strive for a free trade policy; the debtor classes
see their salvation in anti-usury laws and debased currency ;
the money-lending class requires a solid and unchangeable
monetary standard; the small manufacturers and traders
endeavor to avert the threatening ruin of their economic
independence by the enactment of laws against combination
and concentration of capital, while the workingmen look
to the government for protection against excessive capi-
talist exploitation. In short, each class and group strives
to make the state subservient to its economic interests, to
retain or capture the powers of government for its own
special purposes.

It is this phase of the class struggle which constitutes
modern politics, and the economic classes and interest
groups participating in it, correspond, roughly speaking,
to the political parties or factions in each country. Thus we



SOCIALISM AND POLITICS 163

find in every constitutional country of Europe, whatever
the elements of its political life may otherwise be, at least
three definite political parties : the Conservative, the Lib-
eral and the Socialist. In Germany and Austria, they are
directly known under those names; in England the politi-
cal party corresponding in its general features to the So-
cialist Party in continental Europe is known as the Labor
Party; in Belgium and Holland the Clerical Party prac-
tically takes the place of the Conservative Party ; in France
the Conservative and Liberal parties sometimes are known
under the names of the Party of Resistance and the Party
of Movement, but under whatever name or guise they may
appear here or there, they uniformly present the distinc-
tive features of class parties. The Party of the Conserva-
tives is always in substance the party of the landowning
class. In countries of feudal antecedents it represents in
the first instance the descendants of the landowning and
privileged nobility, and its political ideal is the reconstruc-
tion of the old regime and the restoration of the political
powers of the aristocracy of birth — the party is usually
opposed to all progress and reform.

The Liberal Party is the party par excellence of the
modern bourgeoisie. It represents the interests of in-
dustry and commerce. In most countries it is the party
in power, and the aims of its politics are to maintain it in
power. It favors such moderate and gradual reforms as
tend to destroy the feudal remnants in modern European
society without in any way endangering the supremacy
of the class represented by it. Its political interests and
ideals coincide on the whole with the present regime, —
it is the party of the present.

The Socialist Party is the party of the workingmen who



164 THE SOCIALIST rillLOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT

have drawn the last conclusion from their struggles with
capitalism. Its ideal is a cooperative commonwealth based
on the collective ownership of the social instruments of
wealth production. Its social ideal is not inspired by the
fabulous "golden age" of the past, but is founded on the
anticipated results of social progress, — it is the party of
the future.

Side by side with these three main parties representing
the three principal classes of society, there exists in most
countries of Europe a party generally known as the Radi-
cal Party. This is the party of the middle class, and its
political activity is the expression of the last struggles of a
class doomed to economic annihilation between the upper
grindstone of capitalist competition and the nether grind-
stone of proletarian organization and aggressiveness.

Paul Louis characterizes this party in the following
language : —

"It is composed of men whose social condition is ill
defined, who are neither satisfied nor crushed, but who
feel themselves menaced and strive to fortify their position.
These men desire to conquer the political power in order
to break the instruments of the material or moral domina-
tion of the great industries and properties. . . . They
demand fiscal reforms which would permit them to tax
the large revenues and to place artificial fetters on the
mechanical concentration of capital. . . . Nowhere do
they constitute a coherent party, for nothing is more fugi-
tive than its contingent." *

In the countries of Europe we thus find all principal
economic classes and interest groups represented by sep-
arate and well-defined political parties. The only excep-

* "L'Avenir du Socialisme," Paris, 1905, pp. 105, 106.



SOCIALISM AND POLITICS 1 65

tion seems to be presented by the money-lending group of
capitalists, who, as a rule, do not form parties of their own.
This, however, may perhaps be accounted for by the func-
tion of money capital, which can become operative only
in connection with the other forms of capitalistic owner-
ship, but has no independent productive existence.

All other permanent political parties of continental Eu-
rope are but slight variations of the four types described.

In the United States of America, where the economic
development of the country has not passed through the
stage of feudalism, and where there exist no remnants of a
feudal economy or of a class of privileged nobles, there is,
of course, no room for a Conservative Party in the Euro-
pean sense, and the parties of the propertied classes are
formed on different lines. The Republican Party is sub-
stantially the party of the modern capitalists, correspond-
ing in its main characteristics to the Liberal parties of
Europe, while the Democratic Party is largely the party
of the middle class, the small business man and farmer,
and bears some resemblance to the Radical parties of
European countries.

Such then, generally speaking, are the leading char-
acteristics and motive forces of the modern political parties,
but in practice their formative processes and workings
are by no means so clear-cut and simple. ,

In the complex relations of modern society, it is some-
times exceedingly difficult to determine the exact line of
class divisions. It is not always easy to determine when
a man ceases to be workman and becomes a member of
the middle class, nor whether he is to be classed as a
"middleman" or capitalist; and within the capitalist class
especially it becomes more and more difficult to divide its



1 66 THE SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT

members into definite interest groups. The extensive de-
velopment of stock companies within the last decades has
largely broken down the rigid lines of special interest
groups within the possessing class, and the typical capitalist
of to-day may and frequently does own at the same time
stock in banks, in real estate concerns and in industrial
and commercial enterprises.

The economic mainsprings of politics are, besides, as a
rule deeply hidden below the surface. With the sole
possible exception of the working class in the countries
of the most advanced industrial development, there is not
a single class or interest group large enough to conquer
and hold the modern governmental machinery by its own
numbers. Each of the classes contending for the political
mastery of the country is, therefore, bound to seek the sup-
port of other classes or their individual members, and this
it can obviously not receive for the mere and avowed
advancement of its naked class interests. To overcome
the difficulty, the dominant political parties are thus in-
stinctively led to conceal rather than expose their class
character; they make concessions or hold out promises to
all classes of the population, and by their official platforms
and public declarations they pretend to strive for the com-
mon welfare of the whole population. The interests of
the classes represented by them are thus generalized into
the interests of the entire nation, and their striving for
political power masquerades as a struggle for lofty political
ideals. These false pretensions are sometimes formulated
consciously and intentionally by the shrewd party leaders,
but perhaps more often the active political party workers,
and especially its passive supporters, fully believe in their
sincerity; hence, we find the capitalist and middle-class



SOCIALISM AND POLITICS 167

parties of all countries largely supported by working-
men, and, generally speaking, there is hardly a political
party whose constituent elements are wholly recruited from
one homogeneous class.

"It is not contended," says W. J. Ghent, "that men are
always, or even generally, conscious of the economic mo-
tive that impels them. Far less is it to be contended that
they are aware of the influence laid upon the exercise of
that motive by the prevailing economic environment. The
consciousness of their motives is often but dim and vague,
and that motive which they believe dominant, a mere
illusion." ^

And moreover, the economic motive, while it is the domi-
nant factor, is not the sole factor in politics. In times of
threatened foreign invasion, the defense of the country
may become a paramount political issue of equal impor-
tance to all classes of the population, and when a govern-
ment represents nothing but the autocratic power of a small
clique, and becomes equally oppressive on all classes of
society, as is the case for instance in Russia, all political
parties may well unite in a common program of opposition.
In times of special agitation an ideological sentiment may
become a political issue of great force and break down all
established party lines. At other times, especially when
the dominant class is safely intrenched behind the powers
of government without vital disputes between its dif-
ferent interest groups and without the menace of a strong
working class political party, politics degenerates into a
question of mere individual spoils and patronage.
• "Mass and Class," p. 12.



l68 THE SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT



5t



The Socialist Party in Politics



In the general political struggles of the classes, the
Socialist Party, as^_wa^ stated above, represents the
working class. This statement, however, requires some
qualification and explanation.

The Socialist Party represents in politics primarily the
general immediate and ultimate interests of the working
class as a whole. Its program consists of a number of
planks calculated to strengthen the proletariat in its
struggles with the dominant classes and to lessen the degree
of its exploitation by the latter, and it culminates in the
demand for the complete economic enfranchisement of
the working class. Since the power of the dominant
classes over the workingmcn is based on the ownership
by the former of the social tools and instruments of wealth
production, the cardinal point of the socialist political
platform is the demand for the abolition of private owner-
ship in these means of production.

The socialist ideal is a state of society based on organized
and cooperative work of all individuals capable of perform-


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Online LibraryMorris HillquitSocialism in theory and practice → online text (page 12 of 26)