Morris Hillquit.

Socialism in theory and practice online

. (page 20 of 26)
Online LibraryMorris HillquitSocialism in theory and practice → online text (page 20 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

methods become more acute and apparent, these move-
ments grow in extension and intensity.

The main currents of all such political reform movements
may be said to proceed along three distinct lines.

The first of these is directed against the personal in-
competence or corruption of individual officeholders or
politicians. This is the so-called "good government"
movement, which sees the remedy for all political evils in
"putting good men into office." The movement by its
very nature is bound to be sporadic and ineffective. It is
most common in the large American cities, which are the
chronic prey of organized gangs of unscrupulous politi-
cians. When these political marauders, intoxicated with
power, become too shameless and aggressive, the decent
citizens, mostly of the "better classes," periodically rise
in revolt, and inaugurate a "good government" campaign.
If successful, they oust the corrupt officials, and elect men
of their own ranks in their stead. As a rule they do not
attempt any radical changes of the conditions which breed
and maintain corrupt political gangs in the cities, and
as a result their reform regimes are short lived, and soon
succumb to a new and more appalling state of political
corruption. The recent histories of New York, Chicago,
Pittsburg, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and St. Louis offer
abundant instances of such movements, and the pathetic
struggles and failures of the shortsighted good government
reforms of these cities have been graphically described by
Mr. Lincoln Steffens.^

The more important movements of political reform are
those concerned in the permanent improvements of politi-

* "The Shame of the Cities," New York, 1904.


cal institutions and methods. These movements have for
their object the extension of the suffrage to classes still
excluded from it, or they aim to increase the political
powers of the people and to strengthen their control over
their chosen representatives. To the former class belong
the movements for the abolition of all forms of restrictions
on adult manhood suffrage, and for the introduction of
woman suffrage; to the latter, the movements for the
direct election of all public officials, for the introduction
of the principle of initiative and referendum in legislation,
the system of proportional representation in government,
and the right of the constituents to recall their represent-

All these movements have of late made very consider-
able gains.

Universal Suffrage

The general principle of universal suffrage of all adult
male citizens has been pretty definitely established in
several countries, such as the United States, England,
France and Switzerland, for all political elections; in other
countries, such as Germany and Austria, it is limited to
parliamentary elections, while in the local elections in
these countries, and in all elections in some other countries,
such as Belgium and Holland, the suffrage is qualified by
the age, property, education or social condition of the voter.
The domain of universal manhood suffrage is steadily
extending, and the struggles for the removal of all qualifica-
tions on such suffrage are assuming ever larger proportions,
especially in Belgium, Holland, Germany and Hungary.

As part of the general movement for suffrage exten-


sion, the movement for the enfranchisement of women has
also made large strides within the last generation. Not
only has that movement to-day numerous and energetic
adherents of both sexes all over the civilized world, but in
many countries it has already realized complete or partial
practical victories. The women of Finland enjoy the
"active" and the "passive" franchise (the right to vote
and to hold elective office) in all elections in the same
manner as the men, and out of the 200 deputies in
the Finnish Diet, 19 are women. In Norway the tax-
paying or propertied women have votes in all parliamen-
tary and local elections. Women are completely enfran-
chised in New Zealand and in the Australian colonies of
South and West Australia, New South Wales, Tasmania and
Queensland. In the little Isle of Man, which has its own
local parliament, women are likewise allowed to vote on
equal terms with men. In the other parts of Great Britain
and Ireland woman suffrage is restricted to certain elec-
tions for local offices. The Frenchmen have conferred on
their women the right to vote in elections for school trus-
tees, charity inspectors and members of the industrial
courts. In Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland
women are permitted to vote in certain local elections.

In the United States four states, Wyoming, Colorado,
Utah and Idaho, have extended to their female citizens the
rights of unrestricted suffrage, while most of the other
states allow their women to participate in the elections of
local school boards and other minor officials.

Wyoming has had the longest experience with the insti-
tution of woman suffrage, which was introduced in that
state in 1868. In 1893 its legislature attested its appre-
ciation of the beneficial and ennobling effect of the institu-


tion on the public life of the citizens of the state, in a con-
current resolution, which among other things recited:
"That the possession and exercise of suffrage by the
women in Wyoming for the past quarter of a century has
wrought no harm and has done great good in many ways;
that it has largely aided in banishing crime, pauperism
and vice from the state, and that without any violent and
oppressive legislation; that it has secured peaceful and
orderly elections, good government and a remarkable
degree of civilization and good order."

Of the remaining electoral reform movements, the first
in order of importance is probably that advocating the
system of

Proportional Representation

I Under the prevailing systems of election, the majority
(party may sometimes monopolize all public offices while
tthe minority parties may have no representation at all.
Theoretically we may conceive of a situation where a
party representing a bare majority of the voters, say
51 per cent, evenly distributed all over the country, may
carry every election and fill every seat in the state and
national legislatures and all other public offices of the coun-
try, while the remaining 49 per cent may have no represen-
tation and no voice in the administration at all. But
/this applies only to countries in which an absolute ma-
jority of the votes cast is required for election. In countries
in which a mere plurality determines the elections, as in
\he United States, we may well conceive a situation where
the voters are divided into three or more parties of ap-
proximately equal strength, and the strongest pf them,



representing perhaps 35 per cent of all voters, may control
the entire government. In actual practice, of course,
the party voters are never so evenly distributed, and a
strong minority party as a rule has some representation
in the government. But this representation is uncertain,
and the smaller parties are often left without any repre-
sentation. In the general national elections in the United
States in 1908, the total number of votes cast for all
parties was 14,882,132. Of these the Republican Party
received 7,677,544, the Democratic Party, 6,405,707, the
Socialist Party, 420,464, the Prohibition Party, 251,660,
the Independence Party, 83,628, the People's Party,
29,108, and the Socialist Labor Party, 14,021.

In the same elections 391 members of the House of
Representatives were chosen. Under a system of pro-
portional representation these members would have been
apportioned among the various parties as follows : —




. 168




• 7

Independence Party


People's Party



As a matter of fact the House was composed of 219
Republicans and 172 Democrats, and none of the minor
parties had any representation whatever on it.

There are several methods by which the principle of pro-
portional representation may be applied to elections. The
one known as the "free list" or "quota plan" is the
simplest and most commonly employed. This system



presupposes large electoral districts and party nominations.
To illustrate its practical working let us take the case of a
city with 100,000 voters entitled to elect ten members of
Congress or other legislative body. Every ten thousand
voters of any political faith will thus be entitled to one
representative, and no political party polling at least that
number of votes will be entirely excluded from representa-
tion. Let us assume that there are four parties in the field.
Each of the parties may nominate ten candidates, but it
will serve the purpose if they nominate one or two more
than they expect to elect. The electoral ticket and the
votes cast for the different parties will be as follows : —


























Representatives . .





This illustration presupposes a straight party vote, and
in that case candidates will be declared elected in the order
of their positions on the ballot, the positions having been
fixed by the respective parties. This is known as the
" block-vote." But the plan of proportional representation
does not preclude the voter from expressing his preference
for specific candidates of his party. The voter may be al-
lowed to vote for the individual candidates of his choice,


and his vote will count both for the candidate and the party,
and he may be even allowed to vote on the cumulative sys-
tem, i.e., cast all of his ten votes for one candidate or distrib-
ute them among several candidates in such proportions as
he may choose. Where votes are counted for the candi-
date as well as for the party, each party will receive the
representation to which the total number of votes cast for
its ticket entitles it, and the candidates receiving the high-
est individual votes on the ticket will be declared elected.

The system of proportional representation has been
introduced in the parliamentary elections of Sweden, Fin-
land and Japan ; it is being strongly urged in several other
countries for national elections, and is frequently applied
in local elections. Belgium has the curious system of
proportional representation based on the "single vote
plan" and combined with plural voting. The system is
the same as shown in our illustration, except that every
voter casts one vote which counts for the candidate des-
ignated by him on the ballot and for his party, and
except also that persons of property or college education
have the privilege of voting three separate ballots instead
of the one ballot allowed to the other citizens.

The Referendum, Initiative and Right of Recall

If proportional representation is designed to give to
each poHtical group of citizens a representation in govern-
ment in accordance with its numbers, the Referendum
seeks to maintain the representatives under the constant
control of their electors. By the "Referendum" is meant
the right to compel the legislature to submit to the vote
of the entire people any law, ordinance or other question


to be adopted, ratified or rejected at the polls. Where
the referendum is in vogue, it is usually set in motion by
the petition of a certain number of voters, ordinarily from
five to ten per cent. If such petition is presented to the
legislature within a specified time after the passage of a
certain act or measure, say within two or three months, the
act or measure in question is submitted to a popular vote,
and the decision of the voters seals its fate. The Referen-
dum was introduced in Switzerland in the early part of the
nineteenth century, it was largely extended by the constitu-
tion of 1874, and has since become an established feature
in that progressive little republic. It has also been adopted
in four states of the Union, and it is the uniform method of
amending state constitutions in ail states but one. It is
also often resorted to in the local politics of many cities in
America, Europe and Australia.

The benefits of the Referendum as practiced in Switzer-
land are stated by Mr. John A. Hobson in this lan-

" I. It provides a remedy for intentional or uninten-
tional misrepresentation on the part of elected legislatures
and secures laws conformable to the actual will of the

"2. It enhances the popular confidence in the stability
of law.

"3. It eliminates much waste of political energy by
enabling proposals of unknown value to be submitted
separately to a quantitative test."

Yet the greatest service of all is the training in the art
of self-government which the referendum gives. Says Mr.
Hobson: —

"It may indeed be questioned whether a people whose


direct contribution to self-government consists in a single
vote cast at intervals of several years, not for a policy or
even for a measure, but for a party or a personality, can
be or is capable of becoming a genuinely self-governing
people. Some amount of regular responsibility for con-
crete acts of conduct is surely as essential to the education
of a self-reliant people as of a self-reliant individual." ^

And Mr. Curti, for many years a member of the Swiss
Parliament, sums up his own experience as follows : —

"I am certain that the Referendum has prevented but
little of the good we might have done, but it has averted
many evils if only by the fact that it always stood wamingly
before us. I should say that it does not condemn democ-
racy to a standstill, despite its occasional retrogressive
movements, but that it lends steadiness to progress itself." ^

The Referendum, beneficial as its operations may be,
is not effective to secure the dominion of the popular will
over the representative legislatures without the aid of
another modern political weapon — the Popular Initia-

The Initiative is "the right of a certain percentage of
the voters, usually five to ten per cent, to propose a law,
ordinance or constitutional amendment for action by the
legislature or decision at the polls or both." ^ If the
proposed measure is acted upon favorably by the legisla-
ture, that disposes of it, but if the legislature fails to enact
it, it must be submitted to a popular vote for adoption or

* Quoted from Equity, Philadelphia, for January, 1908.

^ Theodor Curti, "Die Resultate des Schweizerischen Referendums,"
Stuttgart, 1898, p. 48.

^ "A Primer of Direct Legislation," The Arena, Trenton, New
Jersey, 1906, p. 8.


The Referendum alone is merely designed to prevent
mischievous legislation, for its workings are negative; the
Initiative enables the people to force positive legislation.
The Referendum and Initiative complement each other,
and in a majority of cases they have been adopted together
and as parts of the same political system.

The Right of Recall is the right of the constituents of
any public official to withdraw him from office before the
expiration of his elective or appointive term. This right
is based on the theory that in a democracy every public
official is the agent of -the people, and may be discharged
by. the latter at any time and for any reason.
t^ The Right of Recall is usually exercised by a petition
foHhe removal of the objectionable representative or offi-
cial, signed by a large number of voters within the district
from which he has been elected. Upon such petition new
elections are ordered, and the name of the objectionable
incumbent is submitted to the voters together with the
names of any new candidates, so as to give to the voters
the opportunity to retain him in office or to recall him.

The system has been introduced in Switzerland, in
several municipalities of the state of California, and re-
cently in the city of Seattle, Washington. It is not as
popular as the Referendum and the Initiative, and the
adoption of the latter often tends to make the measure
superfluous, at least so far as regards legislative repre-

The socialists advocate all political reforms which have
for their object the democratization of the modern state,
and that not only on account of their general desire for
political progress, but also for the special reason that such
reforms are indispensable for the progress and success of


the socialist movement. All restrictions on popular suf-j
frage are primarily designed to disfranchise the property-
less working class, the main source of the political strength
of sociahsm, and all methods of disproportionate repre-
sentation work most disastrously on minority parties and
new political movements.

The social democrats of Germany under Lassalle's
leadership entered the poHtical arena with the motto of un-
restricted suffrage for all adult citizens, and that motto has
remained the battle cry of militant socialism in all coun-
tries of restricted suffrage. In Austria, Russia, Belgium
and Sweden, the socialists have been the leading spirits
of all movements for suffrage extension, and in other coun-
tries they have often been its sole champions.

Socialism and Woman Suffrage

A similarly unmistakable stand have the socialists
always maintained on the subject of woman suffrage.
"As soon as the Socialist Party was born," attests Mrs.
Zetkin, "it adopted the demand of equal rights for man and
woman in its political program. The social democracy
is the organization of woman suffrage par excellence in
Germany. In the many thousands of meetings in which
the party year after year proclaims its theories and explains
its program, the justice of woman suffrage is always em-
phasized. The proletarian movement of women especially
has repeatedly unfolded all over the empire an exclusive
propaganda in favor of the fullest and highest political
rights of the female sex. Bebel, von Vollmar and other
socialist representatives have time and time again made
earnest pleas for woman suffrage in the General German


Diet and in the different provincial diets. And the social
democracy has not satisfied itself with mere talk in favor
of woman suffrage. It has repeatedly proposed positive
legislation on that subject. As the first and, up to the
present, the only political party of Germany, the Social
Democrats already in 1895 offered a resolution in the Im-
perial Diet which declared that all elections to Parliament
and to the provincial diets should be based on the universal,
equal, direct and secret vote of all adult citizens, without
distinction of sex." ^

For the socialist movement the demand for woman
suffrage is not a mere sentimental proposition of abstract
justice. The working woman has become so large and
important a factor in modern industrial life that the work-
ingman can hardly carry on his economic and political
struggles without her cooperation. For the upper and
middle class woman suffrage is a convenience and an
advantage; for the woman of the working class it is an
immediate material necessity.

It is for this reason that the breach between the bour-
geois ''suffragists" and the working women advocates of
suffrage is constantly deepening. The suffragists of the
upper and middle classes favor woman suffrage qualified
by a property test because such test would not exclude them
from voting, and also because they regard such limited
suffrage as a partial victory for the general principle of
woman suffrage.

The proletarian suffragettes, on the other hand, see in
such qualified woman suffrage only a means of strengthen-
ing the political power of the possessing classes, thus cor-

'■ Clara Zetkin, "Zur Frage des Frauenwahlrechts," Berlin, 1907,
p. 19.


respondingly diminishing the political strength of the
propertyless working class.

The question of woman suffrage was thoroughly ex-
amined by the last International Socialist Congress held
at Stuttgart in 1907, and the resolution adopted on the
subject thus defines the socialist attitude towards the gen-
eral movement for woman suffrage : —

"It is the duty of socialist parties of all countries to
agitate most energetically for the introduction of universal
womanhood suffrage. The socialist parties repudiate
limited woman's suffrage as an adulteration of, and a
caricature upon, the principle of political equality of the
female sex. It fights for the sole living concrete expression
of this principle ; namely, universal womanhood suffrage,
which should belong to all women of age and not be con-
ditioned by property, taxation, education, or any other
qualification which would exclude members of the laboring
classes from the enjoyment of this right. The socialist
women should not carry on this struggle for complete equal-
ity of right of vote in alliance with the middle-class women
suffragists, but in common with the socialist parties, which
insist upon woman suffrage as one of the fundamental
and most important reforms for the full democratization
of political franchise in general."



In the last chapter we dealt with such reforms as affect
primarily the character of government. Here we will con-
sider some reforms bearing on the functions of government
and the manner of their discharge, and for lack of a more
expressive term, we will designate these by the common
title of " administrative reforms."

Under this head we will examine three significant move-
ments of recent times: the movements for government
ownership of certain industries, for the shifting of the
burden of taxation on the possessing classes, and for the
abolition of standing armies. The three movements are
but loosely related among themselves, and the socialist
attitude to them is different in each case.

Government Ownership

The movement for the transfer of ownership in certain
industries of a public or quasi-public nature, such as rail-
roads, telegraphs, telephones, street cars, waterworks and
gas works, to the central government or to municipal
governments, has made very substantial progress within
the last few decades, and its ideas have found very extended
application. Switzerland, Belgium and the Australian
colonies, Prussia and Russia own the greater part of the
railroads of those countries; in Saxony all railroading



is government monopoly, and in Austria, Holland and
Norway the governments are gradually and steadily absorb-
ing the private lines. All of these countries began with
private ownership of the roads, and gradually transferred
such ownership to the government.

Still more marked is that process in the case of the tele-
graph. "With the exception of the sale of the experimen-
tal line from Washington to Baltimore," says Professor
Parsons, "no country has changed from public to private
ownership, but every country in the world that began with
private telegraphs has changed to public ownership, except
Bolivia, Canada, Cuba, Cyprus, Hawaii, Honduras and
the United States." *

Germany, Bulgaria and some of the Australian colonies
introduced their first telephones as government monopolies,
and have retained them as such, while Great Britain,
Belgium, Austria, France, Switzerland, Sweden and
Norway have acquired all or portions of the telephone
systems of their country from the original private owners.

The field of municipal ownership is even more ex-
tensive than that of national ownership. Municipal
ownership of water and gas works is practically the rule
in most countries of Europe, and in the United States more
than half of the cities and towns own their own water-
works, and several cities have acquired their gas works.

Municipal street railways have received the largest
extension in Great Britain, where the municipalities own
and operate more than 40 per cent of the total mileage.
The movement for the transfer of all privately owned street
cars to the municipal governments has of late met with

' Frank Parsons, "The City for the People," Equity Series, Phila-
delphia, 1901, p. 207.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 22 23 24 25 26

Online LibraryMorris HillquitSocialism in theory and practice → online text (page 20 of 26)