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56 THE SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT

tending to conserve the existing order. In the modern
class state such conduct is, therefore, conduct conducive
to the perpetuation of the advantages of the ruling classes.

"Ethics," says Mr. La Monte rather forcibly, "simply
registers the decrees by which the ruling class stamps with
approval or brands with censure human conduct solely
with reference to the effect of that conduct on the welfare
of their class. This does not mean that any ruling class
has ever had the wit to devise ah initio a code of ethics
perfectly adapted to further their interests. Far from it.
The process has seldom, if ever, been a conscious one.
By a process akin to natural selection in the organic world,
the ruling class learns by experience what conduct is
helpful and what hurtful to it, and blesses in the one case
and damns in the other. And as the ruling class has
always controlled all the avenues by which ideas reach
the so-called lower classes, they have heretofore been able
to impose upon the subject classes just those morals which
were best adapted to prolong their subjection." ^

It is only on the theory of the class character of modern
ethics that the curious inconsistencies in our moral con-
ceptions can be accounted for. The strong man who
should deliberately injure a weak child outside of his busi-
ness pursuits, would be considered by his fellow-men as an
individual of a low moral character, but the powerful and
wealthy mill owner who daily undermines the health and
saps the life of hundreds of inoffensive children of tender
age in the "legitimate" pursuit of his business, i.e., in the
process of profit making, is regarded by us as a perfectly
moral being. He may be the superintendent of a Sunday

' Robert Rives La Monte, "Socialism: Positive and Negative,"
Chicago, 1907, pp. 60, 61.



SOCIALISM AND ETHICS 57

school, an honored member of an Ethical Culture Society,
or may be sincerely interested in the missionary task of
improving the moral conditions of some South African
tribe of savages.

Similarly the owners of the factories, mines and rail-
roads, w^ho suffer or cause large numbers of their fellow-
men to lose their lives on account of insufficient safety
appliances in their works, and the dealers in food stuffs,
who poison their fellow-men by adulterated food, meet
with no particular opprobrium on the part of society,
while they would have been condemned as immoral
wretches if they had been guilty of similar conduct outside
of their business pursuits, and not for the sake of profits.

The socialists of the Marxian school do not agree with
thinkers of the type of Mandeville,^ who considers moral-
ity purely artificial and a device of the ''politicians" to
strengthen their rule on their fellow-men. They fully
recognize that the moral sentiment is implanted in the
normal human being and capable of very high development
even under adverse conditions. Instances of men and
women rising above their class interests and sacrificing
their material welfare, sometimes even their lives, in the
service of their fellow-men, are of frequent, almost daily
occurrence, and cannot be accounted for on any economic
or materialistic theory. The socialists also recognize
that outside of the economic sphere of human activity,
there is a large field of human interest, in which the indi-
viduals of all classes meet on common ground, and in
which the moral conceptions correspond to the actual
welfare of all mankind. But they maintain that as a rule

* The author of a book entitled "The Fable of the Bees, or Private
Vices Public Benefits," published in 1724.



58 THE SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT

the ethical conceptions dominating the "business" inter-
ests of modern nations, and the various social activities
and organs subservient to these interests, such as politics,
the agencies molding public opinion, etc., are concep-
tions favoring the interests of the dominant classes only.
They are the ethics of the ruling classes falsely parading
as general social ethics.

The Ethical Ideal and Socialist Morality

When we speak of a certain degree of development of
the moral faculty and when we distinguish a rudimentary
form of morality from a highly evolved form, we must
necessarily have in mind a standard of comparison. Such
a standard of comparison is the ethical ideal, which to us
represents the limit of all moral conduct and by the ap-
proach to which we judge a concrete code of morals to be
high or low.

An ethical ideal — Absolute Ethics, Spencer terms it — ■
does not imply a belief in a code of morality good for all
times and places and independent of all existing physical
conditions. It merely represents our view of the last
phase of moral evolution in civilized society, based upon
our observation of the course of such evolution in the past.
Such an ideal is as useful for the purposes of practical
ethics as general and abstract laws of pure science are
useful for the study of concrete phenomena.

Most of the modern writers on the subject have, there-
fore, outlined ideal standards of ethics, and most of these
outlines agree in their fundamental characteristics.

According to Spencer's definition ethical conduct is
such as is conducive to the welfare of self, offspring and



SOCIALISM AND ETHICS 59

race, and the best, i.e., most normal conduct is that which
fulfills all the three conditions simultaneously and most
efficiently. Such conduct, however, can only be attained
in a state of society in which the interests of the individual
and those of society are entirely identical, and in which
"general happiness is to be achieved mainly through the
adequate pursuit of their own happiness by individuals,
while reciprocally, the happiness of the individual is to be
achieved in part by the pursuit of the general happiness." ^

Whether we agree in all parts with this definition or
whether we confine the scope of ethics to conduct towards
society or one's fellow-men, does not alter the validity of
the conclusion. The relations of the individual and society
are those of mutual service, and the progress of morality
consists in the growth of these relations, or in the words
of Huxley, "in the gradual strengthening of the social
bond." ^

The limit of moral evolution can thus be reached only
in a state of society free from material and other antago-
nisms between the individuals among themselves and be-
tween the individual and society. In such society the
question of right and wrong is entirely obviated, since no
normal conduct of the individual can hurt society, and
all acts of society must benefit the individual. Organic
morality takes the place of ethics.

Such an ideal state of organic morality may be unattain-
able in its absolute purity, but the trend of evolution is in
its general direction. All factors which impede the path
to its approximate realization are anti-ethical or immoral ;

* Herbert Spencer, "Social Statics."

^ Thomas H. Huxley, "Evolution and Ethics," New York, 1896,
P- 35-



6o THE SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT

contrariwise, all factors or movements which tend in its
direction are ethical.

In modern society the checks to the realization of ideal
morality are numerous. As indicated in the previous
chapter, the existence of social classes and the resulting
class struggles are the chief impediments to a true social
morality. But the direct action of the struggle between
antagonistic classes in the same society does not by any
means exhaust the evil. Some of the indirect effects of
the class state based on individual production are even
more disastrous to the progress of true morality than its
direct operations. And chief among such effects are the
two most anti-social institutions — competition and war.

"The competitive struggle," says Kautsky, "affects
the social instincts of the individuals in the same society
most distinctively. For in this struggle each individual
maintains himself best the less he permits himself to be
influenced by social considerations and the more he is
guided by his own interests. For the member of the capi-
talist society based on individual competitive production,
it is, therefore, quite natural to consider egoism as the only
legitimate instinct in man, and to regard the social in-
stincts as refined forms of egoism or as an invention of
the priests to fasten their rule on men or as a supernatural
mystery." ^

Wars are regarded by Herbert Spencer as the chief ob-
stacle to the progress of moral development, and in his
" Data of Ethics," as well as in his later work, " The Deduc-
tions of Ethics," the theory occurs again and again that a
"state of war" is incompatible with an ideal morality, and

* Karl Kautsky, "Ethik und Materialistische Geschichtsauffassung,"
Stuttgart, 1906, pp. 105, io6.



SOCIALISM AND ETHICS 6 1

that the latter is only attainable in perfectly peaceful socie-
ties. Spencer does not take cognizance of the class struggle
and of the economic interpretation of history. To him " a
state of war" and "a state of peace" are merely phases of
moral development in human society. But as a matter
of fact wars depend but litde on the degree of civilization
attained by the community. The most advanced states
are frequently also the most warlike states. Wars in mod-
ern times are most often caused by economic motives.
They are usually the results of the competitive struggles
of the capitalist classes of the belligerent nations for the
markets of the world, the logical counterparts of competi-
tion in the national markets.

To the industrial individualism which is the leading
feature of modern society corresponds a gross egoism in all
spheres of our material existence which sets individual
against individual and throttles all nobler social instincts
in man. Employer and employee, producer and consumer,
buyer and seller, landlord and tenant, lender and borrower,
are always arrayed against each other, constantly and
necessarily meeting in a spirit of antagonism of interests,
incessantly engaged in conscious or unconscious economic
struggle with each other. And all these forms of economic
struggle are but single phases of the broader and deeper
class struggle which is the dominant factor in modern in-
dustrial life and largely determines all current moral con-
ceptions.

But the class struggle is not an unmitigated evil. Just
as the struggle for existence among individuals in the
lower forms of human existence led to the improvement of
the race and eventually matured the conditions of its own
destruction, just so the class struggles in advanced societies



62 THE SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT

have often been the instruments for the improvement of the
social type and will eventually lead to the abolition of all
classes and class struggles.

The struggles between the bourgeoisie, the progenitors
of the modern capitalist class, and the ruling class of land-
owners, have yielded many valuable acquisitions to modern
civilization, and have resulted in the establishment of mod-
ern society, which with all its faults and imperfections is
vastly superior to the feudal order which it displaced. The
struggles of the dependent classes against the ruling classes
in modern society have already produced the rudiments
of a nobler social morality, and are rapidly preparing the
ground for a still higher order of civilization.

The modern working class is gradually but rapidly
emancipating itself from the special morality of the ruling
classes. In their common struggles against the oppression
of the capitalist class the workers are naturally led to the
recognition of the value of compact organization and
solidary, harmonious action. Within their own ranks
they have no motive for struggle or competition; their
interests are in the opposite direction. And as the struggles
of their class against the rule of capitalism become more
general and concrete, more conscious and effective, there
grows in them a sentiment of class loyalty, class solidarity
and class consciousness which is the basis of a new and
distinct code of ethics. The modern labor movement is
maturing its own standards of right and wrong conduct,
its own social ideals and morality. Good or bad conduct
has largely come to mean to them conduct conducive to
the welfare and success of their class in its struggles for
emancipation. They admire the true, militant and de-
voted "labor leader," the hero in their struggles against



SOCIALISM AND ETHICS 63

the employing class. They detest the " scab," the deserter
from their ranks in these struggles.

The two historical slogans given to the modern socialist
and labor movement by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels,
"The emancipation of the workingmen can only be ac-
complished by the workingmen themselves," and "Work-
ingmen of all countries unite, you have nothing to lose
but your chains, you have a world to gain ! " — may truly
be said to be the main precepts of the new morality of the
working class. They inspire the "lower" classes with the
consciousness of a great social mission to be performed by
them in modern society ; they foster the virtues of com-
radeship and self-reliance in their ranks, and develop the
qualities of fidelity and devotion to their common cause.

This new morality is by no means ideal social morality.
It is the ethics of struggle, class ethics as yet. But just
because it is the ethics of a subjugated class engaged in the
struggle for its emancipation, it is superior to the prevailing
ethics of the class bent upon maintaining acquired privi-
leges. The workingmen cannot abolish the capitalist
class rule without abolishing all class rule; they cannot
emancipate themselves without emancipating all mankind.
Behind the socialist theory of the existing class struggle
lies the conception of a classless, harmonious society;
behind the conception of the international solidarity of
the working class lies the ideal of the world-wide solidarity
of the human race. The ideals of the modem socialist
and labor movement thus generally coincide with the
scientific conceptions of absolute morality.

Of course, in both cases we are dealing with ideals,
and ideals only. We must recognize that the realities of
life always fall short of social ideals. Socialism does not



64 THE SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT

imply a state of absolute and universal harmony. The
human mind cannot conceive to-day a state of society free
from all antagonism and frictions caused by differences in
temperament, views and even temporary material interests.
There will probably always be some individual infractions
of the accepted canons of social morality, but there will be
no universal economic motive for such infractions, and
they wdll necessarily become less flagrant in character and
less frequent in number, they will cease to be the rule in
human conduct, and will become the exception.

"The conflict of the individual with society," says
Charles Kendall Franklin, "is of two kinds. On the one
hand, it is carried on by specialized individuals whose
function is to develop and perfect society by developing
the moral and social senses; on the other, the conflict is
between society and the rank individualist who will not
be subdued by society, who persists in expending his
energies in as wasteful a manner as he sees fit so it benefits
himself. Civilization is full of such people to-day. They
are powerful individuals, they head corporations, they
compose the professions, they constitute the classes. They
believe in society for their own benefit and hoot at the
socialization of the race as the rankest nonsense. . . .
Their worst representative is the degenerate and criminal ;
individuals who cannot adapt themselves at all to the
development of society to-day." *

Of the two kinds of anti-social individuals so charac-
terized by Franklin, the "specialized" individual and the
pathological criminal, the men physically and morally
constituted above or below their fellow-men, may survive
forever in larger or smaller numbers, but the "rank indi-

* "The Socialization of Humanity," Chicago, 1904, p. 210.



SOCIALISM AND ETHICS 65

vidualist" who preys upon his fellow-men and tramples
on social soHdarity, mainly from motives of material gain,
can find but little room in a society based on cooperative
production and common social enjoyment. With the
change of his economic interests and motives man will
necessarily change his conduct.

"The ethics of socialism," observes Bax on this point,
"seeks not the ideal society through the ideal individual,
but conversely the ideal individual through the ideal
society. It finds in an adequate, a free and harmonious
social life, at once the primary condition and the end and
completion of individuality." ^

^ "The Ethics of Socialism," p. 19.



CHAPTER IV

SOCIALISM AND LAW

The Law

In our occasional contact with the law we are but too
apt to concentrate our attention on the concrete legal
enactments and rules of procedure, and to lose sight of
the body of the law as a dynamic system.

Here we will not concern ourselves with the anatomy of
the law, but rather with its physiology, and will consider
the law as a social force in its relation to the general pro-
cess of social development.

Under the designation "Law" in the broadest sense of
the term, we understand the entire body of legislative
enactments, rules and regulations which prescribe the
relations of man to man, man to state, state to man and
state to state.

The law thus defined is not fixed or universal : it varies
with the different types of civilization past and present.
There is a radical difference between the laws of the
ancient Greek communities, mediaeval European society,
and the modern civilized states, and there is as radical a
difference between the systems of law prevalent in the
semi-barbaric countries of South Africa, the empire of
China and the democracy of the United States.

Nor are the laws of any given country immutable. In

66



SOCIALISM AND LAW 6^

fact, nothing is more changeable than the system of na-
tional laws in the modern countries. Every year volumes
of new laws and ordinances are issued from the halls of
Congress or parliaments, the inferior legislative chambers
and the councils of thousands of municipalities; every
year innumerable old laws are repealed or amended, and
innumerable new laws are enacted. The thing that is
legal to-day may be branded as a crime to-morrow, new
rights may be conferred on or taken from us, and new
duties may be imposed on us by every legislative session,
and especially in the Anglo-Saxon countries new laws may
grow out overnight by the process of judicial "construc-
tion."

But these changes in the law are by no means arbitrary.
Individual measures may at times be needless and illogical,
but m the long run all changes in a given system of law
mark a development in a certain definite direction. A
system of jurisprudence is just as much subject to the
laws of evolution as any other social institution.

The primitive man has but little use or occasion for
laws. But the higher the plane of human civilization, the
closer the interrelation of men, the greater becomes the
need of definite rules of conduct of the members of such
organization in all matters pertaining to the common wel-
fare. Those of such rules that are more vital to the main-
tenance of the social fabric are as a rule enacted into formal
laws, while those of less direct and important bearing are
left within the domain of ethics. "Normally," says Mr.
Sidgwick, " in a well-organized society the most important
and indispensable rules of social behavior will be legally
enforced, and the less important left to be maintained by
Positive Morality. . . . Law will constitute, as it were.



68 THE SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT

the skeleton of social order, clothed by the flesh and blood
of Morality." ^ Law and ethics have thus a common
origin, and while by no means identical in all respects, they
present a great similarity in many aspects.

Law, like ethics, springs from the economic and social
conditions of the nations, and from its very origin it must
be adapted to and change with those conditions. A tribe,
race or nation will in each period establish such rules or
laws as will be most conducive to the successful pursuit
of its mode of subsistence, and as each of the succeeding
economic and social orders gradually grow out of the
preceding systems, new laws are created to meet the
changed situation. The feudal system gave us the Law
of Real Property, the development of national and inter-
national commerce led to the Law of Negotiable Instru-
ments, the rise of the factory inscribed the Labor Laws in
our statute book, and practically in our own times the
introduction of railroads, telegraphs and telephones added
new and important branches to our body of law, while the
more recent economic categories of corporations and trusts
still keep our legislative mills busy. " The evolution which
led men to an orderly social life did not consist in the dia-
lectic self-development of juridic ideas," says Arnold
Lindwurm, "but in the economic development brought
about by social necessity." ^

The law of each civilization, again like its ethics, not
only reflects the economic and social conditions of the
times, but is primarily designed to safeguard and maintain
those conditions. That is why we find such a variance



I "'



'The Methods of Ethics," p. 19.

^ "Das Eigenthumsrecht und die Menschheits — Idee im Staate,"
Leipsic, 1878, p. 139.



SOCIALISM AND LAW 69

in the criminal law of different states in its estimate of the
gravity of certain crimes. "Every state," says Dr. Ru-
dolph von Ihering, "punishes those crimes most severely
which threaten its own peculiar condition of existence,
while it allows a moderation to prevail in regard to other
crimes which, not unfrequently, presents a very striking
contrast to its severity as against the former. A theocracy
brands blasphemy and idolatry as crimes deserving of
death, while it looks on a boundary violation as a mere
misdemeanor (Mosaic Law). The agricultural state, on
the other hand, visits the latter with the severest punish-
ment, while it lets the blasphemer go with the lightest
punishment (Old Roman Law). The commercial state
punishes most severely the uttering of false coin; the
mihtary state, insubordination and breach of oflicial duty ;
the absolute state, high treason; the republic, the striving
after regal power; and they all manifest a severity in
these points which contrasts greatly with the manner in
which they punish other crimes. In short, the reaction of
the feeling of legal right, both of states and individuals,
is most violent when they feel themselves threatened in the
conditions of existence peculiar to them." *

The statement that the law is always designed to safe-
guard the existing economic conditions of society must,
however, again as in the case of ethics, be qualified
by the further statement that the law of each period is
primarily designed to safeguard and protect the interests
of the dominant classes within such society.

The legal systems of antiquity, the Greek and Roman
Law, made no attempt to disguise that fact. The subject
class, the class of slaves, frequently the overwhelming

» "Struggle for Law," English Translation, Chicago, 1879, pp. 45,46.



70 THE SOCIALIST PHILOSOPHY AND MOVEMENT

majority of the population, was placed beyond the pale
of the law. The slave was excluded from the protection
of the law and left to the arbitrary treatment of his master.
The institution of serfdom, which lasted throughout the
Middle Ages and in some instances survived into the nine-
teenth century, presents a similar state of affairs.

Prior to the great French Revolution, the nobility and
clergy openly enjoyed special legal privileges from which
the common people were excluded, and while the form of
legal class favoritism has been abolished in most of the
enlightened contemporary states, our laws on the whole
still favor the ruling classes.

Since the law is the expression of social and economic
conditions in motion, every improvement in those condi-
tions leads to a corresponding improvement in the system
of law. The course of political and economic improve-
ment which on the whole marks our social progress, reflects
itself in the ever-growing tendency towards equity and
justice in law. Compared with the iniquitous laws of
mediaeval ages, our laws to-day are exceedingly humane,



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