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gradually adapt itself to new and entirely different con-
ditions and purposes. In fact, the history of our civiliza-
tion is replete with instances of social, political, religious
and legal institutions which have long survived their origi-
nal creating causes, and in an altered form have shown
great vitality under new conditions. The modern state
exhibits many features that seem to indicate just such
adaptability and vitality. The state, which came into being


solely as an instrument of class repression, has gradually,
and especially within the last centuries, assumed other
important social functions, functions in which it largely
represents society as a whole, and not any particular class
of it. Instances of such functions of the modern state
may be found in the system of public education, sanitary
and health regulations, and in the institutions of police and
criminal justice to the extent to which they secure the per-
sonal safety and security of all citizens.

It is true, as Menger ^ observes, that these functions con-
stitute but a very small part of the activity of the state,
and are as a rule relegated to its subordinate organs, such
as municipalities, etc. ; but it is equally true that these gen-
erally useful functions are claiming and receiving ever
greater attention from the state, and that under a system
of socialism they are certain to receive an immense ex-

If we realize that the socialist commonwealth must
of necessity be charged with the direction, regulation or
control of at least its principal industries, and with the care
of its old and decrepit, sick, invalid and orphaned mem-
bers, we shall readily see that the socialist organization will
have to be something more than a mere "administration
of things," — it will in all likelihood be a quite definitely
organized society.

But, it may be objected, a socialist society will be free
from the element of coercion; hence it will not be a state
in the true sense of the term.

Let us consider this objection.

For the purposes of public works, health, safety and
relief, the socialist commonwealth will need vast material

* Anton Menger, "Neue Staatslehre," 2d Edition, Jena, 1904, p. 2a


resources, probably more than the modern state, and these
resources, in whatever form and under whatever designa-
tion, can come only from the wealth-producing members
of the commonwealth — thus there must be a direct or
indirect tax on the labor or income of the citizen. The
collection of this tax, the direction of the industries and
the regulation of the relations between the citizens, will
require some laws and some rules or instruments for their
enforcement; hence even the element of coercion cannot
be entirely absent in a socialist society, at least not as far
as the human mind can at present conceive. The socialist
society as conceived by modern socialists differs, of course,
very radically from the modern state in form and substance.
It is not a class state, it does not serve any part of the
population and does not rule any other part of the popu-
lation; it represents the interests of the entire community,
and it is for the benefit of the entire community that it
levies taxes and makes and enforces laws. It is not the
slaveholding state, nor the feudal state, nor the state of the
bourgeoisie, — it is a socialist state, but a state neverthe-
less, and since little or nothing can be gained by inventing a
new term, we shall hereafter designate the proposed or-
ganized socialist society as the Socialist State.

The Transitional State

Modern socialists recognize that social institutions are
not the results of arbitrary choice, but of historical growth.
When the ever working forces of industrial evolution have
created new economic interests and social relations, the
political forms of society must be modified to meet these
changes, and when these new interests and relations become


incompatible with the very basis of the existing social
system, that system is bound to give way to a more ade-
quate order. The socialists contend that the present
system of individual ownership in the large and social
means of production, and the system of industrial com-
petition based on such individual ownership, have become
or are fast becoming incompatible with the interests of an
ever growing majority of the population and with the prog-
ress of industry itself. They perceive a tendency in the
modern industrial development towards the collective
ownership of these means of production and the socializa-
tion of industries; they see the public necessity of such
transformation, and advocate and demand its accomplish-

That is the whole of the socialist program, and it is
certainly wide enough. The transformation of the means
of production from private to public ownership is by no
means a simple task. It is not reasonable to suppose that
the possessing classes, the owners of the land, the mines,
railroads and factories, the financiers and capitalists of
all descriptions, will some fine day voluntarily surrender all
their privileges and possessions to the people, nor is it
likely that the transformation will be accomplished by one
single and simple decree of the victorious proletariat all
over the civilized world. More likely the process of trans-
formation will be complicated and diversified, and will be
marked by a series of economic and social reforms and
legislative measures tending to divest the ruling classes
of their monopolies, privileges and advantages, step by
step, until they are practically shorn of the power to ex-
ploit their fellow-men; i.e., until all the important means
of production have passed into collective ownership and


all the principal industries are reorganized on the basis
of socialist cooperation. The proposed measures that
are expected to effect this eventual transformation con-
stitute the "immediate" or "transitional" demands of so-
cialism, and are part of the general socialist program, each
socialist party emphasizing those points which are of more
immediate importance in view of the social and political
conditions of its own country at any given time. The
measures thus most generally advocated by the socialists
are: universal suffrage and equal political rights for
men and women; the initiative, referendum, proportional
representation in legislative bodies, and the right of
recall of representatives by their constituents; greater
autonomy for the municipalities and limitation of the
powers and functions of the central government; the
abolition of standing armies; progressive reduction of the
hours of labor and increase of wages; state employment
of the unemployed; state insurance of workingmen in
case of accidents and sickness ; old age pensions for work-
ingmen; state provisions for all orphans and invalids;
abolition of all indirect taxes; a progressive tax on prop-
erty, income and inheritance; municipal ownership of all
municipal utilities; state or national ownership of all
mines, means of transportation and communication, and
of all industries controlled by monopolies, trusts and
combines, and the gradual assumption by the munici-
pality or state of all other industries as soon as they reach
a stage where they become susceptible of socialization.

The socialists, of course, do not anticipate that these
measures will in all cases be adopted in their logical order
and in the pristine purity of their original conception ac-
cording to program, nor that they will be realized in all


countries with absolute uniformity. More likely the
course of the social transformation will be different in the
different countries, slow and methodic in some, rapid and
tempestuous in others, according to the historic condi-
tions, the temperament of the people and the respective
strength and intelligence of the ruling classes and the prol-
etariat in each case. In the more democratic countries,
especially those in which the socialist and labor movements
constitute important political and social factors, the neces-
sary transitional reforms, or at least a large part of them,
may be gradually conquered through the direct control
by the proletariat of important organs of the state, such
as municipalities or legislatures, or through the indirect
influence of the growing labor movement. In other
countries the conquest of the public powers by the working
class may be accomplished by a violent insurrection. The
wage workers may, in the words of Engels, "seize the
powers of the state" and establish a temporary "dictator-
ship of the proletariat." Thus the transition from the
system of' feudalism to the present order was accomplished
radically but peacefully in England, slowly and incom-
pletely in Germany, rapidly and violently in France. But
violence is but an accident of the social revolution ; it is
by no means its necessary accompaniment, and it has no
place in the socialist program.

And similarly silent is the socialist program on the
question whether the gradual expropriation of the possess-
ing classes will be accomplished by a process of confisca-
tion or by the method of compensation. The greater
number of socialist writers incline towards the latter
assum.ption, but in that they merely express their individ-
ual present preferences. Social development, and espe-


cially social revolutions, are not in the habit of consulting
cut and dried theories evolved by philosophers of past
generations, and social justice is more frequently a ques-
tion of social expediency and class power. The French
clergy was not compensated for the lands taken from it
by the bourgeois revolution, and the Russian noblemen
and American slave owners were not compensated upon
the emancipation of their serfs and chattel slaves. It is
not unlikely that in countries in which the social transfor-
mation will be accomplished peacefully, the state will com-
pensate the expropriated proprietors, while every violent
revolution will be followed by confiscation. The socialists
are not much concerned about this issue. Their aim is
the establishment of a state in which exploitation of man
by man shall become impossible, and when private wealth
has been robbed of the character of employing and ex-
ploiting capital, its possession by a number of individuals
ceases to be a menacing factor in a socialist state.

The "transitional state" thus conceived cannot be
bounded by fixed lines of demarcation either in its incep-
tion or its termination. As every other period of historical
development, it is bound to overlap at both ends. A
number of municipalities and states are already wholly
or partly under socialist control. Many of the "transi-
tional" reforms of socialism, political and social, have al-
ready been realized to some extent in the countries of Eu-
rope, America and Australia, and the conceded tendency
of all modern legislation is toward the extension of such
reforms. In this sense it may well be said that we are in
the midst, or at any rate at the beginning, of the socialist
" transitional state," although it would be impossible for us
to say just when wc entered it. And similarly difficult is


it to fix the line between the so-called transitional state and
the socialist state proper. Theoretically, the reign of
pure socialism begins after the entire socialist program
has been materialized and society has been reorganized
entirely on the basis of cooperative production. But in
reality, social ideals are rarely realized in perfect form,
and just as the period of feudalism has left remnants of
its institutions in a later order, and in some cases down
to the present day, so, in all likelihood, many features of
our present individualist order will long survive in a state,
substantially and preponderatingly socialistic.

The Socialist State

The transition from the present order of individual
wealth and competitive industry to a system of collective
ownership and cooperative production, by whatever means
and in whatever manner accomplished, is bound to be
accompanied by very thoroughgoing changes in all rela-
tions of men, and by a decided remodeling of the entire
social and political structure of society. These proposed
changes, with the probable constitution, construction and
workings of the "socialist state," have always offered an
exceptionally fertile field for speculation.

The modern socialist movement made its first appear-
ance towards the end of the eighteenth and the beginning
of the nineteenth centuries, and its philosophy was largely
influenced by the general ideological conceptions of that
time. The first apostles of the new creed believed with
their contemporaries that political and social institutions
could be arbitrarily devised, tried, chosen, cast away,
and substituted by others. They regarded the evils and
shortcomings of modern society as flaws in the social struc-


ture, due to the carelessness of the "founders" of that
society, and saw the remedy for these evils in the simple
expedient of constructing a new society on a more rational
and equitable plan. The early socialist literature is,
therefore, replete with detailed and minute descriptions
of proposed social organizations wherein universal brother-
hood is the rule, bliss and prosperity are the heritage of
all, and justice reigns supreme. And as the authors of
these social Utopias were not bound by material impedi-
ments and freely drew upon their fertile imaginations, their
schemes are more or less realistic or fantastic according
to their individual temperaments and bent of mind. The
most noteworthy representatives of this early school of
socialism are Morelly, Gabriel Mably, Charles Fourier,
Etienne Cabet, Robert Owen and Wilhelm Weitling.

But the detailed painting of the society of the future
or the "socialist state" is by no means confined to the
pioneers of modern socialist thought. The temptation to
evolve a ready and complete scheme of a new social order,
based on socialism, for the purpose of proving or refuting
the "feasibility" of the socialist ideal is so great, that
socialists and anti-socialists alike still very frequently
resort to that expedient. Conspicuous instances of such
society builders on the socialist side are Edward Bellamy
("Looking Backward"), William Morris ("News from
Nowhere") and Laurence Gronlund ("Cooperative Com-
monwealth"); while the opposite side is ably represented
by the merciless destroyers of the "socialist state" of the
types of Eugen Richter (" Sozialdemokratische Zukunfts-
bilder"), William Graham ("Socialism Old and New"),
Victor Cathrein ("Socialism: Its Theoretical Basis and
Practical Application"), and those latest valiant con-


querors of the Socialist Dragon, David M. Parry
("The Scarlet Empire") and W. H. Mallock. Nor can
it be said that the drawing of such detailed descriptions
of imaginary forms and workings of a socialist society is
altogether a waste of time ; such pictures are not without
usefulness as food for reflection and interesting speculation,
and some of them no doubt contain sparks of true genius
which may perhaps even find practical application in times
to come. But all such descriptions are nevertheless mere
guesses for which none but their authors are responsible;
they are not part of the generally accepted socialist pro-
gram or philosophy.

"Never," said the veteran leader of the German Social
Democracy, Wilhelm Liebknecht, on the occasion of the
debate in the Diet already alluded to, "never has our party
told the workingmen about a 'state of the future,' never
in any way other than as a mere Utopia. If anybody says :
I picture to myself society after our program has been
realized, after wage labor has been abolished and the ex-
ploitation of men has ceased, in such or such a manner,
well and good ; ideas are free, and everybody may conceive
the socialist state as he pleases. Whoever believes in it,
may do so, whoever does not, need not. These pictures
are but dreams, and social democracy has never under-
stood them otherwise."

And it is difficult to see how any forecast of future con-
ditions could be much more than a dream. If we look
back from the pinnacles of the twentieth century to con-
ditions of the early part of the nineteenth century, we shall
be astounded at the unprecedented radical revolution
accomplished within the last hundred years in all domains
of our social, political and industrial life. The old pur-


suits, habits and views of our fathers have been mercilessly
cast aside. New fields of endeavor have been explored,
new truths discovered, new relations established, new worlds
created. The globe has a vastly different aspect from
that of a hundred years ago, and the nations that people
it are vastly different beings. The modern man differs
in all his habits and mode of life from his forefathers of
but a few generations ago.

It will not be seriously contended that these present con-
ditions could have been more or less accurately forecast
and divined at the beginning of the present regime even by
the most sagacious and best-informed social philosopher.
For even if such a philosopher could reckon with the prob-
able development of the forces then existing, he could cer-
tainly not take into account the tremendous effect of the
new discoveries and inventions since made, the applica-
tion of steam and electricity in the industrial processes,
the introduction of the railroads, steamships, telegraphs,
telephones, and the countless modern machines and con-
trivances which have served to revolutionize our entire
system of production and communication and with it
all our habits of life and thought. To the placid and
rational philosopher of the beginning of the nineteenth
century, an account of our present civilization would have
been a much wilder and more incredible dream than the
most fantastic socialist Utopia seems to-day to our wise
bourgeois philosopher.

And still the task of the man who might have assumed
a century ago to forecast present conditions would have
been mere child's play in comparison with that of the
dreamer who undertakes to-day to descril^e the details
of the life and organization of the "socialist state."


The forces of industrial development have by no means
reached their zenith, they are still multiplying and multi-
plying in an ever accelerating ratio. The wider the basis
of existing industrial forces, the greater the rate of economic
progress ; this is the simple working of the theory of geo-
metrical progression as daily demonstrated in our indus-
trial life. The last fifty years have witnessed more indus-
trial progress than the three centuries preceding them, and
the coming fifty years will perhaps eclipse the last five
hundred years.

The task of the would-be socialist forecaster is besides
greatly complicated by another element. The develop-
ments of the last century, immense and radical as they have
been, have not very materially affected the basic principles
of modern industrial organization. But the industrial
development of the future, as conceived by socialists, will
consist not only in the natural increase and multiplication
of the productive forces, but also in a radical reorganiza-
tion of the methods of production and distribution, and the
resultant changes must thus of necessity be more thorough-
going and less calculable.

And finally, all speculation on the nature and aspect of
the socialist state suffers from another inherent weakness.
They tacitly assume that the "socialist state" is a fixed
and definite phase of social development, whereas in fact
it is anything but that. Socialism stands for an order of
society in which private ownership in the means of produc-
tion has substantially given way to a system of collective
ownership. Such an order of things may quite conceiv-
ably be established in some of the most progressive coun-
tries in a short time, say within twenty-five years — our
era is one of rapid developments. Such a country would in


that case quite properly claim the designation of a "so-
cialist state." But with the establishment of socialism,
the general progress of that country would not halt, and
the succeeding centuries would continue to change its
institutions, life and customs. The socialist state in its
maturity will be an entirely different organization from the
socialist state in its infancy, and similarly the socialist
organization of one country may be radically different
from that of the other, and still the social prophet must
have in mind a fixed and uniform "socialist state."

Modern socialists indulge but little in fantastic fore-
casts of the future order of things; they fully realize the
general futility of such speculations for the practical purposes
of the socialist movement. The socialist criticism is directed
against existing evils, the socialist program is a program of
immediate relief, and the socialist demands are made on the
present state. The socialists are concerned only with the
immediate effects of their proposed measures on the welfare
of the present population, and if they venture at all to inquire
into the future, they limit their inquiries entirely to such
immediate effects, to conditions "on the day after the
revolution." Such inquiries are very useful as serving to
illustrate the constructive sides of the socialist philosophy.

Much valuable work on such lines has recently been done
by Karl Kautsky ("The Social Revolution," Second Part),
and Anton Menger ("Neue Staatslehre"), and very cred-
itable attempts in the same direction have also been made
by Annie Besant and G. Bernard Shaw (in the "Fabian
Essays"), Oswald Koehler ("Der Sozialdemokratische
Staat"), B. Malon (in "Precis de Socialisme"), and the
American writer, John Spargo ("Socialism"). And as
the socialist movement gains in power and the socialist


ideal becomes more realistic, the socialist thinkers are
bound to bestow greater and more serious attention to the
elaboration of that feature of their philosophy.

The great distinction between the works of these con-
temporary socialist writers and their Utopian precursors
is, that while the latter based their speculations on an
entirely arbitrary conception of an ideal state, the former
take for their starting point the present actual state. They
realize that the so-called "socialist state," as far as we can
conceive it to-day, is nothing but the present state with
such modifications as the realization of the proposed so-
cialist reforms naturally and necessarily imply, and their
forecast is but an analysis of such probable changes. But
with all this candor and caution it is still impossible to
arrive at scientific and indisputable conclusions as to con-
ditions of even the immediate future. The conclusions
of each author are bound to contain some element of spec-
ulation and to reflect to a large extent his individual views
and inclinations. It is in that spirit and with that under-
standing that the following chapters are offered.

Production and Distribution of Wealth Under Socialism

The organization of wealth production under socialism
offers but little difficulty. The prevalent methods of pro-
duction, as indicated in a previous chapter, have already
become largely social in many important industries.

In the modem corporations, trusts and other combines,
the capitalists have created industrial organizations very
much akin to the socialist ideal, and have demonstrated
the feasibility and advantages of cooperative and planful
production on a large scale. By the simple process of


combining the greater number of plants in a given industry
under one head, discarding the less efficient of them and
strengthening the more important, the trusts have largely
eliminated the element of waste in production; and by
consolidating the management and supervision of the work,
and perfecting the specialization and division of labor,
they have vastly increased the productivity of the latter.
The state, with its larger powers and resources, will be able
to increase the advantages of trustified production very

Online LibraryMorris HillquitSocialism in theory and practice → online text (page 8 of 26)