Morris Hillquit.

Socialism; promise or menace? online

. (page 18 of 20)
Online LibraryMorris HillquitSocialism; promise or menace? → online text (page 18 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

8 "Christian Democracy in Pre-Reformation Times," p. 8.


all the forces and wiles of the Capitalism of those days
by her prohibition of interest on loans. During the
period of her greatest influence, the Middle Ages, the
industrial arrangements that she inspired and fostered
were not Capitalism and not the wage system, but an
order in which the great majority of the workers virtually
owned the land and actually owned the tools upon
which and with which they laboured. 1

And if her sway had not been interrupted by the social
and religious disturbances of the sixteenth century, there
is hardly a shadow of a reason for doubting that this
wide diffusion of productive property would have been
indefinitely extended and developed. The present sys-
tem, in which the few own the bulk of the means of
production while the many possess little beyond their
labour power, would have been, humanly speaking,

To a Catholic who knows something of economic
history, and something of the economic aspects of
Catholic teaching, the attempt to chain the Church to
the car of a plutocratic Capitalism is impudent and

"We all feel and those few of us who have analyzed
the matter not only feel, but know that the capitalist
society . . . has reached its term. It is almost self-
evident that it cannot continue in the form which now
three generations have known, and it is equally self-
evident that some solution must be found for the in-
creasing instability with which it has poisoned our lives." 2

The solution, I confidently believe, will be found along

1 See Hilaire Belloc's "The Servile State."

2 Belloc, op. tit., p. 77.


the lines that I have traced in the second chapter. Sub-
normal conditions of life and labour must be abolished ;
excessive gains on privileged capital must be made im-
possible; and ways must be found through which the
majority of the workers will gradually become owners,
at least in part, of the instruments of production.


It is clarifying to get from Mr. Hillquit the admission
that, if ever the device seems expedient, the Socialists
will not be troubled by moral scruples against the con-
fiscation of capital. In all probability, however, this
avowal will not help the cause that he represents.

Without restating the arguments for capitalist property
rights, I wish to protest strongly against my opponent's
misconception of my account of prescription. I said
nothing on this subject to warrant his flippant picture
of the three robbers who would acquire valid titles of
ownership by the crude method of mutually exchanging
their individual articles of plunder ! I never said that
ill-gotten capital could become legitimate through pre-
scription or through possession by " innocent third par ties."
I did not use the latter phrase at all. When I spoke of
*' innocent individuals," I referred to those, and those
only, who had already complied with the conditions of
prescription. This means, as a rule, those who had in
good faith been in possession of capital for such a long
time that the wronged original owners had disappeared

Is this title so very unreasonable?

Mr. Hillquit's denial that Socialism would take in


taxes all the economic rent of moderately sized and
small farms may or may not put him in the class of those
members of the party in America who, as Walling inti-
mates, are ready to compromise everything on this
question for the sake of agricultural recruits. In any
case, it puts him in opposition to all the other Socialist
authorities, and to the general and fundamental Socialist
proposal to abolish rent, profits, interest, and "work-
less " incomes generally.

To the fundamental and insoluble objection that
Socialism must fail, owing to its inability to provide
adequate substitutes for the two most powerful springs of
effort and efficiency, namely, the hope of reward and the
fear of loss, my opponent's final answer is Colonel
Goethals. He hopes that Socialism would develop in
"our industrial army conceptions of duty and honour"
superior to those which actuate the officers of our mili-
tary army.

In this superficial analogy he has ignored or over-
looked at least four salient points.

First, a very large proportion of the army officers
who have had charge of civil enterprises have not shown
the same disinterestedness and efficiency as the man who
built the Panama Canal. More than one of them have
served terms in United States prisons for dishonesty and

Second, a Socialist regime would have very few
Panama Canals to provide the motives of conspicuous
honour and fame. Most of its directive tasks would be
quite commonplace and inconspicuous.

In the third place, the "conceptions of duty and
honour " possessed by military chieftains are the result of


thousands of years of training and traditions. Does my
opponent think that a Socialist regime could afford to
wait that long for the development of similar qualities
in the boards of managers, superintendents, and other
members of the bureaucracy that would command its
"industrial army"?

Finally, he seems to forget that Colonel Goethals
organized and managed his canal-building operation on
a military, not a democratic, basis. All intelligent
opponents of Socialism agree with Schaeffle, in his "Im-
possibility of Social Democracy," that a Socialist regime
would work if it were carried on under the principles of
militarism. Does Mr. Hillquit's use of the phrase "in-
dustrial army" mean that he has in mind that kind of
Socialism ?

His statement that Colonel Goethals's salary is "less
than that of many a successful commercial drummer," is
a trifle misleading. While engaged in the task of build-
ing the Canal, Colonel Goethals received $15,000 a
year, which is considerably in excess of his regular salary
in the army, and which probably served to reenforce the
higher motives by which he was actuated.

The higher motives do not seem to have been very
effective in the case of the rank and file of the workers.
After many unsuccessful attempts to obtain a working
force on ordinary terms, and on liberal terms, the Canal
Commission found itself compelled to pay a scale of
wages and salaries twenty-five to one hundred per cent
higher than that prevailing in similar employments in
the United States, and to add other special inducements,
"until an established system was developed which con-
tained perquisites and gratuities which in number and


value far exceeded anything of the kind bestowed upon
a working force elsewhere on the face of the globe." l

On the whole, my opponent's appeal to the example
of Colonel Goethals and the Panama Canal is somewhat
lacking in aptness and convincingness.

The ultimate fact of the controversy over the feasibility
of industrial Socialism is that its adherents expect a
mere socio-industrial mechanism to create in the human
heart sentiments of honour, altruism, and public recog-
nition infinitely greater than anything that is presented
to us by experience. And the sole basis of their expec-
tation is simple and unreasoning faith.

Under the head of "Individual Liberty," my oppo-
nent informed us that Socialism would not fix wages
and prices through an "independent and autocratic au-
thority." I never said that it would. "Public authori-
ties" and "legislative enactment" were the phrases that
I used, and Mr. Hillquit apparently agrees with me in
this ; for he employs the latter phrase himself to describe
the method of wage fixing and price fixing.

Earlier in his paper he seemed on the point of saying
that the workers in each industry might, through their
representatives, regulate wages and prices in each in-
dustry ! Apparently his faith in the perfection of the
workers faltered when he contemplated the possibility
of the various industrial groups engaging in a grand
competitive effort to see which could award itself the
highest wages and charge its neighbours the highest

His assertion that the general legislature would regu-

1 "The Panama Gateway," by Joseph Bucklin Bishop, Secretary of
the Isthmian Canal Commission, p. 263.


late wages and prices "with due regard to the interests
of the consumer, and worker," is, of course, mere faith
and prophecy. It does not at all meet my criticism
that the citizen would be deprived of that range of choice
which he now has both as producer and as consumer;
that the wages which he would receive, the prices which
he would pay, and his entire economic life would be
fixed, regulated, and determined by a single economic
authority, the national legislature in national industries,
and the municipal legislature in those industries managed
by the municipality.


The convinced Socialist remains rather indifferent to
all the objections urged against the feasibility of his eco-
nomic programme. For his belief in it is not dependent
upon considerations drawn from concrete facts or ex-
perience. He relies upon a theory of social evolution
which assures him that the system is inevitable, and
therefore that it must prove successful. And he calls
this process of inference "scientific." Let us briefly re-
call the argument :

As Marx saw the matter, the forces of economic evo-
lution were surely bringing about a narrow concentra-
tion of wealth and capital, the elimination of the middle
classes, and the ever deeper impoverishment of the
wage-earners. As things have actually happened,
wealth has become more widely diffused, capital has
become concentrated only in manufactures, the middle
classes have increased faster than the population, and
the wage-earners are much better off than they were
when Marx uttered his doleful prediction.


His forecast of a deadly class struggle which was to
issue in Socialism was based quite as much upon a philo-
sophical theory as upon a mistaken interpretation of
economic facts and tendencies. From Hegel he had
derived the theory that the driving force of all develop-
ment is antagonism, and that all progress takes place
through the conflict of contradictory elements and their
reconciliation in a higher synthesis. Applying this as-
sumption to the economic field, he concluded that the
contradictory facts of social production and private
ownership of the means of production, must find their
solution and reconciliation in social production and col-
lective ownership.

Even those Socialists who are aware that Marx's
prophecy has not been fulfilled, continue to use his un-
scientific method. The gap in their argument left by
the absence of concrete fact they strive to fill up by a
prophetical theory. The limited antagonism of interests
which Mr. Hillquit finds between capitalists and la-
bourers he forthwith converts into a class conflict that is
inevitably eliminating the capitalist. He ignores the ele-
mentary fact that antagonism of interests is created in
every group when two or more men desire a good that
is limited in quantity. Even under Socialism, the con-
sumers of a commodity would desire to obtain it as
cheaply as possible, while the producers would strive to
sell it at the price which would bring them the greatest
measure of remuneration.

What Mr. Hillquit utterly fails to do, what he is re-
quired to do before he can claim to be scientific, is to
prove that the difference of interests between capital
and labour are of such a nature that they cannot be


satisfactorily composed by any other method than So-

As I have intimated above, the Socialist's blind faith
in the assumed processes of a materialist evolution
makes him relatively indifferent to exact analysis, accu-
rate inference, and the lessons of experience. He care-
lessly exaggerates industrial evils, generalizes sweepingly
from meagre inductions, and easily brushes aside the
most formidable difficulties. And his faith is strongly
reenforced by his emotional temperament. In the
psychical processes of the average Socialist, the place of
reason seems to be largely usurped by feeling. Hence
it is very doubtful whether any person whose mental
constitution permits him to accept fully the Socialist
philosophy is ever converted from the error of his ways
by considerations drawn from mere facts.


The theory that the moral law is essentially variable,
that it is nothing more than the different moral codes
adopted by various classes and ages, is obviously de-
structive of strictly moral convictions, and incompatible
with a consciousness of true moral obligation. A code of
law that has no deeper basis, no higher sanction, no more
permanent character than the changing notions of men
can have no binding force in conscience. If the moral
law be not an ordinance of God, or at least the cate-
gorical imperative of authoritative reason, how can it
generate in any man conceptions of duty? Hence the
general principle of Socialist ethics makes for moral
anarchism. It points to the conclusion that no moral
law exists beyond one's own will and caprice.


The doctrine that purely individual actions are not
governed by the moral law, necessarily implies, as I
have shown, that the individual has neither moral worth
in himself nor moral duties toward himself; that his
rational faculties are not intrinsically superior to his
sense faculties ; that a man has no more duties toward
himself than has a pig; and that a life of the most
degrading personal debauchery is quite as reasonable
and laudable as a life of the noblest intellectual and
moral activity.

Mr. Hillquit's only answer to these statements was
that one might hold the physical and the intellectual
functions in equal esteem without valuing the abuses of
the former as highly as the proper and normal uses of the

This is mere question begging. By what test does he
distinguish "normal uses" from "abuses"? Not by a
moral test, for he denies that purely individual actions
have moral quality. Nor by the test of general reason-
ableness; for if the physical and rational faculties are
equally valuable, equally important, and equally au-
thoritative, the individual may reasonably decide for
himself to what extent he shall exercise either of them.
Since the rational no more than the physical faculties
have intrinsic worth, a man can be no more reasonably
criticised for neglecting their development than for refus-
ing to develop the capacities of a dog or a horse. De-
bauching exercise of the physical powers can be reason-
ably called an abuse only on the theory that they are
intrinsically inferior and morally subordinate to the
rational faculties, and are instruments for the welfare of
a morally sacred personality.


Hence it is my opponent himself who executes the
"logical somersault" on this point ; just as he did when
he inferred that because men have made grave mis-
takes in the application of the unchanging moral law, no
such law exists ; and when he spoke of an ever progress-
ing ethical ideal, and yet rejected the only possible
measure of progress a permanent moral law. He for-
got that men make quite as great mistakes in applying
the laws of medicine, education, jurisprudence, and
other practical sciences; and that the mere lapse of
time is not a sufficiently authoritative standard to
warrant the conclusion that the ethical ideal of to-day
is higher than that of the Vandals.


My opponent contends that sex partnerships ter-
minable at the will of either party (for they are to last
only as long as their sole basis, mutual love, endures)
may properly be called monogamous. I think he is
wrong, but we shall not quarrel over definitions. The
institution that he defends is the all-important thing.

My contention that his "love unions" would last a
much shorter time than the average marriage of to-day
drew from him a more or less irrelevant statement con-
cerning the alarming number of divorces in the United
States. Inasmuch as the great majority of our divorces
occur among the upper and middle classes, in which the
woman was not obliged to marry for a livelihood, but
possessed opportunities of "economic independence" at
least equal to the average that would prevail under
Socialism, they evidently refute rather than support the


view of my opponent that marriages based upon love
alone would "endure in undimmed and lifelong purity
in a much larger number of cases than to-day."

That such a large proportion of adults are unmarried
is a condition which I deplore and condemn quite as
strongly as Mr. Hillquit. However, neither this fact
nor the prevalence of illicit sexual intercourse has any
relevancy to the question of the durability of "love
unions," or creates any probability that conjugal condi-
tions would be better under Socialism. In so far as
these evils are due to economic causes, they can be re-
moved by measures of social reform ; in so far as they
are traceable to the lack of moral and religious training
and convictions and this is their principal cause
they cannot be removed by any mere change in indus-
trial arrangements. To assert the contrary is merely to
utter prophecy.

Purely prophetical also is the naive assurance of my
opponent that all those features of industrial occupations
which are physically or morally harmful to women, will
somehow vanish under Socialism. For the most part
these detrimental conditions are inherent in the very
nature of industrial operations. They are not removable
by legislation.

In his interpretation of the assumptions underlying
my argument concerning the economic relations of
woman, my opponent is not quite accurate. I do not
assume that "all women are married," but that the great
majority ought to be married. I do not assume that
"all married women bear children," but that, with ex-
tremely rare exceptions, they all ought to bear children.
I do not assume that "all married women bear children,


and nurse them all the time," but that practically all
married women normally require so much time for
bearing, nursing, and rearing their offspring that they
cannot earn a livelihood outside the home. In propor-
tion as any society fails to conform to these fundamental
assumptions, it is morally injurious to woman herself,
to the family, and to the race. Persons who honestly
deny this statement are taking a superficial and short-
sighted view of human nature and human experience.

Mr. Hillquit refuses to say whether Socialists would
have recourse to deeds of violence if they found these
expedient. This is one of the cases in which "silence
gives consent." If the Socialists regarded such conduct
as morally wrong, they would be glad to proclaim the
fact; since they do not think it morally wrong, they
would certainly employ it if it should appear to them
advisable. La Monte undoubtedly states the attitude
of all other Socialists when he intimates that they
"recognize and praise as moral all conduct that tends
to hasten the social revolution."


My opponent seemed to think that he was scoring
heavily when he cited my statement: "In the matter
of social institutions, moral values and genuine expedi-
ency are in the long run identical." Apparently he re-
garded this as equivalent to the statement that what-
ever is socially expedient at any given time is morally

He was mistaken. My statement was restricted to
social institutions and social systems. I should have


written "economic" instead of "social," for I had in
mind only social institutions which are economic. My
statement did not comprise the whole range of expedi-
ency. It did not include all socially expedient actions.
While I advocate certain social reforms as both expedient
and right, I unconditionally reject certain means of at-
taining them which John Spargo conditionally approves :
"setting the torch to a few buildings, or summary exe-
cution of a few members of the possessing class."

I condemn these actions because I believe that the
individual has certain indestructible rights. Mr. Hillquit
and Mr. Spargo, and Socialists generally, do not admit
that the individual has any rights against the social
organism, the State.

To put the difference between us in other and more
general terms : In case of conflict or apparent conflict
between the two, I make morality the test of social ex-
pediency, while my opponent would make social ex-
pediency the test of morality. The difference is funda-
mental and far reaching.

Owing to the pernicious character of the general prin-
ciple and the three particular doctrines of Socialist
ethics, its ideal as announced by my opponent, namely,
the happiness and welfare of the community and of all
the component individuals, rests on very precarious
grounds. When the moral law becomes merely a social
convention, and is emptied of the concept of moral
obligation ; when the most debasing individual conduct
is placed beyond the reach of moral denotation or con-
demnation ; when marital relations are adjusted on the
basis of selfish and temporary passion ; and when the
State becomes the supreme arbiter of right and wrong,


justice and injustice, the ethical ideal just mentioned
is not likely to be very generally or very deeply culti-


In his reply to the charge that the Socialist movement
is antagonistic to religion, Mr. Hillquit admitted that
the relations between the average Socialist and the
Church are "rather strained," and that the "majority
of Socialists find it difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile
their general philosophic views with the doctrines and
practices of dogmatic religious creeds." He also re-
fused to accept the suggestion that Socialism purge
itself of its antireligious elements by eliminating its
teaching on philosophy, ethics, and religion. In sub-
stance, then, he conceded that Socialism as a living
movement and system of thought is fundamentally
and necessarily incompatible with any definite religious
creed, whether Catholicism, Protestantism, or Judaism.

The first part of my opponent's surrejoinder on this
subject is unnecessary; the second, irrelevant. In my
rejoinder I had pointed out that Father Dewe's language
could not be construed as an acceptance of economic
determinism for the simple reason that it did not make
economic factors the ultimate determinant of all social
changes. Instead of meeting this point squarely, Mr.
Hillquit ventured into the field of Catholic theology,
and demanded to know why the theory of economic
determinism might not properly be looked upon by a
Catholic as "the rule by which God directs the course
of social progress."

The obviously simple answer is that the Catholic


holds that God made the universe dualistic, not monistic.
The world is not entirely material. It includes human
souls, and these are original and independent sources of
energy. They influence social changes and social con-
ditions not as instrumental and secondary causes reflect-
ing the energy of material forces, but as primary
and original causes. Neither the Catholic nor any
other believer in the human soul can accept economic
determinism, which, as expounded by all orthodox
Socialists from Engels to Hillquit, attributes all social
causality to economic and material factors "in the
last instance." 1

My opponent contended that the harmony between
religion and science could not be proved from specific
instances of believing scientists. I never said that it
could. I showed, in the first place, that between science
as such and religion as such there can be no antagonism,
since they deal with entirely different spheres of reality ;
and, in the second place, that the vast majority of the
great scientists were religious believers. Apparently, Mr.
Hillquit did not care to controvert the first statement.
Instead of attempting to refute the second, he shifted
his ground, and declared that no harmony is possible
so long as the Church opposes science !

His original contention was that science and the
scientists were opposed to religion. He asserted that
the irreligion of the average Socialist is neither greater

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18 20

Online LibraryMorris HillquitSocialism; promise or menace? → online text (page 18 of 20)