R. C. K. (Robert Charles Kirkwood) Ensor.

Modern socialism, as set forth by socialists in their speeches, writings, and programmes; online

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Online LibraryR. C. K. (Robert Charles Kirkwood) EnsorModern socialism, as set forth by socialists in their speeches, writings, and programmes; → online text (page 13 of 35)
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There will be a national minimum of sanitation, enforced
not merely on land or house owners or occupiers, but also
on local governing authorities. The nation will find it pre-
posterous that any city, merely out of stui)idity or incapacity
or parsimony, should foster disease, or bring up its quota of
citizens in a condition of impaired vitality. The power of
the community as a whole, will, somehow or other, be brought
to bear upon every backward district, compelling it to lay on
pure water, to improve its drainage, and to take such action,
even by municipal building if need be, that no family in the
land shall have less than '* three rooms and a scullery," as the
minimum required for health and decency. Along with this
must go the adequate provision of medical attendance, skilled
nursing, and hospital accommodation for the sick. Within a
generation of the adoption of such a policy, the death-rate
and sickness experience would show a reduction of one-third
of what is at present endured as if it were the decree of

There will be a national minimum of education — not
merely in the provision of schools, but in genuinely com-
pulsory attendance at them. Besides schools and colleges
of every grade, there will have to be an adequate " scholar-
ship ladder," securing maintenance as well as free tuition,
right up to the post-graduate course, for every scholar proving
himself or herself fitted for anything beyond common school-
ing. And this provision will be enforced by the national
power upon local school authorities as well as upon parents


and employers. What right has any part of the com-
munity to allow any part of its quota of citizens to be
reared in ignorance or to suffer even one potential genius
to be lost to the community ? The next few years will see
not only a great improvement in common schooling but
also the doubling or trebling of our expenditure on higher

Only by the enforcement of some such national minimum
of subsistence, leisure, sanitation, and education will modern
industrial communities escape degeneration and decay.
Where life is abandoned to unfettered competition, what is
known as " Gresham's Law " applies — the bad drives out the
good. To prevent this evil result is, as both Europe and
America are discovering in the twentieth century, the main
function of Government. To enforce the national minimum
will, moreover, not interfere either with the profits or with
the freedom of development of the exceptional man, while it
will enormously increase the prosperity of the community.
Nor does it abolish competition. What it does is to transfer
the competitive pressure from the actual means of subsistence
of the masses (where it works little but harm), to the intellect
of every one who has any, in the degree that he has it (where
it sharpens the wits).

This remedy for the dangers of modern industrialism — the
Policy of the National Minimum — involves, it will be seen, a
great extension of Government activity, a great advance in the
efficiency of both legislative and executive machinery, and
no little change in constitutional forms. All this will be
difficult enough. Moreover, the consumer, as a consumer,
remains unprotected. Hence, whilst the mere enforcement
of the national minimum adequately solves the problem
presented by the sweated trades, it may be found not com-
pletely to answer for those at the other end of the scale, in
which great Trusts have been organized. It may, therefore,
well be easier, in one industry after another, to take over the
Trust into direct public ownership, as one nation or another

S. AND B. WEBB 113

has already done in the case of railways, telegraphs, telephones,
ocean cables, steamboat lines, water, gas, electric and hydraulic
plants, and what not. One way or another the people must
collectively control the industry by which they live, or, for
large masses of the community, every hope of genuine freedom
and civilization willdisappear.



By Karl Kautsky

This is § 5 of Kautsky's Sozialrefonn unci soziale Revolution,
which, with its sequel Am Tage nach der socialen Reuolution, has
been translated into English by J. B. Askew.' Together they form
the best existing presentation of the Marxian standpoint to-day ; on
account, not only of their ability, but of their Continental vogue,
which amounts to a vast popular ratification.

Perhaps no Continental sociologist anything like as interesting as
Kautsky is so little known or appreciated in England. In the
German party, of whose official review, Die Neiie Zeit, he is editor, he
has long exercised a unique influence. Among his other typical works
may be mentioned Das Erfurter Programm in seinem grundsdtzlichen
Theil and Die Agrarfrage.

Let us examine in the first place the objection : The social
antagonism between the middle classes and the proletariat
tends to diminish. I will here pass over the question of com-
mercial crises, of which it was predicted some years ago that
they would become weaker. This view has since then been
so emphatically refuted by undisputed facts, that I am in the
position to forego on that head all further discussion, which
otherwise would have taken us too far out of our way. Nor
am I going to malce any further contribution to the debate on
the already ad iiatiseam discussed theory of the progressive
increase of misery, which, with a little ingenuity, could be

' TIte Social lu-volitliofi, London : Twentieth Century Press.


debated for ever, and in which the debate turns more on inter-
pretation of the word " misery " than on the recognition of
certain facts. We Socialists are unanimous in this, that the
capitaUst mode of production, when left to itself, has for its
result an increase of physical misery ; equally unanimous,
however, are we in the opinion, that even in the present
society the organization of tlie working-class and the interfer-
ence of the State are in a position to check this misery ; finally,
we all agree that the emancipation of the proletariat is to be
expected not from its increasing decadence, but from its grow-
ing strength.

Another question, however, is that of the growing antago-
nism between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. This is, in
the first place, a question of the increasing exploitation.

That this does increase has already been shown by ISIarx a
generation ago, and has, so far as I know, never been refuted
by anybody. Those who deny the fact of the increasing ex-
ploitation of the proletariat must in the first place be able to
back their words by a refutation of Marx's Capital.

Now, certainly, it will be said in objection to this that all
this is but so much theory ; we only recognize as true and
demonstrated what we can grasp for ourselves. We do not
want economic laws, but statistical figures. These are not
easily found. It has not yet occurred to any one to demon-
strate statistically, not only the wages but also the profits, for
the very simple reason that the safe is like a castle to the
bourgeois which, be he even the most cowardly and weak-
spirited of the lot, he is ever ready to defend like a lion against
the encroachments of the authorities.

Nevertheless, we can find some figures as to the increase of
wages and other incomes. Some of these, the latest which we
know, shall be given here. They were computed by Mr. A.
L. Bowley, who read a paper on the question in March, 1895,
before the London Royal Statistical Society (printed in the
journal of the Society, June, 1895, pp. 224-285). We take the
following table : —



Incomes not arising from wages.




.Subject to


Not subject to


income tax.

Amount in

Per cent.


Per cent.


Per cent.


of total

in million

of total

in million

of total























' 45






















































Against this picture many objections may be raised. It
seems to me too optimistic, and makes the sum of the wages
come out much bigger than it is or was in reality.

In reckoning the wages the author did not allow for un-
employment. He, moreover, took for granted that a number
of important factors bearing on the conditions of the working-
classes remained the same wherever the alterations could not
exactly be determined, As a statistician he had naturally the
right to do so, but these are precisely the factors which alter
more and more in a direction unfavourable to the workers.
Thus, for example, the proportion between male and female,
skilled and unskilled labour, etc.

The greatest objection, however, is that the computation is
limited to but a few trades, all of which, with the exception of
agriculture, are very well organized, and that the author takes
for granted that the condition of the entire working-class has,
on the average, improved in the same proportion as that of the
organized workers, who, even in England, form a fifth of the
workers of all trades. It is not uninteresting to consider



the alterations in the wages of this class of workers. The
rates, in comparison with those of i860 (the latter taken as
100), were : —

i860 1866








Agricultural labourers
Building trades . .
Cotton manufacture .
Woollen industry , ,

100 105
100 116
100 125

100 i 106















Iron industry . . .

100 1 127








Engineering ....
Gasworkers ....

100 ; loS
100 115











100 1 113
100 (?)








Average . . .










We see that the increase of wages by 40 per cent, from
i860 to 189 1, which Bowley calculates for the whole of the
English working-classes, does not even hold good for the entire
labour aristocracy. With the exception of the cotton-spinners,
who in England are not without reason conservative and the
patterns for all dreamers of "social peace," the average is only
exceeded by the gasworkers, the sailors, and the miners. The
gasworkers owe their rise partly to the influence of political
action, which in larger towns has brought to the municipal em-
ployees some improvements. In the case of the gasworkers,
considerations of competition and exploitation through private
enterprise enter least into account. Partly also the rise in 1891
must be accounted for by the sudden advent of the "new
unionism " which aroused so many hopes, but soon fizzled out.
Still more, even than in the case of the gasworkers, does the
rise of wages in 1891 appear sudden, almost accidental, in
the case of the seamen and the miners. With the miners the
wages were in 1886 on a level with i860, and in 1891 they
were 50 per cent, higher ! This cannot be called an assured
advance. In the case of the workers in the building trade,


and the woollen and the iron industries, the increase of wages
since i860 falls far below the average. Bowley, therefore, wishes
us to believe that the wages of all the unorganized workers of
England rose 40 per cent, in the same period in which those of
the excellently-organized iron workers only rose 25 per cent. !

But let us take the figures as they stand. What do they
prove ? Even according to this quite exceptionally optimistic
view, wages form an ever-diminishing portion of the national
income. In the period 1860-74 they form on the average
45 per cent, of the national income; in the period 1877-91,
only 43f per cent. Let us assume, for lack of more reliable
figures, the sum-total of the incomes subject to income tax
and not arising from wages to be equal to the total amount of
surplus value. Thus the latter was in i860 less than the total
amount of the wages by 16 million pounds ; in 1891, however,
the sum-total of the surplus value was greater than that of the
wages by 80 million pounds.

That shows a very palpable increase of exploitation. The
rate of surplus value, i.e. the rate of exploitation of the worker,
would, according to this, have risen from 96 per cent, to 112
per cent. As a matter of fact, according to Bowley's figures,
that is the extent to which exploitation has risen in the
organized trades. The exploitation of the mass of the un-
organized must have increased to an even greater extent.

We do not attach any very great importance to these
figures. But as far as they prove anything at all, they do not
speak against the assumption of the increasing exploitation of
labour, which Marx, by another method, and by an inquiry
into the laws of the capitalist mode of production, has proved
in a manner not yet confuted. Now it may be said : Granted
that exploitation increases, but the wages rise as well, if not at
the same rate as surplus value, how is, then, the worker going
to feel the increasing exploitation, if it is not patent to his eye,
but must be discovered by means of a lengthened inquiry ?
The mass of the workers neither carry on statistical researches,
nor ponder over the theory of value and surplus value.


That may easily be so. And yel there are means by which
the increase of their exploitation is made evident to them.
To the same extent as the profits rise, does the mode of living
of the bourgeoisie improve. But the classes are not divided by
Chinese walls. The increasing luxury of the upper classes
trickles gradually through into the lower, awakes in them new
needs and new demands, to the satisfaction of which, however,
the slow rise in the wages is inadequate. The bourgeoisie
bewails the disappearance of unpretentiousness on the part of
the lower orders, their increasing covetousness, and forgets
that the increasing pretentiousness in the lower classes is only
a reflex of the rising standard of life in the upper, that it is
their own example which has inflamed the covetousness of the

That the standard of life in the bourgeoisie rises faster
than among the workers, can be seen at every step. The
working-class dwellings have, during the last fifty years, not
improved to any great extent, whilst the dwelUngs of the
bourgeoisie to-day are magnificent in comparison with an
average bourgeois house of fifty years ago. A third-class rail-
way carriage of to-day and one of fifty years ago are not so
very different in their internal appointments. But compare a
first-class carriage of the middle of last century with the modern
Pullman cars.^ I do not believe that the seaman in an ocean
steamer is to-day much better off" than fifty years ago. But
certainly the luxury of a saloon of a modern passenger-boat
was a thing undreamt of even in royal yachts fifty years ago.

So much about the increasing exploitation of the worker.
But is not this economic factor neutralized by the two classes
drawing increasingly nearer to each other on the political field ?

' This can hardly be said to apply to England — e.^. the G.N.R. or the
L. and N.W.R., with their third-class dining cars, etc. Of course, that is
in consequence of the tendency which was so strongly noticeable on our
railways in the direction of a single class, or, at the most, two classes.
Prussia still has four, and of the fourth it is quite safe to say that, short of
having no roof, it could not be worse. — Translator.


Is not the worker more and more recognized by the bourgeois
as equal to himself?

Undoubtedly the proletariat gains rapidly in political and
social respect.

If its economic advancement has been outdistanced by
that of the bourgeoisie, and must in consequence necessarily
give rise to an increasing covetousness and dissatisfaction, the
most remarkable feature of the last fifty years has, on the con-
trary, been the steady and uninterrupted adva?icemc?it of the
proletariat in moral and intellectual respects.

Only a few decades ago the proletariat stood at such a low
level, that there were even Socialists who expected from a
victory of the proletariat the worst results for civilization.
After 1850 Rodbertus wrote: "There is a very great danger
at hand lest a new barbarism, this time arising from the midst
of society itself, lays waste the abodes of civilization and of

At the same time Heinrich Heine declared that the future
belonged to the Communists. " This admission — that the future
belongs to the Communists — I made in a spirit of uneasiness
and greatest anxiety, and ugh ! that was by no means dissimu-
lation on my part. I actually could only think with fear and
horror of the time, when those dark iconoclasts would attain
to power ; with their horny hands they will break all the
marble statues of beauty," etc.

As is well known, things have become quite different. It
is not the proletariat that threatens modern civilization ; on the
contrary, it is the Communists who have become to-day the
surest guardians of art and science, and have often stepped
forward on their behalf in a most decided manner.

In the same way the fear which possessed the whole bour-
geois world after the Paris commune, lest the victorious prole-
tariat would behave in the midst of our civilization like the
Vandals of the great tribal migration, and establish on heaps
of ruins an empire of barbaric asceticism, has practically dis-


It is partly due to the disappearance of this fear that among
the bourgeois Intellectuals there is a visibly growing sympathy
with the proletariat and Socialism.

Like the Proletariat, the Intellectuals as a class are also a
peculiar feature of the capitalist mode of production. I have
already pointed out that the ruling classes need and make use
of them in so far as they, the ruling classes, have neither the
interest nor the leisure to attend to the business of the adminis-
tration of the State, or to apply themselves to art and science,
as the aristocracy of Athens or the clergy at the best period of
the Catholic Church did. The whole of the higher intellectual
activity, which was formerly a privilege of the ruling classes,
they leave to-day to paid workers, and the number of these
professional scholars, artists, engineers, officials, etc., is rapidly

These make up the class of the so-called " Intellectuals,"
the " new middle-class ; " but they differ essentially from the
old middle-class in that they have no separate class conscious-
ness. Particular sections of them have a separate conscious-
ness of their order, very frequently a conceit of their order ;
but the interests of each of these sections is too particular to
allow of a common class consciousness to develop. Their
members ally themselves with the most different classes and
parties ; the Intellectuals provide each of these with its intel-
lectual champions. Some champion the interests of the ruling
classes, whom many of them have to serve in their professional
capacity. Others have made the cause of the proletariat their
own. The majority, however, have remained up till now hide-
bound by the petty bourgeois way of thinking. Not only have
they often come from a petty bourgeois stock, but their social
position as a " middle class " is very similar to that of the
petty bourgeois, namely, a cross between the proletariat and
the ruling classes.

These sections of the Intellectuals it is who, as said above,
evince more and more sympathy with the proletariat and
Socialism. As they have no particular class interests, and are.


thanks to their professional activity, the most accessible to
scientific insight, they are the most easily won through scientific
considerations for particular parties. The theoretical bank-
ruptcy of the bourgeois political economy and the theoretical
superiority of Socialism must have become patent to them.
In addition, they found that the other classes strive more and
more to hold art and science in subjection. Many, finally, are
also impressed by the success, by the continual rise, of Social
Democracy, especially when it is compared with the continual
decay of Liberalism. In this way, sympathy with Labour and
Socialism become popular among the educated ; there is hardly
a drawing-room where one does not tumble across one or more
" Socialists."

Were these circles of the educated identical with the
bourgeoisie, then certainly we should have had the day won,
and all Social Revolution would have been superfluous. With
these classes one could discuss the matter peaceably; from
them the slow, quiet development has no violent intervention
to fear.

Unfortunately, however, they form only one section of the
bourgeoisie, and that the one which, though writing and speak-
ing in the name of the bourgeoisie, does not determine its action.
And classes, like individuals, are to be known not by their
words but their deeds.

Also it is the least energetic and militant section of the bour-
geoisie which evinces a sympathy with the proletariat.

Formerly, of course, when Socialism, even in the ranks of
the educated, passed for almost a crime or lunacy, bourgeois
elements could only join the Sociahst movement when com-
pletely breaking with the bourgeois world. Whosoever at that
time passed from bourgeois circles to Sociahsm, required much
greater energy, revolutionary enthusiasm, and force of con-
viction than a member of the proletariat. In the Socialist
movement, therefore, these elements belonged as a rule to the
most Radical and revolutionary.

Quite difierent is it to-day, when Socialism has become


fashionable with the drawing-rooms. It requires no particular
energy, no break with the bourgeois society, for any one to call
himself a Socialist. No wonder that an ever-growing number
of new Socialists remain stuck in the traditional modes of
thinking and feeling of their class. But the methods of war-
fare of the Intellectuals are different to those of the proletariat.
The latter can only bring against wealth and the force of arms
its superior numbers and the solidarity of its class organiza-
tions. The Intellectuals, on the other hand, are insignificant
in numbers and without class organization. Their only weapon
is that of persuasion by word of mouth and by pen ; they fight
with " intellectual weapons " and " moral superiority," and with
these weapons the drawing-room Socialists would also wish to
decide the proletarian class war. They declare themselves
ready to lend the proletariat their moral support, but on con-
dition that it gives up all idea of using force, and that not
only where it has no prospect of success — there even the
proletariat gives it up — but even where it has. Hence they
try to bring into discredit the idea of revolution, and to
represent it as a worthless method. They endeavour to detach
from the revolutionary proletariat a Social Reform wing, and
help thereby to divide and weaken it.

This, so far, has been the sole result of the commencing
conversion of the Intellectuals to Socialism.

By the side of the " new middle-class," the old one, the
petty bourgeoisie, is still dragging on its existence. This
species of middle-class was formerly the backbone of all
Revolution ; vigorous and militant, it readily, when circum-
stances were favourable, rose against any and every kind of
oppression and exploitation from above, against bureaucracy
and militarism, against feudal and priestly privileges. It
formed the advance-guard of the bourgeois democracy. Just
as a portion of the new middle-class to-day, too, the old one
was at various times inspired with sympathy for the proletariat,
co-operated with it, and gave to and received from it intel-

Online LibraryR. C. K. (Robert Charles Kirkwood) EnsorModern socialism, as set forth by socialists in their speeches, writings, and programmes; → online text (page 13 of 35)