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 14 of 35)
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lectual inspiration and material support. But just as the new,


so the old one, too, always was an untrustworthy ally, precisely
because of its intermediate position between the exploited and
the exploiting classes. As already said by Marx, the petty
bourgeois is neither a thorough proletarian nor yet fully a
bourgeois, and feels himself, according to circumstances, now
the one, then the other.

From this double situation there arises a split in the ranks
of the petty bourgeoisie. One position of it identifies itself
with the proletariat, the other with its opponents.

The fate of the petty industry is sealed and its decay is
irresistible. But this shows itself but slowly in the reduction
of small undertakings, although very rapidly in their ruin. Some
of the petty owners become entirely dependent on the large
capital, and turn into mere home-workers, wage-slaves, who
instead of working in a factory, work for the employer at home.
Others, especially small dealers and small publicans, remain
independent, but find their only customers among the working-
class, so that their existence is entirely bound up with the
fortunes of the workers. These sections draw more and more
closely to the fighting proletariat.

Quite different it is with those sections of the petty bour-
geoisie which have not yet become completely subjected to
the large capital, but stand on the verge of ruin, as well as with
those who look for their customers in other than proletarian
circles. They doubt their ability to raise themselves by their
own efforts, and expect everything from above, from the upper
classes and the State. And, since all progress is a source of
danger to them, they are bitterly opposed to it in any and
every sphere of life. Servility and the need for reaction makes
them ready accomplices and fanatical defenders of the
Monarchy, the Church, and the nobility. With all that, they
remain democratic, because only under democratic forms of
Government can they exercise political influence and secure
through it the support of the State.

It is to this division in the ranks of the petty bourgeoisie
that the decline of the bourgeois democracy is due. A portion


of it joins the proletarian Social Democracy, others the reaction-
ary democracy, which, though flying different colours of anti-
Semitism, Nationalism, Christian Socialism, of certain sections
of the Conservative and Centre parties, are nevertheless always,
essentially and socially, the same.

Many of their phrases and arguments this reactionary
democracy have borrowed from the Social-Democratic mode
of thinking, and some at the beginning believed that they
formed but a special transitional stage from Liberalism to
Social Democracy. To-day this view is manifestly no longer
tenable. Social Democracy has no more bitter enemy than
the reactionary democracy. If it has devolved on Social
Democracy to champion every and any kind of progress,
whether it directly advances the class interests of the pro-
letariat or not, the reactionary democracy is by its whole being
driven to oppose all progress, even where it does not directly
threaten the petty bourgeoisie. If Social Democracy is the
most progressive, the reactionary democracy is the most re-
actionary of all parties, since over and above the hatred which
all reactionary classes feel towards progress, it is yet inspired
by the recklessness which comes from crass ignorance of every-
thing lying outside its narrow mental horizon. To this must
be added that the petty bourgeoisie succeeds in dragging on
its existence, thanks only to the merciless exploitation of the
weaker and most defenceless human labour, that of women
and children. In this it naturally meets, first and foremost,
with the opposition of the Social Democracy, which tries by
organization and compulsory laws to prevent such a wastage of
human life.

Thus the petty bourgeoisie, so far as it does not come
over to Social Democracy, turns from an ally and an inter-
mediary element between the upper classes and the proletariat
into a bitter foe of the latter. Instead, therefore, of softening
down, the class antagonism becomes here as accentuated as
can be ; indeed, it increases very rapidly, since it is but recently
that it has become clearly noticeable at all.


What is true of the petty bourgeoisie, is also — with but
a few qualifications — true of the peasantry. This also splits
into two camps, one of proletarian (peasant owners of tiny
plots) and another of propertied elements. It is our task to
accelerate this process by enlightening the former as to the
solidarity of their interests with those of the proletariat, and by
thus winning them over for Social Democracy. We hinder it,
however, if we ignore it and appeal to the entire agricultural
population without distinction of class. The reactionary
democracy in the country, though, perhaps, not always fully
conscious of this antagonism, is, in its essence, just as hostile
to us as that in the towns. Those, therefore, who believed
that the peasant association movement is for the peasants but
a stage of transition from the old parties, viz. the Centre
(Clerical) party to the Social-Democratic party, were just as
mistaken as those who expected the same from anti-Semitism
in the towns. The middle and large peasant proprietors hate
the Social Democracy, if but for the reason that it champions
shorter hours and higher wages for the worker, and constitutes
thereby an important factor which draws the labourer from the
land and leaves the peasant in the lurch.

Thus, in the country districts, too, the class antagonisms
between the propertied class and the proletariat grow ever
more acute.

But even more than the antagonism between peasant and
wage-worker does this hold good of the antagonism between
the cotter and the large landed proprietor.

In the system of farming on a large scale the wage-labourer
plays a far more important part than in the small peasant
economy. At the same time high prices of the necessaries of
life are, too, of quite a different value to the former system
than to the peasant, who consumes the greater part of his pro-
duce himself. Of course, the opposition between the producer
and the consumer of the necessaries of life is not that between
the worker and his exploiter, but between town and country.
But in town the proletariat forms the most numerous, the


best organized, and ihe most militant class ; and so the seller of
the necessaries of life comes here again into direct conflict with
the proletariat as his most energetic opponent.

No wonder the big ground landlord thinks of the industrial
worker nowadays differently to what he did formerly. In former
times the struggle between the industrial capitalist and his
workers left him indifferent — nay, he watched often with an
unconcealed malicious pleasure, even with a certain sympathy
for the proletariat. It was not the latter who then stood in
his way, but the capitalist, who demanded protective tariffs
where he, the ground landlord, wanted free trade, and, vice versa,
looked on ground rent as reducing his profits, and wished to
snatch from him the monopoly of the better-class positions in
the army and bureaucracy.

To-day, all that has changed. The times when there were
friends of labour among the Tories and the Junkers, the
Disraelis, Rodbertus, Vogelsangs, are long gone. Like the
petty bourgeoisie and the class of the middle and large peasant
proprietors, the big ground landlords, too, have become more
and more hostile to the labour movement.

But the capitalist class ? This is to-day the paramount
class. Does not it at least become more friendly to labour,
like the Intellectuals?

I am sorry to say I have not noticed anything of the sort.

Certainly, even the capitalist class changes ; it does not
remain always the same. But what are the most important of
its changes within the last decades ?

On one hand we find a softening down — nay, sometimes
even a complete cessation — of the competition in which the
capitalists of a single branch of industry are engaged throughout
their particular country, by means of employers' associations,
trusts, etc. On the other hand, we see the accentuation of
international competition through the rise of new capitalist
countries, especially of Germany and the United States.

The employers' associations abolish competition among
the masters, not only as against the buyers of their products,


but also as against their workers. Instead of being confronted
with numerous purchasers of their labour-power, the workers
have now only to deal with a single master. How much the
advantages of the employers are thereby increased, and also
to what extent their opposition to the workers is thus accen-
tuated, needs no further elucidation.

According to the last census of the United States, the
wages of the workers in American industry have, during the
decade 1 890-1 900, suffered an absolute decrease. If that is
so, we cannot be far wrong in attributing it to the work of the
syndicates and trusts.

In the same direction, moreover, works the growth of
foreign competition. Here, too, in addition to the consumers,
it is the workers against whose interests this development
proceeds. Over and above the raising of prices by means of
protective tariffs, which in their turn favour the formation
of employers' associations, it is the increased exploitation
of labour by which the capitalists seek to meet foreign com-
petition. Hence the accentuation of their struggle against
the militant organizations of the workers, political and trade-
union, which stand in their way.

Thus here, too, there is no softening down, but, on the
contrary, an intensification of the class war.

To this may be added, as a third factor, the increasing
fusion of the industrial capital with the money capital, with
the haute finance. The industrial capitalist is an employer in
the domain of production (this taken in the widest sense and
including transport) in which he exploits hired wage labour
and extracts a profit out of it. The money capitalist is, on
the other hand, the modern form of the ancient usurer. He
draws an income from his money, which he nowadays lends
on interest, not simply to needy private individuals as formerly,
but also to capitalist employers, local authorities, States, etc.

Between the industrial capitalist and the money capitalist
there is a great antagonism, similar to that between the former
and the landowner. Like the ground rent, the interest on


borrowed capital is a deduction from the profit. The interests
of both kinds of capital are thus on that point antagonistic.
Nor do they agree poHtically. Just as the great landowners
are to-day in favour of a strong, preferably a monarchical form
of Government, because so far as they are a court nobility
they are in a position to bring personal influence to bear on
the monarch and thereby on the Government ; just as they,
further, are enthusiastic for militarism, which provides their
progeny with an officer's career, for which the bourgeois youth
is less fitted, and always therefore advocate a policy of brute
force at home and abroad, so in the same way is the high
finance enamoured of militarism and a strong spirited policy
both home and foreign. The lords of the money capital need
not fear a strong State power, independent of the people and
Parliament, since they can always dominate it as creditors,
and often, too, through personal court influences. They have,
moreover, an interest in militarism, in wars and national debts,
both as creditors and Government contractors, because the
sphere of their influence, their power and wealth, is thereby

It is different with the industrial capitalist. Militarism,
wars, national debts imply increased taxation, in which it has
to bear a considerable share, or which increase for it the costs
of production. War implies over and above this a slump in
the production and sale of goods, business difficulties, often
bankruptcy. If the financier is rash, extravagant, and a
supporter of brute force, the industrial capitalist is, on the
contrary, economical, prudent, and peaceful. A strong
Government arouses his suspicions, all the more as he cannot
directly influence it. Not a strong Government, but a strong
Parliament, answers to his interests. In opposition to the big
landowners and the high finance he is inclined to Liberalism.
Its half-and-halfness is his too. Do ground rents, interest,
taxes, limit his profit on one hand, then the rise of the pro-
letariat threatens on the other the whole profit system. But
even in his relations to the proletariat, w^here the latter does



not appear to him too menacing, he prefers the peaceful
methods of " divide and rule," of corruption and attraction
by means of philanthropic institutions, etc., to violent means
of suppression. Where the proletariat has not yet struck out
a line of pohtical action of its own, there the industrial capital
is only too ready to use it as a battering-ram and as a voting
machine to increase its own political power. To the petty
bourgeois the opposition between the industrial capitalist and
the worker appears of less moment than that between the
employer's profit on the one hand and the ground rent as
well as the interest on capital on the other. The abolition of
interest and the ground rent he looks upon as the solution of
the social question.

The opposition, however, between finance and industry

ceases now more and more, since with the advance in the

concentration of capital finance gets an ever-increasing hold

of industry. An important means thereto is the increasing

supersession of the private employer by the joitit stock

companies. Well-meaning optimists see in this a means to

" democratize " capital, and thus gradually, and in a peaceful

manner, without exciting attention, to change it into national

property. As a matter of fact, it is a means to transform all

the money of the middle and lower classes, which they do not

require for immediate consumption, into money capital, and

to place it as such at the disposal of the big financial money

capitalists in order to buy out the industrial capitalists. It

thus increases the means whereby finance can concentrate

industry in the hands of a few money lords. Without the

joint-stock company system the big financiers could only

control those businesses which they had bought with their

own money. Thanks to the company system, they can make

numerous businesses dependent on themselves, and thus acquire

such of them which they would not otherwise be able to

purchase for lack of cash. The whole fabulous power of

Pierpont Morgan and Co., who, within the space of a few

years, have concentrated railways, mines, the greater part of


the ironworks, in one hand, and have aheady monopolized
the most important ocean lines of steamers — this sudden
capture of supremacy in industry and transport of the most
important civilized nations would have been impossible without
the joint-stock company system.

According to the London Economist, five men, J. D. Rocke-
feller, E. H. Harriman, J. Pierpont Morgan, W. R. Vanderbilt,
and G. D. Gould, possess together over ;^i 50, 000,000. They,
however, control more than ^1,500,000,000, while the entire
capital which is deposited in the banks, railways, and industrial
companies of the United States amounts to but ;^3, 500,000,000.
Thus, thanks to the company system, they control nearly one-
half of this capital on which the entire economic life of the
United States depends.

Now, as always, moreover, the crisis which will not fail to
reach America will expropriate the small holders, and increase
and strengthen the property of the bigger ones.

The more, however, money capital gains control over
industry, the more does the industrial capital, too, take on
the methods of the money capital. To the private employer,
who lives side by side with his workers, the latter are still
human beings, whose welfare or the reverse can hardly remain
quite a matter of indifference to him, if he is not totally
hardened. But to the shareholder there only exists the
dividend. The workers are to him nothing but so many
figures in a computation, in whose result, only, he is interested
to the highest degree, since it can bring him increased comfort,
increased power, or a diminution of them and social degrada-
tion. The rest of the consideration for the worker, which the
private employers could still preserve, is in his case non-

Money capital is that species of capital which is the most
favourably inchned towards the use of violent means ; that
which easiest combines into monopolies, and thereby acquires
unlimited power over the working class ; that which is farthest
removed from the workers : it is that which drives out the


capital of the private industrial employer and gains an ever-
increasing control over the entire capitaUst production.

The necessary consequence of all this is here, too, the
accentuation of the social conflict.

But England will be quoted against me. Do we not find
in England an increasing toning down of the class antagonisms ?
And has not Marx indeed said, England is the classic land of
the capitalist mode of production, which shows us our own
future ? Is not, therefore, the present condition of England
the one to which we are coming ?

It is always England which the enthusiasts for social peace
point out to us, and, curious to say, it is the very same people
who make us, the " orthodox " Marxists, the loudest reproaches
for clinging blindly to Marx's formulas, that think of demolish-
ing us in the most decisive manner by the above formula of

As a matter of fact, however, the circumstances since
Capital was written have altered enormously. England has
ceased to be the classic land of capitalism. Its develop-
ment approaches ever nearer and nearer its culmination ; it is
being overtaken by other nations, especially Germany and
America, and now the relation between them begins to change.
England ceases to give us a picture of our future, while our
conditions begin to show England's future as regards the
capitalist mode of production. This it is which an examina-
tion of the actual circumstances shows to those " orthodox "
Marxists, who do not blindly repeat Marx, but apply his
method in order to understand the present.

England was the classic land of capitalism, that in which
individual capital first attained supremacy. It came to
supremacy, overpowering economically not only the other
classes of its own country, but also the foreign countries.
Thus it was able to develop those peculiarities which I have
described above as its own, in the freest way. It gave up the
holding down of the working class by force, and applied itself
far more to the task of " peaceably " dividing them, by bestowing


on their stronger and better organized sections political
privileges, and seeking to buy and to corrupt their leaders by
friendly compromise — a policy which too often succeeded.
It gave up force and violence abroad, and peace and free trade
became its motto. It lived peacefully with the Boers, and
even finally put on the air of wishing to expiate the centuries
of wrongs inflicted on Ireland by granting to it Home Rule.

But in the mean time foreign competition has become
stronger, in many ways too strong, and this forces the ca[)italists
to try to get rid of all resistance to their exploitation at home,
and at the same time to secure markets by force. Hand-in-
hand with this, the high finance steadily gets more and more
powerful in the domain of production. England has conse-
quently become of a different complexion. " The spirit of the
time," state Mr. and Mrs. Webb in the Soziale Praxis (March
20, 1902), "has in the last ten years become adverse to the
' collective self-help ' in the relations between employers and
employed, which distinguished a previous generation. Nay,
public opinion in the propertied and professional classes is,
in fact, more hostile to trade-unionism and strikes than was
the case a generation ago."

As a consequence of this change the trade-unions are now
most seriously limited in their efficiency by the English courts
of law. In place of free trade there is now a tendency to raise
the price of the necessaries of life by a customs tariff; the
policy of colonial conquest begins afresh, and with it coercion
in Ireland. Only the remodeUing of the army on Prussian
lines remains to be done, and then England will follow in the
train of Germany in her Polish policy, her customs policy, her
social policy, her foreign policy, her military policy.

Does not that show clearly that it is possible to study the
future of England in Germany (and also in America), that
English conditions have ceased to paint our future? The
stage of the "softening down of the class antagonisms" and
of the opening of the era of "social peace" was confined to
England, and is even there a thing of the past. Gladstone


was the most prominent representative of that poHcy of con-
ciliating antagonisms by concessions, which corresponded to
the mode of thinking of the industrial capital of England then
dominating economically all other classes and countries. The
most prominent representative of the new methods of money
capital now fighting for supremacy is Mr. Chamberlain. It is
among the strangest ironies of history that the Gladstone
stage of social development is held up for our admiration in
Germany as our future and as England's achievement never
to be lost, at the very time when the Gladstone heritage
crumbles into dust, and Chamberlain is the hero of the
English people.

I will openly confess that I, too, formerly had laid great
hopes on England. Though I did not expect that the Glad-
stone era would ever pass to Germany, I did, however, hope
that in England, in consequence of its peculiar conditions, the
evolution from capitalism to Socialism would proceed not by
means of a social revolution, but peacefully by a series of
[progressive concessions to the proletariat on the part of the
ruling classes. The experience of the last few years has
destroyed my hopes for England too. The English home
policy now commences to shape itself on the lines of their
German rivals. May this, also, have a corresponding effect
on the English proletariat.

We now see how far the assumption of a gradual softening
down of the class antagonism, of an approach between the
bourgeoisie and the proletariat, is justified. It turns out to
have been not wholly without foundation in fact, but its
mistake lay in that it generalized facts which were limited to
a narrow area. It substituted a small section of the Intel-
lectuals for the entire bourgeoisie, and represented a particular
social tendency of England, and that already belonging to the
past, as the general and ever-growing tendency of the entire
capitalist mode of production.



By G. von Vollmar

An address delivered at Dresden, Feb. 7, 1901.

Georg von Vollmar is the leader of the reformist Socialists in
the German Reichstag, and of the Socialists generally in Bavaria.
He is by birth an aristocrat ; and is an ex-officer of cavalry. After
the dismissal of Bismarck, when the Imperial Government showed
sigr.3 of embracing reform, he exerted himself to render its co-opera-
tion with the Socialists easier. At the Erfurt Congress (1891) he
championed reformism against the Marxism of his colleagues in a
set of remarkable speeches.

Of Millerand's Ministerial activity, here outlined, a fully docu-
mented account, by an intimate friend, is given in L'(Euure cle Millerand,
par A. Lavy (Paris, 1902).

In political life few words are so much in use to-day as

the words "social policy" and "social reform." They are

on the lips of all ; Governments, Parliaments and

parties, Science and the Church, acknowledge popularity

them. A regular rivalry goes on over the disin- of social

herited classes. No one desires anything but the

good of the workers. Industry, as only lately again a great head

of industry explained in the Reichstag, pursues its tasks not for

the sake of profit, but chiefly in the interests of its workmen.

The Agrarians assert that they demand higher duties on

Online LibraryR. C. K. (Robert Charles Kirkwood) EnsorModern socialism, as set forth by socialists in their speeches, writings, and programmes; → online text (page 14 of 35)