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 15 of 35)
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bread-stuffs and other country products, not from ordinary

self-interest, but especially that they may pay the agricultural



labourers better wages. Societies are formed on a greater or
less scale, with a more or less mixed membership, which
indicate the furthering of social reform and social policy as
their particular object. With loud flourishes of trumpets upon
every occasion people proclaim the "social monarchy," and
remind us, that in Germany the princes, particularly the Kings
of Prussia, have always been princes of the poor, and have
treated the welfare of the destitute classes as the first object of
their rule.

All this has not always been so. When the Social
Democratic party arose at the beginning of the 'sixties and
Contrast began its activity, the words "social policy" and
with the " social reform " were as yet very little known and
pepio/'"'^'' little understood. Rather, with the exception of
this party arising out of the working-class, and of a
small number of far-sighted men of scientific or philanthropic
bent, people were then pretty generally of opinion that many
things in politics and economics might be altered, but certainly
the State had not to " socially reform " anything.

Liberalism in economics was then busy demolishing the
crumbling ruins of the older economic conditions, bursting the
bonds of long obsolete systems which cramped Germany's
economic life, and liberating the economic forces in order to
enlist them in the service of the wholesale production by
capitalists which was being developed. That new politico-
economic institutions and organizations had to replace the
old, that a new edifice had to replace the one which was
demoHshed, was such a flat contradiction of the then dominant
Manchester School, that, with the exception of the Social
Democracy, and the solitary wayfarers already mentioned,
hardly any one thought such a thing possible. According to
the conception of that time, the sole rule of economic hfe was
to be the "free play of forces," which must regulate the pro-
duction and consumption of goods, the relation between
capital and labour, and the distribution of the national wealth,
in the only way possible and the best way conceivable. The


economic sphere belonged exclusively to private activity, and
the State with its legislation and government had nothing, or
virtually nothing, to do with it — nothing more than to get
rid of the obstacles checking the free development of eco-
nomic forces, to smooth the way for the unimpeded turning
to account of capital and labour, to promote transport and
trade, to safeguard acquired wealth and its enjoyment, and to
keep the masses of the working people nicely in order. In
this scheme the relation between employers and workers was
quite a private concern, and the labour contract i)urely a
subject of private law. Buying and selling of labour was a
simple market proceeding, which, like the sale of any other
wares, was determined exclusively by the economic laws of
supply and demand. To wish to interfere and disturb this
proceeding on behalf of the State seemed then a wrong to the
national welfare, and just as senseless as resistance to any
other natural law — so that at that time people treated the
Social Democrats much less as enemies of the civil and divine
order of things than as poor fools, who wished in their in-
fatuation to mutiny against the eternal laws of capitalistic

Since then, in spite of all which we may otherwise deplore,
a far-reaching change has been accomplished in public
opinion. For, though plenty of relics and traces Lama -

of the conception I have sketched are still with us, •'"""'' ^^-

J . . . , , , placed in

and contmue operative under altered names and Germany by

shapes, yet to-day the actual Manchester doctrine ^ general
..... ■' ... .,., , , belief in

IS m prmciple vanquished. Under the pressure, state inter-
on the one hand, of the economic development, ference.
which, along with the gigantic rise of the capitalistic form of
production, exhibited more and more clearly those sides of it
which injure society ; and, on the other hand, under the rapidly
and unceasingly augmented influence of the Social Democracy,
which from a small sect developed into the largest party in
the Empire, and penetrated all relations — legislation and
government, and political life as a whole have been impelled


upon quite another path. To-day, however far its execution
may lag behind in practice, in principle, at least, the Socialistic
conception has prevailed, that economic life is not a sacred
preserve for purely private interests, but rather the first, funda-
mental, and therefore most important factor in the life of
society, and that consequently the State, as the organ of
society, has the right and the duty to interfere and regulate
economic enterprises wherever the interest of society makes it
seem needful and requisite. People had with this to acknow-
ledge the principle, that the regulation of relations between
employers and workmen for the protection of the working
classes, who at once form the chief class in society and as
against the great power of capital are at a disadvantage, is
among the most essential objects of the State.

No doubt it has cost much work and severe struggles for
things to reach this point, for this conception to vindicate it-
self in the face of the united opposition of the employers, the
The A f - ruling classes, and the power of the State. When
Socialist the Social Democracy, in the later 'seventies, began,
Law. contrary to their opponents' expectation, to grow

quickly and to assume a size which seemed to menace the
ruling classes, the well-known attempt was made to suppress
this party and its social and politico-economic doctrines by
force. The exceptional law was passed against the Social
Democracy. It burdened us twelve years, and demanded
numberless sacrifices, but effected the exact opposite of what
was desired. At its close the party had grown many times the
stronger for it. Certainly the authors of that law showed a
great amount of infatuation and shortsightedness. But its
prime author, the then Imperial Chancellor, Prince Bismarck,
by the side of his whole failure to understand the working-class,
its life and struggles, and the entire tendency of the economic
development, nevertheless grasped this much, that nothing
was to be accomplished by the use of violent suppression only.
Accordingly he declared that certain '* positive " measures of
social reform must go hand-in-hand with it.


Thus originated in Germany the Workmen's Insurance

legislation. The reproach has often been made against the

Social Democracy that it voted against the several Bismarck's

insurance laws ; and even now there are anti-Socialist social policy.

orators of the lower sort, who, for want of better arguments, try

to make out the Social Democrats to be " workmen's enemies "

on account of this attitude. But for whoever considers this

matter thoughtfully, the necessity of our attitude at that period

is as clear as daylight. The Workmen's Insurance legislation

came in at the time of the most severe, reckless .,^., , „

' Attitude of

persecution of the Social Democracy ; that time of the Sociai-
the " white terror," when not merely the Social '^^^ '° '^*
Democracy incurred the repression, but the burden of the
exceptional law in the interest of the employers was applied
against every effort of the working-class, however organized ;
when the smallest trade-union occupying itself with the
narrowest professional interests was dissolved ; when no
workmen's newspaper was tolerated, however moderate ; when
the Government, in the words of the then Prussian Minister,
Von Puttkamer, saw " behind every strike the lowering hydra
of revolution" — in brief, when there no longer existed a
public working-class movement. Against a Government pro-
ceeding in that way ours could only be war to the knife, and
everything must then resolve itself into the question of
strength. There was another thing besides. Bismarck in-
stituted workmen's insurance with the avowed intention, not
of satisfying urgent demands of the workers, but of furthering
the interests of his own domination. He thought that when
he converted millions of workmen into small income-receivers,
he would succeed in interesting them in the State as he
conceived it {i.e. in the State as it was at the moment, and
the Government then in power), in detaching them from the
life of their class, and in making them props of what is called
" civil and social order." The result could only be an un-
limited distrust on our side. And so the many and mis-
chievous defects in those laws, of which no small part are


still unremoved to-day, had all, the greater weight, and

necessarily impelled us to vote against them.

Since then affairs have gradually altered. It is true there

is still a state of war between us and the Government and the

ruling parties. But even war has its degrees ; you may carry

it on in modern-European style — somewhat as happened in

_ .^.,.^ ^ 1870 between Germany and France — or in the
Possibility of ' . . ■' • o 1 * r •

a less hostile style which the English now adopt in South Africa,

attitude qj- ^^^^ which, together with the other Powers,
now. 7 ...

Germany is at this moment adopting in China.

To-day, then, a state of war within rules has replaced the
purely barbaric war of annihilation. Moreover, thanks to the
force of economic facts and our own strength, we have
succeeded in frustrating the object pursued by the Govern-
ment in the insurance laws. The German working-class has
notlet itself be tamed and made subservient by receiving
little insurance annuities, but asserts its just demands with all
the greater vigour and with growing certainty of success.
Thereby the Workmen's Insurance legislation has lost for us
the character of a question of strength. We can treat it
quite practically, and recognize the useful element which in
it is mixed up with the bad. Thus last year we were able,
though after much consideration, to vote for the latest
additional laws on insurance against accidents and disable-
ment ; which, as it was, contained some not unreal ameliora-
tions for the workers, and if the parties of the majority had
been well-disposed, might easily have contained more. We
did not, and do not, let ourselves be deterred by our opposi-
tion to the Government from examining quite practically such
measures affecting the life of the working-class. And just as
often enough already we have had to be the defenders and
special supporters of these laws, which are now so inseparably
bound up with our working-class life, against their supposed
inspired authors, so we shall always most decidedly insist on this
legislation securing increased benefits for the workers through
its necessary extension.


But even if one were willing to assign to the Workmen's
Insurance legislation more actual significance than in its
present defective state it possesses, only ignorance
or wilful deception can pronounce it the most attitude of
essential thing which the workers demand, and Socialism to
act therefore as if Germany's insurance laws placed reforms—

her in the front rank of social reform. No, insur- insurance,

. ^ .,, -J .. J u • housing, etc.

ance agamst illness, accidents, and old age, im-
portant as it is in itself, can as little be the main thing as, for
instance, can the provision for housing, latterly becoming more
and more urgent — no matter how high the importance of
the housing question must rightly be appraised. Of late
people are recognizing, even in some quarters that are opposed
to us, how deplorable the housing conditions of the working-
class mostly are, so that the joy of life, the sense of family,
morality, health, and even existence are buried beneath them.
All the same, and although in this question also we are ready
to collaborate practically if it is seriously taken in hand, it
can never claim more than the significance of a question of
economic detail.

The essential, the core of the right social policy is — and
thither the effort of every worthy social reform must tend — to
enable the working-class increasingly to influence Socialistic
the shaping of the wage contract, and with it essentials,
the process of production itself. That is secured first by a
genuine State protection of the workers, and next, hand-in-
hand with it, by the organization of the working-class.

Among us, it must be admitted, protection of the workers
is talked about a wonderful deal. Any one willing to believe
the employers, who treat even the faintest State protection
interference as a theft of their hereditary rights, of workers.
or to believe the boasts of the Government, might perhaps
think already that nowhere in the whole world were the
workers as well off as with us. Recently in the Reichstag,
Herr von Kardorff — who, of course, is the deputed repre-
sentative of Herr von Stumm — stated in a somewhat exalted


metaphor, that in Germany the car of social reform is now
rushing on "at a frantic gallop," and the time when the
proletarians shall manage the world's business seems at hand !
Unfortunately, things are really quite otherwise.

Eleven years ago there was once a time, when it seemed
as if in Germany, too, people wanted to take a full stride
The present fo^^^^^d. At that time thoughts like these were
Empepor's proclaimed by an influential personage : ^ " The
thusLsnifop workers have the natural right to improve their
social re- position as far as they can, and to secure them-
"''^™' selves the greatest possible gain out of the gain

accruing to industry from circumstances. The complaints
and wishes of the workers are to be examined from the
standpoint that it is the object of the State authority so to
regulate the times and types of work as to assure the
conservation of health, the requirements of morals, the
economic needs of the workers, and their claim to equality
with the employers before the law. The workers should
share in the regulation of the common interests of industry
through representatives who enjoy their confidence, and should
be made capable of safeguarding their interests against the
employers and the authorities. The State businesses should
be developed into model businesses genuinely solicitous for
their workers. International conferences should be promoted,
to discuss the protection of the workers," etc. Now, for
us, of course, these matters were nothing new ; for decades
we Social Democrats had proclaimed these and similar prin-
ciples, and were constantly denounced and resisted by the
Government and the employers for doing so. But it was
given to be understood that these principles were now at
last acknowledged by others, and we were ready — obviously
without in any way renouncing our further aims — loyally to
help in the advance, and to further it according to our power.

But it only too soon appeared how well founded were the
doubts, which had at once forced themselves on us in reference

• The present Emperor, William II., is of course meant.


to the realization of these beautiful programme principles.

Prince Bismarck, when he shortly afterwards was dismissed

from office, and sat sulking in his Saxon forest,

• , , , , . . , ,, Change of

is known to have expressed the opmion that all the Em-

these announcements were only intended to perors
influence the votes of the electors. Others,
again, have maintained that the words were meant seriously
at the time of their utterance, but that the working-class was
expected to be unable to contain itself for rapture, and the
Social Democracy to wheel round a tcjnpo into the ranks of
the parties of order. ^ However that may have been, this
much is certain, that the inspiration of the moment was soon
much diluted. When eventually the very employers, who
otherwise pose so strongly against the Social Democracy as
props of authority and the throne, mutinied in public, and did
not hesitate, in case some check was not put on the influen-
tial personage's leanings towards the Social Democracy, to
threaten point blank a " revision of the monarchical senti-
ment," — then the taste for a serious social reform soon
perished. And when the travailing mountain at last gave
birth, quite a tiny little mouse came to light — though a mouse
which even so was far too big for the employers. Once for
all to take from Government the liking for such
vagaries, the gentlemen who now knew themselves thereac-
to be completely uppermost — in the way which tionaryem-
we have had strikingly illustrated these last few ^ °y®''^*
weeks d-propos of the discussion of the famous 12,000 marks
affair ^ — got rid of the extremely tame social-reform Minister,
Von Berlepsch. Then came in for Prussia Her Von Brefeld,
and for the Empire, Count Posadowsky, and the latter made

' Staatserhalienden Parteicn — the phrase still regularly used to denote
the non-revolutionary parties, as opposed to the Social Democrats.

- Certain officials in the Imperial Department of the Interior accepted
12,000 marks (;i^6oo) from the Central Federation of German Manufacturers,
in order with it to promote agitation on behalf of the Labour Bill introduced
May 26, 1899.


a right-about declaration in his very first speech : that hence-
forward progress in social policy must be slow and con-
siderate, and that it did not do to institute social reforms
without first being assured of the assent of the employers, i.e.
the sheepfold should in future be *^ protected " in concert with
the wolves.

With that ensued a time of complete stagnation in social
policy. The coercionists of the great industry set the fashion ;
Consequent their interest was most completely impersonated
stagnation by Herr von Stumm ; and the Junkers, always
refornTin ready for any reactionary business, supported
Germany. them. By their open and occult lobby influence
— in the Reichstag as well as with the Government and at the
Court — they were able to impede every detail of progress.
Not content with that, they sought, in order to subjugate the
workers still further, to deprive them even of their few rights ;
this was the object of the " Revolution " Law, and later on,
of the " Prison-house " Law ; not forgetting the constantly
renewed demands for the removal of universal, direct, equal,
and secret suffrage which could only be carried through by
a direct violation of the constitution. Fortunately, the coer-
cionists of the great industry have at present not proved strong
enough to realize these plans. But, far as I am from wishing
to draw needless spectres on the wall, and to threaten dangers
without foundation, I must point out that the demands for
laws of coercion and exception are by no means silenced yet ;
only recently the old craving for them was again expressed in
the Prussian Lower House. Repression is the last resort of
the wise and the one help of the coercionists. Junkers, and
violent politicians of every sort, who have learned nothing
from the Anti-Socialist Law. The acts and impulses of these
people will, therefore, have to be watched, if we are not to be
taken by surprise some day.

After years of a complete standstill the protection of the
workers began gradually to be mooted again ; but only started
movinsr on the one-inch scale, under countless checks and


hindrances, by very tiny strides. The results were merely
petty work, details of execution. The best that we have got
from this period still is the slow extension of factory inspection
and the law on industrial tribunals, though there are great
defects in the latter which have since been accentuated by the
extension of the arbitration courts for corporations. Nothing
has been said of introducing new elements into social legisla-
tion. That effort of the workers which, next to organization, is
the most important of all, the regulation of the hours of labour
by law, has so far made no progress. As little have we
succeeded in obtaining our old demand, seemingly so obviously,
for the introduction of a legal representation of the working-
class in Chambers of Labour. So, again, as to parity of treatment
for manual and industrial workers ; as to the extension ot
workmen's protection to home-work, shop employment, inn
employment, domestic service, and other categories of work ;
more than all, as to the equalization before the law of public
employees and those of private businesses. As for the right
of combination, no doubt it exists on paper ; but of its effec-
tive realization and its urgently needed safeguarding against
capitalistic mastery nothing is yet said.

Things are no better, as regards the attitude of legislation
and Government towards the organization of the working-
class, which is primary and of such fundamental Hostility of
importance, that if needful it can make good a the Govern-
series of otherwise defective conditions, forming ^ganiza-
both the means of securing all sorts of protection tionofthe
for the workers, and the necessary preUminary ^^^
for turning it to good account. For unless the working-class
acquires the framework of powerful organizations, and unless
these exercise vigilance, initiative, and active strength, even
relatively useful ordinances of law remain for their largest and
best part dead letters. Now that the opposition of interests
and the war between capital and labour are with us and are
no longer to be banished from the world, it is to the public
interest, over and above the aims of the working-class, that



this war should as far as possible assume regulated forms.

To enable economic and social struggles to be carried out

fruitfully and without needless expenditure of
Such organ- ^ t.\ j -r -. • ^ ,

izationisin Strength and sacrifice, it is necessary to replace

the public inexperienced, incoherent masses blindly stagger-
ing from passion and excitement to despair, by an
aggregate of workers who know what they want, who have a
common mind, education, and self-discipline, as well as the
insight into the whole situation requisite in order to estimate
accurately the strain entailed upon their strength and the
prospects of gain from it. From this point of view an en-
lightened Government should itself further the trade-unionist
organization of the workers, or at least secure to it a minimum
of disturbance. Instead, our governing circles in Germany
regularly evince extreme distrust, and generally even public
hostility, towards the trade-unions. Every possible hindrance
is put in the way of their activity, while the quite inadequate
right of association and combination is worn out in opposing
them : juristic personality is withheld from them, and their
members are excluded from public employments.

To be fair, I will point out that the situation is not wholly
the same over the whole empire, but that in some of the allied
Greater States may be noticed definite, though modest,

social pro- beginnings for the better. While in Prussia, Saxony,
grass in ° , , . . , ' . •''

South etc., the trade-unions are systematically ignored

Germany. i^y xhQ inspectors of industry, in South Germany

the inspecting ofticials are officially in touch with the workers'

f, .. organizations — trade-unions, grievance committees,

Co-operation *= ^ . .

ofinspee- and especially workmen's secretariates; they claim

tors with their collaboration in carrying out the protection

in Baden of the workers, executing statistical work, etc. ;

^"^ . they attend workmen's meetings, sometimes even

address them, and testify publicly to the utility and

indispensability of organizations for the social elevation and

culture of the working-class. The remarkable activity of the

Baden inspector, Worrishofer, is known to you, and some other


inspecting officials display an activity in social policy which
deserves recognition ; in Bavaria we have now a disposition to
centralize the industrial inspectorate, and form a real depart-
ment of social policy in the Ministry. We have ,„ , ,
r , . ^ . , , . c Working-

further carried the point, that the appointment ot class assis-

assistant inspectors out of the working-class, as tantinspec-
well as the workmen's right to participate in the

Online LibraryR. C. K. (Robert Charles Kirkwood) EnsorModern socialism, as set forth by socialists in their speeches, writings, and programmes; → online text (page 15 of 35)