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

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

. (page 27 of 35)
Online LibraryR. C. K. (Robert Charles Kirkwood) EnsorModern socialism, as set forth by socialists in their speeches, writings, and programmes; → online text (page 27 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


to ^,£"4,000,000 annually, or three times the Council's revenue,
devoted to public purposes.

3. Establishment of municipal hospitals in every district,
and control by the Council of those which already exist.

4. Artisans' dwellings, as now, to be constructed and owned
by the Council.

5. Enlargement of powers so as to enable the County
Council to undertake the organization of industry and distri-
bution, especially in those departments dealing with the neces-
saries of life.

6. Rigorous enforcement of Public Health Acts, and
efficient sanitary and structural inspection of dwellings and
workshops.

7. The organization of unemployed labour on useful work
at trade-union wages.

8. The direct employment of all labour by the Council at
eight hours per day at trade-union rates, women and men
receiving equal pay for equal work. Nine years' experience



282 MODERN SOCIALISM

has proved that contract work, however well supervised, does
not produce such good buildings and workmanship as the
Council has secured by its own workmen.

9. Direct control by the Council of the five millions of
money now spent, and too often squandered, on useless official-
ism and feasting by charitable institutions and City companies.

10. The police of the City and Greater London to be con-
trolled by the County Council.

11. Cumulative rating, the taxation of ground landlords for
the relief of the occupier, and the provision of new sources of
revenue. Sevenpence — half our present rate — now goes to pay
the old debt left by our predecessors, thus depriving London
of many necessary improvements.

Besides these measures, I will work and vote for any plan
tliat will enable London to reduce its poverty and brighten the
lives and increase the comfort of its people.

The following is Mr. Burns' Parliamentary programme as given
^ in his election address of 1900.

A ....

As a candidate, deahng with immediate questions, and

asking your votes, I am in favour of the following : —

Home Rule for Ireland, and such measures of legislative
independence as the Irish people may demand for their
political, social, and industrial emancipation.

Payment of members and election expenses.

Adult Man and Woman's Suffrage, and drastic amendment
of Registration Laws, Second Ballot, and Referendum.

Triennial Parliaments.

Abolition of the House of Lords and all Hereditary
Authorities.

Conferring upon the London County Council all the
powers enjoyed by other municipalities, and giving to London
a unification of complete municipal self-government, with power
to acquire all existing monopolies.

Wider powers to Local Authorities to deal with Housing
of the Poor, and the creation of Fair Rent Courts.



JOHN BURNS 283

Alteration of the incidence of taxation, so that the ground
landlord, the owner, and the rich, shall pay their just propor-
tion of taxation.

DisestabHshment of the Church.

The Legal Eight Hours' Day as the best means of securing
work for all, overwork for none, the avoidance of strikes,
reduction of the rates, and giving permanent employment
where demoralizing casual labour now prevails.

Raising the age of child labour, and placing all trades
within the scope of the existing and future Factory and Sani-
tary Acts.

Alteration of existing Poor Law, and diversion of its funds
to some scheme of Old Age Pensions that, by cumulative or
graduated income-tax on the rich, would give sustenance to old
people without pauperization.

Giving to localities absolute and complete power in decid-
ing upon all questions relating to the drink traffic by Direct
Veto and Local Option.

The recognition of Trades Unions, the abolition of sweating
and subletting, the payment of union wages in all Government
Departments, and the checking of waste, jobbery, and extrava-
s:ance wherever found.



XX

SOCIALISM AND CO-OPERATION
By E. Anseele

An address delivered to a meeting of French Socialists in Paris
in 1900.

Edouard Anseele is the son of a working bootmaker, and began
life as a compositor at Ghent. He started in 1873, with a handful of
friends, the Ghent Socialist Co-operative Society, " Vooruit ; "
which from the smallest beginnings has come to have nearly 10,000
members and over ^25,000 capital, with premises which are the finest
in Ghent. There is now a Socialist co-operative in Brussels on an
almost equal scale, and of the 1700 co-operative societies in Belgium
most are Socialist. All Belgian Socialist activity centres now
around its " Maisons du Peuple."

The following address gives some idea of the all-round manner in
which these Socialist co-operatives try to benefit their members,
providing entertainment, education, medical care, funds for the
Socialist press and party, and premises for trade-union meetings.

I COME to plead before you for the marriage of two ideas,
which some years ago were thought incapable of uniting —
Co-operation and Socialism.

In a meeting at Brussels some time back, I made a com-
parison. The Co-operative Socialist movement which we —

my friends and I — have created in Belgium might
of Socialism be likened to the union of a sempstress and an
and eo-oper- artist. She, the sempstress, wants a larger life

than her shop and her trade ; he, the artist, wants
his soup served to the minute and his cooking done reliably
and regularly on a plentiful scale, to enable him to fling himself

2S4



E. ANSEELE 285

into Ihe world of the most daring creations. She has had
her trials, the poor sempstress. She was looking after her
little household with a prudence which not many ministers of
finance display in many countries ; while he took it into his
head to consort with wrong people, or rather people with
wrong ideas — revolutionists and Utopians — and to spend the
money so hardly earned 'in meetings and manifestations and
for undertakings which, after all, yield no income. She was
annoyed, and now and then she would say, " I'll stop pay-
ment." And then he explained things ; talked of the new
world, of the nobler ideal, of a great revolution in ideas, of
universal changes, of things which she understood very little
but felt very much ; and she would say, " I love you more
than ever ; I'll go on paying, only — don't ask for too much ! "

In Belgium the cause is won. They are married, and from
their marriage lots of children have been born — lots more
even than in Zola's novel Fkonditi. But the case is far from
being won here in France. No more is it in Germany, much
less in England. On the one hand, people blame Co-operation
for being Socialist ; on the other, they blame Socialism for
being Co-operative. And yet in Belgium the marriage is such
a success, its offspring is so sturdy and numerous, that we have
even (again as in Zola's novel) reached the colonizing stage —
which has brought me here.

Co-operators who are only co-operators say : No Socialism
in Co-operation; Co-operation and nothing else; grocery, bread-
baking, drug-selling — that's all ; soup at a penny- ^j^g y^j^^.
halfpenny, bread at twopence-halfpenny — beyond Socialist
that, nothing. We say : You are wrong. And, my co-operator,
bourgeois friends, note that we can discuss the subject with
you ; we are as good men of business as you lovers of pure
Co-operation. Look at our bread-factories, just as successful as
yours, and perhaps more so, because people can be thorough-
going reformers and remain good men of business. Well, I say
you are doubly wrong, from the moral standpoint and from
the material. Co-operation has to be Socialist. And why go



286 MODERN SOCIALISM

wrong? Take the moral standpoint first. What is Co-opera-
tion, unless it is a struggle, not merely for the immediate
bettering of one's lot, but for the transformation of society
in a higher sense? Otherwise, we should have simply to
endeavour, by competition, to get our wares as cheap as yours.
But Co-operation is a great work of reform ; and to create,
maintain, and enlarge a great work of reform, you want the
sacred fire among those who take part in it. Socialism
supplies that sacred fire. And if with us that union of which
I spoke just now is so strong and indestructible, if with us our
enthusiasm is as great as our daring, it is, thanks to the sacred
fire, that Socialism has put into our hearts and minds. Secondly,
you are wrong from the material standpoint. Do you want a
striking example ? Here is one. Suppose all the French
co-operative societies, Socialist and non-Socialist, joined ;
suppose them as rich and strong as all the co-operative
societies in the world put together ; they never, never, never —
not if they had the greatest business men, the greatest finan-
ciers, the greatest accountants at their head — they never could,
of themselves alone and without exerting pressure in the
political sphere, lower the price of bread in the same propor-
tion as the protective tariff law in France has increased it by
putting a seven-franc duty on the import of foreign grain. In
vain, you co-operators pure and simple, in vain you may want
to cut a farthing into two ; of all your saving, of all your initia-
tive, half or three-quarters or the whole will be annihilated by
a single bad law which will raise the price of an article more
than by your intelligence and your efforts you can lower it.

That is how the co-operators pure and simple err, both
from the moral and the material standpoint.

Next there are our friends (and when our friends give it
us they do give it us !) — our friends the anti-co-operative
The anti- Socialists. What do they say, our friends ? They
co-operative fear, it seems, for our work. I like and respect
oeiaiists. j.j^jg sentiment, if it is sincere. But what do they
fear? Do they fear that Co-operation, which tends to give a



E. ANSEELE 287

gentler character to the SociaUst movement, may check the
generous hearts and the broad minds of the other class, and
prevent them from coming to Socialism in greater numbers ?
I think, they are mistaken : for precisely through the incite-
ment to gentleness and the practical spirit, which Co-operation
gives to Socialism, do I think that the generous hearts and
broad minds of the other class will come in greater numbers
than before. Do they fear their coming in too great numbers ?
Are they afraid of the flood of " intellectuals," of generous
hearts and broad minds from the other class, pouring into our
class? Do they fear that? I do not. I am not afraid either
of the wealth in their brains or that in their coffers ; and if
their ideas help us to find our way, and their coffers help us to
travel along it with fewer victims and less suffering, I do not
fear the advent of as many "intellectuals" as possible in the
ranks of the working-class. In Belgium we have with us
" intellectuals " full of talent, — you know about them, and I
need not mention names, — fine fellows who in the Belgian
Chamber can give some nasty knocks to the champions of their
former class. Well, these " intellectuals," full of talent and
enthusiasm, and sincere in their faith, can only do good in
our midst. And if they wanted to do harm, the conscience
of the organized working-class would prevent them in twenty-
four hours.

Do they fear, our friends who criticise us, that the petty
bourgeoisie may not j oin us or may leave us ? For that
matter, let it leave us ; it is no great loss. It is socialist co-
not on our side, even if we are not co-operators, operation
^ • 1 X , 1 r ^n^ the

Certamly I would not go out of my way to scare petty bour-

the petty bourgeoisie, nor any part of a class which geoisie.
is not my class. But if to set my own class free I am con-
vinced that I must adopt certain tactics, and if it happens that
in consequence of these tactics the petty bourgeoisie is in-
duced to leave me or not to join me, I would stick to my
tactics, come what may. I have the interests of my class to
defend, and it is these and no others that guide my conscience.



288 MODERN SOCIALISM

Besides, what can we do ? What can the little co-operative
societies — little compared with the Louvre, or Bon Marche,
or Dufayel, like tiny cockleshells beside big transatlantic
liners, — what addition by themselves can the little co-operative
societies make to the vast economic process which is tending
to stamp out the petty bourgeoisie ? The great industry has
resulted in a lessening of the cost of production ; it is logical
that the cost of exchange should be lessened as far as possible
also. If in this new economic transformation things must
happen which hurt a part of a certain class, well, I pity it
from the bottom of my heart. But if its elimination leads
us to an order better, juster, and more generous for the
vast mass of men, well, I throw into the balance the
welfare of the majority against the misfortune of a few.
Besides, in the development of production have not we, we
also, been stamped out ? Has not the artisan been displaced
by the machine, dispossessed of his technical knowledge, of his
trade, to be swallowed up in the factory, which has grown
large enough to hold a whole village's population within its
walls ? To this precarious situation, caused by the economic
development I, the workman, have, willy-nilly, to make up
my mind. And in the conditions in which I live, I have
none too much of my wretched wage by the end of the week.
I must be a very sober workman ; my wife must be a very
thrifty woman ; my children cannot be ill twice a year ; or
else — I get into debt. Suppose, then, I am a workman whose
duty, as father of a family, is to take good care of the house-
hold interests, and suppose, by a system of buying and selling
different from that of the bourgeoisie, I can lower the price
of the articles of food on which my family and I subsist, am
I to be prevented from doing so by a feeUng of solidarity with
the petty bourgeoisie ? I could understand it, were this class
always at our side in all our struggles, sustaining us, encou-
raging us, — if it were with us heart and soul. But no ; a very
great part of the petty bourgeoisie is at heart with the enemy,
and with us for its pocket. Mind you, I do not say that



E. ANSEELE 289

systematically. People tell us : " You frighten the petty

bourgeoisie." I reply : " I cannot help it ; if it wants to join us,

it can. What is more, it ought ; for after all, I reckon, the life

of the petty bourgeois, from the spiritual point of view (I do not

speak here of the material standpoint), is an unhappy one.

He must always be of his customer's way of thinking, or else

he loses him ; and if he loses three, four, five customers, his

trade is doomed. His whole existence hangs by a silken

thread. And it is this miserable life that he wants to keep ;

he wants to tighten the chains, to stick yet faster in the mud,

of the capitalist society, which leaves him this shame of the

spirit to earn his bread with. Well, let him endure it.

Our friends (those who give it us so often and give it us so

hard) say too : " By your co-operative societies you excite the

selfishness of the working-class." Well, those who

. ° J . , , o . 1 • The fear of

say so are not acquamted with the bocialist co- making the

operative societies. Had they been ever members working-

of one, they would have a different knowledge of

what goes on in them. In the Socialist co-operative societies,

as in all others, bonuses are divided out quarterly, half-yearly,

or annually. Well, I can assure you, not one of these divisions

occurs where members receive five, ten, or fifty francs, without

there being by the side of the man who pays them out one, two,

or three boxes — " For the Socialist propaganda, please ! " " For

the weavers on strike, for the spinners on strike, please ! "

" For the Socialist children, please ! " — and it is " please " this

and " please " that, and of the money meant for the woman's

purse or the man's waistcoat only three-quarters goes there. So

a quarter of the bonuses goes — of the co-operator's own accord,

through the Socialistic impulse which inspires the man, makes

him better, warms his heart — to the noble ideas, the large

aspirations, which make men not egoists but altruists. That

reproach is so false, the truth is so contrary to what our friends

the anti-co-operative Socialists say, that do you know what we

are obliged to do ? With us at Ghent it goes so far that some

of our members are — how should I put it ? it is perhaps harsh

u



290 MODERN SOCIALISM

— bothered by all these kinds of collections, till we have been
obliged to make it a condition for every collection in the
" Vooruit," that the Central Committee's leave be obtained first.
See how selfish Socialist co-operation makes people !

But beyond that, if these friends (whose friendship I may
have misunderstood), if these Socialist anti-co-operative friends
mean that the ameliorations we secure, the bit of good we do
to the workman's family, do harm to the movement, then I
lose patience, and tell them that this time they err grossly.
What ! they say we do a disservice to the working-class ? To
increase the working-class's comfort is to endanger its cause
and ours ? Are, then, the poorest the most intelligent and
brave and deserving ? Is it the wretchedest who know best
how to sacrifice themselves for the cause of all ? No ; the
poorer people are, the more they are liable to be brutalized ;
and if there is anything which raises a man, it is not misery,
it is comfort. Wealth makes men bad ; poverty makes them
brutish : comfort makes them independent. What does in-
creased comfort effect? It not only enriches the man who
gains by it, it gives him weapons, for him to go higher and get
more; and it gives him besides that ferment, that leaven,
which makes revolutionaries, new needs.

The objectors go on : " Yes, that may be so ; but seUing
syrup or putting half-soles on boots isn't, after all, a SociaHst's
work." Of course not. But if that groups men, what does it
matter whether I group them by syrup or by vinegar, provided
that I group them ? And I shall group them more easily with
syrup than with vinegar. Besides, there is another point.
Did any one ever think he could ennoble trade ? Surely, a
thankless, quasi-impossible task. Yet we have ennobled trade.
Trade, says Dumas, is other people's money. It is not so
with us. There is no overcharge, or, if there is, it comes back
to the purchaser of the article, that is, to all the class who
suffer and fight for new ideas. We ennobled commerce when
I proposed that the " Vooruit " should estabUsh free pensions
for all its members. I said : "That seems almost chimerical;



E. ANSEELE



291



it is not easy ; but aren't we accustomed to doing things far
from easy ? " And I said again to my comrades : " But did
you ever think it possible, ever conceive it humanly possible,
to get a pension while having one's old boots mended, or
buying a litre of milk or a kilo of bread ? " " No," they replied,
"that's a new thing." " Well," added I, " you'll see it." And
at the " Vooruit " there are pensions for all members aged sixty
after twenty years' participation in the Society ; after having
bought at the Society's shops 3000 francs' worth during twenty
years, you get a free pension ranging from 120 to 300 francs
per member per year, which a man's wife can inherit from him.
So in buying syrup or vinegar, in having one's boots mended,
in buying a present for wife or husband, the New Year's gift
for the grandmother, or the St. Nicholas ' toy for the little one,
one is working for the father's pension. But that means en-
nobling trade ; it is one of Co-operation's noble sides ; one of
its great moralizing sides.

" But," say our friends the anti-co-operative Socialists,
"you give the working-class petty-bourgeois ideas." Wrong
again. I ask those of you who have paid our co-opera-
co-operative societies a visit, whether you can t'o" need
be inspired with petty-bourgeois ideas on entering socialist
their fine premises, as fine as museums, their halls ideals,
and shops, as spacious as cathedrals. I ask them, can the
workmen who goes in there and says, "There is something
of mc here, / am part of the class which has made these
great things " — I ask you, does that man feel a petty bourgeois ?
No ; he feels himself one of the new Grand Army, which will
not go to plant eagles across Europe, but to plant the land-
marks of the new world across the universe. Petty bourgeois ?
No, no ; " petty " people do not do these things. And recol-
lect how we started at Ghent : a handful of the poor weavers,
whose misery Heinrich Heine has sung, whose life of sorrow
and whose outbursts of revolt the German playwright Haupt-
mann has displayed. Recollect what poor wretches we were,

• St. Nicholas is a Belgian counterpart of the English Santa Claus.



292 MODERN SOCIALISM

without money, without premises ; for it was to be without
money to have but 85 francs 93 centimes ^ subscribed capital,
and it was to be without premises to have a cellar ; with an
old kneading-trough, an old shovel, an old baker, not even a
cart — a big basket — some few loaves in it ; and, tally-ho ! off
we started. Well, when with those resources, that beginning,
those rudiments, you do what has been done at Ghent — what,
also, under similar conditions the Brussels workmen have done,
— I think you can say, that a work which has created all that,
which has thus transformed wretched weavers into apostles of
the new cause, that this co-operative work does not inspire
petty-bourgeois ideas. Really, how our friends do give it us,
and give it us hard !

And what, after all, is the aim of these friends, the anti-
co-operative Socialists, and what, really, is ours? It is the
organization of the working-class, to do with it what Archi-
medes was unable to do. You know, that old Syracusan
architect said one day, " Give me a fulcrum, and I will find
a lever to lift the world." Well, Socialism has found the
fulcrum and the lever. The fulcrum is equal rights ; the lever
is the organized and conscious strength of the workers, which
will lift the world and bring a new order out of it. That is
our aim. Then I ask my friends, how can Socialism, allied
with Co-operation — the artist married to the sempstress — how
can it hurt the organization of the workers ?

Suppose I have a working-class audience, purely working-
class, the sort of people we are to organise, and suppose I speak

Co-operation ^^ ^^^^^ ^^ ^ ^^^' ^"^ ^^^^ ^^ ^^^ ^"^" Jaures with
enables all his heart and eloquence addresses you, and

gerat'orfee° ^^^^ between us we send our respective audiences
to work. to the seventh heaven. We finish speaking; the
audience goes out ; we have preached organization, trade-
unions, mankind, everything. The audience has gone ; follow
it. ** Ah, how well Jaures spoke ! What an orator ! Anseele,
too, was tolerable." So they talk and debate, happy, warmed,



E. ANSEELE 293

convinced. Afterwards they each go home ; and if we take
the worker whom I addressed, and who applauded me just
before, what does he find ? A sick wife, or a sulky mother ;
or, next day, the master before whom he is isolated weak in
his isolation, before whom he is nothing, like the pigmy David
without his sling before Goliath. Of all the enthusiasm, of all
the fine sentiments, of the aspirations, which one has created in
these hearts and heads, there will only remain here and there
a single man who is willing to sacrifice himself for the idea,
who will continue the struggle without hope of reward, even
with the certainty of receiving from his friends more ingratitude
than gratitude. He will have the minority with him, and the
majority will remain just as it has been for generations.

The minority will remain isolated and without cohesion —
and why ? Because the groups formed by our warmth, our fire,
our enthusiasm, give but little or no immediate advantage.
The masses, with their great needs, ask for palpable benefits,
which they can, as it were, weigh in their hands, as the gold-
merchant weighs his gold in the balance.

This is the weak side of trade-unions. What is necessary for
the success of a trade-union, in order that one may reap its
immediate benefits ? It is necessary : that in each trade at
least the majority of the members shall be organized ; to be
strong against the employers you must have most of the trade's
workers, there must be plenty of money, lots of gold pieces in
the strong box. To obtain these lots of yellow-boys needs



Online LibraryR. C. K. (Robert Charles Kirkwood) EnsorModern socialism, as set forth by socialists in their speeches, writings, and programmes; → online text (page 27 of 35)