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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against it — the economic waste and inefficiency „ . ..
which it involves — is one which disciples of Marx and Pro-
or Lassalle should, logically, appreciate, though it teetion.
is uncertain how many have taken the trouble to do so.
European Socialists are Free Traders largely for obsolescent
reasons. One is the historical influence of the English Anti-
Corn Law agitation, which for many generations of agitators
remained the model of a successful popular movement.^
Another is the fact that Socialism, like Liberalism, sprang from
the towns, while the kernel of European Protection has
always been agrarian. A third, very powerful abroad, has
been the extreme theory of class war. If it overrides all
other wars, if the employing and employed classes can have
no solidarity of interest against foreigners, no argument for
Protection is possible. Reformist Socialism, with its note
of the solidarity of classes and " national interests," may be
expected to compromise on Free Trade as it does over

On the other hand, practical Socialism at the Antipodes
is fiercely Protectionist. Local circumstances partly explain
this ; but there are also some general affinities between Socialism
and Protection, as between laisser-faire and Free Trade. Both
the latter tend to take the standpoint of the individual con-
sumer, and ask for what is cheap to him. For Socialism the
consumer is the whole community, in whose life the lives of
producers as such are a great factor ; and in measuring cheap-
ness it takes account of the conditions of production. These

' An important symposium on the whole subject appeared in 1903 in
Le Mouvement Socialiste, much of it being afterwards Englished in the
Social Democrat.

- As such it dazzled Lassalle (cf. infra, p. 46), while upon Marx its
impression was deepened by his residence in England.


might in various ways turn its scale. It might be biassed
towards maintaining particular industries, e.g. agriculture, which
benefit national health and ph)^sique. It might object to seeing
industries, where it has established good wages and conditions
of work, undercut by foreign competitors, who reap the in-
dividual advantage of neglecting such things. Lastly, it might
object generally to the fluctuations of and changes in industries,
which Free Trade and its correlative, the world-market, might
be supposed to increase. The last point is one in which a
very characteristic opposition between the Socialists and the
laisser-faire school is involved. The latter have not always
recognized, that while in the abstract capital and labour are
infinitely plastic, in the concrete form of specialized machinery
and trained workers they are painfully the reverse. The
struggle for existence between industries is one aspect of the
larger struggle, which the laisscr-faire school accepts as evolu-
tionary, but whose terrible cost leads the Socialists to ask, how
far the results justify the process.

Very few European Socialists have faced these difficulties.
They see that under present conditions the money advantages
of Protection, for which all pay, go mainly into the pockets of
the very itv^, as landlords or employers. This settles their
policy satisfactorily for present purposes. But where a Socialist
system of State-owned land and State-controlled industry
comes in, fresh thinking will be needed. Almost the only
Socialists — prior, at least, to the present English controversy —
who have broken this further ground are Mr. and Mrs. Sidney
Webb. But their remarkable defence of Free Trade, which
will be found in this volume, is confined to the problem of
maintaining a standard of life_, and does not go into that of
minimizing industrial dislocation.

Still, it would be a mistake to suppose that industrial dislo-
cation has not seriously engaged Socialist attention. Marxists
may feel a sort of triumph in seeing crises of unemployment,
testify, as they think, to the failure of Individualism ; yet they
have to do their best for the unemployed. And in Germanyj,


where latterly the crises have been worst, scarcely any Socialists
have been tempted to seek their remedy in Protection.
On the contrary, the Social Democratic party has been the
strongest champion of the cheap loaf. They see that the Pro-
tective tariff in raising prices has not equalized employment. On
the contrary, it seems, as in the German steel and iron indus-
tries, to have accentuated the crises, by encouraging a specu-
lative manufacture for export. So far as regards the industrial
equilibrium, a high and rising protective tariff has been
accompanied ,by greater instability than ever. In the face of
these stubborn historical facts the German Social Democrats
have maintained as their programme, " abolition of all indirect
taxes, customs, and other politico-economic measures which
sacrifice the interests of the whole community to the interests
of a favoured minority."

The nearest approach to a volte-face which Socialists have
attempted since Marx has been in relation to Agrarianism.

We have noted how largely the resistance to _ ...

° •' Socialism

Socialism on the Continent depends, electorally andAgrari-
speaking, on the peasants. Marx thought that ^"'^"^•
the advantage of concentrating capital would be felt in agri-
culture as in other industries ; but in spite of a temporary
confirmation of this view by the mammoth farms which sprang
up in Western America, it now appears very doubtful.
Figures for or against the persistence of peasantry are con-
flicting; but at any rate great numbers of peasants remain.
Two questions have been intertangled — that of owning land
on a small scale and that of culthating it on a small scale.
Perhaps the matter of owning has been exaggerated by Socialists ;
for where there are freely alienable peasant plots, economic
rent may be largely neutralized through the land being
divided, not into units of area with differing values, but into
units of value with differing areas. Unless, therefore, accumu-
lation and private landlordism come in, State-landlordism seems
no advantage. Cultivation, again, does seem to follow laws
other than those of manufacturing industry, which lessen the


possibility of ordering things to be done by rote, and enhance the
value of individual attention and skill. ^ Recognition of this
has led reformists to substitute a policy of actively assisting the
peasants for the orthodox policy of leaving them to succumb
to capitalism. Their formula is : " Collectivize credit, transport,
exchange, and all subsidiary -manufacture, but individualize
culture." What reinforces the last clause from another side
is the enormous difficulty of regulating employment in culture.
A regular eight-hours' day for cultivators in Europe scarcely
seems practicable; and effective inspection would be very
hard. The "self-employment" of the peasant might help to
solve this.

The policy of championing the peasant has important
champions in France and Germany, though not the acknow-
ledged party policy in either.^ The lines which it would
follow have been largely indicated by practice in Denmark,
and in certain British colonies. In England it hardly seems
to have been heard of, and English Socialists, who are almost
exclusively urban, continue to view Irish land-purchase or
English small-holdings schemes with suspicion. Over against
it the more orthodox Socialist view still develops with great
vitality; its most brilliant, up-to-date, and elastic exponent is,
perhaps, the Belgian leader, M. Vandervelde.

Most typical of the difference between revolutionaries and
reformists is their attitude to trade-unions. The Marxian view
came out well at the German party's Cologne Congress in
1893, and may be read in a speech made by Liebknecht on
its morrow at Bielefeld. It recognizes their achievement ;
Liebknecht in the speech cited extolled the English coal-strike

' Manufacture is making things ; agriculture is watching and tending
things (plants and animals) which make themselves. The latter must
deal constantly with the unpredictable variations of organic growth and
the natural influences (weather, etc.) which react on it.

* In Germany it was first brought to the front by Herr von Vollmar ;
for its subsequent history cp. hifrz, pp. 219-227. The French advocacy
of it may be well seen in some remarkable articles by C!. Sorel, Revue
Socialiste, March and April, 1901.


then in progress, and not only brought out the miUtant^ advan-
tages of combining German poHtical, and English trade-unionist
organization, but showed himself partly conscious socialism
that trade-unionism might not be superseded by and trade-
Socialism even when victorious.' But it feels ""•°"'^"'-
that trade-unions, as they exist, often supplant and delay
Socialism, and it only trusts them under reserves. Whereas
reformist Socialism thinks them stepping-stones, and is all for
them. It has theorized their function in Socialist society with
more care than the Marxians.^ What it does not fully see,
or at least fully acknowledge, is that while the trade-union
which it desiderates is not the trade-union which in Europe
exists, the gulf between them can only be bridged by a revolu-
tionary alteration •'' of the very ideals which the existing trade-
union most strongly fosters.

England is the classical land of trade-unions, and the
absence of a working-class Socialism in it may be attributed
more to the course followed by them than to any other single
fact. They consolidated their power over the English work-
ing-class in the middle third of the last century. At that time
they were non-political in the sense of having no preference as
between Tory landlords and Liberal capitalists ; but in much
they were political bodies. The Socialists on their side were
willing that trade-unionism should develop rather as a State
within the State than as a party within it. Germans, whose
existing undemocratic States seemed incapable of being ever
fitted for Socialist uses, hoped that the new working-class
organizations might supplant rather than transform. Marx

' By no means all revolutionary Socialists have yet advanced thus far.
For a much narrower view of trade-unions see Ferri, Associazioni operate
i Socia/isma (Rome, 1902).

* The works of capital importance are Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb's
History of Trade Unionism and Industrial Democracy. The last chapter of
the latter embodies perhaps the last point yet reached in speculation.

' In Australasia sensational union-smashing brought such a revolu-
tionary alteration about, while 'Socialism from Europe helped to shape its


inclined to this view at the end of the period, after a long
experience of trade-unionism in it.^

But with the Trades-Union Acts of 187 1 and 1875 came a
change. England legalized private collective bargaining, and
the unions had not to be political to be able to exist and
function freely. Their success now depended on their includ-
ing all possible fellow-workmen irrespective of politics, and
this was a motive for being non-political. Private collec-
tive bargaining grew vastly, and was developed by trade-
unionists into a method, whereby they thought that the
working-class could satisfy most reasonable expectations. This
opinion, with a corresponding distrust of politics, still charac-
terizes the English workers. Temporarily there is a breach in
it. Legal decisions of the House of Lords in 1901 restored
certain restrictions on private collective bargaining, which the
trade-unionists find they cannot remove without turning poli-
ticians. Hence the Labour Representation Committee.^ This
is now supported financially by over a million trade-unionists,
and has captured several Parliamentary seats. At present it has
no explicit common programme, except the restoration of that
state of the law under which its trade-unionist members thought
political action superfluous. But it will go further if they unlearn
their complete reliance upon private collective bargaining.

Socialists seldom apply the idea that " palliatives postpone
Socialistic remedies " so as to belittle what the trade-unions
criticisms have achieved. But to complacent estimates of it
vate coliec- ^^^^ oppose three main criticisms :
live bar- (i) It is inconclusive and enormously costly,

gaining. ^^ pj-jy^te bargaining means private economic
warfare. That the warfare is collective gives the workman a
chance of winning ; but it also vastly multiplies the sufferings
occasioned. As the author of the New Zealand Arbitration
Law puts it, there are three parties to every strike or lock-out

' Cp. his letter on the Gotha programme (written in 1875).
* The Committee was started before the decisions, but they have
adaiiltedly vitalized its action.


— the masters, the men, and the general community, and
there are always at least two losers.*

(2) The area of the working class benefited is very con-
fined — virtually confined to skilled male workers. 2,000,000
men and 120,000 women are the trade-unionists of a nation,
with perhaps 15,000,000 wage-earners. The residue do not
lose only as part of the public during strikes. Most indus-
tries employ both skilled and unskilled labour. The better-
paid skilled workmen are organized, and demand advances of
wages collectively. If they win without fighting, the improve-
ment in , their wage will tend to keep the unskilled labourers'
down. If, however, they fight and work ceases, the unskilled
labourers are thrown willy-nilly into an unemployment which
they can less afford to endure, and which it is not in their
power to terminate, on behalf of interests which are not

(3) The area of working-class interests benefited is small.
Non-political unionism has marshalled the skilled workers, the
natural leaders of their class, almost solely against the em-
ployers. It has withdrawn attention from the pre-eminent
land question, and been a godsend to railway companies and
other monopolists exploiting the consumer. It may have
made Lancashire wages among the best in the world ; it has
left Lancashire towns among the worst.

Socialism must regard these criticisms as insurmountable
by any method short of abolishing private collective bargains.
Criticism (2) might be got over by introducing alongside of
trade-unionism the Victorian system of wage-boards for the
earners of low wages. But the more thorough way is that
pointed by New Zealand — compulsory State arbitration
between employers and employees. By this trade-unions
would cease to be fighting bodies and become representative ;
rich and poor workers could all alike be organized, and the

' The strongest unions now avoid fighting wherever possible, and have
learned greatly to increase such possibilities. But upon fighting they
always rest, and their strength is their fighting capacity.


former would have no motive for forming unrepresentative
knots by themselves. Sweating could be stamped out, and
unskilled labour be paid the living wage which our social
investigators are convinced that it does not get. The passage
from trade-unionism to Socialism is bridged. This idea is
heartily welcomed by the SociaUst historians of trade-unionism,
Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb, and in France, M. Millerand's
tireless work for trade-unionism evidently contemplates some
such end. Trade-unionists outside Australasia are still
generally against it, but in part for temporary reasons. The
system's effect in transferring the "fighting" of the workers
from the trade-unionist to the political sphere is the essence of
Socialism ; but where, as in England and America, the workers
have strong unions and weak parties, they naturally do not
jump at it. To overcome this hesitation should be a principal
aim of Socialist trade-unionists; but they have not all yet
realized it as such.^

The movement of the Labour Representation Committee
is therefore still only a hope for the English Socialists ; but it
is their main hope. All experience except in New Zealand
(where an abnormally democratic Radicalism made an excep-
tion more apparent than real) goes to show that a separate
Labour party, allying but not fusing with other parties, is
indispensable for a persistent Socialist policy. Mere "per-
meation " of the bourgeoisie and its parties has not sufficed ;
it seems, indeed, almost a spent force. In municipal govern-
ment, where the governed are relatively near to the eye and
conscience of the governing, it has achieved something ; the
wage-clauses of our municipalities are indubitable Socialism.
Their " municipalization " only is so when done in the same
spirit ; the likelihood is great that, pursued as much of it is
" unconsciously " by uninspired men, it may go the way of the
British co-operative movement, and harden into a merely

* At the English Trade Union Congress in 1902 a resolution in favour
of compulsory arbitration was defeated by 961,000 votes to 303,000. At
least one SociaHst spoke agains^ it.


mechanical device, slightly benefiting the pockets of con-
sumers. But all municipal Socialism is controlled by national
government, upon which " permeation " has made little im-
pression. It was when, on Parnell's death, the Irish question
lapsed, that Socialism had its best chance of capturing English
politics. It tried permeation, and for a few years almost
fancied itself successful. But the first live interest after the
Irish — Imperialism — knocked it easily out ; and now that
after eight years that is flagging, the Protectionist controversy
has intervened, perhaps for an equal period.

By afiiliating two Socialist bodies besides its trade-unionists,
the Labour Representation Committee has left open a way
for non-manual workers to join it. But the great politicians,
without whom no political movement can live, are still to
seek. The theorists of English Socialism, though few, may
compare with those of other nations ; the English Labour
leaders, though they do not number a Bebel or an Anseele,
compare well with the leaders of the other English classes.
But men like Jaures or Vandervelde, who each are first-rate
thinkers, writers, Parliamentarians, wire-pullers, and mob-
orators, all rolled into one, — such men simply do not exist in
English Socialism, nor indeed in English politics ; and perhaps
they never will until members of Parliament are paid. Nor
can Socialists look with full confidence upon the English
electorate. It is hardly disputable that millions of electors in
the greater British cities have reached a point of personal deca-
dence — physical, mental and moral — to which no Continental
country furnishes a parallel on any comparable scale. Time is
steadily multiplying these millions ; and for English Socialism
there is therefore a race against time which it is very likely not
to win.




By a. Bebel

This is an excerpt from Bebel's Charles Fourier (pp. 287-9).

August Bebel was born in 1840 ; apprenticed to a wood-turner at
fourteen ; entered politics at Leipzig, and in 1864 was President of
the Deutscher Arbeiterbildungsuerein (a Radical organization) ; in 1865
was brought to Socialism by Liebknecht ; in 1871 protested with
Liebknecht against the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine, whose
neutralization he still advocates ; has, since Liebknecht's death, been
leader of the Social Democratic party in the German Reichstag.

All Socialistic experiments which are attempted inside the
bourgeois world, and aimed naturally at the reconciliation of
mutually exclusive opposites, must come of necessity to grief.
Where such experiments last some time, as in some small
communistically organized communities in the United States,
they are able to do so only through almost perfect isolation
from the rest of the world, and only under an economic system
which constrains their adherents to Spartan simplicity, and
necessitates patriarchal conditions. This is not the developed
civilization for which mankind strives. That requires a free,
unimpeded unfolding of all men's talents and capacities, and
a full enjoyment of all the attainments of civilization, which is
only to be won if the means of civilization are more and mote

t 8


multiplied up to the highest technical and scientific levels. A
small isolated community, limited in its powers and means,
cannot achieve this, be it never so artistically organized. It
is disturbed by every foreign influence which acts on it from
outside ; and this effect will be the more present the more
vital are the relations which the part conceives to be necessary
towards the whole. Either it must go with the whole and
develop with it, or it must remain isolated and ossify ; there
is no third alternative.

In the bourgeois world men can only be conceived as
acting in bourgeois fashion. The individual plays towards the
whole the part of a tiny cog on a monstrous mechanism, whose
many dozens of wheels clash with their thousands of cogs and
little cogs in a prescribed order. The effect of the individual
is seen in his effect on the whole, and reversely in the effect
of the whole on individuals. Both complete and condition
each other. Whoever strives as an individual against the
whole, and thinks he can go his particular way ; whoever
thinks he can arbitrarily break through the social mechanism
in which all are confined ; whoever fancies he can found his
own particular Kingdom of Heaven, will speedily learn by
hard facts to take another view of his own impotence and
incapacity. Hence all Socialistic experimenting inside the
bourgeois world, whether it proceeds from an individual who
imagines he can produce and distribute Socialistically as a
bourgeois e?itrepreneur, or from a small aggregate who endeavour
to do so for and among themselves, is Utopian fancy-mongering.
Every such attempt indicates an immature spirit which can
only have the effect of provoking disillusionments, discrediting
the ideas among undiscerning persons, and giving the adver-
sary the weapons he wants against the efforts of which he
is afraid.

The great progress of our age is, that the Utopians have
died, or are dying, out. Among the masses they find no foot-
hold — find one less to-day than ever. Even the simplest
workman feels that nothing can be set up artificially^ that what


is to be must dfvfiop, and must develop with and through the
whole — not separated and isolated from it. The thing is to
clear the course for development, to remove all that is old or
has died out, to ease the ending of what is dying out, and with
this object to direct the searcli of criticism to every point at
which evils appear. People who apply criticism must trace
out the causes which produced evil. When the causes are
ascertained, the remedies spontaneously follow.


By W. Liebknecht

This is an extract from the speech made by Liebknecht at the
Erfurt Congress of the German party in 1891, when moving the final
adoption of the programme there drawn up.

Wilhelm Liebknecht (1826-1900) was the leader of the German
Social-Democratic party throughout the most critical period of its
growth. Himself a Marxist, he was largely responsible for the
union of the Marxists and Lassalleans, and their concentration upon
a common programme at Gotha in 1875. His tactical ability in
subsequently enabling his party to parry Bismarck's Anti-Socialist
Law was acknowledged by Bismarck himself. Like Marx, Engels,
and Lassalle, he belonged by birth to the bourgeoisie ; and he received
a University education at Berlin and Marburg.

I WILL now go into the main principles of the programme. Of
course, you will not expect me to explain here and now every
single point ; I must confine myself to exhibiting the thought
of the general portion broadly and as a whole. Among the
detailed demands I will only note what really requires notice,
because it has been insufficiently discussed or because it varies
from the earlier formulae. The leading thought which was
equally apparent in all the draft-programmes submitted to the
Congress was to indicate clearly the causes whence the
embarrassments of contemporary society proceed — to exhibit
the process of economic development which divides the
capitalistic world, the society of to-day, into two hostile camps,

Online LibraryR. C. K. (Robert Charles Kirkwood) EnsorModern socialism, as set forth by socialists in their speeches, writings, and programmes; → online text (page 3 of 35)