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

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

. (page 5 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 5 of 35)
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cenee into mighty productive forces, without changing

Hseof socta! them from means of production of the individual
methods of into social means of production only to be utilized
produc ion. ^^ ^ collectivity of men. In place of the spinning-
wheel, the hand-loom, and the smith's hammer, came the
spinning-mule, the power-loom, and the steam-hammer ;
in place of the individual workshop, the factory enabling
hundreds and thcusAnds to work together, And Along with


the means of production, production itself changed from a
series of individual performances into a series of social acts,
and the products from products of individuals into social
products. The yarn, the cloth, the hardware, which now
came from the factory, were the common product of many
workers, through whose hands they had to go in order before
they were ready. No individual can say of them : " I made
that ; that is my product."

Where, however, the natural division of labour within society
is the basic form of production, it stamps on the products the
form of commodiHes, whose reciprocal exchange, purchase and
sale, puts the individual producers in a position to satisfy their
manifold needs. And in the Middle Ages this was the case.
The peasant, e.g., sold farm-produce to the handicraftsman, and
bought from him in return the products of handicraft. Upon
this society of individual producers, producers of commodities,
intruded the new method of production. In the midst of the
natural undesigned division of labour prevailing all through
society, it set up the designed division of labour as organized
in the individual factory ; by the side of individual production
appeared social production. The products of both were sold on
the same market, therefore at prices at least approximately
equal. But the designed organization was more powerful than
the natural division of labour ; the factories with their social
labour got out their products more cheaply than the small
individual producers. Individual production failed in one
sphere after another; social production revolutionized the
entire former method of production. But this its revolutionary
character was so little recognized, that on the contrary it was
introduced as a means for augmenting and advancing the
production of commodities. It arose in immediate connection
with definite machinery, already discovered for the production
and exchange of commodities : merchant's capital, handicraft,
wage-labour. While it appeared itself as a new form of the pro-
duction of commodities, the forms of appropriation in force for
the production of commodities remained also in full force for it.



In the production of commodities, as developed in the
Middle Ages, there could arise no question as to whose should
be the product of labour. As a rule, the individual producer
had made it out of raw material belonging to him, and often
incompati produced by him, with his own instruments of
biiityofthe work, and his own manual labour or that of his
ofappropri- f^n^ilX- There was absolutely no need for him
ation and first to appropriate it ; it belonged to him entirely
method' of ^^ itself. A man's ownership of the product rested,
production, therefore, on his own work. Even where outside
assistance was used, this as a rule remained secondary, and
commonly involved some other benefit besides wages; the
guild apprentice and companion worked less for the money
and the wage than for their own training to be masters. Then
came the concentration of the means of production in great
workshops and factories, and its alteration into a really social
means of production. But the social means of production and
products were treated as though they were still, as they had
been, the means of production, and products, of individuals.
As the possessor of the means of production had hitherto
appropriated the product, because it as a rule was his own
product and the labour of outside assistants was the exception,
so now the possessor of the means of production continued to
appropriate the product, although it was no longer his product,
but exclusively the product of outside labour. Thus the
products now made socially were not appropriated by those
who had really set the means of production in motion and
really made the products, but by the capitalists. Production,
and the means of it, have really become social. But they are
subject to a form of appropriation, which presupposes the
private production of individuals, in which everyone possesses
and brings to market his own product. The method of pro-
duction is subject to this form of appropriation, although it
does away with what this form presupposes.^ In this con-

' It need not here be explained, that although the form of appro-
priation remains the same, its character is no less revolutionized by the


tradiction, which lends to the new method of production its
capitaUstic character, the whole discord of the present lies
already in germ. The more the new method of production
came to dominate all important fields of production and all
important countries, the more glaringly came perforce to light
the incompatibility of social production and capitalistic appropria-

The first capitalists found, as we said, the form of wage-
labour already to hand. But wage-labour as an exception,

a side occupation, a supplement, a transitional

Origin of
Stage. The country labourer, who from time to the wage-
time went to earn day- wages, had his few acres earning pro-

r letariate

of his own land, from which alone he could if

necessary live. The guild ordinances provided that the com-
panion of to-day should pass on to be the master of to-morrow.
But as soon as the means of production were changed and
became social, and were concentrated into the hands of
capitalists, this was altered. The means of production, as
well as the product, of the small individual producer became
more and more valueless ; nothing was left for him but to
go to the capitalist for wages. Wage-labour, previously an
exception and a supplement, became the rule and the funda-
mental form of all production ; formerly a side occupation,
it became now the exclusive activity of the worker. The
temporary wage-worker turned into the lifelong wage-worker.
The multitude of lifelong wage-workers was, besides, colossally
increased through the simultaneous collapse of the feudal
system, dissolution of the retinues of the feudal lords, dismissal
of peasants from their court posts, etc. The cleavage was

process described above than is production. If I appropriate my own
product, or if I appropriate some one else's, those are naturally two very
different sorts of appropriation. Note too, that wage-labour, in which the
whole capitalistic method of production is contained in germ, is very old ;
in an individualized and scattered form it subsisted for centuries beside
slavery. But the germ could not develop into the capitalistic method of
production, until the historical conditions for it had come about, [Engels'


complete between the means of production concentrated in
the hands of the capitaUsts on the one side, and the producers
reduced to possessing nothing but their labour power on the
other. The contradiction between social production and
capitalistic appropriation appeared as an opposition between
proletariate and bourgeoisie.

We saw that the capitalistic method of production intruded
itself upon a society of individual producers producing com-
modities, the means of whose social connection
competition ^^^s the exchange of their products. But every society
in the pre- resting on production of commodities has the
peculiarity,that in it the producers have lost the con-
trol over their own social relations. Every one produces for him-
self with his means of production, whatever it may be, and for
his individual exchange requirements. No one knows how
much of his article comes to the market, or how much of it is
needed ; no one knows whether his individual product
meets a real need, whether he will be able to balance his
expenses, or to sell it at all. There is a prevailing anarchy of
social production. But production of commodities, like every
other form of production, has its peculiar, inherent laws,
inseparable from it ; and these laws are fixed, in spite of the
anarchy, in it and through it. They appear in the single
persistent form of social connection, in exchange, and they
assert themselves against the individual producers as the coer-
cive laws of competition. They are therefore at the outset
unknown to these producers themselves, and have first to be
gradually discovered by them through long experience. They
are fixed not by the producers nor in the producers' interest,
but as the blmdly-operative natural laws of their form of pro-
duction. The product governs the producer.

In mediseval society, that is, in the first centuries, produc-
tion was essentially directed to producers' uses. It in the main
satisfied .only the needs of the producer and his family.
Where, as in the country, there existed relations of personal
dependence, it contributed also to satisfy the needs of the

I'. ENGELS 2 1

feudal lord. In this case no exchange took place, and the
products did not acquire the character of commodities from it
either. The peasant's family produced nearly everything that
it needed, furniture and clothing no less than food. Only
when it went so far as to produce a surplus over and above its
own requirements and the tribute in 'kind due to the feudal
lord, did it also produce commodities ; this surplus, thrown
into the social exchange, exposed for sale, became a com-
modity. The town handicraftsmen had of course from the
beginning to produce for exchange. But they, too, worked
principally to satisfy their own requirements ; they had gardens
and small fields ; they sent their cattle into the common forest,
which at the same time supplied them with timber and fire-
wood ; the women spun flax, wool, etc. Production for the
purpose of exchange, production of commodities, was only
beginning. Hence a restricted exchange, a restricted market,
a stable method of production, local exclusiveness against
outsiders, local unity within : the manor in the country, the
guild in the town.

But with the extension of production, and in particular
with the rise of the capitalistic method of production, the
hitherto dormant laws of the production of commodities be-
came more openly and powerfully realized. The old associa-
tions were relaxed, the old exclusive limits broken through, the
producers converted more and more into independent, isolated
producers of commodities. The anarchy of social Contrast
production became apparent, and was more and ^^e^^^"
more accentuated. But the main instrument, by zation of
which the capitalists' method of production en- p^'o^"*:''©"
hanced this anarchy in social production, was the dividual

exact opposite of anarchy : the increasinsr organi- ^^^^°^y ^"^
^ , . • , ,• ° theanapchy

zation of production on social lines m every ofppoduc-

separate producing establishment. With this in- ^^°^,^"-

^ ^ ° society as a

strument it put an end to the old peaceful stability, whole.

Where it was introduced into a branch of industry, it

suffered no older industrial methods to remain beside it.


Where it took hold of handicraft, it annihilated the old handi-
craft. The field of labour became a battle-field. The great
geographical discoveries, and the colonizations which followed
them, multiplied many times over the area of the market, and
emphasized the change from handicraft to manufacture. Not
only did the struggle break out between the separate local pro-
ducers ; the local struggles grew on their side to national ones,
the commercial wars of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Finally, the great industry and the establishment of the world-
market made the struggle universal and at the same time gave
it an unheard-of severity. Between single capitalists as between
whole industries, and whole countries, the favour of natural or
artificial conditions of production decided the question of
existence. The weaker was mercilessly eliminated. It is
Darwin's struggle for individual existence, transferred with
heightened ferocity from nature to society. The natural
standpoint of the beast appears as the summit of human
development. The contradiction between social produc-
tion and capitalistic appropriation, reproduces itself as
an opposition between the organization of production in the
individual factory and the anarchy of production in the entire

In these two manifestations of the contradiction imminent
in it by reason of its origin, the capitalistic method of pro-
duction moves, describing without any way out that vicious
circle, which already Fourier discovered it in. What Fourier,
of course, could not see in his time, is that this circle gradually
contracts, 'that the movement rather describes a spiral, and must
reach its end, like the movement of the planets, by a collision
with the centre. It is the driving force of the social anarchy
of production, which converts the great majority of human
beings more and more into proletarians, and again it is the
masses of proletarians which finally will put a stop to the
anarchy of production. It is the driving force of the social
anarchy of production, which converts the infinite perfectibility
of the machines of the great industry into an imperative


command that every individual industrial capitalist shall perfect
his machinery more and more, on pain of ruin. But to perfect
machinery means to render superfluous human labour. If the
introduction and increase of machinery means the crushing

out of millions of manual workers by a few machine- „

II- r , • 1 The new

workers, the improvement of machmery means the " reserve-
crushing out of more and more of the machine- army "of
workers themselves ; and, in the last instance, the
production of a number of available wage-workers exceeding
the average demand of capital for employees, — a regular reserve-
army of industry, as I called it as far back as 1845,^ — available
for the times when industry is working at high pressure, thrown
on the pavement by the collapse which necessarily follows, at
all times a lead weight tied round the feet of the working-class
in its struggle for existence against capital, a regulator for
depressing the wage of labour to the low level set by the
capitalist demand. So it comes about that machinery, as
Marx puts it, is the most powerful weapon of capital against
the working-class, that the means of work is continually dashing
the means of subsistence out of the worker's hand, that the
worker's own product turns into a tool for the worker's enslave-
ment. Thus it happens that the economising of the means of
work leads to most reckless squandering of labour-force and
robbery of what the labour-function should normally start
from ; that machinery, the strongest instrument for shortening
work-time, is transformed into the surest instrument for con-
verting the whole lifetime of the worker and his family into
available work-time for capital to profit by ; that the over-
employment of one man comes to imply the unemployment of
another, and that the great industry, whicli hunts the whole
world over for fresh consumers, limits the consumption of the
masses at home to a starvation minimum, and undermines
thereby its own domestic market. " The law which keeps the
relative surplus population or reserve army of industry, con-
tinually balancing the extent and energy of the accumulation of
' Lage der aibeiUndin Klasse in England, p. 109.


capital, rivets the worker more firmly to capital than Hephaestus'
wedges riveted Prometheus to the rocks. It causes an ac-
cumulation of misery corresponding to the accumulation of
capital. The accumulation of wealth at the one pole is there-
fore at the same time an accumulation of misery, hard work,
slavery, ignorance, brutahzation, and moral degradation at the
opposite pole, i.e. on the side of the class, which produces its
own product in the form of capital." ^ And to expect any
other division of the products from the capitalistic method of
production, is like wanting the electrodes of a battery, while
remaining connected with it, to leave water undecomposed,
instead of developing oxygen at the positive pole and hydrogen
at the negative.

We saw that the maximised capacity for improvement of
modern machinery turns, through the anarchy of production
in society, into an imperative command that the individual
industrial capitalist shall continually improve his machinery,
continually raise its productive power. Into a similar imperative
command turns the mere de facto possibility of his extending

his sphere of production. The enormous power
The demand c • r^u ^ ■ a l j^

forexpan- ®^ expansion of the great mdustry, compared to

sionof which that of gases is simply child's play, now

manifests itself to us as a qualitative and quanti-
tative demand for expansion, which laughs at every opposing
check. Such a check is formed by the consumption, the
outlet, the markets, for the products of the great industry.
But the capacity of expansion of markets, extensive and
intensive alike, is governed immediately by quite other laws,
with a far less energetic operation. The expansion of markets
cannot keep pace with the expansion of production. The
clash becomes inevitable, and as it can give rise to no solution
as long as it does not explode the capitalistic method of pro-
duction itself, it becomes periodic. Capitalistic production
gives rise to a new " vicious circle."

In fact, since 1825, when the first general crisis broke out,
' Marx, Capital ; English translation by Moore and Aveling, p. 661.


the whole industrial and commercial world, the production
and exchange of all the civilized nations and their more or
less barbarous dependencies, gets out of joint just _,.
about once every ten years. Transport comes to commercial
a standstill, the markets are glutted, products lie

Online LibraryR. C. K. (Robert Charles Kirkwood) EnsorModern socialism, as set forth by socialists in their speeches, writings, and programmes; → online text (page 5 of 35)