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 7 of 35)
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(wage of labour). The whole surplus of production — of the
yield of labour — falls to the employers' share. It therefore
follows from this brazen and cruel law, that you (and for that
reason I called you, in my labour pamphlet to which you
appeal in your letter, " the class of the disinherited ") are
necessarily shut out from the increased productivity due to the
progress of civilization, i.e. from the increased yield of labour,
from the increased yielding capacity of your own labour.
Your portion is for ever the bare necessaries of life ; to your
employers goes everything that is ever produced by labour over
and above that.

But since the very great progress of productivity (the
yielding power of labour) renders many manufactured products
extremely cheap, it may happen that this cheapness gives you,
not as producers, but as consumers, a certain indirect advantage
from the increased productivity of labour. This advantage


does not affect you in your activity as producers ; it does not
affect or alter the quota allotted to you from the yield of
labour; it affects your position as consumers. It similarly
— indeed much more considerably — improves the position, as
consumers, of the employers and of all the people who take no
part in labour.

Even this advantage, which affects you as men and not as
workers, is again effaced by that brazen and cruel law which
in the long run always depresses the wage of labour back to
the level of consumption necessary to support life. Only it
may happen, that if such an increased productivity of labour
and consequent extreme cheapness of many products intervene
quite suddenly, and if they coincide with a long period of increas-
ing demand for manual workers, then these disproportionately
cheapened products are taken up into the sum of things which
national custom deems necessary to support life. The fact,
therefore, that the worker and his wage perpetually oscillate on
the extremest verge of what the needs of any given age render
necessary to support life, now just overstepping it, now some-
what within it, — this fact is unchanged. But the extremest
verge itself may at different times have been altered by a coin-
cidence of the circumstances mentioned ; and so it may come
about that, if you compare different ages from one another, the
position of the working-class in a later century or a later genera-
tion shows some improvement on that in an earlier one, in so
far as the minimum which custom demands for the absolute
needs of life is somewhat higher.

This little digression I had to make, though it lies far from
my own objective, because just this trifling improvement in the
course of centuries and generations is the invariable point to
which all those who want to throw dust in your eyes, like
Bastiat, make their cheap and empty declamations revert.

Mark well what I say. For the reasons given, the necessary
minimum livelihood, and with it the position of the working-
class, may, comparing one generation with another, have some-
what risen. Whether that really is so, whether really the all-round


position of the working-class has improved, and improved
continuously, in the different centuries, is a very difficult and
complicated problem — a problem far too learned to be anywhere
within or near the competence of those who keep amusing you
with disquisitions on the dearness of cotton last century, and
the amount of cotton clothes you now use, and similar common-
places which can be copied out of any compendium. It is not
my purpose to investigate this problem here. I must confine
myself to giving you what is not only absolutely certain but
easy to demonstrate. Let us suppose, then, that such an
improvement in the lowest needs of Hfe, and therefore in the
position of the working-class, does continuously occur in the
different generations and centuries.

Yet I must show you that, all the same, these commonplaces
make away with and utterly distort the really relevant question.

You are cheated behind your backs. If you refer
ground for, ^^ ^'^^ position of the workers and its improvement,
the workers' you mean your position compared with that of your

fellow-citizens to-day, compared with the contem-
poj-ary standard of living. And then they amuse you by pre-
tending to compare your position with that of the workers in
earlier centuries ! But the question whether, because the
minimum which custom deems necessary for life has risen (m
case it has done so), you are better off to-day than the workers
of 80, 200, or 300 years ago, is a question of no value for you,
and can afford you no satisfaction ; no more than can the, of
course, admitted fact, that you are better off now than the
Botokudians and the cannibal savages.

Every human satisfaction depends always on the relation
of the means of satisfaction to what the custom of the period
demands already as bare necessaries for existence, or, which is
the same thing, on the excess of the means of satisfaction
beyond the lowest limit of what the custom of the period
demands as bare necessaries for existence. Raising the mini-
mum of the lowest necessaries for existence makes people
suffer and miss things of which earlier ages knew nothing.


What does the Botokudian miss if he cannot buy soap, or the
cannibal savage, if he has no proper coat to wear ? What did
the worker miss before the discovery of America, if he could
not smoke tobacco, or what before the discovery of printing,
if he could not procure a useful book ?

All that human beings suffer and miss depends, therefore, on
the relation between the means of satisfaction and the cus-
tomary necessaries of life already recognized at the time. All
human sufferings and privation, and all human satisfaction —
consecjuently every human condition — is measured only by
comparing one's situation with that in which other men of the
same time find themselves in reference to what the custom of
the time deems necessary for existence. The position of any
class is always measured solely by its relation to that of other
classes at the same time. If, therefore, it were ever so certain
that the level of the necessary conditions for existence had
risen in different ages, that satisfactions formerly unknown had
been recognized by custom as necessaries, and that with them
had intervened in consequence privations and sufferings
formerly unknown, yet your position as men has in these
different ages always remained the same — oscillating on the
lowest margin of what custom at any time demands as necessary
for existence, now going a little beyond it, now receding a little
below it. Your position as men has thus remained the same,
for it is measured not by its relation to that of beasts in prime-
val forests, or that of African negroes, or that of serfs in the
Middle Ages, or of workers 200 or 80 years ago, but solely by
its relation to that of your fellow-men, to that of the other
contemporary classes.

And instead of considering this, and thinking how to
improve this relation and to alter that cruel law, which keeps
you continually at the lowest margin of the necessaries for
existence at any period, people amuse themselves by confusing
the question under your very noses unnoticed by you, and
entertaining you with problems in the history of civilization
and retrospective glances at the position of the working-class


at former epochs — retrospects which are the more problematical
because the manufactured products, which are constantly
being cheapened so very much, are only consumed by the
workers on a far smaller scale, while the staples of life, which
they consume principally, are not controlled by any similar
tendency to ever-growing cheapness. These are retrospects,
which could only be valuable, if the all-round jDOsition of the
worker in the different ages were brought within their in-
vestigation ; they are investigations of the most difficult
nature, and only to be conducted with extreme circumspection.
Those who dissert upon them to you have not at all the
material for them ; and they might the rather, therefore, leave
them to the specialists.

You see, therefore, that it is just a mathematical impossi-
bility to emancipate the working-class in this way,' by the

efforts of its members as merely isolated indi-
Necessity of •

taking viduals ; that these illusions only result from vague

political uncritical ideas ; and that the sole way to it, the
agitating ^^le way to abolish the cruel law which fixes the

for univer- wage of labour, to which the working-class is
col suffffl-fire •

chained as to a martyr's stake, is the furtherance

and development of free private labour associations by the
helping hand of the State." The labour-association move-
ment founded on the mere atomically-isolated powers of
individual workers has only been valuable — and in this has
been immensely valuable — in showing obviously the way, the
practical way, in which emancipation may proceed, in pro-
viding brilliant practical proofs for the removal of all real or

* By private co-operative societies, whether distributive or productive,
unassisted by the State.

- Lassalle's economic panacea was the foundation of the co-operative
associations of producers, to whom capital should be lent by the State. It
was suggested by Louis Blanc (Organization du Travail^ 1839). After the
union of the Lassallean party with the Marxists at Gotha in 1875, this idea
gradually disappeared from German Socialism.


pretended doubt as to its practicability, and in thereby making
it the State's imperative duty to lend its supporting hand to
this highest interest of human civilization.

I have likewise proved to you, that the State is really
nothing else than the great organization, the great association
of the working-classes ; and that therefore the help and
furtherance, whereby the State should make smaller associa-
tions possible, would be nothing but the perfectly natural,
right, and legitimate social self-help which the working-classes
in their great association render to themselves, to their
members as separate individuals.

Once more, then, free private association of workers, but
free private association made possible by the supporting
and furthering hand of the State, is the sole way out of the
desert vouchsafed to the working-class.

But how enable the State to intervene thus ? The answer
to this will blaze out at once before the eyes of you all like
the sun : universal and direct suffrage will alone enable it.
If the legislative bodies of Germany proceed from universal
and direct suffrage, then and then only will you be able to
decide the State to undertake this, its duty. Then will this
demand be made in the legislative bodies; then may the
limits and forms and means of this intervention be reasonably
and scientifically discussed ; then, depend upon it, will the
men who understand your position and are devoted to your
cause, stand beside you armed with the white steel of science,
and be able to guard your interests. And then you, the
fortuneless classes of society, will anyhow have only to blame
yourselves and your bad votes, if, and as long as, the repre-
sentatives of your cause remain in the minority. Therefore,
as now appears, universal direct suffrage is the bottom
principle not only for your politics but for your society,
the bottom condition of all social aid. It is the sole means
of improving the material position of the working-class.

But how effect the introduction of universal direct suffrage?
Look at England. The great agitation of the English people


against the Corn Laws lasted for over five years. And then
the laws had to go ; a Tory Ministry itself had to abolish

Organize yourselves as a Universal Union of German
Workers for the purpose of a legal and peaceful but un-
wearying, unceasing agitation for the introduction of universal
direct suffrage in every German state. As soon as ever the
Union includes but 100,000 German workers, it will be a
power with which every one must reckon. Propagate this cry
in every workshop, every village, every hut. May the workers
of the towns let their higher intelligence and education over-
flow on to the workers of the country. Debate, discuss,
everywhere, every day, without pausing, without ending, as
in the great English agitation against the Corn Laws, now
in peaceful public assemblies, now in private conferences, the
necessity of universal direct suffrage. The more the millions
who echo your voice, the more irresistible will be its

Start clubs with funds, to which every member of the
German Workers' Union must contribute, and at which projects
for organization can be submitted to you.

Found with these funds, which, in spite of the smallness of
subscriptions, can form a powerful financial force for purposes
of agitation (a weekly contribution of only one silver penny
would, if the Union had 100,000 members, provide over
160,000 thalers a year) — found public newspapers, to make
this demand daily and prove the reasons for it from the state
of society. With the same funds circulate pamphlets for the
same purpose. Pay agents out of the Union's funds to carry
this intelligence into every corner of the country, to thrill the
heart of every worker, every house-servant, every farm-labourer,
with this cry. Indemnify out of the Union's funds all workers
who have been injured or prosecuted for their activity. Repeat
daily, unwearyingl)', the same thing, again the same thing,
always the same thing. The more it is repeated, the more hold
it takes, the stronger its power grows.


The whole art of practical success consists in concentrating
one's whole force at any time upon 07ie point — the most
important point, and looking neither to the right nor to the
left. Do not you look either to the right or to the left ; be
deaf to everything which is not universal direct suffrage or is
not connected with it and capable of leading up to it.

If you have — as in a few years you can — really propagated
this cry among the 89 or even the 96 per cent, of the whole
population, which as I have shown you form the poor and
property-less classes of society, then you may be sure your
wishes will not long be withstood. Governments can sulk and
squabble with the bourgeoisie about political rights, universal
suffrage included, so long as political rights are regarded with
indifference. But universal suffrage regarded by from 89 to
96 per cent, of the population as a bread-and-butter question
and diffused with the heat of bodily appetite through the
whole frame of the nation — that, you may be well assured, no
power whatever will withstand for long.

That is the sign which you must set up. That is the sign
in which you shall conquer. There is no other sign for you.


By a. Millerand

From a speech delivered by A. Millerand on May 30, 1896, to
representatives of all the larger groups of French Socialists. Three
circumstances give this programme historical importance — the
occasion, the audience, and the sequel. Unity was then germinating
among French Socialists, and the principal groups made an agree-
ment on the basis, that while any might put up a candidate at the
first ballots, all should support at the second ballots whichever
Socialist had at the first polled most votes. The question then arose
— what, for this purpose, is a Socialist ? In the following excerpt
may be seen the answer offered by Millerand, in the presence of
Jaures, Jules Guesde, and Edouard Vaillant, the principal leaders of
groups, and also of Dr. Flaissieres, the Socialist Mayor of Marseilles,
and Delory, Mayor of Lille, provincial leaders of the greatest local
influence in South and North France respectively. This audience, so
representative of the most contrasted spirits in French Socialism,
expressed unanimous approval of the programme, by the mouths of
the leaders mentioned.

After this date the fuller unity of the groups was achieved, only to
be soon shattered again by a number of incidents, of which that of
most public importance w^as Millerand 's own entrance into M.
Waldeck-Rousseau's Coalition Cabinet (June, 1899). While in office
Wlillerand made a point of publicly asserting his fidelity to the Saint-
Mande Programme, and connecting his policy at the Ministry of
Commerce and Industry with it. (Cp. his speech at Lens, Oct. 7,
1900). As a " broad-bottom" programme it would probably be still
accepted by most French Socialists.

It may be compared with the Report on Fabian policy, which was
presented to the London International Congress of June, 1896, and is
therefore very closely contemporary (Fabian Tract, No. 70).




What is the minimum programme, whose acceptance is
binding upon whoever claims the title of Socialist ? . . . With-
out at all assuming to solve the question by my private
authority, I ask your leave to express quite freely my purely
personal opinion on it. At the stage of development which
the Socialist party has reached, I consider it to be its interest
as well as its duty to define its frontiers with all possible pre-
cision. Whither is it going ? By what paths does it propose
to attain its end ? Is it true that it has for its
aim the suppression of liberty and confiscation property;
of private property, for its means the recourse constitu-
to force? These are the traits with which
our opponents of every kind usually agree in delineating the
Socialist party. Yet does it not appear on the face of it
that all the points of this pretended definition — suppression of
property, recourse to force — form the crudest antithesis, the
most brutal contradiction, to our doctrines as well as our
facts ?

Is not the Socialistic idea completely summed up in the
earnest desire to secure for every being, in the bosom of
society, the unimpaired development of his personality ? That
necessarily implies two conditions, of which one is a factor
of the other : first, individual appropriation of things necessary
for the security and development of the individual, i.e.
property ; secondly, liberty, which is only a sounding and
hollow word if it is not based on and safeguarded by property.

On the other hand, is not this evening's banquet, in which
representatives of every shade of opinion in the Socialist party
join, the clearest definition of its tactics, and has ever any
party in this country more than our own respected and trusted
in universal suffrage ?

But these two observations, however decisive in the eyes of
all sincere judges, cannot suffice for us. We must have it out
with our opponents ; we must come to close quarters with the
doubt which they try to keep up. We must see what lies be-
hind the declamations, and what definitely are the interests



whicli are sought to be safeguarded against us by those wlio
have constantly on their hps the words " liberty " and
" property."

The anarchy of capitalism has often been described. You
may characterize it in one sentence, by stating that under it

there is no security for any one. Farmers, mer-
tivistviewof chants, manufacturers, intellectual as well as
the capital- manual workers, are the prey of every chance.

But it is this very excess of ill, whence collectivism
holds that salvation will spring. " Collectivism ! " I have
uttered the dreadful word whose magic incantation should
arouse against us the millions of urban and rural workers
whom "Socialism," certainly, no longer avails to terrify. Of
the collectivist idea I will say but one thing ; ^ it is not the
product of a dreamer's imagination, nor the outcome of a
philosopher's conceptions, but the statement, pure and simple,
of phenomena being unrolled before our eyes. Men do not
and will not set up collectivism ; it is setting itself up daily ;
it is, if I may be allowed the phrase, being secreted by the
capitalist regime. Under the double influence of the progress
of science, of which the development of machinery is only
the translation into practice, and of the concentration of
capital, we see the small proprietors being expropriated, labour
and property being dissociated, and a new feudal class being
set up, which is accumulating in its hands the ownership of
the instruments of production, to become by a slow but
implacable progress the absolute master of the economic,
political, and moral life of the whole people, reduced by it to
the modern form of slavery called the wages system. Collectiv-
ism declares that the wages system will be no more everlasting
than were those previous modes of servitude and human
exploitation called slavery and serfdom. Collectivism observes
that the normal development of capitalistic society replaces
individual property, the condition and safeguard of liberty, by
the tyrannous monopoly of a minority. It does not rebel

' The following passage is extremely Marxian.


against this observed fact ; it bows before it. It does not
pretend to retrace the course of the centuries, nor decree the
transformation of- mankind; on the contrary, it adapts itself to
its rules. Since it is a law of sociological evolution that all the
means of production and exchange pass from the form of
individual property to that of capitalistic property, it merely
claims that in proportion as these vast capitalistic properties
are formed beneath whose rays small property, individual
property, withers and dies, in that proportion social property
should replace capitalistic.

Here I seem to have my finger on the characteristic feature
of the Socialist programme. In my view, whoever does not
admit the necessary and progressive replacement Thesme5u4
of capitalistic property by social property, is not a -non of a.
Socialist. That is, it cannot merely be a matter of
transforming those three categories of the means of production
and exchange which may be termed classical ones — credit or
banking, transport by rail, and mining enterprises. Here is
besides these — I take an instance which discussion cannot
damage — an industry incontestably ripe now for social appro-
priation, because, monopolized in a few hands, yielding its
managers vast profits, characterized at once by the perfecting
of its machinery and the intense concentration of its capital, it
is thoroughly fitted to supply a fertile and easy subject for
social management : I mean the sugar-refining industry. It is
an instance, and only one ; but really, is there anything very
novel about this national monopoly, which to-morrow shall
restore to all the gain unduly monopolized by a few ? Surely,
as the representatives of Socialist municipalities in my audience
know — only yesterday I had an instance of it in a by no
means Socialist commune in one of our eastern departments —
surely already, in taking over the distribution of water, light,
motor-power, the organization of transport, the use in common
of agricultural machines, numerous small communities in town
and country have in their sphere replaced capitalistic property
by social. This progressive socialization of different categories


of the means of production can only inspire hope and joy in
the millions of human beings destined thus to rise, by a pro-
gress governed not by men's caprice, but by the nature of
things, from the condition of wage-workers to that of co-
partners in social wealth ; and it would be vain to try rousing
against the Socialist party the alarms of the fortunate few who
still have in their hands both the means of production and the
whole product of their labour. The latter, the small pro-
prietors, not only are not threatened by the change which the
Socialist party pursues — since their fragments of property
could not be the object of social appropriation — but they will
benefit proportionally with every other member of society by
the incorporation of the great industries, one after another, in
the body of socialized property.

I say " one after another." No Socialist has ever dreamed
of transforming the capitalistic regime instantaneously by a
Elasticity magic wand, nor of building up on a tabula rasa

and adapta- 2Si entirely new society. Vandervelde, the eminent
bllity of tlie , . , -^ , ^ r ^ ■, ■ , , ■

Socialist thmker and great orator of Belgmm, warned his

hypothesis, friends in an article on the coUectivist evolution

Online LibraryR. C. K. (Robert Charles Kirkwood) EnsorModern socialism, as set forth by socialists in their speeches, writings, and programmes; → online text (page 7 of 35)