Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett) Reed.

Modern eloquence; (Volume 11) online

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between landlords and tenants. It is an extremely painful
thing that of late years we so frequently hear of misunder-
standings between the employers and the employed that
they look upon each other with suspicion with mutual sus-
picion as if each were rapaciously inclined either to obtain
or retain the greater share of the profits of their trade; and
those incidents with which you are all acquainted, of a very
painful nature, have been the consequence. I am not talk-
ing of demands for an increase of wages when men are
carrying on what is called a roaring trade I believe that is
the classical epithet taken from the Manchester school.
When a roaring trade is going on, I am not at all surprised
that workingmen should ask for an increase of wages. But
a trade sometimes ceases to roar, when wages naturally, on
the same principle, assume a form more adapted to the cir-
cumstances. No doubt, during the last twenty years there
appears to have been, not a passing and temporary cause
of disturbance like the incidents of trade being very active
or reduced, but some permanent cause disturbing prices,
which alike confuses the employer in his calculations as to
profits, and embarrasses the employed from the greater
expenditure which they find it necessary to make. Now,
I cannot but feel myself having given to the subject as
much consideration as I could I cannot help feeling that
the large and continuous increase of the precious metals,
especially during the last twenty years, has certainly pro-
duced no inconsiderable effect not only in trade, but no
inconsiderable effect in prices. I will not, on an occasion


like this, enter into anything like an abstruse discussion. I
confine myself to giving my opinion and the results which
I draw from it; and this moral, which I think is worthy of
consideration. If it can be shown accurately and scientifi-
cally that there is a cause affecting a prominent class,
reducing the average remuneration of the employed, and
confusing and confounding the employer in his calculations
as to profits if that can be shown, and if it is proved to be
the result of inexorable laws, far beyond the reach of legis-
lation, and of circumstances over which human beings have
no control I think if that could be shown, and employers
and employed had sufficient acuteness and knowledge and I
am sure that in Scotland both will have to acknowledge that
result it would very much change those mutual feelings of
suspicion and sentiments of a not pleasant character which
occasionally prevail when they find that they are both of
them the victims, as it were, of some inexorable law of
political economy which cannot be resisted. I think, in-
stead of supposing that each wanted to take advantage of
the other, they would feel inclined to put their shoulders
to the wheel, accurately ascertain whether this be true, and
come to some understanding which would very much miti-
gate the relations which subsist between them, and I have
little doubt the effect would be to increase, the average rate
of wages, with my views as to the effect of the continuous
increase of the precious metals. But, at the same time,
I have not the slightest doubt the employer would, in the
nature of things, find adequate compensation for the new
position in which he would find himself. There is one
point before I sit down to which I wish to call your atten-
tion, because if I am correct in saying that the question of
the relations between the employer and employed is the
only one that gives me anxiety at home, there is a subject
abroad to which, I think, I ought, on an occasion like this,
to draw your notice ; and that is the contest that is com-
mencing in Europe between the spiritual and temporal
powers. Gentlemen, I look upon it as very grave, as preg-
nant with circumstances which may greatly embarrass
Europe. The religious sentiment is often and generally
taken advantage of by political classes who use it as a pre-
text; and there is much going on in Europe at the present


moment which, it appears to me, may occasion us soon
much anxiety in this community. I should myself look
upon it as the greatest danger to civilization if, in the
struggle that is going on between faith and free thought,
the respective sides should only be represented by the
papacy and the red republic ; and here I must say that if
we have before us the prospect of struggles perhaps of
wars and anarchy, ultimately caused by the great question
that is now rising in Europe, it will not easily be in the
power of England entirely to withhold herself from such
circumstances. Our connection with Ireland will then be
brought painfully to our consciousness, and I should not be
at all surprised if the vizor of Home Rule should fall off
some day, and you beheld a very different countenance.
Now, gentlemen, I think we ought to be prepared for those
circumstances. The position of England is one which is
indicative of dangers arising from holding a middle course
upon those matters. It may be open to England again to
take a stand upon the Reformation which three hundred
years ago was the source of her greatness and her glory, and
it may be her proud destiny to guard civilization alike from
the withering blast of atheism and from the simoom of sa-
cerdotal usurpation. These things may be far off, but we
live in a rapid age, and my apprehension is that they are
nearer than some suppose. If that struggle comes we must
look to Scotland to aid us. It was once, and I hope is
still, a land of liberty, of patriotism, and of religion. I think
the time has come when it really should leave off mumbling
the dry bones of political economy and munching the remain-
der biscuit of an effete Liberalism. We all know that a gen-
eral election is at hand. I do not ask you to consider on
such an occasion the fate of parties or of ministers. But
I ask you to consider this, that it is very probable that the
future of Europe depends greatly on the character of the
next Parliament of England. I ask you, when the occasion
comes, to act as becomes an ancient and famous nation,
and give all your energies for the cause of faith and freedom.



[August Bebel, one of the most conspicuous leaders of the Social-
democratic party in German politics, was born in Cologne 1840, and
received his early education in the public school of the neighboring
village of Brauweiler. He took up wood-turning as a trade, and in
1860 went to Leipsic as a master turner. From 1861 Bebel warmly
espoused the cause of labor in Germany, a cause which since the ap-
pearance of Lassalle had assumed a distinctly socialistic character.
Bebel became a leader in the Mechanics' Institute at Leipsic, and in
1865 was elected president of it. He served in various offices pertain-
ing to labor associations, turning them as much as possible into strictly
political clubs, and thus he must be looked upon as one of the founders
of the Social-democratic party. He was an active writer for the press,
and was hailed as leader by a host of followers, who, in 1871, elected
him to the German Reichstag. ' Since then he has been active in politi-
cal life. His speeches are bold and outspoken, and on one occasion
he caused a sensation throughout Europe by charging the Emperor
William with lunacy. He is, however, no fanatic, but a scientific
socialist of the latest school. Bebel is a voluminous writer, as well as
an eloquent speaker, and is the author of many fresh and clever books,
in which are expounded his revolutionary sentiments. His daring but
brilliantly expressed ideas have found high favor among those classes
in Europe that are inclined toward socialism and kindred principles.
The following speech was made on the occasion of the Empress of Aus-
tria's assassination, and is a fair exposition of Bebel's socialistic views.]

A LARGE element in the German middle classes has
not yet forgotten the law against the socialists.
That law's repeal cost the capitalist class bitter pangs. In
their distraction they sought some opportunity to replace it
with a statute of an exceptional character, or by a stretch-
ing of the common law. Their main reliance in this under-
taking was Prince Bismarck. Conflict of opinion as to
how the socialists were to be dealt with had led to his


retirement. As he never could forget this, he natuially
retained his ancient grudge against the social democracy
until his dying day. Bismarck caused it to be stated
repeatedly in his personal organ, the "Hamburger Nachrich-
ten," that the only way to deal with the social democrats
was to drive them to deeds of desperation, pursue them into
the streets, and there shoot them down. [Groans.] No
demonstration, I beg. Let us rejoice in the frankness of
our opponents.

Then came the summer of 1894, with Caserio's attack
upon Carnot in Lyons. It might reasonably be asked how
Germany can be affected by the occurrence of an assassina-
tion in a neighboring country. German citizens were con-
cerned in it neither directly nor indirectly. Nor has so
much as an effort to establish the contrary been made in
any quarter. Yet the fact that a foreign anarchist in a for-
eign land had done this deed sufficed to set the German
propertied class in motion against the little knot of German
anarchists, but still more against the detested Social-demo-
cratic party.

There fell, about this time, from a royal mouth, in
southwest Germany, the expression that the hour had now
come "to beat the general grand march" against social
democracy. And at the convention of the national liberal
party in Frankfort-on-the-Main, in September of that very
year, it was decided, behind locked doors, to implore the
government to proceed with a sharpening of the general
laws against the social democrats, if not with the new anti-
socialist law. That was done. It certainly contributed
much to the fall of Caprivi that he was of opinion that any
law against the socialists would do more harm than good.
He held in this respect a view which in 1890 was the em-
peror's likewise. But this view ceased to be shared by
final authorities, and when Count von Caprivi fell, it was
Prince von Hohenlohe who came before the Reichstag with
the so-called Revolution Bill. In full session as well as in
committee we did all we could to prevent the enactment of
the measure. The Roman Catholic party, however, was
dominated by the idea of utilizing an increased severity of
the criminal laws to reach the so-called intellectual fathers
of revolution the liberal professors with their caustic and


partly atheistic observations. The ultramontanes on the
committee, with the conservatives, succeeded in putting
the government's demands through with slight modifica-
tion. At the same time new features were incorporated
into the Revolution Bill, which it was hoped would strike
emancipated science. On this obstruction the Revolution
Bill went finally to pieces. In the face of the stormy oppo-
sition of the entire learned and cultivated world, supported
by the liberal bourgeoisie, the government had at last to
withdraw the bill.

But the desire to dance on the democracy's corpse
remained. When the Geneva assassination occurred, in
September of the present year, our enemies thought they
had gained the upper hand. A few days after the murder-
ous deed, which, as may easily be realized, filled the whole
civilized world with consternation, that famous telegram of
the capitalist magnates to the emperor, calling for new laws
of an exceptional nature, was passed. It ran :

" The dreadful deed by which her Majesty the Empress of Austria
has fallen a victim, reveals by fresh and frightful evidence the goal of
anarchy and of all agitation tending in its direction. The profound
commotion of our hearts attests that we are one with your majesty in the
sense that our duty is to oppose with the sternest statutory measures
the attempt to destroy our religion, our love for our noble dynasty, and
our love of fatherland. We, the undersigned representatives of Ger-
man industry, venture therefore with profound deference to give the
assurance that we are faithful to your majesty in the struggle against
the ruthless enemies of our political and social order. With unalter-
able confidence in your majesty's capacity and wisdom, we shall sup-
port, and further to the utmost, all measures deemed proper by your
majesty in defeating the criminal aims of unscrupulous fanaticism, and
in upholding the threatened authority of the state."

This despatch was signed by- four representatives of the
German capitalistic magnate class, as we may dub this ele-
ment in the empire men who stand to the fore in all
efforts hostile to labor. These gentlemen speak in their
telegram of the defense of "our religion." We can only
smile at that. For what is the religion of these gentlemen?
I fancy I am scarcely mistaken when I conjecture that these
gentlemen believe in it about as much as I do, which is not
at all. "Religion must be upheld on account of the peo-


pie," was said once, years ago, by a very high authority.
But these gentlemen do not put themselves on a level with
the people. Religion is to them merely the leading string
by means of which the masses are conducted in content-
ment, subjection, and dependence through this earthly vale
of tears.

"Love for our noble dynasty" is likewise alluded to in
the telegram. That made me think of an article that
appeared in 1892 or 1893 in the" Kolnische Zeitung," whose
columns supply these gentlemen with their daily political
wisdom. At that time a property tax bill was before the
Prussian Landtag. When Von Miguel was shaping the tax
laws along more rational lines, he saw that a strict property
declaration would be required if the bourgeoisie were to be
kept from whistling the treasury down the wind too thor-
oughly. The result was that the income tax law was fol-
lowed by a bill to create the so-called total property tax
that is, a moderate tax based upon a compulsory declaration
of the value of a man's entire assets. The bourgeoisie were
not hard hit by the bill. The property tax, compared with
that levied by many Swiss cantons, is extraordinarily low.
Yet this measure sufficed to rouse the "Kolnische Zeitung "
into fierce opposition. It declared that if such bills were
passed by the Prussian Landtag, men would be forced to
revise their monarchical convictions. [Laughter.] These
gentlemen even discovered that they might eventually
find themselves republicans. [Laughter.] They were but
rational monarchists monarchists, that is to say, only
because that form of government was most conducive, for
the time being, to the advancement of their own interests.
Thus did the love of our "noble dynasty " once more assert
itself among the bourgeoisie.

And how about the fatherland, that is so often in the
mouths of these men? Was not Herr von Hassler, who is
the magnate of Germany's textile industries (and who
signed the telegram to the emperor) the very one to
oppose in 1871 like the Social-democratic party, although
from different motives the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine,
because he dreaded the competition of the Alsatian textile
industries? And it is notorious that every socialist or
democrat who then opposed annexation was regarded as


a traitor to his country. Yet Herr vori Hassler and the
German textile magnates were opposed to it, too. Their
love of fatherland must, therefore, have gone to sleep at
the bottom of their money-bags. All these fine assurances
are but hollow mockeries. They simply serve the purpose
of making faction in order that the German working classes
may be fettered politically, and in order that they may be
put out of the economic position that would enable them to
fight successfully their battle with capitalism. That is the
secret lurking behind yonder telegram.

Precisely such tactics were employed in 1878, when
efforts were made to have it appear that the bloodthirsty
Hodel and the unprincipled Nobiling belonged to our party.
Then, too, it was their wish to make the laboring people
helpless, in order more conveniently to carry out that great
scheme for robbing the working classes the new policy of
protective tariff. With perfect justice did the court chap-
lain's paper say of the despatch then forwarded by the
capitalist magnates: " The men who sent such a telegram
wanted to exploit their own egoism."

Another business these gentlemen have gone into is
that of flinging anarchists and socialists into the same vat.
Without letting myself be drawn now into a theoretical dis-
cussion of the differences between socialism and anarchy,
the mere fact that the adherents of these two movements
confront one another in the bitterest hostility, must con-
vince every rightly thinking man that socialism has nothing
in common with anarchy, and vice versa. If in Proudhon,
Max Stirner, Bakunin, and others, the anarchists behold
their intellectual fatherhood, we, on our part, give that
recognition as socialists to Marx, Engels, and Lassalle,
who always stood in direct opposition to the anarchists.
Seldom have two men presented such a striking contrast in
all their points of view as Bakunin, who may be styled the
father of the propaganda by deed, and Karl Marx, the
sworn enemy of every policy of conspiracy and assassination
Bakunin, representative of the most extreme individual-
ism, who saw in plots and in deeds of violence directed
against persons in authority a means of attaining his ideal
of society; and Karl Marx, who, with Engels, was the
founder of the material conception of history, according to


which the power of the individual for good or evil is but
limited; thus the individual can wield power in any direc-
tion only to the extent that he acts as the representative of
special class interests.

Anarchists are the extreme, though logical, develop-
ment of capitalist liberalism, whose object is almost their
own. Socialism, true to the Marx doctrine of the class
struggle, is the political representative of the proletariat,
which, so far as it has arrived at class consciousness, has
organized itself into the Social-democratic party. It aims
thus at the acquisition of political power in order to estab-
lish a new social system based upon complete equality of
rights and complete equality of duties.

The theory that even the most powerful individual can
act only as the representative of class interests is illustrated
with peculiar clearness by the character of Bismarck. No
man had such good reason to hate the Social-democratic
party as he, and by nobody was the social democracy more
roundly hated than by this very Bismarck. Our mutual
love and our mutual hate rested, therefore, upon perfect
reciprocity. But in all the socialist press, and in all the
socialist literature, there is not so much as a hint that it
would be a good thing if this man were put out of the way.
Nor in any like situation would we dream of such a thing.
But how often has the capitalist press said that had this
man not existed we would have to-day no united Germany.
There could not be a more contradictory idea. German
unity would have been brought about without Bismarck.
The conception of unity and freedom was so potent with
the German people in the sixties that it would have been
carried out either with the Hohenzollerns or without them.
The unity of Germany was not alone a political necessity.
It was a historical necessity, and above all an economic
necessity, chiefly in the interest of the capitalist class and
its development. The conception of unity would ultimately
have prevailed through sheer elemental force. Therefore
Bismarck utilized it for his own ends by realizing it in his
own fashion in the interest of the Hohenzollerns, and in
the interest, likewise, of the capitalist class and of the
landed aristocracy. The proof of this compromise is to be
found in the German conception of the empire, which seeks


primarily to reconcile the interests of these three factors.
But even a Bismarck was forced to give up his post at last.
What a misfortune for Germany, said the press dominated
by him. Well, what has happened to Germany since then?
Bismarck could not have governed it otherwise than it has
been governed.

The basic conception of the comparatively insignificant
part which the individual plays in history distinguishes us
from the anarchists. Anarchy is, as I said, individualism
carried to its logical extreme. No one has shown this more
clearly than Stirner in his book, " The Individual and His
Property." This notion of the importance of the indi-
vidual, carried to an extreme, is responsible for the fact
that men who do not think clearly, who are easily led by
passionate conviction, or who are susceptible to alien and
dubious influences and suggestions, suddenly attack isolated
individuals in important posts, because they hold such indi-
viduals responsible for the evils of society.

Only thus can the notion arise that when an influential
individual has been put out of the way a grand and heroic
deed has been done for the emancipation of the human
race. And to this notion in diseased brains is allied the
kindred idea that it matters little what individual be struck
down, provided only he belongs to the highest governing

If this brainsick notion were not dominant in Luccheni,
how could he have murderously assaulted a lady who had
never played a political part, who in contrast to many other
royal ladies shunned politics, for whom every one must have
felt a peculiar respect, because she was intellectually so
much above the average of royal ladies, and honored one
poet, Heine, as only a social democrat could honor him?

But it would be in the last degree unjust to hold all
anarchists responsible for such a deed. The anarchists
have reproached us for seeing the hand of the police in
every assassination. The "Socialist," which on this ac-
count also calls us reactionaries, speaks exactly in this very
tone. It says: " We anarchists would do well to assume
a critical attitude toward all assassinations and assassina-
tion conspiracies that the future may bring forth. We are
separated from the reactionaries and from the social demo-


crats, so far as the latter are not to be regarded as reaction-
aries themselves, in one particular. We do not look at
things from points of view which take politics into account.
We have rather but a single concern that of truth."

That this paper should call us reactionaries does not dis-
turb me. The forces of reaction have handled us "reac-
tionaries " without gloves. Herr von Puttkamer has
actually dubbed us revolutionists in frock coats and panta-
loons. He has said that Johann Most is far less disagree-
able to him than we are. I am pleased to think so. If we
had done what Most ventured from the safe vantage-ground
of a foreign city, we should have provided Bismarck and
Puttkamer with a dainty morsel. The article in the "Soci-
alist " on the Luccheni crime is extremely clumsy. If it
should come about that a bill dealing in an exceptional way
with crimes of violence is presented to the Reichstag, I will
wager a thousand to one that this article in the "Socialist "
supplies the basis of the measure. But let me tell you,
gentlemen of the anarchist movement, that no one can talk
themselves to perdition so well as you. How can you put
such weapons into the hands of the enemy? You must be
wofully lacking in experience still. You will say there is
not the slightest harm in it. But people read between the
lines. And in "The New Life," also an anarchistic organ,
but one quite unfamiliar to me, it is asserted that the
Nederwald assassination was planned by anarchists. It is
also asserted that only out of cowardice do the social
democrats repudiate all connection with anarchy. That
seems to me very judicious. If the writer of that article sat
in the great red government house on Alexander Place, he
could not have written it more suitably for his purpose.

In view of facts like these it is appropriate to draw clear
distinctions between the anarchists and ourselves. But it
would be unjust to infer from such press outbursts as we
have been considering that German anarchists are disposed
to plot assassination.

What do our German anarchists now regard as their
chief task? To form the workers into associations and

Online LibraryThomas B. (Thomas Brackett) ReedModern eloquence; (Volume 11) → online text (page 17 of 43)