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Paradise, but in a world of toil, and one which for a long period will
be a world of poverty, of a penurious civilization and of a
deeply-endangered culture. The unproved, parrot-phrases of a cheap
Utopianism will grow dumb - those phrases which offer us entrance into
the usual Garden of Eden with its square-cut, machine-made culture and
gaudy, standardized enjoyments - phrases which assure us that when we
have introduced the six-hours' working day and abolished private
property, the cinema horrors will be replaced by classical concerts,
the gin-shops by popular reading-rooms, the gaming-hells by edifying
lectures, highway robberies by gymnastic exercises, detective novels
by Gottfried Keller, bazaar-trifles and comic vulgarities by works of
refined handicraft; and that out of boxing contests, racecourse
betting, bomb exercises, and profiteering in butter, we shall see the
rise of an era of humility and philanthropy.

In the Promised Land as we conceive it, the classes which are now the
bearers of German culture will lose almost everything, while the gain
of the proletariat will be scarcely visible. And yet for the sake of
this scarcely visible gain we must tread the stony path that lies
before us. Willingly and joyfully shall we tread it; for out of this,
at first, dubious conquest of equal rights for all men will grow the
might of justice, of human dignity, of human solidarity and unity.

That is truly work for a century, and yet for that very reason the
hard path will lead to its reward. We must learn to know it, and to
understand that it is a path of sacrifice. We must not accept the
invitation of fools to a Christmas party - fools who will make the
welkin ring with their outcries when they find out their
self-deception. Let us tread our path of suffering with a pride which
disdains to be consoled by illusions.


[Footnote 6: By surplus-value (_Mehrwert_) the author means all that
is produced above and beyond the bare necessities of life.]

[Footnote 7: _Die Neue Wirtschaft_, by Walther Rathenau (S. Fischer).
In this brief study, Rathenau urges (1) the unification and
standardization of the whole of German industry and commerce in one
great Trust, working under a State charter, and armed with very
extensive powers; and (2) a great intensification of the application
of science and mechanism to production.]

[Footnote 8: See p. 37, _note_.]

[Footnote 9: Morality, _Sittlichkeit_, a word of broader meaning than
"morality," for it comprehends not only matters of ethical right and
wrong, but the general temper and habit of mind of a people as
expressed in social life.]


In order to throw some light into the obscurity of that social
dreamland which no one seriously discusses because no one honestly
believes in it, let us, as it were, cut out and examine a section from
the fully socialized Germany of the future. Let us suppose that
certain economic and social conditions have lasted for a generation or
so, and have therefore become more or less stabilized. At a normal
rate of progress this state of things should be reached about the end
of this century.

To begin with, let us make two very optimistic assumptions - first,
that technical progress in Germany shall have developed to a point at
which we are no longer impossibly outclassed and distanced by foreign
nations, and, secondly, that by a timely and far-reaching reform of
education and culture (the lowest cost of which must be set down at
about three milliards of marks) the complete breakdown of civilisation
may be averted. This reform is one which must be taken in hand very
early, for _after_ the event its adoption is improbable. A third, less
optimistic but on that account more probable assumption may be added
to this - namely, that the Western countries shall have progressed
towards Socialism more steadily and therefore more slowly, and that
at the period of our comparison America shall find itself at the stage
of State-Socialism, not of full socialization. We know that in making
this assumption we are smoothing the way for attack to our
professional opponents, uncritical and self-interested, who with one
blast of the fanfare of world-revolution can scatter our further
observations to the winds.

Full Socialism is characterized, as we have seen, by the abolition of
all incomes that are not worked for, and the fact that there are no
more rich. But this criterion must be limited in its application, for
it can never be fully realized.

According to the theory and the laws every one must hold some
appointment and be paid for his work, or for not working. What he is
paid, however, he can at will utilize, or waste, or hoard up, or give,
or gamble away, or destroy. He cannot invest it, or get interest on it
or turn into capital, because these private undertakings or means of
production will no longer exist.

Now each of these assumptions is so shaky that not only must trifling
divergences and shortcomings be winked at, but the meshes of the
system are so wide that only a rough approximation to the ideal is

It is true that every one can be made to hold some appointment and be
paid for some minimum of work, but no one can be prevented from
devoting his leisure hours to some work of rare quality and turning it
into value for his own purposes. He can make himself useful by
subsidiary employment of an artistic, scientific or technical
character, by rendering services or assistance of various kinds, by
advising, or entertaining, or acting as a guide to strangers, or going
on employment abroad, and no law can prevent him from turning his
services into income even if he was merely paid in kind. Gaming and
betting will flourish and many will grow rich by them. A man who has
lost his money and who has exhausted his rights to an advance from the
public institutions for that object will have recourse to lenders who
will supply him with bread and meat and clothes, and who will make
money by it. Similarly with people who are tempted to make
acquisitions beyond their standard remuneration. On every side we
shall see private stores of goods of all kinds, which will take the
place of property as formerly understood.

There will be an enormous temptation to smuggling and profiteering
which will reach a height far surpassing all scandals of the war and
revolution periods. Foreigners and their agents, who look after the
export trade "from Government to Government," will help hoarders and
savers to turn their goods to account. Suppose citizens are attacked
because their senseless expenditure is a mockery of their legal
remuneration, they will say: I got this from friends - that I got by
exchange - this came from abroad - my relatives in America sent me that.
Law, control, terrorism, are effective just so long as there is not a
blade of grass in the land - once remove the fear of hunger and they
are useless. Great properties will arise, drawing interest both abroad
and at home, and they will grow by evasions and bribery. The
profiteer, the true child of the "great days," will not perish from
the land, on the contrary, he will grow tougher the more he is
persecuted, he will be the rich man of the future, and he will form a
constant political danger if he and his fellows combine.

So long as we have not acquired an entirely new mentality, one which
detaches men from possessions, which points them towards the Law,
which binds the passions, and sharpens the conscience, so long will
the principle of "No rich people and no workless income" have to be
contracted into the formula, "There ought to be none."

Without this profound alteration of mentality, even the legally
prescribed incomes will exhibit quite grotesque variations, and will
adapt themselves to the rarity-value of special gifts, to
indispensable qualities, to favouritism, with a crudity quite unknown
to-day. A scarcity of Ministers, a Professor's nourishment, and
soldiers' supplies, will then as now be met according to the law of
supply and demand. Consider what ten years' practice in the war for
wages and strike-management, with the public in it as partisans, will
bring with it in the way of favouritisms, celebrities, and
indispensabilities. Popular jockeys, successful surgeons, managers of
sports' clubs, tenors, demimondaines, farce-writers and champion
athletes could, even to-day, if they were class-conscious and joined
together to exploit their opportunities, demand any income they liked.
Even as a matter of practical political economy, the cinema-star (or
whatever may succeed her) will be able to prescribe to the Government
what amount of adornments, drawn from Nature or Art, are necessary for
her calling, and what standard of life she must maintain in order to
keep herself in the proper mood.

Organizers, popular leaders, authors and artists will announce and
enforce their demands to the full limit of their rarity-value. At a
considerable distance below these come the acquired and more or less
transferable powers and talents. The Russians for the first few months
believed in a three-fold order of allowances, rising within a limit of
about one to two. If the ideas now prevailing have not undergone a
radical change, then we may, in the society of the future, look for
divergences of income in the limit of one to a thousand.

Therefore the principle that there shall be no more rich people must
again be substantially limited. We must say, "There will be people
receiving extraordinary incomes in kind to which must be added the
claims to personal service which these favoured persons will lay down
as conditions of their work."

In its external, arithmetical structure, the fabric of life and its
requirements in the new order will resemble that of to-day far more
closely than most of us imagine - on the other hand, the inward and
personal constitution of man will be far more different. Already we
can observe the direction of the movement.

Extravagance and luxury will continue to exist, and those who practise
it will be, as they are to-day, and more than to-day, the profiteers,
the lucky ones, and the adventurers. Excessive wealth will be more
repulsive than it is now; whether it will be less valued depends upon
the state of public ethics, a topic which we shall have to consider
later. It is probable that in defiance of all legislation wealth will
turn itself into expenditure and enjoyment more rapidly and more
recklessly than to-day.

But the relics of middle-class well-being will by that time have been
consumed; the families which for generations have visibly incorporated
the German spirit will less than others contrive to secure special
advantages by profiteering and evading the laws; as soon as their
modest possessions are taxed away or consumed they will melt into the
general mass of needy people who will form the economic average of the

The luxury which will exhibit itself in streets and houses will have a
dubious air; every one will know that there is something wrong with
it, people will spy and denounce, and find to their disgust that
nothing can be proved; the well-off will be partly despised, partly
envied; the question how to suppress evasions of the law will take up
a good half of all public discussions, just as that of capitalism does
now. The hateful sight of others' prosperity cannot, even at home,
not to mention foreign countries, be withdrawn from the eyes of the
needy masses; capitalism will have merely acquired another name and
other representatives.

The fact that the average of more or less cultivated and responsible
folk are plunged in poverty will not be accepted as the consequence of
an unalterable natural law, nor as a case of personal misfortune; it
will be set down to bad government, and the rising revolutionary
forces of the fifth, sixth and seventh classes will nourish the
prevailing discontent in favour of a new revolt. For the greater
uniformity of the average way of life and its general neediness will
not in itself abolish the division of classes. I have already often
enough pointed out that no mechanical arrangements can avail us here.

At first there will be three, or more probably four classes who, in
spite of poverty, will not dissolve in the masses, and who, through
their coherence and their intellectual heritage are by no means
without power. The Bolshevist plan of simply killing them out will not
be possible in Germany, they are relatively too numerous; persecution
will weld them closer together, and their traditional experiences,
habits of mind, and capacity, will make it necessary to have recourse
to them and employ them again and again.

The first of these classes is that of the feudal nobility. Their
ancient names cannot be rooted out of the history of Germany, and even
in their poverty the bearers of these names will be respected - all
the more if, as we may certainly assume, they maintain the effects of
their bodily discipline, and the visible tradition of certain forms of
life and thought. They will be strengthened by their mutual
association, their relationship with foreign nobility will give them
important functions in diplomacy; these are two elements which they
have in common with Catholicism and Judaism. They will retain their
inclination and aptitude for the calling of arms and for
administration; their reactionary sentiments will lead now to success,
now to failure, and by both the inner coherence of the class will be
fortified. Finally, the inevitable reversion to an appreciation of the
romantic values of life will make a connexion with names of ancient
lineage desirable to the leading classes, and especially to the
aristocracy of officialism.

This aristocracy of officialism forms the second of the new strata
which will come to light. The first office-bearers of the new era, be
their achievements great or small, are not to be forgotten. Their
descendants are respected as the bearers of well-known names; in their
families the practice of politics, the knowledge of persons and
connexions are perpetuated; fathers, in their lifetime, look after the
interests of sons and daughters and launch them on the same path. From
these, and from the first stratum, the representatives of Germany in
foreign lands are chosen, and in this way a certain familiarity with
international life and society will be maintained. They will have the
provision necessary for their position abroad, and will also find
ways and means to keep up a higher standard of life at home. Persons
in possession of irregular means of well-being will offer a great deal
to establish connexions with these circles, which control so many
levers in the machine of State.

The third group consists of the descendants of what was once the
leading class in culture and in economics. Here we find a spirit
similar to that of the refugees, _émigrés_ and Huguenots of the past.
The lower they sink in external power, the more tenaciously they hold
to their memories. Every family knows every other and cherishes the
lustre of its name, a lustre augmented by legendary recollections, all
the more when the achievements of their class are ostentatiously
ignored in the new social order. People spare and save to the last
extremity in order to preserve and hand down some heirloom - a musical
instrument, a library, a manuscript, a picture or two. A puritanical
thrift is exercised in order, as far as possible, to maintain
education, culture and intellectuality on the old level; to this class
culture, refinement of life as an end in itself, the practice of
religion, classical music, and artistic feeling will fly for refuge.
No other class understands this one; it holds itself aloof, it looks
different from the rest in its occupations, its habits, its garb and
its forms of life. It supplies the new order with its scholars, its
clergy, its higher teaching power, its representatives of the most
disinterested and intellectual callings. Like the monasteries of the
Middle Ages, it forms an island of the past. Its influence rises and
falls periodically, according to the current ideas of the time, but
its position is assured by its voluntary sacrifices, by its knowledge
and by the purity of its motives.

A fourth inexpugnable and influential stratum will in all probability
be formed by the middle-class landowners and the substantial peasants.
Even though the socialization of the land should be radically carried
through - which is not likely to be the case - it will remain on paper.
A class of what may be called State-tenants, estate-managers, or
leaders of co-operative organizations will very much resemble a
landowning class. Its traditional experience and the ties that bind it
to the soil make it a closed and well-defined body, self-conscious and
masterful through the importance of its calling, its indispensability
and its individualism. It suffers no dictation as regards its manner
of life. Here we shall see the conservative traditions of the country
strongly mustered for defence, incapable of being eliminated as a
political force, and forming a counterpoise to the radical democracy
of the towns.

Everywhere we find a state of strain and of cleavage. The
single-stratum condition of society cannot be reached without a
profound inward change; politics are still stirred and shaken by
conflicts, and society by the strife of classes. A very different
picture from the promised Utopian Paradise of a common feeding-ground
for lions and sheep!

We are all aggrieved by the illegal opulence of the profiteers, but we
are all liable to the infection. The feudalistic Fronde awaits its
opportunity. The aristocracy of office endeavours to monopolize the
State-machine. The _émigrés_ of culture find themselves looked askance
at, on suspicion of intellectual arrogance, and they insist that the
country cannot get on without them. The agriculturalists are feared,
when they show a tendency to revolt against the towns. The ruling
class, that is to say the more or less educated masses of the
city-democracy, looks in impatient discontent for the state of general
well-being which refuses to be realized, lays the blame alternately on
the four powerful strata and on the profiteers, and fights now this
group now that, for better conditions of living.

But the conditions of living do not improve - they get worse. The level
of the nation's output has been sinking from the first day of the
Revolution onwards. The absolute productivity of work, the relative
efficacy and the quality of the product, have all deteriorated. With a
smaller turnover we have witnessed a falling-off in the excellence of
the goods, in research-work, and in finish. Industrial plant has been
worked to death and has not yet recovered. Auxiliary industries,
accessories and raw materials have fallen back. High-quality
workmanship has suffered from defective schooling, youthful
indiscipline and the loss of manual dexterity. The new social order
has lost a generation of leaders in technique, scholarship and
economics. Universities, with all institutions of research and
education, have suffered from this blank. Technical leadership is
gone, and the deterioration in quality has reacted detrimentally on
output. We can now turn out nothing except what is cheap and easy, and
what can be produced without traditional skill of hand, without
serious calculation and research. For all innovations, all work of
superior quality, Germany is dependent on the foreigner. The
atmosphere of technique has vanished, and the stamp of cheap hireling
labour is on the whole output of the country.

In the weeks of the Revolution street orators used to tell us that
five hundred Russian professors had signed a statement that the level
of culture had never been so high as under Bolshevism. And Berlin
believed them! To educate Russia it would take, to begin with, a
million elementary schools with a yearly budget of several dozen
milliards of roubles, and a corresponding number of higher schools and
universities: if every educated Russian for the next twenty years were
to become a teacher, there would not be enough of them - not to speak
of the requirements of transport, of raw materials and of agriculture.
The fabric of a civilization and a culture cannot be annihilated at
one blow, nor can it grow up save in decades and centuries. The
maintenance of the structure demands unceasing toil and unbroken
tradition; the breach that has been made in it in Germany can only be
healed by the application in manifold forms of work, intellect and
will; and this hope we cannot entertain.[10]

But we have not yet done with the question of social strata and inward
cleavage. Revolutionary threats are causing strife every day.
Revolution against revolution - how is this possible? We are not
speaking of a reactionary revolution but of the "activist."

In an earlier work I discussed the theory of continuous
revolution.[11] Behind every successful revolutionary movement there
stands another, representing one negation more than its predecessor.
Behind the revolt of the aristocracy stood that of the bourgeoisie,
behind that of the bourgeoisie stood Socialism. Behind the now ruling
fourth class[12] rises the fifth, and a sixth is coming into sight. If
a ninth should represent pure Anarchism, we may see an eleventh
proclaiming a dictatorship, and a twelfth standing for absolute

To-day the Majority Socialists are in power, that is to say the Right
section of the fourth class. This is composed of the older, trained
and work-willing Trade Unionists, who are amazed at the Revolution,
who do not regard it as quite legitimate, but who are determined to defend
the _status quo_ in so far as a certain degree of self-determination
and elbow-room in the material conditions of life still remain to them.

The Left section consists of youths and of persons disgusted with
militarism, ignorant of affairs but cherishing a certain independence
of judgment; still ready for work but equally so for politics. To
these, as a "forward" party, the doctrinaire theorists have allied
themselves. The designation of the party "The Independents" is
characteristic; its goal, "All power to the Soviets," is a catchword
from Russia.

A fifth class is now emerging - the work-shy. The others call them the
tramp-proletariat, the disgruntled, the declassed, who set their hopes
on disorder. Their goal is still undetermined - their favourite
expression is "bloodhound," when those in power, or Government troops,
are referred to.

Then comes the sixth class, still partly identified with the Left of
the fourth and embryonically attached to the fifth. These are the
indomitable loafers and shirkers, physically and mentally unsound,
aliens in the social order, excluded by their sufferings, their
punishments, their vices and passions; self-excluded, repudiators of
law and morality, born of the cruelty of the city, pitiable beings,
not so much cast out of society as cast up against it, as a living
reproach to its mechanical organization. If these ever come into the
light in politics, they will demand a kind of syndicalistic

That is as far as we can see at present into the as yet unopened germs
of continuous revolutionary movement. In these are contained the
infinite series of all principles that can conceivably be supported;
and it would be wholly false to see in this series merely so many
successive steps in moral degeneration, even though the earlier stages
should proceed on a flat denial of ethical principles. Later on will
come revivals and restorations, political, ethical and religious, and
each time we shall see the rising stratum attaching to itself strays
and converts, above all, the disappointed and ambitious, from those
that went before.

But the number of revolutions will grow till we lose count of them,
and each, however strenuously it may profess its horror of bloodshed,
will have only one hope and possibility: that of defending itself by
armed force against its successor. The game is a grotesquely dishonest
one, because every aspirant movement will cast against its forerunner
the charge of ruling by bloodshed, while it itself is already
preparing its armed forces for the conflict.

It is therefore wholly vain to hope that an advanced social
organization implies stability, that a brotherhood mechanically
decreed will exclude further revolutions, and will establish eternally
an empire of righteousness and justice according to any preconceived

The fiercest hatred will prevail amongst those who are most closely
associated - for instance, between handworkers and brainworkers,

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Online LibraryWalther RathenauThe New Society → online text (page 3 of 9)