Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER I: Collectivist Organisation and its Economic Conditions - Socialistic Fallacies
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CHAPTER I: Collectivist Organisation and its Economic Conditions - Yves Guyot, Socialistic Fallacies 
Socialistic Fallacies (London: Cope and Fenwick, 1910).
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Collectivist Organisation and its Economic Conditions
Karl Marx, Engels, Jules Guesde and Paul Lafargue carefully guarded themselves against reproducing the Utopias of More, Campanella, Morelly and Cabet. Bebel was once questioned by a deputy belonging to the centre party with regard to the organisation of collectivist society. His answer was: “Do you think I am so indiscreet as to ask you for details of your Paradise?” Nevertheless Bebel himself in his book, “Die Frau und der Socialismus,” has attempted to construct a pic ture of the society of the future which has involved him in some severe reprimands.
Herr Schoeffle, a gentleman from Wurtemberg, who was professor of political economy at the University of Tübingen and afterwards at Vienna from 1860 to 1868, and Austrian Minister of Agriculture and Commerce from February 7th to October 30th, 1871, finally retired to Stuttgart, and in 1874 published a work in four bulky volumes entitled “Bau und Leben des socialen Körpers” (structure and life of the social body) in which he entirely assimilated the social body to a biological organism. A part of it he devoted to an examination of the working of collectivist society according to the Gospel of Marx. This has been published separately and sold by tens of thousands, under the title of the “Quintessence of Socialism.”
Bebel says that every individual will select the occupation in which he desires to be employed; the large number of kinds of labour will permit of the satisfaction of the most various desires. But if there should be a surplus in one kind and an insufficiency in others, the executive “will adjust the matter and repair the inequality.” Accordingly, the distribution of labour can only be effected by authority, otherwise the more agreeable and least exhausting occupations will attract everyone, while those which are difficult and dangerous will be avoided. In order to obtain workers for the latter, they must be remunerated on a higher scale. Will the executive have recourse to this means of attracting labour? If it does, the remuneration of labour will no longer be equal and we shall revert to the combinations of capitalist society. What will become of the difference between the industrious and the lazy, the intelligent and the stupid? Bebel replies boldly that there will be no such differences, because the distinctions which we associate with the conception of them will have ceased to exist.
Schoeffle attempts (chap. viii. p. 90) to reconcile collectivism and private property. The individual will be granted the right to exercise thrift and to own private property, and even the right of inheritance as regards goods employed in production. He does not develop this proposal, but we may infer that he would allow the ownership of a picture and the right to leave it by will. But can it be sold? No, for there we fall back into capitalist society, even if its value be only paid in the form of remuneration for labour.
Some collectivists support the retention of money—a dangerous concession, for, if it be of a good standard it may be saved, put on one side and developed into capital. Schoeffle makes no such concession and will permit no one to acquire anything but remuneration or vouchers for labour.
Karl Marx did not concern himself with the incentives to action which are to be placed before men in communistic society, and his followers carefully evade the question. When they do attempt to deal with it they fall into grotesque errors, like M. Jaurès. Herr Kautsky asks himself how the workman is to be made to take an interest in his work, and he can find no incentive other than the force of habit. Like mechanical toys, men will do the same thing every day because they did it the day before. This is merely teaching tricks to animals, the organisation of reflex action causing the individual to do mechanically to-morrow what he did yesterday. This is not a discovery of scientific socialism; the organisers of armies and of churches discovered it long ago and employed it as a means of discipline under the sanctions of allurement and coercion; allurement by preferments, decorations and honorary and material distinctions, and coercion by means of more or less cruel and vigorous punishments. Bebel declares that “a man who will not work shall not have the right to eat.” This is being condemned to death by starvation. And a man who does less work than, in the opinion of the executive, he ought to do, will have to be put upon a restricted diet, so that the collectivist ideal ends in servile labour.
Schoeffle cites government monopolies, such as the post office, telegraphs, and in some countries railways, carried on by the State, etc., as arguments in favour of collectivism, but he realises that the manner of their administration may inspire some distrust, and takes care to point out that government works are entirely different in an individualistic and in a communistic State. Managers and workers in State factories have, in fact, no interest in economical production for the good of the State, but it would be otherwise if everyone were to receive the greater remuneration in accordance as others perform more work in all classes of production.
Thus, under a collectivist dispensation, fishermen are desperately bent on their occupation during the icy winter nights, because they say to themselves, “we must work with energy in order to add a dozen baskets of fish to the social wealth.” The navvies will say, “we must work a little faster in order to increase the social wealth by a cubic metre per day.” And the fisherman and the navvy will understand that they must both give the maximum of production without knowing whether they will reap any immediate advantage thereby.
So far we find waste in all collectivist organisations. In France every soldier receives a bowl of bread, the inferior quality of which has been pointed out by M. Fleurent. But all soldiers do not possess the same appetite. There are companies in which 200 or 300 kilos of bread per week remain uneaten, and are sold to contractors at low prices. At this rate 172,000 kilogrammes of bread per annum are wasted by a regiment, and part of that which is consumed is used to wipe badly washed plates, spoons, knives and forks. Watch these soldiers peeling potatoes; their common interest would be that it should be done properly, yet the majority do it in a way which increases the waste to an absurd extent. Schoeffle does not explain by what means the collectivist State will prevent waste.
Schoeffle sees a system of remunerating labour by means of labour tickets or vouchers, for he realises that it is impossible to abolish rewards as an incentive to action; he also retains exchange of commodities when produced. But how is the price to be determined? He applies Marx' formula of value in its entirety.
The prices of social products are to be determined by the cost of labour; labour is to be determined according to the time of social labour fixed by a process, the simplicity of which no one can fail to admire. If a district requires 20,000 hectolitres of wheat and has to employ 100,000 days of socially organised labour in order to produce it, each hectolitre will be worth 10000020000 = 5 days of labour. This value will have currency even if individuals may have devoted 10 or 20 days of individual labour to the production of a hectolitre of wheat. This amounts in a year to 300,000,000 days, socially organised, which, if the day consists of eight hours, will represent 2,400,000,000 social hours of labour. The sum total of all the necessary social wealth produced under public management would likewise have a total value of 2,400,000,000 hours of labour. The hours of labour = 12400000000 of collective annual labour, and should be the general measure of value and 2,400,000,000 nominal labour-units should be handed to the workers in the form of certificates, vouchers, or cheques, representing labour, in order that these same workers might purchase the total produce of the collective labour at the public stores, amounting to a corresponding value of 2,400,000,000 hours of labour. Public departments of administration would give credit for work done, fix the value of the product according to the ascertained cost of production in terms of labour-time, deliver cheques on account of work when registered, and hand over products against these cheques at the rates based upon the cost of social labour (pp. 75–76).
After setting forth this excellent system, Schoeffle raises two questions:—
No doubt this dispensation would form a triumph for the accountants, but it is fair to ask how these, and à fortiori the persons interested, could know whether the measure of the hour of labour of 1240000000 is really the correct measure. But this figure, which is high as it stands, is insignificant when compared with actual facts. It is applied to the production of 10,000 hectolitres of corn. But the average production in France, which is insufficient to satisfy the demand of the consumers, is at least 120 million hectolitres. Applying to this the unit of the labour-hour, we have, therefore, 1288000000000000 or a unit of 288 trillions of labour-hours. But how is this unit of 288 trillions to be fixed? By dividing up the quantity of corn pro duced? But is the production in every year and in every place identical with the number of labour-hours which have been devoted to it? A drought when the corn is ripening will reduce the quantity of corn and consequently the value of the labour-hour. If the harvest be abundant, the value of the labour-hour is increased. But there may have been an abundant harvest in one locality and a bad one in another. How then is the equality of labour-hours to be ascertained? In order to do so, it would be necessary to wait until the harvest was gathered and measured. What would be the value of the labour-hour during this period? No doubt it would be that of the preceding year, but suppos-that the harvest in the preceding year was good, while that of the present year is bad, and that the labour-hour of the preceding year continues to be taken as the unit, a value will be attributed to it which is quite devoid of reality.
This labour-hour cannot be identical from one harvest to another, neither can it be identical as between different localities.
Can it be the same in the level country of the North of France and on the edge of a moor in Brittany? And if the labour-hour cannot be identified for the same product, how can it be identified as between different ones? Is the labour-hour of the labourer in Lower Brittany identical with that of a skilled mechanic? Is the artist to be entitled to demand vouchers for his labour-hours if there be no one able or willing to purchase his pictures? Will not the “executive” point out to him that he has no claim because he has been engaged in useless toil? In that event we find him bereft of his right to work. Can he appeal? And while his appeal is pending, how is he to live? He will be told that “there are too many artists, and that the State cannot undertake to give them all vouchers for their work in proportion to the time which they have spent in front of their canvases.” But I must live. Certainly, then come and work at the accounts. But I have no head for figures. There is a canal being excavated, go and work as a navvy. But that is not my profession. So much the worse for you, we have nothing else to offer you, and if you don't do as we suggest, you will receive no vouchers for work. Then I shall die of starvation. So much the worse for you. And if I blister my hands at the tenth shovel-full, and if at the end of two or three hours I am unable to budge, am I to receive a voucher for labour equal to that of the man who has shifted eleven cubic metres in his day's work?
This question will not arise only in the case of the artist, it will arise in that of the weaver of Lyons, the ribbon-weaver of Saint Etienne, the goldsmith, the printer, and of persons of every occupation; it will arise in the case of agricultural labourers, for they do not work three hundred days in the year and have periods when work is stopped; will they receive vouchers on the days when the snow is on the ground and they are obliged to stay at home?
Is the value of the labour-hour identical for each individual? Are not people skilful and unskilful, quick and slow?
Finally the cost of labour is only one factor in the net cost of a commodity, and if the net cost is an objective element in its value, there are two others—the demand, and the purchasing power of the consumer.
Purchasing power is to be regulated by the number of vouchers for work received by each individual. But if these vouchers only correspond with the time occupied without being represented by an exchangeable product, what is their possessor to do with them?
Again everyone will not receive vouchers for labour in order to live; children will form an exception, as will also women who do not work in the public workshops. Still less will the aged receive them, they will have to be supported at the expense of the active population. Everyone, therefore, will not receive, in the form of vouchers for labour, “the integral product of his labour.”
The administrative department charged with the distribution of work would begin by providing for the departmental expenses and the expenses of regulating the accounts of the remuneration to be credited to each worker, which would be heavy; the expenses of government would be onerous in proportion to the multiplicity of its functions and the actual cost of national defence, police, and of the administration of justice would continue to fall upon labour so long as the whole of humanity remains unconverted to collectivism and human nature remains unchanged.
Collectivist society would abolish the arts and trades which supply luxuries. Art is the result of individual effort, and those who devote themselves to it, are induced to do so by their natural tastes and also by resulting advantages in the shape of reputation and emolument. No doubt there are many who fail and are obliged to renounce the pursuit of their youthful aspirations, but there remains a minority of those who succeed, and who is to discriminate between those who are to make the attempt and those who are to be debarred from competition? The “prix de Rome” was instituted in the time of Colbert. How many of the number of artists who have gained it and of those who have developed their art outside formulæ consecrated by official sanction, have left a decisive mark upon art? Only the State, the municipalities and representatives of the collective principle generally will buy pictures or statues, for such objects represent capital possessed of purchasing power and are not to be tolerated as the objects of private or individual ownership. The artist must, therefore, bring his taste into conformity with that of the distributor of commissions, as he is already restrained by official commissions. But he will no longer be able to fall back upon the patronage of individuals whose influence reacts more or less tardily and effectually upon the public administration of the fine arts, and whose mistakes of the past and the present give some indication of those which are likely to be committed in the future when deprived of this stimulant.
But what of literature and the drama? Will there be newspapers and booksellers' shops carried on by private enterprise? That is impossible, for these are capitalistic enterprises, admitting of “the exploitation of man by man,” since they employ wage-earners, from the scene-shifter to the tenor, the leading lady and the masters of literature. There will, therefore, be only official journals, and these can contain only articles in accordance with official politics, economy, and science; there will be only official books, and consequently all spontaneity of thought, all criticism and all new ideas will be prohibited. Will the authors of official plays be allowed to portray individual interests and passions in opposition to official regulations, or to expose the grievances of persons who have been deprived of work or of sustenance because they have displeased those who are charged with distributing them? There would be no room in a collectivist society for an Aristophanes or even a Molière, and the great passions as evoked by Corneille would be carefully banished, for they might disturb the order, the tranquillity and the harmony of the communistic ant-hill.
There are to be no more exchanges, no more markets, and no more prices. How then is the State to estimate the net cost of its products? Although Germany may have the honour of being the first collectivist country, it will not be able to grow cotton and coffee on the banks of the Spree. Its government will, therefore, be obliged to make purchases abroad, to pay for them in cash, and to circulate in the capitalist groove. France has reached the stage of producing refined articles such as her wines and her brandies. Where will be the customers, in a collectivist society, to pay the prices necessary to cover the cost of their production? Ideal equality will remain far to seek. I have heard a socialist ask, “Will collectivism change the soil and the sunshine of Médoc?” No, but wine does not come into existence of its own accord, the vine-stocks and the conditions of soil and of climate do not produce fine harvests spontaneously, but need to be properly utilised, and require an annual expenditure upon the cost of cultivation; and subordinate officials without a direct interest are not the men to apply the required attention to this kind of production. The export of these products is indispensable to France, but a home market is necessary if they are to attain to the perfection which distinguishes them, and inasmuch as there is no place for it in the organisation of collectivist society on a basis of equality, they will disappear. The inventive genius of the dressmakers of the Rue de la Paix and of the large milliners' establishments is stimulated by French ladies of fashion. In a collectivist society, these must disappear, and all this portion of the economic activity of the nation must vanish. Puritan collectivists may say, in agreement with those who profess a more or less defined ideal of religious asecticism, “So much the better; we see no necessity for those occupations which are an element of waste and speculate upon feminine vanity.”
The future is not for the monks of the Thebaid or the Scotch Puritans, and the French, of all nations, are undoubtedly the least disposed to be seduced by such prospects, for they have always had a horror of a morose and wearisome existence. The wildest of collectivist ladies would protest if their husbands were to condemn them to wear the uniform of the Salvation Army.
But collectivists would succeed no better than protectionists in making France self-sufficing. She is obliged to buy raw material and articles of food abroad and to pay for them with the produce of her own industries. In 1906 and 1907 we imported thirteen classes of articles to an amount of more than 100 million of francs each, viz.:—
These thirteen articles represent 3,420 millions or 55 per cent. of the total of our imports in 1907. In 1907 we imported 251,900 tons of wool, while the French flocks only produced 40,000. Would a collectivist society be able to decline to import wool from Australia and La Plata? Would it have cotton grown in La Beauce? “Grow it in the colonies,” some collectivist will say. But England, which possesses India, has not been able to grow cotton of long fibre there, and continues to supply herself principally from the United States, which in their turn import cotton from Egypt. Collectivist society involves the abolition of the silk trade, an industry for the supply of a luxury. Would it ensure that the ores gotten in France should be sufficient for home consumption? Would it discover a sufficient production of skins and of raw hides? Would it forbid the importation of common timber and of copper? Would it allow France to import no machinery? Bold as we may be, no collectivist would venture to reply that he wished to make France a country more completely closed to foreign trade than Japan before the revolution of 1868. But how do we pay for these imports? Here is a list of the fourteen articles whose export in 1906 and 1907 exceeded 100 millions:—
The export of these fourteen articles in 1907, yields a total of 2,786 millions, or 50 per cent. of the total exports. Of these fourteen, ten are manufactured articles, while woollens, worsteds and chemicals are also to a great extent manufactured. They include one article of food, wine, which is an article of luxury to the great majority of the human race.
Collectivist society must needs renounce all industry connected with dressmaking and millinery for ladies, for who would manage establishments of this kind under a collectivist dispensation, and where would be their customers when the level of equality for all had been reached?
The disappearance of the customers in the home markets would involve the disappearance of foreign customers, and this would entail the elimination of one of the elements in the national activity. Would a collectivist society undertake the manufacture and sale of silk stuffs, fancy goods, and Parisian novelties, linen-drapery, millinery and artificial flowers? And if we had been under a collectivist regime, would the motor car industry have been developed in France?
The problem that suggests itself, then, is this. How will a collectivist society pay for such of the raw materials and foodstuffs as it requires as are produced abroad?
We have seen the difficulties involved in the distribution of labour: are the difficulties connected with the distribution of products and of profits less considerable?
There are four types of distribution:—1
The programme of the Gotha Congress (1875) adopts the third type by recognising “an equal right for each individual to receive out of the fruits of the common labour the part necessary for the satisfaction of his reasonable requirements.” The programme of the Erfurt Congress (1891) found the question so embarrassing that it abstained from mentioning it. But did this cause its disappearance? Who is to determine what are reasonable requirements? They are subjective and have two limitations—one a subjective and indeterminate one, the imagination; the other one objective, in the shape of purchasing power.
Is purchasing power to fix the limit of requirements? In that case what is the distinction as compared with capitalist society? If a woman is unable to supply herself with diamonds and dresses according to her fancy, because she lacks the means by which to obtain them, she will say, “This is as it was under the capitalist régime.
Schoeffle recognises that the State could suppress requirements which appeared to it to be hurtful by abstaining from producing the articles which it would condemn. So vegetarians like Baltzer declared themselves to be Socialists in the hope that the State would condemn the whole world to abstain from meat.
Professor Ely, “Socialieme.”