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CHAPTER 8: Socialism - William Edward Hartpole Lecky, Democracy and Liberty, vol. 2 
Democracy and Liberty, edited and with an Introduction by William Murchison, 2 vols. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981). Vol. 2.
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In any forecast that may be attempted of the probable influence of democracy in the world, a foremost place must be given to its relations to labour questions, and especially to those socialist theories which, during the last twenty years, have acquired a vastly extended influence on political speculation and political action. These theories, it is true, are by no means new. Few things are more curious to observe in the extreme Radical speculation of our times than the revival of beliefs which had been supposed to have been long since finally exploded—the aspirations to customs belonging to early and rudimentary stages of society.
The doctrine of common property in the soil, which, under the title of the nationalisation of land, has of late years obtained so much popularity, is avowedly based on the remote ages, when a few hunters or shepherds roved in common over an unappropriated land, and on the tribal and communal properties which existed in the barbarous or semi-barbarous stages of national development, and everywhere disappeared with increasing population, increasing industry, and increasing civilisation.
The old doctrine of the criminality of lending money at interest, however moderate, for the purpose of deriving profit from the loan, has had a long and memorable history. It was held alike by Aristotle and the Fathers of the Church. It was authoritatively taught by a long succession of Popes and Councils, and it played a great part in impeding the industrial development of Europe.1 But for about two centuries it had almost wholly vanished among laymen. It was slowly abandoned even by the Church, which had so persistently taught it, and all the governments and all the great industries of the civilised world depend, and long have depended, on loans made for the sake of profit, on borrowed money, and punctually paid interest. But the old superstition has not perished. It will be found repeatedly put forward in the writings of Mr. Ruskin, and the abolition of all interest on money is a favourite doctrine in advanced modern Socialist programmes.2
The system of making different forms of industry monopolies in the hands of different corporations, of restricting each labourer to one kind of labour, of regulating minutely by authority the hours, the wages, and all the other conditions of labour, has been abundantly tried in the past. It may be seen in the castes of the East, which descend from a period beyond the range of authentic history, and it was equally apparent in the mediaeval guilds and other corporations that were abolished at the French Revolution, and in the restrictive Tudor legislation which lingered in England till the first decade of the nineteenth century. All these ideas of restriction and control are once more in full activity among us, and many of them are rapidly passing into legislation.
Probably the oldest and most important phase of the long battle for human liberty is the struggle to maintain individual rights of property and bequest against the inordinate claims of the ruling power. The very essence of unqualified despotism is the claim of the supreme power of the State, whatever it may be, to absolute power over the property of all its subjects. ‘As the Brahmana sprang from Brahman's mouth,’ said the laws of Manu, ‘as he is the firstborn, and as he possesses the Veda, he is by right the Lord of this whole creation.’ ‘Whatever exists in the world is the property of the Brahmana; on account of the excellence of his origin the Brahmana is, indeed, entitled to it all. The Brahmana eats but his own food, wears but his own apparel, bestows but his own in alms. Other mortals subsist through the benevolence of the Brahmana.3 The Oriental despot claimed a similar right of ownership over the property of his subjects; and such a claim has descended far into modern history. It was asserted in the strongest terms by the supporters of the Divine rights of kings. In the brilliant days of Louis XIV., the Sorbonne formally declared ‘that all the goods of his subjects belonged to the King in person, and that in taking of them he took only what belonged to him.’ ‘The King,’ said Louis XIV., ‘represents the whole nation. All power is in his hands…. Kings are absolute rulers, and have naturally a full and entire right of disposing of all the goods both of Churchmen and laymen.4
In opposition to this claim, the rights of the individual and the rights of the family to property have from the very dawn of civilisation been opposed, and they form the first great foundation of human liberty. They rest on the strongest and deepest instinct of human nature—the love of the individual for his family; and the most powerful of all the springs of human progress is the desire of men to labour and to save for the benefit of those who will follow them. Through countless ages, religion and long-established custom have consecrated and fortified these nobler elements of human nature, and in all free countries the preservation of property is deemed the first end of government. It has been a main object of law to secure it.5 The right of testamentary bequest passed into Roman legislation as early as the Twelve Tables, and into Athenian legislation as early as the laws of Solon; but the primitive will, though it gave some new power to the individual proprietor, only modified in a small degree the inalienable reversionary rights which, under slightly varying conditions, had been long before possessed by his children and other blood relations.6
In modern Socialism such rights are wholly ignored, and the most extreme power over property ever claimed by an Oriental tyrant is attributed to a majority told by the head. There are men among us who teach that this majority, if they can obtain the power, should take away, absolutely and without compensation, from the rich man his land and capital, either by an act of direct confiscation or by the imposition of a tax absorbing all their profits; should abolish all rights of heritage, or at least restrict them within the narrowest limits; and should in this way mould the society of the future.
This tendency in the midst of the many and violent agitations of modern life, to revert to archaic types of thought and custom, will hereafter be considered one of the most remarkable characteristics of the nineteenth century. It may be traced in more than one department of European literature; in Tractarian theology, which seeks its ideals in the Church as it existed before the Reformation; in pre-Raphaelite art, which regards Raphael and Michael Angelo as a decadence, and seeks its models among their predecessors. These two last movements, at least, have in a great degree spent their force; but we are living in the centre of a reaction towards Tudor regulation of industry and an almost Oriental exaggeration of the powers of the State, though there are already, I think, some signs of the inevitable revolt which is to come.
Schemes for remodelling society on a communistic basis, banishing from it all inequalities of fortune, and by the strong force of law giving it a type and character wholly different from that which it would have spontaneously assumed, have had a great fascination for many minds. In ancient Greece, it is sufficient to mention the system of common property which was established by law in Crete, and the very similar institutions which Lycurgus is said to have given to Sparta; and the ‘Republic’ of Plato, which is largely based on this example, is the precursor of a great literature of Utopias. It is worthy of notice that in all these cases the existence of a slave caste was considered indispensable to the working of a communistic society, and that both Lycurgus and Plato were prepared, in the interests of the State, to deal as freely with the relations of the sexes to each other, and with the relations of children to their parents, as with the disposition of property. The Spartan laws on this subject are well known, and Plato, like many of his modern followers, pushed communism to its full logical consequences by advocating community of wives and of children, as well as of property.
Such extravagances never appear in the Hebrew writings: but those writings contain some remarkable provisions intended to prevent or arrest great inequalities of fortune, and give the existing disposition of property, and especially of landed property, a stability which it would not otherwise have possessed. Some modern critics, it is true, have doubted whether the more important of these enactments were ever more than ideals which the prophetic writers threw into the form of precepts and which neither were, nor could have been, fully put in force. The institution of the Sabbatical year provided that in every seventh year all debts owed by Hebrews should be cancelled, and private property in land suspended. The fields and vineyards and olive yards were in that year to remain unsown and uncultivated; the owner was neither to reap the harvest nor gather the grapes; but the poor were to take whatever they could find to eat, and the beasts of the field were to eat what the poor had left.7 It has been truly said that such a provision, if literally carried out, would naturally have condemned the land to periodical famines;8 but there was a promise of a miraculous harvest every sixth year, which would provide food sufficient for three years.9 It was at the same time enacted that every fiftieth year should be consecrated as a jubilee year, in which bondmen were to be emancipated, and all who had sold land were, without purchase, to re-enter into their former possessions. No sale of land in perpetuity was to be permitted. Every alienation of land was to last only till the jubilee year, and the price was to be calculated upon that basis.10
In the Jewish sect of the Essenes community of goods appears to have been established, and in the early Christian Church something of the same kind for a time prevailed. ‘All that believed,’ we are told, ‘were together, and had all things common; and they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man had need.’ ‘Not one of them said that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common…. As many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the Apostles’ feet, and distribution was made unto each according as any one had need.’11 Such a state of things was possible in a small society pervaded by an overpowering religious enthusiasm, and by an intense conviction that the end of the world was at hand. At the same time, it is not certain how far this communistic organisation extended.12 The exhortations in the New Testament to give alms, and the references to rich Christians, show that it was by no means universal. Ideas of common property, however, spread far among the early Christians, and in the second century it was the boast of Tertullian that ‘all things are common among us, except our wives.’13
There are passages in the New Testament that are undoubtedly extremely hostile to riches and the rich, and the strong movement towards asceticism and voluntary poverty which marked the next stages of the Church's history much strengthened this tendency, while the very rhetorical character of the patristic writings intensified its expression. Some well-known passages in the writings of the Fathers clearly foreshadow the Christian Socialism which is flourishing in our day. Thus, St. Ambrose, St. Basil, St. Chrysostom, St. Gregory the Great, and even St. Augustine, have gone so far as to maintain that a rich man who does not clothe the naked, and give bread to the hungry, has committed robbery as truly as if he had seized the property of another; that charity is not a free gift, but the payment of a debt and an obligation of strict justice; that all property beyond what is necessary is held in trust for the poor; and that if it is withheld, this is an act of fraud, which may easily become an act of homicide. Pages may be filled with passages to this effect from the most eminent of the Fathers.14 St. Basil, for example, compares the rich to men who had occupied all the seats in the amphitheatre at a spectacle which was intended for all, and prevented all others from coming in.15 ‘The earth,’ he says, ‘is given in common to all men. Let no man call that his own which has been taken in excess of his needs from the common store, and which is kept by violence…. It is no greater crime to take from him who has, than to refuse to share your abundance with those who want. The bread which you keep back is the bread of the hungry; the garment you shut up belongs to the naked. The money you bury in the earth is the ransom and the freedom of the wretched.’16 ‘Nature,’ says St. Ambrose, ‘has made all things common, for the use of all…. Nature made common right, usurpation made private right.’17 ‘The earth has been formed as the common property of the rich and of the poor. Why, rich men, do you claim property in it for yourselves alone?’18
Society could hardly rest permanently on such principles, and as Christianity became dominant in Europe they were in practice much mitigated. The aspirations to a communistic life found their gratification in the monasteries, which at the same time in every country absorbed and disciplined a great proportion of the more morbid, restless, and discontented characters. Among the many services which monasticism rendered to the world, not the least important was that of moderating the extreme passion and reverence for wealth, by setting up among mankind another ideal and scale of dignity. Industry at the same time developed, largely under the influence of the Church, into innumerable corporations. They were all under the patronage of different saints, and coloured deeply by religious elements, and the indirect influence of the Church in strengthening the reverence for tradition and encouraging the habit of organisation contributed perhaps as much as its direct influence to sustain them. Under the combined influence of the mediæval Church and of the feudal system, this process continued till industry in all its forms was organised and disciplined as it had never before been in Europe, while the strong repressive agency of the Church set narrow bounds to all kinds of speculation. If the system of corporations restricted in many ways the production of wealth, if the level of material comfort was very low, industry at least acquired an extraordinary measure of stability, and, except in times of war and famine, fluctuations of employment and wages were probably rare and inconsiderable. Class tyranny, or abuse of property, or economical causes affecting injuriously many interests, no doubt from time to time produced communistic or semi-communistic explosions, like the Jacqueries in France or the rebellions of Wat Tyler and Jack Cade in England, and there were a few teachers, like John Ball, who proclaimed that ‘things will never be well in England so long as goods be not in common, and so long as there be villeins and gentlemen.’19 But such movements were very rare.
Gradually, however, from many sides and under many influences, the old mediæval structure began to break up. The monasteries, which in their own day had performed many useful services, had become grossly and hideously corrupt, while the enormous amount of property that flowed into them, the multitude of strong arms that they withdrew from productive labour, and their encouragement of mendicancy and idleness, made them an economical evil of the first magnitude. The old beliefs on which the edifice of Christendom rested were giving way. The learning of the Renaissance and the strong and independent industrial spirit that had arisen in the great towns of Europe were alike hostile to it. Industry began to outgrow the frameworks that had been made for it. The doctrine of the Church about lending money at interest proved utterly incompatible with the more advanced stages of material progress,20 and when the Reformation broke out, it everywhere found its most ardent adherents in the intelligent industrial classes. The persecution and exile of such men contributed largely to scatter different industries over Europe and determine the comparative industrial position of different nations.
Great fluctuations in industry had also, from other causes, taken place. The discovery of the Cape passage by Vasco de Gama had given a new course to commerce, and the discovery of America produced effects that were still wider and far more deeply felt. The produce of the American mines created, in the most extreme form ever known in Europe, the change which beyond all others affects most deeply and universally the material wellbeing of men: it revolutionised the value of the precious metals, and, in consequence, the price of all articles, the effects of all contracts, the burden of all debts. In England, vast changes from arable land to pasture land took place, which involved the displacement of great populations, and became one of the most serious preoccupations of statesmen. To these things must be added the convulsions produced by the long religious wars that followed the Reformation, and the very serious change in the position of the poor produced by the suppression of the monasteries and the confiscation of their property. Ultimately, no doubt, the economical effect of this measure was beneficial to all classes, but its immediate consequence was to throw a vast multitude of poor and very helpless men unprotected upon the world, and to deprive another great multitude of the alms on which they mainly depended. The terrible Tudor laws about vagrancy, and the Elizabethan poor law, sufficiently indicate the acuteness of the crisis, and the sermons of Latimer and the writings of More enable us to see clearly the manner in which it arose.
Social, economical, and political causes bear a large part in the Reformation of the sixteenth century; and communism also had its representatives in the Anabaptists of Munster, who, under the leadership of Jan Matthys and John of Leyden, were for a time so formidable. ‘Death to all priests and kings and nobles!’ was their rallying-cry, and, while preaching some extravagant theological doctrines, they waged an implacable war against the rich. All these were ordered on pain of death to deliver up their gold and silver for common consumption, and it was proclaimed that everything was to be in common among those who had undergone the second baptism, and that meat and drink were to be provided at the common cost, though each man was to continue to work at his own craft. The movement, after desolating large districts in Germany and producing terrible crimes, at last perished in fire and blood. A few years later the theological doctrines of the Anabaptists spread widely, but the communistic side of their teaching died rapidly away.21
A considerable literature of Utopias, however, pointing to ideal states of society, arose. The ‘Utopia’ of More, which appeared at the end of 1515, led the way. It was obviously suggested by the ‘Republic’ of Plato, and, in addition to its great literary merits, it is remarkable for many incidental remarks exhibiting a rare political acumen, and anticipating reforms of a later age. It was in the main a picture of a purely ideal community resting upon unqualified communism. Money was no longer to exist. All private property was to be suppressed. The magistrates were to determine how much of this world's goods each man might possess, and how long he might hold it. No town was to be permitted to have more than 6,000 families, besides those of the country around it. No family must consist of less than ten or more than sixteen persons, the balance being maintained by transferring children from large to small families. Houses were to be selected by lot, and to change owners every ten years. Every one was to work, but to work only six hours a day. All authority was to rest on election. Like Plato, More considered a slave class essential to the working of his scheme, and convicts were to be made use of for that purpose.
Many other writers followed the example of More in drawing up ideal schemes of life and government, but they were much more exercises of the imagination than serious projects intended to be put in force. They formed a new and attractive department of imaginative literature, and they enabled writers to throw out suggestions to which they did not wish formally and definitely to commit themselves, or which could not be so easily or so safely expressed in direct terms. Bacon, Harrington, and Fénelon have all contributed to this literature, and traces of the communistic theories of More may be found in the great romance of Swift.22 About a century after the appearance of the ‘Utopia’ of More the Dominican monk Campanella published his ‘City of the Sun,’ which was an elaborate picture of a purely communistic society, governed with absolute authority by a few magistrates, and from which every idea of individual property was banished. Like Plato, however, Campanella made community of wives an essential part of his scheme; for he clearly saw, and fully stated, that the spirit of property would never be extirpated as long as family life and family affection remained.
It is not probable that a literature of this kind exercised much real influence over the world; nor need we lay great stress upon the small religious communities which in Europe, and still more in America, have endeavoured to realise their desire for a common life. In the vast mass of political speculation that broke out in the eighteenth century there were elements of a more serious portent. The Spirit of the Laws,’ which appeared in 1748, was by far the most important political work of the first half of this century; and in the general drift of his teaching Montesquieu was certainly very much opposed to the communistic spirit. He was eminently a constitutional writer, valuing highly liberty in all its forms, and convinced that this liberty could only be obtained by jealously restricting and dividing power, and introducing strong balances into constitutions. He was, however, a great admirer of the ancient writers, and passages in his teaching embody and foreshadow doctrines which afterwards pushed to extremes from which he would assuredly have recoiled. He maintained that, under democratic governments, it should be a main object of the legislator to promote equality of fortunes; that with this object he should impose restrictions on heritages, donations, and dowries; that not only should the goods of the father be divided equally among his children, but that there should also be special laws ‘to equalise, so to speak, inequalities by imposing burdens on the rich and granting relief to the poor.’23 He looked with considerable favour on sumptuary laws, and he formally laid down the socialistic doctrine that every citizen has a right to claim work and support from the State. ‘Whatever alms may be given to a man who is naked in the streets, this will not fulfil the obligations of the State, which owes to all the citizens an assured subsistence, food, and proper clothing, and a mode of life which is not contrary to health.’ ‘A well-organised State …gives work to those who are capable of it, and teaches the others to work.’24
Rousseau is more commonly connected with modern communism, but the connection does not appear to me to be very close. It is true that in his early Discourse on inequality he assailed private property, and especially landed property, as founded on usurpation and as productive of countless evils to mankind; but the significance of this treatise is much diminished when it is remembered that it was an elaborate defense of savage as opposed to civilised life. In his later and more mature works he strenuously maintained that ‘the right of property is the most sacred of the rights of citizens, in some respects even more important than liberty itself;’ that the great problem of government is ‘to provide for public needs without impairing the private property of those who are forced to contribute to them;’ that ‘the foundation of the social compact is property, and that its first condition is that every individual should be protected in the peaceful enjoyment of that which belongs to him.’25 In the ‘Contrat Social,’ however, he maintains that by the social contract man surrenders everything he possesses into the hands of the community; the State becomes the bases of property, and turns usurpation into right; it guarantees to each man his right of property in everything he possesses, but the right of each man to his own possessions is always subordinate to the right of the community over the whole.26
Rousseau, though one of the most fascinating, is one of the most inconsistent of political writers, and he continually lays down broad general principles, but recoils from their legitimate consequences. He certainly desired a government in which individual property should be strictly protected, but by exaggerating to the highest degree the power of the State over all its members, and by denouncing all those restrictions and varieties of representation that mitigate the despotism of majorities he led the way to worse tyrannies than those which he assailed. He defended strongly the right to bequeath property, maintaining that without this power individual property would be very useless. He claims, however, for the State the right of regulating successions, and maintains that the spirit of their laws should be to prevent, as much as possible, property from passing away from the family.27 His theory of taxation seems to me open to little real objection. All taxes, he says, should be imposed with the consent of the majority, and they should be imposed ‘on a proportionate scale, which leaves nothing arbitrary.’ The general rule is, that if one man possesses twice, four times, ten times what is possessed by another, his taxes should rise in the same proportion. But this principle should not be carried out with an inexorable rigidity. There should be a leaning in favour of the poor. That which is strictly necessary should be exempt from taxation. Luxuries and amusements should bear a disproportionate share, and as society naturally develops in the direction of excessive inequality, legislation should tend to equalise. Education should be a national concern. Rousseau did not desire to abolish private riches, and he has written some excellent, though not always very practical, pages on the way in which rich men should employ their fortunes. At the same time he strongly maintains that work is a duty for all. ‘He who eats in idleness what he has not gained himself is a robber…. To work is an indispensable duty of social man. Rich and poor, strong and weak, each idle citizen is a thief.’28
The really communistic element in this period of French speculation is to be found in very inferior writers. Mably is perhaps the most conspicuous. With that gross ignorance of human nature which characterises the writers of his school, he maintains that the faculties and characters of men are naturally but little different, and that all men are born virtuous. ‘I am persuaded,’ he says, ‘that if men are wicked, it is the fault of the laws.’ Inequalities of fortune and condition are the root of all evil. They produce ambition and avarice, two passions which he imagines that it is in the power of the legislator to banish from human nature. The true remedy would be the abolition of private property and the establishment of community of goods. Mably, however, with a gleam of unwonted good sense, perceived that in the France of the eighteenth century this was impossible, and he contented himself, accordingly, with urging that the State should enormously increase its power over successions, should appropriate the succession of all but near relations, and should especially very strictly limit the amount of land possessed by each citizen. ‘Good legislation should be continually decomposing and dividing the fortunes which avarice and ambition are continually labouring to accumulate.’ If the result is diminished production, this signifies little, ‘provided there are no longer patricians and plebeians in the State.’ The State must act as a general and highly coercive providence. There must be a system of universal, common, and obligatory education, imitated from that of Sparta. Art should be proscribed, for statues, pictures, and vases are very useless things. They are of the nature of luxuries, and have been the source of great evils in the world. The State must also strictly regulate religion, tolerating existing creeds, but not permitting the introduction of any new religions, and punishing atheists, Epicureans, and materialists with imprisonment for life.
Doctrines of substantially the same kind were maintained by Morelly, who desired all private property to be abolished, every citizen to be reduced to the position of a functionary in the State, and all the affairs of private and domestic life to be minutely regulated by law; and also by Brissot de Warville, whose special title to remembrance is that he is the true author of the saying, ‘Property is robbery,’ which Proudhon afterwards made so popular. Very consistently with this principle he defended stealing, as correcting the injustice of the institution of property.29
These doctrines, however, did not play any considerable part in the Revolution, and in the first stages of that great explosion they were altogether repudiated. There is a distinction to be drawn between the confiscation of great masses of property and the establishment of principles essentially inconsistent with the existence of property. There was much confiscation in the abolition of feudal rights, and gigantic confiscations followed the political proscriptions and the emigrations; but it was the object of the legislator to divide the confiscated land as much as possible, and the abolition of the feudal laws gave to the greatly increased number of small proprietors, both in fact and in law, an unrestricted and undivided ownership. In this way the Revolution multiplied a class who clung with extreme tenacity to the idea of private property in land. At the same time, in the spheres of industry its great work was the abolition of the monopolies, privileges, and restrictions which still existed in the mediaeval system of corporations. Before the Revolution, in nearly every town all the more important trades were concentrated in the hand of closely organised corporations, with exclusive rights of making and selling particular articles. Free competition was unknown. Every man who desired to practise a trade or industry was obliged to enter as an apprentice into one of these corporations, to pass through its grades, to submit to its rules. It is a form of industry curiously like that which would again exist if the supremacy of trade unions became complete. The abolition of this system and the establishment of complete freedom of labour had long been one of the chief objects of the party of innovation in France. The ‘Essay on the Liberty of Commerce and Industry,’ by the President Bigot de Sainte-Croix, and the famous introduction by Turgot to his law for the suppression of ‘jurandes’ and ‘communautés,’ state in the fullest and clearest terms the evils of the system.
The subject was one in which Turgot took a keen interest, and perhaps the most memorable act of his memorable ministry was the abolition of these corporations, which has existed for probably at least 1,000 years, and the re-establishment of freedom of labour. It was a cause in which all the philosophical party, all the men whom we should now call ‘advanced thinkers,’ were fully agreed. In the words of the admirable biographer of Turgot, ‘an odious and ridiculous slavery was abolished. The inhabitants of the towns acquired at last the right of disposing as they pleased of their own arms and their own labour. It was a right which at that time was enjoyed in no nation, not even in those which boasted most loudly of their liberty. This right, one of the first which Nature has given us, and which may be deemed a necessary consequence of the right to live, seemed blotted out of the memory and the heart of man. It is one of the title-deeds of humanity which had been lost in the night of the ages of barbarism, and which it has been the glory of our century to rediscover.’30
The edict abolishing these corporations was issued in February 1776. It was natural that so great a change should not have been effected without producing a profound convulsion, and it gave a new force and a rallying-cry to the many reactionary influences which were directed against Turgot. The Parliament of Paris, supported by a large number of provincial Parliaments, took a leading part in opposing it. A very remarkable memoir was published, entitled ‘Mémoire à consulter sur l'existence actuelle des six corps et la conservation de leurs privileges,’ in which the case of the corporations was argued with much skill. Two points in it may be especially noted. One is the prediction that, if the restrictions which the corporate system introduced into industry were abolished, there would be a dangerous and excessive migration of labour from the country to the towns. The other is a very strong assertion that the mass of the working classes preferred the corporate system, which gives industry a stability it could not otherwise have, to the system of unlimited liberty and uncontrolled competition.31
The opponents of Turgot triumphed. The great minister fell, and a few months later the old system of industrial corporations was, with some slight modifications, restored. But the whole force of the philosophical and innovating spirit in France was running against them. What we should now call Radical opinion at the close of the eighteenth century flowed as strongly against the monopolies and restrictions of corporate industry, and in favour of a complete freedom of individual industry, as it is now flowing in the opposite direction. The words which Turgot had introduced into his famous law were often repeated. The right to labour is the property of every man, and this property is the first, the most sacred, the most inalienable of all.’ The Constitution of 1791 asserted it in the clearest terms, sweeping away the whole system of ‘jurandes’ and ‘maïtrises,’ apprenticeships and industrial corporations, and proclaiming the full right of all Frenchmen to practise, with a few specified exceptions, any form of art, or profession, or industry, on the sole condition of purchasing from the State.32
No portion of the work of the French Revolution has been more lasting or more widely followed than this emancipation of industry, which enabled every man to carry his labour whither he pleased, to make his own terms, and enjoy the full fruits of his own industry. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Constitution of 1791 asserted and guaranteed in the clearest terms the rights of acquired property. ‘Property is an inviolable and sacred right. No one may be deprived of it unless public necessity, legally established, evidently requires it, and then only on the condition of a just indemnity paid beforehand.’ The same principle descended through succeeding codes. Even the Convention decreed the pain of death against any one who proposed a law ‘subverting territorial, commercial, or industrial properties.’ ‘Property,’ according to the Constitution of the year III., ‘is the right of a man to enjoy and to dispose of his goods, his revenues, the fruit of his labour and industry.’ The Code Napoléon described it as ‘the right of enjoying and disposing of possessions in the most absolute manner, provided only that the owner does not make a use of them prohibited by law.’33
Extreme jealousy of all corporations and combinations within the State was one of the most marked characteristics of the French Revolution. A decree of June 17, 1791, contains the following remarkable article: ‘The annihilation of all kinds of corporations of citizens of the same station or profession being one of the fundamental bases of the French Constitution, it is forbidden to re-establish them under any pretext or in any form. Citizens of the same station or profession, contractors, shopkeepers, workmen or apprentices in any art, are forbidden, if they come together, to elect a president, or a secretary, or a syndic to keep registers, to pass any resolutions or to form any rules about their pretended common interests.34 It would be impossible to show more clearly how emphatically the spirit of the French Revolution is opposed to the organisation of labour, which is an indispensable ingredient of modern Socialism, and in no legislation were the rights of property more clearly defined or the obligations of contract more strictly enforced than in that which grew out of the Revolution.
There was, it is true, one short period in the movement when Socialist theories seemed for a time to prevail. During the Reign of Terror, in 1793, the Convention was in the hands of the most extreme party, and, in the desperate circumstances in which France then found herself through the utter disorganisation of industry and property, and through the pressure of a gigantic war, these theories were acted on with a feverish energy. War was openly declared against the rich. No one, Robespierre said, should have more than 3,000 livres of revenue.35 Vast sums, raised chiefly by confiscation, were voted for the relief of the poor. The price of all articles was strictly regulated by law. It was made death for any merchant to withhold corn or other articles of first necessity from the market, for any private person to keep more corn in his house than was required for his subsistence.36 The rich were crushed by requisitions ordering them to give up all precious metals and jewellery; by an enormously graduated taxation; by a forced loan imposed exclusively upon them; by the forced circulation of depreciated paper. At the same time the Convention formally recognised the right of all members of society to obtain work from the State, or, if unable to labour, assured means of subsistence.
The state of society that at this time existed in France could not possibly last, and this tyranny—the most odious that modern Europe has known—soon passed away. Even the Convention, in spite of its savage energy, was unable to enforce all its decrees; and it is remarkable that it rejected the proposition of Robespierre to limit the right of property to ‘the portion of goods which the law had guaranteed;’ to pronounce formally that it was a limited right, and to exempt formally all the poorer classes from contributing anything to the public expenses.37
With the Convention the immediate danger of communism passed, though the conspiracy of Babeuf under the Directory was intended to accomplish this end. Babeuf had been one of the most ardent and extreme disciples of Morelly and Mably. He taught that all land should be common property, that all debts should be blotted out and all private heritages forbidden, that private property should cease, and that every individual should be made a functionary, or, if old and infirm, a pensioner, of the State. Such doctrines, if simply preached, would probably have proved sufficiently innocent from their absurdity, but Babeuf organised a conspiracy for seizing the government and carrying them into practice. An elaborate system was devised for seducing the soldiers; the poor were to be instigated by a promise that they should be allowed to plunder the rich; and political assassinations were to be largely practised. The conspiracy was betrayed, and after a long trial Babeuf and one fellow-conspirator were condemned to death, and a few others to deportation.
From this time, for a considerable period, the communistic spirit took a purely academic form. In 1793, while the French Revolution was at its height, Godwin published in England his ‘Political Justice,’ in which, in the name of that muchabused principle, he proposed a general plunder of property and a general levelling of all inequalities. All accumulated, and especially all hereditary wealth, he maintained, is a criminal thing; every expenditure on a superfluity is a vice. The true owner of each loaf of bread is the man who most needs it, and, ‘great as are the evils that are produced by monarchies and Courts, by the imposture of priests and the iniquity of criminal law, they are imbecile and impotent compared with the evils that arise out of the established system of property.’ With a profusion of grandiloquent phrases about virtue, and reason, and philosophy, and exalted morality, he sketched a society from which all ideas of authority, subordination, reverence, and gratitude were to be excluded, and in which absolute equality was to be maintained.
Like so many of the writers of his school, he clearly saw that this could only be accomplished by the subversion of the family, and on this subject his statements bear no ambiguity. ‘All attachments to individuals, except as to their merits, are plainly unjust. We should be the friends of man rather than of particular men.’ ‘I ought to prefer no human being to another because that being is my father, my wife, or my son, but because, for reasons equally apparent to all understandings, that being is entitled to preference. One among the measures which will successively be dictated by the spirit of democracy, and that probably at no great distance, is the abolition of surnames.’ The institution of marriage is a system of fraud.’ ‘It is absurd to expect that the inclinations and wishes of two human beings should coincide through any long period of life.’ The supposition that I must have a companion for life is the result of a complication of vices.’ ‘So long as I seek to engross one woman to myself, and to prohibit my neighbour from proving his superior desert and reaping the fruits, I am guilty of the most odious of all monopolies.’
Godwin hoped that ‘these interesting improvements of human society’ might be carried out pacifically by ‘a mere change of ideas,’ leading men to a higher level of morality, but he acknowledged that ‘massacre was the too possible attendant upon revolution.’ He argued, however, that we must not, on account of such a transitory evil, ‘shrink from reason, from justice, from virtue, and happiness.’ ‘We must contrast a moment of horror and distress with ages of felicity. No imagination can sufficiently conceive the mental improvement and the tranquil virtue that would succeed were property once permitted to rest upon its genuine basis.’38
These sentences will sufficiently illustrate the doctrines of a curious book which is now seldom opened, though it had its hour of noisy notoriety, and was once the evangel of a small sect of young English enthusiasts. It chanced that the life of Godwin intersected that of one of the greatest of modern poets, and the biography of Shelley has thrown a light on Godwin and his surroundings which we should not otherwise have possessed. It reveals the austere philosopher as one of the most insatiable and importunate of beggars, and the picture it furnishes of the domestic life that grew up under his teaching is certainly not calculated to impress ordinary mortals with a sense of the superiority of the new morality.
A more interesting and a more considerable figure in the history we are studying is Saint-Simon. He sprang from one of the most illustrious noble families in France, and was born in Paris in 1760. He served with some distinction in America through five campaigns of the revolutionary war, and was afterwards, for a short time, colonel of a French regiment; but he soon abandoned the army, and began the restless, vagrant, but not unfruitful life which was most congenial to his disposition. He had a plan for uniting Madrid by a canal with the sea, and another for piercing the Panama isthmus, He travelled in many countries, read many books, and studied life in many aspects. Like most men of his temperament, he welcomed the French Revolution, but he took scarcely any active part in its politics. He devoted himself, however, in conjunction with a Prussian diplomatist, to speculating in the confiscated property which was thrown at an enormously depreciated rate upon the market, and he also entered into some manufacturing enterprises. Robespierre threw him into prison, where he remained for eleven months. Shortly after his release he quarrelled with his Prussian colleague, retired from industrial life, having only secured a very small competence, and resolved to devote himself exclusively ‘to studying the march of the human mind, and thus contributing to bring civilisation to its full perfection.’ In 1801 he married, giving as his reason for this step his desire to enlarge his opportunities of studying mankind; but he soon after, on the mere ground of economy, obtained a divorce. He passed some time in what, in the case of an ordinary man, would be called a very common course of folly, dissipation, and vice; but he assures us that it was merely an experiment in life, intended to aid him in his research into the lines of demarcation between good and evil, and he describes himself as a man who ‘traversed the career of vice in a direction that must lead him to the highest virtue.’ It led him, however, still more rapidly to abject poverty, and he then began his series of works for establishing a new religion which was to supersede Christianity, a new philosophy which was to absorb all others, and a new social organisation which was to include and regenerate the human race.
With incontestable ability he very evidently combined colossal vanity and inordinate ambition. Many extravagant instances of these qualities are related. ‘Get up, Monsieur le Comte; you have great things to do,’ are the words with which he says he ordered his servant to wake him when he was seventeen. In prison he pretends that Charlemagne, who was supposed to be the progenitor of his family, appeared to him in a vision, and prophesied that the young soldier would achieve in the field of philosophy as great things as his mighty ancestor had done in policy and war. He proffered himself in marriage to Madame de zStaël, and is said—though, very possibly, untruly—to have made his proposal in these terms: ‘Madame, you are the most extraordinary woman in the world—I am the most extraordinary man. Between us we should, no doubt, make a child more extraordinary still.’
The purely philosophical and religious views of Saint-Simon need not detain us, though in a work of a different kind they would well repay examination. He had a great power of fascinating young men, and some of his disciples afterwards attained considerable distinction in literature, politics, and finance. Among them were Augustin Thierry, Michel Chevalier, Hippolyte Carnot, Gustave d'Eichthal, Laurent, and Laffitte; but for some time his favourite pupil, and the pupil who enjoyed his closest confidence, was Auguste Comte. Those who will compare the writings of these two thinkers will probably be surprised to find how many passages in the works of Comte, including much of what is valuable and essential in his system, are simply copied from his predecessor; and they will appreciate the ingratitude of the younger man, who afterwards pretended that he had no obligations to his master, and that ‘his unhappy connection with that depraved juggler’ had been to him ‘an evil without compensation.’39
The keynote of the social philosophy of Saint-Simon was that the social organisation of Europe which had existed in the Middle Ages, under the auspices of Catholicism and feudalism, was now hopelessly decayed, and that the reorganisation of Europe on a new basis, and in the interest of the poorest and most numerous class, was the supreme task of the thinkers of our age. Like Comte, he had a great admiration for the Middle Ages. He was impressed by the unity, the completeness, and the harmony of the organisation imposed by the Church on all the spheres of thought and action. The beliefs on which this system rested had irrevocably gone, but he believed that it might be reproduced on another foundation, and that this reproduction would confer incalculable blessings on mankind. ‘The golden age,’ he said, ‘is not, as the poets imagine, in the past, but in the future.’
His ideas, however, about the nature of this reorganisation varied greatly at different periods of his life. In his first scheme, which was propounded in 1803, he urged that society should be divided into three classes, all spiritual power being placed in the hands of the learned, and all temporal power in those of the territorial proprietors, while the right of electing to high offices in humanity should be vested in the masses. In another work, which was published in 1814 in conjunction with Augustin Thierry, he drew up an elaborate scheme for the government of Christendom. There was to be a temporal sovereign presiding over the federation of Europe, elected in the first instance, and afterwards hereditary, who was to fill a position something like that of a mediæval Pope. He was to be assisted and controlled by an international Parliament, chosen in a manner which was eminently conservative. There was to be a House of Lords and a House of Commons; the former was to consist of persons possessing 20,000l. a year in land, and the peerage was to be hereditary; but twenty men who had rendered great services to science and industry were to be added irrespective of their fortune.
The House of Commons was to be composed of commercial men, the learned classes, magistrates, and administrators. They were to sit for ten years, and every million of men who could read and write were to choose one representative out of each of these four groups. No one was to sit in this House of Commons who did not possess landed property of the value of 1,000l. a year; but, at each election, twenty eminent men were to be chosen irrespective of property, and they were to receive their property qualification from the Government. This federal Government was to legislate on all the differences that may arise between the different nations of Europe, to superintend their common interests, and to establish a common education and code of morality.
The next scheme was of a different character. It transferred all power from the hands of the territorial aristocracy to those of the representatives of industry. Labour was to be universal; all who lived in idleness were branded as robbers; and society was to be divided into two classes—the learned, who were to be engaged in investigating the laws of Nature, and the industrial, who were to be engaged in different forms of production. ‘Everything by industry—everything for industry,’ was adopted as the motto. The military system was denounced as an anachronism descending from the days of feudalism; all standing armies were to be abolished, and great public works transforming the material world were to take the place of the military enterprises of the past. Society was to be purely industrial, qualified only by the directing influence of the learned classes, who were to hold in the new society a position analogous to that of the clergy in the past. All hereditary privileges were to be abolished. Education on the largest scale was to be undertaken by the Government; and it was also to be its duty to assure work to all who, without its assistance, were unable to find it.
Practical politicians, who know how easy it is to elaborate large schemes for the government of humanity in the seclusion of a study, and how infinitely difficult it is to frame, and work, and regulate institutions dealing, even in very subordinate departments, with the incalculable varieties and complications of human interests and conditions, will not be greatly impressed with these views. They were propounded by Saint-Simon at a time when he was sunk in extreme poverty. On one occasion he was driven to suicide, and inflicted on himself wounds that left him disfigured for life. He died in 1825. ‘All my life,’ he said on his deathbed, ‘may be summed up in a single idea—to assure to all men the fullest development of their faculties.’ The party of the labourers will be formed. The future is for us.’
His views were taken up by his disciples, who formed themselves into a society, which soon assumed the character of a Church, and they propagated them during many years with great activity in the press, in pamphlets, and by lectures. The attraction of their teaching lay chiefly in certain broad principles which appealed powerfully to the more generous instincts. They taught ‘that it should be the supreme end of society to secure with the greatest rapidity the amelioration of the class who are at once the most numerous and the most poor;’ that the legislator should continually seek to depress the idle and to raise the labourer; that he should recognise no inequalities, except those which spring from different degrees of capacity and industry. ‘To each man according to his capacity, and to each capacity according to its works,’ became the formula of the school.
The Saint-Simonians did not, it is true, preach common property. In the manifesto which they published they explicitly recognised the right of private property, as a necessary consequence of their fundamental doctrine that each man should be placed in accordance with his capacity and rewarded according to his works. They acknowledged, too, that men are naturally unequal, and that this inequality is an indispensable condition of social order. But they declared war against the whole system of hereditary property, describing the transmission of property, even from a parent to a child, as an immoral privilege, and they desired the State to confiscate all property on the death of its owner. In this way it would gradually engross all the instruments of labour—land and capital—and would become a colossal, all-absorbing, all-controlling industrial corporation, in which individual freedom and initiative would be lost, and each man would be placed according to his capacity and rewarded according to his work. As society was not yet ripe for this gigantic servitude, they advocated as preliminary measures that the State should forbid and appropriate all heritages out of the direct line; that its revenues should be chiefly raised by a heavy graduated tax on successions in the direct line; that State banks should be employed for the purpose of diffusing the benefits of capital; and that a policy of complete free trade should prepare the way for the coming federation of nations.
On the subject of the family they were somewhat less revolutionary than their predecessors. They were strenuous advocates for the emancipation of women; by which they understood their complete equality with men in all the spheres of industry, professional life, and political privileges. Marriage was not to be destroyed, but it was to become a purely voluntary connection, dissoluble by either party at pleasure. It was on this side of their teaching that they diverged most widely from the views which were afterwards put forward by Comte.
In the ferment of new ideas that followed the Revolution of 1830 the Saint-Simonian Church made some considerable progress, but it had now fully assumed the form of a grotesque religion. Saint-Simon was declared to have been a Messiah. He was not, it is true, the first. Moses, and Orpheus, and Numa had been the Messiahs in one stage of humanity, and Christ in another. But the world still awaited a saviour. Saint-Simon appeared, uniting the functions of Moses and Christ, and organising the true religion.40 His dignity and his inspiration descended to his successor, Enfantin, who was hailed as the Supreme Father, and who claimed and received from his followers absolute obedience as the representative of the Deity. There were elaborate dresses and ceremonies manifestly aping Catholicism, the ususal combination of intoxicating vanity and deliberate imposture, the usual very dubious sexual morality and financial transactions. Much was said about a coming female Messiah—a bisexual divinity, a rehabilitation of the flesh. The Saint-Simonians were accused, though, I believe, untruly, of preaching community of wives, and their Supreme Father and some of their other leading members were prosecuted and imprisoned on the charge of holding illegal meetings and teaching immoral doctrines.
Most of them, however, seem to have been well-meaning enthusiasts, and the society included some young men who had made large sacrifices of fortune and position in the cause, and a few who possessed much more than ordinary ability. There were excellent writers, skilled engineers, and sound economists among them, and on many practical economical questions the articles in the Saint-Simonian newspaper had a real authority. Strange veins of insanity and capacities for enthusiastic folly sometimes flaw the strongest brains, and the impetuous ebullitions of youth which impel some men into extravagancies of vice develop in other natures into not less wild extravagancies of thought. The sect speedily dwindled, partly through the ridicule that attached to it, partly through its own dissensions, and partly through the maturing intellects of the young men who had thrown their crude and youthful energies into its service. Several of the old disciples of Saint-Simon sat in the Constituent Assembly of 1848; and perhaps the best critic of the socialist follies of that period was Michel Chevalier, who had once been one of the most ardent members of the Saint-Simonian Church.
In the latter days of the Church the Saint-Simonians had one remarkable piece of good fortune. The advocacy of great public works for the material development of the world was one of the chief ends of their society. It grew out of their fundamental doctrine that labour is the first of duties and the true source of all dignity. Among the schemes which the Saint-Simonians adopted most ardently was one for a Suez canal. It was not to them a mere speculation in a Paris newspaper. Enfantin and other leading members of the sect actually established themselves in Egypt. Among the disciples were several young engineers from the Polytechnic School, and they surveyed the line, raised large subscriptions, and endeavoured to form an industrial army for the purpose of accomplishing the enterprise. They were warmly welcomed by Ferdinand Lesseps, who was then French Vice-Consul at Alexandria, and some beginning was actually made. Insufficient resources, cholera, and the indifference of the Egyptian Government made the scheme a failure; but the Saint-Simonian Church may truly claim the merit of having devised, and in some degree initiated, an enterprise which has been one of the greatest and most fruitful of the century.41
Whether they have in other respects left permanent traces in the world may be doubted. Some writers have attributed to their ideas much importance in the later developments of society, pointing to the many articles in the Saint-Simonian creed which coincide with strong contemporary tendencies.42 The political importance they ascribed to labour and the labouring classes; their advocacy of a policy tending mainly to social and material improvement; the stress they laid on national education; their doctrines about the rights of women; their desire to aggrandise the functions and powers of government, and to make it more and more the initiator of industrial enterprises; their proposal to abolish all taxes on articles of necessity, and to throw the burden of the revenue mainly on succession duties, are all points in which the Saint-Simonians agree with large and active parties in every European country. Many of these doctrines, however, existed before them, and the socialistic tendencies of the nineteenth century grew out of wider causes than the preaching of a single sect, and would probably have existed in equal strength if that sect had never been founded.
It is not necessary to dwell at length upon the system of Fourier, which was contemporaneous with Saint-Simonism. He proposed to divide the world into a vast number of industrial communities, called Phalanges, in which each man was to do very much what he liked the best, but in which allurements and incentives were to be so skilfully distributed, education so admirably organised, aptitudes and capacities so wisely consulted, regulated, and employed, that each man would find his highest pleasure in work which was for the benefit of the rest. It is a system which might be applicable to some distant planet inhabited by beings wholly unlike mankind. It may be realised on this planet in a far-off millennium if, as some philosophers think, human nature can be fundamentally transformed by many successive modifications of hereditary characteristics; but in our age and world it is as unreal and fantastic as a sick man's dream.
Robert Owen deserves a more serious consideration. He was in real touch with practical life, having been a large and successful manufacturer in that very critical period of English industry when the great inventions of the close of the eighteenth century had given the deathblow to the domestic industries, and laid the foundations of our present factory system; when the complete command of the sea which England obtained during the long French war had given an unparalleled impulse to her manufactures; and when, at the same time, the new conditions of labour were most imperfectly organised, and scarcely in any degree regulated by law. Frightful abuses, especially in the form of excessive child labour, took place, and the vast masses of wholly uneducated men, women, and children, withdrawn from their country homes and thrown together amid the temptations of great towns and of untried and unaccustomed conditions of industry, presented moral, political, and social dangers of the gravest kind.
The part which was played by Owen in the earlier stages of the great manufacturing development was very important. He was a man of ardently energetic philanthropy and transparent purity of character, and his mind teemed with new suggestions. His management of the vast cotton-mills of New Lanark during a long course of years was a perfect model of what can be done by a great captain of industry who, in the pursuit of gain, never forgets his responsibility for the well-being of those he employs, and in the first stage of the factory system such examples were both very rare and peculiarly valuable. He contributed more than perhaps any one else to introduce infant schools into England. He was an early and powerful supporter of the Factory Acts, and as early as 1818 he advocated a legislative restriction of adult labour. He soon, however, extended his views to the formation of great industrial communities, in which co-operation should play a greater part than competition, and by which he hoped that the fluctuations of industry might be abolished and the condition of the poor permanently raised. His first scheme was simply an extension of the poor law, enacting that every union or county should provide by county expenditure a large farm, if possible with a manufactory connected with it, for the employment of the poor, and he believed that these would speedily prove self-supporting. He afterwards advocated the establishment all over the country, by private subscription, of industrial colonies, or communities, in which agriculture, manufacture, and education were all to be carried on, and in which, by common labour, common living, and common expenditure, the cost to each member might be greatly reduced.
This scheme attracted a large share of public attention in England in the second and third decades of the nineteenth century. It was taken up by several wealthy and philanthropic men, it engaged the attention of Parliament, and it found several supporters on the Continent. Owen, however, impaired his cause greatly by the unnecessary vehemence with which he put forward his very heterodox religious opinions. He thus alienated the religious world, and especially the Evangelical party, which was then in the zenith of its influence, and which absorbed and directed a great portion of the benevolence and enthusiasm of England; while at the same time he deprived himself of much Radical support by his indifference to the political questions with which Radicalism was then chiefly occupied. Considerable sums were subscribed, but only sufficient to start co-operative societies on a small scale, and these societies almost invariably proved short-lived. In 1832 there were no less than 700 in Great Britain. In a few years four only remained.43
In 1824, Owen went to the United States, where he remained for about three years. In a thinly populated country, where there was much less stress of competition and much less organisation of industry than in Europe, the chances of success seemed greater, and eleven industrial communities were established, either by Owen or by men who were under his influence. They all of them signally failed, and the average duration of the eight principal ones is said to have been only a year and a half.44 The American historian of the movement justly notices how almost impossible it is to maintain industrial communities, which involve a great sacrifice of individual ambition, interest, and energy in the service of the community, unless the body is held together by some distinctive religious doctrine and the overmastering power of a religious enthusiasm.
In the earlier part of his career Owen was not much more than a benevolent and energetic manufacturer who had many schemes for improving the position of those who depended on him. Like most benevolent men, he was much impressed by the poverty, drunkenness, and vice that prevailed in the great manufacturing towns in the early days of the factory system, and he soon persuaded himself that machinery was doing more harm than good, and that consumption no longer kept pace with production. One of his favourite remedies for agricultural distress was that the spade should take the place of the plough in the cultivation of the soil, thus giving employment to a much larger number of hands. With advancing life he adopted many extravagancies, and became the apostle of a complete moral and social revolution. He had always held, with a large class of eighteenth-century thinkers, that there is no such thing as free-will; that men are born, morally and intellectually, substantially equal; that moral responsibility, with its attendant feelings of praise and blame, is a mere illusion of the imagination; and that the whole difference between man and man depends upon his circumstances, and especially his education. He had always disbelieved the Christian religion, but it was only in the latter half of his life that he began to inveigh against it with extravagant violence.
He soon came to view marriage with equal hostility. He did not, it is true, preach community of wives, but he urged that marriage was only moral as long as it rested on affection and was dissoluble at pleasure. His views about private property were equally subversive, and he once described religion, private property, and marriage as ‘The Trinity of Evil.’45 He anticipated George in denying the right of private property in land, and Marx in asserting that all wealth is produced by manual labour, and rightly belongs to labour, and he imagined that it was possible to detain it in the hands of the producers. A general union should be established among the productive classes; all individual competition should cease; all manufactures should be carried on by national organisations. The great object of his later years was to found and extend such organisations. He believed that the trade union of each particular trade could in this way obtain a complete monopoly in its own department, acquire possession of the means of production, replace the capitalist, and regulate hours of work, prices, and wages. The workmen should own their own factories, and elect their managers and foremen. In these ways all wealth would pass into the hands of the producing class. He had a scheme for suppressing the precious metals as the instrument of exchange, and substituting for them notes representing different amounts and periods of labour.
The interest excited among the working classes about the time of the Reform Bill of 1832 by these speculations, and by the experiments that grew out of them, was very great. They were diffused by innumerable pamphlets and lectures, and they aroused among grave men serious alarm.46 Amid much that was mischievous, fallacious, and unpractical, something, however, remained. It is not altogether an evil thing that social experiments, even of the wildest kind, should be tried, provided men try them with their own money, or with money voluntarily contributed, and not with money forcibly taken from other people in the form of taxes. Owen, unlike many of his successors, relied mainly upon voluntary association. He did not urge, nor was it indeed possible in the then existing state of the suffrage to urge with success, that the great social experiments he advocated in favour of one class should be made with money levied upon another class. The early attempts at co-operation, which were largely due to his teaching and promoted by his disciples, were, it is true, in a very remarkable degree failures. They were generally undertaken by inexperienced men; they were largely mixed with Utopias and fantastic and untrue doctrines, and they made the fatal mistake of granting credit, instead of confining themselves rigidly to the ready-money system. But the co-operative idea was a sound one, and it was destined to have a great future. The economic production that it made possible, the suppression of the middleman, the harmony of interests established between the different classes of producers, the possibility of raising a great capital by small contributions, the advantage which, in all modern industrial competition, lies with any establishment that can offer large choice and low prices, and secure in consequence large sales and quick returns, all furnish elements of success to those who know how to use them with judgment, enterprise, and skill.
The first very striking success in this department was the Rochdale Pioneers. It was founded, in 1844, by a few poor men who, in a time of great trade depression, clubbed together to purchase their tea and sugar and other necessaries at wholesale prices. There were at first only twenty-eight of them, and each subscribed 1l. They proposed, as their association extended, to manufacture such articles as the society might determine, to buy land for the employment of unemployed labourers, to promote sobriety by the establishment of a temperance hotel, and generally to assist each other in their social and domestic lives. As they became more successful they assigned a certain proportion of their profits to educational purposes. The society gradually grew into a vast store, which in 1882 counted 10,894 members, sold merchandise of the value of 274,627l., made 32,577l. of profits, and paid a dividend of 5 per cent, upon its capital, besides distributing considerable sums among its clients.47 The example was widely followed, and the progress of the cooperative movement, reconciling many hostile interests, is one of the most hopeful signs of our day. It would be easy to exaggerate, but it would be unjust to deny the part which the teaching of Robert Owen has had in promoting it.
In France, ideas of a socialistic order were at this time perhaps more prevalent than in England. For many years before the Revolution of 1848 they had been manifestly fermenting. Ever since the Revolution of 1830 a number of writers, some of them now forgotten, some of them distinguished in other fields, had been denouncing the wage system; preaching vague forms of social reorganisation, chiefly based on association; uniting the aspirations of extreme democracy with passionate appeals to the interests of the working classes; painting in the darkest colours the contrast between the luxury of the rich and the misery of the poor, and describing the many evils of society as the result of unjust laws, and as remediable by political revolution. Leroux, Buchez, Cabet, Vidal, Blanqui, Raspail, Villegardelle, and many others, wrote in this strain, though they differed widely in their specific doctrines. Some, like Lamennais and Buchez, wrote under the influence of a strong religious enthusiasm. Others, like Raspail, connected their social schemes with blank materialism, and with a denial of all moral responsibility. Cabet threw his views into the form of a romance48 modelled after Thomas More and Campanella. All the evils of society, he maintained, sprang from inequality, and could only be remedied by community of goods, which he believed to be the ideal of Christ; and he accordingly painted a society in which all the land was treated as common domain; in which all work was a public function, equally and universally pursued, and equally rewarded; and in which men lived together in an idyllic fashion, without private property, without money, without pauperism, without dissension. Unlike many writers of his school, he fully recognised marriage, though he did not treat it as absolutely indissoluble.
The current of ideas in the direction of Socialism may be traced through much of the higher French literature of the period. It is very perceptible in some of the novels of George Sand, and in some of the songs of Béranger; but the writers who at this time most powerfully affected opinion in the direction I am indicating were Lamennais and Louis Blanc. It would be difficult to find in all literature more fiery, more eloquent, and more uncompromising denunciations of the existing fabric of society than are contained in the later writings of Lamennais. He described the working class in France as absolute slaves, completely dependent on the capitalist, without individual liberty, without defence against oppression, living under a political and industrial system which rested wholly on injustice. He preached a complete social and political renovation, which should make the labouring classes the rulers of the world, abolish the wage system, as slavery and serfdom had been abolished in the past, and open out a new era, in which competition would cease to be the spring of industry, and property would depend on labour, not labour on property.49
Similar views were preached with less eloquence, but with more system, and in a scarcely less declamatory form, by Louis Blanc, whose work on the ‘Organisation of Labour’ appeared in 1845. He thought that competition was the master-curse of the world and the chief cause of the degradation and slavery of the poor. According to him, modern society was sick even to death. All its chief institutions were gangrened with corruption and egotism. The condition of the poor was intolerable, and under the pressure of competition their wages must inevitably sink till they touch the level of starvation. In the face of the plainest facts he maintained that their situation was everywhere and steadily deteriorating; and while drawing the most harrowing pictures of their misery, he did all in his power to discredit the methods by which practical and unpretending philanthropy has laboured to mitigate it. Savings banks, which have proved of such inestimable benefit to them, are denounced by this great reformer as ‘a profound delusion.’ They are an encouragement of vice, inducing the ‘servant to rob his master and the courtesan to sell her beauty;’ they make the people dependent on those who govern them, and induce them, ‘by a narrow and factitious interest, to maintain the oppression that weighs them down.’ The habit of saving in a communistic society is an excellent thing, but in an individualistic society like ours it ought not to be encouraged. ‘Saving engenders egotism.’ ‘It replaces by a greedy satisfaction the sacred poetry of welldoing.’ In the true spirit of the literary Socialist, he maintains that nothing but heroic and revolutionary measures will do good.
The real remedy for the ills of society is to be found in an enormous aggrandisement of the powers and duties of the State. By the expenditure of vast sums of public money it should establish great industrial organisations, which will gradually overshadow, absorb, and crush all private industries. It must supply the capital, give ample wages, quite irrespective of market value, to all who are employed, and forbid all competition, either within or between these different national organisations. The complete change cannot, it is true, be effected at once. During the first year of their existence the Government must assign to every man within these organisations his place and his task, but after that period these bodies may become self-governing and based on the elective principle. ‘The false and anti-social education,’ also, ‘which the present generation has received,’ renders it essential that there should be at first a different scale of wages for different kinds of workmen and different degrees of capacity and industry. With a new and better education this will cease. ‘Inequality of aptitude will result in inequality of duties, but not of rights.’ The same wages will be given to the skilled and the unskilled, the industrious and the idle, the genius who produces much and the fool who produces little or nothing. In the lofty moral altitude which society may be expected to attain when it is organised in a communistic form, the community or identity of feeling will be so strong that each man will do his best.
In the meantime, all collateral successions are to be forbidden, and the money diverted to the coffers of the State. Successions in the direct line, however, must be preserved until society has gone through the process of transformation, when they too will disappear. They are an evil, but at present a necessary, though a transitory, one. ‘Heredity is destined to follow the same path as societies which are transformed, and men who die.’ Mines, railways, banks, insurance offices, are to be taken over by the State, and a great State bank is to lend money to labourers without interest. Education is to be free and compulsory. A fixed proportion of the product of the national workshops is to be reserved for the support of the old and of the sick. Literary property is to be at once abolished, one of the principal reasons being that it is degrading to a writer. Any one is to be permitted to reprint his works, but a highly democratic Parliament, with the assistance of a commission appointed by itself, is to make itself the supreme censor and adjudicator of literature, and to decide by its vote what authors may receive national rewards. It is characteristic that this beautiful scheme for the enslavement and corruption of literature emanates from the writer who objected to the savings bank on the ground that it gave an undue influence to the governing body in the State. Louis Blanc, it may be added, utterly repudiated the Saint-Simonian formula, ‘to each man according to his capacities,’ substituting for it, ‘to each man according to his wants’—a conveniently elastic phrase, which might be contracted or expanded almost without limit.50
These views have not even the merit of originality. They are, for the most part, a medley of the doctrines of Saint-Simon, Fourier, and Morelly; and, seven or eight years before Louis Blanc, a writer named Léon Brothier had published a work contending that the State, and the State alone, should sell all articles of production.51 It may be noticed that it was about this time that the word ‘Socialism’ first came to use. It is a word of French origin. Reybaud claims to have been the inventor, and he had first employed it in an article in the ‘Revue des Deux Mondes,’ which appeared in 1836.52 It comprises, as we have seen, a great variety of sects, and is applied to many gradations of opinion, and it is therefore not susceptible of perfectly precise and exhaustive definition. It represents the tendency in the fields of industry and property to displace individual ownership, unrestricted competition, and the liberty of independent action, by State ownership and State regulation, continually contracting the sphere of the individual, continually enlarging the sphere and increasing the pressure of the community or the State.
The word and the thing became rapidly popular, and the Revolution of 1848 at once assumed a socialistic character. Tocqueville noticed that this, much more than any purely political doctrine, furnished the movement with its motive force. Louis Blanc and his follower Albert, who sat with him in the Provisional Government, exercised for a time much influence, and one of the first tasks of this Government was to satisfy the new demands. Lamartine and the majority of its members had little or no sympathy with them; but, in the disorganised condition of France, the section which was directed by Ledru Rollin and Louis Blanc carried many measures. The hours of adult labour were for the first time limited by law, being reduced to ten in Paris and eleven in the departments.53 The system of taking small contracts by a middleman standing between the workman and the employer, which was known under the name of marchandage, was forbidden. It was found that the decree was at first treated with contempt, and severe penalties were consequently enacted against those who disobeyed it. The State formally guaranteed work to all who needed it. A working-man's congress assembled, under the presidency of Louis Blanc, in the old House of Peers in the Luxembourg. Among the demands put forward most prominently was the abolition of piecework, or task-work, which was peculiarly obnoxious to the Socialist party, as, by paying the worker in strict proportion to the result of his labour, it placed an insuperable obstacle in the way of a uniform rate of wages. The Government, it is true, refused to accede to this demand, nor would they consent to the regulation of wages by law; but in many of the great manufactures, both in Paris and in the provinces, the workmen by an organised movement obliged the manufacturers to raise wages, to abolish piecework, and to expel all foreign workmen. Great multitudes of English, German, and Belgian workmen were compelled to abandon France.54 In some particular cases the Government interfered to regulate wages, and they undertook to exclude prison work from competition with free labour in the market.55 Graduated taxation was introduced in the most arbitrary and objectionable form, by a decree of the Provisional Government giving discretionary powers to the mayors of the different communes, and the collectors, to remit or diminish the recently imposed additional taxation in cases where they believed that the smaller proprietors were unable to pay it.56
The most remarkable achievement of the Provisional Government in the sphere which we are considering was the foundation of the national workshops, or ateliers nationaux. This was in part a fulfilment of the promise that the Government would furnish work to all who needed it, and in part a beginning of the realisation of the dream of Louis Blanc, that the State should be the supreme industrial organ in the community. Louis Blanc has himself declared that when he wrote, in conjunction with Ledru Rollin, the decree guaranteeing work to every citizen, exhorting the workmen to associate in order to enjoy the full benefit of their labour, and appropriating to them the Civil List which had once been enjoyed by the sovereign, he dearly saw that he was pledging the Government to a course which would ultimately lead to a total revolution of the industrial system of the past;57 but he, at the same time, disclaims all direct responsibility for the form which the national workshops assumed.
Manual labour was at once provided, or, to speak more correctly, promised, for all idle persons in Paris and the neighbourhood. The workmen were formed into brigades. The leader, who directed the labour and received somewhat higher pay than his fellows, was elected by them—a practice which naturally secured that nothing more than a minimum of work should be exacted. In a few weeks about 120,000 men were in receipt of pay. Those who were actually employed were usually engaged on useless and unproductive works in or about Paris, while additional labourers were constantly streaming in from the country. One of the historians of the movement remarks the resemblance of what was taking place in France to the useless and wasteful public works which were about the same time going on in Ireland.58 In Ireland, however, this was due to the urgent necessity of employing a starving population during an appalling famine. In France there had been a bad harvest in 1847,59 but there was nothing approaching national famine, and the terrible distress, which was daily increasing, was mainly due to political causes, and especially to the shock which subversive doctrines had given to all industry, enterprise, and credit. Workshops were established for the employment of destitute shoemakers and tailors, with the very natural consequence of accelerating the ruin of private shops. A great co-operative tailor's establishment set up by the Government in the Hôtel Clichy, though it received large Government orders for the uniforms of the National Guard and the Garde Mobile, ended in a few weeks in a disastrous loss.60
The tide of anarchy was steadily mounting. Some of the principal railways were disorganised. The Northern Railway Company endeavoured to meet the demands of the workers by reducing the time of labour to nine hours, discharging all Englishmen in their employment, and even undertaking to grant the workmen a certain share in their profits.61 On the Orleans line there were combinations of the most formidable character, and, in addition to a great rise of wages and a participation in the profits of the company, the workmen claimed the right of electing the men who directed and controlled them.62 Even in Paris great numbers of machines were broken, under the notion that their existence was contrary to the interests of the working class.63 All steady industry was arrested or dislocated; and the fact that men holding a leading position in the Government were preaching a complete revolution in the conditions of labour and the rights and distribution of property had very naturally destroyed all credit. An excellent economist has computed that at this time the loss on French securities on the Paris Bourse amounted to not less than four milliards of francs, or one hundred and sixty millions of pounds, and he adds that almost every other form of French fortune was depreciated in a very similar proportion.64 Articles of first necessity rose rapidly in price, and in a city where thousands depended for their subsistence on the scale of articles of luxury and superfluity, nearly all expenditure of this kind had ceased. Every employer of labour restricted his business within the narrowest limits. Those who had money concealed and hoarded it till better times. In the great majority of Parisian workshops the number of persons employed was now only a fraction of what it had been a few months before, and, according to the most moderate calculations, the loss in Paris alone was not less than two millions of francs a day, a loss which fell mainly on the humblest and most industrious class.65
The Congress of Workmen at the Luxembourg claimed and exercised a despotic power over industrial contracts. Its leaders boasted loudly that they had in some cases arbitrated successfully between employers and labourers.66 But the main result of their deliberations was to scare capital and shake the very foundations of industry; and the poison which Louis Blanc and his followers were diffusing was not the less deadly because it was abundantly mixed with sentimentality and coupled with the loftiest professions of virtue and philanthropy.
Socialist dubs were rapidly multiplying. Victor Considérant was publishing his pamphlets declaring the iniquity of all private property, and especially landed property, and his doctrines were promulgated by Ledru Rollin from the Tribune, and they found numerous adherents.67 The systematic intimidation of ministers and deputies, which was so prominent in the first revolution, was again in full force. The debates of the Chamber were constantly interrupted by menacing cries from the galleries. On May 15 the mob burst into the body of the hall, clamouring for the organisation of labour; for the imposition of a new tax of a milliard on the rich; for a war for the liberation of Poland; for the ascendency of Louis Blanc.68 Deputations of the most threatening kind were sent to the more moderate section of the Government. Lamartine has given a graphic description of his encounter with one of these leaders, who came to him representing the sentiments of sixty thousand armed men and followed by a vast and angry mob.
He demanded in imperious terms ‘the extermination of property and capitalists; the immediate installation of the proletariat into community of goods; the proscription of the bankers, of the rich, of the manufacturers, of all bourgeois whose condition was better than that of salaried workmen; the destruction of all superiorities derived from birth, fortune, heredity, or even labour, and the immediate adoption of the red flag.’69
The ateliers nationaux were perhaps the most alarming of all the many dangers of the time. They had massed in and about Paris an army of some 120,000 workmen, living for the most part in a demoralising idleness, electing their own chiefs, intoxicated by the subversive doctrines that were industriously disseminated, and including, according to good authority, not less than 2,000 liberated convicts.70 Their pay—which they bitterly complained was insufficient—it is true, was only one and a half franc a day, but even at this rate the cost was ruinous to Paris. It amounted to about four and a half millions of francs a month. It was found impossible to provide work for more than a fraction of this great multitude, or to enforce any subordination or serious labour, even where employment was given. In spite of the vast diminution of production, workmen in private industries were now demanding higher wages; and when this was refused, they usually poured in great bodies into the national workshops, and subsisted during the struggle on national pay.71 One of the first effects of the Revolution had been to arm the whole body of the Paris workmen, and great supplies of ammunition were being accumulated.72 The danger to the peace of Paris had become extreme. It had become plainly impossible to provide much longer the requisite pay, and in the meantime paupers were streaming by thousands from the provinces into Paris.
The problem had become an almost insoluble one. Lamartine had no socialist tendencies. He had a well-merited contempt for the characters of his Socialist colleagues, and he clearly saw the madness of their theories. In the first weeks of the Revolution he had more than once encountered the stormy elements around him with a courage, an eloquence, a clearness of vision that could not be surpassed, and for which history has scarcely given him his full meed of praise. But his popularity was rapidly fading. The weaknesses of his character had become apparent, and the shadow of coming calamity, which he clearly saw, fell darkly upon him.
It was necessary, however, to deal promptly with the question. Orders were given to the mayors throughout France to refuse passports to all labouring men who could not prove that they were certain of obtaining work at Paris, and if such men came to Paris they were to be sent back from the barriers. A decree was issued stating that there were 100,000 workmen in Paris without work, and directing that task-work should be substituted for payment by the day. There were schemes for establishing agricultural colonies on waste land, and great works on railways were decreed for the purpose of employing the workmen and withdrawing them from Paris. But they had no intention of leaving, and the only result of the new measures was to accelerate the inevitable explosion.73
The situation, indeed, could have but one issue. In the four short months that had passed since Louis Philippe was expelled from France all industry had been disorganised, all the conservative forces of society had been weakened, and the elements of a ferocious social war had abundantly accumulated. It broke out on June 23, and four days of streetfighting followed, which were among the most terrible in modern history. It was in part an insurrection of men who had been persuaded by Socialist agitators that all the inequalities of fortune were due to extortion and robbery; that the wealth of the world was by right their own; that nothing was needed but the destruction of the existing order of society to bring about a social millennium. It was in part, also, the revolt of starving men with starving families; of men who were willing to work but who could find no work to do, and who had lost all their means of subsistence through the action of politicians and agitators. It was noticed that women and boys were scarcely less prominent, and not less courageous, than the men. The barricades were defended against cannon and regular troops with a deadly tenacity, an indomitable courage, an utter disregard for life worthy of the most seasoned veterans, and the savage ferocity displayed on both sides has not often been surpassed.74 But Cavaignac and Lamoricière at last succeeded, and the Socialist revolution was crushed in blood. The British ambassador states that it appeared from authentic sources that in those four days 16,000 men had been killed or wounded in the streets of Paris.75
Tocqueville has noticed, as one of the most remarkable features of the time, the dread and hatred of Paris which had grown up in the provinces, and great multitudes of volunteers from the country contributed to the suppression of the Socialist rebellion. The panic and the misery which had been produced aroused classes who had long been indifferent to politics, and after the days of June the course of immediate French history was clearly marked. The Socialist party was not destroyed, but it was broken and discouraged. The national workshops had disappeared, and the insurrection which broke out in the June of 1849 was insignificant in Paris, though it was somewhat more formidable in Lyons. The bourgeoisie of the towns and the peasant proprietors now mainly directed the course of French politics, and the guiding motive of these two great classes was a deep dread and hatred of Socialism, and a determination at all hazards to place the protection of industry and property in secure hands. Even before the insurrection of June the simultaneous election of the exiled Prince Louis Napoleon for Paris and several departments indicated the direction of the stream. After the Socialist rising it became evident to clear-sighted observers that the democratic republic was doomed, and that France was on its way to a dictatorship; though for a short time it was very doubtful into whose hands power would fall. The election of Louis Napoleon as President by an enormous majority in December 1848, and the Coup d'Etat of December 1851, solved the question, but it may be confidently asserted that this latter event could never have succeeded if it had not been for Socialism and the dread which it inspired.
After this time the storm-centre of Socialism passed from France to Germany, where it chiefly gathered around two men—Lassalle and Marx. They had, no doubt, some precursors, and, among others, Fichte had thrown out in passing some views very like those of the modern Socialists; but these views had taken no real root in the German mind. The two apostles of German Socialism were very different in their characters, though their doctrines diverged but slightly. Ferdinand Lassalle was born in 1825, and was killed in 1864. He was one of those brilliant, meteoric figures who seem more suited to romance than to sober life. With extraordinary social gifts, with extraordinary powers of eloquence, with a quick and vivid fancy, with boundless energy, vanity, and ambition, and with a total absence of moral principle, he sought above all things and in all forms for pleasure, and he found it especially in constant excitement. Being the son of a tradesman of large means, he never knew the stress of poverty, and his social gifts and his high intellectual promise brought him into contact with some of the most eminent men of his time, among others with Humboldt, Heine, and Bismarck.
He was luxurious and ostentatious in his habits, and very fond of women, and they played a great part in his short life.
He first came in conflict with the law through the part which he appears to have taken in robbing a casket which was believed to contain papers that would be important to one of his Egerias, the well-known Countess of Hatzfeldt, who was then engaged in a lawsuit with her husband. He flung himself vehemently into revolutionary politics in 1848, and was imprisoned for six months. At this period of life he took some part in the socialist propaganda of Marx, but he soon threw it aside for some years. He was an early advocate of the unity of Germany, and when the unity of Italy was accomplished, he foretold as clearly as Montalembert that it would be the inevitable precursor of German unity. Like Louis Blanc, he was a passionate admirer of the French Convention, and especially of Robespierre, and he wrote several books clearly showing his belief that force and revolution, fire and the sword, were the only really efficient methods of accomplishing great social changes.
It was only in the last two or three years of his life that he became a prominent figure in the Socialist movement. In the acute conflicts that were then going on in the Prussian Parliament relating to the army and the budget, the working-class vote had become a matter of special importance. Schulze-Delitzsch at this time was doing much to establish among German working-men co-operative societies, independent of all State help, for the purpose of purchasing necessary articles at the cheapest rate, and conducting work with least cost to the labourer. Though himself a politician, he endeavoured to keep the movement wholly clear of politics, and by long, patient, and disinterested labour he succeeded about 1860 and 1861 in carrying it to a very high level of prosperity. Not less than 200,000 members are said to have been enrolled in these co-operative associations, and nearly two millions sterling was invested in them. Some suspicion, however, that Schulze was in sympathy with the capitalists had thrown a transient unpopularity over this great and truly honourable reformer, and Lassalle, availing himself of it, started a violent opposition to the movement, preaching a less austere gospel than that of self-help. He succeeded in displacing Schulze, and he soon after assailed him with a torrent of scurrilous banter and invective.76
Lassalle made it his object to persuade the working classes that political ascendency should be their first object; that the Revolution of 1848 should be their guiding light; and that by steadily pursuing this path the means of production and the wealth of the world would soon be at their disposal. Industry and thrift, he maintained, could never permanently improve their position, for it is a law of political economy that wages always tend to the level needed for the bare subsistence of the workman, and every economy in subsistence, every working-class saving, would in consequence be followed by a corresponding depreciation of wages. This was ‘the iron law of wages,’ against which industry and thrift would beat in vain until industrial society was completely reorganised. Profit is merely the portion of the produce of the labourer which is confiscated by the employer, and that portion will continually increase. Machinery, bringing the ‘great industry’ in its train, had vastly aggravated the evil. It has introduced an era of great profits, and great profits simply mean increased spoliation of the producer. It has placed the worker more and more in the hands of the capitalist, establishing a slavery which is not the less grinding because it is maintained, not by law, but by hunger. The wealth of the world may increase, but, unless society is radically revolutionised, the part of the labourer must become continually less. ‘The back of the labourer is the green table on which undertakers and speculators play the game of fortune.’ ‘The produce of his labour strangles the labourer. His labour of yesterday rises against him, strikes him to the ground, and robs him of the produce of to-day.’
These doctrines lie at the root of most of the socialistic speculation of our time; and if the stream of humanity moved blindly on, with as little providence or self-restraint as the beasts of the field, a great part of them would be perfectly true. In a thriftless and redundant population, multiplying recklessly in excess of the means of employment, the wages of unskilled labour will undoubtedly sink to the level of a bare subsistence. But this is manifestly untrue of a population which multiplies slowly, and of a country where capital and employment increase more rapidly than population. As Cobden truly said, when two labourers run after one employer, wages will fall. When two employers run after one labourer, they will inevitably rise. As a matter of fact, the general rise of wages in Europe during the nineteenth century, both in nominal value and real value, has been undoubted and conspicuous, and the large and rapidly growing amount of working men's savings had been not less clearly so. In no countries have these things been more marked than in those in which manufactures are most developed and in which machinery is most employed.
Manufacturers, indeed, raise the wages even of those who are not engaged in them. Leroy-Beaulieu has drawn as instructive parallel between the lot of the miners in Silesia and the miners in England, comparing their wages, their food, and their hours of work, and he shows how the immense superiority of the condition of the English miner is simply due to the fact that he works in the centre of a highly industrial and manufacturing population.77 One of the few satisfactory features in the long and terrible period of depression through which English agriculture has been passing, is that while both the landlord and the farming class have suffered ruinous loss, the position of the agricultural labourer has not seriously deteriorated, and is, in fact, better than in periods when agriculture was flourishing.78 There can be little doubt that the explanation of this apparent paradox is, at least to a large extent, to be found in the neighbourhood of manufacturing industry. The attraction of the higher wages of the town operates in two ways. It keeps down the number of the agricultural labourers, and it compels farmers to offer higher wages than the state of agriculture would warrant, in order to prevent their best labourers from deserting them. If it were true, as Lassalle and Marx contended, that the profit of the employer is simply the spoliation of the labourer, the peasant proprietor, who has no landlord, and the small manufacturer, who works on his own account, would gain far more than the most skilled wage-receiving artisan. The most rudimentary knowledge of the economical conditions of different classes will show that this is not the case.
Lassalle was not a man of much inventive genius, but he was eminently fitted to be a great agitator. He possessed in a very high degree eloquence and energy, the power of organising, fascinating, and dazzling men. His craving for applause was insatiable, and he was perpetually seeking and achieving theatrical effects. But his leading doctrines scarcely differed from those of Louis Blanc and Marx. The first stage of the industrial revolution he preached was the construction of great co-operative associations, conducting different branches of industry, but equipped and supported out of public money furnished by the State. With such support, he believed that they would prove irresistible, would grow and prosper till they absorbed or annihilated all private industry, would so regulate supply as to prevent over-production and commercial crises, and would impose their own terms on the consumer. This, as we have seen, was exactly the French idea, and it had been tried to some extent in 1848. After the suppression of the Socialist rebellion of June the French Chamber had devoted three millions of francs to assisting working-class associations. Many demands were refused, but fifty-six societies received state help. The result was not encouraging: in 1865 only four of these societies were in existence; in 1875 only one remained.79
In pursuance of these ideas. Lassalle made it his first task to place himself at the head of a separate working-class party, and he founded a ‘Working Men's Association,’ which was intended to be its centre, and to include working men from all the German States. The primary object was to attain universal suffrage as the means of attaining political ascendency. ‘Universal suffrage,’ he said, ‘belongs to our social demands, as the handle to the axe.’ Though he worked in the cause of democracy, he had decided monarchical sympathies, and a democratic Cæsar, carrying out a socialistic policy, would probably have had his full sympathy. In the distant future he looked forward to the extinction of all private property and all heredity, and the enrolment of the whole human race in one great industrial army. He denounced capital as robbery by the same kind of arguments as his predecessors and successors. We have the usual picture of the man who had invested money in some highly successful speculation, and who, without labour, or thrift, or care, found himself in a few years the possessor of colossal wealth. We have the usual suppression of the fact that, for every fortunate investor of this kind, there were hundreds who had invested money in enterprises that were beneficial to the community without obtaining any return, and whose capital, through no fault of their own, had been wholly lost, or reduced to a mere fraction of its original amount. He desired that, by a heavy graduated tax, all rents of land should be diverted from the owner to the State.80 Every rhetorical device was employed to persuade the working classes that, where wealth existed, it was not due to honest labour or saving, but to the opportunities of fraud that spring from the unjust organisation of society. To inflame class divisions and class discontent, to turn the energies of the working class from the paths of industry and thrift to those of violent revolution, to stimulate to the highest degree their predatory passions, were the chief objects of his life.
A duel growing out of a discreditable love-story cut short the career of this brilliant Epicurean demagogue. He left behind him many admirers, though, on the whole, the strongest influence in German Socialism was Karl Marx, the founder of what Socialists call ‘scientific’ Socialism. Marx was in most respects curiously unlike Lassalle. He was a frigid, systematic, pedantic, concentrated, arrogant thinker, working mainly through the press and by conspiracy, and, in conjunction with his chief disciple, Engels, he spent his life in elaborating a scheme of class warfare and universal spoliation, which has made many disciples. His life extended from 1818 to 1883. Like Lassalle, he was of the Jewish race, and, like him, he inherited a moderate competence. He was for some time editor of a Cologne newspaper, which was in opposition to the Government, and which was finally suppressed by authority. He then went to Paris, where he threw himself ardently into the Socialist propaganda which preceded and prepared the Revolution of 1848. The French Government expelled him, and he went to Brussels, where he formed, in co-operation with Engels, ‘a German Working Men's Association,’ and made himself the centre of an active communistic agitation.
The new body took for its motto the words, ‘Proletariats of all countries unite;’ and this motto showed one of the most characteristic divergencies of his policy from that of Lassalle. Lassalle desired a purely German movement, and he was passionately devoted to the idea of a united Germany. It was the great object of Marx to denationalise the working classes, obliterating all feelings of distinctive patriotism, and uniting them by the bond of common interests, common aspirations, and common sympathies in a great league for the overthrow of the capitalist and middle class. According to his view of history, the labouring class had, in all ages, been plundered or ‘exploited’ by the possessors of property. This tyranny at one time took the form of slavery, at another of serfdom, at another of the ‘corvées’ and other burdens of feudalism. In modern times it takes the form of the wage system, by which the labourer is compelled to work for the benefit of the rich. But democracy has come, and the most numerous class will soon become the most powerful, if they unite in all countries, and discard the sentiments and the divisions of local patriotism. The event to which the disciples of Marx are accustomed to point as realising the best their denationalising teaching is the Commune, when the French proletariat found their opportunity, in the crushing disaster of their country, to attempt a revolution in the interests of their order. It is an event still much commemorated and honoured in the more uncompromising socialistic circles, and they justly boast that men moulded in their principles took the leading part in accomplishing it.81
The Commune, however, was the flower of the new teaching, and we are at present concerned with the seed. On the outbreak of the Revolution of 1848 the Belgian authorities expelled Marx from Brussels, and he gladly went to Paris. The aspect of Europe in this year of revolution seemed very favourable to his designs, and in 1848 he put forward, in conjunction with some of his disciples, a German programme of communism which, although it did not attract much immeiate attention, has a considerable importance, for it is the first clearly formulated exposition of the designs of the party, and the parent of the many programmes that were to come. Marx and his fellow-signatories demanded ‘the proclamation of a republic; payment of members of Parliament; the conversion of princely and other feudal estates with mines, &c., into public property; the appropriation by the State of all means of transport, as railways, canals, steamships, roads, and ports; the restriction of the laws of succession; the introduction of heavy progressive taxes, and the abolition of excise duties; the establishment of national workshops; State guarantee to all workmen of an existence, provision for the incapable, universal and free education.’ They desired also the immediate expropriation of landed property, and the employment of the rents for State purposes; the centralisation of all credit, by the formation with State capital of a national bank having a complete monopoly; the institution at public expense of great industrial armies working in common. They denounced the existing system of marriage and the family as resting on capital or private gain. They declared that their objects could only be attained by force and by a radical revolution, and they called on the ‘proletariat’ of all countries to unite, and to support any party of movement that could shake the existing fabric of society.82
Marx soon returned to Prussia, resumed his newspaper work, and endeavoured to foment and encourage Socialist risings. But after the restoration of order in Germany his journal was suppressed. He was again expelled from Prussia, and, as he was refused permission to settle in France, he took refuge in London, where he became the London correspondent of the ‘New York Tribune,’ and where he spent the remainder of his life in writing, and in forming or promoting Socialist leagues.
His great work was in connection with the International Society. This society seems to have been first suggested when some skilled French workmen were sent to London, at the cost of the Imperial Government, in 1862, for the purpose of visiting the great Exhibition of that year, and studying the relative industrial progress of different nations. They employed themselves, among other things, in carefully examining English trade unions; and they were received with much cordiality by English working-class leaders. The International Society was founded at a meeting which was held in St. Martin's Hall, in September 1864, under the presidency of Professor Beesly. Marx, Mazzini, and an English working-class agitator named Odger, whose speeches will probably be in the recollection of many of my readers, bore a large part in its foundation.83 Mazzini, however, had no sympathy with Marx, and when he found that the new organisation was not likely to be used for purely political objects, he withdrew from it. The French element in the movement acquired about this time a considerable accession of strength owing to the law of 1864, which made working men's coalitions legal in France; but German influence, and especially that of Marx, soon became the most powerful, though in the first manifestoes of the International his distinctive doctrines were either concealed or greatly attenuated.
It was, as its name implied, a central and international society, intended to affiliate workmen's associations in all countries, to bring their members into close correspondence, to hold periodical congresses at which their common interests might be discussed, and to impart a common direction to their policy. It was soon found that it included wide differences of opinion. The German element, and a great portion of the French element, aimed at a total destruction of the existing fabric of society and a complete spoliation of property. The English representatives, for the most part, desired little more than that light should be thrown on the condition of working men in different lands, the problems they had to solve, and the solutions they proposed; and that measures should be taken to prevent the beating down of wages in one country by the importation of labourers from another. It was ultimately decided not to interfere in any way with the different working-class associations that were affiliated to the society, and the manifesto which was issued describing its objects was drawn up in eminently moderate and almost colourless language.
It stated that the emancipation of the working classes must be effected by themselves, and that the end for which they should labour should be equal rights and duties for all, and the annihilation of all class domination; that the economical subjection of the workman to those who possess the means of work, and therefore of livelihood, is the first cause of political, moral, and material servitude; that the economical emancipation of the workman should be the supreme object, to which all political movements should be subordinated; that hitherto the efforts of the working classes had failed owing to the isolation of the different nationalities, and that the time had now come when workmen of all countries should combine to solve a problem which was neither local nor national, but applied to all countries in which modern life exists. In accordance with this preamble the council elected by the assembly in St. Martin's Hall had undertaken to found an International Society of Labourers, in which the workmen of different countries who aspired to mutual assistance, progress, and the complete emancipation of their class, might find a central point of communication and co-operation. They declared that this society, and all the societies and individuals connected with it, acknowledged that truth, morality, and justice, without distinction of colour, creed, or nationality, should be the foundation of their conduct. They deemed it their duty to claim for all the rights of men and of citizenship—‘No duties without rights, no rights without duties.’84
It is probable that this manifesto represented the genuine opinions of a considerable portion of those who signed it, and it certainly contained nothing that was in any degree dishonest or dishonourable. It seemed to point mainly to the formation of co-operative societies, enabling working men to become their own masters, and, whether this scheme was feasible or not, there was at least no objection to be raised against it on the score of morality. Questions relating to marriage and to religious belief, which were so prominent in continental Socialism, were carefully avoided; confiscation, which was a cardinal point in the schemes of Marx and Lassalle, was never suggested; and although the working classes in different nationalities were invited to communicate and combine, there was nothing in the manifesto that was in any degree inconsistent with a genuine patriotism. The divisions in the Socialist camp were very serious, and it was only by the widest compromise that some imperfect semblance of unity could be preserved. In England, there was then no perceptible body of opinion in favour of the more extreme views of the continental Socialists. In Germany, the followers of Lassalle and the followers of Marx were bitterly opposed. In France, though branches of the International were speedily established in most of the great towns, subscriptions came in very slowly. Personal jealousies and suspicions, and grave dissensions of principle, appeared, and they broke out fiercely in a clandestine meeting of representatives of the chief French industries which was held in Paris. There was a powerful party who wished the French delegation to be essentially and exclusively Republican, and the overthrow of the Empire and the establishment of a democratic republic to be made one of the great objects of the society. There was dissension about whether the emancipation of Poland should be included among the objects of the International; whether female labour and intellectual labour should be recognised. The majority of the French workmen looked with great disfavour on the admission of lawyers, journalists, and professors into their councils: they considered that such men were far too closely connected with the bourgeoisie, and they desired that manual labour alone should be represented in the International. On the other hand, it was urged that the men whom it was proposed to exclude were the very men who had chiefly created, organised, and managed the whole Socialist movement, and that without their assistance that movement was very likely to collapse. English and German votes, in opposition to those of the French delegates, at last secured their admission.85
The Congress of Geneva, which was held in 1866, and the Congress of Lausanne, which was held in 1867, appear both to have been very inoffensive. Many subjects were discussed. Some crude ideas were thrown out. It was resolved that railways ought to be in the hands of the State, but the congress did not attempt to define the means of acquiring them; there was a strong tendency in favour of a limitation of working hours, but no steps of a really revolutionary character were taken. The society became more popular when it was shown that it could do something to procure international support for local strikes, and to prevent in time of strikes the importation of cheap foreign labour; and it was in this direction that a large proportion of its members wished it chiefly to develop. In 1868 some members were prosecuted and condemned to small fines in France for belonging to an association unauthorised by law; but there was no disposition shown by the Imperial Government to deal harshly with its members.86
In the Congress at Brussels, in 1868, signs of a more revolutionary spirit appeared, but it was not until the Congress of Basle, in 1869, that the International definitely identified itself with a policy of spoliation. It was the policy of Marx, but the chief resolution was introduced by a French delegate named Paepe, who induced the congress to vote that all private property in land should be at once abolished, and that all farmers should hold their farms in lease from the State, paying their rents to it alone. As a transitional measure, however, it was agreed that the peasant proprietor, who cultivated what is now his own land, might be exempt from rent during his life. After his death his plot of land was to pass under the same conditions as the others.87 A motion was made that all inheritance of property should be abolished; but, although the congress would not reject, it was not prepared to adopt, so radical a measure. An amendment limiting inheritance, as a transitory measure, to near kindred met with a large amount of support; but there were many abstentions, and it accordingly failed to obtain the assent of a full majority of the congress.88
Differences of opinion on other points were very apparent. One French representative warned his fellows that the course they were taking would alienate from them the whole body of the French peasant proprietors, and that it was the opposition of this class that crushed the Republic of 1848. He added, that the only result of a collective ownership of the soil would be that the whole rural population would become a population of serfs, performing forced labour at the command of the agents of the State, and that they would gain nothing in material wellbeing that could compensate them for the total destruction of their liberty.89 The term ‘Collectivist’ about this time became common. Like most Socialist terms, it was somewhat vague, or at least covered many subdivisions of opinion; but its general idea was that all the means of production—land, machinery, and capital—should be appropriated by the State, though, subject to this condition, men were to be allowed to own, to save, and even to inherit, provided that they did not turn what they possessed into capital. The Collectivists were opposed to the Communists, who would deny to the individual even this small measure of liberty, and aggrandise still further the power of the State.90
It was about this time, also, that the influence of the Russian Nihilist, Bakúnin, became considerable, and it was exerted in strong opposition to Marx. Bakúnin seems to me to be best described by the term fou furieux, which Thiers once applied, with less justice, to another politician. He illustrates the mania for destruction which sometimes takes hold of a diseased nature, and is probably a good deal strengthened by a kind of vanity very common in our generation. It makes men feverishly anxious that no one should pass them in the race, holding opinions more ‘advanced’ than themselves. It must be acknowledged that, in his own path, Bakúnin can hardly be outstripped. He preached, as he said, ‘not only the collective ownership of the soil, but also of all riches, to be effected by a complete abolition of the State as a political and juridical entity…; the destruction of all national and territorial States, and on their ruins the construction of an international State consisting of the millions of workmen.’91 ‘It is necessary,’ he said, ‘to destroy all existing institutions—the State, the Church, the law court, the bank, the university, the army, and the police, all of which are fortresses of privilege against the proletariat. One method, which is particularly efficacious, is to burn all papers, so as to destroy the whole legal basis of family and property. It is a colossal work, but it will be accomplished.’92 He objected to the Communists, that their theory recognised and strengthened the power of existing States, all of which must be abolished.
It is a melancholy proof of the force of the volcanic elements that underlie civilised society that such a man should have obtained a large following. He represented a great body of French and Italian workmen in the Congress of Basle, and he set up a rival society, called ‘An Alliance of the Social Democracy.’ Its programme consisted of atheism; the abolition of all worship; the substitution of science for faith, and human justice for Divine justice; the abolition of marriage as a political, religious, judicial, and civil institution; of all inheritance; of private property in all its forms, and of all existing States and bodies invested with authority. Collective property and industrial associations, and ‘universal and international solidarity, discarding all politics founded on so-called patriotism and the rivalry of nations,’ were to be the characteristics of the regenerated world.93
Socialism in 1869 and 1870, in its different forms, advanced rapidly. The International established branches in nearly every European country, and it had taken some root in America. It was assisted by formidable strikes which broke out in France and Belgium, and by the unbounded latitude of the press which existed in France in the last days of the Empire. Its literature in newspapers and periodicals became very considerable, and its revolutionary tendencies more clearly marked. Laveleye has noticed that while in its earlier days the chief task of the International was to raise wages and assist strikes, it was now mainly concerned with the transformation of society. At the outbreak of the War of 1870 its cosmopolitan character was shown by some addresses of protest and mutual sympathy emanating from working men belonging to each of the belligerent nations; but in the fierce clash of passions that ensued they passed almost unperceived.
Then came the seventy-three terrible days of the Commune, and during this time members of the International bore a conspicuous part in the government of Paris. In the agony of the struggle there was little time for reorganising society, and the ghastly scenes of anarchy, of deliberate and cold-blooded murder, and of gigantic incendiarism that soon took place have diverted all attention from the attempts to realise the programme of Socialism. Nor, indeed, had those attempts much importance. The decrees sweeping away some of the arrears of house-rent, postponing the payment of commercial debts, and suspending the sale of pledged articles, might have been taken in any period of extreme and desperate crisis. Other decrees of the Commune reduced the salaries of all functionaries; forbade employers to punish workmen by levying fines or withholding wages; prohibited night-work in bakeries, and ordered that all workshops which had been abandoned should be reported to the Revolutionary Government, in order that they should be converted into co-operative associations in the hands of the workmen. Priests and monks were treated as wild beasts, and many of them were murdered with every circumstance of deliberate ferocity; and it is therefore not surprising that the Commune should have decreed the confiscation of all property belonging to religious corporations, and the suppression of all State endowments of religion.94
There has been some dispute about the part borne by the International in the rising of 1871. The truth seems to be that the central council in London had absolutely nothing to say to it. When the war broke out, no one could have anticipated the Communist revolution, and, when it became possible, Paris was surrounded by a ring of German bayonets, which effectually excluded external interference. Nor, it may be added, had the central council of the International any disposition to take the initiative in political revolution. On the other hand, it is equally clear that the whole body of the Socialists in Paris threw themselves passionately into the rising; that a large proportion of its ablest, though not its most violent, leaders were drawn from the ranks of the International, and that, when the struggle was over, Marx and the council in London, as well as innumerable Socialists in other countries, expressed the warmest sympathy and admiration for the defeated Communists.
The well-known French Socialist, Malon, was one of the members of the Commune, and he illustrates the relation of the International to this revolution by the aloe, which, after many years, throws out a splendid flower, and then dies away. Its history in the period immediately following the Communist rising was one of constant and bitter dissension, which it is not here necessary to relate. The supreme council was transferred to New York; it lost its influence, and the organisation either ceased to exist or took new forms. But the movement towards Socialism continually spread. Socialist congresses multiplied, and that which was held in Gotha in 1875 had a special importance in drawing together the divergent sections of German Socialism. Its programme was unusually full. It was adopted in its principal parts by Socialist bodies in many countries, and, in the opinion of the best historian of the International, it may be regarded as the fullest and most authentic expression of the views of the whole body of continental Socialists.95
It states that all wealth and all civilisation spring from labour, and that the whole fruit of labour belongs to society—that is to say, to all the members. All men under an obligation to work, and each member has a right to receive of the fruit of this work the part reasonably necessary to satisfy all his wants.
In the existing state of society, the means of work are monopolised by the capitalist class, and the dependence of the working class caused by this monopoly is the source of misery and of servitude in all its forms.
The emancipation of labour requires the transfer of all the means of work to society as a whole, the collective regulation of all work, and the equitable distribution of its produce.
The emancipation of labour can only be effected by the labouring class, all other classes being reactionary.
Starting from these principles, the Socialist working party of Germany aims by all legal means at the establishment of a free State in a socialistic society. It undertakes to break ‘the brazen law of wages;’ to put an end to ‘exploitation’ in all its forms, and to all political and social inequality.
While in the first instance limiting its action to its own country, it recognises the international character of the working-class movement, and will fulfil the duties arising from it so as to realise the fraternity of all men.
As a preliminary step to the solution of the social question it demands the formation of co-operative associations of workmen acting with State help, and at the same time under the democratic control of the workers. These associations must be sufficiently numerous to become the point of departure for the socialistic organisation of collective labour.
The Socialist working party of Germany demand as the foundation of the State equal and direct universal suffrage in all elections, general and local, and including all citizens above the age of twenty. The voting is to take place on a Sunday or other holiday. It is to be secret, and it is also to be obligatory.
They demand also direct legislation by the people; war and peace voted by the people; the substitution of a national militia for permanent armies; the suppression of all restriction on the liberty of the press, of public meeting, and combinations; justice administered by the people and administered gratuitously; free State education in all grades, and the complete disconnection of religion from the Government.
As long as the present constitution of society exists the Socialist workmen of Germany demand the greatest possible extension of political liberties; a single direct and progressive tax upon revenues; unlimited rights of combination; a normal day of labour, regulated according to the needs of society; a prohibition of Sunday work; a limitation in the interests of health and morality of the work of children and women; a severe sanitary inspection of all forms of labour by inspectors named by the workmen; a regulation of prison labour, and a completely free administration of all institutions established for the assistance of the working classes.96
This comprehensive programme comprises some articles which are very feasible and reasonable, and others which could only be carried out by the violent spoliation of all existing property and a total revolution of society. The article admitting, as a transitional measure, co-operative societies was due to the followers of Lassalle. In most of the other parts of the document the influence of Marx prevailed. The sharp division between the wage-earning class and all other classes was his cardinal doctrine, and the appropriation without purchase by the community of all the land, machinery, and capital which belongs to private persons, whether they have received or inherited it from others or whether they have acquired it through their own industry and saving, is an object which seems common to all the leading sects of continental Socialists.
On the means of attaining this object they are not agreed. The predominant and, as it seems to me, the more rational opinion is, that the great multitude of the owners of property can never be dispossessed except by force. This was evidently the opinion of Marx, though in a speech which he made at the congress at The Hague, in 1872, he admitted the possibility in some countries of a peaceful solution. ‘We do not deny,’ he said, ‘that there are countries, as America, England, and Holland, where working men can reach their ends by pacific means. If this is true, we must still acknowledge that in most continental countries force must be the lever of our revolution.’97 Bebel, who is one of the most important of the later disciples of Marx, has never concealed his opinion. ‘We aim,’ he said, ‘in the domain of politics, at Republicanism; in the domain of economics, at Socialism; and in the domain of what is to-day called religion, at atheism.’ ‘There are only two ways of attaining our economic ends. The one is the general supplanting of the private undertakers by means of legislation when the democratic State has been established…. The other, and decidedly shorter, though also violent way, would be forcible expropriation—the abolition of private undertakers at one stroke, irrespective of the means to be employed. …There is no need to be horrified at this possible use of force, or to cry ‘Murder’ at the suppression of rightful existences, at forcible expropriation, and so forth. History teaches that, as a rule, new ideas only assert themselves through a violent struggle between their representatives and the representatives of the past.’98
Another school, however, maintain that by the assistance of democratic institutions the whole process can be accomplished by mere force of law. It is only necessary, they say, for the Socialist party to obtain an uncontrolled ascendency in the legislature, and all the rest will easily follow. The repudiation of national debts, which is one leading article of the party, presents no difficulty. It only requires a simple breach of faith—the violation of the promise in virtue of which the money had been lent. Land confiscation does not need even a change of title-deeds. It can be effected by a special tax diverting to the State all that portion of the profit which now takes the form of rent. Private industries can be strangled by the competition of co-operative institutions endowed out of taxation, and out of taxation levied on the very class whose private industry it is desired to crush. A single highly graduated tax on incomes, and a legal prohibition of inheritance, could easily and effectually destroy all private wealth. The agglomeration of industries into large companies, which is so characteristic of our generation, and the rapid growth of a democratic municipal and county government, would, it is maintained, greatly facilitate the process of confiscation and transformation.
There is also an intermediate opinion, which is probably still more widely held. It is that the full ends of Socialism can never be attained without violence, but that constitutional agitation would greatly help by placing all the posts and elements of power in the hands of the Socialists, and thus giving them a commanding ‘vantage-ground’ when the struggle breaks out.
This question for some time greatly occupied and divided the Socialist body, especially after the stringent anti-Socialist legislation which was carried in Germany in 1878. Most, the notorious editor of the Freiheit, and a German named Hasselmann, led the more violent, or, as we should now call it, the Anarchist party, which placed all its hope in armed insurrection, and until that insurrection could be effected advocated dynamite, assassination, and all other means of destroying a capitalist society. On the other hand there was the parliamentary party, led by Bebel and Liebknecht, who desired that Socialism should pursue its parliamentary course; though, as has been already seen, they were quite prepared to admit that force was the ultimate solution. After many abortive negotiations, the question was brought before an important Socialist congress which was held at the old castle of Wyden, in Switzerland, in 1880. Most and Hasselmann did not appear, and after much discussion the congress gave a decided victory to the parliamentary party. The Anarchist leaders were severed from the body, on the charge of having undermined its discipline, and the congress expressed its full confidence in its parliamentary leaders. It at the same time revised the programme of Gotha by effacing the word ‘legal’ from the clause in which that congress described the means by which the Socialists were aiming at their ideal. It formally adopted a Zürich paper, called the Sozial-Demokrat, as the one official organ of their party, and it issued a manifesto which clearly shows that the difference between the moderate and the extreme party was only a difference of expediency, and not of principles or of aims. It was addressed to the workmen's Socialist party in Germany, and to their co-religionists and sympathisers in all countries; and a few condensed extracts will sufficiently show its purport.
The Social Democratic party of Germany, it said, will continue to the end what it has been at the beginning—the champion of the emancipation of a crushed and exploited people. It will continue to struggle courageously, perseveringly, and deliberately for the annihilation of the insensate and criminal order of things, both political and social, which now exists. The persecutions of an infamous Government and a not less infamous bourgeoisie have not bent the democracy: it remains faithful to its principle and its revolutionary courage.
The immense majority of the German Social Democrats never indulged in the illusion that democracy would succeed by purely legal means in effecting the triumph of their principles; or, in other words, that the privileged classes would of their own accord renounce their privileges.
But no German Democrat has ever thought that he should therefore renounce our principles. If the privileged classes close the legal way—the way we should prefer—all means will be good to us. The political and economical masters of Germany wish a war to death. They will have it, and the whole responsibility will rest upon them.
Our party, however, will never lightly risk a criminal revolution, which would greatly compromise our cause. The people are not sufficiently prepared for the struggle; it would throw back for many years the realisation of our ideas, and it would be a great crime, for it would uselessly shed the precious blood of the people.
The first duty of every revolutionist is to prepare insensibly the way for the revolution in its definite and violent form by spreading our principles among the people, strengthening the party which is to lead the coming struggle, weakening and paralysing the enemy.
If, through the force of circumstances, extreme measures some day come, the German Socialists will prove that they know how to do their duty. They will enter into the struggle well prepared, and with the hope of conquest.
This is the spirit that has inspired the decisions of our congress. As a means both of agitation and of propagandism, the Socialists are invited to take an active part in all elections which offer the smallest chance of success, whether they be for the Reichstag, the Landtag, or the commune.
While regulating our internal affairs, we have never for a moment forgotten the bonds that unite our party indissolubly with our brothers in other countries and other tongues—with the socialist proletariat of the whole world.
An office is established for the express purpose of maintaining a close and uninterrupted communication with Socialists in other countries, and wherever in the world there is a struggle to emancipate the working classes from political and social servitude, there the social democracy of Germany will be found ready to help.99
The same views were constantly expressed in the official paper of the party. Many extracts, both from the ‘Sozial-Demokrat,’ which represented the so-called Moderate party, and from the ‘Freiheit,’ which represented the Anarchist party, were read in the Bundesrath in the March of 1881, and they show that no real difference of aim divided them. Both papers welcomed with enthusiasm the assassination of the Czar Alexander II. Both papers acknowledged that a total revolution of the existing fabric of society was their ultimate end. Both papers united their dreams of social regeneration with a very aggressive and virulent atheism. The possibility of a peaceful revolution was described by the ‘Sozial-Demokrat’ as ‘a pure Utopia.’ ‘We know,’ it said, ‘that the socialistic State will never be realised except by a violent revolution, and it is our duty to spread this conviction through all classes.’ ‘We believe that if war broke out on our east, or on our west, or from both quarters at once, another enemy would arise far more formidable than the foreign foe, and that enemy would be the proletariat. It will then be a war to the death.’ ‘Sooner or later will come a famine, or an epidemic, or a great European war. In that day the cry of anguish of the poor, which has been so long unheeded, will turn into a cry of vengeance that will blanch the cheeks of the great and of the powerful. Then will sound the hour of judgment, the hour of deliverance.’ ‘Christianity is the greatest enemy of Socialism.’ ‘When God is expelled from human brains, what is called the Divine Grace will at the same time be banished; and when the heaven above appears nothing more than an immense falsehood, men will seek to create for themselves a heaven below.’100
Such extracts, taken from the organ of the main and more moderate section of the German Socialists, will probably help to make the English reader understand why it is that German statesmen regard the Socialists, not as a normal political party, but as the deadly enemies of their country and of civilised society. Marx, towards the end of his life, employed himself in writing his elaborate treatise on Capital, of which the first volume was published by himself, and the conclusion, after his death, by his disciples. It is not probable that a work so long, so obscure, confused, and tortuous in its meanings, and so unspeakably dreary in its style, has had many readers among the working classes, or indeed in any class; but the mere fact that a highly pretentious philosophical treatise, with a great parade of learning, and continually expressing the most arrogant contempt for the most illustrious economical and historical writers of the century, should have been written in defence of plunder and revolution has, no doubt, not been without its effect. It is impossible in a short space to give a complete summary of this book, but a few leading doctrines stand out prominently, and have been widely diffused in more popular forms through many countries.
The work is, as might be expected, a furious attack upon capital. It describes it as wholly due to violence or fraud, extending through the whole past history of the globe. Marx recognises no such thing as prescription. The frauds, the violence, the unjust confiscations of a remote past are brought up against peaceful and industrious men who for many generations have bought, sold, borrowed, and let with perfect security on the faith of titles fully recognised by law, and absolutely undisputed within the memory of man. The most serious vice of capital is, however, not derived from the past. It lies in the present confiscation of labour and its fruits, which, according to Marx, is its essential characteristic. To understand his position it is necessary to consider his law of value. He distinguishes between the ‘use value’ of a thing and its ‘exchange value,’ and exchange value, he maintained, can only be created in one way. This way is by labour. All commodities are merely ‘masses of congealed labour-time,’ and derive their whole exchange value from the labour bestowed on them. ‘The value of every commodity is determined by the labour-time necessary to produce it in normal quantity.’ ‘Commodities in which equal quantities of labour are embodied, or which can be produced in the same time, have the same value.’ ‘All surplus value, under whatever form it crystallises itself—interest, rent, or profit’—is only the ‘materialisation’ of a certain amount of unpaid labour-time.101
Two startling consequences spring from this doctrine. One is, that commerce can never produce a surplus value, or, in other words, increase wealth. It merely moves from one quarter to another a fixed amount of value, or ‘congealed’ labour-power. ‘A. may be clever enough to get the advantage of B. or C. without their being able to retaliate …but the value in circulation has not increased by one iota—it is only distributed differently between A. and B…. The same change would have taken place if A., without the formality of an exchange, had directly stolen from B. The sum of the values in circulation can clearly not be augmented by any change in their distribution, any more than the quantity of precious metals in a country by a Jew selling a Queen Anne's farthing for a guinea…. If equivalents are exchanged, no surplus value results, and if non-equivalents are exchanged, still no surplus value. Circulation, or the exchange of commodities, begets no value.’102
And if money devoted to commerce or the mere exchange of commodities is thus incapable of producing a surplus value, the same thing is true of the money-lender's capital, which is employed in loans. Capital is naturally barren. It has no real power of reproduction, or of creating value. Its power of acquiring wealth lies solely in its power of purchasing labour, and enabling its owner to appropriate the proceeds. Interest of money is an essentially unjust thing. The expenditure of labour-time can alone create and measure increase of value, and there is no other way of adding to the wealth of the world. Marx quotes, with complete approbation, the well-known assertion of Aristotle, that ‘the usurer is most rightly hated, because money itself is the source of his gain, and is not used for the purpose for which it was invented, for it originated for the exchange of commodities, but interest makes out of money more money…. Interest is money of money; so that, of all modes of making a living, this is the most contrary to nature.’103
In what way, then, is capital formed? The answer is, that it is simply the unpaid and confiscated labour of the labourer. The capitalist, having obtained command of the means of production and subsistence, is able to buy at the price of a bare subsistence the whole labour-time of the labourer. By right the capitalist has no claim to profit, or to anything beyond the mere sum required for keeping up his machinery. In fact he is able to exact far more. The labourer works, perhaps, for ten hours. In five hours he probably produces an equivalent to his subsistence, and he receives that amount of the produce of his labour in the shape of wages. For the other five hours he receives nothing, and the whole produce of his labour is appropriated by the capitalist. ‘Wages by their very nature always imply a certain quantity of unpaid labour of the part of the labourer.’104 It is an illusion to suppose that the labourer is paid by the capitalist out of his capital. This would, no doubt, be the case if he were paid in advance. As a matter of fact, he is paid only at the end of his day's, or week's, or month's work, and he is paid entirely out of his own earnings. He receives only what he has himself made, or its equivalent. Every shilling that is made by him is merely the equivalent of commodities which he has already produced; but he has produced many commodities besides, for which he obtains no return, and this constitutes the profit of the capitalist.
The doctrine that a capitalist has no right to derive profit from the use of his machinery may obviously be extended further, and some at least of the Collectivists do not at all flinch from their conclusions. They very consistently maintain that, if a man lives in the house of another man, it is an extortion to ask him to pay a rent. All that the owner is entitled to is that his house should be kept in good repair. One distinguished economist of the party, named Briosnes, has gone a step further. He argues that the owner of the house should not only receive nothing, but should pay the lodger for keeping up his house.105 It may be left to the common sense of the reader to determine how many men would build houses under these conditions for the accommodation of others, and what would be the fate of the houseless poor.
Marx observes that one of the chief abuses of the feudal system was the ‘corvée,’ or the obligation imposed upon the tenant to labour gratuitously for a certain number of days in every year for the benefit of his landlord, or feudal chief. The same system, he maintains, exists under the capitalist system at the present day, and in a greatly aggravated form. Under the old system the poor man was obliged to give uncompensated labour for a certain number of days in every week, or month, or year. The only difference between the ancient and the modern system is, that the unpaid labour is now exacted daily, in the shape of several hours of uncompensated work. The essential difference between a society based on slave labour and one based on wage labour lies only in the mode in which the surplus labour is in each case extracted from the actual producer and labourer.’106 Machinery has greatly aggravated the servitude. ‘Previously the workman sold his own labour-power, which he disposed of nominally as a free agent. Now he sells wife and child. He has become a slave-dealer.’107 The ‘brazen’ or ‘iron’ law of wages prevents the possibility of the workman rising above his slavery. The wealth that is produced may increase, but this will only profit the capitalist; and if for a short time wages rise, the pressure of population will become greater, and soon reduce them to their normal level of a bare subsistence. The prices of the articles of first necessity may fall, but to the labourer the only result will be a corresponding fall of wages, as the cost of his subsistence will be diminished. Under the capitalist system the labourer is unable to purchase with his earnings what he has himself produced, and with the progress of machinery the impossibility becomes continually greater. There is but one real remedy. It is to place the land and the instruments of production in the hands of the producers. The expropriation of the mass of the people from the soil forms the basis of the capitalist mode of production.’108
To sum up the position Marx assures us that ‘capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.’109 It is ‘the vampire which will not lose its hold on the labourer so long as there is a muscle, a nerve, a drop of blood to be exploited.’110 ‘In proportion as capital accumulates, the lot of the labourer, be his pay high or low, must grow worse…. Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation at the opposite pole—i.e. on the side of the class that produces its own product in the form of capital.’111 ‘As in religion man is governed by the products of his own brain, so in capitalistic production he is governed by the products of his own hand.’112
The doctrine of Marx is, in its essential features, the received and recognised doctrine of the great body, not only of German, but of French Socialists. It is the basis of the teaching of Mr. Hyndman and some other Socialist writers in England, and it has a considerable and probably a growing body of adherents in nearly every country. Marx is described by his followers as the new Adam Smith, another and a greater Darwin, the author of ‘The Bible of Socialism.’
Burke has noticed that the weakest reasonings are sometimes the most dangerous, because they are united with the strongest passions, and I do not think that the reasonings of Marx would have received these eulogies if they had not led to conclusions appealing strongly to cupidity and to revolutionary passions. Nor are they, I think, ever likely to take deep root in English soil. That curious Teutonic power of framing a picture of the world out of formula? and abstract reasonings, to the neglect of some of the most patent facts, is not an English characteristic; and certainly no one who compared the realities of a manufacturing country with the doctrines of Marx would be likely to find much correspondence between them. It is quite true that, both in the present and in the past, large fortunes are often due to fraud and violence, and perhaps still more frequently to some happy chance; but it is also certain that the normal increase of wealth springs from quite other sources. Superior talent, superior industry, superior thrift, lie at the root of the great accumulations of every civilised age. The true source of the enormous disparities of condition lies in the great natural inequality of men, both moral and intellectual and physical, and in the desire of each man to improve his position. It is a desire which is one of the deepest and most indestructible elements of human nature, though it acts in different degrees of force and of efficiency. When a workman shows an ability, an industry, or a thrift that marks him out from his fellows; when he spends in work the time and saves the money which others spend in idleness or dissipation, there may be seen the incipient capitalist. Trace the pedigrees of the great fortunes among us, and in how many instances will it be found that we arrive in one, two, or three generations at the superior workman? It is the characteristic of modern saving that it is scarcely ever hoarded, but is at once thrown into circulation in the form of capital, and made productive of more riches; and it is in the enormous scale of this production, going on year by year over the whole surface of the community, that the growing wealth of the country mainly consists.
We have seen the picture Marx gives of the slavery of a nation which lives under the capitalist system; of the steady decrease of wellbeing and of wages that must follow; of the hopelessness of expecting that any increase of manufacturing wealth, or any cheapening of the articles of first necessity, can improve the condition of the labourer. In 1883, the year when Marx died, one of the greatest of living statisticians published his estimate of the condition of the working classes in England during the fifty preceding years.113 He was writing of the country and the time in which manufactures had most enormously developed, in which machinery had played the greatest part, in which the capitalist system had been most fully tried. He tells us, as the result of a careful and minute investigation of the industrial statistics of the United Kingdom, that in every class of work in which it is possible to make a comparison the wages of the labourers have in those fifty years risen at least 20 per cent., that in most cases they have risen from 50 to 100 per cent., and in one or two instances more than 100 per cent. ‘If,’ as he truly says, ‘in this interval the average money earnings of the working class have risen between 50 and 100 per cent., there must have been an enormous change for the better in the means of the working man, unless by some wonderful accident it has happened that his special articles have changed in a different way from the general run of prices.’
Have they, then, done so? The answer is, that while the prices of wheat and sugar have immensely decreased; while the price of clothing, and most of the other articles of working men's consumption, have diminished in a less, but still considerable, proportion, the only articles in which the workman is specially interested which have risen are meat and house rent. And at the beginning of this period meat, which now enters largely into an English working man's diet, was almost unknown in that capacity, with the exception of bacon, which has not increased sensibly in price; while ‘there is reason to believe that the increased house rent is merely the higher price for a superior article which the workman can afford.’
On the whole, Sir Robert Giffen considers it a moderate statement of an incontestable truth to say, that ‘the increase of the money wages of the working man in the last fifty years corresponds to a real gain.’
And this increase of wages has coincided with a great diminution in the hours of work. Sir Robert Giffen observes that it is difficult or impossible to state with absolute precision the amount of this reduction in the United Kingdom, but he concludes from the data we possess that it is nearly 20 per cent. ‘There has been at least this reduction in the textile, engineering, and house-building trades. The workman gets from 50 to 100 per cent, more money for 20 per cent, less work.’
Other and not less decisive evidence is to be found in the returns of the savings banks, which represent more faithfully than, perhaps, any other test the savings of the wage-earning class. In the fifty years of which we are speaking the depositors in the savings bands of the United Kingdom multiplied nearly tenfold, and the amount of the deposits more than fivefold, while the population had not increased more than 30 per cent. In 1881, which is the last year on the lists of Sir Robert Giffen, the amount deposited in the savings banks amounted to the enormous sum of 80,334,000l. And this increase has taken place in spite of a vast multiplication of the kind of investments in which the savings of poor men are chiefly placed. Giffen gives some statistics of the progress of industrial and provident co-operative societies in England and Wales. They extend only over the period from 1862 to 1881. In that short period the members of these societies rose from 90,000 to 525,000, and their capital from 428,000l. to 5,881,000l.
The reader may refer to the valuable paper I am quoting for further evidence on this subject. He will observe the marked decline in the amount of pauperism in all parts of the United Kingdom during the last fifty years, the reduction in the rate of mortality, and the increased duration of average life. These things do not, it is true, absolutely prove a general increase in material wellbeing, but they are at least wholly inconsistent with generally increasing misery. I shall not here follow Sir Robert Giffen in his very instructive examination of the proportionate share of the different classes in the great increase in national wealth, as shown on the one hand by the Income tax returns and the Probate duties, and on the other by the changes in the rate of wages. His conclusion may be given in his own words. It is that, ‘allowing for the increase of population, the growth of capital and income-tax income is really much smaller than the growth of the money income of the working classes; …that the number of owners of personal property liable to probate duty has increased in the last fifty years more than the increase of population, and that, on an average, these owners are only about 15 per cent, richer than they were, while the individual income of the working classes has increased from 50 to 100 per cent.’
All this is compatible with the fact that there is still much that is deplorable in the condition of the working classes, especially at the period when their strength has failed. It is compatible with the fact that, in the vast agglomerations of population that grow up around every great manufacture, there is always to be found a broad though, it is hoped, a diminishing fringe of abject poverty, misery, and vice. Drink, and vagrancy, and idle habits, criminal or at least vicious lives, imprudent marriages, and a total absence among great multitudes of all disposition to save, account for much. But much also springs from causes that bring with them no moral blame—from disease and the incapacity for work that follows it; from misfortunes which no human providence could have foreseen dissipating in a few weeks the savings of an industrious life; from the want of employment that too constantly follows great fluctuations in demand, great and sudden changes in the course of industry, or commerce, or population. Millions of human beings exist in the chief manufacturing countries who would never have been called into being if these manufactures had not been established, and in this vast increase of population there will always be too many sunk in misery. How strange it seems, a great writer once wrote, that the sternest sentence pronounced on the traitor of the Gospels was, that it had been better for him if he had never been born! How common, to our finite wisdom, such a lot appears to be!
But though the field which lies open for philanthropic effort and judicious legislation is very large, the plain, palpable facts of English life are abundantly sufficient to prove the gross and enormous falsehood of the estimate which Marx has given of the effects of the growth of capital and the increase of machinery on the wellbeing of the labouring poor. The evidence of all other countries agrees with that of England, though in no other are the phenomena exhibited on so gigantic a scale. M. Leroy-Beaulieu has dealt with the continental aspects of the question with a fulness and a competence that leave little to desire. He shows how, whenever one nation obtains a marked ascendency in any form of industry, whenever an extraordinary proportion of capital is attracted to its development, the invariable result will be that in this particular branch the level of the workmen's wages will be the highest. In a work published in 1881 he examines the history of working men's wages and expenditure in France during a period almost exactly coinciding with that which had been the subject of the inquiry of Sir Robert Giffen in England. France, of all continental countries, most closely rivals England in wealth, but her industrial conditions are widely different. She differs greatly in the proportion which agriculture bears to manufacturing industry; she has not experienced, to the same degree, the revolution in the price of agricultural produce which has taken place in England, and her population increases more slowly than that of any other great continental nation. Leroy-Beaulieu computes that in forty or fifty years the cost of life in a French working man's family has probably increased from 25 to 33 per cent., but that the generality of wages in France have risen at least from 80 to 100 per cent.114 In Paris, where capital is most largely agglomerated, real wages rose in the short period between 1875 and 1882 from 50 to 60 per cent.115 Between 1854 and 1876 the number of members of the Sociétés de Secours Mutuel increased from 315,000 to 901,000, and the sums invested in them rose from thirteen to seventy-six millions of francs.116 In 1882, the sums placed in the French savings banks are officially stated to have amounted to 1,745 millions of francs. The whole annual saving of France is estimated by the best statisticians at something between one and a half and two milliards of francs—that is, between sixty and eighty millions sterling.117
Taking a wide survey of the subject, M. Leroy-Beaulieu shows by a vast accumulation of evidence that the steady tendency in the great industrial centres of Europe is not, as the Socialists aver, towards greater disparity, but towards greater equality, of fortune. The number of colossal fortunes augments slowly, and they bear but an insignificant proportion to the great aggregate of wealth. The fall in the rate of interest; the effect of increased means of locomotion and of telegraphic intercourse in stimulating competition and destroying trade inequalities springing from advantages of situation or priority of knowledge; the rise of the joint-stock company system; the special severity with which periods of depression fall upon the large fortunes, all tend to diminish them, or at least to retard their progress. On the other hand, moderate and small fortunes have in the present century enormously multiplied, and in all countries which are in the stream of industrial progress the wages of the labourer have materially risen.118
To anyone who looks on the question with a mind undistorted by the sophistries of Socialism this conclusion will seem very natural. There may be much that is obscure, much that is inequitable, in the proportionate distribution of profits between the manufacturer and the labourer, but above all these controversies one great fact is sufficiently apparent: when an industry is flourishing and growing, all classes connected with it will more or less benefit by its prosperity. When an industry is failing and dwindling, all classes connected with it will suffer. It is often said, with truth, that the older political economists confined their attention too much to the accumulation of wealth, and did not sufficiently consider the manner of its distribution. But it is no paradox to say that, to the working man, the question of accumulation is really the more important. With a progressive industry and abundant employment, questions of wages and profits will easily adjust themselves. With a declining industry and a stationary or increasing population no possible change of distribution will prevent all classes from suffering.
In their whole treatment of wages, Marx and his school fall into the grossest fallacies. They announce as a great discovery, that the labourer is not paid out of capital, but out of his own earnings, because he produces the equivalent, or more than the equivalent, of his wages before he receives them. This statement is most obviously untrue in a vast proportion of industrial employments. The labourer who is employed in laying down a railway, or building a house or a ship, or constructing a machine, or preparing a field for the harvest of the ensuing year, or contributing his part in the beginning of any one of the countless enterprises which only produce profit in a more or less distant future, is certainly paid from capital, and not out of what he has himself produced. His work may or may not hereafter produce its equivalent, but it has not done so yet. If capital is not there to pay him, his labour will never be required. It is true that the work of a miner who raises daily a given amount of coal, or of the factory labourer who turns out daily a given number of manufactured commodities, rests on a somewhat different basis; but it is not less true that the mine would never have been opened, that the factory would never have been built, if capital had not been there to do it, and to provide the costly machinery on which the whole of the labour depends. Nor is this a complete statement of the case. The commodities which the workman has produced can pay no wages as long as they are unsold. It is the error of Marx and his school that they treat the question of wages as if it depended only on two parties—the manufacturer and the labourer. A third party—the consumer—must come upon the scene, and wages, profits, and employment will alike fluctuate according to his demand.
Few things in modern industrial life are more wonderful than that parts of England with no great natural advantages have become the emporia from which the most distant countries are provided with articles made out of cotton grown in the far-off plantations of America and India. These hives of prosperous industry are justly regarded as among the most marvellous monuments of skilful and well-directed labour. Yet, if we look to their origin, the fructifying influence of capital is at once seen. A few men found themselves in possession of superfluous wealth. They might have spent it in gambling or dissipation. They might have simply hoarded it, doing neither good nor harm to their neighbours. They might have invested it in the funds of a foreign nation, and it would probably have been wasted in some pernicious war. Instead of this they combined together. They brought over cotton across the ocean, they laid down railways, they established factories, they founded a great industry. It would be absurd to praise them as if they had acted from philanthropic motives, and not through a regard to their own interests; but it is a simple truth that all the wealth that has been created, all the industry that is supported, all the happy families that exist in that spot, may be traced to their action as the flower to the seed. And if some vicissitude of opinion or affairs leads the capitalist to believe that his capital has become insecure; if he makes it his object to contract instead of to expand his business, and to draw his money as much as possible from it, all this industry will gradually wither, wages and profits will sink, and the number of the unemployed will increase, until population, finding no sufficient means of subsistence, has ebbed away.
Capital, indeed, which is denounced as the special enemy of the working man, is mainly that portion of wealth which is diverted from wasteful and unprofitable expenditure to those productive forms which give him permanent employment. The mediæval fallacy that money is not a productive thing, and that interest is therefore an extortion, might have been supposed a few years ago to have been sufficiently exploded. As Bentham long since said, if a man expends a sum of money in the purchase of a bull and of a heifer, and if as the result he finds himself in a few years the possessor of a herd of cattle, it can hardly be said that his money has been ‘unproductive.’ If he expends it in stocking his lake with salmon or his woods with some valuable wild animal which needs no human care, this increased value may be created without the intervention of any human labour. The wine in a rich man's cellar, the trees upon his mountains, the works of art in his gallery, will often acquire a vastly enhanced value by simple efflux of time. Usually, however, capital and labour are indissolubly united in the creation of wealth, and in all the larger industries each is indispensable to the other. It may be truly said that it is not the steam-engine, but the steam, that propels the train so swiftly over the land; but the statement would be a very misleading one if it were not added that the steam would be as powerless without the engine as the engine without the steam. If a man by the possession of a sum of money is able to start a business which gives a profit of 8 or 10 per cent., and if he borrows this sum at 4 or 5 per cent., can it be denied that the transaction is a legitimate one, and beneficial to both parties? If a workman is able to produce by the aid of a machine 100, or perhaps 1,000, times as much as he could produce by his unassisted hands, is it unnatural that some part of the profit should go to the capitalist who has supplied the machine, or to the inventor who conceived it? The great evil of the capitalist system, the Socialists say, is that the workman is more and more unable to purchase by his earnings the result of his own labour. The answer is, that by his unassisted labour he could barely have produced the means of living, while by the aid of machinery his powers of production are incalculably multiplied. Commerce, according to Marx, can produce no surplus value, for the labour-time spent on what is exchanged remains unaltered. But if Newcastle coal which is worth 1,000l. at the pit's mouth is exchanged for Brazilian coffee which costs 1,000l. on the plantation, can it be said that the coalowner and the coffee-planter have gained nothing by a transaction which gives each of them a rare and valuable commodity, instead of one which was cheap and redundant? Can any statement be more palpably untrue than that equal quantities of labour produce equal values—the labour of Raphael, and the labour of a signboard painter; the labour which is employed in the manufacture of some rare and delicate instrument, and that which is employed in carrying bricks or sweeping roads; the labour which taxes the highest faculties of the human mind, and the labour of a plodding fool; the labour which involves grave danger to the labourer, and the labour which asks nothing but patience and brute strength?
Another great fallacy which pervades the teaching of Marx and of his school is to be found in their enormous exaggeration of the proportion of the produce of labour which, in every manufacturing industry, falls to the share of the capitalist.119 If their estimate was a just one, every manufacture which employs much labour would prove lucrative, and every addition of salaried labour would largely increase profit. It is one of the most patent of facts that this is not the case, and that a vast proportion of the employers of labour end in bankruptcy. If the profits of capital, as distinguished from labour, were what Socialists represent them, co-operative working-men's associations would speedily multiply, for, by placing labour and capital in the same hands, they would almost inevitably succeed. The co-operative movement has, no doubt, largely extended, and it is one of the most hopeful signs of the industrial future. But can any one who has followed its history, who has observed the great multitude of these societies that have totally failed, and has computed the gains of those which have succeeded, conclude that their success has been on such a scale as to show that those who participate in them gain far more than salaried labourers? Perhaps their greatest economical superiority is to be found in the lessened probability of wasteful strikes.
There are two elements which, in estimating the capitalist system, Marx and his followers systematically ignore. One is the many risks that attend industrial enterprise. These risks depend not merely on the misconduct or mistakes of those who conduct them, but also on causes over which they have no possible control. Famines, wars, changes of fashion and demand, new inventions, injudicious legislation, commercial crises, sudden suspensions, or displacements, or expansions of other industries, continually ruin the best conceived and best organised enterprises. If wealth and earnings are often greatly enhanced, they are perhaps quite as often fatally depredated by surrounding circumstances, and as many fortunes are lost as gained through causes which the owner could neither influence nor foresee. Too often, also, it is the very men who have deserved best of the community who suffer. How often does an original inventor find his great idea appropriated by another who, by devising some improvement in detail, some simplification and economy of mechanism, is able to drive him ruined from the field? What can be more melancholy than the history of many industrial enterprises that have proved ultimately most successful and most beneficial to the world? The original company foresaw the ultimate advantage; they planned and executed the enterprise, and bore the cost. But profits developed more slowly than they expected, unforeseen obstacles arose, the expenses exceeded the first estimate, and before long the company was overwhelmed and ruined. Other men, who had no part in the work, then came in. They bought up the works at a fraction of their original cost and real value, and they soon reaped a vast harvest from their purchase.
Risks of the most multifarious kinds, indeed, surround industrial enterprises, and the path of progress is abundantly strewn with wrecks. It is the habit of Marx and his followers to concentrate attention wholly on the few instances of great gain; to represent them as due to the robbery of the workman by his employer, and altogether to ignore the plain fact that great occasional gains are the inevitable accompaniment of great risks. No one would incur the one who had not at least a prospect of obtaining the other. They at the same time systematically depreciate or neglect the intellectual element in industry. They write as if all wealth were produced by mere manual labour, and as if the men who organised and directed it had no part in the matter, except that of appropriating its fruits. It would be as reasonable to refuse to Napoleon and Moltke all share in the victories of Austerlitz and Sedan, ascribing the whole merit to the privates who fought in the ranks.
In truth, the part which has been played by the great captains of industry in the wealth formation of the world can hardly be exaggerated, and, in most cases, the success or failure of an important industrial enterprise will be found to depend far more on its organisation and its administration than on any difference in the quality of its labour. The man who discovers among a thousand possible paths of industry that which is really profitable; who possesses in a high degree promptitude and tact in seizing opportunities and foreseeing change; who meets most successfully a popular taste or supplies most efficiently a widespread want; who invents a new machine, or a new medicine, or a new comfort or convenience; who discovers and opens out a new field of commerce; who enlarges the bounds of fruitful knowledge; who paints, among a thousand pictures, the one that fascinates the world; who writes, amid a thousand books, the one which finds a multitude of readers, is surely a far greater wealth-producer than the average labourer who is toiling with his hands. It is by such men that, in modern times, great fortunes are most frequently made, and the skill that determines the wise application of labour is as much needed as the labour itself.
The delusion that all wealth is the creation of manual labour may be supported by great names, but it is one of those which a careful analysis most conclusively disproves. The true sources of wealth are to be found in all those conditions which are essential to its production, and in the great and complex industries of modern life these conditions are often very numerous. The Duke of Argyll, in a book which is a valuable contribution to economical science, has examined this subject with much fulness, analysing in many particular instances the elements which contributed, in addition to manual labour, to the production of wealth. There is the conceiving mind that devised the enterprise. There is the capital, without which it never could have been started. There is the administrative and organising talent that renders manual labour really efficient. There is the inventive skill which is embodied in the machinery, without which the enterprise would have been impossible. There is the demand, without which it could never have been profitable; and it is no paradox to place in the same category the political, administrative, and military conditions which are essential to that security of industry, property, and credit on which all great works ultimately depend. All these elements enter into the production of wealth, and some of them to an extraordinary extent. The Duke has hardly exaggerated when he asserts that ‘the single brain of James Watt was, and still is, the biggest wage-fund that has ever arisen in the world.’120
Considerations of this kind are wholly neglected by Marx. The gross sophisms and the enormous exaggerations he has diffused would probably have had little importance if they had not been found useful to disguise the naked dishonesty of designs for the spoliation of realised and inherited property which have found supporters in many lands. In Germany especially, the progress of the Socialist party had excited great alarm. With one or two exceptions, each succeeding Imperial election since the foundation of the empire has increased the number of Socialist votes and Socialist members. In 1871, two members of the party only were elected to the Reichstag, and the number of Social Democrat votes were 124, 655. In 1893, forty-four members were elected, and 1,786,738 votes were given to the party. In nearly every important town in the empire the Socialist vote within the last twenty years had vastly increased, and in Berlin itself the party succeeded, in 1893, in returning five members. Among the many political groups in the Reichstag, it is now the largest. It is said to possess in Germany, besides many minor publications, thirty-one daily and forty-one weekly and semi-weekly newspapers; and in Brandenburg, Pomerania, Mecklenburg, Bavaria, and Alsace-Lorraine, it has grown rapidly in the agricultural districts.121
In France, Socialism was much thrown back by the events of 1848, and in the vast mass of peasant proprietors, imbued with the strongest sense of private property, it encounters the most formidable of obstacles. Some revival of the socialistic spirit appeared in the last days of the Empire; but it was far from adopting the extravagant form it was assuming in Germany. In the congress of the International which met at Basle in 1869 a resolution that it was ‘necessary that the soil should be made collective property’ was carried in an assembly of seventy-six delegates. Fifty-eight votes supported it, eight votes opposed it, and ten delegates abstained from voting. Of the eight minority votes, seven were French; of the ten absentees, six were French; and out of the fifteen delegates from Paris, four only supported the resolution, while the remainder either opposed it or abstained.122 During the insurrection of the Commune the Socialist element, as we have seen, bore a prominent part, and nearly all the more active Socialists in France were implicated in the movement. On the defeat of the Commune many of them were killed, and many more driven into exile; and stringent repressive legislation, fully supported by the immense majority of Frenchmen, threw great obstacles in the path of socialistic agitation. It revived, however, about 1876, and was much strengthened by the successive amnesties which brought back to France the more malignant spirits of the Commune. Socialism was chiefly propagated in the form of newspapers, and chiefly under the influence of Jules Guesde and of a newspaper called the ‘Égalité.’ His doctrine was essentially that of Marx, and he desired that all land, all capital, all means of locomotion, should be taken by the State, thus reducing the whole community into State functionaries working at State orders and receiving State wages.
‘The Collectivists,’ however, as they were generally called, did not at once or completely dominate among the French Socialists. The certain opposition of the peasant proprietors threw a shadow on the movement; and, according to some of the best judges, Collectivism, with its complete absorption of individual interests and ambitions in the ruling State is a form of revolution which is exceedingly uncongenial to the ambitious, highly independent, and intelligent Paris workman. Good workmen seldom like a system which, as it is truly said, implies ‘equal division of unequal earnings,’ and which, by destroying all competition, closes the path of advancement against superior capacity and superior industry. There are no better workmen than the French, and none in whom individual qualities are more strongly marked. At a French working-men's congress which was held at Lyons in 1878, the Collectivist programme was for the first time brought forward, in the form of a resolution that all land and instruments of work should be collective property; but it was rejected by a large majority. The remedies for industrial troubles which the French working-class leaders at this time chiefly advocated were of a much more moderate description. They desired a fuller recognition of the syndicates, or trades unions; an extension of cooperative societies supported by national credit; provision for insuring against accidents and providing for the incapacity that follows disease or old age; shortened hours of work; a fuller regulation of factory work, and especially of the work of women and children.123 Most of these demands pointed to real defects in French industrial legislation. Profit-sharing industries have been peculiarly popular in France, and, with the excellent business qualities of the French working man, they have attained a large measure of success. They are said to be far more numerous than in any other country, and especially during the last few years they have advanced with great rapidity. At least forty firms, some of them of great magnitude and importance, have adopted this system.124
The contagion, however, of German Socialism has of late years spread widely into France. It became the custom to hold anniversary banquets for the purpose of glorifying the Commune, and it was noticed that at these banquets a strong socialistic spirit was apparent.125 A few trade syndicates adopted the views of Guesde, and during the International Exhibition of 1878 that party assumed a considerable prominence. In a clandestine congress they met the working-men representatives from other countries, and, though they represented only a small portion of the French workmen, they claimed to be the representatives of the whole. Their first great success, however, was in the Congress of Marseilles in October, 1879, when the party of Guesde succeeded in obtaining a complete ascendency, carrying the programme of Collectivism by seventy-three votes to twenty-seven, and organising a Socialist movement over the whole of France.126
The programme which was carried at this congress appears to have been drawn up in London, principally by Marx; it was afterwards ratified by congresses at Havre and Paris, and it gives a very full summary of the aims and opinions of the most important body of the French Socialists. It states that their ultimate object is to place the producer in possession of all the means of production—land, manufactures, ships, banks, credit, &c.—and that, as it is impossible to divide these things among the individuals, they must be held in a collective form. This can only be achieved by the revolutionary action of the producing, or proletariat class, organised as a distinct political party, and subordinating all other ends to its accomplishment. The French Socialist workmen must make use of all the weapons at their disposal, and especially of universal suffrage, in order to effect the political and economical expropriation of the capitalist class and the collective ownership of all the means of production. With a constant view to this end, and with the purpose of organising and strengthening themselves for the struggle, they are directed to take an active part in every election, and to demand the immediate realisation of the following objects.
The political part is put first. It comprises the abolition of all laws restricting the liberty of the press and the liberty of French workmen to associate among themselves and with the workmen of other countries; of all articles in the Code which place the workman in any way in an inferior position to the master, or the woman to the man.
They must demand, also, the suppression of the Budget of Public Worship; the confiscation of all property belonging to religious corporations, including all industrial and commercial establishments belonging to them; the suppression of the national debt; the abolition of permanent armies, and the arming of the whole people; and, finally, the complete right of the commune to administer its own affairs and to control the police.
The economical demands follow. These comprise a legal day of repose in every seven; the reduction by law of the hours of work for adults to eight hours, the prohibition of the employment in factories of children under fourteen, and the limitation of the work hours of those between fourteen and eighteen; a right of inspection and protection, to be exercised by trade unions over apprentices; a legal minimum of wages, to be fixed by law every year, by a working-class commission, in accordance with the local prices of articles of food; a law forbidding employers to employ foreign workmen at a lower salary than French workmen; equality of salary for equal work between men and women; scientific and professional education for all children at the cost of the State; State provision for the old and the infirm; the complete exclusion of employers from the administration of all institutions for the benefit of the working classes; the obligation of employers to indemnify their workmen for all accidents that take place in their service; the right of the workers to have a controlling voice in all the regulations of a factory; and a law prohibiting employers from imposing fines or withholding salaries from workmen as a punishment.
With these measures, others of a still more sweeping kind were demanded. All contracts must be cancelled in virtue of which banks, mines, railways, and other things which, according to the Socialist doctrine, should be public property had become private property; the management of all State works should be put in the hands of the workmen who work in them; all indirect taxes should be abolished, and all direct taxation concentrated in one progressive tax, falling on revenues which exceed 3,000 francs; all inheritances in the collateral line should be forbidden, as well as all inheritances in the direct line which exceeded 20,000 francs, or 800l.127
This programme is perhaps the best authoritative statement of the doctrines of the French Socialist school. It is obvious that, in its leading views, it is identical with German Socialism. It is also obvious that, while some of the minor demands of the party are rational and moderate, the scheme as a whole aims at a spoliation of property, a revolution and subversion of the whole existing framework of civilised society more complete and radical than any the world has ever seen. The French Socialists, it is true, speedily broke into a number of hostile sects, chiefly, as it would seem, due to the mutual jealousies of different leaders and different newspapers, but embodying some faint and ill-defined differences of doctrine or tendency. The Anarchists followed mainly the ideas of Bakúnin, and disdained all methods other than violence for obtaining their ends. The Blanquists took for their motto the phrase, ‘Ni Dieu ni Maître’; but, while advocating complete social revolution, they appear to have cared more for its political than its economical aspects, and were not altogether averse to alliances with other parties. The ‘Possibilistes’ revolted against the personal authority exercised by Guesde, set up a rival administration, were inclined to postpone some of the demands of the programme of Guesde as for the present impracticable, and revived the demand of Louis Blanc for cooperative and municipal industries. But the real differences between the programmes put out by the different sections were extremely small, and on the whole the doctrine of Marx clearly dominated. In spite of, or perhaps in consequence of, its divisions the organs of the party considerably multiplied, and they possess an elaborate review, called the ‘Revue Socialiste,’ which was founded by Malon.
It is difficult for any one, and especially for a stranger, to form a confident opinion about the extent to which Socialism has penetrated into French thought. The artisan class, among whom it is most rife, form only a small fraction of the French nation, and it would be grossly unjust to suppose that they have generally adopted the Socialist creed. A large section of them have openly repudiated the Collectivist doctrine,128 and it would be easy to exaggerate the significance of the Socialist victories in working-men's congresses. Experience shows how often an active and resolute minority has succeeded in dominating, in such assemblies, over a timid and apathetic majority, and how easily men can be induced to vote for extreme and dangerous courses, which they do not really desire, as a mere weapon of offence, as long as there is no danger of these measures being carried into effect. Much, too, which goes by the name of Socialism is a very different thing from the doctrine of Marx, and indicates little more than a sentimental leaning towards State interference and State philanthropy. It is probable that multitudes who have given their adhesion to the revolutionary programmes are, really, only seriously interested in the minor and subsidiary questions involved in them.
In spite of the many political revolutions it has experienced, France is not a country well adapted for revolutionary Socialism. The clear, simple, sharply defined titles of property that are alone recognised by French law are probably less liable to indirect attacks than the more confused, blended, and complex forms, growing out of long prescription and ancient laws and customs, that still linger largely in England. The great division, not only of the soil, but also of the national debt, of the municipal debt, and even of the shares of the railways, strengthens property, and throws enormous obstacles in the way of the Socialist agitation. Probably in no other country are these forms of investment so widely diffused through all classes of society; and the equal division of property under the Code Napoléon between the different members of the family both intensifies and widens the feeling in favour of heredity. No nation in the world is more industrious and more saving; and when industry and parsimony prevail, the sense of private property is always very strong. It is a certain and a significant fact that the growing political power of a sect which preaches, among other things, the repudiation of all national debts, in the most indebted country in the world, has not yet so seriously alarmed the holders of that debt as to affect the national credit. There exists, I believe, at the bottom of most French minds a conviction that the power of the small owners of property in France is irresistible, and that, if Socialism ever rises to a point which seriously endangers their interests, they will be able to crush it by overthrowing the form of Government under which it has acquired its power.
Still, the growth of revolutionary Socialism in France is great and incontestable. Until about fifteen years ago the Socialists had scarcely any importance in the existing Republic. For some time they had, I believe, only a single avowed representative in the Chamber of Deputies, though the Extreme Left sometimes coquetted with their views. Before 1884, however, it was estimated that there were about six hundred syndicates or groups of Socialists in France,129 and since then their increase has been very great. In the election of 1893, the Socialists in the Chamber rose at a bound from fifteen to fifty-three; and it is computed that the party received six and a half times as many votes as in the election of 1889. Socialists are very powerful, if not absolutely dominating, in the Municipality of Paris. They are scarcely less powerful at Lyons, and they may be found in greater or smaller proportions in the municipalities of nearly all the principal towns in France.130 The disintegration of Parliaments into small groups has greatly strengthened their influence, and they have been assisted by the extraordinary weakness and instability of the Governments of the Republic; by the destruction, in large bodies of Frenchmen, of all positive religious beliefs; by the prodigious increase of the national debt, and by a long period of severe commercial and agricultural depression. In many cases the movement has been allied with the glorification of regicide, dynamite, and other forms of political assassination, and the Commune is very habitually held up to admiration as the best recent efflorescence of their principles.131 Of late years extravagances of language are said to have diminished, and the main object of the party has been, if possible, to seduce the peasant-proprietors. The task is a difficult and, it is to be hoped, an impossible one, but the Socialists have one advantage. The immense majority of the small proprietors have sunk deeply in debt, and long-continued agricultural depression has greatly aggravated their difficulties. When frugal and industrious men find themselves on the brink of undeserved ruin, it is not surprising that their minds should be open to revolutionary ideas, and the Socialists promise that, in a Socialist State, the debts of the peasant proprietors will be cancelled.
One of the ablest members of the French Collectivist party is M. Gabriel Deville. He published in 1883 a French translation of the treatise of Marx on capital, and he prefaced it by a highly instructive introduction, explaining with great fulness and candour the nature of ‘Scientific Socialism’ and the hopes and the policy of his party. He speaks with much disdain of the Utopianism of the early Socialists, and the cold, measured, reasoning virulence of his own style contrasts remarkably with the effusive sentimentality of Louis Blanc and his contemporaries. Deville declares that the first object of his party is the total overthrow of every class outside that of the wage-earners; that for this purpose the proletariat must keep themselves rigidly separate from every other class, and that they must treat all political and patriotic interests as insignificant, except as far as they aid them in the war of classes. Force alone can effect the Revolution; the occasion for its successful exercise will arise in the inevitable political and economical troubles that are manifestly impending over Europe; and in order to avail themselves of it, the proletariat must make use of all the means of destruction which modern science can furnish.132 There are traitors in the Socialist camp, who would simply place the great industries in the hands of existing Governments, as railways and telegraphs already are in many countries, and who would encourage and endow working-men's co-operative societies, or extend the system of profit sharing between workmen and their employers. All these schemes are delusive. Co-operative societies would compete with one another, and thus maintain the present system of industry, and the object of the Socialist is not to strengthen, but to destroy, the State. The State is simply the organisation of the ‘exploiting’ class, for the purposes of guaranteeing their ‘exploitation’ and keeping the ‘exploited’ in subjection. The workmen employed by the State are very manifestly no better off than those in the service of private capitalists.
Capitalist, society, and the whole system of wages must be overthrown from their foundations. It is a form of slavery which differs chiefly from the ancient slavery in the fact that the capitalist is not obliged, like the slave-owner, to support his slaves. The working-class must seize by force on the power of Government, and make it the instrument of ‘the economical expropriation of the bourgeoisie’ and of ‘the collective appropriation of the means of production.’ ‘We wish to proceed by the way of authority against the caste that is our enemy. We wish to suppress those capitalist liberties which prevent the expansion of the liberty of the workman…. We desire the dictatorship, not of an individual, but of a class, …and that dictatorship must continue till the day comes when liberty will be possible for all.’ All existing laws are intended to maintain intact the economical interests of the class which possesses and directs. They must be swept away; and when the working men have acquired full political power, ‘they will, in their turn, make a new legality, and proceed by law to the economical expropriation of those whom they will have already dethroned by force.’
Deville admits that his party is only ‘a conscious minority of the proletariat;’ but he observes that most revolutions are the work of a daring minority, seconded by the apathy of majorities, and he asks whether France would now be a republic if the adhesion of the majority of the country to the Republican idea had been first asked. At the same time, the basis of the revolution must be broadly laid. ‘We celebrate the anniversary of the Commune as that of one of the stages of the Socialist evolution;’ but the Commune failed chiefly because it committed the fault of confining its action to Paris, struggling for the bourgeois notion of Federalism, or Communism, and not endeavouring to rouse the working-classes through the whole nation.
The task of Socialism, he says, has been prepared by the great concentration of industries, which is one of the most marked characteristics of our age, and which renders the process of confiscation, or ‘expropriation,’ comparatively easy. Thus, the railways can be appropriated by simply confiscating the shares which are now the property of those at whose risk and cost they had been made. The work has been done. The machinery for locomotion exists in all its perfection, and a single act of plunder will place it in the hands of the community as an unencumbered property. But the same thing applies to all great shops and factories, and to every kind of industrial corporation. Multitudes of more or less wealthy men have, in our day, built up, with the accumulated savings of their lives, gigantic industries, and where these industries have succeeded they are drawing their dividends as shareholders. All this, Deville observes, will make the task of the Socialist an easy one. ‘The suppression of the shareholders—that is to say, of the proprietors—now become a useless wheel, will occasion no trouble in the machinery of production.’ There can be no difficulty in dealing with anything that is constituted in the form of a society. It is only necessary to destroy the title-deeds, shares, or obligations, treating these dirty documents as waste paper. The collective appropriation of capital will thus be at once realised, without any disturbance in the mode of production.’ Deville is careful to add that all this is to be done without any indemnity to the plundered parties.
The national debt is, of course, to be dealt with in the same way. It is to be simply blotted out. The promises of all preceding Governments are to be repudiated, and the creditors, who, on the faith of these promises, had placed their money at the service of the State, are to be deprived alike of their interest and their capital. All banks are, by a similar process, to be seized and appropriated by the community.
So far the work of ‘expropriation’ moves—at least on paper—very easily. But there are two classes with which it is more difficult to deal. The first are the small shopkeepers and employers of labour. They must cease to exist as a class; but they are a large and formidable body, and their resistance might be serious. Fortunately, however, a sharp line of antagonism already divides the small shopkeeper and the small manufacturer from the gigantic shop or factory, which is overshadowing, underselling, and gradually ruining them. It is impossible they can long resist the competition, and they will gradually discover that it is their interest to join the Socialist party, and obtain the benefits of a Socialist society, rather than await in a hostile attitude a ruin that will have no compensation.
The next class are the peasant proprietors. Deville, like most of the writers of his school, deplores the great division of French soil, but he does not despair of gradually winning over the small proprietors. The Socialist movement, however, must proceed by stages, and the small proprietor and small shopkeeper need not be absorbed or ‘expropriated’ at once. The peasant proprietor who cultivates what is now his own land, and employs no one, is not an ‘exploiter.’ He is himself ‘exploited’ by the money-lender, to whom he is nearly always in debt, and the triumph of Socialism will cancel his debt. When the proletariat have seized power, they are not at once to dispossess the peasant proprietor. On the contrary, they are to shower benefits upon him. With the exception of a moderate sum, which he is to pay to the ‘collectivity’ as long as he remains a separate proprietor, he is to be at once freed from all his debts. The present tax upon land is to cease, and seeds, manure, and agricultural machinery are to be provided for him gratuitously by the community. In his case no violence, or even persuasion, is to be used; ‘but it will be seen whether, if his egotism is in this large measure satisfied, he will not look on with indifference upon the expropriation of the larger proprietors.’ The overwhelming competition of these large properties, when administered by the community, and the manifest advantages flowing from the collective ownership of the soil, will do the rest, and the small proprietor will soon exchange his nominal possession of a fraction of the soil for the position of co-proprietor, with a remuneration equivalent to his time of work.
This, then, is the economical scheme of the party as sketched by a most competent and authorised hand. Nothing short of it will be accepted, and all measures of reform that are carried are to be regarded simply as weapons to be used in the struggle, as means for strengthening one class and weakening the other, or for stimulating the appetite for further revolutionary change. Universal suffrage, Deville specially urges, can never prove a substitute for force, or effect the emancipation of the working classes. It has done evil in interesting them in national and political questions, bringing them into alliance with different sections of the possessing classes, and thus diverting them from what ought to be their true and only object. It should be made use of solely for the purpose of accentuating the division and war of classes. No candidate, whether he be a working-man or an employer, should be elected who does not pledge himself to sacrifice habitually all other interests to the triumph of the social revolution. If employed in this way, universal suffrage will prove very useful. But it can never by itself overcome the resistance of the large classes who are interested in maintaining the present constitution of society. Force, and force alone, is the ultimate remedy. As Marx said, ‘Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one.’
There are two other changes which Deville and his party consider essential to the triumph of their ideas. One is the complete suppression, not only of Churches, but of all idea of God and of religion. ‘God,’ in the words of Deville, ‘is dying without posterity.’ The true source of the religious sentiment is the misery that grows out of capitalism. ‘The emancipation of thought is thus linked to the emancipation of labour…. The terrestrial despot, the capitalist, will drag down in his fall the celestial bugbear.133 Mankind, ruling production, instead of being ruled by it, will at last find their happiness upon earth…. The belief in a Supreme Being, sovereign dispenser of happiness and suffering, will universally disappear.’ Religion he describes as ‘an engine of domination,’ ‘one of the most useful springs in a government of caste.’
The other change is the suppression of marriage and the substitution for it of free love. ‘It is marriage which gives to the possessing class its hereditary character, and thus develops its conservative instincts…. Marriage is a regulation of property, a business contract before being a union of persons, and its utility grows out of the economic structure of a society which is based upon individual appropriation. By giving guarantees to the legitimate children, and ensuring to them the paternal capital, it perpetuates the domination of the caste which monopolises the productive forces.…When property is transformed, and only after that transformation, marriage will lose its reason for existence, and boys and girls may then freely, and without fear of censure, listen to the wants and promptings of their nature;…the support of the children will no longer depend on the chance of birth. Like their instruction, it will become a charge of society. There will be no room for prostitution, or for marriage, which is in sum nothing more than prostitution before the mayor.’
These last two considerations mark a great difference between continental Collectivism and that which is held in England and America. English and American opinion would not tolerate such language as I have quoted, and many English Socialists treat questions of religion and marriage as wholly extraneous to their theory. In the opinion of Marx, and of the great body of continental Socialists, they are intimately, and, indeed, necessarily connected with it.134 In my own judgment, the continental view is the more just. It is perfectly true that marriage and the family form the tap root out of which the whole system of hereditary property grows, and that it would be utterly impossible permanently to extirpate heredity unless family stability and family affection were annihilated. It is not less true that a system which preaches the most wholesale and undisguised robbery will never approve itself to the masses of men, unless all the foundations and sanctions of morality have been effectually destroyed. The sense of right and wrong must be blotted out of the minds of men before the new doctrine can triumph. It is obvious, indeed, that the whole of the scheme which has been described is simply dishonesty carried out and systematised on the most gigantic scale, and accompanied with every aggravation of solemn promises deliberately violated, of great services to the community repaid by the blackest ingratitude, of constant attempts to excite the worst passions of ignorant and suffering men. The true character of the theory is not changed because its adherents prefer to the homely language of the marketplace a jargon about ‘nationalisation’ and ‘economical expropriation,’ and because they are often accustomed to unite their advocacy of plunder with high-sounding phrases about justice and ethics, and even religion. Cant is never a beautiful thing, but, among all the forms that are now current in the world, this, perhaps, is the most nauseous.
The reader will understand that these remarks are intended to apply to the clear and definite programme of policy which I have been describing, and not to many very different proposals for enlarging the sphere of Government influence and philanthropy, to many vague sentiments, aspirations and tendencies which are loosely classified under the name of Socialism, and which are often favoured by upright and benevolent men. The theory of Socialism which was taught by Marx and Lassalle, and which now dominates in continental Socialism, is a perfectly definite one, formulated in a number of programmes that are at least as clear and precise as the Confession of Westminster or the decrees of the Council of Trent. It is difficult, I think, to reflect without a shudder on the fact that, in the two foremost nations on the European continent, this programme has been accepted by many hundreds of thousands of voters; that it has taken deep root in all the great centres of German and French civilisation; and that it is represented in the Legislature of each of these great countries by a powerful parliamentary group. Nor is it by any means confined to France and Germany. 1893 is a memorable year in the annals of Socialism, but it was nowhere more memorable than in Belgium. For the first time in history a great Reform Bill, involving universal suffrage, was then carried by a gigantic workmen's strike which brought the country to the verge of revolution. The result of the enormous lowering of the suffrage was in some respects very disappointing to its authors, but it was not the less significant. In the election which took place in October 1894 the Moderate Liberals were almost annihilated. An overwhelming Conservative majority, holding Ultramontane opinions, was returned, but also a Socialist minority more powerful in proportion to the number of the chamber than in any other country. Out of the 152 members of the Chamber of Deputies, 107 were Clericals and 33 were Socialists, chiefly holding the creed of the Collectivists.135 The omen is not a good one for constitutional government. It would be difficult to conceive two classes less endowed with that spirit of compromise which is essential to its successful working than Ultramontanes and Socialists.
These three countries are now the special centres of the Socialist movement, but in most other countries a similar tendency may be traced. Thus in Italy a great Labourers’ party formally professing the doctrines of the Collectivists was organised in congresses at Milan in 1891, and at Genoa in 1892, and it has already won several seats in the Italian Parliament, and many triumphs in local elections. In Switzerland, a Social Democratic party holding similar views was organised in 1888 and 1890. In Austria, under the guidance of a follower of Marx named Victor Adler, Socialism has manifestly increased. It has for the first time, within the last few years, become an appreciable power in Holland. In Denmark it captured, in 1893, seven seats in the Municipal Council of Copenhagen, and it has some, though apparently feebler, influence in Sweden and Norway. In Spain and Russia also it has appeared, sometimes in the form of Collectivism, and perhaps more frequently in the form of Anarchism. Its teaching has evidently permeated great masses of men with something of the force, and has assumed something of the character, of a new religion, rushing in to fill the vacuum where old beliefs and old traditions have decayed.136
In the United States also it has made some progress, though it would be scarcely possible to conceive a nation where the spirit of individualism is more strongly developed and the spirit of competition more intense. America had long been the refuge of an immense proportion of the banished Anarchies of Europe, and it presents the curious spectacle of a country where the working-class, at least in its lower levels, consists mainly of foreigners or children of foreigners. At the same time, the most prominent type of American Socialism does not appear to have been created by direct foreign propagandism, though its leading doctrine had long since been anticipated on the Continent. The great popularity and influence of the writings of Mr. George, on both sides of the Atlantic, have been a remarkable fact. It is largely due to the eminent literary skill with which he has propounded his views, and described and exaggerated the darkest sides of modern industrial life, and partly also, I think, to the general ignorance of continental Socialist literature, which has given his doctrines something of the fascination of novelty. His fundamental proposition is that, the soil not having been made by man, and having in the beginning of human society been a common property (as it still is in most savage nations), should be taken by the community, without compensation, from its present owners, although it has been recognised as private property for countless generations; although it has been bought, sold, inherited, and mortgaged on the faith of the most undisputed titles; although the earnings and savings and labour of innumerable industrious lives have been sunk in its improvement, and have given it its chief present value; although its existing rent represents, in innumerable cases, nothing more than the lowest, or almost the lowest, rate of interest on the sum actually expended upon it within the memory of living men. It is but a slight circumstance of aggravation that large tracts of the land which Mr. George desires the American Government to take without compensation, had not long since been sold by that very Government to its present owners.
This scheme of plunder, as we have seen, is by no means original. It had long been a leading article in the Socialist programmes of Germany and France, and the continental Socialists, long before Mr. George, had clearly seen that it could be carried out by the simple process of imposing a special tax on land, equivalent to its full rent value. The doctrine that wages are not paid from capital, but from earnings, on which Mr. George lays so much stress, is merely the doctrine of Marx; nor is there any originality in Mr. George's proposal that nations should still further improve their condition by defrauding their creditors and repudiating their debts. It is ‘a preposterous assumption,’ he assures us, ‘that one generation should be bound by the debts of its predecessors.’137 That all the profits of production of every kind must ultimately centre in the possessors of land (who must, in consequence, be reaping the most enormous wealth) is a doctrine which belongs more distinctively to Mr. George; but his statements that wages are steadily tending to the minimum of subsistence, the condition of the working-classes steadily deteriorating, and society rapidly dividing into the enormously rich and the abjectly poor, have been abundantly made in Europe, and will, no doubt, long continue to be repeated, in spite of the clearest demonstrations of their falsehood.
It is a somewhat singular fact that the most popular work in favour of the plunder of landed property should come from a country where there is neither primogeniture, nor entail, nor any other form of feudal privilege or restriction; where land is far more abundant than in the Old World, and where the immense majority of the enormous fortunes that have been so rapidly, and often so scandalously, amassed have been acquired in ways quite different from those of the landowner. In no country, in modern times, have abuses of property been greater than in America, and in no country have these abuses been more rarely and more slightly connected with the ownership of land.
In another respect the American authorship of these books may excite some surprise. Whatever may have been the nature of the first division and appropriation of the soil when societies passed from their nomadic to their agricultural stage, it is at least incontestably true that the early histories of all nations are full of scenes of savage violence. Exterminating invasions have nearly everywhere been again and again repeated, and again and again followed by vast dispossessions of land. In European countries, it is usually impossible to say whether any particular man is wholly or in part descended from the aboriginal inhabitants, or from one of the many successive races of plundering invaders. All that can be confidently alleged is, that the latter descent is by far the more probable, when we consider that vast period that has elapsed since the aboriginal inhabitants were displaced, and the exterminating character of savage warfare. But in America we may go a step further. It is at least quite certain that the original owners of the soil, whoever they may have been, were not the members of the Anglo-Saxon race. If there is no such thing as prescription in property; if violent dispossession in a remote and even a prehistoric past invalidates all succeeding contracts, the white man has no kind of title, either to an individual or to a joint possession of American soil. The sooner he disappears, the better. Against him, at least, the claim of the Red Indian is invincible.
But, in truth, the principle of Mr. George may be carried still further. If the land of the world is the inalienable possession of the whole human race, no nation has any right to claim one portion of it to the exclusion of the rest. The English people have no more right than Frenchmen to the English soil. The French have no more right to the soil of France than the Germans. Inequalities of fortune are scarcely less among nations than among individuals, and they must be equally unjust. Compare the lot of the Esquimaux in the frozen North, or of the negro in the torrid sands of Africa, with that of the nations inhabiting the fertile soils and the temperate regions of the globe. And what possible right, on the principle of Mr. George, have the younger nations to claim for themselves the exclusive possession of vast tracts of fertile and almost uninhabited land, as against the teeming millions and the overcrowded centres of the Old World? Mr. George is a Californian writer. The population of California is about a fifth of that of Belgium. The area of California is nearly fourteen times as large as that of Belgium.
In some respects the writings of Mr. George differ widely from those of European Socialists. They contain no aggressive atheism, and no attacks on marriage. The American writer knows his public, and there are few books on economical subjects which are so percolated with religious phraseology and so profusely adorned with Scriptural quotations. We pass at once into a region of piety to which continental Socialism has not accustomed us. Nor are these writings characterised by that desire to aggrandise the functions of government which is so general in continental Socialism. Mr. George does not wish to suppress competition, or individual initiative, or individual savings, and he desires rather to diminish than to extend the powers of Government. In these respects, indeed, he cannot properly be called a Socialist. All he asks from the Government is, that it should rob two great classes, appropriating the whole rent-value of land by a single tax, which should supersede all others, and repudiating its national and municipal debts.
The results to be expected from the confiscation of private property in land he describes in rapturous terms. ‘It is the golden age of which poets have sung and high-raised seers have told in metaphor! It is the glorious vision which has always haunted man with gleams of fitful splendour. It is what he saw whose eyes at Patmos were closed in a trance. It is the culmination of Christianity, the City of God on earth, with its walls of jasper and its gates of pearl! It is the reign of the Prince of Peace!’138 In another and more terrestrial passage he describes the promised millennium in the words of an English democrat. It would be ‘no taxes at all, and a pension to everybody.’139
Mr. George is quite as ready as the German Socialists to plunder the capitalist. He maintains that the first act of the Federal Government, at the beginning of the War of Secession, ought to have been to provide for its expense by confiscating the property of all the richest members in the community who remained loyal to the Union;140 and no continental writer ever advocated dishonesty to national creditors with a more unblushing cynicism. At the same time, capital, as distinguished from landowning, does not occupy in his system the same position as in the treatise of Marx. In the demonology of Marx the capitalist is the central figure. He is the vampire who sucks the blood of the poor, and absorbs all the wealth which more perfect machinery and more productive labour create. According to Mr. George, he can ultimately absorb none of this wealth, unless he happens to be a landowner. The interest and profits of the capitalist, as well as the wages of the labourer, can never, in the long run, increase while land remains private property. Some of my readers will probably doubt whether such a doctrine could have been seriously propounded, but the language of Mr. George is perfectly clear. ‘The ultimate effect of labour-saving machinery or improvements is to increase rents without increasing wages or interest.’ ‘Every increase in the productive power of labour but increases rent…. All the advantages gained by the march of progress go to the owners of land, and wages do not increase. Wages cannot increase.’ ‘The necessary result of material progress-land being private property—is, no matter what the increase in population, to force labourers to wages which give but a bare living.’ ‘Whatever be the increase of productive power, rent steadily tends to swallow up the gains, and more than the gains.’ It is a general law, according to Mr. George, that wherever land is cheap wages will be high, and wherever land is dear wages will be low.141 It is obvious that, according to this law, wages must be far lower in London, in the great provincial towns, and in the country that surrounds them, than in Dorsetshire or Connemara; far lower in England and France than in Hungary, or Poland, or Spain! Mr. George assures us that the whole benefit of the increase of wealth which has taken place in England within the last twenty or thirty years has gone to a single class—the English landowners. It has not alleviated pauperism, but only increased rent.142
I can imagine a speculative writer who belonged to one of the more severe monastic Orders, or who wrote, like Campanella, in the profound isolation of a prison-cell, arriving at such conclusions. That sophistry of this kind should deceive anyone who saw, or might have seen, Manchester, or Birmingham, or Leeds; who observed the countless prosperous villas, built out of successful industry, that are growing up around every great manufacturing centre; who had paid the smallest attention to the history of wages in different times and different places, or to the comparative increase of the revenues drawn from personal property and from land, in any of the great countries of the world, is truly amazing. One touch of the reality of things is sufficient to prick the bladder.
Mr. George devotes a special chapter to repudiating all idea of compensation to the ‘expropriated’ landowner. In this he is perfectly consistent. I have already examined this point in a former chapter, and need here only repeat that Mr. Fawcett, and several other writers, have shown to absolute demonstration that any attempt to purchase the soil at its market value, by means of a loan raised at the current rate of interest, could only end in a ruinous loss to the nation, while the lot of those who are actually cultivating the soil would become incomparably worse than at present. To pay the interest of the purchase money it would be necessary to raise their rents to the rack-rent level, and to exact them with a stringency which is now only shown by the harshest landlords. The scheme of an honest purchase is, in fact, I believe, now universally abandoned; but some of the English disciples of Mr. George have proposed that, although the land should be taken by the State, an annuity of two lives, equal to its net revenue, should be granted in the form of a pension to the dispossessed owner and to his living heir. It is charitable to assume that this proposal is a serious one; but a man must have a strange conception of human nature if he imagines that a nation which had gone so far in adopting the principles and policy of Mr. George, would consent for a long period of years to burden itself with this enormous tax.
Few things are more difficult than to estimate the real force of dishonest and subversive theories in a great, free nation, where every novelty and every extravagance find an unshackled utterance. In the chaos of vast redundant energies, of crude opinions, of half-assimilated nationalities, of fiercely struggling competitions, paradox and violence rise easily to the surface, for they strike the imagination, and give men the notoriety which, in such a society, is feverishly sought. Notoriety, however, is no measure of power, and the controlling force of the good sense and the sound moral sentiment of the community has, in America as in England, usually proved invincible. The writings of Mr. George are said to have made much more impression in England than in his own country, and few things are more improbable that that his doctrines should triumph. Whatever form land legislation may take in the future, it will never take the form of wholesale spoliation if a country where land is as divided as in America; and a people who so honestly accepted and so courageously reduced their national debt at a time when its burden seemed overwhelming, are certainly not likely to seek their millennium in fraudulent bankruptcy. Nor is the American Constitution one in which the firm fabric of property and contract can be overthrown by any transient ebullition of popular sentiment.
It is, however, impossible to deny that there are signs of grave labour troubles in America, and elements out of which very dangerous opinions might easily grow. In America, no doubt, as in all other civilised countries, most wealth is made by honest industry, and, more than in most countries, it has been expended for public uses. At the same time, there is no country where the struggle for it is fiercer or more unscrupulous, or where vast sums have been more frequently or more rapidly accumulated by evil means. The colossal fortunes built up by the railway-wrecker, by the railwaymonopoliser, by the fraudulent manipulator of municipal taxation, by unjust favours extorted from bribed legislators, by great commercial frauds and commercial monopolies under the names of trusts and syndicates, must one day bring a terrible nemesis. These are the things that do most to sap the respect for property in a nation, and they are especially dangerous where no aristocratic or established territorial influence exists to restrict the empire and overshadow the ostentation of ill-got wealth. The vast development of the protective system, and of the system of subsidising great multitudes from the pension list, can scarcely fail to weaken the spirit of self-reliance, and to teach the American people to look more and more to government to create for them artificial conditions of wellbeing. On the other hand, pauperism has appeared, and spread widely through the American cities, where so many turbulent and explosive foreign elements already exist. The unoccupied land, which was once the great safety-valve of dangerous energies, is fast contracting; wages during the last terrible years of depression, probably for the first time in American history, have generally fallen, and, in a country where the cost of living is extremely high, the number of the unemployed has enormously increased.
It is, perhaps, not very surprising that, under these circumstances, more than a million of votes should have been given in the Presidential elections of 1892 in support of a programme embodying a great part of the Socialist creed.143 The gigantic coal and railway strikes that subsequently broke out almost assumed the character and the dimensions of civil war. The railway strike of June and July 1894 is said to have dislocated for a considerable time the operations of not less than 70,000 miles of railway, and the power and organisation of the labourers completely paralysed and defeated the State Governments. In no less than eight States it was necessary to employ the military force of the Federal Government to move inter-State commerce and the United States mails, and there were signs that even the Supreme Executive Government had lost something of its old controlling power.144
Among the forms of the extension of government which have recently been discussed, a prominent place must be assigned to the purchase of railways by the State, and the ‘municipalisation’ of some of the great corporations of joint-stock industry. Policies of this kind, I need scarcely say, stand on a wholly different basis from that which we have been examining. They involve no necessary spoliation, and there is no reason why they should not be advocated by honest and honourable men. As I have already noticed, the system of unlimited competition in railway construction which exists in the United States is the parent of some of the very worst influences in American life. It has involved an absolute loss and waste of capital that it is impossible to compute. It has ruined countless families, and broken countless hearts. It has built up and consolidated some of the most colossal frauds that ever were known among mankind. It has spread its demoralising influence through every port of political and municipal life; and as the useless parallel line which is built along an important railway for the purpose of extortion is nearly always, sooner or later, bought up by the older line, it usually ends in a new monopoly. A living American writer has gone so far as to declare that, if every house in the Republic were destroyed, they could all be rebuilt and the whole population comfortably housed for a sum not greater than that which has been lost in competition in railway business in the United States.145
How far this evil could now be remedied by State purchase is a question on which I am not competent to pronounce. Railway governments may be broadly divided into three great classes. There is the system of practically unlimited competition, which exists in the United States; there is the system of competition, strictly limited and controlled by parliamentary action, which prevails in England; and there is the system under which the State is the owner of the railways, and either works them through its own agents, or leases them for a term of years to a company. Of these systems, the American one seems to me incomparably the worst. It is more difficult to decide between the two others, and the balance of advantage and disadvantage will probably vary in different countries, according to their special economical conditions. It is, however, one thing to establish the system of an incipient enterprise; it is another and far more difficult thing to change a system which has long been established.
There is also a strong movement for placing telegraphs, telephones, water-supply, tramways, gas and electric light, directly in the hands of the municipal government; and the enormous increase of late years of great industrial monopolies, which has grown out of the American protective system, has led many to advocate still further extensions of the industrial functions of municipalities. They contend that every industry which has become a monopoly should be in the hands of the State, or of the municipality. In such questions the three things to be considered are honesty, efficiency, and economy. Much local knowledge is required, and very much must depend upon the character of the municipality. Considering the universally acknowledged corruption of American city government, schemes of this kind would appear to a stranger more dangerous in America than in almost any other civilised country. They would inevitably place an enormous accession of power, influence, and lucrative patronage in the hands of bodies that are notoriously and scandalously corrupt. Functions that might be excellently discharged by the municipalities of Birmingham or Liverpool would be very differently managed if they were in the hands of Tammany Hall. It is argued that independent corporations in America exercise an overwhelming corrupt influence on municipal government, and that it would, therefore, be better to place them completely in the hands and under control of the municipalities. ‘This reform,’ we are told, ‘will be favourable to the purification of politics.’146 Such reasoning seems to me of that overrefined character which verges closely on paradox.
I scarcely know whether it is right to include among the signs of growing Socialism in America the extraordinary popularity which the ‘Looking Backward’ of Mr. Bellamy has obtained on both sides of the Atlantic. A skilful novel on an unhackneyed theme naturally strikes the popular fancy, and Mr. Bellamy has drawn with much skill his picture of a socialistic society. It is a society in which there is no money, no competition, no pauperism, and no debt; in which all individual ambitions are extinguished; in which each member is like a soldier in an army, performing in order his appointed task; and in which, by the expenditure of a mere fraction of the present amount of labour, mankind are to live together in perfect comfort, contentment, and peace. Of all the many readers of this ingenious book, few, I suppose, who have thought seriously on the subject can have persuaded themselves that it would be possible to effect such a radical transformation of society; that, if it were possible, it could be done without a ruinous struggle, which would begin by effectually impoverishing the human race; that, if it were established, it could by any possibility last. The admirable picture which Eugene Richter has drawn of the effects of such a revolution on the different classes of society is, perhaps, the best answer to this picture.
There are, in truth, several grave fallacies which lie at the root of all such Utopian pictures. One of these is, that any possible redistribution of the goods that are in the world can maintain mankind in comfort if production flags and does not, indeed, steadily increase. The mere division of the larger fortunes of the world among the teeming masses of mankind would go but a very small way, and what little might be thus obtained by the poor would be speedily consumed. Wealth perishes swiftly in the usage, and needs to be perpetually replenished; and no reform which impoverishes society as a whole can permanently raise the level of comfort among its members. Socialists dilate, with some truth, on the waste and the over-production which the competitive system continually involves; and it is probable that most of the future industrial progress of the world will consist in co-operative schemes for mitigating these evils. But the Socialist remedies would only bring evils far greater than any they could possibly prevent. The desire of each man to improve his circumstances, to reap the full reward of superior talent, or energy, or thrift, is the very mainspring of the production of the world. Take these motives away; persuade men that by superior work they will obtain no superior reward; cut off all the hopes that stimulate, among ordinary men, ambition, enterprise, invention, and self-sacrifice, and the whole level of production will rapidly and inevitably sink. If industry is greatly diminished in its amount and greatly lowered in its quality, no possible scheme of redistribution or social combination will prevent the material decadence.
The question of increasing population has also to be met. It is one which, under every possible system, is very formidable. The main contention of the school of Marx is, that increased production does not benefit the producer, because it leads to increased population and a corresponding fall of wages. No one can maintain that the wages of a stationary or nearly stationary population would not enormously rise with the great increase of wealth which modern machinery creates. But machinery makes men. The higher wages it produces stimulate early marriages; and if this process is absolutely unrestrained, it is quite true that the working-classes will gain nothing in the shape of wages by the improved production. Fortunately, however, such restraints do exist. The desire to save, the desire to rise, the fear of poverty, the habits of foresight and providence which education produces, the higher standard of comfort which men come to regard as indispensable—all act powerfully in the direction of tardy marriage. That population has not, on the whole, outrun the production of wealth is conclusively proved by the higher average of wages and comfort which has been attained. That there are great multitudes upon whom these restraining influences do not operate is one main cause of the misery which we all deplore. But a Socialist society cannot escape the problem, and the pressure of population on its resources would soon become overwhelming. In a society where there was no motive for saving, and where all children were supported by the community, the strongest natural restraints would be destroyed.
It is also sufficiently obvious that the first condition of the success of a socialistic community is complete isolation. Socialism is essentially opposed to Free Trade and international commerce. It is conceivable that, in some remote island of the Pacific, the whole population might be organised into one great co-operative society, in which each member filled an assigned part and discharged an assigned duty in obedience to the authority of the whole. But this organisation must be stereotyped. It must be kept separate, drilled and disciplined like a regiment of soldiers. It is absolutely inconceivable that such a state of society could exist in a vast, fluctuating, highly locomotive population, spreading over a great part of the globe, deriving its subsistence from many distant countries, bound to them by the closest commercial ties, continually sending out vast streams of emigrants, continually absorbing into itself Indian, colonial, and alien populations. To organise such a people on the plan and in the framework of a Socialist State is the idlest of dreams.
In the future of the world it is, no doubt, possible and probable that the industrial conditions to which we are accustomed may be profoundly modified. There may be great changes in the incidence of taxation, in the regulation of successions, in the part which co-operative industry plays in the world, in the part which Governments and municipalities play in initiating, directing, and subsidising industry, or in providing for the old, the impoverished, and the unemployed. But proposed changes which conflict with the fundamental laws and elements of human nature can never, in the long run, succeed. The sense of right and wrong, which is the basis of the respect for property and for the obligation of contract; the feeling of family affection, on which the continuity of society depends, and out of which the system of heredity grows; the essential difference of men in aptitudes, capacities, and character, are things that never can be changed, and all schemes and policies that ignore them are doomed to ultimate failure.
I have treated this subject at length in my History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism, ii. 250–70 (Cab. ed.) The canons of many different Councils condemning usury will be found in the Analyse des Conciles, par le rév. Père Richard: art. ‘Usure.’ This distinguished ecclesiastic gives the following clear summary of the teaching of the Church: ‘On ne peut lire ces canons sans être persuadé qu'ils condamnent l'usure comme mauvaise en soi; qu'ils la condamnent dans toutes sortes de personnes, soit ecclésiastiques, soit laïques; qu'ils la condamnent à l'egard de quelque personne qu'on l'exerce, riche ou pauvre, négociant ou non; qu'ils mettent les usuriers au nombre des séditieux, des vindicatifs, des concubinaires, &c.; qu'ils parlent de l'usure comme d'un crime détestable, défendu par toutes les lois divines et humaines; qu'ils déclarent hérétiques ceux qui soutiendroient avec obstination que l'usure n'est point un péché; qu'ils décident qu'il n'est pas permis de prêter à usure fors même qu'il s'agit de faire valoir les biens des veuves, des pupiles ou des lieux-pies; qu'ils assurent que le prêt doit toujours être purement gratuit, hors le cas du lucre cessant ou du dommage naissant; et enfin qu'ils définissent et caractérisent l'usure par le gain ou le profit quelconque exigé ou espéré au-delà du sort principal, de quelque part qu'il vienne, riche ou pauvre, commerçant ou autre; de quelque espèce qu'il soit, argent, denrée, service, et lorsqu'il est perçu en vertu du prêt ou comme le prix de l'argent prêté. Lucrum ex mutuo, pretium pecuniæ mutuatæ. Tel est le caractère distinctif de l'usure selon les conciles, la surabondance du prêt, our l'excédant, le surcroït ajouté au sort principal, l'addition au capital, le profit qu'on tire des choses prêtées et en vertu du prêt qu'on en a fait.’ So also Bossuet: ‘La tradition constante des conciles, à commencer par les plus anciens, celle des papes, des péres, des interprétes, et de l'Eglise romaine est d'interpréter ce verset, “Mutuum date nihil inde sperantes,” comme prohibitif du profit qu'on tire du prêt’ (‘Seconde instruction sur la version du Nouveau Testament imprimée à Trévoux,’ Œuvres de Bossuet (1815), tom. iv. p. 544. See, too, his treatise, Sur l'Usure).
Thus Mr. George says: ‘The feeling that interest is the robbery of industry is widespread and growing, and on both sides of the Atlantic shows itself more and more in popular literature and in popular movements’ (Progress and Poverty, p. 157).
Laws of Manu, i. 93, 100, 101.
See Guyot, Les Principes de '89 et le Socialisme, pp. 50, 159, 160; Garet, Les Bienfaits de la Révolution, pp. 4–5.
Locke, On Civil Government.
See on this subject Sir H. Maine on Ancient Law, chapters vi. and vii. and the remarks of Grote, Hist, of Greece, iii. 138–40.
Exod. xxiii. 10, 11; Lev. xxv. 1–7; Deut. xv. 2. There are many allusions to the Sabbatical year and its observances in Josephus; and it is also mentioned by Tacitus, Hist. v. 4.
Renan, Hist. d'Israël, ii. 375–76. Compare, however, the defence of the Sabbatical year in Ewald's Antiquities of Israel.
Lev. xxv. 20–22.
Lev. xxv. et seq. There was an exception in favour of land on which houses were built in towns surrounded by a wall. These houses were not to be surrendered in the jubilee year.
Acts ii. 44, 45; iv. 32, 34, 35.
Acts v. 4.
See, e.g., Champagny, La Charité Chrétienne, pp. 36–42; Janet, Hist, de la Science Politique, i. 294–95; Schoelcher, La Famille, la Propriété et le Christianisme.
Opera S. Basilii, iii. 492.
Ibid. ii. 725–26.
De Offic. i. c. 28.
De Nabuthe Jesraelita, c. i. § 2.
Green's Hist. of the English People, i. 440.
‘Il est faux que les conciles ne condamnent l'usure que dans les clercs et non dans les laïques, ou seulement quand elle est excessive et immodérée; ou lorsqu'on la prend sur le pauvre et non pas sur le riche et le commerçant; ou quand on l'exerce par un motif d'avarice et de cupidité; ou quand elle est accompagnée de fraudes et de rapines; ou lorsque ce sont des usuriers publics et de profession qui l'exercent. Toutes ces explications que l'on donne aux canons des conciles qui condamnent l'usure ne sont autres choses que de vaines subtilités et d'artificieuses chicanes.’ ‘Le prêt de commerce est vraiment un prêt simple et à jour qui doit être gratuit comme tous les autres prêts de la même manière et dont le prèteur ne peut exiger aucun intérêt, même modique…on ose défier les plus subtils et les plus artificieux sophistes de se firer de là’ (Analyse des Conciles, par le rev. Père Richard, art. ‘Usure’).
See Ranke's Hist, of the Reformation in Germany, in. 583–610.
See in Gulliver's Travels, part iv. ch. vi.
Esprit des Lois, livre v. ch. V.—Vi.
Ibid, livre xxiii. ch. xxix.
Discours sur l'Economie Politique.
Contrat Social, livre i. ch. viii.–ix.
Discours sur l'Economie Politique.
Discours sur l'Economie Politique. See, too, the views expressed in Émile. I have examined the opinions and influence of Rousseau more fully in my History of England, vol. vi. pp. 240–68 (Cab. ed.).
Recherches Philosophiques sur le droit de propriété et sur le vol. An analysis of this book will be found in Janet, Hist, de la science politique, ii. 662–65.
Condorcet, Vie de Turgot, p. 84.
Léon Gautier, Hist, des Corporations Ouvrières, pp. 105–20.
See on the effects of this law Du Ceillier, Hist. Des Classes Laborieuses en France, pp. 318–20.
See Guyot, Les Principes de '89, p. 162.
Chevalier, Organisation du Travail, p. 180.
Taine, La Révolution, iii. 92.
Ibid. iii. 103–4.
See Janet, Origines du Socialisme, p. 111. A modern English Socialist pretends that Robespierre and Saint-Just had undue middle-class leanings. ‘One leader only can be named at this time who clearly grasped the situation, and deservedly won the confidence of the people, alike for his political insight and his honesty of purpose—and this man was Jean Paul Marat’ (Bax, Religion of Socialism, p. 74).
Political Justice (1st ed.), Book viii. Some of the more obnoxious passages in this book were modified or omitted in later editions.
Littré, in his Life of Comte, was evidently startled at the contrast (though he does all he can to extenuate it) between Comte's words and his manifest obligations to Saint-Simon; but for a full demonstration of the extent of these obligations I would refer the reader to the excellent monograph of Mr. Arthur J. Booth on Saint-Simon and Saint-Simonism.
Reybaud, Etudes sur les Réformateurs, i. 80.
Mr. Booth has given an interesting account of this curious and nearly forgotten transaction (Saint-Simon and Saint-Simonism, pp. 205–12).
See especially the chapter of Blanqui on ‘Saint-Simonism,’ Hist, de l'Economie Politique, ii. 266–82.
A. J. Booth's Owen, pp. 145, 154.
Woolsey's Communism and Socialism, p. 52.
Booth, pp. 121–22.
See Webb's History of Trades Unionism, pp. 141–42.
See Fawcett, Work and Wages; Jones, Co-operative Production.
Voyage en Icarie.
L'Esclavage Moderne, Paroles d'un Croyant, Une Voix de Prison, Du Peuple, Du Passé et de l'Avenir du Peuple.
Organisation du Travail, par Louis Blanc. I have used the fourth edition, which is enlarged by replies to critics.
Chevalier, Organisation du Travail, p. 125.
See Block, Dictionnaire de la Politique, art. ‘Socialisme.’ There is, however, I believe, some doubt about the origin of the word.
This law was repealed about six months later, and a new law made enacting that the working-man's day in manufactories and mills should not exceed twelve hours of actual labor (see Reports on the Hours of Adult Labor from H.M. Representatives, 1889), pp. 15–16.
See Chevalier's Lettres sur l'Organisation du Travail, p. 3.
Sargant, Social Innovators, pp. 353–57.
Lord Normanby, Year of Revolution, i. 299.
Louis Blanc, Pages d'Histoire de la Révolution de 1848, p. 32.
Sargant, Social Innovators.
See Léon Faucher, Droit de Travail, p. 16.
See some curious particulars about this experiment, collected by Mr. St. Loe Strachey, in A Policy of Free Exchange, edited by T. Mackay, pp. 87–102.
Lord Normanby, Year of Revolution, i. 212–13.
Chevalier, p. 82.
Ibid. pp. 80–81.
Ibid. p. 90.
Ibid. p. 303.
See the Report issued by the Luxembourg Commission in April (Sargant, pp. 380–88).
See especially his Théorie du Droit de Propriété et du Droit de Travail, and, on the reception of this doctrine, Léon Faucher, Droit de Travail, pp. 17–20.
Tocqueville, who was an eyewitness of the scene, has given an admirable description of it in his Souvenirs. See, too, Lord Normanby.
Lamartine, Révolution de 1848, livre vii.
Normanby, ii. 3.
See the speeches of Léon Faucher on the ateliers nationaux, Vie Parlementaire, ii. 109–23; Thomas, Les Ateliers Nationaux.
Tocqueville, Souvenirs, p. 202.
Lord Normanby's Year of Revolution, i. 444–45; Vie Parlementaire de Léon Faucher, ii. 116–23; Souvenirs de Tocqueville.
A terrible catalogue of what Lord Normanby believed to be well-authenticated atrocities committed by the insurgents will be found in A Year of Revolution (ii. 74–76). His chief authority was the French Minister for Foreign Affairs. For the atrocities ascribed to the soldiers, see Louis Blanc, La Revolution de 1848, pp. 173–76.
Lord Normanby, ii. 95.
Dawson, German Socialism and F. Lassalle, pp. 137–38. This excellent book gives ample information about Lassalle. See, too, the very full examination of his views in Bernstein's Ferdinand Lassalle.
Le Collectivisme, p. 61.
In the Report of Mr. Little summing up the evidence on this subject, brought before the Labour Commission in 1892–3, the following passage occurs: ‘Upon one point there is an almost unanimous opinion expressed by the Assistant Commissioners, and by every class of persons from whom they received evidence, and that is as to the great improvement which has taken place in the labourer's condition during the last twenty years. If in some parts of the country wages are now lower than they were ten years ago, they are certainly higher than at any period previous to 1873–4; and there is reason to believe that the average earnings within the reach of a willing and capable worker are, in most districts, considerably in excess of what they were twenty years ago. Any comparison of the present conditions with those prevailing thirty and forty years ago would be still more favourable to the present period’ (Fifth and final Report of the Commission of Labour, p. 216).
Laveleye, Le Socialisme Contemporain, p. 84.
Bernstein, Ferdinand Lassalle (English translation), pp. 142–43. Bernstein tries (not, I think, very successfully) to distinguish this doctrine from that of Mr. George.
As on of the many examples of the way in which the Commune is regarded by the Socialists, the reader may consult Malon, Le Socialisme Intégral, i, 187–88.
Dawson's German Socialism, pp. 94–95, 235–37.
See Woolsey's Communism and Socialism, p. 133.
See Malon, Le Socialisme Intégral, pp. 183–84. I have slightly condensed this manifesto.
An account of these dissensions will be found in L'Association Internationale des Travailleurs, par F. Fribourg, l'un de ses Fondateurs. There is a useful little Histoire de l'Internationale, by Jacques Populus, published in the Bibliothèque Populaire in 1871, which gives the chief documents. See, too, Zacher, L'Internationale Rouge (French translation); the chapter on the International in Laveleye, and the accounts of it in Woolsey and in Dawson.
Laveleye, Le Socialisme Contemporain, pp. 179–82.
Malon, Le Socialisme Intégral, i. 186.
Woolsey, pp. 144–45. The numbers were, 32 in favour of the amendment, 23 against it, and 17 abstentions.
See his speech in Laveleye, p. 196.
Leroy-Beaulieu, Le Collectivisme, pp. 6–8.
Laveleye, p. 200.
Malon, Le Socialisme Intégral, i. 199–200.
Woolsey, p. 148.
Mermeix, La France Socialiste, pp. 81–82, 103; Mendes, Les 73 Journées de la Commune (3rd ed.), p. 62; Martin's Histoire de France depuis 1789, tome vii. 394.
Zacher, L'Internationale Rouge (French translation), p. 13.
Zacher, L'Internationale Rouge, pp. 236–39.
Dawson, Lassalle and German Socialism, p. 243.
Dawson, pp. 286–87.
Zacher, pp. 240–44.
See these extracts in Zacher, pp. 35–38; a number of instructive extracts from the Freiheit follow.
Marx, Capital, p. 6 (Eng. trans.). See, too, the chapter on ‘The Labour Process.’
Ibid. p. 141.
Marx, Capital, pp. 142–43.
Ibid. p. 632.
Leroy-Beaulieu, Le Collectivisme, pp. 265–66.
Marx, Capital, pp. 200–1.
Ibid. p. 393.
Ibid. p. 793.
Ibid. p. 216.
Ibid. p. 288.
Ibid. p. 661.
Ibid. pp. 634–35.
The Progress of the Working Classes in the Last Half-century, by Robert Giffen.
La Répartition des Richesses, p. 453.
Le Collectivisme, p. 60.
La Répartition des Richesses, p. 478.
Le Collectivisme, p. 237. If the reader desires later statistics, he will find them in the very remarkable chapter on the division of fortunes in France in La Tyrannie Socialiste of M. Guyot, pp. 102–6 (1893). M. Guyot speaks ‘des 6 millions de livrets de caisses d'épargne, des 3 milliards qu'ils représentent; des 450 millions de la caisse d'épargne postale’; and he also shows the enormous diffusion of small investments in the national funds and in the shares of the French railways.
See, too, a remarkable passage in which Professor Marshall shows how the strongest industrial forces of the time ‘are telling on the side of the poorer classes as a whole relatively to the richer,’ and how all the best tests that can be applied ‘indicate that middle-class incomes are increasing faster than those of the rich; that the earnings of artisans are increasing faster than those of the professional classes; and that the wages of healthy and vigorous unskilled labourers are increasing faster even than those of the average artisan’ (Marshall's Principles of Economics, i. 735). Mr. Goschen, in an address to the Statistical Society, in 1887, on The Increase of Moderate Incomes,’ has collected much additional evidence in support of the same conclusion.
See some good remarks on this in Woolsey's Communism and Socialism, p. 169.
Unseen Foundations of Society, p. 455.
See some tables in Ely's Socialism, pp. 387–89, and compare an article by Liebknecht, on ‘The Programme of German Socialism,’ in the Forum, February 1895.
Mermeix, La France Socialiste, p. 45.
See Zacher, L'Internationale Rouge, pp. 71–72.
Jevons's The State in relation to Labour, pp. 147–50. See, too, an essay by Mr. Samuelson, on German and French Labour Movements (Subjects of the Day, August 1890, p. 173).
Mermeix, La France Socialiste, p. 88.
Mermeix, pp. 98–100.
See the text of this programme in Mermeix, pp. 101–5.
Mermeix, p. 106.
Zacher, p. 87.
Compare the statistics in Ely's Socialism, pp. 62–63, 390–98. M. Guyot estimates the number of Socialist deputies at more than sixty (Principes de '89 et le Socialisme, Préface). The difference is accounted for by the fact that many violent Radicals who are not avowed Socialists usually vote with the Socialist party.
See the chapter on Socialism in France in Zacher, L'Internationale Rouge.
Compare the following passage of Mr. Hyndman: ‘While these truths are being learnt by the people …chemistry has placed at the disposal of the desperate and needy cheap and powerful explosives, the full effects of which are as yet unknown. Every day adds new discoveries in this field. The dynamite of ideas is accompanied in the background by the dynamite of material force. These modern explosives may easily prove to capitalism what gunpowder was to feudalism’ (Historical Basis of Socialism, p. 443).
Le Croquemitaine Céleste. Croquemitaine is defined by Littré: ‘Monstre imaginaire qui figure dans quelques contes de fées et dont on fait peur aux petits enfants.’
On the violent atheism of continental Socialism, see Woolsey's Communism and Socialism, pp. 247–49. The German Socialist, Bebel, has written an elaborate book on Woman and Socialism, which has been translated into English under the title of Woman, Her Past, Present, and Future. His view is that ‘the bourgeois marriage is a consequence of bourgeois property. This marriage, standing as it does in the most intimate connection to property and the right of inheritance, demands “legitimate” children as heirs. It is entered into for the purpose of obtaining them, and the pressure exercised by society has enabled the ruling classes to enforce it in the case of those who have nothing to bequeath. But as in the new community there will be nothing to bequeath, unless we choose to regard household furniture as a legacy of any importance, compulsory marriage becomes unnecessary from this standpoint, as well as from all others. This also settles the question of the right of inheritance, which Socialism will have no need to abolish formally’ (pp. 231, 232). M. Jules Guesde, in his Catéchisme Socialiste, has unfolded the same views with much clearness: ‘La responsabilité humaine,’ he says, ‘s'évanouit comme un mensonge qu'elle est …il y a autant de sottise et d'injustice à le rendre responsable de ce qu'il a pu faire, à le lui reprocher ou à l'en louer, qu'à louer la fleur d'embaumer et qu'à reprocher au feu de brÛler’ (pp. 28, 29). The family, M. Guesde considers, was useful and indispensable in the past, but is now only an odious form of property. It must be either transformed or totally abolished. He conjectures that the time may come when it will be reduced to the relation of the mother to her child ‘à la période de l'allaitement, et que d'autre part les rapports sexuels entre l'homme et la femme, fondés sur l'amour ou la sympathie mutuelle, puissent devenir aussi libres, aussi variables et aussi multiples que les rapports intellectuels ou moraux entre individus du même sexe ou de sexe différent’ (pp. 72–79).
See an article on Belgian Socialism, Fortnightly Review, February 1895. There is, however, some difference in the computations, chiefly owing to the difficulty of discriminating between the Radicals and Socialists. The Annual Register (1894, p. 304) gives, as the result of the election, 104 Catholics, 28 Socialists, and 20 Liberals, belonging to the Moderate and Radical groups.
Much information about the recent progress of Socialism on the Continent will be found in the Reports from Foreign Countries laid before the Royal Commission on Labour. See, too, Ely's Socialism.
Social Problems, pp. 213–21.
Progress and Poverty, Book x. chap. 5. Compare the boast of a prominent English Socialist: The Churches are turning timidly towards the rising sun, and the eager reception by Evangelical Christian reformers of Mr. Henry George as a notable champion of the faith is significant of the change of tone…. English Protestantism…is coming more and more forward as an active political influence towards the creation of “the Kingdom of God on Earth’” (Webb's Socialism in England, p. 72).
Protection and Free Trade, p. 334.
Social Problems, p. 216.
Progress and Poverty, Book iv. chap. 3. ‘Wherever you find land relatively low, will you not find wages relatively high? And wherever land is high, will you not find wages low? As land increases in value, poverty deepens and pauperism appears’ (Book v. chap. 2). It is obvious that Mr. George merely thought of the high wages in some new countries. It is equally obvious that the explanation of those high wages is, simply, that the labourers are few, and that, if they do not wish to labour for an employer, they have other and easy ways of acquiring a comfortable subsistence.
Ibid. Book vi. chap. 1.
Forum, March 1894, p. 90.
Ibid. Jan. 1895, pp. 523–25.
Ely's Socialism, pp. 118–19.
Ely's Socialism, pp. 282–84. See, too, an essay by Mr. Gladden on Social Problems in the United States (Subjects of the Day, Aug. 1890, pp. 190–91).