Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VI.: concerning some old foes under new faces. - The State
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CHAPTER VI.: concerning some old foes under new faces. - Franz Oppenheimer, The State 
The State: Its History and Development viewed Sociologically, authorized translation by John M. Gitterman (New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1922).
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concerning some old foes under new faces.
if we understand the outcome of the feudal state, in the sense given above, as further organic development either forward or backward conditioned by the power of inner forces, but not as a physical termination, brought about or conditioned by outside forces, then we may say that the outcome of the feudal state is determined essentially by the independent development of social institutions called into being by the economic means.
Such influences may come also from without, from foreign states which, thanks to a more advanced economic development, possess a more tensely centralized power, a better military organization, and a greater forward thrust. We have touched on some of these phases. The independent development of the Mediterranean feudal states was abruptly stopped by their collision with those maritime states, which were on a much higher plane of economic growth and wealth, and more centralized, such as Carthage, and more especially Rome. The destruction of the Persian Empire by Alexander the Great may be instanced in this connection, since Macedonia had at that time appropriated the economic advances of the Hellenic maritime states. The best example within modern times is the foreign influence in the case of Japan, whose development was shortened in an almost incredible manner by the military and peaceful impulses of Western European civilization. In the space of barely one generation it covered the road from a fully matured feudal state to the completely developed modern constitutional state.
It seems to me that we have only to deal with an abbreviation of the process of development. As far as we can see—though henceforth historical evidence becomes meager, and there are scarcely any examples from ethnography—the rule may be statedrule may be statedrule may be statedrule may be stated that forces from within, even without strong foreign influences, lead the matured feudal state, with strict logical consistency, on the same path to the identical conclusion.
The creators of the economic means controlling this advance are the cities and their system of money economy, which gradually supersedes the system of natural economy, and thereby dislocates the axis about which the whole life of the state swings; in place of landed property, mobile capital gradually becomes preponderant.
(a) the emancipation of the peasantry
All this follows as a natural consequence of the basic premise of the feudal state. The more the great private landlords become a landed nobility, the more in the same measure must the feudal system of natural economy break to pieces. The more great landed property rights become vested in and nurtured by the princes of territorial states, the more is the feudal system based on payments in kind bound to disintegrate; one may say that the two keep step in this development.
So long as the ownership of great estates is comparatively limited, the primitive principle of the bee-keeper, allowing his peasants barely enough for subsistence, can be carried out. When, however, these expand into territorial dimensions, and include, as is regularly the case, accretions of land which are the results of successful warfare, or by the relinquishment and subinfeudation through heritage or political marriages of smaller land owners, scattered widely about the country and far from the master’s original domains, then the policy of the bee-keeper can no longer be carried out. Unless, therefore, the territorial magnate means to keep in his pay an immense mass of overseers, which would be both expensive and politically unwise, he would have to impose on his peasants some fixed tribute, partly rental and partly tax. The economic need of an administrative reform unites, therefore, with the political necessity, to elevate the “plebs,” in the way which has already been discussed.
The more the territorial magnate ceases to be a private landlord, the more exclusively he tends to become a subject of public law, viz., prince of a territory, the more the solidarity mentioned above, between prince and people grows. We saw that some few magnates even as far back as the period of transition from great landed estates to principalities, found it to their greatest interest to carry on a “mild” government. This accomplished the result, not only of educating their plebs to a more virile consciousness toward the state, but also had the effect of making it easy for the few remaining common freemen to give up their political rights in return for protection; while it was still more important, in that it deprived their neighbors and rivals of their precious human material. When the territorial prince has finally reached complete de facto independence, his self interest must prompt him steadfastly to persevere in the path thus begun. Should he, however, again invest his bailiffs or officers with lands and peasants, he will still have the most pressing political interest to see to it that his subjects are not delivered over to them without restraint. In order to retain his control, the prince will limit the right of the “knights” to incomes from lands to definite payments in kind and limited forced labor, reserving to himself that required in the public interests, such as forced labor on highways or on bridges. We shall soon come to see that the circumstance that in all developed feudal states the peasants have at least two masters claiming service, is decisive for their later rise.
For all these reasons, the services to be required of peasants in a developed feudal state must in some fashion be limited. Henceforth, all surplus belongs to him free from the control of the landlord. With this change, the character of landed property has been utterly revolutionized. Heretofore the landlord, as of right, was entitled to the entire revenue saving only what was absolutely necessary to permit his peasants to subsist and continue their brood; while hereafter, the total product of his work, as of right, belongs to the peasant, saving only a fixed charge for his landlord as ground rent. The possession of vast landed estates has developed into (manorial) rights. This completes the second important step taken by humanity toward its goal. The first step was taken when man made the transition from the stage of bear to that of the bee-keeper, and thereby discovered slavery; this step abolishes slavery. Laboring humanity, heretofore only an object of the law, now for the first time becomes an entity capable of enjoying rights. The labor motor, without rights, belonging to its master, and without effective guarantees of life and limb, has now become the taxpaying subject of some prince. Henceforth the economic means, now for the first time assured of its success, develops its forces quite differently. The peasant works with incomparably more industry and care, obtains more than he needs, and thereby calls into being the “city” in the economic sense of the term, viz., the industrial city. The surplus produced by the peasantry calls into being a demand for objects not produced in the peasant economy; while at the same time, the more intensive agriculture brings about a reduction of those industrial by-products heretofore worked out by the peasant house industry.
Since agriculture and cattle-raising absorb in ever increasing degrees the energies of the rural family, it becomes possible and necessary to divide labor between original production and manufacture; the village tends to become primarily the place of the former, the industrial city comes into being as the seat of the latter.
(b) the genesis of the industrial state
Let there be no misunderstanding: we do not maintain that the city comes thus into being, but only the industrial city. There has been in existence the real historical city, to be found in every developed feudal state. Such cities came into being either because of a purely political means, as a stronghold,134 or by the coöperation of the political with economic means, as a market place, or because of some religious need, as the environs of some temple.∗ Wherever such a city in the historical sense exists in the neighborhood, the newly arising industrial city tends to grow up about it; otherwise it develops spontaneously from the existing and matured division of labor. As a rule, it will in its turn grow into a stronghold and have its own places of worship.
These are but accidental historical admixtures. In its strict economic sense “city” means the place of the economic means, or the exchange and interchange for equivalent values between rural production and manufacture. This corresponds to the common use of language, by which a stronghold however great, an agglomeration of temples, cloisters and places of pilgrimage however extensive, were they conceivable without any place for exchange, would be designated after their external characteristics as “like a city” or “resembling a city.”
Although there may have been few changes in the exterior of the historical city, there has taken place an internal revolution on a magnificent scale. The industrial city is directly opposed to the state. As the state is the developed political means, so the industrial city is the developed economic means. The great contest filling universal history, nay its very meaning, henceforth takes place between city and state.
The city as an economic, political body undermines the feudal system with political and economic arms. With the first the city forces, with the second it lures, their power away from the feudal master class.
This process takes place in the field of politics by the interference of the city, now a center of its own powers, in the political mechanism of the developed feudal state, between the central power and the local territorial magnates and their subjects. The cities are the strongholds and the dwelling places of warlike men, as well as depots of material for carrying on war (arms, etc.); and later they become central supply reservoirs for money used in the contests between the central government and the growing territorial princes, or between these in their internecine wars. Thus they are important strategic points or valuable allies; and may by far-sighted policy acquire important rights.
As a rule, the cities take the part of the crown in fights against the feudal nobles, from social reasons, because the landed nobles refuse to recognize the social equality, demanded as of right by their more wealthy citizens; from political reasons, because the central government, thanks to the solidarity between prince and people, is more apt to be influenced by common interests than is the territorial magnate, who serves only his private interests; and finally from economic reasons, because city life can prosper only in peace and safety. The practises of chivalry, such as club law, and private warfare, and the knights’ practise of looting caravans are irreconcilable with the economic means; and therefore, the cities are faithful allies of the guardians of peace and justice, first to the emperor, later on, to the sovereign territorial prince; and when the armed citizenship breaks and pillages some robber baron’s fortress, the tiny drop reflects the identical process happening in the ocean of history.
In order successfully to carry this political rôle the city must attract as many citizens as possible, an endeavor also forced on it by purely economic considerations, since both divisions of labor and wealth increase with increased citizenship. Therefore cities favor immigration with all their powers; and once more show in this the polar contrast of their essential difference from the feudal landlords. The new citizens thus attracted into the cities are withdrawn from the feudal estates, which are thereby weakened in power of taxation and military defense in proportion as the cities are strengthened. The city becomes a mighty competitor at the auction, wherein the serf is knocked down to the highest bidder, to the one, that is to say, who offers the most rights. The city offers the peasant complete liberty, and in some cases house and courtyard. The principle, “city air frees the peasant” is successfully fought out; and the central government, pleased to strengthen the cities and to weaken the turbulent nobles, usually confirms by charter the newly acquired rights.
The third great move in the progress of universal history is to be seen in the discovery of the honor of free labor; or better in its rediscovery, it having been lost sight of since those far-off times in which the free huntsman and the subjugated primitive tiller enjoyed the results of their labor. As yet the peasant bears the mark of the pariah and his rights are little respected. But in the wall-girt, welldefended city, the citizen holds his head high. He is a freeman in every sense of the word, free even at law, since we find in the grants of rights to many early enfranchised cities (Ville-franche) the provision that a serf residing therein “a year and a day” undisturbed by his master’s claim is to be deemed free.
Within the city walls there are still various ranks and grades of political status. At first the old settlers, the men of rank equal with the nobles of the surrounding country, the ancient freemen of the burgh, refuse to the newcomers, usually poor artisans or hucksters, the right of sharing in the government. But, as we saw in the case of the maritime cities, such gradations of rank can not be maintained within a business community. The majority, intelligent, skeptical, closely organized and compact, forces the concession of equal rights. The only difference is that the contest is longer in a developed feudal state, because now the fight concerns not only the parties at interest. The great territorial magnates of the neighborhood and the princes hinder the full development of the forces by their interference. In the maritime states of the ancient world, there was no tertius gaudens who could derive any profit from the contests within the city, since outside the cities there existed no system of powerful feudal lords.
These then, are the political arms of the cities in their contest with the feudal state: alliances with the crown, direct attack, and the enticing away of the serfs of the feudal lords into the enfranchising air of the city. Its economic weapons are no less effective, the change from payments in kind to the system of money as a means of exchange is inseparably connected with civic methods, is the means whereby the method of payment in kind is utterly destroyed, and with it the feudal state.
(c) the influences of money economy
The sociological process set into motion by the system of money economy is so well known and its mechanics are so generally recognized, that a few suggestions will suffice.
Here, as in the case of the maritime states, the consequence of the invading money system is that the central government becomes almost omnipotent, while the local powers are reduced to complete impotence.
Dominion is not an end in itself, but merely the means of the rulers to their essential object, the enjoyment without labor of articles of consumption as many and as valuable as possible. During the prevalence of the system of natural economy there is no other way of obtaining them save by dominion; the wardens of the marches and the territorial princes obtain their wealth by their political power. The more peasants who are owned, the greater is the military power and the larger the scope of the territory subjected, and thus the greater are the revenues. As soon, however, as the products of agriculture are exchangeable for enticing wares, it becomes more rational for every one primarily a private man, i. e., for every feudal lord not a territorial prince—and this now includes the knights—to decrease as far as possible the number of peasants, and to leave only such small numbers as can with the utmost labor turn out the greatest product from the land, and to leave these as little as possible. The net product of the real estate, thus tremendously increased, is now taken to the markets and sold for goods, and is no longer used to keep a forcible body of guards. Having dissolved this following, the knight becomes simply the manager of a knight’s fee.∗ With this event, as with one blow, the central power, that of king or territorial prince, is without a rival for the dominion, and has become politically omnipotent. The unruly vassals, who formerly made the weak kings tremble, after a short attempt at joint rule during the time of the government of the feudal estates, have changed into the supple courtiers, begging favors at the hands of some absolute monarch, like Louis XIV. And he furthermore has become their last resort, since the military power, now solely exercised by him as the paymaster of the forces, alone can protect them from the ever-immanent revolt of their tenants, ground to the bone. While in the time of natural economy the crown was in nearly every instance allied with peasants and cities against nobility, we now have the union of the absolute kings, born from the feudal state, with their nobility, against the representatives of the economic means.
Since the days of Adam Smith it has been customary to state this fundamental revolution in some such form, as though the foolish nobles had sold their birthright for a mess of pottage, when they traded their dominion for foolish articles of luxury. No view can be more erroneous. Individuals often err in the safe-guarding of their interests: a class for any prolonged period never is in error.
The fact of the matter is, that the system of money payments strengthened the central power so mightily and immediately, that even without the interposition of the agrarian upheaval, any resistance of the landed nobility would have been senseless. As is shown in the history of antiquity, the army of a central government, financially strong, is always superior to feudal levies. Money permits the armament of peasant sons, and the drilling of them into professional soldiers, whose solid organization is always superior to the loose confederation of an armed mass of knights. Besides, at this stage, the central government could also count on the aid of the well-armed squares of the urban guilds.
Gunpowder did the rest in Western Europe. Firearms, however, are a product that can be turned out only in the industrial establishments of a wealthy city. Because of these technical military reasons, even that feudal landlord who might not care for the newly established luxuries and who might only be desirous of maintaining or increasing his independent position, must subject his territories to the same agrarian revolution; since, in order to be strong, he now before all else must have money, which in the new order of things, has become the nervus rerum, either to buy arms or to engage mercenaries. A second capitalistic wholesale undertaking, therefore, has come into being through the system of payments in money; besides the wholesale management of landed estates, war is carried on as a great business enterprise—the condottieri appear on the stage. The market is full of material for armies of mercenaries, the discharged guards of the feudal lords and the young peasants whose lands have been taken up by the lords.
There are instances where some petty noble may mount to the throne of some territorial principality, as happened many a time in Italy, and as was accomplished by Albrecht Wallenstein, even as late as the period of the Thirty Years’ War. But that is a matter of individual fate, not affecting the final result. The local powers disappear from the contest of political forces as independent centers of authority and retain the remnant of their former influence only so long as they serve the princes as a source of supplies; that is, the state composed of its feudal estates.
The infinite increase in the power of the crown is then enhanced by a second creation of the system of payment in money, by officialdom. We have told in detail of the vicious circle which forced the feudal state into a cul-de-sac between agglomeration and dissolution, as long as its bailiffs had to be paid with “lands and peasants” and thereby were nursed into potential rivals of their creator. With the advent of payments in money, the vicious circle is broken. Henceforth the central government carries on its functions through paid employees, permanently dependent on their paymaster.135 Henceforth there is possible a permanently established, tensely centralized government, and empires come into being, such as had not existed since the developed maritime states of antiquity, which also were founded on the payments in money.
This revolution of the political mechanism was everywhere put into motion by the development of the money economy—with but one exception, as far as I can see, viz., Egypt.
Here, according to the statement of experts, no definite information is to be had, and it seems that the system of money exchanges appears as a matured institution only in Greek times. Until that time, the tribute of the peasants was paid in kind;136 and yet we find, shortly after the expulsion of the Shepherd Kings, during the New Empire (circa sixteenth century B. C.), that the absolutism of the kings was fully developed: “The military power is upheld by foreign mercenaries, the administration is carried on by a centralized body of officials dependent on the royal favor, while the feudal aristocracy has disappeared.”137
It may seem that this exception proves the rule. Egypt is a country of exceptional geographic conformation. Jammed into a narrow compass, between mountains and the desert, a natural highway, the River Nile, traverses its entire length, and permits the transportation of bulky freight with much greater facility than the finest road. And this highway made it easy for the Pharaoh to assemble the taxes of all his districts in his own storehouses, the so-called “houses”138 and from them to supply his garrisons and civil employees with the products themselves in natura. For that reason Egypt, after it has once become unified into an empire, stays centralized, until foreign powers extinguish its life as a “state.” “This circumstance is the source of the enormous and plenary power exercised by the Pharaoh where payments are still made in kind; the exclusive and immediate control of the objects of daily consumption are in his hand. The ruler distributes to his employees only such quantities of the entire mass of goods as appears to him good and proper; and since the articles of luxury are nearly all exclusively in his hands, he enjoys on this account also an extraordinary plenitude of power.”139
With this one exception, where a mighty force executes the task, the power of circulating money seems in all cases to have dissolved the feudal state.
The cost of the revolution fell on peasants and cities. When peace is made, the crown and the petty nobles mutually sacrifice the peasantry, dividing them, so to say, into two ideal halves; the crown grants to the nobility the major part of the peasants’ common lands, and the greatest part of their working powers that are not yet expropriated; the nobility concedes to the crown the right of recruiting and of taxing both peasantry and cities. The peasant, who had grown wealthy in freedom, sinks back into poverty and therefore into social inferiority. The former feudal powers now unite as allies to subjugate the cities, except where, as in Upper Italy, these become feudal central powers themselves. (And even in that case they for the most part all fall into the power of captains of mercenaries, condottieri.) The power of attack of the adversaries has become stronger, the power of the cities has diminished. For with the decay of the peasantry, their purchase power diminishes and with it the prosperity of the cities, based thereon. The small cities in the country stagnate and become poorer, and being now incapable of defense, fall a prey to the absolutist rule of the territorial princes; the larger cities, where the demand for the luxuries of the nobles has brought into being a strong trading element, split up into social groups and thus fritter away their political strength. The immigration now pouring into their walls is composed of discharged and broken mercenaries, dispossessed peasants, pauperized mechanics from the smaller towns; it is in other words a proletarian immigration. For the first time there appears, in the terminology of Karl Marx, the “free laborer,” in masses, competing with his own class in the labor markets of the cities. And again, the “law of agglomeration” enters to form effective class and property distinctions, and thus to tear apart the civic population. Wild fights take place in the cities between the classes; through which the territorial prince, in nearly every instance, again succeeds in gaining control. The only cities that can permanently escape the deadly embrace of the prince’s power are the few genuine “maritime states,” or “city states.”
As in the case of the maritime states, the pivot of the state’s life has again shifted over to another place. Instead of circling about wealth vested in landed estates, it now turns about capitalized wealth, because in the meantime property in real estate has itself become “capital.” Why is it that the development does not, as in the case of the maritime states, open out into the capitalistic expropriation of slave labor?
There are two controlling reasons, one internal, the other external. The external reason is to be found in this, that slave hunting on a profitable scale is scarcely possible at this time in any part of the world, since nearly all countries within reach are also organized as strong states. Wherever it is possible, as for instance, in the American colonies of the West European powers, it develops at once.
The external reason may be found in the circumstance that the peasant of the interior countries, in contrast to the conditions prevailing in the maritime states, is subject, not to one master, but to at least two∗ persons entitled to his service, his prince and his landlord. Both resist any attempt to diminish their peasants’ capacity for service, since this is essential to their interests. Especially strong princes did much for their peasants, e. g., those of Brandenburg-Prussia. For this reason, the peasants, although exploited miserably, yet retained their personal liberty and their standing as subjects endowed with personal rights in all states where the feudal system had been fully developed when the system of payments in money replaced that of payments in kind.
The evidence that this explanation is correct may be found in the relations of those states which were gripped by the system of exchange in money, before the feudal system had become worked out.
This applies especially to those districts of Germany formerly occupied by Slavs, but particularly to Poland. In these districts, the feudal system had not yet been worked out as thoroughly as in the regions where the demand for grain products in the great western industrial centers had changed the nobles, the subjects of public law, into the owners of a Rittergut,∗ the subjects of private economic interests. In these districts, the peasants were subject to the duty of rendering service only to one master, who was both their liege lord and landlord; and because of that, there came into being the republics of nobles mentioned above, which, as far as the pressure of their more progressed neighbors would permit, tended to approach the capitalistic system of exploiting of slave labor.140
The following is so well known that it can be stated briefly. The system of exchange by means of money matures into capitalism, and brings into being new classes in juxtaposition to the landowners; the capitalist demands equal rights with the formerly privileged orders, and finally obtains them by revolutionizing the lower plebs. In this attack on the sacredly established order of things, the capitalists unite with the lower classes, naturally under the banner of “natural law.” But as soon as the victory has been achieved, the class based on movable wealth, the so-called middle class, turns its arms on the lower classes, makes peace with its former opponents, and invokes in its reactionary fight on the proletarians, its late allies, the theory of legitimacy, or makes use of an evil mixture of arguments based partly on legitimacy and partly on pseudo-liberalism.
In this manner the state has gradually matured from the primitive robber state, through the stages of the developed feudal state, through absolutism, to the modern constitutional state.
(d) the modern constitutional state
Let us give the mechanics and kinetics of the modern state a moment’s time.
In principle, it is the same entity as the primitive robber state or the developed feudal state. There has been added, however, one new element—officialdom, which at least will have this object, that in the contest of the various classes, it will represent the common interests of the state as a whole. In how far this purpose is subserved we shall investigate in another place. Let us at this time study the state in respect to those characteristics which it has brought over from its youthful stages.
Its form still continues to be domination, its content still remains the exploitation of the economic means. The latter continues to be limited by public law, which on the one had protects the traditional “distribution” of the total products of the nation; while on the other it attempts to maintain at their full efficiency the taxpayers and those bound to render service. The internal policy of the state continues to revolve in the path prescribed for it by the parallelogram of the centrifugal force of class contests and the centripetal impulse of the common interests in the state; and its foreign policy continues to be determined by the interests of the master class, now comprising besides the landed also the moneyed interests.
In principle, there are now, as before, only two classes to be distinguished: one a ruling class, which acquires more of the total product of the labor of the people—the economic means—than it has contributed, and a subject class, which obtains less of the resultant wealth than it has contributed. Each of these classes, in turn, depending on the degree of economic development, is divided into more or fewer subclasses or strata, which grade off according to the fortune or misfortune of their economic standards.
Among highly developed states there is found introduced between the two principal classes a transitional class, which also may be subdivided into various strata. Its members are bound to render service to the upper class, while they are entitled to receive service from the classes below them. To illustrate with an example, we find in the ruling class in modern Germany at least three strata. First come the great landed magnates, who at the same time are the principal shareholders in the larger industrial undertakings and mining companies: next stand the captains of industry and the “bankocrats,” who also in many cases have become owners of great estates. In consequence of this they quickly amalgamate with the first layer. Such, for example, are the Princes Fugger, who were formerly bankers of Augsburg, and the Counts of Donnersmarck, owners of extensive mines in Silesia. And finally there are the petty country nobles, whom we shall hereafter term junker or “squires.” The subject class, at all events, consists of petty peasants, agricultural laborers, factory and mine hands, with small artisans and subordinate officials. The “middle classes” are the classes of the transition: composed of the owners of large and medium-sized farms, the small manufacturers, and the best paid mechanics, besides those rich “bourgeois,” such as Jews, who have not become rich enough to overcome certain traditional difficulties which oppose their arrival at the stage of intermarriage with the upper class. All these render unrequited service to the upper class, and receive unrequited service from the lower classes. This determines the result which occurs either to the stratum as a whole or to the individuals in it; that is to say, either a complete acceptance into the upper class, or an absolute sinking into the lower class. Of the (German) transitional classes, the large farmers and the manufacturers of average wealth have risen, while the majority of artisans have descended to the lower classes. We have thus arrived at the kinetics of classes.
The interests of every class set in motion an actual body of associated forces, which impel it with a definite momentum toward the attainment of a definite goal. All classes whatever have the same goal; viz., the total result of the productive labor of all the denizens of a given state. Every class attempts to obtain as large a share as possible of the national production; and since all strive for identically the same object, the class contest results. This contest of classes is the content of all history of states, except in so far as the interest of the state as a whole produces common actions. These we may at this point disregard, since they have been given undue prominence by the traditional method of historical study, and lead to one sided views. Historically this class contest is shown to be a party fight. A party is originally and in its essence nothing save an organized representation of a class. Wherever a class, by reason of social differentiation, has split up into numerous sub-classes with varied separate interests, the party claiming to represent it disintegrates at the earliest opportunity into a mass of tiny parties, and these will either be allies or mortal enemies according to the degree of divergence of the class interests. Where on the other hand a former class contrast has disappeared by social differentiation, the two former parties amalgamate in a short time into a new party. As an example of the first case we may recall the splitting off of the artisans and Anti-Semite parties from the party of German Liberalism, as a consequence of the fact that the first represented descending groups, while the latter represented ascending ones. A characteristic example of the second category may be found in the political amalgamation which bound together into the farmers’ union the petty landed squires of the East Elbian country with West Elbian rich peasants on large plantations. Since the petty squire sinks and the farmer rises, they meet half-way. All party policy can have but one meaning, viz., to procure for the class represented as great a share as is possible of the total national production. In other words, the preferred classes intend to maintain their share, at the very least, at the ancient scale, and if possible, to increase it toward such a maximum as shall permit the exploited classes just a bare existence, to keep them fit to do their work, just as in the bee-keeper stages. Their object is to confiscate the entire surplus product of the economic means, a surplus which increases enormously as population becomes more dense and division of labor more specialized. On the other hand, the group of exploited classes would like to reduce their tribute to the zero-point, and to consume the entire product themselves; and the transitional classes work as much as possible toward the reduction of their tribute to the upper classes, while at the same time they strive to increase their unrequited income from the classes underneath.
This is the aim and the content of all party contests. The ruling class conducts this fight with all those means which its acquired dominion has handed down to it. In consequence of this, the ruling class sees to it that legislation is framed in its interest and to serve its purpose—class legislation. These laws are then applied in such wise that the blunted back of the sword of justice is turned upward, while its sharpened edge is turned downward—class justice. The governing class in every state uses the administration of the state in the interest of those belonging to it under a twofold aspect. In the first place it reserves to its adherents all prominent places and all offices of influence and of profit, in the army, in the superior branches of government service, and in places on the bench; and secondly, by these very agencies, it directs the entire policy of the state, causes its class-politics to bring about commercial wars, colonial policies, protective tariffs, legislation in some degree improving the conditions of the laboring classes, electoral reform policies, etc. As long as the nobles ruled the state, they exploited it as they would have managed an estate; when the bourgeoisie obtain the mastery, the state is exploited as though it were a factory. And the class-religion covers all defects, as long as they can be endured, with its “don’t touch the foundation of society.”
There still exist in the public law a number of political privileges and economic strategic positions, which favor the master class: such as, in Prussia, a system of voting which gives the plutocrats an undue advantage over the less favored classes, a limitation of the constitutional rights of free assembly, regulations for servants, etc. For that reason, the constitutional fight, carried on over thousands of years and dominating the life of the state, is still uncompleted. The fight for improved conditions of life, another phase of the party and class struggle, usually takes place in the halls of legislative bodies, but often it is carried on by means of demonstrations in the streets, by general strikes, or by open outbreaks.
But the plebs have finally and definitely learned that these remnants of feudal strategic centers, do not, except in belated instances, constitute the final stronghold of their opponents. It is not in political, but rather in economic conditions that the cause must be sought, which has brought it about that even in the modern constitutional state, the “distribution of wealth” has not been changed in principle. Just as in feudal times, the great mass of men live in bitter poverty; even under the best conditions, they have the meager necessities of life, earned by hard, crushing, stupefying forced labor, no longer exacted by right of political exploitation, but just as effectively forced from the laborers by their economic needs. And just as before in the un-reformed days, the narrow minority, a new master class, a conglomerate of holders of ancient privileges and of newly rich, gathers in the tribute, now grown to immensity; and not only does not render any service therefor, but flaunts its wealth in the face of labor by riotous living. The class contest henceforth is devoted more and more to these economic causes, based on vicious systems of distribution; and it takes shape in a hand-to-hand fight between exploiters and proletariat, carried on by strikes, coöperative societies and trades unions. The economic organization first forces recognition, and then equal rights; then it leads and finally controls the political destinies of the labor party. In the end therefore the trade union controls the party. Thus far the development of the state has progressed in Great Britain and in the United States.
Were it not that there has been added to the modern state an entirely new element, its officialdom, the constitutional state, though more finely differentiated and more powerfully integrated, would, so far as form and content go, be little different from its prototypes.
As a matter of principle, the state officials, paid from the funds of the state, are removed from the economic fights of conflicting interests; and therefore it is rightly considered unbecoming for any one in the service of the government to be taking part in any money making undertaking, and in no well ordered bureaucracy is it tolerated. Were it possible ever thoroughly to realize the principle, and did not every official, even the best of them, bring with him that concept of the state held by the class from which he originated, one would find in officialdom, as a matter of fact, that moderating and order making force, removed from the conflict of class interests, whereby the state might be led toward its new goal. It would become the fulcrum of Archimedes whence the world of the state might be moved.
But the principle, we are sorry to say, can not be carried out completely; and furthermore, the officials do not cease being real men, do not become mere abstractions without class-consciousness. This may be quite apart from the fact that, in Europe at least, a participation in a definite form of undertakings—viz., handling large landed estates—is regarded as a favorable means of getting on in the service of the state, and will continue to be so as long as the landed nobility preponderates. In consequence of this, many officials on the Continent, and one may even say the most influential officials, are subject to pressure by enormous economic interests; and are unconsciously, and often against their will, brought into the class contests.
There are factors, such as extra allowances made by either fathers or fathers-in-law, or hereditary estates, and affinity to the persons in control of the landed and moneyed interest or allied with them, whereby the solidarity of interest among the ruling class is if anything increased from the fact that these officials, practically without exception, are taken from a class with whom since their boyhood days they have been on terms of intimacy. Were there, however, no such unity of economic interests the demeanor of the officials would be influenced entirely by the pure interests of the state.
For this reason, as a rule, the most efficient, most objective and most impartial set of officials is found in poor states. Prussia, for example, was formerly indebted to its poverty for that incomparable body of officials who handled it through all its troubles. These employees of the state were actually, in consonance with the rule laid down above, dissociated completely from all interests in money making, directly or indirectly.
This ideal body of officials is a rare occurrence in the more wealthy states. The plutocratic development draws the individual more and more into its vortex, robbing him of his objectivity and of his impartiality. And yet the officials continue to fulfil the duty which the modern state requires of them, to preserve the interests of the state as opposed to the interests of any class. And this interest is preserved by them, even though against their will, or at least without clear consciousness of the fact, in such manner that the economic means, which called the bureaucracy into being, is in the end advanced on its tedious path of victory, as against the political means. No one doubts that the officials carry on class politics, prescribed for them by the constellation of forces operating in the state; and to that extent, they certainly do represent the master class from which they sprang. But they do ameliorate the bitterness of the struggle, by opposing the extremists in either camp, and by advocating amendments to existing law, when the social development has become ripened for their enactment, without waiting until the contest over these has become acute. Where an efficient race of princes governs, whose momentary representative adopts the policy of King Frederick, which was to regard himself only as “the first servant of the state,” what has been said above applies to him in an increased degree, all the more so as his interests, as the permanent beneficiary of the continued existence of the state, would before all else prompt him to strengthen the centripetal forces and to weaken the centrifugal powers. In the course of the preceding we have in many instances noted the natural solidarity between prince and people, as an historic force of great value. In the completed constitutional state, in which the monarch in but an infinitesimally small degree is a subject of private economic interests, he tends to be almost completely “an official.” This community of interests is emphasized here much more strongly than in either the feudal state or the despotically governed state, where the dominion, at least for one-half its extent, is based on the private economic interests of the prince.
Even in a constitutional state, the outer form of government is not the decisive factor; the fight of the classes is carried on and leads to the same result in a republic as in a monarchy. In spite of this, it must be admitted that there is more probability, that, other things being equal, the curve of development of the state in a monarchy will be more sweeping, with less secondary incurity, because the prince is less affected by momentary losses of popularity, is not so sensitive to momentary gusts of disapproval, as is a president elected for a short term of years, and he can therefore shape his policies for longer periods of time.
We must not fail to mention a special form of officialdom, the scientific staffs of the universities, whose influence on the upward development of the state must not be underestimated. Not only is this a creation of the economic means, as were the officials themselves, but it at the same time represents an historical force, the need of causality, which we found heretofore only as an ally of the conquering state. We saw that this need created superstition while the state was on a primitive stage; its bastard, the taboo, we found in all cases to be an effective means of control by the master class. From these same needs then, science was developed, attacking and destroying superstition, and thereby assisting in preparation of the path of evolution. That is the incalculable historical service of science and especially of the universities.
[∗]“Every place of worship gathers about it dwellings of the priests, schools, and rest-houses for pilgrims.”—Ratzel, l. c. II., p. 575.
[∗]See reference as to the meaning of Rittergutsbesitz, ante, page 84.—Translator.
[∗]In mediæval Germany the peasants pay tribute in many cases not only to the landlord and to the territorial prince, but also to the provost and to the bailiff.
[∗]See foot-note on page 84.
[130.]Meitzen, l. c. I, p. 579: “At the time of the compilation of the Lex Salica, the ancient racial nobility had been reduced to common freemen or else had been annihilated. The officials, on the other hand, are rated at threefold wergeld, 600 solidi, and if one be ‘puer regis’ 300 solidi.”
[131.]Thurnwald, l. c. p. 712.
[132.]Inama-Sternegg, l. c. II, p. 61.
[133.]Thurnwald, l. c., p. 705.
[134.]“The larger camps of the army of the Rhine obtained their municipal annexes partly through army suttlers and camp followers, and particularly through the veterans, who after the completion of their services remained in their accustomed quarters. Thus there arose distinct from the military quarters proper, a distinct town of cabins (Canabæ). In all parts of the Empire, and especially in the various Germanias, there arose in the course of time, from these camps of the legionaries, and particularly from the headquarter stations, cities in the modern sense.”—Mommsen, l. c. V, p. 153.
[135.]Eisenhardt, Gesch. der National Oekonomie, p. 9: “Aided by the new and more liquid means of payment in cash, it became possible to call into being a new and more independent establishment of soldiers and of officials. As they were paid only periodically it became impossible for them to make themselves independent (as the feudatories had done) and then to turn on their paymaster.”
[136.]Thurnwald, l. c., p. 773.