The New Synthesis.
It need hardly be said that the social philosophy of the time did not remain unaffected by the political evolution and the industrial development. Slowly sinking into men's minds all this while was the conception of a new social nexus, and a new end of social life. It was discovered (or rediscovered) that a society is something more than an aggregate of so many individual units—that it possesses existence distinguishable from those of any of its components. A perfect city became recognized as something more than any number of good citizens—something to be tried by other tests, and weighed in other balances than the individual man. The community must necessarily aim, consciously or not, at its continuance as a community: its life transcends that of any of its members; and the interests of the individual unit must often clash with those of the whole. Though the social organism has itself evolved from the union of individual men, the individual is now created by the social organism of which he forms a part: his life is born of the larger life; his attributes are molded by the social pressure; his activities, inextricably interwoven with others, belong to the activity of the whole. Without the continuance and sound health of the social organism, no man can now live or thrive; and its persistence is accordingly his paramount end. His conscious motive for action may be, nay always must be, individual to himself; but where such action proves inimical to the social welfare, it must sooner or later be checked by the whole, lest the whole perish through the error of its member. The conditions of social health are accordingly a matter for scientific investigation. There is, at any moment, one particular arrangement of social relations which involves the minimum of human misery then and there possible amid the "niggardliness of nature." Fifty years ago it would have been assumed that absolute freedom in the sense of individual or "manly" independence, plus a criminal code, would spontaneously result in such an arrangement for each particular nation; and the effect was the philosophic apotheosis of Laissez Faire. To-day every student is aware that no such optimistic assumption is warranted by the facts of life. We know now that in natural selection at the stage of development where the existence of civilized mankind is at stake, the units selected from are not individuals, but societies. Its action at earlier stages, though analogous, is quite dissimilar. Among the lower animals physical strength or agility is the favored quality: if some heavensent genius among the cuttle-fish developed a delicate poetic faculty, this high excellence would not delay his succumbing to his hulking neighbor. When, higher up in the scale, mental cunning became the favored attribute, an extra brain convolution, leading primitive man to the invention of fire or tools, enabled a comparatively puny savage to become the conquerer and survivor of his fellows.
Brain culture accordingly developed apace; but we do not yet thoroughly realize that this has itself been superseded as the "selected" attribute, by social organization. The cultivated Athenians, Saracens, and Provençals went down in the struggle for existence before their respective competitors, who, individually inferior, were in possession of a, at that time, more valuable social organization. The French nation was beaten in the last war, not because the average German was an inch and a half taller than the average Frenchman, or because he had read five more books, but because the German social organism was, for the purposes of the time, superior in efficiency to the French. If we desire to hand on to the afterworld our direct influence, and not merely the memory of our excellence, we must take even more care to improve the social organism of which we form part, than to perfect our own individual developments. Or rather, the perfect and fitting development of each individual is not necessarily the utmost and highest cultivation of his own personality, but the filling, in the best possible way, of his humble function in the great social machine. We must abandon the self-conceit of imagining that we are independent units, and bend our jealous minds, absorbed in their own cultivation, to this subjection to the higher end, the Common Weal. Accordingly, conscious "direct adaptation" steadily supplants the unconscious and wasteful "indirect adaptation" of the earlier form of the struggle for existence; and with every advance in sociological knowledge, Man is seen to assume more and more, not only the mastery of "things," but also a conscious control over social destiny itself.
This new scientific conception of the Social Organism has put completely out of countenace the cherished principles of the Political Economist and the Philosophic Radical. We left them sailing gaily into Anarchy on the stream of Laissez Faire. Since then the tide has turned. The publication of John Stuart Mill's Political Economy in 1848 marks conveniently the boundary of the old individualist Economics. Every edition of Mill's book became more and more Socialistic. After his death the world learned the personal history, penned by his own hand, of his development from a mere political democrat to a convinced Socialist.
The change in tone since then has been such that one competent economist, professedly anti-Socialist, publishes regretfully to the world that all the younger men are now Socialists, as well as many of the older Professors. It is, indeed, mainly from these that the world has learned how faulty were the earlier economic generalizations, and above all, how incomplete as guides for social or political action. These generalizations are accordingly now to be met with only in leading articles, sermons, or the speeches of Ministers or Bishops. The Economist himself knows them no more.
The result of this development of Sociology is to compel a revision of the relative importance of liberty and equality as principles to be kept in view in social administration. In Bentham's celebrated "ends" to be aimed at in a civil code, liberty stands predominant over equality, on the ground that full equality can be maintained only by the loss of security for the fruits of labor. That exposition remains as true as ever; but the question for decision remains, how much liberty? Economic analysis has destroyed the value of the old criterion of respect for the equal liberty of others. Bentham, whose economics were weak, paid no attention to the perpetual tribute on the fruits of others' labor which full private property in land inevitably creates. In his view liberty and security to property meant that every worker should be free to obtain the full result of his own labor; and there appeared no inconsistency between them. The political economist now knows that with free competition and private property in land and capital, no individual can possibly obtain the full result of his own labor. The student of industrial development, moreover, finds it steadily more and more impossible to trace what is precisely the result of each separate man's toil. Complete rights of liberty and property necessarily involve, for example, the spoliation of the Irish cottier tenant for the benefit of Lord Clanricarde. What then becomes of the Benthamic principle of the greatest happiness of the greatest number? When the Benthamite comes to understand the Law of Rent, which of the two will he abandon? For he cannot escape the lesson of the century, taught alike by the economists, the statesmen, and the "practical men," that complete individual liberty, with unrestrained private ownership of the instruments of wealth production, is irreconcilable with the common weal. The free struggle for existence among ourselves menaces our survival as a healthy and permanent social organism. Evolution, Professor Huxley declares, is the substitution of consciously regulated co-ordination among the units of each organism, for blind anarchic competition. Thirty years ago Herbert Spencer demonstrated the incompatibility of full private property in land with the modern democratic State; and almost every economist now preaches the same doctrine. The Radical is rapidly arriving, from practical experience, at similar conclusions; and the steady increase of the government regulation of private enterprise, the growth of municipal administration, and the rapid shifting of the burden of taxation directly to rent and interest, mark in treble lines the statesman's unconscious abandonment of the old Individualism, and our irresistible glide into collectivist Socialism.
It was inevitable that the Democracy should learn this lesson. With the masses painfully conscious of the failure of Individualism to create a decent social life for four-fifths of the people, it might have been foreseen that Individualism could not survive their advent to political power. If private property in land and capital necessarily keeps the many workers permanently poor (through no fault of their own) in order to make the few idlers rich (from no merit of their own), private property in land and capital will inevitably go the way of the feudalism which it superseded. The economic analysis confirms the rough generalization of the suffering people. The history of industrial evolution points to the same result; and for two generations the world's chief ethical teachers have been urging the same lesson. No wonder the heavens of Individualism are rolling up before our eyes like a scroll; and even the Bishops believe and tremble.
It is, of course, possible, as Sir Henry Maine and others have suggested, that the whole experience of the century is a mistake, and that political power will once more swing back into the hands of a monarch or an aristocratic oligarchy. It is, indeed, want of faith in Democracy which holds back most educated sympathisers with Socialism from frankly accepting its principles. What the economic side of such political atavism would be it is not easy to forecast. The machine industry and steam power could hardly be dismissed with the caucus and the ballot-box. So long, however, as Democracy in political administration continues to be the dominant principle, Socialism may be quite safely predicted as its economic obverse, in spite of those freaks or aberrations of Democracy which have already here and there thrown up a short-lived monarchy or a romantic dictatorship. Every increase in the political power of the proletariat will most surely be used by them for their economic and social protection. In England, at any rate, the history of the century serves at once as their guide and their justification.
by William Clarke
MY object in the following paper is to present a brief narrative of the economic history of the last century or century and a half. From this I wish to draw a moral. That moral is that there has been and is proceeding an economic evolution, practically independent of our individual desires or prejudices; an evolution which has changed for us the whole social problem by changing the conditions of material production, and which ipso facto effects a revolution in our modern life. To learn clearly what that revolution is, and to prepare ourselves for taking advantage of it in due course—this I take to be briefly what is meant by Socialism. The ignorant public, represented by, let us say, the average bishop or member of Parliament, hears of the "Social Revolution" and instantly thinks of street riots, noyades, with a coup d'état: a 10th of August, followed perhaps by its nemesis in an 18th Brumaire. But these are not the Social Revolution. That great change is proceeding silently every day. Each new line of railway which opens up the trackless desert, every new machine which supplants hand labor, each fresh combination formed by capitalists, every new labor organization, every change in prices, each new invention—all these forces and many more are actually working out a social revolution before our eyes; for they are changing fundamentally the economic basis of life. There may possibly come some one supreme moment of time in which a great dramatic incident will reveal to men the significance of the changes which have led up to it, and of which it is merely the final expression. And future historians may write of that as The Revolution just as historians now write of the fall of the Bastille, or the execution of Louis XVI., as though these events constituted the French Revolution instead of being the final terms in a long series of events which had been loosening the fabric of French feudalism through several generations. The true prophet is not an ignorant soothsayer who foretells some Armageddon, but rather he who perceives the inevitable drift and tendency of things. Somewhat in this spirit we may consider the economic history of the modern industrial era in order to discern its meaning, to see what it has led up to, and what, consequently, are the problems with which we find ourselves confronted to-day.
Had we visited a village or small town in England where industrial operations were going on 150 years ago, what should we have found? No tall chimney, vomiting its clouds of smoke, would have been visible; no huge building with its hundred windows blazing with light would have loomed up before the traveler as he entered the town at dusk; no din of machinery would have been heard; no noise of steam hammers; no huge blast furnaces would have met his eye, nor would miles of odors wafted from chemical works have saluted his nostrils. If Lancashire had been the scene of his visit he would have found a number of narrow red-brick houses with high steps in front, and outside wooden shutters such as one may still see in the old parts of some Lancashire towns to-day. Inside each of these houses was a little family workshop, contain ing neither master nor servant, in which the family jointly contributed to produce by the labor of their hands a piece of cotton cloth. The father provided his own warp of linen yarn, and his cotton wool for weft. He had purchased the yarn in a prepared state, while the wool for the weft was carded and spun by his wife and daughters, and the cloth was woven by himself and his sons. There was a simple division of labor in the tiny cottage factory; but all the implements necessary to produce the cotton cloth were owned by the producers. There was neither capitalist nor wage-receiver: the weaver controlled his own labor, effected his own exchange, and received himself the equivalent of his own product. Such was the germ of the great English cotton manufacture. Ferdinand Lassalle said: "Society consists of ninety-six proletaires and four capitalists. That is your State." But in old Lancashire there was neither capitalist nor proletaire.
Or even much later had one visited—Stafford, let us say, one would not have found the large modern shoe-factory, with its bewildering variety of machines, each one with a human machine by its side. For shoemaking then was a pure handicraft, requiring skill, judgment, and some measure of artistic sense. Each shoemaker worked in his own little house, bought his own material from the leather merchant, and fashioned every part of the shoe with his own hand, aided by a few simple and inexpensive tools. He believed there was "nothing like leather," and had not yet learned the art of putting on cheap soles, not made of leather, to cheap boots, which, in a month's time, will be almost worn out. Very likely the shoemaker had no vote; but he was never liable to be locked out by his employer, or to be obliged to go on strike against a reduction of wages, with his boy in prison for satisfying hunger at the expense of the neighboring baker, or his girl on the streets to pay for her new dress. Such was the simple industrialism of our great-great-grandfathers. But their mode of life was destined to change. All progress, says Mr. Herbert Spencer, is differentiation; and this formidable factor began to appear in the quiet sleepy English county. About 1760 a large share of calico-printing was transferred from London to Lancashire, where labor was then cheaper. There was a consequent fall in prices, and an increased demand for calicoes of linen warp and cotton weft. Then the Manchester dealers, instead of buying fustians and calicoes from the weaver, began to furnish him with the materials for his cloth, and to pay him a fixed price per piece for the work when executed. So the Manchester dealer became what the French call an entrepreneur; and the transformation of the independent weaver into a wage receiver began. The iron law of wages and the unemployed question also began to loom dimly up. For as the weaver came to hire himself to the dealer, so the weaver let out part of his work; and it frequently happened that the sum which the master weaver received from his employer was less than what he found himself compelled to pay to those whom he employed in spinning. "He durst not, however, complain," says Mr. Watts in his article on cotton (Encyclopaædia Britannica), "much less abate the spinner's price, lest his looms should be unemployed." The quantity of yarn producible under this simple system by the aid of the one-thread wheel was very small. The whole did not exceed in quantity what 50,000 spindles of our present machinery can yield. As one man can now superintend 2,000 spindles, it will be seen that twenty-five men with machinery can produce as much as the whole population of old Lancashire. In 1750 the first important invention in the cotton industry was made in the shape of the fly-shuttle, invented by Kaye of Bury. In 1760 improvements were made in the carding process. In 1767 the spinning-jenny was invented by Hargreaves, and this was at length brought to work as many as eighty spindles. The ingenious Hargreaves had ample opportunity for practical study of the "unemployed" question; for the spinners, some of whom were forced into idleness by the new invention, broke into his house and destroyed his machine. Shortly after, there was a general rising over industrial Lancashire: the poor hand-workers, whose prophetic souls were evidently dreaming on things to come, scouring the country and breaking in pieces every carding and spinning machine they could find.
Progress by differentiation, however, heeded not the second sight of Lancashire workers. In 1769, Arkwright contrived the spinning frame, and obtained his patent for spinning with rollers. In 1775, Crompton, of Bolton, invented the mule-jenny, enabling warps of the finest quality to be spun. In 1792, further improvements in this machine were made by Pollard, of Manchester, and Kelly, of Glasgow. In 1785, steam was first applied to the spinning of cotton in Nottinghamshire. In 1784 the Rev. E. Cartwright, of Kent, invented power-loom weaving, and completed and patented his invention in August, 1787. Here, then, within a period of about forty years, was a series of mechanical inventions which had the effect of absolutely changing the method of production, and enormously increasing the output; of dividing the labor of producing, which had formerly been effected by a single family within the walls of a single room, between scores and hundreds of people, each of whom only undertook a single process in a complex operation; of massing together hundreds of thousands of people under new conditions; of bringing a heretofore isolated district into intimate relations with distant foreign lands; and of separating the work of spinning or weaving from the ownership of the instruments by whose aid the work was done. The independent weaver was gone; or rather he was subjected, like an amœba, to a process of fission, but with this difference: that whereas the amœba produces by fission other similar amœbæ, the weaver was differentiated into a person called an employer and another called an employé or "hand." Multiply this "hand" by thousands, and we get the mill or factory, divided into departments, each with its special detail of work, each detail fitting into all the rest, each machine taking up the work where the last machine left it, and each contributing its share to the joint product. Multiply the employer; add enormously to the aggregate of his capital; remove the barrier of national frontiers from his operations; relieve him of the duty of personal supervision; and we get the joint-stock capitalist.
Pause a moment to consider the famous world-events which made so much noise while these industrial processes were going on. The conquest of Canada, the victories of Clive in India, the Seven Years' War, the successful revolt of the American colonies, the Declaration of Independence and formation of the American Constitution, the deeds of Frederic the Great, Pitt's accession to power, Washington's election to the Presidency, the Fall of the Bastille, the death of Mirabeau, the fall of the old French monarchy, the National Convention—all these great events which shook the world were contemporary with the industrial revolution in England; and that revolution was in promise and potency more important than them all.
I will glance at the development of another great industry, that of iron. In former times iron was largely worked in the south of England, notably in Sussex, in a district now purely agricultural. By the middle of the 18th century, important iron industries had begun to cluster round Coalbrookdale; and here many of the industrial changes in the working of iron were first introduced. From 1766 to 1784 improvements were made in the mode of working malleable iron and of transferring cast into wrought iron. The puddling forge was invented in 1784; and it gave an immense impetus to the manufacture. In 1828 the use of the hot blast was substituted for cold air; in 1842 Nasmyth invented the steam-hammer; and in 1856 the Bessemer process of making steel was patented. Subsequently we have the Siemens regenerative furnace and gas producer, the use of machinery in lieu of hand labor for puddling, casting of steel under great pressure, and the improvements in the Bessemer process. As a result of these inventions the increase in the production of steel during the last few years, especially in the United States and Great Britain, has been enormous. In all this we see the same series of phenomena, all tending to huge monopolies. Machinery supplants hand labor; production is greatly stimulated; the immense capital needed enables only the large producers to survive in the competitive conflict; and we get as the net result well defined aggregations of capital on the one hand, and dependent machine minders on the other.
I have alluded to the shoe industry as having been formerly a pure handicraft. Simple machine processes for fastening soles and heels to inner soles began to be adopted in 1809; and from that time onward successive inventions have converted the pure handicraft into one of the most mechanical industries in the world. In the United States in 1881 no less than 50,000,000 pairs of boots and shoes were sewed by the Blake-Mackay machines. A visitor to a shoe factory to-day will see the following machines: for cutting leather, for pressing rollers for sole leather, for stamping out sole and heel pieces, for blocking and crimping, for molding uppers or vamps, for vamp-folding, for eyeleting, lasting, trimming and paring, scouring, sand papering and burnishing, for stamping, peg-cutting, and nail-rasping. It is well to witness all these processes going on in one large factory in order to grasp fully the idea that the old individual industry of the last century is almost as extinct as the mastodon—that the worker in a shoe factory to-day is, so to speak, a machine in a vast complex system. The great industry has supplanted the small one; such great industry involves the aggregation of capital: consequently competition on the part of the small producer is hopeless and impossible. Thus in the proletarian class the intensity of the struggle for existence is increased, keeping down wages and ever widening the margin of the unemployed class. The small producer must become a wage earner either as manager, foreman, or workman. As well attempt to meet Gatling guns with bows and arrows, or steel cruisers armed with dynamite bombs with the little cockle-shells in which Henry V.'s army crossed over to win the field of Agincourt, as to set up single shoe-makers or cotton-weavers against the vast industrial armies of the world of machinery. The revolution is confined to no one industry, to no one land. While most fully developed in England, it is extending to most industries and to all lands. Prince Kropotkin, it is true, reminds us in an interesting article in the Nineteenth Century for October, 1888, that a number of small industries can still be found in town and country. That is so, no doubt; and it is not unlikely that for a long time to come many small trades may exist, and some may even flourish. But the countries in which small industries flourish most are precisely those in which there is least machine industry, and where consequently capitalism is least developed. In no country, says Kropotkin, are there so many small producers as in Russia. Exactly; and in no country is there so little machinery or such an inefficient railway system in proportion to population and resources. On the other hand, in no country is machinery so extensively used as in the United States; and it is precisely that country which contains the fewest small industries in proportion to population and resources. Many of the small industries, too, as Kropotkin admits, are carried on by persons who have been displaced by machines, and who have thus been thrown unemployed on the labor market; or who have drifted into large towns, especially into London, because in the country there was no work for them. At best the great majority of these people earn but a scanty and precarious living; and, judging from the number of hawkers and vendors who wander about suburban streets and roads without selling anything, one would imagine that great numbers can scarcely make any living at all.
Furthermore, when Kropotkin refers to the sweaters' victims, and to the people in country places who make on a small scale clothes or furniture which they dispose of to the dealers in large towns, and so forth, let it be remembered that so long as human labor is cheaper than machinery it will be utilized by capitalists in this way. The capitalist uses or does not use machinery according as it pays or does not pay; and if he can draw to an unlimited extent on the margin of unemployed labor, paying a bare subsistence wage, he will do so, as the evidence given before the House of Lords Committee on Sweating shows. While admitting then that a good many small industries exist, and that some will continue to exist for an indefinite time, I do not think that such facts make against the general proposition that the tendency is to large production by machinery, involving the grouping of men and the massing of capital, with all the economic and social consequences thereby involved.
Even agriculture, that one occupation in which old-fashioned individualism might be supposed safe, is being subjected to capitalism. The huge farms of Dakota and California, containing single fields of wheat miles long, are largely owned by joint stock corporations and cultivated exclusively by machinery. It was the displacement of human labor by machinery on these farms as well as the crisis in mining operations which helped to bring about the phenomenon of an unemployed class in the richest region of the world, and led Mr. Henry George to write his Progress and Poverty. These huge farms, combined with the wheat "corners" in New York and Chicago and the great railway corporations of America, have played havoc with many of the small farmers of the Mississippi Valley, as the statistics respecting mortgaged farms will show. And when it is remembered that the American farmer will be more and more obliged to meet the growing competition of the wheat of India, produced by the cheapest labor in the world, his prospect does not appear to be very bright.
In order to perceive clearly the immense development of machine industry and the consequent displacement of labor, one must resort to figures, mere rhetoric being of no avail. The following figures are cited from the United States, because American public statistics are so much better than British, being both more complete and more accessible. The facts are taken from the first Annual Report of the United States Commissioner of Labor Statistics in Washington for 1886. The Commissioner, inquiring into the industrial crisis, finds that it is mainly due to the immense development of machine industry under the joint-stock system; and he takes up various trades one after another to show how labor has been displaced by machinery. In the timber business, he says, twelve laborers with a Bucker machine will dress 12,000 staves. The same number of men by hand labor would have dressed in the same time only 2,500. In the manufacture of paper a machine now used for drying and cutting, run by four men and six girls, will do the work formerly done by 100 persons, and do it much better. In the manufacture of wall-paper the best evidence puts the displacement in the proportion of a hundred to one. In a phosphate mine in South Carolina ten men accomplish with machinery what 100 men handle without it in the same time. There has been a displacement of 50 per cent. In the manufacture of rubber boots and shoes. In South Carolina pottery the product is ten times greater by machine processes than by muscular labor. In the manufacture of saws, experienced men consider that there has been a displacement of three men out of five. In the weaving of silk the displacement has been 95 per cent., and in the winding of silk 90 per cent. A large soap manufacturing concern carefully estimates the displacement of labor in its works at 50 per cent. In making wine in California a crushing machine has been introduced with which one man can crush and stem 80 tons of grapes in a day, representing an amount of work formerly requiring eight men. In woolen goods modern machinery has reduced muscular labor 33 per cent. in the carding department, 50 per cent. in the spinning, and 25 per cent. in the weaving. In some kinds of spinning one hundred to one represents the displacement. In the whole United States in 1886 the machinery was equal to 3,500,000 horse power. If men only had been employed, it would have required 21,000,000 to turn out the actual total product: the real number was four millions. To do the work accomplished in 1886 in the United States by power machinery and on the railways would have required men representing a population of 172,500,000. The actual population of the United States in 1886 was something under 60,000,000, or a little more than one-third.
Commenting on these very remarkable statistics, the Labor Commissioner says: "The apparent evils resulting from the introduction of machinery and the consequent subdivision of labor have to a large extent, of course, been offset by advantages gained; but it must stand as a positive statement, which cannot be successfully controverted, that this wonderful introduction and extension of power machinery is one of the prime causes, if not the prime cause, of the novel industrial condition in which the manufacturing nations find themselves." One of the results of the "novel industrial condition" in America in 1885 was an unemployed class variously estimated at from one to two millions of men, the condition of many of whom as tramps furnished subjects for some very sorry jests to the American press. Such facts as are here suggested will show how a new country may soon be reduced to a condition which aggregated capital on the one hand and unemployed labor on the other render little better than that of an old European State with its centuries of misery and oppression. And incidentally they also show that such a nostrum as emigration, if intended not as a palliative but as a solution, is simply quackery. The inference would seem to be irresistible. Just as fast as capitalists find it profitable to introduce improved machinery, as fast also will the helplessness of a growing number of the proletariat increase. The "unemployed" question is the sphinx which will devour us if we cannot answer her riddle.
The wonderful expansion of Lancashire perhaps affords the best illustration of the change from individual to collective industry. A cotton-mill in one of the dismal "hell-holes" called towns in Lancashire is a wonderful place, full of bewildering machines. Here is a machine called an "opener," by which 15,000 lbs. of cotton can be opened in 56 hours. There is a throstle, the spindles of which make from 6,000 to 7,000 revolutions per minute. Here is a man who, with the aid of two piecers to take up and join the broken ends, can work 2,000 spindles. Among the distinct separate machines used are opener, scutcher and lap machine, drawing frame, slubbing frame, intermediate frame, roving frame, throstle, self-acting mule and hand mule, doubling frame, and mule doublers or twiners. By means of these appliances the following results have been attained. Within eight years, from 1792 to 1800, the quantity of cotton exported from the United States to Lancashire had increased from 138,000 lbs. to 18,000,000 lbs. In 1801 Lancashire took 84,000 bales of cotton from the United States: in 1876 she took 2,075,000 bales; and whereas in the former year only 14,000 bales came from India, in 1876 from that country came 775,000 bales, besides a great increase in Brazilian cotton, and a new import of 332,000 bales from Egypt. In 1805, one million pieces of calico were sold in the Blackburn market during the whole year; and that was considered a very large sale. In 1884, according to Ellison's Annual Review of the Cotton Trade, there were exported 4,417,000,000 yards of piece goods besides the vast quantity produced for home consumption. In 1875, in place of the little cottages with their hand-looms of a century before, Lancashire contained 2,655 cotton factories with 37,515,772 spinning spindles and 463,118 power looms; and she produced yarn and piece goods to the weight of 1,088,890,000 lbs. and of the value of £95,447,000. See, too, how through the use of machinery the cost of production had been lowered. In 1790 the price of spinning the yarn known technically as No. 100 was 4s. per lb.: in 1826 it had been reduced to 6½d. The sale price of yarn No. 100 in 1786 was 38s.: in 1793 it was reduced to 15s. 1d., in 1803 to 8s. 4d., in 1876 to 2s. 6d. The decreased cost in each case followed on economy in production, itself dependent on increased differentiation in machinery; that in turn involving larger and larger capital; and that again necessitating aggregation and the crushing out of small concerns which could not command machinery or sell at a profit in competition with it.
Speculation on the possibility of foreign competition destroying the industrial supremacy of Lancashire, Mr. Watts writes in the Encyclopædia Britannica: "It may perhaps be sufficient to recall to our readers the small part of the cost of the commodity which now belongs to the labor of the hand, and the daily diminution which is taking place even of that part, by the introduction of new mechanical substitutes." Mr. Watts wrote as an expert; and the inference one is compelled to draw from his dictum is that concentration of capital and growth of monopoly must con tinue to develop; and that the "unemployed" problem must force itself on Lancashire. One who is not an expert will only venture to criticise with great diffidence Mr. Watts's optimistic tone; but it is well to point out that in India capitalists can command the cheapest labor in the world—labor, too, at present entirely unregulated by law. The cotton of India, and also of Asiatic Russia, is spun and woven near to where it is grown, and where it can easily command the great Asiatic market. One is not surprised to find, therefore, that the Bombay cotton mills are already giving cause for some anxiety in Lancashire; and there seems no rational ground for supposing that that anxiety will decrease; in which case the increasing competition would seem to involve in Lancashire either immense development of machinery or reduction in wages in order to cheapen the cost of production. Either alternative forces the social problem forward.
I now pass on to consider the social problem as it has actually been forced on the attention of the British Government through the new industrial conditions.
The unrestrained power of capitalism very speedily reduced a large part of England to a deplorable condition. The Mrs. Jellybys of the philanthropic world were busy ministering to the wants of Borioboola Gha by means of tracts and blankets, neither of which were of the slightest use to those for whom they were intended. But Borioboolo Gha was an earthly paradise compared with civilized England. There was not a savage in the islands of the Pacific who was not better fed, happier, healthier, and more contented than the majority of the workers in the industrial parts of England. Children, it was discovered, were transferred in large numbers to the north, where they were housed in pent-up buildings adjoining the factories, and kept to long hours of labor. The work was carried on day and night without intermission; so that the beds were said never to become cold, inasmuch as one batch of children rested while another batch went to the looms, only half the requisite number of beds being provided for all. Epidemic fevers were rife in consequence. Medical inspectors reported the rapid spread of malformation of the bones, curvature of the spine, heart diseases, rupture, stunted growth, asthma, and premature old age among children and young persons: the said children and young persons being worked by manufacturers without any kind of restraint. Manufacturing profits in Lancashire were being at the same time reckoned at hundreds and even thousands per cent. The most terrible condition of things existed in the mines, where children of both sexes worked together, half naked, often for sixteen hours a day. In the fetid passages, children of seven, six, and even four years of age, were found at work. Women were employed underground, many of them even while pregnant, at the most exhausting labor. After a child was born, its mother was at work again in less than a week, in an atmosphere charged with sulphuric acid. In some places women stood all day knee-deep in water and subject to an intense heat. One woman when examined avowed that she was wet through all day long, and had drawn coal carts till her skin came off. Women and young children of six years old drew coal along the passages of the mines, crawling on all fours with a girdle passing round their waists, harnessed by a chain between their legs to the cart. A sub-commissioner in Scotland reported that he "found a little girl, six years of age, carrying half a cwt., and making regularly fourteen long journeys a day. The height ascended and the distance along the road exceeded in each journey the height of St. Paul's Cathedral." "I have repeatedly worked," said one girl seventeen years of age, "for twenty-four hours." The ferocity of the men was worse than that of wild beasts; and children were often maimed and sometimes killed with impunity. Drunkenness was naturally general. Short lives and brutal ones were the rule. The men, it was said, "die off like rotten sheep; and each generation is commonly extinct soon after fifty." Such was a large part of industrial England under the unrestrained rule of the capitalist. There can be no doubt that far greater misery prevailed than in the Southern States during the era of slavery. The slave was property—often valuable property; and it did not pay his owner to ill-treat him to such a degree as to render him useless as a wealth-producer. But if the "free" Englishman were injured or killed, thousands could be had to fill his place for nothing.
Had this state of things continued we should have returned to a state of nature with a vengeance. Of man thus depicted we may say with Tennyson:
"Dragons of the prime,
That tare each other in their slime,
Were mellow music match'd with him."
It was evident that capitalist monopoly must be restrained, reluctant as English statesmen brought up under the commercial system were to interfere. The zenith of laissez faire was at the close of the last century; but a great fabric often looks most imposing shortly before it begins to collapse. The first piece of labor legislation was the Morals and Health Act of 1802, which interfered with the accommodation provided to children by the employers, to which reference has been made. The Cotton Mills Act was passed in 1819, partly owing to the exertions of Robert Owen. It limited the age at which children might work in factories; and it limited the time of their labor to seventy-two hours per week. Seventy-two hours for a child of nine who ought to have been playing in the green fields! And even that was a vast improvement on the previous state of things. Saturday labor was next shortened by an Act passed by the Radical politician, Sir John Cam Hobhouse, in 1825. Workmen, Radicals, Tories, and philanthropists then joined in an agitation under Mr. Richard Oastler, a Conservative member of Parliament, to secure a Ten Hours' Bill. Hobhouse tried by a Bill introduced in 1831 to reduce the time in textile industries; but he was beaten by the northern manufacturers. However, Althorp the Whig leader, who had helped to defeat Hobhouse, was obliged himself to introduce a measure by which night work was prohibited to young persons, and the hours of work were reduced to sixty-nine a week. Cotton-mill owners were at the same time disqualified for acting as justices in cases of infringement of the law. This measure is regarded by Dr. E. Von Plener in his useful manual as the first real Factory Act. Mr. Thomas Sadler, who had succeeded Oastler as leader in the cause of the factory operatives, brought in a Bill in 1832 limiting the hours of labor for persons under eighteen; but it was met by a storm of opposition from manufacturing members and withdrawn.
To Sadler succeeded that excellent man, who has perhaps done more for the working-classes than any other public man of our time, Lord Ashley, better known as Lord Shaftesbury. And here let me pause to point out that it was the Radicals and a large section of the Tories who took the side of the operatives against the Whigs, official Conservatives and manufacturing class. The latter class is sometimes regarded as Liberal. I think the truth is, that it captured and held for some time the Liberal fort, and made Liberalism identical with its policy and interests. If the men of this class had the cynical candor of Mr. Jay Gould, they might have imitated his reply when examined by a legislative committee: "What are your politics, Mr. Gould?" "Well, in a Republican district I am Republican, in a Democratic district I am a Democrat; but I am always an Erie Railroad man." One of Lord Ashley's strong opponents was Sir Robert Peel, the son of a Lancashire capitalist; but the most bitter and persistent was Mr. John Bright. Lord Ashley introduced a Ten Hours' Bill which included adults. Lord Althorp refused to legislate for adults, but himself passed an Act in 1833 prohibiting night work to those under eighteen; fixing forty-eight hours per week as the maximum for children, and sixty-nine for young persons; also providing for daily attendance at school, and certain holidays in the year. As this Act repealed that of 1831, manufacturers were again eligible to sit as justices in factory cases; and although numerous infractions were reported by inspectors, the offenders in many cases got off scot free. In 1840 Lord Ashley brought to the notice of Parliament the condition of young people employed in mines; and through his activity was passed the first Mining Act, prohibiting underground work by women and by boys under ten. Peel then passed a consolidating Factory Act in 1844. Lord Ashley proposed to restrict to ten per day the working hours for young persons; but Peel defeated the proposal by threatening to resign if it were carried. By the Act of 1844 the labor of children was limited to six and a half hours per day; and they had to attend school three hours daily during the first five days of the week. The next year, 1845, Lord Ashley secured the passage of a Bill forbidding night work to women. In 1847 Mr. Fielden introduced a Bill limiting the time of labor for all women and young persons to eleven hours per day, and after May, 1848 to ten hours. Peel and the factory owners opposed; but the Bill was carried. The Act of 1850 further reduced the legal working day for women and young persons; and an Act of 1853 prohibited the employment of children before 6 a.m., or after 6 p.m. In 1860 bleaching and dyeing works were subjected to the factory laws. Further legislation on this branch of industry took place in 1870. A Mines Act was passed in 1860, and made more stringent in 1862 with reference to safety and ventilation. Acts with reference to the lace industry were passed in the years 1861-64, to bake-houses in 1863, chimney-sweeping and pottery works in 1864. The Workshops Regulation Act, relating to small trades and handicrafts was passed in 1867, and a consolidating Factory and Workshops Act in 1871. The Act now in force is the Factory and Workshops Act 1878, modified in respect of certain industries by the Act of 1883. Further Acts relative to the regulations of mines were passed in 1872 and 1887.
This brief and imperfect survey of the legislation which has destroyed the regime of Laissez faire is sufficient for my purpose to prove: (1) That with private property in the necessary instruments of production, individual liberty as understood by the eighteenth century reformers must be more and more restricted, i.e., that in our existing economic condition individualism is impossible and absurd. (2) That even hostile or indifferent politicians have been compelled to recognize this. (3) That unrestrained capitalism tends as surely to cruelty and oppression as did feudalism or chattel slavery. (4) That the remedy has been, as a matter of fact, of a Socialistic character, involving collective check ing of individual greed and the paring of slices off the profits of capital in the interests of the working community. These four propositions can scarcely be contested.
The immense development of English industry under the conditions previously set forth was due in great degree to the fact that England had secured an immense foreign market in which she had for a long time no formidable rival. Most of the wars in which England was engaged during the eighteenth century are quite unintelligible until it is understood that they were commercial wars intended to secure commercial supremacy for England. The overthrow of the Stuart monarchy was directly associated with the rise to supreme power of the rich middle class, especially the London merchants. The revolution of 1688 marks the definite advent to political power of this class, which found the Whig party the great instrument for effecting its designs. The contrast between the old Tory squire who stood for Church and King, and the new commercial magnate who stood by the Whigs and the House of Hanover, is well drawn by Sir Walter Scott in Rob Roy. The Banks of England and Scotland and the National Debt are among the blessings conferred on their descendants by the new mercantile rulers. They also began the era of corruption in politics which is always connected closely with predominance of capitalists in the State, as we see in France, the United States, and the British Colonies. "The desire of the moneyed classes," says Mr. Lecky, "to acquire political power at the expense of the country gentlemen was the first and one of the chief causes of that political corruption which soon overspread the whole system of parliamentary government." What remained of the old aristocracy often found it convenient to form alliances with the new plutocracy; and it was this combination which governed England during the eighteenth century, and which specially determined her foreign policy. That policy was directed toward the securing of foreign markets and the extension of English trade. Napoleon's sneer at the "nation of shopkeepers" was not undeserved. The conquest of Canada, the conquest of India under Clive and Warren Hastings—the latter an agent of a great capitalist body, who illustrated well in his Indian career the methods of his class—the Colonial policy, the base destruction of Irish manufactures in the interest of English capitalists, were all part of the same scheme. The policy was successfully consummated in the war waged by Pitt against the French Revolution. That Revolution was itself brought about mainly by poverty. Not only was the French peasantry beggared; but some of the new machinery which had been brought from England had thrown many persons out of work. It was mainly unemployed workmen who stormed and captured the Bastille. The chief counterblast to the Revolution was prepared by Pitt. What were his motives? The Austrian and Prussian monarchs, the emigrant nobles, the imbecile English King and the Tory English bishops may perhaps have seriously believed that England was fighting for altar and throne. But Pitt was under no such delusion. While he derived from his illustrious father a real pride in England, his divinities were rather the ledger and the cash-box. He was no bigot: even while an undergraduate at Cambridge he was a close student of Adam Smith; he started in public life as a reformer, and his refusal to bow to the ignorant prejudices of George III. cost him office in 1801. It has been abundantly proved that at first he felt no violent antipathy to the Revolution. A long period elapsed before he was brought to join the monarchical alliance. But he was essentially the great capitalist statesman, the political successor of Walpole, the political predecessor of Peel. He saw that French conquest might threaten seriously the English social fabric, and that if England's chief rival were struck down, the English commercial class might gain control of the world's commerce. To secure that end he skillfully welded together all the moneyed interests, the contractors, landlords, financiers, and shopkeepers; and he tried to persuade the simpler portion of the country that he was fighting for the sacred cause of religion and morality. Those who resisted him he flung into prison or transported beyond the seas. When the long war was brought to an end, the working-classes were in a wretched condition; although in those days also there were sophistical politicians who tried to prove that never had the people so much reason to be contented. When, in 1823, the Lancashire weavers petitioned Parliament to look into their grievances, an honorable member, who had presumably dined well if not wisely, had the audacity to declare that the weavers were better off than the capitalists—an observation not dissimilar to those we have heard in more recent times. As a matter of fact, the landlords, through protection and high rents—the capitalists, through enormous profits, were enriched "beyond the dreams of avarice." But the time had come for a conflict between these two classes: the conflict which is known as the Free Trade controversy. Protection was no longer needed by the manufacturers, who had supremacy in the world-market, unlimited access to raw material, and a long start of the rest of the world in the development of machinery and in industrial organization. The landlord class on the other hand was absolutely dependent on Protection, because the economic isolation of England by means of import duties maintained the high prices of food which were the source of the high agricultural rents. Capitalist interests, on the contrary, were bound up with the interaction between England and the rest of the world; and the time had come when the barriers which had prevented that interaction must be pulled down. The triumph of Free Trade, therefore, signifies economically the decay of the old landlord class pure and simple, and the victory of capitalism. The capitalist class was originally no fonder of Free Trade than the landlords. It destroyed in its own interest the woolen manufacture in Ireland; and it would have throttled the trade of the Colonies had it not been for the successful resistance of Massachusetts and Virginia. It was Protectionist so long as it suited its purpose to be so. But when cheap raw material was needed for its looms, and cheap bread for its workers: when it feared no foreign competitor, and had established itself securely in India, in North America, in the Pacific; then it demanded Free Trade. "Nothing in the history of political imposture," says Mr. Lecky, "is more curious than the success with which, during the Anti-Corn Law agitation, the notion was disseminated that on questions of Protection and Free Trade the manufacturing classes have been peculiarly liberal and enlightened, and the landed classes peculiarly selfish and ignorant. It is indeed true that when in the present century the pressure of population on subsistence had made a change in the Corn Laws inevitable, the manufacturing classes placed themselves at the head of a Free Trade movement from which they must necessarily have derived the chief benefit, while the entire risk and sacrifice were thrown upon others. But it is no less true that there is scarcely a manufacture in England which has not been defended in the spirit of the narrowest and most jealous monopoly; and the growing ascendancy of the commercial classes after the Revolution is nowhere more apparent than in the multiplied restrictions of the English Commercial Code."
Cheap raw material having been secured by the English manufacturer through a series of enactments extending over a generation; and machinery having been so developed as to enormously increase production, England sent her textile and metal products all over the world; and her manufacturers supported exactly that policy which enabled them to secure markets for their goods or raw produce to work up in their mills. Cobdenism was in the ascendant; and the State was more and more regarded from the commercial point of view. The so-called "Manchester school" was in the main a peace party because war weakens that confidence on which commerce is based. But this attachment to peace principles did not prevent Cobden himself from declaring for a powerful navy as an instrument of commercial insurance. Nor did it prevent Manchester from supporting Palmerston's nefarious Chinese policy in 1857, or the equally nefarious aggression in Egypt in 1882: both being regarded as helpful to Manchester trade. In behalf of this extension of English trade to new markets war has been made on China, Egypt, the Soudan, Burmah, and Thibet. Germany follows England with cautious tread. Adventurers like Emin, Stanley, and Bartelott are employed to "open up" Africa to the gentle influences of civilization by the agency of rum and revolver, under the pretense of putting down the slave trade. France, not to be behind, exploits Tonquin in the interests of Paris speculators. An unscrupulous government in Italy attempts to divert the attention of the country from domestic reforms to expeditions in Africa in the interests of moneyed people in Europe. Perhaps the greatest move is yet to come: the move on the vast market of China. For this England, America, France, and Germany will compete. Tentative steps are already being taken. By her absorption of Burmah and her operations in Thibet, England is approaching nearer to China. By her acquisition of Tonquin, France has been brought into actual contact with China. America will probably, by a judicious reduction of her tariff, compete with England all over the Pacific, and will send her goods from the Atlantic ports through the Panama or Nicaragua Canal of the near future. In short, the machinery for the wholesale exploitation of Asia and Africa is in rapid progress. The whole globe will soon be the private property of the capitalist class.
The appropriation of the planet has been powerfully aided by the developments of transport and communication in our time: indeed, it would have been impossible without them. The mere application of machinery to production could not have produced the economic results of to-day but for the shrinkage of the globe caused by railways and telegraphs. For it is through these inventions that the capitalist class has become cosmopolitan, has broken up old habits, destroyed local associations, spared nothing either beautiful or venerable where profit was concerned. It has assimilated the conditions of life in various lands, and has brought about a general uniformity which accounts for much of the ennui felt in modern life.
As England was the first country to develop machine industry, so was she the first to develop railways and to form a powerful steam mercantile marine. Through the latter agency she has now in her hands about sixty-four per cent. of the carrying trade of the world. Within sixty years about 350,000 miles of railway have been built throughout the globe. Atlantic and Pacific are united by several lines of steel; while the locomotive has penetrated remote regions of Africa inhabited by barbarous tribes, and wastes of central Asia where it confronts the relics of dead and buried civilizations. This immense power, the greatest in the modern world, is mainly in the hands of monopolist corporations, among whom there is the same necessary tendency to aggregation, only far more marked, as is found in productive industries. The first small lines built to connect towns not far off have been added to others bit by bit; as from the original Stockton and Darlington Railway, less than twenty miles long, we get the great and wealthy North Eastern Railway of to-day. In America a single corporation controls as much as 7,000 miles of rail ; and the end of the century will perhaps see the great Siberian Pacific in actual existence. As in railways, so in steam vessels. Huge fleets like the Cunard, the Orient, the Messageries Maritimes, are owned by cosmopolitan capital, and sustain the traffic and commerce, not of a country, not even of a continent, but of the whole world. Such is the immense revolution in the methods of distribution effected in our time by the operation of capitalism.
We must now consider what the term "capitalist" is coming to signify. Had the term been used half a century ago it would have connoted a class, unscrupulous perhaps in the main, with low aims, little culture, and less fine sympathy or imagination. It was nevertheless a socially useful class, which at that time performed real services. It is a leading thought in modern philosophy that in its process of development each institution tends to cancel itself. Its special function is born out of social necessities: its progress is determined by attractions or repulsions which arise in society, producing a certain effect which tends to negate the original function. Thus early society among the Aryan peoples of Europe develops a leader in war or council who grows, by processes which in England, e.g., can be clearly traced, into a king with genuine functions, a leader of the people in war like William I., or a powerful civil ruler and statesman like Henry I. The fact that such men were brutal or wicked is of little account: the important fact about them is, that in a barbarous chaotic society they performed some indispensable services. But the very putting forth of the kingly power arouses antagonism; then produces armed resistance by a combined group; and finally leads to overthrow either by the destruction of the king or by depriving him of all real power and reducing him to a mere ornamental puppet. The very power originally believed to be beneficent becomes tyrannical: it needs to be checked more and more, until finally it practically ceases to exist, and the curious paradox is seen of a monarch who does not rule. History proves abundantly that men do not rise and overthrow wicked and corrupt rulers merely because they are wicked and corrupt. It is part of the terrible irony of history that a Louis XV. dies in his bed, while a William the Silent or a Lincoln falls a victim to the assassin. What men do not long tolerate is either obstructiveness or uselessness.
Now, if we apply these ideas to the evolution of the capitalist, what is it we see? The capitalist was originally an entrepreneur, a manager who worked hard at his business, and who received what economists have called the "wages of superintendence." So long as the capitalist occupied that position, he might be restrained and controlled in various ways; but he could not be got rid of. His "wages of superintendence" were certainly often exorbitant; but he performed real functions; and society, as yet unprepared to take those functions upon itself, could not afford to discharge him. Yet, like the king, he had to be restrained by the legislation already referred to; for his power involved much suffering to his fellows. But now the capitalist is fast becoming absolutely useless. Finding it easier and more rational to combine with others of his class in a large undertaking, he has now abdicated his position of overseer, has put in a salaried manager to perform his work for him, and has become a mere rent or interest receiver. The rent or interest he receives is paid for the use of a monopoly which not he, but a whole multitude of people created by their joint efforts.
It was inevitable that this differentiation of manager and capitalist should arise. It is part of the process of capitalist evolution due to machine industry. As competition led to waste in production, so it led to the cutting of profits among capitalists. To prevent this the massing of capital was necessary, by which the large capitalist could undersell his small rivals by offering, at prices below anything they could afford to sell at, goods produced by machinery and distributed by a plexus of agencies initially too costly for any individual competitor to purchase or set on foot. Now for such massive capitals, the contributions of several capitalists are needed; and hence has arisen the Joint Stock Company or Compagnie Anonyme. Through this new capitalist agency a person in England can hold stock in an enterprise at the Antipodes which he has never visited and never intends to visit, and which, therefore, he cannot "superintend" in any way. He and the other shareholders put in a manager with injunctions to be economical. The manager's business is to earn for his employers the largest dividends possible: if he does not do so he is dismissed. The old personal relation between the workers and the employer is gone: instead thereof remains merely the cash nexus. To secure high dividends the manager will lower wages. If that is resisted there will probably be either a strike or lock-out. Cheap labor will be perhaps imported by the manager; and if the workpeople resist by intimidation or organized boycotting, the forces of the State (which they help to maintain) will be used against them. In the majority of cases they must submit. Such is a not unfair picture of the relation of capitalist to workman to-day: the former having become an idle dividend-receiver. The dictum of orthodox political economy, uttered by so competent an authority as the late Professor Cairnes, runs:—
"It is important, on moral no less than on economic grounds, to insist upon this, that no public benefit of any kind arises from the existence of an idle rich class. The wealth accumulated by their ancestors and others on their behalf, where it is employed as capital, no doubt helps to sustain industry; but what they consume in luxury and idleness is not capital, and helps to sustain nothing but their own unprofitable lives. By all means they must have their rents and interest, as it is written in the bond; but let them take their proper place as drones in the hive, gorging at a feast to which they have contributed nothing."
The fact that the modern capitalist may be not only useless but positively obstructive was well illustrated at a meeting of the shareholders of the London and South Western Railway on 7th February last. Three shareholders urged a reduction in third-class fares. The chairman pointed out the obvious fact that such a reduction would probably lower the dividend, and asked the meeting if that was what they wished. He was, of course, answered by a chorus of "No, no!"; and all talk of reduction of fares was at an end. Here is a plain sample (hundreds might be quoted) of the evident interests of the public being sacrificed to those of the capitalist.
That joint-stock capitalism is extending rapidly everyone knows. In the United States, according to Mr. Bryce, the wealth of joint-stock corporations is estimated at one-fourth of the total value of all property. In England every kind of business, from breweries, banks, and cotton-mills down to automatic sweetmeat machines, is falling into the hands of the joint-stock capitalist, and must continue to do so. Twenty years ago who would have supposed that a brewery like that of Guinness or such a banking firm as Glyn, Mills and Co. would become a joint-stock company? Yet we know it is so to-day. Capitalism is becoming impersonal and cosmopolitan. And the combinations controlling production become larger and fewer. Barings are getting hold of the South African diamond fields. A few companies control the whole anthracite coal produce of Pennsylvania. Each one of us is quite "free" to "compete" with these gigantic combinations, as the Principality of Monaco is "free" to go to war with France should the latter threaten her interests. The mere forms of freedom remain; but monopoly renders them nugatory. The modern State, having parted with the raw material of the globe, cannot secure freedom of competition to its citizens; and yet it was on the basis of free competition that capitalism rose. Thus we see that capitalism has canceled its original principle—is itself negating its own existence. Before considering its latest forms, attention may here be conveniently directed to the Coöperative movement, which is, on one side at any rate, closely allied to the joint-stock development.
The Coöperative movement had in England a Socialistic origin; for its founder was Robert Owen. As Mr. Seligman says very truly in the Political Science Quarterly: "Owen was the founder of the Coöperative movement in England, a fact often ignored by those who glibly use the word to-day with an utter failure to discern its true significance." And Owen himself avowed that his grand ultimate object was "community in land," with which he hoped would be combined "unrestrained coöperation on the part of all, for every purpose of human life." It is thus important to associate Coöperation with Robert Owen—clarum et venerabile nomen—because there are many persons who suppose that Coöperation began with the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844. What the Rochdale movement really did was to commence the process of joint-stock shopkeeping, a very different thing from that which Owen had in view.
A powerful impetus was given to coöperation by the Christian Socialist movement under Maurice and Kingsley. "Of all narrow, conceited, hypocritical, anarchic and atheistic schemes of the Universe," said Kingsley, "the Cobden and Bright one is exactly the worst." The orthodox economic conclusions of the day fared badly at Kingsley's hands. "The man who tells us," says he, "that we ought to investigate Nature, simply to sit still patiently under her, and let her freeze, and ruin, and starve, and stink us to death, is a goose, whether he calls himself a chemist or a political economist." These Christian Socialist leaders felt deeply the anguish and poverty of the workers and the selfish apathy of the rich. "Mammon," says Kingsley, "shrieks benevolently whenever a drunken soldier is flogged; but he trims his paletot and adorns his legs with the flesh of men and the skins of women, with degradation, pestilence, heathendom, and despair; and then chuckles complacently over his tailor's bills. Hypocrite! straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel." All this is very admirable; but cheap clothes are not made solely or cheaply for Mammon, but for the masses, who are poor people. It is part of the sad irony of the situation that the great majority are obliged to accept the alternative of cheap clothes or none at all. And as the English climate and the British matron combine to exercise an absolute veto over the latter form of prehistoric simplicity, it follows that one portion of the working-classes must, in order to be clothed, connive at the sweating of another portion.
The Christian Socialist, which was the organ of Maurice and Kingsley, betrayed great simplicity as to the real nature of the economic problem. It neglected Owen's principle of "community in land," and supposed that by working together and selling articles of good quality at a fair price poverty could be eliminated, while yet every worker in the community was paying his tribute of economic rent to the owners of the instruments of production. Thus the movement had no economic basis; and when the moral idealism had departed from it, no wonder that it degenerated into mere "divvy" hunting and joint-stock shop-keeping. The economic advantages of joint-stock shop-keeping are thus summed up by Mr. Robert Somers in the Encyclopædia Britannica (Art., "Coöperation"): "Wholesome commodities, ready-money payments, a dividend of from five to ten per cent. on share capital, and a bonus to non-members on the amount of their purchases." As joint-stock shop-keeping, coöperation is a useful and cheap method of distribution, which has doubtless benefited a considerable number of persons; but the notion that it can solve the economic problem before society is "chimerical," as Dr. J. K. Ingram tells us is the opinion of modern economists. This, indeed, might only be expected from the fact that 961 out of every 1,000 persons in England die without furniture, investments, or effects worth £300. Economically considered, coöperation is, now that the initial enthusiasm has died out of it, a subsidiary branch of the great joint-stock enterprise. Ethically considered, its results are often doubtful. In its chief stronghold, Lancashire, one observes a narrow selfishness among its votaries which could not be surpassed in the most genteel quarters of Bayswater. Its ideal is not the raising of the working class as a whole, but the raising of certain persons out of the working into the middle class. If the advocates of coöperation will abate their pretensions, and claim merely (1) that their method is a useful and economic means of distribution among the lower-middle and upper-working classes; and (2) that by its agency working men can learn the important functions of organization and administration, their claim will be freely admitted. But if they go further their vaulting ambition will o'erleap itself. At the present rate of progress made by coöperative societies as compared with joint-stock capitalist companies, several generations will be in their graves before any deep or general impression is made. And meanwhile, unless economic rent is diverted from the class which at present absorbs it to the community which creates it, coöperators, like the rest of us, must pay tribute to the lords of the soil and of money. But the noteworthy fact about coöperation is that its very existence testifies to the process of industrial and capitalist aggregation here insisted on as the great social factor of our period. For coöperative societies supersede individual by social distribution, effecting it without the waste attendant on a number of little shops all competing against each other, the owners of none of which can make a decent living. Coöperation, therefore, well illustrates the economic evolution of the present age.
I now come to treat of the latest forms of capitalism, the "ring" and the "trust" whereby capitalism cancels its own principles, and, as a seller, replaces competition by combination. When capitalism buys labor as a commodity it effects the purchase on the competitive principle. Its indefinitely extended market enables it to do so; for it knows that the workman must sell his labor to secure the means to live. Other things being equal, therefore, it buys its labor in the cheapest market. But when it turns round to face the public as a seller, it casts the maxims of competition to the winds, and presents itself as a solid combination. Competition, necessary at the outset, is found ultimately, if unchecked, to be wasteful and ruinous. It entails great expense in advertising; it necessitates the employment of much unproductive labor; it tends to the indefinite lowering of prices; it produces gluts and crises, and renders business operations hazardous and precarious, To escape these consequences the competing persons or firms agree to form a close combinatian to keep up prices, to augment profits, to eliminate useless labor, to diminish risk, and to control the output. This is a "ring," which is thus a federation of companies. The best examples of "ring" and "pools" are to be found in America, where capitalism is more unrestrained and bolder in its operations than in Europe; and also where nearly all the active intellect is attracted to those commercial pursuits that dominate American life.
The individualist devotees of laissez faire used to teach us that when restrictions were removed, free competition would settle everything. Prices would go down, and fill the "consumer" with joy unspeakable; the fittest would survive; and as for the rest—it was not very clear what would become of them, and it really didn't matter. No doubt the "consumer" has greatly benefited by the increase in production and the fall in prices; but where is "free competition" now? Almost the only persons still competing freely are the small shop-keepers, trembling on the verge of insolvency, and the working-men, competing with one another for permission to live by work. Combination is absorbing commerce. Here are a few instances of the formation of rings.
A steel rail combination was some years ago formed among previously competing firms in America. This combination discovered that too many rails were being made and that prices were being cut. Accordingly, one of the mills in the combination—the Vulcan mill of St. Louis—was closed, and stood smokeless for years: its owners meanwhile receiving a subsidy of $400,000 a year from the other mills in the combination for not making rails. That is how the owners of the Vulcan mill earned their "wages of superintendence." It is needless to add that no payment was made to the men for not working: they were thrown on the streets to meditate on the right to "liberty and the pursuit of happiness," secured to them by the Declaration of Independence.
Or, again, take the case of the anthracite coal lands of Pennsylvania, occupying an area of some 270,000 acres, and held by the Reading Coal and Iron Company, the Lehigh Valley Railroad, the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, the Delaware and Hudson Railroad, the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Pennsylvania Coal Company, and smaller firms and corporations tributury to these. The rich owners, popularly known as the. "coal barons," agree to fix absolutely the wholesale price of coal, always securing an immense rise just before the winter sets in. There is no such thing known or possible as free trade or open competition in the anthracite coal produce of America.
Combinations in the United States have been made by the Western millers, the New York icemen, Boston fish dealers, manufacturers of sewer pipe, copper miners, makers of lamps, pottery, glass, hoop-iron, shot, rivets, candy, starch, sugar, preserved fruits, glucose, chairs, vapor stoves, lime, rubber, screws, chains, harvesting machinery, pins, salt, hardware, type, brass tubing, silk and wire. In these trades freedom of production and sale has been for a time partially or wholly destroyed. The American business man is very angry when boycotting is resorted to by workmen; but he is quite ready to boycott others when his interests lead that way. The stamped tinware makers in 1882 formed a ring and expelled members who sold at lower prices than the fixed rates, and refused to allow anyone in the pool to sell to the offenders. Some of the previous facts are taken from an article by Mr. Henry D. Lloyd, who has investigated capitalist combinations with much knowledge and insight. From the same article I quote the following:
"On the 1st April, 1882, when the rest of us were lost in the reckless gaiety of All Fools' Day, forty-one tack manufacturers found out that there were too many tacks, and formed the Central Manufacturing Company of Boston, with 3,000,000 dollars capital. The tack-mills in the combination ran about three days in the week. When this combination a few weeks ago silenced a Pittsburg rival by buying him out, they did not remove the machinery. The dead chimneys and idle machines will discourage new men from starting another factory, or can be run to ruin them if they are not to be discouraged in any other way. The first fruits of the tack-pool were an increase of prices to twice what they had been."
Again I quote Mr. Lloyd:
"The men who make our shrouds and coffins have formed a close corporation known as the 'National Burial Case Association,' and held their annual convention in Chicago last year. Their action to keep up prices and keep down the number of coffins was secret, lest mortality should be discouraged."
From coffins to crackers is a short step in the study of capitalist methods:
"The Western Cracker Bakers' Association met in Chicago, in February, to consider among other things 'the reprehensible system of cutting prices' (i.e., the reprehensible system of free competition which capitalists in buying labor tell us is our salvation). They first had a banquet. After their 'merriment and diversion' the revelers, true to Adam Smith's description, turned to consider 'some contrivance to raise prices.' 'The price lists were perfected,' said the newspaper report; 'and then they adjourned.' "
In 1875 broke out a severe competition among the fire insurance companies, upon the collapse of a previous pool; and the competition cost them in New York city alone $17,500,000 in seven years. Consequently in 1882 they made a new combination which covered the whole country, and which Mr. Lloyd declares to be wealthy, cohesive, and powerful. Though there is no pool or ring, I am credibly informed that there is a common understanding among the fire insurance companies of London. One of the most noted of combinations has been the great Copper Syndicate which attracted world-wide attention early in 1888. It was formed by some French speculators in October, 1887, and during the eighteen months of its existence, maintained copper at a purely arbitrary price in all the markets of the world. At its head was M. Eugène Secretan, managing director of the Société des Métaux, the world's largest buyer of, and dealer in, manufactured copper. The syndicate's agents bought all the copper that was visible and for sale, the result of their speculation being that the price of copper in the London market rose from less than £40 to over £80 a ton, and the price of Lake Superior copper in America rose from 10½ cents to 17¾ cents per pound. M. Secretan informed a London journal that his designs were purely philanthropic. "Our only purpose," said he, "is that every miner, dealer and manufacturer should have fair remuneration for his work." Thanks to M. Secretan's philanthropy, copper, tin, lead and spelter rose enormously in price; several trades were more or less paralyzed; and in France large numbers of workmen were thrown out of employment. And let it not be supposed that the suicide of M. Denfert-Rochereau, which heralded the collapse of this first attempt to corner the world's copper—a collapse due to a miscalculation of the extent to which the supply of copper could increase under the stimulus of high prices—offers us any security against a repetition of the attempt. On the contrary, it has shown how the thing may be safely done. The metal hoarded by the unlucky speculators is still so far cornered that it has been kept off the market up to the present, prices being not yet normal. "To a regular trust it must and will come at last," says Mr. E. Benjamin Andrews, of Cornell University. "Nor has aught taken place to indicate that a Copper Trust, organized like the Standard Oil Trust, with its energy and relentless methods, would fail."
The Individualist who supposes that Free Trade plus private property will solve all economic problems is naturally surprised at these "rings," which upset all his crude economic notions; and he very illogically asks for legislation to prevent the natural and inevitable result of the premises with which he starts. It is amusing to note that those who advocate what they call self-reliance and self-help are the first to call on the State to interfere with the natural results of that self-help, of that private enterpise, when it has overstepped a purely arbitrary limit. Why, on ordinary commercial principles, should not a copper syndicate grasp all the copper in the world? It is merely the fittest surviving. The whole case against Socialism is assumed by its most intelligent opponents to lie in that Darwinian theory. And yet when the copper syndicate or the "coal barons" survive, they arouse against themselves the fiercest and, from the commercial point of view, the most unreasonable antagonism. As sin when it is finished is said to bring forth death, so capitalism when it is finished brings forth monopoly. And one might as well quarrel with that plain fact as blame thorns because they do not produce grapes, or thistles because they are barren of figs.
The story of the growth of capitalism is not yet complete. The "ring" is being succeeded by a more elaborate organization known as the "trust." Although in England great combinations like the Salt Union are rapidly rising, yet we must again travel to America to learn what the so-called "trust" is. The fullest information on the subject of trusts is contained in a report of a Committee of the New York State Legislature, which was appointed to investigate the new combination. The following trusts were inquired into: Sugar, milk, rubber, cotton-seed oil, envelope, elevator, oil cloth, Standard oil, butchers', glass, and furniture. A trust is defined by the Committee as a combination "to destroy competition and to restrain trade through the stockholders therein combining with other corporations or stockholders to form a joint-stock company of corporations, in effect renouncing the powers of such several corporations, and placing all powers in the hands of trustees." The general purposes and effects are stated to be "to control the supply of commodities and necessities; to destroy competition; to regulate the quality; and to keep the cost to the consumer at prices far beyond their fair and equitable value." It is unnecessary to deal with all these trusts, which possess certain features in common. I will select one or two, particularly the great Standard Oil Trust and the Cotton-seed Oil Trust.
The Standard Oil Trust is probably the largest single business monopoly in the world, the value of all its included interests being estimated, according to the evidence submitted, at £29,600,000. In the report it is described as "one of the most active and possibly the most formidable moneyed power on this continent. Its influence reaches into every State, and is felt in remote villages; and the products of its refineries seek a market in almost every seaport on the globe." The germ of this huge monopoly was a small petroleum refinery near Cleveland, bought by one Rockefeller, a book-keeper in a store, and a friend of his, a porter, with borrowed money. Rockefeller formed an acquaintance with a rich whiskey distiller, who advanced money and put his son-in-law Flagler into the business. This person's doctrines are thus described: "He says that there is no damned sentiment about business; that he knows no friendship in trade; and that if he gets his business rival in a hole he means to keep him there." Such a man is eminently fitted to be the founder of a monopoly: he is a hero of self-help; for he helps himself to anything he can lay his hands on. A second refinery was established in Ohio, and a warehouse opened in New York. The concern grew, and was incorporated as the Standard Oil Company. It is charged with having secured special legislation by judicious expenditure in the lobbies of the Ohio and Pennsylvania Legislatures. By entering into arrangements with the trunk railway lines, it secured special rates for transit. New refineries were established and new oil lands in Pennsylvania acquired; the capital was increased; and an enormous yearly business was done. After a time the company controlled every avenue of transportation; managed all the largest refineries in the land; and was able to shut off every competitor from either receiving supplies or shipping its products. New companies, nominally distinct, but all under the control of the same men, were incorporated in New Jersey, Ohio, West Virginia, and other States. The monopoly elected one of its chief stockholders into the United States Senate, it is said, through bribery in the Ohio Legislature, over which body it certainly acquired strong hold. These tactics were known as "coal oil politics." All the dirty work was, of course, done through agents, the directors pretending perfect innocence. In 1882 the Standard Oil Companies were consolidated into the Standard Oil Trust. The stockholders surrendered their stock to the trustees, nine in number, created under the agreement, and received certificates in the place thereof, the representatives of the Trust and the stockholders in the refineries making a joint valuation of the refineries, and the certificates being issued to that amount. Thus the separate concerns were merged in one gigantic business, controlled by nine men (owning a majority of the stock), having a monopoly of nearly all the oil lands in America, controlling legislative votes, forming a solid alliance with the railway and shipping interests, and determining to a gallon how much oil shall be produced and refined, and to a fraction of a cent what shall be its price. In 1887 there was a cash dividend of 10 per cent. declared, besides a stock dividend of 20 per cent. on the certificates of four years' aggregation. In addition to the emormous stock they hold, the trustees receive an annual salary of £5,000. What are the economic results of this combination? It has not raised prices, as the trusts were charged by the committee with doing. On the contrary there has been a steady decrease in price during the decade 1877-1887. The consumption of oil has also enormously increased. The working and producing ex penses have been greatly lowered by the dismissal of needless labor and vast improvements in machinery; the pipe lines controlled by the trust having displaced 5,700 teams of horses and 11,400 men in handling the oil. Thus of this trust we may say that though the means used to establish it were morally doubtful or even bad, the political results disastrous, the economic results have been beneficial, except in the matter of helping to form an unemployed class through the dismissal of needless labor consequent on the development of machinery.
The Cotton-seed Oil Trust was organized two or three years ago in the State of Arkansas. Upward of seventy different companies had been competing with each other, and consequently suffering heavy losses. Their mills being comparatively small and equipped with imperfect machinery, they were glad to combine; and those that did not were forced to close. The seventy corporations, the vast majority of the members of which had agreed to the combination, surrendered their stock to a body of trustees and received in return $100 certificates. The various mills send a monthly report to the trust; and if the officers in a given mill do not sell at the terms imposed, they are dismissed by the trust. The object of the trust was declared by a witness to be to prevent bankruptcy, to improve methods, to find markets, to develop the enterprise and to make money. The economic result has been displacement of labor by machinery and great economy in production. Incidentally it came out that much cotton-seed oil was sold to French and Italian buyers, who mix it with a little olive oil and export it back to America and to England, where a confiding public purchases it as pure Tuscan olive oil—an interesting illustration of international trade morality.
An examination of the milk and butchers' trusts ought to be a revelation to those who imagine that trade is "free," and that competition rules. On April 29th, 1885, the directors of the Milk Exchange met in New York and unanimously resolved:
"That on the first day of May next, and until otherwise ordered, the market price of milk produced from meadow hay and sound cereals be 2½ cents per quart, and that produced from brewers' grains and glucose and corn starch refuse be 2 cents per quart."
A representative of the Sheep and Lamb Butchers' Mutual Benefit Association testified that the members of that body agreed that they would only buy sheep and lambs from the Sheep Brokers' Association, a penalty for violation of this rule being imposed at the rate of 15 cents a head per sheep or lamb. The absolute despotism, and the system of espionage involved in such regulation is obvious. Here is a copy of a document issued by this body:
"New York, January 9th, 1888. Permission has been granted by the board of trustees of this Association to Simon Strauss to buy sheep and lambs in New York markets, providing he buys no sheep and lambs from outsiders, under penalty of 15 cents per head fine. Richard S. Tobin, secretary."
Occasionally the Association relaxed. On November 5th, 1887, according to its minutes:
"The application of John Healey, No. 2, to be granted the privilege of buying a few sheep and lambs without the 15 cents being charged to the brokers, was favorably acted upon."
This is not a record of Bagdad under the caliphs, but of the Republican State of New York! The threatened despotism of Socialism has been often eloquently dwelt on; but what of the actual despotism of to-day?
Now what does this examination of trusts show? That, granted private property in the raw material out of which wealth is created on a huge scale by the new inventions which science has placed in our hands, the ultimate effect must be the destruction of that very freedom which the modern democratic State posits as its first principle. Liberty to trade, liberty to exchange products, liberty to buy where one pleases, liberty to transport one's goods at the same rate and on the same terms enjoyed by others, subjection to no imperium in imperio: these surely are all fundamental democratic principles. Yet by monopolies every one of them is either limited or denied. Thus capitalism is apparently inconsistent with democracy as hitherto understood. The development of capitalism and that of democracy cannot proceed without check on parallel lines. Rather are they comparable to two trains approaching each other from different directions on the same line. Collision between the opposing forces seems inevitable.
But both democracy and the new capitalist combinations which threaten it are inevitable growths of an evolutionary process. We are, therefore, brought to consider the question whether the ring, syndicate, or trust either can or ought to be destroyed. These combinations can be shown to be the most economical and efficient methods of organizing production and exchange. They check waste, encourage machinery, dismiss useless labor, facilitate transport, steady prices, and raise profits—i.e., they best effect the objects of trade from the capitalist's point of view. Now, the opponents of Socialism say that without this enterprising capitalist we cannot live. He "provides employment," they say. Well, if we need him, we must obviously pay his price. If he has a natural monopoly of a function indispensable to social progress, society must concede the terms he imposes. These terms are briefly large combinations of capitalist ownership. In this way he can best organize business: if we do not choose to let him do it in this way, he will not do it for us at all. From his point of view that is a fair position to take up; and it places the Individualist opponent of trusts in an awkward dilemma. For he must either submit to trusts or give up capitalists, in which latter case he becomes a Socialist. The answer of Socialism to the capitalist is that society can do without him, just as society now does without the slave-owner or feudal lord, both of whom were formerly regarded as necessary to the well-being and even the very existence of society. In organizing its own business for itself, society can employ, at whatever rate of remuneration may be needed to call forth their powers, those capitalists who are skilled organizers and administrators. But those who are mere dividend-receivers will no longer be permitted to levy a contribution on labor, but must earn their living by useful industry as other and better people have to do.
It may be said that society is not yet ripe for this transformation, nor is it. The forms of the democratic State are not yet perfected, nor has the economic evolution yet proceeded generally far enough, even in England, not to speak of the less advanced European countries. Much yet remains to be done through both the education of the intellect and the development of a nobler public spirit. But on the other hand we seem to be rapidly approaching such an impasse that some very large and definite extension of collective authority must be made. This would seem to involve on one side general reduction of the hours of labor, and on the other an attempt to absorb by the community a portion of those social values which it creates. In reference to ground values it may be anticipated that local democratic authorities will secure them for the benefit of the people by any means which may be found expedient.
As regards the great combinations of capital, State action may take one of three courses. It may prohibit and dissolve them; it may tax and control them; or it may absorb and administer them. In either case the Socialist theory is ipso facto admitted; for each is a confession that it is well to exercise a collective control over industrial capital. If the first of these courses is taken a distinctly retrogressive policy is definitely adopted, a policy of alarm at what Mr. Cleveland called the "communism of capital," a policy of reversion to the chaos of "free competition," and of cession of the undoubted benefits which combination has secured. Such a policy would signify the forcible prevention of acquisition of property, the very thing dearest to the individualist. If the powers of acquisition, now evidently dependent on combination, are to be restricted, what becomes of the "incentive to industry," the "reward of abstinence," and all the rest of the worn out phrases which have so often done duty in the place of argument? If the syndicate or the trust represents the legitimate outcome of capitalism —if it is necessary to give order to trade and to prevent the ruinous waste of unrestricted competition, how absurd it is for the State to say to the capitalist: "You shall carry your privileges of acquisition just up to the point where competition is likely to ruin you; but there you shall stop. Immediately you and your friends combine to prevent waste, to regulate production and distribution, to apply new methods of manufacture, we shall absolutely prevent you or restrain you by vexatious regulations." To which the capitalist may be supposed to reply: "I cannot fulfill my function in society at this serious risk. I shall never know security—never be even moderately sure of reaping that reward to which I am admittedly entitled. If you intend to fetter my action in this way after having proclaimed me free to own the raw material out of which wealth is made—if you compel me to stop at a purely arbitrary line, I must inform you that I am not going to undertake business on such terms." Would not the capitalist say something like this; and from his point of view would he not be right?
If it were instantly possible to do so, we should take the capitalist at his word; appropriate the necessary instruments of production; and make them common property, the values they create accruing to the community. But the human race generally contrives to exhaust every device which stupidity can suggest before the right line of action is ultimately taken. I think, therefore, that some probably inefficient method of taxation and public control over combinations will, as a matter of fact, be adopted. Such legislation will immensely restrict individual liberty in certain directions, will produce much friction, and may possibly hamper production; until by a long series of experiments men shall discover what is the most reasonable way of acquiring for the community as a whole the wealth which it produces. But in any case individualism or anything whatever in the nature of laissez faire goes by the board.
And now, finally, what is the immediate policy for rational students of economics and genuine social reformers to adopt? Their motto must be, Nulla vestigia retrorsum. To all quack proposals they must offer a steady resistance. These proposals will take the form of attempts to bring back some economic condition out of which society has emerged. One quack will desire to revive the old British yeomanry; another will talk nonsense about "Fair Trade;" a third will offer to the rustic "three acres and a cow;" while a fourth will see salvation in getting rid of primogeniture and entail and "planting" prosperous laborers on the soil—as though the laborers grew there like trees. Those who understand the economic crisis may be ready and eager to support any reform, however small, which is a genuine step forward; but they cannot support any effort to call back the past. They may help to build a new bridge across the gulf that separates us from the Coöperative Commonwealth; but they can never repair the old broken-down structure which leads back to Individualism. Instead, therefore, of attempting to undo the work which capitalists are unconsciously doing for the people, the real reformer will rather prepare the people, educated and organized as a true industrial democracy, to take up the threads when they fall from the weak hands of a useless possessing class. By this means will the class struggle, with its greed, hate, and waste, be ended, and the life hinted at by Whitman in his Song of the Exposition be attained:
"Practical, peaceful life, the people's life, the People themselves,
Lifted, illumined, bathed in peace—elate, secured in peace."
by Sidney Olivier
THE argument of this installment of Socialist criticism may be provisionally described as an attempt to justify Socialist ideals by the appeal to canons of moral judgment accepted generally and supported by the results of positive ethical science. The previous essays have made it clear that we are dealing with Socialism in that restricted sense in which it is defined by Schaeffle, as having for its aim "the replacement of private capital by collective capital: that is, by a method of production which, upon the basis of the collective property of the sum of all the members of the society in the instruments of production, seeks to carry on a coöperative organization of national work." We are not dealing with Socialism as a religion, nor as concerned with questions of sex or family: we treat it throughout as primarily a property-form, as the scheme of an industrial system for the supply of the material requisites of human social existence.
If it were admitted that the establishment of such a system would guarantee just this much—that abject poverty should be done away, and that every man and woman should be insured the opportunity of obtaining sufficient food and covering in return for a moderate day's work, we might still be far from convincing some people that the realization of that ideal would be a good thing for the world. There are still a great many who, though they may not join in the common prophecy that the chief result of such a system would be an increase in beer-drinking and other stupid self-indulgence, yet regard starvation and misery as part of the inevitable order of nature, and as necessary conditions of progress, conducive to the survival of what they are pleased to call the "fittest" types of life. Such critics see danger to progress in any attempt to enroll intelligence and adaptiveness into conscious combination against starvation and misery, to extinguish by concerted effort survivals of the accidents of primitive barbarism against which as individuals we are always struggling. This aim of Socialism, accordingly, does not wholly commend itself to their moral judgment, to their opinion of what is good in the widest sense, although they may willingly admit that the aim possesses a certain element of short-sighted good intention. Other persons, influenced by religious conceptions older than that of progress, and regarding morality less as determined by reference to that end than as a concern of the individual, a certain state of the soul of each man, are inclined to view the material evils which Socialists desire to get rid of, as a necessary schooling and discipline without which individual morality would decay.
Against these doctrines Socialists would maintain that the ordering of our national life, and of the relations between individuals and social groups throughout the world in accordance with the principles of Socialism, is the effectual and indispensable process for insuring to the mass of mankind the advantages of progress already effected and its continued and orderly development, and for the realization, in individuals and the State, of the highest morality as yet imagined by us.
It may be well at this point to anticipate a challenge to define what is meant by the word "Morality," and to explain briefly the position which will be assumed, and the method which will be followed, throughout the succeeding observations. It must be remembered that the subject of this essay is "The Moral Aspect of the Basis of Socialism," and not "The Socialist View of the Basis of Morals." We may, therefore, conscientiously steer clear of the whirlpool of agelong controversy as to what that basis is, merely noting as we pass that any metaphysic of Ethics being necessarily universal, there is in this sense no special ethic or morality of Socialism. By such cautious procedure we sacrifice indeed the fascinating ambition to exhibit, by impressive dialectic pageant of deduction from first principles, the foundation of formal Socialism in the Idea that informs the universe. But we also avoid the certainty of losing, at the very outset of our attempted demonstration, the company of all but that minority who might assent to our fundamental propositions. A further sacrifice we shall make, in descending to the unpretentious methods of empiricism; for we thereby renounce the right of appeal to that theologic habit of mind common to Socialists with other pious persons. Mr. Henry George, educated under the American Constitution, may share the familiarity of its framers with the intentions of the Creator and the natural rights of Man. He may prove, as did Mr. Herbert Spencer in his generous youth, that private property in land is incompatible with the fundamental right of each individual to live and to own the product of his labor. But positive ethical science knows nothing of natural and fundamental rights: it knows nothing of individual liberty, nothing of equality, nothing of underlying unity. Yet here again our loss has some redress; for a brief survey will assure us that various schools of moral philosophy, differing in their characteristic first principles, are converging in the justification of Socialism; and that the practical judgments of contemporary mankind as to what sort of conduct is "moral," and what conditions make for the increase of "common morality," are in practice largely coincident. They offer, at least, a body of provisional opinion, or prejudice, to which we can appeal in presenting Socialism for criticism of its morality. The tribunal is by no means infallible: still, the common contemporary sense of humanity may count for something. But in approaching the criticism of Socialism from the point of view of ethics, we are bound to go a little deeper than this. While accepting the phenomena of current opinion on morality as part of our material, we must follow the explorations of ethical speculation into the causes and history of the development of those opinions. By examining the genesis of convictions that this or that kind of action is good or bad, moral or immoral, we shall be helped to form a judgment as to which appears likely to persist and be strengthened, and which to be modified, weakened, or forgotten. If the claim of Socialism rests on judgments of the latter class, we may know that it is a moribund bantling; if they preponderate among the obstacles to its credit, we may prophesy encouragingly of it; if it is supported by those judgments whose persistence seems essential to the survival of the individual and of society, we may be assured of its realization in the future.
Socialism appears as the offspring of Individualism, as the outcome of individualist struggle, and as the necessary condition for the approach to the Individualist ideal. The opposition commonly assumed in contrasting the two is an accident of the now habitual confusion between personality and personalty, between a man's life and the abundance of things that he has. Socialism is merely Individualism rationalized, organized, clothed, and in its right mind. Socialism is taking form in advanced societies, and the social revolution must be brought to its formal accomplishment through the conscious action of innumerable individuals seeking an avenue to rational and pleasant existence for themselves and for those whose happiness and freedom they desire as they do their own. All conscious action, all conscious modification of conditions, is inspired by the desire of such personal relief, satisfaction, or expression, by the attempt to escape from some physical or intellectual distress. "Subjective volition, passion it is," says Hegel, "that sets men in activity: men will not interest themselves for anything unless they find their individuality gratified by its attainment." This common end, this desire of personal relief or satisfaction, we see throughout recorded or indicated history impelling every living creature on the earth; merging itself, as we trace it backward, in the mere apparent will to live of organisms not recognized as conscious, and in the indestructible energy of the inorganic. The field of activity thus conceived presents a panorama of somewhat large extent; but a very small division of it is all that we shall have to do with. For morality, whatever be its nature and basis, certainly does not become recognizable to us, we cannot attribute the quality of rightness or wrongness, until the formation of society has begun, until individuals are in conscious relation with individuals other than themselves.
If we could imagine an individual absolutely isolated, and having no relation at all with other sentient beings, we could not say that it was moral or immoral for him to eat, drink, sleep, breathe, wash himself, take exercise, cough, sneeze, and the like, just as much or as little, when or where he felt inclined. His conduct in these activities must appear to us absolutely indifferent. We may have some vague reflected suppositions as to what is necessary for the dignity and development of the man's "self," as we might call it; but this is a matter about which the man may pretend to know as much as we do; and we have really no valid ground for prejudice against the habits of the recluse Indian fakir, who has, on the other hand, considerable claims to be regarded as a peculiarly holy individual. But of every man living in society we can say, that if he starves himself into inefficiency; if he gorges or fuddles himself; if he sleeps unseasonably; if he abstains from the fresh air, the cleanliness, and the exercise, necessary to keep his body healthy and his presence pleasant; if he destroys his powers by overwork; then he is acting wrongly, immorally, unreasonably, in extreme cases insanely. (Insanity is only the name we give to abnormal deviation from what are accepted as reasonable and intelligible desires and behavior.) And if this is the case with actions of the kind loosely described as self-regarding, with those which most nearly concern the agent's own person, much more is it so with the kind of actions which necessarily and invariably affect other persons. Those relations of the individual with his fellows in which subjective morality is chiefly recognized, have no existence at all apart from society. Subjective morality, then, being only distinguishable in the State, the extent of our panorama is already much diminished; for in every gentile or national society, and to some degree in the World-State of to-day, we find the individualist activity, the desire and passion of the human unit, very largely exercising itself in accordance with what we call a moral habit. Innumerable types of society have been formed in the process of life-development. In the oldest of these we recognize the elements of a conventional morality, similar to that by which our own human society is held together. We consider the ways of the ant; and we see that they are wise.
We find that in all societies those actions and habits are approved as moral which tend to preserve the existence of society and the cohesion and convenience of its members; and that those which are or seem to be fraught with contrary tendencies are considered immoral. It is plain that no society in which these judgments were habitually reversed could continue in existence; and this fact will account for much of that general inherited disposition to actions socially beneficial, and inherited repugnance to those presumably the reverse, which form so large a part of what we speak of as conscience. So deep in grain have many of these common judgments come to be that their influence has passed out of consciousness; and they are obeyed automatically or instinctively without any reflection as to their moral aspect arising in the agent's mind. It is, for example, so necessary for the existence of society that the citizen should abstain from slaughtering at large, such self-restraint is so evidently reasonable, its non-observance so contrary to common sense, that when we find a murder done for mere desire of bloodshed and under the impulse of no other passion whatsoever, we do not think of the murderer as immoral, but rather as insane, judging the man who would destroy the life of society as coroners' juries by their habitual verdict upon suicides pronounce of the man who destroys his own.
Most of the habits of activity and avoidance, necessary for the mere physical existence of the individual as moral actions and abstentions are necessary for the existence of society, have long ago become automatic, and are sunk, so far as common opinion is concerned, permanently out of the purview of moral criticism. All the involuntary functions of the human body which conduce to its nutrition and maintenance in health have been gradually acquired in the course of ages, as the conditions necessary for the expression of the mere animal will to live the largest and freest life permitted by the physical environment. And as the bodily form and functions of the typical individual of each species have accrued and become established as the indispensable mechanic of the mere determination to exist, so the form and institutions of society, and the relations and mutual behavior of its individuals, have been adjusted and established as the equally indispensable conditions for the expression of the determination to exist more fully, for the enlargement of freedom and opportunity for the gratification of those passions and aspirations, the display of those energies and activities which characterize the more complex forms of life as it passes from the inorganic and vegetative to the conscious and self-conscious stages of its evolution.
The primitive forms of human society we must infer to have grown up and survived simply because they increased the efficiency of man as a feeding and a fighting animal, just as did those of the wolf, the beaver, and the ant. Society has now grown to be for man the indispensable guarantee not only of nutrition and protection, but of the opportunity to imagine and attain a thousand varieties of more refined satisfaction. So far as man has attained freedom to do and be as he desires, he has attained it only through the evolution of society. When a society perishes, as societies organically weak among stronger competitors have done and will do, the individual perishes with it, or is forced backward with impaired freedom until a fresh social integration renews and extends his powers of self-development. Societies, as has been pointed out by Sidney Webb, must safeguard their existence to-day for the very same reasons for which society has formed itself. It has grown up for the convenience of individuals, for their defense and relief under the pressure of all that was not themselves—of Nature, as we call it—beasts, and competing men, to give a little breathing space, a little elbow room, amid the storm and stress of primæval existence; and from that beginning it has been unfolded and elaborated, each step of progress effected for the convenience of active individuals, until the individual of to-day is born as a leaf upon a mighty tree, or a coral insect in a sponge, himself to live his individual life, and in living it to modify the social organism in which he has his being.
Reviewing the development in society of the conditions for the satisfaction of the individual will to live, and to live in the best way conceivable, we see in the progress of moral ideas the progress of discovery of the most reasonable manner of ordering the life of the individual and the form of social institutions under the contemporary environment. It has already been pointed out that some kinds of anti-social action are so unreasonable, so obviously prejudicial to the attainment of the common end of conscious individuals, that we brand them unhesitatingly as insane. Instances suggested were extreme personal uncleanliness or dissipation, and extreme cruelty or blood-thirstiness. The reason why other anti-social or indirectly suicidal kinds of action are not yet classed as madness, though there is a steady tendency toward so treating them, is plainly that some activities of the individual, though hurtful to other citizens just as the activity of a pack of wolves or a predatory tribe is hurtful to adjacent societies, are commonly aimed at gratifying impulses and passions which are not yet grown so rare as blood-thirst, are not yet recognized as irrational or valueless, or even are acknowledged to be in their proper scope harmless, desirable, or necessary.
It is an established social convention (in England) that it is immoral to steal or to defraud. Only in very extreme cases do we account these pursuits as evidences of mania; for though injustice and dishonesty are incompatible with the health of society, and thus actually unreasonable and indirectly suicidal, the desires which prompt men to them are only at worst exaggerations of the desire for wealth or subsistence, which every one recognizes as a necessary condition of the mere continuance of life. Nay, where the alternative is death for lack of subsistence, many consider that neither are immoral. At the other extreme, when the instinct prompts aggression in defiance of the conscious reason and without assignable purpose of gain, when Jean Valjean robs the little Savoyard, or a noble earl pockets the sugar-tongs, we speak of mental aberration or of kleptomania.
The case of self-defense is similar. Quarrelsomeness and violence are destructive of social existence, or at best impede its higher elaboration. But readiness of resentment and quickness of fist were for ages and ages necessities for individual survival; and for ages and ages more their kindred social qualities or spirit and valor were necessary for social survival, and accordingly ranked as virtues. The instruction to turn the other cheek to the smiter is even now, perhaps, an exaggeration of the precept commendable to Socialists when charged by the London police: to suffer oneself to be killed without reason is clearly and unmistakably immoral. As the western world advances out of warfare into industry, more and more of what was once military virtue becomes immorality in the individual; until an habitual ferocity which might once have qualified its subject for chieftainship may nowadays consign him to penal servitude or Bedlam.
The foregoing illustrations have been treated, for the present purpose, with reference only to the effect of the behavior of the individual upon society. It is indeed certain that anti-social action does not, as a rule, effect permanent satisfaction for the individual (isolated instances, of the type of Shelley's Count Cenci, notwithstanding); but, independently of this, the actions and propensities of the individual have always, it appears, been judged by his fellows moral or immoral chiefly according to their supposed effects upon society. The object of every living creature being to do as he pleases, if what he pleases to do incommodes other people they will take measures to restrain him from doing it. This they strive to effect by means of laws and conventional codes of morality, the main difference between the two being that the code of law is enforced by the infliction of direct personal punishment by officers of the State. This acceptance of codes of laws and conventions of morality leads to a secondary series of judgments as to right and wrong; for it comes to be accounted immoral to break the law whether the law itself be good or not, and reprehensible to depart from convention whether convention be any longer reasonable or not. This secondary morality is as it were the bud-sheath of the individual, which support he cannot dispense with until he has come to his full powers, but which he must dispense with if he is to fully realize his own freedom. Customary morality prevents him during the process of his education from pursuing his own satisfaction across the corns of his fellow creatures. In the process of education he learns that for the unit in society the word self includes more than the individual: the infant very soon finds out that what disagrees with his mother disagrees with him; the child, that the failure of his father's income means misery and hunger to the family. To say nothing of the facts of sympathy, every man born into an advanced society is early made aware that the satisfaction of his mere material needs depends upon the activities of that society around him quite as much as upon his own. All through the growth of nations and societies the complexity of this interdependence of individuals has increased, the areas of social consciousness have been extended and unified, from the solitary cave-dweller to the family or horde, from the tribe to the nation, and from the nation, by commerce, to the world, till the fortunes of each people have power over the hopes and fears of workers in every other, and the arts, the learning, and the literature of a hundred painful civilizations are available for us to-day, all the kingdoms of the earth and their glory displayed in a moment of time.
But not by bread alone does mankind live. Very early in the course of human evolution must the type of individual to whom all society was repugnant have been eliminated and suppressed by natural selection. The social instinct, the disposition to find comfort in comradeship independently of its material advantages, is of such evident antiquity in Man that we are justified in speaking of it as one of his fundamental and elementary characteristics. It is easy enough to suggest theories of the origin of this adhesiveness, this affection, this sympathy, in the conditions of racial survival: the important fact for us is its remarkable susceptibility of cultivation and extension. The individual in society does that which is pleasant to his friends, and abstains from doing that which is unpleasant, not because he likes to be thought a good fellow, or expects benefits in return, but simply because it gives him immediate pleasure so to act. He is sensitive to that which hurts them, not because he fears that his own defenses are weakened by their injury, but because they have actually become part of himself by the extension of his consciousness over them. This social instinct, this disposition to benevolent sympathy, appears almost as inextinguishable as the personal desire of life; in innumerable instances it has proved far stronger.
The recognition by each individual of his dependence on society or sensitiveness to his own interest, and his affection toward society or sensitiveness to its interest: these two faces of the same fact represent an intricate tissue of social consciousness extremely sensitive to all kinds of anti-social, or immoral, action. The moral education of the individual appears formally as the process of learning, by sheer extension of knowledge and experience, and nothing else, how he may harmonize and follow out his own desires in these two aspects and their combinations. He has to learn how to provide for the needs of his bodily life in a manner that will not interfere with the freedom of others to do the same. Laws and conventions of morality guide him at first in this respect; but the man cannot be said to be free until he acts morally, because, foreseeing that on the satisfaction of these primary needs new desires will emerge whose satisfaction will give him a more exquisite contentment, he perceives that it is reasonable so to act. The existence and stability of society are the indispensable guarantee for the general satisfaction of the primary desires of individuals, therefore it is unreasonable to weaken society by immoral action; but much more are the existence and health of society indispensable conditions for the common birth and satisfaction of the secondary desires, the desires which have created all that is most valuable in civilization and which find their satisfaction in art, in culture, in human intercourse, in love. The moral education of the individual is the lesson, not that desire is evil, and that he can only attain his freedom by ceasing to desire, for this is death, or desertion, and the army of the living presses on to fuller life; but that the wider, fuller satisfaction is built upon the simpler, and common morality a condition of its possibility; that there are certain manners and methods in which, if he goes about to save his life, he most infallibly will lose it; and that love, the social instinct, and science, which is ordered knowledge, are his only reliable tutors in practical morality.
But man in society not only lives his individual life: he also modifies the form of social institutions in the direction indicated by reason—in such a manner, that is, as it seems to his understanding will render them more efficient for securing freedom for that life of his. And just as certain forms of individual activity, in their passage into and through the field of positive criticism, appear first as indifferent, because they seem to concern the individual only, then as moral or immoral, because recognized as affecting society, later as simply rational or insane, morality having here formally attained its identification with reason and immorality with folly, and at last become habitual, instinctive, and unconscious; so institutions, originating in modes apparently accidental, come to be recognized as useful and valuable additions to the machinery of existence, are buttressed with all the authority and sanction of religion, and finally pass into unquestioned acceptance by the common-sense of men. In time some fundamental change in the conditions of the life of individuals is introduced by causes similarly unforseen; the form of the old institution ceases to subserve the common end; it begins to cramp the freedom of the majority, who no longer require its support. Meanwhile it has established a minority, ostensibly controlling it for the common weal, in a position to administer it in the sole interest of their class. These, as their existence appears dependent on their so administering it, cannot be untaught the habit except by such modification of the institution as will render it again impossible for any class to have a special interest in its contemporary form.
This process is so familiar in history that it would be a waste of time here to illustrate it by tracing it in the growth of monarchies, aristocracies, priesthoods, chattel slavery, feudal bondage, representative government, or others of its innumerable manifestations. The institution of private property in certain things is in many respects so reasonable and convenient for the majority of mankind, and was so conspicuously advantageous for those stronger individuals under whose leadership the beginnings of tribal civilizations were developed, that very early in their history it received the sanction of moral convention, religion, and law. It was obviously necessary for the establishment of industrial society that each man should own the product of his labor and the tools necessary for him to labor effectually. But the Industrial Revolution described in the third paper of this series has entirely changed the conditions under which men produce wealth, and the character of the tools with which they work, while the sanctions of law and conventional morality still cling to all that has been imported under the old definition of property. If the idea so constantly appealed to in justification of property law is to be realized; if the fruits of each man's labor are to be guaranteed to him and he is to own the instruments with which he works; if the laws of property are not to establish a parasitic class taking tribute from the labor of others in the forms of Rent and Interest, then we must modify our administration of property. We must admit that as the agricultural laborer cannot individually own the farm he works on and its stock, as the factory hand cannot individually own the mill, land and industrial capital are things in which private property is impossible except on condition of a small minority owning all such property and the great majority none at all.
Socialists contend that this system of private property in land and capital is actively destructive of the conditions in which alone the common morality necessary for happy social life is possible. Without any demand upon the faith of those persons who deny the capacity of average human nature for the temperance and kindliness indispensable for the success of a true coöperative commonwealth, they assert that this modern development of the property system (a development of the last few generations only, and unprece dented in the history of the world) is more and more forcing the individual into anti-social disposition and action, and thereby destroying the promise of free and full existence which only the health and progressive development of the social organism can give him. It has become plainly reasonable that when this is the effect of our property system we should modify our institutions in the direction which will give us freedom, just as we modified the institutions which subjected us to a feudal aristocracy, and abolished for ever the laws which enabled one man to hold another as his chattel slave.
There is on record a Greek proverb, that so soon as a man has insured a livelihood, then he should begin to practice virtue. We all protest that he will do well to practice virtue under any circumstances; but we admit on reflection that our judgment as to what is virtuous action depends upon the circumstances under which action is to be taken. Whether we approve the killing of one man by another depends entirely on the circumstances of the case; and there is scarcely one of the acts which our laws regard as criminal, which could not, under imaginable circumstances, be justified. Our laws, and our conventional opinions as to what conduct is moral or immoral, are adapted to the ordinary circumstances of the average man in society, society being in them presumed to be homogeneous, not to contain in itself essential distinctions between classes, or great contrasts between the conditions of individuals.
But that element in our private property system which is at present the main object of the Socialist attack, the individual ownership of the instruments of production, land and capital, in an age when the use of those instruments has become coöperative, results, and must inevitably result, as the foregoing dissertations have sought to prove, in the division of society into two classes, whose very livelihood is insured to them by methods essentially different. The livelihood of the typical proletarian is earned by the exercise of his faculties for useful activity: the livelihood of the typical capitalist, or owner of property, is obtained, without any contribution of his or her activity, in the form of a pension called rent, interest, or dividend, guaranteed by law out of the wealth produced from day to day by the activities of the proletariat.
Observe the effect of this distinction in moral phenomena. Most of our common opinions as to social morality are adapted to a society in which every citizen is contributing active service. The most ancient and universal judgments of mankind as to the virtues of industry, of honesty, of loyalty and forbearance between man and man, of temperance, fortitude and just dealing, point to the elementary conditions necessary for the survival and strengthening of societies of equal and free individuals dependent for their subsistence upon the exercise of each one's abilities, and upon his fitness for coöperation with his fellows. But where a class or society exists, not dependent upon its own industry, but feeding like a parasite upon another society or class; when the individuals of such a parasitic society in no way depend for their livelihood or their freedom upon their fitness for coöperation one with another among themselves, or upon any personal relation with the class that feeds them; then the observation of the moral conventions of industrial and coöperative societies is in many respects quite unnecessary for the continuance of the life of the parasitic society, or for the pleasant existence of the individuals composing it. All that is necessary is that the established laws and conventions should continue to be observed by the industrial class ("it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful"); and as the existence of the propertied class in modern societies does depend ultimately upon the observance by the bulk of the people of this conventional morality, the propertied class professes publicly to venerate and observe conventions which in its private practice it has long admitted to be obsolete. This complication is a perennial source of cant. To this we owe the spectacle of Sir William Harcourt advocating total abstinence, of Mr. Arthur Balfour commending Christianity; to this the continual inculcation of industry and thrift by idle and extravagant people, with many another edifying variation on the theme of Satan's reproval of sin. Temperance, Christian morality, industry, and economy are of considerable social utility; but for the members of a propertied class they are not necessitated by the conditions of its existence, and consequently in such classes are neither observed nor commonly made the subject of moral criticism.
Consider the case of industry alone—of the moral habit of earning one's subsistence by useful activity. Assuming sustenance to be guaranteed, there is no obvious and pressing social necessity for such exertion. No doubt the paradise of the maid-of-all-work—where she means to do nothing for ever and ever—is the paradise of an undeveloped intelligence. A society relieved of the function of providing its own material sustenance need not relapse into general torpor, though the result is very commonly that an individual so circumstanced relapses into uselessness. It will be vain to preach to such an individual that he will find his fullest satisfaction in honest toil: he will simply laugh in your face, and go out partridge shooting, hunting, or yachting, or to Monte Carlo or the Rocky Mountains, finding in such an exercise of his capacities the keenest imaginable enjoyment for months in succession. He may feel no inclination at all to work for the benefit of the people whose work is supporting him: all that he, like the rest of us, requires is to find some means of passing his time in an agreeable or exciting manner. Accordingly, in that section of our nation which speaks of itself as "society," being indeed a society separated by economic parasitism from the common mass, we find that the characteristic activity is the provision of agreeable and exciting methods of passing time. This being the end of fashionable society, its code of morality is naturally quite different from the code suitable for industrial societies. Truthfulness is preached in these as a cardinal virtue. Lying is of course common enough in all classes, and is generally immoral; but in the fashionable world it is not only a perfectly legitimate means of avoiding an undesired visitor, or almost any other unpleasant experience: it is a positive necessity of conventional politeness and good manners. It is really harmless here, almost a virtue. To return to the virtue of industry: though the conventional morality of the people, necessary for the life of the nation, permeates with its vibrations this parasitic society which it enfolds; and though the unfailing contentment which a really intelligent man finds in social activity keeps a good many of the propertied class usefully occupied, the actual public opinion of that class is absolutely in accordance with the conditions of their life. The clerk in a Government office is congratulated by middle-class acquaintances on his luck in obtaining a berth where he need do no more work than he chooses; and it is habitually assumed that he will choose, like the Trafalgar Square fountains, to play from ten to four, with an interval for lunch. That may or may not be an adequate account of his activities: the significant thing is that such an assump tion should not be considered insulting. But how indignantly will the very same acquaintances denounce the idleness and untrustworthiness of a British working man suspected, in the service of a private master, of interpreting his time work as most servants of the public are good humoredly assumed, without hint of disapproval, to interpret theirs!
This obsolescence of elementary social morality is most noticeable in women dependent upon incomes from property. They are doubly removed from the primary conditions of life; they are less likely than their men folk to be engaged in any work of perceptible social utility outside of their own homes; and their intellectual education being generally far more imperfect, it is only natural that their ideas of morality should be still more intimately adapted to the conditions of their class, and less to the general conditions of human society. The angels of heaven, we have always understood, are exempt from the apparatus of digestion, and are clothed as freely as the lilies of the field. In any society where all common needs are so supplied it would be immoral, surely, because a waste of time, to work as for a living. Now the universal ideal of capitalism is that man, being created a little lower than the angels, should raise himself to their level in this respect by the acquisition of property, a process pleasantly described as attaining a competence or independence, that is to say, the right to be dependent and incompetent. The result of this has been a prejudice, which only within quite recent years has begun to be seriously shaken, that it is humiliating, even disgraceful, for a lady to have to earn her own living at all, for a gentleman to practice a handicraft for money, for a nobleman to go into trade: a prejudice for which, in a class society, there was much justification, but which is obviously a fragment of class morality directly antagonistic to the common social morality which recognizes all useful industry as praiseworthy. It is now yielding to economic pressure and to the stimulus of the desire to get rich. Ladies are being driven, and in spite of Mr. Walter Besant's protestations will continue to be driven, into most of the female handicrafts, though some are still outside the pale of respectability. Ranching in America, though not yet drovering and butchering in England, is suitable occupation for the aristocracy. The "directing" of companies and the patronizing of nitrogenous Volunteer Colonels are legitimate modes of exploiting of a title. The prejudice against useful employments is balanced for decency's sake by a hypocritical laudation of useless ones. The fiction so dear to the Primrose Dame, that the rich are the employers of the poor, the idlers the supporters of the industrious, takes nowadays forms more insidious than the rugged proposition that private vices are public benefits. The amusements, the purely recreational activities, of country gentlemen are glorified in the National Review as "hard work." It is pretended that the leisured class is the indispensable patron and promoter of culture and the fine arts. The claim that such functions are virtues is a direct concession to the feeling that some effort must be made to exhibit the practices of parasitic society as compatible with its preaching of the common social morality.
The same necessity causes an exaggerated tribute of praise to be paid to such really useful work as is done under no compulsion but that of the social instinct. This kind of activity is habitually pointed to, by the friends of those who are engaged in it, as evidence of extraordinary virtue. A few hours of attention every week to the condition of the poor, a few gratuitously devoted to local administration, a habit of industry in any branch of literature or science: these are imputed as an excess of righteousness by persons who denounce the wage laborer as an idler and a shirk. Such activity is work of supererogation, approved but not required or expected. The motto of "noblesse oblige" has not been adopted by the plutocracy. Similar approbation and admiration are extended to those who, while already earning their living by a reasonable day's work, employ their spare time, or a part of it, in gratuitous activities of the kinds referred to. It may be safely said that by far the greater portion of this kind of work is done by people who are simultaneously earning an income in middle class professions or by the less exhausting forms of wage labor. Most of them have probably had experience of the ridiculous inappropriateness of the commendation usually paid to their gratuitous energy by well-to-do friends. The activity is moral, no doubt; but its exercise gives no sensation of virtue or praiseworthiness: it is followed because it is seen to be reasonable, because it is the path indicated by common sense toward the satisfaction of the individual passion for the extension of freedom and love.
The phenomena of class morality are ancient and familiar enough. They have varied throughout history with the changing character of the basis of class distinctions. The great permanent distinction of sex, and the social relations between man and woman which have arisen thereout in the period of civilization from which the world is now emerging, have resulted not only in the establishment of distinct codes of chastity for the sexes, but also in innumerable prejudices against the participation of one sex or the other in activities having nothing whatever to do with physiological distinction. They have even succeeded in producing, through inequality of freedom and education, well marked differences in mental habit, which show themselves continually when men and women are confronted with the same questions of truthfulness, honor, or logic. It is hardly necessary to observe that most of these differences are distinctly traceable to the institution of private property, and to its concentration in the hands of the male as the stronger individual in a competitive society. The class moralities of societies whose orders have been based immediately on status or caste have formed the subject of an extensive literature. The tracing of all such distinctions to their root in economic circumstances is scarcely less interesting than the investigation of the same foundation for sex morality. But even the interpreters of the Church Catechism have abandoned the appeal to status as the basis of duty; the idea of hereditary aristocracy is dead; and class distinctions and their appurtenant ethics are now founded directly and obviously on property.
We have glanced at some effects of our present property system which work continually for the destruction of the traditions of social morality in the capitalist class. The fundamental idea of that system, that man can live without working, as the angels of heaven, is (fortunately) self-contradictory in this respect, that in human society no class can so live except by the double labor of another class or classes. The would-be angelic society on earth must either own chattel slaves, or be a military caste taking tribute, or a parasitical and exploiting class extracting rent and interest by the operation of the industrial system analyzed in the preceding papers. Such a class and such a system are, as we are all becoming aware, more virulently revolutionary in their operation, and more certain to bring about their own destruction than either chattel slavery or feudalism. Of these three phases of human injustice that of wage slavery will surely be the shortest. But meanwhile the propertied class assumes to represent civilization; its approved morality is preached and taught in church and schools; it debases our public opinion; and it directly poisons all that host of workers who are at present hangers-on of the rich, whether as menial servants or as ministering to their especial amusements and extravagance. There is no such snob as a fashionable dressmaker; and there is no class of the proletariat so dehumanized as the class of domestic servants.
Now if these results are effected in the class whose livelihood is assured, and whose education and culture have given it a hold on the higher inducements to morality—if we here find morality strangled at the root and starving, what shall we find when we turn to the masses whose livelihood is not assured them? Our Greek, perhaps, would say that it was impossible for them to practice virtue, just as Plato in his Republic suggested that only the philosophic class could be really moral, since slaves and the proletariat could not receive the intellectual education necessary to train the reason. The great bulk of the wage earning class in modern civilized countries is so far assured of its livelihood that it remains thoroughly permeated with common social morality. It is, from habit and preference, generally industrious and kindly, thus exhibiting the two most important qualifications for the social life. It remains to a great extent honest, though competition and capitalism are directly antagonistic to honesty. The decalogue of commercial morality has its own peculiar interpretation of stealing, murder, false witness and coveting; and yet the most unscrupulous wrecker in the City will be outraged in his finest feelings by the class morality of the plumber, who, called in to bring the gas to reason, takes the opportunity to disorganize the water-supply and introduce a duster into the drain. The employer is aghast at the increase of idleness and bad workmanship under a system in which the good workman knows that to work his best will not only not be worth his while but will lead to the exaction of heavier tasks from his fellows.
But it is not in the mass of the proletariat that the action of our property system in destroying elementary morality is most conspicuous. It is in those whom it excludes even from the proletariat proper that this extreme result is clearest. The characteristic operation of the modern industrial economy is continually and repeatedly to thrust out individuals or bodies of the workers from their settlement in the social organism—to eject, as it were, the coral insect from the cell in which he is developing. The capitalist farming system expels the agricultural laborer from the village: the machine expels the craftsman from the ranks of skilled labor: the perpetual competition and consolidation of capital in every trade alternately destroys employment in that trade and disorganizes others. Over-production in one year leaves thousands of workers wageless in the next. The ranks of unskilled labor, the army of the unemployed, are day by day recruited in these fashions. An inveterate social habit, an almost indestructible patience, a tenacious identification of his own desire with the desire of those whom he loves, in most cases preserve the worker from accepting the sentence of exclusion from society. If he is able-bodied, intelligent and fortunate, he will struggle with hard times till he finds fresh occupation among strange surroundings; but woe to him if he be weakly, or old, or unpractical. In such a case he will almost infallibly become a pauper or an outcast, one of that residuum of unskilled, unemployed, unprofitable and hopeless human beings which in all great cities festers about the base of the social pyramid. And his children will become the street Arabs and the cornerboys and the child-whores, and the sneak-thieves who, when they come of age, accept their position as outside of social life and resume the existence of the wild beasts that fathered man—the purely predatory and unsocial activity of harrying their neighbors for their own support. Before society was, morality was not: those who have no part nor lot in the ends for which society exists will adapt their morality to suit their outcast state: there will indeed be honor among thieves, just as there will be cant and insincerity among the parasitic rich; but the youth who has been nurtured between the reformatory and the slum has little chance of finding a foothold, if he would, in the restless whirl of modern industry, and still less of retaining permanently such foothold as he may manage to find.
When the conditions of social life are such that the individual may be excluded through no unfitness of his own for coöperation, or may be born without a chance of acquiring fitness for it, we are brought face to face with the conditions of primitive ages. And if you force him back upon the elemental instincts, one of two things will happen. Either, if the individual is weak through physical deterioration or incapacity to combine with his fellow outcasts, he will be crushed and killed by society and putrefy about its holy places; or, if he has indomitable life and vigor, he will revert to the argument of elemental forces: he will turn and explode society. Here, then, we should fear explosion, for we are not as submissive in extremities as the proletariats of arrested Indian civilizations. But with us the class whose freedom is incessantly threatened by the operation of private capitalism is the class which by its political position holds in its hands the key to the control of industrial form: that is to say, its members can modify, as soon as they elect to, the laws of property and inheritance in this State of Britain. They can, as soon as they see clearly what is needed, supersede institutions now immoral because useless and mischievous by institutions which shall re-establish the elementary conditions of social existence and the possibility of the corresponding morality—namely, the opportunity for each individual to earn his living and the compulsion upon him to do so.
Returning from the consideration of the "residuum" and the "criminal classes," we find that even the workers of the employed proletariat are by no means wholly moral. In spite of the massive healthiness of their behavior in ordinary relations, they are generally coarse in their habits; they lack intelligence in their amusements and refinement in their tastes. The worst result of this is the popularity of boozing and gambling and allied forms of excitement, with their outcomes in violence and meanness. But when once society has insured for man the opportunity for satisfying his primary needs—once it has insured him a healthy body and a wholesome life, his advance in the refinements of social morality, in the conception and satisfaction of his secondary and more distinctly human desires, is solely and entirely a matter of education. This will be attested by every man and woman who has at all passed through the primary to the secondary passions. But education in the sense alluded to is impossible for the lad who leaves school at fourteen and works himself weary six days in the week ever afterward.
The oldest socialistic institution of considerable importance and extent is the now decrepit Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has always insisted on the duty of helping the poor, not on the ground of the social danger of a "residuum," but by the nobler appeal to the instinct of human benevolence. The Catholic Church developed, relatively to the enlightenment of its age, the widest and freest system of education the world has ever seen before this century. Catholic Christianity, by its revolutionary conception that God was incarnated in Man, exploding the hideous superstition that the imagination of the thoughts of man's heart was only to do evil continually, and substituting the faith in the perfectibility of each individual soul; by its brilliant and powerful generalizations that God must be Love, because there is nothing better, and that man is freed from the law by the inward guidance of grace, has done more for social morality than any other religion of the world.
Protestant Individualism in England shattered the Catholic Church; founded the modern land system upon its confiscated estates; destroyed the mediæval machinery of charity and education; and in religion rehabilitated the devil, and the doctrines of original sin and the damnable danger of reason and good works.
Out of the wreckage of the Catholic Church, and amid the dissolution of the Protestant religion, there successively emerged, at an interval of some three hundred years, the two great socialistic institutions of the Poor Law and the People's Schools. As the pretense of a foundation of Christian obligation withered from out of the Poor Law, till it has come to be outspokenly recognized as nothing but a social safety-valve, the individualist and commercial administration of this rudimentary socialistic machinery deprived it of its efficiency even in this elementary function. He to whom the workhouse means the break up of his home, and his own condemnation to a drudgery insulting because useless and wasteful, would as lief take his exclusion from Society in another and a less degrading way, either by death or by reluctant enrollment in the "residuum"; and so it has come to pass that outside of their use as hospitals for the aged and infirm, the poor houses are principally employed as the club-houses and hotels of the great fraternity of habitual tramps and cadgers; and not till he has sunk to this level does the struggling proletarian seek "work" there.
Socialists would realize the idea of the Poor Law, regarding that society as deadly sick in which the individual cannot find subsistence by industry, in the only way in which it can be realized: namely, by the organization of production and the resumption of its necessary instruments. It is not so great a matter in their eyes that the perpetual toll of rent and interest deprives the workers of the wealth which their activities produce; nor is it the actual pressure of this heavy tribute that would force on the Social Revolution, if the system only left men the assurance of the comforts of tame beasts. It is the constant disquiet and uncertainty, the increasing frequency of industrial crises, that are the revolutionary preachers of our age; and it is the disappearance at the base and at the summit of society of the conditions of social morality that rouses those whose mere material interests remain unaffected.
But though it is not envy or resentment at this tribute that mostly moves us to our warfare, this tribute we must certainly resume if the ideal of the school is to effect its social purpose. For the ideal of the school implies, in the first place, leisure to learn: that is to say, the release of children from all non-educational labor until mind and physique have had a fair start and training, and the abolition of compulsion on the adult to work any more than the socially necessary stint. The actual expenditure on public education must also be considerably increased, at any rate until parents are more generally in a position to instruct their own children. But as soon as the mind has been trained to appreciate the inexhaustible interest and beauty of the world, and to distinguish good literature from bad, the remainder of education, granted leisure, is a comparatively inexpensive matter. Literature is become dirt-cheap; and all the other educational arts can be communally enjoyed. The schools of the adult are the journal and the library, social intercourse, fresh air, clean and beautiful cities, the joy of the fields, the museum, the art-gallery, the lecture-hall, the drama, and the opera; and only when these schools are free and accessible to all will the reproach of proletarian coarseness be done away.
Yet the most important influence in the repairing of social morality may perhaps be looked for not so much from the direct action of these elements of the higher education as from those very socialist forms of property and industry which we believe to be the primary condition for allowing such higher education to affect the majority at all. Nothing so well trains the individual to identify his life with the life of society as the identification of the conditions of his material sustenance with those of his fellows, in short, as industrial coöperation. Not for many centuries has there been such compulsion as now for the individual to acknowledge a social ethic. For now, for the first time since the dissolution of the early tribal communisms, and over areas a hundred times wider than theirs, the individual worker earns his living, fulfills his most elementary desire, not by direct personal production, but by an intricate coöperation in which the effect and value of his personal effort are almost indistinguishable. The apology for individualist appropriation is exploded by the logic of the facts of communist production: no man can pretend to claim the fruits of his own labor; for his whole ability and opportunity for working are plainly a vast inheritance and contribution of which he is but a transient and accidental beneficiary and steward; and his power of turning them to his own account depends entirely upon the desires and needs of other people for his services. The factory system, the machine industry, the world commerce, have abolished individualist production; and the completion of the coöperative form toward which the transition state of individualist capitalism is hurrying us will render a conformity with social ethics a universal condition of tolerable existence for the individual.
This expectation is already justified by the phenomena of contemporary opinion. The moral ideas appropriate to Socialism are permeating the whole of modern society. They are clearly recognizable not only in the proletariat, but also in the increasing philanthropic activity of members of the propertied class, who, while denouncing Socialism as a dangerous exaggeration of what is necessary for social health, work honestly enough for alleviatory reforms which converge irresistibly toward it. The form, perhaps, does not outrun the spirit, any more than the spirit anticipates the form; and it may have been sufficient in this paper to have shown some grounds for the conviction that Socialist morality, like that of all preceding systems, is only that morality which the conditions of human existence have made necessary; that it is only the expression of the eternal passion of life seeking its satisfaction through the striving of each individual for the freest and fullest activity; that Socialism is but a stage in the unending progression out of the weakness and the ignorance in which society and the individual alike are born, toward the strength and the enlightenment in which they can see and choose their own way forward—from the chaos where morality is not to the consciousness which sees that morality is reason; and to have made some attempt to justify the claim that the cardinal virtue of Socialism is nothing else than Common Sense.
by G. Bernard Shaw
ALL economic analyses begin with the cultivation of the earth. To the mind's eye of the astronomer the earth is a ball spinning in space without ulterior motives. To the bodily eye of the primitive cultivator it is a vast green plain, from which, by sticking a spade into it, wheat and other edible matters can be made to spring. To the eye of the sophisticated city man this vast green plain appears rather as a great gaming table, your chances in the game depending chiefly on the place where you deposit your stakes. To the economist, again, the green plain is a sort of burial place of hidden treasure, where all the forethought and industry of man are set at naught by the caprice of the power which hid the treasure. The wise and patient workman strikes his spade in here, and with heavy toil can discover nothing but a poor quality of barley, some potatoes, and plentiful nettles, with a few dock leaves to cure his stings. The foolish spendthrift on the other side of the hedge, gazing idly at the sand glittering in the sun, suddenly realizes that the earth is offering him gold—is dancing it before his listless eyes lest it should escape him. Another man, searching for some more of this tempting gold, comes upon a great hoard of coal, or taps a jet of petroleum. Thus is Man mocked by Earth his stepmother, and never knows as he tugs at her closed hand whether it contains diamonds or flints, good red wheat or a few clayey and blighted cabbages. Thus too he becomes a gambler, and scoffs at the theorists who prate of industry and honesty and equality. Yet against this fate he eternally rebels. For since in gambling the many must lose in order that the few may win; since dishonesty is mere shadowgrasping where everyone is dishonest; and since inequality is bitter to all except the highest, and miserably lonely for him, men come greatly to desire that these capricious gifts of Nature might be intercepted by some agency having the power and the goodwill to distribute them justly according to the labor done by each in the collective search for them. This desire is Socialism; and, as a means to its fulfillment, Socialists have devised communes, kingdoms, principalities, churches, manors, and finally, when all these had succumbed to the old gambling spirit, the Social Democratic State, which yet remains to be tried. As against Socialism, the gambling spirit urges man to allow no rival to come between his private individual powers and Stepmother Earth, but rather to secure some acres of her and take his chance of getting diamonds instead of cabbages. This is private property or Unsocialism. Our own choice is shown by our continual aspiration to possess property, our common hailing of it as sacred, our setting apart of the word Respectable for those who have attained it, our ascription of pre-eminent religiousness to commandments forbidding its violation, and our identification of law and order among men with its protection. Therefore is it vital to a living knowledge of our society that Private Property should be known in every step of its progress from its source in cupidity to its end in confusion.
Let us, in the manner of the Political Economist, trace the effects of settling a country by private property with undisturbed law and order. Figure to yourself the vast green plain of a country virgin to the spade, awaiting the advent of man. Imagine then the arrival of the first colonist, the original Adam, developed by centuries of civilization into an Adam Smith, prospecting for a suitable patch of Private Property. Adam is, as Political Economy fundamentally assumes him to be, "on the make" : therefore he drives his spade into, and sets up his stockade around, the most fertile and favorably situated patch he can find. When he has tilled it, Political Economy, inspired to prophecy by the spectacle, metaphorically exhibits Adam's little patch of cultivation as a pool that will yet rise and submerge the whole land. Let us not forget this trope: it is the key to the ever-recurring phrase "margin of cultivation," in which, as may now be perceived, there lurks a little unsuspected poetry. And truly the pool soon spreads. Other Adams come, all on the make, and, therefore, all sure to pre-empt patches as near as may be to the first Adam's, partly because he has chosen the best situation, partly for the pleasure of his society and conversation, and partly because where two men are assembled together there is a two-man power that is far more than double one-man power, being indeed in some instances a quite new force, totally destructive of the idiotic general hypothesis that society is no more than the sum of the units which compose it. These Adams, too, bring their Cains and Abels, who do not murder one another, but merely pre-empt adjacent patches. And so the pool rises, and the margin spreads more and more remote from the center, until the pool becomes a lake, and the lake an inland sea.