It is sometimes said that during this grotesquely hideous march of civilization from bad to worse, wealth is increasing side by side with misery. Such a thing is eternally impossible: wealth is steadily decreasing with the spread of poverty. But riches are increasing, which is quite another thing. The total of the exchange values produced in the country annually is mounting perhaps by leaps and bounds. But the accumulation of riches, and consequently of an excessive purchasing power, in the hands of a class, soon satiates that class with socially useful wealth, and sets them offering a price for luxuries. The moment a price is to be had for a luxury, it acquires exchange value, and labor is employed to produce it. A New York lady, for instance, having a nature of exquisite sensibility, orders an elegant rosewood and silver coffin, upholstered in pink satin, for her dead dog. It is made; and meanwhile a live child is prowling barefooted and hunger-stunted in the frozen gutter outside. The exchange-value of the coffin is counted as part of the national wealth; but a nation which cannot afford food and clothing for its children cannot be allowed to pass as wealthy because it has provided a pretty coffin for a dead dog. Exchange value itself, in fact, has become bedeviled like everything else, and represents, no longer utility, but the cravings of lust, folly, vanity, gluttony, and madness, technically described by genteel economists as "effective demand." Luxuries are not social wealth: the machinery for producing them is not social wealth: labor skilled only to manufacture them is not socially useful labor: the men, women, and children who make a living by producing them are no more self-supporting than the idle rich for whose amusement they are kept at work. It is the habit of counting as wealth the exchange values involved in these transactions that makes us fancy that the poor are starving in the midst of plenty. They are starving in the midst of plenty of jewels, velvets, laces, equipages, and racehorses; but not in the midst of plenty of food. In the things that are wanted for the welfare of the people we are abjectly poor; and England's social policy to-day may be likened to the domestic policy of those adventuresses who leave their children half-clothed and half-fed in order to keep a carriage and deal with a fashionable dressmaker. But it is quite true that while wealth and welfare are decreasing, productive power is increasing; and nothing but the perversion of this power to the production of socially useless commodities prevents the apparent wealth from becoming real. The purchasing power that commands luxuries in the hands of the rich, would command true wealth in the hands of all. Yet private property must still heap the purchasing power upon the few rich and withdraw it from the many poor. So that, in the end, the subject of the one boast that private property can make—the great accumulation of so-called "wealth" which it points so proudly to as the result of its power to scourge men and women daily to prolonged and intense toil, turns out to be a simulacrum. With all its energy, its Smilesian "self-help," its merchant-princely enterprise, its ferocious sweating and slave-driving, its prodigality of blood, sweat and tears, what has it heaped up, over and above the pittance of its slaves? Only a monstrous pile of frippery, some tainted class literature and class art, and not a little poison and mischief.
This, then, is the economic analysis which convicts Private Property of being unjust even from the beginning, and utterly impossible as a final solution of even the individualist aspect of the problem of adjusting the share of the worker in the distribution of wealth to the labor incurred by him in its production. All attemps yet made to con struct true societies upon it have failed: the nearest things to societies so achieved have been civilizations, which have rotted into centers of vice and luxury, and eventually been swept away by uncivilized races. That our own civilization is already in an advanced stage of rottenness may be taken as statistically proved. That further decay instead of improvement must ensue if the institution of private property be maintained, is economically certain. Fortunately, private property in its integrity is not now practicable. Although the safety valve of emigration has been furiously at work during this century, yet the pressure of population has forced us to begin the restitution to the people of the sums taken from them for the ground landlords, holders of tenant right, and capitalists, by the imposition of an income tax, and by compelling them to establish out of their revenues a national system of education, besides imposing restrictions—as yet only of the forcible-feeble sort—on their terrible power of abusing the wage contract. These, however, are dealt with by Mr. Sidney Webb in his historic essay. I should not touch upon them at all, were it not that experience has lately convinced all economists that no exercise in abstract economics, however closely deduced, is to be trusted unless it can be experimentally verified by tracing its expression in history. It is true that the process which I have presented as a direct development of private property between free exchangers had to work itself out in the Old World indirectly and tortuously through a struggle with political and religious institutions and survivals quite antagonistic to it. It is true that cultivation did not begin in Western Europe with the solitary emigrant pre-empting his private property, but with the tribal communes in which arose subsequently the assertion of the right of the individual to private judgment and private action against the tyranny of primitive society. It is true that cultivation has not proceeded by logical steps from good land to less good; from less good to bad; and from bad to worse: the exploration of new countries and new regions, and the discovery of new uses for old products, has often made the margin of cultivation more fruitful than the center, and, for the moment (while the center was shifting to the margin), turned the whole movement of rent and wages directly counter to the economic theory. Nor is it true that, taking the world as one country, cultivation has yet spread from the snowline to the water's edge. There is free land still for the poorest East End match-box maker if she could get there, reclaim the wilderness there, speak the language there, stand the climate there, and be fed, clothed, and housed there while she cleared her farm; learned how to cultivate it; and waited for the harvest. Economists have been ingenious enough to prove that this alternative really secures her independence; but I shall not waste time in dealing with that. Practically, if there is no free land in England, the economic analysis holds good of England, in spite of Siberia, Central Africa, and the Wild West. Again, it is not immediately true that men are governed in production solely by a determination to realize the maximum of exchange value. The impulse to production often takes specific direction in the first instance; and a man will insist on producing pictures or plays although he might gain more money by producing boots or bonnets. But, his specific impulse once gratified, he will make as much money as he can. He will sell his picture or play for a hundred pounds rather than for fifty. In short, though there is no such person as the celebrated "economic man," man being willful rather than rational, yet when the willful man has had his way he will take what else he can get; and so he always does appear, finally if not primarily, as the economic man. On the whole, history, even in the Old World, goes the way traced by the economist. In the New World the correspondence is exact. The United States and the Colonies have been peopled by fugitives from the full-blown individualism of Western Europe, pre-empting private property precisely as assumed in this investigation of the conditions of cultivation. The economic relations of these cultivators have not since put on any of the old political disguises. Yet among them, in confirmation of the validity of our analysis, we see all the evils of our old civilizations growing up; and though with them the end is not yet, still it is from them to us that the great recent revival of the cry for nationalization of the land has come, articulated by a man who had seen the whole tragedy of private property hurried through its acts with unprecedented speed in the mushroom cities of America.
On Socialism the analysis of the economic action of Individualism bears as a discovery, in the private appropriation of land, of the source of those unjust privileges against which Socialism is aimed. It is practically a demonstration that public property in land is the basic economic condition of Socialism. But this does not involve at present a literal restoration of the land to the people. The land is at present in the hands of the people: its proprietors are for the most part absentees. The modern form of private property is simply a legal claim to take a share of the produce of the national industry year by year without working for it. It refers to no special part or form of that produce; and in process of consumption its revenue cannot be distinguished from earnings, so that the majority of persons, accustomed to call the commodities which form the income of the proprietor his private property, and seeing no difference between them and the commodities which form the income of a worker, extend the term private property to the worker's subsistence also, and can only conceive an attack on private property as an attempt to empower everybody to rob everybody else all round. But the income of a private proprietor can be distinguished by the fact that he obtains it unconditionally and gratuitously by private right against the public weal, which is incompatible with the existence of consumers who do not produce. Socialism involves discontinuance of the payment of these incomes, and addition of the wealth so saved to incomes derived from labor. As we have seen, incomes derived from private property consist partly of economic rent; partly of pensions, also called rent, obtained by the subletting of tenant rights; and partly of a form of rent called interest, obtained by special adaptations of land to production by the application of capital: all these being finally paid out of the difference between the produce of the worker's labor and the price of that labor sold in the open market for wages, salary, fees, or profits. The whole, except economic rent, can be added directly to the incomes of the workers by simply discontinuing its exaction from them. Economic rent, arising as it does from variations of fertility or advantages of situation, must always be held as common or social wealth, and used, as the revenues raised by taxation are now used, for public purposes, among which Socialism would make national insurance and the provision of capital matters of the first importance.
The economic problem of Socialism is thus solved; and the political question of how the economic solution is to be practically applied does not come within the scope of this essay. But if we have got as far as an intellectual conviction that the source of our social misery is no eternal well-spring of confusion and evil, but only an artificial system susceptible of almost infinite modification and readjustment—nay, of practical demolition and substitution at the will of Man, then a terrible weight will be lifted from the minds of all except those who are, whether avowedly to themselves or not, clinging to the present state of things from base motives. We have had in this century a stern series of lessons on the folly of believing anything for no better reason than that it is pleasant to believe it. It was pleasant to look round with a consciousness of possessing a thousand a year, and say, with Browning's David, "All's love; and all's law." It was pleasant to believe that the chance we were too lazy to take in this world would come back to us in another. It was pleasant to believe that a benevolent hand was guiding the steps of society; overruling all evil appearances for good; and making poverty here the earnest of a great blessedness and reward hereafter. It was pleasant to lose the sense of worldly inequality in the contemplation of our equality before God. But utilitarian questioning and scientific answering turned all this tranquil optimism into the blackest pessimism. Nature was shown to us as "red in tooth and claw": if the guiding hand were indeed benevolent, then it could not be omnipotent; so that our trust in it was broken: if it were omnipotent, it could not be benevolent; so that our love of it turned to fear and hatred. We had never admitted that the other world, which was to compensate for the sorrows of this, was open to horses and apes (though we had not on that account been any the more merciful to our horses); and now came Science to show us the corner of the pointed ear of the horse on our own heads, and present the ape to us as our blood relation. No proof came of the existence of that other world and that benevolent power to which we had left the remedy of the atrocious wrongs of the poor: proof after proof came that what we called Nature knew and cared no more about our pains and pleasures than we know or care about the tiny creatures we crush underfoot as we walk through the fields. Instead of at once perceiving that this meant no more than that Nature was unmoral and indifferent, we relapsed into a gross form of devil worship, and conceived Nature as a remorselessly malignant power. This was no better than the old optimism, and infinitely gloomier. It kept our eyes still shut to the truth that there is no cruelty and selfishness outside Man himself; and that his own active benevolence can combat and vanquish both. When the Socialist came forward as a meliorist on these lines, the old school of political economists, who could see no alternative to private property, put forward in proof of the powerlessness of benevolent action to arrest the deadly automatic production of poverty by the increase of population, the very analysis I have just presented. Their conclusions exactly fitted in with the new ideas. It was Nature at it again—the struggle for existence—the remorseless extirpation of the weak—the survival of the fittest —in short, natural selection at work. Socialism seemed too good to be true: it was passed by as merely the old optimism foolishly running its head against the stone wall of modern science. But Socialism now challenges individualism, skepticism, pessimism, worship of Nature personified as a devil, on their own ground of science. The science of the production and distribution of wealth is Political Economy. Socialism appeals to that science, and, turning on Individualism its own guns, routs it in incurable disaster. Henceforth the bitter cynic who still finds the world an eternal and unimprovable doghole, with the placid person of means who repeats the familiar misquotation, "the poor ye shall have always with you," lose their usurped place among the cultured, and pass over to the ranks of the ignorant, the shallow, and the superstitious. As for the rest of us, since we were taught to revere proprietary respectability in our unfortunate childhood, and since we found our childish hearts so hard and unregenerate that they secretly hated and rebelled against respectability in spite of that teaching, it is impossible to express the relief with which we discover that our hearts were all along right, and that the current respectability of to-day is nothing but a huge inversion of righteous and scientific social order weltering in dishonesty, uselessness, selfishness, wanton misery, and idiotic waste of magnificent opportunities for noble and happy living. It was terrible to feel this, and yet to fear that it could not be helped—that the poor must starve and make you ashamed of your dinner—that they must shiver and make you ashamed of your warm overcoat. It is to economic science—once the Dismal, now the Hopeful—that we are indebted for the discovery that though the evil is enormously worse than we knew, yet it is not eternal—not even very long lived, if we only bestir ourselves to make an end of it.
The Organization of Society
Property under Socialism
by Graham Wallas,
IN the early days of Socialism no one who was not ready with a complete description of Society as it ought to be, dared come forward to explain any point in the theory. Each leader had his own method of organizing property, education, domestic life, and the production of wealth. Each was quite sure that mankind had only to fashion themselves after his model in order, like the prince and princess in the fairy story, to live happily ever after. Every year would then be like the year before; and no more history need be written. Even now a thinker here and there like Gronlund or Bebel sketches in the old spirit an ideal commonwealth; though he does so with an apology for attempting to forecast the unknowable. But Socialists generally have become, if not wiser than their spiritual fathers, at least less willing to use their imagination. The growing recognition, due in part to Darwin, of causation in the development of individuals and societies; the struggles and disappointments of half a century of agitation; the steady introduction of Socialistic institutions by men who reject Socialist ideas, all incline us to give up any expectation of a final and perfect reform. We are more apt to regard the slow and often unconscious progress of the Time spirit as the only adequate cause of social progress, and to attempt rather to discover and proclaim what the future must be, than to form an organization of men determined to make the future what it should be.
But the new conception of Socialism has its dangers as well as the old. Fifty years ago Socialists were tempted to exaggerate the influence of the ideal, to expect everything from a sudden impossible change of all men's hearts. Nowadays we are tempted to undervalue the ideal—to forget that even the Time Spirit itself is only the sum of individual strivings and aspirations, and that again and again in history changes which might have been delayed for centuries or might never have come at all, have been brought about by the persistent preaching of some new and higher life, the offspring not of circumstance but of hope. And of all the subjects upon which men require to be brought to a right mind and a clear understanding, there is, Socialists think, none more vital to-day than Property.
The word Property has been used in nearly as many senses as the word Law. The best definition I have met with is John Austin's: "Any right which gives to the entitled party such a power or liberty of using or disposing of the subject.... as is merely limited generally by the rights of all other persons." This applies only to private property. It will be convenient in discussing the various claims of the State, the municipality, and the individual, to use the word in a wider sense to denote not only the "power or liberty" of the individual, but also the "rights of all other persons." In this sense I shall speak of the property of the State, or municipality. I shall also draw a distinc tion, economic perhaps rather than legal, between property in things, or the exclusive right of access to defined material objects, property in debts and future services, and property in ideas (copyright and patent right).
The material things in which valuable property rights can exist, may be roughly divided into means of production and means of consumption. Among those lowest tribes of savages who feed on fruit and insects, and build themselves at night a rough shelter with boughs of trees, there is little distinction between the acts of production and consumption. But in a populous and civilized country very few even of the simplest wants of men are satisfied directly by nature. Nearly every commodity which man consumes is produced and renewed by the deliberate application of human industry to material objects. The general stock of materials on which such industry works is "Land." Any materials which have been separated from the general stock or have been already considerably modified by industry, are called capital if they are either to be used to aid production or are still to be worked on before they are consumed. When they are ready to be consumed they are "wealth for consumption." Such an analysis, though generally employed by political economists, is of necessity very rough. No one can tell whether an object is ready for immediate consumption or not, unless he knows the way in which it is to be consumed. A pine forest in its natural condition is ready for the consumption of a duke with a taste for the picturesque; for he will let the trees rot before his eyes. Cotton wool, a finished product in the hands of a doctor, is raw material in the hands of a spinner. But still the statement that Socialists work for the owning of the means of production by the community and the means of consumption by individuals, represents fairly enough their practical aim. Not that they desire to prevent the community from using its property whenever it will for direct consumption, as, for instance, when a piece of common land is used for a public park, or the profits of municipal waterworks are applied to keep up a municipal library. Nor do they contemplate any need for preventing individuals from working at will on their possessions in such a way as to make them more valuable. Even Gronlund, with all his hatred of private industry, could not, if he would, prevent any citizen from driving a profitable trade by manufacturing bread into buttered toast at the common fire. But men are as yet more fit for association in production, with a just distribution of its rewards, than for association in the consumption of the wealth produced. It is true indeed that the economies of associated consumption promise to be quite as great as those of associated production; and it was of these that the earlier Socialists mainly thought. They believed always that if a few hundred persons could be induced to throw their possessions and earnings into a common stock to be employed according to a common scheme, a heaven on earth would be created. Since then, an exhaustive series of experiments has proved that in spite of its obvious economy any system of associated consumption as complete as Fourier's "Phalanstère" or Owen's "New Hampshire" is, except under very unusual conditions, distasteful to most men as they now are. Our picture galleries, parks, workmen's clubs, or the fact that rich people are beginning to live in flats looked after by a common staff of servants, do indeed show that associated consumption is every year better understood and enjoyed; but it remains true that pleasures chosen by the will of the majority are often not recognized as pleasures at all.
As long as this is so, private property and even private industry must exist along with public property and public production. For instance, each family now insists on having a separate home, and on cooking every day a separate series of meals in a separate kitchen. Waste and discomfort are the inevitable result; but families at present prefer waste and discomfort to that abundance which can only be bought by organization and publicity. Again, English families constitute at present isolated communistic groups, more or less despotically governed. Our growing sense of the individual responsibility and individual rights of wives and children seems already to be lessening both the isolation of these groups and their internal coherency; but this tendency must go very much further before society can absorb the family life, or the industries of the home be managed socially. Thus, associated production of all the means of family life may be developed to a very high degree before we cease to feel that an Englishman's home should be his castle, with free entrance and free egress alike forbidden. It is true that the ground on which houses are built could immediately become the property of the community; and when one remembers how most people in England are now lodged, it is obvious that they would gladly inhabit comfortable houses built and owned by the State. But they certainly would at present insist on having their own crockery and chairs, books and pictures, and on receiving a certain proportion of the value they produce in the form of a yearly or weekly income to be spent or saved as they pleased. Now whatever things of this kind we allow a man to possess, we must allow him to exchange, since exchange never takes place unless both parties believe themselves to benefit by it. Further, bequest must be allowed, since any but a moderate probate duty on personalty would, unless supported by a strong and searching public opinion, certainly be evaded. Moreover, if we desire the personal independence of women and children, then their property, as far as we allow property at all, must for a long time to come be most carefully guarded.
There would remain, therefore, to be owned by the community the land in the widest sense of the word, and the materials of those forms of production, distribution, and consumption, which can conveniently be carried on by associations larger than the family group. Here the main problem is to fix in each case the area of ownership. In the case of the principal means of communication and of some forms of industry, it has been proved that the larger the area controlled the greater is the efficiency of management; so that the postal and railway systems, and probably the materials of some of the larger industries, would be owned by the English nation until that distant date when they might pass to the United States of the British Empire or the Federal Republic of Europe. Land is perhaps generally better held by smaller social units. The rent of a town or an agricultural district depends only partly on those natural advantages which can be easily estimated once for all by an imperial commissioner. The difference in the rateable value of Warwick and of Birmingham is due, not so much to the sites of the two towns, as to the difference in the industry and character of their inhabitants. If the Birmingham men prefer, on the average, intense exertion resulting in great material wealth, to the simpler and quieter life lived at Warwick, it is obviously as unjust to allow the Warwick men to share equally in the Birmingham ground rents, as it would be to insist on one standard of comfort being maintained in Paris and in Brittany.
At the same time, those forms of natural wealth which are the necessities of the whole nation and the monopolies of certain districts, mines for instance, or harbors, or sources of water-supply, must be "nationalized." The salt and coal rings of to-day would be equally possible and equally inconvenient under a system which made the mining populations absolute joint owners of the mines. Even where the land was absolutely owned by local bodies, those bodies would still have to contribute to the national exchequer some proportion of their income. The actual size of the units would in each case be fixed by convenience; and it is very likely that the development of the County Government Act and of the parochial and municipal systems will soon provide us with units of government which could easily be turned into units of ownership.
The savings of communities—if I may use the word community to express any Social Democratic unit from the parish to the nation—would probably take much the same form that the accumulation of capital takes nowadays: that is to say, they would consist partly of mills, machinery, railways, schools, and the other specialized materials of future industry, and partly of a stock of commodities such as food, clothing, and money by which workers might be supported while performing work not immediately remunerative. The savings of individuals would consist partly of consumable commodities or of the means of such industry as had not been socialized, and partly of deferred pay for services rendered to the community, such pay taking the form of a pension due at a certain age, or of a sum of commodities or money payable on demand.
Voluntary associations of all kinds, whether joint stock companies, religious corporations, or communistic groups would, in the eyes of the Social Democratic State, consist simply of so many individuals possessing those rights of property which are allowed to individuals. They might perform many very useful functions in the future as in the past; but the history of the city companies, of the New River company, the Rochdale Pioneers, or the Church of England shows the danger of granting perpetual property rights to any association not co-extensive with the community, although such association may exist for professedly philanthropic objects. Even in the case of universities, where the system of independent property-owning corporations has been found to work best, the rights of the State should be delegated and not surrendered.
On this point the economic position of modern Social Democrats differs widely from the transfigured joint stockism of the present coöperative movement or from the object of the earlier Socialists, for whose purposes complete community was always more important than complete inclusiveness. Even Socialist writers of to-day do not always see that the grouping of the citizens for the purpose of property holding must be either on the joint stock basis or on the territorial basis. Gronlund, in spite of contradictory matter in other parts of his Coöperative Commonwealth," still declares that "each group of workers will have the power of distributing among themselves the whole exchange value of their work," which either means that they will, as long as they are working, be the absolute joint owners of the materials which they use, or means nothing at all. Now the proposal that any voluntary association of citizens should hold absolute and perpetual property rights in the means of production, seems to be not a step toward Social Democracy, but a negation of the whole Social Democratic idea. This of course brings us to the following difficulty. If our communities even when originally inclusive of the whole population are closed: that is, are confined to original members and their descendants, new comers will form a class like the plebeians in Rome, or the "metœci" in Athens, without a share in the common property though possessed of full personal freedom; and such a class must be a continual social danger. On the other hand, if all newcomers receive at once full economic rights, then any country in which Socialism or anything approaching it is established will be at once overrun by proletarian immigrants from those countries in which the means of production are still strictly monopolized. If this were allowed, then, through the operation of the law of diminishing return and the law of population based on it, the whole body of the inhabitants even of a Socialist State, might conceivably be finally brought down to the bare means of subsistence. It does not seem necessary to conclude that Socialism must be established over the whole globe if it is to be established anywhere. What is necessary is that we face the fact, every day becoming plainer, that any determined attempt to raise the condition of the proletariat in any single European country must be accompanied by a law of aliens considerate enough to avoid cruelty to refugees, or obstruction to those whose presence would raise our intellectual or industrial average, but stringent enough to exclude the unhappy "diluvies gentium," the human rubbish which the military empires of the continent are so ready to shoot upon any open space. Such a law would be in itself an evil. It might be unfairly administered; it might increase national selfishness and would probably endanger international good will; it would require the drawing of a great many very difficult lines of distinction; but no sufficient argument has been yet advanced to disprove the necessity of it.
On the question of private property in debts, the attitude of the law in Europe has changed fundamentally in historical times. Under the old Roman law, the creditor became the absolute owner of his debtor. Nowadays, not only may a man by becoming bankrupt and surrendering all his visible property repudiate his debts and yet retain his personal liberty; but in Factory Acts, Employers' Liability Acts, Irish Land Acts, etc., certain contracts are illegal under all circumstances. With the growth of Socialism, this tendency would be quickened. The law would look with extreme jealousy upon any agreement by which one party would be reduced even for a time to a condition of slavery, or the other enabled to live even for a time without performing any useful social function. And since it has been clearly recognized that a certain access to the means of industry is a first condition of personal freedom, the law would refuse to recognize any agreement to debar a man from such access, or deprive him of the results of it. No one would need to get into debt in order to provide himself with the opportunity of work, nor would anyone be allowed to give up the opportunity of work in order to obtain a loan. This, by making it more difficult for creditors to recover debts, would also make it more difficult for would-be debtors to obtain credit. The present homestead law would, in fact, be extended to include everything which the State thought necessary for a complete life. But as long as private industry and exchange go on to such an extent as to make a private commercial system convenient, so long will promises to pay circulate, and, if necessary, be legally enforced under the conditions above marked out.
To whatever extent private property is permitted, to that same extent the private taking of Rent and Interest must be also permitted. If you allow a selfish man to own a picture by Raphael, he will lock it up in his own room unless you let him charge something for the privilege of looking at it. Such a charge is at once Interest. If we wish all Raphael's pictures to be freely accessible to everyone, we must prevent men not merely from exhibiting them for payment, but from owning them.
This argument applies to other things besides Raphael's pictures. If we allow a man to own a printing press, or a plow, or a set of bookbinders' tools, or a lease of a house or farm, we must allow him so to employ his possession that he may, without injuring his neighbor, get from it the greatest possible advantage. Otherwise, seeing that the community is not responsible for its intelligent use, any interference on the part of the community may well result in no intelligent use being made of it at all; in which event all privately owned materials of industry not actually being used by their owners would be as entirely wasted as if they were the subjects of a chancery suit. It is easy to see that the Duke of Bedford is robbing the community of the rent of Covent Garden. It is not so easy to see that the owners of the vacant land adjoining Shaftesbury Avenue have been robbing the community for some years past of the rent which ought to have been made out of the sites which they have left desolate. I know that it has been sometimes said by Socialists: "Let us allow the manufacturer to keep his mill and the Duke of Argyll to keep his land, as long as they do not use them for exploitation by letting them out to others on condition of receiving a part of the wealth created by those others." Then, we are told, the manufacturer or Duke will soon discover that he must work hard for a living. Such sentiments are seldom ill received by men in the humor to see dukes and capitalists earning, as painfully as may be, their daily bread. Unluckily, there are no unappropriated acres and factory sites in England sufficiently advantageous to be used as efficient substitutes for those upon which private property has fastened; and the community would be wise if it paid the Duke of Argyll and Mr. Chamberlain anything short of the full economic rent of their properties rather than go further and fare worse. Therefore, if we refused either to allow these gentlemen to let their property to those who would use it, or hesitated to take and use it for ourselves, we should be actually wasting labor. The progressive socialization of land and capital must proceed by direct transference of them to the community through taxation of rent and interest and public organization of labor with the capital so obtained: not solely by a series of restrictions upon their use in private exploitation. Such concurrent private exploitation, however unrestricted, could not in any case bring back the old evils of capitalism; for any change in the habits of the people or in the methods of industry which made associated production of any commodity on a large scale convenient and profitable, would result at once in the taking over of that industry by the State exactly as the same conditions now in America result at once in the formation of a ring.
It is because full ownership is necessary to the most intelligent and effective use of any materials, that no mere system of taxation of Rent and Interest, even when so drastic as Mr. Henry George's scheme of universal State absentee landlordism, is likely to exist except as a transition stage toward Social Democracy. Indeed the anarchist idea which allows the State to receive Rent and Interest, but forbids it to employ labor, is obviously impracticable. Unless we are willing to pay every citizen in hard cash a share of the State Rent of the future, it, like the taxes of to-day, must be wholly invested in payments for work done. It would always be a very serious difficuly for a Socialist legislature to decide how far communities should be allowed to incur debts or pay interest. Socialism once established, the chief danger to its stability would be just at this point. We all know the inept attack on Socialism which comes from a debating-society orator who considers the subject for the first time, or from the cultured person who has been brought up on the Saturday Review. He tells us that if property were equally divided to-morrow, there would be for the next ten years forty men out of every hundred working extremely hard, and the other sixty lazy. After that time, the sixty would have to work hard and keep the forty, who would then be as lazy as the sixty were before. It is very easy to explain that we do not want to divide all property equally; but it is not so easy to guard against any result of that tendency in human nature on which the argument is grounded. Men differ so widely in their comparative appreciation of present and future pleasures, that wherever life can be supported by four hours' work a day, there will always be some men anxious to work eight hours in order to secure future benefits for themselves or their children, and others anxious to avoid their four hours' work for the present by pledging themselves or their children to any degree of future privation. As long as this is so, communities as well as individuals will be tempted to avail themselves of the freely offered services of the exceptionally energetic and farsighted, and to incur a common debt under the excuse that they are spreading the payment of such services over all those benefited by them. The Municipalities, Boards of Works, School Boards, etc., of England have already created enormous local debts; and unless men grow wiser in the next few months the new County Councils will probably add to the burden. As we sit and think, it may seem easy to prevent any such trouble in the future by a law forbidding communities to incur debts under any circumstances. But in the case of a central and supreme government such a law would, of course, be an absurdity. No nation can escape a national debt or any other calamity if the majority in that nation desire to submit to it. It is reassuring to see how the feeling that national governments should pay their way from year to year grows stronger and stronger. National debts no longer even in France go up with the old light-hearted leaps and bounds. But local debts still increase. In Preston the local debt is said to amount to seven times the annual rating valuation. And although at present (November, 1888), since the "surf at the edge of civilization" is only thundering to the extent of three small colonial wars, our own national debt is slowly going down; still if war were declared to-morrow with any European State no ministry would dare to raise all the war expenses by immediate taxation either on incomes or on property. It may be objected that no such danger would arise under Socialism; for there would be no fund from which a loan could be offered that would not be equally easily reached by a direct levy. But if we are speaking of society in the near future there would certainly be plenty of members of non-Socialist States, or English holders of property in them, ready to lend money on good security to a timid or desperate or dishonest Socialist government. Again, in times of extreme stress a government might believe itself to require even personal possessions; and it might be difficult under such circumstances not to offer to restore them with or without interest. In any case there would be no more economic difference between the new fund-holders and the old landlords than between Lord Salisbury as owner of the Strand district and Lord Salisbury now that he has sold his slums and bought consols. Perhaps the most serious danger of the creation of a common debt would arise from the earnings of exceptional ability. Modern Socialists have learned, after a long series of coöperative experiments and failures, that the profits of private adventure will withdraw men of exceptional business talent from communal service unless work of varying scarcity and intensity is paid for at varying rates. How great this variation need be in order to insure full efficiency can only be decided by experience; and as the education and moralization of society improves, and industry becomes so thoroughly socialized that the alternative of private enterprise will be less practicable, something like equality may at last be found possible. But, meanwhile, comparatively large incomes will be earned by men leading busy and useful lives, but often keenly anxious to secure leisure and comfort for their old age and aggrandizement for their family. I have already suggested that some of the earnings of a man employed by the community might be left for a time in the common treasury to accumulate without interest. Now, it would suit both these men and the lazier of their contemporaries that the reward of their services should be fixed at a very high rate, and be left to the next generation for payment; while the next generation might prefer a small permanent charge to any attempt to pay off the capital sum. It is often hinted that one way to obviate this would be for each generation to cultivate a healthy indifference to the debts incurred on its behalf by its forefathers. But the citizens of each new generation attain citizenship not in large bodies at long intervals, but in small numbers every week. One has only to warn sanguine leaders that veiled repudiations may always be effected in such emergencies by a judicious application of the Income Tax, and to hope that the progress of education under Socialism would tend to produce and preserve on such matters a certain general minimum of common sense. If this minimum is sufficient to control the central government the debts of local bodies can be easily and sternly restricted.
Property in services means of course property in future services. The wealth which past services may have produced can be exchanged or owned; but the services themselves cannot. Now all systems of law which we know have allowed private persons to contract with each other for the future performance of certain services, and have punished, or allowed to be punished, the breach of such contracts. Here as in the case of debts, our growing respect for personal liberty has made the law look jealously on all onerous agreements made either by the citizen himself or for him by others. In fact, as Professor Sidgwick points out: "In England hardly any engagement to render personal service gives the promisee a legal claim to more than pecuniary damages—to put it otherwise, almost all such contracts, if unfulfilled, turn into mere debts of money so far as their legal force goes." The marriage contract forms the principal exception to this rule; but even in this case there seems to be a tendency in most European countries to relax the rigidity of the law.
On the other hand the direct claims of the State to the services of its citizens show at present no signs of diminishing. Compulsory military service and compulsory attendance at school already take up a not inconsiderable share of the life of every male inhabitant of France and Germany. So far in England the compulsion of grown men to serve in any capacity has been condemned for a century past, because it is considered wasteful and oppressive as compared with the free contract system of the open market. Most English Socialists seem inclined to believe that all work for the State should be voluntarily engaged and paid for out of the produce of common industry.
In considering how far the State has a claim upon the services of its members, we come upon the much larger question—How far are we working for Socialism; and how far for Communism? Under pure Socialism, to use the word in its narrowest sense, the State would offer no advantage at all to any citizen except at a price sufficient to pay all the expenses of producing it. In this sense the Post Office, for example, is now a purely Socialistic institution. Under such conditions the State would have no claim at all on the services of its members; and compulsion to work would be produced by the fact that if a man chose not to work he would be in danger of starvation. Under pure Communism, on the other hand, as defined by Louis Blanc's dictum: "From every man according to his powers: to every man according to his wants," the State would satisfy without stint and without price all the reasonable wants of any citizen. Our present drinking fountains are examples of the numerous cases of pure communism which surround us. But since nothing can be made without labor, the commodities provided by the State must be produced by the services, voluntary or forced, of the citizens. Under pure communism, if any compulsion to work were needed, it would have to be direct. Some communistic institutions we must have; and as a matter of fact there is an increasing number of them already in England. Indeed, if the whole or any part of that Rent Fund which is due to the difference between the best and worst materials of industry in use be taken for the State, by taxation or otherwise, it, or rather the advantages produced by its expenditure, can hardly be distributed otherwise than communistically. For, as men are now, saturated with immoral principles by our commercial system, the State would have to be exceedingly careful in deciding what wants could be freely satisfied without making direct compulsion to labor necessary. It would cost by no means an impossible sum to supply a tolerable shelter with a bed, and a sufficient daily portion of porridge, or bread and cheese, or even of gin and water, to each citizen; but no sane man would propose to do so in the existing state of public morals. For more than a century the proletarians of Europe have been challenged by their masters to do as little work as they can. They have been taught by the practical economists of the Trades Unions, and have learned for themselves by bitter experience, that every time any of them in a moment of ambition or goodwill does one stroke of work not in his bond, he is increasing the future unpaid labor not only of himself but of his fellows. At the same time every circumstance of monotony, ugliness, and anxiety has made the work as wearisome and disgusting as possible. All, almost without exception, now look upon the working day as a period of slavery, and find such happiness as they can get only in the few hours or minutes that intervene between work and sleep. For a few, that happiness consists in added toil of thought and speech in the cause of themselves and their comrades. The rest care only for such rough pleasures as are possible to men both poor and overworked. There would be plenty of excuse if under these circumstances they dreamt, as they are accused of dreaming, of some universal division of the good things of the earth—of some means of being utterly at leisure, if only for a week or two.
But there are products of labor which the workmen in their time of triumph might freely offer each other without causing the weakest brother to forego any form of useful social work. Among such products are those ideas which we have brought under the dominion of private property by means of copyright and patent right. Luckily for us the dominion is neither complete nor permanent. If the Whig landlords who are responsible for most of the details of our glorious constitution had been also authors and inventors for profit, we should probably have had the strictest rights of perpetual property or even of entail' in ideas; and there would now have been a Duke of Shakspeare to whom we should all have had to pay two or three pounds for the privilege of reading his ancestor's works, provided that we returned the copy uninjured at the end of a fortnight. But even for the years during which copyright and patents now last, the system which allows an author or inventor a monopoly in his ideas is a stupid and ineffective way either of paying for his work or of satisfying the public wants. In each case the author or inventor obtains a maximum net return by leaving unsatisfied the wants, certainly of many, probably of most of those who desire to read his book or use his invention. We all know that the public got a very good bargain when it paid the owners of Waterloo Bridge more than they could possibly have made by any scheme of tolls. In the same way it is certain that any government which aimed at the greatest happiness of the greatest number could afford to pay a capable artist or author possibly even more than he gets from the rich men who are his present patrons, and certainly more than he could get by himself selling or exhibiting his productions in a society where few possessed wealth for which they had not worked. Although the State could thus afford to pay an extravagantly large reward for certain forms of intellectual labor, it does not, therefore, follow that it would be obliged to do so in the absence of any other important bidder.
There would always remain the sick, the infirm, and the school children, whose wants could be satisfied from the general stock without asking them to bear any part of the general burden. In particular, it would be well to teach the children by actual experience the economy and happiness which arise in the case of those who are fitly trained from association applied to the direct satisfaction of wants, as well as from association in the manufacture of material wealth. If we wish to wean the children from the selfish isolation of the English family, from the worse than savage habits produced by four generations of capitalism, from that longing for excitement, and incapacity for reasonable enjoyment, which are the natural results of workdays spent in English factories, and English Sundays spent in English streets, then we must give freely and generously to our schools. If this generation were wise it would spend on education not only more than any other generation has ever spent before, but more than any generation would ever need to spend again. It would fill the school buildings with the means not only of comfort, but even of the higher luxury; it would serve the associated meals on tables spread with flowers, in halls surrounded with beautiful pictures, or even, as John Milton proposed, filled with the sound of music; it would seriously propose to itself the ideal of Ibsen, that every child should be brought up as a nobleman. Unfortunately, this generation is not wise.
In considering the degree in which common owning of property would be possible among a people just at that stage of industrial and moral development at which we now find ourselves, it is expedient to dwell, as I have dwelt, rather upon the necessary difficulties and limitations of Socialism, than upon its hopes of future development. But we must always remember that the problems which Socialism attempts to solve, deal with conditions which themselves are constantly changing. Just as anything like what we call Socialism would be impossible in a nation of individualist savages like the Australian blacks, and could not, perhaps, be introduced except by external authority among a people like the peasants of Brittany, for whom the prospect of absolute property in any portion of land, however small, is at once their strongest pleasure and their only sufficient incentive to industry; so among a people further advanced, socially and industrially, than ourselves, a social condition would be possible which we do not now dare to work for or even try to realize. The tentative and limited Social-Democracy which I have sketched is the necessary and certain step to that better life which we hope for. The interests which each man has in common with his fellows tend more and more to outweigh those which are peculiar to himself. We see the process even now beginning. Already, as soon as a public library is started, the workman finds how poor a means for the production of happiness are the few books on his own shelf, compared with the share he has in the public collection, though that share may have cost even less to produce. In the same way the score or two of pounds which a workman may possess are becoming daily of less and less advantage in production; so that the man who a few years ago would have worked by himself as a small capitalist, goes now to work for wages in some great business, and treats his little savings as a fund to provide for a few months of sickness or years of old age. He will soon see how poor a means for the production of food is his own fire when compared with the public kitchen; and he will perhaps at last not only get his clothes from the public store, but the delight of his eyes from the public galleries and theaters, the delight of his ears from the public opera, and it may be, when our present anarchy of opinion shall be overpast, the refreshment of his mind from the publicly chosen teacher. Then at last such a life will be possible for all as not even the richest and most powerful can live to-day. The system of property holding which we call Socialism is not in itself such a life any more than a good system of drainage is health, or the invention of printing is knowledge. Nor indeed is Socialism the only condition necessary to produce complete human happiness. Under the justest possible social system we might still have to face all those vices and diseases which are not the direct result of poverty and over-work; we might still suffer all the mental anguish and bewilderment which are caused, some say by religious belief, others by religious doubt; we might still witness outbursts of national hatred and the degradation and extinction of weaker peoples; we might still make earth a hell for every species except our own. But in the households of the five men out of six in England who live by weekly wage, Socialism would indeed be a new birth of happiness. The long hours of work done as in a convict prison, without interest and without hope; the dreary squalor of their homes; above all that grievous uncertainty, that constant apprehension of undeserved misfortune which is the peculiar result of capitalist production: all this would be gone; and education, refinement, leisure, the very thought of which now maddens them, would be part of their daily life. Socialism hangs above them as the crown hung in Bunyan's story above the man raking the muck heap—ready for them if they will but lift their eyes. And even to the few who seem to escape and even profit by the misery of our century, Socialism offers a new and nobler life, when full sympathy with those about them, springing from full knowledge of their condition, shall be a source of happiness, and not, as now, of constant sorrow—when it shall no longer seem either folly or hypocrisy for a man to work openly for his highest ideal. To them belongs the privilege that for each one of them the revolution may begin as soon as he is ready to pay the price. They can live as simply as the equal rights of their fellows require: they can justify their lives by work in the noblest of all causes. For their reward, if they desire any, they, like the rest, must wait.
Industry under Socialism
by Annie Besant
THERE are two ways in which a scheme for a future organization of industry may be constructed. Of these, by far the easier and less useful is the sketching of Utopia, an intellectual gymnastic in which a power of coherent and vivid imagination is the one desideratum. The Utopist needs no knowledge of facts: indeed such a knowledge is a hindrance: for him the laws of social evolution do not exist. He is a law unto himself; and his men and women are not the wayward, spasmodic, irregular organisms of daily life, but automata, obeying the strings he pulls. In a word, he creates, he does not construct: he makes alike his materials and the laws within which they work, adapting them all to an ideal end. In describing a new Jerusalem, the only limits to its perfection are the limits of the writer's imagination.
The second way is less attractive, less easy, but more useful. Starting from the present state of society, it seeks to discover the tendencies underlying it; to trace those tendencies to their natural outworking in institutions; and so to forecast, not the far-off future, but the next social stage. It fixes its gaze on the vast changes wrought by evolution, not the petty variations made by catastrophes; on the Revolutions which transform society, not the tran sient riots which merely upset thrones and behead kings. This second way I elect to follow; and this paper on industry under Socialism therefore starts from William Clarke's exposition of the industrial evolution which has been in progress during the last hundred and fifty years. In thus building forward—in thus forecasting the transitions through which society will probably pass, I shall scarcely touch on the ideal Social State that will one day exist; and my sketch must lay itself open to all the criticisms which may be leveled against a society not ideally perfect. It is therefore necessary to bear in mind that I am only trying to work out changes practicable among men and women as we know them; always seeking to lay down, not what is ideally best, but what is possible; always choosing among the possible changes that which is on the line toward the ideal, and will render further approach easier. In fact this paper is an attempt to answer the "How?" so often heard when Socialism is discussed. Large numbers of people accept, wholly or in part, the Socialist theory: they are intellectually convinced of its soundness or emotionally attracted by its beauty; but they hesitate to join in its propaganda, because they "don't see where you are going to begin," or "don't see where you are going to stop." Both difficulties are disposed of by the fact that we are not "going to begin." There will never be a point at which a society crosses from Individualism to Socialism. The change is ever going forward; and our society is well on the way to Socialism. All we can do is consciously to coöperate with the forces at work, and thus render the transition more rapid than it would otherwise be.
The second Fabian essay shows us the success of capitalism bringing about a position which is at once intolerable to the majority, and easy of capture by them. At this point the destruction of the small industries has broken down most of the gradations which used to exist between the large employer and the hired laborer, and has left in their place a gulf across which a few capitalists and a huge and hungry proletariat face each other. The denial of human sympathy by the employer in his business relations with his "hands" has taught the "hands" to regard the employer as outside the pale of their sympathy. The "respect of the public conscience for the rights of property," which was at bottom the private interest of each in his own little property, has diminished since the many lost their individual possessions, and saw property accumulate in the hands of the few: it is now little more than a tradition inherited from a former social state. The "public conscience" will soon condone, nay, it will first approve, and then demand, the expropriation of capital which is used anti-socially instead of socially, and which belongs to that impersonal abstraction, a company, instead of to our next door neighbor. To the average person it is one thing for the State to seize the little shop of James Smith who married our sister, or the thriving business of our Sam who works early and late for his living; and quite another when James and Sam, ruined by a big Company made up of shareholders of whom nobody knows anything but that they pay low wages and take high dividends, have been obliged to become hired servants of the Company, instead of owning their own shops and machinery. Whose interest will it be to protest against the State taking over the capital, and transforming James and Sam from wage-slaves at the mercy of a foreman, into shareholders and public functionaries, with a voice in the managemeut of the business in which they are employed?
Let us suppose, then, that the evolution of the capitalist system has proceeded but a little further along the present lines, concentrating the control of industry, and increasingly substituting labor-saving machinery for human beings. It is being accompanied, and must continue to be accompanied, by a growth of the numbers of the unemployed. These numbers may ebb and flow, as some of the waves of a rising tide run forward some feet and then a few touch a lower level; but as the tide rises despite the fluctuations of the ripples, so the numbers of the unemployed will increase despite transient mountings and fallings. With these, probably, will begin the tentative organization of industry by the State; but this organization will soon be followed by the taking over by the community of some of the great Trusts.
The division of the country into clearly defined areas, each with its elected authority, is essential to any effective scheme of organization. It is one of the symptoms of the coming change, that, in perfect unconsciousness of the nature of his act, Mr. Ritchie has established the Commune. He has divided England into districts ruled by County Councils, and has thus created the machinery without which Socialism was impracticable. True, he has only made an outline which needs to be filled in; but Socialists can fill in, whereas they had no power to outline. It remains to give every adult a vote in the election of Councilors; to shorten their term of office to a year; to pay the Councilors, so that the public may have a right to the whole of their working time; to give the Councils power to take and hold land—a reform already asked for by the Liberal and Radical Union, a body not consciously Socialist; and to remove all legal restrictions, so as to leave them as free to act corporately as an individual is to act individually. These measures accomplished, the rapidity with which our institutions are socialized depends on the growth of Socialism among the people. It is essential to the stability of the changed forms of industry that they shall be made by the people, not imposed upon them: hence the value of Mr. Ritchie's gift of Local Government, enabling each locality to move swiftly or slowly, to experiment on a comparatively small scale, even to blunder without widespread disaster. The mot d' ordre for Socialists now is, "Convert the electors; and capture the County Councils." These Councils, administering local affairs, with the national Executive administering national affairs, are all destined to be turned into effective industrial organizers; and the unit of administration must depend on the nature of the industry. The post, the telegraph, the railways, the canals, and the great industries capable of being organized into Trusts, will, so far as we can see now, be best administered each from a single center for the whole kingdom. Tramways, gas-works, water-works, and many of the smaller productive industries, will be best managed locally. In marking the lines of division, convenience and experience must be our guides. The demarkations are of expediency, not of principle.
The first great problem that will press on the County Council for solution will be that of the unemployed. Wisely or unwisely, it will have to deal with them: wisely, if it organizes them for productive industry; unwisely, if it opens "relief works," and tries, like an enlarged Bumble, to shirk the difficulty by enforcing barren and oppressive toil upon outlawed wretches at the expense of the rest of the community. Many of the unemployed are unskilled laborers: a minority are skilled. They must first be registered as skilled and unskilled, and the former enrolled under their several trades. Then can begin the rural organization of labor on county farms, held by the County Councils. The Council will have its agricultural committee, charged with the administrative details; and this committee will choose well-trained, practical agriculturists, as directors of the farm business. To the County Farm will be drafted from the unemployed in the towns the agricultural laborers who have wandered townward in search of work, and many of the unskilled laborers. On these farms every advantage of machinery, and every discovery in agricultural science, should be utilized to the utmost. The crops should be carefully chosen with reference to soil and aspect—cereals, fruit, vegetables—and the culture adapted to the crop, the one aim being to obtain the largest amount of produce with the least expenditure of human labor. Whether land is most profitably cultivated in large or small parcels depends on the crop; and in the great area of the County Farm, la grande and la petite culture might each have its place. Economy would also gain by the large number of laborers under the direction of the head farmer, since they could be concentrated when required at any given spot, as in harvest time, and dispersed to work at the more continuous kinds of tillage when the seasonal task was over.
To these farms must also be sent some skilled laborers from among the unemployed, shoemakers, tailors, smiths, carpenters, &c.; so that the County Farm may be self-supporting as far as it can be without waste of productive power. All the small industries necessary in daily life should be carried on in it, and an industrial commune thus built up. The democracy might be trusted to ordain that an eight hours' day, and a comfortable home, should be part of the life-conditions on the County Farm. Probably each large farm would soon have its central store, with its adjacent railway station, in addition to the ordinary farm buildings; its public hall in the center of the farm village to be used for lectures, concerts, and entertainments of all sorts; its public schools, elementary and technical; and soon, possibly from the outset, its public meal-room, saving time and trouble to housewives, and, while economizing fuel and food, giving a far greater choice and variety of dishes. Large dwellings, with suites of rooms, might perhaps replace old-fashioned cottages; for it is worth noting, as showing the tendency already existing among ourselves to turn from isolated self-dependence to the advantages of associated living, that many modern flats are being built without servants' rooms, the house-cleaning, &c., being done by persons engaged for the whole block, and the important meals being taken at restaurants, so as to avoid the trouble and expense of private cooking. It will surely be well in initiating new organizations of industry to start on the most advanced lines, and take advantage of every modern tendency toward less isolated modes of living. Socialists must work hard to make municipal dealings with the unemployed avenues to the higher life, not grudging utilization of pauper labor. And as they know their aim, and the other political parties live but from hand to mouth, they ought to be able to exercise a steady and uniform pressure, which, just because it is steady and uniform, will impress its direction on the general movement.
The note of urban industrial organization, as of all other, must be that each person shall be employed to do what he can do best, not what he does worst. It may be desirable for a man to have two trades; but watch-making and stone-breaking are not convenient alternative occupations. Where the skilled unemployed belong to trades carried on everywhere, such as baking, shoemaking, tailoring, etc., they should be employed at their own trades in municipal workshops, and their products garnered in municipal stores. These workshops will be under the direction of foremen, thoroughly skilled workmen, able to superintend and direct as though in private employment. The working-day must be of eight hours, and the wages, for the present, the Trades Union minimum. Then, instead of tailors and shoemakers tramping the streets ragged and barefoot, the tailors will be making clothes and the shoemakers boots and shoes; and the shoemaker with the wages he earns will buy the tailor's products, and the tailor the shoemaker's. Then, instead of supporting the unemployed by rates levied on the employed, they will be set to work to supply their own necessities, and be producers of the wealth they consume instead of consuming, in enforced idleness or barren penal exercises in the stoneyard, the wealth produced by others. Masons, bricklayers, plumbers, carpenters, etc., might be set to work in building decent and pleasant dwellings—in the style of the blocks of flats, not of the barracks called model dwellings—for the housing of the municipal industrial army. I lay stress on the pleasantness of the dwellings. These places are to be dwellings for citizens, not prisons for paupers; and there is no possible reason why they should not be made attractive. Under Socialism the workers-are to be the nation, and all that is best is for their service; for, be it remembered, our faces are set toward Socialism, and our organization of labor is to be on Socialist lines.
It is very likely that among the unemployed some will be found whose trade can only be carried on by large numbers, and is not one of the industries of the town into which their unlucky fate has drifted them. These should be sent into municipal service in the towns where their trade is the staple industry, there to be employed in the municipal factory.
Concurrently with this rural and urban organization of non-centralized industries will proceed the taking over of the great centralized industries, centralized for us by capitalists, who thus unconsciously pave the way for their own supersession. Everything which has been organized into a Trust, and has been worked for a time in the Trust fashion, is ripe for appropriation by the community. All minerals would be most properly worked in this centralized way ; and it will probably be found most convenient to work all the big productive industries—such as the textile—in similar fashion. It is idle to say. that it cannot be done by the State when it is being done by a ring of capitalists: a Local Board, an Iron Board, a Tin Board, can as easily be responsible to the nation as to a casual crowd of share-holders. There need be no dislocation of production in making the transference: the active organizers and directors of a Trust do not necessarily, or even usually, own the capital invested in it. If the State finds it convenient to hire these organizers and directors, there is nothing to prevent its doing so for as long or as short a period as it chooses. The temporary arrangements made with them during the transition period must be governed by expediency.
Let us pause for a moment to estimate the position so far. The unemployed have been transformed into communal workers—in the country on great farms, improvements of the Bonanza farms in America—in the towns in various trades. Public stores for agricultural and industrial products are open in all convenient places, and filled with the goods thus communally produced. The great industries, worked as Trusts, are controlled by the State instead of by capitalist rings. The private capitalist, however, will still be in business, producing and distributing on his own account in competition with the communal organizations, which at present will have occupied only part of the industrial field. But apart from a pressure which will be recognized when we come to deal with the remuneration of labor, these private enterprises will be carried on under circumstances of ever-increasing difficulty. In face of the orderly communal arrays, playing into each other's hands, with the credit of the country behind them, the ventures of the private capitalist will be at as great a disadvantage as the cottage industries of the last century in face of the factory industries of our own period. The Trusts have taught us how to drive competing capitals out of the market by associated capitals. The Central Boards or County Councils will be able to utilize this power of association further than any private capitalists. Thus the economic forces which replaced the workshop by the factory, will replace the private shop by the municipal store and the private factory by the municipal one. And the advantages of greater concentration of capital and of association of labor will not be the only ones enjoyed by the communal workers. All waste will be checked, every labor-saving appliance utilized to the utmost, where the object is the production of general wealth and not the production of profit to be appropriated by a class; for in the one case it is the interest of the producers to produce—inasmuch as their enjoyment depends on the productivity of their labor—whereas in the other it is their interest to sterilize their labor as far as they dare in order to render more of it necessary and so keep up its price. As the organization of the public industry extends, and supplants more and more the individualist producer, the probable demand will be more easily estimated, and the supply regulated to meet it. The Municipalities and Central Boards will take the place of the competing small capitalists and the rings of large ones; and production will become ordered and rational instead of anarchical and reckless as it is to-day. After awhile the private producers will disappear, not because there will be any law against individualist production, but because it will not pay. No one will care to face the worries, the harassments, the anxieties, of individual struggling for livelihood, when ease, freedom, and security can be enjoyed in the communal service.
The best form of management during the transition period, and possibly for a long time to come, will be through the Communal Councils, which will appoint committees to superintend the various branches of industry. These committees will engage the necessary manager and foreman for each shop, factory, etc., and will hold the power of dismissal as of appointment. I do not believe that the direct election of the manager and foreman by the employees would be found to work well in practice, or to be consistent with the discipline necessary in carrying on any large business undertaking. It seems to me better that the Commune should elect its Council—thus keeping under its own control the general authority—but should empower the Council to select the officials, so that the power of selection and dismissal within the various sub-divisions should lie with the nominees of the whole Commune instead of with the particular group immediately concerned.
There is no practical difficulty in the way of the management of the ordinary productive industries, large or small. The Trusts and Coöperation have, between them, solved, or put us in the way of solving, all problems connected with these. But there are difficulties in connection with the industries concerned in the production of such commodities as books and newspapers. During the transitional stage these difficulties will not arise; but when all industries are carried on by the Commune, or the Nation, how will books and newspapers be produced? I only throw out the following suggestions. Printing, like baking, tailoring, shoemaking, is a communal rather than a national industry. Suppose we had printing offices controlled by the Communal Council. The printing committee might be left free to accept any publication it thought valuable, as a private firm to-day may take the risk of publication, the arrangement with the author being purchase outright, or royalty on copies sold, in each case so much to be put to his credit at the Communal Bank. But there are many authors whose goods are desired by no one: it would be absurd to force the community to publish all minor poetry. Why not accept the principle that in every case where the printing committee declines to print at the communal risk, the author may have his work printed by transferring from his credit at the Communal Bank to the account of the printing committee sufficient to cover the cost of printing? The committee should have no power to refuse to print, where the cost was covered. Thus liberty of expression would be guarded as a constitutional right, while the community would not be charged with the cost of printing every stupid effusion that its fond composer might deem worthy of publicity.
Newspapers might be issued on similar terms; and it would always be open to individuals, or to groups of individuals, to publish anything they pleased on covering the cost of publication. With the comparative affluence which would be enjoyed by each member of the community, anyone who really cared to reach the public ear would be able to do so by diminishing his expenditure in other directions.
Another difficulty which will meet us, although not immediately, is the competition for employment in certain pleasanter branches of industry. At present an unemployed person would catch eagerly at the chance of any well-paid work he was able to perform. If he were able both to set type and to stitch coats, he would not dream of grumbling if he were by chance offered the job he liked the less of the two: he would be only too glad to get either. But it is quite possible that as the vast amelioration of life-conditions proceeds, Jeshurun will wax fat and kick if, when he prefers to make microscope lenses, he is desired to make mirrors. Under these circumstances, Jeshurun will, I fear, have to accommodate himself to the demand. If the number of people engaged in making lenses suffices to meet the demand for lenses, Jeshurun must consent to turn his talents for the time to mirror-making. After all, his state will not be very pitiable, though Socialism will have failed, it is true, to make 2+2=5.
This, however, hardly solves the general question as to the apportioning of laborers to the various forms of labor, but a solution has been found by the ingenious author of "Looking Backward, from a. d. 2,000." Leaving young men and women free to choose their employments, he would equalize the rates of volunteering by equalizing the attractions of the trades. In many cases natural bent, left free to develop itself during a lengthened educational term, will determine the choice of avocation. Human beings are fortunately very varied in their capacities and tastes: that which attracts one repels another. But there are unpleasant and indispensable forms of labor which, one would imagine, can attract none—mining, sewer-cleaning, etc. These might be rendered attractive by making the hours of labor in them much shorter than the normal working-day of pleasanter occupations. Many a strong, vigorous man would greatly prefer a short spell of disagreeable work to a long one at a desk. As it is well to leave the greatest possible freedom to the individual, this equalizing of advantages in all trades would be far better than any attempt to perform the impossible task of choosing an employment for each. A person would be sure to hate any work into which he was directly forced, even though it were the very one he would have chosen had he been left to himself.
Further, much of the most disagreeable and laborious work might be done by machinery, as it would be now if it were not cheaper to exploit a helot class. When it became illegal to send small boys up chimneys, chimneys did not cease to be swept: a machine was invented for sweeping them. Coal-cutting might now be done by machinery, instead of by a man lying on his back, picking away over his head at the imminent risk of his own life; but the machine is much dearer than men, so the miners continue to have their chests crushed in by the falling coal. Under Socialism, men's lives and limbs will be more valuable than machinery; and science will be tasked to substitute the one for the other.
In truth the extension of machinery is very likely to solve many of the problems connected with differential advantages in employment; and it seems certain that, in the very near future, the skilled worker will not be the man who is able to perform a particular set of operations, but the man who has been trained in the use of machinery. The difference of trade will be in the machine rather than in the man: whether the produce is nails or screws, boots or coats, cloth or silk, paper-folding or type-setting, will depend on the internal arrangements of the mechanism and not on the method of applying the force. What we shall probably do will be to instruct all our youth in the principles of mechanics and in the handling of machines; the machines will be constructed so as to turn the force into the various channels required to produce the various articles; and the skilled workman will be the skilled mechanic, not the skilled printer or bootmaker. At the present time a few hours', or a few days', study will make the trained mechanician master of any machine you can place before him. The line of progress is to substitute machines for men in every department of production: let the brain plan, guide, control; but let iron and steel, steam and electricity, that do not tire and cannot be brutalized, do the whole of the heavy toil that exhausts human frames to-day. There is not the slightest reason to suppose that we are at the end of an inventive era. Rather are we only just beginning to grope after the uses of electricity; and machinery has before it possibilities almost undreamed of now, the men produced by our system being too rough-handed for the manipulation of delicate and complicated contrivances. I suggest this only as a probable simplification of balancing the supply and demand in various forms of labor in the future: our immediate method of regulation must be the equalizing of advantages in them.
One may guess that in each nation all the Boards and communal. authorities will ultimately be represented in some central Executive, or Industrial Ministry; that the Minister of Agriculture, of Mineral Industries, of Textile Industries, and so on, will have relations with similar officers in other lands; and that thus, internationally as well as nationally, coöperation will replace competition. But that end is not yet.
We now approach a yet more thorny subject than the organization of the workers. What should be the remuneration of labor—what the share of the product taken respectively by the individual, the municipality, and the State?
The answer depends on the answer to a previous question. Is the organization of the unemployed to be undertaken in order to transform them into self-supporting, self-respecting citizens; or is it to be carried on as a form of exploitation, utilizing pauper labor for the production of profit for non-paupers? The whole matter turns on this point; and unless we know our own minds, and fight for the right method and against the wrong from the very beginning, the organization of the unemployed will be a buttress for the present system instead of a step toward a better. Already there is talk of establishing labor colonies in connection with workhouses; and there is no time to be lost if we are to take advantage of the good in the proposal and exclude the bad. The County Councils also will lead to an increase of municipal employment; and the method of that employment is vital.
The ordinary vestryman, driven by the force of circumstances into organizing the unemployed, will try to extract a profit to the ratepayers from pauper farms by paying the lowest rates of wages. He would find this way of proceeding very congenial, and would soon, if permitted, simply municipalize slave-driving. In this way the municipal and rural organization of labor, even when its necessity and its advantages are realized, can do nothing but change the form of exploitation of labor if the workers in public employ are to be paid a wage fixed by the competition of the market, and the profits of their labor used only for the relief of the rates. Under such circumstances we should have the whole of the rates paid by the communal workers, while the private employers would go free. This would not be a transition to Socialism, but only a new way of creating a class of municipal serfs, which would make our towns burlesques of the ancient Greek slaveholding"democracies." We shall find surer ground by recalling and applying the principle of Socialism that the laborers shall enjoy the full product of their toil. It seems to me that this might be worked out somewhat in the following way:
Out of the value of the communal produce must come rent of land payable to the local authority, rent of plant needed for working the industries, wages advanced and fixed in the usual way, taxes, reserve fund, accumulation fund, and the other charges necessary for the carrying on of the communal business. All these deducted, the remaining value should be divided among the communal workers as a "bonus." It would be obviously inconvenient, if not impossible, for the district authority to sub-divide this value and allot so much to each of its separate undertakings—so much left over from gas-works for the men employed there, so much from the tramways for the men employed on them, and so on. It would be far simpler and easier for the municipal employees to be regarded as a single body, in the service of a single employer, the local authority; and that the surplus from the whole of the businesses carried on by the Communal Council should be divided without distinction among the whole of the communal employees. Controversy will probably arise as to the division: shall all the shares be equal; or shall the workers receive in proportion to the supposed dignity or indignity of their work? Inequality, however, would be odious; and I have already suggested (p. 199) a means of adjusting different kinds of labor to a system of equal division of net product. This meets the difficulty of the varying degrees of irksomeness without invidiously setting up any kind of socially useful labor as more honorable than any other.—a distinction essentially unsocial and pernicious. But since in public affairs ethics are apt to go to the wall, and appeals to social justice too often fall on deaf ears, it is lucky that in this case ethics and convenience coincide. The impossibility of estimating the separate value of each man's labor with any really valid result, the friction which would arise, the jealousies which would be provoked, the inevitable discontent, favoritism and jobbery that would prevail: all these things will drive the Communal Council into the right path, equal remuneration of all workers. That path once entered on, the principle of simplification will spread; and presently it will probably be found convenient that all the Communal Councils shall send in their reports to a Central Board, stating the number of their employees, the amount of the values produced, the deductions for rent and other charges, and their available surplus. All these surpluses added together would then be divided by the total number of communal employees, and the sum thus reached would be the share of each worker. The national trusts would at first be worked separately on lines analogous to those sketched for the Communes; but later these would be lumped in with the rest, and still further equalize the reward of labor. As private enterprises dwindle, more and more of the workers will pass into communal employ, until at last the Socialist ideal is touched of a nation in which all adults are workers, and all share the national product. But be it noted that all this grows out of the first organization of industry by Municipalities and County Councils, and will evolve just as fast or just as slowly as the community and its sections choose. The values dealt with, and the numbers employed at first, would not imply as much complexity of detail as is involved in many of the great businesses now carried on by individuals and by companies. The same brains will be available for the work as are now hired by individuals; and it is rather the novelty of the idea than the difficulty of its realization which will stand in the way of its acceptance.
It is probable, however, that for some time to come, the captains of industry will be more highly paid than the rank and file of the industrial army, not because it is just that they should receive higher remuneration, but because they, having still the alternative of private enterprise, will be able to demand their ordinary terms, at which it will pay the community better to engage them than to do without them—which would be indeed impossible. But their remuneration will fall as education spreads: their present value is a scarcity value, largely dependent on their monopoly of the higher education; and as the wider training is thrown open to all, an ever-increasing number will become qualified to act as organizers and directors.
The form in which the worker's share is paid to him is not a matter of primary importance. It would probably be convenient to have Communal Banks, issuing checks like those of the Check Bank; and these banks could open credits to the workers to the amount of their remuneration. The way in which each worker expended his wealth would of course be his own business.
The above method of dealing with the surplus remaining from communal labor after rent and other charges had been paid to the Municipality, would prove the most potent factor in the supersession of private enterprises. The amounts produced by the communal organizations would exceed those produced under individualist control; but even if this were not so, yet the shares of the communal workers, as they would include the produce now consumed by idlers, would be higher than any wage which could be paid by the private employer. Hence competition to enter the communal service, and a constant pressure on the Communal Councils to enlarge their undertakings.
It should be added that children and workers incapacitated by age or sickness should receive an equal share with the communal employees. As all have been children, are at times sick, and hope to live to old age, all in turn would share the advantage; and it is only just that those who have labored honestly in health and through maturity should enjoy the reward of labor in sickness and through old age.
The share of individuals and of Municipalities being thus apportioned, there remains only a word to say as to the Central National Council—the "State" par excellence. This would derive the revenues necessary for the discharge of its functions,from contributions levied on the Communal Councils. It is evident that in the adjustment of these contributions could be effected the "nationalization" of any special natural resources, such as mines, harbors, etc., enjoyed by exceptionally well situated Communes. The levy would be, in fact, of the nature of an income tax.
Such a plan of Distribution—especially that part of it which equalizes the shares in the product—is likely to provoke the question: "What will be the stimulus to labor under the proposed system? Will not the idle evade their fair share of labor, and live in clover on the industry of their neighbors?"
The general stimulus to labor will be, in the first place, then as now, the starvation which would follow the cessation of labor. Until we discover the country in which jamrolls grow on bushes, and roasted sucking-pigs run about crying "Come eat me!" we are under an imperious necessity to produce. We shall work because, on the whole, we prefer work to starvation. In the transition to Socialism, when the organization of labor by the Communal Councils begins, the performance of work will be the condition of employment; and as non-employment will mean starvation—for when work is offered, no relief of any kind need be given to the healthy adult who refuses to perform it—the strongest possible stimulus will force men to work. In fact "work or starve" will be the alternative set before each communal employee; and as men now prefer long-continued and ill-paid work to starvation, they will certainly, unless human nature be entirely changed, prefer short and well-paid work to starvation. The individual shirker will be dealt with much as he is to-day: he will be warned, and, if he prove incorrigibly idle, discharged from the communal employ. The vast majority of men now seek to retain their employment by a reasonable discharge of their duty: why should they not do the same when the employment is on easier conditions? At first, discharge would mean being flung back into the whirlpool of competition, a fate not likely to be challenged. Later, as the private enterprises succumbed to the competition of the Commune, it would mean almost hopelessness of obtaining a livelihood. When social reorganization is complete, it would mean absolute starvation. And as the starvation would be deliberately incurred and voluntarily undergone, it would meet with no sympathy and no relief.
The next stimulus would be the appetite of the worker for the result of the communal toil, and the determination of his fellow-workers to make him take his fair share of the work of producing it. It is found at the present time that a very small share of the profits arising from associated labor acts as a tremendous stimulus to each individual producer. Firms which allot a part of their profits for division among their employees find the plan profitable to themselves. The men work eagerly to increase the common product, knowing that each will have a larger bonus as the common product is larger: they become vigilant as to waste in production; they take care of the machinery; they save gas, etc. In a word, they lesson the cost as much as they can, because each saving means gain to them. We see from the experiments of Leclaire and Godin that inventiveness also is stimulated by a share in the common pro duce. The workers in these businesses are ever trying to discover better methods, to improve their machinery, in a word to progress, since each step forward brings improvement of their lot. Inventions come from a desire to save trouble, as well as from the impulse of inventive genius, the joy in accomplishing an intellectual triumph, and the delight of serving the race. Small inventions are continually being made by clever workmen to facilitate their operations, even when they are not themselves personally gainers by them; and there is no reason to fear that this spontaneous exercise of inventiveness will cease when the added productivity of labor lightens the task or increases the harvest of the laborer. Is it to be argued that men will be industrious, careful, and inventive when they get only a fraction of the result of their associated labor, but will plunge into sloth, recklessness and stagnation when they get the whole? that a little gain stimulates, but any gain short of complete satisfaction would paralyze? If there is one vice more certain than another to be unpopular in a Socialist community, it is laziness. The man who shirked would find his mates making his position intolerable, even before he suffered the doom of expulsion.
But while these compelling motives will be potent in their action on man as he now is, there are others, already acting on some men, which will one day act on all men. Human beings are not the simple and onesided organisms they appear to the superficial glance of the Individualist—moved only by a single motive, the desire for pecuniary gain—by one longing, the longing for wealth. Under our present social system, the struggle for riches assumes an abnormal and artificial development: riches mean nearly all that makes life worth having—security against starvation, gratification of taste, enjoyment of pleasant and cultured society, superiority to many temptations, self-respect, consideration, comfort, knowledge, freedom, as far as these things are attainable under existing conditions. In a society where poverty means social discredit, where misfortune is treated as a crime, where the prison of the workhouse is the guerdon of failure, and the bitter carking harassment of daily wants unmet by daily supply is ever hanging over the head of each worker, what wonder that money seems the one thing needful, and that every other thought is lost in the frenzied rush to escape all that is summed up in the one word Poverty?
But this abnormal development of the gold-hunger would disappear upon the certainty for each of the means of subsistence. Let each individual feel absolutely secure of subsistence—let every anxiety as to the material wants of his future be swept away; and the longing for wealth will lose its leverage. The daily bread being certain, the tyranny of pecuniary gain will be broken; and life will begin to be used in living and not in struggling for the chance to live. Then will come to the front all those multifarious motives which are at work in the complex human organism even now, and which will assume their proper importance when the basis of physical life is assured. The desire to excel, the joy in creative work, the longing to improve, the eagerness to win social approval, the instinct of benevolence: all these will start into full life, and will serve at once as the stimulus to labor and the reward of excellence. It is instructive to notice that these very forces may already be seen at work in every case in which subsistence is secured, and they alone supply the stimulus to action. The soldier's subsistence is certain, and does not depend on his exertions. At once he becomes susceptible to appeals to his patriotism, to his esprit de corps, to the honor of his flag: he will dare anything for glory, and value a bit of bronze, which is the "reward of valor," far more than a hundred times its weight in gold. Yet many of the private soldiers come from the worst of the population; and military glory and success in murder are but poor objects to aim at. If so much can be done under circumstances so unpromising, what may we not hope from nobler aspirations? Or take the eagerness, self-denial, and strenuous effort, thrown by young men into their mere games! The desire to be captain of the Oxford eleven, stroke of the Cambridge boat, victor in the footrace or the leaping—in a word, the desire to excel—is strong enough to impel to exertions which often ruin physical health. Everywhere we see the multiform desires of humanity assert themselves when once livelihood is secure. It is on the devotion of these to the service of Society, as the development of the social instincts teaches men to identify their interests with those of the community, that Socialism must ultimately rely for progress; but in saying this we are only saying that Socialism relies for progress on human nature as a whole, instead of on that mere fragment of it known as the desire for gain. If human nature should break down, then Socialism will break down; but at least we have a hundred strings to our Socialist bow, while the Individualist has only one.
But Humanity will not break down. The faith which is built on it is faith founded on a rock. Under healthier and happier conditions, Humanity will rise to hights undreamed of now; and the most exquisite Utopias, as sung by the poet and idealist, shall, to our children, seem but dim and broken lights compared with their perfect day. All that we need are courage, prudence, and faith. Faith, above all, which dares to believe that justice and love are not impossible; and that more than the best that men can dream of shall one day be realized by men.
The Transition to Social Democracy
by G. Bernard Shaw
WHEN the British Association honored me by an invitation to take part in its proceedings, I proposed to do so by reading a paper entitled "Finishing the Transition to Social Democracy." The word "finishing" has been, on consideration, dropped. In modern use it has gathered a certain sudden and sinister sense which I desire carefully to dissociate from the process to be described. I suggested it in the first instance only to convey in the shortest way that we are in the middle of the transition instead of shrinking from the beginning of it; and that I propose to deal with the part of it that lies before us rather than that which we have already accomplished. Therefore, though I shall begin at the beginning, I shall make no apology for traversing centuries by leaps and bounds at the risk of sacrificing the dignity of history to the necessity for coming to the point as soon as possible.
Briefly, then, let us commence by glancing at the Middle Ages. There you find, theoretically, a much more orderly England than the England of to-day. Agriculture is organized on an intelligible and consistent system in the feudal manor or commune: handicraft is ordered by the guilds of the towns. Every man has his class, and every class its duties. Payments and privileges are fixed by law and custom, sanctioned by the moral sense of the community, and revised by the light of that moral sense whenever the operation of supply and demand disturbs their adjustment. Liberty and Equality are unheard of; but so is Free Competition. The law does not suffer a laborer's wife to wear a silver girdle: neither does it force her to work sixteen hours a day for the value of a modern shilling. Nobody entertains the idea that the individual has any right to trade as he pleases without reference to the rest. When the townsfolk, for instance, form a market, they quite understand that they have not taken that trouble in order to enable speculators to make money. If they catch a man buying goods solely in order to sell them a few hours later at a higher price, they treat that man as a rascal; and he never, as far as I have been able to ascertain, ventures to plead that it is socially beneficent, and indeed a pious duty, to buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest. If he did, they would probably burn him alive, not altogether inexcusably. As to Protection, it comes naturally to them.
This Social Order, relics of which are still to be found in all directions, did not collapse because it was unjust or absurd. It was burst by the growth of the social organism. Its machinery was too primitive, and its administration too naïve, too personal, too meddlesome to cope with anything more complex than a group of industrially independent communes, centralized very loosely, if at all, for purely political purposes. Industrial relations with other countries were beyond its comprehension. Its grasp of the obligations of interparochial morality was none of the surest: of international morality it had no notion. A Frenchman or a Scotchman was a natural enemy: a Muscovite was a foreign devil: the relationship of a negro to the human race was far more distant than that of a gorilla is now admitted to be. Thus, when the discovery of the New World began that economic revolution which changed every manufacturing town into a mere booth in the world's fair, and quite altered the immediate objects and views of producers, English adventurers took to the sea in a frame of mind peculiarly favorable to commercial success. They were unaffectedly pious, and had the force of character which is only possible to men who are founded on convictions. At the same time, they regarded piracy as a brave and patriotic pursuit, and the slave trade as a perfectly honest branch of commerce, adventurous enough to be consistent with the honor of a gentleman, and lucrative enough to make it well worth the risk. When they stole the cargo of a foreign ship, or made a heavy profit on a batch of slaves, they regarded their success as a direct proof of divine protection. The owners of accumulated wealth hastened to "venture" their capital with these men. Persons of all the richer degrees, from Queen Elizabeth downward, took shares in the voyages of the merchant adventurers. The returns justified their boldness; and the foundation of the industrial greatness and the industrial shame of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was laid: modern Capitalism thus arising in enterprises for which men are now, by civilized nations, hung or shot as human vermin. And it is curious to see still, in the commercial adventurers of our own time, the same incongruous combination of piety and rectitude with the most unscrupulous and revolting villainy. We all know the merchant princes whose enterprise, whose steady perseverance, whose high personal honor, blameless family relations, large charities, and liberal endowment of public institutions mark them out as very pillars of society; and who are nevertheless grinding their wealth out of the labor of women and children with such murderous rapacity that they have to hand over the poorest of their victims to sweaters whose sole special function is the evasion of the Factory Acts. They have, in fact, no more sense of social solidarity with the wage-workers than Drake had with the Spaniards or negroes.
With the rise of foreign trade and Capitalism, industry so far outgrew the control, not merely of the individual, but of the village, the guild, the municipality, and even the central government, that it seemed as if all attempt at regulation must be abandoned. Every law made for the better ordering of business either did not work at all, or worked only as a monopoly enforced by exasperating official meddling, directly injuring the general interest, and reacting disastrously on the particular interest it was intended to protect. The laws, too, had ceased to be even honestly intended, owing to the seizure of political power by the capitalist classes, which had been prodigiously enriched by the operation of economic laws which were not then understood. Matters reached a position in which legislation and regulation were so mischievous and corrupt, that anarchy became the ideal of all progressive thinkers and practical men. The intellectual revolt formally inaugurated by the Reformation was reinforced in the eighteenth century by the great industrial revolution which began with the utilization of steam and the invention of the spinning jenny. Then came chaos. The feudal system became an absurdity when its basis of communism with inequality of condition had changed into private property with free contract and competition rents. The guild system had no machinery for dealing with division of labor, the factory system, or international trade: it recognized in competitive individualism only something to be repressed as diabolical. But competitive individualism simply took possession of the guilds, and turned them into refectories for aldermen, and notable additions to the grievances and laughing stocks of posterity.
The desperate effort of the human intellect to unravel this tangle of industrial anarch brought modern political economy into existence. It took shape in France, where the confusion was thrice confounded; and proved itself a more practical department of philosophy than the metaphysics of the schoolmen, the Utopian socialism of More, or the sociology of Hobbes. It could trace its ancestry to Aristotle; but just then the human intellect was rather tired of Aristotle, whose economics, besides, were those of slaveholding republics. Political economy soon declared for industrial anarchy; for private property; for individual recklessness of everything except individual accumulation of riches; and for the abolition of all the functions of the State except those of putting down violent conduct and invasions of private property. It might have echoed Jack Cade's exclamation, "But then are we in order, when we are most out of order."
Although this was what political economy decreed, it must not be inferred that the greater economists were any more advocates of mere license than Prince Kropotkin, or Mr. Herbert Spencer, or Mr. Benjamin Tucker of Boston, or any other modern Anarchist. They did not admit that the alternative to State regulation was anarchy: they held that Nature had provided an all-powerful automatic regulator in Competition; and that by its operation self-interest would evolve order out of chaos if only it were allowed its own way. They loved to believe that a right and just social order was not an artificial and painfully maintained legal edifice, but a spontaneous outcome of the free play of the forces of Nature. They were reactionaries against feudal domineering and medieval meddling and ecclesiastical intolerance; and they were able to show how all three had ended in disgraceful failure, corruption and self-stultification. Indignant at the spectacle of the peasant struggling against the denial of those rights of private property which his feudal lord had successfully usurped, they strenuously affirmed the right of private property for all. And while they were dazzled by the prodigious impulse given to production by the industrial revolution under competitive private enterprise, they were at the same time, for want of statistics, so optimistically ignorant of the condition of the masses, that we find David Hume, in 1766, writing to Turgot that "no man is so industrious but he may add some hours more in the week to his labor; and scarce anyone is so poor but he can retrench something of his expense." No student ever gathers from a study of the individualist economists that the English proletariat was seething in horror and degradation while the riches of the proprietors were increasing by leaps and bounds.
The historical ignorance of the economists did not, however, disable them for the abstract work of scientific political economy. All their most cherished institutions and doctrines succumbed one by one to their analysis of the laws of production and exchange. With one law alone—the law of rent—they destroyed the whole series of assumptions upon which private property is based. The apriorist notion that among free competitors wealth must go to the industrious, and poverty be the just and natural punishment of the lazy and improvident, proved as illusory as the apparent flatness of the earth. Here was a vast mass of wealth called economic rent, increasing with the population, and consisting of the difference between the product of the national industry as it actually was and as it would have been if every acre of land in the country had been no more fertile or favorably situated than the very worst acre from which a bare living could be extracted: all quite incapable of being assigned to this or that individual or class as the return to his or its separate exertions: all purely social or common wealth, for the private appropriation of which no permanently valid and intellectually honest excuse could be made. Ricardo was quite as explicit and far more thorough on the subject than Mr. Henry George. He pointed out—I quote his own words—that "the whole surplus produce of the soil, after deducting from it only such moderate profits as are sufficient to encourage accumulation, must finally rest with the landlord."
It was only by adopting a preposterous theory of value that Ricardo was able to maintain that the laborer, selling himself for wages to the proprietor, would always command his cost of production, i.e., his daily subsistence. Even that slender consolation vanished later on before the renewed investigation of value made by Jevons, who demonstrated that the value of a commodity is a function of the quantity available, and may fall to zero when the supply outruns the demand so far as to make the final increment of the supply useless. A fact which the unemployed had discovered, without the aid of the differential calculus, before Jevons was born. Private property, in fact, left no room for new comers. Malthus pointed this out, and urged that there should be no newcomers—that the population should remain stationary. But the population took exactly as much notice of this modest demand for stagnation as the incoming tide took of King Canute's ankles. Indeed the demand was the less reasonable since the power of production per head was increasing faster than the population (as it still is), the increase of poverty being produced simply by the increase and private appropriation of rent. After Ricardo had completed the individualist synthesis of production and exchange, a dialectical war broke out. Proudhon had only to skim through a Ricardian treatise to understand just enough of it to be able to show that political economy was a reductio and absurdum of private property instead of a justification of it. Ferdinand Lassalle, with Ricardo in one hand and Hegel in the other, turned all the heavy guns of the philosophers and economists on private property with such effect that no one dared to challenge his characteristic boasts of the irresistible equipment of Social Democracy in point of culture. Karl Marx, without even giving up the Ricardian value theory, seized on the blue books which contained the true history of the leaps and bounds of England's prosperity, and convicted private property of wholesale spoliation, murder and compulsory prostitution; of plague, pestilence, and famine; battle, murder, and sudden death. This was hardly what had been expected from an institution so highly spoken of. Many critics said that the attack was not fair: no one ventured to pretend that the charges were not true. The facts were not only admitted; they had been legislated upon. Social Democracy was working itself out practically as well as academically. Before I recite the steps of the transition, I will, as a matter of form, explain what Social Democracy is, though doubtless nearly all my hearers are already conversant with it.
What the achievement of Socialism involves economically, is the transfer of rent from the class which now appropriates it to the whole people. Rent being that part of the produce which is individually unearned, this is the only equitable method of disposing of it. There is no means of getting rid of economic rent. So long as the fertility of land varies from acre to acre, and the number of persons passing by a shop window per hour varies from street to street, with the result that two farmers or two shopkeepers of exactly equal intelligence and industry will reap unequal returns from their year's work, so long will it be equitable to take from the richer farmer or shopkeeper the excess over his fellow's gain which he owes to the bounty of Nature or the advantage of situation, and divide that excess or rent equally between the two. If the pair of farms or shops be left in the hands of a private landlord, he will take the excess, and, instead of dividing it between his two tenants, live on it himself idly at their expense. The economic object of Socialism is not, of course, to equalize farmers and shopkeepers in couples, but to carry out the principle over the whole community by collecting all rents and throwing them into the national treasury. As the private proprietor has no reason for clinging to his property except the legal power to take the rent and spend it on himself—this legal power being in fact what really constitutes him a proprietor—its abrogation would mean his expropriation. The socialization of rent would mean the socialization of the sources of production by the expropriation of the present private proprietors, and the transfer of their property to the entire nation. This transfer, then, is the subject matter of the transition to Socialism, which began some forty-five years ago, as far as any phase of social evolution can be said to begin at all.
It will be at once seen that the valid objections to Socialism consist wholly of practical difficulties. On the ground of abstract justice, Socialism is not only unobjectionable, but sacredly imperative. I am afraid that in the ordinary middle-class opinion Socialism is flagrantly dishonest, but could be established off-hand to-morrow with the help of a guillotine, if there were no police, and the people were wicked enough. In truth, it is as honest as it is inevitable; but all the mobs and guillotines in the world can no more establish it than police coercion can avert it. The first practical difficulty is raised by the idea of the entire people collectively owning land, capital, or anything else. Here is the rent arising out of the people's industry: here are the pockets of the private proprietors. The problem is to drop that rent, not into those private pockets, but into the people's pocket. Yes; but where is the people's pocket? Who is the people? what is the people? Tom we know, and Dick: also Harry; but solely and separately as individuals: as a trinity they have no existence. Who is their trustee their guardian, their man of business, their manager, their secretary, even their stakeholder? The Socialist is stopped dead at the threshold of practical action by this difficulty until he bethinks himself of the State as the representative and trustee of the people. Now if you will just form a hasty picture of the governments which called themselves States in Ricardo's day, consisting of rich proprietors legislating either by divine right or by the exclusive suffrage of the poorer proprietors, and filling the executives with the creatures of their patronage and favoritism; if you look beneath their oratorical parliamentary discussions, conducted with all the splendor and decorum of an expensive sham fight; if you consider their class interests, their shameless corruption, and the waste and mismanagement which disgraced all their bungling attempts at practical business of any kind, you will understand why Ricardo, clearly as he saw the economic consequences of private appropriation of rent, never dreamed of State appropriation as a possible alternative. The Socialist of that time did not greatly care: he was only a benevolent Utopian who planned model communities, and occasionally carried them out, with negatively instructive and positively disastrous results. When his successors learned economics from Ricardo, they saw the difficulty quite as plainly as Ricardo's vulgarizers, the Whig doctrinaires who accepted the incompetence and corruption of States as permanent inherent State qualities, like the acidity of lemons. Not that the Socialists were not doctrinaires too; but outside economics they were pupils of Hegel, while the Whigs were pupils of Bentham and Austin. Bentham's was not the school in which men learned to solve problems to which history alone could give the key, or to form conceptions which belonged to the evolutional order. Hegel, on the other hand, expressly taught the conception of the perfect State; and his pupils saw that nothing in the nature of things made it impossible, or even specially difficult, to make the existing State, if not absolutely perfect, at least practically trustworthy. They contemplated the insolent and inefficient government official of their day without rushing to the conclusion that the State uniform had a magic property of extinguishing all business capacity, integrity, and common civility in the wearer. When State officials obtained their posts by favoritism and patronage, efficiency on their part was an accident, and politeness a condescension. When they retained their posts without any effective responsibility to the public, they naturally defrauded the public by making their posts sinecures, and insulted the public when, by personal inquiry, it made itself troublesome. But every successfully conducted private business establishment in the kingdom was an example of the ease with which public ones could be reformed as soon as there was the effective will to find out the way. Make the passing of a sufficient examination an indispensable preliminary to entering the executive; make the executive responsible to the government and the government responsible to the people; and State departments will be provided with all the guarantees for integrity and efficiency that private money-hunting pretends to. Thus the old bugbear of State imbecility did not terrify the Socialist: it only made him a Democrat. But to call himself so simply, would have had the effect of classing him with the ordinary destructive politician who is a Democrat without ulterior views for the sake of formal Democracy—one whose notion of Radicalism is the pulling up of aristocratic institutions by the roots—who is, briefly, a sort of Universal Abolitionist. Consequently, we have the distinctive term Social Democrat, indicating the man or woman who desires through Democracy to gather the whole people into the State, so that the State may be trusted with the rent of the country, and finally with the land, the capital, and the organization of the national industry—with all the sources of production, in short, which are now abandoned to the cupidity of irresponsible private individuals.
The benefits of such a change as this are so obvious to all except the existing private proprietors and their parasites, that it is very necessary to insist on the impossibility of effecting it suddenly. The young Socialist is apt to be catastrophic in his views—to plan the revolutionary program as an affair of twenty-four lively hours, with Individualism in full swing on Monday morning, a tidal wave of the insurgent proletariat on Monday afternoon, and Socialism in complete working order on Tuesday. A man who believes that such a happy despatch is possible, will naturally think it absurd and even inhuman to stick at bloodshed in bringing it about. He can prove that the continuance of the present system for a year costs more suffering than could be crammed into any Monday afternoon, however sanguinary. This is the phase of conviction in which are delivered those Socialist speeches which make what the newspapers call "good copy," and which are the only ones they as yet report. Such speeches are encouraged by the hasty opposition they evoke from thoughtless persons, who begin by tacitly admitting that a sudden change is feasible, and go on to protest that it would be wicked. The experienced Social Democrat converts his too ardent follower by first admitting that if the change could be made catastrophically it would be well worth making, and then proceeding to point out that as it would involve a readjustment of productive industry to meet the demand created by an entirely new distribution of purchasing power, it would also involve, in the application of labor and industrial machinery, alterations which no afternoon's work could effect. You cannot convince any man that it is impossible to tear down a government in a day; but everybody is convinced already that you cannot convert first and third class carriages into second class; rookeries and palaces into comfortable dwellings; and jewelers and dressmakers into bakers and builders, by merely singing the "Marseillaise." No judicious person, however deeply persuaded that the work of the court dressmaker has no true social utility, would greatly care to quarter her idly on the genuinely productive workers pending the preparation of a place for her in their ranks. For though she is to all intents and purposes quartered on them at present, yet she at least escapes the demoralization of idleness. Until her new place is ready, it is better that her patrons should find dressmaking for her hands to do, than that Satan should find mischief. Demolishing a Bastille with seven prisoners in it is one thing: demolishing one with fourteen million prisoners is quite another. I need not enlarge on the point: the necessity for cautious and gradual change must be obvious to everyone here, and could be made obvious to everyone elsewhere if only the catastrophists were courageously and sensibly dealt with in discussion.
What then does a gradual transition to Social Democracy mean specifically? It means the gradual extension of the franchise; and the transfer of rent and interest to the State, not in one lump sum, but by installments. Looked at in this way, it will at once be seen that we are already far on the road, and are being urged further by many politicians who do not dream that they are touched with Socialism—nay, who would earnestly repudiate the touch as a taint. Let us see how far we have gone. In 1832 the political power passed into the hands of the middle class; and in 1838 Lord John Russell announced finality. Meanwhile, in 1834, the middle class had swept away the last economic refuge of the workers, the old Poor Law, and delivered them naked to the furies of competition. Ten years turmoil and active emigration followed; and then the thin end of the wedge went in. The Income Tax was established; and the Factory Acts were made effective. The Income Tax (1842), which is on individualist principles an intolerable spoliative anomaly, is simply a forcible transfer of rent, interest, and even rent of ability, from private holders to the State without compensation. It excused itself to the Whigs on the ground that those who had most property for the State to protect should pay ad valorem for its protection. The Factory Acts swept the anarchic theory of the irresponsibility of private enterprise out of practical politics; made employers accountable to the State for the well-being of their employees; and transferred a further installment of profits directly to the worker by raising wages. Then came the gold discoveries in California (1847) and Australia (1851), and the period of leaps and bounds, supported by the economic rent of England's mineral fertility, which kindled Mr. Gladstone's retrogressive instincts to a vain hope of abolishing the Income Tax. These events relieved the pressure set up by the New Poor Law. The workers rapidly organized themselves in Trades Unions, which were denounced then for their tendency to sap the manly independence which had formerly characterized the British workman, and which are to-day held up to him as the self-helpful perfection of that manly independence. Howbeit, self-help flourished, especially at Manchester and Sheffield; State help was voted grandmotherly; wages went up; and the Unions, like the fly on the wheel, thought that they had raised them. They were mistaken; but the value of Trade Unionism in awakening the social conscience of the skilled workers was immense, though to this there was a heavy set-off in its tendency to destroy their artistic conscience by making them aware that it was their duty to one another to discourage rapid and efficient workmanship by every means in their power. An extension of the Franchise, which was really an installment of Democracy, and not, like the 1832 Reform Bill, only an advance toward it, was gained in 1867; and immediately afterward came another installment of Socialism in the shape of a further transfer of rent and interest from private holders to the State for the purpose of educating the people. In the meantime, the extraordinary success of the post office, which, according to the teaching of the Manchester school, should have been a nest of incompetence and jobbery, had not only shown the perfect efficiency of State enterprise when the officials are made responsible to the class interested in its success, but had also proved the enormous convenience and cheapness of socialistic or collective charges over those of private enterprise. For example, the Postmaster General charges a penny for sending a letter weighing an ounce from Kensington to Bayswater. Private enterprise would send half a pound the same distance for a farthing, and make a handsome profit on it. But the Postmaster General also sends an ounce letter from Land's End to John o' Groat's House for a penny. Private enterprise would probably demand at least a shilling, if not five, for such a service; and there are many places in which private enterprise could not on any terms maintain a post office. Therefore a citizen with ten letters to post saves considerably by the uniform socialistic charge, and quite recognizes the necessity for rigidly protecting the Postmaster's monopoly.
After 1875, leaping and bounding prosperity, after a final spurt during which the Income Tax fell to twopence, got out of breath, and has not yet recovered it. Russia and America, among other competitors, began to raise the margin of cultivation at a surprising rate. Education began to intensify the sense of suffering, and to throw light upon its causes in dark places. The capital needed to keep English industry abreast of the growing population began to be attracted by the leaping and bounding of foreign loans and investments, and to bring to England, in payment of interest, imports that were not paid for by exports—a phenomenon inexpressibly disconcerting to the Cobden Club. The old pressure of the eighteen-thirties came back again; and presently, as if Chartism and Fergus O'Connor had risen from the dead, the Democratic Federation and Mr. H. M. Hyndman appeared in the field, highly significant as signs of the times, and looming hideously magnified in the guilty eye of property, if not of great account as direct factors in the course of events. Numbers of young men, pupils of Mill, Spencer, Comte, and Darwin, roused by Mr. Henry George's Progress and Poverty, left aside evolution and freethought; took to insurrectionary economics; studied Karl Marx; and were so convinced that Socialism had only to be put clearly before the working-classes to concentrate the power of their immense numbers in one irresistible organization, that the Revolution was fixed for 1889—the anniversary of the French Revolution—at latest. I remember being asked satirically and publicly at that time how long I thought it would take to get Socialism into working order if I had my way. I replied, with a spirited modesty, that a fortnight would be ample for the purpose. When I add that I was frequently complimented on being one of the more reasonable Socialists, you will be able to appreciate the fervor of our conviction, and the extravagant levity of our practical ideas. The opposition we got was uninstructive: it was mainly founded on the assumption that our projects were theoretically unsound but immediately possible, whereas our weak point lay in the case being exactly the reverse. However, the ensuing years sifted and sobered us. "The Socialists," as they were called, have fallen into line as a Social Democratic party, no more insurrectionary in its policy than any other party. But I shall not present the remainder of the transition to Social Democracy as the work of fully conscious Social Democrats. I prefer to ignore them altogether—to suppose, if you will, that the Government will shortly follow the advice of the Saturday Review, and, for the sake of peace and quietness, hang them.
First, then, as to the consummation of Democracy. Since 1885 every man who pays four shillings a week rent can only be hindered from voting by anomalous conditions of registration which are likely to be swept away very shortly. This is all but manhood suffrage; and it will soon complete itself as adult suffrage. However, I may leave adult suffrage out of the question, because the outlawry of women, monstrous as it is, is not a question of class privilege, but of sex privilege. To complete the foundation of the democratic State, then, we need manhood suffrage, abolition of all poverty disqualifications, abolition of the House of Lords, public payment of candidature expenses, public payment of representatives, and annual elections. These changes are now inevitable, however unacceptable they may appear to those of us who are Conservatives. They have been for half a century the commonplaces of Radicalism. We have next to consider that the State is not merely an abstraction: it is a machine to do certain work; and if that work be increased and altered in its character, the machinery must be multiplied and altered too. Now, the extension of the franchise does increase and alter the work very considerably; but it has no direct effect on the machinery. At present the State machine has practically broken down under the strain of spreading democracy, the work being mainly local, and the machinery mainly central. Without efficient local machinery the replacing of private enterprise by State enterprise is out of the question; and we shall presently see that such replacement is one of the inevitable consequences of Democracy. A democratic State cannot become a Social-Democratic State unless it has in every center of population a local governing body as thoroughly democratic in its constitution as the central Parliament. This matter is also well in train. In 1888 a Government avowedly reactionary passed a Local Government Bill which effected a distinct advance toward the democratic municipality. It was furthermore a Bill with no single aspect of finality anywhere about it. Local Self-Government remains prominent within the sphere of practical politics. When it is achieved, the democratic State will have the machinery for Socialism.
And now, how is the raw material of Socialism—otherwise the Proletarian man—to be brought to the Democratic State machinery? Here again the path is easily found. Politicians who have no suspicion that they are Socialists, are advocating further installments of Socialism with a recklessness of indirect results which scandalizes the conscious Social Democrat. The phenomenon of economic rent has assumed prodigious proportions in our great cities. The injustice of its private appropriation is glaring, flagrant, almost ridiculous. In the long suburban roads about London, where rows of exactly similar houses stretch for miles countryward, the rent changes at every few thousand yards by exactly the amount saved or incurred annually in traveling to and from the householder's place of business. The seeker after lodgings, hesitating between Bloomsbury and Tottenham, finds every advantage of situation skimmed off by the landlord with scientific precision. As lease after lease falls in, houses, shops, goodwills of businesses which are the fruits of the labor of lifetimes, fall into the maw of the ground landlord. Confiscation of capital, spoliation of households, annihilation of incentive, everything that the most ignorant and credulous fundholder ever charged against the Socialist, rages openly in London, which begins to ask itself whether it exists and toils only for the typical duke and his celebrated jockey and his famous racehorse. Lord Hobhouse and his unimpeachably respectable committee for the taxation of ground values are already in the field claiming the value of the site of London for London collectively; and their agitation receives additional momentum from every lease that falls in. Their case is unassailable; and the evil they attack is one that presses on the ratepaying and leaseholding classes as well as upon humbler sufferers. This economic pressure is reinforced formidably by political opinion in the workmen's associations. Here the moderate members are content to demand a progressive Income Tax, which is virtually Lord Hobhouse's proposal; and the extremists are all for Land Nationalization, which is again Lord Hobhouse's principle. The cry for such taxation cannot permanently be resisted. And it is very worthy of remark that there is a new note in the cry. Formerly taxes were proposed with a specific object—as to pay for a war, for education, or the like. Now the proposal is to tax the landlords in order to get some of our money back from them—take it from them first and find a use for it afterward. Ever since Mr. Henry George's book reached the English Radicals, there has been a growing disposition to impose a tax of twenty shillings in the pound on obviously unearned incomes: that is, to dump four hundred and fifty millions a year down on the Exchequer counter; and then retire with three cheers for the restoration of the land to the people.
The results of such a proceeding, if it actually came off, would considerably take its advocates aback. The streets would presently be filled with starving workers of all grades, domestic servants, coach builders, decorators, jewelers, lace-makers, fashionable professional men, and numberless others whose livelihood is at present gained by ministering to the wants of these and of the proprietary class. "This," they would cry, "is what your theories have brought us to! Back with the good old times, when we received our wages, which were at least better than nothing." Evidently the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have three courses open to him. (1.) He could give the money back again to the landlords and capitalists with an apology. (2.) He could attempt to start State industries with it for the employment of the people. (3.) Or he could simply distribute it among the unemployed. The last is not to be thought of: anything is better than panem et circenses. The second (starting State industries) would be far too vast an undertaking to get on foot soon enough to meet the urgent difficulty. The first (the return with an apology) would be a reductio ad absurdum of the whole affair—a confession that the private proprietor, for all his idleness and his voracity, is indeed performing an indispensable economic function—the function of capitalizing, however wastefully and viciously, the wealth which surpasses his necessarily limited power of immediate personal consumption. And here we have checkmate to mere Henry Georgeism, or State appropriation of rent without Socialism. It is easy to show that the State is entitled to the whole income of the Duke of Westminster, and to argue therefrom that he should straightway be taxed twenty shillings in the pound. But in practical earnest the State has no right to take five farthings of capital from the Duke or anybody else until it is ready to invest them in productive enterprise. The consequences of withdrawing capital from private hands merely to lock it up unproductively in the treasury would be so swift and ruinous, that no statesman, however fortified with the destructive resources of abstract economics, could persist in it. It will be found in the future as in the past that governments will raise money only because they want it for specific purposes, and not on a priori demonstrations that they have a right to it. But it must be added that when they do want it for a specific purpose, then, also in the future as in the past, they will raise it without the slightest regard to a priori demonstrations that they have no right to it.
Here then we have got to a dead lock. In spite of democrats and land nationalizers, rent cannot be touched unless some pressure from quite another quarter forces productive enterprise on the State. Such pressure is already forthcoming. The quick starvation of the unemployed, the slow starvation of the employed who have no relatively scarce special skill, the unbearable anxiety or dangerous recklessness of those who are employed to-day and unemployed to-morrow, the rise in urban rents, the screwing down of wages by pauper immigration and home multiplication, the hand-in-hand advance of education and discontent, are all working up to explosion point. It is useless to prove by statistics that most of the people are better off than before, true as that probably is, thanks to installments of Social Democracy. Yet even that is questionable; for it is idle to claim authority for statistics of things that have never been recorded. Chaos has no statistics: it has only statisticians; and the ablest of them prefaces his remarks on the increased consumption of rice by the admission that "no one can contemplate the present condition of the masses without desiring something like a revolution for the better." The masses themselves are being converted so rapidly to that view of the situation, that we have Pan-Anglican Synods, bewildered by a revival of Christianity, pleading that though Socialism is eminently Christian, yet "the Church must act safely as well as sublimely." During the agitation made by the unemployed last winter (1887-8), the Chief Commissioner of Police in London started at his own shadow, and mistook Mr. John Burns for the French Revolution, to the great delight of that genial and courageous champion of his class. The existence of the pressure is further shown by the number and variety of safety valves proposed to relieve it—monetization of silver, import duties, "leaseholds enfranchisement," extension of joint stock capitalism masquerading as coöperation, and other irrelevancies. My own sudden promotion from the street corner to this platform is in its way a sign of the times. But while we are pointing the moral and adorning the tale according to our various opinions, an actual struggle is beginning between the unemployed who demand work and the local authorities appointed to deal with the poor. In the winter, the unemployed collect round red flags, and listen to speeches for want of anything else to do. They welcome Socialism, insurrectionism, currency craze—anything that passes the time and seems to express the fact that they are hungry. The local authorities, equally innocent of studied economic views, deny that there is any misery; send leaders of deputations to the Local Government Board, who promptly send them back to the guardians; try bullying; try stoneyards; try bludgeoning; and finally sit down helplessly and wish it were summer again or the unemployed at the bottom of the sea. Meanwhile the charity fund, which is much less elastic than the wages fund, overflows at the Mansion House only to run dry at the permanent institutions. So unstable a state of things cannot last. The bludgeoning, and the shocking clamor for bloodshed from the anti-popular newspapers, will create a revulsion among the humane section of the middle class. The section which is blinded by class prejudice to all sense of social responsibility, dreads personal violence from the working class with a superstitious terror that defies enlightenment or control. Municipal employment must be offered at last. This cannot be done in one place alone: the rush from other parts of the country would swamp an isolated experiment. Wherever the pressure is, the relief must be given on the spot. And since public decency, as well as consideration for its higher officials, will prevent the County Council from instituting a working day of sixteen hours at a wage of a penny an hour or less, it will soon have on its hands not only the unemployed, but also the white slaves of the sweater, who will escape from their dens and appeal to the municipality for work the moment they become aware that municipal employment is better than private sweating. Nay, the sweater himself, a mere slave driver paid "by the piece," will in many instances be as anxious as his victims to escape from his hideous trade. But the municipal organization of the industry of these people will require capital. Where is the municipality to get it? Raising the rates is out of the question: the ordinary tradesmen and householders are already rated and rented to the limit of endurance: further burdens would almost bring them into the street with a red flag. Dreadful dilemma! in which the County Council, between the devil and the deep sea, will hear Lord Hobhouse singing a song of deliverance, telling a golden tale of ground values to be municipalized by taxation. The land nationalizers will swell the chorus: the Radical progressive income taxers singing together, and the ratepaying tenants shouting for joy. The capital difficulty thus solved—for we need not seriously anticipate that the landlords will actually fight, as our President once threatened—the question of acquiring land will arise. The nationalizers will declare for its annexation by the municipality without compensation; but that will be rejected as spoliation, worthy only of revolutionary Socialists. The no-compensation cry is indeed a piece of unpractical catastrophic insurrectionism; for while compensation would be unnecessary and absurd if every proprietor were expropriated simultaneously, and the proprietary system at once replaced by full blown Socialism, yet when it is necessary to proceed by degrees, the denial of compensation would have the effect of singling out individual proprietors for expropriation while the others remained unmolested, and depriving them of their private means long before there was suitable municipal employment ready for them. The land, as it is required, will, therefore, be honestly purchased; and the purchase money, or the interest thereon, will be procured, like the capital, by taxing rent. Of course this will be at bottom an act of expropriation just as much as the collection of Income Tax to-day is an act of expropriation. As such, it will be denounced by the landlords as merely a committing of the newest sin the oldest kind of way. In effect, they will be compelled at each purchase to buy out one of their body and present his land to the municipality, thereby distributing the loss fairly over their whole class, instead of placing it on one man who is no more responsible than the rest. But they will be compelled to do this in a manner that will satisfy the moral sense of the ordinary citizen as effectively as that of the skilled economist.
We now foresee our municipality equipped with land and capital for industrial purposes. At first they will naturally extend the industries they already carry on, road making, gas-works, tramways, building, and the like. It is probable that they will for the most part regard their action as a mere device to meet a passing emergency. The Manchester School will urge its Protectionist theories as to the exemption of private enterprise from the competition of public enterprise, in one supreme effort to practice for the last time on popular ignorance of the science which it has consistently striven to debase and stultify. For a while the proprietary party will succeed in hampering and restricting municipal enterprise; in attaching the stigma of pauperism to its service; in keeping the lot of its laborers as nearly as possible down to private competition level in point of hard work and low wages. But its power will be broken by the disappearance of that general necessity for keeping down the rates which now hardens local authority to humane appeals. The luxury of being generous at someone else's expense will be irresistible. The ground landlord will be the municipal milch cow; and the ordinary ratepayers will feel the advantage of sleeping in peace, relieved at once from the fear of increased burdens and of having their windows broken and their premises looted by hungry mobs, nuclei of all the socialism and scoundrelism of the city. They will have just as much remorse in making the landlord pay as the landlord has had in making them pay—just as much and no more. And as the municipality becomes more democratic, it will find landlordism losing power, not only relatively to democracy, but absolutely.
The ordinary ratepayer, however, will not remain unaffected for long. At the very outset of the new extension of municipal industries, the question of wage will arise. A minimum wage must be fixed; and though at first, to avoid an overwhelming rush of applicants for employment, it must be made too small to tempt any decently employed laborer to forsake his place and run to the municipality, still, it will not be the frankly infernal competition wage. It will be, like medieval wages, fixed with at least some reference to public opinion as to a becoming standard of comfort. Over and above this, the municipality will have to pay to its organizers, managers, and incidentally necessary skilled workers the full market price of their ability, minus only what the superior prestige and permanence of public employment may induce them to accept. But while these high salaries will make no more disturbance in the labor market than the establishment of a new joint stock company would, the minimum wage for laborers will affect that market perceptibly. The worst sort of sweaters will find that if they are to keep their "hands," they must treat them at least as well as the municipality. The consequent advance in wage will swallow up the sweater's narrow margin of profit. Hence the sweater must raise the price per piece against the shops and wholesale houses for which he sweats. This again will diminish the profits of the wholesale dealers and shopkeepers, who will not be able to recover this loss by raising the price of their wares against the public, since, had any such step been possible, they would have taken it before. But fortunately for them, the market value of their ability as men of business is fixed by the same laws that govern the prices of commodities. Just as the sweater is worth his profit, so they are worth their profit; and just as the sweater will be able to exact from them his old remuneration in spite of the advance in wages, so they will be able to exact their old remuneration in spite of the advance in sweaters' terms. But from whom, it will be asked, if not from the public by raising the price of the wares? Evidently from the landlord upon whose land they are organizing production. In other words, they will demand and obtain a reduction of rent. Thus the organizer of industry, the employer pure and simple, the entrepreneur, as he is often called in economic treatises nowadays, will not suffer. In the division of the product his share will remain constant; while the industrious wage worker's share will be increased, and the idle proprietor's share diminished. This will not adjust itself without friction and clamor; but such friction is constantly going on under the present system in the opposite direction, i.e., by the raising of the proprietor's share at the expense of the worker's.
The contraction of landlords' incomes will necessarily diminish the revenue from taxation on such incomes. Let us suppose that the municipality, to maintain its revenue, puts on an additional penny in the pound. The effect will be to burn the landlord's candle at both ends—obviously not a process that can be continued to infinity. But long before taxation fails as a source of municipal capital, the municipalities will have begun to save capital out of the product of their own industries. In the market the competition of those industries with the private concerns will be irresistible. Unsaddled with a single idle person, and having, therefore, nothing to provide for after paying their employees except extension of capital, they will be able to offer wages that no business burdened with the unproductive consumption of an idle landlord or shareholder could afford, unless it yielded a heavy rent in consequence of some marked advantage of site. But even rents, when they are town rents, are at the mercy of a municipality in the long run. The masters of the streets and the traffic can nurse one site and neglect another. The rent of a shop depends on the number of persons passing its windows per hour. A skillfully timed series of experiments in paving, a new bridge, a tramway service, a barracks, or a small-pox hospital are only a few of the circumstances of which city rents are the creatures. The power of the municipality to control these circumstances is as obvious as the impotence of competing private individuals. Again, competing private individuals are compelled to sell their produce at a price equivalent to the full cost of production at the margin of cultivation. The municipality could compete against them by reducing prices to the average cost of production over the whole area of municipal cultivation. The more favorably situated private concerns could only meet this by ceasing to pay rent: the less favorably situated would succumb without remedy. It would be either stalemate or checkmate. Private property would either become barren, or it would yield to the actual cultivator of average ability no better an income than could be obtained more securely in municipal employment. To the mere proprietor it would yield nothing. Eventually the land and industry of the whole town would pass by the spontaneous action of economic forces into the hands of the municipality; and, so far, the problem of socializing industry would be solved.
Private property, by cheapening the laborer to the utmost in order to get the greater surplus out of him, lowers the margin of human cultivation, and so raises the "rent of ability." The most important form of that rent is the profit of industrial management. The gains of a great portrait painter or fashionable physician are much less significant, since these depend entirely on the existence of a very rich class of patrons subject to acute vanity and hypochondriasis. But the industrial organizer is independent of patrons: instead of merely attracting a larger share of the product of industry to himself, he increases the product by his management. The market price of such ability depends upon the relation of the supply to the demand: the more there is of it the cheaper it is: the less, the dearer. Any cause that increases the supply lowers the price. Now it is evident that since a manager must be a man of education and address, it is useless to look ordinarily to the laboring class for a supply of managerial skill. Not one laborer in a million succeeds in raising himself on the shoulders of his fellows by extraordinary gifts, or extraordinary luck, or both. The managers must be drawn from the classes which enjoy education and social culture; and their price, rapidly as it is falling with the spread of education and the consequent growth of the "intellectual proletariat," is still high. It is true that a very able and highly trained manager can now be obtained for about £800 a year, provided his post does not compel him to spend two-thirds of his income on what is called "keeping up his position," instead of on his own gratification. Still, when it is considered that laborers receive less than £50 a year, and that the demand for laborers is necessarily vast in proportion to the demand for able managers—nay, that there is an inverse ratio between them, since the manager's talent is valuable in proportion to the quantity of labor he can organize—it will be admitted that £800 a year represents an immense rent of ability. But if the education and culture which are a practically indispensable part of the equipment of competitors for such posts were enjoyed by millions instead of thousands, that rent would fall considerably. Now the tendency of private property is to keep the masses mere beasts of burden. The tendency of Social Democracy is to educate them—to make men of them. Social Democracy would not long be saddled with the rents of ability which have during the last century made our born captains of industry our masters and tyrants instead of our servants and leaders. It is even conceivable that rent of managerial ability might in course of time become negative, astonishing as that may seem to the many persons who are by this time so hopelessly confused amid existing anomalies, that the proposition that "whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all," strikes them rather as a Utopian paradox than as the most obvious and inevitable of social arrangements. The fall in the rent of ability will, however, benefit not only the municipality, but also its remaining private competitors. Nevertheless, as the prestige of the municipality grows, and as men see more and more clearly that the future is to it, able organizers will take lower salaries for municipal than for private employment; while those who can beat even the municipality at organizing, or who, as professional men, can deal personally with the public without the intervention of industrial organization, will pay the rent of their places of business either directly to the municipality, or to the private landlord whose income the municipality will absorb by taxation. Finally, when rents of ability had reached their irreducible natural level, they could be dealt with by a progressive Income Tax in the very improbable case of their proving a serious social inconvenience.
It is not necessary to go further into the economic detail of the process of the extinction of private property. Much of that process as sketched here may be anticipated by sections of the proprietary class successively capitulating, as the net closes about their special interests, on such terms as they may be able to stand out for before their power is entirely broken.
We may also safely neglect for the moment the question of the development of the House of Commons into the central government which will be the organ for federating the municipalities, and nationalizing inter-municipal rents by an adjustment of the municipal contributions to imperial taxation: in short, for discharging national as distinct from local business. One can see that the Local Government Board of the future will be a tremendous affair; that foreign States will be deeply affected by the reaction of English progress; that international trade, always the really dominant factor in foreign policy, will have to be reconsidered from a new point of view when profit comes to be calculated in terms of net social welfare instead of individual pecuniary gain; that our present system of imperial aggression, in which, under pretext of exploration and colonization, the flag follows the filibuster and trade follows the flag, with the missionary bringing up the rear, must collapse when the control of our military forces passes from the capitalist class to the people; that the disappearance of a variety of classes with a variety of what are now ridiculously called "public opinions" will be accompanied by the welding of society into one class with a public opinion of inconceivable weight; that this public opinion will make it for the first time possible effectively to control the population; that the economic independence of women, and the supplanting of the head of the household by the individual as the recognized unit of the State, will materially alter the status of children and the utility of the institution of the family; and that the inevitable reconstitution of the State Church on a democratic basis may, for example, open up the possibility of the election of an avowed Freethinker like Mr. John Morley or Mr. Bradlaugh to the deanery of Westminster. All these things are mentioned only for the sake of a glimpse of the fertile fields of thought and action which await us when the settlement of our bread and butter question leaves us free to use and develop our higher faculties.
This, then, is the humdrum program of the practical Social Democrat to-day. There is not one new item in it. All are applications of principles already admitted, and extensions of practices already in full activity. All have on them that stamp of the vestry which is so congenial to the British mind. None of them compel the use of the words Socialism or Revolution: at no point do they involve guillotining, declaring the Rights of Man, swearing on the altar of the country, or anything else that is supposed to be essentially un-English. And they are all sure to come—landmarks on our course already visible to far-sighted politicians even of the party which dreads them.
Let me, in conclusion, disavow all admiration for this inevitable, but sordid, slow, reluctant, cowardly path to justice. I venture to claim your respect for those enthusiasts who still refuse to believe that millions of their fellow creatures must be left to sweat and suffer in hopeless toil and degradation, while parliaments and vestries grudgingly muddle and grope toward paltry installments of betterment. The right is so clear, the wrong so intolerable, the gospel so convincing, that it seems to them that it must be possible to enlist the whole body of workers—soldiers, policemen, and all—under the banner of brotherhood and equality; and at one great stroke to set Justice on her rightful throne. Unfortunately, such an army of light is no more to be gathered from the human product of nineteenth century civilization than grapes are to be gathered from thistles. But if we feel glad of that impossibility; if we feel relieved that the change is to be slow enough to avert personal risk to ourselves; if we feel anything less than acute disappointment and bitter humiliation at the discovery that there is yet between us and the promised land a wilderness in which many must perish miserably of want and despair: then I submit to you that our institutions have corrupted us to the most dastardly degree of selfishness. The Socialists need not be ashamed of beginning as they did by proposing militant organization of the working classes and general insurrection. The proposal proved impracticable; and it has now been abandoned—not without some outspoken regrets—by English Socialists. But it still remains as the only finally possible alternative to the Social Democratic program which I have sketched to-day.
by Hubert Bland
MR. WEBB'S historical review brought us from the "break up of the old synthesis" (his own phrase), a social system founded on a basis of religion, a common belief in a divine order, to the point where perplexed politicians, recognizing the futility of the principle of Individualism to keep the industrial machine in working order, with "freedom of contract" upon their lips spent their nights in passing Factory Acts, and devoted their fiscal ingenuity to cutting slice after slice off incomes derived from rent and interest. His paper was an inductive demonstration of the failure of anarchy to meet the needs of real concrete men and women—a proof from history that the world moves from system, through disorder, back again to system.
Mr. Clarke showed us, also by the historic method, that given a few more years of economic progress on present lines, and we shall reach, via the Ring and the Trust, that period of "well defined confrontation of rich and poor" upon which German thought has settled as the brief stage of sociological evolution immediately preceding organic change.
The truth of this postulate of Teutonic philosophers and economists no one who has given to it a moment's serious thought is likely to call in question. Nor does anyone who has followed the argument developed in these lectures believe that the transition from mitigated individualism to full collectivity can be made until the capitalist system has worked itself out to its last logical expression. Till then, no political or social upheaval, however violent, nay, even though the "physical force revolutionists" should chase the Guards helter-skelter down Parliament Street and the Executive Committee of the Fabian Society hold its meetings in the Council Chamber of Windsor Castle, will be anything more than one of those "transient riots," spoken of by Mrs. Besant, which "merely upset thrones and behead monarchs." All sociologists I think, all Socialists I am sure, are agreed that until the economic moment has arrived, although the hungry or the ignorant may kick up a dust in Whitechapel and make a bloody puddle in Trafalgar Square, the Social Revolution is impossible. But I, for my part, do not believe in the even temporary rout of the Household Brigade, nor indeed in any popular outbreak not easily suppressible by the Metropolitan police; and I shall waste no time in discussing that solution of the social problem of which more was heard in the salad days of the English Socialist movement—in its pre-Fabian era—than now, viz., physical force employed by a vigorous few. The physical force man, like the privileged Tory, has failed to take note of the flux of things, and to recognize the change brought about by the ballot. Under a lodger franchise the barricade is the last resort of a small and desperate minority, a frank confession of despair, a reduction to absurdity of the whole Socialist case. Revolutionary heroics, natural and unblameable enough in exuberant puerility, are imbecile babblement in muscular adolescence, and in manhood would be criminal folly.
Let us assume then that the present economic progress will continue on its present lines. That machinery will go on replacing hand labor; that the joint stock company will absorb the private firm, to be, in its turn, swallowed up in the Ring and the Trust. That thus the smaller producers and distributors will gradually, but at a constantly increasing pace, be squeezed out and reduced to the condition of employees of great industrial and trade corporations, managed by highly skilled captains of industry, in the interests of idle shareholders.
In a Parliamentarian State like ours, the economic cleavage, which divides the proprietors from the propertyless, ever growing wider and more clearly defined, must have its analogue in the world of politics. The revolution of the last century, which ended in the installation of the Grand Industry, was the last of the great unconscious world changes. It was helped by legislation of course; but the help was only of the negative and destructive sort. "Break our fetters and let us alone," was the cry of the revolutionists to Parliament. The law-makers, not knowing quite what they were doing, responded, and then blythely contracted debts, and voted money for commercial wars. Such a sight will never be seen again. The repeated extension of the suffrage has done more than make the industrial masses articulate, it has given them consciousness; and for the future the echo of the voices of those who suffer from economic changes will be heard clamoring for relief within the walls of St. Stephen's and the urban guildhalls.
Thus the coming struggle between "haves" and "have nots" will be a conflict of parties each perfectly conscious of what it is fighting about and fully alive to the life and death importance of the issues at stake.
I say "will be;" for one has only to read a few speeches of political leaders or attend a discussion at a workman's club to be convinced that at present it is only the keener and more alert minds on either side which are more than semi-conscious of the true nature of the campaign of which the first shots may even now be heard at every bye-election.
But as nothing makes one so entirely aware of one's own existence as a sharp spasm of pain; so it is to the suffering—the hunger, the despair of to-morrow's dinner, the anxiety about the next new pair of trowsers—wrought by the increasing economic pressure upon the enfranchised and educated proletariat that we must look to awaken that free self-consciousness which will give the economic changes political expression, and enable the worker to make practical use of the political weapons which are his.
The outlook then from the point of view of this paper is a political one—one in which we should expect to see the world political gradually becoming a reflex of the world economic. That political should be slow in coming into line with economic facts is only in accordance with all that the past history of our country has to teach us. For years and decades the squirearchy retained an influence in the House of Commons out of all proportion to its potency as an economic force; and even at this moment the "landed interest" bears a much larger part in lawmaking than that to which its real importance entitles it. Therefore we must be neither surprised nor dispirited if, in a cold-blooded envisagement of the condition of English parties, the truth is borne in upon us that the pace of political progress has no proper relation to the rate at which we are traveling toward Socialism in the spheres of thought and industry.
This fact is probably—nay almost certainly—very much more patent to the Socialist and the political student than to the man in the street, or even to him of the first class railway carriage. The noisy jubilation of the Radical press over the victory of a Home Ruler at a bye election, at a brief and vague reference to the "homes of the people" in a two hours' speech from a Liberal leader, or at the insertion of a "social" plank in a new annual program, is well and cleverly calculated to beguile the ardent democrat, and strike cold terror to the heart of the timorous Tory. But a perfectly impartial analysis of the present state of parties will convince the most sanguine that the breath of the great economic changes dealt with in Mr. Clarke's paper has as yet scarcely ruffled the surface of the House of Commons.
When the syllabus of this course of lectures was drawn up, those who were responsible for it suggested as the first sub-heading of this paper, the well worn phrase, "The disappearance of the Whig." It is a happy expression, and one from the contemplation of which much comfort may be derived by an optimistic and unanalytical temperament. Printed are at this disadvantage compared with spoken words, they fail to convey the nicer nuances of meaning bestowed by tone and emphasis; and thus the word "disappearance" meets the eye, carrying with it no slightest suggestion of irony. Yet the phrase is pointless, if not "meant surcarstic;" for so far is the Whig from "disappearing," that he is the great political fact of the day. To persons deafened by the daily democratic shouting of the Radical newspapers this assertion may require some confirmation and support. Let us look at the facts then. The first thing which strikes us in connection with the present Parliament is that it no longer consists of two distinct parties, i.e., of two bodies of men, differentiated from each other by the holding of fundamentally different principles. Home Rule left out, there remains no reason whatever, except the quite minor question of Disestablishment, why even the simulacrum of party organization should be maintained, or why the structural arrangements of the House of Commons should not be so altered as to resemble those of a town hall, in which all the seats face the chair.
But fifty years ago the floor of the House was a frontier of genuine significance; and the titles "Whig" and "Tory" were word-symbols of real inward and spiritual facts. The Tory party was mostly made up of men who were conscientiously opposed to popular representation, and prepared to stand or fall by their opposition. They held, as a living political creed, that the government of men was the eternal heritage of the rich, and especially of those whose riches spelled rent. The Whigs, on the other hand, believed, or said they believed, in the aphorism "Vox populi, vox Dei;" and they, on the whole, consistently advocated measures designed to give that voice a distincter and louder utterance. Here, then, was one of those fundamental differences in the absence of which party nomenclature is a sham. But there was another. In the first half of this century the Tories, hidebound in historic traditions and deaf to the knell of the old régime tolling in the thud, thud, of the piston rods of the new steam engines, clung pathetically to the old ideas of the functions of the State and to territorial rights. The Whigs went for laissez faire and the consequent supremacy of the business man. I am making a perfectly provable proposition when I say that all the political disputes which arose between the Revolution of 1688 and the enfranchisement of the £10 householder by Disraeli had their common cause in one of these two root differences. But the battle has long ago been lost and won. The Whigs have triumphed all along the line. The Tories have not only been beaten, they have been absorbed. A process has gone on like that described by Macaulay as following on the Norman invasion, when men gradually ceased to call themselves Saxon and Norman and proudly boasted of being English. The difference in the case before us is that while the Tories have accepted the whole of the Whig principles they still abjure the Whig name.
No so-called Conservative to-day will venture on opposing an extension of the Franchise on the plain ground of principle. At most he will but temporize and plead for delay. No blush of conscious inconsistency suffused Mr. Ritchie's swarthy features when introducing his "frankly democratic" Local Government Bill. And rightly not; for he was doing no violence to party principles.
In the matter of the functions of the State the absorption of the Tory is not quite so obvious, because there never has been, and, as long as Society lasts, never can be, a parti sérieux of logical laissez faire. Even in the thick of the Industrial Revolution the difference between the two great parties was mainly one of tendency—of attitude of mind. The Tory had a certain affection for the State—a natural self-love: the Whig distrusted it. This distrust is now the sentiment of the whole of our public men. They see, some of them perhaps more clearly than others, that there is much the State must do; but they all wish that much to be as little as possible. Even when, driven by an irresistible force which they feel but do not understand (which none but the Socialist does or can understand), they bring forward measures for increasing the power of the whole over the part, their arguments are always suffused in a sickly halo of apology: their gestures are always those of timorous deprecation and fretful diffidence. They are always nervously anxious to explain that the proposal violates no principle of political economy, and with them political economy means, not Professor Sidgwick, but Adam Smith.
The reason why this unanimity of all prominent politicians on great fundamental principles is not manifest to the mind of the average man is that, although there is nothing left to get hot or even moderately warm about, the political temperature is as high as ever. It is not in the dust of the arena, but only in the repose of the auditorium that one is able to realize that men will fight as fiercely and clapperclaw each other as spitefully over a dry bone as over a living principle. One has to stand aside awhile to see that politicians are like the theological controversialists of whom Professor Seeley somewhere says that they never get so angry with each other as when their differences are almost imperceptible, except perhaps when they are quite so.
Both the efficient and the final cause of this unanimity is a sort of unconscious or semi-conscious recognition of the fact that the word "State" has taken to itself new and diverse connotations—that the State idea has changed its content. Whatever State control may have meant fifty years ago it never meant hostility to private property as such. Now, for us, and for as far ahead as we can see, it means that and little else. So long as the State interfered with the private property and powers of one set of proprietors with a view only to increasing those of another, the existence of parties for and against such interference was a necessity of the case. A duty on foreign corn meant the keeping up of incomes drawn from rent: its abolition meant a rise of manufacturers' profits. "Free Trade" swelled the purses of the new bourgeoisie: the Factory Acts depleted them, and gave a sweet revenge to the rentdocked squire. But of this manipulation of the legislative machine for proprietors' purposes we are at, or at least in sight of, the end. The State has grown bigger by an immense aggregation of units, who were once to all intents and purposes separate from it; and now its action generally points not to a readjustment of private property and privileges as between class and class, but to their complete disappearance. So then the instinct which is welding together the propertied politicians is truly self-preservative.
But, it may be asked by the bewildered Radical, by the tremulous Conservative, by the optimistic Socialist, if the political leaders are really opposed to State augmentation, how comes it that every new measure of reform introduced into the House of Commons is more or less colored with Socialism, and that no popular speaker will venture to address a public meeting without making some reference of a socialistic sort to the social problem? Why, for instance, does that extremely well oiled and accurately poised political weathercock, Sir William Harcourt, pointing to the dawn, crow out that "we are all Socialists now?"
To these questions (and I have not invented them) I answer: in the first place because the opposition of the political leaders is instinctive, and only, as yet, semi-conscious, even in the most hypocritical; in the second place, that a good deal of the legislative Socialism appears more in words than in deeds; in the third place that the famous flourish of Sir William Harcourt was a rhetorical falsehood; and fourthly, because, fortunately for the progress of mankind, self-preservative instincts are not peculiar to the propertied classes.
For it is largely instinctive and wholly self preservative, this change in the position of the working people toward the State—this change by which, from fearing it as an actual enemy, they have come to look to it as a potential savior. I know that this assertion will be violently denied by many of my Socialist brethren. The fly on the wheel, not unnaturally, feels wounded at being told that he is, after all, not the motive power; and the igniferous orators of the Socialist party are welcome, so far as I am concerned, to all the comfort they can get from imagining that they, and not any great, blind, evolutionary forces are the dynamic of the social revolution. Besides, the metaphor of the fly really does not run on all fours (I forget, for the moment, how many legs a fly has); for the Socialist does at least know in what direction the car is going, even though he is not the driving force. Yet it seems to me that the part being, and to be, played by the Socialist, is notable enough in all conscience; for it is he who is turning instinct into self conscious reason; voicing a dumb demand; and giving intelligent direction to a thought wave of terrific potency.
There is a true cleavage being slowly driven through the body politic; but the wedge is still beneath the surface. The signs of its workings are not to be found in the reactionary measures of pseudo reform advocated by many prominent politicians; in the really Socialist proposals of some of the obscurer men; in the growing distaste of the political club man for a purely political pabulum; and in the receptive attitude of a certain portion of the cultivated middle class toward the outpourings of the Fabian Society.
This conscious recognition of the meaning of modern tendencies, this defining of the new line of cleavage, while it is the well-spring of most of the Socialist hopes, is no less the source of some lively fear. At present it is only the acuter and more far seeing of the minds among the propertied classes who are at all alive to the real nature of the attack. One has but to listen to the chatter of the average Liberal candidate to note how hopelessly blind the man is to the fact that the existence of private property in the means of production forms any factor at all in the social problem; and what is true of the rank and file is true only in a less degree of the chiefs themselves. Ignorance of economics and inability to shake their minds free of eighteenth century political philosophy at present hinders the leaders of the "party of progress" from taking up a definite position either for or against the advance of the new ideas. The number of English statesmen who, like Prince Bismarck, see in Socialism a swelling tide whose oceanic rush must be broken by timely legislative break-waters, is still only to be expressed by a minus quantity. But this political myopia is not destined to endure. Every additional vote cast for avowed Socialist candidates at municipal and other elections will help to bring home to the minds of the Liberals that the section of the new democracy which regards the ballot merely as a war-engine with which to attack capitalism is a growing one. At last our Liberal will be face to face with a logical but irritating choice. Either to throw over private capital or frankly to acknowledge that it is a distinction without a difference which separates him from the Conservatives against whom he has for years been fulminating.
At first sight it looks as though this political moment in the history of the Liberal party would be one eminently auspicious for the Socialist cause. But although I have a lively faith in the victory of logic in the long run, I have an equally vivid knowledge that to assure the triumph the run must be a very long one; and above all I have a profound respect for the staying powers of politicians, and their ability to play a waiting game. It is one thing to offer a statesman the choice of one of two logical courses; it is another to prevent his seeing a third, and an illogical one, and going for it. Such prevention in the present case will be so difficult as to be well nigh impossible; for the Liberal hand still holds a strong suit—the cards political.
It is quite certain that the social program of our party will become a great fact long before all the purely political proposals of the Liberals have received the Royal assent; and the game of the politician will be to hinder the adoption of the former by noisily hustling forward the latter. Unfortunately for us it will be an easy enough game to play. The scent of the non-Socialist politician for political red herrings is keen, and his appetite for political Dead Sea fruit prodigious. The number of "blessed words," the mere sound of which carries content to his soul, would fill a whole page. In an age of self-seeking his pathetic self-abnegation would be refreshing were it not so desperately silly. The young artisan on five-and-twenty shillings a week, who with his wife and children occupies two rooms in "a model," and who is about as likely to become a Lama as a leaseholder, will shout himself hoarse over Leaseholds Enfranchisement, and sweat great drops of indignation at the plunder of rich West End tradesmen by rich West End landlords. The "out of work," whose last shirt is in pawn, will risk his skull's integrity in Trafalgar Square in defense of Mr. O'Brien's claim to dress in jail like a gentleman.
Of course all this is very touching: indeed, to be quite serious, it indicates a nobility of character and breadth of human sympathy in which lies our hope of social salvation. But its infinite potentiality must not blind us to the fact that in its actuality the dodgy Liberal will see his chance of the indefinite postponement of the socializing of politics. Manhood suffrage, Female suffrage, the woes of deceased wives' sisters, the social ambition of dissenting ministers, the legal obstacles to the "free" acquirement of landed property, home rule for "dear old Scotland" and "neglected little Wales," extraordinary tithes, reform of the House of Lords: all these and any number of other obstacles may be successfully thrown in the way of the forward march of the Socialist army. And the worst of it all is that in a great part of his obstructive tactics the Liberal will have us on the hip; for to out-and-out democratization we are fully pledged, and must needs back up any attack on hereditary or class privilege, come it from what quarter it may.
But, to get back to our metaphor of the card table (a metaphor much more applicable to the games of political men), the political suit does not exhaust the Liberal hand. There still remains a card to play—a veritable trump. Sham Socialism is the name of it, and Mr. John Morley the man to plank it down.
I have said above that the trend of things to Socialism is best shown by the changed attitude of men toward State interference and control; and this is true. Still it must not be forgotten that although Socialism involves State control, State control does not imply Socialism—at least in any modern meaning of the term. It is not so much to the thing the State does, as to the end for which it does it that we must look before we can decide whether it is a Socialist State or not. Socialism is the common holding of the means of production and exchange, and the holding of them for the equal benefit of all. In view of the tone now being adopted by some of us I cannot too strongly insist upon the importance of this distinction; for the losing sight of it by friends, and its intentional obscuration by enemies, constitute a big and immediate danger. To bring forward sixpenny telegrams as an instance of State Socialism may be a very good method of scoring a point off an individualist opponent in a debate before a middle-class audience; but from the standpoint of the proletariat a piece of State management which spares the pockets only of the commercial and leisured classes is no more Socialism than were the droits de seigneur of the middle ages. Yet this is the sort of sham Socialism which it is as certain as death will be doled out by the popular party in the hope that mere State action will be mistaken for really Socialist legislation. And the object of these givers of Greek gifts will most infallibly be attained if those Socialists who know what they want hesitate (from fear of losing popularity, or from any more amiable weakness) to clamor their loudest against any and every proposal whose adoption would prolong the life of private Capital a single hour.
But leaving sham Socialism altogether out of account, there are other planks in the Liberal "and Radical" program which would make stubborn barriers in the paths of the destroyers of private capital. Should, for instance, Church disestablishment come upon us while the personnel of the House of Commons is at all like what it is at present, few things are more certain than that a good deal of what is now essentially collective property will pass into private hands; that the number of individuals interested in upholding ownership will be increased; and that the only feelings gratified will be the acquisitiveness of these persons and the envy of Little Bethel.
Again, the general state of mind of the Radical on the land question is hardly such as to make a Socialist hilarious. It is true your "progressive" will cheer Henry George, and is sympathetically inclined to nationalization (itself a "blessed word"); but he is not at all sure that nationalization, free land, and peasant proprietorship, are not three names for one and the same proposal. And, so far as the effective members of the Liberal party are concerned, there is no question at all that the second and third of these "solutions" find much more favor than the first. In fact, in this matter of the land, the method of dealing with which is of the very propædeutics of Socialism, the Radical who goes for "free sale" or for peasant ownership, is a less potent revolutionary force than the Tory himself; for this latter only seeks to maintain in land the state of things which the Ring and Trust maker is working to bring about in capital —and on the part which he is playing in economic evolution we are all agreed.
From such dangers as these the progress of democracy is, by itself, powerless to save us; for although always and everywhere democracy holds Socialism in its womb, the birth may be indefinitely delayed by stupidity on one side and acuteness on the other.
I have gone at some length into an analysis of the possible artificial hindrances to Socialism, because, owing to the amiability and politeness shown us by the Radical left wing during the last twelve months; to the successes which Radical votes have given to some of our candidates at School Board and other elections; and to the friendly patronage bestowed upon us by certain "advanced" journals, some of our brightest, and otherwise most clear-sighted, spirits have begun to base high hopes upon what they call "the permeation" of the Liberal party. These of our brothers have a way of telling us that the transition to Socialism will be so gradual as to be imperceptible, and that there will never come a day when we shall be able to say "now we have a Socialist State." They are fond of likening the simpler among us who disagree with them as to the extreme protraction of the process, to children who having been told that when it rains a cloud falls, look disappointedly out of the window on a wet day, unconscious that the cloud is falling before their eyes in the shape of drops of water. To these cautious souls I reply that although there is much truth in their contention that the process will be gradual, we shall be able to say that we have a Socialist State on the day on which no man or group of men holds, over the means of production, property rights by which the labor of the producers can be subjected to exploitation; and that while their picturesque metaphor is a happy as well as a poetic conceit, it depends upon the political acumen of the present and next generation of Socialist men whether the "cloud" shall fall in refreshing Socialist showers or in a dreary drizzle of Radicalism, bringing with it more smuts than water, fouling everything and cleansing nowhere.
This permeation of the Radical Left, undoubted fact though it is of present day politics, is worth a little further attention; for there are two possible and tenable views as to its final outcome. One is that it will end in the slow absorption of the Socialist in the Liberal party, and that by the action of this sponge-like organism the whole of the Rent and Interest will pass into collective control without there ever having been a party definitely and openly pledged to that end. According to this theory there will come a time, and that shortly, when the avowed Socialists and the much socialized Radicals will be strong enough to hold the balance in many constituencies, and sufficiently powerful in all to drive the advanced candidate many pegs further than his own inclination would take him. Then, either by abstention or by actual support of the reactionary champion at elections, they will be able to threaten the Liberals with certain defeat. The Liberals, being traditionally squeezable folk (like all absorbent bodies), will thus be forced to make concessions and to offer compromises; and will either adopt a certain minimum number of the Socialistic proposals, or allow to Socialists a share in the representation itself. Such concessions and compromises will grow in number and importance with each successive appeal to the electorate, until at last the game is won.
Now it seems to me that these hopefuls allow their desires to distort their reason. The personal equation plays too large a part in the prophecy. They are generally either not yet wholly socialized Radicals or Socialists who have quite recently broken away from mere political Radicalism and are still largely under the influence of party ties and traditions. They find it almost impossible to believe that the party with which they acted so long, so conscientiously, and with so much satisfaction to themselves, is, after all, not the party to which belongs the future. They are in many cases on terms of intimate private friendship with some of the lesser lights of Radicalism, and occasionally bask in the patronizing radiance shed by the larger luminaries. A certain portion of the "advanced" press is open to them for the expression of their views political. Of course none of these considerations are at all to their discredit, or reflect in the very least upon their motives or sincerity; but they do color their judgment and cause them to reckon without their host. They are a little apt to forget that a good deal of the democratic program has yet (as I have said above) to be carried. Manhood suffrage, the abolition of the Lords, disestablishment, the payment of members: all these may be, and are, quite logically desired by men who cling as pertinaciously to private capital as the doughtiest knight of the Primrose League. Such men regard the vital articles of the Socialist creed as lying altogether outside the concrete world—"the sphere of practical politics." Meanwhile the Socialist votes and voices are well within that sphere; and it is every day becoming more evident that without them the above-mentioned aspirations have a meager chance of realization. Now, from the eminently business-like Liberal standpoint there is no reason whatever why concessions should not be made to the Socialist at the polling booth so long as none are asked for in the House of Commons. And even when they are demanded, what easier than to make some burning political question play the part which Home Rule is playing now? Thus an endless vista of office opens before the glowing eyes of the practical politician—those short-sighted eyes which see so little beyond the nose, and which, at that distance only, enable their owner to hit the white.
The Radical is right as usual in counting on the Socialist alliance up to a certain point. For us the complete democratization of institutions is a political necessity. But long before that complete democratization has been brought about we shall have lost our patience and the Radicals their temper.
For as Mr. Hyndman tells the world with damnable (but most veracious) iteration, we are "a growing party." We recruit by driblets; but we do recruit; and those who come to us come, like all the new American newspapers, "to stay." Our faith, our reason, our knowledge, tell us that the great evolutionary forces are with us; and every addition to our ranks causes us, in geometrical proportion, to be less and less tolerant of political prevarication. Directly we feel ourselves strong enough to have the slightest chance of winning off our own bat, we shall be compelled both by principle and inclination to send an eleven to the wickets. They will have to face the opposition, united or disunited, of both the orthodox parties, as did the defeated Socialist candidates at the School Board election in November, 1888. And whether our success be great or small, or even non-existent, we shall be denounced by the Radical wire-pullers and the now so complaisant and courteous Radical press. The alliance will be at an end.
There is yet another way in which we may win the illwill of our temporary allies and, at present, very good friends. I have spoken above of certain reactionary items of a possible Radical program, which, although they have a grotesque resemblance to Socialism, are worlds away from being the thing itself. These proposals we not only cannot support, but must and shall actively and fiercely oppose. At the first signs of such oppositition to whoever may be the Liberal shepherd of the moment the whole flock of party sheep will be in full cry upon our track. The ferocity of the mouton enragé is proverbial; and we shall be treated to the same rancor, spleen, and bile which is now so plenteously meted out to the Liberal Unionists.
The immediate result of this inevitable split will be the formation of a definitively Socialist party,i.e., a party pledged to the communalization of all the means of production and exchange, and prepared to subordinate every other consideration to that one end. Then the House of Commons will begin dimly to reflect the real condition of the nation outside; and in it we shall see as in a glass, darkly, or smudgedly, something of that "well defined confrontation of rich and poor," of which all who attend Socialist lectures hear so much, and to which, ex hypothesi, the world, day by day, draws nearer. Then, also, will begin that process which, I submit, is more likely than either the absorption of the Socialist or the prolonged permeation of the Radical: namely, the absorption of the Radical himself into the definitely pro-private capital party on the one side, and the definitely anti-private capital party on the other.
A really homogeneous Socialist party once formed, the world political reflects the world economic, and there is no longer any room for the Radical, as we know the wonder. Each fresh Socialist victory, each outpost driven in, each entrenchment carried, will be followed by a warren-like scuttle of alarmed and well-to-do Radicals across the floor of the House of Commons, which will once more become a true frontier; and, finally, the political battle array will consist of a small opposition, fronting a great and powerful majority, made up of all those whose real or fancied interests would suffer from expropriation.
Thus far the outlook has been clear and focusable enough; and it has needed no extra-human illumination to see the details. All that has been wanted has been normal vision and a mind fairly free of the idols of the cave. But here the prospect becomes dim and uncertain; and little purpose would be served by trying to pierce the mist which enshrouds the distant future.
Much, very much, will depend upon the courage, the magnanimity, the steadfastness, the tact, the foresight, and above all upon the incorruptibility of those whose high mission it will be to frame the policy and direct the strategy of the Socialist party in those early days of its parliamentary life. It will have sore need of a leader as able as, and more conscientious than, any of the great parliamentary figures of the past. The eye expectant searches in vain for such a man now among the younger broods of the new democracy. He is probably at this moment in his cradle or equitably sharing out toys or lollipops to his comrades of the nursery. And this is well; for he must be a man quit of all recollections of these days of Sturm und Drang, of petty jealousies, constant errors, and failing faith. He must bring to his task a record free from failure and without suspicion of stain.
But whatever may be the difficulties in store for us who name the name of Socialism, of one thing at least they who have followed this course of lectures may make quite sure. That, however long and wearisome the struggle, each day brings us nearer victory. Those who resist Socialism fight against principalities and powers in economic places. Every new industrial development will add point to our arguments and soldiers to our ranks. The continuous perfectioning of the organization of labor will hourly quicken in the worker the consciousness that his is a collective, not an individual life. The proletariat is even now the only real class: its units are the only human beings who have nothing to hope for save from the leveling up of the aggregate of which they form a part. The intensifying of the struggle for existence, while it sets bourgeois at the throat of bourgeois, is forcing union and solidarity upon the workers. And the bourgeois ranks themselves are dwindling. The keenness of competition, making it every year more obviously impossible for those who are born without capital ever to achieve it, will deprive the capitalist class of the support it now receives from educated and cultivated but impecunious young men whose material interest must finally triumph over their class sympathies; and from that section of workmen whose sole aspiration is to struggle out of the crowd. The rising generation of wage workers, instead of as now being befogged and bedeviled by the dust and smoke of mere faction fight, will be able at a glance to distinguish the uniforms of friend and foe. Despair will take sides with Hope in doing battle for the Socialist cause.
These lectures have made it plain enough to those who have hearing ears and understanding brains that mere material self-interest alone will furnish a motive strong enough to shatter monopoly; and after monopoly comes Socialism or—chaos. But the interest of the smaller self is not the only force which aids us in the present, or will guide us in the future. The angels are on our side. The constant presence of a vast mass of human misery is generating in the educated classes a deep discontent, a spiritual unrest, which drives the lower types to pessimism, the higher to inquiry. Pessimism paralyses the arms and unnerves the hearts of those who would be against us. Inquiry proves that Socialism is founded upon a triple rock, historical, ethical, and economic. It gives, to those who make it, a great hope—a hope which, once it finds entrance into the heart of man, stays to soften life and sweeten death. By the light of the Socialist Ideal he sees the evil—yet sees it pass. Then and now he begins to live in the cleaner, braver, holier life of the future; and he marches forward, steeled and stimulated, with resolute step, with steadfast eye, with equal pulse.
It is just when the storm winds blow and the clouds lower and the horizon is at its blackest that the ideal of the Socialist shines with divinest radiance, bidding him trust the inspiration of the poet rather than heed the mutterings of the perplexed politician, bidding him believe that
"For a' that, for a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That man to man the world o'er
Shall brothers be for a' that."