Front Page Titles (by Subject) BOOK I.: EVOLUTION AND RETROGRESSION. - The Tyranny of Socialism
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BOOK I.: EVOLUTION AND RETROGRESSION. - Yves Guyot, The Tyranny of Socialism 
The Tyranny of Socialism, ed. J.H. Levy (London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co., 1894).
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EVOLUTION AND RETROGRESSION.
What is a Socialist?—Origin of the word Socialism—Proudhon’s Definition—The Socialists as they are—Agreement and Disagreement—The Fourth Estate—Socialist Programmes—German Ideas—Socialist and Negro—Social Atavism—Evolution—Social Retrogression.
Recently a disciple of Lamarck and of Darwin, a physiological Determinist of the school of Claude Bernard, met a Delegate of the Bourse du Travail. Said the Delegate of the Labour Bureau, his eyes aflame with anger, his mouth full of imprecations and oaths, and his fist clenched, “You are retrograde; for you are not a Socialist!”
TheDeterminist.—Let us see. What do you understand by that word—Socialist?
TheDelegate.—What! What do I understand by it? That is simple enough. A man is either a Socialist, or he is not; but you are not one.
Determinist.—And why do you pronounce me unworthy of the title? By what right do you appropriate to yourself the word “Socialism,” before we even know to whom—to Robert Owen, Pierre Leroux, or Louis Reybaud—is due the honour, of having enriched our vocabulary with the term? Pray, what is the meaning you attach to it? Proudhon replied to the President of the tribunal before which he was cited to appear shortly after June, 1848:—Socialism is every aspiration towards the amelioration of society.”
“But then we are all Socialists,” replied the President.
“That is just what I think,” answered Proudhon.
You evidently do not agree with Proudhon.
Delegate.—No! The only true Socialists are those who keep step with us.
Determinist.—And who are those who keep step with you, or with one another? I noticed that, at the cemetery of Père Lachaise, on May 28th, Socialists, Broussists, Marxists, Allemanists, and Blanquists, instead of uniting to do homage to the champions of the Commune, whom they looked upon as their leaders and models, fought desperately among themselves—which surely proves that the brotherhood which they wish to impose upon the world, by revolutionary measures if need be, does not actually exist among themselves. What is their common programme? It cannot be divined from their respective names, because these independent folk take the names of individuals as rallying-words, just as the monks were the docile disciples of St. Benedict, St. Dominic, St. Francis, or St. Augustine. By what sign may the true Socialist, according to your gospel, be distinguished from the false? Do not revolutionary Socialists entertain a profound contempt for the Possibilists?1
Delegate.—That is so. The revolutionists consider that the Possibilists are too much taken up with their personal success and with the elections. But the Possibilists are revolutionary too. They gave good proof of this, when through their organ, Le Prolétaire, Messieurs Lavy (the Deputy), Paul Brousse, Caumeau, Reties, and Prudent-Dervillers called upon their friends to celebrate the fall of the Commune, “which represents Authority, and whose protagonists are the heroes that should serve as our models.” At bottom, amongst Socialists who are true Socialists, the only question which divides them is that of leaders. Some prefer this one, others that; but we are agreed.
Delegate.—First, upon the question of the Fourth Estate.
Determinist.—And What is the Fourth Estate?
Delegate.—In 1789, a Third Estate was recognised. A century later, it is only right that there should be a Fourth. That is progress.
Determinist.—And of whom is it composed?
Delegate.—Of those who are not bourgeois.
Determinist.—And by what do you distinguish a bourgeois?
Delegate.—A Bourgeois! He is a man of standing, who makes others labour. Wage-earners alone form the Fourth Estate.
Determinist.—But how about the mason who comes to Paris during the summer to follow his trade, and who returns for the winter to La Creuse or La Haute-Vienne, where he is a freeholder—does he form part of the Fourth Estate?
Delegate (after a moment’s hesitation).—At Paris, yes! In his own country he is a bourgeois. Here, we would have him with us. Down there we don’t want him.
Determinist.—That distinction would go to prove that the boundaries of the Fourth Estate are not very clearly defined.
Delegate.—Not exactly that. Those are Socialists who wish to “repeal” the law of supply and demand, the iron law of wages, and so are those who wish to annex the means of production, at present in the hands of the exploiters of labour, for the benefit of the workers.
Determinist.—I recognise those formulæ and those phrases. Our Socialists and Communists of 1848—from Louis Blanc to Cabet—would hail them as grand-children of their own ideas, but deformed, cramped, swollen, overweighted. They form the groundwork of the programmes of the Congresses held at Gotha in 1875, and at Erfurt in 1891. At any rate, so far as their general conception goes, they are only resuscitated from 1848; and yet you pretend you have advanced.
Delegate.—Yes; and you, you bourgeois economist, you tool of capital, stipendiary of La Haute Banque, hateful landowner, you are nothing but a reactionary and a renegade!
Determinist.—To be a renegade from your Socialism one must have taken part with it. Now, as I was never weak enough to do that, I cannot be what you say: I am merely a determinist. Unfortunately you have got into the way of fuddling your brains with a certain number of words which you do not understand, and which you repeat and throw about at random. Well, I invite you, who are so fond of calling others reactionaries and retrogressists, to remember two definitions. Do you know what atavism is?
Delegate.—It is not in our programme.
Determinist.—Unfortunately it is. If not there totidem litteris, atavism still dominates it completely.
Delegate.—I do not understand.
Determinist.—You may perhaps have heard of colour-prejudice, although in France it very seldom has occasion to show itself. This is the source of it. A charming quadroon is introduced to you. If her hair is black, her skin is white. Were it not for an almost imperceptible shade of bistre in her nails, it would be impossible to suppose that she had negro blood in her veins; and, as a matter of fact, generations and generations have passed by since a negress was numbered amongst her ancestresses. Nevertheless, a fair, blue-eyed young man would hesitate to marry her; because one of her children, instead of being under the hereditary influence of an immediate ancestor, might possibly bear the characteristics of that particular ancestress whom a slave-dealer, boasting of her ebony complexion, had sold one hundred and fifty years ago in the Antilles. This phenomenon is called atavism. Do you know what you are doing when you seek to blend the social organisation, born of the French Revolution, with a parcel of survivals which have come down to us from primitive civilisation? By the union of your Collectivism and your Socialism, with the Declaration of the Rights of Man, you are trying to give birth to a contemporary of our ancestors of the age of unhewn stone. The work which, in your ignorance, you seek to accomplish is to carry back our civilisation to an ancestral form. You are creating a social atavism.
Delegate.—Then you accuse us of wishing to create negroes. That’s a plain case of bourgeois bad faith. I defy you to find that in our programme.
Determinist.—Do you know what Evolution is?
Delegate.—No, indeed; that is not in our programme.
Determinist.—Evolution is the sum total of the qualities acquired by humanity since its first appearance, and transmitted as they have accumulated from one generation to another. And now do you know what Retrogression is?
Delegate.—That is not in our programme either. You must not introduce things into it that are not there.
Determinist.—Unfortunately it is there.
Delegate.—I assure you I have never heard it asked for at the Bourse du Travail.
Determinist.—They do nothing else there.
Delegate.—That is putting it too strongly.
Determinist.—I will prove it to you, if you will only recall Littré’s definition: Retrogression—Physiological and pathological term. He who, after having shown phenomena of development, withers, becomes reabsorbed, decomposed. Retrograde work. Retrograde transformation. From the Latin regressionem from regressum, supine of regredi and gradi, progress. You who claim to march in the vanguard really march in the rear. Your social ideal, which you believe lies before you, lies behind. Poor Janus, blind in front, you gaze only upon the horizon of the past. Whither you seek to go, by great effort, and through perilous ways and cataclysms, is towards effete and barbarous civilisations. Far from you and yours seeking to develop yourselves by participating in the human evolution, revealed to us in improvements already obtained, the goal at which you and your friends are aiming is Social Retrogression.
French Socialists are Disciples of the Germans—German Programmes—The Gotha Programme, 1875—The Three Parties—Collectivist Principles—Political Programme—Protection of Labour—The Halle Congress, 1890—The Erfurt Congress, October, 1891—It Accentuates the Collectivism of the Gotha Congress—Vagueness of the Formulæ—Liberty to Hope—Political Weakness — Labour Legislation — These Programmes are the Foundation of all Contemporary Socialism—Guiding Principle: Substitution of the State-Intervention for Contract.
For the last twenty years our Socialists have sought all their inspiration in Germany. They glory in being German, in thinking and speaking in German fashion, and in having as their leaders sons-in-law of Karl Marx, like M. Pablo Lafargue. I shall not reproach them, in the name of patriotism, for adding this invasion to preceding ones, because I consider that ideas have no frontiers; but how is it that these Socialists, who consider themselves “advanced,” have not asked themselves if French civilisation is not further advanced in evolution than that of Germany; whether, in going there in search of inspiration, they are not turning towards an environment inferior to that in which they themselves move.
The great intellectual movement which, in producing the French Revolution, proclaimed once for all a certain number of social truths—now undisputed in France, in spite of occasional appearances to the contrary—is not due to Germany; in which country we still find an organisation of social castes and privileges of birth.
Since 1863, that is to say in thirty years, the German Socialists have elaborated five programmes, a proof that the Socialist dogma did not take definite shape at its birth; and if it has already been modified, may it not still be liable to alterations? Whence, then, comes the arrogance of those who wish to impose it upon all of us, off-hand, even should it need violence to accomplish that end?
At the Gotha Congress, held in 1875, the societies founded, one by Lassalle, the other by Bebel and Liebknecht, adopted a programme divided into three parts: a declaration of Collectivist principles; a programme of political organisation, and demands for the immediate protection of labour.
Here is the text of the first part1 :
“I. Labour is the source of all wealth and all civilisation, and as labour that is profitable to all is made possible only by society, the general product of labour should belong to society, that is to say, to each of its members, each member being under an obligation to work, and having an equal right to gather of the fruit of such common labour enough to satisfy his reasonable needs.
“In society as at present constituted, the instruments of labour are the monopoly of the capitalist class; the forced dependence of the working classes resulting from this is the cause of poverty and servitude in all forms.
“The enfranchisement of labour necessitates the transference of the instruments of labour to society as a whole, and the collective regulation of all labour, with the employment of the product of labour in conformity with general utility, and according to a just distribution.
“The enfranchisement of labour should be the task of the working classes, in opposition to whom all other classes form only a reactionary mass.
“II. Starting from these principles, the Socialistic working classes of Germany exert themselves to establish by all legal means a free State and a capitalist society, to crush the iron law of wages by the suppression of the wage system, to put a stop to exploitation in all its forms, and to remove all political and social inequality.
“The Socialistic Labour Party of Germany, although at first confining their efforts within national limits, are conscious of the international character of the labour movement, and are resolved to fulfil all the duties which it imposes upon working men, that the brotherhood of all mankind may become a fact.”
The Socialistic Labour Party of Germany, in order to prepare the way to a solution of the social question, demand the establishment of Socialistic productive associations, with State aid, under the democratic control of the working people. Industrial and agricultural productive associations should be sufficiently expansive for Socialist organisations of collective labour to develop from them.
The Socialistic Labour Party of Germany ask as a basis of the State:
“Direct universal suffrage; direct legislation by the people, especially the power to decide upon questions of war; universal armament in place of standing armies; the suppression of all laws or measures opposed to the liberty of the press, of public meetings, of combinations, judicial jurisdiction by the people; universal State education in all branches; a single progressive income-tax.”
With reference to the protection of labour in society as now constituted, the Gotha Congress demands;
“The right of unlimited combination; a fixed normal working-day corresponding to the needs of society; the prohibition of Sunday labour; the prohibition of child labour, and of all female labour likely to be injurious to health or morality; laws for the protection of the life and health of the workers; sanitary control over the homes of the working classes; inspection of mines, of industries, of factories, workshops, and domestic manufactures, by officers appointed by the workers; a penal law of employers’ liability; regulation of prison labour; free administration of all labour and benefit funds.”
The Congress of Halle, in 1890, organised the party of the German Democratic Socialists, and the Congress of Erfurt, in October, 1891, accentuated the programme of the Congress of Gotha on the following points:—
“It is only the transformation of the private capitalist’s ownership of the means of production—soil, mines, raw materials, tools, machines, means of transport—into collective ownership, and the transformation of the production of merchandise into production effected for and by society, that can convert production on a large scale and the capacity of increasing return of collective labour, from a source of poverty and oppression to the exploited classes, as it has so far been, into a source of increased well-being, and of harmonious and universal improvement. . . .
“But this enfranchisement can be the work only of the working class; because all other classes, in spite of the trade interests which divide them, rest upon the private ownership of the means of production, and desire for their common aid the present basis of society.
“The struggle of the working classes against the capitalist classes, is necessarily a political struggle. The working classes cannot transfer the means of production from private into collective ownership, without having acquired political power.
“The interests of the working classes are identical in all those countries where the system of capitalistic production obtains.”
These are the chief points of the first part:—How should the collective proprietorship of the soil, tools, and raw materials be organised? How should labour be apportioned? How should produce be distributed? Should there be equality as to the hours of labour? equality of wages? etc. The leaders of the German Socialists pass over these difficulties in silence, doubtless because they believe it would be dangerous to enter into too precise details concerning the paradise which they depict, and that it is better to let each form his own ideal to suit himself. It is this liberty to hope which has always constituted the strength of supernatural religion.
With regard to political exigencies, the Erfurt programme reverted to that of Gotha. The experience of the Swiss Referendum has shown the Socialists that more direct legislation by the people might prove dangerous to them. There now only remains the question of a right of initiative and of veto. Religion is no longer merely a private affair, as it is in the Gotha programme. The Erfurt Congress leaves to the Church full liberty of self-administration. It demands progressive taxation on income and property, and succession duty proportionate to the inheritance and degree of relationship. With regard to the immediate protection of labour, the Congress of Erfurt demands:—
This programme is silent as regards female labour. At one time this party demanded the autonomy of the Benefit Bureaux. The Erfurt programme logically makes Labour Insurance the charge of the State. The programme no longer talks of labour associations subsidized by the State, which was the great political conception of Lassalle.
The German programmes, both on their practical side and in their theoretical bearing, form the basis of the programmes of the French Socialists. We may therefore judge the Socialistic ideal according to these general data.
What is the dominant idea to which the Congress of Halle demands the adhesion of every man who wishes to throw in his lot with the party? An urgent appeal for State intervention in economic matters, not only during the transition period, during which the programme claims the protection of labour, but also in the halcyon days when the State will order all things, buy all things, sell all things.
The Guiding Principle of Socialism is the substitution of State intervention for contract.
CHARACTER OF POLITICAL AND INTELLECTUAL PROGRESS.
Consequences of the Preceding Definition—Despotism in Primitive Civilisations — Absence and Prohibition of Personal Decision—The Absorption of the Individual in the City—Tu omnia!—Liberty of Conscience—Suppression of Political and Social Heresy—Universal Suffrage—Progress in the Political, Religious, and Intellectual Evolution of Humanity is Effected by the Substitution of Personal Decisions for Authoritative Measures.
If the guiding principle with which the last chapter closed, and is more or less successfully adapted to the practice of all Socialists, whether French, English, Swiss, Belgian, or American, follows from the German Socialist programmes, and is indeed that of Socialism—and it would be difficult for them to contest it, without being under the necessity of denying their demands of to-day and their hopes for to-morrow—our demonstration that Socialism represents retrogression, and not progress, is complete; since it will suffice to recall some of the typical phenomena of the evolution of humanity for this backward movement to appear clear and distinct before the eyes of all those who, instead of intoxicating themselves with phrases and visions, and giving themselves up to epileptiform impulses or millennial dreams, believe that the method of observation ought to guide us in sociology as much as in any other science. If this presentment is displeasing to certain Socialists who profess to represent Scientific Socialism, and to employ the historic method, it will be a proof that if they invoke that method, they decline to make use of it.
If we apply it so as to arrive at the criterion which distinguishes social retrogression from evolution, we, from the very outset, prove that, in the present day, none would venture to place the golden age behind us. And we are not now dealing with the question from the material point of view, but with its social bearings; although in the discussion upon which we are really engaged, the material point of view is not without its own importance. In the political programmes issued by the congresses which we have cited, appeal is made, as we have seen, to the following rights:—The right of voting, direct suffrage, liberty of speech, liberty of the press, and that religion shall be regarded as a matter of private concern. These are so many protests against, and condemnations of, stages of civilisation through which humanity has passed down to the present time. Not only do the primitive civilisations—such as those of the Australian, Polynesian, and African tribes—still present to us the type of our pre-historic ancestors, and give us the opportunity, as it were, of contemplating them as contemporaries, but in the Hindu, Greek, and Latin civilisations too, we see the tribal system, the all-powerful rule of the head of the family, in which is included women, children, and relatives of every degree, and the slaves. The individuality of the chief is the only one that counts in the tribe, because he alone has the right to command; and even his will is subordinated to the worship of the dead, to ancestral customs, to the commands of the gods. In reality, under this type of civilisation, no one can think for himself, act upon his own initiative, or attempt to direct his life as he thinks fit.
When a union of tribes has constituted a city, whether that city be governed by an oligarchy, a democratic council, or a tyrant, as liberal Athens or patrician Rome, the individual has no independent existence. Aristotle, like Plato, set up a merely passive social molecule. Scepticism regarding the gods was punished by the hemlock, as in the case of Socrates. The city was everything; and when, on being converted into an Empire, Rome became incarnate in a man, the senate cried, in cheering Probus: Tu omnia! “Thou art everything!” As heirs to this idea, our legists bestowed the same power upon Philippe le Bel. Bossuet, in the name of Holy Writ, bestowed it upon Louis XIV., and even good-natured Louis XVI., upon the eve of 1789, imagining himself to be the absolute master of his subjects, of their goods and their destinies, said to Malesherbes:—It is legal because I will it!”
In all these civilisations, then, the subjection of thought to authority, the prohibition of unorthodox views, is manifest. And since when have we been enfranchised? Not fifteen years ago, in spite of innumerable editions of Voltaire, it was still a serious misdemeanour to satirise a religion recognised by the State. In the absence of faith, respect was obligatory. In Germany1 there is still a State religion. The Gotha and Erfurt programmes demand that religion shall be only a private affair. Why is Luther’s agitation considered progressive, if not because he enfranchised the conscience of the individual—because he allowed the individual himself to decide, in a more extended domain than heretofore, what he could, or could not, believe? Who would now dare ask for the revival of the Inquisition, that terrible instrument of oppression which converted each man into a suspected person, and required of him an account of all his most secret motives? Who does not regard it as a most insufferable tyranny for an individual to be required, under the most fearful penalties, to believe all that a clergyman orders him to believe, calling to his aid the secular arm to enforce his authority?
What is that liberty of conscience which, after having cost us so many glorious victims, has now become an indisputable principle, whatever criticisms its application may provoke, if not the acknowledgment that each individual has the right of private judgment?
Where then are the Socialists who reject this right in the matter of religion or philosophy?2 Do they reject it when they demand liberty of the press and liberty of speech? On the contrary, they claim for each, not only the right to decide for himself what he ought or ought not to believe, but also the right to propagate, as publicly as he pleases, his beliefs and disbeliefs.
They hold, and we agree with them, that there is no such thing as orthodoxy or heresy in political or social questions. What is the right of political voting, the extension of which is demanded by the programmes we have cited? It is the right of each citizen to determine his country’s destiny, so far as his vote can do it. This right was, in former times, exclusively reserved to the tribal chief, under the authority of customs and gods, or to an oligarchy, to a Greek despot or Roman Emperor, to the Basileus of Byzantium, or to a monarch by right divine.
And as French Socialists (at least while they do not wield the force majeure),1 proclaim, like their German brethren, the rights which we have enumerated, they are forced to admit that, in the political, religious and intellectual evolution of the human race, that progress consists in the substitution of personal decision for authoritative measures.
CHARACTER OF SOCIAL PROGRESS.
Slavery—Absorption of Personality—Corporeal and Tributary Serfdom—Personal and Pecuniary Obligations—Contract and the French Civil Code—Specification of Services—Freedom of Labour—Respect for Individual Liberty—Commercial Companies—Separation of the Man Contracting from the Thing Contracted for—Joint-Stock Companies—Nature of Contract—Substitution of Contract for Obligations Imposed by Authority.
Does the economic point of view differ from that of personal right? In primitive civilisations, the work is done by the women and slaves, the stronger men reserving enjoyment to themselves, and unconditionally imposing all effort upon the weaker. One of the most certain signs of human progress and evolution is the enfranchisement of woman from this servitude. The most revolting feature in slavery is that one man may belong to another man, thus having no control over his own destiny. He is property, in his entirety. No distinction is made between his personality and the services he can render, or the tasks which may be required of him. And these are the stages of progress: after slavery, serfdom; after the corporeal serf, the tributary serf, whose obligations, instead of being unlimited are defined, and, instead of being personal, consist in the obligation to perform certain defined services, or to contribute certain things. This distinction between direct personal obligations and obligations in terms of commodities, already established by Roman law, was, whatever Bentham may have said, one of the great juridical facts of human progress.
In ancient law there is no contract, nor any word corresponding to it. The father of the family commands. He does not deliberate; there is no reciprocity of services discussed or agreed upon, with a penalty for its non-execution. We do, however, find contracts amongst traders like the Athenians; and it is commerce which made them the most Individualistic people of antiquity.1 The ship-owner of the Piræus entered into treaty with foreigners for merchandise. He made his own arrangements without asking leave of his Government. He made contracts, and contracts for specified goods and specified services quite outside any question of his own person. In Rome, contract became more and more real, and less and less personal in proportion to and concurrently with the development of the idea of right. Hobbes, Grotius, and after them Rousseau, believed that by contract people might be bound to one another—that one person might thus deliver up a part of his existence, of his life, of his being to another, and that another might take possession of it. This is still true in the marriage contract, but it is true only of marriage now; and the law of divorce has weakened even this personal contract.1
In the definition of contract, as given by the French Civil Code, there is no ambiguity. According to Article 1101: “A contract is an agreement by which one or more persons undertake to give, to do, or not to do, something to another or others;” and, according to Article 1126: “Every contract has for its object something which one party undertakes to give, or one party undertakes to do, or not to do.” The Code insists upon the real2 nature of a contract. Article 1128 says: “It is only things connected with commerce which can be the object of agreements;” and Article 1129 adds: “It is necessary that a contract should have for its object a thing defined, at least, as to its quality (espèce). The quantity of the thing may be unspecified, provided that it can be determined. The Code is very careful to lay down “that a man can engage his services only for a specified time or undertaking.” (Article 1780.)
This is the very principle of the freedom of labour, demanded by the Physiocrats, and proclaimed by Turgot in his edict of 1776 against the pretentions of corporations, in which the apprentice and the journeyman had personal and undefined duties towards the employer.
In Rome, the insolvent debtor became a slave. He paid in his person because he could not pay in goods. Such was also the case in the system of imprisonment for debt. But now the law of contract holds in complete respect the person of the contractor. From the moral point of view, he must fulfil the engagements he has made; from the legal point of view, “all obligations to do or not to do resolve themselves into damages and indemnities.” (Art. 1142 of the Civil Code.)
The system of civil contracts is based entirely upon respect for the liberty of the individual, and this principle has prevailed in proportion to and concurrently with the development of commercial law. When the Hanseatic League recognised contracts concluded with foreigners, it recognised in the engagement a something distinct from the person who had entered into it, not troubling itself about the colour, race, or religion of the contracting parties.
In companies en commandite, the responsibilities of the sleeping partners with regard to outsiders are distinctly specified and determined, thanks to the labours of Italian jurists. As regards joint-stock companies with limited liability, we, in 1555 for the first time come across (in England) the Russia Company, in which the capital was contributed and employed for a specific set of transactions or operations, the ownership of such funds being transferable without any alteration of the commercial compact. The separation of the man and the thing is so complete that the company always assumes the name of its object.
What do these facts show? The juridical and economic evolution of companies reveals the same characteristics as intellectual, religious, and political evolution. Undefined services, in primitive groups, become clearly defined services as regards both their nature and their duration, this change being consequent on the differentiation of the man who contracts from the thing contracted for, and the agreement being always liable to be cancelled on pecuniary payment for loss occasioned to the contractee. Obligations imposed by authority give place to obligations resulting from contracts, which are valid only through the personal will of the contracting parties.1
THE EVOLUTION OF PROPERTY.
Collectivism is its Primitive Form—Agrarian Communes—Nothing is to remain held under joint-ownership.
The Socialist ideal, as depicted by the programmes which we have quoted, is Collectivism; and even some of those who do not go quite so far as this, advocate the buying up of the land by the State, under the name of land nationalisation.
Have societies converted individual into collective ownership, so that, in invoking the example of the past, we may say that in this we recognise progress? Is not the phenomenon which results from progress the reverse of this? Amongst hunting and nomadic tribes, a horde wanders across an expanse of land more or less extensive, and, when the tribe settles down, the ownership remains undivided among its members. At Rome, according to Mommsen, the agrarian commune was the first form of land administration in Italy; and everywhere, in ancient China as well as in Germany, and in Great Britain before the Norman Conquest, we find the agrarian commune, which has survived down to the present day in the Russian mir, amongst the southern Slavs, in Croatia, Servia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Dalmatia, and Herzogovnia, but which always disappears upon the approach of a railway.
If the Collectivists of Gotha and Erfurt, or of the Bourse du Travail, would just propose to a French peasant to throw open his land—to offer it to the Mayoralty of his Commune, he would answer them according to the principle of justice which he understands better than any other: Nothing is to remain held in common.1 And he is quite right, for this joint-ownership is the negation of his own individuality.
DOCTRINAL CONTRADICTIONS OF THE SOCIALISTS.
Their Aspirations Retrogressive—Collective Ownership—Advice to Mr. Henry George—Suppression of Contracts—Suppression of Personal Decisions—Servile Labour—Organisation on the Military Type.
You Socialists wish to return to the collective proprietorship of primitive peoples, or of those people who are the slowest in their evolution. Mr. Henry George has written a book upon the nationalisation of the land. He is an American. The United States possess immense territories which they are constantly engaged in denationalising and in converting into private properties. Why does he not begin by asking his fellow-countrymen to leave some thousands of square miles of land in a state of nationalisation and go there himself and endeavour to recommence the experience which answered so ill with our Utopians in Texas? This substitution, collective for individual proprietorship, would suffice to test the retrogressive character of your ideas.
You wish to substitute authoritative arrangements for contracts; personal service for service measured by the things produced. You wish to eliminate personal initiative from economic life. Henceforth, by the laws which, according to you, are protective of labour, you wish to limit the working capacity of individuals, and to condemn to idleness the vigorous man, who, to augment his resources, is desirous of using his faculties and his powers; you wish to prohibit women from working so as to keep them in primitive subjection, under hypocritical pretexts of health and morality; you wish for the suppression of all piece-work, so as to remove all initiatory spirit and the chance of increased profit from the intelligent worker, and to reduce him to the state of a mechanical appendage to his trade; in industries you wish to suppress everything that means personal thought on his part, so as to convert him into a sort of passive piece of machinery. Into your ideal society you transport a military organisation. But this organisation involves a hierarchy, discipline, and passive obedience, and crushes all activity. Instead of competition, which is the regulator of free labour, you give as a motive power the restraints of servile labour.
PRACTICAL SELF-CONTRADICTION OF THE SOCIALISTS.
The Government and Civil Service are Hateful and Contemptible, therefore entrust everything to them—Men or Automata?—Political Liberty and Economic Tutelage—Child and Adult.
By a flagrant contradiction, you wish to make use of those liberties which you demand, not in order to ask for the legal acknowledgment of personal rights still unrecognised—the full exercise of the freedom of labour—but in order to ask that the State shall be the only regulator of the economic activity in each nation. If you maintain that your social organisation, which involves the suppression of personal decision and the substitution of the State intervention for contract, is not a retrogression, tell me then why you consider political and religious liberty to be an advance?
What! you claim universal suffrage; you wish to direct the destinies of your country by vote; you desire to think, speak, and act as you like; and still you argue that this State, which you think bad, insufficient, and always suspicious, shall direct your purchases and sales by custom-house tariffs, fix your hours of labour and of rest, determine your salary, and become the regulator of the entire economic movement of the country. From the political point of view you wish to be men; from the economic point of view you wish to be automata.
How do you reconcile these contradictory demands which you make at the same time—Political Liberty and Economic Tutelage?
TheDeterminist.—Are you an elector?
Determinist.—Will you resign your rights as an elector?
Determinist.—You look upon yourself then as of full age?
Determinist.—But if you wish the State to determine contracts for you, you still look upon yourself as a minor. Make your choice between the two; be either an adult or a minor; but you cannot be both at one and the same time.
Delegate.—All that is middle-class science, made to deceive the people.
Determinist.—Be it so. But tell me what you think of the Government.
Delegate.—Nothing good! A pack of bourgeois, exploiters, and ignoramuses.
Delegate.—Yes. Allemane, Brousse, Vaillant, and others, have told us so. And in addition, they are a lot of Panama thieves.
Determinist.—Not all of them!
Determinist.—And in every country?
Delegate.—Yes, everywhere. They are all alike; the one is as bad as the other.
Determinist.—In Germany, Italy, England, and the United States?
Delegate.—Yes; worse luck.
Determinist.—You have a good opinion of the governing classes. How about the civil service?
Delegate.—Leather bands so placed as to prevent people dancing in a circle, and always lost in their waste paper baskets. All they can do is to complicate matters.
Determinist.—At any rate our civil service is honest.
Delegate.—You cannot make me believe that. Read the Libre Parole and l’Intransigeant. Look at the War Department and the Admiralty. Why you all talk, in the Chamber, of the abuses there are—of the squandering that goes on. You declare that we don’t get our money’s worth.
Determinist.—The army and the navy are the well administered departments of the State; in them she constructs and has workshops; she houses, clothes, and feeds people. And you say that is not a success?
Delegate.—No. It is not a success.
Determinist.—But then, if you believe that the Government is detestable and stupid, that statesmen are more fallible than other men, and stoop to all sorts of corruptions, evil influences, and passions; that the administration is clumsy, expensive, and behindhand; your demand should be that government should be more and more eliminated from the direction of social life, and that the civil service should have an ever-narrowing field of action.
Delegate.—That is what I want!
Determinist.—You want precisely the opposite, for you demand that this odious government, this detestable civil service, shall regulate the details of the whole economic life of the country. You multiply their functions. You enjoin upon these statesmen and these administrators that you cover with your scorn, to think, to provide, and to act for you.
Delegate.—Ah! but they won’t be the same people. Those who will govern will belong to us, will be good men.
Determinist.—And you believe that they will not commit abuses, that they will grant privileges to none, that they will be guilty of no injustice, that they will have intuitive knowledge, that in their government and their administration they will unite the virtue of Marcus Aurelius, the orderly spirit of Colbert, and the initiative of Napoleon?
Delegate.—Perhaps that is a good deal.
Determinist.—Yes; it will not, however, be too much to require to put your organisation in working order; for it can only succeed through miracles. Unfortunately, we have seen what your leaders and friends know of the work of administration and government.
Determinist.—During the Commune, for example.
Delegate.—That was a time of war.
Determinist.—Be it so. But is everything perfection at the Bourse du Travail? Do the members of the Executive and of the Central Committee never provoke complaints from those under their administration, and never have difficulties amongst themselves?
Delegate.—Yes, sometimes, but that does not matter.
Determinist.—And if you had the power, would there not be more parties among you? Would you all be united? Would you have no differences, no discussions?
Delegate.—Not like the bourgeois.
Determinist.—In fact, when on the 28th May the Marxites, Allemanists, Broussists and Blanqists, met at Père-Lachaise, they seemed to be all of one mind, but that was to abuse one another and to fight. This is a foretaste they have given us of the era of peace and happiness which we shall enjoy, if, some day, the economic life of each one of us is to be regulated by them.
Delegate.—That does not matter. Leave us alone. You will see what a success it will be.
Determinist.—In the name of the inductive method. I oppose this. Past experience, and the facts which I see everyday, cause me enough distrust to make me indisposed to put in your hands the insufferable despotism which your programmes demand. I will no more part with my economic liberty than with my political liberty: they are inseparable.
The Fabians of France. They are opportunists who seek Socialistic ends by parliamentary methods.—Ed.
See Bourdeau, Le Socialisme Allemande, p. 122.
In Germany, these are grossly oppressive; and every good Individualist will join with Socialists in demanding their repeal.—Ed.
And in England.—Ed.
Some of them, and those the most thorough and consistent Socialists, do reject it. See Mr. Belfort Bax’s Religion of Socialism, p. 113–5.—Ed.
As I have shown, the more consistent and free-spoken of them already announce that they will enforce their antitheological views in education.—Ed.
This is at the bottom of Mr. Sidney Webb’s effort to depreciate Greece and belaud Rome. See his essay on this subject in “Our Corner.—Ed.
What has weakened it still more in this country is the very recent decision not to enforce “conjugal rights,” and the judgment is the celebrated Jackson case.—Ed.
Real, that is, in contradistinction to personal.—Ed.
See Sir Henry Sumner Maine’s Ancient Law, p. 170.
Nul n’est tenu de rester dans l’indivision, a legal aphorism applying to inheritance; literally, “No one is bound to remain in joint-ownership.” The French peasant may say this without perhaps seeing that this principle begs the point in dispute; that it would mean that all the pictures in the Louvre, all the national buildings, lands, and other property must be sold; that what it is important not to hold in common is, not the fee simple of land, but its use; and that, in so far as his land is mortgaged, he has already parted with its fee simple.—Ed.