Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER II.: SOCIALIST PROGRAMMES. - The Tyranny of Socialism
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAPTER II.: SOCIALIST PROGRAMMES. - Yves Guyot, The Tyranny of Socialism 
The Tyranny of Socialism, ed. J.H. Levy (London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co., 1894).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
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.
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.