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Yves Guyot warns that a new ruling class of managers and officials will emerge in the supposedly “classless” socialist society of the future (1908)

The French economist and politician Yves Guyot (1843-1928) very quickly realised that socialism would not lead to a peaceful and classless society as promised, but would result in a new form of class rule of party officials:

There will be at least two classes, one consisting of officials to distribute the burdens and the results of labour, the other of the drudges to execute their commands. Such a dispensation would not bring with it social peace, for political would take the place of economic competition.

The class war, says the “Communist Manifesto,” must result in the abolition of classes, but it will establish “the proletariat as the ruling class” (§52). Accordingly, if the proletariat be a ruling class, there will be a class which oppresses and a class which is oppressed. The classes will not have disappeared, they will merely have changed their positions. The “Communist Manifesto” makes it a supreme consideration to “centralise the means of production in the hands of the State.” (§52).

There will be at least two classes, one consisting of officials to distribute the burdens and the results of labour, the other of the drudges to execute their commands. Such a dispensation would not bring with it social peace, for political would take the place of economic competition.

So far only three means of calling human activity into being have been recognised, those of coercion, allurement and remuneration. Coercion is servile labour—work, or strike. The allurement of high office, decorations, rank or a crown may complete the coercion; we see the two employed together in the schools, the Church and the Army. Their success implies two conditions, on the one hand the art to command, and on the other the spirit of discipline. But what are these? They are the conditions which underlie the military spirit, founded upon respect for a hierarchy. Order, in a Communist Society, requires the virtues of convents and of barracks. But establishments of this kind consume without producing, and have furthermore eliminated the question of women and children.

In a collectivist society will there be citizens with electoral rights? Presumably; but the ballot is but an instrument for classifying parties, so that there will be parties, majorities and minorities; parties which will attain to power and others which will be in opposition.

Karl Marx says that he makes no pretension to change human nature. But unless human nature be changed, competition will be the more fierce in proportion as the party in power, disposing of all the resources of life, succeeds in appropriating all the advantages to itself and imposing all the burdens upon its opponents. This means a policy of spoliation in its most aggravated form. The question will be to ascertain who is to work and who is to reap the benefit. There will be a servile class and a class which obtains the benefit of their labour. Economic will give place to political competition, and the best method of acquiring will be, not to produce and to exchange, but to dominate and to extort. Collective ownership will end in a retrogression of productive civilisation towards civilisation on a warlike basis. The party in power will distribute profits in such a manner that no one will work except on the requisition and for the profit of his opponents.

About this Quotation:

The classical liberal political economists quickly saw through the fraud which was socialism. Bastiat was one of its most trenchant critics in the late 1840s and Yves Guyot did the same in the 1880s and 1890s. Whereas Bastiat wrote to expose the “economic sophisms” put forward by the protectionists in 1846, Guyot wrote to expose the “socialist sophisms” which were widespread at the end of the 19th century. In addition to the economic arguments you might expect about the lack of incentives to work in a socialist system and the problems faced by central planners in a complex economy, Guyot adds the devastating observation that any socialist society would also be a society ruled by a new ruling class, thus overturning one of the central socialist arguments against “capitalism”, namely that it was a vicious system of class exploitation of the workers by the capitalists. In Guyot’s view, the future socialist society would have to use coercion to get workers to work, it would have to be organised along the lines of an “army” or a “convent,” run by a new ruling class of officials and managers, with a “servile class” at the bottom to do their bidding. In addition, with a monopoly of political power the Socialist Party would become the focus of a new form of “political competition” which would be far more destructive than anything seen under the “economic competition” of the free market.

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