Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
SOCIALISM AND SOCIALISTS
SOCIALISM AND SOCIALISTS. It is with these words as with all others which express, at a given date, a definite situation, but which, in the long run, either because facts or the state of men's minds has changed, are transformed, and no longer convey their original meaning. Hence, to fix their meaning, at their true date, is essential. An analysis of such meaning may be reduced to this: In every human society, whether it advances or retrogrades, modifications more or less profound are always going on, modifications which are more or less perceptible, and which, with or without the knowledge of such society, act upon its economy. Apparently such a society remains the same; but in reality it is daily affected by changes of which it becomes entirely conscious only after time has fixed them in the habits and customs of the people, and marked them by its sanction. This is the course of civilizations which are being perfected or which are declining. The honor of a generation is to add something to the inheritance it has received, and to transmit it improved to the generation which comes after it. To employ what has been acquired as an instrument of new acquisition, to advance from the verified to the unknown: such is the idea of progress as it presents itself to well-ordered minds. But such is not the idea of the socialists. In their eyes the situation given is a false one, and the process too simple. Reforms in detail do not seem to them worthy of attention. They have plans of their own, the first condition of which is to make a tabula rasa of everything that exists, to cast aside existing laws, manners, customs, and all the guarantees of person and property. It seems to them that we have lived thus far under the empire of a misconception which it is urgent should cease; our globe, according to them, is an anticipated hell, and our civilization a coarse outline only. What is the remedy? There is only one—to try the treatment of which the socialists hold the secret. That treatment varies according to the sect. There are socialists with mild remedies, and socialists with violent remedies: the only difficulty is in the choice. But with all their differences, there is one point on which they agree—the formal condemnation of human societies as they are at present constituted, and the necessity of erecting on their ruins an order of things more conformable to the instincts of man and to his destiny here below. In exchange for our real world, the socialists offer us worlds of the fancy. This is their distinguishing trait, and one which makes of them a family apart.
—In this pursuit they have had so many precursors that to enumerate them would be to write the history of the adventures of the human mind. At one time, we have philosophers engaging in that chase in solitary speculations; and at another, sects, trying in abortive essays to realize their dreams; now, a whole population stakes in that chase its existence and repose; here, we find the idea of mysticism prevailing, and curbing instinct to the profit of a system; there, instinct gets the upper hand and breaks therein which all regular government puts on it: everywhere we witness an effort to destroy the old mould, and to obtain a new one. Revolts and factions beget one another while copying one another. First we find Plato with the most captious of models. He invented an imaginary community, which Sir Thomas More reproduced in his Utopia. In both cases, goods were to be in common, and the fruits of labor distributed by means of arbitrary combinations. Campanella went farther. With Plato he admits promiscuity; but, bolder than Plato, he regulates its exercise. Morelli, not content with recommending a community, would force it on men. He establishes for labor a species of obligatory conscription, and condemns to perpetual imprisonment the partisans of property, under pretext of their dangerous dementia. Babœuf treats them as conspirators, and spares them as little as Morelli. For the sake of good example, he expels them from among men when he does not deliver them to the executioner. Willingly or by force, he would have all distinctions of class and all appropriation of goods disappear. He would tolerate only one costume, one table, one ordinary. The great centres of population trouble him, and, with a stroke of his pen, he suppresses them. Luxury has its birth in cities, and of luxury he will have nothing. Homes should be as uniform as possible, in order not to excite jealousy by comparison. There should be like care for the education of all citizens. The state takes possession of them, and abandons them only at death. It makes laborers and workmen out of them. Useful services, and not acts which serve for pleasure, are demanded of them. What is not communicable to all, he says, in his imperative language, must be severely retrenched. The science of government, he says, is to suppress whatever may act as an obstacle, and the best régime is that which is so contrived as to meet with no opposers. It is not difficult to see what advance the idea of the community had now made. With Plato it was only an idyl; with Babœuf it is a yoke of iron; from an ingenuous dream and one far from being ironical, we pass to the dreariest and most degrading servitude; Plato confines himself to advice, Babœuf would act with living force; Plato admits categories, Babœuf endures none of any kind; he takes the lowest level, and wishes to reduce everything to it. This contrast is intelligible: Plato remains in the imaginary, Babœuf enters the real; with a view to the end, he thinks of the means, and fearing defeat, determines on the most energetic means.
—Examples of a common régime were no more wanting in antiquity than the speculations in which such a common régime was offered in perspective. The conventual organization, with its exploitation of mortmain and vows of renunciation, was nothing else. But those who submitted to it were out of the world, not in the world; they lived for heaven rather than for the earth. As much may be said of the Essenes, whose life was almost that of monks. The Moravians preserve more affinity with regular society; their community is neither as narrow nor as exclusive as that of the Jewish sect; they admit of marriage and of the intermingling of the sexes, while the Essenes preserved the strictest celibacy; they recognize private property side by side with collective labor, while the Essenes had nothing of their own. In the Paraguay missions, likewise, the community partook of a mixed character; each Indian had his field and his flock; only a separate domain, the Possession of God, was reserved for cultivation in common, and its produce was intended to meet the expenses for the support of the infirm, for the purposes of worship, and the payment of the tribute sent each year to the king of Spain. Moreover, in these various modes of grouping, there was neither revolt nor formal protest. They were combinations suggested at one time by a particular creed, at another by expediency of a local character. In the case of the Indians of Paraguay, their community was a beginning of civilization; in that of the Moravians and Essenes, as well as in that of the monks and anchorites, it was a means of sanctification. Under these conditions all government is easy; its point of departure is the spirit of discipline and the suppression of the instincts. From these partial communities to a general community the distance is a great one—the distance between the exception and the rule, between a special state of men's minds and the dispositions which animate the other members of the human family. Such cases must be noted, but there is no conclusion to be drawn from them.
—The community of goods has had less offensive apostles, like the Jacques in France and the Lollards in England. The former did not confine their pretensions within the walls of a monastery or the limits of a nation's territory. They had pretensions to empire, and they disguised projects of partition and spoliation under the mask of political rights. Neither did the Anabaptists admit that they entertained similar pretensions. Their religious schism was only a pretext to lead the populace to an assault on property. What a sad memory the Anabaptists have left! They filled with their crimes and their names two full centuries of the history of Germany. Münzer was their first corypheus; he invited the poor to the partition of the spoils of the rich; Mathias, in turn, ordered the sacking of the houses of the bourgeoisie; John of Leyden proclaimed polygamy a law of the state, and was the first to conform to that law by marrying seventeen women. The execution of such bandits did not suffice to extirpate their sect, and after they had disappeared, the ruins with which the land was strewn showed what is engendered. in popular interpretation, by the utopia of the community, and what vestiges it leaves after it. Socialism has no more formidable formula; and, in the end, it is the only one which is susceptible of application. All other formulæ escape the intelligence of the crowd because of their subtlety; this one is as clear as it is powerful. To take from those who have, in order to give to those who have not, is a concise and intelligible proposition, to reduce all positions and fortunes to a level, is one not less so. Both find in the heart of man a bad passion, which answers to them. When they are heard, passion leaves the vague to enter the world of realities; it knows what it wants, and whither it goes. There is no longer a mere anathema falling in a vacuum, but a campaign to be undertaken against society, with the booty in prospect—We have now cast a rapid glance at the men and the sects which, in the past, may be considered as the equivalents of socialism and socialists. With those who in our day are so named, the spirit is the same; only their procedure is different. The feeling of bitterness against established civilizations is at least as great, and if there be not as much violence in act, it is because moral force has resisted in time. We must add, that, in the case of almost all, the visions of the brain have been tempered by upright intentions. This is true of Robert Owen, who was the first to open the way. In Owen, there were two men, the man of fact and the man of an idea; the one superior, the other mediocre. A manufacturer in New York, he had the opportunity to found, aided by a benevolence without limit and by the sole power of example, one of the most flourishing industrial colonies that have ever been known. The basis of his system was the thought, borrowed from J. J. Rousseau and Bentham, that the practice of virtue has enough in it to fully indemnify those who devote themselves to it. So far the idea is a correct one, and no kind of success was wanting to the man who put the principle in practice; the error consisted in presuming, that, applied to humanity as a whole, it would succeed, as it had succeeded in a manufacturing centre. The great human family can not be governed as a small flock is governed. It was not long before Robert Owen perceived this. He himself, by exaggerating it, had changed the nature of his method for the worse. From a paternal administration he was imperceptibly led to the abandonment of all social restraint. He not only ended in the community, but he took from the community the only guarantee it possessed, the responsibility of the individual. If we believe him, man, having come accidentally into this world, and being the plaything of accidental circumstances through life, could not, without injustice, be declared responsible for his acts. Fatality alone determined good and evil; with the individual, there could be neither merit nor demerit. Why, then, punishment or reward? It was better to let man and society follow their bent, removing all the circumstances which might lead to evil, and increasing those which might lead to good. So much for this world; and, as to the other, why trouble one's self about it? It escapes our means of knowledge; it is an enigma which no one has been able to solve. Such was Owen's conclusion. Never was negation more absolute stated with greater candor. During fifty years he presented it to rebellious human societies as their only means of salvation; in colonies, in plans, in publications, in voluntary subscriptions, he spent a vast amount of money, without his personal sacrifices being able to make his desolating maxims advance a serious step. They wounded men's souls at too many points to be able to make any great ravages. The inventor of them lived long enough to assist at the obsequies of his doctrine.
—The doctrines of Saint-Simon permitted more consideration to be paid them; the basis of his system was a purely sacerdotal government. No more division between the temporal power and the spiritual; the time had come to confound them. Instead of a pope and an emperor, men were to have a father who would unite the functions of both, and govern in the forum internum and the forum externum. in things spiritual as well as temporal. Thus would cease, between the body and the spirit, a struggle which has lasted from the beginning of the world, and which has maintained disorder in the world. A natural hierarchy would follow on this change. Society would be divided into three classes: savans, artists, and those engaged in industrial pursuits; and the chiefs of these three classes would be the greatest savans, the greatest artists, and the greatest workers in the industrial world. These latter would need no investiture but that of the consciousness of their force. They would not be chosen; they would install themselves in their own position. The human family would know them by their works. Moreover, the new hand of society would be, under this régime, not fear, but affection; and the most loving, placing themselves above others, would necessarily impart their tone to all others. The chain of positions being thus formed, everything would follow in the most natural manner imaginable; each one would take rank in proportion to his capacity, and each capacity would be served in proportion to its works. Thenceforth humanity was to be only one family, and the earth to constitute only one great farm, the fruits of which were to be divided in proportion to rank and services. Such was the Saint-Simonian law, and it added on the condition of woman and the relation of the sexes, certain not over-edifying precepts summed up in the expressive words, rehabilitation of the flesh. We know in what this strange morality ended, so far as the principal disciples of Saint-Simon are concerned. Its public profession cost them a suit in the courts and a sentence. Their religion did not survive this scandal, and was dispersed to the music of hisses. Everything considered, it was not worth the noise made about it. A political papacy invested with discretionary powers, with the sovereign disposal of the lot and rank of individuals in society, preaching the reign of the senses under the lying cover of the equality of the sexes, was not a system, and did not advocate a doctrine, which could long resist the revolt of men's consciences and the decrees of public opinion.
—The same fate was reserved, after a longer defense, for the doctrine of Charles Fourier. Substantially it had the same foundation; but the mode of procedure of Fourierism was different. Fourierism, like Saint-Simonism, wished to substitute a world of the fancy for the real world, and an artificial order for the course of things. Fourier started out with the idea, that from the earliest ages to our own time the passions have been the source of so many evils only because they have been unskillfully suppressed. God, according to Fourier, can not have made anything essentially bad or essentially useless. If the passions, in their actual play, are the source of many disorders, it is not with the passions themselves that we must find fault, but with the medium in which they move, a human medium, and therefore susceptible of modification. "Attractions," says Fourier, "are proportional to destinies," which means that it would be all gain for men to yield to their inclinations. Hence they must be satisfied in an association freely agreed to, and in which all the instincts of man may have room for the fullest play. These formulas of association are the ingenious part of Fourier's work. The association is in groups, which and in series, and these in phalanxes. The group is the cell of the human hive; it is composed of seven or nine persons; it has a centre and wings, and a harmony which results as much from its identifies as from its contrasts. The series comprise from twenty-four to thirty-two groups. The phalaux is Fourier's commune; consisting of 1,800 souls, it lives in a palace which he cells the phalanstery, divided in such a manner as to procure the greatest possible number of pleasures, while avoiding all the prejudices which result from the arrangement of actual households. As to property, it does not incorporate itself in individuals; it is collective. Its value circulates only under the form of coupons, and becomes susceptible of appropriation; products are divided among the three direct agents of production: capital talent and labor. Let us add, that in Fourier's system no repugnance attaches to this labor; it is attended by a love for it, taste and buoyancy; it is done in short sessions, in holiday clothes, with passion and spirit, the task is taken up or dropped at will, and varied so as to produce neither monotony nor weariness. Nor is this all; to these wonders of earth Fourier adds the joys of a heaven of his own. He has his own cosmogony and his own transmigration of souls; he walks his system through the spheres, and requires of our planets the most singular services. The whole of Fourier's system may be summed up thus: a universal government, a perfect world adorned by a perfect society. Beyond this, imagination can not soar. In this land of vertigo, nothing is to be found but glare Again, we have a world to be made over, a civilization to be reconstructed, man and humanity to be renewed in a confused amalgam of the marvelous and the real.
—Here stops the series of socialists at first hand; after them come the plagiarists, and, first of all, Cabet. Like Campanella and Sir Thomas More, Cabet has given us, in his "Icarie", an imaginary community, which unites all perfections in itself, and which found, in the streets of Paris, more than one partisan whom time has disabused. When it became a question to pass from ideas to acts, he perished in the attempt, and learned what becomes of dreams when brought to wrestle with realities. And so it was with Louis Blane. In the silence of his study he had imagined an administrative workshop which would cure industry of the leprosy of competition. He would have the state become entrepreneur (see ENTREPRENEUR) and universal producer; he would have it carry out, at the expense of the public treasury, an experiment in relation to the economy of manual labor. In the workshops which were to be established, the workmen were to share in the profits of exploitation, and these workshops, of different kinds, were to be associated among themselves in such a way that the profits of some might serve to cover, if need were, the losses of others. Nothing could be more ingenious on paper; each of these workshops would become a type and a model; free industry would be forced, under pain of death, to draw inspiration from them, and this idea of the absorption and destruction of free industry was discoverable in the spirit of the project. Private activity was destined to disappear before official activity. We know what these specious plans became in the execution of them: by forced deviation the administrative workshop became the national workshop (see ATELIERS NATIONAUX), with an elective head, and a minimum of wages, two features borrowed from the combination of Louis Blanc. A false idea led to applications still more false, so false that the author of the idea vehemently and justly repudiated them. Proudhon was no happier. Is it proper to rank Proudhon among socialists? No one battled them more fiercely than he; he produced the evidence of their contradictions, the emptiness of their plans, and the poverty of their doctrines; he left nothing standing, neither their arguments nor their combinations; and he warmed against them even to the point of invective. But if he was brutal toward the community, he was no less so toward property; and he remains a socialist spite of himself. From the core of what he denies we need only disengage what he affirms, to become convinced of this. Thus, he sacrifices the idea of property to I know not what species of imaginary possession floating in vacuo. And so, after an at-random dissertation on the determination of value, he arrives at imagining a general and uniform tariff for it, both for labor and products, by measuring the price of these latter by the number of hours employed in producing them! Lastly, as a consequence, he proposes to replace money made of gold and silver, by orders payable in kind, in such a manner as to return from gold and silver money to barter, and to deprive capital of one of its most evident powers, the power to produce interest. On all these points Proudhon remains on the staff of the socialistic legion which he so maltreated. To the same staff belongs also Pierre Leroux, as he appeared with a plan of human society in his hand. He admits the family, fatherland and property only on certain conditions. He finds that the fatherland has the drawback of recognizing a chief or head; the family, of recognizing a father and children; and the institution of property, of recognizing rich and poor. Pure despotism! It is all a question of finding a combination in which the family, the fatherland and property shall be such that man may develop in them without being oppressed by them; in other words, that the family should not produce an heir, that the fatherland should have no subjects, and property no proprietor. Such is the problem, such the solution: if to it we add a little of theurgy and metempsychosis, we shall have all the baggage of Leroux, so far as things serious are concerned.
—We have reached the end of those systems, and may judge in what they agree, and in what they differ. Under the names we have mentioned, there now remain but the men for whom socialism was a tool or a pedestal, and the political parties who took up the standard of socialism without seeking to define it. Socialism, indeed, has its day; many were attracted by it as men are attracted by novelty; then the crowd mixed with it with the obscure feeling that it would find its advantage in it, and that in the absence of conviction they should adhere to it from pure calculation. And how could the crowd defend itself against socialism? It was promised higher wages in return for less labor, a quarry to hunt in a society in dissolution, the leveling of conditions, the humiliation of the higher classes, and a general division of private fortunes among all. Is it to be wondered at that such vertigo was contagious, and that it became in some countries, for an instant, an object of alarm? Yet socialism did not deserve so much honor. As a theory, it could not stand examination; as a fact, it was not able to succeed under any circumstances or at any point. The name of Owen is connected with the failures of New Harmony and Orbistan; that of Cabet, with the Nauvoo failure in the state of Illinois; with Fourier's a series of discomfitures which followed on the heels of each other at Condé-sur-Vesgres, Citeaux, in the valley of the Sig, and in America. From the ideas of Louis Blanc, there proceeded only the ateliers nationaux (national workshops), the paternity of which he excepted to; of the boldness and rashness of Proudhon, all that remains is the memory of the bank of exchange or bank of the people, made famous by the most untoward catastrophe. The history of contemporary socialism is but one continual abortion. The principal actors on its stage have disappeared from the scene, and left their places to a few confidants who stammer out their parts. All that socialism and socialists have done is reduced to a few plans of association, to a few commonplaces which are only the weakened echo of their first timorous ideas, to a few formulas whose meaning time changes, and which have become fixed in language as problems or bugbears.
—Thus, all these chimeras gradually depart into the regions of oblivion. It may be that the same vertigo will appear again under other forms and another name; our globe is the seat of an external revolt and of an external wail. But them as now, unless the hour of an irrevocable decline has struck for humanity, the result of such errors can not be doubtful. True, these errors are covered with a mask, the love of the people, the interest of the suffering, the feeling of human perfectibility, the advance of generations to a better state and one less full of shocking inequalities. But behind this mask we find a more living physiognomy. That living physiognomy is the truth of things, whether the inventors of systems be conscious of it or not. Behind the truth of things the public conscience always retreated and always will retreat. This, to its honor, we must hope. The question is of a war to the knife against established civilizations, to the profit of imaginary civilizations; it is a question of destruction for the sole purpose of building up again; it is a question of giddily abandoning ourselves to systems which, scarcely fledged, give battle to one another, and which die out in the shock of rivalry and the weakness of isolation. It would seem, indeed, that socialists supposed that society, such as it exists, is only so much stage scenery which might be made to disappear at the wave of a wand. And what is proposed in its place? Servitude in all its forms. Take all these systems; they have one feature in common, which is to stifle, by their artificial forms, the taste for and the use of liberty. They condemn human activity to carry a yoke of iron. Here man is enticed into a world of fancy, and there he is condemned to devote himself to others without the merit of that devotion being allowed him. He can no longer dispose of the fruits of his labor, nor regulate the employment of his hands or his brain. The state takes possession of his entire person, of his goods, of the products he creates, and determines the portion of them which he shall receive back. Under the régime of socialism the individual disappears, and is absorbed by a collective being. He ceases to be a body or a soul, and becomes a piece of mechanism. Slavery does not more completely than socialism destroy the personality of man. (Compare ATELIERS NATIONAUX, COMMUNISM, FOURIERISM, PROPERTY.)
Notes for this chapter
"The assailants of the principle of individual property," says John Stuart Mill ("Principles," book ii., §2), "may be divided into two classes: those whose scheme implies absolute equality in the distribution of the physical means of life and enjoyment, and those who admit inequality, but grounded on some principle or supposed principle of justice or general expediency, and not like so many of the existing social inequalities, dependent on accident alone. At the head of the first class, as the earliest of those belonging to the present generation, must be placed Mr. Owen and his followers. M. Louis Blanc and M. Cabet have more recently become conspicuous as apostles of similar doctrines (though the former advocates equality of distribution only as a transition to a still higher standard of justice, that all should work according to their capacity, and receive according to their wants).
—The characteristic name for this economical system is 'communism,' a word of continental origin, only of late introduced into this country. The word 'socialism,' which originated among the English economists, and was assumed by them as a name to designate their own doctrine, is now, on the continent, employed in a larger sense; not necessarily implying communism, or the entire abolition of private property, but applicable to any system which requires that the land and the instruments of production should be the property, not of individuals, but of communities, or associations, or of the government."
—It is in this latter sense, evidently, that M. Reybaud uses the word "socialism" in this article,—ED.
Among the forms of socialism, German writers on political economy mention what they call staatssozialismus.
or state socialism. understanding by the term "that system which would have economic relations regulated as far as possible by the state, and which would substitute state help for self-help" Prince Bismarck has shown a decided leaning to this form of socialism. The French have the expression socialisme d'état,
which is the exact equivalent of staalssozialismus,
or state socialism. That such a form of socialism has been finding favor with large classes of the people in recent times can not be doubted. Hence it has been not inappropriately styled by Professor Faweett, "modern socialism;" and much of what he says on its growth and probable consequences in certain countries of Europe is true as to its growth and consequences in the United States, but of course not to the same extent as in Europe. He writes: "It is each day becoming more evident that in every European country an increasing number of the laboring population are giving an enthusiastic adherence to certain social and economic principles, which, if carried into effect, will introduce even more fundamental changes than those brought about by the first French revolution. Never, perhaps, was there a time when it was more important to dispassionately consider the ideas. the wants and the aspirations of the workmen who are engaged in this movement, which may be described under the general title of modern socialism. Without such dispassionate consideration, there is certain to arise, instead of a kindly and intelligent sympathy, the rancorous enmity of bitter class prejudice. Those who are prepared to show this sympathy may have some chance of directing to purposes of inestimable good this new movement, which, if met with blind and unreasoning opposition, will at last gradually gather so much strength as to pass beyond control; Europe may then flud herself involved in a terrible war of classes. It has been repeatedly shown that the friends of revolutionary changes derive their motive power from the bigoted opponents of progress, and from the stubborn upholders of unwise laws and unjust privileges. It might as well be supposed that the railway engine would move if it were deprived of steam, that wheat could grow without soil, or that man could live without food, as to imagine that a revolutionary propagandism could be maintained if it were not kept alive by the recollection of some wrong inflicted, and by the continuance of some grievance unredressed. It is perfectly vain to expect that there will not be threatening of coming convulsions so long as the social and economic condition of great masses of the people remains what it is at the present time. England is constantly being glorified as the wealthiest of all nations. From every platform in the kingdom orators delight to parade the well-known statistics about our vast and growing commerce. Each quarterly return from the board of trade shows an augmentation of exports and imports. In spite, however, of all these evidences of accumulating wealth, the majority of our people have a severe struggle for existence, and no inconsiderable minority live in abject misery and in degrading poverty. The more wealthy the nation is admitted to be, the more perilous does it become, and the more ominous of future trouble, that one out of twenty of the nation should be a pauper; that to a great proportion of our laboring classes a life of incessant toll yields no other result than an old age of dependent mendicancy; that millions are so entirely uneducated as to be cut off from every intellectual enjoyment; that in many rural districts horses are stabled far more comfortably than laborers are housed; and that in our largest and wealthiest cities the poor are so crowded and huddled together, that in a countless number of instances all the members of a family herd together in a single room. Can any one who reflects on such facts be surprised that a wide-spread spirit of unrest and dissatisfaction is abroad? Ought it not to be regarded as almost incredible that a social structure resting on such a basis should have stood so long? But it may be said that if things are not as rapidly improving as can be desired, they are certainly not getting worse. Why then, it is urged, should there be this new outburst of discontent? No new laws vexations to the industrial classes have been imposed; many, on the contrary, have been repealed; taxation is not more burdensome, and duties on many of the necessaries of life which added greatly to their cost have been remitted. May it not, therefore, be fairly concluded that things will gradually improve; that the present dissatisfaction is unreasonable, and that the demands of those who are so discontented with society as it is now constituted should be simply met by undeviating resistance? As there is only too much reason to fear that many will assume this attitude of resistance, it is important to give the most emphatic warning as to the consequences which the adoption of such a policy may involve. As it is so frequently supposed that the movement in favor of organic social and economic changes has no solid foundation in reason or in justice, and that it is rather a temporary aberration of certain unsettled and mischievous people who love revolution for revolution's sake, it becomes important, in the first instance, to attempt to discover whether this is a true interpretation of the sentiments now widely prevalent among the industrial classes.
—As previously remarked, it no doubt, at first sight. appears somewhat difficult to account for the fact that this desire for change should have grown up with the repeal of many unjust laws, with the remission of many burdensome taxes, with a great stimulus in the productive industry of the country, and with the more wide-spread desire among those who are in comfortable circumstances to be good, kind and charitable to the poor. But does not the fact that all these circumstances have been in operation without producing any more marked effect upon the general well-being of the people, suggest an explanation of the phenomenon which we are seeking to elucidate? Scarcely any other result can be expected than that there should arise a feeling of angry disappointment, unreasoning distrust and unjust suspicion when favorable agencies like those just mentioned are contrasted with such facts as those previously enumerated, which are only too truly typical of the social and economic condition of the country. For a long time the people were led to believe that the elevation of their class would be secured by bringing into operation various favorable material agencies. At one period it was supposed that the application of steam to manufactures and the improvement of locomotion by the introduction of railways, would so stimulate production as to bring to the laborer an age of golden plenty. At another time it was confidently stated that by the abolition of protection the markets of the world would be thrown open to us, and the supplies of cheap food thus procured would yield an increased store of comfort to every humble home. In one respect these predictions have been fulfilled, in another respect they have been cruelly falsified. Production has been stimulated beyond the expectations of the most sanguine, and supplies of food have been obtained from even the most distant countries in much greater quantities than could have been anticipated. Still, however, so far as the laborer is concerned, the age of golden plenty seems as remote as ever, and in the humble homes of the poor a not less constant war has to be waged against penury and want. From the bitter disappointment thus engendered, there has not unnaturally arisen a feeling of deep distrust of the fundamental principles on which society is based. A wide-spread opinion has grown up that it is no use relying upon the old remedies and the old nostrums. Resort must be had to far more radical changes; the very foundations on which our social system rests must be altered. This feeling of unrest, this desire to do away with the existing order of things, is sure to arise when the mass of the people become dissatisfied with their condition. On many previous occasions they had more reason than now to attribute their misfortunes to political causes. Unjust and vexatious taxation, combined with a reckless expenditure of a profligate and corrupt court, at length accumulated such misery upon the French people that an irresistible movement arose to sweep away every established institution. The first French revolution ought not consequently to be regarded as an uprising to substitute a republican for a monarchical form of government. The people, driven to a frenzy of despair by physical suffering, were not in a frame of mind calmly to reason upon well-devised schemes of relief. They wished to see everything changed, and they consequently waged an unrelenting war with the existing state of things. Again, the revolutionary movement in 1848, although it caused the fall of so many dynasties, was not so much a political as a social and economic movement. The dissatisfaction which prevailed at this period was not mainly due either to unjust laws or vexations taxation. It was the manifestation of an intense desire fundamentally to change the principles from which the vast Industrial system of the present time has been developed. Competition and the separation of capital from labor may be regarded as the most prominent characteristics of modern industry. It might, therefore, have been almost foreseen that these characteristics would be singled out for special reprobation, when the general condition of the industrial classes became unsatisfactory, and the great mass of the people in every country felt that they had to bear an undue amount of suffering, the hardest toil yielding to them a most inadequate share of comfort and enjoyment. There consequently arose a determination to substitute for the industrial system then existing one from which not only competition would be absent, but one in which capital and labor would be united, instead of being separated by the rivalry of hostile interests. The industrial ideas which were thus sought to be carried into practical effect may be described under the general name of socialism or communism. The very mention of these words will no doubt to many minds suggest much that is ominous of danger, and much which is opposed to the well-being of society. Prejudice, however unfounded, often spreads so fast that it becomes most formidable to combat. To many, socialism and communism are supposed to be synonymous with confiscation and spoliation. A socialist exists vaguely in the minds of the comfortable classes as a sort of abandoned creature who wishes to live by robbing other people of their property, and who desires to see general pillage introduced. In the present state of mankind, socialism would do nothing to increase the well-being of the people, and the socialistic schemes which have been propounded would inevitably end in disastrous failure. But, although this may be fully proved, yet nothing can be more unjust than to throw aspersions upon the character of socialists, and to misinterpret their motives. They no doubt have been mistaken enthusiasts, but it is impossible to deny that their motives have been pure and their aims lofty. They have been animated by a desire which must have been felt by all who are not depraved by selfishness, to lighten poverty, to alleviate human suffering, and to diffuse more general happiness among mankind. The injustice which is so generally done to socialists will be perhaps more clearly perceived when attention is directed to the origin of the socialistic sentiment.
—It has been often remarked that the more a country advances in wealth, the wider and deeper seems to be the gulf between the rich and the poor. Not only is this shown by the fact that the augmentation in the number of the very wealthy is not accompanied either by a corresponding decrease in the number of the very poor, or by a proportionate diminution of their sufferings; but the separation between classes seems to become intensified in other ways. The time was when those who were engaged in any industry, master, foreman and workmen, dwelt near to each other, and between them there were often intimate personal relations. which have now completely passed away. Althuogh the introduction of steam and the application of various mechanical inventions have completely revolutionized the conditions on which industry is carried on, yet there has probably been a not less marked change in the social and industrial life of the country. The supplanting of hand-loom weaving and pillow-lace making by vast manufactories filled with complicated and costly machinery, does not represent a greater change than that which is indicated by a comparison between the present mode of life of men of business and that which was adopted by them formerly. The merchant and the manufacturer used to reside close to where the daily work of their lives was carried on. Now, however, each year a greater distance separates the homes of the master and his workmen. Many who have accumulated princely fortunes seldom go within miles of the homes of any of their workmen. All these considerations show that the relations between employers and employed have gradually lost their personal character, and have become more and more commercial. This being the case, there can, of course, be little friendship or comradeship; there is too little of that personal sympathy which often arises among those who are fellow-workers at a common object; but, on the contrary, labor being bought and sold in the same way as any commodity of commerce, the only feelings between employers and employed are too often those which exist between the buyers and sellers of merchandise. It must not, however, be supposed that the present has thus been contrasted with the past with the object of implying that there has been no improvement, nor must it be imagined that it would be desirable to restore a state of things which would in many respects be incompatible and incongruous with the requirements of modern times. But being perfectly ready to admit that there has been progress, yet this should not cause us to lose sight of those drawbacks associated with commercial development, which make the present in some of its aspects compare unfavorably with the past. It is, of course, far more prudent carefully to consider these drawbacks with the view of reaching the causes which produce them; for if this can not be done, if commercial progress is always to be presented to the mass of the people in no other aspect than that in which they now see it, there will certainly arise not only dissatisfaction, but a desire to effect organic changes in the constitution of society. Some idea may be formed of the extent to which discontent must be engendered, when every workman must be constantly reminded of the fact, that, while numbers are unable to obtain a sufficiency of the necessaries of life, others have so much superfluously wealth that they are able to squander it in useless and mischievous luxuries, and never devote themselves to one hour's useful employment. The more the distance widens between the rich and the poor, the more the belief is certain to gain ground that there is something radically wrong in the laws which regulate the distribution of wealth. It can not be wise and just, it is plausibly said, that the produce which the earth yields should be so apportioned among its inhabitants that, whereas many have far more than they need, others have to endure the bitter pangs of want. It is urged that if there was more equality in this distribution, there would be enough for all; if superfluities were taken away from the rich. and given to the poor, all would then enjoy adequate comfort. Those who are influenced by such ideas as these are at once, by natural sequense, led to the conclusion that the circumstances which produce inequalities in wealth are chiefly responsible for all the social and economic evils under which a nation suffers. It is consequently proposed that society should be regulated on principles which would. as far as possible, prevent inequalities in wealth. A feeling thus arises in favor of either abolishing, or greatly curtailing the rights of private property. Various schemes have, from time to time. been propounded with the object of giving effect to these ideas. Those who would not shrink from applying what they conceive to be a complete remedy, propose that society should be reconstituted on an entirely communistic model; associations being established in which there should be no private property, the wealth produced being the joint property of the community. Others suggest less thorough remedies, and propose, that, after a due maintenance has been guaranteed to all the members, any surplus which may remain might be appropriated as private property. St. Simon and Fourier in France, and Robert Owen in England, have identified their names with these communistic experiments. It is scarcely necessary to remark that all such attempts have hitherto failed to obtain any practical success. In fact, it is not too much to say that in the present state of mankind failure is inevitable. Men are not yet sufficiently advanced to work with as much zeal for the good of others as for their own advantage. Those who are industrious will not long remain content if they see that a considerable portion of the fruits of their labor is devoted to the support of those who are as well able to work as themselves, but who are so indolent and improvident that they rely upon others for their maintenance. It must, however, be remembered that such men as St. Simon, Fourier and Owen never proposed the confiscation of other people's property. They always contemplated that their communistic societies should legitimately acquire the land and other property upon which they first commenced operations. Robert Owen, in fact, purchased an estate in Hampshire for a considerable sum of money, upon which he attempted to give practical effect to his socialistic ideas Although these schemes have completely failed, yet failure has done little to weaken the sentiment which gave them birth. The ideas from which they have originated have not been and probably will not be ever extinguished. Each fruitless endeavor to carry them out not only stimulates a fresh development, but also causes them to assume another form. Unlike the socialists of former days, those who are at the present time under the influence of the socialistic sentiment are beginning to place their chief reliance upon state intervention. They seem to think that if individual efforts have been unable to achieve success, this provides the most cogent argument in favor of an appeal to the state. This is the reason which induces me to ascribe such grave importance to modern socialism. There was no cause to feel alarm or misgiving as long as socialism simply caused certain experiments to be tried by enthusiasts, against whom no other charge could be brought than that they showed too much zeal in their efforts to improve society. Even their failure did something to benefit mankind. It can scarcely be doubted that in these first socialistic schemes were sown the germs of a social and economic movement which has already effected great good, and which promises more for the future than any other agency yet brought into operation. It is well known that some of those who were the most strongly imbued with the teaching and doctrines of Robert Owen were the founders, and afterward the managers of our most prosperous co-operative institutions. Co-operation is as yet only in its infancy; it has hitherto been generally applied to the distribution of wealth. but rarely to its production. Enough, however, has been seen of its effects to justify a confident belief that its general adaptation to industrial undertakings would probably mark the greatest advance ever yet made in human improvement. Labor and capital, instead of being hostile interests, will be united, and by this union an incalculable stimulus will be given to production. * * *—Until quite recently there was one most marked and important difference between the continental and the English workman. The former placed his chief reliance on the state, whereas it was the aim of the latter to free himself as much as possible from government control. One of the first uses which the French workmen made of their success in the revolution of 1848, was to compel the government to establish national workshops, and to advance loans to co-operative associations. One of the first things which the English workmen did, when they obtained political power by the reform bill of 1867, was to call upon parliament to repeal all the laws which interfered with the formation of voluntary trade combinations. The continental workman was constantly looking to the state as he would to a powerful friend or benefactor to aid and reward him. The attitude of the English workman has, until recently, been one rather of hostility toward the state. His habit has been to claim freedom from government control, to that he might have a free and open field for the exercise of his energies. This difference, however, between English and continental laborers is becoming less marked. It can scarcely have escaped notice that during the last two or three years English workmen have with much greater frequency asked for government assistance; and the demands for state intervention are constantly enlarging. There are many circumstances which have contributed to bring about this change. In the first place, it is probable, as previously indicated, that the growing tendency shown by so many of our artisans to rely upon the state may be traced to the false hopes excited, some years since. by those who taught the people to believe that the great end to be striven after was a larger production of wealth. This augmented production of wealth has taken place, and when it is found to be unaccompanied by the predicted improvement in the condition of the poor, there is naturally aroused keen disappointment, and there is diffused through the industrial classes a general feeling of distrust. They get into just that frame of mind which causes them to give a ready acceptance to any doctrines differing from those by which they suppose they have been deceived. The opinions in favor of state intervention so current among continental workmen now consequently find a more ready acceptance in this country; these opinions are, In fact, transplanted to our shores under such favorable circumstances that, for a time at least, they seem to have taken root among us. * * *—Fully, however, admitting that among those who hold these opinions are still to be found some of our ablest artisans, yet it can scarcely be denied by any who observe serve the signs of the times that, so far as England is concerned, the demands for state assistance are each year assuming more formidable proportions. This will be sufficiently shown by enumerating some of the many things which the state is, with increasing urgency, asked to supply for the people. It is now, for instance, often said that the government should pay the passage-money of emigrants; should furnish work at good wages for the unemployed; and should secure for laborers comfortable houses and wholesome food at a reasonable rate. Such proposals as these represent the opinions of those who may by comparison be regarded as moderate in their demands. * * *—In one respect this growing tendency to rely upon the state is fraught with greater danger to England than to many other countries. This is not an appropriate place to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of government by party. There is, however, one aspect in which party government may be viewed, as having a very direct bearing upon the subject we are now considering. The two great political sections who contend for place and power have a constant temptation held out to them to bid against each other for popular support. [May not the same be said of political parties in the United States?] When therefore, it is perceived that any particular set of opinions has obtained a great hold upon the masses, place and power will seem to be the lot of the political party which promises to do most to give effect to these opinions. Under the pressure of this temptation, it may, consequently, any day happen that statesmen will accept doctrines and pursue a policy against which, if their judgment was unbiased, they would be the first to protest. This is a peril which hangs over this country, and recent events have shown that I am not conjuring up an imaginary vision of coming danger. During the last year [this was written in the early part of 1872] direct encouragement has been given to some of the most mischievous and alarming features of modern socialism by one who is, and by another who has been, a responsible minister of state. The budget of 1871 was framed in accordance with some of the financial principles of the international association; and no member of this organization ever made more reckless promises to the proletariat than did Sir John Pakington, when, as president of the social science association, he told the workmen, in his address at Leeds, that parliament ought to secure for them comfortable homes and wholesome food at reasonable prices. A few months before Sir John Pakington enunciated these mischievous doctrines, the people had been virtually told by the chancellor of the exchequer, that if they make some demand, the granting of which involves additional expenditure, the majority shall avoid contributing a single shilling toward the outlay, and shall be enabled to throw the whole burden upon the payers of income tax. Under such fostering care it is not surprising that there is rapidly growing up in this country an abnormal development of that new form of socialism, the cardinal principle of which is that all social improvements must be effected by state agency, and must also be carried out by public money."—HENRY FAWCETT.
This is almost the system extrolled by the famous German agitator. Ferdinand Lasalle. What is said lower of Proudhon applies to some extent to Karl Marx.
Footnotes for SOVEREIGNTY
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