British Socialism - An Examination of Its Doctrines, Policy, Aims and Practical Proposals
by J. Ellis Barker
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I am not prepared to give an estimate how the national income is distributed between hand workers, brain workers, and men who live on their income without doing any useful work, because such an estimate could be arrived at only by guesswork. However, it is quite clear that it is untrue that the wage-earners receive only one-third, one-fourth, or one-fifth of the wages which they ought to receive, as is constantly stated.


[95] Justice, October 19, 1907.

[96] Social-Democratic Federation Song Book, p. 13.

[97] The Worker's Burden, p. 1.

[98] Hyndman, Social Democracy, p. 9.

[99] Macdonald, Socialism, p. 12.

[100] Protect the Home, p. 1.

[101] John Ball, p. 10.

[102] Facts for Socialists, p. 12.

[103] Sidney Webb, The Difficulties of Individualism, p. 15.

[104] Ibid. p. 7.

[105] Ibid. p. 12.

[106] Keir Hardie, Can a Man be a Christian on a Pound a Week? p. 12.

[107] McClure, Socialism, p. 27.

[108] Ethel Snowden, The Woman Socialist, p. 11.

[109] Joynes, The Socialist Catechism, p. 5.

[110] To the Man in the Street, Social-Democratic Federation Leaflet.

[111] Hyndman in Debate, Will Socialism Benefit the English People? p. 5.

[112] Leatham, The Class War, p. 4.

[113] Socialism, For and Against, p. 6.

[114] Snowden, Socialists' Budget, p. 11.

[115] Debs, Industrial Unionism, p. 5.

[116] Kautsky, Class Struggle, p. 10.

[117] Hall, The Old and New Unionism, p. 4.

[118] Lister, Riches and Poverty, pp. 13, 14.

[119] Bax and Quelch, A New Catechism of Socialism, p. 7.

[120] Poems for Socialists, p. 8.

[121] Social-Democratic Federation Song Book, p. 25.

[122] Washington, A Corner in Flesh and Blood, p. 14.

[123] Ibid.

[124] Benson, Socialism, p. 5.

[125] Washington, Nation of Slaves, p. 11.

[126] Davidson, The Old Order and the New, p. 30.

[127] Some Objections to Socialism, p. 7.

[128] Davidson, The Old Order and the New, p. 45.

[129] Morris, Useful Work and Useless Toil, p. 30.

[130] Some Objections to Socialism, p. 20.

[131] Keir Hardie, From Serfdom to Socialism, p. 52.

[132] Hall, The Old and New Unionism, p. 5.

[133] Macdonald, Socialism, p. 6.

[134] The Socialist Annual, 1907, p. 16 f.

[135] Facts for Socialists, p. 5.

[136] Facts for Socialists, pp. 6, 7.

[137] Ibid. p. 7.

[138] Ibid. p. 8.

[139] Facts for Socialists, pp. 8, 9.

[140] See Daily News, November 28, 1907.

[141] Facts for Socialists, p. 7.

[142] See Mr. Quail's paper in the Contemporary Review for August 1907.

[143] Ward, The Ideal City, pp. 5, 6.

[144] Keir Hardie, From Serfdom to Socialism, p. 15.

[145] Quelch, Social-Democratic Federation, p. 5.

[146] Manifesto of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, p. 8.

[147] Sidney Webb, The Difficulties of Individualism, p. 8.

[148] Keir Hardie, Can a Man be a Christian on a Pound a Week? p. 7.

[149] Joynes, The Socialist Catechism, p. 2.

[150] Hazell, Summary of Marx's "Capital," p. 9.



In describing the doctrines of Socialism I do not mean to state in detail the whole of the Socialistic theories. Such a statement would fill a volume, it would be excessively tedious to most readers, and it is for all practical purposes quite unnecessary. A statement of the leading doctrines on which the activity of the Socialists is based—the doctrines which are constantly asserted and which are the fundamental dogmas of the Socialist faith—will enable us to obtain a clear view of the foundations upon which the theoretic fabric of Socialism is built, and to judge whether that foundation is scientific and sound, or unscientific and unsound.

The basic doctrine of Socialism, upon which the great edifice of Socialistic theory has been reared, may be summed up in the phrase


Therefore we read in the celebrated pamphlet "Facts for Socialists," of which some important extracts were given in the preceding chapter: "Commodities are produced solely by the 'efforts and sacrifices' (Cairns), whether of muscle or of brain, of the working portion of the community, employed upon the gifts of Nature. Adam Smith 'showed that labour is the only source of wealth.... It is to labour, therefore, and to labour only, that man owes everything possessed of exchangeable value (McCulloch's 'Principles of Political Economy,' Part II., section 1). 'No wealth whatever can be produced without labour' (Professor Henry Fawcett (Cambridge), 'Manual of Political Economy,' p. 13),"[151]

This statement is scarcely honest, for it quotes opinions of Adam Smith and others which are erroneous, as will be seen in the following, and which have been generally abandoned. This statement may impose upon the simple by its show of learning, but it is somewhat vague, for it only suggests, but does not distinctly assert, that manual labour is the only source of wealth. However, in most—one might say in nearly all—Socialist books, pamphlets, and declarations of policy we find the basic doctrine of Socialism asserted in a form which leaves no doubt that according to the Socialist theories the manual labour of the labourer is the only source of wealth.

The founder of modern Socialism declared, "Labour is the only source of wealth,"[152] and his disciples—at least his British disciples—support that declaration. "All wealth is due to labour; therefore, to the labourers all wealth is due."[153] "Labour applied to natural objects is the source of all wealth."[154] The Socialist Party of Great Britain declares: "Wealth is natural material converted by labour-power to man's use, and as such is consequently produced by the working class alone."[155] The Independent Labour party asserts: "No man or class of men made the first kind of wealth, such as land, minerals, and water. Therefore no man or class of men should be allowed to call these things their own, or to prevent others from using them (except on certain conditions), as the landowners and mine-owners do now. The only class of human beings who make the second kind of wealth are the workers. Working men and women produce and prepare for us all those things which we use or consume, such as food, clothing, houses, furniture, instruments and implements, trams, railways, pictures, books, gas, drains, and many other things. They produce all the wealth obtained by toil from the land."[156]

Those who maintain that labour, or, as some Socialists assert, the labourer's labour, is the only source of wealth, look merely at the mechanical factor, but omit the force which directs and controls it. The Socialistic argument "We can run the mills without the capitalists, but they cannot run them without us"[157] is misleading. Labour is certainly an indispensable ingredient in production, but it is no more indispensable than is direction, invention, and thrift. Hence it is as absurd to assert "All wealth is due to labour" as to say "All wealth is due to invention," or "All wealth is due to thrift." As the brain is more important than the hand, at least in a highly organised state of production, so invention, organisation, management, and thrift are more important than manual labour, because invention, organisation, management, and thrift alone enable manual labour, working with modern machinery, to be highly productive. In fact, it may be asserted that wealth is created not so much by labour as by the saving of labour. A factory-owner who is dissatisfied with the profits of his factory or with its products does not get better workers, but gets a better manager or better machinery, keeping his workers. This fact proves that labour is the least important factor in modern production. The doctrine "Labour is the only source of wealth" is untenable and absurd.

Another fundamental doctrine of Socialism is that of


According to that law, "wages under competition can never be higher than that which will just support the labourer and enable him to renew his kind."[158] In the words of Lassalle, the inventor of the Iron Law of Wages, "the wages of the labourer are limited to the exact amount necessary to keep him alive."[159]

The British Socialist writers tell us: "The average price of wage-labour is the minimum wage—i.e. that quantum of the means of subsistence which is absolutely requisite to keep the labourer in bare existence."[160] "The labourer cannot as a rule command more than his cost of subsistence in return for his labour. This principle, that the return to labour is determined by the cost of subsistence of the labourer, is generally known as 'The Iron Law of Wages.' But has not this law been discarded even by some Socialists? There have been attempts in some quarters to demonstrate that this law does not actually operate with the rigidity at first claimed for it; but in truth, it stands as firmly to-day as when insisted upon by Lassalle."[161] "Capitalism always keeps the wages down to the lowest standard of subsistence which the people will accept,"[162] for "the basis of wages is the cost of subsistence of the labourer. This is called the 'Iron Law of Wages.'"[163] "By the Iron Law of Wages the recompense of the workers always tends to the minimum on which they are willing to subsist. If they are content with water to drink and cabbage to eat, they may be sure that the means of buying whisky or roast beef will very soon be taken from them. Messrs. Rentmonger, Interestmonger, and Profitmonger will speedily scent additional swag, and they will have it, too."[164] "The 'Iron Law of Wages' reduces the wages to as near the level of the means of subsistence as local circumstances will admit of."[165] If these arguments were correct it would follow that the workers could cause their wages to rise by drinking wine instead of whisky, and by smoking Havana cigars instead of pipe-tobacco.

This theory of wages is called the "Iron Law of Wages" because of its absolute and pitiless rigidity. For instance, the Iron Law of Wages will prevent lower prices of food benefiting the workman in any way. "If the working class is enabled to buy cheap bread, the operation of the 'Iron Law of Wages' will secure all the advantage for the capitalists, as it did in the days of the saintly Bright, when the corn laws were repealed. Capital is always the same in its effect on the working-class, whether manipulated by an individual capitalist, joint-stock enterprise, municipality, or government, and with each step in concentration the working-class gets relatively less and the master class gets richer, more corrupt, and more bestial, as recent events in Berlin and elsewhere show."[166] The "Iron Law of Wages" is irrefutable and irresistible. "Economists have come to talk about the 'Iron Law of Wages' with as much assurance as if it were an irreversible law of Nature."[167]

The Iron Law of Wages exists chiefly in the imagination of British Socialists. The general wage of British workmen living in towns ranges from, say 18s. to more than 2l. per week, and its amount does not depend on the cost of subsistence, but on the working skill and various other factors. If the Iron Law of Wages were correct, wages would be almost uniform. The Iron Law of Wages can possibly apply only to one small class of workers, the lowest and least skilled labourers, provided that unemployment is so great among them that they abandon collective bargaining and underbid one another down to the level of subsistence. When workers are organised, the Iron Law of Wages does not apply. The level of wages depends, broadly speaking, on supply and demand. Wages rise when two employers run after one workman; wages fall when two workmen run after one employer. An employer who engages a workman does not ask, "How much do you eat?" but "What can you do?" and he proportions the worker's remuneration not to his appetite, but to his ability and his value as a producer. The wages paid to married men and to unmarried men are identical in the same trade. If there was an "Iron Law of Wages," the wages of married men should be about twice as large as those of unmarried men.

The Iron Law of Wages is manifestly absurd. It has therefore been officially abandoned by the German Socialists at the Halle Congress of 1890 "as being scientifically untenable."[168] "German Social Democracy no longer recognises the Iron Law of Wages."[169] The British Socialists have not abandoned it, probably not because they believe it to be scientifically correct—no one can believe that—but because it is a plausible and effective means of poisoning the minds of the people.

As regards the factors which determine wages, one of the foremost Socialist authorities says: "Thoughtful workmen in the staple trades have become convinced by their own experience, no less than by the repeated arguments of the economists, that a rising standard of wages and other conditions of employment must depend ultimately on the productivity of labour, and therefore upon the most efficient and economical use of credit, capital, and capacity."[170] In other words, productivity and profit determine wages, and it is ridiculous that Socialists argue: "Over 90 per cent. of our women do not drink, back horses, smoke, attend football or cricket matches, they do not stop off their work to watch England and Australia play at cricket, and the result is they are paid less wages than men in our factories for doing the same work."[171] Does Councillor Glyde really believe that women's wages would rise as soon as they took to smoking and drinking?


According to this law the improvements in machinery, the increase of capital and increase of production do not benefit the worker. They only lead to a decline in wages and thus increase the workers' misery. "In proportion as the use of machinery and division of labour increases, in the same proportion the burden of toil also increases whether by prolongation of the working hours, by increase of the work exacted in a given time, or by increased speed of the machinery, &c."[172] "The faster productive capital increases, the more does the division of labour and the employment of machinery extend. The more the division of labour and the employment of machinery extend, so much the more does competition increase among the labourers and so much the more do their average wages dwindle. And thus the forest of arms outstretched by those who are entreating for work becomes ever denser and the arms themselves grow ever leaner."[173] "The more the worker labours the less reward he receives for it; and that for this simple reason, that he competes against his fellow-workmen and thus compels them to compete against him and to offer their labour on as wretched conditions as he does, and that he thus, in the last result, competes against himself as a member of the working-class."[174] "The worker in the factory gets, as a worker, absolutely no advantage from the machinery which causes the product of his labour to be multiplied a hundredfold."[175] "John Stuart Mill, it will be remembered, questioned whether mechanical invention had lightened the labours of a single human being."[176] "With increasing powers of production, the worker's share, and therefore his purchasing power, grows less."[177] "Wage-labour rests exclusively on competition between the labourers."[178] "The iron law of competition means, and must mean, continued degradation for the workers, even though their physical condition in youth may be improved."[179] "The worker in the factory is now seen to work no shorter hours or gain no higher wages merely because the product of his labour is multiplied a hundredfold by machinery which he does not own. 'The remuneration of labour as such,' wrote Cairnes in 1874, 'skilled or unskilled, can never rise much above its present level.'"[180]

The celebrated "Doctrine of Increasing Misery" stands in diametrical opposition to those facts with which nowadays every child is acquainted. During the time when our Socialists have been preaching the "Doctrine of Increasing Misery" working hours have been very greatly diminished and wages have not been reduced, but have risen by about 100 per cent. During the same time working hours in Germany have also been reduced and wages have risen up to 400 per cent.[181] The German Socialists have been honest enough to abandon the Doctrine of Increasing Misery under the guidance of Bernstein; the French have dropped it under the guidance of Sorel; the Dutch have seen its absurdity, guided by Vandervelde, their foremost leader. The British Socialists, on the other hand, have not abandoned it, though they must see its absurdity, probably because, though palpably and ridiculously false, the Doctrine of Increasing Misery is considered to be a useful and effective part of the Socialist agitator's stock-in-trade.

The next doctrine to be considered is


The Socialists argue that the position of the worker cannot improve because the capitalist, possessing the monopoly of property, pockets all that the worker produces except the mere cost of his subsistence, which, owing to the "Iron Law of Wages," is given to the workman in the form of wages. "The amount of wealth which the labourer produces in the time for which he has sold his labour-force is out of all proportion to what it costs to produce and maintain his labour-force for that time. This, the difference between what he produces and his own cost of production, is surplus-value, and is taken and divided up by the capitalist into rent, interest, profit. This surplus-value, then, this profit, is so much robbery effected by taking advantage of the necessity of the proletarian—the naked propertyless labourer."[182] "All that the worker produces beyond what is absolutely necessary to keep himself and his offspring in life, this surplus beyond subsistence—this difference between the recompense of labour and its products—this unrighteous subtrahend, this swag, is the booty alike of slavelord, serflord, and drudgelord, or capitalist."[183] The question now arises: "How does the capitalist secure this surplus-value of labour without paying for it? If the workman is free, why cannot he insist on receiving, not the mere exchange-value of his commodity—'labour-power'—but the full value of the labour he expends for the capitalist? The capitalist obtains this surplus-value owing to his monopoly of the means of production. The labourer cannot, as a rule, command more than his cost of subsistence in return for his labour—although his wages, like the prices of all commodities, sometimes rise above this and sometimes fall below—because, although apparently free, he is really not free. He must sell his labour-power in order to live; he has no other commodity to dispose of. Consequently he must accept the terms that the purchaser will offer, subject only to two conditions—his own cost of subsistence and the fluctuations of the market."[184] "Owing to the monopoly of the means of production in the past, industrial inventions and the transformation of surplus income into capital have mainly enriched the proprietary class, the worker being now dependent on that class for leave to earn a living."[185]

The Surplus-Value Doctrine, like the preceding doctrines, is founded rather upon imagination than upon fact. In the first place, it is absurd to speak of a "capitalist class" which, having a "monopoly of the means of production," exploits "the naked and propertyless labourer." This picture is a fancy picture. In the second place, "class" is not synonymous with "caste." The population is not divided into two rigidly defined and limited castes of capitalists and wage-earners. There is neither a monopoly of capital nor a monopoly of labour. Capital is founded by thrift. Most respectable workmen are capitalists to a greater or lesser extent. Every day workmen become capitalists. It should not be forgotten that many of the wealthiest men, such as Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Krupp, the first Rothschild, Sir Thomas Lipton, Passmore Edwards, and many others, have risen from the ranks and were working men—and every day capitalists lose their money and become workmen. Workmen may become capitalists by thrift. Co-operating workmen in England, France, Germany, and other countries own vast industrial undertakings, banks, &c. In those districts where thrift and co-operation are general (France, Switzerland, Holland) the "naked and propertyless labourers" disappear, whilst in equally prosperous districts where improvidence is general, they are many. The prosperity of the working classes in France, Switzerland, Holland, and other countries disproves the assertion that the workman is condemned to everlasting poverty because of the Surplus-Value Doctrine.

Assertions in support of the "Surplus-Value Doctrine" such as "Carnegie and other millionaires have wrung their wealth literally out of the bodies of the underfed"[186] are as malicious as they are untrue. Men like Carnegie and Krupp have not "wrung their wealth out of the bodies of the underfed," but out of Nature. They have created vast industries in barren places, and the industries which they have created nourish now tens of thousands of working men. Men like Krupp and Carnegie have diminished misery, not increased it. Their capital, created by their brains with the assistance of labour out of Nature, has rather enriched labour than that labour has enriched Carnegie and Krupp. Their wealth is not dead wealth; it produces wages and articles of use. The "Surplus-Value Doctrine" is a grotesque distortion of, and an unjustified protest against, the fact that manufacturers and other organisers and directors of labour will not work for nothing.

We have seen in the foregoing that, according to the fundamental Socialist doctrines, "labour is the only source of wealth." We have also seen that, according to the "Iron Law of Wages" and the "Law of Increasing Misery," the workmen are condemned to great, permanent, and constantly increasing misery. Further, we have learned that, according to the "Surplus-Value Doctrine," all the fruit of their labour, minus the cost of their bare subsistence, is taken from the workers by the capitalists. Hence it is only natural and logical that the assertion of the fundamental doctrines, namely—

1. Labour is the only source of wealth, 2. Wages maintains mere animal existence, 3. The misery of the workers is constantly increasing, 4. The position of the worker is hopeless,

has led to this fifth doctrine:


This doctrine is put forth by practically all British Socialists, not only as a doctrine but also as a demand. For instance "the New School of Trades-Unionists declare themselves in open and uncompromising revolt against the established relations between capital and labour; and they expound a new political economy which says that nothing less than the full fruits of industry shall be reckoned the fair reward of the producing class. They want the whole four-fourths of their earnings, instead of the one-fourth at present doled back in wages."[187] This demand must have precedence over all other measures whatsoever, for "until you have settled the material question as to how the producers of wealth are to get for themselves the full value of what they produce by their labour, it is impossible to settle anything else."[188]

According to many Socialists, Socialism would immediately abolish their grievances and give to the worker the entire produce of his labour. "At present the frugal workman only gets about one-third of his earnings. Under Socialism he would get all his earnings."[189] "Under the new order all will be productive workers, receiving an equivalent for what they produce—not merely one-half of it as now under the wage-system—in some form."[190] Under the heading "Basis of the Fabian Society," the Fabian Society publishes a statement of the fundamental principles of that Society in which we read: "If these measures" (confiscation of all private property) "be carried out, without compensation (though not without such relief to expropriated individuals as may seem fit to the community), rent and interest will be added to the reward of labour, the idle class now living on the labour of others will necessarily disappear, and practical equality of opportunity will be maintained by the spontaneous action of economic forces with much less interference with personal liberty than the present system entails."

The absurdity of the demand for "the entire product of labour," which is raised by Socialists on behalf of the labourer is clear even to the most superficial thinker. The majority of Socialists know quite well that writing off, repairs, renewals, the replacing of machinery, the enlargement of factories, &c., cannot be done gratis, that the distribution of the whole produce of labour to the workers can be effected only by neglecting and destroying the means of production.

The impossibility of giving to the worker the "whole product of his labour" by abolishing the private capitalist is clearly recognised and honestly admitted by the German Socialists. Kautsky, for instance, writes: "If the income of the capitalists were added to that of the workers, the wages of each would be doubled. Unfortunately, however, the matter will not be settled so simply. If we expropriate capitalism, we must at the same time take over its social functions—among these the important one of capitalist accumulation. The capitalists do not consume all their income; a portion of it they put away for the extension of production. A proletarian regime would also have to do the same in order to extend production. It would not therefore be able to transfer, even in the event of a radical confiscation of capital, the whole of the former income to the working class. Besides, a portion of the surplus value which the capitalists now pocket, they must hand over to the State in the shape of taxes. For these reasons our Socialists are guilty of wilful deception if they tell the workers that under a Socialist regime their wages would be doubled and trebled."[191] Nevertheless, the doctrine and the demand that "the labourer is entitled to the entire product of his labour" is not abandoned by British Socialists, apparently because it is extremely useful for arousing the passions of the workers against the capitalists in accordance with Gronlund's advice,[192] and for bringing new adherents to the Socialist camp.

Only the Fabian Society, the more scientific section of the English Socialists, has mildly protested against this absurd doctrine and demand, but that protest has not been heeded. In a little-read pamphlet of that Society, the following statement may be found: "The Fabian Society steadfastly discountenances all schemes for securing to any person or any group of persons the entire product of their labour. It recognises that wealth is social in its origin and must be social in its distribution" (which means in plain English, must be preserved by the thrifty few, official or non-official, for the use of the unthrifty many), "since the evolution of industry has made it impossible to distinguish the particular contribution that each person makes to the common product, or to ascertain the value."[193] Notwithstanding these emphatic statements, the Fabian Society preserves with characteristic duplicity[194] the statement in its programme that "rent and interest, will be added to the reward of labour."

Most British Socialist writers are not aware, or rather pretend not to be aware, of the necessity of preserving and increasing the national capital. In "Land, Labour, and Liberty," we read: "Whilst in 1845 the total wealth of this country was estimated at 4,000,000,000l., it is now estimated at over 12,000,000,000l. The monopolist classes, without denying themselves anything, and whilst producing comparatively nothing, have piled up an additional eight thousand millions. The superfluous handful of mere possessors remain the flowers and foliage of society; the three-quarters of the nation of indispensable producers remain the manure."[195] This writer, like most Socialists, though acknowledging the enormous growth of the national capital of Great Britain, pretends that the "monopolist classes" have not denied themselves anything. If that were true, the national capital would still amount to only 4,000,000,000l. as in 1845. Great Britain would have few factories, no new machinery, no steamships, and but a very few miles of railway. But for the self-denial, the thrift of the "superfluous handful of mere possessors," Englishmen would still live in the Hungry Forties and Great Britain would be able to nourish only about 20,000,000 people as she did in 1845. National capital and the comforts and conveniences which it supplies to all are at least as much the result of thrift, inventiveness, enterprise, and wise direction as of manual labour.

The foregoing shows that, to say the least, the grievances of the Socialists are greatly—one might almost say grotesquely—exaggerated, and that they are largely founded on a perversion of facts; a perversion which can be easily explained by the desire of the Socialist leaders to arouse the blind passions of the discontented wage-earners in accordance with Gronlund's advice, quoted on page 10.

The next doctrine which should be considered may be summed up in the words:


"The Socialist emphatically denies the assertion that the poor must always be with us. The productive capacity of society is now so great that none need want, and all are able to earn their livelihood, and more, except where they are prevented from doing so by sickness, infirmity, or by the existence of laws and customs which the individual cannot himself, acting alone, remove."[196] "There is a demand for the labour of every man under any well-ordered social system. If there is a waste of men now, it is the fault of the wage system."[197] "Sufficient wealth is produced in this country to-day which would, under a well-ordered state of society, enable every man, woman, and child to have a sufficiency of all things essential to a healthy human life. To-day the people produce this wealth, and, after they have produced it, quite two-thirds of it is taken from them by a very small section of the people. Consequently we have a very few rich, and many that are poor."[198] "We may claim to have solved the problem of how to produce enough, and the question which confronts us is how to bring distribution into line with the productive capacity of our people."[199] "The old argument that there is not enough work to do cannot be seriously listened to by anyone who has walked through a London or Manchester slum. There is work in the world for all, just as there is wealth in the world for all, and every man has a right to work, just as he has a right to wealth."[200] "The chief problem is not the production of more wealth, but its equitable distribution."[201]

The increase of production and therefore of reproductive capital in the form of machinery, mines, railways, ships, &c., in which most of the "Surplus-Value" is invested, is explained to be a matter of secondary consideration and importance, and it is stated that the world suffers rather from over-production than from under-production. "The tendency of the conditions of employment under present circumstances, under the capitalist system, always is for production to outstrip consumption."[202] "Our power to produce has always, since the beginnings of capitalism, shown a tendency to grow more rapidly than our power to consume."[203] "Then because there is a plethora of goods and a dearth of purchasers, the workshops are closed and Hunger lashes the working population with his thousand-thonged whip. The workers, stupefied by the dogma of work, do not understand that the cause of their present misery is the overwork that they have inflicted on themselves during the time of sham prosperity."[204] "For some insane reason the capitalist has thought of nothing but production."[205] "If, by a fiat from heaven, the wealth of the world were doubled to-morrow and the present system of capitalistic monopoly and commercial competition were allowed to continue, the social misery would, in a very short time, reappear in a form even still more accentuated, were that possible. Individualism, commercialism, capitalism—call it what we may—has demonstrably produced the evil."[206]


Unemployment is largely caused by commercial crises, commercial crises are caused by over-production, over-production is caused by the fact that the national industries are divided and the industrial output is regulated not by the nation in accordance with the national demand but by irresponsible private individuals whose aim is profit, not the fulfilment of a national demand. "The causes of commercial depression lie in the non-consumption of the incomes of our millionaires."[207] Another Socialist writer asserts: "Our era is cursed with crises occurring far more frequently than plagues and causing as much misery. Economists say that these crises are caused by over-production. Private enterprise compels every producer to produce for himself, to sell for himself, to keep all his transactions to himself, without regard to anybody else in the wide world. Merchants have got no measure at hand by which they can, even approximately, either estimate the effective demand of their customers or ascertain the producing capacity of their rivals. Production by all these manufacturers is, and must necessarily be, absolutely planless. This planless production must end in the market being overstocked with commodities of one kind or another; that is, that it must end in 'over-production.' In the trade which has been thus overdone, prices fall and wages come down; or a great manufacturer fails and a smaller or greater number of workmen are discharged. Crises are therefore the direct result of private enterprise."[208] "Why are men—men that is who are able and willing, nay, eager and anxious, to work—unemployed? Because, it is said, there is nothing for them to do. Nothing for them to do? Is all the necessary work of the world, then, already finished, so that there is nothing more remaining for anyone to do? No; it is not because all the necessary and useful work is done that men are unemployed, it is because all the means of production—all the machines, tools, and implements of labour and all the raw material—are owned by a class, and may only be used by permission of that class, and when that class can make a profit out of their use."[209] "It is indisputable that modern poverty is artificial. It is neither the result of divine anger nor the niggardliness of Nature. It is the product of the private ownership of land and capital by which men are prevented from earning their living unless the proprietary class can make profit from their labour. The inevitable result of this system is that in all industries and at all times there are more men seeking employment than there is employment for.[210]" "Your system of private ownership, in conferring the possession and control of the nation's storehouse of wealth and of the instruments by which all further wealth must be obtained from it, upon your capitalist class, has reduced the nation at large into nothing more nor less than an elaborate machine which your capitalists use for extracting wealth from the earth for their own benefit.... It is not well that by a foolish and wicked system of government, one small class of the community should be enabled to organise its production in such a manner that the full stream of wealth is diverted into their own possession whilst the mass of the nation by whose labour it is obtained are defrauded of it, and brought into a state of subtle slavery worse both in kind and degree than could be possible under any system of direct and open slavery."[211] "Unemployment is an inevitable feature of capitalism, and is impossible of removal without at the same time abolishing the capitalist system that produces it. That is a fact known to any Socialist with the most elementary knowledge of the economics of capitalism. Unemployment is caused by the exactions of the capitalist class. The prime cause of unemployment is the robbery of the workers by which the capitalist class appropriate the whole of the wealth produced by the workers, returning to them just as much on the average as will keep them physically fit to continue working. The difference between the quantities produced and consumed by the working class (a difference continually increasing with every increase in the productivity of labour) represents a surplus which all the waste and all the luxury of its owners cannot absorb, with the result that the markets are glutted with an excess of commodities. Thus the 'over-production,' the crisis, and the slackening of production involving an increase of unemployment."[212]

Employers of labour profit directly from unemployment, and will therefore presumably do all they can to bring it about. "Employers and other well-to-do people have no interest in finding work for the workless. They benefit from the unemployment of the poor."[213] The foregoing statement is as malicious as it is absurd. Employers do not desire unemployment, partly from humanitarian reasons, partly because it is a loss to them. The father of English Socialism taught: "The labourer perishes if capital does not employ him. Capital perishes if it does not exploit labour."[214] In other words, unemployed labour means unemployed capital; besides, those business men who do not actually dismiss their workers suffer also through unemployment, because the unemployed are supported by the rates.

The doctrines that "the existing misery can be abolished, not by increased production but by altering the distribution of the wealth produced," and that the "capitalist system is responsible for want, poverty, and unemployment," are manifestly unsound. A larger consumption of food, clothing, &c., can be effected only by a larger production. Gluts and crises, with consequent unemployment, occur, not through general over-production, which would benefit all, but by ill-balanced production, as the following example will prove: Imagine an island off the African coast on which there are two villages, the inhabitants of which require only two commodities, loin-cloths and mealies. One village manufactures loin-cloths, the other raises mealies, and these are exchanged against each other. These villages fulfil the Socialistic ideal. There are no capitalists and no middlemen, and production is only "for use," not "for profit." Balanced over-production will result in this, that every native will have a superabundance of loin-cloths and food. But supposing that the agriculturists go in for loin-cloth making, finding that occupation more congenial, and that they abandon much agriculture; or supposing that inclement weather, or a plague of grasshoppers, should seriously curtail the harvest, then there will soon be a glut of loin-cloths and a crisis. The cry of over-production will arise among the loin-cloth makers, but that cry will be unjustified and absurd. The more the people make the more they will have, provided production is properly balanced. The doctrine that we suffer from over-production and that the capitalist system is at fault, that altered distribution rather than increased production will abolish misery, and that Socialism can prevent want and unemployment by a scientific organisation of production, is wrong.

Socialists may, of course, argue, "In the Socialist State production would be organised, and controlled, and properly balanced and harmonised," an argument which is irrelevant with regard to the over-production doctrine, and which besides is unsound, although it may be found in most Socialistic writings. As production is world-wide, the Socialists' control of production would also have to be world-wide. It would involve not only the control of all human energy throughout the world, but also the control of the seasons, of the weather, of insect plagues, of fashions, of appetite, &c.

The foregoing proves that "men can never become richer till the produce of their labour increases. The more they produce the richer they will be, provided there be a demand for the produce of their labour. If a shoemaker makes four pairs of shoes in a day he will be twice richer than he would be if he made only two pairs in a day, provided that an increased demand is co-existing. The question, therefore, 'How can we become richer?' is reduced to this one, 'How can we increase the produce of labour and at the same time maintain an equivalent demand for that produce?'"[215] The doctrines that want and unemployment are due to over-production and to the capitalist system are wrong.

We now come to the


Having, by the fundamental doctrines enumerated in the foregoing, proved that all misery of the working masses is caused by the existence of a capitalist class which has enslaved the workers, the Socialists conclude that there is a natural antagonism between capital and labour; that social life is dominated by the Class War.

"The Socialists say that the present form of property-holding divides society into two great classes."[216] "Capitalist society is divided into two classes: owners of property and owners of no property."[217] "Society is to-day divided into two classes with opposing interests, one class owning the means of life, and the other nothing but their power to work. Never in the history of society was the working-class so free from all traces of property as to-day."[218] "There are in reality but two classes, those who live by labour and those who live upon those who labour, the two classes of exploiter and exploited."[219] "Society has been divided mainly into two economic classes, a relatively small class of capitalists who own tools in the form of great machines they did not make and cannot use, and a great body of many millions of workers who did make these tools and who do use them, and whose very lives depend upon them, yet who do not own them."[220]

It is usually said that society has three classes, but Socialists maintain that there are in reality only two classes. William Morris still divided society into three groups, which, however, at closer inspection will be found to form but two classes. According to Morris, "Civilised States consist of (1) the class of rich people doing no work, who consume a great deal while they produce nothing. Therefore, clearly they have to be kept at the expense of those who do work, just as paupers have, and are a mere burden on the community. (2) The middle class, including the trading, manufacturing, and professional people of our society. It is their ambition and the end of their whole lives to gain, if not for themselves, yet at least for their children, the proud position of being obvious burdens on the community. Here then is another class, this time very numerous and all-powerful, which produces very little and consumes enormously, and is therefore supported, as paupers are, by the real producers. (3) The class that remains to be considered produces all that is produced and supports both itself and the other classes, though it is placed in a position of inferiority to them, real inferiority, mind you, involving a degradation both of mind and body. To sum up, then, civilised States are composed of three classes—a class which does not even pretend to work, a class which pretends to work but which produces nothing, and a class which works."[221] In other words, William Morris divided society into two classes: propertied non-producers and non-propertied toilers.

According to practically all living English Socialists, there are but two classes in society. "Modern society is divided into two classes—the possessors of property and the non-possessors: the dominant class and the subject class; the class which rules and the class which has to obey. He who possesses sufficient wealth to exercise control over the labour of others, to exploit that labour for his own profit, belongs to the one class; he who possesses nothing but the power to labour contained in his own body, and who is therefore compelled to sell that labour power in order to live, belongs to the other. It is this struggle and conflict between these two classes that Socialists call the class war, a recognition of which is essential to a clear conception of what the Socialist movement involves."[222] "Society is divided into two opposite classes, one, the capitalists and their sleeping partners the landlords and loanmongers, holding in their hands the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and being therefore able to command the labour of others; the other, the working class, the wage-earners, the proletariat, possessing nothing but their labour power, and being consequently forced by necessity to work for the former."[223] "In society there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle between those who possess but do not produce, and those who produce but do not possess."[224] "The people of this unfortunate country have been aptly divided by Mr. Gladstone into the 'masses' and the 'classes'—that is to say, into those who live by their own labour and those who live on the labour of others. Among the latter tribe of non-producers are included all manner of thieves, pick-pockets, burglars, sharpers, prostitutes, Peers of Parliament, their families and menials, all, or nearly all, the 'six hundred and odd scoundrels of the House of Commons,' the twenty thousand State parsons, who every Sunday shamelessly travesty the Christian religion in the interest of the 'classes.'"[225]

The theory of dividing society into two classes, capitalists and workers, or as others put it, "exploiters and exploited," is manifestly absurd, and its absurdity has been pointed out by a few Socialists. "It is not true that there are only two great economic classes in the community. The Communist Manifesto, even in its day, admitted as much, but made no place for the fact in its theories. There is an economic antagonism between landlords and capitalists as well as between capitalists and workmen."[226] Besides, most capitalists are workers, and probably the great majority of English workers are capitalists to a larger or smaller extent.

Now let us study the Socialists' description of the hostile forces which are engaged in the Class War.

According to the Socialist teaching, the property-owners as a class are useless idlers who impoverish the workers and who shamelessly spend their whole income on demoralising luxuries. "The idlers and non-workers produce no wealth and take the greater share. They live on the labour of those who work. Nothing is produced by idleness; work must be done to obtain a thimble, a pin, and even a potato for dinner. The non-workers get the greater share of the wealth, and the greater part of this share is wasted. Therefore it is not good to have any people in the land who do not work. Only those who are old or sick should be kept by the toil of the rest."[227] Taking their figures from the pamphlet "Facts for Socialists," of which details have been given on pp. 41-48, the Independent Labour party states under the heading of "Wealth Makers and Wealth Takers": "The total incomes of persons in the United Kingdom amount in round figures to 1,800,000,000l. How is this wealth distributed? 250,000 persons actually receive a total of 585,000,000l.—that is, one-thirtieth of the population receive one-third of the national income. Nearly the whole of these large incomes are unearned—i.e. they are made up of rents, interest, dividends, &c. This small class of rent and interest receivers perform no useful function. We may describe these people as social parasites, absolutely useless, yet levying toll to the extent of 6s. 8d. in every 20s. value of wealth created."[228] "At present more than 600,000,000l. of the national income goes in the form of unearned rent and interest to support an idle class who spend it mainly on profitless and demoralising luxuries."[229]

The foregoing extracts make it clear that, in the eyes of Socialists, practically all citizens, manual labourers excepted, are "drones and parasites." Directors, managers, doctors, chemists, ships' captains, teachers, &c., and even workmen of exceptional ability also, rob the general body of workers of half their wages and subsist only owing to the monopoly of property-holders who control the distribution of wealth. Upon these curious premisses are based the conclusions: "The profits and salaries of the class who share in the advantages of the monopoly of the instruments of production, or are endowed by Nature with any exceptional ability of high marketable value, amount according to the best estimate that can be formed, to about 460,000,000l. annually, while out of a national income of some 1,800,000,000l. a year the workers in the manual labour class—four-fifths of the whole population—obtain in wages not more than 690,000,000l. It may be safely said that the workers from top to bottom of society pay a fine of one-half the wealth they produce to a parasitic class before providing for the maintenance of themselves and their proper dependents."[230] "It is this robbery and waste on the part of the minority which keeps the majority poor."[231] "So long as the instruments of production are in unrestrained private ownership, so long must the tribute of the workers to the drones continue, so long will the toiler's reward inevitably be reduced by their exactions."[232]

"Socialism regards the capitalist proper not as a useful captain of industry, but as a mere share-holding, dividend-drawing parasite upon labour, and the Socialist party presses forward to his elimination from the field of production."[233] "The workers who have produced all this wealth only get a part—the smallest part at that—of the wealth they produce. Now we Socialists say that this wealth produced by the labour of the workers should belong to them, and not to the capitalists who produce nothing. Seeing that the interest of the worker is to get as much of this wealth, and on the other hand the capitalist wants as much of this wealth, as he can get, therefore we say that the interests of the workers and of the capitalists are not identical, but opposite."[234] "The interest of the working class can only be served even in the smallest degree by the curtailment of the power of the master class; that every material advance is useless except in so far as it helps to effect other achievements, and that the realisation of Labour politics, the well-being of the working class, can only be accomplished by its complete emancipation from capitalism."[235] In other words, the Socialist writers quoted agree in this: that the lot of the wage-earners can be improved only by taking the wealth from the rich. In order to introduce Socialism the present social order must be overturned. With this object in view they have addressed declarations of war to the owners of property.

We owe to Marx not only the Class War doctrine, but also a declaration of war to the propertied class: "The Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things. In all these movements they bring to the front, as the leading question in each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time. Finally they labour everywhere for the union and agreement of the democratic parties of all countries. The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!"[236]

Marx's disciples have issued similar declarations. For instance, in the official programme of the Social Democratic Federation we read: "The Social Democratic Federation is a militant Socialist organisation whose members, men and women, belong almost entirely to the working class. Its object is the realisation of Socialism, the emancipation of the working class from its present subjection to the capitalist class. To this end the Social Democratic Federation proclaims and preaches the Class War."[237] "There is no way in which the Class War can be avoided. You cannot have the reward of your labour and the idler have it too. There is just so much wealth produced every day. It may be more, it may be less; but there is always just so much, and the more the capitalist gets the less you will get, and vice versa. We preach the gospel of hatred, because in the circumstances it seems the only righteous thing we can preach. The talk about the 'Gospel of Love' is simply solemn rubbish. It is right to hate stealing, right to hate lying, it is right to hate meanness and uncleanness, right to hate hypocrisy, greed, and tyranny. Those who talk of the Gospel of Love with landlordism and capitalism for its objects want us to make our peace with iniquity."[238] "The Class War is inevitable under the present form of property-holding, and for it there can be neither truce, quarter, nor ending, save by the extinction of the class system itself. The identity of interests between capitalism and labour is a shibboleth that can only be given any sane meaning at all in the cynical sense that the interests of the wolf and the lamb are also 'identical' when the wolf has got the lamb inside him."[239]

The doctrine of the Class War is a holy faith, the expropriation of property-owners is a divine task. "Unless we hate the system which prevents us from being what we otherwise might have been, we will not be able to strive against it with the patient, never-flagging zeal which our work, to be well done, requires. And to keep alive and undimmed this flame of hatred, divine not diabolical, we require to not only look around us, but especially to look back upon the world as it has been and to the example of those who have fought the good fight. To Socrates, to Savonarola, to John Ball, Wat the Tyler, and Jack Cade, in our land the first forerunners of Socialism; to Bruno and Vanini, to Cromwell, Milton, Hampden, and Pym, to John Eliot, Harry Vane; to Defoe, Mure, and Thomas Spence; to Ernest Jones, Bronterre O'Brien, and Robert Owen; to Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet; to Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien; to Vera Sassoulitch, Marie Spiridonova, Sophia Perovsky; to Karl Marx."[240] The company of reformers and revolutionists seems somewhat mixed.

The doctrine that the interests of employers and employees are irreconcilably opposed, not identical, is false, Socialist rhetoric to the contrary notwithstanding. As soon as a calamity threatens capital—for instance, a rise in raw cotton or a cotton famine—masters and men are seen to be in the same boat and devise combined measures for meeting the difficulty. The doctrine of the Class War is opposed to common experience and to common-sense.

Let us now take note of the doctrine


In the Class War right is, according to the Socialists, on the side of the propertyless. Not only are the owners of property objectionable in their persons, being "drones and parasites" who squander the earnings of the poor on riotous living, as we have learned in the foregoing pages, but private property as an institution is immoral in itself and ought to be abolished. No man has a right to be rich; no man can become rich honestly. Hence it follows that all rich men are robbers, thieves, and swindlers. "The poor owe no duty to the rich, unless it be the duty which an honest man owes to the thief who has robbed him. The rich have no right to any of their possessions, for there is but one right, and that is the right of the labourer to the fruits of his labour, and the rich do not labour. No man has any right to be rich. No man ever yet became rich by fair means. No man ever became rich by his own industry."[241] "No man or class of men made the first kind of wealth, such as land, minerals, and water. Therefore no man or class of men should be allowed to call these things their own."[242] As private property is immoral in itself, it is doubly immoral to lend out such property and to charge rent or interest for the use of it. Mr. G.J. Wardle, M.P., said, in a recent speech at Glasgow, that rent "was social immorality, and the State or society which allowed crimes of that kind to go on unpunished could never be a moral society. The same thing applied to interest on money. From the moral standpoint interest is unearned by the man who gets it, and it does not matter how that is cloaked over, that is the fact. Nowadays it was counted the greatest virtue to lend at so much per cent. That was a socially immoral proceeding, and because it was socially immoral it ate like a canker into the heart of society. As Socialists they objected to profit."[243]

There are Socialists who preach the same doctrine of immorality and criminality of private property in more decided terms. They assert that it is criminal and immoral to make a profit as a compensation for the work of directing and taking heavy capital risks in productive business because such profits are opposed to the principle, "The labourer is entitled to the whole product of his labour" (see page 61). "A man has a 'right' to that which he has produced by the unaided exercise of his own faculties; but he has not a right to that which is not produced by his own unaided faculties; nor to the whole of that which has been produced by his faculties aided by the faculties of another man."[244] "Everyone who pockets gains without rendering an equivalent to society is a criminal. Every millionaire is a criminal. Every company-chairman with nominal duties, though his salary be but 400l., is a criminal. Everyone who lends his neighbour 5l. and exacts 5l. 5s. 0d. in return, is a criminal."[245] "When Proudhon advanced the somewhat startling proposition, 'Property is theft,' he merely stated positively what good, orthodox Adam Smith, in his 'Wealth of Nations' set forth more urbanely when he wrote, 'The produce of labour (it is clear from the context that he meant the whole produce), is the natural recompense or wages of labour.'"[246] "'Property' is theft, said Proudhon, and surely private property in the means of production is not only theft, but the means of more theft."[247]

Starting from the premiss that profit is immoral, the philosopher of British Socialism logically concludes: "The cheapest way of obtaining goods is not to pay for them, and if a buyer can avoid payment for the goods he obtains, he has quite as much right to do so as the seller has to receive for them double or treble their cost price and call it profit."[248]

Private property being, according to the Socialist doctrines, immoral and criminal, it follows that


Let us take note of an utterance in support of that doctrine: "If the life of men and women were a thing apart from that of their neighbours, there would be no need for a Socialist party nor any call for social reform. But man is not an entity; he is only part of a mighty social organism. Every act of his has a bearing upon the like of his fellow. It is difficult, if not impossible, to determine the moral title to private property in anything. Private property exists entirely on sufferance. Private property therefore cannot be justly allowed when it interferes with the law of our social life or intercepts the progress of social development."[249]

Let us now consider the doctrine


Socialists teach: "Under Socialism you would have all the people working together for the good of all. Under non-Socialism you have all the persons working separately (and mostly against each other), each for the good of himself. So we find Socialism means co-operation and non-Socialism means competition."[250] "Socialism is constructive as well as revolutionary, and Socialists propose to replace competition by co-operation."[251]

The question now arises: "On what ground do capitalists defend the principle of competition? A. On the ground that it brings into play a man's best qualities.—Q. Does it effect this? A. This is occasionally its result, but it also brings out his worst qualities by stimulating him to struggle with his fellows for the relative improvement of his own position rather than for the absolute advancement of the interests of all."[252]

"Apart altogether from its injustice, competitive capitalism, regarded as a system of serving the community, is a business bungle. What the party of the Fourth Estate objects to in the existing commercial and industrial system is, not merely the stealages which go on under the guise of rent, profit, and interest, but the enormous waste arising from lack of consolidation and co-operation in the processes of production and distribution."[253] "During the last half-century we have lost more by our 'business principle' of dividing up our national work into competing one-man and one-company speculations, and insisting on every separate speculation paying its own separate way, than by all the tariffs and blockades that have been set up against us."[254] "In our age there is, as we have seen, throughout our whole economic sphere, no social order at all. There is absolute social anarchy. Against this anarchy Socialism is a protest."[255] "There is only one remedy for both the waste and the stealages, and that is the substitution of public enterprise with organisation for private enterprise with competition."[256] "Socialism means the socialising of the means and instruments of production, distribution, and exchange. For the individual capitalist it would substitute, as the director and controller of production and distribution, the community in its organised capacity. The commercial and industrial chaos and waste which are the outcome of monopolistic competition would give place to the orderliness of associated effort, and under Socialism society would for the first time in history behave like an organism."[257] Private capitalism and consequent competition are responsible not only for waste and muddle, but also for the adulteration of food and other necessaries of life. "Every man who knows anything of trade knows how general is the knavish practice of adulteration. Now all adulteration is directly due to competition. Did not Mr. John Bright once say that adulteration is only another form of competition?"[258]

There is much truth in the contention of the Socialists that co-operation is mightier, and often better, than free competition. However, that is no new discovery, and the introduction of Socialism is not needed to bring about co-operation. In Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark national and private co-operation are far more developed than in Great Britain, and waste, muddle, and stealages are rare in those countries, although none of these is ruled by a Socialist Government. Co-operation, national as well as private, is developing also in Great Britain, and it will continue to develop as its value becomes more and more understood. It is a curious fact that Socialists, though they recommend co-operation in the abstract, oppose it in the concrete for similar reasons. They fear that satisfied and prosperous co-operators will oppose Socialism.[259]

The assertion that adulteration is due to competition is not founded upon fact. Adulteration springs from many causes, and would continue to flourish even under the Socialistic regime. If all cowkeepers were salaried officials of the Socialist State or municipality, they might nevertheless mix water with the milk to obtain milk for their own consumption and that of their families, and to diminish the labour of milking. Adulteration may be abolished by efficient supervision and well-devised and rigorously enforced sanitary laws.

Let us now glance at the doctrine


"The State now registers, inspects, and controls nearly all the industrial functions which it has not yet absorbed. The inspection is often detailed and rigidly enforced. The State, in most of the larger industrial operations, prescribes the age of the worker, the hours of work, the amount of air, light, cubic space, heat, lavatory accommodation, holidays, and meal-times; where, when, and how wages shall be paid; how machinery, staircases, lift-holes, mines, and quarries are to be fenced and guarded; how and when the plant shall be cleaned, repaired, and worked."[260] "Step by step political power and political organisation have been used for industrial ends, until a Minister of the Crown is the largest employer of labour in the country, and at least 200,000 men, not counting the army and navy, are directly in the service of the community, without the intervention of the profit of any middleman."[261]

From the fact that the State inspects many things and carries on some business, it does not by any means follow that the State should inspect all things and could efficiently carry on all business. Questions such as "If the State can build battleships and make swords, why not also trading ships and ploughshares,"[262] are ridiculous. One might as well ask, "If Messrs. Whiteley or Marshall Field can supply furniture, houses, dresses, and funerals, being universal providers, why not also battleships, armies, and colonies?" It is also not true that the State or municipal corporations have more business ability than private business men. As an example of successful business management Socialists are fond of pointing to the Post Office, and of asserting that no private company could work as efficiently and as cheaply. These statements are erroneous. The success of the British Post Office, as of every post office, is due not to ability but to monopoly, as the following example will prove. Private individuals in Germany discovered some years ago a flaw in the legislation regarding the Post Office which enabled them to compete with the Imperial Post Office, not in postal business between different towns, but in local delivery. Private post offices sprang up in many towns and began to deliver letters at the rate of two pfennigs (one farthing) each. Although the German Post Office is the most efficient Post Office in Europe, it could not compete with these private post offices, and, after lengthy competition, steps had to be taken to extend the postal monopoly to town deliveries. The British Post Office, like most public offices, is a most conservative institution. Every progress and every reform had to be forced upon it by outside agitation. Services such as money delivery at private residences, cash on delivery parcels, &c., which other countries have enjoyed during several decades, are stubbornly denied to England. Private competition would probably have furnished these conveniences long ago. In London the Messenger Boy Company competes with the Post Office in the carrying of express letters, and various private carriers compete with it in delivering parcels, and in both instances the private trader supplies a better and cheaper service than the Government Post Office. A comparison of the Post Office telephone in England and the private telephone in America shows the great superiority of the latter. The slow and ultra-conservative British Post Office supplies no proof that the Government would handle production and distribution better than private enterprise. On the contrary.

British Socialists claim unanimously that their theories and demands are founded upon science. "The Socialist doctrine systematises the industrial changes. It lays down a law of capitalist evolution. It describes the natural history of society. It is not, therefore, only a popular creed for the market-place, but a scientific inquiry for the study. Like every theory in Sociology, it has a political bearing, but it can be studied as much detached from politics as is Darwinism."[263] Do the fundamental doctrines of British Socialism bear out the claims of its champions? The foregoing pages prove that the scientific basis of Socialism, or rather of British Socialism, consists of a number of doctrines which cannot stand examination and which are disproved by daily experience and by common-sense.

The question now suggests itself: "How is it that the British Socialists base their demands on pseudo-scientific doctrines of obvious absurdity?"

British Socialism has been imported from Germany. Marx, Engels, Lassalle, Rodbertus, and various other Germans are the fathers of modern scientific Socialism. "To German scholars is largely due the development of Socialism from the Utopian stage to the scientific. Universality is its distinguishing feature."[264] "Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in 1847 laid, through the 'Communist Manifesto,' the scientific foundation of modern Socialism."[265] "And 'Capital,' Karl Marx's great work, has become the loadstar of modern economic science."[266] Karl Marx's "Manifesto" appeared in 1847; the first volume of his "Capital" was published in 1867. Since the appearance of the former sixty years, and since the publication of the latter forty years, have passed by. Much has changed in the world, but the Marxian doctrines have remained unchanged.

The worst about speculative doctrines is that time is apt to disprove them.

Whilst the German Socialists have thinkers in their ranks who have adapted the older Communist theories to present conditions, leaving out those theories which are palpably false, English Socialists have stood still and are satisfied to repeat those ancient doctrines which the Germans have abandoned long ago. English Socialists try to impose upon an uncritical public by parading the worn-out stage properties of the forties. Marx is to the vast majority of British Socialists still an oracle and the fountain head of all wisdom. "Marx is the Darwin of modern sociology."[267] "All over the world his brain is put on pretty much the same level as Aristotle's."[268] "Modern Socialism is based, nationally and internationally, theoretically and to a large extent practically, on the writings of Karl Marx. These writings have been expounded, and where necessary applied, extended, and amplified, to meet conditions which have developed since his death nearly a quarter of a century ago, in every civilised country. It is safe to say that no one who does not understand and accept in the main the views set forth by Marx, comprehends the real position of capitalist Society, nor, what is even more important, can fully master the problems of the coming time."[269] "The Social-Democratic Federation, which is by far the oldest and still the most active Socialist organisation in this country, bases its teaching to-day, as it has always done, upon the words of Karl Marx."[270]

Most active Socialists in Great Britain think Marx and Lassalle infallible. It is true that the Fabian Society has pointed out "the necessity of maintaining as critical an attitude towards Marx and Lassalle, some of whose views must by this time be discarded as erroneous or obsolete,"[271] but that protest appears to have been left unheeded by most British Socialists. In fact, the abandonment of revolutionary Marxianism has caused the Fabians to be treated with open hostility by the other Socialist sections. The reasons for that hostility are obvious. The doctrines of Marx and Lassalle, though they are, to say the least, erroneous and obsolete, are admirably fitted to inflame the passions of the masses. Their doctrines may not be true, but they are useful to professional agitators. Independent Socialists in all countries have not disguised their opinion of Marx's "Capital," which, in the words of an English Socialist, "is not a treatise on Socialism; it is a jeremiad against the bourgeoisie, supported by such a mass of evidence and such a relentless Jewish genius for denunciation as had never been brought to bear before."[272]

British Socialism is neither scientific nor sincere. Its leaders know that the Iron Law of Wages (see p. 53), the Law of Increasing Misery (see p. 56), and other doctrines, which are exceedingly useful to the agitator who wishes to poison the mind of the masses, have been thrown into the lumber room in Germany and most other countries (see the writings of Bernstein, Jaures, and others), but they do not abandon them. Apparently it is their policy rather to create strife and confusion than to alleviate existing misery. That attitude must have covered English Socialists with ignominy in the eyes of foreign Socialists. The very humiliating treatment which the English Socialists received at the International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart of 1907 from their Continental comrades suggests that the curious attitude and the not very estimable tactics of British Socialists have not found the approval of their Continental colleagues.

The doctrines of the English Socialists with regard to property are identical with those of most Anarchists (see Eltzbacher, "Der Anarchismus"). For instance, Proudhon taught: "We rob (1) by murder on the highway; (2) alone, or in a band; (3) by breaking into buildings, or scaling walls; (4) by abstraction; (5) by fraudulent bankruptcy; (6) by forgery of the handwriting of public officials, or private individuals; (7) by manufacture of counterfeit money; (8) by cheating; (9) by swindling; (10) by abuse of trust; (11) by games and lotteries; (12) by usury; (13) by farm rent, house rent, and leases of all kinds; (14) by commerce, when the profit of the merchant exceeds his legitimate salary; (15) by making profit on our product, by accepting sinecures, and by exacting exorbitant wages."[273] "What is property? It is robbery."[274] "Property, after having robbed the labourer by usury, murders him slowly by starvation."[275] Practically the identical doctrines are propounded by British Socialists. Further instances of the resemblance between Socialism and Anarchism will be found in Chapter XXX, "Socialism and Anarchism."

Society is at present based upon individualism. In their anxiety to prove the failure of modern civilisation British Socialists deny that the world has progressed under individualism. "Not by individual selfishness, or national selfishness, has the progress of the human race been advanced."[276] And they boldly declare that all history, having been written by men of the dominant class, is a deception. "Are we then to understand that the whole of history, so far, has been written from the point of view of the dominant class of every age? Most assuredly so; and this applies to well-nigh the whole of the sources of past history."[277]

The foregoing should suffice to make it clear that the Socialist agitation is not based on irrefutable scientific doctrines, as Socialists pretend, but on deception. It may be said that no agitation is free from deception, that the end justifies the means, that Socialism means for the best. We have been told "Socialism is a religion of humanity. Socialism is the only hope of the race. Socialism is the remedy—the only remedy—which Lord Salisbury could not find."[278] We must look into the practical proposals of British Socialism in order to be able to judge its character.


[151] Facts for Socialists, p. 3.

[152] Hazell, Summary of Marx's "Capital," p. 1; Macdonald, Socialism, p. 54.

[153] Socialism made Plain, p. 8.

[154] Hobart, Social-Democracy, p. 7.

[155] Manifesto, Socialist Party of Great Britain, p. 8.

[156] What Socialism Means: Independent Labour Party Leaflet, No. 8, p. 3.

[157] Debs, Industrial Unionism, p. 20.

[158] Bliss, Encyclopedia of Social Reform, 1368.

[159] Ibid. 807.

[160] Manifesto of the Communist Party, p. 17.

[161] Bax and Quelch, A New Catechism of Socialism, p. 15.

[162] Blatchford, Merrie England, p. 163.

[163] Quelch, Economics of Labour, p. 13.

[164] Davidson, The Old Order and the New, p. 107.

[165] Bax, Outlooks from the New Standpoint, p. 99.

[166] Socialist Standard, December 1907.

[167] Davidson, The Old Order and the New, p. 32.

[168] Stegman und Hugo, Handbuch, p. 473.

[169] Christliche Arbeiterpflichten, p. 15.

[170] Webb, Industrial Democracy, p. 548.

[171] Councillor Glyde, A Peep behind the Scenes on a Board of Guardians, p. 5.

[172] Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, p. 12.

[173] Marx, Wage, Labour, and Capital, pp. 23, 24.

[174] Marx, Wage, Labour, and Capital, p. 22.

[175] English Progress towards Social-Democracy, p. 12.

[176] Keir Hardie, From Serfdom to Socialism, p. 99.

[177] Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, p. 8.

[178] Ibid. p. 16.

[179] Hyndman, Socialism and Slavery, p. 12.

[180] Sidney Webb, The Difficulties of Individualism, p. 9.

[181] Ellis Barker, Modern Germany, p. 528.

[182] Quelch, Economics of Labour, p. 18.

[183] Davidson, The Old Order and the New, p. 3.

[184] Bax and Quelch, A New Catechism, p. 15.

[185] Sidney Webb, The Difficulties of Individualism, p. 19.

[186] Clarion, November 29, 1907.

[187] Hall, The Old and New Unionism, p. 5.

[188] Socialism and the Single Tax, p. 6.

[189] Blatchford, Merrie England, p. 189.

[190] Gronlund, Co-operative Commonwealth, p. 86.

[191] Kautsky, The Social Revolution, pp. 7, 8.

[192] See ante p. 10.

[193] Report on Fabian Policy, p. 8.

[194] See Chapter XXXIII.

[195] Hall, Land, Labour, and Liberty, p. 5.

[196] Jowett, The Socialist and the City, p. 66.

[197] Gronlund, Co-operative Commonwealth, p. 86.

[198] Rich and Poor, Introd.

[199] Martyn, Co-operation, p. 3.

[200] Lister, Riches and Poverty, p. 12.

[201] Fisher, The Babies' Tribute, p. 16.

[202] Socialism and the Single Tax, p. 7.

[203] Kessack, The Capitalist Wilderness and the Way Out, p. 9.

[204] Lafargue, Right to Leisure, p. 11.

[205] Tillett, Trades Unionism and Socialism, p. 14.

[206] Fisher, The Babies' Tribute, p. 16.

[207] Davidson, The Old Order and the New, p. 67.

[208] Gronlund, Co-operative Commonwealth, pp. 32, 33.

[209] Social-Democratic Federation, The Unemployed, leaflet.

[210] Smart, The Right to Work, p. 3.

[211] Washington, A Corner in Flesh and Blood, p. 12.

[212] The Socialist Standard, December 1907.

[213] Why Labour Men should be on Town Councils, p. 2.

[214] Marx, Wage-Labour and Capital, p. 12.

[215] L'Auton, The Nationalisation of Society, p. 4.

[216] Jaures, Studies in Socialism, p. 1.

[217] Handbuch fuer Sozialdemokratische Waehler, 1903, p. 233.

[218] Manifesto of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, p. 7.

[219] The Socialist Standard, December 1907.

[220] Debs, Industrial Unionism, p. 4.

[221] Morris, Useful Work versus Useless Toil, pp. 22, 25.

[222] The Class War, p. 1.

[223] Programme and Rules, Social-Democratic Federation.

[224] Socialist Standard, October 1, 1907.

[225] Davidson, The New Book of Kings, p. 115.

[226] Macdonald, Socialism and Society, pp. 111, 112.

[227] What Socialism Means, p. 3.

[228] Wealth Makers and Wealth Takers, p. 2.

[229] After Bread, Education, p. 12.

[230] Capital and Land, p. 13.

[231] Morris, Useful Work versus Useless Toil, p. 26.

[232] Sidney Webb, The Difficulties of Individualism, p. 8.

[233] Leatham, Was Jesus a Socialist? p. 4.

[234] The Socialist, October 1907.

[235] The Socialist Annual, 1907, p. 42.

[236] Marx and Engels, Manifesto, pp. 30, 31.

[237] Quelch, The Social-Democratic Federation, p. 1.

[238] Leatham, The Class War, p. 10.

[239] Hall, The Old and the New Unionism, p. 4.

[240] Leatham, The Class War, p. 11.

[241] Blatchford, The Pope's Socialism, p. 2.

[242] What Socialism Means, p. 3.

[243] Forward, November 23, 1907.

[244] Blatchford, Merrie England, p. 58.

[245] Gronlund, Co-operative Commonwealth, p. 166.

[246] Davidson, The Old Order and the New, p. 4.

[247] McClure, Socialism, p. 16.

[248] Bax, Outlooks from the New Standpoint, p. 98.

[249] Williams, The Difficulties of Socialism, pp. 3, 4.

[250] Blatchford, Real Socialism, p. 11.

[251] Hyndman, Social-Democracy, p. 24.

[252] Joynes, The Socialists' Catechism, p. 13.

[253] Leatham, The Evolution of the Fourth Estate, p. 3.

[254] Fabianism and the Fiscal Question, p. 19.

[255] Gronlund, Co-operative Commonwealth, p. 41.

[256] Leatham, The Evolution of the Fourth Estate, p. 3.

[257] Leatham, Was Jesus a Socialist? p. 4.

[258] Blatchford, Competition, p. 15.

[259] See Chapters VII & XXIII.

[260] English Progress towards Social-Democracy, p. 14.

[261] Ibid. p. 13.

[262] Keir Hardie, From Serfdom to Socialism, p. 15.

[263] Macdonald, Socialism, p. 3.

[264] McClure, Socialism, p. 13.

[265] Kautsky, The Class Struggle, p. 24.

[266] Kautsky, The Socialist Republic, p. 21.

[267] Hyndman, Historic Basis of Socialism, p. 435.

[268] Justice, October 12, 1907.

[269] Justice, October 12, 1907.

[270] The Social Democrat, November 1907, p. 676.

[271] Report on Fabian Policy, 1896, p. 6.

[272] G.B. Shaw, quoted in Jackson, Bernard Shaw, p. 100.

[273] Proudhon, What is Property? pp. 252-256.

[274] Ibid. p. 37.

[275] Ibid. p. 184.

[276] Snowden, The Christ that is to be, p. 6.

[277] Bax and Quelch, A New Catechism of Socialism, p. 32.

[278] Blatchford, What is this Socialism? p. 11.



Those people who formerly called themselves Communists now call themselves Socialists. Marx and Engels wrote in their celebrated "Manifesto": "The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property."[279] The policy of modern British Socialism may be summed up in the identical words. Indeed, we are told by one of its most eager champions that "The programme of Socialism consists essentially of one demand—that the land and other instruments of production shall be the common property of the people, and shall be used and governed by the people for the people."[280] "We suggest that the nation should own all the ships, all the railways, all the factories, all the buildings, all the land, and all the requisites of national life and defence."[281]

According to the Socialist doctrines which have been given in Chapter IV, private property is the enemy of the workers. Therefore they quite logically demand that all private property must be abolished. "The problem has to be faced. Either we must submit for ever to hand over at least one-third of our annual product to those who do us the favour to own our country without the obligation of rendering any service to the community, and to see this tribute augment with every advance in our industry and numbers, or else we must take steps, as considerately as may be possible, to put an end to this state of things."[282] "The modern form of private property is simply a legal claim to take a share of the produce of the national industry year by year without working for it. Socialism involves discontinuance of the payment of these incomes and addition of the wealth so saved to incomes derived from labour. The economic problem of Socialism is thus solved."[283]

A general division of the existing private property among all the people is not intended, because it is considered to be impracticable. "Socialism does not consist in violently seizing upon the property of the rich and sharing it out amongst the poor."[284] "Plans for a national 'dividing up' are not Socialism. They are nonsense. 'Dividing up' means individual ownership. Socialism means collective ownership."[285] "It is obvious that, in the present stage of economic development, individual ownership is impossible. All the great means of production are collectively owned now. Individual liberty based upon individual property is therefore out of the question, and the emancipation of the working class can only be achieved in social freedom, based upon social property, through the transformation of privately owned collective property into publicly owned collective property."[286]

Starting from these premisses, the Socialists arrive at the demand that "all the means of production and distribution, all the machinery, all the buildings, everything that is necessary to provide the fundamental necessaries of life, must be common property."[287] "We want all the instruments for the purposes of trade to be the property of the State. With that will have come at the same time the abolition of power permitting any individual to exact rent or interest for the loan of land or of the implements of production. The abolition of all private property will mean the extinction of the parasite."[288] "The overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, by and in the interest of the whole community: That is Socialism."[289] "The Fabian Society aims at the reorganisation of society by the emancipation of land and industrial capital from individual and class ownership, and the vesting of them in the community for the general benefit. The Society accordingly works for the extinction of private property in land, and of the consequent individual appropriation, in the form of rent, of the price paid for permission to use the earth, as well as for the advantages of superior soils and sites. The Society, further, works for the transfer to the community of the administration of such industrial capital as can conveniently be managed socially."[290] "Here in plain words is the principle, or root idea, on which all Socialists agree—that the country and everything in the country shall belong to the whole people (the nation), and shall be used by the people and for the people. That principle, the root idea of Socialism, means two things: (1) That the land, and all the machines, tools, and buildings used in making needful things, together with all the canals, rivers, roads, railways, ships, and trains used in moving, sharing (distributing) needful things, and all the shops, markets, scales, weights, and money used in selling or dividing needful things, shall be the property of (belong to) the whole people (the nation). (2) That the land, tools, machines, trains, rivers, shops, scales, money, and all the other things belonging to the people, shall be worked, managed, divided, and used by the whole people, in such way as the greater number of the whole people shall deem best."[291]

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