The Freeland medical men and ambulance corps were already at work carrying the wounded foes from the field, when the Abyssinian artillery recommenced the battle, and their infantry at the same time opened a tremendous fire. But as the infantry now kept themselves prudently at the respectable distance of a mile and a quarter, their fire was at first quite harmless and therefore was not answered by our men. But when a ball or two had strayed into our ranks, Colonel Ruppert gave orders that every tenth man should step far enough out of the ranks to be visible to the enemy and discharge a volley. This hint was understood; the enemy's infantry-fire ceased at once, as the Abyssinians learnt from the effects of this small volley that the Freeland riflemen could make themselves so unpleasant, even at such a great distance, that it would not be advisable to provoke them to answer an ineffective fire. The stubborn fellows, who evidently could not bear the thought of being driven from the field by such a handful of men, formed themselves afresh into storming columns, this time with a narrower front and greater depth. But these columns met with no better fate than their predecessors, the only difference being that they had to meet a more rapid fire. After a few minutes they were compelled to retire with a loss of eight hundred men, and could not be made to move forward again. In order to get possession of the Abyssinian wounded, who were much better cared for under Freeland treatment than under that of their own people, Ruppert sent out an advance-party before whom the enemy hastily retreated, so that we remained masters of the field. Our losses amounted to eight dead and forty-seven wounded; the Abyssinians had 360 killed, 1,480 wounded, and left thirty-nine guns behind. Our first care was to place the wounded—friend and foe alike—in the ambulance-waggons, of which there was a large number, all furnished with every possible convenience, and to send them towards Freeland. Then the captured guns and other weapons were hidden and the dead buried.
Just as the last duty was performed, and we had begun our retreat to headquarters, strong columns of Abyssinians appeared in the west, whilst at the same time the left wing of the enemy, which had retreated towards the north, again came into sight. Ruppert did not, however, allow himself to be diverted from his purpose. Masses of the enemy's cavalry made a vigorous attempt to follow us, but were quickly repulsed by our artillery, and we accomplished our retreat to headquarters without further molestation.
We now knew from experience that the assumed superiority of Freeland troops over opponents of any kind was a fact. The Abyssinians had fought as bravely against us as they had formerly fought against European troops. Their equipment, discipline, and training, upon which despotism had brought all its resources to bear for many years, left, according to European ideas, nothing to be desired; and these dark-skinned soldiers had repeatedly shown themselves to be a match for equal numbers of European troops. But we had repulsed a number fifteen times as many as ourselves, without allowing the issue to be for a moment uncertain. That the fight lasted as long as it did, and did not much sooner end in the complete overthrow of the Abyssinians, was due to the fact that the leader of the advance-guard adhered to his orders, to compel the enemy to disclose his whole force. Had our commander at once thrown himself with full force upon the enemy, given him no time to deploy his troops, and energetically made use of his advantage, the 65,000 men of the enemy's left wing would have been scattered long before the centre could have come into action. Not that Colonel Ruppert was wrong in waiting and confining himself rather to defensive action. Even he had to learn, by the issue of the conflict, that the presumed superiority of the Freelanders was an absolute fact; and the more doubtful the ultimate victory of our cause appeared, the more decisively was it the duty of a conscientious leader to avoid spilling the blood of our Freeland youth merely to perform a deed of ostentatious heroism. He, like the rest of us, naturally concluded that this first lesson would abundantly suffice to show the Negus the folly of continuing the struggle.
We had not, however, taken into account the obtuseness of a barbaric despot. When the commissioner of the executive, who accompanied the expedition, sent next day a flag of truce into the Abyssinian headquarters, announcing to John that Freeland was still prepared to treat with him for the restoration of the captured fortresses and ships, and for the arrangement of peace guarantees, the Negus received the ambassadors haughtily, and asked them if they were come offering terms of submission. Because our advanced guard had retired, he treated the affair of the day before as an Abyssinian victory. He said the officers of the five repulsed brigades were cowards; we should see how he himself would fight. In short, the blinded man would not hear of yielding. He evidently hoped for a complete change of fortune from a not badly planned strategic flunking manoeuvre which he had been meanwhile carrying out, and which had only one defect—it did not sufficiently take into account the character of his opponents. In short, more fighting had to be done.
On the 5th of September the two armies stood face to face. The Negus, with 265,000 men and 680 guns, had entrenched himself in a very favourable position, and seemed indisposed to take the offensive. Our commander also felt little inclined to storm the enemy's camp, a course which would have involved an unnecessary sacrifice. To lie here, on the Jubba river, in an inhospitable district in which his army must soon run short of provisions, could not possibly be the intention of the enemy. He merely wished to keep us here a little while until he could by stratagem outflank us. Arago, having guarded against that, determined to wait; but in the meantime, in order to tire the enemy of waiting, he caused our cavalry to intercept the enemy's provisioning line. Our men lacked for nothing: the commissariat was managed admirably. Among the Abyssinians, on the contrary, Duke Humphrey was the host. Nevertheless the enemy kept quiet for three days in his evidently untenable position, and the field-telegraph first informed us of the motive of his doing so.
The Negus had sent out 45,000 men, who, making a wide circuit eastwards beyond our outposts, were to cross the Endika range of hills, and to effect an entrance into Freeland behind us, and in that way compel us to retreat. Even if his plot had succeeded it would have helped him but little, for the men left behind in the northern districts of Freeland would have very quickly overcome these 45,000 men. But a few days of Abyssinian activity might have been inconvenient for the prosperous fields and cities of North Baringo and Lykipia; and it was therefore well that the passes of the Endika range were guarded by 1,200 Freeland soldiers and eight guns. The Abyssinians came upon these on the 7th of September, and through the whole day vainly attempted to force a passage. Next morning they found themselves shut in on their rear by our reserves, who had been left at the Konso pass, and who had hastened to the scene of action by forced marches. After a brief and desperate resistance the Abyssinians were compelled to lay down their arms.
This news reached us about, noon on the 8th of September. This Job's message must have reached the Negus about the same time, for towards two o'clock we saw the enemy leaving the camp and preparing to give battle. Arago rightly judged that, in order to avoid useless bloodshed, the Abyssinians must this time be prevented from storming our lines in masses, and must be completely routed as quickly as possible and deprived of any power of offering further resistance. He therefore sent our artillery to the front, repelled an attack from the enemy's centre by a couple of sharp volleys from our mounted rifles, and at the same time moved 14,000 men on the left flank of the enemy. Thence he opened fire about half-past three, and, simultaneously making a vigorous attack on the front, he so completely broke up the Abyssinian order of battle that the columns which a little while before had been so well ordered were in a very short time crushed into a chaotic mass, which our lines of rifles swept before them as the beaters drive the game before the sportsmen. After the panic had once seized the enemy there was but little firing. It was fortunate that the Negus had posted on his left wing the troops that had learnt our mode of fighting at Ardeb. These poor fellows remembered, after they had received a murderous volley from our column advancing on their flank, that the Freelanders stop firing as soon as the enemy gives way. Hence they could not be made to stand again; and the cry of terror, 'Don't shoot, or you are dead men!' with which they threw themselves upon their own centre—which in the meantime had been attacked—was not calculated to stimulate the latter to resistance. By five o'clock all was over; the centre and the left wing of the Abyssinians were fleeing in wild confusion, the right wing, 54,000 men strong, was thrown, with the loss of all the artillery, into the entrenchment they had just left, and there laid down their weapons as soon as our guns began to play against the improvised earthworks. The other prisoners taken on the field and during the pursuit, which lasted until nightfall, amounted to 72,000; so that including the 41,000 unwounded men who had fallen into our hands in the Endika passes, we now had 167,000 prisoners. The second battle cost the enemy 760 killed and 2,870 wounded; our own losses in this last encounter were 22 killed and 105 wounded.
Assuming that the Negus succeeded in collecting the scattered remnants of his army, he would still have nearly 130,000 men at his disposal, and it was possible that he might still persist in the campaign. To prevent this, the pursuit was carried on with all possible energy. All the cavalry and a part of the artillery kept at the heels of the enemy; the rest of the army, after the wounded and prisoners were provided for and the dead were buried, followed rapidly the next morning. The retreating Abyssinians made no further serious resistance, but allowed themselves to be easily taken prisoners. In this way, during a five days' chase through the Galla country, 65,000 more men fell into our hands. John had lost nearly all his artillery in the engagement on the Jubba; during the pursuit he lost twenty-six more guns, and then had only seventeen left. With these, and about 60,000 utterly demoralised and for the most part disarmed men, the Negus succeeded on the 13th of September in reaching the southern frontier of his country, which he had recently left with such high hopes. Among the hill-districts of Shoa he attempted to stop our pursuit. In spite of the formidable natural advantages afforded him by his strong position, it would not have been difficult to drive him out by a vigorous attack in the front. But here again Arago shrank from causing unnecessary bloodshed, aid by means of a skilful flank manoeuvre he induced the Negus, on the next day, voluntarily to leave his position. Thence the pursuit continued without intermission through the provinces of Shoa, Anchara, and Tigre, to the coast. If the Negus had hoped to attract fresh troops on the way, or to inflame the national fanaticism of his subjects against us, he was disappointed. The utterly demoralised panic-stricken fragments of his army which he carried with him were a Mene, Tekel, which caused his own people to vanish wherever he came as if the ground had swallowed them up, to reappear after he had gone and to receive us (his pursuers) with palm-branches and barley, the Abyssinian emblems of peace. This led the hunted man, when he had reached the frontier of Tigre, to leave the rest of his army to their fate, and to throw himself, with a small guard of horsemen, into his newly acquired coast possessions. Arrived there, with masterly rapidity he concentrated all his available troops in the coast fortresses, which he hoped, with the help of the fleet, to be able to defend long enough to give time for a possible diversion in his favour among the hill-tribes at our rear. This was the state of things when, on the 18th of September, our advance-guard appeared before the walls of Massowah. The Negus did not then know how short a time his fancied security would last.
The fleet which the Negus had taken from the European Powers at this time still contained thirteen men-of-war and nineteen gunboats and despatch-boats; at the attack on Ungama, three ironclad frigates and four smaller vessels had been either totally lost or so seriously damaged that the Abyssinians, who had no means of repairing them, could make no further use of them. A few days after the first unsuccessful attempt the Abyssinians reappeared in greater force before Ungama, whose well-known extensive wharves now for the first time seemed attractive to them; but at the first greeting from our giant guns they wisely vanished, and did not allow themselves to be sighted again.
On the other hand, they now watched all the more carefully the two entrances into the Red Sea—from Bab-el-Mandeb in the south, and from Suez in the north. They did not immediately expect any stronger naval power to come from the Indian Ocean, as, besides the two ironclads and the two despatch-boats which lay damaged at Ungama, there were no English, French, or Italian warships of importance for thousands of miles in those seas; and it would take months to get together a new fleet and send it round by the Cape of Good Hope. Moreover, the Abyssinian agents in Europe reported that the allies were preparing an expedition for the canal route, and not for the Cape route. The fact that the French were collecting materials at Toulon was not decisive evidence, as that Mediterranean port was as convenient for the one route as for the other. That the Italians concentrated their ships at Venice instead of at Genoa, which would be much more convenient for an Atlantic expedition, spoke somewhat more plainly; but that the English had chosen Malta as their rendezvous made the destination of the fleet clear to everybody. But the Abyssinians could not understand how the allies expected to pass the Suez Canal, which the Abyssinian guns were able so completely to command that any vessel entering the canal could be sunk ten times before it could fire a broadside. Besides, the Abyssinians cruising at the mouth of the canal had made it impassable by a sunken vessel laden with stones. To remove this obstacle under the fire of 184 heavy guns—the number possessed by the Abyssinian fleet—was an undertaking at which John grimly smiled when he thought of it. And as he now needed his ironclads as least as much at Massowah as at Suez and Bab-el-Mandeb, he had the larger part of them brought to him in order to keep the Freeland besieging army in check, while merely four ironclad frigates, two gunboats, and one despatch-boat remained at Suez, and one ironclad frigate, three gunboats, and two despatch-boats at Bab-el-Mandeb.
The ships ordered to Massowah reached that port on the 18th and 19th of September; but our newly constructed Freeland fleet had already started from Ungama on the 16th.
Immediately after receiving news of the capture of the coast fortresses and the ships of the allies, the central executive had determined upon the construction of this fleet, and the work was not delayed an hour. There was no time to construct an armoured fleet; but they did not think they needed one. What the executive decided upon was the construction of fast wooden vessels with guns of such a range that their shots would destroy the ironclads without allowing the shots of the latter to reach our vessels. The government relied not merely upon the greater speed of the vessels and the longer range of the guns, but chiefly upon the superiority of our gunners. It was calculated that if our vessels could come within a certain distance of the enemy, our guns would destroy the strongest ship of the enemy before our vessels could be hit. The Freeland shipbuilding and other industries were fully capable, if the work were undertaken with adequate energy and under skilful organisation, of constructing and equipping a sufficient number of wooden vessels of from 2,000 to 3,500 tons in the course of a few weeks. As early as the 23rd of August the keels of thirty-six such vessels were laid at Ungama; there was sufficient timber in stock, and the machine-works of Ungama also had in stock enough ship-engines of between 2,000 and 3,000 horse-power to furnish the new vessels, the larger of which were to be supplied with four such engines. The best and largest guns were collected from all the Freeland exercise-grounds; twenty-four new ones, which threw all former ones into the shade, were made in the steel-works at Dana City. The work was carried out with such energy that within twenty-two days the final touch had been given to the last of the thirty-six floating batteries. These constructions were not perfect in elegance; but in mechanical completeness they were faultless. They were flat-decked, so as to present as little surface as possible to the enemy's balls, and were divided into water-tight compartments to prevent their being sunk by shells striking them under the water-line. Each vessel had at least two engines working in complete independence of each other, so that it could not easily be deprived of its power of locomotion. Only the powder-magazines were armour-plated, but the plates used were of the strongest kind. The guns, which moved freely on the deck, weighed from 100 to 250 tons, and were distributed, to some vessels one, to others two, and to others three; altogether thirty-six vessels possessed seventy-eight guns. The maximum speed ranged for the different vessels from twenty-three to twenty-seven knots per hour.
As we had promised the Western Powers that we would open the Suez Canal to the European transport-ships, we had to proceed at once to carry this task into execution. On the evening of the 19th of September our vessels sighted the Abyssinian squadron cruising in the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb. These, mistaking us for passenger-steamers, at once gave chase, and were not a little astonished to find that the harmless looking crafts did not alter their course. It was not until the enemy had got within a little more than nine miles and had had a taste of a few of our heaviest shot, that they recognised their error and beat a hasty retreat. The greater part of our fleet kept on its way into the Red Sea; only six of our largest and fastest vessels pursued the fleeing Abyssinians, sunk two of their ships by a well-directed fire, which, on account of the distance, the enemy could not effectively return, and drove the others ashore. Our sloops picked as many of the men as they could reach out of the water, and the vessels then proceeded on their way to Suez. The affair with the Bab-el-Mandeb squadron lasted only about two hours and a-half.
The greater part of our fleet steamed unperceived past Massowah in the night of the 19th-20th; the other six were, however, in the early dawn, seen and pursued by a hostile cruiser. As it was not our intention to make a halt at Massowah or prematurely to warn the Abyssinian ships lying there by giving a lesson to a cruiser as we passed, our vessels did not answer the enemy's shots—though several of the latter struck us—but endeavoured to get out of reach as quickly as possible. They succeeded in doing this without suffering any serious damage. As we learnt afterwards, our vessels were mistaken at Massowah also for mail-ships which were heedlessly running into the hands of the cruisers guarding the canal. All that the Negus did was to set his vessels industriously cruising off Massowah for several nights in order to prevent the six supposed mail-steamers from escaping if they should turn back from Suez.
On the afternoon of the 22nd our fleet appeared off Suez, attacked the enemy's ships forthwith, and, after a short engagement, sank three of them. The others, including three ironclad frigates, ran ashore, and the crews were taken by the Egyptian troops. Our admiral provisionally handed over to the Egyptians the Abyssinian sailors and marines who had been rescued from drowning, and told off three of our vessels to assist the Egyptian and English canal officials in raising the sunken stone-ship. These officials told us that the allied fleet had reached Damietta the day before. If the last obstacle to the navigation of the canal could be removed so soon, the first ships of the allies could enter the Red Sea on the 24th, and the expedition might be expected at Massowah by the end of the month. In order to open Massowah by that time, our fleet at once returned southwards, and on the 24th of September appeared off the Negus's last place of refuge.
The Freeland array had, in the meantime, remained inactive outside of Massowah, knowing that the co-operation of our vessels would enable us to take the place without difficulty. When those vessels appeared in the offing, several small Abyssinian war-ships steered towards them. A few shots from ours put the enemy's vessels to flight, and the Negus at last understood the situation. However, he still hoped to demolish our wooden ships, until the terrible execution effected by the first charges from our enormous guns taught him and his admirals better. Continually withdrawing out of range of the heavy ironclads as they steamed towards our vessels, the destructive long-ranged guns of the latter poured forth their shot and sank two of the frigates, before even one of the enemy's balls had struck a Freeland vessel. The enemy then turned and fled, but our vessels, keeping at the same advantageous distance, pressed hard after them, and, before the hostile fleet had reached the harbour, sank a third ironclad. Even in the harbour the enemy found as little security as in the open sea; the dreadful armour-crushing guns sent in shot after shot; a fourth ship sank, and then a fifth. At the same time our gigantic guns battered at the harbour bastions with tremendous effect, and we expected every moment to see the white flag as a token of surrender. Instead of that, the Negus, finding that he could not hold the fortress, and expecting no mercy from us, suddenly made a desperate sortie, in the hope of fighting his way through our lines to the hills. He succeeded in passing only our first line of outposts; before he had reached the first Freeland line several volleys had brought his party to a standstill and had given him his death. The Abyssinians threw their arms away, and the war was ended.
To-morrow David and I return in the fastest of the Freeland vessels to Ungama, where Bertha awaits us. The fortnight my father bargained for has passed more than twice—I shall meet, not my betrothed, but my wife, on the Freeland seashore.
* * * * *
Here end the Freeland letters of our new countryman, Carlo Falieri, to his friend the architect Luigi Cavalotti. The two friends have exchanged residences; Cavalotti has migrated to Freeland, Falieri on the contrary, after spending a few delightful weeks on a paradisiacal island on Lake Victoria Nyanza, has been withdrawn from us for a time. He obeyed a call from his native land to assist in the carrying out of those reforms which had to be undertaken there, as elsewhere throughout the world, in consequence of the events described in his letters, and of other events which followed those. His wife accompanies him on his mission, in the furtherance of which our central government has placed the resources of Freeland at his disposal. But this carries us into the subject of the following book.
The moral effect of our Abyssinian campaign was immense among all the civilised and half-civilised peoples who heard of it. We ourselves had expected the most salutary results from it, as we foresaw that the brilliant proof of our power which we had given to the world would make our adversaries more cautious and induce them to be more compliant to our just wishes. But the effect far exceeded our most sanguine expectations. The former opponents of economic justice were not merely silenced, but actually converted—a fact which seemed to astonish us Freelanders ourselves rather than our friends abroad. We could not clearly understand why people, who for decades had regarded our efforts as foolish or objectionable, should, simply because our young men had shown themselves to be excellent soldiers, suddenly conclude that it would be possible and beneficial to enable every worker to retain the full produce of his industry. The connection between the latter and the execution done by our rifles and cannons was not clear to us who lived under the dominion of reason and justice; but outside of Freeland, wherever physical force was still the ultimate ground of right, everybody—even those who in principle endorsed our ideas—held it to be a matter of course that the crushing blows under whose tremendous force the Negus of Abyssinia fell, were an unanswerable argumentum ad hominem for the superiority of our institutions as a whole. In particular, the sudden victorious appearance of our fleet operated abroad as a decisive proof that economic justice is no mere dream-Utopia, but a very real actuality; in short, our military successes proved to be the triumph of our social institutions. A strong feverish excitement took possession of all minds; and men everywhere now wished practically to adopt what until then had been seriously regarded by a comparatively small number as an ideal to be attained in the future, by many had been treated with disfavour, and by most had been altogether ignored.
And it was seen—which certainly did not surprise us—that the impatience and the revolutionary fever were the intenser the less the subjects of them had previously studied our principles. The most advanced liberal-minded nations, whose foremost statesmen had already been in sympathy with us, and had made well-meant, but disconnected, attempts to lead their working-classes into industrial freedom, applied themselves with comparative deliberateness to the task of effecting the great economic and social revolution with as little disturbance of the existing interests as possible. England, France, and Italy, which before the outbreak of the Abyssinian war were already prepared to introduce our institutions into their East African possessions, now resolved to co-operate with us in the conversion of their existing institutions into others analogous to ours—a course which they could take without involving themselves in any very revolutionary steps. Several other European Powers, as well as the whole of America and Australia, immediately followed their example. This gave rise to some stormy outbursts of popular feeling in the States in question; but beyond the breaking of a few windows no harm was done. There were more serious disturbances in the 'conservative' States of Europe and in some parts of Asia; there occurred violent uprisings and serious attacks upon unpopular ministers, who in vain asserted that they no longer had any objection to make to economic equity. Here and there the struggle led to bloodshed and confiscations. The working-classes mistrusted the wealthy classes, but were themselves not agreed upon the course that should be taken; and the parties assumed a more and more threatening attitude towards each other. But the condition of affairs was worst where the governments had formerly acted in avowed opposition to the people, the wealthy had oppressed the masses, and the latter had been designedly kept in ignorance and poverty. In such countries there was no intelligent popular class possessing influence enough to control the outbursts of furious and unreasoning hatred; cruelty and horrors of all kinds were perpetrated, the former oppressors slaughtered wholesale, and there would have been no means of staying the senseless and aimless bloodshed if, fortunately for these countries, our influence and authority had not ultimately quieted the raging masses and turned the agitation into proper channels. After one of the parties, which in those countries were fruitlessly tearing each other to pieces, had conceived the idea of calling in our intervention, the example was generally followed. Wherever anarchy prevailed in the east of Europe, in Asia, in several African States, requests were sent that we would furnish commissioners, to whom should be granted unlimited authority. We naturally complied most gladly with these requests; and the Freeland commissioners were everywhere the objects of that implicit confidence which was necessary for the restoration of quiet.
In the meantime those States also which were more advanced in opinion had asked for confidential agents from Freeland to assist, both with counsel and material aid, the governments in prosecuting the intended reforms. We say advisedly with counsel and material aid for the people of Freeland, as soon as it was known that assistance had been asked for, granted to their delegates, whether acting as consultative members of a foreign government or as commissioners furnished with unlimited power, disposal over the material resources of Freeland for the benefit of the countries that had sent for them; the sums advanced being treated not as gifts, but as loans. The central government of Eden Vale formally reserved the right to give the final decision in the case of each loan; but as it was an understood principle that necessary help was to be afforded, and as only those who were on the spot could know what help was necessary, a discretionary right of disposal of the available capital really lay in the hands of the commissioners and confidential agents.
That we were able, in the course of a few months, to meet a demand from abroad for nearly two milliard pounds sterling is explained by the fact that our Freeland Insurance Department had at its disposal in an available form about one-fifth of its reserve of more than ten milliards sterling. The other four-fifths were invested—that is, it was lent to associations and to the commonwealth for various purposes; the one-fifth had been retained in the coffers of the bank as disposable stock for emergencies, and now could be used to meet the sudden demand for capital. This reserve, of course, was not kept in the form of gold or silver: had it been, it would not have been available when an accidental demand arose. It is not gold or silver, but quite other things that are required in a time of need: the precious metals can serve merely as suitable means of procuring the things that are really required. In order that such things may be acquired they must exist somewhere in a sufficient quantity, and that they exist in sufficient quantity to meet a sudden and exceptionally large demand cannot be taken for granted. He who suddenly wants goods worth milliards of pounds will not be able to buy them anywhere, because they are nowhere stored up to that amount; if he would be protected from the danger of not being able to get such a demand met, he must lay up, not the money for purchase, but the goods themselves which he expects to need. Take, for example, the case of the Russians who had burnt and destroyed the granaries of their landowners, the warehouses of their merchants, the machines in their factories: what good would have done them had the milliards of roubles which they needed to make good—and to add to—what had been destroyed been sent to them in the form of money for them to spend? There were no surplus supplies which they could have bought: had they taken our money into the markets the only effect would have been to raise all prices, and to have made all the neighbouring nations share their distress. And in the same way all the other nations, which we wished to assist in their endeavour to rise as quickly as possible out of their misery into a state of wealth similar to our own, needed not increased currency but increased food, raw material, and implements. And our reserve was laid up in the form of such things. About half of it always consisted of grain, the other half of various kinds of raw material, particularly materials for weaving, and metals. When our commissioner in Russia asked at different times for sums amounting altogether to 285,000,000L, he did not receive from us a farthing in money, but 3,040 cargoes of wheat, wool, iron, copper, timber, &c.: the result was that the wasted country did not suffer at all from want, but a few months later—certainly less in consequence of the loans themselves than of the fact that the loans were employed in the Freeland spirit—it enjoyed a prosperity which a short time before no one would have dreamt to be possible. In the same way we made our resources useful to other nations, and we resolved that should our existing means not suffice to meet the demands, we would make up what was still needed from the produce of the coming year.
We by no means intended to continue this role of economic and social providence to our brother peoples longer than was absolutely necessary. We did not shrink from either the burden or the responsibility; but we considered that in all respects it would be for the best if the process of social reconstruction, in which all mankind was now engaged, were to be carried out with the united powers of all, according to a well-considered common plan. We therefore determined at once to invite all the nations of the earth to a conference at Eden Vale, in which it might be decided what ought next to be done. It was not our intention that this congress should pass binding resolutions: it should remain, we thought, free to every nation to draw what conclusions it pleased from the discussions at the congress; but it seemed to us that in any case it would be of advantage to know what the majority thought of the movement now going on.
This suggestion met with no serious objection anywhere. Among the less advanced nations of Asia there was a strong feeling that, instead of spending the time in useless talk, it would be better simply to put into execution whatever we Freelanders advised. The constituent assemblies of several—and those not the least—nations said that they on their part would abide by what we said, whatever the congress might decide upon. But it was necessary only to point out that we could not advise them until we had heard them, and that a congress seemed to be the best means of making their wants known, to induce them to send delegates. We could not prevent many of the delegates from receiving instruction to vote with us Freelanders in all divisions whatever—an instruction which proved to be quite unnecessary, as the congress did not divide at all, except upon questions of form, upon other questions confining itself to discussion and leaving everyone to draw his own conclusions from the debates.
On the other hand, in the most advanced countries a small minority had organised an opposition, not, it is true, against the general principles of economic justice, but against many of the details involved in carrying out that principle. This opposition had nowhere been able to elect a delegate who should bear its mandate to the World's Congress; but it everywhere found strong advocates among the Freeland confidential agents and commissioners, who, while perfectly in harmony with the public opinion of Freeland, endeavoured, as far as possible, to secure a representation of every considerable party tendency, in order that those who clung to the obsolete old economic order should have no right to complain that they could not make themselves heard. Sixty-eight nations were invited to take part in the congress; it was left to the nations themselves to decide how many delegates they should send, provided they did not send more than ten each. The sixty-eight countries elected 425 delegates, thus making with the twelve heads of departments of the Freeland government a total number of 437 members of the congress.
On the 3rd of March, in the twenty-sixth year after the founding of Freeland, the congress met in the large hall of the Eden Vale National Palace. On the right sat those who questioned the possibility of carrying out the proposed reform universally, in the centre the adherents of Freeland, on the left the Radicals to whom the most violent measures seemed best. The presidency was given to the head of the Freeland government, which position had been uninterruptedly occupied by Dr. Strahl since the founding of the commonwealth.
We give the following resume of the six days' discussion from the official minutes:
The PRESIDENT, in the name of the Freeland people, welcomed the delegates of the nations who had responded to the Freeland invitation.
CHARLES MONTAIGNE (Centre), in the name of his colleagues, thanked the Freeland people for the magnanimous and extraordinary assistance which they had afforded to the other nations of the earth in their struggles after economic freedom. Not content with showing to the rest of the world the way to economic freedom and justice, Freeland had also made enormous material sacrifices. For his part, he did not know which was the more astonishing, the inexhaustibleness of the resources which Freeland had at its disposal or the disinterested magnanimity exhibited in the employment of those resources.
JAMES CLARK (Freeland): In the interest of sober truth, as well as with a view of furthering as much as possible the great work we all have at heart, I must explain that though the Freeland people are always happy to make disinterested sacrifices for the good of their brother peoples, and that in all they do in this way their object is rather to develop and to promote the best interests of mankind than to obtain any advantage for themselves, yet, as a matter of fact, the milliards lent to foreign countries cost Freeland no material sacrifice, but bring it considerable material profit. [Sensation.] Under the regime of economic justice and freedom the solidarity of all economic interests is so universal and without exception, that in Freeland business becomes as profitable as it is possible to conceive of its being while you, with our assistance, are growing rich most rapidly. This would be true if we gave you the milliards instead of lending them. You look at each other and at me with an inquiring astonishment? You hold it to be impossible to become rich by lending gratuitously or by absolutely giving away a part of one's property? Yet nothing is simpler. The subject is a very important one, and will come up for discussion again in the course of our sittings; at present I will only briefly point out that we have been prevented by the misery of the rest of the world from making the right use of the advantages of international division of labour. We have been obliged to manufacture for ourselves goods which we might have obtained better from you; and we have therefore had to produce a smaller quantity of those things which we could have produced most profitably. It is plain that we should be far richer if we could give our attention chiefly to the production of grain for ourselves and for you, and derive from you the supplies we need to meet our demand for manufactured articles. For here the soil yields for an equal amount of labour and capital ten times as much as among you, while few manufactures here yield a larger return for labour and capital than they do abroad. But, on account of the system of exploitation which has prevailed and is not yet got rid of among you—the cheap wages consequent upon which have cramped your use of labour-saving machinery—we have been, and still are, compelled to meet most of our demand for manufactured articles by our own production, since you are scarcely able to produce for yourselves, to say nothing of producing for us, a great number of goods which in the nature of things you ought to be able to produce most profitably both for yourselves and for us, and in exchange for which you would receive our foodstuffs and raw material. We calculate that the removal of this hindrance to the complete international division of labour must increase the productiveness of our labour so much that the resulting gain would be cheaply bought by a permanent sacrifice of many milliards. You need not wonder, then, at finding us always so eager in encouraging you to make the freest and fullest claims upon our resources. You will never dip so deeply into our pockets that we—in our own interest as well as in yours—will not wish to see you dip still deeper. Every farthing spent in hastening the development of your wealth is made good to us ten and twentyfold.
FRANCIS FAR (Right): If it is so much to the interest of Freeland to enrich us that Freeland is profited even by making us a gift of its capital, why has it not given us its capital sooner? Who would have hindered it from handing its milliards over to us? Why did it delay so long, and why does it now make its assistance conditional on our accepting its economic institutions?
JAMES CLARK: Because so long as you remained in servitude every farthing given to you for such a purpose would have been simply thrown away. Formerly we could do nothing more than support the victims of your social system and mitigate the misery and wretchedness you inflicted upon yourselves. As a matter of fact, there have long been large sums of Freeland capital—bearing interest, it is true—invested in Europe and America. What has been the result? This money has contributed to increase the amount of surplus capital among you: it could not increase the quantity of capital actually employed in production among you, for nothing could have done that but an increased consumption by the people outside of Freeland—and this was not compatible with what were then your economic principles. Therefore we have been able to help you only since you yourselves have held out the hand: our capital will benefit you only because you have at length decided to enjoy the fruits of it yourselves. [General assent.]
The PRESIDENT: In order to preserve a certain amount of order in our discussions, I propose that we at once agree upon a list of the questions to be considered. It may not always be possible to adhere strictly to the order in the list; but it is advisable that each speaker should endeavour as much as possible to confine himself to the subject under discussion. In order to expedite matters, the Freeland government has prepared a kind of agenda, which you can accept, or amend, or reject. The matters for discussion mentioned in this agenda, I may remark, were not introduced on our initiative, but were mentioned by the leaders of the different parties abroad as needing more detailed explanation: we, on our part, contented ourselves with arranging these questions. We propose, therefore, that the following be the order in which the subjects be discussed:
1. How can the fact be explained that never in the course of history, before the founding of Freeland, has there been a successful attempt to establish a commonwealth upon the principles of economic justice and freedom?
2. Is not the success of the Freeland institutions to be attributed merely to the accidental, and therefore probably transient, co-operation of specially favourable circumstances; or do those institutions rest upon conditions universally present and inherent in human nature?
3. Are not want and misery necessary conditions of existence; and would not over-population inevitably ensue were misery for a time to disappear from the earth?
4. Is it possible to introduce the institutions of economic justice everywhere without prejudice to inherited rights and vested interests; and, if possible, what are the best means of doing this?
5. Are economic justice and freedom the ultimate outcome of human evolution; and what will probably be the condition of mankind under such a regime?
Has anyone a remark to make upon our proposal? No one has. Therefore I place point 1 upon the order of the day, and call upon delegate Erasmus Kraft to speak.
ERASMUS KRAFT (Right): Wherever thinking men dwell upon this earth, we are preparing to exchange the state of servitude and misery in which from time immemorial our race has been sunk, for a happier order of things. The brilliant example which we have before our eyes here in Freeland seems to be a pledge that our attempt will—nay, must—succeed. But the more evident this certainty becomes, the more urgent, the more imperative, becomes the question why that which is now to be accomplished has not long since been done, why the genius of humanity slept so long before it roused itself to the task of completing this richly beneficent work. And the simpler—the more completely in harmony with human nature and with the most primitive requirements of sound reason—appears to be the complex of those institutions upon which the work of emancipation depends, so much the more enigmatical is it that earlier centuries and millenniums, when there was no lack of enlightened and noble minds, never seriously attempted to accomplish such a work. We see that it suffices to guarantee to everyone the full enjoyment of what he produces, in order to supply everyone with more than enough; and yet through untold millenniums men have patiently endured boundless misery with all its consequences of sorrow and crime as if they were inevitable conditions of existence. Why was this? Are we shrewder, wiser, juster than all our ancestors; or, in spite of all the apparently infallible evidence in favour of the success of our work, are we not perhaps under a delusion? It is true that the greatest and most important part of the history of mankind is veiled in the obscurity of primitive antiquity; yet history is so old that it is scarcely to be assumed that the endeavour after the material well-being of all—an endeavour prompted by the most ardent desires of every creature—should now make its appearance for the first time. It must be that such an endeavour has been put forth, not once merely but repeatedly, even though no tradition has given us any trustworthy account of it. But where are its results? Or did its results once exist though we know nothing of them? Is the story of the Golden Age something more than a pious fable; and are we upon the point of conjuring up another Golden Age? And then arises the query, how long will this Golden Age last; will it not again be followed by an age of bronze and an age of iron, perhaps in a more wretched, more humble form than that exhibited by the age from which we are preparing to part? Is that fatalistic resignation, with which the ages known to us endured misery and servitude, a human instinct evolved during an earlier and bitter experience—an instinct which teaches mankind to endure patiently the inevitable rather than strive after a brief epoch of happiness and progress at the risk of a deeper fall? In obedience to the hint from the chair, I will at present refrain from inquiring what might be the cause of such a relapse into redoubled misery, as this will be the theme of the third point in the list of subjects for discussion; but I think that before we proceed to an exposition of all the conceivable consequences of the success of our endeavours it would be advisable first to find out whether those endeavours will really and in their full extent succeed; and in order to find this out, it will again be advisable to ask why such endeavours have never succeeded before—nay, perhaps, why they have never before been made.
CHRISTIAN CASTOR (Centre): The previous speaker is in error when he asserts that history tells us of no serious attempt to realise the principle of economic justice. One of the grandest attempts of this kind is Christianity. Everyone who knows the Gospels must know that Christ and His apostles condemned the exploitation of man by man. The words of Scripture, 'Woe to him who waxes fat upon the sweat of his brother,' contain in nuce the whole codex of Freeland law and all that we are now striving to realise. That the official Christianity afterwards allowed its work of emancipation to drop is true; but individual Fathers of the Church have again and again, in reliance upon the sacred text, endeavoured to realise the original purposes of Christ. And that during the Middle Ages, as well as in modern times, vigorous attempts to realise the Christian ideal—that is, the ideal of Christ, not that of the Church—have never been wanting is also well known. This is what I wished to point out. The elucidation of the question why all these attempts were wrecked I leave to other and better furnished minds.
VLADIMIR OSSIP (Left): Far be it from me to hold the noble Founder of Christianity responsible for what was afterwards made out of His teaching; but our friend from the United States goes, in my opinion, too far when he represents Christ and His successors as our predecessors. We proclaim prosperity and freedom—Christ preached self-denial and humility; we desire the wealth, He the poverty, of all; we busy ourselves with the things of this world—He had the next world before His eyes; we are—to speak briefly—revolutionaries, though pacific ones—He is the founder of a religion. Let us leave religion alone; I do not think it will be of any use for us to call in question the meum and tuum as to Christianity.
LIONEL ACOSTA (Centre): I differ entirely in this case from the previous speaker, and agree with our colleague from North America. The teaching of Christ, though not explicit as to means and ends, is the purest and noblest proclamation of social freedom that has yet been heard, and it is this proclamation of social emancipation, and not any religious novelty, that forms the substance of the 'Good News.' It was a master-stroke of the policy of enslavement to represent Christ as a founder of a religion instead of a social reformer: the latter doctrine had quickly won the hearts of the oppressed masses because it promised them release from their sufferings, but the former doctrine was used to lull to sleep their awakening energy.
Christ did not concern Himself with religion—not a line in the Gospels shows the slightest trace of His having interfered with one of the ancient religious precepts of His country. The most orthodox Jew can unhesitatingly place the Gospels in the hands of his children, certain that they will find nothing therein to wound their religious sentiment. [A Voice: Then why was Christ crucified?] I am asked why Christ was crucified if He had done nothing contrary to the Mosaic law. Do men commit murder from religious motives merely? Christ was hurried to death because He was a social, not because He was a religious, innovator; and it was not the pious but the powerful among the Jews who demanded His death. Scarcely a word is needed to set this matter right in the minds of all those who study without prejudice the momentous events of that saddest, but at the same time most glorious, of the days of Israel, upon which the noblest of her sons voluntarily sought and found a martyr's death. In the first place, it is a well-attested historical fact that in Judaea at that time death for religious heresy was as little known as in Europe during the last century. In the second place, the mode of execution—the cross, which was quite foreign to the Jews—shows that Christ was executed according to Roman, not Jewish, law. But the Romans, the most tolerant in religious matters of all peoples, would never have put a man to death for religious innovation; they would not have allowed the execution to take place, much less have themselves pronounced sentence and carried out that sentence in their own method. The cross was among them the punishment for riotous slaves or their instigators. I do not say this for the purpose of shifting the responsibility for Christ's death from Judaea—it is the sad privilege of that people to have been the executioner of its noblest sons; and as only the Athenians killed Socrates, so none but the Jews killed Christ; the Romans were only the instruments of Jewish hatred—the hatred, that is, of those wealthy men among the Jews of the time who denounced the 'perverter of the people' to the Governor because they trembled for their possessions. Indeed, it is quite credible that the Governor did not show himself willing to accede to the wishes of the eager denouncers, for he, the Roman, who had grown up in unshaken faith in the firmly established rights of property, did not understand the significance and bearing of the social teaching of Christ. The Gospels leave us little room to doubt—and it would be difficult to understand how it could be otherwise—that he held Christ to be a harmless enthusiast, who might have been let off with a little scourging. Generations had to pass away before the Roman world could learn what the teaching of Christ really was; and then it fell upon His followers with a fury without a parallel—crucified them, threw them to the beasts; in short, did everything that Rome was accustomed to do to the foes of its system of law and property, but never to the followers of foreign religions. It was different with the Jewish aristocracy: these at once understood the meaning and the bearing of the Christian propaganda, for they had long since learnt the germ of these social demands in the Pentateuch and in the teaching of the earlier prophets. The year of Jubilee which required a fresh division of the land after every forty-nine years, the regulation that all slaves should be emancipated in the seventh year—what were these but the precursors of the universal equality demanded by Christ? Whether all these ideas, which are to be found in the Sacred Scriptures of ancient Judaea, were ever realised in practice is more than doubtful. But they were currently known to every Jew; and when Christ attempted to give them a practical form—when, in vigorous and rousing addresses, He denounced woe to the rich man who fattened upon his brother's sweat—then the powerful in Jerusalem at once recognised that their interests were threatened by a danger which was not clearly seen by non-Jewish property-owners until much later. There is not the slightest doubt that they made no secret of the true grounds of their anxiety to the Roman Governor, for Christ was executed, not as a sectary, but as an inciter to revolt.
But, of course, it could not be told to the people that the death of Christ was demanded because He wished to put into practice the principle of equality laid down in the sacred books and so often insisted on by the prophets. The people had to be satisfied with the fable of the religious heresy of the Nazarene, which fable, however—except in the case of the unjudging crowd that collected together at the crucifixion—for a long time found no credence. Everywhere in Israel did the first Christian communities pass for good Jews; they were called Judaei by all the Roman authors by whom they were mentioned. What they really were, in what respects alone they differed from the other communities of Jews, is sufficiently revealed in the Acts of the Apostles, notwithstanding the very natural caution of the writer, and the subsequent equally intelligible corruptions of the text. They were Socialists, to some extent Communists; absolute economic equality, community of goods, was practised among them. Later, when the Christian Church sacrificed its social principle to peace with the State, and transformed itself from a cruelly persecuted martyr to equality into an instrument of authority and—perhaps because of this apostasy—of a doubly zealous persecuting authority, then first did she put forth as her own teaching the malicious calumny of her former maligners, and took upon herself the role of a new religion; and since then she has, in fact, been the propounder of a new religion. And that she has succeeded, for more than 1,500 years, in connecting her new role with the name of Christ, is mainly the fault of the Jews, who, through the sanguinary persecutions which have been carried on against them in the name of the meek Sufferer of Golgotha, have allowed themselves to be betrayed into a blind and foolish hatred towards this their greatest and noblest son.
But it remains none the less true that Christ suffered death for the idea of social justice and for this alone—nay, that before His time this idea was not unknown to Judaism. And it is equally true that notwithstanding all subsequent obscuration and corruption of this world-redeeming idea, the propaganda of economic emancipation has never since been completely suppressed. It was in vain that the Church forbad the laity to read those books which were alleged to contain no teaching but that of the Church: again and again did the European peoples, languishing in the deepest degradation, derive from those forbidden Scriptures courage and inspiration to attempt their emancipation.
DARJA-SING (Centre): I should like to add to what I have just heard that another people, six centuries before Christ, also conceived the ideas of freedom and justice—I mean the Indian people. The essence of Buddhism is the doctrine of the equality of all men and of the sinfulness of oppression and exploitation. Nay, I venture to assert that the already mentioned ideas of social freedom to be found in the Pentateuch, and held by the prophets, and consequently those also held by Christ, are to be referred back to Indian suggestion. At first sight this appears to be an anachronism, for Buddha lived six centuries before Christ, while the Jewish legends carry back the composition of the Pentateuch to the fourteenth century before Christ. But recent investigations have almost certainly established that these alleged books of Moses were composed in the sixth century B.C. at the earliest—at any rate, after the return of the Israelites from the so-called Babylonish captivity. Now, just at the time when the elite of the then existing Jews were carried to Babylon, Buddha sent his apostles through the whole of Asia; and it may safely be assumed that those who 'wept by the waters of Babylon' were specially susceptible to the teaching of such apostles.
When, therefore, certain eminent German thinkers assert that Christianity is a drop of foreign blood in the Arian peoples, they are certainly correct in so far as Christianity actually came to them as Semitism, as having sprung from Judaism; nevertheless the Arian world can lay claim to the fundamental conception of Christianity as its own, since it is most highly probable that the Semitic peoples received the first germ of it from the Arians. I say this not for the purpose of depreciating the service performed by the great Semitic martyr to freedom. I cannot, alas! deny that we Arians were not able to accomplish anything of our own strength with the divine idea that sprang from our bosom. While it is probable that the horrors of the Indian system of caste, that most shameful blossom that ever sprang from the blood-and-tear-bedewed soil of bondage, made India the scene of the first intellectual reaction against this scourge of mankind, it is certain, on the other hand, that that very system of caste so severely strained the energy of our Indian people as to make it impossible for them to give practical effect to the reaction. Buddhism was extinguished in India, and outside of India it was soon entirely robbed of its social characteristic. Those transcendental speculations to which even in the West it was attempted to limit Christianity have in Eastern Asia been in reality the only effects of Buddhism. Indeed, the idea of freedom took different forms in the minds of the founders—taking one form in the Indian Avatar which, notwithstanding all his sublimity, bore the mark of his nationality; and taking another form in the Messiah of Judah who saw the light of the world in the midst of a people fired with a never-subdued yearning for freedom. Buddha could conceive of freedom only in the form of that hopeless self-renunciation which was falsely introduced into the Christian idea of freedom by those who did not wish to have their own enjoyments interfered with by the claims of others.
In fact, I am convinced that even our more vigorous kinsmen who had migrated to the West could not have given practical effect to the conception of freedom and equality if we—the Indian world—had transmitted to them that conception just as we had conceived it. For even those who migrated westward carried in their blood to Europe, and retained for a thousand years, the sentiment of caste. The idea that all men are equal, really equal here upon earth, would have remained as much beyond the grasp of the German noble and the German serf as it has remained beyond the grasp of the Indian Pariah or Sudra and the Brahman or Kshatriya. This conception had first to be condensed and permanently fixed by the genius of the strongly democratic little Semitic race on the banks of the Jordan, and then to be subjected to a severe—and, for a time, adverse—analytical criticism by the independent and logical spirit of research of Rome and Greece, before it could be transplanted and bear fruit in purely Arian races. It is very evident that the converted German kings adopted Christianity because they held it to be a convenient instrument of power. It was for the time being immaterial to them what the new doctrine had to say to the serfs; for the serf who looked up to the 'offspring of the gods,' his master, with awful reverence, seemed to be for ever harmless, and the only persons against whom it was necessary for the masters to arm were their fellow lords, the great and the noble, who differed from the kings in nothing but in the amount of their power. The right to rule came, according to the Arian view, from God: very well, but the right of the least of the nobles sprang, like that of the king, from the gods. Now, the kings found in Christ the one supreme Lord who had conferred power upon them, and upon them alone. They alone now possessed a divine source of authority; and therefore history shows us everywhere that it was the kings who introduced Christianity against the—often determined—opposition of the great, and never that the great were converted without, or against the will of, the kings. The masses of the people, the serfs, where were these ever asked? They have to do and believe what their masters think well; and without exception they do it, making no resistance whatever—allowing themselves to be driven to baptism in flocks like sheep, and believing, as they are commanded to do, that all power comes from one God, who bestows it upon one lord. For the Arian serf is a mere chattel without a will, and will not think for himself until he is educated to do so. This work of education has been a long time in progress; but, as the previous speaker rightly said, the idea of freedom has never slept.
ERICH HOLM (Right): I do not think that any valid objection can be made to the statement that the general idea of economic justice is thousands of years old and has never been completely lost sight of. But it is a question whether this general idea of equality of rights and of freedom has much in common with that which we are now about to put into practice, or whether in many respects it does not differ from that ancient idea. And, further, it is a question whether that idea, which we have heard is already twenty-five centuries old, has ever been or can be realised.
With reference to the first question, I must admit that Christ, in contrast to Buddha, entertained not a transcendental and metaphysical, but a very material and literal idea of equality. It is true that He pronounced the poor in spirit blessed; but the rich, who according to Him would find it harder to get into heaven than it is for a rope of camel's hair to go through a needle's eye, were not the rich in spirit, but the rich in earthly riches. It is also true that he said, 'My kingdom is not of this world' and 'Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's'; yet everyone who reads these passages in connection with their context must see that He is simply waiving all interference whatever with political affairs—that in wishing to gain the victory for social justice he is influenced not by political, but by transcendental aims for the sake of eternal blessedness. Whether Rome or Israel rules is immaterial to Him, if only justice be exercised; yet only pious narrow-mindedness can deny that He wished to see justice exercised here below, and not merely in the next world. But is that which Christ understands by justice really identical with what we mean by it? It is true that the 'Love thy neighbour as thyself,' which He preached in common with other Jewish teachers, would be a senseless phrase if it did not imply economic equality of rights. The man who exploits man loves man as he does his domestic animal, but not as himself: to require true 'Christian neighbourly love' in an exploiting society would be simply absurd, and what would come of it we have in times past sufficiently experienced. Indeed, the apostle removes all doubt from this point, for he expressly condemns the getting rich upon another's sweat.
So far, then, we are completely at one with Christ. But He just as emphatically condemns wealth and praises poverty, whilst we would make wealth the common possession of all, and therefore would place all our fellow-men in a condition in which—to speak with Christ—it would be harder to enter the kingdom of heaven than it is for a rope to go through a needle's eye. Here is a contradiction which it seems to me can scarcely be reconciled. We hold misery, Christ held wealth, to be the source of vice, of sin: our equality is that of wealth, His that of poverty. This is my first point.
In the second place, Christ did not succeed, modest as His aims were. Is not, then, an appeal to this noblest of all minds calculated to discourage rather than to encourage us in the pursuit of our aims?
EMILIO LERMA (Freeland): The previous speaker has brought the poverty which Christ praised and required into a false relation with the—alleged—miscarriage of His work of emancipation. Christ's work miscarried not in spite of, but because of, the fact that He attempted to base equality upon poverty. The equality of poverty cannot be established, for it would be synonymous with the stagnation of civilisation. However, it is not only possible, but necessary, to bring about the equality of wealth, as soon as the necessary conditions exist, because this is synonymous with the progress of civilisation. You will say that certainly this is so according to our view; but according to the view of Christ wealth is an evil. Very true. But when we examine the matter without prejudice, it is impossible not to see that Christ rejected wealth only because it had its source in exploitation. There is nothing in the life of Christ to suggest that He was such a gloomy ascetic as He must have been if He had held wealth, as such, to be sinful: numberless passages in the Gospels afford unequivocal evidence of the contrary. Christ's daily needs were very simple, but He was always ready to enjoy whatever His adherents offered him, and never saw any harm in getting as much pleasure from living as was consistent with justice. This view of His was not affected even by the hatred with which the rich of Jerusalem persecuted Him, and the often-quoted condemnation of the rich has in it something contrary to the spirit of the Gospels, if we tear it away from its connection with the words, 'Woe unto him who waxeth fat upon the sweat of his brother.' In condemning wealth, Christ condemned merely its source; the kingdom of heaven was closed to wealth because, and only because, wealth could not be acquired except by exploiting the sweat of men. There can be no doubt that Christ, like ourselves, would have become reconciled to wealth if then, as in our days, wealth were possible without exploitation—nay, really possible only without it. We shall have further occasion to discuss why this was impossible in Christ's day and for many centuries afterwards; at present it is enough to know that it was impossible, that the only choice lay between poverty and wealth with exploitation.
Christ rendered the immortal service of having recognised this alternative more clearly than anyone before Him, and of having attacked exploitation with soul-stirring fervour. It was inevitable that He should be crucified for what He did, for in the antagonism between justice and the claims of civilisation the first always succumbs. It was inevitable that He should die, because He unrolled the banner of true human love, freedom, and equality—in short, of all the noblest sentiments of the human heart—nearly two thousand years too soon; too soon, that is, for Him, not for us: for dull-witted humanity needed those two thousand years in order fully to understand what its martyr meant. For humanity Christ died not a day too soon. There is, then, no contradiction between the Christian ideas and what we are striving for; the difference between the two lies simply herein: that the first announcement of the idea of equality was made in an age when the material conditions necessary for the practical realisation of this divine idea did not yet exist, whilst our endeavours signify the 'Incarnation of the Word,' the fruit of the seed then cast into the mind of mankind. It cannot, therefore, be said that the Christian work of emancipation has really 'miscarried': there merely lie two thousand years between the beginning and the completion of the work undertaken by Christ.
On account of the lateness of the hour the President here closed the sitting, the debate standing adjourned until the next day.
(Adjourned Discussion upon the first point on the Agenda)
LEOPOLD STOCKAU (Centre) re-opened the debate: I think that the preliminary question, whether our present endeavours after economic justice really are without any historical precedent, was exhaustively discussed yesterday and was answered in the negative. At least, I am authorised by yesterday's speakers of the opposite party to declare that they are fully convinced that the teaching of Christ differs in no essential point from that which is practically carried out in Freeland, and which we wish to make the common property of the whole world. We now come to the main subject of the first question for discussion—namely, to the inquiry why the former attempts to base human industry upon justice and freedom have been unsuccessful.
The answer to this question has already been suggested by the last speaker of yesterday. Former attempts miscarried because they aimed at establishing the equality of poverty: ours will succeed because it implies the equality of wealth. The equality of poverty would have produced stagnation in civilisation. Art and science, the two vehicles of progress, assume abundance and leisure; they cannot exist, much less can they develop, if there are no persons who possess more than is sufficient to satisfy their merely animal wants. In former epochs of human culture it was impossible to create abundance and leisure for all—it was impossible because the means of production would not suffice to create abundance for all even if all without exception laboured with all their physical power; and therefore much less would they have sufficed if the workers had indulged in the leisure which is as necessary to the development of the higher intellectual powers as abundance is to the maturing of the higher intellectual needs. And since it was not possible to guarantee to all the means of living a life worthy of human beings, it remained a sad, but not less inexorable, necessity of civilisation that the majority of men should be stinted even in the little that fell to their share, and that the booty snatched from the masses should be used to endow a minority who might thus attain to abundance and leisure. Servitude was a necessity of civilisation, because that alone made possible the development of the tastes and capacities of civilisation in at least a few individuals, while without it barbarism would have been the lot of all.
It is, moreover, a mistake to suppose that servitude is as old as the human race: it is only as old as civilisation. There was a time when servitude was unknown, when there were neither masters nor servants, and no one could exploit the labour of his fellow-men; that was not the Golden, but the Barbaric, Age of our race. While man had not yet learnt the art of producing what he needed, but was obliged to be satisfied with gathering or capturing the voluntary gifts of nature, and every competitor was therefore regarded as an enemy who strove to get the same goods which each individual looked upon as his own special prey, so long did the struggle for existence among men necessarily issue in reciprocal destruction instead of subjection and exploitation. It did not then profit the stronger or the more cunning to force the weaker into his service—the competitor had to be killed; and as the struggle was accompanied by hatred and superstition, it soon began to be the practice to eat the slain. A war of extermination waged by all against all, followed generally by cannibalism, was therefore the primitive condition of our race.
This first social order yielded, not to moral or philosophical considerations, but to a change in the character of labour. The man who first thought of sowing corn and reaping it was the deliverer of mankind from the lowest, most sanguinary stage of barbarism, for he was the first producer—he first practised the art not only of collecting, but of producing, food. When this art so improved as to make it possible to withdraw from the worker a part of his produce without positively exposing him to starvation, it was gradually found to be more profitable to use the vanquished as beasts of labour than as beasts for slaughter. Since slavery thus for the first time made it possible for at least a favoured few to enjoy abundance and leisure, it became the first promoter of higher civilisation. But civilisation is power, and so it came about that slavery or servitude in one form or another spread over the world.
But it by no means follows that the domination of servitude must, or even can, be perpetual. Just as cannibalism—which was the result of that minimum productiveness of human labour by means of which the severest toil sufficed to satisfy only the lowest animal needs of life—had to succumb to servitude as soon as the increasing productiveness of labour made any degree of abundance possible, so servitude—which is nothing else but the social result of that medium measure of productiveness by which labour is able to furnish abundance and leisure to a few but not to all—must also succumb to another, a higher social order, as soon as this medium measure of productiveness is surpassed, for from that moment servitude has ceased to be a necessity of civilisation, and has become a hindrance to its progress.
And for generations this has actually been the case. Since man has succeeded in making the forces of nature serviceable in production—since he has acquired the power of substituting the unlimited elemental forces for his own muscular force—there has been nothing to prevent his creating abundance and leisure for all; nothing except that obsolete social institution, servitude, which withholds from the masses the enjoyment of abundance and leisure. We not merely can, but we shall be compelled to make social justice an actual fact, because the new form of labour demands this as imperatively as the old forms of labour demanded servitude. Servitude, once the vehicle of progress, has become a hindrance to civilisation, for it prevents the full use of the means of civilisation at our disposal. As it reduces to a minimum the things consumed by most of our brethren, and therefore does not call into play more than a very small part of our present means of production, it compels us to restrict our productive labour within limits far less than those to which we should attain if an effective demand existed for what would then be the inevitable abundance of all kinds of wealth.
I sum up thus: Economic equality of rights could not be realised in earlier epochs of civilisation, because human labour was not then sufficiently productive to supply wealth to all, and equality therefore meant poverty for all, which would have been synonymous with barbarism. Economic equality of rights not only can but must now become a fact, because—thanks to the power which has been acquired of using the forces of nature—abundance and leisure have become possible for all; but the full utilisation of the now acquired means of civilisation is dependent on the condition that everyone enjoys the product of his own industry.
SATZA-MUNI (Right): I think it has been incontrovertibly shown that economic equality of rights was formerly impossible, and that it can now be realised; but why it must now be realised does not seem to me to have been yet placed beyond a doubt. So long as the productiveness of labour was small, the exploitation of man by man was a necessity of civilisation—that is plain; this is no longer the case, since the increased productiveness of labour is now capable of creating wealth enough for all—this is also as clear as day. But this only proves that economic justice has become possible, and there is a great difference between the possible and the necessary existence of a state of things. It has been said—and the experience of the exploiting world seems to justify the assertion—that full use cannot be made of the control which science and invention have given to men over the natural forces, while only a small part of the fruits of the thus increased effectiveness of labour is consumed; and if this can be irrefutably shown to be inherent in the nature of the thing, there remains not the least doubt that servitude in any form has become a hindrance to civilisation. For an institution that prevents us from making use of the means of civilisation which we possess is in and of itself a hindrance to civilisation; and since it restrains us from developing wealth to the fullest extent possible, and wealth and civilisation are power, so there can consequently be no doubt as to why and in what manner such an institution must in the course of economic evolution become obsolete. The advanced and the strong everywhere and necessarily imposes its laws and institutions upon the unprogressive and the weak; economic justice would therefore—though with bloodless means—as certainly and as universally supplant servitude as formerly servitude—when it was the institution which conferred a higher degree of civilisation and power—supplanted cannibalism. I have already admitted that the modern exploiting society is in reality unable to produce that wealth which would correspond to the now existing capacity of production: hence it follows as a matter of fact that the exploiting society is very much less advanced than one based upon the principle of economic justice, and it also quite as incontrovertibly follows that the former cannot successfully compete with the latter.
But before we have a right to jump to the conclusion that the principles of economic justice must necessarily be everywhere victorious, it must be shown that it is the essential nature of the exploiting system, and not certain transitory accidents connected with it, which makes it incapable of calling forth all the capacity of highly productive labour. Why is the existing exploiting society not able to call forth all this capacity? Because the masses are prevented from increasing their consumption in a degree corresponding to the increased power of production—because what is produced belongs not to the workers but to a few employers. Right. But, it would be answered, these few would make use of the produce themselves. To this the rejoinder is that that is impossible, because the few owners of the produce of labour can use—that is, actually consume—only the smallest portion of such an enormous amount of produce; the surplus, therefore, must be converted into productive capital, the employment of which, however, is dependent upon the consumption of those things that are produced by it. Very true. No factories can be built if no one wants the things that would be manufactured in them. But have the masters really only this one way of disposing of the surplus—can they really make no other use of it? In the modern world they do as a matter of fact make no other use of it. As a rule, their desire is to increase or improve the agencies engaged in labour—that is, to capitalise their profits—without inquiring whether such an increase or improvement is needed; and since no such increase is needed, so over-production—that is, the non-disposal of the produce—is the necessary consequence. But because this is the fact at present, must it necessarily be so? What if the employers of labour were to perceive the true relation of things, and to find a way of creating an equilibrium by proportionally reducing their capitalisation and increasing their consumption? If that were to happen, then, it must be admitted, all products would be disposed of, however much the productiveness of labour might increase. The consumption by the masses would be stationary as before; but luxury would absorb all the surplus with exception of such reserves as were required to supply the means of production, which means would themselves be extraordinarily increased on account of the enormously increased demand caused by luxury.
And who will undertake to say that such a turn of affairs is altogether impossible? The luxury of the few, it is said, cannot possibly absorb the immense surplus of modern productiveness. But why not? Because a rich man has only one stomach and one body; and, moreover, everyone cannot possibly have a taste for luxury. Granted; luxury, in its modern forms, cannot possibly consume more than a certain portion of the surplus produce of modern labour. But are we shut up to these modern kinds of luxury? What if the wealthy once more have recourse to a mode of spending repeatedly indulged in by antiquity in order to dispose of the accumulating proceeds of slave-labour? In ancient Egypt a single king kept 200,000 men busy for thirty years building his sepulchre, the great pyramid of Ghizeh. This same Pharaoh probably built also splendid palaces and temples with a no less profligate expenditure of human labour, and amassed treasures in which infinite labour was crystallised. Contemporaneously with him, there were other Egyptian magnates, priests, and warriors in no small number, who sought and found in similar ways employment for the labour of their slaves. If the luxury of the living did not consume enough, then costly spices, drink-offerings and burnt-offerings were lavished upon the dead, and thus the difficulty of disposing of the accumulated produce of labour was still further lightened. And this succeeded admirably. The Egyptian slave received a few onions and a handful of parched corn for food, a loin-cloth for clothing; and yet, notwithstanding a comparatively highly developed productiveness of the labour of countless slaves exploited by a few masters, there was no over-production. In ancient India the men in power excavated whole ranges of hills into temples, covered with the most exquisite sculptures, in which an infinite amount of labour was consumed; in ancient Rome the lords of the world ate nightingales' tongues, or instituted senseless spectacles, in order to find employment for the superfluous labour of countless slaves who, despite the considerable productiveness of labour, were kept in a condition of the deepest misery. And it answered. Why should not such a course answer in modern times? Because, thanks to the control we have acquired over nature, the productiveness of labour has become infinitely greater. Labour may have become infinitely more productive; indeed, I think it probable that it is no longer possible for the maddest prodigality of the few wealthy to give full employment to the whole of the labour-energy at present existing without admitting the masses to share in the consumption; but it would be possible for the wealthy to consume a very large portion of the possible produce. Then why does the modern exploiting society build no pyramids, no rock palaces; why do the lords of labour institute no costly cultus of the dead; why do they not eat nightingales' tongues, and keep the exploited populace busy with circus spectacles and mock sea-fights? They could indulge in these and countless other things, if they only discovered that the surplus must be consumed and not capitalised. But as long as they continue to multiply the instruments of labour, and only the instruments of labour, so long are they simply increasing over-production, and can become richer only in proportion as the consumption accidentally increases. As soon, however, as they adopt the above-mentioned expedient, the connection between their wealth and the lot of the masses is broken. Why does not this happen?
I hope it is not necessary for me expressly to assert that I am far from wishing for such a turn in affairs; rather, I should look upon it as the greatest misfortune that could befall mankind, for it would mean that, despite the enormously increased productiveness of labour, exploitation was not necessarily a hindrance to civilisation, and consequently would not necessarily be superseded by economic justice. But Confucius says rightly, that what is to be deplored is not always to be regarded as impossible or even as only improbable.
JOHN BELL (Centre): The last speaker, who in other respects shows himself to be a profound thinker, overlooks the fact that the completest utilisation of the existing means of civilisation and the corresponding evolution of wealth are not the only determining criteria in the struggle for existence among nations. The strength of a nation that employs its wealth in fostering the higher development of the millions of its subjects, will ultimately become very different from that of a nation which consumes an equal amount of wealth merely in increasing the enjoyment, nay, the senseless luxury, of the ruling classes.
ARISTID-KOLOTRONI (Centre): The last speaker is correct in what he says, although it may be objected that the wealthy are not necessarily obliged to consume their wealth in senseless luxury: they might just as well gratify their pride by boundless benevolence, accompanied by enormous expenditure in all imaginable kinds of scientific, artistic and other institutions of national utility. But I think we are getting away from the main point, which is: is such a turn of affairs possible? The fact that it has not occurred, despite all the evils of over-production, that on the contrary a continually growing desire to capitalise all surplus profits dominates the modern world, should save us from a fear of such a contingency.
KURT OLAFSOHN (Freeland): I must agree with Satza-Muni, the honourable member for Japan, so far as to admit that the bare fact that such a contingency has not yet been realised cannot set our minds completely at rest. The consideration advanced by the two following speakers as to whether an exploiting society in which the consumption by the wealthy increases indefinitely must, under all circumstances, succumb to the influence of the free order of society, appears arbitrary and inconclusive. I venture to think that the free society does not possess the aggressive character of the exploiting society, and that therefore the latter, even though it should prove to be decidedly the weaker of the two, may continue to exist for some time side by side with the other so far as it does not itself recognise the necessity of passing over to the other. And this recognition would be materially delayed by the fact that the ruling classes profit by the continuance of exploitation. The change could then be effected universally only by sanguinary conflicts, whilst we lay great stress upon the winning over of the wealthy to the side of the reformers. It is the enormous burden of over-production that opens the eyes of exploiters to the folly of their action; should this spur be lacking, the beneficial revolution would be materially delayed. The member for Japan is also correct in saying that repeatedly in the course of history the surplus production which could not be consumed in a reasonable manner has led the exploiting lords of labour to indulge in senseless methods of consumption. It may therefore be asked whether what has repeatedly happened cannot repeat itself once more; but a thorough investigation of the subject will show that the question must be answered with a decided No.
No, it can never happen again that full employment for highly productive labour will be found except under a system of economic justice; for since it last occurred, a new factor has entered into the world which makes it for all times an impossibility. This factor is the mobilisation of capital and the consequent separation of the process of capital formation from the process of capital-using. Anyone who in Ancient Egypt or Ancient Rome had surplus production to dispose of and wished to invest it profitably, therefore in the form of aids to labour, must either himself have had a need of aids to labour, or must have found someone else who had such a need and was on that account prepared to take his surplus, at interest of course. It was impossible for anyone to invest capital unless someone could make use of such capital; and if this latter contingency did not occur, it was a matter of course that the possessor of the surplus production, unusable as capital, should seek some other mode of consuming it. Many such modes offered themselves, differing according to the nature of the several kinds of exploiting society. If the constitution of the commonwealth was a patriarchal one, the labour which had become more productive would be utilised in improving the condition of the serfs, in mitigating the severity of their labour. In a commonwealth of a more military character the increasing productiveness of labour would serve to enlarge the non-labouring, weapon-bearing class. If—as was always the case when civilisation advanced—the bond between lord and serf became laxer, the lord merely increased his luxury. But, in any case, the surplus which could not be utilised in the augmentation or improvement of labour was consumed, and there could therefore be no over-production. As now, however, the possessor of surplus produce can—even when no one has a need of his savings—obtain what he wants, viz. interest, he has ceased to concern himself as to whether that surplus is really required for purposes of production, but is anxious to capitalise even that which others can make as little use of as he can.
And this, in reality, is the result of the mobilisation of capital. Since this discovery has been made, all capital is as it were thrown into one lump, the profits of capital added to it, and the whole divided among the capitalists. No one needs my savings, they are absolutely superfluous, and can bear no fruit of any kind; nevertheless I receive my interest, for the mobilisation of capital enables me to share in the profits of profit-bearing, that is, of really working, capital. I deposit my savings at interest in a bank, or I buy a share or a bill and thereby raise the price of all other shares or bills correspondingly, and thus make it appear as if the capital which they represent had been increased, while in truth it has remained unchanged. And the produce of this working capital has not increased through the apparent addition of my capital; the interest paid on the whole amount of capital including mine is not more than that paid on the capital before mine was added to it. The addition of my superfluous capital has lowered the rate of interest, or, what comes to the same thing, has raised the price of a demand for the same rate of interest as before; but even a diminished rate of interest is better than no interest at all. I continue, therefore, to save and capitalise, despite the fact that my savings cannot be used productively as capital; nay, the above-mentioned diminution of the rate of interest impels me, under certain circumstances, to save yet more carefully, that is, to diminish my consumption in proportion as my savings become less remunerative. It is evident that my surplus produce cannot find any productive employment at all, yet there is no way out of this circle of over production. Luxury cannot come in as a relief, because the absence of any profitable employment for the surplus renders that surplus valueless, and the ultimate result is the non-production of the surplus. Only exceptionally is there an actual production of unconsumable and, consequently, valueless things; the almost unbroken rule is that the things which no one can use, and which therefore are valueless, will not be produced. Since the employer leaves to the worker only a bare subsistence, and can apply to capitalising purposes only so much as is required for the production of consumable commodities, every other application of the profits being excluded by capitalism, he cannot produce more than is enough to meet these two demands. If he attempts to produce more, the inevitable result is not increased wealth, but a crisis.
We have, therefore, no ground to fear that the ruling classes will again, as in pro-capitalistic epochs, be able to enjoy the fruits of the increasing productiveness of labour without allowing the working masses to participate in that enjoyment. Capitalism, though by no means—as some socialistic writers have represented—the cause of exploitation, is the obstacle which deprives modern society of every other escape from the fatal grasp of over-production but that of a transition to economic justice. It is the last stage in human economics previous to that of social justice. From capitalism there is no way forward but towards social justice; for capitalism is at one and the same time one of the most effectual provocatives of productivity and the bond which indissolubly connects the increase of the effective production of wealth with consumption.
WILHELM OHLMS (Right): Then how is it that the Freeland institutions, which are to become those of the whole of civilised mankind, have broken with capitalism?