Tremendous applause burst forth from all parts of the hall when Dr. Strahl had finished. As he passed from the speaker's tribune to the President's chair, he was cordially shaken by the hand, not only by his friends who crowded around him, but also by the leaders of the Opposition, who gladly and unreservedly acknowledged themselves convinced. The excitement was so great that it was some time before the debate could be resumed. At last the President obtained a hearing for one of the previous speakers.
ROBERT MURCHISON (Right): I rise for the second time, on behalf of those who sit near me, first to declare that we are fully and definitively convinced. You will readily believe that we do not regret our defeat, but are honestly and heartily glad of it. Who would not be glad to discover that a dreadful figure which filled him with terror and alarm was nothing but a scarecrow? And even a sense of shame has been spared us by the magnanimity of the leader of the opposite party, who laid emphasis upon the fact that not merely we, but even his adherents outside of Freeland, still cherished in their hearts the same foolish anxiety, begotten of acquired and hereditary prejudices and false notions. The phantoms fled before his clear words, our laughter follows them as they flee, and we now breathe freely. But, if we might still rely upon the magnanimity of the happy dwellers in Freeland, the after-effects of the anxiety we have endured still linger in us. We are like children who have been happily talked out of our foolish dread of the 'black man,' but who nevertheless do not like to be left alone in the dark. We would beg you to let your light shine into a few dark corners out of which we cannot clearly see our way. Do not despise us if we still secretly believe a little in the black man. We will not forget that he is merely a bugbear; but it will pacify us to hear from your own mouths what the true and natural facts of the case are. In the first place, what are, in your opinion, the means employed by nature, in the struggle for the existence of species, to keep the growth of numbers from reaching the limit of the food-supply? Understand, we ask this time merely for an expression of opinion—of course, you cannot, any more than anyone else, know certainly how this has been done and is being done in individual cases; and if your answer should happen to be simply, 'We have formed no definite opinion upon the subject,' we should not on that account entertain any doubt whatever as to the self-evident truth that every living being possesses the characteristic in question, and that the origin of that characteristic must be sought somewhere in the struggle for existence. In order to be convinced that the stag has acquired his fleetness, the lion his strength, the fox his cunning, in the struggle for existence, it is not necessary for us to know exactly how this has come about; yet it is well to hear the opinions as to such subjects of men who have evidently thought much about them. Therefore we ask for your opinions on the question of the power of adaptation in fecundity.
LOTHAR WALLACE (Freeland): We think that the characteristic in question, as it is common to all organisms, must have been acquired in a very early stage of evolution of the organic world; from which it follows that we are scarcely able to form definite conceptions of the details of the struggle for existence of those times—as, for example, of the process of evolution to which the stag owes his swiftness. We can only say in general that between fecundity and the death-rate an equilibrium must have been established through the agency of the mode of living. A species threatened with extinction would increase its fecundity or (by changing its habits) diminish its death-rate; whilst, on the other hand, a species threatened with a too rapid increase would diminish its fecundity or (again by changing its habits) increase its death-rate. Naturally the death-rate in question is not supposed to depend upon merely sickness and old age, but to be due in part to external dangers. The great fecundity, for example, of the heiring would, according to this view, be both cause and effect of its habits of life, which exposed it in its migrations to enormous destruction. Whether the herring and other migratory fishes adopted their present habits because of their exceptional fecundity—the origin of which would then have to be sought in some other natural cause—or whether those habits were originally due to some other cause, and provoked their exceptional fecundity, we cannot tell. But that a relation of action and reaction exists and must necessarily exist here is evident, since a species whose death-rate is increased by an increase of danger must die out if this increase of death-rate is not accompanied by an increased fecundity; and, in the same way, increased fecundity, when not followed by an increased death-rate, must in a short time lead to deterioration. At any rate, it can be shown that, whether deterioration or extermination has been the agent, species have died out; and it can be inferred thence that some species do not possess this power of effecting an equilibrium between fecundity and death-rate. But this conclusion would be too hasty a one. All natural processes of adaptation take place very gradually; and if a violent change in external relations suddenly produces a very considerable increase in the death-rate, it may be that the species cannot adapt its fecundity to the new circumstances rapidly enough to save itself from destruction. To infer thence that the species in question did not possess this power of adaptation at all would be as great a mistake as it would be to argue that, for example, because the stag, or the lion, or the fox, notwithstanding their fleetness, strength, or cunning, are not protected from extermination in the face of overpowering dangers, therefore these beasts do not possess swiftness, strength, or cunning, or that these properties of theirs are not the outcome of an adaptation to dangers called forth in the struggle for existence.
Since there can be no doubt that the power of adaptation, of which we have just spoken, was absolutely necessary to the perpetuation of any species in the struggle for existence in the very beginning of organic life upon our planet, it must have been acquired in immemorial antiquity, and must consequently be a part of the ancient heritage of all existing organisms. There certainly was a time, in the very beginning of life, when this power of adaptation was not yet acquired; but nature has an infallible means of making not only useful but necessary characters the common property of posterity, and this means is the extirpation of species incapable of such a power of adaptation. The selection in the struggle for existence is effected by the preservation of those only who are capable of development and of transmitting their acquired characters to posterity until those characters become fixed, such individuals as revert to the former condition being exterminated as they appear.
The reciprocal adaptation of fecundity to death-rate has thus belonged unquestionably for a long time to the specific character of all existing species without exception. Its presence is manifested not merely in the great universal fact that all species, despite many varying dangers—leaving out of view sudden external catastrophes and attacks of special violence—are preserved from either extermination or deterioration, but also in isolated phenomena which afford a more intimate glimpse into the physiological processes upon which the adaptation in question depends. Human knowledge does not yet extend very far in this direction, but accident and investigation have already given us a few hints. Thus, for example, we know that, as a rule, high feeding diminishes the fecundity of animals; stallions, bulls, etc., must not become fat or their procreative power is lessened, and the same has been observed in a number of female animals. As to man, it has long been observed that the poor are more fruitful than the rich, and, as a rule, notwithstanding the much greater mortality of their children, bring up larger families. The word 'proletarian' is derived from this phenomenon as it was known to the Romans; in England, Switzerland, and in several other countries the upper classes—that is, the rich—living in ease and abundance, have relatively fewer children—nay, to a great extent decrease in numbers. The census statistics in civilised countries show a general inverse ratio between national wealth and the growth of the population—a fact which, however, will be misinterpreted unless one carefully avoids confounding the wealth of certain classes in a nation with the average level of prosperity, which alone has to be taken into account here. In Europe, Russia takes the lead in the rate of growth of population, and is without question in one sense the poorest country in Europe. France stands lowest, the country which for more than a century has exhibited the most equable distribution of prosperity. That the English population increases more rapidly, though the total wealth of England is at least equal to that of France, is explained by the unequal distribution of its wealth. Moreover, it is not merely wealth that influences the growth of population—the ways in which the wealth is employed appear to have something to do with it. In the United States of America, for example, we find—apart from immigration—a large increase with an average high degree of prosperity, offering thus an apparent exception to our rule. Yet if we bear in mind the national character of the Yankees, excitable and incapable of calm enjoyment, the exception is sufficiently explained, and it is brought into harmony with the above principle. But the study of this subject is still in its infancy, and we cannot expect to see it clearly in its whole complex; nevertheless the facts already known show that the connection between the habits and life of fecundity is universally operative.
JOHN VUKETICH (Right): Certain phenomena connected with variations in population appear, however, to contradict the principles that disastrous circumstances act as stimuli to fecundity. For example, the fact that the number of births suddenly increases after a war or an epidemic, in short when the population has been decimated by any calamity, is to be explained by the sudden increase in the relative food-supply on account of the diminution of the number of the people. In this case, the greater facility of supplying one's wants produces a result which our theory teaches us to expect from a greater difficulty in doing so.
JAN VELDEN (Right): I know that this is the customary explanation of the well-known phenomenon just mentioned, and I must admit that an hour ago I should have accepted this explanation as plausible. Now, however, I do not hesitate to pronounce it absurd. Or can we really allow it to be maintained that, after a war or an epidemic, it is easier to get a living, wealth is greater, than before these misfortunes? I think that generally the contrary is the fact; after wars and epidemics men are more miserable than before, and on that account, and not because it is easier to get a living, their fecundity increases.
The conception to which our friend has just appealed is exactly like that concerning the famishing herrings or elephants; it has been entertained only because economic prejudice was in want of it, and it prevails only so far as this prejudice still requires it. If we were not now discussing the population question, but were speaking merely of war and peace, disease and health, the previous speaker would certainly regard me with astonishment, would indeed think me beside myself, if I were to be guilty of the absurdity of contending that, for example, after the Thirty Years' War the decimated remains of the German nation enjoyed greater prosperity and found it easier to live, or that the survivors of the great plagues of antiquity and the Middle Ages were better off than was the case before the plagues. His sound judgment would at once reject this singular notion; and if I showed myself to be obstinate, he could speedily refute me out of the old chronicles which describe in such vivid colours the fearful misery of those times. But since it is the population question which is under consideration, and some of the shreds of that veil of which our honoured President spoke seem to flutter before his eyes, he heedlessly mistakes the absurdity in question for a self-evident truth which does not even ask for closer examination. The misery that follows war and disease now becomes—and is treated as if it must be so, as if it cannot be imagined otherwise—a condition in which it is easier to obtain a supply of food, since—thus will the veil of orthodoxy have it—misery is produced only by over-population. Since men suffer want because they are too numerous, it must be better for them when they have been decimated by war and disease. From this categorical 'must' there is no appeal, either to the sound judgment of men, or to the best known facts; and should rebellious reason nevertheless venture to appeal, something is found wherewith to silence her too loud voice, as for example the reminder that the survivors would find their wealth increased by what they inherited from the dead, that the supply of hands—the demand is simply conveniently forgotten in this connection—has been lessened, and so on.
EDMOND RENAULD (Centre): I wish to draw attention to another method of violently bringing the fact that the growth of the population bears an inverse ratio to the national prosperity into harmony with the Malthusian theory of population, or at least of weakening the antagonism to this theory. For example, in order to explain the fact that the French people, 'in spite of their greater average well-being,' increase more slowly than many poorer nations, the calumny is spread abroad that the blame attaches to artificial prevention, the so-called 'two-children system.' Even in France many believe in this myth, because they—ensnared by Malthus's false population law—are not able to explain the fact differently. Yet this two-children system is a foolish fable, so far as the nation, and not merely a relatively small section of the nation, is concerned. It is true that in France there are more families with few children than there are in other countries; but this is very easily explained by the fact that the French, on account of their greater average prosperity, are on the whole less fruitful than most other peoples. But that the Frenchman intentionally limits his children to two is an absurdity that can be believed only by the bitter adherents of a theory which, finding itself contradicted by facts, distorts and moulds the facts in order to make them harmonise with itself. It should not be overlooked that such a limitation would mean, where it was exercised, not a slow increase, but a tolerably rapid extinction. Nothing, absolutely nothing, exists to prove that French parents exercise an arbitrary systematic restraint; the irregularity of chance is as conspicuous here as in any other country, with only the general exception that large families are rarer and small ones more frequent than elsewhere, a fact which, as has been said, is due to diminished fecundity and not to any 'system' whatever.
At the same time, I do not deny that the wealthy classes, particularly where the bringing up of children is exceedingly costly, do to some extent indulge in objectionable preventive practices, which, however, are said to be not altogether unknown in other countries.
ALBERT MOLNAR (Centre): The just mentioned fable of the two-children system is also prevalent among certain races living in Hungary, particularly among the Germans of Transylvania and among the inhabitants of certain Magyar districts on the Theiss. The truth here also is, that—apart, of course, from a few exceptions—the cause of the small increase in population must be sought in a lower degree of fecundity, which fecundity—and I would particularly emphasise this—everywhere in Hungary bears an inverse proportion to the prosperity of the people. The slaves of the mountainous north, who live in the deepest poverty, and the Roumanians of Transylvania, who vegetate in a like miserable condition, are all very prolific. Notwithstanding centuries of continuous absorption by the neighbouring German and Magyar elements, these races still multiply faster than the Germans and the Magyars. The Germans, living in more comfortable circumstances, and the few Magyars of the northern palatinate, are far less prolific, yet they multiply with tolerable rapidity. The Germans and Magyars of the plains, in possession of considerable wealth, are almost stationary, as are the already mentioned Saxons of Transylvania.
ROBERT MURCHISON (Right): In the second place, we would ask whether, contrary to the former assumption that man in his character of natural organism was subject to a universal law of nature imposing no check upon increase in numbers but that of deficiency of food—we would ask whether, on the contrary, the power acquired by man over other creatures does not constitute him an exception to that now correctly stated law of nature which provides that an equilibrium between fecundity and death-rate shall automatically establish itself before a lack of food is experienced. Our misgiving is strengthened by the fact that among other animals, as a rule, it is not so much the change that occurs in the fecundity of the species, as that which occurs in the relation of the species to external foes, that restores the equilibrium when the death-rate has been altered by any cause. Let us assume, for example, the herrings have lost a very dangerous foe—say that man, for some reason or other, has ceased to catch them—it is probable that their indefinite increase will not in the first instance be checked by a change in their fecundity, but an actual large increase in the number of the herrings will most likely lead to such an increase in the number and activity of their other natural foes that an equilibrium will again be brought about by that means.
Man, as lord of the creation, especially civilised man, has generally no other foe but himself to fear. Here, then, when the death-rate happens to be diminished by the disappearance of evils which he had brought upon himself, the equilibrium could be restored only by a diminution of fecundity; here it would be as if nature was prevented from employing that other expedient which, in the world of lower animals, she, as a rule, resorts to at once, the increase of the death-rate by new dangers. I admit that several facts mentioned by the last speaker belonging to the Freeland government show that nature would find this, her only remaining expedient—the spontaneous diminution of fecundity—quite sufficient. It cannot be denied that the number of births decreases with increasing prosperity; but is it certain that this will take place to a sufficient extent permanently and radically to avert any danger whatever of over-population? For, apart from very rare exceptions which tire too insignificant to make a rule in such an important matter, the births have everywhere a little exceeded the deaths, though the latter have hitherto been everywhere unnaturally increased by misery, crime, and unwholesome habits of life; and if in future it remains the rule that the births preponderate, let us say to only a very small extent, then eventually, though not perhaps for many thousands of years, over-population must occur, for the lack of any external check.
In order permanently to prevent this, there must be established sooner or later an absolute equilibrium between births and deaths. Can we really depend upon nature spontaneously to guarantee us this? Is it absolutely certain that nature will, as it were, say to man: 'My child, you have by the exercise of your reason emancipated yourself from my control in many points. You have made ineffectual and inapplicable all but one of those means by which I protected your animal kindred from excessive increase, and the one means you have left untouched is just that which I have been accustomed to employ only in extreme cases. Do not look to me alone to furnish you with effectual protection against that evil, but make use of your reason for that purpose—for that also is my gift.'
The supposition that, in this matter, nature really indicates that man is to exercise some kind of self-help gains weight when one recalls the course of human evolution. Our Freeland friends have very appositely and strikingly shown us how the men of the two former epochs of civilisation treated each other, first as beasts for slaughter and then as beasts of burden. And what was it but want that drove them to both of these courses? Is not the conviction forced upon us that our ancestors were compelled at first to eat each other, and, when they refrained from that, to decimate each other, simply because they had become too strong to be saved from over-population by the interposition of nature? In the first epoch of civilisation man protected himself against a scarcity of food by slaying and, driven by hunger, straightway devouring, his competitor at nature's table. What happened in the second epoch of civilisation was essentially the same: men were consumed slowly, by piecemeal, and a check put upon their increase by killing them and their offspring slowly through the pains and miseries of servitude. In short, since man has learnt to use his reason he has ceased to be a purely natural creature, his own will has become partly responsible for his fate; and it seems to me that in the population question of the future he will not be left to the operation of nature alone, but must learn how to help himself.
LOTHAR MONTFORT (Freeland): That man, by the exercise of his reason, has made himself king of nature, and has no special need to fear any foe but himself, is certainly true; and it is just as true that he can and ought to use this reason of his in all the relations of the struggle for existence. Moreover, I do not doubt that if it were really true, as the previous speaker apprehended, that man has become too strong for nature to save him from over-population in the same way in which she saved his lower fellow-creatures, then man would be perfectly able to solve this problem by a right use of his own reason. Should he actually be threatened by over-population after he had left off persecuting his fellow men, recourse could and would be had to the voluntary restriction of the number of children.
In the first place, it is not too much to expect that physiology would be able to supply us with means which, while they were effectual, would not be injurious to health or obnoxious to the aesthetic sentiment, and would involve the exercise of no ascetic continence; though all the means hitherto offered from different quarters, and here and there actually employed, fail to meet at least one or more of these conditions. In the second place, it is certain that public opinion would be in favour of prevention as soon as prevention was really demanded in the public interest. That the declamations of the apostles of prevention, powerful as they have been, have not succeeded in winning over the sympathies of the people is due to the fact that those apostles have been demanding what was altogether superfluous. There has hitherto been, and there is now, no over-population; the working classes would not be in the least benefited by refraining from the begetting of children; hence, prevention would in truth have been nothing but a kind of offering up of children to the Moloch of exploitational prejudice. The popular instinct has not allowed itself to be deceived, and moral views are determined by the moral instincts, not by theories. On the other hand, if there were a real threat of over-population, in whatever form, the restriction of the number of births would then be a matter of general interest, and the public views upon prevention would necessarily change. Should such a change occur, it would be quite within the power of society to regulate the growth of population according to the needs of the time. It may safely be assumed that no interference on the part of the authorities will be called for; the exercise of compulsion by the authorities is absolutely foreign to the free society, and cannot be taken into consideration at all. The modern opinion concerning the population question, the opinion that is gradually acquiring the force of a moral principle—viz. that it is reprehensible to beget a large number of children—must prove itself to be sufficiently powerful for the purpose, it being taken for granted, of course, that means of prevention were available which were absolutely trustworthy, and did not sin against the aesthetic sentiment. But if this did not suffice, the incentive to restriction would be furnished by the increased cost of bringing up children, or by some other circumstance.
But it is really superfluous to go into these considerations, for in this matter nature has no need whatever of the conscious assistance of man. Man is, in this respect, no exception; what he expects from nature has been given in the same degree to other creatures, and all that is essential has already been furnished to him.
As to the first point, I need merely remark that, though man is the king of animals, he is in no way different from all the others as to the point under consideration. There are animals which, when the danger from one foe diminishes, may be exposed to increased danger from other foes, and in the case of such, therefore, as the previous speaker quite correctly said, the restoration of the disturbed equilibrium does not necessarily presuppose a diminution of fecundity. But there are other animals which, in this matter, are exactly in the same position as man. They have no foes at all whom they need fear, and a change of death-rate among them can therefore be compensated for only by a corresponding change in the power of propagation. The great beasts of prey of the desert and the sea, as well as many other animals, belong to this category. What foe prevents lions and tigers, sperm-whales, and sharks from multiplying until they reach the limit of their food supply? Does man prevent them? If anyone is really in doubt as to this, I would ask who prevented them in those unnumbered thousands of years in which man was not able to vie with them, or did not yet exist? But they have never—as species—suffered from lack of food; consequently nature must have furnished to them exactly what we expect from her.
In fact, as I have said, she has already furnished us with it. For it is not correct that, in the earlier epochs of civilisation, man assisted nature in maintaining the requisite equilibrium between the death-rate and the fecundity of his species. It is true that men assisted in increasing their own death-rate by slaying each other, and by torturing each other to death; but they did not in this way restore an equilibrium that had been disturbed by too great fecundity or too low a mortality; on the contrary, they disturbed an equilibrium already established by nature, and compelled nature to make good by increased fecundity the losses occasioned by the brutal interference of man. The previous speaker is in error when he ascribes the rise of anthropophagy in the first competitive struggles in human society to hunger, to the limitation of the food supply, by which the savages were driven to kill, and eventually to eat, their fellow savages. Whether the opponent was killed or not made no material difference in the relations between these two-legged beasts of prey and their food supply. Nature herself took care that they never increased to the actual limit of their food supply; if they had been ten times more numerous they would have found the food in their woods to be neither more nor less abundant. They opposed and murdered each other out of ill-will and hatred, impelled not by actual want but by the claim which each one made to everything (without knowing how to be mutually helpful in acquiring what all longed for, as is the case under the regime of economic justice). Whether there were many or few of them is a matter of indifference. Put two tribes of ten men each upon a given piece of land, and they will persecute each other as fiercely as if each tribe consisted of thousands. It is true that the popular imagination generally associates cannibalism with a lack of food or of flesh; but this mistake is possible only because the doctrine of exploitation fills the minds of its adherents with the hallucination of over-population. Certainly cannibals do not possess abundance in the sense in which civilised men do, but this is because they are savages who have not, or have scarcely, risen out of the first stage of human development. To suppose that they were driven into cannibalism by over-population and the lack of food, is to exhibit a singular carelessness in reasoning. For it is never the hungry who indulge in human flesh, but those who have plenty, the rich; human flesh is not an article of food to the cannibal, but a dainty morsel, and this horrible taste is always a secondary phenomenon; the cannibal acquires a taste for a practice which originally sprang from nothing but his hatred of his enemy.
Again, neither is the action of the exploiter induced by a diminution of the food supply, nor would such a diminution prevent future over-population. Men resort to mutual oppression, not because food is scarcer, but because it is more abundant, and more easily obtainable than before; and the misery which is thereby occasioned to the oppressed does not diminish but increases their number. It is true that misery at the same time decimates those unfortunates whose fecundity it continually increases; but experience shows that the latter process exceeds the former, otherwise the population could not increase the more rapidly the more proletarian the condition of the people became, and become the more stationary the higher the relative prosperity of the people rose.
That, apart from insignificant exceptions, an actually stationary condition has never been known is easily explained from the fact that actual prosperity, real social well-being, has never yet been attained. When once this becomes an accomplished fact the perfect equilibrium will not be long in establishing itself. The same applies to every part of nature in virtue of a great law that dominates all living creatures; and there is nothing to justify the assumption that man alone among all his fellow-creatures is not under the domination of that law.
(End of Fourth Day's Debate)
The fourth point in the Agenda was: 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 proper means of doing this?
ERNST WOLMUT (belonging to no party) opened the debate: I do not think it necessary to lay stress upon the fact that the discussion of the subject now before us cannot and ought not materially to influence our convictions. Whether it be everywhere possible or not to protect vested interests will hinder no one from adopting the principle of economic justice, and that at once and with all possible energy. We are not likely to be prevented from according a full share of justice to the immense majority of our working fellow-men by a fear lest the exploiting classes should suffer, any more than the promoters of the railroads were stayed in their work by the knowledge that carriers or the innkeepers on the old highways would suffer. It is, however, both necessary and useful to state the case clearly, and as speedily as possible to show to those who are threatened with inevitable loss what will be the extent of the sacrifice they will have to make. For I take it to be a matter of course that such a sacrifice is inevitable. No one suffered anything through the establishment of the Freeland commonwealth; but this was because there were here no inherited rights or vested interests to be interfered with. There were no landlords, no capitalists, no employers to be reckoned with. It is different with us in the Old World. What is to be done with our wealthy classes, and how shall we settle all the questions concerning the land, the capital, and the labour over which the wealthy now have complete control? Will it not be humane, and therefore also prudent, to make some compensation to those who will be deprived of their possessions? Will not the new order work better if this small sacrifice is made, and embittered foes are thereby converted into grateful friends?
ALONSO CAMPEADOR (Extreme Left): I would earnestly warn you against such pusillanimous sentimentality, which would not win over the foes of the new order, but would only supply them with the means of attacking it, or shall we say allow them to retain those means. If we would exercise justice towards them, we should give to them, as to all other men, an opportunity of making a profitable use of their powers. They cannot or will not labour. They are accustomed to take their ease while others labour for them. Does this constitute a just claim to exceptional treatment? But it will be objected that they ask for only what belongs to them, nay, only a part of what belongs to them. Very well. But what right have they to this so-called property? Have they cultivated the ground to which they lay claim? Is the capital which they use the fruit of their labour? Does the human labour-force which carries on their undertakings belong to them? No; no one has a natural right to more than the produce of his own labour; and since in the new order of things this principle deprives no one of anything, but, on the contrary, leads to the greatest possible degree of productiveness, no one has any ground for complaint—that is to say, no one who is content with what is his own and does not covet what rightly belongs to some one else. To acknowledge the claims of those who covet what is not theirs would be like acknowledging the claims of the robber or thief to the property he has stolen.
It will be said that owners possess what they have bona fide; their claim is based upon laws hitherto universally respected. Right. Therefore we do not punish these bona fide possessors; we simply take from them what they can no longer possess bona fide. But the owners have paid the full value for what they must now give up: why should they lose their purchase-money, seeing that the purchase was authorised by the law then in force? Is the new law to have a retrospective force? These are among the questions we hear. But no one need be staggered by these questions unless he pleases. For the purchase-money rightly belonged to the possessor of it as little as the thing purchased; he who buys stolen goods with stolen money has no claim for compensation. If he acts in good faith he is not obnoxious to punishment—but entitled to compensation?
Yet—and this is the last triumph of the faint-hearted—the purchase-money, that is, the capital sunk in land or in any business, can be legally the property of the possessor even in our sense of the term. The possessor may have produced it by his own labour and saved it: is he not in that case entitled to compensation? Yes, certainly; in this case, to refuse compensation for such capital would be robbery; but is not the establishment of economic justice, which gives a right to the produce of any kind of future labour, a fully adequate compensation for that capital which has really been produced by the possessor's own labour? Consider how poorly a man's own labour was remunerated under the exploiting system of industry, what capital could be saved out of what was really one's own labour, and you will not then say that a real worker who possessed any such savings will not find a sufficient compensation in the ten-fold or hundred-fold increase of the produce of his labour. But perhaps a difficulty is found in the possibility that this small capitalist might no longer be capable of work? Granted; and provision is made for this in the new order of things. The honest worker receives his maintenance allowance when his strength has left him; even he will have no occasion to sigh for what he had saved in the exploiting times of the past. To these maintenance allowances I refer also those other exploiters whose habits have robbed them of both desire and ability to work. The free community of the future will be magnanimous enough not to let them suffer want; even they have, as our fellow-men, this claim upon the new order; but any right beyond this I deny.
STANISLAUS LLOWSKI (Freeland): We in Freeland take a different standpoint. The exploiting world could, without being false to itself, forcibly override acquired rights in order to carry out what might be the order of the day; it could—and has almost always done so—carry into force any new law based upon the sword, without troubling itself about the claims of the vanquished; it could do all this because force and oppression were its proper foundation. Its motto was, 'Mine is what I can take and keep'; therefore he who took what another no longer had the power to keep acted in perfect accordance with his right, whether he could base his claim upon the fortune of war or upon a parliamentary majority. If we recognised this ancient right, matters would be very simple: we have become the stronger and can take what we please. The hypocrisy of the modern so-called international law, which has a horror of brutal confiscations, need not stand in our way any more than it has ever stood in the way of anyone who had power. Conquerors no longer deprived the conquered of their land, they no longer plundered or made men their slaves; but in truth, it was only in appearance that these practices had ceased: it was only the form, not the essence of the thing, that had changed. The victor retained his right of legislating for the vanquished; and the earnings of the vanquished were more effectually than ever transferred to the pockets of the victors in the forms of all kinds of taxes, of restrictions, and rights of sovereignty. 'Property' was 'sacred,' not even that of the subjugated was touched; merely the fruits of property were taken by the strong. This we, too, could do. Take the property from its owners? How brutal; what a mockery of the sacred rights of property! But to raise the taxes until they swallowed up the whole of the property—who in the exploiting world would be able to say that was contrary to justice? Yet we declare it to be so, for we recognise no right to treat the minority of possessors differently from the minority of workers; and as in our eyes property is sacred, we must respect it when it belongs to the wealthy classes as much as when it belongs to ourselves.
But—objects the member on the Left—the victorious majority make no claim of right of private property in the land and in the productive capital. Certainly; but they do not possess anything which they will have to renounce in the future, while the minority does; hence to dispossess the possessors in favour of those who did not possess, in order that equality of right might prevail in future, would not be to treat both alike.
But—and this is the weightiest argument in the eyes of our friend—the minority is said to have at present no valid title to their property; they owe it to exploitation, and we do not recognise this as a just title; exploitation is robbery, and he who has stolen, though he did it in good faith, possesses no claim to compensation. This reasoning is also false. Exploitation is robbery only in an economic, not in a juridical, sense; it was not merely considered to be permissible—it was so. The exploiter did not act illegally though in good faith; rather he acted legally when in his day he exploited; and acted legally not merely on the formal ground that the law, as it then existed, allowed him thus to act, but because he could not act otherwise. This appropriation of other men's earnings, which, in an economic sense, we are compelled, and rightly so, to call robbery, was—let us not forget that—the necessary condition of any really productive highly organised labour whatever, so long as the workers were not able to freely organise and discipline themselves. Economic robbery, the relation of master held by the few towards the many, constituted an effective economic service that had the strongest right to claim the profit of other men's labour, which was in fact rendered profitable by it. Subsequently to confiscate the thus acquired compensation for the services rendered, because such services had become superfluous or indeed detrimental, would in truth be robbery, not merely in an economic sense, but in a legal sense—an offence against the principles of economic justice.
Then are those who have been exploiters to retain undiminished the fruit of their 'economic robbery'? Yes; but two things must be noted. In all ages it has been held to be the right of the community to dispossess owners of certain kinds of property without committing any offence against the sacredness of property, provided full compensation was offered to the owners. In the abolition of slavery, of serfdom, of certain burdens on the land, and the like, no one has ever found anything that was reprehensible, provided the owner of the slaves or of the land was compensated to the full value of the property taken from him. In the second place, it is to be noted that the community is bound to guarantee to the owners their property, but not the profit which has hitherto been obtained from it.
If you apply these two principles to the acquired rights which the Free Society found existing, you will find that, while the land is taken from the landowners, the value of it must be paid; the Society has nothing to do with movable capital, and the same holds good of the profit which the employers have hitherto drawn from their relation to the workers. The Society can also claim the right of obtaining possession of the movable productive property, so far as it may appear to be to the public interest to do this. Such an interest does not here come in question, for, apart from the fact that movable means of production can be created in any quantity that is required, there is no reason to fear that the owners will hold back theirs when they find what is both the only and the absolutely best employment for it in dealing with the associated workers. But, in the future, capitalists will not receive interest for their property, or, if they do, it will be only temporarily. There is as little occasion as there is right to forbid the receiving of interest; but, as every borrower will be able to get capital without interest, the paying of interest will cease automatically. Just as little can or need the Free Society forbid the former employers to hire workers to labour for them for stipulated wages; such workers will no longer be found.
ALI BEN SAFI (Right): Where is the Free Commonwealth to obtain the means to purchase all the land, and at the same time to furnish the workers with business capital? It is possible that some rich countries may be able to accomplish this by straining all their resources; but how could we in Persia find the 125,000,000L, at which the fixed property was estimated at the last assessment, to say nothing of the hitherto totally lacking business capital?
FRANCOIS RENAUD (Right): On the contrary, I fear that the—from a legal standpoint certainly unassailable—justice to the former owners will occasion the greatest difficulties to just the richest countries. Their greater means involve the heavier claims upon those means; for in proportion as those countries are really richer will the value of the land be higher, and the workers, because more skilful in carrying on highly developed capitalistic methods of industry, will at once require larger amounts of business capital, which the community will have to furnish. So far, then, the greater strength and the heavier burden balance each other. But to this it must be added that in the more advanced countries the amount of mobile capital requiring compensation is far greater than that of poor countries. As interest is to cease, all these numberless invested milliards then bearing interest will be withdrawn: whence will the means be suddenly obtained promptly to meet all these calls?
CLARK (Freeland): The last two speakers entertain unnecessary fears. The sums required to get possession of the land, to pay back the circulating capital, and to furnish the workers with more abundant means for carrying on business, are certainly enormous—are at any rate larger than the material advance of any country whatever can even approximately supply quickly enough to place the country in a position to bear such burdens in their full extent. Certainly, if the transition to economic justice were followed immediately by its full results—if, for example, such transition lifted any country at once to that degree of wealth which we enjoy in Freeland—comparatively little difficulty would be experienced in responding to the heavy demands that would be made; but this condition would not be reached for years; the tasks you must undertake would be more than you could perform, if you had at once to discharge the whole of your responsibilities. But you have no reason whatever to fear this. Simply because interest will cease will neither landowner nor capitalist have any motive for insisting upon immediate payment, but will be quite content to accept payment in such instalments as shall suit the convenience of the community or the private debtors—should there be any such—and which could be easily accommodated to the interests of those who were entitled to receive the payment. When it is considered that the latter would be compelled either to let their capital lie idle or to consume it, it will appear evident that, if only the slightest advantage were offered them, they would prefer to receive their property in instalments, so far as they did not actually want to use it themselves.
You have quite as little reason to fear the demand which will be made for supplying the workers with the means of carrying on business. If your exploited masses already possessed the ability to make use of all those highly developed capitalistic implements of industry which we employ in Freeland, then certainly the Old World would have to renounce any attempt even approximately to meet at once the enormous demand for capital which would be made upon it. In such a case the milliard and a-half of souls who would pass over to the new order of things would require two billions of pounds; but the two milliards of men will not require these two billions, because they would not know what to do with the enormous produce of the labour called forth by such means of production. To dispose of so much produce it would be necessary for every family in the five divisions of the globe to possess the art of consuming a minimum of from 600L to 700L per year, as our Freeland families do; and, believe us, dear friends, your masses, just escaped from the servitude of many thousands of years, at present entirely lack this art. You will not produce more than can be consumed. You have not been able to do so yet, and will certainly not be able to do it when the consumption of the workers is able to supply the only reason for production. The extent and the intensity of production have been and remain the determinating factors in the extent and kind of the means of production. You will at any time be able to create what you are able to make use of; and if here and there the demand grow somewhat more rapidly than can be conveniently met out of the surplus acquired by the continually increasing productiveness of labour, you must for a time be content to suffer inconvenience—that is, you must temporarily forego the gratification of some of your newly acquired wants in order the more rapidly to develop your labour in the future.
For the rest, I can only repeat that the Freeland commonwealth will always be prepared, in its own interests, to place its means at your disposal, so far as they will go. We calculate that your wealth—that is, looking at the subject from the standpoint of our material interests, your ability to purchase those commodities which we have special natural facilities for producing, and your power of producing those commodities which we can take in exchange for ours with the greatest advantage to you—will, in the course of the next two or three years, at least double, and probably treble and quadruple. From this we promise ourselves a yearly increase of about a milliard pounds sterling in our Freeland income. We have determined to apply this increase for a time, not to the extension of our consumption and of our own investments, but to place it at your disposal, as we have already done the unemployed surplus of our insurance reserve fund, and to continue to do this as long as it may seem necessary. [Tremendous applause.]
The PRESIDENT: I believe I am expressing the wish of the assembly when I ask William Stuart, the special representative of the American Congress, who arrived at Eden Vale this morning, to state to us the proposals laid before the congress of his country by the committee entrusted with the drawing up of the scheme for adopting the regime of economic equality of rights.
WILLIAM STUART: In the name of the representatives of the American people, I ask the kind attention of this distinguished assembly, and particularly of the representatives of Freeland who are present, to a series of legislative enactments which it is proposed to make for the purpose of carrying us—with the energy by which we are characterised, and, at the same time, without injury to existing interests—out of the economic conditions that have hitherto existed into those of economic equality of rights. Our government found themselves obliged to take this step because our nation is the first outside of Freeland—at least, so far as we are aware—which has passed the stage of discussion, and is about immediately to take action and carry out the work. The institutions of economic justice are no longer novelties; we can follow a well-proved precedent, the example of Freeland, and we intend to follow that example, with a few unessential modifications rendered necessary by the special characteristics of the American country and people. On the other hand, we lack experience; and as, notwithstanding our well-known 'go-ahead' habits, we would rather have advice before than after undertaking so important a task, I am sent to ask your opinion and report it to the American Congress before the recommendations of the committee have become law.
It is proposed to declare all the land in the United States to be ownerless, but to pay all the present owners the full assessed value. In order to meet the cases of those who may think they have not received a sufficient compensation, special commissions of duly qualified persons will be appointed for the hearing of all appeals, and the public opinion of the States is prepared to support these commissions in treating all claims with the utmost consideration. It is proposed to deal with buildings in the same way, with the proviso that dwelling-houses occupied by the owners may be excepted at the owners' wish. The purchase-money shall be paid forthwith or by instalments, according to the wish of the seller, with the proviso that for every year over which the payment of the instalment shall be extended a premium of one fifth per cent. shall be given, to be paid to the seller in the form of an additional instalment after the whole of the original purchase-money has been paid. The payment is not to extend over more than fifty years. Suppose a property be valued at ten thousand dollars; then the owner, if he wishes to have the whole sum at once, receives his ten thousand, with which he can do what he pleases; but if he prefers, for example, to receive it in ten yearly instalments of 1,000 dollars, he has a right to ten premiums of 20 dollars each, which will be paid to him in a lump sum of 200 dollars as an eleventh instalment. If he wishes the payment to be in fifty instalments of 200 dollars, then his premiums will amount to fifty times twenty dollars—that is, to 1,000 dollars—which will be paid in five further instalments of 200 dollars. The national debt is to be paid off in the same way.
The existing debit and credit relations of private individuals remain intact, except that the debtor shall have the right of immediate repayment of the borrowed capital, whatever may have been the terms originally agreed upon. As the commonwealth will be prepared to furnish capital for any kind of production whatever, the private debtor will be in a position to exercise the right above-mentioned; but, according to the proposal of the committee, the commonwealth shall, for the present, demand of its debtors the same premium which it guarantees to its creditors. The object of this regulation is obvious: it is to prevent the private creditors—in case no advantage accrues to them—from withdrawing their capital from business and locking it up. If those who needed capital had their needs at first supplied without cost, simply upon undertaking gradually to repay the borrowed capital, they would not be disposed to make any compensatory arrangement with their former creditors, whilst, should the committee's proposal be adopted, they would be willing to pay to those creditors the same premiums as they would have to pay to the commonwealth.
The opinions of the committee were at first divided as to the amount of the premiums to be guaranteed and demanded. A minority was in favour of fixing a maximum of one in a thousand for each year of delayed payment: they thought that would be sufficient to induce most of the capitalists to place in the hands of the commonwealth or of private producers the property which otherwise they must at once consume or allow to lie idle. Eventually, however, the minority came over to the view of the majority, who preferred to fix the maximum higher than was necessary, rather than by untimely parsimony expose the commonwealth to the danger of seeing the capital withdrawn which could be so profitably used in the equipment of production. The voting was influenced by the consideration that we, as the first, outside of Freeland, among whom capital would receive no interest, must be prepared, if only temporarily, to stand against the disturbing influences of foreign capital. That such disturbing influences have not been felt in Freeland, though here no premium of any kind has ever been in force, whilst interest has been paid everywhere else in the world, was an example not applicable to our case, as we have not to decide—as you in Freeland have—what to do with capital which we do not need, and which, after all conceivable demands on capital have been met, still remains disposable; but, on the other hand, we have to attract and to retain capital of which we have urgent need. But that the proposed one-fifth per cent. will suffice for this purpose we are able with certainty to infer from the double circumstance that, in the first place, the anticipated adoption of this proposal, which naturally became known at once to our world of capitalists, has produced a decided tendency homewards of our capital invested abroad. It is evident, therefore, that capitalists scarcely expect to get elsewhere more for large amounts of capital than we intend to offer. In the second place, the capitalistic transactions which have recently been concluded or are in contemplation show that our home capital is already changing hands at a rate of interest corresponding to our proposed premium. Anyone in the United States who to-day seeks for a loan gets readily what he wants at one-fifth per cent., particularly if he wishes to borrow for a long period. Such seekers of capital among us at present are, of course, in most cases companies already formed or in process of formation.
Thanks to the fact that the election for the Constituent Congress has been the means of universally diffusing the intelligence that it was intended to act upon the principle of respecting most scrupulously all acquired rights, productive activity during the period of transition has suffered no disturbance, but has rather received a fresh impetus. The companies in process of formation compel the existing undertakers to make a considerable rise in wages in order to retain the labour requisite for the provisional carrying on of their concerns; and as this rise in wages has suddenly increased the demand for all kinds of production it has become still more the interest of the undertakers to guard against any interruption in their production. These two tendencies mutually strengthen each other to such a degree that at the present time the minimum wages exceed three dollars a day, and a feverish spirit of enterprise has taken possession of the whole business world. The machine industry, in particular, exhibits an activity that makes all former notions upon the subject appear ridiculous. The dread of over-production has become a myth, and since the undertakers can reckon upon finding very soon in the associations willing purchasers of well-organised concerns, they do not refrain from making the fullest possible use of the last moments left of their private activity. Even the landlords find their advantage in this, for the value of land has naturally risen very materially in consequence of the rapidly grown demand for all kinds of the produce of land. In short, everything justifies us in anticipating that the transition to the new order of things with us will take place not only easily and smoothly, but also in a way most gratifying to all classes of our people.
The PRESIDENT asked the assembly whether they would continue the debate on the fourth point on the Agenda, by at once discussing the message from the American Congress; or whether they would first receive the report which the Freeland commissioner in Russia had sent by a messenger who had just arrived in Eden Vale. As the congress decided to hear the report,
DEMETER NOVIKOF (messenger of the Freeland commissioner for Russia) said: When we, the commissioners appointed by the Freeland central government at the wish of the Russian people, arrived in Moscow, we found quiet—at least externally—so far restored that the parties which had been attacking each other with reckless fury had agreed to a provisional truce at the news of our arrival. Not merely the cannons and rifles, but even the guillotine and the gallows were at rest. Radoslajev, our plenipotentiary commissioner, called the chiefs of the parties together, induced them to lay down their weapons, to give up their prisoners, to dissolve the seven different parliaments, each one of which had been assuming the authority of exclusive representative of the Russian people; and then, after he had furnished himself for the interim with a council of reliable men belonging to the different parties, he made arrangements for the election of a constituent assembly with all possible speed.
As production and trade were nearly at a standstill, the misery was boundless. To be an employer was looked upon by several of the extreme parties as a crime worthy of death; hence no one dared to give workers anything to do. In most parts of the empire the ignorant masses, who had been held down in slavish obedience, were altogether incapable of organising themselves; and as the most extreme of the Nihilists had begun to guillotine the organisers of the free associations as 'masters in disguise,' it seemed almost as if mutual slaughter could henceforth be the only occupation that would be pursued in Russia.
The proclamation, in which Radoslajev called upon the people to elect an assembly, and in which he insisted upon the security of the person and of property as conditio sine qua non of our continued assistance, calmed the minds of the people, but it did not suffice to produce a speedy growth of productive activity. When, therefore, the constituent assembly met, Radoslajev proposed a mixed system as transition stage into the regime of economic justice. In this mixed system a kind of transitory Communism was to be combined with the germs of the Free Society and with certain remnants of the old industrial system.
In the first place, however, order had to be restored in the existing legal relationships. During the reign of terror previous to our arrival, all fixed possessions were declared to be the property of the nation, without giving any compensation to the former owners. All existing debts were simply cancelled; and the first business now was to make good as far as practicable the injury done by these acts of violence. But at first the new national assembly showed itself to be intractable upon these points. Hatred of the old order was so universal and so strong that even those who had been dispossessed did not venture to endorse our views. The private property of the epoch of exploitation was considered to be merely robbery and theft, the claims for compensation were so obnoxious to many that a deputation of former landowners and manufacturers, headed by two who had borne the title of grand-duke, conjured Radoslajev to desist from his purpose, lest the scarcely sleeping nihilistic fanaticism should be awaked anew. The latter, nevertheless, persisted in his demands, after he had consulted us Freelanders who had been appointed to assist him. He announced to the national assembly that we were far from wishing to force our views upon the Russian nation, but that, on the other hand, Russia could not require us to take part in a work based—in our eyes—upon robbery; and this threat, backed by our withdrawal, finally had its effect. The national assembly made another attempt to evade the task of passing a measure which it disliked: it offered Radoslajev the dictatorship during the period of transition. After he had refused this offer, the assembly gave in and reluctantly proceeded with the consideration of the compensation law. Radoslajev drafted a bill according to which the former owners were to be paid the full value in instalments; and the old relations between the debtors and creditors were to be restored, and the debts discharged in full also in instalments. However, Radoslajev could not get this bill passed unaltered. The national assembly unanimously voted a clause to the effect that no one claim for compensation should exceed 100,000 rubles; if debts were owing to the owner, the amount was to be added, yet no claim for compensation for debts owing to any one creditor was to exceed 100,000 rubles. For property that had been devastated or destroyed a similar maximum of compensation was voted.
In the meantime we had made all the necessary arrangements for organising production upon the new principles. Private undertakers did not venture to come forward, though the field was left open to them; on the other hand, free associations of workers, after the pattern of those in Freeland, were soon organised, particularly in the western governments of Russia. The great mass of the working population, however, proved to be as yet incapable of organising themselves, and the government was therefore compelled to come to their assistance. Twenty responsible committees were appointed for twenty different branches of production, and these committees, with the help of such local intelligence as they found at their disposal, took the work of production in hand. The liberty of the people was so far respected that no one was compelled to engage in any particular kind of work; but those who took part in the work organised by the authorities had to conform to all the directions of the latter. At present there are 83,000 such undertakings at work, with twelve and a-half millions of workers. The division of the profits in these associations is made according to a system derived in part from the principles of free association and in part from those of Communism. One half of the net profits is equally divided among the whole twelve and a-half millions of workers; the other half is divided by each undertaking among its own workers. In this way, we hope on the one hand to secure every undertaking from the worst consequences of any accidental miscarriage in its production, and on the other to arouse the interest of the workers in the success of each individual undertaking. The managers of these productive corporations are paid according to the same mixed system.
The time of labour is fixed at thirty-six hours per week. Every worker is forced to undergo two hours' instruction daily, which instruction is at present given by 65,000 itinerant teachers, the number of whom is being continually increased. This obligation to learn ceases when certain examinations are passed. Down to the present time, 120,000 people's libraries have been established, to furnish which with the most needful books a number of large printing works have been set up in Russia, and the aid of the more important foreign printing establishments has also been called in; the Freeland printing works alone have already supplied twenty-eight million volumes. And as the teaching of children is being carried on with all conceivable energy—780 teachers' seminaries either have been or are about to be established; large numbers of teachers, &c., have been brought in from other Slav countries, particularly Bohemia—we hope to see the general level of popular culture so much raised in the course of a few years that the communistic element may be got rid of.
In the meantime, the control provisionally exercised over the masses who willingly submit to it will be utilised in the elevation and ennoblement of their habits and needs. Spirituous liquors, notably brandy, are given out in only limited quantities; on the other hand, care is taken that breweries are erected everywhere. The workers receive a part of their earnings in the form of good clothing; the wretched mud huts and dens in which the workmen live are being gradually superseded by neat family dwellings with small gardens. At least once a month the authorities appoint a public festival, when it is sought to raise the aesthetic taste of the participators by means of simple but good music, dramatic performances and popular addresses, and to cultivate their material taste by viands fit for rational and civilised beings. Special care is devoted to the education of the women. Nearly 80,000 itinerant women-teachers are now moving about the country, teaching the women—who are freed from all coarse kinds of labour—the elements of science as well as a more civilised style of household economy. These teachers also seek to increase the self-respect and elevate the tastes of the women, to enlighten them as to their new rights and duties, and particularly to remove the hitherto prevalent domestic brutality. As these apostles of a higher womanhood—as well as all the teachers—are supported by the full authority of the government, and devote themselves to their tasks with self-denying assiduity, very considerable results of their work are already visible. The wives of the working classes, who have hitherto been dirty, ill-treated, mulish beasts of burden, begin to show a sense of their dignity as human beings and as women. They no longer submit to be flogged by their husbands; they keep the latter, themselves, and their children clean and tidy; and emulate one another in acquiring useful knowledge. Thanks to the maintenance allowance for women, which was at once introduced, an incredible progress—nay, a veritable revolution—has taken place in the morals of the people. Whilst formerly, particularly among the urban proletariate, sexual licence and public prostitution were so generally prevalent that—as our Russian friends assure us—anyone might accost the first poorly clad girl he met in the streets without anticipating refusal, now sexual false steps are seldom heard of. Moreover, it is particularly interesting to observe the difference which public opinion makes between such offenders in the past and those of the present. Whilst the mantle of oblivion is thrown over the former, public opinion has no indulgence for the latter. 'The woman who sold herself in former times was an unfortunate; she who does it now is an abandoned woman,' say the people. The woman who in former times was a prostitute but is now blameless carries her head high, and looks down with haughty contempt upon the girl or the wife who, 'now that we women are no longer compelled to sell ourselves for bread,' commits the least offence.
(End of Fifth Day's Debate)
The business begins with the continuation of the debate upon point 4 of the Agenda.
IBRAHIM EL MELEK (Right): The very instructive reports from America and Russia, heard yesterday, afford strong proof that the transition to the system of economic justice is accomplished not merely the more easily, but also the more pleasantly for the wealthy classes, the more cultured and advanced the working classes are. In view of this, it will cause no wonder that we in Egypt do not expect to effect the change of system without painful convulsions. The nearness of Freeland, with the consequently speedy advent of its commissioners, who were received by the violently excited fellaheen with almost divine honours, has preserved us from scenes of cruel violence such as afflicted Russia for weeks. No murders and very little destruction of property have taken place; but the Egyptian national assembly, called into being by the Freeland Commissioners, shows itself far less inclined than its Russian contemporary to respect the compensation claims of the former owners. In this I see the ruling of fate, against which nothing can be done, and to which we must therefore submit with resignation. But I would exculpate from blame those who have had to suffer so severely. Though no one has expressly said it, yet I have an impression that the majority of the assembly are convinced that those who have composed the ruling classes are now everywhere suffering the lot which they have prepared for themselves. As to this, I would ask whether the landlords, capitalists, and employers of America, Australia, and Western Europe were less reckless in taking advantage of their position than those of Russia or Egypt? That they could not so easily do what they pleased with their working classes as the latter could is due to the greater energy of the American national character and to the greater power of resistance possessed by the masses, and not to the kindly disposition of the masters. Hence I cannot think it just that the Russian boyar or the Egyptian bey should lose his property, whilst the American speculator, the French capitalist, or the English lord should even derive profit from the revolution.
LIONEL SPENCER (Centre): The previous speaker may be correct in supposing that the wealthy classes of England, like those of America, will come out of the impending revolution without direct loss. There cannot be the slightest doubt that in England, as well as in France and in several other countries in which the government has had a democratic character, nothing will be taken from the wealthy classes for which they will not be fully compensated. But I am not able to see in this the play of blind fate. Observe that the sacrifices involved in the social revolution everywhere stand in an inverse ratio to what has hitherto been the rate of wages, which is the chief factor in determining the average level of popular culture. Where the masses have languished in brutish misery, no one can be surprised that, when they broke their chains, they should hurl themselves upon their oppressors with brutish fury. Again, the rate of wages is everywhere dependent upon the measure of political and social freedom which the wealthy classes grant to the masses. The Russian boyar or the Egyptian bey may be personally as kindly disposed as the American speculator or the English landlord; the essential difference lies in the fact that in America and England the fate of the masses was less dependent upon the personal behaviour of the wealthy classes than in Russia and Egypt. In the former countries, the wealthy classes—even if perhaps less kindly in their personal intercourse—were politically more discreet, more temperate than in the latter countries, and it is the fruit of this political discretion that they are now reaping. It may be that they knew themselves to be simply compelled to exercise this discretion: they exercised it, and what they did, and not their intentions, decided the result. Those that were the ruling classes in the backward countries are now atoning for the excessive exercise of their rights of mastership; they are now paying the difference between the wages they formerly gave and the—meagre enough—general average of wages under the exploiting system.
TEI FU (Right): The previous speaker overlooks the fact that the rate of wages depends, rot upon the will of the employer, but upon supply and demand. That the receiver of a hunger-wage has been degraded to a beast is unfortunately too true, and the massacres with which the masses of my fatherland, driven to desperation, everywhere introduced the work of emancipation are, like the events in Russia, eloquent proofs of this fact. But how could any political discretion on the part of the ruling classes have prevented this? The labour market in China was over-crowded, the supply of hands was too great for any power on earth to raise the wages.
ALEXANDER MING-LI (Freeland): My brother, Tei Fu, thinks that wages depend upon supply and demand. This is not an axiom that was thought out in our common fatherland, but one borrowed from the political economy of the West, but which, in a certain sense, is none the less correct on that account. It holds good of every commodity, consequently of human labour so long as that has to be offered for sale. But the price depends also upon two other things—namely, on the cost of production and the utility of the commodity: in fact, it is these two last-named factors that in the long run regulate the price, whilst the fluctuations of supply and demand can produce merely fluctuations within the limits fixed by the cost of production and the utility. In the long run as much must be paid for everything as its production costs; and in the long run no more can be obtained for a thing than its use is worth. All this has long been known, only unfortunately it has never been fully applied to the question of wages. What does the production of labour cost? Plainly, just so much as the means of life cost which will keep up the worker's strength. And what is the utility of human labour? Just as plainly, the value of what is produced by that human labour. What does this mean when applied to the labour market? Nothing else, it seems to me, than that the rate of wages—apart from the fluctuations due to supply and demand—is in the long run determined by the habits of the worker on the one hand, and by the productiveness of his labour on the other. The first affects the demands of the workers, the second the terms granted by the employers.
But now, I beg my honoured fellow-countryman particularly to note what I am about to say. The habits of the masses are not unchangeable. Every human being naturally endeavours to live as comfortably as possible; and though it must be admitted that custom and habit will frequently for a time act restrictively upon this natural tendency to expansion in human wants, yet I can assert with a good conscience that our unhappy brethren in the Flowery Land did not go hungry and half-clad because of an invincible dislike to sufficient food and clothing, but that they would have been very glad to accustom themselves to more comfortable habits if only the paternal wisdom of all the Chinese governments had not always prevented it by most severely punishing all the attempts of the workers to agitate and to unite for the purpose of giving effect to their demands. Workers who united for such purposes were treated as rebels; and the wealthy classes of China—this is their folly and their fault—have always given their approval to this criminal folly of the Chinese government.
I call this both folly and crime, because it not merely grossly offended against justice and humanity, but was also extremely detrimental to the interests of those who thus acted, and of those who approved of the action. As to the government, one would have thought that the insane and suicidal character of its action would long since have been recognised. A blind man could have seen that the government damaged its financial as well as its military strength in proportion as its measures against the lower classes were effective. The consumption by the masses has been in China, as in all other countries, the principal source of the national income, and the physical health of the people the basis of the military strength of the country. But whence could China derive duties and excise if the people were not able to consume anything; and how could its soldiery, recruited from the proletariate, exhibit courage and strength in the face of the enemy? This oppression of the masses was equally injurious to the interests of the wealthy classes. While the Chinese people consumed little they were not able to engage in the more highly productive forms of labour—that is, their labour had a wretchedly small utility because of the wretchedly small cost at which it was produced.
Thus the Chinese employer could pay but little for labour, because the worker was prevented from demanding much in such a way as would influence not merely the individual employer, but the labour market in general. The individual undertaker could have yielded to the demands of his workers to only a limited degree, since he as individual would have lost from his profits what he added to wages. But if wages had risen throughout the whole of China, this would have increased the demand to such a degree that Chinese labour would have become more productive—that is, it would have been furnished with better means of production. The employers would have covered the rise in wages by the increased produce, not out of their profits; in fact, their profits would have grown—their wealth, represented by the capitalistic means of labour in their possession, would have increased. Of course this does not exclude the possibility that some branches of production might have suffered under this general change, for the increase of consumption resulting from better wages does not affect equally all articles in demand. It may be that while the average consumption has increased tenfold, the demand for a single commodity remains almost stationary—in fact, diminishes; but in this case it is certain that the demand for certain other commodities will increase more than ten-fold. The losses of individual employers are balanced by the proportionately larger profits of other employers; and it may be taken as a general rule that the wealth of the wealthy classes increases in exact proportion to the increase of wages which they are obliged to pay. It cannot be otherwise, for this wealth of the wealthy classes consists mainly of nothing else than the means of production which are used in the preparation of the commodities required by the whole nation.
Perhaps my honoured fellow countryman thinks that in the matter of rise of wages we move in a circle, inasmuch as on the one hand the productiveness of labour—that is, the utility of the power expended in labour—certainly cannot increase so long as the nation's consumption—that is, the amount which the labour power itself costs—does not increase, while on the other hand the latter increase is impossible until the former has taken place. If so, I would tell him that this is just the fatal superstition which the wealthy classes and the rulers of so many countries have now so cruelly to suffer for. Since, in the exploiting world, only a part, and as a rule a very small part, of the produce of labour went to wages, the employers—with very rare exceptions—were well able to grant a rise in wages even before the increase of produce had actually been obtained, and had resulted in a universal rise in wages. I would tell him that, especially in China, on the average even three or four times the wages would not have absorbed the whole profits—that is, of course, the old profits uninfluenced by the increase of produce. The employers could pay more, but they would not. From the standpoint of the individual this was quite intelligible; everyone seeks merely his own advantage, and this demands that one retains for one's self as large a part of any utility as possible, and hands over as little as possible to others. In this respect the American speculators, the French capitalists, and the English landlords, were not a grain better than our Chinese mandarins. But as a body the former acted differently from the latter. Notwithstanding the fact that the absurdity that wages cannot be raised was invented in the West and proclaimed from all the professorial chairs, the Western nations have for several generations been compelled by the more correct instinct of the people to act as if the contrary principles had been established. In theory they persisted in the teaching that wages could not be increased; in practice, however, they yielded more and more to the demands of the working masses, with whose undeniable successes the theory had to be accommodated as well as possible. You, my Chinese brethren, on the contrary, have in your policy adhered strictly to the teaching of this theory: you have first driven your toiling masses to desperation by making them feel that the State is their enemy; and you have then immediately taken advantage of every excess of which the despairing people have been guilty to impose 'order' in your sense of the word. Your hand was always lifted against the weaker: do not wonder that when they had become the stronger they avenged themselves by making you feel some small part of the sufferings they had endured.
This does not prevent us in Freeland—as our actions show—from condemning the violence that has been offered to those who formerly were oppressors, and from trying to make amends for it as well as we can. Hence we hold that the people of Russia, Egypt, and China—in short, everybody—would do well to follow the example given by the United States of America. We think thus because this wise generosity is shown to be advantageous not merely for the wealthy classes, but also for the workers. Unfortunately it is not in our power at once to instil into the Russian muzhik, the Egyptian fellah, or the Chinese cooley such views as are natural to the workers of the advanced West. History is the final tribunal which will decree to everyone what he has deserved.
As no one else was down to speak on this point of the Agenda, the President closed the debate upon it, and opened that upon the fifth point:
Are economic justice and freedom the ultimate outcome of human evolution; and what will probably be the condition of mankind under such a regime?
ENGELBERT WAGNER (Right): We are contemplating the inauguration of a new era of human development; want and crime will disappear from among men, and reason and philanthropy take possession of the throne which prejudice and brute force have hitherto occupied. But the apparent perfection of this condition appears to me to involve an essential contradiction to the first principle of the doctrine of human blessedness—namely, that man in order to be content needs discontent. In order to find a zest in enjoyment, this child of the dust must first suffer hunger; his possessions satiate him unless they are seasoned with longing and hope; his striving is paralysed unless he is inspired by unattained ideals. But what new ideal can henceforth hover before the mind of man—what can excite any further longing in him when abundance and leisure have been acquired for all? Is it not to be feared that, like Tannhaueser in the Venusberg, our descendants will pine for, and finally bring upon themselves, fresh bitternesses merely in order to escape the unchangeable monotony of the sweets of their existence? We are not made to bear unbroken good fortune; and an order of things that would procure such for us could therefore not last long. That the world if once emancipated from the fetters of servitude will again cast itself into them, that the old exploiting system shall ever return, is certainly not to be feared, according to what we have just heard; even a relapse into the material misery of the past through over-population is out of the question. But the more irrefragably the evidence of the impossibility of the return of any former kind of human unhappiness presses upon us, so much the more urgently is an answer demanded to the question: What will there be in the character of man's future destiny, what new ideals will arise, to prevent him from being swamped by a surfeit of happiness?
The PRESIDENT (Dr. Strahl): I take upon myself to answer this question from the chair, because I hope that what I am about to say will close the discussion upon the point of the Agenda now before us, and consequently the congress itself. From the nature of the subject we cannot expect any practical result to follow from the debate upon this last question, which was added to the Agenda merely because our foreign friends wished to learn, by way of conclusion to the previous discussions, what were our ideas as to the future. No mortal soul can have any definite ideas as to the future, for we can know only the past and the present. I venture to make only one positive assertion—namely, that the order of things which we propose to inaugurate will be in harmony with the general laws of evolution, as every foregoing human order has been; that it cannot be permanent and eternal; and that consequently it will by no means put an end to human striving and change and improvement. This holds good even with respect to the material conditions of mankind. In the future, as in the past, labour will be the price of enjoyment, and there is no reason to fear that in future the wish will lag behind the effort necessary to realise it. Thus mankind will not lack even the material stimulus to progress and to further striving. But man possesses intellectual as well as material needs, and the less imperative the latter become, so much the more widely and powerfully do the former make themselves felt. Intellectual hunger is a far more influential stimulus to effort than material hunger; and at present at least we are forced to believe that the former will never be appeased.
The fear that our race will sink into stagnation when the aims which have hitherto almost exclusively dominated its circle of ideas have been attained, is like the fancy of the child that the youth will give himself up to idleness as soon as he escapes the dread of the rod. It would be useless to attempt to make the child understand those other, and to him unknown, motives for activity by which the youth is influenced; and so we, standing now on the threshold of the youthful age of mankind and still half enslaved by the ideas of the childhood of our race, cannot know what new ideas mankind will conceive after the present ones have been realised. We can only say that they will be different, and presumably loftier ones. The new conditions of existence in which man will find himself in consequence of the introduction of economic freedom, will bring to maturity new properties, notions, and ideas, which no sagacity, no gift of mental construction possessed by anyone now living, is able to prefigure with accuracy. If, nevertheless, I venture to indicate some of the features of the future, I ask you not to attach to them any greater importance than you would to the fancies of a savage who, standing on the threshold leading from cannibalism to exploitation, might thousands of years ago have undertaken to form a conception of those changes which the invention of agriculture and of slavery would produce in the circumstances of his far-off successors. In this respect I have only one advantage over our remote ancestor: I know his history, while that of his ancestors was unknown to him. I can, therefore, seek counsel of the past in order to understand the future, while for him there was merely a present. I will now make use of this advantage; the course of human evolution in the past shall give us a few hints as to the significance of that phase of evolution into which we are now passing.
The original condition of mankind was freedom and peace in the animal sense—that is, freedom and peace among men, together with absolute dependence upon nature. The first great stage in evolution reached its climax when man turned against his fellow-men the weapon which had in the beginning been employed only in conflict with the world of beasts: dependence upon nature remained, but peace among men was broken.
The second stage in evolution is distinguished by the fact that man turns against nature, who had hitherto been his sovereign mistress, the intelligence which he had employed in mutually destructive warfare. He discovers the art of compelling nature to yield what she will not offer voluntarily—he produces. The chain by which the elements hold him bound is in this way loosened; but the first use which man makes of this gleam of deliverance from the bonds of merely animal servitude is to place fetters upon himself. The relaxing of dependence upon external nature and the alleviation of the conflict among men themselves—these are the acquisition of the second period.
The third stage of development begins with the dominion over nature gradually acquired by controlling the natural forces, and ends with the deliverance of mankind from the bonds of servitude. Independence of external control, freedom and peace among men, are its distinguishing features.
Here I would point out that the theatre of each of these phases of human progress has been a different one. The original home of our race was evidently the hottest part of the earth; under the tropics, in our struggles with the world of animals, we gained our first victories, and developed ourselves into warlike cannibals; but against the forces of nature, which reign supreme in that hot zone, we in our childhood could do nothing. Production, and afterwards slavery, could be carried on only outside of the tropics. On the other hand, it is quite as certain that man could not remove himself very far from the tropics so long as the productivity of his labour was still comparatively small, and he could not compel nature to furnish him with much more than she offered voluntarily. It is no mere accident that all civilisation began and first flourished exclusively in that zone which is equally removed from the equator and from the polar circle. In that temperate zone were found united all the conditions which protected the still infantile art of production from the danger of being crushed on the one hand or stunted on the other by the overwhelming power or the parsimony of nature. But this mean temperature, so favourable to the second phase of evolution, proved itself altogether unsuitable to the last step towards perfect control over nature. As human labour met with a generous reward, there was nothing to stimulate man's inventiveness to compel nature to serve man by her own, instead of by human, forces. This could happen only when the civilisation, which had acquired strength in the temperate zone, was transplanted into colder and less friendly regions, where human labour alone could no longer win from reluctant nature wealth enough to satisfy the claims of the ruling classes. Then first did necessity teach men how to employ the elemental forces in increasing the productiveness of human labour; the moderately cold zone is the birthplace of man's dominion over nature.
But when the third phase of evolution has found its close in economic justice, there will be, apparently, yet another change of scene. It might be said, if we cared to look for analogies, that this change of scene will be of a double character, corresponding to the double character of the change in institutions. The perfected control over nature will be seen in the fact that the whole earth, subjugated to man, has become man's own property; on the other hand, peace and freedom—which in themselves represent nothing new to mankind, but are as it were merely the return of the primitive relation of man to man—will find their analogies in the return to the primitive home of our race, the tropical world. That vigorous nature, which had formerly to be left lest civilisation should be killed in the very germ, can no longer be a hindrance, can only be a help to civilisation now that man, awaked to freedom, has attained to a full control over those forces which can be made serviceable to him. It will probably need several centuries before the civilised nations, whose northern wanderings and experiences have made them strangers in their birthplace, have afresh thoroughly acclimatised themselves here. In the meantime, the charming highlands which nature has placed—one might almost believe in anticipation of our attempt—directly under the equator, offer to the wanderers the desired dwelling-places, and, at any rate, the agriculture of the now commencing epoch of civilisation will have its headquarters here. Slowly but surely will man, who henceforth may freely choose his dwelling-place wherever productiveness and the charms of nature attract him, press towards the south, where merely to breathe and to behold is a delight beyond anything of the kind which the north has to offer. The notion that the torrid zone engenders stagnation of mind and body is a foolish fancy. There have been and there are strong and weak, vigorous and vigourless peoples in the north as well as in the south; and that civilisation has celebrated its highest triumphs under ice and snow is not due to anything in chilly temperatures essentially and permanently conducive to progress, but simply to the temporary requirements of the transition from the second to the third epoch of civilisation. In the future the centres of civilisation will have to be sought in proximity to the equator; while those countries which, during the last centuries—a short span of time—have held up the banner of human progress will gradually lose their relative importance.
That man, having attained to control over the forces of nature and to undivided proprietorship of the whole planet, will ever actually take possession of and productively exploit the whole of the planet, is scarcely to be expected. In fact, past history almost tempts us to believe that the population of the earth has undergone scarcely any material change since civilisation began. Certainly, Europe to-day is several times more populous than it was thousands of years ago; and in America—putting out of sight the unquestionable extraordinary diminution in the population of Mexico and Peru—there has undeniably been a large increase in the number of inhabitants. Against all this we have to place the fact that large parts of Asia and Africa are at present almost uninhabited, though they formerly were the homes of untold millions. Thus, taking everything into consideration, the variations in population can never have exceeded a few hundred million souls. But assuming that the introduction of the new order of things, with its sudden and general diminution of the death-rate, will produce a revolution in this respect, that man's control over nature will be connected with a general increase in the number of the earth's masters, yet it may be considered as highly improbable that this increase will be particularly rapid, and that it will go on for any great length of time.
In one respect, certainly, there can and will be a sudden and considerable increase in the number of the living. In consequence of the greater longevity which will be the necessary result of rational habits of life, generations that have hitherto been consecutive will then be contemporaneous. In the exploiting world, on the average the father, worn out by misery, toil, and vice, died ere the son had reached maturity; in the future the parents will be buried by their great-grandchildren, and thus the number of the living will be speedily rained from a milliard and a-half to two milliards or to two and a-half, without any increase in human fecundity. But assuming that there be for a time an actual growth in population over and above that caused by this greater longevity, I hold it to be in the highest degree improbable that this growth can be a rapid one, and still less a continuous one. My opinion—based, it is true, upon analogy—is that a doubling of the population is the utmost we need reckon upon, so that the maximum population of the world may grow to five milliards. This number, very small in proportion to the size and productive capacity of our planet, will find abundant room and food in the most beautiful, most agreeable, and most fertile parts of the earth. Ninety-nine per cent. of the land superficies of the earth will be either not at all or very sparsely populated—so far as the population depends upon the production of the locality—and ninety per cent, will be cultivated either not at all or only to a very trifling extent.