صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني
[graphic]

Joint Stock Individualism. If we reject Owen's Trade Sectionalism as a spurious form of Collectivism certain to develop into Joint Stock Individualism on a large scale, what are we to say to schemes which frankly begin and end with Joint Stock Individualism on a small scale? The zealous and devoted men who made the Christian Socialist Movement of 1848-54, and who got their ideals from Louis Blanc and the Paris Socialists of 1848, sought to replace the capitalist entrepreneur, not by the official of the community, but by little groups of independent workmen jointly owning the instruments of their trade, and co-operating in a “self-governing workshop.” This dream of co-operative production by Associations of Producers still lingers vaguely about the Trade Union world, and periodically captures the imagination of enthusiastic reformers. It is still nominally recognised by the main body of co-operators as one of the ideals of their movement, and it enjoys the very vigorous advocacy of an association of its own. But alike in the Trade Union and the Co-operative worlds, the Association of Producers, necessarily sectional in principle and working for its own gain, is being rapidly superseded by the contrary ideal of an Association of Consumers, carrying on industry, not for the profit of the worker, but with the direct object of supplying the wants of the community in the best way.*

I should have thought there would have been no doubt as to the side that we Socialists should take in this controversy. It may be all very well for a little group of thrifty artizans to club together and set up in business for themselves in a small way. If their venture is prosperous they may find it more agreeable to work under each other's eye, than under a foreman. Co-operative production of this sort is at best only a partnership of jobbing craftsmen, with all the limitations and disadvantages of the small industry. From beginning to end it is diametrically opposed to the Socialist ideal. The associated craftsmen produce entirely with a view to their own profit. The community obtains no more control over their industry than over that of an individual employer. They openly compete for business with private firms and other associations of producers. The self-governing workshop belongs in fact, not to Socialism but to Joint Stock Individualism. Moreover, in the great majority of existing cases the so-called associations of producers have a darker side. There are capitalist partners who are not workers, and wage-workers who are not partners. In order to increase the gains of the members, their numbers are strictly limited, new hands are taken on at wages often below Trade Union rates, or worse still, work is given out to be done at home on the sweating system. The self-governing workshop becomes, in short, a little partnership of small masters, with all the attendant evils of that decaying form of industrial organization. The co-operative production of the self-governing workshop appears to me, therefore, Spurious Collectivism of a bad type.

• See The Co-operative Movement in Great Britain, by Beatrice Potter.

On the other hand the co-operative production of the store and the two great co-operative wholesale societies is a genuine step in advance along our own lines. Unfortunately the distinction between the co-operation of associations of consumers, and that of associations of producers is often misunderstood. We have Socialists and Trade Unionists denouncing the great co-operative organizations of the North of England, with their million of members, and the forty millions sterling of annual trade which they have rescued from the profit-maker-denouncing, too, not their incidental shortcomings, but the very principle of their association; and upholding, on the contrary, what is I presume, supposed to be the more Socialist principle of profit-sharing or even of the self-governing workshop. The great boot-factory which the million of co-operators have built at Leicester for the supply of their own boots, is attacked on the ground that the profits of the bootmaking are not given to the boot. makers there employed, but are carried to the credit of the whole co-operative community of which the bootmakers can and do form part. The working-men of Rochdale or Leeds, who have joined together to organize on a co-operative basis the supply of their own wants, are reproached for not handing over some or all of the annual surplus of receipts over expenditure (for I will not call it profit) to the shop-assistants employed in their service. For the life of me I cannot see that this is a Socialist criticism. The whole of our creed is, that industry should be carried on, not for the profit of those engaged in it, whether masters or men, but for the benefit of the community. We recognise no special right in the miners, as such, to enjoy the mineral wealth on which they work. The Leicester boot operatives can put in no special claim to the profits of the Leicester boot factory, nor the shopmen in a Co-operative Store to the surplus of its year's trading. It is not for the miners, bootmakers, or shopassistants, as such, that we Socialists claim the control and the profits of industry, but for the citizens. And it is just because the million co-operators do not, as a rule, share profits with their employees as employees, but only among consumers as consumers; because the control of their industry is vested not in the managers or operatives but exclusively in the members with one man one vote; and because they desire nothing more ardently than to be allowed in this way to make the whole community co-partners with themselves and partici. pants in their dividend, that their organization appears to me to be thoroughly Collectivist in principle.

Industrial Anarchism. I suspect, however, that there is something more than confusion of thought in the preference frequently shown by Socialists for the self-governing workshop run by the workers in it, over the Cooperative Factory or Municipal Works Department managed by the representatives of the community. In our capitalist system of to-day there is so much "nigger-driving," so many opportunities for petty tyranny, so frequently a bullying foreman, that I do not wonder when working-men look with longing upon an ideal which promises feeling everyone must sympathize. It is just because the conditions of the industrial servitude of the great mass of the people are so unsatisfactory, that we strive to make them citizens and workers of a Socialist State. But the desire of each man to become his own master is part of the old Adam of Individualism. The time has gone by for carrying on industry by independent producers, such as survive in the cobbler and the knife-grinder, or even by little associations of such producers, like the self-governing workshop in its best form.

Socialists who hanker after these delights have forgotten their Karl Marx. The steam-engine, the factory and the mine have come to stay ; and our only choice is between their management by individual owners or their management by the community. As miner mechanic, or mill operative, the worker is and must be the servant of the community. From that service Socialism offers no escape. All it can promise is to make the worker, in his capacity of citizen, jointly the proprietor of the nation's industry and the elector of the head officers who administer it. As citizens and electors, the workers we may presume, will see that the hours of labor are as short, the conditions of work as favorable, and the allowance for maintenance as liberal, as the total productivity of the nation's industry will afford. Organized in their Trade Unions, moreover, the workers in each department of the nation's service will know how to make their voice heard by their fellow-citizens against any accidental oppression of a particular trade.

And here I must mention a common misunderstanding of a Socialist phrase, the Abolition of the Wage System. Some of our Anarchist friends persist in quoting this as if it implied the entire abolition of the service of one man under the direction of another. To listen to their interpretation one would imagine that they suppose us to contemplate a reversion to the mythical time when every man worked as an independent producer, and enjoyed the whole product of his individual labor. I need hardly say that Socialism involves nothing of the sort. We propose neither to abandon the London and North Western Railway, nor to allow the engine-drivers and guards to run the trains at their own sweet will, and collect what they can from the venturesome passengers.

By the abolition of the wage-system we mean the abolition of the system now generally prevailing in the capitalist industry, by which the worker receives a wage not determined with any reference to his quota of the national product, nor with any regard for the amount necessary to maintain him and his family in efficient citizen. ship, but fixed solely by the competitive struggle. This competitive wage we Socialists seek to replace by an allowance for maintenance deliberately settled according to the needs of the occupation and the means at the nation's command. We already see official salaries regulated, not according to the state of the labor market, but by consider. ation of the cost of living. This principle we seek to extend to the whole industrial world. Instead of converting every man into an independent producer, working when he likes and as he likes, we ainı at

enrolling every able-bodied person directly in the service of the community, for such duties and under such kind of organization, local or national, as may be suitable to his capacity and social function. In fact, so far are we from seeking to abolish the wage-system so understood, that we wish to bring under it all those who now escape from it—the employers, and those who live on rent or interest, and so make it universal. If a man wants freedom to work or not to work just as he likes, he had better emigrate to Robinson Crusoe's island, or else become a millionaire. To suppose that the industrial affairs of a complicated industrial state can be run without strict subordination and discipline, without obedience to orders, and without definite allowances for maintenance, is to dream, not of Socialism but of Anarchism.

Peasant Proprietorship. Is it to the influence of this same yearning for industrial anarchism that we are to attribute the persistence among us of such a spurious form of Collectivism as Peasant Proprietorship ? I do not mean Peasant Proprietorship in its crudest form. I suppose that no Socialist desires to see the land of the country divided among small peasant freeholders, though this is still the ideal professed by many statesmen of "advanced " views. We are, I hope, all thoroughly convinced that economic rent in all its forms should enrich, not any individual, but the community at large. But it is not difficult to trace, in some of those who are keen advocates of Land Nationalization, survivals of economic Individualism. We see our esteemed friend. Michael Davitt, lending his influence, not to secure the land of Ireland for the people of Ireland, but to tighten the grip which halfa-million individual Irishmen have on their particular holdings. Many Scotch comrades, too, seem eager to "destroy landlordism” by converting the crofter into a freeholder. Even the Land Nationalization Society cherishes some project of allowing each Englishman, once in his life, to choose for himself a piece of what it professedly desires to obtain for all in common. This seems to me about as reasonable as to propose that each Englishman should be allowed, once in his life, to choose for himself one ship out of the Royal Navy, or that each Londoner should have the right, on his twentyfirst birthday, to appropriate for his own use one particular corner of the London parks. The same spurious Collectivism runs through all forms of Leasehold Enfranchisement-a thoroughly reactionary movement which, I am glad to think, is nearly dead.f The agita. tion for Small Ownings has perhaps more vitality in it ; but it is rapidly changing into an agitation for Small Holdings, owned and let by the Parish Council or some other Collectivist organization. But there are more insidious forms of this Peasant Proprietorship fallacy. What are we to say to comrades who demand that the County Council shall supply artizans' dwellings “to be let at the

. See The Impossibilities of Anarchism, by G. Bernard Shaw (Fabian Tract 45).

+ See The Truth about Leasehold Enfranchisement (Fabian Tract No. 22).

« السابقةمتابعة »