« السابقةمتابعة »
This is the nett result of our social arrangements after a generation of gradual improvement, greater, we are told, than England ever before knew. The distress is only normal. The condition of the people exhibits a marked advance in prosperity. It may be that this is true : nay, owing to the silent progress of Socialism, it probably is true; yet the problem for us is no lighter. Are things now such as we can dare to be responsible for ? Let a sober, nonSocialist authority of weight answer. Mr. Frederic Harrison, writing just five years ago, said :-" To me at least, it would be " enough to condemn modern society as hardly an advance on " slavery or serfdom, if the permanent condition of industry were " to be that which we now behold, that 90 per cent. of the actual " producers of wealth have no home that they can call their own " beyond the end of a week; have no bit of soil or so much as a " room that belongs to them; have nothing of value of any kind “ except as much old furniture as will go in a cart; have the pre“ carious chance of weekly wages which barely suffice to keep them " in health ; are housed for the most part in places that no man " thinks fit for his horse: are separated by so narrow a margin " of destitution that a month of bad trade, sickness or unexpected “ loss, brings them face to face with hunger and pauperism. ..
". This is the normal state of the average workmen in town or '" country." (Report of Industrial Remuneration Conference, 1886, p. 429).
Such then is our position to-day. Those who believe it possible that the festering evils of social ulceration can be cured without any fundamental change in property relations, rely mainly on three leading remedies, Trade Unions, Co-operation, and a general recrudescence of a Christ-like unselfishness. What does the dry light of science say to these homeopathic “pills against the earthquake "?
The belief in universal Trade Unionism as a means of greatly and permanently raising wages all round must be at once dismissed as involving a logical fallacy. Certainly, the workers in some trades have managed to improve their economic position by strict Trade Unions. We are never allowed to forget the splendid incomes earned by these aristocrats of labour, a mere tenth of the whole labour class. But those who merely counsel the rest to go and do likewise forget that the only permanently effective Trade Union victories are won by limitation of the numbers in the particular trade, and the excluded candidates necessarily go to depress the I condition of the outsiders. The Trade Unionist can usually only raise himself on the bodies of his less fortunate comrades. If all were equally strong, all would be equally powerless-a point clearly proved by Prof. Cairnes,* and obvious to all Trade Unionists them. selves.
Co-operation is a more seductive means of escape : and most social reformers cannot, even now, refrain from keeping alive lingering hopes that some solution may here be found. But a whole generation of experiment has done little more than show the futility of
• “Some Leading Principles of Political Economy,” p. 298.
expecting real help from this quarter. Less than one four-hundredth part of the industry of the country is yet carried on by Co-operation. The whole range of industrial development in the larger industries seems against it; and no ground for hope in Co-operation as a complete answer to the social problem can be gained from economic science. It fails to deal even with the real elements of the case. It may claim to obviate competition ; but, as Mill himself quotes, “ the deepest root of the evils and iniquities which fill the « industrial world is not competition, but the subjection of labour " to capital, and the enormous share which the possessors of the “ instruments of production are able to take from the produce."* Co-operation can make no real defence against the continuance of the exaction of this “ enormous share"-rent and interest—the continued individual enjoyment of which it, indeed, actually presupposes. It affords a valuable moral training, a profitable savings bank for investments, and a temporary means of interesting the worker in the industrial affairs of his country. But ordinary joint stock investment is now rapidly outgrowing it, and is already a hundred and sixty times as great as Co-operation. Now even the most enthusiastic believer in the virtues of association will hardly expect salvation merely from a régime of Joint Stock Companies ; and this, and not Co-operation, is clearly the line in which our industrial development is rapidly travelling, so far as all large enterprises are concerned.' The final goal of many industries is, moreover, obviously not the Co-operative Society, but the municipality. Nearly twice as much capital is already invested by town councils in a single industry (gas supply) as the whole twelve millions of the accumulations of the 1,500 co-operative societies. A larger extension of “municipal industry” is made every year than the progress, great as it is, of the Co-operative industry. Already where there is most Co-operation, there is also most municipalisation. Nevertheless, it may be some time before the more enthusiastic co-operators realise the industrial tendency, or even become aware that modern economic science turns regretfully against them; yet such eminent authorities as Cliffe Leslie, Professor Walker, Mr. Leonard Courtney, and Dr. J. K. Ingram, concur in dismissing the idea of universal Co-operation as chimerical.t Nor is Co-operation really a rival of Socialism. The real import of the Co-operative movement is not profit-sharing, but the collective control of the consumer over industry; not the division of so-called “profits" among a larger number, but their elimination as far as is safely possible. Similarly, the purpose of Socialism is not the division of wealth among the poor but the assertion of the right of the community to the complete control over the means of production by which the community lives. Both movements had their rise in the inspiring propaganda of Robert Owen, which, seeming at the time to fail, had really so splendidly succeeded. Owen's advocacy of factory legislation, national education, and other measures, now rightly described as
• " Principles of Political Economy," last edition (1865) p. 477.
+ Article on " Political Economy" in Encyclopædia Britannica, by Dr. J. K. Ingram. Vol. xix, p. 382.
Socialistic in principle, led the way to the tremendous development of uncorsciously Socialist legislation which has since taken place. His constant insistance on the corporate duty of the community to its individual members was really the forerunner of the successful .“ municipal Socialism ” which our great cities have since taken up. In all these matters “consumers " co-operate as citizens. But Owen lacked the teachings of Democracy, and when his followers learnt this lesson, they turned from his kind paternalism to the “ collective freedom" asserted by the Chartist movement. It was largely from the Chartist followers of Owen that the modern Co-operative movement has derived its most enduring inspiration. Many of the founders of the most successful stores had been Chartist agitators. With its completely democratic organization, its assertion of the principle of public control over industry, and its repudiation of even benevolent dictation, modern Co-operation shows its affinity, not only to Chartism, but also to modern Socialism of the English type. The two movements have not only the same ends, but also the same principle—the main idea of each being the control of industry neither by individuals nor for individuals, but by the public for the public. Both express the economic and industrial obverse of political democracy. Both recognise that political freedom can be but a mockery to the poorer worker so long as he has no control over the industry by which alone he can live. The two movements differ rather in their spheres than in their methods. No reasonable Socialist thinks it possible for the State immediately to take over the grocers' shops. The “democratisation " of retail trade, and of some other branches of industry, can, it has been triumphantly proved, be effected by the store and the “ Wholesale," where neither the national government nor the local authority could yet venture to step in. On the other hand, co-operators easily recognize that there are industries for which the appropriate unit of administration is not the store, but the town council. The co-operators of Lancashire and Yorkshire have made greater strides in municipal Socialism than they have even in Co-operation. Municipal Socialism is, indeed, already twenty-five times as great as Co-operation, but its sphere lies outside that of the co-operative society, and every co-operator is bound by his principles to be also a good citizen, taking as keen an interest in the election of his town council as in that of his store committee. Nor is the National Government without its sphere in this progressive “democratisation" of industry. Co-operators need not refuse to admit that, for some services, the most convenient unit of administration is neither the store nor the town council, but the central executive. Our post office, and soon our railways, our Factory Acts and our taxation of unearned incomes, must all be national, not local. The greatest possible extension of the co-operative movement would therefore still leave an enormous sphere for both national and municipal collectivism.
There remains the ideal of the rapid spread of a Christ-like un. selfishness. Of this hope let us speak with all the respect which so ancient a dream deserves. If it were realised it would, indeed, involve an upset of present property arrangements, compared with which Socialism is a mere trifle ; yet science must perforce declare that the expectation of any but the slowest real improvement in general moral habit is absolutely without warrant. Forms of egoism may change, and moral habits vary; but, constituted as we are, it seems inevitable for healthy personal development that an at best instructed and unconscious egoism should preponderate in the individual. It is the business of the community not to lead into temptation this healthy natural feeling, but so to develop social institutions that in. dividual egoism is necessarily directed to promote only the well-being of all. The older writers, led by Rousseau, in the reaction against aristocratic government, saw this necessary adjustment in absolute freedom. But that crude vision has long been demolished. “It is, " indeed, certain," sums up Dr. Ingram,*" that industrial society will “ not permanently remain without a systematic organisation. The “ mere conflict of private interests will never produce a well-ordered “ commonwealth of labour.”
Is there then no hope? Is there no chance of the worker ever being released from the incubus of what Mill called, t “the great “ social evil of a non-labouring class," whose monopolies cause the “ taxation of the industrious for the support of indolence, if not of “ plunder ?"1
Mill tells us how, as he investigated more closely the history and structure of Society, he came to find a sure and certain hope in the Progress of Socialism, which he foresaw and energetically aided. We who call ourselves Socialists to-day in England, largely through Mill's teaching and example, find a confirmation of this hope in social history and economics, and see already in the distance the glad vision of a brighter day, when, practically, the whole product of labour will be the worker's and the worker's alone, and at last social arrangements will be deliberately based upon the Apostolic rule ignored by so many Christians, that if a man do not work, neither shall be eat.
But it must clearly be recognised that no mere charitable palliation of existing individualism can achieve this end. Against this complacent delusion of the philanthropist, Political Economy emphatically protests. So long as the instruments of production are in unrestrained private ownership, so long must the tribute of the workers to the drones continue : so long will the toilers' reward inevitably be reduced by their exactions. No tinkering with the Land Laws can abolish or even diminish Economic Rent. The whole series of Irish Land Acts, for instance, have not reduced its amount by a single penny, however much they have altered its distribution. The whole equivalent of every source of fertility or advantage of all land over and above the very worst land in use, is necessarily abstracted from the mere worker. So long as Lady Matheson can "own" the island of Lewis, and "do what she likes with her own," it is the very emphatic teaching of Political Economy that the earth
• Enoyclopædia Britannica. Vol. xix. p. 362. + “Principles of Political Eccnsmy," p. 455.
“Principles of Political Economy," p. 477.
may be the Lord's, but the fulness thereof must, inevitably, be the landlord's.
There is an interesting episode in English history in which James the First, disputing with the City Corporation, then the protector of popular liberties, threatened, as a punishment upon London, to remove the Court to Oxford. “Provided only your Majesty " leave us the Thames," cleverly replied the Lord Mayor. But economic dominion is more subtle than king.craft: our landlords have stolen from us even the Thames. No Londoner who is not in some way a landlord obtains one farthing of economic benefit from the existence of London's ocean highway: the whole equivalent of its industrial advantage goes to swell our compulsory tribute of 37 millions sterling-London's annual rental.
And it is precisely the same with industrial capital. The worker in the factory gets, as a worker, absolutely no advantage from the machinery which causes the product of his labour to be multiplied a hundredfold. He gets no more of that product as wages for himself, in a state of free and unrestrained competition, than his colleague labouring at the very margin of cultivation with the very minimum of capital. The artisan producing shoes by the hundred in the modern machine works of Southwark or Northampton gets no higher wages than the surviving hand cobbler in the bye street. The whole advantage of industrial capital, like the whole advantage of superior land, necessarily goes to him who legally owns it. The mere worker can have none of them. “ The remuneration of labour, as such," wrote Professor Cairnes in 1874,* "skilled or unskilled, “ can never rise much above its present level."
Nor is it the increase of population which effects this result. During the present century, indeed, in spite of an unparalleled increase in numbers, the wealth annually produced in England per head has nearly doubled.+ If population became stationary to. morrow, other things being equal, the present rent and interest would not be affected : our numbers determine indeed how far the margin of cultivation will spread (and this is of vital import); but, increase or no increase, the unrestrained private ownership of land and capital necessarily involves the complete exclusion of the mere worker, as such, from all the advantages of the fertile soil on which he is born, and of the buildings, railways, and machinery he finds around him.
So much the orthodox economists tell us clearly enough. Where then is the Socialist hope ?
In the political power of the workers. The industrial evolution has left them landless strangers in their own country; but the political evolution is about to make them its rulers. If unrestrained private ownership of the means of production necessarily keeps the many workers permanently poor without any fault on their part, in order to make a few idlers rich without any merit on theirs (and this is the teaching of economic science), unrestrained private ownership will inevitably go. In this country many successivo
* “ Some Leading Principles of Political Economy," p. 348. + Mulhall's • •Dictionary of Statistics," p. 245.