The Impotence of Socialism: Socialistic Fallacies, Part Six
“What remains of Socialism, then, when we come to close quarters with it? And what are the future prospects of this policy of spoliation and of tyranny?”
Anthony Comegna, PhD
Assistant Editor for Intellectual History
In the concluding portion of Yves Guyot’s Socialistic Fallacies, our author attempts to synthesize all of the liberal economists’ problems with socialism into a single point: the socialists “talk of an ideal of government, and instead of limiting its attributes, they endow it with powers as vague and indeterminate” as the very worst examples of monarchism in history’s tragedies. Marxists “say nothing of liberty,” and wish only to invert the world that they might become the exploiters, themselves growing fat from eating the rich. For socialism to triumph over its historical rival, the “crisis of capitalism” must be exacerbated to the breaking point. As Guyot writes, “it is necessary that industry and capital should be concentrated in a few hands,” so a proletarian class could be forged in the first place. Once the proper elements were in place, working class consciousness could fully form itself into a revolutionary movement to displace capitalism. The “increasingly wretched and deprived” working class could then “proletariarise” small‐businesspeople by building up still further the edifice of legislations which protected capitalist interests from the start. In other words, the tyranny of monopolistic capital would itself be reinforced by socialists who ultimately aimed to dismantle private property entirely. To do so, however, they would first have to liquidate the middle classes by further siphoning their wealth toward the wealthy. Of course, this process seems entirely antagonistic to the socialists’ desire to produce better working and living conditions for average people, and in practice socialism becomes the rule of an elite bureaucratic, political class. Socialistic governments no longer function according to the rule of law, and instead society languishes under the rule of individual, self‐interested, and fever‐brained men. The true class war, our author concludes, is far older than the concentration of heavy industries and theories of class struggle preceded Marx by at least two millennia. If the purpose of states is to promote internal and external security for citizens, the socialist state is inherently a failure—no society is secure from the predations of the powerful unless individuals remain confident and assured that their personal, private rights are secured from interference. It matters little in the end whether the disarray and confusion are produced at home or abroad; socialist and imperial rule feel little different to the subjugated and expropriated individual.
By Yves Guyot. New York: The MacMillan Company. 1910. 317–343 (Excerpts).
Book IX. Socialism and Democracy.
Chapter I. The Programme of the International Association.
Herr Werner Sombart says of the inaugural address of the International Association of Workmen, “It is a veritable masterpiece of ability, although its scheme is not very clear: but Marx is its author and his obscurity is intentional…Opposing tendencies had to be reconciled. There is something to satisfy everyone in the address. In its convincing portraiture it exhibits the wretchedness of the working classes under the capitalistic yoke…It celebrates the advantages of free co‐operation, Proudhon, Buchez, the advocates of co‐operative production subsidized by the State, Lassalle and Louis Blanc. It contains the common sentimental passages which Marx reluctantly let fall from his pen…Of the object of the Association there was little question.”
The Socialists continue to carry out this policy; what they desire is developments rather than reforms, and, while courting the mob, they aim, not at the true and the useful, but at the art of exploiting the passions and prejudices of the ignorant and the seekers after chimaeras.
The headquarters of the International Association was transferred to New York in 1872. It did not perish in consequence of Government measures taken to destroy it, but was dislocated by the quarrels of Karl Marx and Bakunin, which like those which rage between Guesde, Jaures and Lagardelle, give us an idea of the harmony which will prevail in the Collectivist Paradise.
Karl Marx concluded his Manifesto of 1847 with the words, “Proletarians of all countries, unite.” Werner Sombart says that Marx had “vainly attempted to introduce the ideals of solidarity and union from without.” They certainly have not radiated from within.
The French Socialists do not display the slightest sympathy for Belgian or Italian workmen who come to France; the English workmen have obtained the passing of the “Aliens’ Act,” and the expulsion of the Chinese from the Transvaal; the American workmen have inherited the European immigration difficulties and have prohibited the entry of the Chinese and Japanese.
Socialists nevertheless talk of Society with a big S, of Society with neither frontiers nor nations. When Karl Marx said, “Proletarians of all nation, unite,” he did not say that the proletarians of China were excluded from his appeal. The agrarians of Eastern Prussia have suggested the importation of Chinese coolies. Is the German Socialist Party disposed to welcome them as brothers?
At the Stuttgart Congress, the Germans displayed a strong national sentiment and were very angry with Herve. Still it is Herve, and not they, that is logical. Every Socialist who admits the existence of a separate nation, admits individual property; for a nation presupposes the ownership by a group of individuals of a portion of the earth’s surface.
Speaking generally, the Socialists act contrary to their professions. They say that they want to place property in the hands of the people, but they will either place it in the hands of bodies of men which, whatever the name by which they may go, are greedier than any Harpagon, or in the hands of the State, which, in its turn, will delegate it to departments of administration; and these will exploit it for their own benefit, not for that of the public.
They talk of liberty, but all their proposed legislation is the legislation of tyranny and police, and we have seen them reassimilate free to the type of servile labour.
They talk of an ideal of government, and instead of limiting its attributes, they endow it with powers as vague and indeterminate as those of Oriental or African potentates.
They say nothing of liberty, for they understand it in the same sense as the maid‐servant of Frankfort who, on the day after the Revolution of 1848, said to her mistress, “Now that we are equal, you shall carry the coal‐box and I will wear the diamonds.”
Chapter II. Socialism Versus Democracy.
In order that the “Socialist evolution” may be realized, it is necessary that industry and capital should be concentrated in a few hands, and, on the other hand, that there should be a great mass of wage‐earners, increasingly wretched and deprived of all personal property. Such is the process as determined by Marx and Engels in the “Communist Manifesto,” and confirmed by the Erfurt Congress in 1891.
But this phenomenon does not appear if the “artisan” works in isolated independence; neither does it appear if those who carry on small industries, working in their own houses, have not been previously absorbed in the proletariat crowd of workmen employed in the great industries; not does it appear if the small proprietor preserves his love of individual property. The prophesied social evolution miscarries; the heralded paradise of the socialization of all the means of production and exchange vanishes. Democracy and Socialism are antagonistic.
Have I invented and formulated this proposition for polemical purposes? It comes from a Socialist, Herr Werner Sombart.
“What should be the attitude of socialism with regard to the masses which have not yet fallen into the ranks of the proletariat, such as the lower middle class (petite bourgeoisie) and of that part of the population which may perhaps never exhibit any tendency to inclusion in the proletariat? Should the object of the proletariat be essentially proletarian or should it be democratic? If it become democratic, what becomes of its programme? Is it to be socialism or democracy? The fundamental contention is expressed in the opposition between these two points of view.”
Bernstein published a series of articles in 1905 under the title, “Will Social Democracy Become Popular?”
In order to obtain recruits for the Socialist army it is necessary to “proletariarise” those who carry on small industries as well as small trades, and the owners of small properties, all of whom display elements of resistance to the socialization of the means of production. The movement of concentration, which does not take place naturally, must be obtained by force, in order to arrive at the catastrophe foretold by Karl Marx, as “on the one hand a few large industrial establishments and on the other the masses who possess nothing at all, the former absorbing the latter without their being able to offer resistance.”
In order to reach this point, the simplicity and ignorance of the very persons is to be exploited whom it is proposed to ruin, and of their representatives in Parliament. And legislation is to be carried out on the lines of social insurance and regulation of labour, in such a manner as to annihilate the small men, to overburden them with general expenses and risks, to close their shops and businesses and to try by artificial means to bring about the concentration of industries to which economic liberty fails to lend itself.
Werner Sombart frankly recognizes this when he says that “a good system of workmen’s legislation is a weapon of the highest order for proprietors of undertakings on a large scale, wherewith to ruin the small men and disembarrass themselves of their competition.
M. E. Vandervelde also demands this factitious concentration. “We must, he says, “wish for, and even foster by legislative measures, the passing of the degenerate forms of individual production into the superior forms of production in common.”
People exclaim that the small or family workshop gets out of control, and demand its suppression. It will be the compulsory stage on the road to proletarisation, if small proprietors, small industrialists and small traders, in fact all persons with a moderate position in life, fail to remember that democracy and socialism are antagonistic. They have already, in spite of numerous warnings, frequently been the dupes of those who lured them to work for their own destruction. Laws, such as those with reference to a weekly day of rest, are of a nature to give them such warning.
Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb protest against a group of careful artisans carrying on an enterprise by themselves. They would be supporting a minor industry, “which is diametrically opposed to the Socialist ideal.” They would be producing for their own profit, and the community would obtain no more power over their industry than over the industry of the individual.
While the Belgian Socialists make use of Vooruit and of some other co‐operative societies, Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb declares that they present “the worst aspect of current affairs.” Work and thrift are considered as vices by Socialists. M. Paul Lafargue has written the apology of idleness. This is one way of flattering the lowest instincts, and it is evident that if these excellent apostles were listened to, pauperism would increase instead of diminishing.
Socialism or Democracy. The two are in conflict, as the German Socialists declare; and Werner Sombart and Bernstein, like the rest of the Socialists, only suggest temporary and embarrassed solutions of the difficulty.
In France, the theorists and the leaders of the Confederation of Labour, MM. Georges Sorel, Hubert Lagardelle and Griffuelhes, with greater hardihood, clearly say that they intend to put all the lower middle class outside the door of Socialism, in order to extricate the workman from the “slough of democracy.” Their aim is that the economic and the political classes be united into one, and they distinguish between “the class in itself” and “the class for itself,” the former constituting the “economic group” and the latter the “psychological group.”
The “class in itself” is supplied by proletarians of the type conceived by Karl Marx, whose hours of labour constantly increase in length, while their wages decrease; the “class for itself” overruns them and annexes owners of small properties, small and even great traders and employers, clerks, officials, philanthropists, millionaires, Protestant pastors, priests, professors, men of letters, etc. But Karl Marx, a doctor of the University of Berlin, and the son‐in‐law of a Prussian “junker,” was not a member of the proletariat of which he declared himself to be the great chief. The same was the case with Engels, who was entrusted by his father with the management of a large cotton mill at Manchester, and who, while following the hounds and leading the life of a gentleman, was not ruined by his efforts. How many men are there at the head of the German Socialist Party, who are entitled to be ranked with the “class in itself?” Mr. Hyndman, the founder of Social Democracy in London, is a rich member of the middle class. Is Frances Evelyn, Countess of Warwick, with her castle and her 20,000 acres–a lady who is a first‐rate horsewoman and a member of the Social Democratic Federation–a member of the “class in itself?”
All these people combine discontents more or less justified, deceptions more or less deserved, fancies more or less intelligent, ideas more or less vague, and ambitions more or less considerable.
This “party for itself” answers to the idea conceived by Jules Guesde in 1878–79 of combining all the proletarians found in the different middle‐class parties for the purposes of the impending revolution, in order to organize the revolt against the capitalist world. The party was to possess a revolutionary and extra‐Parliamentary character. The “revolutionary preface” ended in electoral combinations which returned Paul Lafargue, Jules Guesde, and several others by means of coalitions. Jules Guesde supported M. Leon Bourgeois in his ministry in 1896. M. Combes in his ministry succeeded in closing the Labour Exchanges and the Parliamentary Socialists did not desert him.
The theorists of the Confederation of Labour do not desire that the “class in itself” and “the class by itself” should be superimposed and that the one should be overrun and carried away by the other. They consider that the policy of the struggle of classes, as understood by the followers of Marx, ends in the constitution of a bourgeois political party and pour all their contempt upon it.
With reference to the claim of the primary school teachers to be admitted to the Labour Exchanges, they say that “an association of primary school teachers cannot be interested in questions arising out of the relations between trades unions, or in such as concern stoppage of work or internal disputes, general strikes, shortening the hours of labour, etc. It cannot itself go on strike. The teachers cannot be present at the sittings of the Confederation of Labour, at which they have no interest to defend; they cannot take part in discussions within the Unions, Trade Societies and Labour Exchanges for the same reason.”
If they have now admitted them, and look upon them with a sympathetic eye, like the associations of officials, that is only because the look upon them as elements in the political dissolution aimed at by the Confederation of Labour.
Chapter V. Social and National Policy.
While the Socialists declare at their Congresses, beginning with the Congress of Limoges, that they cannot ally themselves, even temporarily, with one of the sections of the Republican bourgeoisie, why do the members of the Radical Party desire to carry out a Socialist policy? Why does M. Clemenceau denounce the capitalist regime, which he “has attacked and is going to attack again,” and proclaim himself a “Socialist?” Why does he adopt as his programme a portion of the working programme of the Gotha and Erfurt Congresses, and of the Harve Congress in 1880, as drafted by Karl Marx and proposed by Jules Guesde and Paul Lafargue?
The programme of the Radical‐Socialist Party, adopted by M. Clemenceau, is:–
(1). The purchase of the Western Railways, for the State must work the railways in imitation of Prussia. This is pure State ownership and not Socialism.
(2). A personal and progressive income tax, still in imitation of Prussia, whereby the principles of the French Revolution are combined with a form of government which has preserved a system of voting by classes for nearly half a century, under the constitution of 1850.
(3). Old age pensions, still in imitation of Germany, but in an aggravated form, which is driving us to total failure in social policy so called, or else in national policy.
Which of these should be sacrificed to the other?
Chapter VI. Positive and Negative Policy.
You cannot, you may say, carry out a negative policy; and in order to carry out a positive one, you take the property belonging to one class of persons and give it to others. Your policy of spoliation is positive, but the guarantee for the security of property, ensuring you from being robbed by force or fraud, is negative; the police, whose duty it is to exercise its supervision for your benefit without your perceiving it, is negative; the undoubted duties of the Government for the purpose of ensuring internal security and preserving you from external dangers are negative duties, although they produce positive results, in the shape of liberty of action for everyone and the assurance that he will reap the benefits of such action.
Chapter VIII. Against the Law.
In the “Communist Manifesto” Karl Marx says: “What is your law, unless it be the will of your class?” Socialists are logical in making light of the advice given by Edgar Quinet to the democracy to “cling inflexibly to the law.” Yet where will it go, if it does not cling to it? If it travels without a compass, does it expect to take a reasonable course? Does not the whole of history teach us how deceptive and precarious are the triumphs of force? Does not the history of our insurrections contain the most terrible lessons? Socialists may celebrate the anniversary of the Commune; do they look upon it as a victory?
Even admitting that they are strong enough to succeed in giving a legal aspect to their policy of pillage by a second‐hand majority in an assembly, they would only find themselves on the morrow in the presence of ruins and would be obliged to reconstitute a legal system which recognizes the capacity of each individual to own property and to contract.
The Socialists have consistently attacked me, and rightly so, for I attacked them at the time when the Radical party placed itself at their disposal.
The members of the Socialist party claim equality before the law, and protection for their goods and persons, and declare themselves, at the same time, to be a party committed to social war, in search of the best means of robbing you. I really cannot conduct colloquies in an amicable way with people who force me to keep my hand on my purse.
This class war is of far earlier date than the great industries. The honour of discovering it is not to be ascribed to Karl Marx. Twenty‐three centuries before his time Aristotle said: “The demagogues, when the multitude are above the law, are always cutting the city in two by quarrels with the rich.”
In the cities of Greece they demanded the confiscation of lands and the cancellation of debts, and they expected to throw the whole burden of fiscal charges upon the rich. The Socialists of to‐day are merely plagiarists of the demagogues whose works Aristotle had beheld. Only, in those days of servile labour, a man who neither owned land nor carried on a small trade, could not live except by the generosity of the public treasury, and he was obliged to assume these advantages for himself by the conquest of power. Nowadays, the exercise of a profession or trade guarantees him the enjoyment of normal resources, and he knows that, if he goes too far in his threats or his measures against the capitalist, he will dry them up at the fountain‐head. The demagogues of old threw the cities in which they were dominant into anarchy, and most frequently it was a stranger who came to re‐establish an oligarchy or a tyranny.
Chapter X. The Impotence of Socialism.
What remains of Socialism, then, when we come to close quarters with it? And what are the future prospects of this policy of spoliation and of tyranny?
The Socialist party cannot balance up a governmental majority without destroying government itself, for it cannot admit that government fulfils the minimum of its duties. When a strike breaks out, the intention of the strikers is that security of person and of property shall not be guaranteed; and they have been preceded, supported and followed in this by certain Radicals who, when put to the test, have been obliged to commit acts such as they have violently laid to the charge of preceding governments. Socialist policy represents contempt for law, and all men, whether rich or poor, have an interest in liberty, security and justice, for the private interest of each individual is bound up with these common blessings. Socialists despise them all.
A law, the object of which is to protect each man’s property, is supported by all who possess anything, and where is the man in advanced societies who is incapable of being robbed because he possesses nothing?
A law, the object of which is to despoil a portion of the citizens of a State, unites in opposition to it all those against whom it is directed and those whom it alarms, for they are afraid that it may extend to them. It has not even the support of those for whose benefit it is made, for only a very small number obtain a direct benefit; the great majority only experience disappointments, and cause the feelings of envy and rapacity which procured the demand and approval of such a law to recoil upon those who have benefited by it.
A law of spoliation may be passed and carried into effect, but in the event of its results becoming permanent, it runs the risk of destroying the government which has assumed the responsibility for it.
Socialist policy is a permanent menace to the liberty and security of citizens, and cannot therefore be the policy of any government, the primary duty of which is to exact respect for internal and external security. If it fail therein, it dissolves and is replaced by anarchy; and inashmuch as everyone has a horror of that condition which betrays itself by the oppression of violent men, banded together solely by their appetites, an appeal is made to a strong government and to a man with a strong grip, and the risk is incurred of falling back into all the disgraces and disasters of Caesarism.
There are three words which Socialism must erase from the facades of our public buildings–the three words of the Republican motto:–
Liberty, because Socialism is a rule of tyranny and of police.
Equality, because it is a rule of class.
Fraternity, because its policy is that of the class war.