Tuesday, 30 June 2015

STATE SOCIALISM

 Professor ANDERSON, who was received with loud applause, said it was impossible to explain the whole gospel of socialism in one lecture. He had recently delivered a series of 10 lectures on the subject, and at the end of that course he was ashamed because of the number of things he had not said. In one lecture it was exceedingly hard to be fair in the exposition of the scheme he set out to criticise. He proposed that evening to speak of the relation of socialism to politics the founder of the religion whose name was over that hall had spoken to His followers of a kingdom founded not on force but on love, a kingdom not of this world. He laid down no principles but those which expressed the spirit of meekness, obedience, self-surrender, and brotherhood For the last 1800 years they had been trying, often in blind and bungling fashion to build up a civilisation which would not too glaringly contradict the principles of Jesus Again and again had these institutions, which formed the body of our civilisation, been renewed and transformed, and throughout those reforms there had always been a reference to those principles of justice between man and man and brotherhood which 100 years ago received the name of "Liberty, equality, fraternity," and 18 centuries before had been defined in simpler phrase by the command "Bear ye one another's burdens."

That form of socialism—Christian socialism—had always had great influence on men of strong moral and religious natures. If they were Hebrew prophets they denounced and lamented, or if Christians, like St Augustine they looked away into the future for the city of God, or like Carlyle and Ruskin in our own day they might waste their strength in denouncing what they called an age of shams and shibboleths. But there was another socialism—the socialism with which they were most acquainted which, instead of addressing itself to the moral and spiritual reform of the individual, preached the reform of external conditions. There were times in the history of the race when the inadequacy of existing institutions, and the difficulty of reforming them were deeply felt. A practical pessimism with regard to the present, in which everything is bad, and a boundless optimism with regard to the future when everything   will be good, characterised these schemes of social reconstruction which sprung up like mushrooms in every age of transition. The social idealist was very fond of drawing pretty pictures; but it was not to those pretty pictures, nor to the teachings of those who insisted on the moral reform of the individual, that he proposed to draw their attention that evening, but to the socialism known as State socialism, scientific socialism, or as it was very often called, collectivism. To illustrate what was meant by this kind of socialism, he proposed to contrast the State as it existed at present with the State as conceived by State-socialists. The present State was not a single, simple, uniform thing, but a manifold complex thing. It was not based on one principle but was formed by a mingling of many principles. Our state politically was neither a monarchy, an aristocracy, a democracy, or a republic. It was each and all of these. Again, they had central government, county government, and municipal government. Turning to the economic side, they again found a mingling of types. They had Government employment, Government regulation of private employment, great capitalistic concerns, joint stock companies, great industries and small. Those different forms existed together as organs of a single complex state, and they were the result of a long process of evolution. They fitted into each other, completing and filling up what was lacking in each other. The result was a State which up to the present was the best State for the purpose humanity had known. In the place of that State the State-socialists proposed to construct a state organised on one principle, founded throughout on one type, and they called that future State an industrial, democratic collectivism. It was the union of those three points which differentiated the modern State-socialism from all previous socialistic scheme. The economic conditions of our day were so immensely different from those of previous epochs that the study of former socialistic schemes was chiefly of historic and not of practical interest. No previous schemes were industrial or democratic. By collectivism was meant not the abolition of all forms of private property, but the common ownership of all means of production and all capital.

Private property in capital down to ploughs and sewing machines would be abolished. A man after his day's work was over would get such remuneration as those competent to judge fixed for him. Out of that he could save if he liked and let his earnings remain to his credit on the Government books, and he could bequeath that credit or lend it, but the credit would only be in articles of consumption. Nothing of the nature of capital could he call his own. That collectivist State was to be organised on an industrial basis. There would be no need for political parties or a legislature, or land laws or laws relating to capital and labour for land would not be transferred, and there would be no capitalist. All would be labourers, and presumably there would be no labour grievances. Such an industrial State was possible, as it seemed to him, only under a strong and authoritative Government. The whole object of State-socialism was to accurately adjust supply and demand, and thus abolish commercial crises with their accompanying unemployed, destitution, and misery. They all know how difficult it was to adjust supply and demand, and that accurate adjustment of supply and demand proposed by State-socialism would necessitate not only rulers practically all seeing and wonderfully far-sighted, but also possessing absolute autocratic power. Even with an isolated country such a Government would be necessary, and it would be much more necessary in a country having intercourse with other States. The collectivist State was also supposed to be organised on a democratic basis from top to bottom of the social organisation. The workers would elect their foremen, the foremen would appoint their managers, and so on up to the Cabinet, which, instead of being a political Cabinet, would be an industrial one composed of the captains of industry, to whose care the supreme interests of the nation would be handed. These two ideals of subordination and liberty, authority and democracy, were to some extent harmonised in our existing civilisation, but in the socialistic State these two ideals did not seem to him to be capable of realisation, and if he had to choose between a collectivist State with authoritative Government and the present democracy, he would prefer the democracy with all its mistakes, because of the possibilities it contained for the future of humanity. (Applause ) Two conditions were necessary for realising the socialistic ideal the first was perfect peace between nations, and the second an altered condition of human nature. Those two conditions made State-socialism for all purposes of practical politics an unrealisable ideal (Applause ) Its discussion therefore was, at the most, of speculative interest, and would no more settle any question of practical politics than signalling to Mars would put an end to the Broken Hill strike (Applause ) The lecturer also touched briefly on trades-unionism and what it had done for the workers, and on the rapid extension during recent years of the principle of Government interference. He concluded by pointing out that though State-socialism was an unrealisable ideal there were other more prosaic but more practicable ideals to which politicians could devote their attention with advantage. There was the ideal of local government-(hear, hear)—and there was the ideal of political union. That was the highest lesson of political life. It was the first and last moral duty of men to have faith in each other ; given that, and many other things would be added unto them. He was sorry to say Australia was not yet one nation (Loud applause )

The Sydney Morning Herald 13 September 1892
 
The basis of the State would be industrial, so political parties would be needless ; no land laws would be wanted, as the land could not be sold and would belong to no individual ; there would be no need to legislate to promote the harmonious working of labour and capital, for there would be no capital : there would be no masters and no servants, but all men would be workers, subject to the regulations of the State. There would presumably be no labour grievances, and therefore no place for boards of conciliation. Yet the Professor was constrained to admit that such a State is an unrealizable ideal, a conclusion to which we think all who study the matter without prejudice must come. The components of such a State, it must be remembered, are to be men and women as we know them, the components of a society wherein men are to use Carlyle's phrase—as in a jar of Egyptian vipers, each trying to get his head above his fellows. This industrial State is only possible under the most absolute and authoritative and wise Government. The purpose of the industrial socialistic State being to avert commercial crises, to adjust supply and demand, to banish misery and want,—to bring about that happy condition which the French King desired, when every peasant should have a fowl in the pot,—it would be absolutely necessary to have a Government of wonderful foresight and capability, and strong enough to enforce decrees about hours of work and place of residence. This Government would be in a sense democratic, for it would be the product of a series of elections, beginning with the people, or workers. These would elect their foremen, the foremen would choose leaders, the leaders would appoint the supreme cabinet. Thus the State would combine two ideals—the ideal of supervision and obedience, and the ideal of liberty, order, and progress. The ideal of supervision and obedience could not be dispensed with, if the socialistic State were to come into being, and it was not easy to see how there could coexist with that ideal the freedom of a man choosing his own line of employment and the disposal of his savings.
 In our present State, the two ideals were to some extent realized ; and, by reason of the constitution of the State, worked in harmony. But since, as we understand the question, in the socialistic State no man would own even himself wholly, he must be held at the absolute disposal of the Government he has helped to create—his not to reason why, his but to do or die. One sees that that must be so, that the most rigid military discipline, the most thorough denial of individual initiative or action alone can make a socialistic State workable.
 A clock, we take it, is a very fair picture of what a socialistic State would be. The impulse from the tension of the spring sets all the wheels moving in their sphere—here is compulsion and obedience, and accomplishment of the end of the machine. But conceive of the confusion if even one wheel were sentient and could argue the point whether it should revolve or not. A potentially omniscient and omnipotent Socialist government would become neither, if the units of the State ceased to be examples of passive obedience.
 Professor Anderson stated as the two essential conditions for the establishment of State Socialism, a state of universal peace, and an altered human nature. These conditions not being obtainable, the dream of the State Socialists was unrealisable. As the late Baron Bramwell once said—and the saying is a summary statement of the case,—" Socialism will never do until we are as honest as the bees." Of course no honest lover of his kind would object to State-Socialism merely out of narrow conservatism. We should preserve an open mind in this matter. Social adjustments are not so perfect that they need no change. But we are entitled to ask irrefragrable and demonstrative proof from the socialists before we relinquish the old order in favour of the new. They invite us to walk in untried paths—men and women with inherited weaknesses, with temperaments that vary, with hot hearts and untempered passions, with natures disposed to sloth and to rebellion, with characters in which love and hate are at war, and in which greed and ambition co-exist with a sense of the brotherhood of humanity. We are safer in the familiar paths. The reformers, it is true, say that the altered and improved material conditions will restore the condition of pristine human purity. May be so ; but the risk is too great to warrant the change without something in the way of successful experiment.

The Maitland Mercury 7 September 1892

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