Nicholas Paine Gilman
Socialism is an appropriate subject, I mustthink, to bring before an audience like this. It is a great scheme for social improvement.Where can one find a body of men more likely to be rationally interested insuch a matter than the clergy of the
Interest in social reform has characterizedUnitarianism from the first. Naturally, because of our long interest, we havenever been hysterical. As we have believed in reason in religion, so we havebelieved in reason in reform. Trusting to human nature in constructing ourtheology, we trust to human nature in laying out our programme of philanthropyand progress. Our ideal is always a realizable ideal: the methods we accept arerational and naturally progressive. The spirit to which we bow is one offairness all around, of justice to all sorts and conditions of men. Everyfriend of the ideal is, inevitably, a critic of the actual. We of the clergyare professional critics every Sunday, as well as helpers, of mankind. We can thereforesympathize with those who criticise human life sharply. But there is no truecriticism which is not, at the same time, appreciation. We have a right,therefore, to criticise the critics, if only we have behind us reason, science,philosophy. If our criticism is scientific, philosophic, above all, reasonable,it will stand. May this spirit characterize this hour!
We are living in a world where capital, themeans of production, is mainly private. We are invited by the socialist totransform this world into one wherein all capitals shall be united into onepublic, non-competing means of production, a collective capital. The modernsocialist who thus invites us is, obviously, a severe critic of existingsociety. He paints a very black picture of the world as it is, and gives us avery rosy view of the world that might he. In the process of reformation humannature might need to undergo great change. Its motives for action might need tobe transformed in large degree, and its scale of values might often need to berevised. Great credulity is required to accept the revolutionary socialisticfaith. Vast confidence would be necessary to risk the throw upon theproductivity of a socialistic regime. This is often called an unbelieving age,but it is in fact an age of Christian Science, of Spiritism, of Socialism: allthese make an unprecedented demand upon man's capacity for belief. This demandis cheerfully met by many an optimistic soul, for whom facts have few terrorsand strict reasoning no attractions. But the critical spirit invoked againstthe present order by the socialist, with the utmost harshness and lack ofproportion, may turn and attack those who raise it so bitterly. Only a smallpart, probably, of the keenness and acerbity which they display would sufficeto destroy their own ideal construction.
Socialism, like pragmatism, is, comparativelyspeaking, a new name for an old thing. The name is hardly seventy-five yearsold: the thing, that is to say, the idea for which the word stands, is as oldas Plato. In the world of ideas, socialism is very venerable,—as venerable asdiscontent is natural. Both the "Lord Christ's heart and Plato'sbrain" have known it. But in the world of external facts it is as yetunborn: many attempts have been made to bring it to the birth, but so far theyhave been attended with little success. The socialist is, therefore, animpassioned advocate, not of things as they are, but of things as they are not:he is an orator of the ideal, an ambassador from Utopia. That fair land, neveryet realized, has all the attractions of the non-existent, and none of thefaults and defects of the actual. Checks may be drawn to any amount on the Bankof Utopia. These who wish to pass them need never be afraid that these checkswill be protested on the ground that they have no funds in the bank; but suchcurrency is valid only in the sphere of the ideal. To reach this sphere, sofamiliar to the imagination, the boldest aviators have not yet flown highenough. Let us try to keep to the solid earth for an hour, in our discussion. Imay only remind you that many things need not be said, but may be taken forgranted on the part of any one who loves his kind. Those who wish to do simplejustice to the society that has the great virtues of having lived manycenturies, and of working passably well still, need not get angry with theadvocates of untried panaceas. The brute force of the existing is with theconservative: reason will be on their side if they are reasonable.
Modern socialism dates from Karl Marx. It issome seventy years old. It began with the "Communist Manifesto" of1848. Marx's notable treatise, "Das Kapital" (1867) has been itsBible. Frederick Engels was the Barnabas of this Paul. All preceding socialismswere authoritatively set down by him as "Utopian;"this one is exalted as "scientific," the highest word of praise inthe month of the socialist; while Utopian is to him, as to the Philistine, asynonym for impossible and irrational. The great preachers of the gospel ofUtopian socialism were Plato and Sir Thomas More, Saint-Simon and Fourier, withothers in recent time. "To all these," says Engels, "Socialismis the expression of absolute truth, reason, and justice." But"absolute truth, reason, and justice are different with the founder ofeach different school." For all these "pocket versions of the NewJerusalem," as he called them, Marx held supreme contempt. "To make ascience of Socialism, it had first to be placed upon a real basis. This basisin reality is due to Marx. Two great discoveries, the materialistic conceptionof history and the revelation of the secret of capitalistic production throughsurplus-value, we owe to Marx. With these discoveries socialism became ascience." (Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, by F. Engels, p. 44.)
Let us examine briefly the bases of thisscientific socialism. First, let us look at "the materialistic conceptionof history." The phrase "the materialistic conception ofhistory" should be discarded in favor of one free from a misleading word.Marx was, in truth, a philosophical materialist; but this fact should notprejudice one against the very important truth in his theory. As ProfessorSeligman says, in his eminently fair and scientific treatment of the matter,"The Economic Interpretation of History" is the proper phrase for theidea. As Marx gives the definite statement in the third volume of his"Capital": "It is always the immediate relation of the owner ofthe conditions of production to the immediate producers—a relation each ofwhose forms always naturally corresponds to a given stage in the methods andconditions of Labor, and thus in its social productivity—in which we find theinnermost secret, the hidden basis of the entire social structure, and thusalso of the political forms" (III. 2, pp. 324, 325.) Now, "iforiginality can properly he claimed only for those who not alone formulate adoctrine, but first recognize its importance and its implications, … there isno question," says Professor Seligman, "that Marx must be recognizedas, in the truest sense, the originator of the economic interpretation ofhistory." He continues: "We understand, then, by the theory ofeconomic interpretation of history, not that all history is to be explained ineconomic terms alone, but that the chief considerations in human progress arethe social considerations, and that the important factor in social change is theeconomic factor. Economic interpretation of history means, not that theeconomic relations exert an exclusive influence, but that they exert a preponderantinfluence, in shaping the progress of society." For the extreme vigor andability with which Karl Marx treated this theory he must be ranked high amongeconomists. But his socialism is not bound up with the application of thetheory to existing society. History shows us that economic changes take placeslowly, as in the case of feudalism advancing into modern society. As Rodbertussaid, correcting one error in Marx's application of his theory, socialism, ifit is to triumph at all, can only triumph in a distant future. The expectationof a cataclysm of our society at some undated time is very naive, and veryunscientific, and very contradictory of a true economic interpretation ofhistory.
Again, Marx was certainly in error when he madethe chief phenomenon in history, the class struggle, the conflict of classes.No reasonable person can doubt the existence of class-conflict in our day. Onegreat strike is sad proof enough of its reality. Even the peaceful actions ofthe trade unions are a steady reminder of the probability of long-continuedclass struggle. But it is altogether untrue to fact to make the conflict ofclasses the one important matter in the economic interpretation of history, asMarx proceeded to do. The co-operation of employer and employee is a far moreimportant and constant factor in the history of civilization, and thisco-operation is steadily becoming more steadfast and unbroken, as methods ofindustrial peace are being perfected all over the world. An irreconcilableconflict between bourgeoisie and proletariat belongs only to the Hegeliandialectic, which pervades so much of Marxian socialism. This dialectic is thesource and reason of its simplicity and clear-cut antagonisms. The workmanrepresents the thesis of the always developing idea; the capitalist representsthe antithesis; the synthesis will be socialism, the complete triumph of theproletariat. Now the multiplicity and complexity of the actual world areentirely missed by such philosophy. Lines of division and union, instead ofbeing few and broad, are very many and very intricate: the classes arevariously made up on the different lines.
When one reads the literature of socialism,nothing is more striking than the monotony of its all-too-simple division ofthe world of man into two classes only, the poor and the rich, the proletariatand the bourgeoisie. But look around you here in
In this country more than in any other socialismmust go to school to democracy, not to class, but to Demos, if it is to makeany headway. Democracy is over a hundred years old here. Socialism has scarcelycut its eye-teeth. This tuition is likely to be severe and unrelenting. Thedistinction is at once to be made between the social programme and thedemocratic programme of the social-democratic party of
In every scheme of economics the conception ofvalue is central. What is the source of value? Adam Smith answered,"Labor," and he held to this view throughout his great treatise,though with some modifications. Ricardo, his great successor as an economist,held the same general view, but with essential modifications; which have beenwell stated by Professor Marshall and Professor Conner, the latest editor ofRicardo. "When he [Ricardo] speaks of Labor with a capital, including underit the exertion of capital, they [modern socialistic schools] speak of laborwith a small initial, meaning plain toil, often plain manual toil. When heintroduces the important modifications consequent no alterations in theStandard of Comfort, into the law of wages, they omit the modifications, andoften cite his authority to justify what he denied…. The modern socialisticschools, we are told, base themselves on Ricardo. It is quite true. They do,and they do so justly, we are assured by writers who ought to know better. As amatter of fact, this claim is based on a series of misunderstandings"(Conner, p. lvii, I.)
Marx's demonstration that value is due to laborbegins with the statement that, when any two commodities are exchanged, thisshows that there is in them a third something which the two commodities possessin common. Using his dialectic method of straining out all other properties, hefinds only one common property left, that both are the products of labor. Thebroad proposition is that "the magnitude of value contained in a commodityis measured by the quantity of abstract human labor embodied in it, and thisquantity is measured again by the duration of the effort." Now, in thesearch for the common quality which is the cause of value, Marx begins, asBöhm-Bawerk says, by carefully putting into the sieve only "thoseexchangeable things which contain the property which he desires finally to siftout as a common factor. . . . He acts as one who urgently desiring to bring awhite ball out of the urn takes care to secure this result by putting in whiteballs only." He limits his inquiries to commodities, and "adopts,without explicit warning, a definition of commodities which includes onlyproducts of labor and excludes virgin soil, natural meadows, and all othergifts of nature." But, passing over this, we know that goods upon whichvery different amounts of labor have been spent have the same price. So Marx,to meet this objection, declares that the labor, which is the cause of value is"not the actual effort put forth by any specific individual, but ahomogeneous funded quantity, socially necessary labor, the labor required undernormal conditions of skill, intensity, and up-to-date appliances." Theunit in this homogeneous fund is a quantum of unskilled labor, simply averagelabor, the labor power, which on the average, apart from any specialdevelopment, exists in the organism of every individual. Skilled labor countsonly as multiplied "simple labor." Without quoting here any of theeconomists who object to this extraordinary statement, it may be enough to saythat abstract human labor is a thing with which most people may safely be saidto have no acquaintance, while the "actual effort put forth by a specificindividual," which Marx rejects, is precisely what the ordinary man meansby labor. It does not require so keen a mind as Böhm-Bawerk's to detect themetaphysical juggling which Marx here practices. His "homogeneous fundedquantity" exists nowhere, outside of the sophistical pages of "DasKapital." It is not, you see, the amount of labor actually put into acommodity that makes its value, but the amount of "socially necessarylabor." If one stupid man takes a day to make a chair of wood and acapable man makes three in the same time, Marx says only one-third of a day'swork is "socially necessary," shifting the whole matter of thedetermination of value upon society. The fact is, of course, that the amount oflabor used in making the chair is only one item in the account: the amount ofintelligence is another item—the amount not of work of hand, but skill of mind.
Here, as elsewhere, the socialist disciple willpoint out that Marx says, or implies, precisely the opposite thing on anotherpage. This is true, and it marks a constant habit of his mind.
Utility Marx has ruled out; but now he brings itin by the side door, raising a good deal of metaphysical dust to cover thetransaction, telling us, e. g., that the value of each single yard of linencloth "is the materialized form of the same definite and socially fixedquantity of homogeneous human labor." "Homogeneous human labor,"—'tisa fine phrase; but what can it mean, except that all human effort is reducibleto a statement, in hours or days, of simple muscular exertion? So the labor ofRaphael on his Sistine Madonna is just so many times that of the hod-carrier onthe palace which holds it! This being conceded, Marx has to answer only twodemands made upon him by the inquisitive mind. How many times is the labor ofthe artist superior to that of the workman? And how do you ascertain theirproportions scientifically? To such reasonable inquiries, Marx replies, insubstance, "Society determines how much 'socially necessary' labor goesinto each work." The plain man will be content to call this pure claptrap.In his innocence he will say that valuation is a social judgment; that societyrecognizes the general importance of the amount of labor of hand or head spentupon a commodity as a factor in fixing its price, but that this is far frombeing the only factor; and, as for human labor being homogeneous, it is highlyheterogeneous, and the higher forms are not capable of being stated in terms ofday labor on the street. Shakespeare's "Hamlet" differs in kind fromthe corn and potatoes of the ordinary farmer. How many days' labor inbricklaying can be called equal to one day's work of the Chief Justice of the
But, says the Marxian, labor is not labor exceptwhen applied to making a useful object in the quantity required by society."This," says Prof. O. D. Skelton, in his very clever "CriticalAnalysis of Socialism," recently issued, "is as though one shouldassert that the air is the sole factor in the growth of a tree, and afterwardshedge by explaining that air is not air unless certain conditions of soil andsunshine be present." It is not uncommon, one may say here, for theenthusiastic disciple of Marx to speak of him as on a par with
On the side of theory the standing of so-called"Scientific Socialism" with the leading economists of today, whorepresent the only science in question, is a lack of standing. The manner inwhich the ablest and most candid of them speak of it may be seen in quotations,which I must make brief, from two or three. Prof. Alfred Marshall is theforemost of English economists today. In his unfinished "Principles ofEconomics" he thus speaks of the "surplus value" doctrine ofMarx, which Engels declared to be his second great contribution to ScientificSocialism (pp. 630-631): Marx and his followers argue "that labor alwaysproduces a surplus above its wages, and the weal and tear of capital used inaiding it; and that the wrong done to labor lies in the exploitation of thissurplus by others. But this assumption that the whole of this surplus is theproduct of labor already takes for granted what they ultimately profess toprove by it; they make no attempt to prove it, and it is not true. It is nottrue that the spinning of yarn in a factory, after allowance has been made forthe wear and tear of the machinery, is the product of the labor of theoperatives. It is the product of their labor (together with that of theemployer and subordinate managers) and of the Capital; and that Capital itselfis the product of labor and waiting; and therefore, the spinning is the productof labor (of many kinds), and of waiting.... The strength of Rodbertus' andMarx's sympathies with suffering must always command our respect; but what theyregarded as the scientific foundations of their practical proposals appears to belittle more than a series of arguments in a circle to the effect that there is noeconomic justification for interest, while that result has been all alonglatent in their premises; though in the case of Marx, it was shrouded by themysterious Hegelian phrases with which, to us his own phrase, he 'coquetted.'
I will quote Prof. Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, thefamous Austrian economist, a little more fully. Marx, he says, "has notproved his fundamental proposition that labor alone governs exchange relationseither objectively from the external, tangible, objective world of facts, withwhich, on the contrary, they are in opposition; or subjectively, from themotive of the exchanging parties; but he gives it to the world in the form ofan abortive dialectic, more arbitrary and untrue to facts than has probably everbefore been known in the history of our science" ("Karl Marx and theClose of his System," p. 216.) "What will be the final judgment ofthe world? Of that I have no manner of doubt. The Marxian system has a past anda present, but no abiding future. Of all sorts of scientific systems those which,like the Marxian system, are based on a hollow dialectic, are most surelydoomed. A clever dialectic may make a temporary impression en the human mind,but cannot make a lasting one. In the long run, facts and the secure linking ofcauses and effects win the day. In the domain of natural science, such a workas Marx's would even now be impossible. Socialism will certainly not beoverthrown with the Marxian system, neither practical nor theoretic Socialism.As there was a Socialism before Marx, so there will be one after him. Marx willretain a permanent place in the history of the social sciences for the samereasons, and with the same mixture of positive and negative merits as hisprototype, Hegel. Both of them were philosophical geniuses. Both of them, eachin his own domain, had an enormous influence upon the thought and feeling ofwhole generations, one might almost say upon the spirit of the age; thespecific theoretical work of each was a most ingeniously conceived structurebuilt up by a magical power of combination, of numerous storeys of thought heldtogether by a marvellous mental grasp, but—a house of cards" (
Prof. E. R. A. Seligman, perhaps our ablestliving American economist, certainly one of the fairest-minded of them, in histreatment of socialism thus sums up: "The economic theory of 'scientificsocialism', as we have seen, is completely erroneous. It starts out with thedefective labor theory of value; it unjustifiably restricts labor to manuallabor; it misconceives the theory of profits; and it erects into a veritablefetish the doctrine of class-conflict." "Socialism as a movement,however," he adds, like Professor Böhm-Bawerk," is not bound up withany such• scientific or unscientific theories. Practical discontent, notscientific formulae, has engendered modern socialism. To Lasalle, and not toMarx, must be ascribed the real paternity of socialism, as a practicalmovement" ("Principles of Economics," first ed., PP. 561-562.)
The case, then, for Marxian socialism, which issocialism distinctively, stands in brief thus. It is largely acloset-philosophy, drawn not from study of real life, but from a viciousdialectic. It omits factors in value which are important, and hence it distortsand misrepresents the actual situation. Every now and then it comes into fatalcollision with ordinary effort. It mistakes the nature of profits. It omits inits rewards the all-important employer, or entrepreneur, and gives to manuallabor a primacy which in the real world it never has held. Its sympathies forthe poor are strong, but its sense of justice for all others is very deficient.In a word, it is a theory forced upon facts, not a theory drawn from them. Itis not strange, therefore, that acute observers consider the days of Marxiansocialism numbered.
The second cause of the halt in the high tide ofsocialist success in
A further and powerful cause of the temporaryeclipse of German socialism in 1907 was the comparative barrenness of itsparliamentary activity. "No political party in
On one point, of the first political importance,there is an open break between these revisionists and the main body of thesocialist "stand-patters," to give them an American name. TheSocialist Congress has voted repeatedly in late years that socialist members ofthe legislature shall not "vote the budget,"—that is, help to passappropriation bills,—as this would he equivalent to indorsing the existingsystem. The inconsistency of such an order with voting, holding seats, andvarious other acts of all the socialists, is very evident. In spite of thisorder, however, the socialist deputies in
"It is not likely, that the uncompromisingattitude which has doomed the party to barrenness and failure in the past willlong he allowed to continue, . . . but the concessions which will have to bemade will weaken some of the characteristics of Socialism which are mostpernicious in the eyes of the burgher parties. An alliance between Radicalismand Social Democracy no longer seems inconceivable today." "Lookingto the immediate future, therefore, it seems less likely that the existingdivisions within the Socialist ranks upon questions of doctrine and policy willlead to disintegration, than that they will be resolved by such modificationsin the party's attitude toward questions of practical politics as will facilitateaction with other groups equally interested in the welfare of the people. Norenunciation of ultimate aims will be required of the idealists of the party,but they will probably see the wisdom of joining their 'realist' colleagues inconcentrating attention upon reforms realizable in the present, and making eachof these a starting-point for new effort" (Evolution of Modern Germany, p.466.)
German socialism has passed through variousstages of evolution toward a rational and energetic political party, and there isno good reason for supposing that the evolution has ended. In 1848 Marx andEngels called upon the proletarians of all countries to unite. "TheCommunists seek not to conceal their views and purposes. They declare openlythat their aims can be attained only by a violent overthrow of the existingsocial order. Let the ruling classes tremble before a counter-revolution. Theproletariat have nothing to lose except their chains they have a world togain." We may allow Mr. Spargo, writing in 1909, to claim that thesewords, written in the revolutionary year 1848, meant only a peacefulrevolution. Sixty years ago to the men of 1848, there was probably more bloodand iron in them. However that may be, the new conditions of 1871 made armedrevolution very unwise. The grant of universal suffrage in 1871 called for newtactics, for new weapons. Twenty years later the Erfurt Congress declared thatthe Social Democratic party is "henceforth a political and parliamentaryparty." A future revolution was discountenanced, as well as violentrevolution in the past; and the socialist State is to evolve gradually, fromthe present State. Marx abandoned the "iron law of wages," andLiebknecht called it "unscientific" in the Halle Congress of 1890.Referring in 1900 to the doctrine, "Labor is the source of allwealth," Bebel says, "We know better now." This process oflearning to know better continues steadily in the field of German socialism: asBebel says, the party has its moultings. It has had them in the past, and itwill have them in the future. Enough, perhaps too much, of Marxian socialism.Let those who will read the recent crushing analyses of the doctrines byProfessor Skelton and by Professor Simkhovich (in the Political Science Quarterly for 1908-09.)
But, as there was socialism before Marx, sothere will be socialism after his day is gone by. State socialism, as they callit in
It seems to me very probable that here, as in
Marxian socialism is the most formidable attemptyet made to establish socialism on a foundation of logic and science. Comparedwith it, all other recent systems of socialism lack foundation and backbone.They spring out of a warm heart for the sorrows of man, but in theirconstructive work they lack connection with fact, and justice to the men whorepresent the established order' at its best is conspicuously absent. Most of ourpopular socialists do not suffer from the "intolerable disease ofthought." An epigrammatic clergyman of our body, in the last half of thelast century, used to say that Radicalism had two great friends, Death andThought. They are the two great enemies of socialism. Death is graduallyremoving the pillars of the old orthodox socialism, and Thought is destroyingthe validity of their so-called scientific claims. The places of Bebel andLiebknecht will be poorly supplied by such men as H. C. Wells and John Spargo,with all their merits. These agreeable writers have no powerful and consistentscheme to offer us, and they cannot play fast-and-loose for long with the logicof the accepted order. It is in vain for one to attempt to smuggle under Marx'scloak the opportunism which Marx rejected, or for another to slip graduallyaway from all that is most characteristic of reasoned socialism, and retain thename. Socialism, for most people who lightly take the name nowadays, meansnothing tangible or expressible. You read Mr. Wells' books, for example, withmuch sympathy. After you have read several of them, you are told that the newsis that he is no longer a socialist, but has left even the Fabians! Such is thelatest phase of one who has been telling us that our economic system mightbecome "almost infinitely more productive than it is, if we took thesocialist path."! Pleased with the poetry of socialism (in Rev. C. R.Brown's excellent antithesis), you call yourself, perhaps, a Christiansocialist, forgetting that its prose has to reckon with the economists and to answerthe hard question, "Who shall pay the bills of socialism?" Abroad,socialism has had occasionally to reckon with the acceptance of Power andResponsibility in high places by its members. But John Burns and M. Millerandsoon cease to be orthodox. Their statesmanship soon swallows, up their extremesocialistic theories.
Moderation, then! I would suggest to all whocommend to us the historic example of our Abolitionists, that the actual remedyfor slavery was not found by them. History should be read more wisely. A trueranalogy might say that, as the Abolitionists did not abolish slavery, so thesocialists will not abolish capitalism. Instead of taking a name which marks atheory already decadent and discredited among thinking men, let ourphilanthropists consider the vast possibilities of persistent social reform. Itis a process always needed, never ended,—a work demanding all our wisdom, allour patience, all our discrimination, all our zeal, all our consecration. Manyare the special problems of our present day. Each of us will do his best byturning his hand, by preference, to a single task instead of simply shoutingone remedy for all our ills. Socialism is an exploded cure-all, foreign to ourgenius as a people, not taught by our past, not indicated as our probablefuture. An indication of its probable future in our country may be seen by thevote taken by the socialists in 1908 to drop the public ownership of land fromits programme. I believe in opportunism, but not in such opportunism, for the simplepurpose of catching votes. A party capable of taking such action as this justmentioned ought to write over its shop-windows the sign, "Our convictionsaltered while you wait."
Individualism is but the name of one tendency inour life. In our present civilization we are all socialists when