Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

A workman says, Twenty-five years ago I went to work here at four dollars a day; . . . reduction followed reduction, and to-day, after twenty-five years of hard, conscientious work, I would be glad to accept two dollars and seventy-five cents per day. This last cut has reduced me another fifty cents, and I am going to strike. The workman in the modern watch factory is the most dependent wage-slave in the world. He has no trade. He may work in a watch factory fifty years and know no more about a watch when he quits than on the first day he entered the shops. He does the same thing day after day, week after week, and year after year. Cut him loose from the factory, after having devoted the best part of his life to such work, and he is almost helpless. The company has taken advantage of this fact in the reduction of wages, and our only hope lies in concerted action. a strike!1

Now comes the advocate of the panacea of the personal virtues, and says, "Wait, my complaining friend, I have a remedy for your personal ills that you have overlooked: cultivate skill, intelligence, thrift, manliness, and all will be well." Could any utterance be conceived more exasperating to the man who, for a quarter of a century, had bravely struggled against the iron laws of capitalism? Of all remedies proposed to heal the gaping wounds of society the exhortation to manliness and thrift is the most insipid and jejune. The watch-works laborers are representatives of a large class of wage-workers throughout the country. The Springfield Republican, after commenting on the watchtrust war, says, "This is a fair sample chapter of the industrial progress of the time." 2 We may as well face the fact, daily emphasized, that wage-workers cannot compete with corporations and machines of iron and steel, with mammoth wheels and engines that roll and roar like devouring monsters crushing all that oppose them. Laborers must come into different relations to these industrial forces before harmony can be restored. To prescribe such palliatives as thrift and manhood for the disease that threatens society, is as futile as would be the bathing of a gangrened limb that threatened the vitals, with rose-water.

1 "Springfield Republican," January, 1892.

2 Ibid.

VIII. The Christianization of Capitalism.

"What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness, and what communion hath light with darkness?"-2 COR. vi. 14.

Many wise and good men recognize the evils that threaten society, but shrink from other than the ordinary remedial measures. They admit that the exigency is extraordinary, but decline to employ extraordinary means for relief. Conservatism opposes error and truth alike. It restrains fanaticism and blocks reform. The conservative never abandons himself to a great truth; he is prudential if anything; he walks by sight, not by faith. He has no sympathy with a Galileo for declaring that the earth moves, without being able to explain all the phenomena of its motion; or with Columbus setting out, under the inspiration of a mighty truth, for a new world, without knowing precisely where he was going to land. This is the attitude of the conservative mind toward the new order of society. It deprecates the evils of individualism; it sees the glorious truth of Socialism, but dares not embark upon it because the landing-place is uncertain. We are willing rather, with the Magi of the East, to follow the Star of Truth, even though we know not the way in which it will lead us. While many religious teachers are leaning towards Socialism as the only way of escape from social perils, there are some who think it possible to avert danger and work needed reform by imbuing capitalism with Christian principles. Dr. Washington Gladden, one of the foremost of American sociological and Christian writers, says, "The reform needed is not the destruction, but the Christianization of the present order." 1 Dr. Gladden is so fair in the discussion of social problems, he has so much sympathy for the oppressed, and feels so keenly the wrongs of which Socialists complain, that his opinion should have great weight with them. If "the present order" could be Christianized, it ought by all means to be done. Dr. Gladden entertains the expectation that individuals, moved by the spirit of Christianity, will 1 "Applied Christianity," p. 98.

voluntarily surrender the means and practice of exploitation. "The principal remedy for the evils of which Socialists complain is to be found, therefore, in the application by individuals of Christian principles and methods to the solution of the social problem." We cannot share his expectation. He looks to the union of labor and capital on some kind and Christian basis. He commends profit-sharing and other forms of co-operation, and believes that egotism and altruism can be united under capitalism. "It must be the business of the employer to promote the welfare of his workmen, and the business of the workmen to promote the interest of their employer." 2

But this is the doctrine of each for all and all for each, which is Socialism. He believes in co-operation; but integral co-operation is Socialism. He believes in "the application of Christian principles and methods to the solution of the social problem;" but this again is Socialism. All the evils belong to individualism, while all his remedies are Socialistic. It seems to us therefore that the only thing to do is to socialize industry. We do not believe it possible to Christianize "the existing order." The expression seems to us to involve a contradiction. The principles of "the existing order" are wrong and must be given up. You cannot Christianize theft; it must be abandoned. When a man is Christianized, his principles are changed, "Old things pass away, and all things become new." The man himself becomes a new creature. But this is not what Dr. Gladden means by "the Christianization of the existing order." He does not want its principles changed; he does not want the old things, viz., private capital, freedom of contract, and free competition, and the wage-system, to pass away and all things to become new, including the "order" itself; this, rather, is what Socialism wants, and it is also what Christianity demands. Socialism and Christianity are allies. Individualism, or the present order, and Christianity are enemies. The present order, like the natural heart, is emnity against God.

Neither of the principles of the existing order of capital

1 "Applied Christianity," p. 100.

2 Ibid., p. 98.

ism admits of Christianization. These principles are the fundamental assumptions of the current political economy. They are the absoluteness of private capital, free competition, and free contract. Let us glance at their ethical

character.

1. The absoluteness of private capital is inconsistent with Christianity, and must be abandoned.

Private capital gives the owner a privilege or advantage over another man. This is contrary to the spirit of the gospel. Private capital, especially by means of the wagesystem, enables the owner to exploit his neighbor. This, the most selfish, unchristian, and devilish thing that can be conceived of, is the essence of the existing order. What power of darkness is it that blinds our eyes to the truth that no man or set of men has a right to thrive at the expense of others? The capitalist may sit in his easy-chair and take half of all his neighbor can produce, and no more dream of doing wrong than did the saints of Salem in hanging witches, or the slave-holders in keeping slaves, or the inquisitors of the Holy Office in imprisoning and burning alive 341,021 Spaniards.

You cannot Christianize exploitation, for it violates the Golden Rule which, as has been well said, must be the rule for gold.

If private capital is Christian, certainly no limit is set to its acquisition. One man may rightfully own all the land and other means of production in the community. His fellow-men therefore are practically his slaves; they have no right to live except by his sufferance. "The ownership of land," says a stanch defender of individualism, "carries with it the ownership of all that the land produces and of all who live upon it." These conclusions are antagonized by Christianity. No man has a right to lord it over his fellows or to enter into temptation to so lord it. One man owns o part of the land of England and Wales; 24 men own of all Scotland.

Can you Christianize an institution which, in principle, allows one man to say to his fellow-men, "Leave the

1 "Socialism and Christianity," p. 87.

country or the world, for it is mine"? Is it any wonder that ministers of the gospel are beginning to denounce this principle?

The monopoly of land at present is no different in principle, or more unjust in its results, than the monopoly of the other means of production, or of the necessities of life. The tap-root of all private monopoly is private capital, which, as we have seen in Chapter III., is contrary to Christianity.

2. The second principle in "the existing order" is freedom of contract. A denial of this doctrine will be regarded as a species of sociological heresy and economic infidelity worthy of the swiftest condemnation. The question now, however, is not primarily one of sociology or economics, but of Christian ethics. Is freedom of contract in harmony with Christianity? If not, can it be Christianized?

To each of these questions we answer no. "A contract in legal contemplation is an agreement between two or more parties for the doing or not doing of some particular thing." 1 Freedom of contract means the unrestrained liberty to make such agreements. A moment's reflection will convince any one that this is not consistent with Christianity. One of the parties to a suit at law contracts with the judge for a given decision. Freedom of contract, of course, allows this. But Christianity says, "Fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery."2 Can bribery be Christianized? Two men agree that if the one will kill a certain man the other shall pay him a stipulated sum. Freedom of contract allows this. But Christianity says, "Thou shalt not kill." If freedom of contract can be Christianized, then murder can be Christianized. But it is replied this is absurd!

Certainly it is. In other words, by freedom of contract we do not mean freedom at all. Freedom of contract, however, is a convenient phrase; it hides a multitude of social sins. The contracts above supposed are, and ought to be, prohibited by law. If prohibited, they are not free. All would agree that some restraint should be put upon freedom of contract. To what extent should this restraint go? 1 "Parsons on Contract," Vol. i. p. 6.

2 Job xv. 34.

« AnkstesnisTęsti »