Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

the mouth of Proudhon, at the lips of Lassalle, and by the pen of Karl Marx, that property in land is robbery. Marx elaborately defended the deeds of the Parisian Commune. Over and over the ringleaders among Socialists have indicated their willingness, if they only had the power, to confiscate, in whole or in part, property in land, and in all the means of production." (Applause.) 1 1

This utterance produces a wrong impression. We have shown conclusively (chap. iii. sect. 11), that Proudhon, Lassalle, and Marx did not intend by "theft" and "robbery" the literal criminal acts denoted by these terms, and which alone give lawful owners an immediate right to the possession of stolen property. The eminent critic would not for a moment claim this. There is certainly no hint here of confiscation.

[ocr errors]

Where does Mr. Cook find evidence of their "willingness to confiscate property? In the voluminous writings of Marx, in the eloquent and fervid speeches of Lassalle, or in the stinging words of Proudhon, we find nothing to warrant this implication. Proudhon advocated the progressive abolition of private property by the reduction of rent, interest, etc. Lassalle said, Lassalle said, "The transformation of society will be the work of centuries." Marx, in the preface to his great work, "Capital," says the capitalist is the "creature" of "social conditions," and cannot free himself from them.

Rodbertus thought it would require five centuries to work the needed reform. Babœuf, fifty years. Marx says, "The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated." It does not follow that this is to be done by confiscation. There is no need of confiscation for the transmutation of private into collective capital. It could be accomplished so gradually and with such methods of compensation as to work no injustice or inconvenience.

Socialists desire this. Will our critic, or any who prefer this unjust charge against Socialism, name a single standard Socialistic writer who advocates confiscation? Lawrence

1 "Socialism," p. 83.

Grönlund, speaking for all Socialists, says of those who give up their possessions, "They ought to be fairly compensated." Edward Bellamy, facile primus of American Socialists (nationalists), would indignantly repudiate the idea of confiscation.

No judgment of Socialists is fair or final which regards only the fanatical utterances of unprincipled agitators. Such, however, must be the "ringleaders" to whom Mr. Cook refers. A careful examination of representative Socialistic platforms, with one or two exceptions, shows an utter absence of any reference to the confiscation of property. The permanent statutes of the International Workingmen's Association, adopted in London in 1864, declares that Socialists "recognize truth, right, and morality as the basis of their conduct toward one another and their fellowmen, without respect to color, creed, or nationality." This sounds more like the gospel of love than the confiscation of property.

The Social Democrats of Germany, at their Congress in 1880, expelled Most for his extreme anarchistic views. It is anarchy, not Socialism, that would lay unjust and violent hands on property.

A single group of English Socialists may be said to have sanctioned confiscation. The "Democratic Federation," formed in 1881, of which Mr. Hyndman was a leading member, says, in a "Summary of the Principles of Socialism," "But is this confiscation ? Far from it; it is restitution. Those who cry for compensation for past robbery, and shriek confiscation because the right to rob in future is challenged, should bear in mind that the men and women whom we would compensate are those who are now stumbling, half-clothed and half-fed, from a pauper cradle to a pauper grave, in order that capitalists and landlords may live in luxury and excess. The dead have passed beyond compensation: it will be well if the living do not call for vengeance on their behalf. Our first principle as Socialists is that all should be well fed, well housed, well educated.

1 "Modern Socialism," p. 125.

2 As quoted in "French and German Socialism" (Ely), p. 184.

1

For this object we urge forward the revolution which our enemies hysterically shriek at, and frantically try to dam back." This declaration was never representative; the "Democratic Federation" itself had only bitter denunciations for other classes of Socialists. Nothing could be more unfair than to charge confiscation upon Socialism on account of such sporadic utterances. Mr. Henry George has, indeed, laid himself open to this charge, but he is not a Socialist. Socialism does not indorse even the qualified confiscation which he advocates, and which would apply to land, but not to other kinds of property. He says, "Let the land-owners retain their improvements and personal property in secure possession." 2

Socialists, however, do not agree with Mr. George in proposing that the State should take land from its owners without compensation. The owners have acquired title under the sanction and laws of society. The fruit of a lifetime of toil may be put by purchase into a piece of land: to take this land without compensation under ordinary circumstances would be both needless and unjust. There are circumstances, however, when all would admit that appropriation by the State might be both necessary and just: we say appropriation, for confiscation implies punishment, and spoliation is robbery.

When does such an exigency arise? When may the State take private property without compensating the owners? There can be but one answer, namely, when the public good requires.

The right of the State to do this has always been conceded and exercised. This sovereign power may not be exercised capriciously or lawlessly, otherwise it could not be justified.

In a discriminating analysis and defence of private capital, a writer speaks thus, "What if it" [the State] "should leave every owner in possession of his land, and by taxing that land up to its full rental value, take all the value out of it, would it be robbery? No: it would be the quin

1 As quoted in "Socialism of To-day" (Laveleye), p. 318.

2 "Progress and Poverty," p. 330.

tessence of robbery; the act of the highwayman, who should demand your money, take it from your purse, and complaisantly present to you the purse as the sole thing to which you have a right, would be in comparison a mild offence." 1

This language is none too strong to characterize the act of the State in wantonly taking private property. It seems, however, to need qualification, so as to recognize the right of the State to take private property if the public good or the safety of the State requires it; but such qualification seems to be excluded by the sweeping statement made on the preceding page, that "the State must in any case preserve all value created by personal sacrifice." Surely the State may, at the sacrifice of all values, preserve its life; and if it may preserve its life, it may maintain its health. The State is sovereign. It may and does tax land a tenth of its rental value. This is not robbery. Would it be robbery to tax it a fifth of its rental value, should the public good require it? No. Would it be wrong to tax it any fractional part of its rental value? No. Then it would not be wrong to tax it "up to its full rental value," if the public good required. Indeed, the State may, if need be, take not only the owner's rent, but his land, all other property, and even life itself, without compensation. It may command him to bare his bosom to the sword of the enemy and die, as it has so often done, for the public weal, and no one charges the State with murder. Why, then, charge it with robbery for taking land or other private property for the same reason? Is property so much more sacred than life? Yes; let us be honest: money under the present economy has become more sacred than life. Ruskin says, "I will tell you, good reader, what would have seemed Utopian on the side of evil instead of good: That ever men should have come to value their money so much more than their lives; that if you call upon them to become soldiers, and take chance of a bullet through their heart, and of wife and children being left. desolate, for their pride's sake they will do it gayly; but if you ask them for their country's sake to spend a hun1 "Capital and Its Earnings" (Clark), p. 68.

dred pounds, without security of getting back a hundred and five, they will laugh in your face." Soldiers in this connection are not an exceptional class. It is monetary not military glory that is god over all. Such is the idolatry of mammon, that men constantly hazard life, and yield it up, rather than give up their idol.

Not a day passes that does not chronicle voluntary death preferred to the loss of possessions. This is the natural outcome of an economy that makes wealth rather than man the centre of its system, and that relegates the divine declaration," All that a man hath will he give for his life," to the region of sentiment. Over against this deification of wealth Socialism places humanity. It exalts man rather than money, and life for all rather than luxury for the few. It believes, on historical and ethical grounds, that a State founded on other principles contains the germs of social disease which, as they ripen, will rot the whole social structure.

While holding that political science and common-sense give the State the right to take private property without compensation, when necessary for the public good, Socialists do not believe that things have come, or will be allowed to come, to that pass when the right must be exercised.

They believe that private capital may become public so gradually, with so little friction, that vested interests will realize no interference, and that capitalists as well as laborers will rejoice in the change.

VI. As to Marriage and the Home.

"The causes for divorces have been shown by the National Department of Labor at Washington to be largely economic."— - PROFESSOR R. T. ELY.

It is objected to the Socialistic state, that it would endanger the institutions of marriage and the home; that if capital becomes common, that is, owned by the State, wives will become common, and children will belong to the State; or, if this extreme is not reached, marriage will be held

« AnkstesnisTęsti »