Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

1

disposal of its government its money, land, and all means of production, opens the way for endless pecuniary and political corruption." This proposition is illustrated and enforced by wit and simile, history and philosophy, dogma and logic, after the inimitable manner of its illustrious author. Multitudes turn away from Socialism at the bare mention of its supposed political money, political lands, mines, factories, and the political management of all the processes in the production and distribution of economic goods. Can free institutions exist, it is plausibly asked, when public patronage is thus increased, and the hungry hordes of officials are numbered by millions instead of hundreds of thousands, and the doors of political corruption and jobbery are thrown open in every direction?

This reasoning is based upon a fundamental misconception of what Socialism is. It assumes the validity of three principles which Socialism utterly repudiates: first, that the government or State is separate and opposed to the people; second, that the spoils system would continue in the Socialistic state; third, that money would continue to play the same part as under capitalism. These three assumptions constitute, under capitalism, the tripod on which rests the institution of political corruption, and which furnishes a basis for the argument that an increased number of government officials necessarily leads to increased political corruption. Neither of them applies to the Socialistic state. At present the government is regarded more and more as something distinct from the people. This is treason to the very idea of democracy. It is due largely to the influence of private capital which now controls public office. Politics are now a business, a big moneyed monopoly or trust, with its boss managers, board of directors, and stockholders, while the people, imagining themselves freemen, simply obey orders, having little voice in the management and receiving no dividends. So long as King Mammon, with Prince Caucus and Lord Tammany, presides over politics, severing the connection between the electors and elected, the State and government will be re1 "Socialism," p. 56.

garded as distinct from the people, and the increase of officers will be accompanied with increased corruption.

Now let us change the conditions; let us blot out the mischievous idea that the State and the government are other than the people; let us establish the government that we applaud on paper, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people; then, when all the voters shall have a personal and patriotic interest in the conduct of affairs, the unscrupulousness or mere indifference of a public officer would be regarded, not as a clever manipulation of politics, but as the rankest treason. Nothing is more common than for those who make the charge of political corruption against Socialism to assume, when they desire to show how it would aggravate existing evils, that the Socialistic state would be the same as the existing one; but when they desire to show how existing good would be destroyed, that the nature of the State would be changed.

The spoils system is the second factor in political corruption. It is assumed also that this would continue to exist under Socialism, and bring forth the same evil fruits. This is a grave error. Every citizen will be a public functionary under Socialism, where, as in an army, all, from the highest to the lowest, are striving for one common object, and where, on account of the glory of the object and unity of interest, few are so base as not to condemn shirking and cowardice. No motive for personal effort is so powerful in the human breast as that produced by the union of a vast body of men struggling to achieve a noble end.

In a co-operative commonwealth, where all individual and collective interests and results depended largely on the efficiency of foremen and superintendents who are for the most part the officers, is it reasonable to suppose that on every election the experienced and efficient foremen would be dismissed to make places for office-seekers? Would voters whose food, clothing, housing, and all comforts and luxuries, were at stake be likely to acquiesce in such proceedings? The civil service which now puts a premium on corruption will reform itself when every citizen has a direct personal interest in its purity. No increase in the

number of officials would tend to corruption, when the offices ceased to be merely political institutions and hence venal; but were industrial positions held only on merit, by incumbents who were in immediate contact with the people and responsible to them, such a tenure of office, and the substitution of public for partisan administration, would leave no room or motive for political corruption.

It seems to be overlooked in considering the increase in the number of office-holders in the Socialistic state, that thousands and tens of thousands of offices now required by capitalism would be discontinued. A large per cent of sheriffs, constables, and other police officers, multitudes of tax assessors and collectors, clerks, attorneys, judges, etc., would be discharged. It is not contended, however, that the totality of public officials would not be largely increased. What is insisted on is, that under the changed conditions of Socialism an increase of offices is compatible with a decrease of political corruption, and not only compatible, but certain when the motive for all corruption has disappeared. The spoils system is the fruitful source of demagogism, official patronage, political fraud and jobbery. This unclean beast, Socialism would destroy and thus give a death blow to political corruption.

The third and all-important factor in political corruption is money. Money can be secretly handled and hoarded. By means of money political assessments can be levied; offices and officers bought and sold; a-bank-note or coin can be slipped into the hands of a voter without observation. It is money and money alone that supports the lobby, corrupts legislation, bribes judges and jurors, and perverts justice. Indeed, without money political corruption could not exist for a day. Socialism abolishes money.

Now, the objection to Socialism on the ground that it opens the doors to prodigious political corruption, is based on the assumption that the institution of money will continue to exist and play the same part as under the present régime. The assumption is utterly groundless, and this is an end of the discussion. There is absolutely nothing further to be

said. With the abolition of money political corruption could no more exist than the lungs could be inflated without air.

XII. As to the Objection that Socialism is Impracticable.

[ocr errors]

"The question, therefore, is not whether we have reached the perfection of character which would be necessary in order to a perfect working of the scheme of nationalization of industry, but whether we have reached such a degree of development as would make an imperfect working of the scheme possible."-T. B. VEBBEN.

This is at once the strongest and the weakest objection urged against Socialism. The strongest, because it appeals to the cupidity of the rich, the timidity of the poor, the conservatism of the temporizer, and the disposition of men rather "to suffer while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." It is the weakest, because it is utterly destitute of moral support.

We submit twelve considerations in answer to this objection.

1. The question is not one of mere expediency, but of right.

Were the question one of expediency merely, were it not that the alpha and omega of Socialism is none other than the eternal and immutable principle of social justice and right, the objection of impracticability might end the discussion, and capitalism, like Æsop's wolf, might continue unmolested to tear in pieces and feast upon the weak and innocent lambs of society; but in view of its ethical factor the objection has not a feather's weight. Given an institution containing ninety-nine parts of expediency and one part of injustice and that institution is doomed. Thoreau said, "One man with God on his side is in a majority." There is more potency in a grain of right than in a ton of expediency. To deny this is to deny faith in God and in the right. The mills of the gods may grind slowly, but they grind surely. Rather than stand with the multitude in the wrong, I had rather with Noah stand solitary and alone in

the right, even though, as was the case with Noah, a hundred and twenty years elapsed before the right could be realized.

The men who have lifted human society have always stood alone. Solon and Socrates, Moses and Christ, Columbus, Galileo, and Luther were in the eyes of their wise contemporaries visionaries and Utopianists. Robert Fulton, the inventor of torpedoes and steam navigation, was officially pronounced "impracticable." Richard Arkwright was impracticable in attempting to invent the spinning-frame he encountered the contempt, ridicule, and bitter hostility of his wiser and more conservative contemporaries. More than a score of acknowledged authorities on electricity wrote. essays to prove that Edison's system of electrical lighting by means of incandescent lamps was utterly impracticable; meantime Edison was completely successful. Eli Whitney invented the cotton-gin, of which Lord Macaulay said, “What Peter the Great did to make Russia dominant, Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton-gin has more than equalled in its relation to the power and progress of the United States." The way of this industrial and social transgressor, however, was hard. He was "impracticable." "The rewards which he received for his invention of the cotton-gin were disheartening misfortunes, the loss of a lucrative and honorable profession, costly and troublesome law-suits, health shattered by worry and travel, a paltry grant from South Carolina, and imperishable fame as one of the foremost figures in the history of industrial development."

Probably the most Utopian and impracticable scheme in the eyes of all the world was the attempt of the American Colonies to set up this Republic. There is no good thing extant, no beneficent institution, no established economy in any department of human life, that was not at its birth and during its infancy opposed as "impracticable," and denounced as the chimerical scheme of dreamers, by the great body of the wise, the wealthy, and the good.

The charge, therefore, that Socialism is impracticable will satisfy only those whose outlook is limited to immediate and temporary ends. These are by no means to be lost

« AnkstesnisTęsti »