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No. 3560 September 28, 1912
1. The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Socialism and Syndicalism as a
II. Two Modern Plays. By George Lowther
NATIONAL REVIEW 771
OXFORD AND CAMBRIDGE REVIEW 778 III. The Staying Guest. Chapters V and VI. By Mrs. Alfred Sidgwick. (To be continued.)
IV. The Franchise Bill and Women's Suffrage. By W. H. Dickinson CONTEMPORARY REVIEW 794
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THE INTELLECTUAL BANKRUPTCY OF SOCIALISM
AND SYNDICALISM AS A PROPOSED SUBSTITUTE.
All schemes of extreme social reform were based on the idea that the one have, for sixty years at all events, and only agency involved in the proclaimed to be forms of Socialism. But, duction of material wealth is labor. owing partly to the criticism of think- This idea, however, was hardly more ers, and partly to that of events, So- than a loosely assumed axiom till Karl cialism has become of late, to an ap- Marx, in a work (published 1865) which preciable degree discredited; and the has since been called "the Bible of Soideas and desires of many of its most cialism," claimed to have raised it to ardent advocates have sought to re- the rank of an exact scientific formula, embody themselves in what claims to defining “labor" as that kind of manbe a new creed, different from though ual effort which the masses of mankindred to it, which goes by the name kind, under the existing capitalistic of Syndicalism.
system, sell for wages to a small miI propose in these few pages to sum- nority of employers. marize the fundamental features of So- Now in favor of this doctrine there cialism, considered as a theory and are two things to be said. also as a working scheme, as it was One is that, if it be once accepted, under the influence of Marx, and as it the conclusions which it aims at estabhas come to be to-day; and then to lishing follow from it with instantapoint out that Syndicalism, in so far as neous certainty. it means anything coherent at all, is The other is that, as applied to sonothing but Socialism reduced to its cieties of a very primitive kind, it is most degraded form by a rejection of true; for in such societies nobody, exererything which, in the course of two cept as a manual laborer, takes any generations, the more competent So- part in the productive process at all. cialistic thinkers have learnt, and by a But, in spite of its unrivalled utility return to the lowest of those crudities as a basis for the Socialistic gospel, which they have now agreed in repudi- and in spite of the fact that, as apating.
plied to certain actual conditions, it The Evolution of Socialism as a Theory may be true, it has not escaped the crit. since the Days of 'Marr.
icisms of Socialistic thinkers themThe sole practical object in respect of selves. For although it may be a which Socialism is peculiar being the sufficient explanation of wealth-produc. redistribution of purely material wealth tion among men in their social infancy on principles of equality which have (when the total product is small and never as yet been realized, it is plain of a very rudimentary kind) it offers no that for Socialists the whole of their explanation at all of what is to-day, constructive proposals must turn on for Socialists as for everybody else, their theory of how wealth is produced. the crucial fact to be explained. This
Accordingly, we find, as a prominent is the fact that, in countries such as fact of history, that the early Social- our own, the amount of wealth proistic experiments made (for the most duced per head of the population anpart by European settlers in America) nually is now incomparably greater, not between the close of the eighteenth and only than it is amongst savage or semi. the middle of the nineteenth century, civilized tribes, but than it was even in countries like our own at the close of likewise, wealth is due to individuals. the eighteenth century.
in proportion as they contribute to its Accordingly, during the last twenty production, and if it be now admitted years, gradually at first, and of late that some are indefinitely more producwith marked rapidity, the Socialistic tive than others, what becomes of the theory of production has undergone a claim for an approximate equality of fundamental change. Nearly all its ex- reward? ponents who have any pretensions to Modern Socialists are well aware of be thinkers have by this time prac- this difficulty; and the whole history of tically repudiated the doctrine of Marx recent Socialistic thought may be dealtogether, and vie with each other in scribed as little else than a series of atproclaiming their full recognition of tempts to get rid of it, and to reconthe fact that the enhanced production cile a frank recognition of the inequalof wealth in the modern world is not ity of individual contribution with the due to the labor of the average man
old demand that the total shall be apalone, but to the co-operation with such portioned equally. labor of activities of a different kind, These are all reducible to one or other which are found to an efficient degree of two arguments. One of these, hor. in exceptional men only.
ever, is not so much an argument as a Thus Mr. Sidney Webb in a remark- retort. We may dispose of it in a able passage, after advocating, as all few words, and will then pass on to Socialists do, the extinction of private the other. ownership in any of the means of pro- The argument which I have described duction, goes on to observe that the as a retort may be briefly summed up accomplishment of this result would as follows. When various kinds of be no more than half the battle. After effort, from that of the great thinker all private monopolies of a material down to that of the wheeler of a kind had been abolished, one other mo
wheel-barrow, are equally necessary to nopoly, he said, would still remain to the production of a given result, each be dealt with the most obstinate and of these produces an equal part of it. fundamental of all; this being, to use Thus, if common labor, represented by his own words, “the natural monopoly 1000 laborers, produces some product of business ability, or of that special which is worth £1000, and if subseenergy with which
men are quently the same labor, directed by born," and in which the majority of vo of "the monopolists of business men are lacking.
ability,” results in the production of a Here we have an example of genuine product the value of which is £2000, the intellectual progress-of theory grad- increment, though it may seem at first ually adjusting itself to the complexity sight to be due to ability only, is really of actual facts. But if serious Social- due to labor, in precisely the same de. istic thought has really thus arrived at gree, though the amount and quality of a recognition that the faculties involved this may have undergone no change in the production of wealth to-day are whatever; for though labor, had there of many kinds, and not of one kind, been no ability to direct it, could cerand that these as embodied in individ- tainly not have produced the increased uals are highly unequal in their effi- total by itself, ability would have been ciency, it might seem that the result equally barren if it had not had the would be abandonment of the Social- labor to direct. Ncw, whatever other istic scheme altogether. For if, as is defects may be latent in this argument, assumed by Marx and by all Socialists it is perfectly useless for the actual pur.
pose in view, not because it does not that though the exceptional man in inlead to the particular conclusion stated, dustry must no doubt be recognized as but because this conclusion is quite the cause of exceptionally large prodother than the one desired. For when
ucts, yet of these he is, in Herbert Socialists desire to justify a substan- Spencer's phrase, “the proximate cause tial equality of distribution, they mean only": the true ucer being those a distribution which is equal in re- conditions and antecedents from which spect of individual men, whereas this he, in common with the least efficient argument relates not to men, but to of his fellow citizens, has sprung. faculties. Let it be granted that, in Now that this line of argument has the case described, the amount which certain facts at the back of it is obis due to labor is a full half of the vious, but before we are in a position additional £1000, and that ability, how- to judge what it is really worth, we erer exceptional, has no right to more must first note that if it leads to any than £500; yet £500 in the one case practical conclusion even remotely rewould be divided amongst 1000 men sembling that which Mr. Webb and his and in the other case amongst only friends draw from them, both the facts two. Thus equality, as between indi- and the conclusion in question are very viduals, would be just as far off as incompletely stated. In the first place ever. The conclusion desired by So- as to the facts. The exceptionally effi. cialists is here not so much as touched. cient producer in any given community
The other of the two arguments, owes his “special activity or energy,” which alone represents the serious not to the generalized conditions of that movement of modern Socialistic specu- community only. He owes it to the la tion, is of a very different character. human race from the earliest beginIt is really directed towards the result nings of humanity; to the geological dedesired, and has, however illusory, a velopment of the earth, and to the congenuine philosophical basis. It sets stitution of the solar system. To say, out with a consideration of the various therefore, that such a man, though the wealth-producing faculties, not as gen- proximate, is not the real producer of eralized forces, but as forces embod- the products which result from his acied in individual human units; it ad- tivity, and would not be produced withmits that of these units a few are in- out it, is merely to say that, in order definitely more productive than the to work at anything, he must firstly many; and that, if we accept as reali- have come into existence, and must secties the data of crude experience, the ondly have a world to work in. principal producers of to-day are a mi- But the matter does not end here. nority and not the
But, This is no more than the beginning of while admitting these facts, it en- it. If the exceptional producer has deavors to get behind them. It urges really no claim to his own products, bethat, however great and however neces. cause he has no claim to any property sary to the community may be the spe- in his special industrial efficiency, he cial productive energies which excep- has similarly no claim to any property tional monopolize, these
in his own general character, nor is he would not be what they are, if it had the proper object of any of those feelnot been for the course of sociological ings, whether of affection or otherwise, evolution which preceded them, and which ever since the human race began the mass of general conditions by human beings have entertained for one which, ever since their birth, they have another, and without which human life been surrounded. Hence it is urged would be empty. In short, if the the