Liberty and Authority
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By J. C. Northrop.
To usher in the New Civilization seems to be the aim of the men and women who write to this magazine. That is certainly a noble aim, and "To-Morrow" is doing great work in breaking down the old barricade of superstition which has held the world by the throat so long. But it seems to me that something more than mere words will be necessary to bring about the downfall of the powers that be. I therefore take issue with Comrade Kuehn, not as to the merits of liberty, but for his failure to point out how liberty is to be attained to without the use of authority.
The authorities as we see them to-day are the minions of the ruling class. They are authorized to rule by the majority of the people. Their purpose is to perpetuate private property, and they are accomplishing their avowed purpose. The long train of evils resulting from private property are not looked upon as evils by the authorities, because they are necessary to the existence of this particular brand of authority.
The question now arises, how is liberty to be attained to? Will it be brought about by every man pretending to be a law unto himself? No; it will be brought about by organization, and that implies authority; authority to demand that the present authorities step down and make room for the authorized agent of the said organization. If the present authorities should refuse to acknowledge the authority of this organization, then the organization would exercise the authority vested in it by removing them by force. It is not to be supposed that the present ruling class will step down and give place to the new order of society without a struggle, and if there is not an organization to struggle with it is safe to predict that the present ruling class will not be ousted by a mere vote of the majority of the people. The New York Evening Post of Monday, October 29, 1906, speaking of the chances of William Randolph Hearst being elected governor of New York, says:
"Hearst has entirely failed to provide any sort of an organization which can be depended upon to bring out his vote, or see that it is counted when brought out." This proves that the political movement of the people to usher in the new civilization will be worthless unless it is backed by the physical power to enforce the fiat of its ballot. In other word's, if the people are to win against the plutocrats they must show their authority by being organized in an organization that is readv to force the "pluts" to recognize the authority of the majoritv.
Authority does not necessarily mean coercion. But if it did it would make no practical difference. To be plain, this is the way I see things.
There are two classes in society. One, the working class, is at the present time governed by the capitalistic class. The means taken to govern them are coercive. When the workers rebel against the conditions they are met with force. To meet that force the workers must be organized on the industrial field as well as the political, so that when they declare by the ballot that this system of robbery has gone far enough the ruling classes cannot count them out and defeat the fiat of the ballot. The workers will then be in possession of the industries of the country. They will be in a position to defy the class of thieves who would count them out at the hustings. History is replete with evidence that force has always been the weapon with which a revolution was finally achieved.
The only thing that can be achieved now by the ballot is to record the temperature of the workers, and if that rises too high the capitalistic class will resort to some means to prevent the workers from exercising their franchise. If they should conclude to do that now, what could the \vorkers do about it? Nothing but submit. They have no organization strong enough to successfully combat the organized powers of the capitalistic class. They control every branch of industry, every source of supply, every man who walks the earth is at the mercy of the capitalistic class because the producers of all wealth have no organization which is drilled and ready to take possession of the means of production and distribution. If you are robbed at the ballot box your unorganized mob would be helpless to seat your rightfully elected candidates. I believe that when the social revolution is accomplished that government as we now know it will disappear, and that executive authority will take its place.
I do not believe that the people want the kind of liberty that allows the strong to lord it over the weak. I beleive that men band themselves together for the sole purpose of protecting their collective interests. Coercive measures will certainly have to be resorted to to unseat the present ruling class and usher in a co-operative commonwealth. The world cannot afford to wait for the regeneration of the individual to be emancipated from the rotten system under which we live at present.
People may prate about "free trade" and free exchange, and cite little plots of land where one man is more industrious than another, and tell us that it would not be justice to compel the industrious man to take the less diligent one into participation; but that does not fit the present social construction at all.
Everything to-day is carried on collectively. It is not a case of how much does Mr. Smith produce. It is a question of how much does society as a whole produce collectively. Neither is it a question of right or wrong. It is a question of expediency. We need the land and the tools to carry on production, and we must have them both. The single tax is nothing more than a tail stolen from the socialist kite, and the single taxer thinks he can fly the tail more successfully than he could the kite, tail and all.
There may come a time when the "freedom" for which Comrade Kuehn yearns will be achieved, but it could never be evolved out of a capitalistic system. History shows that the forms of human society have constantly changed, and always to a higher state than the proceeding one. From individualism to communism and then back again to a higher state of individualism. This, however, is the first time in the history of the world that the working class have made a bid for supremacy. In all previous struggles the workers have been used to enthrone a new ruling class, and they themselves have gone right on being exploited because material conditions were not right for the workers to emancipate themselves. But now conditions are perfect for the complete abolition of slavery of any nature, and that means the slavery of woman to man. (The slaves of the slaves.)
The workers are at present the sole producers. They furnish the brains and the muscle to carry on production and everything is practically left to them to manage. All that is needed is organization, and they are ready to take possession. In the "Boston News Bureau" of October 27th, there appears an article on the growth of the Westinghouse Company's interests, from which I take the following extract:
"'What shall I pay for this invention?' said the manager of the Westinghouse Electric Companies. 'You see its efficiency, from twenty to thirty per cent saving at this point.'
"'Don't bother me with details,' said Mr. Westinghouse; 'you are paid a salary to run these works and get the best men, the best brains, and the best results.'"
Civilization depends upon the action of the working class in this struggle. The capitalist system is past being repaired; It must be crushed out of existence, and by the only class capable of the work—the working class. When they are properly organized they will end for all time class rule, and institute the co-operative commonwealth in which every person shall be given an opportunity to earn his living in a civilized manner; a common wealth in which every worker shall have the free exercise and full benefit of his faculties, multiplied by all the modern factors of civilization.