Socialism and Fatalism

From The Libertarian Labyrinth
Jump to: navigation, search


By H. Kelly.

THE relation between the two theories, roughly denned as Socialism and Fatalism, respectively, is more real than apparent . By Socialism I mean the Marxian brand, known in Europe as Social Democracy: the collective ownership of the land, means of production, distribution and exchange, controlled and regulated by a democratic State. Fatalism—the doctrine of inevitability: what is, had to be; what was, will be. Leaving out of the question the law of gravitation, change of seasons and other natural phenomena, and applying the inevitability theory to individuals, fatalism is neither more nor less than a state of mind, resulting from repeated suggestion and repetition.

To illustrate. A fortune teller, after her palm has been crossed by a (the inevitable) piece of silver, solemnly informs a young lady of impressionable years that she will be married twice. The girl repeats the suggestion to herself and friends throughout a number of years, until she finally becomes convinced that she must get married twice—and she does. Ergo, the fortune teller is vindicated.

Social Democrats have repeated the half-truth that man is the creature of circumstance and environment so often, that in the end their actions are moulded to fit their theory: they lose all individuality and initiative, becoming mere creatures of the ideas they have mouthed, without will or desire to act differently from the people they despise and look upon with contempt.

It has long been recognized by advanced thinkers that different races and different countries will work out their salvation in their own particular way and time. Anarchism and Socialism are theories applicable to the whole human race, but it is more than probable that certain countries will attempt the practical application of the new ideas before others and, necessarily, with certain modifications. If we compare France with Turkey, England with Persia, America with India, we appreciate the fact that things do not work out the same in all countries and with different races. Capitalism is common to them all, yet how differently it manifests itself in the development of the various countries.

Social Democracy, as taught by Marx and Engels, was expected to develop along similar lines in all countries. In fact, we have witnessed in recent years the spectacle, still extant, of the Social Democrats of Russia advocating a system whereby the peasants were to be deprived of their land and driven into the cities; because, forsooth, in order to reach Socialism it is necessary to go through a period of industrialism of the kind we have in England and America. It is for this reason that Social Democrats have failed so signally to make converts among the peasants, while the Socialist Revolutionists, who advocated the retention of the land by the peasants, succeeded so well with the latter. All doubt on this point will be dissipated by consulting the current Russian revolutionary periodicals.

Collectivism was supposed to mean the same thing all over the globe; yet time has proven the contrary.

European Socialists have rather a poor opinion of, amounting in some cases to positive contempt for, the intellectual ability of their American comrades. They will not be surprised to hear that we are evolving a set of Socialists here who, though worshiping Marx, hold ideas positively ludicrous in their heterodoxy to his gospel, as set forth in the Communist Manifesto. Heter~ odoxy is sometimes as foolish as orthodoxy. Some Socialists say that there is no reason why millionaires should not exist under Socialism; others claim that even titles—purely for merit, of course—may be bestowed under that "Democratic Republic." In amazement we rub our eyes and wonder if the Collectivist ship has not slipped her moorings and the old religion lost its hold on its disciples. Wages will exist under Collectivism, we are told, and if a Melba refuses to sing unless we pay her ten or twenty times the amount that ordinary mortals receive, we will comply; for, as Mr. Wilshire says, we can't make her sing, and to put her on a bread and water diet is both impracticable and inhuman. There will always be, he says, lovers of a beautiful voice who will be willing to give this gentle rebel a portion of their remuneration in order to enjoy her golden notes. It's true, she will not be allowed to invest these "hours of labor" in any land or enterprise where unearned increment or exploitation is possible, but she can spend them in marble palaces, steam yachts or hogsheads of champagne. Leaving the solution of this "new Socialism" to others more apt at solving puzzles than myself, I will pass on to the tactics advocated and practiced by American Socialists.

Inspired with the belief that capital is concentrating so rapidly that we shall soon have a great financial panic —with millions of men out of work and, therefore, lacking food, which condition will result in a Social Revolution—Mr. Gaylord Wilshire floats a gold mining company with shares valued at twenty-five million dollars, and uses the pages of a Socialist publication, Wilshire's Magazine, to sell the stock. Mr. Wilshire's efforts on behalf of Socialism have been in the past sincere, if undistinguished; there is no reason why we should doubt his honesty of purpose now. His intention, we are informed, is to make a fortune and use it to help on the revolution. Quite as laudable and more respectable— he is nothing if not respectable—than those Anarchists who used to advocate stealing for the propaganda and ended by stealing for themselves. Of course, if this mine succeeds (Mr. Wilshire estimates that there is over three billion dollars worth of ore there), it will make all the shareholders rich and increase the number of the middle class by some scores of thousands. With righteous indignation aganist any "comrade" who openly seeks to defy and upset the law of gravitation (concentration of capital and abolition of the middle class) and jeopardize the honor of the movement, the National Executive of the party, who are proletarian lawyers, editors and so forth, are moved to protest. The situation is peculiar. If the mine is a failure, poor comrades lose their money; if a success, they become middle-class exploiters. It is but natural that the most vigorous protestant against Mr. Wilshire is Mr. Hillquit, the "historian" of the party. The latter has been in the censuring business aforetime—only, on a never to be forgotten occasion, he was the censured—and it is quite natural he should be indignant over any violation of party ethics In the language of his campaign literature, Mr. Hillquit is "a rising young lawyer"; he is firmly grounded in Marxian fatalism and is reputed in some quarters to be worth no less than one hundred thousand dollars of unconcentrated capital. Far be it from me to suggest that the filthy lucre accumulated by this thrifty young man is invested in tenement houses or factories a la Frederick Engels; or that he is drawing a beggarly four per cent. from a savings bank. It is, to use a colloquialism, a "cinch" that his money is buried in some sub-cellar where its contaminating influence is safely quarantined from the "comrades" and the "movement."

The campaign waged by Mr. Hillquit last fall, as Congressional candidate from the ninth district, was undoubtedly the last word in political opportunism; the most charitable person, if free from party prejudice, can have nothing but contempt for methods which differed in no particular from a rotten Tammany or a debauched Republican party. If this gentleman enjoys but onefourth of the income he is credited with, he receives considerably more from his law practice than he would as Congressman; as in the case of Mr. Wilshire, we may absolve him from any desire to profit financially by going to Congress. (In passing we may add that the mileage graft and other extras paid Congressmen are so great that on a salary of five thousand dollars per year a certain Congressman from my State, Missouri, had saved eleven thousand dollars in two years, besides paying all his expenses. Congressional salaries have recently been increased to seven thousand five hundred dollars a year.) While not doubting Mr. Hillquit's honesty, we are not clear as to the principles he holds in trying to ride into office by the methods he pursued.

For a generation the workers have been told that a vote for a Socialist candidate is a vote for Socialism; how pale and sickly that sounds in the light of the campaign we have been speaking of. The voters of the ninth Congressional district were urged to vote for the party candidate on the grounds that "Mr. Hillquit is a rising young lawyer and a Russian Jew; he will look after the interests of the Jews in Russia; be the spokesman for the Russian revolution; the workers of the ninth district are among the poorest paid in the United States, living in the most overcrowded und unsanitary conditions"; finally the voters were instructed how they could split the ticket, voting for Tammany or the Republican party and still electing the Socialist Congressional candidate. We have here an appeal to race prejudice and snobbishness, and the implication that a Socialist Congressman could increase wages, improve local sanitary conditions, and reduce overcrowding, when the veriest child at school knows that Congress has nothing whatever to do with such matters.

It may be said: "Yes, all that you say is true, but did not the party censure Mr. Hillquit?" Yes, after the election! Not a word of disapprobation was heard during the campaign, and it requires a mind singularly inexperienced in politics to conceive of any member of the Socialist party raising the question, had the party candidate been elected. The end would have justified the means; an attack upon the honor or good faith of the first Socialist Congressman would have been considered high treason. In fact, it is doubtful if the question would have even arisen, had it not been for the instructions regarding the split ticket. This was the real crime; the other incidents were trifles. The answer of a member of the Executive of the party to my protest against such dishonest tactics was that my objections were "petty, even childish, and they bored him."

When it is pointed out that every reform or revolutionary movement must, in order to have any real or lasting success, have an ethical basis, and the morals of the party be judged by its meanest member, we are informed that it is a utopian doctrine long since exploded or that we do not understand Socialism; further, that Socialism will come, not because it is just or demanded by the people, but because it is necessary. Socialists, such as those we have mentioned—they are typical, representing fairly accurately the party at large—have repeated so often that capitalist politics are rotten, and men's ethics, religion and every-day actions are governed and determined by the manner in which they obtain their livelihood, that they have arrived at the point where their actions conform to their theories. Socialism is inevitable, and man is the creature of circumstance and environment; the fact that I, who advocate the abolition of exploitation and point out its evil effects, am myself an exploiter, does not affect the sum total of human happiness or misery, or the ultimate realization of Socialism. The individual counts for nothing; Socialism is inevitable. Acting on this basis, our politics are as corrupt, proportionally, as our environment, and we exploit in the name of a principle. Truly a wonderful philosophy, this fatalistic Socialism which justifies everything from exploitation to the beating of one's wife, on the ground that "we are the creatures of our environment and victims of the present system." It is the proud boast of the advocates of Socialism that there are no less than thirty million Socialists in the world. Of course there are not, but if there were, and if each one of them considered himself an individual, conscious of his powers as well as of his limitations—a human entity sufficiently intelligent to understand the necessity of a social change, as well as to realize the importance of the individual as a determining social factor; if to this understanding were added a moral concept of exploitation, what a mighty revolution those thirty millions could accomplish!