The Socialists Catechism
From the London Weekly Tribune Almanac.
THE SOCIALISTS CATECHISM.
BY LOUIS BLANC.
Q. Does Equality exist in the present state of society?
A. Certainly not, for on the one side are all the advantages, on the other all the burdens; or in the language of the people, some overflow with wealth, while others want the necessaries of life.
Q. But is there not equality in the eye of the law?
A. Mere words. Justice not being gratuitous, how can equality exist between the rich man who is able, and the poor man, who is unable, to pay the expenses of it.
Q. Does Fraternity exist in the present state of society?
A. No, for the principle of all our institutions, laws, manners, and customs, is the base and cowardly one of Every man for himself and God for us all.
Q. Our present system of Society then, although pretending to the name of Christian, is in no way conformable to the doctrines of Christ?
A. By no means.
Q. How then shall we establish this holy doctrine and realize the formula by which it so admirably expresses its three peculiar features: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.
A. By ensuring the moral and intellectual development of all without exception, through the instrumentality of a uniform, gratuitous, and compulsory education; and by guaranteeing the right to labor, by the substitution of the principle of Association for that of Individualism.
Q. What do you mean by Individualism?
A. It is that principle which causes each man to care for himself alone, to promote his own private interest at any expense, even of society itself.
Q. What is the most striking of the principles of individualism in society as now constituted?
Q. What is competition?
A. It is the effort of each to enrich himself by the ruin of others: among the proletarians who have their daily bread to get, it is the attempt of each to get himself employed in preference to the others.
Q. What are the natural effects of competition.
A. Envy, hatred, and all uncharitableness, and low tricks, adulteration of commodities, unbounded avarice, lowering of wages, waste of the energies of society through conflicting interests, and enormous and permanent destruction of capital, production left to the direction of chance, the weak oppressed by the strong—in a word, the ruin of all liberty, equality, and fraternity. Competition is the war of industry; its results are the same as those of war, without its glory, courage, and self-devotion.
Q. But does not competition give rise to emulation?
A. Yes; if by emulation you mean the fierceness with which two enemies endeavor to kill one another; but certainly not, if you mean an ardent desire to be the foremost in promoting the happiness of others, at the same time that you increase your own.
Q. Whence arises real emulation?
A. From association.
Q. What is Association?
A. It is that principle by which men, instead of Isolating themselves, fighting for life and fortune as for some booty, and tearing each other to pieces, are led to harmonize their wills, to combine their talents, and work together at a common task, of which each would receive the fruits according to his wants, after having contributed to the production in proportion to his abilities.
Q. What are the results of association?
A. Love, the harmony of the individual with the general interest, and, consequently, an honorable emulation; the introduction of science in the place of chance, the unlimited increase of public wealth by a scientific combination of the various powers of nature, and its distribution according to the various wants of the individuals; in one word, the real practice of Christianity,—Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. Association is no other than the organization of labor on the basis of family arrangements, and its results are the same.
Q. How are we to pass from the present order of things to that which you contemplate?
A. By the intervention of Government.
Q. What is the Government or State?
A. It is a body of upright and distinguished men, chosen by their equals to guide us all on our way. to liberty.
Q. Why do you say that the business of the Government is the consecration and establishment of liberty.
A. This results from the definition we have already given of liberty. For liberty being not only the universally acknowledged right, but the actual power insured to every citizen of fully developing his faculties, it follows that society owes to each of its members the benefits of instruction, without which human energy is stifled at its very birth, and should provide him with the means and implements of labor, without which he is at the mercy of the tyrant. How, then, can society ensure to each of its members both instruction and the implements of labor, if not by the Government, which is the representative and epitome of society?
Q. Does not the word Government or State imply an idea of tyranny?
A. Yes; wherever power is something distinct from the people; wherever it is allowable for any, whether an individual or a party, to say with Louis XIV., "I am the State!" Wherever power is a privilege rather than a duty. But in the new world which the Socialist contemplates, the Government is the people managing their own affairs by means of their delegates, and the grand maxim of the State would be, "The chiefest of all is the servant of all."
Q. Why is it desirable for the Government to take the initiative in Social regeneration?
A. Because it is too vast a work, is opposed by too many obstacles, blind interests, and absurd prejudices, to be easily accomplished by isolated individual attempts. It requires nothing leas than the united energies of all, powerfully exercised by the most upright and intelligent. The Government undertaking to regenerate society is like the head consulting for the health of the body.
Q. Can the work of Social regeneration be undertaken or accomplished by a single attempt?
A. Certainly not. On the contrary, it requires much time, patience, and watchfulness, and could be brought about solely by the gradual introduction of a series of well-digested measures, which will be given at the end of this Catechism, in the form of a law.
Q. Will the object of these measures be to make the Government the sole employer, merchant, and manufacturer of the country?
A. Not in the least. The Government, as you will see, will only have to take the initiative of an extensive reform, which, instead of restrictive individual policy, will give it greater scope and vigor, and impress it with a higher moral character.
Q. Are all Socialist writers of the same opinion with respect to the measures that should be followed?
A. No. Some, indeed, do not admit the principle we laid down at the beginning, that "Each should work according to his abilities, and receive according to his wants," But all Socialists agree in these important points,—that education should be gratuitous to all; that association should be substituted for individualism; that the right to labor should be acknowledged; that all taxes upon the necessaries of life, which press so heavily on the poor, should be exchanged for an income tax on a just and equitable scale; that all railways, mines, and assurance offices should be transferred from the hands of private speculators to those of the Government; that usury should not be allowed under any form; that the interest of money should be continually diminished until labor should be entirely emancipated from the tyranny of capital, and that proletarianism should be abolished by the introduction of gratuitous credit* "
Q. What is capital!
A. It is the totality of the implements of labor. The laborer requires food, clothing, and shelter, and must have tools, materials, &c, to work with. These, together, form what is called capital.
Q. Does it not follow from this that without capital there can be no labor?
Q. Is it not just, then, that capital should receive a share of the. profits under tlie name of interest, this being only a fair recompense for the services which it renders •
A. Such are the arguments of the advocates of usury, and may be shown to be mere sophistry. It is perfectly true that labor cannot exist without capital; but interest is paid to the capitalists, not to capital. Now, capital and the capitalists are two perfectly distinct things. For capital to exist it is not necessary that it should be exclusively possessed by a few individuals to whom interest must be paid. Suppose an association of laborers, possessing a common capital—that is not belonging to any particular individuals, but all the members in common. They would work on their capital without paying interest on it to any one, as in this case there would be no capitalist, although there would be capital. It is not possible to imagine labor without a laborer, but we can easily conceive of capital without a capitalist. When a laborer dies, his labor ceases; but when a capitalist dies, his capital survives him. No similarity, therefore, can be established between capital and labor, from which to deduce the justice of any premium termed interest.
Q. What is represented then by the interest of capital?
A. It represents the privilege accorded to certain individuals to sit still and see their fortunes increase and reproduce itself; or it represents the price which laborers are compelled to pay for the permission to work; or finally, it represents their subjection to a condition which few can successfully struggle against, and none escape.
Q. How do you understand gratuitous credit t
A. It consists in supplying the laborer with necessary capital, without requiring interest from him.
Q. Would not this be the result of the universal adoption of association.
A. Certainly; for as soon as the laborer can always find admittance to an association possessing a commission capital, of which he is invited to take advantage, the problem is solved: credit gratis is simply association.
Q. What is money!
A. It is the representative of capital, and the circulating medium of exchange.
Q. Is a metallic currency necessary in the operation of exchange?
A. Under the present social system it is, but not in that which the socialist contemplates.
Q. Why is a metallic currency the necessary medium of exchange in the present system of society?
A. Because having an intrinsic value it becomes a security as well as a token, as it can be melted down into ingots, and be employed in works of art; it not only represents exchangeable commodities, but is actually of equal value to them. It, therefore, becomes a security to those who receive it, and it is the same as if they received the very object of which it is the token or representative. Now, nothing less than such a security would be satisfactory under a system of dissimilar and opposing interests, where fraud necessarily begets distrust.
Q. Why will a metallic currency be unnecessary in the new order of things?
A. Because all the members of an association would know one another, and nothing would be left to chance or accident.
Q. What sort of money then will be employed in the new state of society?
A. Paper money. Gold is the money of distrust and individualism; paper is the currency of mutual trust and association. <
Q. Supposing Socialism realized, why would a paper currency be preferable to a metallic one >
A. Because the former, being without real value, would be exactly what a currency ought to be, a simple medium of exchange, while the latter, having an intrinsic value, becomes on object of merchandize, and thus renders the rich complete masters of exchange operations, which are the life and soul of trade and industry.
Q. Is there no danger in the use of a paper currency?
A. There is certainly, under the present order of things because the facility of creating it would induce Governments to extend the issue beyond all bounds, which would lower its value and disturb commercial transactions; but there would be none in a state where the Government really consisted of the best and ablest, and social intercourse was regulated on a systematic basis, in harmony with the laws of nature, as would be the case in the fraternal associations contemplated by the Socialists, for in that case any arbitrary issue of paper money could be effectually prevented by regulating it according to the amount of goods in the warehouses?
Q. Is it true that the Socialists have no Religion?
A. The Socialists without religion! why you may see from what has been already stated that theirs is the religion of the Gospel.
Q. Is it true that the Socialists wish to overthrow the institution of Family?
A. Such an accusation is as absurd as it is false. The Socialists on the contrary have so profound a respect for the institution of family and so deep a sense of its excellence that their wish is to fashion the whole of society after this model, in which every one produces according to his powers and consumes according to his wants.
Q. Is it true that Socialists wish to destroy Propertt?
A. On the contrary they would make it accessible to all. As man cannot exist without appropriating certain external objects to his use, the Socialists define property as the right to live, and believe that such a right should not be made a privilege.
Q. Is it true that the Socialists would divide the land out into equal portions to every citizen?
A. This is a most ridiculous falsehood. Such a division, could it endure two days, would lead to universal ruin. Socialists, on the contrary, for the interest of agriculture and agriculturists, would have the land cultivated in large portions by agricultural colonies, so that each kind of soil might be employed to the greatest advantage; pastures for cattle, and arable for corn, according to its capacities; that hedge-rows in which so much land is wasted might be rooted up, and whole herds of cattle be tended by the man whose time is now occupied in looking after a single cow.
Q. To sum up, what sort of society would result from the principles you have just explained?
A. It would be a society :—
Where by means of a gratuitous, but compulsory and uniform education every member would attain the highest condition, intellectual and moral, that his nature was capable of reaching.
Where consequently all the vices and miseries that arises from ignorance would be stifled in their birth.
Where religion in harmony with philosophy would consist in a practical operation of the eternal laws of the Gospel.
Where it being admitted that all men have an equal right to the full development of their unequal faculties, the implements and means of labor would be as much the property of all as are the atmosphere and sun.
Where the tyranny of usury would give way to gratuitous credit; the natural debt of all to each.
Where trade and agriculture, instead of resembling a field of battle, strewed with ruins and corpses, would present the delightful feature of fraternal associations, intimately connected with each other by mutual interests.
Where the division of labor and distribution of wealth would be based upon that principle now everywhere maintained in families, From Each According To Talent, To
EACH IN PROPORTION TO HIS WANTS.
Where the individual and the general interest being the same, emulation would not excite envy, pride, avarice, and hatred.
Where the public wealth, at present limited by the blind and anarchical principle of competition, would be indefinably increased by the harmonious and scientific combination of the various powers and capacities in nature.
Whence would be banished all that crowd of cormorants and parasites which the antagonism and variance of interests alone render necessary in the present day?
Where the Government would consist of a body of earnest and intelligent men, freely chosen by their equals, to perform the same office in society which the head does in the human economy.
Where taxes would only be a portion of the common profits appropriated to purposes of general utility.
Where the wicked, being treated as diseased in mini, would be prevented, rather than punished, and more care would be taken to cure than to torture them.
Where, in fine, Civilization, before whose advancing step the beasts of the forest disappear, would in like manner drive away all misery, and with it all the vices, crimes, and woes, of which it is the frightful parent.
Q. If such be the Socialists' profession of faith, how comes it that they are denounced as impious and factious anarchists, preachers of spoliation, enemies of family, and fellows who would parcel out the land by an agrarian law?
A. Because such has always been the lot of those who in times of corruption and selfishness, have earnestly desired the happiness of humanity. Before the Socialists, their precursors, the first Christians were treated as brigands by their furious enemies in the heathen world; and He whose pure name we will not breathe, "in whom there was no guile," the Great Teacher of Socialism, died on a cross between two thieves.
A PRACTICAL METHOD OF SOCIAL ORGANIZATION.
Art. 1. A ministry of progress should be created, whose business would be to complete our Social revolution, and gradually, peaceably, without injury to any one, bring about the abolition of proletarianism.
Art. 2. To this end the ministry of progress would be directed—1st, to buy up with the revenue of the state all mines and railways—2nd, to change the Bank of France into a National Bank—3rd, to have but one grand national insurance office, to the great advantage of individuals and of the Government—4th, to establish, under the direction of responsible officers, large public warehouses, where producers and manufacturers could deposit their merchandize and provisions, for which they would have receipts of a negotiable value, and serving the purpose of paper money, guaranteed to the full amount, by the merchandise thus deposited of an estimated and determinate value— 5th, to open bazaars, which would supply the place of our retail dealers, just as the public warehouses or magazines would be instead of the present system of wholesale business.
Art. 3. The ministry of progress would make out their special budget, the "labor budget," on the profits arising from the warehouse duties, railways, mines, insurances, and the bank, which are now employed in private speculation, but would, in the new system, be appropriated by the Government.
Art. 4. The interest and gradual paying off the sums borrowed for the preceding operations having been deducted from the labor budget, the rest would be employed,— 1st, in establishing associations of workmen—2nd, in founding agricultural colonies.
Art. 5. In order to obtain the assistance of Government every association must be established on the principle of community of interest, so as to be able to acquire in its progressive development an Inalienable, Ever-increasing, Common capital, which is the only means of destroying all kinds of usury, of making capital cease to be an instrument of tyranny, the possession of the implements of labor a privilege, money-dealing a trade, happiness an exception, and idleness a right.
Art. 6. Consequently every association that would desire Government aid must embody the following regulations in its constitution:—
After deducting wages, interest of capital, and expenses of management, the profits would be thus divided:
One-quarter to pay off the capital borrowed by the Government for the association.
One-quarter to be appropriated as a fund for the assistance of the aged, the sick, the disabled, &c.
One-quarter to be divided as profits among the members in a manner to be stated below.
The remaining quarter for the formation of a reserve-fund, the object of which will be explained further on.
Such would be the constitution of a single association.
The next thing would be to connect together all the associations of the same trade, so that they may be bound up in one common interest.