To Joseph Medill Patterson
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To Joseph Medill Patterson.
By Herman Kuehn.
Dear Friend:—In welcoming you to the ranks of Socialism it devolves upon me to remind you that there are two kinds of Socialsm—the Voluntarian and the Compulsive. Having taken the pledge of the Compulsive School, you will, of course, desire to remain loyal to your allegiance, and I take the liberty of fortifying you against temptations to violate your pledge, by giving you some cogent arguments against the Voluntarians.
Remember that we are the Scientific school of Socialism. This is a strong position. The Voluntarians are of the evolutionary school. It really does not deserve to be called a school at all. To be an evolutionist, so-called, requires no scientific training. You are fortunate to have affiliated with scientists.
The Voluntarian (reveling in his ignorance) will say that Science is evanescent. That today's science is simply the correction of the mistakes of the science of yesterday. That tomorrow's science will consist of the discoveries of the errors of the science of today. Your best answer is to cite the science of mathematics. To this the Voluntarian will respond that mathematics is not a science, but the meter whereby sciences are measured, weighed, counted and gauged. Our reply to this is that such a definition is ridiculous. It is not necessary that we ridicule that position; to call it ridiculous is enough. Scientific Socialism is as well established as Mathematics. Euclid was never more profound or inerrant than Karl Marx, A. M. Simons, Victor Berger and Karl Kautsky.
Do not be misled by the Voluntarian sneer that the Universe is a well-designed entity that managed to run along fairly well without Marxian-Simonian-Bergcrian-Kautskyan help, and that evolution can work with a fair degree of satisfactoriness without aid from Scientific Socialism. It is a part of your pledge to insist that every evolutionary tendency —every stage of human progression has been made according to a scientific program. The man who invented gunpowder was animated by a scientific purpose to unhorse the knight-errant. The inventor of the art of printing must have known in advance all the social changes that were to accrue from the fruit of the press. Evolution can get its proper bent only through scientific socialism. We should, however, be careful to avoid for the program theory any responsibility for the mistakes of evolution, while insisting upon credit for all its merits.
Stand steadfast for our contention that Competition is the monster we must scientifically overcome. Always deny that in the natural order—in the harmony of the universe—the equipoise is established by perfect equality between the competitive and the co-operative principles. Even if this were true, our pledge would compel us to deny it. For, if true, it would exalt the monster Competition to a plane of utility—of perfect equality with co-operation. Our first consideration must be for our pledge, which involves loyalty to Science. At the present stage of our noble movement we should be less concerned for truth than for science.
Be not carried away with the fantastic doctrine of the Survival of the Fit. Karl Marx did not favor it. hence it can have no truth or validity. When the co-operative commonwealth is established no class legislation will be allowed, and if there should be any natural law making for the survival of the fit, we will promptly repeal it, as it is manifestly in favor of the Fit class. Our duty is as much to the unfit class. It is only the unscientific who are lacking in a developed sense of class consciousness who favor the doctrine of the survival of the fit.
You will be told that it is the denial of the freedom to compete, and not competition, that is responsible for the evils we recognize in the social order. Instance after instance will be cited to prove this to you. But your pledge requires you to pay no heed to such vaporings, no matter how multitudinous the proofs.
You will be told that while Free Co-operation always works well, compelled co-operation never does. Historical data will be adduced to prove this to you. The best proof, however, of the fallacy of that position is the fact that Karl Marx and A. M. Simons have not given it the stamp of their scientific approval.
Always point with pride to the governmental postal establishment as being an admirable example of scientific socialism, and ask your Voluntarian critic whether competition has ever carried a letter across a continent for two cents. He may retort that competition has not been permitted.' He may ask why, if the governmental system of interchange of mails is the best, that competition should be prohibited. He may claim that if competition were not prohibited, competition would render far better and cheaper service. He will claim that if competition were not prohibited, we should before now have had pneumatic tubes carrying mails in one-twentieth the time it takes now, and that the cost would be less than one- half of present rates. And he will give many reasons that sound right, but you must distrust them all. Remember you are pledged.
If you are confronted with the claim that the postoffice assumes to determine what sort of mail matter is unmailable, and that in the exercise of such administrative function it practices the rankest hypocrisies, you need not be afraid to meet the issue. It is perfectly proper for the postal institution (secure from the menace of competition) to refuse to carry improper mail. When the co-operative commonwealth is established we will deny the use of the mails to all treasonable matter. We shall, of course, make no arbitrary definitions of treason, but will scientifically determine that whatsoever the scientists of the Socialistic Postoffice consider injurious shall not be allowed either in the mails or outside of them. The first law of any government is self-preservation, and we shall of course permit no criticisms of the Socialistic administration. You need have no hesitation to declare your- self strongly in such a matter, as there are not many people who love liberty, and what we need now is numbers. The larger number of our compatriots believe in restrictions, and we must cater to them. Liberty may come later, if—but what have we to do with liberty?
You will be asked whether Liberty can be ushered in through the door of despotism. Certainly it can. How else could it? It is only by compelling people to love liberty that Liberty can ever become a reality. Hence we must first get control of the powers of government, and then we will establish Liberty—the liberty to uphold the Socialist administration.
Be not too strenuous in any of your acclamations of Liberty. Perhaps you might better adopt my "Liberty-with-a-but" method of discussing the subject. As for instance: "Yes, I love Liberty, but—not too much of it." This meets with popular favor, for not one man out of a million believes in Liberty without a "but." And what we need is votes. Of course we are unqualifiedly in favor of liberty to all to join the Socialist party, and we should not concern ourselves with any liberty for those outside our ranks. Why, indeed, should we?
The first duty of a governent is to make its citizens good. The second to make them prosperous. The fact that no government has ever succeeded in achieving either of these aims need not deter us. They were unaided by the scientific formulae of Marx and Kautsky and Tom Morgan, and were devoid of such advocacy as that of Berger and Simons. All prior governmental experiences have restricted competition. It remains for us to eliminate it. It has been contended that a still better way would be for government to leave people free to either co-operate or compete, but there is nothing in Marx that warrants us in considering such a course scientific. Once we abolish competition, rivalry, ambition and emulation we shall have instantly made all people virtuous and rich.
You will be told that history shows that every step in human progress has been gained at the expense of government rather than by its help. Even if this were true it would be so close to anarchism as to warrant us as branding it an infamous inference.
Of course if we could trust the people to do what is best for themselves it might be true that governmental restrictions are valueless. But experience shows that the people cannot be trusted to take care of their own interests. The voluntarian may urge that governmental restrictions are restrictions are responsible for this condition, but we know that no people are to be trusted to do the best they can without scientific guidance, and this can only be supplied by our party.
The Voluntarian Socialist claims that if there were no governmental restriction operating to keep the people from organizing their own credit, we would have a perfect system of money. He claims that governmental enactments result in the people lending their combined credit to the privileged banking class, for nothing, and then having to ransom it at a high price. He claims that it is government itself, and not the abuses of government, that expropriates the producer. There is no scientific basis for any of these contentions, as neither Marx nor Simon nor Berger has given scientific sanction to them.
Remember that the Collectivity can do no wrong. While this may be confused with the dogma that the king can do no wrong, there is a difference. The kings were not scientific, though class conscious. We are both scientific and class conscious. Hence the Collectivity can do no wrong. The Collectivity will own all the means of production and distribution, and will never levy any tribute except just so much as is scientifically determined to be wise. This will be scientifically disbursed in accordance with the scientific formulae which our wisest will establish. Any who will not like the way in which our governing bureau will rule will be permitted to leave the country, and they may take with them whatever our levying bureaux may have left them.
If you are asked whether a socialistic administration would not reach out for more and more power, you need not hesitate to admit that such will, of course, be the case. And why, indeed, should it be otherwise? For all power will be used in behalf of the people, hence the more power that inheres in the government the better will the people be ruled. Surely nothing can be more scientific.
If you are confronted with evidence that all despots have ever made the same plea—that the power of the State is assurance of benefit for the people—you may admit this to be true, but you can show that tyrants have never wielded power scientifically.
No one will have the hardihood to question the sincerity of our purpose, or the enthusiasm of our agitation. Even the Voluntarian Socialists will admit that our movement has its basis in broad brotherliness and genuine sympathy for the down-trodden and despoiled. I have voluntarian friends who tell me that there are no kindlier or more decent men in the world than Eugene V. Debs, Stephen Miarion Reynolds, A. M. Simons. Victor Berger and a thousand others that could be named. But their contention is that even men of that high calibre would, crucify liberty in the name of liberty, and in seeking to do good would tend to overdo it. But they may dismiss all such apprehensions, for it is certain that any movement dominated by sincere and enthusiastic men and having the backing of Science, will succeed in governing wisely, however despotically.
You will be told that if a number of free people desire to effect any important work they do not need the co-operation of an unwilling minority; that nothing is worth doing at all which does not enlist the support of enough people to accomplish it. And if worth while doing it will secure the support of enough to accomplish it without compelling those who deny the expediency of the project to pay for it, or any part of it. You will be justified in laughing such a ridiculous contention to scorn. Remember that there is nothing in your pledge to prohibit you from laughing, although when you have become sufficiently impregnated with State Socialism you will find the process rather difficult. Science, dear friend, is not a laughing matter.
In conclusion I would advise you to steer clear of the Socialists of the Voluntarian school. They may seduce you from allegiance to your pledge by convincing you that liberty at length is the only solvent; that in liberty is to be found the only guaranty of social tranquility and justice; they will tell you that governmental coercion has never made good its promises, and that to impose still greater restrictions would be contrary to the lessons of human experience; that the lessening of governmental power has made for progress, and that a natural (if not scientific) inference is that still greater liberty would work for further progress, and that the evils attributed to liberty are remediable only by still more liberty. It is your duty in consonance with your solemn pledge, to turn a deaf ear to all such vaporings. We have scientific warrant for knowing, without questioning, that when we have the power to compel people to volunteer to co-operate, a new era of peace and blessedness will dawn upon a benighted earth, and the sunlight of joy, undimmed by any vestige of competition, will shine upon man and shed rays of happiness on all who find it to their liking; and we will scientifically prove that nothing could be sillier than old Walt Whitman's senile babble about the futility of all institutions except "the institution of the dear love of comrades."
- Herman Kuehn, “To Joseph Medill Patterson,” To-Morrow 2, no. 5 (May 1906): 69-73.