Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Socialism Has Always Failed, by Sir Guilford Lindsey Molesworth 1918
SOCIALISM HAS ALWAYS FAILED By Sir Guilford Lindsey Molesworth 1918
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Socialism is neither new nor untried. It has been tried over and over again either by State, Municipal or private agency, but has always failed disastrously, and, when carried out on an extended scale by a State, it has led to wholesale ruin, bloodshed and destruction of property, followed by absolute despotism.
Six hundred years before Christ, AEsop exposed the folly of the antagonism between labour and capital in the fable of
The Belly And The Members
The members (labour)—the hands, the legs, arms, etc.—being indignant that the belly (capital) should remain idle whilst absorbing the fruit of their labour, stopped the supplies, with the result that they themselves began to suffer and pine away; and then the fools discovered that the belly was essential to their very existence, and that, far from being idle, it was working in their interest by digesting the food which they had supplied and distributing it to the members.
It was by the recital of this fable that Menenius Agrippa, the Roman Consul, quelled that which was practically a Socialist insurrection directed by labour against capital.
It is an old saying that "Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other"; Socialists, however, fail to profit by experience, and the lessons taught by the ghastly failures and ruin caused by State Socialism in France at different periods. When confronted with the horrors and atrocities of the French Revolution in the eighteenth century, they argue that its promoters were "not Socialists." The Revolution was promoted by the writings of Voltaire, Diderot, and the Encyclopaedists, who attacked religion; and especially by Rousseau, who in his Contrat Social affirmed the sovereignty of the people, and the equality of all men; but the movement gradually drifted into Socialism. It contained all the germs of modern Socialism, of which it may be said to be the parent; its watchwords were "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, the Rights of the People, etc." And what has been the result? The most terrible tyranny and despotism; a reign of terror which has disgraced humanity, in which innocent men, women and children were butchered in cold blood; a fraternity which ended in the leaders bringing one another to the scaffold, until Robespierre only remained, and he was guillotined amidst the curses of the populace. Then followed the inevitable results of such movements, in the absolute depotism of Napoleon, who for nearly twenty years afterwards plunged all Europe into war, and inflicted upon France ruin from which she only recovered after the lapse of many years.
Practically the French Revolution carried out every principle advocated by modern Socialists, such as the nationalization of land, the appropriation of the means of production, excessive taxation of wealth, State workshops, and food for the unemployed, with the result described by Alison:—
"The aspect of France was that of universal destitution. One would have thought that the whole wealth which centuries of industry had accumulated had suddenly been swallowed up."
"The capitalists and the middle class, indeed, were ruined; but the working class was simultaneously reduced to beggary. Every economic stroke delivered at the luxuries of one rich man fell on the necessities of a score of workers. There was first an immense accumulation, and, later, an immense repudiation of national debt. It was found an economic impossibility to enrich the poor by impoverishing the rich. The system tended to intensify and perpetuate itself up to the breaking point by its own vices; thus as the municipalities throughout France copied the Paris Commune, they increased the distress and unemployment which they intended to cure, and thereby widened the breach between the classes" (Menace of Socialism, p. 122).
Again in 1848 the Socialist Government of France, under the influence of Louis Blanc, yielding to the clamour for "the Right to Work," instituted a system of National works and workshops; although Lamartine, who held a high position in the Socialistic Government, warned them that to do away with capital in order to increase employment was "like drying up a spring in order to increase the flow of water." However, the national works and workshops were established, and, as might have been expected, failed disastrously. The Socialist workman, with his notions of liberty and equality, naturally declined to do anything like an honest day's work; the Government was brought to the verge of bankruptcy, and the number of unemployed increased in a few months from about 8,000 to upwards of 100,000; and, as Lamartine told the National Assembly, "The rich idler we all know; but you have created a class a hundred times more dangerous to themselves and to others, a class of pauper idlers." The sequel showed that Lamartine was right; for these hundred thousand pauper idlers congregated in Paris, broke out into an insurrection, which was only quelled after four days' heavy street fighting, in which Paris was wrecked; 3,000 were killed, and about 3,500 were deported to Algeria. In all, about 16,000 lost their lives, and France fell under the despotism of Louis Napoleon, which lasted for twenty years, and was only ended by the disastrous defeat of the French at Sedan. Again, the French Communist Government of 1871 fortunately came to a speedy end, after a course of disorder, bloodshed and wanton destruction of property, culminating in the murder of the Archbishop of Paris and other clergy. The event has been described even by so ardent a Revolutionist as Mazzini in the following terms:—
"A people wallowing about as if drunk, raging against itself . . . killing, burning, committing crime, without sense, aim or hope. ... It put one in mind of the most horrid vision of Dante's Hell."
Yet this movement has been applauded by Socialist leaders; and Marx has declared that it will "for ever be celebrated as the glorious harbinger of a new society."
In the Socialist State of Paraguay most of the land was nationalized, and the Government undertook the organization and working of industries, as well as the regulation of labour; but, under this policy, the State was brought into a most deplorable condition of ruin, and fell under the despotism of Francia as Dictator, who had all his political opponents executed, and set up a reign of terror. Finally, under military despotism, the country was dragged into war, and Paraguay was nearly annihilated as a nation. In 1870, however, Socialism was abandoned, land was transferred to private individuals, industries were encouraged, and the country enjoyed comparative prosperity.
Failure, however, has not been confined to State Socialism. It has been universal in municipal as well as in private communes in every country. As an example of the failure of municipal communism may be cited that of Milwaukee, a prosperous city of 370,000 inhabitants, captured by the Socialist Party, with a Socialist mayor, and all the municipal officials of the party of the "Red Flag." The mayor, on election, had announced that they would show the country how the doctrines of Marx, the father of modern Socialism, would produce a new era in American municipal government. He declared that there should be no unemployment, that everybody should have a job, vice and drunkenness were to be swept away, economy practised, and the cost of everything reduced; but after twelve months of Socialist rule the people of Milwaukee discovered that they were in a bad plight. Unfit persons, the sons, brothers or other relations of the councillors, had been pitchforked into the public posts; there had been wholesale bribery and corruption; taxation had increased enormously; thousands of men were walking the streets wanting a job; the cost of everything had been raised; the number of gambling hells had increased; the municipal dances, organized by the council, proved to be meeting-places for vicious men, women, and criminals; drunkenness had grown to a fearful extent. The municipality, having undertaken a number of useless, faddist schemes, was hopelessly in debt, and on the verge of bankruptcy. The citizens of Milwaukee, after two years of Socialist mismanagement, combined to oust the municipal officials by a large majority, and to elect non-party officials.
The Socialist municipality of Schenectady, New York, a city of 73,000 inhabitants, also failed, though not so flagrantly as Milwaukee. One member of it who at the outset was the most strenuous promoter of the movement, resigned after six months' experience, declaring that "when put to the test of practical government, Socialism must fail."
In the election of November, 1913, the mayor was defeated by a large majority, and the Socialists lost control of the city council.
In France, the names of Baboeuf, St. Simon, Fourier, Bazin, Enfantin, and others suggest a series of tragic failures.
In England, the name of Owen recalls the brief existence of Orbiston and Titherley; although these Owenite communities were supported by a very capable man of business, who contributed £60,000 to their maintenance.
In Australia, the Murray River and the Alice River Socialist colonies proved absolute failures. The latter colony dragged on a wretched existence of discontent for nearly twenty years, when only three of its original members remained, and they sold the property to capitalists, who converted this communistic failure into a successful private enterprise.
In New Zealand, the following description is given, in 1912, by Mr. Jellicoe, formerly a prominent Labour candidate for Parliament in Liverpool:—
"During the last eight months I have revisited the Dominion. All my political views have been falsified. The development and working in New Zealand of Socialistic reforms have resulted in bringing a country, possessing all the potentialities of prosperity, almost to the brink of financial and industrial ruin. Individual enterprise and individual thrift have been substantially annihilated; capital has been withdrawn, or is withheld from private enterprise, and employment, as a consequence, has slackened, in some places ceased. The cost of living has risen enormously. A similar mad, Socialistic labour legislation has overtaken Australia, and the Labour Party in the Commonwealth and in New Zealand to-day are working out, not only their own destruction, but the destruction of all their fellow citizens."
In the United States, Noyes, in his book on American Socialism, recounts the failure of forty-seven communistic societies, the capital of which was estimated at £2,000,000, and which owned land to the extent of 150,000 acres.
The attempt to establish the Socialist State of "New Australia" is worthy of notice, because, although one of the numerous instances of Socialist failure, it is unique in the extraordinarily favourable conditions under which it started—conditions which must have ensured success if success were possible under Socialism.
Lane, the founder of this State, was a man of great personality, sterling honesty, and an enthusiastic believer in the view that Socialism would "sweep away want, greed, and vice, and would establish peace and good will on earth." The class enlisted were the pick of Australian labour, accustomed to "rough-and-tumble work." They had implicit faith in their leader, sold all their possessions, and put the proceeds into the treasury, establishing a society with a capital of £20,000. The Paraguay Government had given to them, with complete autonomy, the concession of a State between 500 and 600 square miles in extent of fertile, well-watered land, in a good climate, with pasture land capable of supporting 700,000 head of cattle, and forests containing valuable timber; but the venture turned out to be a most disastrous failure. Instead of sweeping away poverty, misery and greed, Socialism, in this case, produced exactly the contrary effects. It confirmed the view expressed by the Socialist Blatchford, that under State Socialism "life would be hell." It also confirmed the accuracy of Herbert Spencer's verdict, "All Socialism involves slavery."
A few weeks after the formal inauguration of the State of New Australia, acrimonious disputes broke out. The State was divided into two hostile factions—those who had the soft jobs, and those who had to do the dirty or disagreeable work; almost every one complained that others were not doing their fair share of work; workers naturally resented being speeded up by the foremen, whom they considered their equals, and they retorted that they were not slaves. One colonist wrote: "We have surrendered all our civil rights, and become mere cogs in the wheel; in fact, a man is practically a slave."
In 1894 Mr. Finlay, of the British Legation, reported to the Foreign Office:—
"The colonists have started with everything in their favour—the land immune from taxation, a good climate, and a certain amount of capital. . . . They came to found Utopia, and before I visited the colony, had succeeded in creating (as they said) 'a hell upon earth.' If they fail, it will not be owing to any want of fertility in the land, or generosity on the part of the Paraguayan Government" (Foreign Office Report, 1357, of 1894).
A year afterwards Mr. Peel reported to the Foreign Office:—
"They had only been settled three months, in Paraguay, and yet, in that short space of time dissensions had arisen, of a nature so acute as to cause eighty-five members to sever their connection altogether with the colony. . . . They complained that life under such conditions was intolerable, and it was clear that, what with the absence of liberty, the isolation of existence, the suspicion with which one party regarded the other, the mutual fear, the boycotting, the constant disputes, and hundreds of other little disagreeable events that went on the whole day long, they were one and all disposed to agree that New Australia was anything but a working man's paradise. . . . They were so disheartened that they even begged Her Majesty's Consul to convey information about their unfortunate condition and disappointed hopes to their friends in Adelaide, who were almost immediately to sail in the second batch" (Foreign Office Report, 358, of 1895).
At last, by a vote of the majority, Socialism was abandoned, the Constitition was changed, and every man could dispose as he pleased of the produce of his labour. The Paraguayan Government, approving of this change, rescinded the agreement by which this Socialist State had been created, and entered into a new agreement, by which every man could select 30 acres of land, of which he would receive the title-deeds when he had built a house and complied with the specified conditions. This gave the colonists an incitement to work, and, in an incredibly short space of time, comfortable houses, surrounded by gardens, sprang up, in substitution for the miserable hovels that previously existed; the grass lands became studded with cattle, and many of those who had previously been Socialists became capitalists— one of them owning 600 head of cattle. With this change moral improvement began, bringing peace and good will where discord, greed and jealousy had previously reigned.
Lane, who very soon after the establishment of the State had been censured for his despotism, seceded, and formed the new State of Cosme, which collapsed after nine years' downward course of misery and degradation, everything having been mortgaged.
Full and graphic accounts of this failure of the Socialist State of New Australia have been given in Stewart Grahame's interesting book Where Socialism Failed (John Murray, Albemarle Street).
It is surprising that, notwithstanding such records of inevitable failure, Socialism should be greatly on the increase in England; and it seems probable that wisdom will only come to the British people through the instrumentality of some crushing disaster to the nation.
In Russia reckless Socialism has brought about the most terrible results, of defeat, bloodshed, civil war, and utter ruin to the country, which can only end in more bloodshed and anarchy, until the nation falls under the absolute despotism of a dictator.
In England the Social Democratic Union, the Independent Labour Party, the peace cranks, the conscientious objectors and the Christian Socialists are doing their utmost to bring on a disaster similar to that which has overtaken Russia.