Monday, January 9, 2017
Socialism the Creed of Despair by George B. Hugo 1909
Socialism the Creed of Despair by George B. Hugo 1909
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I am an individualist. I acknowledge no master on earth except the law! I am an individualist who favors the utmost social and economic freedom consistent with the freedom of every other individual. In other words, my freedom, my liberty, my rights, cease the moment I encroach upon the freedom, liberty, or rights of another individual. This is the fundamental theory of freedom, religious, political, and economic,—-the true conception of freedom and ideal individualism. In defence of this ideal I shall attempt to puncture the tires of the menacing red devil of Socialism before individualism is crushed to death.
Socialism from beginning to end can be summed up in one sentence: Socialism is the puny attempt of visionary mortals to change nature's unalterable law. Socialism is an emotional debauch, the morphine stimulant of a decaying civilization, the opium exhilaration, intoxication, coma, and death of a nation adopting it.
The economic struggle confronting us is not between Capital and Labor, but between individualism and collectivism, between the man who has and the man who has not, between intelligence and ignorance, between mental power and hand power. It is the struggle for supremacy, between the mental giant representing intelligence and capacity-—the ideal in civilization, all that is noble and worth while, the soul of life-—and the physical giant representing ignorance, incapacity, and brute force, seeking only the happiness of the beast, a satiated belly, soulless materialism. Properly defined, individualism means progressive civilization, order, and liberty. Collectivism means retrogression, chaos, compulsion, and, at its best, state servitude. As religion and humanity constitute the soul of true civilization, so individual ownership of property is the material foundation of civilization. When collectivism, or Socialism, with its unbalanced intellectuals, its mushy sentimentalists, its vicious, its discontented, its failures in life, attacks the private property of the individual, it becomes a menace to modern civilization and cannot be tolerated.
What is property, or capital, and how is it created? Capital is the result of labor performed by an individual in excess of his living requirements. To illustrate: If eight hours a day is necessary to provide food, clothing, and shelter for an individual, or for an individual and those depending upon him, and the individual worked but eight hours a day, there would be no surplus or capital remaining. Should he, however, work for ten or more hours, whatever remained over and above his requirements of that day would be so much surplus wealth or capital. Thus we find that all capital is primarily created by excess labor. There must be no misunderstanding about the term "labor." It is probably safe to say that 90 per cent, of those who accept the theory of Socialism understand "labor" to mean only physical results, the work of the body. They place no value on intellectual labor, which is the great source of wealth to them. In other words, they must be able to see, feel, hear, taste, or smell results, or they have no value. This is the common conception of the term "labor" by the mass of physical workers, and is generally accepted by the unthinking.
Thought, the greatest force in the world for the uplift of mankind, not being a tangible substance, is considered of no value in the socialistic scheme. Creative power, ability, and directing capacity, the result of thought and absolutely essential for progress in the industrial field, the brains and head of the body politic, are to be chopped off, and the tangled mass of legs, arms, and trunks are to automatically perform the world's work. By some unknown mystical process, nature's laws will be changed. Greed, avarice, and all human ills are to disappear. Frail humanity will shake off its defects, mankind will become God-like, and perfect equality will be the order of the universe. What a beautiful picture! But what a pipe-dream! Emotionalists look upon this picture with frenzied enthusiasm, suffering humanity grasps at this straw of quackery for relief, while sane men look on with compassionate sympathy and dread of the inevitable consequences. The cumulative experience and wisdom of the ages are to be superseded by a fantastic scheme of topsy-turvy-dom called Socialism,—-certainly a cheerful outlook for the individual!
The cry of mediocrity,-—"Labor creates all. Labor is entitled to all it produces. Labor is entitled to all the land. Labor is entitled to hold all the machinery,"—-these are the stock claims made by Socialists. Give labor land, machinery, and all the raw material in the world, including factories and plants of every description, without a master mind to direct its operation, it would be as helpless as a child in swaddling-clothes, as dangerous as a train of cars and engine on the track with steam up, the throttle in the hands of incompetence. God only could save that train from wreckage! It must be conceded, then, that intelligent direction is of more importance to industry than physical labor.
With the facts fundamentally established that capital is the result of excess labor, both physical and intellectual, and further established that both are necessary to create capital, the question of distribution arises. How shall it be distributed? The method of distribution raises two questions:—
(1) Shall the capital produced by labor—-both physical and intellectual—-be distributed in proportion to the amount each individual creates?
Should Socialism answer No, then what becomes of its claim that labor is entitled to all it produces? If, however, it answers Yes, there can be no disagreement about existing conditions. Now for the second question:—
(2) Shall the capital produced by both classes be cast into a common pool for equal distribution among all workers, regardless of the amount each individual has created?
This question is the meat in the coconut, the rock upon which Socialist and individualist split. Should Socialism answer Yes, its demand for equality of opportunity is untenable by the fact that common justice demands that the equal right or opportunity to take from the common pool carries with it the obligation of an equal contribution to the common pool. If, on the other hand, the obligation of equal contribution is to be ignored, then individuals contributing the larger shares of capital to the pool will be at a decided disadvantage in the socialistic scheme of equality and equal opportunity. J. Phelps Stokes, acknowledged authority on Socialism, is quoted as saying, "We don't ask people to join the Socialist Party, unless they understand Socialism is just and fair." I should like to ask if the individuals contributing the larger share of capital to the common pool would be treated "just and fair" under this arrangement?
"But," say the more advanced of the fifty-seven varieties of Socialism, "we concede that intelligent direction is essential, but the difficulty is that these directors receive an unjust proportion of the capital produced. In other words, hand labor does not receive a just proportion of what it produces, which recalls to my mind the story of the walking delegate of the Hack Drivers' Union during a strike in San Francisco. In conversation with the prosecuting attorney, after the conviction of a peaceful (?) picket caught in the act of using one of those peaceful instruments of persuasion, commonly called a "black-jack", he said to the district attorney, "You know very well that labor does not get a just proportion of what it produces." The attorney replied, "Oh, I don't know about that." "You know they don't." "Now let us see," replied the attorney. "You are a hack driver. What do you produce?" The hack driver scratched his head a moment, and then replied: "What do I produce? Motion."
But let us analyze the statement that hand labor does not get a just proportion of what it produces by a concrete illustration. Supposing that a hundred hatters (very apropos just now), working independently, can each make one hat a day, paying $2 for material and selling at $4, leaving $2 for their pay. Then an individual comes along, invents machinery, puts up a factory, and induces the hundred hatters to go into the factory and work according to his direction. The hundred hatters turn out two hundred hats a day instead of one hundred, with a value of $800 instead of $400, in less time and under better conditions than when working separately. Who created and who is entitled to the difference in value? The hundred hatters or the individual who by his inventive genius and directing ability created the difference in value? But let us go a step farther, and assume that he paid the hatters twenty-five cents a day more than they could make separately, and reduced the price of hats to consumers twentyfive cents also. Could either the hatters or the purchasers of hats claim that they had been injured by the change? Will not even the most rabid Socialist concede that the individual is entitled to the extra value he created? But, as this illustration involves machinery and a factory, some question might be raised in the Socialist mind about ownership of the machinery.
I will get a little closer to earth by giving another illustration. Supposing two men own apple orchards side by side. One by care and scientific application of the art of raising apples produces a better grade of apple than his neighbor's, so that he receives five dollars a barrel for his apples, the other receiving only three dollars for apples of an inferior grade. The difference is a difference of product, one superior to the other. Is the individual who raises the better apples entitled to the difference in value? Should he pay his farm hands more for doing the same work that his neighbor's men are doing? in other words, divide the fruit of his own genius with the men who chanced to be working for him instead of for his neighbor? Did he not produce the difference in value, and is he not entitled to all he produces according to the Socialist theory, that labor is entitled to all it produces? Could any one claim that the greater share in this transaction is not a just proportion to which the individual is entitled? I think not.
John Spargo says, "When you say 'Equality of Opportunity,' you express the whole aim of modern Socialism." I would like to ask if both these men who owned the orchards side by side did not have an equal opportunity to raise the same quality of apples? The opportunity was the same; but was it not the difference between intelligence and ignorance, ambition and laziness, will to do and unwillingness to do? Nature's inequality of the human being. Does any one believe that nature's law would be changed by the adoption of the socialistic scheme of government? Does this not prove that Socialism is but a visionary ideal, without a practical working basis? As a purely economic proposition or, as some put it, "a bread-and-butter proposition," its realization of equality is a practical impossibility.
I shall now quote from the Socialist Party Platform handed to me by my Socialist brother, Mr. Carey, as his particular brand of Socialism, so that I should not discuss one of the other fifty-six kinds only to find that my arguments did not apply to the right one:—
"Human life depends upon food, clothing, and shelter. Only with these assured are freedom, culture, and higher human development possible. To produce food, clothing, and shelter, land and machinery are needed. Land alone does not satisfy human needs. Human labor creates machinery, and applies it to the land for the production of raw materials and food. Whoever has control of land and machinery controls human labor, and with it human life and liberty."
Then in the last paragraph we find:—
"To unite all workers of the nation and their allies, and sympathizers of all other classes to this end, is the mission of the Socialist Party. In this battle for freedom the Socialist Party does not strive to substitute working-class rule for capitalist-class rule, but by working-class victory to free all humanity from class rule, and to realize the International Brotherhood of Man."
Now that sounds well, especially the words "battle for freedom," "to free all humanity from class rule," "the Brotherhood of Man."
We as individualists accept this plank, and, paradoxical as it may seem to you, I am on this platform to-night to uphold this sacred principle of freedom. So long as there is a spark of life within me, I shall be on the firing line of the battle for freedom, the battle to free all humanity from class rule, and to practise the Brotherhood of Man.
But how does Socialism live up to this plank? By catering to organized labor, the tail to its kite. With few exceptions every Socialist is a unionist, and every unionist is a Socialist, though he does not always know it. I never could quite reconcile the two, but Socialism indorses organized labor, accepts its label, that odious mark of servility, coercion, and tyranny printed on the very tickets which brought you in here to-night. And, thus indorsing organized labor, Socialism stands sponsor for its inhuman acts. Organized labor, one of whose spokesmen, the notorious Shea, stood upon this platform and said, "The time has come when a man must be a member of a labor organization or be in the hospital." He went to Chicago, and made a record of killing eighteen men and injuring four hundred and fifty others. I want to ask you, Is this freedom? Is this the Brotherhood of Man? Organized labor, which denies boy or man the opportunity to learn a trade. Is this freedom? Is this the doctrine of the Brotherhood of Man? Organized labor that kills, slugs, and terrorizes individuals who do not do its bidding? Is this freedom? Is this the practice of the Brotherhood of Man?
How do you as Socialists reconcile yourselves to these inhuman acts? Is the battle for freedom to be won through organized labor troops of compulsion, led by the Socialist generals of discontent, who mistake slavery for freedom? Is humanity to be freed from class rule by the rule of despotic mediocrity? Is humanity to sell itself into slavery for food, clothing, and shelter? This the black slave always had. This is the brotherhood of the beast,—-the cow, horse, and dog,—-not the Brotherhood of Man. Civilized men will never sell their freedom to any collective group, be they capitalists, unionists, or Socialists, for food, clothing, and shelter. Individual freedom means more than a satiated belly. It will not give up its individualized entity, and become an automatic instrument under the domination and control of any collective group. Socialism is a menace to modern civilization. Why?
(1) Because it is a step backward,—-retrogression.
(2) It would destroy man's power of individual choice.
(3) It would relieve man from the personal responsibility and moral obligation which he owes his fellow-man.
(4) It would reduce man to the status of an automaton.
(5) It would destroy Free Will, the foundation of moral accountability to God.
(6) Because it is an economic fallacy and a spiritual delusion.
There may be those who are willing to shift upon the State the responsibility they owe to themselves and their fellow-men. But let me say there can be no escape. The debt we owe to life is a debt that each individual must pay himself.
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