Call to Socialism : Part 2: Marxism - Chapter 5
(1870 - 1919) ~ German Social Anarchist, Pacifist, and Leader of the Bavarian Soviet Republic : He dies "In a prison courtyard an officer stepped up and struck him across the face, the signal for a savage massacre. Set upon by the troops, Landauer was beaten with trutcheons and rifle butts, kicked, stomped and trampled upon. 'Kill me, then!' he exclaimed, 'to think that you are human beings!" At that he was shot to death. (From : Anarchist Portraits, Arvich.)
• "Anarchism is the goal that we pursue: the absence of domination and of the state; the freedom of the individual. Socialism is the means by which we want to reach and secure this freedom: solidarity, sharing, and cooperative labor." (From : "Anarchism -- Socialism," by Gustav Landauer.)
• "Leaving allegories aside, what we need is the following: associations of humankind in affairs that concern the interests of humankind; associations of a particular people in affairs that concern the interests of a particular people; associations of particular social groups in affairs that concern particular social groups; associations of two people in affairs that concern the interests of two people; individualization in affairs that concern the interests of the individual." (From : "Anarchism -- Socialism," by Gustav Landauer.)
• "True cooperative labor and true community can only exist where individuals are free, and free individuals can only exist where our needs are met by brotherly solidarity." (From : "Anarchism -- Socialism," by Gustav Landauer.)
Part 2: Marxism - Chapter 5
Karl Marx artificially bridged the two components of Marxism, science and the political party, creating something apparently completely new, which the world had never seen before, namely scientific politics and the party with a scientific basis and a scientific program. That really was something new and, moreover, modern and timely, and furthermore it flattered the workers to hear that precisely they represented science, indeed the very latest science. If you want to win the masses, then flatter them. If you want to incapacitate them for serious thought and action and make their representatives archetypes of hollow infatuation, mouthing a rhetoric which they themselves at best only half understand, then convince them that they represent a scientific party. If you want to fill them completely with malicious stupidity, then train them in party schools. The scientific party, thus, was the demand of the most advanced men of all times! What amateurs all previous politicians had been, who acted from instinct or geniality as one walks, thinks, writes or paints. Though this does require, along with natural talent, a great deal of skill and technique, it is by no means a science. And what modest people those representatives of politics as a sort of science had been, from Plato through Machiavelli down to the author of the excellent Handbook for the Demagogue. With great skill and a strong eye for simplification and synthesis, they arranged and classified individual experiences and institutions, but the idea never occurred to them to do this scientifically. What aesthetics would be if it purported to provide the programmatic basis for artistic creativity, Marxism is for these scientific socialists.
In reality, however, the scientific delusion of Marxism accords badly with the practical politics of the party. They go well together only for such men as Marx and Engels, or Kautsky, who combine the professor and the wire-puller in one person. Certainly one can want what is right and worthwhile only if one knows what one wants, but — apart from the fact that such knowledge is far from a so-called science — it is almost a contradiction to claim, on the one hand, on the basis of so-called historical laws of development which have the supposed force of natural laws, exact knowledge of how things must necessarily and inevitably come, so that neither the will or action of any man could change this predetermination in the slightest, while on the other hand, to be a political party which can do nothing else but will, demand, influence, act, and change particulars. The bridge between these two incompatibilities is the maddest arrogance ever exposed to public view in the history of man. Everything the Marxists do or demand (for they demand more than they do) is precisely at the moment a necessary link of development, determined by Providence, and only the manifestation of natural law. Everything others do is a futile attempt to hold back the inexorable historical tendencies discovered and secured by Karl Marx. In other words the Marxists, in their goals, are the executive organs of the law of development. They are the discoverers and also the implementers of this law, more or less like the legislative and executive branches of the government of nature and society combined in one person. The others, in any case, also help to implement these laws, but against their will. The poor fellows always want the wrong thing but all their effort and activity only help the necessity determined by the science of Marxism. Every arrogance, every obstinate craze, intolerance and narrow-minded injustice, and the whole sardonic temper constantly displayed by the scientifico-political heart of the Marxists stems from their absurd and peculiar amalgamation of theory and practice of science and party. Marxism is the professor who wants to rule; it is thus the legitimate offspring of Karl Marx. Marxism is a concoction that resembles its father; and the Marxists resemble their doctrine, except that the intellectual acuity, the thorough knowledge and the often laudable gift of logical combination and association of the real Professor Marx is now often replaced by pamphleteer scholarship, party-school wisdom, and plebeian parroting. Karl Marx at least studied the facts of economic life, the documentary source-material and — often even quite unabashedly — the revelations of great intuitive geniuses; his successors are often satisfied with compendia and textbooks compiled with the approval of the Ministry of Education in Berlin. And since we here do not have to go along with the foolish and shameless flattery of the proletariat, since socialism aims at the abolition of the proletariat and therefore need not find it to be an institution especially beneficial to the mind and heart of all concerned (for great and fortunate personalities, it will, of course, like every hardship and impediment, bring with it a good many advantages; and there is always hope that privation and inner emptiness, insofar as they constitute a sort of readiness or open possibility of fulfillment, and tension, will someday, at the great moment, suddenly impel entire masses to act in solidarity and genius), it can thus be said here once more: it is true, a miracle can one day come over the proletariat, as over any other people, namely the miracle of the spirit, but Marxism was no such Pentecostal miracle and it brought no gift of tongues, rather only Babylonian confusion and flatulence. The proletarian professor, the proletarian lawyer and party leader is that caricature of caricatures called Marxism, the kind of socialism that claims to be a science.
What does this science of Marxism teach? What does it claim? It claims to know the future. It presumes to have such deep insight into eternal laws of development and the determinant factors of human history that it knows what is to come, how history will continue and what will become of our conditions and forms of production and organization.
Never has the value and meaning of science been so ridiculously misunderstood. Never has mankind, especially the most oppressed, intellectually deprived and underdeveloped part of mankind, been so mocked with a distorted mirror-image.
Here we are not yet even considering the content of this science, of the supposed course of mankind the Marxists claim to have discovered. At this point it is only a matter of revealing, mocking and rejecting the immeasurably foolish presumption that a science exists that can reveal, calculate and determine the future with certainty from the data and news of the past and the facts and conditions of the present.
To this point I have also tried to speak of where we have come from, as I believe — I could venture to say, as I know for I am not afraid of being misunderstood by dolts, in fact I hope to be — and where, in my deepest conviction and feeling, we are going, must go, and must want to go. But this necessity is not imposed upon us in the form of a natural law, but of what ought to be. For if I say that I know something, is it in the sense that in mathematics an unknown quantity is calculated from known ones? Or that a geometrical problem can be solved? Or that the law of gravity and inertia or the law of the conservation of energy are always valid? Or that I can calculate the trajectory of a falling object or projectile if I know the data required for the formula? Or that I know that H2O is water? Or that we can calculate the movements of many stars and predict eclipses of the moon and sun? No! All these are scientific activities and results. They are natural laws because they are laws of our mind. But there is also a natural law, a law of our mind, a sub-law of the great law of the conservation of energy, that says: what we will make of our life and body, what the continuation of our previous life, the road ahead, the release of compression, the activation of disposition will be — all this is called “the future” — cannot be presented in the form of science, i.e., of accomplished facts subject to classification, but only in the form of a feeling accompanying a disposition, of the inner pressure of effort and desire exactly adequate of the external, shifting state of balance. This implies will, duty, intimation all the way to prophecy, vision and artistic creation. The point of the road where we are standing is not analogous to a mathematical problem or a factual report or even a law of development; that would be a mockery of the law of the conservation of energy. This road corresponds to a dare-devil audacity. Knowledge means: to have lived, to possess what has been. Life means: to live, creating and suffering what is to come.
Not only does it mean that there is no science of the future; it also implies that there is only a living knowledge of the still living past, but no inert science as of something dead and lying there. The Marxists and, like them, all moralists and politicians of development, whether they adhere to the theory of catastrophic and diametrical development like the pre-Darwinian Marxists or wish to posit an evenly advancing progress by means of a slow, gradual accumulation of minute changes, like the Darwinistic revisionists, these and all representatives of the science of development should, if they are absolutely unable to give up scientific activity, conduct a scientific investigation of what the following, splendid, related group of words have as their real meaning, what they express of the truth of nature and spirit, namely these words: I know, I can, I may, I will, it must, and I should. This would make them more modest and scientific, more human and congenial, and more enterprising and manly.
Thus history and political economics are not sciences. The forces at work in history cannot be scientifically formulated; their judgment will always be an estimate describable by a higher or lower name, depending on the human nature it contains or radiates — prophecy or professorial nonsense. It will always be a valuation dependent on our nature, our character, our life and our interests. Furthermore, even if the forces in question were as surely known to us as they are formless, faltering, indeterminate and changing, the facts necessary for the application of such principles are very poorly known. What external facts for scientific treatment do we have after all for the literally infinite past of man and the world? Of course, all sorts of things, far too many, have been transported and unloaded in the carts of this so-called science. Unfortunately they are confused, desolate and fragmentary debris, dumped helter-skelter, from one second of the so-called history of men and the world. No example is crude enough to clarify how little we know. Of course, one case is, as the splendid Goethe says, often worth a thousand words and contains them, for the intuitive genius. However, for this entire area of biological becoming and human history there are exemplary cases of forces and laws, but, again to use Goethe’s language, these become simply the experiential manure of the data-collectors, Darwinists and revisionists, and the dialectical manure of the Marxists. And so the genius, for whom in matters of human coexistence one case is often worth a thousand words, is not a genius of science but a genius of creation and action. Knowledge of life is involved, but it is not a science, however much it may be based on genuine, great science.
And, thank god and the world that it is so! For why live, if we knew, really knew, everything that is to come? Doesn’t to live mean: to become new? Doesn’t to live mean: as the old, secure, self-confident and independent being that we are, as a self-contained world and eternal entity, to enter into the new, uncertain other world that we are not, equally eternal, from gate to gate and multitude to multitude?
For when we call ourselves alive, are we readers or observers or beings driven by well-known forces into an equally well-known terrain, from the old to the old? Or are we not the striding foot and the working hand rather than the objects of action? And does not the world seem to us, every morning when we get up, vague, unknown and amorphous, like something new and presented, which we form and assimilate with the instrument of our own natural capacities? O you Marxists, if only you had abundance and fullness of joy in your private life, then you would not want to and you could not turn life into a science! And how could you, if you knew that your task as socialists is to help men attain forms and communities of joyous work and joyous living communality.
Not resigned, skeptical, or plaintive, but assenting joyously, I state that we know nothing of the manifold and incomprehensible forms of the past and future life of men and nations; I am proud and courageous enough to know, feel and live internally, more than many others, the destiny of the millennia. I do have an idea of what has happened and of what is underway. I do have a feeling as to the course of our destiny. I know where I want to go and where to advise and lead others, and I do wish to transmit my insight, my ardent feeling, my strong will to many, both individuals and masses. But am I speaking in formulas? Am I a journalist masquerading deceptively as a mathematician? Am I a Pied Piper of Hamlin leading immature children with the flute of science into the mountain of nonsense and fraud? Am I a Marxist?
No, but I will say what I am. I need not wait until the others of whom I am speaking, the Marxists, tell me. I have studied, researched and accumulated knowledge as well as anybody, and if there were a science of history and economics, then I surely would have brains enough to have learned it. For really, you are strange people, you Marxists, and it is surprising that you do not wonder about yourselves. Is it not an old and certain matter that even people of modest intelligence can learn the results of science once these results are there? What, then, is the point of all your quarreling, polemics and agitation, all your demands and negotiations, all your rhetoric and argumentation: if you have a science, cease these superfluous bickerings, take up the schoolmaster’s cane and instruct us, teach us, let us learn and zealously practice the methods, operations, constructions, and as experienced, undeceived, and certain knowers, do what your Bebel has tried as an honest amateur: tell us at last the exact data of future history!
So I too have studied, not like you, but better than you and yet I say: what I teach is certainly not a science. Let each one examine whether his nature, his real life leads him on this same way, and let him come along with me only then, but let him come. I have studied better than you because I have something you don’t have. Of course, my arrogance, or what is commonly so called, is not greater than yours. I would keep to myself my modest, i.e., appropriate, opinion of myself, as a matter-of-course among peers, except for the compulsion to say who is a socialist and who is not. For the cold-minded men of Niselheim, who have usurped socialism, and who watch over Marx’s Capital like the dwarves guarding the Nibelungen treasure must be despised and dispersed. Socialism must be conveyed to its rightful heirs, so that it can become what it is: a joy and a jubilation, a building and making, a dream dreamed to its conclusion that now is to become a fulfillment in action and for all senses and all primary life. And because the heirs are still sleeping and sojourning in the faraway lands of dream and formalism and because someone must at last put a hand to the heritage, I must gather the heirs and legitimate myself as one of them.
Where, then, do the Marxists get all their scientific superstition? They want to reduce the variegated, fragmented, complicated and confused details of tradition and of the conditions to one line of order and unity. They too feel the need for simplification, unity, and universality.
Have we again reached you, O splendid redemptive One and Universal Idea, you that are as necessary to true thought as to true life, that create coexistence and community, agreement and interiority, and that are the idea in the mind of thinkers and the covenant of nature? you that are called by name: spirit!
But they do not have you, and therefore they replace you. Therefore they concoct their illusory counterfeit, the surrogate product of their historical patchwork and their scientific laws: they recognize only one convincing general principle that forms, correlates and coordinates details and connects scattered facts, namely: science. Indeed science is spirit, order, unity and solidarity: when it is science. But when it is a swindle and monkey-business, when the supposed man of science is only a journalist in disguise and badly camouflaged editorial writer, when statistically formulated heaps of facts and dialectically masked platitudes claim to be a sort of higher mathematics of history and an infallible instruction-manual for future life; then this so-called science is unspirit, an impediment to the intellect. It is an obstacle that must be eliminated with arguments and laughter, with blazing anger.
You do not know the other forms of the spirit and so you have put the professorial mask in front of your lawyer’s faces, except when you are real professors who want to play prophet, as that other professor, your patron saint, wanted to play the lute, but could not.
But we know what spirit is and we have often said it here. We have a universal coherence in the course of mankind that is different in kind and origin from yours. Our knowledge is imbued with our great basic feelings and our strong, far-ranging will: we are — but first, poor Marxists, take a chair and sit down and hold fast; for a terrible, presumptuous assertion is about to follow, which at the same time preempts an accusation that you would have liked to make against me in a contemptuous tone — we are poets; and we want to eliminate the scientific swindlers, the Marxists, cold, hollow, spiritless, so that poetic vision, artistically concentrated creativity, enthusiasm, and prophecy will find their place to act, work and build from now on; in life, with human bodies, for the harmonious life, work and solidarity of groups, communities and nations.
Yes, indeed. What has now long enough been a poetic dream and melody, a fascinating contour and a brilliant array of colors, shall come to full actualization and become true. We poets want to create in the living medium and see who is the greater and stronger practitioner: you who claim to know, and do nothing or we, who now have in us the living image, the certain feeling, and the energetic will. It is we who wish to do whatever can be done, now and forever, relentlessly, who wish to organize people who are with us into a forward-moving wedge, on and on, in action, construction and demolition, incessantly, passing you by with laughter, reasons and anger, and overcoming denser clods with attacks and battles. We provide no science and no party. We provide still less an intellectual alliance, as you understand it, for when you speak of such a thing, you have in mind what you call enlightenment, and what we call semi-education and pamphlet-fodder. The spirit that impels us is a quintessence of life and it creates effective reality. This spirit is called by another name: solidarity [Bund]; and what we seek to poeticize in beautiful presentation is: practice, socialism, a league [Bund] of working people.
Here we now see clearly before our eyes and we can touch with our hands why the Marxists have excluded the spirit from their famous conception of history, which they call materialist. We can at this point present the explanation better than other excellent opponents of the Marxists have succeeded in doing. The Marxists have, in their declarations and views, excluded the spirit for a very natural, indeed almost excellent material reason: namely, because they have no spirit.
But if it were only true that their manner of describing history could rightly be called “materialistic.” That would be a laudable, even gigantic enterprise, though one which their representatives could not achieve with a spirit of their own: the attempt to describe the whole of human history merely in the form of physical events, corporeally real processes, of an unending interaction between the material events of the rest of the world and the physiological processes of human bodies. It could, however, for the reasons I have already stated, by no means be a science based on laws, but could only become an imaginative, almost fantastic preliminary sketch of such a science. Perhaps someday someone will undertake it, even if it were only to find the right basis and the possibility of language, and to melt this rigid structure and reduce it completely to an image and to undertake the great reversal, i.e., to depict the whole of human history — excluding all corporeality — as a psychic total happening, as the exchange of mental currents. For whoever can think materialism through to its ultimate consequences knows that it is only the other side of idealism. Whoever is such a genuine materialist can come only from the school of Spinoza. But enough of that! What do the Marxists understand of that? The Marxists, who, when they hear the name Spinoza, probably think of the stuffed doll their pamphleteers and the Darwinistic monistic writers have made of Spinoza.
Enough of that: here it is necessary only to say that what the Marxists call a materialist conception of history has nothing whatever to do with any rationally conceived materialism: in the end they even considered it a contradiction to conceive of materialism rationally, and they would not even have been wrong. At any rate, the historical conception they teach ought to be called “economic.” Its true name is, as said above, the spiritless conception of history.
For they claim to have discovered that all political conditions, religions, intellectual movements whatsoever, not excluding of course their own doctrine and their whole agitation and political activity, are only the ideological superstructure, a sort of epiphenomenon of the economic conditions and social institutions and processes. Their superficial minds are only slightly bothered by how much mental and spiritual activity is inextricably interwoven with what they call economic and social reality, by the fact that economic life is only a tiny part of social life and that this social life is totally inseparable from the great and small spiritual structures and movements of human coexistence. Typically in all their pronouncements they are fast talkers and chatterers who have never felt the need to fathom their own words. Had they ever done so they would have become deep silent men, for they would have suffocated in all their contradictions and incoherences.
This contradictory misuse of words has bothered the Marxists but only as shallow men can be annoyed. Some adjust to the contradiction by one absurd half-truth, others through a different distorted falsehood, and so different schools and all sorts of tensions and divisions arose among them. From this doctrine some conclude that Marxism proclaims an apolitical and almost anti-political attitude, since it reduces politics to an almost irrelevant reflection of the economy. Politics, legislation and forms of government do not matter but only economic forms and economic struggles (but of course these struggles too are only smuggled into the pure doctrine, for a struggle, even an economic one, is a thoroughly spiritual matter, strongly interwoven with the life of the spirit — enough of this, for, as said above, whoever investigates any point of Marxism always discovers impossibility, compromise and contraband). Others, nonetheless, want to influence economic matters with the help of politics and they add to the compromises, excuses and tiresome emendation of reality, which looks quite different from their professorial ink-blots. They add to these palliatives which they all must make. That is not the point, and we will deal no further with these disputed questions. May the politico-Marxists fight them out with their brothers, the syndicalists and the anarcho-socialists, recently so-called by a pitiful misuse of two noble names.
For the entire doctrine is false and does not hold water, and all that remains true and valuable is a fact that was realized in England and elsewhere long before Karl Marx: in contemplating human events the eminent significance of economic and social conditions and changes should not be ignored. This point culminated in the great movement which must be called the discovery of society as distinct from the state, one of the earliest and most important steps toward freedom, culture, solidarity, the people, and socialism. Many beneficial and seminal ideas are contained in the great writings of the political economists and brilliant journalists of the eighteenth century and the first socialists of the nineteenth. Marxism, however, has reduced all this to a caricature, a counterfeit and a corruption. The so-called science which the Marxists have made of it is in its real effect a pitiful and disastrous attempt (for no alleged science is so stupid as not to attract educated and uneducated masses, and also university professors, if it has a demagogic or even only a popular stamp), so Marxism tries to reverse the current leading away from the state, i.e., away from unculture to voluntary associations united by a common spirit, the current that carries with it the society of societies, back to the state and to the unspirit of all our social institutions, and moreover it harnesses this current to turn the wheels of ambitious politicians.
We must look at this more closely. For we have peeled off only two layers of the acrid Marxist onion, we must cut deeper into its center even if it brings tears to our eyes. We must further dissect the monstrosity, and I promise: there will always be a little snorting and sneezing and some laughter, as we continue. We have already seen what the case is with the science and the materialism of the Marxists: but what kind of historical course of the past, present and future have they discovered? Certainly not the one that grew from material reality into their spiritual superstructure, probably in their Cartesian pineal gland.
We have now reached the point where the professor who reduces life to a false science, human bodies to paper, himself is now transformed into a professor of quite a different sort, with quite other talents for transformation. Professors, after all, usually call themselves transformation artists, magicians, prestidigitators, who produce their sleight-of-hand feats and voluble eloquence at county fairs. Karl Marx’s most famous and decisive chapters have always reminded me of this type of professor. “One, two, three. Don’t believe what you see.”
Consequently, according to Karl Marx, the progressive career of our nations from the Middle Ages via the present to the future, is a course that takes place “with the necessity of a natural process” (according to the English text, which is still clearer: with the necessity of a natural law), moreover with increasing rapidity. In the first stage, of petty shopkeepers, only average men, mediocrities, petit-bourgeois and that sort of pitiful persons exist, and very many people still own each their own very small property. Then comes capitalism, the second stage, the up swing to progress, the first stage of development and the road to socialism, and the world looks altogether different. A few have each very large properties, the mass has nothing. The transition to this stage was hard, and it could not be done without violence and ugly deeds. However at this stage progress toward the promised land goes more and more rapidly and easily on the well-oiled rails of development. Thank God, more and more masses are proletarianized; thank God, there are ever fewer capitalists, they expropriate one another until finally masses of proletarians, like sand at the seashore, face isolated gigantic entrepreneurs and now leap to the third stage, the second process of development, the last step to socialism is only child’s play: “The death-knell of capitalist private property strikes.” The “centralization of the means of production” and the “socialization of labor,” says Karl Marx, were achieved under capitalism. He calls this a mode of production that “flourished under the monopoly of capital,” as he always easily falls into poetic rapture when he eulogizes the last beauties of capitalism just before it turns into socialism. Now the time has come: “capitalist production, with the necessity of a natural process, generates its own negation:” socialism. For “cooperation” and “the common ownership of the earth,” says Karl Marx, is already an “accomplishment of the capitalist era.” The great, enormous, almost infinite masses of proletarized men, really can contribute almost nothing to socialism. They must simply wait for the time to come.
Yet is it not true? Are we far from reaching the point, you gentlemen of science, when capitalism could be said to have brought us cooperation and the common ownership of the earth and the means of production? Whatever common ownership means, this much at least is clear, however many different forms of common ownership there can be, it must be something else than usurpation, privilege, private property. Can any trace be seen now of this common ownership that supposedly already resembles socialism? Yes or no? For we would very much like to know how much longer this natural process will take. Show us your science, please!
But who knows, who knows! Perhaps Karl Marx saw the traces or the visible beginnings of common ownership of the earth and the means of production developing out of monopolistic capitalism already in the middle of the nineteenth century. For as far as cooperation is concerned, the matter is, on closer examination, already quite unambiguous. For me, however, cooperation means action together and common work, and if one is not a fool who calls the common pulling of a cow and a horse before a plow, or the work of Negro slaves on a cotton plantation or sugar-cane field in a common place and with common division of labor “cooperation” or working together” — but what am I saying? Karl Marx is just like that fool! What future! What further development of capitalism! The intelligent scholar stuck to the present. What Karl Marx called cooperation that is supposed to be an element of socialism is — the form of work which he saw in the capitalist enterprise of his time, the factory system, where thousands work in one room, the adaptation of the worker to the machines and the resulting pervasive division of labor in the production of commodities for the capitalist world market. For he says unquestioningly that capitalism is “already actually based on the social production enterprise!”
Yes indeed, such unparalleled nonsense goes against the grain, but it is certainly Karl Marx’s true opinion that capitalism develops socialism completely out of itself and that the socialist mode of production “flourishes” under capitalism. We already have cooperation, we already are at least well on the road to common ownership of the earth and the means of production. In the end nothing will be left to do but chase away the few remaining owners. Everything else has blossomed from capitalism. For capitalism is equated with progress, society and even socialism. The true enemy is “the middle classes, the small industrialist, the small merchant, the craftsman, the farmer.” For they work, themselves, and have at most a few helpers and apprentices. That is the bungler, the dwarf-enterprise, while capitalism is uniformity, the work of thousands in one place, work for the world market; that is social production and socialism.
That is Karl Marx’s true doctrine: when capitalism has gained complete victory over the remnants of the Middle Ages, progress is sealed and socialism is practically here.
It is not symbolically significant that the foundation of Marxism, the Bible of this sort of socialism is called Capital? We oppose this capitalist socialism with our own socialism, saying: socialism, culture and solidarity, just exchange and joyous work, the society of societies can come only when a spirit awakens such as the Christian and pre-Christian era of the Teutonic nations knew it, and when this spirit does away with the unculture, dissolution and decline, which in economic terms is called: capitalism.
Thus two opposite things stand in sharp contrast.
Here Marxism — there socialism!
Marxism — unspirit, the paper blossom on the beloved thornbush of capitalism.
Socialism — the new force against rottenness; the culture that rises against the combination of un-spirit, hardship, and violence, against the modern state and modern capitalism.
And now one could understand what I want to say to its face against this no less modern thing, Marxism: it is the plague of our time and the curse of the socialist movement. Now it will be said even more clearly that it is so, why it is so, and why socialism can come about only in mortal enmity toward Marxism.
For Marxism is, above all, the philistine who looks down upon and despises everything past, who calls whatever suits him the present or the beginning of the future, who believes in progress, who likes 1908 better than 1907, who expects something quite special from 1909, and almost a final eschatological miracle from something so far off as 1920.
Marxism is the philistine and therefore the friend of everything mass-like and comprehensive. Something like a medieval republic of cities or a village mark or a Russian mir or a Swiss Allmend or a communist colony cannot for him have the least similarity with socialism, but a broad, centralized state already resembles his state of the future quite closely. Show him a country at a period when the small peasants prosper, when highly skilled trades flourish, when there is little misery, he will contemptuously turn up his nose; Karl Marx and his successors thought they could make no worse accusation against the greatest of all socialists, Proudhon, than to call him a petit-bourgeois and petit-peasant socialist, which was neither incorrect nor insulting, since Proudhon showed splendidly to the people of his nation and his time, predominantly small farmers and craftsmen, how they could have achieved socialism immediately without waiting for the tidy progress of big capitalism. However, believers in progress do not at all want to hear us speak of a possibility that was once there and yet did not become reality, and the Marxists and those infected by them cannot stand to hear anyone speak of a socialism that could have been possible before the downward movement which they call the upward movement of sacred capitalism. We, on the other hand, do not separate a fabulous development and social processes from what men want, do, could have wanted, and could have done. We know, however, that the determination and necessity of all that happens, including, of course, will and action, is valid and without exception, but only after the fact, i.e., after a reality is already there, does it thus become a necessity. When something did not happen, it was thus not possible, because, for example, men to whom urgent appeals were addressed and to whom reason was preached with fervor did not want to and could not be reasonable. Aha! the Marxists will interject triumphantly, Karl Marx however predicted that there was no possibility for that. Yes sir, we answer, and thereby he assumed a certain part of the guilt that it did not come about. He was for then, and for a long time afterwards, one of the guilty hinderers. In our opinion, human history does not consist of anonymous processes and a mere accumulation of many small mass events and omissions. For us the bearers of history are persons, and for us there are also guilty persons. Does anyone believe that Proudhon did not, like every prophet, every herald, more strongly than any cold scientific observers, often in great hours sense the impossibility of leading these his people to what he considered the most beautiful and most natural possibility? Anyone who thinks that faith in fulfillment is part of the great deeds, visionary behavior and urgent creativity of the apostles and leaders of mankind, knows them badly. Faith in their sacred truth is certainly a part of it, but also despair in men and the feeling of impossibility! Where overwhelming change and renewal have occurred, it is the impossible and incredible that is precisely the usual factor that brought about change.
But Marxism is uncultured, and it therefore always points, full of mockery and triumph, at failures and futile attempts and has such a childish fear of defeat. It shows greater contempt for nothing else than what it calls experiments or failures. It is a shameful sign of disgraceful decline, especially for the German people, whom such fear of idealism, enthusiasm and heroism so poorly fits, that such pitiful characters are the leaders of its enslaved masses. But the Marxists are for the impoverished masses exactly what nationalists have been since 1870 for the satiated classes of people: worshipers of success. Thus we grasp another, more accurate meaning of the term “materialist conception of history.” Yes indeed, the Marxists are materialists in the ordinary, crude, popular sense of the word, and just like the nationalistic blockheads, they strive to reduce and exterminate idealism. What the nationalistic bourgeois has made of the German students, the Marxists have made of broad segments of the proletariat, cowardly little men without youth, wildness, courage, without joy in attempting anything, without sectarianism, without heresy, without originality and individuality. But we need all that. We need attempts. We need the expedition of a thousand men to Sicily. We need these precious Garibaldi-natures, and we need failures upon failures and the tough nature that is frightened by nothing, that holds firm and endures and starts over and over again until it succeeds, until we are through, until we are unconquerable. Whoever does not take upon himself the danger of defeat, of loneliness, of set-backs, will never attain victory. O you Marxists, I know how bad that sounds in your ears, you who fear nothing except what you call stabs in the back. That word belongs to your special vocabulary and perhaps with some right, since you show the enemy your back more than your face. I know how deeply you hate and how repulsive and unpleasant your dry temperaments find such fiery natures as the constructive Proudhon and the destructive Bakunin or Garibaldi. Everything Latin or Celtic, everything that smacks of the open air and wildness and initiative is almost embarrassing to you. You have plagued yourselves enough to exclude everything free, personal or youthful, which you call stupidities, from the party, the movement and the masses. Truly, things would be better for socialism and our people if instead of the systematic stupidity, which you call your science, we had the fiery-headed stupidities of hot-tempered men brimming over with enthusiasm, which you cannot stand. Yes indeed, we want to do what you call experiments. We want to make attempts. We want to create from the heart, and then we want, if it must be, to suffer shipwreck and bear defeat, until we have the victory and land is sighted. Ashen-faced, drowsy men, cynical and uncultured, are leading our people; where are the Columbus natures, who prefer to sail the high seas in a fragile ship into the unknown rather than wait for developments? Where are the young, joyous victorious Reds who will laugh at these gray faces? The Marxists don’t like to hear such words, such attacks, which they call relapses, such enthusiastic unscientific challenges. I know, and that is exactly why I feel so good at having told them this. The arguments I use against them are sound and they hold water, but if instead of refuting them with arguments I annoyed them to death with mockery and laughter, that would also suit me fine.
Thus the uncultured Marxist is much too clever, level-headed and cautious ever to think that capitalism in a state of total collapse, as was the case during the February revolution in France, might be confronted with socialist organization, just as he prefers to kill the forms of living community from the Middle Ages that were saved particularly in Germany, France, Switzerland, Russia, during centuries of decline and to drown them in capitalism rather than to recognize that they contain the seeds and living crystals of the coming socialist culture. However if one shows him the economic conditions, say, of England from the middle of the nineteenth century, with its desolate factory system, with the depopulation of the countryside, the homogenization of the masses and of misery, with economies geared to the world market instead of to real needs, he finds social production, cooperation, the beginnings of common ownership. He feels at home.
The real Marxist, if he has not yet become uncertain and begun to make concessions (nowadays, of course, these endangered Marxists have been making all sorts of concessions for quite some time), wants nothing to do with farm cooperatives, credit unions, or worker cooperatives, even if they show magnificent development, while capitalist department stores make an altogether different impression on him, for so much organizational spirit is expended in them on unproductive robbery and usurpation, and on the sale of worthless trash.
But has any Marxist ever been concerned with this great, decisive question: what is produced for the world market, what is dumped on the consumers? Their gaze is always locked only on the external, inessential, superficial forms of capitalist production, which they call social production, which we must now discuss.
Marxism is the uncultured plodder who knows nothing more important, nothing more splendid, nothing more sacred than technology and its progress. Put such a plodder face to face with Jesus, who in his richness and the generosity of his inexhaustible personality, as well as in his significance for the spirit and for life, is also a tremendous socialist, put him before the living Jesus on the cross and before a new machine for the transportation of men or freight. If he is honest and not a cultural hypocrite, he will find the crucified Son of Man to be a totally useless and superfluous phenomenon and will go running after the machine.
And yet how much more this quiet, calmly suffering greatness of heart and spirit has truly moved than all the transport machines of these times!
And yet where would all the transport machines of our times be without this quiet, calmly suffering greatness on mankind’s cross.
That too had to be said here, although only those who already knew it will readily understand what it means.
The boundless reverence of the adulators of progress for technology is the key to understanding the origin of Marxism. The father of Marxism is neither the study of history, nor Hegel. It is neither Smith nor Ricardo, nor one of the pre-Marxist socialists. It is neither a revolutionary democratic condition, nor even less the will and longing for culture and beauty among men. The father of Marxism is steam.
Old wives prophecy from coffee dregs. Karl Marx prophesied from steam.
What Marx considered to be similarity to socialism, the immediately preparatory stage prior to socialism, was nothing more than the organization of the production plant resulting from the technical requirements of the steam-engine within capitalism.
Thus two completely different forms of centralization met here: the economic centralization of capitalism, the rich man who concentrates as much money, as much labor as possible around himself, and the technical centralization of the industrial plant, the steam-engine, which must have the work machines and the working men close to itself as the power center, and therefore created the great manufacturing plants and refined the division of labor. As such, the economic centralization of capitalism — except for a few isolated cases — does not at all require centralization of the technical plant. Wherever human work-energy or simple, hand- or foot-driven machines are cheaper to use than the steam-engine, the capitalist prefers home industry scattered over the countryside in villages and farms over the factory. Thus it was the technical requirements of the steam-engine that produced the great factory-buildings and the large cities full of factories and rented tenements.
These two originally separate and completely different forms of centralization naturally combined and exercised the strong reciprocal influences. Capitalism made tremendously rapid advances through the steam-engine. However, capitalism with its technically centralized institutions, especially the concentration of workers mainly from the open country, a trend which is still accelerating to this day, hampers the electrical distribution of steam and water power, which by nature would have a decentralizing effect, from exercising this effect. Still it cannot be denied that this electrical transmission of energy has also produced capitalist exploitation of small separate workshops, as for instance in the knife-blade industry of Solingen, while simultaneously strengthening small industry and crafts in a positive way. In the future this potential will bring about a renewal of small industry and crafts and present broad opportunities for cooperative organizations to employ energy and motors.
This combination of the centralization of technology and capital then led to further highly intensive capitalist centralization: centralizations of commerce, banking, wholesale and retail trade, transportation, etc.
Yet a third centralization has, generally independently of the two others, prospered in our times: the centralization of the state bureaucracy and the military system. In addition to the huge factories and tenements, another group of huge buildings was erected in the large cities: the barracks of the bureaucrats, where in each of these public building’s hundreds of small rooms, and in each drab room one, two or three green tables, and behind each green table sit one, two or three yawning minor officials with pen behind their ear and lunch-bag in hand; and the barracks of the soldiers, where thousands of strong young men must pass time in useless sport — sport ought to serve only as recreation after useful work — and are bored and engage in all kinds of sexual stupidities and obscenities.
With so much unculture, overcrowding, removal from the earth and culture, with so much waste of labor, overburdening with unproductive work and loafing around, so much senseless misery, resulting from all these forms of centralism, we find additional barracks of our time becoming increasingly numerous and large: the work-houses, jails and prisons, and the houses of prostitution.
When the Marxists deny that their doctrine is merely a product of technical centralization of enterprises we must in fact admit that all these forms of desolate, ugly, uniform, restrictive, and repressive centralism were, to a certain extent, exemplary for Marxism, and influenced its origin, development and propagation. Thus, it is not surprising that real Marxists are now found almost exclusively in countries dominated by the sergeant, the minor official and bureaucrat, namely, Prussia and Russia. The word “discipline” with its crude imperiousness is heard nowhere as often as in the Prussian army and German-Prussian Social Democracy. Nonetheless none of these centralizations is so constituted that it could produce a monstrosity that could really and truly be called “socialism” except the technical centralization of steam.
Never will socialism “blossom” from capitalism, as the unpoetic Marx so lyrically sang, but his doctrine and his party, Marxism and Social Democracy did develop from steam energy.
Watch how the workers and craftsmen and the sons and daughters of the peasants move away from the country, and are replaced by armies of migrant crop-pickers! Watch how every morning thousands upon thousands enter the factories and are spat out again in the evening!
“The same compulsion to work for all, the establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture,” wrote Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto, not as a description and premonition of the coming splendors of capitalism, but as one of the measures they proposed “for the most advanced countries” as the beginning of their socialism — this sort of socialism certainly grows out of the undisturbed further development of capitalism!
Add to this, capitalist concentration which looked as if the number of capitalists and of fortunes would become ever fewer, add further the model of the omnipotent government in the centralized state of our times, and add finally the ever greater perfection of the industrial machines, the ever increased division of labor, the replacement of the trained craftsman by the unskilled machine-operator — all this however seen in an exaggerated and caricatured light, for it all has another side and is never a schematically unilinear development. It is a struggle and equilibrium of various tendencies, but everything Marxism sees is always grotesquely simplified and caricatured. Add finally the hope that work-hours will become shorter and shorter and human work more and more productive: then the state of the future is finished. The future state of the Marxists: the blossom on the tree of governmental, capitalist and technological centralization.
It must yet be added that the Marxist, when he dreams his pipe-dreams especially boldly — for never was a dream emptier and drier, and if there ever have been unimaginative fantasists, the Marxists are the worst — the Marxist extends his centralism and economic bureaucracy beyond present-day states and advocates a world organization to regulate and direct the production and distribution of goods. That is Marxism’s internationalism. As formerly in the International everything was supposed to be regulated and decided by the London-based general council and today in Social Democracy all decisions are made in Berlin, this world production authority will someday look into every pot and will have the amount of grease for every machine listed in its ledger.
One more layer and our description of Marxism will be finished.
The forms of organization of what these people call socialism blossom forth completely in capitalism, except that these organizations, these ever expanding — through steam — factories are still in the hands of private entrepreneurs, exploiters. We have already seen, however, that they are supposed to be reduced to a smaller and smaller number by competition. One must visualize clearly what this means: first a hundred thousand — then a few thousand — then a few hundred — then some seventy or fifty — then a few absolutely monstrous giant entrepreneurs.
Opposed to them stand the workers, the proletarians. They become more and more numerous, the middle classes disappear, and with the number of workers the number, intensity and power of the machines also grows, so that not only the number of workers, but also the number of unemployed, the so-called industrial reserve-armies, increases. According to this description, capitalism reaches an impasse and the struggle against it, i.e., against the few remaining capitalists, becomes easier and easier for the countless masses of disinherited who have an interest in change. Thus it must be remembered that in Marxist doctrine everything is immanent, though the term is taken from another area and misapplied. Here it means that nothing requires special efforts or mental insights, everything follows smoothly from the social process. The so-called socialist forms of organization are already immanent in capitalism. Similarly in the proletarians, their disinterestedness toward the existing conditions is immanent, i.e., the tendency to socialism, the revolutionary mentality, is an integrating element of the proletarians. The proletarians have nothing to lose; they have a world to gain!
How beautiful, how truly poetic is this statement (which stems neither from Marx nor from Engels) and how much truth it supposedly contains.
And yet the following statement is truer than the claim that the proletarians are born revolutionaries: the proletarians are the born uncultured plodders. The Marxist speaks so contemptuously of the petit-bourgeois, but every characteristic and habit of life that can be called petit-bourgeois is typical of the average proletarian, just as unfortunately even in jails and prisons most cells are occupied by uncultured plodders. With this “unfortunately” that slipped from my tongue, I of course by no means regret that the cultured men are free, but it is truly saddening for poor fools, victims of circumstances, who therefore had to break the legally established conventions, just as everything that happens in the world must happen, that this was not even a consequence of a rebellious mentality’s replacing convention in the psyche. In fact, the convention, which they broke, lives in their temperament, in their opinions, and in the way they mishandle their fellow sufferers and sometimes even themselves, generally just as firmly as in most other men.
What we are speaking of here, the proletarian’s uncultured mentality is, incidentally, one of the reasons why Marxism, systematized unculturedness, has been so well received by the proletariat. Only a very shallow veneer of the tongue with education is needed to transform an average proletarian without any exceptional qualities into a usable party-leader — and this is done fastest and cheapest in the poly-clinics called party-schools.
These and other party-leaders thus naturally adhere firmly to the Marxist doctrine that the proletariat is revolutionized by social necessity, at least the little bit still necessary to overcome capitalism, which after all consists of fewer and fewer persons and is becoming intrinsically more and more fragile. For in addition to the above-listed factors that lead to the inevitable collapse of capitalism, it contains another immanent peril: crises. As the program of German Social Democracy says in such beautiful and so genuinely Marxist terms (otherwise various ungenuine elements have crept in, which the makers of this program now are calling revisionist in their opponents): the powers of production are growing beyond the capacity of contemporary society. This contains the genuinely Marxist teaching that in contemporary society the forms of production have become more and more socialist and that these forms lack only the right form of ownership. They call it social ownership, but when they call the capitalist factory system a social production (not only Marx in Capital does this, but the present-day Social Democrats in their currently effective program call work in the forms of present-day capitalism, social work), we know the real implications of their socialist forms of labor. Just as they consider the production forms of steam technology in capitalism to be a socialist form of labor, so they consider the centralized state to be the social organization of society and bureaucratically administered state-property to be common property! These people really have no instinct for what society means. They haven’t the least idea that society can only be a society of societies, only a federation, only freedom. They therefore do not know that socialism is anarchy and federation. They believe socialism is government, while others who thirst for culture want to create socialism because they want to escape from the disintegration and misery of capitalism and its concomitant poverty, spiritlessness and coercion, which is only the other side of economic individualism. In short, they want to escape from the state into a society of societies and voluntary association.
Because, as these Marxists say, socialism is still so to speak, the private property of the entrepreneurs, who produce wildly and senselessly, and since they are in possession of the socialist production powers (read: of steam power, perfected production machinery and the superfluously available proletarian masses), that is, because this situation is like a magic broomstick in the hands of the sorcerer’s apprentice, a deluge of goods, overproduction and confusion must be the result, i.e., crises must ensue, which, no matter what the details may be, always come about, at least in the opinion of the Marxists, because the regulative function of a statistically controlling and directing world state authority is necessary to go with the socialist mode of production, which, in their wickedly stupid view, already exists. As long as this control authority is missing, “socialism” is still imperfect, and disorder must result. The forms of organization of capitalism are good, but they lack order, discipline, and strict centralization. Capitalism and government must come together, and where we would speak of state capitalism, those Marxists say that socialism is here. But just as their socialism contains all forms of capitalism and regimentation, and just as they allow the tendency to uniformity and leveling that exists today to progress to its ultimate perfection, the proletarian too is carried over into their socialism. The proletarian of the capitalist enterprise has become the state proletarian, and proletarianization has, when this type of socialism begins, really and predictably reached gigantic proportions. Everyone without exception is an employee of the state.
Capitalism and the state must come together — that is in truth Marxism’s ideal. Although they do not want to hear of their ideal, we see they seek to promote this trend of development. They do not see that the tremendous power and bureaucratic desolation of the state is necessary only because our communal life has lost the spirit, because justice and love, the economic associations and the blossoming multiplicity of small social organisms have vanished. They see nothing of all this deep decay of our times; they hallucinate progress. Technology progresses, of course. It actually does so in many times of culture, although not always — there are also cultures without technical progress. It progresses especially in times of decay, of the individualization of spirit and the atomization of the masses. That is precisely our point. The real progress of technology together with the real baseness of the time is — to speak, for once, Marxistically for the Marxists — the real, material basis for the ideological superstructure, namely for the Marxists’ Utopia of progressive socialism. However, since not only advancing technology is reflected in their little spirit but also the other tendencies of the time, capitalism too is progress in their eyes, and for them the centralized state is progress. It is not just irony that we are here applying the language of the so-called materialistic conception of history to the Marxists themselves. They took this conception of history from somewhere and now that we have gotten to know it we can say more clearly than before where they found it: namely completely in the own self. Yes indeed, what the Marxists say of the relationship of spiritual structures and thinking to the circumstances of the time is indeed true for all contemporaries, by which must be understood here all those who are only the child and expression of their time, uncreative, nonresistant, without any intrinsic foundations and spiritual personality. Again we have come to the uncultured plodder and the Marxist. For him it is quite true that his ideology is only the superstructure of the evil of our time. In times of decay there does in fact prevail an un-spirit that is the expression of the time, and so today the Marxists predominate. They cannot know that times of culture and fulfillment cannot develop out of the times of decline — which they call progress — but they come from the spirit of those who in their nature never belonged to their time. They cannot know and understand that what will be called history in the great periods of change is achieved neither by uncultured and docile contemporaries, nor by social processes, but by isolated and solitary men, who are isolated precisely because folk and community are at home in them and have fled both to them and with them.
No doubt, the Marxists believe that if the front and back sides of our degradation, the capitalist conditions of production and the state, were brought together, then their progress and development would have reached its goal and so justice and equality would be established. Their comprehensive economic state, whether it be the heir to previous states or their world state, is a republican and democratic structure, and they really believe that the laws of such a state would provide for the welfare of all the common people, since they comprise the state. Here we must be allowed to burst out in irrepressible laughter at this most pitiful of all stodgy fantasies. Such a complete mirror image of the Utopia of the sated bourgeois can in fact only be the product of undisturbed laboratory development of capitalism. We will waste no more time on this accomplished ideal of the era of decline and of depersonalized unculture, this government of dwarves. We will see that true culture is not empty but fulfilled and that the true society is a multiplicity of real, small affinities that grow out of the binding qualities of individuals, out of the spirit, a structure of communities, and a union. This “socialism” of the Marxists is a gigantic goiter that supposedly will develop. Never fear, we will soon see that it will not develop. Our socialism, however, should grow in the hearts of men. It wishes to cause the hearts of those who belong together to grow in unity and spirit. The alternative is not pygmy-socialism or socialism of the spirit, for we will soon see that if the masses follow the Marxists or even the revisionists, then capitalism will remain. It absolutely does not tend to change suddenly into the “socialism” of the Marxists nor to develop into the socialism of the revisionists, which can be thus called only with a shy voice. Decline — in our case, capitalism — has in our time just as much vitality as culture and expansion had in other times. Decline does not at all mean decrepitude, a tendency toward collapse or drastic reversal. Decline, the Epoch of sunkenness, folklessness, spiritlessness, is capable of lasting for centuries or millennia. Decline, in our case, capitalism, possesses in our time precisely that measure of vitality which is not found in contemporary culture and expansion. It has as much strength and energy as we fail to muster for socialism. The choice we face is not: one form of socialism, or the other, but simply: capitalism or socialism; the state of society; unspirit or spirit. The doctrine of Marxism does not lead out of capitalism. Nor is there any truth to Marxism’s doctrine that capitalism can at times out-trump Baron Münchhausen’s fantastic accomplishment of pulling himself out of a strange swamp by his pig-tail, i.e., the prophecy that capitalism will emerge out of its own swamp by virtue of its own development.
Later we will have to show in greater detail how false this doctrine is. To show that capitalism does not have the immanent tendency to develop to any form of socialism, we now need merely to rid ourselves of the monstrosity, the ugly thing that the Marxists call socialism. Capitalism develops neither into this nor into any kind of socialism. To show this, we must answer some questions.
Let us, then, ask: is it true that society is as the Marxists portray it? that its further development is, or must be, or even probably will be so? Is it true that the capitalists are devouring one another, until finally there will be only one gigantic capitalist? Is it true? or should there be only one capitalist? Is it true that the middle classes are disappearing, that proletarization is without exception increasing rapidly and that an end to the process can be foreseen? That unemployment is becoming worse and worse and that therefore such circumstances cannot continue to exist? And is there a spiritual influence on the disinherited, so that they must, with natural necessity, rise up, revolt, become revolutionary? Is it, finally, true that the crises are becoming more and more comprehensive and devastating? that capitalism’s productive capacity is outgrowing it and must therefore grow into so-called socialism?
Is all that true? What is really the situation as regards this entire complex of observations, warnings, threats and prophecies?
These are the questions we must now ask, and which we have always been asking, we anarchists namely, from the beginning, as long as Marxism has existed. Long before Marxism existed there was a real socialism, especially the socialism of the greatest socialist, Pierre Joseph Proudhon, and it was afterwards overshadowed by Marxism, but we are bringing it back to life. Those are our questions, and they are the questions which, from a very different perspective, the revisionists also pose.
Only after we have answered these questions, which we have touched upon here and there in our description of Marxism, and have contrasted the real picture of our conditions and course which capitalism has taken until now, especially since the appearance of the Communist Manifesto and Capital, with the zeit-ideological simplification and dialectical caricature of Marxism, can we proceed to say what our socialism and our road to socialism is. For socialism — let it be said immediately and the Marxists ought to hear it, as long as the wisps of fog of their own obtuse theory of progress are still in the air — does not depend for its possibility on any form of technology and satisfaction of needs. Socialism is possible at all times, if enough people want it. But it will always look different, start and progress differently, depending on the level of available technology, i.e., also of the number of people who begin it and the means they contribute or have inherited from the past — nothing begins from nothing. Therefore, as was said above: no depiction of an ideal, no description of a Utopia is given here. First, we must examine our conditions and spiritual temperaments more clearly. Only then can we say to what kind of socialism we are called, to what type of men we are speaking. Socialism, you Marxists, is possible at all times and with any kind of technology. It is possible for the right people at all times, even with very primitive technology, while at all times, even with splendidly developed machine technology it is impossible for the wrong group. We know of no development that must bring it. We know of no such necessity as a natural law. Now therefore we will show that these our times and our capitalism that has blossomed as far as Marxism are by no means as you say they are. Capitalism will not necessarily change into socialism. It need not perish. Socialism will not necessarily come, nor must the capital-state-proletariat-socialism of Marxism come and that is not too bad. In fact no socialism at all must come — that will now be shown.
Yet socialism can come and should come — if we want it, if we create it — that too will be shown.
The Marxists claim:
Capitalist concentration in industry, in trade, in the monetary and credit system is a preliminary state, the beginning of socialism.
The number of capitalist entrepreneurs — or at least of capitalist companies — is decreasing constantly; the size of individual companies is expanding; the middle class is shrinking and is doomed to extinction; the number of proletarians is growing immeasurably.
The quantity of these proletarians is always so great that there must always be unemployed among them; this industrial reserve army depresses the circumstances of life; over-production results because more is produced than can be consumed. Thus, period crises are inescapable.
The disproportion between tremendous wealth in the hands of a few and poverty and insecurity for the masses will ultimately become so great that a terrible crisis will result and the dissatisfaction of the masses will become so intensified that a catastrophe, a revolution must come, in the course of which capitalist ownership can and must be transformed into social ownership.
These main tenets of Marxism have often been criticized by anarchist, bourgeois, and recently by revisionist scholars. Whether one is glad or sorry, all the same, in honesty we must admit the accuracy of the following results of the critique.
One ought not to speak of capitalist entrepreneurs under the assumption that the existence of capitalist society depends particularly on their number. Rather one ought to speak of how many have a stake in capitalism, of those who, as regards their external livelihood, enjoy relative prosperity and security under capitalism. It is a matter for those who have a stake in capitalism and in general, despite exceptions, are dependent on capitalism for their opinions, strivings and moods, regardless of whether they are independent entrepreneurs, agents with good positions, higher officials or employees, stock-holders, pensioners, or whatever. Here, on the basis of tax data and other incontrovertible observations, it can only be said that the number of these persons has not decreased, but has increased somewhat both absolutely and relatively.
Especially in this field one must avoid being led by emotions and drawing general conclusions from small personal experiences and partial observations. Everyone can, of course, see that the chain stores, and in some places the consumers’ cooperatives are busily eliminating the small and medium-sized merchants. Nor must only the merchants who are ruined and forced out of business be considered, but far more those who do not have the courage and means to become independent. The question is only where a great part of these non-independents is to be classified, namely whether they are proletarians. This topic will be treated directly below when we investigate the concept “proletarians.” Despite all such personal experiences and individual perceptions of an amateur nature, it cannot be denied that the number of those with a stake in capitalism is by no means decreasing, but it is actually increasing.
As for the number of capitalist companies, it can be granted that it is decreasing. However, it must be added that this decrease is slow and insignificant and shows no tendency to rapid progression, so that the end of capitalism, if it really is supposed to depend on this decrease, would still not be foreseeable for thousands of years.
The question of the new middle class has often been dealt with. Its existence cannot be denied. No one has ever written that middle class can mean only independent craftsmen, merchants, small farmers and pensioners.
We can link the question: Who belongs to the middle class? with the other one: Who is a proletarian? The Marxists insist with all their might, as if clinging to a last safety line, that: a member of the owning class is independent, owns his own tools and has his own clientele, while a proletarian is everyone who is dependent, does not own his own tools and is not independent of the purchasers of his goods or services. This explanation is no longer sufficient and it leads to quite grotesque results. Years ago in a public meeting in one of the largest halls in Berlin, I debated this aspect of the question with Clara Zetkin and I asked her if the owner of the hall was probably, like most owners of such establishments, completely dependent on the brewery that delivers his beer. This brewery holds a mortage on his place, he is obliged for years ahead to serve only their beer and the tables, chairs, glasses are the property of the brewery. His income comprises, year after year, 30,000, 40,000 or 50,000 Marks. In this capitalist age, functions have arisen for which the customary terms no longer are adequate. He is neither employee nor agent, but he is not independent and is not the owner of his means of labor. Is he a proletarian? — Not everyone will want to believe it, but in fact the answer I got was: yes, he is a proletarian. It could not be a question of standard of living, nor of social position, but only of the ownership of the instruments of labor and security. The existence of this man deprived of his means of labor was quite insecure.
I had at that time allowed myself to say, quite simply and not really in scientific language, that a proletarian is whoever earns a proletarian standard of living. There are, of course, all possible gradations from the greatest misery, via an existence always bordering on the bare minimum, to the worker who can live with his family, come what may, surviving times of unemployment, while unknowingly, shortening his life through undernourishment or at least impairing his own vitality and that of his offspring and never attaining a modest surplus income without which participation in art, beauty, free merriment is not possible. This is how the word “proletarian” is generally understood and how we will use it. But even the Marxists really use it this way, and they cannot do otherwise. Only these proletarians have no stake in capitalism and are interested in changing conditions (namely when they grasp their interests from the viewpoint of the whole society). Only to these proletarians does the statement apply that they have nothing to lose but their chains, and they have a world to gain.
Even in the upper strata of the working force, there are professions that no longer belong completely to the proletariat. Some categories of workers in the book trade, some construction workers would, despite their relatively high wages and favorable working hours, still have to be classified among the proletarians because of the great insecurity of their position and the constant threat of unemployment, except that through their own institutions, in their unions, which have inestimable value for security of life within capitalism, they have provided themselves with a means to survive these periods tolerably well. But it must be admitted that this is a borderline example; and because of the danger of not being sufficiently protected from destitution in cases of accident, injury or old-age, they can still be ranked as proletarians.
On the other hand, it must be said that in other strata there are men who live in bitter poverty but still ought not to be called proletarians. Among these are poor writers and artists, doctors, military officers, and the like. Under harsh deprivations, they or their parents have often assured themselves of a form of culture which often does not protect them from hunger or stale bread or a dish in the soup-line. Yet through their external living habits and their inner wealth they differ from the proletarians and constitute, whether they are solitary, lead an orderly or a wild life, a class by themselves, which, incidentally, seems to be increasing faster than the great proletariat. A few of them, if they have lost their inner grip, sometimes sink into the lowest strata of the proletariat, becoming bums, vagabonds, pimps, swindlers, or habitual criminals.
However, among the broad ranks of those who are dependent in any form, there are very many who are not at all proletarians. No doubt, for instance, among employees in stores, e.g., there are many who differ from the proletariat neither physically nor mentally. The same is true of many draftsmen, technicians, and the like. Lower officials again are a category by themselves; from a psychological point of view, they should be called slaves rather than proletarians. Let us not resolve to what category party officials and union officials belong. They have to be considered more for their influence than for their number.
Now we have a large, actually increasing number of people who, no doubt, comprise a new middle class, unless they belong to the wealthy group. For instance, store employees, branch and section managers, directors, engineers and top engineers, agents, salesmen, etc. Their role in capitalism is such that neither their proletarianization nor their revolutionizing will result from their material situation and the corresponding attitude. However, only such “proletarians” can come under consideration for Marxism. The fact that there are exceptional men or masses of exceptional men with an exceptional mentality, so that it is no longer a matter of a direct and mechanical relationship of attitude and will to the external situation, is precisely what Marxism ignores and what we must re-emphasize.
But what about insecurity? It must be noted that insecurity exists for all members of capitalist society, but we have to distinguish the degree of it. For we are speaking of certain strata that have a particular interest in capitalism and call them, for short, capitalists, whereas in truth we all, without the least exception, as long as capitalism exists, have a share in it, are interwoven with it and in truth are capitalistically active, including the proletarians. So we must, even with regard to security, make loose distinctions and draw only flexible boundaries, since we are dealing not with abstract structures, but with historically given realities. For the many whom we must rank in the middle class among the propertied strata, although they do not dispose over their own means of labor and clientele, insecurity is normally only a theoretical possibility, and is an exception in practice. But since the Marxists in fact do not split hairs and set up concepts, but attempt to predict the destiny and behavior of certain strata in an apparently scientific language, they ought not — unless they prefer to deceive themselves and their own wishes and defend false theories to the end, despite all elucidations — to deny that there is a very considerable, slowly growing number of men who are dependent and without their own means of labor, yet who, all things considered, will never run the danger of becoming proletarians.
Thus it already seems that the prophecies of the Marxists are in bad shape. And yet it must be conceded: they were once as true as any prophetic pronouncement can be. Karl Marx, although he used genuine prophetic and poetic language only in rare moments of elation, and usually employed scientific language and not rarely scientific mystification, was a real prophet in the days when he first formed and expressed his ideas on the basis of his observation of the early years of capitalism. But that means: he was a warner. He announced the future which would have come if what he saw before his eyes continued on the same course. He was a prophet in yet another respect too, not only as a warner, but as a man of influence, for he himself played a great role in preventing what he saw from staying the way it was, for his warnings took effect and changes were made. His words said, without his knowing it: You capitalists, if this mad exploitation, this rapid proletarization and wild competition among yourselves keep on, if you continue devouring one another, pushing one another into the proletariat, consolidating enterprises, lessening the number of companies, increasing the size of each one, then everything must come to a quick end!
But things did not go on that way. Capitalism has created such a widely ramified multiplicity of needs, satisfied so much expensive, medium-priced, cheap and trashy luxury, while the big industries have given birth to such a need for supporting industries, that consequently no form of technology has become dispensable, entire new jobs, e.g., home and village industries, small and medium-sized factories have arisen, and even the number of door-to-door salesmen and representatives has not diminished, while specialized shops, though small and medium-sized shops are forced out of many fields, find new possibilities elsewhere in others in exchange.
The struggle of competition has by no means always followed the abstract schema or poetically heightened despair. We are still in the midst of the great movement of consolidation into trusts and syndicates, which unquestionably does deprive many small firms of their customers and existence, but also enables many moderate-sized, large and very large companies to recognize and protect their mutual interests in alliance against the consumers, instead of ruining themselves in a merciless race for consumers. We also see small tradesmen learning from them and forming their own associations and cooperatives in order to survive. The associations of independent cabinet-makers have their large display-rooms and compete with big firms. Small merchants join together in purchasing-groups or agree on price-fixing. Capitalism everywhere preserves its vitality, and instead of its forms leading to socialism, on the contrary it uses the genuinely socialist form of the cooperative, of mutual cooperation, for its purposes of exploiting the consumers and monopolizing the market.
The state, by its legislation, has also seen to it that capitalism remains healthy and strong in the various countries. As the syndicates within one country see to it that undercutting does not take place and unfair competition is restricted, tariff-policy prevents the capitalism of one country from destroying that of another. The tendency of national tariff-legislation and international agreements is to provide increasingly equal opportunities in the world market. This equality of trading opportunities was only apparently provided in the system of free trade, for the populations, wage conditions, civilizations, technologies, natural conditions, prices and quantities of available resources are not the same in the various countries. Tariff-policy has the tendency to counterbalance real inequalities by artificial regulations. This is only in its beginnings. For the moment, activity in this area is still barbaric. Each state still seeks to exploit its momentary power, but the direction of this tendency is in any case clear.
Moreover, the state has also seen to it in more or less all other areas that the worst excesses of capitalism are removed. This is called social policy. Unquestionably the laws protecting workers against the worst excesses of capitalism, such as the exploitation of children and juveniles, have created certain safeguards. In other ways, state intervention, regulation and provision have improved the situation of the proletarians in capitalism and thus have improved capitalism’s own situation. Social security laws, especially in cases of illness, have had the same effect.
But the moral results of this legislation were even more important for capitalism than these actual effects. Both for the masses of proletarians and for the politicians, it has blurred the difference between their future government and their present one. The state acquired for itself and its police a new sphere of power: inspection of factories, mediation between worker and enterprisers, the care of sick, aged, retired proletarians, protection not only against occupational hazards but also against those of a dependent and insecure position. The patriarchal attitude of the state, childish confidence in the state and its laws on the part of citizens have been strengthened and increased. The revolutionary mood in the masses and in the political parties has been essentially weakened.
What both entrepreneurs themselves and the state undertook, was continued by the proletarians, not only in their political collaboration in governmental legislation, but also through institutions which they created in their own solidarity. Not without reason did Marx and Engels originally want to have nothing to do with the trade unions. They considered these professional organizations useless, harmful relics of the petit-bourgeois age. They also probably sensed what role the solidarity of the workers as producers might some day play in stabilizing and preserving capitalism. They could not stop the workers from not acting as the destiny-chosen redeemers and accomplishers of socialism, but as if they only had one life which they are forced to live under capitalism and which they must for better or worse shape as well as they can. Thus the workers too, through their union fund, protect themselves against hardship in case of unemployment, change of residence, illness, sometimes age and sudden death. They provide for rapid procurement of jobs suited to their interests, wherever they can hold their own against the requirements of the entrepreneurs, the municipalities, or private employment agencies. They have begun, by wage-contracts binding on both parties for longer periods, to create secure relationships between entrepreneurs and workers. They have let themselves be driven by the reality and requirements of the present and could not be restrained from doing so by any theories or party programs. Rather, the party programs and theories had to follow the means of information created by the reality of the capitalist working conditions. All sorts of doctrinaires and idealists, from various camps, want to prevent the workers from providing for their pitifully desolate present life by purposeful measures. That, of course, cannot succeed. The workers, in masses, like to be called the revolutionary class with flattering and adoring words, but that does not make them revolutionaries. Revolutionaries exist in masses only when there is a revolution. One of the Marxists’ worst errors, whether they call themselves Social Democrats or anarchists, is the opinion that a revolution could be achieved by means of revolutionaries, whereas the reverse it true: revolutionaries come into existence only by means of the revolution. To seek to create, multiply and assemble revolutionaries for a few decades in order to be sure to have the right number of them in case of a revolution is a typically German, childishly pedantic and impractical idea. There is no need to fear a lack of revolutionaries: they actually arise by a sort of spontaneous generation — namely when the revolution comes. But for the revolution, a new formative power, to come, new conditions must be created. They can best be created by impartial men, who might well be called optimists (although it need not be so), by men who do not consider it certain that the revolution must come, but who are so deeply convinced of the necessity and justice of their new cause that they do not regard the obstacles and dangers as insurmountable and inevitable. Such men do not want revolution, which is at best a means; rather, they seek a certain reality, which is their goal. Historical memories can have bad effects, if for instance men pose as ancient Romans or Jacobins, while they have quite other tasks to perform, but even worse is the sort of historical science which Hegelianized Marxism has brought. Who knows how long ago we would already have had the revolution behind us, if we had never given a thought to the coming one. Marxism has brought us a kind of step that is reminiscent of nothing, not even of the Echternach leaping procession, in which each person always jumps two steps forward and one backward, which at least results in some forward motion. Marxism makes intentional apparent motions toward the goal of revolution but thereby moves only further and further away from it. It turns out that envisaging the revolution in its result always is equivalent to fear of it. It is advisable in one’s actions not to think of what could happen, but of what one must do. The demand of the day must be fulfilled by precisely those who want to construct the work of their heart, their desire, their justice and their imagination very fundamentally and radically.
Of course they must build quite differently from the patching up of capitalism as we have observed it in these last decades undertaken by the entrepreneurs, the state and the workers themselves, as briefly described above.
The workers’ struggle in their organizations, the trade unions, to improve their situation in life and their working conditions is also a part of this context. We have seen how the workers in their capacity as producers interfere in and regulate what the Marxists call an unavertable destiny though their union fund system. However another important task of the unions is still the struggle for higher wages and the shortening of working hours by negotiations and strikes.
The struggle to raise wages is always really a struggle of individual producers, however many and united, against the totality of consumers. Since everyone at some time or other enters this producers’ struggle, it is a struggle of the workers against themselves. The workers and their organizations are inclined, in a thoroughly amateurish way, to consider the money, the wages they receive as an absolute quantity. There is no doubt that 5 Marks is more than 3 Marks. Of course we cannot begrudge or fail to understand the worker’s joy that while yesterday he received only 3 Marks, from today on he will receive 5 Marks per day in wages. The question is only whether in three, five or ten years he will still have reason to rejoice. For money is only the expression of the relationships of prices and wages to one another. It all depends on the purchasing power of money.
Of course, the raising of wages, just like of taxes and tariffs, causes the prices of commodities to go up. Naturally the piano-worker is inclined to argue as follows: What do I care if pianos have become more expensive! I get higher wages and I don’t buy a piano, but bread, meat, clothes, and housing, etc. Even the weavers, for example, can say: Though the material I must buy becomes more expensive, I have made only a small portion of my needs more expensive, but I have increased my entire wages with which to cover my total needs.
The answer to this and similar objections of private egoism can be given immediately in the fundamental, comprehensive form we owe to P.J. Proudhon: “What is considered true in economic matters for the ordinary private person, becomes false the moment one seeks to apply it to the whole society.”
The workers, in their wage struggles, act just as participants of capitalist society must act: as egoists fighting with their elbows and, since they can accomplish nothing alone, they fight as organized, united egoists. Organized and united they are comrades of one branch of the economy. All these branch-associations together comprise the totality of the workers in their role as producers for the capitalist commodity market. In this role they carry on a struggle, so they think, against the capitalist enterprisers, but in reality against themselves in their capacity as consumers.
The so-called capitalist is not a fixed, tangible figure. He is an intermediary, on whom of course much of the blame can be laid, but the blows the worker as producer seeks militantly to inflict upon him miss the mark. The worker hits and hits, but he is striking as if at an intangible mirage and his blows fall back on himself.
In the struggles within capitalism only those who fight as capitalists can win real victories, i.e., achieve permanent advantages. If an engineer, a director, or a sales employee is indispensable to his employer because of his personal skill or his knowledge of company secrets, then he can one day say: Until now I received 20,000 Marks salary, give me 100,000 or I will go over to the competition! If he succeeds in this, then he has perhaps achieved a final victory for the rest of his life. He acted as a capitalist. He fought egoism with egoism. So an individual worker can sometimes make himself indispensable, improve his situation in life, or enter completely into an area of wealth. But as the workers struggle in their trade unions, they reduce themselves to numbers, each of which is personally insignificant. They thus accept their role as cogs in the machine. They act only as parts of a whole, and the whole reacts against them.
Thus the workers in their struggle as producers cause the production of all articles to become more expensive. This inflation, even though it affects in part luxury articles, results mainly in a price-rise of articles of necessary mass need. In fact not in a proportionate price-rise, but in a disproportionate one. When wages are increased, prices go up disproportionately; when wages are decreased, however, the prices fall disproportionately slowly and slightly.
The result is that over a period of time the worker’s struggle in his role as a producer harms the workers in their reality as consumers.
This does not in the least mean that the unusual inflation in the cost of living, which makes life more difficult for many, can be blamed entirely or mainly of the workers themselves. Many causes are involved and egoism is always at fault, for it knows no general economy and therefore no culture. One of these factors was the struggle of the producers, who in this struggle expressly consented to become members of capitalism, though at its lowest level. Everything that the capitalists do as capitalists is base; what the workers do as capitalists is proletarianly base. Of course, this means only that they have accepted a vile role. It does not change the fact that in and out of this role they can be decent, bold, noble, heroic. Even robbers, can be heroic, but the workers in their struggle for wage and price increases are robbers without knowing it, robbers of their own selves.
Someone will point out that the unions, with strikes, fight not only for wage-increases but also for shortening of working hours, solidarity with other workers’ grievances, work credentials, etc.
The answer to this is that in this context the only relevant effect is the wage-increase and that it would be a gross misunderstanding to think that we are here waging a fight against the unions! Oh no! It is recognized here that the unions are a completely necessary organization within capitalism. Let it finally be understood, what is really being said here. It is recognized here that the workers are not a revolutionary class, but a bunch of poor wretches who must live and die under capitalism. It is admitted here that the “social policy” of the state, the municipalities, the proletarian policies of the labor party, the proletarian struggle of the labor unions, and the union fund are all necessities for the workers. It is also conceded that the poor workers are not always able to respect the interests of the whole, even of the whole laboring force. The various economic sectors must wage their egoistic struggle, for every sector is a minority with respect to the others and must defend itself in view of the rising inflaton of the cost of living.
But everything that is recognized, admitted and conceded here, is a blow against Marxism, which seeks to understand the workers in their role as producers not as the poor lowest stage of capitalism, but as the destiny-chosen bearers of the revolution and of socialism.
Here I say: no! All these things are necessary under capitalism, as long as the workers do not understand how to get out of capitalism. But all this only leads around and around within the vicious circle of capitalism. Whatever happens within capitalist production can only lead deeper and deeper into it, but never out of it.
Let us look at the same thing once again briefly from another aspect. The capitalist — as Marx and others have shown extensively and in many valuable detailed descriptions — commit extortion against the workers; you have, their actions say, no means of labor, no work-place and means of enterprise, you exist in great numbers, often more than we need: therefore you must work for the wage we offer. As long as the capitalists, without needing an explicit agreement, simply act alike in this behavior toward the workers, but are locked in severe competition against one another nationally and internationally, two series of facts result from this: low wages and low prices. But if the workers unite and reply to this extortion, of necessity and rightfully: We all will not work if you refuse to pay higher wages; then the result is: higher wages and higher prices. If now the capitalists in turn unite, first for mutual support and security against the pressure of the workers, secondly, into cartels for price-fixing, then it becomes even harder and harder to raise wages, but easier and easier to raise prices. Next comes tariff-protection against cheap foreign competition. Sometimes even the importation of cheap, undemanding workers from foreign countries, or at least from rural areas, or the replacement of male workers by females, of skilled workers by unskilled, of hand labor by machines will follow. As can be seen, capitalism always has the advantage, as long as the workers can influence only wages but not also prices.
If therefore the workers retain their role as producers for the capitalist commodity market, but nonetheless want to radically improve their situation, i.e., take a part of capital’s profits for themselves, then they have no choice but to aim, as much as possible, for wages and at the same time for low prices. By means of self-help they can, to a certain degree, move in this direction even within capitalism: if they place a socialistic form of organization, the cooperative, in the service of their consumption and thus eliminate a part of the middlemen from a portion of their needs in life — in the areas of food, dwelling, clothing, household goods, etc. Thus the workers, organized into unions, with relatively high wages, have a chance to really enjoy a part of their successes, when they fill their needs at relatively low prices in their consumer cooperatives (including housing cooperatives).
Another more radical way of transferring a part of capitalist profits into the hands of the workers, i.e., of confiscation of wealth, is the simultaneous setting of minimal wages and maximal prices by state or municipal legislation. That was the means of the medieval communes and was also — without real success — more proposed than really tried in the French revolution. Let us disregard the communal policies of the Middle Ages, where conditions were completely different and there was real culture and community, so-to-speak. Such confiscation of wealth is revolutionary class politics, which is recommendable temporarily perhaps in times of violent transition, but is at most just a small step on the road to socialism, not socialism itself, for socialism is precisely not a violent operation, but permanent health.
In both courses — the combination of union wages and cooperative prices and the simultaneous legislative fixing of high wages and low prices — there is an amateurish and only transitional amalgamation of capitalism and socialism. The organization of consumption is a beginning of socialism; the struggle of producers is a symptom of the decay of capitalism. High wages and low prices simultaneously are an alarming incongruency, and a capitalist society could not survive the simultaneous effect of a strong union movement and a solid consumer-cooperative movement any more than governmental imposition of high wages and low prices.
Such a fixed value of money — in both cases that is what we would have — would build up to a terrible explosion and be the beginning of the bankruptcy of the state and of society.
This could be the signal for violent revolution, but of course once again capitalism would save its skin. We can see even today how the union and cooperative movements are looked at askance. The unions are always the element of revolutionary unrest and have the inherent tendency to call a general strike. The cooperatives are a first step, however modest and unconscious, toward socialism. If these two movements were to become stronger and more aggressive and become aware of their complementariness, then so suffocating a paralyzes of the economy would threaten, that an escape valve would have to be opened and the coalition in both economic areas would be restricted or completely prohibited.
No society can exist with high wages and low prices, nor with low wages and high prices. In times of relative peace, capitalists and workers in their blind private egoism will not refrain from seeking high prices and high salaries and wages and thus proliferating greed for luxury and dissatisfaction, displeasure with life, difficulties of obtaining money, work-stoppages, chronic crises and recession. At the time of the revolution, the trend will be, as Proudhon in 1848 so splendidly, though unsuccessfully, advocated: low prices! low income! low wages! and hopefully this time this idea will win out. It would result in freedom, mobility, a joyful mood, faster circulation of money, an easier life, modest joys, and simple innocence.
Incidentally, the prediction as to what the state and capitalism would do and would have to do, if they were pressed by the enormous combination of strong producer and consumer movements, must not be understood as a warning to the workers, in the familiar pattern of: “What can we do now? The state will forbid it!” Such a warning is not our way and our duty. Still we suppose that others will act according to their role; that is to be expected and need not bother us. Thus whoever believes he has a duty to see to it that capitalists earn less and less from workers and pay more and more to the workers has learned from us that a strong consumer-organization combined with a successful union struggle is the appropriate weapon. For hardly anyone will place much hope in the alternative, governmental wage-and-price fixing, and just as little in the related attempt to confiscate the excess income of the capitalist by an income tax in order to channel this excess via, for example, worker associations, to the proletariat. That is also a merely revolutionary method, incompetent and amateurish, and could be resorted to only very temporarily in a transition stage. Similar means were tried here and there without success under the French revolutionary government and were also recommended soon after 1848 by Girardin in France. Lasalle’s political activity and program also moved in this direction.
Thus, we do not warn against the peculiar attempt to bring society to a halt by a combination of revolution and socialism, struggle and construction. We must only say that we are today far from that point and that the consumer cooperatives, as they exist today — though without knowing if they are only a pitiful beginning of socialism — are not the least suited to seriously ruining capitalism’s prices or taking away their customers. Thus, this is the main duty of those who call for socialism. Socialism, if it is to come, must and can begin only with consumption.
This will be explained below. Here the task was to show that all one-sided struggle and all activity in the area of capitalist production, and so all action by the producers is a part of the history of capitalism and nothing more.
But since we have described and criticized the union activity of the producers, the workers’ economic self-help, and the pressure they exert on the state for legislative regulations, two further important tasks of these organizations and their struggles must be dealt with briefly. The main tasks of the unions still include the shortening of working hours and a change in the wage structure that is closely connected therewith, namely the replacement of piece work and contracted work by daily pay. Piece work and contracted work is payment for work according to the quantity and quality of the achieved product. It must be said that a just exchange system will always return to this type of payment for labor, but in a society of injustice against man, of neglect of his essential needs there can be hardly anything worse than the sharpening of the injustice against men by justice toward things. Under the rule of capitalism the worker cannot bear to have any other principle determine his income but his need. But since it is vitally necessary for him not only to earn enough for himself and his family to exist, but also not to ruin his health, sleep and leisure by long working hours, the struggle to shorten working hours also gives him a new reason to oppose piece work and contracted work. Shortened hours are not supposed to decrease his income and force him to an immeasurable increase in the intensity of work. Therefore it is also of dubious value that in some professions, e.g., in the construction trade, not a daily but an hourly wage is paid. This forces the workers in every fight for shorter working time to simultaneously battle for a higher hourly wage, and often such a dispute ends with a compromise; they achieve one objective and have to give up on the other. Thus, for example, they shorten their work day but at the same time curtail their real income. Therefore, everywhere under the capitalist system, the workers would have to oppose not only piece work and contracted work but also the hourly wage. A daily wage must be the demand of the capitalist worker. It expresses for everyone with an ear for the voice of culture or depravity, sharply and distinctly, that the worker is not a free man entering the market of life and exchanging goods, but that he is a slave whose subsistence must be granted by his master and guaranteed by society. Under the system of daily wages there is no outspoken relationship of work to the quantity and quality of its products, there is no quid pro quo exchange. There is only need that desires subsistence. Thus we again find that in the capitalist world the worker must defend a capitalist, anticultural institution to preserve his existence. Need and his role as a producer make him a servant and vassal of capitalism. The struggle of organized labor for its own daily wage system has its counterpart in the life of the state, i.e., in the struggle of the politically militant worker for the secret ballot. As undignified as it is to receive life sustenance in the form of a daily subsistence wage instead of exchanging product for product, i.e., receiving the price or wage for the product, it is equally pitiful to exercise one’s right and duty toward the community in hiding, in the voting booth, out of fear. That was the reason why Egidy advocated public voting: he claimed that it could have no bad consequences for free and upright men. But that was a quixotic idea of a noble man. In our times the worker must seek to be a daily-wage-earner and the citizen must seek to be a timid helot. It is impossible to want to begin the cure at the individual level, where the inextricable symptoms of the capitalist economy and the capitalist state are exhibited. The worker must protect his life, and his life would be threatened if he did not go to vote in a closed booth, while his livelihood would be threatened if he did not receive a daily wage. All this and everything we are speaking of here are necessities of life as long as we do not abandon capitalism, but, of course, they are far from being ways and means of socialism.
Shortening the working hours has two sides, one of which is often alluded to, while not much attention is, as far as I know, paid to the other. It is, firstly, necessary to shorten the working time so that the worker can maintain his strength. It is not our task here to attack the unions — a necessary institution of struggle and regulation under capitalism — for that would, certainly be foolish, and almost criminal, because for the sake of the welfare of living men, not every single aspect of capitalism will be opposed. While we offer cool and objective criticism, we must pause for a moment to express deserved thanks to the unions for their important work. In all countries, they have shortened the workers’ time of toil, of work at things that often did not interest them, in factories that made them tired and depressed, with extremely intensive techniques that rendered their activity spiritless and mortally boring. Thanks and praise to them; how many people have they provided with the occasion for rest after work-hours, for a beautiful family life, for the cheaply available joys of life, beautiful books and writings, and for participation in public life. How many — and how few! Only in recent years has a beginning been made, and mostly with inadequate, often with ridiculously bleak and party-political means, also to do something for the right use of the acquired leisure hours. Together with the struggle against the long work-hours, the unions out to fight against the devastations of alcoholism. They ought to regard it as their duty to concern themselves not only with the productive worker but also with the worker in his periods of rest after work. A lot still has to be done in this area, and there is much occasion for cooperation with artists, poets, and thinkers among our people. We ought not only to call for socialism. We ought not only to follow the voice of the idea and to build into the future. For the sake of the spirit that wants to become body and form for us, we must turn our attention to the living men of our people, the adults and children, and do our best so that their body and their spirit will be strong and fine, firm and supple. And then with these living men forward to socialism! But let this not be misunderstood as meaning that we ought to provide them with any particular, so-called socialist art or science or education. Alas, what mischief is carried on in this regard with party pamphlets and tendentious writing and how much more valuable, natural and free is, for example, so-called bourgeois science than the Social Democratic one! All such attempts lead to official, doctrinare bureaucracy. It is a great error, which all Marxist schools, Social Democratic as well as anarchist, share, that in working-class circles everything silent and eternal is despised or not known, while agitation and the superficial slogans of the day are overestimated and flourish crassly. Recently in a larger German city where I gave ten lectures on German literature, which were sponsored by a Social Democratic association and attended by members of the labor union, I myself experienced how after a lecture anarchist workers came into the hall which they had previously avoided to ask me to please give them a lecture sometime! At that time I decided to give them the following answer: I gave a lecture in which I spoke on Goethe, on Hölderlin and Novalis, on Stifter and Hebbel, on Dehmel and Liliencron and Heinrich van Reder and Christian Wagner, and many others; but you did not want to hear it, because you did not know that the voice of human beauty that is to come to us, the strong and calm rhythm and harmony of life is not to be found in the noise of the storm any more than in the gentle movement of rested breezes and the sacred stillness of immobility. “The blowing breeze, the trickling water, the growing grain, the billowing sea, the greening earth, the shining sky, the gleaming stars I consider great: the majestically approaching thunderstorm, the lightning that shatters houses, the surf-driving storm, the fire-spouting volcano, the earthquake that shakes entire countries I do not consider greater than the previous phenomena, indeed I consider them smaller for they are only effects of much higher laws... We want to try to catch sight of the gentle law that guides the human race... The law of justice, the law of morals, the law that wants every man to live respected, honored and safe, together with others, so that he can follow his higher human course, acquire the love and admiration of his fellowmen, so that he be protected like a jewel, as every man is a jewel for all other men, this law resides everywhere that men live with other men, and it is shown in man’s behavior toward other men. It resides in the love of spouses for one another, in the love of parents for their children, of children for their parents, in the love of brothers and sisters, of friends for one another, in the sweet inclination of the two sexes, in industriousness, whereby we subsist, in our activity for our small circle, far distant places and the whole world...” (Adalbert Stifter). So the socialism we are calling for loudly here, and speaking of quietly, is also the gentle reality of the permanent beauty of the life of men together. It is not the wild, ugly transitional destruction of ugly contemporaneity, a destruction which perhaps will have to be a byproduct, but which would be ruinous, un-salutary and futile to invoke if the gentle work of the beauty of life had not previously been done in our souls and through them in reality. All innovation has, despite all the ardent enthusiasm that it carries, something desolate, ugly and impious about it. All old things, even the most ill-reputed or archaic institutions such as the military or the national state, because they are old and have a tradition, despite all their decrepitude, needlessness and obsolescence, have a glimmer, as it were, of beauty. Therefore let us be the type of innovators in whose anticipatory imagination, that which they want to create already lives as something finished, tried and tested, and anchored in the past, in primeval and sacred life. Therefore let us destroy mainly by means of the gentle, permanent and binding reality that we build. Our league [Bund] is a league of life striving with the eternal powers that link us with the world of reality. Let the idea that drives us be indeed an idea, i.e., a bond that unites us beyond transitory, fragmentary, and superficial temporal phenomena with the calm community of the spirit. This is our socialism, a creating of the future, as if it had existed since all eternity. Let it not come from the excitements and angry, violent reactions of the moment, but from the presence of the spirit, the tradition and heritage of our humanity.
We have digressed in order to express our gratitude to the unions for their struggle for leisure and free time for working people. Let what has been said here be our thanks. As we do not wish to be merely products, results of and reactions to the terrible decaying excrescences of the archaic and obsolete, but rather productive men who lead the sunken spirit, which once was a common spirit and has now become isolation, to new forms and back to life and beauty, our gratitude therefore ought to be productive and point the way to what ought to constitute the leisure and free time of the workers. Only then will a healthy, strong and spiritual people be able to prepare the new reality which must emerge from us as something primeval if it is to be of any use and permanence.
The decrease of working hours creates longer free time for the workers. However much one may rejoice at this fact, one must not ignore what results such achievements have often had: greater exploitation of the workers’ strength, increased intensity of work. Often the highly capitalized entrepreneur, e.g., a large stock company, has every reason to rejoice over the workers’ victory. All entrepreneurs of a certain sector have, for instance, been forced to shorten working hours, but the large enterprises are often able to compensate for these losses by introducing new machines which chain the worker even more constantly in the service of the high-speed machinery. Thus they gain a great advantage over their medium-sized and smaller competitors. Sometimes, of course, the opposite happens and the huge enterprise is hampered from reshaping its tremendous mechanism, while the medium-sized and small enterpriser, if he has active sales and good credit, can adapt more easily to the new conditions.
Technology almost always has ideas and models on hand to satisfy this need for increased extraction of work out of activities of men who are only servants of the machines.
That is the other, the bitter side of a longer free evening: a more strenuous working day. The living man can, in truth, not only work to live but he wants to feel his life in work, and during work to rejoice in his work. He needs not only recreation, rest and joy in the evening, he needs, above all, pleasure in his activity itself, strong presence of his soul in the functions of his body. Our age has made sport, the unproductive, playful activity of muscles and nerves into a sort of work or profession. In real culture work itself again becomes a playful unwinding of all our energies.
The industrialist will, moreover, in order to regain what the shortening of the working time takes from him, not even have to modify the mechanical apparatus of his enterprise. In the factory there is an additional mechanism not constructed of iron and steel: the work system. A few new regulations, a few new supervisory and foreman positions often speed up an enterprise more than new machines. However, such a system is seldom long-lasting. There is always a silent struggle between the indolence or natural slowness of the worker and the driving energy of the overseers. Over a period of time, when it is a question of man against man, a sort of law of inertia always wins. This fight for slow work has always existed, long before it became a conscious weapon in the class struggle and a form of so-called sabotage. Such sabotage, which calls on the workers, for a certain purpose, to deliver slow, shoddy, bad or even harmful work, can in particular cases, e.g., strikes of postal, railway or dock workers, render excellent services. However it also has its questionable side, since in extreme means of struggle of the workers in their role as producers, it is not always possible to distinguish where the class-conscious militant ends and the irresponsible man begins, spiritually hollow, ruined and degenerate, to whom every form of useful work is abhorrent.
The accelerated work system has only temporary effect, but the machine is relentless. It has its definite number of rounds, its given output, and the worker no longer depends on a more or less human person, but on a metal devil created by men to exploit human energies. The psychological consideration of man’s joy in his work plays a subordinate role here; every worker knows and feels with particular bitterness that machines, tools and animals are better treated than working men. This is as far from being a provocative, demogogic exaggeration as anything that has been said above. It is the cold, sober truth. The workers have often been called slaves in a tone of the utmost indignation. However, one should know what one says, and use even a word like “slave” in its sober, literal sense. A slave was a protege, who had to be guided psychologically, for his death cost money: a new slave had to be bought. The terrible thing about the relationship of the modern worker to his master is precisely that he is no such slave, that in most cases the entrepreneur can be completely indifferent as to whether the worker lives or dies. He lives for the capitalist; but he dies for himself. He can be replaced. Machines and horses have to be bought, which involves both procurement costs and secondly, operating costs. So it was with the slave, who first had to be bought and trained even as a child and then provided with subsistence. The modern entrepreneur gets the modern worker free of charge; whether he pays a subsistence wage to one or to the other is indifferent.
Here again in this depersonalization and dehumanization of the relationship between the entrepreneur and the worker, the capitalist system, modern technology and state centralism go hand in hand. The capitalist system itself reduces the worker to a number. Technology, allied with capitalism, makes him a cog in the wheels of the machine. Finally the state sees to it that the capitalist not only has no reason to mourn the worker’s death, but even in cases of death or accident has no need to become personally involved with him in any way. The state’s insurance institutions can certainly be regarded from many aspects, but this one should not be overlooked. They too replace living humanity by a blindly functioning mechanism.
The limits of technology, as it has been incorporated into capitalism, have gone beyond the bounds of humanity. There is not much concern for the workers’ life or health (here one must not think only of the machines; one should also recall the dangerous metal wastes in the polluted air of workshops and factories, the poisoning of the air over entire cities), and certainly there is no concern for the worker’s joy of life or comfort during work.
The Marxists and the masses of workers who are influenced by them are completely unaware of how fundamentally the technology of the socialists differs from capitalist technology in this regard. Technology will, in a cultured people, have to be directed according to the psychology of free people who want to use it. When the workers themselves determine under what conditions they want to work, they will make a compromise between the amount of time they want to spend outside of production and the intensity of work they are willing to accept within production. There will be considerable individual differences; some will work very fast and energetically, so that afterwards they can spend a very long time in rest and recreation, while others will prefer not to degrade any hours of the day to a mere means, and they will want their work itself to be pleasurable and proceed at a comfortable pace. Their slogan will be “Haste makes waste” and their technology will be adapted to their nature.
Today all this does not come into consideration. Technology stands completely under the spell of capitalism. The machine, the tool, man’s dead servant has become man’s master. Even the capitalist, to a great extent, depends on the mechanism he has introduced, and this is the moment where we can examine the second aspect of the shortened working time. The first was that it served to preserve the worker’s strength; we have just seen to what extent the increased intensity of work countervails this tendency. But the shortening of working hours has the further positive effect for the living members of the working class of reducing the number of unemployed.
The industrialist must, namely use his machinery to capacity. In order to be profitable his machines must run for a certain period of time. If his enterprise is to be profitable, he must adjust to his competition at home and abroad, and in many sectors he is compelled to have his machines run day and night so that his power plant pays for itself. Thus when working hours are shortened, he will employ more workers. He will often use the occasion of a struggle with the workers to introduce the 24-hour work period, i.e., a system of alternating shifts. The need for profit, the demands of the system, the workers’ demands: all this, conjointly, often leads to the employment of more workers and thus to the decrease in numbers of the so-called industrial reserve army. The limit is always determined by the profitability of the enterprise, whereby a sort of compromise must be made between the requirements of the system and the absorption-capacity of the market.
Often the entrepreneur is forced by his machinery and the number of workers operating these machines to continue running the plant at a certain volume, and if the market can no longer absorb the output, then he must lower prices: for the capitalist market can absorb any articles as long as they are cheap enough. This is the reason why a capitalist often has thousands of employees working day and night and still loses money hour by hour. He accepts this in the hope of better times when prices will rise again. If this hope does not materialize, he will have to shut down a part or all of his plant on certain days.
Our statement that technology presently stands under the spell of capitalism must thus be complemented by the corollary that capitalism, too, in turn is a slave of the technology it has created. This predicament is like that of the magician’s apprentice: “The spirits I conjured up, I can’t get rid of again!” Whoever has in times of prosperity, of a favorable market adjusted his enterprise at a certain level, no longer has the choice as to how much he must produce. He too is fastened to the wheel of his machines, and often he is crushed together with his workers.
Here we have touched one of the points where capitalist production is most closely linked with speculation. Only a very small man on the scale of capitalism would not be forced into speculation by the conditions of his enterprise and his market. Everyone is a speculator to the extent that his enterprise depends on these two totally unconnected factors: first, the requirements of his apparatus of men and machines, and secondly, the price fluctuations of the world market. Men in this situation who, often for years, pay out a fixed wage week after week to hundreds or thousands of workers while suffering losses week after week, must often exclaim with a moan: “My workers are better off than I!” Often a poor rich man plagued by countless worries can save himself only by successful speculations on the stock-market with a part of his fortune, thus counterbalancing his bad luck in the area of trade speculation, while, on the contrary, one whose business flourishes often can ruin himself by speculations in a completely different field. Whoever is dependent on the capitalist market must speculate, he must accustom himself to speculating in the most varied fields.
The worker who suffers under capitalism knows far too little of this decisive fact. Everyone without exception, suffers immeasurably and has little joy, no real joy, under capitalist conditions. The worker also has too little knowledge of the terrible, degrading and oppressive worries the capitalist faces, the completely unnecessary, and totally unproductive torments and strain he must bear. And the workers are not sufficiently aware of this similarity between themselves and the capitalists. Not only the capitalists, but also many hundreds of thousands in the working force itself draw their profit or their wages from completely useless, unproductive, superfluous work. Precisely today there is a terrible tendency for production to create more and more luxury commodities, including trashy items for the proletariat, and far too few sound and necessary products to meet real needs. The necessary products are becoming more and more expensive, luxury trashier and cheaper — that is the trend.
Let us now return from the digression dedicated to union activities and give a final summary.
We have seen how the entrepreneurs with a stake in capitalism, the manufacturers and merchants, but also the workers with their interest in earning a livelihood, and finally the state, have and continue all to work toward the preservation of the system of capitalist economy. We have further noted how all men are entangled in this mutual exploitation, how all unanimously must protect their special interests and harm the common good, and how all, no matter at what level of capitalism they stand are always threatened by insecurity.
When we saw this, we saw the failure of Marxism, for it claimed that socialism was being prepared in the institutions and catastrophic process of bourgeois society itself, while the struggle of the ever growing, ever more decisive and more revolutionary proletarian masses was a necessity, an historically predestined act to bring about socialism. In reality, however, this struggle of the workers in their role as producers for the capitalist market is only a vicious circle within capitalism. It cannot even be said that this struggle leads to a general improvement of the situation of the working class; all that can be seen is that it and its effects accustom the working class to their situation and to the general conditions of society.
Marxism is one of the factors and not an inessential one, that preserves the capitalist condition, strengthens it and makes its effects on the spirit of the people ever more desolate. The peoples, the bourgeoisie and, equally, the working class are becoming ever more implicated in the conditions of senseless, speculative and cultureless production only for the purpose of acquiring money. In the classes that suffer the most under these conditions, and often live in hardship, deprivation and poverty, clear knowledge, rebellion and the desire for improvement are declining more and more.
Capitalism is not a period of progress, but of decline.
Socialism does not come by the further development of capitalism and cannot be the producers’ struggle within capitalism.
These are the conclusions we have reached.
The centuries of which our present one is a part are a time of negation. The associations and corporations, the entire common life of the earlier cultured time, from which we stem, all its beautiful earthly activity and motivation was wrapped in a heavenly illusion. Three things were inseparably united: first, the spirit of unity in life, secondly the symbolic language for an unnamable unity, spirituality and significance of the cosmos as it was truly grasped in the soul of the individual man, and thirdly, superstition.
In our times, the superstitions of the literally-understood Christian dogmatic ideas have come under heavy attack and are being more and more uprooted even among the people. As the stellar universe was being discovered, the earth and man on it became simultaneously smaller and greater. Earthly activity was extended. Fear of devils, heavenly powers, cobolds and demons began to disappear. Man felt more secure in the infinite space of worlds on his circling little star than before on God’s grotesque world. Undeniable natural forces whose effects could be precisely measured became known. They could be used and relied on without fear. New methods of work and of processing natural products were discovered. The earth was explored and repopulated over its entire surface; travel and communication go with a speed even we are not yet accustomed to, and which still seems fabulous to us, all round the globe; and in connection with all this the number of people living at the same time has increased enormously. Needs, but also the means of satisfying them have risen tremendously.
By no means has superstition merely been shaken in this our age of negation. Something positive has also replaced it: knowledge of the objective constitution of nature has abolished faith in demonic enemies and friends in nature. Power over nature has followed fear of the sudden whims and treachery of the spirit world, and this death of countless spirits and sprites found its very real expression in the extraordinary rise of the birth-rate of the children of men.
But all deeper feeling, all exuberance and every human unity and bond was deeply interwoven with the spirit-heaven. The stellar worlds we discovered, the natural forces with whose effects we became familiar, are only external; they are useful and they serve external life. Although we express their unity with our interior life in all sorts of ways, sometimes in deep, sometimes in shallow philosophies, theories of nature, and poetic inspirations, it is not a part of us, it has not come to life. Rather, what was alive before, the image, or faith, or ineffable knowledge that the world in its truth, as we bear it in ourselves, is completely different from what the utilitarian senses tell us, and also the genuine community of men in small voluntary groups, related to this world-view — all this declined together with superstition. All advances in science and technology have failed to provide the least substitute for it.
That is why we call these times a period of decline, because the essential trait of culture, the spirit that unites men together has declined.
The attempts to return to the old superstition or to symbolic language that has lost its meaning, these ever renewed efforts of reaction, connected with the weakness and the rootlessness of people addicted to the old patterns, in whom feeling is stronger than reason, are dangerous obstructions, and ultimately also only symptoms of the end. They become even more repugnant when, as easily happens, they are connected with the coercive rule of the state, which is itself organized spiritlessness.
So when we speak of decline, it has nothing in common with the clergy’s complaint about the sinfulness of our world or with the call for conversion. This collapse is a transitory epoch, containing in it the seeds for a new beginning, a fresh upturn, a unified culture.
As urgent as it is for us to conceive of socialism, the struggle for new conditions between men as a spiritual movement, i.e., to understand that the only way of arriving at new human relationships is when people moved by the spirit create them for themselves, it is just as important for us to be strong and not to squint backwards towards a past that cannot be brought back. In short, we must not lie to ourselves. The illusion of heaven, truth, philosophy, religion, world view, or whatever one wants to call the attempts to crystallize feeling about the world into words and forms, now exist for us only as individuals. Every attempt to establish communities, sects, churches, associations of any kind on the basis of such spiritual correspondences leads, if not to falsehood and reaction, then at least to mere insubstantial chatter. In everything that goes beyond the world of the senses and of nature, we are deeply lonesome and subject to silent isolation. This means that all our world views contain no overpowering necessity, no ethical cogency, and are not binding on the economy and on society. We must accept this, for it is so, and, since we are living in the age of individualism, we can take it in many ways: gladly or with resignation, despairingly or with desire, indifferently or even rebelliously.
Let us however remember that every delusion, every dogma, every philosophy or religion has its roots not in the external world, but in our inner life. All these symbols, in which men bring nature and the self into harmony, are therefore suited to bringing beauty and justice into the communal life of peoples, because they are reflections of the social drive within us, and because they are our own form itself which has become spirit. All spirit is communal spirit, and there is no individual in whom, awake or asleep, the drive to the whole, to associate with others, to community, to justice, ever rests. The natural compulsion to voluntary association for the purposes of community is inextirpable, but it has been dealt a hard blow and become numbed because for long ages it was connected with the world delusions that had stemmed from it and have now perished or are in the process of decay.
So we do not have to first create a world view for the people; that would be completely artificial, transitory and weak, or even romantic and hypocritical, and today would in fact be subject to fashion. We have the reality of the living, individual communal spirit in us and we must merely let it emerge creatively. The desire to create small groups and communities of justice — not a heavenly delusion or a symbolic form, but earthly social joy and readiness of individuals to form a people — will bring about socialism and the beginning of a real society.
The spirit will act directly, and will create its visible forms out of living flesh and blood: symbols of eternity become communities, incarnations of the spirit become incorporations of earthly justice, the images of the saints in our churches become institutions of the rational economy.
The rational economy: this word is used completely intentionally, for one more thing must be added.
We have called this era a period of decline, because the essential has been weakened and ruined: the common spirit, voluntariness, the beauty of folk-life and its forms. But it cannot be ignored that this time contains much progress. Progress in science, in technology, the unbiased conquest and subjugation of objectified nature is called, by a different word: enlightenment. Reason has become more agile and clear; and as we have won physics — in the widest sense of the term — from nature, and its proves its value by practical application, and as we have, by exploiting the forces of nature, learned to use mathematics, so now, as we apply the technology of human relations on an extraordinarily broad field all round the globe, we will learn to do the right and reasonable thing with frequent application of mathematics, division of labor and scientific methods. Previously industrial technology and economic relationships, both highly developed, were geared to the system of injustice and meaningless power. Both physico-industrial and economico-social technology will now help the new culture, the future people, just as before they served the privileged, the powerful and the stock-market speculators.
Thus, instead of speaking of the period of decline that we are in, we can also, if we wish, speak of progress, in which observation and mastery of nature, technology and rational economics are gaining ever greater ascendancy, until finally the common spirit, voluntariness, and the social drive, which for a few centuries were buried under, will arise again, seize man and bring them together and take control of the new powers.
Once the same trend of the spirit in individuals has taken hold of these new capacities with its natural compulsion and joined them in solid groups, the idea, the holistic perspective, which transforms individual, separate phenomena into coherent unities, will emerge again from the spirit of individual men and become a league of men, a corporate body and a binding form. Once this earthly-corporeal form of the spirit is there, then it could easily happen that again men will have centuries of spiritual exuberance, of cogent world-view or delusion. We do not seek to be thus overwhelmed, we guard against it and are not avid for allegiance. We too know far too little of the trajectories of human history to be able to say with any probability that this circle must again be closed and that again idea and union would have to be linked with the cosmic-religious, artificial form of superstition, and that at a further stage, together with superstition, the common spirit would be broken again and isolation restored, and so on. We have no right to make such constructions. It may be that this all is a necessity, but the future may be completely different. We are still far from such knowledge. Our task now stands clearly before us: not falsehood, but truth. Not the artificiality of an imitation of religion, but the reality of social creation without restricting complete spiritual independence and multiplicity of individuals.
The new society we want to prepare, whose cornerstone we are about to lay, will not be a return to any old structures. It will be the old in a new form, a culture with the means discovered by civilization in these recent centuries.
This new people, however, does not come by itself: it “must” not come at all, as the false science of the Marxist understands this “must.” It should come, because we socialists want it, and because we already carry the model of such a people in our spirits.
How will we start? How will socialism come? What should be done? Done first? Done right away? To answer this will be our final task.
From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org
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