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The Nation is not alone in the opinion we have just quoted. Mr. E. H. Harriman was interviewed on Sept. 15 by a special representative of the Chicago Tribune, which quotes him as saying that “so far as the business of his railroads was concerned it would make no difference who was elected President.” By this of course be means that it makes little difference to the railroads whether the next President is Bryan or Taft. If the working class had become intelligent enough to make Debs' election probable, he might talk in a different strain. But the industrial conditions mentioned by the Nation are doing the work of education for us. When industry runs smoothly and the laborers seem to be secure from month to month and year to year in wages which, though scanty, are as good as they ever had, then it is only the brighter and more thoughtful among them who are likely to look around or ahead enough to become revolutionists. But when the patient wage-slaves suddenly find themselves idle and hungry through no fault of their own, they wake up to the fact that the social system under which they live is not giving them what they want, and they begin to listen to what the Socialists have to say. All signs indicate that next winter will bring more terrible sufferings to the workers of the United States than they have ever known before. Two million votes for Debs would bring hope out of despair for the millions of toilers crushed by the machines they tend but as yet can not control. Two million votes would sweep all side issues out of the way and bring to the front the one vital question, Capitalism or Socialism,-shall the workers continue to hand over most of what they produce to a small owning class, or shall they keep it all for themselves?
The Backwardness of America. Why is organized Socialism in America so far behind organized Socialism in Europe? Here there are no feudal lords with special political privileges, the workers generally have votes, speech and press are freer than in most countries, and yet our Socialist movement has thus far lagged behind those of the rest of the civilized world. A clue to the answer will be found if we remember that the prevailing ideas of any generation do not necessarily correspond to the current mode of production, as might hastily be assumed by a new convert to the theory of economic determinism. True, they are modified continually by the current mode of production, but they have been developed under previous modes of production. This is the plain prose of a truth glimpsed by Lowell when he wrote of "One long conflict through the ages twixt old systems and the Word."
America today is the most highly developed of capitalist nations, but yesterday the small individual producer was monarch of all he surveyed, and he does not yet realize what has happened. More important still, it was true not long ago that an American wageworker of ordinary energy and initiative was not obliged to remain a wage-worker, but could start out as an independent producer and grow into a capitalist. With this prospect in view, he thought of himself as a possible profit-maker, and had more interest in plans for raising himself into the capitalist class than in plans for improving the condition of wage-workers,-still less of abolishing wage-labor. New methods of production have now made it utterly impossible for any considerable number of wage-workers to rise out of their class, and this change has laid a solid foundation for an American Socialist movement. Slowly and steadily it has been rising on that foundation. Its growth is inevitable, and if Europe offers any. trustworthy, analogy, our movement will soon enroll the mass of the city wageworkers.
The Small Producer and the Socialist Party. The city wageworkers are as yet a minority of the voters in most of the states. The agricultural wage-workers are either floaters who move too often to have votes, or else are farmers' sons whose views are colored by the mental atmosphere of their fathers. Another element important numerically if not economically is made up of the small merchants who sell goods to wage-workers and farmers, and of the doctors, teachers, barbers and others rendering personal or professional services to the wage-workers and small producers. If capitalism must necessarily last until all these have by industrial development been transformed into wage-workers, then the owning class and their immediate descendants have little to fear. Can our propaganda be addressed successfully to others than wage-workers? The "opportunists” say yes, and are furthermore in favor of laying stress on certain incidental reform measures calculated to promote the apparent interests of the small producers, hoping thereby to attract them into the party whether they have any understanding of Socialism or not, and no matter whether they can be counted on to support a thorough-going Socialist program or not. The "impossibilists," on the other hand, say that it is only a waste of energy to attempt propaganda among others than wage-workers. As between the two, we believe that our propaganda always and everywhere should be so directed as to develop clear-headed Socialists. We believe that new voters won over by the advocacy of reform measures are a source of weakness rather than of strength. But we do not believe that propaganda addressed to others than wage-workers is necessarily wasted. Many convinced Socialists live where they can not come into personal touch with wage-workers, but only with small producers. These Socialists are going to try to make converts. They are not satisfied to sit still and wait for capitalism to change the small producers into proletarians. They want to do what they can to bring the revolution while they are alive to see it. The question for them is whether to teach Socialism or to advocate reforms in the name of Socialism. If the material interests of the small producer were not closely allied to the material interests of the wageworker, the latter course would be a natural one for these Socialists to take. This question thus becomes a vital one.
Wages, Prices and Profits. We have been accustomed to say that the wage-worker gets less than half what he produces, that more than half goes to the employing class. And this is true when we consider the whole body of laborers in their relation to the whole body of capitalists. But it is not necessarily true of one particular laborer in his relation to his own employer, especially if that employer's capital is slender. Again, certain passages in Marx have led Socialists to assume that commodities are generally sold at their values.--at prices corresponding to the amount of human labor embodied in each commodity. But Marx does not say this; he says that human labor is the only source of value, and that the whole mass of commodities taken together are sold at their value, but he also says that it is only accidentally that any particular commodity is sold at its value. That happens (apart from temporary fluctuations) only when such commodity is produced by a capital in which the "constant” and “variable” elements happen to be just equal to the average. The tendency under capitalism is for equal capitals to draw equal profits. This equality is brought about through supply and demand, by raising above their value the prices of commodities produced with relatively little human labor and relatively expensive means of production, and by depressing below their value the prices of goods produced with much human labor and little capital. Thus the cobbler with his simple tools, or the “one horse" farmer, gets for his product under capitalist competition only a trifle more than the value of his labor power. Therefore his real interests, however he may conceive them, are the same as the interests of the wage-worker. He can get some immediate relief by raising the general wage-scale, since the prices he will get for his products or services will go up almost in proportion. He can get the full value of his product only by abolishing capitalism, only by joining with the wage-workers to bring about the revolution. Therefore our logical course is to make the same appeal to all producers to join us in the movement for the overthrow of capitalism. Let us welcome them all, but turn aside for none.
England. - Are the English Socialist leaders betraying the cause of internationalism? That is the question which is exciting capitalistic as well as Socialist writers. It is all à propos of the German war-scare. The National Executive of the Labor party recently published a resolution on the subject, and that is what started the trouble. This resolution deplores “the reckless and mischievous attempts now being made by small interested sections, both in Great Britain and Germany, to persuade the people of the two countries that a war is inevitable, and condemns the, provocative policies of naval construction pursued by both these countries." German comrades are assured that English workers have no sympathy with militarist propapaganda. In fact, it is roundly asserted that if war is brought about it will be through the action of a few individuals who have bought the newspapers to distort news to suit their flamboyant political passions and their economic interests. The resolution closes with an appeal to German workingmen to coöperate for the purpose of defeating the war propaganda. This resolution represents the traditional Socialist policy, and is subscribed 'to by Keir Hardie, Henderson, Snowden, Macdonald and others of the best known and most responsible leaders of the Laborites.
The Laborite resolution has been vigorously assailed by Robert Blatchford, H. M. Hyndman, and H. Quelch. Comrade Blatchford's principal attack is to be found in The Clarion for Aug. 7th. His chief contention is that the resolution in question misstates the facts of the case. According to the Laborites German and English capitalists are working together to plunge the two nations into war. Mr. Blatchford asserts, on the contrary, that there is no English war party, that in the event of war English capital would have everything to lose and nothing to gain. German capital, however, needs an outlet and the scattered British empire invites attack. Now, says Mr. Blatchford, the question as to war or no war is not in the hands of the German people, but in those of the Emperor; and once hostilities were begun the Socialists would be powerless. This being taken for granted, the Laborite proposal seems hopeless. The matter is really urgent, we are told. The Germans are enlarging their navy and drilling their troops with a view to rapid embarkation. War may begin at any time, and in the face of it anti-militarist and internationalist would stand helpless. The English could not resist the German attack: he Germans are an army, the English are not. And a German victory would be a disaster to English labor as well as to English capital. It would be a blow to European civilization. To prevent this disaster some really practical measures must be undertaken.
Mr. Blatchford has reiterated his arguments in succeeding issues of The Clarion and has been supported by Comrades Hyndman and Quelch in Justice. The latter puts the problem thus: “Agreed as we all are as to the means of maintaining peace generally, there is none among us but must regard war between England and Germany as a crime and disaster of the greatest magniture. There is no 'split' or difference of opinion about that. The only difference of opinion, the only ground of controversy, is as to the best means by which such a crime and disaster can be avoided.” In the very last number of Justice to come to hand (Sept. 5th), Mr. Hyndman returns to the attack, laying special stress on the fact that he is not suspicious of the German people, but the Emperor must be guarded against,
The other side of the question is represented by J. Hunter Watts and J. B. Askew. Mr. Watts, writing in Justice, mentions the fact that the Socialists have been instrumental in preventing a war between Norway and Sweden and between Austria and Italy, and then asks, “Is the arm of Socialism shortened that war is 'inevitable' between Germany and Britain?” Mr. Askew calls in question the information available on the matter, and more than implies that Mr. Blatchford and the others have sounded a false alarm.
English criticisms of the position taken by the Socialist leaders is naturally echoed in Germany. Herr Bebel writes to the English Labor Leader to protest against it. But he advises the Labor party not to send a delegation to Germany, as has been proposed. This action would, in his opinion, give German politicians the notion that the English are afraid of war.
The nature of the “practical measure that Mr. Blatchford and his party have in mind is indicated by Robert Edmondson, in Justice, Aug. 29th. What they propose is to organize a citizen army. The present military force is weak in every respect. Neither the influence of the workingmen nor Sir Edward Grey's foreign machinations can be depended upon to prevent war. What England needs is sufficient military power to stand alone. The citizen army proposed is to be made up of all male subjects capable of service between the ages of 18 and 45. To their 29th year they are to be liable to short periods of service for the sake of training. This army is to be democratically organized and in no case is it to be called out except to repel threatened invasion. The provisions of this plan are soon to be embodied in a bill and presented to Parliament by Will Thorne.
A moment's thought about the matter will show that the English Socialist leaders are not to be highly charged with infidelity to the cause of internationalism. It is true that their arguments smack a good deal of professional politics. But the worst that can be said of them is that they are trying to make a brilliant stroke. They are evidently working together and with a definite purpose. And their purpose at least is a good one. The country is supposed to be in danger; they will use the opportunity to overthrow the class military system and substitute for it a proletarian army, an army which, when the time comes, will ensure control to the workin class. Whether the tactics adopted are the right ones, only time will tell. I am very sceptical of them. But at any rate Laborites and the two factions among the Socialists have the same purpose; they differ only as to the means of its accomplishment.