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NORTHERN MAGAZINE.

No. IV.

JUNE, 1852.

VOL. I.

SOCIALISM.

In this age of revolutions, there are revolution ; that the Socialists, to whom few things more remarkable than the we had unwisely afforded a refuge from different effects of the three French re- their persecutors, had infected our volutions on England. That of 1789 working classes with their subversive excited so strong a reaction in England principles ; and that the strike of the against revolutionary principles as to amalgamated engineers was the first keep the anti-liberal party in power for symptom of the evil. a generation, and probably to retard It is scarcely necessary in this counthe improvement of our institutions for try to point out the utter falsity of such many years. That of 1830, on the a statement. Trades unions are nocontrary, stimulated the reform agita- thing now, and strikes were heard of tion, and hastened the constitutional long before 1848. The engineers' strike, change of 1832. And, what was the lamentable as it was, both as a proof most remarkable result of all, that of of want of confidence between the dif1848, after a six weeks' panic, ended by ferent classes of society, and as the the “ demonstration" of the memorable cause of misery in thousands of fami. 10th of April, produced no effect what- lies, afforded no proof of any revolution. ever on our internal politics.

ary or socialist feeling among the workAnd yet England appeared to many men ; but quite the contrary. We do politicians peculiarly rich in the mate not believe there was any instance in rial of revolutions. The Conservative the speeches at their meetings -cerparty pointed with apprehension to the tainly none in their published documents vast masses of population assembled in -of a desire for violent changes in the the manufacturing cities, over whom State, or for confiscation of property. the aristocracy and the Church had no Many bitter words were said against power. The Liberal party were alarm- their employers, and against the press, ed at the pauperised condition of the which they absurdly asserted to be in rural districts, the wide separation be the pay of the employers-not a word tween the rich and the poor, and the against the Government. uneducated state of a large propor- It would have been very different had tion of the people. None of these causes the law against combinations continued of danger existed to so great an ex- in force ; for such a law would have tent on the Continent. Yet the explo- identified the Government with the sion came, convulsing France, Ger- party of the employers. Had the strike many, and Italy, but leaving us un- been suppressed by the strong hand of touched : and we had the honour of af- the law, the men might have returned fording an asylum to refugees of all to their work many weeks earlier than rauks and parties, kings and sans. they did ; but such a result would have culottes, priests and infidels, feudal made them all revolutionists. They lords and socialists.

would naturally have said—“Our A few months ago our enemies on the masters have got possession of the Go. Continent raised a cry that we, too, were vernment, and make laws to keep down doomed to be destroyed by the disease of wages ; but we will seize on the Govern

ment at the first opportunity, and then to confirm the notion, which seems pawe will make laws to raise wages.”— tural to the uneducated mind, that the The Government, however, was impar- duties of a Government include the retial ; and neither party wished it to be gulation of all society, and its powers, otherwise ---the workmen did not de- the extinction of all suffering. The Conmand an Act of Parliament for the re- tinental Governments, from 1815 to gulation of the trade, and employers 1848, by their system of regulating did not ask for the re-enactment of the everything, did all in their power to law against combinations.

promote these false notions ; while, at Impartiality is the only safe position the same time, the people felt that the for a Government. Its first and sim Government, with all its vast parade of plest function is the prevention of wrong, work for their benefit, did not make by doing justice between man and man, them prosperous or happy. But overand keeping foreign enemies at a dis- government is not an evil that tends to tance. Other duties may be assumed cure itself. A man whose health has by the State with benefit to the nation, been destroyed by medical quackery is such as the education of the people, and more likely to seek for its restoration in the care of the poor, But a Govern- a change of medicines than in naturo's ment increases its dangers instead of remedies-exercise, pure air, and wholeincreasing its power that lets the hand some food ; and a nation, suffering unof the central administration be oppres- der evils produced by over-government, sively felt in all private and local busi- is more likely to seek a remedy in a ness. When it interferes with the free change of system than in a natural and action of men, as by the passport system healthful freedom. In such a state of of the Continent ; or takes on itself to society, men project changes in the Godecide what books are fit for the people vernment ; and some thinkers, more to read, by a system of censorship ; or daring, and perhaps more logical, than attempts to direct the national industry the rest, dream of a total and sudden into special channels, by fiscal arrange- reconstruction of society. These last ments; or interferes with the details of are the Socialists. municipal affairs—it forfeits the lofty The French Revolution of 1848 bore and secure position that ought to belong liberty in its motto, but it was not made to a Government, as general dispenser for the promotion of liberty. The Reof justice and redresser of grievances, publicans, who governed the country and cannot avoid descending to the despotically for some months, did not character of a partisan ; concentrating transfer power from the central governalso on itself all the unpopularity which, ment to the local bodies ; did not abolish in a free and natural state of society- the passport system ; and did nothing as ours is in part-is expended on town to promote freedom of commerce. They councils, boards of guardians, and other established freedom of the press, but local bodies.

this was a part of their political creed; This was the case with the Continen- and they repealed some of the worst tal Governments, from 1815 to 1848, taxes, especially that on salt ; but, un. Their fault was governing too much, like Sir Robert Peel, they did not make rather than governing badly. Their con- the reduction of taxation a means of stant interference with personal liberty increasing the revenue, and consequently made them unpopular ; their perpetual left their successors no choice but to reattempts to regulate private and local store those taxes, or establish others business caused that business to be worse equally oppressive. It was not to effect done than it is in countries where action any national good, but merely to put a is free. But the worst class of evils was theory in practice, that the “ moderate" that produced on men's minds. “ One Republicans overthrew the monarchy of the most important problems,” says and the constitution. Their conduct is Edmund Burke (we quote from me- without excuse ; for, in exposing their mory), “is to decide where authority country to the frightful dangers of reends, and administration begins.” When volution, they could not reasonably hope a Government steps beyond its original to obtain any substantial benefit except and natural position of dispenser of jus- what might have been procured by contice, no matter how well considered its stitutional and parliamentary action. actions may be, they have a tendency The revolution of 1848 can only be defended on the principles of Socialism ; they cannot be set aside by the finest for a Socialist, in seeking his object speeches about humanity or the rights of the reconstruction of society-must ne- man. The Socialists, who attack the cessarily regard all existing Govern- principle of free competition-a princiments, whether despotic or constitu. ple regarded as sound by all, or nearly tional, as obstacles to be destroyed. all, who have studied political eco

We do not speak of Germany, Italy, nomy-ought to meet the men of sciand Hungary, for their state at the be- ence on their own ground, and show ginning of 1848 was very different from where their error lies. But this is that of France. Their struggle was for what they are unable or unwilling to national existence and political freedoin, do. They point to the great amount of rights which France had won long be- misery which exists in society, and call fore.

that, à proof of the mischief done by The creed of the Socialists may be competition, without waiting to inquire defined in the words of an American whether competition has ever had fair politician, who said that he would “take play. Mr. Mayhew, for instance, in his society to pieces and put it together really valuable articles on " Labour and again." They are not one sect, but the Poor,” in the Morning Chronicle, many: they agree, however, in denounc- brought to light many very deplorable ing the existing state of society as rotten facts concerning the condition of the to the core, and incurable by auything working tailors in London ; all of which short of a thorough reconstruction, he attributed to competition. But he They believe that the system upder did not mention that their misery bewhich every man finds his own work to gan by a violation of the law of free be a complete and disastrous failure, and competition ; that is to say-by a strike they wish for a system under which for wages. It is the same in many cases the work and the position of each man on a larger scale ; the misery which shall be fixed for him by the authorities. Socialists attribute to freedom of inFor the existing system of individual ac- dustry (for free competition is a necestion, they would give us one of universal sary part of freedom of industry) can direction by Government. That which frequently be shown to result from the they denounce the most in the existing want of that freedom, The peasantry state is competition, to which they at- of England, for instance, are in many tribute all the evils which the working counties in a very degraded state; but classes suffer ; and they propose to sub- wages there, for a long time, were not stitute co-operation, Political economy fixed by competition at all, but by the is usually defined as the antithesis of operation of the poor-law. The peaSocialism, and is identified with the santry of Ireland have long been the most system of competition.

miserable in the world ; but freedom of Political economy has been the ob- industry did not exist in a country ject of much ignorant vituperation from where the state of the law rendered it those who do not know what it means. impossible, in almost every case, for They seem to think it an art : it is a a farmer to acquire that permanent science. The notion held by some po- interest in the soil which is necespular declaimers on the subject appears sary before capital can be safely sunk to be that it is the art of accumulating in improvements. * There is much wealth in a country, regardless of the misery in the great cities of Enginterests of those who do not share in land and France ; but perfect freethat wealth. Its real definition is the dom of industry does not exist in counscience of the production and distribution tries where the commerce that feeds of wealth, and the relation of wealth and pays the industry is subject to burto population. It consequently includes densome taxes. Perfect freedom of inall subjects connected with national dustry has never been fully tried any well-being, and the happiness of the where. The nearest approach to such many, as well as the wealth of the few. an experiment is in the United States Its conclusions are scientific and it and our Colonies; and its success there is the property of scientific conclusions is very encouraging. Their prosperity to be true, whether you will or not cannot be altogetlier accounted for by

* See Hancock's “ Impediments to the Prosperity of Ireland.”

the reason usually giveu-the cheap- sence of all control over legitimate inness of land.

dustry, and Socialism means the direc. Supposing the existing system of so- tion of all industry by the law and the ciety abolished, what are we to have Government. instead? The Socialists say that for It is said that no one of a mechanicompetition we are to have co-opera- cal turn of mind grows up without tion. In this expression some confu- dreaming of a perpetual motion ; and sion of ideas is betrayed. We have al- we believe it to be equally true, that no ways had co-operation ; hardly any me- one who has a disposition for political chanical trade can be carried on without speculation attains to “ years of discre. the co-operation of many workmen. Co- tion," without revolving some project of operation and competition are not influre organizing society under a system of ences that exclude each other-they laws by which the collective strength have always existed and will always of a people should be directed by its exist in society together. Very erro- collective wisdom ; which should extinneous notions seem to be afloat on guish misery, and pay wages to every the subject of competition. Some peo- man according to his deservings. Graple, who are better acquainted with the dually, however, the thinker discovers literature than the life of the age, appear that the improvement of society must to think that every one in trade is al be a slow and not a sudden work ; ways doing his best to ruin his rivals. that it must be in a great degree indeThere have, no doubt, been many in- pendent of the Government, because a stances of traders ruining their rivals by Government will never be much wiser underselling, and many more of their than the people ; and that the interbeing ruined in the attempt ; but such ference of the State with pevate affairs disgraceful cases are the exception, not generally does more harm than good. the rule. A moderate and healthy com- At the same time, he learns that 80petition is almost universal; but the ciety, which perhaps at first he thought practice of selling at a losing price in was a chaos, has the power of organizorder to ruin a rival is comparatively ing itself, and working spontaneously rare, and is utterly unknown in the towards good results, and that the most extensive trades. No cotton-spin- greatest good the State can do is in its ner, for instance, could ever think of merely negative function of removing all destroying all others in the same trade, obstacles to that process, by doing jusand establishing a monopoly for him- tice and securing freedom. self; its vast extent would make such The same fallacy-supposing that a a design impossible.

Government can be wise enough to act Supposing it decided that the orga. as a father to the people is implied in nization of labour, and the substitution a great deal of the political and religious of co-operation for competition-the cant uttered by the military and eccleusual phrases by which the Socialists siastical despots of the Continent; but describe their schemes were to be car with them it is hypocritical, while with ried out, what sort of a system should the Socialists it is sincere. Of course a we have? It is probable that scarcely Government situated like ours in India any two Socialist leaders would give the forms an exception to what we have same answer to this question. We do said about the incapacity of a Governnot, however, mean this as an argu- ment to act as the leader of the people, ment against Socialism. Taunts (they But the very intellectual and moral cannot be called arguments) of this difference between the rulers and the sort have been used against political eco- ruled in India must oppose formidable nomy, and are equally applicable to al- obstacles to the benevolent intentions of most every science; they generally come the rulers. from men who cannot take a clear and we have hitherto spoken of those wide view of any question, and laugh Socialists whom we believe to be honest, at those who can as “theorists” and though mistaken. But this is not the visionaries. It must have been some character of all. Many are factious one of that class who lately published and interested demagogues, who have the opinion, in France, that free trade no object but to sow dissension between is Socialism ; a hopeless confusion of the different classes of society, and ideas; for free tradu consists in the ab- speak of all those paying wages as selfish tyrants, who wring immense wealth a much stronger stiinulus to diligence out of the toil of the labourer. They and good conduct, knowing that his talk of the tyranny of capital over la remuneration depended in part on his bour, and say that if justice were done own exertions. And it seems prothe profits of the employer would be di- bable that some modification of the vided among the workmen. This brings system we have roughly sketched, reus to the part of our subject which bears taining the essential principle of paying the most directly on our present state. wages by a share of the profits, may

Profits are nothing more than inter- hereafter be extensively employed in est on capital, together with remuner- those mechanical trades in which success ation for trouble and risk ; or, rather, depends chiefly on the excellence of the this is the level to which profits are al- workmen. But the number of such ways tending. Suppose, then, that a trades is constantly diminishing, as menumber of workmen were to associate chanical operations are brought more together for the purpose of conducting and more under the factory system. some manufacture for the common be- Spinning and weaving have long been nefit, sharing the profits among them- carried on in factories. Machinery is selves ; it would be necessary, before a now being applied to brick-making, shilling of profits could be divided, to various kinds of carpentry, the manupay for management; to pay the regu. facture of fire-arms, &c., and the ten. lar rate of interest on the money which dency of “ slide lathes," and other mathey would have to borrow in order to chines used in foundries, is to substtiute purchase stock in trade ; and, farther, mechanism for skill. A greater amount to pay something more than the regu- of highly skilled labour is employed in lar rate of interest, to compensate for manufactures than formerly; but the the risk of such a loan. The principle, proportion of skilled to common labour of course, would not be altered if they is diminishing, with the progress of the were able to advance money out of their factory system ; and in that system the savings to set the concern going ; for machinery, and the directing head of the then their earnings would in part be employer, are everything, and the skill interest, or profits, and not wages. Af- of the individual workman comparater all these deductions, nothing would tively nothing. Those who attend mabe left the workman more than bare chines are required to be steady, induswages, except in the case of a manufac- trious, and well trained; but there is no ture which, from some temporary cause, room for the exercise of great skill. might be unusually profitable. And if The factory system cheapens commowe suppose the person advancing the dities, lightens and shortens work, and necessary funds to be also the manager equalises the demand for labour; but, working at a salary ; his income would on the other hand, it tends to reduce be called partly interest on capital all varieties of skill to a dead level. and partly wages of superintendence, Even if such an “ organization of laand the workmen's income would be bour," as we have mentioned, is found called profit ; but the amount of pei- on trial to be practicable, its pecuniary ther would greatly vary from what advantages to the working men will not they receive under the present system, be very great ; but its moral and social of the employer earning profits and advantages will be considerable, for it paying wages : while the remuneration will give them more interest in their of the workmen would be more fluctu- work, and elevate their position in soating. In order to make such a system ciety. It may be a failure ending in practicable, it would be necessary to pay disappointment and loss to all concernthe manager by a share of the profits, ed; but, at all events, it ought to reand to give him the power to engage ceive a fair trial; and for this purpose and dismiss workmen; and even thon nothing more is required than to confer it would be a much more unmanageable a legal corporate existence on such assystem than the present one. It would, sociations of working men, by extending however, have this important advan. to them the provisions of the Friendly tage, that every workman would have Societies Act.* Many of the working

* See the excellent article headed “Investments of the Working Classes," in the last number of the Edinburgh Review.

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