The Revolutionary Proposition (Continued)

As the present social system does not, and cannot be made to, fulfil its function, since its very continuance depends upon the poverty of a large number of the people comprising it, the Revolutionary Proposition is supported by reason in advancing a substitute. Let us now examine that projected alternative social system.

The system of society which it is proposed to establish is to be based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, by and in the interest of the whole community.

That is the whole proposal. The proposition tells us nothing more, hence all the essential difference between the system which is to be displaced and the one which is to displace it is contained in those words.

The means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, we have already seen, are the land, factories, railways, machinery and so forth. Common ownership means, not what many think—individual ownership on a basis of equality (involving sharing out)—but ownership by the whole community as a body. In such circumstances no person can have any right of possession, apart from his fellows, in any of the things necessary for the production and distribution of the community’s wealth.

Democratic control means control by the whole people, but as it will presently appear that such control is no part of the basis of society, but arises from that basis, we may ignore it for the present.

If the property condition is the basis of sooiety, then a different form of society will arise from the different property condition. The essence of the Revolutionary Proposition is the establishment of society upon a basis of common ownership. How, then, does this differ from the present social basis ?

Perhaps the most wide-spread relations between persons under the present system are the relations of employer and employed. To one or other of these classes almost all persons belong. If we desire to find out why these categories exist, why one great army of people are employers and another great section are employed, we must first discover what it is that all the persons in each class possess or lack in common, yet not in common with the other class.

It cannot be any physical, mental or moral equipment, for no physical, mental or moral quality is either peculiar to or common to either class in society. There are strong men, handsome men, clever men, brave men, scrupulous men in both classes, while not all in either class are strong or handsome or clever or brave or scrupulous. One thing, however, the employing class do possess in common—the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth.

Some share in the possession or control of the land, railways, factories, machinery and the like characterises the members of the master class, and distinguishes them from the members of the working class.

There is nothing else common to the masters and peculiar to them but this propertied condition. This private property condition, then, must make them what they are; must be the basis from which arise the relations of “master and man.”

To reverse the process of enquiry, if one class in society hold all the means of producing wealth they have coercive power over the class which does not possess, and can, if they are secure in their power, force the latter either to surrender their labour-power in return for the means of subsistence or to starve. In surrendering their labour-power they become wage-workers and at the same time institute the wages system and the wage-labour market. Thus we arrive at the same conclusion, that wage-slavery, the wage-labour market, production for profit, together with all the relations between employer and employed, and all the miseries of unemployment and overemployment, poverty and anxiety, attendant upon the working-class position, arise instruments for producing and distributing wealth.

To say that it is this property condition which divides society into two classes—employers and employed—and makes the one class to live upon the labour of the other, is, without going any further, to declare that that property condition is the basis of the social system.

We find that the difference between the two social systems is that one is based upon private and the other upon common ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution. What effect will the altered property basis have upon wealth production and distribution becomes the next question.

With the abolition of private property in the means of living, that which made some men masters will have passed out of their hands, and since they can no longer stand between others and the machinery of production they can no longer take toll of those who labour. There is nothing left them then but to live by their own labour—hence in the first place there is an increased number of producers with the same population.

The present system necessitates a large unemployed army in order to depress wages and assure profit, but under the new conditions no class stands between them and the sources of wealth, therefore society has a further vast increase in the number of active producers.

The great wealth of the present master class enables them to surround themselves with servants and flunkeys who add nothing to the wealth of society. The dispossession of the propertied class makes it impossible for them to support these hordes of retainers, and at once there is another great source of labour available for the creation of society’s wealth.

The throwing of these—the present idle rich, the flunkeys and lackeys with whom they surround themselves, and the unemployed whom they keep from labour—into active production renders society’s power of wealth creation much greater than under present conditions.

The distribution of wealth will undergo an even greater change. Under the present system the inequality of possession in the productive wealth translates itself into inequality in the distribution of the wealth produced. But in a social system in which all rights of property in the means of production are alienated from the individual and vested in the community, the result must be economic equality. As the dispossessed master class cease to be a master class, so the workers, having no obstacle between them and the means of livelihood, cease to be a subservient class and a class apart. All the conditions which force men to sell their labour-power having disappeared, they surrender that labour-power now only to society. Wage workers disappear because no person is driven to sell his energy. The labour market and the wages system vanish, for there is none to buy labour-power and none to sell it. The wealth which is produced can have no other owners than those who produce it—the whole community.

Therefore the basis of distribution must be equality, each claiming and receiving by virtue of having taken part in the labour of production. The breakdown in distribution which we notice in the present social system, would thus be corrected by altering the property basis of the social system.

Socialists are often asked to foreshadow in detail the social order that will result from the realisation of the Revolutionary Proposition, and meet with disapproval when they, very wisely, refuse. The changes which have here been outlined are indicated by scientific deduction, and permit of no denial at this time of day. The cause of the class division of society, of the wages system and all its attendant evils, of production for profit and its concomitant—unemployment—is too well known to be private property in the productive wealth for any dispute of the point to hold serious attention. Those changes on the economic plane which it has been stated must necessarily follow the abolition of private property in the means of life—the disappearance of the labour market and the wage-slave, the breakdown of the system of production for profit, the end of the class discctinction of employer and employee—after all affect by far the greatest and most important portion of the conditions of human existence, for all happiness and well-being must be based upon material conditions.

Many other changes, of course, must of necessity accompany the change of the social basis. As every institution under the present social system is eminently adapted to the private property basis upon which the system rests, so must each of those institutions adapt itself to the new basis of communal ownership when such is established.

Thus the present marriage institution, with its cash nexus, its so-called parental responsibility—all well calculated to bind a woman to her husband (inclination or disinclination apart) since to him only can she look for the support of her children, and perhaps of herself, and a husband and father to the workshop or factory—this institution must adapt itself to the altered circumstances. To what extent this is no place to prognosticate, but on this point there is no element of speculation : our knowledge is positive—the cash tie will be eliminated. From this point the reader is as well able to forecast as the writer, but this may be said—as the common property basis of society is a higher one than that of private property, so all social institutions must adjust themselves on a higher plane in accord with the social base.

[To be Continued.]


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