A Positive Science of Government. A Queer Faith

The present writer has recently been puzzling his poor brains over a pamphlet entitled “An Appeal for a Positive Science of Government.” If one may judge by the obvious sincerity of the author, the government, is one before which all else pales. It alone affords the true solution of the greater problems of the day, and all social and political problems are wrongly treated and their discussion can merely end in words, be­cause of there lack of positive principles.

The problems referred to are:—Votes for Women and Men; Reconstitution of Political Parties ; Armaments and War; High Cost of Living.

The identity of the writer is indicated only by the name “Umano,” which looks like a non-de-plume intended to express the humanitarian proclivities of its owner. He is one of those foreigners, he tells us on the last page, who feel they owe to this land a great part of their own liberty of thought and dignity of life.

I was curious to know what a Positive Science of Government could be, and after reading the pamphlet through carefully I have by no means satisfied my curiosity. It may be due to my materialistic prejudices, or my a priori notions. Whatever positive government is we are assured that “progress in this science of government would have suppressed the barbarity of selfish­ness, would have bettered human conditions, and caused those miseries to disappear.”

Now, taking government as necessarily mean­ing the government or control of men by other men, it must ever be that the interests of the governors cannot be identical with those of the governed. When they become identical govern­ment ceases. In the historic phrase of Engels—the government of men gives place to the ad­ministration, of things.

No matter how scientific government may be the selfishness and the social conditions will remain, being formed by quite other factors than the ideas or the form of government.

“It would have multiplied men of genius and produced more progress in the above sciences.” The production of geniuses is a matter far too difficult to adjudicate upon in our present state of knowledge, and can only pass as a pious be­lief of the author’s, probably fathered by the wish.

“The science of Government is the one that alone remains empirical amidst all the sciences which have become even more positive.” The distinction here drawn between empirical and positive science is itself unscientific. The em­pirical is a necessity to the most positive science, and is not an incompatible form of that science. “The science of government still remains on the level of alchemy and astrology,” and we are enjoined, after being converted to a positive science of government, to do for empirical government what chemistry and astronomy did for alchemy and astrology.

But astrology is not empirical and alchemy is not empirical. These ideas rest, not on experi­ence and experiment, but on assumption. Astronomy is built necessarily on the empirical observation of phenomena, and consists of the laws derived from an investigation into the causes producing the phenomena so empirically observed. It becomes positive as those laws can be verified by further observation and experi­ment. So with this alleged science of govern­ment. To be scientific it must be built upon a science of sociology, which is truly the most backward of sciences.

But is this not due to the fact that men can­not take the same detached and disinterested point of view on social and sociological matters as they can on physical or biological questions ? Even in biology the innate conceit of men ham­pered the due placing of mankind in that place in nature plainly indicated by science, showing how, even in that matter, the dissociation of the individual mind from the supposed interests of his kind operated—it may be unconsciously. And if that be so in biology, how much more so will it be in sociology. The sarcastic remark is attributed to Hobbes that even the axioms of geometry would be disputed if men’s passions were implicated in them.

Throughout the “Appeal” there runs the philosophy of the Radical of an earlier day—the idea that society grows upon and is shaped by the governmental and parliamentary conditions imposed upon it. It is this idea that lies behind the statements quoted above : that selfishness and misery would disappear and geniuses ap­pear, with a scientific form of government. This idea is opposed to the Positivism of Comte.

As evidence of the unscientific nature of government to-day is quoted the contradictory meanings ascribed to such terms as rigid, duty, law, justice, liberty, force, etc. But this is due to the antagonisms between ruler and ruled and the economic interests they represent. He says that in the Portuguese “Revolution” the force of the military was used by the Republicans in opposition to oaths of allegiance and to laws, and would be similarly used by the Monarchists if they saw the opportunity of successfully bring­ing off a counter revolution. He says further : “Something similar is happening as regards Socialism. Because Socialists expect some day to be able to take away by force and justice, the wealth of the capitalists.” And so on.

The fact is that the final arbiter is not an abstract idea of justice or of right, but force and might. It may be to some extent the force of argument and the might of numbers, but its justice and legality will be decided by the dominant majority.

Umano comes to the conclusion that this great conspiracy of the rulers, with the help of the school and the prison, impressed its views upon the governed to prevent them glimpsing a positive science of government. The franchise was granted in a distorted form, along with an idea of Public Right (strictly in accordance with the rulers’ point of view) to give some sort of appearance to the continuance of so debased a form of government. “And yet, among the governed, rebellious spirits have not been lack­ing. . . . The small amount of civilisation we possess to-day, along with liberty of speech, we owe to them.”

The criticisms of the “ancient and false conceptions of government” arising from the winning of liberty of speech, did not succeed in clearing them all away. This our author attributes to the “chief Socialists.” These misguided individuals “had too much scholastic culture : even they were too much infected by the ideas of Public Right, and, on the other hand, they had too great a need for organisation and for taking their place as a political party in opposi­tion to conservative repression. … So they turned all their new mentality to the study of economic problems—which are a very impor­tant basis, but secondary, not primary, in the science of government—and became doctrinaires of historic materialism.”

The Socialists having, to the disgust of Umano, gone off from positive principles of government on an economic side line, “one hope for the positive science of government remained—the hope in the women.” Unfortunately for our author and his positive science, they have gone astray also. There being no hopes left—not even a forlorn, one in the children—he labo­riously points how wrong the women are in basing their arguments for the franchise on the rotten principles that vitiate government and parliamentarism to-day, and exhorts them in a long speech to base their demands on positive principles of government. What these are apparrently remains to be decided, for the “Appeal” finishes with the announcement that a confer­ence for discussing and formulating Positive Principles of Government is to be held later.

I have already pointed out that Umano’s ideas of Positivism are somewhat more akin to the ancient and obsolete school of philosophical Radicalism than to the Positivism of Comte. So, too, is it as far as the poles asunder from the materialist conception of history which forms the basis of Socialist politics. Comte, in explain­ing Positivism, made it perfectly clear that government was not the arbiter of society in the way Umano conceives. Ho expressly says : “It is perfectly impossible to establish any stable and general notion on politics, whilst human society is regarded as moving without free will of its own, under the arbitrary impulsion of the legislator.” And again : “Authority results from agreement, not agreement from authority.”

While, therefore, Comte’s Positivism predicates to society a free will apart from government, Umano’s “Positivism” places the will of society in the government apart from society. While Umano gives to authority the power to effect agreement through the school and the prison, Comte points out the dependence of authority upon agreement, upon that social sanction which as we have repeatedly argued against our anar­chistic opponents gave birth to the vote. The agreement upon which social authority rests is as old, in one form or another, as society itself. The Council of War of the most distant time, held by the warriors of the tribe, had within it the germ of the analogous councils of peace called maybe to depute the necessary authority to the chief to perform some duty on behalf of the community. The same social sanction is glimpsed in every phase of society, the com­moners’ emancipation being the subject of comparatively recent history. But the agree­ment of the property holders of society has always bad to be obtained before the representatives of society could act.

The government, therefore, has always been the political expression of the ruling class whose economic interests would be served in opposition to those of their dependents. History becomes in this view a history of class struggles, and to­day, the working class has to sink all differences on all fields of thought or action, and concen­trate for its emancipation in this last social struggle on the basis of its class interests. In political possession stand the heirs of ages of domination, the final representatives of property holding, the political consolidation of crown, lords and masters; on our side stand the working class, the dispossessed, exploited proletariat. It is our side which has to sanction the maintenance of capitalist society, and our side does so every time of asking. Will Umano’s “Appeal” help to enlighten them as to the simple facts of the case ? If not it serves the purpose of the other side and must be condemned as useless and harmful so far as the workers are concerned, however entertaining and diverting it may be for the masters.

Science must always be of use to the Socialist, because science is knowledge and knowledge is the foundation of Socialism. But we are not concerned in being governed by scientific prin­ciples according to St. Umano, or by business principles according to St. Horatio Bottomley, or by anybody else’s principles, because they will show the cloven hoof of capitalism at every turn. But we are concerned to abolish govern­ment altogether, and substitute that economic administration of things that alone can abolish capitalism’s social problem when it abolishes capitalism, and give political expression to the interests of the working class.

The first and simplest of those interests will be to enjoy the fruits of their labour, the pro­duce of their associated industry, the control of their own lives, and so lay a healthy foundation for a happy, because free, existence.

D, K.

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