History As A Science. A Study of Social Evolution (concluded)
The great anomaly of capitalist society—the existence of extreme poverty among those who produce, and a superfluity of wealth among those who produce not—like all the other contradictions of this society, springs from the contradictory character of its economic basis : a contradiction between the form of the process of production and of the conditions under which it is carried on. In the days of handicraft and petty industry, production was individual. The worker owned individually the tools with which he worked, as they were small and primitive and easily made or purchased, and, as a consequence, he owned his product. The capitalist system which arose out of handicraft, concentrated the scattered and feeble means of production and intensified them, first by co-operation and division of labour in the workshop, and finally by machinery. But, as we saw before, “the bourgeoisie, . . . could not transform these puny means of production into mighty productive forces without transforming them, at the same time, from means of production of the individual into social means of production only workable by a collectivity of men.” 1
Nevertheless, although in this way the productive process was changed, the old individual mode of appropriating the products, adapted to handicraft still remained intact—while production became socialised, ownership of the means of production and the product continued individual. This is the germ of all the anomalies of present-day society, which instead of enabling the utilisation of all the forces of production to their utmost capacity, enforces their limited use and frequent stoppage. There exists an antagonism between the forces of production and the conditions of production. Bu “the productive forces developing in the womb of bourgeois society create the material conditions for the solution of that antagonism.” 2 This solution must be found in the re-adaptation of the conditions of producing so as to harmonise with the productive powers in use. As the mode of production is social, so the ownership of the means of production and the proceeds of production must become social also. Society must be re-established upon a basis of social ownership and control of the means and instruments of production and distribution,—Socialism must be established.
The capitalist regime not only develops the material means to solve the riddle it propounds, but it also generates the human agents which will use these means to abolish it,—the proletarians. The working class, the oppressed, down-trodden and enslaved producers have nothing to lose and everything to gain by the proposed transformation. Precisely the contrary is the case with the capitalist class who are organised to resist all demands of the workers. These must be educated, must be organised politically, to wrest from the hands of the capitalist class the political forces by which they retain their domination, and economically to resist the encroachments of the master class on the economic field to-day, and to regulate production when the revolution shall have been accomplished in the co-operative common wealth. To-day there is sufficient wealth for all ; classes have no longer any necessary basis. We stand as it were on the threshold of a new era. “The possibility of securing for every member of society, by means of socialised production, an existence not only fully suflicienl materially and becoming day by day more full, but an existence guaranteeing to all the free development and exercise of their physical and mental facilities—this possibility is for the first time here, but it is here.” 3
We have now completed our investigation into “history, as a science.” Our theory of history, while it does not lay claim to making history into an exact science in the sense that astronomy is one, nevertheless makes a great advance in that direction. By it we are enabled to comprehend the causes and motives behind, and the effects resulting from the happenings of the past in a far clearer and more definite manner than was ever before possible, and, as we have seen, it enables us, to a limited extent perhaps, but nevertheless sufficiently, to forecast from the tendencies of the present, the evolution of society in the near future. It is perhaps of greater utility as a guide to the present and future, than as an explanation of the past. For it enables us to so adapt our activities as to move along those lines which it shows to be those of social progress. It enables us not only to understand history better but to make history better. And in this sense, we may rightly say—the science of social evolution is of immense interest and utility to man in so far as he is able, so to speak, to tame the forces of social development, as he has tamed many of the forces of nature.
Mankind in general and the working class in particular owe a great debt of gratitude to the master minds who formulated the historical theory which we have outlined and which is commonly known aa the Materialist Conception of History. It was first clearly and publicly announced by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels in their “Communist Manifesto” of 1848, in which they at the same time laid the theoretical foundations of the modern Socialist movement. In America, Lewis H. Morgan, the great ethnologist, through his investigations into the condition of savage and barbarian societies, principally of the North American Indians among whom he lived for manry years, by an independent route reached conclusions in every way similar to those at which Marx and Engels had arrived thirty years previous. His final results are set forth in his monumental work, “Ancient Society,” which Professor Jenks, in his “History of Politics,” justly refers to as “one of the great scientific products of the nineteenth century.” The Materialist Conception of Hisiory has, however, and quite naturally, not received the support of the orthodox savants in the field of social science which as a scientific theory it merited ; for it was rightly recognised as an instrument of revolution. It has remained, therefore, to the champions of the workers to expound and apply the theory of Marx and Engels. Nevertheless, so patent is the intellectual bankruptcy of the bourgeois “sociologists” that a few at least are turning more or less completely towards Marxism to lead them out of the blind alley into which false doctrines and class interests have drawn them. In the eleventh edition of that “text-book of bourgeois learning,” the “Encyclopedia Britannica,” Professor J. T. Shotwell, Ph. P. of Columbia University, New York City, U.S.A., says in his article on “History,” “the whole science of dynamic sociology rests upon the postulate of Marx.”
(1) “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific,” by F. Engels.
(2) “Critique of Political Economy,” by Karl Man. (Preface, page 13.)
(3) “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific.” by F. Engels.
R. W. HOUSLEY