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Parsons, Albert R. Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Scientific Basis as Defined by Some of Its Apostles . Chicago: Mrs. A.R. Parsons, 1887. [format: book], [genre: essay; history; speech]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Among all nations, the United States of America has alone possessed the opportunity for developing representative or Republican government to its utmost. Separated by two oceans, isolated and comparatively secure from sudden invasion or the diplomatic embroglios of imperialistic Europe and Asia, the united capacity of Republican government to minister to the peace and welfare of its citizens and the experience history of one hundred years has formed the record from which the living present learns its lesson of the past.
Free government, a free people, was the talismanic charm which caused the emigrant to abandon the old world and hasten to the new.
The population of the colonies in 1776 was 3,500,000. Today the population of the United States is estimated at 65,000,000. The controlling influence which impelled the emigrant to the United States was the belief in the inducement held out that a home for his loved ones could be acquired. It is, therefore, a fact, that the United States has been developed and populated because of economic rather than political influences. It has been and is still the belief of many that the comparative economic freedom which the poor have enjoyed in this country was owing to its political institutions, its republican form of government. Lord Macauley, whose prognostication is quoted at the opening of this chapter, foresaw what experience has since demonstrated, to-wit: That the Republic itself was the result, not the cause of the comparative economic liberty which prevailed in America.
The revolution of 1776 was precipitated when the British government sought to impose "taxation without representation" upon the colonies, but there was a long antecedent train of offenses which the colonists had endured. The British nobility, aristocrats and landlords had been for years past engaged in seizing upon the wild lands of America and subjecting its inhabitants to the servitude prevailing in the old world. A few noblemen held "patents" from George III, which covered vast regions of territory and embraced millions of acres. The revolution of 1776 was inspired by determination to escape the tyranny of British rule, from the oppressions of which most of the American colonists had fled. The authors of the Declaration of Independence gave the key-note of that struggle when they proclaimed the inalienable Rights of Man as the issue involved During
the seven years' war which followed, and for five years afterward (1787) the inhabitants of the colonies were practically without government or law. Thomas Paine, of whom it has been said he did as much with his pen as Washington had done with his sword for American liberty, describes in his writings the motives and purposes of the men engaged in that conflict. Paine's work, entitled "Rights of Man," embodied the "American Idea" of liberty as then contended for. He says:
It is therefore a perversion of terms to say that a charter (government) gives rights. It operates by a contrary effect, that of taking rights away. Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants, but charters, by annulling those rights in the majority, leave the right by exclusion in the hands of a few. If charters were constructed so as to express in direct terms "that every inhabitant who is not a member of a corporation shall not exercise the right of voting," such charters would, in the face, be charters, not of rights, but of exclusion. The effect is the same under the form in which they now stand; the only persons on whom they now operate are the persons whom they exclude.
The period following the war, when the colonies or states were engaged in framing the national constitution, is most instructive, as it was now that the fruits of that struggle were to be garnered. Some of the states were slow to enter the compact and some for a time refused to do so, such was the fear of the people for centralized government. Finally, a reconciliation was brought about mainly by those whose property rights gave them influence and power, and delegates from all the states were chosen to the national convention to form the Federal Constitution. Here were assembled men of varying ideas, instincts and interests. But the predominating influence was the property interest, property in land, etc., but especially in slaves. The people having struggled and suffered for seven long and bloody years, were alive to the importance of the work of the convention and its possible effects upon their welfare. But there were those who reverenced human rights only so far as these did not intrude upon their property rights. Thus began the game of Politics. The convention found it necessary to conduct their proceedings with closed doors, excluding from its sessions all who were not members. Here, for four months the "Star Chamber" (secret) sessions were held in an endeavor to bring about a compromise of divergent interests and ideas upon the property question. The debates were long and heated. At times the convention was threatened with disruption. There were those who believed in a landed aristocracy and restricted suffrage, led by Alexander Hamilton; others wanted free land and manhood suffrage; and still others contended the liberation of the chattel slave was included in the meaning of the Declaration of Independence, and vice versa. A compromise was finally reached which left the rights of property in slaves, land and money intact. The assertion of the Declaration of Independence that "all men were created free and equal, and possessed with certain inalienable rights, among which were life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" was defended by those who favored a constitution framed in accordance with the intent and spirit of that document. The slave holding interest objected and held that the blacks the chattel slaves were not included in the meaning or intent of the Declaration. John
Adams, the aristocrat, who also favored a limited monarchy as against Jefferson, Franklin, Paine, Henry, Washington and others, in the memorable debate upon this question said: "What matters it whether you give the food and clothes to the slaves direct, or whether you just give him enough in wages to purchase the same?" This view of the question finally prevailed and was accepted as the basis of compromise. The rights of property triumphed. The wage-worker was categorical with the chattel slave. Indeed the difference was recognized among the wealthy class as existing not only in form but identical in effect. The Constitution as agreed upon by the convention was submitted to the states the people for ratification or rejection. Though dissatisfied, the people were induced to accept it, on the ground that universal suffrage, vesting all law making power in the people; guaranteeing free speech, free press, and unmolested assemblage, the right to keep and bear arms; speedy trial by an impartial jury; and protection against unreasonable and unlawful search or seizure of persons or property were constitutional safeguards deemed ample protection for their rights.
The United States formed a vast, unsettled, inexhaustible region. A comparatively small strip of country from Maine to Florida was sparsely inhabited. All who desired could acquire a competency. The wage-class felt no apprehension on that score. The doors of the nation were thrown open and the poor and miserable and despoiled of every clime were invited to come to the "land of the free and home of the brave" as the "harbor and refuge of the oppressed." That invitation was eagerly heard and quickly accepted, and to this fact alone is due the rapid development and growth of the Republic. For years after the adoption of the Constitution the slave trade flourished and thousands upon thousands of ignorant helpless Africans were kidnapped and brought in chains to the United States. The treatment of the great populous tribes of Indians was of a similar character. Those who could not be subdued and enslaved were killed, and as America was the native heath of the Indian they chose death rather than slavery, until there remains scarcely a remnant of this once powerful race upon the continent. About 1830, when population had greatly increased, in common with land values and other property, the special advantages of chattel-slave labor which was so apparent in a new, unsettled country began to diminish. With a growth of population came an augmentation of wage-laborers, and the modes of industry, such as manufacture, etc., where not very well adapted to chattel labor. It began to appear that wage labor was cheaper and therefore more remunerative to capital than was chattel slave labor. There arose in consequence conflicting interests upon this subject, which by degrees as population increased developed into sectional conflicts, which were geographically designated "north" and "south."
For certain forms of labor agriculture for instance chattel-slave labor was considered to be more profitable than wage labor. But in manufacture and all departments of skilled industry the labor of wage-workers was preferred because more remunerative. The supply of chattel-slaves Was cut off by a law enacted prohibiting the slave trade, and this fact was alone sufficient to cause the death-blow to that form of labor. But the
simple, primitive forms of production for which the labor of chattel-slaves was adopted caused the owners of that form of capital to invest it where it would bring the greatest returns. Therefore the slave-holding interests gravitated to the southern portion of the United States, where a mild climate, lengthened seasons and consequently cheaper clothes, fuel and shelter was to be obtained. The propertied class capitalists were intent only on profits and losses. Out of these two forms of labor chattel and wage arose the "irrepressible conflict" and the political shibboleth, "America must be all slave or all free." The slave-holding interests became alarmed at the increasing power of the wage-labor system. They perceived their "vested right" to lawfully, constitutionally hold property in slaves to be threatened. Their power had until now been supreme in national affairs and they were blinded with arrogance. They refused all overtures to peaceably manumit their slaves by means of gradual emancipation, to be recompensed out of the public treasury, but, on the contrary, indignantly rejected all such proposals and insisted upon their constitutional right to extend slavery into the Territories. Their attitude sharpened the contest between the wage-labor capitalists and the chattel slave-owners. Upon the election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency of the United States in 1860 "the South" seceeded from "the North" and set up a Confederacy which recognized chattle-slave labor as its corner-stone. Mr. Lincoln, though in sentiment an "Abolitionist," an ardent defender of man's abstract right to life and liberty, was also, for the time being, the representative of the wage-labor system. The exigencies of the war of the rebellion afforded the sought-for opportunity, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued as "a military necessity." Chattel-slave labor was abolished and the system of wage-labor established in its stead. While upon its surface this struggle between the "North" and the "South" was waged ostensibly in behalf of "free" against "slave" labor, and was apparently a political question waged for the preservation of the Union, it was, in fact, an economic question growing out of the two diverse and conflicting systems of labor, viz.: chattel and wage. The owners of capital in the form of chattel-slaves were compelled by armed revolution to relinquish that form of property. They threw themselves as a barrier across the pathway of societary evolution, of historic development and were swept aside by its irresistable force.
The Rebellion of 1861 was a failure. The Rebellion of 1776 was a success. The former was a struggle against the evolutionary development of modern capitalism; the latter was fought on the line with and for progress. Both contests are generally regarded as political; but the underlying, moving cause in each was economic. The apparently political character of these two revolutionary struggles arises from the fact the contest in both instances was waged by one portion of the propertied class against the other upon questions of property.
Ever since the organization of the Government of the United States there has existed among the people a small, but earnest minority, known as "Abolitionists," because they advanced the abstract right of "all men" to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." But the Abolitionists were an insignificant minority. Their demands were never heeded until
the requirements of modern capitalism began to require an extension of the system of wage labor in preference to the system of chattel-slave labor. Capital invested in wage labor and capital invested in chattel slave labor were hostile in their interests. The slave-holding interests were more sensitive and apprehensive of injury and were in consequence easily mobilized on the political battle-field. From the organization of the Government up to the slave-holders' rebellion in 1861 the propertied interests in chattel-slaves had practical control and direction of the affairs of Government.Chapter II. Capitalism Its Development in the United States. Continued.
With the termination of the war of 1861 began the second epoch of capitalism in the United States. The ex-chattel slave was enfranchised, made a political sovereign. He was now a "freeman" without an inch of soil, a cent of money, a stitch of clothes or a morsel of food. He was free to compete with his fellow wage-worker for an opportunity to serve capital. The conditions of his freedom consisted in the right to work on the terms dictated by his employer, or starve. There no longer existed any sectional conflicts or other conflicts of a disturbing political nature. All men were now "free and equal before the law." A period of unprecedented activity in capitalistic circles set in. Steam and electricity applied to machinery was employed in almost every department of industry, and compared with former times fabulous wealth was created.
Political parties, no longer divided in interest upon property questions, all legislation was centered upon a development of the resources of the country. To this end vast tracts of government land, amounting to many million acres, equalling in extent seven states the size of Illinois were donated as subsidies to the projectors of railways. The national debt, incurred to prosecute the rebellion, and amounting to three billion dollars was capitalized, by creating interest upon the bonds. Hundreds of millions were given as bonuses to proposed railways, steamship lines, etc. A protective tariff law was enacted which for the past twenty years has imposed a tax upon the people amounting to one billion dollars annually. A National Banking system was established which gave control of finance to a banking monopoly. By means of these and other laws capitalist combinations, monopolies, syndicates, and trusts were created and fostered, until they obtained absolute control of the principle avenues of industry, commerce and trade. Arbitrary prices are fixed by these combinations
and the consumers mainly the poor are compelled by their necessities to pay whatever price is exacted. Thus during the past twenty-five years, since the abolition of the chattel-slave labor system twenty-five thousand millionaires have been created, who by their combinations control and virtually own the fifty billion dollars estimate wealth of the United States, while on the other hand twenty million wage workers have been created whose poverty forces them into a ceaseless competition with each other for opportunity to earn the bare necessities of existence. What had, therefore, required generations to accomplish in Great Britain and the continent, was achieved during the past twenty-five years in the United States, to wit: The practical destruction of the middle-class (small dealers, farmers, manufacturers, etc.), and the division of society into two classes the wage worker and capitalist. While the fabulous fortunes resulting from legislation enacted in the name of the people were being acquired, the people were not conscious of the evil effects which would flow from those laws. Not until the evil effects were felt were they aware of the slavery to which they had been lawfully reduced. The first great pinch of the laws was felt throughout the whole country in the financial panic of 1873-77, resulting in the latter year in wide-spread strikes of the unemployed and poorly paid wage class. In response to the demand for information upon economic matters, Bureaus of Labor were established in many States, as also for the general government at Washington. These statistics related to operations and effects of capitalism in the chief departments of industry and trade. The absorption of the smaller industries etc., etc., into the great corporations, syndicates, etc., was very rapid. The National commercial agency (Bradstreet's) furnished statistics showing unprecedented bankruptcies. The Agricultural Bureaus of the various States gave accounts of similar depressions in agriculture. Illinois, the richest agricultural State in the United States and for that reason a criterion for the others, is shown by the statistics of the State Board of Agriculture for 1886 to have over three-fourths of its farms mortgaged, and that the crops for the last five years have not paid the cost of production! Illinois is the greatest corn producing State in the Union and the statistics given by the State Board of Agriculture on that crop is as follows:
The Bureau also states that more than two-thirds of the farms which have suffered these losses are mortgaged Investigation shows the same condition exists in every State. Statistics show that the condition of the farming class, as a class, is far worse than it was twenty or thirty years ago. The American farmer as a class is enslaved by mortgages, and rapidly drifting into peasantry and serfdom agriculture. Meanwhile the stupendously increasing aggregation of wealth into the hands of a few is going on.
In manufacture statistics it is shown that while the number of manufacturers are diminishing from 10 to 30 per cent every year the remainder are increasing their wealth enormously, and that while the wages of labor have been diminishing yearly the number of workers wanting work and unable to procure it have rapidly increased. The United States census for 1880, gives in Census Bulletin 302 elaborate details of capital invested, number of persons employed, the amount of wages paid, value of materials used, the value of all the establishments of manufacturing industry, gas excepted, in each of the States and Territories as follows:
The number of industrial establishments is 253,840, having a capital of $2,790,223,506. Of this number New York has 42,739, with a capital of $514,246,575, employing 364,551 males above sixteen years of age, and 137,393 females above the age of fifteen years. The total amount paid in wages during that year aggregated $198,634,029, and the value of the products was $1,080,638,696.
Pennsylvania follows the Empire state with 31,225 workshops, 387,112 employees, and a capital of $447,499,993. The value of its products is $744,748,045, or $335,890,651 less than that of New York. In the northern states, including Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, there are 103,453 places of industry, or 8,982 more than in the states of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Arkansas and Texas.
Rhode Island, the smallest State in the Union, has 2,205 workshops, which is 1,459 more than Delaware, the next smallest, and only 791 less than Texas, the largest State in the Union. In amount of capital involved, however, Rhode Island is $66,330,382 ahead of Texas, and the value of her products is $104,163,621, while that of Texas is only $20,719,128.
The District of Columbia, with 971 establishments and $5,552,526 capital, is ahead of Florida and Colorado in the value of its products and in the number of workshops. The District employs 5,495 males above sixteen years of age, and 1,389 females above fifteen years of age, and 1,389 children and youths. The establishments pay to these hands $3,924,612 in wages yearly, and the products manufactured aggregate $11,882,316, the value of materials used being $5,365,400.
Colorado, the youngest State, which was admitted into the Union in 1876, can show but very little increase in the value of its products over that of the district of Columbia. This State has 599 establishments and a capital of $4,311,714. It employs 4,625 males, 266 females, 156 children, and pays in wages $2,314,427, or $1,610,185 less than is paid for wages in this District.
Forming the rear of this long line of States and Territories comes Arizona with 66 workshops and an invested capital of $272,600. There are 216 men employed in the Territory, which, added to the two females and the two children, make a total of 220 persons actively engaged in industrial occupations. The total amount of wages is $111,180, while the value of the products from these establishments is $615,655.
In the 253,840 workshops throughout the country, the average number of hands employed is 2,738,950. Of this number 2,025,279 are males, 531,753 females, and 181,918 children. The total amount of wages paid out during the year is $947,919,074, and the value of the products is $5,369,667,706.
The list quotes the value of the materials used in manufacturing as aggregating $3,394,340,029, which leaves a profit on products of $1,975,327,677. When the amount paid for wages is deducted from this, there remains a clear margin on the figures quoted of $1,027,408,003.
From the statistics given above we learn that the average wages of each wage worker amounts to $304 per annum, and the average annual net profit on the labor product of each wage worker is $374. The United States census for the year 1880 contains tables which show that the daily
average product of each wage worker in manufacturing industry is valued at $10, and the daily average wage at $1.15. The increase in the quantity of wealth which a wage laborer can now produce as compared to 1880 is ascribed to the increased application of machinery and the increased sub-division and consequent simplification of the process of production. To this fact is also due the diminution of the share (wages) of their product, which the workers now receive, as well as the increase of the number of enforced idle since 1880.
The United States Census for 1880 gives the annual average wages of each laborer engaged in manufacture at $304, and the annual average net profit on capital invested at $374. In other words, each laborer produced values amounting to $678, for which they received $304 in wages, the remaining $374 being the amount which the owners of capital charged them for its use.
The wage system is the foundation upon which the United States Government, in common with all other governments, rests. This foundation was laid in the Constitutional Convention of 1787, as described by John Adams when he said: "What matters is whether you give the food and clothes to the slave direct, or whether you just give him enough in wages to purchase the same?" Nearly one hundred years later the citizens of the United States appealed to armed revolution; the Constitution was set aside and millions of property and nearly a million human lives were sacrificed in order to place the chattel slave upon the same industrial plane as the wage worker. Before the inauguration of the war of the rebellion offers were made to the slaveholders to pay them $1,000 a piece for their slaves, as being far cheaper and more humane than to embroil the nation in civil war. That price was indignantly rejected, as being too small; besides the slaveholders held that chattel slavery was a "divine institution," and it would, therefore, be sacrilege to attempt its abolition. In 1880, sixteen years after the close of the rebellion, the United States Census states there was invested in the woolen industries of the country capital amounting to $159,000,000, and the number of wage workers employed 100,000. The capital represented an average investment of $995 to each wage laborer. The cost of raw material was $164,000,000; the value of manufactured material was placed at $267,000,000. The increased value of the manufactured material over the raw is placed at $107,000,000. That upon $995 invested, an annual profit of $343 was obtained, while the average annual wages of each operative was $293, or fifty dollars less than the income derived from the $995.
Chattel slaves before the war were valued at $1,000 apiece. Sixteen years after the abolition of chattel slavery, wage workers employed in manufactures in John Adams' State (Massachusetts) were worth, commercially, $850, or $150 less than the former chattel slave.
These statistics prove the claim made by the supporters of the wage system of labor that wage labor is cheaper than chattel labor. They demonstrate the economic law of competition, which is the rule of the cheapest. The propertyless class the wage workers are by competition forced to sell their labor themselves to the lowest bidder, or starve.
Chapter III. Capitalism. Its Development in the United States. Continued.
With the close of the rebellion of 1861, what is now known as the labor movement, began to assume large proportions. Not until now was there a very numerous and stationary wage class. In consequence, that state of affairs predicted by Lord Macauley, and quoted in our opening chapter, began to appear. Trades unions, labor unions, etc., composed of wage laborers had heretofore existed in small numbers, but were now rapidly formed as production in mass was increasingly developed Strikes began to be frequently resorted to in order to prevent a reduction or to cause an increase of wages. The first national movement of organized labor was the effort made to inaugurate the eight-hour system throughout the United States in 1868. That attempt was defeated.
The effort to introduce the eight-hour system has been made repeatedly since, sometimes by isolated trades unions, at other times by national or international unions, and lastly by the Federated Trades' Unions of the United States and Canada. This latter body, representing 400,000 organized workmen, met in Chicago, in 1884, in what they styled an "International Congress of Organized Labor," and fixed upon a date, May 1, 1886, to inaugurate the eight-hour system. The organization of the Knights of Labor in 1869 had increased its membership to 400,000 in 1884. One of the principal objects of this organization was the establishment of the eight-hour system of labor. At this date, 1884, a million organized wageworkers in the United States considered the establishment of the eight hour system one of the main objects of their organization. The agitation for a reduction of the hours of labor culminated in the strike of 360,000 men on May 1, 1886. In Chicago, the center of the eight-hour movement, over 40,000 workingmen went on a strike for the eight-hour workday. On May 3 some of the strikers were fired on by the police, killing one and wounding several. On May 4 workingmen held an indignation meeting which was broken up by the police, when a dynamite bomb was thrown, which killed seven policemen and wounded fifty.
The effort to inaugurate the eight-hour work-day again proved a failure. The philosophy of the eight-hour movement, defined by the Boston Eight-Hour League, is as follows:
"Resolved, That poverty is the great fact with which the labor movement deals;
"That men are never paid, as a rule, according to what they earn, but according to the average cost of living;
"That whether national banks are abolished or bonds are taxed, or whether taxes or tariffs are high or low, or whether greenbacks or gold, or any system of finance proposed is adopted, or a single tax on land, or civil service, or one term for president shall prevail, are not laborer's questions, because they have no appreciable relation to the wage-system, through which the wage classes secure all that they can ever obtain of the world's wealth until they become sufficiently wealthy and intelligent to co-operate in its production; and whether the masses have anything to choose between a democrat, or republican, or other candidate turns entirely upon the question which one of the candidates will be most likely to secure the legislation for reduced hours of labor, as well as the enforcement upon all government works of the law already enacted.
"Resolved, That the factory system of our country that employs tens of thousands of women and children eleven and twelve hours a day; that owns or controls in its own selfish interest the pulpit and the press; that prevent the operative classes from making themselves felt in behalf of less hours, through a remorseless exercise of the power of discharge; that is rearing a population of children and youth whose sickly appearance and scanty or utterly neglected schooling, is proving year by year that the " lords of the loom and the lords of the lash were natural allies in the conflict between freedom and slavery."
Chapter IV. Capitalism Its Origin and Development in Europe.
The wage system of labor is a despotism. It is coercive and arbitrary. It compels the wage-worker, under a penalty of hunger, misery and distress of wife and children to obey the dictation of the employer. The individuality and personal liberty of the wage-worker, and those dependent upon him is destroyed by the wage-system. A republican form of government does not alter the class servitude of the wage-worker. While governments are necessarily despotic they may differ in degree. But all governments based upon the wage-labor system are essentially the same. The government of the United States, based upon the wage-labor system, does not, and cannot guarantee the inalienable right of the wage-workers to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." This fact is more apparent each day. Under the republic, the politician is a mere spoils-hunter. Bribery, intimidation and hypocrisy is practiced upon the poor and ignorant voter, who is given a choice between capitalist candidates and measures. Halls of legislation are mere debating clubs of the rich the propertied class where legislation has for its sole object, the adjustment of the special, and sometimes conflicting, interest of this class.
The judicial and executive departments of a republican form of government are the officers or committees who administer the laws of the propertied class. The wage-class are by their economic dependence kept in ignorance and fear. They vote, but vote as a class only upon capitalist questions. The government itself is the instrument of capitalism to perpetuate the wage-system. Within this circle of government the votes of the workers have been unable to effect any amelioration of their condition. This is the experience of one hundred years of representative government in the United States, with the increase of population from 3,500,000 in 1776 to 65,000,000 in 1886 has also developed the wage-system upon which the government was founded. One hundred years' experience proves, that those who control the industries of the country control its votes; that wealth votes; that poverty cannot vote; that citizens who must sell their labor or starve, will sell their votes when the same alternative is presented The working-class of the United States have been deluded for one hundred years, with the belief that they possessed political sovereignty and law-making powers. They have believed that they could make laws in their own behalf, although they have not made or compelled the enforcement of any laws outside of capitalist interests. The wage system of labor subjects the man of labor to the control of the monopolizers of the means of labor the resources of life. Social misery, mental degradation and political dependence is the state of those who are deprived of the means of existence. Political liberty is possessed by those
only who also possess economic liberty. The wage-system is the economic servitude of the workers. Four hundred years ago, the wage-system in Europe began to gradually supersede the serfage-system of labor. Previous to the fourteenth century, a system of vassalage existed in all nations, except a few guilds or trades in the larger cities. Under vassalage, the proprietor of an estate was owner of the men, women and children upon that estate, and when the estate was sold, these men, women and children were inventoried and sold to the purchaser. The law, defined the status of the vassal or serf as a fixture to the soil. The law was that they could not be parted from each other, or removed from the estate. In this respect vassalage differed from chattel slave labor. As at the present time, so in the past, the history of society is the history of class struggles. Freemen and slaves, patricians and plebeians, nobles and serfs, guild members and journeymen; in other words, the oppressors and oppressed have engaged each other in this class-struggle. These conflicts have sometimes been open, at other times concealed, but never ceasing. This continuous struggle has invariably terminated in a revolutionary alteration of the social system, or in the total destruction of the contending classes.
In earlier historical epochs, we find almost everywhere a minute division and subdivision of society into classes or castes a variety of grades in social life. In ancient Rome were the partricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in Mediaeval Europe, feudal lords, vassals, burghers journeymen, serfs; and in each of these classes there were again grades and distinctions.
Modern Bourgeois (capitalist) society, which arose from the ruins of the feudal system has not wiped out the antagonism of classes. New classes, new conditions of oppression, new modes and forms of carrying on the struggle, have been substituted for the old ones. The characteristic of our epoch the epoch of the Bourgeoisie, or middle class is that the struggle between the various social classes has been reduced to its simplest form. Society tends more and more to be divided into two great hostile classes to-wit: The Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat. This class struggle arises from and is inherent in the wage-system.
How that system operates in minutia, in detail; how it affects the laborer and the capitalist has been clearly and scientifically formulated by Karl Marx in his work entitled "Capital," a chapter from which is here quoted.Wage-Labor and Capital. What are Wages and How are They Determined?
"If we were to ask the laborers, ‘How much wages do you get?’ one would reply, ‘I get a couple of shillings a day from my employer;’ another, ‘I get half-a-crown,’ and so on. According to the different trades to which they belong, they would name different sums of money which they receive from their particular employers, either for working for a certain length of time, or for performing a certain piece of work ; for example, either for weaving an ell of cloth, or for setting up a certain
amount of type. But in spite of this difference in their statements there is one point in which they would all agree; their wages are the amount of money which their employer pays them either for working a certain length of time, or for a certain amount of work done.
"Thus their employer buys their work for money. For money they sell their work to him. With the same sum for which the employer has bought their work, as for instance, with a couple of shillings, he might have bought four pounds of sugar, or a proportionate amount of any other wares. The two shillings with which he buys the four pounds of sugar, are the price of four pounds of sugar. The two shillings with which he buys labor for twelve hours, are the price of twelve hours' work. Work is therefore as much a commodity as sugar, neither more nor less, only they measure the former by the clock, the latter by the scales.
"The laborers exchange their own commodity with their employers' work for money; and this exchange takes place according to a fixed proportion. So much money for so much work. For twelve hours' weaving, two shillings. And do not these two shillings represent two shillings worth of all other commodities? Thus the laborer has, in fact, exchanged his own commodity work, with all kinds of other commodities, and that in a fixed proportion. His employer in giving him two shillings, has given him so much meat, so much clothing, so much fuel, light, and so on, in exchange for his day's work. The two shillings, therefore, express the proportion in which his work is exchanged with other commodities the exchange-value of his work; and the exchange-value of any commodity expressed in money is called its price. Wage is, therefore, only another name for the price of work for the price of this peculiar piece of property which can have no local habitation at all except in human flesh and blood.
"Take the case of any workman, a weaver for instance. The employer supplies him with thread and loom. The weaver sets to work, and the thread is turned into cloth. The employer takes possession of the cloth and sells it, say for twenty shillings. Does the weaver receive as wages a share in the cloth in the twenty shillings in the product of his labor? By no means. The weaver receives his wages long before the product is sold. The employer does not, therefore, pay his wages with the money he will get for the cloth, but with money previously provided. Loom and thread are not the weaver's product, since they are supplied by the employer, and no more are the commodities which he receives in exchange for his own commodity, or in other words for his work. It is possible that the employer finds no purchaser for his cloth. It may be that by its sale he does not recover even the wages he has paid. It may be that in comparison with the weaver's wages he made a great bargain by its sale. But all this has nothing whatever to do with the weaver. The employer purchases the weaver's labor with a part of his available property of his capital in exactly the same way as he has with another part of his property bought the raw material the thread and the instrument of labor the loom. As soon as he has made these purchases and he reckons among them the purchase of the labor necessary to the production of the cloth he proceeds to produce it by means of the raw material and the
instruments which belong to him. Among these last is, of course, reckoned our worthy weaver, who has as little share in the product, or in the price of the product, as the loom itself.
"Wages, therefore, are not the worker's share of the commodities which he has produced. Wages are the share of commodities previously produced, with which the employer purchases a certain amount of productive labor.
"Labor is, therefore, a commodity which its owner, the wage worker, sells to capital. Why does he sell it? In order to live.
"But labor is the peculiar expression of the energy of the laborer's life. And this energy he sells to another party, in order to secure for himself the means of living. For him, therefore, his energy is nothing but a means of ensuring his own existence. He works to live. He does not count the work itself as a part of his life, rather is it a sacrifice of his life. It is a commodity which he has made over to another party. Neither is its product the aim of his activity. What he produces for himself is not the silk he weaves, nor the palace that he builds, nor the gold that he digs from out the mine. What he produces for himself is his wage; and silk, gold, and palace are transformed for him into a certain quantity of means of existence a cotton shirt, some copper coins, and a lodging in a cellar. And what of the laborer, who for twelve hours weaves, spins, bores, turns, builds, shovels, breaks stones, carries loads, and so on? Does his twelve hours' weaving, spinning, boring, turning, building, shoveling, and stone-breaking represent the active expression of his life? On the contrary. Life begins, for him exactly where this activity of his ceases at his meals, on the public-house bench, in his bed. His twelve hours' work has no meaning for him as weaving, spinning, boring, etc., but only as earnings whereby ho may obtain his meals, his seat in the public house, his bed. If the silkworm's object in spinning were to prolong its existence as a caterpillar, it would be a perfect example of a wageworker.
"Labor was not always a commodity. Labor was not always wage work, that is, a marketable commodity. The slave does not sell his labor to the slave-owner. The slave along with his labor is sold once for all to his owner. He is a commodity which can pass from the hand of one owner to that of another. He himself is a commodity, but his labor is not his commodity. The serf sells only a portion of his labor. He does not receive his wages from the owner of the soil; rather the owner of the soil receives a tribute from him. The serf belongs to the soil, and to the lord of the soil he brings its fruits. The free laborer, on the other hand, sells himself, and that by fractions. From day to day he sells by auction eight, ten, twelve, fifteen hours of his life to the highest bidder to the owner of the raw material, the instruments of work, and the means of life; that is, to the employer. The laborer himself belongs neither to an owner nor to the soil; but eight, ten, twelve, fifteen hours of his daily life belong to the man who buys them. The laborer leaves the employer to whom he has hired himself whenever he pleases; and the employer discharges him whenever he thinks fit; either as soon as he ceases to make a profit out of him, or fails to get so high a profit as he requires. But the
laborer, whose only source of earnings is the sale of his labor, cannot leave the whole class of its purchasers, that is, the capitalist class, without renouncing his own existence. He does not belong to this or that particular employer, but he does belong to the employing class; and more than that, it is his business to find an employer; that is, among this employing class, it is his business to discover his own particular purchases.
"Before going more closely into the relations between capital and wage-work, it will be well to give a brief survey of those general relations which are taken into consideration in determining the amount of wages.
"As we have seen, wages are the price of a certain commodity labor. Wages are thus determined by the same law which regulates the price of any other commodity.
"Thereupon the question arises, how is the price of a commodity determined?
"By what means is the price of a commodity determined?
"By means of competition between buyers and sellers, and the relation between supply and demand offer and desire. And this competition by which the price of an article is fixed is three-fold.
"The same commodity is offered in the market by various sellers. Whoever offers the greatest advantage to purchasers is certain to drive the other sellers off the field, and secure for himself the greatest sale. The sellers, therefore, fight for the sale and the market among themselves. Everyone of them wants to sell, and does his best to sell much, and if possible to become the only seller. Therefore each outbids the other in cheapness, and a competition takes place among the sellers which lowers the price of the goods they offer.
"But a competition also goes on among the purchasers, which on their side raises the price of the goods offered.
"Finally there arises a competition between buyers and sellers; the one set wants to buy as cheap as possible, the other to sell as dear as possible. The result of this competition between buyers and sellers will depend upon the relations of the two previous aspects of the competition; that is, upon whether the competition in the ranks of the buyers or that in those of the sellers is the keener. Business thus leads two opposing armies into the field, and each of them again presents the aspect of a battle in its own ranks between its own soldiers. That army whose troops are least mauled by one another carries off the victory over the opposing host.
"Let us suppose that there are a hundred bales of cotton in the market, and at the same time buyers in want of a thousand bales. In this case the demand is greater than the supply. The competition between the buyers will therefore be intense; each of them will do his best to get hold of all the hundred bales of cotton. This example is no arbitrary supposition. In the history of the trade we have experienced periods of failure of the cotton plant, when particular companies of capitalists have endeavored to purchase, not only a hundred bales of cotton, but the whole stock of cotton in the world. Therefore in the case supposed each buyer will try to beat the others out of the field by offering a proportionately higher price for the cotton. The cotton-sellers, perceiving the troops of
the hostile host in violent combat with one another, and being perfectly secure as to the sale of all their hundred bales, will take very good care not to begin squabbling among themselves in order to depress the price at the very moment when their adversaries are emulating each other in the process of screwing it higher up. Peace is therefore suddenly proclaimed in the army of the sellers. They present a united front to the purchaser, and fold, their arms in philosophic content; and their claims would be absolutely boundless if it were not that the offers of even the most pressing and eager of the buyers must always have some definite limit.
"Thus if the supply of a commodity is not so great as the demand for it, the competition between the buyers waxes. Result: A more or less important rise in the price of goods.
"As a rule the converse case is of commoner occurrence, producing an opposite result. Large excess of supply over demand; desperate competition among the sellers; dearth of purchasers; forced sale of goods dirt cheap.
"But what is the meaning of the rise and fall in prices? What is the meaning of higher price or lower price? A grain of sand is high when examined through a microscope, and a tower is low when compared with a mountain. And if price is determined by the relation between supply and demand, how is the relation between supply and demand itself determined?
"Let us turn to the first worthy citizen we meet. He will not take an instant to consider, but like a second Alexander the Great will cut the metaphysical knot by the help of his multiplication table. ‘If the production of the goods which I sell,’ he will tell us, ‘has cost me £100, and I get £110 by their sale within the year, you understand that's what I call a sound, honest, reasonable profit. But if I make £120 or £130 by the sale, that is a higher profit; and if I were to get a good £200, that would be an exceptional, an enormous profit.’ What is it then that serves our citizen as the measure of his profit? The cost of production of his goods. If he receives in exchange for them an amount of other goods whose production has cost less, he has lost by his bargain. If he receives an amount whose production has cost more, he has gained. And he reckons the rise and fall of his profit by the number of degrees at which it stands with reference to his zero the cost of production.
"We have now seen how the changing proportion between supply and demand produces the rise and fall of prices, making them at one time high, at another low. If through failure in the supply, or exceptional increase in the demand, an important rise in the price of a commodity takes place, then the price of another commodity must have fallen; for, of course, the price of a commodity only expresses in money the proportion in which other commodities can be exchanged with it. For instance, if the price of a yard of silk rises from five to six shillings, the price of silver has fallen in comparison with silk; and in the same way the price of all other commodities which remain at their old prices has fallen if compared with silk. We have to give a larger quantity of them in exchange in order to obtain the same quantity of silk. And what is the result of a rise in the
price of a commodity? A mass of capital is thrown into that flourishing branch of business, and this immigration of capital into the province of the privileged business will last until the ordinary level of profits is attained; or rather, until the price of the products sinks through overproduction.
"Conversely, if the price of a commodity falls below the cost of its production, capital will be withdrawn from the production of this commodity. Except in the case of a branch of industry which has become obsolete and is therefore doomed to disappear, the result of this flight of capital will be that the production of this commodity, and therefore its supply, will continually dwindle until it corresponds to the demand; and thus its price rises again to the level of the cost of its production; or rather, until the supply has fallen below the demand; that is, until its price has again risen above its cost of production; for the price of any commodity is always either above or below its cost of production.
"We see then how it is that capital is always immigrating and emigrating, from the province of one industry into that of another. It is high prices that bring about an excessive immigration, and low prices an excess of emigration.
"We might show from another point of view how not only the supply, but also the demand is determined by the cost of production; but this would lead us too far from our present subject.
"We have just seen how the fluctuations of supply and demand always reduce the price of a commodity to its cost of production. It is true that the precise price of a commodity is always either above or below its cost of production; but the rise and fall reciprocally balance each other, so within a certain period, if the ebb and flow of the business are reckoned up together, commodities are exchanged with one another in accordance with their cost of production; and thus their cost of production determines their price.
"The determination of price by cost of production is not to be understood in the sense of the economists. The economists declare that the average price of commodities is equal to the cost of production; this, according to them, is a law. The anarchical movements in which the rise is compensated by the fall, and the fall by the rise, they ascribe to chance. With just as good a right as this, which the other economists assume, we might consider the fluctuations as the law, and ascribe the fixing of price by cost of production to chance. But if we look closely, we see that it is precisely these fluctuations, although they bring the most terrible desolation in their train and shake the fabric of bourgeois society like earthquakes, it is precisely these fluctuations which in their course determine price by cost of production. In the totality of this disorderly movement is to be found its disorder. Throughout these alternating movements, in the course of this industrial anarchy, competition, as it were, cancels one excess by means of another.
"We gather, therefore, that the price of a commodity is determined by its cost of production, in such manner that the periods in which the price of this commodity rises above its cost of production are compensated by the periods in which it sinks below this cost, and conversely. Of course
this does not hold good for one single particular product of an industry, but only for that entire branch of industry. So also it does not hold good for a particular manufacturer, but only for the entire industrial class.
"The determination of price by cost of production is the same thing as its determination by the duration of the labor which is required for the manufacture of a commodity; for cost of production may be divided into (1) raw material and implements, that is, products of industry whose manufacture has cost a certain number of days' work, and which therefore represents a certain duration of labor, and (2) actual labor, which is measured by its duration.
"Now the same general laws, which universally regulate the price of commodities, regulate, of course, wages, the price of labor.
"Wages will rise and fall in accordance with the proportion between demand and supply, that is, in accordance with the conditions of the competition between capitalists as buyers, and laborers as sellers of labor. The fluctuations of wages correspond in general with the fluctuations in the price of commodities. Within these fluctuations the price of labor is regulated by its cost of production, that is, by the duration of labor which is required in order to produce this commodity, labor.
"Now what is the cost of production of labor itself?
"It is the cost required for the production of a laborer and for his maintenance as a laborer.
"The shorter the time requisite for instruction in any labor, the less is the laborer's cost of production, and the lower are his wages, the price of his work. In those branches of industries which scarcely require any period of apprenticeship, and where the mere bodily existence of the laborer is sufficient, the requisite cost of his production and maintenance are almost limited to the cost of the commodities which are requisite to keep him alive. The price of his labor is therefore determined, by the price of the bare necessaries of his existence.
"Here, however, another consideration comes in. The manufacturer, who reckons up his expenses of production and determines accordingly the price of the product, takes into account the wear and tear of the machinery. If a machine costs him £100 and wears itself out in ten years, he adds £10 a year to the price of his goods, in order to replace the worn-out machine by a new one when the ten years are up. In the same way we must reckon in the cost of production of simple labor the cost of its propagation; so that the race of laborers may be put in a position to multiply and to replace the worn-out workers by new ones. Thus the wear and tear of the laborer must be taken into account just as much as the wear and tear of the machine.
"Thus the cost of production of simple labor amounts to the cost of the laborer's subsistence and propagation, and the price of this cost determines his wages. When we speak of wages we mean the minimum of wages. This minimum of wages holds good, just as does the determination by the cost of production of the price of commodities in general, not for the particular individual, but for the species. Individual laborers, indeed millions of them, do not receive enough to enable them
to subsist and propagate; but the wages of the whole working class with all their fluctuations are nicely adjusted to this minimum.
"Now that we are grounded on these general laws which govern wages just as much as the price of any other commodity, we can examine our subject more exactly.
"Capital consists of raw material, implements of labor, and all kinds of means of subsistence, which are used for the production of new implements and new means of subsistence. All these factors of capital are created by labor, are products of labor, are stored-up labor. Stored-up labor which serves as the means of new production is capital."
"So say the economists.
"What is a negro slave? A human creature of the black race. The one definition is just as valuable as the other.
"A negro is a negro. In certain conditions he is transformed into a slave. A spinning-jenny is a machine for spinning cotton. Only in certain conditions is it transformed into capital. When torn away from these conditions, it is just as little capital as gold is money in the abstract, or sugar the price of sugar. In the work of production men do not stand in relation to nature alone. They only produce when they work together in a certain way, and mutually exchange their different kinds of energy. In order to produce, they mutually enter upon certain relations and conditions, and it is only by means of these relations and conditions that their relation to nature is defined, and production becomes possible.
"These social relations upon which the producers mutually enter, the terms upon which they exchange their energies and take their share in the collective act of production, will of course differ according to the character of the means of production. With the invention of firearms as implements of warfare the whole organization of the army was of necessity altered; and with the alteration in the relations through which individuals form an army, and are enabled to work together as an army, there was a simultaneous alteration in the relations of armies to one another.
"Thus with the change in the social relations by means of which individuals produce, that is, in the social relations of production, and with the alteration and development of the material means of production, the powers of production are also transformed. The relations of production collectively form those social relations which we call a society, and a society with definite degrees of historical development, a society with an appropriate and distinctive character. Ancient society, feudal society, bourgeois society, are instances of this collective result of the relations of production, each of which marks out an important step in the historical development of mankind
"Now capital also is a social condition of production. It is a bourgeois condition of production, a condition of the production of a bourgeois society. Are not the means of subsistence, the implements of labor, and the raw material, of which capital consists, the results of definite social relations; were they not produced and stored up under certain social conditions? Will they not be used for further production under certain social conditions? And is it not just this definite social character which transforms into capital that product which serves for further production?
"Capital does not consist of means of subsistence, implements of labor, and raw material alone, nor only of material products; it consists just as much of exchange-values. All the products of which it consists are commodities. Thus capital is not merely the sum of material products; it is a sum of commodities, of exchange-values of social quantities.
"Capital remains unchanged if we substitute cotton for wool, rice for corn, and steamers for railways; provided only that the cotton, the rice, the steamers the bodily form of capital have the same exchange value, the same price, as the wool, the corn, the railways, in which it formerly embodied itself. The bodily form of capital may change continually, while the capital itself undergoes not the slightest alteration.
"But though all capital is a sum of commodities, that is, of exchange values, it is not every sum of commodities, of exchange values, that is capital.
"Every sum of exchange values is an exchange value. For instance, a house worth a thousand pounds is an exchange value of a thousand pounds. A penny-worth of paper is the sum of the exchange values of a hundred-hundredths of a penny. Products which may be mutually exchanged are commodities. The definite proportion in which they are exchangeable forms their exchange value, or, expressed in money, their price. The amount of these products can do nothing to alter their definition as being commodities, or as representing an exchange value, or as having a certain price. Whether a tree is large or small, it remains a tree. Whether we exchange iron for other wares in ounces or in hundredweights, that makes no difference in its character as a commodity possessing exchange value. According to its amount it is a commodity of more or less worth, with a higher or lower price.
"How then can a sum of commodities, of exchange values, become capital?
"By maintaining and multiplying itself as an independent social power, that is, as the power of a portion of society, by means of its exchange for direct, living labor. Capital necessarily pre-supposes the existence of a class which possesses nothing but labor-force.
"It is the lordship of past, stored-up, realized labor over actual, living labor that transforms the stored-up labor into capital.
"Capital does not consist in the fact that stored-up labor is used by living labor as a means to further production. It consists in the fact that living labor serves as the means whereby stored-up labor may maintain and multiply its own exchange-value.
"What is it that takes place in the exchange between capital and wage-work?
"The laborer receives in exchange for his labor the means of subsistence; but the capitalist receives in exchange for the means of subsistence labor, the productive energy of the laborer, the creative force whereby the laborer not only replaces what he consumes, but also gives to the stored-up labor a greater value than it had before. The laborer receives from the capitalist a share of the previously provided means of subsistence. To what use does he put these means of subsistence? He uses them for immediate consumption. But as soon as I consume my
means of subsistence, they disappear and are irrecoverably lost to me; it therefore becomes necessary that I should employ the time during which these means keep me alive in order to produce new means of subsistence; so that during their consumption I may provide by my labor new value in the place of that which thus disappears. But it is just this grand productive power which the laborer has to bargain away to capital in exchange for the means of subsistence which he receives. To him therefore it is entirely lost.
"Let us take an example. A farmer gives his day-laborer two shillings a day. For this two shillings he works throughout the day on the farmer's field, and so secures him a return of four shillings. The farmer does not merely get the value which he had advanced the day-laborer replaced; he doubles it. He has thus spent or consumed the two shillings "which he gave to the day-laborer in a fruitful and productive fashion. He has bought for his two shillings just that labor and force of the day-laborer which produces fruits of the earth of twice the value, and turns two shillings into four. The day-laborer on the other hand receives in place of his productive force, which he has just bargained away to the farmer, two shillings; and these he exchanges for means of subsistence; which means of subsistence he proceeds with more or less speed to consume. The two shillings have thus been consumed in double fashion; productively for capital, since they have been exchanged for the labor-force which produced the four shillings; unproductively for the laborer, since they have been exchanged for means of subsistence which have disappeared forever, and whose value he can only recover by repeating the same bargain with the farmer. Thus capital pre-supposes wage-labor, and wage-labor pre-supposes capital. They condition one another; and each bring the other into play.
"Does a laborer in a cotton factory produce merely cotton? No, he produces capital. He produces value which serves afresh to command his own labor, and to create new value by its means.
"Capital can only increase when it is exchanged for labor, when it calls wage-labor into existence. Wage-labor can only be exchanged for capital by augmenting capital and strengthening the power whose slave it is. An increase of capital is therefore an increase of the proletariat, that is, of the laboring class.
"The interests of the capitalist and the laborer are therefore identical, assert the bourgeoisie and their economists. And, in fact, so they are! The laborer perishes if capital does not employ him. Capital perishes if it does not exploit labor; and in order to exploit it, it must buy it. The faster the capital devoted to production the productive capital increases, and the more successfully, the industry is carried on, the richer do the bourgeoisie become, the better does business go, the more laborers does the capitalist require, and the dearer does the laborer sell himself.
"Thus the indispensable condition of the laborer's securing a tolerable position is the speediest possible growth of productive capital.
"But what is the meaning of the increase of productive capital? The increase of the power of stored-up labor over living labor. The increase
of the dominion of the bourgeoisie over the laboring class. As fast as wage-labor creates its own antagonist and its own master in the dominating power of capital, the means of employment, that is, of subsistence, flow back to it from its antagonist; but only on the condition that it is itself transformed afresh into a portion of capital, and becomes the lever whereby the increase of capital may be again hugely accelerated.
"Thus the statement that the interests of capital and labor are identical comes to mean merely this: capital and wage-labor are the two terms of one and the same proportion. The one conditions the other, just in the same way that the usurer and the borrower condition each other mutually.
"So long as the wage-laborer remains a wage-laborer, his lot in life is dependent upon capital. That is the exact meaning of the famous community of interests between capital and labor.
"The increase of capital is attended by an increase in the amount of wage-labor and in the number of wage-laborers; or, in other words, the dominion of capital is spread over a larger number of individuals. And, to give the most fortunate event possible, with the increase of productive capital there is an increase in the demand for labor. And thus wages, the price of labor, will rise.
"A house may be large or small; but as long as the surrounding houses are equally small, it satisfies all social expectations as a dwelling place. But let a palace arise by the side of this small house, and it shrinks from a house into a hut. The smallness of the house now gives it to be understood that its occupant has either very small pretentions or none at all; and however high it may shoot up with the progress of civilization, if the neighboring palace shoots up also in the same or in greater proportion, the occupant of the comparatively small house will always find himself more uncomfortable, more discontented, more confined within his four walls.
"A notable advance in the amount paid as wages brings about a rapid increase of productive capital. The rapid increase of productive capital calls forth just as rapid an increase in wealth, luxury, social wants, and social comforts. Therefore, although the comforts of the laborer have risen, the social satisfaction which they give has fallen in comparison with these augmented comforts of the capitalist which are unattainable for the laborer, and in comparison with the general development of comforts. Our wants and their satisfaction have their origin in society; we therefore measure them in their relation to society, and not in relation to the objects which satisfy them. Since their nature is social, it is therefore relative.
"As a rule then, wages are not determined merely by the amount of commodities for which they may be exchanged. They depend upon various relations.
"What the laborer immediately receives for his labor is a certain sum of money. Are wages determined merely by this money price?
"In the sixteenth century the gold and silver in circulation in Europe was augmented in consequence of the discovery of America. The value of gold and silver fell, therefore, in proportion to other commodities. The
laborers received for their labor the same amount of silver coin as before. The money price of their labor remained the same, and yet their wages had fallen, for in exchange for the same sum of silver they obtained a smaller quantity of other commodities. This was one of the circumstances which furthered the increase of capital and the rise of the bourgeoisie in the sixteenth century.
"Let us take another case. In the winter of 1847, in consequence of a failure in the crops, there was an important increase in the indispensable means of subsistence, corn, meat, butter, cheese, and so on. We will suppose that the laborers still received the same sum of money for their labor as before. Had not their wages fallen then? Of course they had. For the same amount of money they received in exchange less bread, meat, etc.; and their wages had fallen, not because the value of silver had diminished, but because the value of the means of subsistence had increased.
"Let us finally suppose that the money price of labor remains the same, while in consequence of the employment of new machinery, or on account of a good season, or for some similar reason, there is a fall in the price of all agricultural and manufactured goods. For the same amount of money the laborers can now buy more commodities of all kinds. Their wages have therefore risen, just because their money price has not changed
"The money price of labor, the nominal amount of wages, does not therefore fall together with the real wages, that is, with the amount of commodities that may practically be obtained in exchange for the wages. Therefore if we speak of the rise and fall of wages, the money price of labor, or the nominal wage, is not the only thing which we must keep in view.
"But neither the nominal wages, that is, the amount of money for Which the laborer sells himself to the employer, nor yet the real wages, that is, the amount of commodities which he can buy for this money, exhaust the relations which are comprehended in the term wages.
"For the meaning of the word is chiefly determined by its relation to the gain or profit of the employer it is a proportionate and relative expression.
"The real wage expresses the price of labor in relation to the price of other commodities; the relative wage, on the contrary, expresses the price of direct labor in relation to that of stored-up labor, the relative value of wage-labor and capital, the proportionate value of capitalist and laborer.
"Real wages may remain the same, or they may even rise, and yet the relative wages may none the less have fallen. Let us assume, for example, that the price of all the means of subsistence has fallen by two-thirds, while a day's wages have only fallen one-third, as for instance, from three shillings to two. Although the laborer has a larger amount of commodities at his disposal for two shillings than ho had before at three, yet his wages are nevertheless diminished in proportion to the capitalist's gain. The capitalist's profit the manufacturer's, for instance has been augmented by a shilling, since the smaller sum of exchange-value which
he pays to the laborer, the laborer has to produce a larger sum of exchange-value than he did before. The value of capital is raised in proportion to the value of labor. The division of social wealth between capital and labor has become more disproportionate. The capitalist commands a larger amount of labor with the same amount of capital. The power of the capitalist class over the laboring class is increased; the social position of the laborer has deteriorated, and is depressed another degree below that of the capitalist.
"What then is the general law which determines the rise and fall of wages and profit in their reciprocal relation?
"They stand in inverse proportion to one another. Capital's exchange-value, profit, rises in the same proportion in which the exchange-value of labor, wages, sinks; and conversely. The rise in profit is exactly measured by the fall in wages, and the fall in profit by the rise in wages.
"The objection may perhaps be made that the capitalist may have gained a profit by advantageous exchange of his products with other capitalists, or by a rise in the demand for his goods, whether in consequence of the opening of new markets, or of a greater demand in the old markets; that the profit of the capitalist may thus increase by means of over-reaching another capitalist, independently of the rise and fall of wages and the exchange-value of labor; or that the profit of the capitalist may also rise through an improvement in the implements of labor, a new application of natural forces, and so on.
"But it must nevertheless be admitted that the result remains the same, although it is brought about in a different way. The capitalist has acquired a larger amount of exchange-value with the same amount of labor, without having had to pay a higher price for the labor on that account; that is to say, a lower price has been paid for the labor in proportion to the not profit which it yields to the capitalist.
"Besides we must remember that in spite of the fluctuations in the price of commodities, the average price of each commodity the proportion in which it exchanges for other commodities is determined by its cost of production. The over-reaching and tricks that go on within the capitalist class therefore necessarily cancel one another. Improvements in machinery, and new applications of natural forces to the service of production, enable them, to turn out in a given time with the same amount of labor and capital a larger quantity of products, but by no means a larger quantity of exchange-value. If by the application of the spinning-jenny I can turn out twice as much thread in an hour as I could before its invention, for instance, a hundred pounds instead of fifty, that is because the cost of production has been halved, or because at the same cost I can turn out double the amount of products.
"Finally in whatsoever proportion the capitalist classes the bourgeoisie whether of one country or of the market of the whole world share among themselves the net profits of production, the total amount of these net profits always consists merely of the amount by which, taking all in all, direct labor has been increased by means of stored-up labor.
This sum total increases, therefore, in the proportion in which labor augments capital; that is, in the proportion in which profit rises as compared with wages.
"Thus we see that even if we confine ourselves to the relation between capital and wage-labor, the interests of capital are in direct antagonism to the interest of wage-labor.
"A rapid increase of capital is equal to a rapid increase of profits. Profits can only make a rapid increase, if the exchange-value of labor the relative wage makes an equally rapid decline. The relative wage may decline, although the actual wage rises along with the nominal wage, or money price of labor; if only it does not rise in the same proportion as profit. For instance, if when trade is good, wages rise five percent, and profits on the other hand thirty percent, then the proportional or relative wage has not increased but declined.
"Thus if the receipts of the laborer increase with the rapid advance of capital, yet at the same time there is a widening of the social gulf which separates the laborer from the capitalist, and also an increase in the power of capital over labor and in the dependence of labor upon capital.
"The meaning of the statement that the laborer has an interest in the rapid increase of capital is merely this; the faster the laborer increases his master's dominion, the richer will be the crumbs that he will get from his table; and the greater the number of laborers that can be employed and called into existence, the greater will be the number of slaves of which capital will be the owner.
"We have thus seen that even the most fortunate event for the working class, the speediest possible increase of capital, however much it may improve the material condition of the laborer, cannot abolish the opposition between his interests and those of the bourgeois or capitalist class. Profit and wages remain just as much as ever in inverse proportion.
"When capital is increasing fast, wages may rise, but the profit of capital will rise much faster. The actual position of the laborer has improved, but it is at the expense of his social position. The social gulf which separates him from the capitalist has widened.
"Finally, the meaning of fortunate conditions for wage-labor, and of the quickest possible increase of productive capital, is merely this; the faster the working classes enlarge and extend the hostile power that dominates over them, the better will be the conditions under which they will be allowed to labor for the further increase of bourgeois dominion and for the wider extension of the power of capital, and thus contentedly to forge for themselves the golden chains by which the bourgeois drags them in its train.
"But are the increase of productive capital and the rise of wages so indissolubly connected as the bourgeois economists assert? We can hardly believe that the fatter capital becomes, the more will its slave be pampered. The bourgeoisie is too much enlightened, and keeps its accounts much too carefully, to care for that privilege of the feudal nobility, the ostentation of splendor in its retinue. The very conditions of bourgeois existence compel it to keep careful accounts.
"We must therefore inquire more closely into the effect which the increase of productive capital has upon wages.
"With the general increase of the productive capital of a bourgeois society a manifold accumulation of labor-force takes place. The capitalists increase in number and in power. The increase in the number of capitalists increases the competition between capitalists. Their increased power gives them the means of leading into the industrial battle-field mightier armies of laborers furnished with gigantic implements of war.
"The one capitalist can only succeed in driving the other off the field and taking possession of his capital by selling his wares at a cheaper rate. In order to sell more cheaply without ruining himself, he must produce more cheaply, that is, he must heighten as much as possible the productiveness of labor. But the most effective way of making labor more productive is by means of a more complete subdivision of labor, or by the more extended use and continual improvement of machinery. The more numerous the departments into which labor is divided, and the more gigantic the scale in which machinery is introduced, in so much the greater proportion does the cost of production decline, and so much the more fruitful is the labor. Thus arises a manifold rivalry among capitalists with the object of increasing the subdivision of labor and machinery, and keeping up the utmost possible progressive rate of exploitation.
"Now if by means of a greater subdivision of labor, by the employment and improvement of new machines, or by the more skillful and profitable use of the forces of nature, a capitalist has discovered the means of producing a larger amount of commodities than his competitors with the same amount of labor; whether it be stored-up labor or direct if he can, for instance, spin a complete yard of cotton in the time that his competitors take to spin half-a-yard how will this capitalist proceed to act?
"He might go on selling half-a-yard at its former market price; but that would not have the effect of driving his opponents out of the field and increasing his own sale. But the need of increasing his sale has increased in the same proportion as his production. The more effective and more expensive means of production which he has called into existence enable him, of course, to sell his wares cheaper, but they also compel him to sell more wares and to secure a much larger market for them. Our capitalist will therefore proceed to sell his half-a-yard of cotton cheaper than his competitors.
"The capitalist will not, however, sell his complete yard so cheaply as his competitors sell the half, although its entire production does not cost him more than the production of half costs the others. For in that case he would gain nothing, but would only get back the cost of its production. The contingent increase in his receipts would result from his having set in motion a larger capital, but not from having made his capital more profitable than that of the others. Besides he gains the end he is aiming at, if he prices his goods a slight percentage lower than his competitors. He drives them off the field, and wrests from them at any rate a portion of their sale, if only he undersells them. And finally we must remember that the price current always stands either above or below the cost of production, according as the sale of a commodity is transacted
at a favorable or unfavorable period of business. According as the market price of a yard of cloth is above or below its former cost of production, the percentage will alter in which the capitalist who has employed the new and profitable means of production exceeds in its sale the actual cost of its production to him.
"But our capitalist does not find his privilege very lasting. Other rival capitalists introduce with more or less rapidity the same machines and the same subdivision of labor; and this introduction becomes general, until the price of the yard of cloth is reduced not only below its old, but below its new cost of production.
"Thus the capitalists find themselves relatively in the same position in which they stood before the introduction of the new means of production; and if they are by these means enabled to offer twice the product for the same price, they now find themselves compelled to offer the doubled amount for less than the old price. From the standpoint of these new means of production the old game begins anew. There is greater subdivision of labor, more machinery, and a more rapid progress in the exploitation of both. Whereupon competition brings about the same reaction against this result.
"Thus we see how the manner and means of production are continually renewed and revolutionized; and how the division of labor necessarily brings in its train a greater division of labor; the introduction of machinery, a still larger introduction; and the rapidity of progress in the efficiency of labor, a still greater rapidity of progress.
"That is the law which continually drives bourgeois production out of its old track, and compels capital to intensify the productive powers of labor for the very reason that it has already intensified them the law that allows it no rest, but for ever whispers in its ear the words, ‘Quick March!’
"This is no other law than that which, canceling the periodical fluctuations of business, necessarily identifies the price of a commodity with its cost of production.
"However powerful are the means of production which a particular capitalist may bring into the field, competition will make their adoption general; and the moment it becomes general, the sole result of the greater fruitfulness of his capital is that he must now for the same price offer ten, twenty, a hundred times as much as before. But as he must dispose of perhaps a thousand times as much, in order to outweigh the decrease in the selling price by the larger proportion of products sold; since a larger sale has now become necessary, not only to gain a larger profit, but also to replace the cost of production; and the implements of production, as we have seen, always get more expensive; and since this larger sale has become a vital question, not only for him, but also for his rivals, the old strife continues with all the greater violence, in proportion as the previously discovered means of production are more fruitful. Thus the subdivision of labor and the employment of new machinery take a fresh start, and proceed with still greater rapidity.
"And thus, whatever be the power of the means of production employed, competition does its best to rob capital of the golden fruit which it
produces, by reducing the price of commodities to their cost of production; and, as fast as their production is cheapened, compelling by a despotic law the larger supply of cheaper products to be offered at the former price. Thus the capitalist will have won nothing by his exertions beyond the obligation to produce faster than before, and an enhancement of the difficulty of employing his capital to advantage. While competition continually persecutes him with its law of the cost of production, and turns against himself every weapon which he forges against his rivals; the capitalist continually tries to cheat competition by incessantly introducing further subdivision of labor, and replacing the old machines by new ones, which, thoiigh more expensive, produce more cheaply; instead of waiting till competition has rendered them obsolete.
"Let us now look at this feverish agitation as it affects the market of the whole world, and we shall understand how the increase, accumulation, and concentration of capital bring in their train an uninterrupted and extreme subdivision of labor, always advancing with gigantic strides of progress, and a continual employment of new machinery together with improvement of the old.
"But how do these circumstances, inseparable as they are from the increase of productive capital, affect the determination of the amount of wages?
"The greater division of labor enables one laborer to do the work of five, ten, twenty, it therefore multiplies the competition among laborers five, ten or twenty times. The laborers do not only compete when one sells himself cheaper than another; they also compete when one does the work of five, ten or twenty; and the division of labor which capital introduces and continually increases, compels the laborers to enter into this kind of competition with one another.
"Further; in the same proportion in which the division of labor is increased, the labor itself is simplified. The special skill of the laborer becomes worthless. It is changed into a monotonous and uniform power production, which can give play neither to bodily nor to intellectual elasticity. Its labor becomes accessible to everybody. Competitors therefore throng into it from all sides; and besides we must remember that the more simply and easily learnt the labor is, and the less it costs a man to make himself master of it, so much the lower must its wages sink; since they are determined, like the price of every other commodity, by its cost of production.
"Therefore exactly as the labor becomes more unsatisfactory and unpleasant, in that very proportion competition increases and wages decline. The laborer does his best to maintain the rate of his wages by performing more labor, whether by working for a greater number of hours, or by working harder in the same time. Thus, driven by necessity, he himself increases the evil of the subdivision of labor. So the result is this; the more he labors, the less reward ho receives for it; and that for this simple reason that he competes against his fellow-workmen, and thus compels them to compete against him, and to offer their labor on as wretched conditions as he does; and that he thus in the last result competes against himself as a member of the working class.
"Machinery has the same effect, but in a much greater degree. It supplants skilled laborers by unskilled, men by women, adults by children; where it is newly introduced, it throws the hand-laborers upon the streets in crowds; and where it is perfected or replaced by latter improvements and more inventions, discards them by slightly slower degrees. We have sketched above in hasty outlines the industral war of capitalists with one another; and the war has this peculiarty, that its battles are won less by means of enlisting than of discharging its industrial recruits. The generals or capitalists vie with one another as to who can dispense with the greatest number of his soldiers.
"The economists repeatedly assure us that the laborers who are rendered superfluous by the machines find new branches of employment.
"They have not the hardihood directly to assert that the laborers who are discharged enter upon the new branches of labor. The facts cry out too loud against such a lie as this. They only declare that for other divisions of the laboring class, as for instance, for the rising generation of laborers who were just ready to enter upon the defunct branch of industry, new means of employment will open out. Of course that is a great satisfaction for the dismissed laborers. The worshipful capitalists will not find their fresh supply of exploitable flesh and blood run short, and will let the dead bury their dead. This is indeed a consolation with which the bourgeois comfort themselves rather than the laborers. If the whole class of wage-laborers were annihilated by the machines, how shocking that would be for capital, which without wage-labor ceases to act as capital at all.
"But let us suppose that those who are directly driven out of their employment by machinery, and also all those of the rising generation who were expecting employment in the same line, find some new employment. Does any one imagine that this will be as highly paid as that which they have lost? Such an idea would be in direct contradiction to all the laws of economy. We have already, seen that the modern form of industry always tends to the displacement of the more complex and the higher kinds of employment, by these which are more simple and subordinate.
"How then could a crowd of laborers, who are thrown out of one branch of industry by machinery, find refuge in another, without having to content themselves with a lower position and worse pay?
"The laborers who are employed in the manufacture of machinery itself have been instanced as an exception. As soon as a desire arises and a demand begins in an industry for more machinery, it is said that there must necessarily be an increase in the number of machines, and therefore in the manufacture of machines, and therefore in the employment of laborers in this manufacture; and the laborers who are employed in this branch of industry will be skilled, and indeed even educated laborers.
"Ever since the year 1840 this contention, which even before that time was only half true, has lost all its specious color. For the machine which are employed in the manufacture of machinery have been quite as numerous as those used in the manufacture of cotton; and the laborers who are employed in producing machines, instead of being highly educated, have only been able to play the part of utterly unskilled machines themselves.
"But in the place of the man who has been dismissed by the machine perhaps three children and one woman are employed to work it. And was it not necessary before that the man's wages should suffice for the support of his wife and his children? Was not the minimum of wages necessarily sufficient for the maintenance and propagation of the race of laborers? There is no difference, except that now the lives of four times as many laborers as before are used up in order to secure the support of one laborer's family.
"To repeat our deductions; the faster productive capital increases, the more does the division of labor and the employment of machinery extend. The more the division of labor and the employment of machinery extend, so much the more does competition increase among the laborers, and so much the more do their average wages dwindle.
"And besides, the laboring class is recruited from the higher strata of society; or else there falls headlong into it a crowd of small manufacturers and small proprietors, who thenceforth have nothing better to do than to stretch out their arms by the side of those of the laborers. And thus the forest of arms outstretched by those who are entreating for work becomes ever denser and the arms themselves grow ever leaner.
"That the small manufacturer cannot survive in a contest, whose first condition is production on a continually increasing, scale, that is, that he cannot be at once both a large and a small manufacturer, is self-evident.
"That the interest on capital declines in the same proportion as the amount of capital increases and extends, and that therefore the small capitalist can no longer live on his interest, but must join the ranks of the workers and increase the number of the proletariat, all this requires no further exemplification.
"Finally, in the proportion in which the capitalists are compelled by the causes here sketched out to exploit on an ever increasing scale yet more gigantic means of production, and with this object to set in motion all the mainsprings of credit, in this same proportion is there an increase of those earthquakes wherein the business world can only secure its own existence by the sacrifice of a portion of its wealth, its products, and even its powers of production to the gods of the world below in a word, crises increase. They become at once more frequent and more violent; because in the same proportion in which the amount of production, and therefore the demand for an extension of the market, increases, the market of the world continually contracts, and ever fewer markets remain to be exploited; since every previous crisis has added to the commerce of the world a market which was not known before, or had been only superficially exploited by commerce. But capital not only lives upon labor. Like a lord, at once distinguished and barbarous, it drags with it to the grave the corpses of its slaves and whole hecatombs of laborers who perish in the crisis. Thus we see that if capital increases fast, competition among the laborers increases still faster, that is, the means of employment and subsistence decline in proportion at a still more rapid rate; and yet, none the less, the most fortunate conditions for wage-labor lie in the speedy increase of capital."
Chapter V. Capitalism Origin of the Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.
In February, 1848, the now historical "Communist Manifesto" appeared in London, England. It was translated into all the European languages and spread broadcast by the workingmen's societies of those countries. An extract from it is here given as follows:
"From the serfs of the middle ages sprang the burgesses of the early Communes; and from this municipal class were developed the first elements of the bourgeoisie. The discovery of America, the circumnavigation of Africa, gave the bourgeoisie or middle class then coming into being new and wider fields of action. The colonization of America, the opening up of the East Indian and Chinese markets, the colonial trade, the increase of merchandise and of currency, gave an impetus hitherto unknown to commerce, shipping and manufactures, and aided the rapid development of the revolutionary element in the old decaying form of feudal society.
"The old feudal way of managing the industrial interests through guilds was found no longer sufficient for the increasing demands of new markets. It was replaced by the manufacturing system. Guilds gave way to the industrial middle class, and the division of labor between the different corporations was succeeded by the division of labor between the workmen of one and the same workshop.
"New markets multiplied; the demand still increased. The manufacturing system in its turn was found to be inadequate. Then industrial production was revolutionized by machinery and steam. The modern industrial system was then developed in all its gigantic proportions; instead of the industrial middle-class we find industrial millionaires, chiefs of whole industrial armies the modern bourgeoisie, or middle-class capitalists. This system of modern industry founded a world-wide market which the discovery of America had prepared, and thereby an immense development was given to commerce, and to the means of communication by sea and land. This again reacted upon the industrial system, and in the same degree that industry, trade, shipping and railroads have increased, so have the bourgeoisie developed and increased their capital, and at the same time have driven to the wall all classes then remaining from feudal times.
"We find, therefore, that the modem bourgeoisie are themselves the result of a long process of development, of a series of revolutions in the modes of production and exchange. Each of these stages in the evolution of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by corresponding progress. It was an oppressed class under the old feudal barons; in the mediaeval communes it assumed the form of armed and self governing associations; in one county we find it existing as a commercial republic or free city; in another, as the third taxable estate of the monarchy; then during the prevalence of the
manufacturing system (before the introduction of steam) the middle-class was a counterpoise to the nobility in absolute monarchies, and the groundwork of the powerful monarchial states generally. Finally, since the advent of the modern industrial system, with its world-wide markets, this class has gained exclusive possession of political power in modern representative states. Modern governments are merely committees for managing the affairs of industry in the interest of the bourgeoisie.
"The bourgeoisie have played an extremely revolutionary role in society!
"The bourgeoisie have destroyed all feudal, patriarchal and idylic relations wherever they have come into power. They relentlessly tore asunder the many-sided ties of that chain which bound men to their ‘natural superiors,’ and they left no bond of union between man and man, save that of bare self-interest of cash payments. They resolved personal dignity into market value, and substituted the single unprincipled idea of freedom of trade for the numerous, well-earned, chartered liberties of the middle ages. Chivalrous enthusiasm, the emotions of piety, and all principles of personal honor have vanished before the icy breath of their selfish calculations. In a word, the bourgeoisie substituted shameless direct open spoliation, for the previous system of spoliation concealed under religious and political illusions.
"The bourgeoisie divested of their sanctity all institutions heretofore regarded with pious veneration. They converted the physician, the jurist, the priest, the poet, the philosopher, into their paid tools and servants.
"The bourgeoisie have torn the tender veil of sentiment away from domestic ties and reduced the family relations to a mere question of dollars and cents.
"The bourgeoisie have demonstrated how the brutal force of the middle ages, which is so much admired by reactionists, has found its most befitting fulfilment to-day in the laziest ruffianism. They have also shown what human activity is capable of accomplishing. They have executed work more marvelous than Egyptian Pyramids, Roman Acqueducts, or Gothic Cathedrals; and their expeditions have surpassed by far all former crusades and migrations of nations.
"The bourgeoisie cannot exist, without continuallv revolutionizing machinery and the instruments of production, and consequently changing ah our social institutions. Persistence in the established modes of production was, on the contrary, in former years, the first condition of existence for all other industrial classes. A continual change in the modes of production, a never ceasing state of agitation and social insecurity, distinguish, the bourgeois epoch from all preceding ones. The ancient ties between men their opinions and belief, hoary with antiquity are fast disappearing, and new ones become worn out ere they become firmly rooted. Everything fixed and stable vanishes; everything holy and venerable is profaned; and men are forced to look at their mutual relations, at the problem of life, in the soberest, most matter-of-fact manner.
"The need of an ever increasing market for their produce drives the bourgeoisie all over the entire globe they found settlements, form connections and set up means of communication everywhere. Through their
control of the world's markets they have given a cosmopolitan tendency to the production and consumption of all countries. To the great regret of the reactionists the bourgeoisie have deprived modern industry of its national foundation. The old national manufactures have been in some cases annihilated and are still being destroyed. They are superseded by new modes of industry, the introduction of which is becoming a vital question for all civilized nations, where raw materials are not indigenous, but are brought from the remotest countries; and whose products are not merely consumed in the home market, but throughout the whole world. Instead of the old primitive wants, supplied only by home production, we now find new wants supplied by the products of the most distant lands arid climes. Instead of the old local, national feeling of independence and isolation, we find universal intercourse and inter-dependence among nations. The same fact obtains in the intellectual world! The intellectual productions of each nation become the common property of all nations. National partiality and prejudice are fast becoming impossible and a universal literature is being formed from the numerous local and national literatures.
"Through incessant improvements in machinery and the means of communication, the bourgeoisie draw the most barbarous nations into the magic circle of civilization. Cheap goods are their artillery for battering down Chinese walls and to overcome the obstinate hatred entertained towards strangers by semi-civilized nations. Under penalty of ruin, the bourgeoisie compel by competition the universal adoption of their system of production; they force all nations to accept what is called civilization to become bourgeois and thus the middle class shapes the world after its own image.
"The bourgeoisie have subjected the rural districts to the ascendancy of the town; they have created enormous cities, and by causing an immense increase of population in manufacturing districts, compared with agricultural, have removed a greater part of the population from the simplicity of country life. Not only have they made the country subordinate to the town, they have also made barbarous and half civilized tribes dependent on civilized, nations, the agricultural on the manufacturing nations, the East on the West. The division of property, of the means of production disappear under the ride of the bourgeoisie. They agglomerate population, they centralize the means of production, and concentrate property in the hands of the few. Political centralization is the natural result. Independent provinces, with different interests, each affected by separate customs and under separate local government are brought together as one nation, under the same government, the same laws, customs, and tariff under the same national class interest.
"The rule of the bourgeoisie has only prevailed for about a century, but during that time it has called into being greater gigantic powers of production than all preceding generations combined. The subjection of the elements of nature, the development of machinery, the application of chemistry to agriculture and manufactures, railways, telegraphs, steamships, the clearing and cultivation of whole continents, the canalizing of
rivers, large populations, whole industrial armies, springing up as if by magic. What preceding century ever even dreamed of these productive powers slumbering in the bosom of society?
"We have seen that these means of production and traffic which serve as the foundation of middle class development, originated in feudal times. At a certain stage in the evolution of these means, the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged the feudal system of agriculture and industry in a word the feudal conditions of property no longer sufficed for the increased productive powers of mankind. These conditions then became a hindrance to production; instead of an assistance, they were so many fetters which had to be broken and they were broken.
"They were superseded by unrestricted competition with its appropriate social and political constitutions, with the economic and political supremacy of the middle class. At the present moment a similar movement is going on. Modern middle class society which has revolutionized the conditions of property and called forth such collossal powers of production and exchange, resembles the wizard who loses control of the infernal powers he has conjured. The history of manufactures and commerce has been for many years the history of the revolts of the modern powers of production against the modern conditions of production against the very conditions of property which are vital to the existence and supremacy of the middle class. It is sufficient to refer to the panics or commercial crises, which in their periodical recurrence, more and more endanger the existence of the middle class. In such a crisis is not only a larger quantity of social products destroyed, but also a large portion of the productive power itself.
"During such panics a social epidemic breaks forth, which in all former epochs whould have appeared a paradox the epidemic of overproduction. Society finds itself suddenly thrown back into momentary barbarism; famine or devastating war seem to have deprived it of the means of subsistence, industry and trade appear destroyed. And is it because society possesses too much civilization, too much sustenance, too much industry, too much trade? The powers of production at the disposal of society, no longer serve to advance the middle class ownership of property; on the contrary they have become too powerful for these conditions; they are hampered by them and whenever these obstructions are overcome, they throw all middle class society into confusion and imperil the existence of middle class property. The social system of the middle class has become too narrow to hold the wealth it has called into being. How does the middle class try to withstand these panics? On the one hand by destroying masses of productive power, on the other hand by the conquest of new markets and by exhausting the old ones more thoroughly. That is they prepare the way for still more universal and dangerous panics and reduce the means of withstanding them.
"The weapons with which the middle class overthrew feudalism are now turned against itself. The middle class not only has forged the weapons for its own destruction, it has also produced the men who will wield these weapons the modern workmen, the proletariat.
"In the same degree in which the bourgeoisie and capital have developed, so the proletariat has developed. And this is the class that live only when it can find work, and it finds work only as long as its toil will increase capital. These workers who must sell themselves piecemeal to the highest bidder, like all other articles of commerce, are equally exposed to all the variations of competition and to all the fluctuations of the market.
"Through the extension of machinery and the division of work, daily labor has lost all its independent character and all attraction for the workingman. He becomes merely an appendage to a machine, and only the simplest, most monotonous, and most easily learnt operation is demanded. The expenses of the workingman, are therefore almost entirely limited to the means of subsistence required for his support and for the propagation of his race.
"The price of a commodity, likewise of labor, is measured by its cost of production. In the same degree that the repulsiveness of labor increases, wages decrease. Still further in proportion as machinery and division of labor increase, the burdens of labor increase either through increase of the hours of labor, or in the quantity of work required in a given time, or through increased speed of machinery, etc.
"Modern industry has transformed the small workshop of the artisan into the larger factory of the capitalist. Masses of operatives crowded together in factories are organized on a military basis. They are placed as common soldiers, under the superintendence of a complete hierarchy of officers and subalterns. They are not alone slaves of the middle class, of the government; but they are also daily and hourly the slaves of the machine, the foreman, and above all the individual employer. This despotism is all the more hateful, contemptible and aggravating since it openly proclaims that gain is its only object and aim.
"The less skill and exertion of force manual labor requires, the more modern industry develops; the more the labor of men is displaced by that of women. Neither sex nor age have any social existence for the working class. They are merely so many instruments costing different sums according to age or sex.
"When the plundering of the workingman by the manufacturer has ceased in so far that he has been paid his cash wages, then step in the other portions of the middle class to prey upon the worker, viz: the landlord, storekeeper, pawnbroker, etc.
"The small middle class, the artisans, merchants, mechanics, shopkeepers, and farmers, are all doomed to fall into the ranks of the proletariat, because their small capital can not compete with that of the millionaire, and partly because their skill is depreciated by new modes of production. Thus the proletariat recruits from all classes of population.
"The proletariat has passed through many phases of development, but its struggle with the bourgeoisie dates from its birth. At first the struggle is waged by individual workingmen, then by the workingmen of one factory, next by the workingmen of an entire trade in the same locality against an individual employer who directly despoils them. They attack not only the capitalistic conditions of production, but even the
instruments of production; they destroy competing merchandise from foreign countries, they break machines, burn factories end seek to regain the position of the workers in the middle ages. At this stage the workers form a disorganized mass scattered all over the country divided by competition. A more compact union then comes, not so much the effect of their own development, as it is the consequence of the organization of the bourgeoisie. This class requires and does set in motion the whole working class for the furtherance of its own political interests. And thus the working class do not fight their own enemies, but rather the enemies of their masters, such as absolute monarchy wherever it exists, the landowners, the non-employing capitalists, the shopkeepers; the benefits of every such movement are thus concentrated in the hands of the bourgeoisie, who are opposed to these classes; every victory thus gained is won for them.
"With the development of industry not only does the proletariat increase, it also concentrates into greater masses and learns its own strength and power. The interests and conditions of different trades are more and more equalized, because machinery destroys more and more the difference in labor and reduces wages to the same low level generally. The increasing competition of the bourgeoisie among themselves and the commercial panics resulting therefrom make the wages of workingmen more uncertain; the continual and rapid improvement in machinery makes their conditions in life more precarious. The collisions between individual workingmen and individual masters assume more and more the character of outbreaks between the two classes. The workingmen form coalitions against the masters, they unite in trade unions to maintain their wages. They form permanent associations for mutual aid and to prepare for these occasional outbreaks. And at times the struggle assumes the form of riots. From time to time the workingmen are victorious, but only momentarily. The actual result of their struggle is not immediate success, but leads to ever increasing combination among workingmen. Their unions are favored by the ever growing facility of communication, fostered by modern industry, whereby the workingmen of the remotest districts are placed in closer connection. All that is required is a closer union to centralize the many local struggles of the same character into one grand national struggle, into a class revolt. Every class struggle is a political one. The combination, which took the burghers of the middle ages with their common highways centuries to accomplish, can be now established in a few years by the modern working class, through the aid of railroads.
"This organization of the workingmen into a class and thereby into a political party is often destroyed by the competition of workingmen among themselves. Yet the organization of labor always reappears, and each time stronger, firmer and more extensive. It enforces the legal recognition of some particular interest of the workingmen, profiting by dissensions among the bourgeoisie as in the case of the ten-hour law in England. The dissensions of the ruling class among themselves are favorable in many respects to the advancement of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie have always been in a state of perpetual warfare, first against the aristocracy, then against that part of its own class whose interests are
opposed to the further development of industry, and thirdly against the bourgeoisie of other countries. In all these struggles it is obliged to appeal to the working class, to invoke their help, and so the working class is drawn into political movements. It therefore places in the hands of the proletariat its own means of advancement and furnishes the weapons against itself.
"As we have already seen, the evolution of industry throws a large part of the ruling class into the ranks of the proletariat, or at least renders their condition in life more precarious. Thus a mass of enlightened elements are driven into the ranks of the working class.
"Finally, as the settlement of this class struggle nears an end, then the process of dissolution goes on so rapidly within the ruling class within the worn out body politic that a small fraction of this class separates from the bourgeoisie and unites with the revolutionary class that class which holds the future in its own hands.
"As in former times, a part of the nobility joined the bourgeoisie, so now a part of the bourgeoisie joins the proletariat, and particularly that part of the bourgeoisie who have attained a theoretical and historical knowledge of the whole movement.
"The working class is the only true revolutionary class among all the enemies of the bourgeoisie to-day. The remaining classes are degenerating destroyed by modern industry. The proletariat is its only product!
"The middle class, the artisans, the shopkeepers, mechanics and farmers, all oppose the bourgeoisie in order to defend their position as small capitalists. They are not revolutionary, but conservative. Yea more they are reactionary, they seek to turn backward the wheels of history. When they are revolutionary, they are only so in view of their impending absorption by the proletariat, hence they do not defend their present but their future interests; they abandon their own position in order to take up that of the proletariat.
"The vagabond proletariat the rowdies and bummers that passive rot of the lowest strata of modern society, will be partially drawn into this movement but from its peculiar social status will be ever found a ready and venal tool for reactionary intrigues.
"The conditions of existence for modern society are already destroyed through the conditions imposed upon the working class. The working-man has no property; the relation in which he stands to his family has nothing in common with the bourgois family relation. Modern industrial labor, the modern slavery of labor to capital, the same in England as in Trance, in America as in Germany, has divested him of all national character. Law, morality, religion are for him only so much middle class prejudice, behind which are concealed so many middle class interests.
"All dominant classes in the past have sought to preserve the position they attained, by subjecting society to the conditions which gave those classes their possessions. The proletarians can gain control of the productive powers of society of the instruments of labor only by annihilating all acknowledged modes of spoliation by which they have been plundered, and with it the entire system of spoliation and robbery. The proletarians
have nothing of their own to protect, they must destroy all existing capitalistic security and capitalistic guaranties.
"All previous movements were movements of minorities or in the interest of minorities. The labor movement is an independent movement of the immense majority in behalf of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest strata of existing society, cannot arise without disrupting the entire superstructure of classes above it, and that hold it down.
"Although the struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie is not national in its nature, yet it is so in form. The proletariat of each country must naturally first settle accounts with the bourgeoisie of that country.
"We have thus sketched the general aspect presented by the development of the proletariat, and at the same time followed the more or less concealed civil war pervading modem society up to that point, where it must break forth into open revolution, and then the proletariat will arrive at supremacy through the forcible downfall of the bourgeoisie.
"All previous forms of society rested as we have seen, upon the antagonisms of oppressing and oppressed classes. But, in order to oppress a class, the conditions must be secured under which it can at least continue its slavish existence. The serf in the middle ages found it possible to become a member of the commune. The burghers could enter the middle class even under the yoke of feudal monarchy. The modern workingman on the contrary, instead of improving his condition with the progress of industry, is daily sinking lower and lower, even below the conditions of existence for his own class. The workingman is becoming a pauper, and pauperism develops even more rapidily than population and wealth. This clearly proves that the bourgeoisie is incapable of holding its position any longer as the ruling class. It can no longer force upon society its conditions as the rule of action. It is unable to rule because it is unable even to secure the existence of its slaves in their slavery, as it lets them sink into a lot where it must nourish them, instead of being nourished by them. Society can not longer exist under this class, as the existence of this class is no longer compatible with that of society.
"The most important condition for the existence and supremacy of the bourgeoisie, is accumulation of wealth in the hands of private individuals; the formation and increase of capital.
"The condition upon which capital depends is wages-labor. Wages-labor rests exclusively on the competition of the workingmen among themselves. The progress of industry, tends to supersede the isolated action of the workingmen by the revolutionary union of their class, and to replace competition by association. With the development of modern industry therefore the basis on which the bourgeoisie manages production and appropriates the products of labor is drawn from under its feet. Thus the bourgeoisie produces its own grave. Its downfall and the victory of the proletariat are alike unavoidable."
"But occult theft, theft which hides itself, even from itself and is legal, respectable, and cowardly, corrupts the body and soul of man to the last fibre of them. And the guilty theieves of Europe, the real sources of all deadly war in it, are the capitalists thaty is to ssay, people who live by percentages on the labor of others, instead of by fair wages for their own. The real war in Europe of which this fighting in Paris is the inaugeration, is between these and the workman, such as these have made him, They have kept him poor, ignorant and simple, that they might, without his knowledge, gather for themselves the produce of his toil. At last a dim insight into the fact of this dawns on him, and as they have made him, he meets them, and will meet, Extract from John Ruskin's letters to workmen and laborers (FORS CLAVIGERA) upon the Paris Commune of 1871.
Parsons, Albert R. Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Scientific Basis as Defined by Some of Its Apostles . Chicago: Mrs. A.R. Parsons, 1887. [format: book], [genre: essay; history; speech]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
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