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The most reactionary annalists of the period admit that the downfall of the Ancienne Noblesse was due to economic causes rather than to violence. The old system of privilege and exemption from national taxation could not work any longer. It was not the licentiousness, extravagance and cruelty of the aristocracy which brought them down. So long as they chiefly lived on their estates, like the Junkers of to-day, and conducted their own business, all this turpitude, however objectionable morally, failed to shake their power. When, however, they betook themselves to Court, managed their estates through agents, and combined with the Church to fleece their countrymen for no advantage to the rising middle-class, they fell, because they had become not only vicious but obviously useless. They could not even handle effectively the means of resistance at their hand. Why did you run away?' the fugitive nobles were asked at Cologne. Nous étions des lâches,' was the reply. They were not physically cowards-both men and women proved this at the crisis of their fate; but they felt that their position could not be defended, so they lacked the moral courage to hold on. So strong also was the reaction, so slow the growth of the new forms, that, great as was the political transformation from the commencement of the revolution in 1789 to the restoration of Louis XVIII in 1815, the restored aristocrats were able to obtain some compensation from the National Assembly for the properties of which they had been deprived.
The same causes made themselves felt in the great development of capitalist production and factory industry which, beginning in its recognised shape in England about the middle of the 18th century, has spread and is still spreading over the civilised world. This change moved far more rapidly than any previous social modification. But it went forward in this island, as well as later in the United States, without any national superintendence or control. The horrors thus engendered fully equalled any of the chattel-slave or serf period. Children of tender years were never deliberately worked to death for the profit of the slave-owner or the feudal lord, as they were by capitalist employers at the end of the 18th and during the first half of the 19th century. But the resistance of the wage-earners proved as useless as the
previous risings against slave-owners, nobles and land expropriators had been futile. Luddite anarchist destruction of machinery, Chartist organised denunciation and physical-force movements against the capitalists had no effect. Within a century or less, Great Britain was revolutionised from an agricultural country into being almost entirely a nation of manufacturers and profiteers. The peasant became a landless wage-earner; the land population was drafted into cities; and the cities grew up with the most crowded and miserable dens in which a pauperised proletariat had ever been housed. Such limitations as there were to the employers' power to work women and children to death were chiefly due to opposition made by the landowners to the factory-owner class that was depriving them of political control.
Thus the transformation from home production and domestic industry to importation from abroad and great factory industry-one of the greatest economic and social revolutions ever known in any country-was achieved in Great Britain, not certainly without much perturbation and discontent culminating in armed violence, but, relatively to the crucial character of the change effected, with little bloodshed. Once more, individual revolts against economic conditions failed; for the victory of the capitalist and profiteering class was complete. During eighty years, from 1765 to 1848, the class-war between capital and labour was open and avowed. In the latter year capital won, owing to the gold discoveries, free trade, and the emigration of the most vigorous portions of the population.
Thenceforward the struggle took a different shape. First strikes, and then, very gradually, political action, carried on the strife, but with little advantage to the workers. They adopted the theories of the profiteering class; and the English proletariat became, as M. Clemenceau expressed it to me some ten years ago, a bourgeois class. They accepted, that is to say, the whole scheme of wagedom, capitalism and profiteering as a permanent social system. Their hope of emancipation before 1848 had lain in some sort of return to preindustrial conditions; from 1848 to 1914 they aspired, not to uplift the whole disinherited class (practically ninety per cent. of the entire people), but to become
members, as individuals, of the section that existed by trading upon differences of value. Not even the spread of the great Cooperative movement, or the continuous Socialist agitation from the beginning of 1881, or even the affiliation of the Labour Party to the International Socialist Party, and the voting strength displayed at the elections of 1906, could turn the tide in favour of Socialist ideas.
At the beginning of the war in 1914, the general aspect of affairs was much the same as it had been for the previous generation. True, on the one hand, working-class combinations had grown far more numerous and formidable. True, also, on the other, that the combinations of vast capitalist enterprises had utterly refuted the old theories of individual competition as the salvation of society and the cause of all progress. True, lastly, that State interference had greatly increased. But neither the working classes nor the dominant profiteering and landlord classes understood how far this unconscious reintegration of industrial anarchy had gone. Still less did either side comprehend that Capitalism as a system had reached its culminating point, was already tottering to its fall, and would prove itself wholly incapable of dealing with a great national emergency. To-day, the entire community has learnt these factsthrough the agency of the war. State control, however partially, incompetently and reluctantly administered, is replacing individual competition in every important branch of our national life.
The history of this latest phase of social evolution has been much the same in the various countries which have attained to a similar stage of the industrial evolution. The United States of America, notwithstanding the enormous and fruitful territory it has had to colonise, in spite also of the fact that not less than half its population of 110,000,000 is still directly connected with the cultivation of the soil, has, in not a few directions, run ahead of the old world. Nowhere has Capital organised itself with such marvellous capacity for rapid improvement of processes and the determination to 'scrap' all but the most perfect means of extracting ores, of dealing with and distributing agricultural products, manufacturing on a large scale, standardising its appliances
and products in order to save labour and cheapen selling values; while at the same time Trusts and Combines on an unprecedented scale have made use of the vast power acquired by common action to crush competition and to uphold prices. On the other side of the Atlantic, also, as on this, the labouring class has endeavoured to meet the relentless force of organised capital by combinations of its own. Threats uttered by the railway men to hold up the entire trade of the country practically forced Mr Wilson to use the great Federal power with which he is invested on behalf of the men, in order to secure for the workers in that department an Eight Hours' Day by direct State action.
It is obvious that this is only a beginning. No great nation could possibly allow the imperium in imperio which the economic, and to a large extent the political, domination of the great monopolist Trusts represent, to go forward uncontrolled. If the decisions of the Courts avail not to support the interests of the people, then the community as a whole must reorganise the entire system for the benefit of all. This is far easier with Trusts than with the earlier development of individual factoryowners or distributors. That fact the more able upholders of the Trust system themselves publicly acknowledge. Nor can there be any doubt that the entrance upon the war of the United States as a great worldpower will hasten on socialisation in the Republic of the West. An enormous territory like America, with agriculture practically still the supreme interest, cannot take the same course in the new advance as England, which has allowed its rural population to be removed and its land cultivation to be crippled. But that collective will replace individual or Company ownership and management in both countries is already apparent, whether we call the change Socialism or not, whether the transformation involves class antagonism expressed in open violence, or a peaceful outlet is to be given by wide constitutional change.
Almost with the rapidity of Japan, Germany has in a generation passed through an evolution which needed more than a century to accomplish here. And Germany has taken still more definite steps towards the new phase. Her capitalism has at no time enjoyed the freedom from
State control that existed in Great Britain and the United States. Nor has she, in the exultation of her marvellous growth of factory industry, neglected any measures deemed necessary for the improvement of agriculture by State aid in the direction of enhancement of production and cheapening of transport. Her landed proprietors have dominated the entire German national policy at home as abroad, and have taken care to fortify their position both economically and politically, not only by the application of science to agriculture but by protectionist duties and jerrymandered representation. The Social-Democratic Party, the largest single political party in Germany, played into the hands of this powerful reactionary element by their acceptance of the PanGerman Chauvinist cry of Deutschland über Alles,' and their shameful betrayal of their principles and pledges at the beginning of the campaign of aggression and atrocity started by the Central Powers. During the war, administrative collectivism has inevitably advanced even beyond the position it held before. But Germany's political forms, like our own, are many years behind her social and economic development; moreover, they are so handled as to hinder all democratisation, however much they may facilitate the increase of State-administered Collectivism. Those who know Germany best may well doubt whether the Fatherland will be able to carry through the coming reorganisation, whatever it may be, without a desperate internal struggle. So long as the war lasts and the German armies are fighting on foreign territory there will be no possibility of revolution at home. But, when the Teutonic hosts are manifestly beaten, a very different spirit will be awakened against the caste which has inflicted such bootless ruin upon Central Europe. Bankruptcy and armed revolt will precede the inevitable political change, whatever form the economic conditions may take.
In that respect, defeated Germany will be at a great disadvantage compared with victorious though exhausted France. French political forms are far ahead of the French economic status. The real France is still rural France. Political France is democratic to a point that no country with so large an agricultural population has ever yet attained. France, therefore, which led the way