- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 4 Feb 1909, p. 120-128
- Kylie, E.J., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Socialism as yet not a very great factor in Canadian life. Socialism steadily advancing in influence and in numerical strength in the older countries of Europe—Germany, Belgium, Italy and France. A full socialist programme accepted at the British Trades and Labour Congress. Socialism as a powerful movement. Socialism, like a disease, the more dangerous the less clearly it is understood. Helping us to understand Socialism. Defining Socialism. Some economic theories of Carl Marx. Asking some main questions: what is labour; how is the labour-value of various sorts to be compared; can anything determine their worth buy demand; what is capital. The inability to divorce capital and labour. If the economic defence of popular socialism is weak, its moral supports are strong; how that is so. The hope that society, turned over by means of revolution, will be smooth and even: this as the first and most serious menace of popular socialism. Asking us not to attempt to meet this menace by oppressive measures. Intellectual socialism contrasted with popular or street socialism. Socialism as a changing thing. Intellectual socialism, for which the speaker has very great sympathy, as a belief in the future of mankind as an ideal democracy. Defining that democracy. The Socialist for whom socialism is a religion, prepared to take over all property, with the object of putting people as nearly as possible on an equality. Putting the welfare of the community above the interests, or what seem to be the interests, of the individual; abandoning out and the out the economic theory. The problem of distribution harder to solve; an explication. Failing in the task of getting the disagreeable work of the world done; the intellectual Socialist attempting to reward this disagreeable labour at a higher rate than agreeable labour. Substituting for private ownership, practically speaking, public ownership. The unlikely possibility that in the future history of the race private ownership will be completely abandoned. Questions of motive remaining. The question the Socialist is trying to answer. A second aspect of this danger. Lastly, this kind of socialism attaches too much importance to the State, too much importance to the community, too much importance to the thought of "all." Ways in which that is dangerous. A word in conclusion about the practical measures which, it seems to the speaker, we should be perfectly safe to adopt. A last answer to the challenge of socialism.
- Date of Original
- 4 Feb 1909
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- THE MENACE OF SOCIALISM.
Address by MR. E. J. KYLIE, M.A., of Toronto University, before the Empire Club of Canada, on February 4th, 1909.
Mr. President and Gentlemen,
I am afraid this is a rather alarmist, subject which I present to you today. Perhaps you will feel that it is too alarmist, too much of a scare headline, so to speak, because, as a matter of fact, socialism is as yet not a very great factor in Canadian life. But, as you are well aware, in the older countries of Europe-in Germany, Belgium, Italy and France-socialism is steadily advancing in influence and in numerical strength, and you must have been struck the other day by the fact that a full socialist programme had been accepted at the British Trades and Labour Congress. I am well aware that the majority was a small one, but the vote marks the end of a long struggle, and disproves the contention that the English workingman is by nature an individualist.
I think I may take it for granted that socialism, if not in Canada at least elsewhere, is a powerful movement. That does not prove, however, that it is a menace. Perhaps, indeed, socialism, like a disease, is the more dangerous the less clearly it is understood. So that, even at the risk of dispelling some of its terrors, I must try to help you understand it. Socialism, in essence, means either robbery or religion. I discard for the moment all the definitions as to its means and measures. Socialism means, in essence, either robbery or religion. As it is proclaimed by the ordinary street orator, it means robbery, it means confiscation, it means the plunder of the rich for the benefit of the poor. This kind of socialism, which I denominate as robbery, is justified-for every movement, however irrational, must have some intellectual basis-by the economic theories of Carl Marx.
According to the economic theories of Carl Marx, the value of every article, say of this glass, is determined by the amount of labour put into it; hence the value of this glass can be compared with the value of this knife by the relation between the amount of labour put into the manufacture of the articles. The value of every article is determined by the amount of labour consumed in it. But over and above that real value of every article is the difference, the surplus, between the real value and the market, or selling price. That surplus value goes, not to the labourer who makes the real value of the article, but to the capitalist who organizes labour and controls the instruments of production. Logically, according to this, there should be no surplus value, but if there is any, it obviously should go to the labourer.
That, is all very simple, but it leaves us asking one or two main questions. In the first place, what is labour? Is it merely manual toil-work with the hands? There are very few of my audience at the present moment who do work with their hands, and yet they would reject with scorn the accusation of idleness. But if labour is all work, then how is the labour-value of this glass to be compared, say, with the labour-value which our President here is devoting to the orthography of the word " labour " itself ? How are these various sorts of labour to be compared? Can anything determine their worth but demand? Further (I shall not detain you very long with these questions), let me ask, what is capital? What is this silent, fluid thing, gaining strength and volume from infinite, hidden sources, which sweeps resistlessly into every new enterprise? Is it not the saving, the thrift, or the fruit of the thrift, of all the people? Is it not greater than any capitalist, or group of capitalists, who simply try to swing and guide it into their own channels? The startling truth is that, as a result of the growth of stock companies, more and more capital is actually held by the working classes. Capital and labour are not, and cannot be, divorced.
If, however, the economic defence of popular socialism is weak, its moral supports are strong. It is largely an emotional or sentimental movement. It arises out of the natural yearnings of the human heart. The toilers who work with their hands everywhere-educated enough to be disillusionized, and deprived too often of other consolation, forced to endure, if not oppression at least the constant spectacle of wealth misused-are rising up in their might to shake off the yoke. There can be no question about that. They mean war; and the weapon is not any longer the bow or the arm of the individual, but the ballot-paper. They mean war, revolution. In their view, if society is turned upside down, turned over, what is at present a rough, uneven surface will become smooth and even. I need scarcely dwell on the absurdity of the view from every intellectual standpoint, but there it is, and there is the menace of this popular socialism-the hope that society, turned over by means of revolution, will be smooth and even. That is the first and most serious menace of popular socialism.
But I must ask you not to attempt to meet this menace by oppressive measures. You cannot kill a fallacy by persecution any more than you can destroy a ghost by cremation. You can meet it only by argument. Best of all, you can deprive socialism of its sentimental and moral strength by real sympathy. So far I have dwelt exclusively upon the real menace or danger of this popular socialism, this uprising of the masses, this warfare of class and class, which in the end must mean rebellion. No permanent society can be based upon robbery or confiscation.
Contrasted with this popular socialism, with this socialism of the street, is intellectual socialism, which I have denominated as religion. The relation between the two resembles the relation between popular science and real science, between popular hygiene and real hygiene. And I must ask you again not to despise intellectual socialism because you consider popular socialism, in all its forms, menacing and ridiculous. I venture on a rather daring statement, perhaps, but we do not reject the principles of Christianity because we are not satisfied with all the human embodiments of it. Socialism, like science, is a changing thing-constantly shifting its base. This popular socialism is the slough which is cast off by intellectual socialism in its development. This intellectual socialism, for which, as you will perceive, I have very great sympathy, is a religion, is a creed, a faith, a belief in the future of mankind as an ideal democracy. In that democracy government and law will depend ultimately on the mass of the people, and that mass of the people, that body of the people, will be lifted up by the equal opportunities for advancement afforded to every member of it. Out of that level body of the people afforded these equal opportunities will arise those who, by service to the State, must be distinguished with different rewards. Equality of opportunity and inequality of reward is the creed of the intellectual Socialist. Logically, our present society, an individualist society, should offer equal opportunities to every individual, or should at least try to do so. Individualism has no other justification. If it does not offer an equal chance to the individual, it fails in my judgment. As a matter of fact, wealth, influence, property, education even, are transmitted in our society from father to son, from generation to generation, and the result is that in our present society (perhaps less as it is constituted here than in older countries) barriers of education, morals even, and manners and traditions, are erected between class and class, and it is a comparatively rare thing for a man to leap over those barriers.
It is said that out of 1,000 people who die in Great Britain, 941 leave less than 200 pounds. I am not concerned with the 941. They are dead. But I am concerned very much with the children of the 941 in their struggle with the children of the 59. One answer is, " Pension them off." That is what is done in the Old Country; but I do not think anyone accepts that as a final solution of the difficulty. Would it not be fairer to start those people nearer a level than to conduct them gently to the grave? It is with the object of putting people as nearly as possible on an equality that the intellectual Socialist, the Socialist for whom socialism is a religion, is prepared to take over all property. That property he will lease out on leases terminable with the life of the lessee. Or he would even venture to have the State undertake the perhaps almost impossible task of production and distribution. Of course I admit that economically this seems impossible, but there are a few things to remember. At the present time we do not allow complete liberty of production. We check production by our Factory Acts, by our conservation of national resources. We do not allow perfect liberty of consumption. Only the other day we cut off that liberty; we infringed upon it to a very great degree in this city, by our bill, or motion, or by-law, for the reduction of licenses.
In economic theory every individual should have the freest liberty of buying whatever he wishes, no matter how destructive it may be to himself. We put the welfare of the community above the interests, or what seem to be the interests, of the individual in this case. We abandon out and out the economic theory. The problem of distribution it is harder to solve. The goods of the world are distributed by the simple medium of price. As soon as prices fall and no profits follow, the salesman withdraws his goods from the market. The Socialist State will have to regulate, to adjust I should rather say, the supply to the demand. I see no way of doing that, but the Socialist will answer that he will reward effort, and further that he will reward disagreeable labour at a higher rate than agreeable labour. That means, in other words, that the people who dig the drains and construct the railways in the Socialist State will be rewarded at a higher rate than those who perform the comparatively agreeable tasks discharged by most of my friends before me.
The interest of that question (and I want to digress for a moment) is very great, because as a matter of fact we are failing before the task of getting the disagreeable work of the world done. Who are going to build our railways and dig our drains in another generation? We have used, hitherto, the inhabitants of Southern Europe, but they are becoming less and less available, and some of us are demanding Oriental labour. We recognize that we must bring on new supplies. Ultimately, we shall have to accept the fact that we must educate all the people and then trust to their public spirit, to improved machinery, to get the disagreeable work of the world done. That is precisely the position of the intellectual Socialist; with that object in view he would attempt to reward this disagreeable labour at a higher rate than agreeable labour. He would substitute for private ownership, practically speaking, public ownership.
There again it is not likely that in the future history of the race private ownership will be completely abandoned. The question remains: Is the motive of acquisition, is the motive behind private property, the highest, the ultimate motive for the race? That is the question the Socialist is trying to answer. The Socialist is anxious to transfer the struggle for existence from the purely economic sphere, if that struggle must go on. Tie would assume that finally the economic struggle should go by the board, and that men should put into competition for public service the same energy, the same selfishness, which characterizes at present their struggle for gain. Ts that hoping too much, that men will in the end rise to something higher than the simple motive of acquisition? Well, a great deal of the best work in the world is at present done out of far other considerations than those of private gain. Similarly, the intellectual Socialist would substitute for current ideas of liberty, which make it mean self-assertiveness or right of aggrandizement; he would substitute for these false notions the true idea of liberty as harmony with the State.
I dare say this sketch of the religious Socialist looks to you rather hazy, like romancing, very vague. As a matter of fact, its safety lies in its vagueness. So long as it is vague, and talks about devotion to the State, and the rest, I do not think anyone can quarrel with it. Its danger begins when it descends to details. The Socialist, not satisfied with urging his ideals, begins to work them out in great detail for the whole community. There his difficulties begin, and the danger of intellectual socialism appears. No one can determine in detail what future society will be any more than you can determine what kind of knowledge man will ultimately acquire.
There is a second aspect of this danger; this conception is entirely a matter of spirit, of public spirit, but the Socialist is inclined, even the intellectual Socialist, to trust too much to the letter, to the law. You know just as well as I do that the authors of the French Revolution were sincere believers in liberty, but as soon as they began to force that upon everybody; to placard the walls and the streets with " liberty and equality," liberty and equality disappeared; the liberty and equality in the French Republic of today are too often a mockery and a sham. That is the point. Liberty and equality, all things of that sort, are not names, but principles, with which one must start.
Lastly, even this kind of socialism attaches too much importance to the State, too much importance to the community, too much importance to the thought of " all." That is very dangerous, it seems to me. It emphasizes what is really, of course, at the bottom a false antithesis between the State and the individual. We over-emphasize the individual. The Socialist attaches too much importance to the State. Suppose I lived in a Socialist State, and wished to secure an article, the manufacture of which I knew was dangerous to the workers. Could I put the burden of deciding that upon the State, even a Socialist State? Could I do that? Would not the responsibility of buying that article depend as much upon me, in a Socialist State, as it does now? Must not the conscience of the individual agree ultimately with the conduct or the conscience of the State? Is not that the solution? Is the Socialist not laying too much stress upon the community, where, I admit, we are laying too much stress upon the individual? To trust so entirely to the State, as does this religious socialism, seems to me to constitute an actual menace.
Those are the main dangers of socialism from its two aspects, whether you consider it as robbery and confiscation or as religion, or both.
Perhaps I ought to say a word in conclusion about the practical measures which, it seems to me, we should be perfectly safe to adopt. There is no doubt that laws and institutions do help to promote morality. We must allow the letter to express the spirit. There is a great deal in assisting social movements by active reforms. I should favour, along with Mr. Andrew Carnegie, the extension of profit-sharing as the solution of the economic difficulties. I know that these attempts, conducted for the most part by thoroughly unselfish employers, are often met with distrust, and suspicion, but this should not destroy faith in their value.
As a second practical measure I should very strongly urge the acceptance, the belief in, free education. I do not see any other means of providing that equal opportunity which is necessary, inevitable, in democracy, than free education. Education must be the flail to separate the wheat from the chaff. You say, " We agree: we accept that." But do you? We are face to face with what we conceive to be a reaction against education, a great doubt, indeed, in the public mind. Is that doubt justifiable? How is society going to find a way out, if it comes to distrust education? We are face to face with the problem of educating more people than we can properly handle, and the easy solution is accepted of raising the fees to reduce the number of pupils. We are at once attempting to measure intellectual things in money terms, by money measures. Does that appeal to you as the ultimate solution? Would not it be much fairer in the interests of education if we raised our educational standards, kept our fees down to the minimum in the interests of every class, and thereby reduced our numbers? When I say free education, do not accept so readily the saying that we all believe in education.
As a last answer to the challenge of socialism, I should most clearly and firmly insist upon the responsibility of the individual to the community; that is to say, upon public service. This is no doubt a commonplace, the need for public service on the part of those who are engaged, particularly in commercial pursuits, but we cannot escape from it on that account. It seems to me that the wheel comes around again full circle, and brings us back to the responsibility of the individual. These questions of property, etc., would solve themselves if the individual was actuated by the right motives to the community; so that it rests with us, not with the Socialist, to meet the menace of socialism, to deprive the Socialists of their arms, and gain a victory by some sort of compromise, some kind of reasonable settlement between what are now, I am afraid, two extremes, State action and individual freedom.