Hope for the Workers.
If the Socialists' premises were true it would be difficult indeed to withstand the conclusion that only by a complete reorganisation of society could the condition of mankind be improved. If the drift of the world under the present system, baaed as it is on individual action, is iu truth more and more towards depressing the worker at the expense of the capitalist, and towards placing the laborer in a condition of virtual slavery, then indeed the Socialist has a clear right to try and arrest the downward progress, for in doing so he is attempting to benefit the whole human race. According to the followers of Mr flyndm.au, the rich grow daily richer and the poor poorer and more miserable. A society organised on free contract is, they contend, one which the more fully it is developed the more becomes a system for bet towing the rewards and profits of labor on the idle instead of the industrious, The " hands " of the capitalist are, they declare, far worse off than the slaves on a plantation ; for whereas the latter had a right to expect the necessaries of life from their masters, the fo.mer may at any moment be ) cast off to starve. The world is, for all practical purposes, we are told, divided by a rigid distinction between rich and poor. The rich enjoy the varied products of the new material progress, while the majority of the poor are shut up all dry in gaunt and comfortless workshops, without the slightest I prospect of change or improvement. Day after day the clanging factory bell, or the pitiless and resonant moan of the hooter, calls thousands upon thousands of men and women from their sleep to enter the doors of cheerless, dust-begrimed, often evilsmelling, and always evil-looking mills, where, herded together through the long hours, they labor at the same dull, thankless, and moi o :onous toil. For the ordinary "hand" there is no more hope of escape from thi3 bondage than for the omnibus horse. Till dtath releases him he must, even if he live till seventy, do his ten or twelve hours of work a day. It is true he need not fear the actual lash of a whip, but only because organised society has substituted a much more efficient punishment in the shape of the fear of starvation, which the capitalist keeps always suspended ! before the laborer's eyes. Such is the Socialists' manner of painting j the results of modern society. No doubt in certain ways the picture is as true as it is terrible. That the life of the factory laborer may be a very miserable one we have no desire to deny. What we do wish to point out, however, and with all the emphasis possible, is that it is utterly false anil misleading to say that the tendency of society, organised on the individualistic basis, is to stereotype the existing miseries and to further degrade the worker. Such, a statement is the the exact opposite to the truth. The tendency the necessary and unavoidable tendency of society arranged in accordance with the principles of free contract, free exchange, and free individual action— h unquestionably towards the improvement of the laborer. If the worker is let alone and allowed to sell his work to the highest bidder, he must ultimately win in the industrial battle. In fact, the observance of the doctrines of the socalled Manchester school, which, though nominally scouted, are in a great measure triumphant, will, if further allowed free scope, do at last for the world what the Socialists in their hearts desire ; but will do it without attempting to subject man to regulations which, since they run counter to every instinct in his nature, can never possibly succeed. For those who can read them there are always abundant signs that the silent working of economic laws is producing a condition of affairs under which, if capital will not be actually at the mercy of labor, it will, at any rate, cease to claim the larger share of the world's good things. Before long the progress of modern civilisation will not only have enormously enhanced the reward of all labor, but will have done away with the industrial slavery now existing in factory, mill, and workshop. The first of the signs to which we have alluded is the lowering of the interest paid for capital. How marked is this tendency is well illustrated by the fact that an American municipal corporation—that of tho city of New Yorkhas actually been able to borrow money at less than 2i per cent. Its stock at that rate was subscribed for at above 101. To realise the full significance of this fact, we must contrast with it the rise in the value of human labor. When money commanded on an average 5 per cent, interest, as it did, say, thirty years ago, L 2.000 invested would purchase the annual labor of two skilled laborers. Now, however, that the rate of interest is reduced by one-half, and that wages have risen 25 per cent., the return from such a sum would not obtain the yearly service of one. No doubt the existing capitalists appear to be better off, because one of the results of the fall of the rate of interest has been to make the capitalists compete fiercely among themselves for those perpetual rights to receive so many pounds per annum from States or companies which we term " stock.'' This circumstance, however, cannot alter the fact that while the remuneration of that form of wealth which we call *' capital" has declined, the remuneration of that form which we call "labor" has increased, and that immense advantage has thereby accrued to the poor—that is, to the classes who depend solely on the work of their hands or brains, and who gain employment in the countless commercial enterprises set going when money can be borrowed cheaply. The only use of newly-created capital is to employ labor in some form or other. It rusts for want of use. Therefore the more capital that is created the heavier the competition for the laborer's work and the higher his wages. Still more definite hope for the poor is to be found in the fact that the latest discoveries of science seem deatined to free them from the curse of being herded together in factories and mills, and to restore to them the power they once enjoyed of working at home, and under conditions infinitely more conducive to moral and physical health than exist at present. We shall not, of course, ever return to hand labor instead of machinery; but it appears extremely likely that the artisan of the future will toil in his own little workshop, and that, instead of the employment of large engines in vast buildings, we shall have the same work done by a number of small machines, capable of being set up and " run " in private houses. A German, Dr Albrecht, has recently been investigating this subject, and his researches show that the manufacture and employment of small machines of various sorts for home use is immensely on the increase. Up till now the difficulty has been the obtaining of a cheap and efficient motive force. Without this the small home workshop could not hope to compete with lhe mill. Of recent years, however, this has been in a great measure got over by the use of water-motors, hot-air engines, gas-motors, and small steamengines, all of which are of course perfectly suitable for the work required. Dr Albrecht calculates that tho least expensive of these motors—that is, those run by gas and steam, of from one to four horse-power—tan successfully compete with the large factory engine?. In regard to their use, the report of a German inspector of factories says: " There is a constant increase in the number of small shops, which are seeking, by the introduction of such motors, to appropriate as much as possible the advantages of the la'getßtablishments." Dt Albrecht, however, 's by no means content to show that the home industries will hold their own. He looks forward to science producing a motor for house-to-house use, which will give the individual worker a decided advantage, and will, by practically putting an end to the factory system, restore the old individualistic industries. Electricity, as our readers may imagine, is to solve the problem, and redeem the toilers from the bondage of the factory, If once central stations are established, and wires laid to each man's house, there will, thinks Dr Albrecht, be no difficulty in the use of small electric motors, which, he believes, will prove the cheapest and best of all. The prospect is certainly a fascinating one. By night the electric currents running down every street will light the houses, and in the daytime the force necessary for all kinds of manufactures will be supplied to those who need it. No more will it be necessary to shut men and women up all day and every day in huge barracks filled with the hideous roar of
engines of threeor four hundred horse-power, or to summon them from their homes by the hooter and the steam whistle. The artisan will be able to have a home life as well as the artist, and, thanks to electricity, will once again be a free man. In tho words of Werner S : emens, the great electrical inventor, quoted in the 'Nation': "The goal of the revolution of science will not be a mass of great factories iu the hands of rich capitalists, in which the ' slaves of labor' drag out their monotonous existence, but the return to individual labor." When a prospect of a real bettering of the condition of the workers is such as we have endeavored to point out, would it not be madness to throw all chance of improvement away at the bidding of the Socialists, in the hope that the State organisation of labor—that is, the enslavement of the individual to the aggregate —might somehow or other alleviate evils due in reality not to the system of freedom and competition, but to wars, and to that practical Socialism which we know by the name of "the protection of industries"? The workers are asked to abandon a substance and pursue a Bhadow. If they assent, their action can have but one result. They will find themselves able to destroy, but utterly unable to recreate, a social system which, with all its faults, tends directly to improve the condition of all those who labor.—London ' Spectator.' |
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Hope for the Workers., Evening Star, Issue 8000, 31 August 1889, Supplement
Hope for the Workers. Evening Star, Issue 8000, 31 August 1889, Supplement
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