Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

*

foments the excessive development of these needs, neither proportioned to nor corresponding with the progress of production, encourages the progress of socialism. To this result the state is contributing through the constant increase of its expenditure, which causes new wants to arise among the masses, besides augmenting the old ones, both of which take on gigantic proportions.

* For the Greeks the state embraced society as a whole,-every phase of individual activity, and Aristotle's Politics, which marvelously reflects that view of the state, speaks to us not only of government, but of instruction, education, music, gymnastics, poetry, religion, military science, economics, of human activity as a whole. The individual, according to him, existed for the state, but the latter should better him in every thing, and hence surround him on all sides, and thus mingle in all his interests. In this Greece has inherited the conception of statehood existing in all primitive societies, in which the brutal struggle between the various tribes, and against the enormous hardships of their environment, rendered necessary for the preservation of the individual himself, his complete subjection to the state or military tribe. The individual in these early social groups exists only for his clan or for his tribe, and without this clan or tribe he would soon be a victim to other tribes or to the hardships of his surroundings. This complete subjection of the individual to the primitive state is, for the individual himself, the necessary conditions for securing his own interests and his own preservation.

But the Romans, though in political science they repeated Greek ideas, by establishing in practice the conception of rights which they distinguished from morals, enhanced still further the power of the state over the individual, but limited and circumscribed its boundaries. The state thus increased its power, becoming more and more rigorously juridical and political. But from now on, as Pasquale Villari well says,

Compare Wilhelm Oncken, Die Staatslehre des Aristoteles in historisch-politischen Umrissen. Leipzig, 1875.

· P. Villari, Nicolò Machiavelli, Milano, seconda edizione, secondo volume, 1896, pag. 285.

the differences between the antique and medieval state and that which was consecrated by the French Revolution of 1789 are quite fundamental in their nature. The rude warfare of the Middle Ages, though it preserved its economic aim, assumed also a political character which became more and more prominent. Meanwhile the state gradually changing into an organ of politics and justice and of internal order, left to the free activity of the individual its remaining economic and social relations. The primitive state had absorbed, directed, and regulated all these economic and social relations. Society was nothing, it was absorbed by the state. Gradually, then, as the state left to free competition and individual initiative all this intercourse, and all these social and economic relations, as indicated above, the idea of society becomes differentiated from that of the state.

The French Revolution of 1789, moreover the English Bill of Rights of 1689, and the Constitution of the United States of 1789, in their ideals, consecrate and represent precisely the triumph of that principle: the differentiation of society from the state, which now becomes only a political organ in respect to foreign and domestic affairs, to secure justice and good order. So it is clear that socialism, especially the collectivism of Marx, represents exactly a reaction against this cardinal principle which is the fulcrum of the economic and social constitution of the modern state. The socialism of Marx aims at the complete absorption of society by the state; it is the state which, according to Marx, it to assure to the individual his life and prosperity, just as did the primitive state. On this point we cannot be in doubt. The socialists malign and spurn individual initiative and the social competition which results from it. They desire the re-establishment of a social organization entirely regulated and established in its minutest details by the state, under the direction of which it is to act and move. I will not here discuss the socialistic program. I state what it is in the mind of the Marxists. The essence of this program may be summed up in this simple expression: collectivistic socialism

Compare especially the work of M. Bluntschli, Théorie générale de l'état. Paris, 1877 ; also his Über den Unterschied der mittelalterlichen und der modernen Staatsidee. München, 1855.

1

proposes the re-absorption of society in the state. Now what is the bearing of the progressive increase of public expenditure? Here too there can be no doubt as to the reply. The progressive increase of public expenditure means nothing but the enlargement of the state's activity. Whatever the state obtains it must obtain from society, that is from free individual effort. In other words, the progressive increase of public expenditure is a continuous and increasing absorption by the state of free social activity, that is to say, the present states of Europe are by their great increase of expenditure rapidly approaching the realization of the Marxist program. Indeed, we know how rapid is this increase, and we know, moreover, that no bulwark will be strong enough to stay its onward march. In the trail of this expenditure are dragged ministers of state who do not hesitate to call themselves liberals and thorough conservatives; and, therefore, it is absolutely hopeless to expect this increase of public expenditure to be retarded. Yet, as it increases, what is the strength of the Marxists in Europe? Inthe Reichstag are 46 Socialist Deputies; in the House of Commons are II Socialists out of 670 members; in the French Chamber of Deputies there are some 60; in the Italian Diet, 9; still fewer in the Spanish Parliament; 29 in the Belgian Parliament. Let us look into the increase of socialism in Germany. Liebknecht wrote not long ago : “Persecution has accomplished nothing against the development of socialism. We numbered 7,000 thirty years ago in the days of Lassalle; to-day we have more than 2,000,000 socialists more than 25 years of age. The progress of socialism from the foundation of the Empire has never been denied.” In fact the number of votes cast for socialist candidates for election to the Reichstag is growing as follows:

Number of votes cast.

124,655 351,952 493,288 437,158

549.990

1,427,298 1893,

1,781,731 Yet Bebel wrote to his Berlin friends not long ago: "It is not to be denied that for several years the democratic current has

Year. 1871, 1874, 1875, 1877, 1884, 1890,

been swelled with new recruits. We have won many sympathizers, but increase in quantity does not go hand in hand with that of quality; and we are getting to the point where we see our party getting a decided hold on people who are quite ignorant of what socialism means. It is beyond doubt that the party is getting into the mire of opportunism. The struggle of classes is weakening. We are on the point of compromising with bourgeois reformers. Yielding to the persuasion of various friends, I have continued on the party's Central Committee, but I can hardly promise to remain there long."

But Bebel did not bear in mind that this is the fate of all extreme parties. Eager, vivacious and relentless when they come into existence and are still weak numerically, they later fall into opportunism, and give up their program when the ranks of their adherents have considerably increased. Let us consider the socialists in the French Chamber. They are the most numerous of all parliamentary parties, but the least socialistic. The radical left of the Italian Chamber, sturdy and warlike when it consisted of a few persons, grew, and now a large fraction of their number have abandoned their own to accept the constitutional and monarchical program. The Social Democracy of Marx in Germany has reached its point of saturation; to get new followers it has been obliged to open its doors to opportunists. From now on the party cannot realize its aim. That very pretty program of the party drawn up by Marx and Engels is a dead letter. However, on the other hand, public expenditure continues

It piles up amidst a general indifference to the matter. With regard to these two phenomena, the socialism of Marx and the rapid increase of public expenditure, which tend to the same goal, namely the absorption by the state of free social activity, if we are to look forward to the future with anxiety and fear, there is necessarily more cause for such feelings in that increase of expenditure than in the progress of socialism.

Is it, then, really true that that increase of expenditure rests on a utilitarian basis, namely the same on which rests the development of large undertakings to the detriment of small ones?

to grow.

Is it really true, as a score of economists have said, amongst them Jevons, Sax, Gersfelt, and many others, that political administrative centralization, ever growing, is a manifestation of the economic law of to-day, which consists in centralizing all production to make it more economical? The stupendous blunder of all this pretended theory is based upon and caused by a pure illusion. These economists believe that the state is the perfect homo economicus, a convenient device for their reasoning and economic abstractions, but which here, more than ever, does not exist. It is a pure illusion to believe, as those economists do, that the state extends its functions, holding strictly to the laws of economic utility; and, whenever the question arises of the state's assuming a new function, the state would be brought to this query: is it more advantageous to leave this function to free individual activity, or will the greatest advantage be derived simply from public service? and so, according to the result of this comparison, the state would or would not assume this new function. So it would have to act in order to satisfy the conditions required by this pretended explanation of the progressive increase of public expenditure.

Now this is a pure illusion, nor is the phenomenon, solely economic, to be settled by a simple economic analysis. To understand the increase of public expenditure, one must observe the make-up and methods of the European Parliaments. In them every interest is represented; those of diverse sections; manufacturing against agriculture, each striving for an advantage; the various social classes are represented, etc. In all the constitutions of the European states it is declared that every deputy represents the country, not his constituency. To assert that this provision is actually carried out in our parliaments would be telling one of the many conventional lies, so common in our times. Instead, even a superficial observation from a synthetic point of view of the sphere of European Parliaments leaves no doubt as to this fact, namely that in these parliaments there are struggling a great number of economic interests, of sections, of industries, represented more or less influentially and engaged in mutual conflict. These interests, to make themselves felt, result in various coalitions and groups. So that interest which at a given moment makes itself felt will get

« AnteriorContinuar »