THE NEW SOCIETY
AUTHORIZED TRANSLATION BY ARTHUR WINDHAM
NEW YORK HARCOURT, BRACE AND COMPANY 1921
Walther Rathenau, author of Die neue Gesellschaft and other studies of economic and social conditions in modern Germany, was born in 1867. His father, Emil Rathenau, was one of the most distinguished figures in the great era of German industrial development, and his son was brought up in the atmosphere of hard work, of enterprise, and of public affairs. After his school days at a Gymnasium, or classical school, he studied mathematics, physics and chemistry at the Universities of Berlin and of Strassburg, taking his degree at the age of twenty-two. Certain discoveries made by him in chemistry and electrolysis led to the establishment of independent manufacturing works, which he controlled with success, and eventually to his connexion with the world-famous A.E.G.—Allgemeine Electrizitaetsgesellschaft—at the head of which he now stands. During the war he scored a very remarkable and exceptional success as controller of the organization for the supply of raw materials. He is thus not merely a scholar and thinker, but one who has lived and more than held his own in the thick of commercial and industrial life, and who knows by actual experience the subject-matter with which he deals.
The present study, with its wide outlook and its resolute determination to see facts as they are, should have much value for all students of latter-day politics and economics in Europe; for though Rathenau is mainly concerned with conditions in his own land the same conditions affect all countries to a greater or less degree, and he deals with general principles of human psychology and of economic law which prevail everywhere in the world. It is not too much to say that "The New Society" constitutes a landmark in the history of economic and social thought, and contains matter for discussion, for sifting, for experiment and for propaganda which should occupy serious thinkers and reformers for many a day to come. His suggestions and conclusions may not be all accepted, or all acceptable, but few will deny that they constitute a distinct advance in the effort to bring serious and disinterested thought to the solution of our social problems, and in this conviction we offer the present complete and authorized translation to English readers.
THE NEW SOCIETY
Is there any sign or criterion by which we can tell that a human society has been completely socialized?
There is one and one only: it is when no one can have an income without working for it.
That is the sign of Socialism; but it is not the goal. In itself it is not decisive. If every one had enough to live on, it would not matter for what he received money or goods, or even whether he got them for nothing. And relics of the system of income which is not worked for will always remain—for instance, provision for old age.
The goal is not any kind of division of income or allotment of property. Nor is it equality, reduction of toil, or increase of the enjoyment of life. It is the abolition of the proletarian condition; abolition of the lifelong hereditary serfage, the nameless hereditary servitude, of one of the two peoples who are called by the same name; the annulment of the hereditary twofold stratification of society, the abolition of the scandalous enslavement of brother by brother, of that Western abuse which is the basis of our civilization as slavery was of the antique, and which vitiates all our deeds, all our creations, all our joys.
Nor is even this the final goal—no economy, no society can talk of a final goal—the only full and final object of all endeavour upon earth is the development of the human soul. A final goal, however, points out the direction, though not the path, of politics.
The political object which I have described as the abolition of the proletarian condition may, as I have shown in Things that are to Come, be closely approached by a suitable policy in regard to property and education; above all, by a limitation of the right of inheritance. Of socialization in the strict sense there is, for this purpose, no need. Yet a far-reaching policy of socialization—and I do not here refer to a mere mechanical nationalization of the means of production but to a radical economic and social resettlement—is necessary and urgent, because it awakens and trains responsibilities, and because it withdraws from the sluggish hands of the governing classes the determination of time and of method, and places it in the hands that have a better title, those of the whole commonalty, which, at present, stands helpless through sheer democracy. For only in the hands of a political people does democracy mean the rule of the people; in those of an untrained and unpolitical people it becomes merely an affair of debating societies and philistine chatter at the inn ordinary. The symbol of German bourgeois democracy is the tavern; thence enlightenment is spread and there judgments are formed; it is the meeting place of political associations, the forum of their orators, the polling-booth for elections.
But the sign that this far-reaching socialization has been actually carried out is the cessation of all income without work. I say the sign, but not the sole postulate; for we must postulate a complete and genuine democratization of the State and public economy, and a system of education equally accessible to all: only then can we say that the monopoly of class and culture has been smashed. But the cessation of the workless income will show the downfall of the last of class-monopolies, that of the Plutocracy.
It is not very easy to imagine what society will be like when these objects have been realised, at least if we are thinking not of a brief period like the present Russian regime, or a passing phase as in Hungary, but an enduring and stationary condition. A dictatorial oligarchy, like that of the Bolshevists, does not come into consideration here, and the well-meaning Utopias of social romances crumble to nothing. They rest, one and all, on the blissfully ignorant assumption of a state of popular well-being exaggerated tenfold beyond all possibility.
The knowledge of the sort of social condition towards which at present we Germans, and then Europe, and finally the other nations are tending in this vertical Migration of the Peoples, will not only decide for each of us his attitude towards the great social question, but our whole political position as well. It is quite in keeping with German traditions that in fixing our aims and forming our resolves we should be guided not by positive but by negative impulses—not by the effort to get something but to get away from it. To this effort, which is really a flight, we give the positive name of Socialism, without troubling ourselves in the least how things will look—not in the sense of popular watchwords but in actual fact—when we have got what we are seeking.
This is not merely a case of lack of imagination; it is that we Germans have, properly speaking, no understanding of political tendencies. We are more or less educated in business, in science, in thought, but in politics we are about on the same level as the East Slavonic peasantry. At best we know—and even that not always—what oppresses, vexes and tortures us; we know our grievances, and think we have conceived an aim when we simply turn them upside down. Such processes of thought as "the police are to blame, the war-conditions are to blame, the Prussians are to blame, the Jews are to blame, the English are to blame, the priests are to blame, the capitalists are to blame"—all these we quite understand. Just as with the Slavs, if our good-nature and two centuries of the love of order did not forbid it, our primitive political instincts would find expression in a pogrom in the shape of a peasant-war, of a religious war, of witch-trials, or Jew-baiting. Our blatant patriotism bore the plainest signs of such a temper; half nationalism, half aggression against some bugbear or other; never a proud calm, an earnest self-dedication, a struggle for a political ideal.
We have now a Republic in Germany: no one seriously desired it. We have at last established Parliamentarianism: no one wanted it. We have set up a kind of Socialism: no one believed in it. We used to say: "The people will live and die for their princes; our last drop of blood for the Hohenzollerns"—no one denied it. "The people mean to be ruled by their hereditary lords; they will go through fire for their officers; rather death than yield a foot of German soil to the foe." Was all this a delusion? By no means; it was sincere enough, only it did not go deep. It was the kind of sincerity which depends on not knowing enough of the alternative possibilities.
When the alternatives revealed themselves as possible and actual, then we all turned republican, even to the cottagers in Pomerania. When the military strike had broken down discipline, the officers were mishandled; when the war was lost, the fleet disgraced, and the homeland defiled, then we began to play and dance.
But was this frivolity? Not at all; it was a childish want of political imagination. The Poles, a people not remotely comparable to the German in depth of soul and the capacity for training talent, have for a century cherished no other thought than that of national unity, while we passively resign our territories. No Englishman or Japanese or American will ever understand us when we tell him that this military discipline of ours, this war-lust, did not represent a passion for dominion and aggression, but was merely the docility of a childish people which wants nothing, and can imagine nothing, but that things should go on as they happen, at the moment, to be.
We Germans know but little of the laws which govern the formation of national character. The capacity of a people for profundity is not profundity, either of the individual or of the community. It may express itself in the masses as mere plasticity and softness of spirit. The capacity for collective sagacity and strength of will demands from the individual merely a dry intelligence in human affairs, and egoism. It would be too much to say that our political weakness may be merely the expression of spiritual power, for the latter has not proved an obstacle to success in business. Indolence and belief in authority have their share in it.
But have we not been the classic land of social democracy, and have we not become that of Radicalism? Well, we have been, indeed, and are, with our submissiveness to authority and our capacity for discipline, the classic land of organized grumbling; and the classic land, too, of anti-semitism which deprived us of the very forces we stood most in need of—productive scepticism and the imagination for concrete things. Organized grumbling is not the same thing as political creation. A Socialism and Radicalism poorer in ideas than the post-Marxian German Socialism has never existed. Half of it was merely clerical work, and the other half was agitators' Utopianism of the cheapest variety.
Nothing was more significant than the fact that the mighty event of the German Revolution was not the result of affection but of disaffection. It is not we who liberated ourselves, it was the enemy; it was our destruction that set us free. On the day before we asked for the armistice, perhaps even on the day before the flight of the Kaiser, a plebiscite would have yielded an overwhelming majority for the monarchy and against Socialism. What I so often said before the war came true: "He who trains his children with the rod learns only through the rod."
And to-day, when everything is seething and fermenting—no thanks to Socialism for that—all intellectual work has to be done outside of the ranks of social-democracy, which stumbles along on its two crutches of "Socialization" and "Soviets." Orthodox Socialism is still a case of the "lesser evil," what the French call a pis aller. "Things are so bad that any change must be for the better." What is to make them better we are told in the socialist catechism; but how it is to do so, how and what anything is to become, this, the only question that matters, is regarded as irrelevant. It is answered by some halting and insincere stammer about "surplus value" which is to make everybody well off—and which would yield all round, as I have elsewhere shown, just twenty-five marks a head. Fifteen millions of grown men are pressing forward into a Promised Land revealed through the fog of political assemblies and in the thunder of parrot-phrases—a land from which no one will ever bring back a bunch of grapes.
If one would interrogate not the agitators, but their hearers, and find out what they instinctively conceive this land to look like, we should get the answer, timid and naive but at the same time the deepest and shrewdest that it is possible to give—that it is a land where there are no longer any rich.
A most true and truthful reply! And yet a profound error silently lurks in it. You imagine, do you not, that in a land where there are no more rich people there will also be no more poor? "Why, of course not! How can there be poor people when there are no more rich?" And yet there will be. In the land where there are no more rich there will be only poor, only very poor, people.
Whoever does not know this and is a Socialist, that man is merely one of the herd or he is a dupe. He who knows it and conceals it is a deceiver. He who knows it, and in spite of that, nay, on account of that, is a Socialist, is a man of the future.
Though the crowd be satisfied with some dim feeling that this, anyhow, is the tendency of the times and that with this stream one must swim; though the more thoughtful contemplate the evils of the time and decide to put up with the pis aller; the responsible thinker is under the obligation of investigating the land into which the people are being led. We must know what it looks like, where there are no rich people and where no one can have an income without working for it, we must understand what we call the "new society" so as to be able to shape it aright.
[Footnote 1: Von Kommenden Dingen, by Walther Rathenau. Berlin. S. Fischer.]
[Footnote 2: Workers' and Soldiers' Councils.]
The question is not very urgent.
As surely as the hundred years' course of the social World-Revolution cannot be arrested, so surely can we prophesy that the process cannot maintain all along the line the rapid movement of its beginning. The victorious and the defeated countries will have to work out to the end the changes and interchanges of their various phases, for in the historical developments which we witness to-day, we find mingled together the phenomena of organic growth and of disease; already we see that the Socialism of the healthy nations is different from that of the sick ones. It is in vain that those who are sick with the Bolshevist disease dream that they can infect the world.
The small daily and yearly movements in our realm of Central Europe cannot be determined beforehand, because they depend upon small, accidental, local, and external forces. The great and necessary issues of events can be predicted, but it would be folly to discuss their accidental flux and reflux. When an unguarded house is filled with explosives from the cellar to the roof, then we know that it will one day be blown up; but whether this will happen on a Sunday or a Monday, in the morning or in the evening, or whether the left door post will be left standing or no, it would be idle to inquire.
From the historical point of view it is of no consequence whether Radicalism may make an inroad here and there, or whether here and there the forces of reaction and restoration may collect themselves for a transitory triumph. The great movement of history, as we always find when a catastrophe has worked itself out, grows slower, and this retardation in itself looks like reaction. We, who are not accustomed to catastrophes, and who did not produce this first one, but rather suffered it, we, who easily get sea-sick after every rapid movement—think, for instance, of the former Reichstag—we shall certainly experience, as the first deep wave of the Revolution sinks into us, an aristocratic, dynastic, and plutocratic Romanticism, a yearning for the colour and glitter of the time of glory, a revolt against the spiritless, mechanical philanthrophy of unemployed orators of about fourth-form standard intellectually; against the monotonous and insincere tirades of paid agitators and their restless disciples; against laziness; ignorance, greed, and exaggeration masquerading as popular scientific economy; and against the brutal and extortionate upthrust from below. And so we shall arrive at the reverse kind of folly, an admiration and bad imitation of foreign pride and pomp, an arrogant individualism and a hardening of our human feeling. The intellectual war profiteers, who are all for radicalism to-day, will soon be wearing cornflowers in their button-holes.
For the third time we shall see an illustration of the naive shamelessness of the turn-coat. The spiritual process of conversion is worth noticing; Paul was converted to be a converter. But the scurrying of the intellectual speculator from the position which has failed into the position which has won, with the full intention of scurrying back again if necessary, and always with the claim to instruct other people, is an expression of the alarming fact that life has become not an affair of inward conviction, but of getting the right tip.
The turn-coat movement began when a shortsighted crowd, incapable of judgment, and with their minds clouded with a few cheap phrases, expected from a quick and victorious war the strengthening of all the elements of Force, and feared to be left stranded. Even the most threadbare kind of liberalism appeared to be compromising, they clamoured for "shining armour." The most wretched victims in soul and body, who were obliged to flee forwards because they could not flee in any other direction, were called heroes, and the manliest word in our language, a word of which only the freest and the greatest are worthy, was degraded. One who has experienced the hate and fury of the turn-coats who poured contempt upon every word against the war and the "great days," is unable to understand how a whole people can throw its errors overboard without shame and sorrow—or he understands it only too well. At this day we are being mocked and preached at by the turn-coats of the second transformation, and to-morrow we shall be smiled at by those of the third.
But it does not matter. The moving forces of our epoch do not come from business offices nor from the street, the rostrum, the pulpit, or the professorial chair. The noisy rush of yesterday, to-day and to-morrow is only the furious motion of the outermost circle, the centre moves upon its way, quietly as the stars.
We have in our survey to leap over several periods of forward and backward movement and we shall earn the thanks of none of them. What is too conservative for one will be too revolutionary for another, and the aesthete will scornfully tell us that we have no fibre. When we show that what awaits us is no fools' paradise, but the danger of a temporary reverse of humanity and culture, then the facile Utopianist will shout us down with his two parrot-phrases, and when we, out of a sense of duty, of harmony with the course of the world and confidence in justice at the soul of things, tread the path of danger, precipitous though it be, then we shall be scorned by all the worshippers of Force and despisers of mankind.
But we for our part shall not pander either to the force-worshippers or to the masses. We serve no powers that be. Our love goes out to the People; but the People are not a crowd at a meeting, nor a sum-total of interests, nor are they the newspapers or debating-clubs. The People are the waking or sleeping, the leaking, frozen, choked, or gushing well of the German spirit. It is with that spirit, in the present and in the future, as it runs its course into the sea of humanity, that we have here to do.
[Footnote 3: The emblem of the Hohenzollerns.]
[Footnote 4: The reference, apparently, is to the argument that any change must be for the better, and to the reliance on surplus value. See pp. 13, 14.]
The criterion which we have indicated for the socialized society of the future is a material one. But is the spiritual condition of an epoch to be determined by material arrangements? Is this not a confession of faith in materialism?
We are speaking of a criterion, not of a prime moving force. I have no desire, however, to avoid going into the material, or rather we should say mechanical, interpretation of history. I have done it more than once in my larger works, and for the sake of coherence I may repeat it in outline here.
The laws which determine individual destinies are reproduced in the history of collective movements. A man's career is not prescribed by his bodily form, his expression, or his environment; but there is in these things a certain connexion and parallelism, for the same laws which determine the course of his intellectual and spiritual life reflect themselves in bodily and practical shape. Every instant of our experience, all circumstances in which we find ourselves, every limb that we grow, every accident that happens to us, is an expression or product of our character. We are indeed subject to human limitations; we are not at liberty to live under water or in another planet; but within these wide boundaries each of us can shape his own life. To observe a man, his work, his fate, his body and expression, his connexions and his marriage, his belongings and his associations, is to know the man.
From this point of view all social, economic and political schemes become futile, for if man is so sovereign a being there is no need to look after him. But these schemes re-acquire a relative importance when we consider the average level of man's will-power, as we meet it in human experience—a power which, as a rule, shows itself unable to make head against a certain maximum of pressure from external circumstances. And again, these schemes are really a part of the expression of human will, for through them collective humanity battles with its surroundings, its contemporary world, and freely shapes its own destinies.
The inner laws of the community harmonize with those of the individuals who compose it. The fact that certain national traits of will and character are conditioned or even enforced by poverty or wealth, soil and climate, an inland or maritime position, tends to obscure the fact that these external conditions are not really laid on the people but have been willed by themselves. A people wills to have a nomadic life, or wills to have a sea-coast, or wills agriculture, or war; and has the power, if its will be strong enough, to obtain its desire, or failing that to break up and perish. It is the same will and character which decides for well-being and culture, or indolence and dependence, or labour and spiritual development. The Venetians did not have architecture and painting bestowed upon them because they happened to have become rich, nor the English sea-power because they happened to live on an island: no, the Venetians willed freedom, power and art, and the Anglo-Saxons willed the sea.
There is a grain of truth in the popular political belief that war embodies a judgment of God. At any rate character is judged by it; not indeed in the sense of popular politics, that one can "hold out" in a hopeless position, but because all the history that went before the war, the capacity or incapacity of politics and leadership is a question of character—and with us it was a question of indolence, of political apathy, of class-rule, philistinish conceit and greed of gain. Nowhere was this conception of the judgment of God so blasphemously exaggerated as with us Germans, when the lord of our armed hosts, at the demand of the barracks greedy for power, of the tavern-benches, the state-bureaus and the debating societies was summoned, and charged with the duty, forsooth, of chastising England—England, which they only knew out of newspaper reports! To-day this exaggeration is being paid for in humiliation, for God did not prove controllable, and His naive blasphemers must silently and with grinding teeth admit that their foes are in the right when they, in their turn, appeal to the same judgment to justify, without limit, everything they desire to do.
After these brief observations on the psycho-physical complex, Spirit and Destiny, we hope we shall not be misunderstood when for the sake of brevity we speak as if the spirit of the new order were determined by its material construction, while in reality it incorporates itself therein. The structure is the easier to survey, and we therefore make it the starting-point of our discussion.
All civilisations known to us have sprung from peoples which were numerous, wealthy and divided into two social strata. They reached their climax at the moment when the two strata began to melt into one.
It is not enough, therefore, that a people should be numerous and wealthy; it must, with all its wealth and its power, contain a large proportion of poor and even oppressed and enslaved subjects. If it has not got these, it must master and make use of other foreign cultures as a substitute. That is what Rome did; it is what America is doing.
It is terrible, but comprehensible. For up to this point the unconscious processes of Nature, the law of mutual strife, has prevailed. So far, collective organizations have been beasts of prey; only now are they about to cross the boundaries of the human order.
Comprehensible and explicable. For all creations of culture hold together; one cannot pursue the cheaper varieties while renouncing the more costly. There is no cheap culture. In their totality they demand outlay, the most tremendous outlay known to history, the only outlay by which human toil is recompensed, over and above the supply of absolute necessaries.
The creations of civilisation, like all things living and dead, follow on each other—plants, men, beasts and utensils have their sequence generation after generation. Men must paint and look at pictures for ten thousand years before a new picture comes into existence. Our poetry and our research are the fruit of thousands of years. This is no disparagement to genius in work and thought, genius is at once new, ancient and eternal, even as the blossom is a new thing on the old stem, and belongs to an eternal type. When we hear that a native in Central Africa or New Zealand has produced an oil-painting we know that somehow or other he must have got to Paris. When a European artist writes or paints in Tahiti, what he produces is not a work of Tahitian culture. When civilisation has withered away on some sterilized soil, it can only be revived by new soil and foreign seed.
The continuity of culture, even in civilized times, can only, however, be maintained by constant outlay, just as in arid districts a luxuriant vegetation needs continuous irrigation. The flood of Oriental wealth had to pour itself into Italy in order to bring forth the bloom of Renaissance art. Thousands of patricians, hundreds of temporal and spiritual princes, had to found and to adorn temples and palaces, gardens, monuments, pageants, games and household goods in order that art and science, schooling, mastership, discipleship and tradition might grow up. The worship of foreign culture which characterized Germany in the seventeenth and half of the eighteenth centuries only meant that our soil was grown too poor to yield a crop of its own. The culture of the Middle Ages remained international only so long as the population of Europe was too sparse and the opportunities of work too scanty to occupy local energies; even in the thinly populated, Homeric middle-ages of Greece, the builder and the poet were not settled in one place, they were wandering artists. If to-day the Republic of Guatemala or Honduras should want a senate-house or a railway-station they will probably send to London or Paris for an architect.
Even technique in handicraft and industry, that typical art of civilization, cannot dispense with a great and continuous outlay on training, commissioning and marketing in order to maintain itself. Although it has not happened yet, there is no reason why a Serb or a Slovak should not make some important discovery if he has been trained at a European University and learnt the technical tradition. That will not, however, give rise to an independent and enduring Serbian or Slovakian technique, even though the costliest Universities and laboratories should be established in the country and foreign teachers called to teach in them. After all that, one must have a market in the country itself; expert purchasers, manufacturers, middle-men, a trained army of engineers, craftsmen, masters, workmen and a foreign market as well—in short, the technical atmosphere—in order to keep up the standard of manufacture and production.
A poor country cannot turn out products of high value for a rich one; it has not had the education arising from demand. In products relating to sport and to comfort, for instance, England was a model, but in France these products were ridiculously misunderstood and imitated with silly adornments, while on the other hand French products of luxury and art-industry were sought for by all countries. German wares were considered to be cheap and nasty, until the land grew rich, and brought about the co-operation of its forces of science and technique, production and marketing, auxiliary industries and remote profits, finance and commerce, education and training, judgment and criticism, habits of life and a sense of comparative values.
But human forces need the same nurture, the same outlay and the same high training, as institutions and material products. Delicate work demands sensitive hands and a sheltered way of life; discovery and invention demand leisure and freedom; taste demands training and tradition, scientific thinking and artistic conception demand an environment with an unbroken continuity of cultivation, thought and intelligence. A dying civilisation can live for a while on the existing humus of culture, on the existing atmosphere of thought, but to create anew these elements of life is beyond its powers.
Do not let us deceive ourselves, but look the facts in the face! All these excellent Canadians, with or without an academic degree, who innocently pride themselves on a proletarian absence of prejudice, are adoptive children of a plutocratic and aristocratic cultivation. It is all the same even if they lay aside their stiff collars and eye-glasses; their every word and argument, their forms of thought, their range of knowledge, their strongly emphasized intellectuality and taste for art and science, their whole handiwork and industry, are an inheritance from what they supposed they had cast off and a tribute to what they pretend to despise. Genuine radicalism is only to be respected when it understands the connexion of things and is not afraid of consequences. It must understand—and I shall make it clear—that its rapid advance will kill culture; and the proper conclusion is that it ought to despise culture, not to sponge on it. The early Christians abolished all the heathen rubbish and abominations, the early Radicals would have hurried, in the first instance, to pick out the plums.
Culture and civilization, as we see, demand a continuous and enormous outlay; an outlay in leisure, an outlay in working power, an outlay in wealth. They need patronage and a market, they need the school, they need models, tradition, comparison, judgment, intelligence, cultivation, disposition, the right kind of nursery—an atmosphere. One who stands outside it can serve it, often more powerfully with his virgin strength than one who is accustomed to it—but he must be carried along and animated by the breath of the same atmosphere. Culture and civilization require a rich soil.
But the richness of the soil is not sufficient; culture must be based upon, and increased by, contrast. Wealth must have at its disposal great numbers of men who are poor and dependent. How otherwise shall the outlay of culture be met? One man must have many at his disposal; but how can he, if they are all his equals? The outlay will be large, but it must be feasible; how can it, if the labour of thousands is not cheap? The few, the exalted, must develop power and splendour, they must offer types for imitation: how can they do that without a retinue, without spectators, without the herd? A land of well-being, that is to say, of equally distributed well-being, remains petty and provincial. When a State and its authorities, councils of solid and thrifty members of societies for this or that, take over the office of a Maecenas or a Medici, with their proposals, their calculations, their objections, their control, then we get things that look like war-memorials, waiting-rooms, newspaper-kiosks and drinking-saloons. It was not always so? No; but even in the most penurious times it was kings who were the patrons.
But if culture is such a poison-flower, if it flourishes only in the swamp of poverty and under the sun of riches, it must and ought to be destroyed. Our sentiment will no longer endure the happiness and brilliance of the few growing out of the misery of the many; the days of the senses are over, and the day of conscience is beginning to dawn.
And now a timid and troubled puritanism makes itself heard: Is there no middle way? Will not half-measures suffice? No, it will not do; let this be said once for all as plainly as possible, you champions of the supply of "bare necessities" who talk about "daily bread" and want to butter it with the "noblest pleasures of art." It will not do!
No, half-measures will not do, nor quarter-measures. They might, if the whole world, the sick, the healthy and the bloated all together were of the same mind as ourselves. In Moscow it is said that people are expecting the world-revolution every hour, but the world declines to oblige. Therefore, if culture and civilization are to remain what they were, is there nothing for it but with one wrench to tear the poisoned garment from our body? Or—is there then an "or"? Let us see. We have a long way before us. First of all we must know how rich or how poor we and the world are going to be, on the day when there will be no income without working for it and no rich people any more.
If our economic system made us self-supporting we might arrange matters on the model of the Boer Republic which had all it needed, and now and then traded a load of ostrich feathers for coffee and hymn books. But we, alas! in order to find nourishment for twenty millions have to export blood and brains. And if, in order to buy phosphates, we offer cotton stockings and night-caps as the highest products of our artistic energies, and declare that they are all the soundest hand-work—for in our "daily bread" economy we shall have long forgotten how to work such devil's tools as the modern knitting-machine—then people will reply to us: in the first place we don't want night-caps, and if we did we can supply them for one-tenth of the cost; and our cotton goods will be sent back to us as unsaleable.
A world-trade, even of modest dimensions, can only be carried on upon the basis of high technical accomplishment, but this height of accomplishment cannot be attained on the basis of any penny-wise economy. Whoever wills the part must also will the whole, but to this whole belongs not merely the conception of a technique, but of a civilization, and indeed of a culture. One might as well demand of a music-hall orchestra which plays ragtime all the year round that once in the year, and once only, on Good Friday, it should pull itself together to give an adequate performance of the Passion Music of Bach.
[Footnote 5: By this figure the author seems to be referring to the population of the impoverished Germany of the future if the course of Socialism proceeds on wrong lines.]
For some decades Germany will be one of the poorest of countries. How poor she will be does not depend on herself alone, but on the power and the will for mischief of others—who hate us.
However, poverty and wealth are relative terms; Germans are still richer on the average than their forefathers; richer than the Romans or Greeks. The standard of well-being is set by the best-off of the competitors, for he it is who determines the current standard of technique and industry, the methods of production, the minimum of labour and skill. We cannot, as we have already seen, keep aloof from world-competition, for Germany needs cheap goods. We must therefore try to keep step so far as we can.
Even if we shut our eyes and take no more account of our debt to foreign lands than we do of the war-tribute, we must admit that the average standard of well-being in America far surpasses the German. Goods are not so dear as with us, and the wages of the skilled worker amounts to between seven and ten dollars a day—more than 100 marks in our money; and many artisans drive to their workshops in their own automobiles.
If, now, we ask our Radicals how they envisage the problem of competition with such a country, which in one generation will be twenty-or thirty-fold as rich as we are, they will blurt out a few sentences in which we shall catch the word "Soviet system," "surplus value," "world revolution." But in truth the question will never occur to them—it is not ventilated at public meetings.
Among themselves they talk, albeit without much conviction, about "surplus value"—which has nothing whatever to do with the present question, and in regard to which it has been proved to them often enough that so far as it can be made use of at all, it only means about a pound of butter extra per head of the population.
The economic superiority of the Western powers, however, goes on growing, inasmuch as to all appearance they are getting to work seriously to establish the new economy (which we have buried) in the form of State Socialism. A healthy, or what is to-day the same thing, a victorious economy, does not leap over any of its stages; it will work gradually through the apparently longer, but constant, movement from Capitalism to State Socialism and thence to full Socialism; while we, it seems, want to take a shortcut, and to miss out the intervening stage. And we lose so much time and energy in restless fluctuations forward and backward, hither and thither, that this leap in advance may fall short.
If anything could be more stupid and calamitous than the war itself it was the time when it broke out. There was one thing which the big capitalism of the world was formed to supply, which it was able to supply, and, in fact, was supplying: the thing which not only justified capitalism, but showed it to be an absolutely necessary stage in the development of a denser population. This was the enrichment of the peoples, the rapid, and even anticipatory restoration of equilibrium between the growing population and the indispensable increase in the means of production; in other words, general well-being. The unbroken progress of America, and the almost unbroken progress of England will demonstrate that in one, or at most two, generations the power of work and the output of mechanism would have risen to such a pitch that we could have done anything we liked in the direction of lightening human labour and reconciling social antagonisms.
Alas, it was in vain! The rapid advance to prosperity of the people of Central Europe, who had been accustomed to thrift and economy, went to their heads; they fell victims to the poison of capitalism and of mechanism; they were unable, like America in its youthful strength, to make their new circumstances deepen their sense of responsibility; in their greedy desire to store as much as possible of the heavenly manna in their private barns they abandoned their destinies to a superannuated, outworn feudal class and to aspiring magnates of the bourgeoisie; they would not be taught by political catastrophes, and at last, in the catastrophe of the war, they lost at once their imaginary hopes, their traditional power and the economic basis of their existence.
Those who are now pursuing a policy of desperation are unconsciously building their hopes on the breakdown which brought them to the top: they are avowedly making the hoped-for revolution in the West the central point of their system. If the West holds out, they will be false prophets; but it will not only hold out, it will in the beginning at all events, witness a great and passionate uprising of imperialistic and capitalistic tendencies. If there is any one who did not understand that a policy based on hopes of other peoples' bankruptcy is the most flimsy and frivolous of all policies, he might well have learned it from the war.
Germany must forge her own destinies for herself, without side-glances at the good or ill fortune of others. Had time only been given us to pass naturally from the stage of a prolonged and corrupted childhood into that of a manly responsibility, our ultimate recovery would be assured. But we have to accomplish in months what ought to be the evolution of decades; our national training has left us without convictions, we have no eye for the true boundaries of rights, claims and responsibilities, and we hesitate as to how far we must or ought to go. Unprepared, weakened, impoverished and sick, we are required, at the most unlucky moment, to work out a new and unprecedented order of life. Before even the educated classes are capable of forming a judgment on the question, the most incapable masses of the rawest youth, of the lowest classes of society, are let loose, and sit upon the judgment-seat.
It is not only that we have been rich and have become very poor, but we were always politically immature, and are so still. If the order of Society is to be that of root-and-branch Socialism, it will mean the proletarian condition for all of us, and for a long time to come. There is no use in flattering ourselves and painting the future better than it is; the truth must be spoken with all plainness. If we work hard, and under capable guidance, each of us will at most have an effective income of 500 marks in pre-war values, or, say, 2000 marks for the family. This average will be higher if we proceed on the principles of the New Economy, but again will be reduced by the necessity for allowing extra pay for work of higher value. If to-day the average income available is markedly higher than the above, the reason is that we are living on our capital; we are living on the products of work which ought to be reserved for the maintenance and renewal of the means of production; in other words we are exhausting the soil and slaughtering our stock. We are also consuming what foreign countries give us on credit; in other words, we are living on borrowed money.
It is childish lying and deception to act on the tacit assumption that thoroughgoing Socialism means something like a garden-city idyll, with play-houses, open-air theatres, excursions, picturesque raiment and fire-side art. This in itself quite decent ideal of the average architect, art-craftsman and art-reformer if expressed in dry figures would, "at the lowest estimate" as they say, demand about fivefold the capacity for production attainable by the utmost exertions and with a ten hours' day before the war—before the downfall of our economy and our exploitation by the enemy.
To place one-third of our working-class in decent, freehold dwellings would alone, if the material and means of production sufficed, require the whole working-capacity of the country for two years. Even after the last manufacturer's villa-residence, the last palace-hotel, have long been turned into tenements, the solution of the most urgent part of the housing-question will still be an affair of decades. For the sake of the last remnant of our self-respect we must finally tear asunder that web of economic falsehood, woven out of ignorance, mental lethargy, concealment and illusion, which has taken the place of the political. Let us see any one attempt to prove that Germany can carry on, I do not say a well-off, but even a petty tradesman's kind of existence, unless our means of production can by some stroke of magic be multiplied tenfold—on paper it can be done with ease—or unless the production value (not turnover), which an adult working-man can with the utmost exertion bring into being in the course of a year does not many times exceed the average value of 2000 marks.
No doubt the young folk of our big cities promise themselves a merry time for six weeks when they have got power, the shops, the wardrobes and the wine-cellars into their hands. For the leaders, it may last a little longer than for the rank-and-file. And then, for those of the former who have any sense of honesty, will come a question of conscience, which may be delayed by printing paper-money, but cannot be solved by any appeal to the people.
If Bolshevism were the contrary to what it is—if it were a success, a thing not absolutely impossible in a peasant-State, we might understand the self-assurance of those who, in opposition to our forecast, expect everything from the will of the people, the Soviet system and the inspirations of the future. We do understand it in the case of the drawing-room communists, and the profiteer-extremists who are out not for the cause, but for power, and perhaps only for material objects.
I know that by these observations I am favouring the cause of those sorry dignitaries of a day, the Majority Socialists, but I cannot help that. The truth is not false because it favours one party, nor is falsehood truth because it harms the other. The Socialism now in power is doing the right thing, although it is doing it out of ignorance and helplessness—it is waiting, and getting steam up. It is better to do the right thing out of error than to do the wrong thing out of wisdom. Out of error: for besides omitting to do what ought not to be done it also omits the things it ought to do—among others, the introduction of the New Economy. It is like mankind before the Fall; it does not know good from evil, what is useful and what is noxious, what can be done and what cannot. Well—let it take its time; it shall have time enough.
This time must be turned to good account. When we have come to the end of these observations we shall understand what a huge task lies between us and the realization of the new social order. In this case the longest way round is the shortest way home. And even if Germany should choose the mountain road with its broad loops and windings, we shall stray often enough, and go backward now and then; while if, in impatient revolt, we try to climb straight up, we shall slip down lower than where we started. Let us never forget how mysteriously our social and political immaturity seems to be bound up with our once lofty and even now remarkable intellectuality and morality. We have not won our liberties, they have fallen into our laps; it was by the general breakdown, by a strike, by a flight, that Germany and her former rulers have parted company. These liberties, social and political, are not rooted in the soil, they can hardly be said to be prized among the treasures of life, it is not their ideal, but their material side which attracts us. Those who used to shout Hurrah! now cry "All power to the Soviets!" and the day will come when they will again shout Hurrah! Then we shall witness a real sundering of our different visions of the world, visions now buried under a mass of interests and speculations.
In any case, whether the change is to be catastrophic or evolutionary, the journey will be a long one, and every attempt to hurry it will only prolong it further; it will throw us back for years, or it may be decades. Above all things, we must know whither we are going. In order to adapt ourselves to a new form of society we must know what it may look like, what it ought to look like, and what it will look like. We shall find that Germany is not going to be landed in an earthly Paradise, but in a world of toil, and one which for a long period will be a world of poverty, of a penurious civilization and of a deeply-endangered culture. The unproved, parrot-phrases of a cheap Utopianism will grow dumb—those phrases which offer us entrance into the usual Garden of Eden with its square-cut, machine-made culture and gaudy, standardized enjoyments—phrases which assure us that when we have introduced the six-hours' working day and abolished private property, the cinema horrors will be replaced by classical concerts, the gin-shops by popular reading-rooms, the gaming-hells by edifying lectures, highway robberies by gymnastic exercises, detective novels by Gottfried Keller, bazaar-trifles and comic vulgarities by works of refined handicraft; and that out of boxing contests, racecourse betting, bomb exercises, and profiteering in butter, we shall see the rise of an era of humility and philanthropy.
In the Promised Land as we conceive it, the classes which are now the bearers of German culture will lose almost everything, while the gain of the proletariat will be scarcely visible. And yet for the sake of this scarcely visible gain we must tread the stony path that lies before us. Willingly and joyfully shall we tread it; for out of this, at first, dubious conquest of equal rights for all men will grow the might of justice, of human dignity, of human solidarity and unity.
That is truly work for a century, and yet for that very reason the hard path will lead to its reward. We must learn to know it, and to understand that it is a path of sacrifice. We must not accept the invitation of fools to a Christmas party—fools who will make the welkin ring with their outcries when they find out their self-deception. Let us tread our path of suffering with a pride which disdains to be consoled by illusions.
[Footnote 6: By surplus-value (Mehrwert) the author means all that is produced above and beyond the bare necessities of life.]
[Footnote 7: Die Neue Wirtschaft, by Walther Rathenau (S. Fischer). In this brief study, Rathenau urges (1) the unification and standardization of the whole of German industry and commerce in one great Trust, working under a State charter, and armed with very extensive powers; and (2) a great intensification of the application of science and mechanism to production.]
[Footnote 8: See p. 37, note.]
[Footnote 9: Morality, Sittlichkeit, a word of broader meaning than "morality," for it comprehends not only matters of ethical right and wrong, but the general temper and habit of mind of a people as expressed in social life.]
In order to throw some light into the obscurity of that social dreamland which no one seriously discusses because no one honestly believes in it, let us, as it were, cut out and examine a section from the fully socialized Germany of the future. Let us suppose that certain economic and social conditions have lasted for a generation or so, and have therefore become more or less stabilized. At a normal rate of progress this state of things should be reached about the end of this century.
To begin with, let us make two very optimistic assumptions—first, that technical progress in Germany shall have developed to a point at which we are no longer impossibly outclassed and distanced by foreign nations, and, secondly, that by a timely and far-reaching reform of education and culture (the lowest cost of which must be set down at about three milliards of marks) the complete breakdown of civilisation may be averted. This reform is one which must be taken in hand very early, for after the event its adoption is improbable. A third, less optimistic but on that account more probable assumption may be added to this—namely, that the Western countries shall have progressed towards Socialism more steadily and therefore more slowly, and that at the period of our comparison America shall find itself at the stage of State-Socialism, not of full socialization. We know that in making this assumption we are smoothing the way for attack to our professional opponents, uncritical and self-interested, who with one blast of the fanfare of world-revolution can scatter our further observations to the winds.
Full Socialism is characterized, as we have seen, by the abolition of all incomes that are not worked for, and the fact that there are no more rich. But this criterion must be limited in its application, for it can never be fully realized.
According to the theory and the laws every one must hold some appointment and be paid for his work, or for not working. What he is paid, however, he can at will utilize, or waste, or hoard up, or give, or gamble away, or destroy. He cannot invest it, or get interest on it or turn into capital, because these private undertakings or means of production will no longer exist.
Now each of these assumptions is so shaky that not only must trifling divergences and shortcomings be winked at, but the meshes of the system are so wide that only a rough approximation to the ideal is possible.
It is true that every one can be made to hold some appointment and be paid for some minimum of work, but no one can be prevented from devoting his leisure hours to some work of rare quality and turning it into value for his own purposes. He can make himself useful by subsidiary employment of an artistic, scientific or technical character, by rendering services or assistance of various kinds, by advising, or entertaining, or acting as a guide to strangers, or going on employment abroad, and no law can prevent him from turning his services into income even if he was merely paid in kind. Gaming and betting will flourish and many will grow rich by them. A man who has lost his money and who has exhausted his rights to an advance from the public institutions for that object will have recourse to lenders who will supply him with bread and meat and clothes, and who will make money by it. Similarly with people who are tempted to make acquisitions beyond their standard remuneration. On every side we shall see private stores of goods of all kinds, which will take the place of property as formerly understood.
There will be an enormous temptation to smuggling and profiteering which will reach a height far surpassing all scandals of the war and revolution periods. Foreigners and their agents, who look after the export trade "from Government to Government," will help hoarders and savers to turn their goods to account. Suppose citizens are attacked because their senseless expenditure is a mockery of their legal remuneration, they will say: I got this from friends—that I got by exchange—this came from abroad—my relatives in America sent me that. Law, control, terrorism, are effective just so long as there is not a blade of grass in the land—once remove the fear of hunger and they are useless. Great properties will arise, drawing interest both abroad and at home, and they will grow by evasions and bribery. The profiteer, the true child of the "great days," will not perish from the land, on the contrary, he will grow tougher the more he is persecuted, he will be the rich man of the future, and he will form a constant political danger if he and his fellows combine.
So long as we have not acquired an entirely new mentality, one which detaches men from possessions, which points them towards the Law, which binds the passions, and sharpens the conscience, so long will the principle of "No rich people and no workless income" have to be contracted into the formula, "There ought to be none."
Without this profound alteration of mentality, even the legally prescribed incomes will exhibit quite grotesque variations, and will adapt themselves to the rarity-value of special gifts, to indispensable qualities, to favouritism, with a crudity quite unknown to-day. A scarcity of Ministers, a Professor's nourishment, and soldiers' supplies, will then as now be met according to the law of supply and demand. Consider what ten years' practice in the war for wages and strike-management, with the public in it as partisans, will bring with it in the way of favouritisms, celebrities, and indispensabilities. Popular jockeys, successful surgeons, managers of sports' clubs, tenors, demimondaines, farce-writers and champion athletes could, even to-day, if they were class-conscious and joined together to exploit their opportunities, demand any income they liked. Even as a matter of practical political economy, the cinema-star (or whatever may succeed her) will be able to prescribe to the Government what amount of adornments, drawn from Nature or Art, are necessary for her calling, and what standard of life she must maintain in order to keep herself in the proper mood.
Organizers, popular leaders, authors and artists will announce and enforce their demands to the full limit of their rarity-value. At a considerable distance below these come the acquired and more or less transferable powers and talents. The Russians for the first few months believed in a three-fold order of allowances, rising within a limit of about one to two. If the ideas now prevailing have not undergone a radical change, then we may, in the society of the future, look for divergences of income in the limit of one to a thousand.
Therefore the principle that there shall be no more rich people must again be substantially limited. We must say, "There will be people receiving extraordinary incomes in kind to which must be added the claims to personal service which these favoured persons will lay down as conditions of their work."
In its external, arithmetical structure, the fabric of life and its requirements in the new order will resemble that of to-day far more closely than most of us imagine—on the other hand, the inward and personal constitution of man will be far more different. Already we can observe the direction of the movement.
Extravagance and luxury will continue to exist, and those who practise it will be, as they are to-day, and more than to-day, the profiteers, the lucky ones, and the adventurers. Excessive wealth will be more repulsive than it is now; whether it will be less valued depends upon the state of public ethics, a topic which we shall have to consider later. It is probable that in defiance of all legislation wealth will turn itself into expenditure and enjoyment more rapidly and more recklessly than to-day.
But the relics of middle-class well-being will by that time have been consumed; the families which for generations have visibly incorporated the German spirit will less than others contrive to secure special advantages by profiteering and evading the laws; as soon as their modest possessions are taxed away or consumed they will melt into the general mass of needy people who will form the economic average of the future.
The luxury which will exhibit itself in streets and houses will have a dubious air; every one will know that there is something wrong with it, people will spy and denounce, and find to their disgust that nothing can be proved; the well-off will be partly despised, partly envied; the question how to suppress evasions of the law will take up a good half of all public discussions, just as that of capitalism does now. The hateful sight of others' prosperity cannot, even at home, not to mention foreign countries, be withdrawn from the eyes of the needy masses; capitalism will have merely acquired another name and other representatives.
The fact that the average of more or less cultivated and responsible folk are plunged in poverty will not be accepted as the consequence of an unalterable natural law, nor as a case of personal misfortune; it will be set down to bad government, and the rising revolutionary forces of the fifth, sixth and seventh classes will nourish the prevailing discontent in favour of a new revolt. For the greater uniformity of the average way of life and its general neediness will not in itself abolish the division of classes. I have already often enough pointed out that no mechanical arrangements can avail us here.
At first there will be three, or more probably four classes who, in spite of poverty, will not dissolve in the masses, and who, through their coherence and their intellectual heritage are by no means without power. The Bolshevist plan of simply killing them out will not be possible in Germany, they are relatively too numerous; persecution will weld them closer together, and their traditional experiences, habits of mind, and capacity, will make it necessary to have recourse to them and employ them again and again.
The first of these classes is that of the feudal nobility. Their ancient names cannot be rooted out of the history of Germany, and even in their poverty the bearers of these names will be respected—all the more if, as we may certainly assume, they maintain the effects of their bodily discipline, and the visible tradition of certain forms of life and thought. They will be strengthened by their mutual association, their relationship with foreign nobility will give them important functions in diplomacy; these are two elements which they have in common with Catholicism and Judaism. They will retain their inclination and aptitude for the calling of arms and for administration; their reactionary sentiments will lead now to success, now to failure, and by both the inner coherence of the class will be fortified. Finally, the inevitable reversion to an appreciation of the romantic values of life will make a connexion with names of ancient lineage desirable to the leading classes, and especially to the aristocracy of officialism.
This aristocracy of officialism forms the second of the new strata which will come to light. The first office-bearers of the new era, be their achievements great or small, are not to be forgotten. Their descendants are respected as the bearers of well-known names; in their families the practice of politics, the knowledge of persons and connexions are perpetuated; fathers, in their lifetime, look after the interests of sons and daughters and launch them on the same path. From these, and from the first stratum, the representatives of Germany in foreign lands are chosen, and in this way a certain familiarity with international life and society will be maintained. They will have the provision necessary for their position abroad, and will also find ways and means to keep up a higher standard of life at home. Persons in possession of irregular means of well-being will offer a great deal to establish connexions with these circles, which control so many levers in the machine of State.
The third group consists of the descendants of what was once the leading class in culture and in economics. Here we find a spirit similar to that of the refugees, emigres and Huguenots of the past. The lower they sink in external power, the more tenaciously they hold to their memories. Every family knows every other and cherishes the lustre of its name, a lustre augmented by legendary recollections, all the more when the achievements of their class are ostentatiously ignored in the new social order. People spare and save to the last extremity in order to preserve and hand down some heirloom—a musical instrument, a library, a manuscript, a picture or two. A puritanical thrift is exercised in order, as far as possible, to maintain education, culture and intellectuality on the old level; to this class culture, refinement of life as an end in itself, the practice of religion, classical music, and artistic feeling will fly for refuge. No other class understands this one; it holds itself aloof, it looks different from the rest in its occupations, its habits, its garb and its forms of life. It supplies the new order with its scholars, its clergy, its higher teaching power, its representatives of the most disinterested and intellectual callings. Like the monasteries of the Middle Ages, it forms an island of the past. Its influence rises and falls periodically, according to the current ideas of the time, but its position is assured by its voluntary sacrifices, by its knowledge and by the purity of its motives.
A fourth inexpugnable and influential stratum will in all probability be formed by the middle-class landowners and the substantial peasants. Even though the socialization of the land should be radically carried through—which is not likely to be the case—it will remain on paper. A class of what may be called State-tenants, estate-managers, or leaders of co-operative organizations will very much resemble a landowning class. Its traditional experience and the ties that bind it to the soil make it a closed and well-defined body, self-conscious and masterful through the importance of its calling, its indispensability and its individualism. It suffers no dictation as regards its manner of life. Here we shall see the conservative traditions of the country strongly mustered for defence, incapable of being eliminated as a political force, and forming a counterpoise to the radical democracy of the towns.
Everywhere we find a state of strain and of cleavage. The single-stratum condition of society cannot be reached without a profound inward change; politics are still stirred and shaken by conflicts, and society by the strife of classes. A very different picture from the promised Utopian Paradise of a common feeding-ground for lions and sheep!
We are all aggrieved by the illegal opulence of the profiteers, but we are all liable to the infection. The feudalistic Fronde awaits its opportunity. The aristocracy of office endeavours to monopolize the State-machine. The emigres of culture find themselves looked askance at, on suspicion of intellectual arrogance, and they insist that the country cannot get on without them. The agriculturalists are feared, when they show a tendency to revolt against the towns. The ruling class, that is to say the more or less educated masses of the city-democracy, looks in impatient discontent for the state of general well-being which refuses to be realized, lays the blame alternately on the four powerful strata and on the profiteers, and fights now this group now that, for better conditions of living.
But the conditions of living do not improve—they get worse. The level of the nation's output has been sinking from the first day of the Revolution onwards. The absolute productivity of work, the relative efficacy and the quality of the product, have all deteriorated. With a smaller turnover we have witnessed a falling-off in the excellence of the goods, in research-work, and in finish. Industrial plant has been worked to death and has not yet recovered. Auxiliary industries, accessories and raw materials have fallen back. High-quality workmanship has suffered from defective schooling, youthful indiscipline and the loss of manual dexterity. The new social order has lost a generation of leaders in technique, scholarship and economics. Universities, with all institutions of research and education, have suffered from this blank. Technical leadership is gone, and the deterioration in quality has reacted detrimentally on output. We can now turn out nothing except what is cheap and easy, and what can be produced without traditional skill of hand, without serious calculation and research. For all innovations, all work of superior quality, Germany is dependent on the foreigner. The atmosphere of technique has vanished, and the stamp of cheap hireling labour is on the whole output of the country.
In the weeks of the Revolution street orators used to tell us that five hundred Russian professors had signed a statement that the level of culture had never been so high as under Bolshevism. And Berlin believed them! To educate Russia it would take, to begin with, a million elementary schools with a yearly budget of several dozen milliards of roubles, and a corresponding number of higher schools and universities: if every educated Russian for the next twenty years were to become a teacher, there would not be enough of them—not to speak of the requirements of transport, of raw materials and of agriculture. The fabric of a civilization and a culture cannot be annihilated at one blow, nor can it grow up save in decades and centuries. The maintenance of the structure demands unceasing toil and unbroken tradition; the breach that has been made in it in Germany can only be healed by the application in manifold forms of work, intellect and will; and this hope we cannot entertain.
But we have not yet done with the question of social strata and inward cleavage. Revolutionary threats are causing strife every day. Revolution against revolution—how is this possible? We are not speaking of a reactionary revolution but of the "activist."
In an earlier work I discussed the theory of continuous revolution. Behind every successful revolutionary movement there stands another, representing one negation more than its predecessor. Behind the revolt of the aristocracy stood that of the bourgeoisie, behind that of the bourgeoisie stood Socialism. Behind the now ruling fourth class rises the fifth, and a sixth is coming into sight. If a ninth should represent pure Anarchism, we may see an eleventh proclaiming a dictatorship, and a twelfth standing for absolute monarchy.
To-day the Majority Socialists are in power, that is to say the Right section of the fourth class. This is composed of the older, trained and work-willing Trade Unionists, who are amazed at the Revolution, who do not regard it as quite legitimate, but who are determined to defend the status quo in so far as a certain degree of self-determination and elbow-room in the material conditions of life still remain to them.
The Left section consists of youths and of persons disgusted with militarism, ignorant of affairs but cherishing a certain independence of judgment; still ready for work but equally so for politics. To these, as a "forward" party, the doctrinaire theorists have allied themselves. The designation of the party "The Independents" is characteristic; its goal, "All power to the Soviets," is a catchword from Russia.
A fifth class is now emerging—the work-shy. The others call them the tramp-proletariat, the disgruntled, the declassed, who set their hopes on disorder. Their goal is still undetermined—their favourite expression is "bloodhound," when those in power, or Government troops, are referred to.
Then comes the sixth class, still partly identified with the Left of the fourth and embryonically attached to the fifth. These are the indomitable loafers and shirkers, physically and mentally unsound, aliens in the social order, excluded by their sufferings, their punishments, their vices and passions; self-excluded, repudiators of law and morality, born of the cruelty of the city, pitiable beings, not so much cast out of society as cast up against it, as a living reproach to its mechanical organization. If these ever come into the light in politics, they will demand a kind of syndicalistic communism.
That is as far as we can see at present into the as yet unopened germs of continuous revolutionary movement. In these are contained the infinite series of all principles that can conceivably be supported; and it would be wholly false to see in this series merely so many successive steps in moral degeneration, even though the earlier stages should proceed on a flat denial of ethical principles. Later on will come revivals and restorations, political, ethical and religious, and each time we shall see the rising stratum attaching to itself strays and converts, above all, the disappointed and ambitious, from those that went before.
But the number of revolutions will grow till we lose count of them, and each, however strenuously it may profess its horror of bloodshed, will have only one hope and possibility: that of defending itself by armed force against its successor. The game is a grotesquely dishonest one, because every aspirant movement will cast against its forerunner the charge of ruling by bloodshed, while it itself is already preparing its armed forces for the conflict.
It is therefore wholly vain to hope that an advanced social organization implies stability, that a brotherhood mechanically decreed will exclude further revolutions, and will establish eternally an empire of righteousness and justice according to any preconceived pattern.
The fiercest hatred will prevail amongst those who are most closely associated—for instance, between handworkers and brainworkers, between leaders and followers; and this hate will be all the more inappeasable when it is open to every one to rise in the world, and none can cherish the excuse that he is the victim of a social system of overwhelming power. To-day this hatred is masked by the general class-hatred—hatred of the monopolists of culture, of position and of capital.
At the bottom of it, however, lies even to-day the more universal hatred of the defeated for the victor, and when those three monopolies have fallen, it will emerge in its original Cain-like form. It cannot be appeased by any mechanical device. Human inequality can never be abolished, human accomplishment and work will always vary, and the human passion for success will always assert itself.
We have discussed the material foundation and the stratification of the German people when full socialization has been realized. Let us now forecast the manner of their existence.
The future community is poor; the individual is poor. The average standard of well-being corresponds, at best, to what in peace-time one would expect from an income of 3000 marks. But the requirements of the population are not mediaevally simplified—they could not be, in view of the density of the population and the complexity of industrial and professional vocations. They are manifold and diverse, and they are moreover intensified by the spectacle of extravagance offered by the profiteering class and the licence of social life. The traditional garden-city idyll of architects and art-craftsmen is a Utopia about as much like reality as the pastoral Arcadianism of Marie Antoinette.
All things of common use are standardized into typical forms. It must not be supposed, however, that they are based on pure designs and models. The taste of the artist will clash with that of the crowd, and since the former has no authority to back him he will have to compromise. The compromise, however, consists in cheap imitation of foreign models, for in foreign countries art-industry will exist, and no legislation can prevent its products from finding their way (in reproductions or actual examples) into Germany and being admired there. Our half or wholly imitative products are turned out as cheaply as possible, in substitute-materials, and are made as well or as ill as the relics of our craftsmanship permit, or as our existing machinery for the purpose is capable of. Cheapness and ease of manufacture are the principles aimed at, for even with narrow means no one will want to do without certain things; fashions still prevail, and will have to be satisfied with things that do not last, but can be constantly changed.
How far will a new system of education tend to simplify the needs of men and women and to purify their taste? Probably very little, for good models will be lacking, poverty is not fastidious, and the taste of the populace is the sovereign arbiter. But on this taste it depends whether vulgar ornaments and gewgaws, frivolities and bazaar-horrors, are to satisfy the desires of the soul.
Objects of earlier art and industry have been alienated through need of money or destroyed by negligence. Here and there one may find an old cup or an engraving, as we do to-day in plundered territories, but these things are disconnected specimens; all they can do is occasionally to interest an artist. Whoever wants to procure some object or to get something done which has not been standardized in the common range of approved requirements must gain it by a tedious course of pinching and saving. Personal possessions in the way of books, musical instruments, works of art, as well as travel outside the prescribed routes are rarities; a tree of one's own, a horse of one's own are legendary things.
Thus luxury in its better aspect has gone to ruin quicker than in the bad. All outlay devoted to culture, to beauty, to invigoration has dried up; all that survives is what stimulates, what depraves and befouls; frivolities, substitutes and swindles. What we have arrived at is not the four-square simplicity of the peasant-homestead, but a ramshackle city suburb. To some of us it is not easy, and to many it is not agreeable to picture to themselves the aspect of a thoroughly proletarianized country, and the difficulty lies in the fact that the popular mind has, as it were by universal agreement, resolved to conceive the future on a basis of domestic prosperity about tenfold as great as it can possibly be. The leaders and office-holders of the proletariat have an easy task in convincing themselves and others that what they approve and are struggling for is the so-called middle-class existence with all the refinement and claims of historic culture. Tacitly, as a matter of course, they accept what plutocracy has to give them, and imagine that the loans they take up from the civilization and culture of the past can be redeemed from the social gains of the future.
The stages at which a nation arrives year by year, can be estimated by its building. In the new order, little is being built. Apart from certain perfunctory garden-cities, which are being erected for the principle of the thing, to meet the needs of a few thousand favoured households, and which perhaps will never be finished, we will for decades have to content ourselves with new subdivisions and exploitation of the old buildings; old palaces packed to the roof with families, will stand in the midst of vegetable gardens and will alternate with empty warehouses in the midst of decayed cities. In the streets of the suburbs the avenues of trees will be felled, and in the cities grass will grow through the cracks of the pavement.
For a long time it used to be believed that the passion of the landscape painters of the seventeenth century for introducing ruins with hovels nestling among them arose from a feeling for romance. This is not so—they only painted what they saw around them after the ravages of the Thirty Years' War. It must not be supposed, however, that the forecast in these pages is based on the consequences of the war; these no doubt must darken our picture of the future; but the shadows, which I have put in as sparingly as I could, are essentially the expression of a greatly reduced economic efficiency, combined with the uniformity produced by the general proletarianization of life with the absence of any correcting factor in individual effort of a rational character and of the influence of higher types.
A brighter trait in the material conditions of life will be formed by effort of a collective character, such as even the most penurious community may be able to undertake. The more severely the domestic household has to pinch, and the more unattractive it thereby becomes, the more completely will life be forced into publicity. Private claims and aspirations, which cannot be satisfied, will be turned over to the public. Men will gather in the streets and places of public resort, and have more mutual intercourse than before, since every transaction of life, even the most insignificant, will have to be a subject of discussion, agreement and understanding. In all the arrangements of social life, e.g. for news, communications, supplies, discussion and entertainment, and demands will be made and complied with for greater convenience and comprehensiveness, for popular aesthetics and popular representation. In these arrangements and in these alone Art will have to find its functions and its home. Public buildings, gardens, sanatoriums, means of transit and exhibitions will be established at great cost. All the demands of the spirit and of the senses will seek their satisfaction in public. There will be no lack of popular performances, excursions, tours and conducted visits to collections; of clubs, libraries, athletic meetings and displays. The aspect of this tendency from the point of view of culture and ethics we have still to consider; in its social aspect (apart from the fact that it causes a vacuum in the home and forces young people to the surface of life, and in spite of its mechanical effect) it will act as a comforting reminiscence of the civic commonalty and solidarity of mediaeval times.
In considering the spiritual and cultural life of a fully socialized society, we have to start with the assumption that any one man's opinion and decision are as good as another's. Authority, even in matters of the highest intellectual or spiritual character, only exists in so far as it is established, acknowledged and confirmed either by direct action of the people's will, or indirectly through their representatives. Every one's education and way of life are much the same; there are no secrecies, no vague authority attaching to special vocations; no one permits himself to feel impressed by any person or thing. Every one votes, whether it be for an office, a memorial, a law, or a drama, or does it through delegates or the delegates of delegates. Every one is determined to know the how and where and why of everything—just as to-day in America—and demands a plausible reason for it. The reply, "This is a matter you don't understand," is impossible.
Everything is referred to one's own conscience, one's own intelligence, one's own taste, and no one admits any innate or acquired superiority in others. In debate, the boundaries between the ideal and the practicable are obliterated; for on the one hand every one is too much preoccupied with material needs, and on the other, too confident, too unaccustomed to submit himself to what in former days was called a deeper insight, too loosely brought up to let himself be taught. We never, therefore, hear such judgments as: This, although it is difficult, is a book to be read; this drama ought to have been produced although it is not sensational; I don't myself care for this memorial, but it must remain because a great artist made it; this is a necessary branch of study, although it has no practical application; I will vote for this man on account of his character and ability, although he has made no election-promises. On the other hand, the following kind of argument will have weight: This historic building must be demolished, for it interferes with traffic; this collection must be sold, for we need money; we need no chair of philosophy, but we do need one for cinema-technique; these ornamental grounds are the very place for a merry-go-round; tragedies are depressing, they must not be performed in the State theatres. Let us recall certain oversea legislation—carried out, be it noted in countries still swayed by the traditional influence of culture—and these examples will not seem exaggerated.