Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis

Ludwig von Mises
Mises, Ludwig von
Display paragraphs in this book containing:
J. Kahane, trans.
First Pub. Date
Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, Inc.
Pub. Date
Foreword by Friedrich A. Hayek not available online
27 of 47


Conflict as a Factor in Social Evolution

1 The Cause of Social Evolution


The simplest way to depict the evolution of society is to show the distinction between two evolutionary tendencies which are related to each other in the same way as intension and extension. Society develops subjectively and objectively; subjectively by enlarging its membership, objectively by enlarging the aims of its activities. Originally confined to the narrowest circles of people, to immediate neighbours, the division of labour gradually becomes more general until eventually it includes all mankind. This process, still far from complete and never at any point in history completed, is finite. When all men on earth form a unitary system of division of labour, it will have reached its goal. Side by side with this extension of the social bond goes a process of intensification. Social action embraces more and more aims; the area in which the individual provides for his own consumption becomes constantly narrower. We need not pause at this stage to ask whether this process will eventually result in the specialization of all productive activity.


Social development is always a collaboration for joint action; the social relationship always means peace, never war. Death-dealing actions and war are anti-social.*43 All those theories which regard human progress as an outcome of conflicts between human groups have overlooked this truth.

2 Darwinism


The individual's fate is determined unequivocally by his Being. Everything that is has necessarily proceeded from his Becoming, and everything that will be results necessarily from that which is. The situation at any given moment is the consummation of history.*44 He who understood it completely would be able to foresee the whole future. For a long time it was thought necessary to exclude human volition and action from the determination of events, for the special significance of "imputation"—that thought-process peculiar to all rational action—had not been grasped. It was believed that causal explanation was incompatible with imputation. This is no longer so. Economics, the Philosophy of Law, and Ethics have cleared up the problem of imputation sufficiently to remove the old misunderstandings.


If, to simplify our study, we analyse the unity we call the individual into certain complexes it must be clearly understood that only the heuristic value of the division can justify our doing so. Attempts to separate, according to external characteristics, what is essentially similar can never survive ultimate examination. Only subject to this admission can we proceed to group the determinants of individual life.


That which man brings into the world at birth, the innate, we call racial inheritance or, for short, the race.*45 The innate in man is the precipitate of the history of all his ancestors, their fate, and all their experiences. The life and fate of the individual do not start at birth, but stretch back into the infinite, unimaginable past. The descendant inherits from the ancestors; this fact is outside the sphere of the dispute over the inheritance of acquired characteristics.


After birth, direct experience begins. The individual begins to be influenced by his environment. Together with what is innate, this influence produces the individual's Being in each moment of his life. The environment is natural in the form of soil, climate, nourishment, fauna, flora, in short, external natural surroundings. It is social in the shape of society. The social forces acting on the individual are language, his position in the process of work and exchange, ideology and the forces of compulsion: unrestrained and ordered coercion. The ordered organization of coercion we call the State.


Since Darwin we have been inclined to regard the dependence of human life on natural environment as a struggle against antagonistic forces. There was no objection to this as long as people did not transfer the figurative expression to a field where it was quite out of place and was bound to cause grave errors. When the formulas of Darwinism, which had sprung from ideas taken over by Biology from Social Science, reverted to Social Science, people forgot what the ideas had originally meant. Thus arose that monstrosity, sociological Darwinism, which, ending in a romantic glorification of war and murder, was peculiarly responsible for the overshadowing of liberal ideas and for creating the mental atmosphere which led to the World War and the social struggles of today.


It is well known that Darwin was under the influence of Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population. But Malthus was far from believing struggle to be a necessary social institution. Even Darwin, when he speaks of the struggle for existence, does not always mean the destructive combat of living creatures, the life or death struggle for feeding places and females. He often uses the expression figuratively to show the dependence of living beings on each other and on their surroundings.*46 It is a misunderstanding to take the phrase quite literally, for it is a metaphor. The confusion is worse confounded when people equate the struggle for existence with the war of extermination between human beings, and proceed to construct a social theory based on the necessity of struggle.


The Malthusian Theory of Population is—what its critics, ignorant of sociology, always overlook—merely a part of the social theory of Liberalism. Only within such a framework can it be understood. The core of liberal social theory is the theory of the division of labour. Only side by side with this can one make use of the Law of Population to interpret social conditions. Society is the union of human beings for the better exploitation of the natural conditions of existence; in its very conception it abolishes the struggle between human beings and substitutes the mutual aid which provides the essential motive of all members united in an organism. Within the limits of society there is no struggle, only peace. Every struggle suspends in effect the social community. Society as a whole, as organism, does fight a struggle for existence against forces inimical to it. But inside, as far as society has absorbed individuals completely, there is only collaboration. For society is nothing but collaboration. Within modern society even war cannot break all social ties. Some remain, though loosened, in a war between states which acknowledge the binding force of International Law. Thus a fragment of peace survives even in wartime.


Private ownership in the means of production is the regulating principle which, within society, balances the limited means of subsistence at society's disposal with the less limited ability of the consumers to increase. By making the share in the social product which falls to each member of society depend on the product economically imputed to him, that is, to his labour and his property, the elimination of surplus human beings by the struggle for existence, as it rages in the vegetable and animal kingdom, is replaced by a reduction in the birth-rate as a result of social forces. "Moral restraint," the limitations of offspring imposed by social positions, replaces the struggle for existence.


In society there is no struggle for existence. It is a grave error to suppose that the logically developed social theory of liberalism could lead to any other conclusion. Certain isolated phrases in Malthus's essay, which might be interpreted otherwise, are easily accounted for by the fact that Malthus composed the original incomplete draft of his famous first work before he had completely absorbed the spirit of Classical Political Economy. As proof that his doctrine permits of no other interpretation, it may be pointed out that, before Spencer and Darwin, no one thought of looking on the struggle for existence (in the modern sense of the expression) as a principle active within human society. Darwinism first suggested the theories which regard the struggle of individuals, races, nations, and classes as the basic social element; and it was in Darwinism, which had originated in the intellectual circle of liberal social theory, that people now found weapons to fight the Liberalism they abhorred. In Darwin's hypothesis, long regarded as irrefutable scientific fact, Marxism,*47 Racial Mysticism,*48 and Nationalism found, as they believed, an unshakable foundation for their teachings. modern Imperialism especially relies on the catchwords coined by popular science out of Darwinism.


The Darwinian—or more correctly, pseudo-Darwinian-social theories have never realized the main difficulty involved in applying to social relations their catchwords about the struggle for existence. In Nature it is individuals who struggle for existence. It is exceptional to find in Nature phenomena which could be interpreted as struggles between animal groups. There are, of course, the fights between groups of ants—though here we may be one day obliged to adopt explanations very different from those hitherto accepted.*49 A social theory that was founded on Darwinism would either come to the point of declaring that the war of all against all was the natural and necessary form of human intercourse, thus denying that any social bonds were possible; or it would have, on the one hand, to show why peace does and must reign within certain groups and yet, on the other, to prove that the principle of peaceful union which leads to the formation of these associations is ineffective beyond the circle of the group, so that the groups among themselves must struggle. This is precisely the rock on which all non-liberal social theories founder. If one recognizes a principle which results in the union of all Germans, all Dolichocephalics or all Proletarians and forms a special nation, race, or class out of individuals, then this principle cannot be proved to be effective only within the collective groups. The anti-liberal social theories skim over the problem by confining themselves to the assumption that the solidarity of interests within the groups is so self-evident as to be accepted without further discussion, and by taking pains only to prove the existence of the conflict of interests between groups and the necessity of conflict as the sole dynamic force of historical development. But if war is to be the father of all things, the fruitful source of historical progress, it is difficult to see why its fruitful activity should be restricted within states, nations, races, and classes. If Nature needs war, why not the war of all against all, why merely the war of all groups against all groups? The only theory which explains how peace is possible between individuals and how society grows out of individuals is the liberal social theory of the division of labour. But the acceptance of this theory makes it impossible to believe the enmity of collective groups to be necessary. If Brandenburgers and Hanoverians live in society peacefully side by side, why cannot Germans and Frenchmen do so too?


Sociological Darwinism is unable to explain the phenomenon of the rise of society. It is not a social theory, but "a theory of unsociability."*50


A fact which clearly exposes the decay of sociological thought in recent decades, is that people now begin to combat sociological Darwinism by pointing to examples of mutual aid (symbiosis) which, Biology has only lately discovered in the vegetable and animal kingdoms. Kropotkin, a defiant antagonist of liberal social theory, who never understood what he rejected and combated, found among animals the rudiments of social ties and set these up in opposition to conflict, contrasting the beneficial principle of mutual aid with the harmful principle of war-to-the-knife.*51 Kammerer, a biologist enslaved by the ideas of Marxist Socialism, demonstrated that in addition to conflict the principle of aid dominates life in Nature.*52 At this point Biology returns to its starting-point, Sociology. It hands back the principle of divided labour given it by Sociology. It teaches Sociology nothing new, nothing essential that had not been included in the theory of the division of labour as defined by the despised Classical Political Economy.

3 Conflict and Competition


The social theories which are based on natural law start from the dogma that human beings are equal. Since all men are equal, they are supposed to have a natural claim to be treated as members of society with full rights, and, because everybody has a natural right to live, it would be a violation of right to try to take his life. Thus are formulated the postulates of the all-inclusiveness of society, of equality within society, and of peace. Liberal theory, on the other hand, deduces these principles from utility. To Liberalism the concepts man and social man are the same. Society welcomes as members all who can see the benefit of peace and social collaboration in work. It is to the personal advantage of every individual that he should be treated as a citizen with equal rights. But the man who, ignoring the advantages of peaceful collaboration, prefers to fight and refuses to fit himself into the social order, must be fought like a dangerous animal. It is necessary to take up this attitude against the anti-social criminal and savage tribes. Liberalism can approve of war only as a defence. For the rest it sees in war the anti-social principle by which social co-operation is annihilated.


By confusing the fundamental difference between fighting and competition, the anti-liberal social theories sought to discredit the liberal principle of peace. In the original sense of the word, "fight" means the conflict of men and animals in order to destroy each other. Man's social life begins with the overcoming of instincts and considerations which impel him to fight to the death. History shows us a constant retreat from conflict as a form of human relations. Fights become less intense and less frequent. The defeated opponent is no longer destroyed; if society can find a way of absorbing him, his life is spared. Fighting itself is bound by rules and is thus somewhat mitigated. Nevertheless war and revolution remain the instruments of destruction and annihilation. For this reason Liberalism never ceases to stress the fact that they are anti-social.


It is merely a metaphor to call competition competitive war, or simply, war. The function of battle is destruction; of competition, construction. Economic competition provides that production shall be carried on in the most rational manner. Here, as everywhere else, its task is the selection of the best. It is a fundamental principle of social collaboration which cannot be thought out of the picture. Even a socialist community could not exist without it in some form, though it might be necessary to introduce it in the guise, say, of examinations. The efficiency of a socialist order of life would depend on its ability to make the competition sufficiently ruthless and keen to be properly selective.


There are three points of comparison which serve to explain the metaphorical use of the word "fight" for competition. In the first place it is clear that enmity and conflict of interests exist between the opponents in a fight as they do between competitors. The hate which a small shopkeeper feels for his immediate competitor may be no less in degree than the hate which a Moslem inspired in a Montenegrin. But the feelings responsible for men's actions have no bearing on the social function of these actions. What the individual feels does not matter as long as the limits set by the social order inhibit his actions.


The second point of comparison is found in the selective function of both fighting and competition. To what extent fighting is capable of making the best selection is open to question; later we shall show that many people ascribe anti-selective effects to wars and revolutions.*53 But because they both fulfil a selective function one must not forget that there is an essential difference between fighting and competition.


The third point of comparison is sought in the consequences which defeat lays on the vanquished. People say that the vanquished are destroyed, not reflecting that they use the word destruction in the one case only figuratively. Whoever is defeated in fight is killed; in modern war, even where the surviving vanquished are spared, blood flows. People say that in the competitive struggle, economic lives are destroyed. This, however, merely means that those who succumb are forced to seek in the structure of the social division of labour a position other than the one they would like to occupy. It does not by any means signify that they are to starve. In the capitalist society there is a place and bread for all. Its ability to expand provides sustenance for every worker. Permanent unemployment is not a feature of free capitalism.


Fighting in the actual original sense of the word is anti-social. It renders co-operation, which is the basic element of the social relation, impossible among the fighters, and where the co-operation already exists, destroys it. Competition is an element of social collaboration, the ruling principle within the social body. Viewed sociologically, fighting and competition are extreme contrasts.


The realization of this provides a criterion for judging all those theories which regard social evolution as a fight between conflicting groups. Class struggle, race conflicts, and national wars cannot be the constructive principle. No edifice will ever rise from a foundation of destruction and annihilation.

4 National War


The most important medium for social co-operation is language. Language bridges the chasm between individuals and only with its help can one man communicate to another something at least of what he is feeling. We need not discuss at this point the wider significance of language in relation to thought and will: how it conditions thought and will and how, without it, there could be no thought but only instinct, no will but only impulse.*54 Thought also is a social phenomenon; it is not the product of an isolated mind but of the mutual stimulus of men who strive towards the same aims. The work of the solitary thinker, brooding in retirement over problems which few people trouble to consider, is talk too, is conversation with the residue of thought which generations of mental labour have deposited in language in everyday concepts, and in written tradition. Thought is bound up with speech. The thinker's conceptual edifice is built on the elements of language.


The human mind works only in language; it is by the Word that it first breaks through from the obscurity of uncertainty and the vagueness of instinct to such clarity as it can ever hope to attain. Thinking and that which is thought cannot be detached from the language to which they owe their origin. Some day we may get a universal language, but certainly not by means of the method employed by the inventors of Volapuk, Esperanto, and other similar devices. The difficulties of a universal language and of the mutual understanding of peoples are not to be solved by hatching out identical combinations of syllables for the terms of every day life and for use by those who speak without overmuch thinking. The untranslatable element in ideas, which vibrates in the words expressing them, is what separates languages quite as much as the variety of sounds in words, which can be transposed intact. If everyone, all the world over, used the same words for "waiter" and "doorstep" we should still not have bridged the gap between languages and nations. But suppose everything expressed in one language could be translated into other languages without losing anything in the process, we should then have achieved unity of language, even though we had not found identical sounds for the syllables. Different languages would then be only different tongues, and our inability to translate a word would no longer impede the passage of thought from nation to nation.


Until that day comes—and it is possible that it never will come—political friction is bound to arise among members of different nations living together with mixed languages, friction that may lead to serious political antagonism.*55 Directly or indirectly, these disputes are responsible for the modern "hate" between nations, on which Imperialism is based.


Imperialist theory simplifies its task when it limits itself to proving that conflicts between nations exist. To clinch its arguments it would have to show also that there is a solidarity of interests within the nations. The nationalist-imperialist doctrine made its appearance as a reaction against the ecumenical-solidarism of the Free Trade doctrine. At its advent the cosmopolitan idea of world-citizenship and the fraternity of the nations dominated men's minds. All that seemed necessary, therefore, was to prove that there were conflicting interests between the various nations. The fact, that all the arguments it used to prove the incompatibility of national interests could with equal justification be used to prove the incompatibility of regional interests and finally even of the individual's personal interests, was quite overlooked. If the Germans suffer from consuming English cloth and Russian corn, the inhabitants of Berlin must, presumably, suffer from consuming Bavarian beer and Rhine wine. If it is not well to let the division of labour pass the frontiers of the state, it would no doubt be best in the end to return to the self-sufficiency of the closed domestic economy. The slogan "Away with foreign goods!" would lead us, if we accepted all its implications, to abolish the division of labour altogether. For the principle that makes the international division of labour seem advantageous is precisely the principle which recommends division of labour in any circumstances.


It is no accident, that of all nations the German people has least sense of national cohesion, and that among all European nations it was the last to understand the idea of a political union in which one state comprises all members of the nation. The idea of national union is a child of Liberalism, of free trade, and of laissez-faire. The German nation, of which important parts are living as minorities in areas settled by people of different tongues, was among the first to learn the disadvantages of nationalistic oppression. This experience led to a negative attitude to Liberalism. But without Liberalism, it lacked the intellectual equipment necessary to overcome the regional particularism of separate groups. It is no accident that the sentiment of national cohesion is in no other people so strongly developed as among the Anglo-Saxons, the traditional home of Liberalism.


Imperialists delude themselves fatally when they suppose it possible to strengthen the cohesion of members of a nation by rejecting cosmopolitanism. They overlook the fact that the basic anti-social element of their doctrine must, if logically applied, split up every community.

5 Racial War


Scientific knowledge of the innate qualities of man is still in its infancy. We cannot really say any more about the inherited characteristics of the individual than that some men are more gifted from birth than others. Where the difference between good and bad is to be sought we cannot say. We know that men differ in their physical and psychic qualities. We know that certain families, breeds, and groups of breeds reveal similar traits. We know that we are justified in differentiating between races and in speaking of the different racial qualities of individuals. But so far, attempts to find somatic characteristics of racial relationships have had no result. At one time it was thought that a racial characteristic had been discovered in the cranial index, but now it is clear that those relations between the cranial index and the psychic and mental qualities of the individual on which Lapouge's anthroposociological school based its system do not exist. More recent measurements have shown that long-headed men are not always blond, good, noble, and cultured, and that the short-headed are not always black, evil, common and uncultured. Amongst the most long-headed races are the Australian aborigines, the Eskimos, and the Kaffirs. Many of the greatest geniuses were round-heads. Kant's cranial index was 88.*56 We have learnt that changes in the cranial index very probably can take place without racial mixture—as the result of the mode of life and geographical environment.*57


It is impossible to condemn too emphatically the procedure of the "race experts." They set up criteria of race in an entirely uncritical spirit. More anxious to coin catchwords than to advance knowledge, they scoff at all the standards demanded by scientific thought. But the critics of such dilettantism take their job too lightly in directing their attention solely to the concrete form which individual writers give their theories and to the content of their statements about particular races, their physical characteristics and psychic qualities. Though Gobineau and Chamberlain's arbitrary and contradictory hypotheses are utterly without foundation and have been pooh-poohed as empty chimeras, there still remains a germ of the race theory which is independent of the specific differentiation between noble and ignoble races.


In Gobineau's theory the race is a beginning; originating in a special act of creation, it is fitted out with special qualities.*58 The influence of environment is estimated to be low: mixture of races creates bastards, in whom the good hereditary qualities of the nobler races deteriorate or are lost. To contest the sociological importance of the race theories, however, it will not suffice to prove that this view is untenable, or to show that race is the outcome of an evolution that has proceeded under the most varied influences. This objection might be overruled by asserting that certain influences, operating over a long period, have bred one race or several, with specially favourable qualities, and that the members of these races had by means of these advantages obtained so long a lead that members of other races could not overtake them within a limited time. In its most modern variations the race theory does, in fact, put forward arguments of this kind. It is necessary to study this form of the race theory and to ask how it stands in relation to the theory of social co-operation which has here been developed.


We see at once that it contains nothing directly inimical to the doctrine of the division of labour. The two are quite compatible. It may be assumed that races do differ in intelligence and will power, and that, this being so, they are very unequal in their ability to form society, and further that the better races distinguish themselves precisely by their special aptitude for strengthening social co-operation. This hypothesis throws light on various aspects of social evolution not otherwise easily comprehensible. It enables us to explain the development and regression of the social division of labour and the flowering and decline of civilizations. We leave it open whether the hypothesis itself and the hypothesis erected on it are tenable. At the moment this does not concern us. We are solely concerned to show that the race theory is easily compatible with our theory of social co-operation.


When the race theory combats the natural law postulate of the equality and equal rights of all men, it does not affect the free trade argument of the liberal school. For Liberalism does not advocate the liberty of the workers for reasons of natural law but because it regards unfree labour—the failure to reward the labourer with the whole produce economically imputed to his labour, and the divorce of his income from the productivity of his labour—as being less productive than free labour. In the race theory there are no arguments to refute free trade theory as to the effects of the expanding social division of labour. It may be admitted that the races differ in talent and character and that there is no hope of ever seeing those differences resolved. Still, free trade theory shows that even the more capable races derive an advantage from associating with the less capable and that social co-operation brings them the advantage of higher productivity in the total labour process.*59


The race theory begins to conflict with the liberal social theory at the point where it begins to preach the struggle between races. But it has no better arguments to advance in this connection than those of other militaristic social theories. The saying of Heraclitus "that war is the father of all things" remains unproven dogma. It, too, fails to demonstrate how the social structure could have grown out of destruction and annihilation. Nay, the race theorists too—in so far as they try to judge unbiased and not simply to follow their sympathy for the ideology of militarism and conflict—have to admit that war has to be condemned precisely from the point of view of selection. Lapouge has pointed out that only in the case of primitive peoples does war lead to the selection of the stronger and more gifted, and that among civilized peoples it leads to a deterioration of the race by unfavourable selection.*60 The fit are more likely to be killed than the unfit, who are kept longer, if not altogether, away from the front. Those who survive the war find their power to produce healthy children impaired by the various injuries they have received in the fight.


The results of the scientific study of races cannot in any way refute the liberal theory of social development. Rather they confirm it. The race theories of Gobineau and many others originated in the resentment of a defeated military and noble caste against bourgeois democracy and capitalist economy. For use in the daily politics of modern Imperialism they have taken a form which re-embodies old theories of violence and war. But their critical strictures are applicable only to the catchwords of the old natural law philosophy. They are irrelevant so far as Liberalism is concerned. Even the race theory cannot shake the assertion that civilization is a work of peaceful co-operation.

Notes for this chapter

"La guerre est une dissociation." ("War is a breakdown of social cooperation.") See Novicow, La Critique du Darwinisme Social (Paris, 1910), p. 124. See also the refutation of the struggle theories of Gumplowicz, Ratzenhofer, and Oppenheimer by Holsti, The Relation of War to the Origin of the State (Helsingfors, 1913), pp. 276 ff.
Taine, Histoire de la littérature anglaise (Paris, 1863), Vol. I, p. xxv.
Ibid., p. xxiii: "Ce qu'on appelle la race, ce sont ces dispositions innées et héréditaires que l'homme apporte avec lui à la lumière." ("Race is the innate and hereditary characteristics and tendencies with which man is born.")
Hertwig, Zur Abwehr des ethischen, des sozialen und des politischen Darwinismus, pp. 10 ff.
Ferri, Sozialismus und moderne Wissenschaft, trans. Kurella (Leipzig, 1895), pp. 65 ff.
Gumplowicz, Der Rassenkampf (Innsbruck, 1883), p. 176. On Gumplowicz's dependence on Darwinism see Barth, Die Philosophie der Geschichte als Soziologie, p. 253. The "liberal" Darwinism is a badly thought out product of an epoch which could no longer grasp the meaning of the liberal social philosophy.
Novicow, La Critique du Darwinisme Social, p. 45.
Barth, Die Philosophie der Geschichte als Soziologie, p. 243.
Kropotkin, Gegenseitige Hilfe in der Tier und Menschenwelt, German edition by Landauer (Leipzig, 1908), pp. 69 ff.
Kammerer, Genossenschaften von Lebewesen auf Grund gegenseitiger Vorteile (Stuttgart, 1913); Kammerer, Allgemeine Biologie (Stuttgart, 1915), p. 306; Kammerer, Einzeltod, Völkertod, biologische Unsterblichkeit (Vienna, 1918), pp. 29 ff.
See p. 290 of this work.
Cohen, Ethik des reinen Willens (Berlin, 1904), pp. 183 ff.
See my Nation, Staat und Wirtschaft, pp. 31 ff.
Oppenheimer, "Die rassentheoretische Geschichtsphilosophie" in Verhandlungen des Zweiten deutschen Soziologentages (Tübingen, 1913), p. 106; also Hertz, Rasse und Kultur, 3rd ed. (Leipzig, 1925), p. 37; Weidenreich, Rasse und Körperbau (Berlin, 1927), pp. 133 ff.
Nystrom, "Über die Formenveränderungen des menschlichen Schädels und deren Ursachen" (Archiv für Anthropologie, Vol. XXVII, pp. 321 ff., 630 ff., 642).
Oppenheimer, "Die rassentheoretische Geschichtsphilosophie," pp. 110 ff.
See p. 260.
"Chez les peuples modernes, la guerre et le militarisme sont de véritables fléaux dont le résultat définitif est de déprimer la race." ("For modern people, war and militarism are true calamities, of which the ultimate result is to debase the human race.") Lapouge, Les sélections sociales (Paris, 1896), p. 230.

End of Notes

28 of 47


The Clash of Class Interests and the Class War

1 The Concept of Class and of Class Conflict


At any given moment the position of the individual in the social economy determines his relation to all other members of society. He is related to them in respect of exchange, as giver and receiver, as seller and buyer. His position in the society need not necessarily tie him down to one and the same activity. One man may be simultaneously landlord, wage-earner, and capitalist; another simultaneously entrepreneur, employee, and landlord; a third entrepreneur, capitalist, and landlord, etc. One may produce cheese and baskets and hire himself out occasionally as a day labourer. But even the situation of those who find themselves in approximately equal positions differs according to the special circumstances in which they appear on the market. Even as a buyer for his own consumption every man is situated differently from others according to his special needs. On the market there are always only single individuals. In a free economy the market permits the emergence of individual differences: it "atomizes" as is sometimes said-usually somewhat regretfully. Even Marx had to make a point of explaining that "As purchases and sales are made only between single individuals, it is not admissible to look to them for relations between whole social classes."*61


If we use the term class to denote all those in approximately equal social positions, it is important to remember that the problem whether classes have any special importance in social life is not thereby solved. Schematization and classification per se have no cognitive value. The scientific significance of a concept arises out of its function in the theories to which it belongs; outside the context of these theories it is no more than an intellectual plaything. The usefulness of the class theory is not proved when it is pointed out that since men find themselves in different social positions, the existence of social classes is undeniable. What matters is not the social position of the individual but the significance of this position in the life of society. It has long been recognized that the contrast between rich and poor, like all economic contrasts, plays a great part in politics. Equally well known is the historical importance of differences in rank and caste, that is, differences in legal position, or inequality before the Law. Classical Political Economy did not contest this. But it undertook to show that all these contrasts derived from wrong political institutions. According to Classical Political Economy, correctly understood, the interests of individuals are never incompatible. Belief in conflicts of interest, which formerly was very important, really sprang from ignorance of the natural laws of social life. Once men recognized that, rightly understood, all interests were identical, these issues would cease to influence political discussion.


But Classical Political Economy, which taught the solidarity of interests, itself laid the foundation stone for a new theory of class conflict. The mercantilists had placed goods in the centre of economics, which in their eyes was a theory of objective wealth. It was the great achievement of the Classics in this respect that beside the goods they set up economic man. They thus prepared the way for modern Economics which puts man and his subjective valuations into the centre of its system. A system in which man and goods are placed, so to speak, on an equal footing falls inevitably into two parts, the one treating of the production of wealth, the other of its distribution. The more Economics becomes a strict science, a system of catallactics, the more this conception tends to recede. But the idea of distribution remains for a time. And this gives rise in turn to the idea of a division between the process of production and that of distribution. The goods are first produced, then distributed. However clear it is that, in the capitalist economy, production and "distribution" are indissolubly interconnected, this unhappy conception tends to confuse the issue.*62


Such misunderstandings are indeed inevitable as soon as this term "distribution" is adopted and the problem of imputation is considered as a problem of distribution. For such a theory of imputation or, to use a term corresponding more closely to the classic setting of the problem, a theory of income, must distinguish between the various categories of factors of production, though in fact the same fundamental principle of value formation are to be applied to all of them. "Labour" is separated from "Capital" and from "Land." Nothing is easier in such a context, than to regard labourers, capitalists, and landowners as separate classes, as Ricardo first did in the preface to his Principles. The fact that the classic economists do not split up "profit" into its component parts, only increased this tendency and gave us the picture of society divided into three great classes.


But Ricardo goes still further. By showing how "in different stages of society"*63 the proportions of the total produce which will be allotted to each of the three classes are different, he extends the class conflict to dynamics. His successors follow him here. And it is here that Marx steps in with the economic theory that he puts forward in Das Kapital. In his earlier writings, especially in the introductory words of the Communist Manifesto, Marx still conceives class and class conflict in the old sense of a contrast in legal position and the size of fortune. The link between the two notions is provided by a view of modern industrial relations as the domination of capitalists over workers. But even in Das Kapital Marx does not delimit precisely the concept of class, although it is of fundamental importance for his theory. He does not define what class is, but limits himself to enumerating the "great classes" into which modern capitalist society is divided.*64 Here he follows Ricardo's division, neglecting the fact that for Ricardo the division of classes is only of importance for the theory of catallactics.


The success of the Marxist theory of class and class conflicts has been tremendous. Today the Marxian distinction of classes within society and the theory of the irreconcilable conflict between these classes is almost universally accepted. Even those who desire, and work for, peace between classes do not as a rule contest the view that there are class contrasts and class struggles. But the concept of class remains as uncertain as before. For the followers of Marx, as for Marx himself, the concept coruscates in all the colours of the rainbow.


If, following the system of Das Kapital, this concept is based on the classical division of the factors of production, then a classification that was invented only for purposes of the theory of exchange and is only justifiable there, is transformed into the basis of general sociological knowledge. The fact is overlooked that the assembling of the factors of production into two, three or four large groups is merely a problem of the arrangement of economic theory, and that it can be valid within this context only. The classification of the factors of production is not a classification of men or groups of men, but of functions; the rationale of the division lies solely in the purpose of the theory of catallactics it is intended to serve. The separation of "Land" for example, owes its special position to the Classical theory of ground-rent. According to this theory, land is that requisite of production which, under certain assumptions, can yield a rent. Similarly, the position of capital as the source of profit, and of labour as the source of wages, is due to the peculiarities of the classical system. In subsequent solutions of the problem of distribution which divided the "profit" of the classical school into entrepreneur's profit and interest on capital, the grouping of the factors of production was entirely different. In the modern imputation theory on the contrary, the grouping of the factors of production according to the scheme of the classical theory is no longer of any importance. What was formerly called the problem of distribution is now the problem of the formation of prices of goods of higher orders. Only conservatism of scientific classification has tended to retain the old terminology. A grouping more in accordance with the spirit of imputation theory would have to proceed on an entirely different basis—for example, the separation of static and dynamic branches of income.


But—and this is the essential point—in no system is the basis for the grouping of factors determined by their natural characteristics. It is the failure to perceive this that constitutes the gravest error of the theory of economic classes. This theory began by naively assuming an inner relation (created by natural economic conditions) between those factors of production which have been grouped together for analytical reasons. It constructs a uniform land, which can be used for at least all kinds of agriculture, and a uniform labour, which can work at anything. It makes a concession, an attempt to conform to reality, when it distinguishes between land to be used agriculturally, land to be used for mining, and urban land, and when it differentiates between skilled and unskilled labour. But this concession does not improve matters. Skilled labour is just as much an abstraction as "labour" pure and simple, and agricultural land is just as much an abstraction as "land" pure and simple. And—what is important here—they are abstractions which leave out just those characteristics essential to sociological study. When dealing with the peculiarities of price formation we may, in certain circumstances, be permitted to make the contrast between the three groups: land, capital, and labour. But this does not prove at all that such grouping is permissible when we are dealing with a quite different problem.

2 Estates and Classes


The theory of the class war constantly confuses the notions of Estate ("Stand") and class.*65 Estates were legal institutions, not economically determined facts. Every man was born into an estate and generally remained in it until he died. All through life one possessed estate-membership, the quality of being a member of a certain estate. One was master or serf, freeman or slave, lord of the land or tied to it, patrician or plebeian, not because one occupied a certain position in economic life, but because one belonged to a certain estate. Admittedly the estates were in their origins an economic institution, in the sense that, like every social order, they had arisen ultimately from the need to safeguard social co-operation. But the social theory underlying this institution was fundamentally different from the liberal theory, for human co-operation was conceived only as a "taking" by some and a "giving" by others. That the give and take could be mutual and all parties gain thereby was utterly incomprehensible to such a theory. A later epoch, seeking to justify the estate system which, in the light of the liberal ideas then slowly dawning in the world, had begun to appear unsocial and also unjust, based on a one-sided burdening of the lower orders, fabricated an artificial reciprocity in the relationship: the higher orders gave the lower protection, sustenance, the use of the land, and so on. But the very existence of this doctrine reveals that the decay of the estate ideology had already begun. Such ideas were alien to the institution in its heyday, when the relationship was frankly one of violence, as may be clearly seen in the first essential distinction drawn by estate—the distinction between free and unfree. The reason why the slave looked on slavery as natural, resigning himself to his lot instead of continuing to rebel and run away as long as there was breath in his body, was not that he believed slavery to be a just institution, equally advantageous to master and slave, but simply that he did not want to erdanger his life by insubordination.


By stressing the historical role of slavery it has been sought to refute the literal view of subjection and of the institution of the estate also. Slavery was said to mark an advance in civilization, when men taken in battle were enslaved instead of being killed. Without slavery a society dividing labour, in which trades are separated from primary production, could not have developed until all free soil had been disposed of; for everyone would have preferred to be free master of his own land rather than a landless worker on raw materials produced by others, let alone a propertyless labourer on someone else's land. On this view slavery has an historical justification, as higher civilization is inconceivable without the division of labour which gives part of the population a life of leisure, freed from common worries over daily bread.*66


It is only for those who study history with the eyes of the moralist that the question of whether an historical institution can be justified or not can arise at all. The fact that it has appeared in history shows that forces were active to bring it about. The only question that can be asked scientifically is whether the institution actually fulfilled the function ascribed to it. In this instance the answer is definitely in the negative. Slavery did not prepare the way for division of labour. On the contrary it blocked the way. Indeed modern industrial society, with its highly developed division of labour, could not begin to grow until slavery had been abolished. Free, ownerless land has continued to exist for settlement without preventing the rise of special trades or of a class of free wage earners. For the free land had first to be made cultivable. Before it yielded its fruits it needed stock and improvements. Often in its fertility and nearly always in its situation, it was worse than land already under cultivation.*67 Private ownership in the means of production is the only necessary condition for the extensive development of the division of labour. The enslavement of the worker was not necessary to create it.


In the relation between estates, two types are characteristic. One is the relation between feudal lord and the cultivator. The feudal lord stands quite outside the process of production. He appears on the stage only when the crop has been harvested and the process of production has been completed. Then he takes his share. To understand the nature of this relationship we do not need to know whether it originated in the subjection of formerly free peasants or in the settlement of people on land owned by the lord. The one relevant fact is that the relationship is outside production and cannot, therefore, be dissolved through an economic process, such as commutation of rent and tithes by the cultivator. As soon as the rent is commutable it ceases to be a dependent relationship and becomes a property right. The second typical relation is that of master to slave. Here the master demands labour, not goods, and receives what he demands without any counterservice to the slave. For giving food, clothing, and shelter is not a counterservice, but a necessary expenditure unless he is to lose the slave's labour. Under the strictly developed institution of slavery the slave is fed only so long as his labour brings in a surplus over his subsistence costs.


Nothing is less reasonable than to compare these two relationships with that of entrepreneur and worker in a free economy. Historically, free wage labour grew to a certain extent out of the labour of slaves and serfs, and it was a long time before it cast off all trace of its origin and became what it is in the capitalist economy. But it is a complete misunderstanding of the capitalist economy to equate economically free labour for wages with the work done by the unfree. One may draw sociological comparisons between the two systems. For both involve division of labour and social co-operation, and in this reveal common features. But sociological study must not overlook the fact that the economic character of the two systems is quite different. Analysis of the economic character of free labour with arguments derived from the study of slave labour is bound to be worthless. The free worker receives in wages what is economically imputed to his labour. The slave owner expends the same amount by providing for the sustenance of the slave and by paying the slave dealer a price for the slave that corresponds to the present value of the amounts by which the wages of free labour are or would be higher than the slave's sustenance costs. The surplus of the wages of labour over the workers' sustenance costs thus goes to the man who transforms free men into slaves—to the slave hunter, not to the slave dealer or the slave owner. These two do not derive any specific income in the slave economy. It is clear, therefore, that anyone who tries to support the exploitation theory by referring to conditions of a slave economy completely misunderstands the problem.*68


In a society divided into estates all members of the estates who lack complete rights before the law have one interest in common with other members: they struggle to improve the legal position of their estate. All who are bound to the soil strive to have the burden of rent lightened; all slaves strive for freedom, that is, for a condition under which they can use their labour for themselves. The community of interest of all the members of an estate is stronger, the less the individual is able to raise himself above the legal sphere of his estate. It does not matter very much here that in some rare cases, especially gifted individuals, aided by happy accidents, are able to rise into higher estates. No mass movements are born of the unsatisfied wishes and hopes of isolated individuals. Desire to renew their own strength rather than a wish to smother social discontent is what causes the privileged estates to clear the way for the rise of the talented. Gifted individuals who have been prevented from rising can become dangerous only if their call to violent action finds an echo in wide strata of discontented men.

3 Class War


The settlement of particular conflicts between estates could not remove the distinction between estates, as long as the idea of dividing society in this way remained. Even when the oppressed shook off the yoke, all differences in status were not abolished. Liberalism alone could overcome the fundamental conflict of estates. It did so by abolishing slavery—on the ground that free labour was more productive than unfree—and by proclaiming freedom of movement and choice of occupation as the fundamental desiderata of a rational policy. Nothing exposes more clearly the inability of anti-liberalism to grasp the historical significance of Liberalism than its attempt to represent this achievement as the product of special group "interests."


In the struggle between estates all members of an estate stand together because they have a common aim. However much their interests otherwise diverge they meet on this one ground. They want a better legal position for their estate. Economic advantages usually accompany this, for the reason why legal differences are maintained between estates is precisely that they confer economic advantages on some to the economic prejudice of others.


But the "class" of the theory of the class-war is a different matter altogether. The theory of irreconcilable class conflict is illogical when it stops short at dividing society into three or four large classes. Carried to its logical conclusions, the theory would have to go on dissolving society into groups of interests till it reached groups whose members fulfilled precisely the same function. It is not enough to separate owners into landowners and capitalists. The differentiation must proceed until it reaches such groups as cotton spinners who manufacture the same count of yarn, or the manufacturers of black kid leather, or the brewers of light beer. Such groups have, it is true, one common interest as against the mass of others: they are vitally interested in the favourable sale of their products. But this common interest is narrowly limited. In a free economy a single branch of production cannot in the long run obtain more than an average profit and cannot, on the other hand, work at a loss. The common interest of members of a trade does not extend, therefore, beyond the trend of the market within a limited space of time. For the rest, competition, not immediate solidarity of interest, operates between them. This competition is suspended by special interests only when economic liberty is limited in some way. But if the scheme is to retain its usefulness for the critique of the theory of the solidarity of class interests, evidence must be produced that this competition is suspended under a free economy. The class struggle theory cannot be proved to be sound by a reference to the common interests of landowners as being in conflict with the urban population on tariff policy, or to the conflict between landowners and town dwellers on the matter of political government. Liberal theory does not deny that state interference in trade creates special interests, nor that by this means particular groups can extract privileges for themselves. It merely says that such special favours, when they are exceptional privileges of small groups, lead to violent political conflict, to revolts of the non-privileged many against the privileged few, which by constantly disturbing the peace, hold up social development. It explains further that where these special privileges constitute a general rule, they injure everyone, for they take on the one hand what they give on the other, and leave behind, as a permanent result, only a general decline in the productivity of labour.


In the long run the community of interests among the members of a group and the contrast between their interests and the interests of other groups arise always from limitations of the right of ownership, of the freedom of trade, of the choice of occupation. Only in the short run can they arise from the condition of the market as such. But if among the groups whose members occupy the same position in the economy there is no community of interest which would place them in opposition to all other groups, there can certainly be no such community within the larger groups whose members occupy not the same but merely a similar position. If there is no community of special interests between the cotton-spinners among themselves, neither is there any within the cotton industry or between the spinners and the machine makers. Between spinner and weaver, machine maker and machine user, the direct contrast of interests is as marked as it can possibly be. A community of interests exists only where competition is ruled out, for example, between the owners of land of a certain quality or situation.


The theory that the population is divided into three or four large groups, each with a common interest, errs in regarding land owners as a class with unitary interests. No special common interest unites the owners of arable land, of forests, of vineyards, of mines, or of urban real estate, unless it be that they defend the right of private property in land. But that is not the special interest of the owners. Whoever has recognized the significance of private ownership in the means of production must, whether he possesses property or not, advocate the principle in his own as well as the owner's interest. Landowners have genuine special interests only where the liberty of acquiring property and of trading has been limited.


There are no common interests among labourers either. Homogeneous Labour is as non-existent as the universal worker. The work of the spinner is different from the work of the miner and the work of the doctor. The theorists of Socialism and of irreconcilable class conflict talk as though there was some kind of abstract labour which everyone was qualified to perform and as though skilled labour hardly came into the question. In reality no such "absolute" labour exists. Nor is unskilled labour homogeneous. A scavenger is different from a porter. Moreover the role of unskilled labour is much smaller, considered purely numerically, than orthodox class theory assumes.


In deducing the laws of the theory of imputation we are justified in speaking simply of "land" and "labour." For from this point all goods of the higher order are significant only as economic objects. The reason for simplifying the infinite variety of goods of higher orders into a few large groups is convenience in working out the theory which is of course directed towards a definite aim. It is often complained that economic theory works with abstractions; but precisely those who make this complaint themselves forget that the concepts "labour" and "worker," "capital" and "capitalist," and so on, are abstract; and do not hesitate to transplant the "worker" of theoretical Economics into a picture of what is supposed to be actual social life.


The members of a class are competitors. If the number of workers diminishes, and if the marginal productivity of labour grows accordingly, wages rise, and with them the income and standard of living of the worker. Trade unions cannot alter this. When they, who were supposed to be called into being to fight the entrepreneurs, close their membership like guilds, they implicitly recognize the fact.


Competition operates among the workers when they compete for higher positions and for promotion to higher ranks. Members of other classes can afford to remain indifferent as to the precise persons who are numbered among the relative minority which rises from the lower to the higher strata, so long as these are the most capable. But for the workers themselves this is an important matter. Each is in competition with the others. Of course each is interested to see that every other foreman's job shall be occupied by the most suitable man and the best. But each is anxious that that one job which comes within his reach shall fall to him, even though he is not the most suitable man for the job; and the advantage to him outweighs the fraction of the general disadvantages which may eventually also come his way.


The theory of the solidarity of the interests of all members of society is the only theory which shows how society is possible; and if it is dropped, the social unity dissolves not only into classes, but into individuals confronting each other as opponents. Conflict between individual interests is overcome in society but not in the class. Society knows no components other than individuals. The class united by a community of special interests does not exist; it is the invention of a theory incompletely articulated. The more complicated society is, and the further differentiation has progressed within it, so much the more numerous are the groups of persons similarly placed within the social organism; though necessarily, the number of members in each group diminishes as the number of groups increase. The fact that the members of each group have certain immediate interest in common does not, of itself, create universal equality of interests between them. The equality of position makes them competitors, not people with common aspirations. Nor can any absolute community of interests arise from the incomplete similarity between the positions of allied groups. As far as their positions are similar, competition will operate between them.


The interests of all cotton mill owners may run parallel in certain directions, but in so far as this is the case, the more are they competitors among themselves. In other respects only those owners of mills who produce the same count of yarn will be in exactly parallel positions. Here again to this extent they are in competition with each other. In other respects however, the common interests are similar over a much wider field; they may comprise all workers in the cotton industry, then, again, all cotton producers, including planters and workers, or further, all industrialists of any kind, etc.: the grouping varies perpetually according to the aim and interests to be pursued. But complete similarity there is rare, and where it does exist, it leads not only to common interests vis-a-vis third parties but, simultaneously, to competition between the parties within the group.


A theory which made all social development proceed from class struggles would have to show that the position of each individual in the social organism was unequivocally determined by his class position, that is, by his membership of a certain class and the relation of this class to other classes. The fact that in all political struggles certain social groups are in conflict with each other is by no means a proof of this theory. To be correct it must be capable of demonstrating that the grouping is necessarily directed into a certain path and cannot be influenced by ideologies which are independent of the class position; that the way in which the smaller groups combine to form larger groups, and these again form classes which divide the whole of society, is not a way of compromises and alliances formed for temporary cooperation but results from facts created by social necessities, from an unequivocal community of interests.


Let us consider, for example, the different elements of which an Agrarian Party is composed. In Austria, the wine-growers, the cereal-growers, and the stock-breeders unite to form a common party. But it certainly cannot be asserted that similarity of interest has brought them together. For each of these three groups has different interests. The fusion with a view to securing certain protective policies is a compromise between conflicting interests. Such a compromise is, however, only possible on the basis of an ideology that goes beyond the interests of the class. The class interest of each of these three groups is opposed to that of the other groups. They can meet only by setting certain special interests wholly or partly aside, though they do this so as to fight all the more effectively for other special interests.


It is the same with the workers, who are contrasted with the owners of the means of production. The special interests of the separate workers' groups are also not unitary. They have quite different interests according to the knowledge and skill of their members. It is certaintly not in virtue of its class position that the proletariat is that homogeneous class the socialist parties imagine it to be. Only adherence to the socialist ideology, which obliges every individual and every group to give up his or its special interests, brings it about that it is so. The daily work of the trade unions consists precisely in effecting compromises between these conflicts of interest.*69


Coalitions and alliances between group interests, other than existing coalitions and alliances, are always possible. And those which actually exist depend on the ideology, not on the class position, of the groups. Political aims, not identity of interests, is what determines the coherence of the group. The community of special interests is always restricted to a narrow field and is obliterated or counter-vailed by the conflict of other special interests, unless a certain ideology makes the community of interests seem stronger than the conflict of interests.


The community of class interests does not exist independently of class consciousness, and class consciousness is not merely additional to a community of special interests; it creates such a community. The proletarians are not a special group within the framework of modern society, whose attitude is unequivocally determined by their class position. Individuals are brought together for common political action by the socialist ideology; the unity of the proletariat comes, not from its class position, but from the ideology of the class-war. As a class the proletariat does not exist before Socialism: the socialist idea first created it by combining certain individuals to attain a certain political end. There is nothing in Socialism which makes it especially appropriate to forwarding the real interests of the proletarian classes.


In principle class ideology is no different from national ideology. In fact there is no contrast between the interests of particular nations and races. It is national ideology which first creates the belief in special interests and turns nations into special groups which fight each other. Nationalist ideology divides society vertically; the socialist ideology divides society horizontally. In this sense the two are mutually exclusive. Sometimes the one has the upper hand, sometimes the other. In Germany in 1914 the nationalist ideology shouldered the socialist ideology into the background—and suddenly there was a nationalist united front. In 1918 the socialist triumphed over the nationalist.


In a free society no classes are separated by irreconcilably contrasted interests. Society is the solidarity of interests. The union of special groups has always as its safe aim the destruction of this cohesion. Its aim is antisocial. The special community of proletarian interests extends only so far as they pursue one aim—to break up society. It is the same with the special community of interests which is supposed to exist for a whole nation.


Because Marxian theory does not define its notion of class more closely, people have been able to use it for the expression of the most diverse ideas. When they define the decisive conflict as that between owners and nonowners, or between urban and rural interests, or between bourgeois, peasant, and worker; when they speak of the interests of "armament capital," of "alcohol capital" of "finance capital"*70 when at one moment they talk about the Glorious International and in the next breath explain that Imperialism is due to the conflicts of capital, it is easy to see that these are the merest catchwords of the demagogue, devoid of any real sociological interest. Thus in its most fundamental contentions Marxism has never risen above the level of a doctrine for the soap box orator.*71

4 The Forms of Class War


The total national product is divided into wages, rent, interest, and profits. All economic theory considers it definitely settled that this division proceeds, not according to the non-economic power of the individual classes, but according to the importance which the market imputes to individual factors of production. Classical Political Economy and the modern theory of marginal value agree in this. Even Marxian doctrine, which has borrowed its theory of distribution from classical theory, agrees. By deducing in this way the laws according to which the value of labour is determined, it, too, sets up a theory of distribution in which economic elements alone are decisive. The Marxian theory of distribution seems to us full of contradictions and absurdities. Nevertheless it is an attempt to find a purely economic explanation for the way in which the prices of the factors of production are formed. Later on, when Marx was moved for political reasons to recognize the advantages of the trade union movement, he did make certain slight concessions on this point. But the fact that he stuck to his system of economics shows that these were only concessions which left his fundamental views untouched.


If we were to describe as a "struggle" the effort of all parties on the market to get the best price obtainable, then we might say that there is a constant war of each against each throughout economic life; but not by any means that there is a class-war. The fight is not between class and class but between individuals. When groups of competitors come together for joint action, class does not confront class, but group opposes group. What a single workers' group has obtained for itself does not benefit all workers; the interests of the workers of different branches of production are as conflicting as those of entrepreneurs and workers. When it speaks of class war, socialist theory cannot have in mind this opposition of the interests of buyers and sellers in the market.*72 What it means by class war takes place outside economic life, though as a result of economic motives. When it considers the class war as being analogous to the war between estates it can only refer to a political fight which takes place outside the market. After all this was the only kind of conflict possible between masters and slaves, landowners and serfs; on the market they had no dealings with each other.


But Marxism goes beyond this. It assumes it to be self-evident that only the owners are interested in maintaining private ownership in the means of production, that the proletarians have the contrary interest, and that both know their interests and act accordingly. We have already seen that this view is acceptable only if we are prepared to swallow the Marxian theory whole. Private ownership in the means of production serves equally the interests of owners and non-owners. It is certainly by no means true that the members of the two great classes into which according to Marxian theory society is divided, are naturally conscious of their interest in the class struggle. The Marxians had to work hard to awaken the class consciousness of the workers, that is, to make the workers support Marxian plans for the socialization of property. What joins the workers for co-operative action against the bourgeois class is precisely the theory of irreconcilable class conflict. Class consciousness, created by the ideology of the class conflict, is the essence of the struggle, and not vice versa. The idea created the class, not the class the idea.


The weapons of the class struggle are no more economic than its origins. Strikes, sabotage, violent action and terrorism of every kind are not economic means. They are destructive means, designed to interrupt the movement of economic life. They are weapons of war which must inevitably lead to the destruction of society.

5 Class War as a Factor in Social Evolution


From the theory of the class-war, Marxians argue that the socialist order of society is the inevitable future of the human race. In any society based on private property, says Marxism, there must of necessity be an irreconcilable conflict between the interests of separate classes: exploiters oppose the exploited. This contrast of interests, it is assumed, determines the historical position of the classes; it prescribes the policy they must follow. Thus history becomes a chain of class struggles, until finally, in the modern proletariat, there appears a class which can free itself from class rule only by abolishing all class conflicts and all exploitation generally.


The Marxist theory of class war has extended its influence far beyond socialist circles. That the liberal theory of the solidarity of the ultimate interests of all members of society has been thrust into the background was, of course, not due to this theory only, but also to the revival of imperialist and protectionist ideas. But as the liberal idea lost its glamour, the fascinations of the Marxian promises were bound to be more widely felt. For it has one thing in common with the liberal theory which the other anti-liberal theories lack: it affirms the possibility of social life. All other theories which deny the solidarity of interests deny also by implications social life itself. Whoever argues with the nationalists, the race dogmatists, and even the protectionists, that the conflict of interests between nations and races cannot be reconciled, denies the possibility of peaceful co-operation between nations and thereby the possibility of international organization. Those who, with the implacable champions of peasant or petty bourgeois interests, consider the unflinching pursuit of class interests as the essence of politics, would be only logical if they were to deny all advantages of social co-operation. Compared with these theories, which necessarily lead to very pessimistic views of the future of society, Socialism seems to be an optimistic doctrine. At least for the desired coming social order, it claims the solidarity of the interests of all members of society. The desire for a philosophy, which does not altogether deny the advantages of social co-operation is so intensive, that many people have been driven into the arms of Socialism who would otherwise have avoided it altogether. The only oasis they find in the desert of anti-liberal theories is Socialism.


But in their readiness to accept the Marxian dogmas, such people overlook the fact that its promise of a classless future for society rests entirely on the assertion, presented as irrefutable, that the productivity of socialistically organized labour would be higher—indeed, limitless. The argument is well known: "The possibility of giving all members of society, by social production, an existence which shall be not merely materially adequate, increasing in wealth from day to day, but which shall guarantee them also the complete freedom to develop and practice their physical and mental abilities—this possibility now exists for the first time, but it exists."*73 Private ownership in the means of production is the Red Sea which bars our path to this Promised Land of general well-being. From being an "evolutionary form of the forces of production" it became their "chains."*74 The liberation of the productive forces from the shackles of capitalism is the "sole presupposition to an uninterrupted development at an ever-increasing pace of the productive forces and, thus, to a practically unlimited increase in production itself."*75 "As the development of modern technique makes possible a sufficient, even abundant, satisfaction of wants for all, on condition that production is directed economically by and for the country, the class conflict now appears, for the first time, not as a condition of social development but as the obstacle to its conscious and planned organization. In the light of this knowledge the class interest of the oppressed proletarians is directed towards abolishing all class interests and setting up a classless society. The old, apparently eternal law of the class struggle practically necessitates by its own logic, by the interest of the last and most numerous class—the proletariat—the abolition of all class contrasts and the creation of a society in which interests are unitary and which is humanly solidary."*76 Ultimately, therefore, the Marxian demonstration is this: Socialism must come, because the socialist way of production is more rational than the capitalist. But in all this the alleged superiority of socialist production is simply taken for granted. Except for a few casual remarks no attempt to prove anything is made.*77


If one assumes that production under Socialism would be higher than under any other system, how can one limit the assertion by saying that it is true only under certain historical conditions and has not always been so? Why must time ripen for Socialism? It would be understandable if the Marxians were to explain why, before the nineteenth century, people did not hit upon this happy idea or why even if it had been conceived earlier, it could not have been realized. But why must a community, to attain Socialism, go through all the stages of evolution, although it is already familiar with the idea of Socialism? One can understand that "a nation is not ripe for Socialism as long as the majority of the masses oppose Socialism and want to have nothing to do with Socialism." But it is not easy to see why "one cannot say definitely" that the time is ripe "when the proletariat forms the majority of the nation and when the latter in its majority manifests the will to Socialism."*78 Is it not quite illogical, to maintain that the World War*79 has put back our evolution and thus retarded the coming of the right moment for Socialism? "Socialism, that is, general well-being within modern civilization, becomes possible only through the enormous development of the productive forces brought about by Capitalism, through the enormous wealth Capitalism has created and concentrated in the hands of the capitalist class. A state which has wasted this wealth in senseless policy, such as an unsuccessful war, offers no favourable opportunity for the quickest spread of well being amongst all classes."*80 But surely those who believe that Socialism will multiply productivity should see in the fact that war has impoverished us one reason more for hastening its coming.


To this Marx answers: "a social order never succumbs until all the productive forces of which it is capable are developed, and new and higher conditions of production never replace it until the old society itself has conceived within its womb the material conditions of their existence."*81 But this answer assumes that what needs to be demonstrated is proved already: that socialist production would be more productive and that socialist production is a "higher" one, that is, on a higher stage of social development.

6 The Theory of the Class War and the Interpretation of History


The opinion that history leads to Socialism is almost universal today. From Feudalism through Capitalism to Socialism, from the rule of the aristocracy through the rule of the bourgeoisie to proletarian democracy—thus, approximately, people conceive the inevitable evolution. The gospel that Socialism is our inescapable destiny is acclaimed by many with joy, accepted by others with regret, doubted by only the courageous few. This scheme of evolution was known before Marx, but Marx developed it and made it popular. Above all Marx managed to fit it into a philosophic system.


Of the great systems of German idealist philosophy only those of Schelling and Hegel have had a direct and lasting influence on the formation of the individual sciences. Out of Schelling's Natural Philosophy grew a speculative school whose achievements, once so much admired, have long been forgotten. Hegel's Philosophy of History mesmerized the German historians of a whole generation. People wrote Universal History, History of Philosophy, History of Religion, History of Law, History of Art, History of Literature according to the Hegelian scheme. These arbitrary and often eccentric evolutionary hypotheses have also vanished. The disrespect into which the schools of Hegel and Schelling brought philosophy led Natural Science to reject everything that went beyond laboratory experiment and analysis, and caused the Moral Sciences to reject everything except the collection and sifting of sources. Science limited itself to mere facts and rejected all synthesis as unscientific. The impulse to permeate science once more with the philosophic spirit had to come from elsewhere—from biology and sociology.


Of all the creations of the Hegelian School only one was fated to a longer lease of life—the Marxian Social Theory. But its place was outside scholarship. Marxian ideas have proved utterly useless as guides to historical research. All attempts to write history according to the Marxian scheme have failed lamentably. The historical works of the orthodox Marxists, such as Kautsky and Mehring, made no progress at all in original and exhaustive research. They produced only expositions based on the researches of others, expositions whose only original feature was an effort to see everything through Marxist spectacles. But the influence of Marxist ideas extends far beyond the circle of orthodox disciples. Many historians, by no means to be classed politically as Marxian socialists, approach them closely in their views on the philosophy of history. In their works the Marxian influence is a disturbing element. The use of such indefinite expressions as "exploitation," "the striving of capital for surplus value," and "proletariat" dulls the vision that should be kept clear for the impartial scrutiny of the material, and the idea that all history is merely a preliminary to the socialist society prompts the historian to do violence in his interpretation of the sources.


The notion that the rule of the proletariat must replace the rule of the bourgeoisie is largely based on that grading of the estates and classes which has become general since the French Revolution. People call the French Revolution and the movement it introduced into the various states of Europe and America the emancipation of the Third Estate and think that now the Fourth Estate must have its turn. We may overlook here the fact that a view which regards the victory of liberal ideas as a class triumph of the bourgeoisie and the Free Trade Period as an epoch of the rule of the bourgeoisie, presupposes that all elements of the socialist theory of society are already proved. But another question immediately occurs to us. Must this Fourth Estate, whose turn is now supposed to come, be sought in the proletariat? Might not one look for it with equal or greater justice in the peasantry? Marx, of course, could have no doubts on the subject. In his view it was a settled thing that in agriculture big-scale concerns would oust small-scale enterprises and the peasant make way for the landless labourer of the latifundia. Now, when the theory of the inability of medium and small-scale agricultural enterprise to compete has long been buried, a problem arises which Marxism cannot answer. The evolution which is going on before our eyes would permit us to suppose that domination was passing into the hands of the peasants rather than that of the proletarians.*82


But here, too, our decision must rest on our judgment of the efficiency of the two social orders, the capitalist and the socialist. If Capitalism is not the diabolical scheme shown in socialist caricature, if Socialism is not the ideal order which socialists assert it to be, then the whole doctrine collapses. The discussion always returns to the same point—the fundamental question whether the socialist order of society promises a higher productivity than Capitalism.

7 Summary


Race, nationality, citizenship, estate-rights: these things directly affect action. It does not matter whether a party ideology unites all those belonging to the same race or nation, the same state or estate. The fact that races, nations, states or estates exist determines human action even when there is no ideology to guide members of a group in a certain direction. A German's thought and actions are influenced by the kind of mind he has acquired as a member of the German language community. Whether or not he is influenced by nationalist party ideology is here unimportant. As a German he thinks and acts differently from the Rumanian whose thought the history of the Rumanian, and not the German, language determines.


The nationalist party ideology is a factor quite independent of one's membership of any given nation. Various mutually contradictory nationalist party ideologies can exist concurrently and fight for the individual's soul; on the other hand there may be no sort of nationalist party ideology in existence. A party ideology is always something specially introduced from outside into the already established membership of a certain social group, and for which it thereafter forms a special source of action. Mere living in a society does not create party doctrine in one's mind. Party attitudes always arise from a theory of what is and is not advantageous. Social life may, under certain circumstances, predispose one to accept a certain ideology, and occasionally party doctrines are so formed that they specially attract members of a particular social group. But the ideology must always be kept separate from the actual social and natural being.


Social being itself is ideological in so far as society is a product of human will, and so of human thought. The materialistic conception of history errs profoundly when it regards social life as independent of thought.


If the position of the individual in the co-operative organism of economic life is considered to be his class position, then what we have said above applies also to the class. But again, one has to differentiate here, too, between the influences to which his class position exposes the individual and the political ideologies which influence him. The fact that he occupies his particular position in society has its influence on the life of the bank clerk. Whether he deduces from this that he ought to advocate the capitalist or the socialist policy depends on the ideas which dominate him.


But if one conceives "class" in the Marxist sense, as a tripartite division of society into capitalists, land owners, and workers, it loses all definiteness. It becomes nothing more than a fiction to justify a concrete party-political ideology. Thus the concepts Bourgeoisie, Working Class, Proletariat are fictions, the cognitive value of which depends on the theory in the service of which they are applied. This theory is the Marxian doctrine that class conflict is irreconcilable. If we consider this theory inadmissible, then no class differences and no class conflicts in the Marxian sense exist. If we prove that, correctly understood, the interests of all members of society are not in conflict, we have shown not merely that the Marxian idea of a conflict of interests is untenable: we have discarded as valueless the very concept of class as it figures in socialist theory. For only within the framework of this theory has the attempt to classify society into capitalists, landowners, and workers any meaning. Outside this theory it is as purposeless as, for example, any attempt to lump together all fair or all dlark people—unless indeed we propose, with certain race theorists, to give special importance to the colour of the hair, whether as an external characteristic or as a constitutive element.


The position of the individual in the division of labour influences his whole way of living, his thought, and his attitude towards the world. This is true in some respects also of the differences in the situations which individuals occupy in social production. Entrepreneurs and workers think differently because the habits of their daily work give them different points of view. The entrepreneur always has in mind the large and the whole, the worker only the near and the small.*83 The first learns to think and act on a large scale, the other remains stuck in the groove of small preoccupations. These facts are certainly of importance in a knowledge of social conditions, but it does not follow that to introduce the concept of the class in the sense of socialist theory would serve any useful purpose. For these differences do not derive simply and solely from differences of position in the process of production. The small entrepreneur's way of thinking is nearer to that of the worker than to that of the large-scale entrepreneur; the salaried manager of large undertakings is more closely allied to the entrepreneur than to the worker. The difference between poor and rich is, in many respects, more helpful to our understanding of the social conditions we are studying than the difference between worker and entrepreneur. The level of income, rather than the individual's relation to the factors of production, determines a man's standard of life. His position as producer becomes important only in so far as it affects the grading of his income.

Notes for this chapter

Marx, Das Kapital, Vol. I, p. 550. The passage from which the above quotation is taken was not in the first edition, published 1867. Marx first inserted it in the French version, published 1873, whence Engels took it over into the fourth German edition. Publisher's Note: p. 643 in the English translation. Masaryk, Die philosophischen und soziologischen Grundlagen des Marxismus (Vienna, 1899), p. 299, justly remarks that the alteration is presumably connected with the change Marx made in his theory in Vol. III of Das Kapital. It can be regarded as a recantation of the Marxist class theory. Significantly the third volume breaks off after a few sentences in the chapter headed "The Classes." In treating the problem of class Marx got only as far as setting up a dogma without proof, and no further.
On the history of the concept of distribution, see Cannan, A History of the Theories of Production and Distribution, pp. 183 ff.
Ricardo, Principles of Political Economy and Taxation, p. 5.
Marx, Das Kapital, Vol. III Part 2, 3rd ed., p. 421.
Cunow, Die Marxsche Geschichts-,Gesellschafts-und Staatstheorie, Vol. II (Berlin, 1921), pp. 61 ff., tried to protect Marx from the accusation that he has mixed up the concepts class and estate. But his own remarks and the passages he quotes from Marx and Engels show how justified is this accusation. Read, for example, the first six paragraphs of the first part of the Communist Manifesto, headed "Bourgeois and Proletarians" and you will be convinced that there at least the expressions "Stand" and class are used indiscriminately. We have already said that when, later on in London, Marx became familiar with the Ricardian system, he separated his concept class from the concept "stand" and connected it with the three factors of production of the Ricardian system. But he never developed this new concept of class. Neither has Engels or any other Marxist tried to show what really welds the competitors—for these are the people of whom the "uniformity of incomes and of sources of incomes" makes a conceptual unit—into a class inspired by the same special interests.
Bagehot, Physics and Politics (London, 1872), pp. 71 ff.
Even today there is plenty of ownerless land which anyone who wishes can appropriate. Yet the European proletarian does not migrate to the interior of Africa or Brazil, but remains a wage labourer at home.
"The source of the slave owner's profits," says Lexis (in discussing Wicksell's "Über Wert, Kapital, und Rente" in Schmoller's Jahrbuch, Vol. XIX, pp. 335 ff.) "is unmistakable, and this is probably still true of the 'sweater.' In the normal relationship between entrepreneur and worker there is no such exploitation, but rather an economic dependence on the part of the worker, which undeniably influences the distribution of the produce of labour. The propertyless worker must absolutely procure 'present goods' for himself; otherwise he dies. He can generally realize his labour only by collaborating in the production of 'future goods.' But this is not the decisive factor, for even though he produces, like the baker's labourer, a commodity to be consumed on the day of its production, yet his share in the yield is conditioned by the circumstances disadvantageous to him, that he cannot make an independent use of his labour, but is forced to sell it against more or less sufficient means of life, renouncing his claim to its product. These are trivial propositions, but I believe that they will always have a convincing force for unprejudiced observers because of their direct self-evidence." One agrees with Böhm-Bawerk, Einige strittige Fragen der Kapitalstheorie (Vienna and Leipzig, 1900), p. 112; and Engels, Preface to the third volume of Das Kapital, p. xii, that in these ideas, which, by the way, only reproduce the views dominant in German "Popular Economics," is to be found a recognition dressed up in careful words, of the socialist theory of exploitation. The economic fallacies of the exploitation theory are nowhere exposed more clearly than in this attempt of Lexis to find a basis for it. Publisher's Note: The reference to page xii in the Engels citation is in Vol. III, pp. 19-21 of the English translation.
Even the Communist Manifesto has to admit: "The organization of the proletarians into a class, and thus into a political party, is ever and again broken up by competition among the workers themselves." (Marx and Engels: Das Kommunistische Manifest, p. 30). See also Marx, Das Elend der Philosophie, 8th ed. (Stuttgart, 1920), p. 161. Publisher's Note: pp. 165-166 in the English edition of The Poverty of Philosophy.
At which point people quite illogically overlook the fact that the wage-earner too is interested in the prosperity of the branch of production and of the plant in which he is engaged.
Even Cunow, Die Marxsche Geschichts-, Gesellschafis-und Staatstheorie, Vol. II, p. 53, in his uncritical Marx apology has to admit that Marx and Engels in their political writings speak not only of the three main classes but differentiate between a whole series of minor and side classes.
See Marx's words quoted on p. 292.
Engels, Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft, p. 305. Publisher's Note: In English translation p. 392.
Marx, Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, ed. Kautsky (Stuttgart, 1897), p. xi. Publisher's Note: The quote cited in Marx's Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy) may be found on p. 11 of the Eastman anthology; p. 12 of the Kerr edition.
Engels, Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft, p. 304. Publisher's Note: In English translation, p. 391.
Max Adler, Marx als Denker, 2nd ed. (Vienna, 1921), p. 68.
On Kautsky's attempted proofs, pp. 159 ff.
Kautsky, Die Diktatur des Proletariats, 2nd ed. (Vienna, 1918), p. 12.
World War I (Pub.).
Ibid., p. 40.
Marx, Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, p. xii. Publisher's Note: In English, p. 11 of the Eastman anthology; p. 12 of the Kerr edition.
Gerhard Hildebrand, Die Erschütterung der Industrieherrschaft und des lndustriesozialismus (Jena, 1910), pp. 213 ff.
Ehrenberg, Der Gesichtskreis eines deutschen Fabrikarbeiters (Thünen-Archiv, Vol. I), pp. 320 ff.

End of Notes

28 of 47

Return to top