Pictures of the Socialistic Future

Richter, Eugene
Display paragraphs in this book containing:
Henry Wright, trans.
First Pub. Date
London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., Ltd.
Pub. Date
Introduction by Thomas Mackay.
10 of 40

Chapter VI


THE union between Franz and Agnes is suddenly put off indefinitely. The police have to-day distributed the orders relating to the occupations of the people, which orders are based partly upon the registration lately made, and partly upon the plan organised by the Government for regulating production and consumption.


True, Franz is to remain a compositor, but, unfortunately, he can't stay in Berlin, but is sent to Leipsig. Berlin requires now hardly one-twentieth part of the number of compositors it formerly employed. None but absolutely reliable Socialists are allowed on the Onward. Now Franz, through some unguarded expressions in Palace Square over that unfortunate savings bank business, is regarded with some suspicion. Franz will have it, too, that politics have had something to do with the assignment of labour; and he says, for instance, that in Berlin the Younkers have been completely scattered as a party. One had to go as a paperhanger to Inowrazlaw because there was a scarcity of paperhangers there, whereas in Berlin there are too many. Franz quite lost all patience, and said it seemed to him that the old law against the Socialists, with its expatriation, had come to life again. Well, we must excuse a little haste in an engaged young man who sees himself suddenly, and for an indefinite period, cut off from the girl of his heart.


I tried to offer Franz a little comfort by remarking that in the very next house a married couple had been separated by the action of this law. The wife goes to Oppeln in the capacity of nurse, the husband to Magdeburg as a bookkeeper. This set my wife going, and she wanted to know how anyone dared to separate husband and wife? It was infamous, and so on. The good soul entirely forgot that in our new community marriage is a purely private relationship, as Bebel lucidly explained in his book on woman. The marriage knot can at any time, and without the intervention of any official whatever, be tied and again untied. The Government is hence not at all in a position to know who is married, and who is not. In the registries of names we find therefore, as might be logically expected, that all persons are entered in their Christian names, and the maiden names of their mothers. In a well-considered organisation of production and consumption, the living together of married couples is clearly only practicable where the scale of occupation allows of such an arrangement; not vice versâ. It would never do to make the organisation of labour in any way dependent upon a private relationship which might be dissolved at any moment.


My wife reminded me that in old times appointments which were not quite agreeable to their holders had often been annulled, or exchanges made; we might anyhow make an effort to get Franz exchanged back to Berlin.


It occurred to me that an old friend and colleague whose acquaintance I had first made when in durance at Ploezensee, under the law against the Socialists, held now an influential position on the Labour Organisation Board. But on going there I found this department at the town hall besieged by hundreds of people who had come on a similar errand, and I was unable to obtain entrance to the room. Fortunately I encountered in the corridor another colleague who is on the same Board. I told him what we had so much at heart, but he advised me to let the grass grow a little over the part Franz had taken in the tumult in front of the palace, before applying for his removal back to Berlin.


I further took advantage of this opportunity to complain that although my choice of the bookbinder's craft had been confirmed, I was now no longer a master as formerly, but only a journeyman. But he told me there was really no help for this. It appears that in consequence of the system of doing everything on a large scale the demand for small masters is much less than ever it was before. He went on to say that in consequence of a big mistake having been discovered in an account, there would be a vote of credit brought in to appoint 500 controllers; and he advised me to apply for one of these posts, or to try for a place as public checker. I mean to follow his advice.


My wife's wishes have so far been acceded to that her services as attendant at one of the Children's Homes are accepted. But, unfortunately, she is not appointed to the one where our youngest born will be. They say that, as a matter of principle, mothers can only receive appointments as nurses and attendants to such homes where their own children are not inmates. By this means it is intended to prevent any preference being shown to one's own children, and any jealousies which other mothers might feel. This certainly sounds very fair, but Paula cannot fail to feel the hardships of it. This is always the way with women, and they are so inclined to put their private wishes before State reasons.


Agnes is no longer to be a milliner, but has got an appointment as a seamstress. There will be no great demand for fine head-gear, or gew-gaws of any kind now. From all I hear the new scheme of supply aims solely at the production of all articles en masse. Hence it follows, as a matter of course, that there will be but a very limited demand for skilled labour, taste, and what more or less approaches to art in trade. But it is all the same to Agnes, and she says she doesn't care what they do with her so long as she can't share her lot with Franz. They forget, as I told them, that even Providence itself could not serve all alike to their full content. "Then they should have left each one to look after himself," interrupted Franz; "we could never have been so badly off under the old system."


In order to pacify them somewhat, I read to them out of the Onward a statement in tabular form dealing with the selections of trades people had made, and with the labour assignments to them. A greater number of persons had registered themselves as gamekeepers than there are hares within forty miles' circumference of Berlin. From the number of entries made the Government would have no difficulty in posting a hall-porter at every single door in Berlin: every tree could have its forester, every horse its groom. There are a great many more nurse-girls than kitchen-maids registered; more coachmen than ostlers. The number of young women who have put their names down as waitresses and public singers is very considerable, but this superabundance is balanced by the paucity of those who desire to become sick-nurses. There is no lack of salesmen and saleswomen. The same remark applies to inspectors, managers, foremen, and similar positions; there is even no scarcity of acrobats. The entries for the more arduous labours of the pavior, the stoker, the smelter are more sparse. Those who have manifested a desire to become cleansers of sewers are, numerically, not a strong body.


Under these circumstances, what has the Government to do in order to bring their scheme for organising production and consumption into some sort of harmony with the entries made by the people? Should Government attempt a settlement by fixing a lower rate of wages for those branches which showed any over-crowding, and a higher rate for those labours which were not so coveted? This would be a subversion of the fundamental principles of Socialism. Every kind of labour which is useful to the community (Bebel always taught) must appear of equal value in the eyes of the community. The receipt of unequal wages would soon tend to favour inequalities in the style of living; or it would enable the better paid ones to effect savings. By this latter means, and indirectly, in the course of time a capitalist class would grow up, and thus the whole socialistic system of production be thrown into disorder. Government had under its consideration the suggestion to effect a settlement of the difficulty by fixing working-days by varying lengths. The objection to this was that some violence must then inevitably be done to the natural and necessary dependence of various occupations upon each other. That matter of supply and demand, which played such a prominent part under the old reign of capital, is not to be suffered under any circumstances to come up again.


Government reserves to itself the right to direct criminals to do the more disagreeable kinds of work. It has furthermore adopted the counsel which Bebel used to give, viz., that of allowing more variety of work to the same individual. Perhaps in the course of time we may see the same workmen, during different hours of the same day, engaged in the most diverse and manifold occupations.


For the present no other plan seemed feasible than that of a lottery. The entries for each trade were set apart by themselves, and from these entries the appointments required for each branch of trade by the Government organisation scheme were settled by a simple drawing of lots. Those who drew blanks in the first lottery cast lots again and again until they got a trade; and in this way the vacancies were filled up in these branches of labour for which there had been a scarcity of applicants. I understand that a kind of labour they do not at all relish has, in this way, fallen to the lot of a good many people.


Franz says there always have been horse-raffles and dog-raffles and all kinds of raffles, but this is the first time that man-raffles have taken place. He says that even at the very beginning the Government are so at their wits' end that they have to resort to a toss-up.


"But can't you see," I said to him, "that for the future all things are to be arranged on an entirely new and different basis? For the present we are still feeling the after effects of the old system of exploiting, and of the dominion of capital. Once let the spirit of Socialism be fully awakened, and enjoy universal sway, and you will find that the most arduous, disagreeable, and dangerous labours will be the very ones which will draw the greatest numbers of volunteers; and the reason is quite obvious. These volunteers will be sustained by the lofty consciousness that their labours are for the good of the public at large, and they will no longer have the reflection that they minister to the vile lust of gain of unprincipled plunderers."


But I could not get the young people to see things in this light

10 of 40

Return to top