Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
By Ludwig Mises
Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) first published
Socialism in German, in 1922. The edition presented here is that published by Liberty Fund in 1981. It follows the text, with correction and enlargement of footnotes, of the Jonathan Cape, Ltd., edition published in London in 1969. The edition was based on the 1951 edition by Yale University Press which slightly enlarged the first English edition published by Jonathan Cape in 1936, translated from the German by J. Kahane. Only a few corrections of obvious typos were made for this website edition. One character substitution has been made: the ordinary character “C” has been substituted for the “checked C” in the name Cuhel.
J. Kahane, trans.
First Pub. Date
Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, Inc.
First published in German. Foreword by Friedrich A. Hayek not available online
The text of this edition is under copyright. Picture of Ludwig von Mises: file photo, Liberty Fund, Inc.
- Part I,Ch.1
- Part I,Ch.2
- Part I,Ch.3
- Part I,Ch.4
- Part II,Ch.5
- Part II,Ch.6
- Part II,Ch.7
- Part II,Ch.8
- Part II,Ch.9
- Part II,Ch.10
- Part II,Ch.11
- Part II,Ch.12
- Part II,Ch.13
- Part II,Ch.14
- Part II,Ch.15
- Part II,Ch.16
- Part III,Ch.17
- Part III,Ch.18
- Part III,Ch.19
- Part III,Ch.20
- Part III,Ch.21
- Part III,Ch.22
- Part III,Ch.23
- Part III,Ch.24
- Part III,Ch.25
- Part III,Ch.26
- Part IV,Ch.27
- Part IV,Ch.28
- Part IV,Ch.29
- Part IV,Ch.30
- Part IV,Ch.31
- Part IV,Ch.32
- Part V,Ch.33
- Part V,Ch.34
- Part V,Ch.35
1 The Policy of Violence and the Policy of Contract
The Social Order and the Political Constitution
The domination of the principle of violence was naturally not restricted to the sphere of property. The spirit which put its trust in might alone, which sought the fundamentals of welfare, not in agreement, but in ceaseless conflict, permeated the whole of life. All human relations were settled according to the “Law of the Stronger,” which is really the negation of Law. There was no peace; at best there was a truce.
Society grows out of the smallest associations. The circle of those who combined to keep the peace among themselves was at first very limited. The circle widened step by step through millennia, until the community of international law and the union of peace extended over the greatest part of humanity, excluding the half savage peoples who lived on the lowest plane of culture. Within this community the principle of contract was not everywhere equally powerful. It was most completely recognized in all that was concerned with property. It remained weakest in fields where it touched the question of political domination. Into the sphere of foreign policy it has so far penetrated no further than to limit the principle of violence by setting up rules of combat. Apart from the process of arbitration, which is a recent development, disputes between states are still, in essentials, derided by arms, the most usual of ancient judicial processes; but the deriding combat, like the judicial duels of the most ancient laws, must conform to certain rules. All the same, it would be false to maintain that in the intercourse of states, fear of foreign violence is the one factor that keeps the sword in its sheath.
*39 Forces which have been active in the foreign policy of states through millennia have set the value of peace above the profit of victorious war. In our time even the mightiest war lord cannot isolate himself completely from the influence of the legal maxim that wars must have valid reasons. Those who wage war invariably endeavour to prove that theirs is the just cause and that they fight in defence or at least in preventive-defence; this is a solemn recognition of the principle of Law and Peace. Every policy which has openly confessed to the principle of violence has brought upon itself a world-coalition, to which it has finally succumbed.
In the Liberal Social Philosophy the human mind becomes aware of the overcoming of the principle of violence by the principle of peace. In this philosophy for the first time humanity gives itself an account of its actions. It tears away the romantic nimbus with which the exercise of power had been surrounded. War, it teaches, is harmful, not only to the conquered but to the conqueror. Society has arisen out of the works of peace; the essence of society is peacemaking. Peace and not war is the father of all things. Only economic action has created the wealth around us; labour, not the profession of arms, brings happiness. Peace builds, war destroys. Nations are fundamentally peaceful because they recognize the predominant utility of peace. They accept war only in self-defence; wars of aggression they do not desire. It is the princes who want war, because thus they hope to get money, goods, and power. It is the business of the nations to prevent them from achieving their desire by denying them the means necessary for making war.
The love of peace of the liberal does not spring from philanthropic considerations, as does the pacifism of Bertha Suttner
*40 and of others of that category. It has none of the woebegone spirit which attempts to combat the romanticism of blood lust with the sobriety of international congresses. Its predilection for peace is not a pastime which is otherwise compatible with all possible convictions. It is
the social theory of Liberalism. Whoever maintains the solidarity of the economic interests of all nations, and remains indifferent to the extent of national territories and national frontiers, whoever has so far overcome collectivist notions that such an expression as “Honour of the State” sounds incomprehensible to him, that man will nowhere find a valid cause for wars of aggression. Liberal pacificism is the offspring of the Liberal Social Philosophy. That Liberalism aims at the protection of property and that it rejects war are two expressions of one and the same principle.
2 The Social Function of Democracy
In internal politics Liberalism demands the fullest freedom for the expression of political opinion and it demands that the State shall be constituted according to the will of the majority; it demands legislation through representatives of the people, and that the government, which is a committee of the people’s representatives, shall be bound by the Laws. Liberalism merely compromises when it accepts a monarchy. Its ideal remains the republic or at least a shadow-principality of the English type. For its highest political principle is the self-determination of peoples as of individuals. It is idle to discuss whether one should call this political ideal democratic or not. The more recent writers are inclined to assume a contrast between Liberalism and Democracy. They seem to have no clear conceptions of either; above all, their ideas as to the philosophical basis of democratic institutions seem to be derived exclusively from the ideas of natural law.
Now it may well be that the majority of liberal theories have endeavoured to recommend democratic institutions on grounds which correspond to the theories of natural law with regard to the inalienable fight of human beings to self-determination. But the reasons which a political movement gives in justification of its postulates do not always coincide with the reasons which force them to be uttered. It is often easier to act politically than to see clearly the ultimate motives of one’s actions. The old Liberalism knew that the democratic demands rose inevitably from its system of social philosophy. But it was not at all clear what position these demands occupied in the system. This explains the uncertainty it has always manifested in questions of ultimate principle; it also accounts for the measureless exaggeration which certain pseudo-democratic demands have enjoyed at the hands of those who ultimately claimed the name democrat for themselves alone and who thus became contrasted with liberals who did not go so far.
The significance of the democratic form of constitution is not that it represents more nearly than any other the natural and inborn rights of man; not that it realizes, better than any other kind of government, the ideas of liberty and equality. In the abstract it is as little unworthy of a man to let others govern him as it is to let someone else perform any kind of labour for him. That the citizen of a developed community feels free and happy in a democracy, that he regards it as superior to all other forms of government, and that he is prepared to make sacrifices to achieve and maintain it, this, again, is not to be explained by the fact that democracy is worthy of love for its own sake. The fact is that it performs functions which he is not prepared to do without.
It is usually argued that the essential function of democracy is the selection of political leaders. In the democratic system the appointment to at least the most important public offices is decided by competition in all the publicity of political life, and in this competition, it is believed, the most capable are bound to win. But it is difficult to see why democracy should necessarily be luckier than autocracy or aristocracy in selecting people for directing the state. In nondemocratic states, history shows, political talents have frequently won through, and one cannot maintain that democracy always puts the best people into office. On this point the enemies and the friends of democracy will never agree.
The truth is that the significance of the democratic form of constitution is something quite different from all this. Its function is to make peace, to avoid violent revolutions. In non-democratic states, too, only a government which can count on the backing of public opinion is able to maintain itself in the long run. The strength of all governments lies not in weapons but in the spirit which puts the weapons at their disposal. Those in power, always necessarily a small minority against an enormous majority, can attain and maintain power only by making the spirit of the majority pliant to their rule. If there is a change, if those on whose support the government depends lose the conviction that they must support this particular government, then the ground is undermined beneath it and it must sooner or later give way. Persons and systems in the government of non-democratic states can be changed by violence alone. The system and the individuals that have lost the support of the people are swept away in the upheaval and a new system and other individuals take their place.
But any violent revolution costs blood and money. Lives are sacrificed, and destruction impedes economic activity. Democracy tries to prevent such material loss and the accompanying psychical shock by guaranteeing accord between the will of the state—as expressed through the organs of the state—and the will of the majority. This it achieves by making the organs of the state legally dependent on the will of the majority of the moment. In internal policy it realizes what pacifism seeks to realize in external policy.
That this alone is the decisive function of democracy becomes clearly evident when we consider the argument which opponents of the democratic principle most frequently adduce against it. The Russian conservative is undoubtedly right when he points out that Russian Tsarism and the policy of the Tsar was approved by the great mass of the Russian people, so that even a democratic state form could not have given Russia a different system of government. Russian democrats themselves have had no delusions about this. As long as the majority of the Russian people or, better, of that part of the people which was politically mature and which had the opportunity to intervene in policy—as long as this majority stood behind tsardom, the empire did not suffer from the absence of a democratic form of constitution. This lack became fatal, however, as soon as a difference arose between public opinion and the political system of tsardom. State will and people’s will could not be adjusted pacifically; a political catastrophe was inevitable. And what is true of the Russia of the Tsar is just as true of the Russia of the Bolshevists; it is just as true of Prussia, of Germany, and of every other state. How disastrous were the effects of the French Revolution, from which France has psychically never quite recovered! How enormously England has benefited from the fact that she has been able to avoid revolution since the seventeenth century!
Thus we see how mistaken it is to regard the terms democratic and revolutionary as synonymous or even as similar. Democracy is not only not revolutionary, but it seeks to extirpate revolution. The cult of revolution, of violent overthrow at any price, which is peculiar to Marxism, has nothing whatever to do with democracy. Liberalism, recognizing that the attainment of the economic aims of man presupposes peace, and seeking therefore to eliminate all causes of strife at home or in foreign politics, desires democracy. The violence of war and revolutions is always an evil to liberal eyes, an evil which cannot always be avoided as long as man lacks democracy. Yet even when revolution seems almost inevitable Liberalism tries to save the people from violence, hoping that philosophy may so enlighten tyrants that they will voluntarily renounce rights which are opposed to social development. Schiller speaks with the voice of Liberalism when he makes the Marquis de Posa implore the king for liberty of thought; and the great night of August 4th, 1789, when the French feudal lords voluntarily renounced their privileges, and the English Reform Act of 1832, show that these hopes were not quite vain. Liberalism has no admiration to spare for the heroic grandiosity of Marxism’s professional revolutionaries, who stake the lives of thousands and destroy values which the labour of decades and centuries has created. Here the economic principle holds good: Liberalism wants success at the smallest price.
Democracy is self-government of the people; it is autonomy. But this does not mean that all must collaborate equally in legislation and administration. Direct democracy can be realized only on the smallest scale. Even small parliaments cannot do all their work in plenary assemblies; committees must be chosen, and the real work is done by individuals; by the proposers, the speakers, the rapporteurs, and above all by the authors of the bills. Here then is final proof of the fact that the masses follow the leadership of a few men. That men are not all equal, that some are born to lead and some to be led is a circumstance which even democratic institutions cannot alter. We cannot all be pioneers: most people do not wish to be nor have they the necessary strength. The idea that under the purest form of democracy people would spend their days in council like the members of a parliament derives from the conception we had of the ancient Greek city State at its period of decay; but we overlook the fact that such communities were not in fact democracies at all, since they excluded from public life the slaves and all who did not possess full citizen rights. Where all are to collaborate, the “pure” ideal of direct democracy becomes impracticable. To want to see democracy realized in this impossible form is nothing less than pedantic natural law doctrinairianism. To achieve the ends for which democratic institutions strive it is only necessary that legislation and administration shall be guided according to the will of the popular majority and for this purpose indirect democracy is completely satisfactory. The essence of democracy is not that everyone makes and administers laws but that lawgivers and rulers should be dependent on the people’s will in such a way that they may be peaceably changed if conflict occurs.
This defeats many of the arguments, put forward by friends and opponents of popular rule, against the possibility of realizing democracy.
*43 Democracy is not less democracy because leaders come forth from the masses to devote themselves entirely to politics. Like any other profession in the society dividing labour, politics demand the entire man; dilettante politicians are of no use.
*44 As long as the professional politician remains dependent on the will of the majority, so that he can carry out only that for which he has won over the majority, the democratic principle is satisfied. Democracy does not demand, either that parliament shall be a copy, on a reduced scale, of the social stratification of the country, consisting, where peasant and industrial labourers form the bulk of the population, mainly of peasants and industrial labourers.
*45 The gentleman of leisure who plays a great role in the English parliament, the lawyer and journalist of the parliaments of the Latin countries probably represent the people better than the trade union leaders and peasants who have brought spiritual desolation to the German and Slav parliaments. If members of the higher social ranks were excluded from parliaments, those parliaments and the governments emanating from them could not represent the will of the people. For in society these higher ranks, the composition of which is itself the result of a selection made by public opinion, exert on the minds of the people an influence out of all proportion to their mere numbers. If one kept them from parliament and public administration by describing them to the electors as men unfit to rule, a conflict would have arisen between public opinion and the opinion of parliamentary bodies, and this would make more difficult, if not impossible, the functioning of democratic institutions. Non-parliamentary influences make themselves felt in legislation and administration, for the intellectual power of the excluded cannot be stifled by the inferior elements which lead in parliamentary life. Parliamentarism suffers from nothing so much as from this; we must seek here the reason for its much deplored decline. For democracy is not mob rule, and to do justice to its tasks, parliament should include the best political minds of the nation.
Grave injury has been done to the concept of democracy by those who, exaggerating the natural law notion of sovereignty, conceived it as limitless rule of the
volonté générale (general will). There is really no essential difference between the unlimited power of the democratic state and the unlimited power of the autocrat. The idea that carries away our demagogues and their supporters, the idea that the state can do whatever it wishes, and that nothing should resist the will of the sovereign people, has done more evil perhaps than the caesar-mania of degenerate princelings. Both have the same origin in the notion of a state based purely on political might. The legislator feels free of all limitations because he understands from the theory of law that all law depends on his will. It is a small confusion of ideas, but a confusion with profound consequences, when he takes his formal freedom to be a material one and believes himself to be above the natural conditions of social life. The conflicts which arise out of this misconception show that only within the framework of Liberalism does democracy fulfil a social function. Democracy without Liberalism is a hollow form.
3 The Ideal of Equality
Political democracy necessarily follows from Liberalism. But it is often said that the democratic principle must eventually lead beyond Liberalism. Carried out strictly, it is said, it will require economic as well as political rights of equality. Thus logically Socialism must necessarily evolve out of Liberalism, while Liberalism necessarily involves its own destruction.
The ideal of equality, also, originated as a demand of natural law. It was sought to justify it with religious, psychological, and philosophical arguments; but all these proved to be untenable. The fact is that men are endowed differently by nature; thus the demand that all should be equally treated cannot rest on any theory that all are equal. The poverty of the natural law argument is exposed most clearly when it deals with the principle of equality.
If we wish to understand this principle we must start with an historical examination. In modern times, as earlier, it has been appealed to as a means of sweeping away the feudal differentiation of individuals’ legal rights. So long as barriers hinder the development of the individual and of whole sections of the people, social life is bound to be disturbed by violent upheavals. People without rights are always a menace to social order. Their common interest in removing such barriers unites them; they are prepared to resort to violence because by peaceable means they are unable to get what they want. Social peace is attained only when one allows all members of society to participate in democratic institutions. And this means equality of All before the Law.
Another consideration too urges upon Liberalism the desirability of such equality. Society is best served when the means of production are in the possession of those who know how to use them best. The gradation of legal rights according to accident of birth keeps production goods from the best managers. We all know what role this argument has played in liberal struggles, above all in the emancipation of the serfs. The soberest reasons of expediency recommend equality to Liberalism. Liberalism is fully conscious, of course, that equality before the Law can become extremely oppressive for the individual under certain circumstances, because what benefits one may injure another; the liberal idea of equality is however based on social considerations, and where these are to be served the susceptibilities of individuals must give way. Like all other social institutions, the Law exists for social purposes. The individual must bow to it, because his own aims can be served only in and with society.
The meaning of legal institutions is misunderstood when they are conceived to be anything more than this, and when they are made the basis of new claims which are to be realized at whatever cost to the aim of social collaboration. The equality Liberalism creates is equality before the Law; it has never sought any other. From the liberal point of view, therefore, criticism which condemns this equality as inadequate—maintaining that true equality is full equality of income through equal distribution of commodities—is unjustified.
But it is precisely in this form that the principle of equality is most acclaimed by those who expect to gain more than they lose from an equal distribution of goods. Here is a fertile field for the demagogue. Whoever stirs up the resentment of the poor against the rich can count on securing a big audience. Democracy creates the most favourable preliminary conditions for the development of this spirit, which is always and everywhere present, though concealed.
*46 So far all democratic states have foundered on this point. The democracy of our own time is hastening towards the same end.
It is a strange fact that just that idea of equality should be called unsocial which considers equality only from the point of view of the interests of society as a whole, and which wants to see it achieved only in so far as it helps society to attain its social aims; while the view which insists that equality, regardless of the consequences, implies a claim to an equal quota of the national income is put forward as the only view inspired by consideration for society. In the Greek city State of the fourth century the citizen considered himself lord of the property of all the subjects of the State and he demanded his part imperiously, as a shareholder demands his dividends. Referring to the practice of distributing common property and confiscated private property, Aeschines made the following comment: “The Athenians come out of the Ecclesia not as out of a political assembly but as from the meeting of a company in which the surplus profit has been distributed.”
*47 It cannot be denied that even to-day the common man is inclined to look on the State as a source from which to draw the utmost possible income.
But the principle of equality in this form by no means follows necessarily from the democratic idea. It should not be recognized as valid
a priori any more than any other principle of social life. Before one can judge it, its effects must be clearly understood. The fact that it is generally very popular with the masses and therefore finds easy recognition in a democratic state neither makes it a fundamental principle of democracy nor protects it from the scrutiny of the theorist.
4 Democracy and Social-Democracy
The view that democracy and Socialism are inwardly related spread far and wide in the decades which preceded the Bolshevist revolution. Many came to believe that democracy and Socialism meant the same thing, and that democracy without Socialism or Socialism without democracy would not be possible.
This notion sprang principally from a combination of two chains of thought, both of which sprang originally from the Hegelian philosophy of history. For Hegel world history is “progress in the consciousness of freedom.” Progress takes place in this way: “… the Orientals only knew that
one is free, the Greek and Roman world that
some are free, but we know that
all men are free as such, that man is free as man.”
*48 There is no doubt that the freedom of which Hegel spoke was different from that for which the radical politicians of his day were fighting. Hegel took ideas which were common to the political doctrines of the epoch of enlightenment and intellectualized them. But the radical young Hegelians read into his words what appealed to them. For them it was certain that the evolution to Democracy was a necessity in the Hegelian sense of this term. The historians follow suit. Gervinus sees “by and large in the history of humanity,” as “in the internal evolution of the states,” “a regular progress … from the spiritual and civil freedom of the single individual to that of the Several and the Many.”
The materialist conception of history provides the idea of the “liberty of the many” with a different content. The Many are the proletarians; they must necessarily become socialists because consciousness is determined by the social conditions. Thus evolution to democracy and evolution to Socialism are one and the same thing. Democracy is the means towards the realization of Socialism, but at the same time Socialism is the means towards the realization of democracy. The party title, “Social Democracy,” most clearly expresses this co-ordination of Socialism and democracy. With the name democracy the socialist workers’ party took over the spiritual inheritance of the movements of Young Europe. All the slogans of the pre-March
*50 radicalism are to be found in the Social-Democratic Party programmes. They recruit, for the party, supporters who feel indifferent to or are even repulsed by the demands of Socialism.
The relation of Marxist Socialism to the demand for democracy was determined by the fact that it was the Socialism of the Germans, the Russians, and the smaller nations which lived under the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and the empire of the Tsars. Every opposition party in these more or less autocratic states had to demand democracy first of all, so as to create the conditions that must precede the development of political activity. For the Social Democrats this practically excluded democracy from discussion; it would never have done to cast a doubt on the democratic ideology
pro foro externo.
But the question of the relation between the two ideas expressed in its double name could not be completely suppressed within the party. People began by dividing the problem into two parts. When they spoke of the coming socialist paradise they continued to maintain the interdependence of the terms and even went a little farther and said that they were ultimately one. Since one continued to regard democracy as in itself a good thing, one could not—as a faithful socialist awaiting absolute salvation in the paradise-to-be—arrive at any other conclusion. There would be something wrong with the land of promise if it were not the best imaginable from a political point of view. Thus socialist writers did not cease to proclaim that only in a socialist society could true democracy exist. What passed for democracy in the capitalist states was a caricature designed to cover the machinations of exploiters.
But although it was seen that Socialism and democracy must meet at the goal, nobody was quite certain whether they were to take the same road. People argued over the problem whether the realization of Socialism—and therefore, according to the views just discussed, of democracy too—was to be attempted through the instrumentality of democracy or whether in the struggle one should deviate from the principles of democracy. This was the celebrated controversy about the dictatorship of the proletariat; it was the subject of academic discussion in Marxist literature up to the time of the Bolshevist revolution and has since become a great political problem.
Like all other differences of opinion which divide Marxists into groups, the quarrel arose from the dualism which cuts right through that bundle of dogmas called the Marxist system. In Marxism there are always two ways at least of looking at anything and everything, and the reconciliation of these views is attained only by dialectic artificialities. The commonest device is to use, according to the needs of the moment, a word to which more than one meaning may be attached. With these words, which at the same time serve as political slogans to hypnotize the mass psyche, a cult suggestive of fetishism is carried on. The Marxist dialectic is essentially word-fetishism. Every article of the faith is embodied in a word fetish whose double or even multiple meaning makes it possible to unite incompatible ideas and demands. The interpretation of these words, as intentionally ambiguous as the words of the Delphic Pythia, eventually brings the different parties to blows, and everyone quotes in his favour passages from the writings of Marx and Engels to which authoritative importance is attached.
“Revolution” is one of these words. By “industrial revolution” Marxism means the gradual transformation of the pre-capitalist way of production into the capitalist. “Revolution” here means the same as “development,” and the contrast between the terms “evolution” and “revolution” is almost extinguished. Thus the Marxist is able, when it pleases him, to speak of the revolutionary spirit as contemptible
“putschism” (“insurrectionism”). The revisionists were quite right when they called many passages in Marx and Engels to their support. But when Marx calls the workers’ movement a revolutionary movement and says that the working class is the only true revolutionary class, he is using the term in the sense that suggests barricades and street fights. Thus syndicalism is also right when it appeals to Marx.
Marxism is equally obscure in the use of the word State. According to Marxism, the State is merely an instrument of class domination. By acquiring political power the proletariat abolishes class conflict and the State ceases to exist. “As soon as there is no longer any social class to be kept in suppression, and as soon as class domination and the struggle for individual existence based on the hitherto existing anarchy of production are removed, along with the conflicts and excesses which arise from them, then there will be nothing more to repress and nothing that would make necessary a special repressive power, a state. The first act in which the State really appears as representative of the whole society—the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society—is simultaneously its last independent act as a state. The intervention of state power in social affairs becomes superfluous in one field after another until at last it falls asleep of its own accord.”
*51 However obscure or badly thought out may be its view of the essence of political organization, this statement is so positive in what it says of the proletarian rule that it would seem to leave no room for doubt. But it seems much less positive when we remember Marx’s assertion that between the capitalist and the communist societies must lie a period of revolutionary transformation, in addition to which there will be a corresponding “political period of transition whose state can be no other than the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”
*52 If we assume, with Lenin, that this period is to endure until that “higher phase of communist society” is reached, in which “the enslaving subordination of individuals under the division of labour has vanished, and with it the contrast of mental and physical work,” in which “work will have become not only a means to life but itself the first necessity of life,” then of course we come to a very different conclusion with regard to Marxism’s attitude to democracy.
*53 Obviously the socialist community will have no room for democracy for centuries to come.
Although it occasionally comments on the historical achievements of Liberalism, Marxism entirely overlooks the importance of liberal ideas. It is at a loss when it comes to deal with the liberal demands for liberty of conscience and expression of opinion, for the recognition on principle of every opposition party and the equal rights of all parties. Wherever it is not in power, Marxism claims all the basic liberal rights, for they alone can give it the freedom which its propaganda urgently needs. But it can never understand their spirit and will never grant them to its opponents when it comes into power itself. In this respect it resembles the Churches and other institutions which rest on the principle of violence. These, too, exploit the democratic liberties when they are fighting their battle, but once in power they deny their adversaries such rights. So, plainly, the democracy of Socialism exposes its deceit. “The party of the communists,” says Bukharin, “demands no sort of liberties for the bourgeois enemies of the people. On the contrary.” And with remarkable cynicism he boasts that the communists, before they were in power, advocated the liberty of expression of opinion merely because it would have been “ridiculous” to demand from the capitalists liberty for the workers’ movement in any other way than by demanding liberty in general.
Always and everywhere Liberalism demands democracy at once, for it believes that the function which it has to fulfil in society permits of no postponement. Without democracy the peaceful development of the state is impossible. The demand for democracy is not the result of a policy of compromise or of a pandering to relativism in questions of world-philosophy,
*55 for Liberalism asserts the absolute validity of its doctrine. Rather, it is the consequence of the Liberal belief that power depends upon a mastery over mind alone and that to gain such a mastery only spiritual weapons are effective. Even where for an indefinite time to come it may expect to reap only disadvantages from democracy, Liberalism still advocates democracy. Liberalism believes that it cannot maintain itself against the will of the majority; and that in any case the advantages which might accrue from a liberal regime maintained artificially and against the feeling of the people would be infinitesimal compared to the disturbances that would stay the quiet course of state development if the people’s will were violated.
The Social Democrats would certainly have continued to juggle with the catchword democracy, but, by an historical accident, the Bolshevist revolution has compelled them prematurely to discard their mask, and to reveal the violence which their doctrine implies.
5 The Political Constitution of Socialist Communities
Beyond the dictatorship of the proletariat lies the paradise, the “higher phase of the communist society,” in which, “with the all round development of individuals, the productive forces will also have increased, and all the springs of social wealth will flow more freely.”
*56 In this land of promise “there will remain nothing to repress, nothing which would necessitate a special repressive power, a state … In place of the government over persons comes the administration of things and the direction of productive processes.”
*57 An epoch will have begun in which “a generation, grown up in new, free social conditions, will be able to discard the whole lumber of State.”
*58 The working class will have gone, thanks to “long struggles, a whole series of historical processes,” by which “the men, like the conditions, were completely transformed.”
*59 Thus society is able to exist without coercion, as once it did in the Golden Age. Of this Engels has much to relate, much that is beautiful and good.
*60 Only we have read it all before, all better and more beautifully expressed in Virgil, Ovid, and Tacitus!
Aurea prima sara est aetas, quae vindice nullo,
sponte sua, sine lege fidem rectumque colebat.
Poena metusque aberant, nec verba minantia fixo
(The first golden age flourished, which begat truth and justice spontaneously;
No laws of formal guarantees were needed. Punishment and fear were unheard of; no savage, restrictive decrees were carved on bronze tablets.)
It follows from all this that the Marxists have no occasion to occupy themselves with problems concerned with the political constitution of the socialist community. In this connection they perceive no problems at all which cannot be dismissed by saying nothing about them. Yet even in the socialist community the necessity of acting in common must raise the question of how to act in common. It will be necessary to decide how to form that which is usually called, metaphorically, the will of the community or the will of the people. Even if we overlooked the fact that there can be no administration of goods which is not administration of men—i.e. the bending one human will to another—and no direction of productive processes which is not the government over persons—i.e. domination of one human will by another
*62—even if we overlooked this we should still have to ask who is to administer the goods and direct the productive processes, and on what principles. Thus, once again we are beset by all the political problems of the legally regulated social community.
All historical attempts to realize the socialist ideal of society have a most pronounced authoritarian character. Nothing in the Empire of the Pharaohs or of the Incas, and nothing in the Jesuit State of Paraguay was suggestive of democracy, of self-determination by the majority of the people. The Utopias of all the older kinds of socialists were equally undemocratic. Neither Plato nor Saint-Simon were democrats. One finds nothing in history or in the literary history of socialist theory which shows an internal connection between the socialist order of society and political democracy.
If we look closer we find that the ideal of the higher phase of communist society, ripening only in remote distances of the future, is, as the Marxists view it, thoroughly undemocratic.
*63 Here, too, the socialist intends that eternal peace shall reign—the goal of all democratic institutions. But the means by which this peace is to be gained are very different from those employed by the democrats. It will not rest on the power to change peacefully rulers and ruling policy, but on the fact that the regime is made permanent, and that rulers and policy are unchangeable. This, too, is peace; not the peace of progress which Liberalism strives to attain but the peace of the graveyard. It is not the peace of pacifists but of pacifiers, of men of violence who seek to create peace by subjection. Every absolutist makes such peace by setting up an absolute domination, and it lasts just as long as his domination can be maintained. Liberalism sees the vanity of all this. It sets itself, therefore, to make a peace which will be proof against the perils which threaten it on account of man’s inextinguishable yearning for change.
Prinzip und Zukunft des Völkerrechts, Berlin, 1871), p. 35.
Sämtliche Werke, p. 688); see also Sulzbach,
Nationales Gemeinschaftsgefühl und wirtschaftliches Interesse (Leipzig, 1929), pp. 80 ff. Publisher’s Note: In English, “Perpetual Peace.” In
On History. Immanuel Kant, ed. Lewis White Beck (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1963), p. 114.
Defensor Pacis (Atger,
Essai sur l’Histoire des Doctrines du Contrat Social [Paris, 1906], p. 75; Scholz, “Marsilius von Padua und die Idee der Demokratie” [
Zeitschrift fur Politik, 1908], vol. 1, pp. 66 ff.
Zur Soziologie des Parteiwesens in der modernen Demokratie, 2nd ed. [Leipzig, 1925]), pp. 463 ff.
Politik als Beruf (Munich and Leipzig, 1920), pp. 17 ff.
“La democratie c’est l’envie” (“Democracy is envy”) (Poehlmann,
Geschichte der sozialen Frage und des Sozialismus in der antiken Welt, vol. 1, p. 317, fn. 4).
Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Weltgeschichte, ed. Lasson (Leipzig, 1917), vol. l, p. 40.
Einleitung in die Geschichte des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts (Leipzig, 1853), p. 13.
Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft, 7th ed. (Stuttgart, 1910), p. 302. Publisher’s Note: in English, see
Anti-Dühring: Herr Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1954), p. 389.
Zur Kritik des sozialdemokratischen Parteiprogramms von Gotha, ed. Kreibich (Reichenberg, 1920), p. 23. Publisher’s Note: In English, see
Critique of the Gotha Programme, rev. trans. (New York: International Publishers, 1938), p. 18, or in
Capital, the Communist Manifesto and Other Writings, ed. and introd. Max Eastman (New York: Random House, Modern Library, 1932). p. 355.
Staat und Revolution (Berlin, 1918), p. 89. Publisher’s Note: In English, see Marx,
Critique of the Gotha Programme, p. 10. or p. 7 in the Eastman anthology; also Lenin, “The State and Revolution,” in
Selected Work in Two Volumes (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1952), vol. 2, pt. 1, pp. 199-325. The reference cited here is p. 290 in this English translation.
Das Programm der Kommunisten (Bolschewiki) (Zurich, 1918), pp. 24 ff. Publisher’s Note: For an English translation, see
Program of the Communists, Bolshevists, 1918.
Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, vol. 47, P. 84; also Menzel, “Demokratie und Weltanschauung,” in
Zeitschrift für öffentliches Recht, vol. 2, pp. 701 ff.
op. cit., p. 17. Publisher’s Note: In English, see
Critique of the Gotha Programme, rev. trans. (New York: International Publishers, 1938), p. 10, or Marx,
Capital, the Communist Manifesto and Other Writings, ed. and introd. Max Eastman (New York: Random House, Modern Library, 1932), p. 7.
op. cit., p. 302. Publisher’s Note: In the English,
op. cit., p. 389.
Der Bürgerkrieg in Frankreich, Politische Aktions-Bibliothek (Berlin, 1919), p. 16. Publisher’s Note: In English, see Engels, “Introduction to the German Edition” of Marx’s “The Civil War in France” (1871), in Marx,
Capital, the Communist Manifesto and Other Writings, ed. and introd. Max Eastman (New York: Random House, Modern Library, 1932), p. 381.
Der Bürgerkrieg, p. 54. Publisher’s Note: In English, see p. 408 of Eastman anthology cited in fn. 19.
Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigentums und des Staates, 20th ed. (Stuttgart, 1921), pp. 163 ff. Publisher’s Note: In English, see Engels,
The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (New York: International Publishers, 1972), pp. 162 ff.
Metamorphoses, I, pp. 89 ff.; also Virgil,
Aeneid, VII, pp. 203 ff.; Tacitus,
Annal, III, p. 26; Poehlmann,
Geschichte der sozialen Frage und des Sozialismus in der antiken Welt, vol. 2, pp. 583 ff.
Die sozialistischen Systeme und die wirtschaftliche Entwicklung, trans. Katenstein (Tübingen, 1906), pp. 70 ff.; Kelsen,
Sozialismus und Staat, 2nd ed. (Leipzig, 1923), p. 105.
Moderne Demokratien, trans. Loewenstein and Mendelssohn Bartholdy (Munich, 1926), vol. 3, pp. 289 ff. Publisher’s Note: In English, see James Bryce,
Modern Democracies (New York: Macmillan, 1921), 2 vols.
Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie, 2nd ed. (Leipzig and Vienna, 1910), pp. 38 ff. Publisher’s Note: In English, see Freud, “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality,” in
The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (New York: Avon Books, 1965). This citation is found on pp. 53 ff.
Geschichte der sozialen Frage und des Sozialismus in der antiken Welt, vol. 2, p. 576.
Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigentums und des Staates, p. 182. Publisher’s Note: In English, see Engels,
The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (New York: International Publishers, 1972), p. 232.
Geschichte der menschlichen Ehe, trans. Katscher and Grazer, 2nd ed. (Berlin, 1902), p. 122; Weinhold,
Die deutschen Frauen in dem Mittelalter, 3rd ed. (Vienna, 1897), vol. 2, pp. 9 ff. Publisher’s Note: The Westermarck book first appeared in English as
The History of Human Marriage (1891).
op. cit., pp. 7 ff.
op. cit., 1st ed. (Vienna, 1851), pp. 292 ff.
op. cit., pp. 74 ff.; Weinhold,
op. cit., 3rd ed. (Vienna), vol. 1, p. 273.
Lehrbuch der deutschen Rechtsgeschichte, 3rd ed. (Leipzig, 1898), pp. 70, 110; Weinhold,
op. cit., vol. 2, pp. 12 ff.
Germania, c. 17.
Ehefrau und Mutter in der Rechtsentwicklung (Tübingen, 1907), pp. 53 ff., 217 ff.
Die Frau und der Sozialismus, 16th ed. (Stuttgart, 1892), p. 343. Publisher’s Note: English, see Bebel,
Women and Socialism, auth. trans. Meta L. Stern (New York: Socialist Literature, 1910), p. 467.
Das Kommunistische Manifest, 7th German ed. (Berlin, 1906), p. 35. Publisher’s Note: In English, see “The Communist Manifesto,” in Marx,
Capital, the Communist Manifesto and Other Writings, ed. and introd. Max Eastman (New York: Random House, Modern Library, 1932), pp. 315-355. The reference to prostitution is on page 340 of this English edition.
op. cit., pp. 141 ff. Publisher’s Note: In the English edition cited earlier, see pp. 274 ff.
op. cit., pp. 6 ff.