August Bebel

Society of the Future


A perusal of the preceding chapters shows that with the abolition of private ownership of the means of production and their conversion into social property, the mass evils which bourgeois society reveals at every turn and which are becoming ever more intolerable will gradually disappear. Domination by one class comes to an end, and society carries on all its activities according to a plan it itself draws up, it directs and controls itself. Just as the abolition of wage-labour rules out exploitation of man by man, the same thing will happen with swindling and cheating, the adulteration of food, stock-exchange speculation, etc. The halls of the temples of Mammon will stand vacant, for government securities, shares, promissory notes, pawn tickets, etc., will have become waste paper. Schiller's words: "Let all old scores be wiped off, let the whole world be reconciled', will have become reality, and the biblical saying: "In the sweat of thy face shah thou eat bread" will now apply also to the knights of the stock exchange and the drones of capitalism. The work they will have to perform as equal members of society will not oppress them and will substantially improve their physical well-being. The responsibility for property, which, according to the pathetic assurances of our employers and capitalists, is often harder to bear than the insecure and needy lot of the worker, will be taken from them forever. Stock-exchange jobbers will be spared the excitement of speculation which causes so many heart disorders and strokes and renders them nervous wrecks. Freedom from worry will be their lot and that of their progeny, and they will feel all the better for it.

With the abolition of private property and class contradictions the state gradually withers away. "Whilst the capitalist mode of production more and more completely transforms the great majority of the population into proletarians, it creates the power which, under penalty of its own destruction, is forced to accomplish this revolution. Whilst it forces on more and more the transformation of the vast means of production, already socialised, into state property, it shows itself the way to accomplishing this revolution....

"The state was the official representative of society as a whole, the gathering of it together into a visible embodiment. But it was this only in so far as it was the state of that class which itself represented, for the time being, society as a whole: in ancient times, the state of slave-owning citizens; in the Middle Ages, the feudal lords; in our own time, the bourgeoisie. When at last it becomes the real representative of the whole of society, it renders itself unnecessary. As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection; as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon our present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from these, are removed, nothing more remains to be repressed, and a special repressive force, a state, is no longer necessary. The first act by virtue of which the state really constitutes itself the representative of the whole of society —the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society — this is, at the same time, its last independent act as a state. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then withers away of itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The state is not 'abolished'. It withers away."(1)

Along with the state disappear its representatives: ministers, Parliaments, regular armies, police and gendarmes, courts, lawyers and public Prosecutors, prison wardens, tax and customs authorities, in a word — the whole political apparatus. Barracks and other military buildings, court and administrative premises, prisons, etc., will be turned to better use. Tens of thousands of laws, decrees and regulations will have become waste paper, and will possess only historical value. The great and yet so trivial parliamentary battles in which people with the gift of the gab imagine that by their speeches they rule and guide the world will disappear; they will make place for administrative collegiums and delegations, which will engage in organising production and distribution to ensure maximum efficiency, in establishing the volume of supplies needed, in introducing and applying rational innovations in art, public education, the communications system, the production process in industry and agriculture, etc. These are all practical, visible and tangible matters, which everyone approaches objectively, because he has no personal interests opposed to society. None is motivated by any other interest but that of the community which consists in arranging and producing everything in the most rational and most advantageous way.

The hundreds of thousands of former representatives of the state now take up the most diverse professions and devote their intelligence and efforts to multiplying the wealth and comforts of society. In future there will be neither political crimes and offences nor crimes against common law. Thieves will have disappeared, because private property has disappeared, and in the new society everyone will be able easily to satisfy his requirements by work. There will be no tramps and vagabonds, too; they are the product of a society based on private property and disappear together with it. Murder? Why? No one can enrich himself at the expense of another, and murder out of hatred and revenge is directly or indirectly linked with the state of society. Perjury, forgery, imposture, usurpation of inheritance, fraudulent bankruptcies? The private property in relation to and against which these crimes could be committed simply does not exist. Arson? Who will seek joy or satisfaction in it when society takes from him all scope for hate? Counterfeiting? "Why, money is but an illusion", love's labour would be lost. Sacrilege? Nonsense; it will be left for the almighty and all-bountiful Lord to punish who should offend him, provided controversies about the existence of God continue.

Thus, all the cornerstones of the present "order" will become myths. Parents will describe them to their children like something out of the fairy-tales of long ago. Tales of the witch hunts and persecutions to which the adherents of the new ideas were once subjected will have the same ring for them that stories of the burning of heretics and witches have for us today. The names of all the "great" men who distinguished themselves by persecuting those who spread new ideas, and were applauded for it by their narrow-minded contemporaries, will have been forgotten, and may at the most be chanced upon by a historian perusing old documents. Unfortunately, we do not yet live in the happy times when mankind is able to breathe freely.

1. Friedrich Engels, Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft. Dritte, durchgesehene und vermehrte Auflage, S. 304 und 302, Stuttgart, 1894.

Next: The Future of Religion