August Bebel. Woman and Socialism
The State and Society
The economic revolution in industry and trade has also largely affected agricultural conditions. The commercial and industrial crises affect the rural population likewise. Hundreds of thousands of members of the families of farmers are temporarily or permanently employed in industrial establishments of various kinds. This manner of employment constantly expands, firstly, because the great number of small farmers do not have enough work on their own farms to keep themselves and the members of their families usefully employed, and, secondly, because the large farmers find it profitable to have an important portion of the products of their soil transformed into industrial commodities right on their own farms. In this manner they save the heavy expense of shipping the raw material, for instance, potatoes and grain for the manufacture of alcohol, beets for sugar, cereals for flour or for brewing beer, etc. They, furthermore, are enabled to establish a mutual relation between agricultural and industrial production and can employ the labor power on hand to better advantage. The wages are lower and the workers are more willing too than those in cities and industrial centers. Expenses of buildings and rents as well as taxes are considerably lower too, for the large land owners in the rural districts are both the makers and executors of the law; they furnish many representatives from their midst and control the administration and police force. That is why the number of factories in the country increases each year. Agriculture and industry are becoming more and more closely linked, and the large agricultural establishments mainly profit from this fact.
The capitalistic development that the large estates have undergone, in Germany as elsewhere, has created conditions similar to those in England and the United States. We no longer meet with those ideal conditions in the country that still existed a few decades ago. Modern civilization has gradually taken possession of the country, too, in the remotest places even. Militarism especially has unintentionally exercised a revolutionary influence. The great increase in the standing army has made itself especially severely felt in the open country. A great portion of the troops for the standing army is drawn from the rural population. But when the peasant’s son, or day laborer or farm-hand, returns to the country, after an absence of two or three years, from the city and the barracks, where the atmosphere has not been an exactly moral one, he has become acquainted with many new ideas and requirements of civilization that he seeks to satisfy at home as he did away from home. To make this possible his first demand is for higher wages. The old modesty and contentedness have been shattered in the city. In many cases he prefers to stay away from the country altogether, and all endeavours, supported by the military authorities, to lead him back, remain unsuccessful. Improved means of traffic and communication also tend to raise the standard of requirements in the country. By his associations with the city the farmer becomes acquainted with the world in an entirely new and tempting way; he is influenced by ideas and learns of requirements of civilization that have been entirely foreign to him until then. That causes him to become dissatisfied with his position. The increased demands made upon the population by state, county, community, etc., effect the peasant as well as the rural worker and make them more rebellious still. To this other most important factors must be added.
European agriculture, and especially German agriculture, has entered upon a new phase of its development since the close of the seventies of the last century. While, until then, the nations depended upon the farm products of their own agriculture, or, as England, upon that of the neighboring countries – France and Germany – the situation now began to change. As a result of the tremendously improved means of transportation – navigation and the construction of railways in North America – provisions began to be shipped from there to Europe and lowered the prices of grain, so that cultivation of the chief kinds of grain in Middle and Western Europe became far less profitable, unless the entire conditions of production could be changed. Moreover, the realm of international grain production greatly expanded. Besides Russia and Roumania, who made every endeavour to increase their export of grain, products from Argentine Republic, Australia, India and Canada appeared upon the market. In the course of development another unfavorable factor was added. Influenced by the causes above enumerated, the small farmers and rural workers began to desert the country. They either emigrated beyond the seas or scores of them moved from the country to the cities and industrial centers, so that labor power in the country became scarce. The antiquated, patriarchal conditions, especially in Eastern Europe, the ill-treatment and almost servile status of the farm-hands and servants still heightened this desertion of the country. To what extent this shifting of the population has effected the rural districts from 1840 until the census of 1905, may be seen from the fact that during this period the Prussian provinces – East-Prussia, West Prussia, Pomerania, Posen, Silesia, Saxony and Hannover – lost 4,049,200 persons, and Bavaria, Wurtemberg, Baden and Alsace-Lorraine had a loss of 2,026,500, while Berlin increased by migration by about 1,000,000 persons, Hamburg by 402,000 the Kingdom of Saxony by 326,200, the Rhine provinces by 343,000, and Westphalia by 246,100.
As a result of all these changes, agriculture began to suffer from a want of capital. Accordingly the former line of development, whereby the great landowner bought up the small and medium-sized farmers and made them part of his property, gave way to the opposite tendency. But this pressure also brought about, that the clumsy character of agricultural enterprises was gradually modified, because people recognized that it would no longer do to follow the beaten path, but that it had become necessary to adopt new methods. The national government, as well as the state governments, endeavored to relieve agriculture from its exigency by appropriate trade and tariff policies and by direct expenditures for various improvements. Recently the medium and great landowners are quite successful again wherever the farms are conducted in keeping with modern technical development, as may be gathered from the fact that the prices of farms have greatly increased.
If agriculture is to prosper in capitalistic society, it is necessary that it should be conducted by capitalistic methods. Here, as in industry, it is important that human labor should be replaced or aided by machinery and technical improvements. That this is being done may be seen from the following: During the period from 1882 to 1895 the number of steam-ploughs employed in agriculture in Germany has increased from 836 to 1696, and the number of steam-threshing machines has increased from 75,690 to 259,364. Compared to what might be done in the way of agricultural machinery, these figures are still exceedingly low and prove the undeveloped state of agriculture; they also prove that lack of means and the small size of the individual farms have so far made the application of machinery impossible. The machine, in order to be truly advantageous, requires application on a large area of land devoted to cultivation of the same kind of crop. The great number of small and medium-sized farms, the scattered fields and the great variety of crops have prevented a successful application of machinery. The tables on page 351 show how the farming area is distributed in the German Empire.
Among the 5,736,082 farms counted in T907 there were no less than 4,384,786 of less than 5 hectares=76.8 per cent., that can furnish but a poor existence to their owners, unless the soil is particularly good, or unless devoted to horticulture. A great many of them could not even be used in this way, since there are 2,731,055 farms among them of one hectare, and less, in area.
Number of Farms Increase or Decrease
Farms 1882 1895 1907 From 1882 to 1895 From 1895 to 1907
Less than 2 hectares 3,061,831 3,236,367 3,378,509 + 174,536 + 142,142
2 to 5 ha. 981,407 1,016,318 1,006,277 + 34,911 – 10,041
5 20 926,605 998,804 1,065,539 + 72,199 + 66,735
20 100 281,510 281,767 262,191 + 257 – 19,576
Over 100 24,991 25,061 23,566, + 70 – 1,495
5,276,344 5,558,3171 5,736,082 + 281,973 + 177,765
Farming area in hectares Increase or Decrease
Farms 1882 1895 1907 From 1882 to 1895 From 1895 to 1907
Less than 2 hectares 1,825,938 1,808,444 1,731,317 – 17,494 – 77,127
2 to 5 ha, 3,190,203 3,285,984 3,304,872 + 95,781 + 18,888
5 20 9,158,398 9,721,875 10,421,565 + 568,477 + 699,690
20 100 9,908,170 9,869,837 9,322,106 – 38,333 – 547,731
Over 100 7,786,2631 7,831,801 7,055,0131 + 45,538 – 776,788
31,868,972 32,517,941 31,834,8731 + 648,969 -683,068
But even among the farms of more than 5 hectares there are many that yield only a poor product, notwithstanding hard and long labor, owing to poor soil, unfavorable climate, bad location, lack of proper means of transportation, etc. It may be said without exaggeration that fully nine-tenths of the farmers lack the means and the knowledge to cultivate their soil as it might be cultivated. Neither do the small peasants receive a fair price for their products. since they depend upon the intermediate trader. The dealer who traverses the country on definite days or in definite seasons and usually trades off his merchandise to other dealers again, must obtain his profit. But to gather in the many small quantities means much more trouble to him than to procure a large quantity from a great landowner. The peasants owning small and medium-sized farms therefore receive less for their products than the great landowners, and if their products are of inferior quality, which is frequently the case owing to their primitive methods, they must accept almost any price. Sometimes they cannot ever. wait for the time when their product will bring the highest price. They owe money on rent, interest and taxes, they must repay loans, or must settle bills with trades-people and mechanics, therefore they are obliged to sell no matter how unfavorable the time may be. In order to improve their property, or to satisfy joint-heirs or children they have mortgaged their farms. As they have few lenders to choose from, the conditions are not very favorable. A high rate of interest and definite dates of payment weigh heavily on them. A poor harvest or a faulty speculation in regard to the kind of product that they expected to sell at a good price often drive them to the verge of ruin. Sometimes the products are bought and the capital is loaned by one and the same person, and in that event the peasant is entirely in the hands of his creditor. In this manner the peasants of entire villages and districts are sometimes in the hands of a few creditors. This is the case with the peasants who raise hops, wine, tobacco, and vegetables in Southern Germany, and on the Rhine, and with small farmers in Central Germany. The creditor fleeces the peasants mercilessly. He allows them to remain on their farms as apparent owners, but as a matter of fact they no longer own them. Frequently the capitalistic exploiter finds this method far more profitable than to cultivate the land himself, or to sell it. In this manner thousands of peasants are recorded as owners of farms who are virtually not the owners. .As a matter of fact, many great landowners, too, who managed badly or were unfortunate or took the property under unfavorable conditions, fell victims to capitalistic extortioners. The capitalist becomes master of the soil, and, in order to increase his profits, he divides up the farm into lots, because in this way he can obtain a far higher price than if he sold it undivided. With a number of small proprietors he furthermore has the best prospect to continue his usurious trade. As is well known, in the city, too, those houses yield the highest rents that contain the largest number of small apartments. A small number of farmers take the opportunity and buy portions of the divided estate. The capitalistic benefactor is willing to turn over larger portions to them also upon a small payment. The remainder of the price he takes as mortgage at a high rate of interest, and there the difficulty begins. If the small farmer is fortunate and succeeds in making his farm pay he escapes; otherwise his lot will be as described above. If the small farmer loses some of his cattle, that is a great misfortune for him; if he has a daughter who marries, the purchase of her outfit increases his debts and he loses a cheap labor power; if a son marries, the latter demands his share of the farm, or a payment in money. Frequently he cannot afford even necessary improvements. If his stock does not provide sufficient manure – as is often the case – his soil becomes poorer in quality, because he cannot afford to buy manure. Sometimes he is too poor to buy good seed even; the use of machinery is denied him, and a change of crop adapted to the chemical nature of his soil is frequently unfeasible. Neither can he apply advantageous methods offered by science and experience in the improvement of his stock. Lack of proper fodder, lack of proper stalls, lack of other necessary appliances, prevents it. So there are many causes that make existence difficult to the small farmer.
It is quite different with the large estates, where a comparatively small number of farms cover a large area. We see from the statistics that 23,566 farms, having an area of 7,055,013 hectares of cultivated soil, cover 2,019,824 hectares more than the 4,384,786 farms having an area of less than five hectares. But the numbers of the farms and the numbers of the owners do not coincide. In 1895 there were no less than 912,959 leased farms of all sizes, 1,694,251 farms that were partly owned and partly leased, and 983,917 farms that were cultivated in different ways, as farms loaned to officials, as part of communal property, etc. On the other hand, single individuals own a number of agricultural estates. The greatest German landowner is the King of Prussia, who owns 83 estates, with an area of 98,746 hectares; other great German landowners are:
Prince of Pless owning 75 estates of 70,170 hectares
Prince Hohenzollern-Sigmar 24 59,968
Duke of Ujest 52 39,742
Prince Hohenlohe-Oehringen – - 39,365
Prince of Ratibor 51 33,096
In 1895 the entailed estates in Prussia comprised an area of 2,121,636 hectares, or 6.09 per cent. of the entire area of the land. The 1045 entailed estates were owned by 939 proprietors, and their common property was by 206,600 hectares larger than the entire Kingdom of Wurtemberg, which covers an area of about 1,9015,000 hectares. The large landowners are naturally interested in maintaining the present conditions. Not so the small proprietors, who would draw great advantages from a rational transformation of the conditions. It is an innate characteristic of large ownership of land that it seeks to enlarge its possessions more and more, and to take possession of all the farms within reach. It is so in Silesia, Lausitz, the Dukedom of Hessia and in other districts from which purchases of peasants’ estates on a large-scale are frequently reported.
In Austria the large estates predominate far more than in Germany, or particularly in Prussia. Here, besides the nobility and the bourgeoisie, the Catholic Church has succeeded in taking possession of a lion’s share of the soil. The expropriation of peasants is in full swing in Austria also. In Styria, Tyrol, Salzburg. Upper and Lower Austria, etc., all means are applied to drive the peasants from their native soil and to turn their farms into gentlemen’s estates. The same scenes that were at one time enacted in Scotland and Ireland may now be observed in the most picturesque parts of Austria. Individuals, as well as societies, purchase enormous tracts of land, or rent what they cannot purchase, and transform them into hunting grounds. Trespassing on the valleys, hills and hamlets is prohibited by the new masters, and the stubborn proprietors of some estates, who refuse to comply with the demands of the gentlemen, are annoyed so long in various ways that they yield and sell their property. Soil that has been cultivated for ages, where for thousands of years many generations made a living, are transformed into a wilderness where deer may roam about, and the mountains that have been taken possession of by the capitalistic nobility or bourgeoisie are the hunting grounds of the chamois. Poverty spreads over entire communities because they are denied the right of driving their cattle on the Alpine pastures. And who are these persons who are robbing the peasant of his property and his independence? Besides Rothschild and Baron Meyer-Melnhof, the Counts of Coburg and Meiningen, Prince Hohenlohe, the Duke of Liechtenstein, the Count of Braganza, the Duchess Rosenberg, the Duke of Pless, the Counts Schoenfeld, Festetics, Schafgotsch, Trauttmannsdorff, the Baron Gustaedt Hunting Club, the Count Karoly Hunting Club, the Noblemen’s Hunting Club of Bluehnbach, etc. Everywhere the great landowners are extending their property. In 1875 there were only 9 persons in Lower Austria who owned more than 5000 yokes each, with an area of 89,490 hectares; in 1895 there were 24 persons who owned an area of 213,574 hectares. Throughout Austria the great landowners control an area of 8,700,000 hectares, while 21,300,000 hectares belong to the small landowners. The proprietors of entailed estates, 297 families, own 1,200,000 hectares. Millions of small landowners cultivate 71 per cent of the entire area, while a few thousand great landowners, control more than 29 per cent of the entire area of Austria. There are few land-revenue districts in which there are no great landed proprietors. In most of the districts there are two or several landowners who exert a determining political and social influence. Almost half of the great landowners hold property in several districts of the country, a number of them in several crown-lands of the empire. In Lower Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia there is no district without them. Only industry succeeded in dislodging them to some extent; for instance, in Northern Bohemia and at the boundary of Bohemia and Moravia. In all other parts of the country the large estates are increasing: In Upper Austria, where, of all crown-lands, we still find a class of peasants that is fairly well off; in Goerz and Gradiaska, in Styria, Salzburg, in Galicia and Bukovina. They are increasing less rapidly in those countries that already are the domains of the great landowners – Bohemia,, Moravia, Silesia and Lower Austria. In Lower Austria, of the entire ground comprising 1,982,300 hectares, 393 great landowners owned 540,655 hectares, and the Church owned 79,181 hectares; 13 estates comprise 425,079 hectares = 9 per cent of the entire area; among these, Duke Hoyos-Sprinzenstein owns 33,124 hectares. The area of Moravia covers 2,181,220 hectares. Of these the Church owned 81,857 hectares, and 116 estates of more than 1,000 hectares each comprised a larger area than the 500,000 estates up to 10 hectares, that form 92.1 per cent of all estates. The area of Austrian Silesia covers 514,677 hectares. Of these the Church owned 50,845 hectares, and 79 proprietors together owned 204,118 hectares. Bohemia, with an area of 5,194,500 hectares, has about 1,237,085 great landowners. The distribution of property is characterized by an unusual number of estates of smallest dimensions, and by extensive large estates. Almost 43 per cent of all the estates are smaller than ½ hectare, and more than four-fifths do not exceed 5 hectares. These 703,577 estates (81 per cent.) only cover 12.5 per cent of the area of Bohemia. On the other hand, 776 persons own 35.6 per cent of the entire area, while they only form 0.1 per cent of all estates. The unequal distribution of property is more striking still when we analyze the larger class, those over 200 hectares. We then obtain the following result:
380 persons own each 200 to 500 hectares. together 116,143 hectare
141 500 1,000 101,748
104 1,000 2,000 50,567
151 over 2,000 1,436,084
Of the last-named group, 31 persons own 5,000 to 10,000, hectares each; 21 persons own 10,000 to 20,000 hectares each, and the Princes Mor. Lobkowitz, Ferdinand Kinsky, Karl Schwarzenberg, Alfred Windischgraatz, the Dukes Ernst Waldstein, Johann Harrach, Karl Buquoy own 20,000 to 30,000 hectares each. Clam-Gallas and Lar. Czernin own over 30,000 each. The Prince of Lichtenstein owns 36,189 hectares; Prince Max Egon Fuerstenberg, 39,162 hectares; Prince Colloredo Mannsfeld, 57,691 hectares, and the Prince of Schwarzenberg, 177,310 hectares=3.4 per cent. of the entire area of Bohemia. The Church owns 150,395 hectares = 3 per cent of the area of Bohemia. These figures were compiled in 1896; since then matters have grown still worse. According to the agricultural census of 1902 there were 18,437 estates (0.7 per cent of the entire number) that covered 9,929,920 hectares, or one-third of the entire area. In the district of Schwaz seven Alps and in the district of Zell sixteen Alps that had hitherto served as pastures to the cattle, were shut off by the new landlords and transformed into hunting grounds. Pasturing of cattle is prohibited along the entire Karwendel range. The leading nobility of Austria and Germany, besides rich bourgeois parvenus, purchased areas up to 70,000 yokes, and more, in the Alpine regions and had them fenced in as game preserves. Entire villages, hundreds of farms disappear, the inhabitants are driven from their native soil, and the place of human beings and of animals intended for human food, is taken by deer and stags and chamois. Not a few of these men who have devastated entire provinces in this manner, afterwards speak on the needy condition of the peasants in the parliaments, and abuse their power to employ the aid of the state in the form of taxes on grain, wood, live stock, meat, whiskey, etc., at the expense of the propertyless classes.
In the most advanced industrial states it is not the love of luxury of the privileged classes that dislodges the small estates, as is the case in Austria. Here the increasing demands of a rapidly growing population make it necessary to organize farming along capitalistic lines, in order to produce the required amount of food. This may be observed in a country so highly developed industrially as Belgium. According to the “Annual Statistics,” quoted by Emile Vandervelde in an article, “Landed Property in Belgium During the Period from 1834 to 1899,” it says: “Only farms of less than 5 hectares, and especially those of less than 2 hectares, have diminished in number. But the farms of more than 10 hectares have increased to 3,789. The concentration of landed property that is in keeping with modern industry and cattle breeding on a large scale, may here be clearly observed. Since 1880 a development has set in that takes the opposite course of the one that took place from 1866 to 188o. While, in 1880, there still were 910,396 farms, only 829,625 remained in 1895; that means a decrease by 80,771 farms = 9 per cent, in fifteen years. As a matter of fact, this decrease has affected only farms of less than 5 hectares. On the other hand, farms of from 5 to 10 hectares increased by 675; those of from 10 to 20 hectares by 2,168; from 20 to 30 hectares by 414; from 30 to 40 hectares by 164, from 40 to 50 hectares by 187, and those of over 50 hectares by 181.”
The condition of the soil and its cultivation is of the greatest importance to the advancement of our civilization. The existence of the population primarily depends upon the soil and its, products. The soil cannot be increased at will; the manner of its cultivation is therefore the more important. The population of Germany, which grows by about 870,000 persons annually, requires a considerable import of bread and meat, if the prices of the most necessary articles of food are still to be within reach of the masses. But here we are confronted by sharp-contrasting interests between the agricultural and industrial population. That part of the population that is not engaged in agricultural pursuits, is interested in obtaining articles of food at low prices, since their welfare, both as human beings and as individuals engaged in industry and commerce, depends upon it. Every increase in the cost of articles of food leads to a deterioration in the standard of living of a large portion of the population, unless the wages of the population depending upon agricultural products should be raised also. But an increase in wages usually implies an increase in the prices of industrial products, and that may result in a decline of sales. But if wages remain stationary, notwithstanding the increased cost of articles of food, the purchase of other commodities must be limited, and again industry and commerce suffer.
Matters have a different aspect for those engaged in agriculture. just as persons engaged in industry, they seek to obtain the greatest possible advantage from their occupation, and it does not matter to them from which particular product they obtain it. If the import of foreign grain prevents their obtaining the desired profit from the cultivation of grain, they devote their soil to the cultivation of other products that are more profitable. They cultivate beets for the manufacture of sugar, and potatoes and grain for the manufacture or whiskey, instead of wheat and rye for bread. They devote the most fertile fields to the cultivation of tobacco, instead of to the cultivation of vegetables and fruit. Others use thousands of hectares of land for pastures for horses, because horses bring high prices for military purposes. Moreover, great stretches of forest land, which could be employed for agricultural purposes, are reserved as hunting-grounds for sportsmen of rank. This is sometimes the case in regions where a few thousand hectares of forests might be cut down and transformed into fields, without any harmful results ensuing, due to a decrease in humidity by the cutting down of the forest. In this manner thousands of square miles of fertile soil might still be won for agricultural purposes in Germany. But this transformation is contrary to the material interests of a part of the bureaucracy, the forest- and game-keepers, as well as to the interests of the great landowners, who do not wish to give up their hunting-grounds and to deny themselves the pleasures of the chase. It is a matter of course that such clearing of forests could take place only where it would be truly advantageous. On the other hand, large areas of mountain and waste land might be planted with forests.
Recently the great influence of forests on the formation of moisture has been denied, as it appears, unjustly so. To what marked degree the forest influences the moisture of the land, and thereby the fertility of the soil, is shown by some striking facts given in the book by Parvus and Dr. Lehmann, “Starving Russia.” The authors assert, on the ground of their own observations, that the boundless and desultory devastation of forests in the most fertile provinces of Russia, was the chief cause of the failure of crops from which these at one time fertile regions suffered severely during the last few decades. Among many other facts, they pointed out that during the course of time five little rivers and six lakes disappeared in the government district of Stawropol; in the government district of Busuluk four rivers and four lakes disappeared; in the government district of Ssamara six small rivers, and in the government district of Buguruslaw two small rivers disappeared. In the government districts of Nikolajewsk and Novausensk four rivers are barely maintained by the construction of dams. Many villages that formerly had running water in their vicinity are robbed of this advantage, and in many places the depth of wells is 45 to 60 yards. As a result of this dearth of water the soil is hard and cracked. With the cutting down of the forests the springs dried up and rain became scarce.
Capitalistic cultivation of the soil leads to capitalistic conditions. For a number of years a portion of our farmers derived enormous profits from the cultivation of beets and the manufacture of sugar connected with it. The system of taxation favored the exportation of sugar, and in such a manner that the revenue of the taxes on sugar-beets and on the consumption of sugar was to a considerable extent employed as bounties for exportation. The reimbursement granted to the sugar manufacturers per hundred-weight of sugar was considerably higher than the tax paid by them on the beets, and placed them in a position to sell their sugar at low prices to foreign countries, at the expense of the domestic taxpayers, and to develop the cultivation of sugar-beets more and more. The advantage gained by the sugar manufacturers under this system of taxation amounted to over 31 million marks annually. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of land that had formerly been devoted to the cultivation of grain, etc., were now employed to raise beets; countless factories were erected, and the inevitable result was the panic. The high profit obtained from the cultivation of beets also caused a rise in the price of property. This led to a wholesale purchase of the small farms, whose owners were tempted to sell by the high prices they could obtain for their property. The soil was made to serve industrial speculation, and the raising of grain and potatoes was relegated to soil of inferior quality, which heightened the demand for the importation of products of food. Finally the evils that had arisen from the allowance on export of sugar and had gradually assumed an international character, compelled the governments and the parliaments to abolish this system and thereby to revert to somewhat more natural conditions.
Under present-day conditions the small farmers cannot attain the social status to which they are entitled as citizens of a civilized state, no matter how hard they may work and how much they may deny themselves. Whatever the state and society may do to uphold these classes that form a considerable basis of the existing form of state and society, their endeavours remain patch-work. The agrarian taxes harm this portion of the agricultural population more than they benefit them. Most of these farmers do not produce as much as they need for the maintenance of their own families. They must purchase part of their supplies, the means for which they obtain by industrial or other additional labor. A great many of our small farmers are more interested in a favorable status of industry and commerce than in agriculture, because their own children make their living by industry or commerce, since the farm offers no employment and no income to them. One failure of crops increases the number of farmers who are obliged to purchase agricultural products. So how can agrarian taxes and prohibition of importation benefit those who have little to sell and must occasionally buy much? At least 80 per cent. of all agricultural establishments are in this position.
How the farmer cultivates his soil is his own affair in the era of private property. He cultivates whatever seems most profitable to him, regardless of the interests and requirements of society; so “laissez faire!” In industry the same principle is applied. Obscene pictures and indecent books are manufactured, and factories are established for the adulteration of food. These and many other activities are harmful to society; they undermine its morals and heighten corruption. But they are profitable, more so than decent pictures, scientific books and unadulterated food. The manufacturer, eager for profits, must only succeed in escaping the notice of the police, and he may ply his trade in the knowledge that society will envy and respect him for the money he has made.
The mammon character of our age is most forcibly expressed by the stock exchange and its dealings. Products of the soil and industrial products, means of transportation, meterological and political conditions, want and abundance, disasters and suffering of the masses, public debts, inventions and discoveries, health or disease and death of influential persons, war and rumors of war often invented for this purpose, all these and many other things are made the object of speculation and are used to exploit and cheat one another. The kings of capital exert the most decisive influence on the weal and woe of society, and, favored by their powerful means and connections, they accumulate boundless wealth. Governments and officials become mere puppets in their hands, who must perform while the kings of the stock exchange pull the wires. The powers of the state do not control the stock market, the stock market controls the powers of the state.
All these facts, which are becoming more evident every day because the evils are daily increasing, call for speedy and thoroughgoing reforms. But society stands helpless before these evils and keeps going about in a circle like a horse in a treadmill, a picture of impotence and stupidity. They who would like to act, are still too weak; they who ought to act, still lack understanding; they who might act, do not wish to. They rely upon their power and think, as Madame Pompadour expressed it: “Après nous le deluge!” (May the deluge come after we are gone!) But what if the deluge should overtake them?
1. “Quarterly Gazette for Statistics of the German Empire.”
2. Karl Kautsky – “The Agrarian question and temporary results of the agricultural census of June 12, 1901.” “Quarterly Gazette for Statistics of the German Empire,” 1909.
3. “The Propertied and Propertyless Classes in Austria.” – T. W. Teifen. Vienna, 1906.