August Palm 1881

Speech at Hotel Stockholm, Malmö,
6 November 1881.

Notes: by John Lindgren;
Translated: by Daniell Brandell;
Transcribed: by Hal Smith;
HTML Mark-up: by Andy Blunden.

Gentlemen! I guess there is no one here who not have heard more or less about the Social Democrats, and so have the honoured present also heard about what the Social Democrats want. What the Social Democrats want, I will make you familiar with now since I am convinced the most of you present only heard from the opponents, what the Social Democrats want. But if one wants to judge in one thing and judge fair, it is necessary to hear both parts picture, and most important is it to hear the version of the main part. The opponents to the Social Democrats say a lot of things about us, but what they say about us on many issues I would like to discuss now. What do the opponents say abut us then? Well, they say among other things that we want to share, that we don’t respect property rights, that we want to abolish marriage and enforce the free love, that we deny patriotism, that we want to get rid of religion,[1] etc. And when one hears all these crazy accusations it is in truth not so strange that the large part of the people is so hostile towards us Social Democrats. Nevertheless we Social Democrats is the party the people, the real working people, can expect realized reforms from. But let’s now see these accusations. According to everything the opponents say, for the first we want to share. Yes, when it was talks only about sharing the ringing coins one could consider enforcing it, but then one had to undertake divisions every day when one always should have equally much, because of course one could definitely not use the same amount every day. But when it is said that the Social democrats wants to share it of course means that everything should be shared. The land could be better distributed, but there are of course a lot of other things that could be shared, for example the railroads, how would one do with these? One would get one piece of the railroad, one a piece of the locomotive, a third one of a wheel, a fourth a door, and so on. But every sense person can realize that this could not be done, and no one here present would seriously believe that any political party could be that mad to put such a sharing system in their program. No, my gentlemen, it is impossible to believe it, and it is not like that either. It is just one big and dreadfully stupid lie that the opponents to the social democrats have told about the social democrats.[2] The Social democrats would not like to share anything, but they want to forbid the magnate capitalists to share, and the capitalists they share every day with their workers. If they did not do it, these gigantic fortunes could not be collected on a few private hands as it now is. That the capitalist every day share with the workers and that it is the Social democrats who want to forbid this sharing system is what I with an example would like to show.[3] A worker could work all his life, he can be however hard-working and well-behaved, he will never achieve a good outcome more than in the luckiest case. And if he under lucky circumstances could reach altogether a couple of hundred kronor, it is the absolute highest. But one know many businessmen, who, so to say, had nothing to begin with, but during certain lucky circumstances could raise their wealth. When they begun they had maybe 4 men in labour, then 50, a 100 men. For so long this businessman had only the 4 men in labour then he came, so to say, no way, but when he under lucky circumstances raised his business to 100 men he became rich. Why do you, my gentlemen, think he became rich? Well, it was because he every day shared with his workers. When his workers got paid a daily salary of 1 Krona 50 Öre , 2 Kr or 2,50 Öre they raised 2 Kr, 2,50 Öre and 3 Kr or maybe more. But, my gentlemen, when now such a businessman every day without the profit he has calculated from every worker’s outcome, he puts 50 Öre or 1 Krona or maybe more in his own pocket. So, my gentlemen, it is apparent that he with time will become a millionaire. He will on his worker’s expense live rich, wine of the best kind does not have to lack his dinner table, he can have evening parties when he wants to, every summer he can go off to one or another famous bathing place. In short, he can amuse himself in any way he wants, and when he gets old enough he can live a comfortable life without poverty and problems. In that way can the employer capitalist live, and all this because he has shared every day with his workers. As long as he had only 4 workers to share with, he did not became rich. But when he got 50 or 100 or more, then it became something. But the worker, what will happen to him? Let’s see. He will now get, let’s assume, 2 Kr a day. He is well-behaved and hard-working and thus save a piece of his salary every week. But it’s no good for a man to live alone, so he marries a girl of his kind. The money he saved, he uses to settle down with. To a beginning everything is fine, and he can for some time still but a few Kronor away. But his wife give him every second year or so a son or a daughter, and when they have been married for 10 years they have 6 or 7 children. But know more expenses will come — food, clothes, school money, diseases might also come from now and then. Now there is not to speak of any money to put aside. Rather the opposite — if he has any they will go immediately. He also starts to get old, and thus his income starts to decrease and before he knows it he is old and unable to work. And what will happen to him then? Well, for some time he will fight a battle with destitution, and in the end he will get thrown at poorhouse as you throw thrash in a hook [strange expression in Swedish]. That, my gentlemen, is the way for the worker, he who as long he was able to work every day made his employer richer.[4] From this story, which cannot be denied, you, my gentlemen, can see that it is not the Social democrats who wants to share, but rather they are the one who wants to forbid this sharing system which now every day is practised by the capitalists. The Social democrats wants the workers to have all the excess[5] of their work,[6] but they won’t get it until free competition[7] is abolished, and the state provides work — either by overtaking the production, the manufactures, or by getting loans to the Worker’s Associations,[8] which would be easy for the state to do without risking anything, since taking over the Interest Guarantee.[9] Now I think I have struck down this lie to earth [a Swedish expression], which is spread about the Social Democrats, what concerns the sharing system. There is more to be said about it, but I fear time is short and will therefore continue to other issues. It is said for the second, that we have no respect for property rights. There, again, our opponents have turned the truth upside down.[10] We social democrats want to fully respect property rights, but when property rights are an obstacle for people before industry, and for the state’s intellectual and economical success, well, then it is something we want to abolish. The existing society does not respect property rights in any other way — the state can, whenever time it wants, and the state authorities can become united on, to take from every man his property after giving it a certain value and pay it.[11] But no one here can prove that the Social Democrats want to abolish property rights in any other way. So, it is said about us Social democrats, that we want to abolish marriage and enforce the free love. Yes, it is another lie from the Grand bourgeoisie and their press’ about us. It is a bold lie, because no one honour free love such as the Grand bourgeoisie who has spread this rumour. Is it not the Grand bourgeoisie who keeps ladies in he cities? Well I guess it is. If the Grand bourgeoisie man can’t get it with his wife no one cares as much as when the worker can’t it from his. When the grand bourgeoisie man does not travel for feasts or pleasure, he sits in his office — nota bene — when he is not taking his walk or is at the club. And in the evening, when he comes home, well then he has his own sleeping room to use if he does not want to stay over with his lady in the city. For the worker it’s different. He is obliged to share evil and good, both room and bed, with his wife. So it makes a big difference if they live good together, because if they don’t life itself will be a hell and the children who have to every day be witness to their parent’s awful life together will be morally destroyed. No, the social democrats do not want to abolish marriage, but they want it to end hastier than it now is, when the husband and wife can’t live together lovingly and good. Because we claim, and no just man can deny it, that it nurses immorality and mortification, that those who have entered marriage but can’t live happily together, that they have to be united. That’s why we social democrats demand that the law should be changed so divorce can faster be achieved then it now can. We condemn every marriage that is ended for another reason than mutual love.[12] I don’t think anyone can deny that the social democrat’s standpoint in the question of marriage is correct and more according to moral than the case is now.[13] So it is said about us social democrats that we have no love for our fatherland. Yes, that the social democrats are international is completely true, but we but the love for the world, the whole world, above the love for the fatherland. History also show us that that nationality has enforced national hatred and the national hatred has split the peoples and enforced these bloody wars which have been a scorn against civilisation and a curse against mankind. That’s why the social democrats want to work for making the peoples consider each belonging to one community. And salvation can only in this noble and beautiful faith, but is it not same as the Christian faith taught by Christ’s scholarly? Did he not teach his apostles to go out in the whole world and teach the principles of love and brotherhood to all peoples? Did he not teach that all people should be brothers and sisters? But how can we then hate our brother or kill him on command? These wars and mass murders that the horrible Kaisers and kings with their authorities have been the source of, have in general been started to solidify their staggering thrones, or to suppress the people. See, that is why we social democrats say “away with national pride that only raises national hatred”. Whatever language we talk — Swedish or French, German or Danish — let’s not forget that we are put on this earth not to hate and kill on command, but to make peace and to make society such that everyone has enough, but no one to little. Don’t you think, my gentlemen, this is a noble and beautiful goal to try to achieve?[14] So it is said about us social democrats that we don’t have any religion, that we are free thinkers and deny god etc. My gentlemen, we social democrats don’t want to kill religion, but we want religion to be a thing for the heart. We don’t want the state to interfere. We don’t want a stat religion. We want it to be every man’s and woman’s right to believe what he or she wants. We don’t want it to be as it is now, when a priest can force a certain religion upon us. We don’t want our children to be taught religion in school, but that it will be every ones private business to teach their children what religion they wish. In short, we want to separate church and state,[15] because we claim that if religion can’t live in another way than with the shorthand support from the state, then it not much to have. We respect and esteem anyone’s belief and convict, but therefore we demand that the state should do the same, so that there is no given state religion. No, let it be free so will there be more truth in religion than there is today. Then we won’t see as many fat and overeaten priests as today, who live rich on the state’s and our expense, and who in general has made religion to a question about food from their side. They won’t do a priestly act, so to say, without ringing coins — nice shepherds for the Christian herd![16] See, my gentlemen, that is the way we want to have it with religion and when it is done we won’t be witness to as much aggravation as today. From this you gentlemen can see that the social democrats — instead of what our opponents say about us, that we want to share on the contrary want to abolish this sharing system, which go on every day. In short, we want to forbid the capitalists to share with the workers. We want nothing about what is said about abolishing property rights, rather we respect them. But work is the only property of workers, and therefore we want laws to protect the only property of workers, his manpower. We don’t want to abolish marriage, but we want marriage to be founded on what it was made for, mutual love and respect, and when there is none left or when it vanishes, so shall the marriage vanish. In short, love and respect shall be the only bonds that keep man and wife together, and when they are broken so shall the marriage end. We social democrats do not deny the love for the fatherland. No, we too love the fatherland, maybe more than those who have spread the rumours about us. But above the love to the fatherland, we put the love for the whole mankind. But is it not more noble and more beautiful to love the whole world than to restrict the love to only a small piece, as state authority can increase or decrease after its wish? We do not deny religion, but want religion to be what it is decided to be, and that is a thing for the heart. We want the church and state to be separated. Only then will religion be able to fulfil its purpose — to comfort the misery, to console the grieved. Yes, as I here has explained it to you, the social democrats take the standpoints above, and the social democrats main foundation can with a few words be summarized as “The Work’s economical ordering of the state”. The state should go in to change the exchange system, which the workers are now exposed to from the capitalists, because the state has another obligation than, as Ferdinand Lasalle has said, to be “night watch for the capitalist’s money bags”.[17] First when the state put up the task to protect the work, which for such a long time has been given to the capital, can the worker claim his rights. Yes, I well know it is said that the socialistic movement is a strange movement created by the agitator.[18] But no, and no again, socialism is a people’s movement and with that comes the development of culture. And culture is the progress that will always go forward. The history of the world show us it will never go back. And anyone who can learn, he should learn from the history of religious destructions, that it is foolish to try to bring the progress of culture back. Socialism is fought by the authorities with the same intensity and brutality as once Christianity was fought by the authorities of past times. But as Christianity won, socialism will win for sure, despite all scorn, despite all deportations and imprisonments that the speakers for socialism is subjected to, and why? Well, because socialism is the poor’s, the suppressed, the for thousands of years injured only salvation. It says that the poor here on earth can reach human conditions. And is it not horrifying to think that while the magazines and barns are filled with grain, there are many people suffering from hunger? And while coal and fuel places are filled, there are many who freezes? My gentlemen, do you believe it has to be like this if society is justly organized? No, and no again, but better and more just conditions will the worker and the poor reach if the unite and build organisations where they can come together and take there suppressed position under consideration. Yes, is it not horrifying to think that while the worker produces all wealth, he suffers and lives in misery. But your duty workers, both men and women, is to unite and as said create organisations where you can discuss your position. There is no use to be indifferent and think it will get no better. And maybe also some whose positions are not that bad might think “Ah, well, I don’t have it so bad"? No, you should also think of your children, and remember, it is of great importance when you get a better position because it will also make an impact on your children. Thus, unite, and take your social position under consideration, and when all the Swedish workers estate has united and organised itself, be convinced that the authorities will listen to your demands — to get reforms enforced, which protect your only possession, work, and give you a old age free of sorrows when you are worn out, and not as today throw you at the poor house. And you should not be the least frightened to be called social democrats, because it is no shame to be a socialist. Know that socialist means “society improver” and what can be more beautiful then to make a rotten society better, this society founded on lies and unjust. And to you who are present and are not a part of the working estates — to you I want you to remember the words of the strictly Christian Professor Roscher[19] when he says in his History of National Economy: “Every opponent to socialism should consciously investigate if he, when he lived in hopeless poverty and humiliation, also would be an opponent to socialism”. Yes, do not forget Roscher’s words and do not forget to investigate in your inner mind if not society as it is now, is unfair. And have we come to that conclusion, well, then let’s everybody together make it reformed into a more humane and just state. In my next talk,[20] I will show closer what way the workers should take to make another state enforced...

1. Unite and build organisations

2. In every occasion take part in the political life

3. Realise labour press[21]

4. Strongly agitate in talks and writings for popular suffrage.

Thus the workers must fist unite in organisations. The well-known German scientist Johan Jakoby[22] has ones said “the formation of the smallest worker’s organisation will for the history writers of the future be more important than the battle of Sadova”,[23] as known, the big battle Preussians and Austrians in 1866, because he says the worker’s organisations carry the sceptre to the new ideas that one time will rule the world.[24]


1. Compare with Bracke, “Down with the social democrats”.

2. Compare with Bracke, “Down with the social democrats”.

3. Compare with Bracke, “Down with the social democrats”.

4. These kind of stories of “how to become a millionaire” are anything but rare in the early German agitation literature. Se for example Wilhelm Liebknecht, “Attack and Defense”.

5. “all the excess” is changed from “the full exchange” in the Danish Gimle-program.

6. At Palm’s second visit to Stockholm in the summer of 1882, his liberal opponents at the meetings demanded, supported by the papers, that he should state the social democratic program, to get a proper foundation for discussion. After many buts Palm came with a program, a “swedefication” via Danish of the German Gotha-program. On several issues Palm’s edition had interesting differences from the Danish model, the Gimle-program. When the Danish program demanded “the employers become without property”, Palm go with the more modest demand “that the surplus of the work production become common property, for al members of society, so that the pure excess come to the each worker and is distributed fairly.” The first social democratic program in our land did thus not bring up the cardinal point in socialist ideology: the abolishment of property rights to the means of production. As is obvious, the talk also brings up the less fortunate “surplus theory”. If Palm in the program and speech followed Lassalle’s tactics, that in the open politics not openly declare everything, is here not considered. It is well possible that the formulation is made just to smoothen up the theories a bit for the audience.

7. Equivalent to “the capitalist system”

8. What Palm here is trying to bring forward as an alternative mean for solving the social question is Lassalle’s famous “production organisation with state credit” In later talks, Palm has to full agreement with Lassalle expressed that the production organisations are only to be considered as a temporary form for the final goal. The production organisations reappeared in 1882 year’s program, and then more obvious: “The social democratic worker’s party demand, in and for starting solving the social issue, the construction of production organisations with state support under the direct control of the working people”.

9. It seems Palm had considered borrowing private capital to create production organisations with the state as guarantee for paying the interests.

10. Compare with Bracke, “Down with the social democrats”.

11. Compare with Bracke, “Down with the social democrats”.

12. Compare with Bracke, “Down with the social democrats”.

13. A present day reader might think Palm has given this part of talk a lot of time. Who makes himself the trouble to discuss the socialist attitude towards marriage, family and free love, today? If it happens, it is mostly because of bad communications. Is that so sure? Time passes fast in our days and the actualities are soon covered with dust, but maybe someone remember a print from 1928 who made a direct resemblance of the propaganda of the 80’s. Under a drawing of a group young women in the background — with more or less plastic attitudes — and in the front some ugly characters one could read: “Women of Sweden! Everyone who votes for the Worker’s Party, votes for the dissolution of the family, the bewildering of the children and the fall of tradition”. And this propaganda was spread to thousands and tens of thousands of households among the country. Among the time for Palm’s first speech as socialistic agitator it was an axiom for all good bourgeoisie gentlemen that socialism wanted to share women, dissolve the families and free love. These accusations were not new to the 80’s. One can remember Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto about thirty years earlier brought up the bourgeoisie “high moral fright over the communist sharing of women”. Also in the German agitation literature the issue is brought up. One can mention Liebknecht’s pamphlet “Attack and Defence” which spend six pages on this theme. It was thus a result of the circumstances at the time why Palm treated this question to this extent; as mentioned his speech had the purpose to get rid of some common misunderstandings about the socialistic movement.

14. With some stylistic adjustment, this can be a part of any peace talk today. It can be remarked that at one of Palm’s Lilljans-meetings in spring 1885, a resolution was taken with the lines: “The meeting, who consider that the autonomy of Sweden should be secured not by arms, but with a proper justice system between the peoples,...”. At the party congress in 1905 when the union issue [with Norway] was acute, Palm had ideas on “a Scandinavian union, on a United States of Europe”.

15. Compare with the program of 1882: “Organisation of general popular enlightening institute, general equal school teaching, the state’s separation from the church, religion should be a private issue”.

16. Probably from his own experiences. In his auto-biography, “Ur en agitators liv”, Palm describes how he during a visit in Gothenburg 1868 had plans to go over to London. As he was written in Helsingborg, he wrote the vicar and asked for a permit. Despite writing twice, he didn’t get any answer and the trip was cancelled. The winter 1869 he was unemployed, and then went by Helsingborg to get the permit himself. On the question why it hadn’t been sent to him, the vicar answered that he had never received the money the trouble cost. “He got his money, and I got my permit”.

17. The quotation is from a speech which Lassalle held in Berlin 1862, and which was the beginning of his agitating business. The speech was later edited under the title “Arbeiter-Programm über den besonderen Zusammenhang der gegenwärtigen Geschichtsperiode mit der Idee des Arbeitstandes”.

18. Compare with Bracke, “Down with the social democrats”.

19. Wilhelm Roscher, German National economist, 1817-1894. Roscher, who is considered one of his times most important German economist, belonged to the founders of Verein für Sozialpolitik in 1872. This organisation included Germany’s most famous and national economists and was created as a reaction on the Manchester-liberal excesses which followed after the French-German war and the “billion rain”.

20. From some deleted lines in the manuscript, it is obvious that the speech is considered the first one in a series of talks on socialism. Palm also mentioned this. It is also evident that Palm considered ending here, but changed his mind and added the four points bellow.

21. Palm realized the thought of a social democratic paper already after some months; the first issue of Folkviljan came 4 march 1882.

22. Doctor Johann Jacoby, “the nestor of German democracy”, was a member of the radical liberal left until 1872 when he became a member of the social democratic party. Jacoby was elected for parliament in 1874, but died in 1877.

23. This quote is the beginning of Liebknecht’s “Attack and Defence”.

24. According to the reports in the papers, the first talk has ended with the quote from Jacoby. SDS writes that the speech was “filled” with quotes from Roscher’s, Jacoby’s and Adam Smith’s writings, “so one could hear that the speaker had got some of the book knowledge from German socialism”. Adam Smith is not mentioned in the speech, but it is possible Palm mentioned him beside his manuscript.