The Ego and Its Own/Social Liberalism
|The Ego and Its Own
We are freeborn men, and wherever we look we see ourselves made servants of egoists! Are we therefore to become egoists too! Heaven forbid! We want rather to make egoists impossible! We want to make them all "ragamuffins [Lumpen]"; all of us must have nothing, that "all may have."
So say the Socialists.
Who is this person that you call "All"? - It is "society"! - But is it corporeal, then? - We are its body! - You? Why, you are not a body yourselves - you, sir, are corporeal to be sure, you too, and you, but you all together are only bodies, not a body. Accordingly the united society may indeed have bodies at its service, but no one body of its own. Like the "nation of the politicians, it will turn out to be nothing but a "spirit," its body only semblance.
The freedom of man is, in political liberalism, freedom from persons, from personal dominion, from the master; the securing of each individual person against other persons, personal freedom.
No one has any orders to give; the law alone gives orders.
But, even if the persons have become equal, yet their possessions have not. And yet the poor man needs the rich, the rich the poor, the former the rich man's money, the latter the poor man's labour. So no one needs another as a person, but needs him as a giver, and thus as one who has something to give, as holder or possessor. So what he has makes the man. . And in having, or in "possessions," people are unequal.
Consequently, social liberalism concludes, no one must have, as according to political liberalism no one was to give orders; as in that case the state alone obtained the command, so now society alone obtains the possessions.
For the state, protecting each one's person and property against the other, separates them from one another; each one is his special part and has his special part. He who is satisfied with what he is and has finds this state of things profitable; but he who would like to be and have more looks around for this "more," and finds it in the power of other persons. Here he comes upon a contradiction; as a person no one is inferior to another, and yet one person has what another has not but would like to have. So, he concludes, the one person is more than the other, after all, for the former has what he needs, the latter has not; the former is a rich man, the latter a poor man.
He now asks himself further, are we to let what we rightly buried come to life again? Are we to let this circuitously restored inequality of persons pass? No; on the contrary, we must bring quite to an end what was only half accomplished. Our freedom from another's person still lacks the freedom from what the other's person can command, from what he has in his personal power - in short, from "personal property." Let us then do away with personal property. Let no one have anything any longer, let every one be a - ragamuffin. Let property be impersonal, let it belong to - society.
Before the supreme ruler, the sole commander, we had all become equal, equal persons, that is, nullities.
Before the supreme proprietor we all become equal - ragamuffins. For the present, one is still in another's estimation a "ragamuffin," a "have-nothing"; but then this estimation ceases. We are all ragamuffins together, and as the aggregate of Communistic society we might call ourselves a "ragamuffin crew."
When the proletarian shall really have founded his intended "society" in which the interval between rich and poor is to be removed, then he will be a ragamuffin, for then he will feel that it amounts to something to be a ragamuffin, and might lift "Ragamuffin" to be an honourable form of address, just as the Revolution did with the word "Citizen." Ragamuffin is his ideal; we are all to become ragamuffins.
This is the second robbery of the "personal" in the interest of "humanity." Neither command nor property is left to the individual; the state took the former, society the latter.
Because in society the most oppressive evils make themselves felt, therefore the oppressed especially, and consequently the members of the lower regions of society, think they found the fault in society, and make it their task to discover the right society. This is only the old phenomenon - that one looks for the fault first in everything but himself, and consequently in the state, in the self-seeking of the rich, and so on, which yet have precisely our fault to thank for their existence.
The reflections and conclusions of Communism look very simple. As matters lie at this time - in the present situation with regard to the state, therefore - some, and they the majority, are at a disadvantage compared to others, the minority. In this state of things the former are in a state of prosperity, the latter in state of need. Hence the present state of things, the state itself, must be done away with. And what in its place? Instead of the isolated state of prosperity - a general state of prosperity, aprosperity of all.
Through the revolution the bourgeoisie became omnipotent, and all inequality was abolished by every one's being raised or degraded to the dignity of a citizen: the common man - raised, the aristocrat - degraded; the third estate became sole estate, namely, the estate of - citizens of the state. Now Communism responds: Our dignity and our essence consist not in our being all - the equal children of our mother, the state, all born with equal claim to her love and her protection, but in our all existing for each other. This is our equality, or herein we are equal, in that we, I as well as you and you and all of you, are active or "labour" each one for the rest; in that each of us is a labourer, then. The point for us is not what we are for the state (citizens), not our citizenship therefore, but what we are for each other, that each of us exists only through the other, who, caring for my wants, at the same time sees his own satisfied by me. He labours for my clothing (tailor), I for his need of amusement (comedy-writer, rope-dancer), he for my food (farmer), I for his instruction (scientist). It is labour that constitutes our dignity and our - equality.
What advantage does citizenship bring us? Burdens! And how high is our labour appraised? As low as possible! But labour is our sole value all the same: that we are labourers is the best thing about us, this is our significance in the world, and therefore it must be our consideration too and must come to receive consideration. What can you meet us with? Surely nothing but - labour too. Only for labour or services do we owe you a recompense, not for your bare existence; not for what you are for yourselves either, but only for what you are for us. By what have you claims on us? Perhaps by your high birth? No, only by what you do for us that is desirable or useful. Be it thus then: we are willing to be worth to you only so much as we do for you; but you are to be held likewise by us. Services determine value, those services that are worth something to us, and consequently labours for each other, labours for the common good. Let each one be in the other's eyes a labourer. He who accomplishes something useful is inferior to none, or - all labourers (labourers, of course, in the sense of labourers "for the common good," that is, communistic labourers) are equal. But, as the labourer is worth his wages, let the wages too be equal.
As long as faith sufficed for man's honour and dignity, no labour, however harassing, could be objected to if it only did not hinder a man in his faith. Now, on the contrary, when every one is to cultivate himself into man, condemning a man to machine-like labour amounts to the same thing as slavery. If a factory worker must tire himself to death twelve hours and more, he is cut off from becoming man. Every labour is to have the intent that the man be satisfied. Therefore he must become a master in it too, be able to perform it as a totality. He who in a pinfactory only puts on the heads, only draws the wire, works, as it were, mechanically, like a machine; he remains half-trained, does not become a master: his labour cannot satisfy him, it can only fatigue him. His labour is nothing by itself, has no object in itself, is nothing complete in itself; he labours only into another's hands, and is used (exploited) by this other. For this labourer in another's service there is no enjoyment of a cultivated mind, at most, crude amusements: culture, you see, is barred against him. To be a good Christian one needs only to believe, and that can be done under the most oppressive circumstances. Hence the Christian-minded take care only of the oppressed labourers' piety, their patience, submission, etc. Only so long as the downtrodden classes were Christians could they bear all their misery: for Christianity does not let their murmurings and exasperation rise. Now the hushing of desires is no longer enough, but their sating is demanded. The bourgeoisie has proclaimed the gospel of the enjoyment of the world, of material enjoyment, and now wonders that this doctrine finds adherents among us poor: it has shown that not faith and poverty, but culture and possessions, make a man blessed; we proletarians understand that too.
The commonalty freed us from the orders and arbitrariness of individuals. But that arbitrariness was left which springs from the conjuncture of situations, and may be called the fortuity of circumstances; favouring .fortune. and those "favoured by fortune," still remain.
When, for example, a branch of industry is ruined and thousands of labourers become breadless, people think reasonably enough to acknowledge that it is not the individual who must bear the blame, but that "the evil lies in the situation." Let us change the situation then, but let us change it thoroughly, and so that its fortuity becomes powerless. and a law! Let us no longer be slaves of chance! Let us create a new order that makes an end of fluctuations. Let this order then be sacred!
Formerly one had to suit the lords to come to anything; after the Revolution the word was "Grasp fortune!" Luck-hunting or hazard-playing, civil life was absorbed in this. Then, alongside this, the demand that he who has obtained something shall not frivolously stake it again.
Strange and yet supremely natural contradiction. Competition, in which alone civil or political life unrolls itself, is a game of luck through and through, from the speculations of the exchange down to the solicitation of offices, the hunt for customers, looking for work, aspiring to promotion and decorations, the second-hand dealer's petty haggling, etc. If one succeeds in supplanting and outbidding his rivals, then the "lucky throw" is made; for it must be taken as a piece of luck to begin with that the victor sees himself equipped with an ability (even though it has been developed by the most careful industry) against which the others do not know how to rise, consequently that - no abler ones are found. And now those who ply their daily lives in the midst of these changes of fortune without seeing any harm in it are seized with the most virtuous indignation when their own principle appears in naked form and "breeds misfortune" as - hazard-playing. Hazard-playing, you see, is too clear, too barefaced a competition, and, like every decided nakedness, offends honourable modesty.
The Socialists want to put a stop to this activity of chance, and to form a society in which men are no longer dependent on fortune, but free.
In the most natural way in the world this endeavour first utters itself as hatred of the "unfortunate" against the "fortunate," of those for whom fortune has done little or nothing, against those for whom it has done everything.
But properly the ill-feeling is not directed against the fortunate, but against fortune, this rotten spot of the commonalty.
As the Communists first declare free activity to be man's essence, they, like all work-day dispositions, need a Sunday; like all material endeavours, they need a God, an uplifting and edification alongside their witless "labour."
That the Communist sees in you the man, the brother, is only the Sunday side of Communism. According to the work-day side he does not by any means take you as man simply, but as human labourer or labouring man. The first view has in it the liberal principle; in the second, illiberality is concealed. If you were a "lazy-bones," he would not indeed fail to recognize the man in you, but would endeavour to cleanse him as a "lazy man" from laziness and to convert you to the faith that labour is man's "destiny and calling."
Therefore he shows a double face: with the one he takes heed that the spiritual man be satisfied, with the other he looks about him lor means for the material or corporeal man. He gives man a twofold post - an office of material acquisition and one of spiritual.
The commonalty had thrown open spiritual and material goods, and left it with each one to reach out for them if he liked.
Communism really procures them for each one, presses them upon him, and compels him to acquire them. It takes seriously the idea that, because only spiritual and material goods make us men, we must unquestionably acquire these goods in order to be man. The commonalty made acquisition free; Communism compels to acquisition, and recognizes only the acquirer, him who practices a trade. It is not enough that the trade is free, but you must take it up.
So all that is left for criticism to do is to prove that the acquisition of these goods does not yet by any means make us men.
With the liberal commandment that every one is to make a man of himself, or every one to make himself man, there was posited the necessity that every one must gain time for this labour of humanization, that is, that it should become possible for every one to labour on himself.
The commonalty thought it had brought this about if it handed over everything human to competition, but gave the individual a right to every human thing. "Each may strive after everything!"
Social liberalism finds that the matter is not settled with the "may," because may means only "it is forbidden to none" but not "it is made possible to every one." Hence it affirms that the commonalty is liberal only with the mouth and in words, supremely illiberal in act. It on its part wants to give all of us the means to be able to labour on ourselves.
By the principle of labour that of fortune or competition is certainly outdone. But at the same time the labourer, in his consciousness that the essential thing in him is "the labourer," holds himself aloof from egoism and subjects himself to the supremacy of a society of labourers, as the commoner clung with self-abandonment to the competition-state. The beautiful dream of a "social duty" still continues to be dreamed. People think again that society gives what we need, and we are under obligations to it on that account, owe it everything. They are still at the point of wanting to serve a "supreme giver of all good." That society is no ego at all, which could give, bestow, or grant, but an instrument or means, from which we may derive benefit; that we have no social duties, but solely interests for the pursuance of which society must serve us; that we owe society no sacrifice, but, if we sacrifice anything, sacrifice it to ourselves - of this the Socialists do not think, because they - as liberals - are imprisoned in the religious principle, and zealously aspire after - a sacred society, such as the state was hitherto.
Society, from which we have everything, is a new master, a new spook, a new "supreme being," which "takes us into its service and allegiance!"
The more precise appreciation of political as well as social liberalism must wait to find its place further on. For the present we pass this over, in order first to summon them before the tribunal of humane or critical liberalism.