The Problems of Our Time
The Main Features of the Social Question and the Threefold Nature of the Social Organism
15 September 1919, Berlin
It is beyond doubt that the War and all its terrible accompaniments have given the social question a new aspect for men to-day. True, this change is not recognized by a sufficient number of people in the way one could wish; but it is there and will become more and more significant.
The members of the classes hitherto accustomed to lead and rule will find themselves compelled by force of circumstances, in dealing with the social question, to abandon limited ideas and measures which deal with it piecemeal. They will be forced to turn their thoughts and direct their will to the social problem as the most important in the life of mankind, both to-day and in the immediate future. While they will only understand their times by adopting a wholly new conception of their problem in all their thinking, feeling and willing, on the other hand it will be necessary for the masses, the proletariat, to achieve an essentially different attitude to it.
For more than fifty years the mass of the people have been acquiring social and socialist ideas. Unless we have gone through the last ten years with our eyes shut we must have noticed what changes have come about inside the ranks of the proletariat with regard to the social question. We saw what form it took at the moment of the outbreak of the appalling catastrophe we know as the World War. Then came the end of that fearful disaster. The proletariat found itself in a new position, no longer confined by a social order dominated, at least in Central and Eastern Europe, by the old ruling powers. It was itself called upon, to a considerable extent, to set its hand to building a new form of social organization. And just in face of this fact, wholly new in history, we experienced something extraordinarily tragic.
The ideas to which for years the proletariat had devoted itself with its heart's blood proved inadequate when realization became possible, and at this point occurred a great historical opposition, even a conflict. The facts of world-history taking place about us might have become the great instructors of mankind. They showed that the hitherto ruling classes had, during the last three or four hundred years, developed no ideas which can, or could, be any guide for all that was forcing its way out in the economic and other social facts of human experience. The remarkable thing was that those who had power to act in the world of affairs had arrived at the state of letting them take their own course. Their thoughts and ideas had become so restricted that they could not stretch them to include the facts, which had grown above their heads, out of reach. This had been evident for some time, especially in the economic life, in which protection and similar ideas had been superseded by competition for a free market as the only motive for regulation; in which ideas were active, not moulding the economic life solely with regard to production, distribution and consumption of goods, but unfailingly leading to continual crises owing to the hazard of the "free market." He who will is able to see that since the social impetus of these ungovernable facts had spread over the great imperial states, the affairs of these states had acquired their movement, susceptible to control neither by thought nor by any efforts towards adjustment.
Man should consider such things to-day, should be able to keep before his spiritual eye to-day's necessity of looking more deeply into human activities and of grasping such a thing as the "Social Question " with more intensity of purpose than is customary. It is, after all, obvious that ideas have become inadequate for the developing facts, yet men will not see it. Three or four hundred years of routine in business and public affairs have accustomed them to account it practical life and to regard anyone who sees a little further and can judge of things through longer vision, as Utopian or unpractical. I give you an illustration of this; for to-day, when the destiny of the individual is so closely bound up with the destiny of mankind, only examples drawn from personal experience and honestly meant can be sufficient illustration of the impulse and motives to be found in public life — therefore I may be pardoned if I give you one of my own. It is not intended in a personal sense. In the spring of 1914, in a series of lectures I gave in Vienna on spiritual-scientific subjects, I was forced, months before the outbreak of the so called World War, in the presence of a small audience (a bigger one might have laughed me to scorn) to sum up what seemed to me the view we ought to hold about the social development of the present conditions. I then said that for anyone looking with open eyes at what was going on in the public life of the civilized world, it appeared as infected by a social tumour, a malignant social illness or cancer; and this illness within our economic and. social life must express itself in a terrific disaster.
Now how was one regarded who, in the early spring of 1914, spoke of an imminent catastrophe, from his observation of events going on under the surface? He was "an unpractical idealist," not to say a fool. What I was then obliged to say was a great contrast to what at that time, and indeed even later, the so-called practical men were giving out — those men who were not practical at all, only revolutionists who scorned anyone who tried to comprehend the history of the time from some knowledge of its underlying idea. What did these "practical" men say? One such person, a Foreign Minister of one of the Central European States, announced to the enlightened representatives of the people that the general relaxation of tension in the political situation was making pleasing progress, so that they could be assured of peaceful conditions - in Europe in the near future. He added that the relations with St. Petersburg were the most friendly possible. Thanks to the Government's efforts the Russian Cabinet took no heed of the publications of the Press, and our relations with St. Petersburg would continue friendly, as before. Negotiations with England were expected to be concluded in the near future on such a basis as to produce the best possible relationships. What a difference between "practical outlook " and "gloomy theory”!
Many more examples might be given to illustrate the view of, or rather the insight into, the facts at the beginning of the period which held such terrible things for humanity. It is very instructive to let the facts speak: these practical men spoke of peace and the next months brought a peace in which the civilized world occupied itself for several years in killing, at a low estimate, ten to twelve million men and crippling three times as many. I am not saying this to re-new a sensation: it must be mentioned because we can see by this how inadequate men's thoughts have become, that they are no longer far-reaching enough to master facts. We shall only see these events in the right light when we recognize in facts the strongest indication that for the healing of our social conditions what we need is not a small change in this or that arrangement, but a vast alteration in thinking and learning: not a trivial but a tremendous settling up with the old which is too foul and decayed, to be allowed to mingle with what the future may bring.
We might say the same thing about the life of rights or the economic life in detail as about the wider institutions of mankind. Everywhere men's words betray that their thoughts are inadequate to master facts. We may say that the former leading and dominant class has the practical experience but lacks the effective ideas necessary to the practice of life. Opposed to these circles stands the great mass of the proletariat which has educated itself in a rigorous school of Marxian thought for half a century. It is not enough to-day merely. to look round on the proletariat to find out how they are thinking. It is comparatively extraordinarily easy to refute logically what the masses and their leaders think about economic institutions. That does not much matter: what does matter is the historical fact that in their heart and soul lies a sort of precipitate, formed out of the intensely active thoughts which have been converted into a "proletarian theory." This theory, which might, after the break-down of the old order have proved itself much more effective than it has in actual practice, shows a peculiarity which is quite comprehensible. For as a result of the way in which the social evolution of mankind has moved under the influence of the capitalist order and modern technical science during the last three to four hundred years — especially during the nineteenth century — the masses have been more and more closely confined within the economic system, so confined that each man was restricted to one small, limited piece of work. This strictly limited piece of work was fundamentally all he saw of the reality of the increasingly extending economic life.
What wonder that the workman experienced, in the effect on body and soul, that under the influence of technical science and private capital, developed by the new life of economics, he could not see the mainsprings which moved it. He might be the "worker" in this life, but his social position prevented him from looking rightly into its ordering, into the way in which it was controlled. It is quite comprehensible that as a result of such facts something grew up of which the fruits are before us; certain subconscious impulses and demands of the masses became a far-reaching socialist theory, really fundamentally alien to economic and other social facts, since the proletariat could gain no insight into the actual driving forces behind the facts and simply had to accept the one-sided ideas derived from Marx. So we find that in the course of years, various things have eaten into the feelings of the masses which may in reality be ever so deeply justified but which, all the same, miss the facts. I should like to, give as an example the enormous effect of one slogan, amongst others poured out over the proletariat by its leaders. "In future no production for the sake of producing — production only, for consumption." Certainly a remark to the purpose, with the merit (rare in slogans) of being absolutely true; but becoming an unreal abstraction, elusive, when carried to its logical conclusion with practical sense and real insight into economic conditions. The chief thing in practice is "how things are made" — there is no meaning in the clamour" produce only for consumption" from a practical point of view. It calls up in the soul the idea of how beautiful the economic life could be if profit were ignored and consumption only were of consequence! But there is no indication whatever in this phrase as to how the structure of the economic life could be arranged so as to give effect to what is expressed in these words. Many other catchwords (of which we shall touch on some) have the same defect. They often have their origin in deep truths yet, when adopted as party slogans of the proletariat, have become abstractions, just Utopian pointers to an indefinite future. If we would be honest with the proletariat, we must say that this unfortunate proletariat which is raising its just claims lives as in a cloud of views which are theory, it is true, but remote from the facts of life, because they have no contact with the facts and are placed in an isolation from whence they can survey only a single corner of life.
That is the conflict to which I would draw your attention — on the one side the attitude of the ruling classes who have power over the facts, but no idea how to use it to control them: on the other, the proletariat with its acquired, abstract ideas which have no correspondence with the facts.
If we try to describe the genesis of all this in a few words, taking note of active forces and impulses, more essentially important than anything that has occurred hitherto in the course of human history, we can only rightly estimate expressions like "the lack of ideas in the practice of our leaders " and "the unpractical theory of the proletariat" if we have a feeling of the torrent pouring in the present-day development of humanity with such vigour and mutually destructive force. The existence of such a contrast between the attitude of soul of the dominant classes and that of the proletariat leads, and has led, to a deep cleavage between the thinking, feeling, willing and actions of the former and all the longings, wishes and impulses of the latter. We do not even understand adequately what is the demand of our age, of which we hear the first faint tone from the proletariat. We may understand the form of the words when they mention the theory of surplus-value, i.e., the theory that we should produce only for consumption, or that of transformation of private ownership into common property; but what are they in reality as expression of their wishes and ideas? Can they be regarded merely as a subject for logical criticism by the leaders of the well-to-do? It is hard to find a more naïve response than that of a director of some company who hears the "surplus value” theory from his work-people and answers that the surplus, made up of banknotes, etc., is so small that, divided among them, there would be no share for each worth having. I repeat, it is hopelessly naïve to deal in this way with the theory of "surplus value." The "calculation " of the directors is obvious and incontrovertible, but that is not the real point. To try to refute what are the actual words of the proletarian theory is just like having a thermometer in a room to indicate the temperature and applying a flame to the tube because it registers too low a temperature to please us. By this temporary expedient of tampering with the thermometer we do not occupy ourselves with the root-cause of the trouble. To take proletarian theory to-day and try to refute it is simple-minded, for such theories are nothing really but to use a classroom word — "indices" of something lying much deeper. Just as a thermometer indicates the temperature of a room, but does not produce it, so proletarian theories are a sort of instrument by which we can recognize the forces active in the social question from this aspect, now and in the immediate future. In this we are much too easy-going. The question has been regarded as purely economic because it first meets us in the economic sphere, based on the demands of the proletariat, hitherto entangled in economic life during the epoch of private capitalism and technical science: we have not seen lying behind the theories all that is betokened by them concerning capital, labour and goods. The workman experiences the whole sphere of human life in the economic field; therefore the social question appears to him entirely in an economic perspective.
Anybody who has the opportunity to acquire wider views is bound to see how clearly three spheres of life are to be distinguished, in which three fundamental aspects of the social question present themselves. To have learnt through his life's destiny not only to think about the masses or have feelings concerning them, but to think and feel with them, will have taught him to observe what is seething in the soul-depths of their best members, even in the phrases which run through all socialist theories - as their keywords. What are these?
First we have the phrase "surplus value," of which I have already spoken. Association as man to man with the proletariat is enough to show how deeply this phrase has sunk into their hearts. It is this sinking-in that matters, not the verification of any theory. Anyone who, like myself, has worked in Berlin at the ‘Workers' School founded by Wilhelm Liebknecht, while decisive events were taking place within the social movements of the new era, will know more about this question that I have, touched upon, through practical life, than perhaps some captain of industry does, especially if the latter should be — how shall I phrase it inoffensively — a revolution-profiteer, a superficial chatterer about revolution, even as we had war-profiteers. "Surplus value" was generally taken to mean something of this sort: the proletariat works productively and produces goods of some kind: the capitalist puts them on the market and gives the worker just sufficient wage to keep him alive, in order that he may continue to produce. Anything over and above this is "surplus value." As Walter Rathenau says — although in social questions he falls into great errors — it is true that this surplus value, divided, would not improve the condition of the masses at all; but through processes of calculation which float in space we do not arrive at the facts; we must deal with this surplus value correctly as to its social significance. Can it have as little, real existence as Rathenau, for instance, “accurately" reckons? In that case there would be in Berlin no theatres, no high schools, no public school, nothing of what we call cultural life, the life dealing with the human spirit; since that, for the most part, is really contained in the "surplus value." It does not really matter how this value is forced to the surf ace as "goods" or "cash in circulation": it is in this catchword itself that we find expressed the whole relation of our modern cultural life to the wide masses of the people who cannot directly participate in it.
Anyone who has taught for years amongst the workers and has taken the trouble to teach directly out of our common human feelings, speaking as man to man, will know what a spiritual education must be like if it is to be universally human and, further, how the form of education will differ from our present one, which has grown up during the last three or four hundred years under the influence of an economic order based on private capital and technical organization. If I may once again speak personally, to illustrate the general fact — I was well aware when I spoke to the workers, in lecturing or teaching, that in their souls kindred strings were sounding and that they were receiving a knowledge which they could absorb. But a time came when the proletariat had to follow the fashion and share in "education" — that education which was, from a spiritual point of view, the outcome of the dominant culture. They had to be taken to the museums and shown what had developed out of the experience of the ruling middle classes. Then if men were honest they must have known (if not, they invented all sorts of phrases about "popular education " and the like) that there was no bridge between the spiritual culture and education of the ruling classes and the spiritual needs and longings of the proletariat. Art, science, religion can only be understood if they issue from circles with which one has some common social ground, so that one can share their social feelings and attitude: not where there is an abyss between those who are supposed to enjoy culture, and those who can actually enjoy it. Here there was a vast cultural lie, and nowadays no benevolent mask must be spread over these things, but they must be brought into clear daylight. The lie consisted in setting up "People’s High Schools" or “Educational Schools" in which an education was to be shared by the masses without any possible bridge over which it could pass to them. The proletariat stood on one side of the abyss, looked over it at the art, science, religion, ethics, which had been produced by the leading classes, did not understand them, and took them to be something which only concerned those classes, a sort of luxury. There they saw the practical application of the "surplus value" which they had talked about, but they actually felt quite different from what was spoken in this "thermometer" language about surplus value. They felt: here is a spiritual life created by what we produce, by our labour, from which, however, we are excluded!
This is the way in which we must approach the question of the surplus-value, not theoretically, but as it really and vitally exists in life. Then, too, we can see the essential problem of the social question taken as a whole — its spiritual side. We can see that, side by side with the rise of the new technical science and new capitalist economics, arose an intellectual life only capable of living within the souls of men who were divided by a deep golf from the great masses to whose ,education they gave inadequate attention and from which they held aloof. The tragedy of it! The ruling classes discuss these problems in well-warmed, mirrored rooms, speaking of their brotherly love for all men, our duty to love all men, or of the Christian virtues, while a fire warms them which is fed with coals from the mines into which children of nine, eleven, thirteen years of age are sent down. In the middle of the nineteenth century this was literally so (things have improved since then, not, through any merit of the ruling classes but through the demands of the proletariat); these children went down before sunrise and only came up again after sunset, so that they actually never saw the sun the whole week through.
We are assumed to be agitating nowadays if we talk like this. Not at all! We have to say these things to show how the cultural life of the last few hundred years is separated from the real life of men. People have talked in abstractions about morality, virtue, religion, while their real practical life was in no way touched by the talk of brotherliness, love of one's neighbour, Christianity and so forth. Here, then, confronts us, as a distinct aspect of the social question, the spiritual problem. We stand before the whole sweep of the spiritual life especially as it relates to men of the present age and the immediate future in the realm of teaching and education. As a result of the way in which the territories of dukes or princes have been formed into single state-economics, the intellectual life in its wider form has been absorbed by the State organization. It is to-day a source of pride. that education has torn itself away, as regards science, as regards intellectual life generally, from its medieval association with religion and theology. Proudly it is asserted and repeated: "In the Middle Ages the intellectual and scientific life were in leading-strings to religion and theology." Of course we do not want to have these times back; we must move forward, not backward. We are living in different times: we must not simply point in pride to the way in which intellectual life was train-bearer to the Church in the Middle Ages. Something different is demanded. Let us take an example not so very far away.
A very distinguished scientist, for whom I have great respect (I do not mention these things in order to disparage people) — the Secretary of the Berlin Academy of Sciences — was speaking of the relation of this Academy to the State. He said, in a well-considered speech, that the members of this Academy regarded it as one of their highest distinctions to be "the scientific bodyguard of the Hohenzollerns." That is only one example of what might be repeated a thousand fold, bringing to our lips the question: "What nowadays has taken the place of the Church which formerly used intellectual life as its train-bearer?” Nor were things so bad in the recent past as they must become, if such State regulations were to be made as would favour the growth of that appalling State-regulation of teaching which has arisen in Eastern Europe and which has conclusively proved that it would bring about the death of all culture. We must look not only into the past, but above all into the future and assert that the time has come when intellectual and spiritual life must exist as a self-dependent part of the social organism and must be under its own control.
When a thing like this is mentioned, we are met by all sorts of prejudices, and we are reckoned mad if we cannot appreciate the enormous blessings to be found in State-control of education. But healthy conditions will never be found until education and everything connected with instruction, including , the teachers from the lowest form to the highest grade in the public schools, passes from the control of the State into its own control. That is one of the great objectives we must specially aim at to-day.
The men who first showed me any friendliness when it came actually to fitting the idea of the threefold organization into the present age are those to whom we owe the first really free Einheitsschule in Stuttgart. In connection with the Waldorf-Astoria Factory, we are establishing the first model Einheitsschule, based on the science of pedagogy and teaching which has its origin in the true and real knowledge of the growing human being. Social class and rank make no real difference to him between the seventh and fifteenth years — all human beings are at the same stage. But to be able to teach and educate him means learning first to understand him. As it fell to me to give the preliminary course to the teachers working at the school, there came under my notice certain things which are nowadays taken as a matter of course. The serious significance of such an acceptation is not realized. It has only developed fully in the last decades. Since these things are the subject of practical life-work and must form its experience, I may remark, on such an occasion as this, that my comments on them arise from no irresponsible youthful mind, I speak as one who has already reached the sixties. I can remember how in days gone by the syllabus was short: the subject of teaching was presented by means of lectures, books and the experiences of men who had living ideas of education, who were creative spiritually. But to-day we have no short syllabus; instead, we have thick books which not only direct us to take one subject in one year, another in another, but tell us how to teach it. What should be the subject of free instruction is to be — indeed is — a matter of regulations. Unless we have a clear, adequate feeling of how unsocial all this is, we shall not be ready to collaborate in the real healing of mankind. Therefore, in the establishment of a spiritual, intellectual life which is free and independent of the State lies the first, central problem of the social question. This is the first of the three self-dependent members of the threefold organism which we have to set up. If we represent these facts, pointing out how healthy it may be to have no authority within the spiritual part of the social organism save that of those who take some active part in it, then the teaching of the future will be seen to have little kinship with that of the present-day unitary State. The whole of life will resemble a model republic. Teaching will be created out of the spirit, to satisfy the demands of education, not given according to the claims of regulations. We shall not merely enquire what standard shall be set in the socialized State for a pupil of thirteen or seventeen, but what lies deeply in man himself, which we can draw out of him in such a way that when these forces, liberated from the depths of his being, are at his disposal, he will not be weak-willed or crushed, as so many men are to-day, but will be equal to his destiny and able to direct his forces with determination to the tasks of his life. This points us to the first member of the threefold social order.
To give utterance to such thoughts as these brings questions, objections, like the one I had to meet in a South German city. I was answered in the discussion at the end of a lecture by a secondary school teacher, somewhat in this wise: "We Germans shall be a poor nation in the future, and here is a man who wants to make the spiritual and intellectual life independent: a poor people cannot pay for that, there will be no money, therefore we shall have to draw on the national exchequer and pay for education out of the taxes. What becomes of independence then? How can we refuse the right of the State to inspect, when the State is the source of income? " I could only reply that it seemed strange to me for the teacher to believe that what was drawn from the Treasury as taxes grew there somehow or other, and would not in future come out of the pockets of the "poor nation." What strikes me most is the lack of thought everywhere. We need to develop a real practical thinking which sees into the facts of life. That will give us practical suggestions which can be carried out.
Further, just as on the one hand the spiritual life, in education, etc., must become independent, so on the other hand must the economic life. Now, two demands, rather remarkably, have lately arisen from the depths of human nature, the one for Democracy, the other for Socialism. They contradict one another. Before the War the two contradictory impulses were thrust into each other's company and a party was even founded with the title "Social Democratic." You might as well talk of "wooden iron." They are contradictory, yet both are noble and honest demands of our times. Since then, the catastrophe of the War has passed over us, with all its consequences, and now there is a new form for the social demands and a "democratic Parliament " is rejected. When such a theoretical demand, entirely unaccompanied by knowledge of the facts, with its catchwords of an abstract kind, like " the seizure of political power " or " the dictatorship of the proletariat " and the like, is pushed forward, this originates in the depths of socialist feeling, but it shows that people have come to realize the contradiction between that attitude and the democratic one. In future, we shall have to take into account the realities of life, not be content with catchwords: we shall realize that a socialist is quite right when he feels there is something repellent about democracy. And the democrat is right when he finds "the dictatorship of the proletariat " an alarming prospect. What are the real facts in this sphere?
We must observe the economic life in its connection with the State in the same way as we did the life of the mind and spirit. A common idea of modern times, especially amongst people who consider themselves advanced thinkers, is that the State should more and more participate in industry. Post office, railways, should be under State control, and its authority should be even more widely extended. This is a very comprehensive subject to touch upon in a few words; and since I must limit myself to a short lecture, I must risk being charged with superficiality in making these remarks, which are, however, really to the point, and can be supported by countless instances from modern history. They are far from being superficial. This idea of the "advanced" thinkers will reveal itself in its true form if we take socialism seriously. Moreover, we can ascertain that true form if we so regard a remark made by Friedrich Engels in one of his most brilliant moments, in his book The Development of Socialism from Utopianism to Science. There he says "If we survey the State, in its present development, we find that it includes management of branches of production and control of the distribution of goods; but, inasmuch as it has undertaken economic management, at the same time it controls men." The State laid down the laws according to which men who stand within the economic life must act whether within or outside of their economic activities. In future this must become different.
Engels was quite right. It was his opinion that within the sphere of economic production itself there should be no more control of men: control should be limited to the production and distribution of goods. A right view, but only half or one-quarter of the truth: because the laws effective within the economic sphere have hitherto coincided with the life of the State, and if the State is removed as controller and manager of economics, the economic sphere must have a place of its own, not one from which men shall be ruled from a centre, but where they will rule themselves democratically.
That means that these two impulses, democracy and socialism, point to the fact that by the side of the independent spiritual member of the social organism there must be two other separate spheres, covering what remains of the function of the former type of State. These two spheres are the control of economic life and the domain of public rights, this latter including everything on which a man is entitled to give judgment when he is of age. What is the meaning of the demand for democracy? It means that, as a matter of history, humanity is becoming capable of deciding, in the sphere of the free State and public rights, everything in which all men are equal, every question on which any man who is of age can pronounce, whether directly through a referendum, or indirectly by representation. In future, therefore, we must have an independent sphere of rights, which will take the place of the old State built up of power and might. We can never have a proper State based on law and right, unless the sphere of law is limited to those matters on which every adult human being is capable of judgment. There has been a good deal of talk on this subject among the workers, though, once again, we can only take their words as a social thermometer. There is a remark of Karl Marx which has sunk deeply into their feelings: "It is an existence unworthy of a human being when a worker must sell his labour-power in the market, as if it were a commodity: we pay for a commodity at its market price and we pay for labour-power by means of wages which are the price of this commodity, labour-power."
This is a remark which has been significant in the development of modern humanity, not so much through its actual content as through the electrical effect it has had on the proletariat, an effect of which the ruling classes can hardly form any idea. What is at the bottom of it all? In the economic circuit, i.e., in the production, distribution and consumption of goods, which alone belong to this circuit, the regulation of labour, according to amount, time and character, etc., has been placed. We shall never have a healthy condition of things in this sphere until the character, amount and time of human work has been taken out of the economic circuit, whether the work be physical or intellectual. The actual regulation of labour-power does not belong to the economic life, in which the economically stronger can impose the type of work upon the economically weaker. The regulation of work as between man and man, what one man does for another, should belong to the sphere of law and right, where each adult human being is on a level with every other. How much work one human being has to do for another ought never to be decided on economic grounds, but solely on principles which will develop in the State of the future, the State of Rights as opposed to the present State of Might.
Here again we meet with a mass of prejudices. It is a commonplace nowadays to maintain that so long as the economic order is settled by the conditions of a free market, so long will it be natural for labour to depend on production and the price of commodities. But if we imagine that things must always go on as they do now, we are shutting our eyes to the different demands which are growing up as history unrolls. In future we shall see, for instance, how foolish it would be for men in control of some industry to meet and, examining their accounts for a certain year, to say: "We produced so much last year. This year, to equal that total we shall need so many days of rain, so many of sunshine, etc." We cannot dictate to Nature to accommodate herself to our prices; prices must be subject to Nature-conditions. On the one side economic life is bounded by natural conditions, on the other by the State of Law or Rights, through which, as we have seen, labour has to be regulated. Hours of work must be settled on purely democratic grounds and prices will follow them, regulated according to natural conditions, as is the case in agriculture. We have not to consider alteration in a few minor details of the system: we must change our whole way of thinking and learning. The unrest created at present in our industrial life will never disappear until labour-power is judged on an independent democratic basis, when one adult human being stands over against his fellow as equal and can, as free man, bring his work into the independent economic life, in which agreements about production will be made, not about work. This must be understood.
I can but touch on these things in the short time at my disposal. I would gladly give a whole course of lectures to deal with them, but that is impossible. I must just indicate what form this third member, the economic life, must take in the threefold social organism of the future.
In this economic sphere there must not be, as in the past, control of capital, of land, of means of production (which incidently is control of capital) and of labour: we may only admit control of the production, distribution and consumption of goods. And how is the essential fact of an economic life which is to be based only on knowledge of facts and on practical ability — this "settling of prices" — to be achieved? It must not be decided by the chances of a free market as has been the case hitherto in both national-economy and world- economy. By means of the Associations which will come into being to suit the circumstances existing between the various branches of production and consumption — Associations which will be composed of men whose position is justified by their knowledge of facts and practical ability — we shall obtain organically and rationally what is nowadays attained through crises in the chances of a free market. In the future, when a decision as to the kind and character, of human labour has to be made in the Rights State, it will happen in the economic life that a man will receive in return for his product enough exchange-values to supply his needs until he can produce another such product. To give a rough superficial example, I might explain that, supposing I produce a pair of boots, I must be able, through the mutually-fixed values, to get as much goods in exchange for my boots as I shall require for my needs until I have made another pair. There will have to be arrangements within the society for supplying the needs of widows, orphans, the sick, of education, etc., but the actual regulation of prices in this way — and that alone will be the task of the economic organization — will depend on the formation of Corporations (whether elected, or nominated from the Associations formed among the various branches of production combined with the Associations of consumers) whose business it will be to get at true prices in real life.
This can only be achieved if the whole economic life (not planned after a Möllendorff scheme, but in a living fashion) is so ordered that, for instance, notice is taken of actual conditions. Say that some particular article shows a tendency to become too expensive: that means that it is too scarce. Workmen must be diverted to that branch of production, through some form of agreement, in order to produce more of it. If some article is too cheap, factories must close down and the workers be transferred to other factories. “It is all very difficult," people reply when we mention this sort of thing to-day: but they should realize that to reject it as difficult, and to prefer to play about with minor improvements in social conditions, means to preserve present conditions as they are. What I have said shows you that, as a result of the Associations created simply out of the economic life, economic life can be made self-dependent, controlled only by the economic forces themselves instead of being under the aegis of the State: and in such a way that within this self-dependent control the initiative of the individual will be maintained as much as possible. This cannot be done by a planned economy, by the establishment of a common organization of the means of production, but only by the Associations belonging to such free branches of production and their agreement with the consumers' Associations.
It would be a terrible mistake to push to extremes the State control which has hitherto been under the direction of the ruling classes, and extend "Corporations" over the whole life of the State, using the framework of the State for the purpose, a procedure which could but undermine all connection between such a planned economy and the economic forces outside it. The Associations, on the other hand, as part of the Threefold Organization, would aim particularly at maintaining the free initiative of those engaged in industry and at keeping open everything which unites a closed economic circuit with other economic circuits without.
Many things would look very different — for example, something I can only indicate by an analogy. Socialist doctrine demands "the abolition of private property " and "transformation of private possessions into communal, property " — mere unmeaning words, which can signify nothing to a man with practical knowledge of affairs. Yet they might have a meaning — which I can describe to you in pictorial fashion. We are very proud nowadays, for instance, of our philosophers, and in one way they do think fairly accurately, that is, where intellectual or spiritual work is concerned. In the material sphere they do not manage to think in the same healthy way. In the matter of intellectual possessions it is realized that what is produced in that realm by anyone is his own work, he has to be present. Nobody talks of its being produced by some common economy or corporate industry. Everything here must be left to the individual, for we get the best result when he is present with his faculties and talents at the work, not when he is cut off from it; but from a social aspect we think that thirty years or less after his death the spiritual product should no longer be the property of his heirs, but of any person who can best make it accessible to the community. That seems natural to us, because we do not value spiritual product as anything peculiar. But we make no effort, in the case of material property, to treat it in the same way, and see that it should only remain private as long as a man is in contact with it with all his faculties. When this is no longer the case it should pass over — not to the community (which has no real being) bringing fearful corruption in its train, but to the man who could in his turn by use of his faculties put it to the best use for the community.
It is easy enough to see clearly if we think impartially. We have undertaken to found a school for Spiritual Science, the Goetheanum, at Dornach, near Basel, in Switzerland. This has been its title ever since the world became "Woodrow-Wilsonized" and it became necessary for Germany's spiritual life-treasure to be boldly displayed before the world. A very different thing, this, from ordinary Chauvinism — a Goetheanum in a foreign country as the representative of German spiritual life. Further, it is being built, and it will be controlled, by those who have the capacities to call it into being; but to whom will it belong when these people are no longer among the living? It will not pass by inheritance to anyone, but to those who can control it best in the service of humanity. Actually it belongs to nobody. Social thought in economics will bring into being the things which are necessary for health in the future. I have dealt more fully with the circulation of private property in my Three fold Commonwealth, where I have shown how the social organism must be divided into three members, separate but co-operating as such:
(a) The spiritual organization with control of itself on the basis of a free spiritual life.
(b) The organisation of the State with political rights and with democratic control based on the judgment of every grown-up person.
(c) An economic life placed under the control only of individuals, who have shown themselves expert and competent, and their Associations and Corporations.
All this seems so new that once when I was talking of it in Germany, someone objected that, I was dividing the State (which must be a unity) into three parts. I could only ask in reply whether I should be dividing a horse into parts if I said it must stand on its four legs? Or is a horse a unity only if it stands on one leg? Just as little can one expect that the social life should be an abstract unity, if such a unity could exist at all. We must not in the future allow ourselves to be hypnotized by the abstract idea of the "unitary State"; we must see that it must be divided into three members on which it can be supported — into a free spiritual sphere controlling itself, an organization of rights with democratic legislation, and an economic organization with expert and competent economic control.
One-half of a great truth was uttered more than a hundred years ago in Western Europe, in the words: "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity," three ideals which were capable of being graven deep into the hearts and souls of men: but it was not fools or madmen who maintained in the nineteenth century that these ideals were really contradictory, that where absolute equality rules, neither freedom nor fraternity can exist. These objections were sound, but only because they were made at a time when men were obsessed by the idea of the so-called "unitary State." Directly we free ourselves from the hypnotism of this idea and can understand the necessity for the threefold social organism we shall speak otherwise.
I hope you will allow me in closing, to sum up in a comparison what I fain would discuss at greater, length. I have only been able to give an outline sketch of what I meant: I know I have but hinted at what needs a comprehensive description to be understood; but in conclusion I should like to point out what a hypnotic effect the "unitary State " idea has had on men, and how they have let the unitary State be dominated by the three great ideals of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity." We shall have to change that idea. At present people look on the Unitary State as a sort of divinity. In this, their attitude is like Faust's attitude towards the sixteen-year-old Gretchen. It is like the lessons which Faust gave to the child Gretchen, suited to her years, but usually regarded by philosophers as something highly philosophical. There Faust says, "The All-enfolding, the All-upholding, folds and upholds he not thee, me, Himself? " (Faust, Part I, Scene XVI) This is almost the same view as of the Unitary State. Men are hypnotized by it as by an idol of unity and cannot see that this unitary picture must become threefold for the health of mankind in the future. Many a manufacturer would be only too glad to speak to his work-people about the State as Faust speaks to Gretchen: "The all-enfolding, all-upholding State, does it not enfold and uphold you, myself, itself? " — only he would have to clap his hand over his mouth lest he should say "myself " too loudly! The necessity of the threefold ordering must be realized, especially amongst the workers, but that will only be when their eyes are opened to the need. In future it will not be the cry of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity," with all the contradictions involved in these ideals. They will hold sway, but the independent spiritual life will be the domain of "Liberty " for there it is justified. "Equality" will be the rule in the democratic State, where all grown men will be equal in rights; finally, "Fraternity " will hold dominion in the economic life, independently controlled, supporting and sustaining every one. Thus applied to the three divisions of the social organism the three ideals no longer contradict each other.
And now, though we look in agony at what has happened at Versailles, seeing in it the starting-point of much misery, poverty and pain, yet we can still hope. Things external can be taken from us, yet if we have the vigour to reach back over the years in which we were false to our own past to the Goetheanism of the period at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when Lessing, Herder, Schiller, Goethe and others were active in other spheres: if we have the vigour to reach back in our time of need, in the strength of our own inner being, to the great glories of Central Europe, then, in spite of the stress of our times, will peal forth from Central Europe the complement to the halftruth of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity " which rang out a hundred years ago, the other half — perhaps in external dependence, but certainly in inner freedom and independence.
Liberty in the Life of the Spirit.
Equality in the democratic Life of Rights.
Fraternity in the Economic Life.
In these words we can sum tap what men must think and say and feel if they are to comprehend the Social Question in its entirety. May it be received and grasped by many, many minds, so that what is only a question to-day may be the practice of tomorrow.