|American Journalists||Novelists & Poets||First World War|
William English Walling
William English Walling, the son of Willoughby Walling, was born in Louisville in 1877. The son of a rich Kentucky former slaveholding family and the grandson of William Hayden English, the Democratic candidate for vice president in 1880. Willoughby Walling, a physician, inherited a fortune in real estate, and his mother, Rosalind English Walling, was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Walling attended Trinity Hall, an Episcopal school for boys near Louisville. He was an outstanding student and his headmaster commented: "English acquits himself in his studies with the usual credit... the boy is a constant delight. My laborious and responsible avocation is in the large a thankless and discouraging one, but the burden is always the lighter for such boys as yours." Walling told his father that he had scored 500 in arithmetic and "500 is perfect and I am the only boy in school who got perfect in anything."
Walling's grandfather died while studying at the University of Chicago. He received a lump sum large enough for an income of ten thousand dollars a year. James Boylan, the author of Revolutionary Lives (1998), has argued: "He did particularly well in mathematics, with an A-plus in calculus. He encountered either heavier going or tougher grading in political science and economics. Or perhaps he was already formulating dissenting views that were less likely to earn high grades." He studied under the radical economist, Thorstein Veblen. During this period he became a socialist.
After graduating in 1897 he joined the Hull House Settlement in Chicago and committed himself to live on the equivalent of the wages of a laborer. He also did postgraduate work in sociology with John Dewey. Walling was also employed as a factory inspector before moving to New York City where he worked with Lillian Wald, the founder of the Henry Street Settlement. In 1902 he visited England where he met Mary MacArthur, head of the Women's Protective and Provident League.
William English Walling
In November, 1903, Walling attended the American Federation of Labour (AFL) annual convention in Boston. He met Mary Kenney O'Sullivan and told her about Britain's Women's Protective and Provident League. He invited her to Hull House where she met other women interested in trade unionism. This included Jane Addams, Mary McDowell, Alice Hamilton, Ida Rauh, Florence Kelley, Edith Abbott, Grace Abbott, Crystal Eastman and Sophonisba Breckinridge.
During this period he met Anna Strunsky, the former girlfriend of the young writer, Jack London. The couple had written the novel, The Kempton-Wace Letters (1903), together. Strunsky was also the founder of Friends of Russian Freedom in San Francisco. Walling was very attracted towards Strunsky but told a friend that her relationship with London meant that he was unable to marry her. "Anna has been living with a man for six or seven years. I couldn't love her."
Walling visited Paris in 1905. While in the city he met sixteen-year-old, Anna Berthe Grunspan, a recent arrival from Russia. He asked her if she was an "Hebrew". When she said she was, he replied that he was "very fond of Hebrew ladies". According to his biographer, James Boylan: "She recently had left school to become a shop girl. She lived with her family in quarters so humble that, she recalled later, she tried to keep Walling from paying a call. He began to see her several times a week, then every night. They entered a sexual liaison that, in his account, began within a few days... Her persuaded her to quit her job, assuring her that he would give her money equivalent to her pay." Walling took her on holiday to Germany. In order to get a room in a hotel in Berlin he was forced to claim that Anna was his wife. She later claimed that she assumed that they now were engaged to be married.
After he returned to the United States he resumed his relationship with Anna Strunsky. After arriving in St. Petersburg to witness the impact of the 1905 Russian Revolution, he sent her a telegram inviting her and her sister Rose, to join him. "He (Walling) met us at the train, dressed in a big Russian coat and an astrakhan cap. I kissed him." Strunsky was excited by the revolutionary atmosphere of the city. "On the streets, they were selling pamphlets, the covers of which were decorated with the portraits of Karl Marx, Bakunin, Kropotkin. In the windows of book shops were displayed photographs of Sophi Perovski, who was executed for taking part in the assassination of Alexander II; of Vera Zassulich, the first to commit a deed of violence for political reasons in modern Russia; of Vera Figner, whose resurrection from the Fortress of Schlusselburg had just taken place... More astounding... were the cartoons which appeared several times a day were bought as quickly as they could be had - cartoons portraying the Czar swimming in a sea of blood, mice gnawing away the foundation of the throne... Was I dreaming? Free press, free speech, free assemblage in Russia."
On 26th January, 1906, Walling wrote to his parents about the woman he intended to marry: "She is considered by Mr. Brett the manager of Macmillans as nothing less than a genius in her work as a writer. She is the most known speaker on the Coast. She is loved, sometimes too much, by everybody that knows her - literary men, Settlement people, Socialists. All my friends know her. She is young (26) and very healthy and strong... Of course she is a Jewess and her name is Anna Strunsky (but I hope to improve that - at least in private life - but we haven't spoken much of such things).
Strunsky wrote to her father: "We are in the city where you have spent so many happy and so many bitter years... I found Russia in the same hour that I found love. It was fated. Russia had stood for quite other things, but the man I love and who loves me, so tenderly, dear, as tenderly as mother, and as deeply has open vistas before me and changed the face of things forever." She confided in her diary: "Henceforth I am no longer alone. I am more afraid of this than a sick child alone in the dark."
Walling and Strunsky married in Paris in 1906. The San Francisco Call newspaper carried the headline: "Girl Socialist Wins Millionaire". Another newspaper had the headline: "Socialism Finds Bride for a Rich Yankee in Russia". The Chicago American compared their marriage to those of James Phelps Stokes and Rose Pastor and Leroy Scott and Miriam Finn, two rich men who married left-wing Jewish immigrants.
Walling wrote to his father-in-law: "Anna and I begin to see our lives together in a clearer light. We are talking of our love as much as ever but we begin to speak of our lives too now. This means some very great changes on the part of both. Neither of our lives followed ordinary channels and the adjustment means a great deal. Often it is the woman that does most of the adjusting. With us it is not so. Anna is a personality and a personage in her work and the beautiful and noble influence she must have on the world means as much to me as it does to her". Their first child, born in 1908, died when only five days old. The following year Anna had a miscarriage. Over the next few years Anna Walling gave birth to four children, Rosamond, Anna, Georgia, and William Hayden English.
In August, 1908, Walling and his wife witnessed the Springfield Riot in Illinois, where a white mob attacked local African Americans. During the riot two were lynched, six killed, and over 2,000 African Americans were forced to leave the city. In an article entitled, The Race War in the North, that he wrote for The Independent about the riot, Walling complained that "a large part of the white population" in the area were waging "permanent warfare with the Negro race". Walling argued that they only way to reduce this conflict was "to treat the Negro on a plane of absolute political and social equality".
Mary Ovington, a journalist working for the New York Evening Post, responded to the article by writing to Walling and at a meeting in New York they decided to form the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP). The first meeting of the NAACP was held on 12th February, 1909. Early members included Josephine Ruffin, Mary Talbert, Mary Church Terrell, Inez Milholland, Jane Addams, George Henry White, William Du Bois, Charles Edward Russell, John Dewey, Charles Darrow, Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannard Baker, Fanny Garrison Villard, Oswald Garrison Villard and Ida Wells-Barnett.
Anna Berthe Grunspan moved to New York City and on 21st February, 1911, the New York Times reported: "Anna Bertha Grunspan, a Russian girl, who spent most of her life in Paris, told a Supreme Court jury before Justice Giegerich yesterday the story on which she hopes to recover $100,000 for breach of promise from William English Walling, the wealthy Socialist and husband of Anna Strunsky Walling, a settlement worker and writer on Russian politics. Walling denies that he ever promised to marry Miss Grunspan, who now lives at 245 East Thirtieth Street."
Miss Grunspan told the court: "He told me that I was the sweetest and dearest woman on earth and that he ought to know, because he had been all over the world. He said I would make him the happiest man in the world if I would marry him. He said he was rich and that it was criminal for me to work when he had so much money." On 29th July, 1905, in the company of her parents "put a new ring, with a design of three leaves and studded with two pearls and a diamond, on her finger".
The New York World reported that: "Mrs. Walling - Anna Strunsky, authoress and revolutionist - was present in court... Several hundred comrades, men and women, packed the big courtroom. At the recesses they formed excited groups and discussed the trial in many languages." Strunsky also gave evidence in the case. Her mother-in-law, Rosalind English Walling, later recalled: "I think Anna's corroboration of her husband's testimony was good, and she said just what she ought to have said."
During the trial Anna Berthe Grunspan attacked the behavior of Walling in the court: "Oh, that man, that man, I can't stand the way he's looking at me. His look goes right through me, and it's the nastiest kind of a look. It gives me the horrors. And then, too, the way he and that woman, his wife, chuckle and laugh together." Grunspan also complained about Strunsky smiling and laughing in court.
The all male jury found Walling not guilty. However, the trial did have an impact on his image. Fred R. Moore, the editor of the New York Age, wrote: "We hope that no colored man or woman will in the future disgrace our race by inviting Mr. Walling in their home or ask him to speak at any public meeting." There were also complaints by the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and although he remained on the board he rarely attended meetings.
In 1912, Walling's friend, Max Eastman, became editor of the left-wing magazine, The Masses. Organised like a co-operative, artists and writers who contributed to the journal shared in its management. Walling joined the team as did Floyd Dell, John Reed, Crystal Eastman, Sherwood Anderson, Carl Sandburg, Upton Sinclair, Amy Lowell, Louise Bryant, John Sloan, Dorothy Day, Cornelia Barns, Alice Beach Winter, Art Young, Boardman Robinson, Robert Minor, K. R. Chamberlain, Stuart Davis, George Bellows and Maurice Becker.
William English Walling and Anna Strunsky
Walling argued in Socialism As It Is (1912): "Capitalism, in this new collectivist form, must bring about extremely deep-seated and far-reaching changes in society. And every step that it takes in the nationalization of industry and the appropriation of land rent would also be a step in Socialism, provided the rents and profits so turned into the coffers of the State were not used entirely for the benefit either of industry or of the community as a whole, as it is now constituted, but were reserved in part for the special benefit of the less wealthy, less educated, and less advantageously placed, so as gradually to equalize income, influence, and opportunity."
Paul M. Buhle has pointed out: "In 1912-14, his three major theoretical works appeared: Socialism As It Is, The Larger Aspects of Socialism, and Progressivism and After. Unevenly written, hurried, and repetitive, these now-forgotten studies constitute a monument to the attempted reconciliation of socialism with the Progressive Era reformism and simultaneously with social science. If Walling's conclusions proved correct, neither the Socialist Party nor a revolutionary alternative had any particular role to play in the foreseeable future."
Walling, like most of his friends, was totally against war. He argued that he supported "not only the ordinary Socialist opposition to all wars, but the taking of the most desperate means to prevent them". However, on the outbreak of the First World War he changed his mind on the subject as he agreed with H. G. Wells that the conflict would lead to a revolution against Kaiser Wilhelm II and Tsar Nicholas II. He wrote to Jack London in 1915: "I am an ultra-optimist about the war. I think it is altogether going to eclipse the French Revolution and have an infinitely greater result for good in all directions - before we are through with it... the everlasting smash of German civilization and all it stands for is worth almost any price." Walling added that "practically all of the men in the Socialist movement in the different countries are, to his mind, pro-Germans and pacifists, peace-at-any-price men."
Max Eastman, the editor of The Masses, disagreed with Walling and argued that the war had been caused by the imperialist competitive system. Eastman and journalists such as John Reed who reported the conflict for The Masses, argued that the USA should remain neutral. Most of those involved with the journal agreed with this view but there was a small minority, including Walling, John Spargo and Upton Sinclair, who wanted the USA to join the Allies against the Central Powers. When Walling failed to convince his fellow members he ceased to contribute to the journal.
Floyd Dell pointed out: "The Masses stood, according to the best of its bewildered lights, for peace, Socialism, and revolution; it told the truth, which just wasn't being done in America. William English Walling and other pro-Ally editors denounced us as pro-German and resigned. But new editors and contributors joined us. And most of the artists stayed with us; and the art-for-art's-sakers became among the most boldly propagandist of all." Walling also left the American Socialist Party because of its attitude towards the war.
Anna Strunsky disagreed with her husband over this issue of the First World War. Wheras he urged President Woodrow Wilson to join on the side of the allies, Strunsky joined the Women's Peace Party and argued for a negotiated peace. However, after the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917 she supported armed struggle to protect the gains of the revolution. Walling wrote to Strunsky in March, 1917: "Of course I think your proposal to attack in the back those who are giving up their lives for democracy, peace, and anti-militarism is criminal to the last degree. But the world is moving in spite of all you do to help the militarists and reactionaries. You are their accomplice and neither I nor mankind, nor the genuine idealists and revolutionaries of the world will ever forget or forgive what your kind has said and done in this great hour. If I fight it will be against the traitors to internationalism - I trust you will not be among them."
Strunsky replied: "A Revolutionist believes in the people and opposes the established order - my faith in the people and opposition to establishment law and order are deep and integral with my whole being. I am not a Junker because I not only give my consent to the rioters of the streets of Petrograd for what they did, but had I not you and our children I would not have hesitated, even at this distance to join them and fall by their side for a regenerated Russia. As it is, rich and wonderful as my life is with you and my children I do not at all feel that I belong wholly to myself and the time may come when I, the most passionate lover of life ever born, may go out to meet death for my Cause - as gallantly as any soldier ever did - but I will make sure that it is my Cause and not the Cause of my enemy... I have capitulated to your point of view about this War. What else can we do with the enemy at the door of the Russian Revolution but give him battle and rout him? Until the German people revolt we have to repel their advance upon freedom and democracy with the edge of the sword."
Walling came under attack from Emma Goldman for his pro-war stance. She wrote in Mother Earth in June, 1917: "The black scourge of war in its devastating effect upon the human mind has never been better illustrated than in the ravings of the American Socialists, Messrs. Russell, Stokes, Sinclair, Walling, etc... As to English Walling, he was the reddest of the red. Though muddled mentally he was always at white heat emotionally as syndicalist, revolutionist, dissenter, etc. With Charles Edward Russell as the conferee of Root, English Walling is the colleague of the New York Times and Stokes, Simons, Sinclair, Poole, etc. are still waiting tot the reward from Washington.... One might overlook the renegacy of a Charles Edward Russell. Nothing else need ever be expected from a journalist. But for men like Stokes and Walling to thus become the lackeys of Wall Street and Washington, is really too cheap and disgusting."
Anna Strunsky disagreed with her husband over this issue of the First World War and this created problems in their marriage. They also had arguments on the merits of the Russian Revolution. Whereas she was an enthusiastic supporter he was highly critical of the Bolsheviks. Walling had moved so far to the right he accused the Woodrow Wilson administration of being infected with bolshevism: "The evidence from public expressions of influential friends of Mr. Wilson is sufficient enough to make a book to prove the pro-Bolshevist tendencies of our government... I really believe that every revolutionary movement in Europe from the mild and revolutionary Socialism of Arthur Henderson to Bolshevism has been largely sustained by the Wilson appointees with the full knowledge of Mr. Wilson himself."
In 1932 William Walling filed for a Mexican divorce, but Anna refused to recognize the end of the marriage. She wrote to her son-in-law in November 1932: "English promised me he would come back when he left me. Eventually he will keep that promise... He has made mistakes and so have I, and for the most part each was the cause of the other's mistakes... Now we have come to an impasse, because I look upon my life with English as a collaboration. He cannot ask me to write the wrong ending to the book we have been writing all these years. All he can do is suspend publication - which is exactly what has happened."
On 27th September, 1933, Strunsky wrote in her diary: "I was wrong when I fell in love with him and began my life with him. I was never safe in his hands. He worked against me in the dark with my children, his mother, so passionately dear to me, my friends and family. He did worse - he worked against me in the dark with himself, in his own heart, for he never gave me a chance to explain, to defend myself."
Strunsky's old friend, Leonard D. Abbott, asked her to marry him. James Boylan, the author of Revolutionary Lives (1998), has pointed out: "She loved him (Abbott), she told herself, but she did not admit him to the status of lover. She remained always radical in public, Victorian and bourgeoisie in private."
William Walling died of pneumonia in Amsterdam on 12th September, 1936. On his bedside table was a new edition of Michel de Montaigne, with a passage marked: "Do not be afraid to die away from home, do not abandon travel when ill or old."
© John Simkin, May 2013
(1) William English Walling, The Independent (3rd September, 1908)
Either the spirit of the abolitionists, of Lincoln and of Lovejoy must be revived and we must come to treat the Negro on a plane of absolute political and social equality, or Vardaman and Tillman will soon have transferred the race war to the North. Yet who realizes the seriousness of the situation, and what large and powerful body of citizens is ready to come to their aid?
(2) Mary White Ovington, The Walls Came Tumbling Down (1947)
I saw the article as soon as it came out. Its description of rioting and brutality was terrible, but I was familiar with that. What made me put down the magazine and write to Walling within the hour was the appeal to citizens to come to the Negro's aid. My letter reached Walling in Chicago. He replied, telling me that he counted it of the utmost importance and that he would come shortly to New York where we must meet.
(3) William English Walling, The Masses (January, 1913)
We are beginning to realize that the forces of conservatism are composed as largely of the owners of jobs as the owners of capital. The literature of socialism and unionism has shown the change for several years. Debs has repeatedly said that the older unions have their basis in their desire of their members to protect themselves and their jobs against the great mass of workers. As the unskilled workers and machine operatives attempt in industry after industry, to improve their lot, they find that these owners of jobs oppose them almost as bitterly as the capitalists do.
(4) Paul M. Buhle, A Dreamer's Paradise Lost (1995)
Progressive movement at the edges of moderate political socialism was considered a friendly milieu for socialist agitation. The growing integration of the official labor movement into an overall national economic plan led their successors toward very different conclusions.
The uncomfortable perception spread that capitalism probably would not collapse of its own weight in the near future, nor would it yield to socialist reformers. A gap in the old socialist logic yawned, and a variety of ideas grew to fill the gap. These ideas, along with DeLeon's observations, formed the boundaries of Louis Fraina's critiques to come.
The most measured, optimistic assessment - against which Fraina very largely developed an original revolutionary critique - was made by William English Walling. Former popular muckraking journalist, a founder of the Niagrara movement (precursor to the NAACP), and longtime left-wing critic of Socialist Party policy, Walling reigned briefly as the party's prestigious unorthodox thinker. In 1912-14, his three major theoretical works appeared: Socialism As It Is, The Larger Aspects of Socialism, and Progressivism and After.
Unevenly written, hurried, and repetitive, these now-forgotten studies constitute a monument to the attempted reconciliation of socialism with the Progressive Era reformism and simultaneously with social science. If Walling's conclusions proved correct, neither the Socialist Party nor a revolutionary alternative had any particular role to play in the foreseeable future.
Walling, the first notable socialist intellectual to become an unabashed pragmatist, believed that science applied to sociology and philosophy had banished archaic materialism and idealism alike. In this frank philosophical revision - destined to be expounded again in the 1930s to 1950s by Sidney Hook and accepted by a later Lewis Corey as intellectual gospel - a great measure of socialism's traditions simply fell away. The Hegelian elements of Marxism, with their quasi-mystical roots in religious-utopian perfectionism, lacked any basis in a world of high technologies and experts. Pragmatism seemed to Walling a synonym for "Americanism," a philosophy that assumed that great negations (catastrophes such as ruinous war and total economic collapse) could no longer happen, at least not in American life."
The outdated anticipation of collapsing capitalism, according to Walling, had made socialists wrongly expect a single, decisive political class struggle. Socialists had thereby been blinded to the hidden strengths of the system, "the possibilities of transformation and progress that still inhere... the increased unity and power it will gain through State Capitalism, and the increased wealth that will come through a beneficent and scientific policy of producing." Socialists also had mistaken the actual course of the class struggle.
(5) William English Walling, Socialism As It Is (1912)
I have shown grounds for believing that the chief motives of the new reforms have nothing to do with the Labor vote. However much Mr. Lloyd George, as a political manager, may desire to control that vote, he knows he can do without it, as long as it is cast against the Tories. The Liberals will hold the balance of power, and their small capitalist followers will continue to carry out their capitalistic progressive and collectivist program - even without a Labor alliance. Nor does he fear that even the most radical of reforms, whether economic or political, will enable Labor to seize a larger share of the national income or of political power. On the contrary, he predicted in 1906 that it would be a generation before Labor could even hope to be sufficiently united to take the first step in Socialism. "Does any one believe," he asked, "that within a generation, to put it at the very lowest, we are likely to see in power a party pledged forcibly to nationalize land, railways, mines, quarries, factories, workshops, warehouses, shops, and all and every agency for the production and distribution of wealth? I say again, within a generation? He who entertains such hopes must indeed be a sanguine and simple-minded Socialist."
Mr. Lloyd George sought the support of Labor then, not because it was all-powerful, but because, for a generation at least, it seemed doomed to impotence - except as an aid to the Liberals. The logic of his position was really not that Labor ought to get a price for its political support, but that having no immediate alternative, being unable to form a majority either alone or with any other element than the Liberals, they should accept gladly anything that was offered, for example, a material reform like his Insurance bill - even though this measure is at bottom and in the long run purely capitalistic in its tendency.
And this is practically what Labor in Great Britain has done. It has supported a government all of whose acts strengthen capitalism in its new collectivist form, both economically and politically. And even if some day an isolated measure should be found to prove an exception, it would still remain true that the present policies considered as a whole are carrying the country rapidly and uninterruptedly in the direction of State Capitalism. And this is equally true of every other country, whether France, Germany, Australia, or the United States, where the new reform program is being put into execution.
Many "Socialistic" capitalists, however, are looking forward to a time when through complete political democracy they can secure a permanent popular majority of small capitalists and other more or less privileged classes, and so build their new society on a more solid basis. Let us assume that the railways, mines, and the leading "trusts" are nationalized, public utilities municipalized, and the national and local governments busily engaged on canals, roads, forests, deserts, and swamps. Here are occupations employing, let us say, a fourth or a fifth of the working population; and solvent landowning farmers, their numbers kept up by land reforms and scientific farming encouraged by government, may continue as now to constitute another fifth. We can estimate that these classes together with those among the shopkeepers, professional elements, etc., who are directly dependent on them will compose 40 to 50 per cent of the population, while the other capitalists and their direct dependents account for another 10 per cent or more. Here we have the possibility of a privileged majority, the logical goal of "State Socialism," and the nightmare of every democrat for whom democracy is anything more than an empty political reform. With government employees and capitalists (large and small) - and their direct dependents, forming 50 per cent or more of the population, and supported by a considerable part of the skilled manual workers, there is a possibility of the establishment of an iron-bound caste society solidly intrenched in majority rule.
(6) William English Walling, Socialism As It Is (1912)
State Capitalism has a very definite principle and program of labor reform. It capitalizes labor, views it as the principal resource and asset of each community (or of the class that controls the community), and undertakes every measure that is not too costly for its conservation, utilization, and development - i.e. its development to fill those positions ordinarily known as labor, but not such development as might enable the laborers or their children to compete for higher social functions on equal terms with the children of the upper classes.
On the one hand is the tendency, not very advanced, but unmistakable and almost universal, to invest larger and larger sums for the scientific development of industrial efficiency - healthy surroundings in childhood, good food and healthy living conditions, industrial education, model factories, reasonable hours, time and opportunity for recreation and rest, and on the other a rapidly increasing difficulty for either the laborer or his children to advance to other social positions and functions - and a restriction of the liberty of laborers and of labor organizations, lest they should attempt to establish equality of opportunity or to take the first step in that direction by assuming control over industry and government. From the moment it approaches the labor question the "Socialist" part of "State Socialism" completely falls away, and nothing but the purest collectivist capitalism remains. Even the plausible contention that it will result in the maximum efficiency and give the maximum product breaks down. For no matter how much the condition of the laborers is improved, or what political rights they are allowed to exercise, if they are deprived of all initiative and power in their employments, and of the equal opportunity to develop their capacities to fill other social positions for which they may prove to be more fit than the present occupants, then the human resources of the community are not only left underdeveloped, but are prevented from development.
(7) William English Walling, Socialism As It Is (1912)
"State Socialism" as I have described it will doubtless continue to be the guiding policy of governments during a large part, if not all, of the present generation. Capitalism, in this new collectivist form, must bring about extremely deep-seated and far-reaching changes in society. And every step that it takes in the nationalization of industry and the appropriation of land rent would also be a step in Socialism, provided the rents and profits so turned into the coffers of the State were not used entirely for the benefit either of industry or of the community as a whole, as it is now constituted, but were reserved in part for the special benefit of the less wealthy, less educated, and less advantageously placed, so as gradually to equalize income, influence, and opportunity.
But what, as matter of fact, are the ways in which the new revenues are likely to be used before the Socialists are either actually or practically in control of the government? First of all, they will be used for the further development of industry itself and of schemes which aid industry, as by affording cheaper credit, cheaper transportation, cheaper lumber, cheaper coal, etc., which will chiefly benefit the manufacturers, since all these raw materials and services are so much more largely used in industry than in private consumption.
Secondly, the new sources of government revenue will be used to relieve certain older forms of taxation. The very moderately graduated income and inheritance taxes which are now common, small capitalists have tolerated principally on the ground that the State is in absolute need of them for essential expenses. We may soon expect a period when the present rapid expansion of this form of taxation as well as other direct taxes on industry, building, corporations, etc., will be checked somewhat by the new revenues obtained from the profits of government enterprises and the taxation of ground values. Indirect taxation of the consuming public in general, through tariffs and internal revenue taxes, will also be materially lightened. As soon as new and larger sources of income are created, the cry of the consumers for relief will be louder than ever, and since a large part of consumption is that of the capitalists in manufacture, the cry will be heard. This will mean lower prices. But in the long run salaries and wages accommodate themselves to prices, so that this reform, beneficial as it may be, cannot be accepted as meaning, for the masses, more than a merely temporary relief. A third form of tax reduction would be the special exemption of the poorer classes from even the smallest direct taxation. But as employers and wage boards, in fixing wages, will take this reduction into account, as well as the lower prices and rents, such exemptions will effect no great or lasting change in the division of the national income between capitalists and receivers of salaries and wages.
A third way in which the new and vastly increased incomes of the national and local governments can be expended is the communistic way, as in developing commercial and technical education, in protecting the public health, in building model tenements, in decreasing the cost of traveling for health or business, and in promoting all measures that are likely to increase industrial efficiency and profits without too great cost.
A fourth way in which the new revenue may be expended, before the Socialists are in actual or practical control, would be in somewhat increasing the wages and somewhat shortening the hours of the State and municipal employees, who will soon constitute a very large proportion of the community. Here again it is impossible to expect any but a Socialist government to go very far. As I have shown, it is to be questioned whether any capitalistic administration, however advanced, would increase real wages (wages measured by their purchasing power), except in so far as the higher wages will result in a corresponding or greater increase in efficiency, and so in the profits made from labor. And the same law applies to most other governmental (or private) expenditures on behalf of labor, whether in shortened hours, insurance, improved conditions, or any other form.
The very essence of capitalist collectivism is that the share of the total profits which goes to the ruling class should not be decreased, and if possible should be augmented. In spite of material improvements the economic gulf between the classes, during the period it dominates, will either remain as[Pg 110] it is, or become wider and deeper than before. On the ground of the health and ultimate working efficiency of the present and future generation, hours may be considerably shortened, and the labor of women and children considerably curtailed. Insurance against death, old age, sickness, and accident will doubtless be taken over by the government. Mothers who are unable to take care of their children will probably be pensioned, as now proposed in France, and many children will be publicly fed in school, as in a number of the British and Continental places. The most complete code of labor legislation is practically assured; for, as government ownership extends, the State will become to some extent the model employer.
A quarter of a century ago, especially in Great Britain and the United States, but also in other countries, the method of allaying discontent was to distract public attention from politics altogether by stimulating the chase after private wealth. But as private wealth is more and more difficult to attain, this policy is rapidly replaced by the very opposite tactics, to keep the people absorbed in the political chase after the material benefits of economic reform. For this purpose every effort is being used to stimulate political interest, to popularize the measures of the new State capitalism, to foster public movements in their behalf, and finally to grant the reforms, not as a new form of capitalism, but as "concessions to public opinion." At present it is only the most powerful of the large capitalists and the most radical of the small that have fully adapted themselves to the new policies. But this will cause no serious delay, for among policies, as elsewhere, the fittest are surely destined to survive.
Ten years ago it would have been held as highly improbable that we would enter into such a collectivist period in half a century. Already a large part of the present generation expect to see it in their lifetime. And the constantly accelerated developments of recent years justify the belief of many that we may find ourselves far advanced in "State Socialism" before another decade has passed.
(8) Floyd Dell, Homecoming (1933)
The Russian Revolution of March, 1917, brought glorious new hope; but soon it was apparent that Kerensky was trying in the name of Socialism to lead Russia back into the shambles. And failing - a failure which seemed to require American cannon-fodder. The Masses stood, according to the best of its bewildered lights, for peace, Socialism, and revolution; it told the truth, which just wasn't being done in America. William English Walling and other pro-Ally editors denounced us as pro-German and resigned. But new editors and contributors joined us. And most of the artists stayed with us; and the art-for-art's-sakers became among the most boldly propagandist of all.
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