Twentieth Century, May 31, 1894, 7-8.
BY WM. H. VAN ORNUM.
Notwithstanding all the shortcomings of English co-operation; all its failures to realize the lofty ideals which appear so real to lovers of the
With all its faults, and notwithstanding its tendencies in many directions to capitalism, English co-operation has bought us nearer to the possibilities of a higher and purer form of co-operation. It has developed the weaknesses and limitations of the old, and given us a nearer view, and therefore a better conception of the new. Wherever it has flourished it has stimulated the hope and trained the intellect of those who have enjoyed its benefits. It has inculcated the lesson of honesty; taught frankness and openness as a principle, and educated a superior class of workingmen. These results have been so uniform and conspicuous wherever co-operation, even in its unsatisfactory forms, has been tried, that people expect to and do find co-operators better fed, better dressed, stronger, more robust, more self-reliant, and their children more healthy and plump. And these are the very qualities most requisite in those who will carry co-operation forward to new conquests. A serious mistake will be made if the utmost care is not exercised in the selection of personal material for co-operative enterprises. This applies equally as to skill in the trade or calling in which the workman is expected to be employed; and to his general intelligence and habits as a member of a community. Before real co-operative work is undertaken on any considerable scale, suitable schools of co-operation should be started, where the most thorough instruction can be given in all matters pertaining to the work and association.
But, while it is necessary to give the closest attention to ah the details and present needs in the construction of a system of co-operation, we must never lose sight of the high ideal to which we aspire. The gardener never forgets that all his labor in planting and tending the young tree is finally to enjoy the fruit of it. To that all his care is directed. The quality of the fruit is largely determined by the wisdom and judgment shown in its culture. Just as the different stages of growth of a tree tend finally to bring. in due time, the flower, and afterward the matured fruit, so even our present society, in its deepest trend, is working toward co-operation and the communal state. It is easy to see hints of that state among us even now. In the family relation there are many. In every family where there is competence and plenty, accompanied with culture, the wealth held by that family is a commonwealth—common to its members. No one will deny to another the satisfaction of any want, or any gratification on a plea that such other has not performed his or her part in procuring that wealth. Each seeks the pleasure and comfort of every other. Each is ready and willing to serve the other; and that too without any stipulation as to pay further than is implied in this common sentiment. As to labor, each performs such as he or she can do best, being guided by their own tastes and inclinations. The father or mother never lets slips an opportunity to increase the general stock of wealth for the gratification of all the members. Nor do the sons and daughters, except as they are taught to look forward to a division of the community in the setting up of new communities of their own. In the ideal family there is no governing force implying command on one side and submission on the other. Reason, love and freedom are the determining elements in the association of its members. It is true, there are not many of these ideal families. But they exist; and the fact that they do exist is a pledge and promise of that larger communal society which. some time will develop through co-operation to a brotherhood which will be as broad as humanity itself.
I do not wish to he understood as holding that the family, even at its hest, is the ideal state in the association of the sexes. That is another question; and has no relation to the present subject except as such associations help or hinder the final development of society to the
This is not to say that there is no such thing as paternal, maternal or filial love. They are natural manifestations, and have their proper uses for the preservation of the species. But their uses are limited to those periods of life when the necessity exists for them. And without the artificial extension which they receive through the perpetuation of families they could not long survive the period of their use.
These families—small communities—acquire special interests of their own (estates), which they seek to foster, extend and perpetuate. In their desire to perpetuate and extend these estates the great commonwealth, which is to come, is hindered. And I think this is one of the main obstacles which stand in the way of the
And yet, society is certainly tending, as a whole, toward the desired change. Capitalism is manifestly breaking down as a method of production and distribution of wealth. The glaring inequalities in its workings, as shown in the results, and the growing antagonism between capitalists and workingmen, everywhere attest this truth. The mass of the people have no estates to preserve and no family names worth perpetuating. Everywhere the producers are in more or less open revolt against the system of capitalism from which they have nothing to hope except an everlasting grind for a mere existence. On top of the increasing number and extent of strikes and labor organizations, those who through the impotence of capitalism to meet present emergencies are out of employment, have begun to hand themselves into industrial armies, and, in one way or another, to demand relief. This marks a new period in the revolt; and one which is likely to bring important results. But whatever course that revolt shall take it must go on. Capitalism is certainly in its death throes. On the other hand, the large measure of success which bas attended even such feeble attempts at co-operation as have been tried in