Sunday, April 1, 2007

Van Ornum, Co-operation, XIX

Twentieth Century, September 20, 1894, 6-7.



It has been the habit of a large class of those who have advocated co operation, both in this country and in England, to assure the world that co-operation is not offered as a panacea; that it is not expected to accomplish a social regeneration, and that it is only offered as a “business measure” which contains many important economics and advantages. And one of the reasons which are sometimes urged why co-operation has not reached the same development in this country as in England, has been that here it has fallen into the hands of visionaries and enthusiasts, who make it ridiculous by claiming for it too much. And yet, I think it must be evident to those who have followed me in this extended research, as it is to me, that cooperation, in its fullest and broadest sense, in all the affairs of men is precisely that panacea. Those who are inclined to sing small for co-operation are like the fisherman who should find a boat, and who, with slight knowledge of its uses and possibilities, should wade along the margin of the water in the shallows, dragging the boat after him and calling attention to the efficient instrument he had found for transporting his fish after they were caught. It will transport him as well as his fish, and help him to catch more fish. Co. operation is applicable to all the social affairs of mankind, and it is just in proportion as men co operate; that is, work together, that they raise themselves above the ignorance and barbarism of savages. It is perfectly consistent with every principle of human progress. By it production can be carried on on the grandest possible scale; the subdivision of labor receive its most extreme development, and machinery be introduced to its utmost limit, not only without injury to a single member of the community, but to the absolute advantage of all. Wealth may be piled up to any extent, and yet it cannot prove a menace to, or means of oppression of any living soul. No undertaking is too large for it, and none so small that, if desirable, it would not be accomplished. Its establishment, as outlined in these chapters, would banish poverty, debt, and the selfishness that is born of greed of gain, and with it the mean and sordid elements in the characters of men which reduce them to the level of brutes. While fulfilling all social requirements, it will place no bar upon individual growth or development. In fact, the individual, being freed from the conditions and limitations which now hold him down, will find his path made smooth and straight before him.

Another important consideration is, that co operation, or the co operative commonwealth is the realization of the ideals of every social reform with which I am acquainted. For the political reformer its realization sweeps way every species of special privilege or advantage, and places every citizen upon the same footing as every other. It destroys the money power, frees the land, kills every monopoly, abolishes public and private debt, takes away the power of the rich, and lifts the poor, mainly by the exercise of their own inherent powers, aided by favoring circumstances, to a level with the most fortunate. For the single taxer, his main purpose is accomplished in the freeing of the land, and the acme of justice in taxation is reached when public expenditures are paid, as an expense, from a common fund; and, therefore, which falls upon all equally, without any of the cumbersome machinery which is now used for the assessment and collection of taxes, and without the inevitable corruption and favoritism which now prevail. For the state Socialist, seeking as he does a better social state, where the production and distribution of wealth will be conducted on the largest scale and on scientific principles, where all the wealth and all the sources of its production are in the hands of the people as a whole, together with all the means of transportation and communication, and when the competition and wage slavery of the present have given place to collective industries and activities, co operation, or the co-operative commonwealth is its final fruition. When Socialists now insist that these things be brought under the control of the state, they mean the people, or the state in its purified and redeemed character, which is synonomous with the co-operative commonwealth. I have no idea that Socialists wish to place these things in the hands of that corrupt, political governing machine which now calls out its troops to shoot down workingmen who are trying to better their condition, or which sends its officers to evict us from our homes when we are unable to pay the rent. I do not suppose that Socialists wish to increase the power or prestige of the greatest of all monopolies, the one that stands as the support and defense of all other monopolies under the sun, whose courts are a standing caricature of justice, the unfailing refuge of oppression, and whose legislatures are reeking with the vileness of corruption. So that, both in its methods and its ends, co-operation, or the co-operative commonwealth, is in harmony with every aim and method of Socialism.

The Anarchist, protesting against the rulership of man over man, demanding the abolition of that element of force in society which compels submission to other wills than his own, who would substitute reason, self-interest, and human love for compulsion, and who would set up voluntary co-operation and a community of property instead of capitalism and wage slavery, can find in the co-operation which I have proposed, or the co-operative commonwealth the fullest realization of his fondest hopes, not merely in its final outcome, but in its present methods. The attainment of the co-operative commonwealth will not, in the slightest particular, militate against his extreme solicitude for the liberty of the individual; but, as I have already shown, it will be the greatest possible safeguard of those liberties. It is said that there exists a point far above the babel of discordant earthly sounds where those discords finally become harmony. And so, the co-operative commonwealth is the point in our confusing and discordant social turmoil where all schools become harmonious. Shall we not then, whatever may be the name by which we have been called, or whatever may be that which we have called ourselves, unite for the realization of an end so fraught with good to all mankind? The sooner we can plant the seed in the establishment of adequate co-operative associations and communities, the sooner that seed will grow and yield its fruit of blessings to humanity. And, in the meantime, let us help on that magnificent revolt against capitalism which, all unconsciously, is clustering around the People’s party, and which, in all probability, will have to fight the battle of human liberty, as the Republican party fought chattel slavery from 1860 to 1865.

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