Socialism in Brief


Victor L. Berger

Like every new phase of civilization, Socialism thus far has received the attention only of the oppressed and the lowly. The opulent and the rich have no reason to wish for a change of the system They do not, as a rule, wnat to hear anything about it.

Until of late, outside of the working class, only students of history, of political economy, and a few advanced thinkers have given any attention to the principles of Socialism. Most other people have only a very vague idea even of its basis. Yet Socialism is in the foreground of discussion.

Socialism stands for a new civilization.

Of course, with people who believe that whatever is will exist forever, and that we have reached the acme of civilization, it is entirely useless to argue.

But surely no educated man believes that the present conditions are the end of all things.

That we have not reached the end of our national development is clear. Every new invention and every new political question proves that to us. And it would be sad indeed if we had reached "the end." We then should soon be on a level with China.

And we need not explain that the Socialist movement is not to be traced to the irresponsible work of individual agitators or eccentric persons.


In the political sphere we demand the rule of the people, i.e., democracy. In the economic sphere, we demand the collective (social) ownership of the means of production and distribution.

Thus we shall have Social-Democracy. A democracy which is founded on economic independence, upon the political and industrial equality of opportunity for all.

Determined opponents of the present capitalistic system of industry as the Socialists are, still they never think of calling the concentration of capital the cause of all evil.

Socialists do not try to smash the trusts as such. On the contrary, Socialism appreciates so fully the advantages of industrial production on a large scale that we wish its most perfect development, which is Impossible under the capitalist system.

The control of production by the people as a whole means the highest possible perfection of industry on a large scale.


And we all deeply feel the disadvantages of the private ownership of the means of production and distribution on a large scale.

We observe how the railroads, street car companies, and other public service corporations corrupt our legislatures. We notice how our life insurance savings are simply furnishing funds for high-financiers We witness how the largest factory owners combine into trusts which are "financiered" by banks, and how the meat trust, the oil trust, the steel trust, and all the other trusts are "regulating prices," and how, moreover, some of these trusts are ruining the health of the people.

We all see it. We all feel it. And we-all know it.


Then we all must also comprehend that the owners of these sheets and strips of paper (which, under our present system, stand for "capital") virtually decide how much we shall pay for our coffee and our bread, how much for our kerosene and our coal, and how much we are to spend for our houses, clothing, etc.

In other words, they decide how well or how poorly we are to live. They have "the say" as to how long or how short a time we are permitted to live.

Now, another important consideration.

The workingmen, under present conditions, cannot employ themselves, but are dependent on the will and convenience of some "employer," who has the necessary capital. And not for love, nor for Christian charity, does the employer give the workingmen employment. He does so to invest capital and to make a profit.

And since the working people of the country do not receive the full value of their products, can they be expected to buy hack these products ? Their numerical strength makes them the chief consumers of the country, and those on whom production mainly depends.

In this way (by the laboring people not being able to consume enough) and by the planless way in which production is carried on in general, the so-called over-production is created. That is, no matter how much or bow little the toilers of a nation create, they always create more than they are able to buy with their wages. And in this way the so-called industrial crises originate. They have come upon us about every fifteen years, roughly speaking, since capitalist production began its sway. At such times the trade and the manufacturing of a nation come to a standstill, because "there is too much on hand!"

And the working people have to stop work and go ragged and hungry, because there is too much on hand.


However, the wage-workers are by no means the only sufferers. The small employers, the small merchants,men are also feeling the sting of an unequal competition. For every one of these men of business lives at war with all his brethren. The hand of the one is against the other, and no foe is more terrible to him than the one who is running a neck to neck race with him every day.

Therefore, in the factory as well as in the store the profits must he cut constantly and the sales must he ever enlarged. The latest improvements, the best labor-saving machinery must be used and as little wages must be paid as possible. The race is for life or death and "the Devil gets the hindmost.''

The fierce competition lessens the profit on each article, and this must be compensated for by a greater number of articles being produced and sold, that is, the cheaper the goods the more capital is required to carry on the business.

Precisely, shell, for the same reason that the mechanic with his own shop and working on his own account has nearly disappeared in the struggle between hand work and machine work—for precisely the same reason the small manufacturers, with their little machinery, their small capital and their little stock of goods, are now being driven from the field.

And who are the successful men?

They are vulgar fellows, far from possessing eminent faculties or high attainments. They are men who have less knowledge mental capacity than is required in many mechanical pursuits. The simply have a low animal devouring faculty, the faculty of tiger or of the crocodile—aye, of the swine! and have it well developed. It is these coarse, wolfish men who push to the v many an intelligent and diligent manufacturer. They are the men who, by the employment and power of their capital, yearly ruin multitudes of hard-working small merchants, and boast that they are selling more goods in one day than the whole "crowd" other stores in a week!

Scores of such small merchants, driven to the wall by the proprietor of the mammoth store, have to be glad if the "prince" will make them his clerks and graciously allow them to help swell his income. In short, the smaller fortunes invested in production or commercial enterprise are by this cut-throat competition attracted to the great capital like iron filings to a magnet.

The great capitalist triumphs, the small capitalist becomes clerk, a politician, a traveling agent, a saloonkeeper, a lawyer, a parasite of one kind or another—sometimes even a wage-earner - the middle class disappears little by little. In fact, our social order may fitly be compared to a ladder of which the middle rounds are torn awes one by one.

This is another legitimate fruit of competition and private e enterprise. The small employers are also waiting for a savior.


This system of private ownership has resulted in practice abolishing the possibility of private ownership for the great majority of the people.

One-tenth of our population already owns nine-tenths of the wealth. The centralization of the control of property is increasing with a rapidity that threatens the integrity of the nation. The average of wages, the certainty of employment, the social privileges and independence of the wage-earning and agricultural population, when compared with the increase of the wealth and social production auction, are steadily and rapidly decreasing.

With every increase of power and concentration of wealth the educated and professional class is forced more and more into dependence upon the capitalist. Our teachers, professors, speaker newspaper editors, and writers, and all professional men, are more and more at the mercy of the capitalistic system, and brought into abject dependence. Thus the educated proletariat ever increase.

Money-making is not a matter of education.


And wealth, usually expressed by money, is now god. It is I the distribution of part of this wealth that the rich man gets his dangerous powers. It is the monopoly of that which all want - some of which all must have—that makes his power so fearful.

The big grafter (or his heir) writes his check and he gets a the good or bad things his heart desires. He gets adulation, professional skill, wine and women, paragraphs in the newspaper and the disposal of political places.

Under such conditions it is only natural that money has become the root of all evil. Wealth being the greatest social power,it naturally is the worst of all social temptations. Our present economic system creates grafters, criminals, thieves, and prostitutes.


These conditions are before our eyes in spite of all that is said by the capitalist press and the capitalist politician.

And what remedy can the old political parties bring to the people ?

Parties, like individuals act from motives of self-interest.

Now both of the old parties are owned by the capitalists. This is a fact, not even denied by the more honest leaders of both Republican and Democratic parties.

And what can you do about it ?

There is only one party in the field standing for the "new idea." There is only one party representing in the political field the necessary outcome of the evolution in the economic field. That is the Socialist party.

The Socialist party stands squarely upon the principles of international Socialism. It relies wholly upon education and upon the development of the industrial forces. Both of these factors make for Socialism.


The Socialist party, while it is revolutionary in its final aim, is none the less distinctly evolutionary and constructive in its method.

Social reforms of all kinds are welcomed by the Socialists for many reasons.

In the first place, by reforms we can stop the increasing pauperization, and consequently also the enervation of the masses of the people. If real reforms are seriously taken Up and carried out with determination. they may even lift the masses to a considerable extent.

But the main reason for our favoring them is because such reforms, if logically carried out, offer the possibility of a peaceful, lawful and orderly transformation of society.


The Socialist party is the only true reform party in existence. We agitate for the organization of the masses. And organization everywhere means order. We educate, we enlighten, we reason, we discipline. And, therefore, besides order, we bring also law, reason, discipline and progress.

It is therefore absolutely false to represent Socialism as merely destructive, as intending to overthrow and annihilate society, as an appeal to the brute passions of the masses.


Socialism wants to maintain our culture and civilization. and bring it to a higher level.

Our party wants to guard this nation from destruction.

We appeal to the best in every man to the public spirit of the citizen, to his love of wife and children.

Vote the Socialist ticket.