The Beast of Property
"Among the beasts of prey, man is certainly the worst." This expression, very commonly made nowadays, is only relatively true. Not man as such, but man in connection with wealth is a beast of prey. The richer a man, the greater his greed for more. We may call such a monster the "beast of property". It now rules the world, makes mankind miserable, and gains in cruelty and voracity with the progress of our so-called "civilization". This monster we will in the following characterize and recommend to extermination.
Look about you! In every so-called "civilized" country there are among every 100 men about 95 more or less destitute and about 5 money-bags.
It is unnecessary to trace all the sneaking ways by which the latter have gained their possessions. The fact that they own all, while the others exist, or rather vegetate merely, admits of no doubt, that these few have grown rich at the expense of the many.
Either by direct brute force, by cunning, or by fraud, this horde has from time to time seized the soil with all its wealth. The laws of inheritance and entail, and the changing of hands, have lent a "venerable" color to this robbery, and consequently mystified and erased the true character of such actions. For this reason, the "beast of property" is not yet fully recognized, but is, on the contrary, worshipped with a holy awe.
And yet, all who do not belong to this class are its victims. Every off-spring of a non-possessor (poor man) finds every nook and corner of the earth occupied at his entrance into this world. There is nothing which is "lordless". Without labor nothing is produced; and in order to labor, there are required not only ability and will, but also room to work, tools, raw materials and means of sustenance. The poor man must, therefore, by force of necessity, apply to those who possess these things in plenty. And, behold! the rich give him permission to continue his existence. But in return for this he must divest himself of his skill and power. These qualities henceforth his pretended "saviors" use for themselves. They place him under the yoke of labor - they force him to the utmost of his mental and physical abilities to produce new treasures, which however he is not entitled to own. Should he desire to deliberate long before making so unequal contract, his growling stomach will soon convince him that the poor man has no time for that, for there are millions in the same position as himself and he will risk that, while deliberating, hundreds of others will apply - his chance is gone and he again will be at the mercy of the winds.
It is the lash of hunger which compels the poor man to submit. In order to live he must sell -"voluntarily" sell- himself every day and hour to the "beast of property".
The bygone times, when the "ruling" classes, on their slave-hunting raids, threw their victims in chains and forced them to work, of which the rulers had all the benefit - the times when christian-germanic robbers stole entire countries, deprived the inhabitants of the soil, and pressed them to feudal service, were indeed terrible enough. But the climax of infamy has been reached by our present "law and order" system, for it has defrauded more than nine-tenths of mankind of their means of existence, reduced them to dependence upon an insignificant minority, and condemned them to self-sacrifice. At the same time it has disguised this relation with all sorts of jugglery that the thralls of today - the wage slaves - but partially recognize their serfdom and outlawed position, they rather incline to ascribe it to the caprices of fortune.
To perpetuate this state of affairs is the only aim of the "prominent" classes. Though not always united among themselves - one seeking to gain advantage over the other by tricks of trade, cunning in speculation and diverse machinations of competition - yet in opposition to the proletariat they stand in one united hostile phalanx. Their political ideal is, therefore - in spite of all phrases - a most powerful, centralized and brutal beadle government.
If the poor man, who is momentarily unable to sell himself to an exploiter of labor, or is already flayed to complete helplessness by the "beast of property", has recourse to begging -then the glutted bourgeois terms it vagrancy, and calls for police; he demands pillory and prison for the poor devil who refuses to starve between mountains of food.
Should the unemployed apply a little of the much vaunted self-help, that is, should he do in a small way, what the rich do daily with impunity on a grand scale, should he, in fact, steal, in order to live - the bourgeoisie will heap burning coals of "moral indignation" upon his head, and, with austere visage, hand him over relentlessly in charge of the State, that in its prisons he may be fleeced the more effectively, i.e., cheaper.
When the workers combine in order to obtain better wages, shorter hours of labor, or similar advantages, the money-bags immediately decry it as "conspiracy", which must be prevented.
When the workers organize politically, it is denounced as resistance to the "divine" order of things, which must be nullified by laws or exception or discrimination.
Should the people finally contemplate rebellion, an unceasing howl of rage raised by the "gold tigers" will be heard throughout the world - their pant for massacres and their thirst for blood is insatiable.
The life of the poor man is valued as nothing by the rich. As the owner of vessels he places the lives of entire crews in jeopardy, when his object is to fraudulently obtain high insurance for half decayed hulks. Bad ventilation, deep excavation, defective supports, etc., etc., annually bring death to thousands of miners, but this system of operation saves expenses, therefore augments the gains, and gives the mine owners no occasion to be sorry. Neither does the factory-pasha care how many of "his" laborers are tom and rent apart by machinery, poisoned by chemicals, or slowly suffocated by dirt and dust. Profit is the main thing.
Women are cheaper than men: for this reason the capitalistic vampires with insatiate rapacity seek their blood. Besides, female labor procures them cheap mistresses.
Child flesh is the cheapest: what wonder then that the cannibals of modern society continually feast upon juvenile victims? What care they that the poor little ones are thereby bodily crippled and mentally ruined for life - that thousands of them, miserable and worn out at a tender age, sink into their graves? Stocks rise; that suffices.
As the bourgeoisie, by means of its capital, completely monopolizes all new inventions, every new machine, instead of shortening the hours of labor and enhancing the prosperity and happiness of all, causes, on the contrary, dismissal from employment for some, reduction of wages for others and an increased and intensified state of misery for the entire proletariat.
When increase of production is accompanied by an augmented pauperization of the masses, consumption must simultaneously decrease, stagnation and crises must ensue. A superabundance of actual wealth in the hands of the few must create hunger, typhus, and other epidemics among the many. The injustice - yea the idiocy - of this state of affairs is evident. The money-bags of course merely shrug their shoulders. This they will continue to do until a rope well tied over their shoulders will end all further shrugging.
The worker is not only fleeced in manifold ways as producer, but also as consumer. Numberless parasites seek to despoil him of his paltry income.
After products have passed through various exchanges and storage and their prices have been raised by jobbers and brokers' profits, by taxes and custom house duties, they finally reach the retailers, whose customers are almost exclusively the proletarians. The wholesalers "make" (that is, fraudulently obtain) perhaps 10 to 20 per cent profit by their transactions; the retailer is dissatisfied with less than 100 percent. . He makes use of all sorts of tricks for securing this result, especially the most shameless adulteration of food. In close relationship to these swindlers are the numberless poisoners and adulterators of beer, liquors, wine, etc., who render the streets in all our great cities and industrial centers unsafe with their nefarious traffic. Then there are the tenement-lords, who ceaselessly seek means to embitter the existence of the poor. The condition of the rooms becomes steadily worse, the rents higher, and the contracts more galling. The workers are crowded together more and more into rear houses, attics and cellar-holes full of vermin, damp and musty. Prison cells are frequently far healthier than these pest-holes.
When the worker is out of employment, he is again at the mercy of a horde of speculators in hunger, who are ready to pounce on him in order to complete his ruin. Pawnbrokers and others of similar ilk advance small sums at high interest on the last possessions of the poor. Their contracts are usually so arranged that they can hardly be kept: the pawned objects are forfeited and the poor wretch takes another downward step. The cut-throats, however, amass fortunes in a short time. The beggar is looked upon as quite a well-paying figure by certain sharks. Every copper which he has gathered in his unenviable way arouses the covetousness of the keeper of dirty holes and vile dens. Even thieves are subject to this capitalistic spoliation. They are the slaves of crafty concealers and "fences", who receive their stolen goods for a song. Yes! even those unfortunate women, whom the present accursed system has driven to prostitution, are shamelessly plundered by keepers of brothels and "houses of ill-fame."
This is the lot of the poor from the cradle to the grave. Whether he produces or consumes, whether he exists or merely vegetates, he is always surrounded by ravenous vampires who thirst for his last drop of blood. On the other hand, the rich man never stops his work of exploiting, though he may be utterly unable to assign a reason for his greed. He that has $1,000,000 would have $10,000,000; he that has $100,000,000 would have $1,000,000,000.
The greed for wealth is closely associated with the greed for power. Wealth is not only a generator of more wealth, it is also a political power. Under the present capitalistic system venality is an all-pervading vice. It is as a rule a mere matter of price which will buy over those who may be of service either by speech or silence, by pen or by press, by acts of violence or any other means, to the "beast of property" which by its golden dictates is the absolute, almighty divinity.
In Europe and America there are several hundred thousand priests and ministers, specially provided for to poison the common sense of the masses. Numberless missionaries wander from house to house spreading senseless tracts, or commit other "spiritual" mischief. In the schools strenuous attempts are made to nullify what little good the training in reading, writing, and ciphering may bring with it. Idiotic maltreatment of "history" excites that blatant prejudice which divides people, and prevents them from recognizing the fact, that their oppressors have long ago leagued together against them, and that all politics, past and present, has the only object in view of firmly establishing the power of the rulers, and thereby ensuring exploitation of the poor by the rich.
The hawking trade in "loyalty and order intoxicants" is attended to by the inkslingers of the daily press, numerous literary perverters of history, by political heelers of the various predominating cliques, rings, combinations and organizations, by parliamentary windbags with seductive smiles, pledges on their lips and treason in their hearts, and hundreds of other politicians of all degrees and shades of villainy.
Whole squads of bushwackers are specially employed in mystifying the social question. The professors of political economy for instance, play the part of lackeys to the bourgeoisie, extolling the golden calf as the true sun of life, and using falsehood and knavery so "scientifically", that they make the tanning of workingmen's hides appear as a benefaction to mankind. Some of those charlatans recommend social reform, or in other words, processes, based on the maxim of washing without wetting; not to mention their celebrated recipes for economizing and educating.
While thus bamboozling the masses the capitalistic knights of plunder continue to perfect their mechanism of power. New offices are created. High positions in these are filled in Europe by the progeny of the former highwaymen (now a "nobleman") in America by the most crafty office hunters and the most wily thieves, who combine with their original purpose of authoritatively gagging the proletariat, the very pleasant business of till-tapping and forgery on a grand scale. They command armies of soldiers, gendarmes, policemen, spies, judges, prison-keepers, toll-keepers, tax collectors, executors, etc., etc. The lower class of the beadledom are almost wholly recruited from the ranks of the non-possessors, and are only rarely better paid. For all that they display great zeal as spies, eaves-droppers, and pokenoses, as claws, teeth and suckers of the State, which institution is evidently nothing more nor less than the political organization of a horde of swindlers and spoliators, who without the tyrannizing machinery could not exist for one day before the just wrath and condemnation of the oppressed and plundered people.
In most of the old countries this system has naturally reached its points of culmination in the outer form. The entire disciplinary apparatus of the State concentrates in a monarchic power. Its representatives "by the grace of God" are, in accordance, the very quintessence of villainy. In them all vice and crime common to the ruling classes is developed to a monstrous degree. Their most agreeable occupation is a wholesale murder (war); when they rob, and they do it often, they always rob entire countries and hundreds, even thousands of millions. Incendiarism on a colossal scale serves to illuminate their atrocities. They adhere to the notion that mankind exists for them to kick, cuff, and spit upon....
By direct blackmail these crowned murderers of Europe annually pocket $50,000,000. Militarism, their pet progeny, annually costs $1,000,000,000, not taking in consideration the loss of life and labor. An equal sum is paid as interest on $20,000,000,000 of state-debts, which these scoundrels have incurred in a comparatively short time. Monarchism in Europe then cost annually $2,050,000,000 that is to say, more than 10,000,000 of workers, the supporters of 50,000,000 of people, earn as wages in the same time.
In America the place of the monarchs is filled by the monopolists. Should monopolism in the alleged "free" United States of America develop at the rate it has in the last quarter of century, there will remain free from monopolization only daylight and air. Five hundred million acres of land in the United States, about six times the area of Great Britain and Ireland, have been divided within a generation among the railroad companies and the great landlords of Europeo-aristocratic origin. Within a few decades Vanderbilt alone amassed $200,000,000; several dozen of his competitors in robbery bid fair to outdo him. San Francisco was settled hardly thirty years ago, today it harbors eighty-five millionaires! All the wealth of this great republic, although established but a century, its mines, its coalfields, its oilwells, etc., etc., has been "taken" from the people and is the property of a handful of daring adventurers and cunning schemers.
The "sovereignty of the people" falls prostrate into the dust before the influence of these money kings, railroad magnates, coal barons and factory lords. These fellows carry the whole Unites States in their pockets, and that which is vaunted as untrammeled legislation and free ballot is a farce, a delusion and a snare.
If this be the condition of the green wood, what may we not expect of the decayed timber? If this young American republic, with its nearly boundless territory and its almost inexhaustible natural resources has been so fatally corrupted and ruined in such a short time by the capitalistic system - why be surprised at the results of long continued abuses of similar nature in servile, rotten Europe?
Indeed it seems as though this young American republic had for the present but one historical mission, of demonstrating beyond controversy to the people on this side of the Atlantic as to those on the other by the presentation of bare, tangible facts what an outrageous monster the "beast of property" really is, and that neither the condition of the soil nor the vastness of domain, nor the political forms of society can ever alter the viciousness of this beast of prey; but to the contrary, it proves that the less a necessity naturally exists for individual greed and rapacity, the more dangerous to, and obtrusive upon society it becomes. It is not voracious to satisfy its wants - it devours for the sake of devouring only!
Let those who labor to live understand that this monster cannot be tamed, nor be made harmless or useful to man; let them learn to know that there is but one means of safety: unrelenting, pitiless, thorough war of extermination! Gentle overtures are for naught; scorn and derision will be the result, if by petitions, elections, and like silly attempts the proletariat hopes to command the respect of its sworn enemies.
Some say, general education will bring about a change; but this advice is as a rule an idle phrase. Education of the people will only then be possible, when the obstructions there to have been removed. And that will not take place until the entire present system has been destroyed.
But let it not be understood that nothing could or should be done by education. Far from it. Whoever has recognized the villainy of the present conditions, is in duty bound to raise his voice, in order to expose them, and thereby open the eyes of the people. Only avoid to reach this result by super-scientific reflections. Let us leave this to those well meaning scientists, who in this manner tear the mask of humanity from the "better class" and disclose the hideous countenance of the beast of prey. The language of and to the proletariat must be clear and forcible.
Whoever thus uses speech will be accused of inciting disturbance by the governing rabble; he will be bitterly hated and persecuted. This shows that the only possible and practical enlightenment must be of an inciting nature. Then let us incite!
Let us show the people how it is swindled out of its labor force by country and city capitalists; how it is euchered out of its meagre wages by the house, store, and other lords; how priests of pulpit, press, and party seek to destroy its intellect; how a brutal police is ever ready to maltreat and tyrannize it, and with a soldiery to spill its blood. Patience, at last must forsake it! The people will rebel and crush its foes.
The revolution of the proletariat - the war of the poor against the rich, is the only way from oppression to deliverance.
But, some interpose, revolutions can not be made! Certainly not, but they can be prepared for by directing the people's attention to the fact that such events are imminent, and calling upon them to be ready for all emergencies.
Capitalistic development, of which many theorists assert that it must proceed to the total extinction of the middle class (small bourgeoisie), before the conditions favorable to a social revolution are at hand, has reached such a point of perfection that its farther progress is almost impossible. Universal production (in civilized countries) can only be carried on, industrially as well as agriculturally, on a grand scale, when society is organized on a Communistic basis, and when (which will then be a truism) the reduction of the hours of labor keeps pace with the development of technical facilities, and augmented consumption with production.
This is easily comprehended. By wholesale production from 10 to 100 times more may be produced than the producers need in goods of equivalent value, and there lies the rub. Until lately, this entire surplus value has been but little noticed, because by far the greater portion of this so-called profit has been in turn capitalized, that is, used for new capitalistic enterprises, and because the industrially most advanced countries (the "beast of property" in those countries) export enormous quantities of merchandise. Now, however, the thing is beginning to weaken mightily. Industrialism has made great progress the world over, balancing exports and imports more and more, and for that reason new investments of capital become less profitable, and must, under such circumstances, soon prove entirely unremunerative. Universal crises must ensue and will expose these glaring incongruities.
Everything therefore is ripe for Communism; it is only necessary to remove its interested inveterate enemies, the capitalists and their abettors. During these crises the people will become sufficiently prepared for the struggle. Everything will then depend on the presence of a well trained revolutionary nucleus at all points, which is fit and able to crystallize around itself the masses of the people, driven to rebellion by misery and want of work, and which can then apply the mighty forces so formed to the destruction of all existing hostile institutions...