Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

The bourgeois marriage is a consequence of bourgeois property. Marriage, standing as it does in the most intimate connection to property and the right of inheritance, demands "legitimate" children as heirs. It is entered into for the purpose of obtaining them, and the pressure exercised by society has enabled the ruling classes to enforce it in the case of those who have nothing to bequeath. But as in the new community there will be nothing to bequeath compulsory marriage becomes unnecessary from this standpoint as well as from all others.

Marriage, as at present understood, is an arrangement most closely associated with the existing social status, and stands or falls with it.1

Bebel has committed the common error of generalizing too freely from the social conditions with which he happens to have most personal experience. Even so, his theory is derived from the sentiments of royal and noble families, rather than from the bourgeoisie. With those who have titles and great estates to transmit, the birth of a legal heir is possibly the chief end in marriage — if personal happiness in the marriage relation is also obtained, so much the better; if not, it is commonly sought outside the bond of matrimony. But among the bourgeoisie in the larger number of cases, personal gratification in some form is the end sought; marriages not contracted on account of love have as their chief motive financial or social gain. Not the interests of property, therefore, but personal happiness, is the social foundation of marriage. But in the order contemplated by Socialism, business gain will be eliminated as a motive, as will many of the present social motives, and personal

1" Woman, her Past, Present, and Future," pp. 231, 232.

happiness will tend to become the sole motive of marriage. Then, as now, the birth of children will be regarded as the normal result, rather than the chief end, of marriage.

The opinions of Bebel regarding marriage are not peculiar to him, but it is equally the fact that many socialists do not share them. Opposition to marriage in European countries is in large part the outgrowth of social conditions that are general there. Marriages are usually arranged by parents for their children, on a cold-blooded business basis. If mutual affection follows unions thus made, well and good; in many cases mutual affection does result; but if not, breach of the seventh commandment is regarded as venial, provided it does not become publicly known. We can understand and even sympathize with the growth of a sentiment against marriages of that sort, and the resulting social ethics; but we can also see little likelihood of such a sentiment becoming strong among the socialists of America, where very few marriages are contracted for any other reason than mutual affection or what the parties mistake for mutual affection when they pronounce their marriage vows.

IV

For several years the German States looked with much indifference on the growth of the Social Democracy, seeing in it no serious menace either to government or society. But after the establishment of the new German Empire, in 1870, the socialists increased rapidly, until in 1877 they polled nearly a half million votes and elected twelve representatives in the Reichstag. This aroused. the apprehensions of Bismarck and the Emperor, and

already there had been serious consideration of a policy of legal repression, when two attempts on the Emperor's life in 1878 brought the matter to an immediate decision. The Antisocialist law then passed by the Reichstag made all social-democratic organizations illegal, as well as any others intended to subvert the existing society. The police were given large powers to dissolve any societies that even, in their judgment, displayed threatening tendencies. Appeal was allowed to the courts against the prohibitions of the police, but the courts were expected to give the police the benefit of every doubt. The right of assembly was also greatly restricted. The police might dissolve any meetings in which social-democratic tendencies appeared, and no meeting could be held without permission of the police. Public processions and festivities were to be regarded as meetings. All socialdemocratic publications were interdicted, prohibited works were to be confiscated, and apparatus used for printing them might be seized. Any person who became or remained a member of a prohibited association was made liable to a fine of 500 marks, or three months' imprisonment. Officers of societies and speakers at public meetings might be imprisoned from one to twelve months. The circulation of a prohibited publication entailed a fine not exceeding 1000 marks, or imprisonment up to six months. Exceptional powers were conferred on the police in cases of necessity, known as a stage of minor siege, laying additional restrictions on the right of assembly, forbidding all unlicensed circulation of publications and prohibiting the carrying of weapons without special permission.

These restrictive measures, obviously formed upon

H

the methods of the medieval Inquisition in dealing with heresy, proved so utterly ineffective for the suppression of Socialism that in 1893 the total vote of the Social Democrats had risen to 1,876,738, and their representation in the Reichstag to fifty-four. In the meantime, Bismarck had undertaken to "dish" the socialists by adopting as government measures certain features of their programme. In 1883 an Act providing for insurance against sickness was passed, which included all wage-earners in its scope. A fund was created by weekly contributions, of which at first the workman paid threefourths and the employer one-fourth. Later the proportion was changed to two-thirds and one-third, while the State added a subvention. In 1884 an accident insurance law followed, which laid on employers the total burden of providing for injured workmen. In 1889 old age insurance was provided by law, making provision for every workman on the completion of his seventieth year. The burden of providing this fund is laid equally on workmen and their employers.

There has hardly been time to test these schemes fully, and different views regarding them are found in the ranks of German socialists, as well as outside. On the whole, it seems clear that they have done much to relieve misery among the working-class, and make their poverty more endurable; but they have proved to be mere palliatives and have therefore disappointed those who expected them to make a real contribution towards the solution of the social problem. At the same time, the principle of the laws is a distinct recognition of State Socialism, and a step in that direction of no little importance. These Bismarck laws of Germany have been duplicated in nearly

every country of Europe, so that working-men no longer have to face injury without compensation or an old age of either starvation or pauperism.

Germany has taken other long strides in the direction of State Socialism. Forestry has been under State control for generations, and even on private land a man may not cut his timber save under certain regulations and restrictions as to age of trees, quantity, and immediate reforestation. Canals and canalized rivers are under State control. The acquisition of railways by the State has been vigorously pushed since the Franco-Prussian War, until now not more than one-tenth of the total mileage is in private hands, and these are mostly unimportant side-lines. And in no country in the world is the train service more prompt and convenient, nowhere is the comfort and safety of the passenger more carefully looked after, nowhere are baggage and freight handled more expeditiously and safely. Passenger rates for first and second class are about the same as in America for equal accommodations, and a third class is provided, with plainer cars, at considerably lower rates than any American railway offers, save in the "immigrant" trains, which Germans would think fit only for cattle.

The post has long been a government enterprise, as with us, but the cheap rates for carrying parcels by post make express companies a superfluity; and the telegraph and telephone lines have been made an adjunct of the post, so that in a single building one may send his message by which of the three routes he may please. Telegraph rates are considerably lower than with us. The State mans these services, in large part, with veterans from the army and navy, which partly accounts

« AnteriorContinuar »