“What is Socialism?” by Joseph Labadie

What is Socialism?  There have been so many definitions given of it that the minds of those who are not persistent in its study become confused, and they finally cry out in despair: “What in the world do these people want anyway?–what in the world is Socialism?”  One school calling itself Socialist wants to abolish the State, and contends that government is tyranny; another school wants the State to assume control of all the means of producing and distributing wealth and give to each according to his deeds; and still another wants all property to be common and each to receive according to his needs.  One wants cooperation by the State, another wants absolute free competition.  One wants all taxes raised on land values, and the taxes so high as to absorb rent; another wants to abolish taxes entirely, and contends that rent is robbery…

The principal source of difference between the two most conflicting schools, or in fact the two great sub-divisions of Socialists, is in the methods of reaching the greatest happiness.  The anarchists believe in absolute personal liberty and that the institutions of society should conform to the individualities of persons; and the State Socialists believe in the authority of the majority and that the individual should conform to the institutions of the State and that the State shall be an absolute democracy.  They all agree that the resources of nature–land, mines, and so forth–should not be held as private property and subject to being held by the individual for speculative purposes, that use of these things shall be the only valid title, and that each person has an equal right to the use of all these things.  They all agree that the present social system is one composed of a class of slaves and a class of masters, and that justice is impossible under such conditions.  But when the questions are asked: “How are these conditions to be changed?” and ‘What will we substitute for the present system?” their answers are as much at variance as are the forces of cohesion and repulsion…

Anarchism, as I see it, is a beautiful theory, and even if not capable of complete realization the grandest of human aspirations.  But I doubt whether man will ever be far enough removed from the tadpole to enjoy it as it is dreamed of.  I believe, though, that the Labor movement in its entirety is moving towards the ultimate of absolute, personal freedom…I hope to see the day when the right to labor will be recognized and a much larger share of the products go to the producer than now.  It is possible the powers and functions of the State will increase and methods be adopted largely influenced by the doctrines of Karl Marx and Henry George.  State authority and State control over industry are taking strong hold of the popular mind and…will possibly have to spend itself before any large number of people will seriously consider that there may be other and better ways to establish equity than by centralized authority…

Between absolute autonomy and majority rule there is no middle ground.  However much I may sympathize with those who seek to harmonize these two conflicting elements, yet reason tells me that…one or the other must be extinguished.  Sooner or later this truth will become clear to every social reformer, and the time will come when he will have to take his stand either on the one side or on the other…

There is a possibility that, as it is darkest just before dawn, the nearer we get to anarchy the more completely will the individual become the child of the State.  The State Socialist wants the land nationalized; the Anarchist wants it individualized.  The State Socialist wants money nationalized ; the Anarchist wants it individualized.  The State Socialist wants governmental co-operation; the Anarchist wants individual competition, the object in both cases being to make cost the limit of price, and, as I see it, both methods capable of accomplishing that result if only carried out consistently.  If the people can be persuaded through the State, or forced by the majority, to do those things that are best for all, there may come a time when they will do these things because it is best…may it not be possible that Anarchism will be the result of State Socialism, or, in other words, is not State Socialism only another way of reaching Anarchism?…