The Social Question
VI. What significance does work have for the modern Proletarian?
8 March 1919, Zürich
When the theme for today's lecture was announced, the question could have been asked: ‘From which angle is this going to be approached?’ — From some or other research, it could be concluded that now again an understanding needs to be addressed, an understanding so strongly yearned for which has for a long time been imposed as today's capitalistic sea of confusion, and those in it notice that the water is up to their mouths and they are no longer able to swim in this sea. They search for a rescue boat; they would not be able to find such a rescue boat with conditions they usually insist upon. About such an interpretation I don't want to speak this evening. It appears to me that in the time in which we are living, quite other things are necessary. If we look at one another, at what has actually happened and what is going on at present, for those who are searching for such an understanding, it is so terrible.
What is called the ‘social question’ today has in no way only come about yesterday. In the way one speaks about it today, it is more than half a century old. However, what has actually led up to the social question is much, much older; it has come out of the entire development of modern times and out of the last centuries. When we observe where this development of the last centuries has led up to, then we can sum it up in the following way.
There were a number of people who we can best describe by saying they lived in a capitalistic economic order and felt comfortable living in this capitalist economic order. One hears often enough from these people how far civilization has progressed. One can hear how it has come about that humanity has reached such a stage in which not only distant single countries and continents but over world oceans they could quickly come to an understanding; how far humanity has come through a certain education and taken part in what they called spiritual life, imagining they had reached impressive heights in our time.
I don't need to mention all the praise declarations about this direction in our modern civilization. However, modern civilization has developed out of a foundation. Without this foundation, it is inconceivable; it thrives from this foundation. What was in this foundation? In this foundation there were increasingly more people who out of their deepest soul sensitivities had to let the call be heard: ‘Does modern life give us what our human existence is worth? Why have we been condemned by modern civilisation?’ — So, modern humanity is ever more split into two divisions: in one in which they feel comfortable or at least feel satisfied in modern civilisation, but out of which they can only feel satisfied because of this foundation, while the other one must create the foundation as their labour, towards a social order in which they can basically have no share.
In the entire process, admittedly something else also developed. It developed in such a way that the carriers of the so-called civilization in the old patriarch conditions could not progress with its numerous illiterates. It meant that of the capitalistic supporters at least a part of the Proletarians, the part in their employ, had to be educated. As a result of this education, the Proletarians developed something which has come to such a frightening expression for those who understand the all too necessary facts. This development brought about the possibility to a large number of people, who had just created the foundation for this modern civilization, to be able to consider their situation; they didn't arrive at an instinctive insight any more but it enabled them to pose this question in the most intensive way: ‘Can we have a dignified human existence? How can we acquire a dignified human existence?’
Those who up to now had been the leaders of humanity have in the course of modern economic life brought the economic life as far as they could, into a connection with the modern state. The modern Proletariat could to a certain extent not be excluded from the modern state through the influences of recent times. So it came about that the Proletariat on the one hand within the economic life strived for a dignified existence and on the other hand with the help of the state, tried to win the right.
One can't deny this — the facts teach us — in both directions little has been accomplished. In the manner of the trade unions the modern working community within the economic circulation has tried to accomplish something: there were scraps of what human dignity within a healthy economic order should be. This has been achieved in a way, by state life. On the other hand, the economic and political power of the hitherto leading class of mankind was opposed. So one can say that despite various things having been accomplished in both these directions, today the modern Proletariat is not less challenged by the question: ‘What significance is there actually in my work in relation to what each person in the world must consider regarding dignity?’
In contrast to that, for long decades the Proletariat have, in the most varied forms, addressed the leading circles with the cry: ‘It can't go on like this!’ — On the other hand, hardly an understandable word can be heard in response. The words which do become audible stand in an extraordinary relationship to what the minds of the time should have striven for. Don't we hear it from all possible sides — from the Christian-social side, from the bourgeois-socialist aspirants — some or other statement is being made which could help remedy the dangers which one is believed to be able to see? Was it more basically as ingratiating phrases which came out of various moral, religious deliverances, emerging from those, up to then, leading classes?
These leading circles didn't experience it but the other side of humanity did. The one who feels it from quite another angle than as from empty phrases, the one who experiences it out of the awareness of his or her class, brought into a particular social situation, should form the base for this modern civilisation. And so, some things were done through the trade union, cooperative and also political life, yet something else came about which was more important than the modern Proletarian's work, something which was full of seeds for the future and the facts of the present carried it into abundance. This was created in the following way.
While the ruling classes were amassing their luxuries, which could only be fed and empowered by capitalism, the Proletarian, in the time left over for him, in his meetings sought in the truest sense of the word an education towards a spiritual life. This was something which the earlier ruling classes didn't want to see, that among thousands, yes thousands of Proletarian souls a new culture, a new viewpoint was developing in the people.
Based on the nature of these things, the Proletarian development next proceeded to the viewpoint of considering economic life, because the modern life of the Proletarian was forged by the machine. Into the factory he was packed, harnessed in by capitalism. Here he found his concepts. However, these concepts — I only want to point out how intensely everything connected to Marxism penetrated with meaning into the Proletarian soul — this development was such that very little, really very little reaction was elicited from the leading, up to then ruling classes.
Isn't it typical that those who know about these things must say today: Among the ruling proletarian personalities, among those who really understand the Proletariat, not merely think about the Proletariat but among those individualities who have taken up what could really be considered a fruitful development offered by economic life, among them really live the basic, thorough knowledge of life into which the social organism plays even as the most elite of educators, even the most thoughtful professors of sociology, university professors. It is typical that this circle, whose calling it was so to speak, to concern itself with sociology, with national economics, that it resisted everything which presented itself as an understanding for the modern Proletariat, for as long as possible. Only when the facts threatened and no longer allowed anything else to be permitted, did they accommodate the bourgeois leaders, allowing many Marxist or similar terms to be taken into their national economic system.
That the work of the modern Proletariat was achieved, I would like to call it, achieved in total secrecy towards the leading ruling circles, this I report out of no grey theory; I maintain this because I could observe how this work was being executed. For years I was a teacher in the worker's education school in Berlin, where Wilhelm Liebknecht, the dear old servant, could be validated. Partly in this school, partly in what was happening, one had a good extract of every process in action, directed towards a new era developed out of the proletarian consciousness. This should have been considered long ago, but superficially regarded the modern proletarian movement only in terms of wages and daily bread and failed to understand its needs to be considered as a question of human dignity of all people.
On the other hand, it is not really important when people point to the frightening and sometimes cruel events out of the world of facts as originating from the social chaos. Those who understand these things correctly, how they have developed, don't question the connection between these cruelties or terrors to the modern proletarian movement but they clearly take it that the leading classes are at cause for what has come about today.
The world-historical moment only started when the Proletariat began taking responsibility for world historical events. Capitalism, the capitalistic world order particularly in the most recent times worked right into the terrible and in many respects insane catastrophe of the world war.
What can we now see as a central focus in the Proletarian movement and the Proletarian yearnings, which can be considered as the Proletarian progress? In the centre of this we see what the Proletarian experiences regarding that which basically is the cause and which can only be given from the modern economic order to the social organism, because the leading cultural circles are basically only interested in one thing which the Proletarian can give, and that one thing is Proletarian labour. One needs to realize how incisive Karl Marx's ideas were, which crossed the tracks of the modern Proletariat in such a way that they had the experience: Above all things clarity must be created in relation to the manner and way in which human labour may flow into the social organism.
Now, it has often been said and illuminated in the widest circles: through the modern economic order, labour has become goods among other commodities. It is typical of the economic life that it exists in the production, circulation and consumption of goods. However, it has happened that the labour of the modern Proletarian has been made into goods.
From this angle, basically everything can be said about the Proletarians. However, the question is usually drawn to one side so that it doesn't appear in the full light but through which one actually gains insights into the statement of the human labour in the healthy social organism. Here the question must be raised which in any case rises out of the Marxist question but it is raised in an even more precise, an even more intense manner. It must be asked: Can human labour ever really be considered as goods?
Through this the question leads to quite a different track. One will in fact ask: How can human labour legitimately be rewarded? How can human labour in any way come to its rights? One can add further: it must be in such a way that human labour earns its pay.
A wage is in some ways nothing other than purchase money for the goods called ‘labour power.’ However, the power of labour may never be goods! Where the power of labour in the economic process is made into goods, there is a falsehood in the economic process, because in reality something is added which could never be a true component of this reality. On this basis labour can be no goods because it can't have the character which goods is necessitated to have. In the economic process, each item of goods must have the possibility through its value, to be compared with other commodities. Comparability is the basic condition for the ‘being-of-goods’ (Ware-Sein) of something. The value of human labour can never be compared with the value of some or other commodities or products.
It would have been terribly easy if people had not forgotten how to simply think. Just think about it, for my sake, when ten people in a family work together, each one doing his or her work, how one can take a single contribution out of ten and compare it with the achievement which the ten has produced together? People just don't have the ability to compare the output of goods to the power of labour. Labour stands on quite another basis of social judgement than goods. This is what has perhaps in recent times not been clearly spoken about, but which lives in the experiences of the modern Proletariat.
What lives in the requirements of the modern Proletariat? What lives here in the feelings of the Proletarian is factual criticism, the world historic criticism which simply lies in the life of the modern Proletarians and, hurled into it, everything which the leading circles as a social order have promoted. The modern Proletariat is nothing other than a world historic criticism. Just the knowledge that labour can never be goods, owes its sensation, the basic experience of its existence, which is lived through in recent times as an enormous, an all-encompassing white lie, because labour is sold and according to their being this can never be sold.
That a remedy must be found, as everyone with insight must find obvious, of this the modern Proletariat is convinced. Yet he has been driven into something which not he, but the earlier ruling classes has made of the social organism. He has been pushed out of everything left over and is only drawn into the economic process. Does this not make it clear that he would want to bring about through this mere healing of this economic process and the circulation of the economic life itself, the entire social organism as well? Out of this the ideals have originated in the same way as the ideals the modern Proletariats have lived up to now.
It has been said that because private capitalism has made modern production into a goods production through private means of production, it has resulted in the modern Proletariat coming into the position which only he can experience. The only help can be offered by reverting back to the ancient idea of the cooperative, a cooperative which means that one's production goes over to the other and work towards self-production in which he can't misuse the other on the grounds that he would then be prejudicing himself. The following can also be asked: How would this great cooperative be set up? Here one must take refuge in the framework which has been created in recent times — that of the modern state. The modern state itself must make itself into a big cooperative through which the production of goods gradually is directed to the production of the self-employed.
Here we find the very point which needs to be grasped. One can now say that healing can be found in the modern Proletarians' spiritual life on the one hand, and at the same time discover that where there is a possibility for development in the modern Proletarian's spiritual life, there is a possibility from this step, to take yet another step towards progress.
People who do not agree with this should really not be resented if they are being sincere with honest feelings which they cherish, for they do not yet see results coming from the present Proletarian world view, but it is necessary to point out that this Proletarian world view have seeds of progress, and that this progress should really be striven for — and it can be striven for.
There are those who would admit they became enlightened by what I have already said — about eighteen years ago — in the Berlin trade union house, as a characteristic, and then often again had to emphasise it as a peculiarity of the modern labour movement, which I still maintain as absolute truth. At that time I said: For those who glance over the historic life of humanity with an inner understanding for what has emerged, for them it will be noticeable that this modern Proletarian Movement appears different to all other movements of humanity, basically because — and you might find this grotesque, a paradox even — it stands on a scientifically orientated foundation.
Profound, very profound it was then in this direction as a fundamental, basic requirement of the modern labour movement that the almost forgotten (Ferdinand) Lassalle's famous lecture was given entitled “Science and the Worker.” Things need to be looked at from another point of view than what is habitually done: one must look at it from the view of life. In doing so one could say: with reference to what has become available to the Proletariat as a result of what the ruling classes had to give him because they didn't want him to be left illiterate, through this the modern Proletarian had the desire to conquer, to take it as his inheritance what had been built up in the recent times out of the endeavours of the leading circles, what they had created as a scientific world view.
What it comes down to is this — now the modern Proletarian reacted in quite a different manner regarding this scientific world view than all the other circles, even though they were the ones who had created this world view. One could be quite an enlightened person in the leading and up to the-then ruling circles, a person whose innermost convictions welled up from the results of modern science, for my sake one could be a scientific researcher like Vogt, a popular scientific researcher like Büchner, and still your scientific orientation will be different to that of the modern Proletarian.
Those who, out of the leading circles with their prejudices, namely their anticipation and their presentiments, who theoretically confess to their modern education regarding human beings and nature, they remain stuck for this reason within a social order which cuts them off from the modern Proletariat. The structure of the Proletariat does not rest on scientific claims but is due to what came before modern science into human minds as religious, lawful and such imaginations towards the fulfilment of human dignity. Of this I once had a direct experience.
It happened in the moment when I stood in front of a worker gathering with the tragically passed away Rosa Luxemburg. We were addressing the gathering regarding the modern worker and modern science. There one could to see how, what modern science poured into the modern proletarian souls, worked quite differently even in the most convinced leading circles, when Rosa informed the people: ‘There is nothing which refers to the angelic creation of people, nothing which points to the lofty places of origin which the common people eagerly describe; there are even claims from the common people's world view how our origins developed from climbing animals. Whoever thinks this through’ — thus she spoke enthusiastically about this issue, this leader of the workers — ‘whoever thinks this through can't discriminate like the present leading circles are doing, persisting in their prejudices about the possibilities of grading ranks among people who all originate from the same origins.’ — This was taken up differently by them compared with those in the leading circles. This supplemented the ideas which the modern Proletarians were taken to understand as science.
That which has been taken up by a soul has the possibility for further development and about this evolution I would like to relate something to you.
If you glance over everything which relates to the question of how it is possible that the force of labour of the modern Proletarian has been made into goods, you will gradually be coerced through your observations regarding the economic life to arrive at a point where you have to say to yourself: It has come about precisely because the modern worker has been harnessed to the mere economic life and through being within this economic life his labour has become goods. In this direction, we have the continuation of the slave question of olden times. Here the entire person was goods. Today what has remained is only the labour of the person. However, now this power of labour must be adhered to by all people.
Within the modern Proletarian soul was the feeling that the last remnants from Barbarian times must not be allowed to continue into the future, that it should be conquered. There was no other way to conquer it than with the same clear strength of mind with which the modern Proletariat grasped the essence of economic- and human nature, with which the science for a healthy social organism can be grasped. About this science I would like to say a few words to you.
One thing above all appears clearly. One need to ask oneself: within the circulation of the modern economic life, what makes the force of labour of the modern Proletarian into goods? It is the economic power of the capitalists.
In these words of the power of the capitalists there is already an indication for a healthy answer. So: when is power diametrically opposed? Power is diametrically opposed by law, by rights. This however points out that for the healing, the recovery, of human labour in the social organism it can only come about when labour is taken out, when above all the question regarding labour is taken out of the economic process and it becomes a pure and clear question of law.
Through this we come to consider things in broader terms, whether there is a more significant difference between the economic question and the question of law. This distinction exists: only we are not inclined today to examine this difference deeply enough. We are not inclined to goo deeply enough into, on the one hand, what the active forces in all of economic life has to be, and on the other hand, what the active powers need to be in the actual life of rights.
What works in the economic processes? Human needs are active in the economic process; here the possibility of satisfying human needs may come through production. Both are based on natural foundations, the human requirements are based on people and production is based on climatic, geographic and such natural foundations. The economic life of the modern division of labour has led towards what the exchange of commodities is, and has to be. Each exchange of commodity which benefits both the needs of people and value of goods according to their mutual estimation — I can't describe it in detail, it would take too long — appear on the markets and is drawn into the circulation of the economic process on the markets.
Within the circulation of the economic life, the life of the law can't develop simultaneously as a closed circuit. Human nature will as much admit that the social organism within the economic life develops the life of rights by itself, as it will admit that a single centralized system exists in the human organism. Tonight, I really don't want to play with various comparisons out of natural science but I believe here is the point which the natural scientist has also reached today, as we have done. In my last book “Riddles of the Soul” I have remarked that natural science can't properly acknowledge that there are three systems in the healthy human organism: the sense-nervous system is there as carrier of the soul life, the breathing and heart system as carrier of the rhythmic life and the metabolic system as carrier for metabolism and this comprises the entire human organism. However, each system is centralised in itself, each has its own approach to the outer world. In this human organism order and harmony is summoned in order for these three systems not to cause chaos among one another but that they unfold side by side, and as a result allow the power of one to flow into the other.
So in a healthy social organism such a three-foldness should take place. It must be realised that when a person in the economic organism becomes active, he must simply operate in the economic process. Then administration, the legislation of this economic process is expected to mutually evaluate the goods in the economic reality and bring it into movement towards a goal orientated circulation of goods, introducing the goods production, introducing the consumption of goods. What needs to be removed now from this economic process is not everything which includes the satisfaction of needs of one person to another, but is connected to the relationship of one person to every other person. Where all people should be equal is radically different from what can develop only in the economic life. That is why it is necessary for the healing of the social organism that the purely legal life element, the actual life of rights, be removed from the economic one. This development is just what has been striven against in recent times.
The ruling classes up to now — what have they done? In the regions where they felt comfortable, where their interests really lie, there you have the old merging which certainly had existed in many areas between the economic life and political state life, and now is taken further. So we see that in recent times, under the influence of the leading circles of mankind, so-called nationalisation came about in certain economic sectors. Post and telegraph and similar ones nationalised in a modern step which this modern progress wants.
In exactly the opposite direction it must be considered, not according to the interests of the leading circles up to now, but with the question: ‘What are the foundations of a healthy social organism?’ — Efforts need to be made to gradually dissolve the purely economic life from the actual political state, a state which has to care for law and order, but above all to care for those things that out of these areas, out of the economic life the corresponding life of law flows in. Those who have no eyes, no spiritual eyes, can't really distinguish how radically different the economic life is to the actual political state.
Look at how these things have developed today. Some people speak out of the present social conditions in such a way that they say, within the social conditions we have as the first item: ‘Exchange goods for goods.’ — Good, this happens in the economic life. It has just been spoken about. Now as to the second item: ‘Exchange of goods, alternatively the representative of goods, namely money, for labour.’ And as a third item: ‘Exchange of goods for laws.’
What about this last one? I've just spoken about the second one. Now, we need to look at the relationship of property ownership within the modern economic order and we will immediately become clear about what should be clarified in this area for the future. How one usually likes to think about the ownership relationship in relation to land — everything else in the actual foregoing regarding the social organism doesn't really have meaning, the only meaning it has is that the owner of the ground and land has the right to own a piece of land and can utilise the earth, and by doing so make his personal interests valid.
This doesn't have the slightest relevance in the origins of the economic processes as such. With the economic processes — against this only an erroneous national economy objects — it relates to what there is on the land as goods or the value of goods that can be generated. Use of the land depends on a right.
This right, however, is turned into power, transformed within the modern capitalistic economic order, through the amalgamation of capitalism with land rental. So on the one side we have the power, excluded from such rights; on the other side economic power, which is able to compel human labour to become goods. From both sides, nothing other than the actualized white lie is the result, when there is no striving — striving out of actual social insight — towards the dividing of the social organism into an economic organism and an organism in the narrower sense, as state-political.
The economic organism must be established on an associative foundation, out of the needs of consumption in its relationship to production. Out of the various interests of the most varied career circles the manifold cooperatives — one could name them with the old word of ‘brotherhood’ — need to be developed, in which the needs and their fulfilment are managed.
What develops from this associative foundation of the economic organism will always relate to the fulfilment of one sphere of people with another sphere. In this area expert utilisation must be decisive, first in the natural foundations and then also in the design utilisation of the production, circulation and consumption of goods. What will be of relevance here would be human needs and human interests.
This is always regarded as contrary, as something radically different to how apparently equal people relate towards one another, where they should be equal; it is today already uttered in trivial words: ‘Where they must stand equal before those laws which they have created themselves, as equals.’
On the associative foundation, the circulation of the economic process will rest; on a purely democratic basis, on the principle of equality of all people and their relationship to one another will rest, in a narrower sense, the actual political organisation. Out of this political organisation something quite different will develop compared to the economic power, which makes labour into goods. Out of the economic life, separated from the political life, something will rise as a true law of employment, where here and only here, the labour which can be traded between one person and another, measure, work and so on can be agreed upon.
However, one might believe that things in recent times have already improved a bit — but fundamentally it comes down to not having improved. By the way the Proletarians' labour is positioned in the economic process, the price of labour as goods and the price of other products are dependent on the value of the goods. Everyone can see this if one looks deeper into the economic process. It will be different if, independent of the laws of the economic life and its administration, out of the political state, out of the purely democratic administration and making of laws for the political state, a labour law can come into existence. What will happen then?
What will then happen is that a person, through his own labour, will stand through his particular relationship towards the social organism in an ever so lively a way, as we can see today in the foundations of nature. Within certain boundaries, such things as the technical fertility of the ground, and so on, can be shifted a bit; the fixed boundaries of the foundations of nature be shifted a bit; yet these natural foundations determine the economic life nevertheless in the most extensive measure from one side. Likewise, as the economic life is determined from this side, so from the other side the economic life must be determined from outside, so that it doesn't make labour dependent on it but that the economic life can be presented by purely human foundations. Then labour determines the price of goods, then goods don't determine the price of labour any longer!
At most it can happen that from some or other basis the power of labour can't manage sufficiently and the economic life is impoverished. The remedy should be sought in the correct basis and not merely in the economic life.
The basic economic life is only based on supply and demand. With labour rights, which is situated on the basis of an independent political state, all the rest of the rights are also necessarily based on this same foundation. Briefly — I can only indicate it due to our limited time — it must necessarily be seen how there has to be a peeling apart on both sides: the life of rights and the economic life, the ideal of a healthy social organism in the future.
As a third element, the independent economic life must be integrated with the independent law of rights, with what one can call the spiritual life on mankind.
By speaking of true progress within the Proletarian world view, one will encounter the most resistance. The opinion has come from thinking-habits in this sphere, more than elsewhere, that salvation depends on the absorption of the entire spiritual life by the state. People were unable to see through the dependence of their spiritual life coming from the state right now in recent times, from what had happened before in the so-called interests of the ruling state circles, which had been able to satisfy these ruling circles. These ruling circles discovered their interests were satisfied by the state; they allowed the state to absorb ever more, what they called the spiritual life. Like the political state necessitated obligatory tax laws and established that all people are equal before the law, and how it is necessary by the state, through the obligatory tax to satisfy its needs, so, on the other side the spiritual life had to be freed from both the other spheres of the social organism.
The striving towards the amalgamation of the spiritual life with the economic life has brought disaster into our recent times. That which is to develop in the spiritual life can only do so if it takes place in the light of true freedom. Everything which can't develop in the light of true freedom stunts and paralyses the real spiritual life and besides that, leads to going astray, which can be recognised all too easily in the newer social order. Of necessity, here is to figure out which inner connections exist between the spiritual life in the narrowest sense, and the religious life, the economic life, the artistic life, a certain ethical life — what the relationship is between the life of all of them which originates in the first place out of the individuality's abilities and skills.
Out of this now, while we are speaking about these things in the most serious way, when in the first instance a healthy social organism is considered, we must speak about it in such a way that the following needs are to be counted under the heading of spiritual life: everything which involves the unfolding and development of individual abilities, from the start of the schooling system through to the university system, right into the artistic, right into the ethical life, yes, right into those branches of the spiritual life which form the foundation of practical and even economic systems. In all these areas, the emancipation of the spiritual life is to be striven for. Thus, the spiritual life is to be placed as a free initiative of individual human capabilities, so that this free spiritual life can only be there in a corresponding way in a healthy social organism, when its validity also depends on free recognition, on the free understanding of those who need the acceptance. That means that in future the management of the spiritual life will no longer be directed out of an addition of sums of what there is in the purse or strongbox, nor come out of state bureaucracy.
Not only as a result of the spiritual life being governed by the state, did it take on a certain characteristic corresponding to the personalities within it, in relation to the personalities who administered it, but the spiritual life as we find it today, rightly experienced as an ideology by the modern proletariat, this spiritual life has actually become a mirror image of the interests and desires which the leading circles have for the modern state because this they created according to their own comforts and needs. Is it basically right to say that the entire spiritual life has gradually become only a mirrored superstructure for the economic and governmental life? The modern spiritual life of the leading circles is exactly such a superstructure. Certainly chemistry or mathematics can't easily take on characteristics according to the interests of the leading circles. Already within the scope in which they are practiced, especially the light which falls on them from other spiritual areas, is determined through the fact that the leading circles have interests in the modern state life and for the modern spiritual life to grow together with the state.
Yes, modern spiritual life is exactly at the most important stage where it should penetrate the human soul and take its particular position in the social order, but instead it has become a sporting ball of the economic and political life. One can see in the way in which, right into the terrible war catastrophes, the carriers of the spiritual life were connected to the modern state life through capitalistic detours, basically taking the most important spiritual areas of life and inserting what could be applied, to the service of the state.
Not a hundred, not a thousand but thousands of proofs can be found. You only need to think of taking the German history professors and supporters of historic science. Try to make an image of everything they have produced in relation to the history of the Hohenzollern, and ask yourself whether, according to this world historic fact, the history of the Hohenzollern actually looks like it does, as it had appeared before? According to this, one can observe how relationships within the spiritual life have become a mere game for those who were not liberated from it.
The spiritual life must become free from both other spheres. Only then can the spiritual life continue with its own legislation and administration — as strange and surprising as this might sound, but it needs to be said — of what today can only, and completely, come out of capitalistic prejudices; then spiritual life will really become the winner over purely economic proletarian interests. The spiritual life is consistent. The spiritual life comes out of the highest branch of spiritual life right down into those branches which originate as a result of someone, out of their individual talents, taking the lead in some or other venture. Just as he directs them today, so he directs them out of the economic life through the process of power, economic power. Like he leads them from out of a healthy social organism, so it comes out of the spiritual life. Spiritual life has within a healthy social organism its own legislation and administration in relation to the higher branch of spiritual life, but also in relation to everything within the economic process which work towards the spiritual life being independent as such.
Then within this economic process the right way and influences of emancipation will rise towards an independent spiritual life. What had been achieved through capital can no longer be achieved according to the sense of modern capitalism. Now it will be achieved only through the impulses coming out of the spiritual life itself.
However, these impulses must be imagined in the correct way. How will an enterprise really look in line with these impulses?
Whoever knows the foundations of spiritual life — I have come across this quite often — will not contradict me when I give the following sketch of an enterprise which obtained its impulses not from an economic influence but from a spiritual power. Here would be those who are in the position, out of a free understanding with their colleagues and with a certain capital fund, to undertake nothing related to their own needs but directed to a social understanding which has been truly founded in spiritual life. In such an enterprise they would face, through a free understanding of all colleagues, right down to the last worker, the free understanding of their appointed posts, then a relationship of free understanding will arise between the leaders of the enterprise and the workers who are quite necessary for its execution. This results in, that beside the working hours there is included, within this enterprise and within the cooperatives of the enterprise, the possibility of a free expression about the entire way in which the overall social organism is placed within the economic process. Then those who live within the influences of a spiritual life would replace those in positions held by capitalist entrepreneurs today and reveal themselves in regard to all which places their wares in the entire social process of mankind. Each individual will then see the direction taken by the product to which they have contributed their work, where the product of their particular individual capabilities of manual work leads to. Everything can then also become included which would give the worker the possibilities to establish a real employment contract.
A real employment contract can't be determined when it is established on the basis of the condition that labour is goods. A true employment contract must not be based along these lines: the one and only real employment contract can only be based on the condition that work, which is necessary for the creation of products, is accomplished on the basis of laws, but that in relation to economics, that the proper cooperation is created between manual work and spiritual work, that in relation to economics, that a sharing operation between the manual and spiritual work must happen which can only take place out of the free understanding that manual work was the precursor, because then the manual worker knows that out of the spiritual coexistence with the leaders to what degree his work, through their leadership, flows for his own benefit into the social organism.
In such collaboration, the possibility ceases for capital based enterprises to develop according to egotistic benefits. Then only, when in this way the social organism is healed, then only can today's profit motives be replaced by purely factual interest. To a greater extent what had been the case in earlier times, would arise again as the interconnection between a person and his or her work.
Let us consider the connection between a person and their work today. On the one hand, there is the entrepreneur who wants to accomplish what he regards as work but he clears off as quickly as possible from this work. He expresses it in such a way that when he has cleared out from his work, he refers to it as “shoptalk.” He gets away from it and then searches through all kinds of other things to discover his striving as a human being. Through this relationship of human beings to their work is shown how little people grow together with their work.
This is an unhealthy relationship. This unhealthy relationship attracts others; by this tearing the modern Proletariat away from the foundation of their old craft, where they grew with their occupation, grew from their professions to their honour, to their human dignity, tear them away to where they are installed at machines, harnessed in a factory; here the unhealthy proof is produced in them that they can obtain no relationship with their jobs.
Whoever has come to know the true foundations of spiritual life knows that such an unhealthy relationship between a person and his occupation can only arise from unhealthy requirements. There is nothing in a healthy spiritual life which is free from political and free from the economic life which only have an effect on them; there is nothing in such a spiritual life which is not directly interesting and which, when it is correctly handled, a person can connect to his work, because he knows: this work he does, becomes a member of the circulation of the social organism. It is not something which can only be judged because it can't be any other way, that a person must also do something uninteresting. No, it must be judged in such a manner that precisely this foundation of spiritual life will be searched for, which is the one and only thing which can call forth interest: coherence of people with their work and interest in all spheres in any occupation.
This will show that, when the emancipated free spiritual life out of spiritual impulses enter right into the most individualised branches of governmental and economic life and its administrators, then only will it be possible that a real, factual interest is applied to all and not be based on a mere commercial, mere outer economic and benefit ratio relationship.
Admittedly the foundations for such a spiritual life need to be created. These foundations can only be created when everything regarding schooling is to be placed in the management of the spiritual life, when the lowest teacher no longer asks: what does the political state expect of me? — but when he or she can look at those in whom they have trust, when he or she can look at the spiritual life according to their own principles in their managed area of the social organism.
Thus, it works in many respects, I believe, when it proves itself naturally. From a true continuation of the proletarian world viewpoint it works against habits of thought. While people had absorbed the inheritance of the bourgeois science and amalgamated spiritual life, state and economic life into one another, it is important that for the healing of the social organism there needs to be a striving towards the independence of these three mentioned areas. Only through these areas — if I might use acceptable expressions — gradually having their own parliament and their own management, which relate to one another like a government of a sovereign state, only negotiating through delegation, only exchanging their communal needs through transport, then only will the social organism be healed. The question today is a fundamental one, arising out of all the facts: How can the social organism be healed? It needs to be taken in hand, it is sick, this social organism!
In order for those who, out of their class consciousness, want to make the correct claim towards healing the social organism, they actually need to research the Proletarian world viewpoint down to its fertile sprout and from there continue to build further.
I must admit that initially some could object to what is considered as correct today, when it is said: The direction must be taken according to this social three-foldness, this three-foldness of the social organism. — As much as these ideas contradict thought habits of some people at present, the reality must not be to steer towards our comforts, not towards what we believe has up to now been true for life practitioners. Reality needs to orientate us, reality founded on honesty and a healthy sense of judgment for the recognition of truth.
What I have explored here has no relevance to some or other cloud-cuckoo land. Oh, the time is here when some, who can only glance superficially at the simplest things and then create their own thought patterns, considering themselves practical in life, must admit that the very frowned-upon idealists who think from the basis of evolutionary necessities of mankind, are the real practical people. What I have given you is not clouds of cuckoo land; it originated exactly out of the most direct, daily needs in the life of mankind.
Admittedly I can't enter into all the single areas; in conclusion, I would like to touch on one area, an area which I can only mention fleetingly as something which I've apparently derived from the most ancient idea of the social life and how it comes across as the most ardent need. What in life is most humiliating? The most humiliating thing is that we must have what we call money, in our purse. We also know however, what is connected to this money. You know how this money intervenes into every part of life. If one considers the development of a healthy social organism, in which branch does the control of money belong?
The management of money has up to now been the concern of the state through certain forces of its development. Money is actually truly goods in a healthy organism, just as labour is not goods. Everything unhealthy which comes through how money enters the social organism results from money being stripped of its characteristic as goods, that it depends today more on the cancellation of some market through the political state, than on what it certainly should rest, while nothing else works in international traffic, which is on its merchandise value. National economists have an amusing battle today, a battle which really works in an amusing way to the insightful. They ask if money is goods, just a popular commodity, for which one can always swap other goods, whereas if for instance you had the misfortune of only manufacturing tables and chairs, you would have to go around dragging your tables and chairs and wait for someone who had vegetables. Instead you could swap your tables and chairs for the money they are worth and then find what's applicable according to your needs. While the one says money is a commodity or at least represents a commodity, even if it is paper money, for which there is a corresponding value, the other might say money is totally only that which comes about through the state law pigeon-holing a certain brand. Now these educated economists research the question: What is correct? Is money a commodity or something which arises from mere branding? Is it a mere payment for goods?
The answer is simply this: today money is neither the one nor the other, but both. The one is a result of the state simply approving of certain brands; the other is that in international transportation or in a certain relation also in national transportation, money purely as a commodity is the only form in which it can participate in the circulation.
A healthy social organism will strip money of its legal characteristics; its management and legislation will be assigned through a natural process within itself, in the adjustment of money, coinage, the value of money within the economic circulation, the same parliament, the same organisation which manages the rest of the economic organism.
Only then, when something like this steps in, which the modern Proletariat may be striving for, will it be placed on a healthy foundation. That strange relationship which exists between the working wages and the nature of goods, this relationship depends on a white lie. While the worker on the one hand believes that when his demand for an increased wage will suffice towards healthier living conditions, then on the other hand the price of commodities rises if it is not freed in the economic cycle from the legal cycle of the political state. These things are all placed on a healthy foundation only when the three-foldness steps in.
In the same way, if you have insight into the necessity of independence of the spiritual life, then you will see, will accept that there is no necessity to create capitalistic organisations as such, but that the manner and way how in the course of modern time capital is managed, how it has been used, that it only exists in the economic process, is how the capital process has caused damage which is linked to so much misery.
One will have to recognise this: as long as the employment contract does not relate to the collective output of what the crafter and the spiritual worker brings, but as long as the employment contract is related to the wages for the work, for so long would it be impossible to place these on a healthy basis.
The one and only way for the spiritual life to be recognised as a healthy reality becomes revealed in any case in its necessary relationship between worker and spiritual ruler, there where the worker is cheated, not cheated merely through the economy but cheated by the business man, who does not value his individual qualities, his spiritual traits in the right way, but in an incorrect way, in a inhuman manner. The worker is not exploited by the economic life, the worker is exploited through the white lies which come about in today's social organism in which individual abilities can just be used by cheating the workers because they are not seen from both sides in the economic process; within a healthy spiritual life they are seen from both sides and directed thus.
As I've said, what I've brought here towards the healing of the social organism can still be resisted by many Proletarian minds. I can see this. For years I have been involved with workers and spoken to them about these things. I haven't managed only single branches of teaching in the workers educational school; I have also offered exercises in speech. In these exercises which led on to speech exercises, several workers in this community truly showed what particular colouring, what special form their demands took as modern Proletariat. Here one could readily acquire the ability to think about the Proletariat not only in the manner of today's leading circles or the leading circles up to now. This is what I wanted to say to you today: think with the Proletariat, don't think about them!
For my sake think about it, it is like this — I would like to bring you to understand — that with reference to the contents of the one or the other meaning, one could perhaps renounce one but it is not important in today's world historic time whether one denies one or other meaning but that one agrees as to their honest claims which should be the claims of the modern Proletariat. Only through becoming comfortable with these agreements, with the consensus of honest Willing, then only through this could the seedling be discovered, which lies in the Proletarian world view, towards further growth and development. The time for mere discussion is over, the time is past for people who only want to serve their interests and speak about understanding. The time has come where for decades already, merely the undercurrents of outstanding claims of the modern Proletarians have now stepped up to the world historic plan, where they may really become the most important and most meaningful events in modern times.
What has come out of the chaos of the recent world war due to the economic war, which for a long time might in future continue to meet the future, this will become the social question. Today I will present no unreal, no theoretical solution or attempt to give one. I want to make you aware that the time has now come for the social question to present itself, where people in their social communal work need to be divided into governmental-, economic- and spiritual organs, that out of these healthy divisions a continued solution of the social question can come about.
This social question will not be solved from one day to the next once it is there; because it will always be there like life always generates new conflicts, so there needs to be this branching of members which strives in an honest way for solutions in the rising conflicts in social life. Whether people would try, in the widest circles, to become aware of such an evolution in the proletarian world view for the healing which would lie in the future, would depend on the direction taken from the starting point of the modern proletarian movement. Actually, it needs to lead to something which has not been able to come about yet. Out of all the eligible demands of the questions of wages, of bread, it needs to be lifted up to a mighty, radical world historic change, coming out of the consciousness of the modern worker and passing over into general human consciousness, out of the dignity, out of the sensitive dignity of the modern Proletarian, to be established as real dignity for all people.
In the attached discussion, various speakers were heard and the conclusion was given in the following words by Rudolf Steiner:
Rudolf Steiner: Yes, regarding the first honourable speaker I would like to make something like a fundamental remark. When one speaks one is often in the position to say that one can't quite grasp why things which the previous speaker uttered are not quite understandable, as if it had been said as a refutation of what one had just said. The first speaker spoke in such a way as if he found it necessary to assure me in every way — even though he has acknowledged many things, at least in relation to his whole attitude — that he actually has to fight. I'm not in a position to fight with him but I would like to say that actually those who have listened to me don't have so much against what the first speaker had said. I am in the position to acknowledge much more, also in relation to the content of his statements, than what he somehow seemed to focus on in relation to what I actually wanted.
Now, some details seem important. It is remarkable that the first speaker believes that according to my lecture I spoke to workers, but I did not work with them. Sure, naturally each one can only work in his area of expertise, but the manner and way in which I worked together with the workers is already such that one can't say: ‘the workers were merely spoken to.’ I also believe that those who perhaps enter more into what streams through the lecture, on its entire intention, will find it understandable that for so many years I have not been addressed in this way, even though I admit I have been thus addressed today. I have not always been addressed like this, only I believe, out of the simple reason that at that time workers already felt that what I had to say was not uttered from mere conversations with workers.
When it became possible for me to speak in such a way as I have had to do today, it is really not some learned skill. Let us pose the question: Who can actually implicate themselves as Proletarians? Whoever can speak with and to the Proletarian about his destiny which he has struggled through with his own forces, can speak in such a way as I have done today, only as a free speaker. In these circles I have been accused, shared community, I have perhaps even been treated nearly, perhaps even treated worse, than I've been handled here this evening. Surely it is something different when someone, like me, has struggled through in a similar way; I will continue thus in my short life which remains. I have struggled for years through conversations with the Proletarians, worked with the Proletarians, I have grown out of the Proletariat, grown hungry with the Proletarians. I didn't ask the Postman how much he earns to make him starve, but I had to become hungry myself. I didn't get to understand the Proletarians through thinking about them but I learnt to understand the Proletarians by living with them. I grew up out of the Proletariat, learned to starve because I had to starve. This is the foundation from which you can already sense that because I've been able to live for years with them, I don't speak as it it's a mere theory but from a position of an applicable practical position. I believe it can also give the basis whether one has a certain right to speak to the Proletarians or not.
This is what I wanted to say about this issue.
What the first speaker brought, for the greatest part, doesn't actually relate to me but to the intellectuals. Yes, the chairman has since said: ‘When someone or other can speak about being pelted with dirt, dirt thrown at him by the intellectuals, then I may do it too.’ Really, when you want to investigate the manner and way in which dirt has been thrown at me, and the way and manner this dirt looks like, then you will not envy the dealings I have entertained with the intellectuals.
Anyway, this is a personal remark. However, those who have replied to me, also come from a personal basis and therefore these remarks need to be made.
Now, the greatest part of course doesn't involve me but it has relevance to the student body. In relation to the latter: do you believe that I don't understand at all how the majority of today's student body is justified by the reproach that this ideal does not reach the lowest wage-labourer? Obviously here much can be argued regarding capital. Just as the modern worker, on the other hand, understands that after all, other classes of people have developed out of circumstances, so eventually the modern student has also had to develop out of their situation. Whoever can impartially compare the strivings within the modern student body with for instance what was found within the student body, when I also — it's been a while — had been within that student body, it was said, in reference to the profundity in just the phenomena of decline in the bourgeoisie, as contained in the modern professorial body — which obviously depends on the student body — that in relation to the example which illuminated the modern student body one can above all observe the blossoming which brings improvements to the students, which in itself has a certain satisfaction. It has become quite obvious — when today it looks as if the students would stick the workers in the back — that out of the colleagues of the student body, I believe there are quite large numbers already, it will rise towards social ideals. The student has to overcome various things. One must not forget how unshakable the clamps are which immobilises one. I have just recently had many an opportunity to also speak to young students, whose ideals appear unreachable to them yet they are closer to having developed a healthy spiritual life in general out of the sick spiritual life of today. I know what kind of receptivity the youth has for the renewal of the spiritual life. I know also, however, how great the temptation is, when inspired youth who have graduated, who find it necessary to search for a position in the modern community, how close the temptation lies to become dulled and fall back into the infidelity of philistinism.
Naturally we won't reach a final solution from one day to the next for what we most hope and wish to see. However, it must be acknowledged that everywhere where such a longing exists, this kind of sensible yearning which the modern Proletariat calls for, takes place, that it isn't suppressed and in some fanatic or dogmatic way mixed with one another. I still believe that this dogmatism at least up to a certain degree — even in modern struggles the funds can't be too easily chosen — would have to yield to the spirit which I've presented in my lectures: what is important is not so much the variety of thoughts but more on the equality of earnest will forces.
Just ask for once how many of those you blame for sticking one in the back are dependent on the circumstances established by the modern student, and ask yourself on the other hand, how much earnest will is valid in today's youth. Rather maintain that, than falling into dogmatism and becoming lamed.
Now, what I can say about the content brought by the second speaker is this: I agree to the call which has fallen to the left, which is basically not so very different from what I said myself: I don't claim things need to be as firmly said as I've expressed them. When something or other is said which can improve things, then I'm pleased about it. As a result, I don't judge as harshly as the second speaker has done; I would only like to put right what can always be referred to by this speaker who has not quite taken it in a right way. He has for instance referred with suspicion to the worker school where I taught for many years in Berlin by saying it could only be a liberal educational association. I have clearly stressed that it came from the old Liebknecht, the labour school was founded by Wilhelm Liebknecht! I don't believe you can push over the old Liebknecht with founding an arbitrary educational association for the working class as they would not have accepted him at the time. The audience wasn't made up out of the “ordinary bourgeois liberals” but were entirely comprised of workers who were none other than social democrats out of Proletarian circles organised through the bank!
So I believe that some of the words I have spoken have not been taken up in the right way by this speaker, as I would have liked them to be taken, and how they can be understood when not approached with a predetermined opinion when the other person arrives with a different meaning, but when he expresses what is meant only in a different form because he believes it is necessary that this world historic moment must be taken more comprehensively, and while he believes that today not every practical person can be called who would only judge in relation to the near future but a true practical person who overviews the bigger picture.
In relation to the question of the “call for proposals,” which corresponds nearly word-for-word to what I've said tonight — you need not wonder about it because you have heard that the “call” was created by me and that you need not expect that when I speak about something to the bourgeoisie, that it should sound different to when I speak here from this podium.
Interruption: Either everywhere the same or...
That's what I've just said. I said in the “call” are the same words as what I've said here. In every “call” there is nothing different to what I've said here.
For me it is important that the meaning of what I say is the truth and I will speak the truth in every instance where I am permitted to speak the truth. I only speak the truth; that is what it comes down to, for me. This is what I want to say in relation to this. I will exclude no one from anything if he can merge it with his conviction and can say yes to what I say myself. I believe this is the only way to arrive at an olive branch, that we speak the truth, unconcerned about the impression made on people, whether they support it or not. This is what I wanted to say about this.
In conclusion, I would like to make a remark which relates to what the next speaker said: I had not said anything about the manner of the struggle. — However, out of my words you can extract how I actually think about this struggle. I believe I've referred to it sufficiently; my view does not depend on a superficial understanding or how the nice things are all mentioned. Today we are enslaved in a facts-phase where our deeds are nothing but an empty observation of how things must be changed, however we need, through our observation, to find which new thoughts are really able to be brought into human souls. The ancient thoughts showed what kind of a social order they could bring about and these old thoughts are the proof that they are useless. For this reason, I believe that it first and foremost practically comes down to those who have an honest social will, to communicate before anything else about what can happen.
Today we stand here in Switzerland — I don't know if one could say “Thanks to God” or “unfortunately” — still in the circumstances which are not the same as in the central and eastern European circumstances. Central and eastern Europe is in circumstances only manageable through the connection to the ancient thinking of a social organism. When there is no effort made by the Proletariat themselves to utter the fundamental questions, which now out of this chaos through the simplest organisations, which all have to have the characteristics, according to my view, of this three-foldness of the social organism — if healing is not brought about by the Proletariat themselves, by organisations being newly recreated, according to new ideas, then I see absolutely no healing in the coming decades.
First of all, we need to begin with something you might regard as insignificant: we must realize we don't only face civil institutions, bourgeois conditions but that we face a bourgeois science.
This is what I've said in the Berlin union house for sixteen years and it was really understood among the Proletarians. The Proletariat still have the task of expelling thoughts of bourgeois science out of their thinking and not to meet some or other institutions with the bourgeois science but with new thoughts, which perhaps can only be brought by the Proletariat because the Proletariat are emancipated from all the remaining human relationship in which unfortunately the bourgeois people stand. Today the most important thing is something which probably appears as the least important to you, the emancipation of spiritual life; the accomplishment of the development of freedom of the spiritual life. If we accomplish in having a free spiritual life, if we manage to have a science which is not a mere capitalist tributary and thus indicate this tone into the Proletarian circles, then only can we approach healing. Not a restriction in the bourgeois sense, not a reduction but rather an amplification of proletarian activities.
I have the firm belief — if people were capable of arguing like the second speaker from a viewpoint which I well understand, and apply so many objections that one can't understand, sentence by sentence, what I've said — I have the firm belief, because I have spent much of life among the Proletariat, that what I have said is understood not from other classes but would be understood by the Proletariat. Unfortunately, we have to wait until the Proletariat understand it. I do believe however that it will be understood.
With these thoughts, I would like to say, I can with a certain satisfaction look back at what I've wanted to achieve this evening. I really haven't wanted to convince you right into the details of every word. I am taking into consideration your free individualities; to each one of you I take care to allow for your understanding, out of freedom. I do believe that among you there are many who will still think differently about what I have said, as you already thought about it today. This belief is the very thing which needs to be applied to healing the social organism.