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Here, then, in the attitude of non-Socialist reformers
towards various social classes, we begin to see the inner structure of
their movement. They do not propose to attack any "vested interests"
except those of the financial magnates, and they expect the lower
classes to remain politically impotent, which they as democrats, know
means that these classes are only going to receive such secondary
consideration as the interests of the other classes require.

Whether the radical of to-day, the "State Socialist," favors political
democracy or not, depends on whether these "passive beneficiaries" of
the new "altruistic" system are in a majority. If they are not in a
majority, certain political objects may be gained (without giving the
non-capitalist masses any real power) by allowing them all to vote, by
removing undemocratic constitutional restrictions, and by introducing
direct legislation, the recall, and similar measures. If they are a
majority, it is generally agreed that it is unsafe to allow them an
equal voice in government, as they almost universally fail to rest
satisfied with the benefits they secure from collectivist capitalism and
press on immediately to a far more radical policy.

So in agricultural communities like New Zealand, Australia, and some of
our Western States, where there is a prosperous property-holding
majority, the most complete political democracy has come to prevail.
Judging everything by local conditions, the progressive small
capitalists of our West sometimes even favor the extension of this
democracy to the nation and the whole world, as when the Wisconsin
legislature proposes direct legislation and the recall in our national
government. But they are being warned against this "extremist" stand by
conservative progressive leaders of the industrial sections like
Ex-President Roosevelt or Governor Woodrow Wilson.

This latter type of progressive not only opposes the extension of
radical democracy to districts like our South and East, numerically
dominated by agricultural or industrial laborers, but often wants to
restrict the ballot in those regions. Professor E. A. Ross, for example,
writes in _La Follette's Weekly_ that "no one ought to be given the
ballot unless he can give proof of ability to read and write the English
language," which would disqualify a large part, if not the majority, of
the working people in many industrial centers; while Dr. Abbott
concluded a lengthy series of articles with the suggestion that the
Southern States have "set an example which it would be well, if it were
possible, for all the States to follow."


"Many of them have adopted in their constitutions," Dr. Abbott
continues, "a qualified suffrage. The qualifications are not the
same in all the States, but there is not one of those States in
which every man, black or white, has not a legal right to vote,
provided he can read and write the English language, owns three
hundred dollars' worth of property, and has paid his taxes. A
provision that no man should vote unless he has intelligence enough
to read and write, thrift enough to have laid up three hundred
dollars' worth of property, and patriotism enough to have paid his
taxes, would not be a bad provision for any State in the Union to
incorporate in its constitution."[38]


Such a provision accompanied by the customary Southern poll tax, which,
Dr. Abbott overlooked (evidently inadvertently), would add several
million more white workingmen to the millions (colored and white) that
are already without a vote.[39]

We cannot wonder, then, that the working people, who are enthusiastic
supporters of every democratic reform, should nevertheless distrust the
democracy of the new movement. It is generally supposed in the United
States that the reason the new "Insurgency" is weaker in the East than
in the West is because of the greater ignorance and political corruption
of the masses of the great cities of the East. But when we see the
radicalism of the West also, as soon as it enters the towns, tending to
support the Socialists and Labor parties rather than the reformers, we
realize that the distrust has no such local cause.

Perhaps the issue is more clearly seen in the hostility that exists
among the working people and the Socialists towards the so-called
commission plan of city government, which the progressives unanimously
regard as a sort of democratic municipal panacea. The commission plan
for cities vests the whole local government in a board of half a dozen
elected officials subject to the initiative and referendum and recall.
The Socialists approve of the last feature. They object to the
commission and stand for the very opposite principle of an executive
subordinate to a legislature and without veto power, because a board
does not permit of minority representation, and because it allows most
officials to be appointed through "influence" instead of being elected.
They object also, of course, to the high percentages usually required
for the initiative and the recall. It is Socialist and Labor Union
opposition, and not merely that of political machines, that has defeated
the proposed plan in St. Louis, Jersey City, Hoboken, and elsewhere, and
promises to check it all over the country. As a device for saving the
taxpayer's money, the commission plan in its usual form is ideal, as a
means for securing the benefits of the expenditure of this money to the
non-propertied or very small propertied classes, it is in its present
form worse in the long run than the present corruption and waste. State
legislatures and courts already protect the taxpayers from any measure
in the least Socialistic, whatever form of local government and
whatever party may prevail. It has caused more than a little resentment
among the propertyless that the taxpayers should actually have the
effrontery to propose the still more conservative commission plan as
being a radically democratic reform.

It is on such substantial grounds that the propertyless distrust the
democracy of the progressives and radicals. They find it extends only to
sections or districts where small capitalist voters are in a majority.
The "State Socialist" and Reform attitude towards political democracy is
indeed essentially opportunistic. Not only does it vary from place to
place, but it also changes rapidly with events. As long as the new
movement is in its early stages, it deserves popularity, owing to the
fact that it brings immediate material benefits to all and paves the
way, either for capitalistic or for Socialistic progress, robs
capitalism of all fear of the masses, and is ready to remove all
undemocratic constitutional barriers and to do everything it can to
advance popular government. These constitutional checks and balances
prevent the small capitalists and their progressive large capitalist
allies from bringing to time the reactionaries of the latter class,
while they are so many that, in removing a few of them, there is little
danger of that pure political democracy which would alone give to the
masses any "dangerous" power. At a later stage, when "State Socialism"
will have carried out its program, and the masses see that it is ready
to go only so far as the small capitalists' interests allow and no
farther, and when it will already have forced recalcitrant large
capitalists to terms, and so have reunited the capitalist class, we may
expect to see a complete reversal of the present semi-democratic
attitude. But as long as the "State Socialist" program is still largely
ahead of us, the large capitalists not yet put into their place, and
full political democracy--in spite of rapid progress--still far in the
distance, a radical position as to this, that, or the other piece of
political machinery signifies little. So many reforms of this kind are
needed before political democracy can become effective--and in the
meanwhile many things can happen that will give ample excuse to any of
the "progressive" classes that decide to reverse their present more or
less democratic attitude, such as an "unpatriotic" attitude on the part
of the masses, a grave railroad strike, etc.

For there will be abundant time before democratic machinery can reach
that point in its evolution, when the non-capitalist masses can make the
first and smallest use of it _against_ their small and large capitalist
masters. If, for example, the Supreme Court of this country should ever
be made elective, or by any other means be shorn of its political power,
and if then the President's veto were abolished, and others of his
powers given to Congress, there would remain still other alternatives
for vetoing the execution of the people's will--and one veto is
sufficient for every practical purpose. Even if the senators are
everywhere directly elected, the Senate may still remain the permanent
stronghold of capitalism unless overturned by a political revolution.

The one section of the Constitution that is not subject to amendment is
the allotment of two senators to each of the States. And even if public
opinion should decide that this feature must be made changeable by
ordinary amendment like the rest, it might require 90 or even 95 per
cent of the people to pass such an amendment or to call a constitutional
convention for the purpose. For Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont,
Delaware, are not only governed by antiquated and undemocratic
constitutions, but are so small that wholesale bribery or a system of
public doles is easily possible. The constitutions of the mountain
States are more modern, but Utah, Wyoming, Nevada, and New Mexico, and
others of these States are so little populated as make them very easy
for capitalist manipulation, as present political conditions show. Now
if we add to these States the whole South, where the upper third or at
most the upper half of the population is in firm control, through the
disfranchisement of the majority of the non-capitalistic classes (white
and colored), we see that, even if the country were swept by a tide of
democratic opinion, it is most unlikely that it will ever control the
Senate.



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Keywords: distrust, unless, benefits, amendment, provision, country, capitalism, reform, constitutions, elected
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