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If the
charter prohibited such an important measure as this, all efforts should
have been concentrated on changing the charter. Socialists do not
usually allow their world-wide policy, or even their present demands to
be shaped by a city charter.

If Mr. Berger had announced earlier and more clearly, and if he had
repeated with sufficient frequency, his recent declaration that
_Milwaukee is administered by Socialists but does not have a Socialist
administration_, he would have avoided a world of misunderstanding. In
fact, if he had enunciated this principle with sufficient emphasis
before the municipal election of 1910, it is highly probable that the
Socialists would not yet have won the city, and would never have felt
obligated to claim, as they often do now, that Socialists, who must
direct part of their energies towards future results, are more efficient
as practical reformers than non-Socialists, who are ready to sacrifice
every ultimate principle, if they have any, for immediate achievements.

The whole question between reformists and revolutionaries refers not so
much to the policy of Socialists in control of municipalities, which is
often beyond criticism, as to the value of municipal activity generally
for Socialist purposes. None deny that it has value, but reformists and
revolutionaries ascribe to it different rôles.

There are two reasons why Socialism _cannot_ yet be applied on a
municipal scale--one economic and one political. I do not refer here, of
course, to municipal ownership, often called "municipal Socialism," a
typical manifestation of "State Socialism," but to a policy that
attempts to make use of the municipality against the capitalist class.

Such a policy is economically impossible to-day because it would
gradually drive capital to other cities and so indirectly injure the
whole population including the non-capitalists. Indeed, Mayor Seidel
especially denies that he will allow any "hardship on capital," and City
Clerk Thompson gives nearly a newspaper column of statistics to show
that "the business of Milwaukee has continued to expand" since the
Socialists came into power, remarking that "there have been no serious
strikes or labor troubles in Milwaukee for years"--surely a condition
which employers will appreciate. Nothing could prove more finally than
such statements, how municipal governments at present feel bound to
serve the business interests.

The political limitations of the situation are similar. Prof. Anton
Menger says of Socialism as applied to municipalities, that "it is
necessarily deferred to the time when the Socialist party will be strong
enough to take into its hands the political power in the whole state or
the larger part of it." It is obviously impossible to force the hands of
an intelligent ruling majority merely by capturing one branch or one
local division of the government. As such branches are captured they
will be prevented from doing anything of importance, or forced to act
only within the limits fixed by the ruling class.

This is especially true in the United States. We have elaborate forms
and external symbols of local self-government, and it may really
exist--as long as the municipalities are used for capitalistic purposes.
When it is proposed to use local self-government for Socialist ends,
however, it instantly disappears. Not only do the States interfere, with
the national government ready behind them, but the centralized
judiciary, state and national, is always at hand to intervene. _This is
potential centralization, and for the purposes of preventing radical or
Socialist measures the government of the United States is as centralized
as that of any civilized nation on earth._

Moreover, the semblance of local power given by municipal victories
brings a second difficulty to the Socialists--it means the election of
administrators and judges. Now even under the system of potential
centralization through the courts, _legislators_ are useful, for they
cannot be forced to serve capitalism. But government must be carried on
and mayors and judges are practically under the control of higher
authorities--in the new commission plan of government, they even do the
legislating. In the words of the _New York Daily Call_:--


"The Socialist Legislator finds his task a comparatively easy and
simple one. He proposes or supports every measure of advantage to
the working class in particular and to the great majority of the
people in general, barring such as are of a reactionary character.
But the Socialist executive and the Socialist judge find themselves
in no such simple situation. Their activities are circumscribed by
superior and hostile powers, and by written constitutions adopted
at the dictation of the capitalist class. How to harmonize their
activities with the just demands of the working class for the
immediate betterment of its conditions, as well as with the
Socialist program which has for its goal the ultimate overthrow of
the capitalist social order, and yet not come into such conflict
with the superior and hostile powers as would result in their own
removal from office--this question is bound to assume a gravity not
yet perhaps dreamed of by the majority of American Socialists.

"And yet even now, while our political power is still small, the
charge of opportunism, or the neglect of principle in pursuit of
some practical advantage, is continually being raised, sometimes
justly, sometimes unjustly."


The following from the _New York Evening Post_, illustrates both the
political and the economic difficulty of enacting Socialistic or even
radical measures in municipalities. It is taken from a special article
on the situation in Schenectady, where a Socialist, Dr. George R. Lunn
had just been elected mayor:--


"Schenectady is trying hard to take its dose of Socialism
philosophically. Its most staid and respectable citizens, who have
been staid and respectable Republicans and Democrats all their
life, console themselves with the thought that, after all, Old Dorp
is Old Dorp--Old Dorp being the affectionate way of referring to
Schenectady--and that her best citizens are still her best
citizens, and that Rev. George R. Lunn and all his Socialist crew
can't do a great amount of harm in two years to a city that
possesses such an ironclad charter as that with which Horace White,
when he was a Senator, endowed every city of the second class in
the Empire State. The conservative element in town back that
charter against all the reforms that the minister who is to be
mayor and his following of machinists, plumbers, coachmen, and
armature winders from the General Electric Works, who are going to
be common councillors and other things, can hope to introduce....

"The General Electric works--as everybody agrees--'made'
Schenectady. Census figures show it and statistics of one sort or
another show it. The concern employs more than 16,000 men and
women--as many persons as there are voters in the whole town. It
owns 275 acres of land, and of this about 60 acres are occupied
with shops and buildings. Its capital stock is valued at
$80,000,000. The General Electric, or as it is called up here, the
'G. E.,' has given work to thousands, has brought a lot of business
into town, has made real estate in hitherto deserted districts
valuable. On the tax assessors' books its property is assessed at
$4,500,000. It is safe to say that this is less than 25 per cent of
its true value.

"If Dr. Lunn should attempt to meddle with the 'G. E.'s'
assessment, Schenectady knows very well what would happen. The
General Electric Company would pack up and move away to some other
town that is pining for a nice big factory and does not care much
how small taxes it pays. That is the situation. Of course everybody
agrees that the company ought to be paying more, but when it comes
to a question of leaving well enough alone or losing the company
entirely, Schenectady says leave well enough alone, by all means.
The loss of the 'G. E.' works would be a disaster, from which the
Old Dorp would never recover. Why, even now the company has just
opened a brand new plant in Erie, Philadelphia, and if Schenectady
does not behave, what is to prevent the 'G. E.' from moving all its
belongings to Erie?

"Dr. Lunn has not had much to say regarding this phase of his
taxation reforms. The day after his election he issued a statement,
however, which showed that he did not intend to do anything
extremely radical:--

"'In the matter of taxation we have had something to say during the
campaign, but we Socialists are too good economists not to know
that the burdening of our local industries in the way of taxation
above that placed upon them in other cities would be foolhardy.
Under the present system, to which we are opposed, manufacturing
concerns have their rights, and any special burden placed upon them
by one community above that which is placed upon them in other
communities would inevitably and of necessity, from the standpoint
of economics, hinder their progress. We are not in favor of
hindering their progress. We stand for the greatest progress along
every line. We will not only encourage industries in every way
consistent with our principles, but will endeavor to bring new
industries to Schenectady, and furthermore, we will succeed in
doing it.'"[159]


The newly elected mayor is quoted by _Collier's Weekly_, as saying: "We
are only trying to conduct the city's business in the same honest way
we should run our own business." _Collier's_ says that the Socialists
generally "make their impression by mere business honesty and
efficiency," distinguishes this from what it calls the "harmful kind of
Socialism," and concludes that, "watching the actual performances of
those who choose to call themselves Socialists, we are thus far unable
to be filled with terror."[160]

Nearly all the comment at the time of the Socialist municipal victories
in the fall of 1911 pointed out, in similar terms, the contrast between
the very restricted opportunities they offer for the revolutionary
program of Socialism.



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Keywords: progress, purposes, majority, taxation, question, present, should, themselves, capitalist, placed
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