Solidarist Doctrines

The Practical Application Of Solidarist Doctrines

There is no such thing as a Solidarist school in the sense in which we speak of a Historical, a Liberal, or a Marxian school. Solidarity is a banner borne aloft by more than one school, and a philosophy that serves to justify aims that are occasionally divergent. As we have already had occasion to point out, the solidarists are more of a political party than a doctrinal school, and their best work has been done in association with the Radical-Socialist party. Behind them is the State Socialist or 'interventionist' school. It has been suggested that the social legislation of the twentieth century, such as the regulations governing the conditions of labour, factory and general hygiene, in­surance against accidents and old age, State aid for the aged and the disabled, the establishment of societies for mutual credit, rural banks and cheap cottages, and school clinics, all of which are the direct out­come of preaching solidarity, as well as the grants in aid of these objects which are paid out of the progressive taxation levied upon inherited wealth or extraordinary incomes of such as have plucked the fruit from the tree of civilization to the deprivation of those who caused that fruit to grow, should be known as "the laws of social solidarity."


Nor are workmen the only class who are likely to benefit by the adoption of this principle. The Protectionist or Nationalist party claims to be the party of solidarity, as well as the mutualists, who employ the term oftener than anyone else. When the taxpayer com­plains about the taxes which he has to pay in order to grant a bounty to certain proprietors or manufacturers, and the consumer grumbles because the levying of import duties results in increasing his cost of living, the reply is that the spirit of solidarity demands that preference should be given to their own kith and kin.

Fiscal reform, with its twofold attribute of a progressive tax at one end of the scale and total exemption at the other, also claims to be solidarist. Progressive taxation is justified on the ground that those who have made their fortunes are the debtors of society, while exemp­tion at the other end is only fair, seeing that the disinherited have nothing to give, but have already a strong claim upon society.

However closely akin to State Socialism practical solidarism may appear, the fact that the latter may achieve its results merely by means of associationism is sufficient to distinguish it from the former. The result is that it gave quite a fresh impetus to the associative move­ment. Syndicalists, mutualists, and co-operators vie with one another in their anxiety to swear allegiance to the principle of free solidarism as distinct from the forced solidarism of the State Socialists. It is not that they fail to recognize the necessity for the latter and its superiority over free competition, but on moral grounds they think that such forced solidarism is even inferior to competition. It is imperative, however, that we should make some distinction between such heterogeneous elements as enter into the composition of the solidarist party.

The syndicalists, who come first, will hear of nothing except trade unionism, which is to become the basis of a new economic organiza­tion and a new kind of ethics. The sense of solidarity is in this case very strong, because the syndicat poses as the sworn foe of the bour­geoisie. Nothing develops this sense like a struggle, and the struggle becomes a means of discipline. The attempts made by the trade unionists to enforce this solidarity, not only upon their own members, but also upon workmen who are unwilling to enrol themselves as members of the union, the antagonism shown for the jaunes, and the advent of the solidarist or sympathetic strike, constitute one of the most interesting aspects of the syndicalist movement.

Next came the mutualists, who are loudest and most persistent in their appeal to solidarity. It is not difficult to understand this when we realize the battle which they wage against the ills of life—invalidity, old age, poverty, and death. It is just here that men most feel the need of sticking together. But if we are to judge by the sacrifices which they make, the sense of solidarity among the mutualists them­selves is not very great. They are loud in their demands that the State or the commune, or even voluntary subscribers, should complete what they have begun, and that the State should delegate to them the task of establishing workmen's pensions and of dispensing State aid. Con­taining as they do some members of the middle classes as well as employees, they show no pronounced revolutionary leanings, nor have they even a plan of social reorganization.
Co-operation, on account of its scope and the variety of its aims, has some claim to be regarded as in a measure a realization of the ideals of solidarism. But co-operation presents a twofold aspect with different programmes and aims that are not always easily reconcilable. The oldest movements in which the fraternal tradition of 1848 may still be viewed in all its pristine vigour are the producers' associations, of which we have already spoken. Their ideal is to emancipate the worker by setting up a kind of industrial republic, and they make a practical beginning with 'guarantism,' which Sismondi expected the masters to give and which Fourier thought would naturally follow the establishment of the Phalanstere. But however rosy the prospects may be they can never affect more than a very small proportion of the working classes.

Distributive societies have met with a greater measure of success. Their membership is reckoned by the million, and in some towns in England, Germany, and Switzerland the members actually comprise the majority of the population. Such is the colossal magnitude of the 'wholesale' that it might even alter the whole character of commercial organization—that is, if we are to judge not merely by the record of its transactions, but also by the feeling of awe which it inspires in the minds of merchants in all countries, who are already claiming the protection of their respective Governments. Although the number of such societies increased in France, they never had quite the same practical influence there, simply because they have been lacking in the true spirit of solidarity. Curiously enough, these French co-operators have formulated a most ambitious programme of social reform which is wholly inspired by the experience of the Rochdale Pioneers.

The gospel of solidarity has even penetrated into the rural districts, and although the temperament of the peasant is strongly individual­istic it is already beginning to bear fruit in the shape of numerous associations of various kinds. The most interesting of these is the mutual credit society, which implies collective responsibility for social debts.

This by no means exhausts the practical consequences of the soli-darist ideal. One notable result which has already shown itself is a serious modification of the whole conception of the rights and attri­butes of private property. The old formula in which property was spoken of as a social trust rather than as a strictly individualistic right as the dominium ex jure Qttiritium, but which until quite recently was nothing more than a mere metaphor, becomes a reality under the inspiration of this new doctrine of solidarity. Once it is realized that property is simply the result of the unconscious co-operation of a large number of causes, most of which are impersonal, the tendency will be to eliminate it altogether or to adapt it more and more to collective ends. Alfred Fouillee, a French philosopher, aptly put this aspect of the question when he spoke of social co-proprietorship being grafted on to individual property.

The modifications introduced into the study of jurisprudence by emphasizing its solidarist aspect are occasionally spoken of as "juridical socialism," a term that is not very clear, to say the least. The jurists who have undertaken the task of applying this new principle to the study of jurisprudence have not merely adopted the quasi-contract theory as the basis of their work of reconstruction, but have also refused to recognize any absolute rights of property; in other words, they claim that the proprietor has other responsibilities besides the mere exercise of those rights (qui sua jure utitur neminem ladere videtur).
Instead of emphasizing the new principle known as the "abuse of rights," they prefer to claim the complete subjection of all private rights to the public weal. They point to a thousand instances in which a proprietor ought to be held responsible, though through no fault of his own, for the results following from the discharge of his economic duties. The existence of such a thing as an acquired right is also denied, chiefly on the ground that fictitious rights of this kind bar the way to progress by setting up a claim for indemnity.