The "Two Pages from Roman History" are two lectures delivered in Manhattan Lyceum, New York City, on Wednesday evening, April 2, and "Wednesday evening, April 16, 1902, under the auspices of Section Greater New York, Socialist Labor Party.
There Is nothing better calculated to put upon a class a worthy and deeply moral stamp, than the consciousness that it is destined to become the ruling one, that it Is called upon to raise the underlying principle of its own rank to the dignity of the principle of the age. to make the Idea that animates It the leading idea of the whole of society, and to remodel the latter in its own image. - Ferdinand Lassalle
Comrades of Section New York: It is. now close on sixteen years since a "cat's-paw" of the Labor Movement drew me within its whirl. It is now close on twelve years that I have been intimately connected with the Movement, my whole time, my whole thought devoted to it. A certain impression that I gained at a very early date of my connection with the Movement has grown upon me with ripened experience.
As a rule it happens that when one joins a movement of this magnitude, with all the natural greenness that I did in 1886, he, after a few years of activity, finds it necessary to wipe out a good many of the notions he came with, and a good many of the impressions he gathered at the start. And so it was in my case. Nevertheless, out of the wreck of all the false opinions and notions, and of the illusions that I had brought along with me, and out of the wreck of all the false impressions that I gathered early, and that experience showed me should be abandoned, one impression did not prove false. On the contrary, that one grew upon me day by day.
And the more I learned of the Movement in America, the more I saw of it - and, as you may judge, my opportunities have been exceptional during these twelve years - the more I observed what happened in other countries in which the Socialist or the Labor Movement is active, all the stronger did that first impression grow upon me, and all the completer shape did it take. That impression was this: That the Socialist Republic, another way for saying the "emancipation of the working class," would never, come about unless a good deal more time and thought were devoted to certain lines of observation, of study and of activity, which I found were neglected, at least not fully appreciated.
The essence of Socialist theory, of Socialist philosophy, is simple. The combined economic law of Exchange Value, and sociologic law with regard to man's being a tool-using animal, can be put in a nutshell. And the deductions from them are obvious. The former demonstrates that the man who produces with tools that render his labor more expensive than the labor socially necessary, cannot possibly hold his own against the man who, producing with improved machinery, devotes less labor upon the production of certain goods. The latter demonstrates that the tool is the weapon of man's supremacy over Nature: master of the tool, man harnesses Nature to his service, and maintains his freedom against his fellows; without it, he is the slave of him who is equipped therewith. Coupling these two laws, the philosophy of Socialism radiates in all the luminousness instinct in simple truth; and, in its rays, the Socialist Republic rises in all its splendor, not as a mere "Haven of Refuge," but as truly a "Promised Land" to the human race, freed at last from the nightmare of class rule.
Now this theory or philosophy can be enlarged upon; broader and deeper researches may impart greater breadth and depth thereto; it may be enriched by excursions into the manifold subjects that branch off from, or are tributary to it; men of eloquence may add thrill to the presentation. That is all true; and it is well that that be done. Such a a theme calls for and needs the amplest efforts of the mind. But this other is also true: that not all the efforts expended upon that line, nay, not if we were to pile up essays upon essays on those subjects mountain-high and indulge in the most marvelous refinements of science, will bring the 7 Socialist Republic one inch nearer its realization.
And, on the contrary, all such noble efforts might even turn to its undoing. I say it deliberately, turn to its undoing, unless, hand in hand with all that, something else is attended to also. And that something else I missed, and missed from the start, and missed all along. As the ship of our Party got into deeper and deeper waters, and severer and severer gales beat against it, I had occasion to feel more and more how much time had been lost in furnishing the masses with instruction upon just that thing that I have in mind; and that is, a knowledge of what I may call the strategy and the tactics of the Movement.
The words strategy and tactics have acquired in the public estimation a false meaning. They are generally identified with trickery, deception, duplicity. Now strategy and tactics may degenerate into all that; but deception, trickery, duplicity are not at all times inseparable from strategy or tactics. Take an army that, under the blazing noon-day sun, marches directly, in a straight line, upon the enemy's fortifications and storms them. There can be no duplicity there, there can be no trickery there, there cannot be there any question of cheating. Everything is done in a straight line, over and above board. And yet that army moves obedient to strategic laws, and its every motion is in rhythm with tactical principles. If it neglected either at any time, it would be destroyed. Strategy and tactics imply simply a military knowledge of the topography of the field of action, and of the means at command. Strategy implies a military knowledge of the strength that lies in that hill, the weakness that lies in yonder hollow, to the end that the one may be seized, the other avoided; or to the end that, if the strategically strong place is in the enemy's hand, no disastrous surprise overtake us; and if we happen to find ourselves on the strategically weak place, we may know enough to throw up intrenchments. Similarly, tactics implies a military knowledge of the strength, the weakness; the qualities in short, of the forces under fire, to the end that we may proceed accordingly. Now the Socialist Movement may be likened to an army; and it travels over a field that may be closely compared with that over which an army advances.
The Socialist Movement should, accordingly, be posted upon the military topography of the field it is operating on, and of the tactics dictated by the nature of the forces it is operating with. The purpose of these two lectures is to supply, to a certain extent, the existing deficiency on these subjects.
Of these two lectures on "Two Pages from Roman History," the second, "The Warning of the Gracchi," will cover a tactical weakness of the Socialist Movement, and thereby help to point out certain pitfalls that are to be avoided. The first lecture, "Plebs Leaders and Labor Leaders," is intended to point out a certain strategically strong post held by the enemy, the capitalist interest, and thereby draw due attention to the danger that lurks from that quarter. With these introductory words I shall enter upon my subject.
PLEBS LEADERS AND LABOR LEADERS
Any one who glances over the Labor Movement in the English-speaking world cannot fail to be struck somehow - favorably, unfavorably, or half-and-half - by a certain apparition not known in any other Labor Movement, except in that of the English-speaking countries, namely, England, the United States particularly, Canada and Australia. That apparition is the Labor Leader, together with the trades organization back of him. The question that I pose here to-night, the question that is of interest to the Socialist Movement of the English-speaking countries to answer, if it is to banish the illusions that otherwise lead to Paris Commune disasters, or cause great Movements to be switched awry, is this: What does that Labor Leader signify? What strength is there in him; and, if there is any, what is the nature thereof, and to whose interest does it accrue? In other words, what is the strategic significance of the Labor Leader on the field of the modern social question? Is it a hilltop whose strategic posture accrues to the benefit of the Labor Movement, or is it one whose strategic posture accrues to the benefit of the capitalist system? We should profit by the experience back of the age we live in. History has not commenced with us. Other nations have preceded us. Other nations, now among the dead, also had to deal with their Social Questions. In order to understand what is going on to-day, it is well to, look at what has gone on in ages gone by, in states long since passed away.
Karl Marx, in that remarkable brochure of his, "The Eighteenth Brumaire," says, that when man wants to interpret what is going on in his own day, he tries to find a parallel in the past; and that such action is like the action of a person trying to learn a new language; he always keeps on translating that language into his own, the new language being the new event, his own language being the events that lie behind him, and which, having rounded their course, can be fully understood. In order to interpret the new language that is being spoken by modern events, let us translate it back into the well known language of now well understood past events. We shall understand the new term "Labor Leader" when we recall the career of the old term "Plebs Leader" in Roman history.
The page of Roman history to which I here turn covers about 120 years, say a hundred years. It covers the period of about 500 B. C: to about 400 B. C. It starts substantially with the chasing away of the kings. The Rome that fills our minds, our eyes and our ears; that Rome, insatiable of plunder, reckless of human life; that potent of rapine - that Rome has her formative period during the century of her life that I propose to take up with you. When the kings were chased away, all the social and political elements that later turned into the Fury we know of, were yet in ferment only. During that period of about 100 years they take shape. When that period closes, it is substantially a new social-political compound that steps upon the stage: the Rome, that, driven like a Fury from her own seething cauldron, becomes a scourge to the world, and ends by consuming herself. Let us look at these political and social elements. First at the political.
It will not be necessary to go into a minute account of the constitutional law of the Roman state. It will here suffice to designate the principal wheels of the political mechanism, and to point out their leading functions and features. In doing this I shall use modern terms, familiar to all. That will answer all practical purposes.
The wheels of the Roman political mechanism that concern us were: The Consuls. The Senate. The Centuries. The Colleges of Priests. You may wonder how the Colleges of Priests came to have a place in the machinery of government. We will come to that. Broadly using modern parlance, the Consuls represented the Executive, the Senate and Centuries the Legislative, the Colleges of Priests the Judicial Power. The Consuls were two; they were elected jointly and annually by popular vote, in the Forum. The Senate consisted theoretically of 300 members; they held office for life; vacancies were filled by the Consuls. The body partook of the character of a House of Lords, in that its legislative functions consisted mainly in passing upon measures ordered in the popular branch. The Senate sanctioned these, or refused its sanction. The Centuries were military divisions of the people. Together, the Centuries constituted the whole people in "Committee of the Whole," gathered at the Forum. They elected the elective officers, and enacted the laws, subject to the sanction of the Senate. The singular method of voting by the Centuries is of importance in the subject in hand. I shall come back upon that later on.
Finally, the Colleges of Priests. I said they represented the Judiciary. They did in this way: If a law or an election distasteful to the ruling class was forced through; if, for any one of the thousand and one causes apt to arise wherever actual oligarchic power is draped in the drapery of democratic forms, the ruling class of Rome found it prudent to yield in Forum and Senate Hall; in such case the Colleges of Priests would conveniently discover some flaw in the auspices, some defect in the sacrifices. That annulled the election or the law, as "condemned by the Gods." The fact suggests another parallel, a parallel between what happens to-day in Organized Churchdom, and what happened in Rome. The allurement is strong to branch off into that. But I shall resist it, and move on.
Such was the political machinery of the Roman State. Now to the social aspect. What was the composition of the people who operated these four wheels of government, and who were affected by them? What I was compelled to say, in order to explain the political function of the Colleges of Priests, indicated that the Roman people was not a homogeneous mass; that in Rome there was a ruling class and a ruled class. Indeed these classes were well marked. Socialists need not to be told that so long as the machinery of production is not in the hands of the people collectively there must be a ruling class and a ruled class; there must be a working class and an idle class; there must be a class that toils and does not enjoy life, and there must be a class that toils not and does the enjoying; and that the enjoying and not toiling coincides with the ruling, while the toiling and not enjoying coincides with the ruled part. Socialists need not to be told that.
It is of prime interest, in connection with the subject in hand, to have a distinct appreciation of the line of class-cleavage in the Roman Commonwealth. The Roman peoples were divided into two Orders. One Order was called the Patricians, the other Order was the Plebeians.
The patricians can be easily defined. They were the clan nobility of Rome; they were the descendants of the old houses, of whom there were few in comparison to the rest of the population. Although some of the patrician houses had declined in property, the patricians were, as a whole, large property holders, both in land and money. Being a nobility, the patricians were the political rulers.
The word plebeians is harder to define, and here is where the interest of the subject begins to centre. Huxley somewhere lays to the door of Milton the unscientific conception of creation that is popular to-day. He claims that the beauty of the rhythm of a certain passage in "Paradise Lost," and the majesty of its language, has popularized an error that civilization has long since discarded. And so may we charge Shakespeare with being responsible for the popular misconception there is with regard to the word "plebeians." In one of Shakespeare's great tragedies, "Coriolanus," there occurs a certain passage, in fact the play almost opens with the passage. In the very first act, a crowd of rioting Roman citizens, are introduced, and one of them, addressing the mob, says: "We are accounted poor citizens; the patricians good. What authority surfeits on, would relieve us; if they would yield us but the superfluity, while it were wholesome, we might guess they relieved us humanely; but they think we are too dear; the leanness that afflicts us, the object of our misery, is an Inventory to particularize their abundance; our sufferance is a gain to them. Let us revenge this with our pikes, ere we become rakes; for the gods know I speak this in hunger for bread, not in thirst for revenge."
Owing, I think, very extensively to this remarkable presentation, the popular conception of the Plebeian Order is that that element was made up of the poor, of the working men of Rome; and that conception you will find cultivated even in the schoolbooks on history. Here and there something leaks through to indicate that there were rich plebeians, but the point is never made that the term "plebeian" in Rome did not designate people affected like this plebeian that Shakespeare puts in the front of his play of "Coriolanus." The term plebeian meant in the Roman language, the "multitude." It was a term used in contradistinction to the few, the patricians. In other words, it was the antithesis of oligarchy, the patricians being the few, the plebeians being the many. It was not an economic distinction. Indeed, there was no such economic line of cleavage between patricians and plebeians. There were rich men, in land and money, among the plebeians; probably more of them than among the patricians. The difference between the two sets - patricians and rich plebeians - lay in this: a patrician who lost his property did not, therefore, lose caste; artificial social corks kept him in his patrician rank and the political attributes of his clan-nobility, with the aid of which he might again attain economic power; on the contrary with the rich plebeian, the loss of his property carried with it the loss of the only power he had - economic power. So absolutely of the same economic class was a considerable portion of the Plebeian Order with the patricians, that rich plebeians and patricians shared together the spoils that their economic power conferred upon them.
Again using modern parlance, the plebs, the multitude, fell into three economic classes: the "bourgeoisie" or large property-holding plebeian, the "middle class" plebeian, and the "proletarian" plebeian; this last forming the majority of all, a working class, stripped of all property and forced to hire themselves out for a living. So that, in point of economic, or class distinctions, the Roman commonwealth was divided, not between "patricians" and "plebeians," but the class line of cleavage ran between patricians and "bourgeois" plebeians, on the one hand, and "proletarian" plebeians, on the other, with a "middle class" plebs in between.
Patricians and "bourgeois" plebeians, holding the economic power, or means of exploitation, jointly wielded their power: the "proletarian" plebs were exploited, the "middle class" plebs were uprooted, very much in the way the process goes on to-day.
Now what was the means of exploitation? It was not machinery. Machinery, as we understand the things did not then exist. The means of exploitation bore, all the same, close resemblance with the modern means. Already then the law of exchange value was bound to affect things. The same as to-day the man who works with a large factory has a power over the man who works with only a small factory, and can smoke him out, and throw him into the class of the proletariat; so likewise the man who had large farms could produce so much more plentifully, could produce with so much more economy that the middle class landholder could not hold his own, and was proletarianized. It goes without saying that the power of economic tyranny that manifested itself in the uprooting of the small holders, or middle class, had a direct manifestation in the direct exploitation of the working man, and rendered the position, at first of the agricultural and subsequently of the urban proletariat, all the harder to bear. The specific sources of the increasing economic tyranny and exploitation, which manifested themselves in the Roman State were the following.
Rome was almost always engaged in war. As a rule she won. The immediate result of the victories of Rome was the enlargement, not of the Roman territory merely, but of the estates of the large landlords. The territory of the conquered nations in Italy was partitioned among the conquerors. Theoretically, the allotments were to be equal among all. In point of fact the large landlords, patrician and bourgeois plebs, grabbed the bulk; the middle class was allowed a sop; the proletarians were left out in the cold. The larger the estates grew, all the more precarious became the existence of the middle class. Again, after making the allotments, a portion of the conquered territory was always left undivided. It was reserved for the "public domain," a "common," so to say. On that public domain the whole people, theoretically, were allowed to graze their cattle. In point of fact, the large property-holders, patrician and bourgeois plebs, virtually appropriated these public domains for their own herds. Under the guise of usufruct, for which they paid the government a rental that was nominal, and that often was not paid at all, they kept the public domain in perpetuity, to the still greater injury of the middle class, and in some instances, even of proletarians.
Again, in the extensively commercially developed Rome, money was a staple of prime need. The patricians and bourgeois plebs were not landlords only - the "Single Tax" gets knocked out in Rome at the very start - they were also money-lenders, usurious money-lenders. The hard-pushed middle class farmer readily found a patrician or bourgeois plebeian money-lender waiting to "help him out." The result was his expropriation. Again, in the instinctive hankering of their class after the property of the small holders, the Roman large property-holders speedily descried in taxation a prime means to their end. In this maneuver the Roman large property-holders gave points to the Dutch Pensionary De Witt, points that he did not fail to take 2,000 years later. The community of interest between patricians and bourgeois plebs drew them into close alliance. The patricians laid on the taxes; patricians and bourgeois plebs shifted them deftly over to the shoulders of the small holders, and thus directly urged on the wholesale sweeping away of the middle class, and reduced them to proletarians.
There was a fifth source of economic oppression, which does not manifest itself at the very start, but that grew, and grew, and became a crying evil, bearing directly upon the proletariat. It was chattel slavery. Along with the territories that Rome appropriated from the nations that she overcame, she appropriated their people, too. Thus an ever increasing horde of slaves swelled the Roman labor market, raising there a question suggestive of that of "prison labor" to-day. The middle class had no means to invest in the slave market, or occasion to use the slave. Patricians and bourgeois plebs were the investors. Slaves in such abundance were cheaper than free labor. They were bought cheap, treated worse than cattle, worked for all they were worth, and, when exhausted, were cast off to die like dogs. The page of slavery in Rome is the darkest in the whole history of chattel slavery. The hordes of slaves threw the proletariat on the streets and highways. Finding it hard to compete with the large landlords, owing to the smallness of their own farms and their exclusion from the public domain, compelled to yield to the large property-holders large shares of their product through the usurious rates of interest extorted from them, and staggering withal under the burden of taxation, the middle class plebeians grew desperate. In even step, their ranks swelling by the accessions of the smoked-out middle class, and their labor rendered still more valueless by the gradual substitution of slaves, the proletarian plebeians became restive.
Thus stood things at the opening of the period of Roman history under consideration - about 500 B. C. An economic struggle, a struggle for economic redress, a struggle - as this plebeian in Shakespeare's "Coriolanus" puts it - "in hunger for bread," and to ward off "being made rakes," in short, a Class Struggle, however incipient, yet well marked, was on in that Roman Commonwealth.
The line of class cleavage, it should seem, showed itself distinct enough to be perceived. Was it perceived? No. Why? We shall see. And, seeing, we shall also see the dire results of the oversight.
The period under consideration is the period during which the Class Struggle within the Roman Commonwealth moves from stage to stage, until it closes its first epoch, about 400 B. C. Of course the struggle continues- beyond that; that struggle cannot cease but with the abolition of class rule, which is to say, with the Co-operative State, the Socialist Republic. But during this period the Class Struggle was twisted and beaten and turned, no longer into an instrument of possible deliverance, but into a weapon for future national suicide. This period progresses through seven stages.
The rising revolt of the plebeian masses against economic tyranny and exploitation threw, of course, patricians and bourgeois plebeians together. But they were not a unit. Both had the same economic interests at stake; but they did not both stand on a par. On the one side, the patrician was clad with exclusive, aristocratic, political privileges; the bourgeois plebeian was consumed with an ambition to share such privileges. On the other side the bourgeois plebeian, by the very reason of his hereditary rank as a plebeian, enjoyed the confidence of the plebeian middle class and proletariat, and was thereby vested with the requisite qualifications to "jolly" and cajole his "fellow plebeians".
The patrician, by his very hereditary rank, was barred from such confidence, and deprived of such useful qualifications. These circumstances gave the two divisions, into which the usurping class of Rome fell, not a common cause only, but also something to barter on. And thus the keynote was struck at an early date for the policy that these two sets were thenceforth to pursue - jointly against their joint exploitees, and severally toward each other. The Plebs Leader sprang therefrom. Of course, he was a bourgeois plebeian. The first fruit of the first rumblings of the class revolt in Rome was the appearance in the Senate of the Plebs Leader. Picked bourgeois plebeians, picked out by patrician Consuls - and picked out with an eye to what qualities you may judge - were allowed the privilege of a seat in the Senate. But there, among the august and haughty patrician Senators, the Plebs Leaders were not expected to emit a sound. The patricians argued, the patricians voted, the patricians decided. When these were through then the tellers turned to the Plebs Leaders. But they were not even then allowed to give a sign with their mouths. Their mouths had to remain shut: their opinion was expressed with their feet. If they gave a tap, it meant they approved; if they gave no tap, it meant they disapproved; and it didn't much matter either way, no more than do the dead sounds, made by the Labor Leader, picked out and placed to-day by the grace of the capitalist class in the legislative bodies of America, Canada, England or Australia, New Zealand included, where his vanity may be gratified with the hollow honors of his prototype, the Plebs Leader, dumb appendage of the Roman Senate. And this was the "first step" towards the economic redress that the middle class and proletarian plebs were demanding; this was the first "victory" of the exploited and tyrannized plebs.
Sweet words butter no parsnips. It goes without saying that the hobnobbing of the Plebs Leader with patrician aristocrats in the Senate relieved not one of the economic burdens complained of by the plebs. Wars continued, and they brought on, as before, their train of fresh allotments to the already large estates, wider public domains for the large landlords to appropriate for their own cattle and an increase of slaves to displace free labor. The deepening penury of the middle class heightened the burden of its debt. Taxation urged on its downfall. And the whole mass pressed upon the proletariat. Demands for relief were made and pressed, but only to deaf ears. They were made louder and pressed harder. A promise was made of their being attended to after the particular war in hand should be over, and the promise was forgotten by the Senate. Finally, after another war, before disbanding, and after ineffectual parleys, the plundered plebs mass, under arms, withdrew to the Sacred Mount, threatening to build a city of their own. The Senate then yielded and entered into serious negotiations. The result was the Tribunate of the Plebs.
The newly created officers had extensive powers. The Tribune of the Plebs could checkmate the Consuls, while he himself was inviolable; he could place his seal on the public treasury and thus put a spoke into the wheels of the whole machinery of government, and so on. In other words, the Tribunate of the Plebs was a powerful political office, but an office, mark you, that, seeing it had no salary attached, none but Plebs Leaders could fill. The trick was taking fuller shape. The Plebs Leaders were utilizing popular economic distress to the end of conquering from the patriciate political power for themselves. The plebs masses had asked for relief from debt and for bread; instead, the Plebs Leaders gained added strength to fight their own particular battles with the patricians. And this was the second "victory" of the exploited and tyrannized plebs.
The Tribunate of the Plebs proved, of course, as barren of economic benefits to the people as the dumb participation of the Plebs Leaders in the Senate had done - as barren as the Bureau of Statistics of Labor and other such fruits of "labor legislation" do to-day. Nor did it take long for the plebs masses to make the discovery, or for the Plebs Leaders to utilize the fresh ferment. The next ferment bore the Publilian law as its fruit.
You will remember that, in describing the Centuries, I stated they were in the nature of a "lower legislative Chamber." This is the place to look at the Centuries a little closer. The Centuries were military subdivisions of the whole people. The population was distributed among the Centuries according to wealth - landed wealth. The richest citizens were placed in the First Century, the next richest in the Second, and so on. As always in such cases, the ranks were thinnest in the highest Century; the Second, where the standard of wealth was lower, contained larger numbers; and so on until the Seventh Century was reached, that of the proletariat, who were propertyless and most numerous. Again, as usually where property qualifications officially determine rank, the number of votes east by the Centuries was not equal, least of all proportionate to the numbers in each. Altogether, the Centuries polled 193 votes. But the Knights, a sort of Century that headed the list and the nominally First Century, polled together 97 votes, leaving only a minority for all the rest. The system of polling the Centuries accentuated the preponderance of the Knights and the First Century. These two voted first. If they agreed, the others were dispensed with. Accordingly, only in the exceptional instances, when the Knights and the First Century disagreed, did the suffrage of the rest of the Centuries come into play. It followed from all this that, well represented though the Plebs Leader element was in the upper and controlling Centuries, it did not there 'have its hands free, and could be dominated by the patricians. It also followed that, in the exceptional instances when the upper Centuries disagreed and the proletarian plebs came into play, it had to be considered in the manipulations of the Plebs Leaders.
The Plebs Leaders sought to rid themselves of both inconveniences. They accomplished their purpose through the Publilian law, which they compelled the Senate to sanction in the midst of a violent popular try for bread and the reduction of debts. And what was the Publilian law? It was a law that vested in councils of plebeian landlords the right to initiate laws, thus conferring upon these councils co-ordinate powers with those enjoyed by the Centuries. In this way the Plebs Leaders freed themselves at one stroke both from dependence upon the patricians and from compulsion to consider the proletariat in the initiation of laws; a bold stroke for equality upward and for tyranny downward - the third "victory" of the tyrannized and exploited plebs.
Within twenty years of the firing of the shot just described, conditions were ripe for another. Indeed, conditions had never changed: there was only a temporary lull of the storm while waiting for the "beneficent" results of the latest "victory" to materialize. These failed to; and the Plebs Leader element, meeting with annoying resistance from the patriciate to the Plebs Leaders' encroachments on their privileges, needed but to give the signal for the storm to be again unchained. The signal was, accordingly, given, and the storm broke loose afresh. In this storm the previous magistrates went down. Consuls, Tribunate of the Plebs and Plebeian Councils - all were swept away, and a "Decemvirate," rule of Ten Men, was established in their stead. It was as if the Plebs Leaders, tired of effort along the beaten paths of the old methods of procedure, dictated by the old institutions, resolved upon a "shuffling of the cards'," so to speak, or a "new throw of the dice," as a quicker means to reach their private aims. In a manner they succeeded. For the first time in the history of Rome Plebs Leaders appeared in the magistracy, clothed with powers equal to those held by their patrician colleagues. Among the ten men elected to the Decemvirate, two were Plebs Leaders.
But no sooner was the victory won than its hollowness was discovered. Not only did the patrician majority lord it over their plebeian colleagues, but it also took occasion to emphasize its rank-superiority. An unwritten law forbade the intermarriage of patricians with plebeians. The patrician majority on the Decemvirate, no doubt feeling the flood of bourgeois invasion threatening the clan supremacy of the patriciate, decided to throw up dikes. This it did by putting into written law the bar between patrician and plebeian marriage. This act sealed the doom of the Decemvirate. The burning economic questions having been,' just as before,, left wholly untouched, it took no great effort to re-arouse the plebeian masses into revolt, with the result that down went the Decemvirate.
This stage, in the period under discussion, is marked by the Valerio-Horation law which restored the previous wheels of the government machinery, the Tribunate of the Plebs included, and enlarged their authority, but still, as before, left untouched the economic abuses complained of by the very masses used to gain these political privileges for the Plebs Leaders. And thus further "victories" were recorded for the distressed plebs, and were declaimed about from the stump in the Forum to the enchanted plebs multitude, much as in our own days, the Labor Leader, who, by means of strikes and other devices, is laying up treasures, not in heaven, but on earth, is seen to expatiate upon hie vast achievements in behalf of the starving crowd of working men, who listen to him open mouthed.
The Valerio-Horation law was strictly an interlude, a preparatory step. The Plebs Leader element was stung to the quick by the statute on marriages and it was impatient for full equality in political privileges. A bitter fight was soon started with the abolition of marital restrictions and access to the Consulship as the silent objects in view, the matters declaimed about being those that arose from the wrongful allotments, the extortions of the usurers, the vexations that the proletariat were subjected to. The patricians resisted with stubborn tenacity. A compromise was the result; and that was embodied in the Canuleian law. The patriciate yielded the point on marriages, but it shuffled on the Consulship. The Consuls were abolished. In their stead "Military Tribunes with Consular power" were set up. What that meant the Plebs Leaders were not yet fully aware of. They believed they had gained their point in both respects; and when the Canuleian law was enacted they cabled off their "dogs of war," the plebs. And this was the sixth "victory" of the exploited and tyrannized plebs. With the economic distress of these as a weapon, the? Plebs Leader element, that itself produced and profited by such conditions, gained the point of qualifying for Consular powers, and also the privilege of selling their daughters to scions of patrician houses. The plebs mass demanded bread: to the orchestration of this mournful dirge, the Plebs Leader qualified for fathers-in-law of patrician youths; not . unlike the Labor Leaders of to-day, who, to the orchestration of a declining wage and deepening misery among the Working Class, qualify for guests fit "to place their legs under the mahogany," at banquets given by the capitalist exploiters.
Between the Canuleian law and the next and closing stage - the Licinian Law - the longest span of years occurred of any that divided the previous stages of this epoch of Roman history. The contending forces gathered during this interval their whole strength for a last and decisive effort. And the lines were exactly those along which the conflict was waged hitherto. Two incidents during these first fifty years contribute not a little to underscore the significance of events. Only twice since the struggle started were there concrete propositions made looking to the relief of economic distress, and toward removing the causes thereof. In other words, only twice were propositions brought forward in line with issues that were raised by the Plebs Leaders. Both propositions proceeded from patricians. And in both instances the noble movers of the motions were immolated upon the altar of the Plebs Leader element, this element distancing the patriciate in its ferocity to "save the Republic" - just as the Labor Leader of our own days distances the capitalist class in the deep malignity of his hatred of the Socialist.
The first instance was that of Spurius Cassius. Cassius was no ordinary patrician. With him achievements did not lag behind birth. Often had he led the Roman legions to victory; vast were the domains his powers had added to the territory of the Commonwealth, and twice, the spoils of war carried before, he rode at the head of his army in triumphal march through the streets of Rome to" give thanks to the Capitoline Jupiter - no ordinary share of Roman distinction. Cassius perceived that not one of the laws scored by the Plebs Leaders at all touched the cause of the evil. The evil had to be attacked at its root. Despite his patrician economic interests, he proposed a law to. reallot the land, and make provision to prevent the re-occurrence of the disparity of wealth, which, he foresaw, was driving Rome to the brink of ruin. Class interests asserted themselves. In solid mass, the patricians and Plebs Lead-; era arose against the daring innovator. Cassius and his proposed law went down, drowned in his blood. The second instance was even more tragically dramatic. The Celt invasion of Italy had carried everything before it, and virtually swamped Rome herself. The inhabitants had fled -to the burgs to the south and east. The Celts camped in the streets of Rome. Only one spot in the city had remained free from the desecration of the invader. That was the Capitoline Hill. There a patrician, Marcus Manlius, entrenched himself with a few other brave companions, resisted all attempts to scale the hill, and held out until the Celtic marauders, tired out and disheartened by such (persistence, fell back - never again to reappear before the walls of Rome, except as captives of war. Manlius, surnamed Capitolinus from that act of successful daring, seeing one day one of the soldiers who had fought with him dragged to prison for debt, stopped the tip-staves, emptied his purse in the interest of the afflicted plebeian, and declared that so long as he had a farthing no Roman should suffer want. His attitude and proposals flew in the face of the property-holding class. Again Plebs Leaders vied with the patriciate in "patriotism" and "respect for the laws of the land." Manlius was seized and thrown headlong down the Tarpeian Rock - whence the proverb, "There is but a step from the Capitoline Hill to the Tarpeian Rock," from glory to martyrdom.
During the fifty years that elapsed between the passing of the Canuleian law and the Licinian law, Rome made the greatest progress hitherto made in the expansion of her territory. Wars were numerous, successful; and the spoils It were in proportion. It needs no argument to show that all that merely furnished the Plebs Leader element with vaster material to work on. Indeed, the terror of being proletarianized never before weighed heavier upon the minds of the middle class, nor had the distress of the proletariat ever before reached such a pitch. The Plebs Leader element fructified the economic distress to the utmost, and, after considerable sparring, framed the Licinian law, and fought it through to a successful finish. The Licinian law may be termed a platform with six planks:
Restoration of the Consulships. At least one of the two Consuls to be a plebeian
Admission of plebeians to the Colleges of Priests.
Limitation of the number of cattle and sheep to be allowed on the commons, as well as the quantity of additional allotments to be allowed to individual holders
The number of free laborers to be proportionate to that of slaves employed on each farm
Alleviation of debtors.
It will be noticed that the first three planks are political, the last three are economic demands. The first three could be enforced immediately upon the enactment of the law; the last three required supplementary legislation. It will also be noticed that the first three cut at the very root of the existing political inequality between patricians and plebeians. Upon the enactment of the Licinian law the Plebs Leader would have supplemented his economic power with the political privileges requisite to safeguard it, and thenceforth he could enjoy with the patriciate the' double power of economic exploitation and political usurpation, including the useful privilege of, whenever convenient, discovering "flaws in the auspices" and "defects in sacrifices."
On the other hand, the three economic planks, even if enforced, could, by that time, do hardly more than afford temporary relief, and that to some few only. They left class economic inequality untouched and thereby the power of exploitation unclipt. The patricians did not fail to perceive all this. They also knew it was "now or never" with them. And they made ready for their last stand. The struggle is said to have lasted eleven years. More than once in this interval did the patricians offer to grant the last three planks, the economic demands. But the Plebs Leaders resisted - exactly as the Labor Leader of to-day, who rejects the employer's offer to accept the economic demands made by the men, unless also "the Union is recognized," that is; unless the Labor Leader's status is maintained. The Plebs Leader refused to "settle," unless settlement was made? with him. At last, a new migration to the Sacred Mount being threatened, the patriciate surrendered. The Plebs Leaders had won out to the fullest. And this was the last and crowning "victory" of the series won by the exploiter and oppressed plebs.
The Licinian law closes this epoch, and I might here close the sketch of it. But there is still one more event to record. The seven stages just touched on are like beads: on a string. The string has a knot. And the knot is worth all the beads put together. It summarizes the set.
Upon the final passing of the Licinian law, a distinguished Roman patrician, Camillus by name, the Mark Hanna of the Home of that day - not that the vulgar Jerry Sneaky of the bourgeois, Mark Hanna, could compare, either in point of breeding or of culture, with that distinguished patrician; nevertheless, a Mark Hanna in the sense that Camillus was then, as Mark Hanna is to-day, the type of the economic and political usurping class - Camillus, then, in order to celebrate the event, built a temple at the foot of the Capitol, and dedicated it to the Goddess of Concord. Looked at closely, one cannot help but be startled at the close lines of resemblance between Camillus's Temple to the Goddess of Concord and a certain creation of our own days, Hanna's Civic Federation Commission of Industrial Peace. The Temple to the Goddess of Concord was meant for a monument to commemorate the end of internal discord. Did the Temple of Camillus commemorate a fact? Was discord at an end? Did the Licinian law dry up the sources of the discontent that had been gathering during the preceding hundred years? Was crass economic inequality, with its resultant evils, dealt the blow that ended it, or were at least measures taken for its extinction? Giving the Licinian law time to operate, and looking 200 years forward, we find that the census of Italy - Rome having meantime conquered the whole of Italy - showed in all Italy not two thousand families of solid wealth! Looking, forward years further, we find Tiberius Gracchus, in Plutarch's life of that Roman, giving the following bird's-eye view of his country: "The wild beasts of Italy have their cares to retire to, but the brave men who spill their blood In her cause have nothing left but air and light. Without houses, without any settled habitations, they wander from place to. place with their wives and children; and their generals do but mock them, when, at the head of their armies, they exhort their men to fight for their sepulchres and domestic gods; for, among such numbers, perhaps there is not a Roman who has an altar that belonged to his ancestors, or a sepulchre In which their ashes rest. The private soldiers fight and die, to advance the wealth and luxury of the great: and they are called masters of the world, while they have not a foot of ground in their possession."
Indeed, there was no concord, and none, properly speaking, could be. The Licinian law neither cauterized the evil, nor even placed a salve upon it. The slight economic improvements it promised were hardly attended to. On the other hand, the vaster wars that Rome undertook brought vaster property into the hands of the already overpowering ruling class. The expropriation of the small holders went on amain. The usurer held high carnival. Slaves deluged the free proletariat. All the evils complained of at the start were there, only in a form infinitely more aggravated.
Was then the Temple to the Goddess of Concord a lie, robust and unqualified? No. The Temple to the Goddess of Concord did record a truth. There was concord, but among whom? The only true warring factions had been patricians and Plebs Leaders; the participation of the plebs masses being only in the nature of food for cannon. The Plebs Leader element craved political power. It did so out of vainglory;' it did so also and especially in response to its true class instincts: it needed political power in order to secure and expand its economic power. That political power was in the hands of a clan nobility. What to do? Overthrow the patriciate? That would be to open the sluice gates to the plebs masses, and endanger the economic power of the Plebs Leader element itself. Note this: the Plebs Leader was not in arms against patricianism; least of all was he in arms to overthrow plebism, meaning economic slavery. Whether or not the Plebs Leader ever indulged in speculations upon the beauty, or the sacredness, or the wisdom, or the necessity concerning "the poor ye will always have with you," I know not nor does it matter. What does matter is that the Plebs Leader "followed no ideals," he "pursued no visions," he was "practical." The Plebs Leader justly saw in plebism a hell; he saw no way for the extinction of the flames that devoured the plebs masses, at least none that did not interfere with his own interests; his political and social economy tallied exactly with that of the patriciate; he sought to secure himself against the dire ordeal of plebs insecurity and poverty. Given such premises, a policy of deception was the inevitable result. The Plebs Leader was bound to work for the perpetuation of all that was essential in the patriciate, with himself, however, as a sharer in the privileges.
As a consequence, the Plebs Leader could feel not a throb in favor of any plan, nor could his mind be open to any thought that made for the abolition of the economic usurpation that he enjoyed, and the obverse of which was the dreaded hell of plebism. In the deliberate and instinctive pursuit of his class safety, the Plebs Leader was aided by the circumstance of his Order - the name of plebeian. The non-patrician landlord and plutocrat was a plebeian. The designation of "plebeian" covered him, along with the racked middle class man and the exploited proletarian. The common designation raised the common delusion of a "common cause": only that, as delusions always do, this delusion deluded only those whom it was baneful to. It deluded the plebs middle class and proletariat; it deluded the patricians themselves, who saw in the bourgeois plebs a "plebeian," and ostentatiously showed their contempt for him with aristocratic-oligarchic haughtiness. The plebs bourgeois himself never succumbed to the delusion. A phrase thus took the place of a fact, fractional truth substituted square- jointed scientific truth, the line of class cleavage was blurred, and sentiment did the rest. These were the circumstances that manured the soil from which sprang that rank vegetation - the Plebs Leader. The Plebs Leader saw his opportunity and used it with masterly skill. He needed but to pursue the routine tenor of his own class interests in order to increase the size of the club - Social Discontent - that the mere name of "plebeian" placed in his hands, and that he swung over the heads of the patriciate. At first alarmed for their economic power as well as for their political privileges,- the patriciate soon felt reassured upon the score of the former, and presently discovered in the Plebs Leader the surest protector of both, provided only he were admitted to participation in the latter. The patrician eye was gradually opened. The seven stages of this epoch - beginning with the sop thrown at the Plebs Leaders of admitting picked ones from among them to the role of dumb appendages in the Senate, down to the complete surrender dictated by the Licinian law, when the whole Plebs Leader class was admitted to full patrician political rank - mark the stages of the eye-opening process. During the process, there was discord and struggle enough, but we perceive that the real combatants were the patriciate and the Plebs Leader element. We perceive more; we perceive that, peace being established, the plebs masses could, at least for a time, be dominated, and that the form their now warped class struggle would thenceforth take, would, if it ever again took dangerous form, be something materially distinct from what it had been. And so it happened. For the present, at any rate, the patriciate breathed freely, and with it the Plebs Leader element.
Accordingly, we perceive the strategic significance of the Plebs Leader to have been a buttress for patricianism, fraught with the evilest effects upon the plebeian masses. The Temple that Camillus raised to the Goddess of Concord did accordingly commemorate a Truth; concord did now reign, and that Temple, though a monument cast in antique mold, throws out no faint suggestion of the meaning, at least the aspiration, of Hanna's modern monument of guile - the Industrial Peace Commission, on which capitalists and Labor Leaders are seen in fraternal peace and concord.
About 300 years later, the Temple of Concord being rebuilt. Its misnomer no longer escaped notice. Somebody in the night wrote this line under the Inscription on the Temple: "Madness and Discord rear the fane of Concord."
Need I, after all this, answer the questions that I posed, at starting: What strength, if any, is there in the Labor Leader, and what is the nature and source thereof? What is the strategic significance of the Labor Leader on the field of the modern social question? Is it a strategic force that accrues to the benefit of the Labor Movement or is it one that makes for capitalist interests? Need I now answer these questions? Meseems such an answer is superfluous. Well known facts, known to you all, must have all along suggested themselves in the course of my narrative on the career of the Plebs Leader. He who is at all informed must have detected the startling resemblance there is between the leading lineaments on the physiognomy of the. Plebs Leader and those on the physiognomy of the modern Labor Leader; and he must have perceived that the latter, is to modern capitalism what the former was to the patriciate - a strategic post of strength for usurpation, of danger, for its victims. But I prefer to take nothing for granted. The social aspect of the country reveals, on the one side, the Capitalist Class possessed to-day of over 71 per cent, of the wealth of the Nation, and thereby in possession of the political powers - a veritable oligarchy, barely 8 per cent, of the population; on the other side, the Working Class, the modern proletariat, in point of numbers over 52 per cent, of the population, in point of property having less than 5 per cent, of the national wealth - a veritable slave class, groaning under the yoke of wage slavery. And this is no sudden apparition: it has been a slow but steady development. Where such conditions are, it means that a fierce Class Struggle has been on and continues. Leaving aside the Middle Class, that stands between two fires, hitting at and hit by both, and by both destroyed, the struggle is between the Capitalist Class and the Working Class. But the days of single combats are no more. It is now organization against organization, and he who says "organization" says 'leadership." A cursory view reveals the capitalist leader at the head of one column; at the head of the other column there has long figured the Labor Leader, the leader in the Trades Unions. The significance of the Plebs Leader was disclosed by his acts and the effect thereof. Let his own acts also speak for the Labor Leader. These acts, illumined by the career of the Plebs Leader, will cause the strategic significance of the modern specimen to stand in no doubtful light.