Philosophy of Democratic Government / by Yves R. Simon

Chapter I

General Theory of Government

Communism and national socialism have come to resemble each other in so many respects that their historical diversity and their lasting opposition arouse wonder. In spite of common features that are profound and increasingly obvious, they prove altogether repugnant to effecting any kind of merger. The task of fighting them would be greatly eased if followers, actual and potential, were led to believe that one system, i.e., the one which appeals to them, is substantially identical with the other, i.e., the one which they hate; but such identification never was very successful as a polemical instrument. Conservatives in the 1930's were given a fair chance to understand that naziism was but brown bolshevism;{1} yet many of them helped the Nazis. Today it seems that it should be easy for all concerned to recognize in communism the very features that they hated most in naziism; but not all do.

The persistent conflict of these two systems is traceable in part to their opposite stands on the class struggle and to the operation of class allegiances. But in the minds of many followers the decisive influence is exercised by representations of the ultimate future. For with regard to the future and more particularly to the remote portions of the future, where the assertion of an ideal cannot be hampered by any experience or fact, the two totalitarian systems differ widely. In fascism or naziism the totalitarian state is exalted as the highest product of life and history.{2} In spite of the evolutionistic language in which such things are spoken of, it plainly enjoys the character of a terminal accomplishment. Is it going to endure forever? At any rate, not a word is said about how it might come to an end and what might come after it. Communism, on the other hand, promises the withering-away of the state.{3}

At an early stage of its history, socialism was characterized as pessimistic with regard to accomplished facts and optimistic with regard to facts to be accomplished.{4} Communism, in our time, remains optimistic about facts to be accomplished ultimately. Its gruesome view of the non-Communist society and the ruthlessness of its revolutionary means are associated with a picture as radiant as anything ever produced by the spirit of utopia. The rational organization of economic relations will bring to an end the division of society into classes, the exploitation of man by man, the war of man against man. But the state is born of this division, this exploitation, this war. The classless society will be a stateless society. The totalitarian increase of the powers of the state is a temporary measure necessary to bring about a social structure that will render the state unnecessary and establish forever the brotherhood of men.

In Marxian communism the philosophy of evil is characterized by a sort of monism which proves very handy when there is a question of stirring men to action; for, if all particular injustices ultimately merge into one absolute injustice, it should be possible to do away with injustice, once and for all, in a Napoleonic victory.{5} Social visions, in the tradition of liberal democracy, lack such tragic and appealing simplicity; yet the basic theory that evil alone makes the state organization necessary appeared first in liberal democracy. Recall the celebrated propositions of Tom Paine: "Society is produced by our wants and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices . . . the first is a patron, the last a punisher."{6} Strikingly, a theory worked out by men whose great concern was to limit the powers of the state was not rejected, but rather transfigured, by the planners and by the founders of the first modern totalitarian state.

The theory that government is rendered necessary not by nature but by deficiencies -- let it be called, from now on, "The deficiency theory of government" -- should not be confused with the theory describing government as a necessary evil. A Fascist would never grant that the state is an evil; on the contrary, he proudly asserts that it is the highest value. Yet, if he undertakes to set forth the reasons why the state is thought to be such a noble thing, he is likely to indulge in a pessimistic description of human societies and to declare that an overwhelming force is everlastingly needed to crush ever recurrent evil.{7} In so far as the Fascist exaltation of the state is linked to such pessimism, the deficiency theory is not foreign to fascism itself. Contrary to a belief current in classical democracy, this theory does not constitute a guaranty against overgovernment. In fact, systematic determination to prevent the government from doing more than a very small amount of governing did not originate in the deficiency theory. It originated in the belief that the greatest good of the greatest number is most safely brought about by the operation of individual initiatives. Even the needed convergence of multiple endeavors was reputed to be best achieved without any human management; for it was assumed -- explicitly or implicitly and always confusedly -- that there exists, inside the spontaneous course of events, a highly dependable person who inconspicuously directs chance occurrences toward a definite goal. According to times and circumstances, this person was called "nature," "Providence," or "evolution."

The naturalistic optimism on which early liberalism thrived is a thing of the past. We are aware of the shortcomings of human management, but dire experience has made it impossible for us to intrust the destiny of men and the survival of nations to the hazards of universal competition. We have come to recognize the jungle character of the wilderness which our fathers mistook for a land of harmony. The case is so plain as to be reflected in the meaning of words. In the golden age of liberalism the word "liberal" designated a supporter of the laissez faire system, and one was reputed to be a liberal in so far as he was known to oppose state intervention, the organization of the workers, etc. The most radical among liberals were hardly distinguishable from individualistic anarchists. Today, a systematic adversary of economic planning, price control, labor laws, etc., is what everybody calls a "reactionary" and nobody is considered a liberal unless he is willing to support heavy programs of state intervention. The liberals of our time confess that a huge amount of government has become a condition for the preservation and normal growth of all the goods that society stands for. In terms of the deficiency theory, this is a bewildering situation. If evil alone makes government necessary, a demand for increased government activity means either increased evil or better awareness of evil or both. True, we feel that some things have become worse, and we have developed an ability to see many shortcomings that used to pass almost unnoticed, but there are not a few circumstances in which the call for more government activity seems to result from unqualified progress. It then becomes supremely important that the boundaries of the domain conceded to the state should never be left uncertain. If it is granted that progress itself, in a certain way, demands the growth of the state, it is more necessary than ever that disorderly expansion of the state machinery -- a frequent accident under all circumstances -- be held in check by the power of clearly defined principles.

This chapter will present a reconsideration of the deficiency theory. Since the difficulties that stand at the opening of the question pertain to the concept of government or authority in general, the first sections of our inquiry will be concerned not with any problem peculiar to civil society but to the general problems of authority.

1. See Waldemar Gurian, The Future of Bolshevism, trans. E. I. Watkin (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1936).

2. Mussolini, Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions (Rome: "Ardita" Publishers, 1935), p. 10: "Anti-individualistic, the Fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with those of the State, which stands for the conscience and the universal will of man as a historic entity. It is opposed to classical liberalism which arose as a reaction to absolutism and exhausted its historical function when the State became the expression of the conscience and will of the people. Liberalism denied the State in the name of the individual, Fascism reasserts the rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual. And if liberty is to be the attribute of living men and not of abstract dummies invented by individualistic liberalism, then Fascism stands for liberty, and for the only liberty worth having, the liberty of the State and of the individual within the State. The Fascist conception of the State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value. Thus understood, fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist State -- a synthesis and a unit inclusive of all values -- interprets, develops, and potentiates the whole life of a people."

3. Gurian, op. cit., p. 61: "The Bolshevik leaders Lenin and Stalin profess their ideal, the ultimate supersession of all state authority, rendered superfluous by a perfect society. It is on the contrary the aim of Hitler's party to establish it on a firmer basis and stabilise it by a genuine union with the will of the people embodied, so it is claimed, in the Fuehrer [this statement of the National Socialist ideal had been taken from the Nazi jurist, Huber-Kiel]."

4. P.-J. Proudhon, Système des contradictions économiques, ed. C. Bouglé and H. Moysset (Paris: Rivière, 1923), I, 69.

5. A Napoleonic victory is one which but a short time after the opening of hostilities puts an end to the fighting power of the enemy. It presupposes a heavy concentration of enemy forces. A Napoleonic victory was possible on December 2, 1805, as the allied emperors had decided to gamble their armies, but not in the Russian campaign.

The myth of a revolutionary victory which would constitute an all-embracing redemption of mankind and a basic solution to the problem of evil took hold of the mind of Marx at an early stage of his development; it impressed upon his revolutionary plans features in striking contrast with the principles then commonly received among Socialists. A good description of this contrast is given by Daniel Halévy (La Vie do Proudhon [Paris: Stock, 1948], pp. 362 ff.). In the fall of 1844, Marx arrived in Paris; he was in charge of founding a periodical designed to promote the collaboration of French and German radicals, the Deutsch-franzöische Jahrbücher. "He ran into the opposition of the French leaders and became acutely aware of the necessity of supplementing his doctrine in order to meet their objections. . . . They all were anxious to forestall the growth, in France, of a class similar to the proletariat that existed in England. For the young Marx, such concern was childish and silly. He realized keenly the inevitability of the industrial revolution and of its consequences, one of which is the rise of the proletariat; further he considered that the duty of the revolutionist is not to 'emancipate' the proletarians (a rather ill-defined undertaking) but to gather them up, such as they are, and to organize them for a fight.

"Far from wishing that the proletarian masses should be prevented from increasing in number and that their sufferings should be prevented from getting worse, Marx, a tough and smart young fellow, wants these masses to be allowed to grow, and he wants their sufferings to be allowed to get worse. The greatest evil would give birth to the greatest good; according to the Hegelian dialectic, this is how history proceeds. This dialectic holds in the order of concrete action. consequently, the practical revolutionist of 1840 must encourage the constitution of an extreme class . . . ." Follows a partial quotation of this striking passage of "Criticism of Hegel's Philosophy of Law," a contribution of Marx to the first issue of the Deutsch-franzöische Jahrbücher (Paris, 1844), p. 84: "Under such circumstances, where does the positive possibility of German emancipation lie? -- Answer: In the formation of a class suffering from radical enslavement [mit radicallen Ketten], of a class existing in the bourgeois society without belonging in it, of a social condition [Stand] characterized by its being the dissolution of all social conditions, of a sphere rendered universal by the universality of its wretchedness, dedicated to no particular right because the injustice inflicted upon it is nor a particular injustice but the absolute injustice, of a sphere whose titles are no longer historical but only human, whose opposition is not limited, and concerned with consequences, but all-embracing, and concerned with the very premises of the German state; a sphere, finally, which cannot emancipate itself without emancipating itself from all the other spheres of society and, thereby, emancipating all the other spheres of society; which, in one word, is the complete loss of man and consequently cannot save itself without effecting the complete redemption of man. Such dissolution of society, erected into a social condition, is the proletariat."

On the theory of the state in Marxism see F. Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (New York: International Publishers, 1942); V. I. Lenin, The State and Revolution, in Selected Works (New York: International Publishers, 1935-38), Vol. VII; F. Gerlich, Der Kommunismus als Lehre vom Tausendjährigen Reich (Munich: H. Bruckmann, 1920); Sherman H. M. Chang, The Marxian Theory of the State (Philadelphia, 1931).

6. Common Sense in The Writings of Thomas Paine (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1894), I, 69.

7. This consideration supplies a partial explanation for the help that totalitarianism was given by conservatives in quite a few instances of decisive importance. There is something paradoxical about a conservative supporting a system headed by plebeians-in-chief and determined to crush many traditional privileges. But a conservative generally has a low idea of human kind. He enjoys imagining the great number of men as weak and rather vicious creatures. He can, under the proper circumstances, come to terms with a totalitarian regime which promises that there will always be a powerfully armed state to maintain order.

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