[RSArchive Icon]
Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib



Highlight Words

The Threefold Order of the Body Social - Study Series I

Schmidt Number: S-3739

On-line since: 31st May, 2012

II.

The Impulse towards the Threefold Order:
No Utopia, but the practical demand of the hour.

Address given by Dr. Rudolf Steiner at a meeting
the League for the Threefold Social Order,
Stuttgart, 31st May 1919.

L a d i e s   a n d   G e n t l e m e n

In speaking to-day as one must, if one speaks from the way of thinking that underlay, and underlies, the impulse towards the threefold social order, one cannot fail with one's whole soul to have been following the events of the times; and so one well knows, that one is talking into a storm. And although many people still remain unaware of the storm, yet the storm nevertheless is raging. So that one may well be filled with a kind of amazement, when, answering back, from a blank unconsciousness of this storm, one hears the reply, — which we have heard in these days, — “All ideology! a mere Utopia!”

It is from the actual events of the times that we shall seek to-night to refute the notion, that the impulse towards the threefold social order can be treated as a piece of unpractical idealism, a ‘Utopia,’ or that it has in it anything whatever ‘ideologic.’

Since the present Appeal [Aufruf an das deutsche Volk und die Kulturwelt (“Appeal to the German People and the Civilised World”), issued early in 1919.], as need hardly be said, goes out in the first place from the experience of a particular person, you will find it excusable, if a very natural astonishment at this reproach of ‘utopianism’ and ‘ideology’ leads me to begin with just a few introductory remarks which might perhaps he thought personal. But it is only too true in these days, that everything personal — which is not deliberately shut up in its own walls, hut can live with the life of mankind — may, through the grave events of the times, be something also which is very commonly human, and therefore perhaps a very good example of what is commonly human in these present anxious days, — with the undoubted prospect of a still more anxious future.

First came this Appeal to the German People and the Civilised World, where the Threefold Order of the Body Social was first set forth in the form now being propagated by the League for the Threefold Order. And this then was followed up by my book on the Roots of the Social Question, or the Life-needs of To-day and Tomorrow [Die Kernpunkte der sozialen Frage in den Lebensnotwendigkeiten der Gegenwart und Zukunft. Published in England under the title “The Threefold Commonwealth.”].

Such things as these are not put forward without reason by a man who had no wish to do so, and no power to do so, until close upon his sixtieth year of life. In no way whatever do they originate in any sort of theoretic reasonings or ingenious propositions; they originate in the fullness of life and of the observation of life. And probably they would even to-day not have become public, if the person who made them public had not been led by the actual events of the times to the conviction, that in these critical times so much is being done which is not practical, and so much finds its way into men's heads which is Utopian and ideologic, that, if anyone has something to put in place of all this, which ij3 practical, it is nothing less than his bounden duty to speak out, and make this life-practicality known. — And yet, Echo answers: Utopia! Ideology! Impracticable idealism!

You will therefore pardon me, if I make a few remarks of a personal kind, by way of introduction. — It was not from any feeling of personal attraction that I was induced to come forward with this thing, after having spent long years in one of the three fields in question, doing as much as in me lay to put this particular field onto its legs again, — it having been, in my opinion, stood upon its head by our modern form of culture. After having been busily engaged for some twenty or thirty years past in working at what I call Spiritual Science, it was really not any personal attraction that led me to extend into the other two fields of life as well, but simply the urgent necessity imposed upon a man by the present times.

What stood so menacingly before my eyes, long years ago, as the terrible problem of our civilisation, was this: that our modern spiritual life, through the peculiar character which leads to its most triumphant successes on the one side, — namely in the field of natural science, — is on the other disqualified from laying hold upon actual human life, — the life, that is, which goes beyond such things as proceed solely from the natural world; that this same spiritual life could therefore ... and this was what stood as the terrible menace of civilisation before my mind's eye ... that this spiritual life could never therefore prove qualified to grasp those great social problems which mankind is urgently called upon to solve at this present day. For the social problem is, ultimately, a spiritual one. Nobody is in a position to grasp it in its truth, who cannot grasp it from its spiritual aspect. Here, in the grasping of spiritual things, I felt myself more peculiarly at home; and this too I more peculiarly felt to be the home where I did not find the kind of hearing that I should have liked to find, so that what was only words might have passed over into acts, into a reformation of that spiritual life which was no longer capable of actually entering into human life and permeating it. Still, I would gladly have kept within this special field, if it had not been for all the things that arose out of the events of these last few years, — things, that so very plainly showed the way men go hunting after Utopias and ideologies, and never manage to grasp the really practical thing at their door, except from the aspect of some “grey theory” or some party dogma.

In the midst of the war-troubles, when I thought the time had come, when one might expect mankind to be beginning to see that any further prolongation of these war-troubles would inevitably lead to the ruin of Central and Eastern Europe, I then for the first time drafted the outlines of the scheme which has now come out, for the threefold social order. For I could see coming up, as the war went on, a terrible Utopia; a Utopia, — but one which unfortunately, from the peculiar circumstances of the times, exerted a very real influence. Its real influence was due to two properties which it possessed: In itself, in its substance, it was an unmixed Utopia. And again, in what went along with it, it was something which had been launched into the world by the interests of actual groups of human beings, and was peculiarly fitted to delude all such people as think themselves practical whilst running after every sort of utopia, and to conceal from these people the fact, that this Utopia had its origin simply in human and, in this case, purely economic interests. One could see it; one could see this Utopia, coming up on the mental horizon of the day. One could see how, in the western world, this Utopia acted upon people in such a way as not only to create certain tones of mind; but also — because it was a Utopia that coincided with very practical interests (though these interests didn't come to expression in what it said) — that this Utopia had the power to set armies marching, and to propel ships across the seas. And greater and ever greater grew the following of this Utopia in the countries of the West. And finally this Utopia assumed the shape of the so-called Fourteen Points of Woodrow Wilson.

In Germany, there would have been, at that time, no sense in doing so: in Switzerland, (where it was necessary to speak out the truth in this direction during the war), I repeatedly pointed out the Utopian character, on the one hand, of this Wilson-Programme, and, on the other, its economic character, that had its source solely in the economic conditions of the West.

So strong was the influence of this Utopia, that in the autumn of 1918 it not only found general adherence on the side of the Entente; but that in Germany, in addition to the military capitulation there came the capitulation of the spirit, — the capitulation to Wilson's Utopia, — and through the very man to whom the German People in their day of destiny looked as to their last hope. — Before it had yet taken shape in the Fourteen Points, at a time when this World Utopia was still only on the horizon, I tried to set on paper what ought to be put forward in opposition to this World Utopia as a Central European Reality. In not one quarter, where the matter should have obtained a hearing, was it possible to find any understanding for the thing which, from its inherent practicality, was fitted to be matched against a World-Utopia. At that time, they thought it very practical to trumpet into the world phrases about: ‘the rule amongst men of Might and Right.’ Those were the statesmen, who could get as far as threadbare definitions of Might and Right, but couldn't get as far as anything concrete, as really laying hold of something that was real. Never shall we get clear of confusion and chaos, until we grow able to lay practical hold on what is really practical!

As I told you, I neither wished, nor in a way was I able, to bring this thing to public notice until close upon my sixtieth year of life. For the thing goes back in retrospect to what I myself had experienced in my own life as a working-class child amongst the working classes, — where I learnt the note that rose up from the working classes of to-day, (that is, of those days,) and from the din of economic life with its toils and its troubles, in the 'sixties and 'seventies of the nineteenth century. I made acquaintance with what today is termed ‘class-struggles,’ through the ample opportunities my destiny gave me of becoming acquainted with the classes. I learnt to know the working class as myself a member of the working class. Later on, I learnt to know the middle-class with all its habits and ways: its short-sightedness for the real practical requirements of the times, its absorption in the interests of the one particular class, its indifference to everything that lies outside these particular class-Interests. And I learnt to know that class of people too from direct intercourse in life, who deal in the ‘big politics’ of the day. And in this way I acquired a direct picture of what is actually living in the age: of the struggle between the different classes of mankind. Believe me, I have been brought into near touch with the needs, the toils and troubles, the various destinies, of all those classes, of which to-day we are obliged to speak, because the great audit of accounts is beginning with regard to class-differences.

There was one thing only to which circumstances kept me a stranger; and to this I remained a very thorough stranger. I have always been kept aloof by circumstances from any sort of association with one or other party. In all my life I have never be* longed to any party whatever. I have had to do with any number of party-men, I have become acquainted with any number of party-programmes and party-opinions; but I never belonged to any party. In Austria, where my youth was spent, I could neither elect nor be elected, for the simple reason that, in those days, nobody might elect or be elected, who did not possess a yearly income amounting to a considerable figure. Afterwards, I never was in any place where I had a chance of giving my vote, for the simple reason, that my temporary residence in two other countries never gave me citizen's rights in either country. No circumstances of party, no schemes of party, have any share in what comes before the world today as the Impulse for the Threefold Social Order. Nothing has any share in this impulse, save what can be acquired in the course of a life spent in learning to know the needs, the demands, the conditions and circumstances of all the many human beings living side by side in the various classes. And when a practical way of life is then sketched out to-day on premises such as these, then one is told that this practical way of life is a ‘Utopia,’ an ‘ideology!’

For me the whole thing is a symptom: it is a symptom of the mentality of the age, that the very thing today which is out against all utopianisms, should itself be taken for a Utopia by all those utopian-minded people who fill the ranks of parties — or other posts in human society. I venture to say that, from the needs of the costermonger and the day-labourer, up to the needs of the big capitalists or of the people — for there is that sort too! — who, as diplomatists, have been concerned in the world's destinies during these last twenty or thirty years, that all this has come together in the thing, which of course in this first Appeal had to be compressed into a few short sentences. And there has gone into it too, whatever the experience of an elementary school teacher, up to that of a member of the upper universities, can contribute towards the practice of real life to-day. This seems, and seemed, to me the only possible way of acquiring the ground from which one can attempt to approach the great social problem of our times.

The social problem of our times: in what does it find its expression? — It finds expression in everything, from what the costermonger enters with a stumpy pencil in his pocket-book as his takings and outlay, up to all those creations of the mind that go out into the world as spiritual impulses to give mankind a direction and an aim. All these things to-day involve vast, wide-reaching problems, which we require to consider, before we can enter upon anything, big or little, that concerns the social question and the tasks it lays upon us.

I spoke just now of, call it a revolution, or call it a reform, in the character of our spiritual life, and said, that I looked upon this as the province where I was peculiarly at home. And I said, that the great anxiety, the great problem of civilisation which faced me here, was, that this spiritual life, in the reactionary and conservative form in which it has lingered down into our days, is suited to lay the basis for a great science of the natural world, but is bound to remain sterile and unproductive, when it comes to really grasping the will-forces at work in social life. This is a fact, one might say, which to-day is palpable. Let us just look at what the results have been of this incapacity to extend the powers of the mind over the field of social will. — During the last three or four centuries, when mankind began to emerge from the earlier, instinctive patriarchal conditions and to think over its economic system, there arose for the first time all sorts of views as to the form this economic system ought to take, — views with which I needn't trouble you to-day, and which have been superseded. They merged however finally, on the one side, into the principles of national economy evolved by the spirit and in the style of university learning, — which is nothing however but the imposition of middle-class views upon national economy. And on the other side they crystallised out into what has found its clearest, its most forcible, its most comprehensive expression in Marxianism, in the social views of Carl Marx, — which are nothing however but a reflexion of those impulses by which the working-classes are determined to see national economy propelled.

What are the characteristic features of these two tendencies? — In pointing them out, we shall at the same time be pointing out just those things in the present day which are not practical, but the reverse of all that is practical, which are ‘ideology.’

University learning: what has it finally come to? except to regarding anything like social will and purpose on a large scale as an impossibility, and taking petty tinkerings for great measures of social reform. This university-made economics moreover has declared its incompetence to do anything whatever in national economy beyond registering what actually takes place, or — expressed in this learned language itself — making a historical and statistical analysis of it. This historical and statistical analysis has resulted in nothing hut a complete paralysis of all social will and purpose. They examined the existing social tendencies historically: that is, they recorded what occurred. They examined them statistically: that is, they tabulated figures of all that went on, and thereby killed every sort of impulse towards any social will and purpose whatever. So that in practice all social will and purpose exhausted itself in petty details; whilst the things, which life actually brought with it were devoid of all real will-force, at a time when the problems of the day had long been clamouring for active consideration. And these things which actual life brought with it, being left to run their course thought-less and will-less, rushed headlong at last into the World-Catastrophe, which is the great r e d u c t i o - a d - a b s u r d u m of this Social Will-lessness.

And, on the other side, yoked to the factory, yoked to the technical processes, to the soul-blighting capitalist system, were the working classes, who turned with all their spiritual fervour to the doctrine of Marx; for they saw in this Marxian doctrine the most brilliant, the most grandiose criticism, which they themselves felt in their own hearts towards the social order: a social order; on which they could only wage war, because it was one that allowed them no share in its material and spiritual possessions.

And this Marxian doctrine, so powerful, so grandiose in its criticism of Society, — what is the nerve of it? The nerve of it is this: — ‘Evolution goes forward of itself. Little by little, in modern times, the economic system has evolved forms, in which the means of production have gradually passed over into the hands of Trusts, or similar Combines. This is the way in which the working-class have become expropriated; but it is also the way which will inevitably lead, quite of itself, to the expropriation of the expropriators. Whatever men may do to assist the process, this evolution will go forward of itself.’ — This, let me say, is the most unpractical confession of faith that ever was uttered: the confession, that evolution must go forward of itself; that Man is tied and bound to the wheel of history; and that he is bound to wait until the historic, economic forces in their un-human objectivity of themselves evolve what then is to be the salvation of the great masses of the working class!

Then came the World-Catastrophe. And what did it show? It showed, that all talk of automatic evolution had its origin simply in the paralysis of the human will. The will of the working-classes, yoked to the factory, yoked to the soul-blighting capitalist system, was paralysed by this yoke. They had no faith in their own power to shape a new world-order. They made it their confession of faith: ‘For us too salvation will come in due course: we cannot bring it about of ourselves.’ And they comforted themselves with this, — with this confession of faith: ‘Our salvation will come to us from without, in the course of automatic evolution.’ Such is the great creed, and such the mis-practice of life amongst the large masses of the working-class.

And now came the World-Catastrophe and suddenly demonstrated that what they put their faith in, the accumulation of the means of production, didn1t lead to what was expected of it in the course of evolution, but planted the working-man down himself on his two feet, as a human being, and demanded of him: ‘Now then! Act!’ And this ‘Now then, act! act like a man, out of your own social will and purpose!’ is like a sign hung up in very luminous letters before the eyes of the working-classes to-day.

If one was not going through life asleep; and if one was not a theorist, simply saying yes or no to propositions propounded in some theory of life; but if one was a person who regards what men say and what men think as the outcome of something much deeper-seated, — as symptoms of what is going on deep down, inside the external affair, — then one said to oneself: Men are rapidly drifting into a total disregard of real practice, into a paralysis of all practical will. Such was the disposition of men's minds, whilst those great questions were gathering, which to-day can only find their answer, when people see fit to introduce genuine practice into life's mis-practice.

Jumbled together in all the relations of our life to-day, there is an unnatural conglomeration of Rights, of Labour and of that, which must really lie below the cry for social reconstruction in its true form. In the things about which people are fighting today, there is a great deal more underneath, than enters the minds of those who are fighting. In truth: one may say that at every point in all that is done in these critical times, one may see this unpracticality coming into it. The cry for socialisation runs through all the ranks of the working classes; it finds expression in quite definite impulses; it finds its immediate expression in the demand of the day for Works' Councils.

If the Works' Councils are to play that part in the age of socialisation, which in reality they are called upon to play, and which is demanded by the consciousness of the age (though often may be unconsciously) throughout the wide ranks of the working-classes, then these Works' Councils must grow up on the independent soil of an economic life, which in its internal organisation is completely detached from everything else in the form either of political or of spiritual life.

In saying that the corporate body of Works' Councils must grow out of a free selection of such persons as are actually engaged in economic life, so that it may make its own forms of constitution for the coming economic life of the future, — this, and what this means, — the whole nature of what is now rising up from the subconscious depths of men's souls and seeking expression in acts, — all this is something so foreign to those who today call themselves practical people, that they have now in project a Works' Councils Law, which in every one of its items is a flat contradiction of all that Works' Councils are intended to be: — a law which in every one of its items proceeds from the idea, not of moving on towards a new future, but of somehow preserving forms that inwardly are dead and done with. There can be no plainer symptom of the impracticality and utopianism of this age than the life-remote phaenomenon presented by this Works' Councils Bill. — Is it not time, that even people who had till now made their spiritual home elsewhere, should feel it their personal duty to speak out, when they see how this age is saturated with Utopianism, — how infinitely far this age — so rich in life's routine, is removed from anything like life's genuine practice! -

In this present age we have — all jumbled together — impulses still dating from the earliest times; times, when wave after wave of migrant peoples broke in and built up territorial lordships, conquered the soil, and on the strength of conquest of the soil established rights over the soil, out of which has grown in due course the whole code of legal rights. In our notions of right and justice, in our impulses of right and justice, we still have the old conceptions, principles, laws, attached to the conquest of the soil. “Of the rights you brought with you at birth” of these alas! there is still in many respects “no question.” That age has left much behind with us to-day; it has left us everything in our national economy which has to do with the soil. — Then followed the age of industrialism, which has led to the thing against which people are struggling so fiercely today in many quarters; namely, to Capitalism.

What do we mean by Capitalism? By Capitalism we simply mean, in other words, the private ownership of the means of production. And so we have, matched one against the other, (as becomes plain directly one tries to form a comprehensive view of the whole economy of the civilised globe) ... we find, matched one against the other, on one side those conditions that arise from the use of the soil for the purposes of human economy, and those again that arise from ownership of the means of production, and the use of these for the same economic purposes.

This is something which very few people see: that down to the smallest thing, down to the halfpenny that I take out of my purse to buy some trifle that I need, there is this economic struggle going on between the conditions arising from the soil, and the conditions arising from the means of production. Our whole process of national economy is one constant endeavour to effect a balance between these two sets of conditions: arising from the soil, and from the means of production. And into this whole process we ourselves are forced with all our life's fate in every field, as men of modern times. And what came about when the old aristocratic forms of society passed over into its middle-class forms, can be best described by saying, that these middle-class forms of society have given rise to the modern market, governed anarchically by Supply and Demand. In the market today, we find capital transferred from hand to hand, from company to company. And subject to this principle of Supply and Demand, we find human labour-power, working under a system of wage-relations, and commodities circulating, the services performed by human hands.

Three separate things have been flung into the market by the middle-class order of society: Capital, Wages, and Services [Leistung: i.e. that which is performed by labour, whether the manufacture of an article, a personal service rendered, or a literary or artistic production.]; and under this middle-class order of society Capital has been made the substitute for something that in earlier days, under the old aristocratic world-order, wore a very different aspect. Under the old aristocratic world-order, based upon conquest of the soil, everything in the nature of services exchanged between men was relegated to the sphere of Rights. Part of all that was produced must be paid as dues to the landlord; and so-and-so-much one might keep back as labourer. All this was relegated to the sphere of Rights. One had a right to consume so and so much oneself; and one had a duty, because the other man had a right to consume so and so much of what one produced in his service. Rights were the rule under the old aristocratic order; that is to say, rights of privilege, class-rights, ruled everything to do with human requirements. Much of all this echoes on into our own times, — vibrates on even into the penny I take out of my purse to buy something. And through this under-note comes the sound of the other thing: of what has taken the place of this old Order of Rights; the sound of all which has turned capital, human-labour and human services into commodities, ruled by Supply and Demand, regulating themselves, that is, according to profit, according to the most sordid competition, the blindest human egoism, which leads every man to try and earn as much as ever he can squeeze out of the social system. And so, in the place of the old Rights, there came something that was a play of forces between economic power and economic coercion. In place of the privileged with preferential rights, and the others with deferential rights, under the old patriarchal relations of master and servant, there came the economic relations of the middle-class regime, based upon the war of competition, upon profit, upon economic coercion in the tug of war between capital and wages. And into this again is coerced the exchange of commodities, is coerced the adjustment of prices, which is dependent on the egoist war between capital and wages. — And to-day, ... to-day what is trying to grow up ... for this is the really practical thing, to see what is growing up, and how, more or less unconsciously — though consciously too in many quarters to-day! — a new order of society is trying to take shape; one that shall no longer be based upon relations of coercion, of economic coercion, but based upon reciprocal services, justly exchanged; — based, that is, in this respect upon a really unegoistic and social way of thinking amongst the human community. And the only practical person to-day, the only person, who is not working in opposition to what nevertheless must come, is one who hears the cry that goes up from the whole depths of the human soul: ‘The old privileged rights, the old system of capital and wages, must give place to the system of mutual services!’ How many people are there to-day, do you think, who understand it as yet in all its consequences, this great, new, up-welling life-impulse, springing from human evolution itself, — not conjured up by the arbitrary wishes of individuals, — this life-impulse, which has had such a bloody prelude in the terrible World-War? One may still hear people, even those who think socialistically, who with every fibre of their will are bent on combating capitalism, — one may still hear them talk — and it's a plain symptom of the times! — of the worker receiving the just wages of his labour, and that this is the way to combat capitalism!

Anyone who looks deeper into the conditions, knows,-that Capital will exist, so long as Wages exist. For, as you know, in the real world we always find two opposites going together: a north pole, and a south pole; north-pole magnetism, and south-pole magnetism: each positive has its negative; Capital brings Wages in its train; and one only needs to look into the whole business of national economy at the present day, to know the answer to the question: What are wages paid out of? — Wages are paid out of Capital! And there will inevitably be Capital, so long as Wages have to be paid out of Capital. Anti-capitalism has no sense, unless at the same time one is clear, that along with capital the wage-system itself must go; and that there must come a free communal association of the manual worker and the spiritual worker in the non-capitalist order of economy. A free communal association, which makes the manual worker the free partner of the spiritual worker, who is no longer a capitalist, will do away with the wage-principle, with the wage-relation; and, with the wage relation, will do away with the capital-relation. And therefore the only possible way to talk of capitalism, is to talk of it from the standpoint of the social requirements of the day, — as you find them discussed in my book The Threefold Commonwealth or The Life-needs of To-day and To-morrow. We must start from this important truth: that we are situated in the midst of this struggle between the two opposing sets of Rights: the Rights arising from the soil, and the Rights arising from the means of production; and we must show, that the soil, in our future economic order, will be a means of production, and nothing more; and that a means of production can only accumulate labour-value until it is ready-finished; that, from that moment on, it is nobody's property; that, from that moment on, nobody has strictly speaking any rights of heritage over it; that, from that moment on, it goes back into circulation in the community, as I have described in my book* And then, then we come also and very straight to the discovery, that this was the position held by the soil from the very first; that all mortgaging of the soil is a thing against nature; that land and ready-finished means of production are in no way commodities, but must pass from man to man by some other means than by exchanging them for commodities. This is something one may learn at the present day from the actual practice of life.

That this is something which may be learnt from the actual practice of life to-day, will be plain from the following considerations. Nobody can look into life with a practical eye to-day, who approaches this life with a mind hill of stereotyped theories, party definitions or merely abstract ideas. We have moved on today into an age, when man has awoken to the consciousness of himself, in quite a different way from ever before. Only their disinclination to the objective study of souls can make men today blind to the fact, that since the middle of the fifteenth century we have entered upon a totally new epoch as regards the evolution of the human soul, — an epoch, in which the soul of man is becoming ever more and more conscient. And there is one class of mankind from whose unexhausted brains the cry goes forth: ‘Let me come to myself as a human soul, in full consciousness of my manhood!’ — That, ladies and gentlemen, however unpleasing the symptoms which may often accompany it, — that is the soul of the Working-Classes! And the first words in this appeal for a self-conscient life under human conditions are as follows: ‘No longer shall Capital coerce me by unjust economic power through the means of Wages!’ Wages, for the modern working man, represent what he has to fight against, if he would rise to that full human consciousness which is absolutely demanded by the age upon which we are now entering. And it is the task of this age, upon which we are entering, to give Services their right place as such in the economic process.

Services can only find their right place In the economic process, when every measure has been taken on the other hand to separate out from this process again all that has become involved with it through the old aristocratic and the old middle-class regimes; — when we have separated out from the economic circuit the system of state-rights: the political relations; — when we have separated out the spiritual life (which truly has been long enough in bondage!), and released it from the state on the one side, and from the economic process on the other. And therefore every endeavour after a social order in which services shall ensure just reciprocal services, in which men shall work for men, not merely every man for himself, is inseparably involved with the division of the body social into those three organic systems, which have been fused together and confounded by what had quite other interests than interests of common humanity, — by what had, and could have, only interests of caste, interests of class.

All these single, separate interests, then, mount up to what we find as the collective totality of interests when we come to the big world-affairs. As I mentioned to-day in my opening remarks, which had a somewhat personal tinge, — a person who has spent his life in learning to know the life-needs of all kinds and conditions of men, has his eyes a little sharpened for those international conditions too, which have come about through the amalgamation of economic life, political or rights life, and spiritual life. Believe me, if one has not been asleep through all that has happened, one finds so much in these happenings which is symptomatic and very plainly shows the impossibility, in international life also, of this amalgamation of the three fields of life!

Let me remind you of one thing only: At the time when the German Empire was founded from reasons of the political life, how often did Bismarck lay it down as a maxim that, ‘This Empire is politically saturated; this Empire needs no extension.’ This was in the first place a political line of thought, proceeding from the political impulses which led to the founding of the Empire. And then, whilst the remains, the remnants, of this political way of thought lingered on amongst the people in power, economic conditions began to come to the front, amalgamating ever more and more with these political conditions; and, finally, the economic conditions gained so completely the upper hand, that if one asked any of the leading people (and I often made the experiment during the war): What are they aiming at on political considerations in Germany? one got no answer to one's question. But answers came, and very early in the day, from certain economic interests: which is to say, that economic interests wanted to have the decision in a political matter. — One has only to observe things of this kind with an eye to the really practical understanding of life!

For years, the whole tangle of national, that is to say spiritual and cultural relations, of economic relations, and of political-international relations of rights were all knotted up together in the fatal part played by the so-called Baghdad Railway Question. It was one of the causes that contributed to set the world on fire. For years past, any real practitioner of life, any real observer of life, could see how, — like a knot that is continually being ravelled and unravelled, — economic, political, •cultural relations were for ever, now blending, now undoing one another in this question of the Baghdad Railway. One could see the thing coming up over the horizon: how It began politically with the Young Turk Party establishing itself in Constantinople and setting up Liberalism as a political system, in place of the old Turkish conservative system. There one had, to begin with, political considerations. And then these became mixed up with purely economic concerns, in the question of the Sanjak Railway and the question of the Dardanelles. And to this there then came in addition the cultural problem of the Slavonic question, involving spiritual relations of a national and cultural character. No steps had been taken to forestall this confusion of provinces in the international life too of modern times, and to bring the three into same form of international structure in which they might work, not to mutual disturbance, but so as to correct and balance one another.

Anyone, who looked from the real experience of life in one nationality to the field of international affairs, might see the terrible T w i l i g h t   o f   t h e   N a t i o n s coming up in Europe from this amalgamation of the three provinces of life in all the great questions of world-politics in modern times. And for him it lay like a nightmare on his soul: ‘When at last will they see, that the sources of all really social thinking in every people must lead to a separation of those three social systems, whose entanglement is bringing mankind into crises and disaster!’

Our diplomacy was a mis-practice, a Utopia, an ideology! No wonder then, that from this quarter the very thing to be set against it is regarded as a Utopia, as an ideology, as a mere piece of idealism I These things have finally brought about the conditions, of which at the present day one can only say to oneself again and again: When will people wake up to the seriousness of the times? When at last will they see, that the worst of all Utopias at the present day is the Utopia that cannot see that it is a question to-day of big accounts, not little ones, and that one is sinning against the spirit of the age when one labels a thing from some hole and corner of one's own, as being the kind of thing that happens to fall within the particular limits of one's own understanding, — when one looks out at life from some point of view like this at something which obviously demands experience of life, demands the good will to learn from actual life, — and then calls this thing unpractical, a piece of idealism! — When will people at last wake up, and recognise this ‘piece of idealism’ to be the genuine practice of life? — When will they be willing to see, that the important thing is not to say, ‘I don't understand that,’ but to feel from the underlying instincts of life, whether a person is talking, not from some shadowy theory but from the faithful observation of life itself! — Or else, — to the great misfortune of the age! — we shall always be meeting in the social field with a repetition of something which is a typical picture of bourgeois philistrosity: — At the time when the plans were being made for the construction of the first German railway, they consulted a college of physicians — practical people therefore, a select committee! — as to whether it were advisable to build a railway. And these practical people replied: That it would be better to build no railway; for that if they did, it would be injurious to the health of any persons who might eventually travel on it. But that if, however, there were persons already who were determined to travel on It, then at any rate they should put up a high wooden fence to right and left along the line, so that, when the train rushed by, people mightn't get brain-shock from the rapidity of the motion. — Well, to-day too, people are afraid of the on-rush of the social movement. They would like to put up high fences, for fear of getting brain-shock. Woe to the weaklings, who want to put up such fences, for fear the reality might unhinge their brains!

And so every actual observation of our times is a constant reminder to speak in such a way, that one knows that in speaking one is talking into the storm. Though many people may still be unaware of the storm, yet the storm is raging. May as many people as possible grow aware of the storm, — may a large enough number of people grow aware of it, — before it is too late!

* *

(a discussion followed; after which
Steiner replied in conclusion:)

After all that has been said by the other speakers in the course of the discussion, there remains very little for me to say to-night in addition. I should only like to point out, — not by way of correction, but simply to prevent any misunderstanding, — that by ‘capitulation to the Wilson-Utopia’ I simply meant what the previous speaker, Mr. X..., himself said. X merely wanted to point out the significant fact about it, which in my opinion is, that in this Western Utopia we have before us, what in its substance as I said is a Utopia. Its Utopian character has by now, I think, been plainly enough demonstrated. A Utopia is something which utters very fine words and words which are meant to be very ideal, but which lack all basis for realisation. And in this sense everything that came to light in these Fourteen Points — insofar as they proposed to bring about ideal conditions — was Utopian. I am quite of opinion with the gentleman who spoke, that, with all this, there was something very different behind; as I expressed it myself in my lecture, there were extremely real western interests behind. And so we have to do with a Utopia, which very cleverly conceals behind it something which is Not-a-Utopia, namely very real interests. And in saying that in Germany in October 1918 they succumbed also to this Utopia, I meant to say that in those days people believed ... well, in certain circles at any rate they believed ... that these Fourteen Points didn't represent a Utopia, but something that was to be taken as Not-a-Utopia. I should like to know otherwise, why they surrendered — so to speak — to this Utopia! At any rate, they didn't say: We appeal to the very real selfish interests which lie behind the Fourteen Points, and to these we surrender. But they said: We surrender to the Fourteen Points, and appeal to the realisation of them. And therefore I think, in the light of what has actually come to pass, that one may certainly see all the signs of a real capitulation to a real Utopia.

If I may say a few words upon the question that was raised about the Works' Councils; I should like to refer to the brief remark already made in my lecture: that the whole corporation of Works' Councils must go out solely from the economic body itself; and in this way; namely that in the different businesses, from the different persons actually engaged in manual and spiritual work, and simply and solely on the grounds of a confidence founded in this joint associative work, — that first of all these Works' Councils should be set upon their legs. Then we have the Works' Councils there, possessing the confidence of their fellow-workers in the different businesses. One can't socialise in the individual businesses. This is just what is so unpractical in the proposed Works' Councils Bill, which is in all truth wide enough of anything like real socialisation. The really practical thing will be, that all the inter-arrangements between the different businesses should come from the Works' Councils of these businesses themselves; and they will have to come about in this way; that the councils elected from the separate business-works come together and form a Corporation of Works' Councils covering a definite self-contained system of economy, and begin first by giving themselves a constitution at a sort of preliminary Founders' Meeting. And they will also go on to mark out the lines of direction along which the individual councils are then to work in their own businesses, under the joint social management of the whole Corporation of Works' Councils. It must come out of the forces of the economic life itself, of an independent economic life, resting upon its own grounds, if the thing which proceeds to-day from the real, social foundations of human nature, — not from any red-tape government theory, — is to what is officially termed ‘march;’ — though indeed this official ‘marching’ is very unlike the old military forward march, and looks much more like a skipping-about, — or ‘running to cover,’ let us say! —

And now, after the many points that have been touched on by the different gentlemen who spoke in the course of the discussion, it only requires that I should add one thing to what I have said already; which is: That the age, which we have now entered upon in the course of historic evolution, is one which sets a great task before us; the task of combining together men who render spiritual, and men who render manual services, and of enabling them to turn their services to full value, so that they may find their rightful place socially in the whole social community of which they form part. But this means, that we must give our minds in deepest earnest to this demand of the times, so that really we may succeed at last in arousing men to a mutual understanding and agreement between man and man in the field of Economics, of Rights, of the Spirit.

That these three departments of life work best in actual practice when they are divided, is something very plain to be seen in a quarter, where people are obliged to-day to let them work together from separate and very different sources: namely in the life of the individual family. Just think what would become of the individual family of these days, if Rights life, spiritual life and economic life were all jumbled up together in it chaotically! What is needed for the times to come, as well as for the present time, is that we should find means to apply to our social conditions today, what goes on of itself as a matter of course in the family. But here our eyes grow confused; and we can't see the wood because of the trees; and then, if we talk of separating the three systems of the body social, we are accused of wanting to split the body social into three parts, whereas of course anything can only live as a unity. But just in order to keep this unity properly alive, the body social must be placed on its three proper footings! It's not I that am so unpractical as to want to chop the horse into three pieces; all I want is, that those people should come to their senses who maintain that the only one and undivided horse is the horse with one leg, not with four. This seems to me much the same as those people who declare that one wants to out up the body social into three parts, because one wants to separate its three limbs. No! what I want, is to establish the unity of the body social, so that this body social may stand soundly upon its three legs of Rights, of Economics, of Spiritual life. But to-day one is shouted down as a Utopianist, directly one talks of a horse standing on its four legs; and those are taken for the really practical people to-day, who maintain, that the only proper horse, the only one-and-undivided horse, is the horse that stands only on one leg. — There are many things to-day, which are only standing upon one leg, and which we need to put upon their sound number of legs; indeed one might say that very much has been stood on its head by Utopian dreamers, which we need to set up on its proper legs.


*




Last Modified: 02-Dec-2018
The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com
[Spacing]