Economist and sociologist
specializing in labour relations. B. June 23, 1896, Cracow. 1928-1939
lectured in economics at the Jagiellonian University; active member
of the Cracow Economic Society (Krakowskie Towarzystwo Ekonomiczne).
Published in Czas,
Czasopismo Prawnicze i Ekonomiczne,
Przeglšd Współczesny; from 1927 economic
editor in Ilustrowany Kurier
World War II erupted, he went to Great Britain, where he continued
his scholarly work at the Polish Department of Law in Oxford (until
1946); received a scholarship from the Manchester University. 1953-56
taught at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and 1964-66 in Tel-Aviv.
His works include: Cztery systemy ekonomii ("Four Economic
Systems", 1932), Ekonomia
a technika ("Economy and Technology", 1935), Zmierzch
czy odrodzenie liberalizmu ("Decline or Revival of Liberalism",
1938), The Planning of Free Societies (1942),
Labour, Life and Poverty (1948), Productivity and Trade Unions (1952), The British Worker (1952), The Worker in an Affluent Society (1961),
The New Acquisitive Society
(1976). D. June 9, 1988, London.
The selected fragments
are from Kryzys w socjalizmie
wspó³czesym ("Crisis in Contemporary Socialism"), "Przegl¹d
Wspó³czesny" 1923, vol. VI, no. 9-10 (Jan-Feb), pp. 132-136.
When the Bolshevik government seized power, it attempted
to implement the maximal program, which argues for the necessity
or the need to create new, rationalist forms of the collectivist
economy, based on the public ownership of enterprises and on the
abolition of all incomes apart from that coming from labor.
The Bolshevik government tried to reconstruct the system
these new principles. However, it soon found out that there are
components so deeply enmeshed in the economic mechanism that prizing
them apart would mean the destruction of the entire mechanism, or
would require such a large amount of energy that society would not
be able to supply it.
The construction of an economic system according to a "plan"
and around new principles means tearing down the old building and
erecting a new one. Yet when one tears down an old building one
creates a void where nothing can be constructed, since everything
that existed was destroyed during the period of negation. The economic
mechanism is an arrangement of thousands of interrelated components.
One can reform each individual part or a limited number of separate
parts; then one is able to predict the direction and scope of the
change inflicted on the rest of the mechanism. However, if one intends
to transform all parts simultaneously, this will generate unpredictable
chaos. When one alters the entire arrangement, when there is nothing
fixed, when all components are thrown out of balance, one cannot
predict the ultimate result of such revolutions. Even if the creation
of new forms of economy is the work of a whole regiment of creative
minds, it still requires a long time and a great effort to take
shape. A violent revolution destroys the old apparatus, and since
one does not have a new one and one cannot produce it immediately,
one drives the country into ruin and destitution.
The Bolshevik experiment is one of the most terrible, vast,
and costly experiments ever undertaken by humankind. Moreover, the
results of the experiment are also vast.
After a few-years' struggle against capitalism the Soviet
government gave in and returned, at first indistinctly, then ever
more forcefully, to capitalist forms. They came to the conclusion
that it does not suffice to have the entire sovereign power, that
it does not suffice to be able to act as one thinks fit in order
to build a new system based on new principles. They found out that
coercion and the army are sufficient only to transform institutions,
but they are helpless in remaking the human mind. The Soviet government
was helpless against the elemental economic forces, deeply ingrained
in the human soul and in human instincts, against the forces of
imagination that paralyzed its purposes and blew away the edifice
it tried to construct.
To enact socialism one must remake not only institutions,
but also the human mind; one must remake motivation, weaken selfish
capitalist motives, the desire for profit, while reinforcing altruistic
motives, love of work, and the sense of duty. In a socialist system
economic forces would be utilized in the interest of the collectivity,
and not in the interest of particular individuals, the system would
be organized around the principle of social purpose, and not around
the principle of maximizing profit. If this system is to generate
positive results, it is necessary that individuals be animated by
the spirit of community and solidarity, that they really exercise
their rights and economic activity not in their own interest, but
in the interest of the community. A community is something intangible,
and one needs a high level of ethical and intellectual development
in order that the masses work willingly and selflessly for the interest
of the community.
The socialist system presupposes a mental transformation
of man. Should this transformation not occur, should selfishness
and the desire for profit still prevail in the human soul, the socialist
system would become a parody of what it aimed at.
The decisive and the strongest factor in shaping
mutual relations in the functioning of a socio-economic system is
the human soul, i.e. the cultural and ethical development of man,
his views, his dispositions, his needs, and his motives.
When the soul is depraved, corroded, worn away by the desire
for profit, then even the best, the most perfect institutions will
not help, "evil" will only assume a different form, and not necessarily
a milder one. Sometimes it goes in the opposite direction: the remaking
of institutions based on an idealistic program enhances "evil" and
exploitation, makes them more ruthless, brutal, and visible. For
it creates broader and easier fields for the release of individual
egoisms. Collective institutions offer a great opportunity for making
enormous and illegal profits. Only
individualistic forms of industry correspond to egoism and capitalistic
motives; only collective forms correspond to altruism and the sense
Combining individualistic forms with altruism and self-renunciation
is an absurd waste of social energy, for many forces would not be
made use of.
Yet equally absurd are attempts to combine collective forms
with egoism. Then too a great deal of social energy is wasted. Power
exercised on behalf of society is in fact used to further individual
ends, and not the goals of the community. Disinterest in the effects
of production, alongside the prevalence of egoistic capitalist motives
in a collective system, throws the whole apparatus of production
out of gear.
Contemporary socialism has put too strong an emphasis on
the claim that institutions are the source of "evil" and exploitation;
in contrast to its predecessor, utopian socialism, it lay exclusive
stress on the need for transforming social and political institutions,
while disregarding the forces inhabiting the human soul. It simply
ignored them and left them out of the equation. This was the source
of its failure. These forces are more important than external forces,
than institutions. Institutions can be remade faster than the human
mind, which cannot be transformed overnight. It takes several generations
of quiet, day-to-day educational work and a legion of idealist pioneers
to inculcate new principles of social morality.
Full institutional control combined with the complete powerlessness
of the party and its government against the forces active in the
human soul meant no less than the disintegration and collapse of
the maximal program.