Altneuland- Theodor Herzl's Zionist Utopia
The youngster flushed, and spoke up modestly. "I merely wanted to tell Mr. Littwak that we have the history of the pioneers of Rochdale in our village library."
"Give it to Mr. Mendel to read," replied David. "It is a very beautiful, instructive story. The honest pioneers of Rochdale, as they are called, did much for you. That is to say, they achieved a great deal for the whole of humanity -though they were thinking of themselves alone.
"When you go to your consumers" co-operative societies and buy goods of the best quality and at the lowest prices, you have the pioneers of Rochdale to thank for it. And if your Neudorf is a prosperous producers' co-operative you owe it to the poor martyrs of Rahaline in Ireland. The peasants of Rahaline themselves did not know that they were performing an act of historic significance when, in 1831, they founded the first New Village in the world with the help of their landlord, Mr. Vandaleur. Yes, many decades were to pass before the most learned and cleverest of men grasped the idea of Rahaline. The consumers' co-operative society of Rochdale was understood much sooner than the Rahaline idea of the New Village based on cooperation in production. But, when we founded our New Society, we naturally began with the new type of village rather than with the wretched old one. There is nothing here in Neudorf that was not implied in Rahaline. The one difference is, that instead of a Mr. Vandaleur, we have a large association to which everyone belongs; that is, the New Society."
The young peasant once more raised his hand. The speaker came to a surprised halt. "Will you not tell us the story of Mr. Vandaleur and Rahaline, Mr. Littwak?" he asked shyly.
"Gladly, my friends. Ireland at that time was a poor country with a most wretched population. The agricultural tenants were a demoralized proletariat who had even become thieves and murderers. A squire named Vandaleur had a particularly violent set of tenants on his estates. At the beginning of 1831, the distress in Ireland was very great. The peasants, in their desperation, committed shocking crimes. Mr. Vandaleur had a steward whom the laborers hated for his severity; and in their desperation, they murdered him. What did Vandaleur do then? Something magnanimous. Instead of inflicting additional severities upon these people, he conceived the superhuman idea of being kind to them. He called the defiant, miserable men together, united them in a laborers' co-operative, and leased his estate of Rahaline to the new association. The aims of this co-operative were; to work with a common capital, to extend mutual aid to the members, to improve the standard of living, and to educate the children. The machinery and farm equipment were to belong to Mr. Vandaleur as landlord until the co-operative society had paid for them. It was to put its profits into a reserve fund for this purpose. The society managed its business without interference. A committee of nine was chosen from among the men themselves. Each member of this committee was responsible for a definite branch of the work-for the labor on the estate, home industries, the administrative business of the society, and so on. The daily tasks were assigned by the committee. Everyone had to do his share. The association paid its members at the prevailing scale of wages. The members were taxed with a small amount for a sick fund and similar purposes. The men of Rahaline were apparently laborers working for a landlord, but actually they were working for themselves, since Mr. Vandaleur reserved the right of supervision only. The enterprise was remarkably successful, and Mr. Vandaleur derived a larger income-in rent and in interest-from Rahaline than previously. And the laborers, who had been living in the deepest poverty, began to prosper suddenly, without any transition period at all, as if they had been touched by a magic wand. They worked well and vigorously. They knew that they were working for themselves; and the knowledge lent them more than human endurance. The men who had murdered their steward now carried out the most important tasks without supervision except from each other. A record was kept of the hours each man worked and of the amount of work accomplished; and at the end of the week, he received as much as he had actually earned. There was no parity of wages! The diligent worker received more, the slacker less."
"Bravo!" cried a voice in the crowd. (Laughter.)
"It was soon seen that the laborers of Rahaline worked twice as hard as any others in that district," continued David. "Yet it was the same soil; the people were the same. It was merely that they had discovered a saving principle: that of the agricultural producers' co-operative. They were paid not in cash, but in labor tickets, which were valid only at the general store of Rahaline. But at that store, which also belonged to the co-operative society, they could obtain everything they needed. The store carried goods of the best quality only, and sold them at wholesale prices. Historians estimate that the people of Rahaline saved fifty per cent on their purchases.
"Every member of that co-operative society, moreover, was certain of steady employment (and, in case of illness, of an equal allowance from the sick fund) for every day in the year. Sick and incapacitated members received medical attention and maintenance. When a father died, the children were supported....But I don't want to go on telling you about things that you can find better told in books. I should prefer to send you the works of Webb-potter, Oppenheimer, Seifert, Huber and others for your library."
The modest young peasant interrupted again. "How did it finally work out in Rahaline, Mr. Littwak?"
"After only two years of this system, Rahaline became very prosperous. Homes and furnishings, food and clothing, improved methods of education, and a general rise in the standard of living-all these attested to the well-being of the peasants. The net annual profits (exclusive of the rent on the leasehold) increased, and the co-operators would probably have taken over the estate after a few more years had not Mr. Vandaleur left his own project in the lurch. He gambled away his fortune in Dublin, and fled to America. His creditors sold Rahaline, the tenant co-operators were driven off the estate, and the blessed isle once more sank in a sea of misery....
"But the lesson of Rahaline was not lost. It was treasured by economists; and when we led our people back to the beloved soil of Palestine, we founded thousands of Rahalines. A Vandaleur would have been neither strong nor reliable enough for us. A powerful collective body was essential. That body is our New Society. It is the landlord which provided you with land and farm equipment, and to it you owe your present prosperity.
"The New Society, however, did not evolve all this by itself. It did not derive it either from the brains of its leaders or from the pockets of its founders alone. The New Society rests, rather, squarely on ideas which are the common stock of the whole civilized world. Now, my dear friends, do you understand what I mean? It would be unethical for us to deny a share in our commonwealth to any man, wherever he might come from, whatever his race or creed. For we stand on the shoulders of other civilized peoples. If a man joins us-if he accepts our institutions and assumes the duties of our commonwealth-he should be entitled to enjoy all our rights. We ought therefore to pay our debts. And that can be done in only one way-by the exercise of the utmost tolerance. Our slogan must be, now and always- 'Man, thou art my brother!' "
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