British Socialism - An Examination of Its Doctrines, Policy, Aims and Practical Proposals
by J. Ellis Barker
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A perusal of the party programmes and other Socialist documents contained in the Appendix will show that the abolition of all private property, and its transference to the State, is the aim of all the Socialist organisations and parties, and no further extracts need be given in order to prove the unanimity of the Socialists on this point.

The question now arises: How is this transference of all private property to the State to be effected? Will the present holders of property be fully compensated, partly compensated, or not compensated at all? Do the Socialists aim at purchase or at confiscation of existing private property. Will they respect existing rights, or are they bent upon open or more or less disguised spoliation?

It is, unfortunately, very difficult to obtain a plain and straightforward answer upon this important point. Instead of giving this answer, British Socialists loudly protest that it is not their aim to destroy or abolish property. As nobody has suspected the Socialists to be foolish enough to abolish or destroy property—which means the instruments of production, such as factories, machines, railways, &c., by the use of which the people live, and thus bring starvation upon themselves—their eagerness to explain that they do not intend to abolish or destroy property can only be explained by the surmise that they hope shallow simpletons will say, "The Socialists have no intention to take our capital away from us by force and without compensation, for they have declared that they do not intend to abolish property." A few of these declarations should here be given: "So far from abolishing property, Socialism desires to establish it upon the only basis which makes property secure—that of service, of creative service."[292] "Socialism does not propose to abolish land or capital. Only a genius could have thought of this as an objection to Socialism."[293] "Socialism is far from aiming at the destruction of private property. Its object is to increase private property amongst those whose property is so limited that they have a difficulty in keeping themselves alive."[294] Another Socialist makes the very irrelevant and unnecessary observation: "It is a firm principle of Socialism never to interfere with personal property in order to investigate its origin or to arrange it in a different way. Never and nowhere! And whoever asserts to the contrary either does not know the principles of Socialism or willingly and knowingly asserts an untruth. The Socialists deem an investigation into the origin of an acknowledged personal property an unnecessary trouble. They consider the personal property an accomplished fact and respect it: so much so, that they consider stealing a crime."[295] Mr. Blatchford informs us, "We do not propose to seize anything. We do propose to get some things and to make them the property of the whole nation by Act of Parliament or by purchase."[296]

As regards the question whether compensation or no compensation will be given, our Socialist leaders give us very vague and unsatisfactory replies, which rather contain highly respectable but perfectly irrelevant commonplaces than definite proposals. Most Socialists will answer the plain question of confiscation or no confiscation with a quibble or a conundrum, as the following examples will show: "One view of Socialism is that it is a scheme of confiscation of property from one class to give it to another class—that Socialists are Dick Turpins made respectable by using Acts of Parliament instead of pistols. Now the real fact is that the Socialist has come to put an end to Dick Turpin methods. Socialism is a rational criticism of our present methods of production and distribution. It desires to say to the possessors: Show us by what title you possess; and it proposes to pass its judgments upon the axiom that whoever renders service to society should be able to have some appropriate share in the national wealth."[297] In other words, an inquisitorial tribunal with arbitrary powers would be empowered to confiscate at will. "Socialism is not a plan to despoil the rich: it is a plan to stop the rich from despoiling the poor. Socialism is not a thief; it is a policeman."[298] "Do any say we attack private property? We deny it. We attack only that private property for a few thousand loiterers and slave-drivers which renders all property in the fruits of their own labour impossible for millions. We challenge that private property which renders poverty at once a necessity and a crime."[299] "Socialism would not rob anyone. It would distinguish between the lawful possessor and the rightful possessor, and it would compel the 'lawful' possessor to restore to the rightful possessor the property of which he had robbed him."[300] "We do not propose to rob the rich man of his wealth; we deny that it is his wealth. Wealth is a social product, and therefore belongs to society. It is not an act of brigandage to demand that society shall own and use what society has created."[301]

Some Socialists consider the question of compensation or no compensation as one of very minor importance. "The question of compensation need not greatly worry us. Socialists hold that plutocrats owe all their wealth to society; and therefore that society has the right at any moment to take it back."[302] The more cautious and moderate French and German Socialists are apt to promise compensation in terms such as the following: "We declare expressly that it is the duty of the State to give to those whose interests will be damaged by the necessary abolition of laws which are detrimental to the common interest compensation as far as it is possible and consistent with the interests of all."[303]

It will be observed that the plain word compensation is circumscribed by the phrase, "compensation as far as it is possible and consistent with the interests of all." In other and plainer words, compensation is to be arbitrarily given, and its proportion to the property acquired is apparently to be determined not by its value or by fairness and equity, but by the will of those who may be in power.

English Socialists, on the other hand, are apt to recommend a far more drastic treatment of property-owners. "We claim that land in country and land in towns, mines, parks, mountains, moors, should be owned by the people for the people, to be held, used, built over, and cultivated upon such terms as the people themselves see fit to ordain. The handful of marauders who now hold possession have, and can have, no right save brute force against the tens of millions whom they wrong."[304] The most moderate school of British Socialism, the Fabian Society, favours in its statement of policy given under the heading "Basis of the Fabian Society" the expropriation of all private capital "without compensation, though not without such relief to expropriated individuals as may seem fit to the community." In other words, expropriated property-owners may, or may not, be given something to protect them from starvation, not as a matter of right, but of charity.

Most Socialists who favour compensation recommend that it should be given only in the form of consumable articles such as food, clothes, &c., or in bonds which are changeable only into consumable articles. "Rothschild will be paid in bread and meat and luxury and wine and theatre tickets."[305] "When capitalistic property shall have been socialised, the holders of compensation deeds will not be able to purchase either fresh means of production or producers; they will only be able to buy products."[306]

Some Socialists suggest that the bonds given in exchange for property acquired by the State might be cancelled later on. The property-owners could be deprived of their possessions without any difficulty, either gradually by taxation or at one blow by confiscation at the option of the men in power. "When the entire capitalistic property takes the form of State bonds, the property which it is impossible to ascertain to-day would then be known to everybody. It would only be necessary to decree that all bonds are to be registered in the name of the owner, and it would be possible to estimate exactly the capitalist income and the property of everyone. It would then also be possible to screw up the taxes to any extent without fear of their being evaded by any concealments. It would then be also impossible to escape them by emigration, since it is the public institutions of the country, and in the first place the State, from which all interest comes, and the latter can deduct the tax from the interest before it is paid out. Under these circumstances it would be possible to raise the progressive income and property tax as high as necessary—if necessary as high as would come very near, if not actually amount to, confiscation of the large property."[307] The foregoing is a simple plan of swindling property-owners out of their holdings.

Some of the more moderate Socialists argue: "There is much to be said in favour of the liberal treatment of the present generation of proprietors and even of their children. But against the permanent welfare of the community the unborn have no rights."[308] On the other hand, Bax, the philosopher of British Socialism, quite logically and honestly states that the idea of compensation has no room in the Socialist code of ethics, that the bourgeois idea of compensation on grounds of justice is irreconcilable with the Socialist conception of justice. He says: "Between possession and confiscation is a great gulf fixed, the gulf between the bourgeois and the Socialist worlds. Well-meaning men seek to throw bridges over this gulf by schemes of compensation, abolition of inheritance, and the like. But the attempts, as we believe, even should they ever be carried out practically, must fall disastrously short of their mark and be speedily engulfed between the two positions they are intended to unite. Nowhere can the phrase 'He that is not for us is against us' be more aptly applied than to the moral standpoint of modern individualism and of modern Socialism. To the one, individual possession is right and justice, and social confiscation is wrong and injustice; to the other, individual possession is wrong and injustice, and confiscation is right and justice. This is the real issue. Unless a man accept the last-named standpoint unreservedly, he has no right to call himself a Socialist. If he does accept it, he will seek the shortest and most direct road to the attainment of justice rather than any longer and more indirect ones, of which it is at best doubtful whether they will attain the end at all. For be it remembered the moment you tamper with the sacredness of private property, no matter how mildly, you surrender the conventional bourgeois principle of justice, while the moment you talk of compensation you surrender the Socialist principle of justice, for compensation can only be real if it is adequate, and can only be adequate if it counterbalances, and thereby annuls, the confiscation. It is just, says the individualist, for a man to be able to do what he likes with his own. Good; but what is his own?"[309] "The great act of confiscation will be the seal of the new era; then and not till then will the knell of civilisation, with its rights of property and its class society, be sounded; then, and not till then, will justice—the justice not of civilisation but of Socialism—become the corner-stone of the social arch."[310]

I think the straightforwardness of Bax is preferable to the crooked and insincere explanations and proposals of the British and foreign Socialist given in the foregoing. Bax's opinion is irrefutable. According to the doctrines of Socialism given in Chapter IV., labour is the source of all wealth; the greater part of the products of that labour is dishonestly abstracted from the labourer by the capitalist class, which has converted the result of that labour into property. Hence Socialists think with Proudhon, and they very often openly declare, that property is theft. Capitalist society will not compensate the thief when taking from him his booty. Socialism will not compensate property-owners when taking away their property. Besides, compensation would be utterly opposed to the root idea of Socialist justice. At present expropriation without indemnity is called theft, but it would not be called theft under a Socialist regime. The chapter on "Law and Justice under Socialism" will make that quite clear.

Socialism teaches that no man is entitled to anything except that which he has made himself. "No man has a right to call anything his own but that which he himself has made. Now, no man makes the land. The land is not created by labour, but it is the gift of God to all. The earth belongs to the people. For the nonce please take the statement on the authority of Herbert Spencer, All men 'have equal rights to the use of the earth.' So that he who possesses land possesses that to which he has no right, and he who invests his savings in land becomes a purchaser of stolen property."[311] "No man made the land, and laws and lawyers notwithstanding no man has any moral right before God to call a solitary strip of God's earth his than has the burglar to call his stolen goods his personal property. It is therefore evident that the bite named 'rent' given to landlords for permission to live upon and use God's free gift to man is as much the fruit of robbery, the spoil of plunder, as is the result of a burglar's night's marauding, a common pickpocket's day's 'takings.'"[312] Capital is in the same position as land, for "Land and capital are indistinguishable."[313]

The more honest Socialists agree with Bax that compensation for property acquired would be inadvisable and impracticable. "In a pamphlet called 'Collectivism and Revolution' M. Jules Guesde said, 'Expropriation with indemnity is a chimera. And whatever regret one may feel, however difficult may appear to peaceful natures the last method, we have no other way than to retake violently that which belongs to all, by—let us say the word—the Revolution.' He added, 'Capital which it is necessary to take from individuals, such as the land, is not of human creation; it is anterior to man, for whom it is a sine qua non of existence. It cannot therefore belong to some to the exclusion of others, without the others being robbed. And to make the robbers deliver up, to oblige them to restore in any and every way is not so much a right as a duty, the most sacred of duties."[314] A respected English Socialist says bluntly, "How to secure the swag to the workers is the problem."[315] A Christian Socialist clergyman sarcastically proposes: "If you are a Christian and love your rich neighbour as yourself, you will do all you can to help him to become poorer. For if you believe in the Gospel, you know that to be rich is the very worst thing that can happen to a man. That if a man is rich, it is with the greatest difficulty that he can be saved; for 'it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God' (Mark x. 25). This is startling now, but it was not less strange and startling to the disciples who 'were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?' But the needle's eye has not grown any larger since then, and the camels certainly have not grown smaller! All true Christians then must desire to relieve the rich man of his excess for his own sake, since the inequality that ruins the body of Lazarus ruins the soul of Dives; and Dives is the more miserable of the two, because the soul is more precious than the body."[316]

The abolition of private property requires also the abolition of the right of inheritance, as otherwise capital might again be accumulated in the hands of the thrifty and the enterprising. Therefore the manifesto of Marx and Engels already demands the "abolition of all right of inheritance."[317] Other Socialists say that this right should not be abolished. "Socialists used to insist upon the abolition of the right of inheritance and bequest. But if what I gain by my own labour is rightfully my property—and the Co-operative Commonwealth will, as we have seen, declare it to be so—it will be inexpedient in that Commonwealth to destroy any of the essential qualities of propertyship; and I can hardly call that my property which I may not give to whom I please at my death. No man in a Co-operative Commonwealth could acquire so much more wealth than his fellows as to make him dangerous to them."[318] "Socialists do not object to property; they are not opposed to private property. They are therefore not opposed to inheritance. The right to acquire and hold involves the right to dispose by will or by gift. We only object to such a use of property as enables classes for generation after generation to live on the proceeds of other people's labour without doing any useful service to society."[319] This very diplomatic sentence may be explained in a variety of ways. Probably it means that holders of property of large size could summarily be deprived of their possessions by order of the Government, as has been indicated by that writer in another passage (see page 97). Such a power would make the right to hold and to bequeath property a farce. Property could be held then only on the same terms on which, I believe, it is held by Central African negroes. Another Socialist states, "If I am entitled to what I produce, then it follows that I am entitled to dispose of all that I produce;" and then denies the right to personal property by continuing: "The Socialists say, 'Not thine or mine, but ours.'"[320]

It would be only logical that the Socialist State, after abolishing private property by following the principle "not thine but ours," should not allow its re-creation and re-accumulation. "This pernicious right (wrong) of inheritance must be abolished. It is the means by which the 'classes' perpetuate their robbery of the 'masses' from generation to generation and age to age. The disinherited would of course have the community to look to for sound education in youth, suitable employment in years of maturity, generous pension in old age, &c., and to what else can any rational human being lay just claim?"[321] Some Socialists argue that in the Socialist State "there will be nothing to bequeath, unless we choose to regard household furniture as a legacy of any importance. This settles the question of the right of inheritance, which Socialism will have no need to abolish formally."[322] "Socialism condemns as reactionary and immoral all that tends to the debasement of humanity. It condemns our industrial and commercial system as a degrading system—degrading both to the few who amass wealth and to the many who by their labour enable the few to lay up riches. It is degrading to those who rob and to those who are robbed; to those who cheat and to those who are cheated; to those who swim and to those who sink; to those who revel in luxury and to those who, barely sustaining their own lives, are compelled by their toil to supply luxuries for others to enjoy."[323] Therefore Socialism means to abolish the present system root and branch, and the most straightforward Socialists are frankly in favour of the most thorough measures for abolishing private property.

Children and poets proverbially speak the truth. Let us see what the Socialist poets think of the expropriation of property-owners.

Some of the poets tell the workers that the labourers not only produce all the wealth, but are also all-powerful, and, if they wish to, they can do what they like with the country.

Shall you complain who feed the world— Who clothe the world, who house the world? Shall you complain who are the world Of what the world may do? As from this hour you use your power, The world must follow you. As from this hour you use your power. The world must follow you.[324]

Others remind them of their grievances, and urge them to drive the rich man out of the country:

Think on the wrongs ye bear, Think on the rags ye wear, Think on the insults endured from your birth; Toiling in snow and rain, Bearing up heaps of gain, All for the tyrants who grind ye to earth.

Your brains are as keen as the brains of your masters. In swiftness and strength ye surpass them by far, Ye've brave hearts that teach ye to laugh at disasters, Ye vastly outnumber your tyrants in war. Why, then, like cowards stand. Using not brain or hand, Thankful, like dogs, when they throw ye a bone? What right have they to take Things that ye toil to make? Know ye not, boobies, that all is your own?[325]

Arise, unite each scattered band, To sweep all masters from our land, Then shall each mine and loom and field Its produce to the workers yield.[326]

Others, again, urge the workers to seize all property and to make the rich man work for them.

They're never done extolling The nobility of work; But the knaves! they always take good care Their share of toil to shirk. Do they send their sons and daughters, To the workshop or the mill? Oh! we'll turn things upside down, my lads; It will change their tune, it will![327]

We'll drive the robbers from our lands, our meadows and our hills; We'll drive them from our warehouses, our workshops and our mills; We'll make them fare upon their bonds, their bankbooks and their bills, As we go marching to liberty.[328]

Some Socialists believe that they will come to power suddenly and by violence, and abolish private capital at a stroke. Others are inclined to think that they will only gradually abolish it. Karl Marx was of the latter opinion. Therefore he wrote in his "Manifesto": "The first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy. The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State—i.e. of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible. Of course in the beginning this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property and on the conditions of bourgeois production: by means of measures therefore which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which in the course of the movement outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionising the mode of production. These measures will of course be different in different countries. Nevertheless in the most advanced countries the following will be pretty generally applicable:

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.

2. A heavy progressive or graduated income-tax.

3. Abolition of all right of inheritance.

4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.

5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the State by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.

6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.

7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.

8. Equal liability of all to labour. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of the population over the country.

10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c."[329]

Marx's programme has served as a model to the English Socialists, as the following demands of some of our Socialists will show: "The things you will be working for will be something like this. Shorter hours is the first thing, then a tax on landlords, then abolition of the House of Lords and the Monarchy, then more Home-Rule and more Local Government, then extension of municipal operations, the socialisation of coal stores, dairy farms, bakeries, laundries, public-houses, cab-hiring, the slaughter of cattle and the sale of butcher meat, the building and letting of houses—in short, the taking over by the local bodies of as many departments of production and distribution as need be. By this time the Class War will be shaping for a last great engagement."[330]

"As stepping stones to a happier period we urge for immediate adoption: The compulsory construction of healthy artisans' and agricultural labourers' dwellings in proportion to the population, such dwellings to be let at rents to cover the cost of construction and maintenance alone. Free compulsory education for all classes, together with the provision of at least one wholesome meal a day in each school. Eight hours or less to be the normal working day in all trades. Cumulative taxation upon all incomes above a fixed minimum not exceeding 500l. a year. State appropriation of railways with or without compensation. The establishment of national banks which shall absorb all private institutions that derive a profit from operations in money or credit. Rapid extinction of the National Debt. Nationalisation of the land and organisation of agricultural and industrial armies under State control on co-operative principles. By these measures a healthy, independent, and thoroughly educated people will steadily grow up around us, ready to abandon that baneful competition for starvation wages which ruins our present workers, ready to organise the labour of each for the benefit of all, determined, too, to take control finally of the entire social and political machinery of a State in which class distinctions and class privileges shall cease to be."[331]

The Social-Democratic Federation demands the following immediate reforms: "The socialisation of the means of production, distribution, and exchange to be controlled by a democratic State in the interests of the entire community, and the complete emancipation of labour from the domination of capitalism and landlordism with the establishment of social and economic equality between the sexes. Abolition of the Monarchy. Democratisation of the governmental machinery, viz. abolition of the House of Lords, payment of members of legislative and administrative bodies, payment of official expenses of elections out of the public funds, adult suffrage, proportional representation, triennial Parliaments, second ballot, initiative and referendum. Foreigners to be granted rights of citizenship after two years' residence in the country, on the recommendation of four British-born citizens, without any fee. Canvassing to be made illegal. Legislation by the people in such wise that no legislative proposal shall become law until ratified by the majority of the people. Legislative and administrative independence for all parts of the empire.

"Repudiation of the National Debt. Abolition of all indirect taxation and the institution of a cumulative tax on all incomes and inheritances exceeding 300l.

"Extension of the principle of local self-government. Systematisation and co-ordination of the local administrative bodies. Election of all administrators and administrative bodies by equal direct adult suffrage.

"Elementary education to be free, secular, industrial, and compulsory for all classes. The age of obligatory school attendance to be raised to sixteen. Unification and systematisation of intermediate and higher education, both general and technical, and all such education to be free. Free maintenance for all attending State schools. Abolition of school rates, the cost of education in all State schools to be borne by the National Exchequer.

"Nationalisation of the land and the organisation of labour in agriculture and industry under public ownership and control on co-operative principles. Nationalisation of the trusts, of railways, docks, and canals, and all great means of transit. Public ownership and control of gas, electric light, and water-supplies, tramway, omnibus, and other locomotive services, and of the food and coal supply. The establishment of State and municipal banks and pawnshops and public restaurants. Public ownership and control of the lifeboat service, of hospitals, dispensaries, cemeteries and crematoria, and control of the drink traffic.

"A legislative eight-hour working day or forty-eight hours per week to be the maximum for all trades and industries. Imprisonment to be inflicted on employers for any infringement of the law. Absolute freedom of combination for all workers, with legal guarantee against any action, private or public, which tends to curtail or infringe it. No child to be employed in any trade or occupation until sixteen years of age, and imprisonment to be inflicted on employers, parents, and guardians who infringe this law. Public provision of useful work at not less than trade-union rates of wages for the unemployed. Free State insurance against sickness and accident, and free and adequate State pensions or provision for aged and disabled workers. Public assistance not to entail any forfeiture of political rights. The legislative enactment of a minimum wage of 30s. for all workers. Equal pay for both sexes for the performance of equal work.

"Abolition of the present workhouse system, and reformed administration of the Poor Law on a basis of national co-operation. Compulsory construction by public bodies of healthy dwellings for the people, such dwellings to be let at rents to cover the cost of construction and maintenance alone, and not to cover the cost of the land. The administration of justice to be free to all; the establishment of public offices where legal advice can be obtained free of charge."[332]

Mr. Blatchford suggests the following: "The public maintenance and the public education of children. The public provision of work for all. The taxation of the land and of all large incomes. The confiscation of unearned increment. Old-age pensions. The minimum wage. Compulsory land cultivation. Universal adult suffrage. The second ballot. The payment of election expenses. The nationalisation of the railways and of the land. The nationalisation or municipalisation of trams, gas, water, bread, liquor, milk, coal, and many other things. The abolition of hereditary titles and of the House of Lords."[333]

The general policy which the Socialists should follow was summed up by Marx in the following way. "The Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things."[334] "Socialism is the only hope of the workers. All else is illusion. Workers of all lands, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win."[335]

"This is the final struggle. The extinction of classes must follow the overthrow of the last form of class domination and the emancipation of the last class to be set free. Rally then, fellow workers, to the standard of the international class-conscious proletariat, the Red Flag of Social-Democracy. 'Workers of all countries, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains, you have a world to win!'"[336] "The land of England is no mean heritage."[337]

"What has hitherto prevented the workers from combining for the overthrow of the capitalist system? A. Ignorance and disorganisation.—Q. What has left them in ignorance? A. The system itself, by compelling them to spend all their lives upon monotonous toil and leaving them no time for education.—Q. What account have they been given of the system which oppresses them? A. The priest has explained that the perpetual presence of the poor is necessitated by a law of God; the economist has proved its necessity by a law of Nature; and between them they have succeeded in convincing the labourers of the hopelessness of any opposition to the capitalist system.—Q. How is it that the labourers cannot see for themselves that they are legally robbed? A. Because the present method of extracting their surplus value is one of fraud rather than of force, and has grown gradually."[338]

The philosopher of British Socialism well sums up the aims and policy of the Socialists. He says: "What is vital in Socialism? In the first line, I take it, come

"1. The collectivisation of all the instruments of production by any effective means;

"2. The doctrine of the Class War as the general historical method of realising the new form of society;

"3. The principle of internationalism, the recognition, i.e. that distinction of nationality sinks into nothingness before the idea of the union of all progressive races in the effort to realise the ideal of true society as understood by the Social-Democratic Party;

"4. The utmost freedom of physical, moral, and intellectual development for each and all consistent with the necessities of an organised social State.

"The Socialist's adhesion to the doctrine of the Class War involves his opposition to all measures subserving the interest of any section of capitalism. This coupled with his 'Internationalism' leaves him no choice but to be the enemy of 'his country' and the friend of his country's enemies whenever 'his country' (which means of course the dominant classes of his country, who always are for that matter his enemies) plays the game of the capitalist. Let us have no humbug! The man who cannot on occasion be (if needs be) the declared and active enemy of that doubtful entity, 'his country,' is no Social Democrat."[339]

"Justice being henceforth identified with confiscation, and injustice with the right of property, there remains only the question of 'ways and means.' Our bourgeois apologist, admitting as he must that the present possessors of land and capital hold possession of them simply by right of superior force, can hardly refuse to admit the right of the proletariat organised to that end to take possession of them by right of superior force. The only question remaining is, How? And the only answer is, How you can."[340]


[279] Page 17.

[280] Blatchford, Merrie England, p. 100.

[281] Clarion, October 11, 1907.

[282] Sidney Webb, The Difficulties of Individualism, p. 10.

[283] Fabian Essays in Socialism, pp. 26, 27.

[284] Blatchford, Merrie England, p. 99.

[285] Blatchford, What is this Socialism? p. 1.

[286] Socialist Annual, 1907, p. 39.

[287] Kirtlan, Socialism for Christians, p. 15.

[288] Tillett, Trades Unionism and Socialism, p. 12.

[289] Manifesto of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, p. 9.

[290] Basis of the Fabian Society.

[291] Blatchford, Real Socialism, p. 10.

[292] Macdonald, Socialism, p. 103.

[293] Keir Hardie, From Serfdom to Socialism, p. 11.

[294] Ethel Snowden, The Woman Socialist, p. 3.

[295] Sorge, Socialism and the Worker, p. 9.

[296] Blatchford, Real Socialism, p. 3.

[297] Macdonald, Socialism, p. 103.

[298] Blatchford, What is this Socialism? p. 2.

[299] Socialism made Plain, p. 10.

[300] Blatchford, The Pope's Socialism, p. 3.

[301] Hobart, Social-Democracy, p. 7.

[302] Gronlund, Co-operative Commonwealth, p. 94.

[303] Jaures, Practical Socialism, p. 3.

[304] Socialism Made Plain, p. 8.

[305] Gronlund, Co-operative Commonwealth, p. 105.

[306] Jaures, Practical Socialism, p. 5.

[307] Kautsky, The Social Revolution, p. 10.

[308] Sidney Webb, The Difficulties of Individualism, p. 10.

[309] Bax, The Ethics of Socialism, pp. 75, 76.

[310] Ibid. p. 83.

[311] Blatchford, The Pope's Socialism, p. 6.

[312] Muse, Poverty and Drunkenness, p. 9.

[313] Facts for Socialists, p. 7.

[314] Guyot, Pretensions of Socialism, p. 16.

[315] Davidson, The Old Order and the New, p. 9.

[316] Dearmer, Socialism and Christianity, pp. 17, 18.

[317] Marx and Engels, Manifesto, p. 22.

[318] Gronlund, Co-operative Commonwealth, p 105.

[319] Macdonald, Socialism, p. 105.

[320] Socialism, For and Against, p. 9.

[321] Davidson, The Old Order and the New, p. 158.

[322] Bebel, Woman, pp. 231, 232.

[323] "Veritas," Did Jesus Christ teach Socialism? p. 2.

[324] Social-Democratic Federation Song Book, p. 56.

[325] Ibid. p. 30.

[326] Independent Labour Party Song Book, p. 33.

[327] Social-Democratic Federation Song Book, p. 43

[328] Independent Labour Party Song Book, p. 7.

[329] Marx and Engels, Manifesto, pp. 21, 22.

[330] Leatham, The Class War, pp. 13, 14.

[331] Socialism Made Plain, p. 10.

[332] Programme, Social-Democratic Federation.

[333] Clarion, October 18, 1907.

[334] Marx and Engels, Manifesto, p. 30.

[335] Motto of The Socialist, weekly, taken from Marx and Engels' Manifesto.

[336] The Class War, p. 2.

[337] Socialism Made Plain, p. 10.

[338] Joynes, The Socialist Catechism, p. 5.

[339] Bax, Essays in Socialism, pp. 101, 102.

[340] Bax, Ethics of Socialism, p. 82.



Before investigating the attitude of British Socialism towards the working masses, it is necessary to take note of its doctrines regarding work.

Most thinkers, from the time of King Solomon, Socrates, and Confucius down to the present age, have seen in work conscientiously performed a blessing; many, probably most, British Socialists declare it to be a curse and a vice. The leading English philosopher of Socialism, for instance, tells us: "To the Socialist labour is an evil to be minimised to the utmost. The man who works at his trade or avocation more than necessity compels him, or who accumulates more than he can enjoy, is not a hero but a fool from the Socialists' standpoint."[341] A leading French Socialist informs us: "Through listening to the fallacious utterances of the middle-class economists, the workers have delivered themselves body and soul to the vice of work."[342] When Mr. Victor Grayson, M.P., a Socialist, in a speech ventured to refer to work as "one of the greatest blessings and privileges ever conferred on humanity," one of the Socialist papers wrote: "Victor Grayson is simply an agent of the capitalist class. Is Mr. Victor Grayson, M.P., trying to allure the capitalist class by picturing work as a blessing, or is he trying to get the worker to look upon work through a rosy mist conjured from the brains of the capitalist's agent who is saturated with capitalist philosophy? It is time the Beatitudes were extended or revised. How would this do?—'Blessed is the worker who works (for the capitalist), for he shall inherit the kingdom (of starvation and misery under capitalism).' 'Blessed is work in itself, because it enables (the capitalist) to live in peace and happiness.' Since work is a blessing, it follows that whatever saves work is a curse. All the beautiful machinery which the working class have shed their life blood to produce, to develop which an army of them have been sacrificed under capitalism by the capitalists; this which the workers of ages and ages have contributed their mite towards; have laboured long and suffered silently to create; this is an evil!!!"[343]

British Socialists do their utmost to convert the workers into shirkers by teaching them not only that work is an evil in itself, but by constantly admonishing them, "on scientific grounds," to work as little as possible during the time they are employed. "It is the interest of the employer to get as much work out of his hands as possible for as little wages as possible. It is the interest of the workers to get as high a wage as possible for as little labour as possible."[344] "The workers have been taught by the practical economists of the trade-unions, and have learnt for themselves by bitter experience, that every time any of them in a moment of ambition or good will does one stroke of work not in his bond, he is increasing the future unpaid labour not only of himself, but of his fellows."[345]

The Independent Labour Party has issued a leaflet entitled "Are you a Socialist?" in which the question occurs, "Do you believe that every individual should have sufficient leisure to cultivate his higher faculties and enjoy life to the fullest extent?" and the answer is, "If you say 'Yes,' join the Independent Labour Party and help to carry its principles into effect."[346]

Many Socialists promise the workers that the Socialist State of the future will abolish the curse of work by greatly diminishing the hours of labour. A leading English Socialist writer says: "It is as plainly demonstrable as that twice four make eight that a due system of organised effort would enable your 43,000,000 of people to win from Nature an overflowing superfluity of all that man desires, without one-fourth the effort put forth now to win a beggarly subsistence so far short of what your community requires that 13,000,000 of your people live continually upon the very verge of starvation."[347] A leading American Socialist promises somewhat vaguely, "A few hours of work will secure to everybody all necessaries, decencies, and comforts of life."[348] William Morris tells us that four hours' work will suffice, and that it will not all be "mere machine-tending."[349] Morrison-Davidson prophesies that the "hours of labour will probably not exceed a minimum of two and a maximum of five daily."[350] Hyndman feels quite certain that "two or three hours' labour out of the twenty-four by all adult males would be enough to give the whole community all the wholesome necessaries and comforts of life,"[351] and Bax thinks that "In a perfectly organised Socialist State men never worked more than two or three hours a day."[352] Yves Guyot wittily says: "There is no reason why their demands should not go further. Zero alone can bid them defiance."[353] It is worth noting that many Anarchists also promise a great lessening of the hours of labour when the State has been destroyed. Kropotkin, for instance, requires only from four to five hours' work.[354] Agitators desirous to secure the support of the workers cannot be too lavish in their promises.

In the Socialist State of the future a few hours' work every day will give boundless prosperity to all, for "Wealth may easily be made as plentiful as water at the expense of trifling toil."[355] "Under Socialism, nineteen-twentieths of the people will be better off materially than they are to-day, for they will be equal partners in all the productive and distributive wealth of the community."[356] "Comparative affluence would be enjoyed by each member of the community."[357]

In the Socialist commonwealth of the future "all wages will be immediately increased," for "the social community will apply itself to raise all salaries of workers and peasants."[358] "In a Socialist State you will have everyone paid a living wage. The surplus will be dispensed by the State, bringing happiness to the whole community."[359]

The British national revenue amounts at present only to a little more than 140,000,000l. By the abolition of the private capitalists and landowners the Socialist Government of Great Britain "would at once find themselves in possession of a revenue amounting to some 900,000,000l. per annum, and would probably be puzzled for a time how to dispose of it and prevent themselves being buried under its accumulation."[360] This is neither a joke nor a misprint, for the well-known writer, author of countless Socialist pamphlets, continues: "After a variety of attempts to dispose of it by dividing into good fat salaries among those of your community who had had least to do with its production, after the usual custom, I believe means would be employed ultimately for inducing them to keep it under by increasing the wages of the workers, which is another way of saying that those whose labour had produced the wealth would be allowed to enjoy it, which would be something quite novel."[361]

The Socialist Government would not only diminish the working hours making them from three to five hours a day, but would also double and treble wages, partly in order to get rid of the glut of money flowing into the National Exchequer, partly because the workers would presumably receive the whole produce of their labour (see Chapter IV.) in the form of wages as soon as the private capitalists were eliminated. Repairs, renewals, replacement of capital losses, and the extension of national industry, which are at present effected out of the savings of private capitalists, would, under the Socialist regime, apparently no longer be required, and direction, supervision, and distribution would apparently no longer cost anything. The workers are quite seriously told by the philosopher of British Socialism, collaborating with the editor of "Justice": "Under present conditions the total wealth produced would, if equitably divided, amount to a value equal to more than 200l. per year per family. But to suppose that any mere distributive readjustment is what is meant by Socialism is to entirely misunderstand what Socialism really involves. Socialism means the complete reorganisation of production as well as distribution. With production scientifically and socially organised, the productivity of labour would be quintupled, and the amount of wealth would be increased in proportion."[362] In other words, there would be 1,000l. a year for each family. Another Socialist more plainly states: "At the present hour it is calculated that the wealth of the United Kingdom exceeds 2,000 millions per year. This divided among forty millions gives 250l. per family. It is said that the abolition of waste labour and the absorption of the idle classes would quadruple the production. One thousand pounds per year per family is a very good standard of comfort under a co-operative system of living."[363]

The two estimates agree in this, that the Socialist family of five should receive in wages 1,000l. per annum, or about 3l. 10s. per working day. In another chapter we shall learn that in the Socialist State only the young and strong would work, and they would work, as we have seen in the foregoing pages, between three and four hours a day. In other words, the worker who earns now, say, 10d. an hour, would, under the Socialist commonwealth, receive 1l. per hour. Who would not be a Socialist?

A leading German Socialist has endeavoured to gauge the effect of Socialism upon the working classes. In making his calculations he has borne in mind the necessity of providing for the wear and tear of capital, and for other expenditure, and he has arrived at the conclusion: "A generous sick insurance will have to be set up, as well as an invalid and old-age insurance for all incapacitated workers, &c. Thus we see that not much will remain for the raising of the wages from the present income of the capitalists, even if capital were confiscated at a stroke, still less if we were to compensate the capitalists. It will consequently be necessary, in order to be able to raise the wages, to raise at the same time the production far above its present level."[364]

The value of high wages lies in the produce they buy. It is of course quite clear that a nation, in order to consume more, must also produce more. It would be interesting to know whether leading Socialists, such as Messrs. Bax, Quelch, and Hazell, who must be acquainted with the sober estimates of the German Socialists, honestly believe that under a Socialist regime 1,000l. per annum will be available per family, or whether these statements have only been made to obtain supporters on the not very honourable principle, Vulgus vult decipi, decipiatur.

Let us now look into the practical proposals of the Socialists to the workers.

In the official programme of the Social-Democratic Federation[365] the following "Immediate Reforms" concerning the workers are demanded:

"A legislative eight hours' working day, or forty-eight hours per week, to be the maximum for all trades and industries. Imprisonment to be inflicted on employers for any infringement of the law. Absolute freedom of combination for all workers, with legal guarantee against any action, private or public, which tends to curtail or infringe it. No child to be employed in any trade or occupation until sixteen years of age, and imprisonment to be inflicted on employers, parents, and guardians who infringe this law. Public provision of useful work at not less than trade-union rates of wages for the unemployed. Free State insurance against sickness and accident, and free and adequate State pensions or provision for aged and disabled workers. Public assistance not to entail any forfeiture of political rights. The legislative enactment of a minimum wage of 30s. for all workers. Equal pay for both sexes for the performance of equal work."

It will be noticed that imprisonment is to be inflicted upon employers who allow their men to work overtime. Would there also be imprisonment for workers working undertime? Similar demands have been made by other Socialist bodies. Let us look more closely into some of those demands which are to be fulfilled forthwith.


With the same recklessness with which the Socialist leaders promise to the working man a large income in return for three or four hours' daily work in the golden age of Socialism, they try to dazzle him with promises of wonderful old-age pension schemes which are to be carried out in the immediate future. Mr. Smart thinks "The smallest sum upon which an old man can exist, even when his lodging is provided by his friends, is 7s. a week. The pension, therefore, should not be less than this amount, and should be obtainable at sixty years of age. The annual cost for a universal system would be, with the necessary administrative expenses, about 60,000,000l."[366] To Councillor Glyde the pensionable age of sixty seems to be too high, and the pension too low. Therefore he proposes that "Old-age pensions of at least 7s. 6d. per week should be provided for all aged workers over fifty-five years of age."[367] But why should a working man have to wait till he is fifty-five before receiving a pension? In another pamphlet, Mr. Glyde amends his scheme and tells us, "To give a pension of 7s. 6d. per week to all who wished to give up work at fifty years of age would have very satisfactory results. In the first place, it would make the aged workers happy and comfortable. In the second place, it would help to solve the unemployed question by the steady withdrawal of the aged workmen from the labour market, give them purchasing power, and thus find a home market for the productivity of the younger, able-bodied workers. Thirdly, it would prevent the competition for jobs, and the playing off against the younger workmen by the employers of the cheaper-paid labour of those who cannot as they formerly could, so that there would be less strikes, reduction in wages, and petty tyranny practised upon the younger generation of workers. Fourthly, it would cause the abolition of workhouses, with their great army of expensive, well-paid officials. There would be no need for workhouses, because cottage homes would be provided for those who were infirm and feeble, on the lines of the present homes for children; an infirmary for those who were sick and invalids, and asylums for the imbecile. Thousands would be cared for by relatives and friends. Fifthly, by Imperial funds being used for old-age pensions, the Poor rate could be reduced from 6d. to 1s. in the pound. These reforms could be carried out without a single farthing extra taxation, nor anyone being any worse off than formerly, by the practice of economy."[368] To pension all workers at fifty would cost about 100,000,000l. a year, and I think it would be very difficult to save that amount on a budget of 140,000,000l. unless army, navy, and civil service were abolished. Mr. Morrison Davidson is neither satisfied with a pension of 7s. 6d. a week nor with the pensionable ages of sixty, fifty-five, or even of fifty. He proposes, therefore, that "Superannuation on full pay will take place at, say, forty-five or, at the most, fifty."[369]


In the Socialist State of the future there would be no unemployed workers. Many Socialist writers make forecasts such as the following: "Under Socialism all the work of the nation would be organised—that is to say, it would be 'ordered,' or 'arranged,' so that no one need be out of work and so that no useless work need be done, and so that no work need be done twice where once would serve."[370] "There would be a mathematical ordering of production determined by the demands of the consumer."[371] "Periods of glut and want of work will be impossible in the new community."[372]

It is already difficult enough even for the ablest manager to secure constant employment to workers in a moderate-sized manufactory, shop, or office. A Socialist Administration composed of fallible men would have to control and satisfy the whole national demand and supply. It would have to sow and to reap, to dig for coal and ore, to fish, to manufacture and to distribute everything wanted and made by all the people. At the same time it would have to control the vast international trade on the regular flow of which constant employment in Great Britain necessarily depends. To satisfy every demand by an adequate supply, it would therefore have to direct and control not only all British industries, but also the fashions and the seasons in Great Britain and in all the countries which stand in commercial relations with the United Kingdom. The British Socialist Administration would not only have to provide a sufficient cotton crop in the United States, a sufficient wool crop in Australia, a sufficient wheat crop in Canada, but it would also have to provide an adequate demand for British cotton goods in India and China, for British coal on the continent of Europe, &c. It would have to provide sufficient sun in America to produce an adequate cotton crop and sufficient rain in India to enable the natives to buy part of that cotton crop in the shape of manufactured articles made in Lancashire. Unless the Socialist Administration controls not only all foreign tariffs but also Nature the world over, there might be unemployment in a socialised Great Britain—and worse.

The doctrines of English Socialism may be summed up in a single phrase. Every existing evil is due solely to the capitalistic system, and every existing evil can be abolished only by Socialism. Unemployment is no exception to the rule. Our Socialists have, for reasons which will presently be given, concentrated much energy upon convincing the working masses that unemployment is due solely to private property in land and capital. The Social-Democratic Federation has shown that "The existence of an unemployed class is an essential characteristic of the capitalist system."[373] The Fabian Society in congress assembled has registered the declaration: "That the existence of a class of unemployed willing but unable to find work is a necessary result of the present industrial system, in which every improvement in machinery throws fresh masses of men out of work" [would improved machinery not have the same effect in the Socialist commonwealth?] "and the competition of capitalists for the market produces recurring commercial crises; that, consequently, unemployment can only be abolished with the complete abolition of the competitive system, and can only be limited in proportion as order and regulation are introduced into the present competitive confusion."[374] Yet the same Fabian Society frankly admits in another pamphlet that "No plan has yet been devised by which the fluctuations of work could be entirely prevented, or safe and profitable employment found for those rendered idle by no fault of their own. It is easy enough to demand something should be done, and I entirely agree with agitating the subject; but something more than agitation is required. It is of no use urging remedies which can be demonstrably proved to be worse for the patient than the disease itself. I fear that if we were given full power to-morrow to deal with the unemployed all over England, we should find ourselves hard put to it how to solve the problem."[375] At the last Conference (1907) of the Social-Democratic Federation the resolution was moved, "That this Conference reasserts its statement that unemployment is due to the private ownership of land and capital."[376]

The emphatic statements contained in the foregoing declarations that unemployment is due to the private ownership of land and capital are absurd. If the private ownership of land and capital were the cause of unemployment, unemployment should be almost equally great in all civilised countries, because in all civilised countries land and capital are in private hands. Whilst in Great Britain unemployment is a fearful and permanent evil, it has been practically unknown during a long time in Germany, where there has been for many years so great a scarcity of labour that immigration is greater than emigration.[377] Whilst in capitalist Great Britain employment is so bad that from 200,000 to 300,000 people have to emigrate every year, employment in capitalist Germany has been excellent, and in the capitalist United States it has been so good that they have absorbed during a number of years almost 1,000,000 immigrants per year. These facts prove that private ownership of land and capital and over-production have nothing to do with unemployment, which is, as a rule, due not to over-production but to ill-balanced production, as has been proved on page 70 of this book. In the case of a country such as Great Britain, unemployment is due principally to the insufficiency and insecurity of her markets for her manufactured goods and to the decay of her agriculture.

The various Socialist organisations have so constantly preached the doctrine that unemployment is due to the private ownership of land and capital that the Trade Unions have at last come to believe it. Owing to Socialist inspiration, the Trade Union Congresses have passed resolutions in favour of the nationalisation of land and of the other means of production at most of the meetings since 1888, and a Socialist weekly has been able to assert that "Every member of the Socialist Labour Party, either by Trade Union Congresses or by Independent Labour Party programme, is committed to the nationalisation of land and the instruments of production."[378] To the delight of the Socialists, resolutions of the Trade Unions urging the nationalisation of all land and capital are becoming more and more emphatic. In the "Social Democrat" for October 1907 we read, under the heading "Trade Unionists and Unemployment," the following: "The resolution on unemployment passed at the Bath Trade Union Congress shows that the Trade Unionists are falling into line with Social Democrats on this question, and that they are beginning to see that Trade Unionism alone is no solution for this evil. After referring to the failure of the Unemployed Workmen Act, and the niggardly manner of doling out the grant of 200,000l., the resolution goes on to say that 'This Congress, recognising that unemployment is now permanent in character in busy as in slack seasons, in summer and in winter, and is common to all trades and industries; also that this is due to industry being unorganised and carried on for private profit and is bound to continue, and indeed become more accentuated as the development of machinery and other wage-saving methods proceeds, calls the attention of the Government to its neglect of the interests of the people in not grappling with this social evil, and urges it to at once embark upon work of public utility with the object of (a) absorbing the present unemployed labour, (b) laying the foundation for a permanent reorganisation of industry upon a co-operative basis.'"[379]

The Socialists have been anxious to convince the workers that unemployment is due to the private ownership of land and capital, and that all unemployed should be relieved by the State because "A really adequate system of helping the unemployed will completely alter the relation of power between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. It will make the proletariat masters in the factory. If the workers sell themselves to-day to the employer, if they allow themselves to be exploited and oppressed, it is the ghost of unemployment, the whip of hunger, which compels them to it. If, on the other hand, the worker is secure in his existence, even when not in work, then nothing is easier to him than to disable the capitalist. He no longer requires the capitalist, while the latter cannot conduct his business without him. When the matter has gone so far as that every employer, whenever a dispute breaks out, will get the worst of it and be forced to yield, the capitalists may certainly continue to be managers of the factories, but they will cease to be their masters and exploiters. But in that case the capitalists will recognise that they only carry the burdens and risks of the undertakings without receiving any advantage, and will be the first to give up capitalist production and insist on being bought out."[380] "The right to work is a charter of industrial freedom, the emancipation of labour from capitalist tyranny. Till it is obtained there can be neither social nor moral progress. When it is obtained all other things become possible."[381]

The British Labour Party has drafted a Bill which, asserting the right to work, makes provision of work for the unemployed compulsory and enables the local authorities compulsorily to acquire land with a view of setting the unemployed to work.[382] The Annual Conference of the Independent Labour Party of 1907, going a step further, demanded the erection of a national department for creating work and giving a living wage to the unemployed. It resolved:

"This Conference welcomes the news that a Bill to secure the right to work is to be introduced into Parliament by the Labour party, expresses the hope that every effort will be made to secure its passing into law, and declares in favour of the establishment of a properly equipped and financed national department for dealing with the whole problem of unemployment on the basis of putting useful work at a living wage within the reach of every worker, and of training such as require to be taught in husbandry, and other forms of work upon the land."[383]

There is a great danger in these proposals.[384] Creating work for the unemployed may not cure, but may aggravate, the disease which springs not from private property in land and capital, but from an insufficient outlet for British manufactures. If the disease is wrongly treated, the unemployed may become an incubus which will cripple both workers and capitalists.

A champion of the policy of laisser faire argues: "The State cannot make work, if by work is meant the doing of something that somebody wants done. It is of course true that the State can take on new functions, and do more of the work that is now left to private enterprise. But that would not make additional employment; it would only transfer employment from one set of men to another. When the State or the municipality, instead of seeking to do the thing that is wanted in the most economical and most efficient manner, deliberately picks out the least competent workmen and sets them to work on things that are not wanted, no new wealth is created, and the previous creation of wealth is diminished, because the taxpayer has been deprived of the means of employing as many persons as he would have employed. Artificial jobs may be created for the unemployed, who will be perfectly conscious that these jobs are artificial, and thus the independent and self-respecting workman will be arbitrarily deprived of his job. It cannot be too often repeated that the so-called 'right to work,' on which Socialists are fond of insisting, means in practice the right to deprive another man of his job."[385] These arguments are fallacious. There is work such as the reclamation of the foreshore, draining of bogs, constructing canals, planting of forests, &c., which are, as general experience shows, rather the province of the community than of the private individual. Unemployment may be relieved by the State and the local authorities if discretion be used. Proposals to create work of this kind for the genuine unemployed, and to provide compulsory labour for idlers and loafers, have been advanced by many Socialists and non-Socialists, and these proposals are worth considering and adopting.


[341] Bax, Religion of Socialism, p. 94.

[342] Lafargue, Right to Leisure, p. 11.

[343] The Socialist, October 1907.

[344] Leatham, The Evolution of the Fourth Estate, p. 13.

[345] Fabian Essays in Socialism, p. 145,

[346] Are you a Socialist? p. 1.

[347] Washington, A Nation of Slaves, p. 5.

[348] Gronlund, Co-operative Commonwealth, p. 170.

[349] Morris, A Factory as it Might Be, p. 10.

[350] Davidson, The Old Order and the New, p. 170.

[351] Hyndman, Socialism and Slavery, p. 10.

[352] Bax, Religion of Socialism, p. 58.

[353] Guyot, Pretensions of Socialism, p. 9.

[354] Kropotkin, Conquete du Pain, p. 239.

[355] Socialism Made Plain, p. 11.

[356] Snowden, The Individual under Socialism, p. 10.

[357] Fabian Essays in Socialism, p. 159.

[358] Jaures, Practical Socialism, p. 6.

[359] Socialism, For and Against, p. 11.

[360] Washington, Milk and Postage Stamps, p. 5.

[361] Ibid. p. 5.

[362] Bax and Quelch, A New Catechism of Socialism, p. 17.

[363] A.P. Hazell, Summary of Marx's "Capital," p. 17.

[364] Kautsky, The Social Revolution, p. 18.

[365] See Appendix.

[366] Smart, Socialism and the Budget, p. 12.

[367] Councillor Glyde, A Peep Behind the Scenes on a Board of Guardians, p. 27.

[368] Councillor Glyde, Britain's Disgrace, pp. 31, 32.

[369] Davidson, The Old Order and the New, p. 170.

[370] Robert Blatchford, Real Socialism, p. 13.

[371] Ben Tillett, Trades Unionism and Socialism, p. 12.

[372] Bebel, Woman, p. 192.

[373] Quelch, The Social-Democratic Federation, p. 5.

[374] Report on Fabian Policy and Resolutions, p. 11.

[375] Webb, Socialism True and False, pp. 8, 9.

[376] Report of 21th Annual Conference, 1907, Social-Democratic Federation, p. 17.

[377] Ellis Barker, Modern Germany, p. 546.

[378] New Age, November 30, 1907.

[379] Social Democrat, October 1907, p. 580.

[380] Kautsky, The Social Revolution, p. 6.

[381] Russell Smart, The Right to Work, p. 15.

[382] A Bill to Provide Work through Public Authorities for Unemployed Persons.

[383] Independent Labour Party Report, Annual Conference, 1907, p. 54.

[384] See Thorold Rogers, Work and Wages, p. 557.

[385] Cox, Socialism, pp. 37, 39, 40.



The British Socialists have during many years attacked and denounced the Trade Unionists and the Co-operators, firstly, because the trade unionists and co-operators are "capitalists," and therefore traitors to the Socialist cause; secondly, because Socialism unconditionally condemns providence and thrift among the working men, as will be seen in Chapter XXIII.

Although the Socialists pretend that they denounce co-operation and thrift, and even abstinence from alcoholic drink, on economic and scientific grounds, their real reasons are political. Socialism can flourish only if the masses are dissatisfied. The Socialists are therefore little interested in improving the position of the worker, but very greatly in increasing his poverty, unhappiness, and discontent. Socialism is revolutionary, and the Socialists know that people who are well off are not revolutionists. For tactical reasons, therefore, the Socialists oppose and denounce thrift, co-operation, and abstinence, qualities which are found pre-eminently in co-operators and trade unionists.

The trade unionists, the aristocracy of British labour, are too conservative, too temperate, too cautious, too prosperous, and too little revolutionary for the taste of Socialists. The Socialists complain: "The British trade union suffers from three fatal defects: (1) It is anti-revolutionary. It disavows the fact of the class struggle. It accepts the capitalist system as a permanency. The rules and constitutions of many unions explicitly refer to the 'just rights of the employer,' and those who do not set forth any such statement openly, admit it in actual practice. The capitalist class, as voiced by the capitalist press, recognise in these unions the bulwark of present-day society against the advance of Socialism. (2) The British trade union method of organisation is a complete negation of the solidarity of labour. Each trade or section of a trade has its own particular and autonomous organisation. Even trades which are most closely connected are divided into separate unions, each union ignoring the interest of the rest, making its own special contracts with the capitalists, and assisting them by remaining at work when their fellow-workers in a kindred trade are on strike. The most noteworthy example of this form of inter-trade treachery was offered in the case of the engineers' strike of 1897-8, when the Boilermakers' Society by remaining at work were the means of defeating the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and of forcing them to return to work on the masters' terms. (3) The British trade union refuses to admit to its ranks those teeming millions of workers whom it terms 'unskilled.'"[386]

Other Socialists complain: "Trade unionism recognises the present system of society, justifies capitalism, and defends wage-slavery, and only seeks to soften the tyranny of the one and assuage the evils of the other. Social Democracy aims at destroying the whole system."[387] "We are never allowed to forget the splendid incomes earned by these aristocrats of labour, a mere tenth of the whole labour class. The trade unionist can usually only raise himself on the bodies of his less fortunate comrades."[388] "The old-fashioned policy of the English trade unions has made them guilds of privileged, rather than fighting representatives of their class."[389]

Similar complaints are raised against the co-operators. "Co-operation, though regarded by the individual trader as an enemy, does not necessarily enter into conflict with the capitalist at all. Indeed, so far as it transforms workmen into shareholders, it forms a bulwark for capitalism, the same as the creation of small landholders or any other class of small proprietors would do."[390] "At present the co-operative societies in England are very apathetic with regard to political affairs."[391] "In spite of abstract resolutions, our trade unionists are devoted to the wages system; still our co-operators yearn after dividends; still the mass of our producers admire the men who rise upon their shoulders to place and pay. The twin curses of democracy, slavishness and jealousy, are curiously blended in their views of social and political life. They envy capacity; they bow down before successful blackguardism."[392]

Some Socialists have called for the unification of all the trades unions, arguing "Union has failed to adapt itself to changed conditions. Just as budding industrial development called into being the shop union, and further industrial expansion meant development of the union to the local and then the national organisation, so the exigencies of our time demand a working-class union—one union, not eleven hundred, as now."[393] Others have bespattered the unions with insults, and some do so still. A very violent Socialist organ recently wrote: "Our trade union leaders are not so corrupt as those of America? Are they not? As a matter of fact, the corruption is tenfold greater. The difference is that here it is legalised and respectable. In America the corruption takes the form of a wad of dollar notes pushed into the fakir's hands in a dark corner. In this country our trade union leaders are openly corrupted in the face of day by positions on conciliation boards, Justiceships of the Peace, Cabinet positions" [this is a hit at Mr. John Burns], "and well-paid jobs in the Labour Department of the Board of Trade. Are Shackleton, Bell, and Barnes honester men than Gompers, Mitchell, and Tobin? As Dr. Johnson very coarsely expressed it: 'It is difficult to settle the question of precedence between a bug and a louse.'"[394]

To the more far-sighted Socialists the folly of attacking the powerful trade unions, with their 2,000,000 members, was perfectly clear. One of the Socialist leaders wrote: "Of all the blind, fatuous policies in the world, that of decrying trades unionism by professing Socialists is about the worst; and the next worst thing is the trades unionist abusing Socialism."[395] Some Socialists recommended changing the policy of denunciation for a wiser one: "We have to convert the trade unions, not to antagonise them"[396]; and their conversion was thought to be all the more easy because, to quote Ben Tillett, "The whole of the trades union movement has been tinged with Socialism; unconsciously the guides of the working classes have always marched towards the goal of Socialism."[397]

With this object in view the trade unionists were urged to reform their tactics, to abandon the economic struggle in the form of strikes, and to enter upon the more efficacious political struggle with the employers of labour in the House of Commons. "To go on following the old beaten paths of trade unionism is simply to go on exhausting the possibilities of error for an indefinite period. If the new unions are simply to play the part of regulators of wages, as trade and prices rise and fall, they will be of very slight advantage to the workers compared with what they might accomplish if they took a broader view of their opportunities and their duties. What they have to do, and that now, is to use the power which organisation gives them to get control of the political machinery of the country and use it for the advancement of their class. By this means they could, if they chose, achieve as much in a year or two as would be gained in a century by the old methods of trade agitation and strikes."[398] "If the Labour party had a tithe of the money that the unions have spent upon getting thrashed and starved and defrauded, it would be a party to wonder at and be proud of. The miners of Yorkshire have spent 212,000l. on six strikes—all of which have been lost. Do you call this industrial warfare? Insanity and suicide—that is what it is. The engineers spent three-quarters of a million on the great lock-out. That is a sum in itself, the ransom of all the workers from the bonds of wage-slavery. What can the engineers show for their money to-day? Ask them! We could capture the British Parliament with that sum plus a little brains and courage."[399] The Fabian Society has issued numerous pamphlets in which it has shown how the position of the workers might be improved, and in these it has at every opportunity urged upon every worker to join a union, and has urged upon the trade unions to better the position of the workers by relying upon political action.[400]

In pursuance of this policy the railway employees were told by the Socialists, when the difference between the British railway companies and their workers had been arranged: "You men must cling tight to the union and keep fostering the discontent of your fellows, not only with the sectional wrongs which affect you personally, but with the brutal system of competition of which your own wrongs are but one fractional consequence. Stick to the Labour party. You have two representatives in Parliament. Run some more. You need not bother now to build up a strike fund. Spend the money in politics. The more men you get in the House, the better chance you will have of convincing a Government arbitrator of the justice of your claims."[401]

Wishing to secure the support of the trade unionists and the co-operators, the Socialists began to preach that there was no antagonism between Socialists, trade unionists, and co-operators, and to stretch out a hand towards them. "Socialist influence makes its way in the union. The trade unions generally must sooner or later become—they already in some instances are to-day—part and parcel of the working-class Socialist movement, or must cease to exist as class organisations. Co-operation is in its inception Socialist. That is to say, that all co-operation implies co-operative effort and social union."[402] Another Socialist writer said: "I am sorry that some Socialists used to cry down the co-operative movement. I know it has some serious defects, but it has taught the workers of this country what they can do when they choose. If any power could induce trade unionists, co-operators, and Socialists to unite, a co-operative commonwealth would be flourishing in this country before the rich and educated classes had rubbed open their drowsy eyes."[403]

The recommendations which the Socialists addressed to the trade unionists to increase their political power, and to improve their economic position by the use of their political power, became louder and louder. They were told that the capitalists were the enemies of both trade unionists and Socialists, and that co-operation would be of the greatest benefit to both bodies. The Socialist group of the London Society of Compositors, for instance, argued:

"It is unfortunate that after some dozen years or more of Socialist propaganda there should still be considerable bitterness existing between trade unionists and Socialists. The cause of the unpopularity of the Socialists was not due to any desire on their part to irritate trade unionists, but arose out of the stupid prejudices of the spokesmen and leaders of the trade unionists themselves. Socialists are staunch trade unionists. The New trade unionism is evidence of this, for Socialists are responsible for calling it into existence. The movement which is now gaining ground in favour of federation among trade unionists generally, is one of Socialist origin. Trade unionists look solely to unionism to maintain their miserable standard of living, ignorant of the economic laws working against them. Socialists accept unionism as only one method to maintain their present standard of comfort.

"Both Socialists and trade unionists have a common enemy, a common want, and a common economic force which continually and relentlessly drives them in one direction. Both are driven to defend attacks against their standard of living by the capitalist, and the one point of agreement between Socialists and trade unionists, therefore, is that they both desire to maintain and increase their present standard of living. Trade unionists enter a union to resist the exactions of the capitalists, and to baulk attempts on their part to reduce wages. Socialists enter a union for precisely the same reason. If they would view Parliamentary action from the standpoint of the collective welfare of the people, they would soon realise its far-reaching effects. A legal forty-eight hour working week, for instance, would bring benefit to all and raise the standard of all by giving more leisure; thereby affording workers an opportunity of obtaining fresh air and following artistic and intellectual pursuits.

"One of the strongest agents which work in favour of the capitalists is the necessity of the workers to find food and clothing for their families. This evil can be met by the State proposal which is now making such headway in England—namely, Free Maintenance for Children. The old-fashioned prejudices, fostered by the capitalists and their hangers-on, that it is degrading to accept anything from the State, is fast dying out in the face of free education, free libraries, free maintenance for all sickened with infectious fevers. Free maintenance for children would be a tax on that surplus wealth which the capitalists and the aristocracy share between them. To the worker, free maintenance for his children would be equivalent to an additional income. His standard of living would rise. No doubt the capitalist would reduce his wages as much as possible, but the worker would then be able to fight him on more equal terms. His children being well cared for, he would be able to hold out against the capitalist for an indefinite period.

"The Housing Question is also worthy of attention. Trade unionism should require the State to erect buildings to be let at a sum which would cover cost of construction and maintenance alone. This would give them a stationary rent, and when locked out by their employers, they, as unemployed workers, would not be so liable to be turned into the street.

"The workers, unconscious of economic development, unfortunately side with one political party or the other, not seeing that the one must inevitably be as antagonistic to their interests as the other. Tory and Liberal politically represent two classes, who divide the spoils between them. One is connected by tradition with the soil, the other with commerce. When they have a quarrel, it is as between kites and crows for the possession of prey. To assert that a Tory is better than a Liberal, or a Liberal better than a Tory, is like affirming that one exploiter is less a thief than another. Until trade unionists form themselves into an independent party, there can politically be no common agreement between them and Socialists, because, while they support the capitalist class they are placing power into the hands of the exploiting class, who is the common enemy. Co-operation between Socialists and trade unionists should be adopted whenever possible, and, when occasion offers, an alliance should be entered into for common purposes. In America a large section of trade unionists have already recognised that the class war is inevitable under the present system of exploitation, and they have entered into an active alliance with the Socialist party. It is to be hoped that the trade unions of Great Britain will ere long see their way to follow the example set by their American brethren in the United States."[404]

Another writer urged: "Is it not time that we combined and strove for something higher, wider, and more far-reaching? Let the trade unionists unite, combine, federate; not for constantly squabbling with the capitalist over the spoil which the workers alone create, but to secure for the latter, organised, the control of their own tools and raw materials—of the mines, the railways, the factories, the shipping, the land—of all those things which only have value through their labour. Let the co-operators co-operate with each other, with trade unionists, and Social Democrats for the same object. Let us all agitate, educate, and organise to form the workers of the world into a gigantic Trade Union, an International Co-operation, a Social-Democratic Commonwealth."[405]

Since the time when these words were written attempts have constantly been made by the Socialists to co-operate with the unionists, and, at least outwardly, their relations have become intimate. Many Socialists have high hopes for a united Socialist Labour party. At a recent conference of the Social-Democratic Federation the chairman declared, in his opening address: "There can be but one Independent Labour Party, and there ought to be a united Socialist party. Not many years will pass before the new Labour party will join the Socialist movement, but in the meantime everything seems ripening for a united Socialist party, consolidating both forces and funds, preventing overlapping and removing friction. Never were the times so favourable to Socialism. In spite of the boycott, the misrepresentation, the influence of the temporal powers against us, the word Socialism is no longer unknown or feared. In the workshop, the mine, the train, or the tram, men are eagerly discussing Socialism. The workers need grumble of their chains no longer; they can fling them off at will; for they, and they alone, hold the keys of freedom. This poor blind Samson is waking up and groping his way; Socialists must be ready to lead him."[406]

Socialism has of late years strongly permeated the unions. Will it succeed in capturing them? The Socialists are very optimistic on that point. "The outlook is full of promise for the political Labour movement. It only requires the adoption of a candidate by the united local societies to turn every trade union institute or office, miners' lodge and branch meeting-room into a committee-room, and when the call is made by the Parliamentary group there will be plenty of voluntary workers. The great fact stands out prominently: Labour is moving; and that fact points to stirring times and a new phase in the history of the nation."[407]

The character of the trade unions has undoubtedly been greatly changed through Socialist agitation. The trade unionist has almost ceased to be an individualist. "The modern trade unionist is out for a political revolution. He has dismissed, as an obsolete absurdity, the idea of paying for his benefits, pensions, sick-pay, unemployed relief, out of his union subscriptions. He intends to combine with his fellows of all trades in a demand for Parliamentary legislation which will provide these benefits out of national funds, mainly by way of a graduated income-tax. So he demands old-age pensions and an Unemployed Act. He has given up the tedious task of bargaining with his master for higher wages and shorter hours; he intends to compel him by the more drastic method of an eight-hour day and a minimum wage and State Arbitration Act."[408] There is much truth in this description. As the real nature of the relations between the trades unions and the Socialists is known to only a few, the following documents should be of great interest:—

"In consequence of a decision of the International Socialist Bureau (June 9, 1907), its secretary sent a circular to the affiliated parties in order to obtain from them official notes on the relations between the political Parties and trade unions of their country, and he received the following replies from the Social-Democratic Federation, the Labour party, and the Independent Labour Party:—

"'Although from its formation in March 1881 the Social-Democratic Federation has strongly opposed the abstention of the older trade unions from politics, and has still more strongly objected to the very close alliance which some of its leading members have made with the capitalist Liberal party, resulting in high office and even Cabinet rank'" [another hit at Mr. John Burns] "'for those who have thus deliberately betrayed the interests of their fellows and supporters of the working class; nevertheless, we have never at any time failed to help in every way possible, personally and pecuniarily, every strike which has taken place since 1881 (even in spite of our doubting the value of the mere strike as a weapon against organised capitalism), and our organisation has invariably agitated in favour of every Parliamentary measure accepted by the trade unions which could at all help the trade unionists and the workers at large. Our relations with the trade unions may therefore be described as friendly whenever they take action against capitalism, and appreciative of their increasing tendency towards Socialism. We always recommend all workers to join the trade union of their trade. No Socialist propaganda is officially carried on by the trade unions, but as quite 75 per cent. of the members of the Social-Democratic Federation are also trade unionists in their respective trades, by their agency Socialist thought is steadily permeating the ranks of trade unionism. As also the older leaders, brought up entirely in the bourgeois school of thought and action, die or are superannuated, there can be no doubt whatever that they will be succeeded by Socialists, and in fact they are being so replaced at the present time. Trade union Socialist leaders, of course, will then use the trade union organisation to spread Socialism. So far as they have been elected to executive office, they do this even now.—H.W. LEE, Secretary.'

"'The Labour party is a federation of Socialist societies and trade union organisations. Trade unions are directly affiliated, their membership forming, together with the membership of the Socialist organisations, the membership of the Labour party. In some cases Socialist propaganda is conducted by the trade unions, several of them embracing the Socialist basis in their rules.—J.S. MIDDLETON, for J. RAMSAY MACDONALD.'

"'The Independent Labour Party is affiliated to the Labour party, which is a federation of trade unions, co-operative societies, and Socialist societies, for political action. The Independent Labour Party consists of individual members, and not of federated organisations. Our membership is only open to Socialists individually. Our association with the trade unions comes through the Labour party, with which both we and they are affiliated. The trade unions of Great Britain do not carry on any specific Socialist propaganda among their members, although several of the unions state in their constitution that they believe in Socialism. Many Socialist speeches are made from trade union platforms and demonstrations held under the auspices of trade unions.—FRANCIS JOHNSON, Secretary.'"[409]

The foregoing three letters are most interesting and most important, and they should be carefully read because they prove that the forces of trade unionism and Socialism are commingling, and that the trade unionists may reckon upon the support of the Socialists whenever they come into conflict with capitalists. Although in constructive policy Socialism and trade unionism are as yet things apart, they possess a common working basis as soon as trouble occurs between capital and labour.

To increase the intimacy between them and the representatives of labour pure and simple, and to accustom them to co-operation, the Socialist cannot do anything better than to cause conflicts to arise between capital and labour. Therefore it is only natural that the Socialists will urge the trade unionists to make great, and ever greater, demands upon capital; that every concession will only be considered as a stepping-stone to a further concession. Every conflict between capital and labour, everything that will increase the dissatisfaction of the workers, will serve the Socialists, because it will cause the workers to believe in the doctrine of the Iron Law of Wages, in the Law of Increasing Misery, and in the promised Socialist paradise. Therefore the Socialists will do all they can to embitter the relations between capital and labour, and to bring about strikes. For instance, at the time when, in the autumn of 1907, the differences between the British railway companies and the men were acute, practically the whole Socialist press urged the railway servants to declare a strike, and the settlement of the difficulty by Mr. Lloyd George was greeted with derision and regret. Mr. Bell, who had accepted the settlement, was treated with contempt, and the result of the Railway Conference was declared to be the Sedan of the British trade union movement.[410]

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