British Socialism - An Examination of Its Doctrines, Policy, Aims and Practical Proposals
by J. Ellis Barker
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Owing to the persistent agitation of the Socialists, the trade unions are becoming permeated with Socialism. Of late years there have been few great strikes in Great Britain, but, unless the relations between Socialists and trade unionists alter, it seems likely that great and violent industrial disputes will occur in the near future.


[386] S.L.P. Bulletin No. 2, 1907.

[387] Quelch, Trade Unionism, p. 10.

[388] English Progress towards Social Democracy, p. 8.

[389] S.L.P. Bulletin No. 1, May 1907.

[390] Quelch, Trade Unionism, p. 16.

[391] John Penny, The Political Labour Movement, p. 10.

[392] Hyndman, Darkness and Dawn of May Day, 1907, p. 2.

[393] J. O'Connor Kessack, The Capitalist Wilderness and the Way Out, p. 15.

[394] S.L.P. Bulletin No. 2.

[395] Ben Tillett, Trades Unionism and Socialism, p. 1.

[396] Quelch in The Socialist, November 1907.

[397] Ben Tillett, Trades Unionism and Socialism, p. 14.

[398] Quelch, Trade Unionism, p. 13.

[399] Clarion, November 29, 1907.

[400] The Workmen's Compensation Act, 1906, What it Means and How to Make Use of it; How Trade Unions Benefit Workmen; Eight Hours by Law: A Practical Solution; Cottage Plans and Common Sense; Houses for the People; The Case for a Legal Minimum Wage.

[401] Clarion, November 15, 1907.

[402] Bax and Quelch, A New Catechism of Socialism, p. 40.

[403] Dennis Hird, From Brute to Brother, p. 14.

[404] Socialism and Trade Unionism: Wherein do they Differ? pp. 2-8.

[405] Quelch, Trade Unionism, p. 16.

[406] Opening Address, Chairman Hartley at Annual Conference, Social-Democratic Federation Annual Report, 1906, pp. 3, 4.

[407] John Penny, The Political Labour Movement, p. 15.

[408] New Age, November 30, 1907.

[409] Social Democrat, September 1907, pp. 548, 549.

[410] See the Labour Leader, Clarion, Justice, Socialist Standard, Socialist, &c., for November 1907.



British Socialists, as we have learned in Chapter IV.,[411] adopting the celebrated formula of Proudhon, have proclaimed "Property is theft," and they are of opinion that property in land is a particularly heinous form of theft. Therefore they demand the restitution of the land to the people, not as a matter of expediency but as a matter of right. "Man has a right only to what his labour makes. No man 'makes' the land."[412] "Land is the gift of Nature. It is not made by man. Now, if a man has a right to nothing but that which he has himself made, no man can have a right to the land, for no man made it."[413] "The land belongs by inalienable right not to any body of individuals but to all."[414]

O high cliffs looking heavenward, O valleys green and fair. Sea cliffs that seem to gird and guard Our island once so dear, In vain your beauty now ye spread, For we are numbered with the dead; A robber band has seized the land, And we are exiles here.

The ploughman ploughs, the sower sows. The reaper reaps the ear; The woodman to the forest goes Before the day grows clear, But of our toil no fruit we see; The harvest's not for you and me: A robber band has seized the land, And we are exiles here.[415]

Appealing to the passions, hatred, and greed of their followers, and relying on their credulity, Socialist leaders proclaim not only that the landlords are useless, but also that the people will have the land rent free as soon as the present owners have been expropriated. "The landlord, qua landlord, performs no function in the economy of industry or of food production. He is a rent-receiver; that, and nothing more. Were the landlord to be abolished, the soil and the people who till it would still remain, and the disappearance of the landowner would pass almost unnoticed."[416] "Rent is brigandage reduced to a system. So long as the English people are content to be tenants-at-will on their own soil, and to pay for the privilege, they will remain virtually slaves."[417] "The tenant earns the rent. The landlord spends it. If the tenant had not to pay the rent he could spend it himself, and so it would get spent, and get spent by the man who earns it and has the best right to spend it."[418]

Whilst some Socialist agitators are unscrupulous enough to make their followers believe that in the Socialist State they may have land for the asking, others are so unkind as to destroy that pleasing illusion. For instance, we learn from a Fabian pamphlet, "A Socialist State or municipality will charge the full economic rent for the use of its land and dwellings, and apply that rent to the common purposes of the community."[419] Another Socialist authority very pertinently remarks: "It is of not the least consequence to the person who rents the land whether he pays the rent for it to an individual or whether he Pays it to the State,"[420] and therefore it is clear that statements such as "If the tenant had not to pay the rent he could spend it himself," are merely meant to deceive the simple. Tenants, instead of paying their rent to a human landlord, would have to pay it to an impersonal State or municipality, and the latter might prove as grasping and as heartless as rating committees are now.

Others base their demand for the spoliation of landlords upon the Bible and upon the ideal of a "Divine brotherhood," forgetting that the Bible contains a commandment "Thou shalt not steal," as well as many warnings against lying, deceit, cant, and covetousness. One of the champion Bible-Socialists, for instance, writes: "If all men are brothers, as Christ undoubtedly taught, then the land, the source of wealth, the means by which men can earn their livelihood, should not be the property of any set of individuals, but should belong to the whole community. The fact of a man being born into the world gives him the divine right to the opportunity of earning his living, and that right cannot be enjoyed so long as there is a single man on earth deprived of access to the land from which to earn his bread. When the spirit of brotherhood prevails, it will be a simple and a natural thing to arrange that these things shall be used not in the interests of the few, but for the common good. There are innumerable signs that the hearts and minds of men are now turning in this direction, and that they are coming to see that the only just and permanent arrangement is the divine solution of working on the basis of universal brotherhood."[421] There is a fraternity among Sicilian bandits. The "Divine brotherhood" of the writer would be based on robbery, and have robbery as its object.

Others demand the confiscation of all land by relying upon misrepresentation: "If the injustice of the land monopoly is great in the country, by robbing the grower of his improvements or scaring him from making any, by robbing the nation of its own legitimate independent food supply, and by laying waste vast tracts of the surface, the injustice is even greater in the towns, if only by reason of the greater numbers whose interests are now involved: (1) by flooding the town labour markets with surplus labourers, and so—by their competition between each other for jobs of any sort at any terms, rather than starve—keeping wages down at the privation point; (2) by robbing the town workers of that proper and legitimate home market which a flourishing and proportionately numerous agricultural population would afford; (3) by the bloated rentals in cities, only made possible by driving and crowding the people into our unnaturally swollen centres; and (4) by the continuous re-investment of those enormous rent extortions in all those secondary monopolies of transit, finance, and business generally, which can only arise from the primary monopoly of the soil, and which complete this devil's chain of the subjection of labour and the dependence of the community."[422]

The complaints that land is going out of cultivation, that the British home market has been spoiled, and that towns are overgrown and overcrowded are unfortunately only too well justified, but these phenomena are not due to private property in land. Private property in land is universal, but the desertion of the country and overcrowding in towns are not universal. These evils are to be found chiefly in Great Britain, because British economic policy, whilst fostering trade and the manufacturing industries, has deliberately sacrificed to them the rural industries. That fact is acknowledged by many Socialists, as will be seen in Chapter XXL., "Some Socialist's Views on Free Trade and Protection."

The question now arises: How do the Socialists propose to deal with the land and the owners of land? Mr. Blatchford informs us: "The titled robbers of England have always done their robberies in a legal manner. We propose to enforce their cessation in a legal manner. We respect the law, and mean to use it. We are not mere brigands. We are the new police; our duty is to 'arrest the rogues and dastards'; our motto is, 'The law giveth and the law taketh away, blessed be the name of the law.'"[423] A leading Christian-Socialist clergyman tells us "As for compensation, from the point of view of the highest Christian morality, it is the landlords who should compensate the people, not the people the landlords. But practically if you carry out this reform by taxation, no compensation would be necessary or even possible."[424] Mines and mine-owners are to be treated in the same way as land and land-owners. "The minerals should be at once taken over without compensation; the present owners should think themselves well off if they escape paying compensation for previous robbery of the people."[425] Views such as those expressed in the foregoing are held not only by some unscrupulous agitators. At the last Annual Conference of the Independent Labour Party the following resolution was carried: "This Conference, being of opinion that the high price of coal is a serious menace to the nation, and bears extremely hard upon householders and especially upon the working classes of the country, declares in favour of the nationalisation of the mines and municipalisation of the coal-supply."[426] At the last Annual Conference of the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, various resolutions urging the nationalisation of all mines were proposed and carried. Mr. W.E. Harvey, M.P., for instance, moved "That the members of Parliament supported by this federation be instructed to direct the attention of the Government to bring in a Bill for the nationalisation of land, mines, and mining royalties, as we believe that it is only by such reforms that the workers can obtain full value for their labours."[427] It will be observed that nothing is said about compensation in this resolution, which was passed unanimously.

How is the nationalisation of the land to be effected? "The land of every country belongs of natural and inalienable right to the whole body of the people in each generation. We say therefore, 'You need not kick the landlords out; you must not buy them out; you had better tax them out.'"[428] "If the people rose in revolt, took up arms, confiscated the lands of the nobles, and handed them over to the control of a Parliament, that would not be brigandage; it would be revolution. But if the people by the exercise of constitutional means, passed an Act through Parliament making the estates of the nobles the property of the nation, with or without compensation, that would be neither brigandage nor revolution; it would be a legal, righteous, and constitutional reform. We propose to be neither revolutionaries nor brigands, but legal, righteous, and constitutional reformers."[429] Legality implies and presupposes justice, but Socialist law and justice are different from that conception of law and justice which has been held hitherto. Chapter XXIV. will make that point clear.

The foregoing should suffice to show that the Socialists intend to abolish private property in land by "taxing landowners out of existence."

They apparently forget that not all the owners of land are rich; that many small farmers, shopkeepers, artisans, &c., own freehold land and freehold houses; and that the insurance companies have a very large proportion of their funds invested in land and on the security of land. A confiscation of land would therefore ruin a vast number of hard-working people. It would cripple some insurance companies and ruin others. Hence the savings of thrifty workers would be confiscated or destroyed by the State together with those of the larger capitalists.

The Socialists are not entirely agreed as to the way by which the abolition of private ownership in land should be effected, but some interesting proposals will be found in Chapter X., "Socialist Views and Proposals regarding Taxation and the National Budget." The purely agricultural aspect of the land question is treated in Chapter XVIII., "Socialism and Agriculture," and in Chapter XXI., "Some Socialist Views on Free Trade and Protection."


[411] Page 81.

[412] Blatchford, Merrie England, p. 61.

[413] Ibid. p. 60.

[414] Washington, A Corner in Flesh and Blood, p. 60.

[415] Clarion Song Book, p. 6.

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

[417] Davidson, Book of Lords, p. 25.

[418] Blatchford, Land Nationalisation, p. 9.

[419] Sidney Webb, Socialism, True and False, p. 19.

[420] Socialism and the Single Tax, p. 7.

[421] Ward, Are All Men Brothers? pp. 14, 15.

[422] Hall, Land, Labour, and Liberty, p. 12.

[423] Blatchford, Some Tory Socialisms, p. 6.

[424] Headlam, Christian Socialism, p. 14.

[425] Forward, October 12, 1907.

[426] Independent Labour Party Report, Annual Conference, 1907, p. 59.

[427] Times, October 12, 1907.

[428] Headlam, Christian Socialism, p. 7.

[429] Blatchford, Some Tory Socialisms, p. 3.



We have seen in Chapter VIII. that Socialists claim that "Man has a right to nothing but that which he has himself made," that therefore, "No man can have a right to the land, for no man made it." May, then, owners of property keep at least that part of their property which is not invested in land?

The reply is, of course, in the negative. "As land must in future be a national possession, so must the other means of producing and distributing wealth."[430] "Supposing we assume it true that land is not the product of labour and that capital is; it is not by any means true that the rent of land is not the product of labour and that the interest on capital is. Since private ownership, whether of land or capital, simply means the right to draw and dispose of a revenue from the property, why should the landowner be forbidden to do that which is allowed to the capitalist, in a society in which land and capital are commercially equivalent? Yet land nationalisers seem to be prepared to treat as sacred the landlords' claim to private property in capital acquired by thefts of this kind, although they will not hear of their claim to property in land. Capital serves as an instrument for robbing in a precisely identical manner. In England industrial capital is mainly created by wage workers—who get nothing for it but permission to create in addition enough subsistence to keep each other alive in a poor way. Its immediate appropriation by idle proprietors and shareholders, whose economic relation to the workers is exactly the same in principle as that of the landlords, goes on every day under our eyes. The landlord compels the worker to convert his land into a railway, his fen into a drained level, his barren seaside waste into a fashionable watering-place, his mountain into a tunnel, his manor park into a suburb full of houses let on repairing leases; and lo! he has escaped the land nationalisers; his land is now become capital and is sacred. The position is so glaringly absurd and the proposed attempt to discriminate between the capital value and the land value of estates is so futile, that it seems almost certain that the land nationalisers will go as far as the Socialists. Whatever the origin of land and capital, the source of the revenues drawn from them is contemporary labour."[431]

Most Socialists think it wiser to tax capital gradually out of existence than to confiscate it at one stroke. "The direct confiscation of capital affects all, the small and the great, those unable to work and the able-bodied, everybody in an equal way. It is difficult by this method, often quite impossible, to separate the large property from the small invested in the same undertakings. The direct confiscation would also proceed too quickly, often at one stroke, while confiscation through taxation would permit the abolition of capitalist property being made a long-drawn process, working itself out further and further in the measure as the new order gets consolidated and makes its beneficent influence felt."[432]

The argument that excessive taxation would drive capital out of the country is laughed at by Socialists. A Socialist pamphlet says: "It is true that the land-sweaters and labour-skinners whom the people keep on electing to rule and rob them can still frighten noodles by threatening that they will run away from the country and take their capital with them; that

They'll ship the mines and farms to Amsterdam, The houses and the railways to Peru, The canals and docks to Russia, The woods and workshops off to Prussia, And all the enterprise and brains to Timbuctoo.

"We calmly reply that there is not one single service that all the landlords, financiers, and their lesser parasites pretend to perform for society that could not be performed far more efficiently and infinitely more cheaply without them."

Straightway those rich men started To move their capitals. On board of ships they carted Their railways and canals; With mines mine-owners scurried. The bankers bore their books. With mills mill-owners hurried. The bishops took their crooks.[433]

The despoiled capitalists might leave the country, but they would have to leave in the country all their property except perhaps a few valuables which they might remove.

Property being theft, capitalists as well as landowners are thieves who possess no claim whatever to consideration or even to mercy. "To talk about 'the respective claims of capital and labour' is as inaccurate as to talk about the 'respective claims' of coals and colliers, or of ploughs and ploughmen. Capital has no claims. This is not a quibble. The distinction between capital and the capitalists is one of vital importance. Capital is a necessary thing. The capitalist is as unnecessary as any other kind of thief or interloper. The capitalist, though as loud as greedy in his 'claims,' has no rights at all."[434]

"Do you mean to say, then, that the capitalist does not perform a useful function in running a risk for the profit he receives?—No. In so far as he exercises the function of management and receives remuneration for this, his remuneration is not profit at all, but wages of superintendence, and the functions of management would be undertaken by the organised society of the future through its appointed representatives. As to any necessary risks, all individuals would be relieved from this under Socialism, as it would be borne by the whole of society."[435] "If capitalists attempt to justify their way of making profit by saying that they have to run risks sometimes, that a part of their property might occasionally be lost, we answer that labour has nothing to do with that."[436]

Capital large and small is the result of thrift. If capital is theft, then thrift also is theft. The thrifty investor, being an immoral person, has no right to protest against the confiscation of his property. "By capitalist I mean the investor who puts his money into a concern and draws profits therefrom without participating in the organisation or management of the business. Were all these to disappear in the night, leaving no trace behind, nothing would be changed."[437] Nothing would be changed for the Socialist agitator, the loafer, and the tramp. On the contrary, they would profit from the ruin of the industrious and the thrifty. The fact that honest and hardworking men who do their duty to their family and who wish to leave their children provided for should have the result of the economy of a lifetime confiscated matters little to the Socialist leaders. According to the Socialist doctrines the industrious and the thrifty are thieves and exploiters of those workers who have never saved a penny. On the other hand, those men who live from hand to mouth, who work only a few days each week and loaf on the remaining days, who waste all their earnings in drink, gambling, and music-halls, and who possess nothing they can call their own, are honest and excellent citizens. They are entitled to the savings of the thrifty.

In accordance with the Socialist principles stated in the foregoing, all shareholders, being merely exploiters of labour, would be expropriated. "Are shareholders in companies useful in organising labour?—As a rule they employ others to organise labour, and the work done by the company would go on just as well if the shareholders disappeared."[438] Besides, "Stocks when analysed, in nine cases out of ten simply mean the right to squeeze tribute out of workers who are nominally free. By far the greatest part of what is set down as national 'capital' is merely slave flesh-and-blood."[439]

Holders of Government stocks would be treated no better than landowners and shareholders. Foremost among the "immediate reforms" demanded in the programme of the Social-Democratic Federation[440] ranges the "Repudiation of the National Debt." The repudiation of the National Debt has during many years been demanded, and is still demanded, by the Social-Democratic Federation, as may be seen from a recent issue of "Justice," its weekly publication, in which we find the following statement: "The National Debt is simply a means of extracting unearned incomes from the people of this country. It is idle to nationalise or municipalise industries by means of loans on which interest is paid. Such interest would be only another form of rent and profit. When capitalism is abolished, every one of its many forms will necessarily have to go."[441]

The repudiation of the National Debt is demanded by many Socialist leaders and leading writers. "The National Debt (falsely so-called) has already been paid thrice over in usury. All future interest-payments should be held as part of the principal."[442] "The few thousand persons who own the National Debt, saddled upon the community by a landlord Parliament, exact 28,000,000l. yearly from the labour of their countrymen for nothing."[443] "Outside the land monopoly, the most infamous source of usury is unquestionably the so-called 'National Debt.' There the whole of the capital is absolutely spurious. The real capital consisted of the gunpowder and the lead which Sovereigns and statesmen expended so liberally about a century ago in attempting to murder liberty on the Continents of Europe and America. Our war debt is the most stupendous monument of human crime and folly in existence; and worst of all, the 'butcher's bill' has already been paid by the unhappy toilers thrice over in usury."[444] "The entire national liability has been discharged to the moneylenders by the people once during the last thirty-seven years. We repay public debts once every thirty-seven years without wiping out a penny of the said debts. We pay away in blank usury 20,000,000l. per year on this one head, or enough to provide old-age pensions for three-fourths of our aged poor in the United Kingdom on the basis of 7s. 6d. per head per week."[445] "236,514 blackmailers suck the udder of industry through the convenient teat of what, with audacious cynicism, is called the 'National Debt.'"[446]

The largest part of the National Debt was not created by "murdering liberty" but by fighting the armies of the French Revolution and of Napoleon I. Besides, the defence against the French Revolution and Napoleon was not a "crime," but a necessary duty. Furthermore, the holders of the National Debt are not "blackmailers" but industrious, useful, and thrifty citizens, or the children and descendants of industrious, useful, and thrifty citizens.

About one-half of the National Debt is held by thrifty wage-earners, as all the money deposited in the savings banks, and most of the savings deposited with friendly societies, &c., is invested in Consols, and as a very large part of the assets of the industrial and other insurance societies consists of Government Stocks. Property being theft, and thrift being akin to it, the thrifty workman whose savings are invested in Consols has apparently no right to complain of being robbed of his savings by the Socialists.

Some Socialist agitators have the audacity to tell the thrifty worker that he will not suffer, but benefit, by the confiscation of his savings. "Opponents try to scare this man against Socialism by the fear of losing his interest. Granting for a moment he would do so, would he not gain by the general abolition of interest, &c., which would double his wage in common with that of all workers?"[447]—The worker is to be indemnified for his positive and certain loss in property through the confiscation of his savings, or at the least of the interest paid on them, by a problematical rise in general wages which would benefit the unthrifty quite as much as the thrifty. But if the promised doubling of wages should not take place, what will happen? The Socialist agitators will explain that they are sorry to have made a mistake, whilst the thriftless are squandering the property of the thrifty.

According to the Socialist teachings, the capitalist is a perfectly useless being in the national household. "Does he himself want to work: to do something useful? Far from it. His money works for him; his money makes money, as the saying is."[448] Most capitalists—and I think the large majority of wage-earners are capitalists to some extent—are engaged in useful productive work of hand or brain. However, the capitalist of the Socialist imagination, the wealthy man who lives without any work, who studies the money market and Stock Exchange quotations, and who is occupied solely in investing and reinvesting his money to the best advantage, is an extremely useful member of society. It is of the utmost consequence to all workers, and to the whole nation, that the national capital should grow, that mines, railways, ships, machinery, houses, &c., should multiply and be constantly improved. Now the thrifty, not the wasteful, preserve and increase the national capital. Wise and cautious capitalists in enriching themselves will enrich the nation. Careless ones will lose their money and impoverish the nation. The wealth of France has, to a very large extent, been created by cautious and far-seeing rentiers, and thus France has become the banker among nations.

Socialists teach that the wealth of the few causes the poverty of the many; that therefore the private capitalist should be destroyed. Why, then, are the workers most prosperous in those countries which possess the wealthiest capitalists, such as France and the United States, and why are they poorest in countries, such as Turkey and Servia, where wealthy capitalists do not exist? And may not the destruction of the capitalists reduce Great Britain to the level of Turkey and Servia?


[430] Socialism Made Plain, p. 9.

[431] Capital and Land, pp. 5, 6.

[432] Kautsky, The Social Revolution, p. 11.

[433] Blatchford, The Clarion Ballads, p. 9.

[434] Blatchford, The Pope's Socialism, p. 2.

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

[436] Sorge, Socialism and the Worker, p. 11.

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

[438] Joynes, The Socialist Catechism, p. 3.

[439] Davidson, The Gospel of the Poor, p. 54.

[440] See Appendix.

[441] Justice, October 19, 1907.

[442] Davidson, The Democrat's Address, p. 5.

[443] Socialism Made Plain, p. 8.

[444] Davidson, The Gospel of the Poor, p. 49.

[445] McLachlan, Tyranny of Usury, p. 13.

[446] Davidson, The Old Order and the New, p. 76.

[447] Wealth Makers and Wealth Takers, p. 1.

[448] Sorge, Socialism and the Worker, p. 10.



To Socialists taxation is chiefly a means for impoverishing the rich and the well-to-do. It is their object to transfer by taxation the wealth from the few to the many, as they believe that the impoverishment of the rich will mean the enrichment of the poor. Therefore they do not aim at economy in national and local expenditure. On the contrary, they wish to spend as much as possible. As money is to be obtained solely from the rich, "An increase in national taxation has no terrors for Socialists."[449] Every increase in expenditure is greeted by them with joy, and wastefulness in national and local undertakings is rather encouraged than condemned. "Socialists look to the Budget as a means not only of raising revenue to meet unavoidable expenditure, but as an instrument for redressing inequalities in the distribution of wealth."[450] Let us first look into the financial views of the Socialists, and then into their positive proposals.

"The purpose of Socialism is to transfer land and industrial capital to the people. There are two ways in which, simultaneously, this object may be carried out. The one way is by the municipal and national appropriation—with such compensation to the existing owners as the community may think fit to give—of the land and industrial concerns. The second method is by taxation. Taxation has its special sphere of usefulness in helping the community to secure some part of its own by diverting into the national purse portions of the rent, interest, and profit which now go to keep an idle class in luxury at the expense of the industrious poor."[451]

"The existence of a rich class, whose riches are the cause of the poverty of the masses, is the justification for the Socialist demand that the cost of bettering the condition of the people must be met by the taxation of the rich. The Socialist's ideas of taxation may be briefly summarised as follows: (1) Both local and national taxation should aim primarily at securing for the communal benefit all 'unearned' or 'social' increment of wealth. (2) Taxation should aim deliberately at preventing the retention of large incomes and great fortunes in private hands, recognising that the few cannot be rich without making the many poor. (3) Taxation should be in proportion to ability to pay and to protection and benefit conferred by the State. (4) No taxation should be imposed which encroaches upon the individual's means to satisfy his physical needs."[452]

"To the Socialist taxation is the chief means by which he may recover from the propertied classes some portion of the plunder which their economic strength and social position have enabled them to extract from the workers; to him, national and municipal expenditure is the spending for common purposes of an ever-increasing proportion of the national income. The degree of civilisation which a State has reached may almost be measured by the proportion of the national income which is spent collectively instead of individually. To the Socialist the best of Governments is that which spends the most. The only possible policy is deliberately to tax the rich, especially those who live on wealth which they do not earn; for thus, and thus only, can we reduce the burthen upon the poor."[453]

The Fabian Society suggests the following reform of national taxation: "In English politics successful ends must have moderate beginnings. Such a beginning might be an income-tax of 2s. 6d. in the pound. Unearned incomes above 5,000l. a year would pay 2s. 6d. in the pound, below 5,000l. a year 1s. 8d. in the pound. The estate duty might be handled upon similar principles. Estates between 500,000l. and 1,000,000l. would be charged twelve and a half per cent, instead of seven and a half, and estates exceeding 1,000,000l. fifteen per cent, instead of eight."[454] The Fabian Society does not disguise its aim in proposing the foregoing: "These suggestions are doubtless confiscatory, and that is why they should recommend themselves to a Labour party. But even so, the confiscation is of a timorous and a slow-footed sort. The average British millionaire dies worth about 2,770,000l., on which the death duty would be 415,500l., leaving the agreeable nest-egg of 2,254,500l. to the heirs. Even if we assume that the inheritance passes to one person only, so as to be subject to the highest rate of duty, it would not be until five more lives had passed that it would be reduced to a pitiful million. The most patient Labour party might not unreasonably demand something a trifle more revolutionary than this."[455]

According to the above proposals the income-tax would return 47,600,000l. per annum. This sum seems far too moderate to most Socialist writers. Councillor Glyde, for instance, gives in a widely read pamphlet elaborate tables in which the produce of a graduated income-tax is carefully calculated. The Fabian Society would make "a moderate beginning" by taxing large incomes 2s. 6d. in the pound. Councillor Glyde would begin by levying a 3s. income-tax on them. Taxation of incomes in accordance with his proposals would bring in 70,281,839l. per annum.[456]

Mr. Smart, of the Independent Labour Party, gives lengthy details of a taxation reform scheme in which figure a foundation-tax, a special property-tax, and a super-tax. Large incomes would have to pay 17-1/2 per cent., or 3s. 6d. in the pound, and his property and income tax would bring in 78,000,000l. per annum.[457]

Mr. Philip Snowden, M.P., submits a different scheme of taxation. There is to be an income-tax of 1s. in the pound and a graduated super-tax up to 6s. in the pound. Whilst the three authorities mentioned so far propose to take from the large incomes 2s. 6d., 3s., and 3s. 6d. in the pound as a "moderate beginning," Mr. Snowden would, presumably also as a "moderate beginning," take 7s. in the pound from them. He is quite touched with his own generosity and magnanimity, for might he not demand at once 17s. or 20s. in the pound? "To console the possessors of incomes in the higher grade, say 50,000l. a year, to the payment of an income-tax of 1s. in the pound, we may remind them that they still retain 33,500l. a year, which is a very generous payment by labour to them for the privilege of seeing them exist in gorgeous splendour and sumptuous idleness."[458]

The proposals regarding the estate duty to be charged also vary. The Fabian Society proposes a maximum of 15 per cent. Mr. Smart would be satisfied with a graduated estate duty with a maximum of 25 per cent, instead of the present maximum of 8 per cent.[459] Mr. Snowden proposes a scale of duties which ranges from 1 per cent, up to 50 per cent.[460]

Besides the very greatly increased income-tax and estate duty, there would be, according to Mr. Snowden, a land value tax of a penny in the pound of its capital value, which is equal to 10 per cent. annual value. It is to be the small beginning of the policy of taxing landowners out of existence, to be speedily followed by confiscation. "The annual value of land being 250,000,000l., the produce of the land value tax would be 25,000,000l. a year."[461] The author justifies the creation of that tax as follows: "Liverpool, London, Glasgow owe their existence and their prosperity to their respective situations, which are natural advantages and which ought not in justice to be enjoyed solely by those who live upon the sites. Every town and village in the country contributes to the prosperity of every other part. The nation is a unit; its resources and its obligations should be mutually shared."

"Land values are so obviously not created by individual effort that the justice of taking the increment for the use of the community appeals to those who may have some difficulty in grasping the working of the 'unearned increment' in commercial concerns, where, however, it operates just as truly though not so obviously. The imposition of an Imperial tax of one penny in the pound on the capital value of the site would be a beginning, but by no means the end, of the process of diverting socially-created rent of land into the public exchequer. Taxation will do something towards that end; but taxation would be a long, irritating, and untrustworthy way of trying to secure the whole annual value of the land for the community."[462] "The taxation of land values is not a land reform. To get the full usefulness and the full value of the land for the community there is no way but for the State to own the land."[463]

The contemplated reform of taxation will not be limited to taxing the rich and the well-to-do out of existence. Relief will be afforded to the masses by the repeal of all duties on food, and, indeed, of all indirect taxation. "The reforms which the Labour party will endeavour to obtain from the Government, in which it believes it will be expressing the democratic sentiment of the country, are:

1. Repeal of the duties on foods.

2. A minimum wage of 30s. to all workers in Government employ or working under a contractor for the Government.

3. Old-age pensions of 7s. a week for persons over sixty."[464]

Practically all Socialists agree that all indirect taxation should be abolished. "Indirect taxation has nothing whatever to recommend it to an intelligent people, however advantageous it may be to the well-to-do. Indirect taxation violates every principle of sound economy."[465] "Its maintenance is excused on the ground that indirect taxation is the only means by which the working class can be made to contribute to the cost of national government at ah. The poorer working classes should not be taxed by the Government at all."[466] "Under a just system of taxation all indirect taxation for revenue purposes would be abolished."[467] "With 43 per cent, of the working classes living in poverty, with an average wage over the whole working class not sufficient to provide themselves with the standard of workhouse comfort, it becomes a crime to tax them for the protection of their property and the enjoyment of their privileges"[468]—Is it true that, as Mr. Snowden, M.P., writes, the whole working class of Great Britain is so badly paid that it cannot provide for itself the standard of workhouse comfort? How then can he reconcile with that assertion the following statement which he gives in the same book a few pages further on: "Experts assign the proportion of the total annual drink bill of the United Kingdom contributed by the wage-earning classes at 100,000,000l. A committee of the British Association, reporting on the 'appropriation of wages,' in 1882 said that 75 per cent, of the total consumption of beer and spirits, and 10 per cent. of the wine bill, might be assigned as the shares of the working class."[469]

As a matter of fact experts estimate that the British working men spend even more than 100,000,000l. per year on drink, and that they spend about 50,000,000l. on betting. It is really very inartistic for a professional agitator to tell us that the British workers are too poor to pay any taxes, that it is a "crime" to tax them at all, and then to remind us that the same starving ill-used workers can afford to spend more than the amount of the whole nation's Budget in drink and betting, that about one-sixth of the workman's wages are spent at the public-house, that many workmen spend the larger half of their income in drink, and that the British nation is the most drunken in the world, although drink is far more expensive in Great Britain than in any other country.

With part of the money taken by means of extortionate taxation from the rich, whole sections of the population are to be bribed into supporting Socialism. "Two objectionable heads of revenue would find no place in a Socialist national balance-sheet—the profit from the Post Office and the stamp duties. Improvements in the wages and conditions of labour in the lower grades of the postal service would absorb a considerable part of the present annual profit of 5,000,000l. and the rest might, with benefit, be utilised for cheapening the cost to the public of postal rates and services."[470]

Mr. Snowden, in promising in one phrase the repeal of stamp duties and cheapening of postage, very likely thought that that step would relieve the poor. He apparently imagined that duty stamps were identical with postage stamps. If he had known that stamp duties are largely derived from Stock Exchange transactions and the sale of every kind of property on a large scale, from legal documents, &c., he would probably have proposed that they should be increased tenfold in order to strike another blow at private property, not that they should be abolished. Even the policy of confiscation requires an elementary knowledge of facts.

Furthermore, "The Socialist Budget would provide for a very considerable increase of the grants-in-aid, retaining for the central Government just sufficient control or inspection over the expenditure as would not interfere with the reasonable freedom of the local authority."[471] "Control which would not interfere" is at present illogical and impossible, because the one excludes the other. It may be possible in the Socialist State of the future, because logic will have to be abolished in it. At all events it seems clear that Mr. Snowden wishes to secure the support of the local authorities by the same curious means by which he strives to secure the support of the Post Office servants.

The foregoing extracts should suffice to show that the Socialists mean to ruin the owners of property of every kind by indirect confiscation in the form of extortionate taxation, which is to be constantly increased and which may be followed by direct confiscation, and that they rely upon force for achieving their aim. Capitalists may leave the country, but they must leave their capital behind, and their disappearance, Socialists assert, will be no loss. "The vast majority of our employers are routineers, who could no more contribute an intelligent statement of their industrial function to this paper than a bee could write the works of Lord Avebury. Routineers can always be replaced, and replaced with profit, by educated functionaries. Consequently when the employers threaten us with emigration, our only regret as to the majority of them is that it is too good to be true."[472] "Supposing those who have the money were to threaten to leave the country and to take their money with them, would not that upset your plans? Money is not wealth. You would have cause to rejoice. So would the country which was fortunate enough to see its capitalists emigrate."[473]

According to the Socialist teaching, the workers maintain the capitalists. The brain is mightier than the hand, though the brain requires the hand. In reality it rather seems that the capitalists maintain the workers. It cannot too often be pointed out that those countries which have many wealthy capitalists are highly civilised and prosperous, and their workers are well off. On the other hand, those countries which have few or no wealthy capitalists are little civilised and poor, and their workers are exceedingly badly off. The masses may conceivably rob the capitalists of their property, and try to manage the national capital themselves, but whether they will benefit by spoliation remains to be seen. Lacking direction, foresight, unity, organisation, discipline, and thrift, the masses will probably quickly waste the national capital, and national ruin and distress and starvation will be the consequences of wholesale robbery.

The confiscation experiment has often been tried in the past, and it has always failed. The last time it has been tried was at the time of the French Revolution. The money secured by robbery was recklessly squandered. Production was neglected, and the people became poorer than ever. In the country agriculture came to a standstill, weeds grew where corn had been growing, gardens became a natural wilderness, and wolves roamed in thousands.[474] The great manufacturing towns were dead, manufacturers in Paris who had employed sixty or eighty men employed but ten.[475] The people in town and country were starving. Many lived on roots and bark. Many of the poor in Paris waited outside the slaughter-houses and lapped the blood from the gutters like dogs.

Private capital has existed in all countries and at all times, because it is a plant of natural growth. One can destroy it, but it will ever grow again.


[449] Snowden, Socialist Budget, p. 1.

[450] Ibid.

[451] Snowden, The Socialist's Budget, p. 2.

[452] Ibid. pp. 7, 8.

[453] Socialism and Labour Policy, p. 4.

[454] Ibid. pp. 4, 5.

[455] Ibid. p. 5.

[456] Glyde, A Peep Behind the Scenes on a Board of Guardians, pp. 28,29.

[457] Smart, Socialism and the Budget, pp. 14,15.

[458] Snowden, The Socialist's Budget, pp. 78, 79.

[459] Smart, Socialism and the Budget, p. 8.

[460] Snowden, The Socialist's Budget, p. 81.

[461] Ibid. p. 82.

[462] Ibid. pp. 82, 83.

[463] Snowden, The Socialist's Budget, p. 84.

[464] Smart, Socialism and the Budget, p. 15.

[465] Snowden, The Socialist's Budget, p. 15.

[466] Ibid. p. 31.

[467] Ibid. p. 16.

[468] Snowden, The Socialist's Budget, p. 17.

[469] Ibid. pp. 21, 22.

[470] Snowden, The Socialist's Budget, p. 71.

[471] Ibid. p. 59.

[472] G.B. Shaw in the New Age, November 30, 1907.

[473] Wheatley, How the Miners are Robbed, p. 12.

[474] Vandal, Avenement de Bonaparte, 1903, vol. i. p. 25.

[475] Schmidt, Tableaux de la Revolution, vol. iv. p. 383.



Most British Socialists object to the Empire on various grounds, and desire its downfall and dissolution. According to their views Great Britain should, in the first place, give up her non-self-governing colonies. Let us take note of some Socialistic pronouncements to that effect:

"Governments have no right to exist except with the consent of the governed, and the British have no more right to dominate other peoples than other peoples have to dominate us. What we can only hold by maintaining an alien garrison had better be given up. The people of these islands would not be losers, but the gainers by such a course."[476] "Is it possible for a self-governing people to rule a subject race, and yet keep its own love for liberty? Neither the Greeks nor the Romans could do it, and we are not doing it very well ourselves. The reason is obvious. No nation can play the part of the despot (even the benevolent despot) abroad and that of the democrat at home."[477] "Socialists should oppose the creation of empires on this simple ground—that empire-building is accompanied by terrible misery and suffering for those subject races, as they are called, which are the chosen victims sacrificed on the altar of cupidity and pride."[478] "A people gain power and influence in the world in proportion as they solve for themselves the great problems of democratic self-government. We shall do more to civilise Africa by civilising the East End of London than by governing from Cape to Cairo."[479] "It is not only impossible for one nation to civilise another by governing it; it is wrong that it should attempt to do so. Conquest may have opened up one civilisation to another in times long antecedent to the steam engine and a world commerce, but to-day its only effect is to crush out and level down all national life to the dead uniformity of an alien political routine."[480]

"What is the attitude of Socialism towards backward races, savage and barbaric peoples who are to-day outside the civilised world? The position of Socialism towards these races is one of absolute non-interference. We hold that they should be left entirely alone to develop themselves in the natural order of things; which they must inevitably do or die out. It is the duty of Socialists to support the barbaric races in their resistance to aggression."[481] "It is the duty of International Socialists, the only international non-capitalist party, to denounce, and wherever possible to prevent, the extension of colonisation and conquest, leaving to each race and creed and colour the full opportunity to develop itself until complete economic and social emancipation is secured by all."[482] "Duty, like charity, begins at home, and if the civilisation of the blacks is to be purchased only by the destruction of our own democratic spirit, the balance to the world is of evil, not of good. There is another view of Imperialism expressed with brutal candour by Mr. Rhodes when he said that the flag was our best commercial asset, that trade follows the flag. Trade does no such thing. Trade follows business enterprise. Imperialism is, indeed, a policy of industrial deterioration, and by impoverishing the skill of the country and encouraging the worst forms of financial capitalism, must crush out every budding hope that labour has of becoming economically and politically free."[483]

The foregoing extracts should suffice to show that there is among British Socialists a strong desire to abandon the non-self-governing colonies.

The attitude of the British Socialists towards the great self-governing dominions is not much more favourable than it is towards tropical colonies. Their attitude is one of hardly disguised hostility, which appears to spring partly from jealousy of the colonists, partly from hatred of the British capitalists who have invested money in the colonies. The loss of British capital invested in the colonies would probably be greeted with jubilation by the Socialists. "The well-to-do sections of society in Great Britain have found a secure and profitable outlet for their capital in loans and advances to the colonists alike as organised communities and as individual property-owners. But the drain for interest and dividends to England on this account is heavy, and is severely felt at times of depression, such as that which Australia as a whole has been suffering from during the recent seven years of almost continuous drought. It seems tolerably certain, therefore, that this comparative handful of colonists, eleven millions in all, of which only four millions in Australia, will in time to come, and as the Labour party and Socialists gain strength, repudiate, or at any rate reduce, these onerous obligations. It is also probable that with regard to Australia, as the white population does not increase and England's day as a colonising power proper is practically over (having no longer any agricultural population to send out as emigrants), this huge territory will not be permanently left at the sole dog-in-the-manger control of its present handful of inhabitants. We may expect, at least, that Australia will not be permanently able to retain its position without an infusion of entirely fresh blood, and should other peoples require an outlet in that direction, the present preposterous policy will have to be abandoned."[484]

Socialists seem, on the whole, to be opposed to the federation of the British Empire. "The Labour party approaches Imperial problems with the politics of the industrious classes as guide on the one hand, and the internationalism of its nature as guide on the other."[485] Its "internationalism" apparently prevents it from approving of any practical scheme of Imperial Federation. Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, M.P., of the Labour party, has not expressed actual hostility to the Empire. In fact, he has even declared: "Socialism did not intend to re-write history. It accepted the facts of life, and one of these facts was that we were responsible for the Empire, and, whether we liked it or not, we had to rule that Empire. He was overjoyed the other day to find that at Stuttgart their Dutch and German and French friends were fully aware of the fact that, if Socialism was to play the proper part that belonged to it, it must devise a colonial policy."[486] Nevertheless, Mr. Macdonald's views do not appear to be very practical, as will be seen in the following pages.

"These free colonies, though of enormous extent, count for little in the matter of population. Their wealth is out of all proportion to their numbers, as their pretensions are out of all proportion to their power. That they will play any very great part in the future of the world, either federated to the mother country or in any other way, seems exceedingly improbable."[487] "Imperialism is crudely ineffective. Imperial Federation would give the colonies a fuller sense of independence and liberty, and thus far would benefit them. But Imperial Federation is not approved on this account, but because it is supposed to be a way of uniting the Empire. That, it will not do: it will very likely do the opposite. In whatever form it comes, it will give to the independent interests of the colonies new importance. We shall then hear less of the Empire and more of Canada, or New Zealand, or South Africa, and a great danger will arise that a purely sectional view of Imperial interests may secure the support of the might and the arrogance of the whole Empire."[488] "Canada has almost claimed that it is a right of self-governing States to be allowed to make treaties for themselves. When that happens, the colonies might as well sever themselves from the mother country altogether. For under present circumstances the authority which makes treaties is the authority which ultimately controls armies. To give any of our colonies the power to embroil us in war, or to determine our relations with European Powers, is to give the first shattering blow to Imperial solidarity."[489]

Nearly all British Socialists passionately oppose the retention of India. They never tire of condemning British rule in India, and of endeavouring to incite the native races to rebellion. According to the assertions of Socialists, the British Government has "manufactured" famine and plague in India, and its rule is the worst, the most cruel, and the most pernicious form of despotism which the world has seen.

Mr. Hyndman says: "India is the greatest and most awful instance of the cruelty, greed, and short-sightedness of the capitalist class of which history gives any record. Even the horrors of Spanish rule in South America are dwarfed into insignificance in comparison with the cold, calculating, economic infamy which has starved, and is still deliberately starving, millions of people to death in British India."[490] "I charge it against the British Government, at this moment, that the economic condition of India is much more horrible than ever it was. I declare that the despotism of Russia is more apparently cruel, but the actual economic effect of the British Government's rule in India is more desperate than anything in the situation in Russia."[491]

Mr. Hare also speaks of "famine made by Government"[492]—India suffers from two great evils: famine and the plague. India is very densely populated. The natives live chiefly upon rice, and rice requires an enormous quantity of moisture. If rain fails, there is famine, and no Government can prevent it, though it may alleviate it. Therefore all rice countries—China, India, Japan—are periodically stricken by famine. It is difficult enough, and taxes the resources of a country to the utmost, to feed in a barren country an army of 500,000 men who are closely assembled. It is impossible to feed a population of 60,000,000, even if funds and stores of food are unlimited. With the most perfect system of harbours, canals, railways, &c., the distribution of food for 60,000,000 people offers insurmountable obstacles. Plague is caused by infection, and may be stamped out by the observance of those sanitary rules which Indians refuse to observe. Cases of plague are not reported to the authorities, but are hidden from them, so that the sanctity of the home may not be defiled by the entrance of a medical man. Nevertheless, Socialists never tire of preaching: "If there is one disease which is more directly the outcome of poverty than any other, it is the plague."[493] "Just think of 250,000 people dying of manufactured black plague in one month. It is not the people of England who benefit by our murderous despotism in India. It is not the working classes who would suffer if India were relieved from its present frightful oppression. If the present trade is beneficial, it is beneficial to the wealthy rather than to the workers."[494] "If ever there was a population in the history of the world possessed of a remarkable climate, with a fruitful soil, with all the opportunities for making wealth, and having been the source of wealth to the peoples who have traded with them for centuries, the population of India is that people and Hindostan is that country which ought to be supremely wealthy."[495]

Socialists have done all in their power to arouse the hostility of Europe and America against Great Britain by denouncing British misrule, cruelty, and tyranny in India. "I rejoice, as an Englishman, that I have done my share for nearly thirty years to expose in Europe, America, and Asia the systematic rascality of my aristocratic and plutocratic countrymen."[496] "I appeal to this International Socialist Congress to denounce the statesmen and the nation guilty of this infamy before the entire civilised world, and to convey to the natives of India the heartfelt wish of the delegates of the workers of all nations here assembled that they may shortly, no matter in what manner, free themselves finally from the horrors of the most criminal misrule that has ever afflicted humanity."[497]

Socialists unceasingly work for the overthrow of British rule in India. Theirs is a larger humanity. They wish to bring about a rising of the Indian population, and they seem to care little if the 250,000 British people residing in that country are incidentally exterminated. Their hatred of the "capitalist" Empire is apparently greater than their sense of humanity and duty towards their own countrymen.

At a recent Socialist meeting in connection with the unrest in India, Mr. Hyndman submitted the following motion: "This meeting of the citizens of London expresses its deepest sympathy and admiration for Lajpat Kai, Adjit Singh, and the Sikh leaders at Rawal Pindi, Amritsar, and Lahore, now undergoing imprisonment without trial, at the command of Mr. John Morley and the Liberal Government, and sends its cordial greetings to the agitators all over India who are doing their utmost to awaken their countrymen of every race and creed to the ruinous effect of our rule, which, by draining away 35,000,000l. worth of produce yearly from India without return, has manufactured poverty upon a scale unprecedented in history and is converting the greatest Empire the world has ever seen into a vast pauper warren and human plague farm. This meeting further records its fervent hope that this infamous British system which crushes all economic, social, and political life out of 230 millions of people will ere long be peaceably or forcibly swept away for ever."[498] Proceeding, Mr. Hyndman said: "I may mention I have just finished a pamphlet on India I have written for the International Socialist Congress at Stuttgart, which is going to be translated by the International Socialist Bureau into German and French, and I will take care it is translated into some other languages—Eastern languages—including the Japanese language."[499]

Attempts to incite the native Indians to rise in rebellion and to massacre the British garrison and the British people residing in India are not restricted to Mr. Hyndman. We read in the leading Socialist monthly: "The maintenance of British rule in India means that the working people of Great Britain are engaged in helping their masters—the class which robs them—to plunder the unfortunate people of India of over thirty millions sterling every year. We desire to see the people of India, as of every other country, not only possessed of national independence and political rights, but of social and economical liberty and equality. We assert the right of the Indian people to manage their own affairs, and ardently desire the destruction of British rule there."[500] From the official organ of the Independent Labour Party we learn that that party also "has declared itself wholly in favour of constitutional government in India and the social emancipation of the poverty-stricken Indian people. We believe that Mr. Hardie has had that purpose solely in view, and the party will stand solidly with him in conveying to the Indian people the strongest expression of the sympathy and support of British Socialists in their struggle against social and political oppression."[501] If British subjects are murdered in India by the ten thousand, we may thank our revolutionary Socialists.

Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, M.P., of the Labour party very sensibly recommends with regard to India: "The Government should win the confidence and assent of the people."[502] He then continues: "The immediate reforms necessary are a lightening of India's financial load by relieving it of the Imperial burdens which it now unjustly bears, and a readjustment of taxes; the extension of local and State self-government and further opportunities for natives to be employed in public offices; the freeing of the press."[503] It is easy to formulate a policy by expressing generous abstract sentiments. Is Mr. Macdonald aware that "the lightening of India's financial load" would mean its transference to English shoulders, that the granting of self-government and the freeing of the press might lead to a position which would put before this country the alternative of a war of repression in India or of its abandonment, and that the abandonment of India would ruin Lancashire?

We have taken note of the destructive part of the policy which Socialists wish to pursue towards the Empire. Now let us take note of their constructive proposals, though these are not nearly as numerous as their destructive ones.

Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, M.P., of the Labour party, is dissatisfied with Imperial administration in its present form. He would democratise it and replace the present Imperial Governors by labour men and Socialist agitators and orators. "The Crown cannot be the custodian of an Imperial policy, though it may be an Imperial link—and even in this respect its influence is greatly exaggerated at home."[504] "The real difficulty lies in securing the confidence of the Imperial States for whatever authority is to be custodian of the Imperial standard. Downing Street is ignorant of colonial opinion and needs. Above all, Downing Street is the surviving symbol of the era of the British 'dominions' and the real 'colonies.' The Imperial States will not repose confidence in Downing Street, therefore Downing Street cannot remain the custodian of Imperial standards. What is to take its place?"[505]

"The failure of our Empire, except to produce mechanical results, such as keeping warring tribes at peace, is largely owing to the fact that the Empire is governed by the most narrow-visioned of our social classes. National pride may be a valuable possession, but when it becomes a consciousness of racial superiority it ceases to be an Imperial virtue. Thus it is not only in its origin, but also in its present administration, that the Empire in a special sense is a perquisite of the rich classes, and the influence of the Labour party on Imperial politics must be to democratise the personnel of the Imperial machine. A trade union secretary could govern a province prima facie better than the son of an ancient county family or someone who was a friend of the Colonial Secretary when he was passing time at Balliol. We honestly think that the colonies appreciate our aristocracy, but the colonies laugh at our amiable illusions."[506]

Is Mr. Macdonald sure that the dominions and colonies would welcome a change, and that "trade union secretaries" in their very narrow circle of activity might not become even more "narrow-visioned" than our present pro-consuls? At the same time it cannot be doubted that all labour leaders and Socialist agitators will highly approve of his proposals to make all vice-royalties and governorships their "perquisites." Apart from a few not very practical proposals, Socialists follow not a constructive, but a purely destructive, policy with regard to the Empire, which in their eyes is merely a capitalist institution. Pursuing consciously or unconsciously a policy of revolutionary anarchism, they would break up the Empire and even Great Britain herself. Therefore many Socialists advocate the legislative independence of both Ireland and Scotland, although some preach, "'Home Rule' per se will not rid Ireland of Lord Deliverus and the gang he represents; the remedy for Ireland's distress, as the early leaders of Irish discontent perceived, is release from the grip of the brigands who stole the nation's heritage. In other words, the real object of the Irish movement is Socialism; their cause is ours, and our paths lie side by side. But they too have been tricked and led astray by the old political will-o'-the-wisp, the seeming angel of 'Liberty' translated in their case to 'Home Rule.' For many years now they have pursued this shifty light through the arid desert of politics, and unless they can come to a clear understanding of their own original purpose again, and join with their English Socialist comrades to find a way out of our common difficulties, they are like to abide in that dreary desert for ever."[507]

Whilst the vast majority of British Socialists are unpatriotic, anti-national, and anti-Imperial, and would act as traitors to their country, the powerful Socialist party of Germany is strongly, one might almost say passionately, national and Imperial. Many German Socialists are enthusiastic supporters of the German Navy League, and they would not hesitate in depriving, if possible, and if need be by force, Great Britain of those colonies which her Socialists desire to get rid of.

The attitude of German Socialists towards their Fatherland, Empire, colonial possessions, and native races, may be gauged from the words of Herr Bernstein, one of her most prominent Socialist leaders: "The national quality is developing more and more. Socialism can and must be national. Even when we sing Ubi bene, ibi patria we still acknowledge a patria, and therefore, in accordance with the motto 'No rights without duties,' also duties towards her. To-day the Social-Democratic party is, and that unanimously, the most decided Imperial party that Germany knows. No other party is so keen to make over more and more legislative authority to the Empire and to widen its competence as the Social-Democratic party. The idea that in a country there exists a powerful party which is only waiting for war in order to make difficulties for its own Government, to set on foot a military strike and such-like, this idea may become the greatest menace to peace by being a spur to adventurous politicians to work towards a war with that country. But the home Government knows very well that the declaration that the Social-Democrats would, in case of need, give their lives for the independence of Germany against a foreign Power is by no means a free pass for them to take war easily."[508]

In another periodical Herr Bernstein wrote: "The advantages of colonial possessions are always conditional. At a given period a nation can only sustain a certain quantity of such possessions. As long as she was ahead of all other nations in productive power, England could support a much larger amount than any other modern nation. But the time of her industrial supremacy has passed away, or at least is nearing its end. Protectionism on the Continent and in the United States may protract the advent of the inevitable in some degree. But its hour will strike one day, and when the advantages which free trade secures her to-day disappear, she would either have, I believe, to free herself of part of her colonial burdens or lose more and more of her trade, and with it her regenerative force. So much for England. With Germany the question is quite different. Although her rural population is now decreasing, she could, with a yearly increase of about 800,000, well stand more colonial possessions than she actually holds, nor would the costs and outlays for her colonies press very hard on her finances. Where two civilisations clash, the lower must give way to the higher. This law of evolution we cannot overthrow, we can only humanise its action. To counteract it would mean to postpone social progress."[509]

It is sad to compare the sane, manly, national, and patriotic attitude of German Socialists with the foolish, anti-national cosmopolitanism of British Socialists, who, parading beautiful motives of the largest humanity, would not hesitate to sacrifice their country and their countrymen, their Empire and their colonies.


[476] Quelch, Social Democracy and the Armed Nation, p. 14.

[477] Imperialism: Its Meaning and Its Tendency, p. 10.

[478] Norman, Empire and Murder, p. 3.

[479] Imperialism: Its Meaning and Its Tendency, p. 15.

[480] Ibid. p. 7.

[481] Bax and Quelch, A New Catechism of Socialism, p. 36.

[482] Hyndman, Colonies and Dependencies, p. 14.

[483] Imperialism: Its Meaning and Its Tendency, pp. 12, 13.

[484] Hyndman, Colonies and Dependencies, p. 8.

[485] Macdonald, Labour and the Empire, p. 108.

[486] Labour Leader, October 10, 1907.

[487] Hyndman, Colonies and Dependencies, p. 8.

[488] Imperialism: Its Meaning and Its Tendency, p. 5.

[489] Macdonald, Labour and the Empire, pp. 76, 77.

[490] Hyndman, Colonies and Dependencies, p. 12.

[491] Hyndman, The Unrest in India, p. 13.

[492] Hare, Famine in India, p. 17.

[493] Hyndman, The Unrest in India, p. 7.

[494] Ibid. p. 16.

[495] Ibid. p. 7.

[496] Hyndman, Colonies and Dependencies, pp. 11, 12.

[497] Ibid. p. 14.

[498] Hyndman, The Unrest in India, p. 1.

[499] Ibid. p. 4.

[500] Social-Democrat, July 1907, pp. 393, 394.

[501] Labour Leader, October 11, 1907.

[502] Macdonald, Labour and the Empire, p. 104.

[503] Ibid. p. 105.

[504] Macdonald, Labour and the Empire, p. 70.

[505] Ibid. pp. 67, 68.

[506] Macdonald, Labour and the Empire, pp. 27, 28.

[507] Thompson, That Blessed Word Liberty, p. 10.

[508] Ed. Bernstein in the Sozialistische Monatshefte, translated in the Social-Democrat, July 1907.

[509] Nation, October 12, 1907.



"Socialism," Mr. Ramsay Macdonald writes, "has a great part to play immediately in international politics. It alone can banish national jealousies from the Foreign Offices; it alone offers the guarantees of peace which are a necessary preliminary to disarmament. Socialism has a world policy as well as a national one—a corollary to its belief in the brotherhood of man."[510] These words contain assurances, not a plan, and therefore we must inquire, What is the foreign policy of Socialism?

As regards foreign policy one may divide the Socialists into two classes: revolutionaries and visionaries. It will be seen in the following pages that the aims of both are similar.

The foreign policy of the revolutionary Socialists of Great Britain is based on the celebrated "Communist Manifesto" of Marx and Engels, which contains the following programme regarding foreign policy: "The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: in the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality."[511] "The Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things. In all these movements they bring to the front, as the leading question of each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time. Finally, they labour everywhere for the union and agreement of the democratic parties of all countries. The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!"[512]

In accordance with the foregoing proclamation of Marx and Engels, the philosopher of British Socialism teaches: "For the Socialist the word 'frontier' does not exist; for him love of country, as such, is no nobler sentiment than love of class. Race pride and class pride are, from the standpoint of Socialism, involved in the same condemnation. The establishment of Socialism, therefore, on any national or race basis is out of the question. The foreign policy of the great international Socialist party must be to break up these hideous race monopolies called empires, beginning in each case at home. Hence everything which makes for the disruption and disintegration of the empire to which he belongs must be welcomed by the Socialist as an ally. It is his duty to urge on any movement tending in any way to dislocate the commercial relations of the world, knowing that every shock the modern complex commercial system suffers weakens it and brings its destruction nearer. This is the negative side of the foreign policy of Socialism. The positive is embraced in a single sentence; to consolidate the union of the several national sections on the basis of firm and equal friendship, steadfast adherence to definite principles, and determination to present a solid front to the enemy."[513]

The head of the Social-Democratic Federation informs us: "We have never failed to hold up before the people the high ideal of a complete social revolution, which shall replace the capitalist sweating system and its terrible class war by the happiness, contentment, and glory of a great co-operative commonwealth for all mankind."[514]

Faithful to the teaching of Karl Marx, Mr. Tom Mann proclaims: "We do not want any walls built round cities or nations for fear of invasion; what we do now stand in urgent need of is an international working alliance among the workers of the whole world. The only position of safety will be found in international action among the organised workers of the world."[515]

These being the doctrines of revolutionary Socialism, it is only natural that many British Socialists take the enemy's part in case of war.[516]

The foreign policy of the visionary Socialists is based on the idea of human brotherhood and the equality of men of all races, creeds, and colours. "Socialism is brotherhood; and brotherhood is as wide as the heavens and as broad as humanity. The growth of international Socialism is the promise of the realisation of the angels' natal song: On earth, peace; Good will toward men. Socialism will remove the causes of international antagonism and make the interests of all nations the same."[517] "Socialism implies the inherent equality of all human beings. It does not assume that all are alike, but only that all are equal. Holding this to be true of individuals, the Socialist applies it also to races. Only by a full and unqualified recognition of this claim can peace be restored to the world. Socialism implies brotherhood, brotherhood implies a living recognition of the fact that the duty of the strong is not to hold the weak in subjection but to assist them to rise higher and ever higher in the scale of humanity, and that this cannot be done by trampling upon and exploiting their weakness, but by caring for them and showing them the better way."[518] Thus Socialism will bring to the world eternal peace. In the words of the poet:

There's a good time coming, boys, A good time coming; And war in all men's eyes shall be A monster of iniquity, In the good time coming. Nations shall not quarrel then, To prove which is the stronger; Nor slaughter men for glory's sake— Wait a little longer.[519]

The ideas expressed in the above are very noble, but they seem to be hardly in accordance with historical experience or with human nature as we know it. The race war on the Pacific coast, and the murderous attacks by strikers on free labourers who have taken their place which are of frequent occurrence in all countries, show that even Socialists are apt to rely rather on threats, violence, and superior force than on brotherliness and reason, although the Chinaman and the Japanese have, according to the Socialist doctrines given in the foregoing, as much right to earn a living as any white man.

"Socialism is essentially international. It recognises no distinction between the various nations comprising the modern civilised world. 'My country, right or wrong,' the expression of modern patriotism, is the very antithesis of Socialism.... This internationalism means liberty and equality between nations as between individuals, and amalgamation as soon as feasible, and as close as possible, under the red flag of Social Democracy, which does not recognise national distinctions or the division of progressive humanity into nations and races."[520] "The new community will be built up on an international basis. The nations will fraternise together, will shake hands over old quarrels, and unite in gradually extending the new State over all peoples of the earth."[521]

"Nationalisation is only the beginning of Socialism. Once let any nation be thoroughly imbued with the Socialist spirit, it will become a missionary nation. It will preach the glad tidings of salvation to people of other tongues, and that which was national shall become universal: East and West, North and South, all shall realise, all shall rejoice in, the glorious brotherhood of man."[522]

The "brotherhood of man" reminds one of the French Revolution. Like the French Revolution, Socialism has imposed upon itself the mission to convert the world to its doctrine, and people may again be placed before the alternative "La Fraternite ou la Mort."

Let despots frown and tyrants sneer, The red flag is unfurled; We'll to our principles adhere And socialise the world.[523]

Being anxious to "socialise the world," Socialists eagerly note every progress of Socialism in foreign countries from Paris to Pekin. For instance, we read in the "Reformers' Year Book": "The belief that the quick-witted Japanese would, at the beginning of their new civilisation, avoid the evils of European capitalism by accepting a scheme of Socialism is not being fulfilled. The dividend-hunter, who has been to Europe and received a business training, is fastening the chains of monopoly upon the people. To meet this growing danger there is already a thriving Socialist-Labour party, which has a daily newspaper, the 'Hikari' ('Light')."[524] To facilitate the "socialisation of the world" and the introduction of "the brotherhood of man" by making Socialism truly international, Socialists are urged to study Esperanto, which apparently is to be the international Socialist language of the future. The "Clarion" and other Socialist papers regularly contain articles written in Esperanto, and the anti-patriotic writings of Herve and Gohier—an extract from the writings of the former will be found in Chapter XIII.—have been translated into Esperanto, apparently in the hope that these incendiary pamphlets may help in bringing about the great Socialist revolution.

Among the 'immediate reforms' demanded in the programme of the Social-Democratic Federation (see Appendix) are to be found the demands: "The people to decide on peace and war. The establishment of international courts of arbitration." In view of these demands, which are made by most Socialist organisations, it is quite natural that Socialists condemn the secret action of diplomacy. For instance, a Socialist writer remarks on the Anglo-French agreements: "Are we the masters of our destinies, when a Delcasse may at any moment immerse us in international troubles of the first magnitude? Lord Lansdowne, as the accomplice of Delcasse, was equally guilty, and Sir Edward Grey, by now securing this triple alliance without the consent or the knowledge of the 150 millions of people whom it most vitally concerns, completes a trio of international plotters and murderers."[525]

Many Socialists believe that wars may soon be abolished by international agreement, either among the nations or among the working masses, who will force their views upon the governments. According to a very prolific Socialist writer, "There are many signs and portents to-day that the evil of war, which is not more deeply rooted than was slavery a hundred years ago, will, ere long, meet a similar fate."[526] And what are the "signs and portents" upon which the belief is based that war will be abolished? "It is a significant fact that whenever the working classes meet to discuss this question of war, they invariably express themselves in favour of its speedy end. A few days ago, when the Trades Union Congress met at Liverpool, when delegates were present representing some two millions of the organised workers of the country, the representative of the Navvies' Union declared, amid the resounding cheers of the Congress, that it was impossible for a man to be a Christian and in favour of war at the same time."[527] The Navvies' Union will no doubt play a great part in the foreign policy of the Socialist commonwealth, but is the importance of their declaration not exaggerated? Wars begin, as a rule, by an act of aggression. What would the Navvies' Union and the Trades Union Congress have said if the secretary had read a telegram stating that British ships had been fired upon and sunk by an enemy, or that British territory had been invaded and British blood had been spilt? I fear that eternal peace is not yet in sight, notwithstanding the "sign and portent" of the statement made by the representative of the Navvies' Union. Indeed, clear-headed foreign Socialists are aware of the very limited usefulness of Peace Conferences, and they deride disarmament proposals, such as that submitted to the last Hague Conference by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman.

An exceedingly able article in the foremost Socialist organ of Germany gave, early in the spring of 1907, the following views on the probable result of The Hague Conference and on the British proposals regarding the limitation of armaments, views which are particularly interesting because they show the sound good sense of the German Socialists and the difference between the political views of German and British Socialists. The article stated:

"Just as the first Hague Conference of 1898 in reality achieved nothing more than a few secondary amendments to the law of nations, conformity with which was left completely to the fancy of the individual Powers, so the second Hague Conference will, it is highly probable, result in nothing further than a few general peace assertions and international arrangements which, when it comes to a war, will not outlive the first interchange of shots. Certainly the English Premier is right. There does exist among the thoughtful persons in all European States an intellectual tendency towards the peaceful settlement of differences between the nations and the diminution of the gigantic military and naval armaments. But this body of thoughtful people is—as the last elections in Germany have again proved—on the whole rather small; and above all, these thoughtful people do not belong to the economically powerful class who determine the policy of Governments.

"The old ideologic conception of the English free trade doctrine, that the free exchange of goods between the nations leads to the abolition of war, to the brotherhood of humanity, that conception which found its most original expression in Dr. Bowring's exclamation 'Free trade is Jesus Christ,' still haunts some people's minds. With the greatest number of the liberal advocates of disarmament, their point of view originates simply in the consideration that the strong naval and military armaments demand more and more, not only from England's purse, but from her human material, while, on the other hand, England possesses all that she can expect, and has, on that account, not much more to gain. All over the earth's surface she has the most valuable colonies, and is, since the alliances with Japan and France, in a perfectly secure position, which awakens in her the wish to consolidate her position and to economise her finances for the upholding of her supremacy. It is that satisfied state of mind which makes the fortunate winner of the game say, 'Let us leave off; I am tired of playing now.' English capitalists feel themselves in a safe position. Nothing can easily go wrong at present. The thing is, therefore, to secure what they have got and to diminish the heavy burdens. This desire is comprehensible—only the other Powers will probably not respect it.

"The working-class party is very much in sympathy with the disarmament idea in itself. For this party is the most consistent opponent of militarism, and demands in its programme not only the formation of a citizen army in place of the standing army, but also that questions of peace and war should be determined by the people themselves, and that all international differences should be settled by arbitration. But no amount of sympathy can get over the fact that in the present capitalist world there is very little chance of a general disarmament of the Powers. The conception that war is only a product of human unreason is on the same level as the idea that revolutions are only mental aberrations of the masses. War is rooted in the opposing interests of the nations, as are revolutions in the opposing interests of the classes."[528]


[510] Macdonald, Socialism, p. 120.

[511] Marx and Engels, Manifesto, p. 1

[512] Marx and Engels, Manifesto, p. 31.

[513] Bax, Religion of Socialism, pp. 126, 127.

[514] Debate, Hyndman, Will Socialism Benefit the English People? Introduction.

[515] Mann, International Labour Movement, p. 6.

[516] See, for instance, Hyndman in The Transvaal War and the Degradation of England.

[517] Snowden, The Individual under Socialism, p. 14.

[518] Keir Hardie, From Serfdom to Socialism, p. 10.

[519] Clarion Song Book, p. 25.

[520] Bax and Quelch, A New Catechism of Socialism, p. 31.

[521] Bebel, Woman in the Past, Present, and Future, p. 235.

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

[523] Neil, Songs of the Social Revolution, p. 13.

[524] Reformers' Year Book, 1907, p. 195.

[525] Social-Democrat, September 1907, p. 534.

[526] Ward, The War Drum shall Throb no Longer, p. 13.

[527] Ibid. p. 14.

[528] Vorwaerts, March 10, 1907, translated in the Social-Democrat, April 1907, pp. 220-224.



Most Socialists, British and foreign, are opposed to the existing armies, for two reasons:

(1) Because they wish to overturn practically all existing institutions from the Monarchy downwards, and they fear that the military may defend the status quo;

(2) Because they aim at the abolition of States and of nationality and at the disappearance of frontiers, as the ideal Socialist State of the future would, for economic and political reasons, have to embrace the world.

The Socialist State of the future, embracing the whole universe, can be created only after the existing States have been overturned. Therefore the more immediate aim of Socialists is to seize upon the political power in accordance with the advice given by Karl Marx in his celebrated "Manifesto."[529]

Most Socialists apparently believe that not by Parliamentary means but only by violence will they succeed in making themselves supreme, for we are told: "The ballot-box is no doubt a safer weapon than the rifle; but even when there will be a sufficient number of people in these islands convinced of the necessity and possibility of the co-operative commonwealth, the end will not yet be certain. There are the classes in possession to be considered. Are they going to allow themselves to be voted out? Will they respect a franchise and ballot-box which will vote that they shall get off the backs of the workers? Franchise 'Reform' Bills—and it is astonishing to what use 'reform' can now be put—can be rushed through Parliament, like Crimes Acts, in twenty-four hours; and there is the 'voluntary' professional army, under military law, to overawe the recalcitrants who may resent the suffrage and the ballot-box being jerrymandered against the popular interest. But none are so likely to be overawed by threatened displays of armed force—whether voluntary or conscript—as those who have a difficulty in distinguishing the butt end of a rifle from its muzzle."[530]

Under the heading "Will it come to barricades?" we read: "The barricade is to-day, all will agree, in this country at any rate, an impossible weapon. Armed insurrection on the part of the workers in this country would to-day be the height of folly, and will continue to be so, so long as our standing army of hired mercenaries exists. Standing armies are the instruments of capitalist oppression at home and aggression abroad. But so long as even one great Power maintains the present form of military organisation, so long as war is possible, so long will it be necessary that some form of military organisation exist in all countries. We dare not preach peace when we know there can be no peace. This is why the Socialists of all countries are to-day in favour of an educational policy which will make every citizen fit for military service within the ranks of a citizen army, organised and maintained for purposes of defence only. The advantages of such a force, from the Socialist standpoint, are so obvious that they need hardly be stated. And it would at least put the working class in a position to understand what a barricade means, and how, if need be, to act in their own defence. There are, I am well aware, a handful of individual Socialists with us who are against universal military training, but they are a diminishing quantity, and will in due season find their natural vocation within the ranks of the Liberty and Property Defence League."[531]

Mr. Quelch, the editor of "Justice," shares the foregoing opinion, for he tells us: "Revolutions, it is said, can no longer be accomplished by force, but only by peaceful means—the vote, Parliamentary action, and legislation. It may be so, but it will be unprecedented if the present ruling class surrender without a struggle. And if they had the armed force of the nation at their command, they would struggle successfully no matter what the Legislature may have done. The ruling class will not be made to submit to law and order which is not their law and order, except by overwhelmingly superior force. Nobody supposes that in such a contest the people could win against the ruling class unless they had been able first to win over the army. With a professional 'voluntary' army, well paid and well affected to its paymasters, such winning over would be practically impossible. But with the armed nation there would be no winning over required. An armed nation—whatever it may do or submit to—is essentially a free nation, and whatever such a nation determines upon, that it can do and have, in spite of any ruling class."[532]

Similar opinions have frequently been expressed by leading Continental Socialists. Herr Kautsky, for instance, wrote under the heading "Expropriation of the Expropriators," as follows: "The arming of the people is a political measure. It can, under certain circumstances, cost just as much as a standing army, but it is needed for the safety of the democracy in order to deprive the Government of its most important weapon against the people."[533]

Those who are of opinion that only the extreme section of British Socialists, the revolutionary wing, is hostile to the army, are mistaken. This may be seen from the following resolution of the Fabian Society, which is the most moderate exponent of British Socialism: "Armies act as a standing menace not to neighbouring States, but to the working populations of their own countries. A study of the strategical disposition of many of the great railway stations and barracks of the Continent will prove that the most important function of the modern army is to suppress the resistance of labour to capital in the war of classes."[534]

Among the "immediate reforms" demanded in the programme of the Social-Democratic Federation[535] we find a demand for "the abolition of standing armies and the establishment of national citizen forces." Army and police are to most Socialists very objectionable because it is their function to protect the national order and national property against predatory, anarchistic, and revolutionary attempts. Therefore it is only natural that "No Social Democrat regards the present police system as a satisfactory one, or a professional police as other than a dubious expedient."[536] According to the opinion held by many Socialists, "The soldier's primary function is to come to the rescue of the policeman when the latter is overpowered."[537]

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