British Socialism - An Examination of Its Doctrines, Policy, Aims and Practical Proposals
by J. Ellis Barker
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British Anarchists are closely watching the British Socialist Labour movement, which they wish to lead into Anarchist channels. Thus we learn from an Anarchist monthly: "The question of the position to be taken in relation to the labour movement is certainly one of the greatest importance to Anarchists. It does not suffice for us to form groups for propaganda and for revolutionary action. We must convert as far as possible the mass of the workers, because without them we can neither overthrow the existing society nor reconstitute a new one. And since to rise from the submissive state in which the great majority of the proletarians now vegetate to a conception of Anarchism and a desire for its realisation, is required an evolution which generally is not passed through under the sole influence of the propaganda; since the lessons derived from the facts of daily life are more efficacious than all doctrinaire preaching, it is for us to take an active part in the life of the masses and to use all the means which circumstances permit to gradually awaken the spirit of revolt, and to show by these facts the path which leads to emancipation. Amongst these means the Labour movement stands first, and we should be wrong to neglect it. In this movement we find numbers of workers who struggle for the amelioration of their conditions. They may be mistaken as to the aim they have in view and as to the means of attaining it, and in our view they generally are. But at least they no longer resign themselves to oppression nor regard it as just—they hope and they struggle. We can more easily arouse in them that feeling of solidarity towards their exploited fellow-workers and of hatred against exploitation, which must lead to a definitive struggle for the abolition of all domination of man over man."[1086] Anarchists therefore constantly try to influence the British Socialist Labour movement. When, for instance, in the autumn of 1907 the possibility of a railway strike was being discussed, Anarchists did their best to bring about a revolutionary struggle: "The railway crisis must have shown very clearly that if the men had but the will, they have the power to bring about at any time a revolutionary situation in the struggle of labour against capital. Some day they will have to do this, for the conditions of the conflict will leave them no choice. They will perhaps learn also that the glorification of a man like Bell—whose fooling of their cause is his method of advertisement—means putting powers into one man's hands that no man ought to possess. Nothing could be more absurd than the prolongation of this 'crisis' which has been done so that one man might have the centre of the stage, while hundreds of thousands of men toil on in suspense. Bell is everything: the workers are mere cyphers. Yet this man is mistrusted by many; and everyone knows how on occasion he can join the feast of the directors and be one of them. And if generalship were needed, what an ass this would be to attempt to lead the men to victory! Successful strikes are never made by the farcical tactics of a Bell. Recognition, forsooth! They'll recognise you when you strike. Workers, watch your leaders!"[1087]

In view of the connection existing between British Socialism and Anarchism, it is but natural that Socialists have become the apologists of Anarchism. "The vulgar notion that Anarchism is a synonym for disorder is as nearly as possible the reverse of the truth. It is Governments and Laws that do all the mischief. They produce the very evils they pretend to remedy."[1088] "Verily the State is the evil. Back to the land. Back to the simple life. Away with Governments, palavers, Dumas, and Courts of Law. Long live the Commune."[1089]

Anarchists contend that the "Social Revolution" for which most Socialists strive will become an Anarchist revolution: "If the workers succeed by revolt in destroying the mutual insurance society of landlords, bankers, priests, judges, and soldiers; if the people become masters of their destiny for a few months, and lay hands on the riches they have created and which belong to them by right—will they really begin to reconstitute that blood-sucker, the State[1090]?" "On the day when ancient institutions splinter into fragments before the axe of the proletariat, voices will be heard shouting: Bread for all! Lodging for all! Right for all to the comforts of life! And these voices will be heeded. The people will say to themselves: Let us begin by satisfying our thirst for the life, the joy, the liberty we have never known. And when all have tasted happiness we will set to work; the work of demolishing the last vestiges of middle-class rule, with its account-book morality, its philosophy of debit and credit, its institutions of mine and thine. 'While we throw down we shall be building' as Proudhon said, 'we shall build in the name of Communism and of Anarchy."[1091] Anarchists are authorities on revolutions. Very likely Prince Kropotkin's view is right.

There are two kinds of Anarchists: Philosophic Anarchists who propagate their views by speech and pen, and Anarchists of action who propagate their views by dynamite and dagger, and the former are responsible for the crimes of the latter. Many British Socialists defend not only philosophic Anarchism, but also that form of Anarchism which finds its expression in murder.

Leading British Socialists refer, for instance, to the four Anarchists, Spies, Fischer, Engel, and Parsons, the heroes of the Chicago bomb outrage, who were responsible for the death of six policemen and for the wounding of about sixty, and who were hanged in November 1886 in Chicago, as "martyrs,"[1092] and British Socialists are urged to follow the glorious footsteps of the Chicago Anarchists:

Then on to revolution, boys! Keep Freedom's highway broad. The path where Spies and Parsons fell—as fearlessly they trod; And though we fall as they fell—millions follow on the road, To carry the Red Flag to victory.[1093]

The sympathy which British Socialists feel for the Chicago Anarchists arises from the similarity of their aims. The programme of the American Anarchists was, according to the Pittsburg proclamation, as follows:

(1) Destruction of the existing class rule, by all means, i.e. by energetic, relentless, revolutionary, and international action. (2) Establishment of a free Society based upon co-operative organisation of production. (3) Free exchange of equivalent products by and between the productive organisations without commerce and profit-mongery. (4) Organisation of education on a secular, scientific, and equal basis for both sexes. (5) Equal rights for all without distinction of sex or race. (6) Regulation of all public affairs by free contracts between the autonomous (independent) communes and associations resting on a federalists basis.[1094]

The attitude of many leading British Socialists towards the murdering of monarchs and statesmen may be gauged from the following extracts: "On the occasion of the assassination of any potentate or statesman, the public opinion of the possessing class and its organs is lashed up to a white heat of artificial fury and indignation against the perpetrator, while they have nothing but approbation for the functionary—military or civil—who puts to death a fellow-creature in the course of what they are pleased to call his duty. Evidently force and bloodshed, when contrary to the interests of the possessing class, is a monstrous crime, but when it is in their favour it becomes a duty and a necessity."[1095] "We believe the 'potting' of the 'heads' of States to be a foolish and reprehensible policy, but the matter does not concern us as Socialists. We have our own quarrel with the Anarchists, both as to principles and tactics, but that is no reason why, as certain persons seem to think, we should put on sackcloth and ashes, and dissolve ourselves in tears because, say, M. Carnot or the head of any other State has been assassinated by Anarchists. What is Carnot to us or we to Carnot, that we should weep for him? We do not specially desire the death of political personages, while we often regret their slaying on grounds of expediency, if on no others. But at the same time Socialists have no sentimental tears to waste over the heads of States and their misfortunes. To the Socialist the head of a State, as such, is simply a figure-head to whose fate he is indifferent—a ninepin representing the current political and social order."[1096]

We're low, we're low, we're very very low. And yet when the trumpets ring. The thrust of a poor man's arm will go Through the heart of the proudest king.[1097]

The "Socialist Annual" contains in its calendar pages numerous items under the heading "For the Working Class to Remember," which is filled with Socialist dates such as "birth of Mr. Blatchford," and with the records of the most conspicuous Anarchist, Nihilist, and Revolutionary crimes. Details regarding the deeds of Orsini and Louise Michel, Jack Cade and Wat Tyler, the execution of Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette, the assassination of Presidents Lincoln, McKinley, and Carnot, the attempt on King Alfonso, and other facts are there recorded—"for the working class to remember." Earlier or later the Socialist-Communist-Anarchist agitation in Great Britain may, and very likely will, lead to Anarchist outrages.


[1073] Prince Kropotkin, Anarchism, p. 16.

[1074] B. Shaw, The Impossibilities of Anarchism, p. 24.

[1075] Davidson, The Democrat's Address, p. 15.

[1076] Bax, Paris Commune, p. 35.

[1077] Bax, Essays in Socialism, pp. 98, 99.

[1078] Davidson, Christ, State, and Commune, pp. 16, 17.

[1079] Ibid. p. 6.

[1080] Blatchford, God and My Neighbour, p. 195.

[1081] Thompson, That Blessed Word Liberty, p. 13.

[1082] Davidson, The Old Order and the New, p. 172.

[1083] Kropotkin, Anarchism, p. 8.

[1084] Brockhaus, Konversations Lexikon, vol. i. p. 578.

[1085] Shaw, The Impossibilities of Anarchism, p. 26.

[1086] Freedom, November 1907.

[1087] Freedom, November 1907.

[1088] Davidson, Christ, State, and Commune, p. 22.

[1089] Ibid. p. 31.

[1090] Kropotkin, Anarchism, p. 19.

[1091] Kropotkin, The Wage System, p. 15.

[1092] See Leatham, Lives of the Chicago Martyrs.

[1093] Social-Democratic Federation Song Book, p. 35.

[1094] Bliss, Encyclopedia of Social Reform, p. 63.

[1095] Bax and Quelch, A New Catechism of Socialism, p. 31.

[1096] Bax, A Short History of the Paris Commune, p. 78.

[1097] Independent Labour Party Song Book, p. 33.



The "Socialist Catechism" contains the following passage: "Q. How are forms of government changed so as to readjust them to the economical changes in the forms of production which have been silently evolving in the body of society? A. By means of revolution.—Q. Give an instance of this? A. The French Revolution of 1789."[1098]

Many British Socialists are revolutionaries. They hope to introduce Socialism into Great Britain by revolutionary means. They have studied the French revolutions, and have become pupils of the French revolutionary leaders. "Socialism is essentially revolutionary, politically and economically, as it aims at the complete overthrow of existing economic and political conditions. We should organise and be prepared for what might be described as a revolutionary outbreak. The economic changes which are taking place, and the corresponding changes in other conditions, are bringing about a revolutionary transformation in human society, and what we have to do is to help on this development, and to prepare the way for it."[1099] "We Socialists are not reformers; we are revolutionists. We Socialists do not propose to change forms. We care nothing for forms. We want a change of the inside of the mechanism of society; let the form take care of itself."[1100] British Socialism was founded by revolutionary Communists. Marx was a revolutionary. "For a number of years the late William Morris, the greatest man whom the Socialist movement has yet claimed in this country, held and openly preached this doctrine of cataclysmic upheaval and sudden overthrow of the ruling classes."[1101] That idea has been revived by modern British Socialists, many of whom believe that "The only effective way to induce the ruling class to attempt to palliate the evils of their system is to organise the workers for the overthrow of that system."[1102] "In the International Socialist movement we are at last in the presence of a force which is gathering unto itself the rebel spirits of all lands and uniting them into a mighty host to do battle, not for the triumph of a sect, or of a race, but for the overthrow of a system which has filled the world with want and woe. 'Workers of the world, unite!' wrote Karl Marx; 'you have a world to win and nothing to lose but your chains.' And they are uniting under the crimson banner of a world-embracing principle which knows nor sect, nor creed, nor race, and which offers new life and hope to all created beings—the glorious gospel of Socialism."[1103]

In many respects the French Revolution has served as a model to British Socialists of the Anarchist-Revolutionary type. They have adopted its outward emblems, its songs, and its most effective catch-phrases: "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity was the brave and splendid legend inscribed on the blood-red banners of the French Revolutionists. And in strange ways the oppressed and hunger-maddened people sought to realise their ideal. It is still the battle-cry of the English Socialists—indeed, of the world-wide Socialist movement."[1104] In the Socialist song-books a translation of the "Marseillaise" is to be found, which is sung at Socialist gatherings:

Shall hateful tyrants, mischief-breeding, With hireling hosts, a ruffian band, Affright and desolate the land, While Peace and Liberty lie bleeding? To arms! to arms, ye brave! The avenging sword unsheathe! March on! March on! all hearts resolved On Liberty or death.[1105]

In the eyes of many British Socialists the French Revolution was not sufficiently democratic, not sufficiently radical, not sufficiently violent. We are told that the French revolutionaries were soft-hearted men, and that our sympathy with their innocent victims, such as Queen Marie Antoinette, is quite uncalled for. "The Revolution was in its conception, its inception, and its results a middle-class revolution. The revolution was inaugurated by the Parliament of Paris—a pettifogging legal assembly. Marie Antoinette was but one fine useless woman among the millions, and she personified the heedless prodigal selfishness of autocracy. We of the Socialist movement, who are full of the idea of social service, of making a full return to society for the bread we eat, the clothes we wear out, and the house-room we occupy, how can we be expected to think so much of the suffering of one idle extravagant woman and so little of the age-long privation and torture of the hard-working useful mothers and sisters of France? The crimes of ignorant, passionate democracy, of which Burke and Carlyle have made so much, are as a drop in the ocean by comparison with the deliberate enormities perpetrated by enlightened cold-blooded autocracy, from Herod to Nicholas. The democracy has always been pitiful, extremely pitiful. Even the September massacres, carried out by the lowest of the low in an enraged and degraded and terror-stricken populace, are brightened by golden patches of clemency and love such as the annals of class punishment nowhere reveal."[1106]

The outbreak of the Paris Commune of 1871, having been less a "middle-class" revolution, is considered by Socialists with greater approval than the French Revolution of 1789. The philosopher of British Socialism writes: "The Commune of Paris is the one event which Socialists throughout the world have agreed with single accord to celebrate. Every 18th of March witnesses thousands of gatherings throughout the civilised world to commemorate the (alas! only temporary) victory of organised Socialist aspiration over the forces of property and privilege in 1871."[1107] Another leading Socialist writer says: "Year by year as the 18th of March comes round, it is the custom with Socialists to commemorate the proclamation of the Commune of Paris. As a Socialist I am a friend of the Commune."[1108]

What was the Paris Commune, and what did it do? In the words of an impartial publication, "The Communard chiefs were revolutionaries of every sect, who, disagreeing on governmental and economic principles, were united in their vague but perpetual hostility to the existing order of things. History has rarely known a more unpatriotic crime than that of the insurrection of the Commune."[1109] "The Commune was an insurrection which initiated a series of terrible outrages by the murder of the two generals Lecomte and Thomas.... The incapacity and mutual hatred of their chiefs rendered all organisation and durable resistance impossible.... The Communists were committing the most horrible excesses: the Archbishop of Paris, President Bonjean, priests, magistrates, journalists, and private individuals, whom they had seized as hostages, were shot in batches in prisons, and a scheme of destruction was ruthlessly carried into effect by men and women with cases of petroleum. The Hotel de Ville, the Palais de Justice, the Tuileries, the Ministry of Finance, the Palace of the Legion of Honour, that of the Council of State, part of the Rue de Rivoli, &c., were ravaged by the flames; barrels of gunpowder were placed in Notre Dame and the Pantheon ready to blow up the buildings, and the whole city would have been involved in ruin if the national troops had not gained a last and crowning victory."[1110]

Socialists have nothing but praise for the Communards, who killed and burned, desecrated the churches and devastated the town. They speak with enthusiasm of the leaders of that outbreak as of heroes who fought for the "Brotherhood of Man," and they exalt them above the saints of early Christianity. The philosopher of British Socialism exclaims: "Limitless courage and contempt of death was displayed in defence of an ideal, the colossal proportions of which dwarf everything in history, and which alone suffices to redeem the sordidness of the nineteenth century. Here was a heroism in the face of which the much-belauded Christian martyrs cut a very poor figure."[1111] "It was in the Commune that we saw manifested as never before the strong compelling force of a secular altruism. Without hope of heaven and without fear of hell, men lived and died for the idea of a brotherhood of self-governing and self-respecting men and women."[1112]

Even the murderous Paris Commune was too moderate for the taste of many British Socialists, who favour sterner measures. The philosopher of British Socialism informs us; "The Commune had one special fault, that of a fatuous moderation in all its doings. Probably never since history began have any body of men allowed themselves and theirs to be treated as lambs in the slaughterhouse with more lamb-like forbearance and absence of retaliation than the Commune and its adherents; we have seen this illustrated by the incredible fact that up to the last, amid all the slaughterings of Communists, the vast majority of the hostages and prisoners in its hands remained unscathed."[1113] "One of the most unfortunate characteristics of the leaders of the Commune was their sensitiveness to bourgeois public opinion. The first thing for the leader of a revolutionary movement to learn is a healthy contempt for the official public opinion of the 'civilised world.' He must resolutely harden his heart against its 'thrills of horror,' its 'indignation,' its 'abomination,' and its 'detestation,' and he must learn to smile at all the names it will liberally shower upon him and his cause."[1114]

Whilst the revolutionary criminals who ruled by murder and arson were heroes and martyrs, the defenders of law and order were criminals according to British Socialists: "The thirst of the well-to-do classes for the blood of the Communards was insatiable. The latter were tried and shot in batches."[1115] "The Communards, desperate as they were, only faintly imitated the wholesale savagery of the regular troops."[1116] Peaceful M. Thiers, being at the head of the government, was "probably the cleverest, most hypocritical, and most unscrupulous villain that ever denied the pages of history."[1117]

Although Socialists pose as democrats, they do not believe in majority government.[1118] Being aware that they will hardly be able to gain over the majority of the people to their revolutionary and visionary plans, they may, like the Paris Commune, try to force Socialism upon an unwilling majority. Therefore the attempt of the Parisian Socialists to overrule France is not condemned but regretted by the British Socialists: "The revolt was open to the objection that may be urged against most insurrections. It was an attempt to impose the will of a minority on a large majority of the people. The Socialists in the Commune must have realised at times that the people of France were not prepared for even the small instalments of Socialism which they sought to introduce. The revolutionists may have thought to impose their policy upon France by a mere coup de main."[1119]

The attitude of Socialists makes it appear possible that the revolutionary outbreak of 1871 will not be the last. The next revolutionary attempt may conceivably take place in Great Britain. "One man with an idea in his head is in danger of being considered a madman; two men with the same idea in common may be foolish, but can hardly be mad; ten men sharing an idea begin to act; a hundred draw attention as fanatics, a thousand and society begins to tremble, a hundred thousand and there is war abroad."[1120] "Whilst our backers at the polls are counted by tens, we must continue to crawl and drudge and lecture as best we can. When they are counted by hundreds, we can permeate and trim and compromise. When they rise to tens of thousands, we shall take the field as an independent party. Give us hundreds of thousands, as you can if you try hard enough, and we will ride the whirlwind and direct the storm."[1121]


[1098] Joynes, A Socialist Catechism, p. 13.

[1099] Bax and Quelch, A New Catechism of Socialism, p. 37.

[1100] De Leon, Reform or Revolution, p. 3.

[1101] Keir Hardie, From Serfdom to Socialism, p. 23.

[1102] Socialist Standard, October 1, 1907.

[1103] Keir Hardie, From Serfdom to Socialism, p. 86.

[1104] Ethel Snowden, The Woman Socialist, p. 10.

[1105] Independent Labour Party Song Book, p. 20.

[1106] Leatham, French Revolution, pp. 13, 14.

[1107] Bax, Paris Commune, Preface.

[1108] Leatham, The Commune of Paris, p. 3.

[1109] Encyclopaedia Britannica, vol. xxviii. p. 480.

[1110] Encyclopaedia Britannica, vol. xviii. p. 294.

[1111] Bax, Paris Commune, p. 59.

[1112] Leatham, The Commune of Paris, p. 18.

[1113] Bax, Paris Commune, p. 74.

[1114] Ibid. p. 88.

[1115] Leatham, The Commune of Paris, p. 13.

[1116] Ibid. p. 19.

[1117] Bax, Paris Commune, p. 86.

[1118] See Chapters XV. and XXX. ante.

[1119] Leatham, The Commune of Paris, p. 15.

[1120] Morris, Art, Labour, and Socialism, p. 24.

[1121] Shaw, The Fabian Society and its Early History, p. 28.



Most Socialist agitators in Great Britain oppose and condemn State Socialism for two reasons: firstly, because, owing to their Communist and Anarchist leanings, they oppose and hate the State as such, as has been shown in the Chapters on "Socialism and Communism," "Socialism and Anarchism," "Socialism and Revolution"; secondly, because with the introduction of State Socialism their occupation would be gone. Socialist agitators do not wish others to govern the State. They wish to govern it themselves. The welfare of the masses is to them apparently only a secondary consideration. Hence most British Socialist agitators condemn the State Socialism of Germany, though it has greatly benefited the masses, and perhaps because it has greatly benefited the masses. They also condemn the British Post Office, although, being not overburdened with scruples, they praise it to the skies as a Socialistic model institution when it happens to suit them. In fact, most Socialist leaders condemn all existing Government institutions, ostensibly because they are capitalistic enterprises which are run at a "profit," and because they "exploit" their workers. It would of course be fatal to the Socialist agitators had they to preach the gospel of envy and hatred, of destruction and pillage, to the contented.

"The State of to-day, nationally and locally, is only the agent of the possessing class."[1122] "Mere nationalisation or mere municipalisation of any industry is not Socialism or Collectivism; it may be only the substitution of corporate for private administration; the social idea and purpose with which Collectivism is concerned may be completely absent."[1123] "Mere Statification, as we may term it, does not mean Socialism. The State of to-day is mainly an agent of the possessing classes, and industrial or commercial undertakings run to-day by Governmental bodies are largely run in the interests of these classes. Their aim in all cases is to show a profit, in the same way as ordinary capitalistic enterprises. This profit accrues to the possessing classes in the form of relief of imperial or local taxation, mainly paid by them, interests on loans, &c. In other words, these industrial undertakings are run for profit and not for use, and their employees are little, if at all, better off than those of private employers."[1124] "The modern State is but the organisation which capitalist society gives itself in order to maintain the external conditions of capitalist production against the attacks both of the workmen and of individual capitalists. The modern State, whatever its form, is essentially a capitalist machine."[1125] "State administration is very far from being the same as a Socialistic administration, as is sometimes erroneously supposed. The State administration is just as much a system of capitalistic exploitation as if the institutions in question were in the hands of private undertakers."[1126] "A bureaucracy—that is, a body of permanent officials, entrenched in Government departments, according to whose piping ministers themselves have willingly or unwillingly to dance—is totally incompatible with the very elementary conditions of Socialistic administration."[1127] "Bismarckian State control is brusque and baneful, and is certainly not the desire of the true Socialist."[1128]

"State ownership, State tyranny, State interference exist to-day. We have to bear them now; we have to submit to them now; we have to pay for them now. The people, as such, own nothing. And the Socialists demand that the people shall own everything. Not the 'State,' the 'People.' So great is the difference between the word 'State' and the word 'people.'"[1129] "Do you propose that all these means of production which are now owned by individuals, by this class, as you say, should be made the property of the Government, like the Post Office and the telegraph system are in this country, and the railways as well in some others, or that they should be owned by municipal bodies, as waterworks, tramways, gasworks, and so on, are in many cases already?—No. Socialism does not mean mere Governmental ownership or management. The State of to-day, nationally or locally, is only the agent of the possessing class; the Post Office and the other State-owned businesses are run for profit just as other businesses are; and the Government, as the agent of the possessing class, has, in the interests of its employers, to treat the employees just as other employees are treated. The organised democratic society contemplated by Socialists is a very different thing from the class State of to-day. When society is organised for the control of its own business, and has acquired the possession of its own means of production, its officers will not be the agents of a class, and production will be carried on for the use of all and not for the profit of a few."[1130] "The Post Office to-day is an organised sweating-den. The Government get the largest possible amount of work for the lowest possible wages. That is capitalist wage-slavery under Government control."[1131] "The country postman has to walk excessive distances for miserable wages in order that the profit on the Post Office may be filched from the employees and from the public by the Chancellor of the Exchequer."[1132]

The Fabians, on the other hand, advocate State Socialism, but they are a small minority. "The Socialism advocated by the Fabian Society is State Socialism exclusively."[1133] Some Socialists would welcome State Socialism in the hope that it would prepare the way for free Communism. Mr. Keir Hardie, for instance, says: "State Socialism with all its drawbacks, and these I frankly admit, will prepare the way for free Communism, in which the rule, not merely the law of the State, but the rule of life will be—From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."[1134]

"Socialists only believe in the fraternal State. Paternal State Socialism all Socialists unanimously oppose."[1135]


[1122] Bax and Quelch, A New Catechism of Socialism, p. 8.

[1123] Ball, The Moral Aspects of Socialism, p. 9.

[1124] Bax, Essays in Socialism, p. 7.

[1125] Engels, Development of Socialism from Utopia to Science, p. 71.

[1126] Bebel, Woman, pp. 198, 199.

[1127] Bax, Essays in Socialism, p. 9.

[1128] Ben Tillett, Trades Unionism and Socialism, p. 14.

[1129] Clarion, October 18, 1907.

[1130] Bax and Quelch, A New Catechism of Socialism, pp. 8, 9.

[1131] Hyndman, Social-Democracy, p. 22.

[1132] Fabian Election Manifesto, 1892, p. 3.

[1133] Report on Fabian Policy, 1896, p. 5.

[1134] Keir Hardie, From Serfdom to Socialism, p. 89.

[1135] Bliss, Encyclopedia of Social Reform, p. 1262.



The Social-Democratic Federation is the most honest and straightforward of the various Socialist organisations. Its aims are revolutionary, as the following statement proves:

"The Social-Democratic Federation is a militant Socialist organisation whose members—men and women—belong almost entirely to the working classes. Its object is the realisation of Socialism—the emancipation of the working class from its present subjection to the capitalist class. The means by which it seeks to attain that end are: agitation, education, and the organisation of the working class into a class-conscious political party—that is, a party clearly conscious of the present position of the workers as a subject class, in consequence of all the means of production being owned and controlled by another class, and clearly conscious of its duty and mission to free them from that position by the conquest of all the powers of the State, and by making all the means of production collective common property, to be used for the benefit of all instead of for the profit of a class. To this end the Social-Democratic Federation proclaims and preaches the class war."[1136]

"According to the report for the year ending March 1907 it has 186 branches and affiliated societies. One of its members sits in Parliament as a member of the Labour party, and about 120 are members of various local bodies. Its gross income and expenditure through, out the country is estimated at 15,500l. It has a weekly paper, 'Justice,' and a monthly magazine, 'The Social-Democrat.'[1137] "In its own estimation "Justice" is "the most respected of Socialist newspapers."[1138]

The various Socialist organisations do not love each other. The Fabian Society caustically remarks: "The Federation runs a newspaper called 'Justice' which has not hitherto been worth a penny to any man whose pence are so scarce as a labourer's, and which has made repeated attacks on the ordinary working-class organisations without whose co-operation Socialists can at present do nothing except cry in the wilderness. The branches are expected to sell this paper at their meetings."[1139] "The Social-Democratic Federation is virtually the oldest Socialist society and is certainly the most conservative. It was founded as the Democratic Federation about 1880, and adopted its present name in 1884. Mr. H.M. Hyndman, its most prominent member, imported its doctrines—which were of German origin—and the S.D.F. (as it is familiarly called) has ever since endeavoured to maintain an unshaken faith in all the teachings of Karl Marx. In fact, the S.D.F. changes its doctrines not with the times, but a dozen years or so after; so that it is always rather out of touch with the actualities of politics and attracts the type of mind that prefers clear-cut principles to practical political progress."[1140]

Other Socialist organisations which are less straightforward than the Social-Democratic Federation hide their identity and object under misleading titles. The Independent Labour Party, for instance, is a purely Socialist party notwithstanding its name. "Its object is, an Industrial Commonwealth founded upon the Socialisation of land and capital. Its methods are the education of the community in the principles of Socialism; the industrial and political organisation of the workers; the independent representation of Socialist principles on all elective bodies."[1141] "No one will find much difference in the programmes of the Social-Democratic Federation and the Independent Labour Party."[1142] "The Independent Labour Party, commonly called the I.L.P., which must be carefully distinguished from the Labour party, is much the largest, and politically the most important, Socialist organisation. It was founded at Bradford in 1892, by Mr. Keir Hardie, M.P., and others, and it has from the first advocated Socialism of the English type and endeavoured to work in harmony with trade unionists. The Labour party is mainly due to its initiative, and through its members in trade unions it largely controls the policy of the party. In August 1907 it had over 700 branches, of which 155 had been formed in the preceding six months. Its operations have recently expanded with extraordinary rapidity, its central office expenditure for the years ending February 28 having been 955l. in 1905, 1,817l. in 1906, and 3,552l. in 1907. It does a very large business in the publication and sale of pamphlets and books, and has a weekly paper, "The Labour Leader." At the general election of 1906, eighteen of its members were returned to Parliament, all belonging to the Labour party, and two more have since been elected, one for the Labour party, and one, Mr. Victor Grayson, as an independent Socialist. Over five hundred of its members sit on town councils and other local bodies. The total membership is estimated at 40,000, and its income and expenditure at perhaps 100,000l."[1143] "The Independent Labour Party was formed in January 1893. As years have passed the Independent Labour Party has steadily strengthened its programme, until it is to-day entirely Socialist, but it has not quite got rid of the strain of opportunism, at elections its independence being more in evidence in its name than in its conduct."[1144]

Wishing to secure Socialist and non-Socialist adherents, and masquerading as a Liberal Labour party, the attitude of the Independent Labour Party is not a straightforward one. One of its competitors states: "The Independent Labour Party has continued its policy of bargain-making with capitalist politicians. The leaders at times call themselves Socialists, and at other times protest against frightening their supporters by introducing the word into resolutions. At the general election, Mr. Ramsay Macdonald at Leicester, and Mr. James Parker at Halifax, were amongst the candidates who entered into compacts with the Liberals. At the Amsterdam International Congress they voted for a resolution extolling the 'tried and victorious policy based on the class war,' and on their return to England referred to the class war as a 'shibboleth' and as a 'reactionary and Whiggish precept, certain to lead the movement away from the real aims of Socialism.'"[1145]

The Fabian Society is the least open and the least straightforward Socialist organisation. Ostensibly it adopted its curious name because "for the right moment you must wait, as Fabius did most patiently when warring against Hannibal, though many censured his delays; but when the time comes you must strike hard as Fabius did, or your waiting will be in vain, and fruitless."[1146] In reality the misleading title was probably adopted because the Fabian Society habitually and on principle sails under a false flag, wishing not to arouse suspicion as to its objects.

The object of the small but powerful Fabian Society is a peculiar one: "Founded on a small scale in 1884 and actually the oldest of the three great Socialist organisations, the Fabian Society has never aimed at a large membership or endeavoured to become a political party. Its work has been mainly educational, its endeavour to translate the principles of Socialism into practical politics suited to English conditions. From the first it refused to accept Marxian teaching. The Fabian Society is not a political body, in that it allows its members complete freedom to adopt any method of carrying out the principles they profess. Hence its members in Parliament belong to the Liberal or the Labour party, and they sit as Progressives on London local bodies. The Society is mainly middle-class, and the majority of its members belong to London, where fortnightly meetings are held for the discussion of Socialism. Its great force lies in the ability of many of its members, some of whom, Mr. Bernard Shaw, the dramatist; Mr. Sidney Webb, the political writer; Sir Sydney Olivier, now Governor of Jamaica, have belonged to it from the start; whilst others, such as Mr. H.G. Wells and the Rev. R.J. Campbell, are more recent recruits. Recently it has greatly increased its membership, now nearly 2,000, and has formed substantial branches in the Universities and in many large towns. Eleven of its members sit in Parliament."[1147]

"The chief object to which the Society devotes its resources is the education of the people in political, economic, and social subjects. To effect this purpose it must in the first place educate itself by the discussion of those problems which from time to time appear ripe for solution. Its members therefore undertake the study of such problems, and lay the results before the Society, where they are considered from various points of view. Finally the conclusions adopted and generally approved by the members are published, usually in penny tracts, and by this means made available for the information of all. The Society further endeavours to promote social amelioration by the dissemination of information about existing institutions, in order that better use may be made of the powers already possessed by local administrative authorities, now too often neglectful of their obligations. The same ends are sought to be attained by means of circulating libraries supplied to Working-men's Clubs, Co-operative Societies, Trade Unions, and similar bodies, and by the publication of lists of best books on social and political subjects. The Society also at times engages trained lecturers to give courses of lectures during the winter months on social politics to working-class and other organisations. The members of the Society who control its policy are Socialists; that is to say, are committed to the theory of the probable direction of economic evolution which is now often called Collectivism."[1148]

"The object of the Fabian Society is to persuade the English people to make their political constitution thoroughly democratic, and so to socialise their industries as to make the livelihood of the people entirely independent of private Capitalism. The Fabian Society endeavours to pursue its Socialist and Democratic objects with complete singleness of aim. For example: It has no distinctive opinions on the Marriage Question, Religion, Art, abstract Economics, historic Evolution, Currency, or any other subject than its own special business of practical Democracy and Socialism. It brings all the pressure and persuasion in its power to bear on existing forces, caring nothing by what name any party calls itself, or what principles, Socialist or other, it professes, but having regard solely to the tendency of its actions supporting those which make for Socialism and Democracy and opposing those which are reactionary. It does not propose that the practical steps towards Social Democracy should be carried out by itself, or by any other specially organised society or party. It does not ask the English people to join the Fabian Society. The Fabian Society does not claim to be the people of England, or even the Socialist party, and therefore does not seek direct political representation by putting forward Fabian candidates at elections. But it loses no opportunity of influencing elections and inducing constituencies to select Socialists as their candidates."[1149]

"The Fabian Society, far from holding aloof from other bodies, urges its members to lose no opportunity of joining them and permeating them with Fabian ideas as far as possible."[1150] "The typical Fabian is an uncompromising Socialist and Democrat; but he holds aloof from no association that can possibly be induced to push in his direction. Instead of wasting time in forming new sects, he tries to inoculate with his Socialism the existing organisations—the political clubs, the caucuses, the trade unions, the Press, the co-operative societies, and the rival party leaders."[1151]

Whilst the other Socialist organisations rely chiefly on direct driving force, the Fabian Society relies chiefly on subtle, indirect action and on intrigue. One of its most prominent men boasted: "In 1888 it only cost us twenty-eight postcards, written by twenty-eight members, to convince the newly-born 'Star' newspaper that London was aflame with Fabian Socialism."[1152] "Our policy has been to try to induce some of these regular papers to give a column or two to Socialism, calling it by what name they please. And I have no hesitation in saying that the effect of this policy as shown in the 'Manchester Sunday Chronicle,' the 'Star,' the London 'Daily Chronicle,' and other more exclusively working-class papers, notably the 'Clarion,' has done more for the cause than all the time and money that has been wasted on 'Justice' since the 'Star' was founded. Our mission is to Socialise the Press as we hope to Socialise Parliament and the other estates of the realm, not to run the Press ourselves."[1153]

Owing to these peculiar methods, by which they secured the support of many people who did not know they were Socialists, the Fabians have been very successful in their policy: "In 1888 we had not been found out even by the 'Star.' The Liberal party was too much preoccupied over Mr. O'Brien's breeches and the Parnell Commission, with its dramatic climax in the suicide of the forger Pigott, to suspect that the liveliness of the extreme left of the Radical wing in London meant anything but the usual humbug about working-class interests. We urged our members to join the Liberal and Radical Associations of their districts, or if they preferred it, the Conservative Associations. We told them to become members of the nearest Radical club and co-operative store and to get delegated to the Metropolitan Radical Federation and the Liberal and Radical Union if possible. On these bodies we made speeches and moved resolutions, or better still, got the Parliamentary candidate for the constituency to move them, and secured reports and encouraging little articles for him in the 'Star.' We permeated the party organisations and pulled all the wires we could lay our hands on with our utmost adroitness and energy; and we succeeded so far that in 1888 we gained the solid advantage of a Progressive majority, full of ideas that would never have come into their heads had not the Fabian put them there, on the first London County Council. The generalship of this movement was undertaken chiefly by Sidney Webb, who played such bewildering conjuring tricks with the Liberal thimbles and the Fabian peas that to this day both the Liberals and the sectarian Socialists stand aghast at him."[1154] Fabians rely for their success chiefly on their artfulness. "Always remember that, even if you cannot convert a man to Socialism, you may get his vote all the same."[1155]

Fabian middle-class Socialism differs from the democratic Socialism of the larger Socialist organisations which appeal to the working class: "The Socialism advocated by the Fabian Society is State Socialism exclusively."[1156] "We have never advanced the smallest pretensions to represent the working classes of this country."[1157] Therefore the Fabians are very cordially hated by the Democratic Socialists. The Social-Democratic Federation blames them for their "cynical opportunism."[1158] Another organisation declares: "The Fabian Society poses as a Socialist organisation, for we are told that this Society 'consists of Socialists.' It is indeed composed of middle-class men who naturally deny the class struggle, profess to believe in permeating the capitalist class with Socialism, and hold that the tendency of society is towards government by the expert-Fabianism therefore tends towards the rule of the bureaucrats or that section of the educated middle-class. The Fabians are the cult of the civil service and are Socialists neither in name nor in fact."[1159]

Let us now consider the genesis and character of the great Labour party.

Formerly Socialists and trade unionists marched and fought apart. However, "On the 27th February, 1900, a joint Socialist and Trade Union Conference met in the Memorial Hall, London. One hundred and seventeen delegates were present representing sixty-seven Trade Unions, seven representing the Independent Labour Party, four the Social-Democratic Federation, one the Fabian Society. The result was the formation of the Labour Representation Committee,"[1160] simultaneously representing trade unions and Socialists. "At the General Election of 1906, the Labour Representation Committee ran fifty candidates for Parliament and returned thirty. That year its name was changed to the Labour Party."[1161] The Labour party therefore unites trade unionists and Socialists. The Fabian Society and the Independent Labour party have joined it. Only the Social-Democratic Federation has so far kept aloof from it.

The Labour party, being chiefly composed of trade unionists, is fond of posing as a non-Socialist party. It is true that "Mr. Keir Hardie, the Labour leader, said they did not want Toryism, Liberalism, or Socialism, only Labourism, but the same Keir Hardie sits as a delegate on the International Socialist Bureau."[1162] "Many of the Labour members in Parliament are avowed Socialists. The working-class movement already is largely a Socialist movement, and is in continual process of becoming more so. With the speculative side of Socialism the average man with us has but small concern; it is its common-sense which appeals to him. By inherited instinct we are all Communists at heart."[1163]

"The Labour party, which now has thirty-one members in the House of Commons, is not purely Socialist, but twenty-three or twenty-four of its M.P.s, and nearly all its elected executive, are Socialists. It has no official programme; but in view of its membership its policy is and must be Socialist. This is not because the majority rules. It is because the Socialist section has a policy and the non-Socialist section approves of that policy so far as it can be translated into Bills or resolutions to be laid before Parliament. There is no anti-Socialism in the Labour party. There is far more difference between sections of Liberals or Conservatives than there is between Socialist and non-Socialist Labour men. All these bodies are working more or less together for the same great ends."[1164] The connection between organised Labour and organised Socialism is further illustrated by the important letters printed on pages 141-143 of this book.

The demands and semi-official programme of the Labour party are practically identical with those of avowed Socialists, as may be seen from the following statement of its Secretary:

"We are in favour of the special taxation of land values, of a minimum income-tax on earned incomes, and a super-tax on a graded scale on all incomes over, say, 1,000l. This is described as robbing the rich. That does not express either the purpose or the spirit of the Labour party however. We call it—securing for the public values created by the public. Our critics, if they are to have any effect on intelligent public opinion, must understand this cardinal point in our creed, this axiom in our programme-making. We do not regard taxation as a taking by the State of property which belongs to other people, but the appropriation of property which ought to belong to itself. This theory of taxation goes very far, and its full application involves the complete destruction of parasitic classes. It can only be applied slowly, but as people get clearly to understand that socially-created values should be socially-owned values, many of our most recondite problems, like overcrowding, waste-lands, high rating, will be in a fair way to settlement."[1165]

The foregoing shows that the Labour party, like the most predatory Socialist, wishes to tax all private capital out of existence. "The Labour party is not as yet a purely Socialist organisation, because any attempt to make it such would disrupt it."[1166] However, its rank and file are rapidly being permeated with Socialism.

The following table shows the composition of the Labour party and its numerical strength and growth:


Trades Union Socialist Membership Membership Total 1900-1 353,070 22,861 375,931 1901-2 455,450 13,861 169,311 1902-3 847,315 13,835 861,150 1903-4 956,025 13,775 969,800 1904-5 885,270 14,730 900,000 1905-6 904,496 16,784 921,280 1906-7 975,182 20,885 *998,338

*This total includes 2,271 co-operators"[1167]

Apparently only one-fiftieth of the members of the Labour party are Socialists, but in reality their proportion is very much larger, because only a few working men with Socialistic leanings have actually joined a Socialist party. "When the daily Press states that out of a million affiliated members of the Labour party there are only 17,000 Socialists, its readers naturally inquire, 'How then is it that there are at least twenty Socialists among its thirty M.P.s?' The reply is that as the trade union candidates were elected by the ballot of the members of their respective societies, it must be supposed that those candidates with Socialist views were the most acceptable to the majority of members. This situation was strikingly reflected in the results of the election of 1906. The votes cast for declared Socialists account for 232,378, or 70 per cent. of the total Labour Representation Committee poll of 331,280, whilst of the whole Labour poll, comprising that of the L.R.C., Scottish workers, miners, trades union group, and Socialists, the votes for declared Socialists accounted for 274,631 out of 530,643, or nearly 52 per cent."[1168] "The Labour party is not a Socialist party yet, but those who possess an ear for the great changes now taking place in the depths of the nation will understand that the Labour party is going to be a Socialist party one day."[1169]

It seems likely that the more or less Socialist Labour party in Parliament will soon absorb practically the whole trade union group. "Of the eighteen miners' representatives in the House of Commons fifteen are in the trade union group. In October 1907, at the Conference of the Federated Miners' Associations, a resolution was adopted declaring that the time had come for joining the Labour party and ordering a ballot of the whole Federation area to be taken. It is practically a foregone conclusion that the proposal will be carried, in which case the fifteen miners' representatives now sitting on the Ministerial benches will cross the House and practically double the effective power of the Labour party as against the Government. The trade union group will then practically cease to exist. The railway servants have decided that all their candidates at the next election must join the Labour party. Therefore Richard Bell must sign the constitution of the Labour party or retire in favour of someone who will. Of the remaining seven members of the group W.C. Steadman is the only recognised leader of trade unionism."[1170]

Apart from the larger Socialist parties described in the foregoing, there are two smaller organisations composed of revolutionary Socialists of the most violent type, whose Socialism is a misnomer for Anarchism. They are "The Socialist Party of Great Britain" domiciled in London, and "The Socialist Labour Party" (an American importation), domiciled in Edinburgh. Their programmes, as those of the other Socialist organisations, will be found in the Appendix.

The numerous Socialistic organisations mentioned in this Chapter oppose and fight one another. Many Socialists recommend that a united Socialist party should be formed, but it is clear to all who are acquainted with the inner history of British Socialism that "the vital differences that exist among Socialist parties as to tactics—as to the way to attain Socialism—cannot be glossed over by a few expressions of brotherly love."[1171] The Socialists are divided among themselves, and the rivalry and enmity between some of the sections is deep-seated and bitter. Nominally they differ with regard to the policy to be pursued, but in reality their differences seem to be rather of a personal nature. Socialist leaders, though they have the words "democracy," "freedom," "liberty," and "love" constantly on their lips, are apt to be very autocratic as soon as their sphere of political influence is threatened by competition, and as soon as their private property, their political capital which they have created, is threatened with "socialisation." The men who so glibly recommend the world-wide brotherhood of man, and the socialisation and co-operation of the world, cannot even co-operate among themselves although they pursue the identical immediate aim: the plunder of the well-to-do. It is an old experience that revolutionaries always end in cutting one another's throats.

Some Socialist groups have been formed owing to very peculiar and very unsavoury circumstances. A comparatively innocent though psychologically highly interesting and characteristic Socialist new formation has recently occurred in that ally of the Socialists, the Women's Social and Political Union. "In September 1907 a bombshell was thrown into the camp of the Women's Social and Political Union by the extraordinary action of Mrs. Pankhurst, who, as 'the founder,' announced that she had discharged the Executive Committee of the Union."[1172] In the words of an opponent: "Mrs. Pankhurst tore up the constitution, robbed the branches and members of all control over the National Committee, abolished the annual conference, and elected herself and a few personal friends as an autocratic permanent committee answerable to no one in the world and to sit at her pleasure."[1173] The consequence of this personal squabble among leaders for supremacy was of course the splitting up of the party, and the aggrieved ladies formed a new party, the "Women's Freedom League."

Socialists never tire of declaiming against competition, and of praising co-operation. At present there are two "competitive" Women's Freedom societies. If they continue pushing the identical article of agitation, all custom will go to the larger party. Therefore we may expect that, unless the breach is healed, the two parties will agree to differ "on the basic principles of women's freedom" and will recommend slightly different political mixtures.

The example of France, Germany, and other countries shows that the jealousy and envy of leaders and party tyranny is nowhere greater than among Socialists. It will not be easy for British Socialists to found a united party, especially as it is more difficult to create unity among individualistic Englishmen, who are by their nature impatient of restraint, than among Frenchmen and Germans, who are more used to co-operation and who through their military training have learned the necessity of discipline and the duty of obedience.


[1136] Quelch, The Social-Democratic Federation, p. 3.

[1137] Reformers' Year Book, 1908, pp. 74, 75.

[1138] Annual Report, Social-Democratic Federation Conference 1906, p. 2.

[1139] Shaw, The Fabian Society, p. 23.

[1140] The Secretary of the Fabian Society in Daily Mail Year Book, 1908, p. 72.

[1141] Reformers' Year Book, 1906, p. 73.

[1142] Report of the Twenty-sixth Annual Conference, Social-Democratic Federation, 1906, p. 1.

[1143] Reformers' Year Book, 1908, p. 73; Daily Mail Year Book, 1908, p. 72.

[1144] Annual Report, Social-Democratic Federation Conference, 1906, p. 3.

[1145] Manifesto of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, p. 2.

[1146] Capital and Land, Motto.

[1147] Secretary of Fabian Society in Daily Mail Year Book, 1908, p. 72.

[1148] Official Circular: The Fabian Society.

[1149] Report on Fabian Policy, 1896, p. 3.

[1150] Ibid. p. 4.

[1151] Scottish Leader, September 4, 1890, reprinted by Fabian Society and issued in form of a leaflet.

[1152] Shaw, The Fabian Society, p. 26.

[1153] Ibid. p. 24.

[1154] Shaw, The Fabian Society, pp. 18, 19.

[1155] How to Lose and How to Win an Election, p. 1.

[1156] Report on Fabian Policy, 1896, p. 5.

[1157] Shaw, The Fabian Society, p. 23.

[1158] Annual Report, Social-Democratic Federation Conference, 1906, p. 2.

[1159] Manifesto, Socialist Party of Great Britain, p. 11.

[1160] Macdonald, Socialism, p. 52.

[1161] Ibid. p. 53.

[1162] Manifesto, Socialist Party of Great Britain, p. 13.

[1163] Keir Hardie, From Serfdom to Socialism, pp. 33, 34.

[1164] Secretary, Fabian Society, in Daily Mail Year Book, 1908, p. 73.

[1165] R. Macdonald, M.P., in Daily Mail Year Book, 1908, p. 109.

[1166] Manifesto, Socialist Party of Great Britain, p. 3.

[1167] Reformers' Year Book, 1908, p. 8.

[1168] Reformers' Year Book, 1907, p. 51.

[1169] Social-Democrat, October 1907, p. 607.

[1170] Reformers' Year Book, 1908, p. 23.

[1171] Socialist, December 1907.

[1172] Independent Labour Party Year Book, 1908, p. 28.

[1173] Forward, November 23, 1907.



Up to a recent date the Socialists in Great Britain had neither power nor influence. Whilst Germany, France, and other countries had large Socialist parties, British Socialism was practically unrepresented in Parliament. Many Englishmen thought that the free British democracies did not offer a soil favourable to the growth of Socialism, whilst many Socialist leaders believed that England possessed ideal conditions for effecting a social revolution because no other country contains, proportionally, so large a propertyless proletariat as England.[1174] In view of the large number of propertyless people in Great Britain and the nervous restlessness of the race since it has become a race of town-dwellers we cannot wonder at the rapid growth of British Socialism, and we must look forward to its further increase.

The following most interesting table gives a picture of the growth of the Socialist vote in the three most Socialistic countries on the Continent of Europe, and in Great Britain. It shows that Socialism has apparently passed the zenith on the Continent of Europe, but that it has not yet reached maturity in Great Britain.

"GERMANY Members of Votes Parliament 1867 30,000 8 1878 437,158 9 1887 763,123 11 1890 1,427,298 35 1893 1,876,738 44 1896 2,107,076 57 1903 3,010,472 81 1907 3,258,968 43

GREAT BRITAIN Members of Votes Parliament

1895 46,000 0 1900* 65,000 2 1906* 335,000 30

FRANCE Members of Votes Parliament

1887 47,000 19 1889 120,000 9 1893 440,000 49 1898 790,000 50 1902 805,000 48 1906 896,000 52

BELGIUM Members of Votes Parliament

1894 320,000 32 1900 344,000 33 1902 467,000 34 1904 463,967 28 1906 469,094 30

*This is the vote of the Labour party candidates, not all of whom were Socialists."[1175]

A glance at the above table shows that the Socialist vote in Great Britain is as yet insignificant by comparison with other countries, and it seems likely to increase very greatly. More than a third of the Australian House of Representatives and Senate consists of Socialists. May not proportionately as large a Socialist party arise in Great Britain, especially as no political party can outbid the Socialists? The Socialist danger is probably greater in Great Britain than it is in France, Germany, or Belgium. In those countries a vast body of freehold peasants exists who are absolutely opposed to revolutionary schemes. Besides, owing to the fact that the majority of Continental workers have a substantial stake in the country, either in the form of land, houses, or other property, Continental Socialism is comparatively moderate, whilst it is violent, Anarchistic, and revolutionary in Great Britain, where the majority of workers possess far less property than the majority of French, German, and Belgian workers. The German Socialists, since Germany's unity, have gone the way of Lassalle, the patriot Socialist. "They have ceased to denounce the churches. From a necessary evil or a mere stop-gap, the present State has become to them gradually, and perhaps unconsciously, their own State."[1176] It is true that the Socialist vote is ten times larger in Germany than in Great Britain. Nevertheless the danger of Socialist troubles of the very gravest kind is perhaps greater in England than in Germany, especially as unemployment is far greater in Great Britain than in Germany.[1177] It seems that Great Britain will pass through bad industrial times, and it should not be forgotten that the French Revolutions of 1789 and of 1848 were made by unemployed workmen upon whom Socialist and Communistic doctrines had taken a firm hold; that the distress caused by the siege of Paris led to the rising of the Commune in 1871; that between 1837 and 1848 the Chartist movement in Great Britain rose and declined in almost exact correspondence with the variations in the economic distress of the people.

The present aspect of Great Britain resembles the aspect of pre-Revolution France, owing to the unequal distribution of property. "Almost three-quarters of the soil of France belonged to the nobility and the clergy, or to 350,000 people. The whole of the rest of the nation possessed less than one-third of the soil."[1178] The absence of a sturdy property-owning lower middle-class, the disappearance of the yeomen, is a source of instability and weakness to Great Britain. Vast numbers of British workers live from hand to mouth. They are being inflamed by Socialist agitators against the wealthy, and they are being promised an equal share in the whole wealth of the nation. In case of very acute distress, either through purely economic causes or through a war with a strong naval power, which might lead to starvation in a country which is absolutely dependent on foreign countries for its food, a revolutionary outbreak in the overgrown towns of Great Britain seems by no means impossible. The revolutionary centre of the world may conceivably move from Paris to London.

The Socialists in Great Britain may not always remain a chaotic multitude led by rival agitators who fight and intrigue against one another. Socialists believe: "So soon as Socialism becomes popular, great statesmen and philosophers will arise and take their stand boldly with the people in their fight for industrial freedom."[1179] There are more than 2,000,000 trade unionists in Great Britain, and Socialism is spreading rapidly among them. "Already the working-class movement is largely a Socialistic movement and is in continual process of becoming more so."[1180] The political character of the trade unionists is changing owing to the influence of Socialism and of the new unions. "The differences between the 'old' and 'new' unions are becoming more and more accentuated. The former adhere to the 'No politics' cry, i.e. no working-class politics, and still pin their faith to the Liberal or even Tory party; while the latter, like their Continental comrades, understand that their emancipation can only be achieved by means of political action as a class."[1181] "It is not possible for the working-class movement to dissociate itself from the Socialists, or from Socialism, because Socialism, however vaguely the fact may yet be recognised, is as essentially the political expression of that movement as Toryism was the political expression of landlordism and Liberalism is that of the bourgeoisie. In other words, there can be no working-class movement as such without Socialism."[1182] "It is true that the present Parliamentary Labour party is committed to independence on 'Labour questions only,' but no one has yet defined what is a 'Labour question,' and still less has anyone attempted to show what political questions are not labour questions."[1183] The letters printed on pages 141-143 of this book show that Socialism and Labour are commingling.

Socialism and Socialist influence have grown far more rapidly in Great Britain than is generally known. Their growth can be gauged not so much by the result of the General Election of 1906, and of some startling by-election results, as by the reports of the Socialist societies, and especially by the sale of their literature. Therefore the following facts indicating the growth of British Socialism should prove to be of considerable interest.

The Independent Labour Party reported at its yearly meeting held at Derby on April 1 and 2, 1907:

"No department of our activities has been more encouraging in its work this year than that of literature. Last year our literature sales amounted to 1,200l., which was 600l. more than the previous twelve months. This year they amount to 2,830l., or 1,600l. more than last year. The sales of books and pamphlets are nearly double that of last year. This is a magnificent result. Many branches have established literature stalls in the markets or public streets of their towns, and have met with much success. The fruits of this propaganda are certain, and will be reaped sooner or later by the branches concerned. The income is larger than has been the case in any former year, and amounts to the sum of 6,064l. 12s., as against 1,884l. 7s. 9d. for last year. The excess of assets over liabilities amounts to 3,729l. 2s. 5d., as against 1,511l. last year. The financial position of the party is thus becoming increasingly solid and stable."[1184]

Since the time when that report was given, the Independent Labour Party has continued its rapid growth, as may be seen from the following "Facts of Progress" recently published by that party. "At the time of the Fifteenth Annual Conference of the Independent Labour Party, held at Derby at Easter 1907, there were then in existence 545 branches of the party. Now (November 1907), there are 709 branches. Gain in seven months, 164 branches. There are few Parliamentary constituencies in the United Kingdom without branches, and it is hoped before the present year to make even these omissions good. There are now six branches of the Independent Labour Party in Ireland, and more to follow. The Independent Labour Party has now 845 of its members on local governing bodies, endeavouring to put into operation locally the principles for which the party stands. During the summer nearly 2,000 meetings have been held each week throughout the country. Twenty-two special organisers have been at work for this last six months."[1185]

The latest reports of the other Socialist Societies give a picture of a similarly great activity, and of a similarly rapid growth.

It is true that the funds of the Socialist organisations are comparatively small, but it must not be forgotten that "1,000 men who subscribe 1d. are stronger in the poll than one man who subscribes 1,000l."[1186] Besides, the Independent Labour Party has since 1893 spent more than 250,000l. for purposes of propaganda. That is a large sum to be spent in agitation. Furthermore, it is significant that many Socialist pamphlets and books have been sold in more than a hundred thousand copies, and a few even in more than a million copies. The Socialist periodicals have a considerable circulation. "The circulation of the 'Clarion' alone is 74,000."[1187]

The danger of British Socialism lies not only in its rapid increase among the workers, but also in the fact that it is making converts among the large class of people who possess no settled conviction of their own, and who are easily carried away by a plausible catch-phrase. The persons who count are the multitude of loose thinkers who are drifting towards Socialism without knowing it. "Politicians who have no suspicion that they are Socialists are advocating further instalments of Socialism with a recklessness of indirect results which scandalises the conscious Social-Democrat."[1188] "Year by year more legislation is proposed of which the effect is to draw upon the earnings of the efficient for the benefit of the inefficient. Year by year Parliament makes life harder for those whose labour benefits the State and easier for those who are a drag upon it."[1189] "There is in fact no definite and declared Socialist party in the present House of Commons, and yet what may be called the spirit of Socialism pervades the whole House to a greater extent than in any previous Parliament."[1190] For instance, Mr. Rutherford, M.P., in an anti-Socialistic speech brought forward a "Democratic Tory Programme" which, in the words of a Socialist periodical, was "cribbed almost bodily from the Socialist programme. He advocated among other reforms-nationalisation of the railways, State provision of work for the unemployed, payment of Members, manhood and womanhood suffrage, the suppression of adulteration, town planning on the German system, crime to be treated as a disease, compulsory closing of slums, taxation of site values, and State powers to purchase any site at the price on the rate-book, a national system of insurance against accident and sickness, feeding and clothing poor children, free opening of secondary schools and universities."[1191] In giving prominence to this "anti-Socialist" speech the "Labour Leader" sarcastically remarked: "The items do not, of course, take us quite as far as we Socialists would go; but they are fairly good to be going on with. Ours is to once again cordially welcome Mr. Rutherford as champion against Socialism."[1192]

A further danger consists in this, that many Socialists in Parliament and out of it like to sail under a false flag, in accordance with the tactics usually employed by the Fabian Society (see ante, Chapter XXXIII). Socialist publications inform us: "Among Socialists who stood and were elected as official Liberals are P. Alden, Clement Edwards, and L.G. Chiozza Money."[1193] "Many Liberals, like Mr. Chiozza Money, Mr. Masterman, Mr. J.M. Robertson, not to speak of the Liberal-Labour group, are committed to Socialist or semi-Socialist legislation. Many Liberal newspapers, we cannot fairly deny, are avowedly on the side of Socialism. The Liberal rank and file are also in the majority of instances quite favourable to the general principles of municipalisation and Labour legislation. Above all, as has so often been predicted by us, the two political camps of landlordism and capitalism are bound to combine together against Socialism, and they can only do so effectively under the Imperialist, Tariff Reform, anti-Land Reform, and anti-Municipalisation flags. The Liberal party cannot attempt single-handed to withstand us."[1194] Socialism often poses as Liberalism and is accepted as such by the unwary.

A further danger of British Socialism lies in the fact that it leads to the deterioration of the national character. "The strength of every community must finally depend on the character of the individuals who compose it. If they are self-reliant, energetic, and dutiful, the community will be strong; if, on the contrary, they have been taught to rely upon others rather than on themselves, to take life easily and to avoid unpleasant duties, then the community will be weak. Teach men that they owe no duty to their families, no duty to their country, and that their only responsibility is to humanity at large, and they will quickly begin to think and act as if they had no responsibility to anyone but themselves."[1195] "Many workmen are being ruined morally and materially by Socialistic doctrines, because directly a man becomes imbued with the idea that he is not receiving full recompense for his labours he thinks himself justified in doing as little as he can for his employer. The consequence is that his labour, which is to him his stock-in-trade, depreciates in value and when business slackens down he is one of the first to get the 'sack.'"[1196]


[1174] See Karl Marx, Capital; Yorke, Secret History of the International; Stegmann und Hugo, Handbuch, p. 177; Kautsky, Social Revolution.

[1175] Macdonald, Socialism, pp. 125, 126.

[1176] Encyclopaedia Britannica, vol. xxxii. p. 666.

[1177] Ellis Barker, Modern Germany, p. 546.

[1178] Block, Dictionnaire General, vol. ii. p. 822.

[1179] Keir Hardie, From Serfdom to Socialism, p. 8.

[1180] Ibid. p. 34.

[1181] Aveling, Working-Class Movement in England, p. 40.

[1182] The Socialist Annual, 1907, p. 38.

[1183] Ibid. p. 39.

[1184] Independent Labour Party Annual Report Conference, pp. 10, 12, 9.

[1185] Labour Leader, November 29, 1907.

[1186] Reformers' Year Book, 1906, p. 80.

[1187] Clarion, December 20, 1907.

[1188] Fabian Essays in Socialism, p. 188.

[1189] Lord Balfour of Burleigh in the Times, October 3, 1907.

[1190] Cox, Socialism, p. 7.

[1191] Labour Leader, October 18, 1907.

[1192] Ibid.

[1193] Reformers' Year Book, 1907, p. 58.

[1194] Labour Leader, October 11, 1907.

[1195] Cox, Socialism, p. 20.

[1196] Daw, Socialism Unmasked, p. 7.



What can be done to check the growth of Socialism? Some most interesting statistics supplied by the German Social-Democratic party will furnish the best reply to that question. An analysis of the electorate of Magdeburg and Bremen, two typical commercial and industrial towns, gave the following result:


Magdeburg Bremen Numbers Per cent. Numbers Per cent. 1. Capitalists 4,491 = 8.08 5,085 = 8.34 2. High officials 559 = 1.06 197 = 0.32 3. Medium officials 2,304 = 4.35 615 = 1.01 4. Lower officials 4,364 = 7.75 3,567 = 5.85 5. Professional men 1,422 = 2.55 1,047 = 1.72 6. Newer middle-class 3,924 = 7.06 4,882 = 8.01 7. Independent artisans 3,704 = 6.67 5,196 = 8.53 8. Bakers and grocers 932 = 1.57 1,124 = 1.84 9. Older middle-class 2,787 = 5.01 4,074 = 6.68 10. Clerks and bookkeepers 3,121 = 5.62 5,247 = 8.61 11. Working men in State and municipal employment 1,424 = 2.55 1,415 = 2.32 12. Working men in privateer employment 26,423 = 47.73 28,573 = 46.77 ——— ——- ——— ——- 55,563 = 100 60,962 = 100[1197]

Commenting upon the foregoing table, a German Socialist periodical wrote: "An analytical comparison of the electorate of Hamburg and Bremen reveals an extraordinary similarity in its social composition. It shows that the workers form hardly a majority of the population. They can be victorious only when they march hand in hand with professional men, the lower officials, and the newer middle-class. However, not all working men are Socialists. At the last election 3,000 working men in Magdeburg, and 2,500 working men in Bremen, voted against Social-Democracy. The patriotic anti-Socialist working-men's associations are rapidly increasing their membership. A thousand workmen, one-third of the whole occupied at the Krupp-Gruson Works in Magdeburg, have joined the anti-Socialist working-men's associations. The 'working-men's associations for fighting Social-Democracy' have grown in a surprising fashion."[1198]

The lower middle-class forms the strongest bulwark against the progress of Socialism, and Socialists know it. The philosopher of British Socialism, for instance, wrote: "The proletariat proper, the class which bears the future Socialist world in its womb, by no means at present everywhere outweighs, numerically, all other classes. On the contrary, so far as I am aware, this is only the case in Great Britain and some of the North American States, and even in these countries the majority is not large. The bulk of the non-proletarian sections of the democracy are by no means proletarian or Social-Democratic, even in their instincts, let alone Socialistic in their convictions. The predominating, or at all events most influential, elements in the non-proletarian democracy are what, for brevity, I have rather loosely termed the clerk and the shopkeeping class: in other words, they who are, or hope to become, small capitalists, the small middle-class. This last section of the 'people' or the democracy is, as such, the most formidable, because the most subtle, enemy with which the Socialist movement has to contend. The aim of the small capitalist, and of him who hopes to become one, is security and free play under the most advantageous conditions for his small capital to operate. On this account the little bourgeois, the small middle-class in its various sections, is the great obstacle which will have to be suppressed before we can hope to see even the inauguration of a consciously Socialist policy. It must be destroyed or materially crippled as a class before real progress can be made."[1199]

Whilst many Socialists wish to destroy the lower middle-class, others, especially the Fabians, endeavour to convert it to Socialism, and to set it on against the wealthy. They argue: "The commercial clerk with his reading, his writing, his arithmetic, and his shorthand is a proletarian, and a very miserable proletarian, only needing to be awakened from his poor little superstition of shabby gentility to take his vote from the Tories and hand it over to us. The small tradesmen and ratepayers who are now allying themselves with the Duke of Westminster in a desperate and unavailing struggle—against the rising rates entailed by the eight hours day and standard wages for all public servants, besides great extensions of corporate activity in providing accommodation and education at the public expense, must sooner or later see that their interest lies in making common cause with the workers to throw the burden of taxation directly on to unearned incomes."[1200] "It only needs one evening's intelligent discussion of this monstrous state of affairs to make a beginning of a really sensible and independent organisation of the middle classes for their own defence and for their escape from between the two millstones of organised Labour and organised Plutocracy, which are at present grinding the last penny in the pound out of them."[1201] It is estimated that there are in England 500,000 clerks.[1202] With the object of permeating this large section of the middle class with Socialism, a new monthly paper, the "Clerk," has recently been started under Fabian auspices.

Socialism is undermining the lower middle-class, and it is unconsciously being assisted in this policy by short-sighted anti-capitalistic Parliamentary legislation, which, as usual, hits hardest the smaller capitalists. If Great Britain wishes to erect a dam against the rising tide of Socialism, she must strengthen the lower middle-class in town and country by well-devised legislation, and she should before all re-create her peasantry. Great Britain should encourage the accumulation of small capitals by encouraging thrift. At present thrift is discouraged by the difficulty which small savers experience in obtaining satisfactory investments. The low interest of 2-3/4 per cent. paid by the British savings-banks—Continental savings-banks give 4 per cent.—is quite inadequate; and the British Company Laws are so bad and sound investments so scarce that the small investor who wants a higher return than 2-3/4 per cent. is almost certain to lose his money if he buys stocks or shares. Leasehold investments are very unsatisfactory, because the object bought automatically reverts to the landlord, and small freehold properties are as a rule unobtainable under the present system of land-holding. Therefore the first and most important step to encourage thrift should be to enable the small saver to invest his savings profitably and securely in land and houses where it is under his own control. Co-operation also should be encouraged. Co-operative banking, which is highly developed in Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy, but almost unknown in Great Britain, would at the same time greatly benefit the small investor and the small bona-fide borrower.


[1197] Die Neue Gesellschaft, September 1907, p. 325.

[1198] Die Neue Gesellschaft, September 1907, pp. 325, 326.

[1199] Bax, Essays in Socialism, pp. 40, 41.

[1200] Shaw, The Fabian Society, p. 26.

[1201] New Age, November 1907, p. 23.

[1202] Clerk, January 1908.



The realisation of Socialism, the creation of a Socialistic commonwealth in which private property does not exist, seems impossible. Socialists entirely leave out of their calculations two elementary factors:


A State devoid of private property is an unthinkable proposition. Private property is not a fortuitous creation, but a natural growth. It is founded not merely upon law, but upon immemorial custom which owes its rise to a fundamental human instinct, an instinct which has been a characteristic of the human race in all countries, and which is as old as humanity itself. The instinct of acquisition, of accumulation, and of property is common to all men from Central Africa to the poles. It is equally strongly developed in the most civilised nations and among savages.

However, supposing that the instinct of acquisition, of accumulation, and of property, which is found not only among all races of mankind but even among the higher animals, could be overcome, would human nature allow of the creation of a co-operative commonwealth based on voluntary co-operation, not on compulsion? Could the brotherhood of man be made a reality, and would men co-operate without strife in that mutual friendship and good-fellowship which one finds but rarely, even among those who are connected by the closest ties of affection and blood relationship, unless self-interest acts as the determining factor? Did not Plato found his ideal commonwealth upon perfectly wise and virtuous men? "Does not Socialist society presuppose extraordinary human beings, real angels, as regards unselfishness and gentleness, joy of work and intelligence? Is not the Social Revolution, with the present brutal and egoistical race of men, bound to become the signal for desolating struggles for the booty or for general idleness in which it would go to ruin?"[1203]

"Who is more ready to tilt against society than the average Socialist? And if the individuals in it are so deeply imbued with a double dose of original sin as not to be able to handle any part of distribution and exchange, it follows that you cannot trust the individual."[1204] "In a social State you must consider two things—man and his surroundings. You often forget man, because you think it easier to alter his surroundings. The real question is: Can you produce men fit for the new social State?"[1205]

"Socialism postulates an intelligent democracy."[1206] "The proletariat will require high intelligence, strong discipline, perfect organisation of its great masses. We may expect that it will only succeed when it will have developed these qualities in the highest degree."[1207] "Socialists demand a higher morality than any now to be found."[1208] "It is incumbent upon Socialism to recognise the existence of an intellectual motive, and it must place that motive above the economic, because without it the economic struggle would be devoid of any constructive value; it would be a mere tug-of-war; it would never bring us to Socialism. It would lead to a scramble for the spoils and mutual throat-cutting."[1209] "If 'each for all and all for each' be nothing more than a text for a banner or a motto for a wall; if its truth has not captured the hearts and minds of men and women in that new society, we shall be an official-ridden people with our eye on the best posts in the State for ourselves or our sons; and we shall be as pitiable in our spiritual deformity as we are in our economic bondage."[1210] "Socialism demands more than that we should merely import Socialistic institutions into our midst. It insists on a moral regeneration of society of the most complete and searching kind in order to make a lasting foundation for the political and social changes we many of us long to see."[1211] "Convey it in what spirit we may, an appeal to class interest is an appeal to personal interest. Socialist propaganda carried on as a class war suggests none of those ideals of moral citizenship with which Socialist literature abounds, 'each for all and all for each,' 'service to the community is the sole right of property' and so on. It is an appeal to individualism" [which seems to be a euphemism for envy and cupidity], "and results in getting men to accept Socialist formulae without becoming Socialists."[1212]

Unfortunately there is nothing ideal and elevating in the Socialist teachings, as the previous chapters show. Socialism appeals to all the passions and to all the vices, such as hatred, jealousy, envy, cupidity. It encourages, or at least excuses, wastefulness, improvidence, profligacy, and drunkenness. Its aim is plunder.

The voluntary co-operation of all for the benefit of all presupposes the existence of wise, virtuous, and unselfish citizens. Do the people in England, or in any other country, possess these high qualities, or are these qualities likely to be created by the teachings of the Socialists? A distinguished Socialist despairingly exclaimed: "That spirit which animated the apostles, prophets, martyrs, is alive in Japan to-day. Is it alive in us as a nation? If not, if we have replaced it to any extent by some selfish opposite, by any such diabolically careless sentiment as 'after me the deluge,' then we as a nation have lost our soul, sold it for mere individual prosperity, sold it in some poor cases for not even that, for mere liquid refreshment, and we are on the down grade."[1213] Another Socialist wrote: "We are all of us great-great-grandchildren of the beasts. We carry the bestial attributes in our blood, some more, some less. Who amongst us is so pure and exalted that he has never been conscious of the bestial taint?"[1214] "Descendants of barbarians and beasts, we have not yet conquered the greed and folly of our bestial and barbarous inheritance. Our nature is an unweeded garden. Our hereditary soil is rank."[1215]

The Socialists themselves acknowledge that Socialism presupposes a nation composed of ideal individuals, industrious, gentle, mutually helpful, unselfish, forbearing, and wise. They also acknowledge that men are the descendants of barbarians and beasts. Do Socialist agitators really believe that they can convert the descendants of barbarians and beasts into ideal beings by constantly preaching to them the gospel of hatred, envy, selfishness, self-indulgence, and plunder, and by even encouraging them to continue poisoning themselves and their descendants by over-indulgence in alcoholic drink?[1216] Surely "the defective natures of citizens will show themselves in the bad acting of whatever social structure they are arranged into. There is no political alchemy by which you can get golden conduct out of leaden instincts."[1217]

It is clear to most thinking Socialists that human nature, as at present constituted, will make the realisation of Socialism impossible. How do Socialists, then, propose to meet the difficulty? Very simply. By bold assertions and prophecies. That which all religions and all philosophers have been unable to accomplish during 3,000 years, Socialists will effect as by the touch of a magician's wand. "Socialism will change human nature. The opportunity makes the man. Socialism will take away the desire for accumulating riches. Under such conditions the possession of riches will be a superfluous burden which no sane man will wish to bear."[1218] "As soon as high purpose, intense human attachments, are the springs of action and resolve, discipline will come into our movement to crush out base selfishness, vanity, and personal ambition,"[1219] This is very nice, but how are "high purpose" and "intense human attachment" to be made the "springs of action"? Unfortunately the writer keeps the secret to himself.

The philosopher of British Socialism states: "Socialism only calls for enlightened selfishness. But the fact that this selfishness is enlightened and recognises that it can serve itself by serving the common interest will completely change its character, so that it will cease to be the narrow selfishness of to-day, which so often defeats its own ends. Selfishness passing through the refining fire of economic change ceases to be selfishness and becomes Socialism."[1220] If selfishness ceases to be selfishness and becomes Socialism, then it changes merely its name, and Socialism and selfishness are identical, which is quite correct. Other Socialist leaders prophesy: "May we not assume that under these conditions a new type of mankind will evolve which will surpass the highest type which culture has produced up till now? An overman, if you please, not as an exception, but as the rule."[1221]

"Selfishness will become public spirit."[1222] "The desire to serve the common life, to advance its welfare, will be the highest ambition of the individual."[1223] "Just as the nightingale sings in the evening shades, or the lark trills in the summer sky, so man in natural surroundings" [does Socialism create "natural" surroundings or unnatural ones?] "will seek to gratify his higher nature. Socialism will create a condition of things favourable to the development of the higher type of individuality."[1224] "This is the religious aspect of labour. It is dignified, ennobling. That is the divine ideal, the aspect concerning labour which God intended should be realised. Just think of it! The ordinary working man as divinely taught and inspired as the prophets and seers of old, and having the capacity to understand the sublimest truths and the profoundest philosophy concerning human life and the eternal destinies."[1225]

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