The Twentieth Century Puzzle.
That the principle underlying all this beneficent work should be systematically repudiated and scorned, and that associations should exist to combat and resist its further application, is, indeed, the record political anomaly of the twentieth century.
Rivers of blood have flowed in the name of religion. Applied science, the practical arts, social changes, even impalpable thought itself have all been repressed and thwarted in the name of religion. But no life has been taken by persecuting Socialists. Unlike the Protestant Church, we have the blood of no mild Servetus on our hands. Unlike the Catholic Church, we have martyred no Bruno, threatened no Galileo, we have on our conscience no Vanini with his tongue torn out, in the name of God, before his body was reduced to ashes. No inventor or discoverer has been overawed with the stake or the hangman’s cord by Socialists. Socialism has had no Alva, no Torquemada, no Bartholomew nights, no pogroms. To the very limited extent that it has been adopted, Collectivism has been as manifest a blessing as most organised religions have been curses. And it is only one of the world’s sorry jests to ignore, condemn, or anathematise this blessed recreating principle, which alone can keep the world sweet.
Socialism is not employers’ liability. It is the abolition of employers and the socialising of industry. It is not the taxation of fleecings, but the stoppage of theft at the fountain head. It is not heavy death duties upon successful, law-abiding exploiters, but ‘Catch ’em alive 0.’ It is not an elaborate system of insurance premiums paid by State, employer, and worker, but automatic provision for contingencies by the State or the Municipality as the sole employer. Socialism is not After-Care Committees or the feeding of necessitous children; it is paying the parent and guardian the full value of his labour and breeding a race of men and women with whom parental feeling and care will be as natural and spontaneous as they are with birds, beasts, and insects. Socialism is not the propping of an inverted social pyramid with laws and regulations and committees and bureaux and inspectors; it is the up-ending of the pyramid so that it shall stand, not upon an apex of rank, idleness, luxury, and robbery, with a King of the Robbers at the end of all, but upon the broad base of labour and service; a base composed of useful, industrious, free, self-respecting manhood and womanhood.
As Guiding Principle.
It is the glory of Socialism that its great central principal of public control of the means of life serves as a guiding star by which the Socialist can steer amid the rocks and shoals and maelstroms of current politics. We are with the Forwards every time.
Is a cowardly and useless war forced upon two little Republics in South Africa? The Socialist Party everywhere protests, and all who recognise the necessity for fair-dealing between nations as between individuals, all who put justice above false patriotism, know that wherever the Socialists are gathered together there they will have sympathisers and temporary allies.
The Health Reformer knows that the Socialists are everywhere with him. And with the Socialist, health reform is not merely an affair of open windows, Condy’s fluid, and efficient sewer traps, but better houses, the abatement of the smoke nuisance, more and better food, more intelligent cooking, shorter hours of work, dental attention, more and longer holidays, and the wherewithal to travel and enjoy these.
The Educational Reformer knows that whoever may palter with the question of expense, the Socialist puts educational efficiency first, regardless of rates and vested interests.
The Housing Reformer knows that he has no more thorough-paced supporters than the Socialists, who are so anxious to secure the best homes that they will not trust landlordism to provide them, but have all along put the responsibility on the county councils and municipalities.
The Home Ruler knows that Socialism stands for Home Rule All Round, and that we advocated Irish Home Rule while Gladstone was still a passionate Coercionist.
The Radical who is jealous of the power of the House of Lords knows that the Socialist Party stands alone for the abolition of the hereditary principle in Government, this applying to the Monarchy as well.
The Co-operator knows that we believe in the Co-operation, not only of the Store, but of the State.
The Humanitarian knows that we are opposed to the cruel treatment of the lower animals and that we alone among politicians recognise that the overworking of the noblest of animals, the horse, will continue so long as the overworking of the horse’s driver continues.
The Democrat knows that there are no more complete and consistent Democrats than the SOCIAL-Democrats.
The well-informed Vegetarian knows that so long as men work beyond their strength, breathe impure air, and work dismally long hours, the devitalised worker will have recourse to stimulants in his food and drink.
The Temperance Reformer knows that the best corrective of drinking habits is that raising of the standard of comfort, and that brightening of the whole outl000k upon life, for which Socialism stands more than any other political system.
The advocates of national and municipal theatres who look and long for a vast improvement of this potentially great medium of popular culture, like all other reformers who are very much in earnest, turn to the Socialists as being inevitably and by virtue of their principles sound upon this also.
When a Liberal or Tory member of Parliament is enraged at the gross and shameless sale of ‘honours,’ it is in Socialist quarters alone that he expects to have a sympathetic hearing.
No Fashions in Socialist Politics.
The true Socialist is not a man of fashion in politics. He is not a Republican or Home Ruler to-day, and a mere Minimum-Wage or Prevention-of-Destitution Man tomorrow. He is ready for every chance that comes along of affirming and, if possible, advancing his principles.
Socialism is, of course, republican. It is true, the direct pecuniary results of the abolition of the monarchy would mean a saving of only sixpence a-head of the population per annum. But the indirect benefits must needs be incalculably great. The monarchy keeps all the abuses of caste in countenance. We cannot consistently object to factory inspectors being taken from Oxford so long as the Head of the State is selected merely because he is his father’s son. We cannot consistently object to the minor lords so long as we adulate and crown a ‘lord’ who has not even the prestige attaching to ability and services rendered as Proconsul or as Minister of State. We cannot consistently object to hardened and experienced soldiers being led by lisping lieutenants just from school so long as the affairs of the nation are in any way subject to the caprice of an ex-lieutenant of the navy of no particular brains and of no particular service. ‘Set the feet above the brain’ says Tennyson, ‘and swear the brain is in the feet.’ That is what we do when we put George Wettin over the leaders of ‘the elect of the people.’
In bygone days a whole generation regarded that heartless scoundrel George the Fourth as ‘the glass of fashion and the mould of form,’ and students of history know the result. Sir Walter Scott was no small man; but the poison of loyalism so worked in him that on one occasion he pocketted the glass out of which George had drunk. The incident had an appropriate ending in respect that Sir Walter sat down upon the glass and broke it; but just imagine the mental attitude expressed in such an act!
To the good Social-Democrat every proposal holds the field till it is carried, and every passing incident which may seem to offer an opportunity will be used by him in order to impress his view upon the thoughts and the actions of his fellows. In such ways only can his great and many-sided social philosophy find currency and furtherance.
One More Instance.
With respect to the latest scheme for keeping the people on the land, the Socialist method would not be to entrust a Government bureau or commissioners with the duty of seeing that farmers all over the country paid not less than a fixed minimum wage, but to have agriculture, like all other industries, gradually organised under the local governing bodies, who would have no interest in sweating the labourer. The immediate method of approach to a revival of agriculture would be through Control, high farming, guaranteed prices and wages, to be secured, as during the War, by the Government purchase of imported food and the regulation of prices in the interest of the public.
The Socialist method would not be to hand the land over to peasant cultivators as has been done in Ireland, where a hundred small landlords, who are serfs of the soil, have been created in place of one large landlord. The Socialist does not believe in individual ownership of land, nor in peasant proprietorship, nor even in capitalist farming on the small scale. For the so-called ‘magic of ownership’ he would substitute communal ownership and communal farming under expert management, with the best implements, seeds, fertilisers, and marketing. By all means let the agricultural workers have fixity of tenure in their houses, and liberal gardens attached to those houses; but the communal fields worked by gangs of cheery workers, ploughing, sowing, mowing, reaping sociably - that is the true line of evolution so far as rural work is concerned.
Many benevolent measures forced upon local communities by the central government represent, not democracy, but bureaucracy, whereas Socialism is not bureaucratic, but democratic, and Socialists recognise that social-democracy can exist and flourish only with the hearty co-operation of a majority of the citizens in a given locality. The object of the Socialist party is, not to shower upon localities a succession of compulsory benefits for which they have not asked, but to carry the evangel of communal control of the means of life to every corner of the land, so that the people may gradually and eagerly take charge of what is really their own business, ousting the landlord and capitalist steadily from the field, where they have always failed anyhow. The limits of even benevolent compulsion are soon reached; but the possibilities of intelligent, active citizenship are as boundless as they are attractive. Democracy in practice is only at its beginnings as yet.
The Last Friend.
Is the State the enemy of the people? Ask the old age pensioner who besides the State would have given him a pension. Ask the bedridden pauper who besides the State would give him the airy home, the clean bed, the good plain food, the institutional care in general that he receives in the poorhouse. Ask the man, innocent or guilty, meritorious or vile, surrounded by a mob that thirsts to do him violence, who besides the State will or can protect him. When all other friends have given you up, or when you, for reason good, scorn to appeal to your friends, you know that there is one friend that will not fail you, be you good or evil, deserving or a scallywag. The only friend that sticketh closer than a brother is the State. All else may be inhumane; but with the State humanity is a standing principle to the end.
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