E. Belfort Bax

The Marriage Relation Under Socialism

(20 January 1912)

E. Belfort Bax, The Marriage Relation Under Socialism, Justice, 20th January 1912, p.6. (letter)
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Comrade, – I am surprised that so cute and able a critic as our friend “Tattler” should have so completely missed the point of an animadversion on his remarks, as he appears to have done.

In the first instance I did not, as “Tattler” seems to suggest, state it as my own opinion that under an economically free society life-long monogamy would necessarily by its own “inherent strength” maintain itself as the dominant form of the marriage relation. I merely suggested that this was an admissible opinion, and that it might possibly have been the opinion “Tattler” meant to express. In this it appears I was wrong. For my own part I am very far from regarding life-long monogamy as necessarily the best form of sexual union for everyone. It undoubtedly is for some. But it takes many types to make a world. An economically free society must allow for many variations of character and temperament in personal matters. Hence the necessity for the maintenance of the principle of personal liberty in such matters in full integrity.

But the main point of my strictures upon “Tattler’s” position was that no Socialist society could consistently with its principles enforce any such life-long binding contract. Even at the present day, as doubtless “Tattler” knows, the law refuses to enforce certain contracts as being “contrary to public policy.” The typical instance of such a contract is that by which one man should bind himself over as a body-slave to another. This is a contract, for example, which the existing law would under no circumstances enforce. It is a contract which the modern law regards as, ab initio, invalid. Now, what I maintain is that the economically free society of Socialism must, in accordance with its principles, similarly regard as invalid in itself and hence refuse to enforce, any “sacrosanct” and binding contract by which a man and a woman undertook to pledge themselves to remain united for all future time no matter what might happen, and to form no other union. I would point out to “Tattler” that if such a contract could not be enforced it would only have a moral validity and that the rationally-educated public opinion of such a society would inevitably tend to discourage the insistence on a contract of this sort, and even to condone its breach when made, just as existing public opinion would not hold a man morally, any more than legally, bound to carry out a contract to sell himself into slavery which, in a weak moment, he might have entered. Under these circumstances it strikes me that “Tattler’s” friends, the “sacrosancters” would be likely to look rather foolish. They might continue to exist as an innocuous sect, like the “Peculiar People” or the “Seventh Day Baptists,” but their poisoned fangs would have been drawn.

I would point out further to “Tattler” that his attitude on this question is radically inconsistent with any acceptance of the Marxian Economic Theory of History. If this means anything at all, it means that a convention having originally an economic basis, as this one clearly has, must lose its vitality and die of inanition once this basis is removed.

But it is not this particular instance of “Tattler” alone that I object to. I enter my protest most emphatically against all the attempts so frequently made nowadays to whittle down the extra-economic consequences of Socialism. “Tattler” must know that the professed zeal of the Anti-Socialist for “religion” and the “family” is simply blatant humbug which ought to be treated with the contempt it merits, and does not deserve being pandered to be obsequious protestations and apologies. I am convinced that taking the bull by the horns will not lose us a single convert to Socialism.


yours, etc.
E. Belfort Bax


Last updated on 4.2.2005