E. Belfort Bax

Marriage Under Socialism

(10 February 1912)

E. Belfort Bax, Marriage Under Socialism, Justice, 10th February 1912, p.6. (letter)
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Comrade, – Just one word more in explication of thy position on the above question. “Tattler” finds an “admission” by me of the “possibility” of “sacrosanct and binding” marriage-contracts under Socialism. I thought I made it perfectly clear that I did not admit the possibility in an economically free society of any binding contract whatever of this nature. A binding contract implies a power of enforcement upon an unwilling party. Now this, I pointed out, would be in contravention of the principle of personal liberty inevitably prevailing in such a society. Of course, there may be any amount of inconsistencies and anomalies during the transition period; but I was, of course, referring to conditions under a completely established Socialistic Commonwealth.

“Tattler” expresses surprise at my pointing out to him that his theory was inconsistent with the Marxian economic doctrine of history, inasmuch as the sexual, as every other human relation, implies a good deal more than can be explained by its economic basis alone. I do not deny it; I only affirm that the element of coercion by law, or even by public opinion, in the marriage relation of to-day is solely deducible from the economic basis of private property-holding, and from nothing else. I know that, as “Tattler” says, many marriages in our existing society are not the result of economic pressure; but this does not say that the element of coercion in them has not its ground in economic reasons. This, I contend, it has in all cases, and the economic reasons, though they may manifest themselves differently, are quite as prominent in marriages among the well-to-do as among the working classes. Barring these economic reasons as justification for legal or moral coercion in the question of marriage, we are left with the bare and naked claim of one party to coerce the other against his or her will: and this is a claim which I say no decent man or woman ought to make and a contract based on which no rationally and ethically constituted Socialist society could consistently enforce.


E. Belfort Bax


Last updated on 15.10.2004