Ernest Belfort Bax

Reminiscences and Reflexions of a mid and late Victorian

Chapter IV
The Social Democratic Federation

IN the late seventies and the early eighties the workman’s club was a strong political force in the land. This was especially the case as regards London, where there was a considerable and well-organized network of these clubs throughout the whole metropolis. At this time the workman’s club movement on its political side was not much more than a wing of the official Liberal party. There was little or no political initiative or influence of ideas outside the range of current political questions and party politics in any of them. The leading political workman’s club in London was the “Eleusis Club,” Chelsea, the constituency for which the late Sir Charles Dilke at that time sat. But there was not a district throughout the metropolis that did not boast of one or more of them, though of course they varied much in size and influence. Now it occurred to the, at that time, independent Radical, Henry Mayers Hyndman, early in 1881, to endeavour to weld the best elements in these clubs into an independent and coherent political party, under the name of the “Democratic Federation.” The principles on which it was to be based were unpretentious enough at first glance, but Hyndman, who, as we have seen, had come into contact with Marx, had the foundation of a British Socialist party already in view. The preliminary meeting was held and the organization founded in the early Spring of 1881. At its inauguration there were some persons associated with it, such, for instance, as the late Butler Johnstone, who, as its aims became more closely defined, dropped out. But the organization continued, small and unpretentious as it was, notwithstanding, though it never achieved altogether its original ostensible aim, namely that of uniting in one solid phalanx the Radical workmen’s clubs of the metropolis. Speaking of myself, I made the acquaintance of Hyndman in 1882, and the same year joined the “Democratic Federation.” At this time the Irish agrarian question and the Land League were very much to the fore, and the new organization was largely occupied with matters connected with the Irish agitation.

The offices of the Democratic Federation were at 9 Palace Chambers, Westminster, opposite the Houses of Parliament, and here in February and March 1883 a series of conferences were held on certain pressing questions of the day, which subsequently became crystallized under the name of “steppingstones” (to Socialism) in the practical programme of the organization. At the same time new and important recruits came in, who infused fresh life into the movement and enabled Hyndman to give it a definite Socialist direction. These were J.L. Joynes, who had just resigned his mastership at Eton; H.H. Champion, the son of the late General Champion, an Army officer, who had given up his commission, disgusted with the Egyptian War of 1882; Harry Quelch, then a journeyman packer in Cannon Street; John Burns, who, if I remember rightly, joined a few months later, and William Morris. The present writer also, now that the movement was becoming more definitively Socialist, began to take a more active interest in it than heretofore. During the Summer of 1883 much propaganda work was done in the open air. In the late Autumn of that year I joined the executive committee of the Democratic Federation. About the same time the donation of £300 from the well-known poet and writer on Social subjects, Edward Carpenter, towards the founding of a weekly organ for the new body, led to arrangements being made for the starting of the paper Justice in January of the year 1884. The first editor was an Irishman, an ex-military man named Fitzgerald, who had been war correspondent for English newspapers in the Russo-Turkish campaign of 1877-8, and who claimed to be a great authority on affairs of the Near East. This good man, I may remark parenthetically, some ten years later seems to have come to a mysterious and premature end. Having again taken up his old métier of journalist-correspondent, he went out to Greece, where he married the daughter of the French Consul at Corinth. While on a journalistic tour into Thessaly and other parts of the Balkan peninsula, all trace of him was lost, and he was never heard of again. The presumption was that he had been murdered by Turks. Austria and Turkey, it may be mentioned, were always his especial bêtes noires. To come back to Justice. Our friend Fitzgerald not proving the ideal editor, Hyndman undertook the editorship himself. We all collaborated in the endeavour to make the journal a success Hyndman, Joynes, Champion, the Austrian revolutionary Andreas Scheu, and the present writer used to work regularly for it. Morris, who had by this time thrown himself enthusiastically into the movement, contributed his well-known poem All for the Cause to the first number, and afterwards other poems and articles. I well remember how, at the annual conference of the Democratic Federation in the Spring of the previous year, I successfully exercised my arts of persuasion in inducing Morris, whom I had recently come to know, to join the executive council of the new party, he having refused when first proposed. But of Morris I shall have occasion to speak more fully later.

The Summer of 1884 showed a vastly increased activity in the ranks of the SDF. This activity took various forms. Besides the getting out of the paper Justice week by week, the publication and distribution, often at the corners of the streets, of leaflets and other propagandist literature, added to the: preaching of Socialism in the open air, kept the leading members of the organization sufficiently busy. The last-mentioned means of serving the cause resulted in frequent collisions with the police authorities on the ostensible ground of “obstruction.” But, however, that this was merely the ostensible and not the real ground was proved by the fact that itinerant preachers of the orthodox Christian sects and teetotal advocates were not interfered with. The obstruction of traffic only existed, or at least only became a public nuisance, where Socialist orators were concerned. This interference at last reached such a point that in the interests of the right of free speech and public meetings in the open air, the Radical and workmen’s clubs of London took the matter up. Things culminated in what was known at the time as the “Dod Street victory.” Members of the Democratic Federation having been summoned for technical “obstruction” on successive Sunday mornings at a space in Dod Street where no foot or vehicular traffic was really interfered with, it was decided to make a definitive stand. Accordingly, in conjunction with the Radical Associations and the workmen’s clubs of the metropolis a great demonstration was organized. This took place one fine Sunday morning, when a procession of some forty thousand people marched to Dod Street for the purpose of holding a mass meeting. Before this imposing demonstration the local police Jacks-in-office had to give way. The meeting was successfully held and addressed by all the well-known political Democrats of London, in addition to the Socialist members of the Democratic Federation. From that time forward the persecution of the speakers at Socialist meetings became less frequent.

Towards the end of the Summer of 1884 two currents of opinion became manifest on the executive council of the Federation. The annual congress of the body was held in August in one of the larger meeting-rooms of Palace Chambers, Westminster. At this meeting the name Democratic Federation was changed to that of Social Democratic Federation. In the council elected on this occasion it was that the differences spoken of later on arose. Personal questions undoubtedly played their part, but there were conflicting opinions also upon matters of tactics – on the one side were Hyndman, Burns, Williams, Quelch, Fitzgerald, then acting as secretary of the body, and Champion, who were supposed to be anxious to subordinate the propaganda of Socialist principle to the urging forward of immediate practical aims in politics by the ordinary political methods. Such was at least the view of their aims taken by Morris, Scheu, Eleanor Marx (the daughter of Karl Marx), who had been elected on to the council at the August conference, myself, and others, who were desirous of pushing a purely Socialist propaganda without regard to the expediencies or exigencies of practical politics, and without wasting time (which might be better employed, it was thought) with the methods and aims of the political life of the moment. This as nearly as possible represents, I should say, the main theoretical difference between the two tendencies on the executive council of the SDF (as it was now becoming the custom to abbreviate the full name), which culminated in the “split” in the body that took place at the end of the year and the foundation of the Socialist League early in January 1885. There were of course, as before said, personal friction, suspicion, and mistrust, such as are always engendered on similar occasions. How unjust some of this suspicion was, the subsequent course of events has shown. For example, the notion that Hyndman ever had in him the nature of a time-serving politician, capable of subordinating convictions to the chances of a political career, seems now too absurd for words. Not to speak of his sacrifice of political success on the ordinary lines to his general Socialist convictions, it is in part, at least, thanks to his rigidly uncompromising attitude on every point of political and economic principle that he is not at the time of writing a member of the House of Commons. The “split” was unfortunate from many points of view, not only from that of the regrettable personal differences it engendered between individuals, and which it took some years to compose, but also from that of the Socialist cause, the progress of which it undoubtedly headed back for a while, although not so much as might have been expected. As time showed, the excuse or reason for the rupture, so far as its theoretical grounds were concerned, was utterly inadequate. The divergence, in matters of tactics and political policy, was not nearly so wide or important as many of the withdrawing section imagined. Looking back at the events of the time, it is impossible to resist the conclusion that the personal element – differences of temperament and ways of looking at things, even where fundamental convictions were held in common – leading to the mistrust and suspicion above referred to, suspicion fostered by mischief-makers, was largely at the back of the secession.

The last meeting of the old council of the SDF, which finally determined the breach, and which took place in a room rented as offices by the body in the basement of Palace Chambers, Westminster, on the evening of the 24th of December 1884, was of a dramatic character. Mrs. (afterwards Lady), Burne-Jones on hearing Morris’s description of it the next day, said it reminded her of one of the scenes in Turgenieff’s novel Smoke, in which was depicted the coming together of a Russian secret political society. There was a full attendance of members of the council, eighteen in all, who sat round the centre table. The rest of the room was crowded with partisans of either side. All the members of the council made speeches in their turn, their points being greeted by vociferous demonstrations of approval and disapproval. Various incidents took place. The debate was on a vote of censure on Hyndman as regards his political attitude and conduct in connexion with the affairs of the Federation. On the vote being taken, the result was ten for, and eight against, the motion; the names including: for the resolutionWilliam Morris, Robert Banner, Andreas Sheu, Edward Aveling, Eleanor Marx Aveling, myself; and against the resolution – H.M. Hyndman, H. H. Champion, J. C. Frost, John E. Williams, Henry Quelch, John Burns, etc.

Though, as will be seen, the supporters of the resolution were in a slight numerical majority, nevertheless immediately it was passed they declared their own resignation from the body. This somewhat erratic proceeding was due to the fact that Morris objected to himself and his followers, who backed the resolution, remaining in the body under conditions which he felt would inevitably lead to a continuance of violent controversy and personal recrimination. The matter had been discussed at a meeting of the seceding section held the day before the council meeting. Morris, after strongly urging this point of view, succeeded in carrying it, and exacting pledges from all his supporters to follow the course of action he proposed. Accordingly, the somewhat anomalous procedure was witnessed of the majority of a council resigning, to leave the organization it represented in the hands of the defeated minority. But the seceders, notwithstanding their abandonment of the original organization, had no intention of abandoning work for Socialism.

The result of the secession from the SDF was the foundation, a few days later, at the beginning of January 1885, of the Socialist League under the auspices of William Morris. The manifesto of the new League, expounding in brief the principles of Socialism on which it was founded, was drawn up by William Morris and myself on the New Year’s Eve. Offices were taken for the organization in the upper story of a building in Farringdon Road, a new paper appearing as the organ of the League, for the first year monthly, but afterwards weekly, to which, at Morris’s suggestion, was given the name of The Commonweal. The basis of the new organization rigidly excluded anything of the nature of immediate political action, such as the taking part in electoral contests, whether parliamentary or local. The principle of the League was to be, for an indefinite time at least, purely educational, though the belief in the comparative nearness of a cataclysmic social revolution loomed in the background in the minds of many. The idea implicit in not a few of those who belonged to the Socialist League was more or less that of a federation of Socialist societies throughout the country, bearing some sort of analogy to the federated Jacobin Clubs of the French Revolution, which should educate and organize public opinion, especially of the working classes, so that when the cataclysm to which the capitalist system was leading up should supervene, these societies might be in a position to give direction to the revolutionary movement. But as things turned out, this total abandonment of all political and practical action generally on the part of the League had untoward consequences, to which the organization itself finally succumbed after an existence of some seven years. Nevertheless, for the first two or three years from its foundation the Socialist League undoubtedly did much fruitful work in the direction of Socialist propaganda. Meetings were held in halls and in the open air, leaflets and pamphlets were published, including manifestos on important current events, such as the Home Rule question, the Soudan War, the war in Burmah, etc. The Commonweal, to which Morris and the present writer regularly contributed, also did well for the first two or three years. Some of Morris’s poems, subsequently published separately, first appeared in The Commonweal. A selection of his political articles, written at this time, might be worth republishing in book-form, as likely to be interesting to his many admirers. I continued to assist Morris in the editorship of The Commonweal till the Summer of 1888, when, owing to reasons which will directly be made clear, I resigned from the League, though without any breach in my personal friendship with Morris.

Certain untoward consequences resulting, in a great measure, from the strictly anti-political action principles of the League have been already spoken of. These consequences were not long in showing themselves, though it took some two or three years for them to develop to a marked extent. The attitude in question of the League, combined with a certain want of precision in the definition of its theoretical principles on certain sides, left the door open for the intrusion of doubtful elements of an anarchistic character. These elements grew stronger as time went on, and found support in a certain side of Morris’s own temperament. The result was as might have been foreseen. The Socialist League became impossible for those who wished to see it grow up into a strong party organization for the propagation of the principles of scientific Socialism, and if not immediately, at least later on, definitely to take part in political action of some kind. The great bulk of those who thought thus in the League resigned, in this way leaving the body in the hands of a rump consisting of Anarchists and Semi-anarchists, with a few others who did not formally resign for fear of hurting Morris’s feelings. The further history of the League was a record of internal disputes and failure to achieve anything towards the ostensible objects for which the organization had been founded. Morris struggled manfully with adversity for a time, but finding those associated with him impossible to work with from any point of view, gradually lost heart, and ultimately, in the Summer of 1889, himself withdrew from the now rapidly disintegrating section of the Socialist movement he had himself founded, followed by the few personal friends who had continued with him. As may be imagined, the remains of the body soon after this fell to pieces, the Commonweal went under, and the Socialist League even in name ceased to exist.

Though the original secession from the Social Democratic Federation was an unquestionable mistake, yet the mistake having been made, the foundation of the Socialist League and the work he put into it reflects the highest credit on Morris personally. Kudos he had enough already in other directions, and financially the maintenance of the movement and all that appertained thereto was a heavy drain upon his time and purse. Altogether, a more personally disinterested man in his public work never existed.

There are two public incidents that occurred during the existence of the League which should not be passed over without mention. The first was the great London riot on the 8th of February 1886. The story of this riot is well known. A meeting was called for the afternoon of that day, a Monday, in Trafalgar Square, to discuss the question of “fair trade” and “sugar bounties.” There being much unemployment at the time, Trafalgar Square became crowded, long before the hour announced for the meeting, by numbers of hungry, workless men who found in the event a means of distraction. The opportunity was taken, alike by speakers of the Federation and the League, to point out the futility of nostrums such as the “fair trade” and “sugar bounties” agitation, and to urge the claims of Socialist reorganization as the only cure for the evils of the present system, with its recurrent crises, in which large sections of the working classes are thrown upon the pavement. Some of the speeches made were strong in their language. One of the League speakers delivered himself of an oration in which the words “lead” and “bread” appeared in antithetical juxtaposition, in suchwise, it was alleged, as amounted to an incitement to violence. However this may have been, the promoters of the meeting, finding themselves outwitted by the Socialist agitators, peremptorily closed the proceedings, which were beginning to become disorderly. Meanwhile, it was proposed by the SDF speakers, to the crowd, to march through the West End to Hyde Park, there to hold another meeting on the question of unemployment. Accordingly, some eight or ten thousand persons, headed by H.M. Hyndman, H.H. Champion, John Burns, and John E. Williams, advanced in the direction of Pall Mall. There rioting began, the immediate causes of which were variously stated, and continued along the route to Hyde Park. A somewhat uproarious meeting was held in the Park, after which the rioters dispersed eastwards in straggling bands, looting shops on the way.

The affair, as might be expected, caused an enormous sensation at the time. The newspapers were full of it for days afterwards. There was a perfect panic: the “Mansion House Fund for the Unemployed” jumped up in a day or two from £3,000 to £75,000. Such was the terror of the wealthy classes at the new danger that they imagined threatened them! The incident had its upshot in the prosecution of Hyndman, Champion, Burns, and Williams on a charge of sedition. Resulting circumstances brought the personalities of the League and the Federation much closer together than heretofore. One of the papers published an alleged interview with Morris in which he was made to blame the conduct of our SDF friends as the cause of the riots. He promptly wrote protesting against having said anything of the kind. At the same time, while exonerating the SDF leaders from all responsibility as to having had any share in causing the riots, he expressed the opinion that the latter had not been without their uses in opening the eyes of the middle and upper classes to the realities of things. The trial resulted in the acquittal of all four of the accused. Singularly enough, the man who seemed nearest to conviction on account of his alleged utterances was the since so moderate Liberal politician, John Burns. This was partly owing to the attribution to him by the Prosecution of a speech he had never made, to wit, that anent “bread” and “lead.” The result of the prosecution was a distinct fiasco for the Government, and the whole affair of the riots, from beginning to end, was a tremendous advertisement for Socialism, especially the SDF. The incident certainly brought home the social problem, in a manner which probably nothing else would have done, to the average mind of : he middle and upper classes. The circumstances attending the riots also called the attention of the working classes to the fact that Socialism offered a solution of the social problem.

The second of the events referred to was the disturbances in connexion with the proclaimed meeting in Trafalgar Square on November 21st of the next year, 1887. After the riots of February 1886, during the panic following them, the Chief of the Police, Sir Edmund Henderson, resigned as having failed to cope with the exigencies of the situation. In his place came an Army man, Sir Charles Warren, whose aim evidently was to pose in the role of a Saviour of Society and as a person of great determination of character. He decreed, accordingly, the closing of Trafalgar Square for public meetings. The matter was brought to a test by the announcement, on the part of the Irish party, the Radicals, and the Socialists of the metropolis, of a mass meeting to be held in Trafalgar Square on Sunday, 21st of November 1887, to discuss the Irish matters which were then uppermost in the general interest of the public. The unemployed question being still acute and likely to be heard of at the meeting, also the fact that one of the main objects of its promoters was to test the question of the right of assembly in Trafalgar Square, the situation was an interesting, not to say a threatening one. The police were in strong force and the military behind. As the contingents of the various Radical clubs, branches of the Socialist organizations, and Irish Societies of London debouched through the streets leading into the Square, they were attacked and mostly dispersed by the police. Many persons were injured in scuffles with the constabulary, and one man. John Linnell, was killed and had a public funeral the following Sunday. The whole affair created almost as much sensation as the riots of twenty months previously. I was myself away in Zürich at the time. What gave a special interest to this event was the effect it had upon Morris’s views. Up to this time he had more or less believed in the possible success of a revolutionary outbreak on the part of the populace of our great cities – a revolutionary outbreak in the old style of the French Revolution, of Paris in July 1830, or the June days of 1848. But Morris, who headed the contingent furnished by the Socialist League on this occasion, lost all his confidence as to the power of an unorganized or imperfectly organized crowd to offer an effective resistance to the forces of the modern State. So far at least as England was concerned, whether rightly or wrongly, the occurrences of this day seemed to have practically settled the matter for him. He wrote me a letter immediately afterwards to this effect, telling me that he had always recognized the probability of any scratch body of men getting the worst of it in a rough-and-tumble with the police, not to speak of the military, yet he had not realized till that day how soon such a body could be scattered by a comparatively small but well-organized force. Later on, when I had come back to London, he vividly described to me how, singly and in twos and threes, his followers began for a few moments to make a show of fight with the police, and how in vain he tried to rally, them to effect a determined dash as a united body on their goal, namely, Trafalgar Square itself. The whole affair, he said, was over in scarcely more than three or four minutes. This incident certainly had a strong effect in making Morris pessimistic as to the success of any popular civil rising under existing circumstances, however just might be the cause in which it was undertaken.

Before leaving the subject of the Social Democratic Federation and Socialist League, I may recall an amusing incident which occurred in connexion with the Croydon branch of the former body, as illustrating the value sometimes to be attached to a crowd’s manifestations of sympathy or antipathy at a meeting. Our Croydon friends were in the habit of holding Socialist meetings on fine Sunday afternoons during the Summer on an open space called Duppas Hill. Some young men of the small clerk and shopman type were incited by paid agents of the Tory party to interrupt speakers and disturb the meetings. This went on for two or three Sundays in succession, when our friends, who had succeeded in getting the addresses of these agents, bethought themselves of negotiating with them. Accordingly, they called upon the leader and offered him for the next Sunday two shillings a head for his men to keep order, in place of the eighteen-pence he admitted he had been receiving from the Tories to create disturbance. Result: the following Sunday consternation for the knot of youths of the small clerk and shopman type, who found their sport spoilt and their persons threatened by their whilom friends and encouragers! During the ensuing week the leader of the provocative agents, who by the way was a professional pugilist, succeeded in inducing the Tories to raise their price to half-a-crown a head for his future services to their cause. The following Sunday therefore found things again as they were before. In view of the situation, the finances of the branch not admitting of its being “raised” in this way sixpence per head per week indefinitely, and also as the time of year for open-air meetings was nearly over, our friends decided to discontinue the gatherings for that season, although the pugilist leader intimated that he was still open to an offer from their side.

The history of the SDF after the collapse of the Socialist League need not detain us in detail. Many of those who had been connected with the League since its foundation, including myself, who had, as already stated, resigned from the body in 1888, after it became clear that the anarchistic and quasi-anarchistic elements were getting the upper hand, had already rejoined the Social Democratic Federation before the League finally broke up. The original body now became for some years the only Socialist organization in the country. Speaking of my own revived connexion with it, I was soon re-elected to the London Executive Council, and for a short time in 1892 took over the editorship of Justice, which Hyndman, owing to the pressure of other work, had been compelled to abandon. I was myself obliged to retire before very long, owing to the fact that family calls gave occasion for my absence from England at this time for some months during the year. Henry Quelch was then appointed editor at a regular salary, which, comparatively small though it was, especially at first, enabled him to give up all other work and devote himself entirely to the paper and the organization it represented. The efficiency and laborious energy he put into his new occupations from the beginning continued till his death in 1913, a period of over twenty years. The Social Democratic Federation maintained its activity under that name till 1911. For some time before this a feeling had grown up within the body for enlarging (as it was deemed) the scope of the influence of the old organization.

The Independent Labour Party, which was started early in 1893 as a working-class political organization independent of the two traditional political parties in the State, though at first founded on a non-Socialist basis, in a few years became permeated with Socialist ideas (albeit in many cases of a somewhat nebulous character), and before long openly declared itself Socialist. It thenceforward tended to absorb most of the vague floating Socialist aspiration of the country. About the same time as the Independent Labour Party came into existence, Robert Blatchford, with a small circle of collaborators and sympathizers, started his weekly paper, The Clarion, in which most of the main principles of Socialism found expression in a popular form. The Clarion had considerable influence throughout the country, societies of its supporters, calling themselves “Clarionets,” being founded in many of the larger towns. But the influence alike of the independent Labour Party and of the Clarion and its devotees was largely in the provincial centres of the Midlands and the North, especially the latter. In London and the South of England the SDF still held the field. Now, the desire on the part of its members to acquire a largely increased influence in the industrial districts of northern and central Britain induced them to give ear to the promptings of Victor Grayson (the elect of Colne Valley in 1908) and others, to merge the SDF in a larger national party, it being represented that the SDF would never make appreciable further progress under its old name, having acquired an evil reputation throughout the country for narrow sectarianism. This meant presumably that it was too little time-serving in its policy, and that its adhesion to Socialist principle was too strict. Be this as it may, a resolution to change the name of “Social Democratic Federation” to that of “British Socialist Party” was passed at the conference of the year 1911. The result hardly justified the expectations which led to the surrender of the original name, honoured as it was by well-nigh a generation of hard uphill work in the propaganda of Socialist principles, and in the endeavour to make Socialism a political force in the country At first a few Independent Labour men, “Clarionets,” and some hitherto unattached Socialists joined the rechristened organization, but most of these outside elements soon fell away, so that the new “British Socialist Party” before long became, as regards membership, practically identical with the old “Social Democratic Federation,” the change of name having had no appreciable effect one way or the other on its numbers or influence. The general history of the organization since it was reconstituted as the British Socialist Party belongs more to the region of current events than to that of reminiscences, and hence need not detain us here.

The general progress of Socialist ideas in this country within recent years is by no means commensurable with the membership of any definitely organized Socialist body. The whole of modern Democratic thought is more or less permeated with Socialist ideas and aspirations. The administrative changes to which the European War has given rise have educated the public opinion of the working classes, on more than one side of elementary economic reconstruction, in a Socialist direction. The apparent temporary eclipse on the political side of the old principle of Internationalism, the substitution even for the moment of the struggle of races in place of the struggle of classes, is, I am convinced, far more superficial and far more temporary than many would have us believe. In this respect the Great War will undoubtedly be found to have cut both ways. While on one side it will have tended to inter-racial estrangement, on another side it will have tended equally to effect an advance in race-solidarity. But it is not to be doubted that in the long run, and with the resumption of the class-struggle in its full intensity, all estrangement, all race-prejudice, will before very long disappear in face of the rise of a new International, which the working classes of the civilized world, taught by the experience of the past, will raise to a strength and influence in the determining of inter-racial disputes (mainly interesting as they are to the dominant classes of the countries concerned) such as will render any renewal of the great race struggles of the past for ever more impossible. With the firm establishment and corresponding influence of such a new International the United States of Europe, hitherto regarded as a utopian dream, will be, if not at once realized, in a fair way towards realization.

As to the ideal side of Socialism, the decline in effectiveness of the old objects of religious sentiment and in the theoretical basis generally of what I have elsewhere termed “introspective” Ethics and Religion, through the universal collapse of a living and active faith in the Supernatural and its sanctions, together with the accompanying equally universal spread of an “agnostic” attitude of mind towards all dogmatic creeds based thereupon, has opened the way for the definite substitution of a human and social ideal, and of human and social sanctions, for the old theological ones. The definite acceptance of Socialism, with all that it connotes in its ulterior consequences, unconsciously serves to fill a place in men’s minds formerly occupied by the various creeds outworn. Thus does the conception of Human Brotherhood and Unity, as expressed in the old Trinity of the French Revolution – Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity – acquire alike a new and definite meaning in itself and a fresh significance as the object of religious sentiment, The economic reconstruction which is the material basis of Socialism, and which is often taken to be the whole of Socialism, will, with the growth alike in diffusion and in intensity of the new meaning and implications involved in human destiny, be seen in its true proportions. While the politico-economic revolution in the organization of Society will be more than ever before recognized as the first and indispensable condition of all higher social life, whether in thought, in art, or in conduct, the Socialist ideal will be seen not to be limited to this mere politico-economic change, but to reach forward to something above and beyond any mere material transformation.


Last updated on 28.3.2004