August Bebel

Society of the Future


As soon as the rising generation of the new society attains its majority all further development is left to the individual. Each does as his inclinations and talents prompt him. Some choose a branch of the ever more impressively advancing natural sciences: anthropology, zoology, botany, mineralogy, geology, physics, chemistry, archaeology, etc., others take up the science of history, philology, the arts, etc. Still others, moved by passion, become musicians, painters, sculptors or actors. In future there will be no artists, scientists or craftsmen by profession. Thousands of brilliant talents, hitherto stilled, will now be able to unfold and manifest themselves to knowledge and skills. There will be no longer musicians, actors, artists, scientists by profession, but the more by inspiration, talent and genius. These achievements will excel those of the present day to the same vast extent as the industrial technical and agricultural achievements of the future society will excel those of today.

An era of art and sciences will be ushered in, such as the world has never seen before, and its creations will be of a corresponding quality.

The renascence art will experience, once conditions worthy of human beings exist, was foreseen by no less a man than the late Richard Wagner, who spoke of it as early as 1850 in his Art and Revolution. This work is particularly remarkable, because it appeared immediately after a revolution that had been crushed and one in which Wagner took part. Wagner predicts what the future will bring. In this book he turns directly to the working class upon whom he calls to help the artists found genuine art. Among other things, he says: "When, with the free men of the future, the earning of a living is no longer the purpose of life; when, on the contrary, thanks to the new faith now practised, or better knowledge, the earning of a livelihood in exchange for a compatible natural activity is ensured him beyond all doubt, in short, when industry is no longer our master but our servant, we shall make the joy of life the purpose of life and seek to educate our children able and fit really to experience that joy to the full. Education, based on the building up of strength and the fostering of physical beauty, will, if only due to the untroubled love for the child and the joy experienced at his thriving beauty, become a purely artistic one, and everybody will in some respect become a true artist. The diversity of natural inclinations will develop the most manifold trends to an unexpected richness!" That is a thoroughly socialistic idea and fully in keeping with our statements.

Social life will become increasingly public in the future. This trend can be seen at its clearest from the completely different position of woman, as compared with former times. Domestic life will be confined to the essential minimum, while the widest possible field will be opened to the gratification of the social instinct. Large meeting-places for lectures and debates and for the discussion of all public affairs, in which the ruling decision will in future belong to the collective, eating halls, recreation and reading rooms, libraries, concert halls, theatres, museums, play and sports grounds, parks and promenades, public baths, educational establishments of all sorts, all fitted out with the latest equipment, shall afford rich opportunities for superlative achievement in the arts, sciences and all spheres of entertainment. Likewise will the institutions for the care of the sick, the infirm and the aged conform to the highest possible standards.

How paltry will our much vaunted age appear in comparison. This fawning for favour and benevolence from above, this dog-like cringing, this jealous struggle for positions of privilege, in which the to most hateful methods are employed, along with stifling of convictions, the veiling of good qualities that might give offence, emasculation of character, simulation of views and feelings — all those qualities which can be summed up as a cowardice and unprincipledness, now come every day more and more distinctly to the fore. Whatever elevates and ennobles man — self-reliance, independence and incorruptibility in his views and convictions, his freedom to assert his personality — is considered in the conditions prevailing today mainly as a fault or defect. These properties often ruin him who possesses them, if he cannot suppress them. Many are not even aware of their degradation, they have grown used to it. The dog regards it as a matter of course that he has a master who, when out of temper, gives him a taste of the whip.

With the above-mentioned changes in social life all literary production will undergo a radical change. Theological literature, which accounts for the largest number of titles in the annual catalogues of new publications, drops out together with legal literature. There is no interest shown in the first and no use for the second; publications concerned with the daily battles over political institutions will also disappear, because these institutions will no longer exist. The relevant studies will become part of cultural history. The vast mass of inane publications — evidence of corrupted taste, often possible only through sacrifices made by the author out of vanity — are gone. Even speaking from the viewpoint of present conditions, it can be said without exaggeration that there is such a vast mass of superficial or harmful books and of obvious trash in the field of literary production that four-fifths of all writings could disappear from the market without loss to a single sphere of culture.

Belles-lettres and the press will be hit to the same extent. There is nothing more lacking in intellect and more superficial than most of our newspapers. If our level of cultural achievement and scientific outlook were to be judged from the content of our newspapers, it would be low indeed. The activity of men and the general state of affairs are judged from a viewpoint that is reminiscent of the distant past and that has long since been proved untenable by the science of today. A large portion of our journalists are people who, as Bismarck once said, not without reason, "missed their calling", but whose level of education and salary claims fall in with the business interests of the bourgeoisie. Furthermore, these newspapers, as well as the majority of the literary journals, have the mission of circulating most obscene advertisements in their advertisement sections, while their business sections pursue identical aims in a different field. The material interest of the owner determines the content. Literature is generally not much better than the newspapers, for it cultivates interest in sexual excesses, renders homage now to shallow pseudo-enlightenment, now to the most absurd prejudices and superstitions. The aim is to make the bourgeois world — all its shortcomings, which are conceded as trifles, notwithstanding — appear as the best of all possible worlds.

In this extensive and important field the future society will have to thoroughly put its house in order. Science, truth, beauty and debate over what is best, will rule supreme. Everyone who makes a worthwhile contribution will have ample opportunity for participation. He no longer depends upon the favour of a publisher, money considerations or prejudice but on the judgement of impartial experts, in whose selection he himself takes part, and against whose unfavourable decision he can always appeal to the community, a step that is impossible in newspaper offices or publishing houses today which are guided by their private interests alone. The naive notion that all debate will be suppressed in a socialist community can be defended only by those who see in the bourgeois world an ideal social system, and who, because of their hostility to socialism, seek to slander and belittle it. A society that is based on complete democratic equality neither knows nor tolerates oppression. Only unlimited freedom of thought makes uninterrupted progress possible, and this is the vital principle of society. It is also a gross delusion to represent bourgeois society as a champion of genuine freedom of thought. Parties representing the class interests of the ruling publish in the press only what does not assail their class interests, and woe to anyone who should attempt to kick against this. His social ruin is scaled, as everybody who is familiar with the situation knows only too well. Many a writer could tell a tale of woe on how publishers handle literary work which does not suit them. Finally, our press and criminal legislation betray the spirit that animates our ruling and governing classes. True freedom of thought is looked upon by them as the most dangerous of evils.

Next: Free Development of the Individual