August Bebel

Society of the Future



Man is to have the opportunity to develop himself to the full — that should be the purpose of all human socialisation, which means that he must not be fettered to the soil on which he has been placed by accident of birth. We should acquaint ourselves with our fellows elsewhere and the world at large not only from books and newspapers; personal observation and practical experience are also needed. Hence, the future society must make accessible to all what in present society is already available to many, even if in most cases they are driven to it by need. The requirement for variety in all aspects of life is a striving deeply rooted in human nature: It stems from the craving for self-perfection that is inherent in every human being. A plant in a dark room stretches and strains, as though endowed with consciousness, towards the light that filters through some crevice. Just so with man. An instinct implanted in man must find rational satisfaction. The craving for change is not hampered by the condition of the new society; on the contrary, that society does everything to gratify this craving. This will be facilitated by the highly developed system of communications and made necessary by international relations. In future many more people will travel for all manner of purposes than was the case before.

Society requires ample stocks of the necessaries of life of all kind in order to be able to meet all demands. It correspondingly regulates working hours according to requirements, makes them longer or shorter, as requirements and the time of year make it desirable. It will apply itself in one season mainly to agriculture, in another mainly to industrial production and to arts and crafts, it deploys its labour force as occasion may require: through the combination of numerous forces provided with the most up-to-date technical equipment it can with the greatest of ease carry out which seem impossible today.

Society not only takes over the care of the young, but does the same for its aged, sick and incapacitated. The community takes care of those who for any reason have become unable to work. This is not a question of charity, but one of duty, not a hand-out but care and assistance born of every possible consideration due to those, who, while strong and able to work, fulfilled their duties to the community. Old age is made more pleasant with everything society has to offer. Everyone holds onto the hope that he will some day himself enjoy what he now affords to others. Now the old are not haunted by the thought that others are waiting for them to die in order to come into an inheritance. The fear that once they are old and helpless they will be thrown aside like a squeezed-out lemon has also vanished. They depend neither on the charity and support of their children nor on the alms of the community.(1) The position of most parents who in their old age depend on the support of their children is all too familiar. And how demoralising an influence is exerted on children, and to a still greater degree on relatives, by the hope of a possible inheritance. What base passions are awakened, and how many are the crimes that such hopes have given rise to — murder, forgery, usurpation of inheritance, perjury and blackmail.

The moral and physical condition of society, the nature of the work, homes, food, clothing and social life it provides will all help to protect men against accidents, sickness and debility. Natural death, the ebbing away of vital strength will then become more and more common. The conviction that heaven is on earth and that death is the end will cause people to lead sensible lives. He enjoys most who enjoys longest. Long life is valued most by the clergy who prepare people for the "hereafter". A life free from cares makes it possible for the clergy to enjoy the highest life expectancy of any profession.


To live man needs first and foremost food and drink. Friends of the so-called "natural way of life" often ask why Social-Democrats are indifferent to vegetarianism. Well, everybody lives as he pleases. Vegetarianism, a doctrine that prescribes an exclusively vegetable diet, spread first in circles who were in the pleasant position of being able to choose between a vegetable and a meat diet. The large majority of humanity does not have this choice, it has to live in accordance with its means, the meagerness; of which keeps it mainly on a vegetable diet, often on one containing very little nourishment at that. For our working-class population in Silesia, Saxony, Thuringia, etc., the potato is the main source of nourishment, even bread occupies only second place; meat, and then only of the poorest quality, is hardly ever seen on the table. The vast majority of the rural population, even though it breeds livestock, rarely eats meat for it has to sell the animals in order to satisfy its other wants with the proceeds received from sales.

For the innumerable people who are compelled to live as vegetarians an occasional solid beefsteak or a good leg of mutton would definitely enhance their diet.(2) When vegetarians object to the overrating of the nutritive value of meat they are right, but they are wrong when, mainly for sentimental reasons, they oppose its use as pernicious and fatal, for example, because it is against man's nature to kill animals and partake of a "corpse". The wish to live comfortably and undisturbed compels us to declare war upon and exterminate a large number of living beings in the shape of all manner of vermin, and so as not to be eaten up ourselves we have to kill and destroy wild animals. Letting the "faithful friends of man" — domestic animals — live unhindered would multiply the number of these "faithful friends" in several decades to such an extent that they would "devour" us by robbing us of food. The claim that vegetable food fosters mildness of temperament is also erroneous. The "beast" was awakened in the mild, vegetarian Hindu when the cruelty of the English drove him to mutiny.

The nutritive value of a food must not be judged by its protein content alone. The proportion of the protein consumed with the relevant foodstuff that remains undigested must also be taken into account. From this viewpoint meat, rice and potatoes are in the proportion of 2.5, 20 and 22, that is, of 100 grammes of albumen contained in meat, 2.5 reappear in excrement, of 100 grammes contained in rice and potatoes, 20 and 22 grammes respectively. The celebrated Russian physiologist Pavlov and his school have shown that many more enzymes are secreted to digest bread than are to digest meat. Pavlov further proved that the digestive juices secreted by the stomach consist quantitatively of two amounts: the gastric juice is secreted partly through the stimulation of the stomach's mucous membrane by the given food and partly as "appetite" juice through the stimulation of the sense organs by the food. The amount of "appetite" juice depends on our psychic condition, such as hunger, worry, anger, joy, etc., and on the nature of the relevant food.

However, the importance of "appetite" juice for the digestion varies for different foods. Some foods, for example, bread, boiled egg-white or pure starch, cannot, as has been proved through experiments, be digested at all if their digestion is not initiated by the secretion of "appetite" juice: they can be digested only if the appetite is stimulated, or if they are taken together with other food. On the other hand, meat, as Pavlov leas demonstrated, can be digested in part even without "appetite" juice, although that juice does accelerate digestion greatly (five times). "We must, therefore, take into account circumstances connected with man's psyche. Here is the bridge between the findings of nutrition physiology and social conditions. The modern town-dweller, notably the mass of the working class, lives in social conditions that are bound to kill all normal appetite. Work in badly ventilated factories, constant worry about where the next meal is to come from, the insufficiency of mental relaxation and cheerfulness, total bodily exhaustion, — all these are factors undermining appetite. In this state of mind we are unable to secrete the 'appetite' juice, necessary for the assimilation of vegetable food. On the other hand, in meat we have a food which, in a manner of speaking, takes care of its digestion itself, and a good part of it is digested even without appetite stimulation and, moreover, being a stimulant and at the same time a luxury, it whets the appetite enormously. Thus, meat also promotes the digestion of vegetables eaten at the same meal, and secures more effective assimilation of the substances taken in with the latter. This we regard as a great advantage of animal food for modern man."(3)

Sonderegger hits the nail on the head when he says: "There is no order of rank as regards the need for different kinds of food, but there is an immutable law with regard to the combination of their nutritive substances". It is also true that no one can nourish himself on a diet of meat alone, but can do so on an exclusively vegetable diet, provided he can select it properly. On the other hand, no one will be satisfied with a definite vegetable diet, be it even the most nourishing. Beans, peas, lentils, in short, pulses are the most nutritious of all food, but to live exclusively on them — which is meant to be possible — would be torture. Karl Marx mentions in Capital that the Chilean mine-owners compel their workers to eat beans year in year out because they impart to them great strength and enable them to carry burdens that they would not be able to carry if they kept to any other diet. However, despite their nutritive value the workers reject the beans, but they are nevertheless forced to put up with them. In any case, the happiness and well-being of people does not depend on a particular type of diet, as is claimed by the fanatics among the vegetarians. Climate, social conditions, customs and individual taste are decisive.(4)

As civilisation advances, a vegetable diet increasingly takes the place of the exclusive meat diet, such as that to be found among hunting and pastoral peoples. A varied agriculture is a sign of more advanced civilisation. Much more vegetable nutritive matter can be obtained from a field of a given size than meat from the same area by cattle-raising. This factor leads to vegetable food assuming ever greater preponderance. The meat deliveries we are receiving as a result of the vandalic methods practised in remote countries, especially South America and Australia, will be exhausted in a few decades. On the other hand, animals are raised not only for the sake of their meat, but also for the sake of wool, hair, bristles, skins, milk, eggs, etc., and many industries and many human wants depend on these products. Also, a large amount of industrial waste products and domestic scraps can hardly anywhere be turned to better advantage than in cattle-raising. In future the seas will also have to yield to man their wealth of animal food in a much higher measure than they do today. In future, it will rarely happen, as it does today, that in the event of rich catches whole loads of fish are turned into manure because the available transportation or canning facilities are inadequate for their preservation or because high transportation costs prohibit their sale. And it is very probable that with the abolition of the antithesis between town and country, when the population moves from the big towns to the country and work in closed factory premises is linked with agricultural work, once again a meat diet will give way to a predominantly vegetable diet. Admittedly, the lack of stimulants in the vegetable diet can be compensated for by proper, sensible cooking and the addition of seasoning. But a purely vegetable diet is neither likely nor necessary in the future.


As regards food, quality rather than quantity is the vital consideration: plenty is of little use if that plenty is no good. Quality is greatly improved by the way food is cooked. The preparation of fond must be conducted as scientifically as all other human activity if it is to afford the best results. This requires knowledge and equipment. That our women, to whose lot the preparation of food falls in the main, do not and cannot possibly possess that knowledge needs no proof.

Mechanised appliances in big catering establishments have even today reached a level of perfection which the best equipped domestic kitchen cannot equal. A kitchen equipped with electricity for heating and light is ideal. No smoke, no excessive heat, no vapours, the kitchen looks more like a parlour than a work-room, in which all sorts of technical equipment and machines take in their stride the most unpleasant and time-consuming work. It has electrically driven machines for peeling potatoes and fruit, for stoning fruit, for stuffing sausages, for pressing lard, cutting meat, frying and roasting it, grinders for coffee and spices, bread-slicers, ice-crushers, corkscrews and corkers, and a hundred other apparatuses and machines enabling a relatively small number of people to prepare food for hundreds of diners without undue effort. The same applies to dish-washing and cleaning appliances.

For millions of women the kitchen is one of the most exhausting, time-robbing and wasteful institutions; it ruins their health and depresses them and is a source of constant worry for those — and they form the majority — whose means are scanty. The abolition of the private kitchen will be a deliverance for countless women. The kitchen is as obsolete an institution as the artisan's workshop; today both imply mismanagement, a waste of time, effort, heating and lighting, foodstuffs, etc.

The nutritive value of food is enhanced by the ease with which it can be assimilated; this is the decisive factor.(5) A natural system of nourishment for all is possible only in the future society. Cato (200 B.C.) praises Ancient Rome for having had experts in the art of healing, but, up until the 6th century of the city, no work for them to do. The Romans lived so soberly and simply that disease was rare and old age was the usual cause of death. Only when gluttony and idleness, in short, licence for some and want and excessive work for others, asserted themselves, did matters change radically. Gluttony and licence will be impossible in future, and likewise want, misery and privation. There is enough to satisfy all. Heinrich Heine wrote:

There's enough of barley and wheat below
Every appetite to appease,
Myrtles and roses, beauty and joy,
And, finest of all, sweet peas.
O yes, when their pods split up, sweet peas
Will be piled on the ground sky-high.
As for heaven, let sparrows and hawks share it
With the angels that live in the sky.(6)

"He why eats little lives well" (that is, long), said the Italian Cornaro in the 16th century, as quoted by Niemeyer. Ultimately chemistry will also participate in the manufacture of new and better foods in a manner and on a scale hitherto unknown. Today this branch of science is greatly abused in order to facilitate adulteration and fraud, but it is obvious that a chemically prepared food, possessing all the properties of a natural product, fulfils the same purpose. The form of preparation is of secondary importance, provided the product meets the requirements in all other respects.


As in the kitchen, so in all spheres of domestic life a revolution will be accomplished; it will make redundant countless jobs that have to be carried out today. As in the future the home kitchen will be made entirely superfluous by the setting up of food-preparation centres, so central heating and central lighting will abolish all the former work connected with the maintenance of stoves, lamps and other lighting fixtures; warm and cold water supplies will place washing and bathing within the reach of all and without help from anybody else. Central laundries complete with drying machines will take over washing and drying; central dry-cleaning establishments will see to the cleaning of clothes and carpets. In Chicago, carpet-cleaning machines were exhibited that did the work in so short a time as to evoke the admiration of the ladies visiting the exhibition. An electric door opens at a slight pressure of the finger and closes automatically. Electric installations transport letters and newspapers to flats on all floors; electric lifts save us the trouble of climbing stairs. The interior decoration of houses — floors, wall-covering, furnishings — will all be arranged with an eye to easy cleaning and there will no longer be dust and germ traps. Refuse of all sorts will be carried out of the house by pipes, as waste water is today (refuse chutes). In the United States and in some European towns, as for example Zurich, Berlin and its suburbs, London, Vienna and Munich such houses already exist; they are exquisitely equipped and the numerous affluent families who live in them — others could not afford to — enjoy many of the conveniences described above.(7)

Here once again we have an illustration of how capitalist society breaks the ground for a revolution in domestic life, but only for its elect. Once domestic life has been fundamentally transformed in this way, the servant, "this slave to all the whims of the mistress — disappears, as does the mistress. "Without servants no culture", Herr von Treitschke exclaimed with comical pathos. We cannot imagine society without servants, as Aristotle could not imagine it without slaves. It is surprising that Herr von Treitschke regards our servants as the "bearers of our culture". Treitschke, like Eugen Richter, is worried about boot-polishing and clothes-brushing, which he cannot see everyone doing for himself. In nine cases out of ten, people now see to that themselves, or a wife does it for her husband, or a daughter or son for a whole family. It could be said that what nine people out of every ten have done up to now, the remaining tenth can also do. But there is a better way out. Why in future should not the young people, irrespective of sex, be enlisted for this and other necessary work of a similar type? There is nothing shameful about work, even if it consists in polishing boots. This has even been discovered by certain officers of the old nobility, who to escape their debts ran off to the United States, where they became servants or bootblacks. In one of his pamphlets Herr Eugen Richter even goes so far as to bring about the downfall of the "Socialist Imperial Chancellor" and the collapse of the "socialist state of the future" over the boot-cleaning problem. The "Socialist Imperial Chancellor" refuses to polish his own boots and therein lie his troubles. Our opponents have relished this description and thereby merely demonstrated the modesty of their demands with regard to criticism of socialism. Herr Eugen Richter lived to experience the sorrow of not only seeing one of his own party members in Nuremberg invent a shoe-cleaning machine soon after the publication of his pamphlet, but also of learning that electric shoe-cleaning machines that carry out the task to perfection were exhibited at the Chicago World Exhibition. Thus, the principal objection raised by Richter and Treitschke against socialist society has been virtually thrown overboard by an invention made even in bourgeois society.

The revolutionary transformation that fundamentally changes all aspects of human life and especially the position of women is proceeding before our very eyes. It is only a question of time, when society will take up this transformation on a large scale, when the process will be accelerated and extended to all domains, so that all without exception are able to enjoy its innumerable and manifold advantages.

1. "The person who has led an honourable and active life until old age should in his old age depend neither on the charity of his children nor that of bourgeois society. An independent, carefree and untroubled old age is the natural reward for unceasing effort when he was strong and healthy." Thünen, Der isolierte Staat. But what is the state of affairs in bourgeois society? Millions look with dread upon the day when, once they have grown old, they will be thrown into the street. And our industrial system makes man grow old prematurely. The much vaunted old-age and invalid pensions in the German Empire are but a scanty substitute — this even their most ardent defenders admit. They are even less adequate than the pensions the municipalities grant to the large majority of retired civil servants.

2. That this is really so has been confirmed by nutrition experiments reported recently by two Italian scientists investigating the metabolism of a population that has for generations been living on an exclusively vegetable diet. A rural population of this type living in the most wretched economic circumstances can be found in the south of Italy, in Abruzzi. Its diet consists of maize flour, vegetables and olive oil. They do not partake of milk, cheese or eggs. Meat is seen on the table only three or four times a year. For experimental purposes meat was added to their diet, namely, every person received 100 grammes of meat for 15 days and 200 grammes for a further 15 days. It emerged "that the assimilation processes, that is, the assimilation of food in the intestinal canal, proceeded much more satisfactorily. The very large amount of nutritious matter that left the body without being used was reduced to a minimum. Not only the added animal protein was fully assimilated but also the attending vegetable diet was used up to a much higher degree than before. This is all the more remarkable since it was hard to digest because it consisted almost exclusively of maize, which contains a large amount of cellulose." Dr. Med. A. Lipschütz. "Eine Reform unserer Ernährung?" Neue Zeit, 27. Jahrgang, 1. Band, S. 915.

3. A. Lipschütz, op. cit., S. 914 bis 915.

4. "The staple diet consists almost exclusively of vegetables with a very small addition of animal foods. Meat holds a very modest place in the peasant's diet. No one will be able to deny today that it is possible to live that way. Even a diet consisting exclusively of vegetables which, if rationally chosen, offers the palate wide variety, is quite compatible with well-being. However, another requirement asserts itself unequivocally on all continents — the original simple diet of the people is being forsaken, and an increase in tasty species and foods is demanded. This also applies to meat which can be used for preparing many hundreds of dishes. This urge to have a varied diet can be seen everywhere, and as simple customs, habits and national costumes disappear, so also do old eating habits. This revolution is proceeding in all countries; in Japan, too, where a peculiar national diet formerly prevailed. European food is ousting old practices and the Japanese Navy has even introduced the new fare, because it is more concentrated and proved to be more suitable for the men serving in the Navy. Everywhere efforts are being made to obtain this concentrated, rich and tasty food." M. Rubner, Volksernährungsfragen, S. 31 bis 32, Leipzig, 1908.

5. "The decisive factor is the facility of assimilation by the individual." Niemeyer, Gesundsheitslehre.

6. Heinrich Heine, Deutschland, ein Wintermärchen.

7. Of the 2,521 flats built in Wilmersdorf in 1908:

There was gas in all the flats.

In and around Berlin there are already many big houses with a single kitchen in which food is prepared for all tenants. Thus, bourgeois society carries in all fields the seeds for the socialist transformation of society. The garden-town of the future will, along with the town centre accommodating the gas and electricity works and heating plant, the schools and assembly halls, also have a central kitchen for the whole community. It is feasible that the passages accommodating the electric and heating mains will be widened to form square shafts, in which food upon receipt of a telephone call will be transported in small automatic trucks to homes, in a way similar to that in which it is planned to establish electric underground mail boxes between post offices in big cities. The solution of this problem is much easier to achieve then that of the flight problem, which till recently seemed no more than a utopia." L. Lilienthal, Reform der Hausarbeit. Dokumente des Fortschritts, Heft 9, 1909.

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