August Bebel

Society of the Future


This is going to be a very short chapter. It contains only the conclusions that follow from what has been said, conclusions the reader may easily draw for himself.

The woman of the future society is socially and economically independent, she is no longer subjected to even a vestige of domination or exploitation, she is free and on a par with man and mistress of her destiny. Her education is the same as that enjoyed by men, with the exception of some modifications demanded by differences of sex and sexual functions. Living in natural conditions, she is able to develop and exercise her physical and mental powers and faculties according to her requirements. She chooses her occupation in such a field as corresponds with her wishes, inclinations and talents, and enjoys working conditions identical to those of men. Even if she is engaged in some trade for some hours she may spend another part of the day working as an educator, teacher or nurse, and devote a third part of the day to some art, or the study of some branch of science, and set aside yet another part of the day to some administrative function. She joins in studies and work, enjoys diversions and entertainment with other women or with men as she pleases and as occasion allows.

In choosing the object of her love, woman, like man, is free and unhampered. She woos or is wooed, and enters into a union from no considerations other than her own inclinations. This bond is a private agreement, arrived at without the intermediacy of a functionary — just as marriage was a private agreement till far into the Middle Ages. Socialism is creating nothing new here, it only restores at a higher stage of civilisation and antler new social forms what had prevailed universally before private property began to dominate society.

Under the proviso that the satisfaction of his instincts inflicts no injury and disadvantage on others, the individual shall see to his own needs. The gratification of the sexual instinct is as much a private concern as the satisfaction of any other natural instinct. No one is accountable for it to others and no unsolicited judge has the right to interfere. What I shall eat, how I shall drink, sleep and dress, is my own affair, as is also my intercourse with a person of the opposite sex. Intelligence and culture, full independence of an individual — all qualities that will evolve naturally as a result of the education and the conditions pertaining in the future society — will guard everyone against committing acts that would be to his disadvantage. The men and women of the future society will possess a far higher degree of self-discipline and self-knowledge than those now living. The simple fact that all the stupid prudery and ridiculous affection of secrecy regarding the discussion of sexual matters will have vanished guarantees that intercourse between the sexes will be much more natural than it is today. If two persons who have entered into a union turn out to be incompatible, or are disappointed in or repulsed by each other, morality demands that this unnatural and therefore immoral bond be dissolved. Since the conditions that have up to now condemned a large number of women to either celibacy or the barter of their bodies will have vanished, men will no longer be able to maintain any superiority. On the other hand, the transformed social conditions will remove many of the inhibitions and inconveniences which affect married life today, often prevent it from unfolding, or even render it wholly impossible.

There is a growing awareness among wide circles of the inhibitions, contradictions and unnatural aspects of the position of the woman today, and this awareness finds graphic expression in social literature as well as in fiction, but often in a distorted form. That the present form of marriage is less and less compatible with its purpose no thinking person can deny. And hence it is no wonder that there are even people who consider freedom in the choice of love and in the dissolution of the bonds already sealed only natural, while they show no inclination to draw the necessary conclusions to the effect that the present social system should be changed. They believe that freedom of sexual intercourse is a thing to which only the privileged classes should be entitled. Mathilde Reichhardt-Stromberg, for example, in answer to writer Fanny Lewald's(1) campaigning for the emancipation of women, wrote:

"If you (F.L.) demand complete equality for women in social and political life, so George Sand must also of necessity be justified in her campaigning for emancipation which aims no higher than that of which man has long since enjoyed undisputed possession. Indeed, no reasonable grounds can be found to show why only woman's head and not her heart as well should be admitted to this equality and be free to give and take as freely as man. On the contrary, if woman has by nature the right and consequently the duty — for we should not bury the talent bestowed on us — of exerting her brain tissue to the utmost in the contest with the intellectual titans of the opposite sex, she must also have the right, just as they do, to preserve her equilibrium by accelerating the circulation of the heart's blood in whatever way may seem appropriate to her. Do we not all read without the slightest moral indignation how Goethe — to choose the greatest of all as an example — again and again wasted his heart's warmth and the ardour of his great soul on yet another woman. An enlightened person finds this only natural, precisely by virtue of the greatness of his insatiable soul, while only the narrow-minded moralist finds fault with this mode of living. Why, then, deride the "great souls" among women! ... Let us but assume that the whole female sex consists exclusively of great souls like those portrayed by George Sand, that every woman is a Lucrezia Floriani whose children are all children of love and who brought up all these children with true motherly love and devotion, as well as with discernment and sound common sense. What would then become of the world? There can be no doubt that it could continue to exist and to progress, as it does today, and it might even fare exceptionally well in the process."

But why should this be a prerogative of "great souls" and not also of those who are not "great souls"? If a Goethe and a George Sand, to single out these two from the many who acted and are acting like them, could live according to their hearts' dictates — and about Goethe's love affairs whole libraries are published that are devoured by his male and female admirers in rapturous ecstasy — why condemn in others what becomes the subject of ecstatic admiration, when practised by a Goethe or a George Sand?

Admittedly, freedom in choosing the object of love is impossible in bourgeois society — this all our preceding arguments have demonstrated — but place the whole community in social conditions similar to those enjoyed by the social and intellectual elite, and the whole community gains access to similar freedoms. In Jacques George Sand depicts a husband who judges the adulterous relations of his wife with another in these words: "No human being can command love, no one is guilty if he feels it or ceases to feel it. What debases woman is the lie, adultery is not the hour she gives to her lover but the night after that which she spends with her husband." In accordance with his views, Jacques feels obliged to yield his place to his rival, and in so doing philosophises as follows: "Borel in my place would have quietly beaten his wife and then without blushing have taken her into his arms, debased by his blows and his kisses. There are men who after the oriental fashion kill their unfaithful wife, because they consider her their lawful property. Others fight their rival, kill him or drive him away and then ask the woman they claim to love for kisses and caresses, and the woman then either shrinks back in horror or yields in despair. This is the accepted practice in conjugal love, and it seems to me that the love of pigs is less base and less coarse than that of such people."(2) Commenting on these passages, Brandes writes:

"These truths which are considered elementary for the civilised world of today, were regarded as atrocious fifty years ago." But the "world of property and culture" does not dare even today openly to recognise the principles of George Sand, although it actually lives by them. As in morality and religion, it affects righteousness also in marriage.

What Goethe and George Sand used to do, thousands of others, who bear no comparison with Goethe or Sand, are doing today, without losing the respect of society in the least. All that is needed is a respectable position, the rest comes of itself. This notwithstanding, the liberties enjoyed by a Goethe and a George Sand are immoral judged from a bourgeois viewpoint, because they contradict the moral laws invoked by society and are incompatible with the nature of our social conditions. Arranged marriages are the normal practice in bourgeois society, the only "moral" union of the sexes. Bourgeois marriage is, we have proved this beyond contradiction, the consequence of bourgeois property relations. Closely bound up with private property and the right of succession, it is entered into for the purpose of begetting "legitimate" children as heirs. And under the pressure of the social conditions it is also forced upon those who have nothing to bequeath(3); it becomes a social law, whose violation the state punishes by sentencing men and women who live in adultery and who have separated to terms of imprisonment.

In socialist society there is nothing to be bequeathed, unless one regards domestic utensils and personal belongings as an inheritance; hence, the modern form of marriage becomes obsolete. The question of inheritance is thereby solved and socialism does not have to bother to abolish it. Once there is no private property, there can be no right of inheritance. Thus, woman is free and her children do not restrict her freedom, they can only multiply the joy she gleans from life. Nurses, teachers, women-friends, the rising female generation are at hand to assist the mother when she needs help.

It is possible that there will be men in the future who will say with Alexander von Humboldt: "I was not made to be the father of a family. Moreover, I consider marrying a sin and the begetting of children a crime." What of it? With others the power of natural instincts will see to it that equilibrium is maintained. We are worried neither by the hostility to marriage of a Humboldt nor by the pessimistic philosophy of a Schopenhauer, Mainländer or von Hartmann, who hold out for mankind the prospect of self-destruction in the "ideal state". In this respect we agree with F. Ratzel who has every justification for writing:

"Man must no longer look upon himself as an exception to the laws of Nature, but should at last begin to look for the regularities that underlie his own actions and thoughts, and strive to lead his life in accordance with natural laws. He will arrive at the point when co-existence with his fellows, that is, the family and the state, will be organised not according to the precepts stemming from long-forgotten centuries but in accordance with rational principles of the knowledge he has of Nature. Politics, morality, legal principles, which are still gleaned front all (possible sources, will be determined according to the laws of Nature alone. An existence worthy of the human, being that man has dreamed of for millennia will at last become reality."(4)

That day is approaching with rapid strides. Human society has, in the course of millennia, traversed all previous phases of development in order finally to arrive at the point where it started from, to communistic property and to full equality and fraternity, but no longer among congeners alone, but among the whole human race. Such is the great progress it makes. What bourgeois society strived for in vain and where it runs aground, and is bound to do so, is in establishing freedom, equality and fraternity for all people, a goal which socialism will achieve. Bourgeois society was able to evolve only the theory, but here, as in many other respects too, its practice was at odds with its theories. Socialism will combine theory and practice.

Yet, while man returns to the starting-point in his development, this is effected on an infinitely higher cultural level than the one from which he started. Primitive society had common property in the gens, in the clan, but only in the crudest form and at an extremely low level of development. The development that has since taken place has, on the one hand, done away with common property, apart from small and insignificant vestiges, has broken up the gens and finally atomised the whole of society, while at the same time during its various stages it has enormously increased the productive forces of society and the diversity of requirements, created nations and great states from among the gens and tribes, but simultaneously produced once more a state of affairs that stands in blatant contradiction to society's requirements. The task of the future is to resolve this contradiction by transforming property and the means of production back into collective property on the broadest possible basis.

Society takes back what was once its own and what it has created, but, in accordance with the newly created living conditions, it makes possible for all its members a standard of living on the highest cultural level, that is, it grants to all what under more primitive conditions was the privilege of individuals or of individual classes. To woman, too, is restored the active role she played in primitive society, not a dominating role, but the role of man's equal.

"The end of the development of the state resembles the beginning of human existence. The original equality finally returns. The maternal element opens and closes the cycle of everything human" — Bachofen wrote in his Matriarchy and Morgan said:

"Since the advent of civilisation, the outgrowth of property has been so immense, its forms so diversified, its uses so expanding and its management so intelligent in the interests of its owners, that it has become, on the part of the people, an unmanageable power. The human mind stands bewildered in the presence of its own creation. The time will come, nevertheless, when human intelligence will rise to the mastery over property, and define the relations of the state to the property it protects, as well as the obligations and the limits of the rights of its owners. The interests of society are paramount to individual interests, and the two must be brought into just and harmonious relations. A mere property career is not the final destiny of mankind, if progress is to be the law of the future, as it has been of the past. The time which has passed away since civilisation began is but a fragment of the past duration of man's existence; and but a fragment of the ages yet to come. The dissolution of society bids fair to become the termination of a career, of which property is the end an aim; because such a career contains elements of self-destruction.

"Democracy in government, brotherhood in society, equality in rights and privileges, and universal education, foreshadow the next higher plane of society to which experience, intelligence and knowledge are steadily tending.

"It will be a revival, in a higher form, of the liberty, equality and fraternity of the ancient gentes."(5)

Thus, men representing diverse points of view arrive, on the basis of their scientific investigations, at identical conclusions. The complete emancipation of woman, and her equality with man, is the final goal of our cultural development, the achievement of which no power on earth can prevent. But it is possible only on the basis of a transformation, that abolishes all domination of man by man and hence also that of the worker by the capitalist. Only now will human development reach its peak. The "Golden Age" men have been dreaming of for millennia and for which they have yearned, will come at last. An end will be put to class domination once and for all, and with it to Man's domination of woman.

1. Frauenrecht und Frauenpflicht. Eine Antwort auf Fanny Lewalds Briefe "Für and wider die frauen", 2. Auflage, Bonn, 1871.

2. Georg Brandes, Die literatur des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, 5. Band, Leipzig, 1883, Veit & Co.

3. Dr. Schäffle writes in his Bau und Leben des sozialen Körpers: "A loosening of the bonds of matrimony by facilitating divorce is certainly undesirable, it would contradict the moral tasks of human mating and would be prejudicial to the maintenance of population level, as well as to the education of children." From the above it follows that we not only consider this view wrong but are inclined to consider it "immoral". Dr. Schäffle himself would admit that it would be impossible to introduce or preserve in a society much more civilised than the present one institutions which conflict with its conceptions of morality.

4. Quoted in Häckel's Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschichte, 4. Auflage.

5. Lewis H. Morgan, Ancient History, New York, 178, p. 552.

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