Woman and Socialism. August Bebel
The Socialisation of Society

Chapter XXVII.
Free Development of Individuality.

1. – Freedom from Care.

Man should be given an opportunity for perfect development. That is the purpose of human association. So he must not remain tied down to the spot where lie has been placed by the chance of birth. One should become acquainted with the world and people not only through books and newspapers, but also by personal observation and practical experience. So future society must enable all to do what many are able to do even in present-day society, though at present the force of want usually forms the motive. The desire for change in all human relations is deeply rooted in human nature. This is due to the impulse of seeking perfection that is innate in every living being. The plant that is placed in a dark room extends and stretches, as if conscious of the ray of light that penetrates some crevice. It is the same with man. An instinct, that is innate in man, must find rational satisfaction. The desire for change will not be opposed by the conditions prevailing in the new society; the satisfaction of this desire will, on the contrary, become possible to all. The highly developed system of communication will make it easy, and the international relations will demand it. In the future far more persons will travel through the world, for the most varied purposes, than heretofore.

Society will require an ample supply of all the necessities of life to meet all demands. Society will therefore regulate its hours of work according to the needs. It will lengthen or shorten them, as the demands or the season of the year make this appear desirable. During one season it will devote more time to agriculture, and during another it will devote more time to industry and to artistic crafts. It will direct the labor forces as the needs may let it appear desirable. By combining various labor forces with the most perfect technical appliances, it will be able to carry out large undertakings playfully, that seem practically impossible to-day.

As society provides for the young, so also will it provide for the old, the sick and invalid. If any one has, by some misfortune, become incapacitated for work, society will provide for him. This will not be an act of charity, but a simple performance of duty. The assistance will not be a morsel graciously given, but support and care provided with every possible consideration, bestowed as a matter of course upon him who performed his duty toward society as long as he was able to do so. The evening of life will be made beautiful by all that society has to offer. For every one will hope himself to receive some day what he bestows upon other aged persons. No old person will be harassed by the thought that others are awaiting their death to inherit their possessions. They are also freed from the terror of being cast aside like a squeezed lemon when they have become old and helpless. They must neither depend on the kindness and support of their children, nor on public charity.[1] How unfortunate is the position of most parents who in old age must depend upon the support of their children, is a well-known fact. And how demoralizing to children and to relatives is the hope of inheriting! What degrading passions are aroused and how many crimes are caused thereby – murder, suppression, legacy-hunting, perjury and blackmailing!

The moral and physical condition of society, the nature of its work, homes, food, dress, its social life, all will tend to prevent accidents, sickness and debility. Dying a natural death, the normal decline of the vigor of life, will become the rule more and more. The conviction that heaven is upon earth and that death means the end, will cause people to lead a rational life. He who enjoys longest, enjoys most. The clergy themselves, who prepare people for “the hereafter,” know bow to value a long life. Their care-free existence enables them to attain the highest average age.

2. – Changes in the Methods of Nutrition.

Food and drink are prime necessities of life. People who believe in the so-called “natural manner of living” frequently ask why Socialists remain indifferent to vegetarianism. Everyone lives as best he may. Vegetarianism, that is, the doctrine of an exclusive vegetable diet, found its chief supporters among the persons who are so comfortably situated that they are able to choose between a vegetable and an animal diet. But the great majority of persons have no choice. They must live according to their means, and the scantiness of their means compels them to live on a vegetable diet almost exclusively and often on one of the poorest quality. For the German laboring population in Silesia, Saxony, Thuringia, etc., the potato is the principal article of food; even bread comes only second. Meat only rarely appears on their tables and then it is meat of the poorest quality. The greater part of the rural population, although they raise cattle, also rarely eat meat; for they must sell the cattle, and, with the money obtained, must satisfy other needs. To these numerous people who are obliged to live as vegetarians, a solid beefsteak or a good leg of mutton would mean a decided improvement in their nourishment.[2] If vegetarianism opposes the overeating of an animal diet, it is right. If it combats the partaking of meat as harmful and detrimental, mainly for sentimental reasons, it is wrong: when it is claimed, for instance, that natural feelings forbid to kill an animal and to partake of a “corpse.” The desire to live in peace compels its to wage war upon and destroy a great many living creatures, such as vermin, and, in order not to be devoured ourselves, we must kill and exterminate wild beasts. If we could allow “the good friends of man,” the domestic animals, to live undisturbed, these “good friends” would multiply to such a degree that they would “eat” us by robbing its of nourishment. The assertion that vegetable diet creates a gentle disposition is false, too. Even in the gentle, vegetarian Hindoos the “beast” was aroused, when the severity of the English drove them to rebellion. The nutritive value of an article of food cannot be estimated only by the amount of albumen that it contains. It must be taken into consideration how large a quantity of the albumen consumed remains undigested. Considered from this view-point, we find, for instance, meat and rice, or potatoes, as 2.5 to 20 or 22. In other words, of 100 grammes of albumen consumed with meat, 2.5 grammes will pass out of the system undigested. Of 100 grammes consumed with rice or potatoes, respectively, 20 and 22 grammes will pass out. The famous Russian physiologist, Pavlow, and his scholars have shown that, with the digestion of bread, there is much more ferment than with the digestion of meat. Pawlow has furthermore shown that the gastric juices produced by the pancreas glands are of two kinds. They are produced through stimulation of the mucous membrane by the food itself, and are also produced as “appetite juices” by stimulation of the senses. The quantity of our appetite juice depends upon our psychic condition for the time being; for instance, on hunger, grief, annoyance, joy, etc., and it also depends upon the nature of the food. But the importance of the appetite juice differs with different articles of food. Some foods, as, for instance, bread, boiled albumen, as contained in eggs, or pure starch, cannot be digested at all, unless the digestion is introduced by the appetite juice, as has been directly proved by experiments. They can only be digested when they are eaten with an appetite, or together with other food. But meat, as Pawlow has shown, can be partly digested Without appetite juice, although, with the aid of appetite juice, meat is digested much more rapidly (five times as fast). “We must therefore take factors into consideration that depend upon the psychology of man. Here a connection has been established between facts of the physiology of nutrition and social conditions. The modern residents of large cities, especially the masses of the working class, live under social conditions that are bound to destroy their normal appetite. Work in the squalid factory, the constant worry over their daily bread, absence of mental repose and pleasant impressions, complete physical exhaustion, all these are factors that are destructive of appetite. In this psychological condition we are unable to furnish the appetite juice required for the digestion of vegetable food. But in meat we possess an article of food that – if we may thus express it – provides for its own digestion. A considerable quantity of meat can be digested without appetite; it also acts as a stimulant and a creator of appetite. So meat aids the digestion of vegetables consumed at the same time, and thereby insures a better assimilation of the consumed matter. This appears to be the great advantage of an animal diet to modern man.” [3]

Sonderegger hits the nail on the head when he says: “There is no order of rank among articles of food, but there is an immutable law regarding the combination of their nutritive qualities.” It is true that no one can live on an animal diet exclusively, while one can live on a vegetable diet, provided that the diet can be properly selected. On the other hand, no one would care to content himself with one specific kind of vegetable food, no matter how nutritive it might be. Thus, beans, peas, lentils, in one word, the leguminosae, are the most nutritive of all articles of food. But to live on them exclusively – which is said to be possible – would be a torture. Karl Marx mentions, in his first volume of “Capital,” that the mine owners in Chili compel their workingmen to eat beans all the year round, because this nourishment gives them an unusual amount of strength and enables them to carry loads as no other nourishment will. The workingmen refuse the beans, notwithstanding their nutritive value, but are compelled to content themselves with this diet. Under no circumstances does the happiness and welfare of man depend upon a definite kind of food, as the fanatics among vegetarians claim. Climate, social conditions, custom and personal taste are the determining factors.[4]

In the measure in which civilization advances, exclusive meat diet, as is met with among hunting and pastoral tribes, is partly replaced by vegetable diet. The variety of cultivated plants is a proof of higher civilization. On a given area, moreover, much more nourishment can be obtained by the cultivation of plants than by the breeding of cattle. This development gradually causes the vegetable diet to predominate. The supply of meat from distant countries, especially South America and Australia, will be exhausted in a few decades. On the other hand, animals are raised not only for their flesh, but also for wool, hair, bristles, hides, milk, eggs, etc. Many industries and a number of human needs depend upon it. Much offal in industry and housekeeping could not be more usefully employed than by cattle raising. In the future the ocean, too, will have to yield to man its wealth of animal food in a larger measure. Then it will not occur that loads of fish will be used as manure, owing to, the high cost of transportation, or canning, that prevent their sale, as is frequently the case at present. It is quite probable that the abolition of the extremes between city and country, when work in closed shops will be combined with work in the open fields, will again lead to a preponderance of the vegetable diet. Of course the absence of stimulants in a vegetable diet can be equalized by a proper and rational preparation of the food with the aid of spice. But that future society should live on vegetables exclusively is neither probable nor necessary.

3. – The Communistic Kitchen.

In the matter of nutrition quality is far more important than quantity. Much food is not beneficial if the food is not good. But quality may be greatly improved by the manner in which food is prepared. The preparation of food should be conducted as scientifically as any other human activity, in order to be as advantageous as possible. This requires knowledge and proper equipment. That our women who are chiefly engaged in the preparation of food do not possess this knowledge and cannot possess it, requires no further proof. The equipment of the large kitchen has already attained a degree of perfection that the best equipped domestic kitchen cannot come up to. The kitchen equipped with electricity for lighting and heating is the ideal one. No more smoke, heat, or disagreeable odors! The kitchen resembles a workshop furnished with all kinds of technical and mechanical appliances that quickly perform the hardest and most disagreeable tasks. Here we see potato and fruit-paring machines, apparatus for removing kernels, meat-choppers, mills for grinding coffee and spice, ice-choppers, corkscrews, bread-cutters, and a hundred other machines and appliances, all run by electricity, that enable a comparatively small number of persons, without excessive labor, to prepare a meal for hundreds of guests. The same is true of the equipments for house-cleaning and for washing the dishes.

To millions of women the private kitchen is an institution that is extravagant in its methods, entailing endless drudgery and waste of time, robbing them of their health and good spirits, and an object of daily worry, especially when the means are scanty, as is the case with most families. The abolition of the private kitchen will come as a liberation to countless women. The private kitchen is as antiquated an institution as the workshop of the small mechanic. Both represent a useless and needless waste of time labor and material.

The nutritive value of food is heightened by its easier assimilation; this is a decisive factor.[5] Only the new society will be able to provide a rational nutrition for all. Cato sets forth with especial praise that in ancient Rome, tip to the sixteenth century of the city (200 B. C.), there were men versed in the art of healing, but that they found little occasion to practice their art. The Romans led such simple and temperate lives that sickness was rare among them, and most people died from old age. Only when extravagance and idleness, in short, a dissolute life, set in, on the one hand, and poverty and excessive work on the other, matters were completely changed. In the future, extravagance, idleness and dissoluteness will be impossible, but misery, want and privation will be impossible likewise. There is an abundance for all. Heinrich Heine has sung ere now:

Sufficient grain is grown on earth
With bread all beings to provide,
Roses and myrtles, beauty, mirth,
And sugar-peas are there beside.

Yes, sugar-peas for every one!
When want no longer harrows,
Then heaven gladly shall we leave
To angels and to sparrows.[6]

“He who eats little lives well” (that is, long), said the Italian Cornaro, in the sixteenth century, as quoted by Niemeyer. Finally, chemistry, too, will be active in the future to produce new and improved articles of food. To-day this science is frequently abused to adulterate food; but it is clear that a chemically prepared article of food that has all the qualities of a natural product, serves the same purpose. The manner in which food is obtained is a matter of secondary importance, provided that it answers all requirements.

4. – Transformation of Domestic Life.

As the kitchen, so our entire domestic life will be revolutionized, and countless tasks that must be performed to-day will become superfluous. As the central kitchen will do away with the private kitchen, so central heating and electric lighting plants will do away with all the trouble connected with stoves and lamps. Warm and cold water supply will enable all to enjoy daily baths. Central laundries and drying-rooms will assume the washing and drying of clothes; central cleaning establishments, the cleaning of carpets and clothes. In Chicago carpet-cleaning machines were exhibited that cleaned carpets in an incredibly short time, calling forth the wonder and admiration of the ladies who visited the exposition. The electric door opens at a slight pressure of the finger and shuts off itself. Electric contrivances carry letters and newspapers to every floor of the houses, and electric elevators save one the trouble of climbing stairs. The interior furnishing of the houses, the coverings of walls, floors, furniture, etc., will be so arranged as to make house-cleaning easy and to avoid the gathering of dust and germs. Garbage and all kinds of offal will be carried out of the houses by waste-pipes like the water that has been used. In the United States, and in some European cities, for instance, in Zurich, Berlin and its suburbs, London, Vienna, Munich, we already find wonderfully equipped houses, in which well-to-do families – others could not meet the expense – reside and enjoy a great many of the advantages described above.[7]

Here again we have an illustration of how bourgeois society paves the way for the revolutionizing of domestic life, though only for its chosen few. But when domestic life will be generally transformed in the manner we have pointed out, then the domestic servant, this “slave to all whims of the mistress,” will disappear. But the “lady of the house” will disappear also. “Without servants, no civilization,” Mr. v. Treitschke exclaims, horror-stricken, with an amusing pathos. He can picture society without servants as little as Aristotle could picture it without slaves. It comes as a surprise to us, though, that Mr. v. Treitschke regards our servants as the “standard-bearers of our civilization.” Treitschke, like Eugen Richter, is also worried over the shining of shoes and the cleaning of clothes, which people cannot possibly attend to themselves. As a matter of fact, nine-tenths of the people do polish their own shoes and clean their own clothes to-day, or women do it for their husbands, or daughters or sons do it for the family, and we could answer that what has been done so far by the nine-tenths might as well be done by the remaining tenth, also. There might be still another way. Why should not, in future, young persons, regardless of sex, be called upon to perform such and similar necessary tasks? Work is no disgrace, not even when it consists of shining shoes. That has been experienced by many an officer of noble birth who had to make his escape to the United States on account of debts, and there became a porter or a boot-black. In one of his pamphlets, Mr. Eugen Richter even has the shoe-polishing problem cause the downfall of the “Socialist chancellor” and the disruption of the “Socialist state.” For the “Socialist chancellor” refuses to polish his own shoes, and that is his great misfortune. Our opponents have enjoyed this description hugely and have thereby only proved that their demands on a criticism of Socialism are exceedingly modest. Mr. Eugen Richter lived to experience the great grief that a member of his own party, in Nuremberg, invented a shoe-polishing machine, shortly after the publication of his pamphlet, and that, at the World’s Fair, at Chicago, an electric shoe-polishing machine was exhibited that performed the task to perfection. So Richter’s and Treitschke’s main argument against Socialistic society has been shattered by an invention made within bourgeois society itself.

The revolutionary transformation that is changing all human relations completely, especially the position of women, is being consummated under our very eyes. It is only a question of time when society will take up this transformation on a large scale, will hasten and generalize the process, and will thereby enable all to participate in its countless and multiform advantages.


1. “The person who has worked hard and honestly until old age, should not depend upon the benevolence of his children or that of bourgeois society. An independent, easy and care-free old age is the natural reward for continuous exertions during the days of health and strength.” v. Thuenen – “The Isolated State.” But how are the aged treated in bourgeois society? Millions look forward with dread to the time when they will be cast out into the street because they have grown old; and our industrial system makes people age before their time. The much boasted old age and invalid pension in the German Empire is only a very scanty substitute; even its most ardent supporters admit that. The assistance rendered is still much more insufficient than the pensions allowed by the municipalities to the majority of their pensioned officials.

2. That this is the fact has been proven by experiments in nutrition, recently reported by two Italian scientists. The metabolic assimilation of a population that has long since lived on a vegetable diet exclusively, was examined. Such an agricultural population, living in wretched economic conditions, is met with in southern Italy in the Abruzzi. Their nourishment consists of corn, vegetables and olive oil. They do not partake of milk, cheese or eggs. Meat is brought to their tables only three or four times a year. By way of experiment meat was added to their diet. During 15 days every person was given 100 grammes of meat and during the following 15 days 200 grammes. It was found that the process of assimilation became much more favorable. The formerly great loss of nutritious matter was considerably diminished. Not only was the newly added animal albumen perfectly assimilated, but also the vegetable food that was consumed together with the meat had been assimilated far better. This was all the more remarkable because this particular kind of vegetable diet, which consisted almost exclusively of corn, was hard to digest, as it contains much cellular tissue. Dr. A. Lipschuetz, M. D. – “A Reform in our Nutrition?”

3. A. Lipschuetz.

4. “The popular nutrition is almost exclusively a vegetable diet with a slight addition of animal substances. Peasants eat generally very little meat. No one will deny that one can live in this manner. As a matter of fact, an exclusive vegetable diet, which can also be given greater diversity by proper selection, is quite compatible with good health. But far different needs are becoming manifest in every continent. The popular simple manner of nutrition is being forsaken for more tasty foods and combinations, and for this meat is essential, because it can be employed in many different ways. Everywhere we perceive this tendency. Like the old, simple customs and national customs disappear, so also are the old forms of nutrition being set aside. This transformation can be observed in all countries. Even in Japan where a peculiar national diet prevailed until recently, European fare has displaced the old regime. In the Japanese navy the Dew diet was introduced because it proved to be more beneficial to the men in service. The endeavor to establish this concentrated, rich and tasty fare is a general one.” M. Rubner – “The Question of Public Nutrition.”

5. The power of assimilation of food by each individual is the standard. Niemeyer: Hygiene.

6. Heinrich Heine: “Germany. A Winter’s Tale.”

7. Among 2521 dwellings erected in Wilmersdorf during 1908, the following number were equipped with:

Central heating 1001 or 39.71 per cent.
Hot water supply 373 or 54.46 "    
Electric light 1288 or 51.09 "    
Baths 2063 or 81.83 "    
Elevators 699 or 27.73 "    
Vacuum cleaners 304 or 12.06 "    

All of them were supplied with gas.

In and near Berlin there also are a number of houses furnished with a central kitchen. In this common kitchen the food for all the residents of the house is prepared. Thus bourgeois society contains all the germs of future transformation. “The garden city of the future will not only contain the town hall, the central gas, electric lighting and heating plant, the schools and libraries, but a central kitchen also. It is not impossible that the underground passages, containing the electric cables and heating-pipes, will be expanded, and that through them small automatic wagons will carry the food directly into the residences upon an order by telephone, similar to the underground, electric mail-carriers that have been planned, for transporting the mail from one post-office to another in the large cities. That is much simpler and can be attained much more easily than the solution of the problem of aerial navigation that still seemed utterly utopian a short while ago.” E. Lilienthal – “The Reform of Domestic Work,” “Documents of Progress,” 1909.