Hyndman Fortnightly Review, March 1915.

Social-Democracy and Peace

Source: Fortnightly Review, March 1915;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

When I debated with Charles Bradlaugh in the old St. James’s Hall, Piccadilly, just thirty-one years ago, on “Will Socialism benefit the English people?” he stipulated beforehand that I should give a definition of Socialism. Bradlaugh himself was great at definitions, and I considered this demand quite reasonable. I therefore did my best to satisfy him, and stated that “Socialism is a conscious endeavour to substitute for the anarchical competition of to-day the organised co-operation of to-morrow.” I do not claim that this covers the whole of the ground by any means; but, if all that is expressed, in this connection, by the word “conscious” is fully understood, the sentence quoted comes as near to satisfying the request for a brief and clear statement of the aims and objects of Social Democracy as any I could formulate at the present time. Simple as it appears to be, the conceptions underlying the definition involve for their complete realisation by far the greatest social transformation and revolution the world has ever seen.

At all periods of human history the great majority of people have believed that the social forms under which they lived were, in the main, permanent; even when, as we can now see, changes of the most important character were going on around them. The ablest brains of antiquity could not conceive of a stable society in which chattel slavery would be unknown. Yet this great institution finally disappeared. Its downfall was due, in the Roman Empire, to economic causes which brought about the emancipation of the slaves that all the servile wars had been wholly unable to accomplish. The price of slaves rose as further Roman conquests were rendered impossible; the cost of their keep increased owing to inferior cultivation; manumission became common because, except for the very rich, it was practically unavoidable. Thereupon, it was discovered that slavery was on the whole immoral, and the Church hurried to give its religious encouragement and sanction to what economics had decreed and ethics had accepted. But neither slaveholder, moralist, nor ecclesiastic had the remotest idea what would constitute the succeeding stages of human development after the downfall of that system of chattel slavery upon which the superstructure of their society was mainly built. They could never have imagined that, hundreds of years later, wagedom, which is little better than chattel slavery in disguise, would carry on the traditions of class supremacy.

Yet that is the position in the most highly-civilised countries to-day. The overwhelming majority of the population in Great Britain, for example, consists of wage-earners. That is to say, they are men and women who have no means of earning a livelihood save by the sale of the labour-power in their own bodies to those who possess or control the means of making wealth. A slave, says Cobbett, is a man who possesses no property. The ordinary workers of our day possess no property, and, in the case of factory and even agricultural toilers, do not own or control their own tools. On the contrary, their tools, in the shape of machinery, in one form or another, virtually own and control them, dictating the speed at which they shall work and the amount they shall produce, while the product itself passes clean out of their hands.

True, the modern wage-slave is nominally free and possesses certain illusory political rights which his ancestor the chattel slave did not enjoy. But this freedom and these rights have not yet sufficed to emancipate the wage-slave class from economic servitude to the class which has succeeded the old land- and slave-holders in control over the great means and instruments for the creation of wealth. The individual wage-earner is no longer at the command of a single master; but during the whole of his working time he is completely dominated by the employing class, or by the companies which have been created by that class. Whereas, also, the old chattel slave, with all his disadvantages, had certain recognised claims upon his owner, the wage-slave has no claims whatever upon his master or the manager. If times are bad and there is no profit to be made by paying him wages for the use of his labour-power, out he goes upon the street, and the employer either runs his plant on short time or shuts it down altogether.

The fact that a certain proportion of the workers receive good wages, in comparison with others who are paid on a lower level of subsistence, makes no difference to the system. Some highly-educated slaves received considerable remuneration from their owners, and even became rich men, but this did not affect the lot of the mass of overworked and ill-fed slaves of the same owners toiling in their mines or on their fields under a villicus. (This latter “organiser of labour,” by the way, received a smaller ration than the slaves themselves, on the express ground that his duty was less exhausting than theirs.) What prevents the present wage-slaves of all grades from understanding how little freedom they really possess is the payment of wages in cash. This wholly pecuniary bond blinds them to the fact that they receive on the average but a fraction of the value of the wealth they produce in return for the use of their capacity to labour; just as their liberty to change from one employer to another obscures the other truth that they are always, in reality, under duress to the capitalist class as a whole.

All this was clearly and vigorously pointed out to the working class of Great Britain by the more advanced of the Chartists in the first half of the nineteenth century. The term “Social Democrat,” also, which is supposed to come from Germany, was first employed by one of the leaders of that great but unsuccessful movement in 1839. It meant a Socialist who was at the same time a Democrat, as opposed to the State or Bureaucratic Socialists who, even thus early, made their appearance in the field. The Chartists taught that so long as the payment of wages by one class to another class continued, and production for profit under a competitive system consequently remained the dominant form of employment, it was quite impossible for the propertyless majority to emancipate themselves from the control of the rich. The upper grades of wage-earners in the various trades might, as their trade unions gained strength, obtain certain advantages by agreements with the capitalists. But they could only do so through recognising the validity of the system itself; while the lower descriptions of labourers were in no case able to make even this little way against the economic forces above them.

The only possible remedy for this state of things, in which the very progress of society tended to put more and more power at the disposal of the bourgeoisie,[1] was, according to these champions of the proletariat, the victory of the workers, who would then cease to be wage-earners and would constitute the entire community. This would gain for the entire people organised Social Democracy, owning and controlling all the great means of making and distributing wealth, and would thus establish the Co-operative Commonwealth. Two full generations have elapsed since the break-up of the Chartist movement. Several of the minor political proposals of their leaders have been adopted. But, as we look round at the present moment, we must admit that, regarded from their point of view, economic and social progress, in the interest of the whole people, has been so deplorably slow as to be scarcely observable.

The merit of Marx was that, thrusting aside almost brutally the methods of what has been called Utopian Socialism – much as he admired the personal work of St. Simon, Fourier, Owen, and others – he devoted his life to providing a thorough historic and scientific basis for the revolutionary doctrines of his immediate precursors in Great Britain and elsewhere. How great was the service he thus rendered to humanity will, I predict, be far better appreciated in the future even than it is now. Temporary success is no conclusive proof of the soundness of any theory or movement. But when we see, a full generation after Marx’s death, that those who accept in the main his economic and sociologic analysis, and are guided by the broad lines of his material synthesis, muster in millions to-day as against a few hundred thousands in 1882; when we observe also that their numbers grow rapidly year after year, in the face of most bitter opposition and furious criticism; it is certain that we have here something which the educated and dominant classes of all countries would do well to study carefully. Superficial criticism is futile; conspiracy of silence has no effect. The growth of the International Socialist Party in every civilised country, founded on this scientific Socialism, is the more remarkable since Marx’s writings are not couched in a very readable style, and his views themselves are not easy to grasp and apply even when expounded in popular shape. More remarkable still, they engender an almost theological enthusiasm and rancour in the minds of many who had previously been indifferent to the welfare of others and apathetic as to their own.

Never before, I think, has a system of political economy and sociologic and historic investigation, relying wholly upon reasoning and argument, and dealing exclusively with material causes and effects, engendered such fanaticism, combined with such unwearying determination. Yet the theories themselves, divorced from concrete illustrations drawn. from the social conditions of to-day, read cold and philosophic enough. In this country, indeed, when Marx’s views are not contemned as mischievous and incorrect, they are still regarded as little more than abstractions. But it is quite different elsewhere. The great majority of delegates at International Congresses are invariably Socialists of the Marxist school. The danger in this direction is that the adherents of these opinions may degenerate into a sect, whose doctrinaire tenets will put them out of touch with the mass of the people. Signs of this unfortunate tendency are already not lacking, and the less advanced the stage of popular education in any given nation the more probable is it that the party there should take this turn.

But what are the contentions of Social Democrats at the present moment, and what are the steps which they propose to take when international relations between the workers are resumed after the war?

There are certain points on which all Socialists are agreed, from whatever standpoint they regard the problems of future development. These are, that the community should own and control all the means and instruments of creating wealth, to be used in the interests of the whole people, and that, so far as possible, this end should be striven for by peaceful methods in order to minimise the chances of reaction. The sentimental Socialists, the Ethical Socialists, the Church Socialists are all at one upon this. Collectivism in place of individualism, co-operation instead of competition, production for use instead of production for profit. These are the ideals to be kept steadily before us. Even men and women who do not admit the truth of the materialist conception of history, who do not recognise class antagonism and class war as being inevitable under existing social conditions, and who refuse to acknowledge that progress can never be secured by the mass of humanity until the wage-system has been abolished and the money fetish has been swept away, will accept these views.

Unfortunately, experience has shown that such well-meaning people, while avoiding the Scylla of narrow pedantry, fall into the Charybdis of economic compromise, and are gradually absorbed into some political faction controlled by the capitalist class. The Marxists, at any rate, much as all must lament the weakness and cowardice of their leaders in Germany on the burning question of this war of aggression, know precisely what they want and why and how they mean to get it. They have no illusions as to the moralisation, or Christianisation, or general sentimentalisation of the individual capitalist, or of the capitalist class. The capitalist is what he is and capitalists are what they are because, so long as their business is to make profits, they cannot avoid doing what they do.

Whether they like it or not, the workers represent to the employers, in their own affairs, simply a set of people who offer for sale a very remarkable commodity – the power to labour, to wit. The workers must sell it at the wages of the day, governed on the average by the cost of subsistence, or else they must starve, or go into the workhouse. The capitalists must buy the workers’ sole commodity, or retire from business, or go into bankruptcy. Out of the labour embodied by the wage-earners in commodities the capitalists make their profit, because the wages paid are of much less value than the total value of the product. To this product in the shape of exchangeable commodities the machinery used adds no value except the cost of the wear and tear and the incidentals used in the process; nor, of course, does the new material, which merely reappears in a new shape.

Here, say Social Democrats, is a never-ending class war: the war, namely, between the owners of the powers to produce wealth, including the land, on the one side, and the owners of the labour-power, who can only earn wages by enabling these owners to produce at a profit, on the other. Evidently, if all were combined to create wealth for general use there would be no profit and the antagonism would be at once resolved.

Now Social Democrats hold that the entire history of the human race since the break-up of primitive communism has been the record of such class antagonisms, formerly much more numerous and, in a sense, more complicated than they are to-day. We have arrived at the last class antagonism, which is, speaking broadly, the antagonism between the propertyless wage-earners and the bourgeoisie. Sometimes this exhibits itself bitterly in the shape of strikes, which are rarely very successful: sometimes in the form of demands upon the State to restrain one or other of the conflicting interests: sometimes in the attack of the employers upon the workers as expressed in a lock-out of the wage-earners from their employment. But the struggle is always going on. Even when capital and labour are supposed to be working in harmony there is invariably a fringe of workers, ready to work but unemployed, who hang upon the labour market, and, by their competition, keep down the rate of wages. This, say the shrewder capitalists (and Socialists fully agree with them) is a necessity for the proper working of the whole capitalist system. Remove the unemployed permanently from the labour market and the wage-earners would gradually become possessors of the means of producing and distributing the wealth which they themselves create. This is why the Social Democratic proposals for the cooperative employment of all toilers who may be out of work by the State itself, at a high standard of life, is always so vehemently opposed by the entire bourgeoisie. They know that the death-knell of the profit-making system would then speedily strike.

But we are under no delusions as to the possibility of suddenly achieving the desired transformation from Capitalism to Socialism, either peacefully or forcibly. There is no short cut to the Social Revolution. The revolts of impatience and insufficient organisation only play into the hands of the dominant class, as all experience has shown. Thorough education and comprehension among the people, combined with the general social advance to the stage of economic development which renders Socialism practically attainable, are indispensable conditions for success. A highly-educated population of peasant proprietors cannot proceed to a complete Socialist system: an uneducated nation of wage-earners cannot organise a Co-operative Commonwealth, however far advanced its great factory industry may be. Even State-ownership and control, the wages system being maintained, will not be Socialised until the wage-earners themselves are prepared to undertake administration and distribution, on communal lines, for the benefit of the entire population.

Meanwhile, however, events are moving in our direction even more rapidly than Social Democrats themselves anticipated. The expansion of the limited company, or anonymous society, as the French call it, has finally destroyed the idea that there is any personal relation in production for pecuniary profit. Those who buy shares in industrial, or railway, or shipping, ventures, or banks, etc., have, in the majority of cases, never seen their own properties, and have not the remotest notion as to how their workers are employed, or what rates of wages they are paid. The board of directors, or more probably the managing director, or manager, sees to all that, and in successful concerns he is assuredly not the person who absorbs the bulk of the profits. Remove the shareholders, as mere anonymous encumbrances, and the workers could easily pay the managers their salaries, if necessary, and carry on the business equally well, even if competition were not immediately abolished.

In Great Britain, the State, even in ordinary times, is by far the greatest employer of labour, and carries on huge departments alike of distribution and production. Yet, though the State workers as a rule are very badly paid, and the remuneration of the heads of departments is by no means excessive, the work as a whole is well done. As I write the great working-class organisations are clamouring for the extension of State-ownership and control in many departments, notably in the direction of the transfer of all armament construction and maintenance to national foundries and shipyards; while it would not take much more friction between the pitmen and the coal-owners to start a demand for the acquisition of collieries by the nation. How long will it be, as these functions of the State extend, before the workers demand that their remuneration shall be regulated, not by the lowest standard of subsistence for which they are forced to toil, paid in wages; but by the highest standard of physical and mental enjoyment, provided in goods, out of the total wealth which can be created by the services of the whole community? And how far shall we then be from Socialism?

Abstract considerations as to the Few and the Many are of little or no importance in relation to social changes of this kind. It is not the deserving few – the inventors, discoverers, adapters, organisers – who take to themselves the bulk of the social wealth created by the toilers.

Even if this were so, and I were thus drawn into a discussion on the ethics of individual appropriation, it has long ago been observed that the very highest efforts of the human intelligence are in the main social, and due to the unceasing progress of the race, from prehistoric times up to our own day. Nobody now disputes that all the bed-rock inventions and discoveries of mankind were made under the old primitive communism. It is equally certain that in this primitive communism, remains of which are found among so-called savage tribes in all parts of the world, no individual of the tribe would possess any personal rights over his invention or discovery. We of the twentieth century inherit these social gains which increased the collective powers of man over nature, on the small scale then possible, and are under endless obligations to these unknown Archimedes’ and Leonardos of the past.

The same is true of similar progress made at a far later date. It is beyond dispute, therefore, that the ablest men of science and the most brilliant inventors and practical adapters do but carry a few steps farther the accumulated knowledge of centuries. They cannot, by any possibility, relieve themselves of their long chain of obligation, even if they wished to do so. More than this, if a genius, moving ahead of his time, discovers some great physical truth, or invents a new machine, it remains useless for all practical purposes until the social surroundings become suitable for its application; and of this there have been numerous instances. Thus, the great men of past ages, whom we esteem and admire for their individual work and social services, are all indebted in turn to the unseen and unrecorded work of their predecessors of long ago.

The man of genius is not highly paid in our modern society, nor does he wish to be. It is the keen, cunning appropriator and trustifier, never having invented anything or benefited anybody, who, under our legal enactments and private property institutions, receives the greatest share of surplus value – as a reward for what? For having done us the honour to be born in possession of his anti-social qualities. But, in reality, it makes no difference to the workers, as a class, what the character, condition, or claims may be of those who divide up among themselves the surplus value created by the workers’ labour after they have received their wages – out of which, be it remarked in passing, they have to pay back rent to the dominant class. Neither is it of the slightest importance to them whether the participators be few or many, good men or bad. All they know – those of them who study the problem of their own economic subjection – is that no matter how clever a wage-earner may be, the odds are more than a thousand to one he will toil all his life for the benefit of others, and die as poor as he has lived.

Meanwhile, however, the permanent underlying laws of this anarchic society, where social ends can only be attained by antagonistic means, are making themselves felt through the industrial chaos which they will eventually harmonise and co-ordinate, so soon as mankind appreciates the course and the tendency of their development.

Fourier first pointed out in 1825 that competition must find its logical term in monopoly. It has taken ninety years of continuous progress to verify the truth of this forecast. Now all can see that this gradual concentration of capital, whether under nominal free trade or actual protection, was inevitable. The one object of every individual capitalist is to make larger profits and to extend the scope of his business, if need be at the expense of his competitors. The rule of such a struggle is, “Get bigger or burst.” When the smaller man bursts, the bigger organiser of labour “acquires his assets” and “extends the operations” of his firm. Soon this is too heavy a job for the individual capitalist. Then the company form of capitalist control comes in, and shareholders replace individual owners. As time goes on these separate companies, fighting one another at reduced prices in the same trade, find that they could do their work much more economically and dispense with a large portion of their faux frais – commercial travellers, advertisements, costs of distribution, and the like – if they would only co-operate with, instead of competing against, one another. Straightway they drop their daggers of mutual economic conflict and combine for their common advantage, making thereby greater profits for the fraternal shareholders in the erstwhile rival concerns. From this to monopoly, in certain branches of production and trade, is no long step. Unconsciously the capitalists, by this far-sighted repudiation of free competition, have rendered socialisation in each separate department much easier than it would have been, if their own interests had not marshalled them the way that we are going.

What I have written so far can scarcely be regarded as vehement or inflammatory. On the contrary, it is, I think, a plain and rather dull statement of economic facts, looked at from the standpoint of an educated Socialist. In the United States, where Trusts, Combines, and general agreements not to compete are more powerful, or perhaps I should say more in evidence, than they are here, the Federal Government has been endeavouring to check, or even to break up, these vast concentrations of capital, in the supposed interest of the nation at large. Strong personal feeling is introduced, and the great American billionaires – the richest men the world has ever seen – are denounced as enemies of the Republic. But such reactionary attempts and rhetorical objurgation are futile. However wrong, or temporarily objectionable, the actions of these folk may be, it is quite impossible to prevent the development of economic forces by legal enactments, or to restrain them permanently by the judgments of the Courts. Properly considered, the gigantic Trusts are carefully preparing in every department for the establishment of Socialism. Some of their principal men are beginning to recognise whither events are tending, and one of the ablest of them stated not long ago that such a vast enterprise as the Steel Trust could not be allowed much longer to carry on its business outside the control of the community.

And that is the plain truth. Unfortunately, we in Great Britain are, as usual, muddling along, without any intelligent guidance from above, or any clear-cut demands from below. Foreigners tell us that there is more floating Socialism in the United Kingdom than anywhere else in the world. But this is precisely the difficulty. Floating Socialism in society, like float gold in the mines, is uncommonly hard to catch and utilise.

Many, many years ago I predicted that, our education as a people being so desperately bad as it is, we should never come near to Socialism, or recognise that, co-operatively produced, wealth to-day could be made as plentiful as water, until we had, as a nation, received a great shock from without. Then only would our people begin to comprehend what was going on around them. Thirty-five years of continuous teaching and agitation have further convinced me of the soundness of this forecast. Not even the continuous rise of the prices of the necessaries of life (owing chiefly to the cheapening of the cost of production of gold, which is the universal measure of value) could wake our people up till August of last year. Though wages had fallen in purchasing power to such an extent that a pound sterling valued on the level of twenty shillings in 1901 could procure necessaries only to the value of 16s. 6d., or at the outside 17s., in 1914, it was useless to point this out to the workers as a reason for vigorous, combined action. The utmost they would do was to strike for a moderate rise of wages, which, if obtained, was insufficient to make up for the rise of price. In other directions they showed similar apathy and indifference.

But no sooner had we drifted into this tremendous war than a very different spirit appeared. It became at once manifest that the whole capitalist system, unless bolstered up by the national credit, would go bankrupt. The Government rushed to the aid of bankers, bill-brokers, stock exchange magnates, great shipowners and mercantile houses; took over the railways, commandeered 1,500 ships, guaranteed marine assurance, and generally used the whole financial power of the nation, not only to make good the short-sighted policy which landed us unprepared in the greatest war of all time but to save the wealthy classes from ruin.

Shareholders, for instance, in the huge banking monopoly were not even required to pay up the balance of the calls upon their shares, but were allowed to refuse to repay to their clients deposits in cash actually entrusted in all good faith to them for safe custody. It was of crucial importance that their dividends should not be cut down! Naturally, the wage-earning class began to understand what all this meant. The national credit is their credit, just as the national army is overwhelmingly their army The army could not fight effectively without officers. But where would the officers be without the rank and file? Just so in industry and transport. The workers might not be able to do without the capitalists under existing legal conditions. But where would the capitalists be without the workers? Where indeed? Their mines, their factories, their shops, their railways, their lands could be handled advantageously by the community even if all employers and shareholders left the country in disgust. This, it is true, is not quite how the mass of the wage-earners reason as yet. But it very soon may be.

People have already begun to demand that the Government, which has drifted the nation into war without preparation, should forthwith turn the same powers which they have lavishly used for the benefit of the wealthy to the service of the poor. A far-reaching change of opinion has commenced. What the workers might once have been grateful for as bountiful charity they now claim, on a much larger scale, as a right. The raising of huge loans, too, almost as a matter of course, for war, is teaching the masses what might with equal ease be obtained for their own purposes in peace. Palliatives of poverty which we Social Democrats had advocated in vain for years, which had indeed been opposed by the most trusted representatives of the trade unions themselves, are now accepted and pushed forward almost without discussion. A programme, Socialist in all but name, was issued by the National Workers’ (War Emergency) Committee, and that committee represents no fewer than 4,500,000 persons – trade unionists, co-operators, Socialists, most of them heads of families, or some 17,000,000 people in all.[2]

The heavy rise of prices, over and above those already referred to, has in the past six months reduced the purchasing value of a pound a week to less than 15s. as compared with what the same coin would have bought in 1901. The last turn of the screw in this crushing economic impost has been pressed down upon the people quite suddenly. They therefore feel it far more than they otherwise would. They know that there is no shortage of wheat on the markets of the world which at all warrants the rise of bread from 5d. to 8d. for the quartern loaf. Yet they have to pay. At once there is a loud and determined cry for Government intervention, and “profiteers” are denounced in unmeasured language, even by those who are not suffering most seriously. Men and women who but yesterday spoke to me as if Socialism were a mere chimera, and I myself were an infatuated visionary, now admit privately that, if things go on as they are going, there is no remedy for the existing state of things but organised co-operation supported by the national resources. Whether Social Democrats are right in their theories and sound in their practical proposals or not, it is certain that never in my long life have they been listened to and applauded with the sober vigour they are to-day. The fact that the present administration has carried out all its pro-capitalist measures regardless of the House of Commons, and has played ducks and drakes with our ancestral liberties, without any reference to the people, is also slowly, but none the less surely, rousing a feeling which may easily produce important results in our favour.

At the same time, the reduction in the amount of food available per household, while rents remain as high as ever; the pressure on the children, who are suffering terribly; the short supply of coal, which tells heavily upon health when food is short – all these things, superadded to the poverty already existing, not only stir up discontent with the conditions of to-day, but are leading the workers to demand a far better state of things to-morrow. It is useless for our rulers to rejoice at the continuance of good employment. Where the hugest profits are being made, cash wages for equal work remain stationary: in several coal districts they have been actually reduced since the war, and this at a moment when his wages represent less subsistence for the worker than they have ever done in our period.

Is it to be wondered at that, in such conditions, the cry for an organised collectivism should be growing louder and louder every day? Especially is this not surprising when, during the whole of this period of devastating poverty, the Insurance Poll Tax is being relentlessly exacted, though its advantage to the poorest of the poor, who are paying the tax directly out of their stomachs, is becoming more problematical every day. State Socialism, with its persistent jobbery and overpaid bureaucracy, is a considerable distance from Social Democracy, where the whole people control the creation and distribution of their own wealth to their common good. But it obviously gives the mass of the workers, with whom the lower grades of the educated classes are more and more associating themselves, much better opportunities for taking the next and decisive step of abolishing wagedom altogether, than any relations which they could establish with employers as a class. The latter, as already said, are learning that wide combinations are far more profitable to them than the continuance of internecine competition. The wage-earners are being taught the same lesson of close combination to fight for a common cause. Their solidarity as a class is constantly growing. Since the present Government mobilised half the national army against the strikers in 1911 enormous progress has been made in this direction, and unfavourable as has been the experience of strikes, the possibility of a really effective general strike against the whole employing class is being discussed in a more serious spirit than ever before. I have no belief myself in this policy, nor do I think it will be carried out in support of any demand, however justifiable it may be. But the steady consolidation of the forces of labour render an attempt in this direction by no means so improbable as it was not long ago.

The really critical times in these islands will come after the declaration of peace. The workers have borne more than their fair share of the fighting: the proportion of wage-earners to well-to-do men at the front being at least twenty-four to one. When these soldiers return they will be very different men from what they were when they left. They will know that they have been the means of helping to avert, by their coolness and discipline and heroism, the disaster to Western civilisation which the victory of Germany would have occasioned. But as they survey the condition of their class, which large numbers of them will do from the ranks of the unemployed, it is at least probable they will ask themselves: “Was it worth while?” Social Democracy may well appeal to these trained soldiers, when they look again upon the squalid conditions in which millions of their fellow-men and women exist, and reflect how the glories of war have only brought them back to the horrors of peace. The policy of “the survival of the fittest” and the morality of individual greed (mollified by individual charity) have utterly failed to preserve our society from the hideous squalor of our slums, the physical deterioration of our factory folk, the desperate ugliness of our industrial centres, and the inferior instruction which is thought good enough for the poor. But it is not from the poorest and most miserable that the great awakening will come. the vigorous, the trained, the disciplined, the organised, the educated can be trusted to use changed political forms, or democratic military force, to help forward the social emancipation.

Social Democracy will, as I believe, rise stronger than ever before in every country from this frightful war. The longer the war lasts the more exhausted will be the combatants, and the more discontented the workers, who are the chief sufferers in all the belligerent countries. Socialists are not merely in favour of peace; they are the only people who, while admitting fully the principle of nationality, openly proclaim that there is and can be no reasonable cause for strife between the masses of the population on either side of any arbitrary boundary. They alone declare, in season and out of season, that as in each nation the real enemy of the population is the class which keeps the overwhelming majority in the position of wage-earners, so in all nations these same wage-earners should have as their closest friends and allies the workers of every nationality, who are suffering under the same economic and social disabilities as themselves. Even during this war the spirit of proletarian solidarity is slowly making itself felt, in spite of the furious campaign of hatred preached in the country mainly responsible for hostilities.

When peace is proclaimed it will be impossible for the rulers of any of the European nations to neglect the rising forces of democracy, and these democracies will be more and more inspired by Socialist ideals and impelled towards the enactment of Socialist measures. As the great factory industry and capitalism on a large scale were first developed in this island, Great Britain is more ready, economically, than any other nation for the commencement of the active period of transformation which has in truth already unconsciously begun. Unfortunately, our political forms, which should give a peaceful outlet to the necessary social changes are several generations behind our economic development. They do but afford political expression to the plutocratic and bureaucratic dominations, which in turn are the outcome of the obstructive and reactionary stage of production for profit; while the education of the people as a whole does little more than inculcate error with the object of maintaining the present outworn system. Let us hope that we may yet be able to overcome these terrible drawbacks, and, as champions of the coming democracy of social equality, aspire to give a beneficent and unenvied lead to the peoples of the world. Certain it is that the nation which first rises to the height of this glorious endeavour will render an unforgettable service to mankind.


1. The term “bourgeoisie” has no equivalent in English, and ought now to be incorporated into our language. Bourgeoisie connotes the whole of the social strata and classes, in every country which has reached the capitalist stage of development, that do not belong to the workers or wage-earners. Thus the word includes the land-owning class, which nowadays constitutes itself a sleeping partner with the capitalist class in the division of the surplus value created by the working class. Bourgeois ideas, bourgeois ethics, and bourgeois laws dominate our existing society, and are being very slowly modified by the views of the disinherited class who will carry out the social revolution.

2. The following extracts from this programme, which is being steadily advocated throughout the country, prove that the above statement is no exaggeration: –

“We call upon the entire Labour and Socialist Movement, through all its national and local organisations, to force these demands upon the Government by an immediate national campaign, expressing itself in public meetings, the distribution of literature, the passing of resolutions by affiliated branches of Labour and Socialist bodies, and in such other ways as may be deemed effective.

“7. (a) Provision of productive work, at standard rates of wages, for the unemployed.

Where the provision of work is impracticable, maintenance to be granted on a standard sufficiently high to ensure the preservation of the home and the supply of what is necessary for a healthy life, and the immediate abandonment of all the inquisitorial methods now too often used in order to restrict the amount of relief.

Trade Unions to be subsidised out of national funds to such an extent as will permit them (where provision of work is impossible) to pay members unemployed benefit without bankrupting their resources.

“8. The encouragement and development of home-grown food supplies by the national organisation of agriculture, accompanied by drastic reductions of freight charges for all produce, in the interests of the whole people.

“9. Protection of the people against exorbitant prices, especially in regard to food, by the enactment of maxima and the commandeering of supplies by the nation wherever advisable.

“10. The inauguration of a comprehensive policy of municipal housing.

“11. National care of motherhood, by the establishment of maternity and infant centres; the provision of nourishment for expectant and nursing mothers, of doctor or midwife at confinement, and of helps in the house while the mother is laid aside.

“12. The compulsory provision of meals and clothing for school children, three meals a day, seven days a week.

“13. The continuance of national control over railways, docks, and similar enterprises at the close of the war, with a view to the better organisation of production and distribution.”