The Socialist Sixth of the World - Hewlett Johnson
1. Excursus and Autobiography
(i) Bourgeois Boyhood
(ii) Apprenticeship to Life
(iii) Parish Priest
2. Rise and Decline of Capitalism
(i) Nineteenth-century Evolution
(ii) Nineteenth-century Consummation
(iii) Twentieth-century Frustration
3. The Moral Denial of Christianity
(i) Denial of Justice
(ii) Denial of Freedom
(iii) Denial of Creative Living
(iv) Denial of Fellowship
We call our Western economic and social order Christendom. It is hard to justify the term. Looked at through the eyes of artisan, engineer, employer of labour, or Christian minister, and I have been all four, I see it rather as an order flagrantly unChristian and palpably unscientific — an order which, if it possessed any substantial understanding of what Christian ethics really involved, of suspected its practical and immediate application, would dismiss it as a dream, or, like Hitler and Rosenberg, suppress it as a menace.
Our order is neither Christian nor scientific, and I find it hard to say in which capacity, as Christian or scientist, it offends me the more. When I read, as a headline in the Observer, not long before the war :—
POLAND's GOOD HARVEST
Severe Blow to Recovery
I recalled the words of an American Professor of Agriculture after seeing ten million acres of cotton ploughed in and five million pigs slaughtered: "If this will bring national prosperity, then I have wasted my life." The thing is monstrous. An age of science has given place to an age of frustration of science; and the frustration is none the less deadly, but the more so, now that a decade of restriction preventing plenty succeeds a former decade of destruction, when for one rare moment we had permitted our productive machine to show its paces. In no sense is our economic order scientific.
Still less is it Christian. Placing a premium on selfish motives, it inflames the acquisitive instinct, tolerates hunger amidst plenty, and smashes human lives. While half our population is undernourished and a sixth of our children disastrously underfed—the words are those of Sir John Boyd Orr — machines, save in time of war or war scare, capable of producing food, clothing, and housing in abundance, drag out a miserable existence of enforced and demoralizing idleness. Our order has for its cornor-stone the motive of industrial gain and method of ruthless competition. Production of things men need, and of things they had better do without, is planless and irresponsible, resulting in grave inequalities, where immense wealth flaunts itself amidst squalor, and poverty breeds hatred and contempt.
If this is strongly said, it is because it is warmly felt and needs the saving. Years serve only to increase the challenge. Hardness develops into ruthlssness and brutality. The situation worsens.
* * * * *
Naturally, like most men with any pretensions to an interest in moral problems and their human settings, I have read, studied, and travelled; seeking out and examining various attempted solutions and national experiments. Germany had long been the centre of interest, and China too. Then Russia crossed the path like a brilliant meteor, and flung down its extraordinary challenge. Most arresting, and calling for close and continuous study, was its programme, designed to replace private profit for gain as the driving force for industrial production, by the motive of service to the community; and to give to every man, woman, and child, regardless of colour, race, or language, and in a Union extending over a sixth of the globe, equal opportunity for remunerative work and abundant leisure, equal education in childhood and youth, and equal security in sickness and old age.
Here was something wholly new. Here was something, laid down as a programme by men at the head of affairs in a great nation, which we as Christians had been told by our own men of affairs was pleasant as an idealistic dream, and might even happen in a far-distant future, but was wholly impracticable in the world as it is today, and would be fatal if applied.
In profession, at least, this Soviet programme regards men as persons and plans for them as brothers. There is something singularly Christian and civilized in the attitude and intention. For if the earth is God’s, and if men are really his children, it must be a sorry sight to him to see on one side of His table who surfeit, and on the other those who starve, whether the fare is thought in terms of food or culture or the beauties and decencies of life. Still less can He look pleasure on the harshness and cruelties of the rush for gain, or the ruthless maintenance of vested interests. Russia’s programme at least befits a world of brothers. Or if, to put the Christian conception of human life in another, though a kindred way, community is the essential truth about humanity, rejecting community we fly in the face of reality every day, with inevitable frustration as the result of our blindness and ignorance.
* * * * *
So much for Russia’s programme; but what of Russia’s performance? Men paint the picture of Russia in tones of raven black or snowy white, as a veritable Kingdom of God on earth, or as the realm of anti-Christ, leading us to believe on the one hand that it must convert the world tomorrow, or, on the other hand, meet imminent collapse.
Sometimes the tones of black and white appear in the same persons at different stages of their observation. Dr. E. J. Dillon, for example, that far-travelled man and excellent observer, whose death in 1933 was an incalculable loss to students of foreign affairs, and who had served as Professor in Kharkoff at a Russian University, and edited, before the Revolution, Odesskia Novosti, a Russian daily paper, and drew an appalling picture of life under the Tsars, left the Soviet Union with the words : "In the Bolshevik movement there is not the vestige of a constructive or social idea." Visiting Russia again out of sentimental curiosity ten years later, in 1928, receiving "no favours", as he says, "from anyone in Sovietdom", where his life’s savings had been confiscated, and where he had been indirectly deprived by the Soviet order of "one near and dear, whose loss all the money in the world cannot make good", he exclaims in amazement: "Bolshevism is no ordinary historic event. It is one of the vast world-catholic agencies to which we sometimes give the name of Fate, which appear at long intervals to consume the human tares, and clear the ground for a new order of men and things."
We read of Russia’s impending collapse, and then of her amazing success. Nothing in this connexion is more illuminating than to read in succession back issues of The Times from 1918 onwards, and count the eager anticipations of the imminent end of Bolshevism, and then the reluctant semi-admission of its gathering strength.
Prolonged experience of Russian news taught the careful reader to discount these prophets of collapse. Russia, like most European and Asiatic countries, abounds in abuses; decades will elapse before dishonesty and peculation, and even greater crimes, keenly felt by those who believe in truth and mercy and justice and tolerance as absolute values, are completely rooted out. Russia has inherited an evil tradition, not to be eradicated in a day. Habits change less speedily than governments.
But long years have now passed since Russia’s inherited evils, or the evils imported by the present regime, seriously threatened the stability of the State or suggested the possible breakdown of the new order. Books which paint a picture of Soviet Russia so appalling that readers exclaim I Can it last? " must be read with the utmost caution.
It is a long time, for example, as time goes in a country of so rapid a growth as Russia, since Mr. Eugene Lyons lived in the Soviet Union and wrote "Assignment in. Utopia". Without repeating the criticisms of those who knew Mr. Lyons in America or Russia, it will suffice to place beside his brilliant but emotional journalism the experience of journalists better equipped than he; and even more important to recall and record the calculated experience of experts in many fields of activity, men not only living in Russia, but engaged in active Russian work.
Four years after Lyons left Moscow I read these words of Maurice Hindus, himself bred and born in Russia and for long critical of the regime, words written within six months of another of The times’ gloomy and wishful prophecies : "Collective agriculture in Russia has definitely succeeded, and the land will never suffer famine again and never lose a war through hunger."
In the main, however, I have been less influenced by brilliant journalists, on one side or another, than by substantial facts, by the things I have seen in Russia with my own eyes, and by detached studies and monographs of actual engineering experts, scientists, students, or teachers whom I have met either here or in Russia itself, whom I know personally, and whose word and judgement I can trust.
* * * * *
I happened, for example, to get in touch with a British engineering expert, who had worked as chief engineer in the electrical department of the Metro-Vickers plant Sheffield, and who had gone to the Soviet Union in the very year that Mr. Lyons had left it, and had remained there until 1937 as consulting engineer in the Moscow Dynamo Works, a typical Soviet factory employing 8,000 people and manufacturing equipment for electric railways, buses and tramways. In addition to what he otherwise told me, his conclusions were published at length in the Manchester Guardian of February 19th, 1938.
Progress in the electrical industry depends, as he rightly explains, and as every engineer knows, almost entoely upon the creation of a skilled and reliable tecnical staff. That again depends upon the prior training of youth, upon education in all its grades, upon the character of the whole community, and upon confidence in the new order and willingness to work heartily in a planned production for the benefit of the community.
Success in creating a skilled staff has been, in the view of this British expert, singularly great. The numbers, Equality, and training of Russia’s young engineers and managers guarantee an immensely accelerated technical progress. Responsible engineers in the Dynamo Works I are all young — from twenty to thirty — and have received their training in the new Soviet technical school. These engineering graduates now pour annually into industry in their tens of thousands.
Technical education in Soviet Russia, he says,, falls behind that of the best English technical schools. The mathematical, systematic, theoretical training of students is, however, as good as or better than in England; and once within the factory, young students quickly master their job: "There is no doubt at all of their enthusiasm, ability and capacity for hard work."
Now, it happens that I was in a position to apply personal tests of the correctness of this estimate of efficiency, for I was able to examine the output of that particular factory on the spot in considering Moscow’s transport problems and the means she has adopted to meet them.
Moscow, we must remember, £as sprung within twenty-one years from an old town of 1,000,000 inhabitants, living in narrow, congested streets, into a vast city with a population of 3,750,000 souls. The old, slow-moving tramcars were utterly unable to handle the daily movement of this multitude. The narrowness of the streets made motor traffic at rush hours impossible.
Moscow tackled her transport problem vigorously and in three ways. Leaving the centre of the city for motors and trolley buses, she dived beneath the surface and built in radial lines an underground railway system called the Metro, unsurpassed by any underground railway-system in the world. She built it in record time and on a wave of popular enthusiasm: doctors, students, musicians, teachers, and men and women of all grades and professions "by the hundreds" vying with one another in voluntary labour to speed its completion.
For beauty, lighting, general comfort, and orderly working this railway has no equal; its stations, platforms, and escalators, free from disfiguring advertisements, are spacious and marble-lined. But of particular interest are he electric trains, entirely designed and constructed by Soviet engineers. These- trains have carried upwards of 100,000,000 passengers during their first year of working, without any significant defect or fatal accident, arid succeeding years further demonstrate their solid achievement.
The electrical equipment of this rail way came from my friend’s Dynamo Works, bearing out completely hit estimate of young Russia’s capability.
Still better, as a witness to Russia’s new efficiency, are the fast tramcars which carry traffic on the outer and circular routes, leaving motor and trolley buses to deal with the central area.
These tramcars are lovely vehicles, stream-lined, blue-painted, well upholstered, well lit, internally heated, and fitted with automatic doors. Their horse-power of 500 compares with the English 200 for two-decker cars, and provides magnificent acceleration. "Regenerative braking" returns energy to the power supply. No power is lost when a car is brought to a standstill.
Moscow’s electric cars reveal entire mastery of modern technical possibilities and inventiveness.
* * * * *
I confess frankly, then, that I am more at borne in the company of experts like the engineer I quote than with unscientific journalists like Mr. Lyons. The approach of the two men to the same problem is so utterly different. My engineering or educational friends, for instance, never wrote as they entered Russia of the red stars which "seemed to glow on the peaked caps of the Red Soldiers with an inner light of their own, in the deepening twilight of our railway coach. They shed an aura of intimacy, and authenticated, in the mysterious language of symbols, the I revolution and everything it stood for in our minds. After a life-time in which established authority is synonymous with reaction and exploitation, the flesh-and-blood vision I of a communist soldier or communist policeman verges on the miraculous." The scientific mind is a stranger to "..experiences like this. Neither can the scientific expert deliberately, from considerations of ‘policy’, deceive tie public. It may seem permissible to a journalist to . defame the credibility of a brother-journalist by false witness. To a scientific worker that kind of lie is abhorrent in the extreme, and to those who seek the truth of Russia it at once creates distrust. In the incident related on page 575 of his book Mr. Lyons tells us that the first reliable report of the Russian famine was given to the world by an English journalist, a certain Gareth Jones, at one time Secretary to Mr. Lloyd George. "Jones had a conscientious streak in his make-up which took him on a secret journey into the Ukraine and a brief walking tour through its countryside." Jones gave to the world a summary of what he had seen and what he had learned from Mr. Lyons and other journalists and diplomats.
"...we all received queries from our home offices on the subject. . . . Throwing down Jones was as unpleasant a chore as fell to any of us in years of juggling facts to please dictatorial regimes—but throw him down we did, unanimously, and in almost identical formulas of equivocation. Poor Gareth Jones must have been the most surprised human being alive when the facts he so painstakingly garnered from our mouths were snowed under by our denials." How, in face of this, are we to be sure that Mr. Lyons’ whole book is not a similar juggling of facts?
I found better guides in men who in any circumstances were incapable of sentimental gush or deliberate deception. Men like Professor B. Mouat Jones, now Vice-Chancellor of Leeds University, at this time head of the Manchester; College of Technology, who, in the earlier years of the experiment, inspected and reported upon Russia’s technological training. Or, to take the most recent instance, in men like Professor Hanson, the American horticulturist, with whom recently I travelled in the Caucasus, the Crimea, and the Ukraine. Men to whom truth was sacred and whose assertions are capable of concrete verification.
As an interested student of Russian affairs for a quarter of a century, whilst ‘I have seen and heard things which have shocked and disturbed me, I have heard and learned and seen many more which enthuse and encourage etc. Like Christian in Bunyan’s " Pilgrim’s Progress", I have often been tempted to say : "These things put me in hope and fear." Happily, as the years go by, the hope enlarges and the fears depart.
I do not expect to see Utopia in Russia. I do not expect to see Utopia anywhere. A Utopian world to me would be a dead and static world. What I do see emerging, however, is a new stage in the history of human progress, and this book is written to describe what I see and explain .why I welcome it. And as an aid to the reader, who can always estimate better the value of an appreciation or a criticism if he sees it against the personal background of the critic or admirer, and against the problems with which .life has confronted them, I shall make no apology for beginning, as I stated in the Preface, with a chapter of personal biography.
(i) Bourgeois Boyhood
I was born in 1874, in Kersal, then a fashionable suburb two miles from the centre of Manchester, where Bishop and Dean had their residences and "carriage folk" lived within easy reach of warehouses and city offices.
My family were of the prosperous middle class, my paternal ancestors coming from Oundle, where their pleasantly carved Georgian tombstones still stand against the walls of the ancient Parish Church. On my mother’s side was Huguenot blood, with tales of rebels and martyrs in a treasured pedigree.
My maternal grandfather was a noted Lancashire-preacher, who, for fifty-three years, held his vicarage ad Astley on Chat Moss, a beautiful old Tudor house, where the grandchildren gathered for the Christmas holidays. A Doctor of Divinity, and somewhat of a scholar, besides bringing up a family of eleven children, and equipping them for various honourable and even distinguished positions, on an income of. some £300 a year, he taught and shepherded the village boys, all of the working class, to such advantage that many reached eminence in a variety of directions, one as founder of a Manchester Commercial Exchange, another as Chairman of the London School Board, and another as Bishop of Carlisle. In Astley Vicarage I learned that the best start in life lies in a simple home with cultivated tastes and no enervating atmosphere of financial endowment. The bulk of men reaching positions of useful eminence in the England of the past generation — "Who’s Who" declares it — sprang from kindred manses and vicarages. Neither wealth nor poverty extracts the best from boy or girl.
In Astley I also learned that brains are no monopoly of a single class. Astley gave the lie to the Nazi pseudo-scientific doctrine of superior and inferior castes, and enabled me to learn very early that Britain was suffering enormous losses through untended talents. Not all village children had teachers so capable and disinterested as those at Astley in that half-century, nor have all children even today access at least to equality 1 of training.
The family manufacturing business, of which my father was the head, was one of those comfortable lesser industrial concerns, always in the hands of a single family, never making vast fortunes, but living on after comet enterprises -have flared up and sputtered down into obscurity again. It celebrated its hundredth anniversary when I was a small boy, and my father father entertained the staff and the employees to a centenary banquet.
I spent many hours as a boy in those "works", as we then called the factory; especially in the engine-room with Jim the diminutive millwright, who worked miracles on a lathe which would now be in a museum, and helped us as children to fill our treasure-boxes with bobbins and shuttles and bits of wire-cloth woven then on hand-looms, with men at each end plying the shuttle, and boys on an elevated platform in the centre pulling up the beams which drove home the weft.
There was an intimacy in those days between operatives and employers, ‘and a homely air pervaded the factory. The older men, who had worked with the firm from boyhood ; would say to me as I grew up: "Mr. Hewlett, you will be a taller man than Mr. Charles, your father; and he was taller than your grandfather, the old master." Once, when it was suggested, out of kind consideration to an old and faithful servant, that he should be pensioned off to end his years in ease, he came to the office and begged : "Please don’t do it: it would break my heart to leave the old place."
Later, in modern industrial concerns, my experience of a harder and less human atmosphere quickened the quest, in me as in many more, for the moral equivalent of that which had gone.
As we grew up, a family of nine children, we moved on, as most people of the well-to-do class then did, from smaller to larger houses, from the smoky northern to the sunnier ? southern suburbs of the town, which then went sprawling across the meadows on the Cheshire side. All around us was the hum of a prosperous expanding world. I used to ride out, as a boy, on my small penny-farthing bicycle, whose big wheel was only thirty-six inches high, amongst streets of new suburban houses and thriving gardens: the ring of a trowel on a brick still thrills me, as one of my earliest impressions. We lived in a world of creative activity, amongst a class of boys whose future, given the needed ambition and industry, was attractive and assured. Industrial adventure and expansion were at their height.
As the years sped by, we passed farther and farther from the industrial areas of the town, and at length went to live in a comely Grange in the heart of Cheshire, twenty-five miles from the city, doing on the smaller scale what my uncle was doing on the large; for he, as Chairman of the Master Miners of England, had now built a vast mansion in the heart of Warwickshire. Operatives and employers began to see less of one another. It was less easy for workers from the small homes in the dreary streets to see us in the Grange than formerly, when we lived in a house with a number. These discomforting thoughts grew as, later, Christian social sensitiveness developed. In the main, however, life ran smoothly on, and one accepted the customary distinction of class and the inequalities of wealth and opportunity as part of a Divine order, to be mitigated rather than radically changed.
In many respects it was a healthy life. My mother, who loved the task of teacher, taught her nine children up to the age when they went to the public school or the grammar school, managed her considerable establishment, and took the lead in social and religious activities. She not only possessed cultivated tastes, but was athletic and adventurous before the days of women’s sports. She walked, with my sisters, sixty miles in two consecutive days around a Scottish island, firing my brother and me to do the same feat in a single day. She bathed daily in the sea in fair weather and foul, and when in her old age she lived’ at the seaside itself, continued her bathing far into the autumn days and up to her eightieth year. She was as unconventional in dress as in a hundred other things, and never wore corsets or high-heeled shoes.
Owing so much to a singularly happy home, and to the wisest of mothers, I can conceive of no social order as healthy in a high sense which was denied these things as the basis of its life; which lacked cultivated homes aria capable, intelligent, public-minded womanhood, living in complete equality with the men of the home. For from my mother I had learned that active public and social life was by no means incompatible with the beauty and simplicities of home. Quite the reverse. It knit the home in bonds which outlived childhood and reached on in maturity. The wife and the mother had avoided the sacrifice of wider interests for nursery and kitchen, and was none the less competent in either sphere for that fact. Thus it was that, later, when I came to examine modern Germany, modern France, or modern Russia, the first question that I asked related to the home and to womanhood.
An outstanding feature, as I look back on my boyhood, with its spacious country life and long summer holidays by the sea in Wales or Scotland, was its freedom and its all-pervading sense of security. We were never urged to win scholarships, or worried with thoughts as to our future livelihood. We suffered less strain than children today, though our lives and thoughts were perhaps no less active. Growth in that home was simpler and more natural. More wholesome, I think.
At the early age of seventeen I attended the Victoria University of Manchester to study science and engineering, and, taking a degree in science before the age of twenty-one, became an Associate Member of the Institute of Civil Engineers a few years later. A vital part of this training was the study of geology, in which my tutor was Professor Boyd Dawkins, friend of Richard Green, the historian, and a leading authority on primitive man. Dawkins, whose prize I won, was an enthusiastic disciple of Charles Darwin, and in a masterly way introduced us to the doctrines of evolution, and in doing so flung me into depths of religious gloom. Under the impact of evolution the fundamentalist beliefs of my youth cracked up. I eventually found myself robbed of faith in God and human immortality.
When, at a later date, and by ways and in modes which lie beyond the purpose of this book to describe, certain essential religious beliefs returned, it was less as the result of asking the old questions, "Is the Bible true?", or : "Is Christianity true?", than by asking a series of wholly new questions, as for example: "Does a belief in Purpose, in the Conservation of Values, and in Christ’s life and character as the truest Image of Reality give the best explanation of the realistic facts of the world, particularly of the facts of goodness, kindness, generosity, and heroic sacrifice ?" And the faith which came was different from that which went — a faith more humanistic, more searching in its claims on conduct, less content with conventional Christian platitudes, less divorced from daily living. If the Christian outlook on life was true at all, I argued to myself, it must demand more than the easy-going religious attitude of the ordinary religious world. I no longer wished to live at ease. I must go .where life was difficult and dangerous. I read the story of Father Damien and his work among the lepers. I read biographies of missionary lives, and amongst them the story of Paton, the missionary engineer in Central Africa. His biography determined my course. I would be a missionary engineer.
(ii) Apprenticeship to Life
That decision was followed by apprenticeship in a Manchester engineering factory, which brought me face to face with a new challenge, as vital ultimately in its religious and practical consequences as the earlier challenge of evolution. Two ardent young socialists occupied lathes next to mine and opened the ideological attack. I met it with the assured confidence of a young man from college arguing with artisans. The fact that I was physically the match for any one of them hardly added to my humility. My family tradition had been conservative as well as fundamentalist, though our particular form of evangelical belief had made wide demands on charity, on willingness for personal sacrifice, and obedience to "the call of God" at any price: it had involved a semi-Quaker austerity of puritanic living.
My young antagonists had a better ally than they knew in the Christianity which was at that moment making my inner thoughts none too comfortable. For life in the family of a " Christian" industrial employer was always weakened by an inner conflict. It was a double life. The atmosphere of Sunday was one thing: that of Monday another. "Business is business" was a motto with a sinister meaning, and I failed to equate business and Christianity. The tension grew, and with the growth of inward doubts opposition to the socialist lads at the bench increased in vehemence.
Later years alone revealed how vitally the new ideas were undermining the old complacencies. Gradually I became aware, during the six years I served as apprentice, assistant manager, and then in more responsible work in the ranks of the employing class — for I stayed on in the engineering world longer than was my original intention, and ultimately joined, for awhile, my father’s firm — that by its very nature, the competitive, profit-making, and increasingly ruthless industrialism, in which I was now immersed, was at war alike with scientific training and Christian morality. The leaven of socialism was at work.
During the later years at Manchester University, and throughout my apprenticeship, the financial horizon of the family had passed under a cloud. The family business had met with reverses, and the home felt the pinch. We still lived in the large house; the facade remained, but worry and anxiety hid behind it. By the time my wage reached the sum of thirteen shillings a week I determined, despite my parents’ wishes, to live on my own earnings. Lodgings with supper cost six shillings; other meals at a cheap cookhouse another six. Tramcars, newspapers, or cigarettes were avoided. I washed my own overalls, left my lodgings at 5.30 a.m. and returned at 6 p.m. At weekends I walked home into the country, avoiding the fare. Financial worry was a new experience, felt less on my own account than for the anxiety it caused to my mother. To me it proved a blessing in disguise. For poverty must be endured to be understood, and poverty endured served as an ally to the claims of Christian morality, which were now becoming increasingly insistent.
My work-companions were men with families, endeavouring to live on seventeen shillings a week. The poverty in their case was infinitely worse than mine. And as my Christian faith in God was utterly dependent on the complementary truth of the brotherhood of man, and demanded its practical expression, I asked what right had I, or any other Christian, to live in comfort, as I had done nearly all my life, and as my class did continually, while others suffered constant economic hardship? True, as I tried to argue, they are less competent than men of my class, and on that count earned less. But then again they were less competent because heavily handicapped from the outset of life is to food, quiet, education, and a thousand other amenities. Sophistries failed, and the sense of great injustice grew. Either these men were to be regarded as human personalities and treated as such with equal respect, or they were not. My Christian faith said they were : in practice we denied it. If they were, then we ought to treat them as brothers.
I knew what brotherhood meant in practice. I had five others. In Scotland we owned a Loch Fyne fishing-smack with fine sea-going qualities. Being, as the Scots fishermen described us, "well acquaint with sails", the six brothers manned and navigated that boat alone day and night, and in all weathers, around the western Highlands. Each had his allotted task. The eldest brother was captain: the youngest did odd jobs and washed the dishes. The eldest, by virtue of his office, had special needs, space to spread the chart, and leisure to study it. But at meal-times the dish-washer sat with the captain, and should there be shortage of food, it was the captain and not the youngster who suffered. Why? Because the youngest and weakest was his brother.
I thought of the labourers in the works. These men, living on seventeen shillings a week, hard pressed when in work and destitute when out of it, were, if my Christianity told me true, to be regarded as my brothers. Were they weak and inefficient? So was my young brother in our Scotish boat. Was their function lowly? So was his. Weakness, therefore, constituted a greater, not a less claim, upon a Christian community, if the brotherhood theory was to hold good. Yet, at meal-times, they, unlike my young brother on the boat, got the leavings only, and barely that. I was uneasy.
Sundays quickened my misgivings : my daily Bible reading too, or I got up at 4.45 each morning to seize half an hour of study before the day began.
I had the opportunity at this time of seeing both the hardship and the heroism of some of these people in their own homes. I remember, for instance, a husband and wife, whom I had visited at the request of a friend, the man being paralysed and bed-ridden. One evening I found him alone: his wife was absent. At 5 a.m. that morning she had risen, as usual, prepared the children’s meals, tidied them for school, tended her husband; and then set off at 8 a.m. to earn a livelihood for all the family at a millinery establishment in town. Returning at 6, she had fed the family, and now was out again. Where? To nurse a neighbour sick with influenza. It was superb.
These are the kind of people, I argued to myself, who do the hard, dull work. These get the leavings. Others grow rich. It seemed grossly unjust, and entirely unchristian. To be a true Christian one should share with these workers as with brothers; their very helplessness added to their claim.
But it needed more than sharing. Sharing would touch but the fringe of the problem. Justice, not charity, was the only remedy. Charity had become inadequate—a dangerous clearing of conscience. The problem cried aloud for a new and more scientific approach. The constitution of industry demanded overhauling. Was socialism, after all, a possible solution?
These thoughts ripened but slowly. Circumstances diverted my attention. I was advanced to a position of greater responsibility and moved away from the close companionship of the bench. The financial position at home brightened and I joined the family business, which was now embarking on new colonial enterprises.
My social misgivings also found temporary relief by week-ends spent at a club for working lads, conducted by Arthur Taylor, a remarkable young Manchester merchant. It was social work of the old order, but the finest of its type performed with great competence, utter unselfishness, and on an astonishingly large scale. I married, later, Arthur Taylor’s sister, a woman as competent and single-minded as he, and possessed of the same charm. Long years wonderfully happy domestic life followed.
The scientific and engineering work in which I was engaged was extremely attractive, and indeed the problems of production have never up to this moment lost their fascination. But social and religious instincts and interests could not be satisfied with a career of professional engineering, and, my wife more than sharing my feelings, we offered ourselves for missionary work in Central Africa, where an engineer’s training might prove of practical use.
A missionary society accepted us, but required a course of theological study. Desiring the best, and the family fortunes now permitting it, I spent four years at Oxford, where literary and historical criticism and philosophy completed what the evolutionary teaching had begun and gave a new release to thought. A close analysis of the evolution of religious and social ideas made me expectant of change and kindled a fresh, but rather academic and dilettante interest, in socialism.
After receiving my honours degree, and being now rejected by the missionary society as unsuited for their particular theological requirements, I founded and edited The Interpreter, a theological quarterly journal, designed to commend to educated men the things the university had taught me; and at length, though somewhat reluctantly, yielding to the urgent request of Bishop Jayne, of Chester, I was ordained and went as curate to the parish of St. Margaret’s, Altrincham, where I remained for three years as curate and sixteen years as vicar, never for a moment regretting the steps that had- led me there. Nothing could have been more happy or instructive than those twenty years as parish priest.
(iii) Parish Priest
Altrincham is a wealthy suburb, eight miles south of Manchester, and in St. Margaret’s parish was gathered as distinguished and delightful a company of industrial and professional magnates as in any parish in the land. The heads of great business corporations lived there: the head of the Fine Spinners; a head of the largest British Insurance Society; the head of the great steel works which aided Mr. Lloyd George during the war; the engineer who built the Manchester Ship Canal; the heads of two great northern banks, and two barristers who became Judges of the High Court, to mention only a few. At one end arose an ultra-modern industrial manufacturing company, thrusting its sheds and workers’ dwellings far out amidst the old Cheshire farms; and at the other end, in a stately mansion, lived one of England’s oldest noble families, the Earls, of Stamford, one of whom, a man of many attainments, great simplicity of life and beauty of character, subsequently appointed me as Vicar of St. Margaret’s.
In my apprenticeship I had found myself at the poorer end of the social scale. Here was the other end, providing the completion of the process of social education begun amongst the artisans and labourers. Here were people whom I came to love, to respect, to learn from, and to admire. People, also, happily big enough to be kindly and tolerant to a curate, now tainted with socialism. For at this time, and in these circumstances, socialism was renewing its claims upon conscience and reason alike. The study of scientific socialism, side by side with the study of Christian theology, led me to the conclusion, which Hen-Hitler is clear-headed enough to see, that Judaism and Christianity provide the high road to socialism and communism : from his point of view on that account to be eradicated, from mine, to be welcomed.
The capitalist friends amongst whom I now lived were at a further remove from the smaller capitalism in which I had been reared. The productive power of this new capitalism surpassed immeasurably that of the old, but the heads of the new order lived in less close contact with their operatives. Employer and employee dwelt in distant worlds, with fundamental interests almost inevitably in conflict. Each, in fact, now lived a narrower life.
In 1914 the war came, and though at that time-being ninety per cent, pacifist at heart, my wife and I volunteered at its outbreak for service, she as nurse and I as chaplain. My views were too broad, perhaps, for the Chaplain-General. I was never called up. My wife, however, who, to prepare for missionary life, had been trained as a nurse, and who was a competent organizer, was soon placed in charge of three great hospitals, where she worked with extraordinary devotion and skill, and where she laid the seeds of the illness from which she subsequently died, in a true sense a war victim. Her brother, Arthur Taylor, also died as the result of the war, in which he had served n a staff capacity. Ten years after his death, a Royal Prince, speaking in Manchester in connexion with work amongst boys, said that no one could mention lads’ work in that city and omit the name of so remarkable a man as Arthur Taylor. The same could be said of his sister, Mary. Both in the Altrincham parish and subsequently at the Manchester Deanery she left a mark which will not soon be forgotten.
During the war I studied and worked with Mr., afterwards Sir, Drummond Frazer, Manager of the Union Bank of Manchester, and lecturer in Banking at Manchester University, who ultimately became Vice-Chairman of the Bankers’ Institute and financial administrator under the League of Nations. He was especially interested in Austria, the tale of whose misery I told him following a visit there immediately after the war. To him I owe interest in and useful understanding of banking and money. At his own request I interpreted his ideas in extremely simple language for The Economist, and wrote the speeches he delivered to London, American, and Parisian bankers. In particular I wrote the paper which led to the fifteen-and-sixpenny war bonds, and another on the Ter Meulen Bond Scheme.
It was at this time, with these new interests, that I came across Major Douglas and the Social Credit Movement, perceiving at once what appeared to me to be the essential correctness of his analysis and its bearing on social problems. If later I have moved on to other solutions, it has been on moral and practical rather than technical grounds, and because a wider horizon had, in the meantime, opened up. Social reformers will always owe a debt to Douglas.
St. Margaret’s parish, however, was not wholly composed of ultra-rich people, and it afforded many chances of continuing my friendship with artisans and labourers : life would have been poorer without them. Our social connexions, in particular with the children of the well-to-do artisans, of the poor, and the very poor, extended far beyond the parish boundaries.
The same thought arose with regard to the poorest of these children as with the labourers at the factory. If they really were God’s children, and therefore my brothers and sisters, then their childhood demanded just those things which had made my own childhood profitable or bright. The standard of our own childhood—for my wife agreed with me—should be the standard of theirs. And as foremost among our own childish delights and education had been prolonged holidays in lovely seaside places, we began at once to take our school-boys to the sea; not for one hectic day, but for many days, and not to the noisy haunts of trippers, but to the nobler quieter spots of Wales. The numbers sometimes approached 400.
Returning from these camps one year, a group of little girls asked: " Is it fair always to take the boys and never the girls? Boys get everything: girls nothing. Girls are left at home when boys go away. Why not take girls sometimes? " That led to the first English camp for girls. Convention said no; but my wife said yes, and the matter was settled, and led to a succession of Girls’ Camps in Abergele, Llanfairfechan, Rhos, Barmouth, and Harlech.
As the children grew older, and work replaced school, they begged us still to take them to the sea. And to our objection that we could hardly add two more camps — one for grown-up boys and another for grown-up girls — to those we already held, they sensibly replied, Why not then one camp more, taking the seniors together? In consequence another convention was smashed, and we held a first joint camp for senior boys and girls, with excellent results. In later years the seniors travelled with us far afield — to France, Switzerland, and Germany.
In ways such as these a parish unfolds infinite possibilities and suggests more. Things learnt as a boy in the home could be practised here on a wider scale. Why not in a whole country, or a world? The Christian religion certainly demands it. Science says it is possible.
Naturally each new step in this direction had been contested. People won’t mix easily as in a family," I was told. To which there were three possible replies: First, do they always mix easily in any family life? Certainly not in ours, and the higher flights of family happiness were reached only with patience and discipline. Secondly, camps had already proved the possibility of mixing on a scale wider than the family. The children had mixed. The officers had mixed, coming as they did from various social grades. They ate together, worked together, and played together, and all agreed that camp life marked the peak of the year. Thirdly, where mixing seemed really impossible — and in some cases it did—the fault lay farther back, where one section of God’s children had been brought up with every luxury and educational facility, and the rest had remained ill-fed, ill-housed, and rushed at a tender age to the deadening repetitive tasks of modern industry. Who could wonder that the bright possibilities of childhood had been nipped in the bud ? Who could wonder if the product was a maimed creature with whom none but a saint could mix?
My earlier experience of the nature of our modern industrial order had widened out now. Working as employee and employer, living amidst the inseparable poverty at the one end, and the thrust and struggle and wealth at the other, I had seen, despite all the fineness of character which could be found in either extreme, the moral havoc it had wrought in both.
Modern industry separated the classes and drove them ever wider apart. The very rich lived with small firsthand knowledge of the very poor. The after-dinner talk in smoke-rooms told it. Great business transactions took’ place in central offices in town, or in palatial board rooms in fine and well-planned works. What happened in small homes in industrial areas, as the result of Board-Room; policies and economies, seldom reached the imagination; which moves emotion and leads to action. Rich men are not callous. The great majority, in their private lives, are] good, kind, generous, and considerate. Face to face with| distress they act with spontaneous liberality. But business life moves in a world growingly remote from the human consequences of business action.
J. B. Priestley, in a suggestive passage, once made graphically clear the kind of thing that was borne in upon me whilst in Altrincham, or again as Dean of Manchester and later of Canterbury. "There are," he says, "too many mechanically minded persons in the world now, and people of this type tend to lack imagination. If you suggested to the average young airman that he should alight from his plane in foreign territory and go through the nearest infants’ school and there bash out all their brains with a club, he might resent the suggestion. But he has no objection to dropping high-explosive bombs on the same infants. He does not see himself as a child murderer on a fine large scale. (And notice how oddly unreal the world below seems from a plane — a bad business that!) He and his kind do not see anything very clearly. Most of them have very little imagination."
I recall, in the light of what he says, my own earlier resentment at the un-Christian nature of the industrial order when I lived at the lower end of it and experienced its accompanying poverty and harassing insecurity. I recalled, too, the weakening of that early resentment as life got busier, as tasks became more creative and interesting, and as the money-making motive was fed through the effort to win one’s own security and freedom by means of personal acquisition; and when specialization of function had flung us as employers farther and farther away from the employees, physically as regards our dwellings, and mentally when employer and employed met in a purely business way and mainly through a trade-union representative. Here in the parish I was surrounded by men who had travelled farther along the same unimaginative road. The results were becoming increasingly unhappy for both extremes. The country, to which both belonged’, was also a loser.
It was unhappy for the worker, especially for the poorer worker — for the man who was too poor to realize unaided his latent possibilities. I recalled frequently the boys in my grandfather’s parish, successful because someone was there to lift them up into a life where talent had opportunity to develop. I compared these boys in the modern factory with them. One such lad stands out vividly in my mind; typical of many more. A clever lad, straight from school at the age of thirteen. His recitation of Shakespeare has left a lasting impression. The task of this "nipper", as the lads in a factory were then called, was to finish coachscrews, which means clamping the rough, bolt-headed iron in a vice, and pushing it forward between screw dies beneath a stream of soapy water. The boy learned the task in an hour: repeated it fifty-two hours a week for months, and at length became — a tool. The keen edge had fled from his mental life.
Some few boys, during my days of apprenticeship, escaped by fitting themselves through desperately hard work in their spare hours for other means of livelihood. One by music. Another by trick riding on a bicycle. Another, Charlie Chaplin by name, employed in a neighbouring works, through playing minor parts with a company of local actors, and destined at length, through his consummate art, to move a whole world to pity at the pathos of the mechanical product of modern industry.
Most boys succumbed. The bright promise of childhood died. Dulled in mind, dependent on stimulants, on the weekly sweepstake, or the sexual excitements of the street, they perished mentally, aesthetically, and spiritually. The Board Room, the Stock Exchange, or the Cabinet, knew as little of these deaths, for which the industrial policy they administered was ultimately responsible, and which could, with knowledge and with will, have been prevented, as the .mechanically minded pilot whose bombs dealt death to infants. They would have been as loath to do it as he, had they known to what extent the policy of profit-making in industry was responsible for the murder of human brains.
Nor was this policy less unhappy for the employing class, though its deeper ravages of greed and power and pride were less obvious. A competent Manchester banker once remarked during those years at Altrincham: "More money is lost in industry through incapable sons carrying on and running inefficiently the businesses built up by their capable fathers than would pay every rise in wages which operatives have tried to wrest by means of strikes." How true this was I quickly perceived, as I contrasted the youth in the average luxurious home with the youth in average manses and vicarages, the one enervated by the wealth they would inherit, and the other spurred by the knowledge that a cultured standard of life could be earned only by personal achievement.
This society on which I was now looking, drifting apart in extremes of poverty and wealth, seemed as dangerous in its inefficiency and instability as un-Christian in its spirit. The interests of the two sections into which it was split were always and essentially opposed. Looked at from the angle of the rich employer, labour was a cost of production. But since it was an axiom that all costs of production must be reduced to a minimum — competition-betwixt firm and ] firm and country and country demanded it — the incessant I drive towards reduction of wages was only natural and logical: wage costs are bound to be regarded in a strangely impersonal way around Board-Room tables.
On the other hand, the wage was the operative’s only means of achieving maintenance, security, or any measure of culture for himself and his family. His all was at stake; he must fight for wage maintenance and wage increase. The root of discord was never far away, though in this case I or that it might lie hidden or unrecognized. The more imaginative and Christianly minded employer was at times painfully aware of this: and one of them, whose labourers, I knew, received seventeen shillings a week, exclaimed to me, "Would to God the labourers would form a union and compel my competitors to do as I would gladly do in concert with them but dare not do alone".
(i) Nineteenth-Century Evolution
Everything in the parish, as in the workshop and at the bench, had left me more convinced that production conducted by profit for private gain, combined with fierce competition between firm and firm, was thwarting society at both ends and robbing the country of needed brains. If, as a minister of religion, I attacked gambling, base excitement, deceit, and a lack of interest in culture and spiritual things, and left unchallenged one of the major causes from which these evils spring, I was straining at gnats and swallowing camels.
Capitalism, which has, in a primitive form, been with us since the Middle Ages, and had sprung into a new prominence at the end of the sixteenth century, now completely dominates human life, and dictates, consciously or unconsciously, to men and women, not only how they shall live, but whether life be permitted to them at all. Capitalism dictates the policy of industry and the policy of States. Its root principles, I was compelled at last to admit, are morally wrong, its neglect of science shameful, and its results disastrous.
Capitalism has divorced the mass of industrial and agricultural workers from ownership of the means of production. The things by which men live are beyond their own control. Production of vital commodities — food, clothing, housing, and the like—is carried on and permitted, not with a view to the ascertained needs of the community as a whole, but merely as a means of livelihood and profit for select and fortunate individuals. The result is want for some, opulence for others, and confusion for all. Never have the needs of the community as a whole been considered in one general plan with an eve to the maximum safety and well-being of each. All has been left to chance and profit.
Capitalism may indeed have had a certain justification in a poorer and a ruder age, when the capital needed for the expansion of an infant industry could only be accumulated if some men pinched and saved. Capital accumulations today are largely made by ploughing profits back into industry and by exploitation of workers, who are employed as long as profitable and then left derelict, as witness the present depressed areas.
Capitalism had a further justification when competition and private profit stimulated enterprise and inventiveness, helping to establish the machine and raising the standard of living. Though, even so, the human wreckage it left in its wake was appalling. Today privately owned capital no longer serves a useful purpose; it becomes a hindrance rather than a help, to science, to invention, and to enterprise. The productive power made possible by science and invention outruns capitalist control; capital accumulates enormous aggregates in relatively few hands — Henry Ford’s capital, for instance, exceeds £400,000,000 — and becomes a danger and an embarrassment. Capital demands new sources of raw material and new markets. The road is paved by it to economic imperialism, to rival spheres of capitalist exploitation, to native and imperialist rivalries, and to war. Capitalism had war at heart from the first. If capitalism begins in petty commercial strife, it ends in world war.
Experience of industry, alike as artisan and as member of the possessing classes, had driven me at last to these conclusions. I had seen the thing from within and from without. I had seen the outside of the platter, fair to look upon, the inside foul. Personal experience of poverty on the one hand, and intimate knowledge of the circles of the rich on the other, had driven the lesson home and left me in no doubt as to where my duty as a Christian minister lay. No longer could I resist the conclusion that capitalism was doomed. No longer must the livelihood of the community rest in irresponsible hands; blast furnaces remaining cold, mines undug, and houses unbuilt, unless somebody’s private profit sets forward the lighting, the digging, and the building. Shivering miners cannot dig the coal they need; naked men cannot weave their shirts and coats, nor can the man who lives seven in a single room enter a brickyard and build himself a house; though he kick his heels for a dozen years in idleness, he must remain in misery if no one can make a profit from his labour. The public that needs these things and can produce them has no access to the land and the machinery of production. Private profit takes precedence of human life. Christian morality, if it is to be true to its mission, must find these things intolerable and demand reform.
Capitalism seeks not the greatest good, but the greatest profit. If more money is made in "pools" or whisky than in food and clothes for the children, then capital finds its way to these more profitable but less socially useful enterprises. The capitalist himself is a victim to the drive for profit. He dare not be as generous as, when a good man, he may wish to be. He may make costly mistakes. He does not know what other owners are doing, or what newcomers are about to do. He may be outwitted by others. He and they may produce more than consumers can buy, and be caught in a slump. He has small chance to be pitiful or generous. Other owners, also acting on their own sole responsibility, drive hard bargains and compete with him. His standard is driven down to theirs. The owner competing in the open market dare give little away. Colliery proprietors cannot regard too closely the human souls whose work has made them rich, if richer seams elsewhere give better use to capital.
All are caught in the same vicious circle. Business is business. It is not a Sunday-school party. Wage troubles are a nuisance. The Board Room in London is far removed from the depressed colliery village. Workers suffer. Their life depends on wages and wage rises. The proprietor’s profits depend on reduction of costs, of which wage is one. The two are at variance, and the worker pays the price. The consumer also has his part of the price to pay, for industry suffers incredible losses; it moves in jerks, and often refuses to move at all. Cotton was in great demand after the war. Fresh mills arose; the workers were spurred on, in the interests of recovery, to produce in abundance, and all would be well. They did so. The slump came. They, and the less quick-witted employers with them, were ruined. Lancashire today is a depressed area. Do we wonder at ca’canny?
The thing is not only immoral; it is hopelessly inefficient. Control by a single owner or a group of owners, instead of control by the whole community, leads to inevitable confusion and loss, to booms and slumps, to bankruptcies and the scrapping of capable concerns, to unemployment, poverty, and brutality, and at length to war. Private ownership of the means of production has outlived its day. It is doomed.
Happily there is an alternative.
The instruments of production can be owned publicly; and worked, not for private profit, but for public service, the needs of consumers being the controlling factor. Production can be worked by plan, the people as a whole deciding what they need and producing a sufficient supply to meet it. The nation could make its budget, as the competent housewife makes hers, planning what proportion should be spent on defence, on food, on housing, clothing, education, health, and provision for the future. Booms and slumps and unemployment could cease. Inventions could be set free and encouraged. Commodities could be increased and education fostered. Leisure could be used for creative development. All could live a civilized life.
Service replacing profit, planning replacing person whim, production could become both scientific and moral having for its motive the provision of the means of well-being for all.
This age, marred by the private ownership of the means of life, with all its crippling effects on science and industry with its immoral emphasis on acquisition, and with it: inevitable consequence of wealth and poverty, of class; distinctions and class discords, must go. Science, civilization, and Christianity alike demand it.
(ii) Nineteenth-Century Consummation
The moral outrage which we have thus traced has its counterpart in a scientific outrage. The machine suffers equally with the human element. The competitive, profit-making industry and the capitalistic accumulation of wealth which in earlier days had been an aid to production now served to cripple it. And science, once the welcomed handmaid, is driven into the wilderness. My engineering interests had not ceased after my ordination, and I could follow more attentively perhaps than those who were actively immersed in daily engineering tasks, the sinister trend of wastage and frustration. The years at Altrincham had been marked by the development of that frustration of science which had begun in its earlier stages in my pre-parish days, which became dramatic after the war boom had spent itself, and reached a climax during the succeeding years when, as Dean of Manchester, I was in a position to observe it more narrowly and at closer quarters.
Ours is a power age, and power, by utilizing the machine, can unlock the door to plenty. Physical science supplies us with the complete and immediate solution of the material problems of human existence, if unhindered by economic causes. Unfettered in its earlier stages, science had advanced by leaps and bounds. Capitalism, in those days, had proved a true friend to science. The process had been long and full of interest.
Up to the sixteenth century man had taken what Nature had given. He had gleaned Nature’s gifts in his own area, and when these were exhausted had sought more beyond his borders, a quest which had inspired the great navigators of the sixteenth century to open roads of communication to the ends of the earth. Science had made this possible by inventing and perfecting instruments of travel—calendars, compasses, chronometers, and maps.
The seventeenth century saw the earliest beginnings of another quest, more important still, and rendered necessary by shortage of human labour. The hordes of slaves which had helped the southern empires were not available in the kingdoms of the north. Human muscles standing at a premium, science increasingly stepped in, seeking and finding other sources of power; and man, slowly wresting from Nature the secrets of unlimited non-human sources of energy, harnessed them to human tasks. The power age had begun, damming rivers, harnessing falling water, extracting coal and oil, the bottled sunshine of a million years, and with their explosive forces driving our vehicles, wielding our hammers, axes, picks, and spades, lifting arduous work from our shoulders and setting us free for higher tasks. The golden age had begun.
Within the last two centuries, power development has increased with incredible rapidity. In 1712 a steam engine was invented which developed 56 man-power. In 1772 a single engine produced 765 man-power. By 1871 it had grown to 20,000 man-power. By the 1890’s a single reciprocating engine produced 234,000 times the work of one man. Our twentieth century has even greater things to show, and now we have a turbine unit, working on a twenty-four-hour basis, producing 9,000,000 manpower.
Modern power-plants work in terrible solitude, ignoring human labour. Steel arms overhang the wharves where 1 coal-barges advance. Huge scoops descend, close down] on a ton of coal, lift it bodily to an elevated track, along which it passes, being weighed automatically in transit; it then descends to moving grates which feed it to the boilers. Clinkers fall on belts travelling in water-troughs, and pass to the waiting trucks. Coal at one end, clinkers at the] other; and, in the space between, heat extracted, steam raised, turbines driven, and power greater than all the power available in England when Elizabeth was Queen, sent pulsing across the countryside. And all this operated by a score or so of men. There is no conceivable limit to the utilization of solar power for productive purposes.
And as with the development of power, so with the development of the machinery which harnesses it to the use of man. Machines in the nineteenth century were able to replace the hewers of wood and drawers of water. Machines of the twentieth century replace the intelligent operative on innumerable processes never dreamed of as possible before. Not only does power undertake the coarse work and supply us with electric shovels, which shift 30,000 cubic yards of earth in twenty-four hours of work, a task which, in human labour, would absorb for ten hours the work of 15,000 coolies; but it serves us with equal willingness and precision in the finest processes. A modern electric lamp-making machine casts off its shower of bulbs at the rate of 422 a minute, rivalling man in delicacy of handling and multiplying his labour in this instance by 10,000 times.
The machine replaces human labour in every branch of industry, and multiplies man’s productive capacity beyond computation. In 1901 a single man produced 1,000 letterheads an hour, with a machine. Today steam replaces the kick of his foot, electricity the flash of his hand, and one man produces 20,000 letter-heads an hour. Yesterday the brick-making worker, with simple tools, produced 450 bricks in an eight-hour day. The output of a modern brick-making machine is 320,000. In 1879, 41,685 men produced 3,070,875 tons of pig iron in the United States of America. In 1929, 24,960 men produced 42,613,983 tons.
The machine invades the office, doing the work of men m black coats, or girls in blouses, as readily as the tasks of artisans in overalls. A machine, resembling a mammoth typewriter and operated by one girl, can deal, we are told, with 60,000 separate ledger entries in an hour.. Other machines are equipped with electric eyes. The photoelectric ray sees with unerring accuracy, detecting a broken thread in the weaving-loom, pouncing on an unlabelled tin travelling among its labelled companions I on a belt, and carting it off, seizing upon iron billets at any desired temperature and handing them to the forger. I he electric eye was installed recently at a toothpaste factory to hold the orifice of the tube instantaneously, at the precise moment, and in the precise spot necessary to receive its fill of paste. The electric eye replaced half the staff.
Science makes for national independence. No need now to seek slaves in war to drive our tools, and less need to seek commodities from the ends of the earth. Nitrates to fertilize our fields formerly came from Chile, Our fleets steamed 7,000 miles round Cape Horn to bring them. Today they drop from the sky. Sixty miles of nitrogen rise vertically above us, and the electric current brings fertilizers falling like snowflakes from the point of a carbon needle, extracted solely from the atmosphere. Nitrate fleets rust. The navigator, instead of rejoicing in, and sharing, an increased national affluence, freed from perilous tasks for more creative work, kicks his heels in idleness and penury.
What an asset the scientist is when we dare to utilize him, and utilize the wealth that even one man can make possible. Sir Robert Hadfield read a paper in 1932 before the Oil Industries Club, and claimed that economies to the value of £500,000,000 had resulted from the use of only two of the many steels he had invented. The savings due to Edison’s work have been estimated at £3,000,000,000. Fifty men, in the Kimberley mine in California, by the use of automatic appliances, load 5,000 tons of lead ore a day — one-eighth of the world’s total output. The boot factories in Northamptonshire can, in a few month’s work, turn out all the boots actually used in this country in a year. The tractor drawing the combined harvester and thresher have increased the output of the wheatfield worker some seventy-fold. For the first time in history it has enabled crop-farming to be carried on without seasonal demands on labour. The wheatlands of Canada have been extended hundreds of miles farther north by the work of Cambridge botanists, whilst Sir Daniel Hall, Advisor to the Board of Agriculture, tells us that the possible productivity of our own English soil has been doubled by the scientific work of the last ten years. The genetic study of the sugar-cane by Dutch investigators introduced new canes which have raised the yield of sugar in Java by 15 tons per hectare, as compared with a world average of only 3-5 tons. Chemistry and biology are working miracles as well as physics, and Professor J. B. S. Haldane sees the day approaching when with cellulose-splitting enzymes we shall convert wood pulp into palatable food. We live but on the fringe of possibility.
Science, which had been aided and befriended by nineteenth-century capitalism, had rewarded her benefactors a thousandfold. The social and political atmosphere had been propitious; the World situation was ripe for advance. Progress and achievement were staggering. Industrial development and technical improvement were eagerly sought and substantially encouraged. Scientific institutes were founded and study was endowed. In an age of Liberalism and of continuously expanding prosperity, every fresh industrial conquest stimulated further scientific research. New scientific discoveries led to new industries, and new Industries craved fresh scientific discoveries. The world lay open to industrial adventure and enterprise. Raw materials were available and new markets awaited the enterprising industrialists. Science and capitalistic industry walked hand in hand. It was a happy and a fruitful partnership.
(iii) Twentieth-Century Frustration
The twentieth century inherits the labour or this fruitful partnership. Science and industry combined to bequeath to us all that was needed to make poverty an anachronism. What, we might well ask, should we lack today, were the men now idle operating the machines? Would any lack shirts or sheets? Ask American cotton farms and Lancashire mills. Would any lack bread? Ask the Canadian prairies. Would any lack clothes? Ask the sheep-farms of Australia and the woollen mills of the Yorkshire dales. And ask Brazil, Malay, Spain, and where not besides, if we need lack coffee, rubber, sugar, oranges, or a hundred other commodities.
Nor is that all. The prospect is brighter still; we are by no means limited to our present resources in machinery and power; greater energy awaits us whenever we desire it, new machines, more cunningly devised, together with new materials and processes long ripe for practical application. Hindered by no internal or intrinsic difficulties or unfitness, nor by reluctance of consumers for further commodities or services, these benefits linger wholly and solely because of the inability or unwillingness of the present organization of production to supply the commodities and services which are physically possible and morally desirable. The tragic fact, however, confronts us that, speaking generally, and excluding war industries and heavy industries, new discoveries cease to be welcome guests. The productive powers of the industrial machine become an embarrassment rather than a boon : there is small incentive to increase them. The social organization of distribution is at fault. Mass production is not mated to mass consumption. Machines and processes, by means of which scientists provide for our every material need—houses, food, clothing, and the means to leisure and security — are run deliberately slowly: we limit our Rolls Royce to ten miles an hour. The gift which should enrich all impoverishes each. We spurn it; sabotage it; and when but recently, despite all our efforts, commodities, unrestricted at their source, had increased astronomically, we ruthlessly destroyed with one hand what we had made with the other.
Half a million sheep were burnt to cinders in Chile; six million dairy-cattle and two million sheep destroyed in the U.S.A. Twenty-six million bags of Brazilian coffee were dumped into the Pacific Ocean, and a shipload of Spanish oranges shovelled into the Irish Sea, while the empty vessel steamed into Liverpool on a sweltering August day amongst children to whom oranges were an unobtainable luxury.
We fling God’s gifts back in His face. Fish thrown into the sea. Wheat burned. Fruit left rotting on the trees. Hundreds of thousands of acres of cotton crops ploughed into the land again. Rubber-growers forced to bewail improved methods of increasing production; rubber pests hailed as angels from heaven.
Destruction on so preposterous a scale, and Welcomed with such indecent eagerness, called forth an appropriate rebuke from the common man and unsophisticated person, especially when occurring side by side with human destitution.
Our financial capitalism is wiser now. It wields a more deadly weapon than destruction against the embarrassment of plenty amidst poverty. Restriction is the new remedy. Restriction is safer than destruction. Destruction calls forth anger. Restriction lulls its dupes into false beliefs. Destruction reveals the fact of an age of plenty. Restriction produces the delusion of an age of scarcity. I knew at once the deadly nature of this weapon, and said so, when the order was issued for the restriction of 121,000,000 lbs. of tea in India, Ceylon, and the Dutch Indies. Every larder in Britain could have been supplied with 15 lbs. of an essential commodity had tea been distributed and not restricted. To a scientific engineer, whose job it is to economize human labour, this destruction of the fruit of the machine was not only pitiful: it was the logical and exasperating climax of a process of bungling and wastage which he had long been aware was inherent in the system of financial capitalism. For lack of planned distribution of commodities, through planned distribution of adequate purchasing power, side by side with planned production, human effort was misdirected and paralysed. It brought adequate satisfaction neither to the individual nor to the community. Factories were built and demolished; serviceable factory plants destroyed before half worn out; fully developed town-sites abandoned and unspoilt areas ruined; railway trucks profitably employed at less than 3 per cent, of their seventeen years of life, and, in the effort to rid ourselves of accumulating commodities, enormous sums of money spent on useless advertising. Lord Leverhulme’s estimate in 1916 that one hour’s work per week per person adequately, directed might supply all our needs for food, shelter, and clothing, was made when production had half today’s capacity.
The extent of this thwarting of our engineering plant may be gauged when we recollect that twenty-one years ago, with less efficient machinery, and in the midst of a world war which had diverted 20,000,000 men from mass production to mass destruction, factories sprang up overnight, and the remaining population, aided by boys and girls, old men, and women, maintained our common life, fed the guns with shells, and repaired in a hundred ways the wastages of war. Furthermore, and beyond the wastage of misdirected energy, the actual achievements of applied science represent but a fraction of what could be done if new scientific theories, already approved, were practically applied. Application lingers far behind discovery. Industrial organization is at fault. In this respect even the eager nineteenth century was a culprit. Faraday, for example, discovered electro-magnetic induction in 1831. It was not applied to industry until 1882, when Edison built the first power-plant. Discoveries of the twentieth century which await translation into practice multiply daily. The time-gap between theoretical discovery and industrial application, which should be short, mysteriously lengthens out; in some cases it is indefinitely delayed.
New sources of energy await us since we have broken into the nucleus of the atom; and new forms of matter, made possible by the new ranges of temperature and pressures, are now placed at our disposal.
Science blazes trails. Capitalist industry avoids them. The community suffers. New materials is a case in point. Industrial achievement varies with the materials at its disposal. Thus we have a stone age, a bronze age, an iron age. And new industrial triumphs await the practical use of materials now available; materials of unknown lightness, strength, and flexibility: lighter metals to replace iron; steel-reinforced metal films thin as bubbles and of inestimable value in chemical and electrical plants; glass, workable as metal, and colloid-expanded glasses, heat-proof, soundproof, transparent, and light as cork.
Chemists only await the order to make our clothes from cellulose materials such as wood; light and porous clothes, and pressed into shape without the cycle of processes from spinning to tailoring: clothes produced at the cost of pence, not pounds. Plastic materials of infinite variety can follow — as soon as we will — the bakelite with which we are already familiar.
Science, in the twentieth century, stands at the parting of the ways. Capitalism, her former master, fails her and treats her with contempt. Financial resources are denied, and science is set to trivial or harmful tasks. Less than 2d. in every £1,000 of industrial output is spent on the advancement of scientific knowledge. Capitalism is run for profit, and when, for any reason, it ceases to be profitable to increase production, science is shunned. When science threatens, by a new process, to make machinery obsolete, or, worse still, to make the process, and even the commodity itself, obsolete, then invention is smothered.
Science blundered in the past through inefficiency. Its very efficiency is its crowning fault today. Given a free hand, and provided with the financial resources which the complicated nature of modern science requires, it is more than likely to discover powers, modes, processes, and materials which endanger vested interests. Science must be disciplined to immediate use. In industry, it is hinted, science will do well to confine itself to its proper function of reducing costs in processes already decided upon and in which capital is sunk. We know what happens when more durable yarns are produced, or what would happen should we free automobile engines from electrical appliances. The same principle operates in all directions. Take, for instance, the familiar coloured gas-discharge lamp, neon light we call it. Few know the cheapness of this illuminant, fewer still that could we produce white instead of coloured neon light our electricity bills would drop by ten or twenty times. But how many know that it is not the insolubility of the problem of producing white neon light which prevents this saving to our pocket, but the losses that its invention would cause to power companies and the manufacturers of the common electric bulb.
Vested interests of private owners of the means of production cripple the scientist at every turn and rob the public. Low-temperature production of iron would turn blast furnaces into scrap. Blast furnaces are costly, and owned by powerful individuals. And powerful individuals in groups exercise great pressure on scientists and governments. And governments in capitalistic lands display small intention, in general, of supporting communal interests against interests of particular groups if those groups are powerful enough.
In one direction, however, science is a welcome guest to modern governments. Science is indispensable for war. Science is needed on the battlefield with weapons of offence and defence. Science is needed to secure within the national unit the commodities which render it self-supporting in time of war. Out of £450,000, the totally inadequate sum given by our Government to civil research, £90,000 are spent on Fuel Research, which has succeeded in giving us, at a cost of between four and five times the world price of petrol, an alternative source of an essential fuel in time of war. That fact alone is eloquent.
Science is wanted for warfare : elsewhere it is advised to take a holiday. Under threat of a plenty which capitalism cannot distribute, however much you and I may need it, scientific invention is placed under a moratorium. The thing is generally done decently, of course. It is hidden beneath a respectable slogan : at the moment the word "planning" is in fashion. Not socialist planning, not planning for the greatest possible production and the greatest possible distribution in the interests of all, for the maximum safety and well-being of all; but planning in order to keep prices up and wages down; with its disastrous consequences of a lowered standard of living for all. Planning for scarcity, not for plenty. Planning which curtails new machinery and smothers invention. Planning which reduces the scientist to a henchman, his spending money curtailed; himself indeed retained for essential war purposes, but otherwise confined to trivial tasks, and warned by subtle means not to chase knowledge too far.
The sequel to all this is seen in Germany. Germany needs scientists primarily for war: she has no use for theoretical science.
Germany is especially illuminating in this connexion. For in Germany capitalism reaches its zenith and reveals its tendencies and its spirit. German standards of living, for example, have fallen. Mr. Douglas Jay, Fellow of All Souls and a leading economist, estimates in 1939 that "the real income per hour of a German worker who had a job on January 30, 1933, has fallen since by over 30 per cent." Germany’s own Year Book shows, however, that during the period 1932-37 the number of millionaires increased by 1,266 and multi-millionaires by 180. Students in German universities have in the same period been almost halved in number: 133,000 in 1932-3; 72,000 in 1936-7.
Professor Blackett admirably shows that the Nordic Movement, which is armament-capitalist through and through in sympathy, is but one part of a larger anti-scientific movement. The Nazis cease to need pure science, as capitalists also cease to need pure science. Hence their exaltation of emotion and the mystic soul of the nation, and their dethronement of intellect and reason. Debarred from the fruits of scientific progress, they say the grapes are sour.
Science in the nineteenth century had become international. Science worked for the good of mankind as a whole. Today the horizon narrows. Scientists are encouraged to operate within the closed systems of economic nationalism; bidden to work for England alone, or Germany alone; to make England or Germany independent of other lands, to enable England or Germany, should need arise, to close their doors to all comers and yet not starve, nor lack essential commodities. Scientists must produce synthetic substitutes for natural commodities. That in itself is no bad thing, but it would, in many cases be truer economy if the search were directed to the production of totally new articles of higher quality and value; to the discovery of new modes of power with less cumbrous units; or to experimenting on the border lines of the various sciences, on that living growing edge of things where biology meets physics and chemistry, and where both can come to terms with sociology.
If the object of science is to promote human welfare, through the delights of knowledge, through closer contact with reality, and through the mastery of Nature in the interests of man, then to turn scientists from wider tasks to the mere increase of profits for individual firms by reduction of working costs, or to make one nation independent of another for purposes of war, is to prostitute science to commercial gain or narrow national interest. The nobler aspects of science, together with its international character, depart.
Science is faced with two alternatives, and two alone. Two masters seek her allegiance. The capitalist order, which has little use for her now save in the matter of war, That way lie scientific decadence and death. The socialist order, with its complete and large-scale planning for maximum output, with its eager welcome for every contribution which science can give, and with its willingness to equip science and the scientist more amply for the purpose of peace than capitalism for the purpose of war. Science must choose, and the choice is a matter of life or death.
If capitalism thwarts science, it also outrages Christianity, making impossible the Christian demand for justice, freedom, a creative abundant life, and an ever-widening fellowship for each human soul.
These four demands, which find an echo in every normal human being we meet, spring naturally and inevitably from the attitude of the Founder of Christianity towards individual men, and towards the goal of human society. To Him every man was of infinite worth, and His goal for society was the creation of a community of all human beings, irrespective of colour, sex, or race. Jesus makes this claim for man with simple objective directness. He reveals it as the fundamental truth about man ; to deny it is to court inevitable disaster. Where John the Baptist had dug down to one great universal affirmation, saying that God is a God of Justice, Jesus dug down to the other great affirmation by adding that God is a God of Love; that He is the Father of men, with a care for all individual men so great that He numbers the very hairs of their head. This affirmation carries as its corollary — that all men, as God’s children, are brothers, to be regarded as such and treated as such. Jesus, it has been well said, was the first man in history to take Monotheism with complete moral seriousness: one God, one Father of all, one family of men; therefore, no racial distinctions, no national distinctions, no class distinctions — one brotherhood of men under one God.
There is nothing more fundamental about Christianity than that. Grant that, and the demand for justice, freedom, and abundance of creative life for each individual, together with an ever-widening fellowship, follow as day follows night. Grant that, and an economic order, which not only frustrates science but produces and tolerates wealth beside poverty, creates and perpetuates class distinctions, and fails to provide opportunity for all in the matter of work, leisure, education, or security, stands condemned.
By no ingenuity could I square capitalism with Christianity. The teaching of Jesus became clearer as He was rescued by modern critical scholarship from the stained-glass windows where we see a dreamy, pious, impracticable, and wholly otherworldly person, the "gentle Jesus meek and mild" as taught to little children, submissive in all circumstances, uninterested in politics, and avoiding challenge to damaging social conditions, or drastic rebuke to responsible ruling classes.
His personality was mysterious; and with an apocalyptic side to His teaching which we only partly understand. It had also an intensely practical side, and was stern as well as kind, and capable of an anger which could flare to white heat, and a bitterness of speech never surpassed by the most militant opponents of class rule. Even the apocalyptic element may have had more to do with this world than some suppose.
Jesus at least never left the doctrine of brotherhood in the I clouds. He brought it down to earth. He attacked everything which made brotherhood difficult or impossible. He welcomed all that fostered brotherhood, or any circles where its growth was easy.
Jesus believed that the common people were nearer to the new world of His vision, where a community of brothers live under the rule of a common Father, than the cultured, educated, wealthy upper classes; the common people were kinder, and less proud. To the common people, therefore, He addressed His beatitudes—the people of the soil, the peasants, fishermen, and artisans like Himself. He tells the common people that the new world is for them, not for the rich, the prosperous, the self-satisfied: " Rejoice, ye poor, ye sinners, ye despised, the new world is meant for you." It was to the common people that He turned fori disciples.
Common humanity was basic for Jesus. It was some-, thing transcending race, religion, and wealth. Such common humanity demanded the sharing of material possessions here on earth. The story of the Good Samaritan leaves no doubt as to the meaning of Jesus in this matter. Priest and Levite — the clergy of that day — perceive a wounded man lying on the roadside, and leave him there, making Church and prayer an excuse for the neglect of common humanity. They failed to see a brother in the person of a needy man. Their religion therefore was vain and a hindrance: "If a man say he loves God and hates his brother he is a liar." In vivid contrast to the orthodox priest, a stranger, religiously unorthodox and of inferior race, steps across the road and gives assistance with all that he has — his care, his oil and wine, his money and his mule — and thus built up community on the basis of common humanity and common need, and through the sharing of material things.
Wealth, pride, and false spirituality are a hindrance to the building up of the new humanity. Jesus scorned the false spirituality which excuses pride and ignores the hungry. His hostility flared up when, at a feast, He saw His well-to-do, socially ambitious fellow-guests scramble for the best seats and ignore the feastless crowds. He urges the snobbish place-seekers to sit with lowlier people at lowlier seats, and scatter their invitations, not to the closed circle of the rich, but to hungry men. His words burst like bombshells. One foolish guest, to change the conversation, looking up to heaven exclaimed, "Blessed are they that eat bread in the Kingdom of God", speaking of the future, of heaven, and of eating; whereas Jesus was speaking of the present, of earth, and of giving. It is the voice of false religion throughout all the ages, making heaven an escape mechanism and neglecting the sorrows of earth.
Wealth was abhorrent to Him precisely because it breaks the bond between man and man. Wealth establishes social differences and social insensitiveness. Therefore wealth is condemned, in the story of Dives and Lazarus, in the abrupt reply of Jesus to the rich young man, and in the subsequent words: "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the Kingdom of God."
Never was this repugnance to wealth and self-sufficiency, and the pride these beget, expressed more pungently than in the words: " Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?"; and never more beautifully than in the story of the Prodigal Son, where wealth, sought and gained, had isolated the young man from father and home, and landed him destitute among strangers and in a far country.
Wealth over against poverty meant to Jesus estrangement from God and man. What was true in His day is a hundredfold more true today, where wealth, accumulating in individual hands, gives undreamed-of power to its possessors, perpetuates class distinctions, and utterly dispossesses the worker.
Jesus was drastically outspoken in these matters. His love was tender indeed, but never submissive and never sentimental. It was militant, challenging the ruling classes and multiplying enemies against Himself. The revolutionary spirit of Jesus was bound to clash with the narrow nationalism of the Pharisees and the vested interests of the Sadducees. These were the classes who controlled the police, and when He attacked these they slew Him. His death was no accident. He had identified Himself with the depressed classes; He had challenged the possessing classes.
That identification and that challenge are as essentially a part of discipleship today as they were in the first century. And are likely to cost the Christian disciple as dearly. That, indeed, is not the whole of Christianity, nor the ultimate end of Christianity. Rather it is the indispensable beginning. The integration of humanity at which it aims, needs, in the Christian view, to be completed by a still higher integration. But the higher cannot come until the lower is begun. That is why if our brother hath ought against us — and so long as he is hungry and we are full he has much against us — we are bidden to leave our gift to God before the altar and go and first be reconciled to our brother and then come and offer our gift.
(i) Denial of Justice
"England is the land of justice." Nine in ten of the comfortable classes take this for granted. Yet it is false. Where is justice when, in times of slump, two million unemployed are restrained by force from access to land, machines, and tools with which they could be profitably employed, and condemned to eke out a miserable existence in enforced idleness and dwarfing poverty? Where is justice when, in an age of potential plenty, millions live in needless want; and half Britain is paralysed by fears of sickness, old age, or the other insecurities and vicissitudes of life ?
An earlier section pictured the achievements of science and scientific industry, with its immediate promise of abundant life for all. Place beside that picture the facts of present and avoidable poverty in England, and say where justice lies. With milk restricted and herrings flung back into the sea, millions of British children are undersized and underfed, one-sixth of the whole child population disastrously so.
This is no wild statement or rough guess, it is based on cold calculations.
Sir John Boyd Orr, for example, one of Britain’s most distinguished dietetic experts, in his recent book on "Food, Health, and Income", calculates that half our population is inadequately fed. Estimating ten shillings per head per week as essential for a completely adequate diet, he observes that only half our population can afford that sum. He classifies the population of Britain as follows:—
4,500,000 persons spending 4s. a week on food.
9,000,000 „ „ 6s. „ „
9,000,000 „ „ 8s. „ „
9,006,000 „ „ 10s. „ „
9,000,000 „ „ 12s. „ „
4,500,000 „ „ over 14s. „ „
The class spending under 4s. per person a week on food contains one-sixth of all British children. Where is justice there ?
Beside Sir John Boyd Orr we can place these words of Sir George Newman in his book, "The Building of a Nation’s Health" :—
It is important for the public and the medical profession, to appreciate quite clearly that the maternal and infant mortalities in this country are still excessive. Neither, of course, from the nature of the facts can be reduced to zero, but two facts are certain. First, the causation of a high mortality in maternity or in infancy is not obscure or mysterious. It is perfectly well known and it is in a very large degree preventable. Speaking generally, there is no mortality rate more pathetic, discreditable or unnecessary. Secondly, the decline in both of them has begun and is thus far an encouragement, but it is imperative that in every district of the land the responsible authorities should press home, insistently and relentlessly, the need for fuller use of the powers placed in their hands by Parliament to save these mothers and children. At present we are nowhere near the irreducible minimum in either of these mortalities.
We can make this picture yet more real by taking concrete cases: which I quote by permission from Mr. Wal. Hannington’s book on "The Problem of the Depressed Areas".
Case I. Mr. E. P. of Aberdare, Glamorgan. Number in family, man, wife, and four children, aged two, four, six, and nine years. Income per week from unemployment allowance is 38s. Conditions in the home are that all cooking has to be done on an open fire; there is no gas-stove. There are no decent cupboards or meat-safes. By way of utensils the family have one kettle with a broken spout, three saucepans, one frying-pan, and one pot. There are two bowls with holes stopped up with pieces of rag. No dinner-plates, no bread knife. Only four cups and two saucers for six in the family, two knives and two spoons, three forks, and four small plates. The floor of the kitchen in which they live is bare stone, with no lino or carpet covering. There is only one blanket in the family, no sheets, no pillow-cases. Articles of clothes such as old coats are mostly used for bed-covering. A rent of 8 s. 6 d. a week is paid, is. 3 d . insurance, 3 s . 4 d. coal, is. 6 d . light, and an average of 2 s . for boot repairs, etc., leaving £1 is. 5 d . for food, clothes, and miscellaneous expenditure for six people. There are only three chairs for six people. Two spring mattresses in the bedroom are broken, and the room has no furniture in it besides the bed, not even a table on which to place a candle. There is electric light in two out of the four rooms, but one is completely empty.
Case II. Mrs. M. J. of Swansea. The family consists of father, mother, and eight children, aged fourteen, thirteen, twelve, ten, seven, five, three, and five months. Income from all sources is £ 2 5 s. a week. For this family of ten there is only one kettle, one saucepan, one frying-pan, and no other cooking utensils. There is only one washing-up bowl, which has to be used for various purposes. In table utensils they have six cups and saucers, two knives, three forks, four teaspoons, one tablespoon, and eight plates. There is no lino on the floor, but only odd bits of coco-matting. The scrubbing-brushes have been worn out and the family is too poor to buy new ones; there are no boot-brushes and only one pail. The whole family is badly in need of wearing apparel of all descriptions. The children have had to be kept home from school frequently on very wet days because of the state of their shoes. Mrs. M. J. in her statement on the questionnaire says: "It is impossible to state within a small space our real position. Our whole family is definitely under-fed and under-clothed. Rent, light, fuel, and insurance, etc., takes 20s. weekly, leaving us 25s . to maintain the whole family in every other respect." This family of ten live in two rooms. Repeated application has been made to the local housing authorities for a Council house, but without result, although, as Mrs. M. J. says, "Our rent is, and ever has been, paid regularly".
"Twenty-five shillings to maintain the whole family in every respect." Weigh the words carefully. One of those respects is food. Even if there were no other claims on that 25s. a week but food, what chance has a mother, however skilful, of maintaining a family of ten persons on 25s. a week? "Figure it out for yourself. Think of your own child’s healthy appetite, and then hear the mother in this family say to the hungry child who clamours at bedtime for a slice of bread: "If you eat it now, you can’t have it for breakfast tomorrow." Then make out your own shopping list for a family often, not indeed on 25s., but on all that is left out of 25s. when other inevitable charges have been met. Reckon the quantity of bread, milk, butter, vegetables, or meat that is possible. Or yet again, think, on bitter winter nights, of one blanket for a family of six.
It is, perhaps, the pitiful inventory of utensils and clotting which strikes me even more dramatically than the lack of food, revealing the starkest poverty of perpetual unemployment in a neighbourhood where all one’s friends are reduced from comfort to penury: in one household
"the wife’s clothing consists of one petticoat, one pair of stockings, one working skirt, one skirt for outdoors — no nightdresses and only one pair of shoes. The daughter has very little underclothing, no nightdresses; one good pair of stockings, one pair heavily darned, two jerseys — one very old, worn and thin. The husband has one pair of pants, two khaki shirts almost worn out, one singlet which is threadbare and patched, a cap, one secondhand raincoat and one pair of shoes."
British people are not callous. No decent man, hearing such tales, and picturing the widespread misery they record remains untouched. We are neither callous nor cruel we are just ignorant — colossally ignorant.
An English Bishop recently declared that the number of under-fed people in England is extremely small and for the most part it is their own fault. I know that Bishop: he is a good man, but in this matter he is ignorant, even of his own neighbours’ lives. He lives in an extremely prosperous town, of some 87,000 inhabitants. A friend of mine, a vicar in that same town, told me, almost as the Bishop spoke, these facts concerning a parishioner: "father, mother, and ten children, very frugal and respectable people; weekly wage 50 s . Weekly rent 10 s."
Make your own calculations on that basis. Three shillings and four pence per head for all the family needs, including food. Would the Bishop permit his own son or daughter to live on that pittance without complaint? If you say, "Why so large a family ?" I might ask, "What encouragement in birth control do poor mothers receive from Church and country?"
The matter has not been allowed to end there. Since the Bishop’s remark a Council, representative of twenty local societies, under the vice-chairmanship of the former Medical Officer of Health, has conducted scientific investigations in the Bishop’s city, examining the circumstances of one hundred typical working-class families. Its findings have shocked the conscience of the whole community. And the community would be still more shocked if they knew the conditions, not merely of a prosperous country town, but of an industrial area, and still more of a depressed area. Ignorance is cruel and dangerous.
* * * * *
The University of Bristol Survey recently examined living conditions in their home town of Bristol. The results of that survey lie before me, another cold scientific document without frills. I learn that, judged by the most modern test, one-third of Bristol’s working-class families are deprived of the bare necessities of life: one working-class child in every five runs short of the minimum of necessary food. And Bristol is not a depressed area. Bristol is a highly prosperous and wealthy town, and the survey was made in the height of the 1937 boom.
* * * * *
To speak of justice in face of intolerable misery is absurd. Multitudes live under conditions of unimaginable cruelty and injustice. They are deprived of needful commodities to which by strict rights they are entitled. For the abundance which now flows from the industrial machine is not, m equity, wholly and solely the property of those who happen to "own" the land and machines, as the following argument and analysis of the past will show :—
Man achieved his present power of almost limitless Production when he gave up his independence and worked in a team. Only in a team do we advance. But to enter a team is to sacrifice independence : in a team we lean on others. It is so in Alpine climbing. Man cannot conquer the high alps alone : in a team Everest itself is threatened.
Long ago, in primitive days, man was an entirely independent creature, hunting his own food, sowing his own land, and making his own clothes. His output was small. In combination, however, with other men, his stride lengthened. No longer striving only to clothe and feed himself, he began to associate with his fellows, and to specialize his tasks. In a team his productive power increased enormously. Mankind, as a whole, grew richer, but at each fresh stage the individual lost somewhat more of independence.
Association in production at length paved the way for wholly new possibilities of wealth. Learning and science sprang into being, and scientists discovered limitless sources of power; power which multiplied man’s muscles a thousandfold; power which drove the machine that science had invented; power which dispenses with all but a minimum of human aid. Machines became self-driven, self-controlled, and poor man, whose willingness, as a whole, had permitted team methods of production, found himself at last in ever-increasing numbers pushed away from the land he had given up, and then away from the machines, whose very existence was made possible by team work of the whole civilized, organized community.
Multitudes thus suffer, in their unemployment, a grave, though generally hidden, injustice. Torn from the soil, lured into associations, specialized in their tasks, they are left helpless unless admitted to a fair share in the fruits which fall into the lap of the owners of the community-produced-machine and of land made valuable by team work of the same community.
Morally this point is of the utmost importance. A further simple illustration may make it clearer.
When man tilled his own acre, leaving others to sow and reap and weave, he remained a craftsman and earned his keep, losing, however, his power to stand alone. Justice demanded that he should share equitably in the increased output. The arrival of the machine enabled man to produce vastly more than before, but it robbed him of his craftsman’s skill. The machine which displaces man is the fruit of the corporate enterprise we call science. It results from community, and a share of the increase at least is the property of the whole community and of each individual who makes up the community.
When, at last, through help of the machine, man makes not even a shoe, but only the twentieth part of it; and when, at long last, the machine makes the whole shoe with no touch from human hands, then man is indeed in a sorry plight. The team work and its product, the machine, to which he had consented, and to which now he cannot do other than consent, but which, as a member of the community which gave it birth, he has a right to consider as in part his own, has robbed him of his independence, his craft, his very maintenance, giving him nothing in return. That is the culminating point of injustice.
It is the culminating point of absurdity too. For though millions of shoes pour from manless machines, they fail to find wearers. Penniless, workless men cannot buy shoes. Injustice and folly have stalled the machine. Justice demands, therefore, that the community should own and control productive machinery, though with reasonable consideration for those who for so long have been permitted by the community to acquire an absolute right over the land and machines.
(ii) Denial of Freedom
The facts of freedom and liberty for the individual in Britain is assumed as readily as the fact of justice, and with little more reason. The masses lack many vital elements of freedom. And in particular the freedom to choose their own work, work into which they can throw their whole heart and express to the full their own personality, be it as doctor or dustman, artist or artisan. Without the satisfaction of essential impulse all other forms of freedom are secondary and relatively unimportant. Freedom in Britain is mainly the privilege of the industrial and commercial owning classes and has an interesting history. It tends to develop into licence and threatens society with grave dangers.
That there are, however, exceedingly valuable elements in British freedom which all to some extent share, and which were purchased at a cost which historians alone can gauge, cannot be denied.
Religious and political freedom in this country are a priceless heritage, probably enjoyed by no other land in equal measure. Britons are not penalized in public worship. No law prevents the free circulation of our sacred literature, nor restricts our right to instruct our children in the articles of whatever faith we choose to profess.
We inherit a freedom of speech and a freedom of Press which surpass those of any other land and possess incomparable value.
Freedom of the Press is a phrase lightly used. To spread opinions through the Press is a freedom enjoyed mainly but not exclusively by the rich. To own and operate a great daily newspaper is the privilege of the super-rich: those who pay the piper call the tune, and it costs a fortune to run a modern daily. That gives to the Astors and the Beaverbrooks an overweighted influence in world politics and domestic economics. The extent to which the very rich possess, through their great wealth, the real freedom of the Press, and through it sway British governments, can be gauged by readers of the Astor-owned Times newspaper, which in order to extend control over influential circles is supplied at half price to the poorer clergy.
All that is true. And yet our liberties both of Press and speech are things of priceless worth and must be defended with our last breath. We may lack control of mass propaganda through the possession of great daily newspapers with circulations of a million copies or more, but we still possess the liberty to publish a daily if we possess the ability to do so.
The Daily Worker, for instance, may be handicapped in a thousand ways. Handicapped because advertisers shun it. Handicapped because distributing agents boycott it. Handicapped because it lacks the vast machinery necessary to produce a large-sized paper filled with latest news from distant places. Yet the Daily Worker is permitted. No law prohibits its circulation. The Daily Worker would be impossible in any openly fascist country. It is possible in England still, and despite all its handicaps exercises tremendous influence. An increasing number of readers come to know that in the Daily Worker they have access to information concerning the- Soviet Union, for example, which no other journal gives.
The Liberal Press, also, in this country, is a power. The Manchester Guardian carries on its old principle of observing an independent, and usually extremely well-informed, line, and the News Chronicle and Daily Mirror are at liberty to criticize the Government. These are no light boons, and never appreciated more highly than when threatened.
Poor men and men violently critical of government and class still possess the liberty to write and print and publish pamphlets and leaflets and circulate their views.
Let no one underestimate the value of such freedom of Press or speech as we still possess, or cease the struggle to maintain it undiminished.
And we British possess other liberties of no small value. There is the liberty to refuse work or wages. Men cannot legally be compelled in Britain, as they can in Germany or Italy, to work. Of course, in nine cases out of ten hunger compels them. Earn wages or die is the frequent alternative. But if a man can find the means to live without wages for a shorter or longer time, he is still permitted in England to refuse a job. This privilege, though it suffers from the gravest limitations, is of value and can be used as a powerful weapon to raise the standard of life or prevent its decline. The liberty to refuse wages can be made formidable by combination of worker with worker in a Trade Union and serves as a powerful leverage for the welfare of the industrial classes.
Let us, however, whilst recognizing the boon of liberty of Press, speech, and refusal of work, recognize also the nature and history, and consequently the limitations, of the liberty which we possess. For not all is liberty which is described as such, and lesser liberties often need limitation in the interest of larger liberties.
Bourgeois society acknowledges with its lips the social ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity, and believes them to be rooted in eternal law which reason has discovered. They are right, but bourgeois idealists are frequently unconscious of the degree to which they have woven their own interests into these conceptions. Equality and fraternity have slipped conveniently into the background, and liberty looms large. There is historic reason for this emphasis. The commercial middle classes had been intent on freeing themselves from the social restraints of a feudal order which fettered commercial pursuits. The organic social solidarity of the countryside gave small scope for individuality. Passion for freedom was born and bred in cities and amongst the new middle classes. Struggling merchants and industrialists of the eighteenth century hardly recognized the extent to which selfish and vested interests had entered into their struggles for political and religious liberty. Successful plutocrats of the twentieth century are much more conscious and much more frank: they demand freedom for an unfettered exercise of economic power which borders on license and chafes at all governmental restraints.
Such freedom is, in fact, highly dangerous. There is, of course, no absolute freedom, all freedom is relative. Only law can give us freedom. A freedom which consists in absence of all restraint becomes impossible if universally applied. Absence of restraint on the road, or on the high seas, paves the way to disaster. Civilized societies impose road, rail, sea, and air restraints which, though irksome to fools, are entirely consistent with the widest measure of liberty of transit for the largest number. My liberty as an individual motorist on the king’s highway is not hindered because I and others, who wish to move about, must observe the laws of traffic lights.
Absence of restraint in the social order is equally disastrous. And when we are told that a man should be as little tied down as possible, whether to place, belief, morality, occupation, or religion, we reasonably grow suspicious : the man without responsibilities or loyalties is like a tree without roots. A man who seeks freedom to administer his business entirely as he chooses, or live upon inherited wealth all his life without adding one stroke of work to the communal wealth, is not only a robber but a fool. The restraint of a task of work loyally performed nourishes life, materially and spiritually: it gives exercise to physical, mental, and moral powers.
Most will agree that restrictions on unsocial aspects of "liberty" were altogether desirable. A hundred and twenty years ago employers and ‘Employed had a wider "liberty" of this kind than today. There was less restraint on both employer and employed. A man could work for sixteen hours a day. A child could work at six years of age. A woman could work for twelve hours underground drawing truck-loads of coal along rough, wet, dark, and muddy roadways with a harness round her shoulders like a horse.
That liberty no longer exists. Neither are employers at liberty to give, in lieu of wages, a ticket entitling an employee to goods at an employer’s shop where he might be cheated by specially high prices.
These "liberties" of 1820 made life a torment. They were wholly pernicious. Britons were right to abolish them. Their recrudescence in any shape or form needs resolute resistance.
We can now return, with the ground largely cleared, to the point where we recognized the value of the liberty to refuse work or wages. If we must not underestimate that value, neither must we overestimate it. How grave are its limitations is better appreciated by those who depend on wages than by those who pay them. A man may be free to refuse wages, but such refusal means that somehow he must live apart from wages. Broadly speaking, refusal is impossible precisely on this account. The worker, apart from a Trade Union, has no reserves or resources. He cannot live long without a wage, he cannot get a dole if he refuses work, he cannot set up for himself, and thus he is dependent upon those who own the means of production. He is forced to accept the wage or starve.
A man’s liberty to refuse wages is thus, largely though by no means wholly, illusory.
* * * * *
There is another aspect of liberty which is as of much importance as any yet discussed. Hitherto we have spoken of liberty from the angle of freedom from restraint. That is a negative angle. Such freedom is good news only for those who possess financial resources : it has a less happy message to those who lack them.
Freedom from external restrictions which would debar us from enjoying the goods of life is a very different thing from freedom of access to them. It is freedom of access to good things, freedom of opportunity, which the masses lack and which Christianity demands.
When, as an engineer apprentice, I worked and lived on 13 s. a week, I was as free as any man in England to smoke cigars or visit the Riviera. No law hindered me. In other lands men suffer such restraints. Negroes, in some States, no matter how able and willing to pay for them, are debarred from certain luxuries and privileges : even the sunny side-walk of the street is prohibited ground. Not so here. I was "formally" free, as the logicians say, to do these things. And we Britons possess a wide "formal" freedom and a wide permission to enjoy at our own sweet will a multitude of luxuries and amenities.
But " formal" permission is not actual opportunity. Permission and opportunity stand poles apart. The labourer has "formal" freedom to smoke cigars. Being poor, he lacks opportunity; the "formal" permission is useless. In the matter of cigars he lacks freedom. Formal permission avails him not at all. And so it is throughout the whole of society. Real freedom, the freedom which matters, is rare. What freedom has the average British housewife among the tempting West End shops? Lack of money in the purse reduces freedom to zero for ninety-nine out of every hundred" shoppers. It is the favoured few, the middle and upper classes, the men who possess both formal freedom and freedom of opportunity, who are loudest in their boasts of England’s liberty, and as keenly sensitive to any encroachment or restraint in the creation or employment of their wealth as they are insensitive to the fact that British liberty largely is a dead letter to the masses. Those who boast loudest are least active in extending the liberty of opportunity.
The British worker, then, possesses a wide formal, but a narrow actual freedom. He is free to go to church, and to go to the church of his choice. He is "formally" free to go to any job he chooses. He is free not to go to a job. "Formally" he is free to tell his foreman or manager, either by post or by word of mouth, what he thinks about efficiency or method in shop control at his particular factory, or about the treatment meted out to him and his fellow-workers. Of what avail, however, is all that freedom? His opportunity is limited to his necessity to keep a job. That necessity shuts his mouth on the things that concern him most. That necessity hinders his mobility and his choice. His actual daily task, its nature and control, and his freedom within the shop matter to a worker infinitely more than the many boasted freedoms of democracy — more, for instance, than the right to vote for the candidate of his choice at parliamentary or municipal elections. His freedom to give notice and seek another job, in a day when — as is so frequently the case — a million or more are unemployed and thousands arc waiting to step, on almost any terms, into the place he vacates, is obviously strictly limited; so too is his freedom to fit himself for another job if he discovers too late that his present work is unsuited to his tastes or aptitudes. A couple of weeks stand between him and starvation: his wage is accurately gauged to provide his maintenance and no more.
The tram-conductor, the turner, and the shop assistant who criticize shop management are marked men: only under the aegis of a powerful union dare they voice their complaints.
If individual freedom means "doing what I like", expressing my personality in thought, word, and act, then more is needed than mere lack of restraint. Real freedom demands provision of opportunity for all, and a land in which the overwhelming mass of people lack adequately paid work and ample leisure to enjoy its fruits, a land where, amidst potential plenty, half the population are underfed and lack freedom of opportunity in respect of education, choice of a profession, provision for health and insurance against old age and the accidents of life, might for awhile cease to boast of the liberties they possess and begin to strive for the liberties they lack.
(iii) Denial of Creative Living
Perhaps the most damning feature of modern industrialism is its denial to men and women, and especially to youth, of creative life. The best things in this world are not the most costly. The love of Nature, the companionship of books, the joy of music — these are the most accessible experiences, these cost least in money and, many suppose, they are available for all. But are they? Books need money for their purchase, and leisure and education for their profitable and enjoyable perusal. Music needs leisure and training, and love for Nature needs access to the countryside. Look back again at the table of England’s poverty as Sir John Boyd Orr portrays it, and at the pictures of homes in depressed areas and ask yourself: . How much chance have hundreds of thousands of my J fellow-countrymen of enjoying even these least costly avenues to the abundantly creative living which Christianity demands as the birthright of all ?
Imagine yourself living under the conditions that millions endure, impoverished so that you lack adequate nourishment, crowded half a dozen of you sometimes into a single room; how much would you be interested then in these simple and most abiding and most accessible experiences ? How much margin of spiritual resiliency and energy would you possess to seek and care for the creative things of life, and what chance would your children possess of growing up to be the kind of people who would seek them?
There is no need to labour the point. To speak of creative living as a possibility for the mass of our countrymen is a farce. If we deplore low tastes, we had better open the avenues that lead to higher. Abundantly creative living is denied to the masses.
(iv) Denial of Fellowship
all human beings are at heart moral beings. The moral sense may be twisted and perverted by the circumstances of life or the immoral character of society. With war impending men may be taught the art of killing, as if killing were the supreme object of life: ferocity may be developed as a virtue and bayonet practice may teach men the last refinements of brutality.
But such things are outrages on innate moral feelings: it needs strict discipline to inculcate brutality.
An essential part of fundamental moral feelings is the sense of kinship with one’s fellow-beings and with the world at large. No sense is happier than the sense of kinship or comradeship, and the obverse side of the brutality of the war machine was the comradeship in arms — a comradeship which left many a soldier with the sense of blank when his regiment was disbanded and he himself had returned to an industrial world where comradeship was less in evidence.
Part of our very feeling of the Tightness of things depends upon our sense of community and comradeship. If that is wanting, we are stunted beings. If the community in which we live is at war with our highest ideals and aspirations, and clashes with our sense of what is moral and right, we suffer from feelings of frustration, and the harmony of life becomes a discord.
The world of financial capitalism produces precisely this sense of disharmony, and the root cause lies in the fact that modern industry treats men as means and not as ends. Men are like machines, and their function is to play their part in the making of profit.
I was struck during the Great War with the change in attitude of a certain young officer. He returned from the front with the exclamation: "The men were wonderful," and recounted their acts of consideration, cheerfulness, and heroism. The same officer came to me frequently before the war, when he was head of a large industrial concern, and complained bitterly of the men’s hostility and ingratitude. They were the same class of men and the same class of officer. The difference lay not in rank, but in sense of community. Community within the regiment in time of danger and stress was real.
Precisely the same idea produces disharmonies within wider circles in imperialism and in possession of colonies. So long as national minorities and colonial people are used primarily as means for acquiring imperial wealth and aggrandisement, the fundamental striving after community is violated and man’s moral nature to that extent frustrated!
Hence the modern man suffers disharmony not only in his industrial and commercial life, but also in his international life. The sovereignty of States and the dominance of minorities and nationalities militate against the innate hunger for fellowship. Something in men with a properly developed sense of community never can be, or never should be, happy on a train where certain carriages are reserved for one colour and others for another, like carriages in India, this for Indians and that for Europeans. Such things, whatever we may say about their necessity in peculiar circumstances, are radically wrong. Wrong, that is, if, as our Christian faith leads us to suppose, brotherhood is the truth of our humanity.
The national sense is good, and love of country is a noble virtue. But love of humanity must transcend it. The two are by no means incompatible, and both demand satisfaction in the full sense if the Tightness of things is to be attained.
It is the same, finally, with the relation between the sexes. Without complete equality, without the removal of the last trace of oppression and exploitation, the full pleasure of relationship between the sexes lacks fulfilment.
To achieve real moral unity there must be complete synthesis of self with community. In such synthesis man experiences a joy impossible without it. To reach such synthesis demands constant toil and frequent sacrifice. None can enjoy the full delights of life till all enjoy them; for only when all enjoy them does our craving for fellowship find its last fulfilment.
The following are noble words of Eugene V. Debs, and they find echoes down the ages: "While there is a lower class I am in it; while there is a criminal element I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.’’
1. "Assignment in Utopia", by Eugene Lyons, p. 53.