William Morris

Commercial War [portion]

Now first I suppose nobody, however rash he may be, can suppose that such a change can be brought about suddenly, or by the conscious efforts of a few or even a great many people. It is true that in times past there have been great men who have noted the woeful way in which the mass of people live, and who from the depths of their own insight and benevolence have imagined schemes for a better life, and in some of them enthusiasm and energy have been so strong that they have tried to realize those ideals, and for a time have seemed as if they might succeed; but the relentless march of the commercial army has crushed those schemes, and the ordinary shrewd bourgeois intelligence that can see no further than a limited part of its own time has cried out mockery against Socialism over their ruins. Robert Owen thought that if the advantages of a communal or co-operative life were only shown to people clearly enough, they would embrace it as people take to a new form of theology; forgetting that the chain which binds them is real enough and the mere hope and example of the success of such a life on a small scale will not break that chain which it has taken so many centuries to forge. That on the one hand, but on the other the bourgeois rejoicing over the ruins of New Lanark and the failure of the schemes of the most generous and best of men has had no eye for the cloud as big as a man's hand which has been gathering and growing while he has been hugging himself over the cleared heavens of his commercial "do or you will be done brown" paradise. It is the commercial system itself which will kill the commercial system, and we Socialists, hard as we shall have to work, shall only have to assist nature in that operation.

Bibliographical Note


Commercial War [portion]


  1. 27th March 1885 before the Croydon branch of the SDF at Crown Hill, Croydon
  2. 12th April 1885 before the local LEL at the Academy Schools, Hoxton St, Hoxton
  3. 18th April 1885 before the Hammersmith branch of the SL at Kelmscott House, Hammersmith