I HAVE been asked to write a Preface to this
book, and do so with pleasure, believing that it
will supply a need to those who are really anxious to
know the aims and methods of Socialism. There is,
indeed, a good deal of socialist literature in circulation;
but a part of this is in pamphlet form, and though often
excellent in their way, not one of these pamphlets
goes far enough towards exhausting the subject, and
satisfying the demand for information. On the other
hand, the more learned socialist literature, like Marx's
celebrated book, requires such hard and close study
that those who have not approached the subject by
a more easy road, are not likely to begin on that
side, or if they did, would find that something like
a guide was necessary to them before they could
follow the arguments steadily. Therefore books like
this are welcome, which state the pros and cons
clearly and fairly, and without what, to a beginner,
would be the incumbrance of dealing with side issues,
especially when, as in this case, they are free from the
affectation of technical terms, which in many works
on sociology repel the reader, and not seldom contain
in themselves unproved assumptions, and circular
arguments. In truth a
It seems to me that the constitutional or parliamentary method which he advocates would involve loss of energy, disappointment, and discouragement; that it would bear with it the almost inevitable danger of the people's eyes being directed to the immediate struggle, losing sight of the ultimate aim; of their being befooled by those very concessions which the author speaks of as likely to be offered so eagerly by the present political parties; and, judging by the signs of the times, I cannot help thinking that the necessities of the miserable, ever increasing as the old system gets closer to its inevitable ruin, will outrun the slow process of converting parliament from a mere committee of the landlords and capitalists into a popular body representing the best aspirations of the workers. Moreover socialists, unless they abandon their principles, cannot help showing their hand from the first, and consequently even moderate measures will always be looked on with suspicion coming from them, and concessions which would have been granted without much resistance to the Radicals twenty or even ten years ago, if they had been demanded, will be sternly refused to the Socialist demand. In the days in which I am now writing, there are not lacking signs that the reactionists, driven by the fear of the advancing wave of revolution, are making up their minds to make a stand on the ground of mere brute force, which at present they are able to com- mand.
Without wishing any more than the author to claim the gift of prophecy, I venture to state that my own hope lies in converting the associated workmen to Socialism, and in their organizing a great inclusive body, which would feel itself consciously at strife with the proprietary class, and its organ Parliament; which would regulate labour in the interest of the workers as well as might be under the present system till the time was ripe for the general assertion of the principles of Socialism, and for the beginning of their practice, when Parliament might be used mechanically for the setting forth of a few enactments rather destructive than constructive, so as to allow freed, but organised labour to take its due place, and throw off the mere encumbrances which are so well dealt with in this book.
I do not suppose the author will differ from me in thinking such an organised body of practical opinion necessary; so that our difference of opinion is really narrow enough, and I need say no more about it, but will only hope that that opinion will speedily grow and that all dispute as to the means of attaining Socialism will fall dead before the necessary action which events will force on us.
In conclusion, I heartily recommend this book as a useful manual, which really fulfils the promise of its title, of making Socialism plain; a most important function to fulfill.
London, Dec. 5th, 1887.