William Morris

On Socialism and Art

The following letter from our comrade William Morris, in response to an enquiry from a person if it were true he had "changed his mind" regarding Socialism, will interest many of our readers :-

"MY DEAR SIR,—I am a very busy man, but on this subject I will answer you briefly. I have not changed my views on Socialism. My view of the point of relation between Art and Socialism is as follows: Society (so-called) at present is organised entirely for the benefit of a privileged class; the working class being only considered in the arrangement as so much machinery. This involves perpetual and enormous waste, as the organisation for the production of genuine utilities is only a secondary consideration. This waste lands the whole civilised world in a position of artificial poverty, which again debars men of all classes from satisfying their rational desires. Rich men are in slavery to Philistinism, poor men to penury. We can none of us have what we want, except (partially only) by making prodigious sacrifices, which very few men can ever do. Before, therefore, we can as much as hope for any art, we must be free from this artificial poverty. When we are thus free, in my opinion the natural instincts of mankind towards beauty and incident will take their due place; we shall want art, and, since we shall be really wealthy, we shall be able to have what we want. … — I am, dear sir, yours faithfully WILLIAM MORRIS

Letter printed in Justice, 7 March 1896.