Justice. December 7, 1907
Source: “Bond or True Love?,” Justice, December 7 1907;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
Despite the fact that Mr. Arthur Balfour has stated clearly the plain issue upon which Socialism must be fought, the general run of our critics still prefer to raise side issues. There is, of course, an obvious reason for all this. Our position is so incontestable that they can only make any headway at all by appealing to ignorant prejudice. This is especially the case with regard to sexual questions, and the more disreputable of our opponents are generally making these the pivot of their attack.
This week I have a sheaf of cuttings from various sources on this subject. One is from the “Winning Post,” another from the “Bolton Daily Chronicle,” and the third hails from Longford.
The first impels a serious question. Is it not passing strange that we should possess a censor to forbid the dramatic works of the “intellectuals,” while the pornographic “wit” of such a paper as the “Winning Post” is tolerated to an almost unlimited extent? But so it is. In a recent number of this gutter journal is the following bon mot sandwiched in between a number of equally dirty and suggestive literary hooliganisms:
“Comrade Quelch has declared in favour of free love. It seems as though these Socialists do not want to pay for anything.”
The truth is often spoken in jest, and even in this very orgie of licentiousness and misnamed “humour” the truth can be seen shining through. Socialists do not believe in paying for love. They hold that the form of “love” which the editorial blackguards of the “Winning Post” extol is degrading in its essence, and results from the degrading views which capitalism holds of the marriage tie and the sexual communion between man, and woman.
We Social-Democrats do not shrink from the logic of our position. We of course know, that as the sexual tie has undergone a change with every succeeding economic period, so that under Socialism it will again change and be lifted on to a higher plane than ever. To swear by the status quo is to deny the truth of evolution.
Marriage to-day is essentially an institution of private property and consequently bears all the disfiguring marks of that system. With the abolition of private property will also go the bad influence that it has upon the whole of the sexual and marital relations of life. Coarse and unhealthy as it is, the “Winning Post” view is essentially that of modern life. Love, or what passes for love, is something that can be bought and sold, and once having been bought becomes individual property. A woman no more than a man is free in the real sense. With the economic pressure so great and the labour market so overcrowded, women, if they are to live, whether they love or not, are as often as not forced to accept the first suitor that comes along: while, in addition, numbers of them are driven to a life of shame, and pushed headlong into the hideous mart of Forced Love. As against this we have no hesitation in declaring for Free Love. This market of Forced Love is upheld by the huge number of young men whose wages are so low and whose circumstances are so precarious that they are not free to love because they are financially incapable of keeping up a home. Bread and cheese and kisses in a cottage may be very romantic, but it is not conducive to real happiness and often ends in destroying love. Socialism would aim at making all free: to love in its fullest and noblest sense.
Capitalism starts with the thesis that women must be economically dependent, and while that is the case the truest and freest love cannot exist because one of the parties is at the mercy of the other in an economic sense. Hence we stand for the freedom of love in its widest sense and this can only be consummated in a Socialist community where men and women are politically and economically one another’s equals.
We are not defending either promiscuity or unbridled lust, but we are asserting that under Socialism the economic conditions will be so adjusted that a freer and a purer union will exist among the general mass of men and women. Love, instead of being forced and unnatural will be free and natural. It is here that our critics either wilfully or ignorantly misconstrue our meaning. For instance; the writer in the “Bolton Daily Telegraph” talks of “the endowment of national vice in its lowest form.” This, he claims, would follow “the abolition of a sweet wholesome family relationship, based on: the soundly Christian principles of a lawful marriage.” It is always the question of marriage lines that sticks in these people’s throats. As a matter of fact, the rigid insistence upon the marriage ceremony is not orthodox and traditional Christian doctrine, but is only the product of very modern times, and results purely from the private property view of life. The history of early Christendom is a standing rely to this belated enthusiasm for the marriage ceremony. Even to-day it is not binding in all cases and the priest blesses the morganatic marriage of Royal personages well-knowing that it is a mockery and farce. As to the question of what
form of contract there will be under Socialism we have nothing to say. That is for the future to decide. Further, we do not stand for the destruction as the Bolton writer says we do; of the “pure loveableness of the home circle.” The true family life lived under conditions which make it really possible is communism in its highest imaginable form. At any rate, present-day conclusions point to the fact that the monogamic union is the highest that has yet evolved, and we believe that within it are the potentialities of the highest and noblest attributes of a race of free men and women.
Our assertion does not either stand in the way of registration or publics recognition of such unions. Rather as Social-Democrats believing in organisation, we hold that a civil marriage or declaration is communally convenient, It is essential, too, because the last things that Socialism would lose sight of would be the functions of fatherhood and motherhood.
The “Longford Journal” wants Socialists to “explain away” Quelch’s Kentish Town declaration in favour of Free Love. It does not need explaining away, and besides we Social-Democrats do not do business in that way. We do not want bonds which negate love and make it a mockery. We are heart and soul against the tightening of the marriage tie to such an extent that men and women who have become unsuited for one another should be forced to live together in a travesty of love.
We challenge our opponents to advance a healthier view of the problem than is outlined above. It devolves upon us as the standard bearers of the new civilisation to advance those ideals which are calculated lift all the activities of life from the mud and slime: while it devolves upon a class morally corrupt and bankrupt to put obstacles in our way, consisting of an outworn morality longer adapted to the times in which we live. To these noisy opponents we again throw down our challenge. Moderately, reasonably we have stated our views, on the vexed problem of sexual relations; let them, in their turn, without their customary luridness, answer us if they can. Now is the accepted time. Clearly we state our case, we expect a clear reply. In a Socialist State we claim that men and women will dwell together in the truest liberty and the truest loyalty, and that there will be gone from their midst that sordid bargaining for love which is a blot on modern society, the market of prostitution will have disappeared, and no longer will men talk of love and “paying for it” in one and the same breath.